|A host is like general: calamities often reveal his genius. - Horace|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 129 Part II, 8 July 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 129 Part II, 8 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 * BELARUS ORDERS BELONGINGS REMOVED FROM DIPLOMATIC RESIDENCES * ZEMAN TO FORM MINORITY GOVERNMENT * NANO CALLS FOR KOSOVAR UNITY End Note PREPARING FOR NATO: POLAND PROFITS FROM PEACEKEEPING EXPERIENCE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUS ORDERS BELONGINGS REMOVED FROM DIPLOMATIC RESIDENCES. Belarus has told the U.S. and other countries to remove furnishings from their ambassadors' residences at Drazdy by 11.00 a.m. on 8 July, Reuters reported. Otherwise, the Belarusian authorities said, they will remove furnishings and take control of the buildings. "This is the ultimate act of rudeness," U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin commented. He added that the U.S. has not yet decided what "appropriate and proportional responses" should be made to meet the situation. A senior official told Reuters that the U.S. will likely take joint action with other countries involved. JM LUKASHENKA STRESSES NEED FOR 'MODERN, MOBILE' ARMY. Speaking at a meeting with the first graduates from the National Military Academy on 7 July, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said Belarus needs "modern and mobile armed forces." He pledged to create such forces, despite "considerable financial and material outlays," ITAR-TASS reported. Lukashenka deplored the "disintegration of the bipolar [global security] system" that had existed before the collapse of the Soviet Union. He also denounced NATO's "demonstrative military deterrence." JM UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS SPEAKER... Following 19 rounds of voting since its opening session in May, the Ukrainian Supreme Council has chosen its speaker. The parliament on 7 July voted by 232 to 37 to appoint Oleksandr Tkachenko, a member of the Peasants/Socialists parliamentary group, as its head. A majority of 226 votes was required for his election. According to Ukrainian Television, Tkachenko's election was possible owing to votes from the center-right parliamentary groups, which until now had blocked all attempts to elect a leftist speaker. Tkachenko, 59, was a deputy speaker of the former Supreme Council and was Ukrainian agriculture minister before the collapse of the Soviet Union. He is widely believed to strongly support collective farms and oppose private land ownership. JM ...WHO RECEIVES MIXED RECEPTION. President Leonid Kuchma expressed the hope that Tkachenko's election will put an end to the protracted parliamentary crisis and give a boost to the legislative process necessary for continuing economic reform, Ukrainian Television reported. Kuchma's aide Anatoliy Halchynskyy told Reuters that the election of the leftist speaker provides "no reason for panic." But nationalist Rukh leader Vyacheslav Chornovil told the agency that Tkachenko is a "mortal enemy" of privatization and land reform. "He is an orthodox," Chornovil commented to Ukrainian Television. Artur Bilous, a deputy from the pro- government Popular Democratic Party, downplayed the importance of the speaker in the current parliament, saying that the "key parts in this orchestra will now be played by parliamentary groups." JM ESTONIA'S ECONOMY MINISTER PLANS TO QUIT. Jaak Leimann has said he plans to quit his post as economy minister this fall in order to take up a teaching position at Tallinn Technical University, ETA reported on 7 July. Leimann said the reason for his decision was that he is the only unaffiliated minister in the cabinet, which is bracing itself for elections in spring 1999. Prime Minister Mart Siimann has proposed that Leimann continue in his government post until the elections, which the economy minister says he has not ruled out "if everything goes well this autumn." He also noted that he always considered the minister's post as temporary and teaching as his true vocation. Leimann was appointed to the cabinet in late 1996, when the Reform Party quit the ruling alliance. JC POLISH PRESIDENT OFFERS TO MEDIATE RUSSIAN-LATVIAN DISPUTE. Aleksander Kwasniewski told Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis during a visit to Riga on 7 July that he is prepared to act as a mediator "not just for Latvians, but for the sake of the entire Baltic region." He said that Poland, which currently chairs the OSCE, would apply every possible effort for Latvia and Russia to resume dialogue. Last week in Moscow, Kwasniewski had suggested to Russian President Boris Yeltsin that meetings could be arranged between the Russian and Latvian foreign ministers. Ulmanis, who met with the Polish president, said he endorsed Kwasniewski's viewpoint, stressing that Latvia has fulfilled all OSCE recommendations on its citizenship law. JC TALBOTT IN VILNIUS. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said in the Lithuanian capital on 7 July that Vilnius's improving relations with Moscow bode well for NATO expansion, dpa reported. "If the Russian-Lithuanian relationship is good, this is good for the whole region," he commented, adding that NATO's eastward expansion is not a matter of "working against any enemy-state but of peaceful cooperation and stability." Talbott also said that Vilnius should seek to exert a positive influence on neighboring Belarus. Referring to the stand-off over the eviction of diplomats from their residences in the Drazdy compound, Talbott said "it is absolutely unacceptable how Belarus is behaving. We think that if Lithuania has some influence, this would be good influence." JC POLISH PREMIER UPBEAT ABOUT EU ENLARGEMENT. Jerzy Buzek has said he does not believe that the EU's smaller member countries will try to block EU enlargement for fear of losing union funding, Reuters reported on 7 July. Buzek is visiting Lisbon to seek backing for Poland's bid to begin EU entry negotiations on several issues this year. "Having spoken to [Portuguese] Prime Minister [Antonio] Guterres, we reached the conclusion that we are on the same side," the Polish visitor commented. Premier Guterres said Portugal "does not aim in any way" to delay the EU enlargement process. JM ZEMAN TO FORM MINORITY GOVERNMENT. Social Democratic Party (CSSD) leader Milos Zeman told journalists on 7 July after meeting with Civic Democratic Party (ODS) leader Vaclav Klaus that the ODS will support a minority government headed by Zeman. Klaus said the agreement will be submitted to the two parties' leaderships for approval within 24 hours. Earlier on 7 July Klaus told Czech state radio that the ODS will not form a minority government supported by the Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) because such a cabinet "will not guarantee the country's long-term stability," AP and Reuters reported. MS U.S. AMBASSADOR CRITICIZES SLOVAK ELECTION LAW AGAIN. U.S. Ambassador to Bratislava Ralph Johnson on 7 July again called on Slovakia to change its election law before the ballot scheduled for September, CTK reported. Johnson told a group of businessmen in Nitra that the law as it now stands impedes free and fair elections. The Slovak parliament passed an amendment to the law in May. MS HUNGARY'S ORBAN VOWS TO CRACK DOWN ON CRIME. Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 7 July told journalists in Budapest that cracking down on violence and organized crime is a priority for his cabinet. He said order can be restored only through a larger police force, more efficient anti-mafia legislation, and tighter control over foreigners. Amendments to the existing immigration law and tightening the criminal code rank high on the agenda of the new cabinet's first meeting, he said. Orban also explained that former police chief Sandor Pinter has been appointed interior minister owing to his thorough knowledge of and experience in police affairs as well as his ideas on how to improve public security. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NANO CALLS FOR KOSOVAR UNITY. Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano said in Tirana on 7 July that the shadow state of President Ibrahim Rugova, the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and other political groups should form a joint National Council. Such a body, Nano continued, would enable the Kosovars to work out a joint position and speak with one voice, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Senior U.S. and Russian envoys recently said that the failure of the Kosovars to develop a joint program is hampering international efforts aimed at ending the crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1998). PM RUGOVA AIDE BLAMES FOREIGNERS FOR KOSOVAR DISUNITY. Rugova's top adviser, Alush Gashi, said in Prishtina on 7 July that the international Contact Group--the U.S., Russia, France, U.K., Italy and Germany--lacks a coherent strategy for Kosova. He added that this confusion has in turn led to a widening of divisions in ethnic Albanian ranks, AP reported. Gashi said that "the international community blames their failures to bring peace on natural divisions in Albanian politics. The Contact Group keeps demanding the Serbs withdraw their forces, but [the demands] are ignored. Without a doubt, the biggest problem for us is that there's no international agenda." In Bonn, senior diplomats from the Contact Group countries began a new round of discussions on Kosova on 8 July. PM GREECE WARNS AGAINST INTERVENTION. Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos said in Washington on 7 July that NATO intervention in Kosova could lead to a regional "explosion." Reuters wrote. He added that "the [UCK] aims at independence, and perhaps even unification with Albania, via conflict. This cannot be tolerated because it would lead to a change in borders, which is extremely dangerous as an idea for the whole area. By participating militarily, NATO therefore [would be encouraging] secession and impelling the [UCK to choose] armed conflict in the hope that NATO would intervene against Serbia. If you once open the window to violent changes of borders, then you will have an explosion in the Balkans." PM GEREMEK SAYS PEACEFUL MEANS MAY NOT BE ENOUGH. Speaking in his capacity as OSCE chairman, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek told the OSCE parliamentary assembly in Copenhagen on 7 July that "sometimes the peace process cannot be [fostered] by peaceful means. We should look for a peaceful solution, but we cannot accept the impotence of the international community." In Washington, State Department spokesman James Rubin said that both sides in Kosova must realize that they cannot attain their respective goals through violence. In Blois, France, Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine told Reuters that the UCK may be included in negotiations only if they do not undermine Rugova's moderate position. Vedrine added that the UCK might cause any talks to fail by taking hard-line positions. PM HAGUE COURT CLAIMS AUTHORITY FOR KOSOVA. The office of Louise Arbour, who is the Hague-based war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, issued a statement on 7 July in which she argued that the court has the authority to investigate alleged atrocities in Kosova. The text said that "the nature and scale of the fighting indicate that an 'armed conflict,' within the meaning of international law, exists in [the province]. As a consequence, she intends to bring charges for crimes against humanity or war crimes, if evidence of such crimes is established." PM MOSTAR AIRPORT REOPENS. The international community's Carlos Westendorp and U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard led ceremonies on 7 July to reopen Mostar airport to civilian traffic after a break of more than six years. Airplanes from Croatian Airlines and Air Bosna were the first to arrive. Elsewhere in Mostar, Gelbard told Ante Jelavic, the leader of the Herzegovinian branch of the Croatian Democratic Community, that the Croats are not observing several provisions the Dayton agreement. Gelbard charged the Croats with rebroadcasting only programs of Croatian television, maintaining their own telephone system, and failing to cooperate with the joint police force. He reminded Jelavic that the Dayton agreement specifies that Bosnia is a unified, multi-ethnic country. PM UN SLAMS GERMANY OVER REFUGEE REPATRIATION. Ariane Quentier, who is a spokeswoman for the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees, said in Sarajevo on 7 July that Germany's policy of strongly encouraging Bosnian refugees to go home is "premature," Reuters reported. She stressed that the German authorities are virtually forcing people to return to areas where there are no homes or jobs for them. "The UNHCR is very concerned [because] the latest wave of refugees aggravates an already difficult refugee situation in Tuzla. The [German] authorities are using take-it-or-leave-it tactics: 'If you don't take the [$4,700 resettlement payment] and leave now, you will be deported from Germany in few months.'" The federal Interior Ministry and the state governments of Bavaria and Berlin have been particularly outspoken in encouraging refugees to leave. German critics charge the authorities with seeking to exploit anti- foreigner sentiments in an election year. PM ALBRIGHT MEETS CROATIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS. Radimir Cacic of the Croatian People's Party, Liberal Party leader Vlado Gotovac, Ivan Jakovcic of the Istrian Democratic Assembly, Social Democrat Ivan Racan, and Zlatko Tomcic of the Croatian Peasants Party discussed the Croatian political situation with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Washington on 7 July. Gotovac told the VOA's Croatian Service that Albright "expressed great interest" in Croatia's playing a bigger role in regional affairs. Racan noted that she does not wish to interfere in Croatian politics but added that she expressed the hope that Croatia will become a dynamic multi-party democracy. Albright invited the opposition leaders despite objections from the governing Croatian Democratic Community. Meanwhile in Zagreb, several thousand pensioners demanded that the government pay them $4.6 billion in back benefits, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. A recent court decision endorsed the pensioners' claim, but the government says it does not have the money. PM ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS RESUME PARLIAMENTARY BOYCOTT... The Democratic Party on 7 July resumed its boycott of the parliament, which it had ended four months earlier. Party chairman and former President Sali Berisha told "Koha Jone" that the boycott is in response to government "corruption and violence" aimed at the Democrats. He also blasted "the return to work of [communist-era] employees of the secret service...and the creation of a parliamentary commission investigating the [chaotic] events of January to March of last year," at which time Berisha was president. The decision to resume the boycott coincided with parliament's approval of a report by the commission calling on the Prosecutor-General's Office to start investigating Berisha's role in the unrest. The report concluded that "Berisha is...legally responsible" for the 1997 chaos. FS ...BUT BERISHA FACES OPPOSITION WITHIN HIS PARTY. Berisha's deputy, Genc Pollo, and former Democratic Party chairman Tritan Shehu criticized the decision to resume the boycott. Pollo said in Tirana on 7 July that it will be difficult to explain the walkout to the international community, "Shekulli" reported. Just one week earlier, European parliamentarians visiting Tirana urged Berisha to remain closely involved in parliamentary work, especially in the drafting of a new constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 30 June 1998). Shehu said on 7 July that participation in the parliament gives the party a valuable opportunity to make its views known to the voters. FS ROMANIA INVITES POPE TO VISIT. Premier Radu Vasile, during his two-day visit to Italy, met with Pope John Paul II and handed over a written invitation from President Emil Constantinescu to visit Romania in May 1999. Vasile told journalists in Bucharest he "regrets" that "for now" the Romanian Orthodox Church has given the Pope only a "verbal invitation" to visit. The same day, the Romanian Patriarchate said the church's Holy Synod will discuss the invitation at its meeting on 15-17 July. If the meeting approves inviting the pontiff, a written invitation will be dispatched in September. The Orthodox and the Uniate Church (which is subordinated to Rome) have been in conflict over the restitution of property confiscated from the Uniates by the Communists and transferred to the Orthodox Church. Vasile also met with Italian Premier Romano Prodi and discussed bilateral relations as well as Romania's NATO bid. MS MOLDOVAN, TRANSDNIESTER PARLIAMENTARIANS MEET. The chairmen of the Moldovan and the Transdniester parliaments, Dumitru Diacov and Grigori Marakutsa agreed in Tiraspol on 3 July to start negotiations on an accord between the two legislatures, Infotag and BASA-press reported. Diacov called the move "historic." The two sides will exchange information on a regular basis. Transdniester Supreme Soviet Deputy Chairman Vladimir Atamanyuk said Tiraspol is not willing to negotiate on a "special status" for the region but does not rule out the possibility that a joint commission will examine the case of Ilie Ilascu, who was condemned to death in Transdniester in 1992 and has been detained there. Atamanyuk said a resolution of Ilascu's case may depend on Moldova's revising its attitude toward the Cossacks who fought on the side of the separatists six years ago. MS TIRASPOL CLOSES DOWN ROMANIAN-LANGUAGE SCHOOL. The authorities in Tiraspol have ordered the closing of the city's only school in which instruction was in Romanian, Radio Bucharest reported on 7 July citing the BBC. The separatist government said the school curriculum does not correspond to the agreement reached between Chisinau and Tiraspol on teaching programs. It also noted that the school director failed to obtain a license from the Ministry of Education. The BBC said the main reason for the decision was that the Latin rather than the Russified Moldovan alphabet was used at the school. MS END NOTE PREPARING FOR NATO: POLAND PROFITS FROM PEACEKEEPING EXPERIENCE by Kitty McKinsey Poles are proud of the history of their army. Polish soldiers fought repeatedly over the ages for their country's independence and freedom as well as for the freedom of the future United States of America during the American Revolutionary War. They were actively involved in both the First and the Second World Wars. In recent years, Polish soldiers have been proving their mettle not on the battlefield, however, but in peacekeeping operations from Haiti to Cambodia, from Bosnia to Rwanda. Poland is the world's number-one supplier of troops to UN peacekeeping missions in danger zones. It currently has some1,500 soldiers serving as peacekeepers as well as UN and OSCE military observers. This year, it celebrates 25 years as a permanent contributor to UN peace missions. Polish military officials say that experience will serve the country well when it joins NATO in 1999. Why are Poles in such demand as peacekeepers? "We are good soldiers," says Lieutenant-Colonel Marek Olbrycht, commander of the Polish Army's Peacekeepers Training Center in Kielce, southern Poland. "We have a lot of experience and the result is that we feel [comfortable] in the international family, and I am 100 percent sure the international family also feels comfortable with us." Olbrycht adds that "the peacekeeper has to be the best soldier in the world" because he has to inspire respect from local people without using any weapons. A UN official at headquarters in New York (who spoke on condition he not be named) agreed that "in Poland, they have a tradition of participation in UN operations, so they have established a very good reputation." At the Kielce center, Polish soldiers and officers-- from privates to generals--are trained for specific missions immediately before going abroad. They train for exactly the tasks they will be performing in the field. As Olbrycht jokes, "we prepare them for everything but the climate," which in areas like the Golan Heights and south Lebanon can be dramatically different from Poland's. Lieutenant-Colonel Marian Kolus, second in command at the Kielce center, explains that "we prepare our soldiers for combat, but for UN soldiers, the main task is to see and be seen." The Kielce school aims to allow peacekeepers to hit the ground running at their assigned destination; there's no room for "on-the-job training" once they are out in the field. All Poles who go on peacekeeping missions are volunteers, and the army has more volunteers than it can actually send abroad. For conscripts, the incentive is the pay. Instead of the measly $21 per month they make in Poland, they earn $450 a month as peacekeepers. Former Polish peacekeepers agree the main challenge for a UN peacekeeper is to be seen as impartial by locals on all sides who have recently fought a war. Olbrycht learned this lesson when he served in Serb-occupied Krajina in Croatia during the war there. "If for instance you give one piece of bread to [one side], you have to give the same kind, the same amount, the same size, and the same piece of bread to the opposite side." In the experience of many Polish soldiers, "peacekeeping" is even a misnomer. In many cases, UN peacekeepers are sent into areas where they are expected to impose, enforce, and build peace. But Olbrycht says only the local people can build peace. If they don't want it, he says, nobody can impose peace on them. Polish soldiers serve today as peacekeepers in the Golan Heights and south Lebanon, and with the NATO-led peace force in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Polish officers are also UN military observers in, among others, Angola, western Sahara, Georgia, and Tajikistan. Along with participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace exercises, Poland's role in peacekeeping operations is good preparation for the country's entry into NATO next year. By serving abroad, Polish soldiers learn above all how to communicate in English and also how to deal with soldiers from other armies. Major Marek Obrusiewicz, in charge of the Polish army's peacekeeping training, says Polish soldiers are learning valuable lessons while serving with SFOR in Bosnia, especially how to do things NATO's way. And U.S. defense officials reportedly welcomed the recent appointment of Henryk Szumski, a young general, as chief of the Polish general staff. The reason for that reception was Szumski's UN field experience. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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