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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 177, Part II, 14 September 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 177, Part II, 14 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 * LUKASHENKA DECREES SALES LIMITS * SITUATION IN TIRANA SPINS 'OUT OF CONTROL' * BOSNIA VOTES WITHOUT SERIOUS INCIDENTS End Note: THE PASSING OF A GIANT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE KUCHMA WELCOMES PRIMAKOV'S APPOINTMENT. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has welcomed the appointment of Yevgenii Primakov as Russian prime minister, Interfax reported on 12 September. Kuchma said at a meeting with the Luhansk Oblast administration that he has already congratulated Primalov on his confirmation by the State Duma and wished him "success and robust health." Kuchma also confirmed that his meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin will go ahead on 18-19 September but will take place in Moscow, not in Kharkiv, as planned. JM UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT BANS PRIVATIZATION OF DISTILLERIES. The Ukrainian Supreme Council on 11 September banned the privatization of distilleries by vetoing a corresponding decree signed by President Kuchma earlier this year, AP reported. The veto, supported by 236 deputies in the 450-seat legislature, will frustrate the government's hopes to raise 300 million hryvni ($120 million) from the privatization of 73 out of a total of 168 distilleries still not privatized. JM LUKASHENKA DECREES SALES LIMITS. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree authorizing official limits on the sale of staple food and consumer products, ITAR-TASS and AP reported on 12 September. Under the decree, the oblast authorities may set sales limits and impose fines of up to 100 minimum wages (some $450) on traders who violate those limits. The decree also provides for the confiscation of goods exported to Russia in "violation of the established procedure." The presidential administration commented that the decree is temporary and aims at stopping the current run on shops. In the wake of Russia's market, collapse the Belarusian ruble has plunged and consumers have emptied store shelves in anticipation of further price rises. JM BELARUS WANTS UNION WITH RUSSIA, DESPITE CRISIS. Mikhail Myasnikovich, Lukashenka's chief of staff, said on 11 September that Belarus's policy of unification with Russia has justified itself "both economically and politically," Interfax reported on 11 September. Myasnikovich added that the current crisis will not slow down unification but may "even speed it up." In Myasnikovich's opinion, the main issues needing urgent consideration are Belarus-Russia union citizenship and a directly elected joint parliament. JM BELARUSIAN LEFT-WING PARTIES FORM UNION. Some 30 Belarusian left-wing parties and public organizations formed the Popular Patriotic Union at a congress in Minsk on 12 September, ITAR- TASS reported. The leading members of the new union are the pro-Lukashenka Communist Party of Belarus, the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus, the Slavic Assembly "Belaya Rus," and the Union of Reserve Officers. Communist Party leader Viktar Chykin told the agency that the union will support Lukashenka in the next presidential elections. The congress adopted an appeal to the Belarusian authorities to hold a nationwide referendum in June 1999 on confidence in President Lukashenka and leaders of the opposition. JM FITCH IBCA SAYS LATVIA CAN WITHSTAND RUSSIAN CRISIS. The Fitch IBCA international rating agency believes that Latvia is strong enough to withstand the Russian financial crisis but that its economic growth could be 2 percentage points lower than the 6 percent projected in June, BNS reported. The agency said that while Latvian banks face heavy losses owing to their exposure to Russia, they are "sufficiently well capitalized and liquid" to absorb losses on their Russian assets. It also pointed out that prudent fiscal and monetary policies since 1995 provide "the flexibility to cope with such external shocks." Fitch IBCA gave Latvia a BBB long-term foreign currency rating in June. JC LITHUANIA FORMS TEAM TO MONITOR KALININGRAD SITUATION. Vilnius has set up a team to monitor the situation in neighboring Kaliningrad Oblast amid the ongoing economic crisis in Russia, BNS reported on 11 September. According to the Lithuanian President's Office, the team will receive information from the Lithuanian consulate in Kaliningrad "and other sources." While the Kaliningrad authorities have not appealed for assistance, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas said "appeals have been received at other levels regarding aid to hospitals and other institutions." The Lithuanian government recently announced it has put aside possible humanitarian aid to Kaliningrad worth 5 million litas ($1.25 million). JC POLAND TO OFFER FOOD AID TO RUSSIA. A Polish government spokesman on 11 September said that Poland is ready to offer food aid to crisis-stricken Russia, Reuters reported on 11 September. Polish Interior Minister Janusz Tomaszewski plans to discuss the issue during his visit to Moscow on 14 September. The spokesman added that if accepted, the aid would most likely be directed to neighboring Kaliningrad Oblast. ITAR-TASS reported on 13 September that Tomaszewski is to seek to "trade" food aid for access to Russian archival materials in order to determine the fate of Poles repressed on Soviet territory. According to the agency, the goods Poland proposes to dispatch to Russia include meat, grain, potatoes, and honey. JM KINKEL PLAYS DOWN EXPELLEES' CLAIMS AGAINST POLAND. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said in Krakow on 11 September that Poland can still count on Germany as an advocate on the road to European structures, PAP reported on 11 September. Referring to the suggestions of Germany's Union of Expellees that Poland's EU membership should be conditional on Warsaw's meeting their claims (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 9 September 1998), Kinkel said Germany does not intend to burden negotiations with issues of the past. He stressed that the majority of the expellees distance themselves from radical factions and support the policy of reconciliation and good-neighborly relations between Germany and Poland. JM CEFTA MEMBERS MEET IN PRAGUE. The heads of government of member countries of the Central European Free Trade Agreement met in Prague on 11 September and agreed to set up a sub- committee on agricultural trade to help solve trade disputes. Poland and Romania recently imposed taxes on agricultural imports from Hungary, and Slovakia announced at the meeting that it will impose a 70 percent levy on grain imports from Hungary. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban responded that this "far exceeded" CEFTA norms and that Hungary will complain to the World Trade Organization. Orban expressed support for a Czech initiative to give CEFTA a "political dimension" along the line of the Visegrad accords, but Romanian Prime Minister Radu Vasile opposed such a move. Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar said he would oppose any move to have CEFTA discuss political matters in 1999, when the organization's presidency is taken over by Hungary. MS ZEMAN MEETS WITH MECIAR. Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and his Slovak counterpart, Vladimir Meciar, briefly met on 12 September and agreed that a joint committee aimed at settling differences between their countries will start working this week. Meciar said that settling "political and economic differences" with the Czech Republic is a "priority" for Slovakia, TASR reported. In an interview with TASR on 11 September, Zeman said that the premiers of the two countries should meet at least twice a year and that "if we want to achieve 'above-average relations' we should first strive to establish 'standard relations.'" He said he will make his first visit to Bratislava after the Slovak parliamentary elections. MS CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES 1999 DEFICIT BUDGET. For the first time since 1989, the Czech government on 13 September approved a deficit budget. Premier Zeman said the 26.8 billion crowns ($878.7 million) deficit is aimed at stimulating economic growth in a situation of "economic crisis." It is unclear whether the parliament, where the government is in the minority, will approve the budget. According to the law, the draft must be submitted to the legislature by the end of this month. MS MECIAR PROMISES 'HIGHEST STANDARDS OF DEMOCRACY' IN ELECTIONS. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, speaking at a rally in eastern Slovakia on 13 September, said the general elections on 25-26 September will be "free and fair" and that he will "respect" their results. Meciar said that the "talk in Europe about Slovak lack of democracy will definitely come to an end" after the poll, Reuters reported. On 11 September, the Electoral Commission rejected applications by the Slovak Association for Just Elections, the U.S. National Democratic Institute, and the International Republican Institute for their observers to be accredited. OSCE mission head in Slovakia Kare Vollan told RFE/RL that the decision was "unwise" and that the OSCE regrets that Slovakia is refusing to "enhance the transparency" of the ballot. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE GUNMEN KILL ALBANIAN OPPOSITION LEGISLATOR. Unidentified gunmen shot and killed Democratic Party legislator Azem Hajdari and his bodyguard in front of the party's Tirana headquarters on 12 September. Interior Minister Perikli Teta told state television the next day that the authorities consider the killing to be either a political assassination or connected with a blood feud. The government posted a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to the arrest of the killers. The BBC reported that the murder may have been linked to Hajdari's possible involvement in arms trafficking to Kosova. On 3 June, Hajdari escaped an assassination attempt in his hometown of Bajram Curri, which is near the border with Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 1998). FS OPPOSITION DEMANDS GOVERNMENT'S RESIGNATION. Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha in Tirana on 13 September blamed Hajdari's killing on Prime Minister Fatos Nano and gave the government an ultimatum to resign within 24 hours or face "catastrophic consequences." Berisha said Nano "committed a historical mistake by organizing such a murder," adding that "this is a direct criminal act of the government." Former parliamentary speaker Pjeter Arbnori called for the government to be overthrown, saying "dumping Nano would be the best revenge for the assassination of Hajdari." The government issued a statement denouncing the killing and saying Hajdari's murder is "a great loss for democracy." It called on all political parties to refrain from violence. FS PROTESTERS SET PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE ABLAZE. Some 2,000 Democratic Party supporters stormed the government's offices in Tirana on 13 September and set fire to the ground floor and nearby cars. Nano and several other ministers fled their offices amid a hail of gunfire. One protester was killed and four guards were wounded in the shoot-out. After the riots, Berisha appealed for calm in the runup to the funeral of Hajdari the following day. Some 2,000 Democrats held a peaceful mourning ceremony in central Skanderbeg Square at which the bodies of Hajdari and his bodyguard were displayed. Near the Democratic stronghold of Kavaja, protesters blocked Albania's main north-south road and stormed the local police station. FS SITUATION IN TIRANA SPINS 'OUT OF CONTROL.' Nano appealed to Albanians in a state television interview on 14 September to reject "attempts [by the Democrats] to seize power by force." Later that morning, shooting broke out between protesters outside Nano's offices and persons inside after the protesters had tried to bring Hajdari's coffin into the building. Guards sent Democratic supporters fleeing amid a hail of bullets, wounding at least three demonstrators. Protesters then threw several grenades into the building, causing explosions. Democratic supporters seized a tank and drove it toward Skanderbeg Square. AP wrote that the situation in Tirana is "spinning out of control." A local journalist told RFE/RL that opposition forces have seized the state television building. FS INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY CALLS FOR CALM. OSCE Ambassador to Albania Daan Everts called Hajdari's killing "atrocious" but added that "there is no excuse to react with violence." Everts stressed that "the government should be allowed to pursue the case with vigor," adding that Berisha "cannot make ultimatums, this is [a] democracy." The U.S. embassy in Tirana, the EU Presidency, and the Italian government issued separate statements urging Albanians to cease threatening violence and calling on the authorities to bring Hajdari's killers to justice. FS UN APPEALS TO MONTENEGRO NOT TO DEPORT YUGOSLAV FELLOW CITIZENS. A spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in Geneva on 14 September that the UNHCR has "appealed to Montenegro to keep its borders open" lest the refugee problem become worse, AP reported. The previous day, Montenegrin authorities deported to Albania some 3,200 Kosovars who had arrived in the Plav area on 11 September. Montenegrin authorities said in Podgorica on 12 September that the republic cannot afford to take in additional refugees from Kosova, who already make up more than 11 percent of Montenegro's population, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. A spokesman for the UNHCR said in Prishtina on 13 September that an additional 3,000 Kosovars are waiting near the Montenegrin border to cross into that republic but that the Montenegrins have closed the frontier. On 11 September, Serbian troops and paramilitary police dispersed some 40,000 Kosovars from their makeshift camp near Decan. PM NATO LAUNCHES MANEUVERS IN MACEDONIA. Troops from 26 countries began exercises under NATO leadership in Macedonia on 12 September. U.S. General Wesley Clark, who is the Atlantic alliance's supreme commander in Europe, said in Krivolak, Macedonia, that the purpose of the maneuvers is to "demonstrate NATO's capabilities" by simulating the evacuation of Western diplomats and civilians under wartime conditions. Clark added: "The whole world is watching [the developments in Kosova] and it is inevitable that some conclusions can be made, but this exercise has nothing to do" with the crisis in Kosova. Macedonian Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski said that the maneuvers "demonstrate [NATO's] clear interest in maintaining peace in a region that is of extreme interest today." PM BOSNIA VOTES WITHOUT SERIOUS INCIDENTS... More than 70 percent of Bosnia-Herzegovina's registered voters cast their ballots on 12-13 September at polling stations in the Republika Srpska, the mainly Croatian and Muslim federation, and at special refugee voting centers in Croatia and federal Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The OSCE, which supervised the election, also allowed Bosnian refugees in other countries to cast absentee votes by mail. Some polling stations in Bosnia failed to open on time on 12 September owing to computer problems or because complete voting lists had not arrived. The OSCE and local authorities quickly overcame the problems, and voting proceeded smoothly the following day. In contrast to the 1996 general elections, voting took place without any reports of violence. Inconclusive first results have begun to trickle in. OSCE officials expect the final tally to be available around 23 September. PM ...AMID PRAISE FROM INTERNATIONAL C0MMUNITY. In Banja Luka on 13 September, Bosnian Serb authorities detained a Sarajevo- based television crew for two hours for filming the office of Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic without permission. Robert Barry, who is the OSCE's chief official supervising the vote, called the detention of the journalists "outrageous" and promised to investigate the incident, AP reported. Barry added, however, that the voting was "the most successful" election in Bosnia since the Dayton agreement was signed at the end of 1995. Carlos Westendorp, who is the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, called the election "a great day for democracy." Robert Gelbard, who is President Bill Clinton's special envoy to the former Yugoslavia, said that the voting was "free and fair," adding that "no election process is perfect." He expressed concern, however, that posters depicting indicted war criminals appeared in some Croatian or Serbian areas, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM CROATIA SUSPENDS POLICE OFFICIALS. Interior Minister Ivan Penic said in Zagreb on 11 September that he has suspended Sibenik's chief of police and two deputy chiefs following the death of an Italian tourist in that Adriatic city on 6 September. Seven policemen, who have since been arrested, had badly beaten the tourist, whom they said "disturbed the peace and interfered with traffic." AP wrote on 11 September that the incident was "the worst case of police violence" in Croatia in recent memory. Foreign Minister Mate Granic telephoned his Italian counterpart, Lamberto Dini, to discuss the incident. PM RADICAL WING OF HUNGARIAN ETHNIC PARTY DEMANDS 'DUAL CITIZENSHIP'... The Szeklers' Forum, convened in Cernatul de Jos on 12 September by Laszlo Tokes, honorary chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), criticized the performance of the UDMR leadership and demanded the right to "dual citizenship" for members of the Hungarian ethnic minority. The forum also passed a resolution that the Romanian-language media described as a demand for the territorial autonomy of the Szekler counties. The resolution, however, makes no mention of those counties and speaks of autonomy in line with "the subsidiary principles" of "Western practice on local autonomy and self-government." The forum also demanded the return to the Hungarian community of confiscated Church property and the "reinstitution" of a Hungarian state university in Cluj. And it protested attempts to "militarize" counties inhabited by ethnic Hungarians and "change their population structure." MS ...AS UDMR LEADER DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM RESOLUTIONS. UDMR chairman Marko Bela has said that the Cernatul de Jos gathering was " not statutory" and that the relatively low attendance shows that the bulk of UDMR members do not identify with criticism by Tokes's wing. Marko said it is "up to the Hungarian government" to discuss the "dual citizenship" proposal, adding that he himself would not ask for that status. He added that some of the forum's demands already figure in the UDMR's program and Tokes's wing must "show how to implement them more specifically." On 11 September, European Commissioner Hans van den Broek, said in a statement that he has "encouraged" the Romanian government to find "alternative means" to satisfy the Hungarians' demands. He also denied that he views "muliculturalism" as the only way to meet those demands. MS MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT URGES QUICKER PACE OF REFORM. The parliament on 12 September passed a resolution saying that the speeding up of reforms in the economic sector and in public administration is "the only way out" of the present economic and social crisis. The resolution added that Moldova abides by "democratic values" and that its objective is to "achieve integration into European and international structures." The legislature empowered the government to take measures in coordination with the National Bank to ensure the country's "financial and economic stability." It also said that the government must speed up the privatization of state enterprises and of the energy sector, balance the budget by "renouncing the harmful practice of increasing the public debt," and restructure the state administration. On 11 September, Deputy Premier Ion Sturdza told the legislature that the budget can no longer withstand the effects the Russian economic crisis, estimating lost revenues at 300 million lei ($60 million). MS END NOTE THE PASSING OF A GIANT by Paul Goble Estonian Ambassador Ernst Jaakson will be buried in New York today in a ceremony certain to be like the man himself: modest, dignified, and symbolic of issues larger than any individual. Following his death on 5 September, Mr. Jaakson--as he was universally known--garnered tributes from around the world focusing on his remarkable diplomatic career, which extended from 1919 until his death. That record of unbroken service--first as a translator for Estonia's ambassador in Riga, then as an Estonian consul in the U.S. before and during the Soviet occupation, and finally as Estonian ambassador to Washington and the United Nations--will never be equaled. But in many ways, Mr. Jaakson's length of service--some 79 years--is far less significant than the way in which he filled it. A man of genuine modesty, Mr. Jaakson never confused himself with the cause he represented, nor did he place his own interests above those of his country. Indeed, when he published his memoirs a few years ago, many readers were disappointed that he had included so few details about himself, focusing instead on the great events through which he lived. But as Mr. Jaakson would have told them, that was precisely the point of his life. He represented Estonia when it was a small country far away from the United States. He represented it during the long years when it was occupied by the Soviet Union and when few thought it would ever be free again. And Mr. Jaakson lived to represent it once Estonia recovered its independence in 1991. Consequently, for many in both Estonia and the West, to an important degree Mr. Jaakson was Estonia precisely because he invariably subordinated himself to its cause. A man of enormous dignity, Mr. Jaakson performed all the duties he was given with integrity, good manners, and charm. During the long years of the Soviet occupation when Baltic representatives in the West were often the object of curiosity or humorous dismissal, Mr. Jaakson commanded universal respect. And he did so not peremptorily but by his personal authority. Even those inclined to dismiss the Baltic cause often went away from meetings with him convinced that indeed Estonia and her Baltic neighbors would be free again. And when Estonia and her neighbors were working together to recover their independence, Mr. Jaakson's personal authority was such that presidents, prime ministers, and secretaries of state always listened to him. Compared with his two Baltic colleagues in Washington, Mr. Jaakson said relatively little in public or private. But when he spoke, often after all the others, his interlocutors knew that they had heard the voice of someone special. Mr. Jaakson helped guide the Estonian people and their leaders toward regaining independence, and he helped to provide them--always gently but firmly--in learning how to interact with the rest of the world once they achieved it. Finally, Mr. Jaakson was a symbol. Throughout his career and especially during the darkest days of Soviet occupation, he was called Mr. Estonia. More recently, as Estonia moved to recover its independence, many referred to him as "the conscience of Estonia," the man who kept the Estonian dream alive at a time when so many gave up. Indeed, and in recognition of this special status, he is the only Estonian official other than the pre-war presidents to have a bust in the Estonian presidential palace at Kadriorg. And most recently, he has been characterized as the "legendary" diplomat because of his unparalleled length of service. But Mr. Jaakson was more than that. He was a symbol of another age, a time when personal integrity was paramount, when self-sacrifice to a greater cause was the ideal, and when diplomats made their mark by long years of work, rather than by flashy media plays. As all those who knew him will confirm, Mr. Jaakson was a giant not only among diplomats or among Estonians. He was a giant among human beings. Those who knew him were privileged; they know how rare a man Mr. Jaakson was. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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