PUTIN CLAIMS RUSSIAN ECONOMY ROARING
Addressing members of his cabinet on 20 April, President-elect Vladimir Putin said that Russia's GDP grew by 6 percent in March and in the first quarter of the year by around 8 percent, Interfax reported. He commented: "This is not simply solid, this is huge growth. And it suggests that there is a basis for several specialists' contention that the Russian economy can be called energetic." He also reported that in 2001 GDP is expected to grow by 4-4.5 percent and annual inflation will measure 10 percent. He continued, "for this reason we should index wages and pension not lower but higher." Meanwhile, the State Statistics Committee reported the same day that the total wage debt dropped in March by 8.5 percent to total 39.879 billion rubles ($1.4 billion). JAC
SENATORS APPROVE START-II TREATY...
Federation Council members voted on 19 April to ratify the START-II treaty with 126 votes in favor, 18 against, and 6 abstentions. Russia's lower legislative house voted to ratify the treaty on 14 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 15 April 2000). The treaty still needs to be signed by President-elect Putin. Following the upper house vote, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement that ratification "allows without any delay the start of official talks on the future START-III agreement." Meanwhile, the first consultations between Russian and U.S. officials on questions of further cuts in strategic nuclear arms within the context of START-III began in Geneva on 17 April, according to "Izvestiya" on 19 April. JAC
...AS PUTIN SCORES THIRD STRAIGHT TRIUMPH IN UPPER HOUSE
Senators also voted on 19 April to reject a bill passed by the State Duma earlier in the month that called for incremental increases in Russia's minimum monthly wage. The Putin government had opposed the bill because it lacked the revenue to finance the measure. According to AFP, the minimum monthly wage in this case is an accounting measure used to calculate a range of outlays and does not correspond to a real salary. The current minimum monthly wage is 100 rubles ($3.50), and the Duma's legislation would have raised this sum to 132 rubles by 1 June 2000. JAC
YABLOKO, SPS TO COOPERATE
Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) head Sergei Kirienko told reporters on 19 April that SPS and Yabloko have agreed to set up a center-right coalition, Interfax reported. He added that the two groups will establish a coordinating council on legislative activities of the two groups that will forge a common position on all important issues and that they will support a common candidate in 14 May gubernatorial elections in St. Petersburg. When asked whether Fatherland-All Russia will be invited to join the coalition, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii said that they "will take it one step at a time." JAC
STEPASHIN GETS ANOTHER JOB
State Duma deputy (Yabloko) and former Premier Sergei Stepashin was elected head of the State Duma's Audit Chamber on 19 April. The vote was 309 in favor and 29 against with 10 abstentions. Addressing the lower chamber, Stepashin pledged to improve the Audit Chamber's effectiveness by making it a chief financial tool to supervise the use of budget funds and fight corruption, Interfax reported. New elections for the seat in the State Duma left vacant by Stepashin's departure will be held no later than October 2000, according to the St. Petersburg election commission. JAC
COMMUNISTS BACK YAKOVLEV
The Communist Party in Leningrad Oblast has announced its support for the re-election bid of St. Petersburg Governor Aleksandr Yakovlev, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 20 April. According to the daily, the Communist Party is the only major political grouping to back Yakovlev, who was a founding member of the All Russia movement. Two potential competitors of Yakovlev, Yurii Belyaev, chairman of the National Republican Party, and Nikolai Bondarik, leader of the St. Petersburg nationalists, withdrew from the race and urged their supporters to vote for Yakovlev. Until recently, President-elect Putin was supporting another potential competitor to Yakovlev, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko; however, she recently withdrew from the race (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 12 April 2000). Gubernatorial elections are scheduled for 14 May. JAC
SURVEY RESPONDENTS UNCONVINCED OF MERITS OF DEMOCRACY
In a survey of 1,500 residents of 94 urban and rural areas across Russia in early April, the polling group ROMIR found that only 38.7 percent of respondents agreed to some extent with the view that democracy is the best form of rule despite certain problems it poses, Interfax reported on 19 April. Almost 24 percent of respondents disagreed with the view to some extent while 24.3 percent were undecided. At the same time, 39.9 percent thought military rule would likely be bad for the country and 27.5 percent rejected it outright with 27.5 percent undecided. JAC
ANOTHER GOVERNOR CALLS FOR MAKING OFFICE APPOINTED
At a press conference on 18 April, Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov said that while all legislative offices should continue to be elected ones, all executive positions with the exception of the president of the Russian Federation should be appointed, ITAR-TASS reported. Ayatskov, who was recently re-elected, would not be eligible for a third term under Russian law. He added that the president should have a means for dismissing governors provided such a "lever" doesn't violate the law. Meanwhile, "The Moscow Times" reported on 20 April that an article critical of Ayatskov in the national newspaper "Izvestiya" was altered to be less critical when it appeared in Saratov Oblast. According to the daily, "Izvestiya" has filed a complaint with the office of the Prosecutor-General. JAC
TWO FORMER CANDIDATES MAKE GOOD ON DEBTS
Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told reporters on 19 April that two of the nine candidates in the 26 March presidential election have already returned to the commission their campaign funds. Under Russian election law, candidates who poll less than 3 percent of the total vote must return federal monies they were given for the campaign. The two candidates who have paid their debt are Aleksei Podberyozkin, head of Spiritual Heritage, and Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev. Among the candidates still owing the commission are former Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov, whom the Federation Council voted to dismiss from his position on 19 April, and former Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, who recently resigned from his post. JAC
LITERARY FIGURES DIES
Sergei Zalygin, former editor of "Novii Mir," died on 19 April at the age of 86. Zalygin edited the literary journal during a key period of "perestroika" and provided Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn with his first publishing venue. JAC
IRAQI OFFICIAL TAKES IN THE SIGHTS
"Izvestiya" reported on 19 April that Iraqi Defense Minister Hashim Ahmed arrived in Moscow on 14 April for a "top secret" visit. The newspaper reported that its unidentified sources in the Russian Defense Ministry and in the General Staff of the Armed Forces assert that Ahmed came to Moscow purely as a tourist and spent a day and a half in Moscow visiting its Military-Historical Museum and taking excursions around the Kremlin. However, "Segodnya" reported the same day that Ahmed met with Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and, according to the Defense Ministry, their discussion focused on the situation in the Persian Gulf, where the Russian tanker Akademik Pustovoit is being detained (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2000). It also referred to the meeting as "top secret" and concluded that the visit puts Moscow in an awkward spot since it "only confirms all the rumors about military cooperation between Russia and Iraq." JAC
TATAR PRESIDENT SAYS MOSCOW SHOULD CONTACT MASKHADOV...
Mintimer Shaimiev told Interfax on 20 April that he considers it imperative for Moscow to establish contacts with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov in order to obtain "unbiased information" concerning the latter's plans and capabilities. Shaimiev stressed that "regardless of our attitude to Maskhadov, he is still the elected president of the Chechen Republic." Noting that the path towards political and economic stabilization in Chechnya will be difficult, Shaimiev expressed approval of Russian President-elect Putin's statement that the election of a new Chechen leader should take place only in 1-2 years' time. LF
...WHILE KOSHMAN ARGUES AGAINST SUCH TALKS...
Russian government representative to Chechnya Nikolai Koshman told Interfax in Moscow on 20 April that it is "useless" to embark on talks with Maskhadov as the latter "does not control" events in Chechnya. Koshman said the Chechen fighters would use the opportunity created by such talks to regroup and regain strength. He added that talks are being conducted with 10 Chechen field commanders who have surrendered, but did not identify them by name. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 April suggested that Chechen chief of presidential staff Apti Batalov, whom the Federal Security Service apprehended one week ago, may be acting as an intermediary between Maskhadov and Moscow. Batalov is said to be resolutely opposed to the radical Islamist Chechen faction that includes field commanders Khattab and Shamil Basaev. LF
...AND GANTEMIROV DENIES MASKHADOV'S LEGITIMACY
Pro-Moscow Chechen militia head Beslan Gantemirov told Interfax on 19 April that Maskhadov cannot be considered Chechnya's legitimate president as "he has placed himself outside the law." Gantemirov argued that to embark on talks with Maskhadov would be tantamount to "a repetition of what happened in 1996," when Maskhadov and then Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed concluded a peace agreement that paved the way for Maskhadov's election as president in January 1997. Gantemirov also explained that his resignation two days earlier as Koshman's first deputy was due to the federal authorities' failure to provide either allowances, food, or uniforms to members of his militia even though those units are subordinate to Moscow. LF
MOSCOW ALLEGES MASKHADOV, UDUGOV COLLUDING
Speaking in Moscow on 19 April, Kremlin Chechnya spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii implicitly rejected Maskhadov's statement in his 10 April interview with Deutsche Welle that former Chechen acting Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov is an opposition politician whose views do not reflect the policies of the Chechen leadership, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 2000). Yastrzhembskii claimed that "Maskhadov and Udugov are playing one role," and that the two men are jointly coordinating Chechen resistance to the federal troops in Chechnya. LF
RUSSIAN DUMA OFFICIALS CONCERNED OVER CONDUCT OF TRIAL OF SEPARATISTS IN KAZAKHSTAN
Boris Pastukhov, who chairs the Russian State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs and Relations with Russians Abroad, told deputies to the lower house of Kazakhstan's parliament on 20 April in Astana that Moscow is "deeply concerned" by all aspects of the trial of 11 Russian citizens accused of planning to establish an independent Russian republic on the territory of eastern Kazakhstan, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November 1999 and 20 March 2000). Since their trial opened on 11 April, Russian newspapers have repeatedly argued that the charges of attempting to overthrow the local leadership by force are difficult to reconcile with the list of weaponry allegedly confiscated from the plotters. That inventory comprised only one double-barreled shotgun, one hunting rifle, 270 bullets, one hand grenade, and 14 Molotov cocktails. Some Russian journalists have suggested that the Kazakh leadership fabricated the case against the alleged "separatists" in order to persuade the West to increase funds for security purposes. LF
SIX DETAINEES RELEASED IN KARABAKH
Six persons taken into custody last month on suspicion of involvement in the 22 March bid to assassinate Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, have been released, Noyan Tapan reported on 20 April. The six have given written assurances that they will not leave the country. LF
KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT SAYS POLICE RESORT TO TORTURE
Speaking in Astana on 19 April, Nursultan Nazarbaev accused Kazakhstan's police and law enforcement agencies of incompetence and of resorting to "sadistic" torture to extract confessions of guilt from arrested persons. Nazarbaev attributed the rising crime rate in Kazakhstan to increasing unemployment and declining living standards. He deplored the fact that last year one-third of all serious crimes remained unsolved. LF
KAZAKHSTAN AGREES TO EXPORT MORE OIL VIA RUSSIA
Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii and Kazakhstan's Energy, Industry, and Trade Minister Vladimir Shkolnik signed an agreement in Moscow on 19 April whereby Russia will allow Kazakhstan to increase by 3 million tons the amount of oil it exports this year via Russian pipelines, Interfax reported. Two million tons of that amount will be exported via the newly-completed pipeline from Makhachkala to Novorossiisk bypassing Chechnya, and the remaining 1 million tons via the Atyrau-Samara pipeline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 13 April 2000). Also on 19 April, Nurlan Balghymbaev, head of Kazakhstan's state oil company, told a news conference in Atyrau that the cabinet will probably reject a proposal by the Customs Committee to impose an export duty of 15 euros ($14.4) per ton on exports of crude oil. LF
KYRGYZ SECURITY OFFICIAL DENIES THAT KULOV WILL BE RELEASED
Deputy National Security Minister Boris Poluektov said in Bishkek on 20 April that rumors of opposition Ar-Namys party chairman Feliks Kulov's imminent release from pretrial detention are groundless, Interfax reported. Meeting on 16 April with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had called for Kulov's release (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2000). Poluektov said that Kulov has been charged with abuse of office and will also be charged with the illegal sale of 500 tons of alcohol. He added that there is "incontrovertible evidence" of Kulov's involvement in that crime. Other Kyrgyz security officials have rejected Kulov's attempts to demonstrate that the charges against him are fabricated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2000). LF
MORE ISLAMISTS ARRESTED IN TAJIKISTAN
Four more members of the banned Hizb-ut-Tahrir Muslim party have been detained in Tajikistan's northern Leninabad Oblast, Interfax reported on 19 April. The four men are accused of spreading subversive literature calling for the overthrow of the country's leadership. Their arrest raises to over 50 the number of members of that organization detained in Tajikistan since the beginning of the year. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 April, members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir began appearing in northern Tajikistan in the late summer of 1999. The organization's program is broadly similar to that of the Movement for the Islamic Renaissance of Uzbekistan, whose members were accused of the February 1999 car bombings in Tashkent, the paper notes. LF
EBRD SUSPENDS LOANS TO TURKMEN GOVERNMENT
In a statement issued in London on 18 April, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said it will no longer advance loans to Turkmenistan's public sector because of that country's lack of progress towards democratization or market reform, Reuters reported. EBRD First Vice President Charles Frank said that failure "suggests that the government of Turkmenistan is not committed to one of the basic principles upon which the EBRD is founded." The statement said that the bank will continue to provide funding for private sector programs in Turkmenistan. The EBRD has signed five projects in Turkmenistan worth a total of $208.2 million. On 19 April, Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov criticized the EBRD's decision. Niyazov had refused earlier this week to meet with an EBRD delegation, according to the "Financial Times" of 19 April. LF
BELARUS, RUSSIA SET TO SIGN ACCORD ON JOINT MILITARY FORCE
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 19 April that Minsk and Moscow have already prepared an agreement on creating a joint military group and can sign it "as soon as the end of May or beginning of June," Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka told the Belarusian legislature earlier this month that the joint force may amount to 300,000 troops (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 2000). According to Lukashenka, the decision to create the force was approved during his 16 April meeting with Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin in Minsk. ""We are not trying to scare anybody with any innovations. We are just concerned about our security in the west," Lukashenka noted. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES CABINET FOR SLOW REFORMS...
Leonid Kuchma on 19 April criticized Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet for the slow reform pace in the country, Interfax and the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. "The government still has not found the instruments that could solve present problems," Kuchma told a cabinet meeting. He added that the government should focus its attention on structural reform and increase the regulatory function of the state. Responding to Deputy Premier Yuriy Yekhanurov's report that Ukraine posted a 5.6 percent growth in GDP in the first quarter of this year, Kuchma said the growth results from the former cabinet's effort last year and is not linked with current reforms. JM
...AND FOR POOR PERFORMANCE OF FUEL, ENERGY SECTOR
Kuchma also said the performance of the fuel and energy sector, for which Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko is in charge of, is "completely unsatisfactory. The situation in the sector has reached the critical point and it was only a miracle that the country's energy system has not collapsed," Kuchma noted. He accused Tymoshenko of continuing the communist-era practice of using energy resources where, he said, those resources are consumed but not paid for. "The energy sector became the creditor of practically all other sectors although it is almost bankrupt itself," Kuchma added. There have been rumors that Kuchma wants to sack Tymoshenko, but he said he is not going to take personnel decisions at a cabinet meeting. Some 200 Tymoshenko supporters demonstrated outside the government's offices saying they back her attempts at reforming the sector. JM
LATVIAN PARTY LEADER CHALLENGES PRESIDENT TO NAME PREMIER
Parliament deputy Andrejs Pantelejevs, the chairman of Latvia's Way, on 19 April challenged President Vaira Vike- Freiberga to "sooner or later" name the preferred party candidate for premier or to expect snap elections. Pantelejevs said, "If the president's goal is bringing about Saeima elections, she should make it known," LETA and Reuters reported. Latvia's Way and other potential coalition partners have agreed to support Riga Mayor Andris Berzins (of Latvia's Way) as the candidate for premier. However, President Vike- Freiberga has also interviewed other prominent figures, including central bank chief Einars Repse and former Economics Minister Ingrida Udre. A presidential spokesperson stressed that the president wants to pick a candidate who can form a stable and capable cabinet, thus needs time to carefully ponder her choice. The president is expected to name a candidate soon after the Easter holiday weekend. MH
LITHUANIAN WAR CRIMES TRIALS TO RESUME
The Office of the Prosecutor-General on 18 April said that trials against suspected Nazi war criminals will restart later this month, Reuters reported. Many of the trials were halted earlier due to the frail conditions of the defendants, but a new law passed in February allowing for the defendants to monitor the trial by closed-circuit television without being present in the courtroom effectively nullifies the age and ill health question (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 2000). The case of suspected Nazi war criminal Aleksandras Lileikis will resume on 27 April and that of Kazys Gimzauskas will restart two days earlier. MH
LITHUANIAN 'OLIGARCH' DONATES TO ALL PARTIES
Bronislovas Lubys, former prime minister and current head of the Confederation of Lithuanian Industrialists, provided about one-tenth of all funds in the 19 March local election campaigns, "Lietuvos Rytas" reported on 20 April. Of the 3.56 million litas ($889,500) spent on the campaign, funding reports show about 315,000 litas came from the two firms he controls: fertilizer firm Achema and the Klaipeda Shipping Company (KLASCO). The report shows that his donations went to parties across the spectrum, with KLASCO mainly giving to the center-right and Achema to the center-left. "Lietuvos Rytas" noted that KLASCO was "generous" in giving 10,000 litas to the radical Freedom Union, and Achema provided 10,000 litas to the nationalist Young Lithuania party. MH
GENERAL JARUZELSKI REGRETS VICTIMS OF 1981 MARTIAL LAW
General Wojciech Jaruzelski on 19 April said he feels "deep sorrow" about the killing of nine miners shortly after the introduction of martial law in Poland in December 1981, Polish media reported. Jaruzelski, who ordered the 1981 crackdown on the Solidarity movement as head of the Military Council for National Salvation, testified as a witness in a repeat trial of 22 communist-era riot policemen who face charges of murdering the miners. Jaruzelski said nobody had planned the use of firearms, adding that the deaths had been the result of a "coincidence of tragic events." He also justified his decision to impose martial law by saying that it was a "lesser evil" and saved Poland from an internecine conflict and an intervention by Warsaw Pact allies. JM
SOLIDARITY LEADER SEES CHANCE OF WINNING IN PRESIDENTIAL RACE
Marian Krzaklewski told Radio Zet on 19 April that there is a "real possibility" for him to win this fall's presidential ballot, although not in the first round. Meanwhile, leaders of the parties that constitute the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) at their meeting the same day did not agree to unanimous support for Krzaklewski as an AWS single candidate. Some AWS components are demanding primaries to select a presidential hopeful. A poll held by the Pentor polling agency on 8-10 April among 1,000 Poles showed that the incumbent president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, would obtain 70 percent of the votes. Seven percent of Poles would vote for Andrzej Olechowski, while Krzaklewski would get 5 percent support. JM
CZECHS REJECT LINK BETWEEN EU ADMISSION AND ABOLITION OF BENES DECREES
Foreign Minister Jan Kavan on 19 April told a meeting of former political prisoners that the Czech Republic will not abolish the 1945 Benes decrees, CTK reported. Kavan was reacting to proposals made earlier by Karsten Knolle, a German member of the European People's Party faction in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, who cited a resolution of the assembly passed last spring, which called for the decree's abolition. The former political prisoners' meeting passed a resolution saying that the EU "has not been established to solve anew problems of the countries defeated in World War II," and that "on the contrary, it was established to help overcome the war's burdensome consequences." The resolution also said that if Germany were to be assessed according to its history rather than its present, "it would have never been admitted into the EU." MS
HAVANA VILIFIES PRAGUE OVER UN CENSURE
President Vaclav Havel and Czech diplomats posted in Havana were accused on Cuban national television on 19 April of serving U.S. interests, as well as of "subversion" and "interference" in Cuban domestic affairs, Reuters and AFP reported. The attack followed the approval on 18 April by the UN Human Rights Commission of a resolution sponsored by the Czech Republic and Poland voicing concern over "continued violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms" in Cuba. Shortly after, a "spontaneous" demonstration of 100,000 Cubans took place outside the Czech Embassy in Havana (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2000). In the five-hour roundtable discussion on Cuban television, Havel was said to be a "professional counterrevolutionary" and an "intellectual mediocrity." Czech diplomats in Havana were accused of having held meetings with "counterrevolutionary [Cuban] journalists." MS
CZECH INTERIOR MINISTRY DENIES REGISTRATION TO FAR-RIGHT PARTY
The Interior Ministry on 19 April refused to register the National Social Alliance as a political party, CTK reported, citing Interior Minister Stanislav Gross. The national Alliance had been registered as a "civic association" but that association, known for its ties to the skinhead movement, was disbanded by Gross's predecessor, Vaclav Grulich. An appeal against that decision is still pending. National Alliance leader Vladimir Skoupy is in police custody on suspicion of promoting fascist propaganda. In other news, Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky on 19 April told journalists that the government has set up a special fund aimed at integrating Roma and has allotted 21 million crowns (nearly $550,000) for this purpose. The government also decided to allot 32.5 million crowns for the construction of municipal flats for Roma in Brno. MS
SLOVAK POLICE ARREST MECIAR
A special police squad on 20 April detained former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and charged him with abuse of power while in office, Reuters and CTK reported. The units took up positions around Meciar's villa in Trencianske Teplice. After repeated calls for him to come out were ignored, commandos stormed the house. Meciar has refused for weeks to answer a summons to testify in the inquiry being conducted on the abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son in 1995, but his arrest on 20 April was on grounds of illegally paying bonuses to members of his government. MS
SLOVAKIA INITIATES NATO CANDIDATES SUMMIT
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda on 19 April told visiting Estonian Premier Mart Laar that he is inviting the premiers of nine countries seeking NATO membership to a "summit of candidates" in Bratislava in June. "If our voices remain separate, they will be weaker," Dzurinda said. Laar said that "it is not important who will be in the second wave. What is important is that a second wave take place." Laar also said that the efforts of candidate countries and NATO's decision are more important than the opposition by Russian President Vladimir Putin against the enlargement. "We are not a former Soviet republic, but an independent state that was occupied by the Soviet Union." Russia and Putin might not like seeing NATO expanding towards the Baltic region, "but they will have to get used to it, as in the case of Central Europe," he said. MS
HUNGARY'S KOVER SAYS EU REGRETS ITS PROMISES
"EU regrets pledges it made 10 years ago about accession, like a dog that had a litter of nine," Laszlo Kover, chairman of the major coalition party FIDESZ, said on 19 April, in a speech in the town of Eger. He said the EU does not want to admit Hungary among its members now, and noted that the earliest possible date of accession is 2005, Hungarian media reported. In other news, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told Hungarian Radio that it was right to invite Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel to visit Budapest, because the new Austrian cabinet has not made any decision that runs counter either to European norms or Hungary's special viewpoints. "Hungary must monitor the EU policy but must also go its own way," Orban concluded. MSZ
HUNGARY'S EXTREMIST PARTY CLOSES REGIONAL BRANCH
The Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) has dissolved its Gyor branch due to "attempted infiltration by members of the extremist organization National Front Line, provocative left- wing elements and other [factors], possibly supported by foreign secret services," party chairman Istvan Csurka told Hungarian media on 19 April. He said that right and left-wing forces are trying to make the party "ungovernable," adding that MIEP advocates "national radicalism" but "disassociates itself from extremism." In other news, President Arpad Goncz on 19 April met visiting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk and discussed the possibility of establishing a Ukrainian-language university department in Budapest. MSZ
CLARK: NATO READY FOR SERBIAN 'GAMES'
NATO'S supreme commander in Europe, General Wesley Clark, said in Budapest on 19 April that "we're watching very closely [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic...we know he's fought four wars in a decade.... There are always 'games' under way. What comes of those depends very much on a number of circumstances, but he should clearly understand that NATO is capable of handling any challenge down there." Clark also warned ethnic Albanians who might try to provoke incidents in southwestern Serbia in hopes of drawing NATO into a conflict in the area. "NATO doesn't support and will not permit the export of violence from [Kosova] into southern Serbia," Reuters quoted him as saying. Clark stressed that the Atlantic alliance's 1999 campaign was a necessity: "In assessing this, you have to say what would have happened if the NATO air campaign hadn't been conducted. I think you would have had a region-wide tragedy and a situation of substantial instability," he concluded. PM
SERBIAN OPPOSITION WANTS 'ASPHALT FOR DEMOCRACY'
Mayor Zoran Zivkovic of Nis told Reuters on 19 April that he wants the EU to build on the success of last winter's Oil for Democracy program by providing $1.45 million to cover one-third of the costs for bitumen to improve 270 km of damaged roads. In Belgrade, representatives of the G-17 group of economists also endorsed the proposal. The purpose of both projects is to show ordinary Serbs that the opposition can deliver help from abroad. PM
OPPOSITION WALKS OUT OF VOJVODINA ASSEMBLY
Opposition legislators left the provincial assembly in Novi Sad on 19 April after deputies from the government parties refused to consider opposition proposals for topics to be added to the legislative agenda. The topics included calling elections at all levels, holding a roundtable on election rules, ending repression against citizens, and setting up a parliamentary commission to investigate recent incidents in Zrenjanin, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2000). PM
PRIVATIZATION COMMISSION FOR MONTENEGRO?
The legislature in Podgorica on 19 April discussed a Social Democratic proposal to set up a commission to review the privatization process. Representatives of several opposition parties expressed doubts that such a commission would be effective. Liberal legislators said that the proposal should be withdrawn because the commission would have no real authority and would become a farce, "Danas" reported. "The Los Angeles Times" wrote that many friends of President Milo Djukanovic are doing well under a system of "crony capitalism" at a time when the U.S. and EU help fund Djukanovic's government. The article suggested that Dragan Brkovic is about to profit handsomely from the privatization of the KAP aluminum concern. Brkovic has reportedly done several important favors for Djukanovic and his government, including providing luxury apartments and offices, the Los Angeles daily added. PM
KOSOVAR LEADERS APPEAL FOR END TO HATE
Ethnic Albanian leaders Hashim Thaci, Ibrahim Rugova, Rexhep Qosja, and Mahmut Bakalli joined Serbian Orthodox Archbishop Artemije, Father Sava, and Rada Trajkovic in signing an appeal to all people in Kosova in Prishtina on 19 April. The signatories called for an end to hatred and the development of an atmosphere of tolerance. They urged people to direct their efforts toward a better future for everyone in the province. Meanwhile, in Gjilan and Rahovec, UN civilian authorities began a painstaking process of registering all citizens. Officials hope to identify citizens--as opposed to recent arrivals from Albania and Serbia--and issue them appropriate documents. PM
EU'S PATTEN WARNS BOSNIA
EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten said in Sarajevo on 19 April that there will not be another donors' conference for Bosnia-Herzegovina until it introduces essential reforms. "It would not be very sensible to have a donors' conference unless things appear to be going very well, because it would limit the enthusiasm of donors to contribute. I think what we would like to see is absolutely clear, politically and economically, in terms of [joint] institution building, and in terms of the economic reforms, like a transparent privatization process," Reuters reported. Representatives of the international community have long chastised nationalist politicians for holding up reforms and fostering corruption. PM
MIXED RESULTS ON BOSNIAN JOINT CABINET
Croatian and Muslim leaders were unable to agree on from which of those two ethnic groups the new joint foreign minister will come, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Sarajevo on 19 April. As a result, the joint presidency was unable to select a prime minister as well, a Serbian spokesman said. Shortly after that meeting, presidency officials announced that the prime minister, when elected, will be a Serb. Under new legislation, there will be only one prime minister instead of the previous two co-prime ministers. PM
CROATIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER WANTS END TO PASALIC IMMUNITY
Zlatko Tomcic said in Zagreb on 19 April that the parliament will soon begin discussing lifting parliamentary immunity for Ivic Pasalic in conjunction with the "Vecernji list" affair (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April 2000). Vladimir Seks, who is a leader of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), to which Pasalic belongs, called the investigation "amoral and illegal." He added that it constitutes an effort to "criminalize the late President Franjo Tudjman," "Vecernji list" reported. "Jutarnji list" published the results of a public opinion poll, in which 56 percent of the respondents said that they believe Pasalic is guilty of wrongdoing in the privatization of the mass-circulation daily during the HDZ's rule. Only 20 percent of the respondents did not believe the charges. PM
CROATIA'S SPLITSKA BANKA SOLD
The government on 19 April approved the sale of Splitska Banka to the Milan-based UniCredito Italiano for $46 million. The move is "an important part of efforts to reinvigorate the Croatian economy" in the wake of the collapse of several banks, the "Financial Times" reported. On 6 April, the government issued $11.1 million worth of state bonds for 15 banks facing liquidity problems. The main beneficiary is Istarska Banka. Of the other two banks whose privatization began at the same time as Splitska's in 1999, Privredna Banka Zagreb has already been sold to the Banca Commerciale Italiana, while the Bayerische Landesbank is the leading contender to acquire Rijecka Banka. PM
OPPOSITION LEADER CLAIMS GENERAL PACEPA 'REACTIVATED' IN ROMANIA
The parliamentary commission supervising the activity of the Romanian Information Service (SRI) has summoned Director Catalin Harnagea to testify on the alleged "reactivating" of master-spy General Ion Mihai Pacepa by presidential order, Mediafax reported. Opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) First Deputy Chairman Adrian Nastase made the claim during a visit to China. He said that Pacepa, whose death sentence passed by the communist regime was quashed in June 1999, is the person behind the name General Petre Ion Gavrilescu, who was recently reintegrated into the SRI on the order of President Emil Constantinescu. George Serban, former head of the parliamentary supervisory commission, dismissed the allegation, saying it was made in China as part of the PDSR effort to enlist Chinese financial backing of its 2000 electoral campaign "as was the case of the previous elections." MS
ROMANIAN LOCAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN STARTS OFF
Campaigning for local elections officially began on 20 April and will last 45 days. The first round of the elections will take place on 4 June. Peter Kovacs Eckstein, who is minister in charge of national minority problems, has been chosen by the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania as its mayoral candidate in Cluj, Mediafax reported. Kovacs Eckstein said he is "optimistic," though he does not believe he will be able to defeat incumbent nationalist Mayor Gheorghe Funar. MS
ROMANIAN STUDENTS EMULATE MOLDOVAN NEIGHBORS
Some 1,500 students clashed in Iasi, capital of Moldavia, with police forces on 19 April, Reuters reported. They were demanding cheaper rail travel and higher tuition grants. A spokesman for the demonstrators said the protest was not related to demonstrations by peers in neighboring Moldova (see below), but students in several Romanian cities marched in support of their Moldovan colleagues and in protest against the clashes there. MS
MOLDOVAN PREMIER MEETS PROTESTING STUDENTS
Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis on 19 April met with representatives of the students, who continued their protest in Chisinau for a third day. He said the government had accepted their demand that the free use of public transportation be restored "at least until September," when scholarships are due to be increased by 50 percent, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Braghis also said that the demonstrators included "provocateurs" who had nothing to do with the students' demands and who incited violence. Meanwhile, skirmishes between police and demonstrators continued in central Chisinau, as students demanded the liberation of their detained colleagues. The authorities say all those detained had been set free. Romanian Radio announced on 20 April that the students were renewing their protests in the Moldovan capital. MS
IMF SUSPENDS LENDING TO MOLDOVA
The IMF has suspended lending to Moldova because the parliament has rejected legislation that would have allowed the privatization of the country's wine and tobacco industries, AP reported on 19 April. Hassan al-Atrash, the IMF representative in Chisinau, said the fund might reconsider its position by the end of the year, but that its conditions for resuming lending will not change. Premier Braghis one day earlier announced that the government will not resign. He said on 19 April that the IMF's decision will necessitate adjustments in the 2000 budget, which was drawn up on the assumption that the IMF and other loans will finance a large part of the budget deficit. MS
BULGARIA SHATTERED BY CORRUPTION SCANDAL
President Petar Stoyanov on 19 April pledged to support Prime Minster Ivan Kostov's struggle against corruption but urged him to act decisively against corruption among senior officials. Stoyanov's remarks came after governmental spokesman Mihail Mihailov was forced to resign on 18 April after being accused by a trade union leader of accepting a $10,000 bribe from a businessman. Mihailov denies the charge and says he has resigned to devote his time to clearing his name. Former Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev, whom Kostov sacked in December 1999, accused the premier of failing to react to his ministry's reports on graft among top officials. The opposition Socialist Party announced it will move a no- confidence vote in the cabinet, Reuters and AP reported.
BULGARIAN EU NEGOTIATOR SEES 2007 AS 'TARGET DATE'
Bulgaria's chief negotiator with the EU, Alexander Bozhkov, on 19 April said his country will be ready to join the EU by 2007, but problems on both sides could stretch the negotiations. In an interview with Reuters, Bozhkov said Bulgaria must have "an internal timetable" to keep the process "under necessary pressure," but added that even if that succeeds, obstacles will still have to be surmounted. Among those, he mentioned the need for the EU to revise its agricultural policy by 2003. MS
EU APPROVES LOAN FOR BULGARIA'S KOZLODUY
The EU Commission on 18 April approved a 212.5 million euro ($201.8 million) loan to help Bulgaria upgrade two 1,000 megawatt reactors at the Kozloduy nuclear plant, Reuters reported. Bulgaria agreed to close down the four oldest 440-megawatt reactors at the plant before starting accession talks with the EU last month. The modernized reactors are to be shut down no later than 2006, according to the agreement with the EU. MS
BALKANS ON THEIR WAY TOWARD EUROPEAN INTEGRATION?
By Fabian Schmidt
Over the last 10 years, the Western approach towards the Balkans has changed dramatically from ignorance through involvement to advocating integration. It now remains to be seen whether the EU will follow through on bringing Southeastern Europe into the structures increasingly integrating the rest of the continent.
In the early 1990s, most Western countries failed to appreciate that Yugoslavia was going through a process of disintegration. The Western fear of setting a precedent for the further disintegration of the former Soviet Union or other post-communist countries came to shape public opinion-- and above all the views of many leaders--more than the developments on the ground. The result was that many Western governments failed to grasp what was going on in the Balkans and on that they let their policies be heavily swayed by domestic concerns.
It took the EU (then EC) over half a year after Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic launched his wars in Slovenia and Croatia--and a major refugee crisis--to understand that Yugoslavia had ceased to exist, and to recognize the independence of most of its former republics. But it took different countries different lengths of time to draw the consequences from the disintegration process and from the wars.
After the shelling of Vukovar and Dubrovnik in 1991, German and Austrian public opinion tended to be more friendly to Croatia and Slovenia, partly because of the relatively widespread perception that Belgrade had started the war. Another factor was the appearance of hundreds of thousands of refugees on the Germans' and Austrians' doorsteps, as well as the long-standing contacts to the former Yugoslavia--thanks to a large Yugoslav immigrant community and to Yugoslavia's earlier popularity as a holiday destination--provided a strong feeling of proximity and involvement.
But in other countries, such as Britain and France, it took a change of the political generation and a change of government to appreciate that the core problem of the Balkan wars was Milosevic's lust for power. The change of attitude was triggered by months of horrific television images and press reports of the siege of Sarajevo and by the frustration from being unable to stop ethnic cleansing and genocide.
After four years of fruitless negotiations under international mediation, hundreds of broken ceasefires, and a hostage crisis involving Serbs taking UN troops prisoner, the 1995 Dayton agreement marked a turning point in the international approach. It showed that when dealing with tough-minded Balkan politicians, a credible threat of force can make them more reasonable.
Since Europe at the time was unable to conceive or carry out such a policy and its own mediation efforts had failed, the U.S. was crucial in bringing the Europeans together behind a common strategy. The deployment of a NATO-led international peacekeeping force that was able to enforce peace marked the end of the Bosnian war.
The post-conflict situation proved to be a still more complex matter. Even though the international community gave large amounts of humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Bosnia, the country now faces a deep economic crisis, triggered by protectionist policies, communist economic legacies, and by an overwhelmingly non-transparent and often corrupt bureaucracy.
The negotiation process leading to the February 1999 Rambouillet talks and the subsequent Kosova war clearly marked the change of western policies towards the region. Albeit under U.S. leadership, the European countries united behind a common goal and strategy in a comparably short time. After the war, Europe took charge of the largest part of the reconstruction and institution-building effort.
Furthermore, the Kosova war gave the essential impulse for a new regional approach on the part of the EU, aiming at integrating all of Southeastern Europe. And the EU's envoy on foreign and security policy, Javier Solana, is in charge of shaping that policy.
To date, however, Solana has not been able to present great results. The EU's main mechanism for the region is the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe under the chair of Bodo Hombach. But the Stability Pact has no resources of its own; it merely keeps the region on the EU's agenda. It also can serve as a clearing house to promote cross-border cooperation and infrastructure development. The key impulse for integration must come, however, through the Stabilization and Association agreements that the EU is currently negotiating. With the exception of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosova, all entities in the region are involved in the process of concluding such agreements.
The negotiations with Macedonia are likely to conclude by the end of this year. Talks with Croatia have just begun, and the country will have to introduce austerity measures to get the process going. Albania has some possibilities, and two weeks ago presented a status report on its internal reforms to the EU. If local elections scheduled for October proceed peacefully, it is likely that Albania will start negotiations by the end of the year. For Bosnia no such agreement is in sight, because the leaderships of the two entities have failed to agree on the joint implementation of reforms.
Unlike many Central European and Baltic countries, these new candidates will draw up action plans jointly with the EU. Thus the countries will have clearer guidelines as to where the reforms must be going and what they have to implement. For its part, the EU will apply "conditionality" to the integration process, which means that the process comes to a halt if the candidates fail to deliver on their promises. But the arrangement gives the candidates some security in not being left alone or lacking guidelines for their policies.
But not only the candidates will have to deliver on their promises--the EU must make good on its commitment to integrating them. Even though the EU supports regional and cross-border cooperation, many candidates will paradoxically have to give up free-trade agreements that are not in line with EU standards. (The agreements between the Czech Republic and Slovakia are a case in point.) Indeed, the EU wants the candidates to apply the "acquis communitaire"--the set of rules and standards for EU integration--among themselves already before integration.
The idea is that regional cooperation between candidates should not cause problems during their subsequent EU integration. But many such bilateral agreements--especially where free trade in agricultural products is concerned--are in contradiction to protectionist EU policies. A first step in a more open direction, however, is the willingness of the EU to unilaterally open its markets to industrial products from these countries. The most important is probably textile production, which makes up about 45 percent of Macedonia's exports, for example.
In the end, the sincerity of the EU's approach to the economically fragile states of Southeastern Europe will be measured in how far it opens its markets and gives policy guidelines in a spirit of sincere and open partnership. The author is an analyst of Albanian and former Yugoslav affairs at Munich's Suedost-Institut.