RUSSIAN AIRLINER COLLIDES WITH CARGO JET OVER GERMANY
Seventy-one people, most of them children and teenagers, were killed when a Bashkir Airlines Tu-154 passenger jet collided late in the evening of 1 July with a Boeing 757 cargo jet over southwest Germany, international media reported. The mid-air collision between the airliner and the DHL package delivery service jet took place at an altitude of about 11,000 meters. The Bashkir Airlines jet with 12 crewmembers was flying 57 passengers to Spain for a UNESCO-sponsored cultural event, and the DHL jet carried a crew of two pilots. All of the passengers on the passenger jet were from the Bashkortostan Republic, and most of the young people were students at the UNESCO-affiliated school in Ufa and children of high-ranking officials from the republic, including from the staff of President Murtaza Rakhimov. Rakhimov announced three days of mourning in the republic and Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his condolences to the victims of the disaster. VY
SIBUR HEADS GO TO TRIAL AS CREDITORS CIRCLE
The Prosecutor-General's Office announced that it has completed its investigation of the heads of Gazprom's subsidiary Sibur and handed the case over to a court, strana.ru reported on 2 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 29 January, and 1, 8, and 12 February 2002). Yakov Goldovskii and Yevgenii Koshits are accused of embezzlement, fraud, money laundering, and abuse of office. Meanwhile, a meeting of Sibur creditors on 1 July decided to petition an arbitration court in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug where Sibur is registered to declare the company bankrupt, strana.ru reported. VY
RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT PLANS TO HAND OVER HISTORIC CATHEDRAL TO ORTHODOX CHURCH
The government of the Russian Federation is preparing a decision on transferring ownership of the Kazanskii Cathedral in St. Petersburg -- one of Russia's most famous historical landmarks -- to the Russian Orthodox Church, RosBalt and other Russian news agencies reported on 2 July. During the Soviet era, the cathedral housed a museum dedicated to the history of religion and atheism, and exhibited cultural and historical artifacts that were owned by the Russian Orthodox Church prior to the Bolshevik Revolution. Meanwhile, some in St. Petersburg have expressed their skepticism over the fairness of transferring the cathedral and all of its valuables, which they argue belongs to all Russian people, into the hands of only one religion, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 2 July. VY
PRIME MINISTER, MOSCOW MAYOR LOBBY FOR WORLD EXPO
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Moscow Major Yurii Luzhkov, and Nobel Prize in Physics laureate Zhores Alferov arrived in Paris on 1 July to lobby for Moscow's bid to host the 2010 World Expo, "Vremya novostei" and "Vedomosti" reported. Kasyanov and Luzhkov are to present Russia's estimated $2.2 billion bid at a session of the assembly of the International Exhibition Bureau. VY
PUTIN ASKED TO HELP IN INVESTIGATION OF FORMER FINANCE MINISTER
Fedor Sobolev, the investigator from the Interior Ministry that looked into the case of former Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January, 22 and 29 May, and 14, 17, 27, and 28 June 2002) has appealed to President Putin to intervene in the case because of obstruction of justice, RIA-Novosti and gzt.ru reported on 2 July. In particular, Sobolev complained that during the investigation he experienced strong pressure to suspend the case from his superior within the Prosecutor-General's Office. He also revealed that he was beaten near his home by unknown persons, and was telephoned the next day by Vavilov's lawyer, a Ms. Kopytseva, who asked "whether he still has the desire to interrogate Vavilov" and threatened him with "further consequences." After the threat, Sobolev sent subpoenas to Vavilov, which he ignored. In his appeal to Putin, Sobolev said he was subsequently summoned to the Prosecutor-General's Office on 25 June, where he was informed that he was suspended from the investigation. VY
YET ANOTHER CHEKIST GENERAL JOINS RANKS OF INTERIOR MINISTRY
President Putin signed a decree on 30 June to appoint Major General Rashid Nurgaliev to head the Interior Ministry's Criminal Militia Service, Russian news agencies reported. Like his predecessor, Nikolai Bobrovskii, Nurgaliev is a cadres officer of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and until recently headed the service's Directorate for Combating Drug Trafficking and Contraband. With another decree the same day, Putin transferred his long-standing associate Bobrovskii to another, unspecified job. VY
GOVERNMENT FACES HEFTY BILL TO FIX DAMAGE IN FLOODED REGIONS...
The Russian government issued a resolution on 1 July allocating 3 billion rubles ($95 million) to repair the damage caused by flooding in the Southern Federal District, ITAR-TASS reported. However, the agency reported the same day that the cost of damage to the railroad infrastructure in the region alone exceeds 1 billion rubles. Russian Prime Minister Kasyanov pledged the same day that persons who lost all of their property as a result of the disaster will receive compensation of 50,000 rubles and those who lost part of their belongings will be eligible for 20,000 rubles, Radio Rossii reported. JAC
...AS THREAT OF ANTHRAX RAISED
Meanwhile, the death toll has reached 109 with 32 people missing as result of the flooding, Ekho Moskvy radio reported, citing the Prosecutor-General's Office. To prevent more deaths and the spread of disease, the State Sanitary and Epidemiological Inspection Agency has started immunizing the local population in Krasnodar Krai against anthrax, Interfax reported. Approximately 50 people have already been vaccinated in that region, where flooding destroyed some 12 burial sites for cattle, some of which had died from the disease. JAC
TOP POLICYMAKERS GET PAY HIKE
The salaries of Russia's most senior state officials are set to rise 50 percent according to presidential decrees signed on 25 June, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 29 June. According to the daily, only the specific salary figures are known for the president and prime minister. Putin will now earn 63,000 rubles a month ($2000), and Prime Minister Kasyanov will make 50,400 rubles a month. Both figures include taxes. Cabinet ministers, State Duma deputies, and Federation Council members will earn from 11,500 rubles to 16,500 rubles a month. Last year, "Segodnya" reported that Kasyanov earned about $650 a month, based on its reading of the 2001 federal budget; however, it did not give a figure in rubles (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 22 January 2001). JAC
DUMA RUSHES THROUGH MORE BILLS BEFORE SUMMER BREAK...
In their last meeting of the 2002 spring session on 1 July, State Duma deputies passed a series of laws in their third and final reading, including laws on bankruptcy, taxes for small businesses, and state regulation of the production and sale of alcoholic products. In addition, amendments to the second part of the Tax Code regulating transportation taxes were passed, as well as amendments to the 2002 federal budget, Interfax-AFI and polit.ru reported. According to lenta.ru, the amendments to the Tax Code will enable regions to raise or lower transportations taxes by a factor of five, which will compensate them for the lowering of a road tax (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 2002). JAC
...EARNING PRESIDENT'S PRAISE AND SOME LEGISLATORS' REBUKES
Sixty-one bills were passed in their third reading during the spring session and ultimately signed by President Putin, according to State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev. In a meeting with the leaders of Duma groups, President Putin said that the lower legislative chamber completed a "colossal" amount of work during its spring session, passing the most important institutional reforms relating to land, military, pension, and tax issues, Interfax reported. "Vremya MN" reported on 28 June that laws were being passed by the Duma over the last days of the session at a "frantic" pace, causing Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii to comment that "even members of specific committees lack the time to understand the contents of laws, much less the deputies who vote on them." According to the daily, laws sponsored by the executive branch are "pushed through no matter what," adding that "texts may be distributed among deputies on the day of discussion even though the rules demand at least three days for lawmakers to get acquainted with [the bill]." JAC
DUMA DEPUTIES APPEAL TO COURT ON BEHALF OF PASKO
A group of Duma deputies have sent a letter to Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev asking him to reconsider the four-year prison sentence handed down to naval officer, military journalist, and environmental activist Grigorii Pasko that the court recently upheld, Interfax reported on 1 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2002). Information Policy Committee Chairman Boris Reznik (Russian Regions), who is one of the signatories of the letter, told the news agency that he is convinced Pasko was convicted illegally. On 28 June, a group of activists from Memorial and other human rights organizations held a protest meeting in central St. Petersburg in defense of Pasko, RFE/RL's St. Petersburg correspondent reported. Former political prisoner Vyacheslav Dolinin said Memorial intends to fight not only for Pasko's freedom but also to bring to justice those who are responsible for imprisoning him. JAC
HUNGER STRIKES CONTINUE IN KRASNODAR KRAI, THREE HOSPITALIZED
In a village in Krasnodar Krai, three participants in a hunger strike of Meskhetians have been hospitalized, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 28 June. More than 200 Meskhetians were initially participating in the hunger strike to protest the oblast administration's new migration policies, which they claim deprive them of their rights to register at their residence or lease farmland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2002). However, only 27 persons have continued the strike. Included in that group is Kebar Osmanov, an 81-year-old veteran of World War II. Sarvar Tedorov, chairman of the krai's society of Meskhetian Turks, said the group is demanding recognition of their citizenship. They were citizens of the Soviet Union, and in 27 regions of the Russian Federation where Meskhetians reside they are considered citizens of the Russian Federation. "But for some reason, the Krasnodar Krai authorities are stubbornly refusing [us] citizenship -- and for 13 years we have lived here in conditions that are absolutely illegal," Tedorov said. JAC
FIRST ELEMENT OF PUTIN'S LEGAL REFORMS COMES INTO EFFECT
The new Criminal Procedure Code officially came into force on 1 July as part of a major judicial reform promoted by the Kremlin. The code aims to enhance the rights of suspects by requiring a court warrant for searches and arrests, and by banning the return of cases for additional investigation, a practice that often resulted in long, illegal imprisonments. In addition, the code stipulates that the first interrogation of a suspect be held within 24 hours of detention, and that the suspect has the right to a two-hour consultation with an attorney prior to it. The new code also attempts to give more power to defense attorneys by allowing them to conduct independent investigations of the case, RosBalt news agency reported. However, critics charge that the law does little to prevent human rights abuses and will be difficult to implement. "It all looks very democratic if one doesn't know how it looks from the inside," "The Moscow Times" of 1 July quoted Council of Independent Legal Experts head Mara Polyakova as saying. MD
LOCAL NEWSPAPER COMPLAINS ABOUT NEW CITIZENSHIP LAW
The Astrakhan-based newspaper "Komsomolets Kaspiya" wrote recently that the new federal law on citizenship will not rid the oblast of undesirable immigrants, nns.ru reported on 1 July. The new law came into force as of 1 July, and although would-be citizens must demonstrate their knowledge of the Russian language and the country's constitution, the law will not help the oblast free itself of "Tajik gypsies," according to the newspaper. In order for that to happen, the paper said, other laws will need to be strengthened. The newspaper appears twice a week and has a print run of about 45,000. Last year, Astrakhan Oblast Governor Anatolii Guzhvin appealed to federal authorities for "special efforts to regulate immigration," following the appearance around the oblast of a number of shantytowns populated by Tajik migrants (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2001). JAC
POSSIBLE SHOWDOWN OVER TATARSTAN CONSTITUTION LOOMS
Tatarstan's Supreme Court is expected to consider before 4 July a legal challenge by Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev to the illegal retention in Tatarstan's amended constitution of provisions that were previously ruled to be in contradiction of federal laws, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 1 July, citing "Konets nedeli." It the court rules that the challenge is well founded, then the prosecutor will be able to initiate a procedure to dissolve the Tatar parliament. Zvyagintsev earlier made a similar protest to republican legislators, demanding that during its next parliamentary session the republican legislature abolish or change more than 50 provisions of the amended constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2002). However, the State Council immediately decided to break for the summer, earlier than planned. The paper commented that this is part of the republican authorities' plan to slow the judicial process. JAC
ARREST WARRANT FOR GOVERNOR CANCELLED
Acting prosecutor for the Nenets Autonomous Okrug Zoya Kozhevina has cancelled the arrest warrant issued for the okrug's governor, Vladimir Butov, Interfax-Northwest reported on 1 July. A warrant was issued the previous week for Butov on suspicion of abuse of office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2002). However, on 28 June Vladimir Zubrin, the deputy prosecutor-general for the Northwest Federal District, told Interfax that he considered the charges brought against Butov to be "premature." He added that the case has been transferred to the prosecutor's office in Arkhangelsk Oblast in order to ensure that a more impartial investigation is conducted. JAC
ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER TESTIFIES IN PARLIAMENT GUNMEN'S TRIAL
Giving evidence on 1 July, Andranik Markarian described the five gunmen who shot dead eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament in October 1999 as cold-blooded murderers "who deserve the most severe punishment," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Markarian, who with other ministers was held hostage in the parliament building during the night of 27-28 October 1999, said he believes the gunmen received special training and acted at the behest of others, possibly Armenia's "external enemies." He did not elaborate. LF
ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ANNULS BY-ELECTION RESULT
The Constitutional Court has annulled the outcome of the 16 May by-election in Shirak, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 1 July. Vartan Makeyan of the opposition Democratic Fatherland Party had protested the official returns, according to which he polled 28 percent of the vote compared with 38 percent for Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun candidate Hovannes Matilian, claiming that police and local officials pressured voters to cast their ballots for Matilian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2002). A repeat election will probably take place on 14 July. LF
AZERBAIJANI LAW ON TV AND BROADCASTING CRITICIZED
In a 1 July press release, the Baku office of Internews highlighted alarming aspects of the law on television and radio broadcasting that the Azerbaijani parliament passed in the third and final reading last week. Internews pointed out that members of the national regulatory body to oversee broadcasting are to be appointed by the president, and that the law fails to outline the procedures for obtaining a broadcasting license. The electronic weekly "Azerb@ijan: A Weekly Analytical-Information Bulletin" noted in its 27 June issue that the law reduces from two months to seven days the time frame within which a television station must cease broadcasting if a court rules on its closure. LF
MORE AZERBAIJANI POLICE DEPLOYED AROUND NARDARAN
The number of police posts in the vicinity of the village of Nardaran on the outskirts of Baku has been increased from four to seven, Turan reported on 1 July. Also on 1 July, NGOs representing residents of Nardaran and other villages of the Apsheron peninsula issued a statement deploring the Azerbaijani authorities' collective failure to take action to redress the grievances outlined by Nardaran residents during a meeting last month with senior officials. They also demanded the removal of all police posts and legal action against those police who opened fire on villagers during a clash on 3 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 June 2002). LF
EARTHQUAKE DELAYS AZERBAIJANI-IRANIAN PRISONER EXCHANGE
A scheduled exchange under which 78 Iranians currently imprisoned in Azerbaijan were to be repatriated in exchange for 11 Azerbaijani prisoners failed to take place as scheduled on 29 June, Turan reported on 1 July. An Iranian Embassy official in Baku said the failure is due to the earthquake that hit northwestern Iran on 22 June; he said the Azerbaijanis are all being held in the earthquake zone. LF
NGOS CHALLENGE OIL COMPANY OVER AZERBAIJANI OIL-EXPORT PIPELINE
Some 64 predominantly European NGOs have appealed to the World Bank, the EBRD, and other major financial institutions to impose stringent conditions before agreeing to finance the planned Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil, according to the "Asia Times" on 28 June, as cited by Groong. They called on British Petroleum (BP), which heads the consortium formed to build the pipeline, to demonstrate that the project will benefit the impoverished population of the regions through which it will run, rather than compound existing tensions. Caucasus Press on 30 June quoted BP's David Woodward as assuring Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze that construction of the pipeline will begin within three months. LF
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT VISITS GEORGIA
Shevardnadze met on 1 July in Tbilisi with his Romanian counterpart Ion Iliescu and expressed his confidence that Romania will soon become a NATO member, and thus "an important element of stability in the Black Sea region," Caucasus Press reported. The two presidents noted that their views on many issues coincide, including on the need to elevate bilateral relations to a higher plane. Iliescu specifically advocated closer cooperation in banking and trade. Shevardnadze greeted Romania's interest in participating in Caspian oil and gas projects. More efficient transport cooperation, including the more effective use of the Batumi-Constanta ferry that at present is operating only at 10 percent of capacity, is currently hindered by high transport tariffs in Georgia. LF
DIRECTOR OF ABKHAZ INSTITUTE DENIES URANIUM SALES RUMORS
Sukhumi Institute of Physics director Anatolii Markholia has formally denied Georgian media allegations that the institute sold weapons-grade uranium to either Iraq or international terrorist organizations following the collapse of the USSR, Caucasus Press reported on 2 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2002). Markholia said no weapons-grade uranium was ever kept on Abkhaz territory, and those radioactive substances that the institute possesses do not pose a danger to the local population. He added that the International Atomic Energy Agency is welcome to inspect the institute's premises. LF
GEORGIA DENIES DESTROYING ARMENIAN MONUMENTS
A spokesman for Georgia's Department for the Protection of Historic Monuments has rejected as untrue Armenian claims that historic Armenian churches in Georgia are being damaged or destroyed, Caucasus Press reported on 1 July. On 28 June, Noyan Tapan quoted an Armenian architect as claiming that Armenian churches in Georgia are being systematically modified to remove any characteristically Armenian architectural features. He added that Iran is the only one of the four states bordering on Armenia that makes any effort to preserve Armenian monuments. LF
DATE SET FOR AILING KAZAKH OPPOSITIONIST'S TRIAL
The trial of former Pavlodar Governor Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, one of the founders of the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan (DVK), will open in Pavlodar on 15 July, Interfax reported on 1 July. Zhaqiyanov, who was hospitalized in May after collapsing during an hours-long interrogation, faces charges of abuse of his official position that he believes are politically motivated. On 28 June, police in Astana used force to disperse several dozen supporters of former Energy, Industry, and Trade Minister Mukhtar Abliyazov, also a leading DVK member, who had gathered outside the Supreme Court where Abliyazov is on trial on charges of abuse of his official position while serving as the head of Kazakhstan's power grid, forumkz.org reported on 1 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 June 2002). LF
UZBEK ISLAMISTS DETAINED IN KAZAKHSTAN
Police in Almaty have detained two Uzbek citizens suspected of belonging to the banned Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, Interfax and AP reported on 1 July. Both are wanted in Uzbekistan on charges of conspiring to overthrow the government; negotiations on their extradition are under way. LF
ANOTHER MUNITIONS STORE DESTROYED BY FIRE IN KAZAKHSTAN
Two warehouses in the city of Aqtobe containing chemicals, military vehicles, and other equipment were destroyed by fire early on 1 July, AP reported. It is not clear what caused the blaze, which was the third of its kind in the country in less than one year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 21 August and 7 September 2001). LF
SUSPECT DETAINED IN KYRGYZSTAN FOR SLAYING OF CHINESE DIPLOMAT
A man has been detained in Bishkek in connection with the fatal shootings late on 29 June of a Chinese diplomat, his driver, and a Chinese businessman, Reuters reported on 2 July, quoting a Kyrgyz Interior Ministry official (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2002). Police are still searching for the man's son who is believed to have been the second gunman. The spokesman said it is not yet clear whether the killings were politically motivated. On 1 July, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman condemned the killings and said Beijing has asked Bishkek to find and arrest the murderers as soon as possible, dpa reported. A Chinese delegation is expected to arrive in Bishkek on 2 July to participate in the investigation. LF
TAJIKISTAN SEEKS TO CONTAIN TYPHOID OUTBREAK
Some 246 people have been hospitalized in Khatlon with suspected typhoid, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 2 July. The diagnosis has been confirmed in 38 cases, and tests of local drinking-water supplies have identified the typhoid bacillus. Fifty groups of medical workers and local officials have been established to warn local residents of the dangers and try to prevent the disease from spreading. LF
UZBEK PRESIDENT DECREES WAGES, PENSIONS INCREASE
Islam Karimov has signed a decree raising state-sector salaries, pensions, and student and other allowances by 15 percent as of 1 August, uza.uz reported on 1 July. The minimum monthly wage will be 4,535 sums ($6), and the minimum monthly pension 8,970 sums. It is the second such increase this year. LF
BELARUSIAN ACTIVISTS ASK RUSSIA TO ASSIST IN INVESTIGATION OF MISSING PERSONS
Belarusian activists and Russian lawmakers appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin on 1 July, asking him to order Russian secret services to assist in the investigation of disappearances of a number of well-known people in Belarus, AP reported the same day. Anatol Lyabedzka, leader of the Belarusian opposition United Civic Party, said Putin promised to raise the subject with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Belarusian opposition groups accuse Lukashenka's administration of involvement in the disappearances of former Belarusian Interior Minister Yury Zakharanka, opposition leader Viktar Hanchar, businessman Anatol Krasouski, and television cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski. The groups claim that the missing people were targeted for crossing the authorities. Lukashenka has denied these charges. CB
OSCE SAYS BELARUS WANTS TO JOIN PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY
The OSCE has said that Belarus wants to join the organization's Parliamentary Assembly despite opposition from several Western countries. Four members of the Belarusian National Assembly plan to attend a Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Berlin on 6-7 July, RFE/RL reported on 1 July. An OSCE spokesman said the Belarusian parliament will automatically be accepted as full members if the delegates are not challenged. The Parliamentary Assembly has refused to accept the Belarusian National Assembly since 1996 when President Lukashenka dismissed Belarus's democratically elected parliament. Belarus has also been involved in an ongoing conflict with the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk that has led to the expulsion or withdrawal of all senior OSCE officials from the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2002). CB
RUSSIA, UKRAINE AGREE ON GAS TRANSIT, STORAGE
In Kyiv on 1 July, Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleh Dubyna and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko signed a protocol agreement on Russian natural-gas transit via Ukraine and use of Ukrainian underground gas-storage facilities, Interfax-Ukraine reported. According to the agreement, which is valid until 2003, Russian natural gas transiting Ukraine will amount to a total of 128.7 billion cubic meters, of which 110 billion are earmarked for Western Europe and the rest for Moldova and Russia. The Ukrainian state company NaftogasUkraina will charge $1,093 per 1,000 cubic meters per 100 kilometers of transit. Russia's Gazprom will pay the transit costs by subtracting them from gas sales to Ukraine, charging $50 for 1,000 cubic meters in 2003, the same price charged in the first half of 2002. The difference will be paid in cash by Ukraine. The two countries also reached agreement that Ukraine store 5 billion cubic meters of Russian gas in 2002, and more in subsequent years. Russia is to pay for the storage in cash, but the two sides did not disclose the price. Ukraine currently has 13 underground gas-storage facilities capable of storing 30 billion cubic meters. RK
HEAD OF NAUMANN FOUNDATION MEETS ESTONIAN LEADERS
Former German Economy Minister Count Otto Lambsdorff, the chairman of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, began a tour of the Baltic states in Tallinn on 1 July, ETA reported. President Arnold Ruutel thanked the Naumann Foundation for its contribution to the development of Estonian society and noted the need for greater direct foreign investment in rural regions. The two leaders discussed European Union and NATO expansion and the role of small countries in Europe's future. Lambsdorff also held talks with Prime Minister Siim Kallas, Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland, former President Lennart Meri, and Tallinn City Council head Maret Maripuu. He was scheduled to fly to Riga on 2 July for meetings with Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Prime Minister Andris Berzins. SG
LIECHTENSTEIN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS LATVIA
Ernst Walch began a two-day visit to Latvia on 1 July with talks with his Latvian counterpart Indulis Berzins, LETA reported. Berzins expressed Latvia's interest in learning from Liechtenstein's experience in the modern finance and high-tech sectors and called for greater bilateral economic cooperation and investment. In talks with Prime Minister Andris Berzins, Walch praised Latvia's rapid development since independence and the ability of its people to adapt to major changes in such a short period of time. Walch noted that although it is not a member of the EU, Liechtenstein has adopted more EU directives than many EU member countries and intends to adopt the Schengen agreement in the near future. Walch also said that cooperation between the two states will increase once Latvia joins the EU. SG
LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT URGES DELAY IN ALLOWING LAND SALES TO FOREIGNERS
An extraordinary session of parliament on 1 July adopted by a vote of 74 in favor to 28 against, with 10 abstentions, a resolution calling on the government to reopen negotiations with the EU on the previously closed chapter on the free movement of capital, ELTA reported. Lithuania had earlier agreed that it would amend its constitution to allow EU citizens to purchase agricultural land before it was admitted to the EU. Yielding to pressure from farmers' organizations, the parliament approved the resolution calling for the introduction of a transition period of seven to 10 years before the land sales to foreigners would be allowed. It grants an exemption to farmers of EU member states who have lived uninterruptedly in Lithuania for at least three years, have registered a farm, and have been engaged in farming activities. Parliament leaders have also decided to postpone until the fall the second vote on the amendments to Article 47 of the constitution to allow the sale of land to foreigners. SG
POLISH SHIPYARD STRIKE MOVES TO STREETS OF SZCZECIN
Thousands of striking shipyard workers blocked a central street in Szczecin on 2 July to protest against the government's handling of the bankruptcy of the Stocznia Szczecinska shipyard, AP reported the same day. Protests have been held every weekday since the shipyard filed for bankruptcy two weeks ago and the government refused to bail it out (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2002). The government on 1 July gave the shipyard 14 million zlotys ($3.5 million) to pay some 4,500 workers their April wages, but protest leaders said it did not cover all the workers and demanded back wages for May and June. The government has said it has plans to create a new company, Stocznia Szczecinska Nowa (New Szczecin Shipyard), on the basis of the ailing shipyard that will employ 3,000 workers, Industry Development Agency head Arkadiusz Krezel told PAP news agency on 30 June. Stocznia Szczecinska was Szczecin's biggest employer, with 6,000 employees. DW
CZECH PREMIER-DESIGNATE TO MEET PRESIDENT AMID ONGOING COALITION TALKS...
Social Democrat (CSSD) Chairman Vladimir Spidla will meet President Vaclav Havel on 2 July to report on progress in talks aimed at forming a new Czech government, CTK reported on 1 July. Talks continued on 1 July, with differences remaining between the CSSD and the two-party Coalition over pension reform, rent deregulation, and child subsidies, Czech media reported the same day. The CSSD and the Coalition, who have been trying to form a new government since the 14-15 June general elections, reported progress on tax policy and ways to cut the federal budget deficit. BW
...AS FREEDOM UNION INSISTS ON EQUAL REPRESENTATION...
Potential snags appeared in forming a new government when the Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU), the smaller party in the Coalition, insisted that it receive as many seats in the Cabinet as the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), Czech media reported on 30 June. When the US-DEU and the KDU-CSL formed the Coalition, prior to the 14-15 June elections, they agreed that they would each have an equal number of ministers in any government they joined. US-DEU Deputy Chairman Ivan Pilip said on 30 June that he expects the agreement to be honored and said his party will pull out of the talks if it is not. A CSSD-Coalition government would have just a one-seat majority in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies. The CSSD has 70 seats and the Coalition has 31 seats. BW
...AND SOCIAL DEMOCRAT CALLS DEMAND EXCESSIVE
Zdenek Skromach, deputy chairman of the CSSD, said on 30 June that demands by the US-DEU to have the same number of ministers as KDU-CSL in a new Czech government are unacceptable, CTK reported the same day. "Their cry is too loud," Skromach said. "The ladies and gentlemen from the Freedom Union behave as if they won the elections. We will not let ourselves be blackmailed by a party with 10 deputies," Skromach said. BW
NEW CZECH LOWER HOUSE SCHEDULES FIRST SESSION
An organizational session of the newly elected Chamber of Deputies will convene on 9 July, CTK reported on 1 July. Outgoing speaker Vaclav Klaus (Civic Democratic Party) will chair the session until a successor is elected, Eliska Klepalova, a spokeswoman for Klaus, said. Lawmakers will take the oath of office, set up parliamentary committees, and elect the lower house's leadership. The cabinet of Prime Minister Milos Zeman is also scheduled to formally offer its resignation during the session, as stipulated by the Czech Constitution. BW
CZECH BUDGET DEFICIT TO INCREASE...
The Finance Ministry has projected that the 2002 state budget deficit will be around 80 billion crowns ($2.687 billion), considerably higher than the 46.2 billion crown deficit approved by parliament, Czech media reported on 1 July. The government's budgetary expenditures in the second half of the year are expected to total 21.5 billion crowns higher than expected, while revenues will be 13.5 billion crowns lower, the Finance Ministry announced the same day. BW
...AS CROWN CONTINUES SURGE
The Czech crown set a new record against the euro, trading at 29.10 on 1 July, Czech media reported the same day. While the strong crown has been welcomed by Czech tourists abroad, economists and manufacturers have warned that it is harming the country's exports, and could cause bankruptcies and higher unemployment. The central bank board on 27 June decided that intervening to rein in the crown would be premature (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2002). BW
DALAI LAMA IN PRAGUE FOR CONFERENCE, TO MEET HAVEL
The Dalai Lama, in the Czech Republic for a conference on the role of religion in the world, is scheduled to meet with President Havel on 2 July, Czech media reported on 1 July. The Dalai Lama arrived in the Czech capital on 1 July, when he meditated and held private meetings with several Czechs and foreign visitors who had sought an audience with him. The official part of his visit begins on 2 July. BW
NATIONALIST PARTIES MEET, BUT DON'T SEE EYE TO EYE
Slovak National Party (SNS) leader Anna Malikova and Real Slovak National Party (PSNS) Chairman Jan Slota met to agree on a joint course ahead of upcoming elections, but the meeting ended in a fiasco, CTK and SITA reported on 1 July. Malikova offered Slota the 30th place on the SNS candidate lists, which would hardly guarantee him a place in parliament. Since the split in the SNS that spawned the PSNS, the two leaders have exchanged public insults and obscenities. Recent preference polls indicate the parties will fall short of the 5 percent hurdle for representation in parliament. AS
HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT VOWS NOT TO INTERVENE IN MEDGYESSY AFFAIR
President Ferenc Madl issued a statement on 1 July expressing hope that the creation of a parliamentary commission will allow for an investigation into the domestic, foreign-policy, and moral impact of the revelation that Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy served as a counterintelligence officer during the communist era, Hungarian media report. "This is a pressing task for Hungary, a NATO member, as it proceeds toward the EU," the statement said. Madl noted that Medgyessy had never informed him of his past in espionage. Most newspapers interpreted the statement as an indication that the constitution does not empower the president to intervene, as the prime minister has the confidence of the majority of parliament. However, FIDESZ Chairman Zoltan Pokorni told reporters that Madl has withdrawn his moral support for Medgyessy and has made it clear that the moral responsibility for keeping Medgyessy in power rests with the governing coalition. MSZ
HUNGARIAN POST OFFICE SUES FIDESZ
Magyar Posta is suing FIDESZ over that party's failure to pay for the delivery of 3.5 million letters during the recent election campaign, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 2 July. The post office is seeking 109 million forints ($440,000) that it argues was to be paid by 1 July, according to Magyar Posta official Sarolta Etsedy. FIDESZ Chairman Pokorni confirmed that there is a dispute between his party and the post office on whether the deliveries were made in keeping with regulations. He added that FIDESZ will pay the bill once the dispute is resolved, but only for services rendered. MSZ
DISTRICT COURT ORDERS HUNGARIAN WEEKLY TO RUN CORRECTION
The Pest Central District Court on 1 July ruled that "Magyar Hirlap" falsely interpreted the facts in a 3 June article that claimed that the Happy End company partly funded FIDESZ's election campaign and subsidized a party conference in 1999 to the tune of 10 million forints ($40,000) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2002). The court ordered the newspaper to print a correction on its front page within eight days. The court found that FIDESZ paid fees for services rendered and Happy End did not subsidize the party conference, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 2 July. MSZ
NINETEEN POLISH TOURISTS KILLED IN HUNGARIAN BUS CRASH
Nineteen people were killed and 32 seriously injured when a tourist bus carrying Polish pilgrims to Bosnia overturned at a roundabout near Hungary's Lake Balaton in the early hours of 1 July, Hungarian media reported. The Polish passengers were en route from Stoczek, near Lublin, to Medjugorje to visit a shrine to the Virgin Mary. Polish traffic-safety experts and next of kin flew to Budapest on the afternoon of 1 July. Hungarian Interior Minister Monika Lamperth and National Police commander Laszlo Salgo visited the scene of the accident. The cause of the accident has not been ascertained, "Vilaggazdasag" reported on 2 July. MSZ
NATO RAIDS KARADZIC'S HOUSE
An unspecified number of NATO-led peacekeepers entered the home of Radovan Karadzic in Pale in the early hours of 2 July, AP reported. SFOR said in a statement that the house "is suspected of being associated with an illegal smuggling network in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The house is also associated with Radovan Karadzic." His wife, Ljiljana Zelen-Karadzic, said that the raid "is part of constant pressure against the Karadzic family." The family's housekeeper told reporters that about 30 peacekeepers arrived by helicopter shortly before dawn. In related news, former High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch was scheduled to testify against former President Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague on 2 July, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM
U.S. REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO BOSNIA...
As a search for a diplomatic compromise regarding extending the UN mission in Bosnia continues, U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia Clifford Bond said in Sarajevo on 1 July: "I understand the concern here in Bosnia over the veto that the U.S. acted to impose on the UN Security Council. I want to assure the people of Bosnia that this veto is not directed at them or at the peace process here in Bosnia. However, let me be clear on this point as President Bush was clear only a few days ago. Our strategic commitment to the Balkans and to Bosnia remains rock solid. U.S. troops will remain in Bosnia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2002). PM
...AS DOES NATO
Speaking in Brussels at a meeting of NATO ambassadors on 1 July, alliance spokesman Mark Laity said that "our commitment to Bosnia remains, based on the Dayton accords," AP reported. Elsewhere in the Belgian capital, European Union officials expressed dismay at the U.S. veto and said that it would cause problems for the EU to take over the international police mission in Bosnia (IPTF) now instead of on 1 January 2003. EU officials were nonetheless optimistic that a diplomatic solution will be found to allow the UN mandate to continue. In London, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, "Sometimes, there are differences of opinion among good friends and it is just a question of how to solve it," dpa reported. And in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that any withdrawal of peacekeepers would "destabilize the situation" and that "it is necessary to find a way out of this situation," ITAR-TASS reported. PM
CONCERN IN BOSNIA OVER FUTURE OF PEACE MISSION
Beriz Belkic, who holds the rotating chair of Bosnia's joint presidency, said in Sarajevo on 1 July that "our initial assessment is that the situation is not so dramatic. Some difficulties may result from this, but the situation is not catastrophic in terms of security and the reforming of the police," RFE/RL reported. He added that "we will have to accelerate...the transition [of the IPTF to supervision by] the EU, and it will result in additional costs." But Bosnian Foreign Ministry spokesman Amer Kapetanovic was more pessimistic. He argued that an end to the UN mission would mean that "all the progress made so far will be endangered. The U.S. needs to help us to finally stand on our own two feet," AP reported. On 2 July, the joint presidency will hold a special session to discuss the situation with Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM
BOSNIAN FEDERATION NAMES INTELLIGENCE CHIEFS
In an effort to bridge the gap between separate Muslim and Croat intelligence services, the federal government named the Muslim Munir Alibabic as head of the new joint service and the Croat Ivica Vuksic as his deputy, dpa reported from Sarajevo on 1 July. Each of the two men will head his respective separate service until the joint one officially comes into being on 15 August. The Republika Srpska has its own intelligence service. PM
BUSEK SAYS BALKAN COUNTRIES MUST STAND ON THEIR OWN
Erhard Busek, who heads the EU-led Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, told the Vienna daily "Der Standard" of 1 July that the Balkan countries will have to manage their own affairs by 2010 at the latest, especially where economic issues are concerned. He warned that some unnamed countries are in danger of developing a psychology of dependency and must learn to stand on their own. PM
STEINER NIXES AGREEMENT BETWEEN PRISHTINA AND TIRANA
Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), has declared the recent "memorandum of understanding" between Albania and Kosova on economic cooperation null and void, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Prishtina on 1 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2002). UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manuel said that the Kosova authorities do not have the legal competence to sign international agreements. PM
SLOVENIAN PRESIDENT SKEPTICAL ABOUT EU 'BIG BANG'
Milan Kucan said recently on Slovenian television that he believes that only five candidate members will be admitted to the EU in 2004, Vienna's "Die Presse" reported on 2 July. He added that he is concerned about delays by Brussels in closing the chapter on agriculture with Slovenia, a matter linked to the EU's revised policy on agricultural subsidies after expansion. Kucan said that he does not anticipate any problem in gaining voter approval for EU membership in a referendum, barring unspecified "dramatic" events. PM
SPECIAL SESSION OF YUGOSLAV PARLIAMENT TO DISCUSS PAVKOVIC CASE?
Zoran Zivkovic, a member of the Yugoslav parliament who belongs to the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition, said in Belgrade on 1 July that the legislature will discuss on 3 July forming a committee to investigate the charges made by General Nebojsa Pavkovic against President Vojislav Kostunica, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25, 26, 27, and 28 June, and 1 July 2002). Zivkovic also told reporters that the parliament will have to discuss the "Pavkovic case" itself at a special session since the regular agenda is already full. PM
LEKA ZOGU DEFENDS HIS GUN COLLECTION
The pretender to the Albanian throne told reporters in Tirana on 1 July that he is "not so stupid as to bring explosives onto a plane," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2002). He stressed that the boxes of weapons he brought with him are indeed a collection and not an arsenal. Asked whether he will call for a new referendum on restoring the monarchy, Leka replied: "If the people want to repeat the referendum, I am ready. But I hope this time it will not be manipulated like in 1997. If the people don't want it, I won't engage in politics." PM
ROMANIAN PREMIER LAUNCHES REHABILITATION PLAN FOR JIU VALLEY
Adrian Nastase and the head of the World Bank mission in Romania, Ziad Alahad, accompanied by five ministers and several deputy ministers, launched the development strategy for the Jiu Valley in Petrosani on 1 July, Radio Romania News reports. The strategy was endorsed by the government on 13 June and envisages several hundred projects, both small and large, that could contribute to the creation of up to 18,500 new jobs in the medium term for the mono-industrial area that is currently completely dependent on mining coal. Current unemployment in the area is around 30 percent, and more than 9,000 former miners do not have any alternative subsistence means at present. LB
ROMANIA'S SOCIAL DEMOCRATS GET 11 OUT OF 13 NEW MAYORS IN LOCAL ELECTIONS
Following the second round of local elections on 30 June, the ruling Social Democrats (PSD) have raised to 11 out of a possible 13 the number of cities and towns in which their candidates were elected mayor, Mediafax reported on 1 July. The two others represent the Liberal Party (PNL) and the Democratic Union of Hungarians from Romania (UDMR). Three of the 13 mayors were elected in the first round two weeks ago, while nine others had to compete in a second round on 30 June. The second round witnessed voter turnouts between 22.6 and 68.3 percent, the lowest being registered in Alexandria, administrative capital of Teleorman County. LB
ROMANIAN FOREIGN AND GOLD RESERVES FALL 2 PERCENT IN JUNE
Romania's foreign currency and gold reserves fell in June from the previous month as the government met payment deadlines for $500 million of government bonds that matured last month, the Romanian National Bank announced on 1 July. Total reserves fell 2.2 percent to $6.11 billion from $6.25 billion at the end of May. Foreign currency reserves decreased $121 million to $5.03 billion. However, gold reserves were unchanged at 105.2 metric tons for a sixth consecutive month, while their value decreased to $1.07 billion from $1.10 billion in May as international gold prices fell. Romania must make $639 million of payments on government and government-guaranteed foreign debt between now and the end of December, the bank announced. LB
BULGARIAN MINISTER OFFERS IMMODEST ASSESSMENT OF FOREIGN POLICY
Foreign Minister Solomon Passy told a political forum on 1 July that the past year has been "probably the most successful foreign-policy year for Bulgaria since World War II," according to BTA. Assessing the 12 months since he took office, Passy singled out for praise a broad political consensus on key issues, the country's cooperation with NATO, and increased cooperation with its neighbors, the agency added. He said after his speech that the chances of Bulgaria being offered NATO membership at the Prague summit in November are "very, very strong." He also said there has been a shift in Bulgaria from "competition with Romania [to] cooperation," citing the so-called 2+2 initiative under which two member countries (in this case Greece and Turkey) support two candidate countries (Bulgaria and Romania). That scheme has "transfigured the Balkans," Passy said. AH
BULGARIAN PRESIDENT, PRIME MINISTER TRY TO QUELL 'TENSIONS' WITHIN JUDICIARY...
President Georgi Parvanov said on 1 July that he is concerned by apparent "resurgent tensions" within the country's judiciary, while Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski sought to calm tempers by urging the factions to "act as they do in normal countries," BTA reported the same day. Prosecutors and the Justice Ministry officials have publicly clashed over judiciary reform and the propriety of investigations into two deputy justice ministers, including one of the authors of the planned reforms, Deputy Minister Mario Dimitrov. Investigators suspect Dimitrov improperly quashed an arrest warrant against businessman Grisha Ganchev in 1999. Justice Minister Anton Stankov has accused Prosecutor-General Nikola Filchev of political bias (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2002) and has requested an extraordinary cabinet meeting. Saxecoburggotski said he will consider that request and may meet with the prosecutor-general, BTA reported. Parvanov is expected to meet with Stankov and Filchev, the agency added. Parvanov said he, the prime minister, and the legislative leadership "have done everything necessary to suppress the conflicts and to provide a new starting point for relations between the judicial branches," BTA reported. AH
...AS JUDGES CALL PROBE 'ATTACK ON CONSTITUTIONAL FOUNDATIONS'
The Association of Judges in Bulgaria has meanwhile weighed in against prosecutors' investigation of Deputy Justice Minister Dimitrov, calling it an "unprecedented attack against the constitutional foundations of jurisdiction," BTA reported on 1 July. The group has sent its declaration to Bulgaria's Supreme Judicial Council and the Justice Ministry, the agency added. "This is an extremely dangerous precedent which may entail unforeseeable consequences, endanger legal security in the country, and affect the interests of many citizens," the judges are quoted as saying. AH
MINISTER DOWNPLAYS GLOWING ASSESSMENT OF BULGARIAN NUCLEAR REACTORS...
Romania's European Affairs Minister Meglena Kuneva warned on 1 July against reading too much into reports of a positive international assessment for contested reactors at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, BTA reported, citing an interview on state radio. Local media reports cited by dpa on 28 June asserted that members of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safety-review team said the reactors are safe and may operate beyond their expiry dates, though the inspectors arrived only five days earlier and are not expected to issue their official report for two months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2002). Kuneva stressed that the "positive assessment" reportedly given by the IAEA is very cautious and does not concern the plant's safety design, BTA reported on 1 July. There is no reason to think that either the European Commission or EU members have reconsidered their insistence on the closure of two reactors this year and two more in 2006, she added. AH
...AS POLITICIANS RALLY FOR PUBLIC SUPPORT
Ruling National Movement Simeon II deputy Vesselin Bliznakov was quoted by "Standart News" on 1 July as saying Bulgarian officials are preparing a publicity campaign to drum up support for the reactors' continued use. President Parvanov has urged the government and lawmakers to extend the useful life of the Kozloduy's reactors to the "maximum," dpa reported on 28 June. AH
BULGARIA RECEIVES $15 MILLION PAYMENT AGAINST RUSSIAN DEBT
The Bulgarian Finance Ministry announced on 1 July that Russia transferred $15 million to a ministry account at Bulbank earlier that day, effectively fulfilling a pledge made earlier this year aimed at partial repayment of its debt to Sofia, BTA reported. Under that agreement, Bulgaria vowed to write off $25 million of Moscow's debt in return for the transfer. AH
INTEGRATION AND ISOLATION GENERATE CROSSCURRENTS IN NORTHEAST EUROPE
All along Europe's new eastern frontier -- from the Black to the Baltic seas -- forces of integration and isolation are competing to reshape the regional landscape. Nowhere are these powerful forces more apparent than in Europe's northeast corner, where Lithuania and Poland, two reform-minded lands poised to join the European Union, share frontiers with two of Europe's most isolated entities, authoritarian Belarus and Russia's Kaliningrad exclave.
More than a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Belarus and Kaliningrad are plagued by deep socioeconomic problems and have not kept pace with their faster moving neighbors. In Belarus, autocratic President Alyaksandr Lukashenka delights in bullying Western diplomats in his capital, Minsk, and is imposing his own curious brand of "market socialism" that is leaving his impoverished country even more deeply mired in a failed Soviet-style economy. Only 100 kilometers of Polish and Lithuanian territory divides Belarus from Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast, separated from the rest of Russia geographically by the winds of war and fates of empires.
The swift crosscurrents running through the region are taking on an altogether more critical dimension with European Union expansion. This wave of eastward expansion, which may see invitations extended to as many as 10 new members, will bring into sharper relief the dramatically divergent tracks evolving in Eastern and Central Europe. Poland and Lithuania are expected to receive EU invitations by year's end. Poland already entered NATO in 1999 and Lithuania is expected to be invited to join the alliance later this year.
For forward-looking and modernizing "integrators," entry into the EU will be a crowning moment, when these former Warsaw Pact countries will formally join the European club and shed the "post-Soviet" label they often still bear. For slower moving neighbors, which have been either unable or unwilling to adapt to the new landscape, the union's expansion will shine a brighter light on their lagging economic and political performance.
When, if at all, the European idea and its attendant reform ethos will take hold in the area of largely stagnant or backsliding lands between Russia proper and the reformers of Central Europe is an open question. By remaining outside the positive influence of the EU and NATO expansion process, Belarus and Kaliningrad, as well as Ukraine and Moldova, have lost valuable development opportunities and the chance to establish sounder relations with neighbors.
In Belarus, President Lukashenka engineered for himself an election victory last September that enabled him to extend his presidential term for five years. The Belarusian leader reportedly won nearly 80 percent of the vote in an election deemed fundamentally flawed by foreign diplomats and human rights observers. In recent months, the regime in Minsk has continued to intimidate domestic opponents, while harassing and, in some cases expelling, foreign diplomats. Since the beginning of this year, Belarus has barred from the country three diplomats of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In June, the OSCE mission head, Andrew Carpenter, was expelled. While no official reason was offered, the Lukashenka regime is known to be displeased with the OSCE's contacts with the Belarusian political opposition.
The Kaliningrad conundrum cuts to the heart of the new Europe's integration-isolation issue. A small patch of Russian territory on the Baltic Sea seized by the Soviets at the end of World War II, Kaliningrad was severed from the Russian mainland following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Baltic States' revived sovereignty. EU expansion to Poland and Lithuania will envelope the province by EU countries -- and by EU rules and regulations. Of most immediate concern both to Kaliningrad and Moscow will be Poland's and Lithuania's observance of Schengen visa requirements, whose rules allow anyone with a visa to visit one EU member state to move freely throughout the Schengen zone.
Moscow has requested a special visa-free transit corridor to Kaliningrad, with sealed trains and special buses transporting Russian citizens over Polish and Lithuanian territory. Brussels and Kaliningrad's soon-to-be EU-member neighbors, who see the exclave as a source of the pathologies the EU so fears -- organized crime, drug trafficking, and infectious disease -- flatly rejected the corridor proposal. No compromise on this sensitive issue is yet in view.
One of the most important consequences of NATO and EU expansion (imperfect thought they are) has been their broad, salutary impact on relations between accession countries. In fact, Poles and Lithuanians, whose history has been marred by rivalry and conflict, have in the last years forged a relationship so strong that both sides are now comfortable enough to describe it as a "strategic partnership." The standards encouraged -- indeed required -- by NATO and the EU have helped guide Polish-Lithuanian relations on a positive course.
But in a competitive and integrating Europe it is not enough only to reform your own house; ignoring the condition of your neighbor's house is done at one's peril. It is precisely for this reason that Warsaw and Vilnius have been among the most vocal and energetic diplomatic players in the effort to steer Belarus onto a constructive path and to help Kaliningrad navigate the thorny EU expansion quandary stemming from quirks of geography and history.
Lithuania's Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis, speaking in early May of his country's efforts to forge more constructive relations with Minsk, put it this way: "[Lithuania's] goal is to avoid Belarus's isolation and start good-neighborly relations with a country of great importance to us. But the striving has to be mutual."
Poles and Lithuanians may rightly rejoice at the prospect of achieving their strategic objectives of EU and NATO membership. But they will continue to find themselves wrestling with the stiff challenges that result from being on the frontlines with those recalcitrant to embrace modernization and reform.
Christopher Walker is head of the Rapid Response Unit at the EastWest Institute. The views expressed in this article are the author's own.