We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers. - Martin Luther King Jr
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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
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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.

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