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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 38 , Part II, 25 February 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 38 , Part II, 25 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

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Headlines, Part II

* BELARUSIAN YOUTHS SENTENCED

* MONTENEGRO CALLS FOR KOSOVO AUTONOMY

* BELGRADE, PODGORICA DENY ROLE IN ALBANIAN UNREST

* End Note: ETHNIC ALBANIAN LEADER COMPLAINS OF DISCRIMINATION IN MACEDONIA

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REGIONAL AFFAIRS

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA IMPROVING. On the eve of his
trip to Moscow, Leonid Kuchma said in an interview published by "Izvestiya"
on 24 February that relations between Kyiv and Moscow have greatly improved
but are only at "B-minus" level. Kuchma said that  he recently would have
rated relations as a "C" but now the "toughest knots" in bilateral
relations have been "unraveled." He  compared Russia and Ukraine to a
divorced couple that "only remember problems." Kuchma complained of low
Russian investment in Ukraine, saying that its total was equal to
investment from Cyprus. Acknowledging the economic and social problems in
his country, Kuchma said he hoped a more reform-minded parliament would be
elected when legislative elections are held on 29 March. Kuchma meets with
President Yeltsin in Moscow on 26 February. PB

IS KUCHMA GETTING COLD FEET OVER GUAM? Asked by "Izvestiya" to elucidate
his reservations over the CIS, Kuchma said Ukraine has not succeeded in
resolving any of its major problems within the framework of the CIS,  whose
members, he added, have concluded numerous agreements that remain on paper.
For that reason, Kuchma said, Ukraine considers bilateral ties more
productive. He  nonetheless said Kyiv  believes the CIS should be preserved
but "we are against groups of two or four inside the Commonwealth." It is
unclear whether Kuchma was referring to the Russia-Belarus union,  the CIS
Customs Union between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, or the
Georgia-Ukraine-Azerbaijan-Moldova alignment that emerged last fall. LF

RUSSIAN DEPUTY PREMIER IN KYIV. Yakov Urinson and several prominent Russian
businessmen held talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Valery Pustovoytenko
on 24 February, ITAR-TASS reported. Among those joining Urinson were
Vladimir Gusinksii of the Media-Most conglomerate and Mikhail
Khodorkovskii, head of the oil giant Yuksi. Urinson said he would discuss
economic topics and issues related to President Kuchma's upcoming visit to
Moscow. Pustovoytenko said before a gathering of Russian and Ukrainian
businessmen that an economic agreement expected to be signed by the
countries' presidents in Moscow would double trade between the two
countries over the next several years. He also called on Russian companies
to take part in the construction of additional nuclear reactors in Ukraine.
PB

EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

BELARUSIAN YOUTHS SENTENCED. In a much-publicized case, a Minsk court on 24
February found two youths guilty of vandalism. Alexei Shydlowsky, 19, was
sentenced to 18 months in jail, while 16-year-old Vadzim Labkovich received
a suspended sentence and was released from custody. Both men, members of
the youth wing of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front, have been held
in jail since their arrest in August. They were convicted of writing
graffiti on walls and throwing paint at Soviet-era statues in their
hometown of Stouptsy. An official from Human Rights Watch called the event
a "grotesque show trial" and said it had the "hallmarks of Soviet
repression." The defendants were handcuffed and kept in a cage during the
trial. The EU called last week for the youths to be released, and Amnesty
International had described the two as "prisoners of conscience." At a
press conference after the sentencing, Labkovich vowed to actively campaign
for the release of Shydlowsky. PB

ESTONIA'S MERI WARNS OF THREAT "FROM INSIDE." Speaking on the 80th
anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Estonia, President Lennart
Meri warned that threats to the country come not from outside Estonia, in
particular Russia, but from inside, ETA reported on 24 February. Meri said
there is an identity crisis in Estonia  because the  people are "not proud
of their politicians, their parliament, [or] their political parties, and
they distrust the legal system and the police." He argued that a way out of
this crisis would be for politicians to consider the interests of the
state, rather than their own personal interests. He repeated his call for
like-minded parties to merge, saying "the instability of Estonian parties
jeopardizes the stability of Estonia's political life [and] economic
development and may influence the constitutional order." JC

PROTESTS CONTINUE AGAINST PHONE HIKES IN LITHUANIA.  Some 2,000 people
surrounded the parliament building in Vilnius on 24 February to protest an
increase in telephone rates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February 1998), an
RFE/RL correspondent in the Lithuanian capital reported. The protest
coincided with a debate in the parliament about possibly rescinding the
increase. The leaders of the rally, which was organized by the local
unions, have called for another protest to coincide with the inauguration
on 26 February of Valdas Adamkus as president. JC

POLISH TRUCKS BLOCK BORDER WITH BELARUS. Some 500 angry Polish truck
drivers blocked the Kukuryki checkpoint on the Polish-Belarusian border on
24 February to protest day-long delays at the crossing, PAP reported.
Drivers have had to wait up to five days to cross the border, and a
40-kilometer line of vehicles heading to Belarus has formed at the Kukuryki
crossing. When Poland tightened border controls earlier this year, small
traders began pooling resources and putting their wares in trucks rather
than trying to cross by car, greatly increasing truck traffic. Drivers have
threatened to block the crossing for cars as well if the waiting time in
not reduced. PB

IN-FIGHTING CONTINUES WITHIN CZECH OPPOSITION PARTY... Vladimir Dlouhy,
former deputy chairman of the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), on 24
February told journalists that the PPF, Philip Morris, and Vitkovice
companies were only "mediators" for the party's real sponsors, which in
1995-1996 made donations to  the ODA through a fictitious firm set up in
the Virgin Islands. He said he did not know who the real donors were but
added they were foreigners. Dlouhy said the entire ODA leadership at that
time knew about his talks with the mediators, CTK reported. Dlouhy added he
will leave the ODA. Meanwhile, three members of the party's former
leadership, including Jiri Skalicky, said they knew only about the Virgin
Island-based firm but not that the three companies had been only mediators.
The identity of those companies was disclosed by Skalicky. MS

...WHILE PARTY FACES EXTINCTION. Pavel Bratinka, the founder of the ODA,
announced on 24 February that he, too, is leaving the party. He is the
fifth ODA deputy to take that step.  A public opinion poll conducted by
Sofres-Factum shows that support for the ODA has dropped below the 5
percent required to gain entry to the parliament, CTK reported on 24
February. The poll shows the ODA with only 4.9 percent support. The Social
Democratic Party continues to lead (28.8 percent), followed by Vaclav
Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (10.8 percent), the Freedom Union (10.3
percent), and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (9.3 percent). MS

CZECH 'NOSTALGIA' FOR COMMUNIST REGIME GROWS. The same Sofres-Factum poll
shows that the number of Czechs who say they would prefer to live under the
former communist regime is growing. Last year, 18.1 percent showed such a
preference, while that figure has now risen to 28.7 percent. Most of the
"communist nostalgics" are pensioners and manual workers. Meanwhile on 24
February, the Czech government decided to increase controlled rents for
apartments in Prague by up to 41 percent and to between 15-25 percent
elsewhere in the country, CTK reported. Electricity and gas prices will
also increase by about 30 percent as of 1 July. Needy families will receive
some compensation for that hike. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT, PREMIER MEET AFTER THREE YEARS. Michal Kovac and Vladimir
Meciar on 24 February met in what was their first meeting in three years,
RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. After the meeting, Meciar angrily
walked away from journalists without making any statement. Presidential
spokesman Vladimir Stefko said that "nobody raised his voice" during the
meeting which he described as "peaceful and matter-of- fact." He said the
two leaders discussed the recent resignation of the labor and economics
ministers and the new appointments to the two portfolios (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 20 February 1998). Stefko said Kovac had accepted the
resignations of the ministers and will swear in their replacements on 27
February. MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

MONTENEGRO CALLS FOR KOSOVO AUTONOMY. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic
told state television on 24 February that Kosovo must receive a "certain
degree of autonomy." He added that the province also needs its own economic
development program to give people the opportunity to build a better life,
BETA quoted him as saying. Djukanovic also called for a Serbian-Albanian
dialogue because "without a dialogue in Kosovo, Yugoslavia cannot return to
membership in the international community." The Montenegrin president noted
that Kosovo has long been under an especially repressive police regime but
added that the state cannot politically or economically afford to maintain
such a control structure in the long run. He called on the Belgrade
authorities to prepare a comprehensive program dealing first and foremost
with Kosovo  and aimed at returning Yugoslavia to the international
community. Those remarks may constitute Djukanovic's most direct challenge
yet to the policies of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. PM

WESTENDORP APPEALS TO TUDJMAN. Carlos Westendorp, the international
community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Zagreb on 24 February
that President Franjo Tudjman and Foreign Minister Mate Granic have agreed
to help secure the removal of Pero Raguz, the mayor of the Herzegovinian
town of Stolac. Representatives of the international community hold Raguz
partly responsible for a series of recent physical attacks on Muslim
refugees attempting to return to Stolac (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 24
February 1998). According to Granic, however, Tudjman also told Westendorp
that the main problem in Bosnia is the "legacy of history" and not the
behavior of individuals. The Croatian president also urged Westendorp to
address his complaints "primarily" to the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina
themselves and not to Zagreb. PM

THIRD BOSNIAN SERB TO HAGUE. Simo Zaric, one of six Bosnian Serbs from
Bosanski Samac who is wanted by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, turned
himself in to the court's representatives  on 24 February and was sent
immediately to The Netherlands. Two other of the six men gave themselves up
10 days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1998). Bosnian Serb
Prime Minister Milorad Dodik has been active behind the scenes in recent
weeks to persuade indicted Bosnian Serbs to surrender to the court
voluntarily. PM

MORE AID MONEY FOR BOSNIAN SERBS. Westendorp and Dodik signed an agreement
in Banja Luka on 24 February on the allocation of $8.5 million in EU aid
money to the Republika Srpska. The money will be used to pay the salaries
of teachers, police, and customs officials as well as pensions. PM

FAMILIAR FACES HEAD BOSNIAN SERB POLICE. Republika Srpska Interior Minister
Milovan Stankovic named well-known policemen from both reformist and
hard-liner camps to senior positions on 24 February. The appointees include
Ljubisa Savic-- better known as "Mauser" and as the wartime paramilitary
leader in Bijeljina--and Slavko Paleksic, who served as police chief in the
last government loyal to Radovan Karadzic. Stankovic was an officer during
the recent war and was praised by Croats and Muslims for his humane
treatment of prisoners. At the end of the war, he founded an independent
newspaper that was sharply critical of the Karadzic faction. PM

SARAJEVO CHANGES PROPERTY LAW. The mainly Muslim and Croatian federal
government on 24 February approved and sent to the parliament a draft law
that gives refugees six months to reclaim their homes, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from Sarajevo. The measure repeals a war-time law
that confiscated the flats of people who fled their homes after April 1991.
The international community has been urging the Muslim authorities to
repeal that act to allow Serbs and Croats to return to Sarajevo. PM

REFUGEE AGREEMENT FOR MOSTAR. Muslim Mostar Mayor Safet Orucevic, his Croat
deputy Ivan Prskalo, and Kresimir Zubak, the Croatian member of the joint
presidency, agreed in Sarajevo on 24 February on a program to enable Mostar
refugees to go home "immediately," Orucevic told Reuters. He provided no
details. West Mostar is currently mainly Croatian, and east Mostar is
almost entirely Muslim. In Mostar itself, federal police closed off the
main street dividing the two halves of the town in the wake of a series of
violent incidents. Martin Garrod, Westendorp's deputy in Mostar, called on
Croatian and Muslim leaders to put an end to the violence. Orucevic urged
SFOR to start regular patrols along the main street. PM

CROATIAN SERBS THREATEN TO QUIT JOINT BODIES. Milorad Pupovac, Vojislav
Stanimirovic and Milos Vojnovic, who are leaders of Croatia's Serbian
minority, said in statement in Zagreb on 24 February that they will leave
joint bodies aimed at promoting the reintegration of eastern Slavonia into
Croatia unless Serbs stop fleeing the region and unless incidents that the
Serbs regard as provocative cease. PM

BELGRADE, PODGORICA DENY ROLE IN ALBANIAN UNREST. The Yugoslav Foreign
Ministry issued a statement in Belgrade on 24 February denying claims by
Albanian Interior Minister Neritan Ceka two days earlier that Yugoslav
secret service agents played a role in the recent unrest in Shkoder (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 February 1998). The Belgrade statement noted
that "Yugoslavia strongly rejects these false and spiteful allegations
aimed at diverting attention from the real causes of Albania's internal
problems." Montenegrin Interior Minister Vukasin Maras told the Belgrade
daily "Blic" of 25 February that Ceta's allegations are "baseless." In
Tirana, Albanian National Police Chief Sokol Bare said he has no evidence
of any Montenegrin involvement in the unrest, "Shekulli" reported. PM/FS

POLICE SACKINGS AFTER SHKODER UNREST... National deputy police chief Ilir
Cano said in Tirana on 24 February that more than 150 policemen in Shkoder
will be fired as a result of the unrest in the northern city, "Koha Jone"
reported. He said that about one-third of the city's policemen did not
return to work on 23 February, after special forces retook control of the
city from an armed gang. He added that the policemen's behavior constituted
desertion. Meanwhile, a special team appointed by Prosecutor-General Arben
Rakipi has opened investigations into the unrest, "Republika" reported on
25 February. The daily quotes unnamed sources within the prosecutor's
office as saying the investigations focus on the role of organized crime in
the disturbances but will also examine the possibility that political
rivalries played a part. FS

...WHILE CRIMINALS TRY TO FLEE WITH LOOT. The Albanian and Italian coast
guard have stopped a speedboat with 10 escaped criminals trying to flee
Shkoder, "Shekulli" reported on 25 February. The daily quotes Albanian
police as saying the criminals were heavily armed and  were in possession
of some $350,000 believed stolen from a bank in Shkoder during the night of
22-23 February.  A total of 22 people have been arrested in connection with
the riots. A spokesman for the Prefecture of Shkoder said that the material
damage from the unrest amounts to $1 million, "Koha Jone" reported on 25
February. FS

ROMANIAN PREMIER OFFERS ALTERNATIVES. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea on 24
February said that either the ruling coalition accepts his repeated offer
to resign or the Democratic Party stops its continued attacks on him.
Ciorbea was speaking before a meeting of the coalition's Political Council,
at which party leaders discussed the ongoing negotiations with the IMF over
the 1998 budget. While the Democrats pledged to back the budget in the
parliament, they are still insisting that a new premier be appointed,
RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. On 25 February, Ciorbea met with IMF
chief negotiator Poul Thompsen, saying later the positions of the two sides
are drawing closer. He noted that the budget will provide for a deficit of
3.6 percent of GDP. The fund still considers the government's projection of
privatization revenues to be overly optimistic.  MS

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY CRITICIZES PRESIDENT. Adrian Nastase, the deputy
chairman of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), said on 24
February that President Emil Constantinescu has met with PDSR members of
the parliament's economic commissions on the 1998 budget without informing
the PDSR leadership of his intention to do so. Nastase said this is a
"flagrant infringement of the principle of division of powers" between the
executive and the legislative and an "attempt to side-step the process of
the rule of the law." MS

ROMANIAN SUPREME COURT RULES AGAINST GOVERNMENT. The Supreme Court on 24
February ruled that amending the education law and the law on public
administration by government regulation is unconstitutional, Romanian radio
reported. The ruling followed an appeal by the Party of Romanian National
Unity, which pointed out that  both laws are so-called "organic laws" and
therefore cannot be changed by government regulation. That category of
legislation requires the approval of an absolute majority of all deputies
and senators in order to be passed or changed. The court ruling may trigger
a new government crisis, since the Hungarian Democratic Federation of
Romania has made its participation in the coalition conditional on amending
the education and public administration laws. MS

ITALIAN PREMIER IN BULGARIA. Romano Prodi on 24 February met with President
Petar Stoyanov, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, and other Bulgarian officials.
According to an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia, Rome is interested in
participating in the construction of a trans-Balkan highway  linking the
Black Sea port of Burgas with Albania's Adriatic port of Durres. It would
also like to take part in building an oil pipeline between Burgas and the
Albanian port of Vlora.  MS

BULGARIAN PATRIARCH REFUSES TO STEP DOWN. Patriarch Maxim on 24 February
told President Petar Stoyanov that he will not step down "for the good of
the Bulgarian Orthodox Church" and that the president must stop interfering
in the internal affairs of the Church, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported.
Stoyanov has called on both Maxim, who was appointed patriarch by the
communist regime, and his rival, Patriarch Pymen, who set up another synod
in 1991, to resign in order to bring about an end to the split in the
Church (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1998). MS

END NOTE

ETHNIC ALBANIAN LEADER COMPLAINS OF DISCRIMINATION IN MACEDONIA

by Anthony Georgieff

        Arber Xhaferi, the leader of the Albanian Democratic Party (PDSA),
which has its stronghold in the Macedonian region of Tetovo, says that
ethnic Albanians are bracing for trouble in the former Yugoslav republic.
        According to official estimates, between 400,000 and 500,000 ethnic
Albanians live in Macedonia. But Xhaferi says they number at least 800 000,
although virtually all decided not to participate in the only census to
have taken place in the country since independence. In the western regions
of Tetovo and Gostivar, ethnic Albanians make up the majority.
        Xhaferi, an independent deputy in Macedonia's parliament who
founded the PDSA eight months ago, .recently told RFE/RL that his party is
demanding the formal recognition of the right to use the Albanian language
in schools and in dealings with official bodies. Xhaferi said that ethnic
Albanians will not settle for a minority status because they constitute up
to 80 percent of the local population in areas such as Tetovo and Gostivar.
Instead, he says, they would like to be considered a constituent nation in
Macedonia or a "people of the state" coequal to  Macedonians.
        The Macedonian Constitution of 1991 describes the state as
"Macedonian" and gives "minority status" to some ethnic groups. The
Albanian language is not banned in Macedonia and is even taught in some
primary schools. But the authorities request all official documents to be
in Macedonian. Moreover, the public hoisting of the Albanian flag is
banned, except at sports and cultural events.
        "Skopje uses the so-called international factor in order not to
give us what we want," Xhaferi said. He was alluding to the widespread
belief among ethnic Macedonians, including moderate President Kiro
Gligorov, that the Albanians' real goal is union with Albania.
        "There is a lot of confusion. The majority [of Macedonian citizens]
want to be Slavs and call themselves Macedonian but that is not acceptable
to either Greece, Bulgaria, or Serbia, with which the former Yugoslav
republic has no final border. This makes for a potentially lethal
cocktail," according to Xhaferi.
        Xhaferi said his party will accept Macedonia's borders if the
Skopje government recognizes what he calls the "political realities,"
namely, that one-third of the country's total population is ethnic
Albanian. "Macedonia is a multi-ethnic state, like Bosnia, but the Slavic
politicians will not admit this," he noted.
        "We must have an agreement with the ethnic Macedonian community to
define our rights and obligations," Xhaferi said.. "We must re-write the
constitution, and we must ensure that all citizens are loyal to the state."
        Xhaferi complained that the current constitution defines Macedonia
as a Slavic state. "They ask us to be loyal to a state that does not
protect us," he commented. "But this is a vicious circle, as they want
dialogue within a system that is governed by a law that we object to."
        Xhaferi cited various international documents and agreements
concluded during and/or after the Yugoslav wars that secure the protection
of ethnic communities living outside their "mother states." But he argued
that the government in Skopje refuses to implement those accords.
        . The Macedonian authorities have refused to register Xhaferi's
PDSA on the grounds that its basic principles are unconstitutional. "We
want the law changed but how can we change it peacefully if we are not
allowed to form a political party?"  Xhaferi asked. Currently, seven
parliamentary deputies belong to the party but because the PDSA is not
registered, they present themselves as independents. Xhaferi says that 11
local mayors also belong to the party and the organization has a
considerable following among ethnic Albanians.
        Xhaferi confirmed he has close connections with Kosovo, with
Albania proper, and with the Albanian diaspora.
        "Everyone [ in the international community] says it's better to
have bad peace than a good war. They tell us we must be calm and patient.
But we are losing ground step by step because this is a repressive system
that uses the police and the military against us. We live under
occupation,"  Xhaferi said, referring to the bloody riots in Gostivar last
summer. During that unrest, ethnic Albanians clashed with police while
protesting a new law on the display of minorities' flags and other national
symbols.

The author is an RFE/RL correspondent who specializes in Balkan affairs.


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