|Some things have to be believed to be seen. - Ralph Hodgson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 156, Part II, 14 August 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 156, Part II, 14 August 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 * HAVEL PLAYS DOWN DISPUTE WITH GERMAN GOVERNMENT * MECIAR INVITES FOREIGN OBSERVERS FOR ELECTIONS * RUGOVA NAMES NEGOTIATING TEAM * End Note: THE DOG THAT DIDN'T BARK xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE PUSTOVOYTENKO SEIZES CARS FROM BUDGET DEBTORS. Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko is continuing his crackdown on budget debtors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1998) by ordering the authorities to seize personal cars from directors of non-paying companies and to impose severe fines on non-payers, ITAR-TASS and AP reported on 14 August. More than 11,000 cars have been listed for confiscation and 97 cars have already been seized, according to ITAR-TASS. The tax police have fined tax defaulters a total of 3.7 million hryvni ($1.8 million). The previous day, the cabinet appealed to all government employees to surrender 50 percent of their August salaries to the pension fund. JM WIVES OF UKRAINIAN PILOTS BLOCK MILITARY AIRFIELD. Some 30 wives of military pilots have been picketing the military airfield in Myrhorod, Poltava Oblast for the past week to prevent their husbands from conducting duty flights, Ukrainian Television reported on 12 August. The wives are demanding that their husbands wages for the past six months be paid and are threatening to launch a hunger strike. The Myrhorod airfield is the base for Ukraine's largest group of SU-27 fighters, which protect the country's air space. According to the station, the pilots--who are prohibited from striking by military law--support the action and are letting their wives into the airfield despite the fact that military authorities have dug ditches and set up additional sentry posts. JM LUKASHENKA OFFERS 20 RESIDENCES TO EVICTED AMBASSADORS. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has proposed 20 new residences for the ambassadors who were evicted from the Drazdy settlement in June, Belapan and Interfax reported on 13 August. The offer follows his personal inspection of government housing two days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 1998). Lukashenka said that if the West rejects his proposal, Belarus will have to believe that the Drazdy scandal is a pretext to discredit Belarus. "We will not lead anybody by the hand anymore. This decision is final," Interfax quoted him as saying. RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 13 August that the Belarusian-EU negotiations on the diplomatic standoff have been deadlocked since Belarus refused to allow the evicted diplomats back to Drazdy. JM IMF SAYS BELARUS MUST LIBERALIZE ECONOMY. Adalbert Knobl, IMF representative to Lithuania and Belarus, who is based in Vilnius, said on 13 August that Belarus must liberalize its economy in the face of a financial crisis sparked by a growing trade deficit, Reuters reported. "We don't see any changes in economic policy in Belarus, but circumstances could force them," Knobl said after his talks with Belarusian Premier Syarhey Linh and National Bank Chairman Pyotr Prakapovich. Belarus's trade deficit in the first seven months of this year was $876.7 million, up from $730.6 million in the same period last year. Knobl added that the IMF is concerned about the National Bank's plans to print 16.3 trillion rubles ($400 million, according to the official exchange rate) in the second half of 1998. "If the current credit policy is continued, it will eventually lead to a drop of output," he commented. JM LATVIAN ORGANIZATION CAMPAIGNS AGAINST REFERENDUM BID. The Latvian Human Rights and Ethnic Studies Center has launched a campaign against the bid to collect signatures supporting a referendum on amendments to the citizenship law, BNS reported on 13 August. The center has printed 1,000 posters and 8,000 leaflets urging people to think before they sign up in support of such a plebiscite. The action is supported by several non-governmental organizations, including the local branch of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), and sponsored by the U.S.-Baltic Foundation. A local representative of UNICEF stressed that Latvia has signed the UN convention on the rights of the child, which provides for the right of children to acquire citizenship from birth. JC LITHUANIA SAYS RUSSIA IGNORED INVITATION TO OBSERVE NATO MANEUVERS. The Lithuanian Defense Ministry says that Russian representatives were invited to observe the "Baltic Challenge '98" exercises in Klaipeda last month but that Moscow ignored the invitation, BNS reported on 13 August. NATO member countries and states participating in the Partnership for Peace took part in those maneuvers. The statement came after a Russian Foreign Ministry official publicly expressed surprise that Lithuania allegedly refused "to invite Russia to participate in the exercises." It added that in March, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry had invited Russia to send military observers to the exercises. JC GERMANS SEEKING AMBER ROOM IN LITHUANIA. German treasurer- hunters on 14 August are to begin digging at a site they believe could hold Peter the Great's Amber Room panels, seized by the Nazis during World War II, AP and BNS reported. Earlier this month, the team detected a large amount of metal buried in a shallow lagoon near Preila, on Lithuania's coast. They were searching the area because a wartime resident had said he saw German soldiers burying boxes there. The lagoon is to be drained, and a Lithuanian mine squad will be on hand in case the buried metal turns out to be explosives. Germany has contended that the panels were destroyed during the Soviet Union's bombing of Koenigsberg, now the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. But others claim the treasure was buried by the Nazis. JC POLISH MINERS ACCEPT SAFETY NET IN RESTRUCTURING PLAN. Economy Minister Janusz Steinhoff on 13 August said that coal miners have accepted the proposed safety net for those workers laid-off in the government's mining restructuring plan, PAP reported. Under the plan, some 25,000 miners are to be laid off this year and another 100,000 by 2002. This year, 5,503 dismissed miners were paid one-off severance sums and 3,389 took a five-year pre-retirement leave of absence, during which they receive 75 percent of their last wage. Some 340 received retraining benefits. Meanwhile, 12 coal mining trade unions announced on 13 August that they have drafted an alternative restructuring plan and will seek support for it in the parliament. JM POLISH SOCCER OFFICIAL OFFERS LEAGUE FOR JOB. Marian Dziurowicz, president of the Polish Soccer Association (PZPN), has offered to form a soccer league independent of the PZPN in exchange for retaining his job, "Zycie" reported on 14 August. Clubs belonging to Poland's premier soccer league have demanded Dziurowicz's resignation in the recent standoff between the PZPN and the government. Those clubs boycotted last weekend's matches. The sports minister suspended the entire PZPN leadership in May for alleged incompetence and corruption but was forced to reinstate it after the International Federation of Football Associations threatened to exclude Poland from international soccer events (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 1998). The Polish premier league clubs will continue their boycott of matches until a formal agreement on the creation of a new league has been signed. JM HAVEL PLAYS DOWN DISPUTE WITH GERMAN GOVERNMENT. Speaking from the hospital where he recently underwent surgery, President Vaclav Havel on 13 August said recent cooperation with Germany has been "excellent" in many areas, which "shows how close actual relations between our two nations are." He said the results of the last Czech parliamentary elections demonstrate that "in the Czech Republic one cannot get votes by creating a negative picture of citizens from a neighboring partner state." And he commented that German politicians must also abstain from trying to win votes "by sniping at the Czechs," Reuters and dpa reported. Deputy Premier Egon Lansky told CTK that the government in Prague "never intended to influence the election campaign in Germany" and will avoid comments on statements made there during the run-up to the September elections. MS MECIAR INVITES FOREIGN OBSERVERS FOR ELECTIONS... Foreign Ministry spokesman Milan Tokar on 13 August said Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar has invited observers from 18 countries to monitor the 25-26 September parliamentary elections, CTK reported. He said the list does not include observers from the Czech Republic and Hungary. Slovakia's relation with both of those countries are strained. Tokar told CTK that the Foreign Ministry is convinced that the cabinet will approve an invitation to the OSCE to send observers. This invitation has been repeatedly postponed, and the opposition has strongly criticized the government for the delay, saying OSCE observers should have been invited three months before the elections, which is the usual procedure. MS ...COMMENTS ON RELATIONS WITH NEIGHBORS. Speaking on Slovak Television on 12 August, Meciar said he would be content if relations with the Czech Republic were "normal," rather than "above normal," as some Czech politicians say they must be. He argued that relations are in fact "below normal" owing to political developments in the neighboring country, CTK reported. Meciar said Czechs have not implemented the agreement on the division of Czechoslovak federal property reached by himself and former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus at their meeting in Piestany in fall 1997. With regard to Slovak-Hungarian relations, he said there is "no reason for optimism" because Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban's policies on Hungarian minorities abroad "represent a step backward." Meciar said the basic treaty with Hungary does not entitle Budapest to interfere in internal Slovak affairs, and he criticized the Orban cabinet's readiness to support demands for autonomy for Slovakia's ethnic Hungarians, Hungarian media reported. MS HUNGARY WANTS NEW TALKS ON GABCIKOVO-NAGYMAROS. The government will soon appoint a new commissioner to tackle the controversy with Bratislava over the construction of the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros dam. The controversy has arisen over the September 1997 decision of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, an environmental expert of the ruling Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party said on state television on 13 August. Laszlo Szekely said the decision does not oblige Hungary to build a dam either at Nagymaros or at Pilismarot, northern Hungary. Nor, he continued, does it specify that Hungary must fill up the Danube reservoir at Dunalikilti, northwestern Hungary. Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman Milan Tokar responded that Slovakia is "strictly adhering" to the court's decision and "cannot accept that Hungary tries to willfully reinterpret this ruling," TASR reported. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE RUGOVA NAMES NEGOTIATING TEAM... Kosovar shadow-state Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 13 August that he has appointed a negotiating team for talks with the Serbian authorities. The new body represents Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova, the Christian Democrats, and the Social Democrats. It consists of Fehmi Agani, Fatmir Sadiu, Edita Tahiri, Tadei Radiqi and Iliaz Kurtesi. Adem Demaci and Mehmet Hajrizi, who are close to the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), declined Rugova's invitation to join. Unidentified senior Western diplomats told Reuters that the seriousness of the crisis made it imperative for the international community and Rugova to put together a negotiating team even without representatives of the UCK. One diplomat added that he hopes the team will achieve "early success [that] will pull in the doubting Thomases," by which he presumably meant the UCK. But on 14 August, Rugova said that the ongoing Serbian offensive must stop before talks can begin. PM ...BUT UCK REJECTS IT. The UCK issued a statement to the Kosovar and Albanian media on 13 August announcing its forces are making a "tactical withdrawal" in response to the Serbian offensive. The text also made clear that Rugova's team does not speak for the guerrillas. Instead, the UCK's announcement said that the guerrillas have asked Adem Demaci to be their chief representative and to resign his other positions in Kosova's political arena. The text added that the UCK's other political representatives are Xhavit Haliti, Bardhyl Mahmuti, Hashim Taqi, Faton Mehmetaj, Sokol Bashota, and press spokesman Jakup Krasniqi. Veton Surroi, who is Kosova's best- known journalist and a top aide to Rugova, told the BBC on 14 August that Rugova's team is a "lame duck" because it does not include the UCK and because no serious talks are possible as long as the Serbian offensive continues. PM SERBIA WELCOMES RUGOVA'S ANNOUNCEMENT. The governments of the U.S., the U.K., France, Austria, Russia, and Serbia hailed Rugova's announcement on 13 August, Western news agencies reported from Prishtina. U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill, who is also Washington's chief envoy in the Kosova crisis, said that foreign diplomats and Rugova's team will meet on 14 August to draft a negotiating platform, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic praised Rugova's decision to appoint negotiators as a "smart move." Sainovic also told state television in Belgrade that the authorities "always differentiated between citizens of Albanian [ethnic origin] and bandit-terrorist groups." PM NATO OFFICIALS COMPLAIN OF RUSSIAN 'VETO.' Unnamed U.S. and NATO officials say that Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov is blocking any future NATO decision to intervene in the Kosova crisis by threatening to veto an authorization for such a move in the UN Security Council, the "International Herald Tribune" reported on 14 August. The newspaper noted that "senior Clinton administration officials, speaking privately, complained bitterly this week that Mr. Primakov had secretly told [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic that he need not worry about the risk of a NATO intervention without a Security Council resolution. Russia has vowed to veto any such UN resolution." It also quoted a senior U.S. official as saying this week that "right now, we've got a situation in which Western policy on a major issue is being run by Yevgenii Primakov." PM ALBANIA CONDEMNS SERBIAN OFFENSIVE. The Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 13 August saying that continuing Serbian attacks on Kosovar settlements are "intolerable." The statement said that "every delay in ending the Kosova conflict increases the magnitude of the bloodshed and the humanitarian catastrophe there, as well as the danger of its spreading to the rest of the region." Meanwhile, some 600 Kosovar refugees crossed into Albania near Tropoja the same day. A representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told Reuters that only some 250 are civilians and that the rest are UCK fighters who "escorted" them. An Interior Ministry spokesman said in Tirana that Albanian helicopters brought 12 wounded Kosovars from Tropoja to the capital for treatment. He added that Serbian troops fired artillery shells 700 meters into Albania near Tropoja on 12 August and that a military observation tower at Padesh came under small arms fire the following day. FS ALBANIAN PRESIDENT SENDS BACK SECRET SERVICE LAW. Rexhep Meidani on 13 August returned to the parliament the controversial draft law on the National Information Service (SHIK, see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1998). He asked that the legislators change the text to further limit the powers of the secret service. An article that refers to "the obligation of the managers of central or local [government] institutions [as well as of] legal, state, or private entities to give information to SHIK officers" has been protested by human rights groups, the press, and the some members of the public. Meidani proposed instead that SHIK members should simply have the "right" to talk to public officials and private businessmen. He argued that the existing formulation leaves "room for abuse...to the detriment of the freedoms and rights of citizen." FS WERE EGYPTIANS ARRESTED IN TIRANA INVOLVED IN LUXOR MASSACRE? An unidentified source in Albania's Interior Ministry told Reuters on 13 August that three Egyptian Islamists arrested in Tirana in late June were suspects in the November 1997 massacre of tourists in Luxor, in which 62 people were killed. Egypt's largest militant group, al-Gama'a al- Islamiya, took responsibility for the massacre. Close cooperation between SHIK and the CIA led to the arrests. The source could not confirm a report from the "International Herald Tribune" the previous day that the three men and a fourth Islamist arrested in Tirana in July have ties to the Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1998) . FS TENSIONS MOUNT AMONG BOSNIAN SERBS. Republika Srpska police have arrested some 33 persons since the assassination on 8 August of Srdjan Knezevic, a police official loyal to President Biljana Plavsic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1998), AP reported on 13 August. UN police spokesmen said that the wave of arrests reflects a "showdown" between supporters of Plavsic and those loyal to her hard-line predecessor, Radovan Karadzic. The spokesmen added that the UN police are seeking access to the arrested persons and can confirm only 14 arrests. Pale-based Karadzic loyalists have demanded the replacement of Interior Minister Milovan Stankovic, whom the hard-liners say has launched "a reign of terror against innocent people." Stankovic has charged the Pale leadership headed by Momcilo Krajisnik with ordering the assassination. The tensions come in the run-up to the Bosnian general elections slated for 12-13 September. PM ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON HUNGARIAN UNIVERSITY. Emil Constantinescu said in Cluj on 13 August that he is backing "multiculturalism" for universities in Romania and that the setting up of a state university in the Hungarian language is a "Romanian internal problem" that "cannot be the object of transactions" with other states. He added that the "multicultural model" of the Cluj university is one he is attempting to persuade Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to introduce at the Cernivici [Cernauti] university for the benefit of Romanian students. In reply to a question by a journalist concerning Hungarian suggestions that double citizenship be granted to ethnic Hungarians abroad to ensure links after Hungary joins the EU, Constantinescu said that the "time for responding" has not yet come but that consideration will have to be given to "our interest in Romanians in neighboring countries who face difficult conditions." MS MOLDOVAN ECOLOGISTS THREATEN TO BLOCK NUCLEAR WASTE TRANSIT. The Ecologist Movement on 13 August said it may block the transit of nuclear waste from Bulgarian's Kozloduy reactor to Russia, Infotag reported, quoting Ioan Bobina, the director of the movement's information center. One day earlier, the government officially approved the transit, for which Bulgaria is to pay $50 million and another $5 million as compensation in the event of an accident. Deputy Prime Minister Valentin Dolganiuc of the Democratic Convention of Moldova voted against that decision. Nicolae Andronic, a deputy premier representing the For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc, said it is wrong to call the transit cargo "nuclear waste" because it is in fact processed fuel that, he claimed, does not pose any threat to the population's health. Two Moldovan specialists will oversee the loading of the fuel in Bulgaria. MS BULGARIA DISMISSES GREEK FEARS ABOUT KOZLODUY. Konstantin Shushulov, chairman of the National Electricity Company Board, and Georgi Kashciev, head of the government Committee for Peaceful Use of Atomic Energy, on 13 August dismissed fears in neighboring Greece that the Kozloduy nuclear reactor poses a threat, AP reported. Shushulov said that the plant "is by no means at a lower safety level than other [such facilities] in Europe." Both officials were responding to a report in the Greek daily "Kathimerini" saying the EU has assured Greece it will keep exerting pressure on Bulgaria to close four of Kozloduy's six reactors that are considered unsafe. MS THE DOG THAT DIDN'T BARK by Paul Goble The most remarkable feature of the current Russian economic crisis is one that most commentaries have overlooked: namely, that the Russian collapse has not spread to the other post-Soviet states. Even five years ago, most of the former Soviet republics were still sufficiently integrated that difficulties in the largest of them would inevitably have a large and immediate impact on all the others. Now that has changed. More and more post-Soviet countries have succeeded in diversifying their trading partners so that problems in Russia will not be the determining factor in their development. That is not to say that the problems in Moscow will not have an impact. Rather, the ways in which these Russian problems will affect the non-Russian countries are very different and more indirect than many are now assuming. First, some but by no means all of the post-Soviet states remain sufficiently integrated with the Russian economy that problems in Moscow will have precisely the kind of impact that some are assuming will happen across the region. Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, for example, will be under enormous pressure to devalue their national currencies if the Russian ruble continues to fall. Second, many of the post-Soviet states have not yet completed the reform of their economic and legal systems that would make them able to withstand negative trends abroad. These countries--which are in the majority--thus suffer from many of the same kind of problems that Russia does and for the same reasons. Without reforms, they cannot attract the kind of investment that will help power their future development. Indeed, the exceptions to this general pattern-- Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania--prove the rule. The three Baltic countries rapidly liberalized their economies and now enjoy some of the highest rates of Western investment and economic growth anywhere in the region. Those that have failed to reform their economies, on the other hand, are in increasing difficulty. But the primary cause of their problems is the absence of reform rather than difficulties in the Russian marketplace. Third, all of these countries are profoundly affected by the attitudes of Western investors. Because the Russian market is the best-known, many in the West have concluded that all post-Soviet states and indeed all emerging markets are in the same situation. That is absolutely wrong. In the most recent quarter for which economic statistics are available, virtually all the post-Soviet states did better than Russia on virtually every measure of economic development, relative to the size of their markets. But while those judgments are incorrect, they have an impact on the economies of the other countries in the region, an impact that some analysts in both Moscow and the West will undoubtedly suggest shows just how "integrated" the region remains. To a large extent, this misreading of the economic situation in the post-Soviet states reflects a larger misunderstanding of the situation there. Nearly seven years after the Soviet Union collapsed, all too many in the West continue to refer to the countries there as "new independent states" and to think about the region as a single whole rather than as 12 new countries and the three restored Baltic States. Such observers thus have missed the broad diversification over the last few years in a region dominated until a decade ago by a single center. If the Russian economic crisis does in the end have an impact across all these countries, it is far more likely to be the result of Western misperceptions than the product of integration left over from Soviet times. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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