|When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years. - Mark Twain|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 8, Part II, 14 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 BACKTRACKS ON CURRENCY EXCHANGE CORRIDOR * MONTENEGRO'S BULATOVIC CLIMBS DOWN * BOMBS DESTROY SOCIALIST HQ IN GJIROKASTER xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE BACKTRACKS ON CURRENCY EXCHANGE CORRIDOR. Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Tigipko on 13 January announced that a new trading corridor for the hryvna will soon be made public. The central bank previously set a 1.75-1.95 hryvna to $1 range for the first six months of this year. But many currency traders think the government cannot maintain that range for the battered currency. The National Bank had to abandon a corridor for the hryvna in November when it was unable to defend the currency against massive selling. PB BELARUSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS COUP REPORT TAKEN SERIOUSLY. Ivan Antonovich said in a state television interview on 13 January that the government must react seriously to the report of an alleged plan by the opposition to overthrow the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 1998). "In other European countries, such events are classified as an attempted coup," he said. Opposition leaders have called the charges ridiculous. "It is clear the authorities are preparing a wave of repression against dissidents," said Valery Buyval, a spokesman for the opposition Belarusian Popular Front. PB NEW STRATEGY IN ORT JOURNALIST TRIAL? Defense lawyers for Russian Public Television (ORT) journalist Pavel Sheremet and his cameraman Dmitriy Zavadskiy are considering filing criminal charges against a group of Russian and Belarusian parliamentary deputies for illegally crossing the border, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 January. The lawyers claim that the deputies, who met last June at an inter- parliamentary session of the assembly of the Russia-Belarus union, crossed the border in the same fashion as Sheremet and Zavadskiy did when they were arrested on the Lithuanian- Belarusian border the following month. The case against the deputies would include charges against Paval Shypuk and Anatol Malafejeu, the heads of the two chambers of the Belarusian National Assembly, and Gennadii Seleznev, speaker of the Russian State Duma. PB MOSCOW DAILY COMMENTS ON U.S.-BALTIC CHARTER. "Segodnya" on 13 January wrote that Washington's indirect support for the Baltic States' bid to join NATO and its decision to set up a joint U.S.-Baltic partnership committee signal the failure of Moscow's proposal to set up a security zone in the region, according to BNS. At the same time, the newspaper pointed out that the charter is so generally worded and U.S. politicians' statements on NATO and the Baltic States so "cautious" that they are unlikely to bring those countries any closer to the Atlantic alliance (see also "End Note" below). JC ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT GIVES INITIAL APPROVAL TO EXTRADITION BILL. The government on 13 January approved in principle a bill regulating the extradition of illegal immigrants and the refusal of entry to undesirable individuals, ETA reported. Under that bill, the authorities could demand that an illegal immigrant leave the country within 15 days; in the case of a non-citizen whose residence permit is revoked, that deadline could be extended to 60 days. Interior Minister Robert Lepikson estimates the number of illegal immigrants in Estonia at 70,000. JC MOSCOW ADMITS RUSSIAN UNIVERSITIES IN ESTONIA ILLEGAL. The Russian Education Ministry has admitted that several Russian universities have opened branches in Estonia without obtaining licenses from either country, ETA reported on 13 January. The activities of those universities contravene Estonian and Russian legislation, the Russian Education Ministry said. At talks in Moscow last week, Estonian and Russian officials agreed that a bilateral agreement must be concluded before Russian universities can open branches in Estonia. According to Estonian Minster of Education Mait Klaassen, the illegal university branches in Estonia have made it impossible to reach such an agreement. JC POLISH TRANSPORT STRIKE EASED. Public transport officials in Poznan have decided to downgrade their six-day-old strike, Reuters reported on 13 January. Drivers will go back to work but will not accept fares from passengers. They will also hold hunger strikes and block roads to back their demand for a 21 percent wage hike. City officials are offering a 17 percent raise. PB CZECH PRESIDENT'S RE-ELECTION SEEMS CERTAIN. President Vaclav Havel on 13 January said he will dissolve the parliament immediately and call early elections if he is re- elected for a second term and if the constitutional preconditions for dissolving the legislature are met. Havel's re- election appears secured following the decision on 13 January of 30 Civic Democratic Party deputies--out of a total of 69--to quit their formation and set up a new party. That party, to be called the Freedom Union, is expected to back Havel's candidacy. Also on 13 January, former dissenting members of the other ruling conservative party, the Civic Democratic Alliance, set up a new formation, the Party of Democratic Accord. MS SLOVAK PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS POSTPONED. The chairman of the Slovak parliament on 13 January told journalists that the presidential elections scheduled for 23 January will be postponed by six days to avoid clashing with the summit of Central European leaders due to be held in Levoca, eastern Slovakia, on the same day. Ivan Gasparovic said he had forgotten about the summit when announcing the original date of the elections, stressing that this had been "unintentional." MS HUNGARIAN LEFTIST FORCES SIGN ELECTION PACT. The governing Socialist Party (MSZP) on 13 January signed an election cooperation agreement with the Social Democratic Party (MSZDP) and the Agrarian Alliance, Hungarian media reported. The Agrarian Alliance will not field its own candidates in the next elections, but four of its members will be included on the Socialist national list. The MSZP and MSZDP will run independently but will not campaign against each other. Prime Minister and MSZP chairman Gyula Horn described the unity of left-wing forces as an important goal, while MSZDP chairman Laszlo Kapolyi said his party would like to see the Left remain in power. MSZ HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER MEETS NATO COMMANDER. Wesley Clark, the supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe, has urged Hungarian Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti to prepare the Hungarian military for NATO accession, Hungarian media reported. The two men met in Mons, Belgium, on 13 January. The alliance expects the Hungarian military to improve soldiers' command of English, familiarize them with NATO standards and regulations, and improve the level of training. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MONTENEGRO'S BULATOVIC CLIMBS DOWN. Outgoing Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic and his rival, President-elect Milo Djukanovic, began talks on 14 January to resolve their differences (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 13 January 1998). Bulatovic announced the talks after talks on 12 January with visiting Yugoslav Prime Minister Radoje Kontic, a representative of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who is also Bulatovic's political supporter. Observers suggested that the Belgrade leadership, under pressure from the U.S. and the international community, has told Bulatovic to stop his efforts aimed at blocking Djukanovic's smooth succession to the presidency on 15 January. The Belgrade daily "Nasa Borba" reported that Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, who is a key ally of Milosevic, will attend Djukanovic's inauguration. PM KOSOVO SERBS CONTINUE PROTESTS. The Bozur [Peony] Society, which represents Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo, held a rally in Kosovo Polje on 13 January. Speakers said that Serbian authorities in Belgrade assured Bozur's delegation the previous day that Serbia will not allow Albanian "nationalists and extremists" to practice "terrorism" against the Kosovo Serbs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 1998). The speakers did not say whether the delegation spoke with Milosevic, as Bozur's leader Bogdan Kecman had earlier demanded. Kecman and other speakers promised to continue to hold rallies in various parts of Kosovo until Belgrade gives more support to the Kosovo Serbs and until the Albanians stop "threatening the Serbs with war," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina. PM KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY CONTROLS OWN TERRITORY. The clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army UCK) is firmly in control of an area of about 60 square kilometers around the town of Srbica, the Sarajevo daily "Oslobodjenje" reported from Kosovo on 14 January. The UCK's goal is to establish an independent state consisting of Kosovo and parts of western Macedonia, where the population is mainly Albanian, the daily added. PM UN EXTENDS MANDATE IN PREVLAKA. The UN Security Council voted unanimously in New York on 13 January to extend until 15 July the mandate of the military observer mission monitoring the demilitarization of the Prevlaka peninsula. Prevlaka is Croatian territory but is claimed by Belgrade because it controls access to the Bay of Kotor, where Yugoslavia's only deep-water naval base is located. The Croatian media have suggested on several occasions in recent years that President Franjo Tudjman might be willing to exchange Prevlaka for Serbian-held Bosnian territory near Dubrovnik. But they claim he had to abandon his plans under pressure from the international community and from domestic public opinion. PM U.S., MILOSEVIC BACK PLAVSIC'S PRIME MINISTER. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 13 January that both Milosevic and visiting U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard endorse her nominee, Mladen Ivanic, for the post of prime minister. Meanwhile in Pale, hard-line leader Momcilo Krajisnik confirmed that Milosevic backs Ivanic, but he said that the ultra-nationalist parties, which won a plurality of the vote in the 1997 legislative elections, will insist on naming their own prime minister. Current Prime Minister Gojko Klickovic called Ivanic a "tool of foreign interests." PM BOSNIA NAMES 32 AMBASSADORS. The members of the three-man joint presidency agreed in Sarajevo on 13 January on a list of 32 ambassadors. An RFE/RL correspondent reported that the presidency could not agree, however, on who would be the ambassador to the U.S. The Serbs have insisted on this key post for themselves, while the Muslims have suggested that it go to a Jew or to someone else who is neither Serbian, Croatian, nor Muslim. The international community has been applying pressure to all three sides for months in an effort to persuade them to agree on a joint list of ambassadors and on joint institutions. In related news, Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said he may make a decision on establishing a joint Bosnian currency if the three sides cannot resolve the matter themselves. PM NATO TROOPS SEIZE ILLEGAL SERB ARMS. Over the past few days, Danish SFOR troops confiscated two tons of arms from the homes of Bosnian Serbs in the Ozren area between Doboj and Tuzla. A NATO spokesman said in Tuzla on 13 January that there were no casualties in the operation, code- named "Big Bad Wolf." PM TOUGH YEAR AHEAD FOR SLOVENIA. Foreign Minister Boris Frlec said in Ljubljana on 13 January that "the year 1998 will be one of the toughest for Slovenia's domestic and foreign policies because of the extensive and difficult tasks ahead of us." Frlec added that his top priority is to negotiate Slovenia's entry into the EU, which he hopes will be completed by 2003. He also noted that "we are involved in intensive dialogue with NATO and we have to prove this year that we can join the alliance because a decision on further NATO enlargement will be made at the beginning of 1999." PM BOMBS DESTROY SOCIALIST HQ IN GJIROKASTER. Three large bombs destroyed the Socialist Party headquarters and damaged the local prosecutor's office in the Socialist stronghold of Gjirokaster on 13 January. The neighboring offices of the city's prefecture and the municipality were also damaged. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which resulted in no casualties. Socialist parliamentary faction leader Pandeli Majko said the attack had a "clearly political background," but he dismissed allegations by local Socialist leader Besnik Shehu that the opposition Democratic Party may have been involved, "Koha Jone" reported. It was the 15th bomb blast in Gjirokaster since 13 December. Other attacks have targeted the former family home of communist dictator Enver Hoxha, an overpass, and a children's home. FS FORMER ALBANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER INVESTIGATED FOR ARMS TRAFFICKING. The Prosecutor-General's Office is investigating former Defense Minister Safet Zhulali and some former high-ranking military officers for arms smuggling, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 14 January. Former Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi, however, told the daily that the previous Democratic Party government was not involved in any illegal deals. He claimed that all revenues from legal arms trade have been properly accounted for. Unnamed officials in the office claim that the state budget does not include any revenues from arms sales. FS DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION OF ROMANIA ON COALITION CRISIS. The Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) Council has expressed the hope that the Democratic Party's National Council, which meets on 14 January to discuss the coalition crisis, will opt for continuing the coalition. CDR chairman Ion Diaconescu argued that although opinion surveys indicate that the CDR might increase its strength in the parliament if early elections are held, "national interest" is more important. Diaconescu also warned that if the coalition is dismembered, the Democrats will lose their posts in both local and central government structures. He said such an upheaval would unavoidably "harm the country's economic and political stability," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS TRANSPORTATION MINISTER ON CRISIS. Traian Basescu says he has "nothing to retract" from his criticism of the government and that consequently "my decision to resign from the government is irrevocable, regardless of the Democratic Party's decision." Democratic Party chairman Petre Roman says the party's National Council is meeting "in order to give the country the means of putting the government on the right reform track." Adrian Nastase, deputy chairman of the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania, said that given the Democrats' experience of ruling with "the right," a future alliance between their two formations cannot be ruled out. He added that the best solution to the crisis is early elections, RFE RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS RUSSIAN ARMY IN TRANSDNIESTER PROTESTS ROMANIAN "PROVOCATION." The command of the Operational Group of Russian Forces deployed in the Transdniester on 13 January officially protested what it called a "gross provocation" by a Romanian general. On 25 December 1997, the Chisinau newspaper "Mesagerul" published an article by General Mircea Calmaru saying his troops are "capable of giving short shrift to two armies such as those based in the Transdniester." Calmaru heads the 10th Romanian Corps, stationed in Iasi, on the border with Moldova. The Russian command says that it has informed the Russian Ministry of Defense about the general's "rude and insulting" statements, Infotag reported. MS VOTING PROCEDURES FOR TRANSDNIESTRIANS IN MOLDOVAN ELECTIONS. Presidential counselor Anatol Taranu told RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau on 13 January that the Transdniester authorities say that in order to vote in the March parliamentary elections, Moldovan citizens in the separatist region will be allowed to "cross the border." The separatists will not allow balloting to take place on the right bank of the Dniester. Meanwhile, the United Social Democratic Party of Moldova and the Speranta [Hope] movement on 13 January set up an electoral alliance that will run as the "Speranta Bloc." MS EU THREATENS SANCTIONS AGAINST BULGARIA OVER CD PIRACY. European Commission expert Vincent Pincert told an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia on 13 January that rampant compact disc piracy in Bulgaria is damaging the country's bid for eventual EU membership. Pincert added Bulgaria faces international sanctions in the near future as well. He said state and private producers illegally copy some 45 million CDs a year, more than double the piracy rate one year ago. Most pirate CDs are redistributed through Russia or exported directly to the EU, he noted. MS REGIONAL AFFAIRS DATE OF NEXT CIS SUMMIT IN QUESTION? CIS Deputy Executive Secretary Stanislav Lebeznik told Interfax on 13 January that the schedules of all CIS heads of state must be coordinated in order to set the date for the next CIS summit. At the last summit in Moldova in October, it was agreed that summits should be held annually on 23 January and on 16 March. The January summit was canceled last week at the initiative of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to allow for "fundamental preparation of all the necessary documents," according to Labeznik. At that time, however, it was also announced that the March summit will go ahead as scheduled. LF END NOTE U.S.-BALTIC CHARTER: MILESTONE ON WAY TO WEST by Sonia Winter The presidents of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania arrived in Washington on 13 January to begin three days of highly visible meetings and ceremonies marking the start of a new chapter in their relations with the U.S. The high point will be on 16 January at the White House with the signing of a U.S.-Baltic Charter of Partnership, which pledges U.S. support for the integration of the three Baltic nations into Western institutions, including NATO. From the U.S. perspective, the document marks the true beginning of normal state-to-state relations and the end of the long journey of the Baltic States from the 1940 Soviet occupation, through the declaration of independence, and recovery from Soviet dominion in the first half of the 1990s, to genuine sovereignty and continuing democratization in the closing years of the decade. But for many in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the charter, which took a year to complete, is only another step forward on their way West--one that falls short of initial high hopes. State Department spokesman James Rubin on 13 January articulated what the charter does, as well as what it does not do. He thereby pinpointed the quiet controversy, kept out of the public eye during the negotiations. The charter, Rubin said, sets a framework for development of U.S.-Baltic relations and is a clear statement of U.S. support for "Baltic integration into European and transatlantic institutions." He noted that "the U.S. welcomes and supports Baltic aspirations to join NATO." But he also said "the charter is not a security guarantee" and "does not commit the U.S. to [supporting] Baltic membership." He emphasized that "the charter in fact reaffirms U.S. policy that aspirants can become members only as they prove themselves able and willing to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership." Although Estonia is generally recognized by experts as being as able and willing as other successful NATO candidates, Baltic leaders have had to accept their exclusion from plans for the first round of NATO expansion, which was confined to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, Moreover, the Baltics may also miss out on a second round of NATO enlargement, expected after 1999. Washington sources say U.S. officials have advised the Baltic governments they will not be able to join NATO anytime soon. When asked about Baltic membership, the stock reply of U.S. and NATO officials is that enlargement must take into account the interests of the whole alliance and not weaken it in any way. In other words, U.S. and NATO officials say concern about Russia's opposition is a looming factor in consideration of Baltic membership in the alliance. Rubin said the U.S. has briefed Russia on the Baltic charter--which seems designed in part to soothe Russian sensitivities regarding the Baltic States--but has not received an official reaction. He noted that the document contains specific language "welcoming the NATO-Russia Founding Act, and the strength in NATO-Russia relationships as core elements of their shared vision of a new and peaceful Europe." Another early disappointment for Baltic leaders, especially Lithuanians, was U.S. insistence on one charter for all three states instead of separate bilateral documents for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. But in Washington this week, there will be public praise and applause for the charter. Presidents Lennart Meri of Estonia, Guntis Ulmanis of Latvia, and Algirdas Brazauskas of Lithuania have already said that the charter is a unique and significant document that will strengthen regional stability and forge closer ties with Europe and the U.S. The charter sets up three bilateral working groups loosely modeled on U.S. commissions with Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, which are co-chaired by U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the respective president. The ranking U.S. official on the U.S.-Baltic Partnership Commission is expected to be Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, with Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Stuart Eizenstat in charge of economic development issues. They will meet regularly to advance cooperation in science, technology, commerce, and other areas. Outgoing Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas will sign for his country. But Lithuanian sources say President-elect Valdas Adamkus may reaffirm the Partnership Charter when he makes his first trip to the U.S. as president. Adamkus is to be inaugurated into office in late February. The author is a Washington-based RFE/RL correspondent. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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