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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 17, Part II, 27 January 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 17, Part II, 27 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 * EU TO OPEN ENLARGEMENT TALKS ON 31 MARCH * MAJOR PERSONNEL CHANGES IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA * ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS TO END BOYCOTT OF PARLIAMENT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE EU TO OPEN ENLARGEMENT TALKS ON 31 MARCH. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook announced in Brussels on 26 January that the EU enlargement process is to begin in London on 12 March with a European Conference attended by premiers and heads of state of the 11 countries invited to open membership negotiations. The talks will then shift to Brussels on 30 March, where the 11 will again present their EU credentials. The enlargement process will begin on 31 March, when negotiations will open with the six main candidates--the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia. MS COUNCIL OF EUROPE "SHOCKED" ABOUT EXECUTIONS IN UKRAINE. The parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe is to decide on 27 January whether to suspend Ukraine from participating in the assembly because of its failure to halt executions, an RFE/RL correspondent in Strasbourg reported. Kyiv's membership in the council will not be debated. Ukraine agreed to a moratorium on the death penalty when it joined the council in 1995, but it has admitted that at least 13 people were executed last year. Parliamentary Assembly chairwoman Leni Fischer said the assembly is "shocked" that the moratorium has been violated. With parliamentary elections scheduled for March, Ukrainian politicians are reluctant to declare support for a ban on capital punishment. Opinion polls show most Ukrainians opposing such a ban. PB UKRAINIAN MINE WORKERS DEMAND UNPAID WAGES. Some 200 construction workers from coal mines in eastern Ukraine have demonstrated in Kyiv for the payment of back wages, AFP reported on 26 January. Some of the workers have not been paid for more than a year. Government wage arrears at the end of 1997 totaled some 5 billion hryvnas ($2.6 billion). PB BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES TIGHTER CONTROL OVER ECONOMY. Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 26 January that state regulations are needed to protect the country's industry. He called on the government to implement a state monopoly on oil, tobacco, and car businesses, Reuters reported. Lukashenka, who was speaking after a six-hour meeting with the cabinet, said the economy has "preserved many good old forms of management, including state control." Prime Minister Sergei Ling recently said the state will not go back to "totalitarian planning" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 1998). Meanwhile, Minsk announced on 26 January that average monthly inflation was 4.2 percent last year, AFP reported. The budget had allowed for a 2 percent monthly increase. PB CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS BEGUN IN ESTONIAN KIDNEY TRANSPLANT CASE. Estonian police have launched criminal proceedings following kidney transplants performed and undergone by Israeli citizens at the Tallinn Central Hospital earlier this month, ETA reported. The police say that the two Israeli doctors who carried out the surgery, the six Israeli patients, and the donors--who were from Russia, Romania, and Moldova--concealed the aim of their visit in their visa applications. The chief surgeon of the Tallinn hospital told the Estonian news agency that the kidney transplants took place in Estonia because "it is cheaper here." Meanwhile, the daily "Eesti Paevaleht" reports that Social Affairs Minister Tiiu Aro will address the government on the issue on 27 January. JC INFLATION IN ESTONIA OVER 11 PERCENT LAST YEAR. The consumer price index rose by 11.2 percent in 1997, compared with the previous year, ETA reported on 26 January. Foodstuffs increased 2.2 percent, consumer products 3.8 percent, and services 1.8 percent. JC RIGA PREPARES RESPONSE TO MOSCOW OVER OCCUPATION DENIAL. The Latvian Foreign Ministry is preparing a response to a letter sent by the Russian Foreign Ministry to the State Duma arguing that the Soviet Union neither occupied nor annexed the Baltic States in 1940 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 January 1998). A spokesman for the Latvian Foreign Ministry told BNS on 26 January that the "position of Russian officials is being assessed, and we will draw up a statement and send it to Russia soon. " Both President Guntis Ulmanis and the Fatherland and Freedom party have urged the ministry to respond officially to the Russian statement. JC POLAND GIVEN "ROAD MAP" TO EU. EU Commissioner for Single Market Affairs Mario Monti has given Poland official instructions to help facilitate accession to the EU, AFP reported on 27 January. Monti, who held separate talks with President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz and European Integration Committee chief Ryszard Czarnecki, said the instructions are a "road map" to joining the union. Balcerowicz noted that Poland and the EU have adopted a political declaration on cooperation in the areas of customs and taxes. Warsaw must approve an EU partnership agreement by 15 March. PB NATO SUPPORT GROWING IN CZECH REPUBLIC. Support among Czechs for the country's membership in NATO has grown from 43 percent in October 1997 to 54 percent at present. The percentage of those opposed dropped from 29 percent to 24 percent, according to a poll conducted by the Institute of Public Opinion Research in January and cited by CTK on 26 January. MS BOARD OF CZECH-GERMAN FUND APPOINTED. The controversy surrounding the establishment of the Czech-German Fund for the Future (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December 1997) seems to have been solved with the appointment of two representatives of the Sudeten Germans to the fund's board, CTK reported on 26 January. The two are Volkmar Gabert, former chairman of the Bavarian Social Democratic Party, and Johann Boehm, the chairman of the Bavarian parliament. Max Stadler, a deputy of the Liberal Party in the German parliament, and ambassador to Prague Anton Rossbach are also on the board. The Czech appointees are Dagmar Buresova, a former chairwoman of the Czech National Council; Milos Pojar, former ambassador to Israel; Milos Rejchrt, director of the Prague Jewish Museum; and historian Miroslav Kunstat. The fund is to aid victims of the Nazi occupation during World War II. MS REACTIONS TO ALLEGED PLOT TO ASSASSINATE MECIAR. A spokesman on 26 January said that last week, the Interior Ministry received further confirmation of an alleged plot to assassinate Premier Vladimir Meciar (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 1998). The spokesman said an individual had volunteered information that supplemented details already provided by Slovak diplomatic sources. Vladimir Palko, deputy chairman of the opposition Christian Democratic Movement, told Reuters he is convinced the alleged threat was a hoax and was "part of Meciar's pre-election tactics." In October 1997, Meciar claimed that Palko had proposed his assassination, and the opposition had asked the parliament to order an examination into the premier's state of mental health. The request was turned down. MS MECIAR ALLIES WANT HIM TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT. The far-right Slovak National Party (SNS), a coalition government partner, says it has "unofficially" proposed to Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) that the premier run for the presidency. SNS deputy chairwoman Anna Malinkova, told Reuters that the proposal was made last week during coalition discussions. She added that Meciar should be nominated by his own party. A HZDS spokesman told the news agency that " the prime minister is the only strong man who, if nominated, could be accepted by the [three-fifths] majority needed in the parliament." MS HUNGARY, SLOVAKIA AGREE TO SPEED UP DAM TALKS. Hungarian and Slovak delegations, meeting in Budapest on 26 January, agreed to hold weekly plenary sessions in order to end their dispute on the unfinished Danube dam, Hungarian media reported. A joint statement released by the two delegations said their positions have come closer on whether to put an existing Slovak dam at Cunovo into operation and on how to make use of the Hungarian reservoir at Dunakiliti. They agreed to set up a monitoring team to assess the environmental effects of those facilities. MSZ ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN HUNGARY. Romanian President Emil Constantinescu met with his Hungarian counterpart Arpad Goncz and Prime Minister Gyula Horn in Budapest on 26 January. Constantinescu assured his hosts that the government crisis in Bucharest will not affect Hungarian-Romanian relations. Horn complained that cooperation has slowed down in a number of areas since last fall, when the two countries' premiers signed a memorandum in Bucharest. Constantinescu responded by vowing to speed up dialogue and saying that three Hungarian colleges will be opened in Transylvania. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MAJOR PERSONNEL CHANGES IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA. The new government led by Prime Minister Milorad Dodik issued a statement in Banja Luka on 27 January announcing the dismissal of 17 directors of state-owned companies. Goran Matrak, the editor of the hard-line daily "Glas Srpski," has also been fired. Information Minister Rajko Vasic will appoint his replacement soon, as well as new chief editors for Bosnian Serb television, which is based in Banja Luka. The customs and tax departments will also have new chiefs in the near future. PM TRANSFER OF BOSNIAN SERB POWER UNDER WAY. A spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 26 January that the outgoing Bosnian Serbian government is not moving quickly enough to hand over its powers to Dodik and his cabinet. Dodik, for his part, told RFE/RL in Banja Luka that the transition has been proceeding reasonably smoothly but that he does not rule out that Radovan Karadzic's supporters in Pale may stop being cooperative in the future. Meanwhile in Bijeljina, outgoing Interior Minister Slavko Paleksic formally handed over control of the ministry to Milovan Stankovic. The ceremony took place at a meeting of Bosnian Serb police chiefs, who agreed to reunite the force and end the split between followers of Karadzic and supporters of President Biljana Plavsic. PM INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT FOR BOSNIAN SERBS. Representatives of the six-nation Contact Group, which is monitoring the peace process in Bosnia, issued a statement in Washington on 26 January calling on the outgoing Bosnian Serb authorities to "cooperate in ensuring a smooth transition of power to the new government." The statement reaffirmed the international community's support for Dodik. Meanwhile in Brussels, the EU approved a $6.5 million aid package to help the Republika Srpska authorities pay back wages to police, teachers, and other government employees. And in Banja Luka, Plavsic signed an agreement with a representative of the World Bank, who said the bank will provide a $17 million credit to the Republika Srpska (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 1998). PM SERBS AGREE TO NEW TRIAL FOR MUSLIMS. A UN spokesman announced in Sarajevo on 26 January that the Bosnian Serb authorities have agreed to re-try three Muslims from the so-called Zvornik Seven group, all of whose members were found guilty of murder in 1996. Meanwhile in The Hague, Goran Jelisic, the Bosnian Serb who was arrested by U.S. peacekeepers in Bosnia and taken to The Hague the previous week, told the war crimes tribunal that he is not guilty of crimes against humanity. PM WESTENDORP SETS DEADLINE ON BOSNIAN FLAG. Westendorp urged legislators in the joint parliament in Sarajevo on 26 January to agree to one of three proposed designs for a joint flag by 3 February. He added that should they fail to do so, he will chose a design for them. Westendorp recently chose designs for the joint currency after the three sides did not meet his deadline on that issue. All the proposed designs for the flag have the politically neutral colors white, blue, and yellow. PM MORE LAW SUITS AGAINST CROATIAN NEWSPAPER. Health Minister Andrija Hebrang, the administrators of a hospital, and one doctor said in Zagreb on 26 January that they will sue the independent weekly "Feral Tribune" over a recent story dealing with the deaths of six children in the Zagreb hospital last year. "Feral" currently faces some 50 law suits for damages totaling $3 million from various Croatian authorities. The newspaper's editors charge that the government wants to bankrupt "Feral" through law suits. PM ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS TO END BOYCOTT OF PARLIAMENT. Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha said in Tirana on 26 January that his party will soon end its boycott of the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1998), "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. He noted that a "party that does not participate in the parliament is [committing] political suicide." He also said he wants to start a "fruitful dialogue" with the coalition about drafting a new constitution. An RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana on 27 January that a high-ranking delegation from the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe recently warned Berisha that the Democrats must return to parliament or risk international isolation. Meanwhile, Sabri Godo, the head of the parliamentary constitutional commission , has said the commission will not wait any longer for the Democrats, "Koha Jone" reported on 26 January. FS ALBANIAN FORMER DICTATOR HAS HEART ATTACK. Ramiz Alia, who was president from 1985 to 1992, is hospitalized in Tirana after suffering a heart attack on 24 January, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported three days later. Doctors said the 74-year-old former communist leader is also suffering from severe respiratory problems. FS NO SOLUTION IN SIGHT TO ROMANIAN COALITION CRISIS. National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) chairman Ion Diaconescu told journalists on 26 January that "no solution is in sight" to the coalition crisis. Diaconescu said the Democratic Party continues to demand the dismissal of Premier Victor Ciorbea and now wants the entire government to be reshuffled. He said the positions of the two parties had "polarized" and that the PNTCD rejected the Democrats' demand that their support in the parliament of a minority government be conditional on a detailed protocol, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Diaconescu said the PNTCD would not rule out cooperation with any deputy willing to support a minority government. MS DEMOCRATS ON COALITION CRISIS. Democratic Party leader Petre Roman on 26 January said that if the reform process is not accelerated, Romania will lose its chance of becoming integrated into the European structures. He added that such acceleration is not possible as long as Ciorbea remains premier, Radio Bucharest reported. Roman had previously said the Democrats were undecided about whether to withdraw from the government because they had received no reply from the PNTCD. But an RFE/RL correspondent in Bucharest reported on 26 January that the Democrats may postpone withdrawing to give the PNTCD more time for considering their proposals. The correspondent said the Democratic Party is unwilling to renounce its demand for Ciorbea's removal. MS ISSUE OF REHABILITATING ANTONESCU MINISTERS RESURFACES. Despite Prosecutor-General Sorin Moisescu's decision to withdraw his initiative for rehabilitating seven out of eight former members of the Ion Antonescu government, the Supreme Court may have to consider the rehabilitation of all those ministers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1997). The independent Pro TV and Mediafax reported on 26 January that the lawyer representing the family of Toma Petre Ghitulescu, the only former member of the dictator's cabinet whose rehabilitation is still on the agenda, says he has "found an article" in the Penal Code that will force the court to consider all eight cases. He said the prosecutor-general had been forced to withdraw his original initiative under "pressure from abroad," by which he meant the U.S. MS MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT IN BRUSSELS... President Petru Lucinschi on 26 January met with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Belgian capital reported. Solana said later that they agreed to increase Moldova's participation in the Partnership for Peace program and in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. Lucinschi emphasized that this participation did not harm Russian interests and was mainly of a humanitarian nature. Lucinschi is scheduled to meet European Commission chairman Jacques Santer and Belgian premier Jean-Luc Dehaene on 27 January. MS ...LAUNCHES WEEKLY RADIO ADDRESS. In the first of what will be regular weekly addresses to the nation, Lucinschi said on 26 January that Moldova has opted for European integration, but he warned that belonging to Europe "begins with having clean streets, with civilized relations among people,...and with learning modern spiritual values." He said that "genuine change" depended on "changing the mentality of the people," who, he added, must learn to "forge their own fate under conditions of freedom," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Parliamentary chairman Dumitru Motpan said he hoped the president will not use his weekly addresses to engage in election campaigning for pro-presidential parties. The president must be "above politics," Motpan argued. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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