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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 183, Part II, 19 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

RFE/RL's 1997 Year in Review and Top Ten Stories Web page
assesses developments in its listening region over the past 12
months.
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/yearend97/index.html

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Headlines, Part II

* OSCE MISSION CAN BEGIN WORK IN BELARUS

* CLINTON SAYS U.S. TO STAY IN BOSNIA

* BOSNIAN CROATS PROTEST ARREST OF WAR CRIMINALS

* End Note: FROM ANARCHY TO UNCERTAIN STABILITY IN ALBANIA

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

OSCE MISSION CAN BEGIN WORK IN BELARUS.  At the
Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting in
Copenhagen on 18 December, the Belarusian delegation agreed to
allow an OSCE office to begin work in Minsk, RFE/RL's Belarusian
service reported.  Although it had agreed in principle in September
to such an office, Minsk has blocked its opening until now. PG

BELARUS, RUSSIA TO SIGN DEFENSE COOPERATION ACCORD.
Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and his Belarusian
counterpart, Aleksandr Chumakov, are to sign a bilateral treaty on
military cooperation on 19 December, Interfax reported. The Belarus
Defense Ministry said that the agreement "derives from the union
treaty of Belarus and Russia." Among other things, the accord will
establish a joint board of the defense ministries of the two countries.
PG

CAUSE OF UKRAINIAN AIR CRASH DISPUTED. Ukraine's
Aerosvit airline said that the Ukrainian airliner crash in Greece on
17 December may have been due to the inexperience of the crew,
ITAR-TASS reported on 18 December. The wreckage of the plane,
which was carrying 71 people, has still not been located. Leonid
Pogrebnyak, the director of the airline, said the pilots in command
had never flown that route before. Other experts commented that
the accident might have been the result of foggy conditions. Officials
confirmed, however,  that the plane was not carrying any members
of any official Greek delegation. PG

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT, PRESIDENT DISAGREE OVER
LANGUAGE LAW. Lawmakers have  adopted amendments to the
language law, rejecting President Lennart Meri's argument that the
new legislation violates the constitution, ETA and BNS reported on
18 December. Meri, who refused to sign the amendments into law
earlier this month, objects to the provision empowering the
government to establish language proficiency requirements for
parliamentary deputies and local government officials. He says this
is not in line with the separation and balance of powers enshrined in
the constitution. If he refuses again to proclaim the law, the
Supreme Court will have to rule on the issue. JC

ESTONIA RECEIVES ANOTHER IMF CREDIT BUT WON'T DRAW
MONEY. The IMF has approved a $22 million stand-by credit for
Estonia, but Tallinn does not intend to draw on those funds, an
RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. Estonia applied for
the loan, as it did for a similar one last year, to take advantage of
the IMF's technical assistance and advice. While praising Estonia's
"remarkable performance" during the past few years, the fund
advised the country to ensure that the banking system is not
overextended with rising inflows of foreign capital and that real
wage increases do not outstrip productivity gains. JC

LATVIA'S EU INTEGRATION CHIEF RESIGNS. Janis Vaivads, the
director of the European Integration Office, resigned on 18
December following a meeting with Prime Minister Guntars Krasts,
BNS reported. His resignation comes one week after the EU decided
not to include Latvia among the countries invited to take part in
"fast track" membership talks. A spokeswoman denied that
Vaivads's decision had anything to do with the Luxembourg summit,
stressing that Krasts had said on several occasions he was
dissatisfied with the office's performance. Also on 18 December,
Latvia and the EU signed a memorandum whereby the union will
extend 3.2 million ecus (some $2.9 million) in technical assistance. JC

MOODY'S INCREASES LITHUANIA'S RATING. The international
rating agency Moody's has increased Lithuania's credit rating to the
level Ba1 for long-term foreign-currency deals, Interfax reported on
18 December, citing BNS. The new Moody's rating, however, is below
the BBB- level awarded to Vilnius by Standard & Poor's, according to
the Russian news agency. JC

CZECH POLITICAL LULL IN SIGHT? President Vaclav Havel, who
was recently treated in hospital for pneumonia, is to take a three-
week holiday in the Canary Islands on the advice of his doctors,
Reuters reported on 18 December. That means he is unlikely to
appoint the new government now being formed by Prime Minister-
designate Josef Tosovsky until mid-January. Also on 18 December,
Tosovsky met with outgoing Premier Vaclav Klaus, Christian
Democratic Party leader Josef Lux, and Civic Democratic Alliance
chairman Jiri Skalicky. After that meeting, Tosovsky said the
composition of the new cabinet need not reflect the current
representation of parties  in the parliament. He also said there was
agreement that early elections would be held next year, CTK
reported. MS

HAVEL WANTS KOHL TO ACCELERATE SETTING UP JOINT
FUND. Havel on 18 December appealed to German Chancellor
Helmut Kohl to accelerate the procedures for setting up a joint fund
for reconciliation projects, AFP reported. The two countries decided
to set up such a fund in January and to sign an accord on the issue
before year's end. However,  Germany recently asked to delay
signing the agreement until end of January 1998. Bonn faces
opposition from the organization representing the Germans expelled
from Czechoslovakia after World War II, while Prague opposes the
organization's participation in the fund because it has never
recognized the Czech-German declaration of reconciliation. Germany
is to contribute $80 million to the fund, and the Czech Republic $14
million. MS

HUNGARY, TURKEY SIGN MILITARY ACCORD. Hungarian
Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti and his visiting Turkish counterpart,
Ismet Sezgin, have signed an agreement providing for an exchange
of military cadets, Hungarian media reported on 18 December.
Sezgin said Turkey has supported Hungary's accession to NATO
"from the very beginning" and will offer assistance in entry
preparations. He is scheduled on 19 December to meet with Prime
Minister Gyula Horn and parliamentary chairman Zoltan Gal. MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

CLINTON SAYS U.S. TO STAY IN BOSNIA. President Bill Clinton
said in Washington on 18 December that a continued U.S.-led
international armed presence is necessary after SFOR's mandate
expires in June in order to preserve peace and promote political and
economic development. The new mission should have "benchmarks"
for meeting specific goals but not an overall deadline, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from Washington. Clinton stated that the
new force will probably be smaller than its predecessor but must
still be "able to protect itself." The president added that Europe has
done much for Bosnia but must do more. He also noted that the new
mission to Bosnia "must have substantial support from Congress and
the American people." PM

U.S. PRESIDENT OUTLINES DEFINITE AGENDA... Clinton
outlined a series of goals for the new force:  "First, we must intensify
our civilian and economic engagement... Civilian and voluntary
agencies, working with Bosnian authorities, must help to do the
following things: First, deepen and spread economic opportunity
while rooting out corruption.  Second, reform, retrain, and re-equip
the police.  Third, restructure the state-run media to meet
international standards of objectivity and access. and establish
alternative, independent media. Fourth, help more refugees return
home.  And fifth, make indicted war criminals answer for their
crimes.... The second thing we must do is to continue to provide an
international military presence that will enable these efforts to
proceed in an atmosphere of confidence." PM

...GIVES WARNING. The president stressed that a lasting peace in
Bosnia is possible and charged that those who suggest that its three
main ethnic groups cannot live together are ignorant of Bosnian
history. He also warned against partitioning the republic between
the Muslims, Serbs, and Croats. Partition, he said,  would "sanction
the horrors of ethnic cleansing and send the wrong signal to
extremists everywhere.  At best, partition would require a
peacekeeping force to patrol a volatile border for years to come.
More likely it would set the stage also for renewed conflict."
Meanwhile in Stockholm, Carl Bildt, the international community's
former chief representative in Bosnia, said that a continued U.S.
military presence is as necessary for stability in Bosnia now as it
was in Berlin after World War Two. PM

BOSNIAN CROATS PROTEST ARREST OF WAR CRIMINALS...
Crowds blocked roads in Vitez on 18 December to demand that SFOR
withdraw troops from around the home of one of the two indicted
war criminals whom Dutch peacekeepers captured and sent to The
Hague the previous night (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December
1997). In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana
telephoned Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and urged him to
calm angry Bosnian Croats. In Sarajevo, Bosnian Croat leaders
Kresimir Zubak and Vladimir Soljic said that SFOR's action was
unnecessarily violent and aimed at humiliating all Croats and
encouraging them to leave central Bosnia. In Zagreb, state-run
television commented that it is not right that most Serbian indicted
war criminals remain at large when "Serbs committed 90 percent of
all war crimes." PM

...BUT SESELJ CALLS IT A TRICK. In Belgrade, ultra-nationalist
Serbian presidential candidate Vojislav Seselj said on 18 December
that "the SFOR action [against the two indicted Croats] was designed
to trick international public opinion and hide the anti-Serbian
character of the [Hague-based] tribunal. In Bonn, however, Foreign
Minister Klaus Kinkel applauded SFOR's action, as did a French
government spokeswoman in Paris. But at the UN in New York,
Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov said that  "Russia takes a
negative view of any unilateral actions that might threaten the lives
of the peacekeepers and that might undermine the entire process
for a Bosnian settlement." He argued that SFOR exceeded its mandate
by making the arrests. In Washington, politicians from across the
political spectrum praised the arrests. Senator John Warner of the
Armed Services Committee called for a bounty "of a million dollars
or more" to be placed on the heads of prominent war criminals. PM

EUROPEAN COMMISSION FREEZES AID TO CROATIA. The
European Commission's Sir Leon Brittan said in Strasbourg on 18
December that the EC has frozen $2.4 million in what he called
technical aid because of Croatia's hounding of the independent
media and NGOs. He singled out the authorities' treatment of the
Croatian Helsinki Committee, the Open Society Institute, and the
independent weekly "Feral Tribune." PM

TUDJMAN BLASTS CORRUPTION, INEQUALITY. President
Tudjman said in a speech in Zagreb to mark the anniversary of the
1990 constitution that there is a "lack of will to prevent economic
crime and corruption, tardiness and inefficiency" in the government,
the parliament, and especially in the judiciary. He also blasted the
"ruthless enrichment" of a few and called for greater "social justice"
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December 1997). PM

ITALY, ALBANIA SIGN AGREEMENTS WORTH $220
MILLION. Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini and several
Albanian government ministers signed a package of agreements in
Tirana on 18 December with an overall value of about $220 million.
One program in the package aims to create 10,000 jobs in public
works, but the centerpiece is a program to create 200,000 additional
jobs in the private sector over the next three years. The aid includes
credits and grants for different areas of the economy, health system,
and infrastructure, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported.  Dini told his
Albanian counterpart, Paskal Milo, that Italy will soon issue
residence permits to Albanian refugees already in Italy. FS

IS TIDE TURNING AGAINST SMUGGLING IN ALBANIA?
Albanian police have seized a ship on the Adriatic that was carrying
$1 million worth of contraband cigarettes. Police patrol boats
blocked the path of a second ship, while two more vessels carrying
suspected contraband escaped. Police and the local media called the
seizure a great success. Albania has long served as a smuggling
route to Italy and Yugoslavia. Contraband cigarettes also reach the
domestic market. Earlier this week, the parliament passed a law
allowing police to keep part of the proceeds from the contraband
goods that they intercept. PM

FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT TO BE INVESTIGATED... The
Prosecutor-General's Office will investigate the role of former
President Ion Iliescu and other civilian members of the Romanian
leadership in the initial stage of the December 1989 uprising.
General Dan Voinea says Iliescu and other members of the
provisional leadership ordered troops guarding the state television
building to open fire on nearby crowds, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau
reported. Eighty people were killed and some 200 wounded. Voinea
also said the office will investigate the so-called "terrorist
diversion," which many believe was aimed at creating the
impression that pro-Ceausescu forces and foreign mercenaries were
attempting to restore the dictator to power.  MS

...WHILE HE DENIES ALLEGATIONS. Meanwhile, in an interview
on state television, Iliescu denied the allegations, saying they
reflected the new administration's campaign to discredit him. An
officer also interviewed by state television claimed that a
declaration he allegedly submitted to his superiors shortly after the
uprising was false. According to that declaration, he  had received
orders from Iliescu. The officer said he had lied in order to cover up
both his desertion shortly after the revolt began and his call for the
distribution of arms in order to "defend the revolution." The officer
claimed the declaration had no "legal value" because it had not been
made in the presence of a magistrate. MS

ROMANIA WANTS OSCE PRESIDENCY.  Foreign Minister Adrian
Severin on 18 December said Romania will submit its candidacy for
the presidency of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in
Europe for the year 2001. He said the decision  is a signal of
Romania's desire to continue to be involved in OSCE activities and of
the fact that our country is ready to "assume more responsibilities
in the organization."  He was speaking in Copenhagen at the meeting
of OSCE foreign ministers, RFE/RL reported.  Severin also urged the
OSCE to do more in assisting the warring sides in Moldova to reach a
settlement. The organization should more actively assist in the
withdrawal of Russian arms and ammunition located in the
Transdniester, he argued. MS

TENSIONS CONTINUE OVER RUSSIAN GAS DELIVERIES TO
BULGARIA. Gennadii Kozin, the director of Intergaz  (the foreign
trade subsidiary of Gazprom,) told RFE/RL on 18 December that
Sofia must meet Gazprom's demands in order to receive gas
deliveries next year. He said the Bulgarian government is refusing to
pay the price demanded by Intergaz. One day earlier, Bulgarian
officials announced they will no longer negotiate with Topenergy
and will seek direct talks with Gazprom or Intergaz (See RFE/RL
Newsline," 18 December 1997). Premier Ivan Kostov told RFE/RL
that Gazprom director Rem Vyakhirev has guaranteed gas deliveries
to Bulgaria, although the contract for such deliveries has expired.
Kostov said he is ready to meet his Russian counterpart, Viktor
Chernomyrdin, to resolve the dispute. Meanwhile, the opposition
Socialist Party on 18 December demanded the resignation of Deputy
Premier Evgeni Bakardzhiev over the failed talks with Topenergy.
MS

BULGARIA FIGHTS CORRUPTION IN MILITARY. Defense
Minister Georgi Ananiev, Prosecutor-General Ivan Tatartchev, and
Chief Military Prosecutor Emil Karamfilov on 18 December signed a
declaration to cooperate in fighting crime and corruption in  the
military, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Ananiev said
the fight was launched some time ago, noting that corruption can be
found at all levels--from the lower ranks to the top of the Defense
Ministry. In other news, Air Force Commander General Stefan Popov
said on 18 December that the situation in the force is "almost
desperate." He noted that personnel has been reduced by 30 percent
and several air force bases closed. MS

FROM ANARCHY TO UNCERTAIN STABILITY IN ALBANIA

by Fabian Schmidt

        Albania descended into anarchy in February after five years of
relative stability. The turmoil that followed the collapse of
pyramid schemes, in which hundreds of thousands had invested their
savings, demonstrated that Albania's post-communist economic and
political progress was far short of what the governing Democratic
Party had claimed.
        Much of the relative prosperity that Albania had seen since
the end of communist rule in 1991 did not, in fact, derive from the
country's own economic strength. Albania imported large amounts
of goods, but domestic production was diminishing, despite large-
scale privatization. Cash remittances from Albanians living abroad
and earnings derived from the smuggling of oil and arms to former
Yugoslavia compensated for a huge trade deficit. During the 1991-
1995 wars of the Yugoslav succession, the pyramid schemes served
to launder money from such activities.
        But the revolt this year was more than a reaction to an
economic collapse; it was a protest against a government that was
becoming increasingly authoritarian. After rigged elections in
1996, the collapse of the pyramids was the straw that broke the
camel's back because it drove many people into poverty. The results
were perhaps more dramatic than anyone could have foreseen.
        People looted arms depots throughout Albania, and criminal
gangs used the opportunity to expand their activities ranging from
robbery to smuggling. Public order collapsed, and the country
appeared to be only a step away from civil war. More than 2,000
people were killed throughout the country, most by accident. As in
the case of the fall of communism in 1991, tens of thousands fled
by boat to Italy or by various means of transport to Greece. In the
most dramatic incident, more than 80 people died in the Adriatic
Sea when a refugee boat collided with an Italian coast guard vessel
in late March.
        By that time, Organization on Security and Cooperation in
Europe envoy Franz Vranitzky had successfully mediated an
agreement between President Sali Berisha and the opposition. Both
sides agreed to a government of national reconciliation under
Socialist Prime Minister Bashkim Fino and to early elections. The
Albanian authorities asked the international community to send in a
multi-national stabilization force, but the West European Union and
NATO declined to take full responsibility. Instead, it was left to
Italy to assemble a force for Operation Alba after receiving a UN
mandate. Various other European countries--including France,
Greece, Turkey, Spain, Romania, Austria and Denmark--participated
in the contingent, which arrived in Albania in mid-April.
        The parliamentary elections in late June and early July
proceeded without major incident, even though the Albanian
government, assisted by the OSCE, had hardly two months to prepare
for them. Despite fears to the contrary, the elections were a
success and ultimately led to the restoration of at least a modicum
of law and order.
        In August, a new Socialist-led coalition government took
office under Prime Minister Fatos Nano, the former Socialist Party
leader who was imprisoned under the previous government. The
Socialists had gained over two-thirds of the parliamentary seats.
Berisha resigned the presidency and the parliament elected as his
replacement Rexhep Meidani, a physicist who has played a largely
ceremonial role aimed at promoting national reconciliation. His
predecessor, by contrast, had used a strong French-type presidency
to carry out the policies of his Democratic Party.
        But half a year after the new government took office,
Albania's future remains uncertain. While the government has
successfully managed to crack down on crime and reestablished
freedom of movement throughout much of the country, it now faces
the challenge of putting its economy back on track and reducing its
budget deficit. Success or failure will depend on its ability to
create new jobs, to collect taxes and customs duties, and to
restructure its inefficient and often corrupt administration while
avoiding political purges.
        Open conflicts between the parliament, the president, and the
judiciary suggest that power is more equally divided than was
previously the case. Much remains to be done, however, including
the drafting of a new constitution next year. Whether the
government can avoid the mistakes of its predecessors and function
on the basis of loyalty to the state rather than of partisanship is
unclear. Sharp polemics between the Democrats and the Socialists
indicate that much of the country remains polarized.

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