Read our Collection of articles on International Policy A)? GHT="50">
Compact version
Today's Suggestion
Read The "Macedonian Question" (by Maria Nystazopoulou-Pelekidou)
HomeAbout HR-NetNewsWeb SitesDocumentsOnline HelpUsage InformationContact us
Monday, 27 January 2020
 
News
  Latest News (All)
     From Greece
     From Cyprus
     From Europe
     From Balkans
     From Turkey
     From USA
  Announcements
  World Press
  News Archives
Web Sites
  Hosted
  Mirrored
  Interesting Nodes
Documents
  Special Topics
  Treaties, Conventions
  Constitutions
  U.S. Agencies
  Cyprus Problem
  Other
Services
  Personal NewsPaper
  Greek Fonts
  Tools
  F.A.Q.
 

RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 116, 00-06-15

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. 116, 15 June 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIA, NATO DISCUSS COOPERATION
  • [02] COMMISSION ESTIMATES LOSSES FROM ENERGY THEFTS IN ARMENIA
  • [03] RUSSIA, AZERBAIJAN FOCUS ON SECURITY ISSUES
  • [04] AZERBAIJAN, ROMANIA DISCUSS OIL TRANSPORTATION
  • [05] RUSSIA WARNS GEORGIA OVER DIVISION OF MILITARY ASSETS
  • [06] RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS FORTIFY OCCUPIED GEORGIAN VILLAGE
  • [07] CENTRAL ASIAN UNION PLANS TO DEVELOP ALONG LINES OF EC...
  • [08] ...ADOPTS APPEAL ON AFGHANISTAN
  • [09] KAZAKHSTAN'S PARLIAMENT FAILS TO RATIFY AGREEMENT ON TESTING
  • [10] MILITARY COURT TAKES OVER CASE AGAINST KYRGYZ OPPOSITION

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [11] YUGOSLAV MILITARY COURT CHARGES JOURNALIST WITH ESPIONAGE
  • [12] BERISHA BLAMES KOSOVAR POLITICANS FOR TRAVEL BAN
  • [13] NO POWER FOR KOUCHNER
  • [14] YUGOSLAV MANEUVERS IN MONTENEGRO
  • [15] MONTENEGRO'S MILOSEVIC BACKERS KEEP LEADER
  • [16] PLAVSIC WINS FIGHT FOR PARTY NAME
  • [17] ABDIC TO RUN FOR BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY?
  • [18] BOSNIAN MINISTER DISAPPOINTED IN STABILITY PACT
  • [19] SLOVENIAN MILITARY INVESTIGATES SECURITY LEAK
  • [20] CROATIA ISSUES WARRANT FOR TYCOON
  • [21] RACAN PLEDGES ANTI-FASCIST LAW
  • [22] CROATIAN GOVERNMENT RECLASSIFIES 'INVALIDS'
  • [23] ROMANIA'S SECURITATE FILES COUNCIL SUSPENDS ACTIVITY IN
  • [24] HEAD OF ROMANIAN NATIONAL OIL COMPANY DETAINED
  • [25] EUROPEAN COMMISSION SAYS ROMANIAN OFFICIALS STOLE CHILDREN'S
  • [26] SLOVAK PREMIER IN BULGARIA
  • [27] BULGARIAN TOWN AGAIN POLLUTED BY ROMANIA

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [28] WILL LUKASHENKA OUTPLAY THE OPPOSITION ONCE AGAIN?

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIA, NATO DISCUSS COOPERATION

    Armenian Foreign Minister

    Vartan Oskanian met in Brussels on 13 June with NATO

    Secretary-General Lord Robertson, whom he briefed on the

    current stage of talks aimed at resolving the Karabakh

    conflict, according to Armenpress, cited by Groong. Oskanian

    stressed that the presidents of both Armenia and Azerbaijan

    have reconfirmed their commitment to a compromise settlement

    of that conflict. Robertson greeted Armenia's aspiration to

    intensify its cooperation with NATO within the Partnership

    for Peace program. Doing so, he said, will promote peace and

    stability in the region. LF

    [02] COMMISSION ESTIMATES LOSSES FROM ENERGY THEFTS IN ARMENIA

    The ad hoc Armenian multiparty parliamentary commission

    claimed on 13 June that fraud, inefficiency and mismanagement

    in the energy sector since1992 has cost Armenia about $200

    million in total losses, which is equal to 40 percent of the

    budget for this year, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported the

    following day. The commission's 37-page report alleges that

    305,000 tons of fuel oil worth $25 million never reached

    Armenia between 1992 and 1995 and that the 224,000 tones of

    fuel oil imported in 1993 and 1994 cost the Ministry of

    Energy $11 million and not $29 million, as reported by

    official statistics. President Levon Ter-Petrossian's

    administration is also accused of "abusing" $12 million from

    a $60 million energy loan extended by the European Bank for

    Reconstruction and Development. The commission calls for a

    criminal investigation into its findings, which its head,

    Davit Lokian, says do not give a complete picture of the

    total abuses. LF

    [03] RUSSIA, AZERBAIJAN FOCUS ON SECURITY ISSUES

    Russian Security

    Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov held talks in Baku on 14 June

    with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ramiz Mekhtiev, Azerbaijani

    Foreign Minister Vilayet Guliev, and President Heidar Aliev,

    Turan and Russian agencies reported. Ivanov and Mekhtiev

    signed a joint protocol on coordinating measures to combat

    terrorism, organized crime, and drug-smuggling, which Ivanov

    described as "an important step" toward developing bilateral

    cooperation. It is not known whether the two men also

    discussed the disaffected Lezghin minority, whose historical

    homeland is divided by the Azerbaijani-Russian frontier.

    Turan had reported on 13 June that the Lezghin separatist

    organization Sadval is planning a congress in Makhachkala on

    14 June. Aliev assured Ivanov that "there are no unresolved

    issues" between Azerbaijan and Russia, according to Interfax.

    On 12 June, Aliev had said Russia "can and must" promote a

    solution to the Karabakh conflict. LF

    [04] AZERBAIJAN, ROMANIA DISCUSS OIL TRANSPORTATION

    Meeting on 14

    June in Baku with visiting Romanian Senate Foreign Policy

    Committee Chairman Georgiu Presecaru, President Aliev said

    that during his upcoming visit to Romania, "specific

    decisions" will be taken on the export of some Azerbaijani

    oil via that country, Interfax reported. In a meeting the

    same day with Rza Ibadov, who chairs the Azerbaijani

    parliamentary commission for foreign policy, Presecaru said

    that such exports via the Baku-Supsa pipeline and by tanker

    to Constanta would supplement, rather than compete with, the

    planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, according to Turan.

    Presecaru also expressed Romania's interest in expanding

    bilateral economic cooperation with Azerbaijan and promised

    support for Baku's bid for full membership in the Council of

    Europe. LF

    [05] RUSSIA WARNS GEORGIA OVER DIVISION OF MILITARY ASSETS

    Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, who heads the Russian Defense

    Ministry's Department for International Military Cooperation,

    said in Moscow on 14 June that any Georgian demands for

    equipment currently deployed on Russia's military bases in

    Georgia will be rejected, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS

    reported. Two of those four bases are to be closed by mid-

    2001. Ivashov said that the assets of the former Soviet

    military were equitably divided following the demise of the

    USSR and that Georgia received its rightful share. The

    chairman of the Georgian parliament's Defense and Security

    Committee, Revaz Adamia, said earlier this month that Tbilisi

    will demand $10 billion compensation for weaponry withdrawn

    from Georgia during the early 1990s, including two submarines

    and military aircraft. LF

    [06] RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS FORTIFY OCCUPIED GEORGIAN VILLAGE

    Russian border guards who three months ago occupied the

    Georgian village of Pichvini and evicted residents from their

    homes are erecting fortifications there, Caucasus Press

    reported on 15 June. The village is located on a disputed

    sector of the Russian-Georgian border and commands mountain

    paths leading to Chechnya. The local Georgian population are

    reportedly angered that the Georgian leadership declined to

    challenge the Russian action for fear of creating further

    tensions in bilateral relations. LF

    [07] CENTRAL ASIAN UNION PLANS TO DEVELOP ALONG LINES OF EC...

    At

    their 14 June summit in Dushanbe, the presidents of

    Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan signed an

    agreement charting plans for creating a common economic space

    by 2002 and for further economic integration between their

    countries between now and 2005, Interfax reported. Kyrgyz

    President Askar Akaev characterized that document as "the

    first step toward the formation of a common labor and capital

    market." Akaev said that plans for integration comprise four

    stages: the creation of a free trade zone, the setting up of

    a Customs Union, the formation of a payments and monetary

    union, and the establishment of a common labor and capital

    market. The four presidents unanimously elected Tajikistan's

    Imomali Rakhmonov to succeed Akaev as chairman of the Union's

    Inter-State Council. LF

    [08] ...ADOPTS APPEAL ON AFGHANISTAN

    At Tajikistan's request, the

    four presidents adopted an appeal to the UN Security Council,

    the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the OSCE to

    devote more attention to the situation in Afghanistan,

    Interfax and RFE/RL' s Kyrgyz Service reported. Uzbek

    President Islam Karimov explained that "the creeping

    expansion of religious extremism and international terrorism"

    originating in Afghanistan poses a threat to the countries of

    Central Asia. He expressed regret that all UN initiatives on

    Afghanistan to date have proved fruitless. The four

    presidents also appealed to the international community for

    financial aid to resolve the ecological problems posed to the

    region by Tajikistan's Lake Sarez. LF

    [09] KAZAKHSTAN'S PARLIAMENT FAILS TO RATIFY AGREEMENT ON TESTING

    RANGES

    The lower house of the Kazakh parliament on 14 June

    postponed ratification of bilateral agreements, signed in

    1995, allowing Russia to use military ranges on Kazakh

    territory for testing anti-missile and anti-aircraft

    equipment, ITAR-TASS reported. Deputies called for the

    creation of a commission to study the agreements, under which

    Kazakhstan will receive $27.5 million annually for the use of

    those facilities. President Nursultan Nazarbaev will discuss

    the use of those bases and other aspects of bilateral defense

    cooperation during his visit to Moscow next week, Defense

    Minister General Sat Tokpakbaev told parliamentary deputies

    on 14 June. Tokpakbaev also admitted that the Kazakh

    leadership does not have a full inventory of all armaments

    the country possesses, Reuters reported. LF

    [10] MILITARY COURT TAKES OVER CASE AGAINST KYRGYZ OPPOSITION

    POLITICIAN

    Lyubov Ivanova, one of two lawyers for detained

    Ar-Namys party chairman Feliks Kulov, told RFE/RL's Bishkek

    bureau on 14 June that his case was transferred to the Kyrgyz

    Military Court the previous day. Kulov was arrested in late

    March, but no date has been set for his trial on charges of

    abusing his official position as minister of security from

    1996-1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 March 2000). Meanwhile

    Kulov's second lawyer, Nina Zotova, has been ordered to

    vacate the office premises she rents from the Federation of

    Kyrgyz Trade Unions. She has received no response to repeated

    appeals to the district court on Kara Buura to declare

    invalid the official results of the 12 March parliamentary

    runoff, according to which Kulov lost that vote (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 14 and 15 March 2000). LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [11] YUGOSLAV MILITARY COURT CHARGES JOURNALIST WITH ESPIONAGE

    A

    spokesman for the military court in Nis said on 14 June that

    journalist Miroslav Filipovic is charged with the "criminal

    act of espionage in conjunction with spreading false

    information" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2000). The court

    must soon launch proceedings against the journalist and

    decide whether Filipovic should be in prison until the trial

    begins. The London-based Institute for War and Peace

    Reporting (IWPR), which published many of Filipovic's

    articles, said in a statement that "Miroslav's only 'crime'

    has been to pursue serious reporting at the highest level. He

    has shown unique courage in covering topics at the heart of

    Yugoslav politics. IWPR calls on the Yugoslav authorities to

    respect the rule of law and behave according to international

    norms and standards." PM

    [12] BERISHA BLAMES KOSOVAR POLITICANS FOR TRAVEL BAN

    Albanian

    Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha said in Tirana on 14

    June that some Kosovar "factions" close to the UN civilian

    administration in Kosova are responsible for the decision of

    Bernard Kouchner, who heads that administration, to ban

    Berisha from visiting Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June

    2000). Berisha added: "I know Mr. Kouchner and I respect him

    for a lot of things he has done. But I was really surprised

    about the arbitrary decision of barring me from visiting

    Kosova." The former Albanian president criticized unnamed

    Kosovar political "factions inside the UN administration who

    smuggle weapons into Kosova with the help of Tirana

    government." Berisha added that such politicians espouse a

    "primitive nationalism." The reference is presumably to

    Hashim Thaci and General Agim Ceku, both of the former Kosova

    Liberation Army. Kouchner's spokeswoman said in Prishtina

    that "the situation is tense and Berisha's arrival could make

    the situation more tense. Berisha could be in danger." She

    did not elaborate. Reuters reported that Berisha's opposition

    to the 1999 Rambouillet Agreement could be a reason for the

    ban. PM

    [13] NO POWER FOR KOUCHNER

    The Kosova Electric Company on 14 June

    cut the power to Kouchner's house due to unpaid bills. The

    bill was soon paid and the power restored. Company spokesman

    Fadil Lepaja said that the ethnic Albanian from whom Kouchner

    rents the house was "most probably" at fault for the lack of

    payment. Lepaja added that "we still consider Mr. Kouchner to

    be one of the most honorable citizens of Kosova," AP

    reported. PM

    [14] YUGOSLAV MANEUVERS IN MONTENEGRO

    Some 20 armed vehicles

    belonging to the military police passed twice through Tuzi,

    near the Albanian-Montenegrin frontier, on 14 June. The

    exercise caused "disquiet among the local mainly ethnic

    Albanian population," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.

    The Yugoslav army had previously announced that maneuvers

    would take place following the 11 June local elections. PM

    [15] MONTENEGRO'S MILOSEVIC BACKERS KEEP LEADER

    The steering

    committee of the Podgorica branch of the Socialist People's

    Party (SNP) unanimously agreed to reject the resignation of

    Predrag Bulatovic as party leader, "Vesti" reported on 15

    June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2000). Bulatovic offered

    to resign following the defeat in the local elections of the

    Yugoslavia coalition, to which the SNP belongs. The steering

    committee said in a statement that despite the coalition's

    defeat, the SNP will be the strongest single party in the new

    city council. PM

    [16] PLAVSIC WINS FIGHT FOR PARTY NAME

    A court in Banja Luka

    ruled that Biljana Plavsic and her supporters retain the

    legal right to use the name Serbian National Alliance (SNS),

    "Vesti" reported on 15 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June

    2000). The court thereby ruled invalid her ouster in a vote

    at the party congress on 3 June. Her leading opponent, Dragan

    Kostic, charged that the court ruling came as a result of

    political pressure from the authorities of the Republika

    Srpska. Kostic and his allies, who include SNS leader Jovan

    Mitrovic, will soon found their own party. Plavsic hailed the

    court's decision. She added that she "thanked the surgeon

    Dragan Kostic for removing with his surgeon's knife parts of

    the SNS that were of no use." PM

    [17] ABDIC TO RUN FOR BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY?

    The Democratic People's

    Union (DNZ) announced that it will nominate Fikret Abdic, who

    founded the party, to replace Alija Izetbegovic for the

    Muslim seat on the joint presidency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7

    June 2000), "Vesti" reported on 15 June. It is not clear

    whether Abdic, whom Izetbegovic's government has declared a

    war criminal, is legally entitled to run for office. Prior to

    the 1992-1995 war, he was Izetbegovic's only serious rival

    for popularity among Bosnia's Muslims. During the war, he

    promoted the interests of his power-base in the Bihac area at

    the expense of the interests of the authorities in Sarajevo.

    He also collaborated with both Serbian and Croatian forces.

    The Sarajevo government subsequently declared him a war

    criminal. Abdic is believed to be living in Croatia. PM

    [18] BOSNIAN MINISTER DISAPPOINTED IN STABILITY PACT

    Foreign

    Minister Jadranko Prlic said in Sarajevo on 14 June that the

    Bosnian authorities are disappointed with the results of the

    EU's Balkan Stability Pact, Reuters reported. He suggested

    that many donors have not made good on their pledges and that

    the Pact's own bureaucracy has slowed matters down. He called

    for a greater role for countries from the region in

    coordinating projects. The Stability Pact acts as a clearing

    house for projects in order to prevent waste and duplication

    of effort and to identify projects most worthy of support. PM

    [19] SLOVENIAN MILITARY INVESTIGATES SECURITY LEAK

    The Defense

    Ministry said in a statement in Ljubljana on 14 June that it

    has launched an investigation to find out who recently leaked

    a document to the Maribor daily "Vecer" regarding cooperation

    between the Intelligence Security Agency (OVS) and the U.S.

    Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The statement did not deny

    the substance of the report in "Vecer," which wrote that the

    DIA and OVS are jointly studying the political situation in

    Serbia. The two agencies are particularly interested in the

    former general and current opposition politician Vuk

    Obradovic, AP reported. The U.S. embassy had no comment on

    the report. "Vecer" and the reporter who wrote the story are

    cooperating with the police investigation. President Milan

    Kucan said, however, that time has come to "question the

    purpose" of the OVS, which "has been implicated in various

    scandals and is undermining the credibility of the country."

    PM

    [20] CROATIA ISSUES WARRANT FOR TYCOON

    The Interior Ministry on

    14 June put out an international arrest warrant for Josip

    Gucic and his son Zvonimir, who are suspected of embezzling

    about $24 million in dubious business transactions in recent

    years. The elder Gucic is believed to be in Germany, where he

    was allegedly undergoing medical treatment. This is the

    latest in a series of investigations into the affairs of

    leading businessmen who were close to the regime of the late

    President Franjo Tudjman. PM

    [21] RACAN PLEDGES ANTI-FASCIST LAW

    Croatian Prime Minister Ivica

    Racan said in Zagreb on 14 June that his government will soon

    submit to the parliament a bill on "prohibiting the

    propagation and use of fascist symbols." The move comes in

    the wake of a recent gathering of far-right supporters to

    honor a World War II fascist leader (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"

    12 June 2000). PM

    [22] CROATIAN GOVERNMENT RECLASSIFIES 'INVALIDS'

    The government

    on 14 June published the names of several generals and many

    reserve officers whom it claims falsely were classified as

    war invalids and thereby entitled to special pensions and

    privileges. Many of the men were close to the Tudjman

    leadership. Former commander Branimir Glavas said that he

    does not recognize the legitimacy of the move, "Jutarnji

    list" reported. General Ivan Tolj, who also lost his

    invalid's status, said that he will start court proceedings

    against the government. Other top officers affected include

    Ante Budimir, Zivko Budimir, Mate Lausic, Mile Cuk, and Matko

    Kakrigi. PM

    [23] ROMANIA'S SECURITATE FILES COUNCIL SUSPENDS ACTIVITY IN

    PROTEST

    The College of the National Council for the Study of

    the Securitate Files Archives on 14 June said it is

    "temporarily suspending" its activities to protest the fact

    that the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), where most of

    the files of the former secret police are deposited, is not

    cooperating with the council in good faith, RFE/RL's

    Bucharest bureau reported. College member Mircea Dinescu said

    the SRI is still using some Securitate informers and does not

    want their identify to be revealed. Gheorghe Oniosoru, who

    chairs the council, said access to the files must not be

    hindered or made conditional. The SRI has denied the

    accusations. President Emil Constantinescu, meanwhile,

    convened a meeting on 15 June between Oniosoru and SRI chief

    Costin Georgescu to mediate the conflict. MS

    [24] HEAD OF ROMANIAN NATIONAL OIL COMPANY DETAINED

    Police on 14

    June detained for questioning Ion Popa, manager of the

    National Oil Company Petrom, who is suspected of having

    signed a contract for diesel oil deliveries worth some $1.4

    million to two local firms without requesting bank

    guarantees. Under existing rules, state-run companies must

    ask for collateral when payment is not made on delivery,

    Reuters reported. MS

    [25] EUROPEAN COMMISSION SAYS ROMANIAN OFFICIALS STOLE CHILDREN'S

    AID

    Representatives from the European Commission said in

    Bucharest on 14 June that Romanian officials stole aid sent

    for malnourished children, including stocks of honey,

    biscuits and chocolate, Reuters reported. They said they

    found many children still suffering from malnutrition at a

    center in Bucharest that had received in November enough aid

    to last for nine months. Solving the problem of homeless and

    mistreated children is one of the conditions set by the EU

    for Romania's accession to the union. MS

    [26] SLOVAK PREMIER IN BULGARIA

    The premiers of Bulgaria and

    Slovakia on 14 June said their countries wish to coordinate

    efforts in the quest to join the EU and NATO, BTA and TASR

    reported. Ivan Kostov and Mikulas Dzurinda also stressed the

    importance of resuming navigation on the River Danube, which

    is now hindered by the ruins of bridges destroyed during on

    NATO air raids on Yugoslavia last year. Kostov said Slovak

    businessmen must participate in the opportunities offered by

    the Balkan Stability Pact, mentioning in this connection the

    planned new bridge over the Danube linking Bulgaria and

    Romania. Dzurinda was also received by President Petar

    Stoyanov. MS

    [27] BULGARIAN TOWN AGAIN POLLUTED BY ROMANIA

    The River Danube

    town of Nikopol has again been polluted by ammonia gas from

    the Turnu Magurele chemical plant, on the Romanian side of

    the river. Concentrations were 3.7 times above standard

    norms, AP reported, quoting an Environment Ministry official.

    MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [28] WILL LUKASHENKA OUTPLAY THE OPPOSITION ONCE AGAIN?

    By Jan Maksymiuk

    On 24 November 1996, a constitutional referendum

    initiated by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka took place in

    Belarus. Lukashenka submitted to popular vote a radically

    rewritten constitution broadly expanding his powers at the

    expense of those of the legislative branch. The new basic law

    abolished the country's former parliament--the 260-seat

    Supreme Soviet--and introduced a bicameral legislature

    consisting of a 110-seat Chamber of Representatives (the

    lower house) and a 64-seat Council of the Republic (the upper

    house). This legislature has been deprived not only of the

    possibility to effectively act as a check on the government

    but also of the right to draw up its own budget.

    The 1996 plebiscite took place amid egregious violations

    of constitutional norms and procedures, and its results are

    widely believed to have been rigged. Before the referendum,

    the opposition in the Supreme Soviet had initiated procedures

    for impeaching Lukashenka, and his days in office appeared to

    be numbered. What saved him at the very last moment was a

    "conciliatory mission" undertaken by Moscow. A group of top

    officials led by then Russian Prime Minister Viktor

    Chernomyrdin arrived in Minsk and persuaded the opposition

    not to impeach Lukashenka in exchange for the Belarusian

    president's pledge that the referendum would be of a

    consultative nature only. The opposition and Lukashenka

    struck a deal to that effect, but following the referendum,

    which overwhelmingly endorsed the new constitution,

    Lukashenka enforced the results of the vote by decree.

    The new constitution prolonged Lukashenka's term in

    office for two another years, until 2001. Since the 1996

    referendum, Lukashenka has consolidated his power and turned

    Belarus, as the U.S. Congress's 3 May 2000 resolution put it,

    into "an authoritarian police state where human rights are

    routinely violated." With Moscow's political and economic

    support, he has appeared to ignore Western criticism. But

    while he has managed to marginalize the opposition at home,

    he has failed to undermine the oppositionists' standing

    abroad.

    This fall, Belarus will hold elections to the Chamber of

    Representatives, a body that in the past four years has

    turned the concept of Belarusian parliamentarism into a

    caricature. Since last fall, the Belarusian opposition has

    been trying--with the help of the OSCE and other European

    organizations--to organize a dialogue with the authorities in

    order to hold fair, democratic parliamentary elections and

    overcome the country's international isolation. The OSCE says

    it will recognize the Belarusian ballot only if the

    authorities amend the country's electoral code, give the

    opposition access to the state-controlled media, expand the

    powers of the current legislature, and stop political

    persecution.

    Following Vladimir Putin's election as Russian

    president, Lukashenka's political position has dramatically

    weakened. As long as the politically--and physically--feeble

    Boris Yeltsin remained in power, Lukashenka could harbor

    hopes to continue to push his integration policies ahead and

    eventually succeed Yeltsin as head of a Belarusian-Russian

    unified state. Following Putin's installation in the Kremlin,

    however, such a turn of events seems unlikely. Now the most

    pressing issue confronting Lukashenka appears to be how to

    keep power in Minsk and avoid the incorporation of Belarus

    into the Russian Federation as the latter's 90th subject.

    Holding free and fair elections in Belarus could give

    Lukashenka the democratic mandate that he so obviously lacks,

    as well as improve his political position both at home and

    abroad. It is likely that these considerations have forced

    Lukashenka to launch a so-called "sociopolitical dialogue" in

    Belarus. Two months ago, the authorities brought together

    some 100 public associations and organizations in a bid to

    present the gathering to the OSCE as a forum for discussing

    the upcoming elections. The Belarusian opposition, however,

    refused to participate in that forum, which it says lacks the

    leverage to change Belarus's legislation and is only

    Lukashenka's attempt at outplaying the opposition (and the

    international community) once again.

    So far, the OSCE Minsk mission appears to have abided by

    the position defined by the OSCE Istanbul summit in November

    1999: The constitutional crisis in Belarus can be overcome

    only by a "significant dialogue" that will lead to free,

    democratic elections. The current "sociopolitical dialogue"

    by no means corresponds to that definition, even though

    Lukashenka has promised to take the legislative initiative

    and submit to the Chamber of Representatives some amendments

    to the electoral code. At the same time, he appears willing

    neither to discuss the expansion of powers of the current

    legislature nor give the opposition access to the media he

    controls. As a result, his declared intention to hold

    transparent and democratic elections sounds like an empty

    promise.

    By August at the latest, the OSCE is expected to make a

    decision on whether to send observers to Belarus's elections

    this fall. Sending observers to elections will not

    automatically mean that the OSCE recognizes the ballot as

    democratic. But such a step usually indicates that there are

    prerequisites for holding democratic elections.

    In Belarus, no such prerequisites have been in evidence.

    Nor is there any real chance that in the next two months

    Lukashenka will take radical steps to comply with the OSCE

    demands. As a result, it would seem that the OSCE decision on

    whether to send its observers to Belarus is a foregone

    conclusion. However, given Lukashenka's talent for political

    maneuvering, it cannot be ruled out that he will outplay the

    opposition once again--this time with the OSCE performing a

    "conciliatory mission" in Belarus.

    15-06-00


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


    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article
    Back to Top
    Copyright 1995-2016 HR-Net (Hellenic Resources Network). An HRI Project.
    All Rights Reserved.

    HTML by the HR-Net Group / Hellenic Resources Institute, Inc.
    rferl2html v1.01 run on Thursday, 15 June 2000 - 13:33:11 UTC