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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 40 , Part II, 27 February 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 40 , Part II, 27 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 POLITICIZATION AND SELF-CENSORSHIP IN THE RUSSIAN MEDIA A new financial dependence on industrial or banking groups has led to a noticeable erosion of media autonomy in Russia. This paper is available on the RFE/RL Web site: http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rumediapaper/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTS MEET IN MOSCOW * POLAND WANTS ACCESS TO LABOR MARKET UPON EU ENTRY * BOSNIA SAYS SERBIA MAY HOLD SREBRENICA SURVIVORS * End Note: BOSNIAN MERRY-GO-ROUND xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTS MEET IN MOSCOW. Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kuchma, meeting at the Kremlin on 27 February, signed an agreement on economic cooperation through the year 2007, RFE/RL correspondents in Moscow reported. That accord is aimed at doubling trade turnover between the two countries, which totaled $14 billion in 1997. The two leaders also agreed to cooperate in the construction of military transport planes, to ensure quick ratification of agreements on the Black Sea Fleet, and to further develop equal partnership and cooperation among CIS members. A Russian-Ukrainian commission on military-technical cooperation is to be formed, and the two countries will seek to promote Russian and Ukrainian weapons on world markets. Kuchma received support from Yeltsin to meet in Odessa with the president of Moldova and an unspecified representative of the Transdniester to discuss the breakaway region. Kuchma also stressed that Ukraine will not join NATO. BP BLACK SEA STATES TO DISCUSS CONFIDENCE-BUILDING MEASURES. Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine have drafted guidelines for talks on confidence-building measures related to the activities of their naval forces in the Black Sea, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 27 February, citing a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement. The measures are intended to strengthen economic, political, and military cooperation between the states bordering the Black Sea. LF EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE SIGNS COOPERATION AGREEMENT WITH SOUTHERN NEIGHBORS... Officials from Ukraine, Moldova, and Romania signed a cooperation treaty in Izmail, Ukraine, on 26 February, Mediafax reported. The signatories to the agreement pledged to protect ethnic minorities and to put aside territorial disputes. The document, which was sponsored by the European Council, also draws up free-trade zones and sets common policies on border traffic. PB ...FAILS TO AGREE WITH LATVIA OVER TARIFFS REDUCTION. Ukrainian Prime Minister Valery Pustovoytenko and his Latvian counterpart, Guntars Krasts, signed five cooperation agreements in Kyiv on 26 February but failed to agree on the abolition of tariffs on some goods, BNS reported. A free-trade agreement on many foodstuffs was signed. But Krasts was opposed to a reduction of the 75 percent tariff on Ukrainian grain imports, while Pustovoytenko insisted on maintaining a 20 percent duty on Latvian canned fish products. Other agreements provided for cooperation in the transportation and communications sectors. PB LATVIA'S ULMANIS REJECTS AMENDED ELECTION LAW. Guntis Ulmanis has rejected amendments to the law on general elections recently adopted by the parliament, BNS reported on 26 February. Under the amended legislation, political parties would have to receive 5 percent and coalitions 7 percent of the vote to gain parliamentary representation. Ulmanis said he believes that the existence of different thresholds for parties and coalitions would lead to the unequal division of seats in the parliament. The amendments, he added, are not favorable to the development of democracy and the political system. More than one-third of deputies had appealed to the president not to sign the amendments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February 1998). JC LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT WANTS EU, NATO ENTRY WITHIN FIVE YEARS. Valdas Adamkus, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official who was sworn in as Lithuanian president on 26 February, says he will strive for Lithuania to join the EU and NATO by the end of his five-year term. Addressing the parliament during his inauguration ceremony, Adamkus also pledged to maintain friendly relations with neighboring states. In remarks later to a crowd on Vilnius's Cathedral Square, Adamkus announced he will launch a "moral renewal program" and will invite the media and political parties to help promote it. One day before his inauguration, Adamkus renounced his U.S. citizenship. JC POLAND WANTS ACCESS TO LABOR MARKET UPON EU ENTRY. The Polish Labor Ministry on 26 February insisted that Polish citizens be allowed to work in other EU countries as soon as Poland becomes a member of the union, Reuters reported. Deputy Labor Minister Irena Boruta said that Poland will "demand the principle of the free movement of labor" upon joining the EU and that this view will be presented at entry talks with the union on 31 March. German Ambassador to the EU Dietrich von Kyaw had said the previous day that such access for Poles would be "unthinkable" immediately upon entering the EU. With more than 12 percent of its work force unemployed, Germany fears an influx of Polish workers flooding the EU and pushing up unemployment even higher. PB POLISH PRESIDENT ACCUSED OF DIVERTING COMMUNIST PARTY FUNDS. Aleksander Kwasniewski is among three former Communist Party officials who have been accused of diverting funds in 1990 that were to be returned to the state, AFP reported on 26 February. Kwasniewski, current Socialist Democratic Party (SDRP) leader Leszek Miller, and SDRP Treasurer Wieslaw Huszcza deposited 10 million Swiss francs and $750,000 with a lawyer in Warsaw. Such dealings in foreign currency were illegal in Poland at the time. The money was to have been put in state coffers as Communist Party assets were nationalized after the party's dissolution in 1990. Kwasniewski has refused to comment on the charges, but Miller said the funds were not returned but were in zlotys. He claims the money was contributed by Communist Party members working abroad and thus did not have to be turned over to the state. PB CZECH LOWER HOUSE VOTES TO DISSOLVE ITSELF IN JUNE. The Chamber of Deputies on 26 February approved a constitutional amendment that cuts its term in half and makes possible early elections by 30 June. The amendment, which will not apply to future ballots, was submitted by the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Party, and supported by 130 deputies against 43. The Senate has yet to approve the amendment. Also on 26 February, Premier Josef Tosovsky said in the Chamber of Deputies that the Czech Republic's entry into the EU should be decided by Czech citizens in a referendum, noting that EU membership will affect daily life more than will NATO entry. MS CZECH SUPREME COURT WANTS STIFFER SENTENCE FOR SKINHEADS. The Supreme Court on 26 February ruled that four skinheads who drowned a Romani man in 1993 in Pisek must be re-tried. The court said the light sentences handed down to them last June constituted an "abuse of the law to the benefit of the accused," CTK reported. Three of the skinheads received prison sentences of 22-31 months, while the fourth was given a two-year suspended term. MS MECIAR SUPPORTERS TO RUN NEWSPAPER DISTRIBUTION. The largest newspaper distribution group in Slovakia, PNS, has recently been sold to Danubiaprint, which is run by businessmen close to Premier Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), AFP reported on 26 February. Danubiaprint produces both the HZDS mouthpiece "Slovenska Republika" and some of the leading opposition papers. Members of the opposition claim the move is linked to preparations for the elections scheduled in September. Milos Nemecek, the head of the Association of Slovak Periodicals, said he will complain to the anti-monopoly authorities. MS NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN BUDAPEST. Javier Solana on 26 February met with President Arpad Goncz, Premier Gyula Horn, Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti, and Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs. At a joint press conference with Kovacs, Solana said Hungary has made a great contribution to regional stability and will have to continue doing so as a member of NATO. He said Hungary must make further progress in developing cooperation with NATO members and in particular in perfecting links with the alliance's communication and air defense system. He added that it is important that membership does not lead to tensions in relations with Russia, Hungarian media reported. MS WORLD BANK LOAN TO HUNGARY. The World Bank on 26 February approved a $150 million loan for Hungary to support educational reform, Reuters reported. A statement by the bank said the project aims at "developing a system of education that responds to the nation's changed and changing economic needs." In other news, Hungarian police on 26 February arrested a 27-year-old Kosovo Albanian, suspected to have assassinated media magnate Janos Fenyo earlier this month, according to dpa. The Albanian is reported to have carried out the murder under contract. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIA SAYS SERBIA MAY HOLD SREBRENICA SURVIVORS. Muhamed Sacirbey, Bosnia's ambassador to the UN, wrote to the Security Council on 26 February that 50 survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre may be secretly held in a prison in Sremska Mitrovica. He asked the council to investigate reports by two independent witnesses that they saw people from Srebrenica in the prison along with a U.S. and a Pakistani citizen. Sacirbey added that "apparently none of those Srebrenica prisoners is registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross. They are held in isolation from other prisoners, and it is not even clear to what extent the central authorities in Belgrade may be aware of the circumstances." Some 7,000 former inhabitants of Srebrenica, mainly adult males, remain unaccounted for and are presumed to have been massacred by General Ratko Mladic's Bosnian Serb troops. PM INDICTED SERB PLEADS NOT GUILTY. Simo Zaric, one of six Bosnian Serbs from Bosanski Samac wanted by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal and who turned himself in on 24 February, pleaded not guilty before the court on 26 February. Zaric said that hopes it will be "easy for the tribunal to see that Simo Zaric is honest and honorable and for the judges to decide that I am innocent." PM COMMERCIAL RAIL TRAFFIC RETURNS TO BOSNIA. A 30-wagon freight train made the journey from Muslim-held Tuzla across Serb- and Croat-held areas to reach the Croatian Adriatic port of Ploce, Bosnia's natural outlet to the sea, on 26 February. The transportation ministries of the two entities agreed earlier this month to resume rail traffic as soon as possible even before they reach an agreement on setting up a new railway company. PM MORE CROATIAN RESPONSE TO U.S. CRITICISM. Drago Krpina, a spokesman for President Franjo Tudjman's governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), repeated his party's opposition to U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard's criticism of a recent speech by Tudjman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 1998). Speaking in Zagreb on 26 February, Krpina said that "the tone and manner in which Mr. Gelbard spoke about a president of a sovereign nation is out of proportion and unacceptable.... A civil servant--albeit of the United States--has no right in slapping the wrists of a president of a sovereign nation in that manner." Krpina added that it was "outrageous" that Gelbard spoke without first having read a transcript of Tudjman's remarks. PM CROATIAN MEDIA GROUP WANTS EDITORS OUT. Spokesmen for Forum 21, which includes prominent journalists from the state-run and independent media, said in Zagreb on 26 February that some top editors from state television (HRT) who recently joined the governing body of the HDZ should resign their media posts. Among those who took the political appointments is HRT editor-in-chief Hloverka Novak-Srzic. The independent weekly "Globus" added that "by [the appointments], the ruling party shows what it thinks about demands made by European institutions to pull HRT from the party claws and turn it into a proper public service broadcaster." The government holds a near monopoly on the electronic media, especially television. HRT is widely regarded as an HDZ mouthpiece. PM YUGOSLAV ARMY DENIES KOSOVO BUILDUP. Major-General Nebojsa Pavkovic, the commander of the Pristina region, rejected charges by opposition politicians that the army has launched a military buildup in Kosovo, BETA news agency reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1998). He said in Pristina on 26 February that he wants Kosovo to remain "an oasis of peace and not of conflict." He noted nonetheless that the security situation has worsened over the past year in the Glogovac-Srbica-Klina area on account of the activities of "Albanian separatists [and] terrorists." Pavkovic also criticized unnamed foreigners for allegedly encouraging Kosovo's secession from Serbia. Meanwhile in Belgrade, Yugoslav Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic denied opposition reports of a mobilization on account of the situation in Kosovo, "Danas" wrote. Finally, an army spokesman described the border with Albania as Yugoslavia's "most problematic" frontier from a security standpoint. PM POLICE MAKE MORE ARRESTS IN HAJDARI AFFAIR. Police arrested three men in Kukes on 26 February after they attempted to break through a police roadblock. Police found four machine guns, 35 grenades, and 2,000 rounds of ammunition in their car, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. One of the three is an ethnic Albanian from Montenegro, while another comes from Tropoja and is the brother of a man arrested after a recent armed clash between police and supporters of the controversial Democratic Party legislator Azem Hajdari (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1998). A police spokesman said the three are also suspected of having been involved in the unrest in Shkoder. Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry named Mithat Havari, who was sacked as Shkoder's police chief on 23 February, as national director of prisons. FS NANO SAYS DEMOCRATS PROMOTE CRIME. Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano said in Tirana on 26 February that he "never had doubts that the Democratic Party serves as a breeding ground for crime, smuggling, corruption, and other dubious practices," "Koha Jone" reported. He also charged that the Democrats were behind last weekend's unrest in Shkoder and the recent destruction of water pipes and other infrastructure (possibly an allusion to the blast that crippled the water supply system in Kukes on 25 February). Meanwhile, several thousand Democratic Party supporters held rallies in six central Albanian cities on 26 February, "Rilindja Demokratike" reported. Speakers accused the government of having committed unspecified "political crimes" and of being responsible for widespread poverty. FS ROMANIAN PREMIER RESPONDS TO DEMOCRATIC PARTY. Victor Ciorbea, in an open letter addressed to former Democratic Party cabinet ministers, said on 26 February that those ministers "initiated the game, established its rules, played by yourselves, and lost more than you thought you would win." Ciorbea said he had decided to break his self-imposed silence and to respond to a letter addressed to him by the former ministers on 2 February because he realizes that nothing will make them stop the attacks whose target he has become. He said that in their campaign against him, they display "an energy that is surprising in view of your performance in the cabinet," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES 1998 PRIVATIZATION PROGRAM. The government on 27 February approved a program providing for the privatization of 2,745 enterprises this year, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Privatization Minister Valentin Ionescu withdrew his resignation submitted one day earlier, saying he is satisfied with the program. Also on 26 February, the Senate voted 86 to 57 to reject an opposition motion criticizing the government for the deterioration of the health system. Meanwhile, the leader of the Sanitas trade union announced on 26 February that the paramedics' general strike, which began some two weeks ago, has been "suspended" because "respect for patients must prevail." MS GAZPROM TAKES 50 PERCENT SHARE OF MOLDOVAN GAS COMPANY. The parliament on 26 February approved the privatization of the Moldovagas company. Russia's Gazprom is to be the largest shareholder, owning 50 percent of the company's assets, whose total value is $285 million. Moldova owes Gazprom $650 million, and the transfer of half of the new company's shares to Gazprom is to cover part of that debt in line with an agreement reached in Moscow in March 1997 by Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc and Gazprom, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. BASA-press said that of the remaining 50 percent portfolio, the Moldovan government will own 35 percent the separatist authorities in Tiraspol 14 percent, and private entrepreneurs 1 percent. MS BULGARIA, RUSSIA TO COMBAT CD PIRACY. Returning from a visit to Moscow, where he met his Russian counterpart Anatolii Kulikov, Bulgarian Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev told BTA on 26 February that the two countries will cooperate in the struggle against pirated compact discs and money laundering. He said that Moscow is "swamped in pirated CDs and a large share of them are Bulgarian-made." The two countries will also exchange information on suspected money laundering in the real estate sector. Bonev said that some Bulgarian "so-called businessmen imagine that Russia is a paradise for those who committed crimes in Bulgaria." MS END NOTE BOSNIAN MERRY-GO-ROUND by Patrick Moore The past few weeks have witnessed some remarkable developments in Bosnia. New political constellations are taking shape, but it is unclear whether they will last. The Bosnian Serbs were for many years international pariahs who enjoyed close contacts only with Serbia, Greece, and Russia. But during the time between last summer, when Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic broke with Radovan Karadzic's supporters in Pale, and last month, when reformer Milorad Dodik became prime minister, the Bosnian Serbs have become the darlings of the international community. Scarcely a day seems to go by without Dodik receiving a pledge of money or other aid from a foreign diplomat or politician. The reason for the foreigners' generosity is that Plavsic and Dodik have said they are committed to implementing the Dayton agreement. To show their sincerity, the two have launched some basic reforms aimed at curbing the hard-liners' hold on the economy, police, and army. Plavsic and Dodik have also made it clear to foreign capitals that the moderate Bosnian Serb leadership can survive only if some degree of prosperity and development comes to the Republika Srpska, where the per capita income is approximately $35 per month and the unemployment rate 70 percent. Their point has been well taken. Earlier this month, Plavsic visited France and received all honors due to a head of state. When Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of the Bosnian joint presidency, subsequently filed a formal protest with Paris and accused the French of favoring the Serbs, hardly any European or North American political commentator outside Izetbegovic's own Party for Democratic Action sympathized with him. Instead, Izetbegovic was portrayed in the foreign press as a bitter old man who is angry that he and his followers are no longer the West's sole friends in Bosnia. Dodik, for his part, paid his first foreign visit not to Moscow or Athens, but to Bonn. Given Germany's long-standing economic, political, and social importance for all parts of the former Yugoslavia (it is no accident that the new Bosnian joint currency is called the "convertible mark"), this may not seem surprising. But if one recalls the vehemence of Serbian propaganda against Germany since at least the 1991 breakup of the former Yugoslavia, Dodik's decision to go to Bonn is both remarkable and ironic. That irony appeared even more pronounced soon after Dodik left Bonn. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel visited Banja Luka and promised substantial aid to his hosts. Plavsic praised him, saying: "it is good to have a friend in the European Union who will defend our interests with objectivity, and I think we have found a good friend." Such sentiments would have been unthinkable from any Serbian leader anywhere in the former Yugoslavia just a few months ago. Last week, Dodik was in Washington, where Secretary of State Madeleine Albright described him as a "breath of fresh air." Shortly thereafter, Robert Gelbard, the U.S. special envoy for the former Yugoslavia, went to Belgrade, where he praised Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for having shown "good will" and "a significant positive influence" by backing Plavsic and Dodik. Gelbard did not, however, lift the "outer sanctions" that still block Belgrade's full membership in the international community; such a step will be taken only when Yugoslavia becomes more democratic and finds a solution to the Kosovo question. But Gelbard did bring some presents for Milosevic, including landing rights for JAT airlines in the U.S. as well as the right to open a consulate in New York. Gelbard had quite a different message, however, for Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. Ever since Tudjman signed a U.S.-brokered peace with the Muslims in early 1994, he has been fond of referring to his "strategic partnership" with Washington. But early this week, Gelbard said in Belgrade that a recent speech by Tudjman included territorial claims on Bosnia, which Gelbard called "outrageous, dangerous, and ridiculous." The U.S. official also accused Tudjman of "violating the Dayton agreement." Shortly after, Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, urged Tudjman to fire the hard-line Croatian mayor of Stolac, who is at least partly responsible for preventing local Muslim refugees from returning home. Westendorp's spokesman said that his boss has given Tudjman one week to get rid of the mayor or face a loss of his political credibility. On 24 February, Izetbegovic's followers in the Bosnian government finally gave in to long-standing international pressure and sent to the parliament a law on property rights that will enable Croatian and Serbian refugees to return to their flats in Sarajevo. The next day, however, Tudjman's party, the Croatian Democratic Community, declared that Zagreb will not be bullied by the "improper statements of foreign diplomats and opposition leaders." The party added that Tudjman had simply stated historical facts about Bosnia "that cannot be denied." Meanwhile, foreign capitals will be watching to see what Dodik does with his aid money and whether he succeeds in breaking the power base of Radovan Karadzic's backers. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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