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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: December 12, 2000

12 December 2000, Volume 2, Number 46
SCHROEDER FOLLOWS IN BRANDT'S FOOTSTEPS IN WARSAW. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder visited Warsaw on 6 December on the eve of the EU summit in Nice, France, where EU member countries made important decisions on the way the union will be ruled in the future. Those decisions are also expected to have an impact on the schedule for accepting new EU members. Not surprisingly, Warsaw was expecting some reassurance about its entry prospects from the German leader, whose country has possibly the most weighty say in the EU. Schroeder did not disappoint the Poles.

"I think there is no better place than Warsaw to make a request to my colleagues, whom I will meet in Nice--let us be courageous," PAP quoted Schroeder as saying after his meeting with Premier Jerzy Buzek. "We should meet our historic obligation and finalize the building of one Europe.... It is not only a political task that we face; we must take account of the wishes of the Polish nation, which wants to return to Europe, to which it has always belonged but from which it was separated as a result of the outcome of World War II."

During his speech to the Polish parliament, Schroeder said: "Ladies and gentlemen, please take this to be Germany's political commitment, that in the opinion of the German federal chancellor, Poland will be in the first group of states to join the EU. Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot imagine another decision."

Schroeder also recalled the visit by Chancellor Willy Brandt on 7 December 1970, when the latter signed a landmark Polish-German treaty on the normalization of bilateral relations and the Bundesrepublik's recognition of Poland's Oder-Neisse (Odra-Nysa) border. "Brandt's act was a symbolic gesture. That was only half the job and now we have to finish our work, the unification of Europe," Schroeder noted. The 30th anniversary of the 1970 treaty, which inaugurated the post-war process of Polish-German reconciliation, was the official reason for Schroeder's trip to Poland.

During his visit, Brandt had made a gesture that stunned the entire world: he fell to his knees before a memorial to those who died in Warsaw's Jewish ghetto during the German occupation. "Under the Ghetto memorial, Willy Brandt did what only great people do when they lack words," Schroeder said later that day, at a ceremony unveiling a plaque in honor of Brandt, who died in 1992, showing Brandt kneeling below a menorah.

Meanwhile, the Social Research Workshop polling agency released the results of a survey among 1,023 adult Poles in mid-October on how Poles perceive Germans. When asked about their first associations with regard to Germans, the respondents named wealth (27 percent); discipline, good organization of work, and reliability (19 percent); order (18 percent); diligence and entrepreneurship (15 percent); progress, good cars, and highways (9 percent). Thirty-five percent (mostly those aged 59 and above) named war, evil, concentration camps, oppression, and the enemy. According to 83 percent of respondents, Polish-German relations are good, while 5 percent said they are bad.

KWASNIEWSKI WANTS 'POLITICIZED' EU. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski published an article in the 2 December "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" presenting his view of the EU's future. In particular, Kwasniewski touched upon the proposal by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer earlier this year that the EU be developed so that it becomes a European "federation," a sort of United States of Europe. This proposal has provoked many disapproving reactions among politicians of those Central and East European countries that are aspiring to become EU members. It is no wonder that these countries, which only a decade ago were under the Soviet hegemony, are now wary about any plans to limit their political sovereignty. Kwasniewski appears not to share the apprehension that the European integration process will lead to the end of nation-states and the emergence of a supranational federation.

Kwasniewski asserts that the success of the EU results "from the synergy of everything that is contributed by national states." In his opinion, there is no such thing as a European electorate; the behavior of voters in elections to the European Parliament tends to reflect the political preferences they show in national elections. Therefore, Kwasniewski argues, besides seeking to make the EU's "supranational" institutions and mechanisms more efficient, the member states should look to strengthen the "national component" in their common policies, as a guarantee of the union's success and viability in the future.

Kwasniewski continues: "If we emphasize that the national 'demos' is the highest source of democratic mandate, this will contribute to the strengthening rather than weakening of the European integration. This will guarantee that the rules of the game in a common Europe will be clear. The discussion about the catalogue of powers, which the Nice summit is to inaugurate and in which Poland is planning to participate as an EU member, should lead to these questions being put on the agenda. The European scene needs politicization, enrichment by the political rivalry that we know in our own countries. This can be reached through either a reform of the current European Parliament, in which closer ties between the voters of member states should be forged, or the establishment of a second chamber that should consist of members of national parliaments."

OLD UPPER HOUSE EXITS, NEW ONE ENTERS. The Council of the Republic, the upper house of the National Assembly, held its last session on 5 December. Council of the Republic Chairman Pavel Shypuk summed up the house's work since its formation in 1996 by saying that "today we are not yet ready to assess this period of our activity from the viewpoint of its historical significance." He promised to provide an assessment after an unspecified period of time.

Belarus's upper house was established after the controversial constitutional referendum in November 1996. Under the 1996 constitution, the 64-seat Council of the Republic is formed by 56 senators elected by the six oblast and Minsk City councils from among candidates proposed by local councils; the remaining eight senators are appointed by the president. In theory, the upper house can propose laws and reject those submitted by the Chamber of Representatives, but in practice the Council of the Republic of the first convocation dealt with rubber-stamping bills that were drafted by presidential aides and routinely approved by the lower house. Like the Chamber of the Representatives, the Council of the Republic has no efficient control over the implementation of laws it passes.

When Alyaksandr Lukashenka proposed a second chamber in the constitution draft submitted for the 1996 plebiscite, commentators argued that he wanted to put another bridle on the lower house, a body formed by means of general ballot and therefore "not quite predictable" in its attitude toward the executive. But since that time, the Belarusian president has learned how to form a "predictable" lower house, so maintaining the Council of the Republic now seems a waste of both money and time.

In early November, Lukashenka voiced his preferences regarding the composition of the second Council of the Republic. He urged that women make up no less than one-third of the upper house. He also suggested that all provincial governors become senators in order "to ensure continuity" between the old and new houses. Local councils did exactly as they were suggested to. To eliminate any surprises, they proposed exactly 56 candidates for the Council of the Republic; as a result, there was no competition during the "election" of senators at oblast gatherings of councilors in late November and early December.

The only problem was to comply with Lukashenka's wish to make the Minsk mayor a senator, because the law on the status of the Belarusian capital did not allow the mayor to be simultaneously a member of the legislature. The Chamber of the Representatives of the second convocation (elected on 15 October) hastily passed an appropriate amendment on 28 November. The amendment was rubber-stamped by the Council of the Republic of the first convocation on the last day of its final session, 5 December. One Belarusian journalist scathingly commented that the Minsk mayor became a senator thanks to the National Assembly of the 1.5th convocation.

The Belarusian president bade farewell to the old upper house by showing it his complete lack of regard. On 28 November, he appointed Viktor Sheyman as prosecutor-general. According to the 1996 constitution, the appointment must be approved by the Council of the Republic. However, Lukashenka did not bother himself with this constitutional provision but rather introduced Sheyman to the Prosecutor-General Office staff without seeking such approval (which would doubtless have been a mere formality). Belapan reported that on 5 December there were two votes in the Council of the Republic against closing the upper house's last session. Perhaps those votes were from the senators who wanted to approve the newly appointed prosecutor-general before making their exit.

OPPOSITION LEADER FAILS TO SUE LUKASHENKA FOR SLANDER. Anatol Lyabedzka, leader of the United Civic Party, has made an abortive attempt to sue President Alyaksandr Lukashenka for slander, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 5 December.

On 15 October, while casting his vote in the elections to the Chamber of Representatives, the Belarusian president commented on the opposition rally that had taken place in Minsk the previous day. In particular, Lukashenka said that the rally was observed by Western ambassadors who wanted to see how Lyabedzka was "working off" the $1,500 he allegedly received from the West.

Lyabedzka filed suit against Lukashenka in two Minsk district courts. One court rejected the suit immediately, arguing that Lukashenka does not live in the district under its jurisdiction. The other court accepted the suit but refused to instigate any further proceedings. In its official reply to Lyabedzka, the court wrote that it could not sue Lukashenka because "Mr. Lukashenka's words are an official's own thought that was expressed by him in an open discussion."

"A curious reply. Actually, it is not a legal reply, nor is it a political one. Rather, it comes from the medical sphere.... Those foolish judges are simply forced to write absolutely ignorant replies," Lyabedzka commented to RFE/RL.

UKRAINIANS DISTRUST THEIR COURSE AND HELMSMEN. Ukraine's Socis and Democratic Initiative Fund conducted a poll among 1,200 respondents in all Ukrainian regions in November to determine political preferences and attitudes of Ukrainian citizens, Interfax reported on 4 December.

According to the poll, only 14 percent of respondents believe that Ukraine is moving "in the right direction," while 69 percent are of the opposite opinion; 16 percent were unable to answer the question. In Crimea and eastern regions, more than 80 percent of respondents oppose the country's transformations, while the lowest number of opponents of the current changes is in the Rivne and Volyn oblasts (39 percent).

The poll found that 22 percent are supporters of communist ideology in Ukraine, confirming previous polls by other institutes. Eight percent of respondents said they support social-democratic ideas, 7 percent pledged support for socialism, and 6 percent said they are of a "national-democratic" orientation. Thirty-four percent said they do not support any ideology.

The poll also revealed that Ukrainians are very distrustful of their public and political institutions as well as of top state leaders and politicians. The Church is "fully trusted" by 45 percent of respondents, while 16 percent has no trust whatsoever in that institution. The corresponding figures for the army are 33 percent and 20 percent; the media--24 percent and 18 percent; the parliament--6 percent and 53 percent; the government--11 percent and 48 percent; police--16 percent and 43 percent; local councils--11 percent and 50 percent; local state administrations--9 percent and 49 percent; courts--14 percent and 33 percent; and trade unions--12 percent and 33 percent.

Premier Viktor Yushchenko is fully trusted by 23 percent of respondents, while 31 percent said they had no trust whatsoever in him. The corresponding figures for President Leonid Kuchma are 14 percent and 49 percent; Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko--11 percent and 18 percent; parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch--7 percent and 42 percent; National Security and Defense Council Secretary Yevhen Marchuk--6 percent and 39 percent; and presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn--3 percent and 20 percent.

Among party leaders, the most trusted are Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko (21 percent professing complete trust and 42 percent no trust whatsoever), Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz (9 percent and 43 percent), Progressive Socialist Party leader Natalya Vitrenko (8 percent and 55 percent), Popular Rukh of Ukraine leader Hennadiy Udovenko (7 percent and 46 percent), and "Fatherland" Party leader Yuliya Tymoshenko (6 percent and 52 percent).

The poll was conducted before Moroz publicized the tape allegedly showing Kuchma's, Kravchenko's and Lytvyn's involvement in the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze.

"Earlier, Soviet people traveled to Warsaw and Prague completely free of charge, but only on tanks. Today, even though it is necessary to pay $10 [for visa], it is also better to travel to Warsaw on a tank--it is safer this way." -- Belarusian Television on 9 December, commenting on the alleged insecurity of Belarusian citizens in Poland and deportations of Belarusians on charges of illegal trade.