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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 230, Part II, 1 December 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 230, Part II, 1 December 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 * BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT SEEKS TO AVERT TRADE UNION PROTEST * U.S. GIVES 'ARMORED ESCORT' TO SERBIAN POLICE * ROMANIA DENIES MILITARY CONTACT WITH IRAQ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT TO ADOPT AMENDED BUDGET THIS MONTH. Parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko on 30 November said that the Supreme Council plans to start considering the 1999 budget on 2 December in order to adopt it no later than 25 December, Ukrainian News reported. "It will be far from the budget that would satisfy everyone but it will comply with all the requirements of the existing legislation," the agency quoted him as saying. He added that the government-proposed budget revenues could be increased by 20 percent "simply by improving the quality of tax collection." AP reported on 30 November that the parliamentary budget committee is revising budget figures to make the 1999 budget nearly deficit-free. In particular, the parliament has cut financing for the government and presidential administration. The revised draft budget provides for full payment of overdue wages and pensions. JM BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT SEEKS TO AVERT TRADE UNION PROTEST. The 30 November "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" reported that the government is trying to stave off a trade union protest action planned for 2 December. Some 30,000 people are expected to take part in the rally, which is being organized by five trade unions from the Belarusian Trade Union Federation. According to the newspaper, Mikhail Myasnikovich, who heads the recently established "national headquarters" to deal with the economic crisis, has proposed negotiations in exchange for the cancellation of the protest. The trade unions demanded that the government announced on television that negotiations will begin, but no such announcement was forthcoming. Meanwhile, Deputy Premier Uladzimir Zamyatalin ordered government officials to meet with trade union leaders to explain the government's anti- crisis policies. The newspaper concludes that the government's response testifies to its fear of mass protests. JM BELARUSIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION REFUSES TO REGISTER PRO- REFERENDUM GROUP. The Belarusian Central Electoral Commission on 30 November refused to register a 1,117- strong group calling for a referendum on the creation of a Belarusian-Russian confederation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1998), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The commission claimed that the group's application contained false information with regard to where it held its constituent meeting. Belarusian Television reported that commission head Lidziya Yarmoshyna has proposed that the referendum initiative be examined by the Prosecutor-General's Office. JM BELARUSIAN COURT OPENS TRIAL OF FORMER AGRICULTURAL MANAGER. The trial of Vasil Staravoytau, former head of the Rassvet collective farm in Kirauski Raion, opened at a court in Mahilyou Oblast on 30 November, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The judge said the prosecution has submitted some 50 volumes of documentary evidence showing that Staravoytau created an "extortionist clique" that systematically robbed the state. If convicted, Staravoytau faces a prison term of up to 15 years. Staravoytau, who is 74 and suffered a stroke during his one-year pre-trial detention, collapsed in the courtroom steel cage in which he is to remain during the trial. The court rejected an appeal by the defense to release Staravoytau--a World War II veteran and the recipient of the Soviet Union's highest honors--on his recognizance. JM ESTONIA'S MODERATES, PEOPLE'S PARTY TO MERGE... Representatives of the opposition Moderate Party and People's Party have agreed to propose to their parties' boards and councils to launch a process that would lead to the merger of the two parties, ETA and BNS reported on 30 November. The first step in that direction would be drawing up a joint list of candidates for the March 1999 general elections. The two parties had originally planned to form an electoral alliance with the Fatherland union, but last month the parliament voted to ban such groupings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 1998). Before that ban was announced, the three-party bloc led in opinion polls. JC ...AND RUSSIAN PARTIES TO RUN ON JOINT LIST? Nikolai Maspanov, the leader of the Russian Party in Estonia, has called on other parties and organizations representing Russian-speakers to join forces in what he called a "joint Russian ticket," ETA and BNS reported on 30 November. Maspanov told BNS that by making maximum use of voter potential, the Russian parties in Estonia could win up to 20 mandates in the March 1999 general elections. Those parties currently have a combined total of six seats in the legislature. Also on 30 November, BNS reported that the Russian Unity Party has appealed to other parties in the parliament to support amendments to the citizenship law, which are due to be put to the final vote this month. Under those amendments, stateless children who are under 15 and were born in Estonia after 26 February 1992 to stateless parents will virtually automatically be granted citizenship. JC LATVIA'S SAIMNIEKS PARTY HAS NEW CHAIRMAN. At its extraordinary congress on 28 November, the Democratic Party Saimnieks elected Andris Ameriks as its new chairman, BNS reported two days later. Ziedonis Cevers resigned from that post after the party's failure to clear the 5 percent hurdle in the 3 October elections. Cevers told the congress he will not take over any elected posts in the party. Speaking to BNS, Ameriks did not rule out the possibility that Saimnieks would join forces with another political group in the future "while preserving its identity." JC LITHUANIAN PREMIER SOON TO MOSCOW? The Lithuanian- Russian intergovernmental Cooperation Commission convened in Vilnius at the end of last week and completed drawing up seven agreements as well as a joint statement by the two countries' prime ministers on the liberalization of trade, BNS reported on 30 November. Russian Transportation Minister Sergei Franko, who together with Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Algirdas Saudargas heads the commission, commented that the envisaged agreements will "surely stir up Lithuanian-Russian economic relations." According to the news agency, the commission also concluded that Lithuanian Premier Gediminas Vagnorius will visit Moscow "before long." JC POLAND WANTS 10 YEARS TO LIBERALIZE PROPERTY MARKET. A government official said on 30 November that Poland will ask the EU for a 10-year transition period in order to fully liberalize its real estate market, PAP reported. The official said liberalization will take place without state interference but under state supervision. Real estate transactions in Poland last year amounted to 20.5 billion zlotys ($5.9 billion). JM CZECH-SLOVAK MILITARY COOPERATION ACCORD SIGNED. Visiting Slovak Defense Minister Pavol Kanis and his Czech counterpart, Vladimir Vetchy, signed in Znojmo, southern Moravia, on 30 November a protocol on cooperation in the armaments industry, CTK reported. Kanis said the same day that Vetchy informed him that Prague will deploy soldiers at its eastern border in order to step up the protection of the frontier, CTK reported. Vetchy said the step is "by no means one against Slovakia" but rather is aimed at preventing refugees from Eastern Europe and Asia from illegally crossing the frontier. Soldiers will probably also protect the Czech-Austrian border, Vetchy said. He added that he is currently discussing the setting up of patrols by both the military and the border police with Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich. MS EUROPEAN COMMISSION DEPLORES CZECH MEASURES ON PORK IMPORTS. The European Commission on 26 November said it regretted the Czech government's decision earlier that day to lift preferential duties on EU pork imports, thereby raising the import tariff from 15 percent to more than 40 percent. On 27 November, Czech farmers protested cheap imports from the EU, blocking traffic in smaller towns and villages across the country. They argued that the measures announced by the government the previous day were insufficient. MS SLOVAKIA, HUNGARY AGREE TO REBUILD BRIDGE OVER DANUBE. Visiting Hungarian Transport Minister Kalman Katona and his Slovak counterpart, Gabriel Palacka, agreed on 30 November to rebuild a bridge between Esztergom and Sturovo by 2002, Hungarian media report. Katona said Palacka assured him that he will sign an agreement already ratified by Hungary and the EU, under which the European Commission will assist in rebuilding the bridge to the tune of 5 million ecus ($5.7 million). Experts from the two ministries will meet on 4 December in Esztergom to discuss technical issues. MSZ TORGYAN'S RELATIVES QUIT POSTS. Beatrix Hingyi, daughter-in-law of Jozsef Torgyan, who is chairman of the Independent Smallholders' Party and minister of agriculture, has resigned her post on the board of state-run Hungarian Airlines, some two weeks after her appointment. Her mother also gave up her post as a board member of the lottery company Szerencsejatek. Torgyan said the resignations were in response to criticism in the media and the parliament. He refused to comment on a suggestion that Prime Minister Viktor Orban had initiated the resignations. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE U.S. GIVES 'ARMORED ESCORT' TO SERBIAN POLICE. Reuters on 1 December quoted unnamed U.S. diplomats as saying that "U.S. observers have agreed to give an armored escort to Serb police patrols that run through hostile territory to [Malisheva] and keep the [Serbian paramilitary] police base [there] provisioned." The agency also reported that an unnamed senior U.S. official said "the escorts make the Serbs feel more comfortable as they haven't been attacked while we've been accompanying them." U.S. diplomat William Walker, who heads the OSCE verification mission in Kosova, recently urged Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw the local police garrison, which was not stationed in Malisheva before the current conflict. Milosevic said he will consider pulling the garrison out but stressed the need to prevent the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) from retaking the area. U.S. diplomats reportedly decided to escort the police to prevent the UCK from regaining the upper hand. PM WALKER EXPECTS MONITORS IN PLACE BY JANUARY. Walker told a press conference in Prishtina on 30 November that he expects all 2,000 unarmed OSCE "verifiers" to have arrived in Kosova by 1 January. He added that "bringing in 2,000 people from 54 countries is not an easy function. We will be up and operational in a very robust fashion within the next few weeks." Walker also noted that a political settlement must be in place before the monitors can begin one of their most important tasks, namely organizing elections for offices to be determined in the political settlement. U.S. envoy Chris Hill has put forward a draft plan that would give Kosova a high degree of autonomy at the provincial level, but a Serbian draft concentrates autonomy at the local level and gives all ethnic groups an equal political voice, regardless of their respective sizes. In recent days, at least three top Serbian officials have publicly said that Hill's plan is unacceptable, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PRAISES UCK'S FLEXIBILITY. Paskal Milo told Reuters in Copenhagen on 30 November that "it is important for the Albanians in Kosova to play a part in their own future. The UCK is going to be seen now as a political factor, not as military one." He was referring to a statement by UCK political representative Adem Demaci that his group is ready to "temporarily" renounce demands for full independence in exchange for an "interim" status as a federal Yugoslav republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 1998). Milo stressed that "all the main [ethnic Albanian] parties and [politicians] are working...to convince [the UCK] that it is not the time to ask for independence." He added that the UCK must become "much more realistic, moderate..., [and willing to seek] compromises.... We do not have any other solution than...through dialogue." FS CROATIAN POLICE INTERCEPT KOSOVA-BOUND ARMS. A police spokesman in Sibenik said on 30 November that police have discovered arms and ammunition worth $1 million in warehouses near the harbor. The goods had arrived from Bosnia and were awaiting shipment to the Albanian port of Durres and then on to Kosova. Police arrested four Bosnians and a Croat in conjunction with the incident, but five other suspects, including at least one Kosovar, remain at large. Interior Minister Ivan Penic said in Zagreb that it was the largest weapons-smuggling operation yet uncovered in Croatia and that the operation was the work of organized criminal groups. PM TUDJMAN TO MEET WITH OPPOSITION? Vladimir Seks, who is the parliamentary faction leader for the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), said in Zagreb on 30 November that President Franjo Tudjman will soon meet with representatives of the opposition coalition of six parties. Seks added that opposition demands for changes in the electoral law and for a parliamentary investigation of the secret services will be on the agenda. He added that Tudjman will meet separately with representatives of other opposition parties, which are mainly tiny, right-wing groups. On 28 November, opposition coalition leader Vlado Gotovac said that the leaders of the six parties want to meet with Tudjman in his capacity as head of the HDZ and not as head of state. He added that they do not want members of the right-wing groups to be present. "Novi List" wrote on 30 November that the HDZ and opposition alike are playing "tactical games" in the runup to the talks, which, the Rijeka daily noted, may never take place. PM CROATIA, SLOVENIA MOVING TOWARD SETTLEMENT. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic and his Slovenian counterpart Boris Frlec told a press conference near Ljubljana on 30 November that their one-day meeting succeeded in clearing up all but one of the outstanding questions involving the demarcation of their common land border. They did not specify which issue remains, but Frlec noted that the two solved the dispute over the Sveta Gera mountain peak, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The two sides hope to have a solution by Christmas to their most important border problem, namely the maritime frontier in the Gulf of Piran, "Novi List" quoted Granic as saying. An agreement will probably be signed soon on the ownership and use of the Krsko nuclear power plant, which is in Slovenia but was built partly with Croatian funding. Granic added, however, that the dispute over Croatian accounts in a Slovenian bank will most likely go to international arbitration. PM DEADLOCK CONTINUES IN BANJA LUKA. Hard-line deputy Dragan Kalinic, whom Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen has asked to form a government, said in Banja Luka on 30 November that he has not yet succeeded in putting together his cabinet. Spokesmen for the Social Democrats called on Kalinic to let someone else try to form a government because the hard-liners lack a majority in the assembly, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian Serb capital. The office of the international community's Carlos Westendorp wants a government led by moderate Serbs with the backing of Muslim and Croatian deputies. PM DISPUTE OVER HUMAN REMAINS IN SARAJEVO. A dispute continues between Muslim and Serbian forensic experts over the identification of 55 sets of remains exhumed recently in two cemeteries in the Bosnian capital, Reuters reported on 29 November. Bosnian Serb officials charge that the persons were Serbian civilians who were killed by Muslims during the 1992-1995 Serbian siege of Sarajevo, according to "Vesti." Muslim spokesmen argue that the identity of the dead has not been determined and that they were most likely killed by renegade Bosnian army units commanded by Musan Topalovic "Caco." PM ALBANIAN POLICE SHOOT SMUGGLER COLLEAGUE. Special police forces killed a local policeman in a shoot-out near Shkodra on 29 November, AP reported. The local policeman and two of his colleagues had taken a customs official hostage and begun shooting at the special police units. Those police forces had seized three trucks loaded with 60 tons of corn and coffee smuggled into the country from Montenegro. The dead policeman's brother was wounded in the shoot-out. FS ROMANIA DENIES MILITARY CONTACT WITH IRAQ. Spokesman for both the Foreign and Defense Ministries on 30 November denied any knowledge that Iraqi officials visited Bucharest in May in a bid to purchase ballistic- missile guidance systems from the Romanian Aerofina company. In a statement released to the press, Aerofina said a CNN report on 29 November was "erroneous." According to that report, the negotiations lasted a week before ending in failure and were monitored by the intelligence services of the U.S., Romania, and Israel. Romanian Ambassador to the U.S. Mircea Geoana has confirmed the report, telling CNN that Aerofina negotiated with Iraq in 1995 and that those responsible for those negotiations had been "rapidly and severely reprimanded." Geoana said that last May, Iraq tried to renew those contacts. Former Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu and former Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca have both denied that in 1995 Romania broke the embargo against Iraq. MS IRON GUARD PLANS COMEBACK IN ROMANIA. The Legionary Movement, also known as the Iron Guard, plans to register as a political party in June 1999, Mediafax reported on 29 November, quoting Nicador Zelea Codreanu, a nephew of the fascist movement's interwar "Captain," Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. Nicador Zelea Codreanu said the new party will be called the National Union for Christian Rebirth because the authorities would not allow the movement to register under its old name. A crowd of very old and very young "Guardists" gathered in a forest at Tancabesti, near Bucharest, on 29 November to mark the 60the anniversary of the assassination of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu there on the orders of King Carol II. MS MOLDOVAN AGRARIANS ELECT NEW CHAIRMAN. An extraordinary congress of the Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova (PDAM) elected Anatol Popusoi as its new chairman on 27 November, Infotag reported. Popusoi is considered to belong to the PDAM's conservative wing. He replaces Dumitru Motpan, who resigned after taking responsibility for the party's disastrous performance in the May 1998 elections. Formerly the largest parliamentary group, the PDAM failed to win representation in the new legislature. MS BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES SLASHING THREE ZEROES FROM CURRENCY. The government on 30 November approved a draft law that would remove three zeroes from the national currency, the lev, as of 1 July, Reuters reported. The draft law implements a decision taken in August by the cabinet and the Currency Board (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 10 August 1998). Finance Minister Muravei Radev said the government does not expect inflation to rise because of the re-denomination. 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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