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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 138 Part II, 21 July 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 138 Part II, 21 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 * PETITION DRIVE FOR CITIZENSHIP LAW REFERENDUM BEGINS IN LATVIA * ALBANIA WANTS AIR STRIKES AGAINST SERBIA * THREE EXPLOSIONS IN MACEDONIA End Note: A FOURTH BALTIC REPUBLIC? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUS TO IMPORT SUGAR TO FIGHT SHORTAGES. Belarus will increase imports of sugar this year by nearly 50 percent to fight shortages in shops, Reuters reported on 20 July. "We will raise imports of raw sugar to 300,000 tons from 200,000 tons last year in view of the very high demand for sugar among the population and supply difficulties this year," an official from the Ministry of Agricultural Production told the agency. However, the Ministry of Trade said there are no shortages of sugar in the republic. "There are no limits, just a ration for each person.... A person can go to another shop or come another day -- it's not a problem," a ministry spokesman said. JM LUKASHENKA SLAMS WORKERS FOR 'FASCIST' RALLY. Speaking on Belarusian Television on 19 July, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka slammed the industrial workers who protested lowering living standards at the 15 July rally in Minsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1998). Lukashenka said half of the rally participants were brought to Minsk by "fascist Belarusian Popular Front opposition." "There were people weighing 300 kilograms and pretending they are hungry," he commented . The Belarusian president added the rally was a "specially planned" action concocted by the opposition in league with the West in order to destabilize the situation in Belarus by this fall. JM JAPANESE AGENCY LOWERS UKRAINE'S CREDIT RATING. The Japanese rating agency R&I has lowered Ukraine's credit rating from BB+ to BB-, Ukrainian News reported on 20 July. The agency said the change is due to the prolonged suspension of IMF loans to Ukraine and increased political risk within the country following the election of a leftist parliament. Ukrainian Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov commented that the Japanese agency will raise Ukraine's rating once the country receives another loan from the IMF. JM PETITION DRIVE FOR CITIZENSHIP LAW REFERENDUM BEGINS IN LATVIA... Polling stations opened across Latvia on 20 July as a petition drive for a referendum on the country's citizenship law got under way. The petition drive, which was initiated by the main ruling For Fatherland and Freedom party, will continue until 18 August or until 10 percent of eligible voters (some 130,000) sign the document. The referendum would give Latvians an opportunity to vote on recently passed amendments that ease restrictions on gaining citizenship. Several petition drives on other issues have failed in the past, but Juris Dobelis, the deputy chairman of the Fatherland and Freedom party's parliamentary group, said that such a failure "would not mean a fiasco for the party." He added that the drive is aimed at "giving the people a chance to decide themselves on expanding the body of citizens." JC ...WHILE EU WARNS RIGA NOT TO DRAG HEELS ON GRANTING CITIZENSHIP. During a visit to Riga on 20 July, EU Commissioner for Foreign Relations Hans van den Broek praised the recent passage of the citizenship law amendments but warned Latvia not to delay granting citizenship to non- Latvians. "We expressed the hope with the government that this law will be implemented," Van den Broek told journalists, adding that "we will have a disappointment to digest" if a referendum blocks the amendments. Van den Broek also urged Russia to stop trying to apply economic pressure on Latvia over the issue. "We've made it clear to Russia that we do not accept their attempts to mix political and economic issues.... We resist unjustified pressure on an EU candidate," he commented. JC LITHUANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY WANTS TO APPEAL LUSTRATION LAW. The main opposition Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party has begun collecting signatures among parliamentary deputies in favor of appealing to the Constitutional Court over the recently passed lustration law, BNS reported on 20 July. Ceslovas Jursenas, the leader of the party's parliamentary group, told reporters that more than 20 signatures have already been gathered and that all necessary signatures will be collected by September (29 are needed for such an appeal). The ruling Conservative Party announced last week that it will not appeal the bill at the Constitutional Court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 1998). JC POLISH GOVERNMENT TO UNDERGO MAJOR RESHUFFLE? Polish media on 21 July report that Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek will reshuffle his cabinet next week. The premier will sack Committee for European Integration (KIE) head Ryszard Czarnecki and his deputy, Piotr Nowina-Konopka. Czarnecki came under fire after the EU cut aid to Poland by 32 million ECUs ($35 million) as a result of poorly prepared KIE projects bidding for EU funds. Nowina-Konopka's dismissal will be owing to his public criticism of Czarnecki. Western news agencies report that Buzek himself may head the KIE. Citing "reliable sources," "Zycie" says major changes in the cabinet will follow in October, following Poland's local elections. JM POLL SHOWS DECLINING SUPPORT IN POLAND FOR EU ENTRY. A poll carried out last month by Poland's Institute of Public Affairs shows some 58 percent of Polish citizens support Poland's entry into the EU, down from 64 percent in February. EU entry is opposed mainly by older, less educated, and less affluent people, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported on 21 July. Among professional groups, farmers were least supportive, with 25 percent opposed to accession and 25 percent in favor. Respondents believed that the chief issues for Poland's EU entry negotiators are agriculture (66 percent) and freedom of movement of labor (54 percent). They also are of the opinion that Poland's accession to the EU will be most advantageous to foreign businessmen as well as Polish entrepreneurs and political elites. According to the respondents, EU entry will be least advantageous to industrial workers and farmers. JM TOSOVSKY RETURNS TO CENTRAL BANK. Presidential spokesman Martin Krafl on 20 July announced that President Vaclav Havel will re-appoint Josef Tosovsky as governor of the Czech Central Bank, CTK reported. Tosovsky took over the premiership last December to head a caretaker government. In his absence, Central Bank deputy governor Pavel Kysilka has been acting governor. MS SLOVAK OPPOSITION LEADER ON POSSIBLE ELECTION OUTCOME. Mikulas Dzurinda, leader of the opposition Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), on 20 July told the private Radio Twist station that even if Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) emerges as the strongest party in the parliament after the September elections, it will "not be strong enough to avoid seeking the support of the opposition" to form the next government. He added that "no opposition party" will agree to cooperate with the HZDS. Dzurinda said that "nobody in the world, and especially in Europe, wants to be seen alongside the Slovak prime minister." And he commented that the SDK, the Hungarian Coalition Party, the Party of the Democratic Left, and the newly formed Civic Understanding Party have already agreed to coordinate policy in order to improve Slovakia's image abroad to allow the country to join the EU in the first wave of enlargement, Reuters reported. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIA WANTS AIR STRIKES AGAINST SERBIA... Prime Minister Fatos Nano told Western European Union envoy Hans van der Linden in Tirana on 20 July that "no more time should be lost in stopping the Serbian war-machine through air strikes. It is necessary to ensure that a negotiation process" can start. Nano added that "it is clear that the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK)...remains a key factor in ending the crisis and must be taken into consideration by the international community," Nano's spokesman told an RFE/RL correspondent in the Albanian capital. A Defense Ministry spokesman informed Reuters that Albania has tightened its border controls and put the army and police on a heightened state of alert after heavy fighting in the border area over the weekend. The spokesman added that troops have been told to use restraint (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 20 July 1998). FS ...ASKS GREECE TO MEDIATE. Foreign Minister Paskal Milo asked his Greek counterpart, Theodoros Pangalos, in Tirana on 20 July to use his influence on Belgrade to stop the fighting in Kosova. At a press conference, Milo stressed that "political dialogue can only take place when Belgrade pulls out its troops and halts military action." He added that if efforts to peacefully end the bloodshed fail, Albania will have to support the Kosovars' resistance efforts. Pangalos said he will meet with Kosovar representatives soon. He also pledged to speak with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Pangalos proposed the creation of a "great Dalmatian road" to connect the Greek port of Igoumenitsa with Trieste. Greek diplomats told Reuters that the project will "open up Greece more to the north [and] give a big boost to Greek construction companies." The diplomats suggested that Athens might seek funding from the EU. FS SERBS CLAIM VICTORY IN RAHOVEC. On 20 July, Serbian paramilitary police officials told journalists on the outskirts of the southwestern Kosovar town of Rahovec that Serbian forces have defeated an attempt by the UCK to take that town (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 1998). The Serbs did not allow the reporters to enter Rahovec, but journalists could see fires burning in the center. Hundreds of fighters took part on each side in the three-day battle. The overall casualty toll was about 100, which makes the battle the bloodiest single clash since late February, when Serbian forces began the conflict. PM BATTLE FOR RAHOVEC AS MILESTONE? The Prishtina daily "Koha Ditore" wrote on 20 July that some 25,000 civilians fled northward into UCK-held territory toward Malisheva during the fighting. That town now hosts some 75,000 refugees, and the supply situation there is "catastrophic," the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported . Kosovar sources said in Prishtina on 20 July that the fight for Rahovec is continuing. A UCK spokesman noted that the battle began a "war that will end in Prishtina," the German daily added. The attack on Rahovec marks the first time that the UCK engaged the more heavily armed Serbs in a head-on confrontation in a town rather than employ hit-and-run tactics in rural areas. UCK spokesmen have said repeatedly in recent weeks that UCK fighters will "soon" be in Prishtina. PM ALBANIAN POLICE SEIZE TRUCKLOAD OF ARMS. Military police captured a truckload of arms in Kukes on 19 July, "Shekulli" reported. The truck contained more than 4 tons of arms, including some 1,000 Kalashnikovs and other Albanian- made machine guns. The truck came from the southern city of Vlora and the arms were bound for Kosova, police spokesmen said. It is the largest single quantity of illegal arms seized by police in 1998 and has an estimated market value of $2 million. Elsewhere, Tirana hospital workers told "Shekulli" on 20 July that three of the injured UCK soldiers who received treatment there the previous day are Yemenis. The men "disappeared" from the hospital after one day, according to the daily. FS AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL SLAMS SERBIAN POLICE. Amnesty International issued a report in London on 20 July saying that the Serbian police in Kosova are often "out of control" and use "grossly excessive" force. The report noted several cases in which ethnic Albanians "disappeared" or were beaten or killed. "Unarmed civilians, unconnected with any [UCK] attacks, are being injured, killed, or even summarily executed.... We reiterate our appeals that all Serbian police and Yugoslav army forces be given strict orders to respect international human rights and humanitarian law." Meanwhile in Prishtina, the Kosova Committee for the Defense of Human Rights said in a statement that Serbian forces have killed some 469 Kosovars since the beginning of 1998. PM SERBIAN OPPOSITION APPEALS TO GELBARD. Leaders of the Serbian opposition coalition League for Change told Robert Gelbard, who is the U.S. special envoy for the former Yugoslavia, in The Hague on 20 July that the international community should take a greater role in halting the violence in Kosova and stopping the smuggling of arms to the UCK. The Serbian politicians stressed that the key to peace in Kosova is the democratization of Serbia and that Milosevic "is the key factor behind the instability in the Balkans," as Civic Alliance leader Vesna Pesic put it. Former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic added that "we are Serbs and we want peace. We know what happened in Bosnia and we want to avoid that," Reuters reported. Other members of the delegation included Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic and former Yugoslav Central Bank Governor Dragoslav Avramovic. PM THREE EXPLOSIONS IN MACEDONIA. Explosions took place in Skopje, Kumanovo, and in a locomotive near the Yugoslav- Macedonian border in the early hours of 21 July. Police issued no statement, and nobody claimed responsibility, but AP reports from Skopje that the UCK may have laid the devices. PM BOSNIAN SERBS UNDERSCORE LANGUAGE DIFFERENCES FROM SERBIA. The Constitutional Court of the Republika Srpska ruled in Banja Luka on 20 July that the official form of the "Serbian" language in the Bosnian Serb entity is the form of Serbo-Croatian spoken in the western part of the former Yugoslavia, known as "ijekavski," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. After the Bosnian war began in 1992, the Bosnian Serb leadership favored the form of Serbo-Croatian spoken in Serbia, known as "ekavski." The court decision means that the official media will use a language similar to that of the Bosnian Muslims and Croats but clearly different from that of the Belgrade media. Serbo-Croatian dialects are based chiefly on geography, not on ethnicity. Since the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, nationalists on all sides have made great efforts to claim the existence of separate "Serbian," "Croatian," or "Bosnian" languages. PM ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTRY CONSIDERS INCREASING TAXES. Returning from a visit to Washington on 20 July, Finance Minister Daniel Daianu confirmed that the ministry intends to raise property taxes in August as a means to stop the deficit from growing. While in Washington, Daianu said that owing to a sharp drop in exports and a negative trade balance, this year's deficit may exceed 6.5 percent of GDP, instead of the envisaged 3.6 percent. He added that such a deficit may have "social and even political consequences." But National Liberal Party (PNL) Deputy Chairman Paul Pacuraru said the PNL opposes raising taxes in general and on property in particular. Daianu is a government member on a PNL slot but does not belong to that party. The PNL will discuss the proposal on 22 July. MS GAZPROM RECONSIDERS GAS DELIVERIES TO MOLDOVA. Deputy Prime Minister Ion Sturdza, returning from a visit to Moscow on 20 July, said Gazprom has agreed not to cut gas deliveries to Chisinau if Moldova pays its current debt for deliveries this year. After negotiations in Moscow, Sturdza said Gazprom has proposed that by 30 July, Chisinau submit a program for rescheduling $100-200 million of its debt, pay monthly installments of $7 million, and cover $50-70 million of the debt Gazprom owes to the Russian state budget, BASA-press reported. MS MOLDOVAN MINISTRY ON ROMANIAN-LANGUAGE EDUCATION IN TRANSDNIESTER. The Ministry of Education on 20 July said the cost of running seven Romanian-language schools in the Transdniester must be covered by the budget of the Transdniester local authorities. The ministry explained that it is unable to meet those costs from its own budget. The ministry also said that instruction in the Latin script must be introduced in another 81 Romanian schools in the Transdniester. Romanian is currently taught at those schools using the Cyrillic alphabet, BASA-press reported. MS BULGARIAN DEFENSE INDUSTRY TO BE PRIVATIZED. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on 20 July said that the government intends to privatize 21 major arms manufacturers, including the main weapon makers Arsenal and VMZ, AP reported. Kostov said the privatization of the arms industry is part of a program that also includes selling the national telecommunications company, the Balkan Bulgarian Airlines, several banks, and an oil refinery that is the largest in the Balkans. MS End Note: A FOURTH BALTIC REPUBLIC? by Paul Goble A proposal by a senior Moscow politician to transform Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast into an autonomous Russian Baltic republic could reorder the geopolitics of the Baltic region. Moreover, it could transform the constitutional order of the Russian Federation itself. The proposal was made in the 17 July issue of "Izvestiya." Vladimir Shumeiko, a former Russian deputy prime minister and the chairman of the Russian Federation Council, said in the Moscow daily that he favors upgrading Kaliningrad Oblast into an autonomous republic, lest that non-contiguous part of the Russian state suffer a social explosion or become "a protectorate of a neighboring country or even an area managed by the Council of Europe." Shumeiko made the suggestion in response to a Russian government plan to reduce economic subsidies to this non- contiguous part of the federation. If adopted, his proposal almost certainly would fuel a new movement in Kaliningrad for the creation of a fourth Baltic republic as well as demands by other Russian regions for preferential treatment. But even if this proposal is not adopted--and the immediate chances for passage seem slim--the suggestion will almost inevitably exacerbate tensions both in the Baltic Sea region and in Russia as well. Around the Baltic region, it will raise questions about Moscow's intentions. And within the Russian Federation, it will reopen the question about what Moscow will accept as far as relations between the regions and the center are concerned. Consequently, even if this proposal is not approved, it is a major political watershed. According to Shumeiko--who once ran for governor of Kaliningrad--that region "is paying what it has to." Moreover, he said, the current arrangements only "provide compensation" for the region's remoteness from the center. They do nothing to provide genuine "benefits." Consequently, if those subsidies are ended, Shumeiko argued, some "45,000 small entrepreneurs and their families will lose their businesses and incomes." Prices for food will double, the number of unemployed will rise to 75,000, and trade will collapse. And "investors will say good-bye, never to return." Such a series of developments would create at least a social explosion or, even more dangerously, the collapse of all public authority there, Shumeiko argued. In such an environment, some Kaliningraders would seek to become an independent protectorate or even an independent entity protected by the Council of Europe. At one level, of course, such a scenario is part and parcel of a political argument to persuade other Russian politicians to rethink plans to drop assistance to this region. But at another level, Shumeiko's proposal reflects a fundamental, if seldom commented upon political reality. Ever since the Soviet government seized Koenigsberg from Germany at the end of World War II and renamed it Kaliningrad, the region has been a potentially serious problem for Moscow and the Russian Federation, of which it was made a part. Prior to the recovery of independence by Lithuania and the collapse of the USSR, Soviet authorities were largely able to manage the situation because they could ignore republic boundaries and simply treat this area as an outpost of military power on the Baltic Sea, even as they replaced the largely German population with Russians and Ukrainians. But after 1991, the situation changed. Kaliningrad was isolated from Russia by an independent Lithuania and Poland. The Soviet navy was in disarray. And the ecological and economic catastrophes that Soviet forces had left behind led many Kaliningraders to think that perhaps they should become the fourth Baltic republic. That movement was in effect killed both by Western opposition to any "secession from secession" and by Russian Federation concerns about the need to maintain some military outpost in the Baltic region, following troop withdrawals from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. But neither ended Moscow's problems in the oblast. Moscow quickly proved incapable of taking care of the oblast's population. And neighboring countries--including Germany, Poland, and Lithuania--sought to increase their influence and leverage in a region each had claimed at some point in history. Despite this outside investment and attention, conditions in Kaliningrad have continued to deteriorate. An end to Russian subsidies will do nothing to slow that process. And that decline, in turn, particularly given Shumeiko's proposal, will reopen the question about the future of Kaliningrad and the status of its people. 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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