|Monday, 25 May 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, 02-11-14
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
 DUMA REJECTS ANTI-NATO RESOLUTION...State Duma deputies on 13 November rejected a draft resolution that would have called on the government to take countermeasures when NATO expands eastward, polit.ru reported. The failed resolution also called on President Vladimir Putin to withdraw from the Partnership for Peace program. The draft was sponsored by the Communist, Agrarian, and Russian Regions factions, and its authors suggested that Russia form an alliance of countries that are unhappy with NATO policies. Arguing against the resolution, Deputy Aleksei Arbatov (Yabloko) said the measures proposed by the resolution are very weak and ineffective. He said Russia should demand the Baltic states sign the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) before they join the alliance. The resolution received 171 of the 226 votes necessary for passage. VY
 ...AS COMMUNIST LEADER ACCUSES PUTIN OF 'TREASON'Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said on 12 November that President Putin's recent statement in Brussels that NATO poses no threat to Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 2002) represents a defeat to the country's foreign policy, RosBalt reported. "It is bitter and strange to hear such a thing from the man who is the supreme commander of our armed forces," Zyuganov said. "It is another step by him toward national treason." Zyuganov also spoke harshly about a recent Russian-EU accord on access to the Kaliningrad exclave, which he said is nothing more than a visa regime. The executive branch made a lot of noise about Russia's position on Kaliningrad, Zyuganov said, but in the end it made a deal that surrenders the country's national interests. VY
 AMENDMENTS TO MASS MEDIA LAW PROVOKE CRITICISM...Critics have labeled amendments to the law on the mass media that were approved by the Federation Council on 13 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2002) as too broad and vague, Russian news agencies reported on 14 November. The amendments not only ban publication of information about antiterrorism personnel and on the construction of weapons and explosives, but also could be interpreted as banning criticism of government actions whenever antiterrorism operations are being conducted. Deputy Sergei Mitrokhin, deputy head of the Yabloko Duma faction, said the new law would mean the introduction of censorship and that it would shift the burden of protecting state secrets from the government to journalists. VY
 ...BEREZOVSKII'S FOUNDATION PROMISES LEGAL SUPPORT TO ANYONE CHARGED UNDER NEW LAW...The Civil Liberties Foundation, which is funded by self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii, announced on 13 November that it will provide free legal aid to any journalist who is brought to trial under the new amendments if they become law, newsru.com reported. Foundation head Alex Goldfarb referred to a recent FSB search of the offices of the newspaper "Versiya" and its questioning of several "Versiya" staff members (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 13 November 2002) as evidence that the repression of the Russian media based on the new law has already begun. VY
 ...AND MASS MEDIA CHIEFS SUPPORT NEW RULESThe so-called Industrial Committee, which unites the proprietors and senior managers of the largest national electronic and print media and which is headed by ORT General Director Konstantin Ernst (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2002), supports proposals to revise the mass media law to regulate coverage of antiterrorism operations, polit.ru reported on 12 November, citing REN-TV President Irena Lisnevskaya. She said that the committee met earlier that day and decided to adopt a convention on crisis coverage that it will propose for inclusion in the revised law, which would make its provisions obligatory for all media whether they endorse the convention or not. The pro-government entity elected Sergei Arkhipov (Russia Media Group) as vice president for radio broadcasting, Lisnevskaya as vice president for television, and Yurii Zopol (Video International) as vice president for business issues. VY
 PUBLIC THINKS STATE IS HIDING SOMETHING...Only 9 percent of respondents to a recent survey believe that the government is telling the complete truth about the casualties of the 26 October storming of a Moscow theater where Chechen fighters were holding more than 800 hostages, newsru.com reported on 14 November. The survey of 1,600 respondents in 28 subjects of the federation was conducted by the Agency of Regional and Political Research (ARPN). Thirty-three percent of respondents agreed that "most of the information" about the number of people killed and injured has been made public, while 22 percent said the state has revealed "less than half" the information and 5 percent said officials have revealed "almost no" information. Newru.com also posted the names of 77 individuals who it claims have been missing since the hostage crisis. The Moscow Prosecutor's Office has said that no one is missing. RC
 ...BUT SUPPORTS STORMING OF THEATERTwo-thirds of respondents in another survey by the Public Opinion Foundation said they believe the government acted correctly to end the October hostage crisis, strana.ru reported on 14 November. Nineteen percent said the government acted ineffectively. The survey of 1,500 adults was conducted on 9 November. RC
 INTERIOR MINISTRY, FSB OFFICERS ARRESTED FOR EXTORTIONKonstantin Romadanovskii, a senior official with the Interior Ministry's Internal Security Department, announced that his office has arrested a group of Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service (FSB) officers for allegedly extorting money from the owners of foreign cars illegally or semi-legally imported into Russia, RTR and ORT reported on 13 November. According to Romadanovskii, the officers used their access to classified data to create a false database of stolen cars that they then used to blackmail the owners of newly purchased cars. The officers would claim that the car in question was listed as stolen and would offer to resolve the problem for $200-$600. Romadanovskii alleged that the group "processed" more than 1,500 cars in the last year. Among those arrested, Romadanovskii named Interior Minister Major Yurii Davidov and Salman Przaev, an investigator for the Moscow Prosecutor's Office. VY
 BATTLE OVER EARLY MARRIAGES TO CONTINUEDuma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told reporters on 14 November that the Duma will attempt to override the 13 November Federation Council rejection of amendments to the Family Code that would legalize marriage by people as young as 14, newsru.com reported. The Duma adopted the amendments unanimously on 30 October, while the upper chamber overwhelmingly rejected them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October and 13 November 2002). During the Federation Council debate, senators said that adopting the amendments would force the legislature also to modify other laws, including those against statutory rape, the drinking age, the voting age, and others. Seleznev said the amendments had also been endorsed by the government's representatives to the Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov and Andrei Loginov. Commenting on the Federation Council vote, Seleznev said: "I don't know what happened. I'm going to find out." RC
 NEW IMAGES FOR BREZHNEV AND ANDROPOV?State-controlled ORT, the country's leading national television channel, on 11 and 12 November broadcast a primetime documentary devoted to the 20th anniversary of the death of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. The film, entitled "Moscow-9," depicted the man who led the Soviet Union for 18 years as a sympathetic and charismatic personality who fell victim to Communist Party leadership intrigues during his long illness toward the end of his life. The film was hosted by Brezhnev's former KGB bodyguard, Major General Vladimir Medvedev, and included documentary footage from the archives of the FSB. "Krasnaya zvezda" on 11 and 12 November published a long interview with former First Deputy Chairman of the KGB Filip Bobkov and KGB General Viktor Sharapov devoted to the 20th anniversary of the ascent of former Soviet leader Yurii Andropov, who succeeded Brezhnev. Both paid lavish tribute to the man whose tenure as head of the KGB was marked by a merciless campaign against dissidents. Bobkov said that Andropov's creation of the KGB Fifth Directorate, which was responsible for combating dissent, was motivated by Andropov's belief that the "war of ideas" must be carried out by specially dedicated organizations. VY
 MOSCOW COURT UPHOLDS BEREZOVSKII'S ARREST WARRANTThe Moscow City Court on 13 November rejected an appeal to strike down the arrest warrant recently issued for Berezovskii, NTV reported. Berezovskii lives in self-imposed exile, and he and two former top executives in LogoVAZ have been indicted for massive fraud (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 31 October 2002). Berezovskii's attorneys argued that he was denied the right to a defense when the arrest warrant was issued. LB
 SPS, YABLOKO ACCUSE ST. PETERSBURG ADMINISTRATION OF INTERFERENCE...Representatives of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and Yabloko on 12 November accused the St. Petersburg administration of "intolerable interference in the electoral process," "Kommersant" reported on 13 November. Those two parties have formed an alliance during the St. Petersburg legislative campaign, and the vote will be held on 8 December. "SPS plus Yabloko" co-Chairman Mikhail Amosov accused city authorities of breaking up rallies, trying to impose censorship during free and paid television air time, and interfering with the work of okrug election commissions. Another co-chairman, Stanislav Yeremeev, charged city authorities with trying to suppress turnout. "SPS plus Yabloko" plans to challenge the administration's actions in the courts, with the city election commission and the State Duma, which has created a special commission to monitor the legislative election process in St. Petersburg (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2002). LB
 ...WHILE UNIFIED RUSSIA WANTS GOVERNOR TO HELP MOREState Duma Deputy Frants Klintsevich (Unity) on 12 November expressed concern that St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev "is not interested in supporting candidates nominated by Unified Russia for the Petersburg Legislative Assembly," "Kommersant" reported on 13 November. Yakovlev is a member of the Unified Russia general council. LB
 FIRST ARREST IN LIBRARY THEFT CASEPolice have arrested an unidentified 29-year-old woman in connection with the recent thefts of rare library books in St. Petersburg (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 12, and 13 November 2002), AP and Russian news agencies reported on 14 November. Police would only say that the woman is not registered in St. Petersburg. None of the stolen books has been recovered, RosBalt reported. The woman is being held in connection with the theft of a first-edition copy of Isaac Newton's "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica" from the Russian National Library on 6 November, but it is believed that several similar crimes at two other city libraries around the same time were all the work of one group. RC
 CURIOSITY KILLED THE CATSt. Petersburg State University on 14 November unveiled a monument to "the victims of science," RosBalt reported, citing the university's press office. The one-meter tall sculpture of a cat is adorned by a quotation from Academician Aleksandr Nozdrachev that reads, "Humanity must be endlessly grateful to the cat, which has bestowed upon the world a multitude of first-rate physiological discoveries." The monument was sponsored by the university, the Academy of Science's Institute of Physiology, Institute of the Human Brain, and Institute of Evolution and Biochemistry, the university, and the St. Petersburg cat-lovers' club Feliks. RC
TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT SEEKS LARGE INCREASE IN DEFENSE SPENDINGThe Armenian government has proposed a significant increase in defense spending in its 2003 state budget submission, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 13 November. Although defense spending traditionally accounts for the largest share of government expenditures, the latest draft budget would increase defense funding by roughly 20 percent to 46 billion drams ($80 million). The proposed increase was revealed during parliamentary consideration of the budget and is officially justified as necessary to ensure the combat readiness and modernization of the Armenian armed forces. Attending the session, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian also revealed to deputies that although the state budget is "our main source of money," it is not the only source of military funding, although he did not specify what the other sources are. Sarkisian hinted at the outside funding by commenting, "We have friends and partners with whom we are bound by agreements." For the past few years, the Armenian government has also diverted funds to the military by utilizing a special "reserve fund" normally included in the state budget. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian defended the proposed increase and added that the government will end the practice of tapping these off-budget funds. Neighboring Azerbaijan also has announced plans to increase its defense spending to over $140 million for the coming year, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. RG
 FORMER ARMENIAN PREMIER ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR FORMER PRESIDENT PETROSIANOpposition Democratic Party of Armenia (HDK) leader and former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian announced on 13 November that he will support former President Levon Ter Petrosian if Petrosian chooses to oppose incumbent President Robert Kocharian in the February 2003 election, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. The HDK nominated Sarkisian as its presidential candidate at a congress on 9 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 2002). Sarkisian's announcement follows preliminary talks with associates of Ter Petrosian exploring possible avenues of cooperation between the former president and the recently unified coalition of 16 opposition political parties. Despite mounting tension among the opposition parties over the selection of a viable candidate to oppose President Kocharian, the announcement suggests that Ter Petrosian might garner the broad opposition support he has demanded as a precondition to running. Sarkisian's opposition party is set to hold a party congress in early December and will evaluate each of the opposition leaders seeking to enter the race before formally nominating its candidate. RG
 NATO CONFERENCE OPENS IN YEREVANRepresentatives from 18 countries participated in the opening of a three-day NATO conference in Yerevan on 12 November, according to Armenpress and Yerkir. The NATO conference began a review of the logistics of NATO's multinational "Cooperative Best Efforts 2003" military exercises to be held in Armenia next summer under the Partnership for Peace program. Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman General Mikael Melkonian stated that troops from 17 NATO members, including Turkey, will join Russian and Georgian detachments for the exercises. The Armenian general also welcomed a delegation of senior Turkish military officers to the conference. Although invited, Azerbaijan refused to send a representative and has announced that it will not participate in the exercise. RG
 ARMENIA, GREECE, IRAN HOLD TALKS IN TEHRANDeputy foreign ministers from Armenia, Greece, and Iran convened a preliminary meeting in Tehran on 12 November, IRNA and ITAR-TASS reported. The deputy ministers reviewed the agenda for a larger ministerial summit scheduled for the next day, but abruptly ended the meeting after the Greek foreign minister announced he will be unable to attend the Tehran meeting. The trilateral meeting on economic cooperation would have been the fifth such meeting and the latest attempt to increase commercial cooperation among the three nations. These meetings have largely centered on cooperation in energy, tourism, and transport. RG
 TURKISH COMMERCIAL DELEGATION VISITS BAKUA delegation of leading Turkish industrialists ended a two-day visit to Azerbaijan on 12 November, ANS reported. The Turkish delegation, led by industrialist Sakip Sabanchi, informed Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev that the recently elected Turkish government intends to increase Turkish investment in Azerbaijan beyond the energy sector and is specifically targeting Azerbaijani technology in a long-term modernization program. The Aliev government has previously expressed frustration over the lower-than-expected level of Turkish investment. RG
 BAKU DEMONSTRATORS PICKET AMERICAN, RUSSIAN EMBASSIESA small group of demonstrators of the "Karabakh Liberation Organization" staged pickets in front of the U.S. and Russian embassies in Baku on 13 November, ANS reported. The demonstrators demanded the Russian government close the unofficial Moscow office of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh republic. The leader of the Karabakh Liberation Organization, Akif Nagiev, also criticized Russia for failing to crack down on the growing campaign of discrimination and assaults on Azerbaijanis in cities throughout the Russian Federation. Later the same day, a picket was held in front of the U.S. embassy, with demonstrators calling on Washington to end its "pro-Armenian" stance on the Karabakh conflict. RG
 GEORGIA CALLS ON RUSSIA TO COMPLY WITH ITS PLEDGE TO WITHDRAW FROM ITS MILITARY BASESGeorgian Deputy Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili vowed that Georgia will continue to demand that Russia comply with an agreement calling for the withdrawal of Russian forces from its remaining military bases in Georgia, Prime News reported on 11 November. Bezhuashvili added that if Russia continues to delay the withdrawal, Georgia will be forced "to refuse the Russian troops permission to be temporarily stationed in the country." The deputy defense minister explained that the terms of the agreement reached at the 1999 Istanbul summit of the OSCE mandates a Russian withdrawal from bases at Akhalkalaki and Batumi. Negotiations over the base closures remain hindered by the clash between Russia's demand for an 11-year timeframe and Georgia's offer of a 3-year period for the withdrawal. RG
 GEORGIA INVENTORIES WEAPONS SEIZED IN PANKISI GORGEOfficials of the Georgia State Security Ministry turned over a detailed inventory of weapons seized in a raid on a Chechen weapons cache in the Pankisi Gorge to the commander of Russian peacekeepers on 13 November, "The Moscow Times" reported. The weapons seized in the 10 November raid included several automatic weapons and grenade launchers, Strela and Igla antiaircraft missiles, and a large store of ammunition. State Security Ministry officials stated they believe the weapons might have been "bought or stolen from Russian peacekeepers or from Russian military bases located in Georgia." RG
 POWERS OF GEORGIAN ANTICORRUPTION BODY EXPANDEDWith the backing of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, the governmental body empowered to combat corruption was granted new powers on 13 November, Civil Georgia reported. The secretary of the Anticorruption Council, Kakha Ugulava, reported that the new powers include the ability to investigate the tax returns of government officials. State Minister Avtandil Djorbenadze opposed the move, arguing that the powers could be used for political attacks against senior officials. RG
 RUSSIA APPOINTS NEW AMBASSADOR TO GEORGIARussian President Vladimir Putin appointed an ethnic-Georgian as the new Russian ambassador to Georgia on 13 November, according to Civil Georgia. The new ambassador, Vladimir Chkhikvishvili, was educated in Tbilisi and previously served as a chief of the North American division of the Russian Foreign Ministry. RG
 RUSSIA BACKS ABKHAZIA'S ASPIRATION TO ATTEND UN SECURITY COUNCIL SESSION...During talks in Moscow with Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin, who is President Putin's special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, expressed support for Djergenia's argument that an Abkhaz representative should attend the UN Security Council session later this month at which the UN secretary-general's latest report on Abkhazia will be discussed, Caucasus Press reported. Loshchinin reportedly said the presence of an Abkhaz representative is advisable in order to ensure the Security Council receives "complete and unbiased" information on the situation in the conflict region. The two men also discussed various undisclosed confidence-building measures. LF
 ...IS WILLING TO FINANCE RAILWAY REPAIRSRussia is willing to finance repairs to the railway from Russia via Abkhazia and southern Georgia to Armenia, Noyan Tapan quoted Armenian Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Manukian as saying on 13 November. Armenian officials have repeatedly raised with Tbilisi the possibility of repairing the rail link, which would greatly facilitate Armenian trade, but Georgian officials have said doing so is contingent on ensuring the safe return of Georgian displaced persons to their abandoned homes in Abkhazia. LF
 GEORGIA DENOUNCES RUSSIA FOR ALLOWING ABKHAZIAN PARTICIPATION IN UN SECURITY COUNCIL SESSIONGeorgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze denounced Russia for allowing Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia to participate in a meeting of the UN Security Council, "The Moscow Times" reported on 13 November. The Georgian spokesman condemned the decision as "a demonstration of Russia's non-constructive approach to settling the Abkhaz conflict." RG
 HUNGER STRIKER IS TURNED AWAY FROM HOSPITAL, ENDS PROTESTNurbolat Masanov, one of three leaders of the Committee for the Release of Sergei Duvanov who began a hunger strike in Almaty on 6 November to protest the independent journalist's arrest, was forced to discontinue his hunger strike on 13 November on doctors' orders, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. An ambulance rushed him to a state hospital, but officials refused to admit or treat Masanov, who instead was taken to his home to recover. Another opposition activist, Marat Uatkhan, immediately began a hunger strike to replace Masanov. The other two strikers have been advised by doctors to quit but have refused to do so, Interfax-Kazakhstan said on 13 November. AA
 KAZAKH AUTHORITIES SILENT ON CHECHEN LETTERThe Kazakh foreign ministry's press service has refused to comment on an open letter addressed to President Nursultan Nazarbaev by some 300 Chechen families in Ingushetia appealing for temporary refuge in Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Kazakh bureau reported on 13 November. Meanwhile the president's office told the Kazakhstan Today news agency that it has received no such appeal. The Chechens, who are currently facing expulsion from Ingushetia, explain in the letter that they consider Kazakhstan a "second homeland" because their forebears were deported there by Stalin in 1944 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 2002). They further say the Chechen people are threatened by "persecution, illegal arrests, and ethnic pogroms" and turn to Nazarbaev "as our last hope." AA
 KAZAKH PRESIDENT DESCRIBES OIL-PRODUCTION TARGETSSpeaking in Astana on 13 November, President Nursultan Nazarbaev said Kazakhstan plans to expand oil production to 60 million metric tons per year by 2005 and 100 million tons by 2010, Interfax reported. The country extracted 40 million tons of oil in 2001. Production plans for this year call for approximately 45 million tons. At last month's international oil-and-gas conference in Almaty, Prime Minister Imanghaliy Tasmagambetov said Kazakh annual oil production might triple to 120 million tons by 2015, but only according to "optimistic estimates" (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 3 October 2002). AA
 RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTER VISITS KYRGYZSTANArriving in Kyrgyzstan on 13 November for a two-day visit, Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov met his Kyrgyz counterpart Bakirdin Subanbekov to discuss ways to fight drug trafficking, organized crime, and illegal migration, Kabar news agency reported. The ministers signed a joint memorandum on cooperation against terrorism and organized crime. Furthermore, Gryzlov proposed that Russia and the Central Asian states cooperate to establish a "security belt" around Afghanistan to help contain drug smuggling. Russian and Central Asian law enforcement agencies currently seize only about 10-15 percent of the total volume of drugs originating in Afghanistan, he said. He argued they could confiscate twice as much if only money could be found to equip checkpoints along the Bishkek-Osh highway with the most modern equipment. AA
 COMMISSION EXAMINES SAGGING KYRGYZ-BELARUSIAN TRADEAn intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and Belarus began meeting in Bishkek on 13 November, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Osmonov and his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Popkou of Belarus led the delegations. Both sides expressed alarm that bilateral trade has plummeted in recent years, amounting to just $3.6 million in the first half of this year. Osmonov told Kyrgyz Radio that "customs obstacles" were mainly to blame. He said Kyrgyzstan is ready to buy refrigerators and agricultural equipment from Belarus and to sell it cotton fiber, tobacco, fruit, and vegetables. AA
 ANTIGOVERNMENT REBELS CAPTURED IN TAJIKISTANTajik police arrested three men alleged to have participated in renegade Colonel Mahmud Khudoiberdiev's abortive rebellion in northern Sughd Oblast in November 1998, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 November. They are charged with banditry, being members of an illegal armed formation, and attempting a coup. Since 1998, more than 100 rebels have been captured and jailed. Last month Tajikistan's Supreme Court sentenced two of Khudoiberdiev's followers to death and 17 to various prison terms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2002). Khudoiberdiev is believed to be still in hiding outside the country. AA
 TAJIK POLICE SAY DRUG RUNNING DOWN SLIGHTLYThe chief of the Tajik Interior Ministry's narcotics department, Faizullo Gadoev, told journalists on 13 November that Tajik law enforcement officials seized more than 1,000 kilograms of drugs and detained approximately 1,200 accused drug dealers and couriers during the first 10 months of this year, Interfax reported. According to Gadoev, the numbers show a slight decline in smuggling activity since 2001, which he attributed to improved policing. He also suggested that the Afghan government has had some limited success in combating local drug cartels. Meanwhile, Tajik television reported on 13 November that border guards in southeastern Badakhshan Oblast seized 15 kilograms of drugs on the Afghan frontier. On the same day, Asia-Plus reported that police in Dushanbe arrested a fourth-year university student with a 9-kilogram stash of raw opium. AA
 TRIAL OF UZBEK JEHOVAH'S WITNESS GETS UNDER WAYLawyers defending Marat Mudarisov, a Jehovah's Witness on trial in Tashkent, urged the court on 13 November to recognize international conventions signed by the Uzbek government and to guarantee freedom of religion, RFE/RL reported. Uzbek authorities arrested Mudarisov in July on charges of inciting religious hatred, membership in an unregistered religious organization, and disseminating views insulting to Uzbeks' national and religious feelings. Police claim Mudarisov was arrested in possession of publications that defame Islam. His lawyers say the publications were planted on him by the National Security Service. If convicted, Mudarisov could be sentenced to up to five years in prison. AA
 LETTER OF APPRECIATION FROM UN HEAD TO UZBEKISTANUN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who visited Uzbekistan last month (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 24 October 2002) has written to President Islam Karimov thanking him for supporting UN initiatives to improve management of water resources, to foster dialogue to prevent regional conflicts, and to reinforce stability in Afghanistan through assistance, the newspaper "Halq so'zi" reported on 13 November. Annan said he has instructed the appropriate UN office to work on Karimov's idea of establishing a regional drug-control center in Tashkent. AA
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
 BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ACCUSES POLAND OF 'PROVOCATIVE' BORDER ENFORCEMENT...Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 13 November accused neighboring Poland of ethnic discrimination in its application of immigration laws, according to Interfax. Between October 25 and November 12, Polish authorities denied entry to 227 people -- most of them Chechens traveling from Russia to Poland and including 42 minors, according to Belapan news agency. "It's not right because these people are not terrorists," Interfax quoted Lukashenka as saying in Luninets, in the region of Brest. "It appears that they were refused entry due to their ethnicity." Belarus was forced to intervene because "these people are on our territory and are citizens of a country that is a member of the [Russia-Belarus] Union", Lukashenka said. The president also said he intends to "raise this issue with the Russian administration.... You can't treat your citizens like this." There are an estimated 150,000 illegal immigrants in Belarus who would like to get from Belarus into Poland. "We are keeping them from doing so. This is the kind of illegal immigration that you need to fight, and the Poles are not doing it and are staging more and more provocations on our border," Lukashenka added. AM
 ...AND ACCUSES WEST OF HIDING FROM 'THE TRUTH'The president's press office quoted Lukashenka as saying that "all positions of the Czechs in Belarus will be lost forever, or at least for a long time" if Czech authorities deny visas to a Belarusian delegation seeking to come to Prague for the 21-22 November NATO summit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 November 2002). Lukashenka said that neither Europeans nor U.S. citizens want to see him in Prague because they are afraid "to hear the truth," adding that Europe will need Belarusian assistance in fighting illicit drug trafficking and migration. He suggested Belarus might stop guarding its borders and allow illegal immigrants and drugs into the West in response to the NATO snub, Reuters reported on 13 November. AM
 UKRAINIAN JUDGE OPENS NEW CASE AGAINST PRESIDENTKyiv Appeals Court Judge Yuriy Vasylenko has opened a criminal investigation against President Leonid Kuchma over the latter's failure to sign into law within a prescribed period two bills passed by the Verkhovna Rada, Interfax and AP reported on 13 November. One of the bills in question deals with the activities of the cabinet and the other with the creation of ad hoc parliamentary commissions of inquiry. Vasylenko's move followed accusations by opposition lawmakers that Kuchma deliberately failed to perform his official duties and enact the bills in order to prevent the legislature from extending control over the executive branch. Last month, Vasylenko opened a case against Kuchma in connection with charges by opposition lawmakers that he violated 11 articles of the Criminal Code, including through his alleged involvement in the sale of military technology to Iraq and the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 October 2002). AM
 UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER DENIES HE HAS PLANS TO STEP DOWNUkrainian Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh rejected on 12 November speculation that he has handed in his resignation, according to Interfax. "In a situation of tremendous ordeals, there is more need for stability than ever," the news agency quoted him as saying. Such destabilization would affect every aspect of life in Ukraine, from international confidence in the country to its economy, Kinakh said, adding, "I am personally responsible for the activities of the state, and I haven't written any letters of resignation." The premier told reporters he "firmly controls the government [and is] trying to maintain its efficiency" as the year comes to a close and the budget is being drafted. AM
 ESTONIAN PRESIDENT VISITS GREAT BRITAINArnold Ruutel concluded a three-day visit to England on 13 November with a meeting with Charles, Prince of Wales, ETA reported. They discussed Estonia's preparations for NATO and EU membership, with Prince Charles noting that EU farming policies should reflect the social and cultural aspects of certain regions in order to retain their ways of life. The previous day, Ruutel delivered a lecture on the role of the Baltic states in the collapse of the Soviet empire at St. John's College, Oxford University. He also met with the chairman of the British House of Lords, Lord Irvine of Lairg, and with World Jewish Congress Vice President Lord Janner, who proposed that World War II mass graves be marked in Estonia. SG
 LATVIA CONTRACTS ARENA FOR 2006 ICE HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIPSThe Latvian Ice Hockey Federation and Multihalle Ltd. signed a contract for the construction of a multifunctional ice hockey arena in Riga on 13 November, LETA reported the next day. The new arena is required for the country to host the 2006 World Ice Hockey Championship. Construction of the arena is to begin in June 2003, with its opening slated for August 2005. Negotiations on the project were proceeding slowly, and International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel had threatened to move the 2006 championship to another site, possibly Moscow. SG
 LITHUANIA TO ACQUIRE STINGER MISSILESDefense Minister Linas Linkevicius and U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania John F. Tefft signed an agreement on the purchase of a Stinger antiaircraft missile system in Vilnius on 13 November, ELTA reported. The system, consisting of 60 missiles, eight launching devices, two radars, several Hammer-type transport vehicles, spare parts, and training, will cost $31 million. At the signing ceremony, Tefft noted that Lithuania is the first NATO candidate country to acquire Stingers, which he called a major step "both to assure the defense of the people of Lithuania and to prepare Lithuania's armed forces to participate fully in NATO operations." The system will be assigned to the Gelezinis Vilkas (Iron Wolf) brigade, which is scheduled to become a rapid-reaction unit compatible with NATO by 2006. Last year, Lithuania was the first European country to buy Javelin mid-range antitank weapons systems (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 2001). SG
 POLAND'S EU NEGOTIATOR DOWNPLAYS IMPACT OF POSSIBLE DELAY IN EU EXPANSIONPostponing EU enlargement until spring 2004 would present no major problem, Poland's chief negotiator, Jan Kulakowski, said on 13 November, according to PAP. "These few months are not worth fighting for," he said. Kulakowski was responding to suggestions by senior EU representatives that a delay of several months could actually help Poland and other new members. In joining the EU on 1 January 2004, Poland would have to pay 2.4 billion euros ($2.4 billion) in 12 equal installments; whereas if it joined on 1 May 2004, it would have to pay 800 million euros less and would still be able to take part in elections to the European Parliament scheduled for 22 June 2004, Kulakowski stressed. Jozef Oleksy, head of the Polish Sejm's European Affairs Committee, hinted that he views such arguments as specious, since the country would get less money from the EU as well. "We do not want any delay at all," Oleksy said, according to PAP. "So far, the enlargement agenda has been implemented according to our expectations and it does not appear to be threatened." AM
 POLISH PREMIER CALLS LEFT'S PERFORMANCE IN MAYORAL ELECTIONS AN 'UNPLEASANT SURPRISE'Premier Leszek Miller said on 12 November that the failure of candidates for the ruling Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union (SLD-UP) bloc in 10 November mayoral runoffs in big cities was an "unpleasant surprise," PAP reported on 12 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2002). Center-right candidates won mayoralties in 11 of Poland's 16 provincial centers, while in Szczecin the post went to an independent candidate, Marian Jurczyk. AM
 POLISH LEFTIST LEADER CLEARED OF BEING 'LUSTRATION LIAR'A lustration court on 13 November confirmed a previous ruling in which Jerzy Jaskiernia, the head of the Democratic Left Alliance parliamentary caucus, was deemed to have told the truth in a lustration statement in which he said he did not collaborate with the communist-era secret services, PAP reported. "[Jaskiernia] did not provide the [communist-era] security services with any information that could have facilitated the performance of their duties," the court said in announcing its verdict. Deputy Lustration Prosecutor Krzysztof Kaube did not rule out appealing the verdict to the Supreme Court. Jaskiernia said that if he had been a secret collaborator, he would have confessed to this in his lustration statement, adding that does not see anything shameful in such collaboration. AM
 POLISH RIGHT-WING LEADER WARNS AGAINST TAKEOVER BY 'RADICAL FORCES' AFTER EU ENTRYLaw and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski on 13 November said Poland's entry to the EU under the terms currently proposed by Brussels is tantamount to "delivering Poland into the hands of radical forces," including Andrzej Lepper's Self-Defense, PAP reported. Kaczynski said the proposed conditions "are worse than the bleakest predictions," adding that Poland's EU entry may deepen the social crisis in his country. "At present, 35 percent of active voters support radical groups. If the social crisis exacerbates,... it is highly likely that these groups will simply win a [parliamentary] majority in 2005," Kaczynski said. "If the EU cannot offer us different [membership] terms, we should opt for another variant -- postponing our entry to the EU [or] a transition period." AM
 CZECH UPPER HOUSE APPROVES U.S. AIR SUPPORT FOR NATO SUMMIT...The Czech Senate approved on 14 November a measure to allow U.S. assistance in defending Czech airspace before and during next week's NATO summit in Prague, CTK and AP reported the same day. The measure passed by a 67-to-three vote in the upper house, and still must be signed into law by President Vaclav Havel. The first U.S. troops operating under the legislation are expected to arrive on 15 November, according to AP. A presidential spokesman offered the assurance that "everything will be done in time," according to AP. Under the measure, up to 250 U.S. troops and 15 U.S. aircraft are permitted to operate under U.S. command on Czech territory in the run-up to and during the 21-22 November summit. The Czech defense minister's approval would be required for their use of force. AH
 ...AS AUTHORITIES ANNOUNCE FIRST SUMMIT-RELATED ARRESTSCzech police in North Moravia "recently" arrested five people they accused of plotting to cut power during the summit and thus endangering public safety, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison, CTK reported on 14 November. The news agency also reported that the Czech Foreigners Police have deported 32 people and annulled the residence permits of five more during a security dragnet launched in connection with the NATO summit. On 14 November, CTK cited Interior Ministry security expert Michal Mazel as saying that in addition to groups of anarchists from abroad, other extremist groups, including fascists from Russia and Serbia, are expected to attempt to reach Prague for anti-NATO protests. MS/AH
 U.S. PRESIDENT TO MEET CZECH LEADERS AHEAD OF NATO SUMMITPresident Bush will meet with President Havel and with Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla on 20 November, the eve of the Prague NATO summit, dpa reported on 13 November. MS
 CZECH GOVERNMENT TO SUBMIT OWN BILL ON DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONSThe Czech cabinet will submit its own bill on direct presidential elections, bringing the number of competing versions to three, CTK reported on 13 November, citing Transportation Minister Milan Simonovsky. Simonovsky said ministers decided at a cabinet session the same day to reject two bills on direct election of the president submitted by the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and by a group of deputies from the ruling coalition, respectively. The ODS bill provides for a one-round presidential election by popular vote. The bill proposed by deputies from the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party (KDU-CSL), and the Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU) provides for two rounds. Simonovsky called "indecent" the stipulation in the latter bill that in case of a deadlock in the second round, the presidency would be decided by a draw. He also said the government considers the stipulation that a candidate be proposed by 10 deputies, 10 senators, or 20,000 citizens "unbalanced," adding that endorsement by 1,000 citizens should be enough. MS
 CZECHS READY TO ACCEPT SLIGHT DELAY IN EU ACCESSION DATEChief Czech negotiator with the European Union Pavel Telicka said on 13 November that his country is ready to agree to a slight postponement of EU expansion, Reuters reported. Telicka was reacting to a statement by Guenter Verheugen, EU commissioner in charge of enlargement, who said one day earlier in Brussels that the 1 January 2004 accession date could be slightly postponed to allow the 15 current EU members more time to study and ratify the treaty on the new members' accession. Telicka added, however, that Prague will "continue to seek the earliest possible [accession] date, and we believe the union will have no reason to place any obstacles [in the path of the Czech Republic's accession]." CTK also cited Telicka as saying on 13 November that the Czech Republic has four more chapters to close in its accession negotiations before the EU's Copenhagen summit, which is scheduled for next month. MS
 EC PROPOSES 129 MILLION EUROS FOR CZECH FLOOD RELIEFThe European Commission on 13 November proposed providing the Czech Republic with 129 million euros ($131 million) in funds to counter the consequences of devastating August floods, CTK reported. The proposal is yet to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers. The recently created European Solidarity Fund, from which the compensation is to be provided, will also grant funds for this purpose to Austria, France, and Germany. MS
 CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES MILITARY REFORM PLANThe government on 13 November unanimously approved a plan for reforming and professionalizing the Czech Army, CTK reported. The plan stipulates that by 2006 the Czech Army will be fully professional and will employ 35,000 soldiers and 10,000 civilians. Citing Defense Ministry spokesman Milan Repka, AP reported that under the plan, compulsory military service for males will be abolished. MS
 FORMER CZECH FOREIGN MINISTRY OFFICIAL CHARGED WITH PLOTTING MURDERFormer Czech Foreign Ministry Secretary-General Karel Srba and four other people were officially charged on 12 November with plotting to murder journalist Sabina Slonkova earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2002), CTK reported. The suspects were also charged with the illegal possession of arms, while Srba and other former Foreign Ministry officials have been charged with corruption. MS
 SLOVAK GOVERNMENT APPROVES AUSTERITY 2003 BUDGETThe month-old government in Bratislava on 13 November approved an austerity budget for 2003. The draft provides for expenditures of 291.9 billion crowns (7.05 billion) and revenues of 235 billion crowns -- implying a deficit of 56.8 billion crowns, or 4.99 percent of projected gross domestic product (GDP), TASR reported, citing Finance Minister Ivan Miklos. To cope with the deficit, the cabinet is seeking to raise the value-added tax rates to 14 and 20 percent (depending on the quality of the purchase), raise income taxes, and slap a ceiling on salaries in the public sector (see below). Miklos admitted that further consumer taxes might be necessary to stay within the budget. The budget is projected on an amended prognosis of economic performance in 2003, with annual inflation projected at 8.8 percent, GDP growth of 3.7 percent, and an unemployment rate of 18 percent. MS
 SLOVAK TRADE UNIONS PICKET GOVERNMENT OFFICESome 3,000 members of the Trade Unions Confederation (KOZ) on 13 November picketed the government office in Bratislava, protesting the cabinet's proposed budget cuts, TASR reported. Demonstrators said the cuts would increase the number of Slovaks living below the poverty line to almost 1.5 million, or 30 percent of the population. The KOZ accused the government of arrogance and of avoiding a dialogue with unions. Recently proposed cuts in the budget envisage raising the regulated prices of food, gas, electricity, heating, water, transportation, and rents. The government also announced that it intends to reduce social benefits. In related news, a public-opinion poll released the same day indicates that 81 percent of Slovaks back the government's intention to oblige the unemployed receiving benefits from the state to do community work. The poll was conducted by the Polis agency on behalf of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Seventy-nine percent of respondents also agree with the intention to cut social benefits from those who refuse to accept employment offers. MS
 SLOVAK NATIONALIST LEADERS CHARGED WITH INCITING ETHNIC HATREDAnna Malinkova, chairwoman of the Slovak National Party (SNS), and Jan Slota, chairman of the Real Slovak National Party (PSNS), were charged on 13 November with incitement to racial hatred, TASR and CTK reported. They were accused of disseminating broadcast material suggesting that a Magyarization of southern Slovakia is under way during the electoral campaign that preceded the September elections. Both leaders rejected the charges. If convicted, each faces up to one year in jail. Neither the SNS nor he PSNS won any seats in the new Slovak parliament. MS
 HUNGARY SWAPS RUSSIAN DEBT FOR MILITARY PLANES, CITING IMPROVED MILITARY CAPABILITIESThe Defense Ministry plans to obtain two mid-sized military-transport aircraft from Russia as partial payment of that country's $465 million state debt to Hungary, Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz told journalists in Budapest on 13 November, Hungarian and international news agencies reported. He said NATO has requested that Hungary expand its transport capacity, and the two AN-70 aircraft would address that need. The plan will be formally discussed during Premier Peter Medgyessy's visit to Russia in December. Juhasz also said NATO expects Hungary to establish a rapid-response battalion and a logistics battalion before 2005. Hungary's military spending could grow from the current 1.61 percent of GDP to 1.76 percent next year, and could reach 2.01 percent by 2006, Juhasz explained. MSZ
 HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT LAUNCHES DEBATE ON AMENDING CONSTITUTIONOpposition FIDESZ deputies argued against the adoption of some of the constitutional amendments that backers claim are required for entry to the EU, saying in parliament on 13 November that those changes would seriously jeopardize the nation's independence, "Nepszabadsag" reported. The proposed legislation stipulates that Hungary "may relinquish" to the EU certain constitutional powers or may exercise such powers in cooperation with other member states. FIDESZ deputies asked that the expression "may relinquish," be deleted, arguing it is a threat to the nation's sovereignty. Opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum Chairwoman Ibolya David countered that "there is no accession without relinquishing some powers and accepting the priority of EU community law." FIDESZ also insisted on closer supervision by parliament of the government's work. For his part, Justice Minister Peter Barandy said the proposed amendment stipulates only that the government will take part in EU decision-making with an awareness of the parliament's view. MSZ
 NO AGREEMENT IN SIGHT BETWEEN HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION ON EU ACCESSIONPrime Minister Medgyessy on 13 November said during a parliamentary debate on EU accession initiated by FIDESZ that EU accession is "an opportunity for society and a responsibility for politicians," Budapest dailies reported. For his part, FIDESZ deputy Jozsef Szajer called for the effective assertion of Hungary's interests in EU negotiations, while former Finance Minister Mihaly Varga argued that the 2003 budget does not promote accession. Opposition deputies also objected to the "safeguard clauses" -- or as they put it, "punitive clauses" -- appended to the individual accession chapters, which envisage sanctions if new members are unable to fulfill obligations undertaken before accession. Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs quipped that there is no reason to assume that Hungary will be "the only unfortunate country" whose position worsens after accession. MSZ
 CENTRAL EUROPEAN COOPERATION CONFERENCE OPENS IN MACEDONIAN CAPITALHigh-ranking government officials of 17 Central and Eastern European countries began a three-day meeting of the Central European Initiative (CEI) in Skopje on 13 November, international and regional media reported. Top leaders of many of the member countries will hold a summit on 15 November. CEI General Director Harald Kreid told dpa, "The final declaration will be a political document and a basis for cooperation between member countries during next year." He added that the CEI financed about 30 projects in the past year, which shows that it is a serious vehicle for promoting economic cooperation and development. Critics charge that it is just one of many talking shops that achieve little. Members include Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia. The CEI was formed in 1989 by Austria, Hungary, Italy, and Yugoslavia and has its roots in the earlier Alpine-Adria project. Recent CEI activities have included promoting cooperation in fighting terrorism and organized crime. PM
 MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT PRESENTS ARMY REFORM PLANSArmy spokesmen Marjan Gjurovski and Zoran Sekulovski presented their draft NATO-membership action plan on 13 November, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. The action plan, which seeks to prepare the army for NATO membership, envisages peacetime military levels at 12,880 servicemen and 48,000 reservists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 2001 and 25 September 2002). To achieve this goal, about 700 officers and 1,650 civilian employees will have to leave the army by 2007. The army will decommission its outdated T-55 tanks within the next three years, replacing them with more modern T-72 tanks, according to Makfax news agency. Sukhoi-25 fighter jets that were bought from Ukraine during last year's conflict are to be kept at least until 2004. The Defense Ministry also plans to reduce the 2003 military budget to about $112 million, which is possible because of reduced expenditures for crisis management and care for internally displaced persons. UB
 NATO TELLS BOSNIA THAT IT MUST HAVE A SINGLE DEFENSE MINISTRYIn a letter to the Bosnian joint Presidency on 13 November, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said Bosnia must set up a unified military structure and extradite indicted war criminals to The Hague, international and regional media reported. NATO officials have previously said Bosnia needs a single Defense Ministry to qualify for the alliance's Partnership for Peace and to be able to prevent illegal arms exports (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21, 22, and 27 August and 30 October 2002). High Representative Paddy Ashdown told AP that Robertson's letter shows "how seriously the international community takes the [arms-export] affair" and sends an "important message [as Bosnian Serb] politicians consider their response." SFOR commander General William Ward also appealed to Bosnian leaders to set up a joint Defense Ministry. PM
 BOSNIAN SERB SOCCER CLUB PUNISHED FOR NATIONALIST EXCESSESThe Bosnian Football Association ruled on 13 November that the Banja Luka Borac soccer team must play two games without spectators because of violent behavior by some of its supporters in a match against Zeljeznicar Sarajevo on 9 November, Reuters reported. Borac must also pay a fine of $1,500 and undergo an investigation of its security officials. Match officials will also be investigated over the incident, which combined violence with nationalist slogans and banners directed against Sarajevo fans, who are mainly Muslim (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 August 2002). One banner made a particularly tasteless allusion to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. PM
 SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL DEAL IN THE OFFING?The governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition made an unspecified offer to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) on fielding a joint candidate in the 8 December Serbian presidential elections, the BBC's Serbian Service reported on 14 November (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 October and 12 November 2002). The DSS is expected to reply soon. It is not clear if the offer is a new initiative or part of the recent political deal between Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic of DOS and Kostunica (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 and 6 November 2002). The only declared candidate is Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, who made a strong third-place showing in the 29 September presidential vote. Kostunica is expected to announce his candidate shortly. DOS does not have any clearly identifiable candidate of its own, but Velimir Ilic of DOS said Dragoljub Micunovic, speaker of the Yugoslav parliament, is the most likely possibility. PM
 CONTROVERSIAL CROATIAN GENERAL HOSPITALIZEDFormer General Janko Bobetko entered Dubrava hospital in Zagreb on 14 November, AP reported. He reportedly suffers from heart problems following several heart attacks, and his overall medical condition is said to have deteriorated following his indictment for war crimes by the tribunal in The Hague in September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 November 2002 and "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 7 November 2002). The government hopes to avoid having to extradite the 83-year-old Bobetko on the grounds that he is too frail, but the tribunal has said that only its doctors can rule on the matter. Bobetko has said repeatedly that he will not allow anyone to extradite him alive and previously refused medical treatment outside his home. Hina reported on 14 November that Bobetko agreed to hospitalization only after receiving assurances from the government that he will not be sent to The Hague during his treatment. PM
 PSD FAILS TO CONVINCE ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON NECESSITY OF EARLY ELECTIONSPresident Ion Iliescu on 13 November began a round of consultations with parliamentary parties on NATO and EU expansion, during which the possibility of holding early elections was also examined, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Presidential spokeswoman Corina Cretu told journalists after the meeting between Iliescu and a delegation of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) headed by Premier Adrian Nastase that the president has not changed his opinion that early elections are unnecessary. Cretu said Iliescu continues to believe that the government's efforts should be wholly geared toward the struggle against corruption and the improvement of living standards. Nastase said after the meeting that, "for now," it is not necessary to start preparing for early elections, but he added that it is "a realistic possibility" they will be held in the first half of 2003. Iliescu also met with the leaderships of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) and the Democratic Party, which are both opposed to an early ballot. The president was to receive a National Liberal Party (PNL) delegation on 14 November. The Greater Romania Party announced it will not participate in the consultations because Iliescu ruled out a meeting with its chairman, Corneliu Vadim Tudor. MS
 ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES 2003 BUDGET...With a vote of 274 in favor to 107 against, a joint session of the Romanian bicameral parliament on 13 November approved the 2003 budget submitted by the cabinet, Romanian Radio reported. The bill was supported by deputies representing the PSD and the UDMR and was opposed by parliamentarians representing the Greater Romania Party, the PNL, and the Democratic Party. MS
 ...AND IS ADDRESSED BY EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKERSpeaking at the 13 November joint session of Romania's bicameral parliament, European Parliament speaker Patrick Cox urged Romania to continue its process of economic reform, and to initiate reform of the public administration and judiciary, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Cox also urged the Romanian lawmakers not to ratify the treaty with the United States under which Romania agreed not to hand over U.S. citizens to the proposed International Criminal Court. Cox was decorated the same day by President Iliescu and held talks with Prime Minister Nastase. MS
 ROMANIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION CLEARS PRIBOIThe parliamentary commission supervising the Foreign Intelligence Service's activities ruled on 13 November that there is no evidence that commission member Ristea Priboi participated in the 1987 quashing of the Brasov workers' riots as a member of the Securitate, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The commission said the evidence it has examined shows that Priboi never worked for the Securitate's branch that dealt with internal matters and was "exclusively" engaged in gathering foreign intelligence. The same day, Romanian Television reported that two historians, Adrian Cioroianu and Marius Oprea, separately produced evidence to the contrary. A recent book published by Oprea and Stejerel Olaru under the title "The Unforgettable Day" demonstrates Priboi's involvement in quashing the Brasov uprising, while Cioroianu shows that Priboi was also involved in the 1982 Securitate action against a group of intellectuals suspected of having participated in the so-called "Transcendental Meditation" activities. Priboi announced he will sue both Oprea and Cioroianu (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 12 November 2002). MS
 SUSPECTS IN ROMANIAN SCHOOL BLAST INTERROGATEDProsecutors interrogated two persons for several hours on 13 November who are suspected of having links to the blast that injured several pupils at a Bucharest school on 6 November, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Mediafax said on 14 November that the two were not placed under arrest because the prosecutors do not have sufficient evidence. One of the two suspects has a criminal record. In related news, as part of the effort to combat terrorism, the government decided on 13 November that all public gatherings must end before 11 p.m. MS
 MOLDOVA'S PPCD ANNOUNCES 'MEETING WITH ELECTORATE'The parliamentary group of the opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) announced on 13 November that it will hold a "meeting with the electorate" in Chisinau's main square on 1 December, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. This could signal the resumption of demonstrations against the government. The PPCD said that at the meeting its parliamentary representatives intend to discuss with the electorate the authorities' implementation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's 24 April recommendations as well as its 26 September resolution. A PPCD press release stated: "We shall also discuss such important problems as the authorities' infringements on the independence of the judiciary and of local self-government, the violation of the moratorium on the teaching of the 'History of Moldova' and of compulsory Russian-language classes," according to Infotag. MS
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SETS UP EUROPEAN-INTEGRATION COMMISSION...President Vladimir Voronin signed a decree on 13 November providing for the setting up of the National Commission on European Integration, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The commission is to work out and submit to the parliament for approval the country's "Strategy for Moldova's European Integration." It is to be headed by Premier Vasile Tarlev and Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau will be the commission's vice president. Kornelis van Rij, the head of the EU's department for relations with the CIS, Baltic, and Asian states who is currently visiting Chisinau, welcomed the establishment of the commission during a meeting with Voronin, Infotag reported. MS
 ...ASKS PARLIAMENT TO GRANT HIM INCREASED POWERS OVER EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM...In a message to the legislature on 13 November, President Voronin asked lawmakers to grant him broader powers for intervening in the management of the country's educational system, Infotag reported. Voronin asked to be granted the prerogative of reorganizing institutes of higher learning and scientific-research centers in order to improve the level of experts' training. Opposition parties said the initiative represents a "camouflaged infringement on university autonomy." MS
 ...AND DISMISSES TRANSPORTATION MINISTERPresident Voronin signed a decree on 13 November relieving Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Anatol Cuptov of his duties, Flux reported. No reason was specified for the dismissal. MS
 EUROPEAN COMMISSION PROPOSES ROADMAP FOR BULGARIA, ROMANIAThe European Commission proposed roadmaps for Bulgaria's and Romania's EU-accession processes, an official EU press release stated on 13 November. The roadmaps, which are to be submitted to the 12-13 December European Council in Copenhagen, indicate in detail the main steps the two countries need to take to be ready for membership. They particularly emphasize the economic, administrative, and judicial reforms that are needed to successfully close the chapters outlined in the acquis communautaire. According to the proposal, both countries will receive increased financial assistance -- an additional 20 percent in 2004, 30 percent in 2005, and 40 percent in 2006 compared to the average assistance they received from 2001-03. The proposal also envisions that the countries will be given more opportunities to participate in all relevant EU agencies and committees. At the same time, the EU will closely monitor the candidates' progress in implementing the accession requirements. UB
 BULGARIA, ROMANIA AGREE ON JOINT DEFENSE PROJECTIn Sofia on 12 November, Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov and his Romanian counterpart Ioan Pascu signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in fending off terrorist acts from the air, BTA reported. The project would link the two countries' air-defense systems in order to protect strategic installations on both sides of the border, such as nuclear-power plants. Pascu said linking the two radar systems will pose numerous technical problems, but expressed confidence in the political will to solve them. Svinarov said he expects the project to take at least two years to complete. In other news, the defense ministers of Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Turkey met in Plovdiv on 13 November to discuss the Bulgaria's and Romania's bids for NATO accession according to the 2+2 format, under which the bids of two NATO candidate states are supported by two NATO member states. They agreed that this format should be continued should the two countries officially receive an invitation to join the alliance at the 21-22 November Prague summit. UB
 BULGARIAN AUTHORITIES ARREST ORDNANCE COMPANY'S MANAGERSPolice arrested an unspecified number of managers of the TEREM ordnance company on 13 November, BTA reported. Targovishte District Prosecutor Atanas Mollov said the managers will officially be charged with attempting to export dual-use goods without approval (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 November 2002). Authorities reportedly also arrested a representative of a foreign company that ordered the goods. "Since the case is particularly important, we will assign it to the [National Investigation Service]," Deputy Prosecutor-General Hristo Manchev said, adding, "This is a very serious case, it involves the interests not only of Bulgaria, but of the European Union and the United States." UB
 BULGARIA'S SUPREME JUDICIAL COUNCIL CHALLENGES DRAFT BUDGETThe Supreme Judicial Council announced on 13 November that it will challenge in the Supreme Administrative Court the proposed 2003 budget drafted by Finance Minister Milen Velchev, mediapool.bg reported. In the proposed draft, the Finance Ministry reduced by nearly 50 percent the Supreme Judicial Council's requested budget for judicial institutions. The Supreme Judicial Council's decision to go to court is based on the law on judicial institutions. Velchev said he regards the council's decision as a formality, since it refers to the draft budget. UB
SOUTHWESTERN ASIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST
 AFGHAN OFFICIALS SEE AL-QAEDA'S HAND IN KABUL UNIVERSITY RIOTS...Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan Interior Minister Taj Muhammad Wardak has said he believes the 11-12 November protests by Kabul University students in which at least one student was killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 November 2002) were instigated either by people with ties to Al-Qaeda or by the radical leader of the Hizb-e Islami, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, "The New York Times" reported on 13 November. The Higher Education Ministry stated in a 13 November communique cited by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that "although the demonstration was originally self-generated, and [was composed] merely of angry students, a group of anarchists later joined them and tried to disturb the stability and security of the country's academic centers." The communique did not mention any specific party as plotting the incident, according to IRNA. Afghanistan's deputy interior minister, Lieutenant General Helaluddin Helal, claimed that the students -- not the police -- fired first, the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported from Mashhad on 13 November. Confirming his deputy's accusations, Wardak was quoted by "The New York Times" as saying the student killed was "shot in the head, most probably...by other students." The Afghan government has only acknowledged the death of one protester, while other reports claim two to six students were killed. AT
 ...WHILE AFGHAN POLICE ARE ACCUSED OF BEATING HOSPITALIZED STUDENTSA report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in New York on 14 November accused Kabul police officers of beating and threatening students following the Kabul University protests. The report called on the special Afghan government commission appointed by President Hamid Karzai to investigate the protests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2002) "to protect students and witnesses from police abuse." The human rights watchdog interviewed eyewitnesses in Kabul who said police beat students at a Kabul University dormitory and later threatened hospitalized students. "In one case police beat and slapped a student in his hospital bed after he had spoken with other students and an investigator from the Afghan Human Rights Commission, a body set up under last year's peace agreement signed in Bonn, Germany. The police warned him not to complain about police behavior or the government to anyone else," the report said. Saman Zia-Zarifi, director of HRW's Academic Freedom Program, was quoted in the report as saying: "It's bad enough that the police fired into a crowd of unarmed students," but "[n]ow they are going into hospital rooms, beating injured students, and telling them not to talk about what happened. This is unacceptable." AT
 SENIOR CONGRESSMAN CALLS ON U.S. SENATE TO PASS AFGHANISTAN FREEDOM SUPPORT ACTU.S. House of Representatives International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (Republican, Illinois) said in a statement released on 13 November that time "is running out on legislation important for U.S. foreign policy interests" and that the U.S. "Senate needs to pass the Afghanistan Freedom Support Act" this week. "U.S. objectives in Afghanistan will remain unmet until this important bill becomes law," Hyde said. The Afghanistan Freedom Support Act, which was originally introduced by Hyde and Representative Tom Lantos (Democrat, California), would authorize a four-year program of economic assistance for Afghanistan at a level consistent with U.S. President George W. Bush's commitment to that country, the statement read. The "compromise bill also encourages the expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)" beyond its current mandate of safeguarding only Kabul. Most Afghan officials, including President Karzai, have asked the international force to be expanded beyond the Afghan capital and the United States has recently signaled a willingness to assist Afghanistan's security and reconstruction needs while the search of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban continues. The ISAF is expected to receive help from NATO by next summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2002). AT
 AFGHAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS THREAT OF AL-QAEDA REMAINSAfghan Defense Minister Marshall Muhammad Qasim Fahim said in an interview with "Jane's Defence Weekly" on 13 November that "there is still a threat from the remnants of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda but the threat is not that major to break up the government in Afghanistan." Fahim added there is no organized resistance to the Afghan government and discounted the recent spate of terrorist attacks in the country, saying such attacks "are not unique to Afghanistan," the weekly reported. Calling the Pashtun- and Baluch-populated areas of Pakistan that border Afghanistan "a black hole, a lawless territory in which terrorism can breed again," Fahim said reaching an understanding with Pakistan would enable the two countries to tackle the problem. Fahim praised the ISAF's role in safeguarding Kabul, but he reiterated the Afghan government's wish to see the force expand to cover "major Afghan regions such as Jalalabad, Herat, Mazar-e Sharif, and Kandahar." AT
 TEHRAN DEMONSTRATIONS REFLECT 'LOST HOPE'In a 13 November interview with RFE/RL's Persian Service, a student from Shahid Beheshti University compared this week's demonstrations in Iran to the student demonstrations in July 1999. The student said the current demonstrations are an expression of opposition to the regime, not just against the death sentence imposed by a Hamedan court on Professor Hashem Aghajari. "The students have lost hope in reform of the system," he said, adding that the police are preventing the Ansar-i Hizbullah vigilante group from interfering with the demonstrations. Hizbullah thugs were directly involved in a 1999 attack on students at Tehran University. Another Shahid Beheshti student told RFE/RL's Persian Service that speakers at a forum at the university went beyond criticism of the Aghajari verdict, and one speaker criticized the religious government. Abdullah Momeni of the Office for Strengthening Unity (Daftar-i Tahkim Vahdat) student organization told RFE/RL's Persian Service they are demonstrating on behalf of all political prisoners, not just Aghajari. BS
 AGHAJARI VERDICT CALLED HARMFUL TO IRAN'S INTERNATIONAL IMAGEIranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh told reporters on 12 November that the verdict against Aghajari is attracting negative attention to Iran, "Hayat-i No" daily reported the next day. Aminzadeh is one of the founders of the pro-Khatami Islamic Iran Participation Party, and in the past he has been identified as having links with the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization, of which Aghajari is a member. Aminzadeh said in "Hayat-i No" that Iran has enemies in the world and "they will use any pretext to launch propaganda attacks against us." "This is still a major news story at the international level and has become a tool for propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran," he added. BS
 IRANIAN LEGISLATORS SUPPORT PALESTINIAN COUNTERPARTS...In a 13 November letter to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Iranian legislature called for the condemnation of, as IRNA termed it, "the detention [in Israel] of Palestinian MPs by the Zionist regime." Iranian Inter-Parliamentary Group Secretary-General Jalil Sazgarnezhad said in the letter that Palestine Legislative Council member Marwan Barghuti and Palestine National Council members Abd-al-Rahim Mallub and Ahmad Sadat are facing death in Israeli jails, and he questioned the grounds for arresting them. The letter accused Israel of "perpetrating genocide." Barghuti went on trial in September for organizing attacks that have resulted in 26 deaths, and he also is accused of serving as the intermediary between Fatah and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. BS
 ...AS IRAN PREPARES FOR QODS DAYIranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a 4 November speech broadcast by Iranian state radio to mark the beginning of Ramadan, reminded his audience that the last Friday of the Muslim fasting month is marked by Qods Day (Jerusalem Day), and on that day Iranians will show their support for the Palestinians. "Palestinians, single-handedly and without weapons, have paralyzed the regime of Israel, which is the most heavily equipped regime in the region. Israel is backed by America," he continued. Qods Day is traditionally marked by hostile sermons followed by state-organized rallies. BS
 AL-AQSA MARTYRS BRIGADE MEMBERS REPORTEDLY FUNDED BY PALESTINIAN ISLAMIC JIHADMembers of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a group responsible for many suicide bombings in Israel, say that some of their colleagues have received funds from the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), according to a report in "The Washington Post" on 13 November. Al-Aqsa leaders say there are no strings attached to the PIJ funds, but also noted that some Al-Aqsa members have joined the PIJ. The U.S. State Department designated the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) in March 2002, and the PIJ is also designated an FTO. BS
 SWISS COMPANIES PAY FINES FOR TRADING WITH IRANThe U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security said in a 12 November press release that two Swiss firms have agreed to pay a total of $55,000 in fines for violating Export Administration Regulations. "Oerlikon Schweisstechnik AG (Oerlikon) will pay a $33,000 civil penalty and Reweld AG (Reweld) will pay a $22,000 civil penalty to settle allegations that they conspired to export industrial materials from the United States to Iran," according to the statement. Oerlikon's export privileges will be denied for six months. Between June 1999 and March 2000, the two companies conspired to purchase Solka-Flok 200 cellulose -- which can be used for welding -- for resale and transshipment to Iran. The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control prohibits many exports to Iran without advance authorization, because it believes Iran supports international terrorism. BS
 IRANIAN GAS EXPORTS TO TURKEY RESUMEThe National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) announced on 13 November that the export of natural gas to Turkey resumed on 11 November, according to IRNA. Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh had announced on 16 October a new accord on the gas exports, which Turkey stopped in June 2002 due to concern about the quality of the gas (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 16 September 2002 and 21 October 2002). Turkish media reported that Tehran decided to discount the gas by more than 9 percent, and this reduction is to increase proportionately with the quantity of gas imported. Moreover, the "take-or-pay" amount was decreased from 87 percent to 70 percent, which means that Turkey can choose not to buy 30 percent of the gas it previously pledged to import annually from Iran. By October, Turkey had imported only 362 million cubic meters, less than one-tenth the amount it was scheduled to buy in 2002, RFE/RL reported on 11 October. Under the original agreement, the deal was worth some $23 billion. Gokhan Bildaci, the general director of Turkey's state-owned BOTAS, was cited by the "Turkish Daily News" as saying on 13 November that the gas now meets the criteria stipulated in previous agreements. BS
 IRAQ ACCEPTS RESOLUTION 1441...In a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said on 14 November that Iraq "will deal with Resolution 1441, despite its bad contents," the Iraqi News Agency reported. The letter said Iraq is "prepared to receive the inspectors within the assigned timetable," but also hinted that Iraq will not tolerate improper conduct by "ill-intentioned" weapons inspectors. "The people of Iraq will not choose to live at the price of their dignity, country, freedom or sanctities, and they would rather pay with their lives if that was the only way before them to safeguard what they must safeguard," Sabri added. Iraq has long contended that the UN resolution and return of weapons inspectors constitutes a violation of its sovereignty. Sabri concluded the letter by saying he will soon forward another letter to the secretary-general in which he will "state our observations [of] the measures and procedures contained in SCR 1441 that are contrary to international law, [the] UN Charter, the facts already established, and the measures contained in previous relevant resolutions of the Security Council." KR
 ...AFTER ATTACKING SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBERSIn his letter to Secretary-General Annan, Foreign Minister Sabri asserted that some member states -- specifically Mexico and Syria -- failed to hold their ground and were intimidated by the United States in the debate over the resolution, Iraqi News Agency reported on 14 November. "Nothing seems more reprehensible than the silence maintained by those who represented their nations in the Security Council," Sabri said. "They treated the claim made by the British representative [who said it would be inappropriate to include a reference in Resolution 1441 to the lifting of sanctions] as if it were of no significance to them." He called on UN member states to "adhere to the UN Charter and international law" and "not to the whims and uncontrollable instincts of those who threaten the world with their evil schemes [and] weaponry and those who seek to achieve their interests narrow-mindedly by resorting to bargaining at the expense of truth, justice, and fairness." KR
 UN PREPARES INSPECTION TEAMSUnited Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) Executive Chairman Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Muhammad al-Baradii are scheduled to arrive in Baghdad on 18 November ahead of an advance team in order to begin preparations for inspections, international media reported on 13 November. Baghdad will have until 8 December to submit a list to the United Nations detailing its weapons of mass destruction as well as its dual-use chemicals and biological components. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told ITAR-TASS on 13 November that approximately 40 countries will send representatives to Iraq for arms inspections. KR
 IRAQI AMBASSADOR SAYS IRAQ IS NOT SPYING ON U.S. IN JORDANIraqi Ambassador to Jordan Sabah Yasin has denied charges that his embassy and other Iraqi diplomatic missions are spying on the United States, "Al-Arab al-Yawm" reported on 12 November. Yasin also denied that the Iraqi Embassy in Amman rented an apartment opposite the U.S. Embassy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2002). KR
 PATRIOTIC UNION OF KURDISTAN OFFICIAL CONFIRMS OPPOSITION MEETINGPatriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Political Bureau member Fuad Masum has said the next meeting of Iraqi opposition groups will take place as scheduled on 22-25 November in Brussels, "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on 12 November. Masum said 35 political organizations and groups will attend the meeting, including "a group of academic, military, tribal, and political figures, [including] women." He added that a few Iraqi organizations declined to attend the conference, but he did not explain. He did confirm, however, that PUK head Jalal Talabani and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) chief Masud Barzani will attend. The conference is expected to draw approximately 200 attendees. "It has been decided to discuss the issue of inviting [foreign] countries to the conference as guests if they wish to attend," Masum added. He also told "Kurdistani Nuwe" that the Iraqi groups have financed all the preparations for the conference without foreign funding. KR
 CANDIDATES WALK TRANS-ATLANTIC TIGHTROPEBy Christopher Walker
One of the byproducts of the recent sparring between the world's only superpower and Europe's foremost supranational club over the International Criminal Court (ICC) was a group of very uncomfortable countries in Central and Eastern Europe, caught in the crossfire of a trans-Atlantic feud while eager to maintain healthy relations both with the United States and the European Union.
The dispute over the ICC highlights the quandary for the countries between Germany and Russia -- virtually all of whom seek membership in the European Union or NATO or both. The issue has simmered down since last month when the EU set forth "guiding principles," which effectively paved the way for individual member states and candidates to enter into bilateral immunity agreements with the United States. Until the EU offered a way out, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe were being squeezed politically and diplomatically by the United States, which does not recognize the new court and has sought to sign up countries to immunity agreements. In response, the EU -- whose members overwhelmingly support the court -- has strongly urged EU candidate countries not to accede to U.S. wishes.
In August, European Commission President Romano Prodi formally requested that EU aspirants refrain from signing immunity deals with the United States until Brussels forges a common position. In the meantime, the candidates settled into a common position of their own: Lie low, wait things out, and hope the Americans and Western European come to some sort of understanding.
There have been exceptions. Romania decided to sign an "Article 98" agreement with the United States, a bilateral accord under which Bucharest promises not to hand over any U.S. personnel to the newly established international court in The Hague. Romania has come under heavy pressure from the EU for signing this agreement, and Bucharest has not yet formally ratified the agreement.
The loaded ICC issue struck the Central and Eastern Europeans by surprise. "Until U.S.-EU competition came into the picture, the ICC simply wasn't a topic of discussion in Latvia," says Zaneta Ozolina, a professor at the University of Latvia in Riga and an expert on European integration. But, she adds, "Seen through the lens of EU and NATO enlargement, certain issues take on new importance in the candidate countries."
There are other issues on the trans-Atlantic agenda with spillover potential into this region. Iraq will feature on the agenda of the upcoming Prague NATO summit, both in terms of potential contributions to military actions and postwar peacekeeping activities.
The debate over Iraq policy has already touched a raw nerve in the trans-Atlantic discussion and raises important questions with regard to EU member states' ability to forge common and coherent foreign-policy positions. During this fall's German election campaign, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's approach to possible military action in Iraq shook things up not only in U.S.-German relations but also among key EU member states. France and Great Britain expressed displeasure with Germany's decision to take a position on Iraq without consulting other European allies. For the countries poised to enter the EU and NATO, the German posture toward Washington and the overall lack of EU policy coherence have not inspired confidence.
The EU has put forth a patchwork of approaches on Iraq. It acts similarly in other critical areas, including policies toward Russia. The disparate EU approach to Russia has not gone unnoticed, especially in the Baltic countries. A senior diplomat in the Baltics makes the following observations on the scattered EU foreign policy toward Moscow. "The Germans, the French, the Swedes, and other EU member states have their own Russia policies. This sends the wrong signal, particularly to the Baltic countries, all of which are candidates for the EU and NATO. If the EU is unable to forge a common approach to Russia, then we must rely entirely on the U.S. for our security needs in this area," he said.
At the same time, he adds, "A sound and coherent EU policy toward Russia could go a long way toward enhancing confidence in the EU approach and in bringing about more productive longer-term relations with Moscow."
In fact, with little evidence that the EU will make a concerted effort to enhance its own defense capabilities, it is likely that the candidate countries will continue to look to the United States on security matters, even after they join the EU.
Estonian Prime Minister Siim Kallas said recently that Estonia will meet its national interests if it "can be good allies [with] the U.S. while also cooperating well with the EU. This would be ideal." He added: "It would be a gross mistake to underestimate the importance of the relationship [with the United States].... Over the period since Estonia regained its independence, the U.S. has performed a highly significant role for Estonia on two occasions: once over the regaining of independence itself and the other...over the withdrawal of Russian troops." Officials and diplomats throughout the region are fervently hoping that the healthy trans-Atlantic relationship they have envisaged and anticipated will still be achievable after they join the EU.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Lazslo Kovacs, referring to the policies of an enlarged EU, recently explained his country's view this way: "[Hungary is] strongly convinced that the U.S. and Europe have many more converging interests than diverging ones.... We must not allow difficulties [between the United States and the EU] to cast a long-lasting shadow on the fundamentally positive and stable trans-Atlantic relationship."
Professor John Micgiel, director of the Center on East Central Europe at Columbia University, makes the following observation: "As for [the candidate] countries having to choose between the U.S. and the EU, there is some anxiety. However many of the EU candidate countries will soon be full-fledged members of the EU and will become co-decision-makers. Much will depend on their vision and ability to create coalitions with the EU."
Sadly, the most compelling contemporary unifying force for most EU member states seems to be common ground found in opposing the United States. This approach holds little appeal to candidate countries, which, now within close reach of achieving the strategic goal of anchoring themselves in the family of Western democracies, do not relish the prospect of needing to oppose the United States in order to validate their "Europeanness."
Professor Ozolina of the University of Latvia poses the dilemma of having to choose between the United States or EU this way: "Imagine you are forced to decide whom you love more -- your son or your daughter? Latvia, like other candidate countries, must choose both."
Christopher Walker is head of the Rapid Response Unit at the EastWest Institute. The views expressed in this article are the author's own.