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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 59 Part II, 26 March 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 59 Part II, 26 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 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * MASS PROTEST IN BRATISLAVA * SERBIAN OFFENSIVE IN KOSOVO CONTINUES * KOSOVARS SAY SERBIAN GOAL IS ETHNIC CLEANSING xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUS ASKS CITIZENS TO HELP COMBAT FINANCIAL CRISIS. The Belarusian government appealed to the population on 25 March to report people who disobey state-imposed economic regulations, Reuters reported. Konstantin Sumar, deputy chairman of the Commission for State Controls, said the commission hopes to receive tips from people detailing instances of "abuses in the financial sphere." A number for a special telephone line has been advertised on television. Sumar also said the commission is asking for advice from people on the "rational use of monetary resources." Belarusian Television on 25 March showed police squads raiding state-owned stores that failed to lower prices to levels ordered by the state. Belapan reported on 25 March that the shelves of many food shops around the country have been cleared by shoppers worried about inflation and a further devaluation of the currency. PB BELARUS TO START NAVY? In Severomorsk, Russia, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka announced that he needs to acquaint himself with the Russian navy because Moscow and Minsk have begun "working out guidelines for a (common) defense policy." He also said he was considering "taking one [Russian] surface ship and a submarine under Belarus's patronage," ITAR-TASS and BelaPAN reported. In other news, Chinese leader Jiang Zemin told a Belarusian parliamentary delegation visiting China that the two countries hold similar views on most international issues, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 March. Parliamentary speaker Anatoly Malofeyev, the head of the delegation, said Minsk attaches great importance to relations with Beijing. PB UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT MULLS DECREE GIVING TATARS SUFFRAGE. Leonid Kuchma is considering issuing a presidential decree that would allow some 20,000 Crimean Tatars without Ukrainian citizenship to vote in the 29 March elections, a presidential aide said on 25 March. Crimea's Tatars have recently protested and clashed with police over the refusal by the Ukrainian parliament to grant them voting rights (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 1998). The decree, however, would leave tens of thousands of Tatars still disenfranchised. Observers point out that issuing such a decree would not be completely altruistic, as several Crimean Tatars are running for parliamentary seats as candidates of pro-Kuchma, reformist parties. PB BALTIC-BELARUSIAN BORDER AGREEMENT SIGNED. The foreign ministers of Belarus, Latvia, and Lithuania have signed a border agreement that paves the way for the demarcation of the 500-km Baltic- Belarusian frontier, BNS reported on 25 March. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas said he expects the treaty to lead to improved relations between Minsk and Vilnius. His Belarusian counterpart, Ivan Antonovich, told reporters in Vilnius that talks on the treaty were complicated by illegal border crossings. There are few official crossing points and insufficient patrols along the 350-km frontier between Lithuania and Belarus. JC LATVIAN SECURITY COUNCIL WANTS CLOSER TIES WITH RUSSIA. Speaking to reporters on 25 March, Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis said that a National Security Council session earlier that day had stressed Latvia must seek closer ties with Russia, BNS reported. Ulmanis said that cooperation should be developed between border areas and various regions of the two countries as well as at national level. He also urged that negotiations on border issues be continued and various bilateral agreements signed. The president avoided directly answering questions about current Latvian-Russian relations but said the further development of those relations "would depend on the situation in the neighboring country." JC NEW LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT CONFIRMED. President Valdas Adamkus on 25 March confirmed the new streamlined cabinet. Ten ministers retained their posts, while there were two "newcomers" to the government. In a surprise move, Mindaugas Stankevicius, a former prime minister and a member of the opposition Democratic Labor Party, was appointed health care minister. And independent Edvardas Makelis replaced Conservative Vytautas Knasys at the Agriculture Ministry. Four portfolios remain vacant: Telecommunications, Construction and Urban Planning, Education and Science, and European Affairs. The parliament plans to amend the law on the government next week to merge the first two with the Communications and Environment Protection ministries, respectively. The future of the European Affairs Ministry remains uncertain. JC POPE PRAISES CONCORDAT WITH POLAND. Pope John Paul II hailed a new treaty with Poland after it was ratified on 25 March, Reuters reported. The pontiff said he hopes the Concordat will contribute "to the spiritual and material development of society." Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, who signed the agreement at the Vatican, said the ratification of the treaty is a "day for which we have waited many years." The agreement was delayed for nearly five years by the leftist coalition government that lost last year's elections. PB POLAND'S CHIEF RABBI RESPONDS TO CARDINAL. Menachem Joskowicz on 25 March repeated the demand that a cross near the Auschwitz concentration be removed, Reuters reported. Joskowicz was responding to comments made by Polish Cardinal Jozef Glemp (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1998). The eight-meter cross was erected in 1979. Compromise solutions made by Krzysztof Sliwinski, the government's envoy to the Jewish community, include moving the cross farther away from the site and replacing it with a smaller cross. PB MASS PROTEST DEMONSTRATION IN BRATISLAVA. Some 30,000 people demonstrated in Bratislava on 25 March against the growing autocratic tendencies of Vladimir Meciar's cabinet. Specifically, the demonstrators were opposing the intention to change the electoral law to the detriment of the opposition and advocating the election of the president by direct popular vote, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. The demonstration marked 10 years since protesters in the Slovak capital had demanded religious freedom from the country's then Communist rulers. Former President Michal Kovac told the gathering that "we now have freedom of religion and of assembly, but we have to face intolerance and malice" from the country's rulers. MS MECIAR SAYS WEST IGNORANT ABOUT SLOVAKIA. Meciar told journalists on 25 March that the EU and the U.S. have a "distorted image" of developments in Slovakia and are taking into account only "the views of the opposition." He promised the September elections will be "free and democratic." Meanwhile, Vladimir Lukin, visiting chairman of the Russian State Duma's Foreign Relations Committee, said in Bratislava the same day that Russia will "never join" international criticism against Slovakia. MS HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT, MULTINATIONALS LAUNCH INVESTMENT COUNCIL. The Hungarian government, the 28 largest multinational companies in Hungary, and the U.S. and German Chambers of Commerce have set up an Investment Council, which will coordinate the country's economic policy and investors' needs, Hungarian media reported on 25 March. The two co-chairmen of the council are Finance Minister Peter Medgyessy and Gyorgy Mosonyi, Royal Dutch Shell's managing director in Hungary. The council will deal with issues related to telecommunications, energy sector, agriculture and food processing. Meanwhile, General Electric has announced it will invest $50 million in Hungary over the next three years, creating 500 new jobs. Multinationals currently account for 25-30 percent of Hungary's GDP. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN OFFENSIVE IN KOSOVO CONTINUES. Serbian paramilitary police on 25 March continued to maintain a strong presence in the Drenica region, west of Pristina, despite repeated demands by the international Contact Group for them to withdraw. The paramilitary police also fired heavy weapons into Kosovar villages in the Decani and Djakovica regions, where they launched an offensive the previous day, Albanian and independent Serbian media reported. The Serbian forces continue to bar journalists from the area, and precise information about military actions or casualties is not available. Kosovar spokesmen said in Pristina and Pec that wounded people from the region under attack were brought to the hospitals in those two towns on 24 and 25 March. PM KOSOVARS SAY SERBIAN GOAL IS ETHNIC CLEANSING. A Kosovar shadow-state spokesman told "RFE/RL Newsline" on 25 March that the purpose of the paramilitary offensive is to drive the ethnic Albanian population out of Kosovo by using the methods that the Serbs used in their "ethnic cleansing" campaigns in Bosnia. The spokesman said that the Drenica offensive was aimed at clearing a strategic corridor west of Pristina and that the current drive near Djakovica is intended to drive the Kosovars out of the border regions with Albania. He added that refugees are fleeing to Macedonia rather than to Albania, which is widely known in Kosovo to be too impoverished to handle a refugee influx. The spokesman stressed that the Serbs might be able to carry out the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo very quickly because the Kosovars, unlike the Bosnian Muslims, have no military organization to protect them. PM CONTACT GROUP GIVES MILOSEVIC MORE TIME. The foreign ministers of the U.S., U.K., Russia, Germany, France, and Italy agreed in Bonn on 25 March to give Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic four more weeks to meet the demands that the six countries put forward at their gathering in London on 9 March in conjunction with the Kosovo crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March 1998). Their original deadline to Milosevic to withdraw his paramilitary police from Kosovo and launch serious talks with the Kosovars was 19 March. Russia, which is Milosevic's main arms supplier, and Italy, which has many public sector contracts in Yugoslavia, opposed U.S. attempts to impose an immediate arms embargo and tough economic sanctions on Belgrade. German, French, and Italian diplomats argued that the international community should offer Milosevic positive incentives, not just punitive ones, in order to secure his cooperation. PM ALBRIGHT INSISTS ON TOUGHNESS. Speaking at the Bonn gathering on 25 March, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned her colleagues that Milosevic is stalling for time in the hopes that the international community will lose interest in Kosovo. She said that "we have to remember that progress has only come about through sustained pressure.... If [Milosevic] has his way, he will do as little as possible to meet our concerns, and then only under pressure and at the last minute. Incentives tend to be pocketed; warnings tend not to be believed." PM IS RUSSIA SELLING ARMS TO MILOSEVIC? Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said in Bonn on 25 March that Russia will discuss a possible arms embargo with the other Contact Group countries in the coming days. He insisted, however, that any such move must not be "one-sided" and must include a ban on arms smuggling from Albania into Kosovo. "The New York Times" wrote that Russia agreed in December 1997 to sell Yugoslavia tanks, attack helicopters, ground-to-air missiles, MiG-29s and spare parts. The newspaper added that Washington is concerned lest the deal upset the military balance in the region and violate the Dayton agreement, which includes provisions on arms ceilings. The daily quoted U.S. officials as saying that Russian-made attack helicopters may have been used in the current crackdown in Kosovo. PM CHIRAC CALLS FOR DIALOGUE. French President Jacques Chirac sent a message to Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova in which Chirac "hailed the [22 March] elections in Kosovo" and urged the Kosovar leader "to make the best [political] use of his position following the vote." Chirac called on Rugova to begin a dialogue with the Yugoslav authorities and to distance himself from "terrorism." In Tirana, the French ambassador gave President Rexhep Meidani a message from Chirac, who called on his Albanian colleague to help find a solution to the Kosovo problem based on "real autonomy within the existing international borders," "Zeri i Popullit" wrote. PM/FS ALBANIA REJECTS SERBIAN CHARGES. Defense Minister Sabit Brokaj rejected charges by the Serbian Interior Ministry that armed bands recently crossed into Kosovo from Albania to attack Serbian police. Speaking in Tirana on 25 March, Brokaj said that international monitors stationed on Albania's borders know that such charges are baseless. Brokaj also signed a cooperation agreement with his Macedonian counterpart, Lazar Kitanovski. Brokaj announced that NATO experts will arrive in Albania and Macedonia next week to help train local security forces in monitoring their countries' respective borders with Kosovo. PM POLICE EVICT HUNGER-STRIKERS FROM ALBANIAN PYRAMID OFFICES. Police on 25 March evicted some 30 hunger- strikers from the offices of the VEFA pyramid company in Tirana, "Koha Jone" reported. The strikers had begun the strike on 25 February to protest the planned shut-down and sell-off of the bankrupt firm. They hoped that, if left alone, it might continue to function and generate at least some profit, which could then be divided among investors. On 23 March, a delegation of investors signed an agreement providing for transparency in the bankruptcy procedures with the government through the mediation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The hunger-strikers, however, refused to accept the deal. FS ALBANIAN PRESIDENT DECLARES WAR ON CORRUPTION. Rexhep Meidani called key government officials to a special meeting on 25 March to discuss steps to fight corruption, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Among those attending were the interior and defense ministers, the deputy finance minister, and the heads of the secret services, customs, police, and the anti-corruption agency. Meidani accused the various government departments of not taking the fight against corruption seriously and of failing to cooperate among themselves. Meanwhile, the Prosecutor-General has launched investigations against former Defense Minister Safet Zhulali and former Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi for alleged corruption in connection with arms sales, "Koha Jone" reported. FS ROMANIAN PREMIER FACES CHALLENGE FROM WITHIN OWN PARTY. Prominent members of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) met recently in Brasov to draft a letter expressing "apprehension" about the party's "deteriorating image and isolation" and the party's neglect of the "national dimension"-- an allusion to concessions made to the Hungarian minority. The group called for Premier Victor Ciorbea to be replaced by PNTCD Secretary-General Radu Vasile. It also said a party congress must be called to discuss those issues, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Also on 25 March, the first vice chairman of the national Liberal Party, Valeriu Stoica, said the ongoing political crisis must be solved "even if the price is the sacrifice of the premier." MS ROMANIAN SENATE COMMISSION REJECTS DRAFT BUDGET. The Senate's Agriculture Commission on 25 March voted to reject the draft budget submitted to the parliament by the cabinet, RFE/RL's Bucharest Bureau reported. Criticism of the budget has been expressed by other commissions currently debating the draft. Senator Varujan Vosganian, who heads the Senate's Budget and Finance Commission, said the draft might be sent back to the government for revisions. Ciorbea has threatened to resign if the budget is amended by the parliament. MS MOLDOVAN POLITICAL LEADERS APPEAL TO REFORMERS TO UNITE. In a joint declaration released on 25 March, Mircea Snegur and Iurie Rosca, co-chairmen of the Democratic Convention of Moldova, say the "disastrous effects" of the Democratic Agrarian Party's term in office, combined with "divisions among pro-reform forces," explain why the Communists won the 22 March elections, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. But since the Communists do not have a majority, most Moldovans "favor the continuation of reforms," they argue. They call on the three non-communist parties to "overcome differences" and "display responsibility" in negotiations to form a new governing coalition. Dumitru Diacov, leader of the pro-presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc (PMPD), said the formation of the coalition depends on the readiness of the non-communist parties to "compromise." He admitted, however, that the PMPD has also held talks with Communist leader Vladimir Voronin. MS SECOND ROUND OF MASS PRIVATIZATION UNDER WAY IN BULGARIA. The parliament on 25 March approved a bill increasing the rights of citizens to buy investment bonds in state owned companies. Whereas a law passed in 1997 stipulated only 1,000 state companies slated for privatization, citizens may now purchase bonds in any state company that do not exceed a total value of 250,000 leva ($139). Those bonds can then be exchanged for shares or invested in pension funds. The bonds will be used to pay wage and pension arrears from 1997, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. MS BULGARIAN REFINERY WORKERS END RAILROAD BLOCKADE. Bulgarian state television on 25 March reported that some 1,200 workers from the Plama oil refinery have ended a blockade of a railroad station near Pleven after an appeal by Premier Ivan Kostov. The workers from the Plama refinery were protesting that their wages have not been paid for two months. Kostov said the protest was justified but that the government "could not intervene in the operation of a private company." He pledged to "do everything possible" to seek a solution. Earlier on 25 March, Deputy Premier Alexander Bozhkov told the workers that Plama's new owner, International Equities Inc., would pay wage arrears as soon as the purchase of the refinery from Euroenergy Holding is finalized, Reuters reported. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "subscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO RETRIEVE BACK ISSUES VIA EMAIL (1) Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the letters "ls" as the subject or body of the message. This will retrieve a list of available files. 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