|The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it. - Franklin P. Jones|
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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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