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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 42, Part II, 2 March 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 42, Part II, 2 March 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 * BELARUSIAN POLICE ARREST OPPOSITION ELECTORAL COMMISSION HEAD * CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST FORMER SLOVAK INTERIOR MINISTER * YUGOSLAV FORCES PRESS OFFENSIVE ON KOSOVA-MACEDONIAN FRONTIER End Note: POLAND'S FOREIGN MINISTER ON EASTERN POLICY AFTER NATO ENTRY xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE RUKH TO SUPPORT SINGLE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, DESPITE SPLIT. The Popular Rukh of Ukraine will support Hennadiy Udovenko as the party's candidate in the presidential elections in Ukraine this fall, dpa reported on 1 March. Rukh was divided when a 28 February extraordinary congress elected Yuriy Kostenko as its chairman to replace former Soviet dissident Vyacheslav Chornovil (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 1999). Kostenko said Udovenko can win the presidential elections if all national and democratic forces unite around his candidacy. Chornovil and his supporters also confirmed their support for Udovenko. JM UKRAINE DISCUSSES ELECTRICITY DEBTS TO RUSSIA. Anatolii Chubais, head of Russia's Unified Energy Systems (EES), met with Ukrainian leaders in Kyiv on 1 March to negotiate ways of repaying Ukraine's debts for electricity supplied by his company. Ukrainian commercial companies owe $123.5 million to EES, and Chubais wants the Ukrainian government and the state- owned company Ukrenergo to cover that sum. Ukraine's newly appointed energy minister, Ivan Plachkov, said before the talks that the government will not bear responsibility for the "debts of commercial companies," AP reported on 1 March. EES, whose electricity exports accounted for 3 percent of Ukraine's needs last year, suspended supplies to Ukraine on 1 January. JM BELARUSIAN POLICE ARREST OPPOSITION ELECTORAL COMMISSION HEAD... Viktar Hanchar, head of the opposition Central Electoral Commission, was arrested in Minsk on 1 March and sentenced to 10 days in custody, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Hanchar was arrested for not appearing at an administrative court to which he had been summoned last week on charges of holding an unsanctioned meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 1999). Henadz Samoylenka, a member of the commission, was fined 30 million Belarusian rubles ($131) for participating in the same meeting. The Minsk human rights center "Spring- 96" reported that other commission members were fined 15-30 million Belarusian rubles, sentenced to five days in custody, or given a warning. The commission headed by Hanchar is preparing alternative presidential elections in Belarus, which the opposition Supreme Soviet has scheduled for 16 May. JM ...WHILE COMMISSION REGISTERS SUPPORT GROUPS FOR TWO CANDIDATES. Following Hanchar's arrest, 15 members of the Central Electoral Commission registered support groups for two candidates who are to run in the 16 May presidential elections. Some 800 people were registered to collect signatures in support of former Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir's candidacy, and some 500 people for Zyanon Paznyak, exiled leader of the Belarusian Popular Front. According to the 1994 constitution--to which the Belarusian opposition remains loyal--a presidential candidate must collect 100,000 signatures to be officially registered. Paznyak told RFE/RL on 1 March that the opposition elections are to elect a "real president who will form a real cabinet [and restore] constitutional power in Belarus." Paznyak has hinted he will return to Belarus for the election campaign once he is registered. JM ORGANIZER OF ANTI-FASCIST MARCH IN MINSK JAILED FOR 10 DAYS. Ales Byalyatski, head of the human rights center "Spring-96," has been sentenced to 10 days in jail for "violating public order" during the anti-fascist march in Minsk on 27 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 1999), Belapan reported on 1 March. The city authorities gave permission for a march on the sidewalks, but some of the 2,000 protesters walked along Minsk's main avenue. The trial of two other organizers was postponed after their lawyer requested that an expert opinion be delivered on whether 2,000 people could fit onto the sidewalks during the march. JM CHINESE DEPUTY PREMIER IN TALLINN. Estonian Prime Minister Mart Siimann, meeting with Wu Ji in Tallinn on 1 March, urged Chinese businessmen to invest in Estonia, ETA reported. Siimann noted that Estonia could handle Chinese goods in transit to Europe. Wu responded that while China is interested in business opportunities in Estonia, the competition is "fierce" there. China currently occupies 26th place on the list of Estonia's trading partners, according to the news agency. JC LATVIAN POLICE BRACE FOR MARCH DEMONSTRATIONS. Interior Minister Roberts Jurdzis told journalists on 1 March that the Latvian authorities have information that extremists may provoke disturbances on both 3 March, the first anniversary of a pensioners' rally at which police used force to unblock a main road in downtown Riga, and 16 March, Latvian Soldiers' Day, "Diena" reported. He stressed that the authorities have already drawn up plans to prevent mass disturbances on either of those days. "Diena" also reported that the Russian-language press has urged "leftists" to take part in the 3 March rally to continue the "fight for the defense of their rights." JC KRISTOPANS SAYS NEW ANTI-CORRUPTION BILL IN OFFING. Speaking to journalists on 1 March, Latvian Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans announced that a working group will be set up within the coming weeks to draw up a new anti-corruption bill, "Diena" reported. Kristopans stressed that both Latvian and foreign experts will be involved in drafting the new law, which, he said, will be ready by the end of the year. JC LITHUANIAN STATE DEFENSE COUNCIL APPROVES ELECTRICITY EXPORTS TO BELARUS. At a 1 March session under the chairmanship of President Valdas Adamkus, the State Defense Council recommended that the government approve continued electricity exports to Belarus, ELTA reported. Adamkus told reporters after the meeting that the matter was "analyzed in both economic and political terms" and that it was agreed that there was no point to cease supplies when Belarus has given a "concrete commitment" to settle its outstanding debt of some $100 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 25 February 1999). Also attending the session were parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis and Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius. The government is due to discuss the issue on 3 March. JC MAZEIKIU NAFTA POSTS LOSSES OF NEARLY $25 MILLION. Lithuania's oil concern Mazeikiu Nafta registered losses last year totaling some 98 million litas ($24.5 million), ELTA reported on 1 March. But an Economy Ministry official argued that Mazeikiu Nafta activities in 1998 would be regarded as profitable, not loss- making. "Due to the fact that the plant does not have enough capital of its own, it cannot make profits as it has to pay 9-10 percent interest [on] borrowed capital", the daily "Lietuvos Rytas" quoted the official as saying, according to the news agency. Meanwhile, negotiations continue between the government and the U.S. energy company Williams over the latter's participation in the oil concern's privatization. JC POLISH PREMIER TO STREAMLINE CABINET STAFF. Jerzy Buzek told Polish Radio on 1 March that he plans "far-reaching changes to streamline the functioning" of his office, including reductions in the office's personnel. According to PAP, Chief of Prime Minister's Staff Wieslaw Walendziak will be dismissed and offered another job in the cabinet. A cabinet reshuffle will follow in April, when the current 17 ministries are expected to be reduced to 10 or nine. Polish commentators note that the planned restructuring is being used as a pretext to get rid of unpopular ministers and to improve the cabinet's image. Buzek's cabinet has recently seen its popularity drop significantly in the wake of protests by farmers and health service employees. JM POLAND TO EXPEL RUSSIAN BUSINESSMEN. ITAR-TASS reported on 1 March that Poland has refused to prolong residence permits to 15 Russian businessmen who allegedly "threaten the interests of Polish national security." According to the agency, Polish officials have so far refused to comment on that move. A representative of the Russian embassy in Warsaw told Polish Television the same day that Russia will take "reciprocal" steps unless Polish authorities justify their decision to expel Russian businessmen. ITAR-TASS noted that almost 3,000 Polish businessmen are currently working in Russia. JM HAVEL SAYS COMMUNIST LEGACY INFLUENCES CZECH SUPPORT FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP. In an interview with "Le Monde" on 1 March, President Vaclav Havel said the relatively low support among Czechs for NATO entry (56 percent, according to the latest polls) must not be interpreted as deep-rooted resentment toward the alliance. He said this is a reflection of the communist legacy, when NATO was presented as an "instrument of imperialism." Additional reasons, he said, are "a certain amount of parochialism, isolationism, and faint-heartedness, all of which have an established tradition in modern Czech history," CTK reported. Havel said enthusiasm for joining NATO is greater in Poland because that country has had to "make huge sacrifices for its [independent] existence in modern history." On 2 March, Havel begins a three-day visit to France. MS CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST FORMER SLOVAK INTERIOR MINISTER. Gustav Krajci on 1 March was charged with abuse of power and forging ballots in the 1997 referendum, CTK and AP reported, quoting a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior. The trial date has not yet been set. Krajci, who was recently stripped of his parliamentary immunity, is accused of having abused his position as deputy chairman of the Central Electoral Commission by deleting from the 1997 referendum the question on direct presidential elections. He is also charged with stamping the altered ballot with the official stamp of the commission, without that commission's knowledge. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE YUGOSLAV FORCES PRESS OFFENSIVE ON KOSOVA-MACEDONIAN FRONTIER. Serbian tanks and heavy artillery shelled the region between Kacanik and the Macedonian border on 2 March, AP reported. The news agency added that "the operation, which has begun in the past few days, appears to be an ominous military effort to control a strategic artery in the Serbian province. Troops and tanks have been massing at the border, and a bridge connecting Macedonia and [Kosova] is mined--preparations either to prevent NATO forces from coming in, or keep diplomatic monitors and refugees from getting out." A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees noted that some 3,000 displaced persons are crowded into the border town of Jankovic and hundreds more are living rough in nearby woods. He added that "this is the first case in some time where people are staying in the open." PM UCK CONFIRMS THACI AS HEAD OF PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT. The General Headquarters of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) said in a statement on 1 March that "Hashim Thaci is appointed as a mandatory with the duty of constituting the Provisional Government of Kosova, which in turn will carry out preparations for free and regular parliamentary elections." The text described Thaci as a "member of the General Headquarters and head of the Political Directorate of UCK." The guerrilla leadership also appointed a delegation to represent it at talks with U.S. officials in Washington, which will take place prior to the reconvening of the peace talks on 15 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 1999). The delegation will consist of Thaci, Jakup Krasniqi, Rame Buja, Bashkim Jashari, Bislim Zyrapi, and Ramush Hajredinaj. On 2 March, the pro-Milosevic Belgrade daily "Politika" charged that Washington is "giving legitimacy to terrorists" by inviting the UCK team. PM ALBANIAN PRESIDENT ENCOURAGES THACI TO SIGN AGREEMENT. Rexhep Meidani told Thaci and other UCK representatives in Tirana on 1 March that the peace negotiations are "a vital process for all [ethnic] Albanians and for the stability of the region," according to a statement issued by Meidani's office. He called the peace talks "only a first positive step toward the solution of the Kosova crisis" and stressed that "every action or political decision by [the Kosovars] should aim at preserving the continuity of international support, especially U.S. support," for the Kosovar cause, dpa reported. The statement also quoted Thaci as saying he is "committed" to reaching an agreement "that will end the Serbian violence and genocide...and result in the presence of NATO troops on the ground," Reuters reported. FS COHEN WARNS MILOSEVIC. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said in Washington on 1 March that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic will face NATO air strikes if he resumes attacks on civilians in Kosova. "To the extent that his forces launch any attack against innocent people, he is going to face action by NATO itselfŠ. NATO countries are committed to making sure that he does not violate the agreement" he made with U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke in October 1998, Cohen said. He added that "if the Serbs, by virtue of their heavy armor and their artillery, start to engage in massive assaults upon innocent villagers, that would constitute a violation of the agreementŠand that would prompt an attack by the NATO forces." PM MILOSEVIC CONTINUES OPPOSITION TO PEACEKEEPERS. Knut Vollebaek, who is the OSCE's chairman in office, told reporters in Belgrade on 1 March that Milosevic, with whom he had just met, "flatly rejected" the stationing of NATO peacekeepers in Kosova. In Prishtina, U.S. special envoy Chris Hill said after meeting with several Kosovar political leaders that "there is no question that there are very serious problems on the ground. We feel the way to solve this is through the Rambouillet accords ..., and this means the presence of a NATO-led force, which we feel is in everyone's interest." Speaking of the Rambouillet agreement, Hill added that "we'll have [ethnic] Albanian signatures. And I hope the Serbs will come to understand that it's in their interest to sign." Meanwhile near Rahovec, the UCK released a Serbian civilian whom guerrillas captured two days before (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 1999). PM MACEDONIA PROTESTS TO SERBIA. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Skopje delivered a "verbal protest" to the Yugoslav embassy on 1 March in response to recent remarks by Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj, who said that Macedonia would "cease to exist" if NATO troops attack Serbia from Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 1999). PM UNPREDEP MISSION ENDS IN MACEDONIA. The UN Preventive Deployment Force ended its mission on 1 March after seven years, Reuters reported. China last week vetoed an extension of the mission by the Security Council after Skopje had established diplomatic ties with Taiwan earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 1999). An unnamed UNPREDEP official told Reuters that "we have begun preparations to leave. It's a process that will last about two months." He added that some of [UNPREDEP's] equipment is owned by the governments that sent soldiers to this mission and could be used in some other missions. The official suggested that some governments might like their troops to stay in Macedonia "within the framework of NATO." UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on 26 February that "what we do not need is a vacuum in this area at this critical stage." UNPREDEP was the first mission in UN history aimed at preventing the spread of a conflict to a country at peace. FS SFOR DISBANDS BOSNIAN SERB BRIGADE OVER ARMS SMUGGLING. Stabilization Force (SFOR) spokesman Dave Scalon told Reuters on 1 March that SFOR has ordered the disbanding of the Bosnian Serb Army's 311th infantry brigade, which is based in Bosanski Samac. He said SFOR took the measure after its forces seized two civilian trucks smuggling six Red Arrow anti-tank systems, 18 SA-7 air defense systems, and three multiple-rocket launchers near Brcko on 24 February. SFOR later seized another cache of illegal weapons near Bijeljina. Scalon said that a "sufficient" number of soldiers from the brigade were involved in the smuggling to prompt SFOR to take tough action. He added that there is "so far" no indication that the arms were bound for Kosova. FS FIRST ORE SHIPMENT FOR ZENICA. A Turkish freighter arrived at the Adriatic port of Ploce on 1 March with 7,500 tons of Ukrainian iron ore for the Zenica iron and steel works. This is the first shipment of raw materials to arrive in Ploce for Zenica since the Bosnian war began in 1992. Some 240,000 tons are slated to reach the huge iron and steel complex by the end of 1999. Shipments of raw materials to Zenica accounted for some 50 percent of Ploce's prewar commercial activity, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM NEW WAVE OF PRICE HIKES IN ROMANIA. Gasoline prices were raised by 60 percent beginning 2 March, following a government decision last week, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The hikes reflect the austerity budget approved by the government and the fact that the leu has lost some 16 percent of its value since the beginning of 1999. Prices of basic foodstuffs are expected to rise between 5 percent and 25 percent. MS ROMANIA'S UNIATES PROTEST 'LIMITED' PAPAL ITINERARY. Senator Ioan Moisin on 1 March sent a letter of protest to President Emil Constantinescu and the government demanding that "freedom of movement" be assured during Pope John Paul II's visit to Romania, which is scheduled for 7-9 May. Moisin said he is "mandated" to do so by the leader of the Uniate (Greek-Catholic) community, Metropolitan Lucian Muresan. At a recent session of the ruling National Peasant Party Christian Democratic's Steering Committee, several members of the Uniate community have also protested the intention to limit the visit to Bucharest, saying that the pope must visit localities in Transylvania where most of Romania's Roman-Catholics and Uniates live. Moisin accused the Romanian Orthodox Church of objecting to the pope's visit to Transylvania. MS ROMANIAN PARTIES MERGE. The National Council of the Romanian Alternative Party (PAR) has approved the party's merger with the Liberal Democratic Party (PLD) and the extra-parliamentary Democratic Republican Party, Mediafax reported on 28 February. Mircea Cazacu, who recently resigned from the National Liberal Party (PNL), also joined the PAR. PLD leader Nicolae Cerveni, who was elected to the parliament on the ruling Democratic Convention of Romania's (CDR) list in 1996, was leader of the former National Liberal Party-Democratic Convention. The PAR left the CDR last year. MS MOLDOVAN FPCD LEADER WANTS FOUR CABINET POSTS. Iurie Rosca, leader of the Christian Democratic Popular Front (FPCD), told journalists in Chisinau on 1 March that his party insists on having four ministers in Ion Sturdza's cabinet and that one of the portfolios must be finance and the other deputy prime minister with the rank of minister of state. Rosca said the FPCD will not accept a division into "zones of influence" in which the For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova bloc has control over the financial-economic sector, and the Party of Revival and Conciliation over the ministries overseeing military and security affairs, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov, speaking on television on 1 March, ruled out any concessions to the FPCD and added that one possible way out of the stalemate were early elections. MS BULGARIAN PREMIER CRITICIZES EU. In an interview with Reuters on 1 March, Ivan Kostov harshly criticized the EU, saying it has "done nothing for Bulgaria or has done negligibly little." Kostov also said the EU is exerting a "meaningless diktat" in demanding that Bulgaria close down parts of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant. Closure, he said, would "destroy even that little competitiveness the country now has" and greatly damage the Bulgarian economy. Kostov said that unless the EU starts membership talks with Sofia by 2001, his government may have to postpone the issue indefinitely since "society cannot get enthusiastic about goals 15-20 years away." MS END NOTE POLAND'S FOREIGN MINISTER ON EASTERN POLICY AFTER NATO ENTRY by Jan de Weydenthal In less than two weeks, Poland is to become a full member of NATO. Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek recently spoke in Warsaw with an RFE/RL correspondent about the possible effects of Poland's NATO membership on its relations with Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. Noting that entry into the Western military alliance will give Poland a much-needed and long-awaited guarantee of national security, Geremek commented that the move will inevitably have an impact on relations with neighboring countries. But he was quick to emphasize that "Poland, as a member of NATO, will be even better equipped to improve those relations." This is particularly true, he argued, with regard to Ukraine, which he described as one of Poland's strategic partners. "Ukrainian independence is deeply rooted in the Polish national interest," he said. "And we have a very good relationship. We have the feeling that Ukraine sees Poland's accession to NATO as a chance for her security." Geremek was less upbeat about Poland's relations with Belarus. Minsk, he said, currently appears to "be lacking confidence" in Poland's accession to NATO and "is angry with NATO enlargement." Belarusian officials, and particularly President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, have consistently and vociferously opposed NATO's eastern enlargement, seeing it as a threat to their country's security and a danger to peace in the region. Geremek questioned the scope of the fear expressed in Belarus. "The question," he said, "is whether [this fear stems from] political elites of the country, the president of the country, or the Belarusian nation. Poland wants to have good relations with Belarus, with the Belarusian state, and with the Belarusian people." Geremek said that Poland would make every effort to convince Belarus, by moving gradually in a "step-by- step" fashion, that Warsaw's NATO entry is "in the interest of Belarus." He said Poland's membership in the alliance will contribute to strengthening political stability and eliminating conflicts in the region. But for Poland the central foreign policy issue remains the nature of its relations with Russia. Geremek recalled the centuries of Polish-Russian conflict in which Russia had been the main player in a series of partitions of Poland. More recently, under communist rule, Moscow determined both Poland's government and politics for more than four decades. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has suffered a major decline in its international influence. But, as Geremek put it, "the shadow of Russia is still in the region." Moscow has strongly opposed Poland's entry into NATO but was finally forced into accepting it. However, Russia remains opposed to any further eastern NATO expansion. Even recently, Geremek said, it has tried to use negotiations with the West on conventional forces in Europe as "an instrument" to reduce the status of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic within NATO by imposing restrictions on their military strength. Yet, Geremek appears optimistic about the future. Pointing out that he visited Moscow as recently as the end of January, Geremek said he has the feeling that [by] becoming a member of NATO, "we can, in a more determined way, obtain loyal dialogue and cooperation with Russia. Russia understood that Poland is becoming a member of NATO, and Russia cannot say no. [There is] no possibility of a Russian veto in this case. And Russia can see in Poland's accession to NATO a good argument for her good relations with NATO. Poland, as member of NATO, will be the nation the most interested in the establishing good relations between Russia and NATO." Geremek emphasized that Poland is, and will remain, interested in developing friendly relations with Russia for a number of reasons: economic, cultural, and political. He said Russia is still a big power. And he noted that while Russia may currently be "sick" and that this sickness may last for very long time, Russia is still important for Poland. The author is a RFE/RL senior editor and a specialist in Polish affairs. 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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