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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 46, Part II, 9 March 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 46, Part II, 9 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 RFE/RL CAUCASUS REPORT: A WEEKLY REVIEW OF POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS AND TRANSCAUCASIA FROM RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY This new email weekly covers Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia's North Caucasus. To subscribe, send an email message to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "subscribe" in the subject line or body of the message. The first issue (March 3, 1998) and all future issues will be online at the RFE/RL Web site. http://www.rferl.org/caucasus-report/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * RUSSIA ESCALATES RHETORIC OVER LATVIA * KYIV CANCELS DEAL OVER IRANIAN NUCLEAR REACTOR * MASS PROTEST IN PRISTINA * End Note: POLAND'S EASTERN CHALLENGE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS RUSSIA ESCALATES RHETORIC OVER LATVIA. Russian officials have raised the volume in condemning the breakup of the 3 March demonstration staged by Russian-speaking pensioners in Riga. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 6 March slammed his Latvian counterpart, Guntars Krasts, for suggesting that Russia may have helped stage the rally. Chernomyrdin said it is a "big shame" that Latvia has a premier such as Krasts, adding that it is "impermissible to live like this in Europe at the end of the 20th century with the humiliation of entire nations," Reuters reported. On 7 March, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told Interfax that imposing trade sanctions against Latvia would be a "justified" response to the treatment of the demonstrators. He said President Boris Yeltsin's foreign policy advisers have already recommended that the president curtail economic relations with Latvia, noting that the Latvian economy relies on Russian energy supplies. LB DUMA DEMANDS 'ALL NECESSARY MEASURES' AGAINST LATVIA. The Russian State Duma on 6 March unanimously approved a non-binding resolution asking Yeltsin to take "all necessary measures," including possible economic sanctions, to protect the "political, social, and economic rights of Russian compatriots" in Latvia, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. According to Russian news agencies, the resolution also called for delaying a Duma delegation's visit to Latvia, which was scheduled for 17 March. Deputies had rejected a proposal to postpone that trip on 4 March. The Duma also asked the CIS Inter-parliamentary Assembly and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to "pass judgment in terms of international law" on the Latvian authorities' response to the pensioners' rally. Meanwhile, the pro-government Our Home Is Russia Duma faction has put off a visit to Riga by several of its members, which had been scheduled for 9 March. LB LATVIA AGAIN DENIES WRONGDOING. Following a special cabinet session on 7 March, Latvian Premier Krasts told journalists that the police had acted "properly" and there had been no violation of human rights at the 3 March demonstration, BNS and Interfax reported. Interior Minister Ziedonis Cevers likewise stressed that the police had not beaten the demonstrators. An Interior Ministry report presented to the cabinet said that police officers used "special means, including truncheons, because the demonstrators had tried to attack the policemen, striking and pushing them." The report also said the rally was illegal and had blocked one of the capital's main streets. Meanwhile, the Latvian Socialist Party and the Equity movement are seeking permission to stage a rally in downtown Riga on 17 March to protest irregularities in issuing passports to non-citizens. JC CIS PREMIERS MEET. Addressing his CIS counterparts in Moscow on 6 March, Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin called for "unconventional measures" to expedite economic integration among CIS countries. At the same time, he argued there are "no political differences" between member states. Chernomyrdin advocated the creation of a free trade zone and told journalists after the meeting that participants had agreed to the Russian-Ukrainian proposal to convene a CIS inter-state conference to drafting guidelines on reforming the commonwealth. Of the 25 documents submitted for discussion at the meeting, 11 were signed, including accords on trans-national corporation, a common agrarian market, and cooperation between law enforcement agencies. However, those accords were not signed by all members. Georgia, for example, declined to sign an agreement on developing military cooperation within the CIS. LF EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE KYIV CANCELS DEAL OVER IRANIAN NUCLEAR REACTOR. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko announced that Ukraine will cancel a deal to supply turbines to an Iranian nuclear power plant (see also Part I). That statement followed a 6 March meeting in Kyiv with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at which the two leaders signed a 30-year nuclear cooperation agreement. Under that agreement, U.S. companies will be allowed to aid in the completion of two Ukrainian nuclear reactors needed to secure the permanent closing of Chornobyl. Iran responded by saying it has "no need for Ukraine's unreliable partnership" and by criticizing Ukrainian leaders for "succumbing to America's humiliating attitude and threats." Also on 6 March, Albright urged President Leonid Kuchma to accelerate economic reforms and to increase the battle against corruption to ensure a more stable environment for foreign investors. PB UKRAINE AGREES TO REPAY GAZPROM DEBT. Ukrainian Prime Minister Valery Pustovoytenko said on 6 March in Moscow that he has reached agreement with Gazprom and Russian officials to pay $750 million of Ukraine's debt to the Russian gas giant, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreement, which followed two days of talks between Pustovoytenko and Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev, calls for that sum to be paid by 1 October. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin also participated in the talks. Ukraine owes some $1.2 billion to Gazprom. In other news, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development says it has approved additional funding for the repair of the leaking sarcophagus over Chornobyl's fourth reactor. PB LUKASHENKA CALLS FOR CLOSER TIES WITH TEHRAN. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in Tehran on 7 March that he welcomes closer bilateral cooperation and that such ties should not disturb other countries, AFP reported. Lukashenka held talks with President Mohammad Khatami and the Islamic republic's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khatami called for the boosting of economic, political, and scientific ties between the countries. Lukashenka is to meet with Syrian President Hafez Assad in Damascus on 9 March. PB ESTONIAN COALITION NOT TO EXPAND. The Coalition Party, the leading ruling formation in Estonia, has decided not to include any more parties in the government coalition, ETA reported on 6 March. Last week, Prime Minister Mart Siimann, who is also chairman of the Coalition Party, had met with all parties represented in the parliament to discuss, among other things, expanding the ruling coalition. BNS on 7 March quoted Siimann as saying the talks had been frank and open, although the opposition had promised him a tough year in the runup to the March 1999 elections. Siimann also said there is a "serious possibility" that some cabinet ministers may be replaced before the next elections, but he declined to give any names. The opposition Moderate Party is demanding the dismissal of the justice, finance, social affairs, defense, and economics ministers on the grounds of incompetence and/or alleged involvement in various scandals. JC LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT RENOMINATES PRIME MINISTER. Valdas Adamkus, who was recently inaugurated as president, has signed a decree asking the parliament to vote to keep Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius in office, BNS reported on 6 March. Under the Lithuanian Constitution, a newly elected president has the right to ask the legislature whether it has confidence in the head of government. Deputies are expected to endorse Vagnorius as premier in a vote scheduled for 10 March. Adamkus and Vagnorius have agreed to cut the number of cabinet posts from 17 to 14. JC POLISH PREMIER EXPECTS TOUGH DECISIONS DURING EU ENTRY TALKS. Jerzy Buzek said on 6 March that Warsaw will have to make some tough choices during EU accession talks scheduled for 31 March, Reuters reported. Buzek said he expects Poland to enter the union by 2003. He noted that adapting Polish agriculture to EU standards would be the most difficult task, adding that he expected to receive EU assistance in that sector. In other news, President Aleksander Kwasniewski unveiled a plaque at the Warsaw train station on 8 March marking the 30th anniversary of the forcing out of thousands of Jews during a Communist-led, anti-Semitic campaign. Between 12,000 and 20,000 Jews left Poland in 1968 under pressure from Polish authorities. PB SOLANA CRITICIZES SLOVAK GOVERNMENT. At the end of a one-day visit to Bratislava, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on 6 March told journalists: "I came here to say to this country that the decision on NATO membership will be made in Slovakia and if there are any problems, these problems are not in Brussels...but in Bratislava," Reuters reported. Solana said that the "door to NATO" will remain open but that the membership requirements must be met. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar said Slovakia is "aware of the steps it has to undertake in political and military areas." MS HUNGARIAN PREMIER TO RENEW COALITION AFTER ELECTIONS. Gyula Horn told the 8 March national congress of his Socialist Party that after the May elections, he intends to continue the coalition partnership with the Free Democrats, despite occasional tensions between the two parties. "I think the present governing coalition has produced very good results, particularly in reviving the economy, making progress toward Euro-Atlantic integration, and improving relations with our neighbors," he said. Horn, whom the congress elected as the Socialists' candidate for the premiership, criticized the opposition Young Democrats for their "scandal-mongering campaign." MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MASS PROTEST IN PRISTINA. Some 40,000 ethnic Albanians staged a brief, peaceful demonstration in Pristina on 9 March against what their spokesmen called "Serbian terror and violence." Other marches took place in various towns across Kosovo. The previous day, thousands of women held a silent protest in Pristina to mark International Women's Day. Some of the women said they were refugees from the besieged Drenica area, from which they had fled. They said the Serbian police shot at women and children attempting to flee after the police fired indiscriminately into Kosovar villages. Some women added that they spent several days in the woods without food or shelter. PM SERBIA CLAIMS "VICTORY" OVER UCK. A Serbian police spokesman on 8 March told a group of foreign reporters, diplomats, and Red Cross officials on a closely supervised trip to Prekaz that security forces have destroyed the power base of the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) in an armed assault that began on 5 March (see RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March 1998). "We have struck at their heart and we have dealt terrorists a lethal blow. Some have escaped and we are going after them." Interior Ministry spokesmen said in Belgrade and Pristina on 7-8 March that the action in Prekaz was directed against the Jashari clan, whose members allegedly constitute the core of the UCK. Police also said the dead included Adem Jashari, whom they described as the leader of the UCK. On 9 March, police in Srbica turned over the bodies of 62 Albanians to Kosovar representatives. PM SERBS ATTACK MORE KOSOVAR VILLAGES. Spokesmen for the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the leading Kosovar political party, said in Pristina on 8 March that the Serbian police offensive is continuing in the Drenica region, west of Pristina. Special Interior Ministry units attacked the villages of Josanica, Ovcarevo, and Broja near Srbica with tanks and armored vehicles. The previous day, the Belgrade independent weekly "Vreme" reported that Serbian police looted Albanian homes in the Drenica area after attacking them. PM KOSOVARS INSIST ON INDEPENDENCE. Bujar Bukoshi, the prime minister of the Kosovar shadow-state government, told the Croatian weekly "Feral Tribune" of 8 March that the Kosovars demand nothing short of independence from Serbia and Yugoslavia. He stressed that following the recent violence, "no kind of autonomy is acceptable" and that the Albanians can "no longer tolerate being under Serbia or with Serbia." A UCK spokesman told the same Croatian newspaper that Belgrade has left the Kosovars only one option: a war for national liberation. The conflict, he predicted, will eventually draw in all Albanians currently under the rule of Serbs, Montenegrins, and Macedonians. The international community, however, has repeatedly told the Kosovars that their future lies within Yugoslavia, albeit with wide-reaching autonomy. PM MILOSEVIC TELLS TURKS TO STAY OUT. President Suleyman Demirel on 8 March sent a message to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic urging that the situation in Kosovo not be allowed to degenerate into a conflict like the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia. Milosevic replied that Kosovo is an internal affair of Serbia, which rejects all outside "interference." In Istanbul, several thousand Turks, most of whom were of Albanian origin, demonstrated to show solidarity with the Kosovars. The previous day, Turkish officials told an RFE/RL correspondent in Istanbul that Ankara's ability to press the Kosovars' case in international forums is limited by considerations stemming from its own Kurdish problem. PM BULGARIA, TURKEY DISCUSS KOSOVO CONFLICT. Meeting at the Black Sea resort of Slanchev Briag on 7 March, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and his Turkish counterpart, Mesut Yilmaz, called for a dialogue between the Serbian authorities and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Kostov told journalists later that the crisis must be peacefully resolved "within Yugoslavia's [existing] boundaries." He said his country is worried "about a possible spillover of the conflict." He added that if another embargo is imposed on Yugoslavia, Bulgaria could incur new heavy economic losses. Yilmaz urged the Balkan states to support Sofia's proposal for a joint declaration on a peaceful solution to the Kosovo crisis. MS SERBIA THREATENS MEDIA. A spokesman for the state prosecutor's office said in Belgrade on 6 March that the authorities will take unspecified measures against several independent newspapers and radio and television stations because their reporting allegedly "encouraged the actions of terrorist bands [a reference to the UCK] in Kosovo." The newspapers are "Nasa Borba," "Blic," "Dnevni telegraf," "Danas" and " "Demokratija," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. PM ALBRIGHT URGES "FIRM, UNITED, QUICK" RESPONSE. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in Rome on 7 March that Washington holds Milosevic "personally responsible" for the developments in Kosovo and that the U.S. "will not tolerate violence." The following day in Bonn, she and her German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel, discussed possible concrete measures that the international community might agree on at the Contact Group meeting in London on 9 March. Those measures include extending the peacekeepers' mandate in Macedonia and sending peacekeepers to Albania. The two leaders also recommended allowing the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to investigate atrocities in Kosovo, and sending Spanish former Prime Minister Felipe Gonzales to Yugoslavia as a mediator. On 8 March in Paris, President Jacques Chirac told Albright that "only a message of great firmness, addressed firstly to the authorities in Belgrade... can break this spiral of war and lead to a durable peace for all in Kosovo." PM MONTENEGRO FOR PEACEFUL, YUGOSLAV SOLUTION. Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said in Bijelo Polje on 8 March that Kosovo is a part of Serbia and Yugoslavia and that no changes in its borders or political status will be permitted, BETA reported. Vujanovic added, however, that Kosovo requires a peaceful, political solution and that the Kosovars should receive broad autonomy in education, culture and social affairs. BETA also reported that 3,500 ethnic Muslim refugees have arrived in recent days from Kosovo to join their relatives in Sandzak. PM GLIGOROV SAYS MACEDONIA READY FOR REFUGEES. President Kiro Gligorov told the 6 March issue of "Puls" that he has "no illusions about Kosovo" and realizes that events there could easily "lead to changes in Macedonia." He added that, at his request, the army's general staff has made the necessary preparations for Kosovar refugees to stay in Macedonia until they can go home or to transit Macedonia on their way to Albania if need be. The same day, at least 20,000 ethnic Albanians demonstrated in Skopje to show solidarity with the Kosovars. On 7 March, Gligorov and Defense Minister Lazar Kitanovski discussed Kosovo with NATO supreme commander General Wesley Clark. And on 8 March, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the Security Council to consider extending the mandate of U.S. and Scandinavian peacekeepers in Macedonia. PM ALBANIA PREPARES FOR REFUGEES. Defense Minister Sabit Brokaj, Interior Minister Neritan Ceka, and the U.S. military attache inspected military facilities in northern Albania on 7 March and discussed with local officials the coordination of military and civilian efforts ahead of the possible arrival of up to 200,000 refugees from Kosovo. Brokaj said his ministry is prepared to mobilize reservists, guard strategic installations, and send additional stocks of food and other vital supplies to the north, "Koha Jone" reported. And in Tirana the previous day, the government and opposition staged a pro-Kosovo rally attended by 30,000 people. President Rexhep Meidani and his predecessor, Sali Berisha, both appealed to the international community to prevent the Kosovo conflict from developing into a full-scale war. FS ROMANIAN COALITION'S FUTURE STILL UNCERTAIN... At a 7 March meeting, the leaderships of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and the Democratic Party decided to continue to meet and not to make statements to the media. PNTCD chairman Ion Diaconescu said that "for the first time since the outbreak of the crisis," the two sides managed to "agree on some points" over which they had previously differed, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The previous day, Democratic Party leader Petre Roman repeated that his party will not give parliamentary support to a budget submitted by any cabinet headed by Victor Ciorbea. The National Council of the Democratic Convention of Romania said that if the Democrats vote against the draft budget, they will be "automatically excluded" from the coalition. MS ...AS CIORBEA ASKS FOR OPPOSITION SUPPORT. Premier Victor Ciorbea on 6 March said consultations will begin with opposition parties to attempt to secure their support for the draft budget. A meeting between Ciorbea and the leadership of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) is scheduled for 9 March. PDSR chairman Ion Iliescu said his party will support a budget submitted by the cabinet only if the PDSR's suggestions are reflected in it, RFE/RL Bucharest's bureau reported. MS ROMANIAN LIBERALS SET UP UMBRELLA ORGANIZATION. Following the merger of the Party of Civic Alliance with the National Liberal Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March 1998), the two other major liberal parties in Romania have agreed to set up a Liberal Federation. The agreement was signed on 6 March by Liberal Party chairman Nicolae Cerveni and Radu Campeanu, the leader of the National Liberal Party-Campeanu Wing. The Liberal Monarchist Party and Emil Tocaci, a member of the National Liberal Party (which rejected the setting up of the federation), are also to join the new umbrella organization. MS LUCINSCHI ON RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA, NATO. In an interview published in the 7 March "Momentul," President Petru Lucinschi said Russia is not exerting any pressure on Moldova and that the accusations of the pro-Romanian opposition that Chisinau is "selling out the country's independence for gas and petrol" are groundless. Lucinschi said that last year, Moldova paid for 90 percent of gas and petrol imports from Russia with "produce, not with money." He also said the attitude of a group of Duma deputies toward the Transdniestrian conflict should not be confused with Russia's official position, which he described as "correct." Lucinschi also rejected leftist parties' accusations that Moldova is "flirting with NATO", stressing that no one could even begin to think of membership in the alliance when 20 percent of the population lives beneath the poverty line, BASA-press reported. MS DID LUCINSCHI ASK FOR TREATY RATIFICATION TO BE POSTPONED? Radio Tiraspol on 6 March reported that Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov has asked State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev to postpone debates on the ratification of the 1990 basic treaty with Moldova, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Primakov is reported to have said that postponement of the debate is also in line with a "personal request" from President Lucinschi, who wants the debates to take place after the Moldovan 22 March parliamentary elections. Moldovan Deputy Foreign Minister Vasile Sova told RFE/RL that he "would not say" that Lucinschi initiated postponing the debate; rather, the Duma made that decision last December. MS END NOTE POLAND'S EASTERN CHALLENGE by Christopher Walker In obtaining its invitation to be among the first wave of NATO entrants and in achieving recognition as a candidate in the first round of accession talks to the EU, Poland is on track to achieve two of its main strategic goals in the post-Soviet era. At the same time, it faces challenges that arise from its relations with neighboring countries and that are incompatible in the short-term with invitations to those Western clubs. Sharing borders with the former Soviet bloc states of Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Russia (the Kaliningrad Oblast), Poland is preparing to face disputes that could upset the current delicate regional balance. While building its networks to EU member countries and managing a heavy foreign-policy workload in preparation for entry into Western institutions, Poland is forging new relations with its Eastern neighbors. By virtue of its key geographical position and size, it has a special responsibility to build a new post-Soviet framework for effective security and economic ties in the region. Security and economic matters are no longer determined by a bipolar European order but rather by still-forming regional spheres. Crises that are local in nature can quickly become of regional concern. As a result, Poland must take into consideration that a crisis in Ukraine or Belarus, for example, could spill over, thus negatively affecting relations with Warsaw's future NATO and EU allies. With regard to regional security, Belarus is a particularly difficult case. Should Minsk choose to engage in a more assertive military relationship with Russia, the security landscape of the region would be significantly altered. Such a development would be of direct concern to the expanding NATO alliance and would influence the behavior and response of other post-Soviet countries in the area, requiring them to more clearly declare their status within the evolving regional security structure. Moreover, Poland, the key alliance member on NATO's new "front line," would find itself in an especially sensitive position. As regards the economy, Poland is rapidly being absorbed into the Western zone of trade. With the exception of the Czech Republic, all the traditionally Central and East European states sharing borders with Poland are currently outside this zone. Those "second-tier" countries are likely to remain outside for some time to come. Slovakia, once mentioned in the same breath as candidates invited in the first round of EU and NATO talks, has now slipped into the second group. Its advancement is conditioned on the country's adapting to international norms of political behavior. The incorrigibility of Slovakia's "old-style" leadership has all but assured a place further down the line of accession to many key Western institutions. To address the challenges presented by some of its neighbors, Poland has negotiated a host of bilateral agreements with its neighbors. Most recently, it concluded an agreement to enhance cooperation in a range of areas--including economics, agriculture and transportation--with regions from six countries bordering the Baltic Sea. That accord, along with others like it, is a constructive step toward creating an atmosphere of confidence in the area. At present, the likelihood of violent conflict is minimal among the countries of the region, many of which have been adversaries in the past. Economic instability, organized crime, and migration-related issues are more likely to pose short-term threats. Recent friction between Poland and Belarus over visa requirements for Belarusian nationals is just one example of such disputes. Meanwhile, to the West, Polish-German relations continue to develop, with unified Germany eager to institutionalize Poland's integration into the Western community. The success of that integration will depend on the Polish leadership's ability to deal with the challenges posed by its neighbors to the East while simultaneously preparing for economic competition within the EU and the responsibilities of military participation in NATO. The West should bear that burden in mind as it presses Poland to meet its obligations for admission into Western institutions. The author is manager of programs at the Prague-based European Journalism Network. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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