|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 84, Part II, 30 April 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 84, Part II, 30 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 * BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LAYS DOWN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION PROCEDURE * 'ETHNIC CLEANSING' UNDER WAY IN MONTENEGRO * EU OIL BAN GOES INTO EFFECT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LAYS DOWN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION PROCEDURE. Belarus's opposition Central Electoral Commission, which is organizing presidential elections in accordance with the 1994 constitution, has adopted procedures for that ballot, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 29 April. Since the authorities have refused to provide polling stations for the elections, the central commission ordered local electoral commission representatives to visit voters' homes with ballot boxes. Voting will take place from 6-16 May. In adopting such a resolution, the commission said it took into account Article 32 of the presidential election law, which allows ballots to be cast at voters' homes if voters cannot visit polling stations because of "health reasons or other valid causes." Commission secretary Barys Hyunter commented to RFE/RL that the voting procedure is "irreproachably" in accordance with the country's legislation. JM KUCHMA CONFIDENT OF ELECTION VICTORY. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said in Khmelnytskyy on 29 April that he is convinced of his victory in the presidential elections on 31 October, Ukrainian Television reported. He added that his main election rival is the economic situation in Ukraine but noted that he knows what measures to take. According to the president, Ukraine's economic troubles are due to the fact that the country "has not renounced Communist ideology." Kuchma said Ukraine's power structure determined by the constitution is ineffectual and should be changed "with the help of the people." Kuchma also criticized the parliament for its inefficiency, saying that lawmakers lack the "political will to take resolute steps" and continue to "battle with the executive." JM UKRAINIAN BANKS PROTEST DISCLOSING CUSTOMER DATA. Along with eight business organizations and trade unions, the Association of Ukrainian Banks have issued a statement protesting a new regulation whereby commercial banks are to provide information to the tax authorities about some of their accounts, AP reported on 29 April. Under that regulation, Ukrainian banks will be asked to disclose transaction records and other information on the accounts of individuals and companies suspected of tax evasion. The protest statement says that tax officials want information that has "nothing to do with taxation" and that this violates "citizens' legal rights to conduct business." JM ESTONIA'S INTERIOR MINISTER CALLS CITIZENSHIP POLICY 'TOO INFLEXIBLE.' Writing in "Eesti Paevaleht" on 29 April, Juri Mois of the coalition Fatherland Union argued that Estonian policy vis-a-vis its non-citizens has been "too inflexible" and should be changed, ETA reported. "The state should be braver in making exceptions in the granting of citizenship and at the same time make the status of alien in Estonia more attractive," he commented. Pointing to the country's low birth rate, Mois argued that it would be expedient from the point of view of national interests, including with regard to foreign investment, to ease legislation on restricting immigration. And he stressed that Estonia's national interests also require that non-citizens "be given a clear message that they are in every way personae gratae in our country." JC LATVIAN PARLIAMENT RE-ELECTS KAMALDINS... Lawmakers on 29 April voted to re-elect Lainis Kamaldins as director of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, LETA reported. In the secret ballot, 68 of the 91 deputies present voted for him to continue in office. Kamaldins was at the center of a controversy last month when he suggested that Latvian Jews may have been involved in the 1998 bombing of the Riga synagogue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 1999). JC ...SACKS TELECOMMUNICATIONS TARIFFS COUNCIL. Also on 29 April, the parliament voted to dismiss the Telecommunications Tariffs Council and appoint a new council within one month, according to LETA. A parliamentary commission had argued in favor of such a move saying that the council's work is "incompatible" with the interests of the state and taxpayers. In January, the council had approved increased telephone charges that were later revoked by Transportation Minister Anatolijs Gorbunovs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January and 7 April 1999). Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans, meanwhile, has said he will ask legal experts to determine whether the parliament's move is in keeping with the constitution. JC LANDSBERGIS AT ODDS WITH CONSERVATIVES OVER STATEMENT BACKING PREMIER. Lithuanian parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, speaking to journalists on 29 April, said he has informed President Valdas Adamkus that he does not concur with all points of the Conservatives' statement backing Premier Gediminas Vagnorius amid his ongoing dispute with the president, ELTA reported. The previous day, the parliamentary group of the Conservative Party had issued that statement, in which the deputies also made clear that they will not take part in a new government if the president is involved in its formation. Such a minority government, the Conservatives argued, would be the "president's government." Landsbergis had been in Sofia on 28 April attending a meeting of parliamentary chairmen of EU associate member countries. Meanwhile, Vagnorius is expected to make a statement on 30 April in response to Adamkus's expression of no confidence in him. JC POLISH RIGHTISTS DEMAND FIVE DEPUTIES BE SUBJECT TO LUSTRATION. Michal Janiszewski, a parliamentary deputy and a member of the right-wing Confederation for an Independent Poland--Homeland (KPN--0), has asked the lustration prosecutor to examine the cases of five prominent parliamentary deputies: Leszek Miller, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Jerzy Jaskiernia, Jacek Piechota (all members of the Democratic Left Alliance), and Jerzy Osiatynski of the Freedom Union. According to Janiszewski, there are grounds to believe that they collaborated with the communist-era special services. Miller and Cimoszewicz said on 29 April that the charges are "groundless and false." Earlier, another KPN--O member, Tomasz Karwowski, asked the lustration prosecutor to examine whether Premier Jerzy Buzek had been a communist-era collaborator. JM POLISH TROOPS' DEPARTURE FOR ALBANIA DELAYED. The departure of 140 Polish troops to Albania, scheduled to take place on 29 April, has been delayed, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported. The soldiers were due to travel to Italy by train and proceed by ferry to Albania. Defense Ministry spokesman Leszek Laszczyk said that it turned out "at the very last moment" that the Polish troops must have permission from the Hungarian parliament to transit Hungary. Poland has received such permission from the Hungarian government, but under the Hungarian Constitution, the transit of foreign troops through Hungary requires parliamentary approval. JM CZECH AMBASSADOR TO EU REJECTS CALLS FOR ABOLISHING BENES DECREES. Josef Kreuter said in Brussels on 29 April that the European Parliament's resolution calling for the abrogation of the Benes decrees is "deplorable," CTK reported. Kreuter said it is impossible to "tear things out of their concrete historical context." He said the expulsion of ethnic groups, including some 2.5 million Germans, from Czechoslovakia after World War II was discussed at the Potsdam conference in 1945 and that the confiscation of property was approved by the Paris conference one year later. Kreuter also dismissed a statement by Germany's European Parliament deputy Hartmut Nassauer that the issue of the Benes decrees would be reviewed during EU accession talks. Some members of the Czech Constitutional Court said recently advocated that the decrees be abrogated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 1999). PB CZECH, SLOVAK PREMIERS AGREE ON DIVISION OF PROPERTY. Czech Premier Milos Zeman and his Slovak counterpart, Mikulas Dzurinda, said on 29 April that they have tentatively agreed to sign an agreement on the controversial division of Czechoslovak assets, TASR reported. The two made the announcement after meeting in the Czech town of Uherske Hradiste. They refused to reveal details of the possible settlement, though Dzurinda said Zeman presented a new alternative to the long-standing dispute. They said the agreement could be signed in Prague on 23-24 September or 7-8 October. In other news, Czech President Vaclav Havel said in an address to a joint session of the Canadian parliament in Ottawa that human rights take precedence over state rights. He said the campaign against Yugoslavia is being conducted in defense of humanitarian values. PB POLISH OFFICIAL WANTS SLOVAKIA IN EU'S FAST TRACK. Jan Kulakowski, Poland's chief negotiator in EU accession talks, said in Bratislava on 29 April that Slovakia, Latvia, and Lithuania should definitely be added to the list of fast track candidates for EU membership, CTK reported. Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda told Kulakowski that Slovakia is indebted to Poland for its support at the recent NATO summit in Washington. "Slovakia does not owe us anything. This is our solidarity," Kulakowski responded. In other news, two presidential candidates, front-runner Rudolf Schuster and Magda Vasaryova were involved in separate minor traffic accidents on 29 April. Neither was injured. The official presidential campaign kicks off on 30 April and ends two days before the 15 May vote. The Radio and Television Broadcasting Council will monitor all news programs on state channels as well as on the private stations TV Markiza and VTV to ensure balance and fairness, TASR reported. PB ORBAN TELLS PARLIAMENT HUNGARY IS SAFE. Prime Minister Viktor Orban told the parliament on 29 April that Hungarians "could not be more secure than we are now," Hungarian Television reported. Orban said it is not surprising that "citizens of Hungary, especially those living in the area of the southern frontier, are worried about the NATO strikes." But he said that when the air campaign began, "we were not lonely and helpless but enjoyed equal membership with the strongest military alliance in the world." Laszlo Kovacs, the chairman of the opposition Hungarian Socialist Party, said it is important for the government to "clearly disassociate itself from all border modification proposals and territorial claims." Istvan Csurka, head of the nationalist Hungarian Justice and Life Party, has recently made several irredentist proposals in connection with the ethnic Hungarian population in Vojvodina. PB SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE 'ETHNIC CLEANSING' UNDER WAY IN MONTENEGRO. The Yugoslav army has begun ordering the mainly Muslim inhabitants to leave a 5 mile (8 kilometer) wide swathe of territory between Rozaje and the Kosovar border, "The Daily Telegraph" reported on 30 April. The ethnic cleansing operation, which is apparently aimed at depriving the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) of places to regroup and hide, has strained relations between the army and the population of Rozaje. The Muslim mayor said the "relationship between the town and the army is like a thread. It can easily break at any time." Some Kosovar refugees, who fled to the Rozaje area one month ago, told the London-based daily that men in Yugoslav army uniforms recently forced their way into some homes in the Rozaje area, robbed the Kosovars staying there, and ordered them to leave. Some refugees said they want the Montenegrin police to protect them. Others charged that "there is no safe place in Montenegro," adding that they want to go to Albania. PM MILOSEVIC'S ALLIES BREAK UP MONTENEGRIN 'PEACE TALKS.' Representatives of the Socialist People's Party (SNP) walked out of talks in Podgorica on 29 April aimed at preserving domestic peace and avoiding a civil war between supporters and opponents of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. SNP deputy leader Predrag Bulatovic charged that the Montenegrin government of President Milo Djukanovic, who opposes Milosevic, is "obstructing the Yugoslav Army and treating Montenegro like a separate state." It is unclear what prompted the walk-out. Djukanovic has often said he fears that Milosevic will use the conflict in Kosova as a pretext to stage a putsch in Podgorica. PM EU OIL BAN GOES INTO EFFECT. The EU's ban on oil shipments to Yugoslavia has gone into effect, an EU spokesman said in Brussels on 30 April. The previous day, a NATO spokesman noted that efforts on enforcing the ban will center on stopping ships at sea. He stressed that the Atlantic alliance does not plan to attack oil pumping or storage facilities in Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The governments of some 15 non-member countries have announced that they will respect the ban. They are Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Cyprus. PM NATO COMPLETES 600TH SORTIE AGAINST YUGOSLAVIA. A spokesman for the Atlantic alliance said in Brussels on 30 April that "NATO forces" struck a variety of targets in Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia the previous night, including two buildings belonging to the Ministry of Defense. The spokesman called the offices "the brains that guide the operations" in Kosova. In Geneva, Mary Robinson, who is the UN's top official for human rights, said that "unless diplomacy succeeds, [Kosova] will be thoroughly cleansed of Albanians, while Serbs will...be bombed without end. There must be a better way." In Belgrade, U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said that "until there's a diplomatic breakthrough, the bombing will escalate and will expand." He met with Orthodox Patriarch Pavle as part of a mission that Jackson hopes will lead to the release of three U.S. soldiers, whom Serbian forces captured just inside Macedonia on 31 March. PM SERBIAN TELEVISON BACK ON AIR. The overnight air strike also hit a television transmitter near Belgrade. The Serbian authorities quickly repaired the damage, and state-run Radio- Television Serbia (RTS) was soon back on the air with a limited offering of news and patriotic videos. Observers noted that several recent NATO air strikes hit either the studios or transmitters of RTS and that the authorities quickly resumed broadcasting. RTS is nicknamed "Milosevision" and is the government's main mouthpiece. PM AID ORGANIZATIONS REPORT ALBANIAN 'LOGISTICAL NIGHTMARE.' A spokesman for the aid organization Concern Worldwide told AP on 29 April that humanitarian aid deliveries to northern Albania are a "logistical nightmare." He said that in recent weeks there were cases of muggings and harassment of refugees by locals, petty theft of relief supplies, and occasional cases of armed robbery, especially in the Tropoja region. He stressed that aid organizations must cope with bad roads and heavy, slow traffic, a virtually non-existent telephone network in the north, and disputes with district officials and landowners. UNHCR spokesman Ray Wilkinson said that "you're in Europe but in some ways you're at the end of the world." A spokesman for the Irish relief agency Goal complained about police harassing truck drivers, ostensibly because they lacked necessary documentation for their goods. Observers, however, noted that the police controls are intended to prevent theft of aid supplies. FS MILO INVITES RUGOVA TO TIRANA. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo, speaking to journalists in Tirana on 29 April, called on the Yugoslav authorities to release Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova and allow him to travel to Albania with his family, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 1999). Milo said he has no means of contacting Rugova directly, adding that the Yugoslav authorities will not allow him to leave Kosova. Milo said the Albanian leadership wants Rugova to come to discuss joint strategies with other prominent political figures from Kosova and Albania. FS ALBANIA HOPES FOR QUICK EU ASSOCIATION. Milo told Reuters in Tirana on 29 April that in Luxembourg earlier this week, EU officials promised him that they will sign an EU association accord with Tirana "very soon." The foreign minister expressed the hope that his country will become a full member in "about 10 years." He acknowledged that Albania must first meet numerous membership requirements and stability must be restored in the Balkans before his country can join the EU. In Bonn, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder encouraged Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko to work toward membership in both NATO and the EU. He added that Albania deserves "generous assistance" to maintain its internal stability following the influx of more than 350,000 refugees, which amounts to about 15 percent of the country's total population. Schroeder added that "Albania's political leadership has acted in an extremely responsible manner in this very difficult crisis situation." FS WESTENDORP FIRES TUZLA SECURITY CHIEF. The international community's Carlos Westendorp on 29 April removed Ferid Hodzic as head of security in Tuzla because he "failed to support rule of law." Hodzic reportedly tried to obstruct investigations of charges of fraud, corruption, and racketeering against several senior officials in Tuzla, AP reported. Corruption linking the government, the military, and criminal structures remains endemic throughout Bosnia- Herzegovina. Elsewhere, a spokesman for Westendorp refused to confirm or deny reports in the Bosnian Serb media to the effect that Westendorp plans to leave his job and return to Spain in June, "Oslobodjenje" reported. The spokesman added that it is an "open secret" that his boss will leave his post this summer, but he noted that Westendorp has not yet set a date. PM ROMANIA AGREES TO OIL EMBARGO. The Romanian government announced on 29 April that it will observe an EU-approved fuel embargo against Yugoslavia, AP reported. A government spokeswoman said the embargo will begin next week. The decision comes on the heels of a Bulgarian report that Serbian tankers are carrying crude oil to Romanian refineries and returning with fuel. Valentina Yonova, chief of customs at Bulgaria's Danube port of Vidin, said two Serbian captains have acknowledged that their barges were carrying crude oil to Romania for processing. There was no immediate comment from Romanian officials on the report. PB FOUR KURDS IN POSSESSION OF EXPLOSIVES ARRESTED IN ROMANIA. Four Kurdish men were arrested in Bucharest after police found bomb-making materials and false passports in an apartment, Rompres reported on 29 April. They were charged with possession of explosives and illegally entering the country. They will be detained for one month while an investigation continues, the Interior Ministry said. Interior Minister Dudu Ionescu said police are investigating whether there was any connection to the visit of Pope John Paul II to Bucharest on 7-9 May. Some 4,000 Kurds live in Romania, and Turkey suspects that many of them are activists of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party. PB NATO ADMITS MISSILE CAME FROM ITS WARPLANE... NATO officials in Brussels said on 29 April that a missile that destroyed a home in a Sofia suburb was mistakenly fired by one of their planes, AP reported. U.S. Army Major-General Henry Kievenaar met with Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov to express the alliance's "deep regret on the missile incident." Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev said "there hasn't been such a drastic violation of our air space so far." Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova said that if NATO pilots are having trouble orienting themselves when air-borne, Bulgaria could use lights to mark its western border. Konstantin Varbenov, the man whose home was destroyed in the incident, said that despite his loss, "we better lend NATO our air space. You see what happens even without our consent. I want the war to end as soon as possible." PB ...AS AGREEMENT ON AIR SPACE IS SENT TO PARLIAMENT. The Bulgarian government on 29 April approved a draft accord allowing NATO planes to use a limited zone of its air space to conduct raids against neighboring Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. NATO and Bulgarian officials have been working out the details of that agreement and the security guarantees NATO will give Bulgaria in exchange for the air space rights. The accord would allow NATO planes to fly in a 130-170 kilometer-wide strip along the border with Yugoslavia as well as in a 20 kilometer-wide corridor along its southern border with Turkey. The opposition Socialist Party and other parliamentary groups are strongly opposed to the accord. PB xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. 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