|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 80, Part II, 26 April 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 80, Part II, 26 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 * NATO WELCOMES ASPIRING MEMBERS' EFFORTS * DRASKOVIC TELLS BELGRADE TO 'STOP LYING' * MORE REPORTS OF ATROCITIES IN KOSOVA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE NATO WELCOMES ASPIRING MEMBERS' EFFORTS... At the NATO summit in Washington, the heads of state and government taking part in that meeting issued a communique on 24 April that discussed, among other things, the aspirations of nine Eastern European countries interested in joining the alliance. NATO welcomed the "continuing efforts and progress" in Romania and Slovenia as well as in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. It also hailed the "positive developments" in Bulgaria and "recent positive developments" in Slovakia. With regard to Macedonia, the alliance said it is "grateful" for its cooperation during the Kosova crisis and welcomes its progress on reforms. And it welcomed cooperation with Albania during the current crisis and "encouraged" that country's reform efforts. JC ...OFFERS MEMBERSHIP ACTION PLAN, RATHER THAN TIMETABLE. As had been widely expected, NATO refrained from setting a timetable for a second wave of expansion but pledged to continue to welcome new members, saying that it "expects to extend further invitations in coming years." It also outlined its Membership Action Plan, which is intended to provide "advice, assistance and practical support" to those countries seeking to become members. The plans foresees, among other things, that aspiring members submit "annual national programs" on their membership preparations. It also provides for a "focused and candid feedback mechanism" on those countries' progress in carrying out their programs. According to the communique, the alliance will review the "enlargement process" at its next summit, which is to be held no later than 2002. JC UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT SUCCEEDS IN PASSING ANTI-NATO BILL... Following several failures, the Ukrainian Supreme Council on 23 April finally passed a resolution seeking to limit the country's cooperation with NATO, AP reported. The document condemned NATO's bombing in Yugoslavia as "unjustified and inhumane" and called on President Leonid Kuchma to submit Ukraine's cooperation programs with NATO to the parliament for approval. It added that Ukraine should immediately stop dismantling strategic bombers and nuclear missile silos. Heorhiy Kryuchkov, head of the parliamentary Defense Committee, told Reuters that the adopted bill should "free our foreign policy from its one-sided pro-NATO orientation." JM ...WHILE KUCHMA'S KOSOVA PEACE PLAN GETS 'POLITE BRUSH- OFF' FROM ALLIANCE. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana has given a "polite brush-off" to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's plan to settle the Kosova crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 1999), Reuters reported on 24 April. At a news conference in Washington, Solana hailed Ukraine's "tireless diplomatic efforts" to resolve the crisis but made it clear that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic will have to agree to NATO's five-point plan for ending the conflict. Solana said Russian and Ukrainian troops will be welcome to join a future peacekeeping "robust force" in Kosova, but he stressed that NATO troops should be at that force's core. Kuchma told the news conference that Ukraine's peace efforts are not a "solo performance" and expressed his satisfaction that they are "understood and appreciated by NATO leaders." JM BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION MARKS CHORNOBYL ACCIDENT ANNIVERSARY. Some 7,000 opposition demonstrators rallied in Minsk on 25 April to mark the 13th anniversary of the Chornobyl accident and to protest President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's policies, AP reported. The demonstrators criticized the proposed union between Belarus, Russia, and Yugoslavia and demanded the release of Mikhail Chyhir, a candidate in the opposition presidential elections, who has been arrested on embezzlement charges. JM RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER WINDS UP MINSK VISIT. At a 23 April news conference concluding his three-day visit to Belarus, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said Moscow and Minsk have agreed on creating a joint military grouping, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. He did not elaborate. Sergeev and Lukashenka also made a decision on the assembly of Russian SU-27 military aircraft at Belarusian plants. The previous day, Sergeev visited a missile early warning station under construction at Hantsavichy. He noted that the station is 90-96 percent ready and will begin full operations in 2000. JM POLL SAYS LUKASHENKA HAS MORE OPPONENTS THAN SUPPORTERS. Aleh Manayeu, director of the Independent Institute for Social, Political, and Economic Studies, has said the number of Lukashenka's opponents exceed that of his supporters for the first time since he was elected president in 1994, Belapan reported on 24 April. A March poll showed 21.8 percent of the respondents consider themselves "convinced supporters" of Lukashenka and 26.1 percent "convinced opponents." Meanwhile, a poll taken in Minsk on 17-22 April showed that 54 percent of respondents want presidential elections to be held in 1999, rather than in 2001. The former date is in accordance with the 1994 constitution, which was abolished after the controversial referendum two years later. JM BALTIC PRESIDENTS HAIL SUMMIT'S RESULTS. The three Baltic presidents were unanimous in welcoming the results of the Washington summit. In a statement issued in Washington, Estonia's Lennart Meri expressed the conviction that Estonia will be ready to join NATO in the near future. He also stressed the importance of the Membership Action Plan, ETA reported on 26 April. Latvia's Guntis Ulmanis said that "Latvia commends the summit decision to uphold the "open-door" policy and the Membership Action Plan. In particular, we welcome the fact that this plan will help Latvia become an alliance member," according to LETA. And Lithuania's Valdas Adamkus expressed the view that the results of the summit were "very positive" and constitute "powerful moves forward," ELTA noted. JC BALTIC BOURSES TO STEP UP COOPERATION. The heads of the Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius stock exchanges signed a protocol of intent on 23 April aimed at expanding cooperation, Baltic news agencies reported. That document foresees simplifying cross-border trading in the three stock exchanges and examining the possibility of creating a joint-trading system or merging the current systems electronically. It also aims to create a Baltic joint list of the most attractive securities in the region and to launch cooperation to present the Baltic capital markets as a single investment area. To achieve this last goal, the bourses foresee joint publications, the exchange of bourse materials, and joint projects on the bourses' Internet homepages. JC EU SAYS POLAND MUST SPEED REFORMS FOR EU ENTRY IN 2003. Nikolaus van der Pas, the EU's chief negotiator on enlargement, said in Warsaw on 23 April that Poland needs to accelerate its reforms in order to be able to join the EU at the 1 January 2003 target date, Reuters and AP reported. According to Van der Pas, Poland must first streamline and privatize its heavy industries, reform the overmanned agricultural sector, and speed up the implementation of EU-compatible laws. He noted that Poles and other East European nationals will likely be denied the right to freely seek jobs in the EU for some time. He ruled out allowing Poland to introduce a permanent ban on land sales to foreigners. And he added that Poland will likely be allowed a transition period of four to five years during which it could restrict such sales. JM POLISH RIGHTISTS CREATE ANTI-EU GROUPING. Polish right- wing politicians have established the Polish Accord movement, PAP reported on 24 April. The Polish Accord declaration was signed by politicians from small rightist groups and parties such as the Our Circle and Polish Family parliamentary groups, the National Party, and the All-Poland Youth movement. The signatories want to create an alternative to the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action and intend to transform Polish Accord into a political party. "We are united by our opposition to Poland's accession to the EU," the founding declaration states. Polish Accord pledges to support Polish farmers and producers "threatened" by the process of adapting to EU standards and to defend "Polish ownership against surrender into alien hands." JM HAVEL VOICES STRONG SUPPORT FOR NATO... Czech President Vaclav Havel said at the NATO summit on 24 April that Czechs realize that belonging to NATO is a "major commitment," CTK reported. Havel said that "just as our allies safeguard our security, we safeguard the security of others and assume the same co-responsibility for peace in the world that the alliance accepts as a whole." Havel was heading the Czech delegation that attended the summit. Czech Premier Milos Zeman said Havel was the right man for that role because "he had greatly contributed to NATO enlargement." In the latest poll, only one-third of Czech respondents said they approved of the NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia. Some 48 percent were against them. PB ...WHILE CZECH PREMIER DOESN'T. Zeman said on 24 April that the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) should be disarmed and NATO should get approval from the UN Security Council for the alliance's military operation against Yugoslavia, CTK reported. Zeman said in Kladno that the conflict in Yugoslavia "isn't a war of good guys against bad guys. There is a serious suspicion that the UCK is linked with narcomafia [sic]...it, too, commits terrorist acts." He added that the Czech government, while respecting NATO obligations, wants to keep a "differentiated attitude" toward the conflict. Zeman concluded that "I am not among those who soothe their adolescent complex by applauding bombs falling on Belgrade." PB SLOVAK PREMIER SAYS NATO DOORS ARE OPEN. Mikulas Dzurinda said in Washington on 25 April that the results of the NATO summit show the alliance is willing to accept new members, TASR reported. Dzurinda said he believes Bratislava has as good a chance as the rest of the prospective members of joining NATO. He added that Slovakia acts as a "de facto ally" for NATO. Defense Minister Eduard Kukan held talks on 24 April with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who told Kukan that Slovakia is presenting itself as a "reliable partner" for NATO during the crisis. Kukan said the following day that Slovakia will include criteria for NATO admission in its national program, including all the measures mentioned in NATO's Membership Action Plan. Kukan spoke later with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. PB SLOVAK PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES OUTLINE GOALS. In a debate on Radio Twist on 25 April, Kosice Mayor Rudolf Schuster and former President Michal Kovac outlined the agendas they would follow if elected president, TASR reported. Schuster said he would work hard to overcome the years of isolation that Slovakia experienced under former Premier Vladimir Meciar, who is also a candidate. Schuster noted that he would also strive to resolve the differences between the ruling coalition and the opposition because the bickering has "divided" the population. For his part, Kovac said he would focus on regional development, decentralization, the stabilizing of a legal state, and the investigation of crime-- including white-collar crime. Both candidates said it is necessary to ratify a language law for ethnic minorities. The MVK agency said on 24 April that if the election were held now, Schuster would get 31 percent of the vote and Meciar 24 percent. Kovac polled only 6.7 percent (fifth place). PB HUNGARIAN PREMIER SATISFIED WITH NATO SUMMIT. Viktor Orban said on 25 April that Hungary's delegation successfully presented its interests at the NATO Washington summit, Hungarian Television reported. Orban said the most important objective was to raise the awareness level of Vojvodina, saying "the Vojvodina Hungarians cannot be forgotten. [They] are the last ethnic minority in Yugoslavia that has not been reached by [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic's ethnic cleansing." He said this issue is not a "Hungarian issue, but a NATO issue." There are some 300,000 ethnic Hungarians living in Yugoslavia's northern province. Orban said he was also pleased by the fact that the closing NATO statement mentioned Slovakia as a serious candidate for the next round of NATO expansion. PB SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE DRASKOVIC TELLS BELGRADE TO 'STOP LYING.' Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic told Belgrade's non- government Studio B Television on 25 April that "the men running this country" must stop "lying to the people" about the current conflict with NATO and its likely outcome. He took issue with the optimistic line espoused by top Belgrade officials, saying that "the people should be told that NATO is not facing a breakdown, that Russia will not help Yugoslavia militarily and that the world public opinion is against us." Draskovic added that "if some forces and individuals in Serbia say we...must defeat the whole world, not only NATO, the Serbian people should tell them 'no.' The people who lead this country must say clearly where we stand. They must make clear what will be left of Serbia in 20 days if the bombing continues," AP quoted him as saying. PM WHAT LIES BEHIND HIS REMARKS? The BBC on 26 April quoted Draskovic as saying his remarks were not directed against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Observers noted that Draskovic has sometimes publicly taken issue with the views of hard-line Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj. But Draskovic's statement is the clearest indication to date of differences within the Serbian leadership. On 24 April, the BBC reported that persistent but unconfirmed reports suggest that several top Yugoslav army generals are under house arrest in Belgrade. Recently, NATO officials have mentioned there is unspecified evidence of growing splits within the Serbian leadership. PM NATO PLEDGES BACKING FOR BALKAN STABILITY. Leaders of NATO's 19 member states devoted much of their time at the Washington summit to the crisis in Kosova and its ramifications for the region as a whole (see also above). On 25 April, NATO leaders told their counterparts from Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, and Slovenia that the alliance is committed to a long-term program for regional stability. Earlier, NATO leaders discussed among themselves the possibility of cutting off oil supplies to Serbia at sea as well as how to engage Russia in the peace process. Observers noted that the regional stability plan, if fleshed out and put into effect, would be the first such international undertaking for Southeastern Europe as a region. PM CLINTON WARNS SERBIA. U.S. President Bill Clinton said in Washington on 25 April that "the nations of the region have risked and even faced armed confrontation with Serbia by facilitating and supporting our campaign to end the bloodshed... If Belgrade challenges its neighbors as a result of the presence of NATO, we will respond." NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana added that "the NATO allies are grateful for the support which countries in the region have provided. Such solidarity and support of the international community's objectives...is a sure sign of our eventual success." Observers pointed out that NATO officials did not indicate whether they had discussed the possibility of sending ground troops into Kosova. PM DRNOVSEK UPBEAT ON NATO... Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek said in Washington on 25 April that he is confident that his country will be the "first candidate" for NATO membership when the alliance decides to admit the next group of applicants, AP reported. He argued that his country has "behaved more like a NATO ally" than as merely a member of the Partnership for Peace Program throughout the current crisis. Drnovsek added that Slovenia will support any NATO oil embargo against Belgrade. He called for sending a UN force "to stabilize the region" but did not elaborate. Drnovsek argued that Milosevic "miscalculated badly" by not accepting the Rambouillet plan in March. The Slovenian leader added that Milosevic probably assumed that NATO countries would not be able to maintain a united front against him for very long. The Zagreb daily "Vecernji list" reported on 26 April that Drnovsek called for Croatia to be admitted to the Partnership for Peace program but that Solana said Croatia is not yet ready. PM ...BUT GLIGOROV IS BITTER. Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov said in Washington on 25 April that he is disappointed that NATO officials have not invited his country to join the alliance and instead "put it in last place." He charged that NATO has not shown appreciation for the efforts Macedonia has made to meet the demands that the alliance has placed upon it in the course of the current crisis, AP reported. Gligorov said that Western countries should contribute more money for refugee relief and take more refugees out of the region. He stressed that "NATO cannot expect Southeastern Europe to change [from] an economic, political and social point of view unless a helping hand is extended to this region. I believe this is the best response to the super nationalism which has reigned in this area," Gligorov concluded. PM MORE REPORTS OF ATROCITIES IN KOSOVA. A spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told Reuters in Blace, Macedonia, on 25 April that Serbian paramilitaries killed some 56 Kosovars north of Ferizaj in mid-April. He added that persistent but unconfirmed reports by refugees indicate that the Serbian forces regularly engage in rape and robbery as part of their policy of ethnic cleansing. A prosecutor for the Hague- based war crimes tribunal told AP in Brazda that Serbian forces have set up rape camps at Gjakova, Peja, and an unspecified arms factory. She stressed that Serbian forces use systematic rape to accelerate the process of ethnic cleansing. A refugee woman added that the Serbs use rape in order to destroy the foundations of ethnic Albanian society. The previous day, the BBC reported that Serbian forces used Yugoslav army trucks to remove televisions and stereos from abandoned homes in southern Kosova. PM CLARK SAYS AIR CAMPAIGN 'RIGHT ON SCHEDULE.' General Wesley Clark, who is NATO's supreme commander in Europe, said in Tirana on 25 April that the bombing campaign against Serbian forces is advancing "right on schedule" and that Milosevic knows he is losing the war, Reuters reported. Clark visited support troops preparing the deployment of 24 Apache helicopters, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. The general said that NATO does not plan a ground invasion of Kosova. A spokesman for Albanian President Rexhep Meidani told RFE/RL the same day in Tirana that U.S. officials in Washington assured him of support in the event of a military confrontation with Yugoslavia. The previous day, Pentagon officials in Washington told dpa they will increase the number of U.S. forces in Albania by 2,000 to 5,300. The additional troops will be responsible for ground security for helicopters and missile batteries. FS UCK OFFERS TO LEAD GROUND INVASION. A spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) said at a press conference in Kukes on 25 April that the guerrillas are willing to lead a NATO ground offensive against Serbian forces in Kosova. The BBC quoted the spokesman as saying that the UCK holds areas in northern Kosova and has established a corridor linking those areas with Albania. According to Reuters, however, he stressed that "we are short of weapons, food and other supplies...and we are fighting an army of 40,000 Serbian police and paramilitaries." The spokesman also reported that the Serbian authorities have turned Kosova into "one big concentration camp...with killings, massacres and rapes." He added that the UCK has unspecified new evidence of mass killings of 61 people in the village of Poklek, 51 in Koliq, and more than 160 in the Izbica district of Skenderaj. He gave no further details. FS YUGOSLAV ARMY HARASSES JOURNALISTS IN MONTENEGRO. Miodrag Perovic, who heads the independent weekly "Monitor" and Antenna M Radio, said in Podgorica on 25 April that he is going into hiding to avoid capture and possible torture by the Yugoslav army. He added that his magazine and radio will stop work rather than submit to military censorship. Radio Free Montenegro's editor Nebojsa Redzic is also in hiding, Reuters reported. The army has issued arrest warrants against both men. The army is holding one Croatian and two French journalists on espionage charges. PM PRIVATIZATION BEGINS IN BOSNIA. Bosnian and international officials attended a ceremony in Sarajevo on 23 April to mark the issuing of the first privatization vouchers to some of Bosnia's 1.9 million citizens, Reuters reported. The vouchers represent compensation for frozen pre-war bank accounts as well as unpaid wages and pensions. The total value of assets to be privatized in the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation is $26 billion. Representatives of the international community stressed that the project is essential to revive the Bosnian economy and encourage the war-torn country to stand on its own feet and avoid becoming dependent on foreign aid. PM CROATIAN BANKS SAVE TISAK. Government officials brokered a deal in Zagreb on 23 April according to which five banks will bail out Tisak, the company that has a near monopoly on the distribution of newspapers. The banks will have a controlling stake in Tisak as part of the $16.5 million deal. Elsewhere, "Vecernji list" reported on 26 April that the Croatian Company for Pension Insurance faces major financial difficulties. PM ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SUPPORTS POSSIBLE OIL EMBARGO AGAINST BELGRADE. Andrei Plesu said on 24 April in Washington that although Bucharest supports the NATO proposal to impose an oil embargo against Yugoslavia, Romania should be reimbursed for the resulting losses it would suffer, Rompres reported. Plesu said Romania could join NATO in the "strategic efforts" of setting up the embargo. Since Hungary and Bulgaria have also said they would abide by such an embargo, only shipments to Montenegro would be left as a route for Russian deliveries of oil, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Premier Radu Vasile said the previous day that the first month of the bombing campaign against Yugoslavia has cost Romania some $730 million. A report outlining these costs has been sent to the World Bank and the IMF. Romanian President Emil Constantinescu, who was also in Washington for the NATO summit, called for a broad reconstruction of southeastern Europe and "not just the war zone." PB BULGARIAN PRESIDENT ALSO BACKS POSSIBLE OIL EMBARGO. Petar Stoyanov said on 24 April that Bulgaria fully supports the possible oil embargo against Yugoslavia, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. Stoyanov said "not a single drop of oil will go through Bulgaria on its way to Yugoslavia." He said Bulgaria anticipated the call for the embargo and has already closed oil pipelines to Yugoslavia. Stoyanov repeated that Bulgaria suffered immense financial losses each day that the conflict continued and appealed to the EU and the U.S. for government-backed investment in Bulgaria. He also said Sofia hoped for fast and early accession to NATO in return for its support of the alliance. On 23 April, a Bulgarian customs patrol intercepted a Ukrainian ship attempting to smuggle in fuel near the town of Ruse. PB NATO PLANES VIOLATE BULGARIAN AIR SPACE. Two NATO fighter planes reportedly violated Bulgarian air space on 24 April, BTA reported. The planes flew over the town of Tran, some 30 kilometers inside Bulgaria before heading toward Macedonia. The Bulgarian government has said it will allow NATO planes to fly within a corridor along the country's western border, but the decision is not valid until the parliament approves it. A parliamentary debate and vote on the issue is expected early this week. Meanwhile, both pro- and anti-NATO protests took place in Sofia on 25 April. 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