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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 105, 00-05-31

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

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

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 4, No. 105, 31 May 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SAYS RUSSIAN BASES CRUCIAL TO REGIONAL
  • [02] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING SUSPECTS' RELEASE IMMINENT?
  • [03] ARMENIAN INTERIOR, SECURITY MINISTERS PROMOTED
  • [04] AZERBAIJAN SEEKS INVESTORS FOR PIPELINE PROJECT
  • [05] AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS PROTEST POLICE AGGRESSION
  • [06] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT CONFIRMS FOUR MORE MINISTERIAL
  • [07] RUSSIA CONCERNED AT TERORRISM IN ABKHAZIA...
  • [08] ...AS ABKHAZ OFFICIAL SAYS CIS PEACEKEEPERS SHOULD STAY
  • [09] KAZAKHSTAN PLANS TO QUADRUPLE OIL EXTRACTION...
  • [10] ...BUILD NUCLEAR REACTOR
  • [11] ARAB COUNTRIES DENY KAZAKH MEDIA CLAIMS THEY SUPPORT ISLAMIC
  • [12] PLANNED KYRGYZ ROUNDTABLE IN JEOPARDY
  • [13] OSCE CHAIRWOMAN VISITS TAJIKISTAN
  • [14] TURKMEN INTERNET PROVIDER TO DEFY OFFICIAL BAN

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [15] CHIRAC CALLS FOR EU-BALKAN SUMMIT
  • [16] QUESTIONS REMAIN OPEN ON CHIRAC PROPOSAL
  • [17] ROBERTSON PRAISES KOSOVA PROTECTION CORPS
  • [18] SERBS FREE 23 KOSOVARS
  • [19] SUSPECT ARRESTED IN SHOOTING OF SERBS
  • [20] MONTENEGRO'S DJUKANOVIC PREDICTS ELECTION VICTORY
  • [21] BELGRADE CITY GOVERNMENT IN STANDOFF WITH BUS DRIVERS
  • [22] CROATIA'S MESIC SAYS 'ISOLATION IS OVER'
  • [23] CROATIAN RIGHT-WINGERS RALLY IN VUKOVAR
  • [24] ROMANIAN PREMIER SAYS 'FINANCIAL PLOT' BEHIND BANKING
  • [25] ...AS IMF DEALS ADDITIONAL BLOW
  • [26] PROSECUTORS QUESTION 'WITNESSES' IN MONEY-LAUNDERING AFFAIR
  • [27] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT COMMENTS ON ELECTIONS, REFERENDUM...
  • [28] ...MEETS WITH CIS EXECUTIVE SECRETARY
  • [29] TIMETABLE READY FOR RUSSIAN TRANSDNIESTER WITHDRAWAL?

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [30] POLISH COALITION ON THE BRINK OF COLLAPSE

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SAYS RUSSIAN BASES CRUCIAL TO REGIONAL

    SECURITY SYSTEM

    In a recent interview with several Russian

    journalists broadcast by Armenian National Television,

    President Robert Kocharian said the Russian military bases in

    Armenia and Georgia have been a crucial guarantee of regional

    security and must therefore be incorporated into the planned

    South Caucasus security system, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau

    reported on 30 May. Kocharian said that system must build on

    previous accomplishments in the security sphere and that

    Russia should play a major role in it. In late March,

    Kocharian had advocated a security system based on the

    "3+3+2" format, meaning an agreement between Armenia,

    Azerbaijan, and Georgia, with Russia, Iran, and Turkey acting

    as guarantors and the U.S. and the EU as sponsors (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March 2000). Earlier this month, the

    Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies unveiled an

    alternative blueprint under which Russia, the EU, and the

    U.S. would affirm their willingness to participate in such a

    system, which would be developed by the three South Caucasus

    states, together with Turkey and Iran. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING SUSPECTS' RELEASE IMMINENT?

    Two

    men currently in custody on suspicion of involvement in the

    27 October Armenian parliament shootings may be released

    shortly, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 30 May. Military

    prosecutors on 30 May withdrew their request to a Yerevan

    court to prolong the detention of Harutiun Harutiunian, the

    deputy director of Armenian National Television, who was

    arrested in early January. Parliamentary deputy Mushegh

    Movsisian, who was arrested just days after the

    assassinations, is also likely to be released. Friends of the

    two men say the reason for their imminent release is that the

    leader of the five gunmen who carried out the killings, Nairi

    Hunanian, has repeatedly failed to provide any testimony

    substantiating suspicions of their involvement. According to

    unconfirmed reports circulating in Yerevan on 30 May,

    Hunanian has retracted much of his earlier testimony. LF

    [03] ARMENIAN INTERIOR, SECURITY MINISTERS PROMOTED

    President

    Kocharian issued a decree on 29 May promoting Interior

    Minister Major General Hayk Harutiunian and Security Minister

    Major General Karlos Petrosian to the rank of lieutenant

    general, Noyan Tapan reported. Kocharian also promoted to

    that rank two deputy defense ministers, Manvel Grigorian and

    Yurii Khachaturov. Grigorian is chairman of the Yerkrapah

    Union of veterans of the Karabakh war and was appointed

    deputy defense minister by Kocharian in March (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 15 March 2000). LF

    [04] AZERBAIJAN SEEKS INVESTORS FOR PIPELINE PROJECT

    Representatives of more than 30 international oil companies

    engaged in the Caspian attended a presentation in Baku on 29

    May intended to solicit participation in a sponsors' group

    that would conduct studies of the optimum route for the

    planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline and seek to identify

    investors to fund that project, Interfax and Turan reported.

    Addressing the meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem

    described the planned pipeline as "one of the most important

    elements of the East-West transport corridor." LF

    [05] AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS PROTEST POLICE AGGRESSION

    Independent and opposition newspapers in Azerbaijan on 30 May

    published condemnations of a police attack on the editorial

    office of the newspaper "Bu gun" three days earlier, Turan

    reported. Several journalists were beaten during that attack

    and a photographer taken into custody for questioning. The

    police action was apparently in retaliation for the

    journalists' attempt to photograph a scuffle between police

    and a group of young men outside a Baku cafe. Two

    journalists' organizations and the editors of 17 media

    outlets issued a statement on 29 May condemning the police

    action and demanding an investigation. LF

    [06] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT CONFIRMS FOUR MORE MINISTERIAL

    CANDIDATES

    Deputies voted on 30 May to approve the

    nomination of David Mirtskhulava, Merab Chkhenkeli, Valeri

    Vashakidze, and Mikhail Ukleba as ministers of fuel and

    energy. urbanization and construction, refugees and

    accommodation, and state property, respectively, Caucasus

    Press reported. All four had held those portfolios in the

    previous government. The parliament also approved the

    nomination by President Eduard Shevardnadze of his former

    parliamentary secretary, Sulkhan Molashvili, as chairman of

    the parliament Control Chamber. Meanwhile Bakur Gulua, whose

    reappointment as minister of agriculture deputies rejected

    last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2000), told

    journalists on 30 May that World Bank representatives plan to

    visit Tbilisi in order to clear him of suspicion of having

    misappropriated credits allocated by that bank, Caucasus

    Press reported. LF

    [07] RUSSIA CONCERNED AT TERORRISM IN ABKHAZIA...

    The Russian

    Foreign Ministry has issued a statement registering its

    concern at the recent increase in terrorist attacks in

    southern Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported on 30 May. Fifteen

    Abkhaz police have been killed and four wounded in recent

    weeks in such attacks, which the Abkhaz authorities blame on

    Georgian guerrillas. The statement said it is essential that

    Georgia and Abkhazia sign without delay the draft Agreement

    on Peace and the Non-Resumption of Hostilities, which has

    been under discussion for almost two years. Also on 30 May,

    the Abkhaz parliament in exile rejected the request of its

    chairman, Tamaz Nadareishvili, to resign from that post (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2000). LF

    [08] ...AS ABKHAZ OFFICIAL SAYS CIS PEACEKEEPERS SHOULD STAY

    On

    31 May, Caucasus Press quoted Abkhaz presidential aide

    Astamur Tania as saying that Sukhum will lobby for the

    extension of the CIS peacekeepers' mandate in Abkhazia.

    Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Malkhaz Kakabadze

    had told ITAR-TASS two weeks earlier that Abkhazia wants

    those peacekeepers withdrawn, while Tbilisi wants them to

    remain (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May 2000). LF

    [09] KAZAKHSTAN PLANS TO QUADRUPLE OIL EXTRACTION...

    Kazakhstan

    plans to quadruple its oil output over the next decade and to

    increase that output by 10 percent this year to 33 million

    tons, Interfax reported on 29 May, quoting the deputy

    president of the Kazakhoil national oil and gas company,

    Galiusat Keshubaev. On 30 May, an unnamed spokesman for the

    Tengizchevroil joint venture told Interfax that the venture

    intends to raise daily production at its huge Tengiz oilfield

    to 700,000 barrels per day by 2010. But he added that that

    increase is contingent on the timely completion by mid-2001

    of the Caspian pipeline from Tengiz to Novorossiisk. LF

    [10] ...BUILD NUCLEAR REACTOR

    Kazakhstan will embark on building

    a thermo-nuclear reactor in the town of Kurchatov in East

    Kazakhstan Oblast next year, Interfax reported on 30 May. The

    project should be completed within three years. LF

    [11] ARAB COUNTRIES DENY KAZAKH MEDIA CLAIMS THEY SUPPORT ISLAMIC

    EXTREMISM

    The ambassadors of Egypt, Libya, Palestine, and

    Saudi Arabia met with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister

    Qasymzhomart Toqaev on 27 May to protest Kazakh print media

    articles claiming that their countries support "Islamic

    extremists," Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 30 May. They

    objected specifically to an article in the newspaper

    "Karavan" affirming that Saudi Arabia encourages religious

    extremism and terrorism. Toqaev undertook to investigate the

    issue. LF

    [12] PLANNED KYRGYZ ROUNDTABLE IN JEOPARDY

    Kairan El party

    chairman Toktobai Mulkubatov said in Bishkek on 30 May that

    his party will not participate in the roundtable scheduled

    for 3-4 June between opposition parties, NGOs and the Kyrgyz

    government, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported.

    He added that there is no point in doing so as participants

    do not plan to sign any binding obligations. Communist Party

    chairman Absamat Masaliev said the same day that his party

    has not yet decided whether to attend the roundtable, but

    opposition El (Bei Bechara) party leader Daniyar Usenov vowed

    that he will do so. The leadership of the Ar-Namys party

    announced last week that it will not attend unless its

    detained leaders Feliks Kulov and Emil Aliev are released

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2000). LF

    [13] OSCE CHAIRWOMAN VISITS TAJIKISTAN

    Austrian Foreign Minister

    and OSCE chairwoman in office Benita Ferrero-Waldner told

    journalists in Dushanbe on 30 May after talks with President

    Imomali Rakhmonov that she believes the OSCE should continue

    its post-conflict assistance to Tajikistan, Reuters reported.

    ITAR-TASS quoted her as assuring Rakhmonov during those talks

    that the multi-party system in Tajikistan is a "positive

    factor" that can serve as an example to other states. OSCE

    Secretary-General Jan Kubis, a former UN special

    representative in Tajikistan, was also present at those

    talks. ITAR-TASS quoted presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov

    as saying that Rakhmonov expressed the hope that the OSCE

    will urge the international community, in particular Russia

    and the U.S., to pay greater attention to the Afghan

    situation, which, Rakhmonov said, endangers the security of

    the Central Asian states. LF

    [14] TURKMEN INTERNET PROVIDER TO DEFY OFFICIAL BAN

    The director

    of Ariana, the leading private telecommunications company in

    Turkmenistan, told Reuters on 30 May that he will not comply

    with a government order to shut down Internet access to the

    company's subscribers. Vagif Zeynalov said that decision is

    illegal, pointing out that under recent licensing regulations

    it should have been preceded by checks conducted by the

    Ministry of Communications. Zeynalov has appealed to the

    ministry to revoke the ruling. Meanwhile the Moscow-based

    Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations issued a press

    release on 29 May saying that the decision to revoke licenses

    of private Internet providers was taken without the knowledge

    of President Saparmurat Niyazov. This substantiates

    observers' impressions that the Turkmen security services are

    becoming a law unto themselves (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May

    2000). LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [15] CHIRAC CALLS FOR EU-BALKAN SUMMIT

    French President Jacques

    Chirac said in Paris on 30 May that the EU must adopt a

    "decisive strategy for the Balkans." He added that this will

    be one of the main themes of the French EU presidency, which

    begins on 1 July. The French leader stressed the need to make

    Europe "a key player in the world." He argued that "a summit

    between the EU and the countries of ex-Yugoslavia that are

    most advanced in their democratic evolution would allow us to

    clarify objectives and revive a stalling process," Reuters

    reported. "The aim would be to support recent developments in

    Croatia, welcome the efforts taken by Macedonia, note

    progress made in Bosnia, to encourage them to go

    further,...and to remind Yugoslavia that the door will be

    open to it as well as soon as it joins this movement" toward

    democracy and international integration. The president

    concluded that "we should tell these countries more clearly

    what we expect of them and what we are ready to do to help

    them." PM

    [16] QUESTIONS REMAIN OPEN ON CHIRAC PROPOSAL

    Unnamed aides to

    the French president told Reuters in Paris on 30 May that

    Montenegrin representatives will be welcome at the summit if

    a suitable diplomatic formula can be found to describe their

    status there. It is unclear whether Slovenia will be included

    or who will represent Kosova. Bernard Kouchner, who is the

    UN's chief civilian administrator in Kosova and a former

    French cabinet member, has criticized France and several

    other countries for failing to supply promised police and

    other personnel for the troubled province. It is also unclear

    whether non-EU European states or the U.S. will have a role

    in Chirac's plans. The "Berliner Zeitung" noted that his

    ideas for a joint EU defense projects, including a rapid

    reaction force that could be used in the Balkans, "could

    easily lead to a stronger distancing" of EU member states

    from the U.S. PM

    [17] ROBERTSON PRAISES KOSOVA PROTECTION CORPS

    NATO Secretary-

    General Lord Robertson said in Prishtina on 31 May that he

    supports the efforts of the Kosova Protection Corps (KPC) to

    promote peace and reconciliation in the province, AP

    reported. He made the remarks after meeting with the KPC's

    head, General Agim Ceku, who, like most KPC members, is a

    veteran of the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). Robertson

    said: "I will continue to support the KPC, to demand from the

    international community the resources that will allow it to

    do this valuable civil [defense] job and to support General

    Ceku in the role he has of being an influential spokesman for

    peace and reconciliation." In response, Ceku argued that the

    KPC is not only the main factor in the "reconstruction of

    infrastructure but [also in] the reconstruction of society.

    We are the only institution in Kosova that is a model for the

    future of Kosova," he stressed. PM

    [18] SERBS FREE 23 KOSOVARS

    Red Cross officials said in Prishtina

    on 30 May that Serbian authorities freed 23 ethnic Albanians

    from several prisons. The 23 are believed to include six

    Kosovars who were sentenced by a Nis court but were freed

    because the amount of time they had already served was longer

    than the length of their respective sentences, AP reported.

    According to the Red Cross, some 1,188 Kosovars remain in

    Serbian prisons. PM

    [19] SUSPECT ARRESTED IN SHOOTING OF SERBS

    KFOR has arrested an

    unidentified person in the recent drive-by killing of three

    Serbs in the village of Cernica (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30

    May 2000), a spokesman for the peacekeepers said in Prishtina

    on 30 May. He did not elaborate. PM

    [20] MONTENEGRO'S DJUKANOVIC PREDICTS ELECTION VICTORY

    President

    Milo Djukanovic told an election rally in Podgorica on 30 May

    that Montenegro "cannot be run from Belgrade or be happy with

    crumbs" from Serbia's table, Reuters reported. He appealed to

    voters to support his backers in the 11 June local elections

    in Podgorica and Herceg Novi. Referring to his pro-Belgrade

    rivals, Djukanovic said: "They are the part of Montenegro

    that still allows itself to be manipulated by dictatorial

    lies from Dedinje, which imposes the rule of one man and one

    woman on the unfortunate nation." Dedinje is the district of

    Belgrade where Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his

    wife, Mira Markovic, live. PM

    [21] BELGRADE CITY GOVERNMENT IN STANDOFF WITH BUS DRIVERS

    The

    Belgrade city government, which is run by Vuk Draskovic's

    Serbian Renewal Movement, has revoked the permits for some

    300 private bus drivers, "Danas" reported on 31 May. The

    municipal authorities argued that the drivers broke their

    agreement with the city by launching a strike on 29 May,

    forcing thousands of people to walk to work or use taxis. The

    drivers want an increase in the price that they are legally

    allowed to charge for tickets. The argue that current prices

    have not kept pace with inflation. The authorities maintain

    that the broader problems of the city's public transportation

    system are at least 10 years old and not of the current

    government's making. PM

    [22] CROATIA'S MESIC SAYS 'ISOLATION IS OVER'

    President Stipe

    Mesic told the parliament on 30 May that "the isolation of

    Croatia is a thing of the past," RFE/RL's South Slavic

    Service reported. He added that Croatia now fully supports

    the Hague-based war crimes tribunal as well as "all

    activities" of the international community in southeastern

    Europe aimed at keeping peace in the region. There is still a

    danger to peace from unnamed "dangerous" forces in the

    region, he argued. Mesic charged that the previous government

    of the late President Franjo Tudjman left a legacy not only

    of isolation but also of corruption, dubious privatization

    practices, and the theft of public property and wealth. He

    called on all citizens to support the government in its

    efforts at promoting reform, "Jutarnji list" reported. Mesic

    spoke on the Day of Statehood, which marks the opening of

    Croatia's first freely elected parliament on 30 May 1990. PM

    [23] CROATIAN RIGHT-WINGERS RALLY IN VUKOVAR

    Some 2,000 right-

    wing veterans of the 1990-1995 conflict with Serbian forces

    marked the Day of Statehood by holding a rally in Vukovar,

    RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Speakers demanded a

    general amnesty for all veterans of that conflict from

    possible charges of war crimes. Velimir Kvesic, who leads a

    veterans' organization and represents the Croatian Party of

    [Historic] Rights (HSP) in the parliament, charged that Prime

    Minister Ivica Racan wants Serbian refugees to return because

    "they are his voters," "Jutarnji list" reported. HSP leader

    Anto Djapic commented: "When we come to power, it will be too

    bad for the Serbs," "Novi List" reported. PM

    [24] ROMANIAN PREMIER SAYS 'FINANCIAL PLOT' BEHIND BANKING

    PANIC...

    Mugur Isarescu, speaking on Romanian Radio on 30

    May, said a "financial plot" by "behind-the-scene

    manipulators" is responsible for the current panic among

    holders of bank accounts. Isarescu said anonymous phone calls

    to depositors at the country's Commercial Bank caused a

    "withdrawal panic" that was "unjustified and harmful." He

    warned against exchanging savings for dollars, saying that

    past experience shows that people find they have made losses

    when the exchange rate returned to normalcy. Reports said the

    exchange rate has soared from 22,000 lei to $1 to 25,000 lei

    and dealers have run out of dollars. Isarescu said that "at

    stake is national sovereignty and...economic stability, which

    I will defend with all my strength as long as I am

    premier...." And he suggested the rumors were started to

    dissuade the IMF from approving the resumption of loans to

    Romania. MS

    [25] ...AS IMF DEALS ADDITIONAL BLOW

    As if to confirm Isarescu's

    suggestion, the IMF announced on 30 May that it is postponing

    by two days taking a decision on whether to resume the

    disbursement of a $540 million stand-by loan approved last

    year and interrupted after the first tranche was released.

    IMF spokeswoman Conny Lotze was quoted by Reuters as saying

    that the loan, due to expire on 31 May, will be prolonged by

    one week. The one-week extension is intended to "allow time

    for the Romanian authorities to formulate their policy

    response to the recent developments in the financial system,"

    according to Lotze. Romania had asked for a nine-month

    extension of the loan. Following Isarescu's recent visit to

    the U.S. it had been widely assumed that the fund would

    approve that request. MS

    [26] PROSECUTORS QUESTION 'WITNESSES' IN MONEY-LAUNDERING AFFAIR

    Testifying "as a witness" in the Adrian Costea money-

    laundering affair on 30 May, Party of Social Democracy in

    Romania deputy Viorel Hrebenciuc denied being responsible for

    a 1992 oil supplies deal signed with a company managed by

    Costea. Hrebenciuc said he had not been a cabinet member at

    the time, but he admitted having prolonged the contract in

    1993, when he was secretary of Nicolae Vacaroiu's cabinet,

    "to avoid having Costea suing Romania for the non-fulfillment

    of its provisions." Hrebenciuc said trips to France financed

    by Costea were aimed at "checking" the number of photo-albums

    edited by Costea on the government's behalf. The same day,

    Iosif Boda, deputy chairman of Alliance for Romania Party and

    manager of Ion Iliescu's 1996 presidential campaign, refused

    to tell journalists what he had told investigators about

    vacations and hospital treatment in France that Costea had

    paid for. MS

    [27] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT COMMENTS ON ELECTIONS, REFERENDUM...

    President Petru Lucinschi, speaking on television on 29 May,

    said he has "no objection" to early presidential and

    parliamentary elections taking place at the same time as a

    referendum on changing the country's system to a presidential

    one. From the legal point of view, however, this would be

    possible only if there were an agreement between himself, the

    parliament, and "all political forces." Lucinschi said

    agreeing on a law on constitutional reform before the

    presidential elections is "absolutely necessary" in order for

    candidates "to know how they will rule the country after [an

    election] victory," Infotag reported. MS

    [28] ...MEETS WITH CIS EXECUTIVE SECRETARY

    Lucinschi told

    visiting CIS Executive Secretary Yurii Yarov that cooperation

    within the organization can improve only if it is

    "advantageous for all members," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau

    reported. He added that the first step toward improving

    cooperation would be to "define the minimal obligations

    binding on all members" and "clarify once and for all the

    significance of agreements reached earlier, primarily

    economic ones." In this connection, Lucinschi mentioned the

    need to implement the agreement on setting up a free trade

    zone. Yarov also met with Premier Dumitru Braghis, whom he

    informed about the activities of CIS peace keeping units

    stationed at the Georgian-Abkhaz border region and about the

    differences that still divide CIS members over the Nagorno-

    Karabakh conflict. MS

    [29] TIMETABLE READY FOR RUSSIAN TRANSDNIESTER WITHDRAWAL?

    Moldovan Foreign Ministry official Ion Stavila was quoted by

    Romanian Radio on 30 May as saying Russia might present next

    week "the final timetable for the withdrawal of its troops

    from the Transdniester." In line with the obligations it

    undertook at last year's Istanbul OSCE summit, Russia should

    have presented that timetable in April. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [30] POLISH COALITION ON THE BRINK OF COLLAPSE

    by Jan Maksymiuk

    The National Council of the Freedom Union (UW)

    voted almost unanimously on 28 May to withdraw its

    ministers from the 30-month-old coalition with the

    Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS). The following day, UW

    leader and Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz, Foreign

    Minister Bronislaw Geremek, Defense Minister Janusz

    Onyszkiewicz, Justice Minister Hanna Suchocka, Transport

    Minister Tadeusz Syryjczyk, and four deputy ministers

    submitted their resignations to Prime Minister Jerzy

    Buzek. In a bid to save the Solidarity-affiliated

    coalition, Buzek rejected those resignations, urging the

    AWS and the UW "to start talks immediately." Last week,

    Buzek had suggested that he is ready to step down.

    The pretext for the UW's withdrawal from the

    cabinet was Buzek's appointment of a commissioner to run

    the Warsaw-Centrum municipality. A candidate supported

    by the UW and the opposition Democratic Left Alliance

    had won an election for the Warsaw-Centrum mayoralty,

    but the provincial governor revoked that election and

    asked Buzek to appoint a government administrator, which

    Buzek did. The UW accused Buzek of violating the

    principles of self-government and of seeking to secure

    the AWS's control over Poland's wealthiest municipality.

    However, the controversy over the Warsaw-Centrum

    commissioner appears to have been the last in a series

    of uncoordinated actions in the unhappy UW-AWS

    partnership. Some AWS lawmakers have repeatedly sought

    to slow down the pace of the painful reforms that the

    liberal UW championed in a bid to modernize Poland and

    prepare it for EU membership as soon as possible. They

    maintain that the AWS is implementing the UW's liberal

    economic program while ignoring the electoral pledges

    given by Solidarity to workers and farmers in 1989, when

    the trade union toppled communism in Poland, and in

    1997, when the AWS took over after a leftist government.

    Earlier this month, the government lost a

    parliamentary vote to introduce a sales tax on farm

    products, in line with EU requirements, when two dozen

    AWS deputies representing rural constituencies supported

    an opposition amendment. "Government decisions were

    blocked in the parliament on some essential points while

    decisions harmful for the country were forced through,"

    Balcerowicz said, explaining his party's loss of

    confidence in Buzek as well as in how the coalition has

    been run. The UW made clear that the survival of its

    coalition with the AWS was dependent on the latter's

    designation of a new prime minister, the revoking of the

    decision to appoint the commissioner in Warsaw, and

    guarantees that the AWS parliamentary caucus would

    support coalition positions on which it had agreed

    beforehand with the UW.

    " We participated in this coalition with the

    conviction that it would put Poland in its rightful

    place in Europe, promote economic development, and

    strengthen democracy and self-government.... These goals

    cannot be achieved without ensuring reliable political

    support in the parliament," the UW National Council said

    in a resolution ordering the party's ministers to pull

    out of Buzek's cabinet. But the council also left open

    the option of forming a new coalition with the AWS under

    a new prime minister if the AWS agreed to negotiations.

    Last week, the AWS proposed Bronislaw Grabowski, an

    economist without political experience, to head a new

    cabinet. Balcerowicz commented that Grabowski is a man

    with "strong, clear economic views that are in line with

    Poland's needs," but he noted that the AWS must first

    ensure parliamentary support for a new premier among its

    own lawmakers. On 30 May, however, Grabowski declined

    that proposed job, saying that a stronger politician

    with the necessary parliamentary support is needed to

    steer the coalition out of the current impasse.

    Polish commentators generally agree that it is

    rather unlikely the current political arrangement will

    collapse and early parliamentary elections will be

    called, since a presidential ballot is due to take place

    this year. But they also point out that the construction

    of a new government and the "renewal" of the AWS-UW

    coalition would be an extremely difficult task. It

    cannot be ruled out that the AWS will have to form a

    minority government (the AWS controls 185 seats in the

    450-strong lower house). However, such a turn of events

    would be very detrimental to the rate at which the

    country has been adopting EU-related legislation.

    Former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa has urged AWS

    leader Marian Krzaklewski to head a new government. On

    the one hand, Krzaklewski seems to be a politician

    almost certainly capable of uniting the AWS and the UW

    around a new cabinet and disciplining those AWS deputies

    who vote against the government. On the other hand,

    Krzaklewski's possible premiership would almost

    certainly rule him out as a contender in the

    presidential race. Krzaklewski is thought to have a good

    chance of mustering more support from the right wing

    than any other candidate.

    Tough decisions in the AWS, however, cannot be

    avoided. The results of a poll taken in mid-May showed

    that the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance, with

    41 percent backing, is far ahead of the AWS (14 percent)

    and the UW (9 percent). Taking into account that post-

    communist incumbent President Aleksander Kwasniewski

    enjoys stable support at 60-70 percent, in the coming

    months Poland's Solidarity-affiliated forces may lose

    much more than simply the opportunity to field a single

    and relatively strong right-wing candidate in the

    presidential ballot.

    31-05-00


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


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