This communicating of a man's self to his friend works two contrary effects; for it redoubleth joy, and cutteth griefs in half. - Francis Bacon
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 132, Part II, 9 July 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 132, Part II, 9 July 1999


A daily report of developments in Eastern and
Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central
Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio
Liberty.


This is Part II, a compilation of news concerning
Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe.  Part I
covers Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia and is
distributed simultaneously as a second document.  Back
issues of RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are
online at RFE/RL's Web site:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline


xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Headlines, Part II


* LATVIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES LANGUAGE BILL


* MILOSEVIC BACKERS GET AGGRESSIVE


* ARSONISTS TORCH HOUSES IN PRIZREN


END NOTE: 'SVEJKISM' AND THE CZECH ACCESSION TO THE EU
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE


SCHROEDER IN UKRAINE TO DISCUSS NON-NUCLEAR REPLACEMENT
FOR CHORNOBYL. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
arrived in Kyiv on 8 July to discuss the closure of the
Chornobyl nuclear power plant with Ukrainian officials.
Schroeder will try to persuade Ukraine to build or
modernize conventional gas or coal-fueled power plants
as replacements for the Chornobyl plant. For its part,
Ukraine would prefer to finish the construction of two
nuclear reactors in Rivne and Khmelnytskyy, which are
about 85 percent complete. The former German government
and the G-7 pledged financial assistance for the
completion of those reactors. JM


U.S. DOUBTFUL ABOUT BELARUSIAN UNION VOTE. U.S. State
Department spokesman James Foley on 8 July said he would
doubt the validity of any vote in Belarus on a union
with Russia. "In the absence of the full restoration of
democratic government in Belarus, it's hard to imagine
that any popular approval process on [such a] union in
Belarus would be truly democratic and representative of
the will of the people," Reuters quoted him as saying.
Foley said the U.S. supports the sovereignty and
territorial integrity of the newly independent states of
the former Soviet Union. He added that their sovereignty
contributes to the stability of the region. "At the same
time we do not oppose integration as such among the new
independent states as long as such integration reflects
the voluntary will of the people expressed through a
democratic process," Foley noted. JM


NEW LATVIAN PRESIDENT INAUGURATED. Vaira Vike-Freiberga
on 8 July took the oath of office as Latvia's new
president, BNS reported. Vike-Freiberga was elected to a
four-year term by parliament on 17 June (see "End Note,"
"RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1999). In her inaugural
address, she stressed the responsibilities of Latvia's
leaders. "We will be the ones creating Latvia's history
and determining what it will look like in the eyes of
the next generations," she said. She also stressed the
need for self-confidence in Latvia, saying "let us not
allow anyone to persuade us that we cannot overcome our
problems." MH


LATVIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES LANGUAGE BILL. The Latvian
parliament on 8 July passed a controversial language
bill by a vote of 73-16. The OSCE and EU have criticized
the bill for its language regulations concerning the
private sector and public gatherings (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 7 July 1999). The People's Party, For
Fatherland and Freedom, Latvia's Way, and the Social
Democratic Workers Party all supported the bill, Reuters
reported. People's Party leader Andris Skele told BNS
that the cooperation between the four parties on the
bill could foreshadow the formation of a new government.
Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans resigned on 5 July (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1999). Meanwhile, the left-
wing For Equal Rights in a United Latvia has asked
President Vike-Freiberga not to sign the bill into law.
MH


POLISH INTERIOR MINISTER DELIVERS GLOOMY REPORT ON
CRIME. Janusz Tomaszewski told parliament on 8 July that
more than 1 million crimes were committed in Poland last
year, which represents an 8 percent increase over the
figure for 1997. Thefts and crimes involving firearms
increased by 30 percent. Tomaszewski said the main
reasons behind the growing rate are low living standards
and unemployment. He said the larger cities, especially
Warsaw, have the worst problems with crime. The minister
added that police solved only 49.2 percent of last
year's crimes. JM


CZECH GOVERNMENT HALTS CHURCH PROPERTY RESTITUTION. The
government on 8 July decided to put an end to the
restitution of church property by executive decree,
saying that a special law is required for such
restitution, CTK and AP reported. Czech Bishops'
Conference spokesman Daniel Herman said the cabinet's
decision simply "codifies" the Social Democratic (CSSD)
government's general approach to church restitution. It
is unclear whether a church restitution law would garner
enough support in parliament to pass. MS


PROSECUTION OF FORMER SLOVAK INTERIOR MINISTER TO BE
STOPPED. Justice Minister Jan Carnogursky told Radio
Twist on 8 July that the prosecution of former Interior
Minister Gustav Krajci in connection with the botched
1997 referendum on direct presidential elections will be
halted, CTK reported. Carnogursky also said that former
Slovak Intelligence Service head Ivan Lexa will not be
prosecuted for his role in the 1995 abduction of former
President Michal Kovac's son. Carnogursky thus
indirectly confirmed that, in a late June verdict which
has yet to be made public, the Constitutional Court
rejected as unconstitutional Prime Minister Mikulas
Dzurinda's decision to annul amnesties that were granted
to Krajci and Lexa by former Prime Minister Vladimir
Meciar. The justice minister added, however, that Krajci
and Lexa will be prosecuted in connection with other
offenses that were not included in the amnesty, CTK
reported. MS


SLOVAK ROMA SAY SENIOR OFFICIAL FOMENTING ETHNIC HATRED.
Representatives of 19 Romany associations on 8 July
released a statement declaring that Slovakia's Romany
minority is "strongly concerned about its security"
following "ill considered" statements by local
politicians on the recent mass exodus of Slovak Roma to
Finland, CTK reported. The statement rejects allegations
by Slovak politicians that the Roma have become "the
enemy of the Slovak people" and that their exodus is
aimed at "complicating Slovakia's [bid for] accession to
the EU." The Romany representatives are calling for the
resignation of Pal Csaky, deputy premier in charge of
minorities and human rights, Foreign Ministry state
secretary Jan Figel, and government commissioner for
Romany affairs Vincent Danihel, for insinuating that the
exodus is politically motivated. MS


CORRECTION. "RFE/RL Newsline" on 8 July cited an
erroneous CTK report which stated that Slovakia would
pay 2,500 crown payments to survivors of Nazi
concentration camps for each year that they spent in a
camp. The report should have read that the payments
would be made for each month. MS


HUNGARIAN ARMY'S CHIEF OF STAFF RESIGNS. Chief of Staff
General Ferenc Vegh submitted his resignation on 9 July.
Jeno Poda, a senior advisor to the prime minister,
announced on national television one day earlier that
Vegh would resign. The move ends weeks of conflict
between Vegh and the Defense Ministry over a government
plan to bring the military under civilian control. Poda
said earlier that Vegh must either accept the plan or
resign. Vegh told "Magyar Hirlap" of 8 July that he will
remain in his post until 1 August, when he will move on
to become Hungary's ambassador to Turkey. Vegh told the
paper that his conflict with the government resulted
from his desire to preserve "the army's autonomy" on
defense matters. MSZ/MS


SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE


MILOSEVIC BACKERS GET AGGRESSIVE IN PROKUPLJE... Several
thousand protesters gathered in Prokuplje on 8 July to
join leaders of the opposition Alliance for Change in
demanding the resignation of Yugoslav President Slobodan
Milosevic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.
Alliance leader Goran Svilanovic told the crowd that the
Milosevic leadership has "put shame on us, killing and
burning in our name." Balkan expert Milan Protic added:
"Too much evil has been done for them to be forgiven. It
is too little to just demand that they leave. We must
make them leave." Alliance leaders Zoran Djindjic and
Vuk Obradovic, who come from the Prokuplje area, said
that Milosevic must go if Serbia is to become
"respectable" and prosperous. Officials of Milosevic's
Socialist Party of Serbia called off a planned counter-
demonstration, but about a dozen mainly elderly
supporters of the president turned out to taunt the
protesters as "traitors." A man fired eight shots into
the air from the balcony of Socialist headquarters, but
no one was injured. PM


...AND IN GRACANICA. Some 20 leaders of the Serbian
opposition joined Archbishop Artemije and Kosova Serb
leader Momcilo Trajkovic at the historic Gracanica
monastery on 8 July to demand security for the Serbs of
Kosova and democracy for Serbia. A group of 100
Milosevic supporters taunted the visitors, including the
Alliance's Vladan Batic and the Democratic Party's Zoran
Djindjic. The protesters chided Djindjic for not being
in Kosova "when the bombs fell" and called him a
"traitor." In Belgrade, the Democratic Party said in a
statement that the 100 people are known agents-
provocateurs from the secret police who have previously
attacked Serbs and ethnic Albanians alike in Prishtina,
RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM


BELGRADE COUNCIL TURNS DOWN OPPOSITION DEMAND. Members
of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement joined
Milosevic supporters in the Belgrade City Council in
turning down a demand by the Democratic Party that the
Council discuss issuing a call for Milosevic to resign.
The Democrats argued that Milosevic is unable to carry
out his presidential duties because, as an indicted war
criminal, he is unable to travel abroad or to Kosova. In
Pirot, the local council passed a resolution calling for
Milosevic to go (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1999). In
Novi Sad, the leadership of the League of Social
Democrats of Vojvodina called for protests in several
cities and towns in the coming days to demand
Milosevic's ouster. PM


CACAK MAYOR: 'ENCIRCLE BELGRADE!' Velimir Ilic, whose
town of Cacak witnessed the first recent anti-Milosevic
protests, told the "Berliner Zeitung" of 9 July that
Serbs outside the capital must "encircle Belgrade" with
protests across the country. He added that the people of
Belgrade remain "too afraid" to take to the streets, but
that Milosevic's removal will be "just a matter of time"
once the capital's citizens begin to demonstrate against
him. Ilic stressed that the opposition must be very
broadly based and led by people "who are not compromised
by their past." He mentioned that he considers Draskovic
"unacceptable" because of his mercurial behavior and
previous participation in Milosevic's government. Some
observers have suggested that several established
national figures--including Draskovic and Djindjic--are
too widely regarded in Serbia as opportunists and that a
new generation of leaders will most likely emerge in the
provinces (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July
1999). PM


700,000 SERBS WITHOUT BASIC RIGHTS. The Democratic Party
said in a statement in Belgrade on 8 July that some
700,000 Serbs lack elementary civil rights, RFE/RL's
South Slavic Service reported. The party charged that
the government has acted "immorally and irresponsibly"
by denying rights to Serbs who fled or were expelled
from Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova. The displaced Serbs do
not enjoy rights to residency, citizenship, or
education. The previous day, representatives of Kosova's
Serbian teachers' union said in Belgrade that the
Education Ministry has forbidden schools to register
Serbian children from the province, who number about
50,000. Teachers from Kosova are barred from teaching in
Serbia proper as part of the government's policy of
forcing Serbian refugees to go back to Kosova. PM


ARSONISTS TORCH HOUSES IN PRIZREN. Unidentified
arsonists set fire to 16 houses in the traditional
Serbian quarter of Prizren on 8 July, AFP reported.
German KFOR commander General Fritz von Korff said that
KFOR arrested six suspects. He criticized the
"indifference" of Prizren's ethnic Albanian population
after the latest attacks, saying that "some of them even
refused to let us in to their homes to get water." Von
Korff stressed that "we cannot stop new fires from
happening without the cooperation of the public."
Unidentified people cut off water and electricity in the
Serbian neighborhood about half an hour before the fires
occurred, in what von Korff called "an organized move."
The German military police registered 91 incidents in
the German sector on 8 July alone, including thefts,
pillaging, and fires. FS


KOSOVARS STAGE MORE ANTI-RUSSIAN PROTESTS. About 3,000
ethnic Albanians protested in Rahovec on 8 July for the
second day in a row against plans to deploy Russian
peacekeepers in that area, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service
reported. Protesters held signs saying: "We don't
believe Russians" and "Russians killed us," alluding to
allegations that Russian volunteers and mercenaries
participated in the ethnic cleansing campaign alongside
Serbian police and paramilitary forces. FS


RUGOVA PLEDGES TO RETURN. Kosovar Albanian political
leader Ibrahim Rugova told AP in Rome on 8 July that he
will return to Kosova as early as next week. Referring
to the Kosova Liberation Army, he said: "We can tolerate
working together." The moderate leader also noted: "I
want to start with the process of reconciliation [with
other ethnic groups]...because I would like a
multiethnic Kosova." Back in Kosova, provisional
government Prime Minister Hashim Thaci told RFE/RL's
South Slavic Service that "Rugova has a deadline until
the end of this week to take up his position [and fill
those reserved for other Democratic League of Kosova
representatives] in the government." FS


POLICE CHIEF KILLED IN BELGRADE. An unidentified person
or group killed Dragan Simic, who was police chief in
the Savski Venac district of the capital, in Belgrade on
8 July. A police spokesman said that the circumstances
of the murder remain "unclear." Simic is the fifth
police official to be murdered in Belgrade in 1999
alone, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.
Speculation on the motives behind the previous murders
has centered on the possible criminal links of
individual police officials or on the possible desire of
powerful people to eliminate police officials who "knew
too much." PM


MACEDONIAN, ALBANIAN PRESIDENTS DISAGREE OVER KOSOVA
SOLUTION. Albanian President Rexhep Meidani told his
Macedonian counterpart Kiro Gligorov in Skopje on 8 July
that "in five to 10 years, we [will] see two new
entities, Kosova and Montenegro, as an integral part of
Europe," Reuters reported. Meidani acknowledged that
Gligorov does "not share the same opinion," but stressed
that both men "want to live in Europe, where borders are
irrelevant," Meidani told reporters. Gligorov argued
that "the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia should be
respected.... Changes of borders and the realization of
dreams of greater nations is dangerous not only for the
region, but for Europe itself." Meidani said he does not
see the disagreement between him and Gligorov as causing
tensions and stressed that "the integration of ethnic
Albanians in the [Macedonian] government and
institutions has helped Macedonia preserve its
stability." The two presidents also discussed bilateral
cooperation within the framework of the Balkan stability
pact, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent
reported. FS


GREECE DENIES THAT ALBANIAN EXPULSIONS ARE RACIALLY
MOTIVATED. Public Order Minister Mikhailis
Khrisokhoidhis on 8 July rejected claims that a series
of recent roundups and checks of Albanian immigrants
were racially motivated, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 8 July 1999). Albanian Foreign Minister
Paskal Milo is scheduled to visit Athens on 9 July to
discuss the increasing number of expulsions of Albanian
immigrants. A Foreign Ministry official in Tirana said
that Greek authorities have expelled about 3,500
Albanian immigrants since 1 July, while Greek police put
the number at about 1,000. The Albanian Foreign Ministry
also asked Greece to investigate claims that Albanian
deportees were being mistreated in Greece. FS


SERBIAN RETURN TO DRVAR TO BE CONDITIONAL? Ilija
Sljivic, who is deputy mayor of the western Bosnian town
of Drvar, told "Oslobodjenje" of 9 July that Serbs may
return to his town once the Bosnian Serb authorities
allow his fellow Croats to go back to their homes in
Bosanski Brod (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1999).
Sljivic stressed that 15,000 Croats have formally
requested to go home to Bosanski Brod. PM


GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS CROATIAN ELECTION KEY
OPPORTUNITY. Joschka Fischer said in Zagreb on 8 July
that the parliamentary elections slated for later in
1999 have made this a "decisive year" for Croatia's
"road to democracy and to Europe." He stressed that the
new election law should reflect a broad consensus and
that all parties must have fair access to the media,
"Jutarnji list" reported. PM


GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BUCHAREST. Joschka Fischer on
8 July met with his Romanian counterpart, Andrei Plesu,
President Emil Constantinescu, and Prime Minister Radu
Vasile, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Fischer
thanked Romania for its stance on the Kosova conflict
and said his country supports Romania's bid for EU and
NATO membership. However, he refused to say when the
country might become a member of NATO. He also said that
it would be "a misunderstanding" for Romania and other
neighbors of Yugoslavia to expect that they will receive
compensation under the Balkan stability pact for the
losses they suffered as a result of the EU's oil embargo
on Yugoslavia. Plesu said Romania is seeking an "urgent
end" to the embargo. MS


ROMANIAN OIL WORKERS PROTEST IN BUCHAREST. Hundreds of
oil workers from the Petromidia refinery on 8 July
demonstrated in Bucharest to demand that the Black Sea
company resume regular operations. The company,
Romania's largest, has been forced to suspend operations
due to an inconclusive privatization deal signed in
January with the Akmaya Turkish firm. Under the deal,
Romania was to offer Akmaya foreign investment
incentives. However, the government decree that allowed
for such incentives was annulled after the IMF and the
World Bank objected to some of its provisions. Akmaya
has announced that it will sue for breach of contract.
The cabinet on 8 July decided that it would restart the
privatization process and confiscate Akmaya's deposit if
the company backs out of the deal. MS


WESTERN, RUSSIAN FIRMS TO UPGRADE BULGARIAN NUCLEAR
PLANT. A consortium of three companies on 8 July signed
in Sofia a $300 million contract for the modernization
of nuclear units 5 and 6 at the Kozloduy power station,
Reuters and AP reported. Bulgarian Energy Committee
Chairman Ivan Shilyashki said that half of the financing
for the modernization will come from the EU's Euratome
and Bulgaria will cover the rest with the help of loans
from the countries that are participating in the
consortium. German's Siemens AG, France's Framatome, and
Russia's Atomenergoexport are scheduled to begin the
modernization program next summer and to complete it in
2005. The modernization of the two 1,000-megawatt units
will help Bulgaria decommission its four older 440-
megawatt reactors at Kozloduy, which the EU considers to
be unsafe. MS


NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN BULGARIA. In an address to the
Bulgarian parliament on 8 July, Javier Solana
congratulated Bulgaria for its contribution to resolving
the Kosova crisis. He said that Sofia's actions
"demonstrated as clearly as possible that Bulgaria is,
indeed, a member of the Euro-Atlantic community, [which
is] a community of shared values." Repeating comments he
made in Bucharest earlier that day, Solana said Bulgaria
and Romania are both making progress in their quest for
NATO membership, but he refused to indicate when those
two countries might become members. Solana also held
talks with President Petar Stoyanov and Foreign Minister
Nadezhda Mihailova, BTA reported. MS


RUSSIA REQUESTS SEA, LAND TRANSIT CORRIDORS IN BULGARIA.
Tsvyatko Donchev, press chief of Bulgaria's coordination
center with KFOR, on 8 July said that Russia has asked
Bulgaria for sea and land corridors for the transit of
its troops to Kosova, Reuters reported. On 9 July, the
Bulgarian parliament approved Russia's earlier request
for overflights by a vote of 213-1 (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 8 July 1999). ITAR-TASS reported that the
overflight permission is valid for "one time only. " MS


ARAB COUNTRIES REVOKE LANDING RIGHTS OF BULGARIAN
AIRLINE. A Bulgarian radio report, cited by dpa on 8
July, confirmed that both Lebanon and Libya have revoked
the landing rights of Balkan Air at their airports.
Tunisia, Algeria, and Dubai are reportedly planning to
do the same. Balkan Air was recently sold to an Israeli
consortium (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1999). MS


END NOTE


'SVEJKISM' AND THE CZECH ACCESSION TO THE EU


By Michael Shafir


    Some love him, others despise him, but there is no
way one can overlook him. Jaroslav Hasek's hero, that
famous warrior of the Austro-Hungarian empire whose
favorite pastime was saying "yes" and acting "no," is
apparently destined to survive every turn in his
country's fortunes. And there is a good reason for that.
After all, it was not the empire, but the good soldier
Svejk who came out on top. He survived the Nazis without
fighting them and he survived communism and the Soviet
invasion (without fighting them either). So why
shouldn't he survive "globalization" and that facet of
it known as "European integration?" For wanting to
access the European Union is one thing, but doing so on
the terms imposed by the union may be another thing
altogether. Maybe it is time to say "yes" and act "no"
once more. Otto von Habsburg told a conference of RFE/RL
staff in Munich some years ago that the EU is a revived
version of the empire his ancestors had ruled over. And
he should know what he is talking about.
    In its summer 1998 evaluation report on the
progress of union membership candidates towards
accession, the EU criticized the Czech Republic's
slowness in bringing its legislation into line with that
of the union's member states. Some observers believe
that the next report, expected in September 1999, could
be even more critical. There is widespread speculation
that the 2003 target, which the Czechs set for
themselves for joining the union, will be missed, and
that Prague will fall further and further behind the
other four "fast-track" countries (Cyprus, Estonia,
Hungary, and Poland). By late June of this year, the
Czechs were able to conclude preliminary talks on only
eight out of the 15 legislative chapters proposed by the
union.
     Some of the divergent views seem hard to
reconcile. For example, Prime Minister Milos Zeman has
already rejected Austria's demand that Prague ratify the
EU Convention on Evaluation of the Influence of the
Environment, which would threaten the completion of the
controversial Temelin nuclear plant. Some politicians in
Vienna have threatened to veto Czech accession as a
result. The minority Czech Social Democratic Party
(CSSD) on 28 June decided to ask the EU for so-called
"opt-outs" or "transitional periods" on seven areas
related to environmental legislation. Foreign Minister
Jan Kavan indicated on 22 June that his government is
likely to ask for similar "opt-outs" with regard to
legislation on the purchase of real estate by
foreigners. Hungary has also said it wants a 10-year
"transitional period" for the purchase of land by
foreigners, and Poland is likely to follow suit. The EU
may, in turn, ask for an "opt-out" on letting in the
cheap labor force of the new members. All of this
suggests that the so-called "fast-track" accession of
the new members will, in actual fact, be rather slow.
    The Czech government has an alibi for its failure
to quickly implement the legislation required by the EU.
The cabinet headed by Zeman is ruling with the grace of
Vaclav Klaus's opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS).
And Klaus, true to his self-promoted image as a
"Thatcherite," has been anything but enthusiastic about
some aspects of EU membership. The ODS is against
signing the EU's Social Charter, for example and on 8
July, when the parliament ratified the charter, its
deputies opposed ratification. Klaus is also opposed to
the euro single currency and has repeatedly insisted
(most recently in an interview with "Lidove noviny"
published on 3 June) that Europe should be based on the
"national state." This is why the ODS on 8 June voted
against an amendment to the constitution that would have
enabled the government to issue decrees with the force
of law. The amendment was aimed at speeding up the
implementation of EU legislation by avoiding prolonged
debate in parliament. The ODS thus effectively "killed"
the government's attempt at making the "fast-track"
faster, because the government needed the support of the
ODS to secure a majority large enough to pass such a
constitutional amendment. This occurred to the expressed
desperation of President Vaclav Havel, who is an ardent
partisan of quick accession.
    Yet there is reason to believe that the CSSD shed
only crocodile tears over this failure. Like its
predecessors, the cabinet headed by Zeman is caught in a
dilemma when it comes to EU accession. Following
Czechoslovakia's split in 1993, Prague and Bratislava
established a customs union, which has proved highly
beneficial to both countries. Indeed, few people realize
that despite the fact that Slovakia had until recently
pursued a different path in its political reforms, the
economic integration of the two countries has remained
very strong. This is precisely why the former Klaus
administration had insisted on obtaining an exemption
from the EU's customs legislation so that Prague could
maintain the existing arrangement with Bratislava. To no
avail, however, for the EU would certainly not grant the
Czech Republic what it denied to the U.K., when London
wanted to introduce Commonwealth imports into the union
through the back door.
    The latest talks on adherence, which ended on 22
June, produced little progress regarding this aspect.
Kavan said after their conclusion that Prague may ask
for a "transition period" on the customs union with
Slovakia or look for a "compromise solution," adding
that he may submit some suggestions to Brussels this
autumn. Meanwhile, German State Minister Gunther
Verheugen, who chaired the session, suggested the
problem could be resolved by having both countries join
the union at the same time--a scenario that became
possible after the political change that swept Vladimir
Meciar out of power in Bratislava in September 1998.
Observers interpreted Verheugen's remark as a slap in
the face for Prague, as it confirmed the EU's
dissatisfaction with the tardiness of the Czechs while
at the same time acknowledging the improved chances of
the Slovaks. But one may well wonder whether the Czechs
were really all that impressed by the remark. In his
corner in the famous Prague tavern "U fleku," the good
soldier Svejk must have raised a toast, for he never
took deadlines too seriously, as long as he had it his
way. Unwittingly playing the role of a perfect
Lieutenant Lukacs--Svejk's superior in Hasek's novel--
Verheugen was probably unaware that the good soldier had
eagerly been waiting to be "disciplined."


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Updated: 1998-11-

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Please write to us with any comments, questions or suggestions -- Natasha Bulashova, Greg Cole