|A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. - Jonathan Swift|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 125 Part II, 1 July 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 125 Part II, 1 July 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 * BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT OFFENDS MOSCOW * SERBIA CLAIMS SUCCESS IN BELACEVAC OFFENSIVE * HOLBROOKE SAYS PEACE MISSION CONTINUES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT OFFENDS MOSCOW. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said on 30 June that Moscow is waiting for the Belarusian government to explain what he called "an inappropriate reference to Russia" by Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Interfax reported. Speaking at the CransMontana forum in Switzerland at the weekend, Lukashenka criticized "countries firing at their parliaments from tanks," an apparent reference to Boris Yeltsin's attack on the Russian White House in October 1993. In another indication that Minsk is not above insulting Russia, Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Ling noted the same day that Russia owes Minsk some $2 billion for exports in 1997 but said that Belarus is prepared to provide assistance to enterprises in two Russian cities on which Belarusian industry depends, Interfax reported. PG MINSK TO RETAIN 'COMMANDING HEIGHTS' OF BELARUS ECONOMY. Also on 30 June, Belarusian Prime Minister Ling announced that his government plans to maintain central control over the "commanding heights" of the economy, Interfax reported. He said that such control would be maintained even if firms were partially privatized. And he commented that government assistance to 38 large state enterprises in 1997 has brought the government revenues twice as large as the investment. PG UKRAINE COMPLAINS ABOUT RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES. The Ukrainian embassy in Moscow on 30 June asked the Russian authorities to investigate what it called human rights abuses in the Russian capital, the Ukrainian embassy in Washington told RFE/RL. Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Viktor Nahaychuk said in Kyiv that Ukrainians working in Moscow have been mistreated or even beaten by local police because they lost or were unable to obtain residence permits from the city administration. PG UKRAINE'S FINANCE MINISTRY FINDS MISUSE OF FUNDS AT CHERNOBYL. Finance Ministry inspectors have identified massive misuse of clean-up funds at the Chornobyl nuclear plant, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 July. The government press service said that approximately 10 million hryvnas ($5 million) have been embezzled, misappropriated, or misused. After levying fines on officials involved, the auditing service has taken control over all monies in the fund. PG. UKRAINIAN FARMERS DEMAND LAND REFORM. Approximately 400 Ukrainian farmers demonstrated in Kyiv on 30 June to call for the passage of reform legislation that would allow them to buy and sell land freely, give them expanded assistance, and create a single tax on agricultural production, Interfax reported. PG UKRAINE BATTLES DRUG, SEX TRADES. Ukraine's security service announced on 30 June that its officers have seized more than 8.5 tons of drugs and arrested 140 drug dealers since last year, Kyiv's "Segodnya" newspaper reported. Meanwhile, Nina Karpacheva, the head of the parliamentary human rights commission, told ITAR-TASS that one in every five of the nearly 500,000 Ukrainian women who have moved to Western Europe since independence have become employed in the sex industry. PG LATVIAN PRESIDENT OPPOSES REFERENDUM ON CITIZENSHIP LAW CHANGES... Guntis Ulmanis has described the bid to hold a referendum on the citizenship law amendments as "pre- election populism" and "dishonest" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 1998), BNS reported on 30 June. Ulmanis told journalists that the passage of the amendments is "one of the most important and responsibility-filled accomplishments of the incumbent parliament" and will prompt the government and parliamentary parties to adopt laws in line with the "desire to strengthen the status of the Latvian language." If voters supported a referendum on the issue, he argued, it would signal their wish to start a dialogue with the authorities and, moreover, political parties would be obliged to voice their exact opinions on the issue. Also on 30 June, Ulmanis informed the Central Electoral Committee of the suspension of the amendments' enactment pending the collection of signatures in support of a plebiscite. JC ...WHILE PREMIER SAYS IT'S NECESSARY. Guntars Krasts, meanwhile, has backed such a referendum, saying it is necessary because Latvia is about to introduce norms that do not exist in other European countries, BNS reported on 30 June. "If we are making a European-scale experiment, we should know the people's opinion," he told reporters. Krasts's Fatherland and Freedom Party initiated the referendum bid last month. Latvia's Way has said that Krasts's suitability as premier would be seriously called into question if he supported the initiative, while the opposition Democratic Party Saimnieks noted it may propose a no confidence vote in the government if Krasts does not oppose the referendum bid. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Moscow on 30 June that "radicals" in Latvia are "playing the nationalist card" ahead of the elections. He added that the Latvian people should opt for measures recommended by the international community, Interfax reported. JC POLAND TO REFORM COAL, STEEL INDUSTRIES. In order to meet EU requirements, the Polish cabinet on 30 June decided to push ahead with plans to reform the key coal and steel industries, PAP reported. The plans call for cutting some 105,000 jobs in the coal industry by the year 2002 and reducing output from 137 million tons a year to 112 million tons. To cushion the impact of this cutback, Warsaw has asked the World Bank for a $1 billion loan. The plan also calls for cutting employment by 50,000 in the steel industry while maintaining current output levels. The same day, some 30 farmers held a sit-in at the Finance Ministry to demand higher subsidies, which the EU has opposed. PG GRAND COALITION IN CZECH REPUBLIC? The chairman of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), Milos Zeman, said after talks with the leader of the Civil Democratic Party (ODS) Vaclav Klaus on 29 June that there is a "possibility" that an "agreement" would be reached on forming a government in which "the strongest [parliamentary] parties will have a significant position." Klaus said after the talks that he no longer rules out the possibility that the ODS would tolerate a minority government including only CSSD ministers. However, after meeting Zeman the same day, Christian Democratic Party leader Josef Lux said a "center-left" coalition as well as a "grand coalition" are now becoming possible owing to "notable concessions from the Social Democrats," Reuters and AP reported. MS PLANS TO CUT SIZE OF CZECH ARMY. Defense Minister Michal Lobkowicz on 29 June submitted to the National Security Council a plan that would cut Czech army troops from 81,000 to 60,000 by 2003, CTK reported. Lobkowicz told journalists the reduction will not affect the army's "combat core" but will target "white-collar jobs, senior officers, and conscripts." Chief of Staff Jiri Sedivy said that by 2001, the Czech military will set up a "fully professional" rapid deployment force. That force could be deployed within 20 days, he said. MS SLOVAKIA'S HUNGARIANS PROTEST DISCRIMINATION. Thousands of ethnic Hungarian pupils on 30 June protested new government regulations that they consider discriminatory, Reuters reported. Pupils handed back their end of term reports after the Ministry of Education ordered the reports to be issued in the Slovak language only. The ministry, which is run by the ultra-right Slovak National Party, also intends to amend existing legislation to make the teaching of history and geography in national minority schools in Slovak obligatory and to require that books used in teaching be approved by the ministry. MS HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW CABINET STRUCTURE. By a vote of 207 to 47 and 45 abstentions, the parliament on 30 June approved a bill whereby the new cabinet will have 13 ministries (instead of 12 until now) and two ministers without portfolio. The Socialist and Free Democrat opposition criticized that provision of the bill that splits the Culture and Education Ministry into an Education Ministry and a National Cultural Heritage Ministry, saying the latter does not express the variety of cultures in Hungary. In other news, former Prime Minister Peter Boross is to become Prime Minister-designate Viktor Orban's national security adviser, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 1 July. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIA CLAIMS SUCCESS IN BELACEVAC OFFENSIVE. Serbian police officials on 30 June said they have retaken villages near the Belacevac coal mine that were previously controlled by the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). Yugoslav army tanks were used in the offensive, AP reported. Serbs have resumed operation of the strategic Belacevac mine as well, according to Reuters. The mine is just west of Prishtina and supplies two nearby power plants. Reports say at least three Albanians were killed and seven wounded in the battle, although most of the UCK fighters are reported to have escaped the area. Thousands of inhabitants have fled Belacevac and two nearby towns, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Elsewhere, five Albanians died in battles with Serbian forces near the Albanian border west of Djakovica, according to Serbian police. The UCK is reported to have launched an attack at the village of Drenoc, near Klina, and attacked a Serbian military convoy on the Prizren-Shtime road. FS SERBIAN OFFICIALS SAYS KIJEVA IS NEXT TARGET. Veljko Odalovic, the Serbian governor of Kosova, said that the siege around the village of Kijeva will be lifted soon, Reuters reported on 30 June. Odalovic said that Serbs "cannot justify that in our own state we have people being held as hostages." There are some 220 Serbs in Kijeva, which has been encircled by UCK forces for more than a week. Serbian forces, in turn, have surrounded the UCK. Yugoslav army helicopters strafed the UCK troops on 29 June. Western officials have said Kijeva is a flash point and warned that an attempt by Serbian forces to secure the village will result in a blood bath. PB HOLBROOKE SAYS PEACE MISSION CONTINUES. U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke said that attempts to defuse the situation in Kosova continue, although it is "on the edge of becoming an emergency," Reuters reported. Holbrooke, speaking from Oslo, said diplomatic efforts are "intense and ongoing," pointing to the meeting by the U.S. ambassador to Macedonia, Christopher Hill, with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade on 30 June. No details of the meeting are known. Hill is scheduled to meet with ethic Albanian leaders in Prishtina on 1 July. Holbrooke said no clear chain of command exists within the UCK, so it is difficult to negotiate a cease-fire. In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said the UCK must not be involved in any peace talks. PB ANNAN PROPOSES TO EXTEND UN MANDATE FOR PREVLAKA. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed in New York on 29 June that the mandate of the UN monitoring mission for the Prevlaka peninsula (UNMOP) be extended for another six months. The UNMOP mandate runs out on 15 July. Annan has urged Belgrade and Zagreb to settle the border dispute (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1998). Croatia's ambassador to the UN, Ivan Simonovic, said that Zagreb will demand confirmation by the UN Security Council that Prevlaka is Croatian territory as a precondition for extending the mandate. FS YUGOSLAVIA BLAMES COURT FOR SERB'S SUICIDE. The Yugoslav Justice Ministry sent a formal protest on 30 June to the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague over the suicide of accused war criminal Slavko Dokmanovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 1998), Tanjug reported. The Justice Ministry said it holds the tribunal responsible for his death owing to negligence in his care and surveillance. Dokmanovic's attorney in Belgrade said his client had been severely depressed for several weeks and had received treatment for his condition. PB CROATIA'S SERBS APPROVE OF RETURNEE PROGRAM. Vojislav Stanimirovic, a leader of the Serbian community in Croatia, said in Vukovar on 30 June that he welcomes the program adopted by the Croatian parliament on 26 June that seeks to facilitate the return of Serbian refugees to Croatia, AFP reported. Stanimirovic said the program does not take into account all problems faced by returnees but that it is important to implement the plan quickly. He said he thinks conflicts may arise when Serbs return to Croatia to reclaim their pre-war homes. PB ALBANIAN SECRET SERVICE CHIEF SAYS HIS PREDECESSORS COMMITTED MURDER. Secret Service (SHIK) chief Fatos Klosi told the parliament on 30 June that he has evidence proving that the SHIK was involved in illegal activities after former President Sali Berisha failed to push through a new constitution in 1994. Klosi said that SHIK executed people without trial and spied on almost all prominent opposition politicians as well as Supreme Court Chief Judge Zef Brozi, trade union activists, and the Albanian branch of the Soros Foundation. He added that his predecessor, Bashkim Gazidede, received his orders directly from Berisha, "Koha Jone" reported. FS WORLD BANK REPORT SHOWS ALBANIAN CORRUPTION RAMPANT. According to a World Bank report presented to a conference in Tirana on 30 June, Albania is the most corrupt country in Europe. In a survey, more than 70 percent of entrepreneurs in Albania admitted bribing customs officials, while some 60 percent said they pay bribes for the installation of telephone lines. Just under 50 percent said they pay bribes for construction licenses or to the tax authorities. Thirty- three percent of those who have been tried admitted to having paid bribes to court clerks, 22 percent to defense lawyers, some 10 percent to judges and prosecutors, and 5 percent to prison officials, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. FS ROMANIA TO ACCELERATE REFORMS. Prime Minister Radu Vasile, addressing a conference organized by "The Economist" in Bucharest on 30 June, said the "most dangerous adversary" of the reform process is the "trade unions-state managerial alliance." He said he is determined to accelerate the reform process "even if this means the end of my political career." Vasile said the state bureaucracy is "the mainspring of corruption" but is aided also by "ambiguous legislation" passed by successive governments, which, he said, leaves room for conflicting interpretation. He pledged to pass legislation encouraging foreign investments and said the inflation rate in 1999 will be 22 percent, about half of that forecast for this year, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The same day, the National Statistical Board said GDP in the first half of this year has declined by 9.4 percent compared with the same period last year. MS ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS HOMOSEXUAL DECRIMINALIZATION. The Chamber of Deputies on 30 June rejected government- proposed amendments to the penal code to decriminalize homosexual relations. The amendment was five votes short of the required 172 majority, because some deputies representing the ruling coalition were not present during the vote. They had earlier spoken out against the amendment. Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica said that the coalition will discuss the "lack of discipline" that prompted the failure, adding that the draft will be resubmitted to the parliament in the fall. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which recently took Romania off its "special list" of countries it monitors, has been urging Bucharest to bring its legislation into line with European standards. MS BULGARIA TIGHTENS ANTI-DRUG LEGISLATION. The government on 29 June approved amendments to the penal code that drastically step up punishment for the cultivation of narcotic plants, the production of narcotics, and the sale of drugs in schools, BTA reported. Ring leaders of groups engaged in narcotic cultivation and production will be liable to prison terms from 20 years to life and to fines ranging from 300 to 500 million leva ($167,000-$278,000). Selling drugs in schools and army bases will be punished by 15-20 years in prison and by fines of 300-500 million leva. MS 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 of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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