|The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle 1975-1881|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 234, Part II, 7 December 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 234, Part II, 7 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 SHAKEUP CONTINUES * SWISS JUDGE CHARGES LAZARENKO WITH MONEY-LAUNDERING * NATO FORCE DEPLOYS TO MACEDONIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT SHAKEUP CONTINUES. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has appointed Ural Latypov to head an enlarged Foreign Ministry, RFE/RL's Belarusian service reported on 4 December. Lukashenka's press service said that Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich, Minister of Foreign Economic Relations Mikhail Marinich, and CIS Affairs Minister Valentyn Velychka have all been sacked. Ivan Pashkevich, the deputy head of the president's administration, said the duties of Velychka and Marinich will be integrated into the new Foreign Ministry. Pashkevich added that Antanovich's removal does not mean "that the president is unsatisfied with his work" but that the country is faced with "new, concrete economic tasks--promoting goods in new markets." Latypov, who had been Lukashenka's foreign affairs adviser, worked for the KGB from 1974-1989. The changes follow those made last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 1998). PB FORMER PRIME MINISTER TO STAND AGAINST LUKASHENKA. Mikhail Chyhir said on 5 December that he will run for the Belarusian presidency in the next presidential elections, RFE/RL's Belarusian service reported. In interviews published by the independent newspapers "Narodnaya Volya" and "Svobodniye Novosti," Chyhir said he "knows what should be done to stop the collapse of the country [and] the mass impoverishment of the people." He said he hopes for support from "clear- thinking" directors of political parties, factories, collective farms, and non-government organizations. Chyhir, who resigned as premier in November 1996 in protest at President Lukashenka's policies, said the state budget will collapse, hyperinflation will take effect, and stores will be empty if current policies continue. According to the 1994 constitution, Lukashenka's term expires in eight months. But in a constitutional referendum two years ago, his term was extended until 2001. PB BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION MARKS HUMAN RIGHTS ANNIVERSARY. Several hundred people marched in Minsk on 6 December to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, AP reported. Oleh Belyavsky, the main organizer of the protest, alleges that some 500 people have been unjustly arrested or beaten this year and that thousands have been "politically repressed" during the four years of President Lukashenka's rule. In other news, Belarusian authorities announced on 4 December that charges of malicious hooliganism against Belarusian Popular Front youth leader Paval Sevyarynets have been dropped, Belapan reported. They cited "a change in circumstances" as the reason for that move. PB BELARUSIAN LINGUISTS DISCUSS CODIFICATION OF BANNED SPELLING. Some 20 Belarusian linguists, journalists, and editors met at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague on 5-6 December to discuss the codification of traditional Belarusian orthography, which was banned by the Soviet regime in 1933 and revived in Belarus in the late 1980s. According to Belarusian linguists, the 1933 ban suppressed the development of the Belarusian language by artificially bringing it closer to Russian in terms of both vocabulary and spelling. Editor Syarhey Dubavets, whose "Nasha Niva" is being sued by the Belarusian government for using the banned spelling (see "RFE/RL," 10 August 1998), told RFE/RL that the conference was a "very optimistic event for all those believing in the revival of the Belarusian language." JM SWISS JUDGE CHARGES LAZARENKO WITH MONEY-LAUNDERING. A Swiss judge on 4 December charged former Ukrainian Premier Pavlo Lazarenko with money-laundering, AFP reported. Lazarenko has been detained and will remain in custody in Geneva until his trial. The judge said a "relatively large" amount of money has been seized in Geneva. Lazarenko, who was arrested last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 1998), denies the charges and claims the whole affair is an attempt to discredit him and his Hromada party ahead of next year's elections. Two members of Hromada flew to Switzerland on 5 December to "clarify" the incident. PB WORLD BANK CRITICIZES UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FOR DELAYS. Paul Siegelbaum, the World Bank's director for Ukraine and Belarus, said today he is concerned that the parliament in Kyiv is blocking World Bank projects, AP reported on 4 December. Siegelbaum said several projects have been neither ratified nor begun. He added that the bank will suspend $140 million in energy loans unless the Constitutional Court overrules a recent parliamentary ban on raising utility costs. In other news, the Ukrainian News Agency reports that President Leonid Kuchma has ordered the government to study a possible floating exchange rate for the hryvna next year, perhaps as soon as January. The National Bank has opposed such a move. PB TALLINN MEETING HAILED AS 'BREAKTHROUGH' IN ESTONIAN- RUSSIAN TIES. The first-ever meeting of the Estonian- Russian intergovernment commission has been hailed by both sides as a "breakthrough" in bilateral relations, ETA and BNS reported on 4 December. Commission co-chair and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko commented after the meeting that Russia and Estonia "inherited a heavy burden from the past, which can be got rid of by enough time, honesty, and persistence," according to ETA. Her co-chair, Estonian Prime Minister Mart Siimann, was quoted as saying that the meeting took place in a "very open, honest environment." Matvienko also said that high customs tariffs imposed by Russia on Estonian goods could be reduced by next summer. President Lennart Meri, meanwhile, told Matvienko that the development of Estonian-Russian relations will depend on Russia's revising its stance on the 1940 occupation. Moscow has not yet acknowledged that the Baltic States were forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union. JC RUSSIAN DUMA TO SEND DOCUMENT TO LATVIAN LAWMAKERS. Russian State Duma deputy Gennadii Raikov, addressing an international conference in Riga on 5 December, said the Duma is drafting a document expressing satisfaction with the results of the 3 October referendum on amendments to the Latvian citizenship law. Raikov said the document will urge that Latvia respect the "interests of the majority," which voted in favor of the amendments. He added that the Duma is planning to approve the document on 9 December. JC LITHUANIA ADOPTS DEFICIT-FREE BUDGET FOR NEXT YEAR. Following a six-week debate, the Lithuanian parliament has adopted a balanced budget for 1999, BNS reported on 3 December. The vote was 70 to 27 with seven abstentions. Finance Minister Algirdas Semeta commented that it is Lithuania's first balanced budget since 1993. "The key feature of next year's budget is the implementation of a savings program that will provide for maintaining macro-economic stability," he said. The government anticipates 10.3 billion litas (some $2.6 billion) in revenues, an increase of 11.7 percent compared with this year. GDP growth is estimated at 5.5 percent and annual inflation at 5 percent. JC LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR ANTI-SUICIDE CAMPAIGN. Valdas Adamkus has called for a nationwide campaign to reduce the country's suicide rate, AP reported on 4 December. Some 1,700 people out of a population of 3.7 million have committed suicide so far this year. That is equivalent to some 45 suicides per 100,000 people, one of the highest rates in the world. Presidential spokeswoman Violeta Gaizauskaite said that Adamkus has asked private institutes and government agencies to develop a nationwide suicide prevention program. JC GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER SEES EARLY NATO ACCESSION. Rudolf Scharping said in Warsaw on 5 December that Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary may officially join NATO before the planned date in April, dpa reported. Scharping said the early admission of the three would allow them to participate in formulating NATO strategy. Scharping also met with Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz and Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek during his two-day visit. In other news, a man found frozen to death in western Poland on 6 December was the 90th victim of the cold snap in that country. PB CZECH OFFICIALS WITHDRAW CHARGE AGAINST FORMER VIENNA MAYOR. Helmut Zilk has been cleared of accusations that he collaborated with communist Czechoslovakia's secret police in the 1960s, the Czech embassy in Vienna announced on 4 December. Those accusations were made in the German press in October, prompting Czech President Vaclav Havel to withdraw a top state award that Zilk was to have received at a special ceremony. The Czech embassy in Vienna told Reuters that an investigation has shown there was "no substance" to the charges. It added that Zilk has been invited to meet with Havel in Prague on 8 December. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan expressed his regret over the incident to the Austrian ambassador to Prague. MS CZECH PREMIER SAYS PAST MUST NOT BURDEN RELATIONS WITH GERMANY. Milos Zeman on 6 December told CTK that the social democratic governments of the Czech Republic and Germany will be able to find a common language on issues related to the future without burdening them "with the past." Zeman was responding to German Deputy Foreign Minister Guenter Verheugen's statement at the German- Czech Discussion Forum in Dresden on 5 December that the German government still considered the post-war expulsion of Sudeten Germans an injustice with which Czechs will have to come to terms. At the same time, Verheugen said that the new German cabinet will not press property claims against the Czech Republic, since the issue is of a moral and political, rather than legal, nature. MS MECIAR QUITS PUBLIC LIFE. Former Premier Vladimir Meciar said in a statement on 4 December that he will quit public life entirely and "will not contest any position in the state administration in the future," Reuters reported. Meciar said he will not run for the post of Slovak president and that "at a time which I shall set myself, I shall leave public life and go into solitude." MS DISMISSED SLOVAK AMBASSADOR TO CANADA REFUSES TO LEAVE EMBASSY. Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan on 6 December chastised Zdenka Kramplova for ignoring orders to return to Slovakia, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. Kramplova resigned as foreign minister in September and was appointed ambassador to Canada by the previous cabinet, headed by Meciar. In late October, the new cabinet, headed by Mikulas Dzurinda, recalled Kramplova and ordered her to return to the Foreign Ministry in Bratislava. Kukan told TV Markiza that as Kramplova is ignoring that order, he intends to resolve the matter "radically." Her unauthorized use of diplomatic property, he added, is costing the Slovak taxpayer "hundreds of thousands of Slovak crowns." MS HUNGARIAN EXTREME RIGHT PARTY RE-ELECTS LEADER. The national congress of the far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) has re-elected Istvan Csurka as the party's chairman, Hungarian media reported on 7 December. At the same time, Lukacs Szabo, who earlier had questioned the party's finances, was expelled from the MIEP, which called on him to return his parliamentary seat to the party. Szabo said his expulsion will leave the party one seat short of the minimum needed to form a parliamentary group, commenting that "Csurka has not only smashed the parliamentary group but also the party." MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO FORCE DEPLOYS TO MACEDONIA. Four French Hercules transport aircraft arrived at Petrovec military airport on 6 December with the first 30 French troops from NATO's rapid reaction force for Kosova and 40 tons of equipment, AP reported. The force will rescue any of the 2,000 unarmed OSCE civilian monitors in Kosova should they run into danger. The NATO mission is expected to reach its full strength of 1,700 by the beginning of 1999 and will consist of 700 French, 350 British, 250 German, 200 Italian, and 200 Dutch soldiers and officers. In Brussels, the Atlantic alliance issued a statement on 5 December saying that "the deployment of the extraction force in no way relieves the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia government of its primary responsibility for the safety and security of the OSCE verifiers." PM UCK STANDS BY DEMAND FOR INDEPENDENCE... The Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) said in a statement in Prishtina on 4 December that it "rejects any solution for the Kosova crisis that falls short of full independence" for the province. In recent weeks, some Kosovar spokesmen have said that the Kosovars would "temporarily" accept the status of a republic within the Yugoslav federation provided that a referendum on independence would take place after two or three years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 1998). PM ...WHILE MODERATES SLAM HILL PLAN. Fehmi Agani, who heads the negotiating team appointed by shadow-state president Ibrahim Rugova, told the Belgrade daily "Glas" of 7 December that U.S. envoy Chris Hill's latest plan for an interim settlement is not acceptable to the Kosovars. Agani added that "we had some objections to the previous version too, but this one is totally unacceptable.... It is obvious that Hill offers one solution after talking to us and another after talking to [Serbian President Milan] Milutinovic." Agani did not elaborate. Kosovar spokesman Mehmet Hajrizi said that the plan gives too much power to Belgrade at the expense of Prishtina, Reuters reported. An unnamed Serbian source told the news agency that the latest changes in the Hill plan are "cosmetic" and do not go far enough to please Belgrade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 1998). PM EUROPEANS CALL U.S. ESCORT FOR SERBIAN POLICE 'EMBARRASSING.' Unnamed European diplomats told Reuters in Prishtina on 5 December that the U.S. practice of providing armed escorts for Serbian paramilitary police reflects "bad judgment" and appears "incongruous" in the eyes of the Kosovars (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 1998). The European diplomats added that the U.S. practice of escorting the Serbs into the Malisheva region and elsewhere may lead to UCK reprisals against Westerners. On 4 December, Chris Janowski, who is the spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said in Geneva that the Serbian police presence in the Malisheva area discourages displaced Kosovars from returning to their homes there. PM CLINTON EXTENDS SANCTIONS. U.S. President Bill Clinton sent a written statement to Congress on 5 December extending the "outer wall" of sanctions against Serbia for a further six months. The sanctions involve a freeze on Serbian bank accounts and property rights abroad and prevent Belgrade's return to membership in international organizations. The measures are a response to Serbia's policies regarding human rights, democracy and the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. In Vienna the previous day, Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel, who holds the EU's rotating chair, told Serbian opposition leader Zoran Djindjic that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic "is part of the [region's] problem, not of the solution," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 December 1998) PM SERBIAN PARLIAMENT TO HIKE GOVERNMENT WAGES. The legislature is slated to pass a bill on 7 December that will raise the salaries of some government officials by up to 300 percent and allow them to receive up to 85 percent of their pay after they retire, Reuters reported. The president will receive 18 times the average monthly income in Serbia, plus 20 percent. The prime minister and the speaker of the parliament will receive 18 times the average Serbian pay, government ministers 15 times, and legislators 10 times. The law applies to the retirement pay of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. The average monthly income in the impoverished country is $112. The government is $1 billion behind in its payment of pensions. The authorities recently introduced a package of taxes to help fund the state budget. One-quarter of the proposed new budget will go to the police, "Danas" reported. PM WESTENDORP CONDEMNS BOSNIAN SERB VIOLENCE. In Sarajevo on 5 December, the international community's Carlos Westendorp said recent violence in the Republika Srpska to protest the arrest of General Radislav Krstic for war crimes is "unacceptable" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 1998). Westendorp noted that two EU monitors were attacked in Vlasenica and a UN vehicle damaged there. He also criticized as inflammatory public remarks by Mayor Stanimir Reljic of Vlasenica, which was Krstic's headquarters during the Bosnian war. PM LIMITED RESULTS FROM CROATIAN DONORS' CONFERENCE. A two- day conference in Zagreb aimed at raising funds for reconstruction and development yielded pledges of $25 million, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 5 December. The EU's representatives delayed "until the last minute" their acceptance of an invitation to attend in order to protest what they called discriminatory legislation against returning Serbian refugees. The government estimates that Croatia needs $2.5 billion to repair damage sustained during the 1991-1995 conflict. PM ALBANIAN STUDENTS GO ON STRIKE... Several hundred student supporters of the opposition Democratic Party began a strike last week in Tirana and Shkodra, ahead of the 8 December anniversary of the 1990 student revolt that toppled communism, "Shekulli" reported on 6 December. They are demanding better living conditions, the release of what they call "political prisoners," and quicker results from the investigation into Azem Hajdari's murder (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 1998). Many protesters have cut classes. In Shkodra, protesting students threw stones at the university dean on 4 December. According to dpa, the protests have failed to gain massive support from among students. Meanwhile, a student spokesmen said in Tirana that the protesters will launch a hunger strike on 8 December unless the government meets their demands. FS ...WHILE INTERIOR MINISTER WARNS OF UNREST. Petro Koci told "Shekulli" of 6 December that police expect riots during the 8 December student protests. He told the newspaper that police are ready to prevent a repetition of unrest that shook Tirana after the funeral of Hajdari on 14 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1998). Koci stressed that the students' demands for better living conditions are legitimate but that police will not tolerate attacks against state institutions. He said that opposition leaders and former President Sali Berisha are seeking to use the students' movement]in order to return to power." He added that Berisha "will not succeed." FS ROMANIAN COALITION PARTIES DIFFER OVER REFORM. Prime Minister Radu Vasile and members of his government asked President Emil Constantinescu on 5 December to use his influence over parliamentary deputies from the ruling coalition to ensure the passage of a far-reaching reform program approved by the cabinet two days earlier. The program calls for the immediate closure of 49 loss- making enterprises. The leadership of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic said on 3 December that the reform must be linked to property restitution. The Democratic Party, the Liberal Party, and the Hungarian Democratic Coalition of Romania said linking the two issues will again lead to disputes at a time when the reform measure package is urgently needed. MS FIRST ROMANIAN STATE BANK PRIVATIZED. The Romanian Bank for Development became the first Romanian bank to be privatized when Societe Generale de France won a tender for a majority stake in the bank on 3 December. Romanian officials refused to give details, saying only they will become known when the deal is officially signed on 15 December. Mediafax, citing AFP, reported on 6 December that Societe Generale de France will pay $200 million for a 51 percent stake. MS COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFICIAL MEETS TIRASPOL MOLDOVAN PRISONER. Josette Durrieux, deputy chairwoman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the assembly's rapporteur for Moldova, was allowed on 4 December to visit Ilie Ilascu, a Moldovan parliamentary deputy who has been in prison since he was sentenced to death in 1992 on charges of terrorism. Ilascu told Durrieux that he is isolated from others sentenced at the same time on terrorism charges and is seldom allowed visits by members of his family. The visit did not take place in the prison where he is being detained but in what the Transdniester authorities called a "hotel," Durrieux said. She said Ilascu is apparently in good physical shape and is mentally "very balanced," Radio Bucharest reported. MS BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES PRIVATIZATION PLAN. The parliament on 4 December approved a government plan providing for the sale next year of state property worth more than 996 billion leva ($595 million), dpa reported. More than 1,000 state companies are to be sold under the plan. The list, however, does not include the largest state-owned firms such as the telephone giant BTK, the oil refinery Neftochim, and the tobacco company Bulgartabak. MS 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. 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