|A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner. - Samuel Johnson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 190, Part II, 1 October 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 190, Part II, 1 October 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 * LUKASHENKA, PRIMAKOV CALL FOR STRONGER BELARUS-RUSSIA UNION * MORE REPORTS OF ATROCITIES IN KOSOVA * BERISHA BLASTS MAJKO xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS LUKASHENKA, PRIMAKOV CALL FOR STRONGER BELARUS-RUSSIA UNION. On his first trip abroad as Russian prime minister, Yevgenii Primakov met with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Minsk on 30 September and proposed strengthening the two countries' strategic partnership. "It is time to move from words to deeds," Interfax cited Primakov as saying. The two leaders agreed to convene the Belarusian-Russian Union Executive Committee on 16 October. The meeting will focus "on reaching concrete results instead of exhibitionism," Primakov commented. Lukashenka commented that Belarus "has always been and [always] will be with Russia" and that other former USSR republics are bound to join the Belarusian-Russian Union. "The people will make it happen," he added. For his part, Primakov said "the number of supporters willing to join the union will grow as its economic efficiency becomes evident." JM LUKASHENKA PRAISES PRIMAKOV'S GOVERNMENT. After his meeting with Primakov, Lukashenka said he is 'highly satisfied with the work of Yevgenii Primakov's government," Interfax reported. He said he is confident that Primakov's government will stabilize the situation in Russia. And he noted that Belarus will do its best to help Russia overcome its economic problems. Primakov said Russia faces no political crisis, only "social and economic tension." He added that Russia is "on the threshold of economic reforms and changes that must benefit the people." But he commented that the government needs to have a tighter grip on regulating the economy. "This is not a step back but rather forward towards transforming the economy, including market-based change, but with a strengthening of state regulation," Reuters quoted Primakov as saying. JM BELARUS MAY RECEIVE RUSSIAN LOAN, PAY FOR GAS BY BARTER. Primakov and Lukashenka agreed in Minsk to "try to prepare" two accords for the 16 October session of the Belarusian- Russian Union Executive Committee, Interfax reported. Citing an unnamed official from Primakov's delegation, the agency reported that one accord will grant a loan to Belarus with which it can buy Russian engines for Belarusian trucks. The other will permit Belarus to pay off its gas debt to Russia with goods. Belarus's debt for Russian gas deliveries currently stands at some $220 million. JM EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS 1999 DRAFT BUDGET. The Supreme Council on 30 September rejected the government's 1999 draft budget as "unacceptable," Ukrainian Television and Ukrainian News reported. Lawmakers instructed the cabinet to draft a new budget that would take into account the recent fall of the hryvnya exchange rate and higher inflation. Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov agreed that the budget was unrealistic because it was prepared on the basis of economic indicators in June and July, well before the current crisis hit the country. In particular, the document provided for 19.2 billion hryvni ($5.7 billion) in revenues and 22.9 billion hryvni in expenditures, with a budget deficit equal to 0.6 percent of GDP. Mityukov said the cabinet will seek to submit a new draft budget by mid-October. JM UKRAINE TO BUY MORE GAS FROM RUSSIA. Ukraine plans to buy an additional 5 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia this year, Ukrainian Television reported on 30 September. Ihor Bakay, head of Ukraine's gas and oil monopoly Naftohaz Ukrayiny, said a number of Ukrainian enterprises will have no gas supplies in the last quarter of 1998 unless the purchase is made. According to AP, the government wants to pay for half of the gas in cash, while the form of payment for the other half is under consideration. JM ESTONIAN PRESIDENT ON ILVES'S RESIGNATION. Lennart Meri has issued a statement saying that he regrets the resignation of Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves in the current situation, ETA reported on 30 September. "Estonia [currently] needs consistency in foreign politics, on the one hand, in the constructive creation of relations with Russia, which is in the middle of an economic and political crisis, and on the other hand in developing relations with the EU," Meri commented. At the same time, he acknowledged that Ilves and his People's Party had appeared to be "in a rather ambiguous situation as it is impossible to be in opposition and in government at the same time." Ilves submitted his resignation on 30 September explaining that he did not have the full support of the ruling coalition. Prime Minister Mart Siimann must decide whether to accept Ilves's resignation within one month. JC CAR EXPLODES IN RIGA. A car exploded in downtown Riga in the early hours of 1 October, BNS reported. One person was injured in the blast. Criminal police chief Aloizs Blonskis is quoted by the news agency as saying the cause of the incident is not yet known. He added that there were no traces under the vehicle that are usually left from explosives. General elections and a referendum on amendments to the controversial citizenship law are scheduled to take place in Latvia on 3 October. JC LITHUANIAN CONSERVATIVES OPPOSE BUTKEVICIUS'S IMPEACHMENT. The Conservative parliamentary group has said it will not support launching impeachment proceedings against parliamentary deputy Audrius Butkevicius, who is currently in jail awaiting trial on charges of attempted large-scale fraud, BNS reported on 30 September. The faction argues that under parliamentary statutes, such proceedings cannot be launched if criminal charges are being brought against the defendant. In this connection, it cites a clause in the statutes stating that parliamentary deputies can either give permission for the arrest of a deputy suspected of committing a crime or launch impeachment proceedings in the parliament. The Conservatives say they will seek other ways to speed up Butkevicius's trial. JC EU PUBLISHES 'GLOOMY' REPORT ON POLISH FARMING. Two weeks before starting preliminary negotiations on agricultural issues with Poland, the EU has published a "gloomy" report on the Polish agricultural sector, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported on 1 October. According to the EU study, Poland has 2.04 million farms, but only 300,000 of them are larger than 10 hectares and yield enough money for further development. The average yearly income of a family farm in Poland is 2,500 ecus ($2,137) compared with some 17,500 ecus in the EU. The agricultural sector accounts for only 6 percent of Poland's GDP, despite the fact that it involves 26.7 percent of the population. The EU report, however, concludes optimistically that Poland's farming will conform with EU standards, but "gradually, without rapid changes." JM POLISH COURT ORDERS RETRIAL FOR 1981 MARTIAL LAW KILLINGS. The Polish Supreme Court on 30 September ordered the retrial of 22 riot policemen charged with killing nine miners who took part in sit-in strikes under martial law in December 1981. In November 1997, the Provincial Court in Katowice said the evidence was inadequate and acquitted 11 policemen; the other 11 were found guilty of using weapons but went unpunished under the statute of limitations. Prosecutors appealed the verdict, which caused widespread public discontent in Poland. The Supreme Court cited procedural mistakes in the original trial as a reason for relaunching legal proceedings. JM ALBRIGHT REJECTS SUGGESTION TO SUCCEED HAVEL. The daily "Mlada Fronta" on 30 September quoted State Department spokesman Lee McClenny as saying Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was "very pleased" that Vaclav Havel had suggested that she succeed him as Czech president (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 1998). But McClenny added that Albright "already has a job she likes very much and she is not looking for another job," AP reported. MS MECIAR SAYS HE WILL RESIGN. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, in an interview on Slovak television on 30 September, conceded defeat in last week's general elections and said he will resign as premier on 27 October. He also said he will not be seeking any post in a future cabinet, which, he said, would be formed by a coalition of the parties now in opposition, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. Earlier on 30 September, Foreign Minister Zdenka Kramplova submitted her resignation, Reuters reported, citing TASR. No reason for her decision was mentioned, and Kramplova was unavailable for comment. MS SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTIES END INITIAL TALKS. The two leading opposition parties have completed the first round of talks on forming a new government, Reuters reported on 30 September. The right-leaning Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) and the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) said they are determined to cooperate in forming the new coalition and will continue talks, but no concrete results will be announced before 6 October. SDK leader Mikulas Dzurinda said the two parties have "decided to work together on a government program and a program for coalition cooperation." SDL chairman Jozef Migas said his party is ready to talk with Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia "only about the transfer of power." He said the next Slovak government is going to be one of "truth, safety, and normal relations for the citizens of Slovakia." MS U.S., EU ON SLOVAK ELECTION RESULTS. Commenting that the recent Slovak elections reflect "a clear desire" for change, State Department Spokesman James Foley on 30 September urged all concerned to make the transfer of power "orderly and expeditious," an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. Also on 30 September, European Commission spokeswoman Lousewies van der Laan said the commission is "pleased" with the strong showing by the opposition in the recent elections but cannot reward Slovakia by accelerating talks for its membership in the EU. Van der Laan said that the commission "will be looking for concrete steps from Slovakia to improve its human rights record," and she singled out Hungarian minority rights as well as general democratic rights. MS CORRECTION: "RFE/RL Newsline" of 30 September incorrectly identified Jan Langos as deputy chairman of the Party of the Democratic Left. Langos is the former chairman of the Democratic Party and currently deputy chairman of the Slovak Democratic Coalition. HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ENDS U.S. VISIT. "Hungary is not seeking to bring forward the date of NATO expansion but welcomes all moves that point in that direction," Janos Martonyi told Hungarian media on 30 September after returning from New York. He said he agreed with U.S. Under Secretary of State Strobe Talbott that "the normal pace of events" will be followed in NATO expansion, which, he added, is "more of a technical issue than a political one." Martonyi also welcomed the outcome of the Slovak election, saying that if the opposition succeeds in setting up a new government, it will be "a decisive development" both domestically and for Slovakia's Euro-Atlantic integration. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MORE REPORTS OF ATROCITIES IN KOSOVA. Foreign diplomats are investigating reports of a recent massacre of Kosovar males at Golubovac, "The New York Times" wrote on 1 October. "The Guardian" reported that Serbian police and Yugoslav armed forces tricked refugees into returning to Vraniq on 27 September. The Serbs then killed some of the refugees, arrested some 300 males, and looted and destroyed the refugees' vehicles, the London daily wrote. The reports of atrocities emerged one day after eye-witness accounts of the killing of 18 Kosovar civilians at Obrinje (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 1998). PM SERBS DENY KILLINGS TOOK PLACE. Referring to the reports about Obrinje, a Serbian police spokesman said in Prishtina on 30 September that the massacres "could not have happened." He added that this is because paramilitary police officials send him reports on their activities and he has no record of such killings. In Belgrade, the state-run Tanjug news agency called the Obrinje story a "foreign media farce." PM BRITAIN 'READY TO ACT' ON KOSOVA. In Blackpool on 1 October, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the BBC that "Britain is ready to act [militarily].... It's beginning to look like the only language [Yugoslav] President [Slobodan] Milosevic will listen to is the threat of force." The previous day, he said of the Obrinje killings: "this was not an act of war. It was plain cold murder.... NATO is now ready to act. Milosevic would be making a big mistake if he did not recognize the revulsion across Europe at this latest atrocity." PM SECURITY COUNCIL TO DISCUSS KOSOVA. Cook telephoned his U.S. and EU counterparts on 30 September and then announced that the UN Security Council will meet on 1 October to discuss Kosova. That body is unlikely to take any firm steps for at least one week, however, until Secretary-General Kofi Annan issues a report evaluating whether Milosevic has met demands by the international community regarding the Serbian offensive in Kosova. "The New York Times" suggested on 1 October that France as well as Russia may oppose any calls for NATO military intervention. In Moscow, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said that any NATO intervention could lead to a "real war" between the alliance and Yugoslavia and to a crisis in NATO-Russian relations. PM BROAD CONDEMNATION OF OBRINJE KILLINGS. Top officials of the U.S. State Department and its counterparts in Canada, Austria, France, and Italy have condemned the murders. A State Department spokesman on 30 September said that the Obrinje reports indicate the "brutality" that the Serbian authorities are capable of using against their own citizens, while Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy noted that the "Serbian police...are decimating the civilian population." Austria, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said in a Foreign Ministry statement that in view of the "bestial situation of this massacre, certainly the killing of women and children, a delegation of international experts must conduct an investigation." The French Foreign Ministry noted in a statement that Paris "again stresses the seriousness of the situation and confirms that all options, including military ones, remain open." An Italian Foreign Ministry statement said that "there can be no justification" for the murders. PM NATO STILL 'MAKING PREPARATIONS.' In Bonn, the outgoing cabinet on 30 September agreed that Germany will supply 14 aircraft and 500 military personnel for any NATO intervention in Kosova. In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said the "the clock is ticking" for possible NATO strikes against Serbian military targets. But other unnamed Pentagon officials told AP that military intervention is not imminent. One source argued that, after NATO aircraft attack Serbian anti-aircraft batteries, "you can go after the tanks, but then the Serb forces can hide in the mountains." The official also warned that NATO intervention could endanger the lives of displaced persons in Kosova. In Brussels, an unnamed NATO official told Reuters that any decision to intervene will first require a "good, objective assessment of the situation on the ground." PM SERBIAN MEDIA CONFERENCE POSTPONED. In Belgrade on 30 September, conference organizers announced the postponement of a symposium on media freedoms slated for 2 October in the Serbian capital. The reason for the decision was that the Serbian authorities refused to issue visas to foreign participants, independent Radio B-92 reported. Elsewhere, Milosevic met with Republika Srpska President-elect Nikola Poplasen and the new Serbian representative on the Bosnian joint presidency, Zivko Radisic, to discuss future cooperation between Belgrade and the Bosnian Serbs. Throughout Serbia, most electricity supplies was temporarily cut off by an earthquake that measured 5.7 on the Richter scale. Its epicenter was in Valjevo, but it was felt as far away as Montenegro and Banja Luka. Many Serbs mistook the earthquake for NATO air strikes, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM GARROD WARNS HERZEGOVINIANS. In Mostar on 30 September, a spokesman for the international community's Sir Martin Garrod charged local Croatian authorities with having "done nothing" to enable Serbian refugees return to their homes in Rastane. The spokesman also said that local Croatian media are discouraging any refugees from going back to homes in areas controlled by other nationalities, "Oslobodjenje" wrote. In Zagreb, a representative of the European Commission said that Croatia can join the PHARE aid program only after it changes its electoral law and opens up state-run television to opposition points of view, according to "Jutarnji list." Elsewhere, representatives of Croatia's three largest railroad unions agreed to work together in collective bargaining with management, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. And in Rijeka, "Novi List" called President Franjo Tudjman's recent declaration of his assets a "farce." PM BERISHA BLASTS MAJKO. In Tirana, Prime Minister-designate Pandeli Majko said on 30 September that he hopes to have his cabinet list drawn up by the end of the following day. Opposition leader and former President Sali Berisha told 2,000 supporters that Majko is only a "puppet" of former Prime Minister Fatos Nano and that the new cabinet will be a "terrorist government." Berisha added that the Democrats want President Rexhep Meidani to appoint a caretaker government in order to organize new elections. In Washington, a State Department spokesman called on Albanian leaders to "address the political polarization that has characterized [political life in Albania] over the past year." In Brussels, OSCE officials announced that 23 countries and eight international organizations have set up a "forum" called "Friends of Albania" to provide political and economic assistance aimed at promoting reform in that country. PM ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT OFFERS COMPROMISE TO ETHNIC HUNGARIAN PARTY. The government on 30 September announced it will set up a "multicultural" university with tuition in Hungarian and German, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The new university is to be named "Petofi-Schiller" and supervised by the Ministry of Education. Bela Marko, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), said the decision shows the government's "intention to solve the crisis." The UDMR's Operative Council said later that the party's Council of Representatives will decide at its 5 October meeting whether to accept the compromise offer. The council had earlier announced that the party will leave the coalition if the university dispute is not solved by 30 September. MS LUCINSCHI-SMIRNOV SUMMIT POSTPONED. A summit meeting between President Petru Lucinschi and separatist leader Igor Smirnov scheduled for 1 October in Tiraspol was canceled by the Transdniestrian side just hours before it was due to start, Infotag reported on 30 September. The two leaders were to have discussed bilateral economic relations,. But the separatist authorities said the meeting had been "poorly prepared," and they blamed Chisinau for failing to produce necessary documentation at the previous summit meeting in June and at the 22 September meeting at government level. In other news, Lucinschi and the head of the OSCE mission to Moldova, John Evans, met on 29 September and urged that negotiations on the status of the separatist region be resumed, the independent Flux agency reported on 30 September. MS ORTHODOX LEADERS TRY TO END CONFLICT WITHIN BULGARIAN CHURCH. Heads of Orthodox Churches from several countries met in Sofia on 30 September to discuss ways of overcoming the schism within the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. The pan-Orthodox convention is chaired by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, AP reported. Since 1991, the Bulgarian Church has been split between supporters of Patriarch Maxim, who served as Church leader under the communist regime, and Pymen, whose followers seceded that year and proclaimed him patriarch in 1996. Patriarch Maxim subsequently declared that Pymen had been expelled from the Church. Pymen's supporters accuse Maxim of serving the secret police under communism. MS 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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