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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 14, Part II, 22 January 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 14, Part II, 22 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

*UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DECREES LOWER BUDGET
DEFICIT

* NATO ARRESTS SERBIAN WAR CRIMES SUSPECT

* PALE SERBS TO HAVE OWN PARLIAMENT

End Note

*HAVEL NARROWLY WINS RE-ELECTION

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DECREES LOWER BUDGET
DEFICIT... Leonid Kuchma on 21 January issued a decree reducing the
country's 1998 budget deficit, ITAR-TASS reported. Government spending is
to be cut and increased revenues sought from privatization and taxes in an
effort
to reduce the deficit to 2.5 percent of GDP, down from the original budget's
projected 3.3 percent. National Bank head Viktor Yushchenko had
recommended that the deficit be held to 2 percent, but he said he supports the
decree because it brings the deficit in line "with possible credits."
Meanwhile, a
Ukrainian delegation that included Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko and
Finance Minister Ihor Mytyukov arrived in Washington on 22 January to hold
talks with World Bank and IMF officials. PB

...AS CURRENCY CRISIS LOOMS. Also on 21 January, the National
Bank announced that the hryvna will be traded within a corridor of 1.8 to 2.25
to the dollar, Reuters reported. The government announced last week that it
would not be able to maintain the previous band (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14
January 1998). Many observers think the beleaguered currency is on the verge
of a devaluation. PB

EX-PREMIER WAS "UNAWARE" OF LATVENERGO AFFAIR.
Andris Skele has told a parliamentary investigation
committee that he was unaware of the so-called Latvenergo
affair until after the notorious 3 million lats (some $6
million) transfer took place, BNS reported on 20 January.
That transfer was part of a larger sum that the state energy
company paid last year to an off-shore Liechtenstein
company that had obtained collection rights for debts
Latvenergo owed Bank Baltija.  (Following the bank's
bankruptcy, the government had appointed a liquidator who
sold the debt collection rights to the Liechtenstein
company.) The former premier blamed a  press secretary for
having failed to inform him about media reports that
discussed the deal even before the transfer had been
completed. Andrejs Pantelejevs, head of the parliamentary
investigation committee, told reporters that "it was indeed
a government of ignoramuses with a respective prime
minister." JC

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER TO DISCUSS OSCE MISSION IN
MINSK. Bronislaw Geremek, who is also the current chairman of the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, will travel to Minsk next
month to discuss the opening of the controversial OSCE mission there, Reuters
reported on 22 January. Geremek will meet with officials and opposition
leaders
in the Belarusian capital. The opening of the mission has been stonewalled by
the Belarusian government for many months. PB

CZECH CABINET AGREES ON POLICY STATEMENT. Josef
Tosovsky's cabinet on 21 January agreed on  its policy statement that will be
tied to the 27 January vote of confidence. Interior Minister Cyril Svoboda
told
journalists that the agreement is a "major breakthrough" and that only "minor
adjustments" are still needed. Svoboda and chairman of the Christian
Democratic Party Josef Lux said they believe the statement may receive the
parliamentary backing of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), which the
government crucially needs.  Lux said the program includes the continued
privatization of the large banks co-owned by the state, pension reform, and
the
continued deregulation of energy prices and rents. The CSSD opposes price
deregulation and the privatization of banks, both of which were launched by
Vaclav Klaus's cabinet. MS

CZECH SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS DECISION ON
COMMUNIST LEADERS. The Supreme Court on 21 January overturned a
September 1997 decision of a lower court halting the prosecution of former
communist leaders Milos Jakes and Jozef Lenart for treason in connection with
the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. The lower court ruled that
the two had not acted unlawfully and that their alleged offense had crossed
the
statute of limitation. The Supreme Court said the investigation of the two was
not thoroughly carried out and that only when this is done can the Prosecutor-
General's Office consider whether to bring charges again. Justice Minister
Vlasta Parkanova has appealed the decision, while the lawyer defending Jakes
and Lenrat told the Supreme Court that the treason accusations against his
clients amounted to a political trial, CTK reported. MS

PARTIAL AGREEMENT IN SLOVAK-HUNGARIAN DAM
DISPUTE. Hungarian and Slovak delegations, meeting in Bratislava on 19
January, reached a "theoretical agreement" whereby Hungary would not insist
on shutting down an existing dam at Cunovo, on the Slovak bank of the River
Danube. In September 1997, the International Court of Justice in The Hague
had ruled that this dam was illegally built when the Slovaks diverted the
river to
Slovak territory. Janos Nemcsok, head of the Hungarian delegation, told
Hungarian media that, in exchange, Slovakia would agree to providing enough
water for Hungary in the old river bed and to turning a Hungarian reservoir at
Dunakiliti into a resort lake. That agreement would satisfy the region's water
needs. According to "Magyar Hirlap," the agreement is the most important
result of the three-month negotiations between the two countries. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

NATO ARRESTS SERBIAN WAR CRIMES SUSPECT. A NATO
spokesman said in Brussels on 22 January that peacekeepers arrested Goran
Jelisic earlier that morning "without incident" in Bijeljina. In Sarajevo, a
spokesman for the UN said that the Hague-based war crimes tribunal welcomes
the arrest. He added that the court "is confident that the SFOR mandate will
permit similar interventions in the future." Jelisic is wanted by the
tribunal in
connection with the death of 14 Muslim prisoners at the Luka prison camp, near
Brcko, in 1992. Jelisic dubbed himself "the Serbian Adolf" in conjunction with
his performance as commander at Luka. PM

SOLANA PLEDGES TOUGH STAND ON WAR CRIMINALS.
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana told  "Le Figaro" of 22 January that
it is
not the peacekeepers' task to seek out Bosnian war criminals and arrest them.
Solana added, however, that "we arrest [war criminals] when we find them, and
we will continue to do so. We must do things so as to avoid big risks. We must
proceed intelligently. We are going to create the conditions that will make
life
difficult for these individuals." PM

PALE SERBS TO HAVE OWN PARLIAMENT. A spokesman for
Dragan Kalinic, speaker of the Bosnian Serb parliament and a member of
Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), said in Pale on 21
January that deputies from the SDS and its allies will hold a legislative
session
in Bijeljina on 24 January. Prime Minister Milorad Dodik and his moderate
parliamentary backers have already announced that the parliament will meet in
Banja Luka on 24 January. Kalinic maintains that he legally adjourned the last
(17 January) session of the parliament before Dodik was elected and that the
session the SDS has called for 24 January is simply a continuation of that
gathering. Dodik and his supporters argue that the 17 January election was
legal
and that the Banja Luka parliament is the only legitimate one. PM

WESTENDORP UNVEILS NEW BOSNIAN BANK NOTES.
Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in
Bosnia, displayed the designs he chose for Bosnia's new joint bank notes in
Sarajevo on 21 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 1998). The seven
notes bear portraits of Bosnian writers and will be printed in France. The
designs issued in the Republika Srpska will vary slightly from those
distributed
in the mainly Croatian and Muslim federation, but both sets of designs will be
valid throughout Bosnia. The interim currency, known as the convertible mark,
will be pegged to the German mark and be valid for 18 months, by which time a
permanent currency is scheduled to go into use. PM

GLIGOROV WARNS ON KOSOVO. Macedonian President Kiro
Gligorov said in Ljubljana on 21 January that a conflict could break out in
Kosovo and that NATO and the EU must pay close attention to that region, an
RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Slovenian capital. Gligorov warned
that "hundreds of thousands" of Kosovars would flee to Macedonia in the event
of such a conflict and that the international community would have to maintain
"a corridor" for them to use, presumably leading to Albania. In Vienna, the
International Helsinki Federation issued a statement warning of war in Kosovo
and calling for an international conference to discuss the Kosovo question.
And
in Tirana, former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic urged full equality for
Kosovo's Albanians and urged Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic,
Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova, and Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano meet
to discuss Kosovo as soon as possible. PM

MONTENEGRIN RIVALS MAKE ELECTION PACT. Yugoslav
Prime Minister Radoje Kontic brokered an electoral agreement in Podgorica on
21 January whereby supporters of former President Momir Bulatovic agreed to
accept a May deadline for early parliamentary elections and to abstain from
staging mass street protests. Backers of President Milo Djukanovic had
previously called for the May deadline, but the Bulatovic group wanted an
earlier date. The legislature will agree on a series of electoral laws
before the
vote. Both sides agreed not to do anything that might increase tensions in the
politically polarized republic ahead of the elections. PM

IVANA TRUMP BUYS INTO CROATIAN DAILY. U.S.
businesswoman Ivana Trump has acquired a 33 percent stake in the Split-based
daily "Slobodna Dalmacija," which has the second-largest circulation of any
Croatian daily, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Split on 21 January.
Meanwhile in Zagreb, Croatian Airlines took delivery of the first of six new
Airbus planes it has bought to upgrade its fleet. PM

PREFECT OF SHKODER RESIGNS. Gezim Podgorica resigned on 21
January as unrest continued unabated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January
1998). A group of rebel policemen who had held Podgorica hostage since 19
January released him after he agreed to quit as prefect. Meanwhile, members of
the local center-right governing coalition have issued a declaration demanding
that national police chief Sokol Bare release a group of local policemen who
were arrested after clashing with special forces sent from Tirana, "Koha Jone"
reported. Bare turned down the request, saying it was up to the courts to
decide
whether the men can be freed. FS

ALBANIAN TV NEWS CHIEF QUITS. Enton Alibiblekaj, the  head of
the State Television's news department, since early December, has resigned,
"Koha Jone" reported on 20 January. The 24 year-old journalist told the daily
that both government and opposition political parties try to influence the
work of
journalists and interfere in editorial policy. Alibiblekaj, who previously
worked
for several independent dailies and Tirana's private Radio 1, had pledged to
change the stiff, formal style of news presentation and raise professional
standards at state television. FS

BACK TO 'SQUARE ONE' IN ROMANIAN COALITION
DISPUTE. In a joint session on 21 January, the bicameral parliament voted by
225  to 170 to approve the request of Victor Ciorbea's cabinet to tie
passage of
the  privatization law to a vote of confidence. If a no-confidence motion
is not
moved before 27 January, the law will be regarded as having been passed.
Alexandru Sassu, the leader of the Democratic Party faction in the Chamber of
Deputies, said that although his party voted in favor of the law, this
should "by
no means be interpreted as a vote of confidence in the Ciorbea cabinet." He
also
harshly criticized the cabinet's "inefficiency and lack of credibility."
Democratic
ministers withdrew from the government bench during the debate, RFE/RL's
Bucharest bureau reported. MS

REACTIONS TO DEMOCRATS' STATEMENT. Defense Minister and
Democratic Party deputy chairman Victor Babiuc on 22 january said the
Democrats may withdraw from the coalition as early as next week. Radu
Berceanu, deputy chairman of the Democratic Party, said his party may support
a no-confidence motion against the government if it is not linked to the
reform
package.  Following the 21 January vote in the parliament, the Bureau of the
National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD),  repeated its "full trust
in and solidarity with" the premier. It said the Democrats' latest
statements were
"exceptionally grave" and "endangered the existence of the present coalition."
The PNTCD said it is nonetheless to continue the search for a "rational
solution
to the crisis". Former President Ion Iliescu, the leader of the Party of
Social
Democracy in Romania, said his party may submit a no-confidence motion in
the government on 2 February. MS

MOLDOVAN-ROMANIAN COMMISSION MEET IN CHISINAU.
The Moldovan-Romanian intergovernmental commission met in Chisinau on
19-20 January to discuss implementation of the 1997 program and prospects for
bilateral cooperation this year, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Moldovan
First Deputy Premier Ion Gutu said collaboration in 1997 was "intensive and
fruitful." A spokesman for the Romanian Foreign Ministry said cooperation will
be discussed at a summit of the two state chiefs in February, Mediafax
reported.
On 21 January, representatives of the two sides attended the opening in
Chisinau of a Moldovan-Romanian trade center. MS

MOLDOVAN POLL SHOWS SPLIT ELECTORATE. A poll conducted
by the Opinia institute in Chisinau shows minimal differences in party
support,
with no single party likely to win a majority in the March parliamentary
elections. The leftist Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova leads with 12.2
percent  support, followed by the centrist Party of Democratic Forces (10.5
percent), the rightist Democratic Convention of Moldova (10.5 percent), and
the
Party of Moldovan Communists (8.2 percent). All other formations are received
less than 4 percent. The poll was conducted in mid-December, Infotag reported.
MS

BULGARIA, MACEDONIA DISCUSS 'LANGUAGE PROBLEM.'
Bulgarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov said Bulgaria and
Macedonia are currently negotiating their "language problem" at the level of
deputy foreign ministers, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported on 21
January. Although Bulgaria was the first country to recognize the independent
Macedonian state, it refuses to recognize the existence of a Macedonian
"nation," claiming Macedonians are related to Bulgarians and the Macedonian
language is a Bulgarian dialect. The dispute has lasted for nearly a
century and
has historical, linguistic, and territorial dimensions. Prime Minister Ivan
Kostov, who is on a three day visit to Germany, said the dispute could be
settled "within two weeks." Kostov has met with German Chancellor Helmut
Kohl and Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel to discuss mainly bilateral relations
and Bulgaria's bid for integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. MS

BULGARIAN NATIONAL BANK PUBLISHES BAD LOAN
LIST. The National Bank on 21 January published a list of some 3,000
individuals and companies that, together, owe some $1.2 billion in bad loans.
The loans are believed to have caused the bankruptcy of several banks in 1997,
BTA reported. While some were used to prevent insolvent state companies from
closing down, others are thought to have ended in the pockets of former
communist officials. MS

HAVEL NARROWLY WINS RE-ELECTION

by Jolyon Naegele

        On 20 January, the first-ever joint working session of
the Czech bicameral parliament re-elected Vaclav Havel for
a second and final five-year term. But the nearly 11 hour-
long electoral procedure, which culminated in Havel's
victory by a  margin of just one vote in the second ballot,
was blemished on several counts.
        In repeated votes, the lawmakers failed to muster
enough support to allow the little-known Communist
astrophysicist Stanislav Fischer to present his election
program,  largely because they would have felt obliged to
offer the same opportunity to the other candidate: Miroslav
Sladek, chairman of the ultra-right-wing Republican party.
        Sladek spent the day in pre-trial detention in Pankrac
prison for ignoring summonses over his alleged incitement
to ethnic hatred during a  visit by German Chancellor Helmut
Kohl. Moreover, the lawmakers decided not to let Sladek
cast a ballot from his prison cell. There was some irony in
that decision, since Havel spent a total of five years in
prison in the 1970s and 1980s for his dissident activities.
        Havel himself had said he would have preferred to
have more serious opposition. But no one from the
mainstream parties came forward to challenge him. The
mass circulation daily "Mlada Fronta Dnes" wrote on 19
January that Havel is so popular that only the country's
founding president, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, could beat him
in an election.
        Havel's sole campaign speech, if it can be called that,
was an address to a non-working session of both houses of
parliament early last month, in which he denounced the
failed "one-sided" reforms of Vaclav Klaus's cabinet, which,
he argued, stressed macroeconomics at the expense of the
human dimension. Before that speech, deputies and senators
from the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), the Civic
Democratic Alliance (ODA), the Social Democrats (CSSD),
and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) had nominated him.
But after the speech, several ODS lawmakers retracted their
pledges of support.
        After a tediously slow debate punctuated by most
deputies leaving the ornate Spanish Hall of Prague Castle
whenever a Republican or Communist took the floor, the
deputies opted to vote by secret ballot rather than by a
show of hands. Havel failed to gain an overall majority in
either house in the first round of balloting, with 91
deputies in the 200-seat lower house and 39 senators in the
81-member upper house voting for him. In contrast, Havel
had won in the first ballot five years ago with the support
of 109 of the 200 deputies. At the time, the Senate did not
yet exist.
        Havel's poor showing in the first round came as a
surprise to many. KDU-CSL chairman Josef Lux termed it an
"expression of Czech political pettiness...an effort at
humiliating someone before he is elected." Similarly, ODA
chairman Jiri Skalicky branded the vote a "distasteful
attempt" by certain deputies to give Havel a "slap in the
face."
        In the second round of voting, Havel was the only
candidate. He scraped through by a vote of 99 to 98 in the
lower house and 47 out of 81 senators. After lower house
speaker Milos Zeman announced the results, Republican
Party deputy leader Jan Vik denounced the vote, arguing that
had Sladek been allowed to cast a ballot Havel would have
lost. Vik said the Republicans do not recognize the election
and that Havel should be ashamed. Vik's words were greeted
with a loud whistle of disapproval from Havel's wife,
Dagmar, who was watching events from the rear of the hall.
        Had Havel lost the second round, a third round would
have been held, which in all likelihood he would have won
handily for two reasons.
        First, the two houses of parliament would have voted
as a single body. Thus, an overall majority of all those
present would have sufficed. Second,  many ODS supporters
who cast ballots against Havel in the first two rounds
would have voted for him in the third ballot to prevent
further destabilization. They also needed to ensure the
country would have a president who would dissolve
parliament and call early elections in June.
        Sociologist Miroslav Purkrabek told "Mlada Fronta
Dnes" on 21 January that it was to be expected that the
presidential election would be a counterattack by the ODS.
Commenting on the parliament's failure to elect Havel in the
first round, another major daily, "Lidove noviny" accused
those deputies who voted against Havel of showing a "great
deal of political cowardice."
        One of the Czech Republic's foremost political
commentators, Jiri Hanak, writing in the left-of-center
daily "Pravo," noted that it is a paradox that "the
parliament, which is trusted by 10-20 percent of the public,
dealt with the candidacy of a man who is trusted by more
than 70  percent of all citizens."
        Speaking to reporters after the vote, Klaus said the
president's narrow victory reflects Havel's real political
position in the country and betrays just how split Czech
society is.
        Similarly, parliamentary speaker and opposition CSSD
chairman Milos Zeman, many of whose deputies refrained
from voting for Havel, noted the president's "narrow victory
may be more satisfactory than a big victory because it
reflects the balance of forces."

The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent.


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