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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 170 Part II, 3 September 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 170 Part II, 3 September 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 SPECIAL REPORT: HOW RUSSIA IS RULED--1998 As the string of crises continue in Russia, the question remains: Who is in charge? This in-depth report analyzes the country's power structure. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/ruwhorules/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * CHIRAC OFFERS SUPPORT TO UKRAINIAN REFORMS * KOSOVA AGREEMENT IN THE OFFING? * ALBANIAN GUNMEN FORCE POLICE TO WITHDRAW xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE CHIRAC OFFERS SUPPORT TO UKRAINIAN REFORMS. French President Jacques Chirac arrived in Kyiv on 2 September to offer support to Ukraine's efforts to reform its economy and boost ties with the EU, Reuters reported. "We understand and support with all our force your desire to tie yourself to Europe, which is your family," Chirac said at a dinner given by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Several agreements on the use of nuclear energy and bilateral cooperation are to be signed during the two-day visit. French business leaders accompanying Chirac are expected to encourage Ukraine to expand trade with France. French investments account for only $50 million of the $2 billion foreign investment in Ukraine since its independence in 1991. JM UKRAINIAN CENTRAL BANK TO RESUME SELLING DOLLARS. Ukrainian National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko on 2 September said that the bank will soon resume selling dollars on Ukraine's Interbank Currency Exchange to meet demand on the street, Reuters reported. "The central bank declares that it will not limit exchange operations," he said. The National Bank exchange rate of the hryvnya was 2.25 to $1 on 2 September, while in interbank trade it was quoted at 3.1 to $1. The unofficial exchange rate is even higher, at 3.7 hryvni to $1. Yushchenko's pledge is seen as a move to avoid a hryvnya plunge as Ukraine waits for the IMF to decide on granting the country a $2.2 billion loan. Meanwhile, an IMF mission is in Kyiv to assess the financial situation there before making its final decision on 4 September. JM LUKASHENKA SAYS BELARUS'S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 'OPTIMAL'... Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has approved a report on the country's economic performance this year drawn up by Economy Minister Uladzimir Shymau, Belarusian Television reported on 1 September. Lukashenka said current economic development can be considered "optimal" for Belarus. At the same time, he instructed Shymau to take measures to avoid price hikes and the smuggling of food out of the country. According to official data, Belarus's GDP grew by 12 percent from January to July, industrial output by 12.5 percent, consumer goods output by 21 percent, and foreign trade by 13.9 percent, compared with the same period last year. JM ...SETS PRIORITIES FOR HOUSING CONSTRUCTION. Lukashenka has set priorities for housing construction in Belarus, Interfax reported on 2 September. He said the state should build more houses in villages and towns in which the housing problem is particularly acute. He also demanded that an average of five apartments be built on every collective farm each year. "Housing is the locomotive which is getting the whole economy of the country going," he stressed. Lukashenka blasted the construction industry for poor performance and warned that the government will "deliberately produce unemployment" in the industry to force competition unless the Construction Ministry takes steps to improve the situation in the sector. JM BELARUS JOINS NON-ALIGNED MOVEMENT. A conference of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries in Durban, South Africa, on 2 September accepted Belarus as its 114th member, ITAR-TASS reported. Until now, Belarus had observer status in the organization. JM ESTONIAN LEFTIST PARTY FACES BANKRUPTCY. The Estonian Social Democratic Labor Party (ESDTP) may be declared bankrupt unless it pays the state some 8 million kroons ($533,000), ETA reported. That debt was accumulated as a result of a dispute between the ESDTP and the government over a building occupied by the party that was declared state property, along with all other assets of the former Communist Party. The ESDTP continued to occupy the building and to pocket the income from leased office space. At a preliminary court session on 2 September, it was recommended that the party be declared insolvent. Tiit Toomsalu, the chairman of the ESDTP, says the case is politically motivated and aimed at the liquidation of the country's only left-wing party. JC ESTONIAN DAIRY EXPORTERS HIT BY RUSSIAN CRISIS. Estonia's largest dairy concern, United Dairies, is to lay off 300 workers for at least two months and to reduce the price of milk beginning this month, ETA reported on 2 September. That move comes in the wake of the financial crisis in Russia, to which United Dairies exports some 80 percent of its products. Meanwhile, the Parnu dairy plant, a subsidiary of United Dairies, is to be temporarily closed. Some 90 percent of its output is exported to Russia. JC LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT TO AID EXPORTERS IN FACE OF RUSSIAN CRISIS. Meeting with Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius to discuss the impact of the Russian financial crisis on Lithuania's commercial sector, Finance Minister Algirdas Semeta said the government has sufficient financial and monetary reserves to offer assistance to Lithuanian exporters, BNS reported on 2 September, citing the government press service. He added that the government foresees increasing state budgetary and Privatization Fund reserves in the country's banks to allow those institutions to grant loans to exporters affected by the ongoing crisis. In addition, the Agriculture Loan Guarantee Fund and the Food Product Market Regulatory Agency will extend additional credits to dairies and meat processors, both of which are particularly badly hit by the crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 1998). JC SOLIDARITY LEADER CRITICIZES PROPOSED TAX REFORM. Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) leader Marian Krzaklewski told Polish Radio on 2 September that the AWS will not accept Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz's plan to introduce new taxes in 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 1998). Balcerowicz is a member of the Freedom Union (UW), the AWS's partner in the ruling coalition. Krzaklewski said that the coalition agreement between the AWS and the UW envisages "family-friendly" changes in the tax system and that Balcerowicz's proposals do not provide for such changes. The AWS leader added that any changes must not only make the poor pay less but also increase concessions to families with a large number of children. PAP reported on 2 September that Poland's major trade unions, Solidarity and the leftist National Trade Union Alliance, have both spoken out against Balcerowicz's plan. JM POLISH NATIONALISTS PROTEST GERMAN TROOPS PRESENCE. Some 50 people picketed the Defense Ministry in Warsaw on 1 September to protest the stationing of German troops in Szczecin, PAP reported. A Polish-Danish-German unit is to be created in that town once Poland joins NATO. The agency reports that the picket was organized by members of the nationalist organization All-Poland Youth and listeners of the Roman Catholic Radio Maryja station. "We once invited Germans to Poland, but only got rid of them in 1945," PAP quoted one organizer as saying, in what seemed to be an allusion to the invitation for Teutonic Knights to settle in Poland in the 13th century. JM FORMER CZECHOSLOVAK PREMIER TO BE CHARGED OVER CHORNOBYL? Lubomir Strougal may face charges over having withheld information on the danger posed by the Chornobyl nuclear catastrophe in 1986, AP reported. Strougal, now 74, is suspected of having intentionally provided false or incomplete information on radiation levels measured on former Czechoslovak territory shortly after the explosion in Chornobyl. The Office for Investigation and Documentation of Communist Crimes, which has the power to prosecute, is investigating the case. A spokesman for the office said investigators hope to decide within a month whether to press charges. Strougal has denied the accusations. MS ZEMAN 'CONCERNED' ABOUT RUSSIAN CRISIS. Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 2 September said the Czech Republic is "following with concern" the situation in Russia, CTK reported. He said the crisis has caused foreign investors to leave Russia and triggered mistrust in many other emerging Eastern and Central European markets. Zeman said some of these investors could switch to the Czech Republic but that in order for this to happen, "it is necessary to create the appropriate atmosphere of economic security and certainty." Zeman also said the Czech Republic insists on the repayment of Russia's outstanding $ 3 billion debt and that this could be achieved through the purchase of stakes in Russian companies. "The prices of shares are now dropping and this is the right moment to buy them," he concluded. MS SLOVAKIA TURNS TO THE HAGUE AGAIN IN DAM DISPUTE WITH HUNGARY. Slovakia is again appealing to the International Court of Justice in The Hague to rule on the ongoing dispute with Hungary over the Danube hydroelectric power plant. Slovak Foreign Minister Zdenka Kramplova notified her Hungarian counterpart, Janos Martonyi, of this decision in a 2 September letter. Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath told journalists that his country is "ready to accept the involvement of an impartial third party." Gyorgy Szenasi, Hungary's representative at the trial, said it is "surprising" that Bratislava's move comes shortly before the Slovak general elections. Since no agreement was reached on implementing the court's earlier ruling, both parties are entitled to appeal to the court again, he concluded. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSOVA AGREEMENT IN THE OFFING? U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill, who is also Washington's chief envoy regarding the Kosova question, said in Prishtina on 2 September that "the two sides in general agreed what we can reach." He said that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, with whom he met the previous day in Belgrade, and Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova, with whom he met in Prishtina on 2 September, agreed in principle that Kosova should receive "a certain degree of self-administration" for a provisional period of between three and five years. After that period, the parties concerned would "review" the political status of Kosova. PM SOME NEGATIVE REACTIONS TO AUTONOMY PROPOSAL... Numerous commentaries in regional and international media on 2 September pointed out that Hill has yet to get the two sides to agree on details and that the "devil has been in the details" in previous attempts to negotiate an end to the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia since 1991. Some commentaries noted that Hill gave no indication as to when his proposal might take effect, or whether the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) will agree to it. The UCK's long-standing position is that independence is the only possible solution. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said that he is skeptical about whether the proposal can lead to concrete results. PM ...AND SOME POSITIVE ONES. Spokesmen for Rugova said the accord could lead to "stabilizing the overall situation in Kosova and assure the functioning of all [state] institutions." U.S. diplomats in Prishtina also stressed that the main goal of the agreement would be to "create a framework for democratic institutions and the functioning of the rule of law," AFP reported. Albanian Foreign Minister Pascal Milo said that Hill's project "promises the start of a dialogue which might lead to further positive developments.... [The agreement] might not be the best Albanians are asking for, but it is a basis to start negotiations and they can reach promising results." PM FIGHTING CONTINUES ACROSS WESTERN KOSOVA. Serbian and Kosovar sources reported clashes on 3 September in the Prizren area and near the Prishtina-Peja highway and the Gjakova-Klina road. The Kosova Information Center, which is close to Rugova, noted heavy Serbian attacks in the vicinity of Malisheva, Klina, Gjakova and Rahovec. No independent confirmation of either side's accounts of casualties or kidnapping victims is available. In other news, the Austrian Interior Ministry said in a statement the previous day that some 2,800 Kosovars have asked for political asylum in Austria since the beginning of August. The report added that only about 10 percent of the applicants have been able to prove they were victims of repression by the Serbian authorities. Those applicants are thus the only ones to receive asylum. PM RUEHE WARNS MOSCOW ON KOSOVA. German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe on 2 September said that Russia must play what he called a more constructive role in resolving the Kosova problem. Ruehe suggested that Moscow is not applying sufficient pressure on Belgrade to seek a negotiated solution and that Russia is preventing the UN Security Council from taking effective action to end the crisis in Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Ruehe and Kinkel both told the Bundestag that Milosevic must understand that NATO is ready and able to take military action in Kosova if the Atlantic alliance decides to do so, the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" added. In Brussels, NATO ambassadors agreed to offer transportation and communications assistance to international relief organizations to provide aid to Kosovar refugees. In Bonn, the German government announced that it has made $4.5 million available for refugee relief work, primarily in Montenegro. PM GARROD APPEALS TO CROATS. Sir Martin Garrod, who is the international community's chief representative in Mostar, appealed on 2 September to the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) to support the return of Croats to nearby areas under Muslim control. He called on HDZ leaders to distance themselves from recent remarks by Ivan Prskalo, who is the Croatian co-mayor of Mostar. Prskalo said that Croats should not return to their former homes in Grabovica and Dreznica until Muslim troops leave those areas. Meanwhile in Zagreb, a spokesman for the OSCE said that the Croatian government's commission for refugee return has not done enough to expedite the return of Serbs, especially in the Knin, Obrovac, and Vukovar regions. PM ALBANIAN GUNMEN FORCE POLICE TO WITHDRAW... Police on 2 September withdrew from the southern village of Lazarat after eight officers were injured while trying to recapture the village from armed gunmen (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 2 September 1998). Hundreds of special police had made two attempts to capture a group of armed villagers who halted traffic along a main north-south road the previous day, but they gave up those attempts after coming under heavy gunfire. Gjirokastra's police chief Edmond Stepa said all units have withdrawn to Gjirokastra, adding that "police forces will stay here until the situation calms down." He gave no further explanation for the withdrawal. In Tirana, Interior Minister Perikli Teta blamed the disturbances on "elements of anarchy and terror, who will be punished by all means," Reuters reported. He called on "the people of Lazarat to distance themselves from the bandits.... The Albanian police [will] not back down in face of crime," Teta said. FS ...WHILE GUNMEN'S MOTIVE REMAINS UNCLEAR. Observers noted that it is not clear whether the main motive for the gang's actions is political or criminal. OSCE representative Tim Isles said in Tirana that he has "no indication that it was political," adding that "I believe it was a gang doing hold-ups on the road, something which has happened before, and then things escalated." "Rilindja Demokratike," however, published a Democratic Party statement on 2 September accusing the Socialist-led government of conducting "communist persecution" against "the marvelous [sic] inhabitants of Lazarat." It added that "the clique of [Prime Minister Fatos] Nano with its anti-Lazarat behavior shows its true face of crime, political hatred, and unscrupulous hostility toward its political opponents." FS BOMB DAMAGES SOCIALIST PARTY OFFICES. An explosion during the night of 2 to 3 September badly damaged the headquarters of the Socialist Party in the northern town of Lezha, dpa reported. Four days earlier, a bomb went off near Socialist offices in Shkodra (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 1998). Meanwhile in Tirana, Pandeli Majko, who heads the Socialist faction in parliament, said that "the developments in Kosova make it necessary [for all parties] in Albania to cooperate and [conduct a] dialogue." He accused Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha of trying deliberately to "increase tensions" between the governing coalition and the opposition. He charged that some of Berisha's recent statements calling for a confrontation with the government have "nothing to do with [the normal conduct of] a democratic opposition and are in contradiction to our national interests," ATSH reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 1998). FS IMF CALLS FOR 'TOUGH MEASURES' IN ROMANIA. The IMF chief negotiator for Romania, Poul Thompsen, met with Finance Minister Daniel Daianu on 2 September to discuss envisaged cuts in the budget, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Thompsen said after the meeting that "very tough measures" are necessary in order to halt the "unprecedented" budget deficit and that Romania must also raise taxes. Daianu said that under current circumstances, a deficit totaling 3.6 percent of GDP cannot be achieved. Unless very strict additional measures are immediately introduced, Romania risks jeopardizing even its "small achievements" to date, such as low inflation, he commented. MS ROMANIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION REJECTS ETHNIC HUNGARIAN DEMANDS... The Chamber of Deputies' Education Commission on 2 September rejected the amendment to the education law, proposed by Victor Ciorbea's cabinet, that would have set up a Hungarian-language state university. Last December, the Senate's Education Commission rejected that amendment but endorsed setting up separate departments that would provide instruction in Romanian and Hungarian. The chamber's commission decided to allow only "sections and groups within multicultural universities," where teaching in ethnic minority languages is permitted. It also decided that instruction in just one of those languages can be offered only by private universities. Deputy Aureliu Emil Sandulescu of the ruling coalition's National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD), who proposed the resolution, said the move comes to "emphasize that Romania is a unitary state, not a federal one." He added that a Hungarian-language state university would signify "a first step toward federalism." MS ...WHILE ETHNIC HUNGARIAN PARTY WARNS OF CONSEQUENCES. Csaba Takacs, executive chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), responded by saying that the UDMR will now have to "reconsider its participation in the ruling coalition" at the 5 September meeting of its Council of Representatives. The UDMR's coalition partners had promised that the Senate's decision would be amended by the Chamber of Deputies in accordance with the coalition agreement. Also on 2 September, George Pruteanu, who led the opposition to the amendment in the Senate and who has since been expelled from the PNTCD, was replaced as chairman of the Senate's Education Commission by PNTCD Senator Florin Bogdan. Meanwhile, the government commission set up to discuss ways of establishing a Hungarian state university convened for the first time on 2 September. MS BULGARIAN PRESIDENT WARNS PARLIAMENT AGAINST COMPLACENCY. Petar Stoyanov on 2 September urged the parliament to press ahead with reforms and warned against complacency because of the financial stability achieved over the past 18 months, Reuters reported. In a speech to the legislature at the opening of its fall session, Stoyanov said he is "concerned" and does not want to "see our accomplishments wasted. They were achieved with a lot of suffering by the Bulgarian society." Stoyanov added that the state administration is still "full of bureaucrats who have a strong interest in slowing privatization and impeding the liberalization of the economy, since they had managed to turn their positions into a source of personal wealth." In his address to the legislature, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov pledged that the "toughest part" of the structural reform will be completed by mid-1999. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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