|A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. - Jonathan Swift|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 177, Part II, 11 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 * HAVEL ACCEPTS NOMINATION FOR RE-ELECTION * ROW OVER ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER'S CALL FOR "ITALIAN PROTECTORATE" * WESTENDORP THREATENS TO SACK KRAJISNIK xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE OFFICIALS DISAGREE ON STATE OF UKRAINE'S ECONOMY. Anatoliy Galchinskiy, an advisor to President Leonid Kuchma, gave an upbeat assessment of Ukraine's economy, Interfax reported on 10 December. He said Ukraine had come very close to economic stabilization in 1997. He predicted that inflation for the year would be under 10 percent. But Serhiy Tyhypko, the deputy prime minister in charge of economic reform, was less optimistic. Speaking to journalists in Kyiv on the same day, he suggested that Ukraine's economic situation was now so desperate that the country might finally become serious about reform. PG COUNCIL OF EUROPE MAY SUSPEND UKRAINE FOR EXECUTIONS. Tunne Kelam, an Estonian member of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, said in Kyiv on 10 December that the council might be forced to suspend Kyiv because Ukraine had executed people after President Leonid Kuchma had promised that there would not be any more executions, Ukrainian media reported. But Kelam added that his group would be "very unhappy" if that happened because Ukraine has made significant progress on a variety of other human rights questions. PG BELARUSIANS PROTEST CLOSING OF INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER. More than 1,000 Belarusians assembled in Minsk 10 December to protest the closing of "Svaboda" by the authorities and new laws limiting freedom of assembly and the press, Interfax and RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. They carried signs reading "No to Dictatorship." The demonstration was sanctioned by the police, and there was no official interference. Meanwhile, the U.S. embassy in Minsk released a statement in Russian noting that "normalization of relations with other nations for Belarus must begin with a return to a full observance of human rights." Also on 10 December, coordinated press conferences were held in Warsaw, Kyiv, Moscow and Vilnius to publicize the Belarusian opposition movement Khartia 97, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. PG LUKASHENKA DECREES TIGHTER WORK DISCIPLINE. Beginning in January 1998, Belarusian workers and employers will be subject to special fines if they do not meet the requirements of workplace discipline, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka announced on10 December, Interfax reported. But the Belarusian leader suggested that the system would not be applied in a draconian fashion: "People must not be punished for a trifling incorrect action. There must be no reverting to the 1930s when people were jailed for a spike stolen from a collective farm." PG PREMIER CLAIMS BELARUS HAS "OPEN ECONOMY." At a 10 December ceremony for the signing of a joint venture with a German truck manufacturer, Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Ling said that Belarus has an open economy and cannot do without reform, Interfax-West reported. But he said that his government has "its own approach to reforms" and that it must guarantee social security." Meanwhile, Belarusian officials announced that the 1998 government budget deficit had been set at 3.5 percent of GDP. PG BALTIC DEFENSE MINISTERS SIGN BALTBAT, BALTRON PACTS. The defense ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on 10 December signed the agreements formally creating the joint Baltic peacekeeping battalion, Baltbat, and a joint naval squadron, Baltron, BNS reported. The accords call for a common command subject to supervision by the three defense ministers and the three Baltic governments. PG MOSCOW CONDEMNS LITHUANIAN'S VIEW ON KALININGRAD. The Russian embassy in Vilnius issued a press release on 10 December criticizing as interference in Russia's internal affairs a statement by the deputy speaker of the Lithuanian parliament that Kaliningrad is now the fourth Baltic republic, BNS reported. Romualdas Ozolas had made that suggestion in an interview with the Baltic News Service. The embassy said that "Kaliningrad is an indivisible part of Russia and can have no other political fate." PG HAVEL ACCEPTS NOMINATION FOR RE-ELECTION. President Vaclav Havel on 10 December accepted the backing of the country's four mainstream parties for a second five-year term, CTK reported. The vote in parliament is to take place on 20 January 1998. Earlier, Havel said he would run only if backed by all the parliamentary formations he considers democratic, namely the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), the Civic Democratic Alliance and the Social Democrats. In another development, Reuters reported on 10 December that KDU-CSL leader Josef Lux, after talks with Social Democrat opposition leader Milos Zeman, said it was "pretty clear" that early elections will be held as soon as Zeman and ODS leader Vaclav Klaus wanted them. Lux said the Social Democrats would not participate in a new government coalition but would tolerate one formed by the outgoing coalition if it pledged early elections. MS BLAST AT COMMUNIST PARTY HEADQUARTERS IN PRAGUE. An explosive device was thrown into the building of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) in Prague on 10 December, CTK reported citing a party spokesman. KSCM deputy Vojtech Filip told the Chamber of Deputies that the device was thrown from a car and said he believed the attack was a "provocation." The incident comes four days after a bomb went off outside Finance Minister Ivan Pilip's house (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1997). In a separate development, Karlovy Vary deputy mayor Zdenek Musil said on 10 December that the town does not intend to remove Adolf Hitler from the lists of its honorary citizens. Hitler was made one in 1938, after the annexation of the Sudetenland. Musil says the town's honorary citizens "are part of the history of Karlovy Vary in the 20th century," AFP reported. MS HUNGARY ACHIEVES TRADE SURPLUS WITH EU. In the first 10 months of 1997, Hungary's exports to European Union countries totaled $10.754 billion, while imports from the EU were $10.616 billion, Peter Balas, deputy state secretary at the Industry, Trade and Tourism Ministry told Hungarian media on 10 December. He said this trade surplus is unprecedented. He explained the increase in exports is a result of foreign investments in Hungary, adding that exports to Germany represent 37 percent of Hungary's total exports. In other news, Hungary agreed to send secret service files to Paris on the notorious terrorist known as Carlos "the Jackal," who used Budapest as a base in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Carlos is awaiting trial in Paris for the murder of two French secret agents in 1975. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NANO'S CALL FOR MORE ITALIAN INVOLVEMENT IN ALBANIA... Prime Minister Fatos Nano told the Italian daily "La Repubblica" on 10 December that the Albanian government welcomes the presence of Italian specialists in the Albanian ministries to help promote reforms. Nano was quoted by "Koha Jone" as saying that "we would be ready to return to being an Italian protectorate if that would guarantee us a faster integration into Europe." He added, however, that "our position is that of partners, not of a colony." FS ...BRINGS DEMAND FOR HIS RESIGNATION. Democratic Party spokesman Genc Pollo responded on 11 December to Nano's statement by calling him "an abnormal prime minister" and demanding his immediate resignation. Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee chief Sabri Godo said there will never be "an Italian protectorate for Albania as long as there are honest Albanians." Tirana, he added, wants "intensive relations" with Italy, but he warned against "any violation of the sovereignty of our country." Parts of Albania were an Italian protectorate from the time of formal independence in 1912 until just after World War I. Mussolini occupied Albania in 1939 after several years of a de facto protectorate over King Zog's Albania. PM FRESH WESTERN INTEREST IN KOSOVO. U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard said at the international conference on Bosnia in Bonn on 10 December that the Serb walkout to protest references to Kosovo in the final declaration only served to draw foreign attention to the Kosovo question (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 December 1997). German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel pointed out that the Kosovo issue involves the repression of an Albanian majority by a Serbian minority. He added that Germany has a strong interest in Kosovo because it has 140,000 asylum seekers from there. Kinkel also said that the international Contact Group, including Russia, supports the conference's final document, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote. In Paris, a Foreign Ministry spokesman stated that it is not clear why the Serbs walked out because the final text is not directed against Belgrade but is rather aimed at helping it overcome its isolation. PM WESTENDORP THREATENS TO SACK KRAJISNIK. The Bonn conference agreed on 10 December to expand the powers of Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia. The Spanish diplomat will now be able to impose agreements on the three Bosnian parties and punish individuals who boycott sessions of joint institutions or who violate the Dayton agreements. Westendorp called the change in his mandate "a turning point" and threatened to sack Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the joint presidency, unless Krajisnik stops blocking the functioning of joint institutions. PM MIXED REACTIONS TO BONN DECLARATION. Krajisnik said on 10 December that the Serbs will not accept portions of the final declaration that they consider to be a violation of Dayton. He added that the Kosovo question affects all Serbs. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic said that the outcome of the conference was essentially positive. Senior Muslim leader Ejup Ganic, however, told "The Guardian" that "these conferences don't bring much. The fact is that we [Muslims] are getting stronger, and the Serbs and the Croats are getting weaker. That's the reality." PM SESELJ FOR COALITION WITH KARADZIC PARTY. Vojislav Seselj, the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party candidate for the Serbian presidency, said in the Bosnian town of Sokolac near Sarajevo on 10 December that the Bosnian branch of his party will form a coalition with the Serbian Democratic Party of Radovan Karadzic. He said that the two parties agree that it is necessary to, as he put it, prevent Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic from destroying the Bosnian Serb state. PM U.S. SETS DOWN BOSNIAN OPTIONS. U.S. representatives to NATO on 10 December presented other NATO delegations in Brussels with four options regarding a continued military presence in Bosnia. The options range from a complete withdrawal of all NATO forces, a reduced peacekeeping operation, keeping a presence equivalent to the current 30,000-strong SFOR, or an expanded operation with more troops on the ground in Bosnia. The international military presence in Bosnia in 1996 peaked at just more than 60,000 troops. Observers suggested that any NATO-led force after SFOR's mandate expires next June will probably number about 18,000. PM GRENADE KILLS SERB REFUGEE IN SLAVONIA. A grenade tossed into a cafe in Grabovac in eastern Slavonia killed an elderly Serb refugee from western Slavonia on 10 December. Local authorities arrested but then released a Croat who was reportedly carrying another grenade. U.N. officials said they will ask that the man be arrested again. In another incident, a grenade explosion damaged three cars in nearby Darda. PM CROATIAN OPPOSITION AGAINST TUDJMAN'S AMENDMENTS. Opposition deputies in the lower house on 10 December introduced a set of measures against President Franjo Tudjman's proposed constitutional amendments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 1997). The deputies want the constitution to identify Croatia's ethnic minorities by name and oppose any constitutional ban on Croatian membership in new Balkan or Yugoslav federations, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. Tudjman's amendments are nonetheless expected to pass easily. PM SHELL EXPANDS IN CROATIA, GOODYEAR IN SLOVENIA. The Anglo-Dutch Shell company plans to open 40 service stations in Croatia over the next four years at a cost of $70 million, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb on 10 December. And in Kranj, Slovenia, the Goodyear company acquired a 60 percent interest in Slovenia's Sava rubber company. PM SLOVENIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS ANTI-COMMUNIST MOVE. The legislature voted 44-41 late on 10 December to turn down a motion condemning Slovenia's communist-era leadership. Parliament will now discuss a related measure aimed at barring former communists from office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 1997). The bills, which the conservative opposition sponsored, are aimed at President Milan Kucan, Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek, and several other top leaders who held high posts in communist Yugoslavia. PM ROMANIAN POLITICIANS SEARCH SOLUTION TO COALITION CRISIS. The leadership of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic on 10 December decided that faction discipline will be imposed when the government regulation amending the 1995 Education Law comes to debate in the Chamber of Deputies. According to regulations, the different texts approved by the two chambers would then have to come before a mediation commission. President Emil Constantinescu on 10 December met with leaders of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania and said he would refuse to promulgate a law that infringed on the right of the national minorities to set up independent universities and to have separate sections in existing universities. The president said the coalition must abide by the protocol signed on 3 December, but added that he supports the stipulation which makes the teaching of history and geography in the Romanian language obligatory in all schools, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS ROMANIAN MINISTERS WITHDRAW SUPPORT OF MONARCHY. After meeting with Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea on 10 December, the three members of his cabinet who earlier signed a declaration supporting the restoration of the constitutional monarchy (See "RFE/RL Newsline", 10 December 1997) said they "regretted" the step and pledged that "in future their statements will conform to the constitution and to the government's line," a press release of the government cited by RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau said. Separately, the press office of former King Michael in Versoix, Switzerland, released a statement saying, among other things, that marking 50 years since the monarch's enforced abdication should by no means "raise constitutional questions that could damage the stability of the country at this crucial moment in its history." The statement said Romania's priorities are "economic reconstruction, the consolidation of its political position and integration into European structures." MS ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER: "NO FREE LUNCHES." Romania's new Minister of Finance, Daniel Daianu, on 10 December told Reuters that 1998 is still going to be a year of austerity and that "post-communist free lunches" are over. He said it was unrealistic to expect any economic growth for at least six months from now. In other news, a Soviet-made MiG- 21 fighter crashed near Bucharest on 10 December. The crew managed to eject safely. This is the 17th crash involving a Soviet-made military plane in the past seven years. MS DUMA DEPUTIES AGAINST RATIFICATION OF RUSSIAN- MOLDOVAN TREATY. Deputies from several committees of the Russian State Duma on 10 December recommended that the Duma refuse to ratify the 1990 basic treaty with Moldova, Infotag reported. They said that since 1992 two states "have been de facto existing" in Moldova and Moldovan sovereignty "does not apply to the Transdniester territory." They also said that NATO's expansion eastwards makes the presence of Russian troops in the Transdniester one that "meets the strategic interests of Russia" in the region. They recommended that President Boris Yeltsin work for a "redefinition of the status of relations between Transdniester and the Moldovan Republic" and only afterwards conclude a new treaty with Moldova. The deputies also recommended that the government immediately open a consulate in Tiraspol. MS BLACK SEA ECONOMIC COOPERATION PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY IN CHISINAU. Addressing the 10th session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation in Chisinau on 10 December, President Petru Lucinschi called on member countries to coordinate economic and commercial legislation and to transform the organization into one with a "well-defined judicial status," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He said such steps would facilitate relations with other regional, European and international organizations, as well as with international financial institutions. Lucinschi also called on member states to set up a free trade zone and said that they could play a major role in the exploitation and transportation of Caspian Sea oil. The Assembly concludes its meeting on 11 December. Petre Roman, chairman of the Romanian Senate, is to be elected assembly chairman for the year 1998, replacing Moldova's Dumitru Motpan. MS ETHNIC TURKISH PARTY WITHDRAWS SUPPORT FROM BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT. The Union of National Salvation, which is dominated by the Turkish ethnic Movements for Rights and Freedom (DPS), on 10 December formally withdrew its support from Prime Minister Ivan Kostov's government, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. The DPS, which controls 19 seats in the 240-seat parliament, accused Kostov of pursuing "populist measures, rather than reforms." Kostov's Union of Democratic Forces still maintains a 137-seat majority in the legislature, where the opposition Socialist Party has 58 seats. In recent months, tension has been growing between Kostov and the DPS. On 9 December Kostov accused the DPS of protecting the interests of criminal groups. DPS deputy Osman Oktai recently accused Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev and Justice Minister Vassil Gotsev of taking part in the forcible assimilation of Turks in the 1980s. They denied the accusation. MS BULGARIA PLEDGES TO REPAY DEBT TO POLAND. President Petar Stoyanov on 10 December said Sofia will repay an outstanding $ 80 million debt to Poland, to clear obstacles to its joining the Central European Trade Agreement (CEFTA), Reuters reported. The debt dates back to 1989. One of the conditions for CEFTA membership is the clearing of bilateral debts. Stoyanov spoke to reporters after meeting his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski, who arrived on a two- day visit to Sofia. Kwasniewski pledged Polish support for Bulgaria's quest to join CEFTA, NATO and the European Union. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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