We are always the same age inside. - Gertrude Stein
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 53, Part II, 17 March 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 53, Part II, 17 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

* IMF INCLINED TO RESUME LENDING TO UKRAINE

* PENTAGON SAYS SERBIA 'BRACING FOR WAR'

* BOSNIAN CROAT OFFICIAL FIGHTS FOR LIFE

End Note: APATHY SETTING IN AMONG ESTONIANS?
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

IMF INCLINED TO RESUME LENDING TO UKRAINE. The IMF on 16
March praised Ukraine for its progress in fiscal and
structural reforms. An IMF statement said the fund's
board is scheduled to meet by the end of March to
discuss resuming its $2.2 billion loan to Ukraine. "IMF
management has decided to propose to the executive board
to resume financial assistance to Ukraine," the
statement added. The IMF approved the loan in September
1998, but after disbursing $300 million it suspended
further tranches because of the slow pace of reform and
poor economic performance. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO LAUNCH IMPEACHMENT OF
KUCHMA. The 450-seat Supreme Council on 16 March voted
by 160 to 57 to begin impeaching President Leonid Kuchma
but fell 66 votes short of the majority required for the
bill to pass, AP reported. The Communists, who initiated
the impeachment motion, said Kuchma should be ousted for
his refusal to sign a law on local government that
lawmakers passed one year ago by overriding a
presidential veto. Kuchma argues that the parliament
violated house voting procedures in overriding his veto.
Commentators say Kuchma is reluctant to approve the law
because it would reduce the authority of presidential
representatives in the oblasts. JM

KUCHMA CALLS FOR SUMMIT ON MOLDOVA'S TRANSDNIESTER
REGION. The Ukrainian president on 16 March called for
Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova to take part in a summit
later this year to discuss the normalization of
relations between Moldova and its separatist
Transdniester region, Reuters reported. Kuchma proposed
the summit during a meeting with Transdniester leader
Igor Smirnov in Kyiv. Kuchma's spokesman said Ukraine
hopes that Russian President Boris Yeltsin will also
take part in the summit. JM

BELARUSIAN PARTIES WARNED AGAINST PURSUING PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTIONS. The Justice Ministry has warned two leading
opposition parties, the Belarusian Popular Front and the
United Civic Party, as well as a human rights group, the
Belarusian Helsinki Committee, against taking part in
the presidential election campaign organized by the
opposition Supreme Soviet, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service
reported on 16 March. The ministry cautions that the
groups may be denied registration if they continue their
"anti-constitutional activities" in the campaign. JM

RUSSIA URGES ESTONIA TO TRY ALLEGED NAZI CRIMINALS.
Following the second conviction in Estonia on charges of
involvement in Stalin-era deportations (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 11 March 1999), Russian Foreign Ministry
spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin has urged Tallinn to try
Nazi war criminals as well, in order to avoid "the
politicization of trials and double standards," BNS
reported on 16 March. "In this connection, I would like
to recall that members of SS units who took part in
repressions against the civilian population during World
War II are still walking around free in Estonia,"
Rakhmanin said. Estonian law-enforcement agencies have
said there are no Nazi war criminals in Estonia. The
dozens of veterans of the Waffen SS units who still live
in Estonia were conscripted to fight on the Russian
front alongside German troops toward the end of the war.
The Nuremberg Military Tribunal branded the SS, together
with the Waffen SS, "a criminal organization" but
exonerated those men who were forced to join the Waffen
SS and did not commit crimes against humanity. JC

16 MARCH EVENTS PASS WITHOUT INCIDENT... Several hundred
veterans of the Latvian Waffen SS Legion marched through
Riga on 16 March, Latvia's Soldiers Day. A crowd of up
to 5,000 onlookers was composed largely of supporters,
RFE/RL's Latvian Service reported. At a counter-
demonstration organized by mainly Russian-speakers in
downtown Riga, a group of extreme Russian nationalists
who had spontaneously joined the demonstration attached
a large portrait of Josef Stalin to balloons and sent it
soaring above the city. There were no reports of
violence, and only two people were arrested for minor
offenses. Last year's march, which came on the heels of
a Riga demonstration at which police used force to
disperse mostly ethnic Russian pensioners, prompted
sharp criticism from Moscow and led to a worsening of
relations between the two countries. JC

...WHILE PREMIER SAYS DAY WILL BE CHANGED. Prime
Minister Vilis Kristopans told foreign journalists in
Riga that the day commemorating Latvian soldiers will be
changed from 16 March, LETA reported. Kristopans said
that both he and his party, Latvia's Way, have always
felt that 16 March is an "inappropriate date" to
remember Latvian soldiers. He pointed out 11 November is
recognized as Veterans Day in Latvia and "symbolizes the
fight for freedom." Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry
spokesman Rakhmanin said in Moscow that the decision to
commemorate 16 March as Soldiers Day in Latvia "can be
assessed only as blasphemy toward those who fought
fascism and [toward] the memory of the many millions of
victims of that criminal ideology," ITAR-TASS reported.
The Latvian Waffen SS Legion marks 16 March as the day
their unit first fought against the Red Army in 1943. JC

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL INVESTIGATES THREATS AGAINST
LANDSBERGIS. The Lithuanian Prosecutor-General's Office
has launched an investigation into death threats made
against parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis,
ELTA reported on 16 March. The office said that the
letters containing the threats, which were signed by
non-registered organizations and delivered to the
buildings of various Vilnius dailies, constitute an
attempt to disturb "constitutional statehood and public
order." Landsbergis himself, meanwhile, has sought to
downplay the threats, saying they are attempts to
"excite people, disrupt...the functioning of the state,
and waste time." JC

POLISH FARMERS DEMAND SUBSIDIES, BAN ON FOOD IMPORTS.
Some 6,000 farmers marched in Warsaw on 17 March to
press for government subsidies and a ban on food
imports, AP reported. "In the EU, subsidies bring
prosperity to agriculture," the agency quoted one
demonstrator as saying. The protest was the first since
farmers lifted their road blockades on 9 February after
entering negotiations with the government on alleviating
farmers' debts and subsidizing meat, grain, and dairy
products. JM

POLISH ARMY CRITICIZED FOR POOR HYGIENE, HAZING. The
Supreme Audit Chamber on 15 March issued a report saying
that the Polish military suffers from poor hygiene,
hazing, and low intelligence among conscripts. The
report was based on a study of eight military units
conducted from October 1997 to August 1998. It lists
common problems such as a lack of hot water and
functioning showers and washrooms. Some members of the
navy reportedly change their underwear only once a
month, while 62 out of 110 members of one naval unit
were found to have personality disorders or below-
average intelligence. According to the report, older
soldiers often force younger ones to smoke cigarettes in
gas masks, crawl on the floor, and do hundreds of push-
ups. Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz has blamed the
problems on negligence. "Dirty but in NATO" ran a
headline in the 16 March "Gazeta wyborcza." JM

ZEMAN CONFIRMS OFFER TO SEND FIELD HOSPITAL TO KOSOVA.
Speaking at a press conference following the hoisting of
flags of the new NATO members in Brussels on 16 March,
Prime Minister Milos Zeman said the probability of an
armed NATO action against Yugoslavia has increased after
the Kosova Albanians approved the Rambouillet agreement
and the Serbs refused to do so, CTK reported. Zeman said
the Czech Republic is ready to send to Kosova
"humanitarian aid in the form of a field hospital,
although it has not been officially asked to participate
in a NATO operation" there. The government has already
approved the field hospital, which would be stationed in
Macedonia, and the parliament is expected to follow suit
next week, Zeman said. MS

SLOVAKIA RESPONDS TO ALBRIGHT STATEMENT. Foreign
Minister Eduard Kukan on 16 March said he understands
U.S. Secretary of State's Madeleine Albright's statement
two days earlier to be not a "crushing criticism" of
Slovakia but rather "an appeal to Slovakia to proceed
more resolutely ahead," CTK reported. In an interview
with Hungarian Television on 15 March, Albright said
Slovakia is not yet prepared for NATO membership, which,
she added, is "sad." Kukan said Albright's statement
reflects the fact that Slovakia could have been a NATO
member by now, "had it not been for the previous four
years of Vladimir Meciar's government." The U.S. embassy
in Bratislava clarified that Albright's statement was
"made in the past, not in the present tense." MS

SLOVAKIA TO REDUCE TROOPS BY MORE THAN ONE THIRD. Pavel
Bartak, director of the Defense Ministry's planning
directorate, on 16 March told CTK that Slovakia intends
to reduce its military forces by more than one-third as
part of the reform of its army. He said the army will
have 25,000-30,000 soldiers by 2002. He added that the
army needs only 26,000 conscripts, while some 35,000 are
eligible for compulsory service. The cut in the defense
budget from 2.2 percent of the GDP in 1995 to 1.7
percent this year, the need to have a professional army,
and improvement of Slovakia's "geo-political situation"
and security as a result of its neighbors' accession to
NATO are the three main reasons for the planned
reduction of troops, he said. MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

PENTAGON SAYS SERBIA 'BRACING FOR WAR.' Defense
Department spokesman Ken Bacon said in Washington on 16
March that Belgrade is "bracing for war" in Kosova. He
noted that up to 18,000 Yugoslav troops are in the
province and that as many as 21,000 are in Serbia proper
near the border with Kosova. Bacon pointed out that the
army has moved seven of its modern T-72 battle tanks
into Kosova. On 15 March, the Defense Ministry extended
the term of service for army conscripts by one month. PM

SERBIAN PRESIDENT CHARGES MEDIATORS WITH 'FRAUD.' Milan
Milutinovic criticized international mediators at the
Paris conference on Kosova for rejecting Serbian
proposals to change the Rambouillet plan for a political
settlement for the province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16
March 1999). Milutinovic said that the mediators "would
like to have just a fraud" rather than discuss the
Serbian proposals. An unnamed European diplomat told AFP
that "the Serbs are backtracking and opening up new
issues. These are delaying tactics." The mediators--U.S.
envoy Chris Hill, the EU's Wolfgang Petritsch, and
Russia's Boris Mayorskii--say that they will accept
minor "technical" changes to the plan but will not
renegotiate it. PM

SERBIA ISSUES ARREST WARRANT FOR NEGOTIATOR. The
Yugoslav authorities sent an arrest warrant for chief
Kosovar negotiator Hashim Thaci to Interpol officials in
France, Tanjug reported on 16 March. Belgrade has
charged Thaci, who is a leader of the Kosova Liberation
Army, with terrorism and murder. PM

RELIGIOUS LEADERS FROM KOSOVA MEET. U.S. Rabbi Arthur
Schneier, who heads the Appeal of Conscience Foundation,
urged Islamic, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic leaders from
Kosova to "find a way to end the bloodshed." Schneier,
who is a Vienna-born survivor of the Holocaust, said to
a group of religious leaders from Kosova and Austrian
dignitaries in the Austrian capital on 16 March that
"peace has to be promoted from the top down, but it
grows and it is nurtured from the bottom up." Schneier
told the BBC that he recognizes that the conflict in
Kosova is not religious in nature, but he stressed that
religious leaders can influence their followers'
attitudes toward questions of war and peace. He noted
that this is the first time that the leaders of the
three communities have met face-to-face. The conference
will end on 18 March, "Die Presse" reported. PM

ALBANIA POLITICIANS WELCOME KOSOVARS' DECISION TO SIGN
AGREEMENT. Albanian opposition leader Sali Berisha
issued a statement in Tirana on 16 March calling the
Kosovars' decision to sign the Rambouillet accord a
"great turning point in the history of all Albanians"
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 March 1999). He added that if
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic does not sign the
agreement, he will have to face "the entire potential of
NATO because he has caused many great tragedies in the
Balkans." Socialist Party Secretary Gramoz Ruci told a
press conference that "with the signing of the
agreement, the future of Kosova is not in the hands of
[the Kosovars but in those of the international
community. The Kosovars] have done their job."
Presidential adviser Prec Zogaj stressed that "the ball
is now in the Serbs' camp." Parliamentary speaker
Skender Gjinushi expressed hope that "the agreement
[will] also contribute to the relaxation of tensions in
Albania," dpa reported. FS

ALBANIA REPORTS NEW BORDER INCIDENTS. Yugoslav soldiers
shot and injured an Albanian shepherd about 60 meters
inside Albanian territory on 16 March, Albanian
Television reported. The broadcast added that the
situation in the area is still tense. Army and police
forces remain on high alert along the border with
Kosova. In a separate incident, a group of Yugoslav
soldiers entered about 50 meters inside Albanian
territory in the same area and then withdrew, dpa
reported. FS

U.S. CRITICISES ALBANIAN LAW ENFORCEMENT AS 'LACKING.'
The annual U.S. State Department human rights report on
Albania, released in Tirana on 16 March, said that in
1998 "the gains in human rights were largely offset by
the government's stubbornly passive approach to basic
law enforcement." The study stressed that "in too many
instances crime, corruption and vigilantism undermined
the government's efforts to restore civil order," adding
that members of the police and the judiciary are often
involved in corruption. The report noted that the
opposition Democratic Party is frequently justified in
complaining about police harassment of its members,
Reuters reported. FS

BOSNIAN CROAT OFFICIAL FIGHTS FOR LIFE. Jozo Leutar, who
is the Bosnian federation's deputy interior minister,
remains in critical condition after brain surgery on 16
March following a car bomb explosion (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 16 March 1999). Bosnian Muslim leader Alija
Izetbegovic described the attack on the ethnic Croat
leader as "terrorist." Jacques Klein, who is a deputy
for the international community's Carlos Westendorp,
said it is "too early" to determine the likely motive
for the bombing. Klein stressed that Leutar is known as
a tough opponent of organized crime, which flourishes in
both parts of post-war Bosnia. But Ante Jelavic, who is
the main political leader of the Croats of Bosnia-
Herzegovina, said in Mostar that the "highest political
leaders among Bosnian Muslim people" were behind other
recent attacks on Croats. He added that the bombing of
Leutar's car indicates that the Croats are not welcome
in the Muslim-led federation or its capital. PM

BOSNIAN SERBS PROTEST BRCKO DECISION. Some 5,000 Serbs
in Banja Luka and 3,000 in Brcko staged a peaceful
demonstration on 16 March to protest the decision by
Robert Farrand, who is the international community's
administrator for Brcko, to remove the strategic town
from Serbian control and make it a "neutral district"
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 1999), Reuters reported.
Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen, whom the
international community's Carlos Westendorp recently
fired but who refuses to step down, told protesters in
Banja Luka that "there is no justification for removing
Brcko from the Republika Srpska and there is no
justification in replacing legitimate, elected
officials." "Oslobodjenje" of 17 March quoted Biljana
Plavsic, who is Poplasen's predecessor, as saying that
the decision on Brcko will play into the hands of
Bosnian Serb hard-liners. PM

ROMANIAN SENATE MAKES IT EASIER TO LIFT PARLIAMENTARY
IMMUNITY. The Senate on 16 March voted by 81 to two to
change regulations on lifting the parliamentary immunity
of its members, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. A
"simple majority" of half of the house's members plus
one, instead of the "special" two-thirds majority
stipulated until now, can lift a senator's immunity. The
opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania and the
Greater Romania Party (PRM) boycotted the vote in
protest against the fact that the move came before the
pending vote on lifting PRM leader Corneliu Vadim
Tudor's immunity. Once in force, the new regulations
will enable the coalition majority to lift Tudor's
immunity without the support of the opposition. The PRM
also announced it will boycott the Senate's debates
"indefinitely." MS

MOLDOVAN PARTIES BRACE FOR LOCAL ELECTIONS.
Parliamentary chairman and For a Democratic and
Prosperous Moldova Bloc (PMPD) leader Dumitru Diacov on
17 March announced that the PMPD and three
extraparliamentary formations have formed the Moldovan
Centrist Alliance (ACM) ahead of the 23 May local
elections, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The PMPD,
the Party of Progressive Forces, the New Force Party,
and the wing of the Moldovan Social Democratic Party led
by Gheorghe Sima (which was recently denied registration
by the Justice Ministry) will run on joint lists in that
ballot. On 11 March, the Party of Moldovan Communists
reached an agreement with the Agrarian Democratic Party
(PDAM) and the Socialist Party to run in the elections
on joint lists. The PDAM was the major parliamentary
formation from 1993-1997 but failed to gain
representation in the legislature in the last election.
MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER URGES KOSOVA SETTLEMENT. Ivan Kostov
on 16 March told the Bulgarian parliament that the
Kosova crisis affects Bulgaria's national security
because of the immediate vicinity of the region, BTA
reported. Kostov said Sofia will support the dispatch of
an international mission of peacekeepers to Kosova if
all sides involved are agreed to such a mission.
Bulgaria is ready to participate in such a mission under
NATO command, he noted. Preliminary talks on offering
"logistic support" for the transit of NATO personnel
across Bulgarian territory took place on 11-12 March,
Kostov said, adding that if Belgrade continues to object
to a NATO peace-keeping mission and if NATO is forced to
mount an operation without Yugoslav consent, the
government will use the mandate approved by the
parliament in October 1998 to allow NATO air forces to
use Bulgarian airspace. MS

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN GERMANY. "We expect that
the upcoming NATO summit in Washington will identify
Bulgaria as one of the serious candidates for
membership" in a second wave of integration, "whenever
that will be," Nadezhda Mihailova told journalists in
Bonn on 17 March. Her host, German Foreign Minister
Joschka Fischer said Germany supports Bulgaria's NATO
candidacy as well as its bid for EU membership, BTA and
dpa reported. Fischer praised Bulgaria's contribution to
finding a solution to the Kosova conflict. MS

END NOTE

APATHY SETTING IN AMONG ESTONIANS?

by Mel Huang

	Lost among the coverage of the 7 March Estonian
parliamentary elections was the surprisingly low number
of people who voted. While some commentators sounded
alarm bells over the turnout, which was officially put
at 57.43 per cent, the press focused on seat
distribution and coalition-building. Why was turnout
more than 10 percent down on the 1995 elections? Did
voter apathy set in for Estonia's third general election
since the restoration of independence?
	There are several reasons why turnout was
significantly lower than four years ago: confusion over
the complex electoral system; the similarities of the
political parties' platforms; disenchantment after the
long and lackluster campaign; and even the beautiful
spring-like weather on polling day. But the main reason
was doubtless the dominant theme of the campaigns
pursued by the large parties: namely, Savisaar or no
Savisaar.
	The controversial leader of the populist center-
left Center Party, former Prime Minister Edgar Savisaar,
has polarized Estonian politics more than any other
single personality. With regard to both policy and
political behavior, Savisaar has earned the strong
adoration or intense vilification of a significant
segment of the population. In the 1999 election
campaign, it appears that the other segment of the
population may have been put off by this polarization
and decided not to cast a vote.
	The Center Party was essentially the only main
political force to advocate significant policy changes.
In the name of social justice, it proposed scrapping the
much-vaunted flat-tax system and introducing a
progressive tax. And in contrast to all the other main
political parties, including the closely aligned Country
People's Party, it advocated the relaxation of
citizenship rules. These two issues put Savisaar in
sharp opposition to all other parties, especially the
strong center-right United Opposition, composed of the
Fatherland Union, the joint list of the
Moderates/People's Party, and the Reform Party. While
the parliament voted to outlaw election alliances last
fall, the signing of a cooperation agreement among these
forces on 31 December 1998 consolidated the opposition
against Savisaar's Center Party.
	When President Lennart Meri issued his warning
against electing "authoritarian" politicians in his
Independence Day speech last month, most commentators
immediately pointed an accusing finger at Edgar
Savisaar. The United Opposition took advantage of the
press obsession over the presidential warning by
launching further attacks on the trustworthiness of the
Center Party leader. In a scathing commentary, former
Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves of the People's
Party strongly criticized Savisaar directly, attacking
his "Big Brother" persona.
	To his credit, Savisaar did not seek retribution by
slamming the personalities competing in the elections.
There had been fears of a possible mud-slinging
campaign, not least because Savisaar is thought to be
party to secrets about many of the country's top
politicians. In 1995, he was forced to resign as
interior minister because of his links to illegal phone-
tapping and the recording of conversations between
prominent politicians. But by focusing on party
policies, Savisaar managed to deflect some of the
attacks on his personality.
	In the end, Savisaar gained a larger-than-expected
plurality of seats, 28. As support for him was
consistently high throughout the country's 11 electoral
districts, Savisaar's proposals for a progressive tax
system and softer citizenship policies clearly found
resonance among a large chunk of the electorate. The
United Opposition also won a larger number of votes than
expected, gaining a combined total of 53 seats. As a
result of its cooperation agreement and anti-Savisaar
campaign, the alliance commands a majority of seats and
is most likely to form the new government.
	But as the prospective new government enjoys its
victory, it should not lose sight of the fact that less
than 27 percent of the total electorate voted for the
coalition parties and that many did so just to keep
Savisaar out of office. It should also bear in mind that
nearly 43 percent of the total electorate did not vote
at all. With local elections due later this year, the
winners of the 7 March parliamentary elections should
work fast and hard to establish some credibility within
the country's political environment. Otherwise, turnout
in the fall local elections could be even lower.

The author is a contributor to RFE/RL based in Tallinn.
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