History is made out of the failures and heroism of each insignificant moment. - Franz Kafka
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 54 Part II, 19 March 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 54 Part II, 19 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

* LATVIA TO DRAW UP GUIDELINES FOR INTEGRATING RUSSIAN-SPEAKERS

* BELGRADE PROPOSES 'SELF-RULE TALKS' WITH KOSOVARS

* SREBRENICA SERBS AGREE TO SHARE POWER

* End Note: MOLDOVA'S UPCOMING PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS (PART ONE)

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

RUSSIAN CENTRAL BANK REJECTS LUKASHENKA'S CLAIMS. The Russian Central Bank
has rejected claims by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka that it
was to blame for the devaluation of the Belarusian ruble, AFP reported on
19 March. The bank said there is not "the slightest economic logic" in
blaming it for the recent plunge of the currency, which has lost some 25
percent of its value. It added that many Russians "have suffered major
financial losses" as a result of the drop. Russian First Deputy Premier
Anatolii Chubais responded to Lukashenka's claims by saying that the crisis
was due to "serious mistakes" in the economy by Belarusian officials. He
urged them to make "constructive, professional decisions" rather than to
"look for enemies." PB

GAZPROM THREATENS CUTOFF TO BELARUS. The Russian gas giant Gazprom has
warned the Belarusian government to pay its debt to the company or face a
cutoff of gas supplies, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 March. Belarusian Prime
Minister Serhei Ling said that Gazprom is insisting that Minsk pay 70
percent of its debt in hard currency and 30 percent in goods. Last year, he
said, Gazprom accepted 70 percent payment in goods and 30 percent in hard
currency. Ling said Belarus lacks the hard currency to repay the debt,
which, he added, has reached $220 million. Ling said barter deals account
for 80 percent of trade between Russia and Belarus. PB

SOCIALISTS ATTACK KUCHMA'S ECONOMIC POLICY. Viktor Medvedchuk, the deputy
leader of the United Social Democratic Party (SDPU) said on 18 March that
his party would alter current economic policy if elected, the "Eastern
Economist" reported. Former President and SDPU leader Leonid Kravchuk said
President Leonid Kuchma's economic policy since coming to power has two
major flaws: "the sacred belief in monetary policy" and the "abandonment of
the state's regulatory role." Kravchuk said that Ukraine has a long history
of government regulation and that it would be dangerous to cease such
regulation. Ukrainian parliamentary elections are scheduled for 29 March. PB

UKRAINIAN AIRLINE TO PAY RELATIVES OF CRASH VICTIMS. The Ukrainian airline
Aerosvit announced on 18 March that it  will pay some $7 million to the
families of Greek passengers who died in a crash last December near
Thessaloniki, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 March. At least 69 people died in
the crash, and relatives of the victims have demanded compensation, even
though a report on the cause of the crash has not been completed. PB

POLAND, UKRAINE AGREE TO BOOST ECONOMIC TIES. Delegations to the
Consultative Committee of the Presidents of Ukraine and Poland agreed on 17
March to increase economic relations, an RFE/RL correspondent in Warsaw
reported. After a two-day meeting in Warsaw, the sides released a joint
statement that revealed plans for the creation of a transport corridor
between the Black and Baltic Seas. The talks were chaired by Ukrainian
Defense Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin and Polish National Security
Office head Marek Siwiek. PB

ESTONIA ABOLISHES DEATH PENALTY. Lawmakers on 18 March voted by 39 to 30
with 13 abstentions to ratify the sixth protocol  to the European
Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,
under which the country must scrap the death penalty. Previously, Estonia
had adopted the convention without the sixth protocol. The last execution
in Estonia took place in 1991, before the country regained independence.
The Supreme Court declared capital punishment unconstitutional in 1996, and
the following year the parliament passed a bill providing for life
imprisonment, which was seen as  the first step toward abolishing capital
punishment. Opinion polls show that a majority of Estonians are in favor of
the death penalty. JC

LUKOIL CHIEF IN TALLINN. Vagit Alekperov, the head of the Russian oil giant
LUKoil, was in Tallinn on 18 March, where he met with Estonian Prime
Minister Mart Siimann, ETA and BNS reported. Siimann told journalists later
that Alekperov's visit was linked to LUKoil's interest in Estonia as a
transit country for oil. He said no concrete projects or plans were
discussed, saying the meeting was rather "an expression of goodwill by the
head of government to a company that want to invest in Estonia." Siimann
also commented that the visits of both Alekperov and Russian Deputy Prime
Minister Oleg Sysuev indicate an "improvement in Estonian-Russian
relations." JC

LATVIA TO DRAW UP GUIDELINES FOR INTEGRATING RUSSIAN-SPEAKERS. Valdis
Birkavs told journalists in Riga on 18 March that Latvia will draw up
guidelines by 30 June for integrating the country's Russian-speakers.  One
of the program's  main goals is to "avoid the  emergence of  a
two-community state on Latvian territory," he said, adding that this
"long-term task" is linked to Latvia's  "strategic foreign policy goal,
integration into the EU." However, it  is "unacceptable"  to seek such
goals  "by coercion or volitional methods," Birkavs said. The previous day,
the Latvian Foreign Ministry sent a note to Moscow asking the authorities
there to assess the activities of "extremist organizations at Latvian
diplomatic representations and ensure the safety of the representations,"
BNS reported. Earlier this week, some 100 protesters had gathered outside
the Latvian embassy in Moscow in the wake of the Latvian SS Legion rally in
Riga (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March 1998). JC

CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER DENIES CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS. The main opposition
Social Democrats said on 17 March that they have asked the police to
investigate allegations made on state television the previous day that
Czech entrepreneurs living in Switzerland in 1995 bribed party chairman
Milos Zeman, CTK reported. A letter showed Zeman's signature to an
agreement promising the businessmen top civil service positions under a
future CSSD government in exchange for preferential loans. Zeman admitted
he had  met the businessmen but said he "threw them out" when the offer was
made by them.  MS

CZECHS FAVOR NATO  REFERENDUM. A poll conducted by the STEM institute shows
59 percent of Czechs want the issue of Czech membership in  NATO to be put
to a referendum, as proposed by the Social Democratic Party. Support for
the referendum, however, is not an indication of opposition to joining
NATO, since 57 percent of respondents said they back entry to the
alliance, AFP reported. In recent months, support for joining NATO has
steadily risen. MS

SLOVAKIA AGAIN REJECTS EU CRITICISM. In an official statement released on
18 March, the Slovak Foreign Ministry said EU criticism of Prime Minister
Vladimir Meciar since he  took over some presidential prerogatives is
"misplaced" and does not reflect the fact that Meciar acted "in full
harmony with the provisions of the constitution" (see also "RFE/RL
Newsline," 12 March 1998), Reuters reported. MS

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION LEADER RECEIVES MORE BOMB THREATS. Jozsef Torgyan ,
chairman of the opposition Independent Smallholders' Party, has received
two more bomb threats since a bomb exploded outside his home (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 17 March 1998), Hungarian media reported. Torgyan accused Prime
Minister Gyula Horn of not taking firm action against the "fascist attack"
and thereby encouraging "terrorism." Torgyan is the first party chairman in
Hungary to have requested and received secret service protection. In other
news, the Smallholders on 18 March signed an electoral cooperation pact
with the largest Romani organization in Hungary, the Democratic Alliance of
Hungarian Roma.  MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

BELGRADE PROPOSES 'SELF-RULE TALKS' WITH KOSOVARS... Serbian President
Milutinovic issued a statement in Belgrade on 18 March calling for the
immediate and unconditional start of talks that would address the "issue"
of "self rule" for Kosovo. This marks a reversal of Belgrade's previous
insistence that negotiations on Kosovo must respect the Serbian
Constitution. In an apparent bid at reconciliation with the Kosovar
Albanians, Milutinovic's "declaration" did not mention Albanian
"terrorism." Tanjug quoted Milutinovic as saying, "these talks should be
based on the principle of preserving territorial integrity and include the
issue of self-rule for Kosovo-Metohija within Serbia. The only way to
resolve the Kosovo-Metohija issue is by political and peaceful means.
Lasting solutions to all problems can be found only through dialogue, which
should be based on the implementation of the principle of equality of all
citizens." JN

...WHILE GELBARD SAYS RUGOVA READY TO TALK WITH BELGRADE. U.S. special
envoy Robert Gelbard announced on 18 March that Ibrahim Rugova, Kosovo's
ethnic Albanian leader, is now ready to talk to the Serbian government,
adding that talks will probably take place next week. Kosovo Albanians had
until now refused to discuss anything other than independence for the
province. Gelbard said Rugova intends to form a broad-based advisory group
for talks with Serbian officials. Rugova said Kosovo will designate its
negotiating team for talks with Belgrade before parliamentary and
presidential elections scheduled for 22 March. Gelbard threatened Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic with harsher sanctions against Serbia if he
does not end the crackdown on Kosovo Albanians. In Washington, U.S.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright also warned that Milosevic must "pay
a price" for ordering the police into action against Albanian civilians. JN

KOSOVO ALBANIAN KILLED IN PEC PROTEST. A 50-year-old Kosovar man was killed
and at least five others injured on 18 March when  Serbian police opened
fire on a demonstration in Pec, the Kosovo Information Center reported. But
Kosovo Information Secretary Bosko Drobnjak later denied allegations that
the Serbian police intervened during the demonstration in Pec. Drobnjak
told Radio B92 and BETA that "the police did not intervene anywhere in the
province on 18 March, nor has there been any information that anyone was
wounded today in Pec." JN

HAGUE TRIBUNAL ASKS KOSOVARS FOR INFORMATION ON CRACKDOWN. The UN war
crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has asked Kosovo Albanians for
information about the crackdown in the province. The tribunal told the
Albanian Committee for the Defense of Human Rights that it is gathering
information and evidence in relation to "the Kosovo incidents" to determine
whether "crimes within the jurisdiction of this tribunal may have been
committed," AFP reported on 18 March. The Albanian committee asked the
tribunal on 9 March to investigate the Serbian security force operation
against the Drenica region. Meanwhile, the tribunal refused to drop charges
against three Muslims and a Bosnian Croat accused of anti-Serbian
atrocities in 1992 at the Bosnian government-run Celebici camp. JN

KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY AGAIN CALLS FOR ELECTION POSTPONEMENT. The Kosovo
Liberation Army  (UCK) has repeated its call for the postponement of the
presidential and parliamentary elections in Kosovo's Albanian community. In
a communique published in Kosovo on 18 March and broadcast on Albanian
Television, the UCK said it "will accept elections only after the country's
liberation." The UCK denounced Rugova's call for postponing the elections
only in the Drenica region as divisive since "the state of emergency is
throughout Kosovo." It also said it will continue  "the liberation war by
attacking the enemy in various parts of Kosovo." JN

BUHA CONDEMNS BRCKO DECISION. Aleksa Buha, the chairman of the Bosnian Serb
Democratic Party (SDS). told BETA on 17 March that the decision to postpone
the ruling on the status of Brcko "intensely harmed" the Republika Srpska.
Buha labeled the decision "political" rather than "legal," describing it as
"blackmail" against the Bosnian Serb entity.  He proposed that President
Biljana Plavsic and Prime Minister Milorad Dodik resign, since the more
Plavsic "gives in" to the international community, the less its behavior is
"to the benefit of the Republika Srpska." Plavsic's Serb National Alliance
issued a statement on 16 March calling the Brcko decision "another form of
pressure" on the Bosnian  Serb leadership to implement the Dayton
agreement. It also said the more the SDS influences the Bosnian Serb
leadership, the "smaller" the chance that Brcko would be awarded to
Republika Srpska. JN

SREBRENICA SERBS AGREE TO SHARE POWER. The chairmen of the municipal
committees of the SDS and the Serbian Radical Party in Srebrenica said on
19 March that they accepted as "final and binding" an international
arbitration ruling on the distribution of posts in the town, Tanjug
reported.  The municipal assembly will now consist of 20 Serbian and 25
Muslim deputies, based on the results of the local elections last
September,  which the Bosnian Serb side has never accepted because of
irregularities. Under the arbitration decision, the Muslim side will hold
the  post of assembly president and four seats on the executive  committee.
The Serbs will have the post of executive committee president and three
seats on the municipal government. The Srebrenica assembly secretary and
his deputy, who cannot be of the same nationality, will rotate  every two
months. JN

PRIMAKOV MEETS BOSNIAN TRIUMVIRATE IN SARAJEVO. Members of the three-member
Bosnian-Herzegovinian Presidency met with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov in Sarajevo on 18 March. Primakov expressed Russia's readiness to
grant Bosnia full cooperation and reconstruction aid to Bosnia. Russia is
expected to grant Bosnia a $50 million reconstruction loan this year, BH
Press reported on 18 March. Primakov reiterated that Russia supports the
idea of an international military presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina after June
1998 and will be ready to participate in it if the peacekeepers remain.
Primakov and Bosnian Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic agreed that
Yugoslavia's territorial integrity should be respected but that there
should be more autonomy for Kosovo Albanians. JN

BALKAN STATES DISCUSS MULTINATIONAL PEACE KEEPING FORCE. At a meeting in
Ankara on 18 March, military experts from Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia,
Romania, and Turkey discussed the setting up of a joint peace-keeping force
for the region, Romanian media reported. Slovenia and the U.S. sent
observers to the gathering. The force would be deployed  in other regions
if the UN or the OSCE so requested and would operate under NATO command.
The experts will meet again in Bucharest at a date to be yet established to
work out further details about the force. MS

ROMANIAN POLITICAL INSTABILITY PEAKS AGAIN. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea
told journalists on 17 March that the only solutions to the ongoing
political crisis in Romania are early elections or a government of experts,
RFE/RL's Bucharest Bureau reported. Also on 17 March, the Steering Bureau
of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic expelled from the party
maverick Senator George Pruteanu. Pruteanu the previous day had supported
the opposition and the Democratic Party in a vote in the Senate that
rejected the government regulation amending the local government law (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 17 March 1998). An opinion poll commissioned by the
Democrats shows that nearly half of the electorate would support an
alternative government formed by the Democrats and the opposition Party of
Social Democracy in Romania, Party of Romanian National Unity, and the
Alliance for Romania. MS

SHARP DROP IN VALUE OF TRANSDNIESTER RUBLE. The Transdniester ruble
recently nose-dived from 650,000 rubles to 1.5 million rubles to U.S.$1,
RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The separatist government has put the
blame on local private firms, but Aleksandr Karaman, the region's vice
president, said he does not rule out that "outside forces" masterminded the
fall as a "conspiracy." The separatist authorities has decided to  postpone
raising value-added tax by 20 percent. MS

BULGARIA SEEKS TO RECOVER COMMUNIST-ERA DEBTS. Bulgaria is seeking to
recover some $ 3 billion owed by countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin
America, AFP reported on 17 March. Iraq has the largest single debt to
Bulgaria, totaling nearly $2 billion. Libya, Nicaragua, Syria, Nigeria,
Angola, Yemen, and Ethiopia have debts ranging from $44 million to $348
million. Finance Minister Muravei Radev said Sofia is willing to consider
scheduling repayments "over an acceptable period," depending on the
economic situation of the debtor. Bulgaria itself has a gross external debt
of $10 billion. MS

END NOTE

MOLDOVA'S UPCOMING PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS (PART ONE)

by Michael Shafir

	Fifteen political parties and electoral blocs, as well as some 70
independents, are competing in the Moldovan parliamentary elections
scheduled for 22 March. As elsewhere in the former communist bloc, the
Moldovan political landscape is somewhat fragmented and the political
"supply" (that is, the number of aspirants to a seat in the legislature)
far exceeds "demand."
	Judging by the 1994 parliamentary ballot, as well as by opinion
polls conducted over the past few weeks, the electorate is significantly
more mature than those political forces aspiring to represent it. Of the
latter, only a handful are likely to gain representation. Four years ago,
13 lists and a plethora of independents ran for the parliament (where
representation is obtained through a proportional system in a single
countrywide electoral district) but only four lists gained parliamentary
representation: the Democratic Agrarian Party, the Socialist Unity-Edinstvo
Bloc, the Bloc of Peasants and Intellectuals, and the Christian
Democrat-Popular Front Bloc.
	Such is likely to be the case, although some of the main actors
will very probably be changed. Opinion polls in Moldova are notoriously
unreliable. For this reason, more experienced pollsters from Romania--the
Bucharest-based Center for Urban and Rural Sociology (CURS) and the
Institute for Market Analysis and Research (IMAS)--recently conducted two
surveys, whose findings were released on 18 February and on 17 March. Both
those polls, along with  surveys carried out by Moldovan pollsters (such as
the one released on 13 March by the Opinia institute) put the Party of
Moldovan Communists (PCM) in front. The first CURS-IMAS poll showed the PCM
with19 percent support and the second 21 percent. The Opinia poll gave the
Communists 20 percent backing.
	Should those polls prove accurate, there would be an electoral
upheaval. The  PCM, led by Vladimir Voronin, did not run in the February
1994 race because it was outlawed  until  later that year.  But it would be
wrong to assert that the Communists have been absent from the Moldovan
political scene and to view their "resurgence" as a sudden occurrence.  Two
Communist ministers have posts in Ion Ciubuc's government, and the party
gained post-1994 parliamentary representation owing  to the splits and
political migrations characteristic of the Moldovan political scene.
	In its electoral propaganda,  the PCM seems to have been able to
shift responsibility for the deterioration of the average Moldovan's daily
life onto  its adversaries--"washing its hands," as it were, of either
progress in economic reforms or the stagnation of those reforms. While the
"born-again" Communists present the Soviet Union in a light of near
perfection and promise to restore it with full equality for all its
members, their electoral success--if it indeed materializes--would have to
be attributed to two  factors: nostalgia among the electorate for a time of
at least material security, and the Communists' rather special position on
the Transdniestrian conflict.
	It is the latter of those two factors that distinguishes the
Communists from the Socialist Unity-Edinstvo, which, unlike Voronin, favors
the recognition of an independent Transdniestrian republic.  For this
reason, the separatists encourage support for Socialist Unity (Moldovan
citizens residing in the separatists region will be allowed to cross the
Dniester River and vote, but balloting on the territory of Smirnov's
fiefdom has not been allowed) while seeking to thwart Voronin's attempts to
take over local  Communist Party organizations in the Transdniester.
	But despite those differences, the two formations have more in
common than meets the eye--above all, their anti-reform stance. This is why
a coalition government formed by the Communists and Socialist Unity (which
, however, may fail to gain parliamentary representation if the opinion
polls are accurate) would virtually signal an end of the reform process,
which is already stalled.
	Somewhat close to the center but still on the Left of the Moldovan
political spectrum is the Democratic Agrarian Party (PDAM). Having won the
1994 election with more than 43 percent of the vote, the PDAM is likely to
be the great loser of this year's elections. Support for the party ranges
from 8 percent (Opinia) and 4 percent (the second CURS-IMAS poll), meaning
the PDAM may fail even to pass the 4 percent electoral threshold. If that
proved the case, the party would  thus pay the price for its failure either
to decisively promote reform or to decisively oppose it. It would also fall
victim to internal splits over the past few years. The PDAM was first
deserted  in 1995 by a group called the Party of Social Progress. Then
former President Mircea Snegur left to form the Party of Revival and
Conciliation. And other deputies migrated to other parties. A
post-electoral coalition between the Communists and the PDAM cannot be
ruled out but would doubtless prove an uneasy one.

Part Two of this end note will appear tomorrow, 20 March 1998


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