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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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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