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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 209, Part II, 29 October 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 209, Part II, 29 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 * SLOVAK PARTIES SIGN COALITION AGREEMENT * KOSOVARS RETURN AS SERBS LEAVE * PARTY QUITS RULING ROMANIAN COALITION, ALLIANCE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE KYIV ORDERS DEBT PAYMENTS FROM DEBTORS' BANK ACCOUNTS. The Ukrainian National Bank has ordered commercial banks to transfer money from foreign currency accounts of the companies that owe money to the government, AP reported on 28 October, citing the "Fakty" daily. The banks were told to pass on the money to the state budget and the pension fund as soon as tax authorities notify them which companies are debtors. The order applies to both state-run and private companies. According to the daily, banks refusing to obey the order will face sanctions from the National Bank. As of August, there were more than 100,000 debtor companies in Ukraine, owing more than 8 billion hryvni ($2.3 billion) to the central and regional budgets and 3 billion hryvni to the pension fund. JM BELARUS READY TO ALLOW EVICTED AMBASSADORS BACK AT DRAZDY? Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich told national television on 27 October that Belarus is ready to discuss the return of Western ambassadors to their residences at Drazdy, near Minsk, from where they were evicted in June. Antanovich was commenting on Belarus's invitation to Turkish Ambassador Shule Soysal to return to her fully renovated residence at Drazdy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1998). "If other ambassadors came and asked questions now, then we would be able to hold talks with them as well," Reuters quoted Antanovich as saying. Japan's charge d'affaires in Belarus told Reuters that the offer is "absolutely unclear" and that the evicted diplomats still demand that "Drazdy's previous status" be restored. JM BELARUS WANTS TO BROADEN TIES WITH RUSSIAN REGIONS. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told Tomsk Oblast Governor Viktor Kress in Minsk on 28 October that Belarus would like to broaden cooperation with the Russian regions by establishing contacts with regional groups, in particular with the Siberian Agreement group, headed by Kress, Interfax reported. Lukashenka added that Russian President Boris Yeltsin had "at last reacted very positively" to Belarus's contacts with Russian regions. Belarusian Television suggested that Yeltsin's response may have been prompted by Lukashenka's support to Yeltsin during the Belarusian president's recent visit to Kemerovo and Omsk Oblasts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1998). JM BELARUSIAN LAWYER WARNED AGAINST SPREADING INFORMATION. The Minsk City Collegium of Lawyers has warned Vera Stremkouskaya about the "undesirability of disseminating professional information through international organizations" and has advised her "to be correct while giving interviews," Belapan reported on 28 October. The Justice Ministry has threatened to disbar Stremkouskaya, who is a prominent lawyer and human right activist in Belarus, for what it called her distorted briefing on the human rights situation in Belarus during her recent trip to the U.S. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 1998). Stremkouskaya told Belapan that following the warning her activity will now be "under special control" and that "any trivial reason may be used for her disbarment." JM ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS 1999 DRAFT BUDGET... Lawmakers on 27 October voted by 38 to 36 to reject the government's draft budget for 1999, ETA reported. Many parliamentary deputies had criticized the draft, which provided for a budget volume of 18.451 billion kroons ($1.4 billion), as overly optimistic, particularly with regard to revenues. The government must now revise the draft and resubmit it to the parliament. JC ...VOTES TO COMPENSATE FARMERS FROM STABILIZATION FUND. The previous day, lawmakers proposed to the government that some 250 million kroons ($19.2 million) be borrowed from the country's stabilization fund to compensate farmers for losses incurred this year owing to bad weather, ETA reported. At the same time, deputies said they are prepared to accept alternatives suggested by the government. Both Prime Minister Mart Siimann and the Bank of Estonia responded that they do not consider it advisable to use money from the stabilization fund for this purpose. By taking such a step, "we would weaken the trustworthiness of the economic policy that has been the basis for Estonia's success," Siimann said. JC LATVIAN PREMIER REQUESTS DEFENSE MINISTER'S RESIGNATION. Guntars Krasts on 27 October requested the resignation of Defense Minister Talavs Jundzis, citing "numerous irregularities" within the leadership of the armed forces, BNS reported. Krasts said that the recent resignation of armed forces commander Juris Eihmanis over the widely publicized acquisition and furnishing of an apartment was only one factor behind his decision. The premier is to consider punishing several top military leaders in connection with the apartment scandal. Noting that the outgoing government will not have enough time to improve the situation in the defense sector, Krasts pointed out that the new defense minister will have his work cut out for him. JC KALININGRAD SEEKS CLOSER TIES TO LITHUANIA. Leonid Gorbenko, the governor of Kaliningrad Oblast, visited Vilnius on 26-27 October to seek to boost relations with Lithuania, Russian agencies reported. It was Gorbenko's first essay into foreign relations since the central Russian government criticized him for acting too independently during the country's economic crisis. PG POLAND PLEDGES TO HELP MOLDOVA RESOLVE TRANSDNIESTER PROBLEM. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski told his Moldovan counterpart, Petru Lucinschi, in Warsaw on 27 October that Poland will contribute to a peaceful resolution of the ethnic conflict between the secessionist Transdniester region and Chisinau, PAP reported. Kwasniewski said foreign ministers from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Poland plan to meet before the end of the year to discuss the Transdniester problem. He offered to hold preparatory talks in Warsaw before the meeting. Both presidents also agreed to boost Polish-Moldovan economic cooperation, which, they said, are lagging behind political ties. JM POLISH OPPOSITION CRITICIZES 1999 DRAFT BUDGET. The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) has criticized the 1999 draft budget adopted by the cabinet on 24 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1998), PAP reported on 27 October. SLD leader Leszek Miller said the draft budget shows that Poland's economic situation has deteriorated, arguing that the government's proposed measures will lead to a further economic slowdown. Miller accused the government of cutting wages, pensions, and expenditures on agriculture. Marek Borowski, another SLD leader, said Poland's main problem is its foreign trade deficit. The government, Borowski argued, has taken no measures to reduce imports and stimulate exports. JM MUNICH DAILY DENIES BLACKMAILING HAVEL. "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" journalist Peter Brod has denied "blackmailing" president Vaclav Havel into withdrawing an award to former Vienna Mayor Helmut Zilk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1998). Brod told CTK that he talked to Ivan Medek, head of the president's office, on 23 October and informed him of his newspaper's intention to publish documents allegedly demonstrating Zilk's collaboration with the Czechoslovak secret police. Medek confirmed to the newspaper that the presidential office was not blackmailed and that Brod's behavior was "perfectly objective from the journalistic and human point of view," according to the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" on 28 October. Medek reportedly told Brod that the presidential office had similar information from "an absolutely reliable source." MS SLOVAK PARTIES SIGN COALITION AGREEMENT... The chairmen of the four opposition parties that defeated outgoing Premier Vladimir Meciar in the September parliamentary elections have signed a coalition agreement. RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau on 28 October reported that Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) leader Mikulas Dzurinda is to head the new cabinet, in which the SDK will have nine seats. Party of Civic Understanding (SOP) chairman Rudolf Schuster is likely to be the coalition's candidate for president, and the SOP will have two ministers. Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) chairman Jozef Migas will be parliamentary chairman, and six SDL members will be in the cabinet, including Brigitta Schmognerova as finance minister. The Hungarian Coalition will have three portfolios, including one deputy premiership in charge of human rights and minority problems. MS ...AS MECIAR DISMISSES INTELLIGENCE CHIEF. Meciar's outgoing cabinet on 27 October dismissed Ivan Lexa as director of the Slovak Intelligence Service, CTK reported. No reason was given for the move. Last week, the Slovak press speculated that Meciar would give up his mandate as a deputy in order to make room for Lexa, a close ally, and thereby ensure Lexa's parliamentary immunity. Lexa is widely suspected by the opposition to have been involved in the 1995 abduction of the son of former President Michal Kovac. MS HUNGARY, UKRAINE STRENGTHEN BILATERAL TIES. Ukraine hopes that once Hungary is admitted into the EU and NATO, it will be more effective in helping Ukraine's quest for Euro-Atlantic integration, visiting Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told his Hungarian counterpart, Arpad Goncz, on 27 October. At a joint news conference Kuchma accused the EU of discriminating against his country by barring it from associate membership. Ukrainian and Hungarian officials signed documents on, among others, confidence-building measures in the military sphere and developing the Hungarian-Ukrainian border region. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSOVARS RETURN AS SERBS LEAVE. Kosovars returned to their homes on 28 and 29 October following the withdrawal of most Serbian forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 1998). Individual Kosovars told journalists on 28 October that they are happy to be going home before the winter sets in. They added, however, that they are concerned that the Serbs will return and harass them. In Prishtina, the pro-shadow state Kosova Information Center reported that Serbian forces have not withdrawn from several areas of Kosova, including Klina and Suhareka. There has been no independent confirmation of KIC's report. Elsewhere, spokesmen for the EU and U.S. warned the fighters of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) not to occupy checkpoints and fortified positions that the Serbs have abandoned. In Washington, a State Department spokesman added that the U.S. has told the UCK "very clearly that they have to abide by the cease-fire and meet their obligations." PM CLINTON URGES 'NO ILLUSION' OVER BALKAN PEACE. U.S. President Bill Clinton said in Washington on 27 October that the withdrawal of Serbian forces provides a "hopeful moment" for peace in Kosova. He added: "We should be under no illusion. There is still a lot of hard road to walk before hope can triumph over hatred in the Balkans." The next day, special envoy Richard Holbrooke said that there was a "60 percent chance ... of an air war" between NATO and Serbia before Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic withdrew his troops at the beginning of the week. Holbrooke cautioned that "fighting could break out at any time [as the refugees return and that] is one of our main concerns." He maintained that the OSCE will be free to carry out its verification mission in Kosova with 2,000 unarmed civilians and with flights by unarmed aircraft. "We will fly there, when and where we want," Holbrooke added. PM NATO SUSPENDS THREAT TO BOMB SERBIA. NATO officials agreed in Brussels on 27 October that Milosevic had sufficiently complied with UN demands for him to withdraw his forces from Kosova. The alliance consequently agreed to "suspend indefinitely its threat to launch air strikes" against Serbia, the "International Herald Tribune" wrote. NATO had given Milosevic a deadline of 7 p.m. local time on 27 October to pull back his army and paramilitary police forces or face the possibility of air strikes. In Washington, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the following day that "we are maintaining our threat of force and not letting our guard down." She noted that 400 NATO aircraft will remain on indefinite alert for possible air strikes if the alliance concludes that Milosevic has sent his forces back into Kosova. Albright added that the allies are preparing to station a rapid-reaction force in Macedonia to assist the unarmed verification mission if those monitors find themselves in danger. PM 'SERBIAN ADOLF' PLEADS GUILTY TO 12 MURDERS. Goran Jelisic, who called himself "the Serbian Adolf" during the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict, told the Hague-based war crime tribunal on 29 October that he killed 12 Muslims and Croats near Brcko during a two-week period in 1992. He added: "It was my good will that I admitted the crime and cleanse my soul. There is no reason for me to keep it within myself." In January, he said that the murder charges and an additional charge of genocide are "all lies and fabrications." He must now face trial for genocide. PM THREE BOSNIAN SIDES UNITE AGAINST NATO. Muslim, Croatian and Serbian civilian and military leaders said that they cannot accept a recent ruling by NATO-led peacekeepers that all generals on each of the three sides must be approved by SFOR before they take up their appointments, Reuters reported from Sarajevo on 28 October. Leaders from all three sides added that the peacekeepers' ruling violates the Bosnian Constitution. A SFOR spokesman argued that vetting by the international community of all top military appointments is an essential step toward depoliticizing the three armies. PM GRANIC HAILS AGREEMENT WITH BOSNIA... Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic said in Zagreb on 28 October that the new agreement between Croatia and Bosnia's mainly Muslim and Croatian federation will enable Zagreb to provide funds for Croats in the neighboring republic in a legal and transparent manner. This, he added, will mean that Croatia will "get support...[instead of] pressure" from the international community, which has been critical of Croatia's hitherto secret funding for the Croats in the neighboring republic. The agreement is part of a package that includes a document governing Bosnia's use of Croatia's Adriatic port at Ploce, which is Bosnia's natural outlet to the sea. Croatia wants the package in order to reaffirm its legal links to the Croats in the neighboring republic. Bosnia seeks affirmation of its right to use Ploce. PM ...BUT REGRETS 'MISS CROATIA' SCANDAL. Granic also said in Zagreb on 28 October that he regrets the recent public dispute over the winner of the Miss Croatia contest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1998). He denied that the government had played any role in the controversy and blamed the organizers of the contest for the negative publicity that Croatia received as a result. The dispute over whether to award the crown to an ethnic Muslim or an ethnic Croat ended on 28 October, when contest organizers ruled that the Muslim will represent Croatia in the Miss World pageant later this year and that the Croat will fill that role in 1999. PM TUDJMAN TO SUE FORMER AIDE FOR SLANDER. A Zagreb district attorney asked a district court to begin an investigation of Slaven Letica on possible charges of slandering President Franjo Tudjman, AP reported on 28 October. If the investigation results in a trial, a jail sentence of up to three years could be imposed. Letica recently told the Slovenian weekly "Mladina" that "Tudjman loves deviant types. He feels a certain attraction to...criminals, paramilitary criminals, prostitutes. These people fascinate him, because they bring some fun into his boring, bureaucratic life." Letica is a professor of medicine and a prominent political analyst. He was Tudjman's chief aide in 1991 but subsequently broke with the president over Bosnian policy. PM ITALY DISPATCHES POLICE TO STOP ALBANIAN ILLEGAL MIGRATION. Italian Interior Minister Rosa Russo Jervolino told journalists in Tirana on 28 October that Italy will soon dispatch a police force to Vlora to clamp down on the smuggling of refugees. The force will help Albanian colleagues intercept refugees before they embark. Jervolino said that Albania and Italy "agreed to put up greater resistance to illegal immigration on the ground because it's easier to stop them on the ground than at sea." She added that Italy also plans to send a coast guard force to the island of Sazan, which overlooks the main route speedboats use to smuggle illegal migrants to Italy. Jervolino said she was prompted to visit Albania by the recent drowning of five Albanians as they attempted to cross the Otranto Straits (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 27 October). She held talks with Prime Minister Pandeli Majko and Interior Minister Petro Koci. FS PARTY QUITS RULING ROMANIAN COALITION, ALLIANCE. The Romanian Alternative Party (PAR) on 27 October announced it is leaving both the ruling coalition and the Democratic Convention for Romania (CDR). RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. PAR chairman Varujan Vosganian said the decision was prompted by the country's worsening economic situation, the delay in reforms, and the lack of respect for election campaign promises. In the past few months, the PAR has sought to turn itself into the main representative of the right. It was also expected to lose one of its two ministerial posts in an envisaged government shuffle. Mediafax reported on 28 October that three of the PAR's six parliamentary deputies have said they will not quit the CDR. MS ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES TO MERGE. Spokesmen for the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) and the extraparliamentary Romanian National Party have confirmed their intention to merge. Meanwhile, the Bucharest Municipal Tribunal on 27 October ruled in favor of the PUNR, which had appealed against the registration of Gheorghe Funar's new Party of Romanian Unity Alliance. The tribunal had ruled against the party's registration in June, but Funar had contested that decision. Meanwhile, leader of the chauvinist Greater Romania Party (PRM) Corneliu Vadim Tudor repeated the invitation to Funar to join the PRM as secretary general, saying the offer will be "open till 31 December," Mediafax reported on 28 October. MS IMF TO EVALUATE MOLDOVAN ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE. An IMF delegation headed by Richard Haas began a two-week visit to Moldova on 28 October aimed at evaluating the country's economic performance and the possibility of resuming loans to Chisinau. The same day, Finance Minister Anatol Arapu said Moldova is on the "brink of crisis" owing to lower than expected revenues. Deputy Premier Ion Sturdza warned that unless the government approves a "realistic budget," the cabinet will have to "announce Moldova's bankruptcy," Infotag reported. For the first time in its five-year history, the national currency has dropped below 6 lei to $1. MS BULGARIA HEADING TOWARD ECONOMIC STABILITY. Bulgaria currently has a budget surplus of 326 billion leva ($200 million), whereas last year it had a substantial deficit, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 28 October, citing officials in Sofia. Annual inflation is below 3 percent, compared with a monthly inflation rate of 2,000 percent during the 1996-1997 crisis. The IMF says it expects inflation this year to be about 9 percent. National Bank foreign-currency reserves have risen from $ 81 million in early 1997 to 2.9 billion in June 1998. On 26 October, the Bulgarian government approved a privatization program for 1999 envisaging $607 million in revenues, "The Wall Street Journal Europe" reported. MS BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT HEEDS PRESIDENTIAL VETO. The parliament on 28 October announced it will reconsider recent amendments to a law on the judicial system that President Petar Stoyanov vetoed earlier this month. it was the second time in a week that deputies agreed to heed Stoyanov's veto rather than overrule it, Reuters reported. Earlier, Stoyanov had vetoed a media law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 1998). The amendments passed to the law on the judiciary aimed at making the struggle against corruption and crime more efficient. Stoyanov, however, opposed some of the changes, saying they infringed on the principle of the division of powers. 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