|The burnt child shuns the fire until the next day. - Mark Twain|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 189, Part II, 6 January 1998
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 * UKRAINE'S KUCHMA ORDERS GOVERNMENT TO CUT SPENDING * PLAVSIC STANDS BY PRIME MINISTER * KOSOVO STUDENTS URGE PEACEFUL SOLUTION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE'S KUCHMA ORDERS GOVERNMENT TO CUT SPENDING. President Leonid Kuchma has told the cabinet that it must cut spending rather than seek new revenues in order to lower the budget deficit in 1998 and thus reduce the need for foreign borrowing, Interfax reported on 5 January, quoting Kuchma's adviser Anatoliy Galchinskiy. In the past, Kyiv has stressed improving tax collection, rather than cutting expenditures, as the best way to reduce the budget deficit. PG UKRAINE INSISTS BRITAIN YIELD EMBASSY BUILDING. The Ukrainian government is insisting that the United Kingdom give up an embassy building in Kyiv because of concerns that embassy officials may overhear conversations of President Kuchma, who lives next door, the newspaper "Vseukrayinskiye vedomosti" reported on 5 January. Questions of compensation have not yet been resolved, the newspaper said. PG BELARUSIAN COURT AGAIN POSTPONES ORT JOURNALISTS' TRIAL. A Belarusian court on 5 January again postponed the trial of Russian Public Television journalist Pavel Sheremet and his cameraman Dmitriy Zavadskiy, RFE/RL's Belarusian service reported. The reason for this further delay is that Zavadskiy's lawyer is ill, The trial is now scheduled to begin on 8 January. The two men are charged with illegally crossing the Belarusian-Lithuanian border. Their case has strained relations between Minsk and Moscow. PG ESTONIA'S COALITION PARTY TO GO IT ALONE IN NEXT ELECTIONS? Prime Minister and Coalition Party Chairman Mart Siimann has said that his party and one of its coalition partners, the Country's People's Party, are prepared to run separately in the next elections, BNS reported on 5 January. At the same time, Siimann did not rule out an electoral alliance between the Coalition Party and its present partners, since, he stressed, cooperation between those groups has "passed the test of time." In a December poll, the Country People's Party won the most support (12 percent), while the Coalition Party gained 7 percent backing. JC LITHUANIA'S PAULAUSKAS WANTS BALLOT RECOUNT. Arturas Paulauskas, who was defeated in the run-off of the presidential elections, has said he wants a recount of ballots in a number of constituencies. Paulauskas lost by less than one percentage point (or some 11,000 votes) to the Lithuanian-American Valdas Adamkus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1998). Paulauskas told a news conference in Vilnius on 5 January that because the outcome was so close, ballots must be carefully recounted. He also noted that violations of the election law were reported in Kaunas and some western districts, according to BNS. JC POLITICAL UNCERTAINTY CAUSES CZECH CROWN TO FALL. The Czech crown dropped from 19.37 to 19.51 against the German mark on 5 January , following former Premier Vaclav Klaus' statement that his party will not support Josef Tosovsky's cabinet unless four rebel members of his Civic Democratic Party (ODS) quit their government posts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1998). Quoting local currency dealers, Reuters reported that the crown is likely to remain volatile at least until the parliament confirms the new cabinet. In related news, minister without portfolio and government spokesman Vladimir Mlynar has said the cabinet wants to face a parliamentary vote of confidence only after legislators meet to elect the country's president on 20 January. MS CZECH 'REBEL' MINISTERS REFUSE TO EXPLAIN PARTICIPATION IN GOVERNMENT. The ODS Executive Council on 5 December demanded that Finance Minister Ivan Pilip, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Stanislav Volak, and Defense Minister Michal Lobkowicz leave a council meeting at which their participation in the government was to be discussed, Reuters reported. The council had demanded that the three ministers explain their acceptance of portfolios in Tosovsky's cabinet, but the ministers refused to do and walked out. Regional Development Minister Jan Cerny was allowed to attend the council meeting in his capacity as chairman of the ODS parliamentary faction. Asked whether he would quit the ODS, Pilip said he is still considering his options. MS HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS CALL FOR OPPOSITION UNITY. In a 5 January statement signed by party chairman Jozsef Torgyan, the Independent Smallholders called for setting up a "united front of nationalist parties" in the second round of the spring 1998 elections, Hungarian media reported. The party proposes that opposition candidates who fare worst in the first round step down in favor of those who do better. It also urges that "nationally minded forces" unite to remove the "liberal-bolshevik" government from power. Democratic Forum spokesman Karoly Herenyi welcomed the initiative, saying the cohesion of opposition forces in the second round is a "rational idea." Young Democrat national board chairman Attila Varhegyi said his party also wants the removal of the current coalition. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE PLAVSIC STANDS BY PRIME MINISTER. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic expressed her full confidence in Mladen Ivanic, her prime minister-designate, following their meeting in Banja Luka on 5 January. Plavsic said she believes that Ivanic will succeed in forming a government of national unity, despite the hard-liners' recent rejection of his proposal that a cabinet be formed consisting of both politicians and experts, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Banja Luka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1998). PM BOSNIAN CROAT LEADER CALLS SERBS "NATURAL ALLIES." Kresimir Zubak, the Croatian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, told the Zagreb weekly "Globus" that the Bosnian Croats' problem is that they are joined in a federation with the Muslims, who seek to dominate the alliance, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 5 January. Zubak said that the Muslims are preventing tens of thousands of Croats from returning to their homes in central Bosnia. He added that it is often easier for him to negotiate with his Serbian counterpart, Momcilo Krajisnik, than with the Muslims' Alija Izetbegovic. Zubak accused the Muslims of trying to make Sarajevo, which the Dayton agreement regards as multiethnic, into a purely Muslim area. He added that the Serbs and Croats have a common interest in blocking "Muslim attempts" at dominating Bosnia's joint institutions, such as the diplomatic corps. PM MUSLIMS SAY ZUBAK WANTS PARTITION. On 6 January, the Sarajevo Muslim daily "Dnevni avaz" quoted Izetbegovic's adviser Mirza Hajric as saying that Zubak's ideas reflect "long standing plans" by Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and his Yugoslav counterpart, Slobodan Milosevic, to partition Bosnia between their two countries. Hajric also denied Zubak's charges that the Muslims want special territorial advantages. PM IZETBEGOVIC CALLS "NEW YUGOSLAVIA" IMPOSSIBLE. The Muslim leader believes that it is no longer possible to recreate a multi-ethnic Yugoslavia on the model of Josip Broz Tito's former state, "Dnevni avaz" reported on 5 January. Izetbegovic called for strengthening Bosnia's joint institutions as the best means of opposing Serbian and Croatian nationalist plans to partition Bosnia. He added that a strong Bosnia is ultimately in the interest of Croatia, since both countries face a common rival in Serbia. Izetbegovic said he would also welcome good relations between Bosnia and Montenegro. He noted that there will be a role for foreign peacekeepers in Bosnia well beyond the year 2000. PM SPANISH KING PRAISES PEACEKEEPERS. King Juan Carlos spent his 60th birthday on 5 January among the 1,300 Spanish troops in Mostar and Medjugorje in Herzegovina. He was joined by two top Spanish diplomats-- NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia. The king praised the peacekeepers' work and said they should stay "until there is a triumph of understanding and tolerance between communities, based on a durable peace in the former Yugoslavia." Some 18 Spanish soldiers have died since Madrid first sent troops to the former Yugoslavia in 1992. PM MULTIETHNIC POLICE IN ACTION. Robert Farrand, the international community's chief representative for the disputed northeast Bosnian town of Brcko, said in Sarajevo on 5 January that the multi-ethnic Brcko police force is working well and without serious incident. The 230-strong force consisting of Serbs, Croats, and Muslims took up its duties on 3 January. Japan and the UN donated $250,000 worth of equipment to the police force. PM CROATIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS SLAM VAT. Spokesmen for the Social Democrats, Croatia's largest opposition party, said in Zagreb on 5 January that the new value-added tax hits the poorest Croats the hardest. Party leaders added that the tax could lead to a dramatic rise in unemployment and to a profound worsening of social conditions, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. The 22 percent VAT went into effect on 1 January and is currently the most discussed domestic political issue. PM ANNAN WANTS FRESH MANDATE IN CROATIA. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in New York on 5 January that the UN observers' mission on Croatia's Prevlaka peninsula should be extended for another six months. Annan said the extension is necessary because Yugoslavia and Croatia are still far from an agreement on the future of the strategic peninsula, which controls access to Yugoslavia's only major naval base. PM CROATIAN DEFENSE MINISTER UNDERGOES SURGERY. A team of medical consultants announced in Zagreb on 6 January that Gojko Susak underwent an unspecified successful emergency operation two days earlier after experiencing sudden pains in the region of his appendix. The powerful hard-line leader has a history of health problems and underwent lung cancer surgery in the U.S. in 1995. PM RUSSIAN LOAN FOR YUGOSLAVIA. The Russian government approved a $150 million state loan to Yugoslavia on 27 December, Interfax reported on 5 January. The loan runs until the year 2000 and will be used to pay for Russian supplies of gas and other products in the energy, mining, and metallurgy sectors. PM KOSOVO STUDENTS URGE PEACEFUL SOLUTION. Kosovar student leaders on 5 January called for a peaceful and democratic solution to the current tensions in Serbia's mainly ethnic Albanian province. The students thanked Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle for his recent criticism of police violence but urged him to make a complete and public break with the Serbian government and its repressive methods (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1998). Kosovar Social Democratic leaders, for their part, appealed in an open letter to all Serbs to condemn Belgrade's policies in the province, "Nasa Borba" reported. PM EXPLOSIONS IN MACEDONIA. Police spokesmen said in Skopje on 5 January that one bomb went off the previous day near a police garage in Kumanovo and another in a police car in Prilep. No injuries were reported. Police appealed to citizens for information relating to the blasts. PM KURDS STOPPED AT ALBANIAN BORDER. Interior Ministry spokesmen said in Tirana on 6 January that border police detained 18 Kurds the previous day at a frontier crossing with Greece near Saranda. Police said the young males were headed for the ports of Durres and Vlora, from where they planned to proceed to Italy with the help of Albanian criminal organizations. The Albanian authorities detained nine Kurds the previous week. Albania reached agreements with Italy and with Greece in 1997 aimed at controlling illegal migrants. PM CONTINUED CONTROVERSY IN ROMANIA OVER ROYAL SUCCESSION. In a 5 January statement, the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) said President Emil Constantinescu's position on the republican form of government was "weak and unsatisfactory." The PDSR also accused the government of pursuing a "two-faced" policy on the monarchy, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Party chairman Ion Iliescu said the government should "unambiguously condition" the presence of the former royal family in Romania on a "firm and clear" declaration that it renounces any claims to a royal status or to the former crown properties. Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the leader of the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM), demanded, among other things, the "immediate expulsion of Mihai von Hohenzollern and his family" from Romania and President Constantinescu's suspension from office. MS EXTREMIST ROMANIAN LEADER WILL NOT LOSE IMMUNITY. Iliescu on 5 January said his party will oppose the prosecutor-general's initiative to lift the parliamentary immunity of PRM leader Tudor for having insulted President Constantinescu (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1998). Without the support of the PDSR, the initiative will fail to achieve the required two-thirds majority to pass. In 1996, an similar initiative was started against Tudor for having insulted then President Ion Iliescu. After losing the elections at the end of that year, and intent on promoting collaboration with Tudor's PRM, the PDSR refused to support an initiative of the coalition members to continue the procedural steps undertaken by previous legislature toward stripping Tudor of his immunity. MS ROMANIAN EDUCATION LAW AGAIN ON AGEN DA. Ion Diaconescu, the chairman of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD), said on 5 January that the coalition will respect agreements with the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) when the government regulation amending the 1995 education law comes up for debate in the Chamber of Deputies. Diaconescu said the PNTCD will nonetheless continue to insist on the obligatory teaching in all schools of history and geography in Romanian. Meanwhile, UDMR executive chairman Csaba Takacs told Mediafax on 5 January that if the chamber adopts the version approved by the Senate, the UDMR will "no longer discuss quitting the coalition but will implement that step." MS MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES CHIEF OF STAFF. Petru Lucinschi has dismissed army chief of staff Vladimir Dontul, AFP reported on 5 January, citing Interfax. The decision was taken on 2 January, following a meeting between the president and the Defense Ministry Council, which last month had demanded that Lucinschi sack Dontul. The military leader is alleged to have been involved in the illegal sale of army property, including 850 kilometers of communication cable worth $ 300,000, and in illicit dealings with apartments built for military staff. An investigation is under way, and it is reported that other high-ranking officers may have been involved in the dealings. MS BULGARIAN POLICE SEIZE HEROIN. Police in Sofia have seized 30 kilograms of heroin worth some $ 3 million, the Ministry of Interior announced on 5 January. A Bulgarian and a Turkish citizen have been arrested in connection with the seizure, Reuters reported. MS BOSNIA LOOKS TOWARD DAYTON'S THIRD YEAR by Patrick Moore Two years after the Dayton peace agreement went into force, Bosnia-Herzegovina faces problems related to the role of the international community in implementing the treaty, domestic political factors, and economic development. If there is anything on which most observers of the Bosnian scene are agreed, it is that the military provisions of the Dayton agreement have generally been well implemented. The international peacekeepers--currently known as SFOR--have taken a no-nonsense approach toward any serious violations and have been quick to seize unlawful arms caches or to punish any party that stages illegal maneuvers. An immediate return to fighting would therefore seem out of the question, at least as long as the peacekeepers are present. It is less clear, however, how Dayton's civilian provisions have been implemented. But Most observers would say that there have been at least three serious shortcomings in implementing the civilian provisions and that time for enforcing them is running out. The first is the creation of joint Bosnian institutions, which are clearly outlined in the peace agreement. The Serbs have been particularly obstinate in boycotting sessions of the joint presidency or blocking an agreement on a common citizenship. This is because any consolidation of a unified Bosnia works against the Serbian hard-line goal of dividing that country and joining the Republika Srpska to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's state. In response to the Serbs' stone-walling, leaders of the international community agreed in Bonn in early December that Carlos Westendorp, the international community's main representative, should have the power to set and enforce deadlines to ensure compliance with the civilian provisions. A key question in 1998 will be whether he uses his powers and whether the major powers and SFOR support him. A second issue is freedom of movement and the right of refugees to return to their homes. To date, Bosnia remains divided by internal frontiers, and few if any refugees have gone home to an area controlled by another ethnic group. In September 1997, the international community sponsored local elections, in which refugees were allowed to cast ballots for governments in their home areas. The coming months will show whether the major powers are prepared to enforce the results of the vote so that, for example, Muslim refugees can return to Srebrenica and take part in the affairs of the local council. A third problem is posed by war criminals. Dayton allows for the peacekeepers to arrest individuals indicted by the Hague tribunal if the soldiers come face-to-face with them. In July, British special forces arrived in Bosnia to arrest two Serbs, while in December Dutch commandos seized two Croats. But reports persist of SFOR personnel deliberately looking the other way when well-known war criminals drive past NATO checkpoints or even drink in the same bars as the peacekeepers. SFOR officials argue that it is not their job to hunt war criminals. SFOR's critics, however, maintain that there will be no peace in Bosnia until persons indicted by The Hague are brought to justice, and stress that it is intolerable that major figures like Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic remain free. In December, the Hague's Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour openly accused France of blocking the court's work. In any event, it remains to be seen whether the British and Dutch actions will prove to be isolated ones. But if the foreigners bear responsibility for many of the post-Dayton problems, so do the former Yugoslavs. But while the hard-line Serbs in Pale have been the main obstructionists, since late June they have been openly opposed by Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and her alternative power center in Banja Luka. Plavsic is as nationalistic as her rivals, but she argues that the Dayton agreement has much to offer the Serbs and is willing to work within its framework. It is unclear, however, which Serb faction will ultimately win out and whether Plavsic will actually work to implement Dayton--for example, by encouraging Muslims and Croats to return to Banja Luka. The Muslims and Croats have had there share of problems, too. As RFE/RL's South Slavic service recently pointed out, the Muslims and Croats were the darlings of the international community at the time Dayton was signed but are now under a cloud. In the case of the Croats, this is because they and their patrons in Zagreb are widely seen as dragging their feet on implementing Dayton, particularly on reuniting Mostar. In the case of the Muslims, public revelations by Westendorp in October suggested that the Muslims (and their Croatian allies) have been guilty of corruption on a vast scale. Both the Muslims and Croats have allegedly diverted customs revenues and aid money to maintain structures-- such as intelligence services--that were supposed to have been abolished under Dayton. Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic has promised an investigation. The Muslim authorities themselves, furthermore, were forced to admit that foreign Islamic fighters remain a security problem; in December, they launched a dragnet against those fighters. While Izetbegovic's supporters in the West applauded the action, the incident served to raise fresh questions about the role of Islamic hard-liners in Bosnian Muslim politics. A final issue facing Bosnia is economic development. In the Muslim, Serbian, and Croatian areas alike, there are tens of thousands of demobilized young men whose only trade has been killing. The economic question is most acute in the Republika Srpska, where some estimates put the per capita monthly income at as low as $35. Plavsic has argued that peace and stability require prosperity and has appealed for investments. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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