|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 37 , Part II, 24 February 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 37 , Part II, 24 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 * CRIMEA'S SAFONTSEV DIES FROM BOMB INJURIES * ALBANIAN POLICE RETAKE CONTROL OVER SHKODER * U.S. CALLS TUDJMAN SPEECH 'UNACCEPTABLE' xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS LUKASHENKA PRAISES PRIMORSKII GOVERNOR. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka highly praised Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko during an visit to Vladivostok on the way home from the Olympics in Nagano, Japan, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported on 23 February. Lukashenka said he and Nazdratenko agree on privatization and border policy. (The governor has long been an opponent of First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais and has accused the government of planning to give up territory in Primore to China.) Lukashenka hinted that the Russian government's "young reformers" are secret opponents of integration with Belarus. But he cited an economic cooperation agreement signed in Vladivostok as evidence that Russian regional leaders are welcoming closer ties with Minsk. He also said he hopes Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma loses a presidential election scheduled for 1999, because, he commented, Kuchma opposes integration with Russia and Belarus. LB UKRAINE SAYS TERRITORIAL DISPUTE WITH RUSSIA 'NON-EXISTENT.' The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said on 23 February that a territorial dispute between Moscow and Kyiv "never existed and cannot exist," ITAR-TASS reported on 23 February. The statement came in response to Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's recent claims to Crimea and its port city of Sevastopol (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February 1998). The Foreign Ministry said that, as in Russia, "serious politicians in Ukraine" realize that good relations between Kyiv and Moscow are based on "mutual respect, sovereignty, and territorial integrity." The Ukrainian parliament has approved a bilateral treaty with Russia that guarantees current borders between the two countries. PB BALTIC SEA REGIONS SIGN ACCORD IN POLAND. Regions from six countries bordering the Baltic Sea signed a cooperation agreement aimed at creating a "Baltic Euro-region," AFP reported on 22 February. "The Baltic Sea is becoming a sea of the European Union," Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek said at the signing in the northern city Polish town of Malbork. Representatives from the Danish island Bornholm, Latvia's Liepaja and Lithuania's Klaipeda regions, the Russian exclave Kaliningrad Oblast, and the Swedish provinces Kalmar, Kronenburg, and Blekinge, and Polish provinces Elblag, Gdansk, Olsztyn, and Slupsk signed the accord, which promotes cooperation in economics, agriculture, transportation, environmental protection, and education. PB EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE CRIMEA'S SAFONTSEV DIES FROM BOMB INJURIES. Aleksandr Safontsev, the first deputy prime minister of Crimea, died in the hospital on 23 February, two weeks after suffering severe injuries in an assassination bombing, ITAR-TASS reported. A bomb exploded as his car drove by a garbage can in Tavriya, near Simferopol (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 1998). One person has been detained in connection with the remote-controlled bombing. PB TRIAL OF BELARUSIAN YOUTHS CONCLUDES. Closing arguments have been made in the trial of two Belarusian teenagers charged with hooliganism, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 23 February . Prosecutor Dzmitri Tsimafeev asked the judge to find the youths guilty. He is seeking a two-year prison sentence for 19-year old Alexei Shydlowsky and a two-year suspended jail term for 16-year-old Vadzim Labkovich. Both youths have served more than six months in pre-trial detention on vandalism charges. They have apologized and compensated authorities for the minor paint damage caused by their actions. Defense attorney Nadzeja Dudarava said the case is political and is based on her clients' membership in the youth wing of the Belarusian Popular Front. PB BANK OF ESTONIA ESTIMATES 9 PERCENT GDP GROWTH LAST YEAR. The Estonian central bank has estimated GDP growth in 1997 at 9 percent, up from 4 percent the previous year, ETA reported on 23 February. In its 1997 financial policy report, the bank said the growth resulted mainly from increased exports as well as larger demand in the domestic private sector. The bank added that its new economic policies should curb domestic consumption this year, meaning that GDP growth will be more modest. JC ESTONIAN PRESIDENT WANTS FEWER POLITICAL PARTIES. Lennart Meri told "Postimees" on 23 February that a small country like Estonia needs only three or four political parties with distinct platforms instead of the existing 33, ETA reported. Meri urged like-minded parties to merge, noting that in many cases parties may have similar programs but their leaders cannot find common ground owing to personal differences. JC ULMANIS APOLOGIZES FOR LATVIA'S ROLE IN HOLOCAUST. Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis on 23 February unofficially apologized for his country's role in the Nazi Holocaust. Ulmanis, who is on a three-day visit to Israel, said at an official reception at Israeli President Ezer Weizman's residence that his nation is aware of the role some of its citizens played in the persecution of Latvian Jews. At the same time, he stressed that Latvians also saved the lives of many Jews during the war, an RFE/RL correspondent in Riga reported. Israeli officials told Ulmanis that Latvia should undertake a "serious investigation" of the whereabouts of Nazi war criminals living in Latvia. But on 23 February, the Latvian Prosecutor-General's Office said it has no information about people living in Latvia who could be persecuted for the murder of Jews or other war crimes, BNS reported. JC POLISH PRESIDENT, POPE SIGN CONCORDAT. Aleksander Kwasniewski and Pope John Paul II have signed a Concordat governing relations between Warsaw and the Roman Catholic Church, Reuters reported on 23 February. The pope signed the document at the Vatican, while Kwasniewski put his signature to it in Warsaw, despite objections from his Socialist allies, who claimed the accord gives the Catholic Church too much power in society. Kwasniewski denies those charges and said "good and friendly" relations between Poland and the Vatican "will be developing even better" under the Concordat. The Solidarity-led government signed the Concordat just before it lost the 1993 elections to the Democratic Left Alliance, which then failed to ratify the document. PB INCREASED DRUG USE IN POLAND. The government said on 23 February that there are between 30,000 and 40,000 drug addicts in Poland, AFP reported. The Office for Drug Addiction said this is an increase over recent years, during which the level of drug usage had remained relatively stable. An official at the office said that an upsurge in usage of synthetic drugs and amphetamines is the primary reason for the increase. PB CZECH POLICE QUESTION FORMER ODA LEADER. Police on 23 February questioned former Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) chairman Vladimir Dlouhy in connection with the donations scandal, CTK reported, citing Nova Television Dlouhy said he did not fear he would be prosecuted because the ODA paid the necessary taxes on the donations. The same day, Jiri Skalicky, who recently resigned as ODA chairman, met with President Vaclav Havel and presented him with a three-page report on the ODA's finances. After the meeting, Havel said the documents show that some of the suspicions were "ungrounded" but, he added, this does not mean that "everything was correct as regards ODA financing." The president commented that the ODA is a party that has "a special spirit" and "it would be a pity if it disappeared from political life." MS SLOVAK OPPOSITION LEADER ON MECIAR. Opposition leader Milan Knazko, who is a former foreign minister and a former ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, says the premier does not want Slovakia to become a member of NATO or the EU because "in a normal democracy, his position would be threatened." Knazko told the Czech daily "Lidove noviny" on 23 February that he cannot provide "proof" that Meciar is "cooperating with the KGB" but it is "clear that he prefers pursuing Russia's interests to those of Slovakia." He added that he cannot judge Meciar's "mental health" but has often seen him suffering from depression and losing self-control at public meetings. MS HUNGARY, FRANCE SIGN MILITARY SECRECY PACT. Visiting French Defense Minister Alain Richard and his Hungarian counterpart, Gyorgy Keleti, have signed a military secrecy agreement that applies to both military hardware and data, Hungarian media reported on 23 February. Richard told reporters in Budapest that France counts on Hungary in strengthening NATO's European wing to counterbalance the influence of the U.S. in the organization. Meeting with Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, Richard said the ratification of Hungary's NATO accession will be "unproblematic" as far as France is concerned. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN POLICE RETAKE CONTROL OVER SHKODER. Special riot police on 23 February retook control of the northern Albanian city of Shkoder, "Dita Informacion" reported. Police overpowered a group of some 100 armed and masked men who had taken control of the bridge over the Drin River at the entrance to the city and had mined the bridge with dynamite. Police arrested 16 people, one of whom is a well-known local smuggler. Prime Minister Fatos Nano replaced local police chief Mithat Havari on the grounds that Havari failed to cope with the initial armed attack by the gang the previous day. Nobody was injured in the unrest, according to hospital spokesmen. FS MUTUAL RECRIMINATIONS OVER SHKODER. Socialist Party Secretary Petro Koci put the blame for the unrest on the Democratic Party, saying that Democrats have become a "go-between linking [government] institutions and organized crime, which [in reality] governs the prefecture of Shkoder." He added that the unrest was preceded by a Democratic Party rally, which, he argued, "clearly proves the direct connection" between that party's activities and "public [criminal activities] that result in actions against the state," "Zeri i Popullit" reported. Democratic leader Sali Berisha countered that "the accusations...are proof of [the Socialists'] communist and Leninist mentality." He accused the government of having provoked the unrest to destabilize the city, according to "Rilindja Demokratike." FS ALBANIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER SUSPENDS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. Parliamentary speaker Skender Gjinushi on 23 February said that all Constitutional Court decisions will be declared null and void until the court replaces three of its nine members by drawing lots. Gjinushi added that under current legislation law, the court should have replaced three judges in December 1997. but its nine members refused to do so. Meanwhile, the parliamentary lustration commission gave evidence to the legislature that Constitutional Court chief judge Rustem Gjata was a communist-era secret service agent. The commission proposed that the parliament dismiss him from office, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. FS U.S. CALLS TUDJMAN SPEECH UNACCEPTABLE... U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard has said in Belgrade that it is unacceptable that Croatian President Franjo Tudjman had questioned the territorial integrity of Bosnia in a speech two days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February 1998). "We are profoundly angered by the speech given by President Tudjman. His historical allusions are outrageous, dangerous, and ridiculous.... This violates the Dayton peace accords.... Tudjman needs to watch his language," Gelbard added. Tudjman regards the Bosnian Muslims as a political and cultural threat to Europe and favors a partition of Bosnia between Serbs and Croats. Foreign pressure led Tudjman into making a tactical alliance with the Muslims against the Serbs in 1994 and into signing the Dayton peace agreement for a united Bosnia nearly two years later. PM ...EASES SANCTIONS ON MILOSEVIC. Gelbard also said in Belgrade on 23 February that the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has shown "good will" and "a significant positive influence" in helping bring the moderate government of Prime Minister Milorad Dodik to power in the Republika Srpska. In return, Gelbard said that Washington will allow Belgrade to open a consulate in New York and to increase the size of its diplomatic staff accredited to the UN there. The Yugoslav airline JAT will have landing rights in the U.S., and Yugoslavia will be invited to join the U.S.-sponsored Southeastern European Cooperation Initiative. Gelbard added, however, that the "outer wall" of sanctions against Belgrade will remain until Yugoslavia makes more progress in promoting democracy, resolving the Kosovo dispute, and sending indicted war criminals to The Hague. The "outer wall" bars Yugoslavia from full membership in the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank. PM DODIK UPBEAT ON WORLD BANK LOANS. After returning from Washington, Dodik said in Banja Luka on 23 February that he had "agreed with World Bank representatives on a favorable $20 million loan to the Republika Srpska, to be paid over the next 35 years and with a 10-year grace period.... The realization of [this and other] financial assistance agreements will put the Republika Srpska in a much better position." The loan is aimed primarily at helping small and medium-sized businesses. Dodik added that he expects the World Bank to "grant another loan of $33 million" for the Republika Srpska government budget" in March or April. PM BRCKO HARBOR OPENED. Six ships that had been trapped in the Serbian port of Smederevo since the Bosnian war broke out in 1992 arrived in the Serb-held Sava River port of Brcko on 23 February. The previous week, transport ministers from the Republika Srpska and the mainly Croatian and Muslim federation reached an agreement to open the port temporarily to allow the ships to return. A permanent agreement to reopen the harbor has not been concluded. The disputed town of Brcko is a key transportation hub connecting Bosnia, Croatia, and Yugoslavia. PM DRIVERS BLOCK BELGRADE STREETS. Taxi and truck drivers blocked roads in and around the Serbian capital on 24 February to demand lower taxes and higher fares. The previous day, several thousand pensioners demonstrated outside the Serbian parliament to urge payment of back pensions and improved living conditions. Pensioners in particular are affected by poverty across the former Yugoslavia. PM SERBIAN KINGPIN ARRESTED. Spokesmen for the Serbian Interior Ministry on 23 February confirmed media reports that police have arrested Nenad Djordjevic for embezzling $10 million from the Serbian Health Insurance Service, which he headed until recently. Djordjevic is a key political ally of Milosevic's wife, Mirjana Markovic, and a deputy chairman of her United Yugoslav Left party. Djordjevic is widely regarded as one of the richest men in Serbia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade. PM EU CALLS FOR DIALOGUE IN KOSOVO. EU foreign ministers issued a statement in Brussels on 23 February appealing to "all parties concerned [with the Kosovo issue] to exercise restraint and refrain from all acts of violence to achieve political goals." The ministers said they will support any settlement acceptable to the Serbs and Albanians. The statement added that the most likely solution would be to establish broad autonomy for Kosovo within Yugoslavia. PM ROMANIAN BUDGET TO BE SUBMITTED IN MARCH. Emil Constantinescu on 23 February said an agreement has been reached to submit the draft budget to the parliament "by end of March." That agreement was reached at a meeting of ministers in charge of the economic sector and members of parliamentary economic commissions, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. For the first time, opposition members of the parliamentary commissions participated in such a meeting. Earlier, Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea said that an IMF decision not to disburse the third tranche of the approved stand-by loan would not have any influence on the budget, because the country's monetary reserves are very large. He added, however, that it would negatively impact on Romania's image in the eyes of foreign investors. Mediafax said Ciorbea's dismissal was "imminent" in view of the failure of the negotiations with the IMF. MS MOLDOVAN PREMIER WITHDRAWS PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDACY.... Dumitru Diacov, the leader of the pro-presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc, told journalists in Chisinau on 23 February that Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc has withdrawn his candidacy for the 22 March parliamentary elections. Ciubuc had planned to run as the number two candidate on the bloc's lists. Last week, the parliament ruled that members of the executive must suspend their government activities if they run for a seat in the legislature. Diacov said it is "more important" that Ciubuc remain as head of the cabinet. He said the premier will continue to be a member of the pro-presidential party, which bears the same name as the bloc. An RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau said Ciubuc's withdrawal is thought to considerably diminish the electoral chances of the bloc. Several ministers belonging to various parties have announced they have suspended their government activities. MS ...WHILE LUCINSCHI ASKS ELECTORATE TO SUPPORT PREMIER'S PARTY. In his weekly televised address to the nation, President Petru Lucinschi on 22 February called on the electorate to support political parties willing to cooperate with him, saying he would like Ciubuc to stay on as premier. Lucinschi said he would not single out any party but added that the actions of parties like the center-right Democratic Convention of Moldova demonstrate that they are bent on not cooperating with him. He said if the elections are won by parties that would "struggle against the president," this would lead to conflicts with Moldova's neighbors and inter-ethnic strife in what he called a repetition of the "Transdniestrian blunder." Lucinschi said he is "unhappy" with the constitution and with the electoral system and will strive to have both changed after the elections in order to better "promote cooperation between the branches of the government." MS BULGARIA SEES NATO AS KEY. Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova told the annual meeting of Germany's Suedosteuropa Gesellschaft in Munich on 21 February that achieving NATO membership is the main aim of Bulgarian foreign policy. She stressed that there is no security in Europe without security in the Balkans and that Balkan stability requires Bulgarian participation in "security-generating structures." Mihailova noted that the sound development of bilateral relations with each of Bulgaria's immediate neighbors is possible only within a broader European, multilateral framework. With reference to Russia, she said that Bulgaria's desire for membership in NATO is not directed at any third country, but she stressed that Sofia will not allow any third country a veto right over Bulgaria's security policy. Mihailova added that Bulgaria's second priority is to secure membership in the EU. PM xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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