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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 27, Part II, 9 February 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 27, Part II, 9 February 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 * LATVIA, LITHUANIA STILL HARBOR NATO HOPES, DESPITE SCHROEDER COMMENT * FOREIGN MINISTERS RETURN TO RAMBOUILLET * TIRANA IN TOUCH WITH RAMBOUILLET? End Note: MAKING PEACE BEFORE THE WAR BEGINS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN NUCLEAR OFFICIALS APPEAL FOR MORE FUNDS. Some 28 Ukrainian nuclear energy officials have warned of a deepening crisis in their struggling industry and appealed to the government for more money, AP reported on 8 February. A letter signed by nuclear plant directors, scientists, and energy executives says the failure of consumers to pay their bills has left nuclear plants unable to pay wages or upgrade aging equipment. Nuclear officials also said that existing energy facilities in the country are inadequate and that many nuclear plants are operating in dangerous conditions. PB UKRAINIAN DEPUTY QUESTIONS IMF RELATIONSHIP. Adam Martynyuk, the first deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, said on 8 February that the legislature will debate Kyiv's relationship with the IMF, Reuters reported. Martynyuk, who leads a Communist bloc in the parliament, said "even a portion of the executive branch [is]starting to understand that it is time to reject the dictates of the IMF and the World Bank." He said the government is not implementing its own program but "the parameters of the IMF memorandum." PB BELARUSIAN NATIONAL BANK HEAD MEETS WITH IMF OFFICIAL IN MINSK. Pyotr Prakapovich met with IMF mission head for Belarus Thomas Wolf on 8 February to assess the possibility of extending a loan to Minsk, Belapan reported. Wolf heads a mission that is checking Belarusian compliance with its commitments to the IMF that are necessary to receive a $100 million loan. Prakapovich said Minsk has met all the targets it agreed to with the IMF. He added that it has also liberalized its exchange markets and did not print any new money last month. In other news, the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis said that agricultural output declined by 0.4 percent in 1998, with grain production dropping by 25 percent. PB BELARUSIAN INTERIOR MINISTER RESIGNS. A spokesman for Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in Minsk on 8 February that the president has accepted the resignation of Interior Minister Valyantsin Ahalets, Reuters reported. The agency said Jury Sivakou has been named his replacement. Lukashenka awarded Ahalets the rank of lieutenant- general, while state television said he will be involved in diplomatic work. PB BLEAK ECONOMIC OUTLOOK AS BELARUSIAN UPPER HOUSE APPROVES BUDGET. The upper house of the Belarusian National Assembly passed the 1999 draft budget on 8 February by 54 votes to one, Belapan reported. Earlier, the draft had been passed by the lower house (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 1999). Mikhail Matusevich, the chairman of the upper house's Committee on Economics, Budget, and Finances, said full implementation of the budget will be hindered by a higher than expected inflation rate, a severe foreign trade deficit, the slow pace of privatization, and a decline in profitable companies. He added that he doubted the budget will ensure growth, attract foreign investment, or eliminate the shadow economy. PB BALTS BACK 'NORTHERN DIMENSION' CONCEPT. The three Baltic prime ministers, taking part in a meeting with their Nordic counterparts in Helsinki on 8 February, voiced support for the EU "Northern Dimension" concept, Baltic agencies reported. Proposed by Finland, that concept foresees "strategic cooperation between Brussels and Moscow in the areas of energy, infrastructure, and ecology," according to BNS. ELTA quotes Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius as saying that Vilnius supports the Finnish initiative as an integral part of European integration, but not as a substitute for existing integration programs. JC ESTONIA WRAPS UP LATEST ROUND OF WTO TALKS. An Estonian delegation headed by Clyde Kull, deputy chancellor of the Foreign Ministry, concluded the latest round of talks with the World Trade Organization in Geneva on the weekend, ETA reported on 8 February. According to the news agency, Estonia still has to make a "serious effort" in order to be admitted to the organization. Several new laws must be enacted and two conventions ratified before it can receive an invitation to join. Latvia was accepted as a member of the WTO last year. JC LATVIA, LITHUANIA STILL HARBOR NATO HOPES, DESPITE SCHROEDER COMMENT. Following German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's comment on the weekend that he does not expect a decision on future members to be taken at NATO's April summit, Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis remarked on state radio on 8 February that Schroeder assumed "big personal responsibility" by making such a statement. Ulmanis added that he does not believe that statement corresponds to "what has been heard at NATO headquarters," BNS reported. In Vilnius, a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official said that Lithuania, along with the other two Baltic States, continues to hope that in April NATO will make a "clear forecast" about further expansion of the alliance. JC LILEIKIS, GIMZAUSKAS TO UNDERGO MEDICAL EXAM BY INTERNATIONAL TEAM? Suspected World War II criminals Aleksandras Lileikis and Kazys Gimzauskas, whose trials have been repeatedly postponed owing to their poor health, may be subject to a medical examination by an international team of experts. That option was proposed at a 8 February meeting of law-enforcement officials convened by Lithuanian government Chancellor Kestutis Cilinskas after the U.S. Justice Department had expressed doubts over the validity of conclusions reached by Lithuanian doctors that the defendants are not fit to stand trial, ELTA reported. Also on 8 February, the Jerusalem-based office of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal said it will file complaints against Lithuania to the EU and the U.S. Congress alleging that Vilnius is pursuing a "conciliatory" policy toward former Nazis. JC PUMPING OF CRUDE OIL TO MAZEIKIAI NAFTA RESUMES. ELTA reported on 8 February that the pumping of crude oil from the Polatsk station in Belarus to Lithuania's Mazeikiai Nafta refinery has resumed. Supplies were halted some 10 days earlier, resulting in the shutdown of the refinery and what the news agency described as losses of millions of litas to the company. Late last week, an agreement was reached in Moscow on the delivery of an additional 300,000 tons of crude to Mazeikiai Nafta (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 8 February 1999). JC POLISH POLICE DISPERSE LAST PROTESTING FARMERS. Polish police fired rubber bullets on protesting farmers to free a handful of blockaded roads on 8 February, AP reported. The nine blockades were the last in the country and were set up at the request of Self Defense farmers' group leader Andrzej Lepper. Other farmers' union leaders, who signed a protocol with the government the previous day, criticized Lepper. Roman Weirzbicki, head of the Farmers' Solidarity union, said "this is Lepper's private war," "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported. PB CZECH-SLOVAK NEGOTIATIONS ON FEDERAL PROPERTY DIVISION TO BE 'DIFFICULT.' Negotiations between the Czech Republic and Slovakia on the division of former Czechoslovak Federation property will be "extremely difficult," Czech Deputy Premier Pavel Mertlik said in an interview with the daily "Pravo" of 9 February. Among the contentious issues he mentions the claim of the Czech National Bank of a $24.7 billion crowns (some $735 million), which the Slovak National Bank refuses to acknowledge. Mertlik met with his Slovak counterpart, Ivan Miklos, on 6 February in Bratislava to discuss resuming the joint commission's negotiations on property division. MS DUCKY MURDERER WRITES TO INTERIOR MINISTER. Interior Minister Vladislav Pittner has received a letter from someone claiming to have murdered former Interior Minister Jan Ducky on 11 January, CTK reported on 8 February. The author of the letter hints that the reasons for the murder were Ducky's economic activities. The head of Slovak police, Jan Pipta, said the letter is "very important" but declined to offer more details, noting only that the letter could lead to those who contracted the murder. MS HUNGARY'S CORRUPTION SCANDAL ENDS WITH TOCSIK'S ACQUITTAL. Lawyer Marta Tocsik, former consultant of the State Privatization and Holding Company, has been acquitted of charges of fraud and forgery in Hungary's biggest corruption scandal since the fall of communism. In 1996, Tocsik received an honorarium worth 804 million forint ($5.3 million at that time) for mediating between local governments and the privatization agency to settle the issue of sharing income from the sale of state-owned property. Former Socialist Party treasurer Laszlo Boldvai, who is still a Socialist parliamentary deputy, and Gyorgy Budai, a businessman with close links to the Free Democrats, were convicted of abuse of power for having persuaded Tocsik to transfer millions of forints to companies named by them. Boldvai was sentenced to 10 months in prison and Budai to six months. MSZ HUNGARIAN-SLOVAK MINORITIES COMMITTEE ESTABLISHED. Zsolt Nemeth and Jan Figel, the two co-chairmen of the joint committee overseeing the implementation of the Hungarian-Slovak basic treaty, said in Budapest on 8 February that they are open to the idea of establishing consulates in Kosice (Slovakia) and Bekescsaba (Hungary). They were speaking after the committee's first meeting. In other news, Hungary's air force on 8 February inaugurated its new air surveillance system. Defense Minister Janos Szabo attended the inauguration in Veszperem. The new system is viewed as major step toward compatibility with the air surveillance system used by NATO. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE FOREIGN MINISTERS RETURN TO RAMBOUILLET. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine and his British counterpart, Robin Cook, returned to the Kosova peace talks at Rambouillet on 9 February in order to encourage the rival delegations to negotiate seriously and "move the talks forward," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the French town. U.S. mediator Chris Hill told reporters that the negotiating process "is not easy. Frankly, it's not a lot of fun. But we are making progress, we're moving ahead through some very difficult territory." Vedrine and Cook opened the negotiations, but U.S., EU, and Russian mediators have since shuttled between the Serbian and Kosovar delegations to the proximity talks. PM U.S. SAYS GROUND TROOPS NECESSARY... State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington on 8 February that "the work at Rambouillet is progressing. It's going at a constructive and business-like pace. We thought the fact [the two delegations] expressed their regret and indignation over the bombing in Prishtina was an encouraging sign" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February 1999). He stressed that foreign ground troops will be have to be present in Kosova to help enforce any agreement to emerge from the talks. "Some peace implementation force will be necessary if we are going to get this agreement to stick and create a secure environment in which the [governmental] institutions of the Kosovar Albanians can take root and their level of self-government increase. So we don't agree that you can have a solution right now in the absence of some force," he concluded. Moscow and Belgrade oppose the sending of foreign troops to Kosova. PM ...BUT MAINLY FROM EUROPE. Secretary of Defense William Cohen said in Bonn on 8 February that the Clinton administration intends to include U.S. ground troops in any NATO force sent to preserve a peace settlement in Kosova, AP reported. Cohen stressed, however, that "we will be there to keep a peace, not to make a peace. There must be an agreement that is real, which is agreed to by all parties, which is not simply some sort of tactical move or temporizing on the part of any of them. President [Bill] Clinton has indicated that under those circumstances, should NATO decide to commit land forces to keep that peace, that we would participate, but that the majority of the burden should be borne by the European countries," the secretary concluded (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 1999). PM WHAT MANDATE DOES MILOSEVIC'S DELEGATION HAVE? Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic said in Belgrade on 8 February "the mandate of the Yugoslav delegation to Rambouillet gives it the right to conduct negotiations...but the ultimate decision will be made not there, but in the only possible place--Belgrade." Observers have noted that the delegation sent by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic does not include any members of the top leadership or representatives of the Kosovar Serbs. The delegation contains several persons without any political influence who are the nominal representatives of tiny ethnic or political minorities. Observers add that Belgrade's choice of delegates suggests that it regards the talks at least in part as a propaganda exercise. PM TIRANA IN TOUCH WITH RAMBOUILLET? An unnamed official of the Albanian Foreign Ministry told "Gazeta Shqiptare" of 9 February that the ministry is in contact via cellular telephone with the Kosovar delegation in Rambouillet. The official added that the Kosovars have chosen UCK representative Hashim Thaci to head their delegation and that his deputies are shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova and nationalist leader Rexhep Qosja. Journalist Veton Surroi is spokesman. According to the rules of the conference, the mediators have a daily press conference, but in general the participants are not supposed to talk to persons on the outside. Leaks to the press have nonetheless already become commonplace because conference organizers did not take away the participants' mobile telephones. FS/TJ ALBRIGHT REASSURES GLIGOROV. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov in a telephone conversation on 6 February that the current focus on Kosova does not give Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic a "free hand to cause problems" elsewhere in the Balkans, Reuters reported on 8 February. She stressed that the U.S. wants the UN to renew the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1999). Albright also "applauded the Macedonian government's efforts to improve inter-ethnic relations and ties with neighboring countries and urged continued attention to economic reform," her spokesman said. Gligorov is close to the Social Democratic opposition and has been at odds with the government over its decision to recognize Taiwan and to grant an amnesty that includes many ethnic Albanians. PM SOUTH AFRICA DENIES KOSOVA LINK TO ARREST OF LEKA. A police spokesman said in Johannesburg on 8 February that Leka Zogu, who is the claimant to the Albanian throne, appeared in court on arms possession charges and returned to prison while the court considers his request for bail, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February 1999). Leka's bail hearing will take place on 15 February, the spokesman added. Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo told reporters in Cape Town that no extradition request has arrived and that Leka will face the "full weight of our law." Other Foreign Affairs Department officials denied that the arrest of Leka, who is an arms dealer, is related to the conflict in Kosova. Observers suggested that some members of the international community might prefer that Leka, who faces coup charges in Albania and is regarded by many there as a destabilizing influence, were not at liberty to engage in Balkan politics. PM ALBANIAN PROSECUTORS LINK TWO COUP ATTEMPTS. An unnamed high-ranking official of the Prosecutor-General's office told "Koha Jone" of 9 February that his investigations have identified 10 key individuals who took part in two coup attempts, one in 1997, the other in 1998. The daily also reported that three persons arrested in conjunction with the 1998 coup attempt have concluded a plea- bargaining deal with investigators and will testify in court. On 3 July 1997, Leka led a crowd of heavily armed supporters in a march on the offices of the Central Election Commission following the Socialist victory in the general elections. On 14 September 1998, armed supporters of the opposition Democratic Party attacked the offices of Prime Minister Fatos Nano and captured two tanks. FS ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT REDUCES BUDGET DEFICIT. The parliament on 8 February approved reducing the budget deficit from 2.4 percent of GDP, as originally envisaged, to 2 percent, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Heeding Finance Minister Decebal Train Remes's warnings about defaulting on foreign debt servicing, the legislature also approved the government's proposal to suspend tax breaks for domestic and foreign investors. The breaks were approved last December. MS MOLDOVAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE BEGINS TALKS ON FORMING CABINET. Serafim Urecheanu on 8 February began negotiations on forming a new government, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Urecheanu said after talks with leaders of the ruling Alliance for Democracy and Reform (APDR) that he is still aiming at setting up a cabinet of experts not necessarily reflecting parliamentary representation and that he wants his government to be able to rule by decree. For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc leader Dumitru Diacov expressed confidence after meeting with Urecheanu that a "compromise" will be found. He said that another meeting of APDR leaders with Urecheanu will take place within two or three days. MS MOLDOVAN DELEGATION TO MOSCOW DELAYED BY BOMB THREAT. A Moldovan delegation's departure for Moscow was delayed on 8 February after a hoax call claimed a bomb had been planted on the plane, Infotag reported. Head of the delegation was Diacov in his capacity as parliamentary chairman. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 February that the Gazprom management, in a letter to President Petru Lucinschi, has warned that it will cut off gas supplies altogether if Moldova does not pay $23 million for gas deliveries in January. Supplies for this month have already been halved owing to Moldova's failure to clear its total debt of $439 million, of which $304 million is owed by the Transdniester. MS BULGARIAN PREMIER MEETS NEW REGIONAL GOVERNORS. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on 7 February told the 28 new regional governors appointed three days earlier that they have three tasks ahead of them: to work to speed up land restitution and complete agricultural reforms, to establish law and order while stepping up the fight against corruption, and to develop programs for the regions. Kostov said the governors must solve local problems democratically and at the same time implement government directives, BTA reported. He added that governors failing in these tasks will be fired, regardless of which coalition party advanced their candidacy. Under the new local administration system, the country is divided into 28, instead of the former nine, regions. MS END NOTE MAKING PEACE BEFORE THE WAR BEGINS by Tim Judah On the eve of the peace talks in Rambouillet, France, the pessimists had the upper hand. The Serbs had found excuses to prevent members of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) from leaving the southern Serbian province to attend the talks. At the same time, Ratko Markovic, one of the three leading members of the Serbian delegation, arrived in Paris saying that his team had no intention of talking to "kidnappers and murderers." Twenty-four hours later, Markovic and the full Serbian delegation were sitting just yards away from the ethnic Albanian team, including the UCK group. On the face of it, there should be no room for optimism about the peace talks that have started in the 14th century chateau in Rambouillet. Although the delegations have been convened to discuss only a three- year interim deal, the ethnic Albanians are demanding a referendum on independence at the end of that period, something the Serbs reject out-of-hand. Chris Hill, the chief U.S. negotiator, calls this "reconciling the irreconcilable." But all the indications are that, barring the unexpected (another massacre, for example), the negotiators may well be able to clinch a deal. And if even if they do not quite succeed within the two-week timeframe set by the Contact Group for former Yugoslavia, they may make enough progress to reconvene soon afterward to finish the job. Put simply, both sides have an interest in reaching an agreement. First, they have to weigh up the costs of failure. The diplomats are telling the Serbs that if they are seen to scupper the agreement, then Yugoslav military targets will be bombed. Slobodan Milosevic and his generals have no wish whatsoever to have their air defenses pulverized. This means that in the end, they must take this threat seriously. The ethnic Albanians are also being threatened. For them the fear is not so much that NATO will cut off arms supply routes to the UCK. It is rather that if they are seen to block progress, then the West will do little or nothing if Serbian forces rampage across the province using their full military might against the lightly armed guerrillas and unarmed civilians. On a more positive note, the UCK--and the other Albanians in the negotiating team--believe that once a deal is done and a full-scale NATO-led peace keeping force is established in the province, then Kosova will be well on the way to independence. The vast majority of official posts will be in the hands of the Albanians. More to the point, though, while some UCK forces will be confined to barracks, others will be disbanded--only to promptly reappear as the major part of a new local police force. In public, the UCK and the remainder of the Kosova Albanian delegation are saying that a referendum is a sine qua non of any deal. In fact, their fall back position is that they will give up this demand as long as no option is foreclosed at the end of three years. This is clearly on the table, as British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the delegates that the proposed draft agreement meant that both sides should seek to make progress "without surrendering any of their views as to what should be the long term future for Kosova after three years." In contrast to the ethnic Albanians, the Serbs are far less optimistic that a deal will be struck in Rambouillet. Still, they do not expect the meeting to be a complete failure either. They predict that enough progress will be made at Rambouillet for a new round of talks to begin soon afterward. According to Serbian sources, Milosevic has already accepted the inevitability of some sort of foreign peacekeeping force for Kosova. Whether it will be NATO- led or come under some other guise has still to be negotiated. Milosevic also wants to see what his negotiators can get in return for any deal--that is, the lifting of all remaining sanctions. For the Serbs, the fact that all options are left open at the end of the three-year period can be presented as a plus, because the province will remain both in the interim and possibly after that--as one diplomat puts it--"implicitly" within Serbia. Independence is therefore not inevitable. The diplomats, meanwhile, are hoping that the three-year interim period will see more than a calming of passions and the end of the war. They hope that by the end of that period, Milosevic will have fallen. It is unclear, however, whether any new democratically elected Serbian or Yugoslav leader would find it any easier to deal with the poisoned chalice of the Kosova issue. Pessimists believe that the difference between the Dayton conference, which ended the war in Bosnian in November 1995 and Rambouillet is that at the former, all sides were exhausted, had fought one another to a virtual standstill, and wanted a deal. This, they say, is not yet the case in Kosova. Indeed, in the words of one diplomat: "We are trying to get them to agree to a peace deal before the war has really begun." Tim Judah is the author of: "The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Europe (Yale University Press: New Haven/London, 1998). xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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