|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 221, Part II, 16 November 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 221, Part II, 16 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 * OPPOSITION LEADS IN CZECH SENATE CONTEST * MACEDONIAN COALITION HEADED FOR PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY * HAGUE COURT SENTENCES THREE FOR CRIMES AGAINST SERBS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE HOPES TO PAY GAS DEBT TO RUSSIA BY 1 JANUARY. Ihor Bakay, head of the Naftohaz Ukrayiny company, has said Ukraine will repay its debt for Russian gas supplies by 1 January, Interfax reported on 13 November. Ukraine agreed with Russia last month to pay by barter the gas debt accumulated in the fourth quarter of 1997 and during this year Ukrainian First Deputy Premier Anatoliy Holubchenko said Ukraine will deliver $500 million worth of food and $500 million worth of industrial products in payment for Russian gas. Under a gas deal reached last week, Ukraine will receive 40 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia in 1999 as payment for transit of Russian gas through its territory to Western Europe. Ukraine's annual gas consumption totals 80 billion cubic meters, of which only 18 billion cubic meters is produced domestically. JM UKRAINE OPENS GAS PIPE TO EASE ENERGY DEPENDENCE ON RUSSIA. Ukraine has opened a 103 kilometer gas pipeline that will carry domestically produced gas from Donetsk to Mariupol. "Russia has in the past had the ability to exert pressure on Ukraine, but it does not now," Reuters quoted President Leonid Kuchma as saying at the official opening of the pipeline on 13 November. Ukrainian Television commented that the pipeline will help ensure that industrial giants in Zaporizhzha and Donetsk Oblasts receive regular supplies. JM KUCHMA DISSATISFIED WITH POWER SYSTEM, PARLIAMENT. President Kuchma says that "the power structure determined in the constitution by the former Supreme Council does not include mechanisms that could induce the parliament to form a majority and operate as a responsible, efficient legislature," "Holos Ukrayiny" reported on 14 November. In his opinion, Ukraine's inefficient parliament should either dissolve itself or transfer its legislative powers to the president or the cabinet. Kuchma said some 750 draft bills are currently awaiting consideration by the Supreme Council. He added that the parliament has viewed only one out of the 48 decrees he has issued this year to deal with urgent economic matters. Kuchma said that even if he were to dissolve the parliament, there may be no change since it is necessary to amend the constitution "to lay down the levers of coexistence and the principles of balance between the parliament and the government." JM LUKASHENKA DISCUSSES BELARUS-RUSSIA UNION WITH SELEZNEV. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka held talks with Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev in Minsk on 13 November, "Novye izvestiya" reported. Seleznev told journalists after the meeting, which took place behind closed doors, that they discussed decisions related to the Belarusian-Russian Union that were taken by the Union Parliamentary Assembly in Yaroslavl earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 November 1998). According to Seleznev, Lukashenka called the parliamentary assembly the union's only functioning body. Interfax reported on 13 November that Seleznev said the Union of Belarus and Russia may be transformed into a confederation without the need to hold a referendum on the issue. "We only need to make corresponding amendments to the union charter and elect a single parliament," the agency quoted him as telling workers at the Minsk Automotive Plant. JM ESTONIA'S JUNIOR COALITION PARTNER TO GO IT ALONE? The board of the Country People's Party (EME) has recommended to a party congress in Paide that the EME run on its own list in the March parliamentary elections, ETA reported on 15 November. The EME congress, for its part, reserved the right to decide on whether to join an electoral alliance after the parliament votes this week on whether to ban such alliances. Prime Minister Mart Siimaan, who canceled a trip to Latvia in order to attend the EME congress, urged the party to continue to take part in the ruling coalition led by his Coalition Party, warning that otherwise a right-wing electoral alliance of the Fatherland Union, the Moderates, and the People's Party will likely win the most votes at the March poll. JC TALLINN RESPONDS TO FARMERS' DEMANDS. Agriculture Minister Andrus Varik, meeting with farmers' representatives on 13 November, handed over written answers to demands made earlier this year by the farming community, ETA reported. Varik said there would be no sense in declaring 1998 a catastrophe year in Estonia because there is no law regulating relief measures in such a case. But he stressed that the government is trying to find ways to compensate farmers for the poor harvest, noting that it has already approved allocating some 227 million kroons (some $17.5 million) that it hopes to find when this year's budget is revised. JC LATVIAN PRESIDENT WANTS MAJORITY GOVERNMENT. Guntis Ulmanis, commenting on differences between the People's Party and Latvia's Way over forming a new ruling coalition, said that "Latvia needs a majority government to ensure the stability of the state and the government," BNS reported on 13 November. The two parties finished first and second, respectively, in last month's general elections, but no agreement has yet been reached on the People's Party joining a three-party minority coalition led by Latvia's Way. Meanwhile, Prime Minister-designate Vilis Kristopans of Latvia's Way has said he plans to announce his government lineup on 19 November. JC AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR IN WARSAW. Viktor Klima said during his 13 November visit to Warsaw that EU enlargement must take place in such a way that EU nations do not suffer any losses, PAP reported. He added that the "transition periods" helping EU candidates adjust to the union's requirements are intended as protection against losses. Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek said Austria and Poland have a "nearly identical" vision of Europe's development. He added that Poland's relations with Austria are very good. JM POLES NO LONGER REQUIRED TO HAVE TWO WEDDINGS. A law recognizing the validity of a Church marriage took effect on 15 November, PAP reported. The law, passed earlier this year in accordance with the 1993 Concordat Treaty between Poland and the Vatican, states that marriages performed by clergymen have the same binding legal status as civil ceremonies at state registry offices. The law applies to all recognized denominations in Poland. Under communism, only civil marriages were recognized as legal. JM OPPOSITION LEADS IN CZECH SENATE CONTEST. None of the 27 Senate seats contested in the 13-14 November ballot for the upper house has been decided in the first round, which required a majority vote. A second round, in which the top two candidates will face each other, is to be held on 20-21 November. Candidates of the main opposition formation, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), will take part in 22 runoffs. The governing Social Democratic Party (CSSD) will have 15 candidates in the second round and the four-party coalition led by the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union will have 14 candidates. Communist candidates will take part in the run-offs in three districts. Turnout for the Senate contest was 42.3 percent and for the local elections (whose results are to be released on 17 November) 46 percent. MS CARDINAL ACCUSED OF INTERFERING IN POLITICS. The CSSD on 15 November accused Roman Catholic Cardinal Miloslav Vlk of interfering in politics, saying he is sabotaging relations with the state, AP reported. The CSSD statement follows an exchange between Vlk and Prime Minister Milos Zeman last week in which the cardinal said the government is unwilling to agree on members for a committee set up to deal with the issue of Church property confiscated by the Communists. Vlk added that the CSSD does not enjoy the Church's confidence. Zeman is now demanding an apology. MS HUNGARY, SLOVAKIA AGREE ON IMPLEMENTING BASIC TREATY. Gabor Bagi, deputy state secretary at the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, said on 13 November that agreement has been reached in Budapest on implementing the Hungarian-Slovak basic treaty, Hungarian media reported. Bagi and Anton Pinter, director-general of the Slovak Foreign Ministry, agreed to set up 11 committees designed to coordinate the treaty's implementation. In a major departure from past Slovak positions, Pinter agreed that representatives of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia and the Slovak minority in Hungary will participate in monitoring the process. The agreement is to be signed in Bratislava by the two countries' foreign ministers on 18 November. MS HUNGARIAN DEMOCRATIC FORUM LEADER UNDER CRITICISM. Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) chairman Sandor Lezsak, as well as the party's steering board and former parliamentary group, has been blamed in a party resolution for the MDF's poor performance in the elections earlier this year. The resolution is to be submitted for approval at the party's National Convention scheduled for 21 November. Media reports suggest that Lezsak will be challenged at the convention by Justice Minister Ibolya David for the party's chairmanship. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MACEDONIAN COALITION HEADED FOR PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY. The center-right coalition of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) and the Democratic Alternative (DA) is ahead in the race for five out of seven legislative seats. Voting for those seats was repeated on 15 November because of irregularities in the previous round, Radio Skopje reported (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1998). If the final total is in keeping with the preliminary results, the VMRO-DA coalition will have 63 out of 120 seats and will not need additional coalition partners in order to form a majority. Observers note, however, that the two parties are likely to continue talks with the Democratic Party of the Albanians in order to form a broader- based government. U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Chris Hill recently urged DA leader Vasil Tupurkovski to include at least one mainly Albanian party in the coalition, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 14 November. PM BELGRADE WARNS MACEDONIA OVER NATO BASE. Yugoslav Deputy Foreign Minister Zoran Novakovic delivered an "energetic protest" on 15 November to the Macedonian charge d'affaires. He warned Skopje not to provide a base for NATO's proposed rapid reaction force, which will rescue endangered international monitors in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 1998). Novakovic said that "any military action [from Macedonian soil] against Yugoslavia would be contrary to the long-term interests of the two countries.... It would not be understandable [to Belgrade] that a friendly country allows abuse of its territory for military actions against another friendly, neighboring country." The VMRO-DA coalition was not sympathetic to the NATO request during the election campaign but has subsequently warmed to the proposal. Observers suggested that offending Belgrade may be the price Skopje will have to pay if it wants further integration into Euro-Atlantic structures, which all political parties regard as crucial. PM SOLANA TELLS SERBS NOT TO HARM MONITORS. NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said in Rome on 16 November that "NATO will not tolerate that the verifiers [in Kosova] be attacked or endangered.... A few days ago [NATO] decided on the operational plan for the [rapid reaction] extraction force and we are going to do our best...to guarantee [their] security." The previous day near Duha, southwest of Prishtina, a Yugoslav army vehicle fired a burst from a machine gun over a car in which three U.S. diplomatic observers were riding. An OSCE spokesman in Prishtina said that "random firing is not in the spirit of the cease-fire agreement." The Yugoslav army then argued in a statement that "the members of the U.S. mission in the...car interpreted the exhaust pipe [backfiring] as shooting," Reuters reported. PM UCK CALLS FOR DONATIONS. The Kosova Liberation Army published a statement in the Prishtina daily "Koha Ditore" on 15 November in which it told Kosovars that they "are obliged to help the UCK fund inside the country [as well as abroad], because by helping the war, they help freedom, independence, and democracy in Kosova." PM SERBIAN PRESIDENT URGES KOSOVARS TO JOIN TALKS. Milan Milutinovic on 15 November called on Kosovars to join Serbian officials in talks on 18 November in the presence of U.S., Austrian, Russian, and Chinese diplomats. Kosovar spokesman Fehmi Agani has rejected that offer. In the past, Kosovar leaders have rejected Serbian offers of talks as propaganda. The Kosovar leadership argues that talks can take place only after all Belgrade's forces have left the province and only with a Yugoslav--not a Serbian--delegation that includes Montenegrins. The U.S. and Austrian diplomats whom the Serbs asked to attend have said they will be elsewhere on that date. PM SESELJ WANTS DODIK TO BECOME 'GOVERNOR OF ALABAMA.' NATO peacekeepers told Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj on 14 November that he is persona non grata in Bosnia and must leave Banja Luka, where he was attending an inaugural party for his political ally, Nikola Poplasen, as president of the Republika Srpska. General Jacques Klein, who is a deputy to the international community's Carlos Westendorp, gave the order for Seselj's expulsion. Seselj left peacefully, but said in Belgrade on 15 November that he will order "10,000 baseball bats" to enable Serbs to resist NATO. He added that moderate Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik "works for the Americans [who should help him] to become governor of Alabama," Radio B-92 reported. Poplasen on 15 November nominated nationalist candidate Dragan Kalinic to replace Dodik. Observers said that Kalinic is unlikely to be able to form a parliamentary majority. PM HAGUE COURT SENTENCES THREE FOR CRIMES AGAINST SERBS. On 16 November, the Hague-based war crime tribunal sentenced two Muslims and their Croatian commander to a total of 42 years in prison for crimes against Serbs at the Celibici concentration camp in 1992. The court acquitted a third Muslim. The 20 month-long trial was the longest the tribunal has held and the first at which the defendants were convicted of atrocities against Serbs. PM ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT TAKES ACTION AGAINST CUSTOMS EVASION. Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta ordered national customs police on 15 November not to let any trucks into the country unless the drivers first pay customs duties, dpa reported. Meta told the cabinet that "truck drivers are seeking to corrupt Albanian customs officials and bring goods into Albania without paying customs duties." According to Albanian Television, more than 50 trucks are lined up at three border checkpoints with Greece and Macedonia and some have been there for more than 10 days. Some two weeks ago, the authorities sacked corrupt customs officials, whom the truckers were accustomed to bribing. Finance Minister Anastas Angjeli said the line of trucks is particularly long at the Macedonian border crossing point of Qafe e Thanes. Angjeli added that the government recently deployed "special police groups...at all customs posts" to combat corruption, including at ports and Tirana airport. FS ISLAMIST MURDER SUSPECT SENTENCED IN ALBANIA. A Tirana court on 14 November sentenced Claude Cheik Ben Abdel Kader to 20 years in prison for the murder of his Albanian translator under circumstances that have not been fully clarified. According to dpa, Kader told the court that he considers himself a victim of Christian persecution and that he will take revenge as soon as he leaves prison. Kader previously told the court that he is an associate of Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire believed to be the mastermind behind the August U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 1998). He also said that his mission in Albania was to organize fighters for the UCK. Kader, however, failed to accomplish that aim, AP reported. FS ALBANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT JUDGE LINKS BOMB TO REFERENDUM. Constitutional Court Chief Judge Fehmi Abdiu told "Gazeta Shqiptare" on 13 November that a bomb attack on his home two days earlier was part of a plot to obstruct the 22 November referendum on the draft constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 1998). Police spokesmen said they have arrested eight suspects but did not disclose their identities. In other news, Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, visiting Athens the same day, urged Greeks not to view his countrymen as a nation of criminals. He told a news conference that "Albanians in Greece want to do honest work." There has been a growing tendency among Greeks in recent years to link Albanian migrant workers with crime. FS DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION OF ROMANIA TO SPLIT? Valeriu Stoica, deputy chairman of the National Liberal Party (PNL), said in Targu Mures on 15 November that the "balance of forces within the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) has changed" and that while the PNL has "taken over the helm," its National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) partner is divided by conflict. Stoica said the PNTCD will be forced to sign a new CDR protocol reflecting this change. Local branches of the two parties "should be allowed to decide themselves" whether to run on separate or joint lists in the local elections scheduled for 2000, Stoica said. On 13 November, the PNL National Council approved a 20-point program for "cleansing and re-launching" the economy, saying it must be implemented before the end of 1998. MS LUCINSCHI SAYS HE MIGHT HAVE TO DECLARE EMERGENCY STATE... President Petru Lucinschi told journalists on 13 November that the country's economic crisis might force him to declare a state of emergency. He refused to reply to a question about whether he has such a prerogative under the constitution. He added that he dismissed Transportation and Communication Minister Tudor Leanca at the request of Premier Ion Ciubuc and that the significance of that decision has been "inflated." The dismissal of the government when the country is facing a crisis would be "untimely," he commented, according to RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau. MS ...HOPES TRANSDNIESTER SETTLEMENT IMMINENT. Lucinschi said he hopes agreement on a special status for the separatists and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Transdniester will be reached at the summit in Kyiv on 27-29 November. He said one of the main unresolved problems is that of the military equipment that Russia left in the region, adding that "in the past three years, [Moscow] has withdrawn 3,900 soldiers but only two tanks." The same day, Lucinschi received a telegram from Gazprom director Rem Vyakhirev saying that in view of Moldova's repeated failure to abide by agreements for settling its debt, Gazprom will reduce and eventually cut off supplies to Moldova. He added that his company is pulling out of a deal to take over a controlling stake in the MoldovaGas joint venture in exchange for part settlement of the debt by government bonds. MS BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PARTLY OVERRULES PRESIDENTIAL VETO. Lawmakers on 13 November overruled President Petar Stoyanov's veto on one of the articles in the new media law and banned broadcasts of television advertisements during prime time, Reuters reported. This was the only article overruled by the legislators, who accepted several other objections made by Stoyanov and allowed, among other things, state television and radio broadcasts in the languages of Bulgaria's ethnic minorities, including Turkish. MS BOMB EXPLODES OUTSIDE DEPUTY'S HOME. A bomb exploded on 15 November outside the home of Georgi Shishkov, a parliamentary deputy representing the Union of Democratic Forces, BTA reported. A few months ago Shishkov accused former high- ranking Socialist Party officials of involvement in smuggling. He was at home when the blast occurred but was not injured. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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