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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 1, Part II, 4 January 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 1, Part II, 4 January 1999 A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. This is Part II, a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Part I covers Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia and is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION APPEALS FOR HELP IN DEFENDING INDEPENDENCE * UCK TO LAUNCH RADIO STATION * ROMANIAN MINERS GO ON STRIKE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES 1999 BUDGET. The 450- strong Supreme Council voted by 226 to two to approve the 1999 budget, AP reported on 31 December. The remaining deputies refused to cast their votes. The budget provides for revenues totaling 23.98 billion hryvni ($6.8 billion). The 1.24 billion hryvni deficit will be covered by foreign loans (630 million hryvni) and government domestic bonds (610 million hryvni). Communist lawmakers had repeatedly refused to approve the budget, demanding that the government allocate more funds to repay overdue wages and pensions. Some, however, relented after the cabinet agreed to allocate some funds earmarked to pay this year's debt obligations to finance education and health care. JM KUCHMA, BLAIR URGE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR CHORNOBYL. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have appealed to the leaders of 10 countries to help renovate the sarcophagus covering a ruined reactor at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, AP reported on 30 December. Ukraine has appealed on previous occasions to the international community to help make the sarcophagus environmentally safe. Since 1997, some 20 donor countries have pledged $390 million toward the estimated $758 million in repair costs. JM LUKASHENKA SAYS 1998 ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE 'NOT BAD' In his New Year address, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said 1998 was "the most difficult year of all the preceding ones" but that "events of the last six months have convincingly testified to the correctness of our strategy." He admitted that a "considerable" number of Belarusians are poor but added that the year 1998 "as a whole" finished with "not bad economic results." According to Lukashenka, both GDP and the production of consumer products increased. JM WHILE POLL SUGGESTS HALF OF BELARUSIANS 'BARELY MAKE BOTH ENDS MEET.' In a poll conducted by the Belarusian Economics Ministry in November and December 1998, 51 percent of the 1,200 respondents said they "barely make both ends meet," Belapan reported on 1 January. Of those polled, 79 percent said the economic situation in Belarus in 1998 worsened, while 43 percent said it will get even worse in 1999. JM BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION APPEALS FOR HELP IN DEFENDING INDEPENDENCE. The leadership of the Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) on 31 December adopted an appeal to parliaments and governments of Europe as well as those of the U.S. to give practical support to the "Belarusian opposition in its struggle for the freedom and independence of Belarus," Belapan reported on 1 January. The appeal said that documents on a Russian-Belarusian merger signed by Belarusian and Russian Presidents Lukashenka and Boris Yeltsin in Moscow on 25 December are "yet another attempt at annexing Belarus." The BNF called upon democratically elected parliaments and governments to release political assessments of the Lukashenka-Yeltsin deal and to render financial assistance to Russia only on condition that it renounces its efforts "to destroy Belarusian sovereignty." JM MERI SIGNS LEGISLATION ON LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS FOR DEPUTIES. Estonian President Lennart Meri on 31 December signed legislation that imposes language requirements on members of the parliament and local governments, ETA reported. Russia has criticized that legislation, as has OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel in a recent letter addressed to Meri (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1998). JC ESTONIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS SIGN STATEMENT ON POST- ELECTION COOPERATION. The leaders of the Reform Party, the People's Party, the Fatherland Union, and the Moderates have signed a joint statement announcing their readiness to form a coalition government after the March elections, ETA reported on 31 December. The four leaders also stressed their aims of creating new jobs, increasing wages, maintaining a reliable taxation system, and improving the situation of large families. Currently, the four parties have a combined total of 36 seats in the 101-strong parliament. JC NARVA AGAIN CUTS WATER SUPPLIES TO IVANGOROD. Narva Vesi, the municipal water company of the border town of Narva, has cut off water supplies to the Russian town of Ivangorod and halted sewage treatment, ETA and Russian agencies reported. Ivangorod owes Narva more than 18 million kroons (some $1.4 million) for such services, and last year, Narva Vesi cut water supplies to Ivangorod in a bid to force the city to pay its debts. Interfax reports that Anatolii Potapov, the mayor of Ivangorod, has threatened to start dumping untreated sewage into the Narva River if the firm continues to refuse to treat sewage. That river flows into the Gulf of Finland. JC ESTONIA PROTESTS LATVIAN PROPOSAL FOR MEAT QUOTAS. The Estonian Foreign Ministry has sent a diplomatic note to Riga protesting the Latvian government's proposal to impose quotas on imports of Estonian pork and live pigs, ETA reported on 31 December. Estonian Agriculture Minister Andres Vari said that as yet Latvia has provided no figures on how imports of Estonian pork are influencing its domestic market. Under the free trade agreement between the Baltic States, restrictive measures are permitted only in cases where there is a negative effect on the domestic market of one of those countries. JC LITHUANIAN LUSTRATION LAW GOES INTO EFFECT. A law banning former KGB agents from holding government office and a wide variety of private-sector jobs went into effect on 1 January, ITAR-TASS reported. The ban is to apply for 10 years. The parliament passed the legislation last summer but agreed to postpone its enactment after President Valdas Adamkus vetoed the legislation, questioning its constitutionality. The Constitutional Court, however, has not yet ruled on the issue. JC LITHUANIA URGES RUSSIA TO RESOLVE MILITARY TRANSIT 'DIFFICULTIES.' The Lithuanian Defense Ministry has called on its Russian counterpart to resolve "organizational difficulties" in transporting Russian servicemen via Lithuania to and from Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast, BNS reported on 31 December. The ministry said that on 22 and 27 December its border guards ordered 80 Russian soldiers off scheduled passenger trains traveling from Moscow to Kaliningrad because those soldiers lacked travel authorization from the Lithuanian Defense Ministry. It added that such incidents occur frequently before and during holidays. JC POLISH PREMIER NOMINATES NEW PROVINCIAL GOVERNORS. Jerzy Buzek on 31 December appointed governors to 14 of Poland's 16 new provinces, Polish media reported. Who will occupy the remaining two posts is still being debated. The new governors are to take office on 4 January under the administration law adopted last July. Buzek told the governors that Poland's new territorial system means the successful rejection of "one more relic of communism." Following an agreement reached by the coalition Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW) the previous day, the AWS nominates all 16 new governors, while the UW has named candidates for all first deputy governor posts. JM SOLIDARITY SUSPENDS SIT-IN STRIKE OVER MINERS' PENSION BENEFITS. Miners belonging to the Solidarity trade union have suspended their underground strike until the end of March in order to allow the government to draw up a bill guaranteeing them early retirement benefits (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 1998), Polish media reported on 31 December. Union leaders said that the protest will be continued in the form of meetings and rallies, adding that the sit-in strike can be resumed if the government tries "to go back on its promises." JM HAVEL WARNS AGAINST 'NEW WALLS' IN CZECH SOCIETY. In his New Year's address, President Vaclav Havel said that in post-communist Czech Republic, "new walls" are emerging in place of those that have been demolished. Havel said these "walls" are threatening democracy and take the form of prejudice against the Romani population, anti- German, anti-Russian, and anti-American "moods," as well as occasional "anti-African, anti-Arab, and even anti- European" attitudes. He added that "even the wall that we thought could never again be erected," namely anti- Semitism, is reappearing. Havel went on to warn against the "seduction" of "populist collectivism" and stressed that attacking "the freedom of one individual" is "threatening the freedom of all." And he also denounced the "strange walls" that are invading political life in the form of terminology such as "barricades, mobilization, closed ranks, disciplined movement, and traitors." MS ROMA APPOINTED TO GOVERNMENT COMMISSION. Twelve members of the Romani minority in the Czech Republic have been appointed to the government commission set up to examine how to promote coexistence between that minority and the Czech majority, a government spokesman told CTK on 31 December. The same day, Deputy Labor Minister Bela Hejna told CTK that his ministry has prepared a document on promoting coexistence between the two communities by means of "macrosocial measures" and social policies aimed at integrating Roma. MS SLOVAK PREMIER PREDICTS DIFFICULT ECONOMIC SITUATION IN 1999. Mikulas Dzurinda on 1 January said the year 1999 is likely to be one in which the country will have to face its "most difficult economic situation" until now. He called on Slovaks to help rebuild the "devastated" economy by buying Slovak products and by showing "unity, responsibility, and solidarity." He also said Bratislava must "do everything" to ensure it "gets on the train" of European integration in 1999. The same day, the government announced hikes in the prices of electricity, water, and mail services, with other increases planned for later this year, AP reported. Dzurinda was delivering the traditional presidential New Year's message, because Slovakia has been without a head of state since March 1998. He promised that "in 1999, citizens will elect the president in direct elections, which are the fairest way to do so. " MS HUNGARIAN RAILWAY WORKERS GO ON STRIKE. The 15,000- strong Free Union of Railway Workers went on strike on 4 January after rejecting the 16 percent wage hike proposed on 31 December by Hungarian State Railways. Only 468 of the 2,760 scheduled trains will run, along with 22 trains carrying staples, medicine, blood donations, and perishable goods. International trains will also be affected. The other two railway workers' unions have accepted the wage hike and therefore are not taking part in the strike. The two sides are to resume talks on 4 January. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE UCK TO LAUNCH RADIO STATION. The Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) announced in a statement on 3 January that the guerrillas will begin broadcasts the following day aimed at promoting their views. The statement added that the station will be called "Free Kosova," but it did not indicate from where or on which frequencies it will broadcast. The statement noted that the UCK will also launch its own news agency on 4 January under the name of Kosova Press. Kosovars currently receive Albanian- language radio and television broadcasts from a small number of public or private stations located in Albania. VOA's Albanian-language Service also has a wide listenership. The Prishtina-based Kosova Information Center news agency reflects the views of the moderate shadow-state leadership. Several Albanian-language dailies and weeklies based inside or outside Kosova provide news services on their web sites. PM CALM HOLIDAY PERIOD IN KOSOVA A spokesman for OSCE monitors said in Prishtina on 3 January that the fragile cease-fire held throughout the long New Year's holiday weekend. He added that monitors will soon begin investigating reports supplied by the UCK that a grave near Ferizaj contains the bodies of 11 ethnic Albanian women and children. In other news, Serbian and Kosovar sources reported the deaths of three persons in two separate incidents, but the circumstances of their deaths are unclear, according to Reuters. PM BUT NOT ON ALBANIAN FRONTIER. Federal Yugoslav forces fired 13 mortar rounds 200 meters into Albanian territory, near Qafe e Morines, during the evening of 31 December and the early morning of 1 January, ATSH reported. A spokesman for the Albanian Interior Ministry said that there were no injuries or damage. FS RUGOVA CALLS FOR NATO 'ATTENTION.' Shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said in a New Year's statement issued in Prishtina on 1 January that "we are convinced that [only] the [monitoring] mission and permanent NATO attention can calm down tensions in Kosova. Only the deployment of NATO troops in Kosova can bring about greater security for all the people, which is a precondition for a political settlement of the Kosova problem." PM UCK VOWS TO CONTINUE FIGHT. The UCK said in a statement issued in Prishtina on 3 January that "our people are awaiting a difficult and bloody fight with the barbaric enemy. But [the new radio station, which is the] voice of freedom and independence, the voice of truth and justice, and the voice of the guns of freedom, will give us the force and courage to be even better mobilized, more organized, and more determined to carry out our duties for the cause of honor and sacrifice for freedom and fatherland." FS SERBIAN LEADER SAYS MILOSEVIC RESPONISBLE. Momcilo Trajkovic, who leads the Prishtina-based Resistance Movement of Serbs in Kosova, told the Podgorica-based independent daily "Danas" of 4 January that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, his Serbian counterpart, Milan Milutinovic, and their respective aides bear full responsibility for the fate of Kosova's Serbian minority. Trajkovic stressed that the Serbs have found it necessary to take their defense into their own hands because the "Albanian terrorists have occupied most of the territory [of the province] and mercilessly and treacherously kill and drive out the Serbs." He added that the Belgrade authorities have ignored their duty to defend the Serbs of Kosova. Milosevic, for his part, said in his New Year's message that 1999 will bring a "political solution" for the province. He added that the year will require "courage, optimism, great patience, trust, positive energy, good will, hope, and decisiveness." PM FRANCE ASSUMES CHAIR OF CONTACT GROUP. Representing Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, Ambassador to Macedonia Jacques Huntzinger said in Prishtina on 2 January that the first weeks of January will be important in preventing a resumption of the fighting in Kosova. He told Rugova and several other ethnic Albanian leaders that the Kosovars should adopt a common platform on a political settlement. Fehmi Agani, who heads Rugova's negotiating team, told the French diplomat that the Kosovars will have a new proposal by mid-January, but he did not elaborate. France assumed the chair of the international Contact Group at the end of 1998. Paris has long resented what it regards as a preponderance of U.S. influence in the Balkans and has sought to assert a stronger role for itself. PM FRENCH MINISTER BLAMES UCK. Defense Minister Alain Richard said in Prishtina on 1 January that "the main destabilizing factor [in Kosova] today] is the UCK and not the Serbs. If the clashes continue to increase [the pact between Milosevic and U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke] will no longer be valid and we will have to go back to threats of military pressure." Richard called for the UCK's financing from abroad to be cut off. PM MONTENEGRO TO KEEP CONTROL OVER OWN BORDERS. Interior Minister Vukasin Maras said in Podgorica that the Montenegrin--but not the federal Yugoslav--police will continue to control the republic's frontiers, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 30 December. He added that the Montenegrin police will "carry out every assignment," which observers said was a warning to former Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic not to provoke street violence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1998). The Montenegrin authorities opened the border crossing with Croatia at Debeli Brijeg for the Christmas and New Year's holidays, despite the opposition of the Belgrade authorities, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 3 January. PM POPLASEN FAILS IN BID TO OUST DODIK? Hard-line Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen on 31 December named Social Democrat Brane Miljus to form a government to replace that of moderate Prime Minister Milorad Dodik. Poplasen-backer Dragan Kalinic had earlier failed to gain a majority in the parliament to oust the incumbent. Miljus accepted the mandate and said he is confident that he can carry it out. Social Democratic spokesmen said that Miljus had not consulted his party, which responded by expelling him on 3 January. Former President Biljana Plavsic said she was "shocked" by the nomination of Miljus, "Danas" reported on 4 January. Other moderates said that Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj orchestrated the nomination from Belgrade. Muslim leader Safet Bico noted that deputies representing his Coalition for a United and Democratic Bosnia will not support Miljus's candidacy, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 3 January. PM ALBANIAN SOCIALIST PROPOSES AMNESTY FOR BERISHA. Spartak Braho, who is the deputy chairman of the parliament's Judiciary Committee, proposed on 30 December that lawmakers pass an amnesty for Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha. The move would halt investigations into Berisha's alleged involvement in a September coup attempt, "Albanian Daily News" reported. Braho told "Gazeta Shqiptare" that pardoning Berisha would reduce political tensions and open the way for the Democrats to end their parliamentary boycott. FS VIOLENT CRIMES STILL RAMPANT IN ALBANIA. An Interior Ministry spokesman on 30 December said that 548 people, including 19 policemen, were killed in violent crimes during 1998, dpa reported. He also reported 62 cases of kidnappings, 24 "terrorist acts," and the blowing up of more than 10 high-voltage power lines (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 1998). A total of 5,562 acts of violent crimes were reported. Observers suggested that the real figures are higher because official statistics are neither complete nor reliable. FS ROMANIAN MINERS GO ON STRIKE. Miners in the Jiu valley went on strike on 4 January and said they will travel to Bucharest, in defiance of an order issued by the Mayor of Bucharest's office, unless Premier Radu Vasile or Industry and Trade Minister Radu Berceanu travels to Petrosani to talk to them there, Romanian Radio reported. The miners are protesting plans to close unprofitable pits and are demanding wage increases, compensation for being laid off worth $10,000, and two hectares of land for each miner who loses his job. They also want the state to reschedule their company's debt. MS MOLDOVAN PREMIER REFUSES TO DISCUSS STATUS OF BESSARABIAN CHURCH. Premier Ion Ciubuc on 30 December rejected a proposal by his deputy, Valentin Dolganiuc, that the cabinet debate the status of the Bessarabian Church. Ciubuc said he hopes Dolganiuc will prove "just as able to solve the country's agricultural problems and the problems of the industry as he is [proving in] solving religious problems," Flux reported. The Bessarabian Church, which is subordinate to the Bucharest Patriarchate, has appealed to President Petru Lucinschi over the government's refusal to discuss its status. In 1997, a court ruled that the government's refusal to register the church was unlawful. The ruling was later overturned on procedural grounds. MS BULGARIAN CURRENCY PEGGED TO EURO. The lev has been pegged to the euro at the permanent exchange rate of 1,955.83, AP and BTA reported on 31 December and 1 January. Under the currency board system established in July 1997, the lev was pegged to the German mark. The pegging to the euro reflects the permanent conversion rate of the mark to the euro, announced on 31 December. In other news, as of 1 January 1999, customs were reduced on 80 percent of goods imported from Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) countries, of which Bulgaria became a full member in July 1998. Duties on CEFTA imports are to be eliminated on 1 January 2002, BTA reported. 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. 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