|I'm going to turn on the light, and we'll be two people in a room looking at each other and wondering why on earth we were afraid of the dark. - Gale Wilhelm|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 23, Part II, 4 February 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 23, Part II, 4 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 * UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR BAN ON DAILY TO BE LIFTED * IS YUGOSLAVIA CALLING UP RESERVISTS FOR KOSOVO? * IZETBEGOVIC BALKS AT REFUGEE RETURNS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR BAN ON DAILY TO BE LIFTED. The parliament on 3 February passed a resolution urging the government to allow the daily "Pravda Ukrainy" to resume publishing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 1998), AFP reported. Former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, the leader of the Hromada party (which is strongly supported by "Pravda Ukrainy"), accused the government of exceeding its authority in banning the newspaper and of "rude reprisals" against opposition media. The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists also decried the ban and sent a letter to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 3 February asking him to reverse the decision. PB GERMAN PRESIDENT PRAISES UKRAINE'S FOREIGN-POLICY ACHIEVEMENTS. Roman Herzog said after talks with Kuchma in Kyiv that Germany fully supports the country's moves toward closer relations with Western European structures, dpa reported on 4 February. Herzog praised Kyiv's charter with NATO, its bilateral treaties with Romania and Russia, and its participation in peacekeeping in the former Yugoslavia. But the German president criticized the slow pace of reforming the economy, which, he said, had resulted in weak foreign investment. Herzog is also to meet with Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko and parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz during his three-day visit. PB SACKED YALTA CITY HEAD DEFIES KUCHMA. Aleksandr Kalyus, who was fired as head of the Yalta city council, and 10 local deputies are refusing to leave the city hall, RFE/RL's Ukrainian service reported on 3 February. Kalyus was sacked for alleged mismanagement in a decree issued by President Kuchma on 29 January. Kuchma said Kalyus was incapable of "reviving economic and political activity in the city and of strengthening the fight against crime." Kalyus was to be replaced by a government official until elections on 31 March. Several hundred Kalyus supporters have gathered at the city hall to protest his ouster as unconstitutional. According to media reports, police had surrounded the building and removed a bomb from the roof. Kalyus said those reports were an attempt to get him and his supporters to evacuate the building. PB BELARUS SEEKS TO EXPAND TIES WITH IRAN. A Belarusian delegation is in Tehran for the second meeting of the Iranian-Belarusian Commission on Economic Cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 February. The meeting is focusing on broadening bilateral commercial, economic, and scientific ties. The commission met for the first time in Minsk in 1995. "Iran News" reported that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is scheduled to visit Tehran on 6 March. PB ITALY'S PRODI TO DISCUSS ESTONIAN-RUSSIAN TIES WITH YELTSIN. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi has said he plans to discuss the prospects for normalizing Russian-Estonian relations at talks with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Italy this spring, ETA and Interfax reported. Prodi told Estonian Premier Mart Siimann in Tallinn on 3 February that he would communicate to Yeltsin Estonia's position on improving relations with Russia. Siimann, for his part, admitted there are problems in integrating the country's ethnic minorities but added that "these are Estonia's domestic problems, which the government is dealing with," according to Interfax. JC LATVIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES AMNESTY BILL. The cabinet on 3 February approved a draft law allowing those sentenced to death to appeal to the president for clemency within 10 days of receiving official notice of the verdict, BNS reported. If the prisoner refuses to lodge such an appeal, the prison administration must draw up a document detailing that refusal. Both an appeal for clemency and a refusal document will delay execution until the president makes a decision, according to that bill. The parliament must now approve the draft. President Guntis Ulmanis has announced a moratorium on the death penalty and said he will not reject any pleas for clemency from death-row inmates. Public opposition to abolishing capital punishment is strong in Latvia. JC IMF WANTS LITHUANIA TO REDUCE BUDGET DEFICIT. IMF officials told Lithuanian President-elect Valdas Adamkus in Vilnius on 3 February that one of the fund's major goals is to eliminate Lithuania's budget deficit by 1999, BNS reported. Julian Berengaut, director of the IMF's Baltic Division within the Second European Department and Adalbert Knobl, the fund's envoy to Lithuania, expressed concern over the situation of Lithuania's state-owned banks but noted that progress has been made toward strengthening the economy. They also stressed that the arrival of foreign banks in Lithuania would be a positive development. Also on 3 February in the capital, several thousand demonstrators protested increases in local telephone rates and municipal services. JC POLISH PRIME MINISTER MEETS WITH GERMAN CHANCELLOR. Jerzy Buzek said after talks with Helmut Kohl in Bonn that restructuring within the EU should not delay enlargement, dpa reported on 3 February. Buzek said the chancellor is a "great friend of Poland and a great supporter of our entry into NATO and the EU." Accession talks on joining the EU begin on 31 March. Buzek said he expected "difficult negotiations." He is also scheduled to meet with Bundestag President Rita Suessmuth and Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel. PB NATO SUPREME COMMANDER MEETS CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER. General Wesley Clark, the supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe, said after his meeting with Czech Defense Minister Michal Lobkowicz on 3 February that he has reason to be optimistic about the integration of the Czech Republic into the alliance, CTK reported. Clark said Czech defense spending is "realistic" and that the Czech soldiers serving in the SFOR mission in Bosnia are "doing a first class job." In related news, President Vaclav Havel on 3 February told Lobkowicz that the parliament's speedy ratification of Czech membership in NATO would be "a good signal" for other countries. He told Lobkowicz, who is also a supporter of speedy ratification, that he would personally participate in a pro-NATO campaign. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek told journalists that Havel sees "no reason why accession to NATO would require a referendum." MS CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS NATO, EU OFFICIALS. Jaroslav Sedivy on 3 February told NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana in Brussels that he sees no reason why the change of the government in his country would slow down preparations for NATO accession. He said Defense Minister Lobkowicz is even more committed to NATO membership than was his predecessor, CTK reported. Sedivy told journalists after meetings with European Commissioner for Foreign Relations Hans van der Broek and members of the Parliamentary Assembly's Foreign Relations Commission that he has "dissipated apprehensions" that recent Czech political development could slow down Prague's preparations for EU accession negotiations. Meanwhile, commission member Otto von Habsburg said the Czech Republic's admission to the EU is "unacceptable" unless it abolishes the post-World War Two decrees on the expulsion of the German minority. Sedivy replied the decrees are "historical documents" that cannot be "simply removed from history." MS NO AGREEMENT ON SLOVAK-HUNGARIAN DAM DISPUTE. The two delegations discussing ways of resolving the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros hydropower dam dispute failed on 2 February in Bratislava to reach agreement on issues such as the joint operation of Slovakia's Cunovo dam and Hungary's Dunakiliti complex. Hungarian delegation head Janos Nemcsok said after the meeting that "never has there been such a big difference" between the two sides. A joint statement issued after the talks said progress was made only on environmental and legal issues. The next round of talks will be held in Budapest on 9 February. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE IS YUGOSLAVIA CALLING UP RESERVISTS FOR KOSOVO? Miodrag Isakov, the president of the opposition Reform Democratic Party of Vojvodina (RDSV), said in Novi Sad on 3 February that the Yugoslav army has recently begun to call up reservists, which, he commented, recalls the mobilization that preceded the 1991 war in Croatia. Isakov added that the young men are being sent to Kosovo but that many of them have gone into hiding or fled the country rather than enlist, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Nenad Canak, the president of the opposition League of Vojvodina Social Democrats, said his party is investigating the RDSV report and is considering organizing public protests and setting up a counseling center for deserters if the charges prove true. Canak added that "we will not die in Kosovo as we died at Vukovar." The fighting in the eastern city was one of the bloodiest campaigns of the 1991 Croatian war. PM ALBANIAN PRESIDENT WARNS UN OF "SUPER BOSNIA." Following a meeting with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York on 3 February, Rexhep Meidani said he asked his host "to increase international pressure on the Serbian side to resolve this conflict as soon as possible." Meidani added that the world "must not permit a tremendous explosion in the [Balkan] region, an explosion that will involve not only Albania but all the countries there--Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey." He added that if diplomacy fails, a "second 'super Bosnia' will happen there." PM IZETBEGOVIC BALKS AT REFUGEE RETURNS. Participants at the international Sarajevo conference on refugee returns adopted a declaration on 3 February saying that at least 20,000 non-Muslims must be allowed to return to the now mainly Muslim city by the end of the year. The declaration also sets a two-week deadline for the Muslim authorities to restore property rights to non-Muslim former residents of Sarajevo. Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, rejected Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic's attempt to attach conditions to the declaration. Izetbegovic argued that if the Muslims must accept returnees, the Serbs must allow refugees to return to Banja Luka and the Croats must permit Serbs to come back to Knin. U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard threatened to cut off financial aid to Sarajevo if property rights are not clarified within two weeks. PM WESTENDORP ANNOUNCES NEW BOSNIAN FLAG. The international community's Westendorp on 4 February imposed a joint flag on Bosnia following the failure of the joint legislature the previous day to agree on one of three designs. Each design is blue, yellow, and white and contains no national symbols. Local and foreign critics charged that the designs looked more like television test patterns than flags. The new flag will make its international debut at the Nagano Winter Olympics on 7 February. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Westendorp said on 4 February that Bosnian Serb officials agreed to accept 1 million pieces of mail addressed to people in the Republika Srpska. The letters and parcels have been piling up in Sarajevo post offices for the past 22 months. Bosnian Serb hard-liners had refused to accept the mail. PM U.S. SEEKING "PARAMILITARY" FORCE FOR BOSNIA. The U.S. has proposed to its NATO allies that the peace-keeping force that will replace SFOR in July include a 1,600-strong "paramilitary" force, "Jane's Defense Weekly" reported on 3 February. The contingent will be better armed that the UN-sponsored police force and will specialize in tasks such as crowd control. An unnamed U.S. military official told the magazine that NATO is discussing the proposal. PM EXPLOSION KILLS ONE IN MOSTAR. A UN spokesman said in Mostar on 4 February that a car bomb killed one Muslim and wounded another the previous evening. The previous day, a UN police spokesman announced that the Croatian police chief in nearby Stolac was replaced following a wave of anti-Muslim violence there. And Mostar's local Croatian television resumed news broadcasts after a two-month hiatus. Officials of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe last fall accused the station's editors of spreading anti-Muslim sentiments. PM MONTENEGRIN CATHOLICS IN DUBROVNIK. For the first time in seven years, a group of 60 Roman Catholic pilgrims from Kotor visited Dubrovnik on 3 February for a local religious festival, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the port city. PM OPPOSITION TAKES POWER IN RIJEKA. A representative of the Croatian government formally transferred power in Primorsko-goranska County on 2 February to Milivoje Brozina, the new county chief, who belongs to the opposition Primorsko-goranska League. The transfer marks an end to a two-and-a-half-year fight by the governing Croatian Democratic Community not to accept its loss in the last regional election, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Istria's main city. PM DOWNSIZING IN CROATIA. Interior Minister Ivan Penic said on 2 February that he intends to reduce the number of employees at his ministry over the next few years from 35,000 to 27,000. He said that, compared with some other European countries, Croatia's police force is far too large relative to the size of the population, "Vjesnik" reported. And in Rijeka, harbor officials announced on 2 February that they have ordered 660 workers to be laid off, saying they are no longer needed because of automation. Some of the workers will go on extended vacation, but others will lose their jobs, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Rijeka. PM ALBANIAN COURT BACKS LOCAL AUTONOMY. The Constitutional Court on 3 February ruled that prefects have no right to interfere in the appointment of civil servants in cities, towns, or villages, "Koha Jone" reported. The court thereby agreed with Tirana Mayor Albert Brojka, who had challenged an order by former Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi giving prefects the right to appoint local officials. The court ruled that Meksi's order violated the law on local government. FS ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES 1998 BUDGET. The legislature on 3 February approved the 1998 budget, which aims to reduce the deficit from $337 million or 11.5 percent of GDP in 1997 to $274 million or 8 percent of GDP this year, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. The budget also seeks to keep inflation at 10 percent and to reduce the share of the national debt from 63 percent to 59 percent of annual GDP. The government said it expects revenues of $586 million or 21.8 percent of GDP (compared with revenues totaling $290 million last year). Some $234 million or 40 percent of those revenues are expected to derive from value-added tax ($110 million in 1997). The expected increase is based on the October 1997 hike in VAT from 12 percent to 20 percent and on the recent streamlining of the customs service. FS ROMANIAN COALITION LEADERS DRAFT AGREEMENT. Radio Bucharest reported on 4 February that the coalition leaders have reached an agreement on a new protocol but that the "last details" are to be worked out before the end of the day. The protocol provides for establishing a Coalition Political Council, composed of the leaders of the parties participating in the coalition, that will make decisions on government policies. It also provides for a Council of Parliamentary Coordination that will coordinate the activities of coalition parties in the parliament. The protocol does not stipulate, however, that coalition deputies and senators must refrain from either initiating or supporting a motion of no confidence in the government. The Democrats had been opposed to such a provision, but observers say that without it, a new crisis can emerge at any time. MS RUSSIAN COMPANY TAKES OVER ROMANIAN REFINERY. LUKoil on 3 February bought a 51 percent stake in the state-owned Petrotel refinery, paying some $300 million, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The Russian oil giant will take over all Petrotel's debts and invest $360 million. It will not lay off personnel. Romania is hoping that the association with LUKoil will result in deliveries of Caspian crude for refining in Romania. Also on 3 February, the presidential office announced that President Emil Constantinescu has received a letter from Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin saying the two countries can greatly expand economic ties and inviting his Romanian counterpart, Victor Ciorbea, to visit Moscow in the spring to discuss the issue. MS JOINT CONTROL COMMISSION RESUMES ACTIVITIES IN TRANSDNIESTER. The Joint Control Commission, which is overseeing the truce in the security zone of the Transdniester region, has resumed its activities, Infotag and BASA-press reported on 3 February. The commission did not meet during the last two months because the separatists objected to Moldova's appointing police Colonel Vitalie Bruma to the commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 1998). But the Moldovan side has agreed to suspend Bruma's appointment for the time being and to postpone further talks with commission members over the issue. In other news, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 3 February that the Tiraspol authorities have called on Moldovan citizens in the separatist region to vote in the March elections for Socialist Unity-Edinstvo, which is the only competing party that agrees with the separatists' claim to sovereignty. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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