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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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * MAIN CZECH PARTIES AGREE ON EARLY ELECTIONS * MONTENEGRO'S BULATOVIC REFUSES TO YIELD POWER * KOSOVO SERBS DEMAND "PROTECTION" xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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