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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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
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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.

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