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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 193, Part II, 12 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

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Headlines, Part II

* MAIN CZECH PARTIES AGREE ON EARLY ELECTIONS

* MONTENEGRO'S BULATOVIC REFUSES TO YIELD POWER

* KOSOVO SERBS DEMAND "PROTECTION"

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINIAN ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE LAGS.  Prime
Minister Valeriy Pustovoitenko said on 9 January that
Ukraine's GDP had fallen by approximately 4 percent in 1997,
an improvement from the 10 percent decline in 1996 but one
that still leaves Ukraine near the bottom of post-communist
countries in terms of economic growth, Interfax reported.
According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development, Ukraine's economic performance in 1997 put that
country in 23rd place among the 25 former communist
countries the EBRD monitors. Only Turkmenistan and Albania
performed worse. PG

BELARUS PRESIDENT UPBEAT ON ECONOMIC PROSPECTS.
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his government are
predicting that Belarus will have an 8 percent growth rate in
1998, with monthly inflation falling to below 2 percent,
presidential press secretary Valeriy Tolkachyov told Interfax 9
January. But many international observers are skeptical about
whether those figures reflect economic reality. PG

BELARUSIAN TV ACCUSES OPPOSITION OF PLOTTING
COUP.  Belarusian state television's "Rezonans" program on 11
January broadcast what it said was a report from an
unidentified source claiming that the country's opposition
movement has worked out a 12-month plan to prepare and
stage a coup d'etat against President Lukashenka.  Lyavon
Barshchevskiy, a leader of the Belarusian Popular Front,
dismissed that charge as "a fantasy." PG

LATVIA RECORDS LOWEST INFLATION AMONG
BALTICS. Of the three Baltic States, Latvia recorded the lowest
inflation rate last year, with consumer prices rising by 7.0
percent, BNS reported on 9 January. Inflation in Lithuania
reached 8.4 percent and in Estonia 12.5 percent. Latvian
Finance Minister Roberts Zile attributed the lower than
expected inflation rate to the balanced budget and the Bank of
Latvia's tough monetary policies and strict supervision of
commercial banks. JC

RIGA TO SELL SHARES IN TEN MAJOR COMPANIES. The
Latvian Privatization Agency plans to sell privatization
vouchers in at least 10 large and medium-sized state
enterprises this year, BNS reported on 11 January. Those
companies include the distillery Latvijas  Balzams, the gas
supplier Latvijas Gaze, and the shipping company Latvijas
Kugnieciba. The third issuance of stocks in  the oil concern
Ventspils Nafta is also slated to take place in 1998. Janis Naglis,
director-general of the Latvian Privatization Agency, said
Ventspils  Nafta stocks could be sold on foreign exchanges by
the fall. So far, Unibanka is the only Latvian company to have
put up its stock for sale abroad. JC

LITHUANIAN COURT RULES ON TRANSFER OF POWER.
The Lithuanian Constitutional Court has  ruled that the
government must temporarily surrender its authority when
the new president is sworn in, ITAR-TASS and BNS reported on
10 January. Within 15 days of taking office, the president must
request a formal answer from the parliament as to whether it
has confidence in the prime minister. In the event of a negative
response, the cabinet must resign. The court ruling follows a
government request to clarify the relevant passages in the
constitution and the law on the government. President-elect
Valdas Adamkus is to take office on 25 February. Meanwhile,
the Electoral Commission announced on 9 January that,
according to the final results of the 4 January run-off,
Adamkus received 50.37 percent of the valid ballots and
Arturas Paulauskas 49.63 percent. JC

KWASNIEWSKI SAYS POLAND TO BE FIRST EAST
EUROPEAN STATE IN NATO.  At a press conference in New
Delhi on 10 January, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski
said Poland will become the "first East European state" to join
NATO, PAP reported. In other remarks during his visit, he said
that Warsaw will support India's efforts to secure a seat as a
permanent member of the UN Security Council. He expressed
the hope that New Delhi will back Poland as a rotating Security
Council member at the next General Assembly meeting.
Poland's commitment to the United Nations was highlighted on
9 January when the UN announced that Warsaw was now
contributing more troops (1,084) to UN peacekeeping
operations than any other member state. PG

PROBLEMS AT POLISH BORDER? Both Belarus and the
Russian Federation protested on 9 January to Warsaw that new
rules imposed by Polish officials are creating long lines at the
border, PAP reported. Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister
Nikolai Buzo said the new rules "came as a surprise for us."
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesmen later said that "emergency
consultations"  solved the problem, ITAR-TASS reported the
same day.  Polish officials responded that Warsaw has not
made some concessions suggested by the Russian side. PG

MAIN CZECH PARTIES AGREE ON EARLY ELECTIONS. The
Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the Social Democratic Party
(CSSD), the Christian Democratic Party, and the Communist
Party of Bohemia and Moravia have agreed to hold early
elections in the first half of 1998, CSSD leader and
parliamentary chairman Milos Zeman told the press on 11
January. However, the parties' leaders failed to agree on
whether the elections would be called by dissolving the
parliament or by expressing no-confidence vote in the
government by refusing to approve any of its bills, CTK
reported. Zeman said one more meeting will be held before a
scheduled gathering of party representatives with President
Vaclav Havel on 22 January. Prime Minister Josef Tosovsky
said he is not sure that his cabinet will be endorsed by the
parliament, adding that in such a case, he will refuse to form
another government. MS

KLAUS'S PARTY TO SPLIT. Members of the dissenting
faction within the ODS are to meet on 17 January in Litomysl,
eastern Bohemia, to prepare to form a new political party,
former Interior Minister Jan Ruml said on 11 January. The
same day, the rebels were joined by one more prominent
politician. Anna Roeschova, the chairwoman of the Chamber of
Deputies' Immunity Committee, told CTK that she will leave the
ODS to join the new party. In other news, the National Statistic
Office reported on 9 January that the annual inflation rate in
1997 rose to 10 percent, compared with 8.6 percent in 1996.
MS

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS ACCUSE BLAIR OF
FAVORITISM.  The Independent Smallholders Party (FKGP)
says that a recent letter from British Prime Minister Tony Blair
to his Hungarian counterpart, Gyula Horn, welcoming the latter
as an ally at the 1999 NATO summit amounts to interference in
the upcoming Hungarian elections, Hungarian media reported
on 10 January. As the U.K. currently holds the EU presidency,
Blair's remarks can be interpreted by Hungarian voters to
represent the position of the EU, the statement concludes.
Meanwhile, former FKGP deputy chairwoman Agnes Nagy
Maczo, who was dismissed from the party last October,
announced on 9 January that various non-parliamentary clubs
and parties have established the New Alliance for Hungary. The
group is not a political party but will field candidates in the
elections. MSZ

HUNGARY MAKES PROGRESS IN PAYING ITS DEBTS.
Hungarian National Bank President Gyorgy Suranyi told
"Nepszabadsag" on 10 January that Hungary has reduced its
gross foreign debt from $33 billion in 1995 to $22 billion at
present and its net foreign debts  from $21 billion in 1995 to
$10.5 billion. He noted that the bulk of privatization revenues
were used to repay the debts and stressed that the trend was
sustainable. Meanwhile, a report by the London-based
Economist Intelligence Unit says the stability of the country's
institutions and the advanced state of its reforms put Hungary
in first place on the list of countries aspiring to EU membership.
MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

MONTENEGRO'S BULATOVIC REFUSES TO YIELD POWER.
Outgoing President Momir Bulatovic on 11 January told
Belgrade media loyal to his mentor, Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic, that he will not give up his office to
reform-minded President-elect Milo Djukanovic on 15 January
as scheduled. Bulatovic called for mass demonstrations to begin
in Podgorica on 12 January: "As we have exhausted all other
means, we decided, in the interests of defending the Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia, democracy, and rule of law in
Montenegro, to call on citizens for a peaceful and dignified civic
resistance." Bulatovic and his backers have repeatedly hinted
that their mass protests, which are a Milosevic trademark,
could become violent. On 10 January, Bulatovic supporters
demanded the formation of an "interim government" that
would not include Djukanovic's backers, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from Podgorica. PM

STATE OF EMERGENCY IN MONTENEGRO? Blagota Mitric,
the president of the Montenegrin Constitutional Court, said in
Podgorica on 10 January that President Bulatovic might use the
mass protests as an excuse to declare a state of emergency and
prolong his own rule. Meanwhile, Yugoslav Defense Minister
Pavle Bulatovic told Montenegrin media that the army will not
intervene in the growing political crisis. Minister Bulatovic
stressed that the conflict must be solved in peaceful and
democratic way.  PM

YUGOSLAV ARMY WANTS LINKS TO NATO. Chief-of-Staff
General Momcilo Perisic said that "if Yugoslavia insists on
staying outside [NATO's] Partnership for Peace [program], it will
remain isolated, which will certainly have a negative impact on
its future prosperity.... If Yugoslavia follows new world trends,
it will acquire the means to be integrated into Europe." The
pro-Milosevic Belgrade daily "Vecernje Novosti" on 12 January
quoted Perisic's remarks, which appear in the new book
"Silence is Criminal, Too,"  by Svetlana Petrusic. PM

NEW YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER. Prime Minister
Radoje Kontic on 9 January named Milosevic loyalist Zivadin
Jovanovic to succeed Milan Milutinovic, the new Serbian
president, as Yugoslav foreign minister. PM

KOSOVO SERBS DEMAND "PROTECTION." Serbs in Drenica,
west of Pristina, demonstrated on 9 January to demand that
President Milosevic protect them against the growing strength
of the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (see "End Note,"
"RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January 1998). It is unclear if the protest
is a spontaneous act by worried citizens or part of an
orchestrated campaign--like those Milosevic used in Croatia in
1991 and in Bosnia in 1992--to provide an excuse for
intervention by Serbian troops and paramilitaries. Meanwhile
in Pristina, leaders of the Bozur Society of Serbs and
Montenegrins in Kosovo announced on 11 January that Bozur
will stage rallies "to help make Milosevic aware of the situation
in Kosovo." Bozur also plans to send a delegation to talk to
Milosevic.  And near Klina on 9 January, unidentified gunmen
killed a Serb. PM

WESTENDORP BACKS PLAVSIC'S PRIME MINISTER. Carlos
Westendorp, the international community's chief
representative in Bosnia, said in Banja Luka on 11 January that
the international community urges the Bosnian Serbs to
support Mladen Ivanic, who is Republika Srpska President
Biljana Plavsic's nominee for prime minister (see "RFE/RL
Bosnia Report," 7 January 1998). Westendorp added that "We
wish [Ivanic] good luck in forming a new government and we
will help him.... The absence of a government is harmful to the
interests of the people." The hard-liners based in Pale have
repeatedly rejected Ivanic's candidacy.  PM

MUSLIMS DISMISS ZUBAK'S CHARGES. Mirza Hajric, a
spokesman for Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic, said in
Sarajevo that recent anti-Muslim remarks by Bosnian Croat
leader Kresimir Zubak are aimed at promoting Zubak's standing
with the top leadership in Zagreb, "Oslobodjenje" reported on
11 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 1998). Hajric
argues that Zubak is echoing the anti-Muslim views of the
Zagreb leadership in order to ensure his own election as head
of the governing Bosnian Croat party, the Croatian Democratic
Community, which is in practice a branch of the governing
Croatian party of the same name. PM

CROATIA'S UNIONS THREATEN STRIKE. Representatives of
Croatia's leading labor unions said in Zagreb on 9 January that
they will urge their members to launch street protests if the
government does not act to alleviate the effects of the 22
percent value-added tax, which took effect on 1 January (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 1998). Also in Zagreb, a
government spokesman said that the authorities will take steps
to ensure that merchants do not take advantage of VAT to raise
their prices independent of the tax, an RFE/RL correspondent
reported from the Croatian capital. PM

WHO OWNS CROATIA'S BIGGEST DAILY? An unidentified
bidder bought a majority share in the pro-government Zagreb
daily "Vecernji list" on 9 January. Spokesmen for independent
journalists said they suspect that government supporters are
behind the sale in an effort to allow the government to keep
control of the paper while appearing to be encouraging
privatization. PM

POLICE CHIEF KILLS COLLEAGUE IN NORTHERN
ALBANIA. Tropoja police chief Fatmir Haklaj on 9 January
shot and killed Shaqir Hoxha, his counterpart at the local
border police post. Officials at the local state prosecutor's office
said Haklaj was avenging the killing of his brother earlier in
the week in a blood feud between the two influential families,
"Shekulli" reported. Local policemen, however, denied there is a
blood feud between the Haklaj and Hoxha families, "Gazeta
Shqiptare" reported on 11 January. The same day, Interior
Minister Neritan Ceka, speaking on state-run television, denied
opposition charges that a recent wave of killings in Tropoja is
politically motivated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January 1998).
Tropoja and other northern regions are centers of the ancient
Albanian custom of the blood feud. FS

ALBANIANS HAVE ELECTRICITY DEBTS TOTALING $52
MILLION. The Albanian Energy Corporation (KESH) said that
by the end of last year, customer debts for electric energy
reached $52 million, "Dita Informacion" reported on 11
January.  The largest debtors are state-owned companies and
private households. KESH lacks funds to develop its power grid,
and Albania is currently subject to frequent power shortages.
FS

SOLUTION TO ROMANIAN COALITION CRISIS IN SIGHT?
After a 11 January meeting of the coalition leaders, Razvan
Popescu, the chief of the government's Department for Public
Information, said things are "moving in the direction desired
by the government, meaning that the Democratic Party  will
remain in the coalition." The meeting was called after the
National Liberal Party (PNL) offered to mediate between the
Democrats and the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic
(PNLCD). Popescu dismissed media speculation that the meeting
discussed replacing Premier Victor Ciorbea. Later on 11
January, President Emil Constantinescu met with the leaders of
the PNL and PNLCD. The president's office also denied that
Ciorbea's replacement has been discussed, saying the focus of
the discussions was on speeding up reform. MS

ROMANIAN NATIONAL CURRENCY DROPS. The value of the
national currency dropped by 4.2 percent during the past
week. On 9 January, dealers ended up exchanging the leu at a
rate of 8,650-8,800 to $1. Some observers attribute the sharp
drop to the looming government crisis. Also on 9 January, the
National Board for Statistics announced that the inflation rate
in 1997 was 151.4 percent, while the value of the national
currency dropped by 84.4 percent, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau
reported. MS

MOLDOVAN RIGHTISTS LAUNCH ELECTION CAMPAIGN.
Some 2,000 people attended the launching of the election
campaign of the Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM) in
Chisinau on 10 January, RFE/RL's bureau in the Moldovan
capital reported. The CDM was set up on 19 June 1997 by the
Moldovan Party of Rebirth and Conciliation, led by former
President Mircea Snegur, and by the Christian Democratic
Popular Front, headed by Iurie Rosca. The CDM was later joined
by the Moldovan Ecologist Party, the Christian Democratic
Women's League and by a wing of the National Peasant Party
of Moldova. Snegur, who like Rosca is a CDM co-chairman, told
the gathering that Moldova has yet to change its regime,
because at present it is ruled by a "neo-communist
government." Rosca said that only "a rightist political force can
be an alternative to the current rule of the left." MS

RUSSIAN OFFICIAL SAYS NO WITHDRAWAL FROM
TRANSDNIESTER YET. Vasilii Kravtsov, Russian deputy
minister for CIS affairs, said in Tiraspol on 10 January that his
country will not withdraw its forces from the Transdniester
before the conflict between the separatists and Chisinau is fully
settled, BASA-press reported. Kravtsov, who visited the
Russian troops stationed in the region, said he doubted any one
could predict when that would happen. Also on 10 January,
Stefan Kitsak, military counselor to separatist leader Igor
Smirnov, said on Transdniestrian television that "nationalist
forces" in Chisinau are "preparing an invasion" of the
Transdniester and that only a strong Transdniestrian army can
forestall those intentions. His speech marked the sixth
anniversary of the passage by the Transdniester Supreme
Soviet of a law on setting up a separatist military force,
RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS

RIVAL RALLIES MARK ANNIVERSARY IN BULGARIA.
Government and opposition rallies on 10 January marked the
first anniversary of the storming of the parliament by
demonstrators protesting the rule of the Socialist Party, an
RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. No violent incidents
were reported. Earlier the same day, the building of the
parliament was opened to the public on the order of
parliamentary chairman Yordan Sokolov. On 9 January,
Prosecutor-General Ivan Tatarchev ordered an investigation
into allegations that former Premier Zhan Videnov personally
ordered police forces to beat up demonstrators in January
1997. At a press conference in Sofia, Videnov did not deny the
allegations, saying he was "not running away from
responsibility." MS

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