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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 121 Part II, 25 June 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 121 Part II, 25 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 * UKRAINE PLEDGES TO REPAY GAZPROM DEBT BY END OF 1998 * HOLBROOKE SAYS SERBS SHOULD LEAVE DECAN ... * ... AS HE MEETS WITH UCK FIGHTERS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE PLEDGES TO REPAY GAZPROM DEBT BY END OF 1998. Ukrainian First Deputy Premier Anatoliy Holubchenko has said Ukraine will pay its debt to Gazprom for gas supplies by the end of 1998, Ukrainian Television reported. Holubchenko's statement followed a meeting between Gazprom chief executive Rem Vyakhirev and Ukrainian Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko in Kyiv on 24 June. The two men discussed payments for Russian gas supplied to Ukraine last year and joint use of Ukrainian underground gas storage facilities. Holubchenko added that Ukraine is interested in signing a long-term agreement on Russian gas transit through Ukrainian territory. According to him, such an agreement would guarantee that Russia will not build an alternate pipeline bypassing Ukraine. Ukraine's gas debt to Gazprom amounts to some $700 million. JM LEFTISTS ACCUSE RIGHTISTS OF BRIBERY IN ELECTION OF PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER. Leftist deputies have accused their political opponents in the Ukrainian Supreme Council of attempted bribery during the voting on a parliamentary speaker, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 June. They assert that some deputies have been offered $10,000 for casting blank ballots during the vote for speaker. The parliament has set up a deputies' group to investigate the allegation. Meanwhile, after the 12th fruitless round of voting, the Supreme Council passed a resolution prohibiting the deputies from leaving the session hall until they elect a parliamentary head, Ukrainian Television reported on 24 June. JM CZECH REPUBLIC, FINLAND INDIGNANT OVER DIPLOMATIC CLASH IN MINSK. The Czech Foreign Ministry has voiced its indignation over the eviction of foreign diplomats from the Drazdy compound in Minsk, CTK reported on 24 June. The Belarusian ambassador to Prague has been asked to convey the ministry's stance to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The Finnish Foreign Ministry, according to ITAR-TASS, has advised its ambassador to Minsk, who permanently resides in Riga, against visiting Belarus. "If some Belarusian ambassador in Europe still does not realize that he should leave home for consultations, we will prompt him to do this," ITAR-TASS quoted a Finnish Foreign Ministry official as saying. Meanwhile, Polish Ambassador to Belarus Mariusz Malyszkiewicz, who wanted to conduct a flag-lowering ceremony on 24 June at the Drazdy compound before leaving for Poland for consultations, was not allowed into his residence by the Belarusian police, Polish media reported. JM LUKASHENKA CURTAILS VISIT TO SWITZERLAND. The Belarusian president will participate in the international economic forum at Crans-Montana in Switzerland on 26 June, ITAR-TASS reported. He is expected to deliver an address to the forum on East-West economic cooperation and security issues, as well as to hold a briefing. Originally, Lukashenka's trip was planned for three days, from 25-27 June, and was to include a visit to the UN headquarters in Geneva, a speech at a conference on disarmament, and a meeting with International Olympic Committee Chairman Juan Antonio Samaranch. A UN spokeswoman in Geneva said Lukashenka decided to shorten his visit "owing to domestic reasons." Observers suspect Lukashenka's decision is connected with the recall of Western ambassadors from Minsk in the diplomatic conflict over the Drazdy compound. JM POLAND SPREADS BLAME FOR LOST EU AID AMONG MANY. A special government commission set up to investigate errors which cost Poland 34 million ecus in EU aid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 27 May 1998) has spread the blame among many officials and experts, ""Rzeczpospolita" reported on 25 June. The commission concluded that those responsible for applying for EU funds lacked professionalism and "proper communications" in their dealings with the European Commission. It also decided that Committee for European Integration chief Ryszard Czarnecki, who has formerly claimed political responsibility for the EU aid cut, should not be disqualified from his office. JM TRIBUNAL OUTLAWS FIRING JUDGES OBEDIENT TO POLAND'S COMMUNIST REGIME. Poland's Constitutional Tribunal ruled on 24 June that a law allowing the dismissal of judges who between 1944 and 1989 issued verdicts dictated by the communist authorities violates the Polish Constitution, "Rzeczpospolita" reported. The law was passed in December 1997 by the rightist-dominated parliament and subsequently sent to the Constitutional Tribunal for screening by President Aleksander Kwasniewski. But the tribunal agreed with the provision of the law stipulating that judges and prosecutors who collaborated with the communist-era secret services should be stripped of some retirement bonuses. The ruling is not subject to appeal and Kwasniewski must sign that part of the law approved by the tribunal. JM LITHUANIA TO SELL TELECOM TO SWEDISH-FINNISH CONSORTIUM. The Lithuanian government announced on 24 June that it will sell a 60 percent stake in the state-owned telecommunications company to a consortium consisting of Sweden's Telia and Finland's Sonera communications concerns, Lithuanian media reported. The two Scandinavian firms are to pay $510 million and have agreed to invest $221 million over the next two years. Vilnius announced that it will use the proceeds to compensate citizens who lost their savings during the hyperinflation of the early 1990s. PG LATVIAN HOLIDAY FOR VETERANS DRAWS RUSSIAN CRITICISM. The Russian Foreign Ministry on 24 June denounced a decision by the Latvian parliament earlier this month to establish a holiday commemorating those who fought in the Latvian Legion during World War II, Interfax reported. The ministry statement said that this group, organized by the Germans as a branch of the Waffen-SS, had been involved in the killing of "thousands of Jews, Russians and Belarussians" and that the establishment of a holiday for it represented "a slap in the face of the world community." PG ZEMAN STARTS COALITION TALKS. Social Democratic Party (CSSD) chairman Milos Zeman formally started talks on 24 June on forming the next government. He met with his main opponent, Civic Democratic Party (ODS) leader Vaclav Klaus and with the leader of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, Miroslav Grebenicek. After their meeting, Klaus said again the ODS would not support a CSSD-led cabinet. The two leaders agreed, however, to draft what has been termed as "long-term communication rules between the main government and the main opposition party," CTK reported. Grebenicek said after meeting Zeman that his party might agree to "tolerate" a minority cabinet of the CSSD and the Christian Democratic Party. MS SLOVAK RULING PARTY CHOOSES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia decided to back Banska Bystrica University rector Otto Tomecek as its candidate in the new round of presidential elections scheduled for next month, an RFE/RL correspondent in Bratislava reported on 24 June. Without the support of the opposition parties, Tomecek will not be able to garner the 90 votes necessary for election as president. His rival is likely to be attorney Peter Tomka, who is backed by the Party of Democratic Left. Parliamentary factions can submit presidential nominations till 29 June. In other news, Reuters reported on 24 June that the combined forces of the opposition continue to be ahead (54 percent) of the incumbent coalition forces (29 percent) in electoral preferences. MS HUNGARY'S YOUNG DEMOCRATS, SMALLHOLDERS SIGN COALITION PACT. Prime Minister-designate Viktor Orban, chairman of the Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ- MPP) and Independent Smallholders' Party chairman Jozsef Torgyan signed a coalition agreement on 24 June. Orban said the pact removes the last obstacle to the formation of a new government. Torgyan described the agreement as of "historical importance," making possible a "genuine change of regime." In other news, Laszlo Urban on 23 June unexpectedly declined to accept the finance portfolio in the new government, reportedly because of opposing views that he and Orban hold on the future of Hungary's Posta Bank. Orban announced the same day that Zsigmond Jarai, president of the Stock Exchange Council, had been offered the post and had accepted the nomination. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE HOLBROOKE SAYS SERBS SHOULD LEAVE DECAN... Richard Holbrooke, who is the U.S. ambassador-designate to the UN, said in the burned-out Kosovar town of Decan on 24 June that Decan recalls "the kind of action we saw earlier in this part of the world." He compared his impressions in the town to what he saw in western Bosnia in 1992. Holbrooke added that the destruction in Decan "was not fighting. This was the Yugoslav security forces driving people out. The Serbs should get out of here, and the original [ethnic Albanian] inhabitants should come back and rebuild their houses with government help." The diplomat said that "without the real possibility of NATO intervention, the chances of ethnic cleansing by the Serbs are significantly increased." Serbian forces have vigorously attacked the Decan area in recent weeks in an apparent effort to drive the ethnic Albanian population out of a corridor along the Albanian border. PM ...MEETS WITH UCK FIGHTERS. In Junik on 24 June, Holbrooke met with two uniformed fighters of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), one of whom carried a Kalashnikov. Holbrooke called the situation in Kosova "explosive" and added that the Kosovars "are beleaguered and they don't have supplies. The Serb security forces are all over the place." The envoy stressed that he is on a fact-finding mission and denied that his meeting with the UCK representatives constituted an official contact between Washington and the guerrillas. Some Western and regional media nonetheless speculated that the meeting suggests that the U.S. has established contact with the UCK and may be seeking to draw it into the negotiating process. During Holbrooke's stay, there was fighting along the highway between Decan and Gjakova, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Elsewhere, UCK spokesmen said in Prishtina that the guerrillas now control much of the Fushe- Kosova (Kosovo Polje) region. PM COUNCIL OF EUROPE WANTS DEMOCRATIC CHANGE. The parliament of the Council of Europe passed a resolution on 24 June in which it blamed the Yugoslav government and President Slobodan Milosevic for the current escalation in the crisis in Kosova. The text added that no long-term solution is possible in the province without far-reaching democratic changes in Yugoslavia. Until that happens, the international community must keep all options open, including the military one. The parliament also called on Milosevic to launch a dialogue with the authorities in Montenegro. Also in Strasbourg, OSCE chairman Bronislaw Geremek called on Milosevic to set down a time-table for ending the Kosovar crisis. PM BLAIR SAYS MILITARY OPTION STILL STANDS. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in London on 24 June that NATO retains the option to intervene militarily as long as Milosevic refuses to withdraw his special security forces from Kosova. Media reports from Brussels earlier that day suggested that NATO planners were moving away from a military option lest the alliance play into the hands of the UCK (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1998). "The New York Times" wrote that the UCK has begun targeting Serbian civilians in an ethnic cleansing campaign near Klina in recent days, which has in turn drawn Serbian paramilitaries into the region. The UCK's official position is that it fights only the Serbian authorities and ethnic Albanians whom it regards as collaborators, and that Serbian civilians have nothing to fear from it. Serbian refugees have repeatedly charged that the UCK and other armed Albanians have told them to leave "and never come back." PM YUGOSLAV ARMY NOT TO SEND RAW RECRUITS TO KOSOVA. The General Staff agreed in Belgrade on 24 June not to send untrained recruits to Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The move comes in apparent response to numerous protests from parents and opposition political leaders across the country against sending conscripts to the province. Elsewhere, Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic called for NATO intervention -- against Albania -- to clear out "terrorist training camps" there, "Nasa Borba" wrote. His party said in a statement the next day that the Kosovar civilian leadership backs terrorism and that its claim to be devoted to non-violence is just a ruse. The Democratic Party said in a statement that Milosevic is unable to preserve order in Kosova and protect the lives "of citizens who live there." PM SILAJDZIC OFFERS BASES TO NATO. Bosnian Co-Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic said in Tokyo that his government will offer military facilities to the Atlantic alliance should it decide to intervene in Kosova, "Nasa Borba" wrote on 25 June. It is not clear if Silajdzic has the authority to make such an offer without the approval of parliament or of Bosnian Serb leaders. In Sarajevo, the international community's Carlos Westendorp warned that Milosevic "will end up like [Romanian dictator Nicolae] Ceausescu" unless he ends the imbroglio in Kosova, the Belgrade daily "Danas" wrote. Westendorp also cautioned that "if Kosova explodes, it could ignite extreme nationalism in Bosnia." Meanwhile in Banja Luka, the Bosnian Serb parliament voted on 24 June to move its seat officially from Pale to that western Bosnian city. PM CROATIA LAUNCHES REFUGEE RETURN PROGRAM. Government authorities in Zagreb made public on 24 June a plan for a refugee return that guarantees "all citizens" the right to go home. The plan foresees that some 220,000 individuals will return to their former homes inside and outside of Croatia by 2003. Some 24,000 ethnic Serbs are expected to come back to Croatia in 1998 alone. Parliament votes on the measure on 26 June. Its passage is widely seen as crucial in determining the course of Zagreb's future relations with Western countries and for its integration in Euro-Atlantic structures. PM ALBANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER VOWS TO SACK CORRUPT POLICE CHIEFS. Perikli Teta said on 24 June in Tirana that he has prepared a list of over 20 high-ranking police officers whom he suspects of corruption. Teta added that the cases involve a variety of crimes ranging from selling passports to smuggling cigarettes. He did not elaborate on individual cases but said he would file charges in the near future. FS ALBANIA STILL PLAGUED BY CUSTOMS EVASION. "Shekulli" on 25 June quoted a recent secret government report as saying that customs evasion remains endemic. The report points out that taxed imports of six key goods have dropped by almost 50 percent in the first four months of 1998 as compared to the last four months of 1997. The report suggests that this drop indicates that the goods continued to be imported but were neither declared nor taxed. "Shekulli" estimates the loss at about $80 million. It adds that General Director of Customs Gezim Bleta told the paper that the report is accurate. FS RUSSIAN DUMA SPEAKER ON ROMANIAN TREASURY. Gennadii Seleznev told journalists in Bucharest on 24 June that the problem of the Romanian state treasury deposited in Moscow during World War I is "hopeless." He said Romania was raising this problem within the framework of the parleys on the basic treaty between the two countries. Seleznev replaced Romanian Senate chairman Petre Roman as chairman of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, whose 11th Parliamentary Assembly session ends on 25 June in Bucharest. His mandate is for six months. On the same day, the parliamentarians attending the session adopted a declaration expressing full support for close economic cooperation in the region, ITAR- TASS reported. The document also says a lasting peace and settlement of conflicts in the region are inseparable from strengthening economic cooperation. MS ARMENIA BACKS ROMANIAN OIL TRANSIT PLANS. Armenian parliament chairman Khosrov Harutiunian, who attended the PABSEC session, told Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu in Bucharest on 23 June that his country backs Romanian plans for having pipe lines transporting Caspian oil transit Romanian territory, Romanian state radio reported. Harutiunian also said Armenia's position is that all states in the region must benefit from the new transit routes and "fulfill their interests." Plesu said Romania must "urgently open" an embassy in Yerevan. Plesu also met with Moldovan parliament chairman Dumitru Diacov, with whom he discussed the "special" bilateral relations between their two states. Diacov and the chairmen of the two Romanian chambers of the parliament, Ion Diaconescu and Petre Roman, on 23 June signed an accord on cooperation between the two legislatures. MS UKRAINE TO SEND PEACE-KEEPERS TO TRANSDNIESTER. Igor Smirnov, leader of the separatist Transdniester region, and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma agreed in Kyiv on 24 June that Ukraine will send ten peace-keepers to the security zone in the Transdniester, ITAR-TASS reported. On the same day, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported that Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi, in a telephone conversation with Kuchma, urged Ukraine to enhance its involvement in conflict resolution attempts and send peace-keepers to the zone. In other news, BASA-press reported on 24 June that OSCE chairman Bronislaw Geremek told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg that Moldova may "count on the support of international organizations" on the withdrawal of "all foreign troops" from its territory. Geremek also said Chisinau must "prove" its determination to solve the Transdniester conflict. MS BULGARIA WANTS INFORMATION ON MINORITY CONSCRIPTS IN KOSOVA. Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov on 24 June said Bulgaria has requested official information from the Yugoslav authorities on conscripts from minority groups being dispatched to Kosova, BTA reported. Vlaikov said that if the information about an "imbalance" in selecting and including Bulgarian minority members in the contingents dispatched to Kosova turns out to be true, Sofia "will not pass over the matter in silence." Earlier this month, top Montenegrin officials and representatives of Vojvodina's Hungarian minority demanded that conscripts from Montenegro and Vojvodina, respectively, be stationed only outside Kosova. In other news, on 24 June visiting Uzbek President Islam Karimov and his Bulgarian counterpart Petar Stoyanov signed a treaty on friendly relations and cooperation between their countries, BTA reported. Stoyanov said Sofia will support Uzbekistan's application for membership in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization. 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 of the message. 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