|Be slow of tongue and quick of eye. - Cervantes|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 175, Part II, 9 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 * EU MINISTERS ADOPT EXPANSION COMPROMISE * MAJOR BOSNIA CONFERENCE OPENS IN BONN * KARADZIC PARTY REJECTS BOSNIAN ELECTION RESULTS * End Note: MILOSEVIC STILL SHAKY AFTER SERBIAN VOTE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT UNLIKELY TO BAN DEATH PENALTY. Even though Ukraine has pledged to end capital punishment and President Leonid Kuchma has used his clemency powers to prevent any executions since March 1997, the Verkhovna Rada is unlikely to vote to abolish the death penalty prior to the March 1998 elections, parliament chairman Oleksandr Moroz told representatives of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly on 8 December, Interfax reported. According to Moroz, the death penalty is simply too popular with voters for parliamentarians to be able to vote against it. PG PLANS FOR BALTIC DEFENSE COLLEGE TAKE SHAPE. An international working group has developed plans to open a common Baltic Defense College in the Estonian city of Tartu in 1999, BNS reported on 8 December. The new college, which may be headed by a Danish colonel, will train eight officers from each of the three Baltic states each year. PG ESTONIA SEEKS INTEGRATION, NOT ASSIMILATION OF RUSSIAN SPEAKERS. Prime Minister Mart Siimann said on 8 December that his government was not putting any pressure on Russian speakers to join Estonian society, BNS reported. "That's why we call the inclusion of non-ethnic Estonians into the life of the society here integration and not assimilation." Siimann made his remarks on Estonian state radio's Russian-language channel Radio-4. He also noted that his cabinet planned to discuss amendments to the country's citizenship law that would among other things automatically give Estonian citizenship to all children born in Estonia as well as to their parents if the latter have lived in Estonia for at least five years. PG ESTONIA MUST CUT AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDIES TO JOIN WTO. World Trade Organization officials have suggested that Estonia must cut its subsidies to agricultural producers in order to join that body, BNS reported on 8 December. WTO standards call for no more than five percent of direct subsidies; the Estonian government has offered to cut its subsidies to eight percent. But despite continuing disagreement on this point, Estonia and the WTO have reached agreement on many other issues during their three years of talks. PG LATVIA EXTENDS OSCE MISSION'S MANDATE. The Latvian government has extended the mandate to July 1998 for the mission in Latvia of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Latvian foreign ministry told BNS on 8 December. Neither the Latvian authorities nor the OSCE see any crisis that the mission must monitor; instead, both see this mission as a confidence building measure. PG LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES LANDSBERGIS BOOK. In an open letter published in "Lietuvos Rytas" on 6 December, President Algirdas Brazauskas sharply criticized a book by parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis for overstating the latter's contributions and minimizing those of others, BNS reported 8 December. "Perhaps numerous authors of memoirs forget that many people participated in those events, working side by side and together," Brazauskas said of Landsbergis's volume, "Breakthrough on the Baltic." PG EU MINISTERS ADOPT EXPANSION COMPROMISE. The European Union foreign ministers met in Brussels on 8 December and reached a compromise on extending the union into Central and Eastern Europe. They agreed to hold a meeting on 31 March 1998 to launch the expansion process. The meeting would be attended by Cyprus and 10 prospective members from Central and Eastern Europe. Detailed negotiations would then follow with the six most developed countries-the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Cyprus. The ministers met ahead of the EU summit on 12 December in Luxembourg. The summit will officially adopt the decision on the union's expansion policy. MS POLAND SETS UP CLAIM SYSTEM FOR NAZI VICTIMS. Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz issued on 8 December procedures for the owners and their heirs of more than $330,000 held in Swiss banks in accounts established by Polish citizens killed in the Holocaust and World War II, PAP reported. Claimants will have to provide documents validated by the courts to claim these funds. Switzerland had transferred the funds to Poland in 1960 and 1975, but the communist government had not refunded it at that time. PG EUROPEAN UNION INSPECTS POLAND'S MEAT INDUSTRY. EU representatives launched an inspection of Poland's meat industry to determine whether it conforms to EU standards, the agricultural ministry told PAP on 8 December. This inspection began only a week after the EU had banned the importation of Polish dairy products. Polish officials acknowledged that a similar threat may hang over the country's meat exports. PG HAVEL OFFICIALLY DESIGNATES LUX TO FORM NEW GOVERNMENT . . . President Vaclav Havel on 8 December officially named Christian Democratic Party leader Josef Lux to lead the talks on forming a new government coalition, Reuters reported (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1997). After meeting Lux, Havel told a news conference at the Prague Castle that he hoped a new government would be formed as early as next week, and could face a vote of confidence in parliament in January. Havel also said he hoped a new premier would be named soon after the extraordinary congress of the Civic Democratic Party scheduled for 13-14 December. MS . . . AS KLAUS EXPRESSES SKEPTICISM. But outgoing premier Vaclav Klaus said that "under the present circumstances" Lux "would have a real difficult task" to build a coalition capable of winning a confidence vote in parliament. He said such a government had few chances of surviving in power until the elections scheduled for 2000 on the mere promise of the opposition Social Democratic Party to refrain from voting no confidence. He told CTK this was "an attempt at squaring the circle-- some sort of a hybrid cat-dog which in our country cannot exist." MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MAJOR BOSNIA CONFERENCE OPENS IN BONN. Representatives of 51 states and 21 international organizations began a review of the implementation of the Dayton agreement in Bonn on 9 December. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel warned that the international community will help those who observe their obligations under Dayton and punish those who do not. He also called for broader powers for Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia. Kinkel said that Westendorp needs a stronger mandate to make decisions that the leaderships of the three ethnic groups have been unwilling or unable to take. Very few of the provisions of the Dayton agreement regarding civilian affairs have been put into practice. PM CROATS, SERBS DO NOT WANT STRONGER MANDATE FOR WESTENDORP. Kresimir Zubak, the Croatian representative on the Bosnian joint presidency, told a RFE/RL correspondent by telephone on 8 December that the Croats fear that any change in Westendorp's mandate would constitute an inadmissible revision of the Dayton agreement. Zubak added, moreover, that the Croats cannot accept any measures aimed at making Bosnia a unitary state. In Pale, Bosnian Serb hard-liners rejected any new powers for Westendorp. And on a related theme, Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said that Bosnia will never be a multi-ethnic country again, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 9 December. PM SILAJDZIC WARNS AGAINST DIVISION OF BOSNIA. Muslim Co-Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic said in Berlin on 8 December that the international community's policies are helping to divide Bosnia, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote. Silajdzic argued that Dayton has given too many powers to the Republika Srpska and to the mainly Muslim and Croat Federation. He charged that these two governments will use their powers in areas such as privatization or refugee return to help cement the country's division into two irreconcilable halves. PM KARADZIC PARTY REJECTS BOSNIAN ELECTION RESULTS. Momcilo Krajisnik, the leading spokesman for hard-line leader Radovan Karadzic, said in Pale on 8 December that he is "shocked" at the official results of the parliamentary elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1997). Krajisnik charged that the returns are based on fraud and demanded that they be declared invalid. The results showed that his party and its allies have lost their absolute majority in parliament. PM U.S. PRAISES BOSNIAN SERB "PLURALISM." A State Department spokesman said in Washington on 8 December that the parliamentary election returns indicate a trend toward greater pluralism in Bosnian Serb politics. He urged the parties to form a broadly based government and work together constructively so that all institutions in the Republika Srpska can function effectively. The spokesman stressed that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic can and should play an active role in promoting political moderation and encouraging the implementation of the Dayton agreements. PM SECOND ROUND FOR SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL VOTE. Election authorities in Belgrade said on 8 December that the previous day's presidential election had a sufficiently large turnout to be valid but that no candidate won an absolute majority. The two leading candidates, the Socialist Milan Milutinovic and the Radical Vojislav Seselj, will face each other in a runoff on 21 December (see "End Note"). Milutinovic has about 42 percent of the total number of votes counted so far, while Seselj has 33 percent. The Serbian Renewal Movement's Vuk Draskovic, whom the Vienna daily "Die Presse" of 9 December calls "the professional loser of Serbian politics," took only 17 percent. Draskovic called on his backers to boycott the runoff, BETA news agency reported from Belgrade. PM U.S. KEEPS SANCTIONS ON BELGRADE. The U.S. embassy announced in the Yugoslav capital on 8 December that President Bill Clinton will recommend to Congress that economic sanctions against Yugoslavia remain in force for another year, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade. U.S. authorities say that the sanctions will remain in place until Milosevic cooperates with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, respects human rights in Kosovo, and negotiates seriously about dividing up the former Yugoslavia's debts and assets among all successor states. Milosevic maintains that his rump Yugoslavia alone is heir to the rights and property of Tito's state. PM PILOT ERROR CAUSED SERBIAN PLANE CRASH. A government investigator said in Belgrade on 8 December that pilot error caused the crash of a JAT Yugoslav Airlines trainer at Pristina airport on 26 November. He ruled out any other possibility, the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported. The clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army claimed that it shot down the Cesna 310 aircraft (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 December 1997). PM DRUGS EASY TO GET IN BELGRADE SCHOOLS. The independent daily "Nasa Borba" wrote on 9 December in its series on Serbian youth and drug use that drugs can be had in all the capital's high schools. The paper's survey showed that 63 percent of students recently polled said they knew how to obtain drugs. Only 12 percent of the respondents claimed to have actually taken illegal substances, but psychologist Zorica Panic said that she believes that the actual figure is much higher because many students would not admit drug use even in a poll. Marijuana, hashish, and to a lesser extent hard drugs have a long history in the former Yugoslavia, but drug use has skyrocketed amid the turmoil and dislocation of recent years. PM CROATIA SENTENCES SERB TO 20 YEARS. A court in Osijek sentenced Ivica Vuletic on 8 December to 20 years in prison for war crimes he committed in the Vukovar area in 1991, "Vecernji list" reported. Vuletic, who is from Pancevo in Serbia, carried out atrocities against prisoners of war, hospital patients, and various civilians. PM FASCISTS TAKING OVER ROMANIAN ANTI-COMMUNIST MEMORIAL ORGANIZATION? A meeting of the newly founded "Foundation of Anti-Communist Armed Resistance" in Bucharest on 6 December witnessed an attempt by Iron Guardists (the interwar Romanian fascist organization) and their young followers to take over the foundation, the daily "Romania libera" reported on 8 December. President Emil Constantinescu attended the meeting and addressed a message to the participants, but was not present when turmoil broke out as Iron Guardists, stressing that their members had made up "90 percent of the anti-communist resistance fighters," booed proposals to elect as honorary members several anti- communist dissidents, whom they described as "anti- Romanian." The daily reported that a portrait of Iron Guard leader Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was displayed in the hall and Iron Guard literature was sold on the premises. Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu was among those present and accepted honorary membership in the foundation. MS ROMANIAN COALITION PARTNER WANTS TO CHANGE CONSTITUTION. Prominent leaders of the National Liberal Party (PNL), a member of the ruling coalition, on 8 December said the constitution should be changed. PNL leader Mircea Ionescu-Quintus said the country should move to a parliamentary system from the present semi-presidential one. PNL Senator Emil Tocaci proposed that the bi-cameral system be dropped in favor of a uni-cameral one, in order to speed up the legislation process, Mediafax reported. They spoke on Romania's Constitution Day. In other news, in a first manifestation of political regionalism, the mayor of Iasi, Constantin Simirad, on 8 December resigned as vice-chairman of the Party of Civic Alliance, announcing he intends to set up a political party representing the Moldavians, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS IMF CHIEF NEGOTIATOR IN ROMANIA. Poul Thomsen on 8 December met with the new Romanian Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mircea Ciumara, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. They discussed the further restructuring of the economy. Thomsen is also scheduled to meet Premier Victor Ciorbea and the new Finance Minister Daniel Daianu. In other news, the National Commission for Statistics on 8 December announced that the inflation rate in November was 4.3 percent. MS BULGARIA TO BAN EX-COMMUNISTS FROM CIVIL SERVICE. Deputy premier Vesselin Metodiev on 8 December told journalists that Bulgaria will ban former senior communist officials and informers of the secret police from holding top government and civil service positions for five years under a draft law approved on the same day by the government, Reuters reported. The draft is to be approved by the parliament. In other news, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported that Vice President Todor Kavaldzhiev said his statement on replacing monuments to the Red Army with monuments to the victims of communism has been "misinterpreted." (See "RFE/RL Newsline,," 2 December 1997). Kavaldzhiev, who spoke ahead of a visit to Moscow of President Petar Stoyanov scheduled for 18-20 December, said he was suggesting that monuments commemorating the victims of communism be erected alongside monuments to the Red Army. MS BULGARIAN PREMIER ON NEW FINANCIAL POLICE. Ivan Kostov on 8 December said the new "financial police unit" will be operational no later than mid-1998 (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 1997). He said fighting corruption is the top priority of his government, together with an administrative reform of state agencies. Kostov said that "only after these priorities show success, will I turn my personal attention to the privatization process as the next strategic goal," an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. The opposition Socialist Party strongly opposes the idea of setting up the financial police, calling it an effort to "revive the police state." It uses the same argument to oppose the government's plan to give permanent status to a parliamentary anti-crime commission, widely referred to as the "Anti-Mafia Commission." MS IMF, WORLD BANK ON NEW BULGARIAN BANK LICENSES. Bulgarian National Bank governor Svetoslav Gavriiski on 8 December said the IMF and the World Bank recommend that no new bank licenses be issued in Bulgaria for one year, the RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. He said the two international financing bodies say resources from the state- owned banks that Bulgaria plans to sell next year should not be diverted away. Gavriiski said that despite the recommendation, the National Bank might still consider issuing licenses. MS MILOSEVIC STILL SHAKY AFTER SERBIAN VOTE by Patrick Moore Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's candidate Milan Milutinovic holds a comfortable lead in initial returns in the Serbian presidential elections held on December 7. Problems are far from over, however, for the wily Yugoslav leader. Serbian voters went to the polls to elect a president for the third time in as many months. The first round held on September 21 failed to yield a clear winner, while the subsequent runoff on October 5 was invalid because less than 50 percent of the electorate turned out. The entire campaign was, moreover, characterized by two trends. The first was voter apathy, which drew on the popular feeling that no change of government could quickly rescue Serbia from crime, poverty, and corruption. The second development was that some ethnic minorities -- most notably the Kosovar Albanians -- and most opposition parties boycotted the electoral process. The Albanians charged that none of the candidates took a stand on Kosovo that the Albanians could support. The opposition, led by Zoran Djindjic and Vesna Pesic, argued that conditions for a free and fair vote were not present. The result was that the sole major opposition candidate, the Serbian Renewal Movement's Vuk Draskovic, finished third in the September and December ballots. The main issue, however, was whether Milosevic's candidate -- Zoran Lilic in the first two rounds, Milutinovic in the third -- would defeat the ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj of the Serbian Radical Party. Seselj led paramilitary groups in the Croatian and Bosnian conflicts. He supports "ethnic cleansing" and rejects the Dayton peace treaty. Former U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia Warren Zimmerman calls Seselj "a fascist" in his memoirs, and many human rights activists have demanded that Seselj be indicted for war crimes. Seselj nonetheless led Lilic in the October vote. Fearful that Seselj might defeat Milutinovic and win the presidency outright on December 7, Milosevic cranked up his powerful propaganda machine to discredit Seselj. Milutinovic's campaign, for its part, stressed his experience as Yugoslav foreign minister, even if he has few successes to show. The contest, however, has not been decided. Latest figures give Milutinovic about 1.6 million votes to Seselj's 1.2 million. But Milutinovic failed to win an absolute majority of votes cast, and a runoff will be held between him and Seselj on December 21. There is thus still a chance that Seselj could emerge as Serbia's next president. That, however, may not be likely. Seselj has frequently charged that he has been the victim of electoral fraud. It should also be recalled that Milosevic and Seselj are both skilled politicians who have made use of each other in the past. It is not to be excluded that they might make yet another deal if electoral deadlock continues. Meanwhile, Milosevic can continue to dominate the Belgrade power scene. He has, however, at least an additional three problems that could try even his well-honed political skills. The first is the power struggle among the Bosnian Serbs. This confrontation pits hard-liner Radovan Karadzic against Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic, who pays at least lip-service to the Dayton agreements. Milosevic signed Dayton on behalf of the Serbs and, like Plavsic, hopes to use his formal acceptance of the treaty in order to end his international isolation. But Milosevic and Plavsic have been openly declared enemies for years. And the mafia-like networks that underlie the Milosevic power structure, moreover, are closely interlocked with those supporting Karadzic. So far, it is not clear which side Milosevic's allies will support in the newly elected Bosnian Serb legislature. The second issue is Montenegro and its relationship with Belgrade and the Yugoslav federation. This year has seen the rise to power in the mountainous republic of a reform-minded leadership under President-elect Milo Djukanovic, who wants home rule. Djukanovic and the reformers argue that Milosevic's continuing international isolation is crippling the Montenegrin economy, which traditionally relies on tourism and shipping to earn hard currency. Djukanovic handily defeated Milosevic's ally Momir Bulatovic in the 19 October presidential vote. Last but not least is Milosevic's hardy perennial, Kosovo. He has kept the restive mainly ethnic Albanian province under tight police control since he abolished its autonomy in 1989. The moderate Albanian leadership under shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova, meanwhile, continues to advocate non-violence and seeks to attract foreign support. Adem Demaci of the Parliamentary Party and some other politicians, however, argue that Rugova's tactics have gotten nowhere. They recently set up the Democratic Forum to explore alternative solutions. Meanwhile, the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) continues to direct violence against Serbian officials, police, and ethnic Albanians it considers collaborators. The UCK has become increasingly bold in its tactics, and some of its members recently appeared for the first time in public. In the last analysis, it is possible that the Bosnian Serbs, the Montenegrins, or the Kosovars could present Milosevic with a far stiffer challenge than Seselj ever could. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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