|It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 143 Part II, 28 July 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 143 Part II, 28 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 * DEATH TOLL CONTINUES TO RISE IN SLOVAK FLOODING * SERBS MAKE BIG GAINS IN KOSOVA * BOSNIAN SERBS SACK MEDIA CHIEFS End Note: NO PROGRESS ON CROSS-BORDER COOPERATION WITHOUT FIXED BORDER xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIANS CELEBRATE BANNED INDEPENDENCE DAY. Some 3,000 people marched in Minsk on 27 July to celebrate Independence Day, which was struck from the calendar following the November 1996 referendum. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has moved the holiday to 3 July, which marks the Soviet liberation of Belarus from German troops in World War II. The demonstrators marched under banned white-red-white flags and carried placards reading "Long live independent Belarus" and "Freedom of speech to Belarus," AP reported. They adopted a resolution condemning the Russia-Belarus Union treaty and violations of human rights under Lukashenka. Minsk authorities granted permission for the demonstration, which was organized by three opposition parties: the Belarusian Popular Front, the United Civic Party, and the Social Democratic Party. JM LUKASHENKA TO ATTEND UN SESSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS. A Belarusian delegation headed by President Lukashenka will attend a UN session in New York in late September marking the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Belarusian Radio reported on 27 July. According to Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich, Lukashenka is preparing for the session "very seriously." The minister added that Lukashenka will deliver a report that will have a "fundamental character." JM UKRAINIAN CENTRAL BANKER OPTIMISTIC ABOUT PROSPECTS FOR IMF LOAN... National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko said on 27 July that he believes the IMF will approve a $2-2.5 billion loan to Ukraine, Ukrainian News reported. An IMF mission is currently in Kyiv to discuss conditions for the loan. "The fund is not insisting we meet all the starting conditions of the [loan] program. Ukraine should show that the measures that have already been taken will lead to the desired result, particularly to a balanced budget," he commented. Yushchenko said the IMF agrees that its main condition-- reducing Ukraine's 1998 budget deficit to 2.3 percent of GDP--could be met by passing a governmental resolution or a presidential decree. Despite repeated appeals by President Leonid Kuchma, the Ukrainian parliament adjourned on 24 July for the summer recess without approving the required budget deficit reduction. JM ...AND FOR KEEPING NATIONAL CURRENCY WITHIN EXCHANGE CORRIDOR. Yushchenko also vowed to keep Ukraine's embattled currency, the hryvnya, within the previously established exchange corridor of 1.8-2.25 to $1. The National Bank "is so convinced in its strategy on the financial market that it is not even discussing any other version of the corridor," AP quoted Yushchenko as saying. The hryvnya is facing pressure because of foreign investors' lack of trust in Ukraine's financial market. In August, Ukraine must repay $500 million of its $18 billion foreign debt. Domestic payment arrears by the end of June reached nearly 6 billion hryvni (some $3 billion). A possible IMF loan is widely seen as preventing Ukraine's financial collapse. JM LITHUANIAN AUTHORITIES TO BUY THIS YEAR'S GRAIN HARVEST. Lithuanian Minister of Agriculture Edvardas Makelis on 28 July announced the "administration has taken on the burden of purchasing all commodity grains grown in Lithuania this year, paying farmers favorable prices," BNS reported. The minister promised that roughly 70 percent of the price of grains sold would be paid to farmers immediately so that they have funds to sow new crops. The administration will provide some 40 million litas ($10 million) in supplementary funding to help pay for the grains. Lithuania's farmers have threatened to block all roads throughout the country on 1 August to protest the low minimum prices for agricultural products (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1998). JC POLISH PRESIDENT SIGNS ADMINISTRATIVE DIVISION LAW. Aleksander Kwasniewski on 27 July signed the law consolidating Poland's 49 provinces into 16 new ones. The law, adopted by the lower house on 18 July and approved by the upper house on 24 July, is a political compromise between the Solidarity-led ruling coalition and the opposition Left Democratic Alliance, which had bickered for some six months over administrative reform. Kwasniewski said he hopes the new law will help "decentralize the state, strengthen local governments and citizens' powers," AP reported. JM HAVEL REMAINS ON ARTIFICIAL RESPIRATOR. President Vaclav Havel, who underwent surgery on 26 July, will continue to receive breathing support for three or four days, CTK reported. The doctors treating him say the president's lungs are not yet "functioning normally" but that his state of health is "in accordance with expectations." Havel has no temperature and is able to talk, but some laboratory tests "are not optimal," the doctors say. MS CZECH GOVERNMENT WANTS SAY IN INFLATION TARGETS. In his first major policy statement since the new cabinet was sworn in, Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 24 July told journalists that not only the Czech National Bank but also the government must participate in setting inflation targets. Zeman said the government "respects the independence of the National Bank" but it "would be totally absurd if the bank alone were to set the inflation targets," Reuters reported. The previous day, the Central Bank, headed by former interim Premier Josef Tosovsky, said it is not considering changing its current inflation targets, set at 5.5-6.5 percent for this year. MS SKINHEADS TO BE BANNED IN CZECH REPUBLIC? Zeman on 26 July told Prima Television his cabinet is considering banning skinheads and will take a much tougher line against them than did the previous government, CTK reported. He said the "skinhead movement", though not officially registered, is "organized" and has published magazines "spreading national and racial intolerance." MS DEATH TOLL CONTINUES TO RISE IN SLOVAK FLOODING. The death toll from last week's floods in northeastern Slovakia is now put at 39, with 24 people still missing, Reuters reported on 27 July, citing TASR. Interior Minister Gustav Krajci estimated the cost of the damage at up to 1.5 billion Slovak crowns ($43 million). In the neighboring Czech Republic, some 500 troops were mobilized to help flooded areas in the eastern part of the country, as weather forecasts predicted more heavy rains. Six people were killed in flooding in the region last week. According to preliminary estimates, the cost of the damage so far totals 1 billion Czech crowns ($31.80 million). MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBS MAKE BIG GAINS IN KOSOVA. Yugoslav army forces and Serbian paramilitary police have driven the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) from large stretches of the Prishtina- Pec highway, including the Llapushnik area, in an offensive that began on 24 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 1998). Reuters reported on 27 July that the Serbs "left [behind] a combat zone landscape resembling central Bosnia, with burnt- out houses, shot-up vehicles, abandoned trenches, roads littered with spent bullet casings, wandering farm animals and the ever-present danger of sniper fire." It is unclear how many persons died or how many fled. The army and police have meanwhile cut off the UCK stronghold of Junik and called on its defenders to surrender. In Prishtina, the Democratic League of Kosova said in a statement that the Serbian goal is "ethnic cleansing and a Kosova without Albanians." PM KOSOVARS CHARGE SELL-OUT. The Prishtina daily "Bujku" wrote on 27 July that "the crime, which is assuming dimensions of genocide and large-scale ethnic cleansing, is being committed with the [tacit] approval of the European Union and the U.S. administration.... Milosevic was given a green light to carry on with ethnic cleansing in Kosova... The fact that the world has not criticized the Serbian government's [recent] decision to extend to five kilometers the security zone along the [Kosova-Albania] border is also evidence that the Balkan criminals are being pampered.... In the wake of the crime they have condoned, the EU and the U.S. will see to it that the parties come to the negotiating table: Albanians as victims, Serbs as victors." PM ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS BELGRADE CONDUCTING 'ETHNIC CLEANSING.' Speaking in Tirana on 27 July, Paskal Milo accused the federal Yugoslav government with carrying out "ethnic cleansing operations" in Kosova. He also condemned the recent mining by Serbian forces of areas along the border with Kosova as "violations of international law." He said that move was intended to "prevent Kosovar refugees from crossing into Albania." Milo also sent a strong protest letter to the Yugoslav embassy over a series of recent border incidents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 1998). Meanwhile, an Interior Ministry spokesman said that a Serbian shell landed on Albanian territory near Tropoja that day. FS U.S. 'DEEPLY CONCERNED' ABOUT KOSOVA. State Department spokesman James Rubin said on 27 July that the U.S. is "deeply concerned about the increased fighting that has taken place... over the weekend. We are concerned in particular about the increased involvement in the fighting by the Serb army. We are especially concerned about the large number of displaced persons this new fighting has caused, and they are currently inaccessible to humanitarian assistance because of the fighting. We urge both sides, in the strongest possible terms, to cease the fighting and work towards a negotiated settlement." PM RUSSIA, GREECE URGE NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said on 28 July at the ASEAN summit in Manila, the Philippines, that "the main task is to resume, without preconditions, the interrupted negotiating process between Belgrade and the leaders" of the Kosovars. He added that the problem of Kosova's status "could be solved through granting the province a broad autonomy. We oppose any solution which would lead to secession...as well as any outside intervention with the use of force." Primakov stressed that Russia is "actively contributing to the efforts to overcome the crisis while stressing the need for a balanced pressure on both sides." In Athens, Greek Foreign Ministry spokesmen said that Prime Minister Kostas Simitis sent a letter to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic the previous day calling for a peaceful solution to the Kosovar crisis and an increase in the number of Western observers allowed to monitor developments there. PM GLIGOROV WARNS CRISIS COULD SPREAD. Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov said in Skopje that the Kosovar conflict could spread to Macedonia, which has a 23 percent ethnic Albanian minority, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 27 July. He added that the expanded war "could lead to changes in the ethnic map of Macedonia," which in turn could prove "dangerous" for neighboring countries. He did not elaborate. Also in Skopje, Defense Minister Lazar Kitanovski and Victor Babiuc, his Romanian counterpart, signed an agreement on military cooperation. Kitanovski turned down Babiuc's offer to contribute Romanian troops to the UN's peacekeeping mission in Macedonia, UNPREDEP, Radio Bucharest reported. Kitanovski told Babiuc that Macedonia prefers to limit UNPREDEP to U.S. and Scandinavian forces "in order to avoid problems." He did not elaborate. Babiuc noted that the UN has not responded to Romania's offer of 300 soldiers for the mission. PM BOSNIAN SERBS SACK MEDIA CHIEFS. Republika Srpska Information Minister Rajko Vasic said in Banja Luka on 27 July that the government has replaced the directors and editorial staffs of 11 radio and five television local stations. Vasic added that those fired were hard-line nationalists who were "frequently a source of misinformation and inflammatory reports...[and] prevented the truth from reaching the residents of the Republika Srpska." Spokesmen for the Serbian Democratic Party of Radovan Karadzic said in response to the sackings that the Banja Luka authorities are "terrorizing their political opponents," Reuters wrote. General elections are slated for 12-13 September. PM EVIDENCE LACKING AGAINST TOP ALBANIAN GANGSTER. Prosecutor- General Arben Rakipi told "Shekulli" on 27 July that he does not have enough evidence to launch legal proceedings against imprisoned gang leader Myrteza "Zani" Caushi. Rakipi added that eyewitness testimony alone is insufficient to start a trial. He added that he is legally obliged to release Caushi on 28 September, which will be one year after his arrest, if sufficient evidence is not submitted by that date. Caushi led dozens of armed bandits in Vlora during the March 1997 uprising and is widely suspected of having killed four people and kidnapped six, including one child. In other news, unidentified gunmen shot and killed the head of the local Socialist Party in Sukth, west of Tirana, on 27 July. FS ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES CRITICIZE ORBAN STATEMENT. The main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 27 July called on Premier Radu Vasile to condemn publicly Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's recent "ultimatum." Orban had urged support for the setting up of a Hungarian language university in Transylvania and had said that if the university is not set up "there is nothing more to talk about" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1998). The PDSR said "the process of instituting joint sovereignty in Transylvania" must be immediately stopped. The chauvinist Greater Romania Party demanded that Orban be declared persona non grata in Romania. Meanwhile, the nationalist Party of Romanian National Unity accused President Emil Constantinescu and the government of displaying an "ambiguous positions" towards the Hungarian demands. MS MOLDOVAN DEPUTY PREMIER ON LAND PRIVATIZATION. Valentin Dolganiuc on 27 July told an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau that the parliament must amend the 1992 land privatization law, as well as its amended 1995 version to allow for "real" land privatization to take place. Dolganiuc said that only some 10 percent of those entitled to receive land have done so, owing to "procrastination" by local authorities. He said that the government has already approved a new draft law on land privatization and that he hopes reforms will be carried out by spring 1999. MS BULGARIAN PRESIDENT OPPOSES EMBARGO ON YUGOSLAVIA. President Petar Stoyanov told Leni Fischer, chairwoman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in Sofia on 23 July that if the international community decides to tighten sanctions against Belgrade, "we will be loyal." But he stressed that a new embargo on Yugoslavia will have a negative impact on Bulgaria's efforts at reforming its economy, ITAR-TASS reported. Fischer stressed the need to settle the Kosova conflict by taking into account the interests of both Yugoslavia and Albania, as well as those of neighboring countries. MS END NOTE NO PROGRESS ON CROSS-BORDER COOPERATION WITHOUT FIXED BORDER by Wim van Meurs and Iris Kempe Negotiations on an Estonian-Russian border treaty began in 1994, three years after then RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin recognized Estonian independence. Both the Estonian and the Russian parties have changed their positions and amended their arguments since then. In early 1996, some progress was made on the maritime border, but the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty remained a stumbling block to the land frontier. Estonia insisted on the validity of that treaty without--as Estonian diplomats claimed--any "territorial strings" attached. Moscow, for its part, rejected that stance and linked the signing of the treaty to the treatment of the Russian minority in Estonia. Estonian Prime Minister Mart Siimann finally opted for a treaty containing no reference to Tartu, but in early 1998, the Russian side pushed for negotiations to be reopened. Several inconclusive meetings followed, and talks are scheduled to continue after the summer recess. Under the Tartu treaty, Soviet Russia recognized Estonian independence and accepted a border demarcation somewhat east of the frontier between the former tsarist provinces. In the north, Narva had joined Estonia by referendum in late 1917, and the treaty added several villages on the left bank of the Narva River. In the south, the region around Petseri, previously part of Pskov Oblast, was incorporated into the Estonian state. When Stalin occupied Estonia in fall 1944, he restored the tsarist border, this time as a demarcation between the Estonian SSR and Leningrad Oblast to the north and Pskov Oblast to the south. Evidently, the current conflict is about national symbols rather than minor Russian-inhabited territories (totaling 2,322 square kilometers)--above all, the continuity of the Estonian nation-state within its 1920 borders. No nationalist conservative politician in Tallinn expects Russia to cede any piece of Russian territory, which in any case would only increase the size of the Russian minority in Estonia. Nevertheless, with the perception of statehood continuity acting as such a potent legitimizing symbol in contemporary Estonian politics, Siimann's decision to formally cede territories was surprising, more so than conservative politicians' insistence on historical rights. The consequences of the delay in signing the Estonian- Russian border treaty are threefold. First, the conflict has a European dimension. It was definitely no coincidence that Siimann made his compromise on the eve of the NATO and EU enlargement decisions. And Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's recent demand that Estonia guarantee that Tartu will not be mentioned in connection with the Estonian parliament's ratification of the treaty can be understood only as an attempt to mobilize national conservative forces within Estonia against the treaty. With parliamentary elections due in Estonia next spring, more of the same can be expected from Moscow. While keeping its relations with Estonia in a state of limbo, Moscow overlooks negative consequences at the local and regional levels. Surprisingly, the same applies to Tallinn: the Estonian government, for example, seems to worry more about the Setu, an Estonian-speaking, Russian- Orthodox minority in the Petseri region, than about the socio-economic situation in the backward Estonian border regions: In 1997, the government allocated a total of 60 million kroons (some $4 million) for regional policies and no less than 10 million kroons for the Setu community across the border. Second, there are also economic and administrative consequences at the local or regional level. As a result of the 1991 border, the northeastern part of Estonia, with its derelict industrial complexes and its 90 percent Russian population, faces the same economic collapse as the agrarian, Estonian-populated southeastern. So far, initiatives for improving cross-border infrastructure, trade, and administrative regulations have come from regional authorities and the business community. Among those initiatives are the introduction of a ferry line between Mustvee and Pskov, Estonian participation at trade fairs in Pskov, and the 1997 cooperation between three Latvian and three Estonian provinces as well as three border raions of Pskov Oblast. Third, the unsolved border issue has practical consequences in the immediate frontier area. Inhabitants of Narva-Ivangorod regularly demonstrate against the visa payment still needed to visit family members or one's dacha across the border. Social and cultural cross-border contacts in the south have also been seriously hampered by the border issue, in particular for the small Setu minority living on both sides of the frontier. It appears that setting up a special border regime for locals of the immediate border region depends on the signing of the border treaty. In sum, the border treaty is a football in Russian- Estonian relations at the state level. For Moscow, it is an effective instrument to destabilize Estonian national politics and hamper the EU integration process. Tallinn seems to be more troubled by the possible consequences in foreign policy (EU accession) and in party politics (the symbol of Tartu) than by the practical implications at a regional and local level. Indeed, problems at the future EU border not solved on a bilateral or regional level might become European problems. Thus, the "direct neighborhood" between the future EU member state and Russia also ought to include regional and local cross-border cooperation, which might help sustainable socio-economic development on both sides and reduce existing asymmetries and enmities. The drive for such cooperation exists at a regional level, in Tartu and Pskov. But what is missing is a signed border treaty between Tallinn and Moscow. After all, there can be no progress on cross-border cooperation without a fixed border. The authors are senior analysts at the Direct Neighborhood program at the Center for Applied Policy Research, Munich. 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. 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