|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 179, Part II, 15 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 LEADERS AGREE ON ENLARGEMENT * KLAUS RE-ELECTED PARTY CHAIRMAN * ROW OVER YUGOSLAV CITIZENSHIP FOR BOSNIAN SERBS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE EU LEADERS AGREE ON ENLARGEMENT. The leaders of the EU agreed in Luxembourg on 13 December that entry negotiations with the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, and Cyprus will begin in spring 1998. They also agreed that Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia, though not invited to start formal negotiations, will be included in the overall enlargement process. The union has promised that they can move to the "fast track" for prospective new members if they make sufficient progress in economic and political reform. MS RESPONSES FROM THOSE LEFT OUT OF FAST TRACK... Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar told journalists that Bratislava was "pleased" with the EU decision but wanted to be included in the "fast track" category, saying his country has made "more progress" than some of those included in that category. Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov said his country is encouraged but should aim not simply to join the EU but to create a stable democracy. Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Severin argued that the decision provided a "fantastic opportunity for European unification." Latvian Prime Minister Guntars Krasts noted it was the "best formula" for the start of the enlargement process that "Latvia had hoped for." Meanwhile, Lithuanian Premier Gediminas Vagnorius's spokesman said that while the decision did "not quite satisfy" Vilnius, the premier nonetheless believes that Lithuanian efforts toward EU membership have paid off because "Lithuania will begin the process of accession to the organization next year." MS/JC ...AND FROM SOME OF THOSE INCLUDED. Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek stressed Poland will be cooperating with those countries negotiating EU membership at a slower pace. Czech President Vaclav Havel said Europe has a unique opportunity to organize itself on the basis of "equal justice" and change the previous practice of the powerful states dictating to the less influential ones. Hungarian Premier Gyula Horn argued there is a "qualitative difference" in the way the two groups were handled and predicted that Hungary may join the EU between 2000 and 2002. MS ESTONIA WELCOMES DECISION ON BALTIC NEIGHBORS. In an official statement released on 13 December, Tallinn said it attaches particular importance to the inclusion of Latvia and Lithuania in the overall EU enlargement process, RFE/RL's Estonian service reported. It also stressed the importance of further strengthening and developing relations with those two countries, which it described as its closest neighbors. JC SLOVENIA, ESTONIA HOPE TO SIMULTANEOUSLY JOIN EU, EMU. Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek said at the Luxembourg summit on 13 December that Slovenia already meets the fiscal criteria for joining the European Monetary Union and that 70 percent of its trade is with the EU. Similarly, Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves commented that Tallinn will be ready for the EMU by the time it joins the union, ETA reported. According to Ilves, Estonia already meets "nearly all criteria" for joining the EMU, except the one on inflation. The government currently estimates annual inflation in 1997 at 11.8 percent. PM/JC UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT PROPOSES TIGHTER AUSTERITY BUDGET. Faced with the prospect that Kyiv will be unable to finance any deficit by borrowing abroad, Finance Minister Igor Mityukov said on 12 December that the government will propose a new budget with a deficit of only 3.5 percent of GDP rather than 4.3 percent as envisaged in the draft budget approved by the parliament in the first reading, ITAR-TASS reported. Given Socialist opposition to the first draft, this second even tighter proposal is likely to exacerbate tensions between the parliament and the government. PG UKRAINE, RUSSIA TO DROP VAT IN 1998. Following a meeting 12 December in Moscow, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais and his Ukrainian counterpart, Serhiy Tyhypko, announced that the two countries will sign an agreement on 28 February 1998 ending the practice of levying value-added tax on goods exported to the other country, ITAR- TASS reported. But the two leaders failed to reach agreement on sugar quotas, according to the Russian news agency. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoitenko said in Donetsk that Kyiv has approved a Donets development plan for the years 1998-2000. But both the estimated high costs of the plan and the absence of key Ukrainian officials raise doubts that the project will be implemented. PG CRITICISM OF BELARUSIAN PRESS CRACKDOWN CONTINUES. Some 1,000 people demonstrated in Minsk on 14 December against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's decision to close the main opposition newspaper, "Svaboda," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The same day, Stephen Sestanovich, special adviser to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the Newly Independent States, said after meetings in Minsk with Belarusian officials that countries failing to respect freedom of the press cannot expect to be treated in the same way as those that show respect. Two days earlier, the press and information ministers of the Council of Europe denounced the closure of "Svaboda." The Russian delegation, however, refused to back the resolution, ITAR-TASS reported. PG RUSSIAN OFFICIAL SAYS KALININGRAD IS NOT "FOURTH BALTIC REPUBLIC." Russian Foreign Ministry official Artur Kuznetsov has expressed surprise at Lithuanian parliamentary deputy speaker Romualdas Ozolas's recent statement that Kaliningrad Oblast is the "fourth Baltic republic." Kuznetsov told ITAR-TASS on 13 December that the statement was "unexpected, unprovoked, and illogical" and, moreover, "surprising" since relations between Kaliningrad and Lithuania, like those between that country and Russia as a whole, have "never been better." Ozolas made the statement during an unofficial trip to Kaliningrad to participate in celebrations marking the 450th anniversary of the first book to be published in Lithuanian. JC SOLIDARITY-BACKED GROUP SEEKS TO BUY POLISH SHIPYARD. A group of Polish banks and foundations, including one linked to the Solidarity movement, is seeking to buy the Gdansk shipyards, PAP reported on 12 December. The movement began in those shipyards, which the former government declared bankrupt in August 1996. Some Gdansk officials are reportedly concerned that the group will be unable to find the money to take over the yards and will scare off foreign investors in the meantime. PG POLAND MAY PRODUCE RUSSIAN FIGHTER. Russian defense industry officials told ITAR-TASS on 12 December that Poland may produce the SU-39 subsonic attack fighter under a licensing agreement. The deal reportedly is worth some $2 billion. PG KLAUS RE-ELECTED PARTY CHAIRMAN. An extraordinary congress of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) at Podebrady on 13-14 December re-elected outgoing Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus as ODS chairman, CTK reported. Klaus, who defeated Jan Ruml by 227 votes to 72, said the ODS executive will decide whether the party will seek to join a new government. He did not say, however, when that decision will be made. On arriving in Podebrady, Ruml said that a separate wing may emerge after the congress but that he would not like to see the ODS split. In other news, the Chamber of Deputies on 12 December approved the 1998 budget by a vote of 101 to 99. MS HAVEL TO APPOINT NEW GOVERNMENT. At a 12 December conference with Christian Democratic Party leader Josef Lux, President Vaclav Havel said he will appoint a new government this week, CTK reported. Havel said Lux's proposals for the new cabinet are "realistic" and that the new government will have fewer ministers and an approximately equal number of non-party and party-affiliated members. He also said more women will be represented in the cabinet than in any Czech government since the collapse of communism. Lux said the government will have to "prepare the privatization projects" of three partly state-owned banks and to consider "modifying the constitution" to allow the parliament to call for its own dissolution if a stable coalition cannot be formed, AFP reported. MS SLOVAK PRESIDENT PARDONS SON. Michal Kovac on 12 December ordered that the prosecution of all people involved in the "Technopol case," including his son, be halted. The president explained that in the five years since investigations began, the authorities have failed to gather evidence that would make it possible to bring the case to trial, CTK reported. In an interview with Bratislava's Radio Twist, Michal Kovac Jr. commented that he had no choice but to accept the presidential pardon. MS HUNGARIAN PARTIES PREPARE FOR 1998 ELECTIONS. The National Board of the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) on 13 December approved an election cooperation agreement with the Young Democrats (FIDESZ), The same day, FIDESZ named its candidates for ministerial posts in case of an electoral victory. Ivan Szabo, the chairman of the Hungarian Democratic People's Party (MDNP), told the media on 13 December that his party hopes to have a "stable and strong" parliamentary faction of 20-25 members following the spring 1998 elections. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ROW OVER YUGOSLAV CITIZENSHIP FOR BOSNIAN SERBS. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic and Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, signed an agreement on dual citizenship in Belgrade on 13 December. The pact allows Bosnian citizens to hold Yugoslav citizenship as well. In Sarajevo, however, an adviser to Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of the joint presidency, told an RFE/RL correspondent that no agreement on dual citizenship can be legally binding until Sarajevo and Belgrade establish diplomatic relations. Hanns-Heinrich Schumacher, a deputy to High Representative Carlos Westendorp, said on 14 December that the Milutinovic- Krajisnik document is invalid because Krajisnik has no authority to sign international agreements on behalf of Bosnia. Krajisnik said in Pale the previous day that the Serbs in the joint Bosnian parliament will not agree to the proposed law on Bosnian citizenship unless the measure takes into account his agreement with Milutinovic. PM HAGUE'S ARBOUR SLAMS FRENCH. Louise Arbour, the chief prosecutor at the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, told "Le Monde" of 13 December that France is deliberately hampering the court's work. She also charged that most indicted war criminals live openly in areas of Bosnia under French SFOR control. Arbour objected to Paris's recently announced policy of not allowing French officers and soldiers to testify in person before the court but to communicate with that body only in writing. The French Foreign Ministry, for its part, denied that Paris is obstructing the court's work and pointed out that France has long been active in peacekeeping in the former Yugoslavia. PM BOSNIAN CROATS PROTEST TO TUDJMAN. Preporod, the leading Bosnian Croat cultural society, sent a letter from Sarajevo to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman on 12 December to protest what it called the growing number of arrests and deportations from Croatia of Bosnian Muslim miners. The letter said that many of the Muslims have lived in Croatia for 20 years but have not yet been able to clarify their legal status, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. The Croatian Interior Ministry replied in a statement that it will examine each of the Muslims' cases individually and rule on them according to the law. PM CROATIAN CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES ANGER SLOVENIA. The lower house of parliament on 12 December passed a package of constitutional amendments that Tudjman proposed in November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 1997). But the final version of the law names some 10 ethnic minorities, which Tudjman's proposal did not. Slovenes, however, are not included among those named. In Ljubljana, Deputy Prime Minister Marjan Podobnik on 13 December called the exclusion of the Slovenian minority unexpected and disturbing, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Podobnik said Zagreb's move will prompt Ljubljana to reconsider its support for Croatian membership in European bodies. On 12 December, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek led a delegation to Zagreb to sign a free trade agreement. It is Croatia's first such pact with a member of the Central European Free Trade Association and its first step toward membership in that body. PM SLOVENIA NOT TO BAR EX-COMMUNISTS. The parliament voted by 57 to 22 on 12 December to defeat an opposition- backed measure to bar former Communists from public office. The measure was aimed at President Milan Kucan and at Premier Drnovsek. PM NEW REGIME IN FORCE ON CROATIAN-SERBIAN FRONTIER. As of 14 December, residents of eastern Slavonia require a Croatian passport with a Yugoslav visa or a special border pass to enter Serbia. Previously, the mainly Serbian population could cross the frontier with only an identity card. The Croatian police have recently issued some 4,000 special border passes. PM PRISTINA STUDENTS DEMAND POLITICAL UNITY. Representatives of some 900 students at the underground Albanian-language University of Pristina have presented a petition to the leaders of the eight main Kosovar political parties, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina on 12 December. The students demanded that the parties sink their differences and unite as a first step toward promoting the broad unity of all Kosovars. PM ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT TO CUT 15,000 STATE JOBS... Prime Minister Fatos Nano said after a meeting with IMF representatives in Tirana on 13 December that his government wants to raise public sector wages by 20 percent but also cut 15,000 jobs in that sector next year The government also hopes to help create 73,000 new jobs in the private sector. Of the 267,000 people currently employed by the government, some150,000 work in the government administration. Albania has 162,000 registered unemployed, while another 155,000 families receive welfare payments. The average monthly salary in the state sector is $55, according to "Gazeta Shqiptare." FS ...BUT EXPECTS ECONOMIC STABILIZATION. Also on 13 December, spokesman Ben Blushi said that the government expects to reduce inflation from 40 percent in 1997 to 20 percent the following year. It also hopes to increase GDP growth from 7.5 percent to about 10 percent. By consolidating and streamlining the collection of taxes and customs duties, the government expects to reduce the budget deficit to $170 million, down from $333 million in 1997. Blushi added that customs revenues have increased from $10 million last year to $28 million for the period September-10 December 1997 alone, partly owing to higher tariffs. FS BERISHA ACCUSED OF SMUGGLING. Former Finance Minister Genc Ruli told "Koha Jone" of 13 December that former President Sali Berisha ran smuggling operations from 1992 to 1997. Ruli added that the secret service (SHIK) was at the center of smuggling activities across Albania. Ruli claims that Berisha appointed SHIK officers as heads of the customs and tax police, adding that he "institutionalized smuggling in [the hands] of SHIK and a gang linked to it." In 1995, Berisha accused Ruli of involvement in smuggling, but the parliament refused to lift his immunity so that he could be prosecuted. The following year, Berisha purged Ruli and party leader Eduard Selami from the Democratic Party. FS HUNGARIAN ALLIANCE TO REMAIN IN ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT. The Council of Representatives of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) on 14 December decided against leaving the cabinet, an RFE/RL correspondent in Cluj reported. UDMR chairman Bela Marko said the decision is conditional on the implementation of agreements reached by the Hungarian formation and the other coalition partners. The UDMR has also said that the continuation of its participation in the governing coalition is conditional on a "firm decision" by its members to "put an end to the nationalist anti-Hungarian campaign that has been on going as of late." The UDMR "cannot be a member of a coalition that tolerates exacerbating nationalism and shrinking the rights of national minorities." Finally, the UDMR has demanded that George Pruteanu, the chairman of the Senate's Education Commission, be replaced. MS ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA. Emil Constantinescu says Romania "acknowledges Russia's great power status and respects Russia's interests." In an interview with "Pravda" cited by Mediafax on 14 December, Constantinescu said that Russia's interests "do not contravene" those of Romania and that the reason for Bucharest's quest to join Euro-Atlantic structures is "not a threat coming from Russia.". He said developing good bilateral relations with Moscow continues to be a "fundamental component" of Romanian foreign policy. MS ROMANIAN CIVIC MOVEMENT SUES FORMER PRESIDENT. The Civic Alliance movement on 12 December announced it is suing former President Ion Iliescu, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Alliance chairwoman Ana Blandiana said the movement will ask the parliament to lift Iliescu's immunity. The decision follows Iliescu's testimony at the trial of miners' leader Miron Cozma. Iliescu had said that, in September 1991, the alliance asked the miners to return to the center of Bucharest from the railway station, where they had gathered in order to leave the capital (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 1997). Meanwhile, Iliescu on 12 December said his Party of Social Democracy in Romania may initiate the process of "presidential suspension" if President Constantinescu continues to "infringe on the principle of the separation of powers." MS TIRASPOL SAYS ROMANIA WANTS ANNEXATION OF MOLDOVA. Separatist Foreign Minister Valerii Litskay says the "danger" of a Romanian annexation of Moldova is still not over. In an interview with Tiraspol television on 12 December, Litskay said it is "alarming" that Romania, which he claimed "will join NATO in the next five years," has not yet signed a basic treaty with Moldova but has signed such treaties with Hungary and Ukraine, BASA-press reported. Tiraspol Supreme Soviet chairman Grigorii Marakutsa told journalists in Tiraspol the next day that the separatists oppose the State Duma's ratification of the Moldovan-Russian treaty because the document makes no mention of its "political and economic prerogatives." He said a new treaty must be worked out and that Transdniester will demand Moldova accept full integration into CIS political and military structures, join the Russia- Belarus union,. and renounce "unification" with Georgia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan. MS MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON EU ASSOCIATE MEMBERSHIP. Petru Lucinschi has sent letters to EU leaders requesting their support for starting negotiations on Moldovan associate membership, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 12 December. Lucinschi wrote that Moldova hopes to eventually become a full member of the union but realizes that this is a "complicated and lengthy process." He noted that the application for associate membership is proof that Moldova has "firmly stepped on the path of full integration into Europe." MS BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET. Lawmakers on 12 December approved the 1998 budget by a vote of 120 to 52 with four abstentions, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. The budget envisages a deficit of 610 billion leva ($343 million) or 2.7 percent of GDP. Annual inflation is projected at 16.4 percent. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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