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Newsline - May 26, 1998


The Security Council on 25 May approved new plans on state support for employees of coal mines slated for closure, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov told NTV. Earlier this year, the government approved plans to close 86 out of some 200 Russian coal mines. According to Nemtsov, the program approved by the Security Council calls for providing miners with funds to help them relocate and buy new housing. That money will be deposited into "personal accounts" for individual miners in order to cut out the "middlemen," whom government officials blame for many of the coal industry's financial problems. He said miners in the far north of Perm Oblast will be the first to benefit from resettlement aid, while miners in Rostov Oblast, in the south, will receive money through personal accounts and assistance in finding new jobs. LB


Following the 25 May Security Council meeting, which was chaired by President Boris Yeltsin, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii blamed the government Yeltsin sacked in March for the latest wave of protests by coal miners, Ekho Moskvy reported. Yastrzhembskii said "the previous government did very little in practice to restructure the coal sector." He did not mention former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin or former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais by name. Chubais headed a commission on socio-economic problems of coal-mining regions in the last government. LB


Aman Tuleev on 25 May lifted the state of emergency he had recently imposed in Kemerovo Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported. The blockade of the Trans-Siberian Railroad by Kemerovo coal miners ended on 24 May. Tuleev was involved in negotiations between federal government officials and the Kemerovo miners, and he has promised to act as a "guarantor" to make sure the government keeps its promises to the miners. He warned on 24 May that protests may resume if the government has not made progress by 1 July in implementing its plans to help the coal sector. LB


Yeltsin assailed the influence of private media owners on media coverage during a 25 May speech to a world congress of the International Press Institute in Moscow, which was published in full in "Kommersant-Daily" the following day. Yeltsin lamented the fact that "only a handful of publications have genuine independence." He added that "the media owners are sometimes the worst censors. They openly interfere in editorial policy, deciding what should or should not be written or said." Such conditions jeopardize "the people's right to objective and truthful information," the president said. He did not criticize any media outlets by name. Yeltsin benefited from almost unanimous support in the Russian media during his 1996 re-election campaign, when journalists helped spread his campaign's message and keep his health problems out of public view. LB


Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii told journalists on 25 May that the Russian media's coverage of the recent blockades by coal miners of railroads "went beyond reasonable limits," Reuters reported. He did not give any examples of what he considers to be excesses in media coverage. Reports on the miners' protests often featured calls for the dismissal of the government and the resignation of the president. Yastrzhembskii said that on 28 May Yeltsin plans to meet with the heads of Russia's three major networks--51 percent state-owned Russian Public Television, fully state-owned Russian Television, and private NTV--to discuss "cooperation between the authorities and the media." Appearing on NTV on 25 May, Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov said he has "no complaints" about the media's coverage of the miners' protests. LB


The Security Council also decided at its 25 May meeting to establish a special government body, which will be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, to stabilize the "unpredictable" situation in the North Caucasus, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 26 May. Security Council Secretary Andrei Kokoshin said that Russia's policy toward the region will combine social- economic incentives with "all the means at the state's disposal." Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii claimed after the meeting that "an overwhelming majority of government orders and decisions on stabilizing the socio- economic situation in North Caucasus regions, including Dagestan" were not implemented by the previous government, Reuters reported. LB/LF


Union of Muslims of Russia Chairman Nadirshakh Khachilaev has suggested that Prime Minister Khizri Shikhsaidov provoked the clash with police in Makhachkala on 20 May, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26 May. That incident prompted the premier's followers to lay siege to the government building the following day. Khachilaev claimed that Shikhsaidov had requested him to travel with a group of armed followers to the Dagestani- Chechen border and had ordered the local police to intercept the group on its return to the capital. Khachilaev also claimed that several leading Russian government officials had telephoned him on 21 May to express their support for his demand that the chairman of Dagestan's State Council, Magomed-Ali Magomadov, resign. Khachilaev has agreed to meet with investigators from the Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service, and the Prosecutor- General's office to answer questions about the 20-21 May events, Interfax reported on 25 May. LF


The Russian Foreign Ministry on 25 May issued a statement criticizing a bill adopted by the U.S. Senate three days earlier that provides for sanctions against foreign companies and individuals suspected of supplying nuclear technology to Iran, Reuters and Interfax reported. The statement said Russia "categorically opposes attempts to prevent the free development of legitimate trade and economic ties with Iran." It also claimed that the bill is aimed at "complicating U.S.-Russian relations by accusing Russia of helping Iran create nuclear missiles." LF


A Russian patrol boat on 25 May fired on a Chinese fishing vessel caught poaching in the Bering Sea, killing two on board, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed regret at the incident but supported the action of the border guards, saying they "acted fully in conformity with the legislation of the Russian Federation." Recently, Russian border guards have caught 14 Chinese poaching along the Amur River, which divides Russia and China in the Far East. Russia recently cut the fishing quota in that area by nearly 60 percent. On 22 May, First Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov called for revising the visa-free agreements reached between Russian and Chinese border regions, saying that while they played a positive role, the visa-free regime has been "criminalized to some extent." He urged that similar, more precisely defined agreements be signed by the Russian and Chinese governments. BP


Yeltsin has scheduled a meeting with nine business leaders on 29 May, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced on 26 May. Six of those on the guest list participated in a similar Kremlin meeting last September: Oneksimbank founder Vladimir Potanin, Media-Most head Vladimir Gusinskii, Yukos-Rosprom head Mikhail Khodorkovskii, SBS-Agro bank head Aleksandr Smolenskii, Alfa group head Mikhail Fridman, and Inkombank head Vladimir Vinogradov. Yeltsin has also invited Unified Energy Systems chief executive Anatolii Chubais, LUKoil president Vagit Alekperov, and Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev. The president plans to listen to the businessmen's views on the current financial crisis, according to Yastrzhembskii. During last September's meeting, Yeltsin urged influential businessmen not to use the media to "sling mud" at one another and at some high- ranking government officials. That appeal, however, had no discernible effect on the tone of Russian media coverage. LB


The Yukos and Sibneft oil companies on 25 May issued a joint statement saying they have halted talks on merging the two companies, Russian news agencies reported. In January, Yukos chief executive Mikhail Khodorkovskii and major Sibneft shareholder Boris Berezovskii signed preliminary documents on creating a new company, to be called Yuksi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 January 1998). But the 25 May press release said the companies will instead concentrate on internal restructuring "in connection with the instability of the Russian financial market and the continuing fall in world prices for oil." In addition, each company will conduct independent negotiations with potential Western partners. The French oil company Elf Aquitaine agreed in April to purchase a 5 percent stake in Yuksi for $528 million. LB


First Deputy State Property Minister Aleksandr Braverman told Interfax on 25 May that the ministry will not comment on how many groups are competing to purchase 75 percent plus one share in the state-owned oil company Rosneft. The deadline for submitting bids is 26 May, and the results of the privatization auction are scheduled to be announced three days later. If fewer than two bids are submitted, the auction will be invalid. ITAR-TASS on 25 May quoted an unnamed source as saying that the consortium of Gazprom, LUKoil, and Royal Dutch Shell does not plan to bid for the Rosneft stake. The recent announcement that LUKoil is holding talks on purchasing Sidanko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 1998) suggests that the consortium of Sidanko and British Petroleum, formed last November, will not take part in the Rosneft auction either. LB


Yeltsin on 25 May appointed Vladimir Putin as first deputy head of the presidential administration, Russian news agencies reported. Putin joined the administration in 1996, when Anatolii Chubais was Yeltsin's chief of staff, and has headed the Kremlin's Main Controlling Department since March 1997. Also on 25 May, Yeltsin appointed former government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov, an ally of former Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, as deputy head of the administration in charge of the media, public relations, and speech writers. Meanwhile, the president sacked Viktoriya Mitina, who was appointed deputy head of the administration last November. Mitina has been blamed for several regional election results that embarrassed the Kremlin, most recently the Nizhnii Novgorod mayoral election and the Krasnoyarsk Krai gubernatorial race. The president also sacked two advisers: Mikhail Krasnov (legal issues) and Anatolii Korabelshchikov (regional issues). Krasnov announced plans to leave the Kremlin earlier this year. LB


The Institute of Social and Political Research of the Russian Academy of Science has appointed former Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov as its senior scientific fellow, Interfax reported on 25 May, quoting Sergei Rogachev, the institute's deputy director for scientific work. He said the appointment was made last month and that Kulikov, who has a doctorate in economics, may either lecture or teach. Kulikov was interior minister from June 1995 until last March. LB


Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich of the Our Home Is Russia faction told Interfax on 25 May that agreements between Russia and NATO member states on not expanding the deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe would speed up the process of ratifying the START-2 arms control treaty. During negotiations before the Russia-NATO Founding Act was signed in May 1997, NATO refused to make a binding pledge not to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new member states. Meanwhile, Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko argued on 22 May that the Duma would be more likely to ratify START-2 if Yeltsin agreed to drop his attempts to change the system for parliamentary elections, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Communist Duma deputy Albert Makashov published an article in the 26 May edition of "Sovetskaya Rossiya" arguing against ratification of the START-2 treaty on principle. LB


CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii, who provided substantial financial support to Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed's recent gubernatorial campaign, on 25 May said Lebed would be "extremely dangerous as the president of Russia," Interfax reported. Speaking at the world congress of the International Press Institute in Moscow, Berezovskii argued that Russia currently has only "four realistic alternatives" for the next presidential election: Lebed, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, and Yeltsin. But he predicted that Luzhkov will not run for president if Yeltsin decides to seek a third term. Popular singer and Duma deputy Iosif Kobzon, an adviser to Luzhkov on cultural issues, also argued on 25 May that Luzhkov will not run for president if Yeltsin is in the race. Both Luzhkov and Yeltsin have said they have no plans to seek the presidency in 2000, but Russian commentators regard such statements with skepticism. LB


Novgorod Oblast Governor Mikhail Prusak advocates changing the constitution to alter procedures for electing leaders. Speaking to Interfax on 24 May, Prusak called for indirect presidential elections whereby elected regional representatives would choose the president. (Article 81 of the constitution stipulates that direct elections must be held to choose the president.) In an interview with "Argumenty i fakty" last month (No. 15), Prusak also called for doing away with elections for regional and local leaders. Instead, he advocated giving the president the right to appoint governors, who themselves would appoint local leaders. He argued that elections "continually destabilize the situation. Every time it's a shock for the state. Enormous amounts of money are spent, to no avail." Prusak has been widely praised in Russia and abroad for managing his region's economy. In terms of per capita foreign investment, Novgorod ranks second among Russia's 89 regions, after the city of Moscow. LB


Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili and his Abkhaz counterpart, Sergei Shamba, signed a protocol in the Abkhaz resort of Gagra on 25 May on a cease-fire between the warring sides and guarantees against the renewed use of force. The UN special envoy to Georgia and the head of the Russian contingent to the CIS peacekeeping forces also signed the protocol, which was drafted by Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba and Georgian Ambassador to Russia Vazha Lortkipanidze. UN observers and officers from the CIS peacekeeping force were to monitor compliance with the cease-fire agreement, which was scheduled to take effect at 6 a.m. local time on 26 May. Caucasus Press, however, reports that hostilities are continuing and that volunteers from the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus are fighting on the Abkhaz side. LF


The Baku City authorities have refused a request by the opposition Movement for Democratic Reforms and Democratic Elections to be allowed to hold a demonstration on Baku's Freedom Square on 28 May, the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, Turan reported on 25 May. The Movement now plans to convene a meeting in a Baku suburb instead. On 24 May, 11 pro-government political parties issued a statement calling for "consolidation" in support of President Heidar Aliev. The statement claims that the opposition knows its candidates have no chance of winning the October presidential elections and are therefore intent on destabilizing the internal political situation. LF


In a statement released on 23 May, Rasul Guliev denied charges by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor-General's office that he misappropriated billions of dollars during his tenure as director of one of Azerbaijan's largest oil refineries, Turan reported two days later. Guliev squarely lays the blame for astronomical financial losses on President Aliev. Speaking at a press conference in Baku on 25 May, Guliev's lawyers said they have not yet had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the criminal charges against Guliev, who is currently in the U.S. LF


Said Abdullo Nuri, leader of the United Tajik Opposition, appealed on 25 May for the guarantor nations and organizations of the Tajik peace accord to use their influence to have the law banning religious parties suspended (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 1998), RFE/RL correspondents reported. Iran, one of the guarantor nations, urged both sides to "show self-restraint and avoid actions that would damage the peaceful atmosphere," Reuters reported. Meanwhile, the UTO has issued a statement criticizing the "troika" formed by the Tajik, Russian, and Uzbek governments to combat the spread of "fundamentalism." According to the statement, "such plans...seriously jeopardize the divided Tajik society" and may "prompt retaliation, conflict, and resumption of the armed confrontation." The UTO called on the three governments to "give up the tendency [toward] escalating tension." BP


Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov sent a letter to UTO leader Nuri asking that the UTO locate and hand over 45 of its members wanted by the Uzbek government for terrorism, RFE/RL correspondents reported on 25 May. Uzbek President Islam Karimov had requested the extradition of the extremists earlier this month, saying they were ethnic Uzbeks who were involved in the violence in the eastern Uzbek city of Namangan last December. However, some of those on the list are reportedly close to the UTO leadership and are unlikely to be handed over. BP


Saparmurat Niyazov lashed out at the country's agricultural officials on 22 May, RFE/RL correspondents and Interfax reported. Niyazov said he had flown over areas west of the capital and had noted that there is "not a single normal field there." He dismissed Agriculture Minister Ata Nabatov and appointed him chairman of the State Grain Products Enterprise. Niyazov added that if Nabotov's work was satisfactory, he would regain his ministerial post after this year's harvest. Also sacked was the governor of the Kara-Kala district, Amangeldy Rejepov. Niyazov has warned that failure to meet grain quotas could result in the launching of criminal charges. BP


The EU and Turkmenistan on 25 May signed an agreement to improve political and economic relations, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreement gives Turkmenistan most- favored-nation status for trading with EU countries and provides for increased foreign investment in oil and natural gas projects. All the former Soviet republics, except Tajikistan, have now signed a cooperation agreement with the EU. BP


In addition to demanding the payment of wage arrears for the past 10 months, Pervomaysk miners picketing the Luhansk Oblast administration building want middlemen to be eliminated from the coal trade, ITAR- TASS reported. The middlemen, they argue, have "robbed us: they have bought coal from us very cheaply and sold it at prices several times higher." Negotiations with the oblast administration have yielded no results, since the authorities continue to pledge wages for this month. JM


Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich, addressing the Russian Academy of Social Sciences in Minsk on 25 May, said that the Belarus-Russia union has become "a major barrier on the road of world globalization," ITAR-TASS and Belapan reported. "Supranational corporations have practically dominated the entire world, but today nobody calls this process imperialism, it is called globalization," he commented. The Belarus-Russia union, he continued, has revived the "more than 1,000-year tradition of making a great state." Antanovich added that it is possible to introduce joint systems of control within the union, primarily in the financial, power engineering, transport, communications, and defense sectors. With regard to the union's future, Antanovich commented that he personally would like to see a "Slavic Orthodox state." JM


The People's Party has said it is willing to cooperate with the ruling coalition in order to keep party leader, Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves, in the government, ETA reported on 25 May. That statement follows a threat by the ruling coalition to dismiss both Ilves and Ethnic Affairs Minister Andra Veidemann of the Development Party if their formations continued to refuse to share responsibility for the government's actions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 1998). "The People's Party is prepared to cooperate with the coalition on the basis of the existing cooperation agreement," said Indrek Kannik, the party's press secretary. Ilves commented that he can see no "significant problems" preventing him from continuing as foreign minister, adding that there were no problems beforehand, either. JC


The Central Bureau of Investigation is to bring charges against leading officials of the Bank of Estonia in connection with a $10 million affair that emerged in 1993-1994, ETA reported on 25 May. Among those to be charged are current President Vahur Kraft, his predecessor Siim Kallas, and former legal expert Urmas Kaju. In 1993, the former North Estonian Bank (PEP) invested $10 million in an oil deal led by the Swiss-based company Paradiso SAL. When the deal collapsed, Paradiso SAL paid back only $2 million. The Bank of Estonia became involved in 1994 when it issued a guarantee to the PEP to help it recover its losses. According to Kallas, the central bank's only involvement in the affair was issuing the guarantee to PEP. JC


Valdas Adamkus has ordered the prosecutor-general to investigate media reports alleging the Interior Ministry spied on top officials, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 May, citing a statement issued by the presidential press service. According to the allegations, which were first made in the 23 May "Lietuvos Rytas, an Interior Ministry unit normally engaged in fighting crime and providing security to the president was used to carry out surveillance of the country's top leaders, including the head of state, the premier, and cabinet ministers. It is also alleged that most of the collected information was passed on to parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis and former Interior Minister Vidmantas Ziemelis, who resigned last week under pressure (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 1998). The main opposition Democratic Labor Party has called for Landsbergis's resignation over the scandal. JC


The European Commission on 25 May announced that Poland will receive 178 million ecus under the PHARE program intended to prepare the country for EU membership, instead of the 212 million ecus originally envisaged for this year, Reuters reported. EU sources said some of the projects submitted by Poland were "irrelevant" to its membership preparations and some were considered not ready for implementation. "Rzeczpospolita" reported that Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek has fired a government official responsible for drawing up EU-oriented projects. JM


Education Minister Miroslaw Handke has presented an educational reform program to be launched next year, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported on 26 May. The primary school system will have six grades, rather than the current eight, while secondary education will be offered by three-year colleges or two-year vocational schools. JM


The Chamber of Deputies on 22 May approved an opposition resolution calling on Premier Jozef Tosovsky to dismiss Finance Minister Ivan Pilip for his handling of privatization and deregulation in the housing and energy sectors, Reuters reported. The resolution is non-binding. In another development, Eduard Kremlicka, the leader of the Pensioners for Life and Security Party (DZJ), told Reuters he would like to join the Social Democratic Party in a coalition after the June elections. Opinion polls show support for the DZJ at some 6-11 percent. MS


Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schussel said on 25 May that the EU has agreed to raise safety concerns with Slovakia over the startup of the Mochovce nuclear plant, Reuters reported. Schussel was speaking in Brussels after discussing the plant with British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who is the president of the EU council, and European Commission President Jacques Santer. PB


Prime Minister- designate Viktor Orban told Hungarian media on 25 May that coalition talks between his Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ-MPP) and the Independent Smallholders' Party are likely begin this week. He said that the new government does not plan political purges, only radical transformations, adding that a crackdown on corruption will begin from "the top down" through screenings. Orban also said he foresees a bigger role for the premier's office, as well as a strong ministry for economic affairs. Also on 25 May, the Budapest stock continued to nose-dive amid uncertainty over the new government's economic policies. The leading BUX index was more than 8 percent down on last week's closing level. MSZ/PB


Gyula Horn, chairman of the Socialist Party (MSZP), told the party's governing board that he is prepared to "face up to the idea of retiring" at the MSZP's fall congress, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 26 May. Horn said the work of the past four years has proved tiring for him, and he urged the younger generation to play a more important role in the party. Horn added that a change of style is needed for the MSZP to become a constructive opposition. MSZ


Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman Milan Tokar on 25 May said Bratislava hopes relations with Hungary will improve after a new government is formed in Budapest, Reuters reported. Observers say the opposite may be the case, since the FIDESZ has often been more sharply critical of Bratislava's policies toward the Hungarian minority in Slovakia than was the outgoing Hungarian government. Meanwhile in Romania, Ion Diaconescu, chairman of the main ruling National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, said he believes recent statements by Orban on the rights of Hungarian ethnic minorities in neighboring countries had served "electoral purposes" but would not be the line of the new government. MS


The Democratic League of Kosova on 25 May said Serbian forces are on the attack in the Klina, Gjakova, Decan, and Skenderaj regions and that a "real state of war" exists in those places, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Kosovar sources said that numerous villages are in flames and that a growing number of refugees are on the move. The Kosovar sources added that more than 6,000 ethnic Albanians have arrived recently in Gjakova from surrounding villages and from those in the neighboring Decan area. There is no independent confirmation of reports from either side of deaths and injuries because of the Serbian-imposed blockade of the affected regions. PM


Kosovar spokesmen said in Prishtina on 25 May that the continuing Serbian offensive threatens to put a halt to the weekly talks between Kosovar and Serbian delegations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 1998). The spokesmen called for international involvement to put an end to what they called a "dramatic situation on the ground." In Brussels, EU foreign ministers agreed to drop a proposed ban of foreign investment in Serbia. The international Contact Group agreed on 18 May to suspend the proposed ban in response to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's willingness to launch talks with the Kosovar leadership. PM


Rexhep Meidani told Reuters on 25 May in Tirana that the weekly Kosova talks are "a sham aimed at delaying the solution of the situation, and without a mediator this game will continue and will be in Milosevic's favor." Meidani pointed out that "Milosevic keeps the situation at this level in order to make dialog fruitless," adding that "his main preoccupation is the outcome of the [31 May] elections in Montenegro." Meidani stressed that "holding a dialog while bloodshed just a facade" and warned that the Kosovar negotiators could lose credibility with their own people if they continue to participate in the talks. Meidani also called for an international military presence in Kosova: "a delayed send troops will be more expensive [in the long run], and time is running out." FS


The main student organization at Prishtina University issued a statement on 25 May saying that police arrested seven leaders of the Students' Union at the Prizren Teachers' College two days earlier. The police gave no reason for the arrests, and it is unclear where the seven are being held. PM


Units from NATO member countries and unspecified states participating in the Partnership for Peace Program will hold "large maneuvers" in Macedonia in early September, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Brussels on 25 May. The aim of the exercise is to help prepare Macedonia to secure its borders "in case of a dramatic worsening of the situation in Kosova." PM


Slovenian President Milan Kucan told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 25 May that the conflict in Kosova could "lead to a new Balkan war." He stressed that international community must realize that "the fate of the Balkans" is currently being decided in that region. Kucan added that empty pronouncements and a "carrot-and-stick [diplomatic approach] will yield no useful results." The Slovenian president stated that Balkan problems cannot be solved piecemeal and that sooner or later a European conference will have to formulate a comprehensive regional settlement. Kucan stressed that Milosevic is responsible for the failure of the Yugoslav successor states to reach a settlement among themselves over the former Yugoslavia's debts and assets. PM


Several thousand persons demonstrated in the center of Serbia's capital on 25 May to protest new laws that will curb university autonomy. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic said that the government aims to make the universities "branch offices" of state institutions. The protesters also criticized Milosevic's policies against the independent media whereby licenses to 35 out of 38 independent radio or television stations were not renewed. The polices also saddled the remaining three stations with fees ranging up to $15,000 a month, which, spokesmen for the stations said, will bankrupt them. In Podgorica, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said the recent call by federal authorities for changes in the security apparatus is aimed at reducing Montenegro's powers. PM


A spokesman for SFOR peacekeepers said in Sarajevo on 25 May that the Atlantic alliance is investigating charges made by the Madrid daily "El Mundo" on 23 May that peacekeepers and Bosnian gangs are regularly supplying prostitutes between 12 and 14 years of age to Italian, Portuguese, and other SFOR soldiers in Bosnia. The newspaper added that the Spanish secret service CESID made a report on the prostitution ring last summer but that it continues to operate. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said in Barcelona that the report in "El Mundo" is "groundless." SFOR officials in Sarajevo called on the daily to publish evidence to support its claims. PM


Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano told the Holy See's Cardinal Tomko in Shkodra on 25 May that "Albania's relations with the Vatican are very important for its integration into civilized Europe and the Roman Catholic world in general." Nano also thanked Catholic missionaries for the help they have given Albanian citizens since the end of communism. Nano and President Meidani were visiting Shkodra for the inauguration of a reconstructed church, "Zeri i Popullit" reported. In 1967, dictator Enver Hoxha proclaimed Albania "the world's first atheist state." Many religious buildings and properties were subsequently destroyed. FS


Tirana prosecutors on 25 May submitted the findings of an investigation into Democratic Party deputy Azem Hajdari to parliamentary speaker Skender Gjinushi. Hajdari is charged with slandering Vlora journalist Zenepe Luka on 10 May, whose house was subsequently bombed by unknown persons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 1998). He is also accused of obstructing the police during a clash between his supporters and police at a roadblock in Milot in mid- February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1998) and slandering former Interior Minister Neritan Ceka and current Secret Service chief Fatos Klosi. The parliament lifted Hajdari's immunity in March 1998 and will soon decide whether to press formal charges against him, "Koha Jone" reported. FS


Emil Constantinescu has met with Canadian Governor General Romeo Leblanc and Prime Minister Jean Chretien at the beginning of a six- day visit, an RFE/RL correspondent in Ottawa reported on 25 May. Among the main issues discussed were Canadian support for Romania's bid to join NATO and financing a second Canadian-built nuclear reactor at the Cernavoda plant on the River Danube. Constantinescu announced after the talks that at Canada's urging, Italy will purchase surplus electricity from Romania, which, he said, will help finance the second Cernavoda reactor. MS


Speaking in Istanbul on 25 May, Radu Vasile thanked Ankara for its efforts to promote Romania's entry into NATO, the "Turkish Daily News" reported. Vasile met with his Turkish counterpart, Mesut Yilmaz, and President Suleyman Demirel to discuss bilateral trade and the various plans for the transit of Caspian Sea oil. Yilmaz noted that the two countries "will be key players in the economic development, peace, and stability of the region." MS/PB


Petru Lucinschi on 25 May said the first priority of Ion Ciubuc's new cabinet must be to complete the transition to a market economy, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Lucinschi said the pace of the reform was "unsatisfactory" and that annual GDP growth must reach 5 percent, which, he said, can be achieved only by "doing away with the underground [gray] economy." He added that taxes must be reduced in order to encourage investments and create new jobs. MS


Lawmakers on 22 May rejected a Socialist Party motion criticizing the government for its economic policies. They approved a resolution saying that the cabinet has "successfully fulfilled" its economic program and recommending that the government speed up privatization and land restitution. In other news, Bulgaria has said it will peg its currency to the euro when it is launched on 1 January. MS


by George Schopflin

The outcome of the second round of the Hungarian elections poses major challenges for the country's political elite. The victory of the center and right was clear, but not overwhelming, hence the new coalition's mandate will be predominantly for moderation. Evidently, Hungarian society wanted a change from the previous coalition of the former communist Socialist Party (HSP) and the liberal Free Democrats.

The outgoing coalition was punished for a number of related reasons. In the first place, the 1994 coalition came to power on the promise of professionalism and moderation, as well as greater economic sophistication than its predecessor had offered. While the Hungarian economy is beginning to pick up, the HSP behaved with a degree of arrogance and corruption that cannot have endeared it to voters. Furthermore, the economic transformation process has had its losers, many of whom might have supported the new government if they themselves had experienced a different fate.

The new coalition is currently being formed, but its outlines are clear. FIDESZ, the Young Democrats, gained 41 percent of the vote in alliance with the remnants of the Hungarian Democratic Forum, the dominant party in the 1990-1994 government. FIDESZ will negotiate with the Smallholders, the agrarian radicals, with whom it will have about 54 percent of the seats in the parliament. The preconditions of such a coalition were established during the election, when FIDESZ and the Smallholders withdrew candidates in favor of the other.

The new government faces a number of difficulties, the most important of which is defining its philosophy: What are the principles of moderate conservatism in Hungary (and elsewhere in the post-communist world) when much of the past that a conservative seeks to conserve is a communist past? Without a clear answer to that question, post-communist conservatives run the risk of being held to ransom by populist and nationalist right radicals. This danger is all the more serious because the Smallholders are prone to use right-radical rhetoric and because the extreme right, the Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), has also entered the new parliament.

The new coalition also faces the problem of its inexperience in government. The running of a bureaucracy requires skills of organization and management as well as knowledge of what can and cannot be expected of an administration. It is crucial that politicians learn that there is always a gap between a political decision and its execution. This is not the result of antagonism on the part of the bureaucracy but, more probably, of administrative inefficiency.

The problem of the cohesiveness of the coalition and the degree of administrative inefficiency will be central to the success or failure of the new government. The pivotal challenge facing Hungary over the next four years is negotiation for accession to the EU. This will demand both high levels of political will and state capacity. As far as the latter is concerned, Hungary (together with the other first- wave states) will have to absorb the "acquis comunautaire," the entire legal regulation of the EU. This is currently estimated to be 35, 000 pages in length and is still growing. Legislative, administrative, and judicial capacity will all be stretched to ensure successful implementation of the "acquis," without which membership is impossible.

Another problem facing the Hungarian political establishment is that left and right behave as if the other had no genuine claim to power, as if the voters were mistaken in returning the other to power. No party in a democracy enjoys losing power, but the loss of power does not normally lead to major collapse. In the present context, the relatively inexperienced center-right government needs the toleration of the opposition or, at any rate, recognition by the elites that dominate the public sphere (press, electronic media) that the center-right has genuine democratic credentials.

It is very much an open question whether the dominant opinion-forming elite will accept the new coalition on these terms: after all, it was absolutely unwilling to accept the democratic legitimacy of the 1990-1994 government. Arguably, it thereby contributed toward its radicalization and thus became the victim of a self-fulfilling prophecy. This dominant elite regards the center-left as the sole guarantor of democracy and tolerance and consequently has found it extremely painful to live with the democratic choice of the majority.

The problem for Hungary is that without the support of the opinion-forming elites, the new government will certainly feel isolated. It will undoubtedly need a higher degree of backing than its predecessor received, both to sustain its self-legitimacy and to enable the process of negotiating with the EU to continue. The author is Jean Monnet Professor of Political Science and director of the Centre for the Study of Nationalism at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London.