|A host is like general: calamities often reveal his genius. - Horace|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 45, Part II, 5 March 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 45, Part II, 5 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 * BELARUS SAYS U.S. FANS TENSIONS OVER ARRESTED OPPOSITIONISTS * DOLE REFUSED VISA BY BELGRADE, MEETS KOSOVARS IN SKOPJE * ROMANIAN MINERS' LEADER SENTENCED AGAIN End Note: ESTONIANS VOTE IN THIRD PARLIAMENTARY POLL SINCE INDEPENDENCE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRIVATE TELEVISION STATION APPEALS FOR PROTECTION. Ukraine's leading private television station, STB, has appealed to President Leonid Kuchma and Supreme Council chairman Oleksandr Tkachenko for protection against assaults and intimidation, AP reported on 4 March. Mykola Knyazhytskyy of the STB's administration council said unknown armed attackers on 3 March terrorized the STB director and his pregnant wife and searched television offices, ignoring money and valuables. Earlier, unidentified people attacked an STB cameraman and set fire to the building in which Knyazytskyy lives. According to Knyazhytskyy, attacks against STB were "part of financial and political pressure" on Ukraine's independent media in the runup to the presidential elections in October. JM HROMADA CAUCUS SPLITS. The Hromada parliamentary group split on 4 March, as its leader and former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko remains in the U.S. seeking political asylum, dpa reported. Nineteen former members of the Hromada caucus and four other deputies have formed a left-of center caucus called "Batkivshchyna" [Fatherland]. The group is headed by 38-year-old Yuliya Tymoshenko, a former Lazarenko ally. Before the split, the Hromada caucus consisted of 42 deputies. Meanwhile, Lazarenko has announced through his lawyer that there is a "significant possibility" he will obtain political asylum in the U.S. Ukrainian Television reported on 4 March that the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Council has abolished its post of honorable chairman, which was assumed last year by Lazarenko. If extradited to Ukraine, Lazarenko faces trial on corruption charges. JM BELARUS SAYS U.S. FANS TENSIONS OVER ARRESTED OPPOSITIONISTS. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry on 4 March accused the U.S. of aggravating tensions over the opposition-organized presidential elections in Belarus. On 25 February, the U.S. State Department expressed "great concern" over the arrest of Viktar Hanchar, head of the opposition Central Electoral Commission, and 14 commission members. It called upon Belarus "to release the commission members immediately and to begin working with the democratic opposition in Belarus to resolve Belarus's long-standing impasse." The Foreign Ministry responded that the activities of Hanchar's commission contravene Belarusian laws and "provoke instability." Alluding to the U.S. statement, the ministry said that "fanning tensions" over Hanchar's commission "does not contribute to the development of equal and constructive dialogue with Belarus." JM OSCE CONCERNED ABOUT ARREST OF BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONISTS. OSCE Chairman Knut Vollebaek on 3 March voiced "deep concern" over the arrest of members of the Central Electoral Commission in Belarus. Vollebaek appealed for a solution to the "constitutional dispute" between the authorities and the opposition without resorting to "confrontational and undemocratic practices." He pledged OSCE support for a political dialogue in Belarus. Meanwhile, Anatol Hurynovich, a jailed commission member, has joined Hanchar and another commission member in a hunger strike (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March 1999), RFE/RL Belarusian Service reported on 4 March. International Human Rights League Chairwoman Kathy Fitzpatrick has appealed to Hanchar to end his strike. JM BELARUS, YUGOSLAVIA SCRAP VISAS, CONSIDER MILITARY DEAL. Belarusian Foreign Minister Ural Latypau and his Yugoslav counterpart, Zivadin Jovanovic, signed an agreement in Minsk on 4 March on abolishing visa requirements for their citizens. Jovanovic said the two countries discussed concluding a military agreement but declined to give details. "Military cooperation is one part of our cooperation overall," Reuters quoted him as saying. JM LUKASHENKA WARNS RUSSIA AGAINST IMF LOANS. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 4 March that the IMF policy is not directed toward providing real support to Russia, but "toward wringing out most of the country's [natural] resources," Interfax reported. He added that the IMF "wants all Russia to be put in hock for its loans. The West is now talking about putting Russian nuclear weapons under NATO control."JM ESTONIAN CENTRAL BANK WANTS SINGLE FINANCIAL SUPERVISORY BODY. The Bank of Estonia on 4 March approved setting up a single supervisory body that would oversee all activities in the banking, insurance, and securities sectors, ETA reported. The bank justified that move by pointing to the level of integration of Estonia's financial markets as well as their small size. The government and the bank are to reach a decision by 1 September on merging the country's financial supervisory bodies. Finance Minister Mart Opmann said the government supports such a merger but is undecided about who should head the new supervisory entity. JC LATVIAN LAWMAKERS VOTE TO KEEP SOLDIERS DAY... By a vote of 37 to 33 with 11 abstentions, lawmakers on 4 March voted against doing away with 16 March as Latvian Soldiers Day. The motion had been proposed by the parliamentary group of the left-wing For Equal Rights in a Unified Latvia. Veterans of the Latvian Waffen SS mark 16 March as the day their unit first fought against the Red Army in 1943. Jewish leaders have said they will boycott the remembrance day by refusing to hang the Latvian flag outside their Riga building, as required by law. And Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis has said that military personnel will act in line with the government's recommendation that representatives of the armed forces do not take part in any commemorative events, BNS reported. JC ...AND AGAINST REVEALING INCOME. Also on 4 March, the parliament voted against a proposal by the opposition People's Party that would have guaranteed public access to information on all types of income of state and local government officials, "Diena" reported. The vote was two to 35 with 49 abstentions. JC LITHUANIAN COURT DEEMS LUSTRATION LAW CONSTITUTIONAL. The Constitutional Court has ruled that the law banning former KGB agents from holding government office and a wide variety of private-sector jobs does not violate the basic law, ELTA reported on 4 March. At the same time, the court ruled that the provision on establishing a presidential commission that would decide whether to lift the restrictions in individual cases is unconstitutional, arguing that former KGB agents must be allowed to appeal against such restrictions in a court of law. President Valdas Adamkus, who earlier this year delayed forming the lustration commission pending the court's decision (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1999), has expressed satisfaction with the ruling. JC VAGNORIUS WANTS 'NORMAL WORKING CONDITIONS' FOR HIS CABINET. Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius told journalists on 4 March that his final decision on whether to resign will depend on whether the government is given "normal working conditions," ELTA reported. Vagnorius said his government will be unable to stay in office if its authority is reduced while its responsibilities remain the same. In this connection, he mentioned the debate over the new law on competition, which provides for the head of the government- subordinated Competition Council to be appointed by the prime minister with the president's approval. President Adamkus, who must decide by 5 March whether to sign the new law, has indicated he will propose that the parliament be given that prerogative. Earlier this week, amid allegations of corruption leveled against his cabinet, Vagnorius revealed that he is considering resigning (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March 1999). JC POLISH PARLIAMENT BANS ADVERTISING TARGETED AT CHILDREN. Lawmakers voted by 208 to 197 with 17 abstentions to approve an amendment to the law on the media banning radio and television advertising targeted at children. "Such laws negatively influence the emotions of kids who like to behave like their richer peers, even though they cannot afford it," Reuters quoted an upper house member as saying. Polish broadcasters are afraid that the measure will result in million-dollar losses for radio and television stations. President Aleksander Kwasniewski's lawyer commented the same day that the president will not sign the amended media law. JM ZEMAN WANTS SOCIAL DEMOCRATS TO NOMINATE SUCCESSOR... In a letter to the Czech Social Democratic Party's (CSSD) national conference scheduled for April, CSSD leader and Premier Milos Zeman says he wants the party to nominate a successor to avoid a split in its ranks, CTK reported. He said he feels "worn out" and wants to leave politics by 2002. Zeman suggested as his successor deputy CSSD chairman Vladimir Spidla, whose "personal integrity, intelligence and devotion to work" he praised. While not naming the faction in the party headed by Stanislav Gross, Zeman said the party does not need officials who "keep giving advice to others on how to work, while they are themselves unable to do so." MS ...SEES TWO-PARTY SYSTEM AS A POSSIBILITY. Zeman also wrote that the so-called "opposition agreement" concluded after last year's general elections "emulates a two-party system" and that this option might be further tested at the local elections scheduled for fall 1999. He noted that while there can be no coalition between the CSSD and the Civic Democratic Party because of the too large differences in their programs, there should be respect for the right of each to monitor the other when in opposition. MS LEXA LODGES COMPLAINT AGAINST HIS SUCCESSOR. Ivan Lexa, former director of the Slovak Counter-Intelligence Office (SIS), lodged a complaint with the Prosecutor- General's Office on 4 March, demanding that his successor, Vladimir Mitro, be criminally prosecuted. Mitro was replaced as SIS chief by Lexa in 1995. Speaking on Radio Twist, Lexa said that during his first tenure as SIS director, Mitro issued screening certificates attesting to non-collaboration with the Czechoslovak communist secret police, although he was not entitled to do so. Lexa said Mitro issued such a certificate to current Economics Affair Minister Ludovit Cernak. He also accused Mitro of failing to prevent information on SIS activities that the latter submitted to a 12 February closed session of the parliament from leaking to the media. Based on that report, the police have asked the parliament to lift the immunity of Lexa. The request is to be debated later this month. MS SLOVAK MINISTER'S ALLEGED COLLABORATION WITH STB UNDER SCRUTINY. Radio Twist on 4 March said Labor and Family Affairs Minister Peter Magvasi "probably lied" when he denied having been an informer of the Czechoslovak communist secret police (StB), CTK reported. Magvasi said that in his capacity as director of a munitions factory engaged in "international military projects," he only had "contacts" with the StB. Magvasi's StB file, according to Radio Twist, shows his collaboration with the StB dates back to 1972, when he was a member of the communist youth organization. It also shows that Magvasi's father was a member of the Hlinka Guard, a pro-Nazi paramilitary organization, and his mother was suspected of collaborating with the Nazis during World War II. In reaction, Magvasi said he will "gladly take a look at the file," adding that "I know what I have been doing all my life and I have nothing to fear," CTK reported. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE DOLE REFUSED VISA BY BELGRADE, MEETS KOSOVARS IN SKOPJE. Former U.S. Senator Robert Dole met with Kosovar Albanians in Skopje on 5 March after having been denied a visa to enter Kosova, dpa reported. It was not known with whom Dole met. Before departing for the Balkans, Dole had said he will ask the "Albanian leadership to put people first--without thought to their own position, power, or personal gain." Dole was asked to make the trip on behalf of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. He first visited Kosova in 1990 and is thought to have good relations with Kosovar Albanian leaders. PB YUGOSLAV FORCES TIGHTEN GRIP ON KOSOVA... The Yugoslav government said on 4 March that it is strengthening its presence on Kosova's borders to stop "infiltration" into the province, Reuters reported. Troops have been deployed near a major border crossing with Macedonia--in violation of the October cease-fire agreement--and armored vehicles were reported heading toward the Albanian border late on 4 March. PB ...AS ALBANIA SENDS TROOPS TO DEFEND ITS BORDER. The Albanian army said on 4 March that it has sent reinforcements to two villages near its border with Kosova that were fired on by Serbian forces from Yugoslav territory, Reuters reported, citing ATA. A police spokesman said Serbian forces fired numerous shots at Albanian territory and that houses were struck in the village of Letaj. Tirana said the Pogaj border post was also fired upon the previous day. No injuries were reported. An army division from Kukes (about 250 kilometers northeast of Tirana) was sent to the area of the reported incursions. PB SERBIAN JUDGE ORDERS ARREST OF UCK LEADER. Serbian Judge Danica Marinkovic on 5 March ordered the immediate arrest of Hashim Thaqi, who the previous day was named the Kosova Liberation Army's (UCK) new political leader, Reuters reported, citing the independent B-92 radio station. Thaqi, known as "Commander Snake," was a member of the Kosovar Albanian negotiating team at Rambouillet. He replaced Adem Demaci after the latter resigned earlier this week and was also named as premier- designate in Kosova's provisional government. He did not return to Kosova after the peace talks in France, and his whereabouts are unknown. Marinkovic said the 29- year-old Thaqi has been tried in absentia and sentenced to 10 years in prison. PB ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT URGES KOSOVAR ALBANIANS TO SIGN ACCORD. Albanian lawmakers called on ethnic Albanian negotiators to sign a three-year autonomy deal for Kosova when the peace talks reopen in France on 15 March, Reuters reported on 4 March. The legislature unanimously approved a resolution backing the interim autonomy deal and said that the accord will "pave the way [to the independence] that has been sought so much over the centuries." It added that NATO peace-keepers are an "essential element which would guarantee this agreement." PB TEN PEOPLE KILLED IN ALBANIAN SHOOTOUT. Ten people were killed in a shootout between police and an armed gang in the southern Albanian town of Berat on 4 March, Reuters reported. Three policemen were among those killed. Southern Albania was the scene of the worst violence when the country plunged into chaos in 1997. PB HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR BOSNIA THREATENS TO SACK POPLASEN. Carlos Westendorp warned Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen on 4 March that he might be dismissed, Reuters reported. Westendorp sent a letter to Poplasen accusing him of obstructing implementation of the Dayton peace accords and of refusing to recognize the results of last year's parliamentary elections. Westendorp said he has the power to dismiss Poplasen and will not hesitate to make use of it. Poplasen is in a power struggle with Bosnian Serb Premier Milorad Dodik (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March 1999). PB SERBS, MUSLIMS TO JOINTLY RULE SREBRENICA. Bosnian Muslim and Serbian political parties agreed on 5 March to form a joint government in Srebrencia, Reuters reported. The OSCE said the agreement, which it mediated, is an important and courageous step toward reconciliation. Thousands of Muslim men and boys who had gathered in Srebrenica--declared a UN safe haven during the Bosnian war--were massacred outside the town in 1995 by Serbian forces that had overrun Dutch peacekeepers. PB CROATIA SAYS HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT FLAWED. The Croatian government on 4 March refuted a critical U.S. human rights report on the country, calling it "incorrect" and "factually unbalanced," HINA reported. Croatian Deputy Premier Ljerka Mintas-Hodak said "all positive steps the Croatian authorities have taken have been overlooked." She added that the government is drafting a report refuting the charges that it will hand to the U.S. ambassador in Croatia. The report was critical, among other things, of Zagreb's failure to reintegrate displaced Serbs and of restrictions against the independent media. PB ROMANIAN MINERS' LEADER SENTENCED AGAIN. A court in Pitesti on 4 March sentenced miners' leader Miron Cozma to two-and-a -half years in prison for vandalism and assault during a riot in a Petrosani restaurant in 1996 and to five months for hitting a journalist in 1994. The sentences are in addition to the 18 years imprisonment that Cozma received last month for his role in the 1991 Bucharest rampage by the Jiu valley miners, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS HUNGARIAN ETHNIC LEADERS PROTEST ROMANIAN DECISION ON TELEVISED PROGRAMS. The parliamentary groups of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) in the two chambers of the parliament have appealed to the houses' commissions on culture and mass media to re- examine a decision of the National Audiovisual Council earlier this month to make Romanian-language subtitling obligatory for programs in the languages of the national minorities. UDMR chairman Bela Marko said his party may appeal the decision in court. Arpad Marton, deputy leader of the UDMR group in the Chamber of Deputies, said the decision contravenes constitutional provisions and international treaties. Marko also said the UDMR will demand that the government speed up the establishment of the Petofi-Schiller "multicultural" university in Cluj. MS STURDZA SAYS IMF VISIT DELAY HAS SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES. Premier Ion Sturdza on 4 March said the delay over confirming his cabinet has resulted in the "severing" of relations with the IMF, the World Bank, and other international institutions that intended to provide financial help, AFP reported. On 7 March, the Constitutional Court is to decide on the validity of Sturdza's confirmation as premier by the parliament. Sturdza noted that Moldova urgently needs the help of these institutions because of the precarious state of its economy. An IMF delegation has postponed its scheduled visit owing to the ongoing government crisis, thus delaying the release of a tranche of $190 million stand-by loan agreed on earlier this year. A World Bank delegation planning to discuss financial aid to Moldova also postponed a visit scheduled for earlier this week. MS KOSTOV WANTS TO FOLLOW POLISH MODEL. Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, who is on an official visit to Warsaw, told journalists on 4 March that since the collapse of communism Bulgarian governments have had done little to promote reform, but he noted that there is still "enough time" to follow the so-called "shock therapy" model of Polish Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Kostov also said that a Bulgarian parliamentary delegation will soon meet with Serbian and Kosova representatives to seek to persuade them to reach a compromise before talks resume on 15 March. MS END NOTE ESTONIANS VOTE IN THIRD PARLIAMENTARY POLL SINCE INDEPENDENCE By Mart Linnart and Villu Kand Estonians go to the polls on 7 March for the third time since the country regained its independence in 1991. They will elect the 101 members of the unicameral parliament, the Riigikogu. According to recent polls, the main contest is between the liberal, market-oriented Reform Party and the left-leaning Center Party. Since neither party is likely to win enough seats to form a government by itself, the main question is which one will have enough support in the parliament to establish a ruling coalition. Led by former Prime Minister Edgar Savisaar, the Center Party has signed a cooperation agreement with the largest rural party, the Country People's Party, whose head is the highly popular Arnold Ruutel, the last Soviet-era leader. An opinion poll conducted by the Emor polling agency showed that in mid-February, the Center Party had the backing of 17 percent of the electorate, up 2 percent from the previous poll. The Country Peopleís Party placed third, with 10 percent. The pro-business Reform Party, which polled about 15 percent support, has signed a cooperation pact with the centrist Moderates (9 percent support) and the rightist Pro Patria Union (8 percent), the winner of the first general elections after Estonia regained independence. The Pro Patria government headed by Mart Laar, some of whose members were Moderates, has been credited with launching the reform process in Estonia. When Laar was forced to resign in fall 1994, Moderates' leader Andres Tarand headed the government until the next scheduled elections in March 1995. Former Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilvesís People's Party will run on a joint list with the Moderates. Recently, the two parties announced their merger after the elections. All these parties are agreed that Estonia needs to continue to pursue market-oriented reforms and EU membership--both of which were top priorities of all previous governments. They have also sharply criticized the current coalition government, led by the Coalition Party, for indecisiveness and corruption. According to the Emor poll, support for the Coalition Party has fallen below the 5 percent threshold required to win seats in the parliament. Above all, the Center Party and Country Peopleís Party seem to appeal most to those who feel they have been left behind by the reforms or who worry that Estonia is turning into a class-based society. Center Party Chairman Edgar Savisaar, whose political career almost came to an end several years ago over a major scandal, has become very popular once again. He promises to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor and to introduce a progressive income tax system to replace the current 26 percent flat rate. The liberal Reform Party, for its part, argues that Estonia needs less taxation, rather than more, and proposes abolishing corporate tax altogether. The party argues that this would help create more jobs. In addition, it has made an ambitious promise to double within four years the average monthly wage to 9,000 kroons ($630) from the current 4,400 kroons. Both Siim Kallas, the former central bank chairman and current head of the Reform Party, and Pro Patria Union leader Mart Laar are committed to the laissez-faire principle. But now that Estonia's economic growth seems secure, Laar would prefer more emphasis to be put on social policy. Recently the Centrists' support has grown mainly on account of its backing among non-Estonian voters. There are three parties in Estonia that represent the country's large ethnic Russian community, and they all demand an improved status for the Russian language and less stringent citizenship requirements. The leaders of these parties, however, have been unable overcome their differences; they will compete in the elections on two lists and may fail gain to any seats in the parliament. But if they do gain parliamentary representation, they are most likely to support the Center Party, which has the most liberal citizenship policy of all parties in Estonia. The Center Party may well need the support both of the Russian parties and of the Rural Union and the Pensioners and Families League, which are running on the list of the Coalition Party: the latest polls suggest that of the two main blocs, the center-right one led by the Reform Party will win the most seats in the parliament. But regardless of the outcome of the vote, observers say there will be no radical changes in the pillars of Estonia's economic policy. As independent Baltic strategist James Oates recently told Reuters: "Most investors in the Estonian market have a relaxed view of the political situation and are going to be satisfied with almost all the likely options available." Mart Linnart writes for the Estonian daily "Postimees." Villu Kand is director of RFE/RL's Estonian Service. (See three other articles on the Estonian elections at: http://www.rferl.org) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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