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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 16, Part II, 26 January 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 16, Part II, 26 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 * CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS TO SUPPORT CABINET * MORE VIOLENT INCIDENTS IN KOSOVO * EUROPEAN OFFICIALS ASK ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS TO END BOYCOTT End Note POLITICALLY MOTIVATED UNREST IN NORTHERN ALBANIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS RUSSIAN DUMA CONCERNED ABOUT BALTIC CHARTER, NATO EXPANSION. The Russian State Duma on 23 January passed a resolution expressing concern about the U.S.-Baltic partnership charter, Russian news agencies reported. The resolution said the charter is seen by the Baltics as "a step toward [their] admission into NATO." It warned that NATO expansion is incompatible with the Founding Act signed by Russia and NATO last May. In addition, the resolution expressed the hope that protection of human rights in the Baltics will be improved when the Baltic charter is implemented. Also on 23 January, the Duma approved a resolution asking the Russian president and government to devise a program to counteract NATO expansion. The resolution described NATO enlargement as the "most serious military threat to our country since 1945" and charged that NATO member states "have not renounced the use of force as a method to resolve foreign-policy problems." LB COUNCIL OF BALTIC SEA STATES ISSUES DECLARATION. In a declaration following the 22-23 meeting in Riga (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 1998), the prime ministers of the 11 member countries of the Baltic Sea Council confirmed their desire to promote regional cooperation in order to establish a Europe "without dividing lines." The council discussed various economic issues, focusing on a proposal to create a "Baltic Ring" that would link the gas and electricity systems of the eastern and western Baltic shores. It also extended the mandate of an organized crime task force, set up at the previous council meeting in 1996. JC CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS EU EXPANSION MUST NOT HARM RUSSIAN INTERESTS... Addressing the council on 23 January, Russian Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin warned that EU enlargement must not be at Russia's expense. "It is important that, in the context of the forthcoming expansion of the EU, the trade and economic interests of Russia and other members of the CIS are taken into consideration," Interfax quoted him as saying. Chernomyrdin also stressed that Russia is prepared to assume a leading role in creating a "climate of mutual confidence" in the Baltic Sea region, BNS reported. He added that Russian President Boris Yeltsin's October 1997 offer of security guarantees to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania affirms Moscow's desire to base security in the Baltic region "not on balanced military potential but on practical cooperation and confidence." At his meeting with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl the previous day, Chernomyrdin had stressed that Russian-EU cooperation must complement the union's eastward expansion, dpa reported. JC ...WARNS LATVIA'S ULMANIS OVER RUSSIAN MINORITY. At his 23 January meeting with Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, Chernomyrdin stressed that Moscow considers the situation of Russian speakers living in Latvia to be a "priority issue" in Russian-Latvian relations. He warned that if Riga does not take concrete steps to grant ethnic Russians citizenship, it cannot count on progress in its relations with Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, Chernomyrdin welcomed Ulmanis's efforts to meet the recommendations of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on improving the situation of Latvia's ethnic Russians, who constitute some 40 percent of the Latvian population. In an interview with the Russian news agency, the Russian premier said it is "unacceptable for people living in the middle of Europe at the end of the 20th century to be humiliated the way Russians are in Latvia." JC EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE EXPECTS TO RECEIVE IMF LOAN. Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko has said the IMF will approve a 94.1 million hryvna ($49 million) stand-by loan for his country on 26 January, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. Tyhypko led a delegation to Washington last week for talks with IMF and World Bank officials. He said the meetings went well and that Kyiv has made "important steps in fiscal and monetary policies." An IMF mission is scheduled to go to Kyiv in February to evaluate the situation. PB CRIMEAN LEADER PRAISES KUCHMA ON VETO. Crimean parliamentary speaker Anatoliy Hrytsenko has praised President Leonid Kuchma for vetoing an election law as unconstitutional, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 January. Kuchma said a provision in the legislation would permit only Ukrainian citizens living in Crimea to be elected to its parliament, which, he argued, is a violation of the Ukrainian Constitution. He also said it is too early to switch to a proportional election system, as stipulated in the bill. Such a move could inflame political infighting on the peninsula, he added. Hrytsenko called Kuchma a "constitutional guarantor." Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz, however, has sharply criticized the veto. PB KWASNIEWSKI SIGNS AGREEMENT ON RELATIONS WITH VATICAN. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has signed the long-disputed Concordat on relations with the Vatican, AFP reported. The agreement was shelved over the past four years by the Sejm, dominated by former Communists until last fall's elections. Kwasniewski's spokesman said the signing of the Concordat is a "move towards reconciliation." The Concordat deals with such issues as religious education, Catholic marriages, and burials in Church-owned cemeteries. PB WALESA'S NEW PARTY HOLDS FOUNDING CONGRESS. The new political party of former President Lech Walesa held its opening congress in Wroclaw on 24 January, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Walesa said his Christian Democratic Party of the Third Polish Republic will support the Solidarity Election Action, which won last fall's elections. Walesa said his party, which espouses Roman Catholic values, hopes to attract some of the 52 percent of eligible voters who did not participate in the last election. Walesa added that he is "too active and independent" to run for president again. PB SEJM APPROVES BUDGET. The lower house of parliament voted by 254 to 173 to pass the 1998 draft budget on 23 January, AFP reported. The draft envisages GDP growth of 5.6 percent, a 1.5 percent budget deficit, and inflation at 9.5 percent. The Senate has 20 days to propose amendments, though no major changes are expected. PB CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS TO SUPPORT CABINET. The Executive Council of the opposition Social Democratic Party (CSSD), meeting in Brno on 24 January, recommended that its deputies support Josef Tosovsky's cabinet in the parliamentary vote of confidence scheduled for 27 January. The party's deputy chairman, Zdenek Skromach, told CTK that it was a "choice of the lesser of two evils". One day earlier, Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek said that at the meeting with leaders of the main parliamentary parties, Vaclav Havel had warned Social Democratic leader Milos Zeman that elections in June may not be possible if the CSSD does not support Tosovsky's government. Former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told journalists in Prague on 24 January that his Civic Democratic Party's leadership has recommended its deputies not to support the government. MS EXTREMIST CZECH LEADER ACQUITTED. A Prague court on 23 January acquitted ultranationalist Republican Party leader Miroslav Sladek of incitement to racial hatred. The accusations were based on remarks Sladek had made during a demonstration in Prague in early 1997 against the signing of the Czech-German reconciliation agreement. "We can only feel sorry that during World War II we slaughtered so few Germans," Sladek had told demonstrators. The court ruled that the remarks "must be judged in the context of his entire speech" and that they did not constitute incitement to racial hatred. Sladek was immediately released from prison, where he had been held for more than two weeks. MS EAST-CENTRAL EUROPEAN PRESIDENTS MEET IN SLOVAKIA. The presidents of 11 East-Central European Countries met in Levoca, eastern Slovakia, on 23-24 January to discuss strengthening civil society in their countries. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told journalists after the summit that his country hopes first to join the EU and then integrate into other European structures. The presidents declined to comment on developments in Slovakia, but many said they will pay close attention to the country's upcoming presidential elections. Poland's Aleksander Kwasniewski said Warsaw supports Bratislava's efforts to gain access to NATO and the EU but added that Slovakia's policies need to be "clear and predictable," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MORE VIOLENT INCIDENTS IN KOSOVO. Two Serbian policemen were wounded when unidentified persons attacked their car in the Kosovar town of Malisevo on 24 January. Some 150 Serbian police then entered Malisevo, hitting passers-by and attacking some private homes belonging to Albanians. Four Albanians were wounded, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina on 25 January. Meanwhile in Grabanica on 24 January, unidentified persons threw a hand grenade at a policeman's home. On 22 January, masked gunmen killed Serbian local politician Desimir Vasic on the Srbica-Klina road. The gunmen prevented police from retrieving his body for some time, and the police were finally able to do so only with the help of helicopters and armored vehicles. The incidents appear to be part of a growing spiral of violence involving the Serbian police and the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army in areas west of Pristina. PM SERBIAN IMPATIENCE GROWS. Mayor of Zvecan Desko Petkovic told several thousand Serbs at Vasic's funeral on 25 January that "state agencies should take all legal measures to eradicate Albanian terrorism in Kosovo as soon as possible and to guarantee peace and safety to Serbs and Montenegrins." Meanwhile in Pristina, Serbian intellectuals, opposition politicians, and Orthodox Church leaders called for an end to violence and for an urgent dialogue between Serbs and Albanians. Speakers criticized Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, saying he has proved incapable of leading Serbia or solving any of its problems. And in Belgrade, the opposition Citizens' League of Serbia issued a declaration condemning the spread of "terrorism" in Kosovo. The league charged that the Milosevic leadership is fomenting "chaos" in Serbia in order to maintain its grip on power. PM ALBANIA CONCERNED OVER KOSOVO. The Albanian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 23 January condemning police repression and the use of force by the Serbian authorities in Kosovo. The statement added that Serbian behavior violates internationally accepted norms and principles of human rights, state-run television reported. And in Pristina, shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova called for international "intervention" and unspecified measures to prevent an escalation in Kosovo. PM MORE POLITICAL VIOLENCE IN MONTENEGRO? A bomb destroyed the car of the commander of special police forces in Podgorica on 24 January, and a second bomb blew up the car of a private individual. A police official told the daily "Pobjeda" that "there are indications that the two blasts might be the beginning of acts of sabotage as a continuation of the political conflict in Montenegro." The special police recently helped put down violent street protests on behalf of outgoing President Momir Bulatovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 1998). PM KARADZIC BACKERS CLIMB DOWN. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and parliamentary speaker Dragan Kalinic, who represents Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), agreed in Banja Luka on 24 January to hold the next legislative session on 31 January in Teslic, north-central Bosnia. Each of the two rival factions in the Bosnian Serb parliament had planned to hold its own session on 24 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1998). The Plavsic-Kalinic agreement appears to rule out the possibility that in the near future, the SDS and its allies will set up their own break-away legislature. PM OBSTACLE REMOVED TO BOSNIAN FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT. Representatives of the new Bosnian Serb government of Prime Minister Milorad Dodik on 23 January reached agreement with their counterparts from the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation on a joint design for automobile license plates. Many observers feel that there can be no freedom of movement in Bosnia as long as each ethnic group has its own license plates, which makes it easy for nationalists to spot and intimidate people of other ethnic groups. PM PETITION DRIVE AGAINST CROATIAN VAT. Some 6,000 persons signed a petition to Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa in Split on 25 January demanding that the new value-added tax be reduced from 22 percent to 18 percent. The Croatian People's Party and the independent trade unions are sponsoring the petition drive, which is to be extended throughout Croatia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Dalmatia's largest city. The previous day, President Franjo Tudjman visited the Finance Ministry, which the unions and opposition parties have sharply criticized in conjunction with the VAT. Tudjman, however, praised the ministry, saying its work is as important to Croatia now as was the work of the Defense Ministry during the 1991-1995 war, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. PM CROATIAN LIBERAL PARTY FOUNDED. Vlado Gotovac and some 800 supporters launched the Liberal Party in Zagreb on 24 January. Gotovac is the former presidential candidate of the Croatian Social-Liberal Party (HSLS), which he and his followers quit late last year after losing a power struggle to Drazen Budisa, Gotovac's long-time rival. In 1997, the Social Democrats replaced the HSLS as the main vote-getter among the opposition parties. PM EUROPEAN OFFICIALS ASK ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS TO END BOYCOTT. High-ranking representatives of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in Tirana on 23 January that the Albanian parliament should step up work toward completing the text of a new constitution. They also asked the opposition Democratic Party to end its boycott of the parliament and participate in the drafting of the new constitution, "Dita Informacion" reported. But Democratic leader Sali Berisha told a rally of some 3,000 supporters in central Tirana the following day that he will continue to demand the resignation of the government and new elections, "Koha Jone" reported. FS ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT USES STOLEN CARS. Officials of a special police unit currently investigating car theft told "Koha Jone" of 25 January that "dozens" of luxury cars used by high- ranking Albanian government officials were stolen in Italy or Germany. Police said they will ask the anti-corruption agency to investigate all state institutions to find out the origins of cars currently used by officials. Investigators suspect that government officials in recent years have often made requests to buy cars from legal importers at market prices but have then bought cheaper, stolen cars on the used car market in Durres, pocketing the difference. FS LULL IN ROMANIAN COALITION TENSIONS. National Peasant Party Christian Democratic chairman Ion Diaconescu and Democratic Party chairman Petre Roman have agreed that their parties will refrain from making statements to the press while they seek to find a solution to the coalition crisis, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 23 January. Two days later, National Liberal Party leader Mircea Ionescu-Quintus, who is mediating the conflict, said the Democrats may decide to withdraw their cabinet ministers but remain in the coalition while supporting a minority government of the Democratic Convention and the Hungarian Democratic Federation. Minister of Research and Technology Bogdan Teodoriu, a Democrat, said that postponing the party's decision to withdraw from the government is "possible," depending on the negotiations. MS ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REFUTES ANTI- HUNGARIAN ALLEGATIONS. Andrei Plesu, in an interview with the Hungarian daily "Nepszabadsag" cited by Mediafax on 25 January, refuted recent allegations in the Romanian media that Hungarian investments in Romania are very large and prove there is a plan to take over Transylvania. Plesu, who is accompanying President Emil Constantinescu on an official two- day visit to Hungary from 25-26 January, said that at the end of 1997, total Hungarian investments in Romania amounted to only $38 million or 1.1 percent of total foreign investments. Plesu also said he saw no reason why a Hungarian university should not be set up in Romania , which, he said, would help the ethnic Hungarian minority "preserve its identity." He added that the "joint enemy" of both countries is "extreme nationalism." MS ROMANIAN EXTREME NATIONALISTS ALLEGE ATTACKS. Gheorghe Funar, the extreme nationalist mayor of Cluj, has claimed that a stone was thrown at him while he sat in a restaurant in the town center and that it barely missed its target. Local police investigating the incident said the stone was probably thrown by children, Mediafax reported on 25 January. The same day, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the leader of the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM), accused President Constantinescu of "complicity in an assassination attempt." The PRM press office said a leaflet saying "I was looking for you" and signed by Laszlo Toekes, the honorary chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, was found on the windshield of his car. In December 1997, the special guards provided for Tudor were withdrawn. Tudor had protested that move, claiming he is the target of an assassination plot. MS MOLDOVAN PREMIER RUNS ON PRO-PRESIDENTIAL TICKET. Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc is listed second on the list of the pro-presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova bloc for the March parliamentary elections. On 23 January, the Central Electoral Commission registered the bloc, which is composed of the Movement for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova, the People's Democratic Party, the Civil Party, and the New Force Movement, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Also on 23 January, Infotag reported that the leaders of the Jewish community in Chisinau are asking police and prosecutors to investigate the case of Maricica Livitski, the leader of the Party of Socio-Economic Justice, whom they accuse of having misappropriated donations from U.S. Jewish groups. They allege that Livitski channeled those donations to a charity fund headed by her for use in enlisting support for her election campaign. MS BULGARIA SENDS DOCUMENTS ON 1968 INVASION TO PRAGUE. Former Bulgarian President Zhelu Zhelev on 23 January said he will send Czech President Vaclav Havel declassified documents on Sofia's involvement in the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. Zhelev said the documents include conversations between Bulgarian communist leader Teodor Zhivkov and Moscow's ambassador to Sofia. He said he received the documents from Russian President Boris Yeltsin and was giving them to Havel to mark his re-election as Czech president, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. He added that it was "shocking" to see "how excited" Zhivkov and his aides had been about the use of military force against civilians. MS BULGARIA TO RECEIVE WORLD BANK LOAN. World Bank director for southeast Europe Kenneth Lay on 23 January confirmed that the bank will loan Bulgaria $400-600 million over the next three years to help the country's reform program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 1997). Also on 23 January, several hundred pensioners demonstrated in Sofia protesting against low pensions and rising prices, Reuters reported. MS END NOTE POLITICALLY MOTIVATED UNREST IN NORTHERN ALBANIA by Fabian Schmidt Recent unrest sparked by local policemen in the northern city of Shkoder highlights the continued weakness of government institutions in Albania. Control over the police is a sensitive issue for a cabinet trying to establish public order and confidence following last year's widespread public disorder. Observers fear that the country may once again experience a vicious circle of lawlessness and violence if the government is unable to crack down on organized crime. To achieve that goal, it needs a reliable police force that is immune to corruption and capable of maintaining political neutrality. The Shkoder uprising, in which local policemen staged an armed rebellion against the Tirana-appointed police chief, proves that achieving that goal will be no easy task. The government has repeatedly accused the opposition of seeking to jeopardize efforts to establish public order by using its strong influence in the provinces and by creating separate power centers in some parts of the country. While local governments dominated by the opposition Democratic Party (PD) have in the past staged protests against Tirana (for example, one-day strikes by municipal workers), Shkoder was the first city in which policemen took up arms to protest an Interior Ministry order. Moreover, the Shkoder unrest came only weeks after Interior Minister Neritan Ceka had claimed the Democrats are deliberately promoting violence to destabilize the country and press for new elections. Each rival political bloc has long accused the other of using politically motivated violence. But following a series of 15 bomb attacks in Gjirokaster since mid-December, each of those blocs has employed harsher language. During the same period, a large number of policemen were killed or wounded in separate incidents throughout the country. Ceka blamed the attacks on the opposition, saying it is "pursuing a policy of banditry and inciting the population to keep weapons and set off explosive devices." The opposition, for its part, has tried to portray those incidents as acts of political terrorism, despite being unable to name a convincing motive for some of the killings. For example, the Democratic Party claimed that three people killed in the northern city of Tropoja in early January were murdered for political reasons by government-hired killers. Several days later, the party staged a large protest rally in Tirana to demand the resignation of the government. Following that demonstration, however, prosecutors presented evidence pointing to blood feuds between local families. Nonetheless, the Shkoder incident proves that mutual recriminations between the Socialists and the Democrats are accelerating the rise of political violence. Various factors contributed to that incident. First, there is an ongoing rivalry between center-leftist Tirana and the center-rightist local government in Shkoder. Second, the central government distrusts the local police force, which has been largely loyal to the Democrats in the past. And third, Tirana suspects that Shkoder officials were involved in smuggling oil to Montenegro during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 1995. It argues that the Shkoder police force must either have turned a blind eye or was itself involved. On 5 January, the central government appointed Mithat Havari as Shkoder police chief to strengthen central control over the local force. Havari, who comes from the southern city of Vlora, previously worked was previously police chief in the southern city of Berat, which has been plagued by crime since the unrest last March. In Berat, he was successful in reestablishing order and gained a reputation of a tough police chief. But he also became unpopular for firing suspected corrupt colleagues and keeping other crime suspects in prison, despite protest rallies by up to 300 locals demanding their release. The conflict that broke out over Havari's appointment suggests the government's suspicions about the local police were justified. Ceka said that the surrender of the rebel policemen was a "victory for rule of law." But the more difficult task at hand is now to continue building a police force that the population can trust. There is a real danger that the Shkoder incident was an overture for another armed political conflict that would halt Albania's recovery if the country's rival political blocs were to fail to find a common language. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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