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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 116 Part II, 18 June 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 116 Part II, 18 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * LUKASHENKA BACKS DOWN IN ROW OVER DIPLOMATIC RESIDENCES * NATO CONTINUES TO DRAW UP CONTINGENCY PLANS FOR KOSOVA * MONTENEGRIN LEGISLATORS BLOCK MILOSEVIC End Note: LITTLE HOPE AMID GLOOM IN RUN-UP TO CZECH ELECTIONS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE LUKASHENKA BACKS DOWN IN ROW OVER DIPLOMATIC RESIDENCES. The British Embassy in Minsk on 17 June announced that foreign diplomats who had been threatened with eviction from the Drazdy residential compound will remain there. The statement, which came after a meeting of five Western ambassadors with Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich the same day, said the authorities will continue with repairs to water supply and sewage systems. Those repairs had been cited as the official reason for the eviction order in April. Reuters on 17 June quoted an IMF representative in Minsk as saying President Alyaksandr Lukashenka signed the decree permitting the diplomats to stay at Drazdy. Lukashenka had earlier hinted that he does not like having Western diplomats live close to his own residence in the compound (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 1998). JM UKRAINIAN MINERS END STRIKE. Miners from Pavlovhrad, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, have ended their strike following a government pledge to pay their back wages, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 June. The miners, who had marched some 600 kilometers to Kyiv to demand the payment of wage arrears, left the capital only after witnessing a payment order signed by the government. Ukrainian Television reported on 16 June that the government has signed a protocol with the Pavlovhrad miners whereby it will pay 17 million hryvni ($13 million) in current wages and allocate another 30 million to pay wage arrears. The protocol also provides for the implementation of the parliament's resolution on allocating 600 million hryvni to support the coal industry. JM COMMUNIST LEADER NARROWLY FAILS TO BECOME SPEAKER. In the eighth round of elections for speaker of the Supreme Council, Communist leader Petro Symonenko received 221 votes, just five short of the required 226, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 June. As on previous occasions, the right- wing and centrist groups in the Supreme Council did not participate in the ballot. Also on 18 June, the legislature is to propose candidates for the next round of elections. Under house regulations, there are no limitations on the number of times the same candidate for speaker may be proposed. JM UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS PROTEST SUPPRESSION OF OPPOSITION PRESS. Ten Supreme Council deputies published an open letter to Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko in the 17 June "Holos Ukrayiny" requesting him "to put an end to the negative development of events in the [country's] information sphere." The deputies accused Information Minister Zinoviy Kulyk of clamping down on opposition newspapers and media critical of the current government. They pointed to "Pravda Ukrayiny," "Vseukrainskiye vedomosti," and "Polityka," whose publication was "temporarily suspended" following legal actions taken against them by the Information Ministry or administrative measures applied by tax and other services subordinated to the executive. JM ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT STRIPS OPPOSITION LEADER OF IMMUNITY. Lawmakers on 17 June voted to strip leader of the opposition Reform Party Siim Kallas of his parliamentary immunity, ETA reported. Kallas had requested that move to allow him to appear in court in connection with a $10 million affair dating from 1993, when he was head of the Bank of Estonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 1998). The Central Investigation Bureau wants to charge Kallas with abuse of power, intention to embezzle funds, and submitting false data. Kallas denies all those charges. Also on 17 June, the parliament passed a supplementary budget totaling 283.9 million kroons ($18.9 million), part of which will be used to compensate depositors at the recently liquidated Rural Bank. The additional budget was agreed on last December to distribute funds earned from the sale of state property. JC LATVIAN PRESIDENT WANTS LAWMAKERS TO HOLD EXTRAORDINARY SESSION. Guntis Ulmanis has backed the Democratic Party Saimnieks's initiative to convene an extraordinary session of the parliament to consider amendments to the citizenship law in the third and final reading (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1998), BNS reported. Ulmanis criticized the failure of the coalition parties to reach agreement on the amendments. If the parties are unable to agree on the issue, "no president can help," he commented. But Ernests Jurkans, head of the Saimnieks parliamentary group, told journalists if the amendments to citizenship law are not adopted, Saimnieks plans to meet with the president to consider further steps. In other news, lawmakers have voted to keep capital punishment in the new penal code in the second reading of that document. JC COMMISSION WANTS BRAZAUSKAS TO TESTIFY ON SURVEILLANCE. A Lithuanian parliamentary commission investigating alleged spying on top officials by one of the country's security services has invited former President Algirdas Brazauskas to testify about possible spying on him, BNS reported on 17 June. Brazauskas recently told "Lietuvos Rytas" that during his tenure as president, he had felt at times that he was under surveillance. "Certain words or even entire sentences that I said in my office were quoted in conversations with other officials," Brazauskas said. Earlier, the commission had informed the parliament that it had not found sufficient evidence that high-ranking state officials had been subject to surveillance. The scandal emerged following press reports that the Third Department of the Interior Ministry had spied on the country's top leaders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May and 28 May 1998). JC TRAIN DRIVERS' STRIKE DISRUPTS RAILROAD TRAFFIC IN POLAND. According to the Polish State Railroads (PKP), the train drivers' strike has halted some 60 percent of freight trains and 30 percent of passenger trains (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1998). The PKP estimates its daily losses at 11 million zlotys ($3.1 million). Jan Zborowski, head of the Trade Union of Train Drivers, says he expects some 70 percent of trains to be halted on 18 June, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported. Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek has declared the strike unlawful. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Transportation has begun negotiations with the train drivers' trade union, which belongs to the left-wing National Trade Union Alliance. JM CZECH ELECTION CAMPAIGN ENDS. The election campaign officially ended on 17 June. Ballot stations open on 19 June and will close the following day, when preliminary results are also expected. Milos Zeman, the chairman of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), which is most likely to win the elections, ended his campaign in northern Moravia. Former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, leader of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), and his former deputy, Jan Ruml, who now heads the rival Freedom Union, held rallies in Prague. The ODS ended its campaign with a strong warning on posters and in the press against a " return to totalitarianism" if the CSSD wins the elections (see also "End Note" below). MS HUNGARY'S SMALLHOLDERS NOMINATE MINISTERS. The parliamentary group and leadership of the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) on 17 June nominated the party's four candidates for ministerial posts in the new coalition government. Party chairman Jozsef Torgyan is the candidate for the post of minister of agriculture and provincial development, Janos Szabo for defense minister, and Pal Pepo for environment minister. The FKGP also nominated Imre Boros as minister without portfolio responsible for coordinating the distribution of EU funds in Hungary. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO CONTINUES TO DRAW UP CONTINGENCY PLANS FOR KOSOVA. In Moscow on 17 June, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov rejected Western criticism of the previous day's joint declaration between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1998). Primakov called the declaration the best agreement possible under present circumstances. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana noted in Vilnius that the Western allies are growing increasingly tired of the failure of Milosevic to back up his promises with deeds. A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in London that "one of the lessons of Bosnia is that you cannot rely on [Milosevic's] word, so we will be pressing ahead with [NATO] preparations." NATO spokesmen said in Brussels that planners are moving quickly to prepare contingency plans for Kosova. PM GELBARD SAYS MORE EXERCISES TO COME. Robert Gelbard, U.S. special envoy for the former Yugoslavia, said in Washington on 17 June that NATO will conduct additional military exercises in the Balkans to follow up on the success of operation Determined Falcon over Macedonia and Albania earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 1998). He added that the international Contact Group will meet soon to discuss the crisis in Kosova. PM MONTENEGRIN LEGISLATORS BLOCK MILOSEVIC... The Montenegrin parliament on 17 June appointed 20 supporters of President Milo Djukanovic to represent Montenegro in the 40-member federal Yugoslav upper house, "Nasa Borba" wrote. Milosevic now lacks a two-thirds majority to change the constitution and will not be able to increase his presidential powers at the expense of Serbia and Montenegro. Former Montenegrin President and current federal Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic slammed the decision to exclude representatives of his Socialist People's Party from the upper house as "a new act of secession," the "Financial Times" reported. FS ...THREATEN TO WITHDRAW SOLDIERS FROM KOSOVA. The Montenegrin parliament on 17 June passed a resolution demanding that Milosevic immediately end the violence in Kosova and meet the demands by the international Contact Group aimed at resolving the conflict in the province. The resolution demands that if Milosevic does not do so, the Yugoslav army must withdraw all Montenegrin troops from Kosova and send them to barracks in Montenegro or Serbia proper. The parliament also decided to send a delegation to Kosova to inspect the barracks in which Montenegrin soldiers are serving and called on the Montenegrin government to conduct a policy that "prevents armed clashes with forces of the international community and that ensures the protection of the territory of Montenegro from possible attacks by international forces." Djukanovic and key members of his government have repeatedly said that Podgorica wants no part of a war in Kosova. FS HUNGARY WANTS VOJVODINA CONSCRIPTS OUT OF KOSOVA... Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath told journalists on 17 June that ethnic Hungarian soldiers from Vojvodina should not be ordered to Kosova and that those already there should be withdrawn. Horvath noted that ethnic Hungarian leaders in Vojvodina have said that more than 300 ethnic Hungarians are already on duty in the province. "This practice unavoidably results in tensions between Yugoslavia's minorities," he said, adding that Hungarian diplomats have raised the issue with Belgrade and also with EU and U.S. officials. Horvath noted that many Vojvodina Hungarians fear that the conflict in Kosova could lead to a fresh exodus of refugees from Vojvodina, as happened during the 1991-1995 Croatian and Bosnian wars. MSZ/PM ...AS DO VOJVODINA PARENTS. Parents of conscripts from Vojvodina who are serving in Kosova agreed at a meeting in Novi Sad on 17 June to combine efforts with parents' groups from elsewhere in Serbia to oppose the war in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 17 June 1998). The parents demanded that the army transfer all Vojvodina conscripts in Kosova back to barracks in Vojvodina within 48 hours, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. One father asked why his son had to go to Kosova when Milosevic does not send his own son there, "Nasa Borba" reported. Nenad Canak, who heads the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina, was one of the organizers of the parents' meeting. PM CROATIAN OPPOSITION INTRODUCES NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION. Representatives of six opposition parties submitted a motion of no confidence against the government in the parliament on 17 June, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The text noted that "a great majority of Croats live in difficult social circumstances" and singled out pensioners, the unemployed, and those who are employed but have not been paid as key hardship groups. The government has a majority in the parliament and can block passage of the resolution. Social tensions have increased since the end of the Krajina war in 1995 and the introduction of a new value-added tax earlier this year. PM MONTENEGRO SAYS ZAGREB'S APPROACH BETTER THAN BELGRADE'S. Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Perovic said in Podgorica on 17 June that Croatia's recent proposal to resolve the dispute between Yugoslavia and Croatia over the Prevlaka peninsula is particularly welcome in view of Belgrade's failure to offer any ideas of its own. Perovic added that the Croatian document goes far to promote good relations and an improved standard of living on either side of the border and is thus also in Yugoslavia's best interest. Prevlaka, currently under UN administration, is part of Croatia but controls access to Kotor Bay, which is Yugoslavia's only deep-water naval base. Montenegro's reformist government is anxious to normalize relations with Croatia as part of its program of opening up to the outside world and reviving its key tourist and shipping industries. PM ALBANIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER TAKES JOURNALISTS TO COURT. Skender Gjinushi on 17 June filed slander charges against Astrit Patozi, who is the editor-in-chief of "Rilindja Demokratike," and another journalist from the same newspaper. "Rilindja Demokratike," which is the organ of the opposition Democratic Party, had published an article claiming that the other accused journalist received $120,000 from a manager of the failed VEFA pyramid investment scheme. Socialist Party Secretary-General Pandeli Majko has said he will file charges against Patozi because "Rilindja Demokratike" published allegations that Majko received $240,000 from unspecified pyramid schemes, ATSH reported. "Rilindja Demokratike" repeated its allegations against both politicians on 18 June. Chief pyramid scheme investigator Farudin Arapi declined to comment on the charges. FS TWO MORE ROMANIAN POLITICIANS ADMIT SECURITATE LINKS. Prime Minister Radu Vasile has asked Minister of Health Francisc Baranyi to resign and Baranyi's Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) to nominate someone to replace him, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 17 June . The demand came after Baranyi admitted to having been recruited as an informer of the former secret police 40 years ago. He said he was forced to do so "at gun point" and never provided any information to the Securitate. The same day, National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) deputy chairman Vasile Lupu admitted that he agreed to provide information on "people who threaten national security" but said he signed no pledge and never provided any information. The admissions come as the Senate is approaching the end of its debates on a law that would allow access to the files of the former Securitate. MS ROMANIAN COALITION IN CONFLICT OVER BILL ON STATE FARMS AGENCY. Senators representing the PNTCD and the UDMR walked out of a 17 June debate on a bill submitted by their coalition partner, the Democratic Party, and the opposition parties. The bill would set up a National Agency of State Farms. The PNTCD and the UDMR say the bill would sabotage the return of agricultural land to its former owners and accuse the Democrats of acting against the coalition agreement. In other news, an IMF mission on 17 June began talks with Romanian officials on the evaluation of Romania's economic performance and a new stand-by agreement for 1998- 1999. Chief IMF negotiator Poul Thompsen is expected in Bucharest at the end of this week. MS IMF READY TO RESUME LOANS TO MOLDOVA. The IMF is ready to resume lending to Moldova in October if Chisinau implements an austerity program agreed on by the two sides after negotiations, Oleh Havrilyshin, deputy director of the IMF department for former Soviet states, told journalists in Chisinau on 17 June. Havrilyshin said the agreement stipulates that the austerity program will be implemented in the coming months, enabling the IMF to release a $28 million tranche in October, Reuters reported. He added that the successful implementation of the program would also make it possible for the World Bank to resume financing and that the IMF would release another $100 million in 1999. MS BULGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTY WANTS DEBATE OVER KOSOVA. The main opposition Socialist Party is demanding a debate in the parliament on Bulgarian's position on the conflict in Kosova, RFE/RL's Sofia Bureau reported on 17 June. In a declaration issued earlier this week, the Socialists said several Bulgarian officials are "displaying enthusiasm" over the possibility of Sofia's "becoming involved" in a military confrontation over Kosova. The Socialists want the legislature to repeat a 1993 declaration saying Bulgaria will not become involved in military confrontations in the former Yugoslavia, "either directly or under the auspices of the UN." Also on 17 June, refinery workers at the Plama refinery who went on strike on 15 June over unpaid wages said they may demand that their colleagues who help prevent industrial waste from spilling into the River Pleven, the main water source for the area, walk off the job. MS COUNCIL OF EUROPE CONCERNED ABOUT RACISM IN BULGARIA, SLOVAKIA. In a report issued on 17 June, a Council of Europe commission said it is concerned about racism in Bulgaria, Slovakia, and several other European countries. The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance said that Bulgaria "lacks structures and policies to deal with racism and intolerance" and that the treatment of Roma in Bulgaria is particularly worrying. The report says Roma face discrimination in Slovakia as well, particularly in jobs, housing, health care, and education. It adds that Slovakia's ethnic Hungarians face discrimination, particularly in restrictions imposed on the use of their mother tongue. MS END NOTE LITTLE HOPE AMID GLOOM IN RUN-UP TO CZECH ELECTIONS by Breffni O'Rourke The Czech Republic goes into parliamentary elections on 19-20 June amid widespread gloom. The economy is moribund, and chances are considered negligible that voting will produce a strong government to tackle the general malaise. One thing is striking in this rather somber landscape. The presence of former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus is pervasive. Klaus, driven from office when his coalition collapsed late last year amid recriminations of arrogance, incompetence, and corruption, has not faded from the political scene as expected. Klaus, the architect of Czech reform, has re-emerged as a central figure in the pre- election campaign. A Czech affairs specialist at RFE/RL, Jefim Fistein, says Klaus's survival is "absolutely phenomenal." He notes that "all the opposite predictions proved false, and the reason for this is that what Klaus really succeeded in doing was building what you could call a people's party, a party that has deep roots in the Czech population and that has a very large net of local organizations and very many dedicated people." Since the collapse of the Klaus minority coalition government in November, the country has been led competently enough by a government of technocrats under Prime Minister Josef Tosovsky, a quiet, former central banker. The non- political interregnum is presumably about to end, but Fistein says prospects that the politicians will be able to put together a strong government after the election appear nil: "It's absolutely impossible because the divisions in the Czech population are deep and already sufficiently crystallized for one to say that the changes in voting patterns will be small. That is to say, about half the Czech population are left-wing, and about half are right-wing." Pre-election opinion polls indicate the strongest single party is the leftist Social Democrats (CSSD), led by Milos Zeman, which could take about 25 percent of the votes. Not far behind is Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS), with just over 20 percent voter support--a remarkable showing considering the ODS split after Klaus's fall from office. These two main parties, however, are not expected to gain enough votes to govern on their own. Some see the best chance for stability in the short term as the formation of a grand coalition between the two, despite the fact that both parties say they do not want that. Such a coalition could provide the opportunity for a reform of the electoral system, a change widely viewed as necessary if future elections are to produce clear winners instead of political gridlock. But if Klaus and Zeman do not form a grand coalition this time, the stage is set for messy negotiations between bigger and smaller parties and a key role for President Vaclav Havel in those talks. Some of the minor parties have pledged not to work with one another, which will complicate the issue. The two "untouchables," considered unfit to be full coalition partners, are the Republicans on the far right and the Communists on the left. But the Communists might yet have a role to play: one possible scenario is a minority administration led by the CSSD but with additional support in the parliament from the Communists. In the prosperous Czech capital, optimism comes easier than in the provinces. The city has near full employment and the highest average wage. But for many people outside the capital, there's gloom over falling real wages and increasing unemployment, results of an economy stagnating because the politicians are unable to provide direction, decisiveness, and security. Nearly a decade after the Velvet Revolution, economic transition remains incomplete, despite the hard reformist rhetoric of the Klaus years. Who can get the economy working again, and bring the prosperity the country is certainly capable of producing? That question is not likely to be answered by this weekend's elections. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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