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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 244, Part II, 21 December 1998


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 244, Part II, 21 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

* SLOVAK RULING COALITION CANDIDATES LEAD IN LOCAL
ELECTIONS

* ORBAN ON RELATIONS WITH NEIGHBORS

* KOSOVARS HOLD FUNERAL FOR 'MARTYRS'
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

KUCHMA ASKS PARLIAMENT TO ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has asked the Supreme
Council to pass a law abolishing the death penalty in
accordance with the country's international obligations,
AP reported on 19 December. Ukraine agreed to abolish
capital punishment in 1995 when it joined the Council of
Europe. It introduced a moratorium on executions in
March 1997. This year, Ukrainian courts have sentenced
more than 80 people to death, but none has been
executed. JM

LAZARENKO RETURNS FROM SWITZERLAND TO UKRAINE. Ukrainian
former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who has been
indicted for alleged money-laundering in Switzerland but
freed on bail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 1998),
returned to Ukraine on 19 December. Viktor Omelich of
the Hromada party, which is headed by Lazarenko, told
Ukrainian Television that Lazarenko has been "degraded,
insulted, and completely destroyed by [Ukraine's]
authorities" and "will be continually working to show
the [true] reason for his arrest to the entire public."
Meanwhile, parliamentary deputy Hryhoriy Omelchenko told
Ukrainian Television the day before that Lazarenko
deposited some $200 million in several bank accounts in
Switzerland over the past three years. JM

UKRAINIAN CENTRAL BANK CUTS DISCOUNT RATE. The Central
Bank has lowered the discount rate from 82 percent to 60
percent as of 21 December and ordered commercial banks
to adjust their interest rates to the new figure, AP
reported on 18 December. The decision came several day
after National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko said
Ukraine's currency market has started to show signs of
stabilization following the onset of Russia's financial
and economic crisis. JM

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT TO PASS BUDGET BY YEAR'S END?
Lawmakers will meet in an extraordinary session on 29
December to consider the 1999 budget in the third and
final reading, ETA reported. During the second reading
of the bill at an 18 December extraordinary session, the
opposition pushed through amendments that have resulted
in a deficit of 50 million kroons ($3.8 million). ETA
quoted an unnamed member of the government as saying
that Prime Minister Mart Siimann intends to negotiate
the issue with opposition leaders. JC

ESTONIAN SHIPPING COMPANY TO SUE FINNISH DOCKWORKERS.
The Estonian Shipping Company has said it will file suit
against Finnish dockworkers who are refusing to unload
the company's ships, BNS reported on 18 December. The
Finns are demanding that Estonian seamen's wages be
raised to Finnish levels in what Estonian shipping
officials say is an action aimed at squeezing cheaper
Estonian cargo ships out of lucrative routes. Estonian
seamen make some $300 a month, while their Finnish
counterparts earn $2,500. The Estonian Shipping company
has already lost $210,000 dollars in the week-long
boycott. JC

LITHUANIAN CONSTUTIONAL COURT RE-AFFIRMS GOVERNMENT
POWERS. The Constitutional Court ruled late on 17
December that the parliament does not have to re-affirm
its confidence in the government following the
resignation of Transport Minister Algis Zvaliauskas in
late November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 30 November
1998). As a result of Zvaliauskas's resignation, the
cabinet was left with only seven of the original 14
cabinet members. Under Lithuanian law, the government
must seek a renewed mandate from the parliament if half
of its members are replaced. The court ruled, however,
that Gediminas Vagnorius's cabinet was re-affirmed in
office after the election earlier this year of President
Valdas Adamkus and therefore did not need to be approved
again by the parliament following Zvaliauskas's
resignation. JC

LITHUANIA'S SOCIAL DEMOCRATS QUIZ ECONOMY MINISTER. The
parliamentary group of the Social Democrats have
submitted an interpellation on Economy Minister Vincas
Babilius signed by 30 parliamentary deputies, BNS
reported on 18 December. The signatories are demanding
an explanation of, among other things, the construction
of the Butinge oil terminal and the government's energy
strategy. Babilius must respond to the submitted
questions within 10 days. The Social Democrats are
seeking Babilius's removal on the grounds of what they
call his incompetence in heading the ministry and in
dealing with the energy sector and privatization (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1998). To remove a
minister from office, more than half of the
parliamentary deputies must vote in favor of such a
move. JC

POLISH COAL MINING STRIKE CONTINUES TO SPREAD. Some 340
miners from 48 mines in the Silesia region took part in
sit-in strikes on 18 December, PAP reported. The miners
are protesting the recently adopted pension law, which
sets retirement age limits at 65 for men and 60 for
women. They want to be able to retire after having
worked for 25 years, as provided for by the previous
pension law. Solidarity's national mining section, which
organized the protest, has announced a vote on an all-
out strike in the mining sector. Meanwhile, several
hundred steelworkers demonstrated in Warsaw on 18
December to demand benefit packages similar to those for
miners under a restructuring plan for the coal mining
industry. A planned restructuring of the steel sector is
to cut jobs almost in half and privatize the sector over
the next two years. JM

KWASNIEWSKI UPBEAT ON GERMANY'S EU PRESIDENCY IN 1999.
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has high hopes
for the first six month of 1999, in which Germany will
assume the rotating EU chairmanship, Polish Television
reported on 19 December. After a private meeting with
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin the same
day, Kwasniewski said he has "no doubts as to the
expansion of the EU and...to the stance of Germany in
this respect." He added that Germany's commitment to EU
expansion is demonstrated by the fact that Germany will
continue to pay high contributions to the EU on
condition that those monies are allocated to the union's
further enlargement. The two presidents agreed to hold a
Polish-German summit in Gdansk in April. JM

HAVEL'S CONDITION IMPROVING. The condition of Czech
President Vaclav Havel has improved, and he is planning
a meeting with Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 21
December, Czech media report. A press release from
Havel's office said doctors will decide early this week
whether the president will leave for his planned three-
week Christmas holiday abroad.

SLOVAK RULING COALITION CANDIDATES LEAD IN LOCAL
ELECTIONS. Preliminary results from the local elections
held on 18-19 December show that six out of the eight
newly elected mayors of Slovakia's regional capitals are
from the government coalition and two from the
opposition, CTK reported. According to those results,
the coalition parties will have 41 mayors and the
opposition 11, while 9 new mayors are independent. Among
the coalition government mayors are former Premier Josef
Moravcik (Bratislava), Rudolf Schuster (Kosice), and Jan
Kralik (Banska Bystrica). Jan Slota, leader of the
opposition Slovak National Party, was re-elected mayor
of Zilina. Final results are expected on 22 December.
The head of the Central Electoral Commission, Eduard
Barany, said it is s too early to estimate turnout
figures, but Reuters reported that most districts in
which votes have been counted had a turnout of between
35 and 45 percent. MS

SLOVAK PROSECUTOR-GENERAL RESIGNS. Michal Valo on 18
December resigned as of 1 January, following an
agreement reached with parliamentary chairman Jozef
Migas and leaders of the four parties represented in the
ruling coalition. In his letter of resignation, Valo
said he is quitting "in the interest of calming the
tensions caused by the attempts to have me dismissed,
which were accompanied by groundless attacks on the
Prosecutor-General's Office and on me personally," CTK
reported. Valo's critics argue he has tolerated
violations of the law and defended the interests of the
state against those of individuals. They say that
without his consent, it would not have been possible to
halt the first investigation launched into the
kidnapping of former President Michal Kovac's son and
prevent the punishment of former Interior Minister
Gustav Krajci for hindering the May 1998 referendum on
entry to NATO and direct presidential elections. MS

ORBAN ON RELATIONS WITH NEIGHBORS. Hungarian Prime
Minister Viktor Orban on 18 December said Hungary's
relations with Austria and Slovenia are "excellent,"
ties with Romania are "viable," and cooperation with
Slovakia "holds out historical prospects" as a result of
the recent elections in that country. He was speaking on
Minorities' Day, while presenting awards to persons and
institutions representing ethnic minorities. Orban also
said the cabinet views ethnic Hungarians living outside
Hungary "not as a problem, but as a chance for creating
stability in the region." And he noted that Budapest's
goal is to see its neighbors admitted to the EU as soon
as possible, Hungarian media reported. Also on 18
December, Slovak Deputy Premier Pavol Hamzik told
Minister without Portfolio Imre Boros in Budapest that
ethnic Hungarian students will receive bilingual school
reports this semester. And during a visit to Vojvodina,
Agriculture Minister Jozef Torgyan said he is
"personally dissatisfied" with the conditions of ethnic
Hungarians in the region. MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

KOSOVARS HOLD FUNERAL FOR 'MARTYRS'Š Some 5,000 ethnic
Albanians attended the funeral at Pagarusha, near
Malisheva, on 20 December of 33 members of the Kosova
Liberation Army (UCK) who died in a clash with Yugoslav
forces near the Albanian border (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
16 December 1998). The men were buried on a ridge that
the UCK renamed the "Martyrs' Cemetery," VOA's Albanian
Service reported. Rama Buja, whom AP described as "a top
UCK commander," told the emotional gathering that "there
is no better nor more honorable way to die than to die
for one's fatherland." Meanwhile in Tirana, an
unidentified Western diplomat told Reuters on 21
December that the "brutal,Šarrogant, [and]
uncooperative" UCK has become a serious problem. The
diplomat added: "I don't know who the hell they think
they are or who they think they're dealing with, but for
guys who haven't done anything on the battlefield but
embarrass themselves they are incredibly arrogant." PM

ŠWHILE SERBS DEMAND PROTECTION. Unidentified gunmen
killed a Serbian policeman in the Podujeva area on 21
December, dpa reported. The previous day, some 300 Serbs
demonstrated in Prishtina to protest the murder of
Zvonko Bojanic, the deputy mayor of Fushe Kosova.
Speakers demanded the large-scale return of Serbian
paramilitary police to the area even though that would
violate the provisions of the two-month-old agreement
between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and U.S.
special envoy Richard Holbrooke. On 19 December, UCK
spokesman Adem Demaci denied that the guerrillas killed
Bojanic. Demaci stressed that the UCK attacks only army
or police targets. Several observers both inside and
outside the region have suggested that the several dozen
killings in Kosova over the past 10 days have made the
Milosevic-Holbrooke agreement a dead letter, VOA's
Croatian Service reported on 21 December. PM

MILOSEVIC AIDE BLASTS U.S. Zivorad Igic, who is a top
aide to Milosevic, told state-run Tanjug news agency on
20 December that Washington is "supportive" of ethnic
Albanian "terrorists" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18
December 1998). The previous day, three men appeared
outside the Prishtina home of William Walker, the U.S.
envoy who heads the civilian verification mission for
Kosova. One policeman, who was drunk, pointed a pistol
at Walker's house, "Danas" on 21 December quoted Walker
as saying. One of Walker's unarmed ethnic Albanian
bodyguards sought help from a Serbian policeman on duty
near the house, but the man refused to leave his post
and look into the incident. Walker noted that the
Serbian authorities have refused to allow his bodyguards
to carry weapons, the independent daily added. The
diplomat concluded that the Serbian authorities are not
doing enough for his security. PM

OGATA FEARS NEW FIGHTING. Sadako Ogata, who is the UN's
High Commissioner for Refugees, said in Prishtina on 21
December that she fears that full-scale fighting will
break out in the province in early 1999 unless the two
sides reach a political settlement soon. Ogata arrived
in Kosova the previous day to assess the problems facing
returning displaced persons and refugees during and
after the winter. She said that she is interested in
long-term solutions to the Kosovars' problems and not
just stop-gap measures. Of the 250,000 people who fled
their homes during the 1998 Serbian crackdown, some
75,000 have returned and 175,000 are staying in
temporary housing or with friends and relatives. PM

ALBANIA REPORTS NEW BORDER VIOLATION. The Albanian
Interior Ministry said in a statement on 19 December
that six federal Yugoslav soldiers crossed into Albania
the previous day and fired shots into a village in the
Tropoja region for about 45 minutes. Another 14 soldiers
watched from Yugoslav territory. All Yugoslav soldiers
subsequently withdrew from the frontier area. No one was
injured in the incident. FS

RAPID REACTION FORCE CONTINUE TO ARRIVE IN MACEDONIA.
Some 1,200 troops out of a planned 1,700-strong NATO
rapid reaction force have arrived in Macedonia, AP
reported on 19 December. The remaining soldiers are due
by the end of the first week in January. The force will
rescue unarmed civilian monitors in Kosova should they
run into danger. The soldiers are based in Kumanovo and
Tetovo as well as at Skopje's Petrovec airport. PM

FIRE DESTROYS BOSNIAN NEWS AGENCY'S OFFICES. A blaze
destroyed the offices and equipment of the Onasa news
agency in Sarajevo on 19 December. Fire Chief Mesud
Jusufovic told "Dnevni Avaz" that the fire was
"unprecedented" in its size and heat and that his men
used 22 pieces of equipment to stop the blaze from
spreading. Police are investigating the cause of the
fire. Journalists at the agency appealed to colleagues
elsewhere to help them relaunch their operation, which
the daily "Oslobodjenje" began in 1994. PM

TUDJMAN PRAISES TIES TO RUSSIA. Croatian President
Franjo Tudjman said in Zagreb on 19 December that his
two-day trip to Russia does not "mean turning our back
on the United States." He added, however, that U.S.
Ambassador to Croatia William Montgomery's recent
critical remarks of the president are "out of the
framework of normal diplomatic relationsŠ[and
constitute] far-fetched observations." Tudjman added
that Croatia will not allow any country to "treat us
like a colony." In Moscow on 18 December, Tudjman
praised Russia's "constructive" role in international
relations while his aides signed several agreements,
including ones on arms purchases and defense. The
independent daily "Jutarnji list" wrote on 21 December
that Tudjman is promoting ties to Russia in the face of
growing U.S. criticism of his policies in Bosnia and at
home (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December 1998). The
daily added that any effort to offset problems with
Washington by flirting with Moscow is "unproductive" in
the post-Cold War world. PM

ALBANIA'S BERISHA WANTS PROSECUTOR REMOVED. Lawyers for
opposition leader Sali Berisha on 18 December formally
requested that Prosecutor Bujar Himci be removed from a
criminal investigation into Berisha. Himci had signed a
summons obliging Berisha to testify as a defendant in
connection with his alleged involvement in organizing
the coup attempt on 14 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
18 September 1998). Berisha, however, refused to appear.
His lawyers argue that Himci is biased, pointing out
that the prosecutor earlier charged Berisha with
inciting terrorism in an unrelated case. Unidentified
persons had bombed Himci's private home on 22 September.
Himci subsequently said that Berisha was politically
responsible for that attack, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported
on 20 December. FS

ROMANIAN MINERS POSTPONE LABOR ACTION. Miners in the Jiu
Valley has decided to postpone their strike until after
the Christmas vacation, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau
reported on 19 December. They said labor action will be
resumed on 4 January. On 18 December, Trade and Industry
minister Radu Berceanu refused to receive miners' leader
Miron Cozma and told his deputies the government is
determined to go ahead with the closure of loss-making
pits on 21 December. Cozma was briefly detained by the
police because of a court ruling earlier this year
banning him from entering the capital for two years. He
was freed after court officials clarified that the
sentence has been appealed. Meanwhile, miners at the
Brad mines ended their hunger strike but continue to
take other labor action. Miners at the Minvest copper,
gold, and iron mines in the Apuseni Mountains have
postponed a planned protest march on Bucharest until 23
December. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER CONCLUDES GAS DELIVERY DEAL IN MOSCOW.
Premier Ion Ciubuc signed in Moscow on 18 December an
agreement with Gazprom for deliveries of gas supplies in
1999, Infotag and Flux reported. Moldova will pay $60
per 1,000 cubic meters instead of $58, as in this year.
Gazprom agreed to increase deliveries from 2.4 to 3
million cubic meters. Chisinau will pay for half of
these deliveries in Moldovan products and half in cash.
Also on 18 December, Chisinau transferred $3 million to
Gazprom toward settling its current debt to that
company. The two sides agreed that by end of January
1999, Moldova will transfer $90 million state bonds to
Gazprom, ahead of the establishment of a Russian-
Moldovan gas company, in which Russia has a 51 percent
stake. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
SUCCESSFUL. "The mafia no longer sets the rules in the
political and economic spheres," Ivan Kostov told the
parliament on 18 December, according to BTA. He noted
that the decreasing inflation means that borrowers among
organized criminal groups can no longer "inflate away
their debt to the state." Kostov said the government is
powerful enough to deal with the remaining smuggling
rings that "generate illegal profits" and were able in
the past to bribe administration officials. On 20
December, AP reported that one of the purported leaders
of the Bulgarian mafia, Ivo Karamanski, was killed at a
villa near Sofia when a quarrel erupted among the guests
at a party. Karamanski, a former national rowing
champion who ran a prosperous insurance company, was
sentenced in 1996 to two years in prison for fraud. MS

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