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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 203, Part II, 20 October 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 203, Part II, 20 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 * POLISH GOVERNMENT 'DISAPPOINTED' BY AUSCHWITZ DECISION * CONFUSION IN KOSOVA * YUGOSLAV GENERAL BLAMES POLITICIANS FOR WAR End Note SAKHALIN: WAITING FOR OIL BUT PATIENCE IS RUNNING OUT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE IMF TO CONSIDER BELARUS LOAN REQUEST. The IMF plans to send a delegation to Minsk in early November to discuss the Belarusian government's request for an emergency loan to help cover its loss of grain exports to Russia, an IMF spokeswomen told RFE/RL on 19 October. Those discussions may not lead to a loan, however, she suggested. On the one hand, Belarus has not complied with IMF requirements for such loans in the past. On the other, the IMF has had relatively little contact with Minsk since its representative there left the country along with other diplomats in the summer. PG BELARUS PRESIDENT STRESSES SUPPORT FOR BELGRADE. In a message to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said again that his country will provide assistance to Belgrade if NATO applies force in Kosova, Interfax reported on 19 October. Lukashenka's message was made public during a 17-18 October visit to Belgrade by Belarusian Security Council State Secretary Viktor Sheiman. PG CPJ TO HONOR BELARUSIAN JOURNALIST. The U.S.-based Committee to Project Journalists has named Pavel Sheremet, Minsk bureau chief of Russian Public Television and chief editor of "Belarusskaya delovaya gazeta," as one of five international journalists to be honored in New York on 24 November, RFE/RL reported on 19 October. A CPJ press release said that Sheremet has become a symbol of courage for standing up to President Lukashenka's campaign to suppress that country's independent media. PG RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN CRISIS TASK FORCE TO MEET. Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma agreed during a 19 October telephone conversation that their joint anti-crisis task force will convene in Moscow on 23 October, Interfax reported. They also said that a planned meeting of Russian and Ukrainian businessmen in Kharkiv on 30 October could give "a new impulse to bilateral economic cooperation," according to the Russian news service. PG CHORNOBYL-RELATED CANCERS INCREASE IN UKRAINE. Ukraine's Health Ministry and UN officials have reported a rise in the number of Ukrainians suffering from thyroid cancer, dpa reported on 19 October. "The disease is a consequence of the catastrophe at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant," Ukrainian Health Minister Andriy Serdyuk told Interfax. Some 1,030 children now suffer from this disease in Ukraine, Serdyuk said, whereas "not long ago," there were only 800 to 900 victims. PG EARTHQUAKE HITS UKRAINE'S CRIMEA. Ukraine's Emergencies Ministry told Reuters on 19 October that a moderate earthquake shook Crimea the previous day, but the ministry reported no deaths or damage. Earlier officials at Ukraine's Geodesic Institute said that the remaining seven seismological stations in Crimea (out of the 13 that had existed there in 1991) would close by the end of this year because of a lack of funds. PG TALLINN WELCOMES NEW CO-CHAIR ON ESTONIAN-RUSSIAN COMMISSION. An Estonian government spokesman told BNS on 19 October that Moscow's decision to name Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko as cochairman of the Estonian-Russian intergovernmental commission will help improve bilateral relations. "For the Estonian government this is positive news," the spokesman commented, adding that "we hope the co-chairs of the commission will meet in Tallinn soon." Matvienko was named last week to replace Oleg Sysuev, former deputy prime minister and currently presidential first deputy chief of staff, as joint commission head. Estonian Prime Minister Mart Siimann is the other co-chair of the commission. JC ESTONIAN PREMIER INQUIRES ABOUT OECD MEMBERSHIP. Ahead of an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development conference in Tallinn on the economic development of the Baltic region, Siimann met with OECD deputy secretary-general Kumiharu Shigehara, BNS reported on 19 October. The news agency reported that Siimann asked about Estonia's chances of being admitted to the OECD, but no further details were given. Shigehara also met with Estonian President Lennart Meri, who thanked the OECD official for the launching earlier this year of a regional program for the Baltics. An important part of that program is a survey of the Baltic economies by the OECD Secretariat. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania all applied to join the OECD in late 1996. JC LILEIKIS ORDERED TO APPEAR IN COURT. Ninety-one-year-old Aleksandras Lileikis, who is suspected of having committed war crimes during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, has been ordered to appear in a Vilnius court on 5 November, dpa reported on 19 October. In accordance with a report on Lileikis's state of health submitted last week by a team of Lithuanian doctors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 1998), a Vilnius judge ruled that Lileikis is healthy enough to appear in court "as long as there are no stress situations that could catalyze his death." Lileikis's trial has been repeatedly postponed owing to his alleged poor health. JC POLISH GOVERNMENT 'DISAPPOINTED' BY AUSCHWITZ DECISION. The Polish government on 19 October said that it was disappointed by an Oswiecim municipal court decision blocking Warsaw's efforts to take control of a disputed parcel of land near the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, the PAP news agency reported. The government said the decision, which makes it impossible for the central authorities to prevent radical Roman Catholics from erecting crosses there in clear defiance of the Church hierarchy and despite protests by Jewish groups, "harms Poland's image abroad." The PAP agency said the government may appeal the decision. PG CZECH PRESIDENT SCOLDS COUNTRYMEN'S XENOPHOBIA. Vaclav Havel said on 19 October that Czechs should be more concerned about their own xenophobia and worry less about whether Britain will impose visa regulations on them, CTK reported. Havel made his comments after an hour-long meeting in London with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. A spokesman for Blair said the two leaders discussed steps being taken by the Czech government designed to improve social conditions for Roma and prevent them from seeking refuge in Britain. Havel also met with Queen Elizabeth II. He is due to arrive in Belfast on 20 October. PB CZECH MAYOR CRITICIZES HAVEL. Ladislav Hruska, the mayor of the Bohemian city of Usti nad Labem, called on President Havel to apologize for his comment that the city's residents are racist, CTK reported on 19 October. Havel said in a radio address before his trip to the UK that the city's plan to build a wall separating apartment blocks inhabited largely by Roma from houses in which ethnic Czechs live is "undemocratic" and will harm the country's reputation. Hruska said that he would file suit against the president if Havel were not in such poor physical health. PB CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER URGES SLOVAK ADMISSION TO FAST- TRACK GROUP. Jan Kavan told his British counterpart, Robin Cook, that he hopes Slovakia will be admitted to the "first group" of countries seeking admission to the EU and NATO, an RFE/RL correspondent in London reported on 19 October. Kavan said the new Slovak government will be "united by its determination to offset the undemocratic legacy of the Meciar government." Kavan and Cook discussed the problems caused by Czech and Slovak Roma applying for asylum in Great Britain during the past several months. PB TENSIONS WITHIN HUNGARIAN COALITION OVER LOCAL ELECTION RESULTS. Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 19 October expressed surprise at a recent statement by Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) deputy chairman Zsolt Lanyi. Commenting on the party's failure to win any seats on the Budapest City Council in the local elections, Lanyi allegedly told reporters on 18 October that the FKGP's participation in the coalition is a mistake and that the party must review its policy. FKGP chairman Jozsef Torgyan attributed Lanyi's comment, as published, to the "usual distortion and indecent approach of the media." He said Lanyi had approved the FKGP's policy at the party's 19 October meeting. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CONFUSION IN KOSOVA. A spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in Prishtina on 19 October that the UNHCR has canceled plans to send out two humanitarian aid convoys from the capital pending a clarification of the military situation on the ground. Serbian spokesmen say that the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) recently took advantage of the agreement reached by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke to reoccupy lost territory and to attack Serbian police. They add that the security forces are restoring order. At the same time, the Serbian spokesmen deny Kosovar reports that the Serbs are shelling villages. Kosovar officials argue that the Serbs have responded to the killing of four policemen by launching an assault on unarmed civilians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1998). Western diplomats are unable to "determine which side is telling the truth," the "Washington Post" reported. Diplomats do not agree among themselves whether the movement of the security forces violates the agreement, the "Financial Times" added. PM COOK WARNS UCK. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said on 19 October in London that the UCK has recently committed "several breaches of the cease-fire. Such continuing acts of hostility serve only the interests of those who wish to undermine the political process and return to war.... We have no intention of NATO being conscripted as a sort of air force" for the UCK. PM JOURNALISTS APPEAL TO DEMACI. In Paris, the international organization Reporters without Frontiers appealed on 19 October to Adem Demaci, the political spokesman for the UCK, to do all he can to secure the release of two Tanjug journalists who are believed to have been captured by the UCK (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1998). In Belgrade, the Yugoslav government said in a statement that the disappearance of two men is a "blow to the implementation of the Milosevic-Holbrooke agreement and the agreement on the OSCE verification mission.... It is inadmissible that teams of journalists are being abducted...before the very eyes of the international community." PM YUGOSLAV GENERAL BLAMES POLITICIANS FOR WAR. General Momcilo Perisic, who is chief of the army's general staff, told the Belgrade daily "Blic" of 20 October that the politicians, not the army, are responsible for the conflict in Kosova. He argued that "the basic problem is that a shadow state has existed [in Kosova] for years.... There are very few politicians" who are willing to admit that they cannot solve the problem and make way for those who can. Perisic added that armies do not make policy and that the mission of the army is to defend the country. He noted that "Serbs have been fighting a war since 1991 and we still have no allies. Not even the Russian Federation has declared itself our ally. We have never been so isolated for so long and we have never [before] been without allies." Perisic concluded that "one doesn't make war against the entire world." PM MACEDONIAN OPPOSITION MAINTAINS ITS LEAD. Ljubco Georgievski, who is the leader of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), said in Skopje on 19 October that Macedonia has entered a new era by giving victory to VMRO and its ally, the Democratic Alternative, in the previous day's parliamentary elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1998). Spokesmen for the governing Social Democrats (SDSM) replied that Georgievski's initial vote tallies are inaccurate and that the SDSM could still win in the second round on 1 November. Official results are expected shortly. PM BANKING CLERK ADMITS LEAKING TUDJMAN ACCOUNT FIGURES. Ankica Lepej, a 23-year veteran employee of the Zagrebacka Banka, said in Zagreb on 19 October that she recently provided the independent daily "Jutarnji List" with information about the account balance of Ankica Tudjman, the wife of President Franjo Tudjman. Lepej said that she could not keep such information secret at a time when public attention is focused on the private wealth of politicians. She faces up to five years in prison if convicted of wrongdoing. Tudjman's office said in a statement that he believed that he was obliged to make public information only about the property he owns, not about his or his wife's bank accounts, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Some opposition politicians suspect that Tudjman's opponents within his own Croatian Democratic Community leaked the information about the bank account to the media. PM ALBANIAN COURT ORDERS MONARCHIST LEADER DETAINED. A Tirana court on 19 October ordered the detention pending trial of Eqerem Spahia, a leader of the monarchist Legality Party, and Sali Shehu, a former Tirana district police chief. The Tirana Prosecutor-General's Office has charged both with organizing and participating in an armed uprising in Tirana on 14 September, ATSH reported. The prosecutor-general has presented photos of Spahia and Shehu among crowds of armed people attacking the office of the prime minister. The prosecutor also submitted a videotape showing Spahia saying on state television that "the government [of former Prime Minister Fatos Nano] is toppled" and that "the situation is under the control of the [opposition coalition] Union for Democracy," (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1998). FS ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS UNCLEAR ON CONSTITUTION. The Democratic Party's National Council, meeting in Tirana on 19 October, failed to adopt a statement on the draft constitution drawn up by the governing coalition during the Democrats' nearly year-long boycott of the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1998). The party leadership, however, strongly criticized a recent proposal that any referendum on the constitution be valid regardless of voter turnout. "Albanian Daily News" on 20 October suggested that "the Democrats were upset by the proposal, as it will make it more difficult for them" to count on the defeat of the draft in a referendum owing to a low turnout. Observers noted that the Democrats do not seem to have prepared themselves for a public debate on the draft and have not produced an alternative draft. FS ROMANIAN PRIVATIZATION MINISTER RESIGNS. Romanian President Emil Constantinescu accepted the resignation of Sorin Dimitriu on 19 October, Reuters and Rompres reported. Dimitriu, who also resigned as head of the State Ownership Fund, said the reasons for his resignation are "deeper than the apparent dissatisfaction with the campaign against myself and the institutions" that he heads. Dimitriu had often been the subject of criticism from Prime Minister Radu Vasile, who alleged that privatization was moving too slowly. Dimitriu said "to approach privatization as a race against the clock...is dangerous." Constantinescu appointed Vasile as interim privatization minister. PB WORLD BANK OFFICIAL ON AID TO ROMANIA. Andrew Vorkink, the World Bank representative for Romania, said on 19 October that the bank is committed to granting Bucharest financial assistance, Rompres reported. Vorkink, speaking after a meeting with Senate President Petre Roman, said the aid is needed to support Romanian programs on restructuring the financial and agricultural sectors in an effort to speed up reforms. Roman said Dimitriu's resignation is a clear signal that privatization must resume in a different way. PB MOLDOVAN PRIME MINISTER PRAISES TIES WITH ROMANIA. Ion Ciubic said after a meeting with Romanian Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu that close relations between the two countries "give us hope for the future," Rompres reported on 19 October. Plesu is in Chisinau for the eighth meeting of the Committee for Relations between Moldova and Romania. Plesu said the two men had discussed, among other topics, the countries' respective economic difficulties. Ciubic commented that the working meetings have allowed bilateral relations to "intensify." PB BULGARIA'S RULING PARTY VOWS FURTHER REFORMS. Delegates to the ruling Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) party congress in Sofia agreed on 19 October to push for greater economic reforms, Reuters reported. Party leader and Premier Ivan Kostov said "political complacency is unforgivable..., society expects action from us. Our mission is to build the new Bulgaria." The conference, the UDF's first since coming to power in April 1997, approved resolutions calling for rapid privatization, the closing of unprofitable enterprises, bringing laws into line with EU standards, and working to join the EU and NATO. PB COOK IN SOFIA TO SHOW SUPPORT. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who arrived in Sofia on 19 October, said his trip to Bulgaria is to show Britain's commitment "to the territorial integrity and security" of the Balkan countries, Reuters reported on 20 October. Cook, speaking after a meeting with Prime Minister Kostov, said the two agreed that the instability in Kosova cannot be allowed to "spill over into wider insecurity in the region." Cook said he would like to see Bulgaria join the EU "as soon as possible." He said that Britain and Bulgaria should develop stronger economic ties. PB END NOTE SAKHALIN: WAITING FOR OIL BUT PATIENCE IS RUNNING OUT by Floriana Fossato Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov has repeatedly underlined the importance of having regional leaders on his side to prevent local tendencies toward independence dividing the country. Sakhalin governor Igor Farkhutdinov, who presides over a region where offshore energy resources are estimated by some experts to rival those of the North Sea, was one of the first governors to hold talks with the new prime minister. The focus of that meeting was almost certainly how to speed up the development of oil and gas projects on Sakhalin as well as how to deal with the threat of social unrest on the Far Eastern island. For despite Sakhalin's great natural wealth, the level of poverty in the region is one of the highest in Russia, with more than a third of the population of 600,000 people officially registered as living below the subsistence line. Farkhutdinov's main aim at the talks would likely have been to forge the same cooperative links with Primakov as he had with the previous Moscow government on a key issue, namely securing the passage through the parliament of legislation guaranteeing the protection of foreign investment in Russia. Since the early 1990s, the Communist-dominated State Duma has put obstacles in the way of laws guaranteeing the protection of foreign investment for consortia and a share of the oil and gas extracted. Those terms are included in the so-called production- sharing agreements (PSA) signed by local authorities and the consortia. Local officials have tried to galvanize the Duma into taking action and are frustrated by the lack of results. Galina Pavlova, director of the Sakhalin local department for offshore oil development, told RFE/RL in a recent interview that "instead of working together, the Duma obstructs everything...; as a result we are, with our own hands, destroying our own possibilities." Farkhutdinov says passage of the necessary laws is a critical issue for Sakhalin if the big foreign oil companies already working there are to remain committed to developing the region's resources. "At a time when foreign capital is fleeing Russia, this is not happening on Sakhalin," he commented. "Sakhalin cannot go on without money, but if we want to overcome this difficult situation and not become a burden for the state, we need legislation even more than financing." Enormous sums of money are at stake. Foreign consortia have said that the first three major projects, called Sakhalin-1, -2, and -3, could result in investments totaling $36 billion. Sakhalin-2, the only project on target so far, is scheduled to begin production next spring. Those prospects, however, could suffer if the Duma decides not to approve a bill amending existing legislation to comply with tax breaks and provisions included in PSA. Meanwhile, Sakhalin-2 managers put on a brave face. Sakhalin's road toward the desired oil and gas wealth has not been an easy one. Vladimir Sorochan, the editor of the newspaper "Sovietskii Sakhalinsk," said that prospects for oil production, coupled with plans for developing rich gas fields, provoked "euphoria" earlier in the 1990s, when it was thought that there would be cheap energy, jobs, and positive developments for the island. But the situation "has changed radically over the years," Sorochan commented. "People have understood they will have to wait a long time for tangible results," he said, "while hopes of jobs are fading and the governor, instead of improving people's lives in decrepit cities and villages, seems more interested in grandiose plans like the building of an international airport." Farkhutdinov denies those charges. "If the oil projects finally get under way, 20,000 permanent jobs will be created over the years...and an international airport would be a sound investment, if only because every meeting with foreign investors starts with the question: what's your airport like?" The regional administration has also announced that the first $20 million bonus from the Sakhalin-2 project is to be used for urgent construction projects such as a new school or hospital. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian authorities acknowledged that extraction and production operations in Sakhalin's oil sector required expensive and sophisticated technologies that the country did not have. So they started offering the reserves to consortia dominated by, and often composed entirely of, foreign companies. Foreign oil companies were lured by the prospect of gaining access to offshore oil reserves estimated at 29 million barrels. There is interest also in Sakhalin's vast gas resources. Farkhutdinov told RFE/RL that the development of gas resources would provide cheap energy for the island and would thereby solve the problem of energy cuts owing to the non-payments crisis in the coal sector. That crisis led to the coal miners strikes this summer that paralyzed Sakhalin for weeks. Even more important, said the governor, noting Sakhalin's proximity to Asian markets, energy companies involved in the oil projects, would help build natural gas pipelines running to Japan, South Korea, and China. This is the last in a three-part series on Russia's Far East by Floriana Fossato, an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow. 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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