|Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. - Sir Winston Churchill|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 167, Part II, 25 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 ENERGY POLITICS IN THE CASPIAN AND RUSSIA: Oil has begun flowing from the Caspian Sea, home to one of the biggest oilfields in the world. RFE/RL provides continuing coverage of regional energy developments on its Web site. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/caspian/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II *BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT CLOSES INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER *KARADZIC PARTY LEADS IN BOSNIAN SERB VOTE *WESTENDORP SAYS NO PROTECTORATE FOR BOSNIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE SHIFTS TO CASH PRIVATIZATION. Volodymir Lanovyi, the acting head of the Ukrainian State Property Fund, said on 24 November that Kyiv will sell for cash, rather than use vouchers, to privatize major industrial firms, Ukrainian media reported. Lanovyi said the new approach will bring in billions of dollars to the cash- starved government. In other economic news, the parliament greeted the announcement that Kyiv and Moscow have agreed to dispense with value-added taxes on each other's exports. And the British government announced it will send some $34 million to Ukraine to retrain some of that country's unemployed coal miners, Interfax- Ukraine reported. PG BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT CLOSES INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's government shut down the country's largest independent newspaper, "Svaboda," on 24 November following a decision of the Supreme Commercial Court, Ekho Moskvy reported. Belarusian authorities said they took this step only after giving the newspaper three warnings about the publication of what they called anti-government articles. The editors of the newspaper, which had a circulation of some 90,000, denounced the move as an effort to stifle freedom of speech. They pledged to continue their work, possibly publishing an underground newspaper. PG BELARUS, LITHUANIA CONSIDER DROPPING DUTIES ON FOOD. Minsk and Vilnius have begun discussing the abolition of customs duties on food exported from Lithuania to Belarus, the "Verslo Zinios" newspaper reported on 24 November. Minsk officials also indicated that they are also interested in purchasing electric power from Lithuania. PG PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SAYS NO REASON TO SUSPECT LANDSBERGIS OF KGB LINKS. Kazys Pednycia issued a statement on 24 November saying there are no grounds to believe allegations that parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis collaborated with the Soviet-era KGB, BNS reported. Testimonies by former KGB employees cannot be regarded as evidence because they are either "rather abstract" or have been refuted by other persons, the statement read. Pednycia also said his office has a former KGB card-index that was started in 1981 and shows Landsbergis was under surveillance. Landsbergis is a candidate in the December presidential elections. JC DESIGN FAULTS TO BLAME FOR 'ESTONIA' SINKING? According to the "Financial Times" on 24 November, the final report into the 1994 sinking of the "Estonia" passenger ferry concludes that design faults were to blame for the tragedy, in which 852 people drowned. The newspaper said that the report makes up to 20 recommendations covering a range of subjects from ship construction to maintenance checks. The "Estonia" sank en route from Tallinn to Stockholm after its bow doors were ripped off during a storm. The final report, drawn up by a commission composed of Estonian, Finnish, and Swedish experts, is due to be published on 3 December, AFP reported. JC NO AGREEMENT IN TALLINN OVER NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET. Government coalition leaders and an opposition delegation have failed to agree on how to resolve the row over the 1998 state budget, ETA reported on 24 November. The opposition recently voted an amendment into the budget whereby 200 million kroons ($14.3 million) would be allocated to finance a salary increase for teachers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 1997). This would result in a budgetary imbalance, which is prohibited under Estonian law. The government argued it does not have the funds to finance the salary hike, while the opposition insisted the amendment must stay in force. The two sides did agree, however, to meet in one week to continue the search for a compromise. Meanwhile, teachers are planning a one-hour warning strike on 27 November to press their pay demand. JC OSCE "SATISFIED" WITH ESTONIAN PROGRESS ON MINORITIES ISSUES. Max van der Stoel, the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's high commissioner on national minorities, says he is convinced that Tallinn has taken the most important steps toward resolving issues related to the country's non-Estonian population, according to the Information Service of the Estonian President's Office. Van der Stoel met with President Lennart Meri in Tallinn on 24 November. JC POLISH LEADERS DISMISS RUSSIAN PROTEST OVER SPY CHARGES. Foreign Minister Broniwslaw Geremek said in Budapest on 24 November that Moscow was playing up Polish press reports about Russian espionage in Poland as part of its campaign against NATO expansion, PAP reported. But if the war of words between Moscow and Warsaw continued, so too did cooperation. On 24 November, Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin said his talks in Moscow with the chief of the Polish National Security Bureau Marek Siwiec were "fruitful," ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, the new Polish government has appointed General Bogdan Libera as chief of the State Protection Bureau. Libera lost his job in 1996 following his involvement in bringing charges that then Polish Premier Jozef Oleksy had reported on Polish developments to Moscow. PG TRUCK DRIVERS AGAIN STAGE PROTEST AT POLISH-GERMAN BORDER. Some of the 2,000 trucks backed up to enter Germany blocked the border post at Swiecko on 24 November to demand that the Polish and German authorities establish more efficient crossing procedures, PAP reported. This is the latest in a series of such protests at the Swiecko border crossing. PG HUNGARY, POLAND BOOST BILATERAL TIES. Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek and his Hungarian counterpart, Laszlo Kovacs, agreed in Budapest on 24 November to intensify cooperation as they work toward NATO and EU accession, Hungarian media reported. Geremek noted that while Hungary supports, in particular, the accession of Romania and Slovenia into NATO, his country considers it important that the Baltic States join the Euroatlantic structures. Both ministers stressed the need to pay attention to those left out of the first wave of enlargement. They also confirmed that the Czech, Hungarian, and Polish foreign ministers will lobby in the US Senate in February for a favorable decision on NATO expansion. MSZ HUNGARY, MOLDOVA SIGN MILITARY AGREEMENT. Hungarian and Moldovan Defense Ministers Gyorgy Keleti and Valeriu Pasat met in Budapest on 24 November to sign an agreement on cooperation between their ministries. Pasat said Chisinau does not intend to change its neutral status or apply to join NATO. He also noted that Moldova continues to reduce its armed forces and military hardware. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KARADZIC PARTY LEADS IN BOSNIAN SERB VOTE. Preliminary results show the hard-line Serbian Democratic Party leading in the parliamentary vote with just over 31 percent of the total (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1997). President Biljana Plavsic's Serbian People's League (SNS) follows with 21 percent. The ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party is in third place with 16 percent. Plavsic's spokesmen said the SNS won in Banja Luka and did well across the Republika Srpska. Twelve percent of the votes cast were by absentee ballots, which will take another two weeks to count. PM WESTENDORP SAYS NO PROTECTORATE FOR BOSNIA. Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Brussels after a 24 November meeting of EU foreign ministers that Bosnia is making progress and will not need an international protectorate to manage its affairs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1997). He called, however, for the removal from positions of power in Bosnia of all persons opposed to the Dayton agreement, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Belgian capital. PM DISTRICT COUNCILS SET UP IN MOSTAR. Local councils met on 24 November in six districts of Herzegovina's main town, where relations between Croats and Muslims remain tense. A recent agreement between international officials and the main Croatian and Muslim parties made it possible to set up the councils, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Mostar. PM ATTACKER OF CROATIAN POLITICIAN FREED. A court in Pula has given a one-and-a-half-year suspended sentence to retired army officer Tomislav Brzovic for assaulting opposition presidential candidate Vlado Gotovac this summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 June 1997). The court agreed with Brzovic that his judgment was impaired because he was drunk. Gotovac and the opposition press argued that Brzovic is a well-known hit-man for nationalist groups. PM UN WANTS MONEY FOR FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. The UN Geneva office launched an appeal on 24 November to raise $406 million for humanitarian projects in the former Yugoslavia. Some $263 million are earmarked for Bosnia-Herzegovina, $44.6 million for Croatia, $44.5 million for federal Yugoslavia, $3.4 million for Macedonia, and $49.3 million for regional projects. PM MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT SLAMS MILOSEVIC. President-elect Milo Djukanovic told RFE/RL in a telephone interview on 24 November that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic behaved "incorrectly and irresponsibly" by meddling in Montenegrin politics before and after the 5 October presidential vote. Djukanovic added that Milosevic did not intervene directly but instead conducted what Djukanovic called a "media harangue" against Djukanovic and his allies. When asked about the possibility that Milosevic would use the army to try to topple the new Montenegrin government, Djukanovic said that no one could possibly have any political or other justification for intervening militarily against his republic. He added that the Yugoslav military behaves "correctly" toward the Montenegrin authorities. PM KOSOVAR LEADERSHIP RECEIVES ULTIMATUM. Adem Demaci, the leader of the newly formed Kosovo Democratic Forum, said that the Forum will consider the Democratic League of Kosovo (the main Albanian political party) to be a "rival political force" if it does not join the forum within 15 days, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade on 23 November. In Pristina the next day, the trial of 19 Albanians on terrorism charges was adjourned until 2 December at the request of the defense. The defense team said that they want to protest what they called a politically motivated assault by unknown persons on one of the defense lawyers the previous week. Also in Pristina on 24 November, the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army released a statement claiming responsibility for the murder of a prominent ethnic Albanian member of Milosevic's party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 1997). PM ALBANIAN STUDENTS ON FOOD STRIKE. "Koha Jone" reported on 24 November that students at boarding schools in Elbasan, Shkoder, and Tirana went on a hunger strike at various times during the previous week. The students demand more food and complain that most dormitories have neither electricity, water, nor functioning bathrooms. Elsewhere, railway workers on the Tirana-Shkoder line launched a strike on 24 November to demand that the government pay their wages in full for the last five months. They have been receiving only part pay. Meanwhile, sailors of the merchant marine in Durres have threatened to go on strike on 27 November unless the government pays their wages for the last 11 months. FS WILL ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS RETURN TO PARLIAMENT? Ferdinand Xhaferi, the leader of the Democratic Party's parliamentary faction, told "Dita Informacion" on 24 November that he supports the return of the Democrats to the parliament. The Democrats have boycotted parliamentary sessions since the shooting of Democratic legislator Azem Hajdari by a Socialist deputy inside the parliament building (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 1997). Also on 24 November, a roundtable of political parties, formed to discuss the drafting of a new constitution and Albania's policy toward Kosovo, failed to reach a consensus. FS TURKISH PRESIDENT IN ROMANIA. During his one-day visit to Bucharest on 24 November, Suleyman Demirel met with President Emil Constantinescu and addressed a joint session of the parliament's two chambers, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The two countries pledged to support each other's bid for EU membership, while Demirel said Turkey backs Romania's quest to join NATO. Constantinescu and Demirel said bilateral trade is expected to grow from $800 million to $1 billion next year. MS WORLD BANK AFFILIATE INVESTS IN ROMANIAN-TURKISH BANK. The International Finance Corporation on 24 November purchased 20 percent of the equity of Demirbank, a joint Romanian-Turkish venture servicing Turkish-Romanian trade and investment, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. The IFC, which is the private sector affiliate of the World Bank, approved a $5 million loan to help the bank set up comprehensive commercial banking services for medium-sized Romanian enterprises. The corporation also noted that Demirbank of Turkey, the Turkish partner in the Romanian- Turkish joint venture, has invested together with its Romanian partner, Romlease, in a joint-venture bank in Kyrgyzstan. Also on 24 November, the Turkish president attended the opening of a Demirbank branch in the Romanian capital. MS ROMA LEADER CRITICIZES ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT. Nicolae Gheorghe, a sociologist who heads the Romani Cris center for the study of social problems among Roma, told an OSCE meeting in Warsaw on 24 November that the attitude of the Romanian government toward the Roma minority is "ambiguous" and often verged on "duplicity." He said incidents between the ethnic Romanian majority and Roma are prompted by racial attitudes rather than by social causes. Gheorghe added that the government undertakes no concrete steps for the Roma's protection and limits itself to "declaration-making," Mediafax reported. MS MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT PASSES ELECTION LAW. Lawmakers have passed the election law several months ahead of the vote scheduled for March 1998, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 24 November. Under the new legislation, the 101-member parliament will be elected by a system of proportional representation in a single, nationwide constituency, as was the case in the 1994 elections. Meanwhile, Infotag reported on 24 November that the Supreme Court has announced it will examine whether the new law is in harmony with the constitutional provision stipulating that election laws be passed with a "special majority." It also decided not to nominate its representatives to the Central Electoral Commission. Under current legislation, the nominations should have been made by 25 November, 10 days after the president set the date for the next elections. MS U.S. THREATENS SANCTIONS AGAINST BULGARIA OVER CD PIRACY. A U.S. delegation in Sofia has warned Bulgaria that trade sanctions will be imposed if it does not clamp down on compact disc piracy, Reuters reported on 24 November. The Bulgarian Interior Ministry issued a statement saying that the head of the delegation "was categorical that if the production and distribution of pirated production is not liquidated by April ..., trade sanctions will be imposed on our country." Bulgaria is considered the world's second biggest producer of pirate CDs and CD-ROMs, after China. Washington put Bulgaria on a piracy "watch list" in 1996. MS REGIONAL AFFAIRS MEDIA FREEDOM IN DANGER IN SEVEN CIS STATES. A recent report compiled by the international journalists' organization Reporters sans Frontieres lists seven CIS states and two East European countries where journalists' rights and freedoms are seriously threatened. Those countries are Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan as well as Romania and Macedonia, according to INFOTAG on 24 November. The assessment is based on the availability and influence of state-run media, the level of development of the independent media, violence against journalists, and the number of court proceedings against the media initiated by official bodies. Moldova was named as the worst offender owing to its 1994 press law, which makes it very difficult for journalists to defend their rights. All attempts by democratically- minded Moldovan deputies to revise that law have failed, the report noted. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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