|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 186, Part II, 29 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 Note to readers: "RFE/RL Newsline" will not appear on 31 December or 1 January, which are public holidays in the Czech Republic, or on 2 January. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * KLAUS, TOSOVSKY CLASH OVER NEW CZECH GOVERNMENT * HARDLINERS HAMSTRING BOSNIAN SERB PARLIAMENT... * ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER RESIGNS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE FORMER UKRAINIAN PREMIER FACES EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGES. Ukrainian prosecutors announced on 24 December that they plan to charge former Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko with embezzling some $ 2.5 million and spending it on his dacha, ITAR-TASS reported. Lazarenko, who was prime minister from May 1996 to July 1997, is the leader of the Hromada Party, one of the largest opposition parties in Ukraine. PG UKRAINE PRESIDENT RESPONDS TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE. In a letter to the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said that he and his government have done all they could to end the death penalty in Ukraine as they had promised, but that the country's parliament had refused to act, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 December. PACE has said that it will suspend Ukraine's participation in that body unless it abolishes the death penalty, something the Verkhovna Rada has refused to do. PG LONG BALLOT MAY DELAY UKRAINE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. Central Election Commission chief Mykaylo Ryabets told Ukrainian television on 24 December that Kyiv might have to delay parliamentary elections scheduled for March, 1998, because the country lacks the physical capacity to print what would be three-meter-long ballots. The ballots are so lengthy because the parliament has required a large amount of personal data to be listed under each name. PG ORT JOURNALIST REFUSES TO TESTIFY AT BELARUS TRIAL. When the Belarus court resumed his trial on 23 December, ORT journalist Pavel Sheremet announced he would not give testimony at a trial he and many others have assumed is rigged, ITAR-TASS reported. Sheremet and his cameraman Dmitriy Zavadskiy are formally accused of illegally crossing the Belarus-Lithuania border; Sheremet and many observers assume he was charged because of his critical reporting on Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. PG LITHUANIA CLEARS WAY FOR LILEIKAS TRIAL. By a 64 to 0 vote, the Lithuanian parliament on 23 December amended the country's criminal code to allow prosecutors to try those accused of genocide regardless of the condition of their health, BNS reported. This action opens the way for the trial of Alesandras Lileikas, 90, who is accused of participating in Nazi atrocities but whose trial has been put off in the past because of his declining health. PG OFFICIAL RESULTS OF LITHUANIAN PRESIDENTIAL VOTE. The Lithuanian Central Election commission on 27 December released official results for the 21 December presidential vote. Some 71.77 percent of eligible voters took part. Arturas Paulauskas received 44.73 percent; Valdas Adamkus drew 27.56 percent; and Vytautas Landsbergis got 15.73 percent. Because none of the candidates received a majority, the top two -- Paulauskas and Adamkus -- will face each other in a runoff on 4 January. The second round of the campaign is to last from 27 December to 2 January. PG LATVIAN ECONOMIC GROWTH CONTINUES TO EXPAND. Arvils Sautins, the head of the Central Statistical Department, told BNS on 22 December that a strong fourth quarter meant that the Latvian economy should record six percent growth for 1997, up from 2.8 percent in 1996. PG CHERNOMYRDIN HOPES ESTONIAN-RUSSIAN BORDER TREATY NEAR. In a letter delivered to Estonian Prime Minister Mart Siimann on 23 December, his Russian counterpart Viktor Chernomyrdin expressed the hope that a border agreement between the two countries might be signed soon, BNS reported. But as Siimann noted at a press conference, Chernomyrdin did not indicate when that might happen. Moreover, the Russian leader said nothing about ratification, without which the agreement would lack legal force. PG POLISH PRESIDENT VETOES PENSION BILL... Aleksander Kwasniewski on 23 December vetoed a bill curbing faster pension growth for the military and other public sector services and bringing it in line with the overall population. The average military pension is now more than twice the national average. The law was designed to cut public spending by $110.7 million in 1998. Kwasniewski argued that the government had failed to consult those affected by the law and that it appears unconnected with an upcoming reform of the social security system. The government intends to reduce the budget deficit to 1.5 percent of GDP in 1998 from this year's expected 1.8 percent. FS ... AND REMOVAL OF SEX EDUCATION... Kwasniewski on 26 December sent back to parliament for review another amendment that would remove compulsory sex education from school curricula. The amendment was passed by parliament on 11 December. Kwasniewski's top advisor, Danuta Huebner, said that "the president cannot agree to this because Polish youths would thus be deprived of their basic rights ... to information on their own development and ... to knowledge about various aspects of health." The center-right government of Jerzy Buzek is short of a three-fifths majority to overrule Kwasniewski's veto. FS ...BUT RESTRICTIVE ABORTION LEGISLATION RETURNS TO FORCE. A restrictive abortion law from 1993 returned to force on 23 December, six months after the constitutional court declared a more liberal law invalid. In 1996 parliament had liberalized the law that allowed abortion only if giving birth would endanger the woman's health, the fetus is irreparably damaged or the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. The more liberal rules allowed women to seek abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy for financial or emotional reasons. Kwasniewski has campaigned for abortion freedoms but said that another initiative to liberalize the law would have to come from Parliament. FS KLAUS, TOSOVSKY CLASH OVER NEW CZECH GOVERNMENT. Outgoing Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus accused his successor Josef Tosofsky on 23 December of snubbing him by holding coalition talks with rivals in his own Civic Democratic Party (ODS). The previous day Tosovsky had started coalition negotiations with ODS member and Klaus' critic Ivan Pilip and other former coalition allies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 December 1997). Klaus said on 27 December that Pilip is not on a list of 20 ODS candidates for ministerial positions. He also characterized as "scandalous" suggestions by Civic Democratic Alliance chairman Jiri Skalicky, who had said that Pilip's parliamentary grouping of the ODS was a better partner for coalition negotiations than the party's executive. FS POLICE CATCH 21 ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS AT HUNGARIAN-SLOVAK BORDER. Hungarian Border guards arrested 21 federal Yugoslav citizens near the border to Slovakia on 27 December. The migrants were waiting for frontier runners to guide them when police discovered them. The immigrants told police that they had paid $ 300 each to get smuggled all the way into Germany. FS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE HARDLINERS HAMSTRING BOSNIAN SERB PARLIAMENT... Legislators representing Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) and its ally, Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party (SRS), prevented the opening session of the new Bosnian Serb parliament from doing anything more than confirming the legislators' mandates. At the session that met in Bijeljina on 27 December, Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic wanted legislators to elect Mladen Ivanic prime minister. She also wanted parliament's top offices to be divided among the main Serbian parties. The hard-liners, however, demanded all key positions for themselves. The next session is slated for 12 January. PM ...AS MUSLIMS AND NON-NATIONALISTS WALK OUT. The deadlock is likely to continue at the January session because none of the main factions has a clear majority. The SDS and SRS together hold 39 seats, which is three short of a majority in the 83-seat body. Plavsic's Serbian People's League (SNS) has 15 seats, and her potential allies among Serbian parties control 11. A further 18 seats are held by Muslims, Croats, and other deputies from the mainly Muslim-Croat federation, who were elected by refugees. An RFE/RL correspondent reported from Bijeljina on 27 December that the deputies from the federation walked out before the end of the session. PM PLAVSIC CALLS FOR PROSPERITY. President Plavsic told parliament in Bijeljina on 27 December that it must develop a program to combat the Republika Srpska's main problems, which she identified as unemployment, poverty, and difficulties in making ends meet. Plavsic also stressed that representatives of the Republika Srpska will take part in joint Bosnian institutions as equal participants. She called the Republika Srpska "a state of the Serb people," but added that "there is room in it for all others who are ready to accept our values and defend it as we do." PM SERBS WARNED AGAINST BECOMING "NORTH KOREA." Hanns-Heinrich Schumacher, a deputy to High Representative Carlos Westendorp, told the Bosnian Serb parliament in Bijeljina on 27 December that the Republika Srpska risks becoming the "North Korea of Europe, where a corrupt few enjoy their lives to the detriment of the whole society and lock their territory to the outside world." He called on deputies to open transportation links to the rest of Bosnia, to take part in joint institutions, to allow refugees to return home, and to help in the work of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. PM IZETBEGOVIC PRAISES "TOLERANT ISLAM." Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of the Bosnian joint presidency, said in Sarajevo on 26 December that his Party of Democratic Action (SDA) contains some extremists but that it is basically a bastion of what he called "tolerant Islam" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 1997). He argued that the SDA fights all forms of extremism, whether it be that of Serbs, Croats, or Muslims. Izetbegovic stated that the poor state of Croatian-Bosnian relations is due to the Croatian leadership's lack of respect for Bosnian sovereignty. He suggested that the Croatian leadership might not have given up on its earlier plans to join the Serbian leadership in a partition of Bosnia. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, for his part, recently told Italian media that he continues to believe that Islam presents a threat to Europe. PM BOSNIA HUNTS ARAB TERRORISTS. Bosnian Interior Minister Mehmed Zilic told Croatian TV on 26 December that his police have arrested two Arabs and are looking for a third in connection with a bomb blast in Mostar in September that injured 50. Zilic added that "the method by which the terrorist attack was carried out led us to believe that we were dealing with professional terrorists from Islamic countries." Croatian officials and journalists have long blamed what they call Islamic extremists for continued tensions between Croats and Muslims, who are nominal allies. PM DOCUMENTS ON ARKAN STOLEN. Swedish police are investigating the recent theft of documents about war crimes committed by Serbian paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan, "Nasa Borba" reported on 27 December. The documents were allegedly stolen from the car of a Swedish diplomat working at the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, who was en route from Stockholm to The Hague. Swedish police protested to the court about what they called the "unprofessional conduct" of the driver. The police said that they fear that the anonymity of some witnesses mentioned in the documents might be compromised. PM NEW SERBIAN PRESIDENT TAKES OFFICE. Milan Milutinovic, a supporter of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, took the oath of office as president of Serbia in Belgrade on 29 December. The previous day, legislators belonging to Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party announced that they will boycott parliament if it does not set up a commission to investigate the 21 December election, in which Milutinovic defeated Seselj. PM VOJVODINA COALITION DEMANDS AUTONOMY. Representatives of eight political parties and other organizations agreed in Novi Sad on 27 December to form the Vojvodina movement, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from that city. Their goal is to restore the province's autonomy, which was abolished in 1988 following street demonstrations organized by Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. PM KOSOVO ALBANIANS CALL FOR PROTEST. Student representatives in Pristina urged Kosovars on 27 December to stage a peaceful protest on 30 December to demand the reopening of the Albanian-language section of Pristina University. Several thousand Kosovars held peaceful marches in several cities and towns on 24 and 25 December on behalf of the university, but student leaders suspended the demonstrations following what they called attacks and provocations by the Serbian police. Serbian media reported on 25 December that unknown assailants shot at a police car near Podujevo and tossed grenades at a police building in that same town, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina. PM BOMB BLAST IN WESTERN MACEDONIA. An explosion damaged at least four cars and surrounding buildings in Tetovo on 24 December. Another explosion one week earlier had damaged a court building in Gostivar. Both cities have a majority Albanian population. Police have arrested two suspects with Macedonian names in connection with the Tetovo blast, according to Reuters. There were no casualties in the explosions and nobody claimed responsibility for the attack. FS US DEFENSE SECRETARY DISCUSSES MACEDONIA'S FUTURE AFTER UNPREDEP. William Cohen said that he discussed with President Kiro Gligorov "ways which would be helpful for tracking some sort of security arrangements" after the mandate of the United Nation Preventive Deployment Force in Macedonia (UNPREDEP) runs out in August 1998. Cohen met with Gligorov in Skopje on 24 December during a Christmas visit to the 300 US troops in the 700 strong peacekeeping contingent. He pointed out that the US was "looking for creative ways in which we can be helpful," after the withdrawal. Macedonian Defense Minister Lazar Kitanovski said that both sides discussed setting up a joint training center, MIC reported. FS ALBANIAN BISHOP ENDS JUDGES' HUNGER STRIKE. Roman Catholic Archbishop Rrok Mirdita persuaded 22 Albanian judges on 26 December to give up their hunger strike (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 December 1997). They had moved their protest against possible dismissals to the Heart of Christ Church during a Christmas mass on 23 December. The previous day police had evicted them from the Tirana court building. Mirdita promised to arrange a meeting with President Rexhep Meidani. The judges protest against a law requiring a university law degree as a precondition for employment, which they say favors communist-era degrees. Up to 400 judges and prosecutors trained in six months courses in 1993 may be disqualified by the law. Meanwhile, the High Council of Justice dismissed one judge and took disciplinary measures against two others on 26 December in connection with the protests. FS EU SENDS EMERGENCY AID TO FLOODED ALBANIAN REGIONS. The EU has given 10 tons of emergency food aid to 7,500 people affected by floods in northern Albania. It also is preparing to ship additional food, blankets, winter clothing and shelter materials. The heaviest rains since 1985 have inundated about 8,000 hectars of land around Lezha, much of which lies below sea level (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 1997). FS ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER RESIGNS. Foreign Minister Adrian Severin announced his resignation on 23 December after an investigation failed to substantiate his allegations that local politicians and journalists were working as spies for foreign governments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 December 1997). The following day President Emil Constantinescu said he would swear in Andrei Plesu as Severin's successor on 29 December, after consultations with the government coalition. He did not comment on Severin's move. Plesu, 49, was a leading anti-communist dissident and the first post-communist culture minister. FS ROMANIAN POLICE BEAT NUNS AT CHRISTMAS MASS. Plain-clothes policemen kicked and punched Orthodox nuns in the face at a Christmas mass on 25 December in Bucharest. The nuns had disrupted the service by shouting slogans criticizing Patriarch Teoctist for collaborating with the regime of communist-era dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. They were then violently evicted and assaulted outside the cathedral. Many inside and outside the clergy have called for the patriarch's resignation for "passively" standing by while Ceausescu demolished 90 churches between 1978 and 1989. Teoctist is also controversial for planning to build a $150 million super- cathedral in Bucharest rather than spending the money to rebuild the destroyed churches. Meanwhile, former King Michael, who was present during the service with his family, said he would permanently move to Romania from his Swiss exile. FS BULGARIA'S PRESIDENT GIVES FIRST CHRISTMAS MESSAGE. Petar Stoyanov on 25 December praised what he called the effort of all Bulgarians to cope in difficult times. Speaking to young people, he added that he is "sure that young Bulgarians will be playing a decisive role tomorrow, not only in the fate of their own country but also in that of a united Europe." Stoyanov, who is a practicing Christian, urged "all non-Christian Bulgarians luck, joy and happy days." His predecessor, Zhelyu Zhelev, is an atheist who delivered his main address at New Year's. PM xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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