The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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
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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.
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