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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 13, Part II, 21 January 1998
_______________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 13, Part II, 21 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 * HAVEL RE-ELECTED CZECH PRESIDENT * WESTENDORP IMPOSES NEW BOSNIAN CURRENCY DESIGN * CONFLICT OVER SHKODER POLICE INTENSIFIES End Note ABKHAZIA AND THE "BOSNIA OPTION" xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPROVES 1998 BUDGET. Leonid Kuchma has signed the 1998 budget, dpa reported on 20 January. The budget, which was passed by the parliament three weeks ago, calls for revenues of 21.1 billion hryvna ($11.1 billion) and expenditures of 24.5 billion hryvna, resulting in a projected deficit of 3.3 percent of GDP. Viktor Yushchenko, the head of the central bank, said last week that the deficit should be kept at 2 percent of GDP to maintain economic stability and help attract foreign investment. PB BELARUSIAN PROSECUTOR SEEKS SUSPENDED SENTENCE FOR JOURNALIST. The state prosecutor in the case against Russian Public Television (ORT) journalist Pavel Sheremet and his cameraman, Dmitriy Zavadskiy, on charges of illegally crossing the Belarusian border has requested suspended sentences for the accused, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 January. Vlyadimir Sido asked the court to hand down a three-year suspended sentence to Sheremet and a two-year sentence to Zavadskiy. The men would be required to regularly report to police but would be jailed for their full terms if found guilty of any new offense, regardless of how minor. A verdict is expected this week. PB BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT SUPPORTS "INDICATIVE PLANNING." Prime Minister Sergei Ling said on 19 January that the state would not revert to "totalitarian planning," Interfax reported. But he said it did support "indicative planning," in which the state does not direct the economy or own the means of production but attempts to assist the market and producers. He said this system had allowed Belarus to reach its economic targets in 1997, noting that GDP increased by 10 percent, compared with a 2.6 percent increase the previous year. He also said that industrial and agricultural production increased, official unemployment fell by one-third, and investments rose by 11 percent. Despite the apparently across-the-board economic improvements, Ling said most financial indicators are "unsatisfactory." PB PRIMAKOV SAYS U.S.-BALTIC CHARTER "NORMAL DEVELOPMENT." Speaking at a news conference in Lulea, Sweden, on 20 January, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov described the U.S.-Baltic partnership charter as a "normal development," BNS and Reuters reported. Primakov added that the document does not go against Russian interests and does not imply NATO membership for the Baltic States. At the same time, he stressed Moscow's position that if the Baltic States were to become members of the alliance, "this may have a serious effect on our relationship with NATO as a whole, although we have signed a founding agreement with NATO." He also commented that "the relationship between Russia and the Baltics--not all but some--is not yet sufficiently normalized," citing what he called discrimination against Russian-speakers. Moscow has repeatedly criticized Estonia and Latvia for their treatment of their ethnic Russian populations. JC ESTONIAN PREMIER NOT TO ASK FOREIGN MINISTER TO RESIGN. Mart Siimann has said he sees no problem in Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves's being a member of the Farmers' Party as long as that party supports the government's economic policy, BNS reported on 20 January. Ilves, formerly an independent, joined the non-parliamentary Farmers' Party in December, prompting speculation that he would be asked to resign his post as foreign minister. Following talks with Siimann on 19 January, Ilves was quoted by a government spokesman as saying there is no contradiction between the government's economic policy and the program of the Farmers' Party. The spokesman added, however, that the situation would be discussed again after the party merges with a right-wing opposition formation in the spring. JC AUTOPSY SHOWS POLISH BOY DIED FROM BLOW TO HEAD. A revised autopsy shows that a blow to the head killed a 13-year-old boy last week in the northern city of Slupsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January), PAP reported on 20 January. The boy's death sparked four nights of rioting. The original report had said the boy died after he fell and his head struck a post. A policeman is being detained in connection with the case. Meanwhile, the government has said it will form a commission, to include Catholic Church and media representatives, that will study and campaign against youth violence. PB HAVEL RE-ELECTED CZECH PRESIDENT. Vaclav Havel on 20 January was re-elected president in a second ballot, having failed to win the support of a majority of all incumbent parliamentary deputies and senators in the first round. The second-ballot election required a majority of all deputies and senators present, and Havel was endorsed by 99 out of 197 deputies and 47 out of 81 senators. His rivals in the first round, Stanislav Fischer, who was backed by the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, and Miroslav Sladek, the candidate of the Republican Party, received 26 and 22 votes, respectively, in the first round and were not eligible for the second. The Republicans claim the election was illegitimate because Sladek, who is currently in prison, was not allowed to cast his vote as a deputy. MS ODS DISSENTERS SET UP PARLIAMENTARY FACTION. The Freedom Union, which was officially founded on 17 January by dissenters who left Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS), has now formally established its faction in the Chamber of Deputies, Czech media reported on 20 January. So far, 28 former ODS members have left that party to join the new faction, CTK reported. The news agency also said that Defense Minister Michal Lobkowicz resigned from the ODS on 21 January to join the Freedom Union. Former Foreign Minister and ODS Deputy Chairman Josef Zieleniec has also announced he is leaving the ODS, whose leadership he accused of "lying and financial machinations." But he did not say whether he would join the Freedom Union. MS THREAT ON SLOVAK PREMIER'S LIFE. The Slovak government said on 20 January that one of its diplomatic missions has warned of a planned attempt on Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's life before the end of next month. Government spokesman Jozef Kroslak told Reuters that the would-be assassins have been given 1 million German marks ($554,000) from someone inside Slovakia to murder Meciar. In other news, the parliament on 20 January rejected the opposition motion to debate the case of two deputies whom the ruling coalition chose as replacements for two defectors: Emil Spisak, who left the far-right Slovak National Party (SNS), should have succeeded a SNS deputy who died, and Frantisek Gaulieder, who was expelled from the parliament after he left Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. In July 1997, the Constitutional Court ruled that Gaulieder's rights have been violated but the legislature refused to reinstate him. MS HUNGARIAN MINISTER ATTACKS SLOVAK EDUCATION POLICIES. Hungarian Culture and Education Minister Balint Magyar says that in recent years, the Slovak government has introduced measures that negatively affect the country's Hungarian minority, Hungarian media reported on 20 January . Speaking at a ceremony marking the opening of the renovated Hungarian Institute in Bratislava, Magyar criticized the abolition of bilingual school reports, obstacles to taking university entrance exams in the mother tongue, and the dismissal of ethnic Hungarian school directors. Slovak Education Minister Eva Slavskova announced the same day that schools may issue bilingual school reports for a fee but added that such reports are for private use only. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE WESTENDORP IMPOSES NEW BOSNIAN CURRENCY DESIGN. A spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 20 January that Westendorp has decided on the design for the new Bosnian joint currency, the convertible mark. The spokesman added that Westendorp will make public the design, which includes no nationalist symbols, on 21 January. Westendorp's decision follows the failure of the joint presidency to agree on a design. PM FIRST FOREIGN CREDIT FOR BOSNIAN SERBS. Kresimir Zubak, who is a member of the joint presidency, and a representative of the World Bank signed two credit agreements in Sarajevo on 20 January. The first credit is for $10 million and will be used to repair Sarajevo's gas supply system. The second, $65 million credit is earmarked for several projects involving housing, water supplies, sewage systems, electrical systems, and agriculture. Some $17 million of the second credit will go to the Serbs, the first such international credit they have received. Meanwhile in Brussels, Westendorp said that the Republika Srpska needs international assistance to ensure the most basic necessities, including that the people have enough to eat. PM BOSNIAN JOURNALIST CONVICTED OF SLANDER. Senad Pecanin, the editor-in-chief of the independent monthly "Dani," was convicted by a Sarajevo court on 20 January on five charges of slander. He received a two-month suspended jail sentence. Fahrudin Radoncic, editor-in-chief of the pro- government daily "Dnevni Avaz," plans to seek some $85,000 compensation from Pecanin, who last June wrote that Radoncic burned his newspaper's financial records and practiced bigamy. Pecanin said on 20 January that the trial had "the atmosphere of a pogrom" and proved that the government is trying "to strangle independent media through private lawsuits." Radoncic, for his part, insisted that his suit was a purely private matter. PM BOSNIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS CAUTIOUS ON DODIK. Social Democratic leader Sejfudin Tokic, who is also the prime minister in the non-nationalist parties' shadow cabinet, said in Sarajevo on 20 January that the election of Milorad Dodik as Bosnian Serb prime minister marks a victory over Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS, see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 21 January 1998). Tokic added, however, that the battle against nationalism has not yet been won, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. Tokic urged Dodik to eliminate what Tokic called the "remnants of the SDS's totalitarian rule." He added that he hoped Dodik's administration will mark the beginning of the end of the rule of nationalist parties throughout Bosnia. PM KINKEL APPEALS TO GRANIC ON REFUGEES. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel told his Croatian counterpart, Mate Granic, in Stuttgart on 20 January that the course of Zagreb's future relations with the EU will depend on how well the Croats cooperate with the Muslims in Bosnia and on Croatia's willingness to allow Croatian Serb refugees to return to their former homes in the Krajina region. PM KUCAN CALLS FOR REFORM OF SLOVENIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE. President Milan Kucan said in Ljubljana on 20 January that he hopes that a recent incident in which Slovenian spies were expelled from Croatia will serve as a catalyst leading to the depoliticization and professionalization of the intelligence service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 1998). Kucan added that the incident provided "a sufficient reason for Slovenia to finally get a security service supervision law and one more reason for my oft repeated demand for a national security council." PM POLICE DETAIN BELGRADE MUFTI. Police held Hamdija Jusufspahic and seven imams for two hours on 20 January. Police said they were looking for a Bosnian refugee who was reportedly living in the mufti's residency. Jusufspahic said he feared that the police action is the beginning of a campaign against his organization, the Islamic Community. Jusufspahic's Muslim detractors earlier nicknamed him "Milosevic's mufti" because of his close ties to the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. PM CONFLICT OVER SHKODER POLICE INTENSIFIES. Tensions remain high in Shkoder, where more than 50 armed civilians and former policemen have held regional prefect Gezim Podgorica hostage for two days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 1998). Unidentified gunmen attacked police headquarters and injured two policemen on 20 January, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Other armed persons set up barricades in the city center. The protesters demand the resignation of the new local police chief, Mithat Havari, and the withdrawal of special police forces. Havari, a southerner, was appointed recently by the Socialist-led government "to crack down on police corruption" in the opposition stronghold. The protesters are supported by some local politicians from the city's center-right coalition government. FS ALBANIAN PARTIES ASK COUNCIL OF EUROPE TO ALLOW DEATH PENALTY. Legislators from the governing Socialist Party and the opposition Democratic Party have asked a high-ranking Council of Europe delegation in Tirana to reconsider an agreement banning Albania from carrying out the death penalty. The diplomats will present the request to the Council's Parliamentary Assembly for review in March. FS ALBANIAN ARMY TO COLLECT WEAPONS? Prosecutor- General Arben Rakipi on 19 January proposed that the army should start a campaign to collect illegal arms. He also proposed a new amnesty for people who surrender their weapons voluntarily. Rakipi added that more people might be more willing to give their arms anonymously to the army than to the local police, who register the names of those handing in the weapons, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Rakipi also said that unidentified people sent him what appears to be a plan for an attack on Vlora last March. The plan was signed by the then national police chief, Agim Shehu, "Republika" reported. FS ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON CORRUPTION. Emil Constantinescu on 20 January told journalists that a meeting of the National Council for the Struggle against Corruption and Organized Crime (CNACC) next week will discuss "mafia-like structures" that have "destroyed the Romanian merchant fleet" and attempted to take over the petroleum industry. The CNACC, set up last year, is an ad-hoc body subordinated to the National Council of Defense, which is chaired by Constantinescu, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Political observers say this may be a veiled threat directed at the Democratic Party, which was repeatedly accused by the media of corruption and involvement in illegal dealings during the 1990-1991 tenure of Petre Roman's government. One of those alleged to have been involved in illegal dealings is Traian Basescu, then and now minister of transportation. MS MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY NOT TO INITIATE NO- CONFIDENCE MOTION. Adrian Nastase, the deputy chairman of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), has said his formation "does not necessarily want" Premier Victor Ciorbea replaced and consequently will not initiate a no- confidence motion when the parliament debates the privatization law on 21 January. Nastase said that tying the vote on the privatization law to a confidence vote in the government is nonetheless "unconstitutional," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS ROMANIAN ARMY TO BE DOWN-SIZED. The Ministry of National Defense on 20 January said the army will be cut by 12,700 people this year and that those laid off will be compensated. For the time being, the government has approved compensation for the 2,400 civilians working for the ministry who will be affected by the measure. In other news, Bulgarian Defense Minister Georgi Ananiev met with his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, in Bucharest on 20 January and agreed to set up a joint peace-keeping unit, possibly with the participation of other Balkan countries. MS GAGAUZ-YERI ASSEMBLY WITHDRAWS COURT APPEAL. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Gagauz-Yeri autonomous region on 20 January withdrew its appeal to the Constitutional Court over the election law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1998), Infotag reported . Assembly chairman Ivan Bejan said the deputies still believe that the law, which provides for proportional representation in a single, countrywide constituency, deprives the region from electing its representatives to the parliament in Chisinau. But he added that the decision was taken to "avoid aggravating the political situation" and bearing in mind that it may be too late to amend the electoral law at this stage. MS TIRASPOL REPORTEDLY BLOCKS ACTIVITIES OF CONTROL COMMISSION. The Joint Control Commission overseeing the truce in the Transdniester cannot resume its activities because Tiraspol is refusing to accept changes in the membership of the Chisinau representation, BASA-press reported on 20 January. Tiraspol opposes the inclusion of Vitalie Bruma, adviser to the Moldovan Interior Ministry, saying he has criticized the Transdniester authorities in the media. Gheorghe Roman, a Moldovan member of the commission, said the authorities in Tiraspol are deliberately blocking that body's activities. MS BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS HE WAS MISQUOTED ON GAZPROM. Before departing for an official visit to Germany, Ivan Kostov told journalists that he has been misquoted on intentions to curtail the transit of Russian gas through Bulgarian pipelines to Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 January 1998). He said the interests of Bulgaria and Russia are so similar that a new deal on Russian gas deliveries and transiting rights is "inevitable," an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova also said Bulgaria has no plans to limit the transit of Russian gas. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin told RFE/RL on 20 January that Kostov's reaction could be interpreted as a positive sign in the development of bilateral relations. MS END NOTE ABKHAZIA AND THE "BOSNIA OPTION" by Liz Fuller and Patrick Moore In his New Year's address to the Georgian people and a 12 January radio interview, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze suggested that the international community could launch a "peace-enforcing" operation under UN auspices in the renegade Georgian Black Sea region of Abkhazia that would be similar to the 1995 intervention in Bosnia. Shevardnadze stressed, however, that a peace-enforcing operation in Abkhazia should be undertaken only as a last resort--that is, if ongoing negotiations fail to yield an agreement on the repatriation of tens of thousands of ethnic Georgians forced to flee during the 1992-1993 fighting. Shevardnadze's use of the term "Bosnia option" in the Abkhaz context is both misleading and inappropriate. There are two fundamental differences between the situation in Bosnia in mid-1995 and that in Abkhazia today. First, hostilities in Abkhazia ended in late 1993 and a formal cease-fire agreement was signed in May 1994. But both Abkhaz units and the Georgian "White Legion" formation, over which the Georgian leadership claims to have no control, are still engaged in low-level guerrilla activity, which could be used as a pretext for international intervention. Second, in addition to a 136-strong UN observer force, a CIS peacekeeping force is already deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia . Tbilisi, however, has been arguing for the past year that this force is ineffective. The CIS heads of state summit in March 1997 voted to broaden the peacekeepers' mandate by investing them with police powers to protect Georgian repatriants against reprisals from Abkhaz militants. But implementation of that decision was blocked by the Abkhaz authorities, which argued that the peacekeepers' mandate could not be altered without their permission. In addition, Shevardnadze has expressly ruled out the setting up in Abkhazia of "ethnic enclaves" such as the December 1995 Dayton agreement provided for. However, the repatriation of ethnic Georgians to Abkhazia's southern-most Gali Raion, where they constituted 90 percent of the pre-war population, would in effect create such an enclave. Moreover, the military role of the international community in Bosnia was never really a peace-enforcing one. This was primarily because the political will was lacking in most Western capitals to back up diplomacy with a credible military threat. Three things, in fact, characterized what some now call "the Bosnian option." First, intervention in any form came only with the greatest reluctance. The Bosnian war began in the spring of 1992, but the UNPROFOR soldiers who were soon sent there were little better than monitors. France and Britain, in particular, argued against a tougher international military role out of fear that the "warring factions" might retaliate against foreign troops already on the ground. By the summer of 1995, the Serbs were taking peacekeepers hostage by the dozen in response to timid NATO air strikes. Second, it took major catalysts to prompt any serious response. The no-nonsense Rapid Reaction Force was sent to the Sarajevo area in July 1995 only after the fall of Srebrenica and the subsequent massacre of thousands of Muslim civilians. Massive air strikes came only in late August in response to the Serbian shelling of a crowded Sarajevo market place. Third, the military moves of the international community helped tip the balance against the Serbs but were not in themselves decisive. There were, in fact, two other main reasons why the Serbs agreed to talk peace in the fall of 1995. By the end of August, Croatian forces had reconquered most Serb-held areas in that republic. They then teamed up with Bosnian government forces in that republic and sent the Bosnian Serb forces running. And by late 1995, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, the man most responsible for the destruction of the old Yugoslavia, had decided he had to make peace in order to end the international sanctions that had helped cripple his country's economy. It would seem that Shevardnadze is using the term "Bosnia option" as a euphemism for a surgical strike by international forces at Abkhaz forces concentrated along the administrative border between Gali Raion and the Abkhaz- dominated district of Ochamchire. The Georgian president presumably hopes that such intervention would destroy the Abkhaz military capacity and force President Vladislav Ardzinba to sign a formal peace agreement. But it is highly unlikely that Moscow would endorse such action, even if Western powers decided that it is warranted. Russia provided logistical and military support for the Abkhaz during the war, and since 1994 it has tacitly encouraged Ardzinba in his obdurate rejection of any settlement document that would subordinate Abkhazia to Tbilisi. (Ardzinba worked during the early1980s under Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who at the time was director of Moscow's Oriental Institute and whom Shevardnadze has publicly accused of duplicity in his capacity as mediator between the two sides.) The present deadlock constitutes leverage that Moscow can bring to bear on Tbilisi. Western interest in stability in Georgia is confined to ensuring the uninterrupted operation of the pipeline that is to transport Caspian oil from Baku to the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa, which lies some 30 kilometers south of the Abkhaz- Georgian border. The chances of an international military operation against Abkhazia will depend largely on whether Abkhazia is perceived as a threat to Western oil interests. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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