|Saturday, 17 November 2018|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 105, 01-06-04
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 105, 4 June 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 FURTHER STRAINS SURFACE WITHIN IN ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITYSpeaking in Yerevan on 2 June at the second congress of the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), Chairman Stepan Demirchian again made clear that the HZhK does not approve of all decisions taken in the name of the Miasnutiun parliament majority bloc of which it is the junior partner, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Demirchian specifically criticized the government's privatization policy. He also again rejected the hypothesis that the five gunmen who murdered eight senior officials, including his father Karen, in the Armenian parliament in October 1999 acted on their own initiative. He expressed doubt that the parliament commission created last month to investigate allegations that senior government officials are providing the gunmen with legal advice will succeed in establishing the truth. LF
 ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS FAIL TO SET DATE FOR NEXT KARABAKH TALKSAzerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev told journalists on 1 June on his return to Baku from the CIS summit in Minsk that his talks on the sidelines of the summit with his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian probably lessened the chances that the two will meet as planned in Geneva later this month to continue their search for a mutually acceptable solution to the Karabakh conflict, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Aliev said that in order for the Geneva meeting to take place, certain unspecified conditions must be met, and that at present "my and Kocharian's positions on the settlement are quite different although they are not worlds apart." He denied, however, that the talks are deadlocked. Speaking in Yerevan on 2 June, Kocharian's spokesman Vahe Gabrielian denied that the Armenian president had asked the Minsk Group co-chairmen to postpone the planned Geneva talks. French co- Chairman Philippe de Sureman said last week that the two presidents had asked for the Geneva meeting to be postponed, but Aliev denied on 31 May having made any such request (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2001). LF
 POLICE AGAIN CLASH WITH AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATORSFor the second time in three weeks, police in Baku used force on 2 June to break up an unsanctioned demonstration by an estimated 150-200 members and supporters of the opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (ADR), Reuters and Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 2001). Eighteen people were temporarily detained and several injured. As during two previous demonstrations, the participants were demanding the release of political prisoners and the dropping of criminal charges brought against ADR Chairman and former parliament speaker Rasul Guliev. Guliev, who has lived in the U.S. since leaving Azerbaijan in September 1996, is charged with embezzlement of state property worth $74 million. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SAYS CHECHEN REFUGEES SHOULD RETURNEduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 2 June that during his talks in Minsk on the sidelines of the CIS summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin he had proposed that the estimated 7,000 Chechen refugees currently in Georgia be voluntarily repatriated, Caucasus Press reported. But Shevardnadze said that Russia should provide material and financial assistance to those willing to return. Shevardnadze and Putin also discussed the Abkhaz conflict, the planned closure of Russia's military bases in Georgia, and economic cooperation, Interfax reported on 1 June, quoting Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. LF
 GUUAM MEMBERS TO CREATE FREE-TRADE ZONEUkrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko said in Minsk that an agreement on creating a free-trade zone will be signed at the upcoming summit in Yalta of GUUAM member states (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova), Caucasus Press reported on 2 June. Georgian President Shevardnadze said two days later that other countries, including Romania and Bulgaria, may join GUUAM in the near future. Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze had suggested on 31 May that Russia and Armenia could acquire observer status within GUUAM. Speaking at the CIS Minsk summit, Russian President Putin said organizations such as GUUAM and the Eurasian Economic Community complement the CIS rather than weaken it. LF
 KAZAKH PRESIDENT SAYS FOREIGN INVESTMENT NOT ESSENTIALNursultan Nazarbaev told journalists in Aktyubinsk on 2 June that Kazakhstan does not need foreign loans, Interfax reported. Nor, Nazarbaev continued, does Kazakhstan currently have real debts, given that the country's gold and foreign currency reserves are more or less equal to its debts. Those reserves exceed $2.5 billion, while the national fund holds a further $900 million; gross foreign debt is estimated at $3.6-3.7 billion. LF
 OSCE REJECTS KAZAKH ACCUSATION OF BIASThe OSCE office in Almaty issued a statement on 1 June affirming its readiness to cooperate with all political parties in Kazakhstan, Interfax reported. Speaking at a press conference the previous day, Azat Peruashev, the leader of the pro-Nazarbaev Civic Party, had accused the OSCE of bias, noting that during a visit to Kazakhstan earlier in May OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Chairman Adrian Severin had met with representatives of three opposition parties but not with Civic Party members, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. The OSCE statement pointed out that Severin met in Almaty with opposition representatives and in Astana with parties that support the government; it said that in each case, the number of parties invited was limited to seven in accordance with OSCE guidelines. LF
 KYRGYZ, RUSSIAN PREMIERS MEET IN MINSKKurmanbek Bakiev and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kasyanov met on 1 June on the sideline of the CIS Minsk summit to discuss provisions for the establishment in Bishkek of the headquarters of the CIS Rapid Reaction Force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2001), more Russian military assistance for Kyrgyzstan, and economic issues, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Meeting in Minsk on 31 May, the CIS premiers named General Valerii Verchagin, deputy head of the Kyrgyz National Security Service, as deputy head of the CIS Anti-Terrorism center. LF
 KYRGYZ OFFICIALS WARN AGAINST BORDER PROTESTSVisiting Issyk-Kul Oblast on 1 June, Kyrgyz government officials led by department head Salamat Alamanov warned local residents they risk punishment if they protest against the 1999 border agreement whereby Kyrgyzstan ceded to China 70 percent of the disputed Uzengi-Kuush region, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The region is located at the conjunction between the Issyk-Kul and Naryn oblasts and China. The Kyrgyz parliament has not yet ratified the border accord (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 23 May 2001). LF
 TAJIKISTAN EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER U.S. TRAVEL ADVISORYTajikistan Security Council Secretary Amirqul Azimov told Asia Plus-Blitz on 1 June that he "regrets" the recent "perplexing" U.S. State Department advisory that U.S. citizens avoid traveling to Tajikistan. He said the advisory is at odds with the assessment of the situation given during a visit last month by U.S. General Tommy Franks, who noted "significant progress" toward establishing peace and democracy in Tajikistan. Azimov added that it is desirable that citizens of other countries should travel to Tajikistan to judge the situation there for themselves rather than rely on press coverage that, he said, is frequently "tendentious." LF
 UZBEK PRESIDENT COOL ON EURASIAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY'S PROSPECTSIslam Karimov said on his arrival in Minsk to participate in the CIS summit that he doubts the newly formalized Eurasian Economic Community will prove any more successful than its predecessor, the CIS Customs Union, in promoting economic integration among CIS member states, Interfax reported on 1 June. Karimov also said Uzbekistan will not renew its participation in the CIS Collective Security Treaty, which it declined to renew two years ago, but instead will "solve all security problems on a bilateral footing." LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MACEDONIAN PRIME MINISTER WANTS EARLY ELECTIONS...Ljubco Georgievski said in Skopje on 3 June that the projected date of January 2002 is too far away for new elections. He added that "the government is barely functioning. We can't get on with any serious work because of daily squabbles" over how to deal with the ongoing insurgency, AP reported. "It would be best to hold early elections as early as September" to end the deadlock in talks with ethnic Albanian political leaders, Georgievski said. He noted that he does not have much enthusiasm for remaining in his office much longer, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. PM
 ...TAKES BACK CONCESSIONS TO ALBANIANSGeorgievski argued in Skopje that ethnic Albanian "terrorism" will continue until the constitution is changed to make the Albanians fully equal. He added that the government should seek to defeat the guerillas militarily instead, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 3 June. Georgievski ruled out any "amnesty or negotiations" with the insurgents, dpa reported the next day. He added that "all Albanian parties support the [guerrillas], none of their intellectuals stands on the Macedonian side, and even civilians kept hostage by [the guerrillas] in their villages show solidarity with them." The news agency added that his remarks amount to a retraction of his recent constitutional concessions to the Albanians (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 June 2001). Observers note that he may be trying to position himself to keep the support of his nationalist electorate in the upcoming ballot. PM
 FIGHTING CONTINUES IN MACEDONIAPresident Boris Trajkovski held a crisis meeting in Skopje on 3 June, but the ethnic Albanian political leaders did not attend, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. Meanwhile, fighting continued in the Tetovo and Kumanovo areas over the weekend despite Trajkovski's previous offer of an amnesty (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 June 2001). PM
 MACEDONIA SEEKING PEACEKEEPING FORCE?Dpa reported from Taipei on 2 June that Georgievski recently told Taiwanese Foreign Minister Tien Hung-mao that Skopje will soon switch recognition from Taipei to Beijing in order to obtain China's support in the UN Security Council for a UN peacekeeping force for Macedonia. A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told a Taipei news conference on 4 June that "although all the information [on Skopje's plans] is unfavorable to us, our embassy will continue to monitor developments. We will try to save ties till the last second." PM
 MACEDONIA'S 'OLD FOX' WARNS OF IRREDENTISMFormer Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov told "Jutarnji list" of 4 June in Split that the ethnic Albanian nationalists in his country want to redraw state borders in a way that could affect the entire region (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 March 2001). He argued that the Albanians constitute only "22.9 percent" of the population and are hence not entitled to full equality with the majority Slavic Macedonians. He nonetheless urged all states in the region to introduce unspecified "necessary reforms" to make themselves less vulnerable to efforts to destabilize them. Gligorov is visiting Croatia to promote his memoirs entitled "Macedonia Is All That We Have." PM
 NO AGREEMENT ON YUGOSLAV WAR CRIMES COOPERATION LAWLeaders of the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia coalition failed again on 3 June to secure the agreement of their Montenegrin allies, the Socialist People's Party (SNP), to proposed legislation on cooperation with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, RFE./RL's South Slavic Service reported. But Serbian Prime Minister Zoran said: "We don't have the luxury of losing needed economic aid as a consequence of not collaborating with the court in The Hague. We cannot avoid turning [former President Slobodan Milosevic] over if we don't want to remain isolated," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 May 2001). SNP leader Predrag Bulatovic stressed that he is not opposed to the law but added "that it should not come down just to a hand-over of Yugoslav citizens to The Hague court," AP reported. PM
 SERBIAN MINISTER SAYS HAGUE COURT IS BIASED AGAINST SERBSRecalling a favorite theme of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and of the Milosevic regime, Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic wrote to chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte that he finds it unfair that she "seeks the extradition of Milosevic every day" but does not take similar steps against Croatian, Albanian, and Muslim leaders. Batic says that he finds it unacceptable that Kosovar leaders such as Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj take part in international gatherings and are not arrested for war crimes, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 3 June. He did not offer evidence of the two men's alleged guilt. Del Ponte recently appealed to the EU to do more to seek the extradition of Milosevic, AP reported on 1 June. PM
 SERBIAN POLICE INVESTIGATE EVIDENCE OF MILOSEVIC'S WAR CRIMESSerbian authorities have begun to exhume from a mass grave near Belgrade the bodies of an unspecified number of people believed to be Kosovar Albanians killed by Serbian forces during the 1998-1999 conflict, "The Times" reported on 4 June. Some of the victims wore uniforms of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and some bore signs of torture. Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic said that there are more bodies in the grave than were retrieved from the Danube in a related case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001). Unnamed Serbian official sources told the British daily that dumping the bodies in a mass grave to conceal evidence of war crimes required complicity "at the highest level of the army." In Belgrade on 3 June, Djindjic's Democratic Party said in a statement that the latest exhumations show that Milosevic and his cronies were involved in war crimes, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT NOT GOING TO KOSOVALocal Serbs invited Kostunica to visit Mitrovica on 3 June, but his office said that he would not go, AP reported from Prishtina on 2 June. "Thousands" of ethnic Albanians had demonstrated in the capital and in other towns against the visit as well as against plans by the French military to build a "small security wall" to protect peacekeepers in divided Mitrovica. The Albanians said that the wall would reinforce the ethnically based division of the city. Demonstrators carried posters showing an old, well-known photo of a grinning Kostunica holding a Kalashnikov. PM
 SERBIA PREPARING NEXT MOVE IN BALKAN CHESS GAME?U.S. special envoy James Pardew told reporters in Washington on 2 June that the recent return of Serbian forces to the Presevo valley security zone constitutes "a remarkably peaceful end to what could have been a very destructive conflict in the Balkans," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001). Kostunica said in Bucharest the previous day, however, that "we need concrete measures to get rid of extremism and violence from Kosovo." One of his advisers wrote two articles in the weekly "NIN" in December 2000 in which he argued that Serbian leaders should seek a return of Serbian authority to Kosova through cooperation with the international community. On 2 June, "Vesti" published a photo of Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic and General Ninoslav Krstic in Bujanovac amid posters proclaiming "Return." In front of the two men were Yugoslav and EU flags. PM
 RUSSIAN COMMANDER MEETS KOSOVAR GENERALGeneral Vladimir Kazantsev, commander of the Russian peacekeepers in Kosovo, met in his headquarters with General Agim Ceku, commander of the Kosova Protection Corps (TMK), Interfax reported from Moscow on 1 June. The two men discussed "possible interaction" between units of their respective organizations and the need to hold regular meetings of their subordinates. The TMK is a civilian work force based on a French model. Most Kosovars consider it the nucleus of the army of a future independent Kosova. Many Serbs regard Ceku, a career military man and a veteran of the Yugoslav and Croatian armies, as a war criminal. PM
 ISTRIAN PARTY LEAVES CROATIAN GOVERNMENTMaking good on repeated threats to leave the six-party coalition government, Ivan Jakovcic, Minister for European Integration and head of the Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS-DDI), said in Pazin that the IDS has decided to leave the government, "Novi List" reported on 4 June. The IDS charges that the Zagreb government is almost as hostile to regional autonomy as former President Franjo Tudjman was. Matters came to a head recently over the IDS's plans to raise the legal status of Italian and make Istria officially bilingual (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2001). In related news, Prime Minister Ivica Racan said in Zagreb that early elections are possible, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 2 June. PM
 CROATIAN PRESIDENT STRESSES NEW LINKS TO BOSNIAStipe Mesic and the three members of Bosnia's joint presidency agreed in Sarajevo on 1 June to improve transportation and communication links. Elsewhere, Mesic and High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch said that the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina must work through the institutions of that state if they want to secure their rights, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 BARONESS NICHOLSON INTERVIEWED ON ROMANIAN RADIOBaroness Emma Nicholson, whose draft report submitted to a commission of the European Parliament stirred a flood of negative reactions in Romania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001) on 1 June said in an interview with Romanian Radio that she is "delighted" the draft has attracted the attention of the Romanian mass media and public opinion. Baroness Nicholson said that if all countries criticized for lack of adequate progress in meeting EU criteria "would react as terrified as Romania did, we would make little progress" toward integration. She said the Romanian reaction overlooked those parts of the draft report that laud Romania's progress and that she is particularly satisfied with the activity of the country's president and its premier. The draft, she said, also includes for the first time an unprecedented recommendation that the European Parliament back Romania's NATO candidacy. MS
 YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT IN BUCHARESTVisiting Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica met in Bucharest on 1 June with his Romanian counterpart Ion Iliescu and with Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. They discussed bilateral (particularly economic) relations, regional developments, and the Balkan Stability Pact. The Romanian side insisted on the urgency of reconstructing the Danube bridges destroyed by NATO airstrikes and on the resumption of traffic on the Danube River. Kostunica said the resolution of the issue depends primarily on funding and that he is "disappointed" by the scarcity of funds made available thus far by the international community for those purposes. MS
 FORMER ROMANIAN PREMIER RETURNS TO 'MOTHER-PARTY'The National Alliance Christian Democratic on 2 June rejoined the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and former Premier Victor Ciorbea was elected chairman of the PNTCD National Committee. The National Committee on the same day approved the party's program and its new statutes. MS
 ROMANIAN GENERAL TO FACE COURT MARTIAL OVER ANTONESCU COMMEMORATIONThe Defense Ministry on 3 June announced that General Mircea Chelaru, former chief of staff of the Romanian army, will face an army disciplinary body for having attended a recent ceremony honoring pro-Nazi World War II leader Marshal Ion Antonescu (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2001). The ministry said it will "not tolerate" infringements on the "principle of the army's political noninvolvement." It also said that it is "regrettable that individual gestures," such as Chelaru's, honoring "a person who has been condemned by the international community," might "overshadow the collective efforts of the army...to meet the national objective of joining NATO and the EU," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SATISFIED WITH MINSK CIS SUMMITVladimir Voronin is "satisfied" with the results of last week's CIS summit in Minsk, where he conducted talks with the presidents of Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan, Flux reported on 2 June. Vladimir Putin reassured Voronin that Russia is "ready to assume its responsibilities" as mediator in the Transdniester conflict and supports Moldova's territorial integrity. The Moldovan delegation did not participate in debates on CIS military affairs, nor was Moldova's joining of the Russia- Belarus Union discussed. MS
 U.S. CONGRESSMAN SAYS BULGARIA IS AMONG LEADING NATO CANDIDATESDoug Bereuter, a Republican U.S. congressman, said on 1 June in Sofia following meetings with Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov and Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova that "Bulgaria and Slovenia are leaders in Southeast Europe" and "an important message would be sent to the people in the Balkans" should they be invited to join NATO in the next round of expansion, Reuters and AP reported. Bereuter later said "It will be advantageous if we have at least one member brought [into NATO] from Southeastern Europe and one from the Baltic states." MS
 NEARLY 80 FORMER BULGARIAN COMMUNIST AGENTS RUN FOR PARLIAMENTThe parliamentary commission in charge of reviewing communist secret police files said on 1 June that 78 out of the 5,769 candidates running for the parliament in the 17 June elections have been established with certainty to have worked in the former secret police or to have been informants for the organization, international agencies reported. Last month, the commission established that at least 57 deputies with such links were members in the past four post-communist legislatures. Since many files have been destroyed, the lists are probably not complete. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on the same day called on all parties fielding candidates to exclude those exposed from their lists, saying this is "not a moral question, but one of national security." Current legislation does not provide for lustration and allows only the names of former collaborators to be published. MS
 BULGARIANS PLEAD 'NOT GUILTY' IN LIBYAN TRIAL...Six Bulgarian medics -- five nurses and a doctor -- on 1 June pleaded not guilty at the opening of their trial in Libya, international agencies reported. One Palestinian and nine Libyans tried for the same offense also pleaded not guilty. They are accused of having deliberately infected 393 children in a Benghazi hospital with the HIV virus and face the death penalty if convicted. Two of the Bulgarian nurses said they were tortured to extract confessions, one of them saying she was "tortured with electricity, beaten, and submitted to every kind of torture known from the Middle Ages until now." The other said she tried to commit suicide because she feared she would not withstand more torture. The trial will resume on 16 June. MS
 ...BULGARIAN LEADERS CONCERNED AT TRIAL'S FAIRNESSOn 2 June, Premier Kostov said that after having learned of the alleged torture, he is concerned that the trial is "neither fair nor just." President Petar Stoyanov said "All Bulgarian institutions, the media and citizens must...insist that the trial be fair, transparent and based only on evidence," Reuters reported. Reacting to these statements, Libyan Foreign Minister Hassuna Shaush said on 3 June that Libya is "surprised" by them and that they could "hamper the trial," AFP reported. MS
[C] END NOTE
 MOST LEADING EU CANDIDATES WILLING TO ACCEPT LABOR MOVEMENT CURBSBy Ahto Lobjakas
Leading European Union candidate countries indicated on 1 June they are ready to accept the EU request for a maximum seven-year ban on the free movement of East European labor following EU expansion.
Negotiators from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia met EU officials in Brussels the same day to discuss the free movement of labor and other outstanding chapters of EU regulations.
At the request of Germany and Austria, the EU position stipulates that the free movement of labor enjoyed by all EU citizens will not take effect until up to seven years after enlargement. An initial two-year ban would be reviewed upon its conclusion, and again after five years.
Individual EU member countries, however, are still free to open their labor markets to candidate workers on a bilateral basis from the day of the first accessions.
Hungary appeared the keenest to press ahead with negotiations, with Hungary's chief negotiator Endre Juhasz saying he does not rule out closing talks on the labor movement chapter on 12 June, when EU foreign ministers meet their candidate counterparts in Luxembourg.
Juhasz said that, while the EU's position is a disappointment to candidates, the curbs are a political reality that have to be accepted. "Although we are not convinced about the economic and social need for a transitional arrangement, we could accept the EU proposal as it is without any change," he said.
Juhasz said Hungary's acceptance of the EU's terms has two conditions. The first is that the 15 EU members must clearly specify how long and to what degree they plan to take advantage of the curbs. Secondly, Juhasz said, Hungary must be allowed to introduce similar measures against EU citizens.
Juhasz described the EU position as a "fragile construction," and said it is not in the interests of either the EU or candidate countries to restart the debate.
Spain and Portugal blocked agreement on the position within the EU until 30 May. They demanded assurances that the accession of the poorer candidate countries would not lead to a decrease in the developmental aid they currently receive from the EU. Spain gets more than 60 percent of the approximately 30,000 million euros that make up the EU's annual developmental aid budget.
The Czech, Estonian, and Polish negotiators also said the EU position needs further study, but would be an acceptable starting point for talks.
Although they accepted the inevitability of restrictions on labor movement, some negotiators sharply criticized the way the EU position justified the curbs by citing "political sensitivities" in certain member countries.
Jan Telicka, the Czech negotiator, was particularly scathing in his comments. He said that when candidate countries apply for transition periods in other fields, the EU demands that the requests be accompanied by a thorough explanation of their necessity, including their possible economic and social implications.
Telicka said Prague cannot accept the EU argument on the "sensitivity" of the issue and wants to learn whether the Czech Republic would also benefit from "transition periods" on chapters considered "sensitive" by the Czechs. He also said that when candidate countries demand transition periods they are told to come up with "reliable estimates" accompanied by a thorough explanation of their necessity, including their possible economic and social implications, not arguments about "sensitivity," while the EU has produced no estimates whatever.
The Czech Republic also broke new ground in becoming the first Central European applicant to close talks on the chapter entitled "free movement of capital." Together with Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, the Czech Republic had asked for long transition periods for sales of agricultural land and secondary residences to foreigners after accession.
Telicka said the Czech Republic accepted the EU's offer of a seven-year transition period for the sale of land, although Prague had originally asked for a 10-year delay.
The EU's offer is widely seen as a compensatory gesture for the curbs it is seeking impose on labor movement.
Estonia, Lithuania, and Slovenia have already closed talks on the free movement of capital without asking for any delays on land or property sales. Latvia -- still to conclude talks on the chapter -- has also asked for no delays or transition periods.
The Czech Republic, Estonia, and Hungary also closed talks on 1 June on the difficult environment chapter, thus becoming -- along with Slovenia -- the only candidate countries to have done so thus far.
After the completion of the 1 June round of talks, Cyprus retained a slender lead among candidates, having closed 21 of the 31 chapters of the EU regulations that form the substance of accession talks. Slovenia has closed 20 chapters, Estonia and Hungary 19, and the Czech Republic 18. Poland brings up the rear in the leading group with 16, but has already been caught by second-wave countries Malta and Slovakia, both also with 16. Lithuania has closed 15 chapters, Latvia 13, Bulgaria nine, and Romania only six.
Ahto Lobjakas is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Brussels. Michael Shafir also contributed to this report.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty