|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 150, Part II, 31 October 1997
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 * UN CRITICIZES BELARUS FOR SOVIET-STYLE POLICE. * BALTS TO COORDINATE RESPONSE TO RUSSIAN OFFER * WESTENDORP THREATENS "BYE-BYE MR. KRAJISNIK." xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UN CRITICIZES BELARUS FOR SOVIET-STYLE POLICE. In a statement released on 31 October, 18 independent experts assembled by the UN Human Rights Commission concluded that the police and militia in Belarus continue to mistreat people much as they did in Soviet times. In an appended response, Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Nina Mazai rejected the charges, saying there are only a few irregularities. UKRAINE REJECTS SMUGGLING CHARGES. Ukrainian Defense Minister spokesman Valeriy Korol has rejected Bosnian and Western charges that seven Ukrainian peacekeepers were involved in smuggling, Ukrainian media reported on 30 October. But Korol said that during the investigation that led to the peacekeepers' exoneration on those charges, it had been discovered that four of them illegally used official vehicles to transport local people. He said the four would be pulled out of Bosnia. UKRAINE, RUSSIA BEGIN JOINT EXERCISES. Some 15,000 naval personnel from Russia and Ukraine have begun a three-day exercise on the Black Sea, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 October. The 17 Russian ships and 11 Ukrainian ships are simulating a situation of internal conflict within an unspecified country. Ukrainian officials said that despite conducting the exercises with Russia, Kyiv remains committed to expanding ties with NATO. RUSSIA WANTS TO NORMALIZE RELATIONS WITH ESTONIA. Presenting his credentials to Estonian President Lennart Meri on 30 October, new Russian Ambassador Aleksei Glukhov said he will seek to normalize relations with Estonia, ETA reported. Both nations are victims of their heritage, he said, adding it is a "paradox that even under new conditions, the past continues to poison our relations." Meri stressed Estonia's readiness to cooperate with Russia and argued that bilateral relations should be based on mutual interests, international law, and long-term perspectives. Glukhov also handed over to Meri a document outlining President Boris Yeltsin's offer of security guarantees to the Baltic States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 1997). BALTS TO COORDINATE RESPONSE TO RUSSIAN OFFER. The three Baltic presidents are scheduled to meet in Palanga, Lithuania, on 10 November and will discuss a joint response to Yeltsin's security offer. Meanwhile, Lithuania has turned down the document as a whole, BNS reported on 30 October. A Foreign Ministry statement said that neither a new agreement on mutual security nor a regional pact is necessary. But it noted that Lithuania is not opposed to widening cooperation with Moscow in all areas, according to Reuters. SLEZEVICIUS OFFICIALLY CHARGED WITH POWER ABUSE. The Lithuanian Prosecutor-General's Office has officially accused Adolfas Slezevicius of abuse of power damaging to national interests and the country's banking sector, Interfax reported on 30 October. A criminal case was opened against Slezevicius in early 1996, shortly after the former prime minister, learning of a crisis at the Lithuanian Innovation Bank, had withdrawn a lump sum plus interest two days before the bank's collapse. Slezevicius, who took office as premier in 1992, was forced to step down in the wake of that incident. OSCE CRITICIZES LATVIAN LANGUAGE BILL. Wrapping up a two-day visit to Riga, Max van der Stoel, the high commissioner on minorities for the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, urged Latvia to amend its controversial draft language law and to speed up the naturalization of the country's large Russian minority, Reuters reported. Van der Stoel pointed to provisions of the bill regulating the use of language in the private sphere, which, he stressed, is in "contradiction of international conventions Latvia has signed." The bill recently passed in its first reading in the parliament, but the government coalition is divided over the draft legislation. POLISH GOVERNMENT TO BE SWORN IN. Poland's new government will be sworn in on 31 October, PAP reported. But the cabinet will not assume full powers until a confidence vote that, according to Solidarity Electoral Action official Andrzej Anusz, has been postponed until 8 November. CZECH PRESIDENT PUTS OFF TRIP. Chronic bronchitis has forced Vaclav Havel to postpone a planned visit to Britain on 4-7 November, CTK reported on 30 October. The president underwent lung surgery late last year to remove a small malignant tumor. Meanwhile, the Czech government continues to face growing political problems. One coalition party, the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), has called for a review of the government's priorities. Social Democratic opposition leader Milos Zeman has said his party will seek allies to bring down the government rather than wait for what he claimed would be a Social Democratic victory in the next parliamentary elections. CZECHS, SLOVAKS SEEK TO EASE ROMA PROBLEM. Czech Minorities Minister Pavel Batiska is to go to London to discuss how to ease tensions between the U.K. and the Czech Republic over Romani refugees, CTK reported on 30 October. A day earlier, Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar told a television audience that Bratislava has proposed repatriating Roma from Slovakia who now live in the U.K. and France. Meciar also commented that "Slovakia does not consider itself a country whose ethnic minorities are politically persecuted." SENIOR NATO OFFICIAL SAYS NO NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN HUNGARY. Addressing a Budapest conference on Hungary and NATO, Simon Lunn, the secretary-general of the North Atlantic Assembly confirmed that NATO will not seek to deploy nuclear weapons in Hungary, Hungarian media reported on 30 October. Donald J. McConel, who is responsible for political affairs within the alliance, said accession negotiations show that, in many respects, Hungary ranks first among those invited to join the alliance SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CLINTON WEIGHS OPTIONS ON BOSNIA. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said in Seattle on 30 October that President Bill Clinton is carefully considering whether to retain a military presence in Bosnia after SFOR's mandate expires in June 1998. He argued that Washington will do whatever is necessary to ensure the success of the Dayton agreements. Talbott stressed that peace in Bosnia is in the "vital interests of the United States" and that the international community will keep a civilian presence there in any case. Meanwhile in the U.S. capital, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and a high-level NATO delegation discussed Bosnian policy options with Clinton's advisers. WESTENDORP THREATENS: "BYE-BYE MR. KRAJISNIK." Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 30 October that he will fire Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian representative on the Bosnian joint presidency, unless Krajisnik becomes more cooperative within two months. Westendorp called Krajisnik one of the biggest obstacles to the peace process and to reaching agreements on joint documents, symbols, and institutions. "If Krajisnik doesn't deliver [agreements on those issues], then I will say bye-bye Mr. Krajisnik." BOSNIA'S ELECTRICITY PROBLEMS MOUNT. Zaim Karamehmedovic, the head of Bosnia's main power company, told "Oslobodjenje" of 30 October that there was a blackout the previous day at a thermoelectric plant in Tuzla. He added that Bosnia cannot produce enough power to meet its winter needs and called upon citizens to save energy. Karamehmedovic said power deliveries to Croatia and Slovenia have been suspended. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic said Bosnia's trade imbalance with Slovenia is "disturbing" and must be remedied. In the first eight months of 1997, Bosnia exported $17 million worth of goods to Slovenia but imported $181 million worth. BULATOVIC FACTION TO BOYCOTT MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT? Supporters of outgoing President Momir Bulatovic told an RFE/RL correspondent in Cetinje on 30 October that their faction in parliament may boycott future sessions of the legislature following a decision by parliamentary committees to validate the recent presidential election results and dismiss Bulatovic's charges of electoral fraud (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 1997). Some opposition party spokesmen, for their part, said they want the parliament to investigate Bulatovic's responsibility for the current political instability. SERBIAN POLICE BEAT KOSOVAR STUDENTS. A spokesman for ethnic Albanian student protesters said on 30 October that demonstrations will continue the next week. He charged that Serbian police beat 16 students in Pec alone during the 29 October protests. Local Albanian- language media noted other incidents of police violence against demonstrators across the province, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina. SERBIAN OPPOSITION TRIES TO FIND JOINT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. Opposition leaders continued discussions on 30 October in an effort to find a joint candidate for the 7 December Serbian presidential elections. Names most frequently mentioned include banker Dragoslav Avramovic, former communist party chief Ivan Stambolic, and former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic, "Danas" reported from Belgrade on 31 October. SLOVENIAN PRESIDENT EXPECTED TO BEAT SEVEN CHALLENGERS. The Constitutional Court ruled in Ljubljana on 30 October that Milan Kucan can run for a third term in the 23 November presidential elections. Public opinion polls suggest that none of his seven challengers constitutes a serious challenge and that the president will receive at least 50 percent of the votes in the first round of balloting. SLAVONIAN BORDER TO OPEN FOR ALL SAINTS' DAY. William Walker, the UN's chief administrator in eastern Slavonia, said in Zagreb on 30 October that the borders of the last Serb-held enclave in Croatia will be open on 1 November. Visits to graves of family and friends on All Saints' Day is an important Roman Catholic custom in much of Central Europe. During the war, Croats were unable to visit graves in Serb- controlled areas. Also in Zagreb, the government announced that progress is being made on the reintegration of eastern Slavonia. The statement added there are more Serbs returning to their old homes outside eastern Slavonia than there are Croats going back to their former residences inside the enclave. ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT RESTORES COMMUNIST-ERA HOLIDAY. The legislature on 30 October reinstated 29 November as Albania's Liberation Day to mark the end of the German occupation during World War II, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. The previous Democratic- dominated government had changed the date of the holiday to 28 November, arguing that the last German soldier left Shkoder on 28 November 1944 and that former communist dictator Enver Hoxha had chosen the 29th simply because Yugoslavia, which was his wartime patron, also marked 29 November. ITALIAN, ALBANIAN PROSECUTORS TO OPEN JOINT OFFICES. Italian senior anti-mafia prosecutor Pierre Luigi Vigna and Albanian Prosecutor-General Arben Rakipi agreed in Tirana on 29 October to open joint offices in their capital cities to coordinate the fight against organized crime, ATSH reported. In other news, Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe envoy Franz Vranitzky opened an OSCE office in Shkoder on 30 October, "Shekulli" reported. It is the organization's first permanent office in Albania outside Tirana. ROMANIAN 'REVOLUTIONARIES' END HUNGER STRIKE. The 1989 "revolutionaries" who began a hunger strike in Bucharest 23 days ago have ended their fast, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 30 October. The move follows a government proposal that the parliament will not start debating amendments to the law on benefits to the "revolutionaries" until a special commission has reviewed the cases of all 9,000 who enjoyed those benefits until recently. The "revolutionaries" will be represented on that commission, which will also include a deputy, a senator, a member of the Prosecutor-General's Office, and a high Interior Ministry official. In other news, some 5,000 members of the National Syndicate Bloc demonstrated in Bucharest against the government's economic policies. BUCHAREST STOCK EXCHANGE LIMITS FLUCTUATIONS. The Bucharest Stock Exchange on 30 October narrowed the limits within which stock prices can fluctuate on a single day. The move came after the shares of six firms fell by more than 20 percent amidst the turmoil on the world equity markets. For companies on the exchange's first tier, trading in futures will be suspended if prices rise or fall by more than 20 percent. For those on the second tier, the limit is 35 percent, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In other news, opposition senators on 30 October introduced a motion criticizing the government's policies in the agricultural sector. If the motion is approved by the parliament, the government must implement its recommendations. IMF CONCERNED ABOUT MOLDOVAN REFORMS. David Owen, currently in charge of Moldovan affairs within the IMF, and Mark Horton, the permanent IMF representative in Moldova, met with President Petru Lucinschi and parliamentary chairman Dumitru Motpan on 30 October. A statement issued later said Horton expressed concern about "the parliament's tendency to revise some provisions in the memoranda signed between Moldova and international finance organizations." He referred specifically to the parliament's 24 October decision to suspend raising energy prices" which, he said, may negatively impact the budget, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. An IMF fact-finding mission has been in Moldova over the past two weeks. CIUBUC SAYS 'GOVERNMENT CRISIS NOT IMMINENT.' In an interview with BASA-press on 30 October, Moldovan Premier Ion Ciubuc said a government crisis is "not imminent," provided the parliament " lets the cabinet take care of the country's urgent problems." Ciubuc was responding to an initiative by Socialist Unity-Edinstvo deputies to collect signatures in favor of a government reshuffle. The premier said such a move would only lead to "destabilization." He added that the government has to fulfill its international obligations, saying it is "inconceivable" that the first installment of an IMF $35 million credit was accepted and then the agreed raising of energy prices suspended. Ciubuc commented the parliament is playing a "populist game" that may deprive Moldova of energy resources. WORLD BANK APPROVES LOAN FOR BULGARIA. The World Bank on 30 October approved a $100 million loan to Bulgaria to help cover Sofia's balance of payments shortfall, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. World Bank project manager Hans Moritz said Bulgaria has paid "a high price for the slow implementation of structural reforms" in the past. He added that the government must now act decisively to "restore confidence and promote economic stability." The loan will be used to reduce losses of and improve financial discipline in state-owned enterprises and to accelerate privatization of the public sector and of banks. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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