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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
WEEKLY POLLS ELECTION BLOC LEADERS ON POLICY PRIORITIES. The Kyiv-based "Zerkalo Nedeli/Dzerkalo Tyzhnya" weekly on 26 January published the results of its poll among Ukraine's leading blocs and parties on their program goals. The weekly posed its questions to presidential administration head Volodymyr Lytvyn, the leader of the For a United Ukraine bloc; former Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, who heads a bloc named after herself; former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, who leads the Our Ukraine bloc; Valentyna Dovzhenko of the Women for the Future bloc; the Communist Party leader, Petro Symonenko; Vitaliy Kononov of the Green Party; Viktor Medvedchuk of the United Social Democratic Party (USDP); Mykhaylo Brodskyy of populist Yabluko; and Oleksandr Moroz of the Socialist Party.
According to the poll, the Communists would like Ukraine to become a parliamentary republic without a president. Yabluko, the Greens, and the Socialists believe that Ukraine should be transformed into a parliamentary-presidential republic with a parliament electing the prime minister. For a United Ukraine, Women for the Future, and Tymoshenko support the current semipresidential republic, in which the president appoints the prime minister.
For a United Ukraine and Women for the Future support the idea of a bicameral parliament for Ukraine, but other hopefuls prefer the current unicameral legislature. All of them except For a United Ukraine would like to replace the existing mixed-vote system in parliamentary elections with a proportional system favoring strong parties. This bloc is also the only one that unconditionally supports President Leonid Kuchma. Tymoshenko, Yabluko, the Communists, and the Socialists identified themselves as the opposition.
All of the leaders except the Communist leader, Symonenko, agreed that Ukraine should remain outside military blocs. The Communists want Ukraine to join a military bloc with Russia.
Opinions on potential EU membership differed significantly. For a United Ukraine and Our Ukraine want EU membership for Ukraine irrespective of relations with Russia. Yabluko and the Greens see Ukraine joining Europe only together with Russia. Tymoshenko dodged a direct answer, saying that national interest is above all, according to "Zerkalo Nedeli/Dzerkalo Tyzhnya." Women for the Future suggested that Ukraine should cooperate with all European countries, especially Russia. The Socialists would like to cooperate equally with Russia and the EU. The Social Democrats view EU membership for Ukraine as a distant prospect only, while the Communists prefer cooperation with the CIS to that of the EU.
Opinions also varied on the language issue. For a United Ukraine, Our Ukraine, and Tymoshenko agreed with the status quo of Ukrainian as the only state language. The leaders of Yabluko, Women for the Future, the Greens, the Social Democrats, and the Socialists believe that Ukrainian should remain the state language, while Russian should be granted a special legal status. The Communists would like Ukraine to have two official languages -- Ukrainian and Russian.
CHORNOVIL'S SONS IN RIVAL CAMPS. The coming parliamentary ballot will see a fratricidal confrontation between Taras Chornovil and Andriy Chornovil, the sons of Rukh charismatic leader Vyacheslav Chornovil, who died in an automobile crash in 1999. Taras Chornovil belongs to the Reforms and Order Party (a component of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine) and is running in a single-seat constituency in Lviv Oblast. Andriy Chornovil is No. 3 on the list of the Popular Movement of Ukraine election bloc. This bloc was established by the Popular Movement of Ukraine for Unity (led by Bohdan Boyko), a splinter group from the previously united and influential Popular Rukh of Ukraine of Vyacheslav Chornovil. The two other Rukh factions -- the Popular Rukh of Ukraine (led by Hennadiy Udovenko) and the Ukrainian Popular Rukh (headed by Yuriy Kostenko) -- are in Our Ukraine.
POLL: VOTERS TRUST YUSHCHENKO BUT PREFER COMMUNISTS. The Fund of Freedom (led by Ihor Dementyev) found in a poll conducted from 17-24 January among 1,200 Ukrainians that if the parliamentary election had been held at that time, 20.3 percent of respondents would have voted for the Communist Party. Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine was backed by 15.1 percent of respondents, Viktor Medvedchuk's Social Democratic Party (United) by 6.5 percent, and Volodymyr Lytvyn's For a United Ukraine by 6.2 percent. According to the poll, the 4 percent voting threshold qualifying for parliamentary representation would also have been overcome by the Yabluko Party and the Women for the Future election bloc. In addition, the poll found that Yushchenko is the most trusted Ukrainian politician (22.9 percent of respondents trust him), while the second most trusted politician is Premier Anatoliy Kinakh (17.6 percent).
ANOTHER POLL: YUSHCHENKO'S BLOC IN THE LEAD. According to a poll conducted jointly by the Ukrainian Institute of Sociological Studies and the Social Monitoring Center from 17-22 January among 2,017 respondents, the voters' support for election blocs and parties is as follows: Our Ukraine -- 14.8 percent; the Communist Party -- 14.0 percent; the Green Party -- 6.3 percent; Women for the Future -- 6.2 percent; For a United Ukraine -- 6.2 percent; and the Social Democratic Party (United) -- 4 percent. The other groupings found themselves below the 4 percent voting threshold.
JOURNALISTS ALLOWED TO CARRY NONLETHAL WEAPONS. The pen may be thought to be mightier than the sword, but in Ukraine the government and some journalists believe that a pistol makes a more powerful point.
In a country still struggling to develop a free press, Ukrainian journalists have long been a target of politically and financially motivated violence. Now, some of them say they are planning to take advantage of a government regulation passed earlier this month allowing them to carry a gun for protection.
According to official statistics, at least seven journalists have been murdered since Ukraine gained independence 10 years ago. But journalists say the actual figure is much larger and that in addition hundreds of news workers have been shot or severely beaten in connection with their work.
Last year, mass demonstrations were held in Ukraine against President Kuchma for his alleged involvement in the September 2000 death of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, who was well-known for his work investigating government corruption and organized crime. And last July, television journalist Ihor Aleksandrov was beaten to death by assailants wielding baseball bats in the eastern city of Slavyansk.
Such incidents prompted the Ukrainian Interior Ministry to pass a new regulation last month allowing journalists to carry handguns. The weapon recommended by the ministry is a modified version of the Makarov nine-millimeter pistol widely used by the Soviet army. The new pistol fires rubber bullets that are intended to deliver an attacker a disabling but nonlethal blow. Guns that fire a cloud of tear gas are also allowed under the new regulation.
One journalist who is taking advantage of the new rule is Andriy, a radio station employee in the capital Kyiv who preferred that his full name not be used. Andriy told RFE/RL that many of his fellow journalists have been threatened and beaten, and that one friend in particular was abducted several years ago and never seen again.
"I'm not sure that a gun is going to help me against a person or a group really determined to kill me," Andriy says. "But at least this way I feel I have a chance of defending myself. My weapon can't kill someone attacking me, but it might cause enough surprise and chaos to allow me to escape."
Guns shooting rubber bullets and tear gas are no competition for the weapons being used by Ukraine's criminal groups, who have everything from machine guns to rocket-propelled grenades at their disposal. The short-term solution, Andriy says, is to allow all Ukrainians to carry weapons in self-defense.
But other Ukrainian journalists, like television reporter Pavlo Khristopyan from the western Ukrainian city of Ivano Frankivsk, are skeptical about the new regulations.
"I think it is wrong to make a distinction between journalists and other civilians as a separate social group. For instance, I was attacked by thugs several months ago, but it had nothing to do with my work. The crime situation is such in Ukraine that all sections of society are at risk, not just journalists."
Khristopyan said that many Ukrainian journalists will not be able to afford a weapon, which at around $100 is more than a month's pay for many reporters.
In addition to the cost, journalists must also apply for gun permits and get certificates showing they have no major mental problems or drug additions. According to Interior Ministry guidelines, their editors must also submit information illustrating why the employee is at particular risk of attack. The ministry declined to say how many journalists have applied for permits so far.
U.S. lawyer and journalist Mary Mycio heads the legal defense and education program of the U.S.-funded IREX ProMedia group, which seeks to raise the professional standards of Ukrainian journalism. She says she has doubts about the government's motivation in passing the new regulation.
"I treat the Ministry of Interior statement largely as a public relations move. I think this is an unfortunate admission on the part of law enforcement officials that they are either unwilling or unable to protect journalists who are fulfilling their professional duties."
Furthermore, Mycio says she believes that unless journalists are trained to use their weapons, they may end up injuring more innocent civilians than armed assailants. Western journalism organizations denounce the use of weapons in their profession. They say such a move makes news workers -- even in war zones like Afghanistan, where eight journalists have been killed -- more vulnerable to being attacked as "legitimate" targets.
"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.
OSCE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY MISSION VISITS MINSK. Uta Zapf of Germany, the head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Working Group on Belarus, and two other European lawmakers met with Council of the Republic Chairman Alyaksandr Vaytovich and Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou in Minsk on 4 February, Belapan reported. Zapf urged Vaytovich to use his influence to end uncertainty over the mandate of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group (AMG) in Belarus. Zapf said Dr. Eberhard Heyken, Germany's former ambassador to Ukraine, is ready to succeed Hans Georg Wieck as the AMG head, but expressed her concern over Minsk's signals that it wants changes in the mandate of the group. Zapf added that the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the European Parliament will offer a new policy regarding Belarus after it meets four conditions -- giving meaningful powers and functions to the legislature, establishing an ombudsman's office, as well as democratizing the election and media laws. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR 'COMPETENT' NEW PARLIAMENT... Speaking to foreign diplomats in Kyiv on 4 February, President Leonid Kuchma said he would like to see "a competent and structured parliament after the [31 March] elections with a permanent and not a circumstantial majority," Ukrainian Television reported. Kuchma urged the diplomats to ignore deliberately false statements on the undemocratic conduct of the election campaign, and decried the use of dirty election techniques by those who are unable to win "in an honest battle." JM
...PLEDGES TO STIMULATE RELATIONS WITH U.S., NATO... Touching upon Ukraine's foreign policy priorities, Kuchma said these include enhancing relations with NATO and filling Ukraine's strategic partnership with the United States with specific content, New Channel Television reported. Kuchma described Ukraine's multidirectional approach in foreign policy as justified and successful. He stressed that despite numerous foreign friends, the country will decide on its policy on its own. "One cannot see our country as a small child who has already learned how to take some steps, but continues to hold on to somebody's hand," Kuchma added. JM
...AND VETOES BILL ON LOCAL ELECTION. President Kuchma has vetoed the Law on Election of Local Council Deputies and Heads of Villages and Towns, UNIAN quoted parliamentary deputy speaker Stepan Havrysh as saying on 4 February. The bill will be discussed during the last session of the current Verkhovna Rada, which opened on 5 February and will continue for the next three weeks. JM
POLISH PREMIER VOWS TO PROMOTE UKRAINE'S INTERESTS IN WEST. Leszek Miller paid an official visit to Kyiv on 4 February, where he met with Premier Anatoliy Kinakh, President Kuchma, and parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch, Polish and Ukrainian media reported. Miller promised that Poland will continue to act as an advocate of Ukraine's interests in the West, including giving assistance to Ukraine toward associate membership in the EU. Miller also promised that his government will extend support to Polish companies that will take part in the construction of an oil pipeline stretching from Ukraine's Black Sea port of Odesa to Poland's Baltic Sea port of Gdansk. Kinakh stressed that Poland's accession to the EU would contribute to deepening democratic and market reforms in Ukraine. Miller refused to comment on Gazprom's reported intention to scrap its plan for constructing an oil pipeline bypassing Ukraine. JM
UKRAINE TO FORM SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES BY 2005. Lieutenant General Mykola Palchuk, the first deputy chief of the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces, told journalists on 4 February that Ukraine is to form a special operations forces by 2005 within the front-line defense forces, ITAR-TASS reported. Palchuk said the main purpose of the special operations forces will be to carry out reconnaissance, sabotage, and special operations inside enemy territory, as well as to be involved in fighting terrorism. Palchuk also said that a new draft of Ukraine's military doctrine does not provide for conducting combat actions along the entire perimeter of the country's border, unlike the previous doctrine of 1993. "This is impossible and not expedient, both from the economic point of view and in terms of defense sufficiency," he added. JM
OUR UKRAINE LEADER, COMMUNIST PARTY HEAD MEET ON RFE/RL AIRWAVES. RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 4 February broadcast live a discussion between former Premier Viktor Yushchenko, the leader of the Our Ukraine election bloc, and Communist Party head Petro Symonenko. It was the second high-profile political debate aired by RFE/RL during the election campaign in Ukraine, following a meeting between Yuliya Tymoshenko and Viktor Medvedchuk two weeks ago (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 29 January 2002). Symonenko slammed the reforms undertaken by all governments of independent Ukraine, including Yushchenko's, as detrimental to the interests of the people. Yushchenko stressed the importance of a democratically elected parliamentary majority in pursuing changes to the economy and society. JM
Learntec 2002 opens its doors in Karlsruhe, Germany, on 5 to 8 February -- the 10th anniversary of Central Europe's leading industry trade fair and meeting of the minds for educational and information technology.
The conference and trade fair caters to users of technology for training and educational purposes, training coordinators, providers and developers of technology-based training programs, and companies that provide software and hardware for e-learning activities in the fields of financial services, science, information technology (IT) qualification, medicine, e-commerce, and trade.
As was the case last year, the conference is being staged in cooperation with UNESCO and will bring experts on distance learning from the U.S., Latin America, Africa, and Europe together to discuss the global problems of education and knowledge transfer. One of the topics that is likely to re-emerge at this year's event is the information gap between first- and third-world countries. The issue has gained in importance in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks against the United States, which highlighted the need to better establish means and methods of education and permanent dialogue between these countries. In addition, the attacks have led to a decrease in people's willingness to travel, hampering the development of new business links and educational, political, and cultural exchange -- problems that modern technology can help alleviate.
Professor Winfried Sommer, one of the founding organizers of Learntec, said e-learning will get increased attention in the states of Eastern Europe, as their continuing inroads to the West make inexpensive and efficient learning programs increasingly important.
"Developments like the activities of the Institute of Vocational Training in Warsaw, scientific projects in Hungary, or the work of the well-known International Research and Training Center for Information Technologies and Systems (IRTC) in Ukraine are examples for this trend," Sommer said. "Another important sign for Eastern Europe is the fact that UNESCO established its Institute for Information Technologies and Education in Moscow," he added.
Of the Eastern European countries aspiring to eventually join the EU, many analysts feel that Poland has the most potential for the IT industry. According to rankings by the German magazine "Computer Reseller News" on 1 November 2001, the Polish market is just 10 percent smaller than that of Russia, and with investment of $3.1 billion in 2000, Poland's expenditures in the industry matched those of the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania combined.
Germany is Eastern Europe's biggest foreign investor in the IT market, followed by the U.S. and France, according to the magazine. But while traditional business links between Germany and Eastern European countries have been developing for years, the e-learning markets in those countries have been playing catch-up to their Western counterparts. As analysts from Germany's Berlecon Research institute are predicting that 2004 and 2005 will be boom years for the global elearning industry, it is important for Eastern European countries to prepare themselves for this challenge.
Of those countries, e-learning experts consider Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland as having the most potential, as their efforts to accede to the EU have attracted many global companies and investments and have sped up the pace of privatization.
But as foreign companies have developed business partnerships with Eastern European counterparts, many are experiencing difficulties in fully understanding the peculiarities of local business and labor markets, and in promoting their own company identities. One recent study by the Polish Agency for Foreign Investment (PAIZ) found that only 5 percent of German companies working in Poland have succeeded in adapting to the Polish market.
In the coming years, the ability to accumulate information quickly will become increasingly important both for companies and their employees seeking a competitive advantage. Internet-based e-learning could bring advantages for both by combining technologies and services that enable companies to offer interactive training opportunities to any environment and location, while saving money on travel expenses.
Experts from Russia, Moldova, the Czech Republic, Belarus, and Ukraine met in Karlsruhe for last year's Learntec, and even more are expected to attend Learntec this year, but Professor Sommer expects Eastern European countries to play an even stronger role on future Learntec agendas. Until 2006 there are no concrete plans for special programs featuring any of the Eastern European countries during the congress.
However, as the economic gap between Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic and the West narrows, their counterparts in Eastern and Southeastern Europe will be following events closely as they try to attract more foreign investment. Forums like Learntec 2002, by providing a setting where all options are displayed and up for discussion, can help lay some important groundwork for the future.