|A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner. - Samuel Johnson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 24, Part II, 5 February 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 24, Part II, 5 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 * SLOVAK PRESIDENT DELIVERS LAST 'STATE OF NATION' ADDRESS * NEW MONTENEGRIN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCED * MACEDONIA WANTS NATO PEACEKEEPERS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT TO DISCUSS VOTE ON PENINSULA'S STATUS. The Crimean Supreme Soviet voted on 4 February to discuss holding a referendum on returning the disputed peninsula to Russian rule. Also proposed for the referendum was a question on adopting Russian as the official language. Despite calls by Russian nationalists for Crimea to return to Moscow rule, Russia and Ukraine signed a treaty last year that declared the inviolability of their common border. The Ukrainian parliament has already ratified that treaty. Ethnic Russians constitute a majority in Crimea, which Russia ceded to Ukraine in 1954. In other news, deposed Yalta city council chief Aleksandr Kalyus and several council members are still refusing to leave the city hall (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1998). One deputy said he feared security forces surrounding the building would be used to end the protest and to place a Kuchma-imposed official in office, AFP reported. PB GERMAN PRESIDENT APOLOGIZES FOR WARTIME ATROCITIES IN UKRAINE. In an address broadcast by Ukrainian Television on 4 February, Roman Herzog apologized for the death and destruction caused by German troops in the country during World War Two. Herzog, who is on a four-day visit to Kyiv, expressed grief for the "barbaric crimes" and said he suffers "together with the victims and their families, and I am ashamed of what was done." The German president has made similar apologies in Prague and Warsaw. Herzog also said Ukraine belongs to Europe "culturally and politically" but noted that joining the EU would entail the attainment of greater economic prosperity. President Leonid Kuchma said he is dissatisfied with the country's progress in reforms but added that "only a blind man" would not notice the positive economic changes that have taken place. PB LUKASHENKA AIDE DETAINED FOR EMBEZZLEMENT. Valery Popov, an aide to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, has been arrested on suspicion of "large-scale embezzlement of state assets," Belarusian TV reported on 4 February. Popov dealt with industrial and agricultural issues in the President's Office. An official government statement provided no details but said Belarusian law applies to all citizens. Lukashenka said after the arrest that he supports an "uncompromising battle against crime." In December, Agriculture Minister Vasily Leonov was arrested on the same charges. PB BELARUSIAN TRADERS END STRIKE. Some 100,000 small traders have ended their strike after President Lukashenka agreed to their demands to suspend a repressive tax, approved late last year. The strike began on 1 February and virtually crippled outdoor markets in many parts of the country. The tax required small businessmen to pay a high retroactive tax that would have drove many traders out of business. Lukashenka suspended the tax in a 4 February decree. PB ESTONIA DENIES RUSSIAN STATEMENT OVER DEPUTY PREMIER'S VISIT. The Estonian Foreign Ministry has rejected an accusation by Viktor Cherepov, the head of the office of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev, that Tallinn has refused to receive Sysuev before the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Estonia, on 24 February, ETA reported. The ministry said such claims were incorrect and that preparations for Sysuev's visit are under way. It added that the visit will take place at the end of February or the beginning of March. JC LATVIAN PREMIER, PRESIDENT PATCH UP DIFFERENCES. Following a meeting with President Guntis Ulmanis on 4 February, Guntars Krasts confirmed to journalists that Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has invited him to Moscow, BNS and Interfax reported. That invitation was made during Chernomyrdin's meeting with Ulmanis within the framework of the Baltic Sea Council summit in Riga last month. The two Latvian leaders also discussed "misunderstandings" over assessments of the summit and the naturalization of non-citizens' children (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 February 1998). With regard to the latter issue, they came to the conclusion that Ulmanis's 2 February statement had been based on "misconstrued information," according to BNS. Krasts also confirmed that his relations with the president are good. JC VILNIUS TO FORMALLY CHARGE LILEIKIS WITH WAR CRIMES. Lithuanian investigators on 4 February announced they are bringing formal charges against alleged war criminal Aleksandras Lileikis, Reuters reported. Kazimieras Kovarskas, the head of the Special Investigations Department at the Prosecutor-General's Office, told the news agency the case could be in court within the next few days. He added that the trial itself could begin within four to six weeks and last about a week. Lileikis was head of the Vilnius security police during World War Two and is alleged to have ordered the deaths of scores of Jews. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Nazi-hunting organization, has repeatedly accused Vilnius of dragging its feet over putting Lileikis and other alleged war criminals on trial. JC POLAND'S INTEGRATION PROCEEDING 'SMOOTHLY.' German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel told Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek in Bonn on 4 February that preparations for Poland's entry into NATO are developing "quickly and smoothly." Kinkel added that his government will push for swift ratification in the Bundestag of Poland's application to join NATO. Earlier this week, Denmark and Canada approved the applications of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to join the alliance. The German and Polish sides also agreed to expedite customs procedures at border crossings. Germany is Poland's leading trade partner. PB POLES VISITING RUSSIA TO FACE MORE RESTRICTIONS. In a retaliatory move, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that Polish travelers to Russia will face strict regulations starting 1 March, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 February. Poles will be required to show hotel reservations and proof of sufficient funds for their trip before being allowed to cross the border. The move comes on the heels of Warsaw's decision to impose the same requirements on Russians entering Poland. PB CZECH COURT REJECTS REPUBLICAN PARTY APPEAL. The Constitutional Court on 4 February rejected the far right Republican Party's appeal against the re-election of Vaclav Havel for a second presidential term (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 1998). The court said it is not within its jurisdiction to rule on the validity of presidential elections. Party spokesman Jan Vik said the Republicans will protest the ruling before the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, CTK reported. MS HAVEL GRANTS PRESIDENTIAL AMNESTY. Some 1,500 persons will benefit from an amnesty that President Vaclav Havel granted on the occasion of his re-election, CTK reported on 4 February. The amnesty applies to first-time offenders who committed crimes for which the maximum sentence is less than three years in prison. MS SLOVAK PRESIDENT DELIVERS LAST 'STATE OF NATION' ADDRESS. In his last annual "state of the nation" address to the parliament, President Michal Kovac blamed Premier Vladimir Meciar and his ruling coalition for Slovakia's failure to receive invitations to join NATO and the EU, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported on 4 February. Most deputies of the coalition walked out before the speech began, as they did in previous years. Kovac also accused Meciar and his allies of not respecting the constitution and of steering the country away from democracy. Kovac's term expires on 2 March. MS KOVACS JR. ARRESTED ON CZECH-GERMAN BORDER. Michal Kovac Jr., the son of the outgoing Slovak president, was arrested on 4 February at Rozvadov, on the Czech-German border, CTK and dpa reported. Prosecutors in Munich, Germany, have issued an international arrest warrant for Kovac Jr., whom they suspect of cheating a Slovak company in 1991-1992 together with a German resident who has been convicted. Kovac Jr.'s lawyer in Bratislava said his client was on his way to Munich to make a statement at a hearing on the case. Kovac Jr. was kidnapped in Bratislava in August 1995 under as yet unclarified circumstances and was later found in front of an Austrian police station. He was not extradited to Germany because a Vienna court said he was brought to Austria against his will. The Slovak authorities, which observers suspect of involvement in the kidnapping, recently returned his passport, after his father pardoned him. MS SLOVAKIA, HUNGARY DISCUSS MILITARY COOPERATION. Defense Minister Jan Sitek and his Hungarian counterpart, Gyorgy Keleti, met in Bratislava on 4 February and signed agreements on confidence-building measures, including cooperation in military aviation and anti-aircraft defense. Keleti said he believes "Slovakia will soon be ready to join NATO," CTK reported. MS HUNGARIAN NEO-NAZI RECEIVES SUSPENDED JAIL TERM. The Supreme Court on 4 February sentenced Albert Szabo, the leader of the far-right Hungarian Welfare Federation, to a one-year suspended prison term for incitement against the Jewish community in an October 1996 speech. Szabo, who was also put on probation for three years, said his speech depicted the reality in Hungary and was not intended to stir up anti-Semitic sentiments. He said he made a distinction between Zionists and Hungarian Jews, calling the latter "my compatriots." MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NEW MONTENEGRIN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCED. Prime Minister-designate Filip Vujanovic on 4 February presented to the parliament his nominations for the new government. There are five deputy prime ministers in the multi-party cabinet, and the key ministries remain in the hands of the governing Democratic Socialist Party of President Milo Djukanovic. The new director of state-run radio and television is outgoing Culture Minister Goran Rakocevic, and the new editor-in-chief of state-run television is Velibor Covic, who until now was RFE/RL's Podgorica correspondent. Vujanovic said his priorities include promoting democratization, economic reform, privatization, relations with Croatia, and international ties. PM BELGRADE HIGH SCHOOL BLAST INJURES 16. Two 15 year-old students were badly injured when they accidentally set off a grenade at their school on 4 February. The explosion also injured 14 of their class-mates. PM YUGOSLAVIA GIVES VUKOVAR FILES TO CROATIA. Officials of the Yugoslav agency dealing with questions of missing persons from the 1991-1995 war have handed over to their Croatian counterparts the medical records of 393 Croats who disappeared after the Serbs took Vukovar in November 1991. The Croatian authorities will use the files to help identify bodies in a Vukovar cemetery when exhumations begin later in February. The Croats also received 350 files on unidentified bodies and asked the Yugoslavs about the possible location of mass graves of Croats on Yugoslav territory. Meanwhile in Vukovar, local Serbian leader Vojislav Stanimirovic said that Serbs in eastern Slavonia feel increasingly threatened by Croats returning to see the homes they formerly owned and in which Serbs now live. And in Zagreb, officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe criticized Croatian policies on returning refugees. OSCE representatives did not provide any details to the press. PM SCHUMACHER WARNS HERZEGOVINIAN CROATS. Hanns Schumacher, a deputy of the international community's Carlos Westendorp, told Croatian officials in Stolac on 4 February that attacks on returning Muslim refugees must stop. He added that the violence "violates human rights and we will do all we can to stop this." Schumacher said that he holds Mayor Pero Raguz responsible and will sack him if local Croatian police and other officials do not cooperate more fully with representatives of the international community within seven days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1998). PM MACEDONIA WANTS NATO PEACEKEEPERS. Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski told the NATO Council in Brussels on 4 February that his government wants a "European" peacekeeping force stationed in Macedonia once the current UN peacekeepers' mandate runs out in August. Unnamed NATO diplomats told Western news agencies, however, that Russia does not favor a role for NATO in Macedonia and that the UN, not the Atlantic alliance, will make any decision on the future of peacekeeping after August. The current UN mission marks the first time that UN peacekeepers have been sent to a region to prevent a conflict from spilling across borders rather than to separate warring parties. PM POLITICAL REASONS FOR CANCELED MEETINGS? A spokesman for the Macedonian Defense Ministry said in Skopje on 4 February that a meeting of the Macedonian, Albanian, Bulgarian, and Greek defense ministers to discuss regional security issues has been indefinitely postponed. No reason was given for delaying that meeting, which was slated for later this month in Ohrid. Meanwhile in Ljubljana, a spokesman for the Slovenian Foreign Ministry announced the indefinite postponement of Foreign Minister Boris Frlec's visit to Britain on 5 February. No reason was given. Slovenia is currently a member of the UN Security Council, and Frlec was slated to discuss Iraq with his British counterpart, Robin Cook. Frlec has been under sharp criticism recently from the opposition and the media for having allegedly been too accommodating in a series of talks with Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel. PM ITALIAN-SLOVENIAN COMPENSATION DISPUTE OVER? Frlec, his Italian counterpart Lamberto Dini, and Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs agreed in Brdo pri Kranju on 4 February that a proposed trilateral peacekeeping unit could be set up within three months and be sent to Bosnia when SFOR's mandate runs out in June. Dini later said the three countries must "harmonize [their] activities so that [they] can limit illegal immigration." He added that Italy has agreed to accept money from special funds set up years ago by Croatia and Slovenia to compensate Italians who fled those two republics in the wake of World War Two. Dini stressed that Rome wants to "put the property question behind it" and move on to European integration. PM ALBANIAN POLICE CHIEF REBELS AGAINST SUPERIORS. Florenc Shpuza, the chief of the criminal police in the southern city of Devoll, launched an armed rebellion against his superiors on 4 February, charging them with corruption, "Koha Jone" reported. The conflict broke out after Agron Brockaj, who heads all local police units, ordered Shpuza to be suspended from duty for alleged misconduct. Shpuza responded by gathering together a number of his friends, some of whom are policemen, and threatening to kill Brockaj. Shpuza and his supporters later blocked the main highway and engaged in a shoot-out with special police forces from Korca. Nobody was injured, and the rebels fled the scene. FS ALBANIAN PREMIER DEMANDS FASTER PACE OF REFORM. Fatos Nano told his ministers on 4 February that they must carry out his reform program more quickly. Speaking at a cabinet meeting, he complained about the lack of coordination between government agencies and stressed that every department must put its own house in order, "Shekulli" reported. He added that the reasons behind firings and appointments are often unclear and that some departments have too many personnel. FS SIGNING OF ROMANIAN COALITION PROTOCOL POSTPONED AGAIN. The leaders of the coalition parties, meeting on 4 February, were unable to finalize the new coalition protocol, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea said the protocol will be signed on 5 February. Earlier, the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) Council decided that the portfolios left vacant by the Democrats' withdrawal from the government will be filled by ministers from the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (defense, environment, and relations with the parliament), the National Liberal Party (transportation), and Romanian Alliance (research). The Liberals have nominated Anton Ionescu as transportation minister. They will also have a secretary of state with ministerial rank for defense and have nominated Sorin Stanescu for that post. MS DEMOCRATS CONFIRM MARGINALIZATION OF SEVERIN. Democratic Party leader Petre Roman told journalists on 4 February that the party's Standing Bureau has redistributed the duties of the party's vice chairmen and that Adrian Severin has been assigned no responsibility. Roman said the decision was due to "what Mr. Severin has been doing lately--and everybody knows what I have in mind." Severin, who has recently criticized Roman's handling of the coalition crisis, refused to comment. Roman also said the new coalition protocol about to be signed does not signal that his party has given up its aim to have the premier replaced. And party deputy chairman Victor Babiuc said the Democrats' deputy ministers will also resign from the government, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS TIRASPOL AUTHORITIES IMPOSE ENTRY TAX. The authorities in the separatist region have imposed an entry tax on all non-residents of the Transdniester, including Moldovan residents, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 4 February. The tax on non-residents is $10, which is the average weekly wage in Moldova. Those entering the region are also required to register with the police within three hours of crossing the border. Gheorghe Cirlan, Moldovan chief representative on the Joint Control Commission, which oversees the truce, described the new measures "unconstitutional and judicially void" as well as "contravening the principles of peace-keeping in the security zone." MS BULGARIANS CELEBRATE SOCIALISTS' DEMISE. Several thousand people rallied in Sofia on 4 February to mark the first anniversary of the Socialist Party's decision not to form a new government, despite its parliamentary majority at the time, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The former ruling party was compelled to make such a decision in the wake of mass demonstrations against its mismanagement of the economy. In the April 1997 elections, the Socialist were forced into opposition. Premier Ivan Kostov said Bulgaria is now "respected by the world" because "we succeeded in ousting an incompetent government and did it without violence." In a 4 February statement, the Socialists said their decision one year earlier was "a wise step to avoid civil war." MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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