|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 102 Part II, 29 May 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 102 Part II, 29 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx SPECIAL REPORT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIAN MEDIA EMPIRES III A new prime minister has taken office, Boris Berezovsky's now a CIS official, and the state plans to form a new media holding company. See our updated media report. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rumedia3/index.html (English) http://www.rferl.org/bd/ru/russian/content/reports/rumedia3/ index.html (Russian) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * MECIAR MEETS WITH YELTSIN * NATO ADOPTS KOSOVA PACKAGE * SOLANA SAYS NO OPTION RULED OUT End Note: KRAJINA SYNDROME: KOSOVA'S SERBS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ELECT SPEAKER FOR THIRD TIME. The Supreme Council on 28 May failed to elect a speaker for the third time (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 27 May 1998). Only 176 of the 438 registered deputies cast their ballots, falling well short of the two-thirds majority required for a valid vote. In the latest round of voting, Communist leader Petro Symonenko ran against Progressive Socialists leader Nataliya Vitrenko and independent deputy Oleksandr Rzhavskyy in the ballot. The Supreme Council has not released any voting results. As on the two previous occasions, the Popular Democratic Party, the Rukh, the Social Democrats, and the Greens parliamentary groups abstained from voting. They are demanding that a speaker be elected along with two deputy speakers in one ballot. Observers speculate that the parliament may call for a vote to assess the popularity of potential candidates in such an election, ITAR-TASS reported. JM UKRAINE INCREASES REFINANCING RATE TO WEATHER RUSSIAN FINANCIAL STORM. National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko on 28 May raised the refinancing rate from 45 percent to 51 percent in an attempt to shield the country from turbulence on the Russian financial market, the Ukrainian News agency reported. Commenting to Reuters on Russia's decision the previous day to triple interest rates, Yushchenko expressed the hope that Russia will continue seeking to curb financial uncertainty since Ukraine might otherwise be unable "to stay the course." In a joint statement issued on 28 May, the National Bank and the government said the situation on Ukraine's financial markets "remains difficult, but generally controllable," Ukrainian Television reported. JM KYIV CONDEMNS PAKISTANI NUCLEAR TESTS. In a statement issued on 29 May, the Foreign Ministry condemned Pakistan's nuclear weapons tests, Reuters reported. The statement said that the nuclear tests conducted recently by India and Pakistan demonstrate that international mechanisms to control nuclear non-proliferation are ineffective and need to be modernized. The ministry called on the UN Security Council to hold a session devoted to nuclear testing. JM BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES FREE PRICES ON IMPORTED FOODSTUFFS. A number of oblast executive committees and the Minsk City administration have decided to free the prices of imported foodstuffs, "Narodnaya volya" reported on 28 May. According to the daily, those decisions contravene earlier presidential and governmental directives, including those prohibiting price hikes on foodstuffs exceeding 2 percent a month and ordering a reduction in imports. "Narodnaya volya" says the move is prompted by the severe food shortage in Belarus. It predicts a 30-percent increase in the prices of foodstuffs. JM POLAND REMAINS CALM OVER RUSSIA'S FINANCIAL TURMOIL. Polish economists say the country's economy is too strong to be affected by Russia's recent financial crisis, "Zycie" reported on 29 May. The daily quoted National Bank Chairwoman Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz as saying that there is not enough Russian capital in Poland to necessitate "changes in our economy" by its withdrawal. At the same time, financial experts do not rule out that Polish investors in Russia may suffer considerable losses if the crisis is protracted. JM U.S. CONGRESSMAN CONCERNED ABOUT CZECH ROMA. Christopher Smith, co-chairman of the U.S. Congress Helsinki Committee, on 28 May told the Chamber of Representatives that he is "profoundly alarmed at the deterioration of the situation of minorities in the Czech Republic" and that the government in Prague fails to "address this pattern of violence." Smith said local authorities' plans to build walls in Usti nad Labem and Plzen to "separate well-off areas from undesirables" is reminiscent of "terminology used by the Nazis." He added that skinheads continue to attack Roma because they are convinced the government will "not hold them accountable for their acts, " CTK reported. MS MECIAR MEETS WITH YELTSIN. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar on 28 May met in Moscow with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, ITAR-TASS reported. An official Kremlin statement said the meeting took place in "an exceptionally warm spirit and friendly atmosphere." The two leaders agreed to draw up long-term programs for Russian oil supplies to Slovakia until 2015, to expand cooperation in nuclear power, and to examine the possibility of jointly producing an airplane. Yeltsin said Russia "very much" wants Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia to win the parliamentary elections scheduled for September. He also said Moscow is "pleased" with Slovak security policies and its friendly ties with Russia. Meciar also met with Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, who told him Russia appreciates the "confidence and partnership," based on "mutual economic benefit," in the two countries' relations. MS IAEA APPROVES START UP OF MOCHOVCE NUCLEAR PLANT. The International Atomic Energy Agency on 28 May said it sees "no reason" to delay the start up of the controversial nuclear plant at Mochovce. A spokesman for the agency told AFP that the plant is "technically ready to be activated." He acknowledged that the plant's safety norms are not up to Western standards but stressed that these standards are "different" and that the Mochovce plant has the necessary standard equipment for an East European country. The spokesman added that "90 percent of the security precautions have been carried out, but there are still details that will gradually be sorted out." MS ORBAN ON HUNGARY'S FOREIGN POLICY PRIORITIES. Viktor Orban, the leader of the Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ-MPP), said in Bonn on 28 May that Hungary is committed to continuing its Euro-Atlantic integration and maintaining good relations with its neighbors. The new cabinet will not seek to renegotiate existing basic treaties with neighboring countries but wants to supplement those accords, he said. He added that the use of the Hungarian language in educational institutions and the restitution of Church property are issues to be negotiated with Romania. At the same time, he noted that the Slovak government is "simply not implementing provisions of the basic treaty with Hungary." Meanwhile, FIDESZ-MPP foreign policy expert Zsolt Nemeth said the new cabinet wants to ensure that neighboring countries and Hungarian minorities beyond the borders benefit from the advantages of Hungary's EU and NATO integration because, he said, the integration process itself draws a dividing line between Hungary and its neighbors. MSZ VASILE SATISFIED WITH HUNGARIAN EXPLANATION OF ORBAN COMMENTS. Following his meeting with visiting Hungarian Chief of Staff General Ferenc Vegh and Hungarian Ambassador to Bucharest Ferenc Fekete in Bucharest on 28 May, Romanian Prime Minister Radu Vasil said he is "satisfied" with Fekete's explanation of statements attributed to Viktor Orban by an Austrian daily (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 1998). Vasile said Orban was misquoted due to the fact that his comments had been translated from Hungarian into German and from German into French by AFP. Vegh said he is confident that the change in the Hungarian government will not mean any change in Hungarian-Romanian relations. He and his Romanian counterpart, General Constantin Degeratu, agreed that the Hungarian-Romanian peace-keeping force will start operating in the fall, after the two countries' parliaments approve its creation. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO ADOPTS KOSOVA PACKAGE. Foreign ministers of the 16 countries belonging to the Atlantic alliance agreed in Luxembourg on 28 May to stage major land and air maneuvers in Albania in August and to expand exercises already slated for September in Macedonia. In June, NATO will open a Partnership for Peace office in Tirana and training centers in Macedonia, while warships will call at Durres in July. The ministers asked NATO experts to prepare plans for stationing troops in Albania and Macedonia should the conflict in Kosova escalate. The ministers agreed to recommend that the UN extend the mandate of its peacekeeping mission in Macedonia by six months and increase the force from 800 to "at least 1,050" troops. German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe said that Bonn will provide Macedonia with 50 BRT-70 tanks from the former East German army, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. PM SOLANA SAYS NO OPTION RULED OUT. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said in Luxembourg on 28 May that the alliance excludes no option for dealing with the Kosova crisis and that everything depends on events in the province. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel commented that his main worry is that the conflict could cause thousands of Kosovars to seek asylum in Germany. He added that Kosova is unlikely to become "another Bosnia" because in the province only one side, namely the Serbs, is heavily armed, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said NATO does not exclude a joint action with Russia in the region. Alliance spokesmen noted that Moscow has offered troops for possible missions in Macedonia and Albania, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said that the UN will have to approve any stationing of foreign troops in the region. PM SERBIAN GOVERNMENT HAILS POLICE. Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Nikolic said in Belgrade on 28 May that the government fully approves of the work of the paramilitary special police forces in Kosova and will not reduce their strength. In Kosova, Serbian and Albanian sources reported intense fighting in the Decan region. Both sides reported deaths in various parts of the province, but no independent confirmation is available. The conflict has taken at least 210 lives to date, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 29 May. In Washington, shadow-state Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi said that Kosova is "already in the first phase of a war." And in Jube, Albania, President Rexhep Meidani watched military exercises. He told artillery gunners to keep their equipment in good shape and be prepared to use it. In a statement in Tirana the next day, Meidani praised the NATO package on Kosova as "serious." PM BULATOVIC NOT TO ACCEPT ELECTION RESULTS? Yugoslav Prime Minister and former Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic said in Podgorica on 28 May that his Socialist People's Party will not recognize the results of the 31 May parliamentary vote if 34,000 out of 457,000 people listed on the election rolls are allowed to cast their ballots. Bulatovic charged that the 34,000 have no registration number and that poll-watchers from his party will challenge them if they try to vote. The election pits supporters of Bulatovic, who is an ally of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, against backers of reformist Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic. PM PEACEKEEPERS ARREST WAR CRIMINAL. British SFOR troops in Banja Luka arrested Milojica Kos, the former commander of the Bosnian Serb concentration camp at Omarska, on 28 May. The Hague-based war crimes tribunal has indicted Kos for atrocities committed against Muslim and Croatian civilians at the camp between May and August 1992. Elsewhere, Nordic and Polish peacekeepers found and removed 3 tons of illegal weapons in the Ozren pocket area near Doboj. The peacekeepers confiscated 12 tons of illegal arms in the same area last month. PM DOCTOR SAYS TUDJMAN IS 'CURED.' Andrija Hebrang, who is the head of President Franjo Tudjman's medical team as well as a cabinet minister, said that "at this moment, we consider [the president] a cured man," "Vecernji list" reported on 29 May. Hebrang added that neither he nor anyone else is Tudjman's designated successor because, "we do not have a monarchy in which the ruler determines his successor. We have a democratic system in which each party selects its own presidential candidate." Tudjman underwent cancer treatment in the U.S. in 1996 and has since limited his public appearances. Politicians of his governing Croatian Democratic Community have been fighting over the succession for some months. PM SLOVENIA TO JOIN EU BY 2003? Slovenian President Milan Kucan said in Bonn on 28 May that he believes his country will join the EU by 2003. He stressed that joining the EU and NATO are still top priorities for Ljubljana. Kucan noted that relations between the government and the Roman Catholic Church remain strained. The two sides differ in their interpretations of the constitution's definition of the role of the Church in public life. Kucan said key differences are over the restoration of Church property confiscated by the Communists, religious instruction in the schools, and the possible return of the Church to its pre-communist role as a key player in politics. The president noted that the government insists on the separation of Church and state, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. PM NANO, PRODI OPEN KEY TRADE FAIR. Prime Ministers Fatos Nano and his Italian counterpart, Romano Prodi, opened a major industrial exhibition in Tirana on 27 May. More than 200 Italian and Albanian companies are participating in the fair, which aims to promote the southern Adriatic as a commercial bridge to the Balkans. At a meeting with Italian businessmen, Privatization Minister Ylli Bufi said that Albania will lower duties on exports to attract new investors and to encourage production, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. FS ALBANIA TO STAGGER RETURN OF CRIMINALS FROM ABROAD. Justice Ministry Spokesman Agim Neza told Reuters on 27 May that Albania is prepared to take back all its citizens serving prison sentences abroad. He added, however, that the process will have to be staggered over an unspecified period owing to a severe shortage of prison space. Albania signed four conventions with the Council of Europe last week to ensure the repatriation of Albanians convicted abroad and the extradition of wanted criminals either to or from Albania. Mobs demolished most prisons during the 1997 unrest. FS ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT ON SEXUAL EQUALITY. The government on 29 May approved a draft law on the equality of the sexes. Among other things, the law forbids "unwanted, unwelcome acts or scandalous behavior that affects one's personal dignity" and says that women who have not been promoted at work because of gender discrimination are entitled to compensation totaling three months' wages, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The law must still be approved by the parliament. In other news, former Foreign Minister Adrian Nastase said on his return from Strasbourg on 28 May that the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has unanimously recommended that Romania be removed from its special monitoring list. MS BULGARIA 'SURPRISED' BY HOLBROOKE STATEMENT. Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova on 28 May said she is "surprised" by U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke's statement that Bulgaria might decide to "grab off a piece" of Macedonia. In an interview with Reuters on 27 May about his book, "The End of the War," Holbrooke said an "eruption" in Kosova could trigger a wider war and that "the Bulgarians claim that Bulgarians and Macedonians are indistinguishable." Mihailova told the BBC that Bulgaria was the first country to recognize Macedonia under its "constitutional name" of the Republic of Macedonia and has repeatedly shown it is helping solve problems in the region "rather than create them," an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Foreign Minister spokesman Radko Vlaikov stressed that Bulgaria has no territorial claims on Macedonia. But he added that Sofia does not recognize Macedonian as a separate language but considers it a Bulgarian dialect. MS END NOTE KRAJINA SYNDROME: KOSOVA'S SERBS by Tim Judah Until quite recently, Serbian students in the technical department of Prishtina University were still telling anyone who would listen that theirs was a struggle for Kosova, a struggle to the bitter end. Under the terms of Kosova's education agreement signed by the Serbian government and representatives of the province's Albanians the Serbs were due to hand over the building to the Albanians. A poster exhorted the police, whom it was feared would soon move to turf them out, to: "Follow your hearts, not your orders!" A rally inside the building in mid-May brought together students and local Serbs. And despite the empty rhetoric of "no surrender," one word recurred over and over again: "Krajina," the name of the doomed would-be Serbian state in Croatia, which had been betrayed and swept from the map of history in August 1995. Within 48 hours the students were gone, evicted by the police, but not before they had rampaged through the building, destroying as much as they could. The students were right about one thing. Their struggle was indeed highly symbolic of the struggle for Kosova. In the first place, they "occupied" the building as its sole tenants, as a result of the policies of Slobodan Milosevic, who rose to power a decade ago on the backs of the Kosova Serbs. And, now just like the Serbs of Krajina, whom Milosevic abandoned to their fate, the Serbs of Kosova have understood that they have been betrayed as well. Many Serbs have, in fact, reluctantly concluded that Milosevic, now Yugoslav president, has simply decided to abandon the province. In Prishtina, frightened Serbs from outlying districts are moving in to the center to stay with friends and family clustered around the concrete symbols of Serbian power, especially the army and police headquarters. In the countryside, in areas that have fallen under the control of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), those Serbs who did not flee in time are being chased out and told in no uncertain terms never to return. In a UCK-controlled part of the western Decan area, seven elderly Serbs are presumed dead after "disappearing". In the region as a whole there are now no more than 300 Serbs left living among 55,000 Albanians. When Krajina fell in August 1995, the Croatian army swept some 200,000 Serbs in front of it. Of those, 16,000 were sent to live in schools and hotels and other collective centers in Kosova. At the time, there was much speculation as to whether this development was the spearhead of a new Serbian colonization drive in Kosova. But in fact, the presence of those Serbs has done more than anything else to shatter Serbian morale in the province. With their laundry always flapping from their windows, the refugees are a constant reminder to the Kosova Serbs of the fate of a people who trusted in Milosevic. Although some Serbs still kid themselves that "Kosova is different" many now realize that the battle is lost. Of course, there is some fighting. Some Albanian villages are burning and there are daily killings of Albanians by Serbs and vice versa. But on the Serbian side, these are rearguard actions. The Serbian police could reduce the whole of Kosova to ash and cinder within 24 hours, but what would be the point of that? Serbia's economy is in a truly parlous state, and relations with Montenegro are fraught. Another round of tough sanctions could bring the whole edifice crashing down and a militarily disastrous no- fly zone to boot. In such a case, better to avoid rash actions. Over the last two years, the emergence of the Serbian Resistance Movement signaled some hope for the future. This group, though committed to retaining Kosova for Serbia, did call for real dialogue with Albanians and saw that Milosevic's policy was heading for disaster. Among its leading lights is Artemije, Orthodox bishop of Prizren and Raska. His right-hand man is the monk Brother Sava. In the past couple of months the two men have been to Washington, France, and elsewhere to publicize their cause abroad. But now they are in despair. Bishop Artemije said recently: "The chances of a dialogue have been missed. What remains is what the gentlemen in Belgrade have chosen--the loss of Kosova, just like the Krajina, in war." Clearly, he has understood, like many Serbs, that Milosevic simply cannot give up Kosova outright; rather, to secure his own survival, he has to be seen to lose the province in war. In this way, he can blame everyone else for its loss, including the international community. As for Brother Sava, he is now a virtual prisoner in his own monastery. The UCK roam the area at will. On 7 May, they shot at a van taking shift workers to a now closed nearby power plant, right outside the monastery door. The hills around are crawling with army and police, too; but at the checkpoint leading to the monastery, the police try to stop journalists visiting Sava, perhaps because of his anti- Milosevic stance. He has been reduced to communicating with the world by e-mail and especially in trying to fend off wild--and false--accusations in the Kosova Albanian press that Decan is playing host to Serbian paramilitaries. Tim Judah is a free-lance journalist and the author of the recent book "The Serbs." 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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