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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 28, Part II, 10 February 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 28, Part II, 10 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

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Headlines, Part II

* UKRAINE DEVALUES CURRENCY

* U.S. SAYS SERBS RISK NATO AIR STRIKES

* ROMANIAN MINERS THREATEN NEW STRIKE
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINE DEVALUES CURRENCY. Ukraine announced a new
trading band for the hryvna on 9 February, effectively
devaluing the beleaguered currency, dpa reported. The
new trading corridor is 3.4 hryvni to 4.6 hryvni to the
dollar, down from 2.5 to 3.5 announced in September. The
government has kept the hryvna at an artificial rate of
3.43 hryvni to the dollar since November, although it
has been trading on the black market at 4 hryvni to the
dollar. Deputy Economy Minister Serhiy Tyhypko said the
government will have to maintain the currency corridor
in order to ensure stability for investors and domestic
producers. National Bank chairman Viktor Yushenko said
he hopes to maintain the exchange rate in the middle of
the band. PB

UKRAINIAN BANKS ANGRY AT GOVERNMENT. Some 80 Ukrainian
banks have accused the government of delaying payments
on treasury bills without consulting bank officials. The
Finance Ministry announced last week that it will not
redeem government bonds due to mature this month until
between May and September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5
February 1999). The banks, struggling to stay in
business since the Russian economic crisis, said they
will appeal to the Association of Ukrainian Banks and
seek to have the government's decision overturned in
court. PB

CRIMEAN TATARS TO APPEAL FOR INTERNATIONAL HELP. The
National Movement of Crimean Tatars said on 9 February
in Simferopol that they have begun collecting signatures
for an appeal on their plight to the UN and the Council
of Europe, ITAR-TASS reported. A regional meeting of
Crimean Tatar leaders passed a resolution stating that
Kyiv "cannot and will not carry the burden of restoring
[the] lawful rights of the Crimean Tatars, cannot and
will not provide for equal rights of all people residing
in Crimea, and keeps pursuing a policy of genocide and
ethnocide against [the Crimean Tatars]." Crimean Tatar
leader Vasvi Abduraimov said some 80,000 Tatars in
Crimea are unable to receive Ukrainian citizenship and
that unemployment is as high as 50 percent among them.
PB

LUKASHENKA BLAMES MISMANAGEMENT FOR ECONOMIC WOES.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 9
February in Minsk that "mismanagement" was one of the
main reasons for the country's economic decline in 1998,
Belapan reported. Speaking at a conference of senior
central and local government officials, Lukashenka said
Belarus has all the conditions for a productive economic
year in 1999. He also outlined the country's economic
priorities as closing the trade deficit, halting
spiraling inflation, maintaining economic growth, and
reducing the number of unprofitable companies. The same
day, two employees at the Minsk Tractor Factory went on
a hunger strike to demand a wage increase and to seek to
force management to adhere to the collective bargaining
agreement. PB

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES AMENDMENTS TO LANGUAGE
LAW.
Lawmakers on 9 February passed in the third and final
reading amendments to the state language law and tax law
requiring those working in the services sector to be
proficient in the Estonian language. The vote was 35 to
six with one abstention. At the end of last year,
President Lennart Meri had signed amendments to the
election law imposing language requirements on members
of the parliament and local governments. Moscow and OSCE
High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der
Stoel have both criticized such amendments. JC

PREMIER OPPOSES SOCIAL DEMOCRATS' BID FOR BIGGER ROLE IN
RIGA CITY COUNCIL. Vilis Kristopans, speaking to
journalists in Riga on 9 February, said that the Social
Democrats cannot build on their cooperation agreement
with the prime minister to boost their influence in the
Riga City Council, BNS reported. "The Riga City Council
is not a lower chamber of parliament," he commented. His
remarks came after the Social Democrats faction in the
city council handed over a request to Riga Mayor Andris
Berzins to give key council posts to the Social
Democrats. Earlier, Kristopans had refused to include in
his cooperation agreement with the Social Democrats a
clause providing for their increased role in the Riga
City Council. JC

LILEIKIS CASE POSTPONED, PENDING EVIDENCE FROM U.S.
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT. A Vilnius judge on 9 February
announced he is suspending the trial of suspected World
War II criminal Aleksandras Lileikis and will ask the
U.S. Justice Department to provide evidence that the 91-
year-old defendant is feigning sickness to avoid
appearing in court. A Lithuanian team of doctors ruled
that Lileikis is too sick to stand trial, but the head
of the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Special
Investigations says he has strong evidence that Lileikis
is faking. Also on 9 February, the same judge suspended
the trial of Kazys Gimzauskas, Lileikis's deputy during
the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, on the grounds that
the defendant is deemed by local doctors to be too sick
to appear in court. The judge said the trial will resume
if the defendant's health improves, but he did not set a
date. JC

FORMER KGB AGENTS SEEKING TO KEEP POSITIONS IN
LITHUANIA. Head of the State Security Department Mecys
Laurinkus told the parliament on 9 February that 74
former KGB agents have so far applied to be allowed to
retain their posts, following the enactment of the
controversial lustration law on 1 January, ELTA
reported. Under that law, former KGB agents are barred
for 10 years from holding government office and working
in various private-sector jobs. Also on 9 February, the
Constitutional Court began its deliberations on whether
the legislation conforms with the basic law. JC

POLAND TO PRIVATIZE ARMS INDUSTRY. The government on 9
February approved a two-year plan to privatize the
country's defense industry, Reuters reported. Economy
Minister Janusz Steinhoff said "the state of our arms
industry is tragic," noting that it was "created to
serve the Warsaw Pact and now must serve our armed
forces and NATO." Under the program, foreign companies
that want to sell military equipment to Poland will have
to invest in Polish defense companies. Steinhoff said
the government will sell 22 of Poland's 34 defense
firms. Deputy Economy Minister Dariusz Klimek said
investor interest is "tremendous," despite the
industry's debt of some 2 billion zlotys ($570 million).
PB

EU INVESTIGATING POLAND'S COAL EXPORTS. The Polish
Economy Ministry said on 9 February that the EU is
investigating allegations that Poland is dumping
subsidized coal exports on foreign markets, AP reported.
It said that an EU official is in Poland for this
purpose and that Weglokoks, the country's largest coal
exporter, is one company being checked. Britain recently
asked Poland to reduce its subsidized coal exports (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 1999). Poland plans to
reduce coal production from 137 million tons to 110
million tons by 2002. In other news, Pierre Moscovici,
the French European affairs minister, said in Warsaw on
9 February that the EU's failure to reform its finances
at the EU summit in March would not automatically delay
enlargement of the union, Reuters reported. PB

HAVEL'S POPULARITY DROPPING. A public opinion poll
released on 9 February by Sofres-Factum confirms trends
suggesting a drop in the popularity of President Vaclav
Havel, CTK reported. An absolute majority (61 percent)
said Havel is doing a worse job than two years ago, when
he began to have health problems, while only 1 percent
said the opposite. Nearly half of the respondents (49
percent) said Havel should resign. A poll conducted by
the Institute for Public Opinion Research in January
showed Havel's popularity has dropped from 70-80 percent
in the early and mid-1990s to 46 percent. Reacting to
the polls, Havel said on 9 February that he follows them
"with some interest" but has "not drawn any
conclusions." MS

HAVEL MEETS WITH CAUCUS LEADERS. After meeting
separately with the heads of parliamentary groups, Havel
on 9 February told journalists that he plans to organize
a meeting of parliamentary party leaders, excluding the
Communist leader, to discuss ways of solving the
country's current economic and political problems. The
meeting has been tentatively scheduled for early March.
Havel said he is not seeking to interfere in politics
and is only offering the presidential palace's "neutral
grounds" as a venue for seeking "consensus and
communication," CTK reported. He said all invited
formations have confirmed their participation, with the
exception of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS). ODS
chairman Vaclav Klaus said earlier he has doubts about
the purpose of the meeting. MS

SLOVAK DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS ARMY LAGS BEHIND NEIGHBORS.
Pavol Kanis on 9 February said the Slovak army is
"considerably lagging behind" the armies of neighboring
countries and will undergo a "fundamental
reorganization" to prepare it for admission to NATO in
2001, CTK reported. Kanis said the army has three years
to "make up for the time wasted" by the government of
Vladimir Meciar. In related news, the U.S. Air Forces in
Europe signed a memorandum of understanding with the
Slovak government, providing for unescorted access to
the Malacky airfield near Bratislava and to an adjoining
weapons range for training purposes, AP reported. About
200 U.S. military will train at the base five or six
times a year, but U.S. planes will not be kept there on
a permanent basis. Jozef Pivarci, state secretary in the
Defense Ministry, said the agreement "clearly confirms
[Slovakia's] political orientation." MS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NATO MEMBERSHIP. With 330
votes in favor, 13 against, and one abstention, the
parliament on 9 February approved Hungary's joining NATO
and ratified the North Atlantic Treaty, Hungarian media
reported. Only the far-right Hungarian Justice and Life
Party cast "no" votes, saying that Hungary should follow
the goal of neutrality espoused by the 1956 revolution.
Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi is expected to present
the accession documents to the U.S. government next
month. MSZ

HUNGARIAN, ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTERS SEEK TO IMPROVE
RELATIONS. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told
his visiting Romanian counterpart, Radu Vasile, on 9
February that it is in Hungary's interest that Romania
join NATO and the EU. The two premiers agreed "in
principle" that a Hungarian-German university should be
set up in Romania, but Vasile did not specify when this
might happen. He tried to dispel Hungarian concerns that
a planned Budapest-Bucharest highway would circumvent
Transylvania, saying that the two major cities of Cluj
and Targu Mures would "somehow be linked to the system."
Vasile and Orban agreed to promote the opening of a
Hungarian consulate in Miercurea-Ciuc and Hungarian and
Romanian cultural centers in Cluj and Budapest. They
also agreed that after joining the Schengen agreement,
Hungary should try to avoid introducing visa
requirements for Romanians. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

U.S. SAYS SERBS RISK NATO AIR STRIKES. State Department
spokesman James Rubin said in Washington on 9 February
that NATO will launch air strikes against Serbia if the
Kosovars agree to a settlement at the Rambouillet talks
but the Serbs balk over the stationing NATO peacekeepers
in Kosova. "The Serbs will be subject to air strikes.
And so they would be making a big mistake to hold up
this agreement over the question of allowing forces in,"
Rubin stressed. Earlier that day, Yugoslav Foreign
Minister Zivadin Jovanovic said in Belgrade that his
government would agree to foreign troop deployment in
Kosova "under no conditions." In Rambouillet, AP
reported that "despite claims of progress [by
international mediators, unnamed] sources close to the
delegations said that the two sides have not agreed upon
a single word of the peace plan." PM

UCK WANTS FORMAL CEASE-FIRE AGREEMENT. The Kosova
Liberation Army (UCK) said in a statement in Prishtina
on 10 February that it demands independence "through a
clear and indisputable formulation with fixed dates and
according to a clearly set-down procedure." The previous
day, Albin Kurti, who is the spokesman for UCK political
representative Adem Demaci, noted: "You cannot have a
political process on one side and at the same time
massacres and terror on the otherŠ. If these
negotiations continue without a cease-fire, they cannot
lead to a peace agreementŠ. The Serbian regime has not
respected any international agreements it signed in the
past. Unfortunately, the international community has not
adequately punished Serb behavior in the past."
Observers noted that the Serbian negotiators are
unlikely to agree to signing a cease-fire because it
would mean accepting the UCK as a legitimate negotiating
partner. Belgrade's position is that the guerrillas are
"terrorists" and that one cannot negotiate with such
individuals. PM

ALBRIGHT REASSURES DJUKANOVIC. Rubin told reporters on 9
February that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
telephoned Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic "to
thank him for his government's continued support for our
efforts to resolve" the Kosova dispute. Albright also
praised Montenegro's "constructive role" throughout the
crisis. Rubin added that "the Secretary took this
opportunity to assure President Djukanovic that
Montenegro's concerns will be kept in mind" at
Rambouillet. She also told Djukanovic, as she recently
told Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov, that the
international community's focusing on Kosova "does not
mean president Milosevic has a free hand to cause
problems elsewhere" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February
1999). PM

ALBANIA'S MAJKO WARNS OF "COLLECTIVE SELF-DEFENSE."
Prime Minister Pandeli Majko told journalists in Tirana
on 9 February that "if we have a continuation of the
massacre in Kosova..., all Albanians in the Balkans--in
Albania, in Macedonia, in Kosova [and] Montenegro--have
the right to collective self-defense." He did not
elaborate. Majko noted that the Albanian government will
make available its military facilities to NATO troops
for any peace-keeping mission in Kosova, "Zeri i
Popullit" reported. He nonetheless stressed that
"Rambouillet [is only] one step in a [longer] process"
leading to a peaceful solution of the Kosova crisis.
Observers noted that Majko and other members of the
Socialist-led government usually avoid formulations that
suggest possible joint political or military action by
all Albanians in the Balkans. FS

GLIGOROV FEARS REGIONAL INSTABILITY. Macedonian
President Kiro Gligorov told his French counterpart,
Jacques Chirac, in Paris on 9 February that the failure
of the Rambouillet talks would likely lead to renewed
fighting in spring "with all the consequences one can
imagine for stability in the Balkans." Chirac replied
that France "will not allow" any threat to the stability
of southeastern Europe, dpa reported. He called
Macedonia "an element of stability" in the region. PM

MACEDONIA REGRETS CHINA'S DECISION TO BREAK TIES. A
Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Skopje on 9 February
that the Macedonian government hopes China will
reconsider its decision announced earlier that day to
sever ties with Skopje because of the latter's
recognition of Taiwan (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3
February 1999). The Macedonian spokesman added that
China "does not seem to understand" that Skopje opened
ties to Taipei "purely on economic grounds." It is
unclear whether China will continue to fund the
construction of the Kozjak dam and hydroelectric
project, for which Beijing has granted $85 million,
Reuters reported. PM

SALAJ SAYS PASALIC SEEKS TO CONTROL HINA. Branko Salaj,
who recently resigned as head of the state-run Croatian
news agency Hina, told a press conference in Zagreb on 8
February that President Franjo Tudjman's chief aide,
Ivic Pasalic, carries out the most political
interference into Hina's work, RFE/RL's South Slavic
Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February
1999). Pasalic denied the charge. Elsewhere, police
arrested Marko Marcinko, who is the former director of
the failed Glumina Banka, and six of his associates on
charges of corruption and fraud. PM

BELGRADE WANTS TO TRY SAKIC. The Yugoslav Justice
Ministry said in a statement on 8 February that it will
seek the extradition of Dinko and Nada Sakic from
Croatia in conjunction with atrocities they allegedly
committed against Serbs, Jews, Roma, and opposition
Croats during World War II. Nada Sakic was extradited to
Croatia in November from Argentina, where she and her
husband Dinko have lived since the end of World War II.
A Zagreb court dismissed charges against her last week
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999). Her lawyer
said she wants $3,000 compensation for the three months
she was imprisoned, "Vecernji list" wrote on 10
February. Her husband still faces trial for war crimes
in Croatia, to which Argentina extradited him in June.
PM

MUSLIMS DRAGGING FEET ON MIXED POLICE FORCES? Richard
Monk, who heads the UN-sponsored International Police
Task Force in Bosnia, said in New York that efforts to
form ethnically mixed police forces have been
"surprisingly successful" in some Bosnian Serb areas, AP
reported. He added, however, that the Sarajevo
authorities often lack the "political will" to form such
units. PM

MODERATE SERBS FIRM ON DODIK. The international
community's Carlos Westendorp said in Banja Luka that
Petar Djokic has turned down Republika Srpska President
Nikola Poplasen's nomination of him as prime minister
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1999). Westendorp
added that moderate Serb leaders Biljana Plavsic,
Milorad Dodik, and Zivko Radisic have insisted to him
that Poplasen keep Dodik as prime minister, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from Banja Luka. Dodik recently
returned from a trip to Washington, where President Bill
Clinton assured him of U.S. support, "Danas" reported on
9 February. PM

ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT TO BURN SPEED BOATS. A special
working group recommended to Prime Minister Majko on 9
February that smugglers' speed-boats seized by police be
burned, "Koha Jone" reported. To date, the government
has auctioned off the boats, but it has since found out
that the mafia has bought back most of them. The working
group directly coordinates police operations against
smuggling across the Straits of Otranto. It includes
officials from the Defense Ministry, which will soon
provide navy support for the police and Coast Guard. The
government created the working group following the
kidnapping of Vlora's police chief by smugglers in
January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). FS

ROMANIAN MINERS THREATEN NEW STRIKE. Miron Cozma, leader
of the Jiu Valley miners' union, who last month staged a
violent march on Bucharest, has threatened to launch a
new strike next week to protest the local state-owned
mining company's failure to renew collective labor
contracts that expire at the end of this month, RFE/RL's
Bucharest bureau reported on 9 February. The company's
manager responded that negotiations on a new contract
cannot begin until the parliament approves the 1999
budget. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SUBMITS LAW ON BROADENING
GOVERNMENT
AUTHORITY. Petru Lucinschi on 9 February submitted to
the parliament a draft law that would considerably
broaden the powers of the cabinet, RFE/RL's Chisinau
bureau reported. The draft is to be debated under
emergency procedures once the legislature passes a
confidence vote in Serafim Urecheanu's cabinet. The
draft grants the government powers to rule by decree for
two years, including introducing legislation on the
budget, privatization, taxation, social insurance, and
social protection. Under its provisions, the parliament
must debate within 72 hours laws submitted by the
cabinet, otherwise those laws are to be considered as
having been approved. Although the draft requires
consultations with parliamentary groups before a new
cabinet is formed, it stipulates that the government is
to be set up "solely on the criteria of expertise and
unity of outlooks of its members." MS

RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO SOFIA ON BILATERAL TIES. Leonid
Kerestedzhiyants told Bulgarian diplomats and officials
on 9 February that his country is eager to improve ties
with Bulgaria but that some Russian companies encounter
difficulties in participating in Sofia's privatization
drive, Reuters reported. He said Russia is not seeking
special privileges but noted that there have been cases
where Moscow had no access to privatization tenders.
Kerestedzhiyants also said Moscow's decision to lower
import taxes on some Bulgarian goods, announced last
week, will improve the large imbalance in bilateral
trade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1999). MS

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