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Newsline - July 9, 1999


Vladimir Ryzhkov, leader of the Our Home Is Russia (NDR) faction in the State Duma, said on 8 July that it is too early to talk about the possible union of his party with Pravoe Delo (Right Cause), Novaya Sila (New Force), and Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia), Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 2 July 1999). He said that last week in Salzburg the leaders of the four groups discussed the need to ensure right-centrist forces are represented in the new parliament, but he stressed that no decision on uniting was made. Also on 8 July, "Vremya MN" reported that "certain governors" belonging to Golos Rossii are "rather skeptical" about uniting with Pravoe Delo. The newspaper argued that currently only Unified Energy Systems chief Anatolii Chubais (Pravoe Delo) and former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko (Novaya Sila) are interested in forming a wide coalition. Leaders of the four groups are scheduled to resume talks on 12 July. JC


NDR Duma faction leader Ryzhkov also said on 8 July that he is "perplexed" by President Boris Yeltsin's decree to set up a Ministry of the Press, Television and Radio Broadcasting, and Mass Media Communications (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1999), Interfax reported. He noted that former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, during his term in office, had suggested that "something of this kind be done [but] had acted reasonably in giving up this idea." Valentin Kuptsov, deputy head of the Duma Communist faction, accused the executive of seeking to "launch counter-propaganda against the leftist opposition." The previous day, "Vremya MN" wrote that the new body can only be compared to George Orwell's Ministry of Truth in the scope of its potential tasks. The newspaper argued that the ministry will become "one of the most significant election tools of the powers that be." JC


Swiss police raided several firms in Lausanne last week at the request of Russian authorities to seek information on suspected fraud and money laundering by unnamed Russian citizens, Reuters reported on 8 July. A spokesman for the Swiss Prosecutor-General's Office said that many documents were confiscated during the operation, but he did not name the companies involved. "The Moscow Times" on 9 July quoted an employee of the Swiss firm Mabetex as saying that company was not among those raided. Mabetex is alleged to have bribed Kremlin officials to win lucrative contracts to renovate President Yeltsin's Kremlin residence and other official buildings. Suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov was investigating that allegation and claims that attempts to remove him from office were part of an effort to halt the inquiry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 23 March 1999). JC


Meanwhile, in an interview published in the 8 July issue of "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Skuratov warned that if he is dealt with "in an unlawful way," he will have no choice but to disclose "many things." He said he could not discount the possibility that the investigation by the Russian authorities into the case of Mabetex may result in a scandal like Watergate. Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the criminal case against Skuratov has legal grounds and may continue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 1999). On 3 July, the chairman of the Constitutional Court, Marat Baglai, told ITAR-TASS that the court will not review until the fall the Federation Council's inquiry about the legitimacy of Yeltsin's suspending Skuratov from office. JC


Pavel Borodin, head of the Kremlin facilities directorate, told journalists on 7 July that the renovation of the Grand Kremlin Palace over the past two years has cost $335 million, Interfax reported. The repairs were carried out mostly by Russian companies, although firms from Italy, Austria, and other foreign countries were involved, he added. AP quoted Borodin as saying that the Swiss company Mabetex did not work on the renovation of the palace. JC


Addressing a conference devoted to problems facing the agro-industrial complex, Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin announced that the Central Bank plans to extend a loan worth 2.5 billion rubles ($103.3 million) to SBS-Agro Bank on condition that 1 billion rubles are used as favorable loans for agriculture. In exchange, the bank must hand over 75 percent of its stock to the government. Stepashin said that Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko had suggested this arrangement to him, but the premier added that "the question is where to find this money," ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 8 July. JC


Addressing top military commanders at the Kremlin on 6 July, President Yeltsin said that the Russian armed forces' recent "West-99" exercises proved that those forces "have nothing to fear." "In spite of present difficulties, the armed forces are able to ensure the security of Russia and let this be known to all the world," he commented, adding that reports in the West that the army has collapsed are "utter nonsense." During the "West-99" maneuvers, Russian bombers flew close to NATO airspace near Norway and Iceland. The exercises were seen as attempting to prove that Russia is still a force to be dealt with, particularly after it had failed to prevent NATO air strikes against Kosova. Russian officials denied that the maneuvers had anything to do with the NATO campaign in Yugoslavia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 July 1999). JC


Sergei Lavrov told an open session of the UN Security Council in New York on 8 July that the demilitarization of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) is "insufficiently dynamic," ITAR-TASS reported. He added that the Kosova peacekeeping force (KFOR) "is clearly not doing everything in that direction." Lavrov stressed that UN Security Council Resolution 1244 "clearly and unambiguously envisages the demilitarization of the [UCK] and other armed groups of [Kosova] Albanians..., a true disarmament of the [UCK] militants with a complete liquidation of all military structures of the organization which cannot reappear in any form." FS


Major-General Valerii Yevtukhovich, who is the commander of the Russian KFOR contingent, told ITAR-TASS on 9 July that cooperation with NATO KFOR units is proceeding "effectively." He added that "it is this atmosphere of openness that should be typical of peacekeeping operations of this level." On 8 July, three Russian navy vessels, carrying 180 soldiers, 43 vehicles, and 100 tons of other supplies, left the Black Sea port of Tuapse. They are expected to arrive in Thessaloniki on 14 July, Interfax reported. FS


Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told journalists on 8 July that the U.S.'s recent threat to stop assistance to Russia if Moscow sells weapons to Syria is "groundless and unjustified," Russian media reported. U.S. State Department deputy spokesman James Foley's warning about a possible halt in aid came on the same day Yeltsin met with his Syrian counterpart, Hafez Assad, in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1999). Rakhmanin said that the main focus of the Russian-Syrian talks was "international policy issues" and the situation in the Middle East, the Balkans, and Iraq. He added that military-technical cooperation was discussed in general terms, although it remains an "important component of mutually advantageous bilateral cooperation." JC


The Agrarian Party has decided to run by itself in the upcoming elections to the State Duma, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 July. According to Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin, the party's central committee voted unanimously in favor of going it alone at the polls. Meanwhile, at the conference devoted to discussing problems facing the agro-industrial sector, Prime Minister Stepashin said he would like to see a "powerful agrarian faction" in the next State Duma. JC


RFE/RL's Russia Service reported on 8 July that representatives of political parties and social organizations in Tula have sent a letter to President Yeltsin requesting that Governor Vasilii Starodubtsev be removed from office. Starodubtsev has been charged with tax evasion estimated to have caused losses to the state totaling 130 million rubles but has not yet appeared in court (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 24 March 1999). JC


State Environment Committee head Viktor Danilov-Danilyan told journalists on 7 July that the construction of the Yumaguzinskii reservoir in the Republic of Bashkortostan violates federal law on protected territories and has not received approval from his committee, AP reported. He urged that the project be abandoned, saying it would cause "devastating damage to the area." The environmental group Greenpeace, for its part, said the reservoir would submerge half a national park and threaten endangered animals and plants. Plans for constructing the complex were rejected by the Soviet environmental authorities in 1989, but the project was revived by the Bashkortostan administration last September to meet the region's growing water needs. JC


The head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Garegin I, was buried in the courtyard of the main Armenian cathedral in Echmiadzin on 8 July, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Armenia's political leadership, foreign dignitaries and religious leaders, and thousands of Armenian believers attended the ceremony, which was preceded by a three-hour liturgy, and during which religious and political leaders paid tribute to the deceased catholicos. President Robert Kocharian said Garegin's tenure was short but "fruitful." He said Garegin was "one of the few fortunate [chief clerics]" who led their flock in an independent Armenia." Archbishop Nerses Pozapalian, who was named interim vicar-general of the Armenian Apostolic Church on 4 July, said Garegin "was able to explain God's word to the nation," according to Reuters. LF


Georgian parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania, who attended the obsequies for Garegin, met later in Yerevan on 8 July with President Kocharian to discuss bilateral relations, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The two men repeated earlier calls for an intensification of bilateral economic ties, and discussed convening a joint economic forum to that end. Zhvania characterized the March meeting in Strasbourg under Council of Europe auspices of the parliamentary speakers of all three South Caucasus states as an important step towards strengthening regional cooperation, according to Noyan Tapan. LF


Visiting Yerevan on 7 July and Tbilisi the following day, Wolfgang Schuessel helds talks with Armenian and Georgian leaders on the Karabakh and Abkhaz conflicts. Schuessel told President Kocharian that he hopes that during Austria's chairmanship of the OSCE next year progress will be made in drafting a settlement of the Karabakh conflict that will be acceptable to all sides, according to Noyan Tapan. Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on 8 July after talks with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Schuessel called for greater international involvement in the Abkhaz peace process, according to Caucasus Press. The OSCE is engaged in mediating a solution to the Karabakh conflict, while a UN- sponsored group including the U.S., France, Germany, the U.K. and Russia mediates between the central Georgian government and the Abkhaz leadership. Schuessel also told journalists in Tbilisi that Austria intends to invite the speakers of the Transcaucasus parliaments to Vienna in 200 to discuss possible solutions to regional conflicts. LF


Azerbaijan's manat lost 6.9 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar in trading on 8 July, Turan and AP reported. The manat exchange rate had been stable for the past four years. National Bank chairman Elman Rustamov told journalists that the devaluation had been planned in order to stimulate domestic production and improve the country's trade balance. He said the manat was over-valued by 10 -15 percent. But former Deputy Premier and Azerbaijan Popular Front Party Deputy Chairman Ali Masimov told Turan that the devaluation will not affect prices because of the population's minimal purchasing power, and predicted a further depreciation. National Independence Party of Azerbaijan Chairman Etibar Mamedov similarly predicted that the manat exchange rate will fall to 5,000 to the U.S. dollar within the next month from the previous rate of 3,950:$1. Mamedov suggested that the government's withdrawal of support for the manat was connected with plans to pay off overdue wages and pensions. LF


Plans to transport some 3,500 metric tons of Azerbaijani Caspian oil by rail from Makhachkala in Dagestan to Novorossiisk are in jeopardy because of limited storage capacity in Makhachkala, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 July. Azerbaijan is seeking an alternative to the Baku-Novorossiissk pipeline, which runs through Chechnya, and has been out of commission for most of this year. Pumping of oil through that pipeline resumed on 3 July after a shutdown of almost one month but was halted the following day. Representatives of the Russian pipeline operating company Transneft are due in Baku on 12 July to discuss a permanent solution to the problem. LF


The Georgian parliament's Budget and Financial Committee on 8 July discussed, but took no decision on, the proposal put forward the previous day at a government session chaired by President Shevardnadze to cut the 1999 budget by 16 million lari (approximately $8 million). Finance Minister David Onoprishvili had termed that proposal "hard but indispensible," adding that it was one of the preconditions set by the IMF for the release of a $115 loan tranche due on 26 July. Onoprishvili said the planned budget cuts will not affect pensions, salaries and allowances for displaced persons. Mikhail Djibuti, who is deputy chairman of the parliament budget committee, told Caucasus Press that the government's proposal envisages different levels of cuts for different items of expenditure. That, he said, entails amendments to the budget law, which only the parliament is entitled to pass. LF


Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko sent a telegram to Kazakhstan's Premier Nurlan Balghymbaev on 8 July expressing regret for the 5 July explosion of a Russian Proton rocket launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 July 1999). Khristenko acknowledged Astana's claim for compensation for the damage to Kazakh territory, but added that "the Russian side believes that the accident should not entail a ban on all flights from the Baikonur cosmodrome." Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told journalists on 8 July that Moscow is counting on Astana not banning the launch of space vehicles that do not use Proton carrier rockets, according to Interfax. And Russian presidential aide Yevgenii Shaposhnikov said that President Yeltsin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbaev may have to address the issue personally if lower-level Russian efforts to persuade Kazakhstan to lift the ban on future launches fail. LF


Kazakhstan's Minister for Natural Resources and Environmental protection, Serikbek Daukeev, who is one of the members of the State Commission created to investigate the impact of the disaster, said on 8 July that at least 5,000 square meters of land in Kazakhstan's central Karaganda Oblast are contaminated with highly toxic heptil rocket fuel, RFE/RL's Kazakh service reported. Meirbek Moldabekov, the head of Kazakhstan's space agency, also told Reuters that poisonous gas was released into the atmosphere when the rocket exploded. No decision has yet been made on whether to evacuate residents from the regions worst affected. In Almaty, several political movements picketed the Russian Embassy on 8 July to demand a permanent ban on launches from Baikonur, RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported. LF


In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 July, Askar Akaev said that in the light of Kyrgyzstan's geographical situation, Russia is and will remain its "main strategic partner," particularly in the economic sphere. Akaev said that the objectives of the CIS and the Central Asian Union are similar, and focus on economic cooperation and complementarity. He downplayed the potential threat posed to Kyrgyzstan by Islamic radicalism, saying that a bomb attack last year against a traditional mosque in southern Kyrgyzstan was the work of terrorists. Akaev further rejected as "lies" claims by some Kyrgyz opposition politicians that Uzbekistan has moved its border posts several kilometers into Kyrgyz territory, adding that relations with Tashkent are "good-neighborly." LF


At least 35 people have died and up to 30 are missing following a series of mudslides that have devastated villages in northern Tajikistan over the past three days. The presidential press service reported that the country will appeal for international aid for reconstruction of the villages affected. LF


German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder arrived in Kyiv on 8 July to discuss the closure of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant with Ukrainian officials. Schroeder will try to persuade Ukraine to build or modernize conventional gas or coal-fueled power plants as replacements for the Chornobyl plant. For its part, Ukraine would prefer to finish the construction of two nuclear reactors in Rivne and Khmelnytskyy, which are about 85 percent complete. The former German government and the G-7 pledged financial assistance for the completion of those reactors. JM


U.S. State Department spokesman James Foley on 8 July said he would doubt the validity of any vote in Belarus on a union with Russia. "In the absence of the full restoration of democratic government in Belarus, it's hard to imagine that any popular approval process on [such a] union in Belarus would be truly democratic and representative of the will of the people," Reuters quoted him as saying. Foley said the U.S. supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. He added that their sovereignty contributes to the stability of the region. "At the same time we do not oppose integration as such among the new independent states as long as such integration reflects the voluntary will of the people expressed through a democratic process," Foley noted. JM


Vaira Vike-Freiberga on 8 July took the oath of office as Latvia's new president, BNS reported. Vike-Freiberga was elected to a four-year term by parliament on 17 June (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1999). In her inaugural address, she stressed the responsibilities of Latvia's leaders. "We will be the ones creating Latvia's history and determining what it will look like in the eyes of the next generations," she said. She also stressed the need for self-confidence in Latvia, saying "let us not allow anyone to persuade us that we cannot overcome our problems." MH


The Latvian parliament on 8 July passed a controversial language bill by a vote of 73-16. The OSCE and EU have criticized the bill for its language regulations concerning the private sector and public gatherings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1999). The People's Party, For Fatherland and Freedom, Latvia's Way, and the Social Democratic Workers Party all supported the bill, Reuters reported. People's Party leader Andris Skele told BNS that the cooperation between the four parties on the bill could foreshadow the formation of a new government. Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans resigned on 5 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1999). Meanwhile, the left-wing For Equal Rights in a United Latvia has asked President Vike-Freiberga not to sign the bill into law. MH


Janusz Tomaszewski told parliament on 8 July that more than 1 million crimes were committed in Poland last year, which represents an 8 percent increase over the figure for 1997. Thefts and crimes involving firearms increased by 30 percent. Tomaszewski said the main reasons behind the growing rate are low living standards and unemployment. He said the larger cities, especially Warsaw, have the worst problems with crime. The minister added that police solved only 49.2 percent of last year's crimes. JM


The government on 8 July decided to put an end to the restitution of church property by executive decree, saying that a special law is required for such restitution, CTK and AP reported. Czech Bishops' Conference spokesman Daniel Herman said the cabinet's decision simply "codifies" the Social Democratic (CSSD) government's general approach to church restitution. It is unclear whether a church restitution law would garner enough support in parliament to pass. MS


Justice Minister Jan Carnogursky told Radio Twist on 8 July that the prosecution of former Interior Minister Gustav Krajci in connection with the botched 1997 referendum on direct presidential elections will be halted, CTK reported. Carnogursky also said that former Slovak Intelligence Service head Ivan Lexa will not be prosecuted for his role in the 1995 abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son. Carnogursky thus indirectly confirmed that, in a late June verdict which has yet to be made public, the Constitutional Court rejected as unconstitutional Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's decision to annul amnesties that were granted to Krajci and Lexa by former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. The justice minister added, however, that Krajci and Lexa will be prosecuted in connection with other offenses that were not included in the amnesty, CTK reported. MS


Representatives of 19 Romany associations on 8 July released a statement declaring that Slovakia's Romany minority is "strongly concerned about its security" following "ill considered" statements by local politicians on the recent mass exodus of Slovak Roma to Finland, CTK reported. The statement rejects allegations by Slovak politicians that the Roma have become "the enemy of the Slovak people" and that their exodus is aimed at "complicating Slovakia's [bid for] accession to the EU." The Romany representatives are calling for the resignation of Pal Csaky, deputy premier in charge of minorities and human rights, Foreign Ministry state secretary Jan Figel, and government commissioner for Romany affairs Vincent Danihel, for insinuating that the exodus is politically motivated. MS


"RFE/RL Newsline" on 8 July cited an erroneous CTK report which stated that Slovakia would pay 2,500 crown payments to survivors of Nazi concentration camps for each year that they spent in a camp. The report should have read that the payments would be made for each month. MS


Chief of Staff General Ferenc Vegh submitted his resignation on 9 July. Jeno Poda, a senior advisor to the prime minister, announced on national television one day earlier that Vegh would resign. The move ends weeks of conflict between Vegh and the Defense Ministry over a government plan to bring the military under civilian control. Poda said earlier that Vegh must either accept the plan or resign. Vegh told "Magyar Hirlap" of 8 July that he will remain in his post until 1 August, when he will move on to become Hungary's ambassador to Turkey. Vegh told the paper that his conflict with the government resulted from his desire to preserve "the army's autonomy" on defense matters. MSZ/MS


Several thousand protesters gathered in Prokuplje on 8 July to join leaders of the opposition Alliance for Change in demanding the resignation of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Alliance leader Goran Svilanovic told the crowd that the Milosevic leadership has "put shame on us, killing and burning in our name." Balkan expert Milan Protic added: "Too much evil has been done for them to be forgiven. It is too little to just demand that they leave. We must make them leave." Alliance leaders Zoran Djindjic and Vuk Obradovic, who come from the Prokuplje area, said that Milosevic must go if Serbia is to become "respectable" and prosperous. Officials of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia called off a planned counter-demonstration, but about a dozen mainly elderly supporters of the president turned out to taunt the protesters as "traitors." A man fired eight shots into the air from the balcony of Socialist headquarters, but no one was injured. PM


Some 20 leaders of the Serbian opposition joined Archbishop Artemije and Kosova Serb leader Momcilo Trajkovic at the historic Gracanica monastery on 8 July to demand security for the Serbs of Kosova and democracy for Serbia. A group of 100 Milosevic supporters taunted the visitors, including the Alliance's Vladan Batic and the Democratic Party's Zoran Djindjic. The protesters chided Djindjic for not being in Kosova "when the bombs fell" and called him a "traitor." In Belgrade, the Democratic Party said in a statement that the 100 people are known agents-provocateurs from the secret police who have previously attacked Serbs and ethnic Albanians alike in Prishtina, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM


Members of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement joined Milosevic supporters in the Belgrade City Council in turning down a demand by the Democratic Party that the Council discuss issuing a call for Milosevic to resign. The Democrats argued that Milosevic is unable to carry out his presidential duties because, as an indicted war criminal, he is unable to travel abroad or to Kosova. In Pirot, the local council passed a resolution calling for Milosevic to go (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1999). In Novi Sad, the leadership of the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina called for protests in several cities and towns in the coming days to demand Milosevic's ouster. PM


Velimir Ilic, whose town of Cacak witnessed the first recent anti-Milosevic protests, told the "Berliner Zeitung" of 9 July that Serbs outside the capital must "encircle Belgrade" with protests across the country. He added that the people of Belgrade remain "too afraid" to take to the streets, but that Milosevic's removal will be "just a matter of time" once the capital's citizens begin to demonstrate against him. Ilic stressed that the opposition must be very broadly based and led by people "who are not compromised by their past." He mentioned that he considers Draskovic "unacceptable" because of his mercurial behavior and previous participation in Milosevic's government. Some observers have suggested that several established national figures--including Draskovic and Djindjic--are too widely regarded in Serbia as opportunists and that a new generation of leaders will most likely emerge in the provinces (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1999). PM


The Democratic Party said in a statement in Belgrade on 8 July that some 700,000 Serbs lack elementary civil rights, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The party charged that the government has acted "immorally and irresponsibly" by denying rights to Serbs who fled or were expelled from Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova. The displaced Serbs do not enjoy rights to residency, citizenship, or education. The previous day, representatives of Kosova's Serbian teachers' union said in Belgrade that the Education Ministry has forbidden schools to register Serbian children from the province, who number about 50,000. Teachers from Kosova are barred from teaching in Serbia proper as part of the government's policy of forcing Serbian refugees to go back to Kosova. PM


Unidentified arsonists set fire to 16 houses in the traditional Serbian quarter of Prizren on 8 July, AFP reported. German KFOR commander General Fritz von Korff said that KFOR arrested six suspects. He criticized the "indifference" of Prizren's ethnic Albanian population after the latest attacks, saying that "some of them even refused to let us in to their homes to get water." Von Korff stressed that "we cannot stop new fires from happening without the cooperation of the public." Unidentified people cut off water and electricity in the Serbian neighborhood about half an hour before the fires occurred, in what von Korff called "an organized move." The German military police registered 91 incidents in the German sector on 8 July alone, including thefts, pillaging, and fires. FS


About 3,000 ethnic Albanians protested in Rahovec on 8 July for the second day in a row against plans to deploy Russian peacekeepers in that area, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Protesters held signs saying: "We don't believe Russians" and "Russians killed us," alluding to allegations that Russian volunteers and mercenaries participated in the ethnic cleansing campaign alongside Serbian police and paramilitary forces. FS


Kosovar Albanian political leader Ibrahim Rugova told AP in Rome on 8 July that he will return to Kosova as early as next week. Referring to the Kosova Liberation Army, he said: "We can tolerate working together." The moderate leader also noted: "I want to start with the process of reconciliation [with other ethnic groups]...because I would like a multiethnic Kosova." Back in Kosova, provisional government Prime Minister Hashim Thaci told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service that "Rugova has a deadline until the end of this week to take up his position [and fill those reserved for other Democratic League of Kosova representatives] in the government." FS


An unidentified person or group killed Dragan Simic, who was police chief in the Savski Venac district of the capital, in Belgrade on 8 July. A police spokesman said that the circumstances of the murder remain "unclear." Simic is the fifth police official to be murdered in Belgrade in 1999 alone, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Speculation on the motives behind the previous murders has centered on the possible criminal links of individual police officials or on the possible desire of powerful people to eliminate police officials who "knew too much." PM


Albanian President Rexhep Meidani told his Macedonian counterpart Kiro Gligorov in Skopje on 8 July that "in five to 10 years, we [will] see two new entities, Kosova and Montenegro, as an integral part of Europe," Reuters reported. Meidani acknowledged that Gligorov does "not share the same opinion," but stressed that both men "want to live in Europe, where borders are irrelevant," Meidani told reporters. Gligorov argued that "the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia should be respected.... Changes of borders and the realization of dreams of greater nations is dangerous not only for the region, but for Europe itself." Meidani said he does not see the disagreement between him and Gligorov as causing tensions and stressed that "the integration of ethnic Albanians in the [Macedonian] government and institutions has helped Macedonia preserve its stability." The two presidents also discussed bilateral cooperation within the framework of the Balkan stability pact, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. FS


Public Order Minister Mikhailis Khrisokhoidhis on 8 July rejected claims that a series of recent roundups and checks of Albanian immigrants were racially motivated, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1999). Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo is scheduled to visit Athens on 9 July to discuss the increasing number of expulsions of Albanian immigrants. A Foreign Ministry official in Tirana said that Greek authorities have expelled about 3,500 Albanian immigrants since 1 July, while Greek police put the number at about 1,000. The Albanian Foreign Ministry also asked Greece to investigate claims that Albanian deportees were being mistreated in Greece. FS


Ilija Sljivic, who is deputy mayor of the western Bosnian town of Drvar, told "Oslobodjenje" of 9 July that Serbs may return to his town once the Bosnian Serb authorities allow his fellow Croats to go back to their homes in Bosanski Brod (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1999). Sljivic stressed that 15,000 Croats have formally requested to go home to Bosanski Brod. PM


Joschka Fischer said in Zagreb on 8 July that the parliamentary elections slated for later in 1999 have made this a "decisive year" for Croatia's "road to democracy and to Europe." He stressed that the new election law should reflect a broad consensus and that all parties must have fair access to the media, "Jutarnji list" reported. PM


Joschka Fischer on 8 July met with his Romanian counterpart, Andrei Plesu, President Emil Constantinescu, and Prime Minister Radu Vasile, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Fischer thanked Romania for its stance on the Kosova conflict and said his country supports Romania's bid for EU and NATO membership. However, he refused to say when the country might become a member of NATO. He also said that it would be "a misunderstanding" for Romania and other neighbors of Yugoslavia to expect that they will receive compensation under the Balkan stability pact for the losses they suffered as a result of the EU's oil embargo on Yugoslavia. Plesu said Romania is seeking an "urgent end" to the embargo. MS


Hundreds of oil workers from the Petromidia refinery on 8 July demonstrated in Bucharest to demand that the Black Sea company resume regular operations. The company, Romania's largest, has been forced to suspend operations due to an inconclusive privatization deal signed in January with the Akmaya Turkish firm. Under the deal, Romania was to offer Akmaya foreign investment incentives. However, the government decree that allowed for such incentives was annulled after the IMF and the World Bank objected to some of its provisions. Akmaya has announced that it will sue for breach of contract. The cabinet on 8 July decided that it would restart the privatization process and confiscate Akmaya's deposit if the company backs out of the deal. MS


A consortium of three companies on 8 July signed in Sofia a $300 million contract for the modernization of nuclear units 5 and 6 at the Kozloduy power station, Reuters and AP reported. Bulgarian Energy Committee Chairman Ivan Shilyashki said that half of the financing for the modernization will come from the EU's Euratome and Bulgaria will cover the rest with the help of loans from the countries that are participating in the consortium. German's Siemens AG, France's Framatome, and Russia's Atomenergoexport are scheduled to begin the modernization program next summer and to complete it in 2005. The modernization of the two 1,000-megawatt units will help Bulgaria decommission its four older 440-megawatt reactors at Kozloduy, which the EU considers to be unsafe. MS


In an address to the Bulgarian parliament on 8 July, Javier Solana congratulated Bulgaria for its contribution to resolving the Kosova crisis. He said that Sofia's actions "demonstrated as clearly as possible that Bulgaria is, indeed, a member of the Euro-Atlantic community, [which is] a community of shared values." Repeating comments he made in Bucharest earlier that day, Solana said Bulgaria and Romania are both making progress in their quest for NATO membership, but he refused to indicate when those two countries might become members. Solana also held talks with President Petar Stoyanov and Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova, BTA reported. MS


Tsvyatko Donchev, press chief of Bulgaria's coordination center with KFOR, on 8 July said that Russia has asked Bulgaria for sea and land corridors for the transit of its troops to Kosova, Reuters reported. On 9 July, the Bulgarian parliament approved Russia's earlier request for overflights by a vote of 213-1 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1999). ITAR-TASS reported that the overflight permission is valid for "one time only. " MS


A Bulgarian radio report, cited by dpa on 8 July, confirmed that both Lebanon and Libya have revoked the landing rights of Balkan Air at their airports. Tunisia, Algeria, and Dubai are reportedly planning to do the same. Balkan Air was recently sold to an Israeli consortium (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1999). MS


By Michael Shafir

Some love him, others despise him, but there is no way one can overlook him. Jaroslav Hasek's hero, that famous warrior of the Austro-Hungarian empire whose favorite pastime was saying "yes" and acting "no," is apparently destined to survive every turn in his country's fortunes. And there is a good reason for that. After all, it was not the empire, but the good soldier Svejk who came out on top. He survived the Nazis without fighting them and he survived communism and the Soviet invasion (without fighting them either). So why shouldn't he survive "globalization" and that facet of it known as "European integration?" For wanting to access the European Union is one thing, but doing so on the terms imposed by the union may be another thing altogether. Maybe it is time to say "yes" and act "no" once more. Otto von Habsburg told a conference of RFE/RL staff in Munich some years ago that the EU is a revived version of the empire his ancestors had ruled over. And he should know what he is talking about.

In its summer 1998 evaluation report on the progress of union membership candidates towards accession, the EU criticized the Czech Republic's slowness in bringing its legislation into line with that of the union's member states. Some observers believe that the next report, expected in September 1999, could be even more critical. There is widespread speculation that the 2003 target, which the Czechs set for themselves for joining the union, will be missed, and that Prague will fall further and further behind the other four "fast-track" countries (Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, and Poland). By late June of this year, the Czechs were able to conclude preliminary talks on only eight out of the 15 legislative chapters proposed by the union.

Some of the divergent views seem hard to reconcile. For example, Prime Minister Milos Zeman has already rejected Austria's demand that Prague ratify the EU Convention on Evaluation of the Influence of the Environment, which would threaten the completion of the controversial Temelin nuclear plant. Some politicians in Vienna have threatened to veto Czech accession as a result. The minority Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) on 28 June decided to ask the EU for so-called "opt-outs" or "transitional periods" on seven areas related to environmental legislation. Foreign Minister Jan Kavan indicated on 22 June that his government is likely to ask for similar "opt-outs" with regard to legislation on the purchase of real estate by foreigners. Hungary has also said it wants a 10-year "transitional period" for the purchase of land by foreigners, and Poland is likely to follow suit. The EU may, in turn, ask for an "opt-out" on letting in the cheap labor force of the new members. All of this suggests that the so-called "fast-track" accession of the new members will, in actual fact, be rather slow.

The Czech government has an alibi for its failure to quickly implement the legislation required by the EU. The cabinet headed by Zeman is ruling with the grace of Vaclav Klaus's opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS). And Klaus, true to his self-promoted image as a "Thatcherite," has been anything but enthusiastic about some aspects of EU membership. The ODS is against signing the EU's Social Charter, for example and on 8 July, when the parliament ratified the charter, its deputies opposed ratification. Klaus is also opposed to the euro single currency and has repeatedly insisted (most recently in an interview with "Lidove noviny" published on 3 June) that Europe should be based on the "national state." This is why the ODS on 8 June voted against an amendment to the constitution that would have enabled the government to issue decrees with the force of law. The amendment was aimed at speeding up the implementation of EU legislation by avoiding prolonged debate in parliament. The ODS thus effectively "killed" the government's attempt at making the "fast-track" faster, because the government needed the support of the ODS to secure a majority large enough to pass such a constitutional amendment. This occurred to the expressed desperation of President Vaclav Havel, who is an ardent partisan of quick accession.

Yet there is reason to believe that the CSSD shed only crocodile tears over this failure. Like its predecessors, the cabinet headed by Zeman is caught in a dilemma when it comes to EU accession. Following Czechoslovakia's split in 1993, Prague and Bratislava established a customs union, which has proved highly beneficial to both countries. Indeed, few people realize that despite the fact that Slovakia had until recently pursued a different path in its political reforms, the economic integration of the two countries has remained very strong. This is precisely why the former Klaus administration had insisted on obtaining an exemption from the EU's customs legislation so that Prague could maintain the existing arrangement with Bratislava. To no avail, however, for the EU would certainly not grant the Czech Republic what it denied to the U.K., when London wanted to introduce Commonwealth imports into the union through the back door.

The latest talks on adherence, which ended on 22 June, produced little progress regarding this aspect. Kavan said after their conclusion that Prague may ask for a "transition period" on the customs union with Slovakia or look for a "compromise solution," adding that he may submit some suggestions to Brussels this autumn. Meanwhile, German State Minister Gunther Verheugen, who chaired the session, suggested the problem could be resolved by having both countries join the union at the same time--a scenario that became possible after the political change that swept Vladimir Meciar out of power in Bratislava in September 1998. Observers interpreted Verheugen's remark as a slap in the face for Prague, as it confirmed the EU's dissatisfaction with the tardiness of the Czechs while at the same time acknowledging the improved chances of the Slovaks. But one may well wonder whether the Czechs were really all that impressed by the remark. In his corner in the famous Prague tavern "U fleku," the good soldier Svejk must have raised a toast, for he never took deadlines too seriously, as long as he had it his way. Unwittingly playing the role of a perfect Lieutenant Lukacs--Svejk's superior in Hasek's novel--Verheugen was probably unaware that the good soldier had eagerly been waiting to be "disciplined."