The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle 1975-1881
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 231, Part II, 2 December 1998


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 231, Part II, 2 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

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Headlines, Part II

* UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS DEAL WITH WORLD BANK

* BUZEK PLEDGES TO REMOVE CROSSES FROM AUSCHWITZ

* U.S. SHIFTING POLICY ON SERBIA?
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS DEAL WITH WORLD BANK...
Lawmakers on 1 December voted by 167 to 74 to reject an
agreement signed by the government and the World Bank,
AP reported. That agreement would have allowed the
cabinet to provide guarantees to foreign creditors and
investors to protect them from possible losses or other
risks linked to Ukraine's economic instability. The
World Bank pledged to back the guarantees by a special
fund amounting annually to $120 million. The vote came
on the same day as a World Bank mission arrived in Kyiv
to discuss new projects and loans. Valeriy Aloshyn, head
of the parliamentary Finance Committee, commented that
the failure to ratify the document stemmed from the
"general negative attitude [among lawmakers] to any
deals that have to do with foreign loans." JM

...PROHIBITS PRESIDENT FROM CHANGING TAX LEGISLATION.
Also on 1 December, the parliament voted by 342 with one
abstention to override President Leonid Kuchma's veto on
a tax law that forbids the president from setting tax
rates and granting tax exemptions. Kuchma had argued
that the legislation could lead to lower budget revenues
because it would not allow the president to change
excise and import taxes if necessary. Serhiy Teryokhyn
of the parliamentary Finance Committee urged lawmakers
to override the veto, arguing that the country's
constitution grants them the exclusive right to
determine tax rates and breaks. Earlier this month, the
parliament approved amendments prohibiting the president
from limiting state spending on certain items in the
budget. JM

LUKASHENKA PLEDGES NO MORE PRICE HIKES... Belarusian
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka visited the Minsk
Tractor Plant on 1 December to discuss low wages and
high prices in a "dialogue without intermediaries,"
Belarusian Television reported. He told plant workers
that there will be no more price hikes in Belarus "even
if it is very difficult in the country. If in Russia, to
which we are tied, prices are increased by 5 percent, we
will stick to a 3-4 percent increase," he said. He
underscored that the government will not increase the
price of vodka, adding that the authorities have made
provision for food reserves so that people will not be
left "without a slice of meat or bread" on New Year's
Day. JM

...ADVISES WORKERS AGAINST STREET PROTESTS. Lukashenka
told plant workers that a trade union protest planned
for 2 December would only destroy the image of the
country as stable and calm, Interfax reported. "Street
action will not change anything," the agency quoted him
as saying. He added that he is doing his best to
alleviate the consequences of the Russian crisis.
Lukashenka told journalists after the meeting that he
does not intend to oust the cabinet over the current
economic problems in Belarus. The government is
"performing well. If some people have run out of steam
and have to be replaced, this is a natural process, I
think," he said. JM

BELARUSIAN TRADE UNIONS POSTPONE PROTEST RALLY? Belapan
reported that the protest rally planned by the
Belarusian Trade Union Federation in Minsk on 2 December
will "most likely" be postponed until January. The
postponement followed the 1 December talks between
presidential administration chief Mikhail Myasnikovich,
cabinet ministers, and trade union leaders. According to
the news agency, the government promised "to do
everything possible" to meet trade unions' demands
regarding the improvement of living standards.
Belarusian Television also reported that the 2 December
protest has been rescheduled "to some later date" but
provided no details. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION WANTS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN
1999. Syamyon Sharetski, chairman of the Belarusian
Supreme Soviet dissolved by Lukashenka in 1996, wants
presidential elections to be held in 1999, as required
by the 1994 constitution, Interfax reported on 1
December. The current Belarusian Constitution, which was
adopted in the controversial 24 November 1996
referendum, extended Lukashenka's term until 2001.
According to the 1994 constitution, Lukashenka's term
expires on 20 July 1999. Sharetsky told journalists on 1
December that members of the Supreme Soviet regard
themselves as representatives of a legitimate parliament
and plan to meet to set a date for presidential
elections. He added that he is ready to assume the
powers of the head of state starting 21 July 1999 if a
new president has not been elected by then. JM

ESTONIAN PRESIDENT CALLS GENERAL ELECTIONS FOR MARCH. In
a speech broadcast on national television on 1 December,
Lennart Meri announced he has called general elections
for 7 March. Under the Estonian Constitution, elections
to the parliament must be held at least once every four
years. The last such ballot was held in March 1995.
Urging voters to use the opportunity to elect
politicians with fresh ideas and policies, Meri said
that the elections should be "against stagnation,"
according to ETA. "Bureaucracy, unoriginal solutions--
all this threatens a small country like Estonia," he
commented. The last day for parties to submit their
final list of candidates is 21 January, after which the
official election campaign begins. JC

ESTONIAN FARMERS STAGE PROTESTS. Farmers organized
protests throughout Estonia on 1 December to express
dissatisfaction with the government's agricultural
policy and to demand measures to protect the domestic
market, including the introduction of import tariffs,
ETA and BNS reported. Addressing farmers who had
gathered near the Polva County government building,
where the cabinet was meeting the same day, Prime
Minister Mart Siimann said that within the next two
weeks, the Agriculture Ministry will submit to the
government an aid package that includes proposals for
implementing protective duties, payments of direct
subsidies, and providing credit for export. JC

MOSCOW SAYS ESTONIA, LATVIA STILL DRAGGING FEET OVER
ETHNIC MINORITIES. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov
said at a press conference in Stockholm on 1 December
that despite progress by Latvia and Estonia toward
integrating ethnic Russians and other minorities, Moscow
still thinks both countries are not doing enough in this
regard. Ivanov said he will discuss the issue in detail
at a meeting of OSCE foreign ministers that opens in
Oslo on 2 December. In October, Latvians voted in a
referendum to approve amendments to the country's
citizenship laws that provide for virtually automatic
citizenship for stateless children under 16 who were
born after the re-establishment of independence. The
Estonian parliament is to vote on similar amendments in
the third and final reading later this month. JC

NEW LATVIAN CABINET CONVENES. Addressing the first
session of his government on 1 December, Prime Minister
Vilis Kristopans said that approving the 1999 state
budget will be one of the cabinet's most important and
"toughest" tasks, BNS and Reuters reported. "I see no
major changes in the draft," he said, "but we have to
discuss projected revenues. We will have to think how to
act in case they prove to be lower." Finance Minister
Ivars Godmanis has already indicated that revenues and
expenditures may have to be decreased in order to deal
with the economic slowdown in the wake of the Russian
financial crisis. Also on 1 December, the Russian-
language "SM" newspaper reported that the leftist
National Harmony Party has reached agreement with
Kristopans over supporting his minority government in
the parliament. The cabinet has 46 seats in the 100-
member legislature and the National Harmony Party 16. JC

BUZEK PLEDGES TO REMOVE CROSSES FROM AUSCHWITZ. Polish
Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek has pledged to remove all
crosses erected around the so-called Papal Cross outside
the former Auschwitz concentration camp, Polish media
reported on 1 December. A letter containing that promise
was handed over to Jewish organizations in Washington on
1 December before the opening of a conference devoted to
the issue of Jewish property seized during the
Holocaust. Buzek stressed that the government will
resolve the protracted Jewish-Polish cross controversy
"without breaking Polish law." According to the 2
December "Gazeta Wyborcza," Jewish organizations were
pleased with the letter. The newspaper added that the
fate of the Papal Cross will be subject to further
negotiation. JM

CZECH DEPUTY PREMIER EXPECTS 'NATIONAL UNITY'
GOVERNMENT. Pavel Rychetsky said on 2 December that he
expects a majority government of "national unity" to
come to power in the Czech Republic and warned of a
severe economic downturn in the next year. In an
interview in the daily "Pravo," Rychetsky said he
considers a majority government to be the only way to
cope with the economic and social problems that the
government expects to face by mid-1999. Rychetsky said
the government was informed of "a rapid decline in
production" in the country, adding that there is "a
danger that the Czech economy would seriously
disintegrate." He also argued that the oncoming problems
are the reason why former Premier Vaclav Klaus's Civic
Democratic Party (ODS) did not "attempt to maintain the
responsibilities of a governing party." Rychetsky said
the ODS "was probably better informed than we were about
where the economy was heading." PB

SLOVAK PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES CALL ON EU MEMBERS FOR
SUPPORT. The Slovak parliament called on the European
Parliament in Strasbourg and the parliaments of EU
countries to back a flexible approach toward Slovakia
and its efforts to join the EU, CTK reported on 1
December. In a statement, the parliament proposed that
the various EU legislatures recommend that the European
Commission write an addendum to its report on Slovakia
that would take into account the coming to power of the
new government in Bratislava. The statement said such an
action might enable Slovakia to join fast-track EU
accession by the middle, rather than the end, of 1999.
The parliament added that it is prepared to guarantee
democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and the
protection of minorities. PB

OPPOSITION WALKS OUT OF HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT. The
opposition Socialist Party (MSZP) and Alliance of Free
Democrats (SZDSZ) walked out of parliament on 1 December
after deputies of the coalition parties defeated a
measure to establish two committees that would
investigate the activities of the Tax Office and the
cabinet's appointment policies. SZDSZ parliamentary
leader Gabor Kuncze said the coalition's actions
contravened parliamentary regulations stating that the
parliament is obliged to set up such committees if 20
percent of parliamentary deputies back such a move.
Jozsef Szajer, the parliamentary leader of the ruling
Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party,
said the measure to establish the committees was voted
down because the coalition objected to the proposed
chairmen, Matyas Eorsi and Sandor Burany. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

U.S. SHIFTING POLICY ON SERBIA? State Department
spokesman James Rubin said on 30 November that Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic is the root of "the
problem" in the former Yugoslavia and cannot be a source
of stability in the region, RFE/RL's South Slavic
Service reported. Rubin added that Washington favors the
democratization of Serbia and applauds the moves by the
Montenegrin government aimed at promoting democracy. The
following day, Rubin noted that the U.S. will not "lose
any sleep if [Milosevic] passes from the scene." The
spokesman declined to comment on unspecified press
reports that Bill Clinton's administration is actively
seeking Milosevic's overthrow in order to expedite an
interim political solution in Kosova. Rubin added that
the recent agreement between Milosevic and U.S. envoy
Richard Holbrooke shows that Washington must "balance
principle and pragmatism in a very complicated
situation." On 29 November, London's "The Observer"
wrote that the Clinton administration recently decided
to work for Milosevic's downfall. PM

BELGRADE SLAMS INTERNATIONAL EFFORTS VIS-A-VIS UCK. The
Yugoslav government sent a strongly worded statement to
the OSCE on 1 December blasting international efforts to
draw the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) into the peace
process as "legalizing the terrorists." The text said
that the UCK is involved in "insolent, criminal activity
and provocative actions, [which] present an obstacle to
the peace process.... The aim of the terrorists and
separatists is not a political solution...but terror,
violence, and an attempt to change borders." The
Yugoslav authorities warned against maintaining
"contacts...with terrorists, killers, kidnappers,
bandits and other criminals that call themselves" the
UCK. The statement concluded that Belgrade "will not
allow [the UCK to continue its attacks] no matter what
the price." PM

DEMACI SAYS UCK STILL SEEKS INDEPENDENCE. Adem Demaci,
who is the UCK's political spokesman, said in Prishtina
on 1 December that the guerrillas have not given up
their goal of independence, even though they are willing
to accept the status of a republic within Yugoslavia as
part of an interim political settlement. He also denied
unspecified press reports that the UCK has ties to
internationally wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 1998). PM

NEW COINS ARRIVE IN BOSNIA. A shipment of some 9 million
coins arrived from the U.K.'s Royal Mint in Sarajevo on
1 December. The coins are in the denominations of 10,
20, and 50 fenigs and will replace the candies and
chocolate bars that have been used as small change until
now. This summer, the international community introduced
the "convertible mark," which is pegged to the German
mark at the rate of one-to-one, as the all-Bosnian
currency. The Croatian kuna is also used in Croat-
controlled parts of Bosnia, and the Yugoslav dinar is
legal tender in the Republika Srpska. The German mark is
the most widely accepted currency throughout the former
Yugoslavia. Meanwhile in Banja Luka, the Bosnian Serb
government revoked its earlier decision to devalue the
Yugoslav dinar. The latest move is aimed at restoring
normal business links with Serbia and Montenegro,
RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 13 November 1998). PM

SARAJEVO SERBS CHARGE DISCRIMINATION. Dusan Sehovac, who
chairs the Democratic Initiative of Sarajevo Serbs, said
on 1 December that Serbs are subjected to "quiet,
subtle, and very effective" discrimination in the school
system of the mainly Croatian and Muslim federation.
Sehovac noted that text books show pictures of mosques
and of Roman Catholic churches but not of Orthodox
churches, "Oslobodjenje" reported. Political
organizations representing Sarajevo Serbs, many of whom
remained in the besieged city throughout the war or
fought in Bosnian army ranks, seek full legal equality
within the federation. PM

CONTROVERSY CONTINUES OVER ALBANIAN MURDER
INVESTIGATION. OSCE Ambassador to Albania Daan Everts
has proposed that an unnamed Norwegian prosecutor take
part in the investigation of the September murder of
Democratic Party legislator Azem Hajdari, "Shekulli"
reported on 2 December. The authorities have accepted
the offer. Ongoing investigations have not produced any
results, but Democratic leaders have repeatedly charged
that the controversial Hajdari was the victim of a
political murder orchestrated by the government.
Parliamentary deputy speaker Jozefina Topalli (of the
Democratic Party) said on 1 December that the Norwegian
official should report to the Council of Europe or to
the OSCE rather than to the Albanian government if he
comes to help with the case. She added that if the
prosecutor "comes as an adviser to the iron-fisted
Albanian state [who is] against the opposition..., the
opposition will consider his mission worthless and
boding ill for the future rule of law." FS

ALBANIA HEADED FOR AIDS EXPLOSION? Albanian Health
Minister Leonard Solis told ATA news agency in Tirana on
1 December that a highly mobile labor force and
widespread prostitution could lead to an AIDS explosion
in Albania." He noted that there are only 38 registered
AIDS cases but that health officials suspect the real
number of those infected with HIV is as high as 3,000.
Solis added that the authorities lack the facilities and
experience to monitor the spread of the disease, and he
commented that the population is poorly informed about
how to prevent the disease and about the need to test
for AIDS. Some 85 percent of the known cases involved
transmission of the virus through sexual contact, while
the remaining 15 percent contracted HIV through
transfusions of contaminated blood or through sharing
hypodermic needles. PM

ROMANIA MARKS NATIONAL DAY. Romanian President Emil
Constantinescu said in a speech marking the 80th
anniversary of the return of Transylvania to Romania
that "there is nothing more important for a people than
its unity, independence, and sovereignty," Rompres
reported on 1 December. An estimated 20,000 people
watched a military parade in Bucharest. Some officials
criticized the cost of the festivities--$900,000--at a
time when the country is in such dire economic straits.
Constantinescu added that "regional cooperation, seen as
the central element for stability, is the country's
pillar on which its present and future policies rest."
PB

DROP IN MOLDOVAN FOREIGN TRADE. In the first 10 months
of this year, Moldova's foreign trade declined by 11.4
percent compared with the same period last year, BASA-
press reported on 30 November. The Ministry of Economy
and Reform said the total value of the country's foreign
trade through October was $1.43 billion. Exports
declined by 19.3 percent, while imports dropped by 5.7
percent. The bulk of the decline occurred in September
and October as a result of the Russian financial crisis
and Romania's imposition of a 6 percent tax on imports.
In other news, Mark Horton, IMF permanent representative
to Moldova, said on 30 November that the IMF and the
World Bank will indefinitely postpone renewing loans to
Moldova if the parliament procrastinates passing the
1999 budget. MS

BULGARIAN OFFICIALS CONGRATULATE MACEDONIAN
COUNTERPARTS. Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and
Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mikhaylova said they hope the
election of a new government in Macedonia will "open a
new chapter" in bilateral relations, Bulgarian Radio
reported on 1 December. Kostov said in a telegram to
newly confirmed Macedonian Premier Lyubco Georgievski
that he is "filled with confidence...that an atmosphere
of mutual respect and understanding" will develop
between Bulgaria and Macedonia. Mikhaylova also
congratulated her Macedonian counterpart, Aleksandar
Dimitrov, by telegram. PB

BULGARIAN NUCLEAR PLANT GETS FAVORABLE RATING. An
international team of nuclear reactor specialists said
on 1 December that the safety standards at the
controversial Kozloduy nuclear power station are "good,"
an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. The
inspectors--from France, Switzerland, and Russia--
inspected the two oldest reactors at the station from
23-27 November. The EU has pressured the Bulgarian
government to close the reactors, despite millions of
dollars in upgrades and some positive inspections of the
plant by Western officials. PB

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