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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 11, Part II, 19 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 * BALTIC, U.S. PRESIDENTS SIGN PARTNERSHIP CHARTER * SERBS, MUSLIMS, CROATS ELECT PLAVSIC'S PRIME MINISTER * GREECE OFFERS TO MEDIATE IN KOSOVO End Note ROMANIAN PRESIDENT PUTS BALL INTO DEMOCRATS' COURT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BALTIC, U.S. PRESIDENTS SIGN PARTNERSHIP CHARTER. At a ceremony in the White House on 16 January, U.S. President Bill Clinton and his counterparts from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania signed the long-awaited, non-binding Charter of Partnership. Clinton said the charter will help the Baltic States in their efforts to join European organizations, including the EU and NATO. While stressing that no one nation can guarantee admission to the Atlantic alliance, he noted that Washington is determined to create the conditions that will enable the three countries to "walk through NATO's open door." Estonia's Lennart Meri hailed the charter as "historic," while Latvia's Guntis Ulmanis called the document a "key to the next century." Lithuania's Algirdas Brazauskas also stressed the importance of the charter, while noting it cannot be considered a "consolation prize" for being left out of the first round of NATO enlargement. JC BALTIC-U.S. PARTNERSHIP FUND LAUNCHED. During their three-day visit to Washington, the Baltic presidents also launched a $15 million fund, established with equal contributions from the U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. financier and philanthropist George Soros. The fund is intended to promote non-government organizations and help further develop civic society in the Baltic States, an RFE/RL correspondent in the U.S. capital reported. JC YELTSIN CONGRATULATES LITHUANIA'S ADAMKUS. President Boris Yeltsin has welcomed Valdas Adamkus's election as Lithuanian president and pledged that Moscow will work with Vilnius for the security of the Baltics, Reuters and Interfax reported on 17 January, citing a press release from the Kremlin. "I am sure that through our joint efforts we will secure the development of Russian-Lithuanian relations based on cooperation in the interests of strengthening stability and confidence in the Baltics," Yeltsin said. Adamkus, who is to be sworn in at the end of next month, has stressed he will strive for good relations with Moscow. JC UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT IGNORES PARLIAMENT'S CALL FOR DISMISSALS. The cabinet has rejected a demand by the parliament to sack Prime Minister Valerii Pustovoitenko and two other senior officials, dpa reported on 17 January. By a margin of one vote, the parliament on 16 January passed a non- binding resolution that called on President Leonid Kuchma to fire Pustovoitenko, Culture and Arts Minister Dmytro Ostapenko, and Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko for allegedly embezzling $40 million during the renovation of Kyiv's main concert/conference hall, which was completed in 1996. PB CRIMEANS PROTEST UKRAINE-RUSSIA TREATY. A few hundred pro-Moscow protesters in the Crimean seaport of Sevastopol urged the Russian State Duma not to ratify the political accord between Moscow and Kyiv, which the Ukrainian parliament recently approved (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 1998), Interfax reported on 17 January. Among other things, the treaty consolidates Ukrainian sovereignty over Crimea. The demonstrators claimed that Kyiv officials are "Ukrainianizing" the mostly Russian peninsula. They called for a referendum to help decide Crimea's status. PB BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ASSESSES ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE. At a meeting of Russian and Belarusian regional officials in Minsk, Alyaksandr Lukashenka said that the 1997 economic results for his country are "amazing," Interfax reported on 16 January. Lukashenka said industrial output rose 17.8 percent last year, propelled by "favorable conditions" created by the Russian-Belarusian union. Lukashenka added that the economic figures are drawn up in line with European standards and are "not doubted" by Western experts. PB POLAND'S KWASNIEWSKI WELCOMES U.S.-BALTIC CHARTER... President Aleksander Kwasniewski has said the U.S.-Baltic partnership will aid the building of a new European security system, RFE/RL reported on 17 January. Kwasniewski said Poland will "vigorously support" the implementation of the charter and the efforts of the Baltic states to join both the EU and NATO. PB ...MEETS WITH GAZPROM CHIEF. The next day, Kwasniewski met with Rem Vyakhirev, the head of the Russian gas monopoly, to discuss gas deliveries to Poland, PAP reported. The meeting in Warsaw came one day after the two sides agreed on payment of a $200 million Polish debt to Gazprom (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 1998). Under that agreement, Warsaw will pay $175 million of the debt this month and the rest in February. Poland will pay a total of $340 million for gas deliveries this year, partly in goods, according to the Polish news agency. PB KLAUS'S PARTY WILL NOT SUPPORT CABINET. Former Premier Vaclav Klaus on 16 January told the daily "Mlada Fronta Dnes" that his Civic Democratic Party (ODS) will not support the interim cabinet headed by Josef Tosovsky in the 27 January vote of confidence. Without the backing of the ODS's 39 deputies, the new cabinet will be dependent on the opposition Social Democrats, who have said they will make a decision only after the cabinet's program is presented, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, CTK reported that Alexander Tomsky, a member of the ODS Executive Council, resigned on 16 January, saying the party cannot be reformed from within. The next day, two ODS deputies announced they are joining the newly formed Freedom Union. MS ODS DISSENTERS FORM NEW PARTY. Meeting in Litomysl, eastern Bohemia, on 17 January, the Freedom Union formally ended its activities in the ODS, CTK reported. Former Interior Minister Jan Ruml, who is running for chairman of the union, said a national conference of the new formation should meet in five weeks. Former Finance Minister Ivan Pilip said the union should draw up a new program for the formation. In other news, the chiefs of staff of the Czech, Polish and Hungarian armies, met at Komorni Hradek, near Prague, on 17 January and agreed to coordinate arms procurement. Czech chief of staff Jiri Nekvasil said joint purchases and repairs of army equipment are much cheaper than separate deals. MS EXTREMIST LEADER TO RUN FOR CZECH PRESIDENCY. A spokesman for the far right Republican Party on 16 January announced that its leader, Miroslav Sladek, will be the party's candidate in the 20 January presidential elections. Also on 16 January, Sladek appealed to the Constitutional Court against his detention on grounds of stirring up national and racial hatred, CTK reported. He had earlier been stripped of his parliamentary immunity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 9 January 1998). Meanwhile, in his regular Sunday radio address on 18 January, President Vaclav Havel said he would not mind losing the presidential election but that there is a danger that there would be "no president at all." He warned that such an outcome would add to the country's political turmoil, since only the president can call new elections under the constitution. ODS members have hinted they may not support Havel. MS SLOVAK PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN ON 'VELVET DIVORCE.' Ivan Gasparovic, refering to the fifth anniversary of the independent Slovak Republic, commented that Slovaks had not wanted the Czechoslovak federation dismembered but only wider powers for the two component republics. The Czechs, however, had told them that it was going to be "either a unitary state or two independent states," he said, according to CTK. Gasparovic said the decision to split the federation had taken Slovakia "in the right direction." He also said that five years later, Slovakia has become a "stabilizing factor" in Central Europe. While elsewhere on the continent wars are still being waged, "we have protected Central Europe from similar conflicts," he commented. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBS, MUSLIMS, CROATS ELECT PLAVSIC'S PRIME MINISTER. Muslim and Croatian deputies joined moderate Serbs in the Bosnian Serb parliament to elect Independent Social Democrat Milorad Dodik as prime minister in Bijeljina on 17 January. Dodik was the nominee of Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and won with 42 votes in the 83- seat legislature after hard-line supporters of Radovan Karadzic walked out. The new prime minister promised the next day to respect the Dayton agreement and cooperate with the international community, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Bijeljina. Dodik also pledged to fight corruption and lawlessness and to promote economic development. The new defense minister will be General Manojlo Milovanovic and the interior portfolio will be taken over by Milovan Stankovic. Dodik (38), who comes from northwestern Bosnia, made money during the war by selling Bosnian timber in Yugoslavia and importing fuel and coffee from there. PM PALE SERBS CHARGE "COUP D'ETAT." Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) leaders Momcilo Krajisnik and Aleksa Buha said in Pale on 18 January that they do not accept Dodik's election as legitimate. Buha added that the vote was "sort of a coup d'etat" by President Plavsic. Socialist leader Nikola Poplasen, an ally of the SDS, said that Dodik's election marks the culmination of the split of the Republika Srpska into two. Buha said the SDS will not recognize any of the new government's decisions as binding and will announce the party's course of action on 19 January. PM PLAVSIC SAYS DODIK'S ELECTION "SAVED" REPUBLIKA SRPSKA. President Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 18 January that Dodik's victory means that the Bosnian Serbs will keep control over their own affairs. She noted that Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, had threatened to name a prime minister if the parliament did not do so. Plavsic added that the Karadzic loyalists "showed what they're about" with their obstructionist tactics. She stated that the Republika Srpska needs leaders who can work with the international community. PM NATO GUARDS BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS. A spokesman for Carlos Westendorp in Sarajevo on 18 January hailed Dodik's election and called for a peaceful transfer of power. NATO spokesmen said the next day that SFOR troops took up positions outside the Interior Ministry in Pale on 18 January and stepped up their presence in Bijeljina. PM SERBS ATTACK MUSLIMS, POLICE IN SREBRENICA. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on 17 January condemned an attack by 600 Serbs on UN police and Muslim politicians in Srebrenica the previous day. Muslim refugees elected the politicians to local government offices in last September's elections. Implementation of the election results is essential if there is to be any chance of reversing the results of "ethnic cleansing" in Srebrenica or elsewhere in Bosnia. PM MOURNING FOLLOWS SERBIAN MINING DISASTER. A memorial service took place on 18 January at a coal mine in Citluk near the Bulgarian border for 29 miners killed in an underground accident two days earlier when methane gas exploded. Serbian President Milan Milutinovic and other top officials took part in the service. Police arrested four members of the mine's management after the explosion. Serbian mines suffer from a combination of poor safety conditions and insufficient funds to make necessary improvements. Some 232 miners have died in underground accidents since 1971, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade on 17 January. PM RUSSIA CRITICIZES BELGRADE'S PLANS FOR NATO. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin told Interfax on 16 January that Moscow strongly opposes a recent statement by Yugoslav Army Chief-of-Staff General Momcilo Perisic that Belgrade should aim toward NATO membership as a way toward ending its international isolation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 1998). Nesterushkin said that European countries must concentrate their efforts on building a Europe without demarcation lines. Interfax quoted an unnamed Russian expert in international affairs as saying that Yugoslavia could take many steps on its own to end its isolation "before knocking on NATO's door." PM BULATOVIC RULES OUT ROLE IN MONTENEGRIN GOVERNMENT. Spokesmen for supporters of former President Momir Bulatovic said in Podgorica on 18 January that they refuse to participate in President Milo Djukanovic's ongoing talks about forming a new government, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. The correspondent added that the front-runner for the premiership appears to be Interior Minister Filip Vujanovic. PM GREECE OFFERS TO MEDIATE IN KOSOVO. Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou said in Athens on 16 January that he is willing to mediate in talks between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano, and Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova. Rugova's deputy, Fehmi Agani, told the Belgrade daily "Blic" of 19 January, however, that the Kosovars will not accept the Greek offer. Agami said a Rugova-Milosevic summit cannot be held before key problems have been solved. PM ARMED CONFLICT AMONG SHKODER POLICE. Several policemen occupied the police station in Shkoder on 17 January to protest the recent appointment of local police chief Mithat Havari, who comes from Elbasan. The protesting policemen fired shots into the air and called for Havari's resignation, "Koha Jone" reported. Earlier that day, Havari had said that some of his subordinates were to blame for a 16 January explosion at the police station, "Shekulli" reported. Havari had also claimed earlier that some of his colleagues are involved in smuggling and corruption and use "terrorism" to prevent the local police force from being reformed. The Interior Ministry has since sent special forces to the northern city. Meanwhile, a bomb exploded in Shkoder's hospital on 17 January. Nobody was injured. FS ANTI-CORRUPTION AGENCY CHARGES EX-CHIEF WITH DESTROYING FILES. The State Control Agency, which is tasked with combatting corruption, asked the Albanian Prosecutor-General's Office on 17 January to open an investigation into Blerim Cela, a former head of the agency. The officials say that hundreds of secret files compiled under the previous Democratic government are missing. Mustafa Kercuku, who is the agency's current director and belongs to the conservative National Front Party, also charges Cela with having destroyed most of the agency's correspondence with high-ranking Democratic government officials, including President Sali Berisha, "Koha Jone" reported. FS ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON COALITION CRISIS. In a televised address on 17 January, Emil Constantinescu said there is "no genuine political crisis" in Romania, but only a "government crisis" triggered by those with "narrow party interests." He stressed that all public opinion polls show that trust in those elected in November 1966 is growing and warned that the ongoing conflict is greatly harming the country's international image and economic credibility. Constantinescu said the parliament will convene in an emergency session on 21 January to debate urgent economic legislation. The government will tie passage of those bills to a vote of no confidence. If a no confidence motion is not submitted within three days, the laws will be considered to have been approved (see also "End Note" below). MS MOLDOVAN, TRANSDNIESTER EXPERTS FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT. The first meeting this year of Moldovan and Transdniester negotiators has failed to bridge the gap between the two sides, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 16 January. Moldovan presidential adviser Anatol Taranu said the Tiraspol representatives were supposed to have submitted a draft on how to set up a joint "economic, social and judicial entity". Instead, he said, they made proposals on guarantees for the separatist region's security. Vladimir Grigoriev, the Tiraspol delegation leader, said his team will submit the expected draft at a 22 January meeting. He insisted, however, that the memorandum signed in May in Moscow grants Tiraspol the right to "conduct its external activities separately." Chisinau is hindering the memorandum's implementation, he added. MS BULGARIAN PREMIER THREATENS TO CUT RUSSIAN GAS TRANSIT. Ivan Kostov has called on Moscow to sign a new agreement for gas deliveries, saying that failure to do so would endanger the transit of Russian gas deliveries to Turkey, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported on 16 January. The same day, Gazprom spokesman Gennadii Yezhov said Sofia "will have problems" if it curtails Russian transit rights, ITAR-TASS reported. But according to an RFE/RL Sofia correspondent, Yezhov denied reports that Gazprom has threatened to cut supplies to Bulgaria by half unless a new contract is signed soon. MS NEW TV, RADIO CHIEFS IN BULGARIA. The National Council for Radio and Television on 17 January appointed Ivan Propyordanov as director of state television and radio journalist Alexander Velev as director of state radio. According to an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia, this ends the practice of ruling parties appointing their supporters to those posts. Velev was fired from the radio for political reasons by the previous Socialist administration. The previous day, parliamentary chairman Yordan Sokolov stripped journalists from the popular weekly "168 Chasa" of their accreditation, claiming their "distorted reporting" undermined the legislature's authority, Reuters reported. The news agency also reported on 18 January that an explosion smashed windows of the widely read "Trud" daily. Deputy chief editor Nikolai Stefanov told state radio that "someone is trying to threaten us." MS WORLD BANK HOLDS TALKS WITH SOFIA. Kenneth Lay, director of the World Bank's southeast European department, told journalists in Sofia on 18 January that the bank is discussing a three-year funding strategy that may amount to $400-$600 million, Reuters reported. Lay is on a one-week visit to Bulgarian to review the government's reform program. MS END NOTE ROMANIAN PRESIDENT PUTS BALL INTO DEMOCRATS' COURT by Michael Shafir President Emil Constantinescu's televised address on 17 January surprised many political observers and, presumably, the leadership of the Democratic Party as well. Having threatened to leave the coalition by 31 March unless Premier Victor Ciorbea was replaced and a new reform program adopted, the Democrats no doubt expected the president to seek to mediate between themselves and the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD), which has rejected the Democrats' ultimatum. The presidential response to the Democrats' bid at brinkmanship was to announce that the parliament will meet in an emergency session on 21 January at which the government will submit a package of reform bills. That legislation is to be tied to a kind a confidence vote. If no objections are raised to the bills, they will be considered to have been approved by the legislature. A motion of no-confidence can be moved by at least one-third of deputies and senators. In such a case, the vote is to take place within three days. Constantinescu's option is astute because it puts the ball back into the Democrats' court. Led by Senate chairman and former Premier Petre Roman, the party has complained that reforms are stalling because the PNTCD and other members of the Democratic Convention of Romania are more interested in promoting relatively minor interests (such as the full restitution of property to its former owners) or adopting pro- monarchy positions instead of devoting their energies to securing legislation that would bring about structural reform and large-scale privatization. While that argument may be considered partly valid, it is strange that Democrats agreed to the government's program less than one month earlier, when Ciorbea's reshuffled cabinet was approved by the parliament. What was the reason for this sudden change? The answer is to be found in the reshuffle itself. The reform process had indeed been stalling owing to the coalition partners' inability to compromise on different programs. "In- party" fighting (since the government is a "coalition of coalitions") played a role, and what seemed to be a promising reform-minded team in November 1996 had come to look like a rather infantile, inefficient group. The reshuffle did not take place until early December 1997 because of bickering and each coalition formation's jealous guarding of fiefdoms. The Democrats, meanwhile, seemed to have come out of it least damaged. But just several weeks later, on 23 December, former Foreign Minister Adrian Severin, the Democrats' most prominent member of the government, had to resign after his allegations of "foreign agents" among political leaders and prominent journalists, which he had made some two months earlier, proved untenable. Severin was replaced by former dissident Andrei Plesu, who, though nominated by the Democrats, is not a member of that party. As a result, the Democrats had now suffered losses comparable to those of their coalition partners, which in the December reshuffle had been forced to agree to relinquish some of their prominent members. The same day Plesu was sworn in, Ciorbea was forced to ask Transportation Minister Traian Basescu to resign, following Basescu's refusal to retract harsh, though hardly unjustified, criticism of the way the government functioned. With the benefit of hindsight, it is possible to assert that the "Basescu episode" seems to have been a deliberate provocation. Ciorbea could hardly have acted differently, particularly after his announcement in early December that he would no longer tolerate public criticism from members of the government. At the beginning of January, the Standing Bureau of the Democrats called on Ciorbea to reinstate Basescu. When Ciorbea refused to do so, the bureau accused Ciorbea himself of stalling reform and announced that the party's participation in the coalition is conditional on his replacement by 31 March and agreement among the coalition members on a new reform program. The latter of those demands was presented as the main bone of contention. But in reality, it was not. A new government could mean Severin's and Basescu's return to the cabinet, possibly to other portfolios. Constantinescu's response now calls the Democrats' bluff. If the Democrats are really interested in relaunching the reform process, they must support the program to be submitted to the legislature. Roman responded temperately to Constantinescu's statement, saying his formation will support the package, which, by implication, would mean the complaints about Ciorbea are no longer justified. But he is a minority within his party. On 18 January, the Democrats released a statement repeating their criticism of Ciorbea and rejecting Constantinescu's "insinuations" that narrow party interests are seriously affecting Romania's credibility abroad, its chances for Euro-Atlantic integration, and the chances of attracting foreign investors by exacerbating the country's already tarnished image of prolonged political instability. Constantinescu implied that it is irresponsible to compromise not only the country's reform program but perhaps its democratic process as well. Indeed, the extremists (who have a growing number of supporters, according to recent opinion polls) would be the only ones to profit from the failure of a coalition to which, all its members agree, there is no viable democratic alternative. The consequences of such a scenario cannot be overlooked. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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