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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 22, Part II, 3 February 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 22, Part II, 3 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * CZECH PRESIDENT SWORN IN FOR SECOND TERM * NTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY URGES MUSLIMS TO LET REFUGEES RETURN * BRITAIN SEES KOSOVO, MONTENEGRO LINK xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE CZECH PRESIDENT SWORN IN FOR SECOND TERM. Vaclav Havel on 2 February was sworn in for a second and last term as president, CTK and Reuters reported. Deputies representing the far-right Republican Party, who argue that Havel's election was unconstitutional, boycotted the ceremony (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 1998). Deputies and senators from the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia were also absent. In an address after the ceremony, Havel pledged to "strengthen civil society, spread respect for human rights, [and] fight against nationalism, and xenophobia." He also said he would seek to replace the current "atmosphere of intrigue, power calculation, and mutual tripping up" with one that would offer "a fast and effective solution to the large economic and social problems of the country." MS BACK WAGES FOR VOTES IN UKRAINE? Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz says the government has increased efforts to pay arrears in an attempt to garner political support as parliamentary elections near, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 February. Moroz said the "influence of money sacks" is definitely being felt in some regions of Ukraine. He charged that wage and pension arrears are being paid with budgetary funds allocated for other purposes. The Central Electoral Commission reported on 1 February that nearly 7,000 candidates will compete for the 450 seats in the parliament. Half of those seats will be filled by the winners in single-mandate constituencies and the other half by candidates nominated by parties that clear a 4 percent threshold. The elections are scheduled for 31 March. PB DEATH PENALTY BAN TO BE ADDRESSED IN UKRAINE. Boris Oleynyk, the head of the Ukrainian delegation at the Council of Europe, said his country's parliament will decide soon on the status of capital punishment, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 February. But the next day, parliamentary speaker Moroz said in Kyiv that legislators will address the issue later this month or in early March. Kyiv imposed a moratorium on executions when it joined the council in 1995, but it has repeatedly violated the ban. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recently demanded that Ukraine pass legislation banning the death penalty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January 1998). PB ESTONIAN OFFICIAL URGES SPEEDY ABOLITION OF DEATH PENALTY. Meanwhile, Eiki Nestor, the head of the Estonian delegation to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, has said that if Tallinn does not soon abolish the death penalty, "pressure from third countries can be expected, " ETA reported on 2 February. Abolishing capital punishment in Estonia will be a formality only, since the country's Supreme Court ruled in 1996 that death sentences would no longer be carried out because "legislation is insufficient to justify it." In what was seen as a step toward doing away with the death penalty, the parliament last year passed a bill allowing life imprisonment (previously, the maximum prison sentence was 15 years). In March 1996, Estonia ratified the European human rights convention but not the additional clause on abolishing capital punishment. JC LATVIAN PRESIDENT BACKS PREMIER OVER NATURALIZATION. Guntis Ulmanis says he welcomes Prime Minister Guntars Krasts's statement that the government may call for granting citizenship to all children born in Latvia since the country regained independence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1998), BNS reported. Krasts's Fatherland and Freedom party strongly opposes the naturalization of non-citizens' children and other changes to the citizenship law. Meanwhile, Krasts said at a 2 February press conference that he had not proposed changing the citizenship law but had only agreed that a discussion should be launched, RFE/RL's Latvian Service reported. JC VAGNORIUS ORDERS PROBE INTO KGB ALLEGATIONS AGAINST MINISTER. Lithuanian Premier Gediminas Vagnorius has asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate allegations that an unspecified member of his cabinet collaborated with the Soviet-era KGB, BNS reported on 2 February. The order comes after Vytautas Cepas, a member of the National Security Committee, confirmed to reporters that he has information showing a cabinet member involved in the privatization of Lithuania's Telecom was recruited by the KGB in 1989. A government statement issued on 2 February described the allegations as yet another attempt of the "remnants of Soviet repressive structures...to exert inadmissible pressure on ministers' decisions." JC POLISH ECONOMY CONTINUES TO GROW. The government has announced that the economy grew 7 percent in 1997, up from 6.1 percent the previous year, AFP reported on 31 January. The country received $6.6 billion in investment last year, the highest yearly amount for any Eastern European country since the fall of communism. Foreign investment since 1989 now totals $20.6 billion, meaning that Poland has overtaken Hungary as the country in the region with the largest foreign investment. The U.S. is the largest foreign investor in Poland ($4 billion), ahead of Germany ($2.1 billion). PB SLOVAK POLICE SEIZE 13 TONS OF CANNABIS. Police in Slovakia say they have arrested four men, one of them a Colombian national, after seizing almost 13 tons of marijuana in a raid in Nitra on 30 January. According to a police statement, Slovak police cooperated with U.S., German, and Czech law-enforcement agencies in tracking the shipment that left Columbia for Slovakia via the Czech Republic a few months ago, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. MS SLOVAKIA'S HUNGARIANS SUPPORT MINORITY REPRESENTATION IN HUNGARY. Leaders of the three political parties representing Slovakia's Hungarian minority have urged politicians in Budapest to facilitate the representation of minorities in the Hungarian parliament as soon as possible, Hungarian media reported on 2 February. The ethnic Hungarian leaders told Csaba Tabajdi, political state secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, that Hungary's legislature must provide for the parliamentary representation of minorities since they are unable to win such representation through the regular electoral process owing to their small size. Of the former communist countries, only Romania has a constitution that provides for minority representation in the parliament. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY URGES MUSLIMS TO LET REFUGEES RETURN. Carlos Westendorp, who is the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard, and other representatives of the international community opened a conference in Sarajevo on 3 February to encourage all three sides to let refugees go home. The draft declaration calls on the Muslims to allow 20,000 Serbs and Croats to return to Sarajevo, which was multi-ethnic before the war but which is now almost 90 percent Muslim. The blunt language in the text reflects the international community's impatience with the reluctance of the Muslims to let others return to their homes on Muslim-controlled territory. Many of the new Muslim inhabitants of the capital are refugees from rural eastern Bosnia whose former homes are now under Serbian control. PM BOSNIAN AID MONEY LINKED TO REFUGEE ISSUE. J. Brian Atwood, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said in Sarajevo on 2 February that international aid money has helped revive the economy of the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation. He added that, with continued aid, the federation might reach 80 percent of Bosnia's pre-war gross domestic product by the year 2000. He praised Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik and indicated that U.S. aid money will now be available to the Republika Srpska. Atwood warned the Muslims, however, that they must allow Serbs and Croats to return and quickly enact legislation to enable non-Muslims to reclaim their former homes. PM JOINT BOSNIAN LICENSE PLATES RELEASED. Jacques Klein, who is Westendorp's deputy, distributed the first of the new joint Bosnian license plates in Sarajevo on 2 February. Those plates do not identify where the car comes from and are intended to facilitate freedom of movement across the former front lines. Klein stated that "where previously drivers had feared that the license plates on their car could--and did--serve as an invitation for thuggery or worse, with the new plates drivers will be able to travel freely around the country without parading where they come from." Drivers who do not switch to the new plates by the end of July will be fined. Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the joint presidency, said in Sarajevo on 2 February that the introduction of joint plates is a "bad move," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. PM BRITAIN SEES KOSOVO, MONTENEGRO LINK. British Junior Foreign Minister Tony Lloyd said in Podgorica on 2 February that the same people are responsible for the recent violence in Kosovo and Podgorica, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. He did not, however, identify those people. Lloyd added that he hopes the new Montenegrin government will be democratic and multi-ethnic. The same day in Belgrade, Lloyd told Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic that the EU, whose presidency the U.K. currently holds, will help reintegrate Yugoslavia back into international institutions, provided that Belgrade "opens up the political process in Kosovo" and implements a 1996 agreement on restoring Albanian-language education there, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. PM SERBS WARNED OF LETHAL BRANDY. Police on 2 February arrested the director of the Zivadinovic Distillery in Nis and summoned three food inspectors for questioning following the death of 12 people and the poisoning of many more in recent days from drinking a local grape brandy made with methyl alcohol. Serbian government officials said the Zivadinovic company produced more than 40,000 liters of alcoholic drinks over the previous eight months and that some of those had been sold at cut-rate prices in various parts of Serbia. PM SLOVENIA BACKS SECURITY COUNCIL ON IRAQ. President Milan Kucan, whose country holds one of the non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council, wrote his U.S. counterpart, Bill Clinton, on 2 February to say that Ljubljana will back any Security Council decision on Iraq. "Slovenia... will insist on Iraq's fully and unconditionally observing the Security Council resolutions on the destruction of chemical and biological weapons and others designed for mass destruction." Kucan added that the UN Special Commission must have a free hand to carry out its mandate. The president concluded that he hopes the current tensions can be defused by diplomatic means. PM SLOVENIA SAYS NO POLITICAL STATUS FOR GERMAN MINORITY. Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek said in Ljubljana on 30 January that Slovenia's 765 native-German speakers will not be recognized in the constitution as a distinct ethnic minority. He had earlier met with Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel. Drnovsek noted that he and Schuessel agreed that the status of the German speakers "is a cultural question" and that "Austria does not expect us to change our constitution." He said they agreed that the German-speakers in Slovenia are not a homogenous group, but scattered. The constitution recognizes an Italian and a Hungarian minority, each of which is guaranteed one seat in parliament. The status of the German-speakers has been a thorny issue in relations between Ljubljana and Vienna. PM ALBANIA TO END TELECOM MONOPOLY. A spokesman for the Economy and Privatization Ministry said on 2 February that the government has approved a law abolishing the current monopolies on telecommunications. Only the state company and the private company Albanian Mobile Telecommunications are currently allowed to operate, "Koha Jone" reported. The law would also put an end to the ban on private Internet providers. To date, the United Nations Development Project and the Soros Foundation offer e-mail services only to NGOs schools, universities, and government institutions. Private or commercial users have no access to e-mail. Also in Tirana, Deputy Sports Minister Kreshnik Tartari said that he hopes to privatize all soccer clubs this year. FS ALBANIAN PYRAMID AUDITORS PUBLISH REPORT. None of Albania's five largest pyramid investment companies is able to pay back its debts, according to the French auditing firm Deloitte & Touche. A report handed to the government on 2 February concludes that 56 individual businesses belonging to pyramid firms generate some income but that 273 do not. It notes that the pyramids as a whole continue to generate losses (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1998). Meanwhile, 200,000 creditors have reported their claims to a government office. FS ROMANIA'S RIVAL COALITION CAMPS HOLD TALKS... The leaderships of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and the Democratic Party met on 2-3 February to discussed how to cooperate in the future, Radio Bucharest reported. The new coalition protocol was not discussed, but on 2 February agreement was reached by the PNTCD and the coalition parties that did not withdraw from the government on the details of the protocol. That document is to be submitted for the Democrats' approval. The five Democrats who withdrew from the cabinet on 2 February have handed in their written resignation and also demanded the dismissal of the management of state television for interrupting broadcasts to air the 31 January press conference of the PNTCD in which Wim van Velzen also participated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1998). MS ...WHILE CONSTANTINESCU MEETS WITH OPPOSITION LEADERS. President Emil Constantinescu on 2 February met with leaders of the main opposition parties represented in the parliament, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Adrian Nastase, deputy chairman of the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), said he had handed the president a 10-point letter on how to improve cooperation in the legislature between the coalition and the opposition. He said the issue of the PDSR possible support's in the legislature of a minority government was not raised "because of the Democrats' still ambiguous position" on participating in the ruling coalition. Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the leader of the extremist Greater Romania Party, said later that early elections are "unavoidable" and that he proposed to Constantinescu that those elections be organized either by a "government of technocrats" or by one of "national unity" in which all parties are represented. MS ROMANIAN AUTHORITIES RELEASE PRIVATIZATION FIGURES. Sorin Dimitriu, the chairman of the State Privatization Fund, told journalists on 2 February that 1,304 state companies were privatized in 1997. He said most of those companies were small or middle-sized and that in the previous year, some 1,450 companies had been privatized. Nevertheless, revenues from privatization last year were considerably higher than in 1996. The fund plans privatizing 1,600 companies this year. Dimitriu said the country's ongoing political crisis is affecting privatization because prospective investors are losing confidence in Romania's political and economic stability. MS MOLDOVAN PRIME MINISTER ON ECONOMY. Ion Ciubuc on 2 February said that since taking office one year ago, his cabinet has managed to fulfill all its objectives. Pensions arrears, which 12 months ago amounted to 315 million lei ($70 million), have been were reduced by 90 percent, and the government hopes to make all back payments by the end of this month. GDP grew 1.3 percent in 1997, marking the end of economic decline. Ciubuc also said Moldova reduced its debt to Gazprom by $140 million, of which $80 million was paid by means of goods. The remaining debt totals $91 million (not including the more than $200 million that the Transdniester authorities owe Gazprom). MS PART OF ARMS WITHDRAWAL FROM MOLDOVA COMPLETED. Valerii Yevnevich, the commander of Russian troops in the Transdniester, said on 2 February that a train carrying 200 tons of dichloroethane left the region earlier that day. Yevnevich noted that the train's departure meant "we have implemented in full the [1993 Russian-Moldovan] agreement on withdrawing engineering technology from the region." He added that preparations have been completed for the withdrawal of arms and ammunition that belonged to the former Russian 14th Army. "If the Russian government and the Defense Minister order the withdrawal, we are ready to implement it," he commented. That withdrawal is being obstructed by the authorities in Tiraspol, which consider the arms to belong either partly or fully to the separatists. MS MOLDOVAN OFFICIALS SUSPECT PLANE STOLEN IN AFRICA. Chisinau authorities suspect that a Moldovan-registered cargo plane that disappeared after a flight to Africa in December 1997 has either been stolen or "hidden somewhere" by the six-member crew. Iurie Armasu, general manager of the Civil Aviation Authority, said on 2 February that the AN-72 plane, owned by the Moldova Renan company, was chartered by a company registered in Congo. After delivering its cargo, the plane flew to the Ivory Coast for unknown reasons and landed in Angola. The Moldovan media speculates that the plane was involved in arms trafficking, but Moldovan officials are refusing to reveal the plane's cargo, Infotag and ITAR-TASS reported. MS BULGARIAN POLLS SUGGEST WIDESPREAD CORRUPTION. An opinion poll conducted by the Center for Democratic Studies suggests widespread corruption among Bulgarian officials. Eighty-six percent of the respondents said bribes are essential to obtain proper medical treatment. Seventy-four percent said bribes are readily accepted by custom officers, while 63 percent named judges and 56 percent police as bribe-takers, AFP reported on 2 February. Fifty-seven percent of the respondents believe "it is a waste of time" to report cases of corruption, while 31 percent said paying bribes was "bad, but unavoidable." MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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