|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 204, Part II, 21 October 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 204, Part II, 21 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 * UKRAINE EASES CITIZENSHIP REQUIREMENTS FOR CRIMEAN TATARS * DISAGREEMENTS OVER POSTS MAR SLOVAK COALITION TALKS * SERBIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES MEDIA LAW xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CONDEMNS COMMUNIST OPPOSITION. Speaking on Ukraine's Television on 20 October, President Leonid Kuchma sharply criticized the 122 Communist parliamentary deputies who staged a walkout to protest the government's failure to produce a budget on time. Kuchma said their action, as well as that of 68 other deputies who supported the protest but did not walk out, represented "a war against" the Ukrainian people. Parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko the same day said that the government has promised to submit the draft by 22 October, one week after it was due. Meanwhile, Kuchma told an international forum that Ukraine has entered a new stage of reforms intended to speed economic growth, Interfax reported. PG UKRAINE EASES CITIZENSHIP REQUIREMENTS FOR CRIMEAN TATARS. Ukrainian authorities in Crimea told a news conference in Simferopol on 20 October that Kyiv has simplified its naturalization rules to make it easier for Crimean Tatars who returned from deportation to Uzbekistan to become Ukrainian citizens, Reuters reported. While few Crimean Tatars took advantage of the new rules on the first day of the program, officials said that they expect many more to do so, thus easing what has been a serious political problem in the region. Because nearly 250,000 Crimean Tatars only returned to Ukraine after 1991, many of them are technically citizens of Uzbekistan or one of the other post-Soviet states and are in effect stateless in Ukraine. PG BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SEES COMECON AS MODEL FOR FUTURE. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told reporters in Minsk on 20 October that he believes economic cooperation among some CIS countries should be modeled on the Soviet-era Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON), Interfax reported. In other comments, Lukashenka said that he hopes the standoff between his country and foreign diplomats can be resolved by buying land in Minsk and building ambassadorial residences to last "for centuries." On 21 October, Lukashenka is scheduled to leave for Omsk and Kemerovo to promote economic exchanges. PG ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT PROPOSES HIGHER EXCISE TAXES TO HELP FARMERS. The government has submitted to lawmakers a bill that would increase excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco in order to compensate farmers following this year's adverse weather conditions, ETA reported on 20 October. The bill calls for compensation totaling 227 million kroons (some $17.5 million). The opposition, however, opposes the draft legislation, which, it says, would result in increased sales of illegally imported or counterfeit alcohol and tobacco products. JC LATVIAN COALITION TALKS DRAG ON. Following another round of coalition talks on 20 October, Andris Skele, leader of the People's Party, said proposals for a government program cannot be submitted yet since it remains unclear which parties will form the new cabinet, BNS reported. "Latvia's Way should decide whom they want to work with: either the Social Democrats or the People's Party," he commented, adding that his party will not work with the Social Democrats or any other leftist forces. Latvia's Way chairman Andrejs Pantelejevs argued that the issues of the government program and the "leading personalities" should be resolved simultaneously. "It is important to determine at the very start who will form the government," he said. Since Transport Minister Vilis Kristopans has the guaranteed support of 29 lawmakers, Latvia's Way's demand that he be appointed the next premier is fully legitimate, Pantelejevs added. JC ADAMKUS SAYS LITHUANIAN ECONOMY SHIELDED FROM RUSSIAN CRISIS. Addressing the Mid-America Committee in Chicago on 19 October, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus said the Russian financial crisis has not directly affected Lithuania's "dynamically developing" economy, BNS reported the next day. "Despite the crisis in Russia, the Lithuanian financial system functioned stably and reliably--the litas was not endangered since all litas in circulation are covered up to 180 percent by hard currency reserves," he was quoted as saying. Adamkus also stressed Lithuania's desire to join NATO and the EU, arguing that Russia's current opposition to NATO "partly stems from a psychological background" and can be "best modified by changes in Russia itself." JC KOHL RECEIVES POLAND'S HIGHEST HONOR. Polish President Aleksandr Kwasniewski on 20 October presented outgoing German Chancellor Helmut Kohl with the Order of the White Eagle, the first time since World War II that Warsaw has given this award to a German leader, PAP and other agencies reported. In conferring the award, Kwasniewski said that his country is "grateful" for Kohl's support of Polish efforts to join NATO and the EU. Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek praised Kohl for his support of Poland before the collapse of communism. In response, Kohl said that "Europe without Poland is not complete." PG POLISH GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT NATO BILL. The cabinet on 20 October gave its approval to a draft bill that will facilitate Warsaw's entry into NATO, PAP reported. Prime Minister Busek said NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana indicated recently that Poland should move as quickly as possible to get ready for inclusion in the alliance. Buzek said that Poland might be included "two or three months" earlier than scheduled, an indication that the first round of NATO expansion may take place before the Washington summit next spring. PG CZECHS URGE BRITAIN NOT TO IMPOSE VISA REGIME. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and Human Rights Commissioner Petr Uhl said on 20 October that they have been assured that Britain has no immediate plans to require Czechs to have visas before entering Britain, Reuters reported. They made their comments after a meeting with British Premier Tony Blair in London. Kavan said such a move would be a "black spot" on the Czech Republic in its bid to join the EU. Uhl said the government plans to improve education and employment conditions for Roma in the Czech Republic. He added that it will also seek to add an anti-discrimination clause to the employment law and boost protection for Roma against racist attacks. PB HAVEL SAYS CZECHS NEED TO FOLLOW NORTHERN IRISH EXAMPLE. Czech President Vaclav Havel, during his four-day visit to Great Britain, said in Belfast that reconciliation is not only a topic for residents of Northern Ireland but also for Czechs, CTK reported. Havel said they have to come to terms with the 40-year communist dictatorship as well as find ways to heal their feelings toward Germans and Germany. In Bonn, German Foreign Minister-designate Joschka Fischer assured Poland and the Czech Republic that Germany would not "burden the (EU integration) talks with the past." He said "we consider the common future as our criterium." PB DISAGREEMENTS OVER POSTS MAR SLOVAK COALITION TALKS. Bela Bugar, the chairman of Slovakia's Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), has complained about infighting over the distribution of ministerial posts among the four parties involved in coalition talks, TASR reported. Bugar, speaking after negotiations among party leaders on 20 October, said "some parties, such as the [Party of the Democratic Left] ... think that they merit more than the proportional results from the election." The Austrian daily "Der Standard" reported that the SMK wants three ministerial posts but has so far been offered only the agriculture portfolio. The daily said Eduard Kukan of the Slovak Democratic Coalition is the favored candidate for foreign minister, a post he held in the 1994 interim government. PB CARNOGURSKY SEES IMPORTANT ROLE FOR RUSSIA. Jan Carnogursky, a leading offical in the Slovak Democratic Coalition, said that Russia must not be excluded from European integration processes, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 October. Carnogursky, a leading candidate for the post of justice minister, said in an interview with the Slovak biweekly "Euroreport" that it is in the interest of all European countries to aid Russia during its difficult periods. He said that "a strong Russia strengthens Europe" and that Russia "protects the southern borders of European civilization." Carnogursky added that because of their common Slavic ancestry, Russia is a natural partner for Slovakia. PB HUNGARY RESPONDS TO ROMANIAN COMPLAINTS OVER SOCCER VIOLENCE. The Hungarian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the uproar in the Romanian media and certain political circles in Bucharest following last week's Hungary-Romania soccer match is yet another manifestation of the anti-Hungarian campaign conducted by extremist groups in Romania. The statement came in response to allegations by the Romanian ambassador to Hungary, Herman Podgoreanu, that the Hungarian police did not take appropriate action against physical attacks on Romanian supporters by chauvinist Hungarian fans. The ministry said Hungary condemns all forms of violence both inside and outside stadiums as well as attempts to over-politicize sporting events. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES MEDIA LAW. The legislature on 21 October overwhelmingly approved a law that sharply restricts the freedom of the media. The measure incorporates into law and expands on the principles set down in a recent government decree that led to the banning of three independent dailies, several independent broadcasters, and the rebroadcast of foreign programs in Serbo-Croatian, including those of RFE/RL (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 14 and 21 October 1998). The government's supporters in the parliament said that the law is necessary to preserve Serbia's sovereignty in the face of "foreign pressures" and efforts by foreigners and their "local servants to spread defeatism." Information Minister Aleksandar Vucic argued that the law will serve to "improve and develop human rights and freedoms [including]...the freedom of access to public information." PM INDEPENDENT MEDIA SLAM NEW LEGISLATION. In Belgrade on 20 October, spokesmen for the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) said that the new law is "part of an overall strategy [by the authorities]...to prevent any kind of free or critical expression." The spokesmen added that the legislation is the "most restrictive on media freedom in Serbian history." ANEM's representatives charged that the law presumes journalists to be guilty until proven innocent and establishes "ruthless trial procedures" for those charged with violating the new restrictions. The law, ANEM continued, "introduces a ban on listening to foreign stations that broadcast in Serbian. A similar ban existed only during the fascist occupation of Serbia during World War II.... [The law also] introduces an absolute and open dictatorship and an information black-out, which will result in an inevitable decay of the state and nation." PM CONCERN IN BOSNIA OVER SERBIAN LAW. A spokesman for the international community's Carlos Westendorp said in Belgrade on 20 October that the Serbian legislation curtails freedom of speech and violates the democratic principles that the international community is working hard to implement in Bosnia. The spokesman mentioned unconfirmed reports that engineers from Serbia have recently removed from Bosnia's Mt. Kozara equipment for the broadcast of independent NTV He also pointed out that some Serbian television stations have begun using frequencies that enable them to drown out signals from stations within Bosnia. PM DEMACI CLAIMS NO INFORMATION ON JOURNALISTS. Adem Demaci, who is a senior Kosovar politician and the political spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said in Prishtina on 20 October that he has no information about the two journalists from Serbia's Tanjug news agency who disappeared recently in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1998). Demaci added that "there is hope" that the men may still be alive if they have fallen into the hands of armed guerrillas, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. International journalists' organizations have called upon the Kosovar authorities to obtain the men's release. Local Serbs have frequently told foreign journalists in Kosova that Serbs who fall into the UCK's hands "are never seen again." PM MONTENEGRO DEMANDS ROLE IN KOSOVA DECISIONS. U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill, who is also Washington's chief negotiator for Kosova, discussed the latest developments in that province with Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic in Podgorica on 20 October. After the meeting, Montenegrin spokesmen said that the Belgrade authorities must consult with their Montenegrin counterparts on matters regarding Kosova. The spokesmen added that the federal institutions currently implementing the agreement between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke "do not represent the political interests of the citizens of Montenegro," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Podgorica. PM CLARK WARNS MILOSEVIC... General Wesley Clark, who is NATO's supreme commander in Europe, told Milosevic in Belgrade on 20 October that the Yugoslav leader must speed up his troop withdrawals from Kosova or risk NATO air strikes after the expiration of the 27 October deadline. Clark also talked with General Momcilo Perisic, who heads the general staff, about clarifying which Yugoslav military units must be withdrawn from Kosova under the Milosevic-Holbrooke agreement and which may stay (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1998). In Vienna, the OSCE named veteran U.S. diplomat William Walker to head the 2,000-strong civilian verification mission in Kosova. PM ...AS DOES UCK. State-run Albanian Television on 20 October broadcast a statement by the UCK charging that Milosevic has not fulfilled a single promise he made to Holbrooke one week earlier. The UCK pledged to continue its recent self-declared cease-fire but added: "If the cruelties of Milosevic's gangs against the [Kosovar] Albanian population and the UCK positions continue, then the UCK reserves the right to...self-defense." The Serbian authorities claim that the UCK cease-fire is a fiction. A BBC reporter said on 21 October in northern Kosova that Serbian forces are shelling Kosovar villages in the area. PM CROATIAN JOURNALISTS SET UP FUND. Members of the Croatian Journalists' Association agreed in Zagreb on 20 October to set up a fund to support the family of Ankica Lepej, the bank employee who recently leaked information to the press about the account balance of President Franjo Tudjman's wife (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1998). Lepej's husband has been unemployed since 1991, and she now faces a prison sentence of up to five years. Elsewhere, Ivo Pukanic, the editor of the independent weekly "Nacional," said that the newspaper's distribution agency has paid its back debts, which will enable Pukanic to pay his printer. The editor charged that distributor and printer, which are both close to the government, were working in collusion to force "Nacional" out of business. The Croatian authorities have often used financial pressures to silence independent voices in the media. PM SLOVENIAN MINISTER QUITS. Defense Minister Alojz Krapez resigned as defense minister on 20 October in the wake of a corruption scandal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 1998). His predecessor quit in February following an incident in which Croatian authorities arrested two Slovenian intelligence agents in a van full of surveillance equipment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 1998). PM SENIOR ALBANIAN DEMOCRAT CRITICIZES CONSTITUTION BOYCOTT. Tirana Mayor Albert Brojka told the "Albanian Daily News" of 21 October that he wants the Democratic Party to take part in the process of drafting the new constitution. He warned his fellow Democrats that the country needs a new constitution and that they should not hold things up any longer. On 20 October, for the second consecutive day, the Democratic Party leadership postponed a decision on whether to participate in the drafting process. FS ALBANIAN PRESIDENT WANTS COUNTRY'S OIC STATUS CLARIFIED. Rexhep Meidani on 20 October urged the legislature and government to take a clear stand on whether Albania is a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the "Albanian Daily News" reported. The government of former President Sali Berisha joined the OIC in 1992, but current Foreign Minister Paskal Milo claims that he found no proper documentation of that membership in the archives of the Foreign Ministry when he took office in August 1997. Since then, the Albanian government has claimed that Albania never belonged to the OIC. Berisha often stressed Albania's links to the Muslim world, but the current Socialist-led government emphasizes links to Euro-Atlantic institutions and has launched a crackdown on Islamic terrorism. FS ROMANIAN CREDIT RATINGS DOWNGRADED. Standard & Poor's has downgraded Romania's credit rating and criticized its politicians for "petty politicking," Rompres reported on 20 October. The agency cut Bucharest's long-term foreign currency debt rating from B plus to B minus and its long-term currency debt was cut from BB to B plus. Standard & Poor's said in a statement that its hopes have been dashed that the appointment of Prime Minister Radu Vasile earlier this year would spur the government to move quicker on reforms. It said government infighting "is again prevalent and distracts the cabinet from addressing privatization and restructuring." An IMF delegation is to arrive in Bucharest next week for talks on a new stand-by loan. PB MOLDOVAN BANKERS BOYCOTT EXCHANGE SESSION. Commercial banks boycotted the 20 October session of the Moldovan Interbank Currency Exchange, Infotag reported. No transactions were made, even though the National Bank of Moldova (NBM) offered to buy dollars at a lower exchange rate. The current rate, 5.74 lei to the dollar, is considered artificially strong, owing to the NBM's intervention. Commercial banks are also upset at the NBM's order that they increase their reserves from 8 percent to 25 percent of borrowed funds. NBM Governor Leonid Talmaci said if the commercial banks do not comply with that order, the NBM could "delegate our auditors to the banks or replace their leaderships." PB COOK HAS LITTLE HOPE OF SOLVING MARKOV SLAYING. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said on 20 October that there is little chance that the London slaying of RFE/RL correspondent Gyorgy Markov will be solved, AFP reported. Cook made his comments after meeting with President Petar Stoyanov and Foreign Minister Nadejda Mikhailova in Sofia. Markov was killed 20 years ago after being pricked with a poison pellet at a bus stop in London. The pellet is alleged to have been injected into him by means of an umbrella. PB EBRD TO OPEN BUSINESS LOAN BANK IN SOFIA. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will fund a bank that will provide credit to small-and medium-sized businesses in Bulgaria, BTA reported on 19 October. The announcement was made by Finance Minister Muravey Radev after a meeting with the EBRD board of directors. Radev complained to the board that Bulgaria is one of the largest investors in the EBRD but that the funds it has received from the bank are proportionately small. 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