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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 15, Part II, 22 January 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 15, Part II, 22 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 * UKRAINE'S FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT * ROMANIAN PRESIDENT POSTPONES STATE OF EMERGENCY * MILOSEVIC BACKS DOWN ON WALKER EXPULSION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE'S FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT. Three Ukrainian right-of-center parties--the Popular Rukh, the Republican Christian Party, and the Reform and Order Party--have announced that former Foreign Minister Hennadiy Udovenko will be their joint candidate in the presidential elections later this year, Interfax reported on 21 January. Rukh leader Vyacheslav Chornovil and Reform and Order Party head Viktor Pynzenyk told a news conference on 21 January that the parties are now working on preparing Udovenko's election campaign, which, they said, will be conducted "tactfully." They added that candidates of other right-of-center parties stand no chance of winning the presidential elections unless those parties form a single election bloc. Udovenko told the same news conference that he is "ready for victory" and has received letters of support from various public organizations. JM LUHANSK OBLAST MINERS LAUNCH NEW PROTEST. Miners in Luhansk Oblast have begun a protest action over unpaid wages, Ukrainian Television reported on 21 January. The protest action, according to Ukrainian Television, is not on such a large scale as those that lasted for five months in 1998, but it involves miners from various mines in the region. Some 200 miners are picketing a coal mining company building in Antratsyt to demand wage arrears for March through August 1998. Twenty miners in Krasnodon have launched an underground strike, while eight female workers laid off by a coal mining company in Stakhanov have gone on a hunger strike. JM LUKASHENKA SEES BELARUS-RUSSIA UNION AS COUNTERWEIGHT TO U.S.... Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, addressing a session of the Belarusian-Russian Union Parliamentary Assembly in Minsk on 21 January, said the union must become "a real counterbalance to the currently established unipolar world and a powerful engine for breaking up aggressive trans-Antlantic monopolism," Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka warned against the U.S.'s growing influence in global politics, saying that the U.S. "has appropriated the right of substituting international organizations." He added that the strengthening of the Belarusian-Russian union offers a "historic chance for the survival of an integral Slavic civilization." The session granted Yugoslavia permanent observer status in the Belarusian- Russian legislative body. Serbian Deputy Premier Vojislav Seselj called that decision a "major event for the whole Serbian nation" and hailed Lukashenka as "the pride of all Slavic people." JM ...SLAMS RUSSIA FOR SLOW INTEGRATION. Lukashenka also criticized Russia for not keeping pace with Belarus in providing economic support for a union state. He accused the eastern neighbor of not purchasing Belarusian goods and unilaterally introducing customs barriers, despite the customs union. "Soon no one is going to see us as an independent state, while we still haven't seen concrete results from Russia," Reuters quoted him as saying. "We have been offended even by the new [Russian] government lately," Lukashenka added, apparently alluding to the recent fees imposed on Belarusian trucks with cargo from a third country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 1999). Lukashenka said the future Belarusian-Russian union state could be headed by Russian Premier Yevgenii Primakov or State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, but he added that it would be better "to ask our people" who will head the union. JM UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN TALLINN. Borys Tarasyuk was in the Estonian capital on 21 January to discuss bilateral relations, which he described as "good," ETA reported. In his talks with Estonian officials, particular attention was paid to Kyiv's introduction of quotas on meat imports from Estonia, which ETA describes as the main problem in Estonian-Ukrainian relations. Over the past three years, Estonian meat imports to Ukraine have increased five-fold. The two countries recently set up a joint committee to determine whether the 1995 free trade agreement between the two countries is being properly implemented. JC RUSSIAN PATRIARCH PREPARED TO MEDIATE ESTONIAN CHURCH DISPUTE. Returning from a two-day visit to Moscow, Population Minister Andra Veidemann said on 21 January that Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II has agreed to meet with representatives of Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, which is subordinated to Constantinople, to discuss the split between the two Orthodox Churches in Estonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 1999). Veidemann, who met with the head of the Russian Church during her visit to Moscow, added that the patriarch is ready to make "compromises." JC THIRTEEN POLITICAL PARTIES TO COMPETE IN ESTONIAN ELECTIONS. By the 21 January deadline for registering to run in the March elections, the Central Election Commission had received registration documents from 13 political parties and 21 independent candidates, BNS and ETA reported. A total of 1,923 people are to compete for the 101 seats in the unicameral parliament. JC LATVIAN PARLIAMENT TO ESTABLISH COMMISSION ON LATTELEKOM. Lawmakers voted by 78 to two with four abstentions on 21 January to set up a commission to examine the implementation of an agreement between the government and the Tilts Communications consortium, a major investor in the telecommunications monopoly Lattelekom, according to BNS and "Diena." The commission is also to determine whether plans to increase telephone rates and the activities of the Council on Telecommunications Tariffs, which approved those hikes, conform with the law on telecommunications. The move follows widespread public protests over the planned hikes, which many deputies, including from the Social Democrats, argued are "unjustified." JC LITHUANIAN OPPOSITIONISTS ASK COURT TO RULE ON 1999 BUDGET. Thirty-five lawmakers have appealed to the Constitutional Court to rule on whether this year's budget complies with the basic law, BNS reported on 21 January. A leader of the Social Democratic Party, which spearheaded the appeal, told journalists that the signatories believe that reducing spending on health care, education, social benefits, and agricultural development programs that had been foreseen in earlier legislation violates the constitution. This year's budget is the first since 1991 to be balanced, according to the news agency. JC KRZAKLEWSKI DENIES SOLIDARITY WILL WITHDRAW CONTROVERSIAL BILL. Marian Krzaklewski, leader of the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), denied Polish media reports on 21 January that the AWS has promised its coalition partner, the Freedom Union, that in a bid to overcome the coalition crisis, it will withdraw the controversial bill on distributing state assets to all citizens (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 1999). Krzaklewski said work on the bill has been suspended until the government presents its stance on the issue. He stressed that the draft law was "one of the main components of the AWS's program" and will be put into effect "in accordance with the constitution...and economic possibilities." JM POLISH FARMERS BLOCK BORDER CHECKPOINT TO PROTEST FOOD IMPORTS. Some 2,500 farmers erected road blocks at Swiecko, a checkpoint on the Polish-German border, on 22 January, PAP reported. The farmers are seeking a ban on food imports, saying that they lose money because of the sale in Poland of food purchased in other countries. The government says a total ban on food imports would violate international trade agreements to which Poland is a signatory. JM KLAUS DISMISSES 'SPECULATION' ABOUT NEW COALITION. Civic Democratic Party (ODS) chairman Vaclav Klaus on 20 January dismissed as "speculation" the likelihood of the ODS's heading a coalition with the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union to replace Milos Zeman's minority government. Jan Ruml, head of the Freedom Union, had recently referred to such a scenario. Speaking on Czech Radio, Klaus said that the ODS-led coalition would command a narrow majority of 102 seats in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies and would be unstable in view of the "centrifugal" tendencies of the three parties. He also said KDU-CSL acting chairman Jan Kasal and its parliamentary group leader, Karel Kuehnl, had displayed an "aggressive, negative attitude" when he met with them last month. MS CZECH PROSECUTORS SEEK TOUGHER SENTENCES FOR SKINHEADS. Prosecutors will demand tougher sentences for racially motivated crimes if these are committed by skinheads, CTK reported on 21 January, quoting Ivo Istvan, a senior prosecutor in Olomouc. Istvan said that prosecutors in Moravia have agreed to do so in order to "give a clear signal" that crimes by skinheads will not be tolerated. MS SLOVAK PREMIER WANTS EU ACCESSION TALKS THIS YEAR. Mikulas Dzurinda, addressing a meeting of the joint Slovak-EU Parliamentary Committee in Bratislava on 21 January, said his country "will do everything" in its power to be admitted to accession talks with the EU at the December 1999 Helsinki EU summit, CTK and AP reported. He said his government has prepared a 90-point "action plan" aimed at achieving EU integration. And he expressed confidence that implementation of the plan will help boost his country's chances for integration into the EU. MS HUNGARY, U.S. DISCUSS NATO PREPARATIONS. Hungarian Defense Minister Janos Szabo met with U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen in Washington on 21 January to discuss Hungary's future role in NATO. Szabo assured Cohen that the October parliamentary resolution allowing NATO to use Hungary's air space in the event of military action against Yugoslavia is still in force. In other news, Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath told journalists on 21 January that Hungary has adopted the EU's position on the Recak massacre in Kosova. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MILOSEVIC BACKS DOWN ON WALKER EXPULSION... The Yugoslav government announced late on 21 January that it will suspend its order on the expulsion of William Walker, the head of the OSCE's verification mission in Kosova. In a statement, Belgrade said that decision was influenced in particular by appeals from Russian President Boris Yeltsin and UN Secretary-General Koffi Annan. Walker had said he would not leave the province, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned that the entire OSCE monitoring team, numbering more than 800 people, would leave Kosova if Walker were expelled. Knut Vollebaek, Norwegian foreign minister and chairman of the OSCE, said that despite the suspension, the threat of NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia remains. "The NATO activation order is still thereand I think President [Slobodan] Milosevic understands that very well." Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev said in London that "it is impossible to solve national, ethnic problems and regional conflicts by means of force" (see also Part I). PB BUT REMAINS UNCOMPROMISING ON OTHER ISSUES. U.S. special envoy for Kosova James Pardew and U.S. mediator Christopher Hill said after a four-hour meeting with Milosevic on 21 January that the Yugoslav president "remains inflexible on all key compliance issues," Reuters reported. Hill added that "we had lengthy, difficult discussionswe are going through a rather tense period." Pardew said Milosevic denies that Serbs were involved in the killings of the 45 ethnic Albanians found dead in the village of Recak on 15 January. OSCE chairman Vollbaek also met with Milosevic in an effort to get Belgrade to comply with the October cease-fire agreement, which calls for a reduction in Serbian security forces in Kosova and for war crimes investigators to be allowed to probe sites of alleged massacres. PB CONTACT GROUP OFFERS NEW STRATEGY TO SOLVE CRISIS. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said on 21 January in London that the West has new proposals for a settlement of the Kosova crisis, although it will still act militarily if Serbian attacks on ethnic Albanians do not stop, Reuters reported. Cook, speaking before a meeting of the six-nation Contact Group for Yugoslavia, said the group has developed a detailed plan that would give Kosova its own internal government and police force, and would allow for free elections. The province's status would be reviewed after three years. Cook said if the Contact Group approved the document, "we would invite both sides to meet in the next week, challenging them to get down to negotiate." Cook said any military action by NATO "must be in support of a clear political demand and a clear political process." PB FINNISH TEAM IN PRISHTINA FOR AUTOPSIES. Several members of a Finnish forensics team arrived in Prishtina on 21 January to join Yugoslav and Belarusian pathologists in conducting autopsies on the bodies of the 45 ethnic Albanians believed to have been massacred at Recak, Radio B-92 reported. Finnish team head Helena Ranta said they have begun X-raying some of the bodies already examined by the Yugoslav team. She said it could take 10 days to complete the work. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook agreed with the opinion of OSCE mission head Walker, saying that "these people were executed. Serbia cannot simultaneously claim that they [the Serbs] were not responsible but also refuse to let in the international criminal tribunal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 1999). PB UCK ADMITS TO FIRING ON OSCE MONITORS. The OSCE demanded on 21 January that the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) identify and punish those responsible for shooting at and injuring two OSCE verifiers, AFP reported. The OSCE reported the same day that the UCK commander in the Decani region admitted that his men were responsible for an incident last week in which two OSCE monitors were wounded. The UCK said the action was a "misunderstanding." PB UN DEMANDS DISMISSAL OF SERBIAN POLICEMEN. The UN mission in Bosnia demanded on 21 January that Bosnian Serb officials sack two senior policemen alleged to have taken part in the torture of suspects and witnesses in a murder investigation, Reuters reported. The UN made the demand after publishing a report on the "interrogation techniques" used during the probe into the August murder of Srdjan Knezevic, the deputy police chief in Pale. The UN policing office in Bosnia disqualified the two officers last month but said they continue to "exercise influence." PB BOSNIAN SERB PLEADS INNOCENT AT THE HAGUE. Stevan Todorovic, a former Bosnian Serb police chief, pleaded innocent on 21 January to charges of murder, torture, and rape during a campaign to ethnically cleanse the northern Bosnian town of Bosanski Samac in 1992-93, Reuters reported. Todorovic is being tried along with three others, who have also pleaded innocent. He was detained by NATO troops in September. PB SLOVENIAN DEBT RISES. Slovenia's foreign debt increased to nearly $5 billion by the beginning of December, the news agency STA reported on 20 January. That figure represents an increase of nearly $800 million from the previous year. Ljubljana, however, has sharply decreased its debt to international financial organizations, to $78 million in 1998 from $223 million at the end of 1997. In other news, Slovenia's Economic Relations and Development Minister Marjan Senjur signed an economic cooperation pact with his South Korean counterpart, Hong Sun-yong, in Seoul on 21 January, Yonhap news agency reported. The agreement will allow both countries to receive most-favored-nation status. PB FORMER ALBANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS COUNTRY RUN BY MAFIA. Perikli Teta said in Tirana on 22 January that "smugglers and mafiahave ruled the country for the past 16 months and continue to rule it today," dpa reported. Teta, who resigned in October following riots in Tirana, said early general elections are needed to save the country. He added that the Socialist Party and its coalition allies came to power "through the barrel of a gun" and "thanks to the financial support of organizations of smugglers and mafiosi." Teta was one of the leaders of the Democratic Alliance, a small party that is a member of the ruling coalition of Premier Pandeli Majko. He resigned from his party post last month. PB ROMANIAN PRESIDENT POSTPONES STATE OF EMERGENCY... President Emil Constantinescu has announced that he is postponing a decision to impose a "state of emergency" pending the outcome of talks between Prime Minister Radu Vasile and the striking Jiu Valley miners. The previous day, the government approved special regulations providing for the declaration of either a "state of emergency' or a "state of siege," under both of which some constitutional rights could be curbed. Such a move would have to be approved by the parliament within five days. The decision followed a meeting of the country's Supreme Defense Council and consultations with the main political parties, excluding the Greater Romania Party. All the participating parties urged the president to declare a "state of emergency." At the same time, they called on the government to draw up a series of measures aimed at alleviating the country's economic situation and called on Premier Vasile to meet with the striking miners. MS ...WHILE PREMIER LEAVES CAPITAL TO MEET MINERS. Vasile left Bucharest on 22 January to meet with the leaders of the striking miners in Cozia, a village west of the capital. The parliament is scheduled to convene the same day for an emergency debate. On 21 January, Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu tendered his resignation, assuming responsibility for the failure of police and gendarmerie to stop the miners' march on Bucharest. Constantin Dudu Ionescu, a former deputy defense minister, has been sworn in as Dejeu's successor, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Ionescu fired two Interior Ministry officials with the rank of general for failing to stop the miners and appointed General Anghel Andreescu, until now head of the Protection and Guard Service, as commander of the gendarmerie. MS HEAVY CLASHES BETWEEN MINERS, POLICE FORCES. Breaking through a barricade set up by police forces at Costinesti, the miners took hostages from among the police forces and temporarily held the prefect of Valcea County, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. From Costinesti, they proceeded to Ramnicu Valcea, some 170 kilometers northwest of Bucharest. More than 120 police officers were injured in the clashes, and two are in a critical condition. Nine miners have been hospitalized. Many cars, especially those with Bucharest license plates, were damaged. Several cars belonging to Romanian Television sustained damage, too. Reports say the local population cheered the rampaging miners, who were later joined by colleagues from Transylvania. MS MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT RESUMES TALKS WITH PROTESTERS. Ion Godonoga, chairman of the Moldovan Trade Union Federation, says the government has agreed to resume negotiations with the unions over the payment of wage arrears. In Chisinau, thousands of demonstrators continued their protest on 21 January, picketing the government building. They were joined by the parliamentary group of the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) and its leader, Vladimir Voronin, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Meanwhile, the PCM parliamentary group has sent a message to the Romanian government expressing support for the Jiu Valley striking miners. MS BULGARIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT INVALIDATES LUSTRATION PROVISIONS. The Constitutional Court on 21 January ruled that several provisions in the law on state administration banning former top communist officials and secret service agents from holding civil service positions for five years are unconstitutional, Reuters and AP reported. The law was passed in October 1998 and appealed by the opposition Socialist Party. The court said that the ban violates the constitutional principle that responsibility is individual, not collective, as well as the constitutional guarantees of civil rights and the prohibition of persecution on the basis of political opinion. The court also ruled that the ban contravenes international agreements on human rights to which Bulgaria is a signatory. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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