|A host is like general: calamities often reveal his genius. - Horace|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 182, Part II, 21 September 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 182, Part II, 21 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 * UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ASKS KUCHMA TO ABOLISH BUDGET CUTS * EUROPEAN OFFICIALS BLAME BERISHA FOR CRISIS * HUMAN RIGHTS ENVOY CALLS FOR END TO SERBIAN ATTACKS IN KOSOVA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS IRAN FAVORS CLOSER TIES WITH CIS. A spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Moscow told Interfax on 18 September that Tehran has "sought ways to expand former areas of cooperation" with CIS states ever since that body was set up. Speaking in Minsk on 15 September at the second session of the inter-state commission to discuss CIS reform, CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii argued that there is huge unexplored potential for expanding relations with Iran. Berezovskii reasoned that Iran falls within the orbit of interests of almost all CIS states and that it would therefore be logical to develop cooperation with Iran within the framework of the CIS, according to "Vremya-MN" on 17 September. LF EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ASKS KUCHMA TO ABOLISH BUDGET CUTS. The Ukrainian Supreme Council on 18 September voted by 259 to 28 in favor of a non-binding resolution asking President Leonid Kuchma to annul a decree that introduced spending cuts in the 1998 budget, AP reported. Kuchma's decree was issued in August to meet IMF requirements for granting a $2.2 billion loan to Ukraine. It slashed budget expenditures by 20 percent, bringing the budget deficit down from 3.3 to 2.5 percent of GDP. If Kuchma does not rescind the decree, the parliament threatens to consider whether he exceeded his presidential powers. The parliamentary resolution testifies to the recent increase in tensions between the legislature and the government. Earlier last week, the Supreme Council overrode Kuchma's veto on its law banning an increase in payments for public utilities and transportation. JM LUKASHENKA AWARDS CARS FOR TOP HARVEST PERFORMANCE... Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has awarded new Lada cars to the country's 12 most successful harvest-combine operators and new official cars to six collective farm managers and six regional leaders in the town of Nyasvizh, AP reported. Some 10,000 people gathered in Nyasvizh on 19 September to celebrate the end of the summer harvest. "You saved the country. You secured its security, at a minimum, for the next two to three years," AP quoted him as saying to the prize winners. Lukashenka added that in view of the economic difficulties suffered by other countries, Belarus appears to have chosen "the most optimal course of social and economic policies." Lukashenka repeated his pledge to help crisis-stricken Russia, despite the fact that Belarus has harvested only 5 million tons of grain, instead of the planned 6 million tons. JM ...SAYS HE SHARES VIEWS WITH PRIMAKOV. Lukashenka told journalists at Nyasvizh that he and Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov have shared views "on many issues" in the past and are likely to continue to share them, Interfax reported on 19 September. He added that Primakov was a staunch supporter of the plan for Russian-Belarusian unification when it was ready for implementation two years ago. According to Lukashenka, Primakov "was nearly removed from the government" for his pro-unification stance. He warned that those opposed to the union are taking all possible steps to limit Primakov's influence. JM ANTANOVICH SUGGESTS RETURN OF POLISH AMBASSADOR TO DRAZDY... Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich told Polish Radio on 18 September that Polish Ambassador Marian Malyszkiewicz will be able to return to his residence once maintenance work at the Drazdy residential compound is completed. The entire compound is now divided into two sections: Drazdy 1, which includes the residences of President Lukashenka and the ambassadors of France, Germany, and the U.S., and Drazdy 2, in which the Polish ambassador's residence is located. JM ...SHOWS SURPRISE OVER VISIT BY POLISH PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES. Antanovich also said he is astonished that an official delegation of the Polish parliament had visited Minsk without notifying the Belarusian government in advance, Polish Radio reported. That visit ended on 18 September. "We are offended by the fact that a high-level delegation from Poland is in our country behind the back of the republic's government, apparently covertly," he commented. The radio station reported that the Polish delegation met with representatives of the Polish minority and local authorities but avoided meeting with the parliamentary National Minorities Commission, which is not recognized by the West. JM ESTONIA'S SIIMANN RE-ELECTED AS HEAD OF COALITION PARTY. The ruling Coalition Party has re-elected Prime Minister Mart Siimann as its chairman, ETA reported. Addressing delegates to a party congress on 20 September, Siimann said the Coalition Party will have the best chance of success at the March 1999 elections if it continues its electoral alliance with the Rural Union. He asked the party to authorize him to hold talks on continuing cooperation with the rural parties and on seeking to have the Progressive Party join the electoral alliance. Siimann predicted that if the Coalition Party runs alone in the elections, it will garner at best 10- 12 seats, down from 17 at present. Such a result, he continued, would mean the Coalition Party could be a junior partner in a coalition government. "But it is more likely that we would be left on the bench as punishment for ruling for four years, he commented. JC LATVIAN PRESIDENT TO DECIDE ON ANNOUNCING PENSION LAW AMENDMENTS. Guntis Ulmanis must decide this week whether to sign amendments to the state pension law that were recently passed by the parliament, BNS reported. Welfare Minister Vladimirs Makarovs submitted his resignation on 17 September over the amendments, which he described as "unfeasible" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 1998). Together with Prime Minister Guntars Krasts and officials from the Pensioners' Federation, Makarovs is to ask Ulmanis not to sign the amendments. JC LITHUANIA, GAZPROM DISCUSS CONSTRUCTING GAS PIPELINE. The Lithuanian government and the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom are holding talks on constructing a new natural gas pipeline through Lithuania to Kaliningrad Oblast, Bloomberg reported on 21 September. Lithuanian Economy Minister Vincas Babilius is quoted as saying that Vilnius plans to build the pipeline and wants Gazprom to guarantee gas deliveries. Gazprom plans to increase annual gas supplies to the oblast to 2.5 billion cubic meters by 2005 and 3 billion cubic meters by 2010. JC WALESA SET TO MAKE COMEBACK? Former Polish President Lech Walesa has been elected chairman of the Christian Democracy of the Third Polish Republic, a right-wing party that he founded a year ago to draw on support from those who are reluctant to vote. "More than 50 percent of the people do not take part in elections. I want to fill this gap and give people the opportunity of voting for the Right," PAP quoted him as saying at the party congress in Warsaw on 18 September. The platform of Walesa's party calls for "Europe as a fatherland of nations" and backs freedom, justice, and solidarity, as well as turning the Polish Armed Forces into a professional army. The party's first challenge will be the local elections on 11 October. Walesa told the congress that he will consider running for president in 2000 if no one else appears capable of beating ex-communist Aleksander Kwasniewski. JM POLAND REFUSES TO LAUNCH INVESTIGATION INTO RUSSIAN POWS. Polish Justice Minister and Prosecutor-General Hanna Suchocka has refused to start an investigation into the death of Russian prisoners in Poland's prisoner camps during the Polish-Bolshevik war of 1919-21, Polish Radio reported on 18 September. The investigation was requested by Russian Prosecutor-General Yurii Chaika, who maintained that Poles murdered more than 80,000 Russians in what he described as concentration camps. According to Suchocka, the case has been adequately clarified earlier by copies of documents Poland has handed over to Russia. She said that a maximum of18,000 Russian prisoners died in Polish camps primarily because of the "harsh circumstances in the country, exhausted by war and suffering from hunger and epidemics. But it was not as a result of a special action undertaken by the Polish authorities." JM HAVEL SAYS BORDER WITH SLOVAKIA MUST NOT BE 'CIVILIZATION BARRIER.' President Vaclav Havel on 18 September told journalists in Washington that his country's border with Slovakia must not be turned into a "civilization barrier" and that the Czech Republic wants Slovakia to be a member of the "same structures and organizations" that Prague is about to join, CTK reported. He said he would like Slovakia to respect the values of the "civilized Western world" but "unfortunately, there are many reasons for concern." Havel expressed the hope that the Slovak elections at the end of September will produce a result that "would perhaps make us feel less worried." Havel returned to Prague on 19 September. MS CZECH PREMIER MEETS SLOVAK OPPOSITION LEADER. Milos Zeman met with Peter Weiss, leader of the Slovak opposition Party of the Democratic Left, in Prague on 18 September, CTK reported. Zeman said after the meeting that he invited Weiss to Prague in "a gesture of pre-election solidarity" that must not be interpreted as "meddling in other countries' affairs." Zeman said it is "absolutely normal" for two European parties that have "a similar ideology to offer electoral support before a ballot." MS MECIAR VOWS TO QUIT POLITICS IF HE LOSES ELECTIONS. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar on 18 September said he will quit politics if he loses the elections scheduled for 25-26 September, Reuters reported citing TASR. Meciar added that he would not agree to head a minority government and "would not even serve as a doorman" in such a cabinet. Also on 18 September, Pavol Kanis, deputy chairman of the opposition Party of the Democratic Left, said Meciar has "buried any possibility of cooperation with other political parties." MS AGENCY LOWERS SLOVAKIA'S RATING. Standard & Poor's, one of the world's leading rating agencies, has lowered its ratings for Slovakia to "double B plus", citing lingering political tensions and inconsistent economic policies, an RFE/RL correspondent in London reported on 18 September. A report released by the agency says Slovak stability is "vulnerable" to the turmoil on international capital markets and to developments on the domestic political scene. MS HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER IN ITALY. Visiting Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 18 September told his Italian counterpart, Romano Prodi, that Hungary wants Vojvodina to have the same degree of autonomy that Italy proposes for resolving the crisis in Kosova. After meeting with Pope John Paul II, Orban told journalists that the new Hungarian government wants to deepen cooperation between state and Church rather than separate them. He said some of the provisions of an agreement that the previous government and the Holy See signed are incompatible with Hungary's judicial system. In order to resolve the matter, Hungary and the Vatican will set up a joint committee, Orban said. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE EUROPEAN OFFICIALS BLAME BERISHA FOR CRISIS. Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, in his capacity as chairman of the OSCE, held talks with Albanian officials and opposition leader Sali Berisha in Tirana on 19 September, Reuters reported. After meeting separately with President Rexhep Mejdani, Premier Fatos Nano, and Berisha, Geremek said the OSCE fully supports Mejdani in his efforts "to find a political solution" to the crisis. Geremek urged Berisha to participate in those efforts. Nano said he will "not cooperate with crime and its promoters." Greek Foreign Ministry official George Papandreou, representing the Council of Europe, told Berisha that his actions have "undermined democratic institutions." He warned Berisha that he could be internationally isolated. French President Jacques Chirac said any effort to oust Nano by force is "unacceptable." PB BERISHA'S CRUSADE CONTINUES... Berisha said on 20 September that his Democratic Party (DP) is severing all contacts with the Socialists, including those at the local level, dpa reported. Berisha also said the DP is setting up a National Front for the Rejection of the Communist Neodictatorship in Albania. He said it will include all organizations and individuals "willing to oppose the government with non- violent means." A few thousand DP supporters attended a memorial service on 19 September for slain DP deputy Azem Hajdari, whose death triggered the recent crisis. The government announced that a $200,000 reward is being offered for information resulting in the arrest of Hajdari's killers. The government also ordered a purge of any government officials that assisted in the failed putsch. PB ...AS HIS IMMUNITY IS LIFTED. The Albanian parliament on 18 September voted overwhelmingly to remove opposition leader Berisha's immunity as a deputy, dpa reported. With Democratic Party members boycotting the vote, the 108 remaining deputies all voted for the measure. Western officials have warned the government that arresting Berisha could escalate the crisis. Berisha seemed unfazed by the vote and said he is not "scared of being arrested" and will continue his fight "from whichever cell" they put him in. Meanwhile, in a gesture to the DP, justice officials released four of the six DP officials arrested last month for their alleged roles in the country's turmoil last year. They are being held under house arrest. PB HUMAN RIGHTS ENVOY CALLS FOR END TO SERBIAN ATTACKS IN KOSOVA. Jiri Dienstbier, the UN's special envoy for human rights, has called on Yugoslav officials to immediately end the violence in Kosova, AFP reported. Dienstbier, who is in Kosova for talks with Serbian and ethnic Albanian leaders, said he understands the fight against armed rebellion but said destroying villages is an "overreaction." Serbian forces reportedly refocused their attacks on central Kosova after a week of attacks on northeastern Kosova. In Frankfurt, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said talks with Russian officials have brought "slight progress" in mollifying Moscow's objections to a UN resolution on Kosova. PB KOSOVAR ALBANIANS MAKE PROPOSALS TO PEACE AGREEMENT. Ethnic Albanian leaders in Kosova released details of their counterproposal to a U.S.-backed draft agreement to end the violence in the province, AP reported on 20 September. Published in the Albanian-language daily "Koha Ditore," the proposal calls for a three-year period in which Kosova would be an independent entity equal to Serbia and Montenegro. The document says that if Belgrade and Kosovar Albanian authorities cannot agree on a permanent political status for Kosova, the people of Kosova will hold a referendum to decide its final status. Belgrade rejects a referendum outright. The proposal, floated last week and drafted by U.S. envoy Christopher Hill, says that Kosova will stay part of Serbia. The Belgrade daily "Dnevni Telegraf" said on 20 September that Yugoslav officials will submit their own proposals at an extraordinary meeting of the parliament on 28 September. PB SERBIAN OFFICIALS SAY NO HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN KOSOVA. Zoran Andjelkovic, Serbian minister without portfolio, said on 18 September that the term "humanitarian disaster" is being used to put pressure on Belgrade in the Kosova crisis, Tanjug reported. Andjelkovic, speaking in Prishtina, said that ethnic Albanians have returned to their homes en masse and no more are left without shelter. Vuk Draskovic, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, said the following day in Prishtina that although the situation is "far from normal," ethnic Albanians in Kosova do not face a "humanitarian catastrophe," Beta reported. He said that refugees could return to their homes but do not want to. In Geneva, Kris Janowski, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that the humanitarian crisis is "worsening by the day." He estimates that some 260,000 ethnic Albanians have been made homeless by the Serbian destruction of their homes. PB BOSNIA SEEKS RESOLVE FROM UN. Muhamed Sacirbey, Bosnia- Herzegovina's ambassador to the UN, said on 18 September that it is time for the UN Security Council to get tough with indicted war criminals living in Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. Sacirbey said he would not have signed the Dayton agreement if he had known that war criminals would not be arrested. In a letter to the Council, Sacirbey wrote that Belgrade has displayed "contempt for the Security Council." PB MODERATES SAID TO BE FARING WELL IN BOSNIAN PARLIAMENT RACES. Simon Haselock, a spokesman for high representative Carlos Westendorp, said on 18 September that moderate parties are doing well in elections for the Republika Srpska Assembly, AP reported. Haselock said the trend "is generally away from nationalist parties." He also concurred with statements by hard-liners that nationalist Momcilo Krajisnik is trailing Zivko Radisic for the Serbian position on the Bosnian presidency. Western diplomats are hoping a strong showing by moderates in the assembly will offset the expected election of ultranationalist Nikola Poplasen as president of the Republika Srpska. Observers say the move away from nationalist parties might also be realized in the results for the Bosnian joint parliament. U.S. Balkan envoy Robert Gelbard, who was in Banja Luka for talks with Bosnian officials, said Washington will cut off support to any leaders that do not back Dayton. PB ROMANIA'S DEMOCRATS RECALL DEPUTY CHAIRMAN SEVERIN... The National Coordination Council of the Democratic Party has voted by 201-189 to recall Adrian Severin from the position of deputy chairman, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 19 September. In recent months, former Foreign Minister Severin has repeatedly criticized the party leadership. Party chairman Petre Roman said the decision "does not amount to sanctioning" Severin. The next day, Severin said the vote was unstatutory and fell short of the 266 votes stipulated by regulations. He added that he continues to regard himself as deputy chairman of the party. Also on 19 September, the council named Alexandru Sassu as its candidate for the Bucharest mayoral race in October. Sassu said that if elected, he will resign both from the legislature and as minister in charge of relations with the parliament. MS ...AS LIBERAL DEPUTY CHAIRMAN SUSPENDS HIMSELF. National Liberal Party (PNL) chairman Mircea Ionescu-Quintus on 18 September confirmed media reports that PNL deputy chairman Viorel Catarama has sent him a letter announcing he is "suspending himself" from that post "for an unlimited period." PNL spokesman Paul Pacuraru said the next day that Catarama's decision stems from his "dissatisfaction" with the fact that the government, of which the PNL is a member, "promotes few liberal policies" in the economy. Pacuraru also pointed to Catarama's failure to win PNL backing in May 1997 for the position of finance minister. MS MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS APPEAL AGAINST NUCLEAR TRANSIT. The Constitutional Court on 18 September rejected an appeal by deputies from the Democratic Convention of Moldova against the parliament's decision to allow the transit of nuclear waste from the Bulgarian Kozloduy reactor, the RFE/RL Chisinau bureau reported. The court said the appeal "lacked legal grounds." The same day, BASA press reported that the management of the Moldovan Railroad Company and the Department for Civil Protection and Emergencies are refusing to reveal details on the transit "for safety reasons." MS BULGARIAN PARTIES AGREE ON RATIFYING MINORITIES CONVENTION. President Petar Stoyanov told journalists on 18 September that all Bulgarian political parties have agreed to ratify the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly is due to discuss Bulgaria at its fall session, which begins on 21 September. Council officials told an RFE/RL correspondent that the assembly is likely to continue monitoring whether Bulgaria is honoring the obligations it undertook when it joined the council. On 19 September, before departing for Washington for talks with President Bill Clinton, Stoyanov told journalists that he expects the discussion on Bulgaria's NATO membership aspirations to be "realistic, rather than optimistic." MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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