Peace is indivisible. - Maxim Litvino
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 59 Part II, 26 March 1998


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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

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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

* MASS PROTEST IN BRATISLAVA

* SERBIAN OFFENSIVE IN KOSOVO CONTINUES

* KOSOVARS SAY SERBIAN GOAL IS ETHNIC CLEANSING

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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

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