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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 20, Part II, 30 January 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 20, Part II, 30 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 * BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS JOURNALISTS' SENTENCES TOO LENIENT * SLOVAK PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ELECT PRESIDENT * LARGE CROWDS ATTEND FUNERAL OF KOSOVO ALBANIAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS JOURNALISTS' SENTENCES TOO LENIENT. Alyaksandr Lukashenka has complained that the sentences given to two Belarusian journalists working for Russian Public Television were "too light" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 1998), ITAR-TASS reported. Lukashenka said in Belgrade that the "border violators" should be thankful that they were not given five-year jail terms. Most observers say the light sentences were given to placate Russia. In Moscow, President Boris Yeltsin praised Russian journalists on 30 January for enduring repression while working in Belarus. Yeltsin said Lukashenka will "mature, grow some more" and that the two leaders will discuss freedom of the press at every meeting they have in the future. PB OSCE GRANTED OFFICE SPACE IN MINSK. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said on 29 January that its mission in the Belarusian capital should be operating by 7 February, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The OSCE has finally obtained office space, and the head of the mission, Germany's Hans-Georg Wieck, is scheduled to arrive early next month. The establishment of the mission has been long delayed owing to Belarusian objections to the office's objective, which the OSCE says is to promote democracy and political freedom. PB UKRAINIAN ARMS SALES INCREASE. Ukraine exported nearly 2 billion hryvna ($1 million) worth of weapons in 1997, Reuters reported on 29 January. Andriy Kukin, the head of the state arms exporter Ukrspetsexport, said the company signed 170 contracts last year. Ukraine is now the 20th largest arms exporter in the world, having moved up from 30th place in 1996. The newspaper "Den" said a huge tank purchase by Pakistan has helped boost sales. PB KYIV PROTESTS PLANE DETENTION IN GREECE. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry sent a formal protest to Greece on 29 January over the detention of a private airliner, Reuters reported. Greek authorities say they impounded the Boeing 737 in order to compensate relatives of some of the Greeks who died in December when a Ukrainian-owned plane crashed on the Greek isle of Salonika, killing 69 people. The Ukrainian protest said the detention of the plane is not in line with international norms. An investigation into the cause of the crash has not yet been completed. PB ESTONIA'S FOREIGN TRADE DEFICIT UP OVER 60 PERCENT LAST YEAR. The Estonian foreign trade deficit was up almost 66 percent last year, compared with 1996 levels, BNS reported on 29 January. Exports totaled some 41.3 billion kroons and imports 65.3 billion kroons (the corresponding figures for 1996 were 26 billion and 40.5 billion kroons). Estonia's main export partners were Russia (17.8 percent), Finland (16.8 percent), and Sweden (13.4 percent), while most imports came from Finland (30.9 percent), followed by Russia (11.7 percent), Sweden (9.6 percent), and Germany (9.2 percent). Estonian's main exports are machinery, electrical appliances, and textiles. JC FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS POLAND READY FOR EU SOONER. Bronislaw Geremek said in Rome that Poland is ready for the EU and could join the group in 2000, AFP reported on 29 January. Geremek made his comments after talks with Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro and Prime Minister Romano Prodi on EU and NATO enlargement. "We are ready and we don't need a transition period," he said. The EU has often said that new members will enter the union some time after 2000. Negotiations on joining the EU begin on 31 March. Geremek also met with Pope John Paul II during his visit. PB POLISH POLICE CHIEF REPLACED. Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek named Jan Michna as national police chief on 29 January, Reuters reported. Michna replaces Marek Papala, who resigned the previous day. Michna was the head of police in the southern province of Katowice. Papala was blamed for inadequate security during recent sports events that resulted in the death of a youth as well as dozens of injuries and arrests. He was also criticized for failing to successfully fight organized crime. PB CZECH PREMIER WILL QUIT POLITICS AFTER ELECTIONS. Josef Tosovsky on 29 January said he will quit politics as soon as possible after the early elections are held later this year, CTK and Reuters reported. Tosovsky told journalists that he does not know whether he will return to his former position as head of the Czech National Bank or will take up a position in the private sector. He said he has accepted to head the government knowing that this was going to be a transition cabinet and has no intention to stay in political life. A recent poll showed that Tosovsky is highly popular, enjoying the backing of no less than 84 percent of Czechs. MS SLOVAK PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ELECT PRESIDENT. As expected, the Slovak parliament of 29 January failed to elect a president, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. Another ballot is scheduled for 6 February. Stefan Markus, who is backed by the Slovak Democratic Coalition and who received 34 out of the 150 votes in the 29 January vote, will face Juraj Hrasko, the candidate of the Party of the Democratic Left, who received 22 votes. Independent candidate Augustin Kurek received 14 votes and is thus not eligible for the second round. Most members of Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia stayed away from the ballot, and observers say it is unlikely that either Markus or Hrasko will garner the three-fifths majority required to elect a president. MS SLOVAKIA NOTES CHANGE IN CZECH POSITION. Foreign Ministry spokesman Milan Tokar on 29 January said Bratislava has "taken note" of the fact that the policy statement read in the parliament by Czech Premier Tosovsky says the Czech Republic is interested in "good relations" with Slovakia. The previous government, he added, had aspired to "above-average" relations with its southern neighbor. Asked by a CTK correspondent whether Tosovsky's cabinet is a credible partner for Slovakia, the spokesman said he is unable to speak for the government but drew attention to Premier Vladimir Meciar's remark that he would not negotiate with the new government in Prague. MS HUNGARIAN CABINET DISCUSSES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. The government on 29 January decided to submit to the parliament a bill on the parliamentary representation of ethnic minorities, Hungarian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January 1998). The bill proposes that minority representatives be elected in October 1998, at the same time as local elections are held. Cabinet spokesman Elemer Kiss criticized Socialist deputy Mihaly Bihari for his recent proposal that minority elections be postponed until 2002. The government also proposed amending the law on the Constitutional Court to extend judges' terms from nine to 12 years. The junior coalition party, the Free Democrats, are opposed to both amendments, which would require changing the constitution. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE LARGE CROWDS ATTEND FUNERAL OF KOSOVO ALBANIAN. Some 15,000 persons attended the funeral in Kamenica on 29 January of an Albanian teenager shot at point-blank range by a Serbian policeman in Kosovska Mitrovica (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 1998), an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina. The Serbian authorities issued a statement to the state news agency Tanjug on 29 January claiming that the killing was "involuntary." Police stayed away from Kamenica during the funeral, at which a local ethnic Albanian politician said the young man's death "will make [the Kosovars] stronger and even more determined to achieve our national aim--an independent Kosovo." PM MILUTINOVIC HAS NO TIME FOR KOSOVO SERBS. Serbian President Milan Milutinovic said in Belgrade on 29 January that he was "too busy" to receive a delegation of Kosovo Serbs who wanted to ask him to protect the Serbs from what they called "Albanian terrorism and separatism." Kosovo Serb politician Momcilo Trajkovic and Serbian Orthodox leader Vladika Artemije, who are heading the delegation, said they demand that Milutinovic receive them by 3 February. Trajkovic added he feels that Serbs and Albanians can reach a settlement in Kosovo on the principle that Kosovo remains in Serbia and that the Kosovo Albanians receive what he called "all rights," "Nasa Borba" reported. Vladika Artemije said it is necessary that Serbs feel safe in Kosovo and want to remain there because, he said, it is pointless to speak of Serbian Kosovo if no Serbs are willing to live there. PM YUGOSLAV ARMY CALLS FOR PEACEFUL SOLUTION IN KOSOVO. An army spokesman said in Belgrade on 29 January that he sees no reason for the military to "become involved" in Kosovo at present. He added that the army will not undertake any "provocative actions" in the province but warned that it will not tolerate any attacks on its personnel or property. Meanwhile in Pristina, Tanjug reported that unknown persons threw a hand grenade at the house of a Serb in Obilic near Pristina the previous night. PM MONTENEGRO DEMANDS SUPPORT FOR YUGOSLAV DINAR. The Montenegrin government on 29 January demanded in a statement that the Yugoslav government and the central bank take steps to stop the fall of the dinar, which has lost one-third of its value against the German mark on the black market since 1 January. The Montenegrin statement added that the weakness of the dinar is the result of Belgrade's policies. It demanded that the federal authorities take steps to end Yugoslavia's international isolation. PM DEVALUATION IN OFFING? Former central bank chief Dragoslav Avramovic said in Belgrade that the dinar will have to be devalued at some point to bring its official value more in line with that on the black market, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic, for his part, said the dinar will not be devalued. Nonetheless, in anticipation of a devaluation, prices rose in Belgrade by up to 50 percent and people have bought up supplies of basic foodstuffs, the correspondent added. PM BOSNIAN SERB DEFENSE MINISTER TAKES OFFICE. General Manojlo Milovanovic, who is a supporter of Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic, took office as defense minister in Banja Luka on 29 January. He is expected to sack Chief-of-Staff General Pero Colic, who tried to steer a middle course between Plavsic and her rivals in Pale, the BETA news agency reported. In other news, the Republika Srpska Statistical Office announced that prices rose 12.8 percent in 1997 and that the average monthly wage is $50. PM MARCH AGAINST POVERTY IN ZAGREB. Between 3,000 and 5,000 workers and retired people staged a peaceful demonstration in central Zagreb on 29 January to protest deteriorating living conditions and the government's social policies. Unofficial estimates put the unemployment rate at 300,000, including 46,000 veterans of the 1991-1995 war. The average monthly income is $400 in a country where the price of many basic goods is similar to that in Germany. PM OSCE MEDIATES IN ALBANIAN HUNGER STRIKE. Daan Everts, a representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has met with three of the judges currently on hunger strike in Tirana, "Republika" reported on 29 January. Everts said the OSCE will try to mediate between the Justice Ministry and the judges, who are protesting alleged government plans to sack up to 400 of their colleagues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 1998). The meeting was also attended by a Council of Europe official. The same day, Democratic Party deputies Azem Hajdari and Ferdinant Xhaferri participated in a meeting between the parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee and a NATO delegation. Their participation marked the end of the Democrats' two-month boycott of the legislature's activities. FS ANTI-MAFIA PROSECUTORS APPOINTED IN ALBANIA. A spokesman for Prosecutor General Arben Rakipi on 29 January announced the setting up of a special department of anti-Mafia investigators. The team will consist of five Tirana-based police experts as well as local representatives in police stations throughout the country. It will also supervise the activities of a number of undercover agents, "Koha Jone" reported. Italian experts helped set up the new department, which is modeled after its Italian counterpart. FS ROMANIAN LEADERS DIFFER OVER FUTURE OF COALITION. Before leaving for Davos, Switzerland, on 29 January to attend the World Economic Forum, President Emil Constantinescu said the agreement reached with the Democratic Party provides for the continuation of the coalition until 2000, when new elections are due. But Democratic Convention of Romania chairman Ion Diaconescu said the same day that the future of the coalition is uncertain because each draft law will have to be negotiated with the Democrats before it can be debated in the parliament. Democratic Party leader Petre Roman, who is on official visit to Portugal, told Reuters that his party would be "disappointed" if Premier Victor Ciorbea were to stay in office but has agreed for now to give "tactical support" to the government. Democratic Party Deputy Chairman Bogdan Niculescu-Duvaz said his party's support for the cabinet will end on 31 March, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER AGREES TO STAY ON. Andrei Plesu on 29 January said he has agreed to stay on in the cabinet, as requested by Constantinescu and Ciorbea, because "changing the foreign minister every month or so is not an indication of continuity and political stability." In other news, former President Ion Iliescu said the same day that the government "will not survive" but that he welcomes the new developments because opposition parties will now have to be consulted before new legislation is proposed in the parliament. Iliescu also said that his Party of Social Democracy in Romania and the Democratic Party "have much in common...[as regards] doctrine." MS MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN WASHINGTON. Valeriu Pasat on 29 January discussed with his U.S. counterpart, William Cohen, strengthening military relations and cooperation aimed at avoiding the proliferation of mass-destruction weapons, ITAR-TASS reported. Cohen praised Moldova's contribution to the Partnership for Peace program, saying details have been worked out for an enhanced participation. Pasat is paying a four-day visit to the U.S. and is scheduled to meet Vice President Al Gore and other U.S. officials. BASA-press and Infotag reported on 29 January that his visit includes discussions on the sale of another six MiG-29 fighter jets to the U.S. In December 1995, Chisinau and Washington signed a military cooperation agreement, and in late 1997 Moldova sold 21 MiG-29 planes to the U.S. MS MOLDOVAN-TRANSDNIESTRIAN TALKS CANCELED AGAIN. A meeting between experts representing the two sides in the Moldovan-Transdniestrian conflict, scheduled to take place in Chisinau on 29 January, has been canceled, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. This is the second time that the Transdniestrian side has decided not to participate. Presidential adviser Anatol Taranu said that the separatists were using the excuse that the head of the Tiraspol delegation, Valerii Litskay, is in Moscow. He also accused them of "pursuing a wait-and-see policy and waiting for the outcome of the [March] Moldovan elections." Meanwhile, separatist leader Igor Smirnov met in Moscow with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to discuss the issue of the Russian armament stationed in the Transdniester. The separatists have variously claimed full or partial ownership of those arms, Infotag reported. MS NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION FAILS IN BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT. A no-confidence motion in Ivan Kostov's cabinet was defeated on 29 January by a vote of 135 to 56, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. The motion, proposed by the opposition Socialist Party, was aimed at the cabinet's health care policies. No other parliamentary party supported the motion, but some non-Socialist opposition members abstained or stayed away from the ballot. Kostov said that the motion's defeat is a show of support for continuing the government's economic reforms. Later on 29 January, in a statement issued before the opening of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kostov expressed confidence that Bulgaria will be included in many future European infrastructure projects. He noted that Sofia is focusing on investments in transport and communications to improve links with Western Europe. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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