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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 34, Part II, 18 February 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 34, Part II, 18 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 * UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ALLOWS FORMER PREMIER'S PROSECUTION * BRITIAN REPORTS SOME MOVEMENT IN KOSOVA TALKS * MOLDOVAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE ABANDONS BID TO FORM GOVERNMENT End Note: A NEW LEFTIST 'COALITION PARTY' IN LATVIA? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ALLOWS FORMER PREMIER'S PROSECUTION. The Supreme Council on 17 February voted by 310 to 39 to lift the parliamentary immunity of former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, Reuters reported. Before the vote, speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko read out a letter from Lazarenko saying that he checked into a clinic in Greece earlier this week with "heart attack symptoms." Ukrainian prosecutors accuse Lazarenko of embezzling more than $2 million in state property while he held state offices from 1993-1997. Lazarenko has repeatedly claimed that he is innocent and that the charges against him are politically motivated. JM KUCHMA HAILS RUSSIAN RATIFICATION OF RUSSIA-UKRAINE PACT. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 17 February welcomed the ratification of the Russian-Ukrainian friendship and cooperation pact by Russia's Federation Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1999), Reuters reported. At the same time, the Council decided that the treaty will go into effect only after Ukraine ratifies three agreements on the Russian Black Sea Fleet, based in Sevastopol. "I think that it won't take long for the Ukrainian parliament to ratify the [agreements] accompanying the pact," the agency quoted Kuchma as saying. (See also Russian reaction in Part I.). JM BELARUSIAN NEWSPAPERS TO CONTINUE REPORTING ON OPPOSITION ELECTIONS. Editors of the four Belarusian independent newspapers based in Minsk--"Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta," "Narodnaya volya," "Naviny," and "Svobodnye novosti"--have pledged to continue reporting on the opposition presidential elections in May, despite a warning by the State Committee for the Press (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1999), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The committee sent the same warning to "Pahonya" in Hrodna and "Nasha niva" in Vilnius, Lithuania. "There is a risk that the [warned] newspapers will be banned, but they will be published regardless of what happens," "Naviny" editor Pavel Zhuk commented. "Narodnaya volya" chief editor Iosif Syaredzich told RFE/RL that his newspaper will prepare for the "most unfavorable developments," including a ban and the need to publish his newspaper abroad. JM BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES REJECT INTEGRATION REFERENDUM INITIATIVE. The Belarusian Central Electoral Commission has denied registration to a group proposing a referendum on further integration with Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1998), Belarusian Television reported on 17 February. The group suggested that a referendum be held asking the question, "Do you agree to a confederation of Belarus and Russia?" The commission declined to register the group after the Chamber of Representatives, the lower legislative house, ruled that the referendum initiative is "untimely" and may be regarded as interference with the Belarusian-Russian leadership's negotiations on creating a Belarusian-Russian union state. JM BELARUS SAYS IT WILL PAY OFF DEBT FOR LITHUANIAN ELECTRICITY. At a meeting with Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus on 17 February, Belarusian Ambassador to Vilnius Vladimir Garkun said Minsk is considering how to resolve the issue of outstanding payments for Lithuanian electricity supplies, ELTA reported, citing "Respublika." The ambassador said that different currency rates were mainly responsible for difficulties in making payments, but he added that in the future, a "uniform inter-bank U.S. dollar rate" will be used to determine prices of barter goods supplied to Lithuania in return for energy supplies. The Lithuanian government has postponed for two weeks a final decision on whether to continue electricity exports to Belarus. Minsk owes Lietuvos Energija about 400 million litas (some $100 million). That company is currently being sued for large-scale embezzlement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 February 1999). JC ESTONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER WITHDRAWS RESIGNATION. Olari Taal has withdrawn his resignation, following a 17 February meeting with Prime Minister Mart Siimann, according to ETA. According to press reports, the two men had clashed over the appointment of a new chancellor to the Interior Ministry. Neither Siimann nor Taal has commented on that issue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 1999). The same day, the parliament voted by 51 to three with one abstention to approve a bill providing for "one party, one caucus." That motion had been narrowly rejected last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 1999). JC LATVIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS 'INADEQUATE' SAYS RIGA COMMISSION. Following a report by Foreign Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstins on his recent visit to Moscow, the Latvian parliamentary Foreign Affairs Commission concluded that relations with Russia are "inadequate," LETA reported on 17 February. Commission chairman and former Prime Minister Guntars Krasts told reporters that the range of issues currently discussed by Latvia and Russia is "very limited." While noting that some steps toward improving relations have been taken, he commented that ''there are still many 'buts.''' The commission concluded that Riekstins failed to achieve what was planned during his Moscow visit, Krasts added. Earlier, the state secretary had described his visit to the Russian capital as "positive" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February 1999). JC POLISH PARLIAMENT OVERWHELMINGLY APPROVES NATO MEMBERSHIP. Lawmakers on 17 February voted by 409 to seven with four abstentions to ratify the NATO admission treaty. A few hours later, the upper house voted by 92 to two with one abstention to approve the document. "Poland is opening a new chapter in its history. This puts Yalta and the result of World War II behind us," President Aleksander Kwasniewski commented. Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek told the parliament that Poland's entry into NATO is an "act of historical justice." Kwasniewski will sign the document on 26 February at the same time as President Vaclav Havel in a televised link-up between Warsaw and Prague. JM CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY. The government on 17 February approved the country's long-term national security and foreign policy strategy, CTK reported. Government spokesman Libor Roucek told journalists that the document was proposed by Premier Milos Zeman and Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and is based on the country's integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. One of its aims is "the renewal of 'above-standard' relations with Slovakia," Roucek said. MS CROATIA TO LEASE COASTLINE TO CZECH REPUBLIC, SLOVAKIA? Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic said in Bratislava on 16 February that his country may lease part of its coastline to the Czech Republic and Slovakia to cover a $4 million debt to the former Czechoslovak federation, AP reported. A similar offer was made by Granic when he visited Prague last month. CTK quoted him as emphasizing that there will be "no territorial concession" and that this is "purely a commercial affair." No details were provided as to what part of the coastline will be leased and for how long. Croatian media has dubbed the offer "rent-a-seaside," and the German weekly "Der Spiegel" on 15 February wrote that Croatia intends also to offer to lease a small island off the Dalmatian coast. MS SLOVAKIA TO APOLOGIZE TO CZECHS? The government on 17 February approved declassifying a report delivered to a closed session of the parliament last week by the chief of the Slovak Counter-Intelligence Service (SIS), Vladimir Mitro, CTK reported. Earlier the same day, Deputy Premier Pavol Hamzik told journalists that the government may have to apologize to the Czech Republic if the allegations contained in Mitro's report prove true. According to those allegations, the SIS, under the leadership of Ivan Lexa, sought to hinder the Czech Republic's admission to NATO by discrediting that country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1999). Referring to leaks from Mitro's report, the Hungarian daily "Nepszabadsag" on 18 February wrote that under Lexa, the SIS undertook attempts to discredit Budapest and supplied arms to organized crime in Hungary. According to "Nepszabadsag," the SIS also engaged in spying in connection with the Gabcikovo- Nagymaros dam dispute. MS SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTY CHALLENGES GOVERNMENT'S AMNESTY ANNULMENT. The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) on 17 February asked the Constitutional Court to rule whether Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's canceling of the amnesty granted by his predecessor, Vladimir Meciar, is in accordance with the basic law, CTK reported. The amnesty would have freed, among others, those involved in the abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son in 1995 and the successful bid to thwart the 1997 referendum on NATO accession and direct presidential elections, CTK reported. Former SIS chief Lexa and former Interior Minister Gustav Krajci are widely believed to have masterminded the two incidents. The Slovak parliament is to vote on 18 February whether to strip Krajci of his immunity. A similar vote on Lexa is expected to follow. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BRITIAN REPORTS SOME MOVEMENT IN KOSOVA TALKS... British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said on 17 February that some progress has been made by Serbian and ethnic Albanian delegates at peace talks in Rambouillet, France, but that the delegates must hurry to come to an agreement by the 19 February deadline, Reuters reported. Cook said "there is some movement, but [it] needs to pick up a lot of speed." Cook and his French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine, met with the rival delegations separately. The two sides also held face-to-face talks for only the second time during the 12 days they have been in France. (See also Part I for Russian comments.) PB ...STRESSES NEED FOR PEACE-KEEPING FORCE. Both Cook and Vedrine repeated that an international peace-keeping force will be necessary in Kosova to uphold a political agreement. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has rejected such a force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1999). Cook said the "accord proposed by the Contact Group, both the political and the military dimension, is clearly the only way to respond to the ...worries of both sides." The Serbian paper "Glas Javnosti" reported on 18 February that the ruling Socialist Party will accept a foreign presence if it does not include Americans or soldiers from countries with a "negative attitude" toward Yugoslavia. PB DRASKOVIC WANTS SANCTIONS LIFTED IN RETURN FOR AGREEMENT. Yugoslav Deputy Premier Vuk Draskovic said on 17 February in Belgrade that any Kosova peace agreement must include the lifting of all economic sanctions against Yugoslavia and that country's return to international organizations, AP reported. Draskovic said it is "unjust and illogical" for the West to accuse Belgrade of isolationism while at the same time not allowing it to interact with the international community. PB NATO OFFICIALS APPROVE DEPLOYMENT PLAN FOR KOSOVA. NATO ambassadors meeting in Brussels on 17 February agreed to an operational plan to station troops in Kosova to monitor a peace agreement, AFP reported. The next day, two senior NATO officials arrived in Macedonia to discuss with local officials the plans for a possible deployment of 30,000 troops in Kosova. A NATO extraction force is already in Macedonia. Meanwhile in Podgorica, Montenegrin Premier Filip Vujanovic told Belgrade's B-92 radio that his country would allow NATO forces to use the Adriatic port of Bar. He said Montenegro would offer NATO troops logistical support as they transited the republic en route to Kosova. PB CROATIAN AMBASSADOR PUSHING FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP. Miomir Zuzul, the Croatian ambassador to Washington, said on 17 February that leaving his country out of NATO would add to instability in the region, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Zuzul said Croatia has proven its ability to help NATO build peace and stability in Europe. He noted that Zagreb's most immediate goal is to be admitted to NATO's Partnership for Peace program, adding that Croatia is awaiting a formal answer to the PFP application it submitted more than one year ago. PB BOSNIAN CROAT DISCLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR SOLDIERS WHO COMMITTED ATTROCITIES. General Timohir Blaskic, a Bosnian Croat accused of war crimes, said he had no real control over soldiers under his command who reportedly committed attrocities in Bosnia in 1992-1994, Reuters reported. Speaking before the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague, Blaskic said he had not been in a position to give orders, only military expertise. Prosecutors say he sanctioned and organized deadly attacks against Muslims in the Lasva Valley. Blaskic pleaded not guilty to 20 counts of crimes against humanity. PB ALBANIA TO HOLD SUSPECTED ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS. An Albanian court ordered the indefinite detention of two men suspected of spying on the U.S. embassy in Tirana, Reuters reported on 17 February. The men, one from Syria and the other from Iraq, were arrested earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1999). Interior Minister Petro Koci said the two are suspected of setting up an extremist Islamic network in Albania that may have links to terrorist Osama bin Laden. PB ROMANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER REPORTS ON CLASHES WITH MINERS. Constantin Dudu Ionescu told journalists on 17 February that miners' leader Miron Cozma "manipulated" the miners to serve his own interests and ultimately "betrayed" them by attempting to avoid arrest as his supporters clashed with the police. He said three of Cozma's deputies, as well as Cozma himself, are being questioned in Bucharest by the Prosecutor- General's Office. Ionescu said that earlier that day, one miner died in the clash with the police and some 50 people, 32 of whom were policemen, had been wounded. He said 543 people had been detained by the police for questioning, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Police sources later said that a 24-hour detention warrant has been issued for 46 of the miners questioned. MS FURTHER PROGRESS ON LIFTING TUDOR'S PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY. The Senate's Judicial Commission on 17 February recommended approving Minister of Justice Valeriu Stoica's request to lift the parliamentary immunity of Greater Romania Party (PRM) leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor on the grounds of the 11 charges brought by the Prosecutor-General's Office. The plenum of the Senate must now endorse the commission's decision. Senate Chairman Petre Roman said that before submitting the recommendation to a plenary session, the Senate will vote on the commission's recommendation to allow lifting a parliamentary deputy's immunity by a simple, rather than a two-thirds majority (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 1999). If the simple-majority recommendation is not approved, Tudor is likely to keep his immunity owing to the backing of his own PRM and the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania. MS MOLDOVAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE ABANDONS BID TO FORM GOVERNMENT. Serafim Urecheanu on 17 February said he has given up the attempt to form a new government. That announcement came after a brief meeting with leaders of the Alliance for Democracy and Reform (APDR), which includes the parties that form the parliamentary majority, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Urecheanu said his decision was prompted by the APDR's rejection of both his cabinet line-up and his proposals that the number of ministers be reduced and he be allowed to choose the ministers himself. President Petru Lucinschi the same day asked the APDR to put forward its candidate for the post of premier within 24 hours. MS MOST BULGARIAN DETAINEES IN LIBYA RELEASED. Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov on 17 January announced that 15 of the 19 Bulgarian doctors and nurses detained by the Libyan authorities last week have been released (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February 1999), Reuters reported. He said a Bulgarian Foreign Ministry mission is flying to Libya on 18 February to secure the release of the remaining four detainees. Vlaikov also said Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova will propose at the 18 February cabinet meeting to sack Bulgaria's ambassador to Libya, Krastio Ilov, for "failing to protect the interests of Bulgarian nationals." MS END NOTE A NEW LEFTIST 'COALITION PARTY' IN LATVIA? By Jan Cleave An agreement signed earlier this month between Latvian Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans and the Social Democrats may have averted a government crisis for the time being. But the minority government's cooperation with the leftists may cause new problems for Kristopans. More to the point, few in Riga believe it will prove enduring. After last fall's parliamentary elections, President Guntis Ulmanis asked Kristopans of the centrist Latvia's Way to form a government. Having ruled out cooperation with the right-of-center People's Party, which had narrowly won the ballot, Kristopans opted to set up a minority coalition with the nationalist-rightist Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK and the left-of-center New Party. He also proposed offering the Social Democrats the agriculture portfolio in exchange for their support. While the TB/LNNK initially opposed that idea, it eventually agreed, thus paving the way for the recent cooperation agreement and Social Democrat Peteris Salkazanovs's confirmation as agriculture minister. Under the terms of the cooperation agreement, the Social Democrats assume responsibility for the agricultural sector and will neither vote against nor abstain from voting on any government-proposed bills supported by the Cooperation Council (a consultative body composed of representatives of each of the three ruling parties). They also agree not to submit to the parliament any bills related to the state budget without the Cooperation Council's prior agreement, nor will they support opposition-proposed bills on the budget or taxes. In return, Kristopans agreed that the government will undertake, among other things, completing the pension reform by 2001, increasing the minimum wage, and boosting spending on education and research. With this agreement under his belt, Kristopans can now look confidently toward the second and final reading of the 1999 state budget, which is expected to take place later this month. Without the Social Democrats' support, his government would almost certainly have fallen: under Latvian law, if lawmakers fail to approve the draft budget in either the first or second reading, their rejection constitutes a vote of no confidence in the government, requiring the cabinet to resign. Shortly after the TB/LNNK had consented to a Social Democrat as agriculture minister, the budget passed in the first reading, thanks to the virtually unanimous support of the Social Democrats. Earlier, the Social Democrats had threatened to vote against the draft, pointing to what they considered insufficient spending in the social sphere and too much on defense. While relations between the Social Democrats and the two larger coalition parties--Latvia's Way and the TB/LNNK--are likely to prove difficult, the Social Democrats may already have found an ally in the junior coalition partner, the New Party. Last month, that party opposed Kristopans when it came out in favor of a Social Democrat proposal to establish a special commission to investigate activities at the telecommunications monopoly Lattelekom. That move earned the party a sharp rebuke from the premier, who argued that the New Party was breaking the coalition agreement by supporting the opposition. The New Party countered that since a Social Democrat was soon to be appointed agriculture minister, it did not regard the Social Democrats as being in opposition. It is precisely this perception of a new leftist "coalition party" that may cause fresh problems for Kristopans and Latvia's Way. Since last fall's elections, both the premier and his party increasingly have come under fire for allegedly seeking to improve relations with Russia at the expense of pursuing integration into European and Trans-Atlantic structures. Kristopans's November interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" asserting that Russian-Latvian relations should be based on the Finnish model caused a stir even before he had been sworn in as premier. The decision to fix 1999 defense expenditures at O.9 percent of GDP, instead of the 1.0 percent foreseen by the previous government, has been interpreted as going back on commitments to seek NATO membership. And accusations have repeatedly been made that leading Latvia's Way politicians are close to the industrial lobby that wants to boost transit trade with Russia--Moscow's price being that Riga back off from bids to join NATO. While Kristopans has fended off such accusations so far, his cooperation agreement with the Social Democrats guarantees that there will be more such talk. The Social Democrats have made no secret of their coolness toward NATO membership and their preference for larger social expenditures and greater state intervention in the economy. Some observers have been quick to suggest that the leftist orientation of the new cooperation partner may encourage now hidden leftist tendencies within the ruling coalition. Others argue that it is just a matter of time before Kristopans finds himself forced either to make compromises aimed at accommodating the Social Democrats or to sacrifice his newly found "majority" in the parliament. The TB/LNNK, for its part, has already said that should the government stray from its declared course--seeking EU and NATO entry, passing a balanced budget, and resolving questions related to minority issues--the party will not rule out joining forces with the main opposition People's Party of former Prime Minister Andris Skele. To form a majority government, those two parties would have to seek another coalition partner. But their ability to reach agreement with Latvia's Way, whose leadership has repeatedly clashed with that of the People's Party, is very doubtful. 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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