|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 159, Part II, 13 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 EUROPE: Has The West Embraced The East? -- a five-part series about Europe's multilateral organizations and whether and how they've aided the integration of Central and Eastern Europe with the West -- is online at the RFE/RL Web site. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/multilateral/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SEEKS END TO TRADE WAR WITH RUSSIA * CZECH PRESIDENT SAYS HE'LL SEEK SECOND TERM * U.S. SAYS BOSNIAN SERBS CANNOT JOIN PROGRAM End Note END OF THE BEGINNING FOR POLAND'S NEW GOVERNMENT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SEEKS END TO TRADE WAR WITH RUSSIA. Leonid Kuchma says he hopes his meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow on 16-17 November will allow the two countries to put aside their "economic war," ITAR-TASS reported on 12 November. Kuchma also said he hopes that the two countries will be able to ratify the Treaty of Friendship that he and Yeltsin concluded earlier. In another indication that economic ties between the two countries may be improving, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais will visit Kyiv on the eve of the Kuchma- Yeltsin summit to seek a settlement of bilateral debts outstanding from the Soviet era. But the Ukrainian government's economic problems at home continue to mount. The parliament on 12 November gave a chilly reception to a modified 1998 state budget. PG LUKASHENKA TAKES HARD LINE ON PRESS. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has again said he firmly supports amendments to the press law, which would make that legislation even more draconian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 1997), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 12 November. Meanwhile, the prosecutor-general has notified editors of an independent weekly that its satirical portraits of Lukashenka and other government leaders "besmirch the honor and dignity" of those officials and thus violate the new law. PG ESTONIAN COMPANY PLANS PIRATE TV CHANNEL. An advertising company is planning to launch a 24-hour television channel from a ship anchored in a neutral zone between Estonian and Finnish territorial waters, ETA reported on 12 November. TV Zoom plans to begin simultaneous broadcasting in Estonian and Finnish in spring 1998. Kaur Hanson, the managing director of the Zoom advertising agency in Tallinn, said programming will be bought from Estonian and Finnish companies. A private investigator based in Monaco is providing the $3 million starting capital. JC POLAND WANTS EXPANDED COOPERATION WITH BALTS. On the eve of his visit to Lithuania, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek told BNS on 12 November that Warsaw is seeking a "major expansion" of cooperation with the three Baltic States. "We are convinced that Poland is a Baltic country, too, and has interests in all three Baltic [States]. For this reason, we would like to participate in all of the Baltic countries' cooperation structures," he commented. Geremek's trip to Lithuania is his first official visit abroad since his recent appointment as foreign minister. JC POLAND AGREES TO AMOUNT OF NATO DUES. The Polish government has agreed to pay NATO $44 million a year once it joins the alliance, which it is scheduled to do in 1999, PAP reported on 12 November. That sum would represent 2.48 percent of NATO's annual budget. PG SOLANA ON HUNGARY'S NATO REFERENDUM. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on 12 November told Hungarian reporters in Brussels that Budapest cannot expect to join the alliance in the near future if Hungarians reject NATO accession in the 16 November referendum. He said it depends on the Hungarian government and constitution what happens if the vote is invalidated because of a low turnout. MSZ SLOVAK PRESS CALLS OFF PROTEST. Bratislava's leading newspapers on 12 November called off their protest against a government- backed bill that would have significantly increased taxes levied on those publications. Their move came after conversations with Slovak lawmakers suggested the parliament would not pass the measure. PG CZECH PRESIDENT SAYS HE'LL SEEK SECOND TERM. From his hospital bed, Vaclav Havel told the Prague daily "Pravo" on 12 November that he will seek a second term in 1998. While his doctors have repeatedly said there is no medical reason for his stepping down, Havel's cancer operation last year and his current bout of pneumonia led to speculation that he might do so. PG MORE RESPONSES TO IRAQI ARMS SALE ALLEGATIONS. Karel Vulterin, the director of the Czech National Security Service, told CTK on 12 November that the service is carrying out an investigation into allegations of the intended sale to Baghdad of five "Tamara" electronic warfare systems. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 1997). He said the service will inform the government and the Chamber of Deputies' Defense and Security Commission of its findings. An RFE/RL Sofia correspondent reported the same day that the government has officially denied the allegations in "The Washington Times" report. It pointed out that Petar Babalov, the Bulgarian general who was identified both as a key person in the deal and as a former ambassador to Baghdad, has never held a post in Iraq. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE U.S. SAYS BOSNIAN SERBS CANNOT JOIN PROGRAM. The Bosnian Serb army (VRS) is ineligible to participate in the U.S. sponsored "Train and Equip," a Pentagon spokesman said in Washington on 12 November. He said the leadership of the Republika Srpska has not shown itself sufficiently committed to the Dayton peace agreements to qualify for the program, in which the Croats and Muslims participate. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and some VRS commanders want to take part in the program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 1997). PM MUSLIM WARLORDS COMMITTED WAR CRIMES. The Sarajevo gang led by Musan "Caco" Topalovic murdered dozens of civilians and members of the Bosnian army just because they were Serbs, the Sarajevo magazine "Dani" reported in its November issue. The magazine said that top Muslim civilian and military authorities knew of the atrocities but kept silent because Caco's gang and others like it led the fight against the Serbian besiegers of Sarajevo during 1992- 1993. Government troops and police cracked down on the warlords in 1993 and killed Caco, who nonetheless received a hero's funeral after the war. In October, "Dani" reported on Muslim atrocities against Croats near Mostar. The magazine editors told Reuters on 12 November that all sides must admit their war crimes if there is ever to be peace and reconciliation in Bosnia. They added, however, that the Muslim leadership has not reacted to their reports. PM SERBIA'S SESELJ SLAMS U.S. Vojislav Seselj, the presidential candidate of the Serbian Radical Party and wartime paramilitary leader, said in Belgrade on 12 November that "it was not enough for the Americans to destroy former Yugoslavia. Now they have started to make Montenegro secede from Serbia." Many U.S. Congressmen have openly supported Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic in his political fight with backers of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Djukanovic, now president-elect of Montenegro, is slated to visit the U.S. soon. PM WOMAN CHARGED WITH SLANDERING MILOSEVIC. Snezana Velickovic from Nis appeared before magistrates in Belgrade on 12 November on charges of committing "gross slander" against Milosevic. She allegedly said in public and before police that he is a "thief and conman" who is responsible for Yugoslavia's poverty and corruption. Velickovic denies the charges. PM CROATIA PUT ON NOTICE OVER SLAVONIA. William Walker, the UN's chief administrator for eastern Slavonia, said in Erdut on 12 November that "how Croatia...completes [its] reintegration process will most likely determine whether and how quickly it takes its rightful place in its European home and in the international community of nations." Eastern Slavonia is the last Croatian territory under rebel Serb control. The UN is slated to return the area to Croatia in January 1998. The UN began a transitional administration there under an agreement signed in Erdut on 12 November 1995. PM CROATIAN UPPER HOUSE APPROVES CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES. The upper house of the Croatian parliament on 12 November endorsed a package of constitutional amendments recently proposed by President Franjo Tudjman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1997). A key provision prohibits any union with other states or the setting up of a new Yugoslavia. The lower house is to vote on the amendments within the next week, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. PM SLOVENIA TO BAN EX-COMMUNISTS FROM OFFICE? President Milan Kucan said in Ljubljana on 12 November that a proposed law to ban former Communists from office is unnecessary. He said the names of those individuals who violated human rights under the old regime are well known and consequently there is no need to punish all former communist officials for the crimes of a few. Opposition leaders Janez Jansa and Lojze Peterle recently introduced the motion in the parliament. They said that Slovenia must break with its communist past. If passed, the bill would make Kucan and Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek ineligible to hold public office. The government has a parliamentary majority of only two votes. PM FREER TRAVEL BETWEEN HUNGARY, SLOVENIA. Interior Ministers Mirko Bandelj of Slovenia and Gabor Kuncze of Hungary signed an agreement in Budapest on 12 November that will enable citizens of each country to visit the other with only their internal identity papers. The two ministers also agreed to better implement the rules set down in the EU's Schengen border control agreement along their common border. PM ALBANIAN PRESIDENT, PARLIAMENT CLASH. The Socialist Party's parliamentary majority on 12 November sharply criticized Socialist President Rexhep Meidani for returning a draft law that the legislature had approved two weeks earlier. The law sets up a commission to investigate the anarchy that gripped Albania between January and June. Meidani had argued that the legislation would give the commission too many powers, including some that legally belong to other government branches, "Koha Jone" reported. The parliament, nonetheless, reaffirmed the draft, albeit with an amendment stating that the commission does not have the right to order arrests. FS NO SOLUTION TO ROMANIAN EDUCATION LAW... The Senate convenes on 13 November to debate government regulations issued earlier this year amending the 1996 education law. The regulations provided for teaching history and geography in the mother tongue, but a commission of the Senate headed by a National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) deputy overruled those provisions. The PNTCD leadership on 12 November endorsed the commission's changes, a move Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) leader Bela Marko said is "unacceptable." Earlier, Marko had commented in an interview on state television that the UDMR would accept a compromise whereby only the teaching of history in Romanian would be compulsory. MS ....WHILE NATIONALISTS MOVE ANTI-HUNGARIAN MINORITY MOTION IN PARLIAMENT. The Party of Romanian National Unity on 12 November moved a motion to debate the situation of ethnic Romanians in Harghita and Covasna Counties, where Hungarians constitute a majority, the RFE/RL Bucharest bureau reported. The motion says Romanians in those counties are in danger of losing their national identity as a result of the policies pursued by the UDMR. In addition, it calls for launching a "national program" to prevent assimilation of the Romanians living there. The motion, which is also backed by the Greater Romania Party, the Alliance for Romania, and one deputy from the Ecologist Party, is to be debated on 17 November. MS ROMANIA TO SIGN CONVENTION ON LAND-MINE BAN. The Supreme Council of National Defense, which is chaired by President Emil Constantinescu, has recommended that the government sign the treaty banning anti-personnel land mines, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 12 November. The council said signing the convention "will be an important step toward the integration of our country in European and Euro-Atlantic communities." MS MOLDOVAN DEPUTIES SAY SALE OF FIGHTER PLANES 'ILLEGAL.' Nicolae Andronic, the deputy chairman of the opposition Party of Rebirth and Conciliation, and deputies from the Socialist Unity- Edinstvo parliamentary faction, have said the sale of the Moldovan MiG-29C planes to the U.S. was "illegal," BASA-press and Reuters reported on 12 November. Andronic said the government broke the privatization law, which bars the sale of Defense Ministry property without the prior approval of the legislature. But Andrei Diaconu, the deputy chairman of the parliament, noted that the law came into force in September, while the MiG deal was signed in July. MS MOLDOVAN INFLATION RATE CONTINUES TO DROP. Inflation in October stood at 8.2 percent, Infotag reported, quoting National Bank chairman Leonid Talmaci on 12 November. The bank is now predicting a 1997 inflation rate of 13 percent, up 3 percent on its forecast in January, Infotag reported. Inflation dropped from 2,700 percent in 1993 to 104.5 percent in 1994, 23.8 percent in 1995, and 15.1 percent in 1996. MS BULGARIAN ARMY CONSCRIPTS TO SERVE FEWER MONTHS. The parliament on 12 November passed a law reducing the length of service for military conscripts from 18 to 12 months, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. University students will serve only nine months. In other news, President Petar Stoyanov on 12 November said the new currency board is "critical for ending postcommunist illusions." In an interview with the Japanese daily "Nikkei" ahead of his upcoming visit to Tokyo, Stoyanov said the currency board, set up in July, is a helpful instrument for stabilizing the country's finances and thereby allowing economic reform to be expedited. MS END NOTE END OF THE BEGINNING FOR POLAND'S NEW GOVERNMENT by Jan de Weydenthal Seven weeks after winning the parliamentary elections, Poland's center-right parties have given a green light to their new government. Voting on a 11 November confidence motion, the Sejm backed Jerzy Buzek's government by 260 to 173 with two abstentions. That vote largely reflected the political divisions within the lower house, where the coalition of the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW) confronts the postcommunist Democratic Left Alliance and the Peasant Party. Before the vote, Buzek outlined the government program, promising to promote economic growth, combat inflation, and reduce the budget- and current-account deficit. Other government priorities are to complete privatization of state enterprises within four years, restitute property seized by Communist governments, overhaul the health and pension systems, and increase funding of educational institutions. Commenting on the address, President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that it contains an impressive list of promises but that they are no more than that. He noted that Buzek failed to explain how his government will pay for what it is pledging to accomplish. Leszek Miller, the head of the postcommunist parliamentary opposition, was even more critical, saying Buzek's speech was "too general" and included "a lot of contradictions." Miller added that his group will closely watch the government's actions. They will not be the only ones to do so. Dozens of AWS deputies have already indicated that they will decide on a case-by-case basis whether to support their own government (31 of them have even signed a statement to that effect). Most belong to small, but radical Christian parties that formed an alliance with the Solidarity trade union for electoral purposes. Moreover, several AWS nationalist deputies failed to show up for the confidence vote to protest their leadership's decision to give important government posts to the more liberal and secular UW. There is little doubt that such dissent will continue, putting a strain on the AWS's political cohesion and testing the authority of its leaders. In particular, this may affect the role of Marian Krzaklewski, Solidarity's chairman and a leading figure in the AWS's electoral campaign. Krzaklewski declined any direct role in the government, opting for chairmanship of the AWS parliamentary caucus instead. Krzaklewski told a new conference in Gdansk on 11 November that he is about to take steps to register the Solidarity-based AWS as a new political party rooted in Christian values. A few weeks earlier, former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa also registered a new party with the same political profile. It is generally assumed that Krzaklewski is already positioning himself for the 2000 presidential election. years time. Possible conflicts within the AWS itself and eventual tension between the AWS caucus and the government will challenge his leadership qualities. His failure to impose and maintain discipline could easily cripple any future presidential plans. The parliamentary confidence vote completed the process of formally establishing the AWS-UW coalition government, which, owing to considerable program differences between the two partners, was both difficult and protracted. Those differences are unlikely to disappear. The key question for Polish politics now is how and when they could affect the operations of the government itself. The 11 November vote marked merely the end of the beginning for the current coalition. Now a different, but also difficult, kind of business is about to start; namely, the business of governing. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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