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Voice of America, 99-12-22

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://>





    INTRO: Romania's president, Emil Constantinescu, has sworn in a new government, which he hopes will attain the economic goals for which more than a thousand people died during a bloody revolution against communism in 1989. As Stefan Bos reports from Budapest, the inauguration ceremony coincided with the barely noted tenth anniversary of the revolution.

    TEXT: President Constantinescu appeared on television to swear in the cabinet led by non-party technocrat Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu, who he said will have a difficult task. Mr. Constantinescu hopes the partly re-shuffled centrist cabinet will finally introduce the reforms that may bring Romania into the European Union. As he spoke, only a small group of residents gathered in Bucharest to commemorate bloody revolution that toppled dictator Nicolae Ceausescu a decade ago. Some watched in silence as officials laid flowers at a monument to the victims of the 1989 revolt. About 70 Romanians gathered to see a film projected from the Communist Party balcony, where dictator Ceausescu was booed as he tried to gave his final speech. The subdued mood reflects widespread disappointment at the Government's perceived failure to make at least some of the economic goals of the revolution come true in what is now one of Europe's poorest countries. People live on average salaries of little more than 80-dollars a month, despite Western style market reforms. Thousands of children are homeless in Bucharest alone. Recent opinion polls conducted by independent researchers suggest that more than 60-percent of all Romanians now believe that life was better under Mr. Ceausescu, who was executed along with his wife Elena by a firing squad on Christmas Day in 1989. That is one of the reasons why President Constantinescu has appointed Central Bank Governor Isarescu as prime minister, to replace Radu Vasile. Prime Minister Isarescu says he realizes that 23- million Romanians want more prosperity, but he warns there will be no spending on populist measures in the coming election year.

    /// REST OPTIONAL ///

    He also made few personal choices in the cabinet -- and awarded the post of foreign minister to Romania's first post-communist prime minister, Petre Roman. Analysts say Mr. Isarescu may be able to bring Romania closer towards membership in the European Union, as he has won praise for his work at the Central Bank. Mr. Isarescu believes Western support may help him to attract foreign inflows next year of up to five- billion dollars, an unprecedented level for Romania where total direct foreign investment since 1990 stands at only four-billion dollars. (Signed). NEB/sb/gm 22-Dec-1999 17:32 PM EDT (22-Dec-1999 2232 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: It won't be the happiest of holidays for former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. After admitting on German television that he had accepted illegal party donations of up to 2 million marks - about 1 million dollars - while he was chancellor, his Conservative Christian Democrats -- the C-D-U -- are now doing what they can to distance themselves from the former leader of their party. Suzanne Kelly reports from Bonn.

    TEXT: Known as the Chancellor of Unity, Helmut Kohl led Germany for 16 years, but it is the last 16 months that may well determine how he is best remembered. Mr. Kohl admitted last month to knowing about and keeping anonymous donations worth as much as 2 million marks in secret funds that were used to fund his parties' activities in eastern Germany - a clear violation of party funding laws. The German Bundestag - or parliament - has launched an investigation, as have prosecutors in Bonn, who are expected to announce soon whether they will bring criminal charges against the chancellor for fraud, misuse of power and money- laundering. So far, Mr. Kohl has refused to give investigators - even within his own party - the names of the anonymous donors. That defiance has prompted C-D-U Secretary General Angela Merkel to try to distance the former chancellor from the party as much as possible. She said in an open letter to the press this week that Mr. Kohl has damaged the party and that it is time for the C- D-U to take its future into its own hands. In the most high-ranking public statement yet, current C-D-U party leader Wolfgang Schaueble adopted a similar tone as he addressed reporters in Bonn on Thursday, stressing the urgent need for Mr. Kohl's cooperation. Mr. Schaueble made a public plea for Mr. Kohl to cooperate with investigators and disclose the names, citing his faith in the former chancellor to do the right thing. The C-D-U is already in trouble with voters over the issue. The party has lost public support in recent polls, and with coming elections in the state of Schlesweg-Holstein, party leaders are hoping for a final Christmas gift from Mr. Kohl: that he not force them to cut all ties with the Chancellor of Unity. (Signed) NEB/SK/GE/LTD/KL 22-Dec-1999 11:48 AM EDT (22-Dec-1999 1648 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Stock prices in the United States were modestly higher today (Wednesday), as investors start winding down for a shortened trading week. The U-S stock market will be closed Friday for the Christmas holiday. V-O-A correspondent Elaine Johanson reports from New York:

    TEXT: The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained three points, closing at 11-thousand-203. The Standard and Poor's 500 index went up two points. The technology- led Nasdaq composite did better, gaining six-tenths of one percent - another record high. The Dow Jones gained mostly on the strength of Eastman Kodak. The troubled photography company has named a new financial officer. Investors are betting this will turn around the second-worst performing stock in the Industrial Average this year. The latest on the U-S economy shows very strong growth in the third quarter. The Gross Domestic Product (G-D- P) was up five-point-seven percent. That was revised upward from the government's earlier figure of five- point-five percent. The new report came out one day after the U-S central bank left interest rates unchanged.

    /// Rest Opt ///

    But economist Kevin Flanagan believes those rates will be going up as early as February, especially with the latest data showing no sign of a slowing U-S economy:

    /// FLANAGAN ACT ///

    They feel this can't go on forever, that eventually growth of five to six percent will produce inflation. And that's what we have to look towards early in the year 2000.

    /// END ACT ///

    Automaker Daimler-Chrysler says it set a U-S sales record for its Chrysler brand this year. And there are still several selling days left before the new year. The German/U-S automaker sold over two-and-one-half million vehicles so far in 1999. Daimler-Chrysler executives say they intend to continue this trend in the year 2000. Ford Motor Company says it will challenge the bid of General Motors to buy the ailing Daewoo Motor of South Korea. Ford plans to start talks with Daewoo next month. Ford and G-M - the world's two largest auto-makers - are trying to get a firm foothold in Asia, which is expected to have the fastest growing auto market in the next decade. (signed) NEB/NY/EJ/LSF/JP 22-Dec-1999 17:03 PM EDT (22-Dec-1999 2203 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Newspapers across the country are reacting to Sunday's Russian parliamentary election with generally favorable feelings, although some are cautious. Another topic is the devastation from flooding and mudslides in Venezuela, while a new ruling on homosexual couples' rights in Vermont is a top domestic issue for comments. Now, here is __________with an excerpt or two and a closer look in today's Editorial Digest.

    TEXT: Russia's parliamentary elections in which the communists won the most seats, but suffered a significant loss of support to centrist parties, continues to dominate the editorial columns of the U-S press. In Florida, "The Orlando Sentinel" headlines it -- Welcome signs in Russia.

    VOICE: Russia finished the year with a big surprise: generally free parliamentary elections . that opted for stability, not extremism. Communists and ultra-nationalists held on to many seats, but lost ground overall. That bodes well for American interests. . [including] An apparent desire among many of the newly elected to pursue market reforms even more vigorously.

    TEXT: "The Tulsa [Oklahoma] World" is also pleased:

    VOICE: The Russians seem to be getting the hang of this free election stuff. For the third successive time, they have gone to the polls without fear of violence and with confidence that their votes would be counted fairly. ..In all .the election bodes well for Russia .

    TEXT: In the Pacific, Honolulu's afternoon daily "The Star-Bulletin" said Tuesday -- support for the war in Chechnya had more to do with the results than market reform.

    TEXT: While in Rhode Island's capital, "The Providence Journal" also talks about the war as a key factor and warns observers:

    VOICE: We urge caution about trying to penalize the Russian electorate; that is no way to promote democracy, in theory or in practice. . the real question is not whether the war is brutal - of course it is - but whether it is justified. An argument certainly can be made that it is. . Besides, we should not play down the more positive aspect of Sunday's election results. Gennadi Zyuganov's Communists will no longer have working control of the Duma ..

    /// OPT ///

    TEXT: Florida's "Times Union" in Jacksonville expresses surprise at the unexpected and rapid fall of ex-Prime Minister Yevgney Primakov, a clear favorite to be the next President just five-months ago.

    VOICE: Not only was that a crushing defeat for [Mr. Primakov, and also for the communists, it may be an opportunity for [Mr.] Yeltsin form a working coalition in the Duma - and, finally, to get some substantial reforms passed.

    ///END OPT ///

    TEXT: Turning to affairs of this hemisphere, the expanding death toll from floods and mudslides in Venezuela draws this comment from the Houston Chronicle.

    VOICE: So bad is the tragedy .. That officials are unable to even tally it accurately. Estimates are that somewhere between ten- thousand and 30-thousand people have died and tens-of-thousands more are homeless and in dire straits. . It is hard to talk about Venezuela without mentioning the wave of political change that has been taking place there under . President Hugo Chavez, and his rewrite of the . constitution. Times like this . are times to put aside politics. But . how well and how swiftly the Chavez government responds to the multiple crises . will be critical.

    /// OPT ///

    TEXT: A column by two University of Houston professors [also] in the "Houston Chronicle" faults the present and past governments for the underlying cause of the catastrophe, suggesting:

    VOICE: Venezuela is the poster-country for mismanagement, indistinguishable corruption and a country with a cultural propensity for paternalistic leadership. Large petroleum wealth has failed to develop the country ...

    /// END OPT ///

    TEXT: In domestic issues, the ruling by Vermont's State Supreme Court, giving homosexual couples almost all the rights and legal standing of heterosexual, married people, is drawing much comment. In Michigan, "The Detroit Free Press" calls the court's ruling a "right and courageous thing" and "The New York Times", saying it is the "gay rights movement[`s] biggest victory so far in the struggle to achieve legal recognition.' describes the ruling as "momentous."

    TEXT: "The Chicago Tribune", noting the return of Macau, Europe's last Asian colony, to China, ponders the effect on Taiwan's status.

    VOICE: When people's Liberation Army troops marched into Macau Monday . it gave no solace to Taiwan, nor should it have. With Hong Kong and Macau back in the fold, the People's Republic of China will be turning up the heat on Taiwan to consent to "reunifying the motherland," as the mainland likes to put it. Taiwan's leaders are correct, however, to point out that Taiwan was never a colony, like Hong Kong and Macau, and therefore should not be treated as the next wayward sheep to return to the fold.

    TEXT: Briefly in Middle East peace efforts, renewed between Syria and Israel in Washington talks last week, "The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" says do not be fooled by outward appearances:

    VOICE: Too much was made of the dour demeanor of Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa . That Mr. Al-Sharaa was unsmiling in public appearances - and vocal in criticizing Israel - is less important than that he was there at all, accepting American mediation of renewed and serious negotiations with the Jewish state.

    /// OPT ///

    TEXT: The national daily, "USA Today", addresses the growing fear of anti-U-S terrorism as the millennium changes, and the difficult problem of how to advise caution without creating panic.

    VOICE: From the White House to law enforcement, officials are tight-lipped about specifics. But behind the scenes, the recent chain of events has ratcheted counter-terrorism officials' concern to extraordinarily high levels. . This has left the administration a dilemma about how much to say in public. Warning the public in more direct terms . could spread fear. . But saying too little could leave people at risk. . But the right choice is clear: Err on the side of disclosure, so that regular Americans can judge for themselves what constitutes self- preservation on this already-jittery New Year's.

    /// END OPT ///

    TEXT: Lastly, these thoughts on a celestial New Year's present from Mother Nature; the brightest full moon in a century, from "The San Francisco Chronicle".

    VOICE: Jaded astronomers may scoff at tonight's brighter than usual full moon as a cosmological non-event, but lunatics and lovers know better. is illuminating Christmas week with a heavenly display that happens once every 133- years. .. The moon will appear 14-percent bigger and brighter // OPT // because it will be at perigee . closest to Earth in it's 27-day orbit, and close to perihelion, when Earth and moon are closest to the sun. /// END OPT /// .. A once-in-a lifetime moon show are special gifts at this time of year.

    TEXT: On that celestial note of interest, we conclude this sampling of editorial topics from the pages of Wednesday's U-S press.
    NEB/ANG/RAE 22-Dec-1999 11:49 AM EDT (22-Dec-1999 1649 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists says 1999 was a hazardous year for journalists and other members of the news media, with more than eighty of them killed during the year. V-O- A Correspondent Ron Pemstein reports from Brussels.

    TEXT: Most of the 86 victims were killed in the Balkans, Russia, and Sierra Leone. The International Federation of Journalists says 1999 has been the most dangerous year for people working for the news media since 1994, when conflicts raged in Bosnia and Rwanda. The general secretary of the federation, Aidan White, says governments and militias are deliberately targeting journalists.

    /// WHITE ACT ONE ///

    Unfortunately, we have entered a period in which wherever there is a conflict, journalists and those who work with them are becoming the first targets for the political and military strategists involved in any conflict. And that means that life is becoming very dangerous for journalists working in the field. It means that the capacity for people to have reliable, information about what's going on in any conflict, in any area, is actually called into question.

    /// END ACT ///

    Counted among 1999's media victims were 25 journalists who died in Yugoslavia, including 16 in NATO's bombing of the Radio-Television Serbia building last April. Mr. White describes as "misguided", the NATO decision to hit the radio and television building controlled by the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

    /// WHITE ACT TWO ///

    That did not end the problem of propaganda. That did not end the problem of the pressure from the Milosevic regime on independent media. In fact, in recent weeks, we have seen that pressure has begun to intensify.

    /// END ACT ///

    NATO is also blamed by the federation for the deaths of three Chinese journalists who were staying in their country's embassy in Belgrade, when it was hit by NATO missiles. Mr. White says NATO's attacks in Belgrade encouraged other governments to target journalists in 1999.

    /// WHITE ACT THREE ///

    Immediately after the NATO bombing in Belgrade, I have to say, we were most disturbed to note that in the conflict between India and Pakistan in Kashmir, for the first time, there were two distinct instances of both countries taking action against media specifically from the other country. In the many years of the almost 50 years of this conflict, this had not happened previously and we saw it for the first time in that conflict as it emerged after the incidents in Belgrade.

    /// END ACT ///

    Mr. White also notes the Russian attack on Chechnya began with a barrage against the Chechen radio- television facilities. The federation says nine journalists were killed in Russia during 1999. (Signed)
    NEB/RDP/JWH/KL 22-Dec-1999 10:14 AM EDT (22-Dec-1999 1514 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: For the European Union, the year ahead brings new challenges as negotiations take place with 12 candidate countries about enlarging the Union. The 15 existing members must decide how to reform their procedures to cope with a potential membership of 28 countries. Correspondent Ron Pemstein reports from Brussels that there have been big changes in Europe and more to come.

    TEXT: Where does the European Union end? By the middle of the 21st century's first decade, the border of Europe could be the Turkish-Syrian border or Poland's border with Ukraine. Decisions made in 1999 could change today's 15-country Union into tomorrow's 28-member giant with a population approaching one- half-billion. It will be a Europe - as the Union is today - with no borders among the member countries, a single, internal market and one currency, the Euro. The Euro was introduced on New Year's Day 1999 with balloons and fanfare. It will replace the currencies of many members by 2002. By the end of 1999, the value of the Euro has dropped 18-cents to near parity with the American dollar. Two-months after the introduction of the Euro, a political change shook the European Commission - the Union's executive branch. For the first time, all 20 commissioners - including President Jacques Santer - were forced to resign. An independent report accused the Commission of mismanagement and blamed the members' collective failure to take responsibility for anything. The European Union quickly named former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi as the President of a new Commission and charged him with reforming the political nature of Europe's bureaucracy. Mr. Prodi promptly challenged the European Union not to stop with the six countries negotiating membership, but to start negotiations with six more. As for Turkey, long denied membership on human rights grounds, Mr. Prodi suggested making it a candidate country but delaying negotiations until political conditions are met. Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen says Mr. Prodi has been the right man for the job.

    /// LIPPONEN ACT ///

    There is a new spirit. The reforms that you have initiated are those that the European Parliament and the member states have expected. So there is new dynamism and a very good spirit of cooperation between the Council and the Commission.

    /// END ACT ///

    Mr. Prodi will need dynamism if he is to achieve his goal for 2000. That is the beginning and completion of an inter-governmental conference to change the structures of the European Union in preparation for enlargement. It will not be easy. The current structure of the European Commission gives every country a commissioner and the large countries get two. How will 28- countries be accommodated? Will the current members give up seats on the Commission? Right now, all decisions have to be taken unanimously with countries reserving vetoes on vital issues. A group appointed by Mr. Prodi recommends the Union switch to majority voting when the Union enlarges. The group's leader, former Belgian Prime Minister Jean Luc Dehaene, warns if vetoes are maintained the enlarged Commission will become inflexible.

    /// DEHAENE ACT ///

    Because we think that in an enlarged union if you maintain a too large sector for unanimity in decision making, that is too often a synonym for immobility. And in a certain paradox you can say that you obtain more easy consensus when you have majority voting because everybody knows that he cannot stop on his own the decision making and is obliged to take part in the decision making and the result is that you achieve consensus on the decision making.

    // END ACT //

    The European Union has turned down majority voting before. There is little reason to think countries will give up vetoes on a unified tax policy or any other vital interest this time. The schedule is to complete work on the treaty changes by the time of the E-U summit next December in Nice, France. That will leave 18-months to two-years to finish ratification of the changes in all 15 Union member's parliaments. That is why the European Union says it will be ready for new members by the end of 2002. The Union's new enlargement commissioner, Guenter Verheugen, says there will be time for the six new countries, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Malta to catch up to the original six, Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Slovenia, Cyprus, and the Czech Republic. Mr. Verheugen says the reason to negotiate with all 12 countries is to encourage reforms in the second group.

    /// VERHEUGEN ACT ///

    For the so-called second group, it becomes more and more difficult to continue with the very, very hard and sometimes very, very difficult process of reform if people do not know where the target is and whether they will ever achieve the goal to start negotiations with the European Union. And there is a real danger that we might lose a country or several countries, that the political situation in a country might change. Therefore the decision of today is a clear signal of hope for those countries. And my view is, that the decision of the European Council will strengthen the efforts of the government and the parliaments in the countries of the second group and will contribute to maintain the willingness and the preparedness of the people to continue with an extremely difficult process of reform and transformation.

    /// END ACT ///

    Negotiations will not start with Turkey until the European Union sees changes in the way the country treats minorities such as the Kurds, and a resolution of issues with E-U member Greece. At the same time, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit says Turkey may surprise people with the reforms it makes.

    /// ECEVIT ACT ///

    Some members of the European Union may think it will take many years before Turkey becomes a full member. But I am convinced that given the dynamism of the Turkish people and their attachment to democracy we shall achieve this objective in a far shorter period.

    /// END ACT ///

    If Mr. Ecevit is right, the European Union could have 28-members before Romano Prodi's commission completes its term in 2005. That will give Europe a giant free-trade area and its first Muslim country. The test will be whether the European Union can make the required changes in its procedures this year to allow expansion in the years ahead. (SIGNED)
    NEB/RP/GE/RAE 22-Dec-1999 10:28 AM EDT (22-Dec-1999 1528 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America
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