|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 88 Part II, 11 May 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 88 Part II, 11 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 * HUNGARIAN RULING PARTY LEADS AFTER FIRST ROUND OF ELECTIONS * HOLBROOKE SAYS KOSOVA 'EXTRAORDINARILY DANGEROUS' * MORE SANCTIONS IMPOSED ON SERBIA End Note: ALTERNATIVES TO SANCTIONS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE STILL CLAIMS PART OF EX-USSR PROPERTY IN RUSSIA. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk told journalists on 7 May that Ukraine's claim to part of the former Ukrainian SSR's property abroad "has not been taken off the agenda" in negotiations with Russia, Interfax reported. The parliament has postponed ratifying the 1994 agreement on sharing the former USSR's assets and liabilities between Ukraine and Russia. Tarasyuk also expressed amazement over Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's remarks on Ukraine's debt to Belarus. Lukashenka had said earlier last week that Belarus will not ratify a border treaty with Ukraine until Kyiv pays $215 million in debts. JM EBRD TO SUPPORT UKRAINIAN BUSINESS. Ukrainian National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development President Charles Frank, meeting in Kyiv on 8 May, signed an agreement on a credit line worth 80 million ecus to support small and medium-sized business in Ukraine, the Ukrainian News agency reported. AFP quoted an EBRD official as saying on 10 May that the EBRD will give its final answer to financing the construction of two nuclear reactors in Ukraine "in a few months." Ukraine is seeking international funds for nuclear plants in Rivne and Khmelnytskyy to compensate for the planned closure of the Chornobyl plant. JM UKRAINIAN PREMIER APPEALS TO IMF FOR MILDER STANCE. Valeriy Pustovoytenko has complained about the tough stance of the IMF, which is demanding economic austerity measures in exchange for more loans, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 May. The fund wants Ukraine to abolish its system of social benefits and increase the price of electricity, gas, and municipal services. According to Pustovoytenko, this would trigger a "social explosion" in Ukraine. Meanwhile, at a meeting with EBRD President Charles Frank the same day, Pustovoytenko pledged that his government will continue economic reforms. JM BEREZOVSKII SAYS HIS VIEW OF CIS GOALS COINCIDES WITH LUKASHENKA'S. Following his meeting with Belarusian President Lukashenka in Minsk on 8 May, CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii said their views of the CIS's strategic goals coincide, ITAR-TASS reported. Summing up his recent meetings with the presidents of Ukraine, Moldova (see below), and Belarus, Berezovskii said he had noted "concern about the fact that there are few specific actions." He added that those countries also share the "unconditional will and desire to develop relations within the commonwealth." JM EXILED OPPOSITIONIST PROPOSES HIMSELF FOR "PRISONER EXCHANGE." Syarhey Navumchyk, a Belarusian Popular Front activist who received political asylum in the U.S. in 1996, has sent a letter to Belarusian President Lukashenka proposing he serve a prison term for two young oppositionists, RFE/RL Belarusian Service reported. Navumchyk said he feels moral responsibility for 18-year-old Alyaksey Shydlouski and 23-years-old Pavel Sevyarynets, who, he said, "have been brought up on the renewed ideas of national revival" advocated by the Belarusian opposition. JM BALTIC ASSEMBLY CONDEMNS RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE IN LATVIAN AFFAIRS. The Baltic Parliamentary Assembly on 9 May adopted a resolution condemning what it called Russian interference in Latvia's internal affairs, BNS reported. The assembly expressed disapproval of Russian economic pressure on Latvia as well as Russian attempts to "incite hatred among the Baltic States." And it also said that Russian officials' recent accusations against Latvia have become "especially menacing, though ungrounded." At the same time, the resolution affirmed the desire to develop good neighborly relations with all democratic countries, including Russia. JC THREE DETAINED OVER DOBELE BOMBING. Three youths aged 18 have been detained in connection with the 4 May bombing of a Soviet-era monument to World War II victims in the Latvian city of Dobele, BNS reported on 8 May. Criminal police chief Aloizs Blonskis told journalists that the detainees had harbored no political motives but had wanted to see how the local police would respond. Another person is wanted on suspicion of involvement in the blast. Meanwhile in Lestene, the remains of 10 members of the Latvian Waffen-SS Legion were reburied without military honors in what is to become a memorial cemetery. Some 1,000 people were present, including former commander of the armed forces Juris Dalbins and several parliamentary deputies. No government officials attended the reburial. JC STANDARD & POOR'S RECONFIRMS CREDIT RATING FOR LATVIA. The international rating agency Standard & Poor's has reconfirmed its BBB foreign-currency and A- local-currency long-term rating for Latvia, BNS reported. The agency noted Latvia's success in reforming the economy and attaining a 6 percent growth. At the same time, it pointed to several negative factors, including the threat to tight fiscal policy posed by the upcoming elections, the delay in privatizing large-scale enterprises, and the threat to the trade balance owing to tensions in relations with Russia. JC EBRD PREDICTS SLOWER GROWTH IN BALTICS THIS YEAR... The EBRD has predicted 5.5 percent economic growth in Estonia in 1998, compared with 10 percent last year, BNS reported. Latvia is expected to sustain the 6 percent growth it achieved last year, while the growth of the Lithuanian economy is predicted to slow to 5.5 percent, down from 5.7 percent in 1997. The EBRD report was released ahead of the bank's annual meeting. JC ...AND PRAISES POLISH REFORMS. The EBRD also praised Poland for its well-advanced reforms and gave the Polish economy second place in Central Europe, after Hungary. The bank praised in particular Poland's transformation of its legal system but pointed to the slow pace of restructuring the financial sector. JM CZECH POLICE OFFICIALS RESIGN OVER COMMUNIST-ERA ACTIVITIES. Prague police chief Miroslav Bornik resigned on 7 May amid media allegations that he had participated in the questioning of anti-Communist demonstrators in January 1989. One witness said Bornik had forced him to sign a fabricated protocol that was later used in one of Vaclav Havel's trials. Bornik said he does not remember what happened nine years ago. Interior Minister Cyril Svoboda said he has accepted Bornik's resignation and transferred him to an anti-drug unit. In a separate development, also on 7 May, Intelligence Agency chief Karel Vulterin accepted the resignation of his deputy, Lubos Dolezal, after it was revealed that he had served in the Communist-era secret services, Czech Television reported. MS CZECH EXTREMIST LEADER BEATEN BY ROMA. Miroslav Sladek, leader of the far right Republican Party, was beaten by a group of Roma on 9 May, CTK reported. The incident occurred in Novy Bor while Sladek was addressing a public meeting. A local Roma representative said his speech had incited racial hatred. Police intervened and broke up the fist-fight by firing a shot in the air. In a separate incident, five skinheads were detained on 8 May after physically attacking two Indian men in the Prague subway. The attack followed a demonstration against the growing number of neo-Nazi incidents. And the next day in the same subway, an Algerian was stabbed in the kidneys and had to be hospitalized. MS MECIAR REJECTS RESPONSIBILITY FOR PRIVATIZATION MISTAKES. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar on 7 May rejected responsibility for the legal errors in privatization contracts. He said most of the errors occurred when he was in opposition, CTK reported. Meciar's government decided to abandon coupon privatization, which had been used in Czechoslovakia, and opted for direct sell-offs of property assets. MS HUNGARIAN RULING PARTY LEADS AFTER FIRST ROUND OF ELECTIONS. The Socialist Party won 32.2 percent of the vote in the first round of the parliamentary elections on 10 May (compared with 33 percent in 1994). But Its coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party, suffered substantial losses, gaining only 7.8 percent (19.7 percent four years ago). With 28.2 percent of the vote (7 percent in 1994), FIDESZ emerged as the main contender among opposition parties. Owing to election agreements with other opposition parties on supporting best-placed candidates, FIDESZ may emerge as the winner after the second round of the elections, to be held in two weeks. The Smallholders Party increased its support from 8.8 percent to 13.7 percent. For the first time, the far-right Justice and Life Party passed the electoral threshold, winning 5.5 percent of the vote. Turnout was 56 percent, compared with 69 percent in 1994. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE HOLBROOKE SAYS KOSOVA 'EXTRAORDINARILY DANGEROUS.' Former chief U.S. envoy to the former Yugoslavia Richard Holbrooke said in Tirana on 10 May that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova, and Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano all agree that the situation in Kosova is dangerous. The diplomat added, however, that the three do not agree on what to do next. Holbrooke and Robert Gelbard, who succeeded him at the State Department, obtained no concessions from Milosevic during talks in Belgrade on 9 May. The following day, the two diplomats visited Prishtina to "listen and learn" in talks with the Kosovar leadership. Holbrooke said: "I have no idea" how to solve the Kosovar problem. The envoy added that Milosevic made it clear that "he does not want an international negotiator." On 11 May, Holbrooke again met with Milosevic in Belgrade. PM MORE SANCTIONS IMPOSED ON SERBIA. At a meeting of foreign ministers of the G-8 countries in London on 9 May, the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Italy, and Canada agreed to ban future foreign investments in Serbia. They also confirmed an earlier decision by the Contact Group to freeze Serbian and Yugoslav assets abroad. The Western foreign ministers issued a communique saying they "are deeply concerned by the increasing violence and growing polarization in Kosova and in particular the excessive use of force by the Serbian forces." They called on both sides to begin unconditional talks under international mediation. Russian envoys neither agreed to nor blocked the sanctions package. Japanese diplomats said they "will study" possible courses of action. PM MONTENEGRO UNAFFECTED BY SANCTIONS? In Podgorica, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said that the sanctions will not affect his mountainous republic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 9 May. In Belgrade, a government spokesman argued that the sanctions "will only hurt the Serbian people." In Tirana, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling for tougher measures than the sanctions. "Belgrade should be forced to stop the policy of war and bloodshed and sit at the negotiating table with ethnic Albanians in the presence of an international factor." The statement added that Kosova otherwise could become "a second Bosnia." The ministry also charged that the Serbian authorities are trying to create "a sanitary cordon" between Kosova and Albania (see "End Note" below). PM HYDROELECTRIC PLANT CLOSED IN KOSOVA. Radisav Vlahovic, the director of the Koznjar hydroelectric plant near Decan, told Beta on 10 May that he ordered the enterprise closed because "Albanian terrorists are everywhere in the area and the workers are afraid for their safety," "Nasa Borba" reported. Two days earlier, police closed the Prishtina-Peja road because of heavy fighting in the area. Serbian and Albanian sources in Prishtina each claimed in recent days that their respective sides suffered several deaths in various places in Kosova. PM GRANIC APOLOGIZES FOR PERSECUTION OF JEWS. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic apologized in Jerusalem on 11 May for the persecution that led to the deaths of thousands of Croatian Jews in the Holocaust. "Relying on its freedom- loving and anti-fascist roots, the modern democratic Croatia in the strongest possible terms condemns fascism, racial hatred, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism. I express and testify to the deepest regret and condemnation of the persecution, suffering ,and the tragedy of the Jews on Croatian territory under the Ustasha regime." At the Yad Vashem Memorial, Granic said: "On behalf of the government of Croatia and with deepest respect for the victims of the Holocaust, I express eternal condemnation of the crime of genocide of 6 million Jews." Many observers in Israel, Croatia, and elsewhere have accused Croatian President Franjo Tudjman of playing down the Holocaust and of anti-Semitism in his historical writings. PM POPE TO RETURN TO CROATIA. Spokesmen for the Roman Catholic Church said in Zagreb on 8 May that Pope John Paul II will visit Croatia from 2-4 October to honor Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac on what would have been his 100th birthday. The Pope will proclaim Stepinac "blessed," which is the first step on the road to sainthood. Many Croats believe that Stepinac, whom the Communists imprisoned, was a martyr for his faith and country. Many Communists and Serbs regard him as an Axis-sympathizer. In Zagreb on 10 May, Archbishop Josip Bozanic warned that attempts to turn Roman Catholicism into a political ideology are doomed. And in Ljubljana, unnamed persons have opened a law suit against former Communist-era leader Mitja Ribicic for his role in the "genocide of the ethnic German minority" immediately after World War II, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 8 May. PM ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS DEMONSTRATE IN VLORA. Democratic Party leaders arrived in Vlora on 9 May to take part in the first Democratic rally there since the unrest began in the town last February. Party deputy chairman Genc Pollo and legislator Azem Hajdari addressed the 2,500 demonstrators. Party leader Sali Berisha did not attend the rally owing to concerns for his safety. A group of women threw stones at the delegation's heavily guarded cars, but no other incidents were reported. Daan Everts, who is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's ambassador to Albania, accompanied the visitors, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. FS ALBANIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR INVESTMENTS. During a visit to Thessaloniki on 8-9 May, Fatos Nano called on Greek businesses to increase investments in Albania, saying the period of instability is over. He told members of the Union of Northern Greek Industries that "I can guarantee that situations similar to last year's...will never arise again." Some 200 Greek companies have invested some $100 million in Albania. The following day, Greek Interior Minister Georgios Romeos pledged to provide assistance, including patrol cars and bullet-proof vests, to Albanian border guards to help them prevent illegal immigrants from entering Greece. FS MORE FALLOUT FROM ROMANIAN 'CIGARETTE AFFAIR.' Another three persons, two of them officers and the third a woman, have been detained in connection with the "cigarette affair," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 10 May. This brings the total number of detainees in connection with the affair to 14. Two days earlier, the Supreme National Defense Council, chaired by President Emil Constantinescu, said that people "working in state institutions were directly involved" in smuggling "over the last six years." It said new legislation dealing with the status of foreigners in the country must be "urgently passed." Some detainees are Arabs resident in Romania. In a clear hint to the Greater Romania Party, the council also said the parliament must "analyze the existence" of "parallel [illegal] information structures." MS PRESIDENTIAL COUNSELOR SUES OPPOSITION LEADER. Dorin Marian on 8 May launched legal proceedings against Senator Radu Timofte for libel. Timofte, who represents the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania, has accused Marian of involvement in the cigarette-smuggling scandal. MS BULGARIAN AIR COMPANY REJECTS ROMANIAN ACCUSATIONS. Rumen Draganov, the director-general of Air Sofia, on 8 May rejected Romanian accusations that one of his company's planes was involved in the cigarette affair. In an interview with Romanian Radio, Draganov said the allegations by Romanian Transportation Minister Traian Basescu that his company has not forwarded to Bucharest documentation on the plane's cargo are inaccurate. He added that the Romanian side "should have had copies" of the documents it is now requesting from Air Sofia. According to Basescu, Air Sofia has been "consistently involved in smuggling." He has said that Romania will deny the company the right to overfly its territory in the future. MS ROMANIAN DIPLOMATS DISMISSED OVER GERMAN 'CHILDREN THEFT RING.' President Constantinescu on 10 May asked Prime Minister Radu Vasile to investigate the activities of all Romanian consular services abroad. His request follows the Foreign Ministry's 7 May decision to dismiss the Romanian consul in Bonn and his deputy and to launch legal proceedings against them. The ministry also announced it will replace the entire staff of the consulate. Last month, German prosecutors accused the staff of the Romanian embassy in Bonn of providing false identification papers to criminals who illegally brought children into the country and forced them to pickpocket. MS BEREZOVSKII, LUCINSCHI HAVE SAME VIEWS ON CIS'S FUTURE. CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii told journalists in Chisinau on 7 May that in order to succeed in the future, the CIS must rid itself of the "Big Brother mentality" still prevailing among some of its members, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. President Petru Lucinschi said after his talks with Berezovskii that they share views on the future of the commonwealth. Lucinschi said Berezovskii's appointment is a sign of the changes ahead since the Russian businessman is better equipped to deal with a "changing situation" in which the private sector increasingly takes over from the state sector. The two men also discussed the conflict with the Transdniestrian separatists. MS BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES AGRICULTURAL REFORM POLICIES. The parliament on 9 May approved a law abolishing subsidies to agriculture, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Agricultural Commission chairman Vladislav Kostov said the only way to implement "free-market principles" is to "break the pattern of artificial price increases." In other news, the EU and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have set up a $40 million investment fund to assist medium-sized Bulgarian businesses. MS END NOTE ALTERNATIVES TO SANCTIONS by Patrick Moore Meeting in London on 9 May, the foreign ministers of the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, and Canada agreed to freeze Yugoslav and Serbian assets abroad and to ban further foreign investment in Serbia. The ministers' goal is to press Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his paramilitary special police forces from Kosova and launch a dialogue with representatives of the ethnic Albanian majority there about the province's future. Recent experience involving Belgrade and sanctions, however, suggests that the ministers' latest move may prove counterproductive. The UN placed all of rump Yugoslavia under tough economic sanctions on 30 May 1992 because of Belgrade's involvement in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. The sanctions remained in force until the Dayton agreement was signed at the end of 1995. According to Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. diplomat who was the architect of the Dayton peace, the effects of the sanctions were one of the main reasons why Milosevic finally chose to seek peace. There are three reasons, however, to suggest that the sanctions may have made it difficult to promote the cause of peace. First, the embargo was not selectively targeted at those in power but was rather a set of blanket measures that affected all Yugoslav citizens. The sanctions helped lower a standard of living--especially for the poor and the elderly- -that was already bad enough thanks to Milosevic's neo- communist economic policies. They similarly hurt the struggling economies of neighboring Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania, whose governments estimate their losses from the sanctions in the billions of dollars. Second, the sanctions had only a slow effect on the Milosevic regime, which, in any event, did not decide to go to Dayton until after the Krajina and Bosnian Serb armies had been routed on the battlefield. In the meantime, the regime had more than three-and-a-half years to tell its citizens that the source of their growing poverty was the foreigners' sanctions. In doing so, Milosevic's media skillfully boosted his popularity by playing on a traditional Serbian belief that the Serbs are often the victims of foreign-led conspiracies. Third, the sanctions gave rise to sanctions-busting on a massive scale both in rump Yugoslavia and in some neighboring countries. This phenomenon led to the growth of mafia-like structures, many of whose members enjoyed excellent political connections, particularly in Belgrade. The growth of the mafias--whose profits often came from the pockets of ordinary citizens--also undermined all efforts aimed at promoting democratization and the rule of law. In view of those experiences from 1992 to 1995, some Serbian opposition leaders and journalists as well as a number of prominent Kosovars have suggested that the international community should try to find alternatives to blanket economic sanctions. Speaking in Vienna on 6 May, reformist Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic warned that such sanctions will hit ordinary people as well as the regime and will make it easy for Milosevic to clamp down on the reformers and blame foreigners for his country's growing poverty. One alternative to economic sanctions might be to maintain and intensify the existing international political pressure on Milosevic by continuing to bar his government from membership in international organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The fact that Belgrade frequently complains about the ban suggests that the measure is having some effect. The ban need not mean, however, that all Yugoslav passport holders will be barred from international meetings and events. Serbian opposition spokesmen stress that, on the contrary, the international community should clearly differentiate between the regime and other Serbs, who will play a key role in establishing an eventual post-Milosevic order in the Balkans. Opposition spokesmen therefore urge the international community to make special efforts to involve non-regime Yugoslav citizens in European and international forums. Another alternative to an economic embargo is to find ways of increasing military pressure on Milosevic, which Kosovar leaders and the Albanian government have repeatedly urged NATO to do. They argue that Serbia ceased its aggression during the Croatian and Bosnian wars only when it came up against the clear willingness of NATO to use superior force. The leaders in Prishtina and Tirana add that a strong NATO presence along Serbia's frontiers with Kosova and perhaps with Macedonia would consequently be much more effective than economic sanctions in sending the message to Milosevic that the international community will not tolerate armed repression in Kosova. Serbian opposition spokesmen, such as Radio B-92 chief editor Veran Matic, have frequently urged the international community to develop a serious and comprehensive program to support democratization and a civil society in Serbia. Matic further asks foreign diplomats to be firm in their opposition to the regime and to avoid flattering Milosevic by treating him as a peacemaker or offering him positive incentives. Matic also stresses that new economic sanctions could prove a boon to the mafias and undermine the efforts of many people since 1995 aimed at establishing democratization and the rule of law in Montenegro, Albania, and the Republika Srpska. Biljana Plavsic, the president of the Republika Srpska, said recently that the key to resolving the Kosova crisis is the democratization of Serbia. 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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