|Monday, 28 September 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 216, 01-11-14
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 216, 14 November 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 UKRAINE TO PURCHASE MAJORITY STAKE IN ARMENIAN CHEMICAL GIANTRepresentatives of Ukraine's Inter-Kontakt recently visited Yerevan to discuss the possibility of acquiring for 6.6 billion drams (some $12 million) a 51 percent stake in the Nairit chemical plant that produces chloroprene rubber, according to Arminfo on 13 November as cited by Groong. Inter-Kontakt has expressed its readiness to invest some $22 million in the plant in order to increase annual output from 10,000 tons to 25,000-30,000 tons. Nairit's debts for the first six months of 2001 alone amount to over $7 million. LF
 ARMENIAN JOURNALISTS' ORGANIZATION TO FREEZE CONTACTS WITH AZERBAIJAN...Yerevan Press Club (YPC) chairman Boris Navasardian told a press conference in Yerevan on 13 November that his organization has decided to freeze contacts with Azerbaijani journalists due to the hostility and intolerance to which visiting Armenian journalists have been recently subjected in Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The YPC and similar organizations have been organizing regular exchanges with Azerbaijan since 1996 with the aim of creating what Navasardian termed "an appropriate atmosphere for the improvement of relations between our peoples and countries." But, Navasardian continued, mutual visits in recent months have proven counter-productive, and the most recent visit to Baku by a group of journalists from Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic gave rise to what he termed "anti-Armenian hysteria." LF
 ...BUT INITIATE NEW CONTACTS WITH TURKEYNavasardian told the same press conference on 13 November that under the terms of an agreement signed in Istanbul last week, the YPC will expand its contacts with journalists in Turkey, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Noyan Tapan reported. An exchange of visits between journalists from the two countries will begin in December 2001, and the YPC is also considering whether it is feasible to convene virtual press conferences with the participation of Turkish politicians. Armenia and Turkey still do not have diplomatic relations. LF
 ARMENIAN LAWMAKERS EXPRESS CONCERN OVER SUSPENSION OF U.S. SANCTIONS ON AZERBAIJANIn separate statements released on 13 November, the chairmen of two Armenian parliament committees warned that the suspension of the ban on direct U.S. government aid to Azerbaijan could lead to a renewal of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The U.S. Congress last month empowered President George W. Bush to suspend that ban for the duration of the ongoing international antiterrorism campaign provided that the aid Baku receives is not used for "offensive purposes against Armenia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2001). But Armenian parliament Defense and Security Committee Chairman Vahan Hovannisian argued that that condition is meaningless. He said that the bill, which still has to be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, should include a specific reference to Karabakh. Parliament Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Hovannes Hovannisian (no relation to Vahan) similarly argued that "it is extremely important that...the bill directly ban the use of [U.S.] military aid against Nagorno- Karabakh." LF
 AZERBAIJANI EDITORS PROTEST RESTRICTIONS ON NEWSPAPER DISTRIBUTIONEditors of Azerbaijani media outlets met on 13 November with Baku Mayor Hadjibala Abutalibov and presidential administration official Ali Hasanov to protest Abutalibov's systematic destruction of newspaper kiosks belonging to the Gaya distribution network, Turan reported. Gaya owner Hanguseyn Aliev said he believes the Azerbaijani authorities want to eliminate any competition prior to privatizing the state-owned periodicals distribution network. Also on 13 November, media editors decided to stage a picket in Baku on 15 November to protest the enforced closure of the newspapers "Bakinskii bulvard" and "Milletin sesi" ( see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September and 7 November 2001). But on 14 November Abutalibov rejected their request for permission to do so, Turan reported. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT MEETS WITH NATO REGIONAL COMMANDERMeeting on 13 November with General Oktay Ataman, who heads NATO Joint South-East Command, President Heidar Aliev lauded the conduct of the NATO Cooperative Determination 2001 simulated exercises that began in Baku one week earlier, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 2001). LF
 GEORGIA, POLAND DISCUSS OIL EXPORTS, NATOPolish President Aleksandr Kwasniewski's official visit to Georgia, originally scheduled for July, took place on 12-13 November, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 12 November that the visit was intended to provide a basis on which to build "new relations" between the two countries. He mentioned as promising areas for cooperation transport routes and the possible export via the Odessa- Brody pipeline of Caspian oil exported through Georgia. Kwasniewski expressed his personal support for Shevardnadze and for Georgia's territorial integrity. But he downplayed the possibility of military cooperation between the two countries, offering only to help train 50 Georgian border guards. Kwasniewski also recalled Russia's initial opposition to Poland joining NATO, but added that thanks to Russian President Vladimir Putin's "pragmatic approach" the resulting cooling in bilateral relations was only temporary. Shevardnadze for his part acknowledged that he had angered Russia by his affirmation two years ago in an interview with the "Financial Times" that Georgia would "knock loudly on NATO's door" by 2005 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 1999). Shevardnadze said Georgia "is not in a hurry" to accede to the alliance. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT PROPOSES NEW MINISTERSGeorgian media on 13 November published, and commented extensively on, what is said to be the list of proposed new government ministers submitted to parliament by President Shevardnadze. The presidential press service, however, declined to confirm the accuracy of that list, which lists Levan Dzneladze, minister for tax revenues in the outgoing government, as minister of state. Former Deputy Interior Minister Koba Narchemaishvili is identified as the new interior minister, presidential parliamentary secretary Valeri Khaburzania as national security minister, former academic Paata Tsnobiladze as justice minister, former Minister of State Property Management Giorgi Gachechiladze as economy minister, and Mamuka Nioleishvili as fuel and energy minister. Other outgoing ministers, including Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze and Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili, retain their posts. LF
 SUPREME COURT REDUCES FORMER GEORGIAN MINISTER'S SENTENCEThe Supreme Court on 13 November reduced from 17 to six years' imprisonment the sentence handed down three months earlier on Guram Absandze, who served as finance minister under President Zviad Gamsakhurdia in 1991, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2001). The court found Absandze not guilty of involvement in the February 1998 attempt to assassinate President Shevardnadze, the charge on which Absandze was extradited to Georgia from Russia in March 1998, but guilty of misappropriating some $127,800 and of participating in Gamsakhurdia's abortive attempt in 1993 to return to power. A second former member of Gamsakhurdia's team, Nemo Burchuladze, expressed surprise at the court's decision which, he said, demonstrates that it acts independently of the president, Interfax reported. LF
 RUSSIA CALLS FOR GEORGIAN WITHDRAWAL FROM KODORI GORGE...In a statement issued on 13 November, the Russian Foreign Ministry called on Georgia to withdraw its army units from the Kodori gorge in compliance with the peace agreement signed in Moscow on 14 May 1994, Russian agencies reported. That withdrawal, the statement continued, will help to ease the tensions created by the incursion last month onto Abkhaz territory from neighboring regions of Georgia of several hundred Georgian guerrillas and Chechen fighters. Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba told Ekho Moskvy on 12 November that Abkhazia will not resume talks with Tbilisi until the Georgian military withdraws from the upper reaches of the Kodori gorge. LF
 ...BUT GEORGIA READY TO INCREASE MILITARY PRESENCE THEREAlso on 13 November, Georgian armed forces Chief of Staff Djoni Pirtskhalaishvili told the parliament's Defense and Security Committee that the Ministry of Defense is ready to send additional troops to Kodori to augment the 350 men currently deployed in the villages of Sakeni and Chkhalta. President Shevardnadze's representative for the Kodori gorge region, Emzar Kvitsiani, who Abkhaz officials claim accompanied the invaders, told the same parliamentary committee that he can prove that "a traitor" in Tbilisi provided exact coordinates to the Russian military aircraft that bombed villages in the Kodori gorge, Caucasus Press reported. LF
 SUSPECTED ISLAMIC MILITANTS APPREHENDED IN KAZAKHSTANPolice in Kazakhstan detained three young men in Almaty late on 12 November on suspicion of membership in the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir party, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Police also confiscated quantities of leaflets calling for the overthrow of the Kazakh government. Hizb ut-Tahrir aims to establish by peaceful means a caliphate on the territory of the five post- Soviet Central Asian states. Four alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir members were tried and sentenced in Zhambyl Oblast in May of this year. LF
 KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT FINALLY APPROVES REPORT ON BUDGET FULFILLMENT FOR 2000The People's Assembly (the upper chamber of Kyrgyzstan's bicameral legislature) finally approved on 13 November Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev's report on fulfillment of the budget for last year, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Deputies declined to do so on 17 October on the grounds that the draft was implemented only by 80.9 percent. The tax shortfall for 2000 amounted to 909.5 million soms ($18.6 million). Bakiev admitted that government bodies misspent considerable sums of money. The Prosecutor-General's Office has opened investigations into several such instances. LF
 TAJIK OFFICIALS DENY AGREEMENT REACHED ON U.S. USE OF AIR BASESA Tajik Foreign Ministry official told Reuters on 13 November that he has no information that a concrete agreement has been signed between Tajikistan and the U.S. granting the latter the use of a Tajik air base or bases from which to launch bombing raids on Afghanistan. A Defense Ministry official similarly said that that possibility is still under discussion. Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Khairulloev for his part told Interfax on 13 November that the Kulyab air base which U.S. experts had decided on is not suitable for heavy aircraft such as bombers and transport planes, or for frequent takeoffs and landings. On 12 November, Reuters quoted an unnamed Pentagon official as saying that the U.S. will move aircraft to at least one base in Tajikistan, but declined to specify which one. LF
 EBRD URGES UZBEKISTAN TO SPEED UP ECONOMIC REFORMVisiting European Bank for Reconstruction and Development President Jean Lemierre told journalists in Tashkent on 13 November following talks with President Islam Karimov that Uzbekistan should dismantle the existing barriers to foreign investment (meaning the limitations on the convertibility of the som) and seek to promote foreign investment and expand foreign trade, Reuters reported. Lemierre and Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov signed an agreement whereby the EBRD will advance a 77 million euro ($67.7 million) credit to modernize the country's rail network and a second credit worth 17.5 million euros to improve the heating system in Andidjan, Interfax reported on 13 November. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT WANTS CONTINUED U.S. BACKINGU.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Janet Bogue discussed the political and security situations in Macedonia with President Boris Trajkovski in Skopje on 13 November, AP reported. He asked Washington to continue its support for the peace process. She also met with Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski. It is not clear whether he told her what he recently told U.S. envoy James Pardew, namely that the U.S. is "the greatest terrorist." PM
 MACEDONIAN CRISIS AREA REMAINS TENSENo new incidents were noted in the Tetovo area on 13 November, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2001). NATO troops and international observers -- with the assistance of three helicopters -- closely monitored the movements of Macedonian forces in the area. The news agency noted, however, that "dozens of civilians, mainly ethnic Albanian women and children, were seen fleeing the area, fearing possible police action." Reuters reported that the men of the villages erected armed roadblocks while sending their families out of the area. One villager told Reuters that they are not guerrillas but local people protecting their homes. Hard- line Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski said on 12 November that he wants a "24-hour" police presence in areas where they have recently returned with only limited daytime patrols, AFP reported. PM
 YUGOSLAV MINISTER ASKS UN FOR SUPPORTForeign Minister Goran Svilanovic told the UN General Assembly on 13 November that his country faces several important problems, including security in Kosova and Serbia's future relations with Montenegro, AP reported. He said: "These questions do not concern Yugoslavia alone; they are also of vital political importance for the entire region of southeast Europe. [They have] to be addressed by broad regional action and with the help of the international community." Observers note that Kosova is in practice an international protectorate, linked to Yugoslavia only on paper in UN Security Council Resolution 1244. Kosova's 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority wants nothing more to do with Belgrade and seeks independence. Some Serbian critics have argued that the government would do well to stop spending time on Kosova and Montenegro, concentrating instead on myriad domestic problems such as crime, poverty, and corruption. PM
 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH CALLS FOR PRESSURE ON SERBIAShortly before Svilanovic spoke on 13 November, Human Rights Watch said in a statement in New York that the international community should put more pressure on Belgrade to persuade it to cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The NGO stressed that Serbia must arrest and extradite indicted war criminals. PM
 MONTENEGRO, CROATIA DISCUSS PREVLAKACroatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula and his Montenegrin counterpart Branko Lukovac discussed the Prevlaka peninsula question in New York on 13 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Experts from both countries will soon meet to examine the issue. Prevlaka is Croatian territory that controls access to Kotor Bay, home of Yugoslavia's only deep- water port and naval base. UN monitors have been stationed in the area for several years. Montenegro would like to negotiate the issue as proof of its sovereignty. But Croatia is reluctant to offend the Yugoslav federal government, which has been less than enthusiastic about dealing with the problem. PM
 MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT DEBATES INDEPENDENCE VOTEPro-independence deputies debated the terms of a planned referendum on independence, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 13 November. The Social Democrats and Liberal Alliance want the issue to be decided by a majority vote of those casting ballots. President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists favors a decision by a majority of registered voters. Pro-Belgrade deputies are continuing their boycott of the legislature (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2001). They insist on a much larger figure than a simple majority and want the total to be based on the number of all Montenegrin citizens, including those living in Serbia. The OSCE, too, objects to the simple majority approach. Montenegrin political culture is known for eloquent debates and public posturing. It is not to be excluded that all sides will eventually reach a last-minute compromise in time for the April 2002 referendum. PM
 POLITICAL FALLOUT OVER SERBIAN ELITE POLICE PROTESTInterior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic offered to resign on 13 November in the face of anti-Hague protests by the Red Berets, who were used by former President Slobodan Milosevic as his elite paramilitary unit, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2001). Mihajlovic later spoke with Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic about unspecified security issues, but it is not clear whether Djindjic accepted his resignation. Elsewhere, police General Zoran Mijatovic, who is Serbia's deputy chief of state security, resigned his post over what he considered criticism of his department by Djindjic and Mihajlovic, AP reported from Belgrade on 14 November. For his part, Foreign Minister Svilanovic called for the dissolution of the Red Berets as a consequence of their "mutiny." He said that "people with weapons in their hands cannot make political decisions. These men are supposed to execute orders from their superiors." PM
 UN SACKS MORE BOSNIAN POLICEOfficials of the UN police force (IPTF) have sacked seven local police officers, Reuters reported from Sarajevo on 13 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2001). Three men are Bosnian Serbs who had concealed the fact that they were interrogators at the Omarska concentration camp in 1992. The other four are Croats who had failed to properly investigate the 1992 murders of two Serbs. PM
 HAGUE SENTENCES THREE BOSNIAN SERBSOn 13 November, the Hague-based war crimes tribunal sentenced Dusko Sikirica to 15 years for atrocities against Croats and Muslims at the Keraterm concentration camp in 1992, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Damir Dosen received five years imprisonment, while Dragan Kolundzija got three years. PM
 MASS GRAVE BEING EXCAVATED IN BOSNIAForensic experts have begun excavating a mass grave in Liplje south of Zvornik near the inter-entity border, AP reported on 13 November. The grave is believed to contain the bodies of up to 180 Muslim males murdered by Serbian forces in the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslims following the fall of Srebrenica. Exhumations usually take place only in the warm weather of spring and summer, but Muslims planning to return to their homes in Liplje asked the forensics experts to start work before they move in. PM
 ROMANIAN LEADERS CONTENT WITH EU COMMISSION REPORTPresident Ion Iliescu said on 14 November that the EU Commission report released one day earlier is "objective" and "takes note of the real progress our country has made since 2000." Iliescu said there are "still many problems to be solved" and Romania's citizens "can feel their effects, " Romanian radio reported. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 13 November that the 2001 report is "a lot more positive" on Romania than was the case one year earlier and that Romania has been "for the first time included among countries that made real progress," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see also "End Note" below). MS
 DUTCH QUEEN IN ROMANIAQueen Beatrix, on a three-day visit to Romania, on 13 November told President Iliescu that the Netherlands are backing Romania's quest for EU integration and will help Romania implement reforms, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The two heads of state attended a ceremony where accords were signed on mutual social benefits for citizens working in each other's country and on transportation. Queen Beatrix inaugurated on 13 November a Dutch-financed center for documentation on European legislation at the Supreme Court of Justice. She is meeting on 14 November with Premier Nastase and other officials. MS
 CEFTA ANNUAL AGRICULTURAL MEETING IN BUCHAREST CHANGES RULES OF THE GAMEAgricultural Ministers from the Central European Free Trade Organizations agreed at their annual meeting in Bucharest on 13 November that disagreements over protection measures be addressed in future not by the seven-member body but during bilateral negotiations between the members involved. Romania claims Hungary is subsidizing its agriculture and that Romanian producers cannot compete on domestic markets with Hungarian produce, and intends to tax Hungarian agricultural imports next year. The ministers also briefed colleagues on the evolution of BSE ("mad cow disease") in their respective countries, Romanian radio reported. MS
 MAVERICK CLUJ MAYOR FEARS 'HUNGARIAN ANTHRAX'Gheorghe Funar, who is Cluj mayor and secretary-general of the extremist Greater Romania Party, on 13 November claimed to have received from Hungary a letter containing "a suspicious powder" and carrying a text threatening him with anthrax contamination, the Hungarian daily "Nepszava" reported. Funar has claimed on several other instances in the past that the Hungarians intend to liquidate him. MS
 ROMANIAN SENATE DELEGATION IN JAPANA Romanian Senate delegation headed by Speaker Nicolae Vacaroiu met on 14 November with Japanese Premier Junichiro Koiziumi and handed him an invitation from Premier Nastase to visit Romania, Romanian radio reported. Vacaroiu also attended a meeting with Japanese businessmen, briefing them on investment possibilities in his country. On 13 November the delegation was received by Emperor Akihito. MS
 RUSSIAN ARMS PULLOUT FROM MOLDOVA NEARS ENDRussia has almost completed withdrawing its military hardware from the Transdniester and the last train carrying arms and ammunition is due to leave on 14 November, Interfax, cited by AFP, reported on the same day. This is the fourth such train to leave the Transdniester and it carries armored vehicles, artillery fire-control systems, and other weapons. According to the November 1999 Istanbul OSCE Summit agreement, Russia must withdraw the hardware and recycle it before the end of 2001. Interfax says Moscow has already recycled all of its T-64 tanks and 125 armored vehicles since June, and some 100 armored vehicles and other weapons systems were evacuated this week. Russian officials say that some 40,000 tons of ammunition and 50,000 firearms stored in deposits in the Transdniester will also be withdrawn and recycled shortly. MS
 SEPARATISTS PARTIALLY RELEASE BLOCKED MOLDOVAN FREIGHT WAGONSThe Transdniester authorities released on 13 November 165 freight wagons blocked on 25 October in Bendery-Tighina on grounds that they transported "humanitarian aid" sent to Moldova, but 109 wagons transporting fuel remain blocked, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS
 MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS WANT TO RESTORE COLLECTIVIZED AGRICULTUREIon Filimon, chairman of the parliamentary Commission for Agriculture and Food Industry and a member of the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM), said on Moldovan television on 12 November that the PCM wants collectivization reintroduced in the agricultural sector, Infotag reported. Filimon said there is no other way to rehabilitate the sector because "land splitting into tiny private plots does not allow for the use of modern technologies and sophisticated machines" and, as a result, agricultural productivity has dropped considerably. MS
 PARVANOV AHEAD IN BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL FIRST ROUNDResults from all 31 Bulgarian constituencies and from votes cast abroad announced on 14 November by the Central Electoral Commission show the leader of the Socialist Party, Georgii Parvanov, ahead of incumbent President Petar Stoyanov, BTA reported. Parvanov garnered 36.3 percent and Stoyanov 34.9 percent. Turnout was 41.5 percent. In third place is former Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev with 19.2 percent, followed by former caretaker Premier Renata Indjova with 4.9 percent, George Ganchev with 3.3 percent and Peter Beron with 1.1 percent. MS
 TURKISH PARTY TO BACK PARVANOV IN RUNOFFThe ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS) decided on 13 November to support Parvanov in the 18 November runoff, Mediafax reported. Observers said the decision was not surprising, since Parvanov's running mate is General Angel Marin, who ran on the DPS ticket in the June parliamentary elections. In the first round the DPS backed Indjova. DPS Chairman Ahmed Dogan said that the party wants to have "good relations" with "whoever will be the next president," but added that "since we speak of a new policy, a new morality, and new responsibilities, we should also have new people embodying those ideas." The DPS is the minor coalition partner of the National Movement Simeon II, whose leader, Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, urged voters to support Stoyanov in the runoff, Reuters reported. Saxecoburggotski said Stoyanov "has been and will be a guarantor for the achievement of national ideals." MS
[C] END NOTE
 EUROPEAN COMMISSION RELEASES 2001 PROGRESS REPORTSBy Ahto Lobjakas
The European Commission on 13 November released this year's reports on candidate countries' progress toward European Union membership. The reports on the 13 candidate countries, accompanied by a "composite paper," say the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia -- together with Cyprus and Malta -- all fulfill the political and economic criteria of membership. Although all 10 are in need of further political and economic reform, they could finish accession talks by the end of next year and join the EU in 2004. The reports indicate Bulgaria and Romania cannot expect to be among first-wave accessions. Turkey, the 13th candidate, is yet to open accession talks.
Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, welcomed the reports, saying that although much still needs to be done before the EU can accommodate the first accessions, enlargement is "within our grasp." Presenting the reports to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the EU's enlargement commissioner, Guenter Verheugen, said the 10 frontrunners were on course to meet the 2004 timetable. However, the reports make it clear that any firm commitments or decisions on enlargement must wait until next year, perhaps until the next reports due in November 2002.
The reports stress that accession talks have yet to tackle crucial topics like agricultural subsidies, post-enlargement development aid, or the new members' future budget contributions. They also say that although all candidate countries have made significant efforts at reforms, the list of major problems remains essentially the same as last year. All candidates need to make further efforts to bring their administrative capabilities in line with EU requirements and develop and strengthen their judicial systems.
The reports say corruption remains a "serious cause for concern," exacerbated by low public sector salaries and extensive bureaucratic control exercised by governments over the economy. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia are all mentioned as suffering from corruption, with only Estonia and Slovenia escaping reference to the problem.
Although all candidate countries are regarded as complying with the political "Copenhagen" criteria of membership -- democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights and minorities -- most must nevertheless do more before they can be considered to have reached EU standards.
The report on Romania notes that the situation of the country's children -- their living conditions, abuse and the large numbers of homeless children -- remains a cause for grave concern despite a number of administrative, legal and financial measures taken recently by the Romanian government.
The reports note that although all candidate countries with sizeable Romany minorities have now initiated national action plans, discrimination of the Roma remains widespread. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia all find mention as needing to improve their records in this respect.
The reports on Estonia and Latvia note that both countries have "further progressed" in integrating non-citizens, but say "due care" needs to be taken to ensure that their now OSCE-compliant language legislation is properly implemented.
All candidates, with the exception of Bulgaria and Romania, now fulfill the economic "Copenhagen" criteria, being termed "functioning market economies" by the reports. However, the authors of the reports note that the existence of legal and institutional frameworks necessary for the functioning of a market economy varies extensively, with only Estonia and Hungary cited as having attained a high degree of "legal certainty" and having removed all significant barriers to market entry and exit.
The 10 front-runners are all considered ready to withstand competitive market pressures in the near future, although all with certain qualifications.
Among the front-runners, Poland comes under harshest economic criticism. The Polish report says the functioning of market forces in the country is partly hindered and that the privatization process has stalled in certain sectors. The report also says Poland is going through a more severe slowdown than other candidate countries, largely as a result of a "poorly coordinated policy mix, combined with...political domestic uncertainty." The report goes on to say that Poland's large agricultural sector "still lacks a coherent strategy."
This criticism of Poland has implications for all front-running candidates, as most EU officials and observers agree that enlargement remains impossible without Poland in the first wave.
In another indication that substantive decisions on enlargement must wait until next year, the report notes that all candidates need to do more to ensure the effective implementation of the more than 80,000 pages of EU law they must adopt before accession. The report announces a 1 billion euro action plan for 2002 to help candidates strengthen their administrative capabilities in a number of key fields. These include the ability to participate in the EU's internal market after enlargement, observance of the EU's health and safety standards, compliance with EU standards in the area of justice and home affairs, and financial control, including the fight against fraud and corruption.
Ahto Lobjakas is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Brussels.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty