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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 61 Part II, 30 March 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 61 Part II, 30 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 * COMMUNIST PARTY LEADS IN UKRAINIAN ELECTIONS * UCK OFFERS SERBS A CHOICE * BELGRADE RAPS FOREIGN MEDIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE COMMUNIST PARTY LEADS IN UKRAINIAN ELECTIONS. Preliminary returns from Kyiv show the Communist Party leading in the 29 March general and local elections. With between 20 and 40 percent of the vote counted, Central Election Commission Chairman Mykhaylo Ryabets projected that as many as eight parties would overcome the 4 percent threshold to enter parliament. Both the commission and two polling organizations predicted that the Communist Party will win some 25 percent of the votes. Ryabets said it appears that more than 50 percent of registered voters participated in the election, with turnout largest in the western part of the country. Half of the 450 seats in the unicameral parliament will be directly elected, the other half apportioned to parties and blocs. PB NO SERIOUS VOTING IRREGULARITIES, ONLY MILD CRIMEAN PROTESTS. International observers monitoring the elections reported no serious violations, Reuters reported. Central Election Commission Chairman Mykhaylo Ryabets said some 400 monitors from 38 countries had observed the election throughout the country. Alain Chenard, the head of the Council of Europe's monitoring team, said "everything went more or less smoothly." Ukrainian television reported an arson attack at a polling station in western Ukraine. ITAR-TASS reported that voting took place without any major incidents in Crimea, but there were some peaceful protests by disenfranchised Tatars. Crimean Tatar leaders had called for a boycott of the election by those Tatars eligible to vote. PB KUCHMA PLEDGES COOPERATION. Conceding that left-wing parties fared well in the election, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said on 29 March that his government will do everything possible to work with the new parliament, Reuters reported. Kuchma said the previous day that his government had laid the foundation for economic growth, and he urged voters not to back "extremism." Oleksandr Moroz, the parliamentary speaker of the current parliament, said, however, that Kuchma's policies are at a "dead end." Former President Leonid Kravchuk, one of the leaders of the centrist Social Democratic Party, said the "people are voting against the economic situation in this country." PB BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION ACTIVIST SENTENCED. Vadim Kabanchuk was given a three- year suspended sentence for hooliganism on 27 March, Reuters reported. Kabanchuk had served six months in jail since his detention last fall for staging protests and resisting arrest. Kabanchuk said he will remain active in Belarusian "political life." He also remarked that conditions in the detention center violated human rights, saying he shared a cell with 32 others and was denied medical aid. PB BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER IN WASHINGTON. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott expressed strong support for human rights in Belarus during a meeting with opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Sannykov, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 28 March. Talbott also praised the Charter '97 group, which aims to draw attention to human rights violations in Belarus. Sannykov is the international coordinator for Charter '97, which has been signed by more than 70,000 people since it was founded last November. Sannykov said the situation in Belarus is regressing and that the number of people subjected to persecution is growing. Sannykov also met with several members of Congress. PB ESTONIAN RULING COALITION OPEN TO VIRTUALLY ALL PARTIES? ETA reported on 29 March that during talks over the weekend, the minority ruling coalition showed willingness to include virtually all opposition parties in the government. So far, an official offer has been made only to the Reform Party, the largest opposition group. Reform Party chairman Siim Kallas said he is not prepared to accept the offer immediately but will discuss it again at talks scheduled for 31 March. The Farmers' Party, one of whose leaders is Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves, declined the government's invitation to join talks on enlarging the coalition. The party said it is prepared to take part in the government through Foreign Ilves but that it will not ally itself with either the ruling coalition or the opposition. JC LATVIAN PREMIER DENIES COALITION UNSTABLE. Guntars Krasts on 27 March denied that his six-party coalition is unstable but acknowledged that rumors on the matter are constantly circulating, BNS and Reuters reported. Krasts told journalists he is concerned that calls in the parliament for more public spending could threaten the balanced budget ahead of the October general elections. Earlier this month, Krasts failed in his bid to have the parliament hold a vote of confidence in his government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March 1998). JC GERMAN MINORITY OPPOSES ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM IN POLAND. An ethnic German organization in Poland says that a plan to consolidate the provinces discriminates against the country's German minority, PAP reported on 28 March. The Social-Cultural Association of Germans are protesting the government plan to reduce Poland's 49 provinces to 12, which, the association says, continues "the communist-style forced assimilation of our national group." Some 250,000 ethnic Germans live in Poland. PB MALTA PROTESTS TO CZECH GOVERNMENT OVER HOTEL CONTROVERSY. Maltese Prime Minister Alfred Sant on 29 March described as "unacceptable" the Czech government's announcement that it is considering legal action against the Malta-based Corinthia Hotels Group for purchasing hotels in Prague and elsewhere in the Czech Republic, Reuters reported. Sant said his government has sent a protest note to Prague about what he called the "false reports" that Corinthia Hotels is Libyan-owned. He stressed that the majority of the chain's share holding is Maltese-owned. The U.S. State Department last week warned U.S. citizens that if they stayed in hotels owned by the Corinthia Group, they would be in violation of U.S. laws banning trade with Libya. MS MECIAR'S PARTY NAMES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) on 28 March unexpectedly announced it has selected Milan Secansky as its candidate for the president in the vote scheduled to take place on 16 April, AFP reported. It is doubtful whether Secansky, a parliamentary deputy, can garner the three-fifths majority required for the election of a president. The 16 April round will be the fifth attempt to select a successor to Michal Kovac, whose mandate ended in early March. It will also be the first time that the HZDS will run its own candidate. A public opinion poll released on 29 March by the TASR official news agency shows that 52 percent of Slovaks are opposed to Meciar's running for president and that only some 20 percent support his candidacy. MS SLOVAK HUNGARIANS TO RUN ON UNITED LIST? The three main parties that represent the Hungarian minority in Slovakia are considering joining forces ahead of the September elections, AFP reported on 28 March. The Federate Hungarian Party would include the present Movement of Hungarian Christian-Democrats, the Egyutteles movement, and the Hungarian Civic Party. If the three parties run as a united formation, rather than as a coalition of parties, they would need to pass a five percent threshold rather than a 15 percent one ( five percent for each member of the alliance). Such thresholds are envisaged in the amended election law that has already passed in the first reading in the parliament. MS HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTY COMPLETES NATIONAL LIST. Tamas Sepsey, the chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Forum's (MDF) national board, announced on 28 March that the party has finalized its national list for the May general elections. The list is headed by party chairman Sandor Lezsak. The MDF board has also amended the statutes of the party to allow the inclusion of Imre Pozsgay, a leading member of Hungary's former communist party, on the MDF's national list. MSZ REGIONAL AFFAIRS LUZHKOV CLAIMS LATVIA COMMITTING 'GENOCIDE' AGAINST RUSSIAN-SPEAKERS. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 28 March accused the Latvian authorities of "pursuing a consistent policy of genocide" against the Russian-speaking population, Russian news agencies reported. During a picket of the Latvian embassy in Moscow, Luzhkov told journalists that he favors "all possible measures...except force" to protect Russian-speakers in Latvia, who, he said, are "not just second-rate citizens" but "have practically been turned into slaves." He compared Riga's policies to events in Cambodia during Pol Pot's rule. The Moscow mayor has recently become one of the most outspoken Russian critics of the Latvian authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March 1998). He expressed concern about the treatment of Russian-speakers in Latvia during meetings with acting Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko and UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan on 25 and 29 March, respectively. LB CHIRAC DOES NOT OPPOSE BALTIC MEMBERSHIP IN NATO. Counselor Didier La Bret of the French Embassy in Vilnius denied on 27 March that during the so-called "troika" summit on the outskirts of Moscow the previous day, French President Jacques Chirac expressed opposition to the expansion of NATO to include the Baltic States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March 1998). Russian news agencies had quoted Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii as saying Chirac "made it clear" during a discussion of recent events in Latvia that France opposes the admission to the alliance of all three Baltic States. La Bret said the Russian accounts are "absolutely wrong" and that France believes "NATO's doors should remain open to all those desiring to join," BNS reported. Similar denials were issued by the French embassies in Riga and Tallinn (see also "End Note" below). JC SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE UCK OFFERS SERBS CHOICE. A spokesman for the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) told Reuters on 30 March that a peaceful solution is still possible to the Kosovo question provided that Serbian forces leave the province immediately and the Serbian authorities launch talks with the Kosovars. The spokesman added: "We have always favored independence through negotiation but in recent years we started to fight because nothing was changing in our situation and there were no meaningful talks. It's up to the Serbs whether we fight or talk. If they want to negotiate they must first withdraw their police and other forces. We won't walk away from negotiations, but we won't lay down our weapons either." The spokesman stressed that the Serbs "have already lost the war" because the UCK's morale is higher than that of the Serbian paramilitary police. PM THIRD ETHNIC ALBANIAN DIES FOLLOWING LATEST FIGHTING. Spokesmen for the leading Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) said in Pristina on 29 March that a third ethnic Albanian has died of wounds he received in last week's fighting in the Djakovica-Decani area. The authorities said on 24 March that one Serbian policeman died as well (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 1998). PM BELGRADE RAPS FOREIGN MEDIA. Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic said in Belgrade on 29 March that the VOA, CNN, the BBC, Deutsche Welle, "and others" have "massacred the truth in Kosovo" through their reporting on the ongoing Serbian crackdown. He said that domestic Yugoslav radio stations that rebroadcast the foreign stations' reports are guilty of "subversion" and of being "a Fifth Column." Referring to unnamed foreign journalists who have reported on the UCK, Matic added that "our state must establish a clear relationship [with] certain foreign journalists that are in contact with Albanian armed terrorist groups." In Washington, the VOA's Croatian Service denied the charges in its morning broadcast on 30 March. The VOA said it is committed to accurate and objective reporting. PM BULGARIA WARNS ABOUT SITUATION IN KOSOVO. Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova said in Belgrade on 28 March that Kosovo cannot be considered a purely internal affair of Yugoslavia, as the Yugoslav authorities maintain. She stressed that a large number of countries have become involved in finding a solution to the Kosovo question. Mihailova added that Yugoslavia's neighbors fear that events in Kosovo could lead to problems in their own countries and that consequently "Kosovo could become an internal affair of the neighboring countries," RFE/RL reported. PM MONTENEGRO SLAMS MILOSEVIC... Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said in Podgorica on 29 March that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had been both rude and politically unwise in refusing to meet with U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard two days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March 1998). Vujanovic stated: "If you want to talk to the international community, you don't refuse to receive the emissary of the president of the United States.... We must respect the emissaries of those who have the political and economic power. It is an elementary obligation toward citizens and the economy whose fate depends on what emerges from dialogue with these envoys, and above all it's a question of elementary political decency." PM ...AS DOES ALBANIA. Prime Minister Fatos Nano told a cabinet meeting on 28 March that through his handling of the Kosovo question, Milosevic "has lost a chance to join the civilized world." Nano added that he is optimistic that the efforts of the international community will prevent Kosovo from experiencing the open warfare that Bosnia did. Earlier in Bonn, the prime minister told "Nasa Borba" of 30 March that Kosovo should have the same rights within the Yugoslav federation as Montenegro does. Nano stressed that Kosovo should not have the right to secede from Yugoslavia but that it should be able to "open up to and integrate with countries in the region." PM NATO SENDS EXPERTS TO ALBANIA. A NATO spokesman said in Brussels on 27 March that the alliance will send eight teams of border monitoring experts to Albania over the next two months. The decision follows a recent request by the Albanian government for NATO support in guarding its border with Kosovo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March 1998). Each team will consist of seven people, including both civilian and military personnel. The first team is scheduled to arrive this week. The official added that NATO will "consider additional activities in the next months to help Albania." NATO has ruled out sending ground troops to help patrol the border. FS ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER TO STREAMLINE GOVERNMENT. Fatos Nano told a government meeting on 28 March said that he will soon announce measures to streamline the government. Pandeli Majko, the leader of the Socialist Party's parliamentary faction, recently requested such a move. Nano called on the current coalition parties to take part in negotiations on the composition of a new, smaller cabinet, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. FS CROATIAN SERBS WARN TUDJMAN. Speaking in Zagreb on 30 March, Deputy Prime Minister Ljerka Mintas-Hodak said countries that want Croatia to expedite the return of Serbian refugees should help pay for it. She argued that it is unfair for donor countries to make aid dependent on the successful return of refugees. She asked that aid be given outright, before the returns are completed. Speaking in Vukovar on 29 March, Gelbard warned Croatia that it must enable more Serbs to return in safety if it expects economic and political support from the international community. And in Zagreb, ethnic Serbian leaders Milorad Pupovac and Vladimir Stanimirovic said they will withdraw from the joint commission aimed at confidence-building if President Franjo Tudjman does not take concrete measures by 15 March to ensure the return of more Serbian refugees, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. PM CIORBEA'S DEPARTURE--NOT IF, BUT WHEN. The Bureau of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) on 27 March empowered PNTCD leader Ion Diaconescu to start "immediate negotiations" with "all coalition partners" to find a solution to the ongoing political crisis. PNTCD Secretary-General Radu Vasile said the search for a solution does not exclude" forming a new government." But also on 27 March, the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), said it wants the draft 1998 budget to be submitted to the parliament by Victor Ciorbea's cabinet. The CDR decided that if the National Liberal Party (PNL) congress approves the resolution demanding the premier's replacement, such a move would be viewed as a "PNL proposal to be discussed by the CDR." Following that anouncement, Ciorbea withdrew his demand that the PNL ministers resign. MS LIBERALS APPROVE DEMAND FOR CIORBEA'S REPLACEMENT. A PNL congress on 28 March approved the resolution adopted by the party's bureau demanding that the cabinet be replaced before the budget is submitted to the parliament. The congress also approved the merger of the PNL with the Party of Civic Alliance (PAC) and elected former PAC chairman Nicolae Manolescu as chairman of the PNL National Council. The following day, the Democratic Party welcomed the PNL's decision, and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania's Executive Council said coalition members must begin negotiations on forming a new cabinet immediately rather than waiting for the passage of the 1998 budget. MS INDEPENDENT CABINET MINISTERS WARN AGAINST LINGERING CRISIS. In an open letter to Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea on 28 March, the three non-party affiliated ministers in his cabinet warned that the ongoing political crisis threatens to have "irreparable results." Finance Minister Daniel Daianu, Reforms Minister Ilie Serbanescu, and Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu said that structural problems are at the root of the crisis, rather than "personalities, programs, or ideologies." They added that there are "neither providential individuals nor miraculous recipes" to solve the crisis, arguing that a solution requires "firm and consistent measures" rather than the "populism, demagogy, and electoral incitement" characterizing the current political discourse. MS MOLDOVA'S DEMOCRATIC FORCES LEADER RULES OUT COALITION WITH COMMUNISTS. Valeriu Matei on 27 March said the "ideological and political barriers" that are dividing his Party of Democratic Forces (PFD) and the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) are "insurmountable" and that no coalition involving both those formation is feasible. Matei was responding to PCM leader Vladimir Voronin's statement the previous day that a coalition could be formed by the PCM, the pro- presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova (PMPD) Bloc, and "possibly the PFD." Matei said his party continues to opt for a coalition with the PMPD and the Democratic Convention of Moldova, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS END NOTE 'BLANK SPOTS' AND 'GRAY ZONES' by Paul Goble Boris Yeltsin's claim that he and the leaders of France and Germany are in complete agreement about the future of Europe has sent shock waves through the countries situated in the zone between those three great powers. Following an informal summit outside Moscow with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on 26 March, Yeltsin said the three leaders had "agreed on all points. There are no 'blank spots.'" While Yeltsin suggested that this accord pointed the way toward a multipolar world--one in which no country would suffer--many states lying between NATO and the EU in the West and Russia in the East drew a different conclusion. The countries of this zone--sometimes called "gray" because of its lack of a clear geopolitical definition-- have suffered when Russia and the West have disagreed. But they have also suffered when Russia and the West have agreed--especially if the agreement is about them. This last kind of agreement appeared very much in evidence at the so-called "troika" summit outside Moscow. Following Yeltsin's claim of complete unanimity, Kohl took the occasion to adopt a very hard line toward Latvia, a country with which Moscow has been having difficulties. Condemning a recent march by veterans of the World War II-era Latvian Waffen SS Legion, Kohl noted that the EU would evaluate applicant countries according to their human rights record and also according to their relations with their neighbors. The Russian news agency ITAR- TASS, which gave extensive coverage to Kohl's remarks, quoted the French president that he fully agrees with the German chancellor on this point. No one could fault any of the three leaders for being concerned about the human rights records of countries seeking to join Western institutions, but there are three reasons why their comments at the Troika summit have troubled some East Europeans. First, despite Yeltsin's claims, Kohl's comments, and Chirac's apparent agreement, most international agencies and observers have found Latvia to be in compliance with the generally accepted human rights norms. Russian claims to the contrary, including Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's recent suggestion that the Russian government should use all means "short of force" to defend the rights of ethnic Russians in Latvia, are one thing. But German and French acquiescence with these Russian claims are quite another. Not surprisingly, the stance of Kohl and Chirac is troubling to governments and peoples who remember occasions in the past when Western leaders have deferred to Russian demands with respect to their fate. Second, Kohl's assertion that the EU will evaluate applicant countries in terms of the quality of their relations with their neighbors enhances Moscow's ability to influence not only Eastern Europe but Western Europe as well. On the one hand, Moscow can use its power to define the nature of these relationships as a threat to extract concessions from its neighbors. If those countries do not do what Russia wants, Moscow will say that relations are bad and will limit their chances of entering the West. On the other hand, by accepting this Russian claim, West European countries like Germany and France are in effect accepting the notion that Russia should have an effective veto over just how far east Western institutions should be allowed to move. And third, Kohl's remarks and Chirac's agreement quickly led to reports that the three summit participants have agreed that the Baltic States, as well as perhaps other East European countries, should not be allowed to join NATO. So widespread were such reports that ITAR- TASS even queried Paris on them. An anonymous senior official in the French President's Office said Chirac had not taken a position on Baltic membership in NATO in Moscow because those countries are not yet candidates. But if his words on that point were likely to be reassuring to the Balts, another remark by this unnamed French official seems likely to have an opposite and broader effect. The official suggested that the Moscow meeting demonstrated Paris has dropped its historical policy of using "Russia as a counterweight against Germany and vice versa." A belief that France was still pursuing that approach has animated the foreign policies of many countries in Eastern Europe, some of which assumed that their best course is to play off France against Germany and both of those countries against Russia. But if this latest statement from Paris is correct, then their hopes in this regard have been misplaced. And they may now have to reassess their relations not only with these three powers but with others as well. To the extent that happens, the "troika" summit may prove to be a turning point, one in which the absence of "blank spots" may lead to the darkening of a "gray zone." 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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