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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 55, Part II, 19 March 1999


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 55, Part II, 19 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

* SLOVAK PARLIAMENT PASSES LAW ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

* CONTACT GROUP 'SUSPENDS' PARIS TALKS

* SERBIA DENOUNCES AGREEMENT, REMAINS DEFIANT

End Note: EASTERN CANDIDATES UNRUFFLED BY EU ROW
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINIAN MINERS STRIKE OVER BACK WAGES. Some 20,000
miners held a one-day warning strike on 18 March over
unpaid wages. "Our task is to show our government our
power and to force them to pay wage arrears worth 2.5
billion hryvni [$665 million]," Reuters quoted an
activist from the Coal Industry Workers' Trade Union as
saying. Another miners' organization, the Independent
Miners' Union, has said it is planning a complete halt of
coal production and marches from mining regions to Kyiv.
Meanwhile, employees of Ukraine's nuclear power plants
have postponed a planned strike over unpaid wages pending
a Constitutional Court ruling on whether their protest
would be legal. JM

STATEMENTS URGING UKRAINE'S IMMINENT NATO ENTRY DEEMED
'PROVOCATIVE.' Volodymyr Horbulin, secretary of Ukraine's
National Council of Security and Defense, said in Kyiv on 18
March that statements urging Ukraine's imminent NATO entry
are "provocative in nature," Ukrainian Television reported.
The Rukh parliamentary caucus, headed by Yuriy Kostenko,
recently called for Ukraine to be admitted to the alliance
soon. Horbulin said such statemnts are aimed at altering
Ukraine's balanced foreign policy and at directing it along
an "anti-European" line. Commenting on Russia-NATO relations,
Horbulin said he is surprised that the "influential part of
Russia's political elite" opposes contacts between NATO and
Ukraine, while opting for cooperation between the alliance
and Russia. JM

BELARUS WANTS SECURITY GUARANTEES FROM NATO. Foreign
Minister Ural Latypau on 18 March urged NATO to offer
Belarus security guarantees following neighboring
Poland's admission to the alliance. "We mean measures
aimed at building up mutual trust, which would be put in
writing and contain a promise not to deploy nuclear
weapons next to our borders," Reuters quoted Latypau as
saying. JM

WORLD BANK TO REOPEN PERMANENT MISSION IN BELARUS. Paul
Siegelbaum, the World Bank official in charge of Ukraine
and Belarus, said in Minsk on 18 March that the bank will
re-establish its permanent representative office in
Belarus this summer. The bank froze aid to Belarus in
1994 and recalled its permanent envoy to Belarus last
fall to protest Belarus's refusal to conduct market
reforms and introduce a single exchange rate. Siegelbaum
told journalists that "some progress on a number of
issues" has been achieved in negotiations with Belarus,
but he noted that the bank's main requirement for
resuming assistance--the liberalization of the exchange
rate by the National Bank--has not been fulfilled. JM

'EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES' TO FOIL OPPOSITION ELECTION CAMPAIGN
IN BELARUS? Citing "sources worthy of respect" Belapan on 18
March reported that the Belarusian authorities have worked
out "extraordinary measures" to thwart the campaign for the
presidential election launched by the opposition. According
to the news agency, the Justice Ministry has been ordered to
draw up a decree on "counteracting political extremism" and
to deny registration to "radical and extremist"
organizations. The Foreign Ministry is to prepare a decree
tightening control over contacts between foreign diplomats
and the opposition. And the KGB has been charged with the
tasks of intimidating and compromising opposition leaders as
well as preventing financial support from reaching the
Belarusian opposition. JM

ESTONIA'S NEW LAWMAKERS RE-ELECT SPEAKER. At its first
session, the new parliament re-elected Toomas Savi of the
Reform Party as its speaker, ETA reported on 18 March. In the
secret ballot, fifty-five out of the 101 lawmakers voted in
favor of Savi's re-election. The three-party right-wing
alliance composed of the Reform Party, the Moderates, and the
Fatherland Union have a total of 53 seats. Also on 18 March,
the outgoing government of Mart Siimann resigned but will
continue to perform tasks until the new cabinet has been
formed. JC

OUTGOING TRANSPORT MINISTER SIGNS FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT WITH
NRG. Raivo Vare on 18 March signed the framework agreement
under which negotiations will begin with the U.S. company NRG
Energy on the privatization of Estonian power stations, ETA
reported. Under that document, the first stage of the
negotiations is to be completed by 30 June, provided the
government has made a decision on the restructuring of the
oil-shale industry. The second stage, in which a final accord
and contracts are to be drawn up, is to end by 30 November.
JC

LATVIAN DEPUTIES PASS STATE LANGUAGE LAW IN SECOND READING...
The parliament on 18 March passed the law on the state
language law in the second reading "virtually without
debate," according to "Diena." Only the For Equal Rights in a
United Latvia faction voted against the bill, under which,
among other things, private-sector employees would be
required to be proficient in the Latvian language. The bill
is to be examined by the OSCE and is expected to be submitted
to a third and final reading in May. JC

...AGAIN REJECT FREE ACCESS TO INFO ON OFFICIALS' INCOME.
Lawmakers on 18 March passed in the final reading amendments
to the anti-corruption law whereby state officials are
required to reveal the sources of funds for purchases whose
value exceeds an official's annual income, LETA reported.
Those amendments are to take effect on 1 July. Also on 18
March, deputies voted by 42 to 23 with five abstentions to
reject once again the People's Party's proposal to grant free
access at any time to information on the income and assets of
a state official, "Diena" reported. Under current
legislation, deputies are required to submit declarations on
their assets once a year; those declarations are made
available to the public. JC

TURKEY SUPPORTS LITHUANIA'S NATO BID. Meeting with his
Lithuanian counterpart, Valdas Adamkus, in Ankara on 19
March, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel made it clear that
Turkey, as a member state of NATO, "is backing and will
[continue to] back Lithuania's entry into the alliance
without any reservations," ELTA reported. Adamkus is on a
three-day state visit to Turkey. Meanwhile, Prime Minister
Gediminas Vagnorius, on returning from a four-day visit to
the U.S. during which he met with several high-ranking U.S.
officials, said that the "U.S. is giving a signal that
Lithuania is a real candidate to NATO." JC

LEFTIST DEPUTIES CHALLENGE FINANCE MINISTER. Thirty deputies
from the leftist opposition in the parliament have submitted
an interpellation against Finance Minister Algirdas Semeta,
ELTA reported on 18 March. The deputies accuse Semeta of
inaccurate budget planning, unjustified tax increases, and
the improper use of money from the Privatization Fund. Under
house rules, the chancellor of the parliament must forward
the interpellation to the challenged minister, who, in turn,
must submit a written answer to the parliamentary leader
within two weeks. JC

POLAND, VIETNAM PLEDGE TO DEVELOP ECONOMIC TIES. Vietnamese
President Tran Duc Luong and his Polish counterpart,
Aleksander Kwasniewski, pledged in Hanoi on 18 March to boost
economic cooperation. Kwasniewski, who is paying the first-
ever visit to Vietnam by a Polish head of state, said he sees
many opportunities for Polish investments in Vietnam,
particularly in the mining, energy, food processing, and
shipbuilding industries. The two presidents signed a letter
of intent under which Poland will build two power plants in
Vietnam worth $100 million each. JM

POLAND TO INTRODUCE VISAS FOR SOME NON-EU CITIZENS. Poland is
to introduce entry visas for citizens of Russia, Belarus,
Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, and 10 other states no later than
on the day of its accession to the EU, PAP reported on 18
March. The announcement was made by Polish Deputy Interior
Minister Piotr Stachanczyk during so-called screening talks
with EU officials, which aim at determining whether Polish
legislation complies with that of the EU. JM

CZECH POLICEMAN CHARGED IN RACIAL INCIDENT. A policeman in
Ostrov, some 150 kilometers west of Prague, has been charged
for hurling racial abuse at a group of Roma. CTK reported him
as saying "Black scum," "Black bastards to the gas chambers,"
and "Nigger lips." The policeman was recently given a one-
year suspended sentence for wearing a swastika armband in
public in November 1998 but was not dismissed from the force.
He has been now suspended from duty. MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT PASSES LAW ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. The
parliament on 18 March passed the law on direct presidential
elections by a vote of 89 to one, CTK reported. Under that
law, a run-off is to be held if no candidate obtains a
majority in the first round. Candidates are to be nominated
by at least 15 deputies or by a petition signed by at least
15,000 citizens. A candidate cannot spend more than 4 million
crowns (about $98,300) on the campaign. The names of
individual sponsors donating more than 10,000 crowns and
companies donating more than 100,000 crowns have to be made
public. MS

SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ALLOWS ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN IN
PRIVATE MEDIA. The Constitutional Court on 18 March ruled
that the provision in the electoral law banning radio and
television campaigning in electronic media other than public-
owned outlets is unconstitutional, CTK reported. Court
chairman Milan Cic said that the provision breached the
public's right to information as well as the rights of
holders of private radio and television licenses to freedom
of speech. The previous parliament, which was dominated by
Vladimir Meciar's supporters, passed that law. In another
ruling, the court declared illegal a provision stating that
political parties have the right to nominate a replacement if
a vacancy comes up in its parliamentary group, regardless of
preferences expressed at the time of the elections. The court
said the legislature's composition is "based on the will of
the citizens, not that of parties." MS

SLOVAK COALITION OVERCOMES CRISIS. The coalition has managed
to overcome a crisis that postponed by one day the passage of
the law on direct presidential elections (see above) and
threatened the passage of the 1999 budget. Hungarian
Coalition Party (SMK) deputies had boycotted the parliament's
session for two days to protest both this year's budgetary
allocations for financing minority cultures and Agriculture
Minister Pavel Koncos's refusal to appoint a SMK member as
head of the Slovak Land Fund. The SMK claims funds allocated
this year to minorities are half those earmarked previously.
MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

KOSOVARS SIGN RAMBOUILLET ACCORDS. Four members of the ethnic
Albanian negotiating team signed in Paris on 18 March the
international Contact Group's proposal for a political
settlement for Kosova. Hashim Thaci, who is heads the
delegation and represents the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK),
said that "we have signed an agreement to bring peace to
Kosova. We hope that the force of the international community
will make Yugoslavia sign. We say that the violence must
stop." PM

CONTACT GROUP 'SUSPENDS' PARIS TALKS. French Foreign Minister
Hubert Vedrine and his British counterpart, Robin Cook, who
are co-chairs of the Paris conference, issued a statement on
19 March praising the Kosovars for signing the document and
accusing the Serbs of trying to "unravel the Rambouillet
accords." The ministers added: "The negotiations are
adjourned. The talks will not resume unless the Serbs express
their acceptance of the accords. We will immediately engage
in consultations with our partners and allies to be ready to
act. We will be in contact with the secretary-general of
NATO." The ministers concluded by "solemnly warning the
authorities in Belgrade against any military offensive on the
ground and any impediment to the freedom of movement and of
action of [international peace monitors], which would
contravene their commitments. Such violations would have the
gravest consequences." PM

SERBIA DENOUNCES AGREEMENT... Serbian President Milan
Milutinovic said in Paris on 18 March that the Rambouillet
accord is a "fake document that the Albanians signed with
their American friends." He accused Western mediators of
using "deceit and manipulation" in conducting the peace
talks, adding that the West "can't force us to sign under the
threat of bombs." Milutinovic pledged that Serbian forces
will resist any attempt by NATO forces to intervene in his
country and commented, "Che sera, sera." The previous day,
the Serbian delegation signed their own document, which, they
said, is the only one they accept (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17
March 1999). PM

...AND REMAINS DEFIANT. Serbian forces continued their
offensive in the Drenica region of Kosova on 18 March. In
Nis, General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who commands the Third Army in
the region that includes Kosova, vowed that his troops "will
have no problem confronting the remaining terrorists in [the
province], and we will do it the moment our country is
attacked, irrespective of whether it will be an air or ground
attack There is a realistic danger that all the pressure on
our country will lead to a war that our country will
certainly not lose." Observers noted that "terrorists" is
Belgrade's term for the UCK. PM

YUGOSLAV ARMY PUTS PRESSURE ON MONTENEGRO. In Podgorica on 18
March, Yugoslav Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic formally
asked the Montenegrin parliament to lift the immunity of
Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Novak Kilibarda. Bulatovic
has filed charges against Kilibarda for urging Montenegrin
conscripts not to obey call-up notices and for asking the
Montenegrin government to prevent the Yugoslav air force from
using Montenegrin territory in responding to possible NATO
attacks, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Elsewhere,
Montenegrin Interior Minister Vukasin Maras said on state-run
television that he met with the top Yugoslav army and navy
commanders who are responsible for Montenegro. He did not
provide details. PM

RUSSIAN NEGOTIATOR DOES NOT SIGN AGREEMENT. Boris Mayorskii
said in Paris on 18 March that he will not sign the
Rambouillet accords because they do not constitute a proper
settlement unless the Serbs' signatures, as well as those of
the Kosovars, are added to them. Mayorskii added that he
nonetheless understands why his Western colleagues--U.S.
envoy Chris Hill and the EU's Wolfgang Petritsch--signed the
texts, namely in order "to underline the importance" of the
Kosovars' acceptance of them. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign
Minister Igor Ivanov said in Moscow, "We urged our Belgrade
colleagues to show the most constructive approach, taking
into account the fact that the Albanian side has already
consented to sign the document." PM

ALBRIGHT WARNS BELGRADE. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright praised the Kosovars for signing the accord. She
also said in Washington on 18 March that the Serbs have "gone
backwards" in the peace process. Albright added: "I would
like to remind [Yugoslav] President [Slobodan] Milosevic that
NATO stands ready to take whatever measures are necessary."
Elsewhere, the State Department issued a warning to "U.S.
citizens against travel to Serbia-Montenegro and strongly
urged U.S. citizens to depart the country due to the
possibility of military intervention by members of the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization." The following day, Germany and
Britain issued similar warnings to their citizens. PM

ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT WELCOMES SIGNING... The Albanian
government issued a statement on 18 March saying that "the
signing of the draft agreement...constitutes an outstanding
historical, civilized, and patriotic act that will have
positive effects for the Albanian people of Kosova," Reuters
reported. The government added that the Kosovars' signature
"encourages international partners to show the same spirit of
cooperation and unity in exercising pressure on Yugoslavia to
sign the agreement or face the alternative of military
force." The government thanked the Contact Group for taking
the lead in the negotiations and especially the U.S. "for the
decisive role in starting and continuing the peace talks." It
expressed hope that the signing will help reduce tension in
the Balkans. The government added that "it was Milosevic and
not the Albanians" who are responsible for the crisis in
Kosova. FS

...AND URGES NATO INTERVENTION. Prime Minister Pandeli Majko
sent a letter to NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on 18
March urging NATO to send troops to Kosova as soon as
possible, AP reported. Majko expressed concern that "Belgrade
may start a general offensive in Kosova. If such a
development is not brought under control, this could have
catastrophic consequences for my country and the entire
region." He stressed that "the Albanian government strongly
believes that NATO is the only institution that can prevent a
catastrophe in Kosova." Meanwhile, President Rexhep Meidani
met with a delegation of the Russian Duma in Tirana and urged
them "to influence Belgrade to accept [NATO's] military
presence" in the province to implement the Rambouillet
accords. FS

ALBANIAN MINISTER ORDERS FORMER OFFICIALS TO SURRENDER ARMS.
Albanian Interior Minister Petro Koci ordered all former
government officials to surrender by 31 March the weapons
they have been issued for their personal protection, "Koha
Jone" reported on 18 March. He warned that those who fail to
do so face arrest. The order also includes other persons who
received arms from the Democratic Party-led government for
personal protection during the anarchy in 1997, including
lawyers, businessmen, and former police officers. The order
also says that current officials who legally carry weapons
must hand them in within 72 hours of changing jobs. Koci's
predecessor, Perikli Teta, issued a similar order in 1997 but
failed to implement it. FS

BOSNIAN CROATS LAUNCH BOYCOTT. Officials of the Croatian
Democratic Community (HDZ) said in Sarajevo on 18 March that
the party will not participate in the work of any federal or
local government or legislative bodies from 22 to 28 March.
The move is to protest the recent assassination attempt
against Deputy Interior Minister Jozo Leutar, who is a
prominent member of the HDZ (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17
March 1999). PM

ROMANIAN NATIONAL BANK GOVERNOR EXPLAINS CURRENCY
DEVALUATION. Mugur Isarescu told the Senate on 18 March that
the recent sharp decline of the national currency is partly a
result of market speculation and that he expects the leu to
stabilize soon. Isarescu said the depreciation reflects the
general state of the economy and the downgrading of Romania's
country risk by rating agencies that have doubts about
Bucharest's ability to service its foreign debt. He
acknowledged that the National Bank's has encouraged the
depreciation in order to promote exports in view of "fierce
competition" from Asian markets, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau
reported. The bank set the rate for 19 March at 15,115 lei to
$1, reflecting a further 1.4 percent drop in one day. MS

ZEMAN, KLESTIL VISIT ROMANIA. Visiting Czech Premier Milos
Zeman on 18 March told his Romanian counterpart, Radu Vasile,
that Prague will continue supporting the further enlargement
of NATO and the EU, CTK reported. Vasile said that they
discussed the Kosova problem and that their views were "in
many ways similar." Also on the agenda were bilateral
economic cooperation and illegal immigration. The same day,
visiting Austrian President Thomas Klestil and his Romanian
host, Emil Constantinescu, attended the signing of an
agreement on combating organized crime, terrorism, and drug
trafficking. MS

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT APPROVED THROUGH FORGERY? Transdniestrian
television on 17 March broadcast a statement by Ilie Ilascu
in which the parliamentary deputy said he did not write the
letter used as an absentee ballot on 12 March, when the
parliament approved Ion Sturdza's cabinet. Parliamentary
chairman Dumitru Diacov said the next day that the statement
was made "under pressure." Ilie Matei, chairman of the Party
of Democratic Forces, on whose lists Ilascu was elected to
the legislature, said that a graphological expertise
comparing the letter with others sent by Ilascu from prison
can prove its authenticity. Matei added that Ilascu has been
"physically and mentally tortured" following the dispatch of
his ballot. Party of Moldovan Communists leader Vladimir
Voronin said he will challenge the parliamentary vote before
the Constitutional Court and will ask the Prosecutor-
General's Office to investigate "the forgery," RFE/RL's
Chisinau bureau reported. MS

END NOTE

EASTERN CANDIDATES UNRUFFLED BY EU ROW

By Breffni O'Rourke

	The Central and East European candidate countries appear
to be taking in their stride the surprise resignation of the
entire Executive Commission of the EU.
	The 20-member commission- the executive arm of the EU--
stepped down earlier this week in an unprecedented move
following sharp criticism in a report for mismanagement,
corruption, and nepotism.
	Fears have been raised that this move will lead to a
loss of direction in EU affairs at a time when the 10
candidate countries are impatient to make further progress in
their bids to join the union. Selection of a new commission
by member states--including a senior political figure to
replace outgoing President Jacques Santer--could drag on
until the falls.
	However, Brussels-based Central and East European
diplomats are expressing cautious optimism that the
enlargement process will not be severely damaged. One of
them--Vesselin Valkanov, counselor at the Bulgarian mission
to the EU-- told RFE/RL that "it's business as usual for us,
but we are keeping a watchful eye on developments in the EU
and hope they will find a way to settle the problem as fast
as possible and to the benefit of all the candidate
countries, as well as themselves."
	At the Lithuanian mission to the EU, counselor Rytis
Martikonis told RFE/RL he believes that, at least in the
short term, the enlargement process--particularly from a
technical point of view--is still on the right track. He said
he does not believe the blow to the commission as an
institution will influence the process substantially. He says
that--on the contrary--the union's institutions seem to work
better in times of crisis and the whole affair might have a
positive influence on next week's key summit of EU leaders in
Berlin "I think that the resignation of the commission has
[increased] pressure [on the summit] to resolve the problems
more swiftly, so as to demonstrate the capacity to act and
not to let the crisis escalate," Martikonis commented.
	The current president of the EU, Germany, wants the
summit to agree on a package of sweeping internal financial
reforms that are considered essential if the EU is to be
capable of absorbing new members. German officials say they
believe the reform package has now developed such momentum
that it cannot be derailed by the events in Brussels.
However, given the probable delay in appointing a new
commission, the presidency of Finland--which begins in July--
could be more heavily impacted.
	A Finnish spokesman in Brussels, Reijo Kemppinen
acknowledged that the situation could become complicated. But
he told RFE/RL that if the Berlin summit can clear the way
for reform--and if other factors fall into place, such as the
timely nomination of a replacement for Commission President
Santer--then the focus will stay on eastward expansion. "The
priorities in our presidency," he said, "would be the
enlargement of the union, giving new impetus to the
enlargement negotiations, plus enhancing the role of the EU
externally, be it the trade policy or the foreign and
security policy, and questions relating to the strengthening
of EU institutions vis-a-vis the upcoming enlargement."
	It is unclear whether the commissioner in charge of
relations with Central and Eastern Europe, Hans van den Broek
of The Netherlands, wants to stand as a candidate for the new
commission. Sources in the commission say his candidacy is
unlikely because he's from a political party now in
opposition in his homeland, rather than in government. In
addition, the report on mismanagement--although it singled
out only a few commissioners by name--was critical of the
entire outgoing team. This, too, makes holdovers from among
the outgoing commissioners improbable.

The author is an RFE/RL editor based in Prague.

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