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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 6, Part II, 11 January 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 6, Part II, 11 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 * SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS GOAL IS NATO, EU MEMBERSHIP * STANDOFF CONTINUES OVER PRISONERS IN KOSOVA * DID ALBANIAN POLICE ARREST BIN LADEN AGENT? End Note: BIG BROTHER WATCHES INTERNET IN BELGRADE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE'S 1998 INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT DOWN BY 1.5 PERCENT. Industrial production shrank by 1.5 percent last year, compared with 1997, AP reported on 10 January, citing official sources. The Ukrainian economy has been steadily declining since the country gained independence in 1991: industrial output reduced by 38.4 percent over that period, according to official data. JM PUSTOVOYTENKO ADMITS FAILURE IN REFORMING AGRICULTURE. Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko on 10 January said that government efforts to reform the agricultural sector have yielded few results, AP reported. "We must acknowledge that the agricultural sector has largely turned into a poorly managed, inert and heavily indebted structure which is not attractive to investors," he commented. According to official data, the total debt of Ukrainian farms is 13.3 billion ($3.8 billion). Pustovoytenko said some 11,000 farms, or 90 percent of their total number, finished 1998 with losses, while agricultural output fell by 2 percent last year, compared with 1997. JM LUKASHENKA'S OPPONENTS SET DATE FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. At a 10 January session in Minsk, the Supreme Soviet, which was disbanded following a referendum in November 1996, scheduled presidential elections in Belarus for 16 May 1999. The 43 deputies attending the session also approved a 19-member Central Electoral Commission, to be headed by Viktar Hanchar, who chaired that body before the 1996 referendum. The Supreme Soviet deputies remain loyal to the 1994 constitution, which calls for presidential elections this year. The basic law adopted in 1996 extended President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's term to 2001. The results of the 1996 referendum have been recognized neither by the Belarusian opposition nor by Western countries and international organizations. "We count on complete international support for our actions," the 11 January "Gazeta wyborcza" quoted Hanchar as saying. The authorities have warned the opposition that such actions will be considered unconstitutional (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1999). JM VAN DER STOEL AGAIN CRITICIZES ESTONIAN LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS FOR DEPUTIES. In an interview with the daily "Eesti Paevaleht," OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel again criticized recent amendments requiring members of parliament and local government to be proficient in the Estonian language, BNS reported on 8 January. "It's up to the voters to decide whether they want to elect to the parliament somebody who is not fluent in the Estonian language," he said. Van der Stoel also rejected suggestions by some Estonian officials that his criticism of minority policies in Estonia is prompted by Russian objections. His recent letter to President Lennart Meri criticizing the language requirements preceded a Russian Foreign Ministry statement on the issue by several days, he pointed out. Meri signed the amendments into law on 31 December 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999). JC LATVIAN PREMIER SAYS THERE'S NO 'PORK WAR' WITH BALTIC NEIGHBORS. On returning from his first working visit to Tallinn as prime minister, Vilis Kristopans blamed journalists for exacerbating the issue of possible temporary quotas on imports of pork and live pigs from Estonia and Lithuania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 8 January 1999), BNS reported on 8 January. He stressed that there is no "pork war" between the Baltic States and chastised journalists for asking "too many questions" about the issue. He also commented that it is necessary to work at implementing unified tariffs in the Baltics. "Diena" on 8 January quoted Kristopans as saying that he believes the quotas would not violate the regulations of the World Trade Organization (of which Latvia recently became a member), the free trade agreement between the Baltics, or Latvia's association agreement with the EU. JC LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT TO WAIT FOR COURT RULING ON LUSTRATION LAW... Responding to a letter from five lawmakers, Valdas Adamkus said he is not declining to implement the law banning former KGB agents from holding government office and a wide variety of private-sector jobs, BNS reported on 8 January. Rather, Adamkus explained, he is waiting for a ruling by the Constitutional Court before setting up a three-member commission provided for by the law. That commission is to decide which former KGB agents are exempt from the new legislation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 January 1999). The legislators who authored the letter were political prisoners during the Soviet era, according to the news agency. JC ...BACKS INCREASED DEFENSE EXPENDITURES. At a meeting with Lithuanian military attaches on 8 January, Adamkus said he supports increasing the country's defense budget to the equivalent of 2 percent of GDP, stressing that NATO membership is a "strategic aim of Lithuanian foreign policy and national security," BNS reported. The parliament is currently discussing a bill, proposed by parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, that foresees defense expenditures totaling 1.70-1.75 percent of GDP in 2000 and 1.95-2.00 percent in 2001. Those expenditures account for 1.51 percent of GDP this year, compared with 1.34 percent last year. The opposition in the parliament is opposed to the draft law. While the right-wing coalition has sufficient votes to pass the bill, Landsbergis has said he wants the parliament to adopt it unanimously. JC POLISH PARLIAMENT ADOPTS 1999 BUDGET... By a vote of 243 to 200, the parliament on 9 January passed a budget for 1999 proposed by the Solidarity-led cabinet. The budget projects economic growth at 5.1 percent of GDP, compared with 5.6 percent forecast for 1998. Budget revenues total 129.3 billion zlotys ($38 billion) and spending 142.1 billion zlotys. The deficit is estimated at 2.15 percent of GDP, down from 2.8 percent last year. Inflation is expected to drop to 8.1 percent from last year's rate of 9.5 percent. The ex-communist opposition voted against the budget, arguing that it fails to increase spending in the social sphere and agriculture. JM ...EDUCATION REFORM BILL, CLASSIFIED INFORMATION ACT. The previous day, the parliament voted by 234 to 191 with seven abstentions to adopt a bill on education reform, due to be implemented in September 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January 1999). The opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) wants to delay the reform, arguing that it should be based on the results of an ongoing reform experiment in various districts. The SLD intends to ask the president to veto the bill. Also on 8 January, the parliament voted by 267 to 155 with 12 abstentions to pass a law on the protection of classified information, adjusting Polish regulations to NATO requirements (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 November 1998). JM KWASNIEWSKI IN ISRAEL. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski paid an unofficial visit to Israel on 9-10 January in an attempt to boost Polish-Israeli relations. He met there with Israeli President Ezer Weizman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. Referring to the Jewish- Polish controversy over Christian crosses at the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz, Kwasniewski said the Polish parliament is preparing a law on "the protection of places of remembrance," which, he said, will enable Poland to base Polish-Jewish relations on "agreement and dialogue," PAP reported. JM POLAND'S NAZI VICTIMS SEEK COMPENSATION FROM GERMANY. The 9 January "Der Spiegel" reported that a German lawyer--acting on behalf of the 22,000-strong Polish Association of Former Political Prisoners in Nazi Prisons and Concentration Camps--has sued the German government for 2.4 billion marks ($1.4 billion) in compensation. "Der Spiegel" says the claimants demand 400 marks for each month of forced labor, plus compensation for damage to health sustained in Nazi prisons and camps. The lawyer warned that if the Bonn government denies its responsibility, his clients will file individual claims, suing 15 German companies that are the legal successors to the firms for which his clients were forced to work during the war. According to dpa, the government does not intend to meet the demand, saying that Polish victims of Nazi Germany have already received compensation. JM CZECH PREMIER CALLS DEPUTY A LIAR. Milos Zeman said on 11 January that Freedom Union deputy Ivan Pilip "is lying" when he claims that Zeman is negotiating a deal that would result in opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) leader Vaclav Klaus becoming president, CTK reported. Pilip claimed on TV Nova the previous day that Zeman would receive ODS support in passing the budget as well as the party's support for a new consumer tax and an increase in social security payments in exchange for Klaus eventually receiving the Socialist Party's support as a presidential candidate. ODS officials have sharply rejected Pilip's allegations as well. In other news, Zeman said he respects the "courage" shown by the Iraqi consul to Prague, Jabir al-Salim, in seeking political asylum in the West. PB SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS GOAL IS NATO, EU MEMBERSHIP. Eduard Kukan said on 9 January that Slovakia's foreign policy goals are to improve relations with its neighbors and to join the EU and NATO as soon as possible. Kukan, speaking in an interview with Hungarian Television, added that an important new element in Slovak foreign policy is the country's participation in the Visegrad group. He said that the premiers of the other Visegrad countries--Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic--will meet in Bratislava in March. Kukan said participation with those soon-to-be NATO members will help Bratislava's quest to accede to that organization. In other news, the governing board of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) decided on 9 January that its members may belong to both the KDH and the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), of which the KDH is a member. The decision is expected to defuse tension between KDH leader Jan Carnogursky and SDK leader and Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda. PB HUNGARIAN RAIL STRIKE SUSPENDED AFTER COURT RULING. Striking rail workers returned to work on 8 January after the a labor court ruled that the strike was illegal. The court said the Free Union of Rail Workers (VDSZSZ) could have challenged in court the contract signed between the State Railway Company (MAV) and two other trade unions on 31 December 1998 but not by means of a strike. VDSZSZ President Istvan Gasko said the union will appeal the ruling within 15 days. The union has suspended the strike for an indefinite period but has not withdrawn it demands, he said. A MAV spokesman told Hungarian media on 9 January that if the court ruling is upheld, the company will sue the trade union for the 500 million forint ($2.3 million) losses caused by the strike. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE STANDOFF CONTINUES OVER PRISONERS IN KOSOVA. Spokesmen for OSCE monitors said in Prishtina on 11 January that they are hopeful they will be able to persuade representatives of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) to free eight Yugoslav soldiers whom the UCK captured on 8 January. The UCK wants to exchange the men for an unspecified number of Kosovars held by the Serbs, but Belgrade refuses to make any deals with the UCK, whom the Serbian authorities call "terrorists." Observers believe that the guerrillas are holding the eight soldiers in the Stari Targ area in the mountains near Mitrovica. The Yugoslav army has concentrated troops and armor in the area as well as along the Prishtina- Podujeva road. Army spokesmen have repeatedly said they will use force to free the eight men if the negotiations fail. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic added in Belgrade on 11 January that "the patience of the authorities of Yugoslavia and Serbia has its limits." In Prishtina, the Kosovar news agency KIC reported that Serbian forces shelled several ethnic Albanian villages in the Llap area on 9 January. PM MONITORS, MOSCOW PRAISE SERBS, SLAM UCK. OSCE monitors issued a statement in Prishtina on 9 January commending the Yugoslav military authorities for being "very restrained." The monitors hailed the military's "willingness to cooperate in the present situation" and criticized the UCK for engaging in "irresponsible actions." In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 10 January demanding that the UCK release the hostages and called their capture an "outrageous act of terrorism,Љa challenge thrown down to the international community and a direct violation of commitments formulated by the UN Security Council" in its resolutions on Kosova. The text noted that "ongoing provocative actions by Albanian commandos are causing us extremely serious concern," Interfax reported. The ministry appealed to the Serbian authorities "to show maximum restraint in this difficult situation, something they have been able to do until now despite provocations." PM OSCE URGES ALBANIA TO HELP IN HOSTAGE CRISIS... Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek, who holds the chair of the rotating OSCE presidency, asked the Albanian government on 9 January to use its influence with the guerrillas to help end the hostage crisis. Vollebaek, who was speaking in Tirana, said he "urged the Albanian government to use its good offices to try to convince the UCK...to release the hostages as soon as possible," dpa reported. He described hostage-taking in general as "unacceptable and...a threat to the stability in the region." He added "that the Yugoslav [military] build-up is out of proportion" to the threat posed by the UCK, and he appealed to the Yugoslav authorities to show their utmost restraint." Vollebaek also told journalists he had urged Kosovar academic Rexhep Qosja, who was visiting Tirana, to use his possible influence on the UCK to secure the release of the hostages. FS ...WHILE ALBANIA PROMISES ITS SUPPORT. Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said in Tirana on 9 January that he will try to use his influence over the UCK to have the hostages released. Milo, however, blamed Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for the Kosova crisis, adding that the world must be prepared "to use all pressure and force...because time has shown Milosevic responds to such pressure." FS MORE YUGOSLAV-ALBANIAN BORDER INCIDENTS. A "large" group of UCK fighters failed to cross into Kosova from Albania on 8 January, the state-run Serbian news agency Tanjug reported. Yugoslav forces and insurgents exchanged fire using small guns and grenades. The agency also noted that no Yugoslav soldiers were killed, but it gave no further details on the clash. The same day, the Albanian ATSH news agency reported that Yugoslav army planes and helicopters violated Albanian airspace in the Has region and near Kukes. FS SFOR TROOPS KILL SERBIAN WAR CRIMES SUSPECT. French SFOR soldiers killed Dragan Gagovic near Foca on 9 January as they were attempting to arrest him for the rape and torture of Muslim women in 1992-1993. A SFOR spokesman said that the French fired on Gagovic when he tried to run them down with his car. The spokesman added that Gagovic put the lives of five children in his car in danger by driving into the French soldiers instead of heeding their calls to stop. One 10-year-old girl who was in the car told Bosnian Serb television that Gagovic was the young people's karate teacher and that the French opened fire on him when he swerved to avoid hitting a roadblock. In 1996, the Hague-based war crimes tribunal indicted Gagovic, who is Foca's former police chief. PM SERBS STORM UN POLICE STATION. Between 100 and 200 angry Bosnian Serbs attacked the UN police station in Foca on 9 January in response to the killing of Gagovic. Some five members of the UN staff were slightly injured in the attack. The moderate Bosnian Serb government issued a statement in Banja Luka saying "it is inexplicable and incomprehensible that SFOR soldiers neglected the fact that there were five children in the car when they fired at it, thus seriously endangering [the young people's] lives." The hard-line Serbian Democratic Party appealed to SFOR in a declaration "to stop killing Serbs." PM NATO BEGINS DESTROYING HERZEGOVINIAN WEAPONS. SFOR peacekeepers on 10 January began destroying an unspecified quantity of weapons, including tanks, artillery, and small arms, that they had seized the previous day from the Herzegovinian Croat military (HVO), SFOR spokesmen said in Sarajevo. The peacekeepers confiscated the weapons after Ante Jelavic, who is the hard-line Croatian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, promoted eight HVO generals on 7 January without the prior approval of the Bosnian government or NATO, which he is obliged to obtain under the provisions of the Dayton agreement. The HVO is formally part of the mainly Croatian and Muslim Bosnian federal army but in practice retains its own structures and close links to the armed forces of Croatia. PM BOSNIA ISSUES ARREST WARRANT FOR ABDIC. The Bosnian federal Interior Ministry said in a statement on 10 January that it has issued a warrant for the arrest of renegade Muslim warlord Fikret Abdic for war crimes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 1999). Interior Minister Mehmed Zilic called on his Croatian counterpart, Ivan Penic, to extradite Abdic, who lives in Rijeka, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM DID ALBANIAN POLICE ARREST BIN LADEN AGENT? Albanian police have arrested a suspected agent of Islamist terrorist Osama Bin Laden in Tirana, "Koha Jone" reported on 10 January. The daily added that the man, whom it identified as Maksim Ciciku, was spying on U.S. embassy staff, including Ambassador Marisa Lino. Ciciku was an employee of a private security firm. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency assisted Albania's secret service in identifying the suspect, Reuters reported. No one at the Interior Ministry or the U.S. embassy was available for comment. The U.S. has accused Bin Laden of masterminding embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, in which more than 260 people were killed in August 1998. FS ROMANIAN MINERS STAGE MARCH, CALL FOR UNITY. Several thousand miners in Romania's southwestern Jiu Valley marched through Petrosani on 8 January after the government announced it will continue with plans to close some 37 unprofitable mines, AP reported. The leader of the miners, Miron Cozma, said the five-day strike was to be suspended over the weekend but would continue on 11 January. He said some 16,000 miners are taking part in the strike. Cozma also renewed a call for miners across the country to join the strike. No mines in the Jiu Valley are scheduled for closure. PB ROMANIA'S PRIVATIZATION MINISTER OUTLINES PROGRESS. Radu Sarbu, the president of the State Ownership Fund, gave a progress report on Romania's privatization drive, Rompres reported on 9 January. Sarbu said that of 49 companies slated for liquidation, 14 have started bankruptcy proceedings, 11 have closed and are seeking reorganization, and 16 have been shut down by their debtors. The other eight firms are being considered for privatization. Sarbu said that all lay-offs associated with the closures will have been completed by the end of this month. He did not say how many workers will be involved. PB BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS DENOUNCE GOVERNMENT AT RALLY. Socialist leader Georgi Parvanov denounced government reforms at a rally in Sofia on 10 January and called for Prime Minister Ivan Kostov to be dismissed by the parliament, Reuters reported. Addressing several thousand people on the second anniversary of the storming of the parliament by those opposed to then Socialist Premier Zhan Videnov, Kostov said the day "remains a symbol of violence, political terrorism, and confrontation which drove us to the edge of a civil conflict." He called on the Socialist Party to overcome internal differences and to more strongly oppose Kostov's ruling Union of Democratic Forces (UDF). National Assembly speaker Yordan Sokolov, a UDF member, said on Bulgarian Radio that "if the Socialist Party, in the person of its then leadership, had not shirked its responsibility, there would not have been a 10 January." PB BULGARIAN GDP FALLS, UNEMPLOYMENT UP. Bulgaria's GDP contracted 5.9 percent in the third quarter of 1998, compared with the previous year, the National Statistics Institute reported on 7 January. The institute also reported that unemployment in November reached 16 percent of the workforce, up slightly from the previous month. PB END NOTE BIG BROTHER WATCHES INTERNET IN BELGRADE by Julie Moffett A Serbian expert on electronic media says efforts by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to censor electronic media in his country have been largely a failure. Drazen Pantic, director of the Internet Department of the independent Serbian station Radio B-92, made the comment last week in Washington during a press briefing on Serbian media issues. The briefing, entitled "Preserving the Free Flow of Information Using the Internet: Serbs Thwart Milosevic's Censorship," was sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace--a non-profit organization established by the U.S. Congress. The institute focuses on promoting peaceful resolutions of international conflicts. Pantic also founded and directs OpenNet, which was the first Internet service provider in Serbia. He says that despite a severely restrictive media law passed last October, the Serbian government has been unable to stop the flow of uncensored information and news via the Internet and electronic mail. Radio B-92 was the first media outlet in Serbia to use the Internet to provide an alternative source for uncensored news. It began doing so in December 1996, during anti-government demonstrations in Serbia, when thousands protested the government's annulment of municipal elections. Radio B92 broadcasts were sporadically jammed and the radio's transmitter eventually shut off. In an interview with RFE/RL in April 1997, Veran Matic, editor-in-chief of Radio B-92, said that during this turbulent time, Radio B-92 turned to the Internet. He said B-92 posted print versions of its newscasts on its web site and also began using RealAudio, which allows users to listen to on-line broadcasts over the Internet. Matic said Radio B-92 was so successful with its Internet experiment that the station was able to quickly secure agreements with RFE/RL, Voice of America, and Deutsche Welle to rebroadcast B-92 programs back into Serbia via their airwaves. Matic said that two days after the B-92 transmitter was turned off, the government--apparently realizing it could not stop the dissemination of information and programming via the Internet--turned it back on. Matic said the students, who were the mainstay of the demonstrations, were energized by B-92's victory and began referring to it as their "Internet Revolution." Speaking in Washington last week, Pantic said that it was B-92's success that unleashed the power of the Internet for all independent media in Serbia. He added that its effect and potential also greatly alarmed the Serbian government. For example, Pantic said that the new media law in Serbia includes attempts to try and control the Internet. One such attempt, he says, is to impose a large tax on owners of satellite dishes and Internet users. But Pantic said the government has not figured out a way to determine who exactly Internet users are, so it has been unable to levy this charge. Pantic also said the Serbian government has put filters on independent media web sites, including B- 92's, thereby preventing Internet users in Serbia from accessing those sites. For example, officials put filters on the Serbian Academic Network, blocking access to B-92's web site. Pantic noted that there was no official announcement about the filter and that the move was simply done "overnight." But he added that B-92 was easily able to get around the filters by setting up "mirror pages," which are alternative Internet sites that provide the same information as on the home page. "The government can't filter every mirror site," he explained with a smile. Pantic said that within a few weeks of setting up the filters on the Serbian Academic Network, the government partly lifted them. Officials finally realized they were unable to block the mirror sites and stop the information from being disseminated, he added. But perhaps the biggest irony of the situation, says Pantic, is that the government has been unable to prevent the electronic mail distribution of B-92 news. He says the station currently has a subscriber list of about 30,000 people. Gene Mater, a retired broadcast journalist and adviser to the U.S.-based Freedom Forum also spoke at last week's briefing, saying that Serbia's new media law dashes any hope for a free press in Serbia. Mater said he had the Serbian law analyzed by a Washington law firm that has extensive experience in dealing with Central and East European media laws. According to Mater, the law firm determined that the Serbian media law is a "blatantly unconstitutional exercise in media censorship, intimidation, and punishment that cannot stand under either Serbian or international law." Mater says the firm also determined that the law wrongfully deprives Serbian citizens of their constitutionally guaranteed rights to an independent and free press and freedom of thought and conscience. The law "makes clear that freedom of the press [in Serbia] is a concept of the past," he commented. Rob Timm, director of the Balkans Independent Radio Project, agreed with Mater, adding that government intimidation and harassment of independent journalists in Serbia is outrageous. "Big brother is, in fact, alive and well and living in Belgrade," according to Timm. He went on to comment that "B-92 is extremely important. If it wasn't, the Milosevic regime wouldn't be paying any attention to it. If what B-92 does and what it does through the Internet didn't matter, the Milosevic regime wouldn't care about it." The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Washington. 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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