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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 31 , Part II, 16 February 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 31 , Part II, 16 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 * UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ENDS FREEZE ON PRIVATIZATION * MECIAR TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT? * YUGOSLAVIA UNDER PRESSURE OVER WAR CRIMINALS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ENDS FREEZE ON PRIVATIZATION. Lawmakers have approved a privatization program ending a legislative ban on the sale of state assets, AFP reported on 13 February. The program, submitted by President Leonid Kuchma, allows for the privatization of the energy and telecommunications sectors but would not permit the sale of farm land. Prime Minister Valery Pustovoytenko said he expects privatization to add about 1 billion hryvna ($521 million) to state coffers this year. The parliament put a freeze on the privatization process in November after several reports of inefficiency and corruption. In other news, the National Statistics Committee said on 13 February that Ukraine received $759.2 million in foreign investment last year. That is a 42 percent increase over the previous year. Investors from the U.S. accounted for the largest percentage of investments. PB CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER SAYS CALL FOR ELECTIONS ILLEGAL. Anatoly Gritsenko said on 13 February that the Ukrainian parliament's call for early elections in Crimea is unconstitutional, ITAR-TASS reported. The Kyiv parliament's decision the previous day to hold early elections on 29 March is one of a "series of illegal acts" against the autonomous republic of Crimea, he argued. Gritsenko also said the Ukrainian parliament can demand early elections only if the Crimean legislature violates the country's constitution and the Ukrainian Constitutional Court rules to dissolve the peninsula's parliament. PB GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN IN KYIV. Zurab Zhvania held talks in Kyiv on 13-14 February with his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksandr Moroz, and with Premier Pustovoytenko. Moroz affirmed Ukraine's support for Georgia's application for membership in the Council of Europe and promised that Ukrainian lawmakers will soon debate Georgia's request that Kyiv provide a peacekeeping unit to serve on the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. Pustovoytenko said Ukraine is interested in drawing up a long-term program of economic cooperation that would increase bilateral trade. Zhvania, for his part, expressed support for Ukraine's planned participation in the TRACECA transport corridor project. LF BELARUSIANS USE VALENTINE'S DAY TO PROTEST LUKASHENKA POLICIES. An opposition group used a registered Valentine's Day march in Minsk to protest the policies of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, RFE/RL's Belarusian service reported on 14 February. Some 1,000 protesters carried signs with slogans such as "I Love NATO" and "I Love the EU" and also shouted anti-Lukashenka slogans. The march was organized by the Youth Front, which seeks to orient Belarus more toward the West. Marchers delivered letters to Western embassies calling for the release of political prisoners and describing Lukashenka's policies as confrontational. Police filmed the march but did not stop it because it was officially registered. PB AID FOR CHORNOBYL VICTIMS ARRIVES. A shipment of medical aid from the U.S. for people suffering from the effects of the Chornobyl nuclear accident arrived in Minsk on 14 February, ITAR-TASS reported. The aid, which includes antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs, will be distributed in hospitals in the Gomel and Mogilev regions and at three clinics in Minsk. Belarus was harder hit than any other country by the 1986 Chornobyl accident. PB LATVIA'S ULMANIS WANTS GOVERNMENT STABILITY. President Guntis Ulmanis told reporters on 13 February that he will seek a dialogue with the government parties that will not undermine the cabinet's stability, BNS reported. "I won't give any hope to anyone perhaps wishing the president to become so deep embroiled in a dispute with the Fatherland and Freedom [party] that the government collapses," he said. Two days earlier, Ulmanis had vetoed a controversial amendment to the labor code, proposed by Fatherland and Freedom and Latvia's Way, whereby an employee could be dismissed for insufficient knowledge of the Latvian language (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 1998). JC POLISH AMBASSADOR TO BELARUS RESIGNS. Ewa Spychalska has resigned as the Polish ambassador in Minsk. According to an RFE/RL correspondent in Warsaw on 14 February, Spychalska, who had been criticized by Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, submitted her resignation in order not to complicate relations between Geremek and President Aleksander Kwasniewski. Spychalska's replacement has not been named. In other news, a 63-year-old woman died in a Warsaw hospital of Creutzfeldt-Jakob-Disease, the human variant of "mad cow" disease. Poland banned all imports of gelatin last week. Cow byproducts are used in the production of gelatin. PB FORMER OFFICIAL FROM KLAUS'S PARTY DETAINED. Libor Novak, the former executive deputy chairman of Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS), was taken into custody on 14 February, CTK reported. Novak is accused of evading the payment of taxes totaling 500,000 million crowns ($14,500) in connection with donations given to the ODS. The Financial Office filed a lawsuit against him earlier this month. MS RIFT GROWS WITHIN CZECH COALITION PARTY. Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) chairman Jiri Skalicky told journalists on 14 February that he will not run in the upcoming parliamentary elections but will remain ODA chairman. Skalicky said the decision not to run for the parliament is not connected with his demand that ODS deputy Miroslav Tosler, involved in a scandal in which an Opava entrepreneur was allegedly forced to make a donation to the ODA, must tender his resignation. Also on 14 February, the ODA Central Assembly ruled that Tosler can stay on pending clarification of the allegations. Skalicky reacted by saying that if Tosler does not resign, he will do so. MS IRAQIS SEEK TO RECRUIT VOLUNTEERS IN PRAGUE. Iraq has been attempting to recruit Czechs for an international volunteer force, AFP reported on 14 February, citing CTK. An agent of the Czech counter-espionage service (BIS) said there is an ongoing investigation into the issue. Ludvik Zifcak, a former officer in the communist secret police and now owner of the weekly "Nove Bruntalsko," had recently published an advertisement titled "Hands off Iraq." Eighteen Czechs were said to have been recruited following the appearance of the advertisement. "Lidove Noviny" reported that the BIS and military intelligence officers were also investigating five Iraqis who were arrested last week in Prague without identification papers on them, as part of increased security measures adopted in the wake of the Iraqi crisis. MS MECIAR TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT? Tibor Cabaj, the chairman of Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia's parliamentary faction, said he has spoken to the premier about his intention to propose Meciar's candidacy for president and that he has "received [Meciar's] agreement," Reuters reported on 13 February, citing TASR. Another round of the presidential elections is scheduled for 5 March. Meciar would need nine votes from the opposition to have the required three-fifths majority. Reuters said he is unlikely to receive those votes because of the growing animosity between the two camps. In other news, Kosice Mayor Rudolf Schuster and former Foreign Minister Juraj Hamzik announced on 13 February that they have founded a new political party, called Party of Civic Understanding, TASR reported. The party is to "support the development of civil society and promote Slovakia's orientation toward North Atlantic structures." MS HUNGARIAN PREMIER'S OFFICE CORRECTS FIGURE ON FOREIGN CRIME. The Prime Minister's Office released a statement on 14 February correcting Gyula Horn's earlier remarks that 80 percent of robberies and murders in Hungary are committed by foreigners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February 1998). The office said Budapest police chief Attila Berta had provided data suggesting that foreigners account for 80 percent of criminals as well as for 80 percent of the victims of crimes in which weapons are involved. But Interior Minister Gabor Kuncze said only 3.5 percent of all reported crimes are committed by foreigners. In other news, hundreds of neo-Nazis staged a rally at Buda Castle on 14 February to honor German occupying forces and Hungarian fascists who fought Soviet troops for the control of Budapest in 1945. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE YUGOSLAVIA UNDER PRESSURE OVER WAR CRIMINALS. Louise Arbour, the chief prosecutor for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, said in Brussels that the voluntary surrender of two Bosnian Serbs to the court on 14 February increases the pressure on Belgrade to cooperate with the tribunal, "Nasa Borba" reported two days later. She warned that Yugoslavia will become increasingly isolated the longer it refuses to send indicted war criminals to The Hague. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, for his part, said the international community will insist that Belgrade honor the commitments it made in the Dayton agreement, including a pledge to cooperate with the court. PM THIRD BOSNIAN SERB TO TURN HIMSELF IN? The Belgrade daily "Dnevni telegraf" wrote on 15 February that Simo Zaric, one of six Bosnian Serbs from Bosanski Samac who is wanted by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, will turn himself in to the court's representatives in the near future. The newspaper quoted him as saying that he intends to surrender to the court as soon has he has "cleared up some legal matters." Miroslav Tadic and Milan Simic, who are also among the six men charged with setting up concentration camps and carrying out "ethnic cleansing" in 1991, gave themselves up on 14 February. They told reporters in The Hague the next day that they are innocent. Tadic and Simic are the first Bosnian Serbs to voluntarily surrender to the tribunal. PM DODIK WANTS GOOD TIES TO ZAGREB. Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said in Zagreb on 14 February that the Bosnian Serbs are "particularly interested in establishing economic cooperation with Croatia." Both he and Croatian Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa agreed to set up a commission on missing persons, which will hold its first meeting within two months. The two sides will also discuss setting up border crossing points and promoting cooperation between the Croatian oil company INA and the refinery at Bosanski Brod, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. Dodik said he supports Croatia's wish to open a consulate in Banja Luka, and his hosts said they will consider abolishing visa requirements for Bosnian Serbs who are holders of the new joint Bosnian passport. PM KOSOVAR LEADER CALLS BELGRADE "ARROGANT." Mahmut Bakalli, a leading communist-era Kosovar political leader, told RFE/RL from Belgrade on 14 February that the Yugoslav government is "arrogant and masochistic." He was referring to the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry's statement the previous day that German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel and his French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine, are not welcome to make a previously planned visit. Bakalli added that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is behaving like a "crude Balkan Saddam Hussein" in his stubborn refusal to modify Serbia's policies in Kosovo. Kinkel and Vedrine launched a diplomatic initiative in November 1997 to promote autonomy for Kosovo within Yugoslavia. PM RUGOVA SAYS SERBIA DESTABILIZING KOSOVO. Shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said in Pristina on 13 February that the Serbian authorities are increasingly using force in Kosovo. He stated that Belgrade's goals are to intimidate the ethnic Albanians and destabilize the province in the run-up to the shadow-state's parliamentary and presidential elections slated for March. Rugova added that the elections could provide an impetus for a Serbian-Albanian dialogue, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Kosovar capital. PM KOSOVO STUDENTS CALL PROTEST. Ethnic Albanian student representatives on 13 February called for renewed mass protests on 13 March to demand control over school and university buildings. In December, Serbian riot police put down peaceful protests aimed at restoring Albanian-language education (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1997). In other news, unidentified gunmen killed an ethnic Albanian employee of the Yugoslav Post in Glogovac on 13 February. Three days later, the Belgrade daily "Vecernje Novosti" wrote that the body of an ethnic Albanian employee of the Serbian electric company has been found in the Glogovac area. In the past, the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army, which is strong in Glogovac, has killed several ethnic Albanians whom it regards as Serbian collaborators. PM ALBANIAN LEGISLATOR MAY FACE CHARGES. Interior Minister Neritan Ceka on 15 February asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to prepare charges against opposition Democratic Party deputy Azem Hajdari, who enjoys parliamentary immunity. Hajdari and 15 other people were involved in two armed incidents with police in the Shkoder area the previous day. Police arrested 11 of Hajdari's group and confiscated "a large quantity of arms." Hajdari, who is no stranger to controversy, said in Tirana on 15 February that the police had staged "another attack on me." Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha said that if Hajdari's immunity is lifted, his party will reconsider its recent decision to end its boycott of the parliament. PM JOURNALISTS DETAINED AT ALBANIAN BASE. Police briefly detained three journalists, including Fatos Baxhaku, the editor-in-chief of "Gazeta Shqiptare," at a naval base in Vlora on 12 February, a Defense Ministry spokesman said in Tirana three days later. The spokesman said that the three tricked guards at the base into letting them enter the site, which they then filmed. The spokesman added that "the media should respect rules protecting state secrets" and not seek admission to any base without a permit. PM ALBANIAN COMMUNIST LEADER TO HAVE HEART SURGERY. Ramiz Alia, who was president of Albania from 1985 to 1992, underwent tests in Salonika, Greece, on 14 February and is slated to have heart surgery later this week. Alia had a heart attack on 24 January and also suffers from respiratory problems. PM ROMANIA EMPLOYS STRONGER LANGUAGE ON IRAQ. In a departure from its cautious position on the Iraqi crisis last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 1998), the Romanian government released a statement on 14 February saying Bucharest is "ready to participate" in a U.S.-led military strike against Iraq if diplomatic efforts fail to solve the conflict. The statement said the government will seek the approval of the parliament if such participation becomes necessary. In other news, Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu on 13 February ended a two-day visit to Germany, where he met with Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel. Kinkel promised continued support for Romania's integration into Euro-Atlantic structure and for German investments, but said there is "some worry" about political stability in Romania. MS ROMANIA'S DEMOCRATS SET UP 'SHADOW CABINET.' The Democratic Party has set up a 17-member team to "monitor" the performance of Victor Ciorbea's cabinet, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 13 February. Party deputy chairman Traian Basescu will coordinate the group, which, he said, should "not yet" be viewed as a "shadow cabinet" because "we are still a member of the ruling coalition." However, the group intends to work out "parallel" reform programs" and each of its members will be in charge with "monitoring" the performance of a ministry. Former Foreign Minister Adrian Severin is not included in the group, and foreign affairs will be "monitored" by incumbent minister Andrei Plesu. Observers point out that this is a unique situation in which a party both participates in the governing coalition and adopts an opposition-like stance and in which a minister "monitors" his own ministry. MS CHISINAU DENIES U.S. COMPANY INVOLVED IN MIG SALE. The Moldovan government on 13 February said it does not owe the U.S. company Virtual Defense Development International any money for facilitating the sale of the MiG-29 aircraft to the U.S. last October. Chiril Sorocean, a counselor to Premier Ion Ciubuc, said the sale took place without any intermediaries, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 13 October 1998). In other news, Moldovan and Romanian experts concluded in Chisinau on 13 February a new round of talks on a basic bilateral treaty. Radio Bucharest reported that Romania wants the treaty to mention the "special relationship" between the two states. According to Mediafax, Bucharest wants the document to be called a "fraternity treaty," while Chisinau rejects giving the document any special title. MS TIRASPOL AGREES TO RESCHEDULE MOLDOVAN ENERGY DEBT. Transdniester separatist leader Igor Smirnov, meeting with Moldovan Deputy Premier Ion Gutu in Tiraspol on 13 February, agreed to reschedule the $15 million outstanding debt Chisinau owes for energy supplies from the Moldavskaya power plant on condition that Moldova pays its current debt, Infotag and BASA press reported. At the same meeting, Smirnov delivered an ultimatum demanding the abolition of the tax imposed on Transdniestrian goods transiting Moldovan territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February 1998). Smirnov and Gutu agreed that President Petru Lucinschi and Smirnov will discuss the issue at their meeting re-scheduled for 17 February. MS IMF, EBRD PRAISE BULGARIAN ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE. Ann McGuirk, the IMF's chief representative in Bulgaria, has said Bulgaria's economic performance is "very positive" and "better than expected" after the introduction of stabilization measures in 1997, AFP reported on 13 February. Olivier Descamps, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development regional director, said the same day in Sofia that Bulgaria's credibility with foreign investors and bankers is now "the best it has been in the last five years." He added that legislation on foreign investment and privatization must still be passed by the parliament and the privatization of the banking sector accelerated. In other news, Finance Minister Muravei Radev on 15 February sought to persuade some 400 miners at the Grobuso lead and zinc mines, some 300 kilometers southeast of Sofia, to end a four-day hunger strike and leave the pits. The miners are demanding that the government triple their wages. 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