Issue No. 312 - March 14, 2003
1. Serbia and Montenegro: SHOTS INTO REFORMIST SERBIA
by Milos Jeftovic
2. The Czech Republic: VOTING FOR THE PRESIDENT HAS SHAKEN THE RULING COALITION
by Petruska Sustrova
3. Poland: A CORRUPTION AFFAIR ON THE HIGHEST LEVEL
by Aureliusz M. Pedziwol
4. Bulgaria: IS THE CIRCLE CLOSED?
by Peter Karaboev
Serbia and Montenegro: SHOTS INTO REFORMIST SERBIA
by Milos Jeftovic
The sniper assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in front of the government building has shocked Serbia, disturbed the region, and worried an international community that has been trying to stabilize former Yugoslavia region for years.
Immediately after the assassination, a state of emergency was introduced in Serbia and the police arrested a number of suspects. The ruling authorities determined that the safety and order in the country were in such danger that they had to resort to the most radical measure. It was declared that the state of emergency would last until the assassins and those who gave the order are taken into custody. The government immediately accused the so-called Zemun clan, named for a section of Belgrade, of the assassination. It is claimed to be the largest organized crime group in all former Yugoslavia and is said to have wanted to provoke chaos by murdering Djindjic, thus stopping the “unrelenting fight against crime” that Djindjic himself had announced. The Zemun clan allegedly has deep connections with the former and also current governments. Authorities publicly denounced Milorad Lukovic-Legija as the leader of this criminal group. Legija was the commander of the special police forces unit called the "Red Berets" and is suspected of having organized numerous crimes and murders during the Milosevic regime. Media have speculated that he would soon be called to the Hague.
A deputy prime minister of the Serbian government, Zarko Korac, clearly said that the goal of Djindjic's assassination was an attack on the state and on democracy, to create paralysis in the Serbian government and parliament, and the taking over power by so-called patriotic forces that were ousted in October 2000, together with Milosevic. Their return to power would protect them not only from war crimes' trials, but also from responsibility for the crime and corruption that has entered all levels of Serbian society.
Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, 51, was a controversial politician, but after the collapse of Milosevic's regime he emerged as the symbol of reforms and of Serbia’s new orientation towards Europe. After a decade of international isolation resulting from former Yugoslavia’s bloody wars, Djindjic was ready, and many say also capable, of stabilizing and normalizing the country. Critics say that Djindjic did not in fact achieve much success, but even so admit that he was a positive Serbian alternative.
Many fear that his assassination could now draw Serbia into a difficult crisis and political chaos allowing the government to again be under the control of nationalist, anti-democratic and anti-European forces that lost power in October 2000, but actually have never lost political strength—as could be seen in the presidential elections in Serbia last autumn.
The new state imposed by the international community to replace Yugoslavia— Serbia and Montenegro—is also certainly contributing to possible instability. It is difficult to say whether the new state will function at all. Still, the biggest sources of instability are internal affairs in Serbia itself. Even before Djindjic's assassination, the political situation in Serbia was extremely complicated, and relations among parties in Serbia’s ruling coalition, which was led by Djindjic's Democratic Party, were often at the breaking point. One immediate question is whether Djindjic’s political forces would be able to control the situation or whether the current Serbian government would collapse.
Serbia also has no popularly elected president at the moment since the three ballots that were held last year failed to meet constitutional requirements for majority vote and turnout. The presidential office is thus being filled temporarily by the president of the parliament, Democratic Party member Natasa Micic.
Whatever the immediate outcome, the political consequences of Djindjic's murder will certainly be large and deep. Djindjic led the reformist current in Serbia; he was called the "motor of reforms." Djindjic favored closer ties with Europe and cooperation with the Hague Tribunal. He was a skilled and pragmatic politician, succeeding in maintaining a slight majority in the Serbian parliament and thereby gradually taking over control of all areas of power in Serbia.
After Yugoslavia was retired as a state, Djindjic became the most powerful political figure in Serbia, allowing the possibility for even more decisive reforms and threatening many structures of the old regime. His open announcement that he would have no second thoughts about [declaring war on] organized crime probably cost him life. Some analysts think that one of Djindjic’s key mistakes was deciding so late to crack down on organized crime. . . .
Djindjic also had a stigmata of "Serbian traitor," a tag Milosevic's regime often applied to him and a name that even gained strength when he organized Milosevic’s arrest and extradition to the Hague Tribunal, an action strongly opposed by then-Yugoslav president Vojislav Kostunica.
Of course, there are many stains in Djindic's political career. During the war in Bosnia in 1994, he openly supported war criminal and leader of Bosnian Serbs Radovan Karadzic and his separatist tendencies. This philosophy doctorate’s outbursts of hard-line nationalism, however, were mostly attributed to his legendary political pragmatism rather than to from not due to his political orientation (as is the case with Kostunica). Some see this interpretation to explain his recent increasing of tensions over the final status of Kosovo. Djindjic was too realistic a politician to think that Kosovo could ever again be a part of Serbia, but he was certainly ready to use the issue of Kosovo to gain political points.
It is difficult to predict further political developments in Serbia after Djindjic's assassination. European and world politicians rushed to express their solidarity and promise aid to further Serbian efforts to strive for democracy. However, it is a question how much they can help. Serbia is in a difficult economic situation. There are more than 900,000 unemployed people in the country. On the day of Djindjic's murder came the news that the IMF had postponed a new credit worth $115 million for the third time. It is feared that new events will slow down the privatization process and stop foreign investments, which are vital for economic and political recuperation.
Serbia will probably face new elections very soon, and it is a big question whether reformist political forces of Djindjic's breed will grow stronger or weaker.
There is also the fear that the state of emergency Serbian government introduced following Djindjic's assassination will be prolonged and misused.
A long-term state of emergency, some argue, will be more favorable to the army and police forces where the remains of Milosevic's regime are strongest. Such a situation could strengthen populism and pave the way for the introduction of a "firm government" or cause internal conflicts.
However, currently the biggest fear is that the government, which rushed headlong into a fight with mafia will lose control over situation and slide into complete anarchy. . . .
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The most exciting reality
show ever on Polish TV has been running for a month now. The special commission
of the Sejm, the lower chamber of the Polish parliament, interrogates VIPs
on live TV and uncovers what is behind the scenes for millions of viewers.
Everything started with Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s most widely circulated newspaper. At the end of 2002, it shocked its readers with an unbelievable story. On July 22 of the same year, the famous Polish movie producer Lew Rywin (Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, Roman Polanski's Pianist) went to see the editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper, Adam Michnik, in order to repeat a bribery offer, one he had already proposed to the board of directors of the Agora company, the publisher of the Gazeta newspaper chain. As alleged, Rywin was presenting himself as an envoy of "the group which holds the power in the country," and he assured [Michnik] that the parliament would pass the radio and television law desired by Agora. The law previously being considered, which prohibited the concentration of media in one company (and thus would have forbid a newspaper owner from purchasing a television station as desired by Agora), would be withdrawn in favor of the new one out and Agora would be able buy the television station Polsat.
For ensuring passage of this law, Rywin demanded 5 percent of the estimated $350 million purchase price of Polsat, or $17.5 million. Thirty percent of this amount had to be provided after the new legal amendment came into force, the rest after the Polsat purchase.
The money was to be paid to an account of his company Heritage Film, but in fact would be devoted to the Alliance of the Democratic Left (SLD), the party of the Prime Minister. For himself, Rywin wanted "only" to be guaranteed the chief position in Polsat.
The movie producer did not know that two hidden recorders taped the conversation. But he obviously had known that he was trying to corrupt one of the most honest persons in Poland.
A few days earlier, on July 11, Rywin spoke with the head of the publishing house, Wanda Rapaczynska. He asked her to write him the wishes of Agora regarding the radio and TV law. He said that he would leave for his countryside house in Mazury the next weekend and meet the premier Leszek Miller, who comes for fishing trips. "I wrote down what we have already presented to the radio and television council and to the ministry of culture," reported
On July 15, Rywin called her again and “urged a meeting during which he would present his proposal while fishing.” RapaczyZska [refused]. In the corridor, Rywin met Piotr Niemczycki, the deputy director of Agora. He repeated the "proposition."
"I pretended not to hear well. Then I thought I must be crazy or Rywin is crazy," recalled Niemczycki.
The shocked Rapaczynska wrote
a note to Michnik the following day and met him. "I was thunderstruck,"
said Michnik. "It was the first time in my life that anybody proposed to
me something like this."
Rapaczynska did not have enough boldness to propose an American solution. But Michnik came up with the idea. "Buy me the best recorder you can find," he said to his secretary. "The price doesn't matter," he added.
Yet on the same day when Rywin came to see Michnik, both men met the Prime Minister. Michnik states that he informed his friend Miller about Rywin's bribery proposal. The premier arranged a confrontation. The depressed Rywin discovered how naive he was.
Many prominent witnesses have testified already in Rywin-Gate, as the affair was baptized. The editor-in-chief of the weekly NIE, Jerzy Urban, the former speaker of the government from the time of martial law and still an influential person on the left, recalled a procession of five minister the last August after he wrote in one article that Miller should uncover at least one affair in his own ranks if he wanted to cut the corruption knot. The minister wanted to know what Urban really knows.
But the interrogation of Juliusz Braun, the chief of the radio and television council, on March 8, brought the first hard facts. Braun admitted that there were diverse machinations over the amendment on the radio and television law and that he did not start any investigation on this matter. Thereafter the state president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, called the whole radio and television council to resign.
Only two out of nine members obeyed, and they were not among those who are suspected of being connected to Rywin-Gate. But there is yet a possibility that the council will be dissolved, since its members are required to resign if both chambers of the parliament and the president do not accept its annual report.
The next potential candidate to be fired is Robert Kwiatkowski, the chief of the public TV. His role in this affair is also very dark. But the most asked question is who really belongs to "the group which keeps the power in the country." They should have sent him to Michnik with the bribery request.
Even if the commission should have no success, one thing is already sure: No one will any more come up with bribery proposal to somebody so easily. He will have to think that there could be a hidden recorder.
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