You see things and you say 'Why?' But I dream thing that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'. - Geroge Bernard Shaw
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 56 Part II, 23 March 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 56 Part II, 23 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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RUSSIAN MEDIA EMPIRES II
Businessmen, government leaders, politicians, and financial companies
continue to reshape Russia's media landscape. This update of a September
report identifies the players and their media holdings via charts, tables
and articles.
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rumedia2/index.html

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Headlines, Part II

* THOUSANDS MARCH AGAINST BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT

* KOSOVARS BACK RUGOVA

* COMMUNISTS WIN MOLDOVAN ELECTIONS

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

THOUSANDS MARCH AGAINST BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT. An estimated 10,000 people
took to the streets in Minsk on 22 March to mark the 80th anniversary of an
independent Belarusian state and to protest against President Alyaksandr
Lukashenka. The crowd began marching toward the presidential palace but was
stopped by police. A few dozen protesters were detained after minor
skirmishes with police but were released later. Semyon Sharetsky, former
parliament speaker and leading opposition figure, said Lukashenka can
remain in power only "through the strengthening of his authority and
[through] a state monopoly and militarization of the economy." The
demonstration was authorized. PB

LUKASHENKA PUTS CENTRAL BANK UNDER STATE CONTROL... Belarusian President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka announced on state television on 21 March that the
Central Bank will  be put under direct government control, Reuters
reported. Lukashenka also named First Deputy Prime Minister Pyotr
Prokopovich as bank chairman to replace Hennady Aleynikov, who the previous
day had been sacked, along with most of the bank's board. Lukashenka
accused his cabinet and bank officials of "muddle-headedness and
unprofessionalism" in dealing with the crisis. He also said the devaluation
of the Belarusian ruble was a "planned act by the West." Earlier, he had
accused unnamed "speculators" and political opponents in Moscow of staging
the currency's dive (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March 1998). PB

...AS BELARUSIANS RUSH TO BUY HARD CURRENCY. Long lines were reported at
exchange offices in Minsk, as Belarusians sought to convert Belarusian
rubles into more stable currencies, AFP reported on 21 March. The ruble has
recovered somewhat from the 16 March exchange rate of nearly 60,000 to $1.
Several cases of panic buying and hoarding of goods were also reported
around the country, as state-imposed prices went into effect at most shops
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March 1998). PB

U.S. DIPLOMAT WARNS KYIV ABOUT  LOSS OF AID. U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine
Steven Pifer said on 20 March that Kyiv is in danger of losing half of its
annual aid from Washington, an RFE/RL correspondent in Kyiv reported. Pifer
said that he does not believe U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
will be able to report progress by the Ukrainian government on resolving
disputes with U.S. businesses when she makes a report to Congress on 30
April. Pifer said that if Kyiv lost half of this year's approved $225
million in aid, it would be a clear signal by the U.S. that "Ukraine is not
a good place to do business." PB

KUCHMA ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma urged young
voters to go to the polls on 29 March to counterbalance the votes of older,
conservative citizens, Reuters reported on 21 March. Kuchma said in Kyiv
that "our task is to ensure" that young people will vote,  saying they are
the greatest supporters of progressive policies. Pensioners make up nearly
one-third of the Ukrainian population and are the main supporters of the
Communist Party, which is leading in all opinion polls. Kuchma said that he
is ready to "cooperate with any parliament" but that both sides will have
to compromise. He also criticized centrist parties for not uniting to form
one bloc. PB

ESTONIAN PREMIER LAUNCHES TALKS TO PRESERVE STABILITY. Mart Siimann said on
national television on 20 March that "power games" in the Tallinn City
Council are forcing him to start talks with political parties to guarantee
the country's political stability, ETA reported. "The minority government
finds it harder and harder to rule one year before general elections,"
Siimann commented. Last week, several factions in the Tallinn City Council,
including that of Siimann's Coalition Party, submitted a no-confidence vote
against council head Edgar Savisaar and the city's three deputy majors, all
of whom belong to the opposition Center Party. The Coalition and Center
Parties have a long-standing cooperation agreement but for some time have
not abided by that accord. JC

OFFICIALS FOUND GUILTY IN TALSI ACCIDENT. A Latvian court has ruled that
three officials from the Talsi Firefighting and Rescue Service were
responsible for an accident last summer in which nine children died, BNS
reported on 20 March. The officials  were given prison sentences of up to
three years but were immediately released under an amnesty law passed last
December. In June 1997, officials at a firefighting exhibition in Talsi,
western Latvia, allowed some 30 people to crowd into the hydraulic-powered
basket of a fire truck. The basket, which was designed to carry only 350
kilograms, fell from a height of nearly 20 meters when its crane tipped.
Eight children aged 5 to 16 were killed instantly, and one died later in
the hospital. JC

POLISH PRESIDENT NOT WORRIED ABOUT U.S. SENATE DELAY. Aleksander
Kwasniewski on 22 March said the decision two days earlier by the U.S.
Senate to delay debating NATO expansion is "not serious." Kwasniewski was
speaking after an informal meeting with NATO Secretary-General Javier
Solana in Berlin. Solana called the U.S. decision  a "procedural" affair. PB

NATO SATISFIED WITH PROSPECTIVE MEMBERS. Meanwhile, NATO officials said on
20 March that they are pleased with progress to date  by Poland, Hungary,
and the Czech Republic, an RFE/RL correspondent in Brussels reported. NATO
said that about 70 percent of the "force" goals have been met and that the
rest could be completed by June. "Force" goals are NATO procedures setting
standards for  troop size, weapons availability, logistics, and
communications, among others. PB

CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS DROP DEMAND FOR NATO REFERENDUM. The leadership of
the opposition Social Democratic Party (CSSD) on 20 March endorsed a
decision by the party's parliamentary faction to stop demanding  that NATO
membership be put to a referendum, CTK reported. CSSD chairman Milos Zeman,
who still favors such a plebiscite, did not participate in the meeting. The
CSSD leadership recommended that its parliamentary representatives vote in
favor of the agreement on joining NATO. CSSD Deputy Chairman Lubomir
Zaoralek told journalists that the party's deputies have done "everything
they could" to have the legislature approve a bill on the referendum.
"Unfortunately," he said, that proposal was rejected every time. MS

BONN WILL NOT OBSTRUCT CZECH, POLISH  ENTRY TO EU. Hans-Friedrich von
Plotz, state secretary at the German Foreign Ministry, says Bonn has no
intention to link the EU entry of the  Czech Republic and Poland to
"bilateral questions that have roots in World War Two and the post-war
period," CTK reported on 21 March . Von Plotz was responding in the
Bundestag to a written question by Christian Social Union deputy Erika
Steinbach.  Also on 21 March, Sudeten German leader Franz Neubauer  said he
opposes the admittance of the Czech Republic to the EU unless Prague first
"distances itself from the persecution" of the Sudeten Germans at the end
of the war. Neubauer repeated the demand that Prague recognize the right of
Sudeten Germans to return to their former homeland. MS

SLOVAKIA TO RETURN DAM DISPUTE TO THE HAGUE. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar
told Hungarian ambassador to Bratislava Jeno Boros on 20 March that
Slovakia will ask the International Court of Justice in The Hague to rule
on Hungary's failure to abide by the court's ruling whereby the two sides
must reach an agreement by 25 March, CTK and AFP reported. Earlier, Boros
had handed Meciar a copy of a letter from Prime Minister Gyula Horn to the
Hague court explaining why Budapest has postponed signing the agreement.
Hungary wants further studies carried out to evaluate the environmental
implications of building an alternative dam to Nagymaros. MS

HUNGARY, ROMANIA SET UP JOINT PEACEKEEPING UNIT. Meeting in Budapest on 20
March,  visiting Romanian Defense Minister Constantin Dudu Ionescu and his
Hungarian counterpart, Gyorgy Keleti, signed the long-postponed agreement
to set up a joint 1,000-strong military peacekeeping unit, Hungarian media
reported. The Hungarian contingent is  be based in Hodmezovasarhely and the
Romanian one in Arad. The two sides drew lots to decide the first commander
of the battalion, who will be a Romanian officer. The previous day,
representatives of Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Romania met in
Vienna to discuss the setting up of a Central European Initiative for
Cooperation in Peacekeeping. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

KOSOVARS BACK RUGOVA. More than 80 percent of registered voters cast their
ballots in the 22 March parliamentary and presidential elections organized
by the Kosovo shadow-state government. The vote will be held at a later
date in the Srbica, Klina, and Glogovac districts, which are at present
under tight Serbian police control. The Serbian authorities declared the
vote illegal and in some localities attempted to confiscate ballot papers
and boxes, which, however, election officials succeeded in hiding before
the police arrived, Albanian Television reported. Several ethnic Albanian
opposition parties boycotted the vote on the grounds that elections should
not be held so soon after the Serbian police crackdown in the Drenica
region. Albanian Television said that the huge turnout indicates massive
popular support for shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova, who is running
unopposed for re-election. PM

U.S. CONGRESSMEN SAY MILOSEVIC IS "HIDING SOMETHING." Rugova told
journalists in Pristina on 22 March that the large turnout shows the
Kosovars support the cause of "independent statehood, freedom, democracy
and peace." He also thanked numerous foreign election observers, primarily
from the U.S. and Albania, who wanted to come to Kosovo to monitor the vote
but who were denied visas by the Serbian authorities. The Yugoslav embassy
in Skopje denied visas on 21 March to 14 U.S. congressmen who planned to
observe the election. A spokesman for the group said the denial of the
visas indicates that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is "hiding
something" in Kosovo. The congressman added that Milosevic must understand
that the international community will not allow him to repeat the "genocide
and ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo that he carried out in Bosnia. PM

U.S. REJECTS SERBIAN CHARGES. Serbian authorities in Kosovo on 21 March
arrested six U.S. humanitarian aid workers and sentenced them to 10 days in
jail on the grounds that the six did not have residency permits valid for
Kosovo. The U.S. embassy in Belgrade the following day issued a statement
in which it denied the Serbian charges against the aid workers, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. The statement added that
the Serbian move violates the guidelines set down by the recent London
conference of the international Contact Group to enable Belgrade to rejoin
international institutions. It also said Washington will bring up the
incident at the next meeting of the Contact Group, which is slated for 25
March. PM

BOSNIAN SERBS BACK MILOSEVIC. Prime Minister Fatos Nano said in Tirana on
20 March that Kosovo should be given a status within the Yugoslav
federation equal to that of Montenegro. The next day in Ljubljana, however,
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said that the idea of making
Kosovo a third Yugoslav republic "will lead nowhere." In Berlin, German
Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel told a local radio station that Kosovo should
receive "a special status leading toward autonomy." In Banja Luka on 22
March, the Bosnian Serb parliament approved a declaration slamming attempts
to internationalize the Kosovo question. The text said that "a certain
section of the international community [supports] separatism" in the
province. The declaration added that the legislators support the Belgrade
authorities "in their efforts to give an adequate response to all
expressions of Albanian terrorism" in Kosovo, RFE/RL reported. PM

GLIGOROV REJECTS KOSOVO LINK. In Ohrid on 20 March, Macedonian President
Kiro Gligorov told an international conference on Balkan cooperation that
Macedonia is "vitally interested" in containing and seeking a quick end to
the tensions in Kosovo. He called for direct Serbian-Albanian talks aimed
at finding a political solution "in an atmosphere of mutual toleration."
Gligorov welcomed the concern of the international community over Kosovo
and urged foreign diplomats to become even more active in Balkan affairs
and better coordinate their activities with one another. He rejected what
he called suggestions that the unrest in Kosovo could easily spread to the
ethnic Albanian minority in Macedonia. Gligorov argued that the political
status of Macedonia's Albanians is "greatly different" from that of the
Kosovars. He said Macedonia is making progress in its efforts to achieve
European standards on minority rights, an RFE/RL correspondent reported
from Ohrid. PM

SACIRBEY BLASTS TUDJMAN PLAN FOR BOSNIA. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman
discussed the plan he announced the previous week for the demilitarization
of Bosnia with Herzegovinian Croat leaders in Zagreb on 21 March (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March 1998). Muhamed Sacirbey, who is Bosnia's
ambassador to the UN, told an RFE/RL correspondent at the Ohrid conference
the same day that Tudjman's proposal is aimed at leaving the Muslims
defenseless. He added that Tudjman and the Herzegovinian Croats also want
to dissolve the joint Croat and Muslim Bosnian federal army "because it is
the only federal institution that wields real power." Sacirbey stressed
that the Herzegovinians hope to dissolve the federation, re-establish their
wartime Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna, and ultimately join Croatia. In
Sarajevo, Bosnian military officials said Croatia and Yugoslavia must also
be demilitarized if any demilitarization of Bosnia is to be effective. PM

DJUKANOVIC CALLS NEW PARTY SERBIA'S TOOL. Supporters of Montenegro's former
President Momir Bulatovic founded the Socialist People's Party of
Montenegro (SNPCG) in Podgorica on 21 March. Bulatovic and his backers
thereby completed their break with the governing Democratic Socialist Party
(DPS), which is led by President Milo Djukanovic, who opposes Bulatovic and
Milosevic. Djukanovic said on 22 March that the SNPCG represents the
interests of Milosevic and of Serbia in Montenegrin politics and that the
DPS, which seeks more autonomy for Montenegro, will not form a coalition
with it. PM

ALBANIA HEADING FOR TROUBLE WITH STRASBOURG? The High Council of Justice
fired Tirana City Court Chief Justice Qazim Gjonaj on 21 March on the
grounds that he distributed arms to civilians during the March 1997 unrest.
Gjonaj has admitted giving out the weapons, which he received from the
secret service, "Koha Jone" reported. Gjonaj told the daily, however, that
he returned all  the arms after the anarchy ended. He added that the arms
allegation was simply an excuse for his sacking, which he described as
"political" following his recent criticism of the Socialist-led government.
A high-ranking Council of Europe official told an RFE/RL correspondent at
the Ohrid conference on 21 March that the council is concerned about the
independence of the Albanian judiciary and will consider suspending
Albania's membership if such sackings continue. FS

ROMANIAN CABINET MINISTERS CHALLENGE PREMIER. Privatization Minister
Valentin Ionescu and Finance Minister Daniel Daianu are opposed to a
preliminary agreement that Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea reached with the
opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 20 March. Ciorbea
accepted a PDSR suggestion in order to secure the party's support for the
draft budget shortly to be submitted to the parliament. The agreement
stipulates that the privatization law will be amended to allocate most
privatization revenues  to the restructuring and modernization of
loss-making state enterprises. Ionescu said the PDSR proposal was a "trap"
that would result in a situation similar to that created when the PDSR was
in power. Daianu said he "refuses" to make any amendment to the draft
budget, which says that  80 percent of privatization revenues will go to
the state budget, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

MORE MERGERS, SPLITS AMONG ROMANIA'S LIBERALS. The Executive Committee of
the Liberal Party on 21 March announced its decision to merge the recently
formed Liberal Federation and  the National Liberal Party (PNL). It also
declared "null and void" a decision taken two days earlier by federation
chairman Nicolae Cerveni to suspend  Dinu Patriciu's as executive chairman
of the federation. Cerveni had suspended Patriciu because of the latter's
attempts to merge the federation with the PNL. On 22 March, Cerveni
responded by expelling from the Liberal Party eight members of the Patriciu
group, including the entire leadership of the former Liberal Party '93,
which had merged with Cerveni's National Liberal Party-Democratic
Convention to form the Liberal Party in 1997. The Liberal Federation now
consists of only the tiny Cerveni wing and national Liberal Party-Campeanu
wing. MS

HUNGARIAN ETHNICS TO CONTINUE GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIP. The Council of
Representatives of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR),
meeting in Miercurea-Ciuc on 21 March, decided to continue its
participation in the governing coalition. UDMR chairman Bela Marko said all
members of the ruling coalition must "assume responsibility" for the
mistakes made in the past and must correct them. The council rejected by an
overwhelming majority a proposal by members of one of UDMR's radical wings
that the federation leave the coalition, which has not accepted the UDMR's
demands for autonomy. MS

COMMUNISTS WIN MOLDOVAN ELECTIONS. With 83 percent of the votes counted,
the Party of Moldovan Communists is leading the field in the 22 March
parliamentary elections, having won some 30 percent support, BASA-press
reported on 23 March. The pro-reform Democratic Convention of Moldova is
second, with some 20 percent, closely followed by the  pro-presidential For
a Prosperous and Democratic Moldova Bloc (18 percent). The conservative
pro-Romanian Party of Democratic Forces won some 9 percent of the vote. No
other party seems to have passed the 4 percent electoral threshold.
Turnout is estimated at about 67 percent. Final results are due by 24
March. MS

ODESSA MEETING FAILS TO RESOLVE MAIN TRANSDNIESTRIAN ISSUES. Talks in
Odessa on the status of the separatist Transdniestrian region failed to
resolve the main outstanding issues, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on
20 March. Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi, separatist leader Igor
Smirnov, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, and Russian Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin attended the talks. Chisinau and Tiraspol agreed,
however, that, as a confidence-building measure, each would reduce the
number of its troops deployed in the security zone from 2,000 to 1,500
troops. It was also agreed that Ukraine would send peace-keeping observers
to the security zone. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, who attended
the meeting, ruled out any withdrawal of the Russian contingent from the
Transdniester until a final settlement of the conflict has been reached. MS

BULGARIAN-RUSSIAN PRELIMINARY AGREEMENT ON GAS SUPPLIES. Bulgarian Deputy
Prime Minister Evgeni Bakardzhiev and Gazprom chief Rem Vyakhirev reached a
preliminary agreement in Moscow on 20 March aimed at resolving the
long-standing dispute between the two sides over gas supplies to Bulgaria,
ITAR-TASS reported. Under that agreement, annual deliveries of gas to
Bulgaria will be increased from 6,000 to 8,000 million cubic meters a year,
while transit rights for Russian gas deliveries through pipelines on
Bulgarian territory will be incrementally increased from 6 million cubic
meters to 19 million cubic meters by the year 2010. Vyakhirev said a final
agreement is to be signed "within weeks." MS

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