|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 225, Part II, 20 November 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 225, Part II, 20 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 * KUCHMA CALLS FOR MONEY EMISSION * EU, U.S. ENVOYS WANT SWIFT PROGRESS ON KOSOVA ACCORD * MACEDONIA WANTS DISPUTE OVER NATO FORCE SETTLED xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE KUCHMA CALLS FOR MONEY EMISSION... Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, addressing the parliament on 19 November, presented an economic stabilization program for 1999, Ukrainian and Western media reported. Kuchma called on lawmakers to authorize printing more money for the cash- strapped economy. "We need to inject more payment tools into the economy where money has stopped serving its primary goal," he commented. Kuchma criticized the National Bank for maintaining the "artificial stability" of the hryvnya. He said the bank profited through transactions with bonds instead of providing loans to enterprises. Kuchma urged the Supreme Council to adopt a special bill on the National Bank and its supervisory council in order to gain more control over bank policies. JM ...OPTS FOR FREE-FLOATING HRYVNYA... Kuchma said the hryvnya should no longer be kept within the government- set trading band but should be allowed to float freely. He said that while the Ukrainian hryvnya was "artificially supported" over the past two years, Ukraine's trade partners devalued their currencies, which hurt Ukrainian exporters. "Today it is necessary to discontinue the excessive regulation of foreign currency purchases by Ukrainian export enterprises, liberalize the currency market, and discontinue its mechanical regulation," he argued. JM ...APPEALS TO PARLIAMENT NOT TO OUST GOVERNMENT. Kuchma also said he still backs the government and the National Bank leadership. "I ask the parliament not to create unnecessary tension around the issue of the government's possible dismissal. Such a step would be not only untimely and senseless, but also dangerous for the state," he commented, adding that a crisis in the National Bank would be even more dangerous than in the government. Kuchma urged the parliament to adopt a 1999 budget with a deficit of 0.6 percent of GDP and to consider a draft bill on the privatization of Ukrtelecom, Ukraine's telecommunications giant. JM LUKASHENKA SAYS 'NO CATASTROPHE' OVER FOOD PROVISION... Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 19 November attended a meeting of the "nationwide headquarters," an emergency task force set up last week to deal with the shortages of food and consumer goods (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 1998), Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka commented, "I have the impression that there is no catastrophe in Belarus, no collapse or crisis in provisions for the population." He argued that prices of foodstuffs in Belarus are "distorted," being 200-300 percent lower than in Russia or Ukraine, and that food is being smuggled to those countries. And he admitted that the administrative measures to control prices have proved inefficient and the government has been forced to increase prices "to save the production [sector]." JM ...BLASTS PREMIER FOR DOUBLING VODKA PRICE... Lukashenka has sharply criticized Prime Minister Syarhey Linh for allowing prices of Belarusian vodka to double this week. "You simply hate your people. If you had respected them, you would not have done this. Why are you discrediting your country and yourself?" he asked Linh in the presence of television cameras. The president added that the price of vodka should have been increased "calmly, in three or four goes." He ordered the prime minister to compensate for the price hike by increasing monthly wages by the amount it costs to buy several bottles of vodka. A half-liter bottle of Belaya Rus vodka now costs 185,300 Belarusian rubles ($2.5 according to the official exchange rate). JM ...THREATENS DISMISSALS OVER COMMODITY SHORTAGES. Lukashenka also ordered the government "to introduce order in the trade sector. "You have to put pressure on all local administration: governors and city and raion executive committee heads. They should grow pale and blush over how their trade is being conducted," the president said. He also warned the government not to use Belarus's emergency food reserves "sooner than January- February and without my knowledge." Lukashenka threatened "the most severe consequences" for agricultural sector officials and dismissals in the trade sector unless the situation in the food market is stabilized within the next two weeks. JM BRZEZINSKI URGES RUSSIA TO ACKNOWLEDGE BALTIC OCCUPATION UNLAWFUL. Addressing a conference in Stockholm on security and cooperation in the Baltic region, U.S. political scientist and former presidential security adviser Zbygniew Brzezinski urged Russia to formally repudiate its stand that the 1940 occupation of the Baltic States was lawful, BNS reported on 19 November. Pointing to a Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry document earlier this year claiming that the Baltic States had joined the Soviet Union legally and on a voluntary basis, Brzezinski argued that such an attitude "arouses a feeling of insecurity" among the three countries. He also repeated the idea, expressed earlier this week during his visit to Vilnius, of a charter between NATO and the Baltic States to improve security and confidence in the region. JC ESTONIAN RULING PARTY TO DECIDE NEXT WEEK ON CABINET RESHUFFLE. Estonian Prime Minister Mart Siimann's ruling Coalition Party has postponed taking a decision on a possible cabinet reshuffle until 25 November, Reuters reported on 19 November, quoting a party spokesman. At a news conference the previous day, Siimann had expressed annoyance with one of his party's junior coalition partners, the Country People's Party, which recently voted, together with the opposition, against electoral alliances (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 1998). Siimann neither denied nor confirmed rumors he is considering replacing Environment Minister Villu Reiljan and Agriculture Minister Andres Varik, both members of the Country People's Party, according to BNS. JC MERI PROMULGATES LAW BANNING ELECTORAL ALLIANCES. Estonian President Lennart Meri on 19 November promulgated the law banning electoral alliances, which was passed by the parliament earlier this week, ETA reported. In a statement, Meri said he hopes that Estonian parties will start merging so that the Estonian political landscape can be "brought into a more orderly situation before the [March 1999] elections. Otherwise, we could be in a situation after the elections where the disputes [between] smaller and medium-sized parties will not be much different from the disputes in the [electoral alliances] era." He also urged parties to name their cooperation partners in a new cabinet as soon as possible, commenting that the voter does "not want to buy a pig in a sack." JC LATVIAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE OPTS FOR MINORITY GOVERNMENT. Vilis Kristopans told journalists on 19 November that he intends to form a minority government, Reuters and BNS reported. He said he will form a three-party coalition, composed of his Latvia's Way, the Fatherland and Freedom party, and the New Party, and will offer one or two portfolios to groups outside the coalition to bolster support both in society and the parliament. He also said he had offered the centrist People's Party, which won the elections, the post of agriculture minister but did not invite it to formally join the coalition, an offer the People's Party rejected. "Diena" reported on 20 November that the non-coalition ministers could come from either the leftist Social Democrats or the Greens. Kristopans has said he will name his government lineup next week. The three-party coalition will have 46 seats in the 100-strong parliament. JC LITHUANIANS WANT TO KEEP DEATH PENALTY. According to a poll conducted by the opinion and market research center Vilmorus earlier this month, 78 percent of Lithuanians do not approve of banning capital punishment, BNS reported on 19 November. Sixteen percent of respondents said they are in favor of such a ban, while 6 percent said they have no opinion on the subject. At the beginning of this week, the Constitutional Court began considering whether capital punishment contravenes the basic law (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 18 November 1998). JC POLAND SIGNS COOPERATION ACCORDS WITH KYRGYZSTAN. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and his Kyrgyz counterpart, Askar Akayev, met in Warsaw on 19 November and signed a declaration on developing friendly relations and cooperation, PAP reported. Akayev is the first president from the former Soviet Central Asian republics to visit Poland. He said in Warsaw that Kyrgyzstan wants to make use of Poland's exemplary experience in economic and political transformation in his country's next stage of reform. The total volume of trade between Poland and Kyrgyzstan was $5.5 million last year. "This is much too small," Kwasniewski commented. Akayev pledged to introduce privileges for Polish investors in Kyrgyzstan. JM SLOVAK PREMIER ON GOVERNMENT PRIORITIES. Speaking to the parliament on 20 November, Mikulas Dzurinda said his cabinet is determined to make human and minority rights a top priority in its program and to work harder for membership in NATO and the EU. Earlier on 20 November, the government approved its program, which provides, among other things, for the restructuring and the privatization of banks with the help of foreign investors, Reuters reported. MS SLOVAKIA, GREAT BRITAIN SIGN MILITARY ACCORD. British Armed Forces Minister Douglas Henderson on 20 November signed with his Slovak counterpart, Pavol Kanis, a memorandum of understanding providing for cooperation between the two countries' armed forces, including the sharing of know-how and experience in strategic planning. Henderson said Britain is looking forward to the "near future when Slovakia will be a full member of NATO" and that it is "well placed to be at the head of any expansion" of the organization, AP reported. But according to Reuters, Henderson said that the April 1999 Washington summit will "want to assess the consequences" of the new members' accession to NATO before considering the entry of others. MS HUNGARIAN BORDER GUARDS TURN BACK ROMANIAN SOLDIERS. Hungarian border guards on 17 November turned back a group of Romanian soldiers heading for a NATO Partnership for Peace training exercise in Slovenia because they lacked transit permits, Reuters reported two days later, quoting a border guards spokesman. The Hungarians said the soldiers could cross as tourists without weapons. RFE/RL's Romanian service reported that the unit did cross without arms and that the Romanian side has launched an investigation into the incident. The Hungarian Constitution stipulates that in the absence of parliamentary approval or a valid international treaty, foreign military troops cannot cross Hungarian territory or be deployed or stationed in the country. Romanian General Staff chief Constantin Degeratu is scheduled to hold a press conference explaining "the circumstances of Romania's non- participation" in the exercise, Romanian state radio announced on 20 November. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE EU, U.S. ENVOYS WANT SWIFT PROGRESS ON KOSOVA ACCORD. The U.S. envoy to Kosova, Christopher Hill, and his EU counterpart, Wolfgang Petritsch, called for swift progress on talks between Belgrade and the ethnic Albanian leadership on an accord granting Kosova autonomy, AFP reported on 19 November. Petritsch and Hill made their comments after meeting in Vienna. In New York, the UN Security Council called for the "early deployment" of the international "verifiers," who are to monitor the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosova. In a statement, acting U.S. ambassador to the UN Peter Burleigh said the council is concerned about "persisting tensions" in many areas in Kosova. PB MONTENEGRO CONDEMNS FINE, CONFISCATION OF WEEKLY. Montenegrin Information Minister Bozidar Jaredic said on 19 November that the seizure by Serbian authorities of copies of the weekly "Monitor" was a "blatant violation of relations between the two republics," the independent Belgrade-based news agency BETA reported. Jaredic said that this action "will contribute to the further deterioration of relations between the two federal units." "Monitor" is published in the Montenegrin capital Podgorica. In addition, a Serbian court fined the weekly the maximum 1.2 million dinars (about $120,000) for publishing a picture of a clenched fist, the symbol of a Belgrade University student group that has called for the overthrow of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Drasko Djuranovic, chief editor of "Monitor," said he had not been notified about the decision but added that "in this country of miracles, everything is possible." PB MACEDONIA WANTS DISPUTE OVER NATO FORCE SETTLED. Ljubco Georgievski, the expected prime minister-designate, said on 19 November that he wants the West to help soothe tensions caused by the planned deployment of a NATO rapid reaction force in Macedonia, Reuters reported. Georgievski said "we would be happy if this question were diplomatically coordinated with [Yugoslavia] so we can openly make the final decision." He added that "it would not be good if Yugoslavia took this as a hostile act as it has the last few days." Jacques Huntzinger, the French ambassador to Macedonia, said he had discussed the issue with both Georgievski and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, but he would not comment further. The rapid reaction force is to be deployed in Kosova to rescue some of the 2,000 unarmed "verifiers" in the Serbian province if they become endangered. U.S. General Wesley Clark, NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, will visit Macedonia on 23 November to discuss the force. PB MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT CONVENES. The newly elected Macedonian parliament convened for the first time on 19 November, AP reported. The assembly, in which a center- right coalition has a majority, elected law professor Slavo Klimovski as speaker. PB BOSNIAN SERBS BACK DOWN ON DINAR. The Yugoslav federal authorities announced in Belgrade on 19 November that Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik told Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Jovan Zebic that Banja Luka will use the same exchange rate between the Yugoslav dinar and the German mark as is used by the Belgrade authorities, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The Yugoslav government had announced on 12 November that it would not allow the further transfer of dinars to the Republika Srpska until the Bosnian Serb government lowered its official exchange rate from 7.5 dinars to the German mark to 6 dinars, which is the official rate in Yugoslavia. The Bosnian Serb government shortly before had adopted the rate of 7.5 to 1, which is approximately the black market value. PM U.S. SAYS SERBS USED TEAR GAS, NOT CHEMICALS IN BOSNIA. The U.S. State Department said on 19 November that it believes Serbs used tear gas against Muslims during the Bosnian war. But it added that it has no evidence that chemical weapons were used, as Human Rights Watch charged the same day. State Department spokesman James Rubin said Washington will study the Human Rights Watch report, which called on the international community to investigate whether Serb forces used the BZ chemical nerve agent during the siege of Srebrenica. Some 35 survivors of that attack said Serb mortars released a low-hanging colored cloud that caused people to have hallucinations. The human rights organization said that it failed to find any physical evidence of a chemical attack. Its findings were turned over to the war crimes tribunal at The Hague. PB WESTERN OFFICIAL EXPECTS SIGNING OF BOSNIAN-CROATIAN DEAL. Jacques Klein, the deputy high representative in Bosnia, said on 19 November that he is optimistic that a deal on special relations between Croatia and the Muslim-Croatian half of Bosnia will be signed in Zagreb in the next few days, Reuters reported. The pact was to be signed on 16 November, but Muslim-Croatian Federation President Ejup Ganic did not show up at the signing ceremony (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 1998). PB CENTRAL EUROPEAN INITIATIVE MEETS IN ZAGREB. Representatives of the governments of 16 European countries, including 12 prime ministers, opened a three- day gathering of the Central European Initiative (CEI) in Zagreb on 19 November. Business leaders are also attending the meeting. Croatian Economic Minister Nenad Porges said the previous day that the gathering will demonstrate "that central and southern European countries make up a specific, separate European region that is capable of competing with other European countries in attracting foreign investments." Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa called the meeting "the most significant foreign-policy event held in Croatia since it gained independence" in 1991. Austria and Italy are the only members of the CEI that also belong to the EU. The other 14 are former communist countries: Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Albania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Ukraine, and Belarus. PM CROATIAN POLL SHOWS PEOPLE WANT CHANGE. A survey published on 19 November showed that two-thirds of Croats believe it is time for a change and want a new party to run the next government, Reuters reported. And, when asked which party they supported, President Franjo Tudjman's ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) only had the support of 21 percent of respondents, the same percentage as the opposition Social Democrats, the former Communists. Some 75 percent of those surveyed said some political power should be transferred from the presidency to the parliament and the government. The poll was conducted by the Puls agency and was sponsored by the U.S.-based International Republican Institute.PB ROMANIAN OPPOSITION THREATENS TO BOYCOTT PARLIAMENT. Ion Iliescu, chairman of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), says his party will boycott parliamentary debates unless the ruling coalition signs a written pledge to respect the opposition's right to express its views in the legislature. Other opposition parties have they are ready to join such a boycott, which, Iliescu said, will trigger early elections. Iliescu made the statement after the Senate on 19 November voted against debating a PDSR motion on non- respect for the law-based state. The parliamentary coalition said that the motion was unconstitutional because it criticized President Emil Constantinescu, noting that the basic law stipulates that the parliament can debate only motions against the government. MS EXTREMIST ROMANIAN POLITICIAN FINED IN CIVIL LIBEL CASE. The Supreme Court of Justice on 19 November ordered Greater Romania Party chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor to pay more than $2,000 in damages for having slandered the Romanian Writers' Union, Mediafax reported. Several hundred libel cases have been brought against Tudor, who enjoys parliamentary immunity. The union sued Tudor in 1995, and Tudor agreed to renounce his immunity to appear in court, having already won twice in lower courts. The decision of the Supreme Court is final, but Tudor says he will take his case to an international tribunal. MS BULGARIA RECEIVES SECOND IMF LOAN TRANCHE. An IMF spokeswoman on 19 November confirmed that Bulgaria has met the targets laid down in a three-year $864 million extended agreement and has been allowed to make a second $73 million drawing from the loan, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. The loan was approved by the IMF's executive board in September. Meanwhile, the World Bank has approved a new $80 million loan to help Bulgaria upgrade its social protection system. MS BULGARIAN STRIKING MINERS IGNORE MINISTER'S WARNING. Workers on strike at a lead and zinc mine in southern Bulgaria are ignoring Finance Minister Muravei Radev's warning that the pit might close unless they go back to work. About 500 miners at the Zlatograd branch of the GORUBSO firm have been on strike for nine days to demand wage increases of up to 200 percent. The Finance Ministry says the Zlatograd firm has incurred losses of 800 million leva ($446,800) in its core activities between June and September this year and that its debt stands at 5.7 billion leva ($3.18 million), Reuters reported. A similar protest by miners at Zlatograd last February did not result in a pay increase for the strikers. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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