Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 52, Part II, 17 March 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 52, Part II, 17 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

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Headlines, Part II

* NO PARLIAMENTARY REPRESENTATION FOR HUNGARIAN MINORITIES

* U.S. SAYS MILOSEVIC WON'T BUDGE

* WASHINGTON WANTS MOSCOW'S BACKING ON KOSOVO

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

RUSSIA, BELARUS COORDINATE TO SAVE BELARUSIAN RUBLE. Belarus announced on
16 March that during Prime Minister Serhei Ling's recent visit to Moscow. a
working group with Russia was set up to help stabilize the Belarusian
ruble, ITAR-TASS reported. The Belarusian ruble is trading at about 59,000
to $1,  down some 25 percent on the previous week. Belarusian President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka has criticized the National Bank for its handling of
the currency crisis, saying he will personally monitor the situation.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais said on 15 March that
Moscow may provide financial aid to prevent the collapse of the Belarusian
ruble. He added that Belarus's disastrous economy was the result of poor
policies and a lack of reform. PB

COMMUNISTS MARK CENTENARY IN MINSK. Several foreign delegations were in
Minsk on 15 March for a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the first
congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party  (the predecessor
of the Soviet Communist Party) in a small house in downtown Minsk in 1898,
ITAR-TASS reported.  A few hundred people carrying red carnations and flags
congregated at the house. Among others, delegations from Russia, Vietnam,
North Korea, Cuba, and Greece were present. Oleg Shenin, chairman of the
Union of Communist Parties--the Soviet Communist Party, called Belarus "an
isle for the revival of Communism." PB

CORRUPTION 'WITNESS' DIES IN ODESSA HOSPITAL. Borys Anikeychyk, a witness
in a government corruption case, died in an Odesa hospital on 16 March as a
result of gunshot wounds sustained the previous day, the "Eastern
Economist" reported. Anikeychyk, who was shot by unknown assailants, had
recently testified in a court case that Odessa Mayor Eduard Hurvits had
accepted a bribe. Odessa Oblast Administration Chairman Ruslan Bodelan, who
is running for mayor against Hurvits, called on Hurvits to step down from
his post. The two have been locked in a brutal power struggle for some time
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March 1998). PB

RUSSIAN DEPUTY PREMIER IN TALLINN. Oleg Sysuev was in the Estonian capital
on 15-16 March to help prepare for the first meeting of the
Russian-Estonian intergovernment commission, which is due to take place in
June, Baltic and Russian agencies reported. Sysuev and Estonian Prime
Minister Mart Siimann, who will co-chair the commission, signed a protocol
outlining the tasks and timetable of that body. Sysuev told BNS that the
commission must find answers to the problems of trade, the border, and the
Russian-speaking population in Estonia. He said he expected some accords to
be signed  when the commission meets in June.  At the same time, he noted
that if problems with integrating Russian-speakers are not solved, progress
in Russian-Estonian relations would be hindered, ETA reported. Siimann told
journalists that Sysuev's visit will pave the way for bilateral summit
talks but noted that "extensive preparations" would be necessary. JC

CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS LATVIAN SS VETERANS' RALLY. Some 500 veterans of the
Latvian SS Legion marched through Riga on 16 March  to lay a wreath at the
Freedom Monument as part of events commemorating the 55th anniversary of
the unit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 March 1998). At the same time, some 300
elderly Russian-speakers gathered to protest the rally, brandishing
placards and shouting slogans that dubbed the veterans "fascists" and
"murders." Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis criticized the Russian-speaking
protesters, saying everyone in Latvia has the right to free speech but not
to freely insult others or behave in an extreme way. Meanwhile, the Russian
Foreign Ministry said Moscow is indignant at the veterans' demonstration.
It complained that the Latvian government gave special attention and
privileges to those who served as SS soldiers while "not recognizing as war
veterans Latvians who fought against fascism" with Soviet forces. JC

HUNDREDS RALLY IN SUPPORT OF CROSS NEAR AUSCHWITZ. Some 400 people
protested the plan to remove a cross near the Auschwitz concentration camp,
agencies reported on 15 March. The protesters, many of them war veterans or
concentration camp survivors, object to a plan  to remove an eight-meter
cross from a site where Pope John Paul in 1979 held a  mass. Some Jewish
groups want the cross  removed because they say Catholic symbols near
Auschwitz are offensive. The government is hoping for a compromise on the
issue, perhaps by moving the cross farther from the camp or by replacing it
with a smaller one. PB

NEW CZECH POLITICAL PARTY REGISTERED. The Conservative Consensus Party,
which was established by Ivan Masek, the former chairman of the Civic
Democratic Alliance (ODA) in the Chamber of Deputies, was registered by the
Interior Ministry on 16 March, CTK reported. Most of  the new formation's
members formerly belonged to the ODA. MS

CZECH JOURNALIST SUSPECTS SLOVAK SECRET POLICE OF 'FOUL PLAY.' Eugene
Korda, a Czech journalist who is a Slovak correspondent for Nova
Television, told CTK on 16 March he suspects that whoever vandalized his
car in Bratislava the previous night was "acting on orders from top-ranking
officials." Korda says he has evidence that he has been followed for a long
time, adding that three months ago his other car was vandalized and that he
has been receiving threatening telephone calls for a long time. In a report
read to the parliament in 1995, Ivan Lexa, the head of the Slovak secret
services,  mentioned a certain "Eugen K," among "anti-Slovak elements" and
as an "extended hand" of the founder of Nova Television, Slovak political
scientist Fedor Gal. MS

NO PARLIAMENTARY REPRESENTATION FOR HUNGARIAN MINORITIES. Lawmakers on 16
March voted against  a bill guaranteeing 13 seats in the parliament for
minority representatives this year, Hungarian media reported. The bill,
which provided for minority elections in October, would have required a
two-thirds majority to pass but was supported by only 215 votes in the
386-seat parliament. Most votes in favor came from the Socialist Party,
while the majority of deputies from the junior coalition Free Democrats,
the Young Democrats, and the Democratic Forum abstained, saying that they
preferred the elections for minority seats to be separately held in May.
Ethnic minorities can run in the May elections on regular party lists but
their guaranteed seats will be ensured only in the 2002 parliamentary
elections, provided that the new  legislature passes the required
constitutional amendments. MSZ

BOMB EXPLODES OUTSIDE OPPOSITION POLITICIAN'S HOME. A bomb exploded on 16
March outside the home of Jozsef Torgyan, the chairman of the opposition
Independent Smallholders' Party, Hungarian media reported. There were no
injuries. Torgyan, who was at home when the blast occurred, said he was the
target of a politically motivated attempt, as was his party's headquarters,
when a bomb exploded there last week. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

U.S. SAYS MILOSEVIC WON'T BUDGE. Speaking in Ljubljana on 16 March, U.S.
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said Belgrade's offer of
conditional talks with the Kosovars was "cynical" and deliberately designed
to fail. A State Department spokesman said in Washington that "there is no
sign that [Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic] is reversing course" on
his tough Kosovo policy. The spokesman added that the Contact Group foreign
ministers, who are to meet in Bonn on 25 March, will consider freezing
Yugoslav assets abroad if Milosevic does not withdraw special police
forces, stop armed attacks on civilians, admit independent observers to
Kosovo, and negotiate seriously with the Kosovars (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
10 March 1998). PM

WASHINGTON WANTS MOSCOW'S BACKING ON KOSOVO. The State Department spokesman
added in Washington on 16 March that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
told her Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, in a telephone
conversation that Milosevic should not be allowed to "think that there are
differences between the [Contact Group] countries on the basic point,
[which is that] the blame for this crisis and this violence rests squarely
on the shoulders of the leadership in Belgrade; and that if [the Yugoslav
leaders] don't change course, the result will be even further alienation
from the international community, less integration into the international
economy, less integration into the European economy." The spokesman added
that Albright got the impression Primakov will give Milosevic "the kind of
reinforcing message that we hoped for" when the two men meet in Belgrade on
18 March. PM

ALBANIA, U.S. FOR KOSOVO TALKS WITHOUT PRECONDITIONS. Talbot and Prime
Minister Fatos Nano, meeting at Tirana airport on 16 March, called for
Serbian-Kosovar talks without preconditions. Talbot said the U.S. considers
it possible that the Serbs and Kosovars will reach an agreement on autonomy
for the province, "Koha Jone" reported. Nano did not offer any ideas of his
own on Kosovo but stressed it will be important for the Contact Group
countries to agree to implement "effective sanctions that stop the advance
of violence and war in the Balkans." He added that Albania will seek to
coordinate its Kosovo policy with Macedonia and Montenegro. Nano stated
that "the solution of the Kosovo question is closely linked with the
democratization of the region and in particular of Serbia." FS

KINKEL URGES ALBANIANS TO SEEK DIALOGUE. German Foreign Minister Klaus
Kinkel criticized the Kosovar leadership for refusing to participate in the
conditional talks that Belgrade has offered (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16
March 1998). He told Bonn's "General Anzeiger" of 16 March that "it is most
important now to start a dialogue, even if not all the demands of the
Kosovo Albanians will be fulfilled. They should not stage any militant
actions, nor should they make demands for independence. There is no support
for this in the international community." Kinkel added that Milosevic's
paramilitary police "must be stopped from unjustifiable bloody assaults."
Also in Bonn, a Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed reports from Germany's
Kosovar community that one of the men killed in the recent Serbian assault
on the Drenica region had been deported to Yugoslavia from Germany shortly
before. Federal and most state authorities support continued deportations
despite the recent violence. PM

KOSOVAR LEADER DERIDES "CARNIVAL." Fehmi Agani, one of the chief Kosovar
political leaders, told RFE/RL from Pristina on 16 March that the Serbian
authorities are engaged in a daily propaganda exercise by offering talks
with conditions that they know the Kosovars cannot accept. Agani added that
the daily routine has come to resemble a "carnival." He also said that the
Italian Roman Catholic foundation that brokered the 1996 Kosovar-Serbian
education agreement is keeping channels open to both Serbs and Kosovars in
the hope of launching serious talks. PM

IS SERBIA PREPARING NEW CRACKDOWN? Belgrade's official Tanjug news agency
reported on 17 March that unidentified persons slightly injured a policeman
in a hand-grenade attack near Pec the previous day. There was no
independent confirmation of the incident. The Serbian authorities used a
similar shadowy incident involving Kosovars and police as a pretext to
launch the well-prepared assault that began on 28 February and left more
than 80 dead. PM

KOSOVAR OPPOSITION WANTS ELECTION POSTPONED. Representatives of the
opposition Parliamentary Party of Kosovo and the Forum of Albanian
Intellectuals of Kosovo called for postponing the shadow-state's
parliamentary and presidential elections, slated for 22 March. Speaking in
Pristina on 16 March, the opposition leaders said it would be "amoral" to
hold a vote under current circumstances. PM

FRANCE TO LET OFFICERS TESTIFY IN HAGUE. French Foreign Minister Hubert
Vedrine said in The Hague on 16 March that French officers who served in
Bosnia will be allowed to testify in person before the war crimes tribunal.
He stressed, however, that French officers "must not be treated like
suspects" when they appear before the court. To date, Paris has allowed
officers to testify only in writing. Vedrine announced the policy change
after meeting with Louise Arbour, the court's chief prosecutor. She has
long been critical of France's refusal to let its officers testify in
person. PM

CROATIAN JOURNALISTS WANT PUBLIC TELEVISION. Representatives of Forum 21,
an independent union of radio and television journalists, sent a proposal
on 16 March to the parliament calling for the transformation of state-run
radio and television (HRT) into a public broadcasting corporation. Among
the reforms  recommended by the journalists was the reduction of the number
of  broadcasting channels and  changing the composition and prerogatives of
the Radio and Television Council, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from
Zagreb. Forum 21's proposals would give a large degree of control over HRT
to the editors and journalists, "Slobodna Dalmacija" reported. HRT is
widely regarded as loyal to the governing Croatian Democratic Community. PM

POLICE EVICT ALBANIAN EX-JUDGE. Police on 16 March evicted Rustem Gjata,
who the previous day was dismissed as head of the Constitutional Court,
from his office. Gjata said the eviction was "typically communist" and
"supported by the Serbs and Greeks." He said he will try to return to his
office at a later date, "Republika" reported. FS

ROMANIAN RULING PARTY TO SUE NEW POLITICAL FORMATION. The National Peasant
Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) will contest in court the right of the
newly founded Romanian National Party (PNR) to its name, RFE/RL's Bucharest
Bureau reported on 16 March. Chairman Ion Diaconescu and deputy chairman
Ion Ratiu told journalists in Bucharest on 16 April that the new formation
has usurped the name of the party set up in Transylvania in the 19th
century to represent the interests of the Romanian majority under the
Austrian-Hungarian empire and that the PNR's name is "part of the PNTCD
legacy". The  National Peasant Party was set up in 1926 through the merger
of the PNR and the Peasant Party. Ratiu said it is an "insult" that "former
Communists" headed by Virgil Magureanu, the former director of the Romanian
Intelligence Service, are using the PNR's name. MS

ROMANY PROTEST IN BUCHAREST. The Austrian ambassador to Romania on 16 March
joined Roma protesting in front of the embassy's building in Bucharest
against racial stereotypes and discrimination. The protesters staged what
they called a " Dance of the Black Swans" in protest against widespread
allegations in the media that Roma  killed and roasted swans in the park of
the Schonbrunn Castle in Vienna in 1991. There are no swans in the
Schonbrunn park, and the Austrian journalist who had authored the report
later retracted it. The Roma are marking the European Week for Struggle
against Racism. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST 'RADICALS.' In his weekly address to the
nation on 16 March, President Petru Lucinschi warned Moldovans  not to back
"radical political formations" in the 22 March elections, RFE/RL's Chisinau
bureau reported. Lucinschi did not specify whom he considered "radical,"
but on previous occasions, he has singled out the Democratic Convention of
Moldova (CDM). Lucinschi said the "radicals" will "sow hatred and strife"
and  will "again call people to the barricades" (an allusion to the 1992
military clashes with the separatists, when Mircea Snegur, now a CDM
co-chairman, was Moldovan president). By backing "moderate forces,"
Lucinschi said, the voters will allow the country to continue along the
"good road" started in 1997. MS

CAMPAIGN IN TRANSDNIESTER TO JOIN RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION. Aleksandr Karaman,
vice president of the  separatist Transdniester region, is heading a
movement to join the Russia-Belarus union. Local labor and veteran soldier
associations, such as the United Council of Labor, the Union of
Transdniester Defenders, the Association of Afghan Veterans, and the
Transdniester Cossacks, belong to that movement. Karaman told BASA-press on
16 March that a drive for collecting signatures in support of joining the
union has started. He expressed confidence that most of the population will
back joining the union since it will be "politically and economically"
beneficial to the Transdniester. MS

BULGARIA CLOSES LAST PIRATE CD FACTORIES. The Interior Ministry on 16 March
announced that the last four companies producing pirate compact discs have
been closed down under the new copyright laws, AFP reported, The
announcement comes after repeated threats from the U.S. that it will  start
trade sanctions against Bulgaria if the makers of counterfeit CDs were not
closed by end of March. In other news, Pope John Paul II on 15 March
beatified Evgeni Bosilkov, a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church who was
sentenced to death and executed by the communist regime in 1952.  Bosilkov
saved Jews during World War Two and was committed to promoting dialogue
with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, AFP reported.

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT TAKES STRIKERS TO COURT. Transportation Minister
Wilhelm Kraus on 16 March told BTA that the government is suing railway
engineers and will dismiss some of them because the state has sustained
losses of some $25,000 owing to a series of one-hour strikes over the last
three days. The strikers are demanding wage increases of up to 400 percent,
whereas the government is offering only 20 percent. MS

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