|He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 43, Part II, 3 March 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 43, Part II, 3 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 * UKRAINE TO JOIN CIS INTERPARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY * POLISH PREMIER LAUNCHES GOVERNMENT REFORM * NATO HAS 'NO INTENTION' OF LAUNCHING AIR STRIKES? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE TO JOIN CIS INTERPARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY. Following several failed attempts last year, the Ukrainian Supreme Council has voted to join the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 March. The decision was backed by 230 lawmakers; at least 226 votes were necessary for the motion to pass. JM RUKH REGISTERS NEW PARLIAMENTARY CAUCUS. Following a split in the leadership of the right-wing Popular Rukh of Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 1999), 16 parliamentary deputies have registered a "Popular Rukh of Ukraine-1" caucus in the Supreme Council, Ukrainian Radio reported on 2 March. The caucus, headed by Rukh former leader Vyacheslav Chornovil, is composed of 16 Rukh deputies, including Rukh presidential candidate Hennadiy Udovenko. The Rukh party has 47 seats in the parliament. JM UKRAINIAN POWER PLANTS FREE OF MILLENNIUM BUG? Oleksandr Parkhomenko, head of the Enerhoatom state nuclear agency, has said the equipment at Ukraine's nuclear power plants is so obsolete that it cannot be affected by the so-called millennium bug. "Fortunately, our nuclear energy sector is not fully computerized, and problems existing in the West are not relevant for us," Reuters quoted Parkhomenko as saying. Meanwhile, nuclear plant workers have escalated their protests over unpaid wages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 1999). Ukrainian law forbids them to strike, so they are spending most of their spare time in tent camps built around power plants. JM POLICE SEARCH PREMISES OF HRODNA INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER. The Belarusian police on 2 March searched the offices of the independent newspaper "Pahonya" in Hrodna, confiscating political cartoons and letters from readers, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The State Committee for the Press last month warned "Pahonya," along with five other independent newspapers, against publishing materials connected with the opposition's initiative to hold presidential elections on 16 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1999). The police told "Pahonya" chief editor Mikola Markevich that the authorities have instigated criminal proceedings against those attempting to seize power in Belarus. JM BELARUSIAN LAWYER BARRED FROM VISITING JAILED OPPOSITIONIST. Hary Pahanyayla, a lawyer known for defending Belarusian oppositionists and people persecuted by Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime, was prevented on 2 March from visiting Viktar Hanchar, who was jailed the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March 1999). Pahanyayla was stripped of the right to practice law in Belarus last year but is registered as a lawyer in the Russian Federation. He demanded to be allowed to visit Hanchar on the basis of a 1993 convention between CIS countries on rendering legal assistance to persons charged with minor offenses. Hanchar has been detained for 10 days for holding a meeting of the opposition Central Electoral Commission last week. Thirteen other members of the commission were jailed, fined, or given a warning for participating in that meeting. JM LATVIAN WORKING GROUP FAILS TO DRAW UP RULES ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION. LETA reported on 2 March that regulations have still not been drawn up on how state and municipal institutions are to guarantee public access to information at their disposal. Under the law on access to information passed by the parliament last fall, the government was to draw up such regulations by 1 March. A Ministry of Transport official who heads the working group dealing with the issue told the news agency that owing to inherent "contradictions" and "imperfections," the law itself must first be amended. The absence of the government regulations means that officials and civil servants can continue to deny individuals access to information. JC LITHUANIAN PREMIER PONDERS RESIGNATION. Addressing a closed meeting of the Conservatives' parliamentary group on 1 March, Gediminas Vagnorius said he is considering resigning, according to Conservative deputy faction head Rasa Rastauskiene, ELTA and BNS reported the next day. Rastauskiene said that both Vagnorius and the Conservatives feel they have been "defamed" over attempts to link "the complex status of the energy sector'' to scandals and to make "grave accusations" of corruption against the government. Conservative Party Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis said that Vagnorius has the right to "mull over [his] resignation as he has been insulted and defamed." Vagnorius reportedly told the Conservative faction that before taking any decision on resigning, his cabinet is determined to investigate whether any powers were abused in the so-called Lietuvos Energija affair and to examine whether the U.S. Power Bridge Group, which won a tender last year to link Lithuania's power grid to Poland's, is financially capable of carrying out that project. JC WILLIAMS WANTS TO STAY IN LITHUANIA. Following media reports that the U.S. energy company is considering not investing in a major Lithuanian concern, U.S. Ambassador to Vilnius Keith Smith confirmed that the company has not changed its plans and wants to stay in Lithuania, ELTA reported. Smith made those remarks during a meeting with President Valdas Adamkus on 2 March, held at the latter's initiative. Media reports claiming that Williams is unwilling to pay the asking price for a stake in the Mazeikiu Nafta oil concern came on the heels of the announcement that the Mazeikiu's losses last year totaled some 98 million litas ($24.5 million, see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March 1999). JC POLISH PREMIER LAUNCHES GOVERNMENT REFORM. Jerzy Buzek began the promised restructuring of his cabinet on 2 March, dismissing eight officials with the rank of deputy ministers, Polish media reported. "This is the first step in the reform of the whole government," Buzek commented. He added that Wieslaw Walendziak, chief of the prime minister's staff, will be replaced by an administrator without political affiliation. Marian Krzaklewski, leader of the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), said changes are necessary primarily in the Health and Defense Ministries. Polish media reported rumors that Walendziak, an AWS member, may replace Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz of the Freedom Union, the AWS's coalition partner. According to commentators, Buzek has been forced to restructure the cabinet in order to boost its popularity, which has waned since the introduction of major reforms this year. JM POLAND BEGINS PUBLISHING NAMES OF SECRET-SERVICE COLLABORATORS. The government mouthpiece "Monitor Polski" on 2 March published the first 25 names of persons who admitted to having been employed by or collaborated with the Communist-era secret services. The list is composed exclusively of judges, prosecutors, and attorneys. Under the 1997 lustration law, Polish officials are required to state whether they collaborated with the communist secret services from 1944-1989. Those who fail to admit to collaborating but are found guilty of having done so by Poland's lustration court will be barred from holding public office for 10 years. JM HAVEL SAYS CZECH 'INDIFFERENCE' MIGHT HURT EU BID... Before departing for a three-day visit to Paris, President Vaclav Havel told journalists that Prague's "indifference and "lack of preparedness" might leave it out of the first wave of candidates for joining the EU, CTK and Reuters reported on 2 March. Foreign Minister Jan Kavan responded that "fears" of the Czech Republic's being transferred from the first to the second wave of candidates are "completely unsubstantiated," and he added that he does not share the president's views. Parliamentary chairman and leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party Vaclav Klaus said Havel's warning "amounts to scaremongering." MS ...THANKS CHIRAC FOR FRENCH SUPPORT. Addressing a state dinner in Paris on 2 March, Havel thanked French President Jacques Chirac for France's support for Czech efforts to join the EU and NATO, saying Prague is "ready to assume its responsibility in European affairs," Reuters and CTK reported. Chirac said he and Havel share a vision of Europe based on "solidarity among peoples, maintenance of peace, and development to the benefit of all." MS LEXA DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN KOVAC JR. ABDUCTION. Ivan Lexa, former head of the Slovak Counter-Intelligence Service, has denied allegations that he masterminded the abduction to Austria of former President Michal Kovac's son in August 1995, CTK reported on 2 March. The previous day, Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner said a taped conversation between Lexa and Karol Martinka, the former head of Devin Bank (which had close links to Russia under Vladimir Meciar's premiership), showed the former's involvement. In that conversation, Lexa is heard giving Martinka a detailed account of events. Pittner said the investigation into the kidnapping might be expanded to examine the possibility that "foreign agents" were also involved. Lexa told Slovak Radio that the tape is "a fake" and that he will not agree to being stripped of his parliamentary immunity. MS HUNGARY, ITALY, SLOVENIA DISCUSS REGIONAL SECURITY. The Hungarian, Italian, and Slovenian Foreign Ministry state secretaries, meeting on 2 March in Budapest, agreed to set up a joint peacekeeping brigade. Zsolt Nemeth, Umberto Ramieri, and Franco Juri announced that a trilateral summit at the level of premier is scheduled to be held in Maribor, Slovenia, in May. Nemeth and Ramieri expressed support for Slovenia's NATO accession in the anticipated second wave of expansion. The three officials also agreed to cooperate in fighting organized crime and illegal migration and in strengthening the international system of protecting minorities' rights. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO HAS 'NO INTENTION' OF LAUNCHING AIR STRIKES? Citing U.S. administration officials and NATO diplomats, "The New York Times" reported on 3 March that "the United States and its NATO allies have no intention of launching punitive strikes against Yugoslav military targets at this point despite an army buildup and renewed fighting in Kosovo." The article quoted an unnamed Pentagon official as noting that "we're back to square one again. NATO has pulled out the 'we're ready to act' card way too many times." An unnamed diplomat added: "What we don't have at this point is a pre-agreed level of violence at which NATO will respond. It will be judged when it happens." PM SERBIAN PRESIDENT SAYS DEAL LONG WAY OFF. Milan Milutinovic said in Belgrade on 2 March that "a political agreement [on Kosova] has not been adopted and is far from being close at hand." He stressed that "a lot of work on the political agreement remains to be done." After the Rambouillet talks ended on 23 February, several Western diplomats suggested that the Serbs had accepted the proposed political agreement and that the only significant problem was to persuade them to accept a foreign military presence. PM SERBIAN ASSAULT CONTINUES. The pro-Serbian Media Center reported from Prishtina on 3 March that an unspecified number of Kosovars died the previous day in an assault by Serbian security forces near Jankovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March 1999). Some 3,000 displaced persons tried to flee into Macedonia, AP reported. The Macedonian government said in a statement that "persons fleeing due to a worsening security situation [in Kosova] will be transported in an organized manner to shelters and their status subsequently determined." The text added that the authorities will prevent arms smuggling across the frontier. Macedonian officials recently told "RFE/RL Newsline" in Skopje that they fear that a large influx of ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosova could upset Macedonia's delicate ethnic balance. Ethnic Albanians make up nearly one quarter of Macedonia's population and many have close family and social ties to Kosova. PM DEMACI QUITS AS UCK REPRESENTATIVE. Adem Demaci, who was Kosova's best-known communist-era dissident and political prisoner, resigned as political representative for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) on 2 March. He said in a statement in Prishtina that he feels "morally and historically obliged to point out again that this imposed Agreement of Rambouillet will not bring freedom to the Albanian people of Kosova and will not liberate Kosova from Serbian slavery. We feel morally and historically obliged to show that unscrupulous propaganda [by moderate Kosovar leaders] aims at deceiving the people" by claiming that the Rambouillet text offers more political freedom than it actually does. Demaci stressed that anything less than full independence constitutes a betrayal of fundamental Kosovar interests. Veton Surroi, who belonged to the Rambouillet negotiating team, told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service that the agreement gives the Kosovars much of what they want. He added that Demaci has failed to keep up with changing times. PM TAIWANESE FOREIGN MINISTER BEGINS VISIT TO MACEDONIA. Jason Hu arrived in Skopje on 2 March with a delegation of government officials and businessmen. It is the first top-ranking visit to Macedonia by Taiwanese officials since the two countries established diplomatic relations earlier this year. AP noted that unnamed Macedonian officials have said that Hu's visit could lead to $235 million in direct government-to-government aid and an additional $1 billion in commercial investments. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's free-market-oriented government hopes that Taiwan will be able to provide a much-needed boost for Macedonia's economy, which has been adversely affected by high unemployment, corruption, and the proximity of conflicts in neighboring former Yugoslav republics. PM BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT TO CONTROL SECRET SERVICES. The parliament in Banja Luka on 2 March approved a new law stipulating that the government appoints the top officials of the secret services and the president approves those appointments. Previous legislation gave full control over such appointments to the president, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM SAKIC TAKEN TO HOSPITAL. Dinko Sakic (77), whose trial for war crimes during World War II will open on 4 March in Zagreb, was rushed to hospital on 3 March after falling ill in his prison cell, AP reported. It is unclear whether his hospitalization will lead to a delay in his trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999). In other news, Jewish groups on 2 March called on the government to take measures to combat what they called a rise in public expressions of anti-Semitism, including on state-run television. PM SIBENIK AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATE WARTIME SHELLING. Officials of the district attorney's office in Sibenik announced on 2 March that they have begun an investigation into claims that appeared recently in the media to the effect that the Croatian military shelled the Adriatic town during the 1991 war in order to discredit the local civilian authorities. Davor Skugor, who commanded local military units at the time, said recently that he never intended a large-scale shelling of the town. He added that he ordered the firing of two mortars "so that people would understand that there was a war on." PM INFORMATION MINISTER SAYS KOSOVA DEAL WILL IMPROVE ALBANIAN STABILITY. Musa Ulqini told dpa on 3 March that the signing of the Rambouillet draft peace agreement will help Albania overcome its domestic difficulties and open up new prospects for economic development. Ulqini said that "Albania's prosperity is very much linked with the situation and developments in Kosova. A continuing crisis in Kosova means continuing instability in Albania." He stressed that the Kosova conflict has exacerbated economic and social problems, especially in the northern and northeastern districts that border the Serbian province. Tensions in Kosova have frightened off some foreign investors from investing in Albania and have forced the government into spending scarce funds on the military and refugee relief, Ulqini added. FS DEPUTY PARLIAMENT SPEAKER SAYS ALBANIA MUST ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY. Namik Dokle told the parliament on 2 March that the Council of Europe will expel Albania if it retains capital punishment in the penal code beyond the year 2000. Dokle stressed that the council is determined to enter the next millennium with no member state's legislation providing for the death penalty. Albania has observed a moratorium on executions since it was admitted to the Council in 1995. Most Albanian politicians are in favor of retaining capital punishment as a means of combating rampant crime. There are five Albanians on death row, "Albanian Daily News" reported. FS ROMANIAN OPPOSITION DEPUTY STRIPPED OF PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY. The Chamber of Deputies on 2 March approved by a vote of 242 to 50 to lift the parliamentary immunity of opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) deputy Gabriel Bivolaru, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Bivolaru has been charged with fraud and forgery of official documents. Miron Mitrea, deputy leader of the PDSR parliamentary group, said his group voted for lifting Bivolaru's immunity, adding that some of the "no" votes came from among the ranks of the ruling coalition. In other news, the Bucharest Municipal Tribunal on 2 March rejected the request of two non- governmental organizations to outlaw the extremist Greater Romania Party. The court said that under the basic law, such a request can be made only by the government or the chairmen of the parliament's two chambers and that a decision is made only by the Constitutional Court. MS INTERNATIONAL AGENCY DOWNGRADES ROMANIA'S RATING. The Thompson Bank Watch international rating agency has downgraded Romania's country risk from B plus to B minus, citing internal and external debt servicing difficulties, economic stagnation, and political obstacles to implementing reform. The agency also downgraded two large banks, Bancorex and the Romanian Bank for Development, saying this reflected the country's risk downgrading. Bancorex has encountered recent difficulties owing to bad loans extended in the early 1990s. On 28 February, the government appointed Nicolae Danila as the bank's interim director, following the resignation of Vlad Soare, whose restructuring policies were not approved by either the World Bank or the IMF. Last week, Bancorex was flooded with requests from depositors wishing to withdraw deposits. MS MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT VOTES CONFIDENCE IN STURDZA CABINET. The parliament on 3 March approved Ion Sturdza's cabinet, but it is unclear whether the vote is constitutionally valid, Reuters reported. The cabinet was approved by a majority of 51 deputies in the 101- seat parliament, but the Constitutional Court has ruled in the past that so-called "organic laws" need a majority of 52 to pass. It is unclear whether a confidence vote falls into this category. President Petru Lucinschi said he will ask the court to rule whether the vote is valid; if it is not, "I will propose a new candidate," he said. The motion passed without the support of the Christian Democratic Popular Front (FPCD), which boycotted the vote and continues to insist on four portfolios in the cabinet, instead of the two it has been offered. The FPCD said after the vote that it will leave the Alliance for Democracy and Reform coalition majority in the parliament. MS MOLDOVAN-TRANSDNIESTER SUMMIT POSTPONED. A 2 March meeting between President Petru Lucinschi and separatist leader Igor Smirnov has been postponed owing to the ongoing political crisis in Moldova, RFE/RL's Chisinau Bureau reported. On 2 March, Moldovan veterans of the 1992 armed conflict with the Transdniester picketed the parliament's building and blocked traffic in front of the presidential residence, protesting social conditions and pension arrears. MS BULGARIAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES SERBIAN STATEMENT. Petar Stoyanov on 1 March dismissed as "frivolous" a statement by Serbian Deputy Premier Vojislav Seselj two days earlier. Seselj had told a rally near Belgrade that Serbia will declare war on all neighboring countries that allow NATO to launch an attack against Serbia from their territory. Stoyanov told journalists that Seselj's declaration is "neither serious, nor does it deserve special attention." MS 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. 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