RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 2, No. 14, 11 April 2000

A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team.

SECRET SERVICE'S INTERNET REPORT SPARKS CRITICISM. The State Protection Office (UOP) on 3 April published on its official website a report on Poland's security threats. President Aleksander Kwasniewski commented that he was surprised at the release of the report, which he said should have remained confidential. "I don't understand why this type of material, which is quite controversial and debatable, was published on the Internet and made generally available," Kwasniewski told journalists. Jan Litynski, head of the parliamentary commission for special services, noted that the report "deserves to be classified." Premier Jerzy Buzek said "This report should not have been published in this is unacceptable." He also ordered an investigation into who had approved placing the report on the Web.

UOP spokeswoman Magdalena Kluczynska commented that the report was released owing to a "misunderstanding" but did not say who was responsible for it. "It was one of the analytical texts, worked on in the course of the preparation of materials for a government report on security, and it did not reflect the stance of the government," Kluczynska told PAP. On the morning of 4 April, the report could no longer be found on the UOP website. However, the same day PAP disseminated the text.

The part of the report most worthy of censure, in the opinion of Polish commentators, dealt with Russia and national minority issues. Below is an excerpt of the UOP report disseminated by PAP and translated into English by BBC Monitoring:

"Poland continues to remain the target of the intelligence operations of various foreign special services, both due to its political and economic position in the region as also due to its membership of NATO and the military role that is associated with this. The most active functioning in this respect is that of the Russian services. A strengthening of attempts at the intelligence penetration of the official representations of our country abroad may be observed, and also of reconnaissance of the situation in the strategic sectors of the Polish economy and in the state administration.

"The basic source of potential threats to the security of Poland is the continuing unstable situation in the countries of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Changes at the top of the power structure in Russia, the war in Chechnya, and the continuing very difficult economic situation of the Russian Federation favor the growth of a superpower mood within Russian society. This is being incited by representatives of the political elite--superpower and even nationalist slogans have in the Russia of today become basic weapons in the struggle for power. In this context, the growing influence of the structures of enforcement (the special services, the army) on political life in the Russian Federation is disturbing.

"It continues to be the case that a change in the proWestern direction of the foreign policy of Ukraine into an unambiguously pro-Russian one, which would cause a slowing down of the process of tightening of Polish-Ukrainian links of partnership, cannot be precluded.

"The following are also factors which are capable of disturbing the stabilization witnessed so far in the region of Central and Eastern Europe: the possible worsening of relations between the Baltic countries and Russia and also the continuation by President A. Lukashenka of activities contrary to the principles of democracy.

"The problems of the Polish minority in Lithuania may also negatively influence the atmosphere of interstate relations. It is necessary to assume that, despite the need perceived by the Lithuanian state establishment to strengthen good-neighborly relations with the Polish Republic, actions intended to encourage Poles [in Lithuania] to assimilate with ethnically Lithuanian society will be continued, gradually and carefully but consistently.

"A potential threat to the interests of the Polish Republic, especially in the context of Polish aspiration for membership in the European Union, may be created by actions undertaken by structures which are affiliated with expelled organizations (the Union of the Expellees). In this respect, it is possible to cite the propaganda offensive in support of autonomy for Silesia (and also implemented with the commitment of certain German minority circles and activists from the Silesian Autonomy Movement)."


DOUBTS REMAIN OVER 16 APRIL REFERENDUM. It seems that the Constitutional Court's 29 March resolution to strike two questions from Ukraine's 16 April constitutional referendum has alleviated fears of the immediate introduction of authoritarianism in the country. The court ruled that two questions--one on the vote of no confidence in the parliament and the other on the possibility of adopting the country's constitution via a referendum--are unconstitutional. The four remaining questions were deemed constitutional and, if approved in the plebiscite, will be binding. This ruling, however, has not dispelled the many doubts both abroad and at home as regards the consequences of the 16 April ballot.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) recommended earlier this month that President Leonid Kuchma postpone the plebiscite until the parliament adopts a new law on referenda. Kuchma decreed the current referendum on the basis of a Soviet-era law that does not take into account the legal and political realities of independent Ukraine. Second, PACE warned Kyiv that it may seek suspension of Ukraine's membership in the council if the referendum results are implemented by unconstitutional means.

PACE's warning was clearly based on the suspicion than Ukraine's Supreme Council might be reluctant to approve constitutional amendments limiting lawmakers' rights and prerogatives, particularly stripping them of immunity from criminal prosecution. Even if the current parliamentary majority unanimously supported possible constitutional amendments, it would still be short of some 30 votes to change the constitution (at least 300 votes are needed for such a move). Thus not without reason, PACE feared that Kuchma might seek to amend the constitution by decree, as Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka had done in 1996, following a constitutional referendum of a consultative character.

Some Ukrainian commentators also point to ambiguities in the formulation of referendum questions, which may lead to tensions between the parliament and the president in the future. In particular, the questions about reducing the number of lawmakers to 300 and introducing a bicameral parliament in Ukraine do not specify to which entity that number applies--the parliament in its entirety or its lower chamber. There is also no mention in the referendum ballots of how the second chamber should be formed if Ukrainians decide on a bicameral legislature.

Many sarcastic comments have been elicited in Ukraine by the court's decision to approve the question about stripping lawmakers of their immunity from criminal prosecution. The question proposes leaving in place the constitutional formulation that Ukrainian lawmakers' immunity "is guaranteed" but simultaneously excluding the provision that people's deputies may not be tried for criminal offenses, detained, or arrested without the approval of the Supreme Council. How much is such "immunity" worth if even a police sergeant can arrest a people's deputy at any time and under any pretext, many Ukrainian publications have wondered.

There is also a conflict between the current constitution and the court's ruling that referendum results should be binding. According to the constitution, only the Supreme Council can change the country's basic law. On the other hand, the Supreme Council is a sovereign branch of power and no Ukrainian court has the right to order the legislature to approve any laws in a mandatory way.

Is there a way out of this tangle of contradictions? The easiest way would be to regard the 16 April referendum as consultative. Such an option has been suggested by PACE and would be the best approach for Ukraine, which urgently needs political accord following the parliament's approval of the ambitious reformist program of Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet. Too much is at stake now, and any further political confrontation could easily extinguish the glimmer of hope Ukrainians saw this year.

The worst scenario would be the parliament's refusal to comply with the referendum (which is expected to approve all four questions) and Kuchma's possible decision to dissolve the legislature and call for new parliamentary elections. In such a case, the country, beleaguered by social and economic problems, would once again be plunged into an election campaign that might alter the balance of power but would hardly result in any economic improvement for the pauperized nation.

"I am against abolishing lawmakers' immunity since [that move] will be used to pressurize deputies. Businessmen in the parliament have yielded to the president's resolution to abolish immunity, because they are expecting the legalization of shadow capital. If all incomes of shadow economy businessmen are legalized, they will of course ensure immunity for themselves for cash. But opposition deputies need immunity as a guarantee of work that is independent from the [executive] authorities." -- Ukraine's Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz; quoted by the 7 April "Kievskie vedomosti."

"Lawmakers' immunity is no good at all. I tell my wife at home--I have parliamentary immunity, so please handle me with care! But she takes my salary from me all the same, so it is impossible even to squirrel anything away. The fullfledged immunity of a deputy may be enjoyed only in a grave! But I fear that there are problems with immunity even in the other world: just look at Grandfather Lenin." -- Ukraine's Green Party leader Vitaliy Kononov; quoted by the 7 April "Kievskie vedomosti."

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.

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TO HOLD CHORNOBYL ANNIVERSARY RALLY. Opposition representatives have applied to the Minsk City authorities for permission to hold the traditional "Chornobyl Way" march along Minsk's main avenue on 26 April to commemorate the anniversary of the 1986 Chornobyl power plant accident, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service. The organizers are planning to hold the march under environmental and political slogans and will demand, in particular, "real negotiations" between the authorities and the opposition. According to head of the organizing committee Ivan Nikitchanka, more than 1.8 million Belarusians currently live in areas that are contaminated with radioactivity. According to Henadz Hrushavy, head of the Children of Chornobyl charitable fund, the Belarusian authorities conceal information about the health of people living on the contaminated territory. They have also failed to implement a program for dealing with the consequences of the Chornobyl disaster and obstruct the shipment of Western humanitarian aid to Belarus, he added. JM

POLL SAYS UKRAINIANS READY TO APPROVE THREE REFERENDUM QUESTIONS. A poll conducted last month by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology among 1,900 respondents throughout Ukraine found that 63 percent want to take part in the 16 April constitutional referendum, 26 percent will not vote, and 11 percent are undecided, Interfax reported on 10 April. According to the poll, the question on whether to grant the president the right to dissolve the parliament will find support among 63 percent and will be opposed by 19 percent. The abolition of lawmakers' immunity from criminal prosecution will be backed by 83 percent of voters and opposed by 12 percent. Ninety-two percent of Ukrainians are expected to approve the reduction of parliamentary seats from 450 to 300, while only 3 percent are likely to oppose it. The introduction of a bicameral parliament was supported by 23 percent of respondents and opposed by 25 percent. JM

UKRAINIAN OFFICIAL SAYS 'CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS' POSSIBLE AFTER REFERENDUM. Roman Bezsmertnyy, permanent presidential representative in the parliament, told Interfax on 10 April that Ukraine may face a "constitutional crisis" following the 16 April referendum. According to Bezsmertnyy, there are two conflicting positions in Ukraine: that of the Constitutional Court, which says that referendum results should be binding, and another maintaining that the parliament should decide on whether to introduce the constitutional amendments approved in the referendum. Asked what might happen if the parliament does not comply with the referendum results, Bezsmertnyy noted that "this is exactly what I call a constitutional crisis, in which virtually no resolution exists." JM