|Forty is the old age of youth; fifty, the youth of old age. - Victor Hugo|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 185, Part II, 23 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 * New Czech Premier Does Not Count on Klaus * Clinton Puts Pressure on Bosnian Leaders * Milosevic Declares Milutinovic Serbian President xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE ESTONIAN RUSSIANS SAY MOSCOW DISCRIMINATES AGAINST THEM. Nikolai Maspanov, the leader of the Russian Party in Estonia, told BNS 22 December, that he believed Moscow is discriminating against all residents in Estonia -- including ethnic Russians -- by imposing a double customs barrier on Estonian exports. Maspanov said that he would tell visiting Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeyev that "it is time to free" Estonia and Estonia's Russians from such discrimination. PG MERI: ESTONIA MOVING TOWARD LAW-GOVERNED STATE. In an interview published in Luup magazine, BNS reported 22 December, Estonian President Lennart Meri says that Estonia is moving toward becoming a law-governed state but is not there yet. He said that the country's future depended on the extent to which the constitution was observed in all its details. PG ESTONIA CONCERNED ABOUT BORDER WITH LATVIA. Estonian interior minister Robert Lepikson told BNS 22 December that the lack of tight control over Estonia's southern border with Latvia was limiting its ability to abolish visa requirements with the Schengen countries. He said: "We can apparently be satisfied with our eastern border, but we can certainly not be content with our southern border." Lepikson indicated that the Estonian government currently lacks the 50 million kroons ($4 million dollars) needed to bring the the Estonian-Latvian border up to international standards. PG MANEUVERING BEGINS IN ADVANCE OF SECOND LITHUANIAN VOTE. Immediately after the Election Commission announced the results of the first round of voting for a new president, Lithuanian politicians began to maneuver to support or block one of the two remaining candidates. In the first round, Arturas Paulauskas won 45.35 percent of the vote while Valdas Adamkus won 27.89 percent. Conservative party leader Vytautas Landsbergis, who finished third with 15.85 percent of the vote, on 22 December threw his support behind Adamkus, as did several other parties. As a result, some polls suggested that Adamkus might overtake Paulauskas in the second round, but Paulauskas remained confident in his public statements that he would win on 4 January. He even suggested that he might name a new prime minister sometime after that date. PG LUKASHENKA TO RUN FOR REELECTION AS BELARUS PRESIDENT. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told Interfax 22 December that Minsk would conduct elections "exactly on time" as defined by the constitution adopted in November 1996 -- the year 2001 for the presidential vote and the year 2000 for the parliamentary tally. And he added that he would be a candidate for reelection. Lukashenka also said that at present he has no intention of dissolving the parliament, arguing that it has been working efficiently. And he added that the opposition in Belarus was now "scared to death of elections" because it enjoyed so little popular support. PG UKRAINE, CHINA SEEK TO BOOST TRADE. Ukrainian Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko and Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng on 22 December signed a series of agreements and declarations anticipating the expansion of trade between the two countries, Interfax-Ukraine reported. The Ukrainian leader stressed that he wanted to diversify his country's trading partners, while the Chinese leader for his part praised Kyiv for not establishing ties with Taiwan, Xinhua reported. The two sides agreed among other things to establish joint enterprises in the machine building and fertilizer sectors. PG UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT MOVES ON MANY FRONTS. The Verkhovna Rada announced 22 December that later this week it would discuss how to respond to the Council of Europe's insistence on prohibiting the death penalty, ITAR- TASS reported. It said, too, that it would consider ratifying the Russian-Ukrainian treaty. The parliament is also considering a possible no confidence vote on the current government, parliament Chairman Aleksandr Moroz said. He indicated that the Verkhovna Rada will not reconsider a 1989 law defining Ukrainian as the country's state language. PG POLISH PRESIDENT AND GOVERNMENT TO STREAMLINE FOREIGN POLICY. President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek on 22 December in Warsaw pledged to coordinate their foreign policy. The move comes ahead of EU entry talks, due to start in spring 1998. Even though the reform-communist Kwasniewski and the right-wing coalition government agree in principle on EU and NATO membership, both sides expressed concerns that they might clash over issues of shared responsibility during the negotiations. Kwasniewski and Geremek proposed to put the government's European Integration Committee under joint control of Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek and the Foreign Ministry. The government and president face four years of cohabitation. Meanwhile, they agreed to replace a controversial ambassador to Belarus. FS POLISH UNEMPLOYMENT STABLE AT 10 PERCENT. The Central Statistical Office said on 22 December that just over 1.8 million Poles were unemployed at the end of November. Unemployment thus was the same at 10.3 percent as in October. The office said that unemployment may rise, since about 700 enterprises are expected to fire a total of 11,000 employees. Another 19,000 are expected to lose jobs in the public sector in 1998. FS NEW CZECH PREMIER DOES NOT COUNT ON KLAUS. Josef Tosovsky on 22 December said he was not counting on the participation of his predecessor Vaclav Klaus in the new government, "Mlada Fronta Dnes" reported. He received Jan Cerny, head of the parliamentary club of Klaus' Civic Democratic Party (ODS), for negotiations. Tosovsky said he would not announce the new government until the new year. Others participating in the negotiations were outgoing finance, foreign and trade ministers Ivan Pilip, Jaroslav Sedivy and Karel Kuhnl as well as Deputy Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and the head of the State Auditing Board Lubomir Volenik. Pilip, former ODS vice-chairman and a Klaus critic, said he would take his old job if the ODS supported him. FS CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS INSIST ON NEW ELECTIONS. The Social Democratic Party (CSSD) insisted on 22 December that new elections take place in June 1998. Party leader Milos Zeman said that the new interior minister, who will be in charge of organizing new elections, should not be a representative of a political party, "Lidove noviny" reported. Tosovsky is likely to need CSSD backing to achieve majority support in parliament after refusing to cooperate with Klaus. FS DEPOSITORS FEARING BANKRUPTCY RUN ON SLOVAK BANK. Thousands of depositors have taken their money out of Slovakia's Investment and Development Bank (IRB) since 20 December fearing the bank's imminent collapse. The run started after Central Bank Governor Vladimir Masar announced on 19 December that he put IRB under the Central Banks direct administration after discovering a deficit of about $12 million. Officials are still trying to determine the actual size of losses that Slovakia's third largest bank suffered after taking over a steel mill in Kosice earlier the year. Masar ordered IRB to keep its branches open throughout Slovakia and pledged to make sure the bank could pay small investors. FS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CLINTON PUTS PRESSURE ON BOSNIAN LEADERS... U.S. President Bill Clinton stressed in his individual meetings with the three members of the joint presidency in Sarajevo on 22 December that they must do more to implement the Dayton agreement and rebuild their country (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 22 December 1997). He made similar points before a larger audience made up of Bosnia's political and cultural elite. Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the joint presidency, met Clinton privately in the morning but boycotted the larger session. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic told Clinton that building peace will take time. She stressed that prosperity is the key to peace. PM ...AND VISITS TROOPS. Clinton went on to Tuzla on 22 December and addressed some of the 8,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in Bosnia. The president, who recently announced that the U.S. will maintain a military presence in Bosnia after SFOR's mandate expires in June, said: "In spite of all you have done, I think it is imperative that we not stop until the peace here has a life of its own, until it can endure without us. We have worked too hard to let this go." (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December 1997). Clinton, who was accompanied by former Republican presidential candidate, former Senator Bob Dole, thanked Congress for supporting his policies in Bosnia. PM GERMANY'S KOHL STRESSES PEACEKEEPING. Bosnian joint presidency Chairman Alija Izetbegovic and Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic met Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Defense Minister Volker Ruehe when the German visitors arrived at Sarajevo airport on 23 December. Kohl and Ruehe plan to meet with each of the three members of the joint presidency, as well as with Bosnian political and religious leaders. The main purpose of his trip, however, is to talk for several hours with some of the 2,700 German peacekeepers stationed around Sarajevo. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote that Kohl wants to use his last trip abroad of 1997 to underscore the German army's role in international peacekeeping. PM CANADA TO HELP WAR CRIMES WITNESSES. A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said in Ottawa on 22 December that Canada is negotiating with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal about enabling witnesses to emigrate to Canada under special, favorable conditions. The program is designed to encourage witnesses to speak out by offering them a new home away from possible threats of retaliation in the former Yugoslavia, the Vienna daily "Die Presse" reported. PM MILOSEVIC DECLARES MILUTINOVIC SERBIAN PRESIDENT... Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic announced in Belgrade on 22 December that his own candidate, Milan Milutinovic, won the Serbian presidential election the previous day, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 1997). Serbian Election Commission officials said that Milutinovic took 58.66 percent of the vote, as against 38.14 percent for his challenger, Vojislav Seselj of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS). The commission also stated that 50.53 percent of registered voters turned out to cast their ballots, thereby making the vote valid. PM ...WHILE SESELJ CLAIMS FRAUD. Dragan Todorovic, the SRS campaign chairman, said in Belgrade on 22 December that the real turnout had been only 49.33 percent, which would make the vote invalid. He said that the SRS will demand that the government set up a special commission to investigate possible election fraud. Todorovic charged that there were widespread irregularities at some polling stations in Kosovo, where the ethnic Albanian majority boycotted the elections. Spokesmen for Serbian opposition leader Zoran Djindjic told the Vienna daily "Die Presse" of 23 December that Djindjic and his supporters feared electoral fraud all along and hence boycotted the campaign and the vote. PM OSCE SLAMS SERBIAN VOTE... Representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in Belgrade on 22 December that Serbian authorities had failed to implement OSCE recommendations for improving the electoral process. The OSCE officials noted that some polling stations in Kosovo that did not open eventually reported a voter turnout of 100 percent. PM ...BUT ALBANIA, RUSSIA PRAISE IT. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said on state-run television in Tirana on 22 December that Milutinovic's election shows that Serbia has distanced itself from its "warmongering policies of the past," Belgrade's BETA news agency reported. Milo added that regional stability will depend on Serbia's respecting "the legitimate rights of the Kosovars" and observing agreements it has concluded regarding Kosovo. Milo said that Milutinovic's election shows that Serbia is "serious" about meeting its obligations. And in Moscow, the Russian news agency Interfax reported that an unnamed Foreign Ministry source hailed Milutinovic's election as a victory for a "sober- minded approach to the difficult problems the republic faces." The source added that a Radical victory "could have had the most unpredictable consequences both for Serbia itself and for the region as a whole." PM MORE BOMBS IN VUKOVAR. A Serbian Orthodox church building was slightly damaged and a UN policeman wounded in separate hand grenade attacks in Vukovar on 22 December. Croatian police said they are holding seven people in connection with the attacks, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. The grenade attacks are the latest in a series of incidents in the runup to 15 January, when eastern Slavonia returns to full Croatian sovereignty. The last Serb- held enclave in Croatia is currently under a temporary UN administration, although elements of Croatian rule have been gradually reintroduced under the terms of the 1995 Erdut agreement between Serbia and Croatia. PM CROATIAN MEDIA TRIAL ADJOURNED. A Zagreb judge on 22 December adjourned a trial of two independent journalists charged with slandering President Franjo Tudjman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 1997). The judge said that he needs more historical background information to decide whether the journalists' comparison of certain of Tudjman's policies to those of the late Spanish dictator Gen. Francisco Franco was indeed slanderous. PM ALBANIAN JUDGES STAGE HUNGER STRIKE. Twelve Albanian judges, who were trained in six months courses in 1993 staged a hunger strike in Tirana's district court on 22 December. Police broke up the protest. They were protesting against a law that requires judges and prosecutors to hold university degrees. The law would disqualify over 400 prosecutors and judges who went through the controversial courses. Justice Minister Thimio Kondi told VOA's Albanian service on 23 December that the strike was illegal and the protests politically motivated. Most of the students of the courses were hand selected by the then governing Democratic Party. Former President Sali Berisha, meanwhile, accused the government of "attacking the independence of the courts." FS ALBANIAN COMMUNIST-ERA PRESIDENT RETURNS HOME. Ramiz Alia, Albania's last communist president returned to Tirana on 22 December, border officials at the airport told "Koha Jone." The 72 year old Alia fled from jail in March, during a popular revolt in which prisons were opened. He took refuge to France and Sweden. Alia, two former interior ministers and a chief prosecutor were acquitted in October of killing 58 people who tried to flee the country between 1990 and 1992. The Supreme Court earlier ruled that 32 other communists officials could not be sentenced for acts that were not considered a crime at the time. FS ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS BOYCOTT CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION. The Democratic Party refused to participate in a meeting of a parliament commission that is preparing a constitution, ATSH reported. All political parties were invited to the meeting on 22 December in Tirana. The Council of Europe had urged the Democrats to participate in the drafting process in order to achieve a broad political consensus over the new constitution. FS ROMANIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS BOYCOTT PARLIAMENT'S SESSION. Ex-president Ion Iliescu's Social Democratic Party (PDSR), boycotted a special parliamentary session on 22 December, commemorating the Romanian revolution. Iliescu argued with prosecutors' plans to question him over his role during the 1989 uprising which brought his party to power. Prosecutors are also investigating post-communist defense and interior ministers Victor Stanculescu and Mihai Chitac over their role as army generals in the shooting of 72 demonstrators in Timisoara. More than 1,000 people were killed throughout the country during the revolt. Iliescu's successor, Emil Constantinescu, pledged to reveal the truth about the role of the communist secret service in the events. FS ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR RESIGNATION OF FOREIGN MINISTER. Emil Constantinescu on 22 December said that Foreign Minister Adrian Severin should resign. He made the remarks after two intelligence agencies reported to the Supreme Defense Council that they found no evidence supporting allegations by Severin that several party leaders and newspaper editors were foreign agents. Severin's allegations had sparked rows within the government coalition three months ago. At the time Constantinescu tried to defuse the conflict by ordering an investigation into the matter. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea also said that he would ask the foreign minister to resign should his allegations prove false. FS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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