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RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team
OPPOSITION URGES FOREIGN MINISTER TO STEP DOWN OVER EU CONCESSIONS. A public controversy erupted in Poland last week over the thorny EU accession issue of land sales. On 15 November, the onemonth -old leftist government of Premier Leszek Miller approved a relaxed stance in EU membership talks on the labor market and land sales (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 20 November 2001). In a televised address to the nation the same day, Miller said Warsaw will drop its demand that the EU open its labor market to Polish workers immediately after accession, adding that Poland is ready to accept a maximum two-year restriction on the free movement of labor. The government also decided to reduce to 12 years its earlier demand for an 18-year transition period before foreigners can buy farmland in Poland.
These changes in Poland's stance on EU negotiations caused some disquiet among opposition parties. The right-wing League of Polish Families commented that the proposed changes in Poland's negotiating stance with the EU are unacceptable. "On the basis of what is going on at present, we have a negative stance toward integration," Wojciech Mojzesowicz of the radical Self-Defense farmers union said, adding that "we want somebody to convince us." Kazimierz Ujazdowski of the Law and Justice party said he is "uneasy" over the scale and tempo of the government's concessions in the EU entry talks. Maciej Plazynski of the centrist Civic Platform commented that the labor market concessions are "risky," but added that he has no reservations about the proposed changes to restrictions on the purchase of land.
Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and Minister for European Affairs Danuta Huebner visited Brussels on 19-20 November to officially communicate Poland's new position in EU talks. But they actually said more than was known to the Polish public. Aside from what Miller told the nation on 15 November, Cimoszewicz and Huebner announced in Brussels that Poland will also allow EU citizens to buy land plots and homes for leisure purposes seven years after entry into the EU, while EU farmers will be able to buy farmland in Poland for their own cultivation after a three-year lease period. These concessions sent shock waves throughout the opposition and surprised even the Peasant Party (PSL), the ruling partner of Democratic Left Alliance (SLD).
Antoni Macierewicz, the leader of the League of Polish Families (LPR), called on Cimoszewicz to resign, saying the foreign minister "misled the parliament and public opinion" by withholding such important information from the Polish population. "I would like to underline that our party supports EU entry, but not on the terms presented by this government," Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski commented. The PSL parliamentary caucus gathered over the past weekend to discuss the government's EU accession concessions and demand explanations from PSL leader Jaroslaw Kalinowski. According to PAP, the PSL lawmakers agreed that the government coalition should remain in its present shape but said they are planning to ask the prime minister to explain "errors" in preparing Poland's EU negotiation positions.
Cimoszewicz said he will not resign as foreign minister. He confirmed that the decision to change Poland's negotiation positions with the EU was agreed upon with the government. Cimoszewicz called criticism against him "emotional overreaction," and added that the lack of full information about Poland's EU position stems from the nature of negotiating the best membership terms.
However, a full-scale political storm was stirred up on 23 November by Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper, who, while speaking on a local radio station in Olsztyn, called Cimoszewicz a "scoundrel" for making unannounced concessions in Poland's EU talks (see "Quotes of the Week" below).
The LPR has announced that it will call this week for a vote of confidence in Cimoszewicz, and Self-Defense and Law and Justice have declared their support for the motion. However, since the SLD and the PSL have a parliamentary majority, Cimoszewicz is not likely to be voted out.
On the other hand, Lepper, who is a deputy speaker of the Sejm, may face a vote designed to strip him of his parliamentary post. Lawmaker Jan Maria Rokita from the opposition Civic Platform, who is preparing a relevant motion, said Lepper is turning politics into a "circus." It is not clear how individual parliamentary groups would behave in the event of a vote on Lepper.
KUCHMA AIDE TO HEAD ELECTION BLOC. President Leonid Kuchma on 23 November said he approves of the intention of presidential administration head Volodymyr Lytvyn to head the For a United Ukraine election bloc. Kuchma called Lytvyn "a professional and a decent, honest man," adding, "today such people are few on the political scene." The leaders of the four parties constituting the For a United Ukraine bloc -- Valeriy Pustovoytenko (Popular Democratic Party), Serhiy Tyhypko (Labor Ukraine), Mykola Azarov (Party of Regions), and Mykhaylo Hladiy (Agrarian Party) -- said earlier this month that Lytvyn gave his consent to lead their bloc.
According to Ukrainian political commentator Vyacheslav Pikhovshek, by heading the pro-presidential bloc in the 31 March 2002 parliamentary election, Lytvyn is paving the way for his own future presidency.
"By proposing Lytvyn [as head of the bloc], Kuchma not only proves the fact that nobody is guaranteed a place near the president for a long time, but also confirms his principle: the person proposing an idea is responsible for its implementation," Pikhovshek said in his program "Epicenter" on One Plus One Television on 18 November. Pikhovshek recalled in his program that Lytvyn is the last person remaining from the close entourage Kuchma formed in 1994, the beginning of Kuchma's first presidential term.
According to Pikhovshek, Lytvyn has his own people placed in rival political forces, for example, Roman Bezsmertnyy and Petro Poroshenko, who are campaign managers in former Premier Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine election bloc. According to Pikhovshek, For a United Ukraine emerges as a new "party of power" for which the state administration will most likely work in the election campaign. "I am sure nobody doubts that Lytvyn will go on leave [from the presidential administration] before the elections at least to formally calm his opponents. But does his being on leave mean anything to state officials? Perhaps they will be instructed that his leave is no more than a formality," Pikhovshek said.
RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report is prepared by Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed every Tuesday.
RUSSIA SIGNS ACCORD ON MAJOR PIPELINE TO SOUTHERN EUROPE. Energy Minister Igor Yusufov and Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Slavko Linic signed a protocol of intent in Moscow to construct a strategic pipeline that would bring Russian oil through southern European ports to the world market while bypassing the overloaded Turkish straits of the Bosporus and Dardanelles, RIA-Novosti reported on 26 November. Meanwhile, YUKOS President Mikhail Khodorkovskii told "Kommersant-Daily" the same day that the oil-trading company will be responsible for Russia's role in the project. Khodorkovskii said the initial capacity of the pipeline will be 5 million tons and will gradually increase to 15 million. Khodorkovskii stressed that the pipeline, dubbed "DruzhbaAdria," will run through Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, and from there to Italy, giving his company access to the Adriatic Sea from which the oil can be shipped worldwide by tankers. VY
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES 'THE YEAR OF UKRAINE' IN RUSSIA. President Putin signed a decree proclaiming 2002 the "Year of Ukraine in the Russian Federation" and set up a 20-member coordinating council to promote the expansion of bilateral ties in culture, education, and science, ORT reported on 26 November. The council will be headed by the chief of the presidential staff, Aleksandr Voloshin, and include Media Minister Mikhail Lesin, Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi, LUKoil head Vagit Alekperov, and aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska. Meanwhile, Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo said in an interview with the Kyiv Russian-language newspaper "Den" that the Russian and Ukrainian presidents have met over a dozen times this year, and that such "intensive contacts are unprecedented for the decade since both countries became independent." VY
HAS A NEW ARMED CONTINGENT INFILTRATED ABKHAZIA? A group of some 1,500 armed men, whom the Abkhaz government believes are Ukrainians, has been spotted in Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported on 26 November, quoting "reliable sources." LF
RUSSIAN MEDIA CENTER OPENS IN UKRAINE. A Russian media center -- founded by the Media Soyuz journalist organization, the Public Council of the Ukrainian-Russian Cooperation, the Internet newspaper ukraina.ru, and other organizations -- opened in Kyiv on 26 November, Inter television reported. "Our countries are present in each other. The problem of our past was that we could not find a form for this presence, or we proposed wrong forms. We have to find the right forms that would be convenient for us," ukraina.ru Project Director Gleb Pavlovskii said of the center's tasks. The center is headed by Inter television presenter Oleksandr Kolodiv. Media Soyuz President Aleksandr Lyubimov said Kolodiv was chosen because a Ukrainian journalist "will not be associated with Russian imperialism." JM
UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY REPORTS ON ARMS REDUCTION. "We are considering the long-term possibility of further reduction of armaments and military hardware: about 2,000 tanks and armored combat vehicles, more than 1,000 field guns and multiple rocket launchers, and more than 350 assault helicopters," Ukraine's acting Chief of General Staff Mykola Palchuk told Interfax on 26 November. Palchuk recalled that over the past five years Ukraine's armed forces closed down the headquarters of three fronts, five armies, and 14 divisions, as well as took off combat duty more than 4,000 tanks and other combat vehicles in addition to some 800 warplanes and helicopters. JM
POLISH DEPUTY SPEAKER SENDS APOLOGY TO FOREIGN MINISTER... Deputy parliamentary speaker Andrzej Lepper, the populist leader of the radical farmers union Self-Defense, has sent a letter with apologies to Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Polish media reported on 26 November. Speaking on a local radio station on 23 November, Lepper called Cimoszewicz a "scoundrel" and Cimoszewicz's father a "criminal who killed Poles" (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 27 November 2001). "I have the impression that the apology is as equally roguish as what it refers to," Cimoszewicz commented on Lepper's letter on 26 November. Meanwhile, Premier Leszek Miller said the same day that he sees no further possibility for cooperation between the government and deputy speaker Lepper. JM
...AND SAYS HE WILL BACK UKRAINIAN COMRADES IN THE NEXT ELECTIONS. Voronin also said he will back in the next parliamentary elections in Ukraine "communist comrades" who may help in bringing about a solution of the conflict with the Transdniester. He explained that each time he meets his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma they agree on setting up the joint custom posts that Chisinau wants in place, but that later "our Ukrainian colleagues dial back, claiming this is an economic blockade against the Transdniester." The Ukrainian authorities, he said, "behave as if the problem is more important for Ukraine than for Moldova," and by so doing they condone smuggling by the Transdniester authorities, Infotag reported. He said that unlike Russia, the Ukrainians have not yet learned "what is by now clear to everybody," namely that the Transdniester is ruled by "a criminal group" and that "the Smirnov regime seeks to immortalize itself" under the guise of the "presidential elections" scheduled for 9 December. MS