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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 26, Part II, 9 February 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 26, Part II, 9 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 * PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION STALEMATE CONTINUES IN SLOVAKIA * KOSOVAR LEADER URGES WEST TO PREVENT BALKAN CONFLICT * PALE TO COOPERATE WITH BANJA LUKA * End Note: RUSSIA CRITICIZES PLANS TO CREATE NORTH-EAST NATO CORPS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUS ACCUSES POLAND OF ESPIONAGE. Vladimir Matskevich, the head of the Belarusian KGB, said in an interview with "Sovetskaya Belarussiya" that Poland is "feverishly recruiting Belarusians" and that spying on Minsk has become Warsaw's "state policy," AFP reported on 6 February. The comments came after Belarus recalled its ambassador to Warsaw (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 1998). Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, speaking on the same day near the Polish border, in Brest, said Western countries are using Poland "to put pressure on Belarus and its policies." Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, who sent a letter to Minsk in an effort to ease tensions, said Warsaw "does not want to isolate Belarus, but is worried by the country's tendency to isolate itself." PB UKRAINIAN JOURNALISTS' UNION SLAMS GOVERNMENT... The Ukrainian Media Club has accused the government of a "campaign of repression" against the press, AFP reported on 6 February. The media union--which is made up of local and foreign independent journalists--issued a statement claiming that President Leonid Kuchma and the government are behind organized harassment of the press. "Pravda Ukrainy," the largest opposition daily, was recently shut down because of a registration technicality. Also on 6 February, television journalist Sergei Mikheyev was beaten in Kherson by three men. Mikheyev, who had been investigating mafia activities, is in stable condition. Four journalists have been beaten in Ukraine so far this year. PB ...WHILE OPPOSITION DAILY SUES PRESIDENT. The largest opposition daily "Pravda Ukrainy" is suing President Kuchma for damages incurred since it has been shut down owing to a registration technicality (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 1998). The newspaper is seeking 5 million hryvna ($2.6 million) in damages from President Kuchma because he failed to veto the Information Ministry order to shut it down. "Pravda Ukrainy" argues that the order was unconstitutional. Meanwhile, another opposition paper, "Vseukrainskiye Vedomosty," is facing closure after losing a libel case and being handed a 3.5 million hryvna ($1.8 million) penalty by the court. PB UKRAINIAN PREMIER WRAPS UP MINSK VISIT. Valery Pustovoitenko and his Belarusian counterpart, Serhei Ling, expressed satisfaction at the end of their two-days of meetings in Minsk, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 February. The two men signed several bilateral agreements, including one that will eliminate customs tariffs between the two countries. Ling said agreement was reached on all topics discussed, while Pustovoitenko said the two sides considered the inclusion of Belarus in a Ukrainian-Russian economic cooperation program. Pustovoitenko also met with Belarusian President Lukashenka. PB INFLATION IN ESTONIA UP 3 PERCENT LAST MONTH. Inflation in Estonian was up 3 percent in January, the largest monthly increase since February 1996, ETA reported on 6 February. According to the National Statistical Office, the prices of goods increased by 1 percent and services by 5.1 percent largely owing to a hike in water rates and public transportation fares. Compared with January 1997, the prices of goods and services were up 14.2 percent. Analysts were quick to argue that last month's increase will not send a trend and that annual inflation is likely to total some 10 percent. JC NON-LATVIANS CAN BE DISMISSED FOR SPEAKING POOR LATVIAN. The Latvian parliament has amended the labor law to allow for the dismissal of employees who do not have sufficient command of the Latvian language, BNS reported on 6 February. The State Language Inspectorate can now demand the termination of a work contract if the employee speaks poor Latvian. If the employer refuses to obey that order, the inspectorate can take the case to court. One of the authors of the amendment, which was submitted by the Fatherland and Freedom party and Latvia's Way, said it is aimed at averting a situation where state officials have a poor command of the state language. But Antons Seiksts, the head of the parliamentary Human Rights Committee, noted that the amendment could allow for violations of human rights. He pledged that the committee will closely follow its implementation. JC KINKEL WARNS AGAINST NEW CZECH-GERMAN DISPUTE. Responding to Czech protests over the appointment of a Sudeten German representative to the coordination council of the Czech-German Discussion Forum, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said on 7 February that the "main thing now is to look toward the future and create that future together" rather than "concern ourselves only with the past." The previous day, Stanislav Gross, the chairman of the Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) parliamentary faction in the Chamber of Deputies, said his party will not send its representative to the forum's coordinating council as long as Franz Neubauer is a member. He said that "if someone who supports autonomy for the former Sudetenland" is sitting on the council, the discussions may become "counterproductive" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 1998). MS CZECH COALITION PARTY ON FINANCIAL SCANDAL. Jiri Skalicky, the chairman of the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), told the daily "Mlada Fronta Dnes" on 6 February that his party will give to charity the nearly 6 million crowns ($176,000) that the party received in 1995 from three donors through a fictitious company set up in the Virgin Islands. Skalicky refused to reveal the name of the donors but said they are "respectable firms that are in no way linked to privatization." Skalicky was privatization minister until the ministry was disbanded in early 1996. At a press conference the same day, he said the ODA has promised the donors anonymity and will keep that promise, CTK reported. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION STALEMATE CONTINUES IN SLOVAKIA. For the second time, the parliament has failed to elect a new president to replace Michal Kovac, whose mandate ends on 2 March. The candidate of the Slovak Democratic Coalition, Stefan Markus, received 37 votes, and the Party of the Democratic Left candidate, Juraj Hrasko, received 24 in the 6 February vote. Parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic said another ballot will be held "within 30 days." Rounds of voting can continue until a candidate achieves a three-fifths majority (90 votes). If a new president has not been elected when Kovac's term expires, some of his constitutional prerogatives will be passed temporarily to Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. MS SLOVAKIA OPPOSES USE OF FORCE AGAINST IRAQ. Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman Milan Tokar told ITAR-TASS on 7 February that "Slovakia will consistently oppose" the use of force against Iraq and will "urge the international community to reject the use of force as a means for solving crises." MS HUNGARIAN PREMIER SLAMS COALITION PARTNER. In a 7 February speech to the Socialist Party's Left-Wing Assembly, party chairman and Prime Minister Gyula Horn said it is not easy to govern in coalition with the Free Democrats (SZDSZ) as they have a "different mentality" and lack experience in governing the country. Horn said the Socialists must focus on winning the May general elections rather than on problems within the coalition. Horn's attack came after the SZDSZ and opposition parties criticized the Socialists' plans to solve the dam dispute with Slovakia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 1998). MSZ HUNGARY'S ROMANI GROUPS TO FORM ELECTORAL ALLIANCE. Some 200 representatives of Romani organizations in Hungary decided on 7 February to form a national Romani alliance, Hungarian media reported. The chairmen of three major Romani organizations--the Romani Parliament, the Phralipe, and the Romani Civil Rights Movement--called on Roma to join forces against the National Gypsy Self-Government (OCKO) and the "anti-democratic, feudalization program" of the governing Socialist Party. The three groups said they would challenge the constitutionality of the draft electoral law, under which the OCKO would be the only organization to nominate Romani representatives to the parliament. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSOVAR LEADER URGES WEST TO PREVENT BALKAN CONFLICT. Kosovo shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said in Pristina that the international community should put pressure on Serbia to stop violent incidents between Albanians and Serbs and to launch a dialogue with the Albanians. Rugova warned that "if a conflict erupts in Kosovo, it will surely spread across the wider Balkan area." Rugova also called for Serbia and the international community to recognize Kosovar independence. Rugova and his policy of non-violence have increasingly lost political ground in Kosovo in recent months to the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), which favors direct action against Serbia. Rugova has failed to attract sufficient international support to attain his minimal goal of political autonomy. The U.S. and EU have ruled out Kosovar independence as an option. PM KINKEL CALLS FOR KOSOVO AUTONOMY. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said in Tirana on 6 February that Kosovo should enjoy "extended autonomy" within Serbia but not become independent. "We'll not tolerate that [the Albanian] 90 percent of the population is maltreated and oppressed by the [Serbian] 10 percent." Kinkel also stressed that the current instability in Kosovo has prompted many Kosovars to seek refuge in Germany. "There are 400,000 [mainly Kosovar] Albanians in Germany, 140,000 of whom have asked for asylum. Another 500 to 2,000 arrive every month... This is a problem that should be addressed," he commented. Kinkel also said that Kosovo was the most important issue on the agenda during his talks with top Albanian officials in Tirana. On 8 February, Belgrade's official news agency Tanjug accused Kinkel of meddling in Balkan affairs with the aim of expanding German influence in the region. PM NANO URGES DIALOGUE IN KOSOVO. Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano told an Athens daily that Kosovo is an internal affair of Yugoslavia and that Albania expects that the situation in Kosovo will improve as Yugoslavia becomes more democratic and more integrated into European institutions, BETA news agency reported on 8 February. Nano added that his government is following "Belgrade's retrograde policies in Kosovo with great concern" and is disturbed by the Yugoslav authorities' reluctance to enter into a dialogue with the Kosovars (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 1998). PM PALE TO COOPERATE WITH BANJA LUKA. Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency and a leader of the Pale-based faction loyal to Radovan Karadzic, issued a statement in Pale on 7 February in which he pledged to work with the government of Prime Minister of Milorad Dodik. Krajisnik said that he continues to regard Dodik's election last month as flawed but noted he will work with Dodik and President Biljana Plavsic "in the interests of the Republika Srpska." PM KLEIN URGES RESTORATION OF BOSNIAN RAIL TRAFFIC. Jacques Klein, a deputy of the international community's Carlos Westendorp, said in Sarajevo on 7 February that the rail system presents "the worst case of all the public utilities [in Bosnia]. Almost no train is running..., [which] means waste on a large scale, because no train means no investment, no investment means no jobs." Klein spoke after Republika Srpska Transport Minister Marko Pavic and his federal counterpart Rasim Gacanovic signed an agreement on restoring rail links between the two halves of the country. The German Volkswagen company has made restoration of rail traffic a condition for reopening its key Vogosca factory in the Sarajevo suburbs. PM DEADLINE FOR MOSTAR. Hanns Schumacher, another deputy of Westendorp, told Croatian and Muslim political leaders in Mostar on 7 February that they must agree on the appointment of officials in the city's six districts by the end of the month or he will make the choices for them. Local elections took place last September, but the Muslims and Croats have not been able to agree fully on a division of offices between them. PM SERBIAN PRISONERS END HUNGER STRIKE. Some 16 Serbs convicted by Croatian courts of war crimes ended a six-day hunger strike in a Split prison on 8 February after Justice Minister Miroslav Separovic promised to speed up a review of their appeals. The Serbs were arrested by Croatian forces during and after the 1995 Croatian offensive and subsequently given sentences ranging between five and 15 years for murdering and mistreating Croatian civilians and policemen and for mining the Peruca dam in 1991. PM YUGOSLAVIA SAYS CROATS STALLING ON WAR FILES. Maksim Korac, the Yugoslav government's chief representative on issues regarding persons reported missing during the 1991-1995 war, said on 7 February in Belgrade that his mission to Zagreb the previous week was "a failure." Korac charged that the Croatian authorities were not forthcoming on providing information on 3,143 missing Serbs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 1998). PM SANDZAK MUSLIMS BACK MONTENEGRIN GOVERNMENT. Sandzak Muslim political leader Rasim Ljajic said in Novi Pazar on 7 February that his coalition of Muslim parties supports the new government of Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic and is confident that the government will carry out necessary political and electoral reforms. The historical region of Sandzak is divided between Serbia and Montenegro. Muslims make up just over one half of its population, but their political leaders charge that the nationalist leadership of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his Montenegrin allies led by former President Momir Bulatovic discriminate against the Muslims. Albanian and Muslim votes helped Montenegrin President Djukanovic defeat Bulatovic last October. PM ALBANIAN ARMS TRADE BOOMING. Police near Salonika on 6 February arrested two Greek brothers transporting $3,500 worth of weapons from the Albanian border, where they bought the weapons from smugglers, to sell in Greece. The haul included over 64 Kalashnikov rifles, 45 assault rifles, 19 automatic weapons, and an unspecified number of grenades and anti-tank rockets. The Albanian authorities' efforts to persuade citizens to surrender weapons stolen from military bases and police stations during the anarchy last spring have met with only limited success, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 6 February. The authorities in neighboring Greece, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia have frequently discovered arms smuggled from Albania and have demanded that the government in Tirana take measures to stop the trade. PM ROMANIAN PREMIER OUTLINES 1998 ECONOMIC PROGRAM... Victor Ciorbea on 6 February told journalists in Bucharest that this year's budget envisages annual inflation at 37 percent (compared with 151 percent in 1997) and a deficit equivalent to 3.6 percent of GDP (4.5 percent in 1997). Forty percent of the budget will be used for the social costs of the reform, which is to be stepped up. The final version of the budget will be submitted to the parliament after discussions with the IMF chief representative for Romania Poul Thompsen who begins a two-week visit to Romania on 9 February. Democratic leader Petre Roman on 7 February said Ciorbea has not presented a program negotiated with his party but rather a "list of intentions," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS ...INTRODUCES NEW CABINET MEMBERS. Constantin Dudu Ionescu of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) is new minister of national defense. Also representing the PNTCD in the government are Ioan Avram Muresean, who is in charge of relations with the parliament, and Romica Tomescu, who has been appointed environment minister. The new ministers from the National Liberal Party are Anton Ionescu (transportation) and Mihai Sorin Stanescu (secretary of state with ministerial rank at the Defense Ministry). The Romanian Alliance Party, which is a member of the Democratic Convention of Romania, is represented by Horia Ene as minister of research and technology. The parliament has yet to approve the appointments. MS CONFLICTING REPORTS ON VAN DER STOEL'S VISIT. High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel told Radio Bucharest on 6 February, after meetings with Senate Chairman Petre Roman, Education Minister Andrei Marga, and Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania leader Bela Marko, that European legislation on national minorities "neither prohibits nor compels" setting up universities offering instruction in national minority languages but "leaves an open door" to it. Marko said he received assurances from the commissioner that "at no point" during his visit did he recommend "restrictive measures" on teaching in national minorities languages. Marga said he supports separate sections for minorities within existing universities but not separate universities. Roman adopted a similar position, stressing that members of national minorities must master the country's "official language." MS MOLDOVANS REGRET DEMISE OF USSR. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Moldovans believe that the demise of the USSR was detrimental for Moldova, according to an opinion poll conducted by the independent institute Opinia. Of those questioned,18.8 percent were of the opinion that the demise of the Soviet Union did "more good than harm." Moreover, 50.1 percent were opposed to a multi-party system, 32.7 percent were against democracy, 29.6 percent were opposed to private property, and, 25.7 percent were not in favor of freedom of emigration. But 59.7 favored freedom of speech and a free press, while 65.7 percent want closer ties with Western countries, Infotag reported on 6 February. MS END NOTE RUSSIA CRITICIZES PLANS TO CREATE NORTH-EAST NATO CORPS by Jan de Weydenthal Germany, Denmark, and Poland are planning to establish a joint military force to guard the western approach to the Baltic Sea. Those plans have been criticized by Russia. The force is to be called the Multinational Corps North-East and is to consist of three divisions, each from one country. Totaling some 25,000 troops under a rotating command, the force will be headquartered in the northern Polish city of Szczecin. It will also be NATO's first-ever permanent military mission in East Central Europe. Last year, the alliance invited Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to join its ranks. Andrzej Karkoszka, a former deputy minister of defense in the previous Polish government who was responsible for military and strategic planning, told RFE/RL on 4 February that the plans to establish the corps reflect the prevailing emphasis in NATO on creating multinational ties among separate members of the alliance. Those trends have been evident since the establishment in 1993 of the Eurocorps, which, though separate from NATO, brought together German and French rapid-reaction military units. Similarly, there is a German-Dutch NATO division based in western Germany as well as a German-Danish NATO unit also stationed in Germany. This pattern of transnational military cooperation is now being applied to Eastern European newcomers to NATO. Karkoszka said the experiment is currently limited to Poland, but there is a "theoretical" possibility that Czech military units will eventually be brought into the corps. The plans to establish the Multinational Corps North-East have met with criticism from Russia. Visiting Germany last month, Russian Minister of Defense Igor Sergeev was reported to have complained that the move amounted to NATO's "advancing toward the Russian border with weapons in its hands." Sergeev said there is no need to create such multinational military units in East Central Europe. Sergeev reportedly dismissed arguments by German officials that the corps will be purely defensive in nature and will not be equipped with nuclear weapons. Those officals had also pointed out that its operations will be relatively limited and that it will serve to promote regional stability through international integration and cooperation. That view has reflected Russia's long-time policy toward NATO. While ready to develop bilateral cooperative links with the alliance, Moscow has been consistently critical of NATO's decision to expand in the East. Its stance has not changed, although Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic will almost certainly enter the alliance next year. Earlier this week, Canada and Denmark formally ratified the accord of those countries' accession to NATO. Russia has increasingly criticized specific integrative efforts by NATO member states aimed at facilitating the membership of East-Central European countries (particularly extending military multinational groups and joint command centers to include those countries). That approach appears to reflect a hope that persistent criticism of any such efforts may eventually affect their implementation and that NATO enlargement in the East will be reduced to mere political rather than full military integration. There is no indication, however, that Russia's criticism will affect the decision to set up the North-East corps. Rather, each of the three prospective partners appears to regard the new military force as a major step toward enhancing regional stability. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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