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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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?

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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.

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