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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 241 Part II, 16 December 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 241 Part II, 16 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 LOCAL ELECTION LAW OSTRACIZES OPPOSITION * NATO SAYS MILOSEVIC KNEW ABOUT REACTION FORCE * FORMER ALBANIAN PRESIDENT CALLED AS DEFENDANT IN COUP PROBE End Note: LOOKING WEST FROM BEIJING xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE KUCHMA SUGGESTS REFERENDUM ON UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTION. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has said he may call a referendum to extend the president's right to issue economic decrees for five more years, Reuters and Interfax reported on 15 December. "I do not see any other way in the future than to hold an all-Ukrainian referendum on major articles of Ukraine's constitution," he added. Adopted in 1996, the Ukrainian Constitution contained so-called transitional provisions that granted the president three years to issue economic decrees on matters not covered by existing legislation. The term of these transitional provisions expires in June 1999. Kuchma added that a proposal to replace the current unicameral parliament with a bicameral one could also be put to a nationwide discussion. According to ITAR-TASS, Kuchma said that "it is not expedient to hold presidential elections in the present economic and political situation." Kuchma's term in office expires in October 1999. JM UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS CRIMEAN CONSTITUTION. The Supreme Council on 15 December voted by 210 to 89 to approve the new constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea but fell 16 votes short of the required majority of 226 votes, AP reported. Lawmakers from the pro-government Popular Democratic Party criticized Crimea's basic law for containing "separatist provisions," in particular those allowing Crimea to engage in economic activities abroad and the Crimean parliamentary speaker to sign international agreement and treaties. The opposition Rukh, Hromada, and Green parties opposed the provision stipulating that taxes collected in Crimea are to be channeled only to the autonomous republic's budget. They added that the document fails to ensure the official status of the Ukrainian language and to provide for the rights of Crimean Tatars. The Supreme Council has set up a commission composed of Crimean Tatar and Kyiv legislators to examine the disputed provisions. JM BELARUSIAN LOCAL ELECTION LAW OSTRACIZES OPPOSITION... The Belarusian Chamber of Representatives on 15 December adopted a law on local elections that in effect strips opposition members of the right to submit their candidacy, RFE/RL's Belarusian service reported. Under the law, anyone found guilty of any offense, including even those of an administrative nature, is barred from running in local elections, which are scheduled for March 1999. This provision will primarily affect the opposition since many opposition activists have been fined or detained for taking part in protest actions. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka earlier warned legislators that if such a provision is not included in the election law, he will introduce it by a decree. The law states that turnout must be at least 50 percent in the first round and 25 percent in the second for the elections to be valid. JM ...WHILE OFFICIAL SAYS LAW INTENDED TO SELECT 'BEST PEOPLE.' Lidziya Yarmoshyna, chairwoman of the Central Electoral Commission, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 15 December that by insisting such a provision be included in the law, President Lukashenka wants to fill local government bodies "with the best people, who do not commit even petty offenses of the law." Commenting on a correspondent's remark that the bill violates the constitution, Yarmoshyna said that "it is necessary to look not only at the letter, but also at the spirit of the constitution. The state has the right to take measures in its defense." Yarmoshyna told Belarusian Television the same day that "all the basic principles" incorporated in the local election bill will be "reflected" in an election code regulating parliamentary and presidential elections. JM BELARUS SEEKS $100 MILLION TO DEAL WITH FOOD SHORTAGES. Belarusian Trade Minister Pyotr Kazlou said on 15 December that Belarus needs some $100 million to overcome food shortages, Reuters reported. Hard cash is needed to purchase staple foods, including vegetable oil and wheat. "We understand that the country does not have such volumes of hard currency and we are looking for barter," Kazlou said. He added that there is no danger of hunger in the country but that food shortages may continue because of state price controls. JM ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS FOR DEPUTIES. By a vote of 59 to five, lawmakers on 15 December passed in the third and final reading legislation that establishes language requirements for elected officials, ETA and BNS reported. Under amendments to the parliamentary elections law, the local elections law, and the language law, members of the parliament and local governments must have sufficient knowledge of Estonian to take part in the work of those bodies and to understand the contents of legislative acts. The amendments will not go into force until May 1999 and therefore will not apply to the parliamentary elections scheduled for March. Late last year, the parliament passed amendments to the language law that delegated authority to the government to establish language requirements for deputies. Those amendments were vetoed, however, and the Constitutional Court ruled that such requirements must be stipulated in the election law. JC TWO RUSSIAN PARTIES, FORMER COMMUNISTS TO RUN ON JOINT LIST. Two parties representing Russian-speakers in Estonia--the United People's Party and the Russian Unity Party--will run together with the Social-Democratic Labor Party on one list in the March elections, BNS reported. The three parties signed an agreement to that effect on 14 December. The parties' common electoral platform "underlines the need to unite left-central forces in order to significantly change the country's social and economic policy," a spokesperson for United People's Party told the news agency. The three parties have appealed to the Russian Party in Estonia to accede to the agreement. According to the latest opinion poll conducted by EMOR, none of those parties has more than 2 percent backing. JC PEOPLE'S PARTY STILL MOST POPULAR IN LATVIA. While Latvia's ruling coalition parties remain at odds over whether to involve the Social Democrats in the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1998), a poll conducted by Latvijas Fakti last month shows that the popularity of those parties has decreased since the October elections. Latvia's Way, which came second in the elections, had 16.3 percent support last month, down from its 18.22 percent election showing. The other two coalition parties--the Fatherland and Freedom party and the New Party--saw their backing fall to 10.3 percent and 5.7 percent, down from 14.15 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively. Support for the Social Democrats fell from 12.87 percent to 8.5 percent. By contrast, the People's Party, which won the elections but is not a member of the minority government coalition, has increased its ratings. It topped the poll with 23.3 percent, up from 21.19 percent in October. JC SOCIAL UNREST SLOWLY SPREADING IN POLAND. Workers of the Mielec Aviation Plant and the Radom Lucznik arms plant have decided to continue their strikes, despite an announcement that overdue wages will be paid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1998), Polish Radio reported on 15 December. PAP reported the same day that the coal miners' underground strike over the new pension law continues and has expanded to involve a total of 67 miners in eight mines. Meanwhile, some 1,500 workers in the Railroad Maintenance and Repair Plant in Ostrow Wielkopolski, central Poland, have gone on strike to demand negotiations on a social package. The Solidarity- led government promises talks on labor issues with trade unions next week. "There is no change without social unrest," AP quoted Deputy Finance Minister Krzysztof Ners as saying at a news conference on 15 December. At the same conference, an IMF representative endorsed Poland's 1999 tight budget spending policies, opposed by trade unions. JM VAN DER STOEL PRAISES SLOVAK MINORITIES' POLICIES. Max van der Stoel, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, has praised the new Slovak government's progress in implementing minority rights since it took office in October, CTK reported on 15 December. The commissioner, who is on a three-day visit to Slovakia, told journalists after meeting with Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and Pal Csaky, deputy premier in charge of human rights and national minorities problems, that the time has come to focus on the issue of minority language legislation. Csaky said he expects the parliament to pass a law on the use of national minority languages in April 1999. He also said the government has decided to appoint an ombudsman overseeing human and national minorities' rights. MS HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION BLOCKS CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT REGARDING NATO TROOPS. Hungary's two largest opposition parties on 15 December blocked a constitutional amendment that would have facilitated the movement of NATO troops across Hungary's territory, Hungarian media report. Parliamentary members of the Socialist Party abstained from voting on the issue, while the Free Democrats did not take part in the ballot. With only 204 votes in favor, the ruling coalition fell short of the necessary two-thirds majority in the 386-seat parliament. Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said the opposition's abstention was an expression of lack of confidence in the cabinet. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO SAYS MILOSEVIC KNEW ABOUT REACTION FORCE. Unnamed U.S. sources told an RFE/RL correspondent at the U.S. mission to NATO headquarters in Brussels on 15 December that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has known since he reached an agreement with U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke in October that NATO will station a rapid reaction force in Macedonia to rescue unarmed civilian monitors in Kosova should they run into danger. The same sources said Milosevic did not raise any objections to the force or its mission in October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 1998). Milosevic and other top Belgrade officials have recently said they will regard any attempt by NATO troops to enter Kosova as aggression (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1998). In Madrid, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said the UN has approved the mission of the force to enter Kosova if monitors' lives are in danger. PM HOLBROOKE FAILS TO BRIDGE GAP OVER KOSOVA. "The gap between the Serbs and the Albanians on the future of [the province]...is very grave," Holbrooke told reporters in Belgrade on 15 December after talks with Milosevic. Holbrooke did not give any details. U.S. envoy Chris Hill added that there are still "enormous differences" between the two sides. Unnamed U.S. diplomats stressed, however, that Washington will continue its shuttle diplomacy aimed at bridging the gap and reaching an interim political settlement, VOA reported. Earlier in Prishtina, Holbrooke argued that persons involved in the fighting on either side are "playing with dynamite." On 16 December, Milosevic said in a statement that Washington is "losing credibility" because it has allegedly blocked resolutions in the UN Security Council that condemn Kosovar "terrorism." PM U.S CONDEMNS KILLINGS IN KOSOVA. Holbrooke said in Belgrade on 15 December that the killing of six young Serbs in a cafe in Peja was "outrageous and unacceptable...[and] appalling beyond words" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1998). In Washington, a State Department spokesman called the slayings "wanton murder." He added that "barbarous actions like this can only lead to a spiral of retribution that will make reaching a settlement...all the more difficult." The spokesman also called on Yugoslav security forces to "exercise restraint" in carrying out their duties in patrolling the frontier with Albania. In Prishtina, the Yugoslav army confirmed in a statement that its forces killed some 36 uniformed fighters in a border incident the previous day (see below). PM SERBS DEMAND RESPONSE TO KILLINGS. The Serbian provincial authorities in Prishtina said in a statement on 16 December that the killings in Peja are "the most monstrous crime in the series of assaults by Albanian terrorist gangs.... The problem...is not about human rights, this is most cruel terrorism and Nazism supported secretly and publicly by some representatives of the ethnic Albanian community." The statement, which was released by the Temporary Executive Council, also called for an end to "Western, one-sided condemnation of Serbs and the Serbian people" and for "international recognition of what is obvious...[namely] that Albanian terrorists and their political leaders are the obstacle for reaching a peaceful solution," AP reported. Milosevic pledged in a statement that the killers will be brought to justice. Serbian students in Peja boycotted classes on 15 December to protest the slaying of the young men. PM UCK BLAMES 'SERBIAN REGIME' FOR VIOLENCE. Adem Demaci, who is the political spokesman of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said in Prishtina on 15 December that the "Serbian regime and police" are responsible for the cycle of violence that led to the deaths of more than 40 individuals in the province in the previous 24 hours, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He charged that the Serbian forces are "pouring oil on the fire" in Kosova. PM BELGRADE PROTESTS ALBANIAN BORDER INCIDENT. The federal Yugoslav Foreign Ministry on 15 December handed to the Albanian charge d'affaires a strongly worded protest over the border incident the previous day. The Foreign Ministry called on Albania to prevent what it called "systematic threats to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia," adding that the continued border incidents indicate direct Albanian "support for terrorists [whose] objective is to create tension and jeopardize the peaceful resolution" of the Kosova problem. This was the second major border clash in 11 days. FS WESTENDORP CALLS FOR MORE REFUGEE RETURNS. Carlos Westendorp, who is the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, told the annual meeting of the Bosnian Peace Implementation Council in Madrid on 15 December that returns of refugees to areas where their ethnic group is in a minority is his "priority for the coming months, for the coming two years. We must not allow ethnic cleansing to be rewarded," he added (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1998). Westendorp stressed that "peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite all that we have done, remains fragile." He noted that a breakthrough in accelerating the return of refugees will require a "collective effort of Herculean proportions." Westendorp pointed out that Bosnia will have to become more attractive for foreign investigators if it is to attract the capital to create much needed jobs. PM SERBIAN LEGISLATOR CRITICIZES CROATIAN MINISTER. Milan Djukic, who is an ethnic Serb member of the Croatian parliament, said in Zagreb on 15 December that Reconstruction Minister Jure Radic "hates" Serbs and should resign, AP reported. Djukic added that the governing Croatian Democratic Community "lacks the political will" to enable ethnic Serb refugees to go home under terms that will be acceptable to Western governments. Also in the Croatian capital, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Croatia will open consulates in Kotor and Subotica and that Yugoslavia will have a consulate in Vukovar. And in Osijek, a conference of relatives of missing persons from Croatia and Yugoslavia concluded by issuing a statement calling on authorities in Belgrade, Zagreb, and Sarajevo to release all remaining prisoners from the 1991-1995 war as the three states are obliged to do under the Dayton agreement. PM HAGUE COURT FINES CROATIAN LAWYER. The Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 15 December fined Croatian defense attorney Anto Nobilo $5,300 for disclosing the name of a witness whose identity was supposed to remain confidential. Nobilo said he did not know that the witness's identity was a secret. And in Zagreb, a county court formally indicted Dinko Sakic, whom Argentina recently extradited to Croatia to face a series of charges stemming from Sakic's role at the Jasenovac concentration camp during World War II. PM FORMER ALBANIAN PRESIDENT CALLED AS DEFENDANT IN COUP PROBE. A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's office told ATSH on 15 December that prosecutors have called Sali Berisha to testify in an investigation into the alleged coup attempt on 14 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 14 September 1998). Berisha was previously summoned as a witness to answer questions about the 14 September event, but he refused to appear. The prosecutors have now classified him as a defendant, which obliges him to appear before the prosecutors. The parliament lifted Berisha's immunity from prosecution following the violence, but so far no formal charges have been brought against him, Reuters reported. The Democratic Party issued a statement calling the summons an "act of blind political revenge." FS ROMANIAN PROSECUTOR SAYS NO 'TERRORISTS' INVOLVED IN 1989 EVENTS... Chief military prosecutor Dan Voinea told journalists on 15 December that investigations show that no Romanian or foreign "terrorists" were involved in the attempt to crush the 1989 upheaval against the communist regime. Voinea said those responsible for ordering the opening of fire on demonstrators were members of the army and of the state and Communist Party apparatus. He also said that next week, several former army commanders will be charged in connection with the December 1989 events. The same day, Deputy Prosecutor-General Mircea Zarie said General Paul Vasile is among those to be prosecuted for ordering the opening of fire on demonstrators in Timisoara. MS ...WHILE CONSTANTINESCU DENIES 'WAR ON ARMY'. President Emil Constantinescu on 15 December rejected an accusation by an unidentified "group of generals and officers" that he is "waging total war on the Romanian army." The accusation was contained in an "open letter" published in the daily "Cotidianul." Constantinescu said the accusation is part of the campaign launched against himself and the government's policies of integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. The Ministry of Defense said in reaction that the likely authors of the letter are "precisely those involved" in the December 1989 events, who now find themselves under investigation. At the same time, the ministry said it is "inadmissible" for the Prosecutor-General's Office to pursue in a "communist-like manner" its investigation, without taking into account that officers who opened fire in 1989 did so "under orders." MS SENATE APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL ARTICLE ON NATIONAL MINORITIES. The Senate on 15 December approved a controversial article in a law on public administration that grants national minorities the right to use their mother tongue in contacts with the authorities in localities where they make up at least 20 percent of the population . Other controversial articles of the law, allowing street signs in minority languages and debates in municipal councils in those languages, have not yet been voted on. The opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania walked out of the debate to protest the approval of the controversial article. MS MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS URGE LUCINSCHI TO DECLARE EMERGENCY STATE. Vladimir Voronin, leader of the Party of Moldovan Communists, has said President Petru Lucinschi must "stop [simply] talking about the need to enlarge his presidential prerogatives and [instead] act on it." Voronin said Lucinschi must begin by dismissing Ion Ciubuc's cabinet and taking over the premiership himself, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He said Lucinschi must declare a state of emergency in view of the country's economic situation, adding that his party is ready to participate a new cabinet, which, he said, will not be made up "exclusively" of Communists. Voronin criticized the budget approved last week, saying it is "a hybrid between IMF-imposed conditions and Moldovan corruption." But IMF representative to Moldova Mark Horton, praised the passage of the budget, saying the IMF is now likely to resume loans to Chisinau, Infotag reported. MS BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT HEEDS PRESIDENTIAL VETO AGAIN. The parliament on 15 December voted by 157 to one with two abstentions to pass a law on international passports and the status of aliens, thereby upholding a presidential veto on an earlier version of the law. President Petar Stoyanov had vetoed that version, saying that a provision preventing Bulgarian citizens from contesting in court the decision not to issue a passport on security grounds violated the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights, BTA reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1998). MS BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS RULING PARTY OUT OF TOUCH WITH SOCIETY. Ivan Kostov on 15 December told the National Council of the ruling Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) that the party has failed in "establishing a proper dialogue with society." He said the SDS needs to "urgently promote" parliamentary deputies who are capable of explaining the party's legislative policies. Kostov also said some ministers "often react emotionally" and "engage in debates that do not reflect society's interests." He said the process of nominating SDS candidates for the local elections will be completed by the end of June 1999 and the election campaign will begin in September, BTA reported. MS END NOTE LOOKING WEST FROM BEIJING by Paul Goble Having consolidated its status as a major economic player in Asia, China is now positioning itself to play an expanded economic and geopolitical role within and among the post-Soviet states. But just as along the Pacific rim, Beijing's growing influence in these states is also generating a kind of backlash that the Chinese authorities have not yet found a way to overcome. Consequently, China's impact on developments in these countries--both intentional and unintentional--may prove to be large but very different from what the leaders in Beijing almost certainly would like to see. That downside risk helps explain why Beijing has moved so cautiously in the political realm up to now. But an event last week signals that at least some in the Chinese capital are prepared to take the greater risks associated with a higher political profile. On 10 December, Beijing successfully sold more than $500 million in bonds on the international market. This sale has attracted international attention not only because it was the first such offering by an Asian country since the August collapse of the Russian ruble but also because it was so clearly political. Beijing currently has more than $140 billion in foreign currency reserves and thus has no immediate need for the cash raised by this sale. Instead, it appears to have made this offering in order to highlight its stability, economic progress, and growing political influence. Not surprisingly, that aspect of the sale has sent shock waves through many Asian capitals. But those capitals may play an equally important role in the post- Soviet states, helping Moscow rein in its restive Far East while giving the other countries of the region expanded freedom of action. China's impact on the Russian Far East is likely to be especially great, but it may prove the most complex. On the one hand, increased Chinese involvement in the economy of that hard-pressed area is likely to be welcomed by the population, as long as it does not entail large-scale Chinese immigration. Such economic improvement, in turn, could push some regional leaders to think about pursuing an even more independent course, one that some have said might even include eventual independence as a Pacific rim state. But on the other hand, Moscow will almost certainly use any increase in Chinese participation there to generate Russian nationalism and hence increase cohesion of the Russian Federation. Over the past five years, Moscow officials and especially those in the military have sought to frighten Russians in the region by suggesting that an overpopulated China continues to look "greedily" at the wealthy but underpopulated Russian Far East. And Russian generals frequently have dramatically overstated the number of Chinese migrants there in order to press the case for greater vigilance against what they say is the Chinese threat. Such campaigns have not always worked, but they have proved effective in countering nascent secessionist movements in the region. They are likely to be tried again and may be more effective if China becomes the dominant player in the region, thus eliminating or at least reducing the possibility that leaders of the Russian Far East could play off China against Japan. China's impact on other post-Soviet states is likely to be larger and also less contradictory. Until recently, China has pursued a relatively low profile in both Central Asia and further afield, including the southern Caucasus and Ukraine. Now, it appears likely that China will choose to increase its economic presence and hence its political influence in these countries. Such a development would likely have three major consequences: First, it would give the economies of these countries a boost. Second, it almost certainly would lead other Asian countries to increase their participation in the economies of these countries, thus diversifying the latter's economic ties. And third, it would give these countries expanded opportunities to stand up to Russian pressure while participating in economic ties with a country that in most cases would be less likely to provoke Moscow than would greater attachments to Western states. In all these ways, China's latest sale of bonds may have an impact on the entire post-Soviet region. In itself, that sale is yet another indication of the way in which these countries are now being integrated not just into the West but into the world economy. 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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