|Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most times he will pick himself up and carry on. - Winston Churchill|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 182, Part II, 18 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * COUNCIL OF EUROPE MAY SUSPEND UKRAINE OVER EXECUTIONS * SFOR ARRESTS TWO WAR CRIMINALS * CLINTON TO KEEP TROOPS IN BOSNIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE COUNCIL OF EUROPE MAY SUSPEND UKRAINE OVER EXECUTIONS. A Council of Europe statement on 17 December said that Ukrainian membership in the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly would be suspended next month unless Kyiv officially declares a moratorium on executions, Ukrainian media reported. The assembly's Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights said in a report that the Ukrainian authorities can "no longer be trusted" over the issue of executions, RFE/RL reported. It urges that an earlier assembly resolution threatening suspension if a moratorium is not imposed be carried out. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has not yet declared a moratorium, and the national parliament has refused to approve such a repeal. PG UKRAINIAN PLANE CRASHES IN GREECE. An Aeroswift Yak-42 with 71 people abroad crashed near Salonika, ITAR- TASS reported on 18 December, citing Greek television. The plane had come from Kyiv via Odessa. Greek search crews have not yet located any wreckage. PG COMMUNISTS STAGE PROTESTS IN UKRAINIAN CITIES. Several thousand most elderly hardliners marched in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities on 17 December to protest Kyiv's austerity program and to demand the ouster of the government, Ukrainian television and Interfax reported. The communist organizers of the protests said that extreme cold weather limited the number of participants. In Kharkiv, the organizers canceled the demonstration owing to the cold. PG BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT TIGHTENS PRESS LAW. Of the 69 deputies present in the lower house of the Belarus national assembly on 17 December, 64 ratified amendments tightening the country's already repressive press law, RFE/RL's Belarusian service reported. The same day, a judge postponed the trial of Pavel Sheremet, the Russian Public Television journalist charged with entering the country illegally in July 1997, and his cameraman Dmitry Zavadskiy. The journalists' lawyers said the accused have not been given an opportunity to read the charges against them. The trial will be resumed on 23 December. PG MOSCOW WANTS MILITARY AGREEMENT WITH BELARUS. Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 17 December dispatched his defense minister, Igor Sergeev, to Minsk to prepare an agreement on military cooperation between the two countries, ITAR-TASS reported. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said Yeltsin "has approved the idea of signing" such an accord. Meanwhile, in another indication of warming relations between Moscow and Minsk, Yastrzhembskii announced that Yeltsin has invited Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to visit Russia's Yaroslavl Oblast following a request by the oblast governor. In October, Yeltsin had blocked a visit there by Lukashenka in the wake of the arrest of ORT journalist Sheremet. PG ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS 1998 BUDGET... Following three months of wrangling between the opposition and coalition, the parliament has finally passed next year's budget, ETA reported on 17 December. The budget now stands at 14.97 billion kroons (roughly $1 billion), its initial volume having been increased by 500 million kroons during the budget debates. Some 54 million kroons will be channeled into an economic stabilization fund, in keeping with IMF recommendations; together with this year's surplus revenues and privatization income, that fund will total 1.2 billion kroons, according to BNS. Some 133 million kroons are earmarked for a teachers' wage hike under amendments pushed through by the opposition. Economic growth is predicted at 5.5 percent. JC ...REJECTS AMENDMENTS TO CUSTOMS TARIFFS LAW. Also on 17 December, lawmakers rejected amendments to the custom tariffs law that were recently proposed by Chancellor of Justice Juhan Truuvali, ETA reported. Truuvali argued that the law violates the constitution since it empowers the government, rather than the parliament, to impose protective tariffs. The law was adopted by the parliament in October and promulgated by the president in early November following a year-long dispute between the opposition and the coalition. Truuvali can now appeal to the Supreme Court. JC LATVIA'S KRASTS WANTS MINISTERS TO RENOUNCE DEPUTY MANDATES. Prime Minister Guntars Krasts has submitted a proposal to the government Cooperation Council that cabinet members renounce their mandates as parliamentary deputies, BNS reported on 17 December. Krasts has also proposed that ministers be obliged to back the government's position once the executive has made a decision on a given issue. If a minister disagreed with a government decision, he would be entitled to request that the council debate the issue, Krasts said. The premier's move comes shortly after government ministers from the Democratic Party Saimnieks pushed through an amendment to the state budget in violation of the coalition agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1997). JC LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT WANTS YOUTHFUL SUCCESSOR. Algirdas Brazauskas says he is backing Arturas Paulauskas, who, at 44, is the youngest of the seven candidates in the 21 December presidential elections. Speaking on national television on 17 December, Brazauskas indicated that both Paulauskas's age and his political independence influenced that decision. According to BNS, opinion polls suggest that Paulauskas will win the first round of the elections but that Valdas Adamkus, a retired U.S. environmentalist of Lithuanian origin, is likely to beat him in a run-off. Parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis is trailing in third place. Brazauskas, a former secretary-general of the Lithuanian communist party, said in October he was standing down after one term in favor of someone younger "with a clean past." JC POLISH PARLIAMENT SUPPORTS TOUGH ANTI- ABORTION LAW. The lower house of the parliament voted on 17 December to rescind legislation passed by the previous left-of-center government allowing abortions in cases of social and economic hardship, PAP reported. Abortion will now be allowed only in a limited number of cases related to the health of the mother and the fetus and when pregnancy is the result of a crime. The parliament's action restores the 1993 law backed by Pope John Paul II and the Roman Catholic Church in Poland. PG POLISH FINANCE MINISTER CHALLENGED OVER PRICE INCREASES. The leader of the opposition OPZZ trade union said on 17 December that Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz has violated the law by failing to give adequate time for consultation with trade unions as required by law, PAP reported. Stanislaw Wisniewski said his organization has reported this to prosecutors. Balcerowicz's spokesman dismissed the charges and suggested that the OPZZ was attempting "to mislead public opinion." PG CZECH PREMIER-DESIGNATE ON FUTURE GOVERNMENT. Josef Tosovsky on 17 December said he is not expecting his predecessor to serve in the new government. Shortly after his formal designation as premier by President Vaclav Havel, Tosovsky told CTK that, given Vaclav Klaus' past declarations on not wanting to serve in the new government, "I consider the question beside the point." He also said the government will not be formed "before New Years' Eve." The economy and membership in NATO and the EU will be his government's priorities, Tosovsky stressed. Klaus told journalists he was prepared to meet with Tosovsky "as soon as possible" to "listen to his ideas" on the future government's program. In a reference to Christian Democratic Party leader Josef Lux, Klaus said the presence of "certain individuals" in the new cabinet might hinder his Civic Democratic Party from participating in it. MS KLAUS WANTS CHANGE OF ELECTORAL SYSTEM. Havel on 17 December rejected Klaus's proposal earlier that day that the electoral system be changed from proportional representation to a majority system. Havel said although he prefers either a majority system or a mixed one, electoral systems must not be changed "on the spur of the moment in order to help somebody into the parliament or help them out of it." Opposition Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman, said he is not in favor of changing the system but added that "the idea could be discussed if...political instability continues." A change in the electoral system would require the constitution to be amended. Observers say that Klaus' proposal is unlikely to be backed by the required three- fifths majority in the Chamber of Deputies. MS CZECH MAYOR ON HITLER'S HONORARY CITIZENSHIP. Karlovy Vary Mayor Josef Pavel says the honorary citizenship bestowed on Adolf Hitler in 1938 has been automatically annulled by a 1945 law canceling legal acts during the Nazi occupation, "Mlada Fronta Dnes" reported on 17 December. The previous day, Pavel's deputy, Zdenek Musil, said his town will, after all, annul the honorary citizenship, thus going back on his 10 December declaration that the honorary citizenshi given to Hitler must remain in place as part of the town's history in this century (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 1997). MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SFOR ARRESTS TWO WAR CRIMINALS. NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana said in a 18 December statement released in Sarajevo that Dutch peacekeepers in Vitez the previous day "detained two Bosnian Croats, Vlatko Kupreskic and Anto Furundzija, who are indicted for war crimes by the [Hague-based] International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia." Kupreskic resisted and was wounded in the ensuing gunfight. SFOR sent both men immediately to The Hague. NATO has rarely arrested indicted war criminals, although its mandate allows it to do so if it comes into contact with them. Critics charge that the peacekeepers willingly turn a blind eye to war criminals in order to avoid violence and possible casualties. Meanwhile in Brussels, Canadian officials said that Ottawa will give an additional $600,000 to the tribunal in addition to the $1.8 million it has already supplied (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December 1997). PM CLINTON TO KEEP TROOPS IN BOSNIA. President Bill Clinton has decided to extend the mandate for U.S. peacekeepers in Bosnia beyond the current June 1998 expiration date, unnamed government officials said in Washington on 17 December. He is expected to announce his decision before departing for a brief visit to Bosnia on 21 December. NATO will not make a final decision on a new mandate until 1 March, but the peacekeepers are likely to stay if the U.S. is willing to remain part of the mission. In Brussels, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said on 17 December that Russia intends to be part of any renewed international peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. PM FRESH EFFORTS FOR BOSNIAN REFUGEE RETURN. The European Commission announced in Brussels on 17 December that it has approved a $34 million aid package to provide housing and jobs for returning refugees, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Belgian capital. In Geneva, Sadako Ogata, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees, said she will give priority in 1998 to helping 50,000 refugees return to homes in areas now controlled by an ethnic group other than their own. To date, very few refugees have done so. The UNHCR plans to resettle 220,000 refugees throughout Bosnia annually. Since the Dayton agreement was concluded in November 1995, the UNHCR has helped 194,000 people return to their homes. In Belgrade, UNHCR officials announced on 17 December that Mrkonjic Grad is the first "open city" for refugee return on Bosnian Serb territory. Five cities on Muslim or Croatian territory are "open" to returning refugees. PM KOSOVAR LEADER WARNS OF WAR. Adem Demaci, who heads both the Parliamentary Party and a new coalition of Kosovar political parties and NGOs, told Belgrade's "Dnevni telegraf" on 17 December that there will be war in Kosovo unless the Serbian authorities end their repressive policies toward the ethnic Albanian majority. Demaci's warning of armed conflict in Kosovo follows similar messages from Albania and Croatia as well as from the Serbian province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 16 December 1997). PM ITALY'S MIXED MESSAGE FOR CROATIA. Italian President Luigi Scalfaro left Zagreb on 17 December after a two-day visit that included meetings in Pula with representatives of the 21,000-strong Italian minority and talks with top Croatian officials. He told his hosts that Europe counts on Croatia as a factor in promoting regional stability, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. Scalfaro promised to help integrate Croatia into European structures but added that Europe also expects Croatia to meet European norms in all fields of public life. PM SLOVENIA TO LIMIT DUAL CITIZENSHIP. Slovenian officials said in Ljubljana on 17 December that they have prepared agreements on dual citizenship for consideration by Macedonia, Bosnia, and Croatia. Under those accords, some 180,000 Slovenian citizens with family roots in other former Yugoslav republics would be ineligible for citizenship in those republics, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Ljubljana. PM ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT GUNMAN SENTENCED TO 11 YEARS. A Tirana court on 17 December sentenced Socialist legislator Gafur Mazreku to 11 years in prison for attempted murder, "Koha Jone" reported. Mazreku shot and wounded Democratic Party deputy Azem Hajdari in the parliament in mid-September (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 19 September 1997). The prosecutor had demanded a 16-year sentence. Mazreku argued that he fired the shots in an act of revenge after Hajdari verbally assaulted and punched him in the parliament. Hajdari, however, claimed the attack was politically motivated. FS ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER SIGNS OIL AGREEMENT IN BRITAIN. Fatos Nano and representatives of Premier Oil signed an agreement for oil exploration on 18 December in London, Albanian Television reported. Premier Oil expects to invest $270 million in Albania, which will be the country's largest single foreign investment. The company received drilling licenses in the southern areas of Patos and Marinza. During Nano's talks with members of the British government, London offered to sponsor a roundtable on Balkan cooperation after it takes over the EU presidency in January 1998. FS ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON EURO-ATLANTIC SCHEDULE. Emil Constantinescu on 17 December said he expects his country to become a NATO member by 2001 and to join the EU by 2005. Constantinescu said Romania will "without any doubt" begin negotiations on joining NATO in 1999. He spoke in Bonn during his official visit to Germany, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. In an interview with RFE/RL the same day, Foreign Minister Adrian Severin said Romania considers the recent meeting of NATO foreign ministers to be of "utmost importance" because the forum has repeated the intention to continue NATO expansion. MS ROMANIA'S ILIESCU SPEAKS OUT. In an open letter to Constantinescu, former President Ion Iliescu demands that his successor "make public" the understandings reached between the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) and other coalition members in the 3 December protocol that preceded the government reshuffle. And in open letters to Ion Diaconescu, the chairman of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic and to UDMR leader Bela Marko, Iliescu refers to "occult understandings" reached behind closed doors on amending the education law by government regulation. Iliescu also protested the intention to "violate the will of the parliament" and interfere with its work. Meanwhile, the Party of Romanian National Unity announced on 17 December that it "does not recognize" the amendments by government regulation of the education and local government laws, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS ROMANIAN PRESS ON "CEAUSESCU-CARLOS" CONNECTION. Citing Romanian media on 17 December, AFP reported that Romania's late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu hired international terrorist "Carlos the Jackal" to kill General Ion Mihai Pacepa, a former Securitate general, who defected to the West in 1978. MS TENSIONS RESURFACE OVER RUSSIAN GAS DELIVERIES TO BULGARIA. Tensions have resurfaced over the delivery of Russian gas supplies to Bulgaria, despite earlier reports that the dispute has been resolved (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 21 November 1997). An RFE/RL Sofia correspondent reported on 17 December that the Multigroup conglomerate, which owns 50 percent of the Topenergy company, is refusing to sell its shares to the state-owned Bulgargaz. The other half of the shares is owned by Gazprom. Bulgarian negotiator Antoine Nikolov accused Topenergy's Russian executive manager, Sergei Pashin, of deliberately stalling the restructuring of Topenergy in order to benefit unnamed private interests. Nikolov said Bulgaria will now deal directly with Gazprom rather than with Topenergy officials. He also said Bulgaria will try to form a new joint venture with Gazprom that involves neither Topenergy nor Multigroup. MS BULGARIAN JOURNALIST REQUESTS CANADIAN ASYLUM. Eleonora Gountcheva, a journalist working for a Sofia sports weekly, on 17 December requested asylum in Canada, dpa reported. She asked to be granted the status of a political refugee because of threats made on her life and bomb threats at her place of work after she published investigative articles on corruption and fraud in Bulgarian sports. MS REGIONAL AFFAIRS RECORD LOW TEMPERATURES IN AZERBAIJAN... In Azerbaijan, the temperature has fallen to minus 50 degrees Celsius, the lowest recorded in that country for 25 years, ANS Press reported on 18 December. All the country's airports were closed the previous day because of heavy snow and high winds. State Committee for Refugees chairman Gulabbas Gakhramanov said the adverse weather has not affected conditions in the 12 refugee camps where families made homeless by the Karabakh conflict are spending their fifth winter in tents. Meanwhile, storms off the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk have delayed the loading of tankers with the first consignment of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil, Caucasus Press reported on 18 December. LF ...AND IN RUSSIA. Record-breaking cold temperatures in Moscow have killed 22 people in recent days, Reuters reported on 17 December. A state of emergency was declared in Krasnodar Krai when a winter storm brought down power lines and shut off electricity supplies to many cities, ITAR-TASS reported. Schools have been closed in many other Russian regions as temperatures dropped below minus 40 degrees Celsius. LB FREEZING WEATHER CREATES HAVOC IN EASTERN EUROPE. Snow, ice, and temperatures below minus 10 degrees Celsius have disrupted traffic in several parts of Serbia and severely strained power supplies, local media reported on 17 December. Twenty people were reported dead in Poland. Thirteen homeless persons were reported to have frozen to death in Bucharest and four people were reported dead in Bulgaria. PM/MS CZECH BANKER STEPS INTO POLITICAL ROUGH AND TUMBLE by Breffni O'Rourke Czech prime minister-designate Josef Tosovsky has the reputation of being a strong and determined man, just like his predecessor, Vaclav Klaus. But the two are dissimilar in that Tosovsky shuns publicity and lacks the headstrong arrogance that many felt marked Klaus in office. President Vaclav Havel asked Tosovsky to take the premiership on 16 December, and his formal appointment came one day later. Havel noted that, as a non-partisan figure to lead what will likely be an interim government, Tosovsky has the support of the main parties of the center, right, and left in the parliament. As governor of the National Bank since 1989, Tosovsky has had a powerful role in shaping what was initially seen as the Czech economic miracle. Later, when that miracle began to fade, Klaus the politician was blamed for errors in political and economic policy, while Tosovsky, the independent central banker, suffered no damage to his reputation. Havel's appointment of Tosovsky can be seen as a move to calm the country's frayed nerves following the recent collapse of Klaus's three-party governing coalition. Prague-based economic analyst Radomir Jac, of Woods investment brokers, says Tosovsky's appointment sends a positive signal of steadiness and continuity to both international and domestic investors. But he questions whether the move brings any real change for the better to the Czech political scene. Even if Tosovsky manages to put together a government in the next few weeks, no one expects it to last beyond six months. The next scheduled elections are in 2000, but the main Social Democrat opposition says it will not throw support behind Tosovsky unless early elections are held in 1998. Certainly, the country is in the doldrums economically, and until a strong government takes office, the situation can hardly improve. In the third quarter of this year, economic growth slowed to a meager 0.8 percent, giving just over 1 percent growth for the year overall. This is the worst growth rate in Central Europe. In addition, key areas like privatization, already in disarray, will be stalled in the short term. And although foreign investors may view Tosovsky's appointment benignly, they will not be tempted back in large numbers until real political stability is in sight. A major question mark hangs over the intentions of Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the main partner in the outgoing coalition. Klaus has said he prefers the ODS to go into opposition, presumably to bide its time until the elections, which might open the road for him to return to power. Klaus won re-election as party chairman by a wide margin at the 13-14 December congress, beating off a challenge by party members disenchanted with his autocratic style and with the thickening allegations of irregularities in party funding. Immediately after his re- election, Klaus said he considered the controversy over funding to be closed. He thereby sidestepped allegations about slush funds and a secret party bank account in Switzerland. Despite his solid win inside the party, a split in ODS ranks remains a possibility, as members of the anti-Klaus faction see their career opportunities in the party evaporate. Klaus has not been driven from the Czech political stage, despite the rising tide of opposition to him inside and outside his party. He has proved a political survivor, but most people feel his star is waning, at least as a future national leader. For his part, Tosovsky is about to leave the world of professional banking for the rougher and messier life of politics. If he can lead the country though the coming period without major upsets, he will have achieved at least something. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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