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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 155, Part II, 7 November 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

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Headlines, Part II

* GONCZ URGES PUBLIC TO VOTE FOR NATO ENTRY

* SERBIAN WAR CRIMINAL ARRESTED

* SARAJEVO CAUTIOUS ON ZAGREB'S PROPOSAL

End Note
RETURNING TO THE BALTICS

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DEFENDS AMENDMENTS TO MEDIA LAW.
Meeting on 6 November with the speakers of both chambers of the
parliament, Alyaksandr Lukashenka defended as "absolutely normal"
the proposed amendments to the media law recently rejected by the
lower house (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 1997). One
amendment makes media accountable for publishing information
"insulting to the honor of the president," while another empowers a
registration agency to suspend the activity of media outlets, Interfax
reported. LF

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ACCUSES PARLIAMENT OF POPULISM.
Addressing the parliament on 6 November, Leonid Kuchma accused
deputies of populism and chronic absenteeism, Interfax reported. He
said the parliament's productivity has "sunk to its lowest point."
Kuchma further argued that the "regular" practice of putting several
issues to a vote simultaneously "gives rise to doubts about the
legitimacy of decisions that are important for the country." LF

UKRAINIAN AIRLINE STRIKE. Some 500 pilots and technical staff of
the national airline Air Ukraine launched an indefinite strike on 6
November to demand payment of wage arrears since May, Reuters
reported. All Air Ukraine flights from Kyiv's second airport,
Zhulyany, to international and domestic destinations were cancelled.
LF

TALLINN STOCK EXCHANGE NOSE-DIVES AGAIN. The TALSE index
plunged 14.41 percent on 6 November, its third double-digit fall in
two weeks, ETA reported. Experts say the Estonian money market is
still plagued by a lack of free capital but that share prices have now
bottomed out. Martti Singi, head of Hoiupank analysis center, told the
news agency that an influx of fresh money to the market can be
expected in the coming days. Meanwhile, Price Waterhouse predicts
in its quarterly review that GDP growth in Estonia will slow down in
the last quarter of 1997, resulting in an annual figure of 9-10
percent. GDP growth in the second half of the year was recently
reported at 11.7 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 1997).
JC

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT APPEALS TO EU. The parliament on 6
November passed an appeal to the EU to be included in the first
wave of EU entry talks. Lawmakers said they wanted to know what
concrete steps it needs to take to begin negotiations. Reuters quoted
the appeal as saying "we suggest establishing clear criteria for
starting negotiations and [applying] an effective and regular
(biannual) review mechanism for candidate states taking into
consideration rapid changes in those countries." JC

POLISH ANESTHETISTS' HUNGER STRIKE SPREADS. Anesthetists have
stepped up their hunger strike since the collapse of pay talks on 4
November, Reuters reported two days later. A union official said the
fast is crippling the work of hospitals in about 20 of the country's 49
provinces, adding that other regions are ready to join the protest.
The anesthetists are refusing solid food so that they will be too weak
to attend patients, while selected doctors are working round the
clock to deal with emergencies. The three-week-old protest is the
first major challenge to the new center-right government, which is
scheduled to discuss the issue on 7 November. JC

POLAND HOSTS CONFERENCE ON SOLIDARITY. A three-day
international conference on the emergence in 1980 of the
independent labor union Solidarity begins in Warsaw on 7
November, RFE/RL reported. Organized by the National Security
Archive of Washington and the Polish Academy of Sciences, the
conference will be attended, among others, by former U. S. National
Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Warsaw Pact
commander Viktor Kulikov, and former Polish communist leaders
Wojciech Jaruzelski and Stanislav Kania. JC

CZECH PARLIAMENT PASSES AMENDED BANK LAW. Czech National
Bank spokesman Martin Svehla on 6 November said amendments to
the banking law, which the parliament approved earlier that day,
will lead to greater transparency in privatization deals involving
investment funds, CTK reported. The revised legislation prevents
commercial banks from owning stakes in non-financial and non-
banking institutions, such as investment funds, that exceed 15
percent of their basic capital. Investment companies or pension
funds controlled by or affiliated with a commercial bank will not be
permitted to hold stakes exceeding 10 percent in a company. MS

CZECH COALITION TROUBLES CONTINUE. In a recent address to
military commanders, Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus accused the major
coalition partner, the People's Party, and the main opposition Social
Democrats of escalating domestic political tensions, which, he said,
may jeopardize the Czech Republic's entry to NATO. In an article in
"Lidove noviny" on 5 November, presidential adviser Jiri Pehe
rejected Klaus's warning, saying it is "undignified" for a stable
democracy to suggest a possible change of government might
endanger the country's foreign-policy goals, including entry to NATO
and the EU. MS

SLOVAK PRESS PROTESTS PLANNED VAT HIKE. With the exception of
those backing Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, Slovak newspapers
devoted the front pages of their 6 November issues to a protest by
the Association of Newspaper Publishers. The association called on
the parliament to reject the government's proposal to raise value-
added tax from 6 percent to 23 percent for publications in which
advertising accounts for more than 10 percent of their contents. It
said the proposal is "economically implausible and politically
unjustifiable" (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 30 October and 3 November
1997). MS

GONCZ URGES PUBLIC TO VOTE FOR NATO ENTRY. Arpad Goncz on 6
November urged citizens to vote for Hungary's NATO accession in the
binding referendum scheduled for 16 November, Hungarian media
reported. Goncz was addressing a forum in the parliament building
designed to increase public interest and encourage participation in
the NATO referendum. Recent opinion polls show that although some
65 percent of Hungarians support the accession, turnout for the
referendum may be less than 50 percent. At least 25 percent of the
registered electorate must cast a vote for the poll to be valid. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

SERBIAN WAR CRIMINAL ARRESTED. Police in Vranje, southern
Serbia, on 6 November arrested Slobodan Misic, who had given local
media graphic accounts of his activities as a paramilitary volunteer
in Croatia and Bosnia. He had said he killed as many as 80 Bosnian
civilians, including women and children, as part of an organized
"ethnic cleansing" campaign. Misic also gave evidence of links
between the paramilitaries and the Yugoslav military. Police arrested
him at the offices of a newspaper and confiscated tapes and texts in
which he discussed his war crimes. In The Hague, a spokesman for
the war crimes tribunal said that the court is seeking information on
the case from the Serbian authorities. PM

OPPOSITION PARTIES BACK SERBIA'S DRASKOVIC. Representatives of
nine small opposition parties agreed in Belgrade on 6 November to
support Vuk Draskovic of the Serbian Renewal Movement in the
December Serbian presidential vote. The Democratic Party, the
Serbian Democratic Party, and the Civic League of Serbia, however,
say they will boycott the vote because conditions for free and fair
elections do not exist. Many opponents of Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic hope the opposition will rally behind a common
candidate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 1997). PM

SERBIA NOT TO DEVALUE DINAR. Serbian Prime Minister Mirko
Marjanovic said in Belgrade on 6 November that there will be no
devaluation of the Yugoslav currency, which has recently lost value
against the German mark on the black market (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 5 November 1997). Marjanovic added that the
government and the National Bank will take steps to bring the black
market exchange rate back to under four dinars to the mark. Current
rates are approaching five to the mark. PM

PENSIONERS MARCH IN BELGRADE. Several hundred pensioners
demonstrated in front of the Serbian government's offices on 6
November to demand payment of pension arrears. The pensioners
want an increase in their payments and charge that the government
is trying to cheat them out of their legal entitlements, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. Many pensioners in
much of the former Yugoslavia live near or below the poverty level.
PM

ALBRIGHT WARNS MILOSEVIC, TUDJMAN. Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright said in Washington on 5 November that the
Serbian authorities "treat criminals like privileged citizens while they
treat citizens like criminals." She added that Croatia has recently
improved its cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal
but still limits freedom of expression. Albright awarded the National
Democratic Institute's Averell Harriman Prize to Serbian opposition
leader Vesna Pesic, Tuzla Mayor Selim Beslagic, and Osijek Mayor
Zlatko Kramaric. PM

CROATIA DENIES TUDJMAN'S ISRAEL TRIP OFF. President Franjo
Tudjman's office said in a statement on 6 November that his planned
visit to Israel will go ahead despite protests by two Israeli legislators
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 1997). The statement charged
that the two deputies have tried on earlier occasions to cause
problems in relations between the two countries. PM

SARAJEVO CAUTIOUS ON ZAGREB'S PROPOSAL. A spokesman for the
governing Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) said in Sarajevo
on 6 November that the SDA is still studying Tudjman's proposal for
closer economic and security links between the two countries (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1997). The spokesman warned that
the SDA will not agree to any limitations on Bosnia's sovereignty or
to any special relationship between Croatia and the mainly Croat
areas of Bosnia. Several non-nationalist opposition parties took a
similar view, "Oslobodjenje" reported. PM

RAILWAY STRIKE PARALYZES MACEDONIA. Locomotive drivers
launched a strike on 5 November to demand prompt payment of
wages and the authorization of per diem allowances for time the
drivers spend in Serbia. The strike brought domestic and
international rail traffic to a halt. PM

ALBANIAN PYRAMID DENIES BANKRUPTCY. At a press conference in
Tirana on 6 November, VEFA owner Vehbi Alimucaj said his
company would be able to pay investors if it were allowed to
continue operating. VEFA owns several businesses in Albania,
including supermarkets and a ferry-line. Earlier that day, Alimucaj
allowed government officials to enter VEFA's offices in order to carry
out an audit, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Pyramid scheme
investigator Farudin Arapi responded by dropping an indictment
against Alimucaj for obstructing the work of civil servants (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 1997). FS

ALBANIAN REPUBLICAN LEADER QUITS. Sabri Godo unexpectedly
resigned on 6 November at the Republican Party's congress in Tirana,
"Republika" reported. Godo said that his duties as a member of the
parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee and the commission drafting
constitution do not allow him much time for party affairs. He will,
however, hold a high party position. Deputy party leader Fatmir
Mediu was elected as his successor. Godo noted that Mediu , who is
only 32 years old, could give the party a new and younger image.
The Republicans want to replace the Democrats as the largest right-
of-center party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 1997). FS

ROMANIAN REFORM MINISTER OFFERS TO RESIGN. Ulm Spineanu has
offered to hand in his resignation, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau
reported on 6 November. According to media reports, Spineanu is
likely to be a victim of the planned reshuffle. Premier Victor Ciorbea
said it is "premature" to discuss the reshuffle but noted that one
possibility is to set up a Ministry of Privatization that would merge
the State Property Fund (FPS) and the Ministry of Reform. Another
possibility is that ministerial rank will be given to the head of the
FPS, the premier said. Spineanu and FPS head Sorin Dimitriu are
reportedly in conflict over the pace and method of privatization.
Spineanu said he doubted that merging the fund and the Reform
Ministry would be constitutional. He added that he refuses to become
a scapegoat for failures that he is not responsible for. MS

ROMANIAN SENATE REJECTS OPPOSITION MOTION. By 77 votes to 50,
the Senate on 6 November rejected an opposition motion accusing the
government of mishandling agricultural policies, RFE/RL's Bucharest
bureau reported. The same day, the three opposition parties
submitted a motion to the Chamber of Deputies criticizing the
cabinet's policies in the industrial sector. That motion is scheduled to
be discussed on 11 November. MS

BULGARIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES AGAINST
GOVERNMENT. The Constitutional Court on 6 November ruled that the
July appointment of the national radio and television chiefs by the
parliament was unconstitutional. The court was responding to a
complaint filed by the opposition Socialist Party. It said that under
existing law, the two heads should have been appointed by a media
council and not by the legislature. An RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia
said the ruling creates a "legal vacuum" since such a council has not
yet been appointed by the government. The Union of Democratic
Forces is currently drafting amendments to the media law. MS

BULGARIA'S RIVAL SYNODS WANT SECRET POLICE FILES OPENED.
The two Bulgarian Orthodox Synods on 6 November said they want
the files of the communist-era secret police on the clergy to be open
to the public, Reuters reported. A spokesman for the synod headed
by Patriarch Pymen said the opening of the files would "make
informers such as [rival Patriarch] Maxim and his gangs of cops step
down and be replaced by real Christians, not slaves of the socialists."
Officials from the synod headed by Patriarch Maxim, whom Todor
Zhivkov's government appointed in 1971, said they have nothing to
fear. They added that they are in favor of opening the files "to put an
end to speculations." MS

END NOTE

RETURNING TO THE BALTICS

by Paul Goble

        A group of senior Russian politicians, academics, and
businessmen has urged President Boris Yeltsin to adopt a more
active, differentiated, and sophisticated policy toward the three
Baltic states. In a policy paper recently published in "Nezavisimaya
Gazeta," the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy argued that such
an approach would promote Russian interests both by keeping the
Baltic governments off balance and by limiting their ability to draw
on Western support.
        The report is attracting particular attention now because it
comes on the heels of Yeltsin's latest proposal that Moscow take
responsibility for the security of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania--an
idea all three governments have rejected. Moreover, it appears just
as the United States and its three Baltic partners are putting the
finishing touches to a U.S.-Baltic Charter. Its authors--who include
State Duma international affairs committee chairman Vladimir Lukin,
deputy director of the Institute of Europe Sergei Karaganov, and
industrialist leader Arkadii Volskii--have frequently been
bellwethers of Russian policy.
        The report itself begins with a stinging indictment of Russia's
approach to the Baltic countries since 1991. Not only has Russian
policy been reactive, the report suggests, it has been clumsy, often
alarming the West and preventing Moscow from achieving its goals.
Such an approach is unforgivable on two counts, according to the
report. On the one hand, Russia has fundamental interests in those
countries. On the other, it has significant leverage there both on its
own and because of the attitudes of the West.
        But the most intriguing part of the report is its assessments of
Russia's opportunities for increasing its influence in the region,
which, it claims, have increased in recent times because of the
attitude of Western countries. Not only have the three Baltic
countries virtually fallen off the West's "radar screen," the report
suggests, but Western governments have made it clear to the Baltic
governments that they can join the West only if they have normal
relations with Russia. That situation, the authors maintain, helps
define the limits within which Russian policy toward the Baltic
countries should proceed: avoiding threats that might raise the
profile of the Baltic States but exploiting Western "conditions" to
advance Russian interests.
        The report then outlines how Moscow should do just that in
three major areas. First, it suggests that Moscow should demonstrate
a genuine interest in the fate of ethnic Russians in all three countries
and take a hard line on border accords. In the past, the report states,
Moscow did less for Russians in those countries than did the West,
leaving itself open to the charge of hypocrisy. And it failed to
acknowledge that the status of ethnic Russians in the Baltic States is
"incomparably better" than in many CIS countries.
        The report urges that the Russian government and Russian
businesses spend more money on ethnic Russians there in order to
show that those Russians are not a "'fifth column'" but rather "a
weighty instrument of political and economic rapprochement of
peoples." This formulation may not please the Baltic governments but
it is likely to prove more acceptable in both Russia and the West.
According to the report, Moscow should use the West's concerns
about border agreements as another reason to press Russia's case.
        Second, the report argues that Moscow must use its economic
leverage to play off one Baltic state against the other. Because all
three have an interest in gaining transit fees, Moscow can have a role
in deciding through which Russian goods will pass. The authors of the
report claim that Estonia, which they identify as the least friendly
toward Russia, currently loses something like $500 million a year in
transit because of its attitude. At the same time, they acknowledge
some new limitations on Moscow's ability to conduct such a policy.
The Russian government would indeed like to reward Lithuania, but
Lithuania's tariff policies are not as favorable as those of Latvia. As a
result, Russian businessmen will almost certainly use the Latvian
route rather than the Lithuanian one, the report maintains.
        Third, the report urges Moscow to adopt a "carrots and sticks"
policy both to the Baltic countries as a group and to individual
regimes, offering concessions with one hand even as it applies
pressure with the other. It argues, for example, that Russia should
welcome the inclusion of all the Baltic countries into the EU while
opposing NATO membership for them.
        Such a differentiated approach would likely serve Russian
interests. At the very least, it would pose a challenge to both the
Baltic countries and the West, neither of which until now has had to
cope with such a sophisticated Russian policy toward the region.




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