Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 184, Part II, 22 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

* NEO-COMMUNIST LEADS FIRST ROUND IN
LITHUANIAN POLL

* MILOSEVIC ALLY CLAIMS VICTORY IN SERBIAN
VOTE

* CLINTON TELLS BOSNIANS TO 'BEHAVE'

* End Note: CROATIAN LAWS LEAD TO
INTERNATIONAL ROW OVER MINORITIES

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

RUSSIAN PARTIES IN ESTONIA FORM ELECTORAL BLOC.
The three Estonian political parties that seek to represent
Russian speakers in Estonia -- the United People's Party, the
Russian Christian Union, and the Russian Unity Party --
formed a common bloc for the 1999 parliamentary elections,
BNS reported 19 December.  The new group will be called "Our
Home is Estonia;" a spokesman said . The formation of the bloc
represented the opening of the election campaign.   PG

MOSCOW AGAIN LINKS SECURITY, RIGHTS IN MESSAGE
TO LATVIA.  On 21 December, Russian Deputy Foreign
Minister Aleksandr Avdeev delivered a message from Russian
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov on Moscow's current
thinking about Baltic security, Itar-Tass reported.  According
to the Russian news service, the message again linked
Moscow's attitudes toward security issues in the Baltic
countries with the way in which Latvia deals with its ethnic
Russian minority.   PG

VANDALS DESECRATE SYNAGOGUE IN LATVIAN
CAPITAL. Someone painted a swastika and other anti-semitic
symbols and words on the entrance to the Jewish synagogue in
Riga, Itar-Tass reported 20 December, citing SM, the Russian-
language newspaper in Riga. According to SM, the desecration
followed distribution in Riga by persons unknown of leaflets
calling Jews and Russians the main enemies of the Latvian
people.   PG

NEO-COMMUNIST LEADS FIRST ROUND IN LITHUANIAN
POLL. Arturas Paulauskas won 45 percent of the vote in the
21 December first round of the election of a new president in
Lithuania, Lithuanian media reported.  He led Valdas
Adamkus, who garnered 27 percent, and parliamentary
speaker Vytautas Landsbergis, who attracted 15 percent of
the vote. Turnout for the election was 71 percent.  Because
none of the candidates won more than 50 percent, the top two
-- Paulauskas and Adamkus -- will face each other in a runoff
on 4 January.  The choice then will be a stark one: Paulauskas,
the son of a KGB colonel and a man who enjoys the support of
both the current president and much of the old communist
establishment, will be competing against Adamkus, a man who
has spent much of his life in the United States and was a
senior official in the U..S. Environmental Protection Agency.
PG

BELARUS, RUSSIA SEE NATO GROWTH AS
DESTABILIZING. The Russian and Belarusian defense
ministers said in Minsk on 19 December that the Eastward
expansion of NATO would be destabilizing and would threaten
the security of their countries, Itar-Tass reported. Russia's
Yurii Sergeev and Belarus' Aleksandr Chumakov made the
comments after signing a military cooperation pact between
their two governments.  Meanwhile, Russian businessman and
political figure Boris Berezovskii met with Belarusian
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, RFE/RL's Belarus Service
reported 19 December.  The two men reportedly discussed the
fate of the ORT reporters now being tried in Belarus.
Berezovskii owns ORT, an independent television network.  PG

SOLIDARITY LEADER CAN RUN FOR POLISH
PRESIDENCY.  At its national congress on 20 December,
Poland's Solidarity labor movement voted 259 to 27 to change
its rules to allow its leader, Marian Krzaklewski, to run for
president while remaining head of the union, PAP reported.
Krzaklewski may run in 2000.   PG

POLES, CZECHS TO REBUFF CRITICISM ON JOINING
NATO.  Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek and Czech
Foreign Minister Jaroslav Sedivy said in Warsaw on 21
December that both their countries and Hungary will respond
as one to any criticism  of their plans to joint NATO, PAP
reported. They also said that they and the Hungarian foreign
minister will visit Washington on 9 February to press for
American ratification of their joining the Western alliance.
PG

BLACK BOXES RECOVERED AT UKRAINE AIRLINER CRASH
SITE.  Investigators on 20 and 21 December recovered both black
boxes from an Aerosvit YAK-42 airliner that crashed in Greece on
17 December, Itar-Tass reported. The news agency said that many
of the bodies of the victims recovered so far were so mutilated
that identification of the remains will be difficult.   PG

KLAUS PARTY WILLING TO JOIN NEW CZECH
GOVERNMENT.  Outgoing Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus
said on 19 December that his party, the Civic Democratic Party
(ODS), was ready to join the new government of Prime
Minister designate Josef Tosovsky now that it had received
assurances that the new government would not change the
country's direction, CTK reported 19 December. Meanwhile,
Czech President Vaclav Havel and his wife departed Prague for
a three-week vacation in the Canary Islands.  They will return
just prior to the 20 January parliamentary session at which
Havel is expected to be reelected as president.   PG


SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE


MILOSEVIC ALLY CLAIMS VICTORY IN SERBIAN
VOTE. A spokesman for Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan
Milutinovic said in Belgrade on 22 December that
Milutinovic won 2,185,218 votes, or 59.68 percent of the
vote for the Serbian presidency, against 1,363,577 votes, or
37.24 percent, for his hard-line nationalist rival Vojislav
Seselj of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS). Milutinovic's
spokesman contended that just over 50 percent of registered
voters turned out on 21 December and that hence the vote
was valid. A spokesman for the SRS, however, claimed that
just under 50 percent cast their ballots, thereby making the
vote invalid. This is the fourth time Serbs have gone to the
polls since 21 September to elect a president. Milutinovic is
generally known as a loyal lieutenant of Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 9
December 1997). PM

ALBANIANS BOYCOTT SERBIAN VOTE. A spokesman for
the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the leading Kosovar
political organization, said in Pristina on 21 December that
Serbia's ethnic Albanians boycotted the presidential vote. He
added that the Kosovar leadership will announce their own
Kosovo presidential and parliamentary elections later this
year and that the vote will take place early in 1998, an
RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina. The LDK and
other Kosovar political groups say that they boycotted the
presidential vote to show that they do not consider Serbia to
be their country and because none of the candidates ran on
a platform that the Kosovars could support. PM

CLINTON TELLS BOSNIANS TO 'BEHAVE.' U.S. President
Bill Clinton arrived in Sarajevo on a one-day visit to Bosnia on
22 December. He told political and religious leaders that "the
world which continues to invest in your peace expects you to
do your part." He urged the leaders to "find more
opportunities at the grassroots to reach across the lines of
division for the sake of your children and in the service of
peace."  En route to Bosnia, Clinton told reporters that he
would tell each leader in private that "the future of the
country is still in their hands... In the end, they've got to
behave." PM

SFOR RAIDS BOSNIAN ARMY HEADQUARTERS. NATO-led
peacekeepers  and UN police staged a raid on 20 December on
the Sarajevo building that houses both the headquarters of the
Bosnian army and a  prison. An SFOR spokesman told an
RFE/RL correspondent that peacekeepers "took advantage of
our presence there to inspect the adjacent Bosnian army
headquarters under the terms of our mandate, that is, without
advance warning." The soldiers took away five cartons
containing video cassettes, computer discs, and documents.
Bosnian army commander Gen. Rasim Delic criticized what he
called the "forceful entry" into the headquarters. "The army is
always ready to cooperate with SFOR. There was no need to act
in this way," he said. PM

ISLAMIC TERRORISTS SEIZED IN BOSNIA. A Bosnian
government crackdown on foreign Islamic extremists in
central Bosnia has so far led to the arrest of 16 individuals, an
RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo on 20 December
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 1997). The men are
wanted in connection with murders, robberies, and other
terrorist activities in a region to which Croatian refugees want
to return and which has a large SFOR presence. Officials of the
Bosnian state prosecutor's office said that the 16 apparently
all belonged to the same well-organized group. Police
confiscated a wide variety of weapons, as well as terrorist
instruction manuals, automobile license plates and registration
papers, forged documents, and equipment for forging identity
papers. PM

HAGUE COURT FREES THREE CROATS. The International
Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on 19 December
freed Pero Skopljak, Marinko Katava and Ivan Santic. The
three had turned themselves in to the court in October, but the
court ruled two months later that there is not sufficient
evidence to hold them. They returned to Zagreb on 20
December, where they were met by President Franjo
Tudjman's son and security chief Miroslav Tudjman, by
Tudjman aide Ivic Pasalic, and by Bosnian Foreign Minister
Jadranko Prlic, who is a Croat. Prlic said that the freeing of the
three prisoners  "signifies for the Bosnian Croats a return of a
certain credibility" to the tribunal, which holds more than
twice as many Croatian prisoners as it does Serbs and Muslims
combined. PM

FRENCH GENERAL TO THE HAGUE? The tribunal is about to
press charges of complicity in war crimes against a French
former commander of UNPROFOR peacekeepers in Bosnia in
1995, Gen. Bernard Janvier, the Vienna daily "Die Presse"
reported on 19 December. Janvier reportedly ignored several
intelligence reports indicating that the Serbs were about to
attack the UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica in July. Once the
attack materialized, Janvier turned down a series of requests
for air support from Dutch peacekeepers stationed in the
Muslim enclave. The fall of the enclave was followed by the
largest single massacre of prisoners of war and civilians in
Europe since World War II. "Die Presse" said that the court's
desire to prosecute Janvier lies at the bottom of recent
tensions between it and the French government (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 15 and 16 December 1997).  PM

BOSNIAN SERB LEGISLATURE TO MEET. Republika Srpska
President Biljana Plavsic and her hard-line rival Momcilo
Krajisnik agreed in Brcko on 20 December that the new
Bosnian Serb parliament will hold its opening session on 27
December. They also agreed that the hard-line Serbian
Democratic Party (SDS) of Radovan Karadzic will nominate the
speaker because the SDS holds the most seats of any party, an
RFE/RL correspondent reported from Brcko. On 19 December,
Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief
representative in Bosnia, told the Serbs that they must
convene parliament by 27 December. The SDS and its allies
lost their overall legislative majority in the elections that took
place on 22-23 November. PM

POLICE FIND WEAPONS IN SLAVONIA. Croatian police
announced in Vukovar on 20 December that they found three
revolvers, a semi-automatic machine-gun and a machine gun
with ammunition, plus two wigs and a bullet-proof vest in a
bar in  Borovo Naselje, near Vukovar. The area was a scene of
armed tensions between Serbs and Croats in the months
leading up to the war of 1991. Meanwhile in Zagreb, President
Tudjman and the National Security Council welcomed the UN
Security Council's decision in New York the previous day to
end the UN mandate in eastern Slavonia on 15 January as
scheduled. Back in Vukovar, Vladimir Seks, the deputy
speaker of parliament and a hard-line Croatian nationalist,
told Slavonian Serb politicians that "he extends the hand of
partnership" to them, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from
Vukovar. PM

CROATIAN JOURNALIST CALLS TRIAL POLITICAL.
Viktor Ivancic, editor of the satirical weekly "Feral Tribune, "
said in Zagreb on 21 December that his upcoming trial for
insulting Tudjman "is a classic political trial." He added that
the government is trying "to criminalize the fundamental
principles of media freedom." Ivancic and Marinko Culic, a
journalist at the same paper, are to go on trial before the
Zagreb regional court on 22 December. Tudjman is seeking $3
million in damages for a critical article. "Feral" claimed he had
plans that amounted to reburying local World War II fascists
alongside their victims. Critics of the Croatian authorities often
face costly lawsuits for slander or defamation. PM

CROATIAN LIBERALS FOUND NEW PARTY. Vlado Gotovac,
leader of a break-away faction of the Croatian Social Liberal
Party (HSLS), announced in Zagreb on 21 December that he
and his followers will soon found the Liberal Party (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1997). Gotovac said his party
will seek to reduce big government and centralization, an
RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. PM

GANG KILLS THREE POLICEMEN IN ALBANIA. An
armed gang shot and killed three policemen and wounded
two in the central-Albanian city of Ballsh on 18 December,
"Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 20 December. The policemen
were part of a special unit that came to the rescue of a group
of people, whom the gang was holding hostage. Police
arrested one of the gangsters. FS

FLOODS INUNDATE NORTHERN ALBANIA. Heavy rains
on 20 and 21 December flooded 180 houses in the northern
Albanian town of Lezha and interrupted the main north-
south railway and road lines, the Albanian Service of VOA
reported on 22 December. Over 8,000 hectares of land are
affected by the heaviest floods since 1985. Floodwaters also
damaged three hydroelectric power plants and killed
livestock. FS

ROMANIA, HUNGARY SIGN MILITARY ACCORD.
Romanian Defense Minister Victor Babiuc and his Hungarian
counterpart Gyorgy Keleti signed a military agreement on 20
December in Oradea. The accord provides for transporting
troops and military equipment across their two countries and
regulates the responsibilities of the armies in case of conflict
or natural disasters. The ministers also pledged to sign further
agreements on air defense and exchanging military archives
and to create a joint peacekeeping battalion in February 1998 .
The battalion will be composed of 100 soldiers from each side,
with alternating command. FS

ROMANIANS WANT TRUTH ON 1989 REVOLUTION. Some 55
percent of 1,117 people questioned in an EU-sponsored
survey said they want to know the truth about the
Romanian revolution. Survey results were published on 19
December, eight years after the popular revolt against then-
dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. FS

FORMER KING VISITS ROMANIA. Michael of Hohenzollern
arrived in Bucharest on 19 December with his wife, Queen
Anne of Bourbon-Parma, and two of their daughters. He will
spend his first Christmas in Romania since 1947. Former
Queen Anne said the family intends to visit several hospitals
and orphanages and meet with President Emil
Constantinescu. Constantinescu had declared himself a
monarchist after the fall of Ceausescu but since has changed
his position. On 30 December monarchists are planning to
commemorate the 50th anniversary of Michael's forced
abdication and departure from Romania. Polls indicate about
one in ten Romanians favor a monarchy. FS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT DECREES PRIVATIZATION
LAW. The Romanian government decreed a new privatization
law on 21 December. It regulates the duties of a newly created
Privatization Ministry. The ministry has begun to administer
the Fund of State Property, which was previously controlled
by the Reform Ministry. Parliament must approve or reject the
law during its next session, probably in February. The IMF had
demanded the privatization of 3,000 state owned firms as a
precondition for a 400-million-dollar loan. The IMF suspended
loans in 1996, saying that the last government had failed to
implement necessary reforms. FS

HEPATITIS BREAKS OUT IN CONSTANTA. Local health
authorities said on 19 December that the hospital in the
Ro,anian port city of Constanta hospital has diagnosed some
108 cases of hepatitis-a, including 20 cases involving children,
since the beginning of the month. PM

BULGARIAN POLICE RAID DRUGS PLANT. The National
Service for the Fight against Organized Crime uncovered on 18
December an illicit plant producing amphetamines on an
industrial scale. The special unit found the plant located in
three aircraft hangars in the village of Opitsvet, 10 miles west
of Sofia. Investigators seized large quantities of the drug,
which inspectors said were probably intended for sale abroad.
FS

ENDNOTE

CROATIAN LAWS LEAD TO INTERNATIONAL ROW OVER
MINORITIES

by Patrick Moore

        The Croatian constitution no longer names Slovenes and
Muslims as recognized ethnic minorities. The reason for the
change and its practical consequences for the two minorities is
unclear. What is certain, however, is that Zagreb's sudden
move has already provoked strong negative reactions in both
Ljubljana and Sarajevo.
        On 3 November, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman
proposed a series of amendments to the constitution.
International media attention focused on an amendment to
prohibit Croatian participation in any future Balkan regional
grouping or new Yugoslavia, but he made other proposals as
well.
        One of those proposals was to drop references to any
specific ethnic minorities from the constitution, which dates
from December 1990. That text referred to "Serbs, Muslims,
Slovenes, Czechs, Slovaks, Italians, Hungarians, Jews, and
others." Tudjman's proposal would have left references
minorities in general terms. But when the parliament passed
the amendments on December 12, it listed the minorities as:
"Serbs, Czechs, Slovaks, Italians, Hungarians, Jews, Germans,
Austrians, Ukrainians, and Ruthenes."
        It remains unclear why the parliament decided to
change Tudjman's proposal and why it chose to list the
particular ethnic groups that it did. After all, official figures
show that Muslims and Slovenes are the second and third
largest minorities, after the Serbs. Croatia has some 23,000
Slovenes, while the numbers of Austrians or Germans number
in the hundreds.
        It is also unclear as to what the practical consequences
of the changes might be in terms of the day- to-day life of
average Slovenes and Muslims. Croatian government officials
downplayed the significance of the list in the constitution and
stressed that the document and international agreements
signed by Croatia protect the rights of all ethnic groups in the
country, regardless of whether they are mentioned by name.
Zagreb even offered to sign a special treaty on minorities with
Ljubljana.
        But the omission of their ethnic groups and the inclusion
of some relatively tiny communities has nonetheless aroused
Slovenian and Muslim suspicions about Croatian intentions.
Part of the reason for this is the constitutional heritage of
Tito's Yugoslavia, where the legal status of each ethnic
community was taken very seriously. Before the breakup of
that state in 1991, federal law clearly set down a pecking
order among the numerous ethnic communities,. They were
divided into three categories in order of political importance:
nations, nationalities, and ethnic groups. If a group was moved
from one of these three categories to another, it was an event
of major political significance.
        Being used to this political tradition, the Slovenes and
Muslims could hardly be indifferent to the changes in the
Croatian constitution. The Slovenes were the first to register
their surprise and disapproval. On the day the Croatian
parliament approved the amendments, Slovenian Prime
Minister Janez Drnovsek was in Zagreb with a high-powered
delegation to sign a series of economic agreements. One of
them was designed to help pave the way for Croatia to join the
Central European Free Trade Association (CEFTA), of which
Slovenia is already a member.
        Slovenia has had much more success than Croatia in
becoming integrated in European structures and was prepared
to help Croatia join CEFTA, but now this is in doubt. On the day
that the Croats passed the constitutional amendments,
Slovenian Deputy Prime Minister Marjan Podobnik in
Ljubljana called the exclusion of the Slovenian minority
"unexpected and disturbing." Podobnik said that Zagreb's move
will prompt Ljubljana to reconsider its support for Croatian
membership in European bodies.
        Upon returning home, Drnovsek echoed those
sentiments. Slovenian press commentators called the Croatian
move "Balkan," which in Slovenia is an epithet used against
the country's former fellow Yugoslav republics. And the
National Party's Zmago Jelincic suggested that Slovenia
downgrade the legal status of two of its border crossings with
Croatia so as to bar them to international traffic and thereby
hurt Croatia's tourist industry.
        Should Slovenia take any concrete steps to show its
displeasure with the Croatian amendments, its actions would
further complicate a relationship that is already burdened by
a series of disputes stemming  from the breakup of Yugoslavia.
The points of contention involve bank deposits, property
rights, the Krsko nuclear power plant, and access to the sea.
        In Sarajevo, surprise and bitterness were likewise the
universal reactions to the Croatian amendments. Alija
Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of the joint presidency, said
that Croatia's move is at odds with the Dayton peace
agreement on Bosnia and with a host of European agreements
on minority rights that Croatia has signed.
         A spokesman for the non-nationalist Social Democrats,
told RFE/RL that the Croatian move "was no accident." He
charged that it was an attempt by Croatian nationalists to
deny that the Muslims are a distinct people separate from the
Croats. He also claimed that the Croats' goal is to undermine
the Muslim-Croatian federation in Bosnia-Herzegovina as a
state of two equal partners.
        Clearly, the Croatian amendments have already further
strained Zagreb's uneasy relations with Ljubljana and
Sarajevo. On 18 December, both the Slovenian and Bosnian
ambassadors stayed away from the official festivities in
Zagreb to honor the anniversary of the constitution.

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