RUSSIAN PRESIDENT SPEAKS AT CHEKIST JUBILEE...
Speaking at the Kremlin on 20 December during a ceremony commemorating Security Services Day, which is celebrated on the day of the founding of the VChK-KGB by Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, President Vladimir Putin said to an audience of Russian intelligence officers and KGB veterans that their most crucial task today is to protect the country's economy against foreign industrial espionage, strana.ru reported. He said another vital role of Russian services is combating terrorism, and that they must sustain "the trust of their compatriots by protecting their civil rights freedoms." Putin also extended his gratitude to the veterans of the KGB "who devoted their life to the cause." Strana.ru noted that Security Services Day has a direct connection not only to Lenin and the first head of the VChK-KGB, Feliks Dzerzhinskii, but also to Count Aleksandr Bekendorf. Following the suppression of the Decembrist Rebellion in December 1825, the count suggested to Emperor Nikolai I that he create a special secret service, and became the first chief of the Third Department. VY
...AS FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF DEFINES HIS SERVICE'S ROLE...
Sergei Lebedev told "Trud" on 20 December that the fight against terrorism in cooperation with the U.S. intelligence community is the Foreign Intelligence Service's (SVR) first priority, but that details of this cooperation are of such vital importance that he cannot reveal them. Lebedev, who worked in 1999-2000 as the SVR's official representative in Washington, added that the success of the international campaign in Afghanistan has shown the need for the antiterrorist coalition of intelligence services to continue working together after that campaign is finished. "One should not treat international terrorists as cockroaches, with each side having its own," Lebedev said. He also admitted during the interview that the arrest in the United States of Russian spies Aldrich Ames, Robert Hansen, and others were defeats for his service. "The SVR involved [itself] into a covert war in which there were victories, defeats, and betrayals," he said. He also referred to former KGB General Oleg Kalugin, who is still alive and resides in the United States, as a "Judas." VY
...AND POLLS SAY SECURITY AGENCIES HAVE BETTER IMAGE
According to the Public Opinion polling agency, the image of the Federal Security Service and other KGB successor services has gained in prestige since President Putin came to power, Ekho Moskvy radio reported on 20 December. According to a recent poll, 36 percent of citizens are positive about the work of the KGB successor's services, while three years ago this number was only 24 percent. Moreover, 42 percent of respondents said they themselves are ready to work for security organs. The radio station noted that the improvement in the services' image was facilitated by the mainstream mass media's depiction of former KGB officers who came into top positions under Putin as "real patriots." VY
DUMA PLACES RESTRICTIONS ON NUCLEAR WASTE IMPORTS
The Duma adopted on final reading an amendment to the Environment Protection Law that will require nuclear waste to undergo analysis by state ecological experts before it can be imported into Russia, RBK reported on 20 December. That waste will only be allowed for import for temporary storage prior to its technological processing. Another provision of the law bans the import to Russia of nuclear materials and waste for permanent storage or burial. VY
...PASSES BILL BANNING TERRORIST PROPAGANDA...
Also on 20 December, deputies approved on first reading a bill amending Article 4 of the Law on Mass Media and the law for combating terrorism that will forbid the dissemination of propaganda for terrorism and extremism through the mass media. Although the bill was supported by a huge margin with some 371 votes in favor and only four against, some legislators said the bill will require "serious work" before the second reading, according to polit.ru. JAC
...GIVES FOREIGN-OWNED TV COMPANIES A BREAK...
Another bill amending the Law on Mass Media was also passed in its first, second, and third readings -- all on the same day. Under the bill, television companies that were registered prior to 4 August 2000 can have more than 50 percent foreign ownership, according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 20 December, legislators approved the Administrative Code, which they had approved earlier but was rejected by President Putin, polit.ru reported. The new version takes into account the president's objections. If signed into law, it will come into effect on 1 July 2002. JAC
...AND FORBIDS CLONING OF HUMANS
On 20 December, the Duma adopted on first reading a bill establishing a five-year moratorium on human cloning and prohibiting the export from and import to Russia of cloned human embryos, RBK reported. The bill envisages criminal punishment for violation of the moratorium, which will not apply to the cloning of animals. The ban on cloning both for reproductive and therapeutic purposes was initiated by the Russian Orthodox Church, which has warned that it will excommunicate any violators. VY
PUTIN HOPES LEFTIST POLISH GOVERNMENT ENHANCES BILATERAL RELATIONS
President Putin met with visiting Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller on 20 December in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 19 December 2001) and told him relations between the two countries "have been far from normal" for a long time, and that he hopes Poland's new leftist government "improves them radically," the BBC reported. In particular, Russia would like to reduce the imbalance in its trade with Poland, which results from large-scale Russian gas and oil supplies to Poland, and to diversify its exports. Miller's primary aim in coming to Moscow is to finalize the details of new Russian gas pipeline that will go to Europe via Poland, circumventing Ukraine, the BBC added. VY
DEFENSE MINISTER OUTLINES RUSSIA'S POST ABM POSITIONS
Speaking at the Belgian Higher Royal Institute for Defense in Brussels, Sergei Ivanov said on 20 December that he does not believe that the U.S. will succeed in building an efficient missile-defense system, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported. However, he said that "practically no one doubts that new technologies -- not necessarily military [technologies] -- will be obtained in the process of research." Ivanov called NATO "a semi-closed club for the select few," and said Russia will insist on the creation of European security and missile-defense systems for "security against future risks." Ivanov also dismissed American and Israeli concerns about Russia's joint nuclear program with Iran, saying that such an approach by those countries is a "cliche." VY
RUSSIAN EXPERT PROPOSES COMMON MARKET FOR EASTERN EUROPE
Sergei Markov, the director of the Institute of Political Research who is known for his close ties to the Kremlin, said the recent improvement of relations between Russia and Ukraine is the result of a calculated policy, and is intended to result in the creation of a closed economic alliance that will facilitate the entrance of the two countries into the EU, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 20 December. "Russia and Ukraine are poor countries and need at least 50 years to join the EU separately. However, by creating an Eastern European common market" -- which he said could include countries that are "unwanted by Europe," such as Belarus, Moldova, and probably Turkey -- "they can go their way much more quickly," according to Markov. VY
GAZPROM OUTLINES EUROPEAN EXPANSION PLANS
Speaking to journalists in Brussels on 19 December, Gazprom head Aleksei Miller said his visit is intended for discussions with EU economic leaders about his company's participation in the liberalization of the Western European gas market, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. Miller added that the liberalization promises multibillion-dollar revenues for both his company and its European partners, and that Gazprom's strategy is to concentrate on long-term agreements and not spot sales. Miller also noted that he is satisfied with current gas prices of between $100 and $110 for 1,000 cubic meters. VY
SAKHA POLL COULD BE CANCELED DUE TO LACK OF INTEREST
City authorities in Yakutsk were offering residents who voted in 23 December presidential elections there a 100 ruble ($3.30) rebate on their monthly housing payments as well as a reduction in arrears on electricity payments. However, the election commission for the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) ruled that the offer seemed too similar to a bribe, and city authorities were forced to extend the offer to all residents regardless of whether or not they voted. Analysts fear that the election may be declared invalid because local law requires that no less than 50 percent of voters participate. Many voters are reportedly disenchanted with the withdrawal of incumbent President Mikhail Nikolaev as well as a host of other candidates from the race (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 19 December 2001). Meanwhile, the Supreme Court -- as expected -- reinstated the candidacy of Alrosa head Vyacheslav Shtyrov on 19 December. Shtyrov is considered the Kremlin-backed candidate and the most likely winner in the upcoming race. JAC
PASKO ADVISED TO SEEK PRESIDENTIAL PARDON
In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 21 December, newly elected Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov expressed his support for former military journalist Grigorii Pasko, who is on trial for espionage in Vladivostok (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December 2001). He said if Pasko is given any sentence that requires a prison term, he would advise Pasko to seek a pardon from President Putin. Mironov added that he personally would support such a petition. The court's verdict in the case is expected next week. Mironov also predicted that the question of extending the presidential term in office may come up again in three to four years. JAC
MORE SENATORS SELECTED
More regions confirmed on 20 December their choices for representatives to the Federation Council. Novosibirsk Oblast's legislature elected Yurii Alaferovskii as their representative, RIA-Novosti reported. Alaferovskii previously headed the territorial organ in Novosibirsk of the Minister for Federation Affairs, Nationalities, and Migration Policies. In Vologda Oblast, legislators elected Gennadii Khripel, the former speaker of their parliament, as their representative, Interfax-Northwest reported. Pskov Oblast legislators selected Nikolai Medvedev, who is perhaps best known for heading the public office of President Putin's election bureau, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 December. According to the daily, Vladimir Nikitov, the former head of the Federation Council's apparatus, was elected to represent Smolensk Oblast's administration. Meanwhile, legislators in Altai Krai elected former auditor from the Audit Chamber Sergei Onenyshev as their representative, according to Interfax-Eurasia. JAC
SPS DEPUTY LOSES VOTE ON HOME TURF
Deputies in Chelyabinsk Oblast's legislature have decided to assist in the criminal investigation against State Duma Budget Committee Deputy Chairman (Union of Rightist Forces) Vladimir Golovlev, strana.ru reported on 20 December. Golovlev was the former chairman of the oblast's Committee for the Administration of State Property. Golovlev is suspected of swindling and abuse of office while he was chairman in the beginning of the 1990s. The State Duma earlier voted to deprive Golovlev of some of his immunity from criminal prosecution (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 5 November 2001). Golovlev has charged that the investigation is politically motivated and accused the chief investigator in his case in Chelyabinsk of providing "disinformation" about him to the chair of Chelyabinsk Oblast's legislature, according to Interfax. JAC
CHECHEN, RUSSIAN AUTHORITIES TO INVESTIGATE THEFT FROM HOLY TOMB
Chechnya's Prosecutor-General Vsevolod Chernov has called for an investigation into rumors that Russian servicemen stole antique rugs from the tomb near Pervomaiskoe of one of the descendants of the Prophet Mohammad, Russian agencies reported on 19 December. Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi, who commands the joint Russian military presence in Chechnya, will oversee the investigation personally. LF
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER ARMENIAN CAFE MURDER INVESTIGATION
In a statement released in New York on 20 December, Human Rights Watch expressed concern over the indictment of a member of President Robert Kocharian's bodyguard on charges of involuntary manslaughter following the 24 September killing in a Yerevan cafe of Georgian-born Armenian Poghos Poghosian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November and 14 December 2001). The international human rights watchdog suggested that witnesses are being intimidated to deter them from offering evidence that Kocharian's bodyguards deliberately beat Poghosian to death. LF
IMF WARNS ARMENIA TO IMPROVE TAX COLLECTION
Armenia's macroeconomic performance in 2001 was encouraging and the budget deficit is narrowing, but low levels of tax collection continue to cause concern, IMF resident representative Garbis Iradian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 20 December. He suggested that the Armenian government should aim to raise the amount of revenues collected in taxes from the present level of 15 percent of GDP to 20 percent. He said legislation enacted last week intended to ensure that tax laws are more strictly enforced are inadequate and will not ensure that tax revenue targets for 2002 are met. He said the government should take additional fiscal measures such as levying VAT on imported goods at the border or shortening the list of goods currently exempt from VAT. He said a $15 million tranche of a new Structural Adjustment Credit will not be disbursed until an improvement in tax collection is registered, but that he hopes such an improvement will be registered by the end of January. LF
AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS STAGE ANOTHER DEMONSTRATION
Some 2,000 people rallied in Baku on 20 December to demand a halt to official harassment of journalists and independent media, Turan reported. Meanwhile, the editors of the newspapers "Bakinskii bulvard" and "Milletin sesi," which were closed as a result of court verdicts earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September and 7 November 2001), said that although participants at the 18 December meeting between editors and President Heidar Aliev raised the question of annulling those court rulings and allowing the papers to resume publication, no formal decision was reached on beginning that process. Also on 20 December, Turan reported that President Aliev's brother Djalal has brought a libel suit against the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" for allegedly insulting his honor and dignity. LF
IRAN'S AMBASSADOR TO AZERBAIJAN WALKS OUT OF CONFERENCE
Iranian Ambassador Akhad Gazai walked out of the opening session in Baku on 20 December of an international conference on "Islam and Urgent Problems of the Modern Period" to protest the presence of Israeli Ambassador Eitan Na'eh, Turan reported. Gazai said Israel "has been committing terrorism against the Palestinians for 40 years." LF
AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT MEETS WITH OIL CONSORTIUM HEAD
President Aliev held talks in Baku on 19 December with David Woodward, who heads the Azerbaijan International Operating Company, the only international consortium that has begun extracting and exporting oil from Azerbaijani Caspian deposits. The two men discussed the time frame for the planned construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, and the reconstruction and extension of the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum gas export pipeline, which will begin in late 2002. LF
GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES GAS EXPORT AGREEMENT WITH AZERBAIJAN
On 19 December, the Georgian parliament voted unanimously to ratify the interstate agreement signed in late September by Aliev and his Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze on the export of gas from Azerbaijan via Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. The following day, Georgian International Oil Corporation head Giorgi Chanturia told journalists in Tbilisi that Russia could participate in that project. LF
RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SLAMS GEORGIA'S INABILITY TO CRACK DOWN ON TERRORISM
Addressing the Belgian Higher Royal Institute for Defense in Brussels on 19 December, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that the Georgian authorities' collective inaction to crack down on Chechen fighters operating from bases in Georgia should be regarded as "an unfriendly act" against Russia, Interfax reported. Ivanov returned to that theme at a press conference in London the following day, saying that the Georgian authorities do not control the Pankisi gorge in eastern Georgia and have made no effort to restore the rule of law there, ITAR-TASS reported. He said Moscow will not agree to consultations with Georgia on joint actions to counter terrorism in the Caucasus until Tbilisi demonstrates its determination to "normalize" the situation in the Pankisi gorge. LF
DEFENSE MINISTER WANTS GEORGIA INCLUDED IN NATO AIR-DEFENSE SYSTEM
Addressing a NATO forum in Brussels on 19 December, Georgia's Defense Minister David Tevzadze asked for Georgia to be incorporated into NATO's general air-defense system, Caucasus Press reported. Over the past two years, Russian aircraft have repeatedly violated Georgian airspace and dropped bombs on sparsely populated regions. LF
GEORGIA DENIES IT HAS TROOPS IN PANKISI GORGE
The Abkhaz leadership has urged the Georgian authorities to sign a draft agreement pledging to withdraw the 350 troops currently deployed in the Kodori gorge, Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba told Interfax on 19 December. He repeated that deployment of Georgian troops in the gorge is prohibited under the cease-fire agreement signed in Moscow in May 1994. Dieter Boden, the UN Secretary-General's envoy for Abkhazia, has also repeatedly called for the withdrawal of the Georgian troops contingent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November and 14 December 2001). But Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze told Interfax the same day that there are no Georgian troops currently in Kodori. LF
GEORGIA'S AZERBAIJANI COMMUNITY PROTESTS DISCRIMINATION OVER PARLIAMENT MANDATE
A political party representing Georgia's estimated 250,000 Azerbaijani minority has written to President Shevardnadze to protest the decision taken by the Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) not to allocate to Azerbaijani Mikhail Makhmudov the deputy's mandate recently surrendered by David Maghradze. Makhmudov was the next after Maghradze on the list of SMK candidates elected under the proportional system in the November 1999 elections. But Maghradze's mandate has gone to a Georgian who is next on the list after Makhmudov. The Azerbaijanis warned Shevardnadze, who resigned in September as SMK chairman, that they will resort to mass protests if their constitutional rights are not respected. Shevardnadze professed to be unaware of the controversy, according to "Svobodnata Gruziya" on 19 December. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DEMANDS MORE STRINGENT TAX COLLECTION
Addressing a Georgian government session on 19 December, President Shevardnadze made clear his dissatisfaction that the reform of the Tax Revenues Ministry has failed to result in improvements in tax collection, Caucasus Press reported. He told minister Levan Dzneladze that he is free to use medieval methods if necessary in order to improve the situation. On 20 December, parliament deputy Nodar Grigalashvili accused tax ministry officials of participating in a scam that resulted in defrauding the budget out of 1 million laris ($465.000). LF
GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS, INVALIDS STAGE PROTESTS
Displaced persons from Abkhazia attacked the local Post Bank in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi on 21 December, breaking down doors and smashing windows, Caucasus Press reported. They had begun a protest two days earlier to demand payments of their allowances for the past six months, and to protest a ruling whereby as of 1 January 2002 they will be able to receive their allowances at the local Post Bank office only if they produce new Georgian passports. They said they cannot afford to replace their old Soviet-era passports with new ones. Also on 19 December, the league of invalids and war veterans held a protest in Tbilisi to demand that their allowances be raised. LF
KAZAKH PARLIAMENT DEPUTY STRIPPED OF MANDATE
Deputies to the Mazhilis (the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's bicameral parliament) voted on 19 December to strip their fellow deputy Bolot Abilov of his mandate, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. One of the cofounders of the new Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan movement, Abilov announced his decision last month to quit the pro-presidential OTAN party from whose ranks he was elected to parliament. He was subsequently expelled from that party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November and 3 December 2001). LF
KAZAKH COMMERCIAL BANK SECURES RECORD LOAN
Kazakhstan's Kommerzbank, the country's largest, signed a $100 million loan agreement on 20 December with a consortium of 22 Western investors headed by Deutsche Bank AG London, dpa and "The Moscow Times" reported. The loan is the largest to a Kazakh bank since the country became independent 10 years ago. LF
U.S. TO HELP FINANCE MODERNIZATION OF KYRGYZ AIR FORCE
Following a meeting in Bishkek on 19 December with visiting U.S. State Department officials, Kyrgyz Security Council Secretary Misir Ashyrkulov announced that Washington will give Bishkek $3.5 million toward the cost of repairs to and spare parts for the country's air force planes and helicopters, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF
CHINESE, KYRGYZ INTERIOR MINISTRIES SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT
Kyrgyz Ambassador to China Erlan Abdyldaev and Chinese Security Minister Tsia Chun Wan signed an agreement in Beijing on 20 December under which Beijing will provide technical assistance valued at 4 million yuans ($483,000) to the Kyrgyz security organs, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The agreement was negotiated during a visit to Beijing in March by Kyrgyz Interior Minister Tashtemir Aitbaev. LF
TAJIK PRESIDENT FORSWEARS PERSONALITY CULT
Arguing that modesty is a quality that merits respect, President Imomali Rakhmonov has written to government ministers and local administrators asking them to refrain from devoting excessive media coverage to his person and activities, and to avoid displaying his portrait in every office, Interfax and Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 20 December. He also decreed that his image should not be reproduced on carpets, china, or other products. "We know what results a personality cult produces in certain countries, including neighboring ones," Rakhmonov commented. LF
UZBEK PRESIDENT SAYS AFGHANISTAN MUST BE DEMILITARIZED...
Speaking on 20 December at a ceremony to mark the commissioning of a gas-processing plant in Kashkadarya Oblast, President Islam Karimov called on the international community to begin the process of demilitarizing Afghanistan, Interfax reported. He also said he has written to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan asking him to raise at the UN Security Council the question of confiscating weapons from the Afghan population. Karimov also argued that Afghanistan should become a federal state in which the various regions have some degree of autonomy and are at the same time represented in the country's government. LF
...LAUDS U.S. COMPLIANCE WITH COMMITMENTS...
Karimov also praised the estimated 1,500 U.S. troops currently stationed at Khanabad who, he said, "are conducting themselves as they should...in a foreign country," with the result that "we have not heard any dissatisfaction among the local population," AP reported. LF
...PROPOSES ALTERNATIVE TO TURKMEN GAS PIPELINE PROJECT
Karimov also said Uzbekistan would be prepared to participate in laying a gas pipeline via Afghanistan and Pakistan to India, ITAR-TASS reported. He noted that Uzbekistan produces some 52 billion cubic meters of gas annually and could easily export 10 billion cubic meters. He suggested that construction of the pipeline could be funded from the billions of dollars of foreign aid pledged for reconstruction in Afghanistan. Turkmenistan is likewise now hoping to resurrect a plan first floated in the early 1990s to build a gas export pipeline via Afghanistan to Pakistan. LF
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT LAUDS WORK OF THE KGB...
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka marked the Day of Workers of the State Security Bodies on 20 December by awarding a "heraldic sign" and a banner to the country's KGB at a solemn gathering of the KGB top leadership at the Feliks Dzerzhinskii Club in Minsk, Belarusian Television reported. "One cannot assess today's work of the Belarusian KGB through a prism of the tragic past. The state security bodies have undergone a radical change and now act strictly within the framework of law... The current KGB generation has actually concluded an immense [and] noble task of rehabilitating innocent victims [of the former Soviet KGB and its predecessors]," Lukashenka noted. He said the KGB's priority task in present-day Belarus is combating corruption and organized crime. JM
...SAYS WEST FAILED TO ISOLATE BELARUS...
"One can confidently say at present that the policy of isolation of Belarus by a number of Western states and the U.S. has collapsed as well as proved to be erroneous and without prospects. You, as people involved and well-informed, realize and know that such a policy has no prospects and is counterproductive, and that this has been acknowledged by Western states themselves," Lukashenka told KGB officers at the Feliks Dzerzhinskii Club in Minsk the same day. JM
...ALLOWS LAWMAKERS TO CONSULT WITH HIM ON DIPLOMATIC APPOINTMENTS
President Lukashenka has recently issued a decree allowing the commissions dealing with foreign affairs in the Chamber of Representatives and the Council of the Republic to provide recommendations regarding diplomatic appointments, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 20 December. However, as before, the president will have a final say on whom to send on diplomatic missions. Lukashenka's decree is the implementation of his pledge in November 2000 to "expand powers" of the country's legislature. JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS 2002 BUDGET...
The parliament on 20 December voted by 250 to 114, with 18 abstentions, to adopt a 2002 budget bill setting revenues at 45.36 billion hryvni ($8.57 billion) and spending at 49.64 billion hryvni, Interfax reported. Communist deputies voted against the bill, while socialist lawmakers abstained from the vote. The bill limits the size of Ukraine's foreign debt by the end of 2002 to $8 billion. The parliament also passed a new Customs Code. JM
CZECH POLICE TO UNDERGO DRAMATIC REORGANIZATION
Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said a sweeping reorganization of police structures and procedures set to take effect on 1 January will be the most dramatic in Czech history, CTK reported on 20 December. Gross added that the reforms, which will eliminate investigators' offices and merge their work with the criminal police under a new Criminal Police and Investigation Service, should accelerate and improve the effectiveness of criminal procedures. The move is aimed in part at increasing coordination across the country by subordinating regional and local investigators to a national structure. Evidentiary procedure will also be assigned to the courts rather than police, except in special cases. Police President Jiri Kolar said the reorganization will eliminate some areas of overlap between law enforcement agencies. AH
POLAND'S UNEMPLOYMENT HITS NEW HEIGHTS
The Main Statistical Office reported on 20 December that Poland's unemployment rate in November reached 16.8 percent, the highest level since the fall of communism in 1989, Polish media reported. JM
...BUT FAILS TO PASS BILL ON COMBATING CD PIRACY...
The same day the parliament voted twice but failed to approve a bill aimed at combating the piracy of compact discs in Ukraine, Interfax reported. In the first voting the bill was supported by 220 deputies (six votes short of the required majority of 226 votes), while in the second attempt only 204 deputies backed it. JM
...WHICH LEADS U.S. TO IMPOSE SANCTIONS ON UKRAINE
On 20 December, the U.S. imposed sanctions on $75 million worth of Ukraine's imports to the U.S. in an immediate response to the Ukrainian parliament's failure to pass an antipiracy bill, Reuters reported. The action, which takes effect on 23 January, follows repeated U.S. warnings over the past two years that Ukraine could face sanctions unless it cracked down on unlicensed copying of compact discs, which is a thriving industry in that country. "We hope Ukraine will now redouble its efforts to deal with intellectual property rights and pass the legislation needed to allow us to lift sanctions," U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick commented. Zoellick added that the sanctions will come in the form of "prohibitive tariffs" on metals, footwear, and other imports from Ukraine. Zoellick also warned that Ukraine will find it difficult to become a member of the World Trade Organization unless it addresses the issue of protecting intellectual property rights. JM
U.S. CONGRESS GRANTS $154 MILLION TO SUPPORT DEMOCRACY IN UKRAINE
The U.S. Congress on 20 December approved $154 million in aid to Ukraine to carry out democratic reform in 2002, Interfax reported. Initially, U.S. President George W. Bush recommended that $169 million be granted to Ukraine. JM
PRIVATIZATION OF ESTONIAN POWER PLANTS LIKELY TO FAIL
Negotiations with the U.S. firm NRG Energy that began in 1995 on the privatization of Narva Elektrijaamad (Narva Power Plants) seem likely to fail because the Estonian Energy (EE) privatization committee has rejected bank requests to postpone the signing of a loan agreement, ETA reported on 20 December. NRG Energy had signed a mandate contract for a 4.5 billion kroon ($258 million) loan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2001) to renovate the plants, but after the 11 September terrorist attacks in the U.S. the banks decided to ask for state guarantees for the loan. EE Council Chairman Juri Kao said the loan was a precondition of the sale of the plants, and that EE will be able to finance the power stations' renovation in stages. The Center Party, which seems likely to have greater influence in the new government to be formed in January, has always opposed the privatization deal as being unfavorable to Estonia. SG
LATVIAN PARLIAMENT APPOINTS NEW CENTRAL BANK HEAD
The parliament by a vote of 68 to one, with 17 abstentions, appointed lmars Rimsevics as Bank of Latvia President, LETA reported. The 36-year-old Rimsevics, who had been the bank's vice president, will begin his six-year term of office on 21 December. SG
FRENCH STATE ADMINISTRATION AND REFORM MINISTER VISITS LATVIA
Michel Sapin assured parliament Deputy Chairman Rihards Piks on 20 December in Riga that France will assist Latvia in strengthening its state administration abilities not only in the framework of bilateral cooperation, but also on international projects, BNS reported. He later adopted a joint statement with Minister for State Reforms Janis Krumins calling for increased cooperation in areas related to Latvia's European integration efforts. Prime Minister Andris Berzins informed Sapin that Latvian officials are being offered the opportunity to learn the French language, as good French-language skills are necessary to boost cooperation between the two states. SG
LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS LAW ON RESTORATION OF NATIONALIZED PROPERTY
The parliament by a vote of 70 to 27, with six abstentions, amended the law on restoration of ownership rights to nationalized real estate on 20 December, ELTA reported. The amendments grant tenants the right to privatize the apartments they inhabit even if the property rights were restored to their owners. The former owners are to receive compensation from the state, but it is unclear when and from where the necessary funds will be obtained. Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas has declared his opposition to the amendments, arguing that they violate the constitution. It seems likely that President Valdas Adamkus will not sign the amendments, whose legality may also be appealed to the Constitutional Court or the European Court of Human Rights. The parliament by a vote of 63 to 42, with eight abstentions, also adopted a new Law on Profits Tax, which reduces the profit tax from 24 to 15 percent beginning on 1 January 2002, but abolishes the previous zero tax rate on reinvested profits. SG
POLISH PROSECUTORS SEEK TO LIFT LEPPER'S PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY
The District Prosecutor's Office in Warsaw asked Prosecutor-General Barbara Piwnik on 20 December to submit a motion to the Sejm to lift the parliamentary immunity of Self-Defense leader and former deputy speaker Andrzej Lepper in connection with the legal proceedings concerning the slandering by Lepper of five politicians (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 4 and 11 December 2001), PAP reported. Lepper said he wants the Sejm to vote for lifting his immunity. He added that he would like to know who will vote against him and how those who do so will react when he presents material incriminating politicians from the Civic Platform, the Polish Peasant Party, the Democratic Left Alliance, and Law and Justice. Earlier this month, Lepper pledged that he will give up his parliamentary immunity if such a motion to strip him of it is submitted to the Sejm. JM
EU GRANTS POLAND $420 MILLION IN PRE-ACCESSION FUNDS
European Commission Ambassador to Warsaw Bruno DeThomas and Poland's European Affairs Minister Danuta Huebner signed an agreement in Warsaw on 20 December whereby Brussels will grant Warsaw 467 million euros ($420 million) in PHARE pre-accession funds to finance select projects crucial to Poland's preparation for EU membership, dpa reported. Poland will have three years to use the money. Funds will be spent on stimulating small and medium-sized business development in regions of the country plagued by structural unemployment. Some 15 million euros will go to help Poles affected by this summer's floods, while 56 million euros are slated for the development of cross-border cooperation. JM
BRITISH AUTHORITIES SUSPEND AIRPORT CHECKS IN PRAGUE
On 20 December, British consular officials suspended their screening of U.K.-bound passengers at Ruzyne Airport in the Czech capital, CTK reported the following day. The checks are aimed at preventing abuse of Britain's asylum laws, and have been conducted intermittently since July. British authorities refused entry to 85 people between 11 and 20 December, CTK reported. Human rights groups have criticized the checks as unfairly targeting Roma. AH
SLOVAK PRESIDENT SLAMS CABINET OVER ECONOMIC CONTRASTS
President Rudolf Schuster said on 20 December that considerable economic differences between Bratislava and other regions of the country, particularly eastern Slovakia, are due to the government's lack of a development strategy. "It is a shame that Bratislava does not understand the rest of Slovakia. In many cases, Bratislava's citizens judge the life in Slovakia according to their conditions, including [only] a 6 percent unemployment rate," TASR quoted Schuster as saying. Schuster said the situation in eastern regions of the country would not have been so dramatic had the government approved "sufficient privileges" to small and medium-sized business there. JM
SLOVAKIA HAS PROBLEMS WITH EUROFUNDS
Deputy Premier Maria Kadlecikova said on 20 December that Slovakia will not be able to draw 2.6 million euros in EU aid funds approved in 1999 because Brussels has rejected three aid projects as "very risky," CTK reported. Moreover, Kadlecikova announced that Bratislava will have to return 540,000 euros received from Brussels as part of "general technical aid" in 1991-96, TASR reported. Foreign auditors found in 1997 that some EU aid funds had been misused, and Brussels has asked that part of the money be returned. JM
HUNGARY OFFICIALLY SIGNS LEASE FOR GRIPENS
Representatives of the Hungarian and Swedish governments and the Swedish manufacturer Saab on 20 December met in the presence of the two countries' defense ministers in Budapest and signed a 10-year agreement under which Hungary will lease 14 Gripen fighter aircraft from Sweden, Hungarian media reported. According to the 108 billion forint ($390 million) agreement, the 14 fighters will be delivered to Hungary in late 2004, and will enter service in the Hungarian air force by the middle of 2005. Some 15 Hungarian pilots will be trained in Sweden to fly the aircraft, while 34 maintenance staff members will receive training in Hungary. Hungary will have the option to decide in late 2015 whether to extend the lease agreement, return the jets, or purchase them. The daily "Magyar Hirlap" remarked that Hungary is now Sweden's "Trojan horse" in the region, as Austria, the Czech Republic, and Poland are also considering Gripens for their air forces. The present agreement means Hungary will be the sixth NATO member in Europe after France, the UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain to acquire fourth-generation fighter aircraft. MSZ
SLOVAKIA INSISTS ON NEED FOR DANUBE DAM
It emerged at expert-level consultations in Budapest on 20 December that Slovakia has modified its stance by returning to its previous position of pressing Hungary to construct a hydropower plant on the lower stretch of the Danube, Hungarian media reported. Gabor Bartus, the deputy head of the secretariat for Hungary's Danube Government Commissioner's Office, said that at the last negotiations on the issue held on 29 June, Slovakia gave up its idea of a dam on the Danube. Bartus said that although Hungary does not wish to appeal the issue to The Hague international court of justice for the time being, it does not rule out that possibility. MSZ
HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SEEKS TO KEEP EU ACCESSION ISSUE OUT OF ELECTIONS
On 20 December, Janos Martonyi asked opposition Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs during a debate at Budapest Economics University to counsel opposition politicians to refrain from linking Hungary's EU accession talks with criticisms of the government during the upcoming election campaign, Hungarian media reported. Martonyi explained that such linkage would weaken Hungary's negotiating position. Regarding the Status Law, Martonyi said that while problems related to reservations held in neighboring countries about the law will not be easy to solve, it is possible. For his part, Kovacs recalled that the right-wing's historical weakness is that it cannot always harmonize both European and regional foreign policy goals. Martonyi also said that under no circumstances will FIDESZ enter a coalition with the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party after next year's elections, a statement Kovacs said he expects Prime Minister Viktor Orban to declare himself. MSZ
NATO ENVOY SUGGESTS NEW WEAPONS COLLECTION IN MACEDONIA
Claus Vollers, who is NATO's ambassador to Macedonia, told AP in Skopje on 20 December that "it would be a good idea to have a second collection of weapons. We hear shots every night. There are too many weapons around." He suggested that any new collection should be organized by the government and affect ethnic Macedonian civilians as well as ethnic Albanians. Vollers also recommended that financial incentives be offered for turning in weapons, along with stiff penalties for those found in possession of illegal weapons. NATO's Operation Essential Harvest collected nearly 4,000 weapons from ethnic Albanian fighters before it ended at the end of September. Part of the problem is that much of the Balkans has a gun culture. The ubiquitous weapons are routinely fired off as part of celebrations in Macedonia and elsewhere. PM
MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN REBEL CHIEF SEEKS NEW POLITICAL DEAL
Ali Ahmeti told Reuters in Sipkovica on 20 December that he is a "social democrat" who wants an end to the reign of corrupt parties (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 21 December 2001). Ahmeti said: "So far politicians in this country have sought power for personal profit. I mean Albanian politicians too. We say Albanians deserve more than this alliance of VMRO-DPMNE and PDSH," referring to the governing Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization and Democratic Party of the Albanians. Ahmeti stressed: "I am not a far-right nationalist. I am a social democrat who believes Macedonia needs a social democratic party, not just for Macedonians or for Albanians but for all people, as in Switzerland [where he worked for a decade]. People in Macedonia need to be released from this ethnic mindset, to have parties not based on ethnicity or nationalism but on the quality of their programs and policy." Ahmeti argued that such an approach is necessary "to stabilize this country, for all citizens to be genuinely equal before the law, for Macedonia to be integrated into the European Union and achieve modern standards." PM
MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT PARDONS MORE REBELS
On 20 December, President Boris Trajkovski pardoned a further nine ethnic Albanian fighters, dpa reported. This brings the total pardoned to 64 out of 88 on a list submitted by Justice Minister Idzet Mehmeti in November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November and 19 December 2001). Trajkovski's office said nonetheless that the latest pardons are the "final" round. PM
MONTENEGRO NAMES TEAM FOR SERBIAN TALKS
Speaking in Podgorica on 20 December, President Milo Djukanovic named Montenegro's team of experts for talks with Belgrade on the future of Montenegrin-Serbian relations, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 2001). Djukanovic stressed once again that conducting talks with Serbia does not preclude Montenegro from holding a referendum on independence. The negotiators are: economists Veselin Vukotic and Miroslav Ivanisevic; lawyers Mijat Sukovic, Nebojsa Vucinic, and Slavica Milacic; and security experts Branko Lukovac and retired Generals Blagoje Grahovac and Radoslav Martinovic. PM
KOSTUNICA PROPOSAL ON HAGUE DROPPED FROM SERBIAN PARLIAMENT'S AGENDA
A majority of deputies voted on 20 December to cancel a discussion and a vote on a bill regulating relations with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, which was proposed by Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), AP reported. Voting against the DSS proposal were deputies from the other parties and coalitions in the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said Kostunica's law, which arguably is aimed more at obstructing cooperation with The Hague than with promoting it, is "the worst possible solution" and "unconstitutional." Djindjic called on parliament to start work on a "real law" on cooperation with The Hague (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December 2001). Kostunica views the tribunal as an anti-Serbian instrument of American foreign policy. PM
CROATIAN COURT DROPS CHARGES AGAINST SERB -- AND CROATS
A Zadar county court dropped war crimes charges against Momcilo Draca on 20 December and ordered him released after none of the 10 witnesses could identify him, dpa reported. He was extradited from Hungary in November in conjunction with charges stemming from the execution of 43 Croatian civilians near Zadar in 1991. Draca said he has no complaints about the functioning of the Croatian judicial system. In related news, the county court in Bjelovar dismissed war crimes charges against four Croatian policemen for lack of evidence. PM
CROATIA ASKS AUSTRALIA FOR EXTRADITION IN REIHL-KIR MURDER CASE
The Justice Ministry asked the Australian authorities to extradite Ante Gudelj, who is wanted in connection with the murder of Josip Reihl-Kir and two other Croatian police officers in 1991, AP reported from Zagreb on 20 December. Gudelj holds dual Croatian and Australian citizenship. The killing of the moderate police officials by extremist Croats is widely regarded as a key factor in the outbreak of hostilities between Serbs and Croats in Slavonia. At the time he was killed, Reihl-Kir was actively involved in preventing hostilities. PM
BOSNIA TO SCALE DOWN ARMED FORCES?
SFOR commander General John Sylvester told Bosnian federation troops recently that the 26,000-strong federal army and 18,000-strong Serbian forces are still too large, dpa reported from Sarajevo on 20 December. He said both armies should be shrunk and integrated. On 20 December, federal Defense Minister Mijo Anic said that 10,000 troops will be cut "soon." He promised the demobilized men "some solution" but did not say what or when. He said the federation cannot afford to finance as large an army as it has in the past, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM
ROMANIA'S UDMR TO ENTER A GOVERNMENTAL COALITION?
Hungarian Democratic Federation (UDMR) Senator Attila Verestoy said on 20 December that his party "does not exclude" the possibility of creating a governmental coalition with the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), Mediafax reported. UDMR and PSD delegations held talks on 19 December on renewing their cooperation agreement signed early this year. Verestoy said the UMDR will consider entering a governmental coalition if that move would help solve the specific problems of the Hungarian minority and would facilitate the general reform process. However, UDMR Chairman Bela Marko denied having proposed his party join a governmental coalition. UDMR Deputy Robert Raduly said "there is no point" in joining the PSD in a coalition. He said such an action would subordinate the UDMR to the PSD. ZsM
ROMANIA TO SEND TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN?
Romanian President Ion Iliescu said in the western Romanian city of Timisoara on 20 December that Romania is willing to send troops to Afghanistan as part of a multinational peacekeeping force under the aegis of the UN, Romanian media reported. Iliescu said that, at the UN's request, Romania will send medical personnel, ground troops, and logistics specialists to Afghanistan. ZsM
MICRO-CREDITING SCHEME TO BEGIN IN BULGARIA
Starting on 21 December, clients willing to borrow from the Guarantee Fund for Micro-Crediting can submit loan applications, Social Minister Lidia Shuleva announced. The credits range from 5,000 to 15,000 leva ($2,300-$6,900), BTA reported. The credit program will be available to existing or start-up small and medium-sized enterprises. The credits will be disbursed by the United Bulgarian Bank, Eurobank, and the Post Bank. A large-scale interest-free credit program was one of incumbent Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski's electoral promises. UB
NEW MINISTRY TO BE ADDED TO BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT
The Bulgarian government announced plans to transform the state Agency for Energy into a ministry, standartnews.com reported on 20 December. The new Energy Ministry will be headed by Milko Dimitrov Kovachev. In connection with the formation of the ministry, the parliament will also pass a new Law on Energy and Energy Effectiveness. Most likely, the parliament will decide on both issues after the Christmas holidays. UB
BULGARIAN-BASED MULTINATIONAL PEACE CORPS TO REPLACE SOME OF SFOR?
The defense ministers of Albania, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey, and Italy met in the Turkish town of Antalya for the 6th Southeast European Defense Ministers Meeting, BTA reported. In a letter to the participants, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld proposed that the Multinational Peace Force Southeastern Europe, which is based in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, should replace some of the SFOR troops in Bosnia. At a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels on 18 December, Rumsfeld proposed downsizing the 18,000-strong force by 6,000 soldiers by the end of 2002. Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu said the multinational force has been prepared to conduct peacekeeping operations since May 2001. Cakmakoglu's Bulgarian counterpart Nikolai Svinarov said Bulgaria will continue its position of noninvolvement with military forces in neighboring countries. UB
As the Dayton system enters its seventh year, calls can be increasingly heard for its overhaul. The dilemma facing Western policymakers regarding Bosnia is not easy.
Every week or two, it seems that some NGO or Bosnian or foreign politician calls for a review of the Dayton peace agreements that ended the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. The thrust of the criticisms is that the nationalist parties in power during the conflict still wield effective authority throughout most of Bosnia, and that central institutions remain weak or ineffective.
Remedies suggested include a variety of measures, usually starting with abolishing or greatly circumscribing the authority of the two entities, namely the Muslim-Croat federation and the Republika Srpska. Some critics also call for the abolition of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) -- which is seen as particularly obstructionist -- and a curbing of the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ).
Critics of Dayton concede that the current joint government and Croat-Muslim federal government are dominated by non-nationalist parties. But, the skeptics argue, this is largely because the internationally supervised November 2000 elections were held under rules that favored the non-nationalists at the expense of the nationalists, and that some additional nationalists were disqualified even after they won their respective races. Furthermore, the HDZ boycotted federal institutions for much of 2001 in a poorly considered move that cost the party a say in key decisions.
At Dayton, the international community had banked on the proposition that voters would eventually elect moderate candidates if the grip of nationalist parties on political, business, and military structures -- and links to organized crime -- could be loosened. So far, however, this hoped-for "reasonable" voter has yet to emerge as a Bosnia-wide phenomenon. If the foreigners want the non-nationalists to carry the day, the foreigners have to resort to a number of electoral maneuvers that seem more reminiscent of 19th-century machine politics than 21st-century European norms. Some critics say that this amounts to imposing a dubious democracy by fiat.
According to those critics, the vast majority of Bosnian voters will continue to elect nationalists if left to themselves. Does the international community have a legitimate right to tell the Bosnian voters that they cannot live in three separate, medieval-style mini-kingdoms if that's what they want, or to join their respective statelet to a neighboring country?
The reply to this argument is that such ministates are based on the results of "ethnic cleansing," and pose a threat to the stability and security of Europe as a whole, in that they constitute or have the potential to constitute a center of criminal activity. To put an end to that, the international community has invested a great deal of time, effort, and money to help Bosnia heal the wounds of war and move on toward eventual integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions.
But the results have been less than impressive. Some observers suggest that Bosnia already has a culture of dependency, which may have historical roots going back to Habsburg or even Ottoman times. Those observers argue that Bosnians have made less progress in helping themselves than many expected at the end of the conflict. Some foreigners who have worked in both Bosnia and Kosova suggest that the Kosovars have proven much quicker to get back on their feet.
Others say that the lack of progress is rooted in the weaknesses of Dayton. No one would deny that Dayton has succeeded in restoring peace, but many observers believe that war could erupt at any time again were the tough foreign peacekeepers to leave. Even Dayton's critics concede that it was the best deal that could have been hoped for at the end of 1995, but they add that the time has come to move on. And that means not just making the complex foreign presence more efficient within the framework of Dayton, but changing the agreement itself.
That leads to the question raised at the beginning of this essay, namely whether Dayton should be revised and by whom. A revision would mean curbing the roles of the nationalist parties -- which the voters seem to prefer -- and of the two entities. It would also mean correspondingly enhancing the position of the joint structures and of parties favored by the international community -- if not by the voters -- in order to promote important reforms in the economy and the legal system above all. It would certainly have to be better equipped than Dayton to enable people to return to their former homes and undo the results of "ethnic cleansing."
Would the original signatories to Dayton -- which is a treaty as well as a constitution -- have to approve the revision, or would it be the current Bosnian central authorities, or the foreigners, who seem to have the last word in Bosnia, anyhow?
This leads to the heart of the Western dilemma regarding Bosnia. In the interests of promoting stability in the region, is the international community ready, able, and willing to carry out what amounts to colonial rule or supervise a modern-day protectorate for an indefinite length of time, in what is not always a particularly hospitable place? The frequency with which serious observers are raising the question of a revision of Dayton suggests that dealing with these issues cannot be put off indefinitely.