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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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Headlines, Part II

* BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TO CONVENE, DESPITE OFFICIAL
WARNING

* SLOVAK PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES EMERGE

* SERBIAN POLICE KILLED IN GRENADE ATTACK
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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 cafés." He referred
to a recent incident in which unidentified persons threw
a grenade at a Serbian café 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] nextŠto 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]Š. They refuse any compromise and are tempted
to use violenceŠ. 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

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