|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 176 Part II, 11 September 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 176 Part II, 11 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 Headlines, Part II * MOODY'S LOWERS UKRAINE'S CREDIT RATING * MILOSEVIC DISPARAGED AT HOME, ABROAD FOR VIOLENCE IN KOSOVA * INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY IN BOSNIA CRITICIZED ON EVE OF POLLS End Note: THE PROMOTION OF PRIMAKOV xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE MOODY'S LOWERS UKRAINE'S CREDIT RATING. Moody's Investors Service has downgraded Ukraine's rating for foreign-currency debts from B2 to B3 and for foreign- currency bank deposits from B3 to Caa3, AP reported on 10 September. The U.S. agency cited "the depletion of Ukraine's foreign-currency reserves to dangerously low levels over the past few months," which, it said, suggests "an increase in the risk of default on [Ukraine's] foreign debt obligations." Moody's also did not share the government's optimism over the recent approval of a $2.2 billion loan by the IMF, saying the loan will only postpone a financial crisis if radical economic reform is not implemented. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Television reported on 10 September that Ukraine has obtained the first tranche, $257 million, of the IMF loan. JM UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS KUCHMA'S NOMINEE FOR PRIVATIZATION CHIEF. The leftist-dominated parliament on 10 September failed to approve the state privatization chief, raising doubts about the government's plans to speed up privatization in the country, AP reported. Oleksandr Bondar, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's nominee to head the State Property Fund, received 210 votes in the parliament, 16 fewer than the necessary simple majority. "We think that privatization and demonopolization are two levers that pushed Ukraine into abysmal ruin," Ukrainian Television quoted one communist deputy as saying after the vote. Petro Symonenko, leader of the Communist Party caucus, said privatization may still be continued if Kuchma nominates a communist to head the State Property Fund. JM LUKASHENKA DEMANDS TIGHTER CONTROL OVER ALCOHOL, TOBACCO MARKET. At a government meeting on 10 September, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka demanded that "all criminal structures" be driven out of the country's monopolized alcohol and tobacco market, Interfax reported. He said that up to 25 percent of the Belarusian tobacco market is controlled by criminal gangs. Lukashenka ordered law enforcement agencies and security services to tighten control over the production and sale of liquor and tobacco products. He also warned that Belarus's 67 distilleries may be reduced to as few as 10 unless they produce "top-quality vodka." JM KALLAS: PRIMAKOV APPOINTMENT WOULD NOT BE GOOD FOR ESTONIA. Reform Party Chairman and former Foreign Minister Siim Kallas has suggested that the appointment of Russian acting Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov as prime minister would not be favorable for Estonia and might strain relations between the Baltic States and Russia, BNS and ETA reported on 10 September. Kallas said Primakov "harbors a hidden animosity toward the Baltic States" dating back to when the Russian official headed the Security Council under former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. "He still bears a grudge against the Baltic States because they broke away from the Soviet Union," Kallas said. At the same time, he described Primakov as a "clever but easygoing man" who would not seek conflict. President Lennart Meri is quoted as saying that he welcomes every move that will help Russia end the "politically indeterminate" situation and the economic crisis. JC LILEIKIS TRIAL INDEFINITELY POSTPONED. The trial of 91- year-old Aleksandras Lileikis, who is accused of crimes against humanity during World War II, was postponed indefinitely on 10 September after the court ordered an independent medical examination of the hospitalized defendant. The examination will seek to determine whether Lileikis's health may improve sufficiently to allow him to give evidence and attend the trial, as required by law. According to Reuters, the examination could take several weeks. No date for the resumption of the trial has been set (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 September 1998). JC POLAND CUTS ZLOTY DEVALUATION, BANK RATES. Poland's Monetary Policy Council on 9 September announced it is cutting the monthly devaluation rate of the zloty to 0.5 percent from 0.65 percent, "Rzeczpospolita" reported on 11 September. The council has also cut the Central Bank's minimum 28-day money market intervention rate to 18 percent from 19 percent. The move, which follows a fall in prices for a second consecutive month in August, is aimed at achieving the government's goal of 9.5 percent inflation this year. According to financial experts quoted by "Rzeczpospolita," the council's decisions show that the Russian crisis has virtually no impact on the Polish economy. JM OFFICIAL SUPPORT TO VIAGRA SPARKS PROTEST OF POLISH FEMINISTS. The Federation for Women and Family Planning has harshly protested a cabinet minister's support for the sale of the anti-impotence drug Viagra (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 1998) and his proposal to subsidize Viagra prescriptions to boost fertility rates, AP reported. "The current government cares more about the pleasure of men than health care for women," the feminist organization said in a statement. The organization added that the proposal is especially outrageous given that the Solidarity-led government cut subsidies for contraception earlier this year. JM MECIAR SAYS CZECHS RESPONSIBLE FOR SLOVAKIA'S INTERNATIONAL IMAGE. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar on 9 September told Slovak Television that "massive Czech propaganda" on the eve of the 1992 partition had portrayed Slovaks as a "fascist and anti-Semitic nation" and that "this reputation" has lingered on after independence. "At that time Slovakia was not assessed better than it is now," CTK quoted him as saying. In other news, top fashion model Claudia Schiffer, invited by Meciar to attend the opening of a new highway stretch, said that "the person who will vote for number one will not make mistakes," AP reported, citing TASR. Meciar's party refers to itself as "number one" in the election campaign now under way in Slovakia. MS SLOVAKIA IMPOSES RESTRICTIONS ON MEDIA BEFORE ELECTIONS... Slovakia is restricting political programming on radio and television in the run-up to the 24-25 September parliamentary elections, saying such programs violate restrictions on campaigning, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. The Radio and Television Council on 9 September halted a political program scheduled to be broadcast by the pro-government Slovak Public Television, council chairman Peter Juras told journalists in Bratislava. He said the council also ruled that three independent broadcasters--Markiza TV, Radio Twist, and RFE/RL must broadcast public announcements that they have violated the election law in their programming. The law prohibits media from airing electoral coverage other than the parties' official election campaign for 30 days before the election. MS ...AS INDEPENDENT MEDIA MONITOR SAYS STATE TELEVISION BIASED. Memo 98 concludes in a survey released on 10 September that Slovak Television news coverage "has completely abandoned any pretense of providing voters with fair, accurate, and balanced covering of relevant political events" and is increasingly pro-government biased. The survey was based on the amount of coverage devoted to various parties during news programs. Memo 98 also said Markiza TV tended to give "much positive coverage" to opposition parties, though less so than Slovak television's coverage of pro-government parties, Reuters reported. Memo 98 is an independent media monitoring group set up by the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly and the Association for Support of Local Democracy. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MILOSEVIC DISPARAGED AT HOME, ABROAD FOR VIOLENCE IN KOSOVA. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan disclosed the contents of a letter he sent to Belgrade blaming Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for indiscriminate violence against ethnic Albanians, the destruction of villages, and the continuing flow of refugees in Kosova, Reuters reported. The letter, sent by Annan on 1 September, asked Milosevic to call an immediate cease- fire. Annan has received no response from the Yugoslav president. The UN Security Council repeated Annan's position on 10 September. State Department spokesman James Rubin said that the problem in Kosova will continue until Milosevic stops Serbian forces from "raining a humanitarian disaster down on the people of Kosova." In Belgrade, opposition leader Zoran Djindjic said the crisis is the result of "the inefficiency of the undemocratic authorities in Serbia." And in Prague, Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov told RFE/RL that Milosevic is "the problem" and that the conflict would be resolved sooner without him. PB YUGOSLAV OFFICIALS TO BEGIN TRYING KOSOVAR ALBANIANS. Vukasin Jokanovic, Yugoslav prosecutor-general, said on 10 September that several hundred suspected members of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) will go on trial this month, AP reported. Jokanovic, speaking on Radio Belgrade, said that UCK forces have been decisively defeated. Dragoljub Jankovic, the Serbian justice minister, said 716 ethnic Albanians are under investigation in Kosova and will face charges of terrorism and conspiracy against the state. He said about half of those being investigated have been detained. PB YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS SERBS CONTROL KOSOVA. Zivadin Jovanovic on 10 September said that Serbian forces control all of Kosova and that Belgrade is willing to hold talks with ethnic Albanians to resolve the crisis, Reuters reported. Speaking in Athens after talks with Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, Jovanovic said the UCK has withdrawn to a very small portion of Kosova, has "no leadership," and controls no territory. He claimed that 60,000 refugees have returned to their homes and that schools are open. He added that "ethnic Albanians do not trust the UCK anymore. They express their loyalty to the Serbian authorities." Pangalos said sanctions against Belgrade "did not help," and he called for Yugoslavia to be reintegrated into the international community. PB UCK OFFICIALS BLAST RUGOVA, U.S. The UCK said in a statement on 10 September that support by Kosova "shadow state" President Ibrahim Rugova for a U.S.-backed peace accord with Belgrade will undermine the UCK's fight against Serbian forces, AP reported. Issued by the UCK's political wing and published in the daily "Koha Ditore," the statement said the proposed agreement is aimed at "demobilizing the masses who have joined the liberation war...and destruction of the UCK." It said that proposed peace talks between Rugova and Belgrade are a "cover for the Serb occupiers' terror over the civilian population." PB LIBERATION ARMY IN THREE PIECES? The independent news agency Beta reported on 10 September that there are at least three strong factions within the UCK. One faction, thought to be the largest, recognizes Adem Demaci as its political representative and Jakup Krasniqi as its spokesman. It advocates complete independence from Belgrade. Another follows orders from the head of the so-called Kosovar government in exile, Bujar Bukoshi, and calls itself the Armed Force of the Republic of Kosova. It is reportedly strongest along the border with Albania. The third faction is a small number of units that conditionally support Rugova. PB CROATIAN OFFICIALS INITIAL AGREEMENT ON PLOCE. Hrvoje Sarinic, the head of the Croatian president's office, and Economics Minister Nenad Porges signed an agreement on 10 September that will allow Bosnia-Herzegovina free transit to the Croatian port of Ploce, Croatian Radio reported. Deputy High Representative Jacques Klein and U.S. envoy Richard Sklar attended the ceremony. Sarinic said the agreement allows for economic development both of the port of Ploce and of Bosnia. The Croatian parliament must still approve of the agreement, which both sides have been working on since 1994. PB INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY IN BOSNIA CRITICIZED ON EVE OF POLLS. The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) says the international community in Bosnia- Herzegovina is using "non-democratic" means to help moderates win in the 12-13 September elections, AFP reported on 10 September. Christopher Bennett, the director of the International Crisis Group Balkans Project, said "the elections will bring changes, but this will be due to non-democratic measures." Bennett cited the omnipotent power of High Representative Carlos Westendorp in pushing aside hard-line nationalists and the "snatch operations" by NATO led peacekeepers as examples of the international community's running "roughshod" over Bosnia's democratic institutions. Voters are to elect a new interethnic presidency, national parliament, and legislative assemblies in the Muslim-Croat and Serb entities of Bosnia-Herzegovina. PB ALBANIAN OPPOSITION THREATENS FORCE AGAINST PREMIER. Former President Sali Berisha, speaking at a rally in Tirana, threatened to use force against the government of Prime Minister Fatos Nano, Reuters reported on 10 September. Berisha accused Nano of abusing the constitution and warned him not to "play with our freedoms." Berisha said "we shall crush you into powder, force will know no bounds." He said if Nano does not leave office he could meet the same fate as Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Berisha has been holding rallies almost every day since six former government officials appointed by him were arrested last month. Some 3,000 people attended the rally. PB IMF PRAISES ALBANIA. The IMF on 10 September said that it supports the Albanian government's economic reforms and noted that an IMF team will visit Tirana in mid- October, Reuters reported. Juha Kahkonen, IMF mission chief for Albanian, said in a letter to embattled Finance Minister Arben Malaj that the economic policies continue to "bear fruit." PB VAN DEN BROEK IN ROMANIA. European Commissioner Hans van den Broek on 10 September said at a joint press conference with President Emil Constantinescu that all candidates for EU membership will eventually join the organization but doing so depends to a large extent on each country's performance. Van den Broek said he has not been "updated" on the EU's performance evaluation of all candidate countries, which was recently leaked to the press, saying that Romania is "last" on the list of candidate states. He urged his hosts "not to lose heart" and to proceed with the faster implementation of reforms, singling out the privatization of large state companies, the banking sector, and the reform of public administration. Constantinescu said that while it is "possible" Romania is now in "a weak position" for integration, the "political will" to continue reforms exists and is backed by the population. MS ROMANIAN RULING ALLIANCE DEBATES NEW PROTOCOL. In an attempt to lure back the Movement of Civic Alliance into the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), CDR leaders on 10 September announced that civic organization members of the convention will have the right to participate "on equal terms" in determining decisions related to the CDR's strategy and program. But it added that they will not have a say in decisions related to CDR election candidates and will be able only to make "moral objections." The National Liberal Party and two smaller parties have proposed that the CDR parties be allowed to run on separate lists in local elections. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Radu Vasile said the elections for mayor of Bucharest might be "inopportune" in the present "austerity conditions" and that a decision on whether to hold them must be reached at the "political level." MS IMF DELEGATION REVIEWS MOLDOVAN ECONOMY. A five-strong delegation headed by IMF counselor Richard Haas began a visit to Moldova on 10 September to evaluate the progress of economic reform and the possibility of renewing loans to Moldova. An agreement on a three- year, $190 million loan was suspended in fall 1997 because of the stalled reform process. Moldova received only $52.5 million of that loan, but IMF chief representative in Moldova Mark Horton said a $30-35 million tranche could be unfrozen in view of the impact of the Russian crisis on Moldova's economy and the IMF's evaluation of economic priorities included in the draft 1999 budget, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The delegation met on 10 September with Deputy Premier Ion Sturdza, Finance Minister Anatol Arapu, and National Bank Governor Leonid Talmaci. MS BULGARIAN PREMIER ON POSSIBLE PRIMAKOV APPOINTMENT. Ivan Kostov has welcomed the nomination of acting Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov as premier. Kostov told RFE/RL in Prague on 10 September that Primakov has demonstrated he is a "good friend." He said Bulgarian officials have "excellent" relations with Primakov. MS BULGARIA TO ACHIEVE BUDGET SURPLUS. Bulgaria is about to register its first budget surplus since the country began the transition to a market economy in 1990, dpa reported on 10 September, citing BTA. The government said that the 190 billion leva ($110 million) surplus will be spent on improving infrastructure, social welfare services, and the administration's information system. In other news, the parliament on 9 September unanimously ratified the agreement on Bulgaria's accession to the Central European Free Trade Agreement on 1 January. The accession agreement was signed in Sofia in July, BTA reported. MS END NOTE THE PROMOTION OF PRIMAKOV by Paul Goble Boris Yeltsin's decision to nominate Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov as his prime minister is already sending shockwaves through Russia, Russia's neighbors, and the international community. But while this appointment may give the crisis- ridden Russian regime some room for maneuver, it is unlikely in itself to resolve the underlying problems now confronting the Russian Federation. By turning away from the obviously unpopular and apparently unconfirmable Viktor Chernomyrdin, Yeltsin has once again shown that he maneuvers best precisely when he is under the most intense political pressure. But if Yeltsin's decision to promote Primakov was somewhat unexpected, it nonetheless reflects three aspects of Yeltsin's general political style. First, the Russian president again has taken what many are certain to call a dramatic step only after he had denied that he would do it. Second, he has selected someone who may be able to recoup some of Russia's lost authority and influence in the West, a clear signal that Yeltsin still hopes to gain more Western aid even as he advances someone popular with many Russian nationalists at home. And third, Yeltsin has chosen someone with little experience in those areas--economics and domestic affairs--that a Russian prime minister is supposed to direct. This last fact makes it likely that Primakov will face fewer obstacles to being confirmed. After all, Duma factions, ranging from the communists to the reformers, are likely to believe they will be able to convince Primakov to advance their agendas. But precisely for that reason, Primakov's appointment may not affect the ways in which Moscow now conducts business. To the extent that proves the case, Primakov's appointment ultimately may not matter as much as some hope and others fear. The most obvious consequences of Primakov's appointment are likely to be in Moscow and the Russian Federation. Russian politicians of various stripes are already viewing Primakov's appointment as a victory for them or at least as a concession by Yeltsin to the growing power of the parliament. Moreover, his appointment is likely to attract new candidates for the race to succeed Yeltsin both because Primakov is not an obvious successor and because parliamentary deputies and governors undoubtedly feel themselves more important players in Russian politics than they did only a few weeks ago. And ordinary Russians are certain to welcome the appointment of Primakov, a man known for his toughness and staunch defense of Russian national interests. But even if these developments give Primakov a certain honeymoon in Moscow, they will not do anything to address Russia's economic collapse or the growing political disorder across the country as a whole. To address those problems, Primakov must not only craft a new set of policies but also reinvent the Russian government. Doing one or the other would be difficult for anyone. But having to do both at the same time almost certainly means that Primakov 's approach is likely to be an amalgam of various views, a pattern that has gotten Russia into trouble in the past and may get Primakov into trouble quicker than many expect. If the exact direction Primakov is likely to take domestically remains unclear, his approach to Russia's neighbors and to the West is certainly far clearer. Although Primakov has been foreign minister at a time when Russian power has declined in the former Soviet republics, he has been a forceful advocate of the view that Moscow must remain the dominant player in these countries. To the extent that he is able, he is certain to continue to advocate a tough approach to the neighbors. But Russia's weakness and Moscow's need to attract Western assistance may combine to force him to moderate his past approach. Perhaps Primakov's greatest role in the future will be one that he has already starred in: stoutly defending Russian national interests even while befriending Western leaders. Over his long career in the Middle East, as a Moscow think-tank head and as foreign minister, Primakov has pushed for a very forward Russian policy, one designed to take advantage of any Western weakness. Not surprisingly, many of his speeches and articles in the past have been openly anti-Western and anti- American. But despite this trend, Primakov has been remarkably successful in winning the friendship of Western leaders and gaining their confidence. Primakov's very public ties with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright are only the most recent example. And such attachments have allowed Primakov to obtain more assistance from the West than his views would seem to justify. Both he and Yeltsin clearly hope that Primakov will once again be able to work his magic, especially given the recent acknowledgment by Russian officials that they had lied about conditions there in order to gain Western aid. No Western leader wants Russia to fail. And consequently, the West is likely to respond more positively to a charm offensive by Primakov than it would have to any steps by a restored but rather dour Chernomyrdin. But unless Primakov can turn things around in Russia, an apparently Herculean task, he and his patron are likely to discover that Primakov's ability to woo Western leaders may not matter nearly as much as either man hopes. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. 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