|The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it. - Franklin P. Jones|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 120 Part II, 24 June 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 120 Part II, 24 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 * POLAND, BULGARIA JOIN EXODUS OF ENVOYS FROM BELARUS * HOLBROOKE GIVES MILOSEVIC 'LAST CHANCE' * MACEDONIA, GREECE AGAINST INTERVENTION End Note: ENVOYS REFUSE TO DANCE TO LUKASHENKA'S MUSIC xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE POLAND, BULGARIA JOIN EXODUS OF ENVOYS FROM BELARUS. Shortly after five EU countries and the U.S. recalled their ambassadors from Minsk, Poland and Bulgaria have announced they are also withdrawing their envoys for consultations. Meanwhile, following the examples of the U.S. and Germany, France has told the Belarusian ambassador to Paris to leave for Minsk in order "to notify the Belarusian authorities of the negative reaction of the French leadership" over the eviction of diplomats from their residences at Drazdy, ITAR- TASS reported. JM BELARUS UNWILLING TO SEEK FOREIGN DIPLOMATS' RETURN. Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich told journalists on 23 June that Belarus does not intend to take any steps toward securing the return of the recalled envoys, ITAR-TASS reported. "As a minister, I have no intention of taking care of their moving problems," AFP quoted Antanovich as saying. He said Belarus was "ready for compromise from the very beginning" but the relocation of diplomats has been intentionally placed "on the level of an all-European scandal." He added that the EU cannot reconcile itself to the November 1996 referendum in Belarus, "where the [Belarusian] people supported different persons than the EU did." JM ANTANOVICH SAYS PROBLEM OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN BELARUS 'FAR- FETCHED.' Addressing a Chamber of Representatives session devoted to human rights, Foreign Minister Antanovich said the problem of human rights in Belarus is "far-fetched" owing to Belarus's refusal to accept the Western model of society that "is being imposed by the U.S.," Belapan reported on 23 June. Antanovich said the current hearings are an "eloquent example" that observing human rights is a priority of Belarus's domestic and foreign policy. Presidential administration chief Mikhail Myasnikovich criticized the U.S. for drawing up its annual reports on human rights in Belarus only on the basis of materials provided by the opposition. And Belarusian Security Council Secretary Viktar Sheyman accused "foreign sponsors " of helping "ideologists of the Belarusian opposition to create and impose on people propaganda myths oriented toward weakening the [Belarusian] statehood and undermining socio- economic stability." JM KUCHMA VOWS TO CONTINUE STEERING ECONOMY BY DECREE. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has said his recent economic decrees are not part of a "temporary campaign" but rather were planned, Ukrainian Television reported on 23 June. He added that he may also enact an amended budget for this year by decree. A cut in the budget deficit is the IMF's major condition for granting a $2 billion credit to Ukraine. Kuchma's economic management by decree is due to the paralysis of the activities of the Supreme Council, which has devoted the past six weeks to a dozen unsuccessful attempts to elect its speaker. Kuchma's latest decree raised the minimum wage by 10 hryvni ($5) to 55 hryvni. JM CENTRAL BANKER SAYS UKRAINE NOT BANKRUPT. Ukrainian National Bank head Viktor Yushchenko on 23 June said that Ukraine is not a bankrupt state and has problems only with current payments, Ukrainian Television reported. He commented that the situation of Ukraine's hard currency market is "controllable and stable," while the current negotiations with the World Bank and the IMF are "correct and productive." Yushchenko's statement comes in response to growing public concern over the government's ability to pay interest rates on domestic and foreign state bonds, which have been the main source of financing Ukraine's budget deficit. JM U.S., EU HAIL LATVIAN CITIZENSHIP LAW AMENDMENTS... The U.S. government has welcomed the Latvian parliament's decision to amend the country's citizenship law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 1998). State Department spokesman James Rubin said in a written statement today that by taking that action, Latvia has moved closer to a society in which peoples of all backgrounds and beliefs can live together in harmony. He added that the move furthers Latvia's aspirations to integrate into European and trans-Atlantic structures. The European Commission commented that the amendments meet the recommendations made by the OSCE and address "one of the priorities in Latvia's preparations for EU membership.... The entry into force of this legislation will greatly facilitate the integration of minorities in Latvia." JC ...WHILE RUSSIA SAYS CHANGES ONLY 'PIECEMEAL.' Speaking to reporters at a Baltic Sea conference in Nyborg, Denmark, on 23 June, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said that the amendments to Latvia's citizenship law constitute only a "piecemeal" solution. But Primakov added that his government will have to look at the text of the amended law before passing final judgment. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vitalii Makarov told Interfax in Moscow the same day that the amendments are not "some sort of breakthrough" but rather a "correction of undemocratic laws." He added that they are also "far from being fully in line with recommendations by OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel." JC POLISH GOVERNMENT ADOPTS EU ENTRY PROGRAM. The Polish cabinet on 23 June approved a "national program on the preparation for the EU membership," "Rzeczpospolita" reported. The document provides for adjusting Poland's legislation and economy to EU regulations by 2002. Committee for European Integration head Ryszard Czarnecki said Poland is not going to seek many transition periods in which the country does not abide by EU regulations while adapting to EU standards. Czarnecki commented that he is not surprised by statements that the EU may not be expanded until after 2005. And he also noted that the EU preparation program provides for introducing travel visas for citizens of Belarus and Ukraine but did not specify when. JM HAVEL SETS DATE FOR CONVENING NEW PARLIAMENT. President Vaclav Havel has set the date of the first session of the new parliament for 7 July, CTK reported on 23 June. The same day, Karel Brezina, a chief aide to Social Democratic Party (CSSD) leader Milos Zeman, said Zeman intends to contact "all parties represented in the parliament" in order to conduct coalition talks. The chairman of the Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL), Josef Lux, told Vaclav Klaus, leader of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), that his formation still favors a coalition with the CSSD. Klaus told journalists later that he believes "personal animosities" must not hinder talks and that the best solution would be a coalition of "non-left parties." MS DATE SET FOR SLOVAK ELECTIONS. After meeting representatives of parliamentary parties, parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic told state radio on 23 June that the elections to the legislature will be held on 25-26 September, CTK reported. In other news, Foreign Ministry spokesman Milan Tokar told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bratislava that Foreign Minister Zdenka Kramplova has no intention of resigning in order to become ambassador to Sofia, as alleged by Bulgarian media. Tokar said the reports were "fabricated" and stressed that ambassadorial appointments can be made only by the president. Slovakia currently does not have a president. MS SLOVAKIA REJECTS U.S. CRITICISM OF ELECTION LAW. A statement released by the Slovak Foreign Ministry on 23 June rejected U.S. criticism of the recently amended election law (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 23 June 1998), RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported The ministry said that high-ranking Slovak officials have on several occasions :made it clear that the elections will be "free, democratic, and fair" and that they will be "in line with OSCE standards for monitoring elections in member countries." At the same time, the statement said the fact that "Slovakia has been repeatedly asked to make possible the presence of OSCE monitors" during the elections was "unjustified." MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE HOLBROOKE GIVES MILOSEVIC 'LAST CHANCE.' Richard Holbrooke, who is the U.S. ambassador-designate to the UN, arrived in Prishtina on 24 June to meet with Kosovar leaders and to visit the embattled community of Decan. The previous day, he told Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade that he must implement all the demands of the international Contact Group and that time is running out. Holbrooke gave reporters no details of his long meeting with Milosevic but said that his message to everyone on his current Balkan tour is that "we're at a critical moment in the crisis surrounding Kosova and we are here to prevent the fighting escalating into a general war." PM MOSCOW WANTS MILOSEVIC TO KEEP PROMISES. Milosevic also met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasievskii, who told the Yugoslav leader that the situation in Kosova is "extremely difficult" and that both sides must end the violence. Afanasievskii added that Milosevic must implement the promises he made to Russian President Boris Yeltsin one week earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1998). PM MACEDONIA, GREECE AGAINST INTERVENTION. Prior to arriving in Belgrade, Holbrooke met on 23 June with Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova and Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov in Skopje. Gligorov told Holbrooke that there is still time for a diplomatic solution to the Kosovar crisis. The Macedonian president later told reporters that Holbrooke does not consider Macedonia to be "part of the Kosovar problem," "Nasa Borba" reported. In Athens, Macedonian Foreign Minister Blagoje Handziski and his Greek counterpart, Theodoros Pangalos, said they oppose NATO intervention in Kosova and favor a diplomatic solution. Pangalos warned Western countries against meddling in Balkan affairs and said that "enough blood has flowed in the Balkans because of [Westerners'} amateurism." He added that Milosevic has already met four out of five demands by the Contact Group and cannot withdraw his forces as long as "separatists" do not stop the violence. PM NANO WARNS OF 'BALKANIZATION OF EUROPE.' Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano told the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" of 23 June that NATO intervention is necessary to support diplomatic efforts and prevent Milosevic from killing his own civilian population. Nano warned Western Europeans against thinking that they can ignore the Kosovar crisis because "the Balkans are far away. All Europe runs the risk of becoming Balkanized" if Kosova spins out of control. The prime minister stressed that peace and stability in the Balkans are not possible as long as Milosevic, whom he called "old-fashioned, dogmatic, and Stalinist," remains in power. Nano added that Serbia is sorely in need of "an explosion of democracy" like the one that most of Eastern Europe experienced at the end of the 1980s. PM SLOVENIAN SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES KOSOVA. Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek's National Security Council discussed "the crisis situation in Kosova and its possible consequences for Slovenia's security," "Nasa Borba" reported on 24 June. President Milan Kucan said at a press conference to mark the seventh anniversary of Slovenia's independence that Kosova needs internationally guaranteed autonomy. He added that Kosova is not an internal affair of Serbia's because it could affect the stability of the Balkans and all of Europe. Kucan stressed that the conflict between "democracy and totalitarianism," and not "the nationalisms of individual peoples," was responsible for the dissolution of Yugoslavia. He added that this process is continuing and that the Montenegrin people alone can decide Montenegro's future "on the same basis that the Slovenes" determined their own course. PM SOLANA TELLS RUGOVA TO NEGOTIATE... Rugova told NATO Secretary General Javier Solana in Brussels on 24 June that NATO should provide "some kind of protection in Kosova so that massive massacres and massive ethnic cleansing are prevented.... Kosova has the right to become independent as it's part of a country that has dissolved." Solana, however, told his visitor "emphatically [and] categorically" that Rugova must "return to the negotiating table [with Milosevic] immediately and without preconditions." The Kosovars refuse to sit down with Serbian officials as long as the repression continues. Meanwhile, Reuters reported from NATO headquarters that alliance officials are becoming less disposed toward launching air strikes against Serbia and stress instead "the need for more information about the situation on the ground." The officials say that Serbia faces a determined armed insurgency and that NATO does not want to play into the hands of the Kosova Liberation Army in its fight for independence. PM ...MEETS WITH BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER. Nadezhda Mihailova and NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana met in Vienna on 22 June at a NATO workshop and discussed the conflict in Kosova, BTA reported. Mihailova stressed the importance Bulgaria attaches to finding a political solution to the conflict. But Solana and General Wesley Clark, the supreme allied commander in Europe, who also attended the meeting, made it clear that the alliance is considering all options for dealing with the Kosova crisis. U.S. Ambassador to Sofia Avis Boheln, visiting a hospital in Tran that is being reconstructed with U.S. aid, denied rumors that the reconstruction is related to the Kosova conflict, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. A joint U.S.-Bulgarian military exercise is scheduled to take place near Tran from 30 July to 7 August. MS IZETBEGOVIC WANTS DAYTON AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTED OR CHANGED. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic told "Vecernje novine" of 23 June that the Dayton agreement will have to be changed if Serbian and Croatian officials block the implementation of Dayton after the September general elections. He stressed that no single ethnic group's representatives should be allowed to hamstring "the functioning of the state." In Pale, the governing body of Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party selected Momcilo Krajisnik to run for re- election as the Serbian member of the joint presidency. The party placed Dragan Cavic at the head of its list of candidates for the Republika Srpska legislature and Slobodan Bijelic at the top of the slate for the joint Bosnian parliament. And in Banja Luka, officials of the Republika Srpska and Croatia signed an agreement on the return of refugees. PM FINAL ALBANIAN ELECTION RESULTS ANNOUNCED. A spokesman for the Central Election Commission said in Tirana on 23 June that the governing Alliance for the State (ASH) won the local by-elections in the municipalities of Vlora, Patos, Roskovec, and Ura Vajgurore, while the opposition Union for Democracy (BPD) won in Kavaja (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 1998). ASH also won in six smaller communities, while the BPD won in three, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. FS OSCE DECLARES BALLOT FAIR. OSCE Ambassador Daan Everts said on 23 June in Tirana that the elections were a "significant improvement over the 1997 extraordinary parliamentary elections in terms of voting climate and election administration." But he added that the 52 percent turnout was disappointing. Owen Masters, who is the elections rapporteur for the Council of Europe, said that "by and large, these elections have been conducted in a fair and democratic manner." At the same time, a joint OSCE and Council of Europe statement stressed that "there is a need for the state to make structural improvements in the system of voter registration." FS ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE ON SECURITATE FILES. Mircea Ghiordunescu, deputy director of the Romanian Intelligence Service, says most of the files of Securitate informers who were Communist Party (PCR) members were destroyed during the communist era, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.on 23 June. Ghiordunescu said a PCR plenum decided in 1967 that PCR members who were secret police informers would not have files. He added that between 1971 and 1979, some 270,000 files of PCR informers were destroyed and that between 22 December 1989 and 26 March 1990 more than 27,000 files "disappeared" from the Securitate records, which are now kept by the Romanian Intelligence Service. Meanwhile, the Senate on 23 June failed to debate the last article of a law on access to Securitate records, MS MOLDOVAN REFORMS MINISTER ON 'ECONOMIC BANKRUPTCY.' Deputy Prime Minister and Economic Reforms Minister Ion Sturdza says the country's economy is "on the brink of bankruptcy," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 23 June. Sturdza told a forum of Moldovan businessmen that in the past, ministries did not really take into account budgetary constraints and that as a result, Moldova now has a huge foreign debt of $1.3 billion, as well arrears in the payment of wages and pensions. He said the country's foreign debt amounts to 60 percent of GDP and that an "anti-crisis program" is about to be launched. Sturdza said the government will cease subsidizing loss-making sectors, such as energy, and many agricultural enterprises that are no longer able to pay their debts to the state budget. MS UZBEK PRESIDENT IN BULGARIA. Islam Karimov met with President Petar Stoyanov and Prime Minister Ivan Kostov in Sofia on 23 June to discuss economic cooperation, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Karimov said that a project for a highway linking Europe to Asia is "not a fantasy, but reality." The two sides are due to sign several accords on economic cooperation and tourism during Karimov's visit. Also on 23 June, President Petar Stoyanov received visiting Turkish parliamentary chairman Hikmet Cetin, with whom he discussed joint economic projects, bilateral relations, and the Kosova conflict. MS END NOTE ENVOYS REFUSE TO DANCE TO LUKASHENKA'S MUSIC by Jan Maksymiuk The Drazdy residential compound north of Minsk was built in a pine forest in the late 1940s for the Minsk nomenklatura. In the early 1990s, its wooden houses became the residences of two dozen ambassadors to the newly established Republic of Belarus. After the 1994 presidential elections, Drazdy also became the residence of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. This month, the compound made the headlines as the setting for the most bizarre diplomatic conflict in modern history, which journalists have dubbed the "sewer war." In late April, foreign diplomats living at Drazdy were notified that they would have to move out owing to urgent repairs to the compound's utility systems. Nobody took this warning very seriously, particularly since most ambassadors had extended their leases until the end of 2001. But the ambassadors subsequently received an order to move out by 10 June. To add weight to the written word, the authorities dispatched a team of workers to weld shut the gate to U.S. Ambassador Daniel Speckhard's residence. They left the compound only after the diplomat, alerted by his wife, arrived with a group of reporters. On 10 June, Lukashenka stepped in and extended the eviction deadline by one week, saying the move was in response to Speckhard's request that the diplomats be given time to pack their belongings. The latter strongly denied having made such a request. In fact, together with other Western ambassadors, he demanded that Belarus observe the Vienna convention on the treatment of diplomatic representatives. Lukashenka later hinted that he did not feel comfortable living in close proximity to Western diplomats. That hint was unexpectedly confirmed on 17 June, when the Drazdy site was declared the "residence of the president of the Republic of Belarus" and a sign to that effect appeared over the main entrance. The ambassadors were to be allowed to stay in the compound but were to have the status of "guests of the Belarusian president," as a deputy foreign minister put it. As such, they would have to apply for special passes to the compound for both themselves and their guests. The same deputy foreign minister also warned that would have to suffer "a lot of inconveniences" in connection with the repairs. Water, electricity, and telephone services were promptly cut off from diplomatic residences, and a ditch was dug in front of the compound's gates to prevent the diplomats from entering the area by car. Until that time, the ambassadors had behaved as Lukashenka wanted them to behave: they had protested but had essentially accepted his rules of the game and tried to adapt. They had declared themselves ready to suffer hardships during the repairs. But they had not suspected that the Belarusian authorities would force them to "float in sewage," as Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich had graphically described their prospective lot one week earlier. The diplomats appear to have finally lost their patience when it became evident that there was no office where they could apply for entry permits to the compound. On 22 June, six nations--Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, and the U.S.--recalled their ambassadors for consultations. For people in the West, Lukashenka's apparent motive for the eviction order is the most baffling aspect of the diplomatic row. Has he really risked an international scandal simply to enlarge his own residence? Belarusian independent journalists would answer in the affirmative, having repeatedly stressed that Lukashenka, a former collective farm director, manages Belarus's affairs like those of a kolkhoz--in a callous, authoritarian, and uncivilized manner. It seems he cares no more about foreign ambassadors than he does about Belarusian kolkhoz workers. But his attempt to humiliate Western envoys may also be guided by personal revenge. Owing to his dictatorial ways and numerous violations of human rights, Belarus has become almost completely isolated in the West. Few Western statesmen will risk shaking hands with Lukashenka today. This is undoubtedly a festering wound to the pride of the self-styled leader of the East Slavic world, who some observers claim is still aspiring to the Kremlin throne. And that wound prompts him to hit back wherever and whenever he can. Apart from expressing indignation and outrage, the West has virtually no means to punish Lukashenka. The Belarusian economy is virtually independent of the West; therefore, economic sanctions would have no impact. On the other hand, the Drazdy debacle has shown Lukashenka that he is fully at the mercy of Russia, Belarus's only ally. Moscow supports Lukashenka's blatantly undemocratic regime while claiming to build democracy at home. But it cannot be ruled out that the Kremlin will undertake a mediation mission to try to curb Lukashenka's diplomatic vagaries. 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. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject or body of the message. 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