A host is like general: calamities often reveal his genius. - Horace
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 185, Part II, 24 September 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 185, Part II, 24 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

* KUCHMA READY TO TAKE 'TOUGHEST' MEASURES AGAINST CRISIS

* UN SECURITY COUNCIL DEMANDS CEASE-FIRE

* OSCE AGAIN POSTPONES RELEASING BOSNIAN ELECTION RESULTS

End Note: SLOVAKIA'S RETURN TO EUROPE?
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

KUCHMA READY TO TAKE 'TOUGHEST' MEASURES AGAINST CRISIS...
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told a meeting of regional
newspaper editors in Kyiv on 23 September that Ukraine is
facing the worst crisis in its seven years of independence,
Ukrainian Television reported. Stressing that the government
is keeping the current situation under control, Kuchma said
he is ready to take "the toughest and most unpopular"
measures to fight the crisis. He added that although he
intends to seek re-election, he gives priority to maintaining
the course of reform over his own election victory. Kuchma
argued that the Russian crisis has proven the CIS's inability
to react to emergencies. Instead of working out a joint
strategy, CIS countries have chosen "to die on their own,"
Interfax quoted Kuchma as saying. JM

...SAYS RUSSIA TO HELP BUILD NUCLEAR REACTORS. Kuchma also
said Russia has promised to help Ukraine fund the
construction of two new nuclear reactors at the Rivnenska and
Khmelnytska power plants to replace the only working reactor
at Chornobyl, Reuters reported. "We fully agreed in Moscow
[last week] that there will be $180 million in the Russian
1999 budget for this work," he said, referring to his
meetings with President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister
Yevgenii Primakov. Ukraine promised in 1995 that it would
close Chornobyl by 2000 with Western assistance. But it has
recently grown impatient as the deadline approaches and only
a fraction of the required $2 billion has been raised so far.
"We will complete the reactors ourselves or together with
Russia whether or not the European Bank for Reconstruction
and Development assists us," the news agency quoted him as
saying. JM

LUKASHENKA REGRETS GIVING UP NUCLEAR WEAPONS. Belarusian
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told journalists on 23
September that the 1992 decision of the Belarusian leadership
to allow the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from the country
was "a crude mistake, if not a crime," Interfax reported.
Lukashenka said the withdrawal was under way in 1994 when he
was elected president so he could not stop it. But he added
that he "kept the process on the slow track for 18 months."
Lukashenka commented that the withdrawal had an impact on
Russian-NATO talks by making Russia more "pliable." He
denounced NATO for installing "three powerful radar stations"
on the Belarusian border, AP reported. "Slowly, slowly, this
block is becoming more and more impudent," the agency quoted
him as saying. JM

LATVIAN DELEGATION BREAKS ISOLATION OF BELARUSIAN
LEGISLATURE? A delegation of the Latvian parliament headed by
speaker Alfreds Cepanis paid a visit to Minsk on 23 September
and held talks at the Council of the Republic, the upper
house of the Belarusian legislature, ITAR-TASS reported. The
current Belarusian legislature was appointed by President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka after the controversial constitutional
referendum in November 1996 and is not recognized by European
parliaments. "We have always opposed the policy of
isolationism, including in relation to the Republic of
Belarus," Cepanis said. JM

IVANOV SAYS RUSSIA EXERTING 'DIPLOMATIC PRESSURE' ON ESTONIA,
LATVIA. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters
in New York on 23 September that Russia is exerting
"diplomatic pressure on Estonia and Latvia to remedy the
current situation with the legal status of the Russian-
speaking population" of those countries, ITAR-TASS reported.
"We have chosen a more complicated tack, yet the right one,"
Ivanov said, explaining that Moscow is pressing for "official
respect for the rights of the Russian-speaking population not
by means of threats, sanctions, or repressions but via our
membership in international organizations, including the
Council of Europe and the OSCE." He added that this approach
was approved by the Russian State Duma. JC

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT OFFERS SOME HELP TO FIRMS HIT BY RUSSIAN
CRISIS. ETA reported on 24 September that the government is
ready to support producers and farmers who have been hit by
the Russian financial crisis and this year's bad weather
conditions but will not allocate any money for that purpose.
Prime Minister Mart Siimann told a government session that
the stabilization fund will not be touched and is to be used
only in case of a "real crisis." But he said the government
intends to help enterprises by extending the period for
paying taxes and other financial obligations and by reducing
the fine for delays in making such payments. At the same
session, Finance Minister Mart Opmann said the government is
unable to increase the stabilization fund to 1.9 billion
kroons ($140.7 million) this year, as agreed on with the IMF.
The volume of the fund is currently 1.83 billion kroons, and
some 53 million kroons have been added so far this year. JC

POLISH GOVERNMENT POSTPONES TAX REFORM UNTIL 2000. Prime
Minister Jerzy Buzek announced on 22 September that the
government will postpone introducing major tax reforms until
2000. Buzek's statement concluded a three-week discussion
between the coalition partners, Solidarity Electoral Action
(AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW), over Finance Minister
Leszek Balcerowicz's proposal to replace the current three-
level tax system with a two-level one in 1999 and a flat tax
in 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 1998).
Balcerowicz, who is also UW leader, argued that the proposed
reform will boost economic growth and create new jobs. But
both the AWS and the former communist opposition reject the
flat tax proposal, saying that it will hit primarily low-
income earners. The government has only slightly changed
taxes for 1999, reducing corporate tax from 36 percent to 32
percent and abolishing some tax exemptions. JM

POLISH OPPOSITION LEADER CRITICAL OF OPENING COMMUNIST FILES.
Leszek Miller, chairman of the opposition Democratic Left
Alliance, told Polish Radio on 23 September that the law on
making communist secret service files available to the public
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 1998) guarantees access
to those files only to right-wing political parties. "The
real idea behind [the law] is to allow the political
opposition that existed in the Polish People's Republic to
check who informed on whom within the opposition [at that
time] and play some political game in relation to the present
opposition," Miller commented. He added that the material
gathered in the communist-era secret service archives is
"problematic and often questionable." JM

AUSTRIAN PRESIDENT MEETS HAVEL. Tomas Klestil on 23 September
told journalists after meeting his Czech counterpart, Vaclav
Havel, that controversy over bilateral issues will not
undermine Austria's support for the Czech Republic's
membership in the EU, AP reported. Klestil said that for
Austria, which currently holds the EU rotating chairmanship,
it is important to "carry the talks with all candidates as
far as possible." The two presidents also discussed such
thorny issues as the post-war expulsion of the Sudeten
Germans and the controversial nuclear reactor at Temelin,
near the Austrian border. In other news, Havel on 23
September said he would like Czech-born U.S. Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright to succeed him. Havel said he has
not discussed the idea with Albright because "it occurred to
me on the plane on my way back" from his recent visit to the
U.S. MS

INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS CRITICIZE SLOVAK ELECTION PROCESS.
The International Advisory Committee on 23 September accused
the government of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar of bias and
unfair practices in the run-up to the Slovak elections,
RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. In a letter to Meciar,
the committee says a "climate of anxiety" has been created
through acts of violence against independent journalists. The
letter also accuses the government of deliberately hindering
independent civic groups and media in their efforts to
participate in or cover the election process. The letter's
signatories include former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and
former German Economic Affairs Minister Otto Graf Lambsdorff.
The committee was formed by the National Democratic Institute
for International Affairs to monitor the Slovak elections.
The election campaign officially closed on 23 September, 48
hours before the polls open. MS

INDEPENDENT MONITOR REPEATS ACCUSATIONS AGAINST SLOVAK STATE
TV. In a report issued on 23 September, Monitor '98 says that
Slovak State Television "has completely failed to live up to
its obligations to the Slovak public by substituting
objective news coverage with biased and distorted stories
advancing the interests of the ruling power and
unscrupulously attacking any opposition activities" (see also
"RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 1998). Reuters, reporting on
the Monitor '98 findings, said STV is in a particularly
powerful position because the new electoral law forbids
campaign spots in private broadcast media. This, the agency
said, means the opposition "can only put its message across
in a context deeply hostile to its interests." Monitor '98
also criticized TV Markiza for pro-opposition bias but said
this was less marked than the pro-government bias on STV. MS

HUNGARIAN SENIOR SECURITY OFFICER DISMISSED. Laszlo Kover,
secret services minister without portfolio, dismissed General
Jozsef Vajda as deputy director-general of the National
Security Office on 23 September. The private television
station TV2 reported that Vajda was a board member of a
security technology firm that deals with private
investigations. "Magyar Hirlap" cited secret service circles
as denying that his dismissal is connected with the ongoing
scandal over the illegal surveillance of Federation of Young
Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party leaders. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

UN SECURITY COUNCIL DEMANDS CEASE-FIRE. The UN Security
Council on 23 September approved a resolution calling for a
cease-fire and political dialogue in Kosova and warning that
failure to comply will result in "further action and
additional measures," an RFE/RL correspondent in New York
reported. China abstained from voting on the measure, which
passed 14-0. Russia's ambassador to the UN, Sergei Lavrov,
said "no measures of force" are being introduced at this
stage. But the resolution says military action in the
province is "excessive and indiscriminate" and calls on the
ethnic Albanian leadership to condemn all "terrorist action."
On 24 September, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said
alliance ambassadors, who are meeting in Vilamoura, Portugal,
have issued an "activation warning" that includes both a
limited air option and a phased air campaign for Kosova
should the fighting there not cease. U.S. Defense Minister
William Cohen said NATO members would commit forces for the
possible military action. Germany and Holland officials
committed specific numbers of planes before the NATO meeting.
PB

YUGOSLAV, SERBIAN OFFICIALS DEFIANT. Yugoslav Foreign
Minister Zivadin Jovanovic described the UN resolution as
"groundless" and "counterproductive," Tanjug reported.
Jovanovic said the crisis in Kosova cannot be settled "with
force." Serbian President Milan Milutinovic said in Prishtina
on 23 September that "terrorists and their foreign helpers
and supporters are mistaken if they believe that they can
violate the integrity of our country without having to suffer
the consequences." He said the Yugoslav army has acted
"honorably, responsibly, and professionally." Milutinovic
also accused Albania of training and arming "terrorists" to
fight in Kosova. Meanwhile, heavy fighting continues in
Kosova's central Drenica region and in the northwest of the
province. Both sides reported casualties, although numbers
were unconfirmed by independent sources. PB

UCK RELEASES ETHNIC ALBANIAN POLITICIANS. Tanjug reported on
23 September that a delegation of ethnic Albanian politicians
has been released by Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) forces.
Djerdj Dedaj, the speaker of the unofficial Kosova assembly,
said the group gained released with the help of the
International Red Cross. It had been detained since 19
September. Dedaj said the politicians were told they had been
detained for not alerting the UCK about their visit. The
politicians represented several different ethnic Albanian
political parties. PB

OSCE AGAIN POSTPONES RELEASING BOSNIAN ELECTION RESULTS.
Nicole Szulc, the Sarajevo spokeswoman for the OSCE, said on
23 September that technical problems have forced another
delay in the release of the final results in Bosnian general
elections, AP reported. Szulc said power outages and other
technical problems are the reason for the postponement. She
said the string of delays should not taint the "integrity of
the process," adding that she did not believe it would hurt
the OSCE's credibility. The Sarajevo daily "Oslobodjenje,"
reacting to comments by officials on presumed wins by two
hard-line candidates to executive posts, said that "Bosnia
took a step back from democracy...and came closer to the
option of the final ethnic division, which represents a
failure of U.S. policy." PB

WAR CRIMES INVESTIGATORS SEARCH FOR EVIDENCE IN MOSTAR.
International war crimes investigators, backed by 30 armored
vehicles and a few hundred NATO peacekeepers, are searching
for evidence in several buildings near the Herzegovinian town
of Mostar, AP reported. NATO troops are said to have blocked
access to several buildings, including the wartime
headquarters of the Croatian Defense Ministry in Mostar, and
retrieved several boxes of documents. The area around Vitez,
the site of several alleged atrocities during the wars of
Yugoslav succession, was also searched. PB

BOSNIAN MINISTER WARNS OF ALARMING ECONOMIC SITUATION. Nikola
Grabovac, deputy economy and foreign trade minister in the
Bosnian Council of Ministers, said on 23 September that it
could take two decades before the country's GDP reaches pre-
war levels, Reuters reported. Grabovac said that the economic
situation is "alarming" and that more funds will be needed in
coming years to revive Bosnia's industrial capacity. Most aid
donated so far has gone to infrastructure and housing, he
noted. PB

ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT WILLING TO TALK, BUT NOT TO BERISHA.
Albania's ruling Socialist Party said on 23 September that it
will begin talks with the opposition Democratic Party only if
its leader, former President Sali Berisha, is kept out of
such discussions, Radio Tirana reported. The Socialist Party
has accused Berisha of leading a failed coup d'etat against
the government last week. It has stripped him of his immunity
as a parliamentary deputy but has not arrested him. The
Democratic Party, likewise, has broken off all communication
with the Socialists and continues with a campaign calling for
Prime Minister Fatos Nano to resign. Some 2,000 people
demonstrated in Tirana's Skanderbeg Square on 23 September
demanding that Nano step down. PB

EUROPEAN ORGANIZATIONS SLAM ALBANIAN POLITICAL PARTIES. A
joint statement by the EU, the OSCE, the Council of Europe,
and the Western European Union criticized both the Albanian
government and the opposition for the renewed turmoil in the
country and urged all parties to begin talks, Reuters
reported. The statement said Nano's government has been lax
in fighting crime and corruption and in reforming the justice
system, the police, and the civil service. But they said
"slow and unsatisfactory performance by the government does
not justify all-out confrontation and use of violence by" the
opposition. PB

ALBANIAN COURT RELEASES MEDIA OFFICIALS. The Tirana District
Court ordered the release of Alfons Zeneli of Radio Kontakt
and Ilir Zhilla, the former director of the Albanian
Telegraph Agency (ATA), on 22 September, ATA reported. The
court ruled that the two men must report to the judicial
police every week. They were detained the previous day for
allegedly participating in the violence in Tirana on 14
September after the murder of deputy Azem Hajdari. PB

ROMANIA REPLACES FINANCE MINISTER. The National Liberal Party
(PNL) on 23 September announced that it has "withdrawn
support" from Finance Minister Daniel Daianu for "failure to
implement Liberal policies in public finances" and to
restructure the ministry he headed. Daianu was politically
non-affiliated and occupied in the cabinet a PNL slot. Prime
Minister Radu Vasile the same day dismissed Daianu and
replaced him with Traian Decebal Remes, who was sworn in as
finance minister the same day. Remes, a PNL member, was
chairman of the Budget and Finance Commission of the Chamber
of Deputies until his appointment. He said he intends to
reduce taxes and public spending and "bring the shadow
economy into the open." Reacting to his dismissal, Daianu
warned against endangering the country's "fragile
macrostabilization" through "fiscal relaxation" that may have
"dangerous consequences," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.
MS

ROMANIAN COALITION DEPUTIES PROPOSE AMENDMENT TO EDUCATION
LAW. Deputies representing coalition parties on the Chamber
of Deputies' Education Commission have asked the commission
to amend the recently approved article on higher education
included in the regulation that changes the education law.
That article forbids the setting up of universities teaching
in languages of the national minorities. The deputies want
the legislation amended to make possible setting up such
universities by special law, thus meeting the demands of the
Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) The
commission's chairman, Greater Romania Party deputy Anghel
Stanciu, said the proposed amendment reflects "surrender to
UDMR blackmail," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES BONDS TRANSFER TO GAZPROM. The
government on 23 September approved the transfer of $90
million in state-guaranteed bonds to the Russian Gazprom
conglomerate in settlement of the 1996-1997 debt. The bonds
carry a 7.5 percent annual interest rate. The permanent
representative of the IMF to Moldova, Mark Horton, said the
measure will have a negative impact on the fund's decision
(expected in October) on whether to release a $30 million
tranche to Moldova. Horton said the government's decision was
a "deja-vu phenomenon" that repeated the settlement of the
debt to Gazprom two years ago. He continued that it also
showed that the energy sector is not undergoing "real
reforms" and that the burden of Moldova's external debt is
growing, BASA press reported. MS

BULGARIA TO CUT SUBSIDIES FOR STATE RADIO, TV. Under a
broadcast media law adopted by the parliament on 23
September, the government will stop subsidizing state radio
and television in 2008, AP reported. The subsidies will be
reduced at the end of 2002, and viewers' fees will make up
the difference until the end of 2007. No such fees exist at
present. Households will be charged 0.6 percent of the
government-set minimum monthly wage, while companies and
institutions will have to pay 2.5 percent. All three
opposition parties boycotted the debates and announced they
will appeal the law. MS

END NOTE

SLOVAKIA'S RETURN TO EUROPE?

By Christopher Walker

	Despite Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's recent
claim that "talk in Europe about Slovakia's lack of democracy
will definitely come to an end" after the upcoming elections,
there is serious doubt whether Slovakia will be able to
overcome its poor image in the longer term should Meciar's
ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) retain
power. Such a result could arguably result in Slovakia's
losing a full decade in its effort to join NATO and the EU.
On the other hand, if the assembled opposition parties manage
to pull together an electoral victory, Slovakia will have the
chance to restore its credibility rather quickly and realign
itself with the West.
	Thus, in a fundamental way, the choice Slovaks make in
these elections will determine if their country identifies
with the West and is prepared to take part in its
institutional structures or if it continues to orient itself
toward less developed, slower reforming post-Soviet states to
the East.
	Slovakia's dubious image abroad has been shaped
principally by the Meciar regime's parochial, immature, and
often brutal political leadership. This behavior, ranging
from petty political subterfuge to outright thuggery, has
saddled Slovakia with an unfavorable image that in any case
may be hard to shed.
	Remarkably, it was not very long ago that Slovakia was
considered to belong to the same "fast track" group of
applicants for Western integration as Poland, Hungary, and
the Czech Republic. No longer perceived as a member of the
original "Visegrad" group, Slovakia now runs the risk of
slipping still farther. This time, however, the stakes are
much higher. The very possibility that Slovakia will become
more closely associated with its Eastern neighbors has
significant implications: it may reinforce the belief of the
outside world--as well as Slovaks themselves--that Slovakia's
place is in the East. That belief would effectively freeze
Slovakia's candidacy for admission to the EU and NATO.
	While Slovakia's economy has proven resilient, its
political development has been inconsistent with Western
standards. In fact, as a result of its relative political
immaturity, there is a larger question as to whether Slovakia
can maintain its economic successes in the longer term
without the necessary consolidation of democracy and
international integration.
	It is difficult to gauge precisely the opportunity cost
of the Slovak leadership's preoccupation with internal
rivalries and political intrigue over the past six years. One
may conclude, however, that dawdling during the crucial
initial "courtship" of Western institutions has set back
Slovakia at least several years and has prevented the country
from achieving the necessary degree of political soundness to
advance into key Western clubs. The window for first-round
NATO admission is already closed. The EU sent a strong
message to Bratislava last year when Slovakia--recognized by
the European Commission for its strong economic performance--
was pointedly left off the first-round invitation list as a
result of its underdeveloped democratic institutions.
	One of the most important, broad consequences of NATO
and EU expansion is the salutary effect these institutions
can have on relations among its member states. These clubs
have been instrumental in forging a peaceful post-War
transatlantic order and have contributed greatly to the
prosperity enjoyed by its members. By remaining outside the
positive influence of these institutions, Slovakia loses the
opportunity to improve its own internal development and
establish better working relationships with its neighbors.
	The Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary--which are not
only among the first-round candidates for EU admission but
are also the first three to receive invitations to join the
NATO alliance--have broadly demonstrated their commitment to
resolving difficult public-policy questions in a manner
consistent with Western norms. One can already see these
results. Poland is undertaking a number of important
initiatives to improve regional cooperation, including
difficult negotiations with Ukraine on border issues and
steps toward deeper integration with Germany. The newly
elected Hungarian leadership, while using rather heated
rhetoric on minority issues, is not expected to deviate from
acceptable political norms. That is in no small measure due
to Hungary's accepted responsibilities in Western
institutions.
	Slovakia's choice in the elections is of regional
concern. The Czechs, for instance, face the prospect of
having their Moravian frontier form a portion of the new
East-West divide. For Poland and Hungary--not to mention
Austria--an unanchored and unpredictable Slovakia will hinder
the effort to build an integrated regional economic and
security structure.
	Meciar has done a masterful job of dividing the
opposition, but the political stunts and hardball tactics he
has employed to maintain power have had a corrosive effect on
Slovakia's political culture. During the period of HZDS
control--where infighting and cronyism have been the rule,
rather than the exception--there have been few steps taken to
direct the young Slovak state toward political normalcy. On
the contrary, the Meciar period has defined itself by its
reliance on what it regards as foreign and domestic villains,
thus limiting Slovakia's focus on more substantive matters
and preventing the country from engaging in vital self-
examination. That tactic is an integral part of a larger
strategy aimed at blaming domestic deficiencies on foreign
interference.
	Slovaks, through their vote in the elections this week,
can decide for themselves whether Meciar's HZDS is best
suited for advancing Slovakia's real interests and where
exactly they believe Slovakia's proper place is in Europe.

The author is manager of programs at the European Journalism
Network.
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               Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
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