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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 18, Part II, 27 January 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 18, Part II, 27 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 * POLISH CABINET PLEDGES HELP TO FARMERS * TWO OPPOSITIONISTS TO BE CHARGED IN KOVAC KIDNAPPING * UCK ISSUES CHALLENGE TO SHADOW STATE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE IMF MISSION LEAVES KYIV WITHOUT RECOMMENDING LOAN RESUMPTION. An IMF mission wrapped up its visit to Kyiv on 26 January without recommending the resumption of a $2.2 billion loan program, AP and Interfax reported. "The mission has not made any final conclusion, but I can say that we have laid the foundations for a positive conclusion," President Leonid Kuchma's aide Valeriy Lytvytskyy commented. Lytvytskyy added that the IMF mission noted positive developments in Ukraine, including the timely adoption of the 1999 budget, improved tax collection, a stable exchange rate for the hryvnya, and macroeconomic stability. At the same time, the mission was dissatisfied with the pace of structural and administrative reforms as well as of reforms in the energy and agricultural sectors. Lytvytskyy said the IMF-Ukraine consultations "may continue after the mission's return or after a government delegation's brief visit to the IMF headquarters." JM LUHANSK MINERS CONTINUE PROTEST OVER BACK WAGES. Seventy-five miners at three mines in Luhansk Oblast are continuing underground strikes over unpaid wages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1999), while four mines have halted operations, Ukrainian Television reported on 26 January. Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko instructed the Coal Mining Ministry to pay the mines by the end of January for all coal mined last month. Coal Mining Minister Serhiy Tulub said the payment will amount to 200 million hryvni ($58 million) and is "doable." The government owes more than $2 billion hryvni to the mining sector. Also on 26 January, workers at the Ukrnafta and Ukrhazprom companies held "warning strikes for the first time ever in Ukraine," according to Ukrainian Television. The report did not specify the reason for those protests. JM BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION PREDICTS ECONOMIC COLLAPSE IN 2000... The National Executive Committee, Belarus's shadow cabinet headed by Henadz Karpenka, has concluded that Belarus faces an economic collapse in 2000, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 26 January. A special report prepared by Karpenka for the Congress of Democratic Forces on 29-30 January states that optimistic official data on Belarus's economic performance are a result of the government's "deliberate manipulation of figures." The shadow cabinet says that economic growth, officially reported over the past two years at 10 percent, in fact declined, by 2 percent in 1997 and 4 percent in 1998. JM ...SAYS DEMOCRATS READY TO CONSOLIDATE AT THIS WEEK'S CONGRESS. At a news conference on 26 January, Karpenka said the upcoming Congress of Democratic Forces will adopt resolutions on Belarusian statehood, the consolidation of democratic forces, the government's socioeconomic policies, human rights, and the Belarusian language. He added that the parties participating in the congress have coordinated their positions on the proposed resolutions, giving "eloquent proof of their readiness and ability to unite." The organizers expect that delegations from 30 countries will attend the congress. JM DEPUTIES SUBMIT NEW EESTI TELEKOM BILL. One day after the privatization of Eesti Telekom was launched (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999), 23 parliamentary deputies of all political stripes submitted a bill urging that the privatization plans for the telecommunications company be revised, ETA reported on 26 January. Under the bill, the company would be listed as a strategic enterprise, meaning that the state would retain a 51 percent share. The current plan foresees the state having a 27 percent share and the Finnish and Swedish concerns Sonera and Telia becoming the majority shareholders. Opponents of the current privatization plans argue that the company is being sold too cheaply and are opposed to foreign investors' having majority shares in strategically important companies. Communications and Transport Minister Raivo Vare called the move a "catastrophe," saying the harm done is "impossible to determine because it may undermine Estonia's image among investors." JC LATVIAN CABINET APPROVES AMENDING NATURALIZATION DEPARTMENT'S STATUTES. The government on 26 January approved amendments to the statutes of the Naturalization Department that will allow the department to deal with applications for granting citizenship to stateless citizens in accordance with the recently amended citizenship law, BNS reported. Under the amended citizenship law, stateless children born in Latvia after 21 August 1991 can be granted citizenship if their parents request it. "Diena" on 26 January reported that since the beginning of the year, when the amendments to the law went into force, 67 such applications have been received. JC BIRKAVS SAYS EUROPEAN SECURITY, RUSSIA AS IMPORTANT NOW AS 78 YEARS AGO. Speaking on Latvian Radio on 26 January, the 78th anniversary of the de jure recognition of Latvia's independence, Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs said that today "collective security and the Russian issue" are just as important as in 1921, when Latvia was fighting for international recognition, "only this time we are independent both de jure and de facto." Birkavs pointed out that Latvia must use the opportunity to move toward NATO membership "as there is no European security without NATO," and he argued that Latvia should work hard to integrate into the EU. The foreign minister also noted that relations with Russia are "not as good as we would like them to be" but stressed that the political dialogue with Moscow will resume when State Secretary Maris Riekstins meets with his Russian counterpart on 5 February, BNS reported. JC LITHUANIAN PROSECUTOR GUNNED DOWN. Thirty-year-old Gintautas Sereika, chief prosecutor at the organized crime and corruption department in the district of Panevezys, was killed by gunmen outside his home on 25 January, BNS reported. Prosecutor-General Kazys Pednycias said the assassination was undoubtedly related to Sereika's work, since the department he headed deals with the "most shady" crimes committed in Panevezys, Lithuania's fifth-largest city. The next day, Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius convened an emergency meeting of law-enforcement chiefs to discuss new ways of combating organized crime. JC POLISH CABINET PLEDGES HELP TO FARMERS. The Polish government on 26 January promised help for the agricultural sector in an attempt to end road blockades by farmers protesting cheap food imports and low prices for domestic agricultural products (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999), Reuters reported. "We are working out extraordinary measures...to unblock farm produce sales in Poland and abroad," cabinet chief-of- staff Wieslaw Walendziak said but gave no further details. According to police reports, some 6,000 farmers continued to block 130 roads and obstruct traffic at four border crossings in Poland on 26 January. Negotiations have been held up by the government's unwillingness to meet with radical farmers' leader Andrzej Lepper, whom the authorities accuse of pursuing political goals during the ongoing protest action. Two other farmers' organizations, the Farmers' Solidarity and the Agricultural Circles refuse to negotiate with the government unless Lepper is present. JM POLISH DEFENSE MINISTER IN WASHINGTON. Janusz Onyszkiewicz met with U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen in Washington on 26 January to discuss Poland's NATO entry and the possible leasing of U.S. F-16 and/or F-18 aircraft, PAP reported. Onyszkiewicz said Poland's NATO entry does not require the purchase of modern military aircraft, but he noted that Poland's "national needs suggest that the matter be moved forward." He said Poland will first lease the aircraft and then buy them at a later date, adding that they need not be "necessarily brand new, but of advanced types." JM CZECH, SLOVAK ROMA NOT ALLOWED TO CROSS GERMAN BORDER. German border guards refused entry to two separate groups of Czech and Slovak Roma because they did not have the requisite amount of money to stay in Germany, CTK reported on 26 January. Although they all had valid passports, the German embassy in Prague said anyone entering Germany must have at least DM 50 ($29) for every day they plan on spending in the country. The majority of people crossing German borders are not asked to show how much money they have. In other news, two Roma in north Bohemia were put on probation for two years for a racially motivated attack on policemen last March. PB INTERIOR MINISTRY TO CHARGE TWO OPPOSITIONISTS IN KOVAC KIDNAPPING. Slovak Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner on 26 January said that police will charge two opposition deputies in connection with the 1995 kidnapping of Michal Kovac Jr., the son of former President Michal Kovac, Reuters reported. Pittner refused to name the deputies but said police will request that their diplomatic immunity be lifted. Pittner said "the circle of people who will be charged with the case is wider" than just the two deputies. In other news, Slovak police said on 26 January that they may summon former Premier Vladimir Meciar to explain his behavior at the funeral of former Industry Minister Jan Ducky on 15 January. Meciar verbally and physically attacked Czech journalist Vladimir Misauer at the funeral. PB SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER IN BRITAIN. Eduard Kukan on 26 January met with Donald Anderson, the chairman of the House of Commons' Foreign Committee, to discuss Bratislava's chances for joining the EU, TASR reported. Anderson said British parliamentary deputies will support Slovak efforts to join NATO and the EU. Kukan later met with 30 financial and business leaders to discuss foreign investment in Slovakia. Kukan said he can give British investors a guarantee of "consistency and coherence." Britain was the leading foreign investor in Slovakia last year. Kukan will meet with his British counterpart, Robin Cook, and Defense Minister George Robertson on 27 January. PB HUNGARIAN, SLOVAK, AUSTRIAN LEADERS MEET. Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban hosted his Slovak counterpart, Mikulas Dzurinda, and Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima for a one-day summit in Sopron, Hungary, AP reported on 26 January. Orban said the focus of the talks was regional cooperation, specifically, the creation of a development zone within the Bratislava-Vienna-Gyoer triangle. He said a meeting will be held in Gyoer in September at which business leaders will also take part. Dzurinda said Slovakia "must prove capable of cooperation in the trilateral community if we want to become a part of the EU." Klima expressed Vienna's interest in tightening borders to prevent cross-border crime and the flight of illegal aliens to the West. PB MORE THAN 100 ILLEGAL ALIENS CAUGHT IN HUNGARY. Border guards and police have caught more than 100 illegal aliens in two separate incidents in Hungary, AP reported on 26 January. Sixty Bangladeshis were found hiding in a truck in Budapest. The previous day, a group of more than 40 Albanians were found in a truck on the highway to Budapest. PB SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE UCK ISSUES CHALLENGE TO SHADOW STATE. U.S. special envoy Chris Hill discussed the political future of Kosova with representatives of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) at an undisclosed location in that province on 27January. The previous day, the guerrillas issued a statement in Prishtina calling on all Kosovar parties to help set up a "constituent assembly" for Kosova by 10 February. The statement also urged Kosovar politicians to transfer to the UCK money contributed to the shadow state by Kosovars abroad or face unspecified "measures...in the interests of the [ethnic] Albanian people." A spokesman for the UCK told "RFE/RL Newsline" that the guerrillas have already set up their own administrative structures in areas of Kosova under their control. Observers noted that the UCK statement is the guerrillas' strongest public challenge so far to the shadow state of President Ibrahim Rugova. The shadow state has its own elected legislature and maintains an extensive network of schools and health care facilities, which are financed by Kosovars abroad. PM U.S. WANTS KOSOVA AGREEMENT IN 'WEEKS.' State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Cairo on 27 January that Washington "expects to be able to develop a series of coordinated and parallel military and political measures to bring [Yugoslav] President [Slobodan] Milosevic into compliance [with pledges he has already made] and move both sides toward acceptance of a political settlement" for Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). Rubin added that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who arrived in Cairo from Moscow, wants Milosevic to implement the pact he made with U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke in October, which includes a cease- fire and the withdrawal of Serbian security forces. She also wants an agreement "within weeks" on a plan that will give the Kosovars broad autonomy within Yugoslavia for an interim period of three years. Meanwhile in Geneva on 26 January, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that use of force in Kosova by NATO may prove "unavoidable." PM YUGOSLAV MINISTER CALLS RAKOVINA DEATHS 'TRAFFIC ACCIDENT.' Federal Minister for Health, Labor, and Social Policy Miodrag Kovac said in Prishtina on 26 January that the recent deaths of five Kosovars whose bodies were found on a tractor near Rakovina were the result of "a traffic accident. The people who were on the tractor were unfortunately killed" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999), Beta news agency reported. Foreign journalists had reported that the five were shot at close range. Meanwhile in Belgrade, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said that the only way to end the crisis in Kosova is through "the final destruction of Albanian terrorist gangs, which get massive support from their American mentors." His Serbian Radical Party called for "the use of the most brutal force" to end the crisis if the Kosovars refuse to negotiate with the Serbs. Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic urged the international community to stress that Kosova is an "internal part of Serbia." PM KOSOVARS INSIST ON PEACE BEFORE TALKS. Rugova's spokesman said in Prishtina on 26 January that Rugova will take part in talks aimed at obtaining a political settlement only if Milosevic first respects the cease- fire, withdraws his troops, and frees political prisoners. A spokesman for the UCK's Adem Demaci made similar remarks in describing the guerrillas' position. Reuters quoted Demaci's spokesman as adding that "there is no autonomy of any kind that will provide safety for Kosovars. Only in an independent Kosova can there be safety." PM U.S. PLEDGES $25 MILLION AID FOR KOSOVA. National Security Council spokesman David Leavy said in Washington on 26 January that President Bill Clinton has authorized up to $25 million "to meet the urgent and unexpected needs of refugees and migrants" displaced by the conflict in Kosova. The money will go to non- governmental organizations that are working to end the humanitarian crisis in the province. PM FINNS SAY TRUTH ABOUT RECAK MAY NEVER BE KNOWN. Helena Ranta, who heads a team of Finnish forensic experts investigating the killings of 45 Kosovars at Recak, said in Prishtina on 26 January that "there is a possibility of contamination and a possibility of fabrication of evidence" regarding the corpses. She added that these problems stem from a "chain of custody." Observers said this is a reference to the fact that the bodies were in the sole custody of the Serbian authorities for almost one week before the Finns arrived (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 1999). PM U.S., ITALY TO HELP MONTENEGRIN AVIATION. A group of air traffic and airport experts from the U.S. is expected to arrive in Montenegro shortly to help the Montenegrin authorities prepare the airports at Podgorica and Tivat for international jet traffic, AP reported on 26 January. Montenegro Airlines will soon begin flights to the U.S. On 25 January, that airline and Alitalia signed a cooperation agreement calling for technical aid for the two airports and the opening of Rome-Podgorica and Milan-Tivat flights. Officials of the Belgrade-based Jugoslavenski Aerotransport (JAT), which built the Podgorica and Tivat facilities, said that the airports belong to JAT, which will not give them up to the Montenegrin authorities, "Danas" reported on 27 January. PM MACEDONIA RECOGNIZES TAIWAN. Macedonian Foreign Minister Aleksandar Dimitrov and his Taiwanese counterpart, Jason Hu, established diplomatic relations in Taipei on 27 January. Dimitrov said that Macedonia regards Taiwan as a role model for economic development. Both ministers suggested that Taiwan will provide assistance to Macedonia in trade, agriculture, and technical fields. Macedonia's move brings to 28 the number of countries that recognize the island republic. The only other European state to do so is the Vatican. PM NATO TO CUT BOSNIA FORCE. Clinton's national security adviser Sandy Berger said in Washington on 26 January that the peace process in Bosnia is making progress and that the Atlantic alliance will reduce the number of its peacekeepers there by 10 percent within two months. The U.S. contingent will be cut from 6,900 to 6,200 troops. PM WARNING TO BOSNIAN SERB LEADER. A spokeswoman for the international community's Carlos Westendorp said in Sarajevo on 26 January that time has come for Republika Srpska nationalist President Nikola Poplasen to stop "playing games and wasting time." She called on him to nominate a prime minister who can win the approval of the parliament, in which his fellow hard-liners are in a minority, an RFE/RL correspondent reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). PM CROATIAN OPPOSITION SHUNS TUDJMAN OFFER. Social Liberal Party leader Drazen Budisa said in Zagreb on 26 January that President Franjo Tudjman offered to give his party seats in a proposed multi-party government but that he refused that offer. Budisa argued that to accept would have been "political suicide." Social Democratic leader Ivica Racan also spoke with Tudjman about the country's political future but noted that Tudjman did not offer him any seats in the cabinet. Racan suggested this was because Tudjman knew that any offer would be refused. Parliamentary elections are due by January 2000. Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community has fared poorly in recent polls. PM ALBANIAN OPPOSITION SUBMITS DRAFT LAW ON HAJDARI INVESTIGATION. The Democratic Party on 26 January submitted a draft law to Prime Minister Pandeli Majko providing for the creation of an "independent body" to investigate the killing of Democratic legislator Azem Hajdari in September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 1999). After meeting with Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha, Majko pledged to study the proposal and pass it on to the parliament, "Albanian Daily News" reported. He also said that "the government is determined to promote dialogue with the opposition and welcomes every legitimate step or initiative that helps solve the Hajdari case." He urged opposition supporters to assist state officials who are investigating the murder. Witnesses from the opposition have repeatedly refused to talk to state prosecutors investigating the case. FS ROMANIAN PRESIDENT INVESTIGATING SECURITY FORCES FAILURE. Emil Constantinescu on 26 January said that he will analyze the "inadequate performance" of security forces who failed to prevent striking coal miners from marching toward Bucharest, AP reported. Constantinescu summoned the Supreme Defense Council to review the incident and determine why the security forces failed. Constantinescu said a review will be made of some officers "who had [been ordered] to organize the troops' strategy and actually blocked the troops' efforts to carry out their mission." The Supreme Defense Council is made up of the president, prime minister, interior and defense ministers, and the heads of Romanian intelligence services. Some reports suggest that officers fled their positions during the clashes with miners, leaving the troops in disarray. PB MOLDOVAN, TRANSDNIESTRIAN LEADERS MEET IN TIRASPOL. Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi and Transdniestrian leader Igor Smirnov met in Tiraspol on 26 January to discuss economic and political issues, Infotag reported. Talks focused, among other things, on a draft law defining Transdniester's "special status." Lucinschi said there is a need to "better clarify" the term "common state," which was mentioned in the Moscow Memorandum signed last year. He said the two sides interpret the term differently. Lucinschi also noted that "a necessity certainly exists" for a large-scale meeting on the Transdniestrian issue that would also be attended by Ukrainian and Russian officials. PB. BULGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES TO COOPERATE FOR ELECTIONS. The Euro-Left and the Liberal Democratic Union on 26 January signed a political agreement pledging to coordinate activities during the local election campaign this year, BTA reported. Euro-Left leader Aleksandur Tomov said the agreement "has implications for future general elections." The agreement urges that an alternative government program be drawn up promoting Bulgaria as an "independent, prosperous nation-state in the European tradition of a socially-orientated market economy." Former President Zhelyu Zhelev is the honorary chairman of the Liberal Democratic Union. PB xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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