A thing well said will be writ in all languages. - John Dryden 1631-1700
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 166, Part II, 24 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


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Headlines, Part II

* UKRAINE MOUNTS DEFENSE OF NATIONAL CURRENCY

* SLOVENES RE-ELECT KUCAN

* BOSNIAN SERBS GO TO POLLS

End Note
ALBANIA'S GOVERNMENT: CONFUSION, INCOMPETENCE, AND LACK OF
VISION

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINE MOUNTS DEFENSE OF NATIONAL CURRENCY. The Ukrainian
Central Bank on 21 November announced a series of measures to
defend the hryvna after the currency slipped below its current float
rate of 1.70 to 1.90 to the U.S. dollar, Ukrainian media reported.
After the bank indicated that it would raise key interest rates and
also increase the reserve requirements for banks, the hryvna
rebounded from 1.97 to the U.S. dollar early in the day to close
within its range at 1.883, ITAR-TASS reported. In another piece of
news that may have helped the currency, Russia and Ukraine have
agreed to work out procedures for eliminating value-added taxes on
exports to each other. According to the "Wall Street Journal Europe"
on 24 November, interest rates will be raised again, from 25 to 35
percent. PG

KYIV READY TO START WORK ON CLOSING CHERNOBYL. President
Leonid Kuchma said on 22 November that the $37 million pledged at
a recent conference in New York was enough, combined with the
$350 million already committed, for work to begin on reconstructing
the sarcophagus at Chornobyl, ITAR-TASS reported. Kuchma said that
the work will begin "no later than in two years." But in an indication
that this schedule may slip, Ukrainian media reported the same day
that the nuclear power station at Zaporizhia has been temporarily
shut down following the discovery of a leak in its cooling pipes. PG

LUKASHENKA SUPPORTERS, OPPONENTS RALLY IN MINSK. Between
2,500 and 3,000 members of the Patriotic Union of Youth staged a
rally in Minsk on 23 November to mark the first anniversary of the
referendum on amendments to the constitution that expanded the
powers of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Almost twice that
number of opposition supporters later marched through the city to
demand the reinstatement of the parliament dissolved by
Lukashenka one year earlier. The oppositionists carried the banned
red-and-white national flag. LF

ESTONIA'S RUSSIAN SPEAKERS APPEAL TO PRESIDENT OVER
LANGUAGE LAW. The Coordination Council of Russian-speakers'
organizations in Estonia has appealed to President Lennart Meri not
to proclaim amendments to the language law recently adopted by the
parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 1997). Under the
amended law, the government is to determine language
requirements for all those working in the services sector. The council
argued that the amendments are aimed at curbing Russian-speakers'
business activities and will hinder the integration of the Russian-
speaking community, BNS reported on 21 November. JC

POLAND'S ANESTHETISTS SUSPEND NATIONWIDE PROTEST. Polish
anesthetists have suspended their five-week protest after reaching a
compromise agreement with the government whereby they will be
allowed to work under special contracts, Reuters reported on 23
November. Health Minister Wojciech Maksymowicz said the
agreement is the beginning of a reform of the health-care sector that
will encompass all those who wish to contract their services,
including doctors and nurses. Mariusz Piechota, the head of the
anesthetists' trade union, said the agreement does not fully satisfy
the union's demands but is the only one that is currently acceptable.
The anesthetists' strike posed the first major challenge to Poland's
new center-right government. JC

POLISH COURT CLEARS MARTIAL LAW POLICEMEN. Following a long
trial in Katowice, a court cleared 22 ZOMO policemen who had shot
nine striking coal miners in 1981 at the time of the imposition of
martial law, PAP reported 21 November. The verdict, which confirms
an earlier one reached before the collapse of communism in Poland,
outraged many Poles. Former President and Solidarity leader Lech
Walesa described it as "a scandal." PG

HAVEL DISCUSSES HIS POLITICAL FUTURE. Czech President Vaclav
Havel, in his weekly radio address on 23 November, said he believes
he would be able to carry out his presidential duties "normally" but
noted that it is up to the parliament and his doctors to decide if he is
fit for another term as president. Havel said he has asked his doctors
to write a detailed report on the state of his health, which, he added,
is expected to be completed by 5 December, CTK reported. MS

HUNGARY'S FREE DEMOCRATS HOLD CONGRESS. At its 23 November
congress, the Alliance of Free Democrats announced that party
chairman and Interior Minister Gabor Kuncze will be the party's
candidate for prime minister in the 1998 parliamentary elections,
Hungarian media reported. Minister of Culture Balazs Magyar said
those elections will pit the ruling Socialist-Liberal coalition against
the alliance of Independent Smallholders and Young Democrats. In
other news, some 300 Roma in Szekesfehervar demonstrated against
a local government decision to remove 13 Romani families from a
dilapidated building to container homes. They were joined by writer
Gyorgy Konrad and Socialist parliamentary deputy Ivan Vitanyi. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

SLOVENES RE-ELECT KUCAN. President Milan Kucan easily won a
second five-year term on 23 November. He took 55 percent of the
vote in a field of eight candidates. Parliamentary speaker Janez
Podobnik placed second, with 18 percent. Kucan said he will work to
bring Slovenia into European institutions, particularly the EU and
NATO. PM

BOSNIAN SERBS GO TO POLLS. Voters across the Republika Srpska
went to the polls on 22 and 23 November to vote in an election
aimed at breaking the power deadlock between President Biljana
Plavsic and her hard-line rivals, led by Radovan Karadzic. Monitors
from the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which
supervised the vote, said that no major incidents were reported. Well
over half of the eligible 1.1 million voters turned out to elect 83
legislators. A 50 percent turnout was necessary for the elections to
be valid. Muslim and Croatian refugees were eligible to vote by
absentee ballot. Results will not be announced for two weeks in order
to allow enough time for mail votes from abroad to be received and
counted. PM

CROATIAN UNION THREATENS DOCK STRIKE. Leaders of the dock
workers' union said on 22 November that union members will strike
in Ploce, Split, Zadar, Sibenik, and Rijeka if the government agrees to
lease the port of Ploce to Bosnia for 30 years, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from the port city. Union leaders said that
leasing the port would violate Croatian sovereignty. The U.S.
government recommended the leasing arrangement to break the
deadlock between Zagreb over the use of Ploce, which is Croatian
territory but Bosnia's natural outlet to the sea. PM

CROATIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES AMENDMENTS. The lower house
on 21 November approved a package of constitutional amendments
that President Franjo Tudjman proposed at the beginning of the
month. The upper house has already passed the measures (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 1997). One provision bans Croatian
membership in any new Yugoslavia or Balkan regional grouping of
states. PM

CROATIA WANTS UN POLICE IN SLAVONIA. The Foreign Ministry
issued a statement in Zagreb on 21 November calling for UN police to
remain in eastern Slavonia after that area is fully reintegrated into
Croatia on 15 January. The statement added that Zagreb fears
"possible incidents and provocations and attempts to blame the
Croatian side for such unacceptable acts.... [The Croatian government
thus] thinks that a [UN] monitoring presence could be useful and
could also be a clear message to all rabble-rousers to refrain from
obstructing the completion of peaceful reintegration." PM

SOROS ORGANIZATION BLASTS CROATIAN GOVERNMENT. The Open
Society Institute (OSI) issued a statement in New York on 21
November slamming a Zagreb court ruling the previous day that
convicted two leading employees of OSI's Zagreb branch of tax fraud.
The statement said that "Croatia has distinguished itself as the first
state in the former communist world to criminalize the work of our
foundations. It is now unmistakably clear that a systematic campaign
is being directed from the highest levels of the state to drive
independent organizations out of Croatia." PM

KOSOVARS TO VOTE. A spokesman for the Democratic League of
Kosovo (LDK), the main ethnic Albanian political organization in that
Serbian-ruled province, said on 22 November that LDK leader and
shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova will call parliamentary and
presidential elections before the end of the year, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from Pristina. The LDK's claim to be the
leading Kosovar political organization has been challenged recently
by critics who argue that its tactics of passive resistance and seeking
foreign support have led nowhere (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21
November 1997). PM

ALBANIA PLEDGES CRACKDOWN ON MIGRANTS. Interior Minister
Neritan Ceka said in Tirana on 22 November that the authorities will
soon draft and pass legislation regulating private boat ownership and
maritime traffic. He added that four Italian ships will help patrol
Albania's coast and discourage illegal migrants from sailing to Italy,
"Koha Jone" reported. Italian coast guards rescued 11 Albanians in a
damaged speed boat in the Adriatic on 21 November but also found
five bodies in the water. Albanian police said that another 17 people
may have drowned when a second vessel sank. Italian police in
Brindisi on 22 November arrested a 26-year-old man, whom they
believe to be the organizer of the latest wave of illegal migration,
"Zeri i Popullit" reported. FS

MORE ARMS SMUGGLING FROM ALBANIA TO GREECE. A Greek army
patrol seized an Albanian smuggling anti-tank missiles across the
border on 22 November. The Greeks confiscated the weapons, but the
smuggler fled back into Albania. Meanwhile in the central Albanian
town of Rrogozhina, masked gunmen killed Artur Murrani, a local
Democratic Party politician. A Democratic Party statement in Tirana
accused the governing Socialists of being behind the attack. Socialist
spokesmen denied the charges. PM

ROMANIA DROPS BID TO REHABILITATE ANTONESCU CABINET
MEMBERS. Prosecutor-General Sorin Moisescu on 22 November
announced his office is halting the judicial procedure for the
rehabilitation of members of Marshal Ion Antonescu's wartime
cabinet. The decision came in the wake of protest in the U.S. against
that procedure. Two days after Moisescu had said "collective
responsibility" did not apply to those about to be rehabilitated (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 1997), his office issued a statement
saying that a "re-examination" of the case had concluded that
"collective political rather than administrative responsibility" does
apply to seven out of the eight former ministers. The exception is
Toma Petre Ghitulescu, who resigned from Antonescu's government
in May 1941, before it stepped up its anti-Jewish policies and joined
Nazi Germany's campaign against the Soviet Union. MS

SPLIT AMONG ROMANIAN EXTREME NATIONALISTS IN OFFING...
Meeting in Cluj on 22 November, members of the National Council of
the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) who back former party
chairman Gheorghe Funar invalidated the PUNR's decision in early
November to expel Funar from the party. The meeting, attended by
128 of the council's 243 members, also suspended PUNR chairman
Valeriu Tabara and 11 other council members and announced an
extraordinary PUNR national convention in Cluj on 29 November, an
RFE/RL correspondent reported. PUNR Executive Secretary Valentin
Iliescu said the Cluj gathering's decisions were illegal and
contravened party statutes. He added that the statutory National
Council will meet on 29 November in Bucharest, adding that a split in
the PUNR cannot be ruled out. MS

...WHILE MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY STEPS INTO THE BREACH. The
leadership of the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in
Romania (PDSR), meeting in the Transylvanian town of Sfantu
Gheorghe on 21 November, announced that nationalism is to be given
"priority" in the party's "political discourse." The party noted that its
nationalist policies are "constructive" and not identical with the
"extremist positions" of the PUNR and the Greater Romania Party, an
RFE/RL correspondent reported. The PDSR said it will rally all citizens
to the defense of the "national, unitary, sovereign, and independent"
character of the Romanian state. It added that it wants the Hungarian
Democratic Federation of Romania to "clarify its positions" on the
issue of autonomy for ethnic Hungarians. MS

RUSSIAN CIS MINISTER WRAPS UP MOLDOVAN VISIT. Russian
Minister for CIS Affairs Anatolii Adamishin told journalists in
Chisinau on 21 November that while all the military arsenal
stationed in Moldova is Russian property, Moscow is ready to make a
"good-will gesture" and share with Chisinau and Tiraspol the profits
from selling part of that arsenal, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported.
He said trilateral negotiations should begin immediately to find a
formula for sharing those profits. He also stressed that the transfer of
the weapons to either Chisinau or Tiraspol was "out of the question."
Adamishin said Tiraspol's fears for its security after the Russian
withdrawal are "exaggerated" but a solution must be found to
appease the separatists. Negotiating the region's special status
remains the most difficult problem, he added. MS

EU EXTENDS LOAN TO BULGARIA. Bulgarian National Bank governor
Svetoslav Gavriiski told journalists on 21 November that the EU has
agreed to extend $285 million to support Bulgaria's balance of
payments, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Gavriiski spoke after
returning from a meeting in Brussels with a joint EU, World Bank and
G-24 consultative group. Participants in the meeting praised
Bulgaria's recent progress on economic reforms. MS

BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY LAUNCHES CORRUPTION PROBE.
Deputy Interior Minister Bozhidar Popov on 21 November told an
international conference on corruption in Sofia that some 100 state
employees are currently under investigation on suspicion of
corruption. Most of them work in the customs services and the
Interior Ministry. Popov also said that the Bulgarian authorities are
investigating some bankers suspected of involvement in money
laundering. MS

END NOTE

ALBANIA'S GOVERNMENT: CONFUSION, INCOMPETENCE, AND LACK OF
VISION

by Fabian Schmidt

        Four months after the Albanian government took office and
pledged to carry out administrative restructuring, international
observers and advisers in Tirana are becoming increasingly
impatient with the pace of reform. True, the elections in June
proceeded peacefully and the government managed to quickly
reestablish public order. But fear is now growing that the
government will display the same incompetence and corruption as
did its predecessor. If that proved the case, it is unlikely that the
authorities would be able to solve the country's daunting economic
problems.
        The tiny elite of foreign-trained specialists in top government
positions appears committed to change and is working hard to
achieve that aim. But the government is not only nearly paralyzed
because of a huge budget deficit; it is also under pressure from
various lobby groups that are demanding small favors. Local
government bodies are largely antagonistic toward the center
because most mayors are from the opposition Democratic Party. Few
Albanians, moreover, fully trust the judiciary, which has been a
politicized institution throughout its history.
        But the biggest obstacles to reform are probably the political
cultural ones. Many state employees, from lowly clerks to high-
ranking officials, lack a sense of duty and commitment. Many state
officials at various levels display little concern either for the work
ethic or the responsibilities of their office. Such an attitude have
roots in the Ottoman era and account for the low productivity of
much of the administration. Another problem is that government
salaries are low, compared with those of international organizations,
NGOs, or even some local newspapers, which prompts many qualified
people not to take government jobs. Poor remuneration also makes
the administration vulnerable to corruption.
        The biggest dilemma for the government is how to restructure
the administration. On the one hand, there is a pressing need to fire
many incompetent employees, downsize the administration, and hire
fewer but better qualified people. On the other, leading officials of
the Socialist-led government know they must not appear to be
conducting political purges of Democrats while bringing back
communist-era specialists.
        Some observers feel that a political purge has indeed begun.
The Socialist Party rank-and-file are a strong pressure group
demanding that the still strongly centralized government create jobs
for them in the administration. Often the cabinet gives in,
contributing to a perception of the government as "patron," as is
customary in the Balkans. As was the case when the Democrats were
in power, many Socialist Party members now appear to consider the
state their property, not that of society as a whole.
        Owing to a lack of tradition of civil society, most people are
disinclined to fight for their interests outside the system of political
parties and the patronage of those groups. Few are willing to
organize themselves at the grass-roots level, to start local initiatives,
or to defend their interests against either the government or big
businesses. That passive attitude has been instilled by decades of
authoritarian or totalitarian rule, during which people were unable to
fight for their rights.
        Another burden of the past is that many people associate any
form of joint effort with communist collectivism and are thus
reluctant to pool their resources for the common good. Agricultural
productivity is stunted by the recent proliferation of dwarf holdings
and unwillingness among peasants to form agricultural cooperatives.
Thus, agriculture, which is potentially a source of wealth, remains
underdeveloped. The peasants lack the necessary vision or
leadership to help make the country more prosperous.
        Both vision and leadership are also frequently absent in some
government institutions, including state-run media. Politicians talk
enthusiastically about transforming state radio and television as well
as the news agency ATA into public corporations, like those
throughout much of Europe. A new law regulating broadcasting is
being drafted, but for the time being, nothing has changed. State
radio and television do not even have a separate news room, while
ATA still has its communist-era statutes. Until recently, no one
seemed to have noticed that the news agency still obliges journalists
to conduct "communist agitation and propaganda."

The author is a Balkan specialist based in Tirana.




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