|If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them. - Francis Bacon|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 181, Part II, 17 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 * NATO FOREIGN MINISTERS SIGN ACCESSION PROTOCOLS * HAVEL APPOINTS CENTRAL BANK CHIEF AS PRIME MINISTER * WESTENDORP IMPOSES LAW ON BOSNIAN CITIZENSHIP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE NATO FOREIGN MINISTERS SIGN ACCESSION PROTOCOLS. NATO foreign ministers met in Brussels on 16 December to sign accession protocols with the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. Before the signing ceremony, Czech Foreign Minister Jiri Sedivy said the event was not only a crucial moment in his nation's modern history but also proof of NATO's readiness for the tasks of the 21st century. Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs told his NATO colleagues that Hungary considers the enlargement a historic step that will expand the zone of stability of the entire Euro-Atlantic region. Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek said NATO's expansion is a unique event in the history of mankind and a source of joy, pride, and hope for Poles. He said Poland hoped to help build an undivided, free Europe. MS HAVEL APPOINTS CENTRAL BANK CHIEF AS PRIME MINISTER. Czech President Vaclav Havel has announced he will appoint National Bank governor Josef Tosovsky as prime minister, CTK reported. Tosovsky will be sworn in on 17 December. Havel explained his choice by saying that Tosovsky enjoys the support of all three parties that make up the outgoing coalition government as well as that of the opposition Social Democrats. He said the new government is likely to ask the parliament for a vote of confidence in January. Outgoing Premier Vaclav Klaus expressed surprise at the speed of the announcement, saying he was informed only hours before the media. He did not indicate whether he backed the appointment but said "we are ready to negotiate." MS WINDS OF CHANGE IN KLAUS'S PARTY? Former Civic Democratic Party (ODS) deputy leader Jan Cerny has been elected to replace Jiri Honajzer as leader of the party faction in the Chamber of Deputies, CTK reported on 16 December. Honajzer recently resigned from that post. In his new capacity, Cerny becomes a member of the ODS top leadership, which will decide on the party's future course. He has recently voiced different views from those of Klaus and does not support Klaus's position that the ODS should go into "constructive opposition." Meanwhile, an opinion poll released by STEM on 16 December shows that 69 percent of Czechs have confidence in Havel but only 21 percent trust the outgoing cabinet, down 16 percentage points since April. Confidence in the Chamber of Deputies has also fallen over the past eight months, from 40 percent to 25 percent. MS UKRAINIAN COOPERATION ON THREE FRONTS. The Ukrainian and German defense ministers on 16 December signed a five-year military cooperation agreement, ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, Greek President Konstantinos Stephanopoulos told the Ukrainian parliament that Athens will help Ukraine join the EU and other European institutions. And NATO and Ukraine signed an accord on responding to natural disasters. PG BELARUSIAN POLICE APOLOGIZES TO JOURNALIST. One day after a Minsk court cleared Belarusian Popular Front deputy chairman Yury Khadyka, Minsk police on 16 December apologized to journalist Valeriy Shchukin for his mistreatment during a demonstration in April 1997 against the Belarus-Russia integration pact, RFE/RL's Belarusian service reported. The police acknowledged they had treated Shchukin "unlawfully." PG DECORATE FOR CHRISTMAS IN MINSK OR ELSE! Minsk Mayor Uladzimir Yarmoshin has issued a directive to all shop owners in the center of the city to illuminate their windows with Christmas lights or face fines or even closure, RFE/RL's Belarusian service reported on 16 December. Several shops have already been closed down as a result of the directive. That step will cost the government millions of Belarusian rubles in tax revenue. PG ESTONIA LIKELY TO HAVE 50-STRONG EURO-TEAM. Prime Minister Mart Siimann told reporters on 16 December that some 50 people are likely to form the delegation that will hold accession talks with the EU beginning April 1998, ETA reported. Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves will head that delegation, and preparatory work groups will be set up in all ministries except for defense. JC LATVIA'S ULMANIS FAVORS DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. President Guntis Ulmanis has said he agrees with those political parties that want the president to be elected by popular vote, BNS reported on 16 December. Under current law, the head of state is elected by the parliament. Ulmanis argued that a direct vote would increase the president's responsibilities and benefit both the population and the state. He also argued in favor of a mixed system (single-member constituencies and party lists) of parliamentary elections instead of the current system of party lists only. JC RIGA EASES REGULATIONS FOR NATURALIZATION EXAM. The government on 16 December reduced the waiting period for re- sitting the naturalization examination, BNS reported. Candidates who are unsuccessful first time round will now have to wait only three months to repeat the Latvian language test and only one month for the test on the country's history and constitution. Previously, six months had to elapse before unsuccessful candidates could re-take either test. The move follows a government decision earlier this month to cut the 30 lats ($60) naturalization fee by half for some applicants and to waive it altogether for others. JC SLOVAK FINANCE MINISTER REPLACED. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar announced on Slovak state radio on 16 December that Finance Minister Sergej Kozlik will leave that post in order to have more time "for political work before the [September 1988] elections," TASR reported. Kozlik will continue in his posts as deputy premier and deputy leader of Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. Miroslav Maxon, head of the parliament's Budget Commission, replaces Kozlik at the Finance Ministry. MS BLAIR TO LAUNCH EU EXPANSION PROCESS IN MARCH. In a 16 December letter to Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn, British Premier Tony Blair said that the United Kingdom, in its capacity as chair of the EU beginning January, will launch the expansion process on 30 March by hosting a conference attended by officials from applicant countries, "Nepszabadsag" reported. He said official talks will open with Hungary after the conference and expressed the hope that he can meet with Horn in January. In other news, the London- based Economist Intelligence Unit has said Hungary heads the list of the seven most developed East-Central European countries. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE WESTENDORP IMPOSES LAW ON BOSNIAN CITIZENSHIP. Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, announced in Sarajevo on 16 December that a proposed law on Bosnian citizenship will go into force on 1 January. This is the first time that he used the powers the international community recently gave him to impose settlements when the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims cannot agree on issues of key importance for the implementation of the Dayton agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 16 December 1997). Westendorp said that his decision to impose a settlement was reluctant and that he expects the Bosnian parliament to eventually pass the law. The Serbs blocked passage because the law contains no reference to dual Yugoslav and Bosnian citizenship for Bosnian Serbs. PM ALBRIGHT PLEDGES BACKING FOR HAGUE COURT. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in Brussels on 16 December that Washington will donate $1 million to the Hague- based war crimes tribunal so that it can build a second court room and hence speed up its work. Albright noted that NATO officials are currently discussing various options regarding a possible extension of the mandate of the Bosnian peacekeeping force beyond its expiration date in June 1998. She added that Serbia and Belarus threaten European stability because they oppose democratic principles and regional integration, "Nasa Borba" reported. Meanwhile in Washington, Clinton administration officials said that the U.S. is preparing proposals for an aid package to help rebuild basic infrastructure in parts of the Republika Srpska controlled by President Biljana Plavsic. It would be the first major international development package for the Bosnian Serbs. PM CROATIA HAS PROBLEMS WITH BOSNIA... Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of the Bosnian joint presidency, said in Sarajevo on 16 December that interethnic relations in Bosnia could suffer following Croatia's failure to list Muslims among the ethnic minorities explicitly named in its new constitutional amendments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 1997). Izetbegovic added that he fears Croatia's "unjustified and regrettable" move will lead to a loss of rights for the thousands of Muslims in Croatia, many of whom have lived there for decades. PM ...BUT TRIES TO REASSURE SLOVENIA. Slovenia had earlier protested the exclusion of Slovenes from the list of ethnic minorities and also warned that the exclusion could affect bilateral relations. But the Croatian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 16 December in which it sought to reassure Ljubljana: "The Croatian government wants to stress that the implementation of the stated constitutional regulations will have no negative influence on the status of the Slovene minority in Croatia. The government continues to firmly support all kinds of assistance to Slovene minority bodies for the purpose of preserving their identity and the protection of their minority rights." PM CROATIAN CHURCH LEADER BLASTS INEQUALITY. In his Christmas message on 16 December, Archbishop Josip Bozanic criticized government officials who get rich at the public's expense. He said that it is evident that a few citizens are rapidly becoming very rich while the great majority of Croats are becoming poorer, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. PM BLACK MARKET GASOLINE RETURNS TO BELGRADE. Private gasoline sellers have returned to the streets of the Serbian capital after having disappeared following the easing of wartime sanctions in 1996. The latest gasoline shortage is the result of China's decision to cut off supplies following Yugoslavia's failure to pay for previous deliveries, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade. PM MACEDONIA'S GLIGOROV CALLS BORDERS "REALITY." President Kiro Gligorov said in Skopje on 16 December that any attempt to challenge Macedonia's territorial integrity would be adventurism. He warned that there are still unnamed forces in the Balkans that seek to promote instability and threaten peace. Gligorov added that Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Greece have failed to act on recent Macedonian proposals aimed at defusing regional tensions. Earlier this year, he criticized ethnic Albanians for wanting to secede from Macedonia and join Albania. Skopje has also had difficulties with Belgrade over delimiting the border between Macedonia and Yugoslavia. PM SHOOT-TO-KILL ORDERS AGAINST ALBANIAN THUGS. An Interior Ministry spokesman said in Tirana on 17 December that Interior Minister Neritan Ceka has given police shoot-to-kill orders against what the spokesman called masked bandits and criminals. The spokesman added that "the bodies of criminals killed by police will be left lying on the ground for two or three days as an example to other thugs." The move follows the killing of three police officers this week and a series of highway robberies. Previously, police were obliged to fire a warning shot before taking aim at robbers. PM ANOTHER BOMB EXPLODES IN GJIROKASTER. A bomb destroyed the car of a local drug dealer in Gjirokaster on 16 December, police spokesmen said. It was the fourth bomb explosion in the southern city within four days and took place shortly after the arrival of special police forces. Police said they have no indication as to who may have planted the bombs, one of which destroyed the house of late communist dictator Enver Hoxha (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 1997), "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Meanwhile, seven Italian anti-Mafia investigators arrived in Tirana to look into the smuggling of immigrants across the Adriatic. FS ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN GERMANY. At the start of a three- day visit to Bonn, Emil Constantinescu on 16 December met with his German counterpart, Roman Herzog, and with Chancellor Helmut Kohl, an RFE/RL correspondent in Germany reported. The talks focused on bilateral relations and on Romanian efforts to join Euro- Atlantic structures. Kohl said Germany's "official policy" is that Romania should join the EU "as rapidly as possible." Constantinescu also met with German businessmen and asked them to increase their investments in his country. He also announced that 1998 will be "German year" in Romania. MS ROMANIAN SENATE APPROVES AMENDED EDUCATION LAW REGULATIONS... By a vote of 82 to 49, the Senate on 16 December approved the "Pruteanu version" of government regulations amending the education law. That version makes the teaching of history and geography in the Romanian language compulsory in all schools, permits teaching of Romanian from special manuals for minorities in grades one to four only, and forbids separate universities in the languages of ethnic minorities. Bela Marko, the chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, expressed the hope that the Chamber of Deputies will approve a different version. He also repeated the appeal that the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic replace George Pruteanu as chairman of the Senate's Education Commission, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS ...WHILE CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES REJECTS OPPOSITION MOTION. By a vote of 136 to 99 with one abstention, the Chamber of Deputies on 16 December rejected a motion by the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania criticizing the sharp drop in living standards, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The same day, however, the ruling coalition again experienced inner turmoil when Democratic Party deputies joined the opposition to vote against allowing the government to introduce regulations that take effect immediately during parliamentary recesses. The resolution passed by a margin of just one vote. Democratic Party deputies called for a halt to the practice of ruling by regulation instead of parliamentary legislation. MS MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT DEFIES IMF. Lawmakers on 16 December amended the 1998 budget to allow a deficit of 600 million lei (some $128.5 million), which is the equivalent of 6 percent of GDP. That figure is double the one approved by the legislature on 25 November and violates agreements with the IMF, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Also on 16 December, the parliament approved a resolution whereby the country's six largest state-owned industrial enterprises will defer until 2002 payments of debts to the National Bank and interest on those debts, Infotag and BASA-press reported. The resolution was backed by Minister of Finance Valeriu Chitan. MS NEW SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC BLOC IN MOLDOVA. The Social Democratic Party, the Party of Socio-Economic Justice, and the Radical Youth Organization have set up a joint electoral bloc called the Union of Justice, Infotag reported on 16 December. They said the decision was taken "out of concern about the aggravating socio- economic crisis in the republic [and about] the consolidation of anti- reform extremist forces and against the background of the general impoverishment of the population." The previous day, the Moldovan Socialist Party set up an electoral alliance with Socialist Unity-Edinstvo and the Communist Union. MS IMF RELEASES FOURTH TRANCHE FOR BULGARIA. The IMF on 16 December approved the release to Sofia of a fourth $80 million installment of a stand-by loan approved in April. Some $160 million remain to be released, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. The loan agreement is valid until June 1998. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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