|[America,] it is the only place where miracles not only happen, but where they happen all the time. - Thomas Wolfe|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 214, Part II, 5 November 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 214, Part II, 5 November 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 * EUROPEAN COMMISSION REPORTS ON FAST-TRACK ENTRY TALKS * SLOVAK GOVERNMENT PLEDGES DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS * KOSOVARS CALL HILL PLAN 'UNACCEPTABLE' End Note: DEJA VU FOR SERBIAN ACADEMICS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE EUROPEAN COMMISSION REPORTS ON FAST-TRACK ENTRY TALKS. The European Commission on 4 November said that preliminary talks with Cyprus and 10 East European countries are "broadly on track." EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek said three of the countries not included in the "fast-track talks" group earlier this year--Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia--are performing better than expected. He added that the rate of Latvia's progress is sufficient for the commission to consider recommending that membership talks be launched with that country by the end of 1999. And he added that such talks could begin with Lithuania and Slovakia "within a reasonable period," AP reported. With regard to Bulgaria and Romania, the commission said these countries "cannot yet be regarded as market economies." The commission urged Hungary and Slovenia--which along with Poland, the Czech Republic, and Estonia belong to the fast-track group--to keep up the pace of adapting their legislation to EU rules and regulations. All candidate countries, the commission said, must do more to protect human rights, improve their judicial system, and deal with corruption. MS LATVIA, LITHUANIA DISAPPOINTED BY COMMISSION REPORT. Latvian and Lithuanian officials have expressed disappointment over the European Commission's 4 November progress report. Speaking on Latvian Radio, Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs said that since Latvia was the only country among the five would-be fast-track candidates whose progress was evaluated as "sufficient," he is confused at an EU statement that it wants to make sure Riga stays the course. "To my mind, we can state that there is a lack of consistency between a very good progress report and the conclusions [based on it]," Reuters quoted him as saying. Birkavs's Lithuanian counterpart, Algirdas Saudargas told journalists that the report is "discouraging, but not pessimistic." He commented that "the political will" of the EU to expand appears to be diminishing. Both Latvia and Lithuania have argued strongly that they should be included in the group of fast-track candidates. JC DECISION ON LATVIA LINKED TO RUSSIAN-SPEAKERS' SITUATION? In a document on the 3 October general elections in Latvia, the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly said that the EU did not include Latvia among the fast-track candidates for accession because of Riga's failure to integrate the country's Russian-speaking population, BNS reported on 4 November. Deputies from the assembly who observed the elections and the simultaneous referendum on amendments to the citizenship law noted that Russia continually criticized Latvia for flouting the rights of its Russian-speaking minority and regularly brought "more or less amicable pressure" to bear on Riga. They added that Latvia's chances of joining the EU would have been endangered if the referendum had been rejected, and they praised the victory of "common sense" among Latvians. JC ROMANIA MORE UPBEAT ABOUT COMMISSION REPORT. Minister for European Integration Alexandru Herlea on 4 November said the commission's evaluation confirms that Romania is now a democratic country and that progress has been made on adjusting legislation to European standards. Herlea said the evaluation shows Romania was in "a difficult situation" with regard to its economic performance and administrative reform and must now make "determined efforts to catch up the lost time." Premier Radu Vasile, returning from a three-day visit to France, said he is not surprised that the report included "negative aspects along with positive ones." "On the whole, it can be viewed as an indication of support for Romania," Romanian radio quoted him as saying. MS ZEMAN SAYS CZECH REPUBLIC 'NOT NUMBER ONE.' Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman told journalists on 4 November that it is "very good that somebody finally tells the cruel truth to those who have been telling us that we were 'number one' in Central Europe," Reuters reported. Observers say this is a thinly-veiled reference to his predecessor, Vaclav Klaus. The European Commission report said the Czech Republic and Slovenia performed least well among the six "fast-track" countries in meeting the conditions that the EU set for each potential members in 1997. Zeman also told journalists that his minority cabinet has approved a draft budget providing for a deficit of 31 billion crowns ($1.07 billion). Last month, the parliament rejected a draft providing for a 26.8 billion crowns deficit, AP reported. MS UKRAINIAN COAL MINERS DEMAND UNPAID WAGES, SUBSIDIES. Thousands of miners demonstrated throughout Ukraine on 4 November to demand overdue wages and more government subsidies to the coal industry. Some 1,000 miners picketed the parliament and government building in Kyiv, while another 5,000 held a rally in Donetsk. Organizers said some 10,000 miners were on strike at their mines to support the demands of the demonstrators. Mykhaylo Volynets, a coal mining trade union leader, told Reuters that unless the government pays overdue wages to the miners, they will launch a "bigger nationwide strike in December for an indefinite period." The government owes the miners 2.4 billion hryvni (some $700 million) in back wages. JM IMF WARNS UKRAINE AGAINST PRINTING MONEY. John Odling- Smee, the IMF's negotiator in talks with Ukraine, told journalists on 4 November in Kyiv that Ukraine should not print money in order to solve its problem of unpaid wages and pensions, AP and Ukrainian News reported. Odling-Smee added that he did not discuss the issue of money emission at his meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma the same day. Kuchma aide Valeriy Lytvytskyy, who earlier suggested that Ukraine will discuss monetary emission with the IMF (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1998), told Ukrainian News on 4 November that Kuchma "opposes the unacceptable inflationary consequences of any emission decision." JM BELARUSIAN FREE TRADE UNION PROTESTS LOW LIVING STANDARDS. The Belarusian Free Trade Union on 4 November launched a two-day action to protest the government's social policy, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Trade unionists picketed major factories in Minsk, and a 3,000-strong rally in the mining city of Salihorsk demanded increased wages and pensions. The protests were supported by a strike of some 5,000 small traders in Hrodna. Following the financial crisis in Russia and subsequent inflation in Belarus, the average wage in Belarus plummeted from $70 in August to some $30 in October. The government-close Belarusian Federation of Trade Unions condemned the action, saying it was "far removed from trade union solidarity." JM POLISH FOUNDATION WANTS COMPENSATION FOR NAZI VICTIMS. The private Polish-German Reconciliation Foundation on 4 November demanded that Germany pay compensation to Poles who were prisoners in Nazi concentration camps or slave laborers in firms in Nazi Germany, AP and PAP reported. The foundation claims that Western slave laborers received tens of thousands of marks, whereas individual Poles received compensation of only 700 marks ($425). Foundation chairman Jacek Turczynski appealed to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to discuss slave labor compensation during his visit to Warsaw on 5 November. The foundation's deputy chairman, Jan Parys, added that there will be no full Polish-German reconciliation without a "settlement of historical issues. We back cooperation with Germany, but if we are to shake hands, they must be clean." JM ESTONIA LAUNCHES PRIVATIZATION OF POWER GRID. Estonia on 4 November sold a section of its nationwide power grid in what ETA described as the first privatization deal involving energy distribution in the former Soviet Union. In the 70 million kroon ($5.3 million) deal, Suenergia LEV, a private firm owned partly by a subsidiary of Imatran Voima, a Finnish energy company, purchased the Laanemaa Power Grid. The Estonian Privatization Agency is currently overseeing the division and sale of Eesti Energia, the state energy monopoly. JC LATVIA REJECTS RUSSIAN CRITICISM OF RECENT LEGISLATION. Latvian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Toms Baumanis told reporters on 4 November that Russia's criticism of legislation passed recently by the outgoing Latvian parliament indicates Moscow's "incomprehension of Latvia's situation" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1998), BNS reported. Baumanis argued that the law on education, under which only Latvian-language instruction is to be available in state schools, is in line with all international norms, including those of the Council of Europe and the OSCE. And he added that no international organization has made any recommendations about either the education law or the law on radio and television, which was also criticized by Moscow. JC PRAGUE REFRAINS FROM REACTING TO IRANIAN AMBASSADOR WITHDRAWAL. Premier Zeman told journalists on 4 November that his government will not react to Iran's decision to recall its ambassador from Prague in response to the launching of RFE/RL broadcasts to that country. The premier said that the government will wait until January 1999 and will then assess the consequences of the broadcasts after having monitored them, as it had originally planned, CTK reported. A Trade and Industry Ministry spokesman, commenting on Iran's threat to cut off economic links with Prague, said that although Iran is a "traditional partner," its share in the Czech Republic's foreign trade is only about 0.1 percent. MS SLOVAK GOVERNMENT PLEDGES DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. The new cabinet will propose changing the constitution to provide for direct presidential elections, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said on 4 November. Slovakia has been without a head of state since 2 March, when the term of office of former President Michal Kovac expired. The parliament in which Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia had a plurality could not agree on a compromise candidate to replace Kovac. Dzurinda told journalists that the new ruling coalition will support direct presidential elections, keeping its election campaign promise to the electorate, Reuters reported. Dzurinda said the elections must take place "as soon as possible," which observers say may mean January or February 1999. MS SLOVAKIA SCRAPS VISAS FOR U.K., IRISH CITIZENS. Also on 4 November, the government abolished visa requirements for U.K. and Irish citizens. The requirements had been imposed by Meciar's government in its final days. That move was in retaliation for U.K. moves last month to require visas from Slovak citizens in a bid to stem the growing tide of asylum seekers from among Slovakia's Romani community, Reuters reported. MS HUNGARY TAKES OVER COUNCIL OF EUROPE CHAIR. Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi on 4 November took over the rotating chairmanship of the Council of Ministers at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Hungarian media reported. Spokesman Jack Hanning said the event has" a symbolic significance" since in November 1990, Hungary became the first state from Eastern Europe to join the council following the collapse of communism. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSOVARS CALL HILL PLAN 'UNACCEPTABLE.' The government of the Kosovar shadow state issued a statement in Prishtina on 4 November saying that "the draft plan for an interim settlement in Kosova prepared by U.S. [Ambassador to Macedonia] Chris Hill is unacceptable. The plan cannot even serve as a basis for further discussion." The statement called for the formation of a "neutral Implementation Commission, composed of two representatives designated by the [shadow state], two designated by [Belgrade], and three individuals from abroad designated by the UN secretary general in cooperation with the EU presidency." The Kosovars said they are willing to negotiate with the Serbs in Geneva in the presence of foreign negotiators once the Independent Commission confirms that Belgrade has met the existing demands of the international community. The text added that the "interim agreement does not have to expressly confirm...that Kosova is an independent state, but the agreement must not prejudice" that view, either. PM IS THE POLICE FORCE THE KEY? The statement issued by the shadow state in Prishtina on 4 November argued that any settlement in Kosova must take account of the existence of the shadow-state and its ministries and departments, which will guarantee full rights to all members of ethnic minorities. Elsewhere, senior Kosovar politician Fehmi Agani told the VOA's Albanian Service that Hill's proposal is "not yet acceptable." He stressed that the Kosovars demand "further guarantees" that the ethnic Albanians will receive a "fair share" of positions on the proposed police force. Ethnic Albanians make up some 90 percent of the province's population. Elsewhere, Hill told Reuters that the Kosovars "have gone beyond demanding independence to reviewing the specific clauses of the draft." PM/FS FRANCE WANTS TO HEAD KOSOVA MISSION. Defense Minister Alain Richard said in Paris on 5 November that his country wants to "command and provide" the bulk of an all-European rapid reaction force to protect unarmed foreign monitors in Kosova. "France would like to take on a significant part of the responsibility for the security force for the monitors," he said. The proposed "extraction force," which will have a mandate to rescue any of the 2,000 monitors if they face danger, will consist of some 1,500 troops. Those troops will most likely be based in Macedonia. France has offered to provide 750 soldiers. The U.S. does not plan to send any ground troops. In Brussels on 4 November, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said that the "extraction force" will be operational by the end of the month. PM KARADJORDJEVIC SAYS WEST HELPED MILOSEVIC. Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, who is the claimant to the Serbian throne, said in London on November 4 that the West gave Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic a "new lease on life" by negotiating with him and allowing him to play the role of a peacemaker, AP reported. The prince charged that Milosevic deliberately orchestrated the crisis in Kosova and "provoked NATO" into threatening air strikes so that he could then negotiate a settlement and portray himself to his own people as the man who "saved Serbia." Karadjordjevic added: "Serbia remains in darkness and ignorance, and the state-run media are singing praise to the president. Any hope of democratic reform is on hold, and that is serious." PM. BELGRADE BARS WAR CRIMES INVESTIGATORS... A spokesman for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia said in The Hague on 5 November that "Yugoslavia has not given the necessary visas [for tribunal officials] to investigate [in Kosova]. They will not allow an investigation" there. The previous day Louise Arbour, who is the court's chief prosecutor, said that she and her staff have a clear mandate to investigate possible war crimes and other atrocities in Kosova. Critics of the recent agreement between Milosevic and U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke have noted that the pact does not oblige Milosevic to cooperate with the tribunal (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 21 October 1998). PM ...AND INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER. Serbian authorities in Uzice on 4 November stopped a truck carrying copies of the independent daily "Danas" from Podgorica and confiscated the newspapers. The editors of "Danas" recently resumed publication in Montenegro after the Serbian authorities banned them from publishing in Belgrade under a new media law (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 28 October 1998). PM NEW BOSNIAN SERB PRESIDENT TAKES OFFICE. Nikola Poplasen took office as president of the Republika Srpska in Banja Luka on 4 November. He promised to work with the international community, to defend Serbian interests in the dispute over Brcko and to promote closer ties to Belgrade. Moderate Serbian legislators joined with non- Serbian deputies to re-elect Petar Djokic speaker of the parliament. Nationalist Serbian legislator Dragan Kalinic told members of the moderate Serbian Concord coalition that the hard-liners will go into opposition. Kalinic had earlier worked to strike a power-sharing deal with Concord that would lead to his election as speaker and the exclusion of Croats and Muslims from key decisions. Before the parliament opened, the international community's Carlos Westendorp told CNN that the return to power by nationalist Bosnian Serbs would mean an end to foreign assistance to the Republika Srpska. PM TURKS START TO REBUILD ALBANIAN NAVAL BASE. The arrival of three Turkish ships at Pasha Liman on 4 November marked the beginning of the Turkish navy's efforts to reconstruct Albania's main naval base. Pasha Liman is in a poor state of repair after citizens looted it during unrest in 1997. Turkey has granted Albania $5 million for the port's reconstruction and is providing 50 experts to work on the project. It is also assisting Albania in the reconstruction of a military shipyard near Vlora and of the naval academy, dpa reported. To that end, it is granting an additional $16 million. FS WAS BIN LADEN IN ALBANIA? A former government minister who asked not to be identified told "Gazeta Shqiptare" on 4 November that he met suspected Islamist terrorist Osama Bin Laden in Tirana in 1994. The minister said that Bin Laden was part of a Saudi delegation and identified himself as a businessman. He offered to finance the building of apartment blocks and a health care center in an Albanian village, AP reported. The same day, the U.S. offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Bin Laden's arrest for his suspected involvement in the August U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Some media reports in August suggested that the bombings were in retaliation for several arrests of suspected Islamist terrorists in Albania this summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1998). FS ALBANIA, CHINA SIGN AGREEMENTS. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo and his Chinese counterpart, Tang Jiaxuan, signed cultural and education exchange agreements in Beijing on 4 November. Milo is on a two- week Asian tour aimed at boosting economic ties. Tang praised the "traditional friendship" of the two countries, saying Beijing will never forget Albania's support for China's admission to the UN and over the issue of Taiwan, ATSH reported. Communist Albania sided with China in the Sino-Soviet dispute in the 1960s. FS TURKEY PRAISES BULGARIA'S MINORITY POLICIES. Turkish President Suleyman Demirel on 4 November praised Bulgaria's policies toward its Turkish minority, saying Bulgaria's ethnic Turks are "loyal citizens of their country" as well as "a bridge" between Turkey and Bulgaria, BTA reported. Demirel expressed support for Bulgaria's quest to NATO membership. Also on 4 November, Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz and his visiting Bulgarian counterpart, Ivan Kostov, signed an agreement under which Sofia will pay pensions to thousands of ethnic Turks who left Bulgaria during the communist period. They also signed agreements on free trade and border demarcation, Reuters reported. In other news, Bulgarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov, commenting on Serbian Deputy Premier Vojislav Seselj's recent statement on the possibility of setting up an East European military bloc against NATO, said that the idea is "ridiculous." MS END NOTE DEJA VU FOR SERBIAN ACADEMICS by Michael J. Jordan It's almost deja vu for Zagorka Golubovic. Except this time, it's even worse. In 1968, when Golubovic was a 38-year-old anthropology professor at Belgrade University, her classroom criticism of Yugoslavia's communist regime helped spark a six-day protest in which some 25,000 students and faculty barricaded themselves in. Soon after, loyalty to the regime became a key qualification for work. As a result, Golubovic and seven others were banned from teaching in 1975, the only such action ever taken in communist Yugoslavia. Today, Golubovic is just as unwilling to kow-tow to authority. She and more than 100 outspoken colleagues have rejected a new law demanding what amounts to an oath of loyalty to Slobodan Milosevic, the increasingly totalitarian Yugoslav president. The subsequent dismissals--a few faculty were forcibly removed during lectures and continued to teach out on the sidewalk-- have spawned a movement to create an "unofficial" system of post-graduate studies. "I'm a person not easily disappointed or frustrated, but I feel even more helpless than I did in 1968 or 1975 because at least then we felt we had some autonomy," said Golubovic, who was recently in Budapest to discuss creation of the Alternative Academic Educational Network. "But we still believe we can do something about it." Such optimism is rare nowadays in Serbia. Milosevic's stable of rabid nationalists and unreformed Communists have launched an all-out assault not only on the university system but on the independent media. Not surprisingly, these two sectors are virtually the last vestiges of free thinking in Serbia. They were also responsible for the most serious threat to Milosevic's decade-long grip on power: the anti-government street protests of winter 1996-1997. Curiously, the crackdown on both higher education and the independent media comes in the wake of the agreement signed by Milosevic and U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke. The deal averted NATO military strikes against Serbian military facilities by promising some sort of autonomy for Kosova, Serbia's war-ravaged southern province. Belgrade conspiracy theorists suspect that Holbrooke--in expressing the West's desperation to halt the Kosova bloodshed--may have given Milosevic the green light to bulldoze his domestic opponents. "We know that compared with a bloody uprising and bloody reaction, what happens to Serbian professors and the media is puny," conceded Vojin Dimitrijevic, a prominent law professor at Belgrade University. "But you cannot count on a lasting settlement when you allow one partner to enact brutally oppressive laws." Indeed, Milosevic's recent tactics do not augur well for the Kosova cease-fire, say dissidents. Milosevic is entrusted to serve up a palatable autonomy plan for the ethnic Albanians of Kosova, who took up arms for an independent state. But at the same time, he crushes the few institutions of autonomy for his own ethnic brethren. Would the Kosova Albanians even want what the rest of Serbia has? It's enough to drive someone like Dimitrijevic over the edge. The legal expert was vice chairman of the UN Human Rights Committee from 1992- 1994. But in April 1992 he plummeted into a severe depression when his worst predictions came true: war in Bosnia, orchestrated by Milosevic. On a sabbatical in Norway at the time, Dimitrijevic found some comfort in the suggestion of his Norwegian psychiatrist: "Where you come from, anyone who doesn't suffer psychological problems is probably either abnormal or immoral." But Dimitrijevic recovered and has since rediscovered his spirit of resistance. He is director of the Belgrade Center for Human Rights. And since his new dean sent him packing last month, he has helped spearhead the new Alternative Academic Educational Network. The post-graduate--albeit unaccredited--courses the network will offer will almost certainly draw top- notch students since they'll be taught by the cream of Serbian scholars. Ultimately, these outcast professors hope the network may lay the foundation for Serbia's first independent university. The need for an alternative to the Serbian universities is obvious, just as the Kosova Albanians realized when they established their "shadow" school system earlier this decade. The new university law politicized the system overnight: Milosevic now picks the education minister, who selects university deans, who, in turn, choose faculty. Hiring is no longer the job of a panel of experts or based on scholarly criteria. A contract spells out loyalty to the dean. This paves the way for less talented, but more loyal faculty, while degrading the quality of education, said Vladeta Jankovic, a literature professor and a conscientious objector. The state is also driving a wedge between students and faculty. Students have been mollified--for now--with looser requirements for passing classes and more time to take and re-take exams. Some deans, said Jankovic, are also encouraging some students to inform on their professors--who's talking politics, who's skipping lectures. Not all students are playing along. When a replacement for Jankovic was brought in from the provinces, he said all 250 students rose and marched out of the lecture hall. And a couple of professors grabbed headlines last week by teaching on the sidewalks immediately off campus, with their students looking on. "We're supposed to teach students facts, methods, and how to think," Jankovic said. "To abuse that position, to emphasize political affiliation, is criminal. The regime wants blind obedience, but we must set an example for the public--that we should not be afraid." 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