|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 29, Part II, 11 February 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 29, Part II, 11 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 * ETHNIC HUNGARIANS ACCUSE SLOVAK COALITION OF BREAKING AGREEMENT * POLITICAL JOUSTING CONTINUES OVER RAMBOUILLET * BULGARIA, MACEDONIA ACHIEVE BREAKTHROUGH IN LANGUAGE DISPUTE End Note: SPARRING OVER SEVASTOPOL xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SACKS ENERGY MINISTER. Leonid Kuchma signed a decree on 10 February firing Energy Minister Oleksiy Sheberstov for "serious faults in his work," ITAR-TASS reported. Kuchma announced at a national meeting of farmers the previous day that he intended to replace Sheberstov because of continued power cuts to rural areas in Ukraine. A successor was not named. Kuchma also formally invited Pope John Paul II to visit Ukraine this year. PB LEBED SAYS MOSCOW-KYIV TREATY NEEDS CHANGES. Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed said on 10 February that he objects to the clause in the Russian-Ukrainian treaty that refers to the Black Sea port Sevastopol as a Ukrainian city, ITAR-TASS reported. Lebed said Sevastopol "must belong to Russia." The port is home to Russia's Black Sea fleet. It belonged to Russia but was ceded to Ukraine in 1954 by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Lebed said there are some other provisions in the treaty that he opposes, adding that it would be a mistake to ratify the document as it currently stands (see also "End Note" below). PB POLISH DEFENSE MINISTER IN KYIV. Janusz Onyszkiewicz said on 10 February that Ukraine will remain a strategic partner for Poland after it joins NATO, Reuters reported. Onyszkiewicz, on a two-day official visit, said the "line" that will be formed after NATO expansion will "not be a definitive barrier." President Kuchma thanked Onyszkiewicz for his country's support for Kyiv's integration into European structures. Onyszkiewicz also discussed the formation of a joint battalion with his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksandr Kuzmuk. Kuzmuk announced that several thousand soldiers from 25 countries will participate in NATO peace-keeping exercises, called Peace Shield 99, in the western city of Lviv in August. PB BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS 1999 A YEAR OF 'STABILITY.' Alyaksandr Lukashenka said that current economic woes in the country are temporary and that 1999 will be a year of "economic and financial stability," Belapan reported on 10 February. Lukashenka, speaking at a conference in Minsk on socio-economic development, said the government can "provide the nation with everything." But he asked why "GDP is growing but people are getting poorer. Why can neither the government nor anybody else answer this question for me?" Lukashenka also announced that a commission will be set up to monitor the Central Bank and the banking system. PB EESTI TELEKOM TENDER OVERSUBSCRIBED BY 15 TIMES. The Transport and Communications Ministry on 10 February announced that the 36 million shares on offer in the Eesti Telekom tender, which closed the previous day, were oversubscribed by more than 15 times, ETA reported. The total value of the tender is put at 3.1 billion kroons (some $238 million), while the market value of Eesti Telekom after restructuring is estimated at 11.8 billion kroons, the ministry said. According to the news agency, the tender is the largest ever organized by a company in the Baltic States. JC LUKOIL PRESIDENT IN VENTSPILS. Vagit Alekperov visited the Latvian port of Ventspils on 10 February to discuss his company's possible participation in the construction of a new transit pipeline through Latvia, "Diena" reported. The LUKoil president told journalists that such participation would require "serious Russian- Latvian intergovernmental discussions" and possibly a "political agreement" between the two countries. The Russian company reportedly is seeking lower tariffs for the transit of oil through Latvia. Alekperov, who also met with Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans and Transport Minister Anatolijs Gorbunovs in Riga, is currently touring all three Baltic States to consider possible investments in oil transit projects. JC LATVIA BECOMES WTO MEMBER. Latvia on 10 February officially became a full member of the World Trade Organization, following the completion of the application process, BNS and "Diena" reported. JC LANDBERGIS REMINDS GERMANY ABOUT NAZI OCCUPATION. Lithuanian parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis said in a 10 February statement that he hopes Germany will not forget the role it played in the Baltic States' losing their independence during World War II, BNS reported. Landsbergis's statement was issued in response to a recent statement by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that he does not expect a decision on future members to be taken at NATO's April summit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 1999). Landsbergis argued that Germany should help the Baltic States to repulse attempts at restricting the Baltic States' "restored independence at a time when Russian diplomacy interprets the Stalin-Hitler crime as a legal 'red line,' [which] still oppresses the formerly occupied states." JC LIETUVOS ENERGIJA TO BE SUED. The Lithuanian State Control Department's Office of Investigations has launched criminal proceedings against the energy utility Lietuvos Energija over " financial violations" related to the sale of electricity to Belarus. Under a three-way contract concluded in January 1998, Lietuvos Energija supplied electricity worth $89 million to Belarus but received only some $2 million from the mediator, Baltic Shem, which was responsible for securing payments. Although Baltic Shem failed to meet its responsibilities, Lietuvos Energija wrote off some $12.5 million in mediation expenses but could produce no documents justifying those costs. JC MAZEIKIAI NAFTA TO SEEK ALTERNATIVE SUPPLIERS? Gediminas Kiesus, director-general of Lithuania's Mazeikiai Nafta refinery, says his company should seek alternative supplies of crude oil in order to avoid stoppages and losses, ELTA reported on 11 February, citing "Lietuvos Aidas." Kiesus said the refinery should buy two-thirds of its crude oil requirements from Russia and one-third from Western suppliers to avoid losses in the future. Earlier this month, the refinery was forced to close down for some 10 days when Russian crude supplies were halted. JC POLISH GOVERNMENT'S POPULARITY SINKS. A poll shows that a majority of people disapprove of the performance of Premier Jerzy Buzek's government, AFP reported. Some 58 percent of respondents said the government is "working badly," while only 29 percent supported the government's performance. In November, some 43 percent of Poles had endorsed the government. Since then, cabinet ministers have come under fire for progressive reforms of the health, education, and pension systems, as well as attempts to reform the agricultural sector in accordance with EU standards. Buzek said the low approval rating was a result of the government's poor efforts in informing the public of its work. He said it is important to "take courageous actions with an eye to the future," Polish Radio reported. There are persistent reports in the media that Buzek will reshuffle or restructure the government. PB EASTERN EUROPEAN FINANCE MINISTERS TELL EU TO REFORM ITSELF. Meeting in Warsaw, finance ministers from five Central and Eastern European countries aspiring to join the EU urged the union to accelerate internal reforms so that it can add new members, AP reported. After talks with his counterparts from Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia, and Slovenia, Polish Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz said "we call on the EU to open up faster and to reform itself faster...to speed up its ability to accept new members." Balcerowicz also called for the EU to stop selling subsidized goods to the region, saying that such imports created "complications." The ministers agreed to meet next in Budapest in August. PB ETHNIC HUNGARIANS ACCUSE SLOVAK COALITION OF BREAKING AGREEMENT. Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) chairman Bela Bugar on 10 February told journalists that the SMK "does not trust" Agriculture Minister Pavol Koncos, a member of the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL), CTK reported. Bugar said Koncos has ignored a "verbal agreement" to appoint an SMK member head of the Slovak Land Fund. The fund manages state-owned land mainly in southern Slovakia, where a large number of ethnic Hungarians live. The opposition suspects the SMK of intending to use the fund to restitute land confiscated under the Benes decrees. SDL deputy chairman Lubomir Adrassy said he knows of no such agreement, but other coalition members confirmed that during talks on forming a new coalition, the SMK agreed to withdraw its demand for the post of agriculture minister in exchange for the leadership of the fund. MS ORBAN SPEAKS OUT ON HUNGARIAN-ROMANIAN DEVELOPMENTS. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told journalists on 10 February, that NATO and the EU will consult with Hungary before they decide on Romanian membership because "Budapest knows Romania best." He added that "the parliament of each [NATO-member] state will have to approve further NATO enlargement and that includes the Hungarian parliament as well." While acknowledging that last week's failed elections to the National Romanian Minority Self-Government had been problematic and had to be canceled (Orban ordered a probe into the elections), he rejected criticism of minorities' representation in Hungary, saying it is the only European system that recognizes "collective rights". During his recent visit to Hungary, Romanian Prime Minister Radu Vasile denied allegations that Bucharest wants to link the issue of the National Romanian Minority Self-Government to that of setting up a Hungarian-German university in Romania. MSZ/MS HUNGARIAN-SLOVAK COMMITTEE MAKES FIRST RECOMMENDATIONS. The recently established Hungarian-Slovak Minority Affairs Committee (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 1999) has proposed that during the term of the current parliament, Hungary find a legal solution to the parliamentary representation of ethnic minorities, Hungarian media reported on 11 February. The committee also suggested the establishment of Hungarian-language faculties in Slovak universities and Slovak-language faculties in Hungarian universities. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE POLITICAL JOUSTING CONTINUES OVER RAMBOUILLET. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic demanded in a statement released in Belgrade on 10 February that the Kosovar delegation to the talks on a political settlement in Kosova renounce independence. He called such a renunciation "the only way to secure a successful solution" to the crisis. The next day, Serbian President Milan Milutinovic arrived in Rambouillet for what Serbian media called a brief visit. Observers have noted that the Serbian delegation to the talks includes none of Belgrade's leading decision-makers and is not as high-ranking as the Kosovar one. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine and his British counterpart, Robin Cook, are also slated to attend the talks on 11 February. It will be their third appearance together at Rambouillet in an effort to put pressure on the Serbian and Kosovar delegations to reach an agreement. AP reported that the two sides have yet to approve "a single line of peace text." PM NO ROOM IN THE CHATEAU FOR ARTEMIJE. Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren met reporters in the snow outside the Rambouillet castle on 10 February after conference officials told him that there was no room inside the chateau for him to meet with journalists. The spiritual leader of Kosova's Serbs argued that the Belgrade delegation to the talks represents neither him nor his followers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1999). "They represent only two parties: Milosevic's Socialists and his wife's neo- communistsŠ. If we had confidence in them, we would not be here. The only possible solutionŠis for Serbia to become democratic. And that cannot happen while Milosevic is in chargeŠ. We want a solution that will prevent a Serbian exodus from the province," Reuters quoted him as saying. Momcilo Trajkovic, the political leader of the Kosovar Serbs, accompanied the bishop. PM MONTENEGRO BACKS ADRIATIC ROAD PROJECT. President Milo Djukanovic told Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos in Podgorica on 10 February that his government supports the construction of the proposed Adriatic highway, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The road would link Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, and Italy and greatly facilitate travel and shipments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1998). PM DJOKIC IN PRIME MINISTER'S RACE AFTER ALL? Republika Srpska parliamentary speaker Petar Djokic said in Banja Luka on 10 February that he wants his party to decide whether he should accept President Nikola Poplasen's nomination for prime minister, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The international community's Carlos Westendorp had said earlier that Djokic told him that he is not interested in the nomination. Also on 10 February, the Republika Srpska government began charging customs fees on imports from Serbia and Montenegro. PM BOSNIA GETS NEW NATIONAL ANTHEM. The joint parliament in Sarajevo on 10 February overwhelmingly approved the composition "Intermezzo" as the republic's national anthem. At least for the time being, the anthem will have no text. "Oslobodjenje" reported that the composition is "based on the modern European classical tradition" and purposely does not include themes from either Croatian, Serbian, or Muslim folk music. PM ANOTHER CROATIAN MEDIA CHIEF QUITS. Mirko Galic resigned his post on the management board of Croatian Television on 10 February. He charged that unspecified political interference prevented him from carrying out reforms or performing his duties in a professional or independent manner, "Jutarnji list" reported. The head of the state- run news agency recently quit his post because of interference by the governing Croatian Democratic Community. PM ISRAEL TO MODERNIZE CROATIA'S MIGS. The Croatian Defense Ministry has concluded an agreement with an Israeli firm to modernize 24 aging MiG 21s in order to bring them up to NATO standards. The work will take place at Velika Gorica and cost approximately $3 million per aircraft, "Vecernji list" reported on 11 February. The agreement comes after years of speculation in the media that Croatia seeks Israeli technology to upgrade the MiGs because NATO countries have reportedly refused to sell Zagreb state-of-the-art aircraft. Since obtaining independence in 1991, Croatia has sought to bring its military up to NATO standards. In top commands, Western- trained officers have gradually replaced veterans of the former Yugoslav army, whose training focused on conducting a defensive guerrilla war. PM BULGARIA, MACEDONIA ACHIEVE BREAKTHROUGH IN LANGUAGE DISPUTE... Prime Minister Ivan Kostov told the parliament on 10 February that the governments of Macedonia and Bulgaria have reached an agreement "to sign a joint declaration...in the official languages of the two countries" pledging that they have no territorial claims on each other, BTA reported. Kostov said the joint declaration will end "the artificial problem between our states and open the way for signing some 20 bilateral agreements." The declaration is to be signed on 22 February, during Macedonian Premier Ljubco Georgievski's planned visit to Sofia. Bulgaria was the first state to recognize Macedonia in 1992 but has refused to recognize a separate Macedonian nation or language, insisting that Macedonian is a Bulgarian dialect. The dispute hindered the signing of bilateral agreements. MS ...WHILE BULGARIAN OPPOSITION CRITICIZES AGREEMENT WITH MACEDONIA. Socialist Party leader Georgi Parvanov argued that the agreement is a "grave political compromise" because it recognizes the Macedonian language. He added that the accord raises two questions, namely whether Macedonia will renounce claims that a Macedonian minority lives in Bulgaria and whether Skopje is "withdrawing claims on Bulgarian history." Euro-Left deputy Elena Poptodorova said the agreement must be debated by the parliament's Foreign Relations Committee. If it is approved, the government must begin to "show care for that group of Macedonian citizens who identifies itself as Bulgarian," she added. Prosecutor- General Ivan Tatarchev said the recognition of the Macedonian language is "a mistake, putting it mildly." Also on 10 February, Deputy Premier Alexander Bozhkov announced that during Georgievski's visit an agreement abolishing all trade restrictions between the two countries will be signed, BTA reported. MS ALBANIAN INVESTIGATORS BUG BERISHA'S PHONE. Democratic Party Deputy Chairman Genc Pollo told Klan TV on 10 February that the Prosecutor-General's office is tapping the telephone of former President Sali Berisha. Pollo said this proved that "a return to the communist past is the ultimate goal of the [governing Socialists]." On public television, Prosecutor-General Arben Rakipi confirmed the tapping, saying that a Tirana court had approved the measure after Berisha declined to appear before investigators examining the 1998 coup attempt. Rakipi told "Shekulli" that move is legal and that he is "very satisfied" with the results. He did not elaborate. Berisha is charged with organizing an attempted coup on 14 September. The parliament lifted his immunity in fall 1998. FS SOUTHERN ALBANIAN BUS DRIVERS WANT TO LIMIT COMPETITION. Bus drivers and trade union activists blocked the main highway to Greece on 9-10 February for several hours each day until police forced them to move. The protest affected the travel plans of some 1,000 passengers. The drivers and union activists demand that the government issue licenses for companies operating on the Gjirokastra-Athens route and that police prevent unlicensed busses and mini-busses from operating. The government did not respond to the demands. Observers note that the protesters are trying to limit competition along a busy and lucrative route. The government is unlikely to agree to their demands, which would violate Albania's free-market principles. FS MOLDOVAN POLITICIANS CRITICIZE PRESIDENT, PREMIER- DESIGNATE... Iurie Rosca, leader of the Christian Democratic Popular Front, and Valeriu Matei, chairman of the Party of Democratic Forces have criticized President Petru Lucinschi and premier-designate Serafim Urecheanu for their plan to broaden the powers of the cabinet and to curtail those of the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 10 February 1999). Both parties are members of the ruling Alliance for Democracy and Reforms. Speaking on national television, they said the plan is anti-constitutional, while Matei added that granting the cabinet the right to issue emergency legislation for a two-year period is "a move away from the republican to an [absolute] monarchy system." They also rejected the intention to set up a cabinet of experts, saying "alleged expertise" is what brought about Moldova's current economic crisis, Infotag reported. MS ...BUT SNEGUR SAYS PROGRESS MADE IN TALKS WITH URECHEANU. Former President Mircea Snegur, chairman of the Revival and Conciliation Party, which is a member of the ruling Alliance for Democracy and Reforms (APDR), said after meeting with Urecheanu on 10 February that their talks were "a step forward" compared with the 8 February meeting between APDR leaders and the premier- designate, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Urecheanu said that during the talks he went some way toward meeting the APDR's demands and that it is now the "turn of the parliamentary majority to reciprocate." He also said that no member of the opposition Party of Moldovan Communists has so far been asked to join the new cabinet. MS END NOTE SPARRING OVER SEVASTOPOL by Julie A. Corwin and Jan Maksymiuk Next week, Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, will again take up the issue of the Russian-Ukrainian treaty of friendship. The debate promises to be sharp, as the treaty has become increasingly controversial since its passage in the State Duma on 25 December 1998 and in Ukraine's Supreme Council on 14 January 1998. The treaty, which guarantees the inviolability of the current border between Russia and Ukraine, was first signed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, on 31 May 1997. The Federation Council seems likely to approve the treaty, fearing its rejection could drive Ukraine into NATO's embrace. But the issues of Crimea's status and Slavic integration are likely to remain hot topics in Russian politics, gaining in intensity as presidential elections near. After all, likely presidential contender Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and his adviser, Konstantin Zatulin, director of Russia's Institute for CIS Countries, have been the most outspoken recently in condemning the treaty. Similarly, the presidential contenders from among the Communists, party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, have been equally impassioned in the treaty's defense. In his speech to the Federal Council on 27 January, Luzhkov reportedly managed to persuade some senators in the Council to change their plans and vote to postpone consideration of the treaty. In his remarks, Luzhkov stressed that ratification of the treaty would in effect separate Crimea and Sevastopol from Russia forever, thus undermining the goal of brotherly relations between Russia and Ukraine. He also charged Ukraine with discriminating against ethnic Russians. Prior to that speech, Luzhkov's adviser, Zatulin launched his own attack on the treaty in a lengthy article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta." Anticipating Luzhkov's remarks, Zatulin argued that Crimea and Sevastopol belong "indisputably" to Russia and that an official endorsement of the Russian-Ukrainian treaty would legally seal their secession from Russia. According to Zatulin, CPSU General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev moved to transfer Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 in order to "enlist support of comrades from the Ukrainian Communist Party" in his struggle "to expose the cult of personality [of Joseph Stalin]" in the then CPSU Politburo. The formal decision to transfer Crimea from the RSFSR to the Ukrainian SSR--following a joint motion by the Supreme Soviet Presidiums of the RSFSR and the Ukrainian SSR--was made by the USSR Supreme Soviet on 26 February 1954. That decision, according to Zatulin, contravened the USSR and RSFSR Constitutions, both of which pledged to guarantee the territorial integrity of the RSFSR. Regardless of its legal validity, Zatulin continues, the 1954 decision to incorporate Crimean Oblast into Ukraine did in no way embrace Sevastopol, which had been declared an independent administrative and economic center--subordinated directly to the RSFSR authorities in Moscow--by a USSR Supreme Soviet decree in 1948. Thus, Zatulin concludes, Ukraine has no legal rights whatsoever to the "city of Russia's military glory," as Russian media often refer to Sevastopol--the main base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Zatulin also addressed the issue of what he called the "ethnic genocide" of the 10 million Russians in Ukraine. These Russians, according to Zatulin, are currently subjected to a policy of forced Ukrainization and denied the right to develop their own independent ethnic identity. Zatulin concludes that the adoption of the Russian-Ukrainian treaty will result in Russia's "strategic defeat." Among those in favor of ratifying the treaty, rhetoric is equally inflamed. Duma Chairman Seleznev suggested that those who oppose the treaty "want to tear Ukraine away" from Russia and foil plans to form a Slavic Union of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. In what may be wishful thinking on his part, Seleznev concludes that Luzhkov is "committing political suicide" by opposing the treaty. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov is more nonchalant, blaming Luzhkov's opposition to the treaty on Zatulin, who, according to Zyuganov, spawns "scandals and discord wherever he appears." Zyuganov argues that the treaty is key to the revival of a Slavic union composed of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. While the bulk of the Russian electorate purportedly regrets the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it is unclear what financial or political costs--if any- -they are willing to bear for some kind of smaller reconstituted Union or bigger and better Russia. Nevertheless, that sentiment can and will be exploited by both the Russian nationalists and Pan-Slavists, as Luzhkov, Zyuganov, and Seleznev have already so ably demonstrated. 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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