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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 204, Part II, 21 October 1998


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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

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Headlines, Part II

* UKRAINE EASES CITIZENSHIP REQUIREMENTS FOR CRIMEAN TATARS

* DISAGREEMENTS OVER POSTS MAR SLOVAK COALITION TALKS

* SERBIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES MEDIA LAW
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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. PB

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               Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
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