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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 39 , Part II, 26 February 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 39 , Part II, 26 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 * POLAND WANTS TO KEEP VISA-FREE REGIME WITH UKRAINE * RUGOVA NOMINATED FOR KOSOVO PRESIDENCY * PRISON MUTINY IN TIRANA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DISTRUSTS NATO OVER NUCLEAR WEAPON PLEDGE. Alyaksandr Lukashenka said he does not believe NATO pledges that it will not deploy nuclear weapons in Eastern Europe when it expands, Interfax reported on 24 February. Lukashenka, addressing the Novosibirsk branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, added that he "categorically opposed" the withdrawal of "Russian strategic nuclear missiles from Europe, including Belarus." The president said that Western states are setting up "intelligence centers" in Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in order to spy on Belarus and Russia. Turning to domestic issues, Lukashenka said there will be neither "mass privatization" in Belarus nor a redistribution of property to bankers such as was the case in Russia, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. PB FUNDS OF UKRAINIAN POLITICAL PARTIES TO BE MADE PUBLIC. The Ukrainian Central Electoral Committee approved a resolution on 25 February that authorizes two newspapers to publish the funds of political parties taking part in the 29 March elections, the "Eastern Economist" reported. According to the resolution, "Holos Ukrainy" and "Uriadoviy Kuryer" will list the total campaign funds of all parties and electoral blocs by 27 February. PB ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT STANDS FIRM ON CLEMENCY LAW. Lawmakers have again adopted without amendments the clemency law, which President Lennart Meri has twice vetoed, ETA reported on 25 February. Meri argues that the law violates the president's constitutional rights since it provides for a "clemency committee" to advise the head of state. The basic law, however, contains no such provision (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February 1998). The parliamentary Constitutional and Legal Commissions rejected Meri's argument, saying the legislation only specifies the procedure to be adopted. Meri can now appeal to the Supreme Court. JC LATVIA WON'T EXTEND RUSSIAN LEASE ON RADAR. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs told journalists in Riga on 25 February that he sees no possibility of extending Russia's lease on the Skrunda early-warning missile radar, which expires on 31 August, BNS and Interfax reported. Birkavs also stressed that Riga has received no request from Russia to extend that lease. Recently, Vladimir Yakovlev, commander of the Russian strategic missile forces, urged the Russian Foreign Ministry to seek an extension. The Skrunda radar is located 180 kilometers southwest of Riga. JC LITHUANIAN FOREIGN DEBT EXCEEDS $1.4 BILLION. Lithuanian Foreign Ministry sources told Interfax on 25 February that Lithuania's foreign debt exceeded $1.4 billion as of the beginning of this year. The sources said that from 1991 to early 1998, Lithuania received foreign credits totaling $2.05 billion, of which the state received $1.4 billion and businesses $650 million guaranteed by the government. By the beginning of this year, credits totaling $650.4 million had been repaid. The remaining $1.4 billion debt is equivalent to 15.3 percent of GDP. JC POLAND WANTS TO KEEP VISA-FREE REGIME WITH UKRAINE. Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek said Warsaw will tighten security on its eastern border but wants to continue visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens, Reuters reported on 25 February. Speaking after a meeting in London with British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, Geremek said that Kyiv is willing to take back illegal immigrants who are refused passage into Poland. Both Russia and Belarus have refused to take that step, which Poland requires before allowing a visa-free regime with a neighboring country. Geremek also said Poland will lose up to $3 billion in "gray zone" trade because of increased restrictions on Belarusians and Russians traveling to Poland. But, he said, it is a "worthy sacrifice" for integration into the EU. PB CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER RESIGNS PARLIAMENTARY MANDATE. Michal Lobkowicz on 25 February officially gave up his mandate as a member of the Chamber of Deputies, saying he wanted to devote more time to the Defense Ministry, CTK reported. Lobkowicz was elected in 1996 on the list of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which he left recently to join the breakaway Freedom Union. In other news, CTK reported on 25 February that Czech arms exports grew by more than 55 percent last year, reaching a total of $182 million. The same day, Nova Television reported that the Kamo company has exported military equipment worth $459,000 to North Korea, although it does not have a license for those exports, which consisted of materials decommissioned by the Defense Ministry in 1992-1993. MS ANOTHER CZECH MINISTER QUITS ODA. Karel Kuhnl, industry and trade minister and deputy chairman of the troubled Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), on 25 February announced he is resigning from that party, CTK reported. In other news, Martin Bursik, chairman of the Prague City Council Environment Committee, has been appointed environment minister, replacing Jiri Skalicky, who resigned last week. MS SLOVAK PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST ELECTORAL FRAUD. At his last press conference as Slovak president, Michal Kovac on 25 February warned the government against electoral fraud in the September general elections, saying he will "lead the people on to the streets" if the ballot is "manipulated." He said that while it is not possible "for the moment" to make "any significant progress" toward EU and NATO membership, it is "possible to help remove doubts about our democratic development...by organizing the election so there is no shadow of suspicion," Reuters reported. MS HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES DAM DISPUTE. Addressing a 25 February special parliamentary session on the Nagymaros-Gabcikovo hydropower project, Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said that the cabinet will sign only a "non-binding framework agreement" with Slovakia, adding that a final agreement will have to be approved by the parliament. Zoltan Pokorny, chairman of the faction of Young Democrats (the opposition party that initiated the debate) repeated his earlier criticism that building a second dam on the Danube has not been ordered by the International Court of Justice. Young Democrat Janos Ader urged the junior coalition party, the Free Democrats, to use its veto right to put an end to the "Socialist madness" in dealing with the issue. MSZ HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY FINED FOR MISHANDLING MISSILE TENDER. The Supreme Court on 25 February fined the Defense Ministry's Procurement Office 15 million forints ($72,000) for violating the principle of equal opportunity and fair competition over a contract for anti-missile systems, Hungarian media reported. The $100 million contract was awarded last year to France's Matra company. Unsuccessful bidders had received a letter from the Defense Ministry two months before the results were made public, saying that negotiations will continue only with Matra. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE RUGOVA NOMINATED FOR KOSOVO PRESIDENCY. The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the leading Kosovar political organization, nominated shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova for re-election at the LDK's convention in Pristina on 25 February. Rugova defended his non-violent tactics and his reliance on foreign support. His critics charged that he has not been sufficiently tough. BETA reported that Rugova emerged from the convention with his position strengthened. Parliamentary and presidential elections are slated for 22 March. Meanwhile in Tirana, state television reported that the Yugoslav authorities refused permission to Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano and a delegation from his Socialist Party to travel to Pristina for the convention. PM CONTACT GROUP CONCERNED ABOUT TUDJMAN, KOSOVO. Representatives of the six Contact Group countries issued a statement in Moscow on 25 February criticizing a recent speech by Croatian President Franjo Tudjman allegedly questioning the territorial integrity of Bosnia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 February 1998). The diplomats also expressed concern about the situation in Kosovo, which, they said, requires a dialogue between Serbia and the Kosovars. The statement condemned both repression by the Serbian police and violence by the Kosovo Liberation Army. But it praised the new Bosnian Serb leadership of President Biljana Plavsic and Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, saying the Republika Srpska is on its way to "becoming a model of pluralist democracy and democratic standards." PM WESTENDORP GIVES TUDJMAN ULTIMATUM. A spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 25 February that Westendorp has given Tudjman one week to sack the ultranationalist mayor of the Herzegovinian town of Stolac or face the loss of his own political credibility (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 1998). The spokesman said this is Tudjman's "last chance" to prove that he supports the Dayton agreement. PM TUDJMAN'S PARTY DEFENDS HIM. The Croatian president's governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) sharply rejected "improper statements by foreign diplomats and opposition leaders" in relation to Tudjman's speech. The statement issued on 25 February in Zagreb added that Tudjman had simply stated historical facts about Bosnia "that cannot be denied." The HDZ also charged that Tudjman's critics are ignorant of Croatian affairs. PM OSCE CRITICIZES CROATIA FOR SLAVONIAN EXODUS. Representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in Zagreb on 25 February that the Croatian authorities must take action to stem the departure of at least 20-30 Serbs daily from eastern Slavonia. An OSCE spokesman said that the "situation for the great majority of people in the region is very bad and often desperate" following a series of incidents in which Croatian nationalists or returning refugees sought to intimidate Serbs. Croatian media suggested that the Serbs are leaving in response to rumors that Norway has recently liberalized its asylum rules. UN refugee officials said that Norwegian officials have decided for now not to grant asylum to any of the 800 Slavonian Serbs who have applied for it. PM SLOVENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER QUITS. Defense Minister Tit Turnsek handed in his resignation to Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek on 25 February. The move follows a scandal that arose when Croatian authorities last month confiscated a Slovenian van filled with $1 million worth of sophisticated spying equipment near Varazdin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 1998). The Croats released the Slovenian intelligence agents but kept their code books and the van, which is now deployed on the Serbian border, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 26 February. The two agents were suspended following media reports that one of them sold the van to Croatian authorities. PM MONTENEGRO TO LAUNCH NEWS AGENCY. Information Secretary Bozidar Jaredic said in Podgorica on 25 February that the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug serves only the interests of President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia and not those of Yugoslavia or Montenegro. Jaredic said Montenegro will soon set up its own state news agency, possibly in conjunction with the existing independent Montena-faks news service, "Nasa Borba" reported. PM PRISON MUTINY IN TIRANA. Hundreds of inmates at a Tirana prison started a revolt and took three guards hostage on 25 February, "Koha Jone" reported. The prisoners surrendered as police were about to storm the jail. Earlier that day, Tirana police were put on high alert after receiving telephone threats of possible attacks on police stations by armed civilians. Meanwhile in Shkoder, an unnamed prosecutor investigating the recent unrest told "Koha Jone" that "some of those arrested [after police retook control over the city on 23 February] were on a list of people who had received arms from the Democratic Party" during the unrest early last year. He added that others under arrest include well-known wanted criminals. FS ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT ENDORSES 'SHOOT TO KILL' ORDER. The parliament on 25 February passed legislation allowing police to "shoot to kill" armed attackers. That legislation is part of a code of police conduct that has been in preparation for three months and provides a legal basis for "shoot to kill" orders given to police in December. The law was rushed through the parliament in response to the unrest in Shkoder on 22-23 February. The code also stipulates that policemen must act impartially and remain politically neutral. Also on 25 February, police in Tirana detained about 80 supporters of the Democratic Party for several hours "for disturbing public order." The detainees had attended a rally that attracted some 2,500 people and at which former President Sali Berisha called for "mass protests" throughout the country and for new elections. FS ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT LIFTS HAJDARI'S IMMUNITY. Lawmakers on 25 February voted by 93 to six to lift the immunity of Democratic Party deputy Azem Hajdari, "Rilindja Demokratike" reported. Hajdari was involved in armed clashes with police at a roadblock in northern Albania earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1998). Also on 25 February, 30 investors in the VEFA pyramid company launched a hunger strike in the Tirana VEFA building. They are demanding that state-appointed auditors be withdrawn and that the government allow VEFA owner Vehbi Alimucaj to continue his operations in order to repay his debts, "Koha Jone" reported. FS LACK OF CLARITY OVER ROMANIAN MINISTER'S RESIGNATION... Privatization Minister Valentin Ionescu on 25 February said he has "irrevocably" resigned because the decision-making process in the economic sector has been paralyzed by the ongoing government crisis. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea later revealed that Ionescu decided to quit because of conflicts with State Property Fund chief Sorin Dimitriu. Following a meeting between Ionescu, Dimitriu, and the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) leadership, PNTCD chairman Ion Diaconescu said Ionescu had agreed not to resign pending "an examination of his views." But Ionescu told an RFE/RL correspondent after the meeting that he has "no intention whatsoever" to withdraw his resignation. MS ...AND OVER DEMOCRATS' RELATIONS WITH GOVERNMENT. Democratic Party leader Petre Roman told journalists after his 25 February meeting with chief IMF negotiator Poul Thompsen that the Democrats are not prepared to support an austerity budget for 1998 unless it is submitted to the parliament by "another government," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Earlier that day, leaders of the Democrats and the Social Democratic Party of Romania, which are partners within the Social Democratic Union (USD), agreed that the budget must be presented to the parliament by "another team" and said they will strive to enlarge the USD to include the opposition Alliance for Romania. But the PNTCD leadership later decided to "fully back" Ciorbea as prime minister. Diaconescu said he has the Democrats' promise to back the budget but added he will also contact "other parties" to try to enlist their support. MS ROMANIAN LABOR UNREST SPREADS. More than 100,000 members of two teachers unions staged a two-hour "warning strike" on 25 February to demand that their wages be doubled, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. They said a general strike will be launched on 15 March if the demands are not met by then. Paramedics have been on general strike for the past 15 days. Meanwhile, a report published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released on 25 February says GDP in Romania dropped 6.5 percentage points in 1997. It also said that unemployment, which currently stands at 7 percent, is expected to rise. MS TRANSDNIESTER WAIVES 'ENTRY TAX' FOR MOLDOVAN CITIZENS. Transdniester Deputy Interior Minister Leonid Manakov told journalists on 25 February that Moldovan citizens, as well as citizens of other CIS member states, will be exempt from a recently imposed $10 "entry tax." The tax will remain in force for citizens of other countries. It is unclear whether the requirement that foreign nationals register with the police within three hours of crossing the border will continue to apply to Moldovan citizens who do not reside in the breakaway region or to CIS nationals, BASA-press reported on 25 February. MS BULGARIA URGES REGIONAL INITIATIVE ON KOSOVO. Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov on 25 February said Bulgaria is "seriously worried about the worsening of the situation in Kosovo" and about the danger that the conflict there "could spread to other parts of southeast Europe," Reuters reported. Vlaikov said Bulgaria will appeal to Greece, Turkey, and Romania to make a joint declaration on the conflict. A draft declaration proposed by Sofia calls for "dialogue" between Serbia and ethnic Albanians and urges all sides to avoid violence. It also says that a solution "must be sought within the framework of respecting existing borders." Vlaikov denied that Greece has rebuked Sofia's initiative, saying that Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos offered "his support in principle." Athens the previous day said any international initiative on the Kosovo conflict should involve the EU. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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