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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 46, Part II, 8 March 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 46, Part II, 8 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 OPPOSITIONIST FORCED TO END HUNGER STRIKE * KOSTOV'S CRITICISM OF EU HIGHLIGHTS THREATS TO REFORM * MOLDOVAN COURT DECLARES STURDZA CABINET INVALID End Note: KOSTOV'S CRITICISM OF EU HIGHLIGHTS THREATS TO REFORM xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT OVERRIDES VETO ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION BILL... The Supreme Council on 5 March voted by 313 to 14 to override President Leonid Kuchma's veto of the presidential election bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1999). In particular, the parliament rejected Kuchma's proposed amendment stipulating that presidential elections should be invalidated if less that 50 percent of registered voters take part. The president also proposed that each voter be allowed to put his signature to only one list in support of a candidate's registration. JM ...VOTES AGAINST TWO WORLD BANK LOANS. The same day, the parliament voted down two loan agreements concluded by the government with the World Bank. The first agreement is a $200-million deal to improve the heating system in Kyiv, the other a $16.4 million loan to purchase computer equipment for the Treasury. But the parliament did ratify a $22-million World Bank loan to modernize plants that use ozone-destroying substances. Foreign loans are opposed primarily by Ukrainian left-wing parliamentary deputies, who believe that foreign aid does Ukraine's economy more harm than good. JM BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST FORCED TO END HUNGER STRIKE... Viktar Hanchar, chairman of the opposition Central Electoral Commission, was forced by jail authorities to end his six-day hunger strike on 6 March, AP and Interfax reported, citing opposition members and Hanchar's wife. Hanchar was imprisoned last week. His wife said her husband had complained in a telephone conversation about violence being used against him but the conversation was cut off before he could give any details. Anatol Hurynovich and Borys Hyunter, two oppositionists released from the same jail on 6 March, confirmed that Hanchar had been forced to end his hunger strike after the jail administration became alarmed about his failing health. A statement issued by Hanchar's wife and opposition forces says Hanchar also complained about being given psychoactive drugs in jail. JM ...WHILE MINSK COUNCIL DEPUTIES DENIED ENTRY TO JAIL. Following a complaint by the wives of Hanchar, Hurynovich, and Hyunter, two Minsk City Council deputies tried to visit Hanchar and his companions in jail but were refused entry by the head of the jail, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 5 March. Deputies from the opposition Supreme Soviet have appealed to Hans Georg Wieck, head of the OSCE mission in Minsk, to visit Hanchar in jail, but Wieck refused. In a statement sent to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, opposition deputies say they are "indignant" over Wieck's behavior and accuse him of refusing to conduct "serious negotiations" with the democratic opposition in Belarus. JM LUKASHENKA SAYS BELARUS WANTS NO DEMOCRACY 'LECTURES' FROM LITHUANIA. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told Lithuania Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas in Minsk on 5 March that he is grateful to Lithuania's President Valdas Adamkus and Foreign Ministry for their "strict position" over plans to set up a radio station broadcasting from Lithuania to Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 February 1999), Baltic news agencies reported. Lukashenka assured Saudargas that Belarus does not have "less democracy" than neighboring countries, and he added that Minsk does not wish to receive "lectures on this topic." JM CENTER PARTY WINS ELECTIONS IN ESTONIA. According to preliminary results, the Center Party won the 7 March elections, gaining 23.62 percent of the vote or 28 seats in the 101-seat parliament, RFE/RL's Estonian Service reported, citing data from the Central Election Commission issued at 2:00 p.m. CET on 8 March. The Fatherland Union unexpectedly took second place (15.98 percent, 18 seats) alongside the Reform Party (15.98 percent, 18 seats). Other parties that crossed the 5 percent threshold are the Moderates (15.14 percent, 17 seats), the Coalition Party (7.59 percent, seven seats), the Country People's Party (7.24 percent, seven seats) and the United People's Party (6.13 percent, six seats). Turnout was 55.8 percent, according to BNS. Observers say the right-wing alliance of the Reform Party, Moderates, and Fatherland Union, which has a total of 53 seats, is likely to form the next government. JC ESTONIA, RUSSIA INITIAL BORDER TREATY. Meeting in St. Petersburg on 5 March, Estonian Foreign Minister Raul Malk and the head of Russia's border negotiations committee, Ludvig Chizhov, initialed the border treaty between their countries, some seven years after negotiations were launched. Under the agreement, the two countries are to exchange small parcels of land totaling some 30 square kilometers. No date has been set for the signing of the treaty. JC ESTONIA'S KALLAS ACQUITTED. Reform Party leader and former Bank of Estonia President Siim Kallas has been acquitted of all charges in the so-called $10 million affair, ETA and BNS reported on 5 March. The court ruled that Kallas was not guilty of abuse of power or giving false information leading to the loss of some $10 million in state funds in 1993, when Kallas was head of the Central Bank. The charge of intended embezzlement had been dropped last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February 1999). The former legal adviser of the Central Bank, Urmas Kaju, was acquitted of the same charges. The prosecutor is to appeal the ruling. JC LATVIAN CENTRAL BANK SUSPENDS COMMERCIAL BANK'S OPERATIONS. The Bank of Latvia has suspended the operations of Rigas Komercbanka, Latvia's fifth largest bank, effective 5 March. In a statement released on 7 March, cited by ITAR-TASS, the Central Bank said it will declare the Rigas Komercbanka insolvent. A total of 27.5 percent of the bank's assets is tied up in Russia in, among other things, Treasury bills and local government bonds, according to that statement. JC LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT ACCEPTS ENVIRONMENT MINISTER'S RESIGNATION... Valdas Adamkus on 5 March accepted the resignation of Environment Minister Algis Chaplikas, ELTA reported. Chaplikas, who is a member of the non- coalition Center Union, offered to resign late last month after the Center Union leader had predicted early elections and the resignation of Premier Gediminas Vagnorius (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"1 March 1999). The same day, at a meeting with the parliamentary group of the ruling Conservatives, Adamkus said that he has no intention of seeking the government's resignation or "provoking any other destabilizing actions." He stressed his "overall" support for Vagnorius's government. JC ...SEEKS POWER TO APPOINT COMPETITION COUNCIL. Adamkus has returned the competition law to the parliament for a second time, requesting that the president be granted the right to appoint the Competition Council's five members on the recommendation of the premier, BNS reported on 6 March. The current version of the law provides for the council to be appointed by the government on the recommendation of the premier and with the president's approval. Vagnorius has hinted that his government may resign if it is stripped of its control over the council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 1999). JC POLISH PARLIAMENT AMENDS LAW ON ACCESS TO SECRET FILES. The parliament on 5 March approved changes to the law on access to communist-era secret service files. The law was passed in September but was vetoed by President Aleksander Kwasniewski in December. The ruling coalition then overrode the veto by mustering the support of the opposition Peasant Party (PSL) in exchange for promised amendments. The most important of those changes stipulates that the head of the Institute of National Remembrance--a body that will collect and screen secret files--is to be appointed by a 60 percent majority vote in the parliament, which means that the PSL will play a role in that official's appointment. JM HAVEL MEETS PARTY LEADERS. President Vaclav Havel on 6 March met with leaders of parties represented in the parliament, CTK reported. The opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) boycotted the meeting, while the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia was not invited to attend. The participants conceded later that their opinions on the causes of country's economic crisis and their envisaged solutions to that crisis differ; thus, they did not discuss the bills on solving the crisis that the government intends to submit to the parliament. They did agree, however, to support amendments to the constitution facilitating the country's integration into Euro-Atlantic structures and to decentralize state administration by creating regional governing bodies, CTK reported. ODS leader Vaclav Klaus the next day called for a consensus among parties over how to lead the country out of its economic crisis. MS SLOVAKIA TO DESTROY SS-23S? Defense Minister Pavol Kanis on 5 March said Slovakia will make clear its "political stand" on destroying its six medium-range SS-23 missiles before the April NATO summit in Washington. He added that the missiles "should have been destroyed long ago." The SS-23s were delivered by the former Soviet Union to Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia in the 1980s and their destruction is stipulated by a 1987 U.S.-Soviet agreement. While Bulgaria and the Czech Republic have destroyed their missiles, former Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar refused to do so, arguing that Slovakia was not a signatory to the 1987 agreement and that the missiles' life span was to expire in 2000 in any case, CTK reported. MS IMF PRESSES FOR FURTHER HUNGARIAN REFORMS. Hungarian Finance Minister Zsigmond Jarai has said Budapest is willing to implement the measures proposed by the IMF in a recent report on Hungary aimed at keeping this year's budget deficit below 4 percent of GDP, Hungarian media reported. The report praised last year's drop in inflation and 5 percent growth in GDP but said tighter budgetary policies are needed to check growing domestic demand and a worsening balance of payments deficit. In other news, Istvan Csurka, leader of the extremist Justice and Life Party (MIEP), on 6 March opened the Istvan Bocksai Open University, which is to promote national awareness. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN SERB OFFICIALS RESIGN OVER BRCKO RULING. Bosnian Serb Premier Milorad Dodik and his government resigned on 6 March. Zivko Radisic, the Serbian chairman of the Bosnian presidency, said he will freeze his participation in that body to protest the ruling by an international panel the previous day to make the strategic town of Brcko a neutral district, AFP reported. Dodik, a moderate who is supported by the West, said the ruling should be suspended and revised to account for the Bosnian Serb entity of Republika Srpska, which would be split in two by the ruling. He urged Serbian officials to reject the ruling but to continue working with the West. Brcko is currently run by Serbs under international supervision. Robert Farrand, the U.S. administrator of Brcko, said he will do "all in his powers" to implement the ruling. The town had a majority population of Bosnian Croats and Muslims before the 1992-1995 Bosnian War. The UN and several Western countries praised the ruling, while Belgrade strongly condemned it. PB BOSNIAN SERB PARLIAMENT NOT TO ACCEPT BRCKO DECISION OR POPLASEN'S SACKING. The Bosnian Serb parliament decided in an emergency session on 7 March in Banja Luka to withdraw all Bosnian Serb representatives from the country's federal institutions in protest at the Brcko decision, Reuters reported. In a resolution, the parliament voted not to accept the ruling and called on Serbian officials in federal institutions to "cease their work" until the ruling is rescinded. It also refused to accept the sacking of Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen. The hard-line president was removed from office on 5 March by Carlos Westendorp, the international community's high representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina. PB WESTENDORP SAYS POPLASEN WILL BE REMOVED BY FORCE IF NECESSARY. Westendorp, meanwhile, told the Spanish daily "El Pais" that the sacked president of Republika Srpska, Poplasen, will be removed by force if he continues to refuse to leave office. Westendorp, who dismissed Poplasen last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 1999), said the president is acting on orders from Belgrade. Poplasen was locked in a power struggle with Dodik and has refused to recognize him as premier. Mirko Sarovic, Poplasen's vice president, is a member of hard- line Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party. Westendorp added that he will try to persuade Radisic, a member of Dodik's pro-Western alliance, to remain as head of the Bosnia presidency. PB VIOLENCE ERUPTS AS SFOR SOLDIER KILLS BOSNIAN SERB POLITICIAN. A SFOR soldier in northeastern Bosnia shot and killed a local politician on 6 March, Reuters reported. SFOR spokesman David Scanlon said the soldier fired two shots at the man, Krsto Micic, after being struck by a wooden club. The SFOR soldiers had reportedly been accosted in a restaurant in Ugljevik by a group of 14 angry Bosnian Serbs. Some 2,000 people attended Micic's funeral the next day. Micic was a member of a local town council and a member of the Serbian Radical Party, which said "these American occupiers and bandits will pay dearly for [this] criminal murder," Tanjug reported. Small protests occurred in many towns in Srpska. No casualties were reported, but some UN vehicles were torched in Zvornik. PB DOLE SAYS ETHNIC ALBANIANS TO SIGN PEACE ACCORD... Former U.S. Senator Robert Dole said on 6 March that he "is confident" Kosovar Albanians will sign the Rambouillet peace accord, AP reported. Dole said that at his meetings with Kosova Albanian officials in Skopje the previous day, those officials promised "many times" to sign the agreement. Dole was incorrect, however, in predicting that they would sign the agreement the very next day. A Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) meeting to discuss the accord was postponed until 8 March. Despite the postponement, Western officials are counting on all Kosovar Albanian officials who attended the talks in Rambouillet to sign the accord before talks resume in France on 15 March. PB ...AS LEADING UCK REPRESENTATIVE ACKNOWLEDGES PROGRESS... Hashim Thaqi, the political representative of the UCK, said in Tirana on 7 March that there has been "significant progress" among Kosovar Albanians toward acceptance of the Kosova peace accord, AP reported. Thaqi said discussions between UCK officials and ethnic-Albanian officials have moved in a "very positive direction." Thaqi was in Tirana for meetings with Albanian officials. He and UCK official Xhavit Halitit met with Albanian President Rexhep Meidani, Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, and Foreign Minister Paskal Milo. Thaqi said the Kosovar Albanians will continue to insist on a NATO presence in Kosova and that the UCK will remain a defensive force in the province. PB ...AND ANOTHER GROUP SIGNS ON. Rexhep Qosja, the head of the United Democratic Movement, announced on 7 March that his party has agreed to accept the Kosova peace agreement, Reuters reported. The movement unites six ultranationalist groups, including the Kosova Parliamentary Party of Adem Demaci, who has spoken out against the agreement. U.S. envoy Christopher Hill and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer are due to arrive in Prishtina on 8 March to urge Kosovar Albanian leaders to agree to the accord. PB TUDJMAN ASSURES JEWISH GROUP OF FAIR TRIAL. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman said on 5 March that the trial of former concentration camp commander Dinko Sakic will be "impartial and objective," AP reported. A statement from Tudjman's office said that the president told former Bnai Brith President Tommy Baer that "Croatia has condemned all crimes committed during the Ustasha regime" and that the trial will be fair. Sakic is suspected of involvement in the murder of up to 2,000 people during his rule as head of the Jasenovac concentration camp during World War II. A district court judge postponed the trial last week after doctors said Sakic's life would be at risk during the trial owing to poor health (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March 1999). PB ROMANIAN POLICE GENERAL SANCTIONED. President Emil Constantinescu on 7 March signed a decree discharging General Gheorghe Lupu, former commander of a special police force, from "active service." An investigative commission at the Ministry of Interior ruled that Lupu was guilty of failing to implement standing orders and made "serious errors" during clashes with miners attempting to march on Bucharest in January. Interior Minister Constantin Dudu Ionescu said on 7 March that General Teodor Zaharia, former state secretary at the ministry, will be "sanctioned" in line with the findings of a report prepared by the ministry on the clashes. That report says Zaharia bears the main responsibility for the troops' failure to stop the miners. He has been transferred to another executive position in the ministry. MS MOLDOVAN COURT DECLARES STURDZA CABINET INVALID. The Constitutional Court on 6 March ruled that the narrow majority (51-50) by which lawmakers last week passed a vote of confidence in Ion Sturdza's cabinet was insufficient to validate the government. The court said that a confidence vote constitutes a so-called "organic law" and therefore requires a majority of at least 52. Presidential adviser Anatol Golea responded that President Petru Lucinschi will re-name Sturdza to form a cabinet. Christian Democratic Popular Front leader Iurie Rosca said that his party will again insist that ministers have "clean hands" and that it has least four ministers, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS MOLDOVAN DEPUTIES INITIATE DRAFT LAW ON 'BULGARIAN' COUNTY. Several parliamentary deputies of the pro- presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova bloc have submitted a bill that would make the Taraclia district an administratively independent county, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 5 March. President Petru Lucinschi refused to sign legislation approved by the parliament that would include the district (which is mainly inhabited by ethnic Bulgarians) into the newly created Cahul County. The parliament refused to meet Lucinschi's request that it revise the legislation. A local referendum in Taraclia overwhelmingly approved the demand for a separate county, but that vote was declared unconstitutional by the Central Electoral Commission. MS BULGARIA'S OPPOSITION CONCERNED ABOUT TALKS WITH NATO. Georgi Parvanov, leader of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), said on 7 March that his party is concerned about the "lack of information" on the recent talks between cabinet members and NATO officials. He said the cabinet is conducting negotiations on agreements under which Bulgaria "undertakes heavy commitments that can harm national security." Parvanov added that he will propose that President Petar Stoyanov convene the National Security Council to discuss the country's military doctrine and reforms in the army. MS END NOTE KOSTOV'S CRITICISM OF EU HIGHLIGHTS THREATS TO REFORM by Ron Synovitz Recent complaints about the EU by Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov shed light on some key policy goals in Sofia as well as potential threats to reforms there and in neighboring countries. Last week, Kostov told a Reuters correspondent that EU aid to Bulgaria since 1990 has been "negligibly little" and that Brussels has applied different standards for countries not named in the first wave of eastward enlargement. Those unusually outspoken remarks could be aimed at achieving several goals: future compensation in case of a renewed sanctions against Yugoslavia over the Kosova crisis, expediting Bulgaria's inclusion in EU membership talks, continuing full operations at the Kozloduy nuclear power station, and receiving more aid from the U.S. and international financial institutions. In his interview with Reuters, Kostov said NATO airstrikes against Serbian forces in Kosova would be a "nightmare" for Bulgaria because they would likely be accompanied by a new embargo of Yugoslavia. Bulgarian officials estimate the country lost more than $10 billion dollars in trade during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war when road and rail links to Central and Western Europe were cut off under UN sanctions. The World Bank says Bulgarian losses were less than $1 billion a year. But World Bank officials in Sofia told RFE/RL the sanctions did strengthen organized criminal groups that smuggled weapons and fuel into Yugoslavia. As in other eastern countries, the Yugoslav embargo allowed clandestine criminal groups in Bulgaria to gain considerable financial and political influence. In Bulgaria's case, some groups became strong enough to delay economic reforms for years so that they could continue to skim off profits from state companies through their ties with state managers. Nicol Wegter, a spokesman for EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek, told RFE/RL that none of the countries in the Balkans should expect any EU compensation if their trade routes are cut again by a renewed embargo of Yugoslavia. He said that the EU has argued for a number of years that "it is the UN that is firstly and foremost responsible for [any] possible compensation whatsoever." Clearly, Kostov wants Brussels to ease its demands for the closure of the two oldest reactors at Bulgaria's Kozloduy nuclear plant, which produces about 40 percent of the country's electricity. Kostov told Reuters that the EU is exerting a "meaningless diktat" by demanding the closures as a pre-condition to Bulgarian membership in the EU. Kostov said a shutdown would destroy what little competitiveness Bulgaria still has after suffering a severe financial crisis in early 1997. EU officials thought they had won promises from Bulgaria on early closures in 1993, when a grant of about $35 million was awarded to improve nuclear safety there. Kostov's refusal to honor the pledge, which was made by an earlier government, is mirrored in Lithuania. The government in Vilnius wants the EU to pay compensation for lost earnings from the closure of the Ignalina nuclear plant, despite earlier commitments. Wegter refutes Kostov's remark that Brussels is issuing "dictates" on Kozloduy: "I think the European Union cannot but insist on closure of those units. We do not dictate anything at all. But certain commitments have been made by Sofia and we think those promises should be fulfilled." By stating that the EU is not doing enough to help Bulgarian reforms, Kostov also could be signaling a desire for more aid from the U.S., the World Bank, or the IMF. Such a move might suggest Sofia has drawn conclusions similar to ones reached in Ankara after Turkey was left off an EU list of countries ready for membership talks. Ankara responded by distancing itself further from Europe and announcing that it would focus its foreign policy on greater links with the U.S. and Russia. But Wegter said he does not think Sofia is changing its key foreign policy goal of joining the EU. He noted that the remarks by Kostov were contained in a press interview only and have not been sent to Brussels in any official communique. And Wegter insists that Bulgaria and the EU are still on track in regard to implementing a pre-accession strategy. "The EU is doing its utmost to underpin the reform efforts in Bulgaria," he said, "but we also are aware that further improvements are needed before one can say that negotiations for membership are justified." Whatever foreign policy goals Kostov may have had in mind when he criticized Brussels last week, the comments appear to have boosted his support within Bulgaria. Most Bulgarian newspapers are praising those remarks, and the public also appears to be rallying behind the Bulgarian leader. That development could be important for Kostov in light of the fact that economic reforms have failed to reach official targets. Foreign investment last year was less than half of the $1 billion the government had hoped to attract. And the privatization of key state industries also is proceeding slower than Kostov's cabinet predicted. The author is an RFE/RL editor based in Prague. 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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