NEMTSOV ADVOCATES MAJOR RESTRUCTURING OF ECONOMY
First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov says that in order to secure economic growth in 1998, the Russian government must pursue "major structural transformations" this year. He told Interfax on 7 January that taxes must be reduced and social benefits means- tested so that resources can be allocated for the truly needy. The government had sought to enact a new tax code by the end of 1997, but the State Duma did not approve that document. Duma deputies also voted down government-backed legislation that would have reduced spending on various social benefits (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 1997). Nemtsov also called for reducing interest rates in order to stimulate investment in Russian industry. The Central Bank raised those rates during last fall's market turmoil to prevent the significant devaluation of the ruble. LB
GOVERNMENT OVER-FULFILLS PLAN ON PRIVATIZATION REVENUES
Revenues from sales of state property in 1997 totaled 23.6 trillion rubles, not taking into account the redenomination of the ruble ($3.97 billion), Interfax reported on 7 January, citing the Russian Federal Property Fund. Of that figure, the federal government received 18.5 trillion rubles, 2.8 times more than 1997 budget targets. The government accelerated privatization sales to compensate for huge revenue shortfalls caused by poor tax collection. State Property Minister Farit Gazizullin told Interfax on 6 January that some 3,100 enterprises were privatized in 1997. He added that his ministry will over-fulfill the plan on privatization revenues for 1998 as well. The draft 1998 budget calls for 8.1 billion redenominated rubles ($1.4 billion) in proceeds from sales of state property, along with 1 billion rubles in dividends on state-owned shares and 300 million rubles in rent from leased federal property. LB
NEMTSOV SAYS PRIVATIZATION 'NOT GOAL IN ITSELF.'
Nemtsov told Interfax on 7 January that privatization "is undoubtedly neither a goal in itself" nor the "main means to achieve economic growth." He added that "creating competitive conditions is more important and healthier for society than privatization. Monopoly is far more frightful for both the moral and economic health of society than the sale of this or that package of shares." In recent months, Nemtsov has repeatedly advocated "people's capitalism" and a "democratic market." He has also accused powerful bankers, including Boris Berezovskii, of seeking to profit from high-level political connections and to obstruct fair play in the economy. LB
KULIKOV CRITICIZED OVER PROPOSED RAIDS ON CHECHNYA
On returning from talks with Chechen leaders in Grozny on 7 January, Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin condemned Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov's proposal to launch preemptive strikes against Chechen guerrillas, AFP reported. Rybkin said that "hitting first and thinking afterwards" was an "old Bolshevik principle." Rybkin's former deputy Boris Berezovskii likewise termed such attacks "inadmissible," adding that the federal authorities still have not learned to assess in advance the possible impact of their actions, Interfax reported. Berezovskii argued that some Russian leaders believe it is possible to pay for peace in Chechnya "with human lives rather than money." In Grozny, First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov warned that a Russian attack on Chechnya would reignite the war, while President Aslan Maskhadov denied that any guerrilla bases exist. To hunt for them would be a waste of effort, he commented. LF
CHECHEN PREMIER-DESIGNATE TO PRESENT CABINET LINEUP
Speaking on Chechen Television on 7 January, Prime Minister-designate Shamil Basaev said he has drawn up a list of government ministers that he will submit to President Maskhadov by 10 January, Interfax reported. The new government will comprise only 22 ministries and departments, compared with the previous 48. It will, however, include but including a defense department (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 1998). That agency is likely to be headed by former field commander Ruslan Gilayev. Basaev's brother Shirvan, currently prefect of Vedeno Raion, may head the fuel and energy department, according to Interfax. In his 7 January television broadcast, Shamil Basaev saidthat he will resign if his new government fails to solve social problems within six months. LF
YELTSIN'S GRANDDAUGHTER LAMENTS PRESIDENT'S WORKLOAD
President Boris Yeltsin's granddaughter Katya Okulova told the French weekly "Paris Match" that Yeltsin "works too much and it wears him out," Reuters reported on 7 January. She added that she wishes Yeltsin would leave politics, since "he is no longer very young and I see how all that exhausts him." In recent days, Kremlin officials have announced the postponement of a presidential visit to India and a CIS summit, both of which were planned for January. However, officials have stressed that Yeltsin is keeping busy during his vacation and will have a packed schedule of meetings from 19 January, when he will return to work, until the end of the month. LB
FORMER SECURITY OFFICER DEFENDS 'KOMPROMAT'...
Valerii Streletskii, the former head of the department on high-level corruption in the Presidential Security Service (SBP), has defended the practice of publishing compromising information on high officials in the Russian press. Speaking to the latest issue of the weekly "Argumenty i fakty," Streletskii said efforts by law enforcement agencies to curb high-level corruption are routinely obstructed, leaving the press as the "only means" of publicizing corruption cases. He acknowledged that he taped a notorious June 1996 conversation between Anatolii Chubais and Viktor Ilyushin, a transcript of which was published in November 1996. In that conversation, Chubais and Ilyushin, who were at the time advisers on Yeltsin's re- election campaign, discussed ways to impede the investigation of two associates caught by SBP officers carrying $538,000 in cash out of a government building. That incident cost SBP head Aleksandr Korzhakov his job in June 1996. The criminal investigation involving those funds was closed in April 1997. LB
...COMMENTS ON CHUBAIS, BANK WAR
Streletskii, who is considered close to Korzhakov and an opponent of First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais, told "Argumenty i fakty" that Chubais's current attempts to "restrain" powerful Russian bankers are "useful for the country" and consistent with the state's interests. However, he said that "like every Bolshevik," Chubais created "with his own hands the system that will destroy him." Streletskii said the rival financial groups behind the current war of compromising information in the Russian media "robbed the country but then fought over property and started a fight for a place at the state trough." Streletskii also said he is not afraid of being sued for accusations made in his new book, which reportedly accuses many high officials of corruption and even treason. LB
OFFICIAL VIEWS EFFORTS TO REACH LAND REFORM COMPROMISE...
State Land Committee Chairman Ilya Yuzhanov says forging a compromise on the land code will be difficult, since the current draft of that document is fraught with legal flaws, internal contradictions, and violations of constitutional norms. Yeltsin vetoed the code last June, but during roundtable talks chaired by the president on 26 December, executive and legislative officials pledged to reach a compromise on land reform within three months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 December 1997). In a lengthy interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 4 January, Yuzhanov slammed many provisions in the land code, which was drafted by the Duma's Agrarian faction. For instance, one vaguely worded clause would ban sales of land below which there are systems such as telephone lines or water pipes. That would, in effect, ban all sales of land in cities and industrial complexes. LB
...CONSIDERS BAN ON FOREIGN OWNERSHIP NOT 'SERIOUS'...
Yuzhanov told RFE/RL that he is not concerned about the agreement reached during the 26 December roundtable talks to prohibit land sales to foreigners. Yuzhanov noted that he considers such a ban economically unwise and detrimental to Russian efforts to create a favorable environment for foreign investment. However, he argued that such a ban would not be "serious," since it could easily be circumvented by foreign companies. For instance, those companies could gain the right to buy land by establishing subsidiaries in Russia and registering them as Russian companies. Yuzhanov added that "we could pass hundreds of bans [on foreign ownership of land] in our internal legislation" but that those bans would contradict the terms of bilateral agreements Russia has signed with several countries. LB
...UNIMPRESSED BY SARATOV LAND REFORM MODEL
Yuzhanov also told RFE/RL that the land law recently adopted in Saratov Oblast is not an ideal model for land reform. Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov has hailed the legislation as an example for other Russian regions to follow, and Yeltsin has praised it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 1997). However, Yuzhanov said the Saratov law is merely a revised version of the land code passed by the State Duma, which, he said, is much improved but still contains many flaws. Yuzhanov said several other regions, which he did not name, have passed land laws far superior to Saratov's. LB
HARVEST UP IN 1997, BUT PROBLEMS REMAIN
Russia's grain harvest was 88.5 million metric tons in 1997, up nearly 20 million metric tons from the previous year, dpa reported on 5 January, citing Agriculture Ministry official Anatolii Kolenko. The government is not importing grain and is even seeking to export up to 10 million tons of grain. However, Agriculture Minister Viktor Khlystun has said that 70 percent of Russian agricultural enterprises lost money in 1997 (compared with 80 percent the previous year). In December, Deputy Agriculture Minister Vyacheslav Chernoivanov estimated that some 12 million metric tons of grain were lost in Russia in 1997 because farmers lacked equipment to bring in the harvest, ITAR- TASS reported on 11 December. Chernoivanov warned that shortages of tractors and harvesters will worsen in the coming years, as equipment is overused and farmers do not have sufficient funds for maintenance. LB
RUSSIA NOT YET ASKING BLISS TO RETURN
Moscow has still not asked U.S. citizen Richard Bliss to return to Russia, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 7 and 8 January. Bliss was accused in late November of espionage in the Rostov-na-Donu area, where he was carrying out a surveying project for Qualcomm Inc., a U.S. company contracted to install a cellular phone system there. Local authorities detained Bliss on espionage charges but allowed him to return to the U.S. for the Christmas holidays after he promised to return by 10 January. Bliss has said he will honor that promise, but both Qualcomm and U.S. officials have appealed to Moscow to drop the charges. However, speaking to Interfax on 8 January, Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin said the charges have not yet been dropped, while Federal Security Service spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich commented that Bliss could be asked back "if investigators require that." BP
"ALTERNATIVE SERVICE" DIFFICULT TO OPT FOR
The weekly "Ekspress-Khronika" reports in its latest issue that it is not very easy for Russians to be accepted for "alternative" rather than military service. Article 59 of the Russian Constitution provides for other forms of service in cases where personal convictions or religious beliefs prevent military activity. Over the past four years, the Duma Defense Committee has repeatedly shelved a law on alternative service, leaving those who decline military service at the mercy of local militia document checks aimed at determining whether an individual has been called up. "Violators" are usually brought to militia headquarters, sometimes more than once, to explain their actions. BP
MINISTER ON RISING DRUG ADDICTION, DRUG- RELATED CRIME
Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov has estimated that Russia has more than 2 million drug addicts, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 January. Kulikov, who chairs a government commission on fighting the drug trade, told a meeting of that commission that the number of officially registered drug addicts has tripled over the last five years to some 250,000. During the same period, he said, drug use among Russians under 20 has tripled and drug addiction among women has increased more than sixfold. Kulikov also claimed that drug-related crimes nearly tripled in Russia in 1997, even though the overall crime rate dropped by 9 percent. LB
MINERS WANT GOVERNMENT COMMISSION IN KEMEROVO SOON
Anatolii Chekis, the chairman of the council of the federation of trade unions in Kemerovo Oblast, told ITAR-TASS on 8 January that his council still demands that a government commission come to Kemerovo before 15 January. On 5 January, the oblast administration had announced that a federal government commission will arrive in Kemerovo on 19 January to examine problems in the coal sector. An emergency congress of coal miners in the Kuznetsk basin recently threatened to call a general strike if the federal government does not take steps to help the coal sector in Kemerovo by 15 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1997). LB
TENSIONS IN DUSHANBE
RFE/RL correspondents in the Tajik capital report that on the outskirts of Dushanbe on 6 January, members of the militia sought to detain an armed oppositionist who refused to give up his weapon. He was subsequently disarmed by a larger group of militia and detained until an armed oppositionist group appeared at the militia station and successfully demanded his release. On 7 January, a similar incident occurred at a bazaar, also on the outskirts of the capital, when two opposition members refused to hand over their weapons. A brief skirmish broke out, and shots were fired. The militia left the scene and returned with tanks and armored vehicles. Correspondents report that the standoff continued on 8 January. BP
RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY DELEGATION IN GEORGIA
Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the Main Directorate for International Military Cooperation of the Russian Ministry of Defense, held talks with ranking Georgian defense officials in Tbilisi on 5-8 January. Topics discussed included the possible transfer to Georgia of former Soviet military property in that country and of several vessels from the Black Sea fleet. Last month, Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze demanded that Russia pay Georgia compensation for weaponry worth $10 billion that had been illegally removed from Georgia in 1992-1993. Ivashov told Interfax that his demand is "unreasonable." He also inspected the Russian military base in Akhalkalaki, which he called a key link in the CIS air defense system, according to Turan. On 7 January, Nadibaidze and Ivashov signed an agreement on military cooperation in 1998, but no details were released, Caucasus Press reported. LF
HOSTAGE-TAKING IN ABKHAZIA
Unidentified gunmen abducted some 30 ethnic Georgians from a bus in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion on 7 January, ITAR- TASS and AFP reported. The gunmen subsequently released all female passengers. The Georgian government has asked the CIS peacekeeping force deployed in Abkhazia to help locate the hostages, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 January. Also on 7 January, Abkhaz security officials defused a 10 kilogram bomb at a power station in Gulripsh Raion, according to Interfax. LF
ADAMKUS SAYS NO 'DRASTIC CHANGES' IN FOREIGN, DOMESTIC POLICY
In an interview with BNS on 7 January, Lithuanian President-elect Valdas Adamkus stressed he does not envisage any drastic changes in the country's foreign or domestic policies. He welcomed the current government's efforts toward integration into Western structures but warned that membership in NATO may not be achieved until 2005. "We will grow stronger during that period and will be accepted with greater pleasure, compared to what our striving would look like today," he commented. Adamkus also emphasized that social "harmony" and welfare top his domestic policy agenda. JC
MINISTRY STAFF TO BE CUT IN VILNIUS
The Lithuanian cabinet has approved cutting ministry and administrative personnel by 10 percent, ELTA reported on 7 January. Minister of Public Administration Reform Kestutis Skrebys stressed, however, that few officials will be affected since posts currently vacant in many ministries are slated to be abolished. In particular, the Agriculture, Forestry, and Interior Ministries will be targeted, whereas new posts will be created at the European and Finance Ministries. Last year, some 1,000 government administration employees lost their jobs through downsizing. JC
ESTONIANS HAVE MOST TRUST IN PRESIDENT, CENTRAL BANK
In a poll carried out by the Saar Poll institute last month, 65 percent of respondents said they have confidence in President Lennart Meri, while 64 percent expressed their trust in the Bank of Estonia, ETA and BNS reported on 7 January. Support for the central bank has grown considerably since spring 1997, according the Estonian news agency. The border guards placed third in the poll with 59 percent backing, followed by the press (56 percent) and Prime Minister Mart Siimann (52 percent). JC
EMBASSY SAYS 125,000 RUSSIAN CITIZENS IN ESTONIA
As of 1 January, the Russian Embassy in Tallinn recorded some 125,091 Russian citizens living in Estonia, BNS reported on 7 January. Earlier, the embassy had denied having data on the number of Russian nationals in that country, according to the news agency. Andres Kollist, head of the Estonian Citizenship and Migration Department, said that by 1 January, his department had issued residence permits to 88,683 holders of Russian passports. He added that the department's statistics show that as of July this year, there will be 315,361 non-Estonians who qualify as applicants for a permanent residence permit under amendments to the aliens law. JC
CZECH POLITICIANS DISCUSS ELECTION DATE
Vaclav Klaus and Josef Lux, the chairmen of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and the Christian Democratic Party respectively, on 7 January agreed that early parliamentary elections will be held this year. They were unable to agree, however, on either the date for the ballot or how to terminate the mandate of the current legislature. (Under Czech law, the legislature's mandate can be ended either by the chamber's decision to dissolve itself or by the parliament's rejection of three consecutive cabinet lineups.) According to CTK, the elections may be held either in June or in November. The opposition Social Democratic Party has said its support for Josef Tosovsky's cabinet is conditional on the ballot taking place in June. Klaus, however, commented it was not possible to "swear that the date will be June." MS
KLAUS WANTS DISSENTERS TO LEAVE PARTY
Klaus on 7 January told journalists that the emergence of a faction within the ODS opposed to the party's leadership has harmed the party and that it would be better if the faction's members left the ODS. He commented that this would "reunite the party and improve its position" in the forthcoming elections, CTK reported. Former Interior Minister Jindrich Vodicka, a member of the dissenting wing, told Czech Television the same day that a group calling itself the Right Alternative will meet on 9 January to discuss setting up a new right-wing formation. The group includes members of the dissenting ODS faction, the Civic Democratic Alliance, and two extra-parliamentary parties (the Democratic Union and the Conservative Party), as well as former members of the Club of Committed Non-Party Members. But he added it would not be possible to set up the new party before early elections. MS
DATE SET FOR SLOVAK PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
The parliament will elect a new president on 23 January, TASR reported on 7 January. Parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic said candidates can register until 12 January. President Michal Kovac and the opposition have been pressing for presidential elections by popular vote, but they failed in that bid. If the legislature cannot agree on a candidate, some presidential powers will be transferred temporarily to Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. The parliament must elect the president with a three-fifths majority. Observers say that requirement may produce a prolonged deadlock. Meciar has said his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia will not put forward a candidate in the first round. The center-right opposition Slovak Democratic Coalition endorses Stefan Markus, a member of the Academy of Sciences, while the Democratic Left Party has nominated former Environment Minister Juraq Hrasko, AFP reported. MS
HUNGARIAN, SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTERS TO MEET 'SOON.'
A Foreign Ministry official in Budapest told RFE/RL on 7 January that the foreign ministers of Hungary and Slovakia plan to meet soon in Hungary. No date has yet been set, but Slovak Premier Meciar and his Hungarian counterpart, Gyula Horn, agreed last month in Vienna that their chief diplomats will meet in January 1998 to try to resolve their differences over the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros dam. Slovakia canceled a September meeting between foreign ministers Zdenka Kramplova and Laszlo Kovacs because of ongoing Hungarian complaints about the mistreatment of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia. MS
HUNGARIAN LABOR MINISTER ON UNEMPLOYMENT
A total of 464,000 people (10.4 percent of the working population) were unemployed at the end of 1997, Labor Minister Peter Kiss told Hungarian media on 7 January. That figure is expected to drop to 9.5 percent by July 1998, he said. Meanwhile, nearly 15 percent of the companies polled by the National Labor Research Center said they have vacancies. The center estimates that some 1.3 million people were working in the black or gray economy in September 1997. MSZ
KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY ACTIVE IN MACEDONIA?
A statement bearing the name of the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) has claimed responsibility for recent acts of violence in Podujevo in Kosovo and in Gostivar, Prilep, and Kumanovo in Macedonia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina on 7 January. If the statement is authentic and the claim true, the three incidents in Macedonia would constitute the UCK's first acts of violence outside Kosovo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 January 1998). Western Macedonia has a large ethnic Albanian population who enjoy more cultural and political rights than the Kosovars but whose political organizations want increased autonomy and Albanian-language education. Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov said last August that the Macedonian Albanian politicians want to secede from his republic. Tensions were high in Gostivar and Tetovo for much of last year because of a dispute over the ethnic Albanians' right to fly the Albanian flag. PM
SKOPJE, TIRANA DOUBT UCK'S CLAIM
Macedonian officials told state-run television in Skopje on 7 January that the UCK is not active in Macedonia and that the statement is a propaganda ploy aimed at making the UCK seem more powerful than it is. Macedonian Albanian political leaders said that they have no ties to the UCK. Albanian state television reported from Tirana that there are illegal organizations among the Macedonian Albanians but that the UCK is not one of them. PM
U.S. CONCERNED ABOUT KOSOVO, MONTENEGRO
Robert Gelbard, President Bill Clinton's special envoy to the former Yugoslavia, said in Washington that the U.S. is greatly concerned that tensions in Kosovo and in Montenegro could lead to violence. He added that Washington may find it necessary to formally declare the UCK a terrorist organization. Gelbard said he will underscore U.S. concerns in person when he visits Podgorica, Belgrade, and Pristina within the next week. He also warned Croatia to dismantle the remaining institutions of the Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna, which was supposed to have been abolished under the Dayton agreement. PM
NATO DISCUSSES KOSOVO, BOSNIA
General Wesley Clark, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, told NATO ambassadors in Brussels on 7 January that Bosnia needs more democracy and less corruption. He particularly condemned the continuing influence of indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, "Nasa Borba" reported. In a declaration, the ambassadors expressed "great concern" about the situation in Kosovo. Representatives of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary took part in the weekly gathering of ambassadors for the first time. PM
CALL FOR SERB-SERB DIALOGUE ON KOSOVO
Vladika Artemije, a Serbian Orthodox Church leader, and Momcilo Trajkovic of the Serbian Renewal Movement said in Pristina on 7 January that representatives of all Serbian political parties should meet in the Serbian capital on 16 January to discuss Kosovo, the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported. PM
DRASKOVIC READY TO ENTER SERBIAN GOVERNMENT?
Vuk Draskovic, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), is negotiating with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia about SPO participation in the new Serbian government, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 8 January. Draskovic's former allies in the Zajedno (Together) coalition have accused him of participating in last year's Serbian elections in return for some seats in the government. PM
NEW TV STATION FOR BOSNIAN SERBS HARD-LINERS?
The Pale-based hard-line faction has given up hopes of regaining control of Bosnian Serb state-run television (RTS) and plans to launch a private station called S Channel, the Belgrade daily "Vecernje Novosti" wrote on 7 January. NATO forces took control of the hard-liners' RTS transmitters last fall after Pale-based RTS continued to air programs that NATO said propagated ethnic hatred in violation of the Dayton agreement. PM
CROATIAN UNIONS SLAM VAT
The League of Independent Labor Unions said in a statement on 7 January that the new 22 percent valued-added tax, which came into force on 1 January, has already forced up the cost of living by 7-8 percent in its first week of existence, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. PM
GERMANY SAYS SLOVENIAN NATO MEMBERSHIP CERTAIN
German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe told top Slovenian officials in Ljubljana on 7 January that they can count on NATO membership as soon as possible. He added that Germany will train Slovenian officers and help modernize the Slovenian military. PM
ALBANIA'S NANO SEEKS TO TACKLE CRIME
Prime Minister Fatos Nano sacked Tirana police chief Pashk Tusha on 7 January and replaced him with Fadil Canaj, a former top Justice Ministry official. Nano also demoted deputy Interior Minister Sokol Bare to the rank of national police chief and appointed Fatmir Hakani, the head of the national criminal police, to the crime-ridden town of Fier to replace local police chief Agron Rodha. The appointments are an attempt to deal with rising crime and a large number of recent incidents in which gangsters have killed policemen, "Koha Jone" reported. An RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana that there is a growing impatience in Tirana and other parts of Albania over the continued widespread lawlessness. Fier, Saranda, and Vlora are the main crime centers, and gangsters control many roads throughout southern Albania at night, the "Frankfurter Rundschau" reported on 8 January. FS
ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT CHARGES DEMOCRATS WITH COUP ATTEMPT
Interior Minister Neritan Ceka said on 7 January that the current crime wave is part of former President Sali Berisha's strategy for a coup d'etat, "Shekulli" reported. Social Democratic Party Secretary- General Dhori Kule charged that the Democratic Party is trying to "create a fictitious state-within-a-state" by calling on Democratic mayors to organize "general elections on the basis of communities and municipalities." The Democrats are demanding new general elections to oust the governing coalition, which was elected last June. FS
SOCIALISTS SET TO LIFT BERISHA'S IMMUNITY?
Socialist Party legislators, meeting on 7 January in Tirana, clashed over whether to take steps leading to the arrest of former President Berisha, who is also the leader of the Democratic Party. Legislator Spartak Braho said that Berisha is behind a "politically motivated crime wave" and that "without Berisha's arrest nothing will be regulated in this country," "Koha Jone" reported. The daily added that no decision was taken but commented that the debate "recalled meetings of [Democratic] legislators in 1993, when they prepared for the arrest of [current Premier and then opposition leader] Fatos Nano." FS
ANOTHER COALITION CRISIS IN ROMANIA
Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea on 7 January rejected a call by the Standing Bureau of the Democratic Party to reinstate Transportation Minister Traian Basescu. Ciorbea was backed by all other coalition members, except the Democrats. Basescu had been forced to tender his resignation on 29 December after refusing to retract criticism of what he called the government's inability to reach decisions after "useless 18-hours discussions." Ciorbea said it would be "illegal...and morally and politically wrong" to reinstate Basescu. He called on the Democrats to nominate another candidate for the portfolio. The Standing Bureau also said the government had been distracted from its main task of reform by engaging in disputes over issues of minor importance and warned that Romania may miss its chance to become a viable NATO candidate for the "second wave" of membership if reform is not implemented, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER EXPECTS "ZERO GROWTH."
Daniel Daianu on 7 January told journalists that the hardships triggered by the country's economic reform are not over and that Romanians would still have to "tighten their belts" in 1998. Daianu said GDP had decreased in 1996 by 6 percent and that the economy could "at best" achieve "zero growth" in 1998. He noted that inflation last year reached some 150 percent, partly owing to compensation for those laid off and the losses to the state budget caused by "the rotten Romanian banking system." Daianu predicted that the budget deficit this year will not exceed 4.5 percent of GDP, in accordance with the recommendations of international financial institutions, and that inflation will be around 30 percent. MS
BULGARIA CRACKS DOWN ON MARIJUANA GROWERS
Bulgarian police are cracking down on farmers who grow marijuana instead of other cash crops. A senior police officer quoted by Reuters on 7 January said more and more hemp is being grown around the country. He added that drug barons encourage the farmers to plant the crop, telling them they use the fiber for canvas or rope. In 1997, police burned some 20 hectares of land planted with cannabis, which had been intended for local consumption. MS
A DEFINING ELECTION
by Paul Goble
The victory of Valdas Adamkus over Arturas Paulauskas in the 4 January runoff of the Lithuanian presidential election is likely to help define the future not only of that country but of other former communist states as well.
Such a conclusion has relatively little to do with the biographical differences of the two, which have drawn so much media comment: a Lithuanian who spent much of his life as an American official and one who was the scion of the Soviet-era nomenklatura. Rather, it reflects three, possibly less obvious factors that seem certain to become more important both in Lithuania and in other countries across this region.
First, this election was in many ways the first genuinely post-independence vote in Lithuania. The electorate voted not out of concern over whether Lithuania would continue to exist but rather to determine what kind of country it would be. Both Lithuania media commentary and the pattern of voting testifies to this.
Vytautas Landsbergis, the man who led Lithuania to the recovery of independence, finished third in the first round and thus was shut out from the runoff. Part of the reason for his poor showing was that he continued to cast the issue in terms of Lithuania's survival rather than Lithuania's future development. Unfortunately for him, at least this time around, ever more Lithuanians appear to have decided that they now have the unaccustomed luxury to think about what kind of country Lithuania will be rather than whether it will survive.
Second, the voting demonstrated that in Lithuania, the old communist party and state nomenklatura have the power to mobilize a significant portion of the population in elections but an even greater power to alienate voters. In the first round, Paulauskas led with 45 percent of the vote, far ahead of Adamkus and Landsbergis. But in the second round, Paulauskas was unable to pick up the five additional percentage points that he needed to win.
Throughout the campaign, Paulauskas cast himself as a youthful man of the future. But public opinion polls and the actual voting suggest that most Lithuanians were more impressed by the people he had around him-namely, individuals associated with Lithuania's Soviet-era past. Part of the reason for this was a poster put up during the closing days of the campaign. It showed Paulauskas with some of those officials standing behind him, directly asking whether he was a man of the future or one of the past.
Not surprisingly, those former officials did all they could to elect Paulauskas, a man far more familiar to them than Adamkus. In the first round, they were able to deliver an impressive plurality for him. But their success led to their defeat in the second, as ever more people reached the conclusion that they did not want to take the chance that voting for Paulauskas might entail.
The Paulauskas campaign only increased that feeling when his campaign manager used the same word to describe Lithuanian Americans, such as Adamkus, that Lithuanians have used in the past to describe the Soviet occupiers. That, too, backfired, probably less because it offended the way in which Lithuanians think about the West than because it recalled an ideological style that they have sought so hard to escape.
Third, the election gives Lithuania five more years to escape from its communist past, to develop under the leadership of someone steeped in democracy and free markets and committed to broadening and deepening its ties to the West. Unless something untoward happens, the next presidential vote in Lithuania will not take place until 2003. By that time, Lithuania will have had 12 years of post-communist independence, a period that should allow the country to turn the corner.
This is not to say that everything is now settled and over in Lithuania. Many problems remain. Some are hangovers from the past; others may be self-inflicted, even by the new president-elect.
Indeed, his relative lack of experience in Lithuania may make it difficult for him to understand everything going on there and thus make it easier for some to avoid changing the ways in which they do business. But the presidential vote was a defining election, one that seems certain to lead Lithuania in a new direction. Moreover, it may even become a bellwether for similar elections across the former communist world.