|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 92 Part II, 15 May 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 92 Part II, 15 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxSPECIAL REPORTxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx COMMUNIST HOUSING: A FLAW IN THE DESIGN More than 170 million people in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union live in decaying housing complexes. This five-part series examines the issues, compares East Berlin's rehabilitation success story with Prague's less than successful efforts, and describes the state of U.S. public housing. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/housing/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS SPEAKER, DISMISSES CABINET * YUGOSLAVIA STRESSES KOSOVAR INDEPENDENCE NOT AN OPTION * CROATIA RELENTS ON REFUGEE LEGISLATION End Note: RE-DEVELOPING DEVELOPED SOCIALISM IN BELARUS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS CONTINUED CONTROVERSY OVER RATIFYING RUSSIA-UKRAINE TREATY. Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told ITAR-TASS on 14 May that "the treaty with Ukraine will be ratified when the Supreme Council of Ukraine considers the issue of the division of the Black Sea Fleet." Hennadiy Udovenko, former Ukrainian foreign minister, commented to the news agency that Seleznev's stance is "absolutely erroneous" and that the ratification of the treaty should not be linked to the ratification of a package of three agreements on the Black Sea Fleet's division. Meanwhile, speaking to journalists on 13 May and in an interview with the Kyiv official daily "Uryadovyy kuryer" published the next day, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk said he hopes the Russian-Ukrainian treaty will be ratified prior to Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's visit to Kyiv scheduled for 26-27 May. The treaty was signed by the presidents of the two countries last May. JM UKRAINE, BP DISCUSS CASPIAN OIL EXPORT. President Leonid Kuchma held talks in Kyiv on 14 May with the president of British Petroleum, Ian Rushby, Interfax reported. The talks touched on the export of Azerbaijani Caspian oil via the Odessa-Brody pipeline, which is currently under construction. A major partner in the first international consortium created to develop Azerbaijan's offshore oil fields, BP is lukewarm about the proposed construction of the Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline. Rushby confirmed that more than one pipeline would be used for the export of Azerbaijani oil from Baku. Also on 14 May, the Ukrainian government issued instructions to the State Committee for the Oil and Gas Industry to draw up plans for creating an international consortium to complete construction of the Odessa-Brody pipeline and the Odessa oil terminal, which will have an annual capacity of 12 million metric tons. LF EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS SPEAKER, DISMISSES CABINET. By a vote of 52 to 39, the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea on 14 May elected Communist leader Leonid Hrach as speaker. According to ITAR-TASS, the standoff between the Communists and their adversaries (see RFE/RL "Newsline," 30 April 1998) was resolved in a political deal whereby the Communists will "pay" for Hrach's election by agreeing to the appointment of Serhiy Kunitsyn, leader of the bloc of parliamentary centrist factions, as prime minister. Immediately after his election, Hrach proposed a motion to dismiss Anatoliy Franchuk's government, and the legislature passed a resolution terminating the government's tenure and ordering the ministers to fulfill their duties until a new cabinet is appointed. Hrach is reportedly to meet soon with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to seek his approval for Kunitsyn's appointment as Crimean premier. JM UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REGISTERS EIGHT FACTIONS. The Supreme Council has registered eight factions, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 May. The Communists have the largest faction, with 119 deputies. They are followed by the Popular Democratic Party (84), the Popular Rukh (47), the Hromada party (39), the Socialists/Peasants bloc (35), the Greens (24), the Social Democrats (24), the Progressive Socialists (17). Of the 430 approved deputies, 41 have not declared affiliation with any faction. JM MINSK DEMONSTRATION SUPPORTS POLITICAL PRISONERS. Some 2,000 young people took part in an authorized march in Minsk on 14 May organized by the opposition Young Front in support of political prisoners, RFE/RL Belarusian Service and Western agencies reported. The demonstrators carried placards demanding the release of Alyaksey Shydlouski and Pavel Sevyarynets and protesting the official crackdown on independent media. A handful of arrests were reported; otherwise, the march took place without incident. JM INDEPENDENT MEDIA FACE MORE PROBLEMS IN OBTAINING OFFICIAL INFORMATION. A poll conducted by the Belapan news agency among editors of non-state newspapers in Belarus shows that those publications have recently faced a growing number of difficulties in obtaining official information from the authorities. The editors link this situation to the directive prohibiting state bodies and officials from passing on information to independent media and from making comments to them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1998). According to Belapan director Ales Lipay, the directive has primarily hampered the work of regional correspondents, since the regional authorities are particularly assiduous in rigorously fulfilling the order. JM LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SURVIVES NO CONFIDENCE VOTE. Valdis Birkavs survived a vote of no confidence in the parliament on 14 May, BNS reported The motion was proposed by opposition deputies who said Birkavs had not shown enough initiative in solving disputes with Russia. It was defeated by a vote of 44 to 15. Also on 14 May, some 400 ethnic Russian students protested in Riga against the Latvian government's language policy. The students demanded the right to study in their own language and called for giving Russian the status of official language. JC ADAMKUS PROPOSES NEW SECURITY CHIEF. Following the resignation of Jurgis Jurgelis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 1998), Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus has proposed Mecis Laurinkus as director-general of the State Security Department, Interfax reported on 14 May. A deputy chairman of the ruling Conservative Party, Laurinkus has headed the parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee since late 1996. >From 1990-1991, he was chief of the State Security Department. JC LITHUANIA SIMPLIFIES VISA PROCEDURES FOR NEIGHBORS. Lithuania has simplified its visa procedures for citizens of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, Lithuanian Foreign Ministry official Arturas Zurauskas told ITAR-TASS on 14 May. He said that citizens of the three countries wishing to make business or other trips for up to 10 days no longer need a written invitation. They must still, however, prove they can pay $60 a day per person for lodging and medical insurance. A consular fee must also be paid. The official said the streamlined procedure aims to boost business and tourism links with Lithuania. JC POLISH DEPUTY PREMIER DENIES ALLEGED COLLABORATION. Janusz Tomaszewski, Polish deputy premier and minister of internal affairs and administration, has denied media allegations that he falsely declared he had not collaborated with the communist-era secret police. (Under a law adopted in 1997, Polish senior officials are obliged to make written declarations on whether they were secret police agents.) Tomaszewski has demanded apologies from the media. To date, one radio and three television journalists have been suspended for reporting the allegation. According to "Rzeczpospolita" on 15 May, Wieslaw Walendziak, chief of the Prime Minister's Office, who is reportedly seeking Tomaszewski's job, originally made the allegation to the media. JM POLISH GOVERNMENT TO PRIVATIZE OIL SECTOR. The government on 14 May approved a plan to privatize the oil sector. Shares will be sold in Koncern Naftowy, a new company merging the Petrochemia Plock refinery and the CPN fuel retailer, "Zycie" reported. Poland's second-largest refinery, Rafineria Gdanska, is also to be privatized after some 200 gasoline stations have been transferred to it from CPN. JM CZECH POLL SHOWS SOCIALIST SUPPORT WANING. A public opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research in late April and early May shows that support for the opposition Social Democratic Party (CSSD) is waning, Reuters reported on 13 May. The CSSD's backing dropped from 25 percent in early April to 22 percent at the beginning of this month, while support for the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) rose from 11 percent to 14 percent. The newly formed Pensioners' Party has doubled its backing from 5 percent to 10 percent. The Freedom Union, which broke from the ODS, lost three percentage points to achieve 9 percent support, while the Christian Democrats lost two percentage points and are now backed by 6 percent. MS FIDESZ LEADER SEEKS TO REASSURE BOURSE. Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ-MPP) leader Viktor Orban on 14 May visited the Budapest stock exchange in an attempt to reassure investors that if his party wins the elections, the economy will not suffer, Reuters and Hungarian media reported. Stock exchange prices sharply dropped after the 10 May electoral runoff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 1998). Orban said that the FIDESZ-MPP's economic policies mean stronger growth and a boost for small and medium-sized enterprises but will not affect investors in the financial sector. In another development, Christian Democratic Party chairman Gyorgy Giczy has offered to resign "if most county organizations wish so," assuming responsibility for the poor performance of his party on 10 May. MS WITHDRAWAL AGREEMENTS REACHED AHEAD OF HUNGARIAN RUNOFF. The Socialist Party and their Free Democrats coalition partner have concluded an agreement whereby their candidates will withdraw from the 24 May runoff in favor of the best placed candidates, Hungarian media reported on 14 May. Fifteen Free Democrats are stepping down in favor of Socialist candidates, while two Socialists are to do same for the benefit of the Free Democrats. Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic Forum has withdrawn its regional lists in favor of FIDESZ-MPP in Szaolcs-Szatmar and Hajdu Bihar, the two counties where elections are to be repeated owing to an insufficient turnout on 10 May. The Christian Democrats pulled out of the single-member constituency runoff in Nyireseg in favor of the Smallholders but will retain its county list. Finally, the People's Party has withdrawn all its candidates in single-member constituencies in favor of FIDESZ-MPP. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE YUGOSLAVIA STRESSES KOSOVAR INDEPENDENCE NOT AN OPTION... Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zividan Jovanovic on 14 May stressed that Belgrade has not altered its position and that it rules out independence for Kosova, AFP reported. Jovanovic made his comments in Amsterdam on the eve of the meeting in Belgrade between Kosova shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He said that some degree of autonomy for Serbia's southern province is possible, but he did not elaborate. Veton Surroi, a member of Rugova's delegation in Belgrade, said he considers the meeting as the beginning of "political talks that should pave the way for political negotiations." In Strasbourg, the European Parliament urged both sides in the conflict to agree on international mediation to help reach a settlement. Belgrade has refused outside mediation, while leading Kosovar officials have insisted on it. The absence of international mediators at the talks in Belgrade has caused a divide within the Kosovar leadership. PB ...WHILE FIGHTING CONTINUES IN PROVINCE. Fighting between Serbian police and ethnic Albanians was reported outside Prishtina on 14 May. Heavy artillery fire was audible and smoke visible from an area southwest of the capital near Djakovica. Serb police said the fighting started after ethnic Albanians attacked a police station, injuring three officers. The Kosova Information Center, which has links to the Kosovar leadership, said that in the Orahovac region, Serbian forces attacked several villages. Neither report was independently confirmed. The Kosova leadership on 14 May called for Serbian military forces to withdraw from the province. PB BOSNIAN SERB HARDLINER TO RETIRE FROM POLITICS. Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian representative of the Bosnian presidency, said on 14 May that he will leave politics when his term expires, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Krajisnik made the announcement during an address to the Bosnian Serb parliament in Banja Luka. Krajisnik equivocated later, saying he "will try" to avoid being named as a candidate in the future. The Bosnian presidential election is scheduled for September. PB SFOR TROOPS INSPECT BOSNIAN SERB INSTALLATIONS. NATO-led peacekeeping troops completed a sweeping inspection of Bosnian Serb government and security forces sites in the Republika Srpska on 14 May, AFP reported. Some 500 soldiers and 30 armed vehicles from NATO's Stabilization Force (SFOR) took part in the operation. A statement by NATO said the inspections were necessary because of the relocation of the Bosnian Serb parliament from Pale to Banja Luka. The office of Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian presidency, was occupied during the sweep, as were police stations, military barracks, and the new parliament building in Banja Luka. UN police aided in the operation. Dragan Kalinic, the president of the parliament, called the inspections "illegal." PB BOSNIAN SERB GOES ON TRIAL IN GERMANY. Maksim Sokolovic, who is accused of murder, rape, and complicity in genocide, went on trial on 14 May in Dusseldorf, AFP reported. Sokolovic, who has lived in Germany since 1969 but returned to Bosnia for the war from 1992-1995 to head a paramilitary unit, denies the charges. He is the fourth Bosnian Serb to be arrested in Germany for war crimes. At The Hague, judges have decided to drop several charges against Goran Jelisic, who refers to himself as the "Serb Adolf." Amending the indictment against Jelisic is expected to speed up his trial. He is still indicted on 18 counts of crimes against humanity and 19 charges of war crimes. PB CROATIA RELENTS ON REFUGEE LEGISLATION. The Croatian government has issued revamped guidelines on the return of Serbian refugees to Croatia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 14 May. The new policies were approved at a regular government session after international pressure was put on Zagreb to accelerate the return of Serbian refugees to their pre-war homes in Croatia. William Montgomery, the U.S. ambassador in Zagreb, said the new guidelines should allow Croatia to avoid sanctions that had been threatened by Western countries if changes in refugee return policies were not made. In other news, President Franjo Tudjman celebrated a low-key 76th birthday in Zagreb, in sharp contrast to the country-wide gala celebration that was staged last year. Tudjman is reported to be suffering from cancer, although he officially denies those reports. PB CROATIAN OPPOSITION PARTY CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO RESIGN. Mato Arlovic, the chairman of the Social Democratic Party's parliamentary group, has called on the government to resign from office or face a confidence vote, AFP reported. Arlovic set a deadline of next week for the government to resign. The call comes after the Constitutional Court ruled that the government has deprived more than 800,000 pensioners of some $5 million in pension payments over the last five years. The government rejects the court's decision. Rudolf Mazuran, the chairman of a pensioners' union, said he will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if Zagreb fails to abide by the court decision. PB MACEDONIAN BORDER GUARDS KILL ALBANIAN. One Albanian was killed on 14 May when Macedonian border troops opened fire on a group of Albanians attempting to cross into Macedonia, AFP reported. The Macedonian Defense Ministry said the body of the slain man has been returned to Albanian officials. It said border troops had prevented two other groups from entering Macedonia illegally. Ethnic Albanians make up some 25 percent of Macedonia's population. PB SLOVENIAN OFFICIAL EXPECTS EU ENTRY IN TWO STAGES. Janez Potocnik, Slovenia's chief negotiator with the EU, said on 14 May that he expects the six countries in the first wave of EU accession to be admitted in two groups, Reuters reported. Potocnik said Slovenia hopes to be admitted by 2003 and to qualify for monetary union two years later. Potocnik said Ljubljana needs to reform its tax and pension systems and its public utility and financial sectors. Slovenia began membership negotiations with the EU in March. PB OPPOSITION TO RUN JOINT CANDIDATE IN BUCHAREST MAYORAL RACE. Eight opposition parties on 13 May decided they will chose a joint candidate to run against Viorel Lis, the candidate of the Democratic Convention of Romania, in the Bucharest mayoral elections. The joint candidate will be designated after what has been called a "professional contest" among five candidates. The five are Sorin Oprescu of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, Valentin Iliescu of the Party of Romanian National Unity, Ion Sasu of the Socialist Labor Party, Constantin Popovici of the Socialist Party, and a candidate representing the Pensioners' Party, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS GOVERNMENT CRITICIZES FUNAR OVER MEMORIAL PLAQUE. The government on 14 May said a recent initiative of the extreme nationalist mayor of Cluj Gheorghe Funar was part and parcel of the "chauvinist and anti-Semitic phenomena" harming Romania's image abroad. Funar has had a memorial plaque hung on a building in Cluj that claims the Hungarian national poet Sandor Petofi was a Serb born as Alexander Petrovic and later forced to "Magyarize" his name. MS GAGAUZ-YERI PARLIAMENT PASSES REGIONAL 'CONSTITUTION.' The Popular Assembly of the Gagauz-Yeri autonomous region on 14 May unanimously voted in favor of the region's basic law, Infotag and BASA-press reported. The vote had been postponed in March owing to objections from Chisinau that the law infringes on the Moldovan Constitution. The assembly approved the document after receiving favorable opinions from the Council of Europe, the Moldovan Ministry of Justice, and independent lawyers from the U.S., all of whom agreed that the document does not contradict the constitution and is in line with international provisions on local autonomy. MS TRANSDNIESTRIAN MEDIATORS URGE RESTORED BRIDGE TO BE OPENED In a joint statement released on 14 May, the representatives of the Russian and Ukrainian presidents and the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's permanent mission to Moldova said the recently restored bridge at Dubasari, which spans the Dniester River, is a "symbol of constructive cooperation and rapprochement of citizens living on either side of the river." They also expressed regret that its re-commissioning has been postponed owing to "reasons of secondary importance." The Tiraspol authorities are conditioning the re-opening of the bridge on the signing of an agreement never to use the bridge for military purposes. The reconstruction of the bridge, destroyed during the 1992 military conflict, was part of the agreement reached last May in Moscow. MS TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER IN BULGARIA. Ismail Cem met with Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and his Bulgarian counterpart, Nadezhda Mihailova, in Sofia on 14 May to discuss economic and financial cooperation and finding a solution to the Kosova conflict, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Bulgarian capital reported. Cem said NATO must play a more active role in Kosova and help guarantee the security of the surrounding countries. He also said that without accepting Bulgaria among its members, NATO will remain an "unfinished circle." Cem and Mihailova signed an agreement of cooperation between their ministries. MS ZHIVKOV IN INTENSIVE CARE. Former communist leader Todor Zhivkov is in intensive care, after being taken ill with heart and blood problems, AFP reported. BTA quoted a spokesman for the hospital as saying the life of the 86- year-old former president is not in danger, BTA reported. In other news, the president of the Miners' Insurance company was shot dead through the window of his car by an unidentified gunman. The assassination may be linked to conflicts within organized crime groups, according to a spokesman for the government agency that supervises insurance companies. MS END NOTE RE-DEVELOPING DEVELOPED SOCIALISM IN BELARUS by Jan Maksymiuk "Multistructural economy"--such was the term used by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to define Belarus's economic course during his annual address to the bicameral National Assembly on 17 April. The term supersedes (or may be used alternately with) the concept of "market socialism" proposed by Lukashenka in his annual address to the legislature in 1997. "We are building an economy of a multistructural type, where private ownership will exist along with state ownership," Lukashenka explained to lawmakers last month. According to Lukashenka, Belarus is about to witness the "harmonious interaction of the industrial and agricultural economic sectors, with the state preserving the right of regulation." The state that regulates and controls the transition to a market economy--in Lukashenka's opinion- -is an "efficient" one. As for the strategic economic task of the government, Lukashenka said the cabinet is seeking to attain by 2001 the Soviet-era level of development in terms of basic economic indicators. It is characteristic of both Lukashenka and Belarusian official sources to illustrate the country's economic growth by citing quantitative production indicators while bypassing qualitative figures like real income, the purchasing power of the average wage, newly created jobs, or investment. The reason for this is obvious. Last year, Belarus claimed the highest economic growth rate in Europe--some 10 percent of GDP. But that achievement has in no way been reflected in living standards. Calculated in terms of U.S. dollars at the official exchange rate of the Belarusian National Bank, GDP last year decreased by 1.9 percent, compared with 1996. An economic- growth effect, if it indeed existed, was dispelled by inflation and the devaluation of the national currency. If the same means of calculation is applied to the nominal average monthly wage, there was a 6.3 percent decrease in 1997, compared with the previous year. Moreover, the average monthly pension fell by 13.4 percent and the average monthly unemployment benefit by 4 percent. Nonetheless, Lukashenka's claims of industrial production growth--in both 1997 and 1998--may be to some extent valid. That growth continues to be artificially stimulated by large National Bank credits to enterprises that are subsequently ordered to sell their products at prices below production costs. This accounts for the official figure of a more than 40 percent increase last year in trade turnover with Russia, Belarus's main economic partner. It also accounts for unsold stock, most of it uncompetitive on international markets, worth $500 million. The most important effects of such monetary policies are the devaluation of the Belarusian ruble (almost 200 percent in 1997), inflation (60 percent), decreased consumption, and national pauperization. Nor does the situation in the agricultural sector look rosy, not even according to official statistics. Agricultural production last year fell by 5.5 percent, primarily owing to a sharp decrease in the cultivation of potato and flax, Belarus's most important crops. The state subsidizes 80 percent of the sector's expenditures on fertilizers and 50 percent of fuel and electricity costs. Independent analysts assert that nearly 30 percent of the Belarusian collective farms would go bankrupt immediately if they were not subsidized from the budget. In his 17 April address, Lukashenka pledged that the state would continue to support the agroindustrial complex without discriminating between profitable and loss-making farms. Lukashenka's address to the National Assembly--which is fully subservient to the president--suggests a tightening of the administration's grip on the economy. While calling for a "multistructural economy," the Belarusian president has not made any proposals or expressed any ideas signaling that the authorities intend to steer toward economic diversity. In fact, some recent economic developments suggest just the opposite. The Oblast Executive Committees in Minsk and Mahilyou have issued directives imposing restrictions on the sale of foodstuffs. Individuals in Minsk Oblast, for example, are not allowed to buy more than 0.4 kilograms of cheese and/or 2 kilograms of bread at any one given time. The old style of managing the economy, such as prevailed under developed socialism, gives rise to old ailments--shortages of food and consumer products. Some Belarusian commentators have expressed fears that this may be a step toward food rationing . Restrictions have been and will be imposed on other commodities as well. In March, the government prohibited both state-owned and private enterprises from exporting flax fibers. The practice of forcing producers to sell those fibers at prices below production costs has led to a significant decline in flax cultivation and a shortage of flax for domestic processing. According to some reports, Lukashenka has already drafted decrees on monopolizing foreign trade in a wide range of commodities and on nationalizing--or, more precisely, re-nationalizing--trade in medicines. If those decrees are enacted, Lukashenka's revival of developed socialism will be a fait accompli. One of the final goals of such a policy is to eliminate consumers from economic decision-making. The Belarusian president has already chalked up several successes on this path, but will Belarusian consumers cheer him on to proceed even further? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word "subscribe" as the subject or body of the message. 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