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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 227, Part II, 24 November 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 227, Part II, 24 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 * CZECH, SLOVAK PREMIERS AGREE TO RESOLVE ASSETS DISPUTE * GLIGOROV ASKS GEORGIEVSKI TO FORM GOVERNMENT * OBSERVERS DECLARE ALBANIAN REFERENDUM VALID End Note: BEREZOVSKII AS MR. FIX-IT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE PUSTOVOYTENKO SEES KUCHMA AS ONLY CENTRIST PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL. Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko says that President Leonid Kuchma should run as "the only candidate of the centrist forces" in the 1999 presidential polls, Interfax reported on 23 November. Addressing a congress of the pro-presidential Popular Democratic Party the previous day, Pustovoytenko said Kuchma "is capable of uniting around him all moderate political forces and of continuing the course of socially oriented, consistent economic restructuring." The premier urged the party to support Kuchma as its presidential candidate and to initiate the signing of a memorandum on uniting parties "that pursue stability and socially oriented economic reforms." JM UKRAINE, RUSSIA AGREE ON GAS SUPPLIES. Ukrainian First Deputy Premier Anatoliy Holubchenko said on 23 November that Ukraine and Russia have agreed on supplies of Russian gas to Ukraine in 1999, AP reported. According to Holubchenko, Russia will deliver 62 billion cubic meters in 1999, covering most of Ukraine's gas needs. Of that amount, 32 billion cubic meters will be supplied as payment for the transit of Russian gas through Ukrainian territory en route to Western Europe. Russian gas supplies to Ukraine will cost $50 per 1,000 cubic meters. JM BELARUSIAN SPECIAL TASK UNIT REDEPLOYED TO BACKWOODS. The Russian daily "Segodnya" reported on 20 November that the Intelligence and Personal Security Unit, a special purpose force set up by the Belarusian Interior Ministry a few months ago, has been taken from its base in Minsk and "hastily hidden in the Belarusian woods" in Vitsebsk Oblast. Apart from dealing with terrorism, the unit's aim is uncovering contacts between state officials and senior officers in the Defense Ministry, on the one hand, and opposition representatives, on the other, according to "Segodnya," citing reports in the Belarusian independent press. The unit's commander told a "Segodnya" correspondent, however, that his force is intended to "combat terrorists and drug traffickers in marshland and woodland conditions." He stressed that the special task force has had nothing to do with "suppressing opposition mass protests or intimidating opposition leaders." JM ESTONIAN LANGUAGE LAW AMENDMENTS PASS IN FIRST READING. Amendments to the state language law that provide for language proficiency requirements for officials have passed in the first reading, BNS reported on 23 October. Under the amendments, civil servants and those who have to communicate with the public through their work must speak Estonian sufficiently well to be able to carry out their duties. The bill specifies that the government is authorized to define language proficiency levels. Those who completed secondary school with instruction in Estonian will not be required to take a test. Last year, a similar bill passed by the parliament was deemed unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court because that legislation provided for delegating to the government the authority to establish language proficiency requirements for elected officials. The court ruled that such requirements can be established only by law, not by delegating such authority to the executive. JC LATVIA'S PRESIDENT URGES TALKS ON MAJORITY GOVERNMENT... Speaking on state radio on 23 November, Guntis Ulmanis called on leading political parties to resume talks on forming a majority government, BNS reported. He said that he believes a minority government is not the "correct model" for Latvia, adding that it would find it very difficult to tackle problems. Ulmanis also expressed displeasure with the pace of forming the next cabinet. Last week, Premier-designate Vilis Kristopans announced he will form a minority government composed of his Latvia's Way, the Fatherland and Freedom party, and the New Party. The People's Party, which won last month's elections, has declined Kristopans's offer of a government post without being part of the ruling coalition. JC ...WILL NOT APOLOGIZE TO ISRAEL OVER PUBLICATION. Also on 23 November, Ulmanis's spokeswoman, Vita Savicka, told BNS that the president does not intend to apologize to the Simon Wiesenthal Center for not mentioning the Holocaust in an article honoring Latvian Independence Day (18 November) published in a Hebrew-language daily. Savicka said the article was not aimed at expressing an opinion on the Holocaust and she stressed that the president is "not afraid to speak about [the Holocaust] and has done so repeatedly." The Simon Wiesenthal Center had issued a statement calling on Ulmanis to apologize for not mentioning in the article either the Holocaust or the involvement of Latvians in the genocide of Jews during World War II. JC LITHUANIANS COOL TO NATO MEMBERSHIP. According to a poll conducted in early November by the Vilmorus agency, only 37.2 percent of Lithuanians would vote in favor of NATO membership if a referendum were held on the issue, Reuters reported. That figure represents a decrease of some five percentage points on the previous month. Some 23.5 percent of respondents would oppose such membership, while 13 percent would not vote and 26 percent were undecided. The news agency quoted analysts as saying the October figure had showed the largest support rate for NATO membership in the past year owing to the Russian crisis. The European Commission's recent decision not to recommend a start date for Lithuania's EU accession talks, however, is believed to have dampened enthusiasm for joining Western institutions. Recently, several government officials have urged a more pragmatic approach toward gaining EU entry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 17 November 1998). JC POLISH TRANSPORT MINISTER RESIGNS OVER RAILROAD REFORM. Eugeniusz Morawski resigned his cabinet post on 23 November, saying he could not reform the Polish State Railroad (PKP) because of strong trade union opposition, Reuters reported. "Morawski said the government was being held hostage by the unions," cabinet spokesman Jaroslaw Sellin commented. Some government officials say the PKP, which currently employs 218,000 people, needs to slash 60,000 jobs and invest 3 billion zlotys ($860 million) to modernize its infrastructure. According to a tentative government plan, the PKP is slated to be privatized between 2000 and 2002 after it has been divided into a railroad network and a shipment company. Many trade unionists oppose the plan, fearing layoffs. It is estimated that losses accumulated by the PKP this year will reach 1 billion zlotys. JM CZECH PARTY NOT INTERESTED IN RULING WITH COMMUNIST SUPPORT. Jan Kasal, the acting chairman of the Christian Democratic Union/Czechoslovak People's Party (KDU/CSL), has rejected the possibility of forming a majority government with the ruling Social Democrats and the tacit support of the Communist Party, CTK reported on 23 November. Kasal said "this is not a cabinet the Christian Democrats would like to enter." He added that it would be "senseless to form another minority cabinet." But KDU/CSL deputy Cyril Svoboda, considered a candidate for chairman of the party, said in an interview with the daily "Zemske noviny" that he supports the idea. The KDU/CSL's strong showing in 20-21 November Senate elections has renewed speculation that it will join with another party to form a government. PB BRITAIN TO HELP CZECHS PREPARE FOR NATO. British Defense Secretary George Robertson said in Prague on 24 November that Britain will assist the Czech military in preparing for NATO membership, AP reported. Robertson said his country has prepared a program that will focus on language instruction and training exercises. He said the Czech military has made progress in upgrading to NATO standards but still has a lot of work to do. Robertson met with Czech Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy. PB CZECH, SLOVAK PREMIERS AGREE TO RESOLVE ASSETS DISPUTE. Milos Zeman and his Slovak counterpart, Mikulas Dzurinda, agreed on 23 November in Bratislava to a process for settling a long-standing dispute over the division of former Czechoslovak assets, AP reported. Zeman said they agreed to appoint a commission composed of six members from each country that will divide the assets, which include art works and gold, within one year. Zeman said the one-day visit to Bratislava was aimed at renewing "the Czech-Slovak friendship, which was strongly impaired by previous governments." Zeman was accompanied by Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda, and Economy Minister Miroslav Gregr. PB HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BRATISLAVA. Janos Martyoni held talks in the Slovak capital with his Slovak counterpart, Eduard Kukan, on 24 November, TASR reported. The two signed an interministerial agreement before Martyoni met with Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda. PB HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT CRITICIZED FOR LACK OF DIALOGUE. Leaders of national trade union federations complained to the ambassadors of EU member states in Budapest on 23 November that the Hungarian government does not discuss urgent labor issues with the trade unions, Hungarian media reported. "Social dialogue in Hungary is at an all-time low, and the government's plans for next year are unacceptable to both employees and pensioners," read a joint trade union statement. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE GLIGOROV ASKS GEORGIEVSKI TO FORM GOVERNMENT. Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov on 23 November entrusted Ljubco Georgievski with forming a government. The prime minister-designate told reporters that he expects to have his cabinet lineup completed by 27 November. Georgievski heads a coalition consisting of his own Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization and Vasil Tupurkovski's Democratic Alternative, which together have 62 out of the 120 seats in the parliament. Georgievski is conducting negotiations to bring Arben Xhaferi's Democratic Party of the Albanians into the coalition in order to broaden its base. The prime minister-designate is 32 years old and gives his occupation as "poet." His center-right coalition won the recent elections on a platform that stressed ending corruption and promoting economic development. One of the government's first tasks will be to approve NATO's request to use Macedonian territory as a base for its rapid-reaction force for Kosova. PM OBSERVERS DECLARE ALBANIAN REFERENDUM VALID... International monitors said in a statement in Tirana on 23 November that the previous day's referendum on a new constitution "was carried out in a correct manner, for which voters and election officials should be commended." The statement added that "the political forces should now resume their dialogue and concentrate on Albania's vital problems. This could be best achieved through constructive cooperation between all parties, including the Democratic Party," which opposed the draft constitution and called for a boycott of the referendum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November 1998). The OSCE, Council of Europe, and European Parliament provided the monitors. In Vienna, Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel, speaking on behalf of the EU, said the vote was evidence of Albania's "democratic maturity." PM ...BUT BERISHA REMAINS DEFIANT. Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha told a rally in Tirana on 23 November that the referendum is invalid because, he claimed, only 38 percent of the electorate cast their ballots. He also urged "freedom fighters" to defy the Socialist-led government. Berisha said: "Let's get rid of the filthy animals. Whoever wants to violate our votes will have to pass over our bodies." Berisha often uses fiery rhetoric that his opponents say amounts to an incitement to violence. For the first time, speakers and demonstrators openly called for OSCE Ambassador to Albania Daan Everts to leave the country, dpa reported. Everts received an anonymous death threat shortly before the referendum. PM UCK FREES SERBIAN POLICEMAN. Fighters belonging to the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) freed a Serbian police officer near Podujeva on 24 November. He told reporters that the guerrillas "did not harass me. Probably they had mixed me up with someone else.... I want to go home as soon as possible. The war is no good for anyone and it has to stop," he added. U.S. diplomat Shaun Byrnes and UCK spokesman Adem Demaci helped arrange the officer's release, AP reported. On 18 November, the UCK captured the policeman and two ethnic Albanian civilians, whom the guerrillas regard as pro-Serbian collaborators. It is unclear what happened to the two civilians. PM KOSOVARS CHARGE BELGRADE WITH 'WASTING TIME.' Ethnic Albanian spokesmen said in Prishtina on 23 November that recent Serbian proposals on the political future of Kosova amount to a rejection of the U.S. draft on the subject and are an "exercise aimed at wasting time" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November 1998). In the federal Yugoslav capital, a spokesman for U.S. envoy Chris Hill said that Hill's talks with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic are part of a "process" aimed at securing a settlement before spring, when fighting is widely expected to resume. The Kosovars want at the very least broad autonomy on a provincial level as a prelude to a referendum on independence in two to three years' time. The Serbs seek to dilute potential ethnic Albanian political power by stressing autonomy on a local level and ensuring an equal voice for all the province's ethnic groups as part of a permanent settlement. PM MONTENEGRINS SAY MILOSEVIC RESPONSIBLE FOR 'CRISIS.' Predrag Popovic and Rifat Rastoder, who are deputy speakers of the Montenegrin parliament, told visiting representatives of European local governments in Podgorica on 23 November that the "regime of [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic bears sole responsibility for the crisis in relations" between Montenegro and Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November 1998). The two legislators added that Milosevic is blocking the functioning of federal bodies in response to the ongoing process of democratization and decentralization in Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM GREECE, CROATIA AGREE ON ADRIATIC ROAD. Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos told his Croatian counterpart Mate Granic in Athens on 24 November that a proposed Adriatic highway "is a project of immense importance for Greece. We are making efforts to include it in trans-European networks." Another unnamed Greek official said that Athens will seek EU funding for the project, Reuters reported. The road would link Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, and Italy and facilitate travel and shipping. The previous day, President Franjo Tudjman told his Greek hosts that "Croatian culture and history are based on those of Greece, not only on Greek classical civilization but also on the struggle of the Greek people in the last century for freedom," "Jutarnji list" reported. PM CROATIAN OPPOSITION URGES 'CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE.' Liberal Party leader Vlado Gotovac, in his capacity as spokesman for a coalition of six opposition parties, said in Zagreb on 23 November that Croats should respond with "civil disobedience" when confronted with "activities incompatible with morality" at their work place. His remarks come several weeks after two bank clerks revealed that Tudjman's wife has several hundred thousand dollars in undeclared accounts. Gotovac added that the opposition expresses solidarity with journalists who seek to carry out their professional responsibilities but are hindered by the government and ruling party from doing so, "Vjesnik" reported. PM CROATIA NOT TO ATTEND NATO EXERCISES. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry told the Hina news agency in Zagreb on 23 November that Croatian representatives will not accept Slovenia's invitation to observe NATO maneuvers in Slovenia on 25 November. The spokesman said that Croatia thanks Slovenia for the invitation but finds the date "not appropriate." Observers suggested that Zagreb had wanted a formal invitation from the Atlantic alliance to attend the entire exercise and not just a one-day segment that is also open to the public. PM COOK SAYS SLOVENIA GOOD PROSPECT FOR NATO, EU. British Foreign Minister Robin Cook said in Ljubljana on 23 November that "Slovenia is entitled to its place in the front row of countries that are looking at the European Union." He added that recent EU criticism of Slovenia was "aimed at helping [it] find solutions" to several problems. Cook also said that "Slovenia must be invited" if NATO decides at its 50th anniversary conference in Washington in 1999 to ask countries to participate in a second round of eastward expansion. The minister added that he is "sorry" that Ljubljana was not included in the first round. PM MOLDOVA SEEKS HELP TO FILL ENERGY VOID. Deputy Prime Minister Valentin Dolganiuc flew to Bucharest on 23 November in an effort to secure emergency electricity supplies for his country, Reuters reported. Dolganiuc is reported to be offering Romania shares in companies soon to be privatized in exchange for electricity. Moldova produces less than one-third of the electricity it needs and relies on Ukraine, Russia, and Romania for the rest. Rompres reported that Ukraine recently reduced its energy supplies to Moldova by some 50 percent. As a result, residents of Chisinau are experiencing brownouts for much of the day. PB BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS CORE REFORMS TO BE COMPLETED SOON. Ivan Kostov said that the main elements of the government's reform plan will be completed by July 1999, BTA reported on 22 November. Kostov said on state radio that reforms in the tax, administration, and social service spheres will be completed by that date. He added that the liquidation of insolvent companies should be completed by that time as well. The following day, the government began liquidating a debt-ridden mine in the southeastern town of Zlatograd, where workers have been striking in an effort to gain a pay raise (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 1998). PB BULGARIA BANS YUGOSLAV AIRLINE FLIGHTS. The Bulgarian government has joined an EU ban on Yugoslav airlines, BTA reported. Transport Minister Wilhelm Kraus said the move is in line with Sofia's obligations as an associate member country of the EU. It is unclear when the ban will begin. In other news, Standard & Poor's gave Bulgaria a B+ credit rating, the Finance Ministry reported. The agency said the improved macroeconomic and financial stability of Bulgaria are the reasons for the positive rating. PB END NOTE BEREZOVSKII AS MR. FIX-IT by Liz Fuller CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii recently unveiled his blueprint for reversing "seven years of disintegration" and breathing new life into the moribund Commonwealth of Independent States. The blueprint offers a framework for mutually beneficial economic cooperation among CIS members. Somewhat inauspiciously, perhaps, it was published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on Friday, 13 November. Over the past 10 days, Berezovskii has been touring the CIS states in an attempt to persuade their presidents to endorse his plan. To date, the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Tajikistan have expressed cautious support, while their Azerbaijani and Turkmen counterparts have proven more skeptical. A discussion of Berezovskii's proposals is on the agenda for the CIS summit scheduled for 11-12 December, Russian President Boris Yeltsin's health permitting. Berezovskii was appointed executive secretary of the CIS in April 1998, when strains within the commonwealth had reached such magnitude that many observers were predicting its imminent demise. Those tensions derived partly from the CIS's failure to preserve a single, viable economic space composed of the former Soviet republics and partly from President Yeltsin's warning at the March 1997 CIS summit that Russia is prepared to resort to subversion and sabotage to weaken the Soviet successor states and keep them within its sphere of influence. In the "Nezavisimaya gazeta" article, Berezovskii expresses concern that widespread disenchantment with the CIS could evolve into anti-Russian sentiment within the non-Russian successor states and give rise to centrifugal tendencies within Russia itself. Berezovskii emphasizes that resurrecting the USSR is impossible, given that the union was geared toward a planned, not a market economy. At the same time, he argues that voluntary economic integration is in the interest of all CIS states, since it would expedite their integration into the global economy. But given that the primary reason for the demise of the USSR was the failure of its Communist Party to address the grievances of the non- Russian republics, any attempt to rebuild the political foundations of the CIS should be undertaken with extreme caution so as not to impinge on the desire of newly independent states to protect their sovereignty and independence, Berezovskii comments. As the first step toward reversing centrifugal economic trends, Berezovskii proposes creating one or several CIS free trade zones. (Among the hundreds of CIS agreements signed but not implemented over the past seven years is one, signed in April 1994, on setting up such a zone. That accord, however, fails to provide either clear guidelines or a timetable for doing so.) The Special CIS Inter-State Forum, created after the CIS Chisinau summit in October 1997, also considered the possibility of free trade zones. It used the April 1994 agreement as a springboard but failed to make recommendations on fundamental issues, including whether such zones should encompass only the movement of goods or also the service sector. In this context, Berezovskii warns that "palliative measures" are dangerous. A flawed blueprint for economic integration might temporarily create the illusion that the CIS is functioning effectively as an economic organization, but the inevitable disillusionment when that proved not to be the case would be so profound as to pose a real threat to the Commonwealth's survival. Berezovskii distinguishes two approaches to economic integration: the "soft" approach, as epitomized by the European Free Trade Association (created by countries that did not meet the criteria for entry into the EU), and the "hard" approach, as exemplified by the EU, in which economic integration paves the way for the creation of supranational structures, both economic and political. (One CIS proponent of the "hard" approach is the Kazakh economist Nigmatzhan Isingarin, who recently included in a list of "urgent priorities" for CIS integration the "gradual coordination [sblizhenie] of foreign policy positions.") Berezovskii considers the "soft" approach more appropriate for the CIS and proposes a CIS free trade zone as a first step in that direction. But he also predicts that the "soft" approach may acquire a momentum of its own: reversing the decline in intra-CIS trade would serve as the incentive for a CIS Customs Union, which, in turn, would engender moves to coordinate monetary policy and create a single market. Thus the "soft" approach may eventually lead to its members' accepting the "hard" approach. In this context, Berezovskii cites the fusion of the European Free Trade Association into the European Community. The (possibly fatal) difference between the EU and Berezovskii's blueprint is, of course, that the EU was not built from the remnants of a former empire. Moreover, Berezovskii's envisaged transition from a "soft" to a "hard" approach toward economic integration may cause an acute allergic reaction among those non- Russians who are inclined to see ulterior neo- imperialist motives behind any Russian advocacy of supra-national structures, thus jeopardizing the free trade zone from the outset. Berezovskii himself concedes that "introducing supra-national elements into the CIS at the present stage would not correspond to the strategic interests of its members." But he adds that "without a certain degree of coordination, it will be impossible to proceed further than creating a free trade zone." Berezovskii's success in selling his blueprint to the skeptics among the CIS presidents will depend on his ability to persuade them that the document is not intended ultimately to undermine their sovereignty and that the momentum can be halted before economic integration expands into the political sphere. 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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