|There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. - Graham Greene|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 169, Part II, 1 December 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * CRACKDOWN SPREADS IN BELARUS * CZECH GOVERNMENT RESIGNS * KOSOVAR GUERRILLAS GO PUBLIC xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT HOSTS LATVIAN, LITHUANIAN LEADERS. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma held talks near Kyiv on 29 November with his Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts, Ukrainian media reported. The three discussed how to integrate with the West, how to expand trade among the three, and also how to deal with the increasingly authoritarian regime of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. PG MIXED SIGNALS ON UKRAINIAN ECONOMY. The International Monetary Fund praised Ukraine's progress in reducing inflation and managing its economy and thus released a $103 million tranche of standby credit to Kyiv, Interfax reported 28 November. But a day earlier, Ukrainian President Kuchma directed his government's Security Service to investigate Ukrainian financial markets. His action followed reports that some Russian banks might be speculating against the Ukrainian national currency. PG CRACKDOWN SPREADS IN BELARUS. During the past five days, the authoritarian government of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka arrested more young protesters. In Hantsavichy, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported On 28 November, a man was arrested and given 10 days in jail for displaying a poster protesting these arrests. On 29 November, more than 1,000 people marched in Minsk to demand that Lukashenka dismiss corrupt officials in his entourage, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, international censure of Lukashenka's closure of the independent Svaboda newspaper continued to spread. American and European Union delegations at an OSCE human rights conference in Warsaw, for example, on 27 November denounced this move as "contrary to the principles of a democratic society." PG ESTONIA REACTS CAUTIOUSLY TO YELTSIN SUMMIT PROPOSAL. The Estonian foreign ministry reacted positively on 27 November to Russian President Boris Yeltsin's suggestion following his meeting with Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari that he would welcome a chance to meet with Estonian President Lennart Meri. But the next day, a more senior foreign ministry official said Tallinn was uncertain as to just what Yeltsin had in mind, BNS reported. PG NO QUICK RATIFICATION FOR LITHUANIAN BORDER ACCORD. Kaliningrad administration chief Leonid Gorbenko told Russian parliamentarians on 27 November that they should not move quickly to ratify the border accord between Moscow and Vilnius, BNS reported on 28 November. Instead, they should move slowly, possibly taking "decades or even one hundred years" to do so. Gorbenko's statement is not definitive, but it will certainly undercut Latvian and Estonian interest in seeking to sign an agreement soon, as Russian President Boris Yeltsin has urged. PG BACKING FOR LATVIA, LITHUANIA TO BEGIN EU ACCESSION TALKS. A group of 31 European statesmen and cultural figures, including retired German foreign minister Hans Dietrich Genscher and Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz, published an open letter in major European newspapers on 28 November calling on the European Union to start accession talks with Latvia and Lithuania, not just Estonia. To do otherwise, the appeal said, might undermine the prospects for a united Europe. Danish and Swedish officials echoed these comments in press conferences on 29 November, BNS reported. PG POLISH COURT ORDERS NEW TRIAL FOR COMMUNIST OFFICIAL. A Warsaw appeals court on 28 November ordered a new trial for former General Czeslaw Kiszczak, the communist official who had given the order for the use of lethal force at the start of martial law in 1981 and who had been declared innocent by a lower court in July 1996, PAP reported. The appeals court said the earlier court's decision was "unfair." PG POLAND GETS MIXED SIGNALS FROM THE EUROPEAN UNION. Even as EU leaders repeated their view that Poland should begin accession talks with the EU on March 31, 1998, European Union officials threatened to block the importation of Polish dairy products because of what they called "deplorable" hygienic conditions in that country, PAP reported 27 November. The EU spokesman also said that Poland would have to transform its steel industry to bring it up to European standards. PG CZECH GOVERNMENT RESIGNS. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus on 30 November formally handed in his resignation and that of his government. The decision was announced after the two coalition partners of Klaus' Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) said they would leave the coalition. President Vaclav Havel on 29 November also called on the government to resign. Following a meeting with the heads of the outgoing coalition, Havel asked Klaus to stay on at the head of a caretaker government. An extraordinary congress of the ODS will be held on 13-14 December to decide on the future leadership of the party. Klaus said he does not plan to be part of a future government. Meanwhile, on 29 November, the ODA elected Jiri Skalicky as its new leader. MS . . . AMID ALLEGATIONS OF UNLAWFUL DONATIONS TO KLAUS' PARTY. Klaus' resignation was prompted by revelations that a donation of 7.5 million crowns in 1995 came from businessman Milan Srejber, who later acquired a large stake in a steel concern privatized by the Klaus government. Press reports also have alleged the existence of a secret ODS fund of $5 million in Switzerland collected through bribes paid by beneficiaries of privatization. Klaus claimed not to have had knowledge of the donations, which are forbidden under Czech law, but some of his party colleagues, in particular deputy ODS chairman Ivan Pilip and former Interior Minister Jan Ruml, on 28 November said Klaus must resign. In his speech on 29 November Havel said: "A politician should not lie, and when he lies, he must bear the consequences." MS SLOVAK INDEPENDENT RADIO HARASSED. Radio Twist, viewed by many as a mouthpiece of the opposition, on 25 November complained that the state telecommunications company cut off power from the station to force it to tone down its criticism of Vladimir Meciar's administration, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. This is the second time in two months that the company cut power off from Radio Twist, claiming that it had not paid its bills. Electricity was restored in the evening hours. MS HUNGARY TO GIVE PARLIAMENT SEATS TO MINORITIES. The government proposed to add 13 seats to the 386-member parliament next year to ensure the representation of the country's ethnic minorities, Hungarian media reported on 28 November. Government spokesman Elemer Kiss said the number of votes necessary for parliamentary representation of ethnic minorities will be reduced from 7,500 to 5,000. The lists of candidates will be set up by Hungary's 13 minorities. In separate news, visiting British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in Budapest on 26 November that no country has done more to fulfill conditions for EU membership than Hungary. Cook said he is confident that in January Britain will approve Hungary's NATO membership. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSOVAR GUERRILLAS GO PUBLIC. Three armed, uniformed and masked members of the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) appeared near Srbica on 28 November along with 20,000 other people at the funeral of a Kosovar killed in a clash between ethnic Albanians and Serbian police the previous week. The three men appealed to Kosovars to support the UCK because it "is the only force that is fighting and is capable of freeing Kosovo." It was the first time that UCK members made a public declaration. In Obilic on 26 November, the UCK kidnapped a high-ranking Serbian police official, the first political kidnapping that the UCK has carried out. In various incidents in Kosovo, some four people were killed and six injured in the course of the week, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 28 November. In at least one incident the police used helicopters and tanks, while the UCK used more powerful weapons than its usual machine guns. PM BELGRADE SAYS KOSOVO ITS OWN AFFAIR. Serbian presidential candidate and Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic said on Belgrade television on 28 November that Kosovo is Serbia's internal affair and that foreign mediation is not welcome. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine and his German counterpart Klaus Kinkel had made several appeals in the second half of November to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to open talks with the Kosovars aimed at establishing autonomy for the province. In Brussels on 28 November, Kosovar shadow- state President Ibrahim Rugova appealed to the EU to seek a negotiated solution to the Kosovo question and end the rise in violence in the province. PM DRASKOVIC WANTS NEW SERBIAN POLICE FORCE. Vuk Draskovic, the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement's candidate in the 7 December Serbian presidential vote, said on Belgrade television on 30 November that the Serbian authorities have robbed the public of $3 billion in savings deposits in recent years and deposited the money in accounts overseas. He pledged "to recover the money that this gang of socialists and war profiteers has put into private accounts in Cyprus, Switzerland and France and return it to Serbia." Draskovic charged that Serbia has become a hotbed of lawlessness and promised to set up a police force answerable only to himself to root out crime and corruption. PM IZETBEGOVIC TO LEAVE POLITICS. Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of the Bosnian joint presidency, told a conference of Muslim intellectuals in Sarajevo on 29 November that he will not run for a second term. Izetbegovic said that he plans to leave politics by September 1998, primarily because of his advanced age of 72. He added that politicians should know when to leave the scene and not seek to become presidents for life. Izetbegovic also denied charges in the local independent media that his government covered up evidence of war crimes committed by Muslims against Serbs and Croats (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 13 November 1997). PM COHEN WANTS LARGER EUROPEAN ROLE IN BOSNIA. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen told the "Washington Post" of 30 November that he wants "to see a lot more contribution coming from others" before he would agree to keeping U.S. peacekeepers on in Bosnia after SFOR's mandate runs out in June 1998. Cohen, who has been opposed to extending the mandate, said that he agrees that it might be worth a new effort to guarantee that fighting does not start up again in Bosnia, but stressed that Europe will have to do more than it has. PM BOSNIA WANTS CLOSER LINKS TO EUROPE. Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic told a meeting of the 16-member Central European Initiative in Sarajevo on 29 November that his country "will need a substantial presence and aid from the international community for some time to come." He added that the CEI's "support for the fast recovery of Bosnia- Herzegovina is of particular importance because we share common commitments and a common destiny in the region." The conference adopted three documents -- a Sarajevo Declaration, the Final Document, and the Action plan for 1998-1999 -- calling for better communication among member states and stressing the need to protect minority rights. PM CROATIAN LIBERALS DEADLOCKED. The seventh congress of the Croatian Social-Liberal Party (HSLS) ended in stalemate in Zagreb on 30 November after failing to elect a new party president. Former president and current challenger Drazen Budisa polled 639 votes to incumbent Vlado Gotovac's 573, but Budisa fell short of the 667 votes necessary for an absolute majority, "Novi List" reported. The two men have both run unsuccessfully for the Croatian presidency against President Franjo Tudjman and have been at loggerheads for years. The Croatian media have long predicted that the HSLS will eventually split into pro- Budisa and pro-Gotovac factions. Last year the party lost its standing as Croatia's leading opposition party to the Social Democrats. PM DIVIDED ALBANIANS MARK NATIONAL DAY. The governing Socialists and opposition Democrats held rival celebrations to mark national day on 28 November. The Socialists held their main event in Vlora in the south. Opposition Democrats centered their attention on Shkodra in the north and on Tirana. Meanwhile, the opposition daily "Albania" reported on 30 November that 32 people were killed and 45 were wounded during the previous week, mainly by robbers or in acts of vengeance. PM ROMANIAN MINISTERS RESIGN. Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara and Sports Minister Sorin Stanescu resigned from the cabinet headed by Victor Ciorbea. Ciumara told Reuters on 30 November that he had submitted his resignation after Ciorbea asked him to do so two days earlier. He said he will be acting Finance Minister until the cabinet is reshuffled. President Emil Constantinescu told reporters in Bucharest on 28 November that the long-postponed reshuffle must be implemented by 2 December at latest. If the coalition partners fail to reach an agreement by then, Ciorbea will be asked to reshuffle the cabinet "as it best suits him," he said. Stanescu resigned on 30 November in protest against what he described as "lack of fair-play in the country's politics" where "personal interests or group interests seem to have priority." MS ROMANIAN PRESIDENT MARKS FIRST YEAR IN OFFICE. In a televised discussion with journalists marking the first year of his presidency, Constantinescu on 29 November said Romania must continue along the path of economic reforms. He criticized the media for complaining about worsening living standards and the slow pace of reforms in one breath. Constantinescu said reforms cannot be implemented painlessly and living standards can only raise after their successful implementation. He said the main achievements of the government were the reduction of budget deficits and control over galloping inflation. Constantinescu said a year ago Romania's economy looked like a "terminally ill" patient, which is no longer the case. MS OPPOSITION PARTY SPLIT NOW FINAL. The rival groups in the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) on 29 November held separate gatherings in Cluj and Bucharest, respectively. At the meeting in Cluj, former PUNR chairman Gheorghe Funar was again elected to that position with a vote of 99 percent. The meeting was attended by PUNR members from 29 party branches, who decided to amend the party's statutes. The rival group headed by party chairman Valeriu Tabara met in Bucharest and decided to suspend from party membership those who attended the meetings organized by Funar in Cluj on 22 November, as well as those who participated in the 29 November meeting (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1997). The Bucharest meeting was attended by 22 out of PUNR's 25 parliamentarians and by 40 out of 42 chairmen of county branches. The dispute is likely to be deferred to a tribunal. MS TRANSDNIESTRIAN LEADERSHIP ENDS MOSCOW VISIT. The leader of the Transdniestrian separatists, Igor Smirnov, on 28 November briefed members of the government on his 22-27 November visit to Moscow, BASA-press reported. He said he met Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov and discussed with him possible solutions to the conflict with Chisinau. Smirnov proposed Moscow and Tiraspol sign a joint document guaranteeing Transdniester's security in case of Russian troops withdrawal. The vice-chairman of the Transdniestrian Supreme Soviet, Viktor Karamanufla, said in an interview with Tiraspol television that the Liberal-Democratic and the Communist factions in the State Duma are opposed to the position of Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev, who urges the ratification of the Russian-Moldovan basic treaty, initialed in 1990, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 28 November. MS GAZPROM TELLS MOLDOVA TO PAY DEBT OR FACE CONSEQUENCES. Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc on 26 November said Gazprom has warned the Moldovan government that it will discontinue gas supplies if Chisinau fails to pay its $ 500 million debt and delays current payments, ITAR-TASS reported. Of the Moldovan debt, $332 million is owed by the Tiraspol authorities. Ciubuc said Moldova has paid Gazprom $140 million in securities to be repurchased later. The Moldova-Gaz concern has paid $60 million for current deliveries since the beginning of 1997, but the sum does not cover the entire debt accumulated this year, Ciubuc said. MS PROGRESS IN BULGARIAN-RUSSIAN TRADE TALKS. Although Russian Foreign Economic Relations Minister Mikhail Fradkov had to cut short a planned three-day visit to Sofia and return to Moscow to participate in talks with Finnish officials, an RFE/RL Sofia correspondent reported on 27 November that progress was made towards an agreement for the delivery and transit of Russian natural gas through Bulgaria. The agreement also provides for the construction of new gas pipelines across Bulgaria. President Stoyanov is expected to sign the deal when he visits Moscow on 19 December. Fradkov also confirmed that Russia would settle its $100 million foreign debt to Sofia, saying half of the debt will be settled through military equipment deliveries and the rest through deliveries to Bulgaria's metallurgic industries. MS END NOTE INTRODUCING THE OTHER GUAM by Liz Fuller The newest acronym to add spice to the New World Order alphabet soup risks confusing cartographers and laymen alike. Meeting in Strasbourg in mid-October on the sidelines of the Council of Europe summit, the presidents of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova issued a joint communique registering their shared strategic interests. The four presidents further affirmed their intention to deepen political and economic ties and cooperation, both on a bilateral basis and within regional organizations, and their mutual interest in questions of regional security. This quadrilateral statement marked the admittance of a fourth member to the "Union of Three" comprising Georgia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine. This alignment, the brainchild of Presidents Eduard Shevardnadze, Heidar Aliev and Leonid Kuchma, had taken shape during the fall of 1996 on the basis of a shared pro-Western orientation, mistrust of Russia, and the desire to profit jointly from the export of part of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Georgia and Ukraine. In the case of Azerbaijan and Georgia, dissatisfaction with Russia's track record as a mediator in the Karabakh and Abkhaz conflicts provided additional motivation. Predictably, Moscow assumed -- wrongly -- that the impetus for this triple alignment had originated with the U.S. as part of a strategy to accelerate the erosion of Russia's influence in the Caucasus and Ukraine. Western powers, for their part, reacted with alarm and dismay, conveying the unequivocal message: "Don't rock the boat, don't risk anything that could irritate Russia," especially during the anticipated difficult period of horsetrading over NATO's planned expansion eastwards. Consequently, in public statements during the spring and early summer of 1997, Aliev and Shevardnadze both prudently denied the existence of any "axis," stressing that the accords concluded between their two countries and with Ukraine were exclusively economic in nature. The unveiling during the summer of a new U.S. policy that identified both Central Asia and the Transcaucasus as spheres of national interest indirectly served to bestow Washington's approval on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kyiv alignment, and thereby to increase its attraction to other potential members. Moldova's subsequent inclusion in the alignment served to formalize a convergence of interests that had emerged five months earlier. The so-called Flank Limitations Agreement modifying the1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe specifically allowed Russia to deploy increased amounts of weapons in the Transcaucasus, Ukraine and Moldova. Of the 32 states bound by the CFE Treaty, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Moldova ratified this Agreement only days before the deadline for doing so in mid-May, and expressed serious misgivings about the concessions to Russia which it contained. At the Strasbourg meeting in October, Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov had underscored the economic potential of GUAM, specifically Ukraine's and Moldova's interest in the TRASECA project intended to create a coordinated transport corridor from Central Asia via the Transcaucasus to Europe, and in the possibility of exporting part of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Ukraine or Romania. At a subsequent gathering of deputy foreign ministers from all four countries held in Baku in late November, however, the primary topic of discussion was regional security. On that occasion, Hasanov advocated coordinating security policy within the parameters of NATO's Partnership for Peace program, proceeding from the formula "16 +4" (meaning NATO's present sixteen members plus the four GUAM states). The strengthening of quadrilateral ties between GUAM members, Hasanov continued, should proceed parallel to those states' integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures, and will contribute to strengthening regional security and stability. Both Hasanov and Heidar Aliev explicitly denied that GUAM was directed either at Russia or at any other state, saying that the new union was open to other would-be members. There has not been any official Russian reaction to the Baku meeting, but Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparian played down its implications for his country. Gasparian noted that "Armenia enjoys normal relations with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, and we are really convinced that this quadripartite cooperation is not aimed at any other country." (This reaction is in marked contrast to Hasanov's and Aliev's repeated vehement condemnation of the Armenian-Russian Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance signed in late August which they perceive as directed against Azerbaijan.) Gasparian conceded, however, that in the light of the unresolved Karabakh conflict it is unlikely that Armenia will join GUAM. As yet, GUAM remains a purely informal alignment, in contrast, say, to the CIS and the Russia-Belarus Union, but potentially more viable than either of those. Its chances of long-term survival will depend on two factors. The first is whether Russia reacts with paranoia or equanimity to the construction of new political, economic and security alignments in Europe from which it is excluded. The second is whether the choice of route(s) for the Main Export Pipeline for Azerbaijan's and Kazakhstan's Caspian oil could drive a wedge between GUAM members, with Azerbaijan (under pressure from the U.S.) opting for the southern route to the Turkish terminal at Ceyhan, and the remaining three favoring the Western variant to Supsa on Georgia's Black Sea coast, and thence via tanker to Odessa and westwards through Ukraine. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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