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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 5, Part II, 8 January 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 5, Part II, 8 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 TO CONVENE, DESPITE OFFICIAL WARNING * SLOVAK PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES EMERGE * SERBIAN POLICE KILLED IN GRENADE ATTACK xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN POLICE EXPOSE MONEY-LAUNDERING NETWORK. Tax police have uncovered an underground network that allegedly laundered money for some 3,000 companies, including state-run enterprises, AP reported on 7 January, citing official sources. The network, which operated from Kyiv, received money from interested companies through bank transfers, which it then channeled through fictitious firms for conversion into cash, thereby avoiding taxation. The network's daily turnover amounted to 1 million hryvni ($292,000). Tax evasion is a common practice among Ukrainian firms, which complain that the country's taxes are too high. Last December, the national tax debt totaled 10 billion hryvni--nearly half of budget revenues. JM BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TO CONVENE, DESPITE OFFICIAL WARNING. Syamyon Sharetski, speaker of the Supreme Soviet, which was disbanded in 1996 by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, has confirmed his intention to convene that body, despite a warning by the Prosecutor- General's Office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1999), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 7 January. "As the Supreme Soviet chairman, I am obliged to convene a Supreme Soviet session and set a date for [presidential] elections [in 1999]," he said, adding that the session will be held on 10 January. Yury Khadyka, deputy chairman of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front, said his organization supports the Supreme Soviet and will "most likely" take part in a Congress of Democratic Forces, which is to be held in late January. He added that the official warning will "most likely" be followed by arrests and trials of opposition representatives. JM ESTONIAN, LATVIAN PREMIERS DISCUSS PORK QUOTAS... Mart Siimann and Vilis Kristopans, meeting in Tallinn on 7 January, discussed among other things the quotas proposed by the Latvian government on the import of Estonian pork and live pigs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999), ETA and BNS reported. Estonian officials argues that such quotas would violate the free trade agreement between the Baltic States. Kristopans confirmed that he has no intention of violating that agreement and will oppose the quotas if they are proven to be of a protectionist nature. Siimann told journalists that the two sides intend to have "intensive consultations, in the course of which it must become clear how Estonian exports have damaged [the interests of] Latvian producers, because there are grounds to establish quotas only in case of proven damage." JC ...WHILE LITHUANIA JOINS FRAY. Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Algimantas Rimkunas handed over a note to Latvia's charge d'affaires Ilona Kirule on 7 January saying that the proposed quotas on Lithuanian pork imports would violate the Baltic free trade agreement and noting that Riga has not provided any data showing that the imports have damaged Latvian producers' interests, BNS reported. The statement stressed that Latvia's failure to abide by signed agreements would undermine further economic cooperation in the Baltics. JC SOME 300 POLICEMEN SACKED IN ESTONIA OVER LANGUAGE, CITIZENSHIP REQUIREMENTS. Some 300 policemen have been dismissed because of their poor command of the Estonian language and their failure to acquire Estonian citizenship by the end of 1998, BNS reported on 6 January. Earlier this week, the government announced some 700 jobs will be slashed in the police force and the wages of remaining officers raised. It noted, however, that the aim of the move is to carry out structural reform, not to lay off officers. A police spokesman told BNS that among those discharged from the police force were many who were about to be granted citizenship but had received no confirmation by 1 January. "When those people become Estonian citizens we will gladly take them back, because we have many vacancies in the force," the spokesman said. JC KRISTOPANS SAYS FORMER GOVERNMENT MADE MISTAKE OVER POLICE CHIEF'S DISMISSAL. Latvian Prime Minister Kristopans told reporters on 6 January that the previous government made a mistake when it voted to dismiss former police chief Aldis Lieljuksis following the bombing last spring of the Riga synagogue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 1999), BNS reported the next day. At the same time, Kristopans, who was transport minister in that government, exonerated the former cabinet ministers from blame, arguing that they had not been given "exact information." The premier also praised Lieljuksis's decision not to return to his former post as a "question of honor." JC EUROPEAN COMMISSION WELCOMES VILNIUS'S ABOLITION OF DEATH PENALTY. The European Commission on 7 January issued a statement welcoming the abolition of the death penalty in Lithuania, BNS reported. The statement also notes that Lithuania is about to sign the Sixth Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits capital punishment. The signing is expected to take place later this month. JC LILEIKIS TO UNDERGO ANOTHER MEDICAL CHECKUP? The Vilnius District Court is to consider ordering another medical examination of suspected World War II criminal Aleksandras Lileikis after he failed to appear in court on 7 January, BNS reported. Lileikis's first and only appearance to date in court was cut short in November when the defendant was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance complaining of heart pains. His lawyer told the court on 7 January that the 91-year-old Lileikis's condition has deteriorated since then and that he is too weak to appear in court. The lawyer also presented a medical certificate stating that the November hearing subjected Lileikis to life-endangering stress. JC POLISH TEACHERS PROTEST PLANNED EDUCATION REFORM. Some 1,000 teachers picketed the building of the Polish parliament on 7 January to protest the proposed education reform while lawmakers discussed that very issue, "Zycie Warszawy" reported. The ruling coalition wants to begin restructuring the school system on 1 September 1999, while the Union of Polish Teachers (ZNP), which organized the protest, wants to delay it at least for a year. The ZNP is afraid that some 140,000 teachers will lose their jobs if the proposed reform is implemented. The ZNP also demands that the restructuring of the school system be preceded by a revision of school curricula. The draft education reform bill provides for basic education lasting nine years (instead of the current eight) in six-year primary schools and three- year secondary schools. It also proposes three-year high schools (instead of the current four-year ones). JM ZEMAN, KLAUS SKEPTICAL OF CALL FOR MAJORITY COALITION. An appeal by the leaders of a right-of-center opposition coalition for talks on the formation of a majority government was given a lukewarm reception by the ruling Social Democrats and the leading opposition party, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), CTK reported on 7 January. Premier Milos Zeman said he was "amused" by the call, issued by Jan Ruml, the head of the Freedom Union. Stanislav Gross, the head of the Social Democrats' parliamentary group, said his party will not violate its opposition agreement with the ODS. Vaclav Klaus, the ODS chairman and speaker of the parliament, said he does not know what the offer "is about." In other news, Cyril Svoboda announced he will challenge acting chairman Jan Kasal for the leadership of the Christian Democrats. PB CATHOLIC CHURCH WOULD CONSIDER CROWNS INSTEAD OF PROPERTY. A spokesman for the Czech Bishops' Conference said on 7 January that the Catholic Church would consider receiving compensation instead of the return of its still unrestituted property, CTK reported. Daniel Herman said a plan by Christian Democrat deputy Cyril Svoboda to assess the value of former Church property still held by the government and then pay the Church compensation over a longer period of time was "one of many alternatives" that the Bishops' Conference is prepared to consider. The Catholic Church has received only some 200 of the more than 3,000 properties that were confiscated from it during the communist era. PB SLOVAK PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES EMERGE. Milan Cic, the chairman of the Constitutional Court, said on 8 January that he is seriously considering running for president, TASR reported. Cic said the high level of trust that Slovaks have in the Constitutional Court will help his chances. Parliamentary deputy Juraj Svec, the former rector of Comenius University, said he is also considering running. He was nominated by the Slovak Democratic Union's Political Committee and ran against Michal Kovac in 1993. Svec said he will never endorse the candidacy of Kosice Mayor Rudolf Schuster, whom the ruling coalition has agreed to nominate as its candidate. Jan Slota, the chairman of the chauvinist Slovak National Party, said he will run if he garners the support of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. The election for president is expected to be held in the spring. PB SLOVAK GOVERNMENT APPROVES ECONOMIC PACKAGE. Finance Minister Brigita Schmognerova announced on 7 January that the government has approved an economic plan based on stabilization and development initiatives, TASR reported. Schmognerova said the cabinet hopes to sustain a budget deficit of no more than 2 percent of GDP and achieve an inflation rate of 10 percent and an unemployment rate of 15 percent. The package projects a budget of 175 billion crowns ($4.78 billion). PB FISCHER GIVES NO DATE FOR HUNGARY'S EU ADMISSION. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told journalists in Budapest on 7 January that Bonn continues to press for the earliest possible conclusion of EU accession talks, but he did not mention a date for Hungary's admission to the union. During his short visit to Hungary, Fischer met with Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, and President Arpad Goncz. He also visited the former home of his parents, who were among the 200,000 ethnic Germans expelled from Hungary in 1946. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN POLICE KILLED IN GRENADE ATTACK. Unknown persons fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a Serbian police car near Suhareka, southwest of Prishtina, on 8 January, AP reported. OSCE monitors said that two policemen died in the attack. Serbian police spokesmen added that a third policeman subsequently died of his wounds. The spokesmen blamed Kosovar guerrillas for the attack. A spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) told "RFE/RL Newsline" that there was a "fierce fighting" between Serbian security forces and the UCK in the area. PM KOSOVA SERBS DEMAND ACTION FROM MILOSEVIC. Hundreds of angry local Serbs blocked roads leading into Prishtina on 7 January to protest the killing of a Serbian security guard the previous day. Serbian spokesmen said that they hold the UCK responsible for the killing. The Serbs demanded that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his Serbian counterpart, Milan Milutinovic, travel to Kosova and announce "urgent measures" to provide security for local Serbs. AFP quoted one Serb as saying: "We cannot take any more of this. The terrorists are killing us in our work places [like the security guard] and in the cafИs." He referred to a recent incident in which unidentified persons threw a grenade at a Serbian cafИ in central Prishtina (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 1999). Another Serb said that "if nothing is done to guarantee our protection within another two or three weeks, we'll leave [the province] in convoys." On 8 January, protesters blocked only the main road leading south to Skopje and Prizren. PM RUGOVA, HILL CALL FOR RESTRAINT. Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 8 January that he hopes that the local Serbs will show "restraint" in response to what he called "quizzical killings," AP reported. The previous day, U.S. envoy Christopher Hill urged both sides to seek a negotiated settlement, adding that "nothing is going to be resolved by violence and blocking roads." He stressed that he is "working on some specific ideas for invigorating the political process and considering what [to do] next┼to get a political process going that can gain momentum and lead us into a peaceful spring." PM CHIRAC URGES NEW DIPLOMATIC INITIATIVE. French President Jacques Chirac told the diplomatic corps in Paris on 7 January that "all talks are now blocked by both sides [in Kosova]┼. They refuse any compromise and are tempted to use violence┼. Strong diplomatic action is urgently required to get out of this dangerous diplomatic impasse." He pledged that the international Contact Group will step up diplomatic efforts aimed at achieving a political settlement. France recently assumed the rotating chair of the Contact Group and increased its own diplomatic activity in the region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999). PM SESELJ BLASTS BISHOP ARTEMIJE. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said in Belgrade that Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren is "using the unhappiness [of the Kosova Serbs] to promote his own political goals" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 January 1999), "Danas" reported on 8 January. Seselj added that only elected officials may represent Kosova Serbs and not "some crazy bishop or some politician who never won a single seat in an election." Artemije has long been one of the most eloquent voices among Serbs in calling for reconciliation with the ethnic Albanians and in opposing Milosevic's policies. Seselj has said that any Kosova Albanians who are not loyal to the Serbian state should leave. "Danas" suggested that Seselj's remarks could mark the beginning of a new conflict between the authorities and the Orthodox Church, which has never trusted the ex-Communist Milosevic. PM DEMACI "ENCOURAGED" AFTER TIRANA VISIT... Adem Demaci, who is the UCK's political spokesman, told dpa on 7 January in Tirana that he feels "more encouraged and more determined" after his visit to Albania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1999). He said that he received "full understanding and support" in Tirana, but he did not elaborate. Unnamed Albanian government officials told Reuters that Demaci expressed his readiness to meet with rival Kosova leaders to discuss a common strategy for peace. FS ...WHILE ALBANIA WANTS TO INVOLVE RUGOVA. Foreign Ministry spokesman Sokol Gjoka told Reuters on 7 January that an unnamed Albanian special envoy visiting Prishtina in recent days has invited Rugova to Tirana. The invitation is part of Albania's efforts to bring together rival politicians from Rugova's moderate Democratic League of Kosova and from the UCK to agree on a joint negotiating position. FS SERBS, MONTENEGRINS RULE OUT ELECTORAL PACT. Representatives of the anti- Milosevic governing coalition in Montenegro and of the Serbian opposition agreed in Podgorica on 7 January that federal Yugoslav elections should be held as soon as possible. The two sides also agreed not to form any alliance or sign any agreement between Milosevic's opponents in Belgrade and those in Podgorica, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM COUNCIL OF EUROPE SETS CONDITIONS FOR BOSNIA. The Council of Europe told the Bosnian authorities in a recent letter that Bosnia must institute greater media and judicial reform, enable more refugees to return home, and provide greater protection for human rights before it can join the Strasbourg-based body, Reuters reported on 7 January. Some observers have criticized the Council of Europe for having previously granted membership to some former communist states that do not meet European standards in human rights, respect for the rule of law, or independence of the judiciary. PM CROATIA WANTS UN OUT OF PREVLAKA. The Foreign Ministry asked the UN Security Council in a letter on 7 January to reduce the number of monitors stationed on the strategic Prevlaka peninsula and to bring to a close the UN's mandate there, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The letter noted that the UN has already extended the mandate six times but that Belgrade has shown little interest in resolving the dispute. The text concluded that an extension of the mandate is "unnecessary." Prevlaka is Croatian territory that controls access to Kotor Bay, which is home to Yugoslavia's only deep-water naval base. PM ALBANIAN NAVY INTERCEPTS ITALIAN FISHING BOATS. An unspecified number of Albanian navy vessels intercepted two Italian fishing boats inside Albanian territorial waters on 6 January and escorted them to Durres, Reuters reported. Albanian authorities fined the fishermen for fishing illegally and violating territorial waters. The Albanians later released the crews and ships, Commander Kudret Cela told public television the following day. He did not disclose the size of the fine imposed on the fishermen. Albanian officials claim that the country's fishing industry has lost $50 million annually owing to foreign vessels fishing illegally in its waters. Observers note, however, that Albania's fishing fleet is too small to take full advantage of the number of fish in Albanian waters. FS ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT TO CONTINUE CLOSING DOWN MINES, DESPITE STRIKE. A government spokesman said on 7 January that Bucharest will continue with plans to close down 37 unprofitable metal and coal mines, Reuters reported. Razvan Popescu said the mines due to be closed are not located in the Jiu Valley, where miners are striking for a fourth consecutive day to demand pay increases and promises from the government not to close down mines. In Petrosani, thousands of miners marched one day after meeting with a Senate delegation that urged them to return to work. Union boss Miron Cozma said he will not sign an agreement with "the thieves and criminals who rule this country." He said other union leaders will travel to Bucharest to meet with officials from the Industry Ministry. Some 100,000 miners have been laid off in Romania over the past 16 months. PB MOLDOVAN WAGE ARREARS REACH RECORD HIGH. The Moldovan Statistics Department said that wage arrears in the state sector reached 638.2 million lei ($76.9 million) on 1 December, BASA-press reported on 6 January. That figure is a record high, exceeding the level of the previous month by 19.6 million lei. The average monthly wage in the public sector in November was 261.8 lei. PB FORMER BULGARIAN KING READY TO RETURN TO THRONE. Simeon II said in Sofia on 7 January that he is prepared to return to the country as king, AP reported. Simeon, who lives in Spain, said he can offer "50 years of experience, objectivity, and tolerance, things that nobody else can offer in the political battles." He said if "it occurs as necessary and if I still feel fit for it, I will be at my post." Simeon is on a two-week visit to Bulgaria, inspecting two palaces and five estates restituted to him last year. PB xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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