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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 246, Part II, 23 December 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 246, Part II, 23 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 Note to readers: "RFE/RL Newsline" will not appear on 24 and 25 December, which are Christmas holidays in the Czech Republic. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * UKRAINE TO PRINT MONEY TO PAY BACK WAGES * UCK WANTS POLICE OUT OF CENTRAL KOSOVA * ALBANIAN STUDENTS END HUNGER STRIKE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE TO PRINT MONEY TO PAY BACK WAGES. Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko said on 22 December that Ukraine will print money next year to cover its mounting wage arrears, AP reported. He added that the cabinet plans a monetary emission of 1 billion hryvni ($290 million), but he did not say how he expects the money emission to affect the 1999 inflation rate, which has been forecast at 19 percent. JM UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT DECREES CUTBACK IN ARMED FORCES. The Supreme Council on 22 December passed a bill reducing the current 320,000 servicemen by 10,000 and the army's 100,000 civilian staff by the same amount in 1999, Ukrainian media reported. The Ukrainian government has said it can spend only some 1 billion hryvni ($290 million) on the army next year. The Defense Ministry, however, maintains that the armed forces need at least three times that amount. JM KUCHMA CANCELS FINES TO ENCOURAGE TAX COLLECTION. President Leonid Kuchma has signed a decree canceling fines on companies that pay all their 1998 taxes by February 1999, Ukrainian News reported on 22 December. Kuchma's decision is seen as a measure to improve poor tax collection. The nationwide tax debt skyrocketed from 2.3 billion hryvni in January ($1.1 billion at the then exchange rate) to 10.2 billion hryvni ($3 billion) as of 1 December. JM BELARUSIAN NEWSPAPER WINS LAWSUIT OVER SPELLING. The Higher Economic Court on 22 December ruled in favor of the Belarusian-language biweekly "Nasha Niva," which defied warnings by the State Press Committee by continuing to use the traditional, non-Russified Belarusian orthography banned by the Soviet regime in 1933 (see "RFE/RL Newsline End Note," 10 August 1998), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. "Nasha Niva" editor Syarhey Dubavets sued the committee after it had warned the newspaper not to "distort the generally accepted norms of the language." A panel of linguists assembled by the court found that no "generally accepted norms of the language have ever been determined." The court accepted that view and fined the committee 2.5 million Belarusian rubles ($24). Dubavets said the verdict "provided a very positive result for the Belarusian language itself...and those discriminated in Belarus from time immemorial for using this language." JM BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST RELEASED FROM PRISON, FACES ANOTHER TRIAL. Valery Shchukin, a deputy of the Supreme Soviet dissolved by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in 1996, was released from prison on 22 December after serving a 15-day sentence for participating in an unsanctioned workers' demonstration last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 1998), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. He must now appear in court on 28 December in connection with participating in a Belarusian Popular Front demonstration earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December 1998). Shchukin, who has been repeatedly tried and imprisoned for his opposition activities, scored two successes in his struggle for prisoners' rights while in prison. By threatening to organize a picket in the prison yard, he forced the administration to rid his cell of mice. He also made the administration provide him with a real spoon, while other prisoners were given "a sort of thimble" with which to eat. JM ESTONIA'S MERI NAMED 'EUROPEAN OF THE YEAR.' An international jury chaired by former European Commission President Jacques Delors has named Estonian President Lennart Meri the "European of 1998." Delors said in a letter that the jury wanted to pay tribute to Meri's "indefatigable struggle" for the rebirth of Estonia and for his commitment to the unity of Europe. Meri will receive the award, which is organized by the French magazine "La Vie," from French President Jacques Chirac in Paris in February. JC MOSCOW BERATES TALLINN OVER LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS FOR DEPUTIES. Speaking to journalists in Moscow on 22 December, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin criticized amendments passed by Estonian lawmakers last week that stipulate language requirements for elected officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 1998). Interfax quoted Rakhmanin as saying that this is a move aimed at forcing ethnic minorities out of the country's political life," adding that some "renowned experts" consider the amendments run counter to the Estonian Constitution. He added that if the amendments are signed into law by the Estonian president, they may "seriously complicate" the participation of non-Estonians in the local elections next fall. Under the amendments, 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. JC LATVIAN COALITION PARTNER TO ACCEPT SOCIAL DEMOCRAT AS AGRICULTURE MINISTER? Fatherland and Freedom chairman Maris Grinblats told reporters on 22 December that the party's council may approve Social Democrat Peteris Salkazanovs as agriculture minister but rejects the idea of any larger involvement of the Social Democrats in the government, BNS reported. Grinblats said it is not the aim of the Fatherland and Freedom party to trigger a government crisis, especially when the budget for next year has not been approved. Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans has appointed Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Vents Balodis as acting agriculture minister until the Fatherland and Freedom party makes a decision on Salkazanovs's nomination. JC LITHUANIA ANNOUNCES CHRISTMAS AMNESTY. The Lithuanian parliament on 22 December granted amnesty to some 2,000 convicted prisoners, mostly youths, women, and men over 65. Under the amnesty, pregnant women and single mothers who have children under 18 will be released unconditionally, BNS reported. This is the fifth amnesty in Lithuania over the past eight years. The previous amnesties were in 1990, 1993, 1995, and 1996, according to the news agency. JC POLISH MINERS CONTINUE TO PROTEST NEW PENSION LAW. Representatives of the government, employers, and striking miners held talks on resolving the dispute over the new pension law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 December 1998) but failed to work out a clear agreement, PAP reported on 22 December. Wojciech Kornowski, head of the Confederation of Polish Employers, said miners who have performed 25 years' service will receive so-called bridge pensions equal to 70 percent of their monthly wage. However, Henryk Nakonieczny, leader of Solidarity's coal mining section, said the talks resulted in no written agreement and therefore the strike will continue. According to Solidarity, 95 percent of miners supported a general strike in a vote held in 40 mines on 21 December. "On 23 December. we shall determine how to continue the protest," Nakonieczny said. JM NON-SOLIDARITY TRADE UNIONS AGREE TO PROTEST GOVERNMENT POLICIES. Eighteen trade unions that work in opposition to Solidarity have established a committee to protest government socioeconomic policies, PAP reported on 22 December. Members of the committee include representatives of the leftist National Trade Union Alliance, the rightist August '80 Free Trade Union, and the ultra-radical Farmers' Self-Defense. The committee's first joint action will be to protest the 1999 draft budget. JM HAVEL LEAVES FOR VACATION. President Vaclav Havel left Prague on 22 December for the Canary Islands, where he will spend the Christmas holidays as a guest of Spanish King Juan Carlos, Reuters reported. The holiday is officially described as "recuperative," and Havel will continue receiving treatment for the respiratory infection that caused him to cancel his work schedule last week. A presidential adviser told "RFE/RL Newsline" the same day that Havel's 21 December reference to the possibility of his resignation "merely meant that he is not the kind of politician who would continue holding office at any costs, if he is no longer wanted." The adviser stressed, however, that Havel "did not in any way imply he intended to resign." MS SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER APOLOGIZES TO KOVAC JR. Eduard Kukan on 22 December publicly apologized to Michal Kovac Jr., for his ministry's passiveness over Kovac's abduction to Austria in 1995. In September 1996, the Constitutional Court ruled that the former president's son's right to re-enter Slovakia, enshrined in the constitution, had been violated by the ministry's lack of action after the abduction to Austria. Also on 22 December, Kukan told journalists that either former Foreign Minister Zdenka Kramplova must return home by 23 December or her diplomatic passport will be declared invalid. Kramplova was appointed ambassador to Canada at the end of the mandate of Vladimir Meciar's cabinet. She was dismissed by the new government in November but failed to obey orders to return to Bratislava, CTK reported. FINAL RESULTS OF SLOVAK LOCAL ELECTIONS ANNOUNCED. The final results of the 18-19 December local elections show that Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) remains the strongest single party but has less support than the combined forces of the government coalition, AP and Reuters reported. The coalition won in more than 800 mayoral races. Independent candidates won 816 districts, the HZDS 602, and the opposition Slovak National Party (SNS) 114. Of the 35,465 local councilors elected, the HZDS has 8,140 and the SNS 2,136. Among ruling coalition members, the Party of the Democratic Left gained 5,793 seats, the Christian Democrats 4,276, the Hungarian Coalition 3,773, and the Party of Civic Understanding 1,041. 3,177 councilors are independents. MS HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION FOILS NATO-RELATED AMENDMENT IN FINAL VOTE... The parliament on 22 December rejected in the final vote a constitutional amendment that would have transferred from the legislature to the government the power to approve the movement of foreign troops on Hungarian territory. The vote was 184 to 17 with 101 abstentions and thus failed to produce the necessary two-thirds majority. As was the case last week, the coalition parties voted for the amendment, the Socialists abstained, and the Free Democrats did not participate in the vote. The Justice and Life Party voted against the amendment. Socialist chairman Laszlo Kovacs told journalists that his party will submit a motion that transfers to the cabinet the power to approve foreign troop movements related to humanitarian goals and disaster relief, while the legislature will still have to approve by a two-thirds majority the transit of peacekeepers, Hungarian media reported. MS ...APPROVES OTHER NATO-RELATED LEGISLATION. The parliament did, however, pass amendments to the law on the secret service that are a pre-condition for NATO membership (which the failed constitutional amendment is not). It also passed a bill setting up a National Security Supervision Office, also a pre-condition for joining the alliance. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE UCK WANTS POLICE OUT OF CENTRAL KOSOVA. Adem Demaci, who is the political spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said in Prishtina on 22 December that the guerrillas will attack the Serbian paramilitary police "everywhere" unless the police leave mainly ethnic Albanian areas of central Kosova. He added that the police are not welcome in areas where no Serbs live. In a statement, the UCK added that the Serbs must dismantle all checkpoints that they have set up since the crackdown began at the end of February or risk attacks by the UCK. The guerrillas also called for freedom of movement for all citizens, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM U.S. DIPLOMATS TALK WITH UCK. Lawrence Rossin, who is director of the State Department's Office for South and Central Europe, and other U.S. diplomats met with representatives of the UCK in a remote Kosovar village on 22 December in an effort to end the spiral of violence in the province. A UCK spokesman said later that the guerrillas had nothing to do with the recent slayings of Serbian civilians and that the UCK targets only military and police personnel. Meanwhile in the Peja area, Serbian forces killed one Kosovar and arrested six others in a raid on a suspected guerrilla stronghold. Serbian spokesmen in Prishtina said the police killed the man after Kosovars opened fire on the police. The Kosovar news agency KIC said in a statement that the man was killed "in cold blood" in front of his home. PM WALKER CALLS BELGRADE 'UNCOOPERATIVE.' The head of the international monitors in Kosova, U.S. diplomat William Walker, told independent Belgrade Radio B-92 on 22 December that the Serbian "authorities are generally uncooperative with the [monitoring] mission." Walker added that most of his requests to those officials "have drawn a negative response." He also criticized the Serbian authorities for preventing the Prishtina Albanian-language daily "Bujku" from publishing (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 December 1998). The envoy blasted the UCK for "irresponsibly┼carrying out provocative missions" against Serbian targets. PM OGATA CALLS FOR 'CONFIDENCE-BUILDING MEASURES.' UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata completed a three-day trip On 22 December that took her to Kosova and Belgrade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December 1998). In the Serbian capital, she called for "further confidence-building measures" in Kosova and appealed, in particular, to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to implement the amnesty he agreed to in his October agreement with U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke. She noted that "people are arrested [by Serbian police] on the way to their villages or once they return home┼and this does not contribute to rebuilding confidence in the province." Ogata also praised the cooperation of the Serbian authorities in enabling displaced persons to return to their homes. PM KADARE WANTS KOSOVARS TO FOLLOW ALBANIAN EXAMPLE. Paris- based Ismail Kadare, who is the most prominent living Albanian writer, told the VOA's Albanian service on 23 December that the recent opening of a dialogue between Albania's government and opposition is "the most encouraging news" he has heard from Albania this year (see below). He stressed that the Kosovars also need to find a common platform among themselves in order to negotiate a political settlement with the Serbs. Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko said in Tirana the previous day that he and opposition leader Sali Berisha found much "agreement" and "[common] orientation regarding Kosova and the national issue in general" at their recent meeting. Since the Socialists took office in 1997, the opposition has repeatedly charged them with abandoning the Kosovars in their fight for independence. FS LEADING MONTENEGRIN PARTY REAFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR YUGOSLAVIA. Misko Vukovic, who is a top aide to President Milo Djukanovic, told RFE/RL correspondents in Podgorica on 22 December that his Democratic Socialist Party does not support a proposal by a junior member of the governing coalition aimed at considerably weakening Montenegro's links to Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 1998). Vukovic added that Montenegro will observe the terms of its 1992 federation agreement with Serbia "as long as there remains a real chance of defeating the totalitarian regime of Slobodan Milosevic." PM PANGALOS STRESSES POSITIVE TRENDS IN SKOPJE. Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said in Skopje on 22 December that the new Macedonian government consists of "people who mean business." He stressed that the two neighboring countries should stress their common Orthodox bonds and "make love, not war." He nonetheless added that Greece "will never recognize a Slavic minority" in the part of the historic region of Macedonia that belongs to Greece. Pangalos and his hosts stressed the importance of cooperation in transportation, energy and telecommunications. Greece imposed a crippling trade embargo on Macedonia from 1994 to 1995 but has since sought to expand its economic presence there. Greece is now Macedonia's third largest trading partner and the largest source of foreign investments. PM SFOR OUSTS CROATIAN POLICE FROM BOSNIAN TOWN. Croatian police peacefully left the Bosnian border town of Martin Brod on 23 December after Canadian peacekeepers told them to do so on the orders of the international community's Carlos Westendorp. Police from the Bosnian federation then took up posts in the town, which belongs to Bosnia but which Croatian forces occupied in 1995 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December 1998). In Sarajevo, a spokesman for Alija Izetbegovic, who is the Muslim member of the joint presidency, praised SFOR's action. The previous day, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Bosnian leaders opened a bridge linking Zupanja in eastern Croatia and Orasje across the Sava River in Bosnia. PM HAGUE COURT INDICTS TWO BOSNIAN CROATS. The Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 22 December indicted Mladen Naletilic, also known as "Tuta," and Vinko Martinovic, also known as "Stela," for numerous war crimes against Muslims in the Mostar area in 1993. The two could face life imprisonment if convicted. AP reported that Croatian police have arrested the men in Zagreb but added that it is not clear when they will be transferred to The Hague. PM UN POLICE SACK TWO BOSNIAN SERBS. The Sarajevo-based International Police Task Force fired Momir Vukovic and Spasoje Camur from high-ranking jobs in the Republika Srpska police for their involvement in the forced detention and torture of 14 persons in connection with the August slaying of leading Bosnian Serb police official Srdjan Knezevic. Knezevic supported the moderate leadership based in Banja Luka. Many observers suggested he was killed by hard-liners loyal to Radovan Karadzic. PM ALBANIAN STUDENTS END HUNGER STRIKE. Student leader Besnik Jaku and Education Minister Ethem Ruka on 22 December signed an agreement on ending the 13-day student hunger strike (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 1998). Ruka agreed to increase student scholarships by 17.5 percent after 1 April 1999, "Albanian Daily News" reported. He also pledged to improve living conditions in dormitories within a mutually agreed timeframe. The accord also provides for increased university autonomy and a special legal status for the university campus. The negotiations took place at the dean's office under the mediation of OSCE Ambassador to Albania Daan Everts. Everts praised the accord as the result of the Albanians' attempts to try "to find a common language," adding that "a new wind is blowing for the ruling [Socialists] and the opposition." FS POSITIVE REACTIONS TO ALBANIAN RIVALS' MEETING. Albanian and international observers have praised a 21 December meeting between opposition leader Sali Berisha and Prime Minister Pandeli Majko as an important step toward overcoming Albania's political polarization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 1998). Majko told public television that it was "Albanian citizens...who benefited from the newly begun dialogue" rather than any politicians. Senior Democratic Party legislator Ylli Vejsiu said the meeting opened "a new chapter in defusing the political tensions," adding that "dialogue, tolerance, and compromise triumphed in the end." The U.S. State Department issued a statement calling the meeting "an extremely positive first step in healing the political cleavages that have stymied Albania's reform process." It also urged "all parties to maintain the positive momentum from this encounter" and the Democratic Party to end its boycott of the parliament. FS FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON 1989 UPRISING. Former President Ion Iliescu told a 22 December joint session of the parliament marking the ninth anniversary of the anti-communist uprising that those who "watched television" in 1989 are now accusing those who led the uprising of having "stolen the revolution." In an obvious allusion to the country's present leaders, Iliescu added that a "campaign is under way to tarnish the revolution's heroes, including its leaders and the army." MS FRENCH OIL COMPANY INVESTS IN ROMANIAN BLACK SEA DRILLING. France's oil giant Elf Aquitaine has signed an agreement in Bucharest with the national oil company Petrom to explore 10,000 square kilometers of the Black Sea over the next 30 years, AP reported on 22 December. The company will pay $10 million initially, and if oil is found, it will pay up to $500 million on development projects. Also on 22 December, the Turkish Akmaya Sanayi Ve Ticaret holding company bought a 65 percent majority stake in the Petromida oil refinery for $725 million. And Petrom director-general Ioan Popa announced that 30,000 employees will be laid off next year. MS ZHIRINOVSKY VISITS TIRASPOL. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, arriving in Tiraspol on 22 December, said that the Transdniester is "part of the Russian Federation" and that his Liberal Democratic Party of Russia "will be happy if it officially becomes one of Russia's provinces," Infotag reported. Zhirinovsky is scheduled to meet with Igor Smirnov and other Transdniester officials. Russia's ambassador to Chisinau, Alexander Papkin, told journalists that the visit is "unofficial." Zhirinovsky said the Russian Constitution obliges Moscow to "defend and protect our compatriots" and that he will demand that President Boris Yeltsin "undertake resolute action to recognize the Transdniester and establish direct economic ties with it." In an interview with Tiraspol Television the same day, Zhirinovsky said he does not rule out the possibility that the Transdniester will become a third member of the Russian-Belarus union. At the same time, he called on Transdniestrians to take up Russian citizenship in order to make it "easier for us to protect you." MS NEW ELECTORAL ALLIANCE IN BULGARIA. The recently-formed Social Democracy Union and the Euroleft Party on 21 December signed an agreement to cooperate and run joint lists in the fall 1999 local elections, BTA reported. Euroleft leader Alexander Tomov said the agreement "forms the nucleus of an essentially new opposition" and is "a model to be followed in the next general elections." MS FORMER KING SPENDS CHRISTMAS IN BULGARIA. Simeon II arrived in Bulgaria on 22 December and will spend the Christmas holidays there for the first time since he was forced to leave the country in 1946, AP reported. The former monarch will stay at the Czarska Bistritsa palace, which is part of his former estate. He will pay for his stay at the palace, because legal procedures for returning him both the palace and other properties, as approved by a court earlier this year, are still under way. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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