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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 207, Part II, 26 October 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 207, Part II, 26 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 Russian Media Empires IV Media have closed or merged, advertising is shrinking, and layoffs and salary cuts are widespread as Russian media try to survive the financial crisis that began in August. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rumedia4/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * OBSTACLES TO HUNGARIAN PARTICIPATION IN SLOVAK GOVERNMENT REMOVED * BREAKTHROUGH IN BELGRADE? * SERBIA CONTINUES MEDIA CRACKDOWN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN PREMIER ANNOUNCES PRICE INCREASES. Syarhey Linh told the legislature on 23 October that the government has been forced to adopt "a number of tough measures" to fight the current financial and economic crisis, Belarusian Television reported. He said Belarus will import foodstuffs at "negotiated prices" and increase prices for Belarusian goods to "equalize prices with neighbors and prevent [unauthorized] imports." He added that "we are forced to set higher prices on non- foodstuffs because production is unprofitable not only in the agricultural sector but also in a number of our [industrial] enterprises." JM BELARUSIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL CONFIRMS ATTEMPT ON LUKASHENKA'S LIFE. Aleh Bazhelka on 23 October confirmed Alyaksandr Lukashenka's disclosure of a failed attempt on the president's life (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 1998), Belarusian Television reported. The prosecutor-general added that the perpetrators are under arrest and will face trial. The television report also reiterated Lukashenka's statement that the failed attempt is linked to the eviction of Western ambassadors from the Drazdy housing compound, near Minsk. JM UKRAINIAN LEFTISTS FAIL TO BAN SEA BREEZE '98 MANEUVERS. Communists and their allies in the parliament failed on 23 October to achieve the required majority to ban the "Sea Breeze '98" naval exercises under NATO's Partnership for Peace Program scheduled. They fell 31 votes short of the necessary total of 226. The Sea Breeze '98 maneuvers, which are scheduled to take place in Ukraine from 25 October to 4 November, will involve 4,500 troops, including 14 Ukrainian ships and naval vessels from the U.S., Russia, and other countries. Ukrainian Communists believe that NATO's participation in the maneuvers poses a military threat to Ukraine. "Bringing NATO troops on Ukrainian territory is a prelude to a future imperialistic, aggressive war on Ukraine's territory," Ukrainian Television quoted Communist parliamentary deputy Volodymyr Moiseyenko as saying. JM UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES 1999 BUDGET. The cabinet on 23 October approved a revised 1999 budget draft with a deficit of 0.6 percent of GDP, AP reported. The document provides for revenues totaling 22.5 billion hryvni ($6.6 billion) and 1 percent growth of GDP, which is expected to reach 117.5 billion hryvni in 1999. The cabinet will submit the new budget to the parliament at the same time as the government's action program for the next six months. Ukrainian Television reported that the action program's priorities include macroeconomic stabilization, completing tax reform, promoting entrepreneurship, and implementing administrative reform. JM FORMER ESTONIAN PREMIER RE-ELECTED HEAD OF FATHERLAND UNION. The right-leaning Fatherland Union has re-elected Mart Laar as its chairman, ETA and BNS reported on 24 October. The 38-year-old Laar served as the party's head and as prime minister from 1992 to 1994, during which time he became known for his advocacy of economic "shock therapy." The Fatherland Union, which currently has 7-8 percent support among the electorate, is seeking to form an election alliance with the centrist Moderates and the right-leaning People's Party. The three parties have already set up a bloc, called the United Opposition, that cooperates in the parliament. JC FINAL RESULTS OF LATVIAN ELECTIONS. According to the final official results of the 3 October general elections, the People's Party won 21.19 percent of the vote, or 24 seats in the 100-member parliament, BNS and Reuters reported on 23 October. Latvia's Way followed with 18.05 percent (21 seats), the Fatherland and Freedom party 14.65 percent (17), National Harmony Party 14.12 percent (16), the Social Democratic Alliance 12.81 percent (14), and the New Party 7.31 percent (eight). Voter turnout was 71.89 percent of the electorate. The new parliament will have 83 men and 17 women, compared with 90 men and 10 women in the current legislature. Meanwhile, talks on forming a new government are to continue this week. JC TEAM OF EXPERTS TO HELP DECIDE IGNALINA'S FATE? State- owned Lietuvos Energija has announced that while from a technical point of view, the Ignalina Atomic Power Plant could remain in operation until 2030, its continued use will be decided by the administration and parliament, BNS reported on 23 October. That statement follows an interview in which the company's secretary-general, Anzelmas Bacauskas, said he believes Ignalina will be in operation for the next 30 years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1998). The statement stressed that Bacauskas's comments referred "only to the [plant's] technical capacity." It added that if required, the issue of the shutdown of [Ignalina]...could be resolved by a commission of independent international experts." At the same time, it stressed that the administration and parliament will have the final say. Meanwhile, a three-day international seminar on the safety of Ignalina opens in Vilnius on 26 October. JC POLISH GOVERNMENT ADOPTS 1999 DRAFT BUDGET. The Solidarity-led government on 24 October adopted a 1999 draft budget that aims at economic growth and reform in line with Poland's goal of joining the EU, AP reported. Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz called the draft "responsible," saying it will encourage Poland's development. The draft calls for revenues of 129.28 billion zlotys ($38 billion) and foresees a growth of 5.1 percent of GDP and a deficit of 2.4 percent. Revenues are 15 million zloty down on this year's level because of the transfer of some funds to local governments under the administrative reform that goes into effect on 1 January 1999. The draft budget must now be approved by the parliament and the president. JM POLAND'S MAJOR PARTIES WIN LOCAL ELECTIONS. The State Electoral Commission reported on 23 October that the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) won 10,613 of the 63,765 seats in regional councils, while the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) gained 8,840 mandates. The liberal Freedom Union, the AWS's coalition partner, won only 1,141 seats, a result widely considered as disappointing. According to Bogdan Szczesniak, director of the electoral commission, the distribution of regional power in Poland remains unclear because more than 38,000 seats were won by local groups that have no party affiliation. According to "Gazeta Wyborcza," the SLD has control of eight of the 16 provinces and the AWS six. Turnout was 45 percent, up from 34 percent in 1994. JM HAVEL TO TAKE REST ON DOCTORS' ADVICE... Martin Krafl, head of the presidential office's press department, told CTK on 24 October that President Vaclav Havel's visit to the German town of Muenster, which ended that day, will be his last foreign visit for some time. He added that on his doctors' advice, Havel will now take a rest and his schedule will be "radically reduced." Krafl said the demanding program of the last days had "exhausted" the president, who is suffering from bronchitis. MS ...REVOKES DECISION ON AWARD TO FORMER VIENNA MAYOR. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek on 25 October said Havel is not planning to offer an explanation for his decision to withdraw an announced award to former Vienna Mayor Helmut Zilk. Zilk had reportedly been nominated to receive the Order of Thomas Garrigue Masaryk at a 28 October ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia. Havel withdrew the honor after the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" claimed Zilk had spied for the Czech communist secret service in the 1950s and 1960s and provided information that led to several convictions. Zilk told Czech Television on 24 October that the accusations were "absolute nonsense." Spacek said that since there is "no legal claim" to a state order, it is not possible to view the president's decision as having inflicted "damage" on Zilk. MS OBSTACLES TO HUNGARIAN PARTICIPATION IN SLOVAK GOVERNMENT REMOVED. A congress of the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) on 24 October approved the participation of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) in the country's next government, AP reported, citing Slovak media. The SDL has been the only opposition party to express reservations about the SMK's participation in the new coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15, 21, and 22 October 1998). The coalition agreement is expected to be signed on 27 October. MS POLISH PREMIER IN HUNGARY. Jerzy Buzek and his Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orban, agreed in Budapest on 22 October that the two countries and the Czech Republic must coordinate policies related to NATO accession, Hungarian media reported on 24 October. Another meeting of the three countries' premiers will be held in Warsaw next year. Buzek said Hungarian and Polish experts will conduct talks to resolve the grain import dispute between the two countries and other issues related to agriculture. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BREAKTHROUGH IN BELGRADE? British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in Luxembourg on 26 October that NATO Generals Wesley Clark and Klaus Naumann made a "significant advance" during their talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and army chief-of-staff General Momcilo Perisic in Belgrade during the two previous days. Cook added that top alliance officials will discuss the results of those talks in Brussels on 27 October, but he stressed that it remains to be seen whether Milosevic will keep his word to the two generals. On 25 October in Belgrade, an unnamed diplomat accompanying Clark and Naumann said that the two were not conducting "negotiations" with the Serbs "but rather discussions on [Serbian] compliance with UN Security Council directives," Reuters reported. A NATO deadline for Serbia to comply with UN Security Council resolution 1199 or face air strikes is slated to expire on 27 October. PM U.S. SAYS SERBIA NOT COMPLYING. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said in separate television interviews on 25 October that Milosevic has not met UN demands that he withdraw his paramilitary police forces from Kosova. Berger added that General Clark has the authority to "take military action" against Serbia if NATO concludes that Milosevic has not met his obligations. The following day, OSCE observers told Reuters that both the Serbs and the Kosova Liberation Army are continuing to "build up [their forces] in some sensitive areas." AP quoted ethnic Albanian refugees as saying that Serb-led forces withdraw when diplomatic monitors appear and then return to harass civilians after the foreigners leave. PM UN PASSES COMPROMISE RESOLUTION ON KOSOVA. On 24 October, the Security Council passed a resolution that allows NATO to take action to protect and evacuate international monitors in Kosova in case of an emergency. In response to Russian and Chinese objections, the council earlier deleted references in the original draft resolution that permit NATO to take "appropriate steps" to ensure that Milosevic carries out the provisions set down in resolution 1199 in September. British and U.S. diplomats said in New York that NATO nonetheless has the right to ensure compliance. In Prishtina on 25 October, shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova said in a statement that the latest resolution is "inadequate" and that the Kosovars expect tough measures against the Belgrade authorities, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM NATO PLANS BASE IN MACEDONIA. Macedonian Defense Minister Lazar Kitanovski said in Skopje on 23 October that NATO experts spent the previous two days inspecting the military airfield at Kumanovo, which is northeast of Skopje, as a possible base for 100 to 150 NATO personnel. Kitanovski added that NATO wants the facility to support its aerial surveillance mission over Kosova and the 2,000 unarmed civilian monitors there. The minister did not specify if NATO wants to base fighter aircraft or "rapid reaction" troops there to rescue monitors who are taken hostage or who otherwise become endangered. Nor is it clear whether NATO has discussed its plans with officials of the opposition coalition, which won the first round of parliamentary voting on 18 October and appears likely to form a new government after the second round on 1 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1998). PM SERBIA CONTINUES MEDIA CRACKDOWN. Serbian government officials raided the offices of the Belgrade independent daily "Dnevni Telegraf" during the night of 25-26 October, the VOA reported. On 24 October, government officials imposed a fine of $230,000 on the weekly "Evropljanin." Editor-in-chief Slavko Curuvija, who also heads "Dnevni Telegraf," said that he does not have the money and would not pay if he did. Curuvija is charged with violating the new law regulating the independent media, which expands an earlier decree that the authorities used to shut down several independent dailies and broadcasters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1998). Spokesmen for the independent media said that the authorities are also planning to ban those media from posting on the Internet. Meanwhile in Opatija, some 60 members of the Croatian Journalists' Society signed a declaration in support of their Serbian colleagues, "Vjesnik" reported on 26 October. PM U.S. URGES CROATIA TO REFORM MILITARY. Robert Gelbard, who is the U.S. special envoy for the former Yugoslavia, said in Zagreb on 23 October that he is pleased with his talks with new Defense Minister Pavao Miljavac but will judge Miljavac by his deeds. Gelbard stressed that Croatia must scale down the size of its military establishment and make its affairs more transparent. He added that Croatia cannot expect to joint Euro-Atlantic structures unless it meets Western standards of civilian control over the military. Miljavac said that his main priority is transparency. Some Western diplomats in Zagreb had earlier expressed concern over the appointment of Miljavac, who had to give up his general's commission on being appointed. PM ANKICA TUDJMAN SAYS MONEY IS 'ROYALTIES.' Ankica Tudjman, who is the wife of President Franjo Tudjman, said in Zagreb on 24 October that the $130,000 she deposited in an account at the Zagrebacka Banka earlier this year and similar sums she deposited in previous years are royalties her husband received from his books. She maintained that the bank records can verify her statement. This is the first time she has spoken out in conjunction with a growing scandal involving her family's hidden wealth (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1998). The previous day, the parliament passed a law on salaries of state officials. President Tudjman will earn $5,700 per month, which is one-third less than the government originally proposed. The average monthly income in Croatia is $450, and pensioners and some war veterans make considerably less. PM MUSLIM DETHRONED AS MISS CROATIA. Organizers held a new vote for Miss Croatia in Zagreb on 25 October to replace a previous ballot that the organizers claim was invalid. The winner in the original vote was Lejla Sehovic, a Muslim, who charged that her victory was invalidated because of her ethnicity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1998). The winner in the second vote was Ivana Petkovic, an ethnic Croat. AP described the 25 October ceremony as "surreal" and reported that both Sehovic and Petkovic seemed embarrassed by the developments. PM SUSPECTED EMBASSY BOMBER KILLED IN ALBANIA. Selam Muhamet Omar Al Sead, a suspected Islamist organizer of the U.S. embassy bombings in eastern Africa in early August, was shot dead in Tirana on 24 October. "Shekulli" reported that the Egyptian citizen committed suicide in the face of imminent arrest. According to dpa, however, unspecified Tirana dailies claim that police killed the suspect in a shoot-out. The police have since issued a statement denying they killed the man and adding that a police officer suffered gunshot wounds from a pistol fired by the suspect. Owing to lax immigration laws, Islamists have been able to use Albania as a base in recent years. Assisted by the CIA, local police launched a crackdown on fundamentalist terrorists in mid-summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1998). FS FIRST PRIVATE INTERNET PROVIDER IN ALBANIA. The 2K company has been granted a license by the government's telecommunications licensing body to provide Internet access to private and commercial users. 2K pledged to invest $360,000 in the project, "Albanian Daily News" reported. Previously, only the United Nations Development Program and the Open Society Foundation operated full-fledged Internet servers in Albania. Those servers were accessed only by non-governmental organizations, government agencies, Tirana University, and other educational institutions. FS LOW TURNOUT INVALIDATES BUCHAREST MAYORAL ELECTIONS. Unofficial results suggest that low turnout has invalidated the 25 October Bucharest mayoral elections, which are likely to be repeated on 1 November, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported the next day. At least 50 percent plus one must participate in the elections for the ballot to be valid. Turnout at 867 out of a total 1,175 ballot stations is put at 34.2 percent. National Peasant Party Christian Democratic candidate and acting Bucharest Mayor Viorel Lis is leading the field, with 41.7 percent. He is followed by independent candidate George Padure (19.6 percent), Party of Social Democracy in Romania candidate Sorin Oprescu (18.9), Greater Romania Party candidate Nicolae Nitu (6.9), and Democratic Party candidate Alexandru Sassu (4.7 percent). Each of the other 17 candidates gained less than 2 percent of the vote. MS ROMANIA OFFERS PARTICIPATION IN KOSOVA VERIFICATION MISSION. The Supreme National Defense Council on 25 October offered the dispatch of 2,000 monitors and one Antonov-30 military reconnaissance aircraft to take part in the verification mission in Kosova, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. President Emil Constantinescu chaired the meeting. In other news, visiting French Defense Minister Alain Richard and his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, signed an agreement on 24 October on bilateral military cooperation. MS KUCHMA PROPOSES SUMMIT ON TRANSDNIESTER. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said in Chisinau on 23 October that he has proposed to Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi and separatist leader Igor Smirnov that the Transdniester problem be settled at a summit meeting, Infotag and BASA-press reported. Kuchma, who met with Lucinschi and Smirnov, said Moldova, the Transdniester region, Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE must participate in the summit. He also said he has requested that Smirnov pardon Ilie Ilascu, who was sentenced to death by a Transdniester court in 1992 for alleged terrorism and is still in jail. At the end of their summit meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1998), Lucinschi, Kuchma, and Romanian President Emil Constantinescu signed agreements on cooperation in combating organized crime and on setting up a free trade zone in the lower Danube region. MS BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NATO AIRSPACE USE. The parliament on 23 October voted by 150-47 to approve a resolution allowing NATO to use Bulgarian airspace if the alliance launches air strikes against Yugoslavia, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. All parliamentary groups, with the exception of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, approved the resolution. Earlier this month, NATO asked Bulgaria to allow unlimited access to its airspace for possible military operations in Yugoslavia. Both the Bulgarian National Security Council, headed by President Petar Stoyanov, and the government approved that request. The parliament's resolution also called for settling the Kosova conflict by peaceful means and said Bulgaria will not participate directly or indirectly in military actions in Yugoslavia. MS 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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