As courage endagers life even so fear preserves it. - Leonardo Da Vinci
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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Headlines, Part II

* UKRAINE BACKTRACKS ON CURRENCY EXCHANGE
CORRIDOR

* MONTENEGRO'S BULATOVIC CLIMBS DOWN

* BOMBS DESTROY SOCIALIST HQ IN GJIROKASTER

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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.

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