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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 64 Part II, 2 April 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 64 Part II, 2 April 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 PARTIES CLAIM ELECTION FRAUD * MONTENEGRO SLAMS MILOSEVIC FOR "COUP ATTEMPT" * VASILE NAMED ROMANIAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE End Note: ROMANIA'S CIORBEA STEPS DOWN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PARTIES CLAIM ELECTION FRAUD. Several political parties have accused the government of falsifying the results of the 29 March elections, but those parties have brought no evidence to support their charges, AFP reported on 1 April. "We are 100 percent certain that the results were falsified," Dmytro Ponomarchuk of the Rukh party said. "Mass falsifications were organized by the president and his administration. They stole half our votes," Viktor Omelych of the Hromada party commented. The Communists, who won the elections, also claim they were deprived of some 20 percent of their tally. But observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe say the elections took place "in a peaceful manner" and were generally free and fair. JM LEFTISTS TO DOMINATE UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT. Leftist parties will have 180 of 450 seats in the new Ukrainian parliament, dpa reported on 1 April, citing preliminary results announced by the Central Electoral Commission. Eight of the 30 parties competing in the elections have passed the 4 percent threshold for parliamentary representation. The Communists won 24.68 percent of the vote and can count on the support of the Socialists/Peasants' Bloc (8.54 percent) and the Progressive Socialists (4.04 percent). The Rukh party gained 9.4 percent of the vote, the Greens 5.46 percent, the Popular Democratic Party 4.99 percent, the Hromada party 4.68 percent, and the United Social Democrats 4.02 percent. JM KUCHMA DOES NOT INTEND TO CHANGE CABINET LINEUP. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told journalists in Kyiv that the government lineup will remain largely the same, Interfax reported on 1 April. Yevhen Kushnaryov, head of Kuchma's administration, did not rule out the possibility that the president and the government will hold consultations with the new parliamentary factions on the composition of the cabinet. He said the preliminary election results give no reason to suggest that the new parliament will be opposed to Kuchma. Kushnaryov also commented that, judging from statements by political leaders, "there are signs of the formation of temporary or permanent centrist or center-right coalitions in the parliament." JM UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER TO RESIGN? Hennadiy Udovenko is to hand in his resignation of his own free will, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 April, citing what it called a well- informed source in the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. But Udovenko will continue to serve as chairman of the UN General Assembly, the same source said. Udovenko has been elected as a deputy of the Ukrainian parliament, and observers believe he is being considered for the post of parliamentary speaker. JM WORK GROUP TO REVISE LATVIAN CITIZENSHIP LAW. At a meeting of the Cooperation Council on 1 April, the ruling factions agreed to set up a work group to draft amendments to the citizenship law, BNS reported. The work group has to submit those amendments by 14 April; if it fails do so, the ruling factions will be entitled to submit their own proposals to the parliament. Janis Straume, the head of the Fatherland and Freedom faction, which has strongly opposed any changes to the law, said this approach will "stabilize the situation as it is supported by all the ruling parties." He added that "it provides an opportunity for constructive discussion." Observers had predicted a government crisis had the ruling parties failed to agree on this issue. JC RIGA SYNAGOGUE DAMAGED IN BLAST. The synagogue in the Latvian capital was damaged in a blast in the early hours of 2 April, RFE/RL's Latvian Service reported. There were no casualties, and so far no one has claimed responsibility. The synagogue was built in 1906 and was the only one in Riga to survive World War II. It was bombed in May 1995 but the culprits were never found. JC IGNALINA REACTOR SHUT DOWN. One of the two reactors at Lithuania's Ignalina nuclear power plant was shut down on 1 April after a leak was detected in the reactor's cooling system. A plant spokesman described the shutdown as "unplanned maintenance" and said it would last about two weeks. He said there was no increase in radioactivity due to the leakage. The Ignalina plant, which uses the same kind of Soviet-made reactors as does Ukraine's Chornobyl facility, is widely regarded as one of the world's most dangerous. JC CZECH ENVIRONMENT MINISTER AGAINST NUCLEAR POWER PLANT. Martin Bursik said his ministry is preparing a study that should lead to a halt in construction of the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant. Bursik said the report will suggest alternatives for providing the energy that would have been supplied by the Temelin facility. A hybrid of both Soviet and Western designs, the plant is located just 50 kilometers from the Austrian border and Vienna has voiced concerns about its existence. PB MECIAR TOPS OPINION POLL. A poll taken by the Institute for Public Affairs shows Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar is the most trusted politician in Slovakia, RFE/RL's Slovak Service reported. Of the respondents, 19.8 percent said they have faith in Meciar, although 20.6 percent said they do not trust any politicians. Slovak Democratic Coalition leader Mikulas Dzurinda came in second with 14.8 and parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic was third with 12.1 percent, just ahead of possible presidential candidate Rudolf Schuster (11.9 percent). PB SLOVAK PARLIAMENT PASSES RESOLUTION ON DANUBE DAM. Slovak deputies on 1 April overwhelmingly approved a resolution urging Hungary to comply with the International Court of Justice verdict on the highly controversial Gabcikovo- Nagymaros dam, TASR reported. The court had called on the two countries to solve the dispute by 25 March. Bratislava blamed Budapest for the countries' failure to reach an agreement, saying it will return the case to the court if an agreement is not reached by July. Slovakia completed its part of the dam in 1993, but Hungary pulled out of the agreement-- first signed in 1977--and has refused to complete its portion. Under the pressure of public opinion, Hungary has reneged on a recent pledge to finish the dam. PB CROATIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BUDAPEST. Mate Granic said in the Hungarian capital on 1 April that Croatia supports the return of ethnic Hungarians to eastern Slavonia. Granic and his Hungarian counterpart, Laszlo Kovacs, agreed to jointly rebuild Hungarian-inhabited villages in that region and to open more border crossings. The foreign ministers also expressed support for Hungarian and German involvement in mine clearance in eastern Croatia to aid the resettlement of the some 25,000 ethnic Hungarian refugees who fled the region during the Yugoslav wars, Hungarian media reported. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MONTENEGRO SLAMS MILOSEVIC FOR "COUP ATTEMPT." The Montenegrin parliament passed a resolution on 1 April charging that outgoing President Momir Bulatovic tried to stage a coup and retain power by calling out violent street mobs in Podgorica early this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 1998). The text added that "the highest officials of the federal government, including President...Slobodan Milosevic, gave full assistance and [complete] support to the demonstrators." The resolution praised government officials, particularly employees of the Interior Ministry, for defeating the coup attempt and saving numerous lives in the process, BETA reported. PM KOSOVARS WANT MONTENEGRINS AT TALKS. Leading Kosovar spokesman Fehmi Agani said in Pristina on 1 April that the Albanians want Yugoslav authorities, and not just Serbian ones, to be included in Belgrade's delegation to any talks on the future of Kosovo. Montenegrin leaders in recent public statements have supported autonomy for Kosovo and the inclusion of foreign mediators in any talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1998). The Montenegrins stress that Kosovo belongs to Yugoslavia and rule out Kosovar independence. Meanwhile in Paris, the daily "Le Monde" published an interview with Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic, who said Belgrade is "ready for a dialogue without conditions but sanctions must be put aside. It is clear that there cannot be a solution based on a separatist agenda. There cannot be a solution outside of Serbia. Serbia exists with Kosovo or not at all." PM BELGRADE SLAMS ARMS EMBARGO. The Yugoslav Foreign Ministry issued a statement to the state news agency Tanjug on 1 April calling the UN's arms embargo "baseless and unacceptable" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1998). The text repeated Belgrade's position that Kosovo is its own internal affair and that "Albanian terrorists and separatists" are to blame for the province's problems. Meanwhile in Moscow, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said Russia voted for the arms embargo as "a preventive measure" and not to punish Belgrade. And in Tirana, the Albanian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the embargo "limits the opportunities for the exercise of police violence against the population of Kosovo and encourages the political process and talks." PM YUGOSLAVIA DEVALUES DINAR... The Yugoslav government, on the advice of the Central Bank, agreed on 31 March to devalue the dinar from 3.3 to six to the German mark. Tanjug reported that the devaluation is part of a package of "measures aimed at restoring a macro-economic balance and market stability." Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said in Podgorica the next day that the Montenegrin government did not agree to the devaluation, which he called "an unacceptable fait accompli." He stressed that Podgorica wants a thorough review of federal economic policies. The same day in Belgrade, the mark sold on the black market for 6.5 dinars, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. On 2 April, the pro-government daily "Novosti" ran the headline: "There will be no inflation." PM ...WHILE BOSNIAN SERBS ADOPT MARK. Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said in Banja Luka on 1 April that the government of the Republika Srpska has decided that the German mark will replace the Yugoslav dinar as the legal tender until the unified Bosnian currency, the convertible mark, is introduced later this year. Dodik added that the government is replacing the dinar as legal tender in order to prevent the importation of inflation from Yugoslavia. PM OSCE BLASTS CROATIAN REFUGEE RETURN POLICY. A spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in Zagreb on 1 April that the Croatian government's new program to facilitate the return of refugees is flawed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1998). "The return is an individual right and...cannot be made dependent on other conditions, conditions to be mentioned in respect to housing, or return of other individuals, or international assistance or whatever." The following day, the pro-government daily "Vecernji list" ran the headline: "Croatia opens the door to all who left." PM BELGRADE WANTS ZAGREB'S DIPLOMATIC HELP. Yugoslav Ambassador Veljko Knezevic asked Croatian Parliamentary speaker Vlatko Pavletic to help Belgrade gain admission to the Council of Europe, "Vjesnik" reported on 1 April. Pavletic replied that Croatian assistance will depend not only on the development of bilateral relations but on internal political developments in Yugoslavia. He singled out what he called the "growing Seseljization" of Serbian political life, by which he meant the growing influence of the ultranationalist Radical Party of Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj. Unnamed Croatian political leaders said Croatian support for Yugoslavia is currently out of the question in view of the latest developments in Kosovo, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. PM ALBANIAN PYRAMID CREDITORS CLASH WITH AUDITORS. Some 100 investors in the VEFA pyramid company tried to block chief government auditor Farudin Arapi and representatives of the U.S. auditing firm Deloitte & Touche from entering the VEFA building in Tirana on 1 April. The auditors succeeded in entering the building only with police assistance, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Many investors oppose the government's and auditors' plans to begin selling off parts of the pyramids and demand that the U.S. firm leave Albania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March 1998). Arapi told the investors that this demand is "unacceptable." FS LEADING ALBANIAN SOCIALIST CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT. Dritero Agolli, who is a prominent writer and leading member of the governing Socialist Party, said in Tirana on 1 April that the government is not carrying out social and economic reforms quickly or efficiently. He added that the authorities are constantly making excuses for their failure to act decisively and will never succeed in governing unless they change their behavior. He noted that the government promised last year to create 200,000 jobs but so far has created only 5,000. Agolli stressed that changes in the cabinet are urgently needed to remedy the situation. FS VASILE NAMED ROMANIAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE. Romanian President Emil Constantinescu has officially named Radu Vasile as prime minister-designate, Reuters reported on 2 April. Vasile was nominated the previous day by the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, of which he is secretary general. Vasile has 10 days to form a government and be endorsed by the parliament. An economic historian, Vasile said he is a politician who "does not yield to pressure." He said his strengths are a "capacity for dialogue, for negotiations in order to reach a common solution for the benefit of the country." Constantinescu approved the choice after holding talks with leaders of the parties expected to make up the coalition government: National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, the National Liberal Party, the Social Democratic Party, and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (see "End Note" below). PB BULGARIA REJECTS EU CONCERNS ABOUT NUCLEAR PLANT. Ivan Hinovski, the executive director of Bulgaria's National Electricity Company, said European Commission concerns about the safety of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant are "outdated," Reuters reported on 2 April. Hinovski said that owing to extensive modifications over the last several years, the four Soviet-designed reactors meet all safety requirements. He added that a European Commission report issued on 1 April calling for the reactors to be shut down was based on "old information." More than $100 million has been spent to update the reactors and Bulgaria plans to operate the first two reactors until 2005 and the other two until 2010, according to Hinovski. Sofia had earlier pledged to close the plant by 2000. A Commission spokeswoman said failure to decommission the reactors could hinder Bulgaria's chances of joining the EU. PB END NOTE ROMANIA'S CIORBEA STEPS DOWN by Breffni O'Rourke and Michael Shafir Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea resigned earlier this week, leaving the country with its reform process in tatters and its future uncertain. Ciorbea's decision to go ends a lengthy chapter of political infighting in the ruling coalition. In his resignation speech, broadcast on national television, Ciorbea spoke of his place in history, suggesting it will be different from the role assigned to him by his present detractors. What is his legacy? The high hopes with which Ciorbea began his term nearly 18 months ago have not been fulfilled. He takes credit for setting the country on a reform path after years of postcommunist governments' inactivity. But reforms faltered amid bickering and indecision: the national economy shrunk last year by 6 per cent of GDP, living standards continued to plummet, and privatization ground to a halt. Ciorbea's most lasting contribution might well be his attempt to achieve the integration of Romania's Hungarian minority. His tenure was marked by a desire to grant ethnic Hungarians the basic rights that had long been withheld from them. It will be a delicate task for an incoming prime minister to continue that process as well as economic reform. Moreover, the omens are not all good. President Emil Constantinescu has named Radu Vasile, secretary-general of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD), as prime minister-designate with a mandate to assemble a new coalition government by the end of this month. The four parties of the original coalition--National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, the National Liberal Party, the Social Democratic Party, and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania--are expected to form the new government. Romania currently faces many urgent economic tasks. A London-based analyst with the Chase Manhattan Bank, Michael Marrese, says the economy is at a standstill. Restarting the privatization program and getting the state budget through the parliament will be among the priorities of the new government. Marrese notes that the IMF has not released the third of five tranches of its standby loan to Romania. He says Bucharest will have a last chance to persuade a visiting IMF mission next month by presenting a program that includes downsizing and restructuring state monopolies. He says that task will require political willpower because of the labor opposition it is sure to cause. Developments in Romania over the past few months show the extent of the rifts between parties in Romania's pro- reform and pro-democracy movement. They are also reminiscent of developments in Bulgaria in 1991-1992, when the failure of a democratic coalition led to the return of former Communists. That relapse froze Bulgaria's recovery process, so that only now and with great difficulty is Bulgaria gaining reform momentum. Breffni O'Rourke is an RFE/RL senior correspondent. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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