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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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

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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.

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