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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 248, Part II, 29 December 1998


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 248, Part II, 29 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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YEAR IN REVIEW 1998
A roundup of articles examining major news events in
1998 in the RFE/RL broadcast region and beyond.
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/yearend98/index.html

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Headlines, Part II

* LENINGRAD MILITARY DISTRICT SETS UP BALTIC UNIT

* CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER WARNS AGAINST HASTE IN JOINING
EU

* RUGOVA WANTS NATO ROLE IN KOSOVA
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

KUCHMA ASSESSES OUTGOING YEAR AS 'COMPLEX,
CONTRADICTORY.' Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said
at a ceremony of bestowing state awards in Kyiv on 28
December that the year 1998 was "complex and
contradictory," but "the situation is neither hopeless
nor tragic," Ukrainian Television reported. According to
Kuchma, Ukrainians need to "halt complaining about
unfavorable conditions, roll up their sleeves, and get
down to work." Kuchma criticized those politicians who
made "populist proposals and promises" during the debate
of Ukraine's 1999 draft budget. "Unfortunately, I have
no grounds to say that the upcoming year 1999 will be
much easier [than 1998]. It is obviously impossible to
resolve sore problems quickly and painlessly," he added.
JM

CRIMEAN DEPUTY ARRESTED FOR PLOTTING CONTRACT MURDER.
Crimean police have arrested Mykola Kotlyarevskyy, a
deputy of the Crimean parliament, Ukrainian Television
reported on 28 December. Kotlyarevskyy is charged with
plotting a contract murder and a long string of
assaults, extortion, and engaging in swindling cases
with the assistance of a gang in 1994-97. Hennadiy
Moskal, head of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry's
Crimean Directorate, said the Crimean parliament "has at
least three [other] deputies with a criminal record,"
but did not disclose their names. JM

BELARUSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER BRIEFS ON MERGER WITH
RUSSIA. Belarusian Foreign Minister Ural Latypau on 28
December held a briefing for foreign diplomats in Minsk
on the Russian-Belarusian merger accords signed on 25
December in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 28 December
1999), Belarusian Television reported. According to
Latypau, both Russia and Belarus will remain sovereign
countries "at all stages of unification." He said the
discussion of the unification process will be conducted
"by a method of public opinion polls." He did not rule
out amendments to the constitutions of Russia and
Belarus if the future merger treaty "exceeds the
constitutional framework." JM

DEMONSTRATORS AGAINST BELARUS-RUSSIA MERGER PUNISHED.
Minsk courts have disciplined nine people arrested for
participating in the 25 December demonstration (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 1998) against the merger
accords signed by Presidents Alyaksandr Lukashenka and
Boris Yeltsin, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on
28 December. Four people were punished with a 5-day
detention, three with fines, and one with a court
warning. Meanwhile, activists of the opposition
Belarusian Popular Front staged a picket on 28 December
in Pinsk, southern Belarus, to protest Lukashenka's
integration accords with Russia. JM

LENINGRAD MILITARY DISTRICT SETS UP BALTIC UNIT. Citing
NATO's decision to expand and the possibility that the
three Baltic countries will be included into the Western
alliance, the Leningrad MD has established a "Russian
army group in the Baltic direction," ITAR-Tass reported
on 29 December. Given that the LMD conducted a training
exercise last summer in the regions adjoining Estonia
and Latvia under the rubric "Operation Return," this
latest decision appears likely to exacerbate tensions in
this region. PG

ESTONIAN PREMIER FAVORS BALTIC FREE TRADE AREA. A
spokesman for Prime Minister Mart Siiman said on 28
December that Tallinn continues to support the Baltic
free trade treaty and that the Estonian government will
not try to modify it, BNS reported. Siiman's Latvian and
Lithuanian counterparts will meet with him in Tallinn on
7 January to discuss trade problems, including Latvia's
efforts to restrict the importation of pork from
Estonia. PG

ESTONIA'S EUROINTEGRATION EFFORT SLOWS. Hendrik Hololei,
the chief of Estonia's Eurointegration Bureau, told BNS
on 28 December that Tallinn's efforts to integrate
Estonia into Europe re "stalled" as a result of poor
planning and administrative shortcomings within the
government. Hololei added that the draft bills on this
subject that had been scheduled to reach the Estonian
parliament in 1998 will be several months late as a
result. PG

NATURALIZATION UP IN ESTONIA, LATVIA. Estonia
naturalized 9196 people in the first 11 months of 1998,
up from 6720 in the same period during 1997, BNS
reported on 28 December. Of the new citizens, 5904 were
children. As a result, some 105,032 people have been
naturalized since 1992. Meanwhile in Latvia, 4439 people
were naturalized in 1998, up from 2993 in 1997. That
brings the total of those naturalized since the recovery
of Latvian independence to 11,432. Most of those
naturalized in both countries were ethnic Russians.
Latvian officials told BNS that they expect the number
to grow rapidly in 1999 because of changes in Latvia's
citizenship legislation. PG

LATVIA UNABLE TO SPEND ONE PERCENT OF GDP FOR DEFENSE.
Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans told Latvian Radio on 29
December that his government cannot afford to devote one
percent of the country's GDP for defense spending, BNS
reported. But he added that it is possible that Riga may
be able to do so within a year. At present, Latvia
spends a significantly lower percent of its GDP on
defense than either of its Baltic neighbors. PG

EUROPEAN UNION FUNDS LITHUANIAN PROJECTS. Under the
terms of a memorandum signed on 28 December by EU
representatives and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas
Saudargas, the European Commission will fund several
projects in Lithuania during the next year. These are
part of the special "catch-up" fund established by the
EU to aid those countries not included in the first
round of candidacy for accession talks. PG

LANDSBERGIS SAYS BRU DIRECTED AGAINST LITHUANIA.
Lithuanian Parliament Speaker Vytautas Landsbergis told
ITAR-Tass on 28 December that the proposed Russian-
Belarusian Union was part of Moscow's effort to block
Lithuania and her neighbors from joining NATO. He
suggested that the timetable adopted by the Russian and
Belarusian presidents on 25 December for what he called
"Russia's westward expansion" was set to coincide with
the Western alliance's Washington summit. PG

VISITORS TO POLAND MUST SHOW FINANCIAL SUPPORT. A new
customs regulation taking effect on 1 January 1999
obliges foreigners entering Poland to show on request
that they have enough money for their stay, AP reported
on 29 December. According to the regulation, foreign
tourists older than 16 years must have at least 500
zlotys ($143), or at least 100 zlotys for each day they
intend to stay. Those under 16 must have 300 zlotys, or
50 zlotys for each day of their stay. Foreigners using
Poland as a transit route must also have financial
support: 200 zlotys for those over 16 and 100 zlotys for
others. Polish officials have said the new regulation is
intended to tighten border controls without having to
reintroduce visas for citizens of post-Soviet states in
the east. JM

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER WARNS AGAINST HASTE IN JOINING
EU. The government does not regard 1 January 2003, which
has been set as the target date for joining the European
Union, "as dogma," Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said
in an interview with "Lidove noviny" on 28 December.
Kavan said postponing the date for joining the EU "for
the benefit of better preparation could be an
advantage," CTK reported. He said one might remember as
"an analogy" Greece, "whose industry has been destroyed
by joining the EU." Kavan said that joining the union
was "nonetheless necessary" because non-member states
were exposed to "unfavorable conditions raising from
West European protectionism." MS

CZECH SKINHEADS CHARGED FOR ATTACK ON ROMA. Six
skinheads were charged on 28 December for a racially-
motivated attack on an invalid Roma at the Havlickuv
Brod railway station on 14 November, CTK reported. The
six, three of whom are minors, attacked the deaf and
dumb man as he was leaving a restaurant in the station.
The case will come before a court of justice in late
January, and if found guilty, the skinheads could face
up to three years in prison. Also on 28 December, Human
Rights Commissioner Petr Uhl said he decided not to
announce a tender for a memorial that is to be set up at
the site of a former Romany concentration camp in Lety,
southern Bohemia. The camp functioned between 1939 and
1943 and is now occupied by a pig farm. Uhl said he
first plans to raise money for the transfer of the farm
to another site. MS

OPPOSITION WALKS OUT OF HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT IN PROTEST.
Deputies representing the opposition Socialist Party and
the Free Democrats walked out of the parliament on 28
December in protest against a government proposal to
change the proportion of representation on the
supervisionary bodies of the state radio, state
television, Duna television and the MTI news agency,
Reuters and MTI reported. The government proposed to add
six members to these bodies and the oposition says this
would leave it in the minority. A law passed under the
former Socialist-Free Democrats coalition gave equal
representation to government and opposition on the
bodies controlling public media. Also on 28 December,
president Arpad Goencz appointed Tamas Deutsch as
Minister of Youth and Sports as of 1 January 1999.
Deutsch became known after his arrest in Prague in
August 1989, at an opposition protest marking the 1968
Soviet invasion. MS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES AMENDED 1999 BUDGET. The
parliament on 28 December approved an amended version of
the 1999 budget with a vote of 205-145. The total budget
is 3.5 trillion forints ($ 16 billion) and the projected
deficit is 374.17 billion forints ($ 1.7 billion),
representing some 4 percent of the Gross Domestic
Product, AP and MTI reported. The legislature also
approved the setting up of a controversial tax police,
to be called the Criminal Directorate. It granted the
directorate large investigative powers, including that
of covert surveillance. The new body is designed to
combat tax evasion. An estimated 30 percent of Hungary's
GDP is generated by the black economy. MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

RUGOVA WANTS NATO ROLE IN KOSOVAŠ Shadow-state President
Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 28 December that the
"civilian Albanian population is threatened" by the
Serbian military and police presence
and operations in the Llap region near Podujeva, KIC
news agency reported. A stepped-up international,
including NATO, engagement is needed to force Belgrade
to end its aggressive policy of ethnic cleansing, Rugova
added. Meanwhile in the Podujeva area, the latest cease-
fire held on 28 and 29 December against a background of
fog and freezing temperatures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28
December 1998). The fighting over the long weekend led
to a total of 14 killed and four wounded, RFE/RL's South
Slavic Service reported. PM

ŠAS DOES ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT. The Albanian legislature
in a special session on 28 December passed a resolution
charging Belgrade with "openly [committing] ethnic
cleansing [and violating] Security Council Resolutions"
in Kosova. The resolution says that NATO intervention is
needed to prevent a "humanitarian catastrophe" and to
speed up a political solution. The declaration also
urged the international community to organize an
international conference at which the future status of
Kosova will be negotiated. Parliament asked the
government to give "strong support" to the Kosovars and
called on all political forces in Albania and Kosova to
find a common platform on the issue, "Zeri i Popullit"
reported. The opposition Democratic Party did not
participate in the session. Legislator Vili Minarolli
from the Democrats told the Enter news agency that his
party prefers to discuss the resolution at a multi-party
round table. FS

UCK SAYS SERBIAN FORCES THREATEN KOSOVARS, FOREIGNERS.
The Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) said in a statement in
Prishtina on 28 December that Kosovars and international
employees alike face increasing
danger from Serbian security forces in the Llap region.
KIC quoted the UCK as stating: "having been defeated by
the UCK forcesŠ on 24 December, the Serbian occupation
forces took revenge against the [ethnic] Albanian
civilian population and threatened OSCE observers and
international media representatives." The guerrillas
pledged that "international institutions, governmental
and non-governmental, as well as media representatives,
will in no way face obstructions by the Albanian people
and the UCK. They will in no way be harmed by us, but
rather welcomed." The UCK urged foreign representatives
not to assign equal blame to the "criminal and the
victimŠ We are confident you have not sent your
representatives to approve the Belgrade regime's
crimes," the text concluded. PM

UNHCR LOOKS FOR DISPLACED PERSONS. A spokesman for the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in
Geneva on 28 December that efforts are under way to
locate the up to 5,000 persons who fled their homes in
sub-zero temperatures during the past week's fighting
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 1998). The spokesman
added that most displaced people have probably fled to
the homes of friends and relatives nearby, but also that
some are living rough in the nearby hills. Some Serbs
and Montenegrins as well as ethnic Albanians have fled
their homes in recent days. PM

BOSNIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS UNITE. Representatives of the
two strongest non-nationalist opposition parties agreed
in Tuzla on 28 December to merge the Social Democratic
Party and the Social Democrats of Bosnia-Herzegovina as
of 27 February. The new party will be called the Social
Democratic Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The two parties
are the direct descendants of the former League of
Communists and have their strongest bases of support in
Sarajevo and Tuzla. The two parties together have 25
seats out of 140 in the federation's lower house.
Representatives of the international community and West
European Social Democrats have been working for over one
year to bring about the merger in an effort to
counterbalance the strength of the nationalists. PM

BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY NOMINATES NEW GOVERNMENT LEADERS. The
three-member joint presidency agreed in Sarajevo on 28
December to keep Muslim politician Haris Silajdzic as
one of the two co-prime ministers and to replace hard-
line Serb Boro Bosic with moderate Svetozar Mihajlovic
for the other position. The Croatian Democratic
Community's Neven Tomic will keep his deputy
premiership. The joint parliament must now vote on the
nominations, as well as on a proposal to increase the
number of ministries. PM

POPLASEN TO PUSH INTEGRATION WITH BELGRADE. Hard-line
Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen told the
Belgrade daily "Vecernje novosti" of 28 December that
the Bosnian Serbs will seek closer integration with
federal Yugoslavia "in the near future." He stressed
that the Bosnian Serbs are entitled to better ties with
Belgrade as a quid-pro-quo for their having accepted the
Dayton agreement. Critics of the peace treaty have said
that one of its basic flaws is that it recognizes a
single Bosnian state, but gives broad powers to each of
the two entities. The Republika Srpska maintains its own
relations with Belgrade, while the federation has
special ties to Zagreb. PM

TUDJMAN TAKES STOCK OF 1998. Croatian President Franjo
Tudjman said in Zagreb on 28 December that the high
points of this past year for his country were the
reintegration of eastern Slavonia, the papal visit, and
the signing of an agreement on special relations between
Croatia and the Bosnian federation. Tudjman spoke at a
reception for 2,000 people at his official residence. PM

CROATIA TO REVIEW COOPERATION WITH HAGUE? Ivic Pasalic,
who is Tudjman's top aide and regarded by many as the
second most important man in Croatia, told "Jutarnji
list" of 28 December that Zagreb may reconsider or even
stop its cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes
tribunal if the court indicts persons who are currently
top commanders of the Croatian army. The unnamed
generals may be sought for atrocities they allegedly
committed during the successful Croatian offensives of
1995, Pasalic suggested. Pasalic, who comes from
Herzegovina, argued that no Serb or Muslim has been
charged with crimes against Croats in conjunction with
the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and that some Serbs
indicted for atrocities in Croatia are living openly in
Serbia. Tudjman recently suggested in a speech that the
court has secretly indicted up to six Croatian generals.
PM

ALBANIAN POLICE TEAR DOWN KIOSKS. Police began tearing
down over 37 unlicensed kiosks on central Tirana's
Skanderbeg Square on 26 December. City officials said
that they want to erect a monument for Mother Teresa on
the site, where a statue of dictator Enver Hoxha stood
until 1991. Some owners of the kiosks threatened to
start a hunger strike, saying they have lost their only
source of income and that the police action also made
them homeless. Meanwhile, Croatian-Albanian businessman
Vebi Velija, who owns the property, demanded that he be
allowed to build a high-rise building there. He told the
"Albanian Daily News" of 29 December that the government
has for years denied him a building permit and warned
that the authorities are sending a wrong signal to
foreign investors. FS

ITALIAN BANK WINS ALBANIAN PRIVATIZATION TENDER.
Privatization Ministry official Vasil Pano told
"Albanian Daily News" of 29 December that Milan's Banca
Intermediazione Mobiliare has won a World Bank tender to
consult Albania's government on the privatization of
five key industries, including oil, mining and
telecommunications. The privatization process is
scheduled to begin in January 1999. Meanwhile, in
separate incidents between 26 and 28 December near the
southern Italian coast, the Italian Coast Guard
intercepted four speed boats carrying a total of over
100 illegal immigrants, most of whom are Kosovars and
Kurds. FS

LIQUIDATION OF LOSS MAKING STATE COMPANIES INITIATED IN
ROMANIA. The State Property Fund on 28 December started
legal procedures for the liquidation of 30 loss making
state companies, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.
Radu Sarbu, chairman of the fund, said some 12-15 of
these companies may be able to restart operating next
spring as private companies because investors have
expressed an interest in taking over their debts and
investing in technological restructuring. The closure of
the companies will affect some 70,000 persons, who will
receive the compensation stipulated under the law as
soon as the affected companies' administrative boards
approve the closures. Sarbu said a total of 49 loss
making state companies will be liquidated in the near
future. MS

ROMANIAN MINERS BRACE FOR STRIKE. The two main unions
representing Romanian miners set up a joint committee on
28 December to prepare the strike planned for 4 January
in protest against the government's plans to close pits,
Mediafax reported. The committee is demanding a meeting
with premier Radu Vasile and said the planned strike
might be postponed until 11 January, depending on the
outcome of the meeting. The committee was empowered to
prepare the unification of all unions representing
miners. Miron Cozma, the leader of the Jiu Valley
miners, said he is prepared to step down in order to
facilitate the unification. Cozma and the leader of the
Cartel Alfa miners, Marin Condeescu, have long been
opponents. MS

MOLDOVAN HARD CURRENCY RESERVES HALVED IN 1998. National
Bank chairman Leonid Talmaci on 28 December told Infotag
that Moldova's hard currency reserves were halved in
1998-- from $ 300 million before the August Russian
financial crisis to about $ 150 million at present.
Talmaci also said he expects the 1998 inflation rate to
be about 10 percent and forecast that in 1999 the rate
will be 15 percent. MS

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DEFINES 1999 TASKS. Nadezhda
Mihailova told BTA on 27 December that Bulgaria's "chief
challenge" in the forthcoming year is to prove to its
partners in the international community that its 1997-98
progress was part of "a persistent successful policy."
She said the reforms that had been carried out are
"irreversible" and prove that Bulgaria "can be a worthy
member of the European and the Euro-Atlantic community."
Priorities in 1999 will concentrate on initiatives
connected with the region, regional stability and
efforts to find a solution to the Kosova crisis,
Mihailova said, adding that Sofia's involvement in
finding solutions to Kosova can have "a positive effect
on the country's image." She said the crisis has no
direct impact on Bulgaria and does not pose an immediate
threat to its national security, but has an influence on
the region's image that impacts every country and makes
foreign investors cautious. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER MEETS FORMER MONARCH. Ivan Kostov met
on 28 December with former King Simeon II, who is
spending his Christmas holiday in Bulgaria, AP reported.
The government press office said the premier informed
Simeon about the costs of maintenance of two palaces,
three hunting lodges and two country houses that the
monarch is to be restored ownership of in line with a
June decision of the Constitutional Court. MS

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