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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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Headlines, Part II

* BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION APPEALS FOR HELP IN DEFENDING
INDEPENDENCE

* UCK TO LAUNCH RADIO STATION

* ROMANIAN MINERS GO ON STRIKE
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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'Š 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

ŠWHILE 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 KOSOVAŠ 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

ŠBUT 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
enemyŠ. 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,
trustŠ, 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 SerbsŠ. 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
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