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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 191, Part II, 2 October 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 191, Part II, 2 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

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Headlines, Part II

* UKRAINIAN NATIONAL BANK RESTRICTS FOREIGN CURRENCY
PURCHASES

* UN TAKES NO ACTION ON KOSOVA

* MAJKO FORMS NEW GOVERNMENT

End Note: THE PARTIES AND THE PERSONALITIES IN THE LATVIAN
ELECTIONS
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINIAN NATIONAL BANK RESTRICTS FOREIGN CURRENCY PURCHASES.
In a bid to stave off the depletion of its reserves, the
Ukrainian National Bank (NBU) has sharply tightened
procedures for purchasing foreign currency, Ukrainian News
reported on 1 October. The new rules stipulate that foreign
currency can be purchased by authorized banks only if their
customers produce the required documentation, which includes
foreign trade contracts and tax and customs clearance. Banks
are obliged to provide the State Tax Administration with
information about customers wanting to buy foreign currency,
including passport details of customers' employers and
accountants. Permits for purchasing foreign currency are to
be issued by NBU regional departments. "The situation is
deadly: the country's trade turnover will practically be
paralyzed," the agency quoted one banker as saying. JM

LUKASHENKA SAYS RUSSIA FOLLOWING BELARUSIAN EXPERIENCE...
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told journalists
on 1 October that he has the impression that the new Russian
government is borrowing much of the economic experience
accumulated by Belarus over the past four years, Interfax
reported. Commenting on his meeting earlier this week with
Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 1 October 1998), Lukashenka said Primakov "spoke
about state regulation and a socially-oriented market
economy." He said he sees the model chosen by Primakov as
"the best possible" for Russia. And he added that Primakov is
tackling his new duties with "youth-like enthusiasm." JM

...CLAIMS BELARUS HAS ENOUGH FOOD. Lukashenka also said
Belarus has food reserves larger than it had in the Soviet
era. He announced that he will make trips to the regions next
week to make sure that "the necessary measures have been
taken to ensure the country's self-sufficiency in food." But
he admitted that the Russian crisis is continuing to hurt the
Belarusian economy. JM

BANKS CHASTISED FOR LOSING $200 MILLION IN RUSSIAN CRISIS. At
a constituent congress of the Belarusian Confederation of
Entrepreneurs , Lukashenka said commercial banks in Belarus
have lost $200 million because of the financial crisis in
Russia, AP reported on 1 October. "For what purpose did you
buy those papers?" he asked businessmen, referring to Russian
government short-term treasury bills, which have become
virtually worthless owing to the crisis. "The best bank is a
sock in your own country," he added. Lukashenka assured
entrepreneurs that he supports their association but warned
them against political involvement. "If you want to maintain
relations with the president or state bodies, [do not become
involved in] politics, electoral blocs, or political
associations," Belapan quoted him as saying. JM

BELARUS SLAMS IMF'S 'OLD TEXTBOOK RECIPES'... Belarusian
First Deputy Foreign Minister Syarhey Martynau blamed the IMF
on 1 October for issuing "old textbook recipes" to fight
crises in developing economies, Reuters reported. "The fund's
enforced policies in a range of countries have deepened and
even caused the crisis," he told a news conference. He added
that Belarus achieved a "certain success" while following
"its own recipe." JM

...CONTINUES TO SEEK COMPROMISE WITH EVICTED AMBASSADORS.
Martynau also said the problem of Western ambassadors who
were evicted from the Drazdy residential compound near Minsk
is an "obstacle" in developing relations with a number of
countries. He said Belarus has offered 40 alternative
residences to the ambassadors. He added that special missions
from Germany, France, and Italy have examined the proposed
locations but have made no decision on whether to accept
them. A spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Minsk told
Reuters that the U.S. is not interested in Belarus's
proposals. "We view the eviction from Drazdy as a violation
of the Vienna convention and we can agree only to the
reinstatement of the previous status of the residence in
Drazdy," she said. JM

LATVIAN PREMIER WANTS WEST TO CEASE PRESSURE OVER CITIZENSHIP
LAW. In an interview with Reuters on 1 October, Guntars
Krasts said that Western pressure on Latvia to ease
citizenship requirements for its Russian-speaking minority is
a "mistake." He said that such pressure is harmful and raises
doubts about the value of joining the EU. And he added that
by exerting pressure, the EU is behaving like Moscow did
before Latvia quit the Soviet Union in 1991. Latvians are to
vote in general elections and a referendum on amendments to
the citizenship law on 3 October (see also "End Note" below).
JC

LITHUANIAN PREMIER ON EU ENTRY. Gediminas Vagnorius said in
Brussels on 1 October that the EU risks undermining reforms
in Lithuania if it does not invite the Baltic State for
membership talks next year, according to AP. "It would have a
negative impact on the stability of our country...[and] a
negative [impact] on our public opinion," he noted. The EU
has told Lithuania that it needs to modernize its
administration and reform its economy before it can start
talks. Vagnorius commented that "Lithuania will do all it can
to resolve its problems.... We'll make so much progress that
it will be impossible not to invite us." JC

POLISH COALITION HAGGLES WITH OPPOSITION OVER LOCAL BUDGETS.
With local elections due in Poland on 11 October, the ruling
coalition and the opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD)
are accusing each other of limiting the incomes of local
governments, "Zycie Warszawy" reported on 2 October. A
government draft law on local budgets stipulates that local
taxes will account for only 4 percent of the budget of a
powiat (middle tier of local administration), while 96
percent will be provided by the central government in the
form of subsidies and subventions. The coalition Freedom
Union says the SLD that predetermined the composition of
local budgets by "lobbying branch interests" when laws
defining local government powers were being passed. Premier
Jerzy Buzek thinks that the powiat budgets are nevertheless
"quite large" and that their composition may be changed next
year. JM

SLOVAK OPPOSITION LEADERS ON MECIAR'S DEPARTURE. Mikulas
Dzurinda, leader of the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK),
said on 1 October that Vladimir Meciar's departure from the
political scene will be "a relief for Slovakia," AFP
reported. Dzurinda added that Meciar's appearance on
television on 30 September was "a sad spectacle." Former
Premier Jan Carnogursky., leader of the Christian Democratic
Party, said decency had never been Meciar's strong point and
the appearance was "definitely his last." And another former
premier, Jozef Moravcik, said Meciar's appearance on
television was "a very confused performance" that showed
Meciar "was not quite normal." A tearful Meciar had ended his
television appearance singing "With Lord God I take my leave,
I never hurt any of you," an RFE/RL correspondent reported.
MS

SLOVAKIA ABANDONS FIXED EXCHANGE RATE. The National Bank of
Slovakia on 1 October announced it will no longer intervene
to support the Slovak crown within the 7 percent fluctuation
boundary, thus in effect allowing the national currency to
float against foreign currencies, AP reported. The move,
which is expected to result in a devaluation of the Slovak
crown, was mainly prompted by the growing balance of payments
deficit. In other news, SDK spokesman Martin Lengyel told an
RFE/RL correspondent in Bratislava that the courts may have
to decide on the legality of privatization deals concluded
under the outgoing Meciar government. MS

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT, JEWISH COMMUNITY AGREE ON COMPENSATION.
Minister of Cultural Heritage Jozsef Hamori and Peter
Feldmajer, chairman of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish
Communities, have signed an agreement on collective
compensation for properties confiscated under communism. The
Jewish community will receive a $63 million annuity
representing the value of its 152 schools and other
buildings. The first 608 million forint ($2.9 million)
installment of the annuity will be paid in 1998. In other
news, the Hungarian Calvinist Church said in a statement it
expects its pastors who are also parliamentary deputies not
to voice opinions contrary to the views of Christian
ideology. The statement comes in the wake of a recent
statement made in the parliament by a Calvinist pastor,
Lorant Hegedus of the Justice and Life Party, which was
denounced by the opposition as racist. MSZ

OPPOSITION CRITICIZES CLOSURE OF HUNGARIAN DAILY. Opposition
critics say the Budapest tabloid "Kurir," whose publication
was suspended by its owner on 1 October, was a victim of the
new cabinet's preferences for more conservative newspapers.
"Kurir" was owned by Postabank, whose top management was
fired by the government several weeks ago, when the
government gained majority ownership of the bank. Laszlo
Kovacs, chairman of the opposition Hungarian Socialist Party,
said "it is unacceptable to suspend newspapers critical of
the government on the pretext of financial difficulties." MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

UN TAKES NO ACTION ON KOSOVA. The Security Council voted on 1
October to condemn the recent massacres of ethnic Albanians
in Kosova but did not assign blame for the killings or
authorize NATO to intervene militarily against Serbia (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1998). British Ambassador Jeremy
Greenstock, who holds the rotating chair of the highest UN
body and who called the special session, said that the vote
is a "clear, direct message" to Yugoslav President Slobodan
Milosevic to "immediately investigate and punish those
responsible" for the killings. Russian and Chinese diplomats
told reporters, however, that their governments want further
information on the massacres before assigning blame.
Slovenian Ambassador Danilo Turk told CNN that "diplomacy
still has a job to do" before the Council can authorize
military action. CNN concluded that "it is not clear if there
is the international will" to take tough measures against
Belgrade. PM

BELGRADE INVITES ANNAN. The state-run Tanjug news agency
reported that the government on 2 October issued an
invitation to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to visit that
country before finishing his forthcoming report on Kosova
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1998). The previous day,
Yugoslav Ambassador to the UN Vladislav Jovanovic said in New
York that he hopes Annan will rely on "real information" on
the massacres, and not that supplied by international
humanitarian organizations. Jovanovic suggested that the
Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) might be responsible for the
killings and called for an investigation by forensic teams
consisting of Serbian and foreign experts. The diplomat also
urged the UN to investigate the murders of Serbian civilians
and police in Kosova. Jovanovic warned against authorizing
NATO air strikes against his country, saying that such
intervention would only "make matters worse" and place the
international community on the side of "separatists and
terrorists." PM

WASHINGTON ISSUES TRAVEL ADVISORY FOR YUGOSLAVIA. The State
Department issued a warning to U.S. citizens on 1 October to
leave Yugoslavia. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave
a closed-door briefing to the entire Senate on the security
situation in Kosova. She later told reporters that diplomacy
will be given an additional chance to resolve the crisis but
added that NATO is "now prepared to act." Secretary of
Defense William Cohen said that the deadline for NATO to
decide on intervention will come "soon." Robert Gelbard, who
is the U.S. special envoy for the former Yugoslavia, told the
BBC that the massacres leave Serbia with "no credibility at
all." In New York, Ambassador Greenstock said that "it looks
as though Milosevic will only understand the use of force or
the threat of the use of force. That is what we are now
preparing. If it's necessary, we will use it... If unity [of
the Security Council on intervention] is not possible, then
we'll have to make our own decisions according to the
circumstances." PM

SESELJ THREATENS RETALIATION AGAINST NATO TROOPS. Serbian
Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said in Belgrade on 1
October that Western countries are manipulating the reports
of atrocities in Kosova to justify military attacks on
Serbia. "All media and all agencies in charge of waging a
special, psychological war have joined this orchestrated
campaign by Western powers against the Serbian people....
Maybe we are incapable of hitting each one of their planes,
but the West should be aware that their soldiers will be our
targets no matter where they are, if we can get at them." The
former paramilitary leader added that there are "some
territories where it will be easy to do so." Observers
suggested that this might be a reference to SFOR troops in
Bosnia. The next day, Mirjana Markovic, who is Milosevic's
wife, compared the U.S. to a "bellicose giant who picks
adversaries who cannot defend themselves." PM

ALBANIA CHARGES SERBIA WITH GENOCIDE. The Albanian Foreign
Ministry issued a statement on 1 October saying that the
recent killing of civilians in Kosova showed "the readiness
of Belgrade's authorities to continue their policy of
aggression, genocide and ethnic cleansing" against Kosovars.
The statement stressed that the massacres are only "one
episode in the endless cruelties of the Serbian military and
police forces" and charged Serbia with having massacred
hundreds of civilians since February under the pretext of
fighting the UCK. The statement called on the Hague-based
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to
bring to justice the "perpetrators of these crimes and those
in Belgrade who ordered them." The statement also called for
NATO intervention in Kosova to "end Serbian violence
[there]." FS

RADISIC CALLS FOR PRAGMATISM. Zivko Radisic, who is the newly
elected Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency and
who will soon occupy the rotating chair of that body, told
the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" of 2 October that his Socialist
Party is totally independent of its Yugoslav namesake,
Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia. Radisic said he would
not have run for the presidency if he did not believe "in the
future of Bosnia-Herzegovina," but he added that that state
consists of two legally equal entities and three equal
peoples. He said he regrets that Republika Srpska President
Biljana Plavsic, who is a member of the same electoral
coalition as he is, was not reelected but said that he
expects he can work with her successor, Nikola Poplasen.
Radisic called that Hague-based war crimes tribunal a
"political court directed exclusively against the Serbian
people," adding that war criminals must first answer to their
own ethnic group. PM

OSCE SACKS ELECTED OFFICIALS. In Sarajevo on 1 October,
representatives of the OSCE, which supervised the 12-13
September Bosnian elections, barred a Croatian local council
member from Siroki Brijeg and a Serbian deputy to the
Republika Srpska legislature from taking their seats. The
move was punishment for violations of the election rules by
their respective parties, the Croatian Democratic Community
and the Serbian Radical Party. The election supervisors fined
a Muslim-led coalition in Tuzla $700 for arranging for its
supporters to vote in their own homes. In Lukavica, the joint
government approved a draft agreement with Croatia on
Bosnia's use of Croatia's port of Ploce. The joint presidency
and parliament, as well as the Croatian legislature, must
ratify the text before it becomes binding. PM

MAJKO FORMS NEW GOVERNMENT. Albanian President Rexhep Meidani
approved the new cabinet list that Prime Minister-designate
Pandeli Majko presented to him on 2 October. The composition
is little different from that of the outgoing government of
former Prime Minister Fatos Nano, Reuters reported. Ingrid
Shuli of the Social Democrats replaced fellow party member
Gaqo Apostoli as public works and transport minister, and
Socialist Kadri Rrapi succeeded party colleague Anastas
Angjeli as labor minister. Angjeli will take over the finance
portfolio from Arben Malaj. The parliament must vote on the
cabinet within 10 days. PM

BERISHA SLAMS MAJKO. Former President Sali Berisha told a
press conference on 1 October that "the leadership of the
Democratic Party would like to inform Albanians and the
international community that the newly nominated prime
minister interrupted his university studies for a year owing
to a serious mental illness." He did not elaborate, nor has
Majko commented on that claim. Berisha added that his party
had offered a dialogue but President Meidani had declined to
consult with his party before asking Majko to form a new
government. FS

GREEK CONSULAR OFFICIAL ATTACKED IN GJIROKASTRA. Unidentified
attackers threw a hand-grenade at the apartment of the
secretary of the Greek Consulate in Gjirokastra on 30
October, AP reported. A room was damaged but there were no
injuries. Several explosions have occurred in Gjirokastra
this year, but no one has claimed responsibility. Meanwhile,
Europe's soccer's governing body, UEFA, has postponed a match
between Albania and Greece because of the continuing
political instability in Albania. The Euro 2000 qualifying
match was scheduled to take place in Tirana on 10 October. FS

BUCHAREST'S DECISION ON 'MULTICULTURAL UNIVERSITY' STIRS
CONTROVERSY. Deputy Education Minister Mihai Korka said it is
"absurd" to limit teaching in the envisaged "Petofi-Schiller"
multicultural university to minority languages and that his
ministry will not agree to carry out the decision unless
tuition there is conducted in the Romanian language as well.
Observers stress that Education Minister Andrei Marga, a main
opponent of "ethnic universities," did not participate in the
government meeting that adopted the decision on 30 September.
Paul Porr, deputy chairman of the German Democratic Forum,
said his organization was not consulted, adding that the
German minority "does not need" a separate university.
Observers also stress that the government-proposed compromise
is illegal unless the Chamber of Deputies changes the article
prohibiting higher education in separate minority state
universities approved by the chamber's Education Commission,
RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 1 October. MS

ROMANIAN ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE WORSENS. Romania's GDP in the
first six months of 1998 has dropped by 5.2 percent, compared
with the same period last year, the National Statistics Board
said on 30 September. The balance of trade deficit for the
same period has grown to $1.66 billion, compared with $1.36
billion in the first half of 1997. Exports dropped by 8.9
percent and imports by12.8 percent. MS

BULGARIA DISMISSES RUSSIAN OPPOSITION TO BALKAN FORCE.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov on 30 September told
Reuters that Russia's objections to the setting up of the
Multinational Peacekeeping Force for Southeastern Europe were
"groundless and based on the outdated concept of a world
divided into spheres of influence by the major powers."
Agreement on establishing such a force was reached in Skopje
on 19 September. Vlaikov said the force is "not directed
against any country, neither was it an attempt to limit the
influence of any state." The Russian Foreign Ministry on 29
September argued that the force is an attempt to limit
Russia's role in the region. MS

END NOTE

THE PARTIES AND THE PERSONALITIES IN THE LATVIAN ELECTIONS

by Jan Cleave

	When Latvian voters go to the polls on 3 October, they
will be asked to vote not just in elections to the Seventh
Saeima (or parliament) but also in a referendum on amendments
to the citizenship law. The latter of those two ballots,
which asks whether voters favor removing the so-called
"naturalization windows" and granting citizenship to all
children born after independence if their parents request it,
has dominated the run-up to election day. Nonetheless,
pundits will be watching closely after polling ends to see
which of the 21 parties competing in the elections win entry
to the legislature and which of the personalities leading
those parties gain the upper hand in post-election
negotiations on forming a new government.
	According to opinion polls, the likely winner of the
elections will be the right-of-center People's Party, founded
early this year and led by the charismatic former Prime
Minister Andris Skele. Since February, the People's Party has
led opinion polls ahead of the two largest ruling coalition
partners: the centrist Latvia's Way, a strong advocate of the
amendments to the citizenship law, and the nationalist-
rightist Fatherland and Freedom party, which initiated the 3
October referendum and is the only major party openly opposed
to the amendments. In a poll conducted by the Latvijas Fakti
research center earlier this week, Skele's party secured 19
percent of the vote, followed by Latvia's Way (15.6 percent)
and the Fatherland and Freedom party (14.1 percent).
	The popularity of the People's Party may be largely
attributed to Skele himself, whose reputation as a reformer
was molded during his premiership from December 1995 to July
1997. During that period, Latvia had its first balanced
budget and the groundwork for the country's continued
economic success was laid--achievements that in the wake of
the Russian financial crisis are likely to be valued by the
electorate. With regard to the issue of citizenship, Skele
has said he believes the amendments are vital to Latvia's bid
to join the EU and NATO and to improving the country's image
abroad. His party's platform, however, does not address the
issue of how to improve relations with Russia.
	Another new formation whose popularity stems largely
from its leader is the aptly named New Party (9.4 percent).
Founded earlier this year, the New Party is led by Raimonds
Pauls, who was a well known entertainer in the 1970s and
1980s. Its platform embraces both leftist and centrist
ideology, promoting state control over the economy and closer
ties to Russia while favoring tax cuts for private
entrepreneurs as well as backing EU and, to a lesser extent,
NATO membership.
	The other two parties that look set to overcome the 5
percent barrier are both on the left of the political
spectrum. The Social Democratic Alliance (9.2 percent) is
headed by Juris Bojars, who, as a former KGB employee, is
barred from running for the Saeima. His party seeks to appeal
to that part of the electorate that has suffered most under
Latvia's tough economic reforms, favoring a strong role for
the state in the economy. The National Harmony Party (8.2
percent), which brings together former Communists and
independence activists, also favors heavy state control over
the economy and is opposed to NATO membership.
	Analysts suggest that the undecided voter (7.6 percent
of the electorate, according to the latest Latvijas Fakti
poll, was undecided on the eve of the elections) may help the
Farmers Union, a member of the ruling coalition, and
Democratic Party Saimnieks, which quit the government earlier
this year, to overcome the 5 percent hurdle. And the so-
called "shy voter"--one who is unwilling to reveal to
pollsters his preference for one of the more radical parties-
-may be instrumental in assisting formations such as Joahim
Zigerist's extreme nationalist Popular Movement for Latvia or
Janis Jurkans's party, which is the successor to the
Communists, in their bid to enter the legislature.
	While it is difficult to predict the division of
parliamentary mandates, analysts believe the Seventh Saeima
could be even more fragmented than its predecessor. That
would not bode well for the parliament. The numerous factions
in the Sixth Saeima as well as the frequent changes of party
membership among parliamentary deputies have been held
responsible for slowing down and complicating the work of the
legislature.
	As for the new government, the post-election
negotiations on its formation are likely to be tough and
protracted. People's Party chairman Skele has made it clear
he would prefer a more stream-lined cabinet than the present
one. Earlier this week, he told the BNS news agency that a
coalition of several parties would not benefit Latvia but
"two parties...would be a good result." The opinion polls,
however, would seem to suggest a different outcome.

This article is based on information provided by RFE/RL's
Riga bureau.

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