The soul that is within me no man can degrade. I am not the one that is being degraded on account of this treatment, but those who are infliciting it upon me. - Frederick Douglass
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 164, Part II, 20 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

* LUKASHENKA TIGHTENS CONTROL OVER PRIVATE FIRM

* SLOVAKIA MOVES TO MEET EU DEMANDS

* ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT MOVES TO CLAMP DOWN ON PYRAMIDS

End Note
LUKASHENKA PLAYS POPULIST CARD AT HOME AND IN "NEAR
ABROAD"

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

LUKASHENKA TIGHTENS CONTROL OVER PRIVATE FIRMS. Belarusian
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a degree giving
government bodies the right to intervene in the affairs of private
joint-stock companies, Interfax reported on 19 November. The
decree means that the government will be able to force firms to
remain open even if they are unprofitable. As a result, Belarus will
become even more unattractive for Western investors. PG

KUCHMA SEES OFF UKRAINIAN COSMONAUT. Ukrainian President
Leonid Kuchma was in Florida on 19 November to watch the launch
of a U.S. shuttle carrying the first Ukrainian cosmonaut, Leonid
Kadenyuk, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Kadenyuk, who will conduct
botanical experiments during the 16-day flight, is part of a growing
U.S.-Ukrainian space cooperation program. Meanwhile, Ukrainian and
U.S. military personnel began a computer simulation of peacekeeping
in the imaginary republic of Govinia as part of the "Peace Shield 97"
exercises between the two countries. PG

UKRAINIAN GROUPS LAY CLAIM TO NAZI GOLD. Two Ukrainian
organizations representing victims of the Nazi occupation of their
country released a communique to Western journalists asserting
their right to part of the Nazi gold deposited in Swiss banks. "Not all
the stolen goods belonged only to Jews," the release said, asserting
that "goods and jewelry from Ukrainian prisoners were confiscated
and once dead, their gold teeth were torn out." PG

PILOTS STRIKE CRIPPLES UKRAINE'S DOMESTIC AVIATION. Pilots of
Ukraine Airlines, who have been on strike since early November (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 1997), stepped up the pressure on
19 November by picketing the parliament, Ukrainian media reported.
The pilots are demanding the payment of back wages as well as
increased salaries and better pensions. Their strike has shut down
virtually all domestic flights and some routes to Eastern Europe as
well. PG

ESTONIAN OPPOSITION SABOTAGES BUDGET DEBATE. Opposition
deputies used their slim majority at the 19 November parliamentary
session to vote into the 1998 budget bill several amendments that
would result in a 220 million kroon ($15.7 million) deficit. Ethnic
Russian deputies supported that move because one of the
amendments provided more funds for Estonian-language teachers in
Russian schools. The reading of the bill was suspended two hours
after the session began. Under Estonian law, the state budget must be
balanced. JC

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS STATE LANGUAGE LAW.
Lawmakers on 19 November passed amendments to the language
law requiring parliamentary deputies and local government officials
to prove knowledge of the Estonian language if they do not have at
least elementary schooling in Estonian. The amended law also allows
the government to regulate the use of the state language in the
services sector. All six ethnic Russian deputies voted against the
amendments, claiming they contradict the constitution and
international conventions. The law is to go into force on 1 January
1998. JC

LATVIAN RULING PARTIES CLING TO COALITION ACCORD. Faction
leaders of the coalition parties have rejected President Guntis
Ulmanis's 18 November call to revise the government cooperation
agreement, which, he said, is acting as a brake on the process of
naturalizing non-citizens. They stressed, however, that they support
discussing other ways to amend the citizenship law in order to speed
up that process, BNS reported on 19 November. Under the
government coalition agreement, the citizenship law can be amended
only with support of all coalition parties. The Fatherland and
Freedom party remains strongly opposed to such a move. JC

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS LAUNCH CAMPAIGNS. The
seven candidates for the December presidential elections went on
nationwide television on 19 November to present their election
programs. Leading the field in recent polls are former Prosecutor-
General Arturas Paulauskas and Valdas Adamkus, a U.S. citizen of
Lithuanian origin. Parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis has
placed a distant third, while incumbent President Algirdas
Brazauskas is not running for re-election. All candidates are entitled
to access to state-run media and to raise money for their campaigns.
JC

POLES SEEK SECURITY. Marek Siwiec, the chief of the Polish
presidential National Security Bureau, met with Russian officials in
Moscow on 19 November, Interfax reported. Polish Defense Minister
Janusz Onyszkiewicz met with his visiting Romanian counterpart,
Victor Babiuc, the same day to seek closer military cooperation
between their countries, Polish media reported. And Polish Foreign
Minister Bronislaw Geremek met with his German and French
counterparts in Germany. The three agreed to a summit among the
leaders of their countries in early 1998. PG

WILL POLAND PAY ITS FOREIGN DEBTS ON TIME? Marian
Krzaklewski, the leader of the Solidarity faction in the parliament,
said Poland should renegotiate its debt repayments in order to
finance the clean-up following the summer floods and to make
necessary social reforms. His statement contradicts the positions of
Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz, the leader of Solidarity's
coalition partner, Polish media reported. Balcerowicz and his
Freedom Union say any suggestion that Poland may fail to pay what
it owes would undermine foreign confidence in its economy. PG

SLOVAKIA MOVES TO MEET EU DEMANDS. Lawmakers on 19
November voted to allow members of the opposition to sit on
committees overseeing the country's intelligence services, thus
meeting an EU demand. The previous day, the European Parliament's
Foreign Affairs Committee had sharply criticized Slovakia for its lack
of democracy. It proposed that Slovakia should not be included in the
first round of negotiations for EU membership until it makes a
number of changes, including opposition participation in those
committees. PG

HUNGARIAN SCREENING PANEL CALLS FOR SPEAKER'S RESIGNATION.
A panel of judges investigating the communist past of Hungarian top
officials has called on parliamentary speaker Zoltan Gal to resign
within 30 days. If he does not comply, his activities under the
communist regime will be made public. The panel found that Gal
received information from the notorious III/III domestic secret
service while serving as deputy interior minister from December
1987, as state secretary from May 1989, and as acting interior
minister from January 1990, Hungarian media reported. Gal has
refused to resign, saying the ruling does not contain anything about
which the public is not already aware. He added that he was twice
elected to the parliament, although the country knew about his past.
MSZ

HUNGARY, CROATIA TO IMPROVE ECONOMIC COOPERATION.
Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn and his visiting Croatian
counterpart, Zlatko Matesa, agreed in Budapest on 19 November to
step up economic cooperation. Horn expressed dissatisfaction with
the small number of Hungarian companies involved in Croatia's
privatization process and infrastructure development. He also said
Budapest has a strong interest in using the port of Rijeka and in
building a Rijeka-Zagreb-Budapest highway. Matesa told reporters
that war refugees in Hungary can return to Croatia next summer.
MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

PLAVSIC "WELCOMES" BACK MUSLIMS, CROATS. Republika Srpska
President Biljana Plavsic, meeting with Sadako Ogata, the UN high
commissioner for refugees, in Banja Luka on 19 November, said that
Croatian and Muslim refugees are "welcome" to return. Ogata noted
that "real peace will not come while people are still displaced."
Plavsic's position in recent months has been that refugees may
return once all Serbs living in temporary shelters have received
homes of their own. During the war, Banja Luka was known as "the
heart of darkness" because of the ruthlessness with which Serbs
drove Croats and Muslims from the region. PM

BOSNIAN SERB ELECTIONS SET TO GO AHEAD. Robert Frowick, the
head of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's
mission, which will supervise the 22-23 November Bosnian Serb
parliamentary vote, said in Banja Luka on 19 November that he
expects the elections to go ahead without any difficulty. In Sarajevo,
an EU spokesman said the union will spend $1.4 million to help make
the vote a success. The EU will fund the work of 600 short-term
monitors as well as 134 longer-term personnel, who will stay on
through mid-December to complete the final tally. PM

CHARGES OF MASSIVE FRAUD IN BOSNIA. Muslim authorities may
have diverted millions of dollars this year to illegal agencies,
including an Iranian-trained spy network, the "Los Angeles Times"
wrote on 20 November. European investigators called the diversion
of funds through fraud and tax evasion "systematic and almost
routine." Muslim officials deny the charges, which international
officials in Sarajevo have also made (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 14
November 1997). Meanwhile in London, "The Guardian" reported
that an official of the British charity Medjugorje Appeal sent troop
carriers, hand-cuffs, and other military or police equipment to the
Bosnian Croat militia during the war. PM

MIXED SIGNALS ON CROATIAN TV REFORM. The parliament on 19
November rejected an opposition request to place a discussion of the
television law on the legislative agenda, an RFE/RL correspondent
reported from Zagreb. The opposition and a group of prominent radio
and television journalists, known as Forum 21, recently called for the
government to loosen its control over the electronic media.
Meanwhile, top officials of state-run television (HTV) discussed
reform with members of Forum 21. The reform-minded journalists
said they were "pleasantly surprised" by HTV's receptiveness to their
proposals, "Novi List" wrote. PM

OSCE WANTS OPEN CROATIAN-YUGOSLAV BORDER. Spokesmen for
the OSCE mission to Croatia said in Zagreb on 19 November that
successful integration into Croatia of eastern Slavonia's Serbs will
depend heavily on whether Croatia observes agreements allowing
local residents free movement between Croatia and Serbia. UN
authorities, which administer eastern Slavonia, said Croatian
regulations on travel documents will go into effect on 1 December.
After that date, Yugoslav citizens must have a Croatian visa or papers
proving they live in the border area in order to enter eastern
Slavonia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. PM

CHINA DENIES YUGOSLAV MISSILE SALE. A Foreign Ministry
spokesman in Beijing on 20 November denied reports in the Belgrade
"Nedeljni telegraf" the previous day that China agreed to sell
Yugoslavia an unspecified quantity of GSSM intermediate-range
ballistic missiles and Red Arrow-8 anti-tank missiles during the
recent visit of President Slobodan Milosevic. The spokesman said "the
report on so-called sales of weapons by China in the Yugoslav media
is not correct. China is not prepared to sell such kinds of weapons to
Yugoslavia." The Belgrade newspaper said Milosevic agreed to pay
for the weapons by spending $5.8 million to build a fruit processing
plant near Beijing. PM

SANDZAK MUSLIMS TO HAVE OWN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE.
Sulejman Ugljanin said on behalf of the List for Sandzak coalition in
Novi Pazar on 19 November that Yugoslavia's Muslims will field their
own candidate in the 7 December Serbian presidential elections.
Ugljanin added that no Serbian candidate has a platform that
addresses Muslim concerns. Ugljanin's announcement indicates that
there is little chance that Serbia's Muslim minority will vote for an
opposition candidate against Milosevic's candidate Milan Milutinovic
or Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj. Kosovo's political leaders have
already said Serbia's ethnic Albanians will boycott the vote. PM

ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT MOVES TO CLAMP DOWN ON PYRAMIDS.
The parliament on 19 November amended the constitutional law to
allow the government to audit and administer private companies if
the government concludes that their activities "endanger or harm the
economic interests of the citizens," Albanian Television reported. The
move came after the Constitutional Court ruled that the new pyramid
transparency law violates the right to private ownership of
businesses (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 1997). Some legal
experts fear that the parliament's move may set a precedent for the
legislature to change the constitutional law every time a conflict with
the Constitutional Court arises. The court can strike down ordinary
laws, but not a constitutional change approved by the parliament. FS

BRITAIN REFUSES ALBANIAN DIPLOMATS ASYLUM. British
authorities on 19 November turned down requests for political
asylum by outgoing Albanian ambassador Pavil Mihal Qesku and his
deputy Fillakti Piro. The BBC reported that London does not feel that
the two will face political persecution if they return to Albania. PM

MAJOR DONORS PRAISE ROMANIAN ECONOMIC REFORMS. Following a
19 November meeting with Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara and
other government officials, the G-24 group and the World Bank
praised Romania's commitment to economic reform and pledged
continued financial support, an RFE/RL correspondent in Brussels
reported. Reuters the same day cited an IMF statement saying the
IMF is ready to soon release the third tranche of the $415 million
credit agreed on in April. Meanwhile, the Romanian National Bank on
19 November announced that the country's foreign debt is $7.7
billion. Of that sum, $2.8 billion is owed to international financing
institutions and $3.2 billion to private banks abroad. MS

ROMANIAN DEPUTY TO LOSE IMMUNITY? The Judicial Commission of
the Chamber of Deputies on 19 November voted to recommend that
the house lift the immunity of Gabriel Bivolaru, a deputy from the
opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR). Bivolaru is
suspected of having forged documents to obtain bank credits for
himself and for companies with which he is associated, RFE/RL's
Bucharest bureau reported. A similar request to lift Bivolaru's
immunity was rejected by the chamber earlier this year, but the
Prosecutor-General's Office says new evidence has emerged since
then. The PDSR said it will not oppose lifting Bivolaru's immunity this
time. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SETS ELECTION DATE. Petru Lucinschi on 19
November signed a decree stipulating that the next parliamentary
elections will be held on 22 March 1998. The decree follows the
recent decision of the Constitutional Court ruling that the legislature's
mandate ends on 27 February (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November
1997). Lucinschi's decision was welcomed by the pro-presidential
Movement for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova (PMPD), the
opposition Democratic Convention of Moldova, and the Socialist-
Unity-Edinstvo faction. In other news, the extra parliamentary
Moldovan Civic Party on 19 November announced it has joined the
PMPD, BASA- press reported. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS BILL ON NATIONAL PROPERTIES
REGISTER. The parliament on 19 November rejected a government-
proposed draft law setting up a national properties register. The
register is among the conditions for the IMF and the World Bank to
continue extending loans to Moldova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8
October 1997). Under house regulations, the draft cannot be debated
again during the current parliamentary session because it was
rejected in the first reading. MS

END NOTE

LUKASHENKA PLAYS POPULIST CARD AT HOME AND IN "NEAR
ABROAD"

by Christopher Walker

        While many in the West have focused on Belarusian President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka's systematic crackdown on political
opponents and independent media in Belarus, there is a potentially
more destabilizing development that could create serious problems
far beyond Belarus. As he holds back his own country's progress by
ignoring the need for economic and social reforms, Lukashenka
appeals to his countrymen's worst fears by using the difficulties
posed by reform in other former Soviet republics, Russia in
particular, to justify his course at home.
        Moreover, he is doing his best to peddle a similarly seductive
and possibly explosive populist message to the economically
disenfranchised within Russia. To this, he adds a dose of Soviet
nationalism and pan-Slavic revisionism.
        Within Belarus, Lukashenka has used his overwhelming control
of state-run media to make a simple, yet effective populist appeal to
his core constituency outside urban centers. That constituency is, in
fact, a "captive" audience. With only a handful of weakened
independent or opposition newspapers publishing in Minsk, it is
difficult for those outside the capital to receive alternative
information. In Minsk, there is a palpable feeling of being cut off.
Even at major hotels, one is unable to find a Western newspaper or
magazine.
        According to Lukashenka's prescription for reform, changes are
necessary but he himself will manage to make changes differently.
Or, as Lukashenka himself puts it, Belarus is taking all of the "best
things" learned from Russia's reform experience and discarding the
"worst."
        But what he is unable to explain is how in the long term
Belarus will function among its neighboring states that have
advanced through the toughest stages of the reform process. With all
of its warts, the Russian reform process has advanced to the point
where most observers believe the results achieved to date have
taken root. Clearly, a major shift in the Russian domestic political
landscape may change that belief.
        By exploiting the anxieties of the Russian masses, Lukashenka
is a politician who may make an impact in Russia. There has been
significant speculation about Lukashenka's ultimate ambition on the
Russian political scene and how he hopes to achieve his objectives.
        For Moscow, dealing with the peculiar reality of Russian-
Belarusian integration is a delicate political issue. In many ways,
Belarus, together with Armenia, is Russia's last genuine ally. Few
politicians in Moscow are prepared to take on directly the
charismatic Lukashenka for fear that it could be perceived by the
Russian domestic constituency as a slap in the face of an ally. At the
same time, the Russian leaders who suffer the brunt of Lukashenka's
criticism are those who have led Russia's economic reform process,
namely Boris Nemtsov and Anatolii Chubais. His attacks on those
leading Russian reformers will only make the job of continuing
reform in Russia more difficult.
        While in Belarus, the recent campaign against corruption may
in fact be a tool for settling internal political scores, it also serves as a
populist instrument to underscore the fact that many in the Russian
business and political elite have been able to enrich themselves
during the transition.
        Ironically, by accepting Lukashenka's unworkable prescription
now, Belarusians will certainly face more painful economic and social
dislocation in the foreseeable future, when the present approach
proves no longer sustainable.
        Few Belarusians can imagine domestic political life without
their autocratic president; some may not want to imagine it. But the
house of cards Lukashenka is busy building may collapse more
quickly than expected. In the meantime, he is pursuing domestic and
international policies that may ultimately destabilize the region.
        By telling these economically and socially dislocated
constituencies what they desperately want to hear, but not what is
necessary to improve their material condition in the long term,
Lukashenka is setting a trap into which unsuspecting Belarusians--
and Russians--may fall.
        While many Belarusians may be unable to imagine life without
Lukashenka, Western observers may not fully appreciate the
disturbing possibility of his influence becoming more pronounced in
Russia. As one Belarusian journalist in Minsk put it, "Outside Belarus,
people underestimate Lukashenka; inside the country, [Belarusians]
overestimate him."

The author is manager of programs of the Connecticut-based
European Journalism Network.




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