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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 163, Part II, 19 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 * FURTHER RUSSIAN DENIAL OF POLISH DAILY'S SPY ALLEGATIONS * CROATIAN INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS MAKE CORRUPTION CHARGES * ALBANIAN NEWSPAPER STRIKE OVER? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS IMPROVING. Speaking at a press briefing on 18 November, Vladimir Solovei, the head of the CIS Department at the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, positively assessed the outcome of Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais's 14 November visit to Kyiv. He also praised the results of the 16-17 November summit in Moscow between Russian President Yeltsin and his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma. Solovei said Russian-Ukrainian relations are increasingly dominated by a pragmatic, calm, and rational approach. He said the agreement reached by Yeltsin and Kuchma on abolishing value-added tax will contribute to increasing bilateral trade turnover. LF UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FIXES MINIMUM PENSION. The parliament on 18 November reaffirmed its decision to peg the minimum pension in 1998 to the level of subsistence wages, ITAR- TASS reported. Such wages are set at 74 hryvnas ($39). President Kuchma refused to sign an earlier draft of the pension law fixing the minimum pension at this level on the grounds that the budget does not contain adequate funds. LF RUSSIAN OFFICER WINS CASE AGAINST ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT. A Tallinn court has ruled that the government did not give sufficient reason for refusing a residence permit to retired Russian officer Sergei Mirochnitchenko and his family, ETA reported on 18 November. Mirochnitchenko, 51, was extradited on the grounds that he poses a threat to Estonia's security. The court ruled that the country's security cannot be endangered by a past service record. The government must now review the former officer's application for a residence permit. Earlier this year, Mirochnitchenko won another case against the government because his name had been misspelled in an extradition order. JC LATVIA PROPOSES "AMBER GATEWAY." Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs has officially called for the creation of an "amber gateway" to encourage greater economic cooperation and promote security in the Baltic Sea region, BNS reported on 18 November. The "gateway," based on the 14th century Hanseatic League free trade area, would complement, rather than replace, Latvia's goal of integration into European structures. Birkavs suggested the "gateway" include the Council of Baltic Sea States (to which the Nordic countries, Germany, Poland, and Russia also belong). The idea of an "amber gateway" has been discussed recently among diplomatic circles in Washington. JC LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES CRIMINAL CODE CHANGES. Lawmakers on 18 November began debating amendments to the criminal code that would facilitate investigations into genocide cases, BNS reported. Specifically, genocide suspects would be allowed to familiarize themselves by proxy--either in writing or through their attorney--with the charges brought against them if their state of health precludes standard procedures for conducting a preliminary investigation. Earlier this year, the prosecutor-general was prevented from pressing charges against the 90-year-old Aleksandras Lileikis, suspected of involvement in genocide during World War II, because of the latter's poor health. JC POLAND, CHINA SEEK TO BOOST TRADE. Visiting Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, have signed contracts worth some $200, including a $110 million deal for the sale to Beijing of spare parts and engines for Polish- made buses. Polish Television reported. In addition, China will make use of an existing $340 million credit line to buy Polish goods, including turbines, and coal mining equipment. Last year, Chinese imports to Poland totaled $734.8 million, while Polish exports to China reached only $33.7 million. With regard to human rights, Kwasniewski said he and Jiang had discussed the issue but "with the understanding that not all countries espouse the same definition of human rights," according to dpa. JC FURTHER RUSSIAN DENIAL OF POLISH DAILY'S SPY ALLEGATIONS. A spokeswoman for the Russian Federal Security Service has denied allegations by the Polish daily "Zycie" that Russian diplomats are spying in Poland, Interfax reported on 18 November. She described the article as a typical example of "espionage-mania." The person identified as "Yackimishin," who according to the newspaper was killed because of his alleged involvement in the ouster of former Premier Jozef Oleksy, is alive, she added. The Russian embassy in Warsaw has also protested the article to the Polish Foreign Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 1997). AW HIV-POSITIVE SOLDIERS CANNOT SERVE IN CZECH ARMY? Defense Minister Miloslav Vyborny told a press conference in Prague on 18 November that infection with the HIV virus or heart ischemia "can disqualify people from serving in the military." Vyborny declined to comment on a report published in "Mlada Fronta Dnes" saying a decree disqualifying HIV-positive soldiers from service has already been issued. He added, however, that he "does not see any discrimination" in banning such people from serving in the army. He said they can "file charges, but it is [another] question if they will win." MS CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS INCREASE LEAD IN POPULARITY POLL. A public opinion poll conducted by the STEM private agency shows the opposition Social Democratic Party (CSSD) widening its lead over Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS), Reuters reported on 18 November. The poll shows 29.2 percent backing the CSSD and 20.3 percent supporting the ODS. This compares with 30 and 22 percent, respectively, in a similar poll conducted in October. MS DOLE ON HUNGARY'S NATO ASPIRATIONS. Former U.S. majority leader Bob Dole told Prime Minister Gyula Horn in Budapest on 18 November that the large majority that voted in favor of Hungary's accession to NATO in the 16 November referendum will "certainly give an impetus to the ratification of NATO expansion in the U.S. Senate," Hungarian media reported. Horn, meanwhile, said Hungary's economic progress is reason enough to hope his country will join the EU in 2000 or 2001. He added it is "strange" that some West European politicians speak of 2005 and even of 2008 as the expected year of Hungary's entry. According to Horn, that might have a "demoralizing effect" on Hungarian public opinion. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CROATIAN INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS MAKE CORRUPTION CHARGES. The parliamentary Committee for Domestic Affairs and National Security on 18 November discussed corruption charges made by three former members of the intelligence services against the Defense Ministry and other unnamed high government officials. Opposition deputies asked that the closed hearings be made public, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. The three former agents said they will publish their charges on the Internet if the government does not allow them to be discussed openly, "Novi List" reported. PM CROATIAN UNDERWORLD LEADER GOES ON TRIAL. Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic, one of the most prominent criminal figures in Mostar, went on trial in Zagreb on 18 November for abduction, assault and battery, inciting murder, and aiding and abetting crime. Independent media charged, however, that Tuta should also be tried for war crimes against Serbs and Muslims. Opposition spokesmen said that Tuta has strong links to the governing Croatian Democratic Community in Mostar and that he helped enforce the party's anti-Muslim policies. PM RADIO VUKOVAR BACK ON AIR. Croatian Radio Vukovar resumed broadcasting on 18 November for the first time since the eastern Slavonian city fell to Serbian attackers six years earlier. Elsewhere in Vukovar, a UN spokesman noted that the peaceful reintegration of eastern Slavonia into Croatia is well under way. He added, however, that it could take at least 10 years for the region's various nationalities "to learn to live together again." PM WORLD BANK LOAN FOR CROATIA. World Bank officials on 18 November approved a $30 million loan to promote financial reform and to develop the private sector. The Investment Recovery Loan is repayable over 15 years, with a grace period of three to five years. PM BANJA LUKA AIRPORT REOPENS. The only airport in the Republika Srpska able to handle commercial flights reopened to civilian traffic on 18 November after a break of four years. A flight carrying international officials arrived from Sarajevo, but a Yugoslav Airlines promotional flight from Belgrade was canceled, ostensibly for technical reasons. British and U.S. development aid funded the reopening. A joint Bosnian civil aviation authority that includes Serbs, Croats, and Muslims will supervise the facility. A spokesman for Austrian Airlines said that his company may begin international flights to the airport. PM PLAVSIC TELLS VOTERS TO CHOOSE "BEST OF THE BEST." Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic told supporters in Banja Luka on 18 November that a "wave of democratization" is spreading across Serbia, Montenegro, and the Republika Srpska. She urged voters to elect her Serbian People's League (SNS) in the 22-23 November parliamentary elections and promised clean and accountable government, BETA news agency reported. Hard-line leader Momcilo Krajisnik, for his part, told Serbian Television in Belgrade that Plavsic is a "traitor" who is working to recreate a multi-ethnic Bosnia. And in Sarajevo, international election officials told an RFE/RL correspondent that 28 parties, three coalitions, and 18 independent candidates will be on the ballot. PM GUNMEN ATTACK PRO-MILOSEVIC ALBANIAN. On 18 November near Pristina, gunmen wounded Camil Gashi, an ethnic Albanian who heads Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party branch in the Kosovar town of Glogovac. Gashi is also a member of the Yugoslav parliament and one of the leading ethnic Albanians loyal to the Yugoslav president. Almost one year ago, the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) began a campaign of attacking Kosovars whom it regards as collaborators. PM SHOOT-OUT NEAR MACEDONIAN-ALBANIAN BORDER. Macedonian police officials in Skopje said on 18 November that police wounded two Albanians in a fight with a gang of about 30 men near Struga the previous day. Police added that the gang had apparently crossed into Macedonia illegally in order to rob border villages. There have been some 110 incidents involving illegal border crossings since law and order collapsed in Albania in March. PM ALBANIAN NEWSPAPER STRIKE OVER? Nikolle Lesi, the publisher of "Koha Jone," Albania's largest-circulation daily, has told an RFE/RL correspondent in Tirana that his paper will resume publication on 20 November. Nine dailies recently began a strike to push for lower taxes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 1997). Finance Minister Arben Malaj on 18 November offered to cut import duties on newsprint, ink, and spare parts and to lift duties completely on new printing equipment. Malaj also pledged that newspaper publishers will be exempt from profit tax for at least two years to enable them to invest in new equipment. FS ALBANIA, ITALY SIGN MIGRANT LABOR PACT. Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Piero Fassino signed an agreement in Tirana on 18 November aimed at regulating the flow of migrant labor from Albania to his country. The two governments will fix the exact number of legal migrants at a later date. At least 15,000 Albanians entered Italy as refugees this year. Their residence permits expire at the end of November. PM ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS OPPOSITION MOTION ON HUNGARIAN COUNTIES. By a vote of 183 to 97, the Chamber of Deputies on 18 November rejected an opposition motion criticizing government policies in the two counties in which Hungarians constitute the majority, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The motion was proposed by the Party of Romanian National Unity and supported by the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, the Greater Romania Party, and the Alliance for Romania Party. Opposition speakers accused the government of backing policies of "ethnic cleansing" of ethnic Romanians in Transylvania. MS ROMANIAN SENATE DEBATES EDUCATION LAW AMENDMENTS. The Senate on 18 November began debating the government regulation amending the education law. Senators from the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic stressed their position that history and geography must be taught in the Romanian language in all schools. Representatives of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, for their part, refrained from threatening to leave the ruling coalition. MS FATE OF MOLDOVAN-RUSSIAN TREATY HANGS IN BALANCE. Aleksei Mitrofanov, the chairman of the Russian State Duma's Committee for Geopolitics, told "Russkii Telegraf" on 18 November that the chances of the Duma's ratifying the basic Moldovan-Russian treaty remain "zero." Mitrofanov, who is one of the leaders of the Russian Liberal Democratic Party, said both his group and the Communist Party faction oppose ratification, adding that two Duma committees have recommended against it. During his visit to Moldova in late October, Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev said the treaty will be ratified in November (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 29 October 1997). The treaty was initialed in 1990. MS BULGARIAN PREMIER WANTS FINANCIAL POLICE. Ivan Kostov on 18 November said a special force of financial police should be set up to fight corruption among politicians, police officers, and other state employees, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Kostov said that the existing police force, tax authorities, and customs agencies are unable to fight corruption within their own ranks and that current law- enforcement structures make it difficult to combat corruption within the Interior Ministry. He said the financial police would monitor officials' behavior and report suspected wrongdoing to the relevant authorities. The financial police could also demand that politicians disclose how they paid for luxury cars and houses, Kostov noted. MS BULGARIAN SECRET POLICE FILES OPENED. Eleven Bulgarians on 18 November became the first persons to read their communist-era secret police files under the law passed by the parliament in October, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. A total of 15,000 people have inquired whether the secret police had files on them. More than 70 percent of the files on police informants and an unknown percentage of victims' files were destroyed by the communist government that deposed Todor Zhivkov, AFP reported, quoting the head of the archive service. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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