There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. - Graham Greene
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 21, Part II, 2 February 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 21, Part II, 2 February 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

* CENTRAL EUROPEAN DEFENSE MINISTERS FORM JOINT GROUP

* NEW BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT TAKES OFFICE

* DEMOCRATS BOYCOTT ROMANIAN COALITION TALKS

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

BELARUSIAN JOURNALISTS DECRY STATE'S WAR ON MEDIA. Belarusian opposition
leaders meeting in Warsaw said on 1 February that President Alyaksandr
Lukashenka is waging a war on the independent media, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported. At a meeting with Polish politicians, Ihar
Hermanchuk, editor in chief of "Naviny," which replaced the banned
"Svaboda," said that any publication in Belarus can be suspended for three
months if it includes an item that is considered to be "an insult to the
president or state authorities." The opposition leaders met in the Polish
city Bialystok on 31 January to discuss the human rights situation in
Belarus. Former Solidarity officials Zbigniew Bujak and Jacek Kuron
attended the meeting, which was organized by Poland's Center of Civic
Education. PB

CHORNOBYL LINK SEEN IN POPULATION DROP. The Ukrainian government said on 30
January that the Chornobyl nuclear accident was one of the main factors
that has caused the country's population to decrease, AFP reported. The
State Public Statistics Committee reported that the population shrank by a
total of some 375,000 people in the first 11 months of last year. Medical
officials said that male fertility problems, linked to the 1986 Chernobyl
explosion, had contributed to a 3 percent drop in Ukraine's population
since 1991. Another main contributor to the decline is the difficult
economic situation, which has lowered life expectancy rates. PB

BALTIC STATES AGREEMENTS WITH EU ENTER INTO FORCE. A wide-ranging basket of
political and economic agreements linking Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania
with the European Union took effect on 1 February, Estonian media reported.
Signed in 1995, the accords lay the groundwork for eventual Baltic
membership in the EU. Meanwhile, the United Nations European Economic
Commission predicted that Estonia will become the first East European
country to get into the EU, BNS reported on 30 January. In another sign of
expanding cooperation, the foreign ministers of Estonia and Latvia agreed
to accelerate cooperation in expediting passage across their common border,
BNS said. PG

U.S., FINLAND EXPAND MILITARY ASSISTANCE TO BALTIC STATES. Soldiers of the
U.S. Army's Special Forces Group are currently in Latvia to serve as army
instructors, BNS reported on 30 January. The Green Berets, as these
soldiers are popularly known, will remain in Latvia for about one month. In
a related development, Finnish Defense Minister Anneli Taina announced the
same day that Helsinki was stepping up its efforts to train Estonian
officers and to provide the Estonian defense forces with additional
military hardware, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 January. Meanwhile, Estonian
Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves told a NATO meeting in Brussels that
Tallinn expects to be invited to join the Western alliance in 1999, the
Russian news service said. PG

LATVIA'S PRIME MINISTER SOFTENS POSITION ON NATURALIZATION. Guntars Krasts
said in Riga that he did not exclude the possibility that the government
would call for the naturalization of all children born in Latvia since 1991
regardless of their parents' citizenship, BNS reported on 30 January. But
Krasts refused to say exactly when the government would do so or whether
the current parliament could approve it. OSCE High Commissioner for
National Minorities Max van der Stoel has recommended such a step. PG

LITHUANIANS OPPOSE SCRAPPING DEATH PENALTY. Andrius Kubilius, the
Lithuanian parliament's deputy chairman, said that Lithuanians oppose
eliminating the death penalty for serious crimes even though the Council of
Europe and other European institutions have called on Vilnius to do so, BNS
reported on 30 January. Earlier public opinion polls show that more than
half of all Lithuanians back the use of the death penalty. PG

PROSECUTORS PROBE ACTIONS OF SOVIET ARMY IN LITHUANIA. Lithuanian
prosecutors are investigating actions by Soviet troops on the territory of
Russia's Kaliningrad and Lithuania's Klaipeda region between 1944 and 1955
to determine whether Vilnius should charge them with genocide, BNS reported
on 30 January. The prosecutors are doing so at the request of Lithuanian
parliament deputy Stanislovas Buskevicius. Because the probe concerns
Soviet actions in a Russian region that some Lithuanians believe should be
part of their country, it is likely to provoke a strong Russian reaction. PG

CENTRAL EUROPEAN DEFENSE MINISTERS FORM JOINT GROUP. The Polish, Czech, and
Hungarian defense ministers agreed on 30 January after two-days of talks in
Warsaw to form a joint consultative group to coordinate military
infrastructures along NATO lines and cooperate in the upgrading of
equipment, an RFE/RL correspondent in Warsaw reported on 30 January. Polish
Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz said that he and his Czech and
Hungarian counterparts, Michal Lobkowicz and Goergy Keleti, "were not
losing interest in our partners who are in the East." Keleti said the three
NATO invitees do not want new dividing lines to form as NATO expands. PB

CZECH OPPOSITION PARTY NAMES CANDIDATE FOR PREMIERSHIP. Milos Zeman, the
chairman of the opposition Social Democratic Party (CSSD), said on 31
January that he was "surprised" by the decision of the party's presidium to
nominate him as the CSSD candidate for prime minister if the party wins the
elections due this summer, CTK reported. He said he had offered to resign
as CSSD chairman because he did not want his party to become a "one-man
party;" an allusion to political rival Vaclav Klaus, head of the Civic
Democratic Party. CSSD Deputy Chairman Vladimir Spidla said the presidium
recommended that the ratification of the accord on the Czech Republic's
adherence to NATO be coordinated with Poland and Hungary. He repeated his
party's position that if the CSSD won the elections, it would call a
referendum on NATO membership. The Chamber of Deputies starts debating NATO
accession on 3 February. MS

HAVEL PLANS TO BE 'MORE ENERGETIC.' Czech President Vaclav Havel said on 1
February that he wanted to be "more energetic and more radical" in his
second term as the country's president. Havel spoke in the last of his
weekly radio addresses. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek announced on
30 January that in the future Havel will intervene and make known his
positions without waiting for a weekly radio address. Havel said he would
like to be a president who is "less visible ... less omnipresent," but one
who has "the appropriate strength to move the country forward." He said the
speech in parliament during which he criticized the performance of the
Klaus government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 December 1998) should be viewed
as "a program of presidential preferences." MS

NEW SCANDAL THREATENS CZECH POLITICS. The chairman of the Civic Democratic
Alliance (ODA), Jiri Skalicky, told CTK on 30 January that he wants the
party to sue businessman Kamil Kolek for libel. Kolek recently said in an
interview with CTK that the ODA used blackmail to force him to make a
donation of two million crowns (some $57,000) in 1994. In related news, Jan
Ruml, head of the newly-formed Freedom Union, told journalists on 30
January that his party would consider a partnership with the ODA only if
that party "deals with its financial problems" soon. MS

HUNGARY'S SOCIALIST PRIME MINISTER CRITICIZES COALITION PARTNER. Gyula Horn
told a 1 February session of the Socialist Party's National Board and
parliamentary faction that some in the junior coalition party do not
respect the December 1997 agreement of the coalition's Consultative
Council, according to which the two parties will not campaign against each
other. He criticized the Free Democrats for making public the recent
disputes between the two partners on state-church relations, the resolution
of the Danube dam dispute with Slovakia, the parliamentary representation
of national minorities, and the Roma situation. Free Democratic party
chairman Gabor Kuncze responded by dismissing the Socialists' position as
"unacceptable." According to Kuncze, they take credit for the coalition's
success while making the Free Democrats responsible for its fiascoes. The
Socialists called a meeting of the coalition's Consultative Council to
discuss recent disputes. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

NEW BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT TAKES OFFICE. Prime Minister Milorad Dodik's
government was sworn in on 31 January in Banja Luka at the third session of
the new parliament. Serbian hard-liners belonging to Radovan Karadzic's
Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) left the hall at the start of the ceremony.
Muslim and Croatian deputies walked out when the Serbian Orthodox religious
part of the inauguration began. The legislature later voted to annul 33
laws passed by the SDS-dominated former parliament after Republika Srpska
President Biljana Plavsic dissolved that body last summer. Dodik, for his
part, pledged to reorganize Bosnian Serb Radio and Television "in
accordance with the requirements of the Office of High Representative
[Carlos Westendorp]... to develop into a professional, independent and
responsible network, open to everybody." PM

BANJA LUKA TO BE BOSNIAN SERB CAPITAL. Some 56 out of 83 deputies voted in
Banja Luka on 31 January to move the Republika Srpska's capital from Pale,
the headquarters of Radovan Karadzic and his hard-line allies, to Banja
Luka, the power base of Plavsic and Dodik. The new capital is one of
Bosnia's major towns with a population of about 200,000, while Pale is a
ski resort of about 20,000 inhabitants. The move is one more sign of the
decline of the influence of Karadzic and his allies. It also marks the end
of Karadzic's hope that the Serbs might some day have part of Sarajevo as
their capital. PM

CROATIA OPTIMISTIC ON REPUBLIKA SRPSKA, NATO. Foreign Minister Mate Granic
announced in Zagreb on 29 January that Croatia hopes to open a consulate in
Banja Luka and is waiting for the approval of the Bosnian joint presidency
to do so. The next day, Defense Minister Gojko Susak said after returning
from Washington that Croatia may be able to join NATO's Partnership for
Peace program by the end of 1998. Susak said he is now more confident of
U.S. support for Croatia's integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. U.S.
officials have repeatedly made such integration contingent on Croatia's
implementation of the Dayton agreement and on its fair treatment of its
Serbian minority. PM

HOME OF MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT'S BACKER BOMBED. A bomb severely damaged the
house of Djoko Klikovac, a supporter of President Milo Djukanovic, in
Bijelo Polje near Podgorica during the night of 31 January-1 February.
Klikovac is a leader of the local branch of the Democratic Socialist Party
and a wealthy businessman who made his money in the fuel trade during the
1991-1995 war. This is the third explosion in 10 days involving property of
close supporters of Djukanovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1998). PM

RUGOVA CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL PROTECTORATE. Kosovo shadow-state President
Ibrahim Rugova has again urged that the troubled Serbian province be made
an international protectorate in order to defuse tensions and help clarify
its future status. Rugova stated in Pristina on 30 January that the
majority ethnic "Albanians would accept a transitional period of two years
under an international protectorate during which a referendum on its status
will be organized." Belgrade maintains that Kosovo is an internal Serbian
affair and has firmly rejected outside attempts at mediation, including
Rugova's long-standing campaign to "internationalize" the issue. PM

ALBANIAN, SERBIAN BORDER POLICE CELEBRATE BAJRAM. A delegation of five
Serbian border police joined Albanian officials in Kukes to celebrate
Bajram, the day that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan,
"Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 31 January. The Serbs, who are from Prizren,
also appeared on Albanian Television to wish viewers a happy holiday. The
Tirana daily added that "it is the first time that such a thing has
happened in the history of the relations between the two peoples." The
Serbs invited their hosts to pay a return visit to celebrate Serbian
Orthodox Easter in April. PM

ALBANIAN JUDGES END HUNGER STRIKE. Following mediation by OSCE special
envoy Daan Everts, eight judges ended their hunger strike in Tirana on 30
January, "Shekulli" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 30 January 1998). The
judges and Justice Minister Thimio Kondi agreed that the Council of
Europe's Venice Commission will look into claims by the hunger strikers
that a recent Socialist-backed law was designed to oust judges trained in
accelerated six-month courses in 1993 under the previous Democratic Party
government. Meanwhile, a group of hunger-striking ex-political prisoners
has also asked for OSCE mediation. They object to a recent softening of the
country's lustration law. FS

ALBANIAN PYRAMID OWNER ATTEMPTS SUICIDE. Maksude Kadena, founder of the
Sudja pyramid company, was hospitalized after trying to poison herself with
an overdose of various medicines in prison on 31 January, "Bulevard"
reported. Meanwhile, government-appointed pyramid administrator Farudin
Arapi said that a preliminary report by the auditing firm Deloitte & Touche
showed that over 80 percent of the businesses of five pyramid companies are
now defunct and that "the companies' mismanaged the creditors' capital." FS

REPORTS: PSYCHIATRIC PATIENTS STARVED TO DEATH IN ALBANIA. Some 55 people
starved to death in the psychiatric hospital of Elbasan in 1997, as have
two so far this year, "Koha Jone" and "Shekulli" reported on 31 January.
Local doctors told journalists that there has been a chronic lack of food
and heating and added that, despite international aid given since last
summer, malnutrition remains the most serious problem. The hospital houses
230 patients. FS

DEMOCRATS BOYCOTT ROMANIAN COALITION TALKS... The representatives of the
Democratic Party did not participate in the 1 February talks with other
coalition partners to find a solution to the stalled government crisis. The
boycott follows protests by the Democrats against a press conference
organized by the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) on 31
January, with the participation of the chairman of the Christian Democratic
European Union, Wim van Velzen. Van Velzen said that Premier Victor Ciorbea
is "not responsible" for the problems in the coalition and that these were
"probably a reflection of internal conflicts in the Democratic Party." MS

...WHILE INTERNAL CONFLICTS SURFACE IN THE PARTY. Upon his return from
Lisbon on 31 January, Democratic Party chairman Petre Roman alluded that
his party may support a no-confidence vote against the cabinet, saying that
he could not see why "a government that is not capable of making the
reform, should survive." Democratic Party vice-chairman Victor Babiuc said
on 31 January that after van Velzen's declarations the Democrats wonder if
they could still support the cabinet, and Traian Basescu, also a
vice-chairman of the party, said it was "deplorable" that the PNTCD had
"appealed for foreign help." In an interview with the daily "Azi" on 30
January, former Foreign Minister Adrian Severin criticized Roman, saying
that he should have made a "personal sacrifice" and negotiated the
Democrats' continued participation in the coalition despite the party's
National Council opposition to that participation. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON COALITION CRISIS. In an interview with Pro TV from
the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Emil Constantinescu on 1
February said he was "disgusted" with the way Romanian politicians have
handled the crisis. Upon his return to Romania the same evening he said he
regretted having made that declaration but added that while in Davos he
succeeded in convincing political leaders and potential investors that the
crisis was not "political" but "governmental," and that the situation is
"seriously affecting and threatening Romania's interests." Constantinescu
said that he will meet on 2 February with leaders of the coalition and the
opposition. In an interview with RFE/RL on 31 January, Constantinescu
claimed that the coalition dispute had actually accelerated the reform,
allowing parliamentary passage of key reform legislation. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS 'TIME TO THINK IN ECONOMIC TERMS.' Petru Lucinschi
on 30 January told a meeting of the Moldovan government that it was "high
time to start employing the language of finances, speaking in terms of lei
[the Moldovan national currency] rather than tons," Infotag reported. He
reproached the government for presenting an optimistic picture of the
economy, one showing that "production volumes" were being met "as planned"
while financial figures showed a different situation. Lucinschi said both
the central government and the local authorities must deal with economic
problems rather than involve themselves in politics. He said the signs of
"economic stabilization" are encouraging but warned that this year will be
more difficult than 1997. Finance Minister Valeriu Chitan told the
government that the country's external debt grew by $60.2 million in 1997,
reaching a total of $709 million. MS

BULGARIAN DEPUTY MINISTER RESIGNS IN BANKING SCANDAL. Deputy Transportation
Minister Kaltcho Hinov resigned on 31 January after his name appeared on a
recently published list of about 3,000 persons and companies that owe large
debts to banks. Hinov admitted he obtained credits worth hundreds of
thousands of dollars as the owner of a private company. He said he had
intended to return the money but could not do so because of the sanctions
imposed by the UN on Iraq, to which his company planned to export goods, an
RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Hinov is the only senior official
in the present government whose name appeared on the list. MS

BULGARIA, RUSSIA TO NEGOTIATE GAS DELIVERIES. President Petar Stoyanov told
reporters on his return from the World Economic Forum in Davos,
Switzerland, on 1 February that his talks at the forum with Russian Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had "removed most of the obstacles" to signing
a new agreement for Russian gas deliveries to Bulgaria and the transit of
Russian gas through Bulgarian pipelines to third countries, ITAR-TASS
reported. He said Bulgarian Deputy Premier Evgeni Bakardzhiev will travel
to Moscow for talks on the new agreement this week. Prime Minister Ivan
Kostov said that he was prepared to go to Moscow himself for talks with
Chernomyrdin. MS

STOYANOV PREDICTS ECONOMIC GROWTH FOR BULGARIA. President Petar Stoyanov on
30 January told the World Economic Forum in Davos that the pace of economic
reforms in his country will increase and that the reforms are backed by the
population, who realizes that the reforms were stopped by the Socialists
for four years. Stoyanov predicted that Bulgaria's GDP will grow by 4
percent in 1988. Deputy Premier Alexander Bozhkov told the forum on 29
January that Bulgaria plans to privatize 70 percent of the state assets by
the end of 2000. MS

END NOTE

POST-COMMUNIST STATES DIVERGE ON HUMAN RIGHTS

by Paul Goble

        During 1997, some post-communist governments made significant
progress in improving the protection of the human rights in their
countries. Others failed to do so or even retreated from earlier gains. But
all continue to face challenges in bringing their domestic performance up
to their international commitments.
        That is the conclusion of the U.S. State Department in its annual
survey of human rights around the world, a document explicitly used to
guide American policy and carefully read by many as an indication of both
conditions on the ground and American concerns about particular countries.
        As has been the case since its inception 20 years ago, this year's
report generally avoids any classification of countries according to their
political pasts. An exception is the survey's discussion of countries
included in a section called "Countries in Transition." But a reading of
its chapters on the post-communist countries suggests that the U.S. has
reached three more general conclusions about them.
        First, the report notes a growing divergence in the performance of
post-communist states, an acknowledgment by Washington that these countries
are moving in this area -- as in so many others -- along very different
tracks and at very different speeds.
        Second, the report explicitly delinks progress toward democracy and
progress toward free market reforms, and it notes that many of the problems
in these countries stem from the weakness of state structures rather than
ill-will on the part of leaders.
        And third, the report calls attention to the growing fear and
suspicion of minority groups in many parts of Europe -- both in the
traditional democracies and in former communist countries -- a development
that the report suggests is of particular concern.
        More specifically, the State Department report draws the following
conclusions about the countries monitored by "RFE/RL Newsline":
        RUSSIA. Noting that Russia "continues to be a state in transition,"
the report says that its democratization is slow, its judiciary weak, and
its leaders unable to implement their own laws and commitments. The report
sharply criticizes conditions in Russian prisons, targeting by the police
of darker-skinned people in general and citizens from the Caucasus in
particular, and restrictions on freedom of the press. But it is especially
critical of the new Russian law on religion, a law already being used by
some officials to harass certain religious groups.
        TRANSCAUCASUS and CENTRAL ASIA. The report suggests that the three
Transcaucasian countries are moving in very different directions, while the
five Central Asian states are generally doing more poorly. It says that
Azerbaijan has made significant progress toward economic reform but taken
few steps toward democracy. It also criticizes conditions in both Armenia
and Georgia but notes that in Georgia, an increasingly assertive parliament
and population have restrained law enforcement agencies.
        Across Central Asia, the report suggests that basic freedoms are
curtailed by legislatures and judiciaries still subordinate to powerful
presidents. But it indicates that conditions in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
are not as bad as elsewhere.
        EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE. The status of human rights also varied widely
among the countries in this region, according to the report. It suggested
that Belarus, under President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, has moved backwards in
virtually all areas. The report gives a mixed picture of Ukraine,
identifying it as a country in transition with problems arising from the
inheritances of Soviet times and flowing from the weaknesses of the
country's political structures. It praised the three Baltic countries for
progress on most issues but noted their continuing difficulties with
prisons and, in the case of Latvia and Estonia, with those ethnic Russians
who lack citizenship. The report gave generally high marks to Poland,
Hungary, and the Czech Republic, while decrying growing popular hostility
toward the Roma and other minorities in the latter. It was more critical of
conditions in Slovakia.
        SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE. The State Department report found that the
status of human rights in Albania had declined sharply during the country's
general breakdown last year and had made only a modest recovery since then.
It suggested that Romania generally respects human rights but criticized
the government's lack of effective control over the actions of police, poor
prison conditions, and ill treatment of women and Roma. It criticized
Bulgaria for its inability to control its own officials. Both of these
countries, the report said, have passed laws that tend to restrict
religious freedoms.
        Concerning the successor states to Yugoslavia, the report praised
Bosnia-Herzegovina for significant progress on human rights. It also gave
high marks to Slovenia and Montenegro. But the report said that the record
remained mixed in Croatia and Macedonia. And it concluded that the
situation in Serbia was extremely bad with serious human rights abuses on
virtually every front.
        As in the past, those governments that received high marks are
likely to tout them as a mark of their standing internationally, while
those leaders that did not will criticize the report as biased or
incomplete. But as this year's report makes very clear, there are no easy
answers or final victories in the cause of human rights.



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