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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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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