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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 8, Part II, 13 January 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 8, Part II, 13 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 OUTLINES ITS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION SCHEDULE * VOLLEBAEK ANNOUNCES PRISONER RELEASE IN KOSOVA * TENSIONS CONTINUE TO GROW OVER ROMANIAN MINERS' THREATS End Note: EU CANDIDATES BRACE FOR TOUGHER NEGOTIATIONS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE U.S. TO CONTINUE ECONOMIC AID TO UKRAINE. Stephen Sestanovich, U.S. Secretary of State adviser on the newly independent states, assured Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko in Kyiv on 12 January that the U.S. will continue to provide economic assistance to Ukraine, Interfax reported. Sestanovich arrived in Kyiv to prepare a report for U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the economic situation and state of reform in Ukraine. U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer said the same day that the U.S. Congress has decided to allocate $195 million in aid to Ukraine to back its economic reforms. He added that 50 percent of this sum will become available to Ukraine only if Albright's report on Ukraine is favorable. That report is to be delivered to Congress on 18 February. JM UKRAINIAN OFFICIAL DENIES SIPHONING OFF RUSSIAN GAS. Taras Freyuk, deputy head of Ukraine's Naftohaz company, denied allegations by Rem Vyakhirev, head of Russia's Gazprom, that Ukraine has illegally siphoned off Russian gas transported to Europe via Ukrainian pipelines (see RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 1999), Interfax reported. "I state with full responsibility that in December 1998, Ukraine did not take a single cubic meter of Russian gas without prior approval," Freyuk said. He also denied that the Ukrainian government's debt for Russian gas has reached $1.6 billion (as suggested by Vyakhirev), saying it totals some $734.5 million. He admitted that private Ukrainian importers owe another $347.7 million but stressed that the government is not responsible for that debt. Freyuk assessed Vyakhirev's allegations as "very rude in tone," but he expressed the hope that they constitute only an "unpleasant incident" with no harmful consequences for Naftohaz or Gazprom. JM UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES AGAINST MOTION ON ABOLITION OF PRESIDENCY. The Supreme Council on 12 January failed to secure enough votes to proceed with the motion on abolishing the presidency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 1999), Ukrainian News reported. The motion to abolish the presidency, drawn up by Communist leader Petro Symonenko, was supported by 205 votes instead of the 226 required for the motion to pass. JM TKACHENKO OPPOSES LIFTING PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY. At a Supreme Council session on 12 January, speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko spoke out against recent calls for parliamentary deputies' immunity to be abolished, ITAR-TASS reported. Tkachenko told lawmakers that the heads of some local executive bodies have called for a referendum on doing away with such immunity and on prolonging the president's right to issue economic decrees without the legislation's approval. He added that such actions by local governments violate the Ukrainian Constitution. JM BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION OUTLINES ITS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION SCHEDULE. Viktar Hanchar, head of the Central Electoral Commission appointed by the opposition Supreme Soviet to organize presidential elections on 16 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 1999), has told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service that oblast, raion, and city electoral commissions for the presidential elections will be set up 45 days ahead of the election date. He admitted that it will be hard to find 70,000 people to serve as election officials but added that he has "extraordinary organizational capabilities" and will manage to create those bodies "on time." Presidential candidates must be supported by 100,000 signatures, to be submitted beginning 1 March. According to Hanchar, voters will be given the opportunity to cast their ballots before election day. The Central Electoral Commission will determine voting methods when it convenes for the first time on 16 January, Hanchar said. JM FREE ECONOMIC ZONE CREATED IN ESTONIA'S NORTHEAST. The government on 12 January approved setting up a 450-hectare free economic zone in the northeastern industrial town of Sillamae, ETA reported. The driving force behind the initiative was the local earth metal plant Silmet. Economy Minister Jaak Leimann said it would be overly optimistic to predict that hundreds of new jobs would be created in the area but he noted that that new "opportunities" would arise. Unemployment in the northeast has grown since several large companies there ran into difficulties following the Russian financial crisis last year. Estonia's first free economic zone was set up at the Tallinn-Muuga port in early 1997. JC JOINT ORTHODOX MISSION TO ARRIVE IN ESTONIA. The Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church is holding talks with its Constantinople counterpart on sending a joint mission to Estonia to tackle the issue of the Orthodox Church there. The composition of the delegation and the date of the visit have yet to be determined, a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate told BNS on 12 January. The Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, which is subordinated to Constantinople and is the successor to the Church of the same name that existed before World War II, is regarded as the legal heir to property seized by the Communists from the prewar Church. The Moscow- subordinated Church in Estonia argues that this has deprived its congregation of the buildings and land that it rightfully owns. JC LATVIAN GOVERNMENT REVOKES PROPOSED PORK QUOTAS. Following a lengthy debate on 12 January, the cabinet announced that it is withdrawing its earlier proposal to impose quotas on the import of pork and live pigs from Estonia and Lithuania. LETA quoted Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans as saying after the cabinet meeting that "we cannot restrict any specific sector, because at the same time we could suffer the same restrictions from our neighbors." He added that in halting the legislation, "the interests of 2.6 million Latvian residents were also taken into consideration." The Ministry of Agriculture has been ordered to grant one-off subsidies to pork producers in Latvia. Both Estonia and Lithuania had protested the proposed quotas, saying they violated the Baltic free trade agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 8 January 1999). JC KALININGRAD GOVERNOR LEVELS CLAIMS AGAINST VILNIUS ROUNDTABLE. Organizers of a roundtable on Kaliningrad Oblast, scheduled to take place in Vilnius on 14 January, said the meeting will take place and that they expect officials from the Russian exclave to attend, BNS reported on 12 January. That comment follows claims by Kaliningrad Governor Leonid Grobenko that the meeting, which is to discuss the exclave's development and integration into Europe, is being held "for other endsЉbehind the backs of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the [Russian] embassy in Vilnius." "According to our sources, entirely different issues will go on discussion," Grobenko said. The organizers say they are "stunned' by Grobenko's claims and suggest his comments are based on "misleading information." The seminar is being organized by the International Relations and Political Science Institute at Vilnius University. Among those invited to attend are officials from Kaliningrad and the Russian Foreign Ministry. JC POLAND CRITICIZES GERMANY OVER COMPENSATION FOR NAZI SLAVE LABORERS. Deputy Foreign Minister Janusz Stanczyk on 12 January criticized Germany for failing to include Poland in talks on establishing a compensation fund for former Nazi slave laborers, "Gazeta wyborcza" reported. Stanczyk noted that while Germany is holding intensive talks on the issue with officials in the U.S. and Israel as well as with Jewish organizations, it has not responded to Poland's call to be included in those talks. Stanczyk warned that leaving Poland out of the discussions could lead to an upsurge of anti- Semitism in Central and East Europe. He said the government cannot represent Polish Nazi victims in demanding compensation because in 1953 Poland agreed not to seek World War II reparations. He added, however, that the government will support all individual claims. Such claims have been made recently by some 22,000 Poles (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 1999). JM POLISH PREMIER HOSPITALIZED WITH RESPIRATORY TRACT INFECTION. Jerzy Buzek was hospitalized on 11 January with an infection of the upper respiratory tract, PAP reported on 12 January. A government spokesman said Buzek will be out of the office until the end of this week. This raises doubts about his participation in a Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) congress in Gdansk this weekend. He has been proposed as leader of the AWS Social Movement, a party that the congress intends to create to consolidate the current AWS coalition of some 30 right-wing groups. Marian Krzaklewski, current leader of the AWS and the Solidarity trade union, wants to give up his AWS post to concentrate on a possible bid for Poland's presidency in 2000. JM POLISH OPPOSITION SUBMITS VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE IN HEALTH MINISTER. The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) on 12 January submitted a vote of no confidence in Health Minister Wojciech Maksymowicz of the AWS, Polish media reported. The SLD accuses Maksymowicz for the poorly prepared launch of the health service reform, which took place this month amid protests by both doctors and patients (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1999). The opposition Polish Peasant Party has said it will back the SLD motion. Some Polish media have suggested that the Freedom Union, the coalition partner of the AWS, may also vote to oust Maksymowicz. Both coalition partners have recently bickered over personnel issues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 1999). Meanwhile, AWS leader Krzaklewski has said the current tension in the coalition may lead to a "temporary distancing" of the two partners but not to a "total split." JM CZECH PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES 1999 BUDGET. The parliament on 12 January began the second reading of the draft budget submitted by Milos Zeman's cabinet, CTK reported. Civic Democratic Party (ODS) leader Vaclav Klaus told CTK after a meeting with Zeman that his party is still unwilling to support the budget but hinted that it may accept a proposal by ODS deputy Petr Necas to do so in order not to drive the ruling Social Democratic Party into the fold of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia. The Communists are making their support of the budget conditional on cutting defense spending. Klaus said that Necas's proposal is only a "worst case scenario, one that could arise if some other things do not happen." Zeman said after the meeting in response to a question by a CTK correspondent that "a person who is not an optimist has no right to be in politics." MS CZECH POLICE DISCOVER FASCIST WEB SITE. A 21-year-old student from Plzen was charged on 11 January with disseminating fascist propaganda after police discovered fascist symbols and a photo of a youth giving the Hitler salute on his web site, CTK reported the next day. A spokesman for the police said the site began with the inscription "If you are not a member of the white race, or if you are a Jew, leave this page immediately." In other news, a spokesman for the owners of four houses in Usti nad Labem said the government must purchase their houses after it decided not to allow the building of a wall that would have separated the owners' properties from flats built for Romani rent defaulters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 1999). MS SLOVAK-RUSSIAN MILITARY DEAL CONFIRMED. Slovak Defense Minister Pavol Kanis on 12 January confirmed to CTK that the previous government, headed by Vladimir Meciar, signed in 1998 a $158 million agreement on purchasing a Russian S-300 PMU-1 long-distance anti-missile defense system. He said that he does not believe the agreement can be revoked, but he stressed the decision on how to deal with the accord is a "political one" and must be taken by the cabinet. Kanis also said he does not believe the agreement will endanger Slovakia's bid to join NATO. Also on 12 January, visiting U.S. Congress Foreign Committee Chairman Benjamin Gilman told AP after a meeting with Premier Mikulas Dzurinda that he believes Slovakia is now in a position to meet the criteria for NATO membership. He said earlier Slovakia could not have fulfilled those criteria because of the "spotty democratic record" of Meciar's government. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE VOLLEBAEK ANNOUNCES PRISONER RELEASE IN KOSOVA. Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek, who holds the rotating OSCE chair, said in Prishtina on 12 January that the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) has agreed to release soon and unconditionally the eight Yugoslav soldiers it is holding as prisoners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 1999). He gave no further details. Yugoslav army spokesmen have repeatedly insisted that all men be released as soon as possible and without conditions, saying that otherwise the military will try to free them. UCK spokesmen have stressed that the men will be released only a few at a time until the Serbian authorities free nine Kosovars whom they recently captured near the Albanian border. Observers noted that the army is under strong pressure from the soldiers' parents and colleagues to show that it is doing all it can to free the men. The observers added that the UCK, for its part, is under pressure from its backers to remain firm. PM KOSOVARS BURY PROMINENT JOURNALIST. Some 1,000 Kosovars attended the funeral in Bradash of Enver Maloku, who was recently killed by unidentified gunmen (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 1999). Armed members of the UCK in uniform provided both security and a guard of honor at the burial. A spokesman for shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said that the "killing is proof of what the Serbian regime may do to us if we are journalists." Many prominent Kosovar political and cultural leaders attended a gathering in Prishtina to honor Maloku. Several speakers said his death was a blow to the freedom of the press. PM WHO KILLED MALOKU? Fehmi Agani, who heads Rugova's negotiating team, said in Prishtina on 12 January that he is not certain who killed Maloku. He added that he suspects the Serbian authorities murdered him in the hope that the moderates would blame the UCK and thereby widen divisions within Albanian ranks. Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the EU's special envoy for Kosova, said that the murder "was the work of professional killers." He did not say whether he thinks that those persons were Serbs or Kosovars but added that he "does not exclude the possibility that rivalries among the Kosovars were the reason for the killing," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM EFFORTS CONTINUE TOWARD POLITICAL SOLUTION TO KOSOVA CRISIS. Vollebaek and Rugova, meeting in Prishtina on 12 January, discussed the possibilities for a political solution to the Kosova crisis. The Norwegian minister did not give any details of the outcome of his talks but told reporters that he has repeatedly urged Rugova and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to work together to obtain a lasting political settlement. PM RUSSIA, FRANCE SEEK EXPANDED ROLE FOR CONTACT GROUP. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told a press conference in Moscow that he and his visiting French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine, agree that the international contact group must play a greater role in ending the conflict in Kosova. Ivanov described the French and Russian positions on Kosova as "similar or identical," Interfax reported. Vedrine told reporters that U.S. shuttle diplomacy in the Balkans has not led to a resolution of the conflict and that time has come for the Contact Group, which France currently chairs, to take a more active role. Observers noted that both Paris and Moscow have long been resentful of U.S. diplomatic prominence in the former Yugoslavia. PM SERBIAN MINISTERS BLAST 'CIA INTERFERENCE.' Deputy Prime Ministers Ratko Markovic, Vojislav Seselj, and Milovan Bojic told a press conference in Belgrade on 12 January that they possess what they called "a CIA document" allegedly showing that U.S. aid for promoting democracy in Serbia is aimed at bringing down the Milosevic regime. The ministers charged that the U.S. has increased spending aimed at the democratization of Serbia from $15 million to $35 million, but they did not substantiate that claim. The three men criticized opposition parties, student organizations, independent media, and labor unions for accepting assistance from the U.S. The VOA's Serbian Service quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying that Washington's support for democracy in Serbia "is no secret." RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported that information on U.S. aid aimed at democratization in Serbia is available on the internet. PM ITALIAN DEFENSE MINISTER RULES OUT NATO INTERVENTION IN KOSOVA. Carlo Scognamiglio told AP in Tirana on 12 January that he does not think "NATO intervention is the right step to take." He added that "we should try all political measures to find a solution to this critical situation." Scognamiglio stressed, however, that "irresponsible acts could lead to an escalation of this conflict." He also warned that the strife "could spread through the region. Such a situation would be really difficult to control." Scognamiglio discussed with Prime Minister Pandeli Majko and Defense Minister Luan Hajdaraga the situation in Kosova. He said that Italy will provide Albania's army with vehicles and other equipment. Majko told his cabinet earlier that day that NATO intervention is necessary to avert renewed fighting in Kosova. FS BILDT WANTS NATO TO SEAL BORDER TO PRESURE UCK. Carl Bildt, who in 1996 was appointed the international community's first high representative for Bosnia, told the "Financial Times" of 12 January that "the reluctance of NATO to deploy forces in northern Albania has impaired efforts to work towards a settlement" in Kosova. He proposed that NATO troops seal the Albanian-Kosovar border, arguing that "NATO has made clear that it is ready to use its air power against Serbia. But [without troops in the area] it has little leverage over Kosova's ethnic Albanian separatists." Those separatists are trained in camps in northern Albania. Bildt also warned that the lack of leverage over the UCK "seriously undermines the possibility of political progress." And he noted that "as long as military pressure is not exerted on all sides to the conflict, it will scarcely be possible to move the political process forward." FS UCK SEEKS DONATIONS FROM ALBANIANS ABROAD. In a statement broadcast by Albanian Television on 12 January, the UCK's general staff called on ethnic Albanians everywhere to donate money to the guerrillas. The statement said that ethnic Albanians should not "wait and watch but instead directly support the realization of the will of the people" to achieve Kosova's independence. The statement suggested that such donations are a "permanent obligation" of all Albanians in Europe and the U.S. Observers noted that Rugova's shadow state has long relied on regular contributions from Kosovars in Western Europe and elsewhere. FS PLAVSIC SAYS POPLASEN DESTABILIZES REPUBLIKA SRPSKA. Former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 12 January that Nikola Poplasen, her hard-line successor, has "destabilized the Republika Srpska" by failing to nominate a prime minister who can command a majority in the parliament and the support of the international community, "Danas" reported. PM CROATIA, SLOVENIA FAIL TO AGREE ON KEY ISSUES. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic said in Bezanec on 12 January that he and his Slovenian counterpart, Boris Frlec, failed to agree on their countries' frontier in the Gulf of Piran, which has bedeviled bilateral relations since the two countries seceded from Yugoslavia in 1991. Granic said that the two men will try again to find a solution on 14 February. RFE/RL's South Slavic Service says that Croatia will not allow Slovenia to have a 200-meter access to the open sea unless Ljubljana makes concessions to Zagreb on other issues, including the management of the jointly owned nuclear plant at Krsko and the disposal of nuclear waste. Slovenia wants Croatia to dispose of the waste until at least 2008, "Vecernji list" reported. PM TENSIONS CONTINUE TO GROW OVER ROMANIAN MINERS' THREATS. The leader of the striking miners in the Jiu Valley, Miron Cozma, has called on President Emil Constantinescu to mediate in the conflict and has repeated the threat that the miners will travel to Bucharest if neither Constantinescu nor Premier Radu Vasile visits the valley on 13 January. Cozma said miners will be asked to sign a declaration that they are going to Bucharest voluntarily. That move, he said, would be aimed at dispelling "rumors" that the miners are being manipulated. Cozma and the Greater Romania Party (PRM) also announced that Cozma's membership in the PRM has been "temporarily suspended" in order to preclude such rumors. President Constantinescu said that he will not mediate "for the time being" because the possibilities of a "dialogue" between the miners and the government "have not yet been exhausted." Romanian Television said anti-riot troops have been deployed on the main road near Petrosani. MS ROMANIA'S 'MONICAGATE' SCANDAL CONTINUES. A prosecutor has invited PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor to present proof concerning his allegations about President Emil Constantinescu and other politicians and about the "diary" of actress Rona Hartner, which Tudor recently presented on nationwide television (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 1999). Hartner has filed a complaint against Tudor, whom she accuses of calumny. She is asking for a graphological examination of the alleged diary, which suggests that Constantinescu had an extra-marital affair with her. Hartner is also suing Tudor's close associate Laurean Taifas, who she says threatened her to acknowledge the diary's authenticity. MS BRITISH DEFENSE SECRETARY IN ROMANIA. George Robertson on 12 January met with Premier Radu Vasile, Minister of Defense Victor Babiuc and Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu. Robertson said Romania has made progress on reforming its military and that Britain backs its bid to join NATO. He said Romania could become a NATO member in a second wave of expansion but added that this does not mean a decision on a second wave will be taken at the upcoming Washington summit. Robertson also expressed concern over developments in Kosova. He and Plesu said the two countries are worried about Serbian opposition to Romania's participation in the OSCE mission in Kosova, AP reported. BULGARIAN NATIONAL BANK REVOKES CREDIT BANK'S LICENSE. The National Bank on 12 January revoked the license of Credit Bank PLC and filed a bankruptcy petition against it, BTA reported, quoting National Bank Governor Svetoslav Gavriiski and the bank's supervision department head, Emilia Milanova. The court must rule on the petition within 14 days. The decision was prompted by the bank's failure to make payments for more than seven days. The controversial Multigroup company owns a majority stake of 62 percent in Credit Bank. Also on 12 January, Deputy Industry Minister Marin Marinov told journalists that loss-making state enterprises that have assets of up to 1 billion leva (nearly $592,000) and were not sold by 1 January 1999 will either be liquidated or declared bankrupt. MS END NOTE EU CANDIDATES BRACE FOR TOUGHER NEGOTIATIONS by Breffni O'Rourke The five East European countries in the lead for EU membership are now preparing for a fresh round of negotiations on the terms of their accession. Chief negotiators for the five--Poland, Hungary, Estonia, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia--have agreed among themselves to submit their countries' negotiating positions to the EU Executive Commission by the end of this month. At stake will be another eight chapters of the "acquis communautaire," the body of EU rules and regulations to which the candidate members must conform as part of their commitment to membership. This will be the second round of substantive negotiations between Brussels and the candidates. The first took place in a festive atmosphere last November, when five chapters of the acquis considered relatively easy were tackled. The eight chapters slated for discussion will contain some of the more complex issues, including the free movement of goods, consumer and health protection, fisheries, and customs union. A senior official with the EU's Expansion Task Force, Michael Leigh, told RFE/RL that, "It is certainly true that some of the [issues] which are on the table now, such as the free movement of goods, are particularly complex. That heading is not the most difficult in terms of negotiations necessarily--that remains to be seen--but one of the most complex, touching a wide variety of industrial fields and a great deal of community legislation." Leigh also noted that the topic of customs union will be especially complex in negotiations with the Czech Republic, because the Czechs have a customs union with Slovakia, which they want to keep. But Slovakia, though a candidate for EU membership, is not among the front-running applicants, making it likely that Bratislava will join the EU at a later date than Prague. The question thus arises of how the Czechs are to be fully integrated into the EU's internal market while preserving this eastward link. The five eastern candidates, along with the sixth front- runner, Cyprus, are now busy preparing their negotiating positions. The chief negotiators of the six, meeting in Budapest last month, decided that they would follow a common timetable for submission of their position to the EU--namely, at the end of this month. Bilateral negotiations between the EU and the individual delegations will begin in April and May at the level of senior officials, followed by a foreign ministers' meeting in June. Leigh says that the success of the second round of negotiations depends largely on the energy and preparedness of the candidate countries, but he cautions that things could take time: "I am optimistic that all problems can be overcome with the necessary work and preparation and desire to find solutions, and I am sure that during the course of negotiations all these problems can be overcome, but it is hard to predict when." There is now regular coordination among the six front- running candidates in the accession process. The heads of the national negotiating teams have agreed to meet regularly, with their next talks scheduled in Cyprus in April. They see this coordination as useful both for their own countries and for the EU because it creates a certain harmony of approach in the negotiating process. A senior official in the Hungarian Foreign Ministry's accession team, Zoltan Becsey, told RFE/RL that cooperation among the six front-runners is amicable. At the same time, he notes that it is mostly limited to standardizing ways of approaching the EU: "We discuss many things, but mainly the procedure, not the content, so we do not discuss the content of our position papers in advance. After the presentation of our position papers to the EU, of course, we inform the other candidates about our views, but there is no concrete obligation for consultation among us on the content of our positions." The other five East European candidate countries-- Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria--have not yet reached the stage of substantive negotiations with the EU. In that second group, Latvia has received particular encouragement from the European Commission. According to that body, if Riga keeps up its present level of progress, it should be ready to open negotiations before the end of this year. The author is an RFE/RL senior editor based in Prague. 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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