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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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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