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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 41 , Part II, 2 March 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 41 , Part II, 2 March 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 * MECIAR SECRET SPEECH DISCLOSED * AT LEAST TWENTY DEAD IN KOSOVO CLASHES * ALBANIA WARNS OF BALKAN WAR * END NOTE: WHY THE KOSOVO CRISIS NOW? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE OSCE OPENS MISSION IN MINSK. Polish Foreign Minister and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Chairman Bronislaw Geremek called on the Belarusian government to show greater cooperation with the OSCE at the opening of its Minsk mission on 27 February, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Geremek said the current Belarusian parliament was not recognized by European parliamentary organizations and that they hope to see free and democratic elections in Belarus soon. Belarus Foreign Minister Ivan Antonovich said during the inauguration that he was "delighted" by the opening and that "with good advice we will reach a compromise in our society." The head of the mission, German diplomat Hans-Georg Wieck, said on 1 March that he will bring in foreign specialists to address government officials and non-government groups about democratic procedures, the RFE/RL correspondent reported. He said the mission will remain low profile but will go public with decisions and conclusions that it makes. PB UKRAINIAN-EU AGREEMENT TAKES EFFECT. An economic cooperation agreement between the European Union and Ukraine became valid on 1 March. Borys Hudyma, the Ukrainian representative to the EU, said the document gives Kyiv "new responsibilities" but also improves economic cooperation between the EU and Ukraine. The agreement commits both sides to creating favorable conditions for trade and investment. The EU is second behind the U.S. in trade with Ukraine. The agreement comes on the heels of unilateral restrictions by Kyiv on car imports in a move designed to benefit Korean automaker Daewoo, which has made substantial investments in Ukraine. The EU said the restrictions violate the agreement, and that sanctions could be imposed as a result. PB CHORNOBYL DIRECTOR UPSET WITH EBRD REJECTION OF FUNDING. Serhiy Parashin, the director of the Chornobyl nuclear plant, on 27 February protested the decision by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development not to help fund the construction of two new reactors that would facilitate the permanent closing of Chornobyl. The EBRD decided last week to not fund eight of 13 projects proposed by Ukraine and approved by the Group of Seven industrial nations in 1995. Parashin said the decision was a "serious political loss." The EBRD's decision cripples Kyiv's hopes of closing Chornobyl by 2000, as the government pledged to do in 1995. PB ESTONIA PRESIDENT CONTINUES BRITISH TRIP. Lennart Meri, on a six-day state visit to England, received praise for his country's economic and democratic progress on 27 February, BNS reported. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook praised Meri for Estonia's quick adoption of international norms in its treatment of non-citizens. Meri also met with Prime Minister Tony Blair and Queen Elizabeth. Bilateral relations and EU expansion were the main topics of discussion with Cook and Blair. Meri reportedly told Cook that his country needed to make government institutions more efficient. Estonia's economic progress was praised at an investment seminar held by the London Chamber of Commerce the next day. KWASNIEWSKI FIRES SPOKESMAN OVER "FURNITUREGATE." Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski fired his spokesman on 27 February over the publication of an embarrassing advertisement for a furniture company that featured the president, Reuters reported. In a statement, the presidential press office said Antoni Styrczula, a former RFE/RL correspondent, was fired for mishandling an advertising campaign. In early February, Kwasniewski appeared in a print ad with the caption "the president should be pleased." A storm of criticism from politicians and the media resulted in the ad being pulled. Kwasniewski claimed the ad was an effort to promote Polish exports, but later admitted that some of his wife's relatives worked at the furniture company in the ad. PB POLISH PRESIDENT APPROVES BUDGET; BALCEROWICZ RE-ELECTED. Aleksander Kwasniewski signed on 27 February a 143.4 billion zloty ($41 billion) budget for 1998. The budget projects a deficit of 1.5 percent of GDP and aims for an inflation rate of 9.5 percent. The largest expenditures are for social services (23 billion zloty), health care (19 billion zloty), defense (8.3 billion zloty), and education (6.3 billion zloty). In other news, Polish Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz was overwhelmingly re-elected on 28 February to lead the co-ruling Freedom Party. Balcerowicz is the architect of Poland's economic reforms after the fall of communism. He said he would lead the party to become the "most influential political party." PB CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS WANT ELECTORAL THRESHOLD RAISED. Social Democratic Party (CSSD) chairman Milos Zeman said on 1 March that an election stalemate could be avoided by raising the current 5 percent threshold necessary for a party to be elected to parliament. Speaking on Czech private television, Zeman said another option that could avoid a crisis would be to use a system of majority representation. Zeman ruled out the possibility that the CSSD would form a coalition with either the Freedom Union, the Civic Democratic Party, or the Civic Democratic Alliance after the elections, but said a coalition with the Christian Democrats or a minority CSSD government was "feasible," CTK reported. CZECH ROMA CALL FOR ANTI-RACIST MEASURES. The Rom Civic Initiative (ROI), meeting in a congress in the central Czech city of Pardubice on 1 March, said the country's Romanies "feared for their lives" because of the racist violence directed against them. ROI President Emil Scuka told the delegates that the organization would ask the government to enroll more Roma into the police force as a way to fight racism. Since 1989, some 29 Roma have been killed in racially-motivated attacks. The congress deplored an incident in which 30 Roma attacked four policemen in Moravska Trebova on 27 February, injuring three of them. CTK reported on 27 February that a British court granted asylum to three members of a Romany family from the Czech Republic in January. MS MECIAR SECRET SPEECH DISCLOSED. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, in a closed-door speech to the National Board of his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) on 24 January, called for the party to mobilize all of its resources to prevent a victory of the opposition and especially of the "fascistoid" Christian Democrats in the September elections, the daily "Prace" revealed on 28 February. Meciar reportedly said that anyone holding public office who is unwilling to support the HZDS campaign must be "purged or neutralized." He also said local opinion leaders, such as priests, doctors and lawyers, must not be allowed to harm the HZDS campaign. Meciar said after the elections the HZDS should be in a position to enact constitutional amendments that would "definitely change the political regime in Slovakia." MS MECIAR OPPOSES REPETITION OF REFERENDUM. In an interview with Slovak radio on 27 February, Meciar said President Michal Kovac acted against the constitution when he called for a repetition of the referendum held in March 1997. He said he would not allow the repetition of the referendum, which included a proposal calling for the direct election of the president, unless the parliament approved it or a petition signed by at least 350,000 people was submitted to parliament. MS HUNGARY, SLOVAKIA SIGN PRELIMINARY AGREEMENT ON DANUBE DAM. Hungarian and Slovak negotiators signed a protocol on 27 February in Bratislava on settling the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros dam dispute. The agreement stipulates the principles for a framework treaty to be signed by the two countries' prime ministers before the 25 March deadline set by the International Court of Justice. Hungarian delegation head Janos Nemcsok said the protocol includes a proposal that Hungary build a lower dam on the Danube. Opposition parties in Hungary expressed shock at the news, while the national convention of the junior coalition party, the Free Democrats, empowered the party's cabinet members to veto the decision. On 28 February, an estimated crowd of 30,000 people protested in downtown Budapest against the construction of a new dam on the Danube. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE AT LEAST TWENTY DEAD IN KOSOVO CLASHES. Spokesmen for the Serbian Interior Ministry said in Belgrade on 1 March that some 20 people died in violence in the Srbica-Glogovac-Drenica region of Kosovo, west of Pristina, during the weekend of 28 February-1 March. The dead included four Serbian policemen and 16 ethnic Albanians. Independent Belgrade Radio B-92 and Albanian spokesmen said, however, that the death toll was closer to 30. Officials of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), which is the leading Kosovar political organization, and other Albanian spokesmen charged that Serbian special police units opened fire at random at Albanian villagers, including women and children. Police sealed off ten villages with armored vehicles and shot at the inhabitants of at least one village from a helicopter. The incidents began on 28 February, when masked Albanians ambushed a Serbian police car heading to a center for Serbian refugees, which unidentified persons had attacked the previous day. PM SERBIAN POLICE BREAK UP PROTEST. Police used water cannons, tear gas, and batons to end a protest by several tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians in Pristina on 2 March. The coordinating council of Kosovar political parties had issued a call the previous day for demonstrations against political repression and police brutality. PM MILOSEVIC WARNS ALBANIANS. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic broke his long public silence on the Kosovo question on 1 March, when he sent messages to the families of the four dead policemen and to Serbian President Milan Milutinovic. Milosevic's messages were, however, really intended for the Kosovars: "terrorism aimed at the internationalization [of the Kosovo] issue will be most harmful to those who resorted to these means." He also urged the Albanians not to "spill their blood on the behalf of political profiteers and outside mentors." Kosovo, he insisted, is an internal Serbian affair. The LDK and other non-violent mainstream Albanian groups have long sought to attract foreign support and thereby "internationalize" the Kosovo question. The clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army, which uses violence against the Serbian authorities and ethnic Albanians whom it regards as collaborators, advocates an armed struggle for independence. PM KOSOVARS APPEAL TO WEST. Some 3,000 women demonstrated in front of the United States Information Center in Pristina on 1 March, carrying signs reading: "America is with Kosovo," "We want freedom" and "Peace, not war." Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova called on the U.S. and the EU to put pressure on Belgrade to end what he called its campaign of terror aimed at provoking panic among the Albanians. Rugova's government appealed to Albanians in the Drenica region to "stay calm" and to "protect themselves" if attacked, Albanian state-run television reported. Fehmi Agani, a senior leader of the LDK, said that the Serbian police had deliberately created "an atmosphere of war." PM/FS ALBANIA WARNS OF BALKAN WAR. The Albanian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 1 March calling on the international community to "use its influence on Belgrade to stop the Serbian military violence in Kosovo immediately, to prevent the possible outbreak of a war and to oblige Belgrade to sit down at the negotiating table with representatives of the Kosovo Albanians." The statement also pointed out that "the actions of Belgrade violate all international norms and conventions, aggravate the situation in Kosovo and cause a threat to regional peace," state television reported. In another statement, the Ministry called on Belgrade "to stop the escalation of violence and terror against Albanians in Kosovo because the deterioration of the situation there carries big risks for peace in the Balkans and beyond." Tirana added that Belgrade had provoked a "serious war situation." Meanwhile, Prime Minister Fatos Nano issued a call to the Kosovo Albanians "not to let the extremist Serbian forces provoke" them. FS/PM BOSNIAN UPDATE. The Yugoslav Foreign Ministry on 27 February denied Bosnian government charges that some survivors of the Srebrenica massacre are secretly being held in a Serbian prison (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February 1998). The following day, Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik told representatives of Bosnian Serb refugees in Belgrade that the Republika Srpska "is currently the [international] favorite in the Dayton peace process," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. Dodik added that the Serbs' future lies in charting a middle path between extreme nationalism and total compliance with the wishes of the international community. And in Sarajevo, Croatian Ambassador Darinko Bago protested to the international community's Jacques Klein about the latter's recent remarks critical of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and of Croatian policies toward Bosnia. PM BRITISH JOURNALISTS FOUND AFTER BEATING NEAR MOSTAR. Liverpool-based journalists Jeffrey Pickett and Michael Grimes said in Mostar on 1 March that they had been beaten at gunpoint in Croatian-run western Herzegovina by unidentified attackers, who abducted them on 27 February. The attackers damaged the Britons' car and stole their camera and video equipment, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Mostar. The journalists reached the village of Buna on 28 February after fleeing their attackers. The Britons are investigating reports that Herzegovinian Croats are using money raised abroad for orphans in order to promote "ethnic cleansing." PM ALBANIAN PYRAMIDS TO BE SOLD. The U.S.-based auditing firm Deloitte & Touche has recommended in its final report on the Albanian pyramid investment companies that the unprofitable businesses of the five largest of them should be sold off within between nine and 27 months, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 1 March. VEFA, the largest company, has assets totaling $30.6 million and debts amounting to $237.5 million. The four next largest firms have total assets of $15.7 million and debts of $113.9 million. Government-appointed administrators will try to restructure the companies' few profitable businesses and sell them off later. FS DID PYRAMID BRIBE JUDGES? State prosecutors have found evidence that an unspecified number of Tirana judges and prosecutors withdrew money from VEFA after the government froze its assets in early 1997. Indictments are expected soon against the judges and other suspects, "Koha Jone" wrote on 1 March. Meanwhile on 28 February, VEFA owner Vehbi Alimucaj visited a group of about 30 investors, who are staging a hunger strike in Tirana. He promised to pay back his debts if the company is allowed to continue its operation. The hunger-strikers are protesting the planned sell-off of VEFA and demand the withdrawal of the auditing firm. FS IMF MISSION LEAVES ROMANIA WITHOUT AGREEMENT ON BUDGET. Poul Thomsen, the head of an IMF mission to Bucharest, ended talks with government officials on 27 February without agreeing on the structure of the 1998 budget. Thomsen said the government must opt for means to ensure budget revenues by either increasing taxes or reducing expenditures. The disbursement of the third tranche of the loan approved in 1997 is expected to be delayed until after the government announces its plans. Romanian officials tried to play down the event, saying the talks had merely "paused." Also on 28 February, it was announced that the expected rate of inflation for 1998 is 45 percent, instead of the 37 percent previously predicted. National Liberal Party (PNL) Vice Chairman Calin Popescu Tariceanu on 28 February said the cabinet headed by Victor Ciorbea has "exhausted its resources," thus practically adhering to the Democratic Party's demand that the premier be replaced. MS ILIESCU ON INQUEST INTO JUNE 1990 EVENTS. Former President Ion Iliescu, touring the Jiu valley on 28 February, told miners there that a recently announced judicial inquest into the June 1990 events in which miners rampaged Bucharest reflected the "revengeful objectives of the (ruling) political Right." He said the Right organized the violent events in Romania after the collapse of the Communist regime with the aim of ousting the democratically elected leaders that succeeded the Communists. The Prosecutor General's office announced on 26 February that it was investigating reports that the 13-15 June 1990 violence in Bucharest was organized by groups linked to the government at that time, and particularly the ministries of interior and defense. Iliescu was president then and Petre Roman was premier. The investigations could lead to an indictment of officials involved in organizing the rampage for "undermining state authority." MS CIVIC ALLIANCE PARTY MERGES INTO PNL. The National Councils of the PNL and the Party of Civic Alliance (PAC) on 28 February approved an agreement reached one day earlier by their respective leaders, Mircea Ionescu-Quintus and Nicolae Manolescu. Under the agreement, PAC is to merge into the PNL and Manolescu is to be chairman of the PNL National Council. Other PAC leaders will be co-opted into PNL leading bodies. A joint unification congress is to be held at the end of March. The PNL National Council rejected a proposal by its vice chairman, Viorel Catarama, for the setting up of a Liberal Federation that would have also included the Liberal Party (formed last year by the National Liberal Party-Democratic Convention and the Liberal Party '93) and the national Liberal Party-Campeanu wing, saying liberal unification must be achieved only through mergers with and within the PNL. MS MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ASKS PARLIAMENT TO AMEND ELECTORAL LAW. Petru Lucinschi on 27 February appealed to the parliament to reduce the 4 percent threshold needed for representation for independent candidates. The threshold is identical to that required for parties to gain election to parliament. Last week, the parliament refused to place on its agenda a debate on reducing the threshold for independent candidacies, after an appeal by 27 such candidates. Also on 27 February, the parliament rejected a motion by 35 deputies to amend articles in the constitution to bring it in line with European legislation. The deputies called for abolishing the death penalty and for reducing the maximum time of preventive detention from the present six months to 60 days, Infotag and BASA-press reported. MS MOLDOVA TO REDUCE MILITARY FORCES. Moldova will cut its military forces by 1,000 men in 1998, BASA-press reported on 28 February. The decision was approved by the Supreme Council of Security on 27 February, following an initiative by President Petru Lucinschi. The military currently has 9,000 troops, but the cuts will also include personnel from among the border and security guards. MS WORLD BANK RECOMMENDS TEMPORARY JOB FUND FOR BULGARIA. A World Bank mission to Bulgaria has recommended the creation of an independent Social Investment Fund to create temporary jobs to help offset job losses resulting from enterprise restructuring. The group of bank experts and officials ended a visit to Sofia on 26 February, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. In other news, International Equities, a subsidiary of Canada's Stellar Global Corporation, bought a 75 percent share in the Plama oil refinery, "24 Chasa" reported on 27 February. Also on 27 February, President Petar Stoyanov, on a private visit to Hamburg, told a gathering that "overcoming the long road" of communist legacy will only be possible with the help of foreign investment. Stoyanov said Bulgaria has created the necessary political conditions for "swift reforms unparalleled in Europe." MS END NOTE WHY THE KOSOVO CRISIS NOW? by Patrick Moore The Kosovo imbroglio appears to have entered a new stage following a weekend of violence that left at least 20 dead. There are at least three reasons for the change in the Kosovo political scene, the most important of which is the emergence of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) as a key player over the past year. Over the weekend of 28 February-1 March, Serbian police sealed off at least 10 ethnic Albanian villages in the Srbica-Glogovac-Drenica region west of Pristina. Serbian police spokesmen said that the action was aimed at capturing "terrorists" (i.e. the UCK) who had ambushed and killed four Serbian policemen on 28 February. Kosovar spokesmen, however, charged that the Serbs were themselves carrying out indiscriminate terror with automatic weapons, armored vehicles, and helicopters against civilians, including women and children. Veton Surroi, Kosovo's most prominent journalist, said on 2 March that the special Serbian police involved in the crackdown are veterans of the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and hence are "almost paramilitaries." But how is it that matters have come to such a point? After all, for many years Kosovo was known as "the time bomb that does not explode." There were two main reasons why Kosovo remained relatively quiet for most of the time since then-Serbian (now Yugoslav) President Slobodan Milosevic destroyed the mainly ethnic Albanian province's autonomy in 1989. First, the Kosovar leadership under Ibrahim Rugova and his Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) held the unquestioned loyalty of the province's ethnic Albanians. Rugova and his party are committed to policies of non-violence and of "internationalization," or of achieving a solution by bringing foreign pressure to bear on Milosevic. Second, the Serbian authorities had no need to "crack down" on Kosovo or stage military actions as they did in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia for the simple reason that the Serbs already held all the levers of power in Kosovo. The only "threat" to Serbian authority was Rugova's shadow state, which, in any event, busied itself with matters such as education, health care, and political feuds among its leaders. All that has changed since at least the end of 1996. At approximately that point, the shadowy UCK changed its tactics from carrying out occasional, random and hit-and-run raids to conducting more frequent, well-planned, and well-executed moves against individual Serbs, Serbian institutions, or Albanians whom the UCK regards as collaborators. The UCK has meanwhile successfully established a geographical power base in much of the area between Pristina and the Albanian frontier, and some communities there have become no-go areas for Serbs, at least at night. Armed incidents have increased in this region, moreover, in recent weeks. There are three basic reasons for the UCK's emergence as a force to be reckoned with. First, the consensus has grown, particularly among young Kosovars, that Rugova's policies have reached a dead end. A spokesman for the LDK admitted in London on 1 March that the peaceful policy "has brought no results." Second is what might be called the lesson of the Dayton agreement, which ended the Bosnian war at the end of 1995. Some Kosovars argue that the international community intervened to impose a peace in Bosnia only because the foreigners had come to regard the continuing violence there as unacceptable. According to this argument, the major powers will intervene in Kosovo only in response to an armed conflict there. Ergo, this train of thought concludes, the Kosovars must provoke a war with the Serbs if the Kosovo question is ever to attract the attention of the international community. The third development involves the changes in Albania over the past year. Before the collapse of law and order there exactly one year ago, President Sali Berisha conducted a policy that was supportive of the Kosovars, who knew that they had friends in official Tirana. Berisha openly backed Rugova's goals and peaceful policies, and Rugova was a frequent visitor to Albania. In the past year, however, a Socialist government has come to power that has not always been clear regarding its policy towards Kosovo. Many Kosovars fear that Prime Minister Fatos Nano wants to cut a deal with Belgrade at Pristina's expense. Furthermore --and perhaps most importantly -- the collapse of law and order in Albania provided a ready source of abundant and cheap weapons for Kosovar guerrilla fighters. There are, moreover, at least two additional reasons for the timing of the Serbian crackdown besides the increased violence by the UCK. First, the shadow state's presidential and parliamentary elections are slated for 22 March, and Milosevic may want to provoke confusion in order to ensure that the vote is postponed indefinitely. A successful election, by contrast, would mean a Kosovar leadership with unquestioned legitimacy to challenge Serbia in international forums. A second reason has been pinpointed by Surroi and by independent Serbian journalists alike, namely that the major powers may have led Milosevic to think that he has a green light in Kosovo. Those who support this view note that U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard on his recent trip to the region stressed that Kosovo is Serbia's internal affair and criticized the UCK as well as the Serbian police. U.S. Secretary of State James Baker delivered a similarly ambiguous message to Belgrade in June 1991. The Yugoslav army attacked Slovenia shortly thereafter. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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