|He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 161, Part II, 17 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 * HUNGARIANS OVERWHELMINGLY ENDORSE NATO MEMBERSHIP * SFOR PEACEKEEPERS FIRE WARNING SHOTS * WESTENDORP WANTS DELAY IN SERBIAN PRIVATIZATION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE HUNGARIANS OVERWHELMINGLY ENDORSE NATO MEMBERSHIP. With almost all votes counted, results of the 16 November referendum show that more than 85 percent of voters have endorsed accession to NATO. Turnout was just below 50 percent. Prime Minister Gyula Horn, speaking at a news conference in Budapest, thanked Hungarian citizens for backing the government's position, saying the results are "beyond all expectations." He added that the vote strengthens Hungary's international position and sends an important message to all NATO members. The results of the referendum are binding on the government. MS HUNGARIAN TELEPHONE SHARES TRADE IN NEW YORK. The Matav telephone company has begun trading shares on both the Budapest and New York stock exchanges, Hungarian media reported on 14 November. "This is the first time that the shares of an East-Central European company have been floated simultaneously [in an East- Central European capital] and in New York," Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn noted at the launching ceremony in Budapest. Matav is 67 percent owned by Magyarcom, a consortium of U.S. Ameritech and Deutsche Telecom, and 25 percent owned by Hungary's State Privatization and Holding Company. The company's shares will account for some 30 percent of all shares traded at the Budapest stock exchange. MSZ CHUBAIS ENDS UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN SUGAR WAR. Visiting Kyiv on 14 November ahead of President Leonid Kuchma's planned summit with President Boris Yeltsin, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais resolved the disagreement between the two countries over Russian imports of Ukrainian sugar, Russian agencies reported. Meeting with Kuchma and Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko, Chubais agreed that in 1998, Russia will buy 1 million tons of Ukrainian sugar, of which 600,000 tons will be exempt from the 25 percent tax Russia introduced in May. Russian participation in completing construction of two unfinished units at the Khmelnitsky and Rovno nuclear power stations was also discussed, Interfax reported. LF POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER IN KYIV. Meeting in the Ukrainian capital on 15 November with President Kuchma and Security and Defense Council Secretary Vladimir Gorbulin, Bronislaw Geremek affirmed that Poland considers relations with Ukraine a priority and will support Kyiv's aspiration for closer integration into Europe. Geremek and Kuchma agreed on the need for a coordinated policy aimed at having an positive influence on the situation in Belarus. They argued that the isolation of Belarus could prove counter-productive, according to Reuters. LF BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT LINKS ARRESTED MINISTER TO MURDER CASE. Visiting the Rassvet agricultural complex on14 November, Alyaksandr Lukashenka indirectly accused its former director, Vasil Starovoitau, and Agriculture Minister Vasily Leonov of involvement in the murder of Yevhenii Mikolutsky, Interfax reported. Lukashenka said that Mikolutsky, the chairman of the Mohilev Raion State Control Committee and a personal friend of the president, had intended to inform him of corruption and embezzlement within Rassvet. Mikolutsky was killed by a bomb at his home on 6 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 1997). Leonov, who holds pro- market views and has criticized Lukashenka's policies, was arrested on 11 November. LF COUNCIL OF EUROPE REPRESENTATIVE IN MINSK. Claude Frey, a representative of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, held separate meetings with Lukashenka and with former Supreme Soviet speaker Anatol Sharetsky and Charter 97 representative Andrej Sannikau in Minsk on 14 November, RFE/RL's bureau in the Belarusian capital reported. Frey told the two opposition leaders that the Council of Europe views the present regime in Belarus as "dictatorial." He added that the country's isolation will continue until "it demonstrates concrete steps towards democracy." LF FIVE BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS SENTENCED. Five opposition activists have been sentenced on charges of "aggressive behavior toward police officers" during a demonstration in Minsk in March 1997, RFE/RL's bureau in the Belarusian capital reported on 14 November. Two of the defendants were sentenced to two years' community service. The others will be fined 20 percent of their salaries over the next two years. LF ESTONIA'S MADISSON RELEASED FROM JAIL. Tiit Madisson, Estonia's only political prisoner in the postcommunist era, has been released from jail following a parliamentary decision to amnesty anyone convicted of treason (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 1997), ETA and BNS reported. Madisson says, however, that he will continue to contest his conviction at the European Court of Human Rights. His release was preceded by a day-long debate over whether the wording of the legislature's decision was legally correct. JC COURT OFFICIAL TO BE DISMISSED OVER RUBIKS CASE? A Justice Ministry committee has recommended that Inta Zala, deputy chairwoman of Riga's Zemgale District Court, be dismissed from that post for her part in the early release from prison of former Communist Party leader Alfreds Rubiks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 1997), BNS reported on 15 November. The committee found that Zala had followed the "long-term practice of courts [rather than] the law" when she accepted for consideration the request to parole Rubiks. It argued that the case should have been submitted to a court in the district where Rubiks was serving his sentence. It also noted that Zala had appointed an inexperienced judge to deal with the case. JC POLISH DAILY PUBLISHES RUSSIAN SPIES LIST. "Zycie" on 15 November published a list of 23 Russians who allegedly spied in Poland after 1990, AFP reported. Four of those listed continue to work in Poland as senior diplomats. The daily claimed that Yurii Kashlev, who was Russian ambassador to Warsaw from 1990 to January 1997, was the "heart and brains" behind the spying activities. It also quoted "independent informers" as saying that in 1995, the Polish Intelligence Agency had known "everything" about the alleged Russian spies. JC CZECH PARTY LEADER TO STEP DOWN. Michael Zantovsky, the chairman of the Civic Democratic Alliance, announced on 14 November that he will step down at an extraordinary party congress at the end of November, CTK reported. He said he expected Environment Minister and Deputy Premier Jiri Skalicky to replace him. The Civic Democratic Alliance is the smallest of the three parties in the ruling coalition led by Premier Vaclav Klaus. Zantovsky was elected its chairman in March but failed to reconcile rival factions within the party. MS HAVEL WARNS AGAINST RACISM. In an article published in "Dnes" on 15 November, President Vaclav Havel urged Czechs to fight racism, calling it "a destructive demon whose danger is being underestimated." He wrote that he was "deeply shocked" by the recent killing of a Sudanese student by a skinhead (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 1997) and called for passing harsher legislation and for "fundamental policy changes in the executive." Havel added that the government "must outlaw all racist and xenophobic movements," AFP reported. MS SLOVAK GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT BUDGET. The government on 14 November approved the 1998 draft budget, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. The draft, which foresees a deficit of $150 million or some 0.7 percent of GDP, is based on the assumption that economic growth will be 5 percent and inflation rate 6 percent. The draft must be approved by the parliament. Opposition leaders on 15 November said they are concerned about the intention to allot 945 million koruna ($ 30 million) to the Slovak Intelligence Service, saying the funds could be used against them in the run-up to the 1998 parliamentary elections. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SFOR PEACEKEEPERS FIRE WARNING SHOTS. Italian SFOR troops on Mt. Trebevic near Sarajevo fired warning shots to turn back several hundred Serbian civilians, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital on 15 November. The Serbs were trying to cut barbed wire surrounding a television transmitter, which is one of several broadcasting sites across Bosnia that NATO forces seized from Bosnian Serb hard-liners on 1 October in order to deny the hard- liners access to the airwaves. There have been several incidents recently in which apparently well organized Serbian crowds have approached transmitters guarded by SFOR troops. PM WESTENDORP WANTS DELAY IN SERBIAN PRIVATIZATION. Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, argued in Sarajevo on 15 November that the Bosnian Serbs should stop their plans to privatize 300 enterprises by distributing shares in them to current local residents. Westendorp charged that the plan discriminates against Muslims and Croats who were driven from their homes in what is now the Republika Srpska and have been unable to return. He added that the privatization program is likely to lead to "large-scale fraud and the wholesale give-away of public property" because state-appointed assessors rather than independent experts will determine the value of each enterprise. PM OVER 1 MILLION BOSNIAN SERBS SET TO VOTE. Spokesmen for the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is supervising the Bosnian Serb parliamentary elections on 22-23 November, said in Sarajevo on 15 November that some 1.1 million people have registered to vote. PM EXPLOSIONS IN EASTERN SLAVONIA. Two hand grenades damaged a school in Vukovar on 16 November. The previous night, an explosion shook the house of a Serbian resident of that same town. Croatian media also reported a series of armed robberies in Vukovar and elsewhere in eastern Slavonia in recent days. Most of robberies involved Serbs attacking Croats. Meanwhile, the Croatian Helsinki Committee said in a statement on 14 November that leaflets have appeared in Vukovar threatening local Serbs. Eastern Slavonia is the last Serb-held enclave in Croatia. and is slated to return to full Croatian control in January 1998. PM SESELJ TO PUSH FOR GREATER SERBIA. Vojislav Seselj, the Radical Party's candidate in the 7 December Serbian presidential elections, said in Leskovac on 14 November that he will never recognize Croatia in its current boundaries. Seselj added that Serbia's western boundary should follow the line of Karlobag-Ogulin-Karlovac- Virovitica. This frontier would leave Croatia with little more than Zagreb and some territories to the northwest of the capital. On 16 November, Radical Party spokesmen in Belgrade called on Milan Milutinovic, Seselj's Socialist opponent, to debate Seselj on television. And the Serbian Election Commission announced that a total of 18 candidates will be on the presidential ballot on 7 December. PM KOSOVO'S RUGOVA CLAIMS INCREASED REPRESSION. Ibrahim Rugova, the president of the Kosovar shadow-state, said in Pristina on 14 November that Serbian police have stepped up their harassment of ethnic Albanians in the past month. Rugova charged that the police mistreated 1,057 Albanians, and that the police singled out politically active Albanians for particularly bad treatment, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina. PM DAYS OF MOURNING IN ALBANIA. The government declared 13 and 14 November days of mourning to mark the burial of the 53 Albanians who died when their overcrowded refugee ship sank after a collision with an Italian navy vessel in early spring (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1997). The bodies had been returned to Albania from Italy. Prime Minister Fatos Nano, his Italian counterpart, Romano Prodi, and 30,000 Albanians attended the funeral in Vlora. Protesters prevented a Democratic Party delegation from entering the southern city, which was a rebel stronghold during the anarchy earlier this year. The Democrats claimed that the Socialist-led government organized the roadblock, "Dita Informacion" reported. FS ALBANIAN NEWSPAPERS BEGIN STRIKE. Nine out of ten daily newspapers did not appear on 16 November, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. Only the Socialists' "Zeri i Popullit" went to press. The publishers of the nine dailies want a reduction in taxes and claim they will go bankrupt if they continue to be taxed at the same rate as other businesses. They also want lower telephone rates. Finance Minister Arben Malaj said at a meeting with publishers the previous day that the government will consider some of the newspapers' demands. FS U.S. PROTESTS ANTONESCU'S REHABILITATION. In a letter to President Emil Constantinescu, Senator Alfonso D'Amato and Congressman Christopher Smith have protested the decision of the Romanian prosecutor-general to start procedures for the posthumous judicial rehabilitation of six members of Marshal Ion Antonescu's wartime government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1997), RFE/RL reported on 14 November. They said all six officials are "cabinet members in a government that was responsible for the persecution of the entire Romanian Jewish community and the deportation and murder of at least 250,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews." Their rehabilitation "would call into question the sincerity of Romania's commitment to the West's most fundamental shared values and is likely to trigger a reassessment of support for Romania's candidacy for membership in our economic and security institutions." MS MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS DRAFTS ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORMS. The parliament on 14 November rejected two draft laws submitted by the government on the territorial reorganization of Moldova's districts and on local government. The passage of the two laws is an IMF and World Bank condition for continued loans to Moldova. According to house regulations, the drafts cannot be debated again during the present parliamentary session, since they were rejected in the first reading, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. In other news, President Petru Lucinschi and separatist leader Igor Smirnov have agreed to meet again in Chisinau on 20 November. BASA-press reported on 14 November. During Russian Deputy Premier Valerii Serov's visit to Moldova in late September, Lucinschi and Smirnov agreed to meet once a month, but that understanding has not been respected. MS BULGARIAN PRESIDENT IN JAPAN. Petar Stoyanov on 16 November began a five-day official visit to Japan aimed at attracting investments, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Stoyanov, who is accompanied by Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova and a delegation of Bulgarian businessmen, met with Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, who said Japan will provide a $115 million low- interest loan for the expansion of the Black Sea port of Burgas. Tokyo will also authorize $50 million in loans from the government-run Export-Import Bank of Japan. In other news, the daily "Standart" on 14 November reported that the Defense Ministry has dismissed 25 officers in connection with the unveiling of corruption and theft in the army by an audit commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 1997). 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