|To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else. - Emily Dickinson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 36 , Part II, 23 February 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 36 , Part II, 23 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 SEARCH RFE/RL NEWSLINE BY REGION Use the RFE/RL Web site's new search engine to limit your search to a regional section of RFE/RL Newsline, e.g. Russia or Southeastern Europe: http://www.rferl.org:8080/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN PREMIERS INITIAL ECONOMIC PROGRAM * SHKODER SPINS OUT OF CONTROL * U.S. ENVOY CALLS FOR CALM IN KOSOVO * End Note: WHEN POLITICS ISN'T THE ANSWER xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN PREMIERS INITIAL ECONOMIC PROGRAM. Viktor Chernomyrdin and Valery Pustovoytenko, meeting in Kyiv on 20 February, initialed a 10-year economic cooperation program, AFP reported. Chernomyrdin, who was in the Ukrainian capital to prepare for President Leonid Kuchma's trip to Moscow, said the program "deals with all main aspects of economic relations between our two countries." The agreement is to be signed by Kuchma and his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin. Chernomyrdin said the program will more than double bilateral trade in the next decade. Last year, the volume of trade between the two countries was some $15.3 billion. Chernomyrdin also extended a $180 million technical credit to Ukraine toward the construction of two new nuclear reactors needed to enable Kyiv to permanently close Chornobyl, the "Eastern Economist" reported on 21 February. PB YELTSIN HAILS IMPROVEMENT IN RELATIONS WITH UKRAINE. Russian President Yeltsin announced on 20 February that Russia and Ukraine left behind "the most difficult phase" in their relations last May, when the two countries signed a wide-ranging friendship treaty and an agreement on dividing the Black Sea Fleet, Russian news agencies reported. He added that Moscow has since made some concessions to Kyiv, such as the bilateral agreement not to charge value-added tax on each other's imports. But Yeltsin said such concessions were worth making in order to protect the "friendship" between the two countries. He attributed the progress in bilateral relations to more frequent meetings and telephone conversations between himself and President Kuchma. Kuchma paid an informal visit to Moscow in late January and is to make a state visit to Russia on 26-27 February. LB LUZHKOV WANTS RUSSIAN JURISDICTION OVER SEVASTOPOL. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov promised on 21 February to demand "that Sevastopol be placed under Russia's jurisdiction again," Interfax reported. Addressing a group of Sevastopol residents and Black Sea Fleet sailors, he again denounced the "forced Ukrainianization" of ethnic Russians and warned that "relations between Ukraine and Russia will never be transparent or sincerely fraternal if injustice continues with regard to Sevastopol and Crimea." Luzhkov came to Sevastopol for the opening of a new apartment block for families of Black Sea Fleet sailors, which was funded by the Moscow city government. Russia renounced all territorial claims on Ukraine in a treaty signed last May, but Russia has not yet ratified that treaty. LB EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE EU RESOLUTION WARNS BELARUS OVER 'ARBITRARY ARRESTS.' The European Parliament has adopted a resolution condemning what it considers arbitrary arrests in Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 20 February. The parliament cites the case of two youths currently standing trial on hooliganism charges, who were held in pre-trial detention for six months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February 1998). The resolution calls for the boys to be released. It also cites the beating of film director Yury Khashchavatsky and claims that Belarusian officials routinely intimidate independent media. The resolution reiterated that there will be no further cooperation between the EU and Minsk until the government introduces legal reform and improves the human rights situation in the country. PB OSCE ACCUSES UKRAINE OF CURTAILING PRESS FREEDOM. The head of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe delegation in Kyiv has accused the Ukrainian government of violating press freedom, the "Eastern Economist" reported on 23 February. Kare Vollan, who leads an OSCE team of election observers in Ukraine, said "the forced closure of one newspaper and the potential imposition of an extraordinarily severe payment on a second are highly disturbing." Vollan was referring to the closure of "Pravda Ukrainy" over an alleged registration irregularity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 1998) and the levying of a 3.5 million hryvnya ($1.84 million) fine against "Vseukrainskiye Vedomosti" for a mistaken report about a soccer player transfer. Both newspapers support opposition candidate Pavlo Lazarenko and his Hromada party. PB GDP DECLINES IN UKRAINE. The State Statistics Committee reported on 20 February that GDP fell 0.8 percent and that inflation was 1.3 percent in January. The Ukrainian government has predicted a rise in GDP in 1998 after several years of decreases. The monthly drop was blamed on a devastating 11.7 percent decrease in industrial production in January. PB BALTIC STATES SUPPORT POSSIBLE GULF STRIKE. Latvia has said it is ready to send non-combat assistance for a possible U.S.-led military strike against, BNS and Reuters reported on 20 February. A Latvian Foreign Ministry spokesman said any Latvian involvement would not include troops or weapons. The following day, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry announced it is putting together a team of specialists in humanitarian aid and unspecified technology to support a possible strike. And in Tallinn, Estonian President Lennart Meri's office said in a statement that he has ordered a medical team to be ready to join a Gulf coalition force within 48 hours of such a request. Last week, the Baltic presidents issued a joint statement backing the UN resolution on destroying chemical and biological weapons in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1998). JC RUSSIAN DUMA DELEGATION IN TALLINN. At the end of its four-day visit to Tallinn, a delegation from the Russian State Duma told journalists in the Estonian capital that it regards the establishment of citizenship requirements as Estonia's internal affair, ETA and BNS reported on 20 February. Yelena Mizulina, head of the delegation, recommended that all individuals born in Estonia be granted citizenship of that country. At the same time, she noted that the situation of ethnic Russians is "not quite as dramatic" as suggested by the Russian media. Oleg Mironov, a member of the Communist Duma faction, said that the signing of a Estonian-Russian border agreement should not be tied to the issue of Estonia's ethnic minority. He added that those ethnic Russians who have sought neither Estonian nor any other citizenship are "to a certain extent to blame for their problems." JC LATVIAN RIGHT-WING PARTY STANDS FIRM ON CITIZENSHIP LAW. The Fatherland and Freedom Party, a member of the ruling coalition, announced at its conference on 21 February that it will exert "all political efforts" to ensure that the citizenship law remains unchanged during the current parliament's term, BNS reported. Delegates to the conference stressed their commitment to ensuring that Latvian citizenship is not granted to those children born to non-Latvians since 1991, as proposed by the Harmony party. Under the coalition agreement, no changes are to be made in the citizenship law by the current legislature. JC KOHL, CHIRAC IN POLAND FOR WEIMAR TRIANGLE TALKS. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French President Jacques Chirac have expressed their hope that Poland will quickly join the EU and NATO, Reuters reported on 21 February. Their meeting in the western Polish city of Poznan with President Aleksander Kwasniewski was the first time the leaders of the three countries had attended the so-called Weimar Triangle talks, begun in 1991 to include Poland in the Franco-German alliance. Warsaw's accession to Western organizations and the prospect of buying European hardware to bring the Polish military up to NATO standards were the main topics of discussion at the one-day meeting. PB HAVEL ACCEPTS SKALICKY'S RESIGNATION. Czech President Vaclav Havel on 20 February accepted the resignation of Deputy Premier and Environment Minister Jiri Skalicky, CTK reported. Previously, Skalicky had resigned as chairman of the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA). On 22 February he said he might also leave the ODA, though not politics. ODA Deputy Chairman Daniel Kroupa will head the party until a national conference elects a new chairman. Kroupa said Skalicky does not consider Miroslav Toser--another ODA deputy chairman, who is involved in the donations scandal--to be "trustworthy." Kroupa added that he has asked Toser to resign "by the national conference." Also on 22 February, Justice Minister Vlasta Parkanova announced she is resigning from the ODA but will retain her cabinet post. And ODA spokesman Mojmir Hampl resigned as party spokesman, saying the party "has nothing to tell the voters" and is "paralyzed by personal disputes and personal hatred." MS RUML ELECTED CHAIRMAN OF FREEDOM UNION. Former Interior Minister Jan Ruml has been elected chairman of the Freedom Union, CTK reported on 22 February. That party was formed, among others, by deputies who broke away from former Premier Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party at the end of 1997. MS CONSTITUTIONAL DEADLOCK OVER SLOVAK REFERENDUM. President Michal Kovac on 20 February called for a repeat of the March 1997 referendum, following the Constitutional Court's ruling that the failure to include a question on direct presidential elections had infringed the basic law, Reuters and AFP reported. The referendum is to be held on 19 April and will be non-binding. Kovac said that if the parliament elects a new president on 5 March, a new voting procedure would affect only future presidential elections and would not nullify the results of next month's ballot. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar told state radio on 20 February that the decision was a "Trojan horse for the Slovak people." He added that when Kovac leaves office on 2 March "the confrontation between the government and the head of state will be over." MS MECIAR DECIDES AGAINST PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY--FOR NOW Olga Keltosova, the deputy chairwoman of Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, has announced that the premier will not run for president in the 5 March ballot, TASR reported on 20 February . She said opposition support necessary to ensure Meciar's election has not yet been obtained and that the party will try to enlist that support for another round. Meanwhile, the Party of the Democratic Left announced the candidacy of writer Ladislav Ballek, while an independent parliamentary deputy nominated Milan Fogas, Reuters reported. Neither is considered to have a chance of achieving the necessary three-fifths support. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ARMED GANG FREES CRIMINALS IN NORTHERN ALBANIA. Some 15 masked and armed people stormed the police station in Shkoder on 22 February, after shooting at the building with machine guns and anti-tank weapons from surrounding buildings, Albanian Television reported. The attackers freed some 35 dangerous criminals, some of whom were doing time for murder, as well as an unspecified number of other criminals. They withdrew when police reinforcements arrived from neighboring districts. There were no reports of casualties. Two days earlier, unidentified persons threw two grenades into the courtyard of the police station, and an explosive device went off near Radio Shkoder. The unrest follows a series of arrests on criminal charges of supporters of the opposition Democratic Party, whose stronghold is in Shkoder. FS INTERIOR MINISTER BLAMES "MONTENEGRIN TERRORISTS"... Neritan Ceka, in a televised speech on 22 February, claimed that "some of [the attackers involved in the Shkoder incident earlier that day] came from Montenegro." He added that "this cooperation between [local] terrorism and foreign secret services...shows that we have to deal with a group determined to destabilize Shkoder and Albania at a time when the Kosovo question has grown increasingly important. Precisely for that reason..., [the attackers] received no support from the people of Shkoder." Ceka pointed out that the attack came at a time "when the situation [in Albania] has quietened down [and] the fight against crime has produced successes." The minister had previously charged that Belgrade is financing terrorist networks in Albania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1998). FS ...AS SHKODER SPINS OUT OF CONTROL. Meanwhile, during the night of 22-23 February, civilians burned down main government buildings in Shkoder. The courthouse, the prosecutors' office, and the main library were destroyed, while the town hall, several banks, and the university were looted and badly damaged. Armed groups took up positions on the main road leading to the city and in the city center, while gunmen attacked and robbed private businesses. The Interior Ministry has sent special troops to restore order. PM U.S. ENVOY CALLS FOR CALM IN KOSOVO. Robert Gelbard, the U.S. special envoy for the former Yugoslavia, urged both the Serbian authorities and the Albanian population to show restraint amid an atmosphere of growing violence. Speaking in Pristina on 22 February, Gelbard said that "the Kosovo Albanians have to avoid provocations and Belgrade and the government have to demonstrate maximum restraint because Belgrade is the government." He also condemned the recent armed actions by the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army: "I consider these to be terrorist actions and it is the strong and firm policy of the U.S. to fully oppose all terrorist actions and all terrorist organizations." PM SERBIAN-ALBANIAN TALKS BEGIN. Kosovo shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said in Pristina on 20 February that talks between representatives of the Kosovars and the Serbian government have been going on in secret "for some days" at an unspecified place in Kosovo. The two sides are discussing implementing the 1996 agreement on the reintroduction of Albanian-language education in Kosovo, which, however, has remained a dead letter. The Italian NGO that mediated the 1996 agreement is also taking part in the latest talks. PM NINE INJURED IN CROATIAN PROTEST RALLY. Some five police and four demonstrators were injured at a rally in central Zagreb on 20 February to protest deteriorating social conditions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February 1998). Police prevented the 10,000 or so demonstrators from holding their rally on the capital's main square, but the protesters then moved to a nearby square, where the meeting took place peacefully. Government officials had banned the meeting, citing "security reasons." PM TUDJMAN RE-ELECTED HEAD OF RULING PARTY. Some 1,700 delegates unanimously voted to keep President Franjo Tudjman as head of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) on 21 February at the party's convention in Zagreb. Gojko Susak, Ivic Pasalic, Mate Granic, Ljerka Mintas-Hodak, Jure Radic, Andrija Hebrang, and Ivan Aralica were elected as HDZ vice presidents. Tudjman criticized the previous day's protest rally as "politically motivated." He also attacked the domestic opposition and independent media: "Betrayal is as old as Jesus' times, but in our circumstances we need to inform the public who these anti-Croatian lackeys ready to destroy society are. We will not allow Croats to bicker and fight against one another any more." PM IZETBEGOVIC BLASTS TUDJMAN'S SPEECH. Spokesmen for Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of the joint Bosnian presidency, said on 22 February that the Bosnian embassy in Zagreb filed a protest with the Foreign Ministry against Tudjman's speech. Izetbegovic's spokesmen claimed that Tudjman called for a partition of Bosnia along ethnic lines, RFE/RL correspondents reported from Zagreb and Sarajevo. In the Bosnian capital, Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic, who is a Croat and a member of the HDZ, said he knows nothing about the formal protest, which cannot be official without his signature. Prlic added that Izetbegovic is one member of the presidency and does not have the right to speak in the name of Bosnia-Herzegovina. PM IMF NEGOTIATIONS PROVOKE MORE BICKERING AMONG ROMANIAN COALITION. Petre Roman, the leader of the Democratic Party, said the difficulties encountered in the negotiations now under way with an IMF delegation are an indication that Romania needs "a [new] government, capable of adopting a new program for 1998." Roman spoke on 22 February after a joint meeting of the government and the leaders of the coalition. He said the current difficulties are the result of the "mistakes and failures" in implementing the reforms in 1997, which, he said, must "now be paid for." Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea said he is sure the negotiations will be successfully concluded "within two to three days" and that Romania will receive the third tranche of the stand-by loan approved last year. MS EXTREMIST ROMANIAN LEADER CLAIMS LEAD IN POLL. Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the leader of the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM), on 20 February said a poll published in the weekly "Ultima ora" shows that 21.6 percent of the electorate back him for president, while incumbent President Emil Constantinescu is backed by 19.1 percent and former President Ion Iliescu by 18.3 percent. Tudor also said that the Democratic Convention of Romania enjoys the support of 19.5 percent of respondents, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania 17.1 percent, and the PRM 14.3 percent. He did not reveal who conducted the poll and when, Radio Bucharest reported. MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT IN ROMANIA. Meeting with President Emil Constantinescu in Galati on 21 February, Petru Lucinschi said his country "cannot afford" to participate in the financing of a second reactor at the Cernavoda nuclear plant in Romania, Reuters reported. The two presidents also discussed plans for cooperating with Ukraine on the construction of a gas pipe-line and on setting up so-called Euro-regions. The previous day, Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu, who accompanied Constantinescu, to Moldova said that the pending basic treaty between the two countries must be "mutually acceptable" not only to the two countries' governments but also to "public opinion in Moldova and Romania." This may be a hint that Bucharest is exercising pressure on Chisinau to accept a formulation emphasizing the countries' common history. MS GREEN LIGHT GIVEN TO GAGAUZ-YERI REFERENDUM. The Central Electoral Commission on 20 February approved holding a referendum in the Gagauz-Yeri autonomous republic. The plebiscite will ask voters if they are in favor of a "basic law" for the region. It will take place on 22 March, at the same time as the Moldovan parliamentary elections, BASA-press reported. MS BULGARIAN MINERS END STRIKE. Bulgarian miners have ended a 10-day strike following negotiations with the government, AFP reported on 22 February, citing BTA. Miners in Zlatograd began the strike on 12 February to demand a 200 percent wage hike. Miners from the Gorubso non-ferrous mining company joined the strike three days later. At talks between miners' representatives and Finance Minister Muravei Radev, it was agreed to reduce the number of administrative workers at mines and grant miners the freedom of negotiating wages. The minister also agreed to study the possibility of a $1.6 million interest-free loan to some of the mines undergoing restructuring. MS END NOTE WHEN POLITICS ISN'T THE ANSWER by Paul Goble A recent poll in Moldova calls attention to a trend found in many post-communist states: Even those extremely dissatisfied with their living standards no longer assume that the political system will solve their problems. According to a sample of 1,000 voters in Moldova by the Soros Foundation's Romanian Center for Urban and Rural Sociology, nine out of 10 Moldovans are unhappy with their lives. But despite this unhappiness, some 20 percent said they have no intention of taking part in the 22 March elections, while one-third said they have not decided whom they will support. Some observers have suggested that these results reflect growing popular apathy, which they link either to a general sense of hopelessness or to the belief that individual voters can have little impact on government actions While such negative factors obviously play a role in causing people to turn away from political participation, there are at least three other factors at work that suggest turning away from politics may reflect some more hopeful developments. First, such declines in participation point to the emergence of a civil society--to a space between the population and the state in which individuals can achieve their goals without having to participate directly in the political process. Under communism, virtually everything was decided by the party-state. And with the collapse of communism, many citizens in the region continued to look to the political system to solve all their problems. But both the inability of the political systems in those countries to do that and the growth of non-governmental institutions in society and the marketplace are leading ever more people to focus their hopes and energies elsewhere. Viewed from that perspective, declines in voting rates may be a measure of just how far these new arrangements have been accepted and institutionalized,. rather than a threat to the new democratic and free market system. Second, these declines reflect the emergence of a broad consensus on many issues. While the poll tapped into popular differences on such questions as relations with Moscow or the West, its findings suggest that ever more people do agree on certain key issues such as the value of democracy and free markets. The Soros Foundation poll found that Moldovan voters are deeply split on the question of which party they will support. It also indicated that nearly half of those surveyed favored closer relations with Moscow, while approximately one-third believed that Moldova should seek stronger ties with the EU and NATO. While such divisions are obviously real, they have not succeeded in splitting society to the point that everyone feels he or she must take part in the vote. Instead, a relatively large proportion of the electorate appears to feel that such choices are at the margin, rather than at the center, of their lives. That, in turn, suggests that there may be a genuine consensus lying behind the differences. And third, the declines in voter participation suggest that the voters may not actually be as unhappy with their lot as they have told the poll-takers. If the voters in Moldova were genuinely as unhappy as this poll suggests, the experience of established democracies suggests that they would be available for mobilization by one party or another. Unless one assumes that Moldovan politicians are incompetent, their failure to mobilize the electorate suggests that the reported unhappiness may be widespread but not nearly as deep as some might think. To the extent that these three factors are at work-- and not just feelings of apathy or the lack of a sense of efficacy--declines in political participation in the post-communist countries may in fact be a measure of the institutionalization of democracy rather than a threat to it. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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