|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 105 Part II, 3 June 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 105 Part II, 3 June 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 * UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT TO PAY CURRENT WAGES TO MINERS * SHELLING DIES DOWN, EXODUS CONTINUES * ALBANIA EXPECTS THOUSANDS OF REFUGEES End Note: UNCERTAINTY PERSISTS ABOUT UKRAINE'S ECONOMIC PROSPECTS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT TO PAY CURRENT WAGES TO MINERS. Deputy Prime Minister Anatoliy Holubchenko told the Supreme Council on 2 June that the government will pay current wages to miners, Ukrainian Television reported. According to a protocol signed by the government and some miners trade unions, the government will allot 400 million hryvni ($200 million) from the budget and take out a 400 million hryvni loan from the National Bank to pay wages for May through the end of the year. Holubchenko added that the government is currently unable to pay Ukraine's total wage arrears, which amount to 6 billion hryvni. Also on 2 June, the Supreme Council passed a resolution instructing the Cabinet of Ministers and the National Bank to report by 9 June on the country's financial situation. JM UKRAINIAN LEFT-WING DEPUTIES WANT TO UNSEAT CABINET. Left- wing parliamentary deputies have collected 191 signatures supporting a motion of no confidence in Valeriy Pustovoytenko's government, Reuters reported on 2 June. Under parliamentary rules, a third of the 450-seat parliament must agree to table a motion, while a simple majority is enough to pass it. The final decision on whether the vote will take place will be made on 10 June. Reuters suggest the motion is a political maneuver by left-wing deputies trying to bring pressure on parliamentary parties that support President Leonid Kuchma. Those parties have blocked three attempts to elect a leftist speaker. JM BELARUSIAN LAWYER STRIPPED OF LICENSE. The Justice Ministry on 2 June took away the license of Hary Pahanyayla, a prominent lawyer known for defending critics and opponents of the Belarusian government, Belapan reported. The ministry said the lawyer forfeited his right to practice law in Belarus when he quit the Minsk City Collegium of Lawyers and joined a Russian bar association. Pahanyayla said the ministry's ruling contradicts international law and Belarus's obligations under the union treaty with Russia. He said he will appeal the decision in court. Most recently, Pahanyayla defended Pavel Sevyarynets, the 21-year-old leader of the Belarusian Youth Front, who was arrested in April for taking part in the 2 April rally protesting the Russia-Belarus union. JM YOUNG BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST TO STAY IN JAIL FOR ANOTHER MONTH. Meanwhile, the prosecution has ordered that Sevyarynets remain in jail for another month, Belapan reported on 2 June. According to witnesses interrogated in connection with Sevyarynets's case, the prosecution has been unable to substantiate the charges of "malicious hooliganism" and is now seeking another indictment. One investigator reportedly admitted to a witness that some articles in "Maladzyovy vesnik," which Sevyarynets edits, may be regarded as "stirring up interethnic dissension." The prosecution has denied a request by Sevyarynets's parents to defend their son, despite the provision of the penal code allowing the defendant to choose his defense. JM EESTI TELEKOM SHARES TO BE FLOATED IN NEW YORK, LONDON. An international group advising the government on the sale of shares in Eesti Telekom, the state-owned telecommunications company, has said it will float 49 percent of the shares in the U.S. and U.K. in the second half of this year, ETA reported on 2 June. Only 10 percent of the shares will be floated on the Tallinn stock exchange. The flotation will be the largest international share issue from the Baltic States. Also on 2 June, the government approved a bill increasing excise duties on tobacco, alcohol, and luxury goods. Finance Minister Mart Opmann said the move is aimed at reducing the current accounts deficit and improving macro-economic figures. The government plans to introduce the higher rates on 1 December. Meanwhile, share prices on the Tallinn stock exchange plunged 12 percent on 1 June, having lost one-third of their value last month. Corrections over the past 48 hours have helped the exchange regain some ground. JC LATVIAN PARLIAMENT TO VOTE ON SINGLE DOCUMENT AMENDING CITIZENSHIP LAW. The parliament's Legal Affairs Committee on 2 June announced that all three proposals submitted to the parliament on amending the citizenship law will be considered as one draft document, BNS and "Diena" reported. It explained that move by pointing to the urgency of the issue. Lawmakers will vote on the removal of the so-called naturalization windows, which would make it easier for non- citizens to gain citizenship and would grant citizenship to all children born to non-citizens since 21 August 1991 should their parents request it. The coalition parliamentary parties, however, have thrown their support behind alternative amendments that would grant citizenship to those children only after they reach the age of 16 and are able to prove sufficient knowledge of the Latvian language. Calls for the Latvian parliament to amend the citizenship law in line with OSCE recommendations have intensified recently ahead of the 4 June vote on the issue. JC ADAMKUS URGES UNDERSTANDING FOR KREMLIN'S ANXIETY OVER NATO EXPANSION. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus said in Stockholm on 2 June that aspiring NATO members must understand Moscow's anxiety over the alliance's possible eastward expansion to include former Soviet states. That statement came one day after Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov repeated that NATO membership for former Soviet states such as Lithuania is "unacceptable." Adamkus said Primakov's comment came as "no surprise" and that he expected the attitude in Russia toward NATO would change as the Kremlin learns the alliance has "no designs on Russia." JC POLISH GOVERNMENT TO APPOINT 'CASHIER' FOR EU FINANCIAL AID. The Polish government on 2 June announced it will appoint a special plenipotentiary to manage EU aid funds to Poland, "Rzeczpospolita" reported. The decision follows the recent slash of 34 million ecus in EU aid because of the "irrelevant" projects Poland proposed in its bid for such assistance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 27 May 1998). However, the Committee for European Integration will retain its function of determining targets for EU funds. In this way, Poland complies with EU requests to separate those two functions. Meanwhile, a Dutch radio journalist has caused a stir among cabinet members by announcing last week that one Polish minister called the European Commission to congratulate it on cutting aid to Poland. "This slap in the face should sober up Warsaw," the minister allegedly commented. JM CZECH ROMA PROTEST PLAN TO WALL THEM IN. A delegation of Czech Roma on 2 June handed over to the mayor of Usti nad Labem a protest against a plan to isolate a tenement block of Romani families behind a wall. A spokesman for the Association of Roma in the Czech Republic said the plan is an "insult" to all the Roma in the country. He added that if the plan is implemented, other towns will follow suit and "then you will have ghettos, followed by ovens, and that will be the end of the Roma." Mayor Ladislav Hruska said the wall is "not racially motivated" but just intended to "separate the decent people from those who are not," Reuters reported. MS IAEA OFFERS TO FACILITATE SLOVAK-AUSTRIAN TALKS ON MOCHOVCE. A spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) on 2 June said the commission is willing to "facilitate talks" between Slovakia and Austria over the controversial Mochovce nuclear plant, AFP reported. The spokesman said the agency can offer "technical advice and a venue for the talks" but added that the IAEA is not prepared to "chair the meeting or mediate between the sides." Also on 2 June, the Slovak Nuclear Supervision Bureau said it has told the EU that the Mochovce plant "is ready to start operating" and is "safe from the technical and safety point of view." The bureau said the operation will actually begin "only after a detailed review of individual procedures have been completed." MS HORN TO RESIGN AS HUNGARIAN SOCIALIST PARTY LEADER. Outgoing Prime Minister Gyula Horn on 2 June announced his intention to resign as Socialist Party chairman, executive deputy chairwoman Magda Kovacs Kosa told Hungarian media after a meeting of the party's steering board. She said that Horn has headed the party for "an eight-year period of historic significance" and that his decision requires no explanation. A party congress to elect a new chairman will be convened in late August or early September. Outgoing Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs is likely to be Horn's successor. He was quoted as saying he would not turn down such an offer. In other news, President Arpad Goncz on 2 June told Viktor Orban, chairman of the Federation of Young Democrats- Hungarian Civic Party, that he will ask him to form the new government at the inaugural session of the new parliament. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SHELLING DIES DOWN, EXODUS TO ALBANIA CONTINUES. The concentrated shelling by Serbian forces of several villages in western Kosova is reported to be winding down, according to AFP and Reuters on 2 June. The Serbian Interior Ministry said police have "eliminated a large terrorist group of Albanian separatists" near the village of Crnobreg, Tanjug reported. It added that one policeman was killed in a clash with ethnic Albanians on a road between Decani and Djakovica. Kris Janowski, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that thousands of people have been displaced or left homeless within Kosova and that Serbian forces are denying UN aid workers access to the area. An Austrian military attache in Tirana, Wilhelm Figl, told Austrian Radio on 2 June that he observed from the Albanian border how Serbian forces systematically destroyed villages. No independent casualty figures from the area are available. PB ALBANIA EXPECTS THOUSANDS OF REFUGEES. Refugees continue to pour into the northern Albanian Tropoja district. According to an Interior Ministry spokesman, more than 3,000 refugees have arrived in that district but up to another 20,000 are expected, "Koha Jone" reported. The same day, Prime Minister Fatos Nano told the government that Albania is considering breaking diplomatic ties with Yugoslavia and asking the international community to further increase its pressure on Belgrade. FS RUGOVA ASKS UN FOR NO-FLY ZONE OVER KOSOVA. UN Security Council President Antonia Monteiro said in New York on 2 June that Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova has requested that a "no-fly zone" be established over Kosova, AFP reported. Rugova explained his request by pointing to the heavy use of Serbian helicopters in the ongoing violence in ethnic Albanian towns in the northwestern part of Kosova. Rugova also repeated an appeal that a UN human rights office be established in Prishtina. Belgrade has so far refused to allow such an office to open there. On 1 June, Rugova met with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. PB MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT LOOKS FOR REACTION FROM MILOSEVIC. Milo Djukanovic called on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to respond positively to the victory of Djukanovic's coalition in the Montenegrin parliamentary elections, dpa reported on 2 June. Djukanovic told Belgrade's Radio Index that Milosevic must recognize the "new Montenegrin political reality." He said Yugoslavia could "crumble from within" if Milosevic continues to subjugate Montenegro to Serbia. Predrag Bulatovic, the deputy chairman of Montenegro's Socialist People's Party, which supports Milosevic, said that Djukanovic and his supporters will be given" 100 days to prove it can fulfill promises." Yugoslav Premier Momir Bulatovic, a Djukanovic rival, was summoned to Belgrade the same day for talks with Milosevic. PB CROATIAN, BOSNIAN SERB PREMIERS DISCUSS REFUGEES. Croatian Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa and Bosnian Serb Premier Milorad Dodik, meeting in Zagreb on 2 June, agreed that refugees have the right to choose to return to their pre-war homes or to sell or even exchange their property and settle elsewhere, SRNA reported. The meeting aimed to help resolve the situations of tens of thousands of ethnic Serbian refugees who fled Croatia in 1995. Some 50,000 relocated to the Republika Srpska. Many Bosnian Croats driven from the Republika Srpska now live in vacated Serbian homes in Croatia. The same day in the strategically located town of Brcko, Dodik met with Ejup Ganic, the Croatian member of the Bosnian presidency, and Robert Farrand, the international community's supervisor of Brcko. The meeting, which Farrand described as "historic," also centered on the return of refugees. PB GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER TO SUPPORT REFUGEE RETURN. Volker Ruehe said in Sarajevo on 2 June that Bonn will encourage more investment in Bosnia-Herzegovina to aid the return of refugees from Germany, Reuters reported. Ruehe made his comments after talks with Edehem Bicakcic, a Bosnian deputy prime minister. Some 150,000 Bosnian refugees still live in Germany. In other news, Milojica Kos, a Bosnian Serb accused of committing crimes against humanity at the Omarska prison camp in northwestern Bosnia, pleaded innocent at The Hague to all 11 charges against him. PB ALBANIAN PRESIDENT DECREES DISMISSAL OF 15 GENERALS. Rexhep Meidani has issued a decree dismissing 15 army and police generals in accordance with a proposal by his adviser and former Defense Minister Sabit Brokaj and current Defense Minister Luan Hajdaraga. Brokaj accused the generals of having ordered troops to use violence to put down the March 1997 anti-government rebellion. The troops refused to obey the orders, which were issued at a time when anarchy reigned in the country. Among those dismissed are former Police Chief Agim Shehu and former General Chiefs of Staff Adem Copani and Sheme Kosova. FS MACEDONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ROMANIA. Blagoj Handziski and his Romanian counterpart, Andrei Plesu, said in Bucharest on 2 June that they support a "U.S. [military] presence in southeastern Europe under NATO auspices" in order to prevent "the possible extension of the crisis in Kosova." They added that they also support "an extended [form of] autonomy" for Kosova "within the Yugoslav Federation," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Plesu later announced that the two countries are to conclude a basic treaty and a free trade agreement in the near future. A military accord will also be signed following Defense Minister Victor Babiuc's visit to Macedonia in June. Prime Minister Radu Vasile praised Macedonia's policy toward the Vlach minority, which is closely related to the Romanians. MS ROMANIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL APPOINTED CHIEF JUSTICE. Sorin Moisescu on 2 June was appointed by presidential decree chief of the Supreme Court of Justice , Mediafax reported. Also on 2 June, the Chamber of Deputies approved a law on combating money laundering. The law, which has yet to be debated in the Senate, stipulates the setting up of a National Office for Combating Money Laundering that would be subordinate to the government and would have control over banks, insurance companies, and casinos. Banks would have to inform the office of any deposit exceeding 10,000 ecu ($11,600). Concealing information from the office would constitute a criminal offense punishable by between three and 12 years in prison. MS MOLDOVAN PREMIER ON ECONOMIC SITUATION. In a televised address on 2 June, Ion Ciubuc said that the five months that preceded the March elections damaged the country's economy beyond "the blackest expectations." Ciubuc, who also headed the previous government, said that during that period, the executive had "worked just formally" and "ties with the IMF and the World Bank were practically disrupted, while foreign investments ceased." He also said the government unjustifiably forgave "huge debts" of many state enterprises and made "populist reductions of tariffs for energy consumption," BASA-press reported. Under these circumstances, he said, public spending must now be "radically cut." MS BULGARIAN ROM SETS HIMSELF ON FIRE. A Bulgarian Rom on 2 June set himself on fire after a two-week protest fast over discrimination and unpaid social benefits, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. The man, one of the 17 Roma who are staging a hunger strike in Lom, suffered only slight injuries, as police put out the fire. Minister of Public Administration Mario Tagarinski later arrived in Lom for talks with the protesters, who threatened to set themselves ablaze one after the other every hour. Meanwhile, AFP reported on 2 June that exiled Princess Marie-Louise, sister of former King Simon II, has arrived for a 17-day visit of her homeland at the invitation of President Petar Stoyanov. She is scheduled to tour the country and visit orphanages, monasteries, and hospitals. MS END NOTE UNCERTAINTY PERSISTS ABOUT UKRAINE'S ECONOMIC PROSPECTS by Viktor Luhovyk The Ukrainian government last week announced its intention to cut the planned budget deficit for 1998, saying the move marks the beginning of a new wave of reforms. But the announcement stopped short of providing details, leading to doubt whether the measures will ever be fully implemented. The 29 May announcement said that the deficit will be cut to 2.3 percent, down from the 3.3 percent level approved by the parliament in December. Officials said more reforms will follow immediately, as the cash-strapped government tries to qualify for a three-year $2.5 billion loan from the IMF. The decision to cut the deficit was prompted by the rapidly worsening financial situation. The IMF and the World Bank suspended their aid programs in April, after the budget deficit in the first three months of this year doubled the planned target of 3 percent. Most affected has been the market for Treasury bills (T-bills), issued by the Finance Ministry to finance the budget deficit. The ministry's payments for maturing T-bills have exceeded the funds raised from issuing the new debt this year, reflecting foreign investors' reluctance to purchase the T-bills. Last year, foreign investors had held half of Ukraine's T-bill market but were purchasing only 10- 25 percent of the securities in recent months. Unable to restore foreign investors' interest in the T-bill market, the government borrowed more than $1 billion internationally in February and March at a high 16 percent interest rate to cover budget losses and pay off some wage arrears in the run-up to 29 March parliamentary elections. The exodus of foreign investors from the T-bill market forced the National Bank to spend up to $1 billion to prevent the hryvna from falling. But many observers say the government must start now raising more than $2.5 billion to pay off mature T-bills and foreign debt in the next three months. This could lead to a drop in the value of the hryvna after 20 June, when first debt payments have to be made. The Finance Ministry can now sell only T-bills whose maturity period does not go beyond 1998, and analysts say that the government may again try to borrow at a high interest rate to cover its outstanding obligations amid growing concerns that the country may eventually go bankrupt. "The government behaves like the passengers of the 'Titanic,'" said Volodymyr Dubrovsky of the Harvard Institute for International Development, alluding to the government's persistent policy of acquiring new loans to pay off old debt. Meanwhile, serious structural reforms are still only being talked about. "We started talking about liberalization of foreign trade, bankruptcy regulations, and new taxation policies five years ago," said Vitaly Migashko of ING Bank Ukraine. "Can anyone say today that at least some of these measures were introduced adequately?" At the beginning of the year, the government announced plans to lay off thousands of government employees by the end of the year to reduce budget expenditures and implement a number of deregulation measures. However, many of these measures are still to be put into effect months after they were first discussed. "What dominates the current cabinet is concern with its own interests," said former Economy Minister Viktor Suslov. Having won election to the parliament, Suslov resigned from the cabinet last month, after criticizing the anti-reform stance of its many departments. The situation may be further exacerbated by tense relations between the government and the legislature. "The newly elected parliament is not likely to be more friendly toward the government than the previous one," says liberal lawmaker Serhy Teryokhin, who was among the proponents of a radical tax reform discussed by the previous legislature. "And with the government being politically and professionally weak, there are no reasons to believe in financial stability." The government measures aimed to avert the financial crisis have to be approved by the parliament. But the legislature so far seems unwilling to do anything of the kind. The author is a Kyiv-based RFE/RL correspondent. 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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