|It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is. - Erasmus|
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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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