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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 79, Part II, 23 April 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 79, Part II, 23 April 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 * CZECH SOCIALISTS TO VISIT BELGRADE TO SHOW SOLIDARITY * CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS MILOSEVIC 'READY FOR PEACE' * NATO TAKES 'MILOSEVISION' OFF THE AIR END NOTE: EU TO DEVELOP TIES WITH ALBANIA, MACEDONIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN COMMUNIST DEPUTIES WALK OUT TO PROTEST PRESIDENTIAL VETO. Communist lawmakers walked out of the Supreme Council on 22 April to protest its failure to override President Leonid Kuchma's veto on two bills increasing subsidies for the elderly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1999), AP reported. Communist Party Chairman Petro Symonenko said his 122-strong caucus will refuse to vote on any other legislation until other lawmakers join them in overriding the veto. In rejecting the bills, Kuchma argued that the cash-strapped government does not have enough revenues to increase social payments. JM BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST MEETS STROBE TALBOTT. Andrey Sannikau, international coordinator for the Charter 97 civic initiative and a former Belarusian deputy foreign minister, met with U.S. State Department Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott in Washington on 22 April to discuss the situation in Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Sannikau told RFE/RL that he is glad the U.S. has not changed its position vis-a-vis the Lukashenka regime and remains committed to restoring democratic principles in Belarus. Sannikau told Talbott that the U.S. should send its ambassador back to Belarus because of the "very tense situation in Belarus's current economic and political life." The U.S. recalled its ambassador to Washington last year following the eviction of Western diplomats from the Drazdy residential area. JM BELARUSIAN OFFICIAL URGES OPPOSITION TO GIVE FUNDS TO NEEDY. Deputy Prime Minister Uladzimir Zamyatalin appealed on Belarusian Television on 21 April to the Belarusian opposition to contribute its "many millions intended for the illegitimate, phony elections in mid- May" to a children's home. The appeal appeared in connection with the nationwide "subbotnik" (a Soviet- time practice of voluntary unpaid work on Saturdays) now under way in Belarus. JM BALTIC PRESIDENTS MEET WITH ALBRIGHT. Lennart Meri (Estonia), Guntis Ulmanis (Latvia), and Valdas Adamkus (Lithuania) met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Washington on 22 April and reaffirmed their desire to join NATO, an RFE/RL correspondent in the U.S. capital reported. Meri said after the meeting that Albright assured all three countries they will be mentioned in the summit's final declaration, while Ulmanis said she stressed the Kosova crisis will not interfere in the three's quest to join the alliance. In a statement, Albright thanked the Baltic States for supporting NATO action in Kosova and offering humanitarian assistance to refugees. She also encouraged them to continue providing such assistance, according to LETA. JC ESTONIAN FINANCE MINISTRY REVEALS DETAILS OF SUPPLEMENTARY BUDGET. The Finance Ministry on 22 April revealed that it has drawn up a negative supplementary budget providing for cuts of 1 billion kroons ($71.4 million) in expenditures, ETA reported. Of that sum, 370 million kroons is to be saved by reducing investments, while another 330 million kroons will be slashed from subsidies to the private sector. The draft budget is to be discussed by the government next week. Speaking to journalists, Finance Minister Siim Kallas said that although revenues from excises are considerably below forecasts, the government does not intend to lower duties on tobacco, alcohol, or gasoline for the time being. Kallas added that to improve excise collection, the government should instead exercise increased control over the black market. JC EC WANTS LATVIAN LANGUAGE LAW TO COMPLY WITH INTERNATIONAL NORMS. Meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans in Brussels on 23 April, European Commission President Jacques Santer and Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek Latvia urged Riga to ensure that Latvia's state language bill meets international requirements, BNS reported. The law has provoked criticism, not least because of its provisions regulating the use of the state language in the private sector (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 April 1999). JC LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS LUSTRATION LAW. Lawmakers on 22 April voted by 61 to zero with two abstentions to amend the lustration law so that it complies with a ruling by the Constitutional Court earlier this year, ELTA reported. The law bans former KGB agents from holding government office and a wide variety of private- sector jobs. While the court ruled that the legislation does not violate the basic law, it deemed unconstitutional the provision establishing a presidential commission that would decide whether to lift restrictions in individual cases (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 1999). JC POLISH OPPOSITION WANTS TO AMEND LUSTRATION LAW. The opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) has prepared a draft amendment to the lustration law, arguing that the lustration process now under way in Poland is defective, PAP reported on 22 April. The SLD wants to introduce a "precise definition of collaboration with the communist- era secret services" and to make the lustration procedures confidential. Meanwhile, lustration prosecutor Boguslaw Nizienski has said his requests for the lustration court to check individuals' statements on whether they collaborated will be kept secret. Nizienski also said he has no evidence supporting the recent allegation that Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek collaborated with the communist secret services (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1999). JM POLISH UPPER HOUSE AMENDS BILL ON FORMER CONCENTRATION CAMPS. The upper house of the parliament on 22 April amended the bill on the preservation of eight former Nazi concentration camp sites in Poland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 1999), Polish media reported. Under those amendments, the protection zones around the camps may maintain only those religious symbols approved by the Roman Catholic Church or other Churches in Poland. Thus, the bill is in line with the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church, which wants to maintain the so-called papal cross at the Auschwitz camp site and re- locate some 240 crosses erected by radical Catholics. The bill must still be approved by the lower house. JM CZECH SOCIALISTS TO VISIT BELGRADE TO SHOW SOLIDARITY. A group of parliamentary deputies from the ruling Social Democrats will travel to Belgrade on a "solidarity mission," the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 23 April. The group is led by Jaroslav Foldyna, who said he wants "to know what we can do for the people who suffer most due to the war." He added that he is ashamed of Czech President Vaclav Havel's strong support for NATO's campaign in Yugoslavia. The Czech government has shown only lukewarm support for the NATO air strikes. In other news, Czech historians and politicians are informally debating the validity of the Little Entente treaty. Signed in the 1920s, it grouped the former Czechoslovakia, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (renamed Yugoslavia in 1929), and Romania in one military-political alliance. PB FORMER DEPUTY CALLS LEXA MASTERMIND OF KOVAC JR. ABDUCTION. Jaroslav Ivor, the chief investigator in the 1995 kidnapping case of former Slovak President Michal Kovac's son, said on 22 April that testimony has been given implicating former Slovak counterintelligence (SIS) head Ivan Lexa as the mastermind behind the abduction, CTK reported, citing Slovak Television. Ivor said that Lexa's deputy, Jaroslav Svechota, has identified Lexa as such. Ivor said nine other members of the SIS are in custody for their roles in the kidnapping. Ivor added that a "parallel secret service" exists that is "trying to influence the investigation." Lexa was stripped of his parliamentary immunity and is in detention. PB FINANCE MINISTER NOTICES INCREASED INVESTOR INTEREST IN SLOVAKIA. Brigita Schmognerova said in Bratislava on 22 April that there is a heightened interest among foreign investors in entering the Slovak market, TASR reported. Schmognerova spoke after returning from the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London. She added that the fact that Slovakia still has no president and Premier Vladimir Meciar's intention to run for that post in next month's elections are viewed unfavorably. In other news, Premier Mikulas Dzurinda said in New York that he expects Slovakia to be among the candidates for the next round of NATO expansion after this weekend's alliance summit in Washington. PB SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS MILOSEVIC 'READY FOR PEACE.' Russian special envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin told Reuters in Moscow on 23 April that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is willing to allow an "international presence" into Kosova. Before returning from Belgrade the previous day, Chernomyrdin outlined his peace plan to ITAR-TASS. That plan foresees the safe return of displaced persons and refugees, the implementation of a humanitarian aid program, the resumption of negotiations on autonomy for Kosova, the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosova and NATO forces from the border of Yugoslavia, an international economic reconstruction program for Yugoslavia, and an international presence in Kosova with the participation of Russian forces under the auspices of the UN. Chernomyrdin said that "what international organizations these will be remains to be discussed." He called his eight-hour long talks with Milosevic "not easy" but claimed he had achieved a "breakthrough." FS NATO COUNTRIES REMAIN SKEPTICAL... U.S. President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have rejected Milosevic's offer, saying it falls short of NATO demands, Reuters reported on 23 April. Chernomyrdin said in Moscow he will meet NATO leaders in Washington on 24 April. "The Guardian" quotes a French government spokesman as saying that the alliance must stick to its air campaign and not send in ground troops. Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema said in Rome that "the nature of [the proposed international] force is not clear, whether it would be military or civilian, and that's the point on which there is no agreement." German Deputy Foreign Minister Ludger Volmer told Germany's ARD television on 22 April that "when Milosevic appears to be making a concession in negotiations, it can be ambiguous.... It could be that this is one of the numerous feints that Milosevic has often used in the past." FS ...WHILE ANNAN 'ENCOURAGED.' UN spokesman Fred Eckard said on 22 April in New York that Secretary-General Kofi Annan is "encouraged" by Chernomyrdin's initiative and "eagerly awaits the details of what was agreed." He stressed that he has no details beyond Chernomyrdin's statement but added that Annan will travel to Moscow next week "to explore these ideas further with the Russian authorities." Observers noted that Milosevic proved particularly difficult and duplicitous in negotiations on practical details during the Croatian and Bosnian wars. Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 23 April that Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze offered to act as a mediator between NATO and Moscow, following an earlier request by Russian officials. FS NATO TAKES 'MILOSEVISION' OFF THE AIR. A NATO missile struck the main offices of Serbian state-run television (RTS) in Belgrade in the early hours of 23 April, killing at least10 people. At the moment of the attack, RTS was broadcasting an anti-NATO speech by Milosevic. The station went off the air for several hours and then broadcast a limited fare of news and patriotic videos. The BBC reported from the scene that RTS staff members believed that NATO would attack only transmitters and not the main studio complex. Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic called the attack "an act of barbarity." RTS is nicknamed "Milosevision" because it has long been the main vehicle for disseminating the president's views. Many observers believe that RTS and other nationalistic television broadcasters in the former Yugoslavia played a key role in fomenting ethnic hatred and fueling the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova. PM SERBIAN MINISTER VOWS REVENGE. Serbian Information Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who was a key figure behind the highly restrictive 1998 media law, told journalists at the RTS building that he holds Western leaders responsible for the attack on 23 April. Vucic said that "such criminals as Clinton and Blair could not have been born by any mother. Just punishment will reach them. They are the biggest criminals and beasts. By comparison, even [German dictator Adolf] Hitler was but a little child," AP quoted him as saying. PM BELGRADE HOLDS GERMAN JOURNALIST AS 'SPY.' Germany's SAT-1 television reported on 23 April that Serbian authorities are holding SAT-1 journalist Pit Schnitzler on suspicion of espionage. Joerg Howe, who is Schnitzler's supervisor, called the charge "utter nonsense." He added that "this is a blatant attempt to quash independent critical reporting," dpa reported from Berlin. Schnitzler was last heard from on 16 April, when he traveled from Belgrade to the Serbian frontier with Croatia. PM PENTAGON SAYS AIR STRIKES HAVING EFFECT. Rear Admiral Thomas Wilson, who is the director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Washington on 22 April that the air strikes have impaired Milosevic's ability to move or supply his troops. Wilson added that NATO's air "campaign is having an impact on the morale" of Yugoslav soldiers.... Desertion rates...are on the climb." Elsewhere in Washington, British Premier Blair said that "this is a just war based on good, decent values" and directed at stopping ethnic cleansing. PM WHAT ARE KOSOVA'S 'MYSTERIOUS TRAINS'? Kris Janowski, who is a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), said in Geneva on 22 April that there have recently been what he dubbed "puzzling" movements of refugees along the border between Kosova and Macedonia. "Mysterious trains" of refugees have arrived from Ferizaj, with some being allowed to proceed into Macedonia and others turned back. "We don't understand what kind of game [the Serbian authorities] are playing," Janowski added. He called Kosova a "black hole," where the fate of thousands of displaced persons is unknown, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. PM UN: FORCED LABOR IN KOSOVA. Mary Robinson, who is the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in Geneva on 22 April that Serbian forces are using "thousands" of displaced Kosovars as forced labor in the area between Mitrovica and Gjakova. She quoted refugees as saying that Serbian forces killed those who refused to leave their homes in Gjakova. PM RELIEF WORKERS REACH STRANDED REFUGEES. Macedonian police allowed officials of the UNHCR into the remote village of Malina on 22 April after UN officials "lobbied the Macedonian authorities at the highest level," Reuters reported. Macedonian police had already begun evacuating some of the several thousand Kosovars to nearby villages when the aid workers arrived. Up to 100 refugees had been living in each home in Malina, while some Kosovars slept in the open or with farm animals in sheds. A BBC reporter called the conditions in the village "medieval." Macedonian police barred aid convoys from the village for several days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1999). They said that the path into Malina is not safe because it runs through 50 yards of Serbian territory. Refugees told UNHCR officials that they came illegally to Malina because Macedonian police refused to let them enter at a nearby border crossing and because Serbian troops threatened to shoot them if they returned to Kosova. PM MORE FIGHTING ALONG ALBANIA-KOSOVA BORDER. Officials at Albania's Public Order Ministry told an RFE/RL correspondent in Tirana that Yugoslav soldiers opened fire on the border post in Dobruna on 22 April, injuring an Albanian officer. An OSCE spokesman in Tirana told Reuters that a senior commander of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) was killed and four rebel soldiers wounded near Tropoja. Meanwhile in Washington, Albanian President Rexhep Meidani and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright agreed that Kosova must not be partitioned but placed under the control of an international protection force that can "guarantee the region's multi-ethnicity," Reuters reported. FS ALBANIA EVACUATES REFUGEES FROM BORDER REGION. Information Minister Musa Ulqini told an RFE/RL correspondent in Tirana on 22 April that the authorities have evacuated 6,200 refugees from Kukes to other parts of Albania and will evacuate another 50,000 in the coming days. The total number of refugees in Albania has reached 360,000, of whom 110,000 are currently in Kukes. About 1,000 refugees arrived at the Morina border crossing on 22 April, saying they were on the road for eight days and beaten and robbed by Serbian police. Most of the refugees were from Mitrovica and Drenica. Some of them said that tens of thousands of Kosovars are trying to reach Albania but that Serbian forces have sent most of them back into the interior. They are now hiding in the hills. FS SLOVENIA OPEN TO NATO GROUND TROOPS. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said in Ljubljana on 22 April that Slovenia will allow passage to NATO ground troops if asked. He stressed that it is Slovenia's duty as a member of the alliance's Partnership for Peace Program to permit transit. In Washington, Bosnian Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic said that the "NATO operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina is proof of the ability of the international community to make and keep peace." He added that "it is up to the international community to decide what kind of operation" it wants to use in Kosova, AP reported. PM TENSIONS EASE AROUND PREVLAKA... Yugoslav Admiral Milan Zec and Montenegrin Interior Minister Vukasin Maras reached an agreement according to which Yugoslav troops and Montenegrin police will jointly man checkpoints inside Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Podgorica on 22 April. At Debeli Brijeg, UN monitors said that some Yugoslav troops remain in the demilitarized zone but not on the border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1999).The monitors added that tensions have eased in the Prevlaka area. PM ...BUT NOT ELSEWHERE IN MONTENEGRO. Yugoslav officials said in Belgrade on 22 April that foreign humanitarian aid cannot transit the Montenegrin port of Bar because the Montenegrin authorities have refused either to accept Belgrade's authority in the matter or to meet with Belgrade officials to set a policy. In Podgorica, Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic told a rally of some 10,000 supporters that the Montenegrin police must submit to the authority of the federal army. Elsewhere, Luigi Juncaj, who is minister for minority affairs, told Reuters that he wants members of ethnic minorities to stay put in Montenegro and not allow Belgrade to intimidate them into fleeing. PM TURKEY SAYS ROMANIA EXTRADITING SUSPECTED PKK MEMBERS. The semi-official Anatolia news agency reported on 22 April that Romania has extradited more than 30 people suspected of being members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the last four months. According to the news agency, the PKK is extremely active in Romania. PB MOLDOVAN TEACHERS ON STRIKE. Teachers at some 700 Moldovan schools went on strike on 22 April to demand the payment of back wages, ITAR-TASS reported. The leader of a teachers' union, Dmitri Ivanov, said the average teacher's salary in the country is 180 lei ($20) per month. He said some teachers have not been paid in eight or 10 months. Teachers have vowed to stay on strike until all wage arrears have been paid. The government owes about 100 million lei to teachers and has begun talks with union officials. In other news, Russian First Deputy Premier Vadim Gustov criticized Transdniestrian separatist leader Igor Smirnov after he refused to meet with Gustov by saying "the demeanor of [Smirnov] does not contribute to his reputation and is giving Russia the opportunity to take tougher and more decisive measures to solve [the Transdniestrian] problem," Russian Television reported on 22 April. PB BULGARIAN HIGH COURT RULES FAVORABLY ON NATO REQUEST. The Bulgarian Constitutional Court ruled on 22 April that parliamentary approval was not needed for every instance of a NATO plane overflying Bulgaria, Reuters reported. The 12-judge panel was unanimous in its decision. Bulgarian Premier Ivan Kostov said the parliament may vote next week on his offer to grant NATO a 110-140 kilometer zone along Bulgaria's western border for NATO overflights (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1999). Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the parliament building on 22 April to protest plans to grant an air corridor to NATO. And a NATO missile inadvertently landed near the village of Babitsa, near the Yugoslav border, early on 23 April. No injuries were reported. PB END NOTE EU TO DEVELOP TIES WITH ALBANIA, MACEDONIA By Breffni O'Rourke The EU is moving to develop special relationships with Albania and Macedonia to help protect those countries against the instability generated by the Kosova crisis. Dirk Buda, a senior EU official in Brussels, told RFE/RL that proposals should be formalized by next month, with the prospect--for Albania at least--of adoption by the EU before the end of the summer. His comments follow pleas for swift EU support for those two countries following the inflow of hundreds of thousands of Kosovar refugees. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said earlier this week that Tirana will request a formal association agreement with Brussels as a step toward full EU membership. He said normal criteria should not be applied and a faster route should be found to integrate Albania into Europe. Officials from Macedonia have expressed similar sentiments. Brussels however, has its own ideas on the issue. One of its considerations is that the existing list of 10 candidate members from Central and East Europe should not be upset by hasty preferential treatment for "newcomer" countries like Albania and Macedonia. The 10 candidates are now undergoing difficult negotiations or a detailed screening process. Some--notably Bulgaria-- have already expressed impatience at the slow rate of progress toward membership. With regard to Albania, Buda, said that forging an association agreement with Albania now would do more harm than good, because the country's economy and institutions would be unable to cope. He said a formal association agreement is a complicated document and must be ratified by all EU member states. It imposes rights and obligations on both sides, including economic ones. "Albania is basically not ready for a kind of association with the union," he argued. "This would, for instance, mean the prospect of free trade [and] the reduction of customs duties." Buda says the EU already has a comprehensive aid package for Albania in place since 1997 and has developed it further since the Kosova crisis. He says the underdeveloped infrastructure of the country can hardly absorb more aid. Nevertheless, he says the EU is working on a so-called autonomous measure for Albania, "meaning that we are preparing a council regulation which would be adopted and would grant Albania trade preference for instance. The idea for the time being is to upgrade the trade regime." Buda says that the existing EU-Albania cooperation agreement is sparse in its provisions on trade, and Albania does not receive the preferential economic treatment accorded Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose products receive almost duty-free entry into the EU. An envisaged regulation would grant similar trade preferences to Albania and permit duty-free access to the entire EU market for Albanian industrial products and textiles (the Albanian textile industry is considered to have reasonable prospects within the EU). That regulation is to be prepared by May, for subsequent adoption by the EU, and could be ready for implementation by August. Turning to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Buda sees it as more able to cope with some type of association with the EU. Macedonia, he argues, "is comparable with Bulgaria at the time [the latter] got the Europe [association] agreement, so there is certainly an economic ground, a sound basis for an association with FYROM, independent of the political arguing." Buda says Macedonia faces the "classical" transition problems found in the region and is also disadvantaged by heavy dependence on trade and transport links with Serbia, which are now being disrupted. That makes Macedonia harder hit economically than Albania, although it has better organized industrial and agricultural sectors. Buda expects rapid forward movement on some form of association for Macedonia. But he cautioned that this agreement might fall short of the association agreement, known as Europe agreement, currently enjoyed by countries like Bulgaria and Romania. The EU, he stresses, is aware of the impatience among existing candidate countries, which already have been waiting years for membership and doubtless have more years to wait. He argues that "to accept more and more people in the waiting room would create frustration. Buda says current thinking in the EU Executive Commission is that it would be better to create a type of technical association for newcomers, without the perspective of accession as EU members. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent 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. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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