RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
PARLIAMENT SATISFIED WITH FOREIGN POLICY. The Sejm on 10 May voted by 379 to eight with 17 abstentions to approve Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek's annual report on foreign policy, which he had presented to the parliament the previous day.
Geremek told lawmakers that the fundamental goal of Polish foreign policy in the next few years is to gain full EU membership. According to the minister, "the horizon determining our actions is the date of 1 January 2003 as the day [on which we will be ready] for [EU] membership, and we hope to get that membership." In Geremek's opinion, putting off Poland's EU entry to beyond 2003 would be unfavorable not only for Poland but also for the EU itself. "We expect the process of reforming EU institutions, on which its enlargement to include the countries of central Europe depends, to end in December 2000," he noted. He added that voices from some EU countries about the need to slow down EU enlargement "are unjustified." "One gets the impression that in EU capitals the comfortable...status quo is valued higher than the future of Europe," Geremek said.
Geremek told the lawmakers that in Polish-Russian relations, removing the historical burden "is a task still to be fulfilled." He admitted that these relations "have been at an unsatisfactory level for years." Geremek also pointed out that "the situation in Belarus is a potential challenge to regional stability." He stressed that Poland, together with other countries, intends to back "evolutionary transformations" in that country. "We are actively involved in implementing the strategic partnership with Ukraine," he noted. He pledged that Poland will back Kyiv's transformations and reforms oriented toward creating "a stable, pro-European, and sovereign Ukraine."
Geremek's fears that the West is slowing down the process of EU enlargement were shared by both coalition and opposition deputies. Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) leader Leszek Miller, however, pointed to the government's "ineptitude, quarrels about competencies, and various ideological phobias" as the reason for that slowdown. Miller also criticized the government for "mistakes" in its policy with regard to Russia. "During the past year we had to ask ourselves who manages Poland's foreign policy-- Minister for Special Services Janusz Palubicki or Minister Geremek," Miller said, alluding to the expulsion of nine Russian diplomats on charges of spying and to Palubicki's statement that Russia continues spying operations in Poland. "Have we tried to expand our contacts [as well as] economic, scientific, cultural, and trade cooperation [with Russia]? No. Positive actions are more and more often replaced by the demonstration of aversion and megalomaniac superiority," Miller noted.
Aleksander Hall of the coalition Conservative Peasant Union said Miller's assessments are "unfair." According to Hall, Russia, too, is responsible for the cool relations with Poland. "The Russian state is finding it difficult to accept that Poland is a sovereign state, belongs to a different military alliance, and is no longer dependant on Russia," Hall concluded.
GOVERNMENT FIGHTS TO GET CASH FOR ENERGY. The cabinet has revoked 23 resolutions allowing non-cash payment for energy and fuel supplies, Interfax reported on 12 May. In particular, the cabinet canceled the 21 May 1999 resolution "On Improving Payments for Heat and Electricity" (which introduced barter settlements between thermal power plants and their customers) and the 21 January 1998 resolution "On Securing the Supply of Fuel, Equipment, and Materials to Nuclear Power Stations" (which allowed the National Atomic Energy Company, Enerhoatom, to supply cheaper electricity as well as use middlemen in deals involving barter). In 1999, cash was paid for only 7.7 percent of all sold electricity in Ukraine, while nearly 70 percent of electricity was traded in barter deals.
In what seems to be an immediate response to the cabinet's decisions, Enerhoatom on 12 May cut off power supplies to eight enterprises in Vinnytsya Oblast, demanding 100-percent cash payments for electricity.
Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, who is overseeing reform in Ukraine's energy sector, told the 15 May "Den" that "the government and I personally have stirred all the quagmire that exists in the energy sector. We have stirred it not just to frighten a little or threaten [somebody]. No. We are constructing new rules of the game--transparent, clear-cut, understandable for everybody.... And we have already achieved a result--we are actually limiting the shadow sphere in an essential way and introducing normal market instruments that do not give opportunities to steal from the state."
Mykhaylo Brodskyy, head of the parliamentary Committee for Industrial Policy, seems dubious about the government's achievements in generating more money for energy supplies. He told the 15 May "Den":
"I do not think that the government is making any progress. I think that the government now is a talking shop. Everybody has forgotten for some reason that it was I who announced that Enerhoatom had been ruined, that benefiting comrades had been stealing money there. The government has won an incomprehensible victory--it has begun to collect 100 million instead of 10 [for power supplies]. I have a question: And where was that 90 million--which appeared all of a sudden--taken from? Who had been taking that 90 million every month until now? [Has the government] clarified this question?"
"Ukraine does not aim at joining NATO. Any speculation on the part of so-called politicians about relations between Ukraine and NATO are exclusively their private opinion. There exists the [official] state policy in which Ukraine has never declared its readiness to enter NATO, and this is the main thing." -- Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk; quoted by Interfax on 10 May.
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.
UKRAINE, AZERBAIJAN DISCUSS NAGORNO-KARABAKH, PIPELINE PROJECT. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk met with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Vilayat Guliyev, on 15 May to discuss Kyiv's possible participation in an OSCE peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh. Tarasyuk said Ukraine is ready to contribute to the contingent if the OSCE and Azerbaijan deem it necessary. Guliyev expressed Azerbaijan's interest in building a pipeline to carry oil from its Caspian Sea deposits through Ukraine to Poland. "Azerbaijan has always stood for diversifying oil pipelines. This is in the interests of both Azerbaijan and Ukraine," AP quoted Guliyev as saying. Tarasyuk said the Ukrainian pipeline for the BakuSupsa -Odesa-Brody-Gdansk oil transportation project is 70 percent completed. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DECREES PRIVATIZATION OF POWER SUPPLIES... Leonid Kuchma has signed a decree on the privatization of more regional power distributors, Interfax reported on 15 May. The state has so far sold more than 75 percent of the shares in seven of Ukraine's 27 regional power suppliers. Kuchma's decree allows the sale of more than 75 percent of shares in another eight companies, more than 60 percent in 10, and more than 50 percent in two. JM
...URGES ADOPTION OF CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. Deputy parliamentary speaker Stepan Havrysh told journalists on 15 May that the president has urged the parliament to adopt constitutional amendments in line with the 16 April referendum and to do so no later than February 2001, Interfax reported. According to Havrysh, Kuchma will not oppose lawmakers if the parliament introduces "some corrections" into the constitutional formulations approved by the referendum. Havrysh suggested that Kuchma might introduce the constitutional amendments by decree if lawmakers failed to pass them. JM