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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 139 Part II, 22 July 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 139 Part II, 22 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 * POLISH, GERMAN LAWMAKERS PLAY DOWN RESETTLEMENT ROW * UN RENEWS MANDATE FOR MACEDONIAN PEACEKEEPERS * FIGHTING CONTINUES IN RAHOVEC End Note: EU PUNISHES BELARUSIAN LEADERSHIP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES 1999 ECONOMIC TARGETS... The government on 21 July approved economic targets for 1999, Interfax reported. GDP growth next year is expected to be 2 percent and the budget deficit 1.5 percent of GDP. Inflation is predicted to remain below 8 percent, while the hryvnya will be allowed to fall no more than by 18 percent against the dollar by the end of 1999. The number of registered unemployed people is expected to total 1.7 million, while the monthly average wage is forecast at 189 hryvni ($90), 9.2 percent up on this year's figure. JM ...WHILE PREMIER URGES BUDGET DISCIPLINE IN 1998. Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko told his cabinet on 21 July that observing budget discipline is the most important condition for maintaining economic stability in the country, Ukrainian Television reported. Pustovoytenko denied rumors that the government will write off the tax debts accumulated this year by enterprises. He added that since the beginning of this year, the budget has failed to receive 5.9 billion hryvni ($2.9 billion) because of tax arrears or evasion. He threatened to apply administrative sanctions and bring criminal charges against those who fail to pay their taxes. JM LUKASHENKA PRAISED ON FOURTH ANNIVERSARY AS PRESIDENT. Belarusian Television on 21 July said that during his four years as president, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been able to fulfill "a lot of what was expected of him by Belarusian society." Lukashenka was praised for taking "considerable steps" toward restoring the "flourishing Belarusian economy of the late 1980s and early 1990s." According to a recent poll, Lukashenka's foreign policy is supported by 72.4 percent of the population, Belarusian Television reported. And the television station claimed that the West began exerting political pressure on Belarus after the Belarusian leadership announced its policy of rapprochement with Russia, citing the diplomatic conflict over the Drazdy compound as a recent example of such pressure. JM LUKASHENKA WANTS TO STABILIZE BELARUSIAN RUBLE. At a meeting with National Bank Chairman Pyotr Prakapovich on 20 July, Lukashenka demanded that the National Bank step up efforts to "stabilize the Belarusian ruble exchange rate and accelerate the transition to a single exchange rate," Belapan reported. Lukashenka ordered the bank and the government "to take additional measures" to increase by 5-8 percent this year the foreign currency revenues of enterprises He also instructed Prakapovich to repay all debts to Gazprom before "the beginning of the heating season." JM SIIMANN REJECTED INTERIOR MINISTER'S RESIGNATION. Estonian Prime Minister Mart Siimann turned down an offer by Interior Minister Olari Taal to resign over the scandal surrounding a loan granted last year to Hoiupank by Japan's Daiwa Bank, ETA and BNS reported on 21 July. Siimann said that it is "unfair" of the press to blame Taal for remaining in his post, adding that he is a "very good interior minister" and that there is "no one better" to reorganize that ministry. Taal, who was chairman of the board of Hoiupank at the time the loan was granted, submitted his resignation in May in a bid to avoid accusations against him that would be harmful to the government, according to the news agencies. More recently, he said he sees no reason why he should step down (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 1998). JC EU URGES LITHUANIA TO BE PATIENT. European Commissioner for External Affairs Hans van den Broek has said Lithuania is making good economic progress but must remain "somewhat patient" about joining the EU, Reuters reported. Van den Broek made the remarks after talks in Vilnius on 21 July with Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and other top officials. He praised Lithuania for speeding up privatization and for economic growth estimated to exceed 5 percent this year. But he added that Lithuania still needs to make progress "in the modernization of enterprises and in achieving a clear, transparent, and predictable economic environment," according to AP. JC POLISH, GERMAN LAWMAKERS PLAY DOWN RESETTLEMENT ROW. Bundestag speaker Rita Suessmuth visited the Polish parliament on 21 July in an attempt to play down Polish- German discord over the expulsion of Germans from Poland after World War II. In May, the Bundestag issued a resolution calling upon Poland to acknowledge the right of German exiles to settle in areas they inhabited before the war. The Polish parliament responded with a statement criticizing the resolution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1998). Suessmuth explained to Sejm speaker Maciej Plazynski that the Bundestag resolution does not demand that Poles living in the former German territories of Silesia and Eastern Prussia be deprived of their property. According to PAP, Plazynski said after his meeting with Suessmuth that "the matters are clear now." JM POLAND NOT TO SEEK EU TRANSITION PERIODS IN SEVEN AREAS. Jan Kulakowski, Poland's chief negotiator for EU entry, said in Brussels on 21 July that Poland will not seek transition periods in seven negotiation areas, PAP reported. Those transition periods are designed to allow non-member countries to adapt to EU standards. According to Kulakowski, this means Poland must pledge that by 2002 it will allow 100 percent shares of foreign capital in audiovisual media or telecommunications companies. The other five negotiation areas are scientific research, education, small and medium- sized enterprises, industrial policy, and foreign policy. JM HAVEL TO UNDERGO SURGERY. President Vaclav Havel will undergo surgery on 26 July to remove a tube inserted into his colon in April, when he underwent surgery in Austria for acute peritonitis, AP reported citing CTK. Havel is scheduled to appoint the new government on 22 July, before entering the hospital. Doctors expect him to remain in the hospital for two weeks and to convalescence for another six weeks. MS FLOODS VICTIMS IN SLOVAKIA. At least 23 people, five of them children, were killed in flooding in northeastern Slovakia during the night of 20-21 July, TASR and AP reported. About 60 people are missing. Some 3,000 people had to be evacuated. In other news, AP reported on 21 July that Interior Minister Gustav Krajci survived a no confidence vote in the parliament initiated by the opposition, which fears he may abuse his powers in the elections scheduled for September. To succeed, the no-confidence vote had to enlist the support of 76 out of the 150 deputies. Out of the 78 deputies who voted, only 48 cast their ballot against Krajci, 13 supported him, and two abstained. MS ORBAN CONCERNED ABOUT PROSPECTS FOR EU EXPANSION. Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in an interview with the daily "Napi Magyarorszag" on 21 July, said he is concerned about differences of opinions among EU members on the organization's expansion. Orban said some EU countries, such as France, insist that new members be admitted only after internal reforms have been carried out, while others take the opposite view. These differences, he said leave Central European candidates for membership fearing that accession may be delayed by years. Orban also said he attaches "outstanding importance" to relations with Romania and will pay an unofficial visit there on 25 July. According to protocol, it is the Romanian premier's turn to visit Hungary. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE UN RENEWS MANDATE FOR MACEDONIAN PEACEKEEPERS. The Security Council voted unanimously in New York on 21 July to extend the mandate of UNPREDEP until 28 February 1999. The leading UN body also agreed to add about 350 soldiers to the current nearly 750-strong mainly U.S. and Scandinavian contingent. Norway will supply most of the additional troops. The vote came hours after three bombs exploded in three different locations in Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1998). On 16 July, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in New York that UNPREDEP is stretched too thin to be able to monitor effectively Macedonia's borders with Albania and Yugoslavia. UNPREDEP is the first mission in UN history that seeks to prevent a conflict from spreading rather than keep the peace in a war-torn area. PM MACEDONIA TIGHTENS BORDER SECURITY. Defense Minister Lazar Kitanovski said in Debar on 21 July that the government is closely monitoring events in Kosova and that "because of possible movements of groups from Albania into Macedonia, we will additionally reinforce" troops along the Albanian border. Debar is near one of the main border crossings between the two countries. In Skopje, Kitanovski's spokesman told Reuters that "there have been 30 armed incidents along the border with Albania in the past three months, in which Albanians tried to enter Macedonian territory to smuggle weapons" bound for Kosova. "So far there have been no casualties on the Macedonian side but two Albanians were killed and over 10 wounded in these incidents," he added. Ethnic tensions run high in Macedonia between the Macedonian majority and the ethnic Albanian minority. PM FIGHTING CONTINUES IN RAHOVEC. Serbian forces clashed with the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) in Rahovec on 21 July for the fourth straight day. The town was "in flames and smoke" and the fighting left a total of 36 ethnic Albanians dead, the Kosovar KIC news agency. In a statement, shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) criticized "violence and massacres by Serbian forces in Rahovec" and urged the international community to react "forcefully." The LDK called on foreign governments to bring the Belgrade authorities before the Hague-based war crimes tribunal because of what Serbian forces have done in Kosova. Rugova discussed the situation in the province with Christopher Hill, who is U.S. ambassador to Macedonia and who met the previous day in Belgrade with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. PM SERBIAN PRIEST COMFORTS KOSOVARS, SERBS. A humanitarian aid worker from Kosova told Reuters on 21 July in Prishtina that fighting in western Kosova near the Albanian border has left great material destruction. He added that in many places quantities of human and animal remains lie unburied. The aid worker said that his work is difficult because "the Serbs hate us, and the Albanians are very disappointed in us." He noted that "there is a Serbian Orthodox priest there, a remarkable man called Sava, who is doing all he can to help the Albanians against the odds." Father Sava is a deputy of Bishop Artemije. Both men are committed to the welfare of ordinary Serbs and to reconciliation between Serbs and Albanians. The two men blame Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for the current conflict. PM UNHCR COMPLAINS ABOUT ALBANIAN ORGANIZED CRIME. A representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees told journalists in Tirana on 20 July that local gunmen in northern Albania continue to hamper aid efforts. He said that thefts of cars and aid supplies by "organized local criminal groups are a major problem" and that criminals are trying to make money from the crisis situation. He noted that they "steal aid shipments and even pressure us to employ them." The spokesman pointed out that there is a constant risk of UNHCR personnel being caught in crossfire in random shooting. Another aid worker stressed that "people are armed and police are reluctant to intervene and restore law." Northeastern Albania has traditionally been considered lawless. Tirana has been unable to fully restore law and order there since the country succumbed to anarchy in early 1997. FS OSCE OPENS NEW FIELD OFFICE IN NORTHERN ALBANIA. The OSCE opened a field office in Koplik on 21 July, its fifth such office in the north. The bureau is part of an effort to expand monitoring of the border region. Meanwhile in Tirana, Socialist Party legislator Spartak Braho told "Koha Jone" that he will go to Kosova later this week to join the UCK. Braho said he wants to help the guerrillas with logistics, but he did not rule out eventually taking part in military operations. Braho also called on legislators, "intellectuals, and [former] soldiers to make their contribution to Kosova." He criticized Albanian politicians for what he called their "idleness" with regard to the conflict. FS ALBANIA DEPORTS REPUTED TERRORIST. The authorities on 21 July deported suspected Egyptian terrorist Muhamed Hasan Mahmud to the U.S. Mahmud had worked as director of the Islamic Revival charity organization in Tirana until his arrest on 17 July. The FBI helped Albanian police identify Mahmud, whom the U.S. suspects of being behind the 1990 murder of Egyptian parliament speaker Rifaat el Mahgoub in Cairo as well as attacks on an aircraft and a supermarket in the U.S. Albanian authorities expelled two other suspected Egyptian terrorists to the U.S. last month. FS BOSNIAN POLITICIANS DECLARE ASSETS. Candidates in the September general elections have filed declarations of their assets with the election commission. That move is in keeping with a ruling by the OSCE, which is supervising the vote, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 20 and 21 July. The wealthiest politician is Fikret Abdic, the controversial kingpin of the Bihac pocket, who declared property worth $250,000. Kresimir Zubak, who is the Croatian member of the joint presidency, and his Serbian counterpart, Momcilo Krajisnik, both own what the paper called "an impressive amount of real estate." Alija Izetbegovic, their Muslim opposite number, declared savings of $50,000. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic reported her salary of $200 per month plus two garages in Sarajevo, although the newspaper states that she also owns an apartment in the Muslim-controlled capital. Observers say that many politicians on all sides amassed great wealth during the 1992-1995 war. PM ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER THREATENS TO RESIGN. Daniel Daianu on 21 July told journalists in Bucharest that he will resign if his proposal to raise taxes in August is rejected or if the government upholds the controversial deal to purchase 96 helicopters. Under the proposed deal, Bell Helicopters Textron is to purchase a majority stake in the Gimbav aircraft company, which would produce the helicopters. The deal involves a $1.45 billion loan, which Daianu says would increase budget expenditures by more than $ 150 million annually. He also said the envisaged property tax cannot be applied before 1999 for logistical reasons. MS MOLDOVAN-TRANSDNIESTER SUMMIT FAILS TO BRIDGE MAIN DIFFERENCES. President Petru Lucinschi and Transdniestrian leader Igor Smirnov, meeting in Chisinau on 21 July, failed to reach an agreement on the "common state" envisaged in the memorandum signed in May 1997 in Moscow, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The two leaders did, however, reach an understanding on the continuation of energy deliveries from the Cuciurgan (Dnestrovsk) power plant in the Transdniester. Lucinschi acknowledged that Moldova owes Tiraspol $21 million, but he said the debt cannot be settled for the time being. The two leaders also agreed that the bridge over the Dniester at Dubasari, which has been reconstructed following its destruction in 1992, will be reopened on 3 August. The Transdniester authorities previously opposed the recommissioning of the bridge, citing security reasons. MS ROMANIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOLDOVA. Razvan Ungureanu, on a two-day visit to Chisinau, told journalists on 21 July that the pending Romanian-Moldovan basic treaty has been "finalized in great part" and that only the preamble to the treaty and its concluding articles remain to be negotiated. Ungureanu conducted talks with Deputy Foreign Minister Ceslav Ciobanu, the independent Flux agency reported. Before departing from Bucharest, Ungureanu said he would raise during the talks the problem of the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church, which Chisinau refuses to recognize. MS SPANISH PREMIER IN BULGARIA. Jose Maria Aznar and his host, Ivan Kostov, on 21 July told journalists in Sofia at the end of the Spanish premier's two-day visit that the two countries have signed accords on cooperation in tourism and on combating organized crime, BTA reported. They also reached an agreement to work for the settling of Bulgaria's $30 million debt to Spain by giving Spanish companies stakes in Bulgarian enterprises. Aznar praised Bulgaria's economic and social reforms but said the country still has a long way to go before being able to join the EU, adding that this goal must be achieved by consensus in Bulgarian society. At a meeting with President Petar Stoyanov, Aznar said Spain will continue to support Bulgarian efforts to join the EU and NATO. MS BULGARIAN OPPOSITION TO BACK IMF DEAL. Rumen Ovcharov, a leading member of the opposition Socialist Party, told Reuters on 21 July that his party will support a three-year loan now being negotiated with the IMF on condition that the deal secures "stable economic growth, employment, and development." Ovcharov spoke after meeting with the chief IMF representative in Bulgaria, Anne McGuirk. The government supported that meeting in a bid to soften resistance to painful restructuring and expected lay-offs under the program coordinated with the IMF. MS EU PUNISHES BELARUSIAN LEADERSHIP by Jan Maksymiuk The EU Council on 13 July formally approved a decision to ban EU visas for Belarusian government officials. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka topped a list of 130 Belarusian cabinet ministers, deputy ministers, presidential administration officials, and state committee heads, all of whom are now prohibited from traveling to the EU's 15 member states. The decision was communicated to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry by charges d'affaires of five EU states--France, Germany, Greece, Italy, and the U.K.--on 10 July, the fourth anniversary of Lukashenka's presidency. A Russian newspaper reported that Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich was shocked to receive such a note and tried to dismiss it on the pretext that it was poorly prepared--the names of some officials were misspelled or their official positions incorrectly identified. Four days later, the US State Department followed suit, imposing similar restrictions on Belarusian senior officials wanting to travel to the U.S., except those visiting the UN headquarters. Ten non-EU states in Europe have also joined the visa ban. Minsk obviously did not expect such a turn of events in the ongoing diplomatic scandal over the eviction of Western ambassadors from the Drazdy residential compound, near Minsk. In fact, Deputy Foreign Minister Uladzimir Herasimovich, appointed by Lukashenka to negotiate a solution to the conflict with Western diplomats, announced on 9 July that Belarus had reached some kind of arrangement with Germany and France on moving their ambassadors to other accommodation. He also said Minsk had backed off from its ultimatum ordering Western diplomats to remove their belongings from Drazdy. But the West seemed finally to realize that whatever the Belarusian Foreign Ministry says need not correspond to what Lukashenka does or intends to do. The EU visa ban was the first serious setback suffered by Lukashenka in his six-week battle to empty the diplomatic compound and to have it for himself alone. The recalling of Western ambassadors for consultations was not enough to shake Belarus's authoritarian leader. "Let them know that they may return to Belarus only following our permission," Lukashenka commented on the withdrawal of Western diplomats. But the visa restrictions have hit hard, for three reasons. First, by imposing the ban on Lukashenka and his administration officials, the EU and the U.S. have unmistakably demonstrated who is really responsible for the infamous "sewer war." Belarus has been generally portrayed by international media as a country trying to find its way "back to the USSR." Lukashenka's views of various economic and political issues are presented as reflecting "the people's will" or, at least, enjoying immense popular support. The Drazdy conflict, however, shows this is not necessarily the case. Protesting declining living standards in Minsk on 15 July, some 5,000 workers adopted a resolution saying that Lukashenka's policy "threatens the country with political and economic isolation." The West appears to have realized that it would be counterproductive to punish the Belarusian people for the actions taken by its government. Second, the visa ban may help the fragmented and weak Belarusian opposition to consolidate itself, assuming that it is willing and able to do so. Lukashenka is vulnerable: that is the main lesson that the opposition can learn from the current diplomatic standoff. And his regime will become more vulnerable as Russia--Minsk's closest ally among the former Soviet republics--continues to press for the repayment of outstanding debts for gas and oil. Russia under Sergei Kirienko's government is becoming more and more reluctant to provide its "sisterly republic" with energy resources free of charge or in exchange for Belarusian antiquated tractors and television sets. With no international financial aid in sight, Lukashenka will find it very hard to cope with mounting problems in the virtually unreformed Soviet economy he controls. He will be forced to make political concessions if his is not a suicidal case. And it will be up to the Belarusian opposition to decide whether and how to take advantage of that vulnerability. Third, by imposing visa restrictions and not severing diplomatic relations with Belarus, the West has prudently left room for diplomatic maneuvering. It has also confirmed that it still sees Belarus as a sovereign country and wants it to retain that status. With NATO's eastern border flanking Belarus in six months or so, it is doubtless preferable to have a stretch of non-Russian territory between NATO and Russian tanks. No European government, including the Kremlin, wants to recreate the barbed-wire dividing line that characterized Cold-War Europe. 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 of the message. 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