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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: October 15, 2002

15 October 2002, Volume 4, Number 39
BRUSSELS RECOMMENDS POLAND FOR EU ENTRY IN 2004. In its report last week on the progress towards accession by the European Union candidates, the European Commission (EC) recommended Poland, along with nine other countries (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta, and Cyprus), for admission to the EU in 2004, but simultaneously warned about the urgent need for further reforms in key sectors (including agriculture, civil service, and justice). Polish officials generally expressed satisfaction with the EC assessment of their country's progress toward EU membership but also voiced concern that Poland's entry could be delayed if Irish voters reject the EU enlargement treaty in the 19 October referendum.

The report criticizes Poland for temporarily suspending the implementation of the 1999 Civic Service Law to allow the recruitment of high-level administrative staff without open competition. This criticism apparently refers to media allegations earlier this year that Poland's ruling coalition (the Democratic Left Alliance-Peasant Party) was packing the Agency for Restructuring and Modernization of Agriculture -- which will manage billions of euros in EU aid after the country joins the union -- with political cronies. The EC launched an official probe following these allegations.

"Corruption remains a cause for serious concern," the report notes, adding that "substantial efforts are required to ensure concrete results [in combating it], which to date have been limited, and in particular to develop a political, administrative, and business culture which can resist corruption." The EC also chided Poland for the delayed implementation of the Integrated Administrative and Control System in the agricultural sector, which involves tagging livestock and indexing agricultural property and is essential in calculating the level of direct subsidies paid out to farmers.

"Bearing in mind the progress achieved since the opinion [in 1997, when the EC concluded that Poland fulfilled the political criteria for EU membership], the level of alignment and administrative capacity that Poland has achieved at this point in time, and its track record in implementing the commitments it has made in the negotiations, the [European] Commission considers that Poland will be able to assume the obligations of membership in accordance with the envisaged time frame," the EC report concludes.

Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said the EC report is "good" for Warsaw. "I think it is a bit more than good with emphasis on the fact that it is more than good," Cimoszewicz added. "We do not perceive the elements pointing out what needs to be done as criticism -- that would be foolish. Personally, I see it as a mobilizing factor," European Affairs Minister Danuta Huebner noted. "We're among the top 10 and the talks are still on. We have some difficult debating ahead but I think we'll manage to reach solutions that will please both us, the other candidates, and the EU," President Aleksander Kwasniewski commented on the report.

Huebner, however, voiced Warsaw's concern over a possible negative result of the 19 October Irish referendum on the ratification of the EU's Nice Treaty. "There's a high degree of probability, if not certainty, that such a development would delay expansion, and it's a situation with no easy way out. Some estimate a three-month delay, but I think it could be more like six months," AP quoted Huebner as saying.

Premier Leszek Miller told journalists on 12 October that he has sent a letter to the leaders of the Irish social democrats urging their support for a positive outcome of the referendum, PAP reported. In a referendum in Ireland last June, 54 percent of voters voted against the Nice Treaty, which provides for the reforms necessary for EU enlargement in 2004. (Jan Maksymiuk)

PRESIDENT TELLS LAWMAKERS TO STAY WHERE THEY ARE. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 9 October met with legislators of the Chamber of Representatives (Belarus's lower house) and presented his vision of the bill on the National Assembly that they are soon to discuss in the second reading. Lukashenka advised legislators to strictly follow the constitution in defining the powers of the legislature and warned them against encroaching on the president's prerogatives.

"While adopting this bill, you are not allowed to make any step [to circumvent] the constitution. Under no circumstances. Not only because someone has some wish to lower or denigrate the importance of the parliament. The point is not this. I am afraid of a chain reaction [leading to] a redistribution of powers in the Republic of Belarus," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying.

The current bill on the National Assembly was originated by Lukashenka himself, in October 2002, following the legislative elections in Belarus, which were not recognized as democratic and fair by European election monitors. Lukashenka said at that time that he might transfer some of his powers to the legislature or the government. He promised to make some steps to this end before the 2001 presidential elections. It appears that at that time the Belarusian president still believed that it would be possible to legitimize the Belarusian legislature in the eyes of the international community by vesting it with some of his extensive powers. Now it seems that he has completely changed his mind and ceased to care about what the international community may say about the Belarusian legislature.

"We are not a presidential-parliamentary republic, let alone a parliamentary-presidential one," Lukashenka told lawmakers. "We are a strong presidential republic, where the president is the head of state, and there is absolutely no need for counterbalancing the presidential powers. This contradicts not only the spirit but also practice of our life," Lukashenka added.

Under the 1996 constitution adopted in a referendum that is widely believed to have been grossly falsified by the executive, Belarus's National Assembly has extremely limited powers. It does not have any control whatsoever over the implementation of laws and the state budget. The legislature even has no say in determining its own budget. The country is ruled almost exclusively by presidential decrees that are subsequently "redeveloped" by the presidential administration into draft laws and rubber-stamped by the legislature. It appears that such a situation suits perfectly well the current National Assembly -- Belarusian lawmakers initiated on their own only a limited number of bills during the past two years.

Lukashenka ingeniously explained how lawmakers could obtain more leverage in state matters. He said: "If anybody of the deputies wants to try making decisions and controlling their implementation, they should come to the executive branch. We have a lot of job vacancies there."

"I ask you very strongly not to unbalance the power branches and their operation, not to destabilize in this way the situation in power structures. One has to treasure the stability in our country and not to ruin it under any circumstances," Lukashenka told legislators. More likely than not, they are going to heed his request. Particularly since he simultaneously strongly objected to stripping the presidential administration of the right to determine the budget of the National Assembly. (Jan Maksymiuk)

OPPOSITION 'SENTENCES' KUCHMA TO 'PUBLIC CONDEMNATION.' From 15,000 to 20,000 people gathered on Kyiv's European Square on 12 October for an unauthorized rally to stage a "people's tribunal" over President Leonid Kuchma within the framework of the ongoing antipresidential protest campaign "Rise Up, Ukraine!" Ukrainian media reported. In a mock trial, participants in the rally found Kuchma guilty of numerous violations of the Ukrainian Constitution and the Criminal Code and sentenced him to "the highest form of people's punishment -- public condemnation [zahalnyy osud]" for a number of alleged crimes, including corruption, abuse of office, money laundering, issuance of threats to journalists and politicians, and harmful economic policies that purportedly led to "genocide" by reducing the country's population by 4.7 million (see "Quotes of the Week"). Similar, albeit less well-attended "tribunals," were held in several Ukrainian regions.

The 12 October protest action was organized by the three opposition groups: the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, the Communist Party, and the Socialist Party. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko, who participated in the 16 September antipresidential rally in Kyiv and signed a strongly worded appeal urging President Kuchma to resign (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 17 September 2002), did not show up at the "people's tribunal."

Following the rally at European Square, opposition leaders led some half the demonstrators through downtown Kyiv to the Prosecutor-General's Office, where they presented their demand to bring Kuchma to a court trial to First Deputy Prosecutor-General Serhiy Vynokurov. Vynokurov pledged to view the demand within 10 days and to announce whether a criminal case against Kuchma will be opened, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported.

Police troops were present during the rally but did not intervene. The 12 October demonstration took place without incident apart from a reportedly accidental beating of a journalist, Oleh Zavada, by plainclothes police officers. Zavada inadvertently bumped into an officer who was taking photographs, prompting other police officers to beat him. A lawmaker prevented Zavada's detention, and the journalist was subsequently hospitalized with symptoms of a concussion. (Jan Maksymiuk)

"Radio Maryja has entered purely political grounds, following the line of the extreme right wing and providing negative assessment of everything in Poland. When I hear [on Radio Maryja] that today the situation [in the country] is worse than that in the communist times, I think the station has totally betrayed the goals it declared to pursue.... Father [Tadeusz] Rydzyk [the head of Radio Maryja] is a sickly phenomenon in the organism of the church." -- Polish Roman Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Goclowski, in an interview with "Gazeta Wyborcza" on 7 October.

"President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma is guilty of violating Ukraine's Constitution and laws, since his deeds are punishable under the Criminal Code of Ukraine: Article 109 (actions oriented toward a violent change of the constitutional system); Article 110 (encroachment on territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine); Article 111 (state betrayal); Article 112 (violence to the life of a state official); Article 115 (premeditated murder); 120 (compelling to suicide); Article 129 (threat of murder); Article 157 (obstructing the execution of election legislation); Article 160 (violating the referendum law); Article 161 (violating the equality of citizens irrespective of their ethnic origin); Article 163 (violating the confidentiality of telephone calls); Article 170 (impeding the lawful activity of political parties and public organizations); Article 171 (impeding the lawful professional activity of journalists); Article 185 (theft); Article 191 (embezzlement of property, abuse of office); Article of 208 (illegal opening of bank accounts outside Ukraine); Article 209 (money laundering); Article 212 (tax evasion); Article 344 (interference in the activity of a state official); Article 351 (impeding the activity of a people's deputy and a local-council deputy); Article 364 (abuse of power and office); Article 365 (abuse of official powers); Article 368 (bribe taking); Article 377 (threatening a judge); Article 442 (genocide)." -- From the "sentence" pronounced by the opposition rally in Kyiv on 12 October; quoted by the "Ukrayinska pravda" website.