The salvation of mankind lies only in making everything the concern of all. - Alexander Solzhenitsyn
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 158 Part II, 18 August 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 158 Part II, 18 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

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Headlines, Part II

* UKRAINIAN HRYVNYA FALLS AFTER RUSSIAN RUBLE PLUNGE

* SLOVAK GOVERNMENT TRAILING UNITED OPPOSITION

* SERBS TAKE THREE MORE VILLAGES IN KOSOVA

End Note: REPAYING OLD DEBTS TO DEMOCRACY IN BELARUS
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINIAN HRYVNYA FALLS AFTER RUSSIAN RUBLE PLUNGE. On
Ukraine's Interbank Currency Exchange, the hryvnya fell to
2.18 to $1 on 17 August, down from 2.14 on 14 August,
following Russia's announcement of the widened ruble
exchange corridor, AP reported. National Bank Chairman
Viktor Yushchenko told reporters that Russia's move may
cause a devaluation of the hryvnya and toughen monetary
policies in Ukraine, according to ITAR-TASS on 18 August.
President Leonid Kuchma ordered the government and the
National Bank to prevent the hryvnya from falling further,
but no specific measures have been announced so far. JM

UKRAINIAN TEACHERS THREATEN PROTEST OVER UNPAID WAGES. The
Ukrainian Trade Union of Education Workers has threatened to
refuse launching the new school year on 1 September unless
teachers are paid their back wages, Ukrainian Television
reported on 17 August. At its plenary session in Kyiv the
same day, the trade union announced it will stage a rally on
Kyiv's main street if the government does not meet the
teachers' demands within the next two days. A cabinet member
told the television station that the state budget has no
funds for teachers, and the government does not intend to
print such money. JM

BELARUS READY TO ECONOMIZE ON ENERGY, FUEL. The Ministry of
Economy has approved an austerity program for energy and
fuel consumption in the country until year's end, "Zvyazda"
reported on 17 August. A government official told the
newspaper that the plan was necessitated by Gazprom's demand
that Minsk reduce the consumption of gas by 30 percent
following its inability to pay in full its energy debt to
Russia. "We are interested in regulating payments with
Russia in order to receive less [gas] from there and pay
less in hard currency," the official commented. The plan
provides for reducing the temperature of central heating
systems by 20 percent as well as cutting off hot water and
electricity supplies to industrial and individual consumers.
JM

BELARUSIAN COSSACKS OBTAIN LEGAL STATUS. The Ministry of
Justice has registered the All-Belarusian Association of
Cossacks, Belapan reported on 17 August. Mikalay Famichou,
deputy hetman of the association, said there are 3,000
Cossacks in Belarus. The association does not pursue
political goals but, according to Famichou, "advocates the
unity of Slavic peoples" and is ready to cooperate with
organizations supporting the restoration of the USSR. JM

LATVIA'S SKRASTINS REFUSES TO COMMENT ON POLITICAL PRESSURE.
Janis Skrastins, who resigned last week as prosecutor-
general citing "political pressure" (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
13 August 1998), says he will not name those politicians who
sought to exert pressure on him in his official capacity,
BNS reported on 17 August. He said he believes it would be
more "honest" if the lawmakers themselves spoke out on the
"lobbying pressure" exerted on him. Skrastins described as
"contradictory" the law on the Prosecutor-General's Office,
which defines that office as an independent component of the
judiciary but stipulates that the parliament approves the
appointment and, if necessary, the dismissal of the
prosecutor-general. He said the legal provisions are an
"excellent weapon for politicians to manipulate the
prosecutor." JC

LITHUANIA FORMS COMMISSION TO OVERSEE BUTINGE CONSTRUCTION.
A commission has been formed to oversee the construction of
the Butinge oil terminal on the Lithuanian coast, BNS
reported on 17 August. Deputy Environment Ministers Arturas
Daubaras and Pranciskus Juskevicius head the commission,
which is tasked with supplying up-to-date information about
the construction to the environment minister and the general
public. Recently, President Valdas Adamkus wrote to his
counterpart in neighboring Latvia, Guntis Ulmanis, that the
Butinge oil terminal will be the safest installation in the
Baltic Sea (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 1998).
Environmentalists in Latvia, in particular, and elsewhere
have expressed fears that the terminal will pose a threat to
the environment. JC

POLISH EX-COMMUNISTS TOP POLL. A poll conducted by the
private Demoskop agency among 968 Poles shows that public
support for the ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD)
increased to 30 percent in the first half of this month, up
from 28 percent in July, Reuters reported on 17 August.
Support for the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS)
dropped by two percentage points to 23 percent, while
backing for its ally, the Freedom Union (UW), remained
unchanged at 16 percent. The AWS has "paid the price for its
inefficiency" in implementing its plan for administrative
reform, Demoskop commented. The AWS/UW coalition, which was
forced to reach a compromise with the SLD, eventually agreed
to setting up16 provinces rather than 12, as originally
proposed by the government. The declining support for the
coalition was also highlighted by Poland's Center for
Studying Public Opinion last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7
August 1998). JM

POLISH RADICAL STIRS UP AUSCHWITZ CROSS CONTROVERSY.
Kazimierz Switon, a radical Catholic activist, made an
appeal on private TVN television on 16 August to erect more
large crosses outside the former Auschwitz death camp,
Reuters reported. Switon said he wants 152 crosses to
surround a seven-meter papal cross by 26 September, when the
Polish Episcopate is due to discuss the Polish-Jewish
controversy over the Christian symbols at Auschwitz. Switon
staged a 42-day hunger strike at the site earlier this
summer after the Polish government announced that the papal
cross may soon be removed. A survey published by the
Demoskop polling agency on 17 August said that 73 percent of
Poles want to keep the papal cross at the camp site. But 48
percent are against the campaign by Roman Catholic radicals
to set up new crosses. JM

CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS MEET SLOVAK COUNTERPARTS. Prime
Minister Milos Zeman on 17 August said after meeting with
the chairman of the Slovak opposition Social Democratic
Party of Slovakia leader Jaroslav Volf that he wants "above-
normal" relations with Bratislava, CTK reported. Zeman said
that if cooperation is to be renewed, the car accident in
which federal parliamentary chairman Alexander Dubcek died
in 1992 must be investigated and the work of the Czech-
Slovak Committee, set up after the January 1993 partition,
resumed. He denied seeking to influence the outcome of the
September elections in Slovakia by holding talks with Volf
before he meets with Vladimir Meciar. But he added that it
is "natural that every Social Democrat wishes success to
other Social Democrats in another country." Volf said that
what former Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and Meciar
"managed to do wrong at the local level, they also managed
to do wrong in the field of Czech-Slovak relations." MS

CZECH DEPUTY PREMIER FAVORS 'TRANSITION PERIOD' AFTER EU
ACCESSION. Egon Lansky on 17 April told CTK that the Czech
Republic and the EU should agree to a "transition period"
after the Czech Republic's accession to the organization
during which the "sensitive issues" connected with its
membership would be gradually solved. Lansky mentioned
demands in Germany and Austria that nationals of the new
member states not be allowed to settle in other EU countries
for a period of 12-15 years. In this context, he noted that
there is also "another side of the coin," namely preventing
citizens of the "economically strong EU countries" from
purchasing property in the new member states. MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT TRAILING UNITED OPPOSITION. A public
opinion poll conducted by the independent MVK institute
between 7-13 August confirms that Slovak Prime Minister
Vladimir Meciar is unlikely to be able to form a government
following the elections next month, despite the fact that
his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) is ahead in
party preferences, Reuters reported on 17 August. The HZDS
is backed by 25.7 percent, compared with 22.6 percent
backing for the Slovak Democratic Coalition, the main
opposition party. The parties currently in Meciar's
coalition poll a total of 35.3 percent, compared with 56.9
percent for the combined forces of the opposition. Meciar's
coalition partners, the Slovak National Party and the
Workers' Party, are backed by 7.1 percent and 2.5 percent,
respectively. Parties must pass a 5 percent threshold to
gain parliamentary representation. MS

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER BACKS DEMAND FOR UNIVERSITY IN
ROMANIA. Janos Martonyi on 17 August said in Budapest it is
the "fundamental obligation" of the Hungarian government to
support the setting up of a state university for ethnic
Hungarians in Romania. Speaking at a meeting of the
Hungarian branch of the Association of European Journalists,
Martonyi noted that in his opinion, the division of the Cluj
University into a Romanian and a Hungarian university is not
"the only solution that is acceptable." Also on 17 August,
Education Minister Zoltan Pokorny said in Debrecen that the
government considers the establishment of the Hungarian
university to be a "test of the Hungarian-Romanian basic
treaty," Hungarian media reported. MS

BUDAPEST MAYORAL RACE HEATS UP. Janos Latorcai, the
governing coalition candidate for Budapest mayor in the 18
October elections, said on 17 August that he is "surprised"
by the announcement of the extremist Hungarian Justice and
Life Party that it will back him in the race. He denied that
any preliminary talks with that party have taken place and
added that he has "no influence" over who will support him.
But he added that in order to oust incumbent Mayor Gabor
Demszky, he needs all the support he can get. Gabor Horn of
the Free Democratic Party, of which Demszky is a member,
said the party takes his re-election for granted and sees no
reason to enter into talks with the Socialists. Meanwhile,
Socialist Party candidate Bela Katona promised to pay
utility bills for December for pensioners who live alone,
give free medicine to those over 70, and grant cheap housing
to police force members, Hungarian media reported. MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

SERBS TAKE THREE MORE VILLAGES IN KOSOVA. Serbian forces
captured three villages near Pec from the Kosova Liberation
Army on 17 August. The Serbs "leveled" one of the
settlements and destroyed the houses in at least one of the
other two, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In
Prishtina, the Kosova Information Center, which is close to
the shadow-state government, reported that some 9,000
refugees are living without shelter in the Malisheva area.
The news agency added that some 50,000 displaced persons are
concentrated in Gjakova and another 10,000 in the
surrounding area. The office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees puts the total number of persons
who have fled their homes in Kosova at 231,000, AP reported.
PM

COHEN SAYS U.S. WILL NOT GO IT ALONE IN KOSOVA. Secretary of
Defense William Cohen said in Valdosta, in the U. S. state
of Georgia, on 17 August that Washington would intervene in
Kosova only with the agreement of its NATO allies. He added,
however, that there is no consensus on intervention within
the alliance. "So far we have not been successful in getting
other NATO countries to sign up and say, 'Wait a minute,
we're not going to allow these atrocities to happen,'" Cohen
said. "But we have to give NATO time and wait for NATO to
act. We are not going to act unilaterally," Reuters quoted
him as saying. He added that "we have to wait and see
whether NATO will in fact act as an organization, and
institution, without having to go to the [UN] Security
Council where either Russia or China or someone else can
veto" any proposed intervention. PM

GREEK DEFENSE MINISTER SLAMS MILOSEVIC. Akis Tsohatzopoulos
said in Athens that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is
responsible for "unleashing the catastrophe in Bosnia" and
for the "massacre of civilians" in Kosova, the Belgrade
daily "Danas" wrote on 18 August. The defense minister added
that "Milosevic has to realize that he cannot carry out
ethnic cleansing and destroy entire villages in western
[Kosova] and that everything has its limits." Tsohatzopoulos
noted that "it must be clear to both sides that independence
for the province is not possible. The only solution is wide
autonomy within Serbia." The statement is the sharpest
public attack on Milosevic by a Greek government official to
date and reflects a recent shift in Athens' policy on Kosova
away from Greece's traditional pro-Serbian stance. PM

VAN DEN BROEK WANTS INVESTIGATION OF MASS GRAVES. Hans van
den Broek, who is the EU's chief representative for
international relations, said in Salzburg that the
international community should exert pressure on the Serbian
authorities to allow independent forensics experts to
investigate recent German and Austrian press reports of mass
graves of Kosovar civilians near Rahovec (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 13 August 1998). Van den Broek discussed Kosova
with Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel, who told
his visitor that "incredible things" had happened in
Rahovec, the Vienna daily "Die Presse" wrote on 17 August.
The Serbian authorities have denied that mass graves exist
and declared Erich Rathfelder, who broke the story, persona
non grata. Rathfelder and the two newspapers in which he
published his account, "Die Presse" and Berlin's "taz,"
stand by the story. PM

KINKEL WARNS BELGRADE IN ROW OVER JOURNALISTS. German
Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel warned the Yugoslav
authorities in a letter that "Yugoslav correspondents in
Bonn may face problems" if Belgrade does not readmit German
television journalist Friedhelm Brebeck, who was expelled
from Yugoslavia on 16 August, the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung"
reported on 18 August. Brebeck described as "completely
absurd" the Yugoslav charges that his story about the fall
of the village of Junik on the day he was expelled was
deliberately inaccurate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August
1998). PM

ALBANIAN OPPOSITION CRITICIZES RUSSIAN ROLE IN NATO
MANEUVERS... Opposition Democratic Party legislator Azem
Hajdari on 17 August criticized the participation of 40
Russian troops in exercises that started earlier that day
and involve both NATO member states as well as participants
in the alliance's Partnership for Peace program. He argued
that as a result of the conditions that Russia attached to
ensure its participation in "Cooperative Assembly 1998," the
exercise will not send a sufficiently strong or clear
message to Belgrade to stop military operations in Kosova.
Russia agreed to participate in the 1,700 troop exercise
only after NATO promised to keep the maneuvers "politically
sterile," as a Russian commentator put it (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 17 August 1998). In Moscow, a Foreign Ministry
spokesman said that the maneuvers will demonstrate how to
stop weapons smuggling and the infiltration of terrorists
from Albania to Kosova. FS

...WHILE GOVERNMENT PRAISES 'SHOW OF FORCE.' At a ceremony
in Tirana marking the start of the exercises, Prime Minister
Fatos Nano said the maneuvers send "the right messages to
the people who are being massacred and the people that are
massacring them to accept modern realities and try to work
with us to identify peaceful solutions." Defense Minister
Luan Hajdaraga said that NATO maneuvers on Albanian soil
"are important to discourage" any move by the Serbian
government to drive ethnic Albanians from Kosova. U.S.
Admiral T. Joseph Lopez, who is the NATO commander of Allied
Forces-South, said that "Belgrade and any belligerents in
the region will get the same message--that NATO is ready.
NATO has a wide range of contingencies and options ranging
from peace support to combat operations." Lopez stressed
that "this exercise is not directed at any particular party
or element in Kosova or Belgrade, it is directed at regional
stability." FS

MAJOR TRIAL OPENS IN THE HAGUE. Some six Bosnian Croats went
on trial at the Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 17
August. The men are accused of killing more than100 Muslims,
including babies, and torching Muslim homes in the village
of Ahmici, near Vitez, on 16 April 1993. Their actions were
allegedly part of an operation code-named "48 Hours of
Ashes," which was aimed at driving Muslims out of the
region. The six men are the largest single group of
defendants to go on trial together before the court. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER CONFIRMS LETTER TO CLINTON... Prime
Minister Radu Vasile, in an interview with the daily
"Adevarul" on 17 August, confirmed that he has written to
U.S. President Bill Clinton asking him to donate 50-60
decommissioned Cobra helicopters for the purpose of training
the Romanian air force. The letter was published by the
daily on 15 August. The Ministry of Defense welcomed the
premier's initiative but said the decommissioned helicopters
cannot be an alternative to the envisaged deal with Bell
Helicopters Textron for the purchase of 96 helicopters to be
produced in Romania. The ministry also confirmed that a
"potential project" exists for the acquisition of Cobra
helicopters reconditioned in Israel. MS

...SAYS GOVERNMENT 'REORGANIZATION' IS 'NO RESHUFFLE.' In
the same interview with "Adevarul," Vasile said he intends
to "reorganize" the government by the end of August but
denied this was a "reshuffle." At the same time, he said
that those who may find themselves without portfolios as a
result of the reduction in the number of government members
may choose to "view this reorganization as a reshuffle." MS

OPPOSITION TO BESSARABIAN CHURCH SET UP IN MOLDOVA. An
organization calling itself the Movement for the Unity of
the Moldovan Orthodox Church was set up in Chisinau on 17
August, Infotag and BASA-press reported. The initiative
group includes three Communist deputies and two former
legislators, one from the Democratic Agrarian Party and the
other from the Socialist party. The group opposes the
registration of the Bucharest-subordinated Bessarabian
Metropolitan Church and says the step would "legitimize the
split in the Moldovan Orthodox Church". It also says that if
the authorities agree to register the Bessarabian Church,
more splits will follow and independent Gagauz and
Transdniester metropolitan Churches will be set up. MS

END NOTE

REPAYING OLD DEBTS TO DEMOCRACY

by Jan Maksymiuk

	Poland was the first of Europe's communist countries
to embark on the path to a democratic, market economy.
Belarus may be the last one to do so, if at all. The two
countries have a 600 kilometer joint border, which will
become NATO's eastern frontier next year and is also likely
to be the EU's eastern frontier in several years. In terms
of economic and political realities, Poland and Belarus are
likely to drift even farther apart than they are now. Many
Poles and Belarusians, however, do not believe that this
estrangement need necessarily take place. And there are many
more who would not welcome such a development.
	There are three important reasons why Poland should
not distance itself from Belarus. Two of those reasons were
voiced by Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek when he
explained why Poland did not join the EU visa ban on
Belarusian senior officials following the diplomatic housing
scandal in Minsk.
	First, Geremek said that in its relations with
official Minsk, Poland should bear in mind the fate of the
some 420,000 Poles living in Belarus. Since the republic
declared its sovereignty on 27 July 1990, Belarus's Poles
have been able to pursue a variety of cultural and
educational activities oriented toward developing their
ethnic and cultural awareness. Warsaw is clearly afraid that
Belarus's authoritarian leader, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, will
retaliate by reneging on some concessions granted to the
Belarusian Poles in the post-USSR period.
	Second, Geremek, who is also currently the OSCE
rotating chairman, stressed Poland's responsibility to
maintain the OSCE mission in Minsk and the "dialogue with
Belarusian society." Belarus is located at the crossroads of
Europe's major railroad, highway, and pipeline networks. The
Belarusian market may have little importance for Europe, but
Belarus is significant as a transport corridor to Russia.
	Third, the Belarusian market remains important for
Poland, even if Warsaw is reluctant to admit this. There was
an outbreak of protests among Polish small traders in late
1997 after Poland introduced tougher visa restrictions for
Belarusians and Russians. As a result of those regulations,
cross-border trade with Belarus and Kaliningrad Oblast--
including petty smuggling of alcohol and cigarettes--
declined considerably, threatening to leave hundreds of
thousands of people throughout Poland without a source of
income. To alleviate domestic tension, the Polish Foreign
Ministry had to reduce the cost of visas and simplify visa
issue procedures.
	Those three considerations may have inspired Polish
and EU politicians to reconsider Poland's relations with
Belarus. Poland has gradually assumed the role of infusing
Western ideas of democracy into Belarusian society. Several
non-governmental organizations in Poland have focused on
Belarus with a view to opening its "closed" communities to
Europe. The Civic Education Center Poland-Belarus in
Bialystok, inaugurated in January 1998, seems most likely to
succeed in that bid.
	The Program Council of the center includes prominent
public figures from Poland, such as anti-communist veterans
Jacek Kuron, Zbigniew Bujak, and Karol Modzelewski. The
center's Board consists of two Poles and two Polish
Belarusians--all young local politicians and intellectuals
from the generation that developed its political profile in
the 1980s, when Solidarity was struggling to depose Poland's
communist regime. The organization is based in Bialystok,
the center of a northeastern province inhabited by a
150,000-strong Belarusian minority. It is financed primarily
by the Stefan Batory Foundation (the Polish branch of the
Soros Foundation) and Great Britain's Westminster Foundation
for Democracy.
	The president of the center's board, Artur Smolko,
says that the underlying idea of the organization is to
"remember how the West helped Polish democrats and anti-
communists in the 1980s. Now it is our turn to help Belarus
and to repay our old debts to democracy." Eugeniusz Wappa, a
leader of the Belarusian community in Poland, runs the
center's field operations. Wappa has an extensive knowledge
of the Belarusian language, culture, and mentality as well
as personal contacts with virtually all leading
oppositionists in Belarus. "Lukashenka will not last
forever. We must show young Belarusians how things work in
Poland in order to prepare them to take over when the
Lukashenka regime collapses," he says.
	The center has already launched or intends to launch
seven projects linked to local government, the press, the
environment, human rights, national minorities, and culture.
Its partners across the border include the opposition
Belarusian Popular Front, Charter-97, the Belarusian
Congress of Labor Unions, and the independent newspapers
"Naviny," "Nasha Niva," and "Pahonya."
	Predictably, the center's founding conference, which
was called "Democracy Is Our Common Concern" and brought
together a representative sample of Belarusian
oppositionists and Polish politicians on 31 January-2
February, elicited a sharp reaction from Minsk. The
Belarusian Foreign Ministry denounced the center as
"subversive" and aimed at destabilizing the situation in
Belarus. "It unmistakably proved that we had made a good
start," according to Smolko and Wappa.

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