A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. - Jonathan Swift
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 202, Part II, 19 October 1998


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 202, Part II, 19 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

* ZEMAN WANTS TO BE REPLACED BY 2001

* MACEDONIAN OPPOSITION LEADS IN ELECTIONS

* SERBIAN ASSAULT SENDS KOSOVARS FLEEING

End Note: YET ANOTHER CAMPAIGN FOR SLAVIC INTEGRATION
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINE HAS NO PLANS TO RAISE TRANSIT FEES ON RUSSIAN
NATURAL GAS. Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister
Anatoliy Holubchenko told AP on 17 October that Kyiv
does not plan to increase charges for the transport of
Russian natural gas across its territory but will seek
lower prices for the fuel Ukraine buys from Russia. He
noted that Ukraine has succeeded in reducing its gas
debt to Russian from $1.2 billion in January 1998 to
$740 million now. And he added that Ukraine will reduce
its debt still further by sending food to Russia. PG

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT FEARS NEW DIVISION OF EUROPE.
Following a 16 October meeting in Vienna with European
Commission President Jacques Santer, Ukrainian President
Leonid Kuchma said that the inclusion of Poland in the
EU could lead to tighter visa restrictions against his
countrymen and thus cut Ukraine off from Europe, Western
agencies reported. Santer responded that the EU has no
such intention and will support Kyiv's efforts to reform
and join the World Trade Organization. He also announced
an additional 150 million ecu balance-of-payments loan
to Ukraine, adding that the EU is prepared to help
complete two nuclear reactors in Ukraine if Kyiv closes
the troubled Chornobyl by the year 2000. PG

BELARUS TO PAY FOR RUSSIAN GAS WITH FOOD. The Belarusian
government has agreed to pay off its $250 million debt
for Russian natural gas by sending foodstuffs to Russia,
ITAR-TASS reported on 16 October. The agreement was
announced following a meeting in Moscow between Russian
Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Belarusian Premier
Siarhiej Linh. The same day, Russian Defense Minister
Igor Sergeev and his Belarusian counterpart, Aleksandr
Chumakov, agreed to expand military cooperation in
response to NATO's eastward expansion and the Western
alliance's threat of force in Kosova. PG

BELARUSIAN POPULAR FRONT MARKS 10TH ANNIVERSARY. Several
hundred people marched through Minsk on 18 October to
mark the anniversary of the founding of the Belarusian
Popular Front, Reuters reported. Many carried the now
banned red-and-white Belarusian flag or banners calling
for Belarus to join NATO. BNF leaders denounced the
country's authoritarian president, Alyaksandr
Lukashenka, and his pro-Russian policies. One BNF
leader, Vinsuk Vyachorka told the crowd that
"Belarusians are a full-blooded European nation. But we
cannot be subject to any neighbor pretending to harbor
motherly thoughts for us. Lukashenka is fed straight
from the Kremlin." PG

MERI SAYS ESTONIA IMMUNE TO RUSSIAN THREATS OVER NATO
EXPANSION. Speaking at a dinner given by Turkish
President Suleyman Demirel in Ankara, Estonian President
Lennart Meri commented that "Russian Prime Minister
Yevgenii Primakov's recent critical remarks about the
inadmissibility of NATO's enlargement to comprise
territories of the former Soviet Union do not concern us
as Estonia never belonged to the Soviet Union," ETA
reported on 16 October. He added that Estonia has always
been able to rely on the support of Turkey, which never
recognized the Baltic States' annexation by the Soviet
Union. The previous day, Demirel had stressed that
Turkey backs Tallinn's aspirations to join NATO (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 1998). Meri returned to
Estonia on 18 October. JC

SOBCHAK COMMENTS ON INTERETHNIC RELATIONS IN LATVIA.
Former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak told
journalists in Riga on 16 October that he sees no
evidence of hostility between Latvians and ethnic
Russians living in Latvia, BNS reported. "I am starting
to comprehend that [the problems of the Russian-speaking
minority are] to a great extent an object of political
speculation. The parties use it to raise their political
capital. In real life, I did not find even a trace of
hostility or opposition between Latvians and [ethnic]
Russians." He added that the recent referendum on
amendments to the citizenship law is a "colossal step
forward" and that there is "no other way for Latvia."
Sobchak, who currently lives in France, was visiting
friends in the Latvian capital. An investigation under
way in St. Petersburg has established his involvement in
"four incidents of bribery," according to Russian
Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 16 October 1998). JC

POLAND CELEBRATES 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF JOHN PAUL'S
PONTIFICATE. On 16 October, Poland launched a week-long
celebration of the Polish pope's first 20 years on the
throne of St. Peter. Polish newspapers featured
headlines such as "Twenty Years of Service" ("Zycie")
and "We Thank You, John Paul" ("Rzeczpospolita"). Adam
Michnik, a leading dissident in the 1980s, spoke for
many when he wrote in "Gazeta Wyborza" that "the choice
of Wojtyla to become Pope changed Poland and the whole
world in one second." The celebrations will culminate on
22 October with a special Church service in Warsaw. PG

HAVEL SAYS CZECHS, ROMA MUST COEXIST. Czech President
Vaclav Havel said on 17 October that the ability of
Czechs and Roma to get along directly affects the
country's reputation within Europe, CTK reported. Havel
said if Czechs and Roma cannot coexist, then "we can
forget about integrating into Europe and the European
community." Havel said "everyone will pay" if they fail
to live "alongside each other." Havel said the
emigration of Czech Roma to Great Britain would be a
major point of discussion during his trip to that
country, which began on 19 October. PB

ZEMAN WANTS TO BE REPLACED BY 2001. Czech Prime Minister
Milos Zeman said on 17 October that he wants to leave
politics completely in three years, CTK reported. Zeman,
who was speaking at an executive committee session of
his Social Democrats (CSSD) in Hradec Kralove, said that
by then, he will have accomplished his three political
goals. The first two, to build the CSSD into the leading
party in the country and to bring it to power, have been
accomplished, he said. His third goal is for the CSSD to
successfully govern, which, he commented, will have
occurred by 2001. Zeman also warned fellow CSSD members
that holding political office is not a "set of cushy
jobs." PB

JOURNALIST ASSOCIATION CRITICIZES ZEMAN'S REMARKS. The
chairwoman of the Czech Journalists' Association, Irena
Valova, has accused Zeman of trying to scare journalists
by threatening to include them in his "clean hands"
campaign, CTK reported on 18 October. Zeman said the
previous day that "journalists can be corrupt" and that
they could be included in his anti-corruption campaign.
Valova said she would seek advice from the European
Federation of Journalists regarding the alleged threat,
for which, she said, there was no precedent in Western
Europe. PB

IRELAND INTRODUCES VISA REGIME FOR SLOVAKS. The Slovak
Foreign Ministry said on 16 October that Ireland has
decided to introduce visas for Slovaks, CTK reported.
The ministry said the Irish Embassy in Vienna, which is
responsible for Irish affairs in Slovakia, sent a note
to the Foreign Ministry in Bratislava informing it of
the decision. The note described the move as temporary,
saying it is bound by an agreement with London to
maintain a common border policy with the UK. PB

FIRST RESULTS OF LOCAL ELECTIONS IN HUNGARY. According
to official preliminary results, Free Democrat Gabor
Demszky has been elected mayor of Budapest for the third
time. He won 58 percent of the votes, ahead of the
Federation of Young Democrats--Democratic
Forum/Independent Smallholders joint candidate, Janos
Latorcai, who tallied 39 percent. With some 91 percent
of the ballots counted, the alliance of the Young
Democrats and Smallholders won 39.8 percent of the vote
for local councils, while the Socialists and Free
Democrats took 34.6 percent, Hungarian media reported on
19 October. Turnout at the elections was the highest
since the fall of communism, exceeding 48 percent
(compared with 43.4 percent in 1994). MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

MACEDONIAN OPPOSITION LEADS IN ELECTIONS. Early returns
in the 18 October parliamentary elections give a
comfortable lead to the coalition of the Internal
Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) of
Ljubco Georgievski and the Democratic Alternative of
Vasil Tupurkovski. The coalition has already elected 19
deputies to the 120-seat legislature, while the
governing Social Democrats have elected only seven. Some
19 VMRO-DPMNE candidates have already qualified for the
second round on 1 November, as opposed to 15 Social
Democrats. Final results are expected by 20 October.
Georgievski and Tupurkovski promised to end corruption
and promote economic development. They will probably
need the support of one of the larger ethnic Albanian
parties in order to form a government. Observers in
Skopje noted that the opposition Democratic Party of the
Albanians (PDSH) of Arben Xhaferi, which previously made
local power-sharing agreements with VMRO-DPMNE, is the
most likely partner. PM

SERBIAN ASSAULT SENDS KOSOVARS FLEEING. Several hundred
Kosovars fled their homes in the Komoran area, west of
Prishtina, on 18 October after Yugoslav army troops and
at least 50 vehicles arrived from the provincial
capital. Guerrillas of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK)
killed three Serbian policemen in the area the previous
day. An unnamed Western diplomat told Reuters in
Prishtina that "the Serbs are going to try to clean the
area up." The Kosovar news agency KIC reported on 18
October that Serbian forces fired on several villages in
the Mitrovica area. There has been no independent
confirmation of the KIC account. The following day,
Tanjug reported that its journalist Nebojsa Radosevic
and photographer Vladimir Dobricic have gone missing on
the Prishtina-Magura road. Two months ago, Radio
Prishtina's journalist Djuro Slavuj and his driver,
Ranko Perinic, disappeared and have not been heard of
since. PM

OSCE MONITORS ARRIVE IN KOSOVA. An advance team of 20
international monitors arrived in Prishtina on 18
October. Two days earlier, OSCE chairman Bronislaw
Geremek signed an agreement in Belgrade that provides
for 2,000 members of the international Verification
Mission to deploy to the Serbian province. Elsewhere,
U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke told CNN that the
international community must act more quickly to send
the full contingent of monitors into the region. He
added that NATO remains ready to launch air strikes if
the Serbian authorities do not carry out the agreement
he negotiated with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
the previous week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October
1998). On 16 October, NATO agreed to extend its deadline
for compliance by an additional 10 days, until 27
October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 1998). PM

TOUGHER MEASURES AGAINST SERBIAN MEDIA IN OFFING?
Spokesmen for the independent media said in Belgrade on
18 October that the parliament will soon pass a law that
will incorporate key parts of a recent government decree
that shut down three independent dailies as well as
Radio Index, Radio Senta, TV Pirot, Radio Kontakt, and
Radio City (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 1998). The
law will make permanent the ban on rebroadcasting
foreign radio programs in Serbo-Croatian, including
those of RFE/RL, VOA, the BBC, and Deutsche Welle.
Elsewhere, supporters of the Democratic Party collected
5,000 signatures in opposition to the ban. The previous
day, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said
that the authorities will soon take similar measures
against independent Albanian-language media in Kosova.
PM

VOJVODINA CLAIMS AUTONOMY. Dragan Veselinov, who is
president of the "Vojvodina" coalition of opposition
parties, said that Serbia's northern province should
receive the same autonomy that Kosova will have as a
result of the recent Milosevic-Holbrooke pact, RFE/RL's
South Slavic Service reported from Belgrade on 17
October. Veselinov stressed that the agreement opens the
way for a complete restructuring of Serbia's political
system, beginning with the restoration of parliamentary
autonomy to Vojvodina. Milosevic forced the province's
leaders from office in October 1988 and subsequently
abolished its autonomy. Vojvodina has a large ethnic
Hungarian minority and smaller groups of Czechs,
Slovaks, Ruthenians, Romanians, and others. Vojvodina
Serbs long lived under Habsburg rule and generally
regard themselves as distinct from Serbs, who were
incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. PM

CROATIAN BANK OFFERS REWARD IN TUDJMAN SCANDAL.
Officials of the Zagrebacka Banka announced on 18
October that the bank will pay $170,000 to anyone
providing information as to how the independent daily
"Jutarnji List" recently obtained information about the
account of Ankica Tudjman, who is the wife of the
President Franjo Tudjman. The paper wrote that she has a
bank balance of $160,000. Ms. Tudjman recently filed an
official declaration in which she said that her property
consists only of her car. PM

MISS CROATIA STRIPPED OF TITLE. In the Croatian capital
on 16 October, the director of the Miss Croatia pageant
declared invalid the recent election of Lejla Sehovic.
He charged that there were irregularities in the voting
and that one ballot was invalid. Sehovic said that the
real reason that the pageant organizers oppose her
election is that she is a Muslim. Sehovic add that the
organizers "will have to take the crown from me
physically if they want it," RFE/RL's South Slavic
Service reported. PM

TRIAL OF SUSPECTED ISLAMIST OPENS IN TIRANA. The trial
of Claude Cheik Ben Abdel, a Muslim with French
citizenship who in June killed his 22-year-old
interpreter, has opened in the Albanian capital. Abdel
says he murdered the interpreter because "that was the
will of God." Abdel arrived in Albania early this year
to join the UCK and posed as a journalist. He was one of
a group of eight Muslim fundamentalists who acquired
weapons but did not succeed in linking up with the
guerrillas. He is believed to have killed his
interpreter because the young man knew too much about
the group's activities. In June, police began a
crackdown on suspected Muslim fundamentalist terrorists
from abroad. FS

ALBANIA CREATES SPECIAL UNIT TO PROTECT ARMY CAMPS.
Albania's High Defense Council on 17 October approved
the creation of a battalion of 150 professional soldiers
to protect army bases and arsenals against looters, ATSH
reported. The troops will be charged with foiling armed
attacks against military installations. People suspected
of smuggling arms to Kosova have tried to break into
weapons depots throughout the country several times this
year. Meanwhile, unknown attackers have blasted a main
high-voltage electrical power line in northern Albania.
The blast caused a serious power outage. FS

OPPOSITION DEPUTIES RETURN TO PARLIAMENT TO DEBATE BASIC
LAW. The opposition Democratic Party and its allies on
17 October ended their boycott of the parliament and
attended their first legislative session in months. The
parliament discussed the draft constitution and asked
the drafting commission to review four of the document's
articles, ATSH reported. Zef Bushati, leader of the
small opposition Christian Democratic Party, proposed
changing the draft to provide for the president to be
elected directly rather than by the parliament. The head
of the drafting commission, Sabri Godo, welcomed the
opposition proposals, stressing that he is confident
that "we will reach an agreement satisfying everybody,
through a consensus between representatives of all
parliamentary forces." FS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT, GOVERNMENT'S POPULARITY DOWN. A
survey released on 18 October showed a decrease in the
popularity of Emil Constantinescu and the Romanian
government, Reuters reported. The poll, taken by the
Life Quality Research Institute, showed Constantinescu
with a 25 percent approval rating, down from 38 percent
in June. Some 48 percent of respondents voiced
dissatisfaction with the performance of Prime Minister
Radu Vasile's cabinet, while 20 percent rated it "very
bad." In other news, Constantinescu's political adviser,
Zoe Petre, said the attempt at self-immolation by a
homeless woman last week was "the most brutal expression
of the deep economic crisis" in the country (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 16 October 1998). She said "it has shocked us
all." The woman was reported in critical condition on 16
October and was not expected to survive. PB

ROMANIA OFFERS TO BARTER WITH RUSSIA. Romanian
Agriculture Minister Dinu Gavrilescu said on 16 October
that Bucharest had offered to trade food products to
Russia for oil and gas, Reuters reported. Gavrilescu
said the offer was being made because of the Russian
government's hard currency shortage. Romania will offer
1 million tons of wheat along with some meat and edible
oil in exchange for crude oil and gas. The food stocks
are valued at some $200 million. PB

BULGARIA'S RULING COALITION UNITES INTO PARTY. The
ruling Union of Democratic Forces announced on 18
October that the 15-party alliance has become a single
party, AP reported. Party leader and Premier Ivan Kostov
said the UDF seeks to become a party similar to other
Christian democratic parties in Europe and hopes to
attract centrist voters. The alliance was formed by
Kostov more than a year ago. Some 3,000 alliance members
approved the change. PB

NATO MONEY TO HELP UPGRADE BULGARIAN AIR BASES.
Bulgarian General Ivan Bachev said on 16 October that
three of his country's air bases will be upgraded with
NATO funds, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported.
Bachev said the upgrades, mainly in communications
infrastructure, will allow the bases to be used by NATO
aircraft. The bases at Kamenets and Bezmer, in northern
Bulgaria, as well as the Graf Ignatievo, in the south,
will benefit from the funds. PB

END NOTE

YET ANOTHER CAMPAIGN FOR SLAVIC INTEGRATION

by Jan Maksymiuk

	When the Russian economy began to melt down after
the ruble's collapse in mid-August, Belarusian President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka launched yet another campaign for
the closer integration of Belarus and Russia. The two
countries have been unsuccessfully trying to consummate
some kind of merger since Lukashenka came to power in
1994. But this time, the "third Slavic brother,"
Ukraine, has been drawn into the process.
	Kyiv has been wary of any initiatives aimed at
closer integration not only with Russia and Belarus but
also within the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Ukraine stresses that in relations with post-Soviet
states, economic issues should take precedence over
political ones, while asserting that bilateral accords
are more important than multilateral ones. Ironically,
the event that sparked a renewed outburst of integration
propaganda was Russia's financial crisis and subsequent
economic slump.
	Addressing the Ukrainian Supreme Council on 29
September, Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev
called upon Ukraine to form a Slavic union with Russia
and Belarus. Some 50 deputies of the right-wing Rukh
party jeered at Seleznev and branded his speech a
"provocation." But 120 or so Communist deputies received
Seleznev's appeal with loud applause. In what seemed to
be an attempt at damage control, Ukrainian President
Leonid Kuchma immediately responded that he
"categorically opposes" such a union. Ukrainian Foreign
Minister Borys Tarasyuk, pointing out that Russia is a
multiethnic country, said the first consideration should
be how "tens of millions of non-Slavs" in Russia would
react if their state became part of a Slavic union.
	Nonetheless, the merger proposal was made by a
high-ranking official and received much publicity in
both Ukraine and Russia. In fact, it may well become a
propaganda time bomb planted in Ukraine's fragile
economic system. An impoverished population, large parts
of which have not been paid for months, may eventually
turn a deaf ear to Kuchma's promises to improve the
situation in independent Ukraine and may begin to heed
Lukashenka's nostalgic appeal to restore the former
"unbreakable" union and state-regulated economy.
	Lukashenka had his moment of triumph when Russia's
financial market collapsed in August. The IMF
recommendations, he argued, aim at "disrupting the
national economic system of post-Soviet republics"
rather than "curing" it. Belarus, in his opinion, has a
successful state-regulated economy that fares well
without foreign advice and assistance. Lukashenka even
went so far as to offer to act as consultant to Russian
President Boris Yeltsin by showing him how Belarus's
economic experience can be applied in Russia.
	A large amount of pro-Slavic union propaganda has
come from other quarters within Belarus. The Chamber of
Representatives, the lower house of the legislature,
called on the Russian State Duma to urgently adopt bills
on introducing a single Belarusian-Russian citizenship,
joint state symbols, a Belarusian-Russian Union anthem,
and direct elections to the Belarusian-Russian Union
Parliamentary Assembly. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry
announced that Minsk has "programs" to help Russia
overcome its crisis, while Lukashenka vowed to supply
foodstuffs to stave off famine in Russia.
	Lukashenka used the September visit to Minsk of the
Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia to try to secure the
support of the Orthodox Church for his integration
cause. "Orthodoxy is the only barrier that protects us
from falling into abyss" he said, pledging to make
Christian values "the state ideology of Belarus."
	He also took advantage of the Kosova crisis to
portray himself as a defender of the Slavic world as a
whole, offering military help to Yugoslavia. And he
strongly condemned Bulgaria and Romania for granting
NATO the right to use their airspace in the event of
military action against Yugoslavia and thus for
"betraying Slavic [sic] unity."
	So far, there have been no signs that any of those
proposals have been treated seriously by other statesmen
or had the intended effect. At another level, however,
their effectiveness is more difficult to ascertain.
Lukashenka's actions and statements are primarily
addressed to ordinary people, to collective farm and
industrial workers who are suffering most on account of
the crisis in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Such people
elected him president in 1994, and a September poll
showed that amid Belarus's worst economic crisis since
the breakup of the Soviet Union, Lukashenka's popularity
jumped to 55 percent, up 11 percent compared with last
December.
	This measure of his popularity offers a clue to
what Russian and Ukrainian workers may privately think
about Lukashenka's idea of closer Slavic unity. At the
same time, the appeal of such a union is not confined to
the Slavic former Soviet republics. An Armenian
initiative last year collected 1 million signatures in
support for that country's accession to the Russia-
Belarus Union. Similar, albeit more modest campaigns,
have also been launched in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.
	Belarus is the only post-Soviet republic that has
made reintegration a sustained, long-term policy. Unable
to use any economic levers to promote his policy of
integration, Lukashenka makes use of his greatest asset:
an almost hypnotic populist appeal to the man on the
street. In fact, he appeals directly to the deeply
wounded pride of people confronted with their
humiliating economic misery and what they perceive as
their political decline following the demise of the
Soviet Empire. Wounded pride seldom responds in a
friendly or creative manner. That is why Lukashenka--
although marginalized and isolated on the international
scene--should be regarded with due concern as
potentially one of the biggest troublemakers in the
post-Soviet area.

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