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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 180, Part II, 17 September 1998
_________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 180, Part II, 17 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 SLOVAK SERVICE NEWS ONLINE Thousands are protesting staff firings at an independent TV station as elections approach. News texts in Slovak and all broadcasts are now available online. http://www.rferl.org/bd/sl/slovak/index-sl.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * KYIV CITY AUTHORITIES TO REIN IN PRICES ON STAPLE FOODS * ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT TO CONSIDER LIFTING BERISHA'S IMMUNITY * THOUSANDS MORE KOSOVARS FLEE SERBIAN ATTACKS End Note: MACEDONIAN ECONOMIC RECOVERY IMPERILED BY INTERNATIONAL CRISES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE TO USE WORLD BANK LOAN FOR PRIVATIZATION, BANKING REFORM. Roman Shpek, head of the Ukrainian National Agency for Development and European Integration, has said Ukraine will spend its World Bank loan on boosting privatization and restructuring the banking sector (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1998), dpa reported. Shpek called the World Bank loan "an extremely important decision that came at an extremely important time." He added that the loan underscored the World Bank's confidence in Ukrainian reforms. JM KYIV CITY AUTHORITIES TO REIN IN PRICES ON STAPLE FOODS. The Kyiv city administration has introduced limits on the prices on a number of staple foods produced by domestic firms, Reuters reported on 16 September. The decision prohibits increasing the retail price of bread by more than 15 percent above its wholesale price. Retail prices for oats, pasta, butter, and milk are not allowed to increase by more than 25 percent over their wholesale prices. The move intends to soften the impact on consumers of the de facto devaluation of the hryvnya earlier this month. JM BELARUSIAN PARENTS PROTEST INCREASING NUMBER OF RUSSIAN SCHOOLS. Some 200 parents and public activists rallied in Minsk on 16 September to protest the increasing use of Russian as the main language of instruction at Belarusian schools, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 16 September. The demonstrators pointed out that the number of Belarusian schools has fallen significantly under the presidency of Alyaksandr Lukashenka. In 1993, 58 percent of the first-graders in Minsk began their education in Belarusian, while in 1998 that figure had plummeted to 7 percent. The corresponding figures for Belarus as a whole are 76 and 28 percent. The protesters believe that the main reasons for the declining Belarusian-language education are the state policy of promoting education in Russian and the lack of Belarusian-language universities in Belarus. JM TALLINN STOCK EXCHANGE PLUNGES FOR SECOND DAY. The Tallinn stock exchange plunged for the second consecutive day on 16 September, resulting in a two-day combined loss of 17.8 percent of its value. Analysts attributed the fall to uncertainty over several major banking mergers and acquisitions taking place in Estonia, combined with the effects of the Russian economic crisis, according to dpa. A local dealer told ETA that the trend can be reversed only by renewed interest among foreign investors. JC RURAL PARTIES THREATEN TO FORM ELECTORAL BLOC WITH CENTER PARTY. Estonia's rural parties, which form the ruling coalition with the Coalition Party, are threatening to set up an electoral bloc with the Center Party unless the Coalition Party agrees to consider farmers' interests, ETA reported on 16 September. According to a member of the Center Party's parliamentary caucus, the Centrists are opposed to the idea but may review their position if a right-wing electoral bloc is formed for the March 1999 general elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1998). Leaders of the Coalition Party and the rural parties have been negotiating for several months about reviving their electoral bloc but have not yet reached an agreement. JC RUSSIAN BALTIC FLEET READY TO ACCEPT LITHUANIAN AID? Citing a Kaliningrad newspaper on 16 September, BNS reported that the Russian Baltic Fleet is ready to accept humanitarian aid from Lithuania. The head of the fleet's food service is quoted as saying that Lithuanian suppliers have sent food worth $1 million to the fleet but that the fleet has been unable to pay for those supplies because it is no longer receiving funds from Moscow. He said that the fleet will now accept humanitarian aid in order to settle its debt to Lithuanian suppliers. JC POLISH DAILY SLAMS 'CLUMSY' OFFER OF AID TO RUSSIA. The 16 September issue of "Rzeczpospolita" criticized the government for making a "clumsy" offer of food aid to Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1998). The offer, which the government published beforehand in the media, was to be officially made by Polish Interior Minister Janusz Tomaszewski during his 14-15 September visit to Moscow. Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin said after talks with Tomaszewski on 15 September that Russia does not need humanitarian aid from Poland. Tomaszewski hinted that the proposal of aid was not even discussed during his visit. "Rzeczpospolita" commented that if the proposal had been made with greater discretion and through official channels, it could have been viewed differently in Moscow. JM CZECH PRESIDENT WELCOMED AT WHITE HOUSE. Welcoming his Czech counterpart to the White house on 16 September, President Bill Clinton said that Vaclav Havel is a "voice of dazzling eloquence" for freedom and that the world "owes a great deal...to the inspiration provided by a single man...who for years spoke when it mattered, often at enormous personal costs." The two presidents discussed regional security issues, the Czech Republic's impending membership in NATO, the fight against terrorism, the Kosova crisis, and the situation in Russia, dpa reported. Havel told journalists at a joint press conference after the talks with Clinton that the economic and political situation in Russia in "complicated" and will probably still be so "in 50 and in 100 years." Despite the ongoing crisis in the country, he said he does not see "anything dangerous" in it and believes it is "better to have an ill Russia than a healthy Soviet Union." MS PROTESTS CONTINUE OVER DISMISSALS AT SLOVAK PRIVATE TV... Former President Michal Kovac, addressing a rally in Bratislava protesting the dismissal of staff at the private Markiza television station (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1998), praised the courage of the station's director-general, Pavol Rusko, and his colleagues, saying they showed the world that the country's citizens will not "give in to anti-democratic, mafia-like tactics," RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. The demonstrations began on 15 September and spread to other cities as well. Speakers for the opposition said the dismissals are aimed at stemming criticism of the HZDS just 10 days before the parliamentary elections. Premier Vladimir Meciar told a rally of his supporters on 15 September in Trnava that "the government is not involved in what is happening at Markiza." MS ...AS HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP ACCUSES STATE TV OF CAMPAIGN ABUSES. The Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation (IHF) said on 16 September that Slovak Television's pro-government bias in covering the elections has been "egregious." The human rights group cited the findings of the Memo 98 independent monitoring organization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 1998). The IHF said this kind of campaign coverage violates the European Convention on Human Rights and Slovakia's commitments to the UN and the OSCE. It also criticized Slovakia's failure to grant accreditation to some domestic and international observers who applied for it. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT TO CONSIDER LIFTING BERISHA'S IMMUNITY. The Albanian parliament announced on 16 September that it will discuss the issue of lifting former President Sali Berisha's immunity as a deputy, Reuters reported. Prime Minister Fatos Nano has accused Berisha of leading an attempt to overthrow the government and says he should be arrested. Spartak Braho, the head of the parliamentary commission investigating the case, said that Berisha will have the opportunity to appear before the full assembly and respond to the charges against him. Berisha called attempts to take legal action against opposition leaders "an act of madness." He said he does not want to "preserve any immunity" for himself "in this state without laws." Berisha repeated claims that Nano is responsible for the murder of Democratic Party deputy Azem Hajdari (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1998). PB NANO INSISTS ALBANIANS SUPPORT HIS GOVERNMENT. Albanian Premier Fatos Nano said on 16 September that the majority of Albanians consider his government to be "legitimate," AFP reported. Nano made his comments in response to calls from opposition leader Berisha for him to resign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1998). PB OPPOSITION DEFIES GOVERNMENT, HOLDS RALLY. A march by several thousand supporters of the opposition, led by Berisha, in Tirana on 16 September passed without incident, AFP reported. After police prevented the demonstrators from moving to the central Skanderbeg Square, a rally was held in front of the opposition Democratic Party headquarters. As many as seven people have died and 76 have been wounded in violence on the streets of Tirana since 13 September. Berisha described the Nano government as a "dictatorship" and called for a national day of protest to be held on 18 September. PB THOUSANDS MORE KOSOVARS FLEE SERBIAN ATTACKS. Several thousands of ethnic Albanians have left their homes northeast of Prishtina after the shelling of several villages by Serbian forces, AP reported on 16 September. Officials of the UN refugee agency said they saw houses burning in some of the villages. Renewed attacks in the central region of Drenica were also reported. There were no independent reports on casualties in either area. Northeast Kosova is considered to be one of the last refuges of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). PB HILL, TALBOTT AT NATO MEETING ON KOSOVA. U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill flew from Prishtina to Brussels on 16 September to brief NATO ambassadors on the situation in the Serbian province, Reuters reported. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott also attended the meeting. Hill, Washington's top envoy for Kosova, told officials that the continued military action by Serbian forces is complicating his efforts to forge a political accord aimed at ending the violence and allowing Kosova some form of interim autonomy. The UCK condemned Hill's attempts to secure the interim accord, saying it considers such an agreement "national treason." In London, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook ordered an immediate ban on Yugoslav airline flights to Britain, citing the "sharply deteriorating humanitarian situation" in Kosova. The U.K. had previously said it could not join an EU ban on such flights. PB HARD-LINE SERBIAN PARTIES DEMAND RELEASE OF PRELIMINARY RESULTS. The Bosnian Serb Radical Party and the Serbian Radical Party released a joint statement on 16 September calling on the OSCE to issue the preliminary results of the Bosnian general elections, Beta reported. "The results are known but [the] OSCE is silent," said the statement. The previous day, the OSCE canceled the planned release of preliminary results. OSCE spokeswoman Nicole Szulc said "the people have spoken in this country. Bosnia and the OSCE will respect what they said--regardless of what they said." She said final results will be issued in four to seven days. Several observers are predicting victories for hard-line candidates contesting many of the key posts. PB HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP CONDEMNS MONTENEGRO. The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch has criticized the Montenegrin government for not allowing ethnic Albanian refugees to remain in Montenegro, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 16 September. The organization said the closing of Montenegrin borders to the refugees in effect trapped them. She also condemned the expulsion of some 3,200 ethnic Albanians to Albania. In Sarajevo, the UNHCR said that about 3,000 refugees from Kosova have been registered and are being cared for in Bosnia-Herzegovina. A spokesman said that as many as 15,000 Kosovar Albanians have fled to Bosnia but that not all have registered with the authorities. PB OSCE OFFICIAL PRAISES, ENCOURAGES CROATIA. Tim Guldimann, the head of the OSCE mission in Croatia, said on 16 September that Zagreb had gained "positive momentum" both in its political development and in its cooperation with the international community, AP reported. Guldimann welcomed the steady return of Serbs to Croatia though he said the flow could be increased. He also said there is a severe need on the part of the government to reform state-controlled television and to rectify the parts of electoral legislation that favor the ruling party. Also in Zagreb, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman awarded former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher the Grand Order of King Dmitar Zvonimir for her contributions in helping secure the "establishment of a free and independent...Croatian state." PB ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON MINORITY IN UKRAINE. Andrei Plesu on 16 September appealed to journalists to display more "seriousness and responsibility" when reporting on the situation of the Romanian minority in Ukraine, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Referring to the campaign in the media on alleged infringements of that minority's rights, Plesu said reports are often "exaggerated, based on insufficient evidence, and even groundless." He said that the Romanian minority in Ukraine is "unfortunately divided into numerous rival factions" and that it was one of those groups that proposed changing the official designation of its language from "Romanian" to "Moldovan." The Ukrainian authorities, he noted, have not acted on that proposal. In other news, Valeriu Tabara, leader of the nationalist Party of Romanian National Unity, said on 16 September that Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban must be declared "persona non grata" in Romania for allegedly backing demands for Szekler autonomy in Transylvania. MS ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER STILL OPPOSED TO HELICOPTER DEAL. Daniel Daianu on 16 September said that his opposition to the deal with Bell Helicopters Textron is "unchanged." Daianu said the company's readiness to accept part of the payment in Romanian currency "does not reduce the deal's costs," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In other news, Romania on 16 September joined the EU boycott on flights to and from Yugoslavia. MS MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT BUREAU REJECTS NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION. The Permanent Bureau of the Moldovan parliament on 16 September voted against placing the no-confidence motion submitted by the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) on the legislature's agenda, the independent Flux agency reported. PCM deputy Viktor Zlachevsky said the decision was "arbitrary," as the initiative had met all the constitutional provisions on initiating a no-confidence motion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1998). MS MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT IN BULGARIA. Petru Lucinschi met with Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski, and parliamentary chairman Yordan Sokolov in Sofia on 16 September, the independent Moldovan Infotag agency reported. The previous day, Lucinschi and President Petar Stoyanov signed agreements on avoiding double taxation as well as on cooperation in transportation, fighting organized crime, terrorism prevention. MS FIRST TRANSPORT OF KOZLODUY NUCLEAR WASTE LEAVES BULGARIA. The first train carrying nuclear waste from the Kozloduy plant left Bulgaria on 16 September, Infotag reported. The cargo will be transferred to a special vessel on the River Danube and will transit Moldovan and Ukrainian territory en route to Russia. The four countries had agreed to the transit in agreements signed several months ago. The Moldovan parliament approved the transit after an acrimonious debate last month. In other news, the Bulgarian parliament on 16 September approved an article in a draft law that would ban tobacco advertising from radio and television and through sponsorship of televised sports events. The ban is part of a law restricting the advertising of addictive substances, including alcohol, which the parliament expects to finalize later this year, AP reported. END NOTE MACEDONIAN ECONOMIC RECOVERY IMPERILED BY INTERNATIONAL CRISES Michael Wyzan This year has finally seen an invigorated Macedonian economy, with industrial production up by 9.3 percent during January-July relative to the same period in 1997, and gross domestic product (GDP) projected to rise by 5 percent this year. Such rapid growth follows an unusually prolonged stagnation. GDP declined from independence in 1991 through 1995, before rising by only 0.8 percent in 1996 and 1.5 percent in 1997. At the end of last year, GDP was less than 73 percent of the 1990 level. Inflation is virtually nonexistent, with retail prices rising by a mere 0.85 percent in the year to August 1998, far below the 4.6 percent achieved in 1997 and the 3 percent projected for 1998 (both figures for December-to-December). The money supply, broadly defined, grew by 21 percent in the year to March 1998, after falling by 1.4 percent in the preceding 12 months. The combination of faster money growth and slower inflation is a good sign, showing that Macedonians are increasingly willing to hold onto denars. The government budget remains nearly balanced. The government attributes this year's strong revenue performance to the improved economy, a reduction in tax rates (which has decreased the incentive for tax evasion), and improved tax administration. The economic upturn is one of the reasons for a widening of the trade deficit from $147 million in the first half of 1997 to $260 million in January-June 1998: imports rose from $723 million to $890 million over this period, while exports increased only from $576 million to $630 million. This trend is worth watching, since it may suggest a growing current account deficit, which was $277 million, a relatively high 7.3 percent of GDP, in 1997. However, the IMF argues that the current account imbalance is overstated because of under-reporting of remittances from abroad. One sector of the economy that, at least as of the end of 1997, shows no signs of improvement is the labor market. Unemployment rose from 175,526 in November 1993 to 257,666 in December 1997. A labor force survey in April 1997 found a staggering 36 percent unemployment rate. This year, the government has yet to publish unemployment data, although the MILS news agency has reported a figure of 268,900 for March. Considerable publicity has been given to a 1997 law on employment creation, which went into effect on 1 January. That law, among other things, exempts employers from paying social insurance contributions for new workers hired. The IMF's executive board approved in mid-June release of the second annual loan (worth $24 million) under a three- year, $73.2 million facility agreed to in November 1996. The fund noted the progress made on macroeconomic stabilization but stressed the need to promote share trading and encourage ownership of enterprises by outsiders, tighten prudential regulation of banks, introduce a value-added tax, remove barriers to trade and foreign investment, and increase social assistance payments and better target them at the needy. Business circles are less happy with the situation than the IMF, concerned about the high level of enterprise illiquidity, which they blame on the high interest rates charged by banks. The average rate charged on bank credits in 1997 was 21.4 percent, while inflation was in the low single digits. The national bank has kept rates high in order to defend the denar's fixing to the German mark and encourage capital inflows. The debate in Macedonia about whether another devaluation of the denar is necessary (the national currency was devalued by 14 percent against the German mark in July 1997) will be reinvigorated by the first half's foreign trade figures and by the reverberations of the crises in Russia and East Asia. Further, the Chamber of Commerce is asking for antidumping measures to protect the economy from cheap imports from countries whose exchange rates have plummeted. Macedonia's newfound economic dynamism is fragile for reasons beyond macroeconomics and international finance. General elections are scheduled for 18 October, with polls putting the nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) and its coalition partners well ahead of the Social-Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM). The formerly communist SDSM has ruled Macedonia in coalition with other parties, including one representing ethnic Albanians, since independence. The SDSM's economic policy is highly regarded--at least by the IMF--and has been implemented by a stable group of technocrats, some of whom are ethnic Albanian, including Finance Minister Taki Fiti. A government led by the VMRO- DPMNE would mean wholesale personnel changes, bringing in inexperienced officials and probably ending the practice of awarding ministries to ethnic Albanians. With the turmoil in Kosova continuing, and the Kosova Liberation Army putting down deeper roots in Macedonia, this is the most alarming prospect of all. The author is a research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria. 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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