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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 189, Part II, 30 September 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 189, Part II, 30 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 * KUCHMA 'CATEGORICALLY' OPPOSES UNION WITH RUSSIA, BELARUS * NEW MASSACRES IN KOSOVA * ALBANIAN PRESIDENT ASKS MAJKO TO FORM NEW GOVERNMENT End Note: THE CONFLICTS AMONG THE KOSOVARS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE KUCHMA 'CATEGORICALLY' OPPOSES UNION WITH RUSSIA, BELARUS... Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma says he is "categorically against" the idea of creating a union of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, proposed by Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev during his 28-29 September visit to Kyiv (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1998), Interfax reported. "The Belarusian-Russian Union and the Customs Union created by the CIS's individual members showed that nothing has come out of this idea," Kuchma told journalists on 29 September. He added that it is necessary first to ensure the implementation of bilateral agreements between CIS countries, including the Ukrainian-Russian accord on free trade. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 30 September that the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry is drawing up a protest note over Seleznev's proposals to the Ukrainian parliament. JM ...WHILE SELEZNEV SAYS KYIV VISIT WAS 'SUCCESS.' Despite the disruption of his speech in the Ukrainian parliament by Rukh deputies, Seleznev said his visit to the Ukrainian capital was a "success," ITAR-TASS reported on 29 September. "We reached full mutual understanding and our dialog will go on," he told journalists in Kyiv. According to Seleznev, his proposal of a union between Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine was "acceptable" to Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko, while President Kuchma "got interested" in the idea. Commenting on the Rukh deputies' reaction to his speech, Seleznev said it was "normal," adding that "complete unanimity of opinion in the parliament is bad." An official communique signed by the Ukrainian and Russian speakers says their talks took place in an "atmosphere of friendship, cordiality, mutual understanding, and confidence," dpa reported. JM HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP PROTESTS 'RUIN' OF BELARUSIAN FARMING. The Belarusian Helsinki Committee has disseminated a statement protesting the "ruin of Belarusian agricultural producers," Belapan reported on 29 September. The committee says both private and state-owned farms are on the verge of collapse because the government maintains low purchase prices for agricultural products while the prices of food, agricultural equipment, and industrial goods are very high. Farmers are forced to repay state loans by selling their products at 30- 40 percent below their market value. The statement adds that farmers' wages are far below the subsistence minimum and are constantly paid late. The committee believes that the government's agricultural policy is a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. JM ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER RESIGNS. Toomas Hendrik Ilves submitted his resignation on 30 September, saying he took that decision because leading politicians from the ruling coalition have attacked the Foreign Ministry owing to his party affiliation, ETA reported. Ilves said that there would be a negative effect on the country's foreign policy if he were to continue as foreign minister. He also commented that he believes foreign policy is no longer a priority for many political forces within the government, adding that the cabinet has found it increasingly difficult to take decisions, particularly foreign policy ones. Ilves joined the government as an independent in November 1996; earlier this year, he became chairman of the opposition People's Party. Leaders of the coalition rural parties have several times demanded Ilves's dismissal on account of his affiliation with the People's Party. JC ESTONIAN RULING COALITION BLOCKS NEW ELECTION LAW. The Coalition Party and the rural parties on 29 September abstained from voting on a bill on parliamentary elections that would have banned electoral alliances, ETA and BNS reported. Seven members of the Russian faction voted against the draft law because it required parliamentary deputies to have "sufficient knowledge" of Estonian to take part in parliamentary work. As a result, the bill fell six votes short of the 51 votes required for its passage. The coalition partners have begun talks on renewing their alliance for the March 1999 elections. JC ESTONIA REFUSES CITIZENSHIP TO FORMER KGB OFFICIALS. The Estonian government on 29 September refused to grant Estonian citizenship to 69 former KGB officers, ETA reported. All 69 applied for Estonian citizenship several years ago, but the Estonian security authorities uncovered their KGB connections as their applications were being processed. Also on 29 September, the government refused citizenship to 36 former Russian officers and their family members. JC RUSSIA URGES LATVIA TO FOLLOW OSCE ADVICE ON LANGUAGE LAW. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told journalists on 29 September that Moscow hopes the Latvian parliament will adopt a law on the state language that is in line with OSCE recommendations, BNS reported. He added that some of the draft law's provisions have triggered "serious objections by international organizations." The ministry claims that the present version of the bill considerably restricts the use of the Russian language in Latvia. The previous day, the parliament had to postpone the third and final reading of the bill until next week owing to a lack of a quorum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1998). JC LITHUANIAN LEGISLATORS PAVE WAY FOR COLLEAGUE'S IMPEACHMENT. BNS reported on 29 September that the Center parliamentary group has collected enough signatures to request that impeachment proceedings be launched against Audrius Butkevicius, who last year was arrested on charges of attempted large-scale fraud. The Centrists hope that those proceedings would speed up Butkevicius's trial. Once the parliamentary chairman receives such a request, it must be included on the parliament's agenda within a week. A simple majority is required for impeachment proceedings to start. JC INTELLECTUALS, FORMER SERVICEMEN APPEAL FOR END TO AUSCHWITZ 'PROVOCATIONS.' Six Polish intellectuals, including Nobel Prize laureates Czeslaw Milosz and Wislawa Szymborska, have sent an open letter to Premier Jerzy Buzek demanding that the government put an "end to provocations and adventures" at the site of the Auschwitz former death camp, PAP reported on 29 September. Radical Catholic groups have erected some 230 crosses in a gravel pit outside the camp site, sparking protests by international Jewish organizations. Several organizations of former servicemen have also issued a statement protesting the "incomprehensible passivity" of the Polish government in the conflict over the Auschwitz crosses. "It is high time for a decisive intervention that will let Polish society believe that we live under the rule of law," the statement reads. JM SOLIDARITY TO RECEIVE COMPENSATION FOR LOSSES UNDER MARTIAL LAW. Solidarity will receive some 124 million zlotys ($35 million) in the form of fixed assets and state securities as compensation for the property it lost under martial law from 1981-1982, PAP reported on 29 September. An amendment to the 1990 law on the restitution of property lost by trade unions and social organizations under martial law will provide for such compensation. The cabinet approved the amendment on 29 September. JM ZEMAN SAYS PRAGUE PREPARING FOR EU MEMBERSHIP. Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman, speaking at the EU headquarters in Brussels on 29 September, said the Czech Republic is quickly introducing the economic and legal measures required for EU membership and hopes to join the union by 2003 or 2004, AP and Reuters reported. Zeman added that his government nonetheless intends to take "a tough stance" in negotiations on some issues, including the Austrian demand that membership be preceded by a transition period to prevent the mass inflow of cheap labor from new member countries. European Commission President Jacques Santer said he "finds no clouds" in Brussels-Prague relations. Zeman described the result of the recent Slovak elections as a "victory for the democratic forces [there]," adding that Slovakia is now "ending its non- splendid isolation." MS CZECH SKINHEADS SENTENCED TO JAIL FOR DROWNING ROMANY WOMAN. Two skinheads were found guilty of assault resulting in the death of a Romany woman, whom they pushed into the River Elbe in the Bohemian town of Vrchlabi last February, CTK reported on 29 September. The two skinheads were sentenced to six and eight years in prison. In other news, former Trade and Industry Minister Karel Kuehnl has been elected chairman of the opposition Freedom Union's group in the Chamber of Deputies, replacing Vladimir Mlynar. MS SLOVAK RULING PARTY MAY DROP MECIAR... Interior Minister Gustav Krajci on 29 September told Radio Twist that the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) may decide to drop Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar as its candidate to form the next government and appoint someone else instead, AP reported. Krajci said Meciar's deputy, Sergej Kozlik, may be chosen to replace the premier, but he added that the matter has been discussed only in unofficial talks within the HZDS. Earlier on 29 September, parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic said that he will "ask the HZDS to form a government" because "by tradition" the winner of the election is given the first chance to do so, Reuters reported. MS ...BUT WILL IT SUFFICE TO FORM NEW GOVERNMENT? In his interview with Radio Twist, Krajci admitted that the HZDS may nonetheless be forced to go into opposition. He said it is "unlikely that we will be able to form a majority government." To do so, the HZDS needs the support of the Slovak National Party, as well as that of the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL). SDL leader Josef Migas said his formation regards such a partnership as "unacceptable" and that "the only alternative...is with the current opposition parties." Migas's deputy, Jan Langos, told journalists that the SDL has "already agreed with our future coalition partners on opening coalition talks and on the new government's program." MS SLOVAKIA TO REDUCE DUTY ON HUNGARIAN WHEAT IMPORTS. Slovak Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Anna Jostiakova said after talks with her counterpart, Peter Balas, in Budapest on 29 September, that Bratislava will reduce the recently imposed customs duty on wheat imports from Hungary from 70 percent to 22.5 percent, MTI reported. Hungary is to withdraw the complaint it filed with the World Trade Organization. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NEW MASSACRES IN KOSOVA. Serbian forces killed some 18 Kosovar civilians in Obrinje, west of Prishtina, on 26 September, several major British and U.S. dailies reported on 30 September. The ages of the dead ranged from 18 months to 95 years and included a young pregnant woman. Some of the victims had been shot at close range or killed with knives, and some had been mutilated, Western journalists and diplomats said in Obrinje, after speaking to survivors and viewing the victims' remains. Further massacres of Kosovar civilians took place elsewhere in the same area in recent days, the BBC and "The New York Times" reported. Serbian forces continue to surround some 700 civilians at another locality nearby, VOA reported. PM SHARP CONDEMNATION OF ATROCITIES. The killings at Obrinje provide "first-hand evidence ... that Serbian forces have been involved in killing civilians as well as in burning and looting," the BBC reported on 30 September. "The New York Times" wrote that the massacres "show as definitively as anything that the forces of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic have been conducting a campaign of terror and destruction against ethnic Albanian civilians, which is intended to intimidate them but which appears instead to be inspiring even stronger defiance." John Fox, a former State Department official turned critic of U.S. policy, told the BBC that the massacres provide evidence that Western powers have been pursuing "the most cynical policy possible" in the region by refusing to take military action against Serbian forces. A BBC correspondent in Belgrade added that "if the West is serious, the time for air strikes might be drawing close." PM HILL CALLS OBRINJE STORY 'DISTURBING.' U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill, who is the top U.S. envoy dealing with the crisis in Kosova, told CNN from Belgrade on 29 September that the accounts of the killings at Obrinje are "disturbing." He added that "there have been a number of these reports.... It's one more reason why we need to get international forensic experts in there" to establish the causes of the deaths. Hill also said that the reports also highlight the "need to get the political process going" in ending the crisis. Hill earlier spoke with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, who stressed the need for the Serbs and Kosovars to begin negotiations. PM ASHDOWN SLAMS 'SCORCHED EARTH' POLICIES. After speaking to Milosevic in Belgrade on 29 September, British Liberal Democratic leader Paddy Ashdown said that Serbian policies have led to "villages in flames [and] destroyed and plundered homes." He argued that Belgrade is conducting a "scorched earth policy" and "total war" that goes well beyond what "civilized nations" regard as an acceptable response to terrorism. Ashdown added that Milosevic promised him to "personally see to it that security forces end their operation" in the province. The British political leader spent three days in Kosova before his talks with the Yugoslav president. PM UCK REMAINS DEFIANT. The Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) issued a statement in Prishtina on 29 September calling on the international community to act "more justly, swiftly, and energetically [to end the Serbian crackdown] lest the consequences of the war in Kosova have an impact throughout the Balkans and beyond." The guerrillas added that their own policies include taking reprisals against "treacherous elements," by which they mean their political enemies among the Kosovars (see also "End Note" below). PM SESELJ THREATENS TO TAKE SERBIAN OPPOSITION HOSTAGE. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj told the parliament that "the Americans have found their fifth column here. It is composed of politically irrelevant parties and independent media." He added that if NATO launches air strikes against Serbia, the U.S. should first "withdraw its agents, such as [the prominent opposition groups] the Helsinki Committee, the Women in Black and the Belgrade Circle. We can't shoot down each and every NATO plane, but we can grab those agents who are at hand," independent Belgrade Radio B-92 reported on 30 September. Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic charged that the "so-called independent media" are not interested in the truth but "serve up lies [and messages of] defeatism, fear, and hopelessness." Pro-government legislator Zeljko Simic added that some independent media are guilty of "high treason" for having aided "Albanian separatism." PM PLAVSIC BACKERS CALL FOR ALL-SERBIAN GOVERNMENT. A spokesman for outgoing Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic's Serbian People's Alliance said in Banja Luka on 29 September that his party wants the new government to include representatives of all ethnic Serbian parties in the legislature. Leaders of the hard-line parties recently said that they would welcome such a broadly based government. PM ALBANIAN PRESIDENT ASKS MAJKO TO FORM NEW GOVERNMENT... Rexhep Meidani on 29 September asked the 30-year-old Socialist Party Secretary-General Pandeli Majko to form a new government. Earlier that day, Majko defeated Foreign Ministry State Secretary for European Integration Ilir Meta and Deputy Prime Minister Kastriot Islami to win his party's nomination for the top government post. Observers noted that Majko lacks ministerial experience but that he heads the Socialists' parliamentary faction and worked closely with outgoing Prime Minister Fatos Nano. Majko played a role in the 1990 student movement that brought about the end of communism and has mediated disputes between the Socialists and the opposition. Majko told Reuters on 29 September that he will not call new elections. The next day, he began negotiations aimed at forming a coalition. He offered "dialogue" to Democratic Party leaders and stressed that "we must return the country to normal and not be guided by the psychology of revenge." FS ...WHILE BERISHA CALLS FOR 'CONSTRUCTIVE SPIRIT.' Opposition Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha on 29 September repeated his demand for new elections but urged his supporters to show a "constructive spirit and sense of compromise in [a] dialogue that...could lead to an [interim] government with a broad base." He added that the Democratic Party will not participate in the new government but will support its anti- crisis package including the "restoration of public order [and] disarmament of the population." Berisha also expressed his willingness to cooperate in drafting a new constitution. Majko responded that the Democrats should follow the Socialist's example and remove politicians who belonged to the communist-era establishment. He said that "the best support Berisha could give to the new government would be to make positions in his own party available to the generation of young politicians." FS WESTERN DIPLOMATS WELCOME NEW LEADERSHIP. Unnamed Western diplomats in Tirana told Reuters on 29 September that they hope that Majko's nomination will put an end to Albania's highly polarized political climate. One diplomat stressed that Majko is untainted by past association with the communist regime. He added that Majko "is very open, very well disposed towards the outside world...[and] doesn't have the [political and intellectual] baggage that people in their 50's and 60's have." A second diplomat said that "I'm sure [Majko] has enemies but it's not nearly as long a list of enemies as the average Albanian politician has." In Brussels, a third diplomat stressed that the government change is not "a victory for Berisha [but] a tactical move by the Socialists to keep their government intact. The government has not fallen and that is important." FS ROMANIA'S HUNGARIAN PARTY TO LEAVE COALITION? Citing procedural grounds, the Bureau of the Chamber of Deputies' Education Commission on 29 September refused to discuss the amendment, submitted by the coalition party leaders, revoking the stipulation that prohibits the setting up of state universities teaching in national minority languages. A meeting of the coalition leaders on 29 September failed to resolve the situation, and Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) leader Bela Marko said after the meeting that the UDMR's coalition partners are now backing the "multicultural university" solution, which the UDMR rejects. Marko added that the UDMR demands the dismissal of Education Minister Andrei Marga and that it will leave the coalition in accordance with the decision of its Council of Representatives if the UDMR's demands are not satisfied by 30 September. MS BULGARIA SAYS IT'S 'READY' FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP. Bulgarian ambassador to the U.S. Philip Dimitrov on 29 September told journalists in Washington that his country is "an economic success story" among the states of the former communist bloc and is "rapidly meeting all requirements for entrance into NATO," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Dimitrov said that over the past two years, inflation has dropped from 1,000 percent to 6 percent and that by the end of 1999, some 70 percent of the state assets would be privatized. In other news, the government on 28 September issued a decree setting up a 10-member Security Council headed by Premier Ivan Kostov, BTA reported. MS BULGARIA, RUSSIA TO COOPERATE IN FIGHTING ORGANIZED CRIME. Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev and his visiting Russian counterpart, Sergei Stepashin, met in Sofia on 29 September and signed an agreement on cooperation in fighting organized crime, dpa reported. They told journalists that the goal is to improve communications between their ministries in order to curb drug smuggling, car theft, and economic crime. Stepashin singled out the need to protect "honest business" and said that Russia, hit by an economic crisis, needs cheap Bulgarian food imports. MS END NOTE THE CONFLICTS AMONG THE KOSOVARS by Tim Judah The war in Kosova has taken a deadly new twist. Just when a united front is needed to respond to the Serbs in order to avert a humanitarian disaster, Kosova's Albanian politicians are at one another's throats as never before. Skeptics say that a fiendishly clever Serbian "divide-and- rule" policy is at work, but the facts suggest otherwise. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic must be pleased that Kosovars seem to have begun to shoot one another. In June, at the height of its fortunes, the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) not only controlled large swaths of territory but appeared to have consigned Ibrahim Rugova, Kosova's pacifist leader, to the dustbin of history. That was not the case. Down, but not out, Rugova and his colleagues in the government-in-exile began to fight back. The mastermind behind that government's attempt to seize control of the UCK was Xhafer Shatri, Rugova's minister of information, based in Geneva. Working with Bujar Bukoshi, the head of the government, who lives in Bonn, he dispatched 14 military officers to Albania and Kosova. The two cabinet members also activated the dormant Ministry of Defense, appointing Ahmet Krasniqi as minister. The 14 officers, although formally operating under the aegis of their own Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosova (FARK), had as their goal the takeover of the UCK. The idea was that once this had been achieved, Rugova could proceed to the negotiating table in a position of strength--with a government, a parliament, and an army. Perhaps the U.S. unwittingly exercised some influence over the FARK's ambitions. On 4 July, Robert Gelbard, the U.S. special envoy to the Balkans, told a meeting in London that in his view, a good compromise for Kosova would be the so-called "three republic solution." This envisaged a Yugoslavia in which Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosova would not only be self-governing within the country's present borders but also would each have its own army. The FARK plan has ended in disaster because of deeply rooted antagonisms on both sides. The UCK was founded in 1993. The driving force behind its creation was Popular Movement for Kosova (LPK), a clandestine fringe group that, since its foundation in 1982, had consistently called for an uprising against the Serbs. Many of its members were, and are, former political prisoners who despise Rugova and his inner circle. They point out that while they, as radicals, were in prison in the 1980s, many of those who now surround Rugova were at the time politicians and functionaries of the then autonomous Kosova. Moreover, some members of Rugova's inner circle, such as Xhafer Shatri, used to be LPK members. Sabri Hamiti, Rugova's closest adviser, is also a former hardliner now reviled as a defector, traitor, and political opportunist. The UCK also regarded Ahmet Krasniqi as a traitor because when he was captured as a former Yugoslav Army officer by the Croats in Gospic in 1991, he was duly returned to Belgrade. Others who met a similar fate defected to fight the Serbs. On 21 September, unknown persons murdered Krasniqi in Tirana. Three days earlier, the UCK had virtually pronounced a death sentence on him after it denounced another FARK commander as a traitor. A UCK communique said: "One day these kind of people will pay for the damage they have caused to our nation." Sources close to the UCK have hardly bothered to disguise the fact that Krasniqi's death was the UCK's handiwork. The UCK's military capacity has been devastated by the Serbian offensive. But Rugova has hardly been coy about showing his satisfaction. As he has not been able to take over the UCK, his power and influence now depend on its being eliminated as a credible rival. The UCK then is down but, like Rugova several months ago, is far from out. In the spring, a commander named Qazim declared that anyone who dared sign a compromise deal with the Serbs would be "executed." In mid-September, 13 Prishtina politicians were detained by the UCK for two days. The UCK's aim was not just to show those politicians that it still existed but to instill fear into them. On 24 September, Sabri Hamiti was shot but not killed. So far, Rugova has not backed off from his demand for independence but has agreed to the so-called "interim solution," whereby Kosova's final status would not be decided until three years after a preliminary agreement was reached. In view of the catastrophe now facing Kosovars, Rugova's star is back in the ascendant. If he could halt the war, win an acceptable measure of autonomy for Kosova, and offer the prospect of independence, he would have the backing of the vast majority of Kosovars. It is precisely this possibility that the UCK wants to forestall. Its objective is to regroup during the winter so as to emerge in the spring as a rejuvenated but slimmed-down guerrilla organization whose aim would be to wear down the Serbs in a war of attrition. The author is a British journalist whose writings include "The Serbs: History, Myth, and the Destruction of Yugoslavia" (Yale University Press, 1997). xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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