|Some things have to be believed to be seen. - Ralph Hodgson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 117 Part II, 19 June 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 117 Part II, 19 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 MAKES FOREIGN DIPLOMATS GUESTS IN THEIR OWN HOMES * BELGRADE REJECTS CONTACT GROUP'S DEMAND * KOSOVAR PRIME MINISTER PLEDGES ORGANIZED RESISTANCE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE LUKASHENKA MAKES FOREIGN DIPLOMATS GUESTS IN THEIR OWN HOMES... The row over foreign diplomats' residences at the Drazdy compound, near Minsk, took a new twist on 18 June when Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka revoked the eviction order and declared that the entire compound is the "residence of the President of the Republic of Belarus." Deputy Foreign Minister Mikalay Buzo said the foreign diplomats living at Drazdy can be considered "guests of the head of the state. ...They will receive passes and be allowed to enter the territory, but they will have to comply with the special security rules of a presidential residence," AFP reported. He added that the planned repairs of the utility systems will be continued and that "those who do not wish to move out will suffer a lot of inconveniences," according to ITAR-TASS. JM ...LOCKS THEM OUT OF COMPOUND. Reuters reports that the Belarusian authorities locked foreign diplomats out of the Drazdy compound on 19 June. An anonymous Western diplomat told the agency that only the French ambassador, who was riding a motorcycle, was allowed into the compound, while other ambassadors had to return to the city center after waiting one hour outside the locked gate. The news agency adds that police checkpoints have been set up 1 kilometer before the compound and only those who have special passes are allowed through. JM KUCHMA TO STEER ECONOMY BY DECREE. In a address on nationwide television on 18 June, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma announced he will issue a package of economic decrees to steer the country out of its financial crisis. Kuchma harshly criticized the "paralyzed" parliament for its inability to elect a speaker and address legislative tasks. "I am taking responsibility on myself...to issue the necessary decrees," he was quoted by Reuters as saying. Kuchma's aide told the news agency that there are 15 documents to be signed by the president in the next few days. The decrees are expected to lower the current 20 percent value-added tax, simplify tax procedures for small business, and introduce a fixed tax rate on agricultural products. The government is currently negotiating a $2.5 billion loan from the IMF and plans to lay off 112,000 state employees by year's end. JM UKRAINIAN ARMY UNPREPARED FOR ANNOUNCED REDUCTION. A Ukrainian Defense Minister official has told ITAR-TASS that the armed forces are unprepared for the troop cuts announced by Kuchma earlier this week. Under Kuchma's decree, the number of conscripts to be slashed from 80,000 in 1997 to 50,000 this year in order to reduce the military's expenditures and put its strength at the level of "necessary sufficiency." In addition, the 350,000-strong army is to be cut by 17,000 servicemen by year's end. JM NATO CHIEF URGES LATVIA TO CHANGE CITIZENSHIP LAW... NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana has urged Latvia to adopt amendments to its citizenship law in the third and final reading, saying that countries must meet political as well as military standards to qualify for membership in the alliance, BNS reported on 18 June. Solana was speaking at a press conference after talks with Latvian Prime Minister Guntars Krasts in Riga. At the same press conference, Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs said he is convinced NATO's door will remain open but that Latvia will have to work very hard to make its armed forces compatible with NATO's. Recently, the government announced that the defense budget will be increased to 1 percent of GDP next year and to 2 percent by 2003. JC ...WELCOMES LITHUANIA'S PLANS TO INCREASE DEFENSE BUDGET. The previous day in Vilnius, Solana welcomed the Lithuanian government's plans to allocate 2 percent of GDP for defense needs in 2000, BNS reported. "This will approach the indices in many European countries and this is good news," Solana said at a news conference. In talks with President Valdas Adamkus, Solana discussed the recent visit to Vilnius by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who had stressed Moscow's opposition to the Baltic States' possible membership in NATO. Solana, for his part, sounded the familiar refrain that "NATO expansion is continuing." Solana is due to wrap up his tour of the Baltic States in Tallinn on 19 June. JC POLISH TRAIN DRIVERS STEP UP PROTEST. Fifty percent of passenger trains and 70 percent of freight trains were halted in Poland on 18 June as a result of the ongoing strike by train drivers. PAP reported that the Train Drivers Trade Union ordered a sit-in at engine depots the same day. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Leszek Balcerowicz said the government will not increase train drivers' wages because their demands are "unrealistic" and would entail increasing taxes, "Zycie Warszawy" reported on 19 June. The Polish State Railroads has threatened to sack strikers and demand compensation from them if their strike is declared illegal by the Warsaw Voivodship Court. JM WARSAW APPEALS COURT TO SCREEN STATE OFFICIALS. The lower house of the parliament on 18 June voted by 242 to 148 with 19 abstentions to empower the Warsaw Appeals Court to investigate whether state officials collaborated with the communist-era secret police. That decision revives a one- year-old law that never took effect because not enough judges volunteered to sit on a 21-member screening panel provided for by the law. The bill must still be approved by the upper house and signed by the president. Under the screening law, public office holders, judges, prosecutors, and candidates for public offices in Poland are obliged to submit written declarations on whether they were secret police agents. Those declarations may subsequently be checked by the Warsaw Appeals Court, following a request from a so-called public interest spokesman, for which the new version of the law provides. JM POLISH PARLIAMENT CONDEMNS COMMUNIST RULE. Nine years after the overthrow of communist rule in Poland, the parliament on 18 June passed a much-disputed resolution condemning the "communist dictatorship imposed on Poland with force and against the nation's will by the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin." The resolution holds the former Polish United Workers Party responsible for the "many crimes and offenses" of the past and stresses that Poland's former system "was maintained by means of force, lies, and the threat of Soviet intervention and served to secure foreign interests." The bill, which the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance voted against, is seen by many Solidarity politicians as moral compensation for the communist-era repression of pro- democracy activists in Poland. JM DOES ZEMAN WANT CZECH PREMIERSHIP? Presidential adviser Jiri Pehe told state radio on 18 June that the leader of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), Milos Zeman, has changed his mind about not wanting to become prime minister. Pehe was commenting on a letter recently written by Czech President Vaclav Havel to the chairman of the Civic Democratic Party (OSD), Vaclav Klaus, in which Havel said Zeman does not want the premiership and has told him he is "too tired" for the job. The letter was broadcast on 17 June by Nova TV. Zeman himself acknowledged he told Havel three months ago that he was "tired and exhausted" but said he is now prepared to form the government if the CSSD wins the elections, CTK reported. MS VAN DEN BROEK CRITICIZES SLOVAK DEMOCRACY RECORD. European Commissioner Hans van den Broek, addressing the Civil Society Development Foundation in Bratislava on 18 June, said that Slovakia's record on democracy is raising concerns and that the EU expects to see "substantial progress" by the end of 1998, when it will issue a report on candidates for accession to the organization. He told the foundation, which was set up with EU support, that the main concerns are that legislation ensuring free and fair elections is passed and the free use of minority languages guaranteed. Van den Broek also criticized the "institutional vacuum" that has existed since March owing to the failure to elect a president to replace Michal Kovac, Reuters reported. MS HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT NOMINATES NEW PRIME MINISTER. At the 18 June inaugural session of the new parliament, President Arpad Goncz designated Viktor Orban, chairman of the Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ- MPP), as premier. Orban said it will take two or three weeks to draw up a new coalition government. Goncz recommended that the new government adopt a careful approach to its economic policies in order to preserve the country's achievements to date. The same day, the parliament elected Janos Ader of FIDESZ-MPP as its new chairman and Socialist Katalin Szili, Independent Smallholder Geza Gyimothy and Free Democrat Ferenc Wekler as deputy chairmen. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BELGRADE REJECTS CONTACT GROUP'S DEMAND. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic said in Brussels on 18 June that his government is willing to resume talks with Kosovar leaders but without international mediation. He rejected the key demand of the Contact Group that Serbia withdraw its security forces from Kosova. Jovanovic said that Serbia has the right to station forces on its own territory and that security troops are needed in the troubled province, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Fehmi Agani, who heads the Kosovar negotiating team for talks with the Serbs, told the Belgrade daily "Danas" that there can be no talks unless Serbia withdraws its security forces and accepts international monitoring of the situation. PM GELBARD CALLS MILOSEVIC OFFER 'RED HERRING.' Robert Gelbard, the U.S.'s special envoy for the former Yugoslavia, said in Washington on 18 June that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's recent offer to reopen talks with the Kosovars is a "red herring" because it was the Kosovars who broke off the previous negotiations in response to Milosevic's use of armed violence in the province. Gelbard called the Kosovars' attitude "understandable." Meanwhile in London, Amnesty International said that relatives are searching for some 150 missing ethnic Albanians in Kosova. The statement added that the organization is investigating reports of Serbian forces systematically looting and setting fire to homes of Kosovars who have fled to Albania or Montenegro. PM RUSSIA SEEKS TO PIN DOWN MILOSEVIC. Sergei Kislyak, who is Russia's permanent representative to NATO, told a special meeting of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council in Brussels on 18 June that Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasevskii will soon go to Belgrade to obtain from Milosevic a detailed plan for implementing the pledges he recently made to President Boris Yeltsin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1998). The minister will then go on to Prishtina, and a second Russian envoy will visit Tirana and Skopje to discuss the Kosova crisis. PM KOSOVAR PRIME MINISTER PLEDGES ORGANIZED RESISTANCE. The government of the Kosovar shadow-state and representatives of five Kosovar political parties met in Tirana on 18 June and agreed to appoint "people with full executive authority" to organize self-defense in those districts under attack by Serbian security forces, the Kosovar news agency KIC reported. This is the first time that the shadow-state government, which favors non-violence, has announced efforts aimed at resisting the Serbian forces. Spokesmen for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) have repeatedly called the shadow-state authorities defeatist and ineffective for shunning armed resistance. The Serbian armed crackdown has swelled the ranks of the UCK and given rise to the slogan among ordinary Kosovars that "we are all UCK." In Kosova, there was continued fighting in the western region between Gjakova and the Albanian border, KIC reported. FS/PM U.S. WARNS UCK AGAINST NEW OFFENSIVE. State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington on 18 June that the UCK will be playing into Milosevic's hands if it launches fresh attacks on Serbian forces. "We are aware that the Kosova Liberation Army is promising another offensive [that will] make, in our view, the situation even worse. That is a sure-fire way to give President Milosevic another pretext to kill innocent Albanians, and the Kosova Liberation Army should think about that. The ball is in President Milosevic's court to create the conditions that will allow serious negotiations to begin." Rubin added that there is a danger that "radical Islamic elements" from Iran, Afghanistan, or other Muslim countries could join the fighting in Kosova, but he stressed that there is no evidence that they have done so. Many Kosovars are Muslim, but both the shadow state and the UCK are secular in orientation. PM FRANCE SAYS KOSOVAR INDEPENDENCE POSSIBLE. Rubin also said in Washington on 18 June that "we support enhanced autonomy [for Kosova], but people are deluding themselves if they think that they are going to achieve independence." In Paris, however, Defense Minister Alain Richard noted that Milosevic may be deluding himself if he thinks he "can maintain a unified Serbia with a [Kosova] that is merely autonomous. This is an extremely dangerous period for Mr. Milosevic...because, if he continues like this, in three months or six months, we will no longer be able to discuss merely autonomy." Independence is the officially stated goal of the shadow state and the UCK. Representatives of the international community have repeatedly told the Kosovars that the only acceptable solution is some form of autonomy within federal Yugoslavia. PM ALBANIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR END TO "ETHNIC CLEANSING." Visiting Kosovar refugees in the northern city of Bajram Curri on 18 June, Rexhep Meidani said that "we have to stop the bloodshed, genocide, and ethnic cleansing by any [possible] means." He added that if Milosevic does not take part in serious negotiations with shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova, NATO should carry out air raids on Serbia without UN approval. He added that force "is the only language Milosevic understands." Meidani, together with U.S. ambassador Marisa Lino and OSCE ambassador Daan Everts, visited the city's hospital, a new refugee camp at Qafe Molle near the border with Kosova, and a family that is hosting 50 refugees in its house. A high-ranking government delegation accompanied Meidani to assess the situation and coordinate relief efforts between civilian and military authorities. FS ALBANIA PROTESTS BORDER SHOOTING. A Foreign Ministry official on 18 June handed over to the Yugoslav charge d' affaires a note protesting the recent killing of an Albanian citizen by a Serbian sniper inside Albanian territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1998). The statement said that "such adventurous acts must be stopped, or they could have grave consequences." The official Yugoslav news agency Tanjug denied the Albanian charges and reported that the man was killed when he tried to enter Yugoslav territory. On 17 June, BBC television broadcast footage that substantiated the Albanian position. Meanwhile in Belgrade, some 250 parents of conscripts staged a protest to demand that the army return their sons from Kosova. PM ALBANIA STARTS AIR FORCE EXERCISES. The Albanian air force began air maneuvers at Tirana airport on 19 June in a show of force in reaction to several recent violations of Albanian airspace by Yugoslav aircraft. The force has 12 airplanes of the types MiG-17, MiG-19, and MiG-21. Elsewhere, Albanian customs officials in Durres told journalists on 18 June that they had seized a truck carrying smuggled weapons from Ancona on 11 June. The arms included 30 automatic guns, a sniper, 30 antitank launchers, maps, and communications equipment. FS CROATIAN WAR CRIMES SUSPECT BACK IN ZAGREB. Dinko Sakic, the commander of the World War II concentration camp at Jasenovac, arrived in Zagreb on 18 June following his extradition from Argentina, where he has lived for over 50 years. He will face war crimes charges in conjunction with the deaths of thousands of Serbs, Jews, and Roma at the camp. Sakic maintains that no one died of anything other than natural causes during his tenure at Jasenovac. PM ROMANIAN HEALTH MINISTER REFUSES TO RESIGN... Francisc Baranyi, who admits to having been forced to sign up as a Securitate informer, is refusing to resign, despite Prime Minister Radu Vasile's request that he do so. Baranyi said on 18 June that he wants the premier to study his file and witness the fact that he never informed on anyone. He added that the decision on whether he will resign must be taken by the leadership of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Government spokesman Razvan Popescu said Vasile is sticking to his position and wants all ministers to submit written declarations on their past links with the former communist secret police. MS ...AS SECURITATE LINKS CONTINUE TO DOMINATE PUBLIC DEBATE. Transportation Minister Traian Basescu on 18 June said that the reports he made to the Navrom maritime company during the 12 years he was captain of a ship are "likely to have been forwarded to the Securitate." Also on 18 June, Romanian Information Service director Costin Georgescu said Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor's written pledge to act as an informer "does not figure" in his Securitate file. At the same time, Georgescu refrained from saying the pledge, published by the daily "Ziua," was a forgery, as claimed by Tudor. MS TURKISH PREMIER IN ROMANIA. Meeting in Bucharest on 18 June, Mesut Yilmaz and his Romanian counterpart, Radu Vasile, agreed that bilateral trade must increase from the $600 million to $1 billion over the next year. The two premiers also discussed the crisis in Kosova, saying after their meeting that they have "common views" on the ways to solve the conflict and on other regional developments. Yilmaz is scheduled to meet with President Emil Constantinescu on 19 June. MS MOLDOVAN ENERGY CRISIS BRINGS PUBLIC TRANSPORT TO HALT. Half of the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, was without electricity for several hours on 17 June, causing trolley buses and broadcasting to grind to a halt, RFE/RL's bureau reported the next day. Ukraine, from where Moldova imports one third of its electricity, suspended exports after one of its reactors at Chornobyl was shut down earlier this week. Moldova owes Ukraine $11 million for electricity supplies. The energy crisis has been made worse by Gazprom's recent decision to cut gas deliveries by 50 percent. BASA-press on 18 June reported that Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc has resumed negotiations with the Tiraspol separatists on the price of electricity supplies from the Transdniester. Tiraspol claims Chisinau owes $19 million for deliveries, of which Ciubuc promised to pay $10 million by 1 July. 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