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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: February 22, 2000

22 February 2000, Volume 2, Number 8
Polish-Ukrainian Forum Holds First Session. The Polish-Ukrainian Forum--an association established on an initiative of 16 people, including Justice Minister Hanna Suchocka, Deputy Interior Minister Bogdan Borusewicz, and Jerzy Rejt, former chairman of the Union of Ukrainians in Poland--held its inaugural session in the parliamentary building on 19 February, PAP reported. The forum is headed by Henryk Wujec, a lawmaker from the Freedom Union.

"The forum's main goal is to translate the strategic partnership of Poland and Ukraine into practical actions in all spheres, from bilateral trade through security and defense issues to scientific and cultural cooperation," Wujec commented. Wujec noted that a twin organization, the Ukrainian-Polish Forum, has already started its activities in Ukraine.

Wujec declared that the forum will be seeking to "neutralize and counteract" any possible negative consequences for Ukraine following Poland's accession to the EU. However, Jerzy Osiatynski, Wujec's party colleague, noted that there is a great discrepancy between Poland's intended goals in its policy toward Ukraine and Poland's ability to achieve those goals. "We are not able to take Ukraine into our arms and carry her to the EU," Osiatynski said, adding that a policy of "small steps" is advisable.

According to Marek Ziolkowski, chief of the Eastern Europe Department in the Foreign Ministry, Poland's assistance to Ukraine on its path toward Europe will consist largely in organizing programs to educate the Ukrainian public about the EU and sharing Polish experience in EU negotiations.

The forum also discussed the issue of establishing a Polish-Ukrainian university. The rectors of five institutions of higher education in Lublin, eastern Poland, have declared their willingness to organize such a university in their city. The forum set up an expert team to work out an appropriate project and present it to the government and the parliament.

Polish Germans Want To Discuss Their Future With Germany. The Social and Cultural Association of Germans (TSKN) in Opole Province, southwestern Poland, has issued a resolution calling on the German authorities to begin talks on the future of Germans in Poland, PAP reported on 20 February. Helmut Pazdzior, one of the two deputies representing the German minority in the Polish parliament, commented to the agency:

"The document describing Germany's external policy for 2000 contains clauses that may be interpreted in Silesia as urging toward permanent emigration to Germany. We want to keep as many people of German origin here as possible. That is why today, having received support from representatives of all TSKN circles, we would like the German authorities to sit down to discuss our future, in keeping with the idea of 'nothing about us without us.' "

According to Pazdzior, one of the most effective ways of keeping the Germans in Poland's Silesia, other than creating new jobs, is the development of local infrastructure, including the water-supply network, sewage system, health resorts, and cultural establishments, "at a reasonable level."

"We still need three-four years to create a proper social and cultural infrastructure in Silesia. However, to achieve this, a proper level of co-financing for these activities by the German side is needed. We hope that during these talks we will be able to clarify all the issues connected with the financing of our projects by the German side," Pazdzior added.

According to various estimates, there are between 180,000 and 300,000 Germans in Opole Province. Some 70,000 Silesians with dual citizenship currently work in Germany, while their families remain in Poland. In the 1970s and 1980s, some 200,000 people left Poland for Germany, where they set up a permanent residence.

Meanwhile, some 200 TSKN delegates held a congress on 19 February to mark the 10th anniversary of the founding of their organization. "Our greatest success was the recognition of our existence. Eight years were needed for the maturing process of the two nationalities living next to each other. The effect of this process was the joint defense of the province from liquidation (ed.: by the 1998 administration reform). I think that what happened in the Opole Silesia is an example of mutually advantageous cooperation of Poles and Germans," PAP quoted TSKN Chairman Henryk Kroll as saying.

In the 1998 local elections, the TKSN won some 600 seats on communal councils. The TSKN has a majority in 31 communal councils and five district councils.

Minor Fined For Flag Burning. The Minsk City Court on 14 February found teenager Nadzeya Hrachukha of Barysau guilty of failing to respect state symbols and ordered her to pay a fine equal to 10 minimum wages (some $25). On 21 July 1999, on a Minsk square, to mark the end of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's legitimate term in office, Nadzeya burned the red-and-green Belarusian flag, which was introduced by the 1995 referendum to replace the former white-red-white flag of independent Belarus. Her deed was videotaped by police. Nadzeya told the court that she does not regret what she did and expressed the hope that the national historical symbols--the white-red-white flag and the Pahonya (Knight-in-Pursuit) coat of arms--will soon be reinstated in Belarus, according to Belapan.

Nadzeya commented to RFE/RL's Belarusian Service after the verdict: "I knew I could be held accountable in court, but I took the risk--I decided to express my protest. Of course, anything may happen, and people may even be put in jail. The purpose of my protest was as follows: after Alyaksandr Lukashenka came to power, [Lukashenka associate] Ivan Tsitsyankou destroyed our historical, sacred white-red-white flag. I decided to respond in the same way. Tsitsyankou showed the Belarusian youth and the entire nation how one needs to deal with unfavorable symbols. He has not been held accountable in court, because people in our country are being filtered out, and, for example, I have been included among the enemies of the people, while he has not."

Immediately after the May 1995 referendum, Tsitsyankou, head of the presidential administration property department from 1994-1999, removed the white-red-white flag from the presidential administration building, cut it into pieces, and distributed them--adorned with his autograph--among his cronies. The incident was filmed and subsequently included in the well-known anti-Lukashenka documentary "An Ordinary President," by Yury Khashchavatski.

Nadzeya's mother told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service about her anxiety over her daughter's future: "Today's verdict does not seem too terrible. The fine, in comparison with two years of present-day prison, does not seem too terrible. But in actual fact, nothing is that simple, and my soul has been and remains uneasy. Why? Because for Nadzeya there is no prospect for schooling or pursuing a job in our city--it is a small city, everyone is in the public eye, everybody knows everybody, and we are now treated like people of an inferior race.... One is required to live quietly, peacefully, without protesting. It will be very hard for her to live [that way] with her character, her determination, her attitude to the current regime, and her thoughtful assessment of life."

Brest Oblast Has Less Food, More Vodka. According to official data, agricultural production in Brest Oblast continued to fall in January, Belapan reported on 17 February. The production of meat decreased by 5 percent and milk by 15 percent, compared with January 1999. The total number of livestock fell by 7 percent. The daily increase in the weight of cows and pigs on Brest Oblast collective farms is down some 15 percent of the level one year ago. According to agricultural experts, the main reason for the decline in food output in the region is an acute shortage of fodder.

Meanwhile, the number of alcoholics in the region continues to grow. The annual increase is 3 percent for males and 11 percent for females. Last year more than 100,000 Brest Oblast residents were disciplined for alcohol abuse, including some 3,000 minors. Official records say there are 20,000 alcoholics in Brest Oblast, while Belapan commented on 15 February that "nobody knows the number of so-called quiet drunkards" in the region. According to Belapan, "in most cases the poor wretches became drunkards because of hopelessness, the lack of faith in the future, and a hard life." Vodka in the region is easily available not only because of its relatively low price but also because of the abundance of moonshiners (see "RFE/RL's Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 25 January 2000).

Mahileu Oblast Fields Political Information Teams. The Mahileu Oblast authorities are forming "information groups" whose task is to brief the local population on the political and economic situation in Belarus as well as to "explain" the policies of local and central authorities, Belapan reported on 14 February. Such groups have already been formed in Krychau and Klimavichy, two raion centers. The Krychau group includes deputy heads of the raion executive committee, deputy chief of the raion directorate of internal affairs, deputy chief doctor of the territorial medical association, and other raion officials. The Klimavichy group includes deputy chief of the raion directorate of internal affairs, deputy raion prosecutor, and second secretary of the raion branch of the Belarusian Patriotic Youth Union (an organization modeled on the Soviet-era Komsomol and receiving generous sponsorship from the central budget). Belapan adds that similar groups are being established in other regions of the country. Last year, the authorities introduced the posts of political information officers at state-run enterprises, thus reviving the Soviet-era practice of using "politruks" for political indoctrination.

Symonenko Warns Of Anti-Communist Plot. In the 17 February "Komunist," Petro Symonenko warned his comrades from the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) about the "anti-communist hysteria" in the country. According to the KPU leader, the "anti-popular regime" of President Leonid Kuchma is seeking to deflect public attention from the looming economic catastrophe through "provocative campaigns and actions." One such campaign, Symonenko noted, was launched late last year in western Ukraine (Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Ternopil, and other regions), where "the oblast councils, which are subservient to nationalist leaders, began to manufacture resolutions banning the activity of Communist [local] organizations."

Another anti-communist move was the submission to the parliament of a draft law by 10 Rukh deputies banning the activities of the KPU in Ukraine. Symonenko says that the draft law on banning the KPU is anti-constitutional, while the accusation of the 10 Rukh deputies that the KPU "intended to overthrow and liquidate the existing state system" during the presidential election campaign is "mendacious."

Why do nationalists behave so hostile toward Communists in world history? Because, Symonenko explains, nationalists are "nothing more than paid lackeys of foreign and domestic capital." As for Ukrainian nationalists, they are especially notorious for their "servility and mercenariness" as well as for their "zoological [sic] hatred of Communists," he noted.

In Symonenko's opinion, the most perfidious "anti-communist plot" by "servants of the ruling regime" is the recent attempt to split the KPU and create a Ukrainian Communist Party (UKP). Symonenko says: "The aim of this subsequent provocative undertaking is obvious. This pseudo-communist, overtly pro-Kuchma party intends to deceive some of the uninformed people, while taking advantage of their pro-communist views.... This pseudo-communist party intends to split the leftist electorate and help the bloc of rightists and nationalists gain victory in the upcoming referendum and [early] parliamentary elections. There is another obvious goal in the provocative venture to create the UKP: to deliver a blow to communist ideology. They are trying, as did the ideological predecessors of today's UKP proponents--UKP activists of the 1920s, to ingrain in some communist supporters the idea that it is possible to pursue 'national communism.' This idea simultaneously implies that today's KPU--which consistently defends its class, internationalist positions, the only correct positions that guarantee our success--allegedly is not a party that defends the national interests of the Ukrainian people and Ukraine's statehood."

Population Falls By 400,000 In 1999. Ukraine's State Statistics Committee reported that the population of Ukraine on 1 January 2000 totaled 49.71 million, down 394,800 since 1 January 1999. There was a difference of 44,800 between migrants out of and into Ukraine, while 350,000 was the difference between those deceased and those born last year. The highest mortality figure was registered in industrial, coal-mining Donetsk Oblast (79,800 deaths and 30,500 births), while the lowest was in essentially rural Western Ukraine: Volynska Oblast (14,700 deaths and 11,800 births), Zakarpatska Oblast (14,400 deaths and 13,900 births), and Rivne Oblast (15,100 deaths and 14,200 births). The number of Ukrainian villages decreased in 1999 by 36 to 28,739. As of 1 January 1998, there were 50.5 million people living in Ukraine.

More Than 100,000 Minors Homeless. Yuriy Bohutskyy, deputy head of the Presidential Administration Staff, told journalists on 16 February that there are 101,000 homeless minors in Ukraine, constituting 36.3 percent of all homeless people in the country. The data were obtained during special police raids across the country. According to Bohutskyy, vagrancy and begging among homeless minors have acquired a "mass character." He added that 14.4 percent of homeless minors are children of pre-school age.

Ukraine has 80 orphanages, half of which were set up over the past two years. According to Bohutskyy, the number of orphanages is insufficient. President Leonid Kuchma recently issued a decree ordering the government to address the problem of homelessness and criminality among minors. In particular, Kuchma instructed the government to open more orphanages and children's homes.

"We, deputies from the Polish Alliance, declare that voting for this draft law prepared by the [government] European Commission for Integration will be a betrayal of Poland." -- Jan Lopuszanski, a far-right and radical Catholic parliamentary deputy, speaking in the 16 February parliamentary debate about a bill on speeding up Poland's legislative adjustments to meet EU standards. Quoted by PAP.

"Perhaps, Mr. Deputy, it would be advisable to consider whether a betrayer is not he who opts to leave Poland on its own in the gray zone of struggle for influence between the integrated West and the imperial East. Perhaps, a betrayer is he who frightens society with mythical threats for his own political gain. Perhaps, a betrayer is he who does not want high environmental standards or a competitive economy in Poland." -- Jacek Rybicki, a deputy of the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action, responding to Lopuszanski. Quoted by PAP.

"At rallies and at meetings, I will say it out loud--enough of such rule, [I will say that] these people have not learned anything and will not learn anything, that they are snotty bunglers, that it is necessary to launch a decisive rescue operation, otherwise they will lead us to defeat, they will squander my and our victory." -- Former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, commenting on the poor performance of the Solidarity-led government and announcing his intention "to restore the electorate of the right wing" in Poland. Quoted by PAP on 17 February.

"You are mistaken when you say that I am a compliant man. I have never made my differences of opinions with Lukashenka public, but you most likely know what was taking place. If I was unable to raise prices while the president was beside me, I waited until he went abroad. I raised prices during those two or three days [of Lukashenka's absence]. The president came back and raised a hullabaloo, but I had already done what I thought to be necessary." -- Former Belarusian Premier Mikhail Chyhir in an interview with RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 18 February.