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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 200, 99-10-13

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 3, No. 200, 13 October 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] HUMAN RIGHTS WATCHDOG CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO DEATHS IN
  • [02] U.S., RUSSIA PRAISE ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI TALKS
  • [03] WORLD BANK SETS CONDITIONS FOR LOAN TO AZERBAIJAN
  • [04] AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ORDERS DEATH PENALTY FOR MILITARY
  • [05] ABKHAZIA ADOPTS FORMAL STATUTE ON INDEPENDENCE
  • [06] UN OBSERVERS TAKEN HOSTAGE IN WESTERN GEORGIA
  • [07] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY CONCERNED OVER RUSSIAN ARMS
  • [08] PRELIMINARY KAZAKH ELECTION RETURNS ANNOUNCED
  • [09] MORE GOVERNMENT APPOINTMENTS IN KAZAKHSTAN
  • [10] NEW KAZAKH PREMIER OUTLINES PRIORITIES
  • [11] FOUR HOSTAGES RELEASED IN KYRGYZSTAN
  • [12] TAJIK OPPOSITION CANDIDATES CALL FOR BOYCOTT OF PRESIDENTIAL
  • [13] UZBEK PRESIDENT CALLS OFF PLANNED VISIT TO KYRGYZSTAN

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [14] BOSNIAN SERB PREMIER: KARADZIC MUST GO TO HAGUE...
  • [15] ...AS SHOULD MILOSEVIC
  • [16] BOSNIAN SERB LEADER DEFENDS TALKS WITH MILOSEVIC
  • [17] MONTENEGRIN PARTY AGREES TO TALKS WITH SERBIA
  • [18] EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT INVITES SERBIAN OPPOSITION
  • [19] OBRADOVIC CHIDES FELLOW POLITICIANS
  • [20] SERBIAN OPPOSITION APPEALS TO EU
  • [21] DATA MISSING IN DRASKOVIC ACCIDENT?
  • [22] NATO COMMANDER: NO DECISION ON KFOR FUTURE BEFORE SPRING
  • [23] EXPERTS DISCOVER MASS GRAVE AT RAHOVEC
  • [24] CROATIA WANTS MONTENEGRO PRESENT AT PREVLAKA TALKS
  • [25] SLOVENIA CONCERNED ABOUT HAIDER
  • [26] ALBANIA APPEALS TO MACEDONIA OVER BORDER ISSUES
  • [27] ROMANIANS SCANDALIZED BY DE-MYTHICIZED HISTORY TEXTBOOK
  • [28] MOLDOVAN PREMIER REVIEWS ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE
  • [29] BULGARIA BREAKS MONEY-LAUNDERING RING
  • [30] BULGARIAN OIL REFINERY SOLD TO LUKOIL

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [31] A TEMPORARY REPRIEVE

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] HUMAN RIGHTS WATCHDOG CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO DEATHS IN

    CUSTODY IN ARMENIA

    The Austrian-based International Helsinki

    Federation for Human Rights (IHF) sent an open letter on 11

    October to President Robert Kocharian asking him to

    investigate the deaths in custody of two young men serving

    prison terms for robbery and assault and the death of a third

    man shortly after his release from interrogation, Noyan Tapan

    reported. The IHF said there is evidence that all three men

    either were murdered or died as a result of beatings by

    police officers. LF

    [02] U.S., RUSSIA PRAISE ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI TALKS

    U.S. Vice

    President Al Gore on 12 October wrote to Armenian President

    Kocharian commending the "important progress" made toward

    resolving the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau

    reported. Gore expressed confidence that progress toward

    resolving the conflict will open new opportunities for

    Armenia's partnership and cooperation with neighboring

    countries and the entire North Atlantic community, according

    to Noyan Tapan. In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman

    Vladimir Rakhmanin on 12 October similarly noted that the

    four meetings between two presidents have resulted in the

    strengthening of the cease-fire, an exchange of prisoners,

    and greater confidence between the two countries, Interfax

    reported. Also on 12 October, the Armenian and Azerbaijan

    foreign ministers met in Luxembourg to discuss a methodology

    for ending the conflict and to try to define parameters for

    resolving it, AFP reported. LF

    [03] WORLD BANK SETS CONDITIONS FOR LOAN TO AZERBAIJAN

    The World

    Bank's permanent representative in Baku, Tevfik Yaprak, told

    Reuters on 12 October that Azerbaijan must demonstrate its

    commitment to public-sector reform before the bank will

    release a $200 million three-year loan intended to help

    create an environment for private-sector development and

    increase support for social sectors, such as pensions and

    education. The bank will send a mission to Baku next month to

    draft a list of measures the Azerbaijani government must

    enact in order to qualify for that loan. Yaprak also noted

    that Azerbaijan will begin to receive oil revenues next year.

    LF

    [04] AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ORDERS DEATH PENALTY FOR MILITARY

    CRIMES RESTORED

    Heidar Aliev has issued a decree on

    amendments to the criminal code that allow for the imposition

    of the death penalty in wartime for "particularly grave"

    military crimes, according to Human Rights Committee of

    Azerbaijan press release. Aliev also decreed the transfer

    from the Interior Ministry to the Ministry of Justice of

    investigation centers in Baku and Gjanja in which the accused

    are held in solitary confinement, Turan reported. That

    transfer is one of the conditions for admittance to full

    membership in the Council of Europe. Azerbaijan abolished the

    death penalty last year. LF

    [05] ABKHAZIA ADOPTS FORMAL STATUTE ON INDEPENDENCE

    The

    parliament of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia on 12

    October adopted a statue affirming the region's status as an

    independent state and calling on the UN and OSCE to recognize

    it as such, ITAR-TASS reported The statute noted that in the

    3 October referendum, a majority of the voters registered as

    resident in Abkhazia before the 1992-1993 war had approved

    the 1994 constitution defining Abkhazia as an independent

    sovereign state (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 1999).

    Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 12 October said that

    the Abkhaz declaration does not contribute to resolving the

    Abkhaz conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. Abkhaz parliament in

    exile chairman Tamaz Nadareishvili termed it "a political

    farce," according to Caucasus Press. LF

    [06] UN OBSERVERS TAKEN HOSTAGE IN WESTERN GEORGIA

    Seven members

    of the UN Observer Mission in western Georgia were seized by

    unidentified armed men when their helicopter landed in the

    Kodori gorge early on 13 October. David Tsanava, deputy

    chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, told Caucasus

    Press that the abductors are demanding a ransom of $200,000

    for the observers. He added that the abductors are those who

    were responsible for a similar incident in July in which

    members of the Abkhaz government in exile, including Tsanava,

    were seized when their helicopter landed in Kodori gorge but

    were released several hours later (see "RFE/RL Caucasus

    Report," Vol. 2, No. 28, 15 July 1999). UN policy is not to

    give in to such ransom demands, but the former head of the UN

    Observer Mission in Georgia paid a $7,000 ransom for a

    kidnapped observer in September 1997 (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"

    25 September 1997). LF

    [07] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY CONCERNED OVER RUSSIAN ARMS

    BUILDUP

    Revaz Adamia, who is chairman of the Georgian

    parliament's Defense and Security Committee, told journalists

    in Tbilisi on 12 October that Russia has "almost doubled" the

    amount of heavy weaponry it may deploy in the North Caucasus

    under the amended CFE Treaty, Interfax reported. Adamia

    argued that such quantities of arms exceed what is required

    "to fight several hundred terrorists." LF

    [08] PRELIMINARY KAZAKH ELECTION RETURNS ANNOUNCED

    Only four of

    the nine parties contending the 10 seats in the lower chamber

    of the Kazakh parliament that are to be allocated under the

    proportional system polled the 7 percent of the vote needed

    to qualify for representation, Reuters reported on 12

    October. Both Reuters and ITAR-TASS quoted unofficial results

    according to which the pro-presidential Otan party polled

    30.5 percent of the party-list vote, the Communist Party 17.8

    percent, the Agrarian Party 12.6 percent, and the Civic Party

    10.9 percent. ITAR-TASS also quoted Central Electoral

    Commission secretary Yelena Kuleshova as saying that in 70

    percent of all electoral districts no candidate received 50

    percent of the votes cast. A runoff between the two

    candidates who polled the largest number of votes will be

    held in those constituencies on 24 October. LF

    [09] MORE GOVERNMENT APPOINTMENTS IN KAZAKHSTAN

    After naming

    Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev prime minister on 12

    October, President Nursultan Nazarbaev told the parliament

    that he has appointed Deputy Premier and Finance Minister

    Aleksander Pavlov as first deputy premier, North Kazakhstan

    Oblast Governor Danial Akhmetov as second deputy premier, and

    the chairman of the Kazakh State Agency of Strategic Planning

    and Reforms, Erzhan Otembaev, deputy premier. Qaraghandy

    Oblast Governor Mazhit Esenbaev was named finance minister,

    and Grigorii Marchenko was appointed chairman of the National

    Bank, RFE/RL's Astana correspondent reported. LF

    [10] NEW KAZAKH PREMIER OUTLINES PRIORITIES

    Addressing both

    houses of the Kazakh parliament on 12 October, Prime Minister

    Toqaev pledged that his government will actively cooperate

    with the parliament and will "work to improve the economic

    situation and gradually reduce the budget deficit," Interfax

    reported. He called on deputies to pass the amended 2000

    budget in the second reading. Toqaev also said he believes

    the government's personnel policy needs improving. He said he

    opposes both the hasty introduction of private ownership of

    land and the controversial plans to sell part of Kazakhstan's

    stake in the Tengizchevroil joint venture. Consultations on

    the latter issue must be held with Nazarbaev, he said. LF

    [11] FOUR HOSTAGES RELEASED IN KYRGYZSTAN

    The Kyrgyz Defense

    Ministry on 13 October confirmed that four Kyrgyz policemen

    taken hostage by guerrillas in southern Kyrgyzstan in late

    August have been freed, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. It

    also said that government forces took control late on 12

    October of the village of Kodjo-Achkan, which served as the

    guerrillas' base, without encountering serious resistance.

    Addressing a 12 October session of the upper house of the

    parliament, which endorsed his proposal to create a seventh

    oblast in Kyrgyzstan, President Askar Akaev again said that

    the guerrillas' primary objective is not "to defend Islam"

    but to broaden the corridor for drug-trafficking from

    Afghanistan to Europe via the CIS, according to Interfax. LF

    [12] TAJIK OPPOSITION CANDIDATES CALL FOR BOYCOTT OF PRESIDENTIAL

    POLL

    Tajikistan's Central Electoral Commission has refused

    to register Davlat Usmon, Sulton Kuvvaev, and Saifiddin

    Turaev as candidates for the 6 November presidential poll on

    the grounds that they failed to provide the required 145,000

    signatures in their support, although the deadline for doing

    so was twice extended, Interfax reported on 12 October. At a

    news conference in Dushanbe the same day the three men called

    on voters and the international community to boycott the poll

    and not to recognize its outcome as valid. OSCE

    representative Oscar Lennar told journalists in Dushanbe that

    he hopes it will prove possible to extend the deadline for

    gathering signatures, but parliamentary deputy chairman

    Kozidavlat Koimdodov rejected that option as violating the

    election law, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in the

    Tajik capital. LF

    [13] UZBEK PRESIDENT CALLS OFF PLANNED VISIT TO KYRGYZSTAN

    A

    planned visit to Kyrgyzstan by Uzbek President Islam Karimov

    has been postponed indefinitely, Interfax reported on 12

    October, citing the Kyrgyz presidential administration. No

    reason for the postponement was given. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [14] BOSNIAN SERB PREMIER: KARADZIC MUST GO TO HAGUE...

    Moderate

    caretaker Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said that former

    Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and other indicted war

    criminals must go to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal

    "whether they like it or not." Dodik stressed that a few

    individuals must not be allowed to spoil the Republika

    Srpska's chances of receiving international aid, investments,

    and support, the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti"

    reported on 13 October. He added that it is necessary to

    bring to justice people who killed others simply because the

    victims were of a different ethnic group. Dodik argued that

    such killers could easily murder persons of their own

    nationality as well. Observers note that this is the sharpest

    public statement yet by a moderate Bosnian Serb leader

    against indicted war criminals. Dodik does not appear to have

    mentioned General Ratko Mladic, however. Mladic is one of the

    tribunal's most wanted war criminals but enjoys considerable

    popularity among Serbs as a defender of his people. PM

    [15] ...AS SHOULD MILOSEVIC

    Dodik added that Yugoslav President

    Slobodan Milosevic and Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav

    Seselj should go to The Hague, "Vesti" reported on 13

    October. The Bosnian Serb leader suggested that this would be

    the best way for the two men "to prolong their biological

    lives." Dodik was presumably alluding to the political

    killings that are no rarity in modern-day Serbia. He added

    that he supports calls by representatives of the

    international community for a ban on the Bosnian branch of

    Seselj's Serbian Radical Party. PM

    [16] BOSNIAN SERB LEADER DEFENDS TALKS WITH MILOSEVIC

    Zivko

    Radisic, who is the Serbian representative on the Bosnian

    joint presidency, said that his recent talks in Belgrade with

    Milosevic were in the interests of the Bosnian Serbs (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999). He added that he will

    speak with anyone "if it is in the interests of the Serbian

    people and the Republika Srpska," "Vesti" reported on 12

    October. He chided his critics--although he did not name

    them, he meant Dodik and his government--for reacting

    "nervously" to his Belgrade meeting. Radisic said they should

    instead think about how they could better promote relations

    between Yugoslavia and the Republika Srpska. PM

    [17] MONTENEGRIN PARTY AGREES TO TALKS WITH SERBIA

    Miodrag

    Vukovic, who is a top official of Montenegro's Democratic

    Party of Socialists (DPS), said in Podgorica on 13 October

    that his party has accepted an offer by Milosevic's Socialist

    Party of Serbia (SPS) to discuss the future of relations

    between the two republics (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12

    October 1999). Vukovic made it clear that the DPS will stick

    to the positions that the Montenegrin government set down in

    August in its statement on links with Serbia. He added that

    "Serbia must [become] a civic, open, and democratic state.

    Serbia's [policies have] made it the most isolated country in

    the world," Reuters reported. PM

    [18] EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT INVITES SERBIAN OPPOSITION

    Nicole

    Fontaine, who is president of the European Parliament, said

    in Brussels on 12 October that she regrets that many leaders

    of the Serbian opposition did not attend recent talks with EU

    foreign ministers in Luxembourg (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12

    October 1999). She said that she plans to invite the

    opposition leaders to discuss prospects for democracy in

    Serbia with her and her colleagues. Bernard Kouchner, who

    heads the UN mission in Kosova, said that unnamed outside

    parties must have a "right to intervene" in potential

    conflict situations before bloodshed begins, the "Frankfurter

    Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. PM

    [19] OBRADOVIC CHIDES FELLOW POLITICIANS

    The Social Democrats'

    leader Vuk Obradovic, who attended the Luxembourg meeting,

    said in Belgrade on 12 October that those opposition leaders

    who boycotted the session made a mistake. He denied that the

    EU would have insisted that they sign a declaration calling

    for Milosevic's extradition to The Hague, AP reported.

    Instead, Obradovic continued, the opposition missed a

    valuable opportunity to make progress in matters such as

    persuading the EU to lift its oil embargo against Serbia. PM

    [20] SERBIAN OPPOSITION APPEALS TO EU

    Representatives of the

    parties that did not go to Luxembourg signed a five-point

    declaration addressed to the EU, "Vesti" reported on 13

    October. The parties called for holding elections in Serbia

    within three months under reformed election laws. The

    opposition leaders stressed the dismal state of the Serbian

    economy and appealed for the EU to press for the admission of

    Yugoslavia to the Balkan Stability Pact. The opposition

    representatives added that following the replacement of the

    current regime, the EU should make a gift of $1 billion to

    Serbia to help it deal with unspecified urgent problems. PM

    [21] DATA MISSING IN DRASKOVIC ACCIDENT?

    A spokesman for Vuk

    Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement said in Belgrade on 12

    October that key data is missing regarding the owner of the

    truck that caused the recent traffic accident involving

    Draskovic. The spokesman charged that the data "has been

    erased" from a police computer, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service

    reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 October 1999). PM

    [22] NATO COMMANDER: NO DECISION ON KFOR FUTURE BEFORE SPRING

    Italian Admiral Guido Venturoni, who heads NATO's military

    committee, said in Copenhagen on 12 October that it would be

    "premature" to speculate about any reduction in the size of

    KFOR for at least "another five or six months." Current

    policy calls for keeping KFOR at a strength of 43,000. PM

    [23] EXPERTS DISCOVER MASS GRAVE AT RAHOVEC

    German forensics

    experts have found a mass grave near Rahovec that may be one

    of the oldest ones from the recent conflict, AP reported.

    Peter Koehler, who heads the team, said that the grave may

    contain up to 90 bodies and date from the July 1998 Serbian

    attack on the mainly ethnic Albanian town (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 21 July 1998). PM

    [24] CROATIA WANTS MONTENEGRO PRESENT AT PREVLAKA TALKS

    The

    Croatian government wrote to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

    on 12 October that talks between Belgrade and Zagreb on the

    future of the Prevlaka peninsula have not resumed because

    Serbia continues to "make unacceptable territorial demands"

    on Croatia. The government added that it does not consider

    any talks with Belgrade to be "legitimate" without the

    participation of Montenegrin delegates. This is the first

    time that Croatia has formally raised the issue of

    Montenegrin participation in the negotiations over the UN-

    controlled peninsula, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.

    Prevlaka is Croatian territory but offers the only access to

    the Montenegrin port of Kotor, which is Yugoslavia's only

    deep-water naval base. PM

    [25] SLOVENIA CONCERNED ABOUT HAIDER

    Deputy Foreign Minister

    Franko Juri said in Ljubljana on 12 October that recent

    statements by Austrian right-wing leader Joerg Haider

    regarding Slovenia and Slovenian-Austrian relations amount to

    "blackmail." Haider has called on Slovenia to close its Krsko

    nuclear plant, return property confiscated after World War II

    to German-speakers, and improve the status of the tiny

    German-speaking minority. Earlier, President Milan Kucan said

    that the success of Haider's Freedom Party in the 3 October

    elections bodes ill for Slovenian-Austrian relations. PM

    [26] ALBANIA APPEALS TO MACEDONIA OVER BORDER ISSUES

    The Foreign

    Ministry handed over a statement to the Macedonian ambassador

    on 12 October calling on the authorities to prevent further

    fatal incidents along their border. The statement said that

    Macedonian border guards killed three Albanian shepherds over

    four months without giving the men a chance to explain why

    they had strayed over the frontier. Tirana also urged Skopje

    to liberalize visa requirements, open another border

    crossing, and allow seasonal agricultural workers to work in

    Macedonia. PM

    [27] ROMANIANS SCANDALIZED BY DE-MYTHICIZED HISTORY TEXTBOOK

    The

    Education Commissions of the two chambers of the parliament

    are meeting on 13 October to discuss demands for the

    withdrawal of a history textbook that the Ministry of

    Education has approved for the 12th grade. The Romanian

    Academy has protested against the use of the textbook, as has

    the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania, the

    Greater Romania Party, and the Party of Romanian National

    Unity. The editor in chief of the daily "Adevarul" claims

    that the textbook is the result of Hungarian machinations

    undertaken in league with the U.S.-sponsored Project on

    Ethnic Relations. The textbook (whose use is optional)

    questions some of the major Romanian historical myths (the

    Dacian-Roman origins of the Romanian nation as well as the

    roles of Vlad the Impaler, Michael the Brave, and others)

    that were propagated under the Ceausescu regime to promote

    nationalism. MS

    [28] MOLDOVAN PREMIER REVIEWS ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE

    Prime Minister

    Ion Sturza on 12 October said on national television that the

    decline in GDP this year will "not exceed 2-3 percent in real

    terms" compared with 1998. Sturza said that for the first

    time since Moldova became independent, budget revenues in

    January-September have exceeded planned revenues and were 36

    percent higher than in 1998. He said Moldova's hard-currency

    reserves amount to $230 million, "which is sufficient to

    cover strategic imports for four-and-a-half months." Sturza

    said that the government has paid outstanding foreign debt

    totaling $235 million and that accumulated debt since January

    1999 stands at only $35 million, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau

    reported. In response to a question by Infotag, Sturza said

    he expects inflation over the next 12 months not to exceed 15

    percent. MS

    [29] BULGARIA BREAKS MONEY-LAUNDERING RING

    Finance Minister

    Muravei Radev on 12 October signed orders terminating the

    activities of several companies involved in a money-

    laundering ring uncovered last week, BTA reported. On 8

    October, Bulgarian officials said they had smashed a money-

    laundering ring that had siphoned more then $30 million

    through nine local banks over six months, Reuters reported.

    The Interior Ministry said that the money-laundering ring

    operated through ghost firms set up without proper

    registration and performing faked import operations. Nineteen

    people were arrested, five of whom have been charged with

    illegal money transfer. If convicted, they face sentences of

    between one and 10 years in prison. Radev said on 12 October

    that more arrests can be expected. MS

    [30] BULGARIAN OIL REFINERY SOLD TO LUKOIL

    The government on 11

    October approved the sale of a 58 percent stake in Neftochim,

    Bulgaria's largest oil refinery, to the Russian LUKoil

    concern, BTA reported. The state will keep a "golden share"

    in Neftochim, which will give it veto power on decisions on

    suspending or substantially decreasing oil processing or fuel

    production, on granting access to the company's port

    facilities or pipelines, and on consolidations, mergers, or

    the liquidation of the company. LUKoil will pay $101 million

    for the stake and invest $408 million between 2000 and 2005.

    It will also take over Neftochim's $30.5 million debt to the

    state budget and its $3.6 million debt to the national

    insurance fund. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [31] A TEMPORARY REPRIEVE

    by Jan Maksymiuk

    After several weeks of discussions, leaders of the

    Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW)

    agreed on 10 October on a new cabinet lineup and coalition

    rules. There was no major shakeup of Jerzy Buzek's cabinet,

    as some Polish political commentators had predicted. Those

    commentators had argued that the current government needs a

    radical reshuffle to reverse the dramatic decline in its

    popularity.

    The November 1997 marriage of the liberal UW with the

    AWS, which brings together right-wing pro-Catholic parties

    advocating socially oriented policies, was a difficult one

    from the outset. Recent talks between the coalition partners

    had two major goals. First, the coalition policy of

    appointments required clarification: the UW had repeatedly

    complained that the AWS--a group with much stronger

    parliamentary support--gives key cabinet posts to party

    loyalists rather than to competent professionals. Second, the

    two sides sought agreement on a cabinet reshuffle that would

    breathe new life into that body and increase the public's

    confidence in it.

    The authors of the 10 October compromise agreement seem

    rather uncertain about the outcome of their negotiations.

    Premier Jerzy Buzek of the AWS said "the most important

    problems have been solved" but admitted that he is worried by

    the "lack of cohesion of the government." Deputy Premier and

    Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz of the UW commented that

    his party had the choice of leaving the coalition, which

    would mean the destabilization of the situation in the

    country, or continuing cooperation with the AWS and at the

    same time remaining uncertain if the coalition partner will

    observe the signed agreement. "We opted for uncertainty,"

    Balcerowicz said.

    Some UW activists were less reserved in assessing the

    compromise agreement. "The mountain gave birth to a mouse,"

    Donald Tusk commented. And UW spokesman Andrzej Potocki said

    the compromise on continuing the current coalition is

    "slightly rotten."

    The coalition agreed to sack Environmental Minister Jan

    Szyszko and Deputy Economy Minister Jan Szlazak, both from

    the AWS. The UW will not lose any of its ministers although

    the AWS pressed for the ouster of Defense Minister Janusz

    Onyszkiewicz and Justice Minister Hanna Suchocka. During the

    past several weeks, Interior Minister Janusz Tomaszewski

    (AWS) and Stanislaw Alot, head of the Social Security Agency,

    have also been dismissed: this means there have been only

    four major changes in the government since the coalition

    started to discuss the "restructuring" of Buzek's cabinet.

    Moreover, there have been no structural changes. The UW

    blocked the AWS proposals to create a ministry for regional

    development and housing and to merge the European Integration

    Committee with the Foreign Ministry.

    The coalition partners also agreed that their

    parliamentary deputies will back legislation proposed by the

    government (a rule often broken by AWS lawmakers) and that

    their ministries will not publicly criticize government

    policies. These provisions are a strong indication of the

    problems within the uneasy alliance of the UW and the AWS,

    which won the 1997 elections on a ticket promising

    considerable relief from the market-oriented reforms

    implemented earlier in Poland.

    However, the task of regaining the popularity that both

    the AWS and the UW enjoyed in 1997 would apparently involve

    more than simply reshaping the cabinet. September polls

    showed that almost 70 percent of respondents believe that

    Poland has taken a "wrong turn," while Buzek's cabinet has

    only 16 percent support. More than 30 percent said they favor

    early parliamentary elections.

    Most commentators believe that the plunge in the

    popularity of the AWS-UW cabinet is the direct result of its

    bungled performance in implementing the four major reforms--

    of administration, health care, pensions, and education--

    aimed at facilitating Poland's accession to the EU by 2003.

    That viewpoint may be correct, but in the long run Poles have

    more significant reasons for complaining.

    Foreign observers frequently forget the huge social

    costs Poles have had to pay for their country's widely

    acclaimed role as initiator and champion of market-oriented

    reforms in East and Central Europe. According to the 9

    October "Polityka," 5.5 million Poles live in poverty (2

    million of them in "extreme poverty"). Some 12.5 million

    people in Poland live in "subjective poverty" (they believe

    that their pride is damaged by their living standards), and

    some 16.5 million people live below or at Poland's

    subsistence minimum.

    Unemployment is another major problem: more than 2

    million Poles have no jobs (12 percent of the country's

    workforce). Some 70 percent of them have already ceased to

    obtain unemployment benefits (which total up to 384 zlotys

    [$95] a month). And 62 percent of Poles have completed only

    an eight-grade school, making it extremely different for them

    to find new jobs under Poland's changed economic

    circumstances.

    These figures are alarming, and it is no wonder that the

    opposition Democratic Left Alliance and the Peasant Party are

    now pushing for early parliamentary elections, hoping to

    capitalize on the AWS-UW's current unpopularity and the

    public's growing disappointment with the economic situation.

    Radical farmers' leader Andrzej Lepper calls for a change of

    not only the government but the entire economic system and is

    threatening a "general blockade of the country" in November

    unless the parliament is dissolved and new elections held.

    Thus, it appears that the real test for Jerzy Buzek's

    cabinet (not to mention Poland's drive for EU membership) has

    not yet begun.

    13-10-99


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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