|The only thing one knows about human nature is that it changes. - Oscar Wilde|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 86 Part II, 6 May 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 86 Part II, 6 May 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 Headlines, Part II * MINERS' STRIKE WIDENS IN UKRAINE * MILOSEVIC TO ACCEPT GONZALEZ? * MONTENEGRO SLAMS MILITARY ACTION IN KOSOVA End Note: THE DILEMMA OF THE CZECH PRESIDENCY xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE MINERS' STRIKE WIDENS IN UKRAINE. The independent trade union of coal miners says that a strike launched by coal miners on 4 May has expanded to 39 sites, Ukrainian Television reported on 5 May. The miners demand to be paid back wages, and also reinstatement of wages and pensions to the level of 1990, when the coal mining was the second best- paid industry in Ukraine. Coal mining since has dropped to 17th place. JM KUCHMA SAYS CHORNOBYL MAY NOT CLOSE IN 2000. The Ukrainian president said on 5 May that the Chornobyl power plant will not be closed in 2000 unless Ukraine finds funds for completing two reactors currently under construction at the Rivne and Khmelnytskyy nuclear power plants to compensate for the power supply loss, AFP reported. Ukraine committed itself in 1995 to shut down the Chornobyl plant in 2000 in return for financial aid promised by the G-7, but recently has accused the group of failing to honor the pledge. JM SELEZNEV SATISFIED WITH SESSION OF RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN LEGISLATURE. Gennadii Seleznev, speaker of the Russian State Duma and chairman of the Russian-Belarusian Union Parliamentary Assembly, has said he is satisfied with the assembly's session held in Homel on 4-5 March, Belapan and ITAR-TASS reported. Seleznev called the Parliamentary Assembly a "driving engine" of the union. The session adopted a law on drafting the union's budget and a document recommending the transformation of the Parliamentary Assembly into a legislative body elected directly by citizens of the Russian-Belarusian Union. JM OPPOSITION YOUTH MARCH IN MINSK ENDS IN ARRESTS. A group of some 150 members of the Youth Front opposition organization staged an authorized march in Minsk on 5 May in protest against the detention of two young opposition activists, Belapan reported. The marchers demanded freedom for their leader, Pavel Sevyarynets, arrested for his participation in a rally against the Belarusian-Russian Union, and Alyaksey Shydlouski, sentenced to 1.5 years in prison for anti- Lukashenka graffiti. Reuters reported that the police arrested over 10 protesters after the march. JM LUKASHENKA DENIES CURBING MEDIA. The Belarusian president told a forum of CIS journalists gathered in Minsk on 5 May that the state "has never set the task of trimming the media," Belapan reported. He added that he likes diversity of opinions in the media. Touching upon the government's directive forbidding state officials to pass information to independent media and buy advertizing space in them, Lukashenka said the instruction should have been passed orally instead of in writing. "It was done grossly: correctly in content, but grossly in form," Belapan quoted the president as saying. JM U.S. TELLS ESTONIA NATO EXPANSION STILL OPEN. The principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, Frederick C. Smith, told Estonian officials in Tallinn on 5 May that it was the American view that NATO expansion should continue beyond the first round, BNS reported. But in comments to reporters, Smith acknowledged that Washington is not in a position to determine by itself when or even if this will take place. Meanwhile, Estonian officials announced that their country will participate in three NATO exercises later this year. PG POLAND TO REDUCE MILITARY SERVICE TO 12 MONTHS. Polish Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz said on 5 May that the government wants to reduce compulsory military service from 18 to 12 months to comply with NATO requirements, "Zycie Warszawy" reported. The shorter term is to be introduced with the1999 spring draft. Onyszkiewicz said it may take 10 years for the Polish Armed Forces to reach NATO's other standards, AFP reported. A modernization program for the army envisions reducing its personnel from 242,000 to 180,000. JM DAILY ACCUSES HAVEL OF STAGING GOVERNMENT CRISIS. "Pravo" reported on 5 May that President Vaclav Havel and former Interior Minister Jan Ruml conspired to bring down the government of former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus. Havel spokesman Ladislav Spacek called the report "utter nonsense" and said Havel had never conspired against anyone. The left- wing daily said it has the minutes of a meeting between Havel and Ruml last September in which they agreed to discredit Klaus in an effort to force his resignation. Social Democratic Party leader Milos Zeman said on 4 May that he also has documents that prove Ruml was involved in a plot to force out Klaus. Ruml left Klaus's Civic Democratic Party last year and formed the rival party Freedom Union. Ruml denied the accusations and called Zeman a "paranoiac." PB PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR JOINING NATO, EU INCREASES IN SLOVAKIA. A poll published on 5 May shows an increase in public support for Slovakia's entry into the European Union and NATO, Reuters reported. The survey, done by the Public Affairs Institute, showed 79 percent of respondents favored joining the EU, up from 74 percent in a similar poll taken in October. Some 58 percent supported joining NATO, an increase of 7 percent. The poll showed that support for joining Western organizations was highest among people who backed opposition political parties. In Bonn, Augustin Marian Huska, vice president of the parliament in Bratislava, said Slovakia was pursuing a "shadow strategy" but would meet all terms needed for accession to the EU. He predicted Slovakia would join between 2004 and 2006. The right-wing Slovak National Party, a member of the governing coalition, recently began a petition drive aimed at declaring Slovakia a neutral state. PB HUNGARIAN POLLSTER CITED FOR POSTING SURVEY ON WEB. Hungary's National Elections Committee accused a polling organization on 5 May of violating the country's electoral law. Gallup Hungary published the results of an opinion poll for the 10 May elections on its World Wide Web home page (www.gallup.hu) on 4 May. Electoral law prohibits the publication of opinion surveys eight days before an election. Robert Manchin, the director of Gallup Hungary, said his company is aware of the law and doesn't believe it was violated. The committee has vowed to prosecute Gallup Hungary if the poll remains on the Internet site. PB SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MILOSEVIC TO ACCEPT GONZALEZ? Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in Belgrade on 5 May that international mediation will be needed to launch a dialogue between Belgrade and the Kosova leadership because there is no trust between the two sides. Ivanov told Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic of President Boris Yeltsin's wish that Serbian-Kosova talks begin as soon as possible, Reuters reported. The news agency quoted Ivanov as saying that a foreign mediator would not be interfering in Serbia's affairs but simply providing "a helping hand." Euro News reported the next day that Ivanov's visit may lead to Milosevic's accepting former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez as international mediator for Kosova. Milosevic has opposed foreign mediation, but he may now be seeking a face- saving way to accept Gonzalez in hopes of avoiding new sanctions. Milosevic accepted and then ignored numerous international mediators during the Croatian and Bosnian wars. PM PRIMAKOV STICKS TO TOUGH LINE. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said in Strasbourg on 5 May that "home rule, autonomy of Kosova must come about but in the framework of Serbia, otherwise a great war will start, and we want no part in pushing the events towards this. Even making Kosova a [distinct federal] entity within Yugoslavia, which would then consist of three republics, would lead to war, but we will never agree to this," Interfax reported. Primakov chided "certain Western countries" for dividing terrorists in Kosova "into goodies and baddies," by which he presumably meant that some Westerners are more critical of the Serbian paramilitary police than they are of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). Primakov praised German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel for taking a tough line against "Albanian terrorism." PM MONTENEGRO SLAMS MILITARY ACTION IN KOSOVA. President Milo Djukanovic told reporters in Podgorica on 5 May that "if there is no dialogue in Kosova, the situation will get more complicated, and the alternative to such dialogue is war, which does not suit anyone intelligent in the country and abroad." He stressed that Montenegro "will do all it can to prevent conflicts and find a peaceful solution." Djukanovic warned that if the Yugoslav army becomes "involved in the conflict in any way, Montenegro will demand that soldiers from Montenegro not be sent to the province." PM ALBANIA SAYS SERBIA CONDUCTING 'ETHNIC CLEANSING.' The Foreign Ministry said in a statement on 5 May that "even in the past few days, Serbian police forces backed by the army and, what is worse, by radical ultra-nationalist paramilitary troops, are continuing their military operations of ethnic cleansing in Kosova. The violence by police and the military is accompanied by massive bombings and destruction of population centers, applying in Kosova the Serbian scorched-earth strategy" that Milosevic's forces used in the Croatian and Bosnian wars. Tirana also condemned the Yugoslav military buildup along the Serbian border with Albania, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM HAGUE COURT MONITORING KOSOVA. Graham Blewitt, who is a deputy prosecutor at the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, said on 5 May that the court is "continuing to monitor what is happening" in Kosova. British Attorney General John Morris added that London is "of course impressed and grateful for the prosecutor's ready acceptance of the new challenge of investigating the recent events in Kosova. The U.K. hopes to be able to provide at least one member of the new investigating team that you are setting up to meet that challenge." Tribunal officials formally opened that body's second courtroom, which was constructed with U.S. assistance. PM PROTEST MARCH IN SKOPJE. Several thousand ethnic Albanians staged a protest in the Macedonian capital on 5 May to demand the release from prison of Rufi Osmani, the mayor of Gostivar, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He is serving a sentence for failing to obey a court order to take down an Albanian flag during the riots on 9 July and also for inciting national, racial, and religious hatred (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1998). PM UN POLICE WARN OF NEW VIOLENCE. A spokesman for the UN police said in Mostar on 5 May that violent ethnically- motivated incidents have been on the rise recently in the Croatian-held Herzegovinian town of Capljina, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The spokesman added that, in the past week alone, three Muslim homes have been damaged by explosions and fires, and that Croatian crowds stoned a bus carrying Muslims returning to their former homes. In Sarajevo, a UN spokesman said on 5 May that a Muslim home was torched in the Croatian-controlled Herzegovinian town of Stolac, where there has been much ethnic violence against Muslims in recent months. PM BOSNIAN ELECTION RULES TO STAY. A spokesman for the OSCE, which is supervising the September general elections, said in Sarajevo that only the new parliament will be able to change the rules for the election of the three-member joint presidency, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Several NGOs and representatives of non-nationalist parties have suggested that the OSCE change the rules now so that each of the three is elected at large and not just by one ethnic constituency. Recent polls suggest that such a change would sweep the current three members of the presidency from office and replace them with three non-nationalists. PM ALBANIAN SOCIALIST DEMANDS PARTY REFERENDUM AGAINST PREMIER. Senior Socialist Party (PS) leader Servet Pellumbi said on 6 May in Tirana that he aims to collect 100,000 signatures for a referendum of PS members against what he called the "rightist line" of Prime Minister Fatos Nano. Pellumbi is a former PS deputy chairman and represents the party's hard- line wing. He told "Koha Jone" that a recent statement by Pandeli Majko, who is the head of the PS parliamentarian group, sparked his campaign. Majko proposed to compensate pre-communist-era large land owners for property that the Communists redistributed. Pellumbi pointed out that such a policy, which Nano has endorsed, contradicts the most basic principles of the party. He warned that "Nano is pushing the PS towards becoming a liberal democratic party." FS WORLD BANK TO HELP TRAIN ALBANIAN LAWYERS. Education Minister Ethem Ruka said on 5 May in Tirana that the World Bank will give a grant of $200,000 for the university training of future lawyers, judges and state prosecutors, ATSH news agency reported. Ruka's deputy, Vaso Qano, said the ministry will also request advice from the World Bank on preventing corruption from playing a role in law school admissions. The Albanian judicial system has serious problems because it is highly politicized and often of low professional quality. Many of its members are either communist-era holdovers or loyalists of the conservative Democratic Party. FS SACKINGS FROM SCANDAL CONTINUE IN ROMANIA. Eight Romanian army officers were fired on 5 May for allowing a cigarette smuggling ring to operate out of the Bucharest airport, Reuters reported. The Defense Ministry said the officers were dismissed for failing to prevent illicit activities. It was also announced that a six-person committee will investigate the cause of the scandal: shipment of 30 million cigarettes from Greece to Bucharest aboard an Air Sofia plane on 16 April. The scandal has led to numerous arrests, resignations, and dismissals. Air Sofia rejected charges made by Romanian Transport Minister Traian Basescu that it was obstructing an inquiry into the airline's role in the scandal. PB ROMANIAN PREMIER FOR HUNGARIAN CULTURAL AUTONOMY. Radu Vasile said on 5 May that he backs native-language education for the ethnic Hungarian population in Romania, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. Vasile said in an interview that while he supported cultural autonomy, he strictly ruled out territorial autonomy for ethnic Hungarians. Vasile said the fact that 100,000 Hungarians had left Romania in the last five years was unacceptable for a minority that strives to preserve its identity. Vasile also said he supports the founding of an autonomous university for ethnic Hungarians. PB INCUMBENT OFFICIALLY PROPOSED AS MOLDOVAN PREMIER. Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi said on 5 May that the center- right coalition has decided to nominate Ion Ciubuc as prime minister, Reuters reported. Ciubuc, who served for a year as the previous prime minister, is now acting premier. Lucinschi, speaking on television, said that, upon official approval of his candidacy and his proposed cabinet by the parliament, "we must give him the ability to strengthen the reforms he began last year." The Communist Party said it would vote for Ciubuc if Lucinschi supported him. Moldova's gross domestic product grew last year under Ciubuc, the first time it had done so in seven years. PB END NOTE THE DILEMMA OF THE CZECH PRESIDENCY by Victor Gomez Czech President Vaclav Havel may be on the road to recovery from his colostomy operation in Innsbruck, but questions about his future in office remain. The questions are related to two basic issues concerning Havel's health and the Czech political transition -- one of them short-term and the other long-term. While the president seems to be over the worst of the problems associated with his operation, things did not look as rosy a few weeks ago. In April, the Czech president's vacation in Austria was abruptly interrupted when he had to undergo an emergency operation due to a perforated colon -- an operation that carries a 30 percent death rate. The operation marks the second time in less than a year and a half that Havel has undergone surgery during which his life has hung in the balance. In December 1996, Havel had part of his left lung removed due to cancer. His lung condition also served as a dangerous complication during his recent colon surgery. Havel's second brush with death caused many people in the Czech Republic to publicly ask questions which were previously considered to be taboo. While it is still widely considered bad taste to publicly speculate as to who might succeed the president, some observers have started to wonder out loud whether Havel should not step down. The deputy chairman of the lower house of the Czech parliament, Jaroslav Zverina, caused a stir when he said the president should consider resigning in the interests of his own health. While Zverina's own party, the formerly governing Civic Democratic Party (ODS), distanced itself from his remarks, his comments reflected a question that is gathering urgency in many Czechs' minds: What would happen if Havel were too ill to complete his second term in office as Czech president? First off, there are important short-term considerations associated with Havel's recovery. While doctors in Innsbruck seem optimistic about his recovery, some say there is still the possibility that he may not be in good enough health carry out his constitutional role and name a prime minister to form a government after the elections scheduled for 19-20 June. The president will have to undergo another operation during which doctors will close his large intestine. That operation is supposed to come in May, but according to some doctors it could be put off until later due to complications associated with Havel's lungs. With the current Czech political scene as fragmented and divisive as it is, Havel will be required to play a much-needed balancing role during the post-election negotiations to form a new government. Public opinion polls indicate that no potential governing coalition of parties is likely to secure a majority in the lower house of the Czech parliament. Havel already has proven capable of urging quick and effective solutions on political party leaders. He did this after the 1996 elections which ended in a political stalemate and after the collapse of Vaclav Klaus's government last fall. However, if Havel were unable to perform his constitutional role for health reasons, the post-election period of instability could drag on longer and be perceived as more threatening by both domestic and foreign observers. Furthermore, if a minority government is formed after the elections -- which is the most likely scenario -- the possibility of more crises and instability in the near future cannot be discounted. During such problems, Havel could act as an important guarantor of political, and therefore economic, stability in the Czech Republic -- providing he is fit. The long-term considerations related to Havel's role as president have less to do with short-term political considerations and more to do with the manner in which his own person has become intertwined with the presidency, and by extension, with democracy in this country. While the Czech presidency is a relatively weak position on paper, it bears significant symbolic and moral authority in this country both for historical reasons and for reasons associated with Havel himself. Czechs tend to associate the office of the presidency with the person of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1935 and a towering figure in Czech history. A professor, philosopher, and the man most credited with achieving Czechoslovak independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Masaryk has become the ideal against which all subsequent presidents have been measured. Havel is widely perceived as having come closer than any other Czechoslovak head of state to that ideal. Many Czechs still find it impossible to imagine anyone other than Havel in the Prague Castle. In fact, many observers consider Havel's presence to be a virtual necessity in the current climate of political and economic uncertainty. Such observers argue that the task of entrenching democracy and the rule of law in the Czech Republic is not completely finished, and that the country still needs Havel to play an important role in that regard. They worry that parliament will elect a successor who will be either too weak to act as the moral arbiter Czechs still seem to think they need or, even worse, who will be a tool of one or another of the political forces in the country. Obviously, both scenarios are realistic, especially considering the currently fragmented state of the Czech political scene. Certainly it would be better if Havel manages to stay fit until his current term in office ends in 2003. By that time, perhaps the political scene will be calm enough to permit a smooth succession at the castle. Then again, perhaps it will not. In any event, the manner in which many Czechs have associated Havel's person with democracy in this country poses problems. No one need be reminded that he would not be the first "irreplaceable" political leader to be replaced. There is no reason why a changing of the guard in the Czech Republic, either presidential or governmental, should fare any worse than the relatively smooth changes that have already taken place in neighboring Poland or Hungary, or, for that matter, in Bulgaria, where veteran dissident Zhelyu Zhelev was unceremoniously unseated by his own former supporters. In that sense, this country will have taken another important step in the development of its political culture the day a standard succession takes place and a new president steps into the Prague Castle. Victor Gomez is the managing editor of the Prague-based monthly journal "New Presence." 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. 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