|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 107 Part II, 5 June 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 107 Part II, 5 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 * LATVIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES CITIZENSHIP LAW CHANGES IN SECOND READING * SERBIAN OFFENSIVE CONTINUES IN KOSOVA * KOSOVARS CALL OFF TALKS WITH BELGRADE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS BLACK SEA ECONOMIC COOPERATION FORUM CONVENES IN YALTA. At a forum of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization in Yalta on 5 June, the BSEC leaders signed a joint declaration and a charter proclaiming the BSEC a regional economic organization, ITAR-TASS reported. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said in his opening speech that "the BSEC is transforming into a major component of Europe's new security system." He added that Ukraine is in favor of creating a BSEC free-trade zone. The forum is attended by the presidents of Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Turkey, and Ukraine as well as the prime ministers of Greece and Russia. JM BEREZOVSKII DENIES PLANS TO MOVE CIS HQ. CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii told journalists on 4 June that allegations that he plans to transfer CIS headquarters from Minsk to Moscow are untrue, Interfax reported. Belarusian envoy to the CIS Sergei Posokhov had claimed on 3 June that Berezovskii and his staff had made preparations for such a move. Posokhov had expressed Belarus's strong opposition to such an intention. He added that Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Armenia, and Tajikistan had similarly expressed objections to that intention. LF EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN MINERS CONTINUE PROTEST. Miners continue to picket the buildings of the Presidential Administration, the Supreme Council, and the Cabinet of Ministers in Kyiv, Ukrainian Television reported on 4 June. Trade unionists have announced the pickets will remain until the authorities meet the coal miners' demands that all wage arrears be paid. Miners picketing the oblast administration building in Luhansk blocked the traffic in the city center for one hour. The Coal Miners Independent Trade Union said on 4 June that 45 mines are on strike, while the Ministry of Coal Mining put the figure at 30. Meanwhile, the parliament has passed a resolution ordering the government to increase subsidies to the coal industry by 400 million hryvni ($200 million). According to a government official quoted by ITAR-TASS, the government is now drafting a resolution on reducing coal imports from Russia and Poland. JM KYIV DAILY LOSES LIBEL CASE AGAINST INTERIOR MINISTER. The opposition daily "Kiyevskiye vedomosti" has lost a libel case filed by Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko, Ukrainian Television reported on 4 June. The court ruled that the newspaper has to pay 5 million hryvni ($2.5 million) in damages to the minister for falsely accusing him of corruption. In addition, two journalists are to pay the minister 27,000 hryvni in damages for writing "incriminating articles." "This is simply another attempt to stifle the independent press," a "Kiyevskiye vedomosti" representative told Ukrainian Television, adding that the newspaper will appeal the verdict in the Supreme Court. JM BELARUSIAN LAWMAKERS DEFINE PUNISHMENT FOR INSULTING PRESIDENT. The Chamber of Representatives, the lower house of the Belarusian legislature, has passed a bill that includes insulting, libeling, and slandering the president as criminal offenses in the penal code and defines the punishment for those who commit such offenses, Belapan reported. Submitting the bill to lawmakers, presidential administration chief Mikhail Myasnikovich said "encroaching on the honor and dignity of the president does harm not only to him but also to the prestige of the state and people as a whole." The bill provides for four years in prison, two years in a labor camp, or a fine for insulting the president. It also foresees penalties for using placards in public places or disseminating information in media that may be considered detrimental to the president's honor and dignity. JM ETHNIC RUSSIAN DEPUTIES REVIVE PARLIAMENTARY GROUP. Parliamentary deputies from the Russian Party in Estonia, the Russian Unity Party, and the Estonian United People's Party have revived their six-strong parliamentary group, ETA reported on 4 June. The deputies were elected to the legislature on a joint electoral ticket, but the parliamentary group broke up in December 1996 owing to differences between the Russian Unity Party and the Estonian United People's Party. Valentin Strukov, a member of the revived parliamentary group, said that the Russian parties reached a "compromise that they must continue based on the principle of partnership." JC LATVIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES CITIZENSHIP LAW CHANGES IN SECOND READING. After voting against considering amendments to the citizenship law as an urgent measure (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 1998), the parliament on 4 June approved the draft in the second reading by a vote of 57 to 16 with one abstention, BNS reported. The third and final reading of the bill is expected to take place before the parliamentary summer recess begins later this month. Lawmakers who voted against the draft were from the For Latvia party and the Fatherland and Freedom party. Under the amendments, which comply with OSCE recommendations, children of non-citizens born in Latvia after 21 August 1991 would automatically be granted citizenship if their parents requested it. Also on 4 June, "Diena" published a letter from British Prime Minister Tony Blair urging his Latvian counterpart, Guntars Krasts, to help ensure that Latvian law and practice "fully conforms with the standards of international society." JC SLOVAK OPPOSITION CONVENES ROUNDTABLE TALKS. The leaders of the main opposition parties on 4 June agreed that if they succeed in ousting incumbent Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar from power in September, they will change the constitutional provision on presidential elections to elect the head of state by popular vote, Reuters reported. The leaders of the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), the Hungarian Coalition, the Party of the Democratic Left, and the Party of Civic Understanding said after roundtable talks in Bratislava that they will not form any pre-electoral coalition and will compete independently in the elections. But SDK leader Mikulas Dzurinda said the roundtable was a "signal that the parties are close to each other on the main questions concerning the [country's] post-electoral direction." MS HUNGARY'S SMALLHOLDERS THREATEN TO STAY OUT OF COALITION. Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) Chairman Jozsef Torgyan told Hungarian media on 4 June that his party will remain in opposition unless a "super-ministry" for developing the provinces is established and controlled by the FKGP. Torgyan's threat follows Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ-MPP) leader Viktor Orban's statement the previous day that the countryside is not the "fiefdom" of any party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 1998). Both Torgyan and FIDESZ-MPP Deputy Chairman Janos Ader confirmed that coalition talks between the two parties will not start until next week. In other news, after meeting with representatives of all parties that won parliamentary seats, President Arpad Goncz announced the inaugural session of the parliament will begin on 18 June. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN OFFENSIVE CONTINUES IN KOSOVA. The Decan region of western Kosova remains sealed off, as Serbian paramilitary and army forces continue assaults on ethnic Albanian villages, Western agencies reported on 4 June. Electricity and phone lines remain cut in the area, and reporters, international observers, and humanitarian workers are being kept out. Serbian officials said some 40 people, including two Serbian policemen, were killed in the latest operation, which, they added, rooted out fighters from the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and secured roads from Prishtina to Pec and from Pec to Djakovica. Several sources in Belgrade estimate casualties to be much higher, although no independent figures are available. Serbian forces are reported to be amassing near Glodjane and Jablanica, reputed to be a UCK stronghold. A Serbian provincial administrator in Kosova told B-92 radio in Belgrade that "talk of expelling people is speculation" and that ethnic Albanians have "cleansed entire villages" of Serbs. About 50,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by the military action. PB REFUGEES FLOOD ALBANIA, MONTENEGRO. Some 12,000 Kosovar refugees were reported to have entered northern Albania by 4 June, with another 7,000 entering Montenegro. Albanian Television reported on 4 June that over the past several days, only 4,000 refugees have officially registered in Albania. It appealed to all other refugees to do so. The UNHCR in Geneva said some 6,500 refugees had arrived in Albania by 4 June, but some Albanian media reports cite figures of up to 15,000. According to a Red Cross spokesman in Tirana, some 80 percent of the refugees are women and children and about half of them are under 15 years of age, "Koha Jone" reported. FS KINKEL CALLS FOR NATO FORCE ON KOSOVA-ALBANIA BORDER... German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said NATO must decide quickly whether to send NATO troops to Albania to prevent the violence from spreading. Kinkel, speaking at a conference in Palermo, said the alliance's first option is to create a "cordon sanitaire." Kinkel warned Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that once there, NATO troops could intervene in Kosova if the situation became "absolutely chaotic." Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo, speaking at the Black Sea Economic Cooperation conference in Yalta, said Kosova is on the brink of an "open war" and that the West has given Milosevic more of a "carrot than a stick." PB ...BUT MOSCOW PREFERS UN MONITORS. Russian Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin told Interfax on 4 June that Russia has proposed that a UN force now operating in Macedonia should be used to monitor the border between Albania and Kosova. He added that the Russian government opposes the use of NATO troops because it "could set a dangerous precedent of using the alliance's troops outside the scope of the organization's activity, without authorization by the UN Security Council." PG KOSOVARS CALL OFF TALKS WITH BELGRADE. Ethnic Albanian leaders suspended talks with Serbian officials scheduled for 5 June, citing the recent Serbian offensive and the flight of refugees to Albania, Reuters reported. Fehmi Agani said the "escalation of force" is in "contradiction with the spirit of the talks." Serbian sources said the delegation from Belgrade will arrive in Prishtina as scheduled, despite the Kosovars' announcement. The U.S. envoy to the region, Robert Gelbard, said he will attempt to reinstate the talks so that the situation does not "unravel further." Kosovar Albanian shadow state President Ibrahim Rugova canceled a visit to various European cities and returned to Prishtina because of the worsening situation. PB MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT REFUSES TO SEND SOLDIERS TO KOSOVA. Milo Djukanovic told the Madrid daily "El Mondo" recently that if the federal Yugoslav army takes part in fighting in Kosova, he will request a Montenegrin parliament vote banning the participation of Montenegrin soldiers. Albanian Television quoted Djukanovic as saying that "I consider this a private war of [federal Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic, and for his private wars, we will not sacrifice the lives of our Montenegrin soldiers." As of 3 June, some 150 Montenegrin soldiers had refused orders to go to the region since the current crisis began in February. FS NATO TEAM IN MACEDONIA. A 40-member team of NATO experts arrived on 4 June in Macedonia to assess the border situation there, AFP reported. Macedonian Defense Minister Lazar Kitanoski told reporters that NATO's presence in the country "would depend on the UN Security Council." The team is expected to travel to Albania in a few days, a Pentagon spokesman said. PB ALBANIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEGISLATORS SHOT AT. Unidentified gunmen shot at a car carrying legislators Azem Hajdari and Vili Minarolli in the city of Bajram Curri on 3 June. The two lawmakers were unhurt, but another passenger, Bardhyl Pollo, the former director-general of Albanian Radio and Television, was injured. Also traveling in the car was the wife of former President Sali Berisha. "Rilindja Demokratike" said the Albanian government and the federal Yugoslav secret service were behind the attack, but "Gazeta Shqiptare" quoted unnamed observers as saying the gunmen were from an unspecified large northern clan that is fighting with the Hajdari clan for control over the city. FS WORLD BANK APPROVES CREDIT FOR BOSNIA...The World Bank approved a $63 million loan for Bosnia-Herzegovina on 4 June after the IMF approved the country's macroeconomic program, dpa reported. The money is to be used to reform public finances and help Bosnia keep up with foreign debts. Christian Portman, the World Bank director in Bosnia, said the loan marks the move from "reconstruction to consolidating institutions." PB ...AS U.S. SUSPENDS ARMY TRAINING PROGRAM. The U.S. State Department has suspended part of the "Train and Equip" program for the Muslim-Croat Federation army, dpa reported on 4 June. The Bosnian government refused to confirm that report, but diplomats are quoted as saying that the Bosnian Croats' refusal to accept joint state symbols, neutral license plates, or the integration of the Muslim-Croat police are the reasons for the stoppage. Officials are also upset with Bosnian officials' weak efforts in allowing non- Muslims to return to Sarajevo. Those parts of the program suspended are reported to include training of new soldiers and the allocation of military equipment. PB TEACHERS STRIKE IN CROATIA. Elementary and high-school teachers nationwide staged a one-day strike on 4 June to protest the government's refusal to raise their salaries. It was the second strike in two weeks and occurred during end- of-year examinations. Croatian government officials originally approved a 12.5 percent pay raise but then backed down on 3 June citing a lack of funds. Teachers unions are threatening to extend the strike if the government does not keep its pledge. PB ETHNIC HUNGARIANS THREATEN TO LEAVE ROMANIAN COALITION. Bela Marko, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), said on 4 June his formation will leave the ruling coalition if the parliament fails to approve during the current session demands that the UDMR had earlier agreed on with its partners. He pointed to amendments to the laws on education and local administration, as well as the setting up of a Hungarian-language university, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Marko also criticized the slow pace of reform and the absence of a permanent coordination body where coalition party leaders could discuss differences. The UDMR chairman said his formation "is not engaging in blackmail but in a realistic assessment of the tasks ahead." MS ROMANIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTIES QUARREL. Sergiu Cunescu, leader of the Social Democratic Party of Romania (PSDR), said on 4 June that his party has "absolutely no intention" of leaving the government. The previous day, a spokesman for the Alliance for Romania (APR) party had urged to PSDR to take that move. Cunescu said that from the start, the agreement between the PSDR and the APR was on cooperation within the parliament and not on a merger between the two formations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 1998). Meanwhile, Paula Ivanescu, deputy chairwoman of the Democratic Party, has told journalists that the Social Democratic Union, which her party and the PSDR formed before the November 1996 election, has "in practice" ceased to function, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 4 June. MS BULGARIA TO RETURN ROYAL ASSETS. The Constitutional Court on 4 June ruled that the state must return property and assets confiscated from the country's royal family in 1947, AFP reported. The ruling comes as Princess Marie-Louise, sister of former King Simeon II, is paying a visit to her homeland. The assets include a palace in Sofia, a villa, the winter resort of Borovetz, three chalets, a farm,. and a house. In other news, 86-year-old former communist dictator Todor Zhivkov has been released from hospital, where he was treated for three weeks following a "diabetes crisis," dpa reported, citing the daily "24 Chasa." MS 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. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject or body of the message. 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