|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 60 Part II, 27 March 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 60 Part II, 27 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 EUROPEAN UNION: EMBRACING ENLARGEMENT AND ECONOMIC UNION The EU takes two important steps this month toward implementing a unified currency and enlarging to include Central and Eastern European countries. These articles describe recent developments and describe the current economic status of four European countries. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/eumarch98/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WON'T ENFRANCHISE TATARS * ALBANIA SAYS MILOSEVIC TRYING TO PROVOKE BACKLASH * MILOSEVIC SNUBS GELBARD xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WON'T ENFRANCHISE TATARS. Leonid Kuchma said on 26 March that signing a decree allowing Crimean Tatars the right to vote would be unconstitutional. He commented that he cannot violate the constitution, even if such a move would relieve tension in Crimea. Thousands of Tatars in Simferopol clashed with police recently in protests demanding they be granted suffrage in time for the 29 March elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 1998). Tatar leaders have called for more protests on the eve of the elections. Crimean police chief Hennady Moskal said on 25 March that a large police force would be brought into Crimea to maintain order on election day. PB UKRAINE CLARIFIES POSITION ON JOINING NATO. Ukrainian officials said at a 26 March session of a NATO-Ukraine Commission that Kyiv "does not rule out" joining the alliance but that such a move is currently unrealistic, an RFE/RL correspondent in Brussels reported. The Ukrainian delegation named three conditions for joining NATO: decisive public opinion in favor of accession; bringing the Ukrainian military in line with NATO standards; and the guarantee that joining the alliance will not hurt relations with neighboring countries, particularly Russia. The NATO- Ukraine Commission is meeting to discuss how to implement the partnership charter signed last year in Madrid. PB BELARUSIAN COMMUNISTS TO BOYCOTT UNION TREATY CELEBRATIONS. The leader of the Belarusian Party of Communists said on 26 March that party members will not attend festivities marking the first anniversary of the signing of the Russian-Belarusian Union Treaty, BelaPAN reported. Party First Secretary Sergei Kalyakin said the treaty was the result of "integration games played by politicians" and that only the Russian and Belarusian presidents, Boris Yeltsin and Alyaksandr Lukashenka, had benefited from the union. He said the treaty, signed on 2 April 1997, had led to the further separation of the two countries and that there is "nothing to celebrate." PB STATE CONTROL COMMITTEE INSPECTS BELARUSIAN REGIONS. Nikolay Domashkevich, the chairman of the Commission for State Controls, was in Brest on 26 March to check on that region's adherence to state-imposed economic regulations, Belapan reported on 26 March. Vladymyr Zalomay, chairman of the Brest Regional Executive Committee, reported to the controls committee that local agencies have carried out 822 inspections in recent days and discovered 14 cases in which prices were raised illegally. Domashkevich said Brest and Grodno are the first two areas to be visited by the controls committee because they have experienced the lowest level of inflation during the country's recent economic crisis. PB ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT TO LAUNCH EXPANSION TALKS. The ruling coalition, composed of the centrist Coalition Party and a rural bloc, is to launch talks with opposition groups aimed at expanding the minority government before elections in spring 1999, ETA and Reuters reported. Mati Meos, head of the Coalition Party's parliamentary faction, said the government will ask the largest opposition group, the Reform Party, to participate in such talks. The Reformists quit the ruling coalition in November 1996 after then Prime Minister Tiit Vahi signed a cooperation deal with a major opposition party. Meos said another year of minority government rule would be a "waste" as the government would have to devote its energies to fending off opposition attacks. The ruling coalition currently has 37 seats in the 101-strong parliament. JC LATVIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS AMENDED ELECTORAL LAW. Lawmakers on 26 March adopted amendments to the law on elections prohibiting party coalitions from submitting lists of candidates, BNS reported. Only parties and alliances of parties registered with the Ministry of Justice will be allowed to submit such lists. The parliament also rejected a provision that would have stipulated different thresholds for parties and party coalitions. Earlier this year, President Guntis Ulmanis had rejected that provision and returned the law to the parliament for revision. Under the amended law, both individual parties and coalitions will have to gain at least 5 percent of the vote to enter the parliament. JC LITHUANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY FROWNS ON NEW MINISTER'S DECISION. The Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party (LDDP) disapproves of Mindaugas Stankevicius's decision to take up the health care portfolio in the reshuffled government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1998), BNS reported. Former Prime Minister Stankevicius resigned as a LDDP parliamentary deputy on accepting the new post. Povilas Gylys, an LDDP faction member, said Stankevicius's decision to join the right-wing cabinet was an "individual one" and was not coordinated with the party. JC POLISH PRESIDENT VOICES CONCERN OVER EU PREPARATION. Aleksander Kwasniewski told the cabinet on 26 March that he questions the progress being made by the government in preparing documents needed for EU accession talks, Reuters reported on 26 March. Kwasniewski said "I see delay ... greater determination is needed" in the process. Ryszard Czarnecki, who heads the European Integration Committee, responded that Kwasniewski's comments are political and have no basis. He commented that European integration "should not be the playing field for a political match." And he also said Poland's national program for EU membership will be ready when accession talks begin on 31 March. PB CZECH PRESIDENT CLEARS PATH FOR JUNE VOTE. Vaclav Havel on 25 March signed a constitutional amendment cutting the term of the Chamber of Deputies in half and thus clearing the way for early parliamentary elections, Reuters reported. Last week, the Senate approved the bill following its passage in the lower house. Havel must still officially announce the poll. Earlier this week, he said the date of the ballot is likely to be 19-20 June. MS PRO-MECIAR MEDIA ON BRATISLAVA DEMONSTRATION. "Slovenska Republika," the mouthpiece of Premier Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, reported on 25 March that the previous day's opposition demonstration was a "Goebbels-like nightmare" that "stupefied Bratislava square." The demonstrators had protested against the government's growing authoritarianism and its intention to change the electoral law to the opposition's disadvantage. They also demanded that the country's president be elected by popular vote. MS SLOVAK CATHOLIC CHURCH APOLOGIZES TO JEWS. The Catholic Church in Slovakia has asked for forgiveness from the country's Jewish community for its role in the massacre of Jews during the Nazi German occupation, AFP reported. In a statement released in Bratislava on 26 March, the bishops said "We cannot deny that the deportation of Slovak Jews took place in our midst, that certain members of the nation took part, and that Slovaks looked on silently." The bishops, however, made no mention of Jozef Tiso, the Catholic priest who was executed after World War II for his role in the murder of thousands of Slovak Jews in Nazi concentration camps. In 1990, the bishops' conference of the former Czechoslovakia issued a similar expression of repentance. JC HUNGARIAN CABINET SAYS NO DAM AT NAGYMAROS. The government on 26 March rejected building a dam at Nagymaros as part of the Slovak-Hungarian Danube hydropower plant project, Hungarian media reported. Government spokesman Elemer Kiss said studies will be carried out only on the effects and feasibility of constructing a dam at Pilismarot, some 8 kilometers from Nagymaros. He added that the cabinet's decision is based on environmental considerations. The government is setting up a committee under Environment Minister Ferenc Baja and Transport, Telecommunications, and Water Minister Karoly Lotz to oversee the effects and feasibility studies. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIA SAYS MILOSEVIC TRYING TO PROVOKE BACKLASH. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said in Stockholm on 26 March that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic hopes the current crackdown in Kosovo will provoke a strong reaction from the Kosovars, which, Milo said, would enable Milosevic to justify an even more massive military intervention in the province. The minister added that Albania is preparing to defend itself from possible attacks by the Yugoslav military. Milo also urged the six-member international Contact Group to agree on tougher measures against Belgrade than it has to date in order to increase pressure on Milosevic. PM MILOSEVIC SNUBS GELBARD. Milosevic declined to meet on 27 March with Robert Gelbard, who is the U.S. special envoy to the former Yugoslavia. Gelbard told reporters in Belgrade that "if there is a failure to meet with us, that will tell us a great deal about [Milosevic's] position and his government's position." The previous day, Gelbard told Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic and Serbian President Milan Milutinovic that the major powers are concerned over the lack of progress in solving the Kosovo problem and that they want the Serbs and Albanians to begin talks. Gelbard urged the 15-member Kosovar negotiating team in Pristina to begin negotiations with the Serbian authorities as soon as possible (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 1998). For several years, the Kosovars have been asking Belgrade for internationally mediated talks on the province's future. PM COHEN CALLS RUSSIAN ARMS FOR SERBIA "COUNTERPRODUCTIVE." U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen said in Washington on 26 March that he hopes that recent media reports of a major Russian arms sale to Yugoslavia are not true (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1998). Cohen added that any increase in the number of weapons in the region would be "counterproductive" and that the Dayton agreement bars Yugoslavia from significantly improving its military capabilities. PM MONTENEGRINS SAY KOSOVO IS SERBIAN. Members of a Montenegrin parliamentary delegation told a press conference in Washington on 26 March that Kosovo is historically Serbian and should remain so, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the U.S. capital. The U.S. Congress invited parliamentary speaker Svetozar Marovic and his delegation as part of Washington's efforts to promote reform in Yugoslavia. PM CROATIA ACCUSES INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY OF DOUBLE STANDARDS. A spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, who is the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 26 March that Croatia has not observed its agreement to allow ethnic Serbs currently living in Banja Luka to visit their former homes in Croatia. Meanwhile in Zagreb, Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa told a delegation from the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe that the international community has not done enough to enable Croatian refugees to return to their homes in eastern Slavonia. Matesa added that the international community applies different criteria to the return of Croatian refugees than it does to refugees of other nationalities. PM JOURNALISTS SENTENCED IN CROATIA. A court in Zagreb on 26 March sentenced Vlado Vurusic, who is a journalist for the independent weekly "Globus," to two months in prison and his former editor-in-chief Davor Butkovic to four months for slander. Vurusic wrote in an article in the fall of 1997 that an indicted Bosnian Croat war criminal was living openly in Split and working for the Croatian Defense Ministry. PM TURKEY, ALBANIA SIGN NAVAL BASE AGREEMENT. Officials from the Turkish and Albanian Defense Ministries signed an agreement on 25 March in Ankara providing for the reconstruction of the southern Albanian naval base of Pashaliman (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 23 January 1998). Turkey will contribute $7 million to the upgrading of training facilities and modernization of the Albanian navy, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Pashaliman was the Ottoman Empire's main port on the Adriatic and the former USSR's only base on that sea during the early stages of the Cold War. FS ITALIAN POLICE ARREST ALBANIAN ARMS GANG. Police in Bari on 25 March arrested 36 suspected arms smugglers, most of whom were Albanians, "Koha Jone" reported. Italian investigators found an arms cache containing hundreds of Kalashnikov machine guns. Police spokesmen said the gang had sold arms to four Italian Mafia organizations over the previous eight months. FS ROMANIAN PREMIER WAGES WAR ON ALL FRONTS. In a televised address to the nation on 26 March, Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea demanded that ministers who are members of the National Liberal Party's (PNL) Executive Bureau either resign from that body or leave the government. Ciorbea was responding to a resolution, proposed by Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica and approved by the bureau, saying Ciorbea must be replaced to solve the current political crisis. The premier said the ministers must resign by 28 March, when a PNL congress is scheduled to take place. He added that if the Democratic Party votes against the draft budget, all its representatives at local government level and at the head of state government structures such as the State Property Fund will be dismissed. MS ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT MARKS UNIFICATION WITH BESSARABIA. A special joint session of Romania's bicameral parliament on 26 March marked the 80th anniversary of the Bessarabian parliament's decision to unify the province (present-day Moldova) with Romania. Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor said his formation would like to use the occasion to pay "particular homage" to wartime leader Marshal Ion Antonescu. Tudor remarked that "those who condemned him to death" in 1946 do not let him rest in peace even now. And he argued that Romania must not hurry to sign the basic treaties with Moldova and Russia. Speaking for the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, Dezideriu Garda said that what happened in "Russified Moldova" demonstrates that "no nation can be de-nationalized." MS MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS COURT PRESIDENTIAL PARTY. Vladimir Voronin, the leader of the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM), said on 26 March that his party is ready to set up a coalition with the pro- presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc (PMDP). He added that the Party of Democratic Forces (PFD) could also join such an alliance but noted such a development was "unlikely." Voronin said the only possibility the PCM rules out is a coalition with the Democratic Convention of Moldova. And he noted that his party would agree to have the PMDP appoint the premier in exchange for the chairmanship of the parliament. He also reminded the PMDP that the PCM supported President Petru Lucinschi in the late 1996 presidential race, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS CONFUSION OVER ODESSA MEETING. Igor Smirnov, leader of the Transdniestrian separatists, claims that at the 20 March meeting in Odessa, Moldova, the Transdniester, Russia, and Ukraine reached an understanding on how to solve the conflict between Chisinau and Tiraspol, RFE/RL's bureau in the Moldovan capital reported on 26 March. None of the other participants in the 20 March meeting has made public reference to such an understanding. Smirnov also said that the dismissal of Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin--who represented Moscow at the meeting-- "must not be dramatized." But he said that if the documents "signed at the four-side meeting are revoked," Tiraspol will not hesitate "to start afresh" its drive for recognition of Transdniester independence. MS ECONOMIC DIVERSITY OF THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLICS by Michael Wyzan A popular joke in the former Yugoslavia asks, if one returned to Europe at some distant point in the future, how many countries would one find? The answer: nine, namely, the EU and the eight regions of the former Yugoslavia. So far, only five new states have emerged from socialist Yugoslavia. But Kosovo and Montenegro are increasingly restive, and some Vojvodina politicians are demanding that the province receive as much autonomy as Belgrade grants Kosovo (although Kosovo's autonomy may in itself be negligible). Despite similarities stemming from their shared inheritance, the four escapees and Federal Yugoslavia have little in common economically. Each bears a certain resemblance to one or more transition economies elsewhere. Their analogs run the gamut from the most developed Central European countries to the poorest, most strife-ridden, and least reform-friendly lands of Central Asia. Slovenia is a stable and prosperous Visegrad country and member of the Central European Free Trade Area. Even so, its economic policy and performance are distinct from its Central European neighbors. External imbalances are modest and declining: the trade deficit reached $767 million in January-November 1997 (less than 4 percent of GDP and down from $1.04 billion in January-November 1996) and the current account surplus $70.1 million in 1997. A manageable external account distinguishes Slovenia from the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia and makes it compare to Hungary in this respect. However, unlike Hungary in 1995 and the Czech Republic in 1997, independent Slovenia has never experienced an economic crisis. Also, unlike most other Visegrad lands, Slovenia has not attracted significant amounts of foreign investment (less than $1 billion through October 1997), although its attractiveness for investors is increasing. Slovenia will probably maintain its slow but steady economic growth and cautious economic policy. It lacks Poland's or Hungary's dynamism but at the same time has eschewed Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's propensity for ideologically-inspired policy mistakes and the Czech Republic's fundamental disagreements over policy among political parties. Political factors have isolated Croatia from the EU. Despite its relatively advanced and reformed economy, it is not even considered a candidate for accession, a distinction it shares only with the Federal Yugoslavia. Like Slovakia, it is isolated from Europe for political reasons. And it also has in common with that country a rapid GDP growth (5.5 percent in Croatia and 5.9 percent in Slovakia last year) and worrying external imbalances (projected at about 11-12 percent of GDP in both in 1997). Another similarity is privatization methods that favor enterprise insiders and those connected to ruling political elites. However, Croatia has a more diversified economy than Slovakia's, with more world class firms, such as drug-maker Pliva, which in April 1996 became the first company in the region to be listed on the London Stock Exchange. Croatia's economy is inextricably tied to Europe, while Slovakia's tendency to drift eastward in its economic relations is hardly possible in a country never part of the Soviet trading bloc. The other three former Yugoslav republics have features in common with certain former Soviet republics. Macedonia, like Moldova, has generally exhibited sound macroeconomic policies and has taken unusually long to resume economic growth. Macedonian social product increased by 1.4 percent in 1997, following 0.7 percent growth in 1996 (the first year it registered a positive figure). Moldova's GDP rose last year for the first time, by 1.3 percent. On the other hand, Macedonia remains in the good graces of international financial institutions--unlike Moldova, whose parliament voted in December to double the budget deficit over that agreed with the IMF. Federal Yugoslavia's anti-reform orientation can be compared only to that of Belarus (and perhaps Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), while its isolation from international institutions is unsurpassed. It shares with Belarus respectable economic growth from a low base: Federal Yugoslavia's GDP rose by about 6 percent and Belarus's by 10 percent in 1997. Like Russia, Federal Yugoslavia has regions where federal institutions are irrelevant for day-to-day life (Chechnya and Kosovo) and often displays hostility toward secessionist republics that colors its economic policies. It quarrels over border demarcation and succession questions, while Russia hassles its neighbors over their treatment of ethnic Russians, pipeline routes, shares of oil deals, and customs issues. Bosnia bears some similarities to similarly civil-war-ravaged Tajikistan. Both states, along with Albania, have received funding from the IMF's Emergency Post Conflict Assistance. Bosnia's economic recovery has been under way longer than Tajikistan's and appears stronger; the former's GDP grew by 50 percent in 1996 and about 30 percent last year, while the latter's first positive figure was in 1997 (1.7 percent). Bosnia's dependence on the world community is unrivaled in recent world history; the IMF has even gone so far as to appoint foreigners to head its central bank. The author is an economist living in Austria. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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