|The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle 1975-1881|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 30 , Part II, 13 February 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 30 , Part II, 13 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 * EU SUPPORTS TIGHTER SECURITY ON POLISH BORDER * PLAVSIC SAYS NEW GOVERNMENT HAS INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT * SOLANA SAYS TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM BOSNIA POSSIBLE THIS YEAR xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE GAZPROM THREATENS TO CUT GAS SUPPLIES TO UKRAINE. Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev on 12 February warned Ukraine that its debt to the Russian gas giant must be paid soon or fuel deliveries will cease, AFP reported. Vyakhirev said Ukraine must pay its nearly $1.1 billion debt by the end of March. At the same time, he acknowledged that there are "no realistic guarantees" that this can be done. Gazprom reduced gas supplies to Ukraine last summer in a bid to collect unpaid bills (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 1997). PB TURKISH PREMIER IN KYIV, CRIMEA. Mesut Yilmaz and his Ukrainian counterpart, Valery Pustovoitenko, met in Kyiv on 12 February and signed three accords, including one on the Black Sea, AFP reported. Pustovoitenko noted that Turkey is an "influential partner" in the region. The Black Sea agreement is aimed at preventing conflicts between Turkish fishermen and the Ukrainian coast guard, such as the one last month in which two people drowned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 1998). Yilmaz, who is to visit a Crimean Tatar village on the last day of his two-day trip, said the Tatars are a "cultural bridge" between the two countries. He expressed satisfaction with Kyiv's efforts in protecting the rights of the Tatars. PB BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER DETAINED. Andrei Klimov, a member of the parliament disbanded by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in 1996, has been arrested on fraud and corruption charges in Minsk, Belarusian television reported on 12 February. Klimov was a member of a legislative committee of the disbanded parliament that had been investigating constitutional violations by Lukashenka. Another former deputy, Anatoly Lebedko, said the government has been auditing Klimov's company for several months but has found no evidence of wrongdoing. Lebedko claims the arrest is strictly for political reasons. PB ESTONIAN PRESIDENT AGAIN VETOES CLEMENCY LAW. Lennart Meri has again rejected the clemency law, saying the legislation is at odds with the president's constitutional rights, ETA and BNS reported on 12 February, citing a statement issued by the president's office. Under the proposed legislation, a clemency committee would be created to advise the president. Meri, who rejected the law for the first time in October 1997, argued that the constitution provides for no such committee. If the parliament returns the law to the president without any changes, the Supreme Court will decide the issue. JC LATVIAN LAWMAKERS REJECT AMENDMENT TO CITIZENSHIP LAW. The parliament on 12 February rejected an amendment to the citizenship law whereby children born to non-Latvians after 1991 would automatically receive Latvian citizenship, BNS reported. The vote was 31 to 20 with 10 abstentions. A government coalition agreement rules out amending the citizenship law, but both Latvia's Way and Democratic Party Saimnieks are in favor of the coalition's Cooperation Council seeking a solution to the issue. The same day, lawmakers returned to the standing committees the controversial amendments to the labor code, which President Guntis Ulmanis had vetoed the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 1998). And in Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov expressed satisfaction with Ulmanis's veto as well as the hope that the Latvian parliament will "take public opinion into account" and revise the labor code amendments. JC LITHUANIANS PROTEST PHONE CHARGES. Some 5,000 mainly elderly people protested in Vilnius on 12 February against new charges for local telephone calls and the privatization of the state telecommunications company, Reuters reported. The government recently decreed a charge equivalent to 1.75 U.S. cents per minute for local calls, thereby ending the decades-long practice of telephoning locally free of charge. Government spokesman Albinas Pilipauskas told the news agency that the phone charges are lower than in neighboring Latvia and Estonia and do not cover all expenses incurred by Lithuanian Telecom. JC EU SUPPORTS TIGHTER SECURITY ON POLISH BORDER. European Commissioner Hans van den Broek has praised Warsaw's decision to tighten security on its eastern border, an RFE/RL correspondent in Warsaw reported on 12 February. Van den Broek said that imposing stricter visa regulations is a "difficult measure" but that the EU supports the new measures. Poland stepped up visa requirements at the start of the year, despite severe criticism from Russia and Belarus. It recently decided to ease some requirements after Polish traders complained of losses in cross-border trade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 1998). Van den Broek also said Poland's heavy industry must be restructured and privatized. He urged Warsaw to lower import tariffs on steel. PB GRAVES DESECRATED AT SOVIET CEMETERY IN POLAND. Vandals have uprooted tombstones at a cemetery for Soviet soldiers in Lodz, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 February. An investigation into the incident has begun. Some 120 Soviets are buried in the cemetery. According to the news agency, vandalism of Soviet graves in Poland is rare. PB CZECH PREMIER THREATENS TO DISMISS COALITION ASSOCIATE. Josef Tosovsky has warned Jiri Skalicky that he will demand Skalicky's resignation both as Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) leader and environment minister if he does not reveal the identity of the anonymous donors who in 1995 contributed to his party's funding, "Mlada Fronta Dnes" reported on 13 February. The daily says Skalicky has already met with representatives of the secret sponsors and tried to persuade them to reveal their identity. The previous day, Skalicky told journalists that he would "fulfill his civic duty" if police asked him to disclose the identity of the donors. In other news, President Vaclav Havel has been hospitalized again after running a high temperature. His spokesman, Ladislav Spacek, told CTK that the temperature was probably caused by a viral disease. MS POLL SHOWS RACIAL INTOLERANCE AMONG CZECHS. A public opinion poll published on 12 February by the Public Opinion Research Institute shows 25 percent of Czechs admitting they have feelings of racial intolerance, while 16 percent say they are intolerant toward others on grounds of nationality. According to the study, racial and national intolerance is most often directed against the Romani minority. The institute says resentment on grounds of nationality dropped five percentage points in 1997, compared with 1996. Resentment on racial grounds was lower in 1997 than at any time during the last seven years and down seven percentage points on 1996. MS SLOVAK PRESIDENT TO CALL REFERENDUM? Opposition spokesman Mikulas Dzurinda on 12 February said the opposition parties have appealed to President Michal Kovac to set a date for a new referendum on electing the president by popular vote, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. Presidential spokesman Vladimir Stefko told Reuters that Kovac is currently studying the recent ruling by the Constitutional Court that the government violated the constitution by refusing to include in the May plebiscite a question on electing the president by popular vote. He added that the president will reach a decision within the next few days. MS SLOVAK OFFICIAL EXPLAINS COUNTRY'S 'DISTORTED IMAGE.' Dusan Slobodnik, the chairman of the Slovak parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission, on 12 February said the blame for his country's "distorted image" abroad must be put on both the opposition, which is "betraying the country," and Czech President Havel, who "is inciting his friend Mrs. Albright to stir up anti-Slovak feelings," CTK reported, citing Germany's "General-Anzeiger." MS HUNGARIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR CRACKDOWN ON CRIME. "What prevails in Hungary today is not public safety," Gyula Horn told a 12 February news conference in response to the brutal killing of media magnate Janos Fenyo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 1998). Horn said the police and the Prosecutor-General's Office are unable to keep pace with the spread of crime. He noted that 80 percent of robberies and murders in Hungary are committed by foreigners, and he asked Interior Minister Gabor Kuncze to submit a proposal to the government on introducing tougher entry rules for foreigners. The cabinet has drawn up a five-point plan to improve public safety, and a special unit has been set up to investigate Fenyo's murder, Hungarian media reported. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE PLAVSIC SAYS NEW GOVERNMENT HAS INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT. On returning to Banja Luka from visits to France and Austria, Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic said that international support for the new Bosnian Serb government is "guaranteed," AFP reported on 12 February. Plavsic, whose warm reception in Paris caused anger in Sarajevo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 1998), said European leaders told her they are pleased the Republika Srpska has decided to "find its place" in Europe. Earlier the same day, Plavsic warned that the peace process in Bosnia would fall apart if the strategic town of Brcko is not allowed to remain a part of the Republika Srpska. PB SOLANA SAYS TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM BOSNIA POSSIBLE THIS YEAR. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said that Bosnia-Herzegovina's improved political situation could lead NATO to make substantial cuts in the number of troops stationed there, AFP reported on 12 February. Solana, speaking in Washington, said the apparent acceptance of the new Bosnian Serb government and the presidential elections scheduled for September could pave the way to a small reduction in NATO-led Stabilization Forces immediately and a significant cut back by the end of the year. PB BOSNIAN SERBS INJURED BY MUSLIM CROWD. Two Bosnian Serbs were injured, one seriously, when a Muslim crowd stoned three relief agency vehicles, a UN spokesman said on 13 February. Representatives of the Swedish aid agency Crossroads International were traveling with several local Bosnian Serb officials when the crowd stopped the two cars near Jablanica and began stoning them. The crowd accused one of the Serbs of involvement in the deaths of Muslims during the wars of the Yugoslav succession. Members of Crossroads International and Danish SFOR troops were driving the cars. One of the injured remains in hospital, while the other passengers were taken back to Republika Srpska by SFOR troops. PB WAR TRIBUNAL NEEDS MORE RESOURCES TO AVOID LENGTHY DELAYS. Judge Gabrielle McDonald, the president of the UN War Crimes Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, has appealed to the UN Security Council for additional resources, Reuters reported on 13 February. McDonald, a U.S. citizen, said in New York that the tribunal urgently needs to implement a witness protection program, acquire additional jail cells, appoint another judge, and set up a court with room for three judges. She said that if additional resources are not forthcoming, it will take years to bring to trial the 20 suspects currently in custody. PB MONTENEGRO APPROVES FOREIGNER OWNERSHIP OF MEDIA OUTLETS. The Montenegrin parliament has adopted a law permitting foreigners to own media enterprises in the Yugoslav republic, AFP reported on 12 February. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe aided deputies in drafting the law. The legislature also passed a law on voter registration providing for a data bank of registered voters to be created 20 days before an election. Changes to the list can be made only by the Montenegrin Supreme Court. PB CROATIAN GOVERNMENT REVOKES CONTROVERSIAL HOUSING DECREE. The cabinet on 12 February annulled a January 1998 decree that would have permitted the eviction of thousands of Serbs from state-owned apartments in Eastern Slavonia that had been formerly occupied by Croats. Those former occupants would have then been entitled to return to their former homes. A spokesman for the OSCE, which criticized the decree, welcomed the government's decision and pledged to try to expedite the two-way return of refugees. Eastern Slavonia reverted to Croatian control on 15 January after being administered by the UN for two years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 1998). LF ALBANIAN OPPOSITION REJECTS PARLIAMENT COMMISSION'S REPORT. "Rilindja Demokratike," the mouthpiece of the opposition Democratic Party, published a statement by the party's leadership on 12 February rejecting the findings of the parliamentary commission on what prompted the violent unrest that swept Albania last spring. The commission, which had submitted its report to the parliament the previous day, concluded that the Democratic Party had armed its supporters in order to provoke a civil war and that the crisis could have been averted if then Prime Minister Alexander Meksi had resigned earlier. The Democratic Party leadership described the unrest as a "Communist-led armed rebellion" aimed at destroying democracy in Albania and bringing the Socialist Party to power. More than 1,500 people were killed during the unrest. LF ALBANIA, TURKEY SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENTS. Albanian President Rexhep Meidani and his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel, signed several cooperation agreements in Ankara on 12 February, dpa reported. The two presidents favorably evaluated the state of bilateral relations and pledged closer cooperation in the political, economic, and cultural spheres. Meidani, for his part, pointed out the importance of military cooperation, adding that the two sides agree that stability in Kosovo is essential to security in the Balkans, according to the "Turkish Daily News" on 13 February. The two presidents also discussed the planned transport corridor from the Adriatic coast to the Bulgarian port of Varna. LF ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON 'TRANSITION AND MORALITY.' Addressing an international colloquium in Bucharest on "Morality and government in the transition period," Emil Constantinescu on 12 February said Western investors have no right to talk about Romanian corruption as long as they do not dare to officially complain about it. He claimed that those investors in fact engage in "tacit collaboration" with those who are corrupt. Constantinescu said that totalitarian structures have been replaced by "democratic hybrids" rather than genuine democratic structures and that the "pillars" of the former system work hand in hand with organized crime to take over the new "fragile structures." He added that attempts to set up "facades of democracy" may lead to either anarchy or a dictatorship that exploits and exacerbates the "national communist" version of nationalism. MS ROMANIAN PARAMEDICALS ON STRIKE. Some 150,000 members of the Sanitas federation of nurses and other medical staff went on strike on 12 February following the failure of talks with Premier Victor Ciorbea the previous day. Sanitas is demanding a 100 percent increase in wages, while the government says it cannot approve more than 25 percent. MS LUCINSCHI-SMIRNOV MEETING CANCELED. A meeting between Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi and separatist leader Igor Smirnov that was scheduled to take place on 12 February has been canceled, ITAR-TASS reported. The two leaders were to have discussed economic cooperation. Moldovan presidential adviser Anatol Taranu said the "Transdniester authorities and far-right [pro-Romanian] nationalist forces in Moldova are compromising the proposals for a settlement [made by] the Russian Federation [and] trying to force Moldova out of the CIS." Relations between the sides have deteriorated since Chisinau imposed a tax on Transdniester goods as of 1 February and the Transdniester authorities retaliated by levying a similar tax on Moldovan goods. MS U.S. COMPANY SUES MOLDOVA OVER SALE OF MIGS. Virtual Defense Development International Inc. (VDI) is suing the Moldovan government for not paying a $9 million commission in connection with the sale of 21 MiG-29 planes to the U.S. last October, BASA-press reported on 12 February, citing CNN. VDI says the sale was facilitated after a contract was signed between the Moldovan government and itself. The government in Chisinau refused to comment. MS BULGARIA, RUSSIA REMAIN DEADLOCKED OVER GAS SUPPLIES. Gazprom chief Rem Vyakhirev says Bulgaria has "too many claims" in the dispute with Moscow over Russian gas deliveries and the transit of gas through Bulgarian pipelines to third countries. Vyakhirev told journalists it was "difficult" to envisage how and when the problems between the two sides will be solved, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that Bulgaria "is the only European state that no one can understand." MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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