|When we can begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves. - Katherine Mansfield|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 226, Part II, 23 November 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 226, Part II, 23 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 FARES WELL IN CZECH SENATE ELECTIONS * CROATIAN, BOSNIAN LEADERS SIGN AGREEMENTS * ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT CLAIMS VICTORY IN REFERENDUM xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE KUCHMA LAMBASTES POLICE FOR POOR RECORD IN COMBATING CRIME... Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 20 November blasted the police and the court system for being inefficient in fighting crime, Interfax and AP reported. He told a conference on fighting organized crime and corruption that the three main reasons hindering the work of law enforcement bodies are lack of experience, low moral standards among police officers, and inconsistent legal norms. Kuchma said "people are losing faith in the state and the authorities" because of the police's inability to solve many serious crimes and combat organized crime. According to official statistics, the police have rooted out nearly 3,000 criminal gangs that have committed some 21,700 crimes in Ukraine over the past three years. JM ...BLAMES NATIONAL BANK FOR CAPITAL FLIGHT. Kuchma and Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko blamed the National Bank for failing to prevent massive capital flight from Ukraine. Potebenko said many banks are using accounts with Ukrainian branches of foreign banks to launder money and transfer it abroad. According to Potebenko, such a practice testifies to "the lack of control over and the lack of responsibility on the part of the Ukrainian National Bank." JM LUKASHENKA DROPS LEADERSHIP CLAIMS TOWARD BELARUS-RUSSIA UNION. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said he is ready to forgo his personal interests for the sake of the Belarus-Russia Union, Belapan reported on 21 November. Addressing a 20 November conference in Minsk, Lukashenka said the integration of the two countries is being hampered by the unresolved problem of "What to do with Lukashenka?" He commented that "If we decide that we have such a union and Lukashenka is a problem there, I agree to play a secondary or even tertiary role [in the union]." The Belarusian president added that Belarus and Russia should unite as two equal subjects of international law, Interfax reported. According to him, unification should be gradually implemented through the formation of supranational bodies. JM BELARUS FORBIDS JOURNALIST TO TRAVEL TO U.S. FOR AWARD. The Belarusian Interior Ministry has refused to give an exit visa to Pavel Sheremet, chief editor of "Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta" and Russian Public Television's Minsk bureau chief, AP reported on 20 November. Sheremet was to be among the recipients of the International Press Freedom Award in New York on 24 November. Sheremet was arrested in 1997 and received a suspended sentence several months later for attempting to shoot a television feature on the Belarusian- Lithuania border. "The fact that I wasn't allowed to go to New York is far from being the most horrible thing...in this country where people are detained for 15 days just for taking part in an innocent trade union demonstration," he commented. Sheremet sent a videotape of his award acceptance speech to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. JM TALLINN OPPOSES RECOVERING BODIES FROM 'ESTONIA.' The Estonian government has issued a statement saying it opposes recovering the remaining bodies from the sunken wreck of the "Estonia" passenger ferry, ETA and AP reported. That statement was issued following a proposal by a Swedish independent investigative team last week that an effort be made to bring up as many bodies as possible. Estonian government spokesman Daniel Vaarik said Tallinn based its decision on "overwhelming opposition to the idea in Estonia." And he stressed that Tallinn wants a 1995 agreement between Sweden, Finland, and Estonia declaring the shipwreck a sanctuary to remain in effect. The "Estonia" sank en route from Tallinn to Stockholm in 1994, killing 852 people. Only 95 of the bodies have been recovered. JC LATVIA'S RIGHTIST COALITION PARTNER STANDS FIRM ON FOREIGN PORTFOLIO. Following talks with Prime Minister- designate Vilis Kristopans on 20 November, Fatherland and Freedom party chairman Maris Grinblats said his party does not intend to back down from its demand that it be granted the Foreign Ministry, BNS reported. Kristopans had stressed earlier that the Fatherland and Freedom party will not receive that portfolio, citing the need to improve relations with Russia. Grinblats also said that his party intends to continue to insist that the Social Democrats receive no cabinet posts. Last week, Kristopans announced he will form a three-party coalition composed of his Latvia's Way, the Fatherland and Freedom party, and the New Party. That coalition is five votes short of a parliamentary majority, and Kristopans has been negotiating with the Social Democrats on a deal where the latter would promise parliamentary support in exchange for government posts. JC LANDSBERGIS SEES BETTER MOSCOW-VILNIUS TIES IF LITHUANIA JOINS NATO. In an interview published in Russia's "Kommersant-Daily" on 20 November, Lithuanian parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis said he believes his country's ties with Russia will improve if Lithuania joins NATO, BNS reported. Lithuania "will no longer be afraid of its bigger neighbor" if it enters the alliance, he commented, adding that only NATO membership can "grant absolute guarantees to foreign investments." Landsbergis also commented that the issue of joining NATO and EU is not splitting the "Baltic front." "Perhaps it is even [a good thing] that we are not taken as a bloc, but as individual countries," he argued, noting that Estonia's possible membership in the EU will benefit both Lithuania and Latvia. JC POLISH PEASANT PARTY WANTS AID FOR FARMERS BEFORE EU ENTRY. At its congress on 21 November, the opposition Polish Peasant Party (PSL) adopted a resolution saying the party will use "all constitutional means" to oppose "reforms carried out at the expense of agriculture and farmers," PAP reported the next day. The PSL criticized the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action and the Freedom Union for hindering economic development, hasty privatization, and an "unwise agricultural policy." While congress did not object to Polish integration into the EU, delegates stressed that Poland should be "offered considerable pre-accession assistance to help modernize the Polish countryside." JM OPPOSITION FARES WELL IN CZECH SENATE ELECTIONS. A four- party opposition coalition won the largest number of seats in the runoff election for one-third of the seats in the Czech Senate, CTK reported on 21 November. The center-right coalition won 13 of the 27 seats that were being contested. Premier Milos Zeman, whose Social Democrats (CSSD) won just three seats, called the results a "failure for the CSSD" and "a healthy scare," but not a verdict on his government, which he pointed out has only been in office for four months. Within the four-party coalition, the Christian Democratic Union/Czechoslovak People's Party won seven seats. The Communists secured two seats and former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS) won nine. The ODS and the Social Democrats maintain a three-fifths majority in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies (the lower house) needed to make constitutional changes. Turnout was a post-1989 low of just over 20 percent. PB CZECH INTERIOR MINISTER ENCOURAGES ROMANI POLICE. Vaclav Grulich on 20 November said that he promises there will soon be more Roma in the Czech police force, CTK reported. Grulich said 14 Roma have recently completed a preparatory police course in eastern Bohemia and will now attend a secondary police school. Four of the Romani trainees are female. In other news, CTK reported on 22 November that Czech President Vaclav Havel and his wife Dagmar are suing the country's leading television station, TV Nova, and two dailies, "Blesk" and "Lidove noviny," for publishing articles alleging that Dagmar had had an extra-marital affair. PB HUNGARIAN PREMIER MEETS WITH DZURINDA... Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and his Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orban, held talks on 21 November within the framework of the Central European Initiative summit in Zagreb, Slovak 1 Radio reported. Orban said the two countries are at the "beginning of a new era" in relations. He added that "NATO enlargement will really be complete--from the political as well a historical point of view--only if Slovakia is involved." Dzurinda said the new Slovak government will "do its best to improve Slovakia's image abroad." Dzurinda also met with the premiers of Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, and Ukraine. PB ...ENDS VISIT TO GERMANY. Orban said upon his return from Germany the previous day that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder avoided naming any date for Hungary's EU accession but said "there will be no delay at all" when Hungary is ready. Orban said in an interview with the daily "Die Welt" that Budapest will meet EU requirements by 2002. Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl told Orban that "he will throw his political and moral weight behind efforts to get Hungary admitted to the EU at the earliest possible date." Orban also met with Wolfgang Schaeuble, chairman of the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and discussed possible cooperation between Orban's Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party and the CDU. Also on 20 November, Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev met with his Hungarian counterpart, Arpad Goencz, in Budapest. Akayev led a delegation aimed at increasing trade and bilateral cooperation. MSZ/PB ROMANIA ADMITS MISTAKE AT HUNGARIAN BORDER. General Tiberiu Costache, deputy chief of staff of the Romanian army, has acknowledged responsibility for the mistake that caused a Romanian unit to be turned back from the Hungarian border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 1998), Hungarian media reported on 21 November. He admitted that an application for a permit was submitted to Hungarian officials only three days before the event. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CROATIAN, BOSNIAN LEADERS SIGN AGREEMENTS. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Bosnian leaders signed three long-delayed agreements in Zagreb on 22 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 1998). Tudjman and Bosnian Federal President Ejup Ganic signed a text to set up a joint council on cooperation in 14 areas, including military and internal affairs, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Tudjman approved the two additional documents with Alija Izetbegovic, who is the Muslim member of the joint presidency. Zivko Radisic, who is the Serbian member of the presidency and current chair, witnessed the signings. The two documents deal with Bosnian use of Croatia's port of Ploce, which is Bosnia's natural outlet to the Adriatic, and with Croatian transit rights through Bosnia's Neum region, which cuts the Croatian Dalmatian coast in half. Bosnia receives a 30-year lease on a free zone in the port of Ploce, while Croats will be able to transit Neum without going through any border formalities. PM ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT CLAIMS VICTORY IN REFERENDUM... Prime Minister Pandeli Majko congratulated his Socialist-led government in Tirana on what he called a victory in the 22 November referendum on a new constitution, ATA news agency reported the next day. A spokesman for the Central Electoral Commission said that barely 50 percent of the electorate cast their ballots. Officials of the OSCE, which monitored the vote, said that voting took place without any serious incidents. After voting, Majko told reporters that he had "cast his vote for the future." Final results are not expected until at least 24 November. But observers in Tirana said that the outcome is likely to be at least 90 percent in favor because the opposition led by Democratic Party chairman Sali Berisha called on those opposed to the constitution to boycott the referendum. Observers also noted that bad weather and voter apathy may have contributed to the relatively low turnout. PM ...AS DOES BERISHA. Berisha told his supporters in Tirana on 23 November that only about 30 percent of the electorate voted in the referendum and that the OSCE based its figures of a higher turnout on the "figures of the devil." He called the draft constitution a "corpse" and thanked the Albanian people for "turning down the proposal of the most corrupt government in Europe." He added that "the sovereign people turned the government into a minority.... The sovereign people have been wiser and more courageous than ever in this country's history." Observers in Tirana told "RFE/RL Newsline" that the low turnout, which Berisha sought, together with a likely overwhelming vote in favor of the constitution, which the government sought, means that political deadlock is likely to continue. PM NATO SAYS FORCE IN MACEDONIA THREATENS NOBODY. An unnamed NATO official said in Brussels on 20 November that Yugoslavia has no grounds for claiming that NATO troops stationed in Macedonia would be a source of tension in relations between Belgrade and Skopje, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 1998). "The notion that a NATO force of less than 2,000 can threaten Yugoslavia's security is ridiculous," the source added. In Skopje, French Ambassador to Macedonia Jacques Huntzinger said that "it is important for Belgrade to understand that this [French-led] force is not an imposing one.... This force is not aimed at fighting Serbian soldiers or policemen...[It will help extract OSCE monitors] in case of massive hostilities," taking of hostages, need for urgent medical help or problems with land mines, AP quoted him as saying. Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov added that "our government has not taken any decision that [Belgrade could interpret] as a hostile act," "Die Welt" reported. PM KOSOVARS REJECT SERBIAN ALTERNATIVE TO HILL PLAN. Moderate Kosovar spokesman Fehmi Agani said in Belgrade on 22 November that the latest Serbian plan for an interim political settlement in Kosova is unacceptable because it maintains "Serbian domination" over the ethnic Albanian majority. The previous day, the Serbian authorities published an 11-point plan in the Belgrade (but not the Prishtina) edition of the pro-government daily "Politika," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The plan weakens potential Kosovar control over the province by concentrating autonomy at the local rather than at the provincial level, by granting each ethnic group control over its own affairs, by establishing an upper house of the parliament in which each ethnic group has an equal number of deputies, and by giving the "last word" in the province's affairs to the Serbian legislature. EU spokesman Wolfgang Petritsch said that the recent U.S. "proposal is fully supported by the EU. This is not the time to come up with new concepts." PM MONTENEGRO TO BOYCOTT FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. The Montenegrin government said in a statement on 21 November that it does not recognize "the illegal federal government nor its illegitimate prime minister," who is Momir Bulatovic, the arch-rival of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic. The Montenegrin government issued the statement in conjunction with its refusal to take part in the federal government's celebrations to mark the 80th anniversary of the founding of Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM ANOTHER SERBIAN PERIODICAL FINED. A Belgrade court fined the daily "Glas javnosti" $38,000 on 22 November for slandering Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj. The newspaper recently quoted a former member of Seselj's Serbian Radical Party as telling a press conference that Seselj is a "dictator" who works "against the interests of the Serbian people," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. On 12 November, a court fined the pro-government daily "Politika" $10,000 for libel against opposition leader Zoran Djindjic. Meanwhile, independent dailies have received fines of up to $120,000 under the recent draconian media law. PM REPUBLIKA SRPSKA DENIES REPORT ABOUT DINAR. The Bosnian Serb government on 20 November denied media reports that it has given in to Belgrade's demands to change the official exchange rate for the Yugoslav dinar in the Republika Srpska (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 1998). In a statement in Banja Luka, the government said that the only decision it has reversed is one raising the price of electricity, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In other news, the Information Ministry said in a statement that it "has no interest" in forming a joint television station with the Sarajevo-based Radio- Television Bosnia-Herzegovina (RTVBiH). The statement said that Serbian Radio-Television must remain independent and that it would be "illegal" to set up a joint Bosnia-wide company. PM HERZEGOVINA WANTS OWN INSTITUTIONS. Ante Jelavic, who heads the Herzegovinian-dominated branch of Croatian President Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community, said in Mostar on 20 November that the Croats demand unspecified changes in the electoral law in order to increase their political weight as a group. He added that the Croats also want their own "national channel" on RTVBiH as well as a separate Croatian academy of sciences and arts. Jelavic added that he opposes the planned introduction of a joint curriculum in all Bosnian schools, which he called an "attempt to destroy the identity of the Croatian nation in Bosnia and Herzegovina." PM ROMANIAN OPPOSITION TO BOYCOTT PARLIAMENT. Ion Iliescu, leader of the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), announced on 20 November that PDSR senators and deputies will boycott the parliament and its institutions until the ruling coalition and the opposition agree on a code of conduct, Romanian radio reported. Iliescu said the code is needed owing to the repeated violation of parliamentary principles. The decision was made by the PDSR's Central Executive Committee. Politicians from the Greater Romania Party (PRM) are also on strike, PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor announced, though they will participate in limited parliamentary activities. Tudor called for early elections to solve the "serious situation facing the country." Meanwhile, Ulm Spineanu, the deputy speaker of the parliament, accused fellow deputies of manipulating the electronic voting system to cast votes for absent colleagues. Spineanu said legislators are using pins and toothpicks to activate voting buttons. PB MOLDOVA FORECASTS LARGE DECLINE IN GDP. Deputy Prime Minister Ion Sturza said on 20 November that the Moldovan economy will drop by 6 percent in 1998, dpa reported. Sturza said the economic crisis is Russia has had a devastating effect on Moldova and ruined any chance of it attaining the 5 percent growth predicted for this year. He added that inflation could reach 20-25 percent this year, about double earlier forecasts. On the bright side, he predicted a 1 percent growth in GDP next year. PB BULGARIAN COMMISSION PROPOSES ABOLITION OF DEATH PENALTY. A parliamentary commission agreed on 20 November to propose legislation that would eliminate capital punishment, BTA reported. Svetoslav Luchnikov, the chairman of the parliamentary legal commission, said the commission will propose on 10 December that life imprisonment with no possibility of parole replace the death penalty. Executions have been suspended in Bulgaria since 1990. Nineteen convicts are on death row. In other news, the National Employment Service reported the same day that unemployment increased last month by 0.3 percent and now stands at 11.1 percent of the work force, down 2.3 percent on the level from one year ago. PB xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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