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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 116, Part II, 12 September1997



This is Part II of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Newsline.
Part II is a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern,
and Southeastern Europe.  Part I, covering Russia,
Transcaucasia and Central Asia, is distributed simultaneously
as a second document.  Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine are
available through RFE/RL's WWW pages:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/

Back  issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through
OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/

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Headlines, Part II

* ESTONIAN SOLDIERS DIE IN MANEUVERS

* BOSNIAN CROATS END ELECTION BOYCOTT

* ATTACK ON KOSOVO POLICE STATIONS

End Note
EVERYBODY VOTES IN BOSNIA

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

ESTONIAN SOLDIERS DIE IN MANEUVERS. Fourteen soldiers from the
Estonian unit of the peacekeeping company BALTBAT are presumed
to have drowned on 11 September when they tried to wade across a
shallow bay to the mainland, BNS and ETA reported, Rescuers found
eight soldiers alive and discovered the bodies of two who drowned
during the crossing. A spokeswoman for the Estonian Defense Force
said 12 others are missing and presumed dead. The men were in
survival training on the island of Vyaike-Pakry when they tried to
cross Kurgse Bay to Estonia's northwestern coast. The water is
normally shallow in the bay but, owing to storms and high winds,
was unexpectedly deep when the soldiers tried to cross. The
government called an emergency session on 12 September to discuss
the accident.

ESTONIA RECEIVES INTERNATIONAL CREDIT RATINGS. The Bank of
Estonia on 11 September announced that Moody's Investors Service
has granted Estonia the long-term foreign-currency rating of Baa1
and the short-term domestic foreign-currency rating of Prime-2. The
same day, IBCA gave Estonia the long-term foreign-currency rating
of BBB and the domestic currency rating of A3, RFE/RL's Estonian
service reported. The ratings make Estonia the highest-rated former
Soviet republic, IBCA said. In other news, the parliament has
amended the language law to allow live non-Estonian programs on
television and radio to be broadcast without an Estonian translation,
BNS and ETA reported.

CHECHEN OFFICIAL IN BELARUS. Chechen presidential envoy Ruslan
Kutayev on 11 September passed a personal message from Chechen
President Aslan Maskhadov to Belarusian President Alyaksandr
Lukashenka, Interfax reported. The Chechen envoy also discussed
economic contacts with Belarusian officials. A Belarusian presidential
spokesman told journalists later that Belarus "is ready to develop
trade-economic cooperation with Chechnya as well as with any other
regions of Russia." He said Belarus could supply Chechnya with
significant quantities of construction materials. He also noted that
contacts with Chechnya are part of "Belarus's policy to establish close
cooperation with Russia's regions."

UKRAINE TO REMAIN BIGGEST CONSUMER OF RUSSIAN NATURAL
GAS. Mikhailo Kovalko, the head of Ukraine's state oil and gas
committee, told journalists in Kyiv on 11 September that Ukraine will
remain the biggest consumer of Russian natural gas next year but
will seek to reduce its dependence on Moscow in the future. He also
said Russia has agreed to supply Ukraine with more than 45 billion
cubic meters of natural gas in 1998, the same amount as this year.
But Kovalko said Ukraine will buy 15 billion cubic meters of gas from
Turkmenistan and several billion from Uzbekistan. Ukrainian Prime
Minister Valery Pustovoitenko is due to fly to Moscow soon. Gas
supplies are expected to be among the topics of discussion with
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin.

POLISH PREMIER CALLS FOR INCREASED TRADE WITH EAST.
Speaking at a news conference during the Seventh Poland-East
economic forum, Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 11
September called for increased economic ties with former Soviet
republics. Cimoszewicz proposed to foreign manufacturers the co-
production of goods aimed at the huge Russian market. He said
Poland's official trade with its eastern neighbors totaled $7 billion in
1996, to which another 30 percent of unregistered trade should be
added. He said that during the first eight months of this year,
Poland's trade with the East grew by 35 percent.

POLISH FINANCE MINISTER ON ECONOMIC PROSPECTS. Marek Belka
on 11 September told Reuters he believes Poland's macroeconomic
policy will not change after the 21 September parliamentary
elections. He said he is confident Poland will manage to deal with the
growing current account deficit and thereby avert a financial crisis
like that in the Czech Republic. He added that he is also confident
that President Aleksander Kwasniewski will appoint a "good
replacement" for the National Bank chief Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz
when her term ends in March 1998. This, he remarked, will ensure
the Polish economy stays on a healthy track. Belka noted that the
new government will face the key challenge of controlling the trade
and current account deficits.

EU COMMISSIONER DISAGREES WITH SLOVAK RESERVATIONS. Leon
Brittan on 11 September told a Slovak government delegation in
Brussels that he does not accept Slovakia's reservations about the
Commission's appraisal of the country, CTK reported. The appraisal
said Slovakia has "political shortcomings" and is not ready to start
talks on EU membership. Brittan said the European Commission
wants Slovakia to be in the EU and that its position could change as
soon as Bratislava did something about its problems. He commented
that political problems could be removed far faster than economic
ones.

MINORITIES COMPLAIN ABOUT SLOVAK PREMIER'S SUGGESTION. The
Association of Nations Under Threat has filed an official complaint
with the Council of Europe over the "grotesque" proposal by Slovak
Premier Vladimir Meciar to resettle the Hungarian minority from
Slovakia to Hungary, the Austrian news agency APA reported on 11
September. Association president Tilman Zuelch described Meciar's
idea as "ethnic cleansing." The association has also urged European
governments to protest Meciar's controversial suggestion. Hungarian
Premier Gyula Horn revealed on 5 September that Meciar had
spoken about an exchange of ethnic populations between Slovakia
and Hungary during talks in Gyor in mid-August.

YUGOSLAV DEFENSE MINISTER IN SLOVAKIA. Pavle Bulatovic, who
arrived on a two-day visit to Slovakia on 11 September, told
journalists that Europe should have a security model of its own. The
Yugoslav military delegation was received by parliamentary deputy
chairman Marian Andel and Prime Minister Meciar. During his
meeting with Bulatovic, Meciar congratulated Slobodan Milosevic on
his election as Yugoslav president. Meciar said Slovakia supports
Yugoslavia's effort to join international structures and that Slovakia
"is willing to cooperate with Yugoslavia in all [possible] spheres."

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT URGES SUPPORT FOR NATO REFERENDUM.
The government has called on the opposition parties to honor an
earlier agreement by supporting the 16 November referendum on
NATO membership, Hungarian media reported on 12 September.
Opposition representatives responded that they do not intend to
boycott or demand the postponement of the referendum but want
the question on foreign ownership of land to be included in the
version formulated by the opposition. Meanwhile, a Hungarian
delegation led by state secretary Ferenc Somogyi, who is head of
integration affairs at the Foreign Ministry, began talks with NATO
officials in Brussels on 10 September on joining the alliance.


SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

BOSNIAN CROATS END ELECTION BOYCOTT. Robert Frowick, the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's chief
supervisor of the 13-14 September Bosnian local elections, has said
in Zagreb that Bosnian Croat leaders agreed to end their boycott and
to participate in the vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September
1997). Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Bosnian Croat leader
Kresimir Zubak reached an agreement with Frowick and with Carlos
Westendorp and Jacques Klein, the international community's two
chief representatives in Bosnia. Zubak said that the pact cleared up
most of the Croats' objections, particularly those involving
registration of voters. He provided no additional details. The U.S. and
EU had placed Croatia and the Bosnian Croats under strong pressure
to end the boycott.

BOSNIAN SERBS END BOYCOTT OF PRESIDENCY. Momcilo Krajisnik, the
Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency and chief aide to
Radovan Karadzic, attended a meeting of the presidency in Sarajevo
on 12 September for the first time in two months. He began his
boycott in July to protest the arrest of one indicted Bosnian Serb war
criminal and the killing of another by British peacekeeping forces.
Westendorp recently warned him that he will forfeit his seat on the
presidency if he fails to attend its meetings.

U.S. TO JAM BOSNIAN SERB BROADCASTS? A Defense Department
spokesman said in Washington on 11 September that the Pentagon
has sent three EC-130E aircraft to Bosnia to broadcast what the
spokesman called messages of peace during the election weekend.
The spokesman added that the aircraft might also jam broadcasts of
the Bosnian Serb hardliners' Radio-TV Pale because Pale's
transmissions contain "vehement rhetoric and incitement to
violence." He also said, however, that the aircraft "are not necessarily
going to jam everything." Observers note that Washington has said
for some weeks that it might jam Pale's broadcasts if the station does
not tone down its rhetoric. Some recent broadcasts call SFOR an
"occupation force" and claim that Western countries want to push the
Bosnian Serbs out of Bosnia and into Serbia.

DJUKANOVIC CALLS ON MONTENEGRINS TO DEFEND NATIONAL
INTERESTS. Presidential candidate and Prime Minister Milo
Djukanovic told the convention of his Democratic Socialist Party in
Podgorica on 11 September that his election on 5 October would
affirm that Montenegrins are determined to defend their autonomy
from Belgrade and to give priority to Montenegro and its prosperity.
Djukanovic slammed his rival, President Momir Bulatovic, as being
the leader of an old-style communist faction in Montenegrin political
life and a tool of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Djukanovic
also blamed Bulatovic and Milosevic for Yugoslavia's international
isolation. Meanwhile, Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle wants to
mediate between Djukanovic and Bulatovic. The Patriarch fears that
the political tensions could lead to violence, the German daily "Die
Welt" reported on 12 September.

SERBIAN POLICE BEAT DEMONSTRATORS. Police in Cacak beat two
anti-Milosevic political demonstrators so badly that the men had to
be taken to the hospital. Slobodan Vikovic and Rados Belic had gone
to a rally of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) on 11
September to protest the presidential candidacy of Zoran Lilic, one of
Milosevic's closest aides. Meanwhile in Belgrade, the Constitutional
Court rejected a complaint against a recent law that redrew the
boundaries of Serbia's electoral districts, an RFE/RL correspondent
reported from the Serbian capital. The plaintiffs charged that the law
is unfair because the new districts are of unequal size. Opposition
parties believe that the law favors the SPS and its allies.

ATTACK ON KOSOVO POLICE STATIONS. Belgrade's independent Radio
B-92 reported on 12 September that unknown persons attacked
police stations in five towns in Kosovo the previous night. The
attackers used automatic weapons and caused extensive material
damage, but no one was injured in the exchanges of fire between the
gunmen and the police. No one has claimed responsibility for the
raids. Observers noted that the attacks were most likely the work of
the Kosovo Liberation Army, which frequently attacks police and
other symbols of Serbia's authority in the province.

ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS WANT TO NAME NEW ANTI-CORRUPTION
CHIEF. Three candidates are running for the chair of the State Control
Commission, which investigates charges of corruption, "Gazeta
Shqiptare" reported on 12 September. The strongest candidate is
Eduard Ypi of the Democratic Party. The other two candidates are
Spartak Ngjela, the former justice minister from the Monarchists, and
Mustafa Kercuku from the National Front. The Democrats argue that
they should have the post because they are the largest opposition
party and because a round table agreement signed in Rome on 23
June promised the post to the opposition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29
August 1997). The parliament will select the new anti-corruption
chief within the next few days.

ALBANIAN PYRAMID COMPANIES STONEWALL INVESTIGATION.
Albania's largest pyramid investment companies have blocked
investigations by government appointed Chief Administrator Farudin
Arapi, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 12 September. In recent
weeks, all such firms have denied him access to their records
pending legal proceedings over the government's plans to close the
companies down. Representatives of the firms did not show up at a
court hearing on 10 September, further delaying the shutdown.
Arapi told the newspaper that the companies aim "to indefinitely
delay the beginning of [his] work." The IMF demands that the
pyramids be closed soon. Meanwhile, Albania has not yet signed a
short-term agreement with the IMF, forcing the postponement of an
international aid donors' conference in Rome (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
2 September 1997).

ROMANIAN AUTOMAKER TO BE LISTED ON STOCK EXCHANGE.
Romania's largest automaker, Dacia Pitesti, will be listed on the
Bucharest Stock Exchange beginning 15 September, RFE/RL's
Romanian Service reported on 11 September. Dacia will be the 59th
company to trade on the exchange In a statement, stock exchange
officials said trading in shares of four more companies--Banca
Transilvania, Navol, Amonil, and Siretul--will begin later in
September. They also said they plan to launch the BET Index soon.
The index will track 10 firms traded on the exchange, including
Dacia. The Romanian government announced recently that foreigners
will be given access to the government securities market. That
decision followed a decree permitting full repatriation of profits for
foreign equity investors.

CIS SUMMIT DATE BROUGHT FORWARD. CIS leaders will meet in
Chisinau on 22 and 23 October, CIS Executive Secretary Ivan
Korotchenya announced on 11 September. In August, the date was
set for 20 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1997).
Korotchenya said agreement has already been reached on some items
to be included on the summit agenda. They include talks on resolving
conflicts and increasing economic cooperation between CIS members.
A meeting of CIS foreign ministers will take place shortly before the
summit. Korotchnya said Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov
has asked for the summit to be postponed until late December,
presumably to give him time to recover from his recent heart
surgery.

MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER PREDICTS STRONGER TIES WITH
FRANCE. Nicolae Tabacaru said on 11 September that President Petru
Lucinschi's recent visit to France will strengthen relations between
the two countries. During the visit, agreements were signed on
protecting and promoting investments and on cooperation in the
transportation sector. Lucinschi also signed a cooperation agreement
with UNESCO. France ranks 26th on Moldova's list of direct foreign
investors.

WORLD BANK SAYS BULGARIAN BANKS RECOVERING. A World Bank
official says more than $1 billion transferred from Bulgarian banks
during 1996 and early 1997 has been returned to the country's
banking system since the introduction of a currency board on 1 July,
RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported on 12 September. The official
said liquidity at Bulgarian banks is now at an unusually high level.
He added that bankers must begin making responsible loans to
private enterprises that are capable of turning a profit. To do this, he
said, loan officers must learn modern risk-assessment practices.

END NOTE

EVERYBODY VOTES IN BOSNIA

by Patrick Moore

        The citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina go to the polls on 13 and 14
September to elect local officials. The circumstances under which the
vote is being held make the results anything but a foregone
conclusion. According to the Dayton agreement, the local elections
should have taken place on 14 September 1996, along with the vote
for other offices across the country. However, the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe, which routinely monitors
elections in the former USSR and Eastern Europe, decided to postpone
the local vote for one year because of widespread fraud in voter
registration.
        In the runup to the 1996 vote, prospective voters were allowed
to register to cast their ballot for offices in the locality in which they
then lived, in which they lived before the war, or in which they
intended to live. The last provision--known as P-2--was open to
great abuse, because nationalist politicians could intimidate, order, or
bribe refugees to vote in any given place in order to consolidate the
results of "ethnic cleansing" there.
        All sides were guilty of those practices, but the OSCE singled
out the Serbs for special criticism. The Serbs made particular use of
P-2 to underscore their claim to the strategic northern town of Brcko.
That town was mainly Muslim before the war, but during the conflict
it became the key transportation hub, connecting the two halves of
the Republika Srpska. The question of who would ultimately control
Brcko was the only territorial issue so thorny that it could not be
resolved at the Dayton peace conference in the fall of 1995.
        The OSCE modified the 1996 voting rules somewhat for the
1997 elections. In place of the former P-2 provision, refugees can
now vote in places where they intend to live but never previously
lived only if they can prove that they own property or have close
family or business links there.
        But even these somewhat tightened regulations were no
guarantee against fraud. On several occasions, the OSCE punished
each of the three ruling nationalist parties--the Serbian Democratic
Party (SDS), the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), or the
Muslims' Party of Democratic Action (SDA)--by suspending some of
its candidates in the locality in question. Once again, the SDS received
the most penalties, and once again the main reason was voter
registration fraud in Brcko.
        Meanwhile, spokesmen for the OSCE and the international
community made upbeat statements to the foreign and domestic
media about how important the local elections will be for the
consolidation of grass-roots democracy. Some observers countered,
however, that the vote will be no more free or fair than the 1996
one. Those elections enabled the SDS, SDA, and HDZ to further tighten
their grip over their respective communities. That grip was first
established by the three parties in the 1990 elections and then
consolidated during the war.
        The basic fact of life remains that, regardless of how many
international monitors are present, real power over most
communities across Bosnia-Herzegovina lies with the SDA, SDS, or
HDZ. Those parties control the electronic media, from which most
potential voters get their information. But perhaps more important,
the three nationalist parties also control the police and access to jobs
as well as exercising patronage in most localities.
        The non-nationalist parties are thus likely to attract few votes,
as also was the case in the elections in 1990 and 1996. Their strength
is likely to be limited to areas that are still relatively ethnically
mixed, such as Sarajevo or Tuzla. In most other areas, however, a
one-party state prevails.
        Meanwhile in the run-up to the elections, the HDZ and SDS have
resorted to a tactic that has already become part of the political
culture in much of the former Yugoslavia since the fall of
communism. The two parties have each threatened to boycott the
vote in the hope of extracting concessions from the OSCE.
        The HDZ quickly ended its boycott. Diplomats from the U.S., the
EU, and the OSCE alike warned the party not to make good on its
threat lest the international community punish not only the Bosnian
Croats but Croatia as well.
        The SDS, however, seems to have had better results. Not only
did the OSCE promise to consider restoring to the Brcko voting lists
the names of 3,000 Serbs that were removed on account of
irregularities. The OSCE also pledged not to arrest any indicted war
criminals who appear in public to cast their ballot.
        It thus came as no surprise that the Pale parliament voted on
10 September to participate in the elections. It should also not come
as a surprise if, in the future, the nationalists across Bosnia do not
take very seriously statements by prominent foreigners about the
need to arrest war criminals and bring them to justice.





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