We do not live an equal life, but one of contrast and patchwork; now a little joy, then a sorrow, now a sin, then a generous or brave action. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 38, Part II, 24 February 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 38, Part II, 24 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

* POLISH HEALTH WORKERS SUSPEND GENERAL STRIKE

* KOSOVA TALKS ADJOURNED

* UCK PLEDGES TO CONTINUE 'LIBERATION WAR'
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

MOODY'S LOWERS UKRAINE'S DOMESTIC LIABILITIES RATING.
The international rating agency Moody's has lowered the
rating of the Ukrainian government's domestic currency
bonds from B3 to Ca, Interfax and AP reported on 22
February. According to Moody's, the Ca rating reflects
"obligations which are speculative in a high
degree...and are often in default." Moody's added that
the terms offered by the Ukrainian government last fall
for the "voluntary" exchange of maturing T-bills were a
"technical default." Moody's also warned that the
hryvnya is under threat of rapid devaluation this year.
Meanwhile, experts predict that given the current lack
of foreign exchange liquidity, Ukraine faces a default
on its foreign debt. JM

KUCHMA INSTRUCTS GOVERNMENT TO RETURN CHURCH PROPERTY.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has given the cabinet
one year to return former Church property to religious
organizations in Ukraine, Interfax reported on 23
February. Kuchma urged the State Property Fund to
prohibit the privatization of Church property and oblige
local authorities to provide land on which new Churches
as well as Muslim and Jewish cemeteries can be built. He
also ordered the State Customs Committee to simplify
procedures for delivering humanitarian aid to religious
organizations. JM

UKRAINIAN JEWS SPLIT TO FORM NEW CONFEDERATION. Three
influential Jewish organizations in Ukraine's 500,000-
strong Jewish community have announced their intent to
quit the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress and set up a
Jewish Confederation of Ukraine, AP reported on 23
February. The breakaway groups accuse the congress of
"inactivity" and pledge to unite Ukraine's more than 300
Jewish organizations and groups within the new
confederation. Ukrainian Television reported on 23
February that representatives of all Jewish
organizations in Ukraine are to meet in April and
"determine their participation in the newly-created
confederation." JM

BELARUSIAN JUDGE REQUESTS POLITICAL ASYLUM IN GERMANY.
Yury Sushkou, a judge from the city of Babruysk, has
requested political asylum in Germany, RFE/RL's
Belarusian service reported on 23 February, citing the
Spring-96 human rights group in Minsk. Sushkou is
currently in a German camp for political refugees. At a
news conference in Minsk on 18 February, Sushkou said,
"My experience as a judge has convinced me that
achieving justice based on law is impossible under the
Belarusian judicial system. Judges are forced to ignore
the law and make decisions that support the totalitarian
regime." He added that judges in Belarus are compelled
to justify lengthy investigations and detentions by
finding the defendants guilty, regardless of the
evidence. He added that he knows from experience that
prosecutors often elicit confessions from defendants by
means of torture. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST GRANTED LAST-MINUTE AMNESTY.
Alyaksey Shydlouski, a student sentenced to 18 months in
jail for painting anti-presidential graffiti on city
buildings in Stoubtsy, has been released from a Minsk
prison two days before his sentence was due to expire,
RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 23 February.
Shydlouski told RFE/RL that authorities waited until the
last moment to amnesty him for two reasons: to avoid a
planned demonstration by Shydlouski's supporters on the
scheduled day of his release and to strip him of the
right to amnesty in the event of his future arrest. In
Belarus, an individual can be amnestied only once every
10 years. JM

ESTONIAN LAWMAKERS ADOPT RAILWAY LAW. The parliament on
23 February finally adopted the law on the railways,
thereby removing the final obstacle to the privatization
of this sector, ETA reported. The law regulates general
safety measures for railway transport and provides for
issuing licenses to railway infrastructure companies.
Railway privatization deadlines have been pushed back by
18 months owing to the delay in passing the new law.
Meanwhile, opposition parties successfully used delaying
tactics in the parliament to prevent discussion of the
controversial bill on import tariffs during the current
legislature's term. JC

ESTONIAN INDUSTRIAL SALES NOSEDIVE. The sales of
industrial goods plummeted last month, falling 15
percent compared with January 1998 and 20 percent vis-ŕ-
vis December 1998, ETA reported on 23 February. Analysts
cited tougher competition and the continuing pressure on
global markets as well as the Russian financial crisis,
which caused a large number of bankruptcies in the
industrial sector. Sales of foodstuffs and soft drinks
were down 41 percent compared with January 1998, while
electricity and heating output were down 6 percent and 9
percent, respectively. JC

ESTONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER MEETS WITH MOSCOW PATRIARCH.
Olari Taal told Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia
Aleksii II in Moscow on 22 February that the Russian
Orthodox Church subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate
will be registered in Estonia "as soon as possible," ETA
reported. Taal commented that while the state has done
"everything" to legalize the Church, members of the
Church have been "passive" about registering it in
accordance with Estonian law. Aleksii, who was born in
Estonia on 23 February 1929, said he is "certain" he
will pay a visit to that country this year. JC

LATVIAN CABINET NOT TO ATTEND 16 MARCH CEREMONIES. The
government has decided not to take part in any
ceremonies commemorating 16 March, which has been
designated Latvian Soldiers Day, LETA reported on 23
February. An official government statement urges
residents, the mass media, and political and non-
governmental organizations to display tolerance toward
and understanding for events organized by war veterans.
It calls upon residents to avoid becoming victims of any
provocation aimed at destabilizing the country. And it
also condemns any extreme radical manifestations such as
"Nazism, Stalinism, or anti-Semitism." Last year, a
march by veterans of the Latvian Waffen SS Legion
provoked a heated debate in Latvia and strong criticism
from Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 March 1998). JC

EU SETS NO DEADLINE FOR CLOSING IGNALINA. At a meeting
of the EU-Lithuanian Association Council in Luxembourg
on 22 February, the EU urged Vilnius to undertake
"realistic commitments" on closing down the Ignalina
nuclear power plant but stopped short of setting a
deadline for the plant's closure, LETA and BNS reported.
A Lithuanian diplomat in Brussels told BNS that there
were no threats of not inviting Lithuania to EU
accession talks at the end of 1999 if the country fails
to set a date for shutting down Ignalina. "The dialogue
with the EU does not even give a hint of an ultimatum,"
he commented. A draft national strategy outlines two
scenarios for Ignalina: phasing out the plant by 2005,
which would be earlier than originally projected, or
continuing operations until 2015 (see also "RFE/RL
Newsline," 22 February 1999). JC

POLISH HEALTH WORKERS SUSPEND GENERAL STRIKE. Poland's
health sector has suspended a nationwide 10-day strike
launched last week to demand higher wages and increased
funds for the health care system (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
19 and 22 February 1999). Krzysztof Bukiel, head of a
doctors' trade union, said the continued negotiations
with the government provide hope for a compromise on
demands that the health service be given more money, AP
reported. However, a Health Ministry spokesman told
Reuters that the government will not accept the
protesters' demand to increase the mandatory health-care
contribution to 11 percent of an individual's income
from the current 7.5 percent. JM

SUPPORT FOR POLAND'S SOLIDARITY BLOC PLUNGES. A poll
conducted by the Center for the Study of Public Opinion
(CBOS) in early February shows that support for the
Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), the larger of the two
ruling coalition parties, has decreased from 28 percent
in January to 22 percent. The liberal Freedom Union, the
AWS's coalition partner, improved its rating from 11
percent to 15 percent, while support for the opposition
post-communist Democratic Left Alliance rose from 27
percent to 29 percent. The CBOS commented that the
plunge in the AWS's popularity can be attributed to the
recent protests by farmers and health-service workers.
The agricultural and health ministers are affiliated to
the AWS. JM

CZECH PREMIER, CARDINAL VLK REACH AGREEMENT. Two
commissions, the existing government one and a new one
composed of experts and reflecting the composition of
the parliament, will examine Church-state relations
under a compromise agreement reached by Premier Milos
Zeman and Cardinal Miroslav Vlk on 23 February. Vlk told
journalists that the Catholic Church (which has opposed
the presence of a Communist Party member on the existing
government commission) will not oppose a Communist
presence on the expert commission but will not
"officially participate" in its debates, CTK reported.
MS

SKINHEAD LEADERS DETAINED IN CZECH REPUBLIC. Police in
Plzen on 20 February detained 12 skinheads before a
planned meeting in a nearby village, CTK reported. The
police have requested that three of those detained
remain in custody during an investigation into their
activities. The 12 are charged with violating
legislation guaranteeing civic rights and freedoms,
which can carry prison sentences of up to eight years.
Premier Zeman on 23 February met with the officers
involved in the raid and promised them promotions. The
same day, "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported that police have
detained in Holoubkov, western Bohemia, six members of a
previously unknown paramilitary group called
Sturmpionier-Battalion 43. The group, which vows to
honor the legacy of the Nazi Wehrmacht, was armed with
World War II rifles and a machine gun. MS

SLOVAK POLICE RAID LEXA SECRETARY'S HOME. Police on 23
February searched the home of the secretary of former
Slovak Counter-Intelligence chief Ivan Lexa, CTK
reported. A spokesman said the police were acting on
information based on an "anonymous letter" and were
searching for the weapon used in the murder of former
Economy Minister Jan Ducky on 11 January. Lexa requested
that the prosecutor-general investigate the "politicized
police" action, saying his secretary was questioned for
seven hours and later had to consult a doctor. MS

HUNGARY'S TOP BANKING SUPERVISORS RESIGN. Imre Tarafas,
president of the State Banking and Capital Markets
Supervision (APTF), and his deputy, Rezso Nyers,
resigned on 23 February, saying their "rapidly
deteriorating relationship" with the government was
jeopardizing the country's financial sector. Prime
Minister Viktor Orban and Finance Minister Zsigmond
Jarai last week demanded Tarafas's resignation for
failing to take action to prevent the bankruptcy of
Realbank and the Globex brokerage and for the
difficulties encountered by Postabank. Following the
resignations, the government withdrew its accusations,
saying that the APTF did everything possible to maintain
the financial sector's stability. As the APTF leadership
was appointed by the previous government, the conflict
is viewed by media as political in nature. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

KOSOVA TALKS ADJOURNED. The Kosova peace conference in
Rambouillet, France, ended on 23 February without an
agreement, AP reported. The U.S., French, and British
co-hosts of the 17-day talks decided to suspend the
talks until 15 March to give the Albanians two weeks for
"consultations" with their constituencies. Both
Albanians and Serbs have committed themselves to
participating in the follow-up conference. British
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said "we do not have the
signatures" either on political part of the peace accord
or the military annex that the six-country Contact Group
argues is necessary to enforce it. He added that "we
will use the next three weeks to convince the Serbs
andŠAlbanians that the agreement is a good bargain for
both sides." The Albanian delegation continues to insist
on a referendum on independence after three years, while
the Serbs still reject a NATO peacekeeping force. FS

CONTACT GROUP PRAISES 'CONSENSUS'... Notwithstanding the
lack of an agreement, the Contact Group issued a
statement after the conference saying that "the
important efforts of the parties and the unstinting
commitment of our negotiatorsŠhave led to a consensus on
substantial autonomy for Kosova, including on mechanisms
for free and fair elections to democratic institutions
for the governance of Kosova, for the protection of
human rights and the rights of members of national
communities, and for the establishment of a fair
judicial system." The statement stressed that the
envisaged autonomy will respect "the national
sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia." It added that "a political
framework is now in placeŠand the groundwork has thereby
been laid for finalizing the implementation Chapters of
the Agreement, including the modalities of the invited
international civilian and military presence" in Kosova.
FS

...WARNS PARTIES TO RESPECT CEASE-FIRE. The Contact
Group's statement went on to say that "the parties must
abstain from any action which would undermine the
achievements of Rambouillet" and "honor fully and
immediately the cease-fire" in Kosova as well as
"abstain from all provocative actions." U.S. Secretary
of State Madeleine Albright stressed that NATO's threat
of air strikes remains in place in the event that Serbs
resume attacks in Kosova. She said that "the marriage of
force and policy still exists," adding that NATO
Secretary-General Javier Solana "holds the ring." She
stressed, however, that it is up to the Albanians to
"create this black and white situation" by fully
accepting an accord themselves, Reuters reported. FS

UN, EU, U.S. URGE 'CONSTRUCTIVE SPIRIT.' The UN Security
Council and Secretary-General Kofi Annan have urged
Serbs and Albanians to "work constructively" to
implement agreements when talks resume on 15 March.
Annan expressed the hope that the conference "will
result in a comprehensive interim agreement" and
"provide genuine autonomy for the long-suffering people
of Kosova." U.S. President Bill Clinton called the talks
" a significant step forward in the search for a fair
and lasting peace" and urged both sides to sign the
Contact Group's draft agreement next month. He noted
that NATO remains poised to use military force if
necessary. The German Foreign Ministry, in the name of
the EU presidency, issued a statement saying that the EU
is determined to play a "substantial role" in
reconstructing the Serbian province and in helping to
implement any peace deal. FS

SERBIAN PRESIDENT SAYS TALKS WERE UNSUCCESSFUL. Milan
Milutinovic said in Rambouillet after the talks that
"the [Contact Group's] conclusions are a camouflage for
the lack of success at this conference," adding that
"there has been no Rambouillet accord." He blamed
organizers for allowing only "minimal contact" between
the Serbs and the Kosova Albanians during the talks,
adding that there was prejudice against the Serbs
throughout, AP reported. Milutinovic demanded "a new
method of working to allow us to reach a quicker and
better solution," including more face-to-face talks. He
again ruled out the possibility of any NATO troops on
Serbian soil or a combination of NATO and Russian
troops. Meanwhile in Belgrade, Yugoslav Deputy Prime
Minister Vuk Draskovic accused international mediators
of playing "games behind the scenes" and altering the
draft peace plan at the last minute to include a formula
for an eventual referendum on independence. FS

UCK PLEDGES TO CONTINUE 'LIBERATION WAR'... A spokesman
for the Kosova Liberation Army's (UCK) political
representative Adem Demaci said in Prishtina on 23
February that talks cannot bring peace and the
guerrillas will wage their "liberation war" to the end.
Meanwhile, the head of the Albanian delegation in
Rambouillet, UCK representative Hashim Thaci, told
Albanian Television that the Kosovars "should not expect
much" from the next round of negotiations. He urged them
to unite behind the UCK. FS

...WHILE FIGHTING CONTINUES. RFE/RL's South Slavic
Service, citing the Serbian Media Center, reported on 23
February that five Serbian policemen were wounded in the
village of Bukoshi, near Vushtrri, during a shootout
with the UCK. An AP photographer was also injured in the
fighting. The shadow-state Kosova Information Center,
meanwhile, reported that Serbian troops continue
bombarding several villages in the area with tanks and
heavy artillery. Elsewhere, UNHCR spokesman Chris
Janowski put the total number of people who fled their
homes within the last three days alone at around 10,000.
FS

YUGOSLAV ARMY MINES BRIDGE. Unnamed diplomats and
international peace monitors told Reuters that Yugoslav
army engineers have placed explosives on a key bridge at
the main highway connecting Prishtina with the
Macedonian border. A diplomat said that "the Yugoslav
army is serious and professional. They wouldn't be a
match for NATO if it came to it but they would use every
means to frustrate an attack, including blowing up the
bridges and tunnels that NATO ground forces would want
to use." FS

ALBANIA WANTS NATO TO ENSURE PEACE. The Albanian
government issued a statement on 23 February in Tirana
saying that "the talks [are] onlyŠthe first stage in
reaching an agreement and that the draft political
accord agreed on in Rambouillet will be "implemented
only by the military and political enforcing instruments
of NATO and the OSCE." Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal
Milo told Albanian Television that the agreement might
not have been the best possible for the ethnic Albanians
but that it is the best base from which to proceed. Milo
predicted that the Kosovars' attitude will not alter in
the two weeks before the next conference, Reuters
reported. Meanwhile, Albania's Defense Ministry has put
troops on high alert in its northern regions, after
Serbian troops and equipment began to be reinforced
along the border, an army spokesman told Reuters on 23
February. FS

CHINA OPPOSES EXTENSION OF MACEDONIAN UN MANDATE. A
spokesman for China's UN mission in New York told
Reuters on 23 February that China opposes extending the
mandate of UN peacekeepers in Macedonia. He did not say,
however, whether China will use its veto in the Security
Council. The council is scheduled to vote this week on
whether to renew the mandate, which expires on 27
February. China severed diplomatic relations with
Macedonia on 9 February because of its new ties to
Taiwan. Meanwhile, unnamed diplomats say the U.S. is
considering a new status for the peacekeepers, either as
part of NATO or as a separate border force paid for by
Washington and other contributors. FS

BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY SEEKS CUTS IN MILITARY SPENDING.
Bosnia's collective presidency on 23 February launched
an initiative aimed at reducing military spending, Mirza
Hajric, an adviser to Bosnian Muslim Presidency member
Alija Izetbegovic, told Reuters. Hajric said he believes
the idea could "easily fly" in the federation and that
he hopes the Republika Srpska will also accept it.
Hajric said the idea is to reduce such spending by one-
third to free up money for reconstruction of the
country. He stressed, however, that "we would have to
get an agreement with Yugoslavia and Croatia." FS

NATO BOOSTS PRESENCE IN HARDLINE BOSNIAN-SERB TOWN. SFOR
spokesman Glenn Chamberlain told Reuters on 23 February
that SFOR has "sharply increased" its presence in Foca.
That town is believed to harbor several Serbian indicted
war criminals. Chamberlain said SFOR will set up random
checkpoints, noting that "this is recognition of a
pattern of illegal activity in that town over a
considerable period of time." However, he gave no other
details about the nature of the operation. FS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT TO ASK PARLIAMENT FOR ENDORSEMENT.
Prime Minister Radu Vasile on 23 February said on
Romanian Television that his government will "assume
responsibility" in the parliament for its economic
program. According to this process, the legislature is
considered to have approved the program unless a no
confidence motion is submitted. Vasile said the program
will include a new privatization law envisaging the sale
in installments of state-owned companies to Romanian
investors, a law on property restitution, and
legislation defining public administration
accountability. In other news, the miners in the Jiu
Valley and the valley's state-owned mining company have
reached agreement on a new collective contract for 1999
that provides for an average wage hike of 17 percent. MS

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY THREATENS PARLIAMENTARY
BOYCOTT. Ovidiu Musatescu, executive secretary of the
opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR),
said on 23 February that the PDSR will discuss the
possibility of boycotting parliamentary debates till the
next elections to protest the ruling National Peasant
Party Christian Democratic's (PNTCD) campaign against
PDSR leader Ion Iliescu. PNTCD chairman Ion Diaconescu
and his deputy, Remus Opris, told journalists on 22
February that the former president cannot run for what
they said would be a third presidential term, adding
that "it will soon transpire who is truly responsible"
for the miners' rampages in Bucharest in 1990-1991.
Musatescu said the PDSR will "use all possible forms of
protest" to defend its chairman. MS

SMIRNOV CALLS FOR STRENGTHENING MILITARY. Transdniester
separatist leader Igor Smirnov, marking the Defense of
the Fatherland Day on 23 February, said Transdniester
must build up its military potential, adding that the
country "needs a strong and well-trained army to defend
its sovereignty and independence at any moment,"
RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The same day, a
Foreign Ministry spokesman in Chisinau said a Tiraspol
delegation's recent participation in debates in the
Russian State Duma on the Transdniester was "a gesture
incompatible with the traditional Russia-Moldovan
dialogue." Oleg Serebrian said the Duma is "free to
discuss any problem related to Russia's national
interests but must [neither] affect the national
interests of other sovereign nations" nor allow "any
infringement of other countries' territorial integrity,"
Infotag reported. MS

BULGARIA, ROMANIA DISAGREE OVER DANUBE TUNNEL. A
Romanian project to build a tunnel under the Danube
River between Giurgiu and Russe has met with sharp
criticism in Bulgaria, dpa reports, citing the daily
"Trud." Giurgiu and Russe are already linked by a
bridge. The daily says the Romanian plan is aimed at
preventing the construction of a second bridge over the
river. The two governments have long disagreed over the
construction of a second bridge: Bulgaria insists that
it span the river between Vidin and Calafat, while
Bucharest wants the bridge to be built further east.
Bulgarian experts say Romanian opposition to the Vidin-
Calafat project stems from non-economic, political
motives and that Bucharest wants to prevent an economic
boom in Transylvania, where Romania's ethnic Hungarian
minority is concentrated. MS

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