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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 210, Part II, 30 October 1998


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 210, Part II, 30 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

* DZURINDA APPOINTED SLOVAK PREMIER

* KOSOVARS SAY SERBIAN FORCES REMAIN

* ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS CALL FOR REFERENDUM BOYCOTT

End Note: POWER GAMES WITH ALBANIA'S NEW CONSTITUTION
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

KUCHMA STRESSES ECONOMIC TIES WITH RUSSIA... Ukrainian
President Leonid Kuchma on 29 October said a clear-cut
program on cooperation with Russia will be prepared
soon, Interfax reported. Kuchma stressed that Ukraine is
very dependent on Russia and "has a stake in Russia's
stability." He criticized Moscow for not taking
reciprocal steps to strengthen economic ties and
recalled that Russia has not yet ratified the 1995
treaty on free trade with Ukraine. Kuchma repeated his
proposal to create a free trade zone within the CIS,
saying that the Customs Union (whose members are Russia,
Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan) is "fictitious and
does not work." JM

...LAMBASTES PARLIAMENT FOR NOT COOPERATING. Kuchma also
criticized the parliament for its lack of cooperation
with the executive, saying lawmakers take "months and
years" to make economic decisions, while the current
situation "calls for immediate intervention." Kuchma
noted that "everybody wants a strong hand" at present
and that he is "ready to take responsibility" for
Ukraine. At the same time, he said he prefers the
"European way" to "the Belarusian way, where all
structures are puppet bodies and unanimously vote for
all decisions." Kuchma also proposed to abolish the
immunity and privileges of parliamentary deputies and to
put the issue to a referendum. JM

UKRAINE, POLAND SIGN MARKET REFORM COOPERATION PROGRAM.
Ukraine and Poland have signed a cooperation program
that, with U.S. assistance, will help Ukraine use
Poland's experience in implementing market reforms,
Western agencies reported. Stephen Sestanovich, adviser
to the U.S. secretary of state on the "newly independent
states," said at the signing ceremony in Kyiv on 29
October that the program will focus on macroeconomic and
local government reforms, with special emphasis on the
development of small businesses. The U.S. Agency for
International Development is to provide the bulk of the
funding for the program, which includes training for
local government officials. Ukrainian Deputy Prime
Minister Serhiy Tyhypko commented that Poland's thriving
economy is proof that Ukraine must pursue radical
reforms, despite domestic calls to reconsider its
economic policies. JM.

BELARUS SAYS DIPLOMATIC HOUSING CONFLICT 'CLOSED.'
Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich told
journalists in Minsk on 29 October that the conflict
over diplomatic residences at the Drazdy residential
compound is "closed," Western agencies reported.
Antanovich said all ambassadors who left Drazdy in June
may return to their residences except for the envoys of
the U.S., France, and Germany, whose residences have
been "absorbed" by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's. He
added that the three diplomats will be given options,
including other residences at Drazdy located "a little
bit further away" from the presidential house.
Antanovich added that an EU official is in Minsk to
discuss accommodation for evicted EU diplomats. JM

BELARUS'S FOREIGN TRADE DEFICIT GROWS. Deputy Prime
Minister Leanid Kozik said on 29 October that Belarus's
foreign trade deficit from January-September 1998
totaled $1.2 billion, of which $967 million was with
countries outside the former Soviet Union, Interfax
reported. According to Kozik, the main reason for the
growing foreign trade deficit is the decrease in exports
to countries outside the former USSR. He also noted that
Belarusian exports to Russia in September decreased by
$170 million compared with August, resulting in a trade
deficit with Russia for the first time this year. In
Kozik's opinion, Belarus's close contacts with Russian
regions provide a solid foundation for reversing the
negative trend in trade with Russia. JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT RETURNS BUDGET UNCHANGED TO
PARLIAMENT. The government on 29 October returned its
1999 draft budget to the parliament, one day after
lawmakers had rejected the document as "overly
optimistic" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1998),
ETA and BNS reported. The government made no changes to
the draft, but Prime Minister Mart Siimann said the
cabinet is prepared to amend it if necessary. He noted
that the forecast of 6 percent economic growth may be
altered once statistics for the first 10 months of this
year are available, adding that a decision will be made
on 17 November. Siimann also noted that following the 28
October vote in the parliament, in which some ruling
coalition deputies defected to the opposition, some
important decisions are expected to be made soon about
the situation within the coalition, according to ETA. JC

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES SCHOOL LANGUAGE LAW. Members
of the outgoing parliament have voted by 64 to 4 in
favor of a law calling for Latvian to become the sole
language of instruction in public schools, AP reported
on 29 October, citing BNS. The measures are to be phased
in over the next decade, and some class levels will
switch to Latvian-only instruction as early as 2004.
Russian will be allowed as the language of instruction
in private schools and some special-education
institutions. JC

VAGNORIUS SAYS IGNALINA NO OBSTACLE TO EU ENTRY TALKS.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius said on 29
October that the Ignalina nuclear power station is not
an obstacle to starting EU membership talks, BNS
reported. Vagnorius was commenting on a remark by
Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas to Lithuanian
Television that if Vilnius were not invited in December
to start fast-track EU entry talks, Ignalina would be to
blame. The premier stressed that the government will
make a final decision on whether to shut down Ignalina
based on the recommendation of a team of international
experts. "We are not rich enough to make such a decision
on purely political motives, but if experts say that it
is not safe, we will follow their recommendations,"
Reuters quoted him as saying. JC

GERMANY'S FISCHER BACKS POLAND'S EU MEMBERSHIP. New
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer assured Poland
on 29 October that Bonn remains an advocate of the EU's
eastward expansion, AP reported. "The creation of a
unified Europe is in the interests of Germany," Fischer
told journalists after talks with his Polish
counterpart, Bronislaw Geremek, in Warsaw. Fischer
declined to speculate on when Poland will join the EU,
saying that EU entry negotiations should be based on
both "political vision" and "realism." Fischer added
that he and Geremek discussed the freedom of labor
within the EU and land purchases by foreigners in
Poland. Some Polish politicians believe that Germany's
new government is afraid of an inflow of cheap Polish
labor after the country's EU entry, while many Poles
fear that rich Western investors may buy up real estate
in Poland. JM

POLISH GOVERNMENT WANTS NEW STATE TELEVISION BOARD.
State Treasury Minister Emil Wasacz, who formally acts
as the owner of Polish Television, wants to reform its
supervisory board, PAP reported on 29 October. Wasacz
has urged the National Radio and Television Broadcasting
Council to reduce the board's members from five to four,
each of whom would represent one of the four main
parties. The current board was constituted under the
previous left-wing government and is dominated by
leftists. Solidarity has unsuccessfully fought for equal
representation on Polish Television's supervisory board
since it won elections in October 1997. JM

DZURINDA APPOINTED SLOVAK PREMIER. The newly elected
Slovak parliament on 30 October voted to appoint Slovak
Democratic Coalition leader Mikulas Dzurinda as the
country's new premier, Reuters reported. The previous
day, the new legislature convened for the first time and
elected Party of the Democratic Left leader Jozef Migas
as its new chairman. In an open letter to NATO
Secretary-General Javier Solana on 29 October, the
leaders of the coalition parties pledged to "introduce
significant political and economic changes" and to set
up a government "firmly devoted to the democratic
principles, with full respect for the rule of law," AP
reported. MS

MECIAR RESIGNS PARLIAMENTARY SEAT. As was expected,
outgoing Premier Vladimir Meciar has resigned as
parliamentary deputy in favor of Ivan Lexa, the former
head of the Slovak Intelligence Service (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 29 October 1998), TASR reported. Lexa will
now enjoy parliamentary immunity, making it impossible
for the new government to seek to prosecute him for his
alleged involvement in the kidnapping of former
President Michal Kovac's son in 1995. MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

KOSOVARS SAY SERBIAN FORCES REMAIN. Only a "small
number" of Kosovars have returned to their homes in
recent days, AP reported from Prishtina on 30 October.
Refugees trying to go home said that they found many
Serbian police or soldiers still in the area and that
the Kosovars' former homes are no longer inhabitable.
Spokesmen for shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova's
Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) said that "there are
so many Serbian troops, military and police, as well as
combat hardware, that [such a] partial withdrawal cannot
create the necessary confidence for the Albanian
refugees and displaced persons to return back to their
homes." The LDK's KIC news agency noted that some 25,000
Serbian security forces are allowed to remain in Kosova
under a recent agreement between Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic and NATO generals and that only 4,100
troops were required to leave. KIC argued that a force
of 2,500 would be sufficient to maintain order in
Kosova. PM

SESELJ VOWS TO FIGHT 'TERRORISM.' Serbian Deputy Prime
Minister Vojislav Seselj said in Belgrade on 29 October
that "all armed terrorists will be disarmed and brought
to justice. The withdrawal of police [from Kosova] does
not mean the end of the fight against terrorism," by
which he meant the fight against the Kosova Liberation
Army. In Prishtina, Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemije and
ethnic Serbian political leader Momcilo Trajkovic issued
a declaration accusing Milosevic of surrendering Serbian
sovereignty over Kosova through his recent agreements
with U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke and NATO
generals. Artemije and Trajkovic added that Milosevic's
policies serve to take Kosova "out of the state of
Serbia, abolish state sovereignty and jeopardize the
territorial integrity of Serbia in [the province]
because they withhold the right of republican and
[Yugoslav] federal bodies" to carry out security
functions in Kosova. PM

YUGOSLAV ARMY WARNS DRAFT DODGERS. General Ratomir
Ristic said that the General Staff will take legal
measures against young men who do not respond to their
induction notices, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service
reported from Belgrade on 29 October. He added that the
current amnesty law affects only those who disregarded
their call-up notices up to the end of 1995. The general
did not say how many young men have avoided their draft
notices since then. Ristic noted that the army will
accept Bosnian and Croatian Serb refugees as recruits
and that it has asked the Interior Ministry for
information to help the army update its information on
potential draftees. PM

GERMANY TO TAKE ACTIVE ROLE IN VERIFICATION. Defense
Minister Rudolf Scharping said in Bonn on 29 October
that Germany will provide an unspecified number of
unmanned surveillance aircraft to monitor Serbian
compliance with UN demands in Kosova. Some 350 German
soldiers will operate the aircraft from bases in
Macedonia, dpa reported. Germany has already pledged to
contribute 200 persons to the 2,000-strong OSCE civilian
verification mission. The government has not yet said
what it will contribute to NATO's planned rapid-reaction
force, which will rescue the "verifiers" should they
find themselves in danger. PM

BRIEF BORDER OPENING BETWEEN CROATIA, MONTENEGRO. The
authorities will open the border crossing at Debeli
Brijeg on 1-2 November for the Roman Catholic All
Saints' holiday, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported
from Podgorica. Montenegro's nearby town of Kotor has a
Roman Catholic minority. Both Podgorica and Zagreb have
been urging the Belgrade authorities for some time to
consent to permanently opening the crossing. Belgrade
refuses to do so, however. PM

CROATIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS WANT EARLY ELECTIONS. Ivica
Racan, who heads the leading opposition party, said in
Zagreb on 30 October that Croatia needs parliamentary
elections well before the scheduled date of January 2000
in order to "stop the rot" that has come to characterize
the rule of President Franjo Tudjman and his Croatian
Democratic Community (HDZ). "We want to have a
democratic life and not an autocratic president and
authorities. We don't want the whole country to depend
on the intentions and sometimes even moods of one
man.... Tudjman's concept of rule is used up.... The HDZ
has run its historic course and used its options. The
only thing they can do is generate a crisis and
endanger...democracy," Racan added. The ruling
establishment has recently been discredited by a series
of scandals involving a split in its own ranks, the
hidden wealth of Tudjman and his wife, dubious
privatization practices, and the parliament's decision
to approve high salaries for top government officials.
PM

DISCORD IN BOSNIAN SERB PARLIAMENT. The opening session
of the newly elected 83-member Republika Srpska
legislature broke up in the early hours of 30 October
after deputies failed to agree on a speaker and two
deputy speakers. At the start of the session, some 19
Muslim and Croatian deputies walked out to protest the
Serbian Orthodox elements in the swearing-in ceremony.
The parliament will reconvene on 4 November to try to
elect its own officials. Only after those three persons
are elected can the president take office and appoint a
prime minister. The moderate faction of outgoing
President Biljana Plavsic and the more hard-line one of
President-elect Nikola Poplasen have 32 seats each. PM

ALBANIA TO FACE CRITICISM AT DONORS' CONFERENCE...
Foreign Minister Paskal Milo told "Albanian Daily News"
on 29 October that he expects foreign participants at an
international donors' conference on 30 October in Tirana
to criticize Albania for not meeting all the goals set
at previous conferences one year ago. Milo said he
nonetheless expects that the conference will approve a
six-month emergency program to give Albania's new
government time to fulfill those earlier promises. The
participants at conferences in Rome and Brussels in 1997
pledged to give up to $600 million to help Albania
recover from the anarchy that swept the country early
that same year. Only about $200 million of that sum
actually was paid to Albania, however, because the
Albanian authorities failed to convince donors that the
Albanians had a sufficient number of sound programs for
which the money could be put to good use. FS/PM

...BUT KEY PROBLEMS REMAIN. Albanian Prime Minister
Pandeli Majko's economic adviser Gramoz Pashko also told
"Albanian Daily News" on 29 October that the governing
coalition has not still succeeded in creating an
administration able to make use of the promised funds.
He added that the administration is plagued by
corruption and unable to restore security. Albanians
have yet "to understand the principles of civil
society," he added. Observers note political
polarization remains a major problem. In other news,
Albanian and EU representatives on 28 October signed an
agreement granting Tirana some $34 million to modernize
agricultural production, infrastructure, and
administration. FS

ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS CALL FOR REFERENDUM BOYCOTT. The
Democratic Party leadership on 29 October called for a
boycott of the 22 November referendum on a new
constitution. Party leader Sali Berisha announced the
decision at a rally in central Tirana the same day,
"Albanian Daily News" reported. He added, however, that
Democratic Party members will be present, however, in
the polling commissions to observe that the vote is free
and fair (see "End Note" below). FS

NEW TENSION AMONG ROMANIA'S COALITION PARTNERS. Nicolae
Manolescu, chairman of the National Liberal Party's
National Council, has harshly criticized the Democratic
Party, saying the Democrats "wish to reform provided
that nothing is changed." Manolescu's criticism was
prompted by the Democrats' opposition to urgently debate
in the Chamber of Deputies a new law on the restitution
of nationalized houses and one on the protection of
tenants, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 29
October. Tensions are also reported over the envisaged
restructuring of the government. While the Democrats say
they do not oppose a plan for reducing the number of
cabinet members, they do oppose a law that would
increase the size of restituted agricultural plots from
10 hectares to 50 hectares. They also want a state
company for the management of state-owned land to be set
up before further land restitution is approved. MS

BUCHAREST MAYORAL CANDIDATE WITHDRAW. Several opposition
parties in Bucharest announced this week that they are
withdrawing their candidates from the race in favor of
Sorin Oprescu, the candidate of the Party of Social
Democracy in Romania. The mayoral race ballot is to be
repeated on 1 November and will be considered valid
regardless of turnout. The Party of Romanian National
Unity, the Greater Romania Party, and the Alliance for
Romania will all back Oprescu. The candidate of the
Social Democratic Party has withdrawn from the race in
favor of Democratic Party candidate Alexandru Sassu. On
24 October, acting Mayor Viorel Lis of the National
Peasant Party Christian Democratic won 41.6 percent of
the vote, but the ballot was invalidated because of low
turnout ( 34.3 percent). MS

STALEMATE IN MOLDOVA-TRANSDNIESTER TALKS ON SECURITY
ZONE... Joint Control Commission co-chairman George
Carlan told journalists in Chisinau on 28 October that
the commission has failed to reach a compromise with the
Tiraspol delegation over how to reduce forces in the
security zone, Infotag reported. Carlan said Tiraspol
rejected a Moldovan proposal to reduce both personnel
and military equipment. A Tiraspol representative said
Moldova has more equipment in the zone and that it
cannot agree to reduce personnel unless it can increase
its military equipment. The March 1998 Odessa accords
provide for 500 Moldovan, Russian, and Tiraspol troops
each. Chisinau says it has 800 troops in the zone, while
the separatists have 1,000 regular soldiers and another
2,000 serving in forces not controlled by the
commission. Russia has 500 soldiers in the zone. MS

...AND IN PARLEYS ON TRANSDNIESTER SPECIAL STATUS.
Viktor Garbuzov, deputy head of the Transdniester
delegation to talks with Chisinau on the separatist
region's envisaged "special status," said on 29 October
that "all proposals" submitted by the Moldovan
government are "negative." The two teams also submitted
proposals on setting up a "joint economic space," the
independent FLUX agency reported. The same day, Prime
Minister Ion Ciubuc arrived in Moscow for talks on
restoring rapidly deteriorating bilateral trade and
economic ties and the situation in the Transdniester,
ITAR-TASS reported. MS

BULGARIA INTRODUCES ALTERNATIVE MILITARY SERVICE. The
parliament on 29 October approved a law allowing for
alternative military service for conscripts who object
to using weapons. They will be able to choose between
serving in non-combatant units or working in public
health and social care centers. The law goes into effect
on 1 January, AP reported. Alternative service will be
allowed only in times of peace and will be twice as long
as the standard service (36 months instead of 18). In
other news, the government on 29 October announced
Bulgaria is ready to participate in the implementation
of the Holbrooke-Milosevic agreement with one Antonov-30
reconnaissance aircraft. MS

END NOTE

POWER GAMES WITH ALBANIA'S NEW CONSTITUTION

by Fabian Schmidt

	Albania's Socialist-led coalition government is
preparing to hold a referendum on the long-awaited new
constitution next month. Observers hope that the
document will strengthen the rule of law, increase the
powers of local government, and improve the efficiency
of the administration by clearly defining the
responsibilities of the various agencies. But less than
a week after the parliament approved the constitution
and announced the referendum, the constitution had
become the object of a familiar political power game
between the two largest parties.
	Opposition Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha
said at a press conference earlier this week that his
party will not approve the document. Repeating calls for
new elections, he made it clear that the Democrats will
draft their own constitution, which they intend to adopt
once they have a majority in the parliament. Berisha
said that "the majority of Albanians [was excluded] from
the constitution drafting process" since the Socialists
had not agreed to a roundtable of all political parties
to discuss the document when his party was boycotting
the legislature. He also criticized the current law
whereby a simple majority of votes is sufficient to
approve the constitution. The Democrats argue that a
majority of all registered voters should be required to
approve the draft.
	The Socialists reject the opposition charges and
stress that it is the Democrats' own fault since they
boycotted the parliament for most of this year, thus
excluding themselves from the drafting process. They
also claim that they repeatedly urged the opposition to
participate in that process but the Democrats were
unwilling to make their opinion heard.
	The conflict between the Socialists and the
Democrats is one of form rather than of content. Some
constitutional experts from the Democratic Party have
told journalists in Tirana that the party does not have
any substantial complaints about the draft. Furthermore,
the Democrats have failed to come forward with concrete
suggestions. So what are the main reasons for the
dispute?
	On one hand, the Democrats remain unwilling to take
part in the regular parliamentary drafting process
because such participation would make it more difficult
to continue to question the legitimacy of the
legislature. On the other hand, the Socialists, who have
a two-thirds majority in the parliament, refuse to
subject the issue of the constitution to a multi-party
roundtable because acceptance of such a parallel
institution to the parliament would imply that the
legislature indeed lacks legitimacy. Moreover, agreeing
to a roundtable, similar to the one that mediated the
creation of a multi-party interim government in spring
1997, would be only the first step toward new elections.
The government knows that if it tries to base its policy
on too broad a consensus and surrenders power to an all-
party roundtable, it would risk becoming paralyzed and
unable to tackle the country's urgent problems.
	A roundtable of sorts, nonetheless, took place on
25 October. But because the content of the constitution
was not up for debate, the Democrats declined to attend.
Instead, the governing coalition partners and
representatives from the smaller center-right Republican
Party agreed not to campaign on behalf of the
constitution in order to avoid further political
polarization of that document. The parties also said
they hope that the referendum, which is to be held on 22
November, will not develop into a political battle
between parties, agreeing that the parliamentary
drafting commission will explain the content of the
draft to the electorate through the media. And they
suggested that non-governmental organizations, rather
than political parties, should be involved in organizing
the referendum.
	But these parties are unlikely to succeed in
keeping party politics out of the referendum. The
Democrats have made it clear that they will use the run-
up to the referendum to acquire leverage against the
government and to eventually force new elections. The
electorate is therefore more likely to view the
plebiscite as a referendum on the current government
rather than on the basic law. This is a situation
similar to the 1994 referendum, when Berisha, in his
capacity at the time as president, proposed a
constitution that the electorate turned down. That
result was viewed by many as a vote of no confidence in
Berisha rather than in the document.
	The latest draft constitution has already become
politicized, and even if it is approved by a popular
referendum, it will likely remain a political football
among rival politicians. How much this slows down the
building of democratic institutions will depend on the
electorate. If the voter turnout is high and a clear
majority of voters cast their ballot in favor, the
document is likely to remain in force for years to come.
In such a case, it would be more difficult for
subsequent governments to change the constitution
whenever they please than if turnout were low and the
majority slim.

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