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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 29 , Part II, 12 February 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 29 , Part II, 12 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 FIVE NEW LANGUAGES ADDED TO REAL AUDIO SCHEDULE Listen to one hour of news in Bulgarian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Romanian at the RFE/RL Web site: http://www.rferl.org/realaudio/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * POLAND TO EASE VISA REGULATIONS * PLAVSIC DEMANDS BRCKO FOR SERBS * VOJVODINA LEADERS ACCUSE BELGRADE OF ILLEGAL MOBILIZATION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE CHORNOBYL CLOSURE BY 2000 IN DOUBT. The delay in the construction of two new nuclear reactors may force Ukraine to keep Chornobyl open after 2000, an RFE/RL correspondent in Kyiv reported on 11 February. Environment Minister Yury Kostenko said that if the reactors at the Rivne and Khmelnytsky nuclear power plants are not completed on time, Chornobyl will have to remain open. Kyiv is negotiating with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to secure a loan that would allow it to complete the new reactors, but probably not before 2001. President Leonid Kuchma has pledged to close Chornobyl by 2000. The one functional reactor at Chornobyl is currently undergoing repairs and is scheduled to go on line again by March. PB UKRAINE'S COMMUNIST LEADER BESIEGED ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL. Nationalists shouted slogans and threw potatoes at Communist chief Petro Symonenko as he campaigned in the western city of Lviv on 11 February. Police encircled the building where Symonenko was meeting with journalists. The Communist Party has the largest faction in the parliament, with about one-sixth of the 450 seats. But its support is concentrated mainly in eastern Ukraine. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 31 March. PB BELARUSIAN JOURNALIST FINED FOR HITTING OFFICIAL. The editor in chief of the weekly "Imya" has been fined 200,000 rubles ($7) for slapping a senior investigator, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 11 February. Irina Khalip filed charges against the police after she was allegedly beaten at a demonstration in August. When senior investigator Valentin Maharil told her that the police were justified in their actions, she slapped him. Maharil then filed charges against her. Khalip said she will continue "to struggle for justice" until the police officers who beat her are punished. PB ESTONIAN BANK MERGER TALKS SUSPENDED. Hanspank and Hoiupank, Estonia's largest and third-largest commercial banks, have broken off talks on their planned merger, ETA and BNS reported on 11 February. The two sides are reported to have felt that more time is needed to solve questions related to the merger. They stressed, however, that they have not abandoned their merger plans, which were announced last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 1998). An independent committee, headed by a former employee of both Hanspank and Hoiupank and composed of shareholders and management representatives from the two banks, will examine ways of carrying out the merger. JC LATVIAN PRESIDENT VETOES LABOR CODE CHANGES. Guntis Ulmanis on 11 February rejected amendments to the labor code allowing the dismissal of employees whose knowledge of the Latvian language is deemed insufficient (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 1998), BNS and Reuters reported. The president's office issued a statement saying Ulmanis has asked the parliament to reconsider the legislation because it is unclear what levels of Latvian language proficiency are required by certain jobs. He also called on lawmakers to draw up a language law that would protect the Latvian language and help "form a harmonious civil society." Earlier this week, several Russian-language dailies published an open letter to Ulmanis urging him to veto the controversial labor code amendments. And on 11 February, Russian State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told journalists in Moscow he hoped that Ulmanis would reject the amendments, which he called an "ugly step that constitutes discrimination against [Latvia's] Russian-speaking population." JC POLAND TO EASE VISA REGULATIONS. The Interior Ministry on 11 February said it will introduce a simpler visa system on its eastern border. Russia and Belarus have voiced their displeasure with the tougher visa regulations, instituted last month, and Polish traders have complained of fewer goods and customers at outdoor markets. The new regulations required visitors to Poland to have an official invitation or hotel reservation and to purchase a visa costing the equivalent of some $20. Under the revised rules, multiple-entry visas will be offered at approximately half that price. The EU has been pressuring Poland to tighten security on its eastern border. PB SOLIDARITY URGES FASTER ACTION ON REFORMS. The Solidarity trade union has issued an appeal to the government to move quicker on the reforms promised when the center-right coalition was elected last year, Reuters reported on 11 February. Solidarity spokesman Jozef Pulkowski said a six-point letter was sent to Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek asking him to "urgently" hold meetings to discuss implementing the coalition agreement. Solidarity is seeking passage of pro-family legislation, a new large-scale privatization program, and a reform of the pension and health-care systems. Leszek Miller, head of the Democratic Left Alliance, criticized the government as well, saying the first 100 days of the coalition have seen only "loud words and feeble deeds." PB CZECH PARLIAMENT DEBATES NATO MEMBERSHIP. Opening the debate in the Chamber of Deputies on a bill to ratify Czech membership in NATO, Prime Minister Josef Tosovsky and Defense Minister Michal Lobkowicz both stressed the historic significance of joining the alliance, CTK and AFP reported. Milos Zeman, the leader of the main opposition Social Democratic Party, said he "unequivocally" supports NATO membership but argued that the next parliament, to be elected later this year, must pass a bill providing for a referendum on entry to the alliance. Zeman said he is sure that such a referendum would show large support for adherence, as was the case in Hungary. He added that " I do not think the Czech nation is less intelligent than the Hungarian nation." The debate is expected to last several weeks. MS SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S SON TO BE EXTRADITED TO GERMANY. Czech Justice Minister Vlasta Parkanova on 11 February signed documents providing for the extradition to Germany of Michal Kovac Jr., CTK and AFP reported. Kovac Jr. was extradited the following day. An international warrant has been issued for the arrest of Kovac Jr., who is suspected of involvement in the fictitious sale of textiles worth $2.3 million to a Slovak company in 1991. He was charged in Germany on the basis of evidence given by a Slovak residing in Germany, who was convicted in 1992 for his involvement in the affair. MS HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES AGREE ON ELECTORAL ALLIANCE. Independent Smallholders and Christian Democratic candidates will support one another in the second round of the May general elections, party chairmen Jozsef Torgyan and Gyorgy Giczy agreed on 11 February. Contrary to earlier plans, the two parties will not field joint candidates, but the weaker of the two parties' candidates will withdraw in favor of the other in the second ballot. The two chairmen also agreed to form a government together if they are successful in the elections. In other news, Hungary's media magnate Janos Fenyo was shot dead in his car on a busy street in Budapest on 11 February. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE PLAVSIC DEMANDS BRCKO FOR SERBS... Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic told an international arbitration hearing in Vienna on 11 February that if the strategically important town of Brcko "is not given to the [Bosnian] Serb Republic, any other solution will mean the division of the republic and a violation of the Dayton agreement." Plavsic warned against allowing the re-unification of Bosnia, saying it is in the interest neither of the Bosnian Serbs nor of peace, SRNA reported. "We can communicate on the basis of our being separated, but if everyone returns to his home and if the inter-entity boundary lines disappear, one might ask why so many victims and why recreate a situation that will lead us to war in a year or two". The 1995 Dayton peace treaty left the territorial status of Brcko to be decided through international arbitration. After a one-year break, hearings resumed last week. U.S. arbiter Roberts Owen, who is presiding over the hearings, is expected to deliver a final ruling on Brcko by 15 March. JN ...WHILE MUSLIM LEADERS THREATEN TO WITHDRAW SUPPORT FOR DODIK. Alija Izetbegovic, Haris Silajdzic, Ibrahim Spahic, and Rasim Kadic, chairmen of the political parties belonging to the Coalition for a Single and Democratic Bosnia-Herzegovina, met in Sarajevo on 11 February to discuss Brcko. They warned that if the arbiter ignores the principles of the Dayton agreement and allocates Brcko to the Republika Srpska, the Muslim deputies in the Bosnian Serb parliament, who mainly represent Muslim refugees, will withdraw their support for Milorad Dodik's government, Sarajevo TV reported. JN AMNESTY ANNOUNCED FOR THOSE WITH COMBAT ITEMS, MINES. Bosnia's Joint Permanent Military Committee on 11 February announced that an amnesty for those in possession of land mines and combat equipment will begin on 19 February, Sarajevo radio reported. The committee meeting, the third ever, was attended by all members of the Bosnian Presidency, the defense ministers from both entities, and the commanders in chief of the armies of the federation and the Republika Srpska. Representatives of the Office of the High Representative, NATO's Stabilization Force (SFOR), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were present as observers. Participants also agreed on the basic principles for establishing locations and personnel at joint military missions abroad and agreed to announce in March the holders of those posts. JN VOJVODINA LEADERS ACCUSE BELGRADE OF ILLEGAL MOBILIZATION. At a news conference in Novi Sad on 11 February, the leaders of the regional political coalition Vojvodina, Nenad Canak and Miodrag Isakov, accused military authorities in Belgrade of illegally mobilizing reservists in the province of Vojvodina with the assistance of local police. Canak told reporters he has "irrefutable evidence" that the mobilization is under way and that members of "special" units, tank units, and military police are being called up, "Nasa Borba" reported on 12 February. He said that for troops to be mobilized, the country would have to face a military threat, which, he said, is not the case. Canak said the number of Vojvodina's reservists who were killed during the siege of Vukovar or in the fighting in Bosnia is still not known. He does not want a repetition of such bloodshed in Kosovo, he stressed. JN BELGRADE REJECTS DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH BOSNIA. Bosnian Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic received an official note from the federal Yugoslav government rejecting the establishment of diplomatic relations between Belgrade and Sarajevo until further notice, Sarajevo's "Vecernje Novine" reported on 11 February. The newspaper quotes the note as saying Belgrade does not intend to open diplomatic relations with Sarajevo until charges of genocide brought by Bosnia-Herzegovina against Yugoslavia before the Hague Tribunal are dropped. JN KOSOVAR PARTIES CONFER. The leaderships of the two major ethnic Albanian political parties in Kosovo, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo (PPK), met in Pristina on 10 February, "Koha Ditore" reported. The participants discussed ways of coordinating activities in the face of increasing repression by Belgrade against the Kosovars. JN MONTENEGRIN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL TO PROBE EX-PRESIDENT. Bozidar Vukcevic has ordered an investigation of former President Momir Bulatovic and three of his close associates for committing "a criminal act by attacking the constitutional structure" of the state. The Prosecutor-General's Office said on 11 February that the investigation focuses on last month's riots, in which some 50 people, mostly police, were injured. Also under investigation are Bulatovic's allies Bozidar Bojovic, Slobodan Vujosevic and Zoran Zizic, all members of parliament. The prosecutor wants the Montenegrin and Yugoslav assemblies to revoke the parliamentary immunity of those deputies. JN POLL SHOWS CROATS OPPOSE U.S. BASES. Some 51 percent of respondents are against establishing U.S. military bases in Croatia, according to a poll published in "Vecernji list" on 10 February. Some 31 percent are in favor of the proposed military facilities, while 17 percent are undecided. A plurality of respondents nonetheless said that they have a basically positive view of Americans and feel that the bases would have a positive effect on Croatian political life. After his recent visit to the U.S., Defense Minister Gojko Susak said that U.S. General Wesley Clark, the supreme allied commander in Europe, asked permission to station U.S. servicemen in Croatia in order to back up their colleagues in Bosnia. Susak mentioned Zadar and Slavonski Brod as possible sites for bases. The Croatian government wants to join NATO's Partnership for Peace program and eventually the alliance itself. PM ALBANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS GREEK FORCE TO STAY. During a visit to the southern city of Gjirokaster on 10 February, Sabit Brokaj said the presence of a Greek military unit in Tirana is lawful and based on agreements between Athens and Tirana, ANA reported on 11 February. Brokaj made the remark in response to opposition party criticism of the Greek military presence in Albania. Accompanied by the Greek consul and the U.S. military attache, he attended the inauguration of reconstructed installations of the Liaberia army division in Gjirokaster, destroyed during the unrest one year ago. JN ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY ON IRAQI CRISIS. A Foreign Ministry spokesman on 11 February said he could "neither confirm nor deny" that the U.S. has asked Romania to participate in preparations for a possible military intervention in Iraq. Mihnea Motoc said Romania and the U.S. are "closely consulting" within their "strategic partnership." He said he could only repeat a statement made last week by the ministry saying that Romania shares the "preoccupation of the international community concerning the danger of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction" and that the "only means leading to lifting the sanctions imposed on Iraq is the full and unconditional implementation by the Iraqi government of the UN Security Council resolutions," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS ROMANIAN EXTREMISTS SIGN PROTOCOL ON ALLIANCE. Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of Greater Romania Party (PRM), and Cluj mayor Gheorghe Funar, who heads a dissenting wing of the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), on 11 February signed a protocol that they called the "first step on the road to setting up the Great Alliance for the Resurrection of the Fatherland." The protocol, which is open to the signatures of other formations, envisages joint actions toward bringing about the dismissal of Victor Ciorbea's government, setting up a "government of national unity," outlawing the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, and "stopping the pillaging of national assets and the national economy," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS IMF DELAYS TRANCHE TO MOLDOVA. The IMF will not disburse the next tranche of a $185 million standby loan to Moldova, approved in 1996, until after the 22 March parliamentary elections. The fund's chief representative in Moldova, Mark Horton, told Infotag on 11 February that the IMF wants to hold discussions with the next Moldovan government before deciding whether to release the next tranche. An IMF mission has been meeting with Moldovan officials for the last two weeks and will present its findings on Moldova's economic development to a fund board meeting on 18 March. Only three tranches of the loan, totaling some $52 million, have been disbursed so far; the latest was released last July. The IMF postponed several tranches owing to the country's unsatisfactory economic performance. MS REGISTRATION FOR MOLDOVAN ELECTIONS ENDS. Fourteen political parties and blocs have registered for the 22 March elections, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 11 February, the last day for registering. Twenty-four independent candidates have also registered. The parliament is to decide whether to amend the electoral law to lower the threshold for independents to gain representation from 4 percent to 1 percent. MS BULGARIAN PRESIDENT ON IRAQI CRISIS. Petar Stoyanov told journalists in Washington on 11 February that he hopes Iraq will comply with UN resolutions and that force will not have to be applied. At the same time, he said, he understands the increasing feeling that the Iraqis will have to be forced into compliance. Stoyanov said Bulgaria has economic reasons to want the UN sanctions against Iraq lifted. Baghdad owes Sofia $2 billion and Bulgaria "badly needs" that money for its reforms, he commented. He said that the combined amount owed by Baghdad and the former Yugoslavia as a result of the UN-imposed sanctions is "more than equal" to Bulgaria's entire foreign debt, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. MS BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT ACCUSED OF CENSORSHIP. Following the 9 February decision to ban a satirical television show, the government is being accused of censorship, AFP reported. One day earlier, the show had poked fun at the election of Stoyanov's brother to the board of the national television, while Prime Minister Ivan Kostov was compared to a petty crook and Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova was portrayed as a stripper. Dimitar Koroudjiev, a member of the National Broadcasting Council, explained in an interview with "Trud" that there is a "limit beyond which democracy must defend itself." He said the program had provoked "chaos and hatred" and sought to incite the population against a "government that is fighting to get out of a crisis." MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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