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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: July 27, 1999

27 July 1999, Volume 1, Number 9
Smuggling Individuals Into Germany. The Warsaw weekly "Polityka" on 3 July published a report on Poland's thriving business of smuggling people, mostly from Asia and Africa, to Germany. The regional prosecutor in Zielona Gora, the capital of Lubusz Province in western Poland, has accused 18 people of that illegal activity, but, according to the weekly, all of them are small fry, whereas the real bosses remain unknown.

"Polityka" says border villages in Lubusz Province are full of "free-market victims," that is, people who lost their jobs after state collective farms went bankrupt. Those villagers can be easily persuaded, for little remuneration, to keep Asians and Africans in hiding for a day or two before they cross the border--the Nysa/Neisse River--at night in the company of a guide. The hiding places--called "hollows" in the business--are usually cellars or uninhabited rooms in farmhouses or barns. Jobless local peasants are also often recruited as guides: they know the safest fords to cross the river and those border stretches that are rarely checked by border guards. The guides who have formerly been caught by border guards lead illegal immigrants only to the river bank, while those with clean police records take them to the other side.

The illegal Asian or African immigrants--smuggled into Poland from Lithuania, Belarus, or Ukraine--are rarely deported by Polish authorities. When caught attempting to enter Germany, they must be interrogated before being arrested for deportation. In order to foil interpreters employed by the border troops, they speak dialects few people can understand. Without being formally interrogated, they are sent to refugee centers and, after several days, return to the Nysa/Neisse bank under changed names to try their luck again. Those immigrants who are caught by police before they have attempted to cross the Polish-German border usually apply for refugee status. The process of examining such applications lasts one year and shields refugee-seekers from deportation for that period. In the meantime, the immigrants try to cross the border and usually succeed. Nine out of every 10 applications are stopped because the applicants disappear before the process is completed.

"Polityka" identifies two arrested organizers of the smuggling of immigrants into Germany: a Somalian who obtained political asylum in Poland in the early 1990s and a jobless Pole from Zary in Lubusz Province, who formerly was a petty smuggler of cigarettes to Germany. Before his arrest, the Pole managed to get 1,000 illegal immigrants into Germany. Both took $100-$150 from each smuggled immigrant. The money was paid to them after the smuggled immigrant made a call from Germany confirming that he had made it to the "safe side." Both said that their bosses in Poland (who were not arrested) receive $500 for one smuggled immigrant. "Polityka" calculated that the total outlay for smuggling one immigrant from Poland to Germany--including payment for the owners of "hollows" and transportation on either side of the border--is $1,500. The sum that an individual in Sri Lanka or Bangladesh pays for his passage to Germany is $7,500, of which roughly $6,000, "Polityka" concludes, is taken by people who stand much higher in the international smuggling hierarchy. Their names and whereabouts are not known to the Polish police.

How Lukashenka Benefited Belarus--Official Version. Anticipating opposition protests against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka after the end of his legitimate term on 20 July, the presidential administration drew up a counter-propaganda directive to local administration leaders and state media on how to "correctly explain" the results and benefits of Lukashenka's five-year rule to the population, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 16 July.

According to the directive, there are three main benefits of Lukashenka's rule: Belarus is a socially and politically stable country, the state administration and the economy are fully controlled by the center, and the state renders social support to the population.

RFE/RL's Belarusian Service points out that a similar "list of achievements" was advertised by former Prime Minister Vyachaslau Kebich in the presidential election campaign in 1994, when he lost to Lukashenka. The irony of the situation is that in both 1994 and 1999, the "lists of achievements" were compiled by the same man, Mikhail Myasnikovich. In 1994, Myasnikovich was deputy prime minister in Kebich's cabinet; now he is head of the presidential administration staff under Lukashenka.

'Zerkalo nedeli' Debunks Ukrainian Diplomacy Myths. The 17 July "Zerkalo nedeli," a Kyiv-based Russian-language weekly, published a lengthy article by Sergei Goncharenko under the headline "Ukrainian Diplomacy Myths." The article is an attack on Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, who, according to the author, "has exerted no influence on the adoption of [international] decisions that were important for Ukraine." Goncharenko reviews a dozen "Ukrainian diplomacy myths" that, in his opinion, are groundlessly nurtured by Tarasyuk and his ministry. Among those dozen are:

THE ODESA-BRODY PIPELINE PROJECT. Goncharenko argues that the construction of an oil pipeline linking the Ukrainian port Odesa with Poland via Brody, a town in western Ukraine, some 50 kilometers away from the Ukrainian-Polish border, is a "strategic mistake." The authorities have hailed that project as an attempt to "diversify oil sources." Under "pressure" from the U.S., Goncharenko asserts, Caspian Sea oil will most likely be transported via Turkey, not Ukraine. Besides, Ukraine has no tankers to ship Caspian oil from Georgia to Odesa and no money to continue the construction of the pipeline. A promising oil supplier is Kazakhstan, which still doubts the advantages offered by the Turkish route for Caspian oil. However, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, according to Goncharenko, does nothing to forge an oil supply deal with Kazakhstan and thus make the Odesa-Brody pipeline project realistic. Tarasyuk gives priority to developing Ukraine's relations within GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Moldova).

GUUAM. There are no economic benefits for Ukraine from the GUUAM association, according to Goncharenko. Its members are economically weak partners that have no influence in international financial organizations and, apart from Uzbekistan, are themselves dependent on foreign assistance. Ukraine's trade turnover with GUUAM sank by 26 percent in 1998, more than with the CIS as a whole (a 23 percent drop last year). In addition, the share of GUUAM in Ukraine's trade with the CIS is rather negligible--0.8 percent from January to May 1999. By promoting GUUAM, Ukraine contradicts its repeatedly declared stance that "bilateral relations between CIS states are more effective than multilateral," Goncharenko notes. In his opinion, Ukraine's developing multilateral ties with former Soviet republics is a "return to common sense," but this practice should be extended to the entire CIS, not only GUUAM.

POLAND AS STRATEGIC PARTNER FOR UKRAINE. It is a delusion that Poland is important in helping Ukraine to develop ties with the West, says Goncharenko. In particular, it is not Poland but EU "senior" members that will decide whether to close the border with Ukraine after Poland joins the EU. On the other hand, if Ukraine manages to improve its economy, resolve unemployment problems, and reduce crime by the time Poland enters the EU, the West may leave the border "transparent or half-transparent," Goncharenko asserts. The Ukrainian market is more important for Poland than the Polish market for Ukraine, Goncharenko notes. His conclusion: "Unfortunately, we have already convinced the Poles of our inferiority. They have begun to speak increasingly frequently about Poland's special role in promoting Western values in Ukraine, about assisting us in building democracy, about supporting Ukraine in international organizations. ...Poland itself has not yet managed to stand firmly on its feet, its voice is not heeded by influential organizations, the country has no potential for investing in our economy."

FOREIGN POLICY AS SUPPORT FOR ECONOMY. While appointing Tarasyuk as foreign minister in April 1998, President Leonid Kuchma instructed him to boost the promotion of Ukrainian economic interests abroad. In 1997, when the Foreign Ministry was headed by Hennadiy Udovenko, Ukraine's foreign trade turnover totaled $31.4 billion (exports stood at $14.2 billion). In 1998, when Udovenko was replaced by Tarasyuk, foreign trade turnover was $27.3 billion (exports $12.6 billion). Goncharenko argues that the 13 percent decrease in last year's trade turnover (11 percent in exports) cannot be explained alone�contrary to what Tarasyuk says--by the difficult economic situation in Ukraine and the crisis in Russia. Ukraine's GDP in 1998 decreased only by 1.7 percent. Besides, most of Ukraine's trade partners reported economic growth last year. Therefore, according to "Zerkalo nedeli," reasons for the worsened performance of Ukraine's foreign trade companies should also be sought in the poor performance of Tarasyuk's ministry.

UKRAINE'S NATO BID. According to Goncharenko, President Leonid Kuchma's position is that "there are no political, economic, military, or social prerequisites in Ukraine for serious talks on the country's entry to NATO within the next 10-15 years." But Tarasyuk has learned to play "a game of different interpretation of words...depending on his audience." Goncharenko recalls two recent conflicting statements by Tarasyuk on Ukraine's stance regarding NATO. One of those statements was directed to the domestic audience: "The issue of Ukraine's joining NATO is not on the agenda [of Ukraine's foreign policy]." The other to the U.S. audience: "The main task for me as foreign minister is the integration [of Ukraine] into Euro-Atlantic economic and defense structures." The article stresses that similar statements by Tarasyuk have repeatedly caused embarrassment on the part of Ukraine's top leadership, including President Leonid Kuchma. In May 1998, the Russian State Duma even postponed the ratification of the Russian-Ukrainian treaty following one of Tarasyuk's statements on Ukraine's NATO bid. Goncharenko concludes that Tarasyuk is not a professional and pragmatic politician in the government and suggests that Kuchma should dismiss him in order to improve his chances of re-election in October.

Tarasyuk on 20 July commented on Goncharenko's article by saying that "it was paid for by someone and its content does not correspond to reality," according to UNIAN. He added that he has no intention of resigning from his post.

"Good economic policy always meets with resistance." -- Polish Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz, quoted by AP on 16 July.

"I think there is no reason to fear that there will not be any food for the nations of the world. The only thing to fear is whether we as Europeans, as Europe and a white race, will have a say in the future." -- Kazimierz Kapera, Polish minister for family affairs, commenting to Polish Radio on the fact that the world's population reached 6 billion.

"International relations are ruled by principles of so-called Realpolitik, which are only rarely affected by moral concerns. For this reason, governments--including the Polish government--will seemingly maintain some relations with Lukashenka. We, however, the people from "Gazeta Wyborcza," who link ourselves to the tradition of the democratic opposition that defeated the dictatorship, are bound by a different Realpolitik--that of truth and freedom. In the name of this Realpolitik we express words of solidarity with the Belarusian opposition. And remind [them]--you have friends in Poland." -- Adam Michnik in the 20 July "Gazeta Wyborcza."

"After 20 July Lukashenka will not be a legitimate president. But he will remain the actual head of state. And although it may be a pragmatic decision, talks will be held with him. ...Isolation of the country and hunger will only intensify the dictatorship." -- Unidentified Western diplomat quoted by Reuters on 19 July.

"If the opposition is poised to make a fuss [about the end of Lukashenka's legitimate term], I would like to remind you of something different. This year is very difficult because of weather conditions. Haymaking is still continuing, the harvest of grain crops has just begun. It would be a crime against the people to launch some political campaign and stir up people in such circumstances, while knowing that it will be very difficult for livestock to survive the winter. Today all the authorities are striving to do everything possible to harvest what has grown. Managers of [city] enterprises were given their tasks (and have treated them with understanding) and are now helping the countryside as much as they can. If such work is replaced by street demonstrations, I do not think that [life] will become better for everybody." -- Pavel Shypuk, head of the Council of the Republic, in the 16 July "Zvyazda."

"We will remain legitimate for a long time." -- Lukashenka on 20 July.

"This is my special thanks to the first president of the Republic of Belarus for his outstanding and fruitful work during his five-year term." -- 33-year-old Belarusian artist Ales Pushkin, who was taken into custody on 21 July immediately after depositing a wheelbarrow full of manure in front of the presidential administration building and decorating the heap with Lukashenka's portrait impaled on a pitchfork.

"We were creating [a gold reserve] in the single country, we were storing it all in Moscow, in the Kremlin, and then we broke the country to pieces. Our clever oppositionists...have banged up everything. The [USSR] gold and hard currency reserve is nowhere to be found, we have received nothing from it. We have also received nothing from [USSR] property abroad, in which we invested several billion dollars. We have no access to the sea, so we have also received nothing [from the USSR sea property]. The fleet was divided by no one knows whom--Belarus has been done out of its share. Nuclear weapons, the [most] deadly weapons, are enormously expensive. We had a store of tactical and strategic [nuclear] weapons, but all of them were also bargained for nothing, and all that [was accomplished] by those who [now] take to the street and reproach Lukashenka. That is, we were left destitute and naked. Five years ago we did not have a single gold coin, not to mention tons or kilograms of precious metals. Today, thanks to adopted measures, the situation has changed. Our repositories no longer host mice, as they did previously, we have a certain store of gold (I will not mention how much), we have silver, we have platinum and other precious metals and gems. All this amounts to several thousand kilograms." -- Alyaksandr Lukashenka on Belarusian Television, commenting on his inspection of the State Committee for Precious Metals and its repository on 16 July.

"I am not going to run for the presidency for a second term to become somebody's vassal." -- Leonid Kuchma on the idea of creating a union of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, quoted by ITAR-TASS on 17 July.