|The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle 1975-1881|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 9, Part II, 15 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 RATIFIES TREATY WITH RUSSIA * POLICE BAN DEMONSTRATIONS IN MONTENEGRO * U.S. SLAMS BULATOVIC, MILOSEVIC xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS UKRAINE RATIFIES TREATY WITH RUSSIA. By a vote of 317 to 27, Ukrainian lawmakers ratified a friendship treaty with Russia on 14 January. President Leonid Kuchma and his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, signed the treaty last May following years of disputes over the division of the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet. The document reaffirms the countries' borders and thereby reduces Moscow's chances of claiming Crimea or its port city Sevastopol, as several Russian politicians have advocated. The Ukrainian parliament has yet to consider ratifying several agreements on the fleet, which are expected to face considerable opposition from lawmakers. PB YELTSIN PLEASED WITH RATIFICATION OF TREATY. Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told Interfax on 14 January that Boris Yeltsin welcomed the "convincing ratification" of the treaty by the Ukrainian parliament and expects the Russian parliament to "give equally convincing support" to the document. The Russian State Duma is scheduled to consider the treaty in early February. Although Duma First Deputy Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov predicted on 14 January that the treaty will be ratified, the document is expected to meet with vocal opposition from some Duma members, including Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia faction and Popular Power faction co-leader Sergei Baburin. They have called for more transmissions of Russian television broadcasts in Ukraine. Baburin has also warned that Russia will pave the way for Ukraine's possible accession to NATO if it ratifies a treaty renouncing all claims on Ukrainian territory. LB SPOKESMAN SAYS YELTSIN NOT PREJUDICED AGAINST BALTICS. Also on 14 January, Yastrzhembskii said that Yeltsin wants a "constructive dialogue" with the leaders of the Baltic States, Interfax and BNS reported on 14 January. The Russian news agency quoted Yastrzhembskii as stressing that Yeltsin has "no prejudices" against any of the Baltic leaders and that Russia intends to continue to develop relations with the Baltic States. Yastrzhembskii pointed to progress in Russian- Lithuanian relations but noted that ties with Estonia and Latvia are not developing well because the rights of ethnic Russians in those countries are being violated. JC ADAMKUS SAYS KALININGRAD "INTERNATIONAL PROBLEM." Lithuanian President-elect Valdas Adamkus told the Polish weekly "Wrpost" that the status of Kaliningrad Oblast remains an "international problem," BNS reported on 14 January. Adamkus explained that statement by noting that "at the Potsdam Conference, the great powers transferred Kaliningrad to the administration of the USSR, but only temporarily--in other words, until such a time when a decision is made as to what is to be done further." He argued that problems related to the region should be resolved by international organizations, while stressing that cooperation with "all neighbors" is indispensable for peace "in this part of Europe." By contrast, incumbent President Algirdas Brazauskas last month distanced himself from challenges by Lithuanian politicians regarding Kaliningrad's status. Such challenges, Brazauskas said, "complicate our relations with neighboring countries and, of course, with Russia." JC EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN COURT TO RULE ON DEATH PENALTY. Chief Justice Ivan Tymchenko has said the Constitutional Court will rule whether capital punishment is constitutional, RFE/RL reported on 14 January. Tymchenko did not say when the ruling would be made. The Council of Europe has threatened to suspend Ukraine if it continues carrying out the death penalty. Kyiv pledged to stop executions when it joined the council in 1995. The following year, however, well over 100 executions took place in the country. PB BELARUSIAN DISSIDENT PLANS DRIVE AGAINST LUKASHENKA. Exiled opposition leader Zianon Paznyak said his organization, the Belarusian Popular Front, will soon hold petition drives in a bid to force out President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Paznyak told the Polish paper "Zycie" in Washington that this plan may be the reason the government recently claimed the opposition was planning a coup attempt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 14 January 1998). Paznyak said the government considers the petition drive a "dangerous development" and intends to prevent it. PB "SVABODA" TO BE PUBLISHED UNDER NEW NAME. "Svaboda" editor Ihar Hermianchuk has said he will begin publishing a tri-weekly newspaper called "Naviny" (News), ITAR-TASS reported on 14 January. Hermianchuk said the first edition will appear on 16 January and will have the same editorial content as "Svaboda," which was shut down by the Belarusian government last fall (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 November 1997). "Svaboda" was the country's largest- circulation opposition newspaper. "Naviny" will initially be available for purchase only at kiosks. PB DIPLOMATS MEET WITH LUKASHENKA. President Lukashenka has told a group of ambassadors in Minsk that his country has "many serious problems" with the EU and the Council of Europe, Interfax reported on 14 January. "I think you have realized that putting limits on contacts and [other] ...forms of pressure are counterproductive," he told them. Lukashenka said he hoped that the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's mission in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 1998) will respect "the Belarusian people's sovereign rights." PB ESTONIA'S HANSAPANK MERGES TO CREATE LARGEST BANK IN BALTICS. Estonia's largest commercial bank, Hansapank, has announced it will merge with Hoiupank, the country's third-largest such bank, ETA and BNS reported on 14 January. The new bank will be the largest in the Baltic States, with assets totaling $1 billion. Shares in Hansapank and Hoiupank led Estonia's stock market boom last year but lost in value when the market crashed last fall. According to dpa, analysts claim Hansapank will benefit more from the deal, as it was forced to postpone a share issue at the end of 1997 owing to the depressed stock prices. The merger must still be approved by the shareholders of both banks and by the Bank of Estonia. JC LITHUANIA, U.S. SIGN INVESTMENT TREATY. Lithuanian and U.S. officials, meeting in Washington on 14 January, signed an investment treaty intended to help expand trade between the two countries, Reuters reported. The treaty guarantees the right to invest on terms no less favorable than those accorded domestic investors in most business sectors, the news agency quoted the U.S. Trade Representative's Office as saying. JC TENSIONS CONTINUE IN NORTHERN POLAND. Hundreds of people in the northern city of Slupsk attended the funeral of a 13-year-old boy who died allegedly after being beaten by police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 1998), AFP reported on 14 January. The boy's death sparked two nights of riots that left dozens injured and property damaged. Nearly 100 people were arrested. The situation in the industrial town remains tense. Meanwhile, a federal investigation is to be conducted. PB CZECH GOVERNMENT AGREES ON HOW TO DISSOLVE PARLIAMENT. The cabinet on 14 January approved a bill on state-owned land that will be submitted to the Chamber of Deputies to be tied to a confidence vote, Premier Josef Tosovsky told journalists. Rejection of the bill or failure to discuss it within 90 days will trigger the constitutional mechanism for dissolving the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"13 January 1998). The government also discussed a first draft of its program, to be submitted to the parliament's approval, and assigned the task of drawing up a second version to several groups of ministers, CTK reported, citing government spokesman Vladimir Mlynar. MS DIVERGENT VIEWS ON CZECH RATIFICATION OF NATO ENLARGEMENT. Petr Necas, the chairman of the Chamber of Deputies' Defense and Security Commission and a member of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), said on 14 January it is essential that the ratification of Czech membership in NATO take place before early elections scheduled for June. He said it cannot be ruled out that the Social Democrats (CSSD), who are demanding a referendum on joining NATO, will win those elections. But Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman told CTK that it would be a "blatant diplomatic blunder" if the step were taken before all NATO countries have ratified the alliance's enlargement. Polls show that the CSSD has a good chance of winning the next elections. MS SLOVAK POLL SHOWS OPPOSITION AHEAD. A public opinion survey conducted by the Institute for Public Affairs confirms the 1997 trend in which Premier Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) lost much of its former political backing, Reuters reported. The HZDS, with 25.7 percent support, is trailing the opposition Slovak Democratic Coalition (31.1 percent). The HZDS's coalition partners are not faring well either. The far-right Slovak National Party is supported by 6.8 percent, while the far-left Workers Party would fail to pass the 5 percent threshold for parliamentary representation if elections were held now. The opposition Party of the Democratic Left and the Hungarian Coalition are backed by 11 percent each. MS SLOVAKIA SEEKS TO MEND TIES WITH HUNGARY. Foreign Ministry spokesman Milan Tokar on 14 January said Bratislava has proposed that the foreign ministers of the two countries meet in Budapest on 22 January, Reuters reported. One day earlier, citing unidentified Slovak sources, the Hungarian daily "Nepszabadsag" reported that Slovak Foreign Minister Zdenka Kramplova was due in Budapest on 22 January. MS GABCIKOVO-NAGYMAROS SETTLEMENT STILLS HANGS IN BALANCE. Government commissioner Janos Nemcsok on 14 January told the parliamentary Environment Commission that Hungary has not committed itself to the construction of a new hydroelectric power plant to replace the abandoned project. He added that it would not do so before the completion of studies showing the likely impact of the new project on the environment and its economic costs, the daily "Nepszava" reported on 15 January. But a source close to the negotiations told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bratislava on 14 January that the sides are nearing an agreement. The source said Hungary is proposing to build a power plant between Szob and Budapest instead of completing the originally planned dam (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 1998). MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE POLICE BAN DEMONSTRATIONS IN MONTENEGRO. Some 8,000 supporters of outgoing President Momir Bulatovic clashed with police in Podgorica on 14 January, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. The protesters tried to storm government buildings and attacked police with hand grenades, leaving 45 policemen and six demonstrators injured. Police regained the upper hand only when special units arrived. Interior Minister Filip Vujanovic said on 15 January that Bulatovic's supporters have proven themselves to be violent, and he banned further demonstrations. Vujanovic appealed to "all government and intellectual circles in Serbia" who might be able to help calm the situation in Montenegro to do so. PM POLITICAL STANDOFF CONTINUES IN MONTENEGRO. Talks in Podgorica between Bulatovic, who is an ally of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, and reformist President-elect Milo Djukanovic ended inconclusively on 14 January. Bulatovic remained adamant that the 19 October 1997 presidential vote was rigged and called the election "a real crime that the Montenegrins will not forget." Yugoslav Prime Minister Radoje Kontic, who led mediation efforts, said he will continue to try to negotiate an end to the stalemate. PM U.S. SLAMS BULATOVIC, MILOSEVIC. Robert Gelbard, the U.S. special envoy to the former Yugoslavia, said in Belgrade on 15 January that Washington "is deeply concerned and the international community...deeply offended by the absolutely outrageous behavior by...Bulatovic in inciting these illegal riots.... I hold him responsible along with his collaborators for this outrageous, illegal behavior." Gelbard added that he also holds "Milosevic responsible for supporting these demonstrations [and] for not restraining his colleague Mr. Bulatovic...." Gelbard said on 14 January in Sarajevo that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned Milosevic in a telephone conversation the previous weekend not to disrupt the peaceful transition of power in Montenegro. PM MONTENEGRO APPEALS TO MAJOR POWERS. On 14 January, Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Perovic sent a letter to the ambassadors of Western countries and Russia asking them to take "urgent diplomatic steps" with the Belgrade authorities to calm the political situation in Montenegro. In related news, "Nasa Borba" reported on 15 January that Djukanovic will visit Washington in February. PM ETHNIC ALBANIANS TO JOIN NEW MONTENEGRIN GOVERNMENT. Representatives of the Democratic Union of Albanians and the Democratic League (two ethnic Albanian political parties represented in the Montenegrin parliament) told BETA news agency in Ulcinj on 15 January that the two parties will join the new Montenegrin government. Votes of Montenegro's Albanian and Muslim minorities played a key role in enabling Djukanovic to defeat Bulatovic. PM EASTERN SLAVONIA RETURNS TO CROATIA. President Franjo Tudjman said in Zagreb on 14 January that his government will continue its policies aimed at peacefully reintegrating eastern Slavonia into Croatia once Croatian sovereignty is restored on 15 January. Tudjman noted that international aid will be vital in ensuring the return of 70,000 Croatian refugees who fled the region when the Serbs conquered it in 1991. Meanwhile in Vukovar, ethnic Serbian political leaders Milorad Pupovac, Vojislav Stanimirovic and Milos Vonjnovic called on Zagreb to regain the confidence of the Serbs by respecting Croatia's commitments in the 1995 Erdut agreement to preserve basic rights for the Serbs, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Vukovar. PM BOSNIAN SERB TV BACK ON AIR. Hard-line supporters of Radovan Karadzic resumed television broadcasting from Pale on 14 January. Two transmitters beamed the private station's programs to an area approximately 8 miles wide around Pale, which includes eastern Sarajevo. NATO peacekeepers took control of TV Pale's former transmitters and relay stations last fall and gave responsibility for Bosnian Serb state-run TV to supporters of Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic in Banja Luka. PM ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT DENIES PLANS TO SACK JUDGES. Spokesmen for President Rexhep Meidani on 14 January denied reports that the Socialist-led government plans to sack a large number of judges and prosecutors who were trained in six-month crash courses in 1993 and appointed by the previous Democratic Party government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 December 1997). The spokesmen dismissed demands by some of the judges, who are on hunger strike, for a new law requiring all judges to have university law degrees to be repealed. The spokesmen said that the new legislation will apply only to people appointed to the bench in the future. They added that the law protects the judges and prosecutors appointed by the Democrats since it allows them to appeal to the Supreme Court against disciplinary measures. FS OSCE CALLS ON ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS TO PARTICIPATE IN PARLIAMENT. Gerard Stoudman, the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, on 14 January dismissed calls by the Democratic Party for early elections, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Stoudman, at the end of a three-day visit to Tirana, also called on the Democrats to end their boycott of the legislature and to participate in drafting a new constitution. He stressed that the document needs broad public support. Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha, however, said that his formation will not return to parliament simply "to serve as window-dressing for the government." FS ROMANIAN DEMOCRATS WITHDRAW SUPPORT FROM PREMIER CIORBEA. The National Council of the Democratic Party on 14 January withdrew its support from Premier Victor Ciorbea, saying a new government should be formed by another premier. The council also tasked the party leadership with negotiating the new cabinet's reform program with the members of the current coalition. The deadline for ending those negotiations is 31 March, and the party will quit the coalition if they are not successfully concluded by then. The council ignored an appeal by President Emil Constantinescu, who urged the Democrats not to dismember the coalition, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Democratic Party leader Petre Roman criticized the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) for promoting the large-scale restitution of property to former owners and for alleged pro-monarchy sympathies. MS COALITION PARTNERS REACT TO DEMOCRATS' DECISION. PNTCD chairman Ion Diaconescu, said the Democrats' decision amounted to "blackmail, demagogy, and hypocrisy." He said the government's records show that the Democrats never raised with the cabinet the issues they are now complaining about. He added that the Democrats will be held responsible by the public for halting the reform process and the struggle against inflation as well as for promoting an atmosphere of instability that will discourage foreign investors, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. On 15 January, Diaconescu told Radio Bucharest that the probable solution to the crisis is early elections. National Liberal Party leader Mircea Ionescu- Quintus said a change of government at this point would lead to "stagnation." MS MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION PARTY WANTS TO BAN KGB COLLABORATORS FROM RUNNING. Simion Certan, the co- chairman of the Democratic Forces Alliance (AFD), told journalists in Chisinau on 14 January that the alliance proposes that "former secret collaborators and informers of the [Soviet- era] KGB" be banned from running in the elections scheduled for later this year. Certan said the parliament must pass legislation forcing the Security Ministry to disclose the names of those candidates who are former secret service collaborators or informers. He said he will initiate an amendment to the electoral law to that end, BASA-press reported. According to Certan, the ban should extend to deputies elected in 1994 on the lists of the Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova and the Socialist Unity-Edinstvo bloc, who "are responsible for the present state of affairs in Moldova." MS WORLD BANK LOAN TO MOLDOVA. The World Bank's International Development Association (IDA) on 14 January approved a $5 million loan to Moldova to develop a cooperative rural banking system, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. The loan carries no interest charges and is repayable over 35 years. The IDA is a World Bank affiliate that helps the poorest nations. MS BULGARIAN PREMIER CONSIDERS RETALIATION OVER RUSSIAN GAS SUPPLIES. Ivan Kostov says Bulgaria might reduce Russia's gas transit across its territory if Gazprom curtails deliveries for Bulgarian consumption, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 January. Kostov said Russia annually pumps 8 billion cubic meters of gas to Turkey, Serbia, Greece, and Macedonia through Bulgaria. Meanwhile, the opposition Socialist Party has submitted a motion of non-confidence in the government, citing the cabinet's bungled talks with Gazprom as one of the reasons. It is unclear whether the other opposition parties represented in the legislature will support the motion, which is to be debated in late January. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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