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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 184, Part II, 23 September 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 184, Part II, 23 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

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Headlines, Part II

* POLISH PARLIAMENT VOTES TO OPEN SECRET POLICE FILES

* YUGOSLAVIA CRITICIZED AT UN

* HEAVY FIGHTING REPORTED IN KOSOVA

End Note: BELARUS LOSES ITS BATTLE FOR THE HARVEST
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER LOCKS UP DEBTORS AGAIN. Valeriy
Pustovoytenko on 22 September began a new crackdown on debtor
companies by locking up executives from more than 50 firms in
a government building and demanding that they sign
obligations to pay their debts, Ukrainian Television
reported. Pustovoytenko applied a similar measure to some
2,000 tax debtors in early August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6
August 1998). This time, the target of his campaign are
managers who have been slow in returning foreign debts
guaranteed by the government. Pustovoytenko said the
government needs the $734 million it paid to foreign
creditors on behalf of debtor companies. Both Prosecutor-
General Mykhaylo Potebenko and Pustovoytenko have threatened
to take executives of debtor companies to court and initiate
bankruptcy proceedings. JM

UKRAINIAN CHIEF BANKER SAYS FOREIGN INVESTORS ACCEPT T-BILL
CONVERSION. Ukrainian National Bank Chairman Viktor
Yushchenko on 22 September said that most foreign investors
have agreed to swap their Ukrainian domestic treasury bills
for longer-term bonds under a government debt restructuring
plan, AP reported. The plan is intended to postpone some of
the government's debt payments in view of insufficient budget
revenues. Details of the plans were not made public, but
Ukrainian bankers assert that foreign investors were offered
the chance to redeem 20 percent of the bonds immediately and
to change the rest into Eurobonds with a 20 percent annual
interest rate. The new bonds are redeemable in September and
December 2000. It is estimated that foreign investors hold
1.8 billion hryvni ($580 million) in Ukrainian bonds that are
due to mature in 1999. JM

TEACHERS' STRIKE LEAVES 12,000 UKRAINIAN PUPILS OUT OF
SCHOOL. Some 12,000 schoolchildren in Kyiv, Chernihiv,
Kirovohrad, and Zakarpatska Oblasts have not been to school
since the beginning of the school year on 1 September owing
to a teachers' strike over unpaid wages, AP reported on 22
September. Ukrainian teachers are owed some 410 million
hryvni ($132 million) in back wages. Ukrainian Television
reported that teachers are paid full and regular wages only
in the city of Kyiv. JM

LUKASHENKA SLAMS CABINET FOR INEFFICIENCY. At a cabinet
meeting on 22 September, Belarusian President Alyaksandr
Lukashenka harshly criticized the government for not
efficiently dealing with "visible economic tensions in the
republic," Interfax reported. In particular, he criticized
Foreign Affairs Minister Ivan Antanovich and Foreign Trade
Minister Mikhail Marynich for a lack of coordination between
their ministries. Lukashenka said Belarus is now experiencing
its second crisis this year. The first crisis, he said, was
in March, after a fall in the value of the Belarusian ruble
was "initiated in Moscow." From January-August, prices in
Belarus rose by 30 percent, instead of the planned 17
percent, while the Belarusian ruble fell by 60 percent, he
noted. He called upon his ministers to end the "endless and
empty discussions and procrastination. Those who do not want
to work should resign without waiting for the president's
moves," he added. JM

SEVERAL LATVIAN NGOS URGE 'NO' VOTE IN CITIZENSHIP
REFERENDUM. Several non-governmental organizations have urged
Latvians to vote against amendments to the citizenship law
passed earlier this summer by the parliament, BNS reported on
22 September. At a news conference in Riga the previous day,
representatives of the Baltic Unity Association, the Latvian
Education Association, the Artists' Union, the Theater
Association, and several Latvian organizations abroad voiced
concern that the ruling parties showed a "lack of interest"
in Latvia's fate by approving the amendments "in a hurry" and
yielding to pressure from Russia and European organizations.
They argued that the amendments should be adopted by the new
parliament and should be adapted to reflect Latvian interests
rather than European requirements. The amendments will be put
to a popular vote at the beginning of next month, at the same
time as the parliamentary elections. JC

LITHUANIA ADOPTS MEASURES TO CUSHION IMPACT OF RUSSIAN
CRISIS. The government on 22 September adopted  39 measures
aimed at shielding domestic industry from the impact of the
ongoing financial crisis in Russia, dpa reported.  Those
measures include restrictions on imports, subsidies for
exports, increased patrols along Lithuanian borders to combat
smuggling, and low-interest loans to firms in a bid to boost
short-term turnover. The German news agency reports that
Lithuanian exports to Russia and the CIS, which accounted for
46.4 percent of total exports last year, have virtually
ceased since the ruble's devaluation in August. JC

POLISH PARLIAMENT VOTES TO OPEN SECRET POLICE FILES... The
Sejm has voted by 237 to 157 with two abstentions to pass a
law allowing individuals to look at their communist-era
secret service files, PAP reported on 22 September. The bill,
which still requires the upper house's and president's
approval, is seen as a means of screening secret service
collaborators in order to bar them from top state posts. It
provides for setting up an Institute of National Remembrance
in January 1999 to maintain secret service files from 1944-
1989. The institute will make those files available by the
end of 1999 to victims of the totalitarian regime and reveal
the names of communist agents and informers. According to
Janusz Palubicki, minister in charge of Poland's secret
service, as many as 4 million people in Poland may be
interested in checking their files. JM

...PASSES LAW ON SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM. By a vote of 222 to
76 with 106 abstentions, the lower house also approved a law
on reforming the  social security system, PAP reported. Under
the law the Social Security Agency (ZUS) is to keep account
of  contributions by all insured persons. Contributions may
be divided between the so-called first and second insurance
pillar. People over 50 will not be covered by the new system.
Those over 31 and under 50 will be free to choose whether to
send their contributions to the ZUS or a pension fund of
their choice. Those under 31 will join the new system and
receive pensions from both ZUS and a pension fund. JM

RUSSIAN EXCLAVE TOWNS ASK POLISH NEIGHBOR FOR HUMANITARIAN
AID. The towns of Kaliningrad and Baltiysk in the Russian
exclave Kaliningrad Oblast have asked Elblag, a Polish town
across the border, for humanitarian aid, PAP reported on 22
September. "They have asked for food, warm clothing, shoes,
and medicines," the agency quoted a spokesman for the Elblag
mayor's office as saying. The spokesman said the Elblag
education authorities have appealed to pupils to collect
gifts for their peers in Kaliningrad, while several Elblag
firms have pledged to help both Russian towns. He added that
there will be no difficulty in providing help to the small
town of Baltiysk, but he added that there may be problems
offering assistance to the 500,000-strong town of
Kaliningrad. JM

MECIAR SAYS HZDS WILL WIN ELECTIONS. Addressing the last
rally of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) before
the 25-26 September elections, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar
told his supporters on 22 September that the HZDS  is "more
powerful" than any other party and that he "has no doubt that
we will win these elections," RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau
reported. Meciar also said he is ready to conduct coalition
negotiations with any party except the Hungarian Coalition,
which he called "irredentist." At the same time, he ruled out
forming a minority government. In an interview with RFE/RL on
22 September, former President Michal Kovac said he fears
that either the elections will be canceled or the HZDS will
tamper with the results. MS

MECIAR FAILS TO ENLIST DJ BOBO'S HELP FOR ELECTION CAMPAIGN.
Swiss pop star DJ Bobo has canceled participating in the
election campaign of the  HZDS, Reuters reported on 22
September, citing the opposition daily "Sme." The daily said
that DJ Bobo was offered 6 million crowns ($172,000) to join
Meciar's campaign for two days and that the HZDS had hoped to
enlist his help to woo young voters. The HZDS press
department could neither confirm nor deny the report,
according to Reuters. German top model Claudia Schiffer,
Italian actress Claudia Cardinale, and French movie star
Gerard Depardieu have all appeared alongside Meciar during
his election campaign. MS

HUNGARY READY TO HELP SET UP UNIVERSITY IN TRANSYLVANIA.  The
Hungarian government is prepared to help set up a private
Hungarian-language university in Romania, State Secretary
Tibor Szabo, who is also chairman of the Office for
Hungarians Beyond the Borders, said on 21 September during
his visit to eastern Transylvania. He told his hosts from the
Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania that the cabinet
has decided to set up three committees to study the social,
economic, and administrative aspects of granting Hungarian
citizenship to ethnic Hungarians abroad. MSZ

NATO OFFICIAL IN HUNGARY. General Jeremy MacKenzie, NATO's
deputy supreme allied commander for Europe, on 22 September
disagreed with a statement by the Hungarian, Czech and Polish
defense ministers saying the three applicants could join the
alliance  earlier than planned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22
September 1998). He said  the outcome of discussions on
bringing forward  the date for expanding the alliance is "far
from clear." Hungary's chief commander, General Ferenc Vegh,
told MacKenzie that three generals and 70 officers from
Hungary will join the NATO command at various levels once
Hungary become a member of the alliance. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

YUGOSLAVIA CRITICIZED AT UN. German Foreign Minister Klaus
Kinkel told the UN General Assembly on 22 September that the
international community is ready to use force in an effort to
end Serbian military offensives in Kosova, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported. Kinkel ascribed most of the blame for
the crisis on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Austrian
Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel, also speaking for the
EU, said the violence in Kosova has created "consequences for
the civilian population that are out of any justifiable
proportion." Russian designate-Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov
appealed for peace in Kosova but warned that Western military
intervention would cause a "big war" with "unforeseen
consequences." But the Russian ambassador to the UN, Sergei
Lavrov, said Moscow will accept a UN resolution that does not
authorize an immediate use of force. UN Security Council
President Hans Dahlgren said a resolution demanding a cease-
fire could be voted on any day. PB

HEAVY FIGHTING REPORTED IN KOSOVA. Serbian forces launched
new attacks against ethnic Albanian villages in various parts
of the province on 22 September, AFP and Reuters reported.
Serbian offensives were reported in central and northwestern
parts of Kosova. Serbian police reported "strong resistance"
northwest of Prishtina in small villages near Cicevica. There
are no reliable reports of casualties, though thousands of
more people are said  to have left their villages amid the
fighting. Large quantities of weapons were reportedly seized,
and several buildings were on fire. PB

KOSOVAR PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR RELEASE OF POLITICIANS. The
presidency of the unofficial Kosova parliament made an appeal
for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) to release a group of
ethnic Albanian politicians it has detained, dpa reported on
22 September. The deputy speaker of the parliament, Gjergj
Dedaj, is among those being held in the village of Skenderaj
since 20 September. In a statement, the presidency said such
an act hurts the "concerted action of all the political and
state institutions in their struggle for the freedom and
independence of Kosova." The UCK, which has few official
political allies, has criticized efforts by ethnic Albanian
political parties to negotiate with Belgrade on the
province's status. PB

ALBANIAN COALITION PARTNER  PLEDGES SUPPORT TO PREMIER.
Gramoz Pashko, a leader of the Democratic Alliance Party,
pledged his continued support for the embattled government of
Prime Minister Fatos Nano, ATA reported on 21 September.
Pashko, whose party is a member of the ruling government,
said a resolute investigation of the murder of Democratic
Party deputy Azem Hajdari would return stability to the
country. Pashko denounced the violent acts committed in the
past week and said Democratic Party  leader Sali Berisha
bears responsibility for them. Berisha, meanwhile, called on
his countrymen to continue their anti-government protests. A
rally on 21 September was called off because of poor
attendance. PB

EU, WESTERN OFFICIALS WARN BOSNIAN SERB HARD-LINERS. Robert
Gelbard, the U.S. special envoy to the Balkans, noted in
Sarajevo on 22 September that the West will be closely
watching ultranationalist Nikola Poplasen, the expected
winner in the election for the Bosnian Serb presidency,
Reuters reported. Although Poplasen, an ally of indicted war
criminal Radovan Karadzic, has not yet been officially
declared the winner, incumbent President Biljana Plavsic has
conceded that she lost the election (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
22 September 1998). Despite assurances from Poplasen that he
will adhere to the Dayton agreement, Gelbard said "concrete
results, not words" are important. Carlos Westendorp, the
international community's high representative in Bosnia-
Herzegovina, said Bosnian Serb entities that do not follow
Dayton will be cut off from Western financial help. Official
election results are expected later this week. PB

CROATS TO RETURN TO CENTRAL BOSNIAN VILLAGES. Representatives
of a working group on the return of refugees have agreed with
officials from the Vitez and Travnik municipalities on the
return of Bosnian Croats to three villages in the area,
Bosnian Television reported on 22 September. Jason Taylor,
the head of the working group, said the agreement will allow
refugees to return to Velika Bukovica, Grahovcic, and
Brajkovic. He said that the people of Gacice have not agreed
on the return and that they continue to block access to the
village. PB

SKOPJE OFFICIAL SAYS UCK IN MACEDONIA. Vlado Popovski, the
Macedonian intelligence chief, said on 22 September that
members of the UCK are in Macedonia, AFP reported. Popovski
said the UCK has an "infrastructure in Macedonia" but that he
does not think it will be active because "the situation in
this country is much better than in Kosova or Albania." He
added that ethnic Albanian parties take part in the civic and
political institutions. Popovski said the greatest threat to
Macedonia would be posed by the smuggling of weapons into the
country from Albania or a large influx of ethnic Albanian
refugees from Kosova. PB

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WANTS COALITION TO EXIST TILL 2004.
President Emil Constantinescu on 22 September met separately
with leaders of the Democratic Party and the Hungarian
Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR). Mediafax reported
that Constantinescu said the present ruling coalition must
reach agreements facilitating its continued existence till
2004. Alexandru Sassu, who led the Democrats' team, said that
his party cannot give a "blank check" to the coalition and
that its support depends on whether a solution can be found
to such urgent problems as privatization and restructuring
"within six months." Constantinescu told the UDMR that he
supports finding a compromise on the Hungarian-language state
university that would be backed by a large majority in the
parliament. But  the same day, the Chamber of Deputies'
Education Commission voted against resuming the discussion of
the article in the amended education law that forbids state
universities in national minority languages. MS

DEMOCRATIC PARTY REJECTS SEVERIN APPEAL. The Democratic
Party's Commission on Ethics on 22 September rejected what it
called an appeal by former Deputy Chairman Adrian Severin
against the party's National Coordination Council 19
September decision to strip him of his post. Severin
responded that he never appealed to the commission, noting
that it had merely discussed a letter he sent party chairman
Petre Roman after the vote in the National Coordination
Council. He also pointed out that the commission did not
invite him to the debate, Mediafax reported. MS

FORMER COURT POET RESIGNS FROM PARTY. Adrian Paunescu, the
executive deputy chairman of the Socialist Labor Party (PSM),
told journalists in Bucharest on 21 September that he is
resigning from the PSM. The former Ceausescu court poet said
he opposes a compromise reached by the PSM and Socialist
Party leaderships according to which the two formations are
to have equal representation at the congress that will
approve their merger. The compromise also stipulates that at
county and national leadership level, the PSM and the
Socialist Party will be represented proportionally in line
with their respective present strength. The Socialist Party
split from the PSM in 1994, largely owing to its opposition
to Paunescu's growing prominence within the formation. The
PSM is headed by former Communist Premier Ilie Verdet. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER MEETS TRANSDNIESTER OFFICIAL. Ion Ciubuc and
the deputy head of the Transdniester separatist government,
Viktor Sinev, met in Chisinau on 22 September to discuss a
number of accords that will be signed by President Petru
Lucinschi and separatist leader Igor Smirnov at their next
summit, which is to take place either on 30 September or 1
October, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau  reported. The two leaders
agreed that Chisinau will take over the $15 million debt owed
by Tiraspol to the Russian Gazprom conglomerate in partial
settlement of the debt owed to the separatist region by the
Moldovan authorities for energy deliveries. According to
Tiraspol, that debt totals $22 million.  Ciubuc said later
that by the end of this year,  Chisinau will pay $10 million
in cash to Tiraspol toward paying off its 1998 debt in full.
MS

END NOTE

BELARUS LOSES ITS BATTLE FOR THE HARVEST

by Jan Maksymiuk

	On 31 July, in a televised conference with oblast and
raion administration leaders at regional television centers
throughout the country, Belarusian President Alyaksandr
Lukashenka called upon the nation to launch a "battle for the
harvest." He  described "grain and agriculture" as the
foundations of Belarusian statehood and independence and
announced that Belarus would switch to an "emergency
operation mode" during this year's harvest. "This means in
plain folks' idiom that all living creatures, everything that
moves or is able to move, should be sent to gather crops," he
explained.
	Lukashenka compared today's situation in Belarus to that
of the Brest fortress on the German-Soviet front line in
1941, when "the [German-Soviet] front moved further east,
while the fortress was still resisting and not surrendering."
He elaborated this military imagery by saying that "the front
of economic cataclysm is now sweeping over former USSR
countries. Belarus has so far stood firm, and it should
continue to stand firm. We have nobody to rely on but
ourselves."
	Military vocabulary applied to harvesting rye or barley
is not unusual in Belarus. Decades of Soviet indoctrination
have left deep marks on the national psyche, including
people's ability to use and understand language. The memory
of the Soviet military effort in World War II (called the
Great Patriotic War in the former USSR) was kept alive by the
communist authorities throughout the entire post-war period.
In particular, the Belorussian SSR, which was made a Soviet
guerrilla stronghold during the war, cherished Soviet
military traditions and vocabulary. Thus, Lukashenka's appeal
to mobilize the nation for a heroic battle doubtless had an
effect on both the conscious and the subliminal levels,
regardless of whether the battle involved tanks and aircraft
or tractors and harvest combines.
	In keeping with the traditions of the command economy,
Lukashenka appointed top government officials to oversee the
harvest campaign in the Belarusian regions. National Bank
Chairman Pyotr Prakapovich was given the responsibility of
securing a victory in his native Brest Oblast. While
Prakapovich was carrying out his harvest mission, the
Belarusian ruble exchange rate plummeted from 70,000 to
120,000 to $1 by the end of August and then to 200,000 to $1
in mid-September. Not only Russia's financial turmoil should
be blamed for the Belarusian  ruble's plunge.
	The "emergency operation mode" required emergency
measures to prop up the Belarusian agricultural sector.
According to independent analysts, more than 50 percent of
the collective farms are de facto bankrupt. Even the Ministry
of Agriculture has officially admitted that only 62 out of
Belarus's nearly 3,000 collective farms are in a
"satisfactory" financial situation. Reports in the Belarusian
independent press suggest that the National Bank printed some
14 trillion Belarusian rubles ($280 million, according to the
official exchange rate) to provide financial support to the
shaky sector. Belarus's financial market reacted with
galloping inflation.
	The harvest campaign provides a graphic illustration of
how Lukashenka's government is running the agricultural
sector. Whenever the need arises--and it routinely does twice
a year, first in the sowing and then in the harvesting
season--the National Bank switches on its printing presses
and grants collective farms both credits and  advances. Those
monies are seldom paid back, but the state compensates their
loss by purchasing grain, meat, and milk well below the
production cost. Both the inflation rate and prices are
rising as real incomes fall. Nonetheless, state statisticians
are happy to report production growth.
	Such tactics have  somehow worked and, if one believes
official data, are still working in Belarus's industrial
sector. But they are no longer working in agriculture.
Despite the nationwide mobilization for the harvest, the
kolkhozes failed to reach their targets. The total grain
output this year was 5 million tons, down from 6 million tons
last year. The average grain yield was 2.34 tons per hectare,
compared with 2.70 tons per hectare in 1997. Deputy
Agricultural Minister Ivan Shakola has said Belarus will
double feed grain imports this year to compensate for the
loss of crops owing to the heat waves and storms that
severely hit the countryside this year. This was an implicit
admission that Belarus lost its "battle for the harvest."
	Lukashenka put on a brave face at the official
celebration of the harvest's end in the town of Nyasvizh on
19 September. "You saved the country," he told the best-
performing tractor and harvest combine operators, awarding
new Lada cars to 12 of them. And he pledged food aid to
crisis-stricken Russia.
	He did not, however, breathe a word about what is an
open secret in Belarus: a majority of Belarusians place their
hope to stay alive not on a state-sponsored "battle for the
harvest" but on tiny plots of land near their country homes
and dachas. There, they grow their meager crop of vegetables
and potatoes to sustain themselves through the winter. As for
the Belarusian government, even half a century after the war
it still  wants people to believe that food provision is a
heroic exploit, not a routine economic task.

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