Miracles are natural. When they do not occur, something has gone wrong. - A Course in Miracles
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 88, Part II, 6 May 1999


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 88, Part II, 6 May 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

* VOTING STARTS IN OPPOSITION PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN
BELARUS

* MYSTERY SURROUNDS RUGOVA'S ARRIVAL IN ROME

* MACEDONIA CLOSES BORDER TO KOSOVARS

End Note: EU, EAST EUROPEAN CANDIDATES REVIEW PROGRESS
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

VOTING STARTS IN OPPOSITION PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN
BELARUS. In a bid to challenge the authoritarian regime of
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the Belarusian opposition on
6 May launched a 10-day voting process in the presidential
elections. The elections were scheduled by the Supreme
Soviet, Belarus's parliament that was dissolved by Lukashenka
after the 1996 controversial referendum which has not been
recognized by most European countries. Unable to organize the
ballot at stationary polling stations on a single day, the
Central Electoral Commission resolved to hold voting at
voters' homes from 6-16 May. The candidates in the elections
are Zyanon Paznyak, exiled leader of the Belarusian Popular
Front, and former Premier Mikhail Chyhir, now jailed by the
authorities on charges of "grand larceny." According to the
abolished 1994 constitution, to which the opposition remains
loyal, Lukashenka's term in office expires on 20 July 1999.
JM

MINSK VENDORS PROTEST GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWN ON PRIVATE TRADE.
Some 2,000 private vendors began a two-day "sitting strike"
at the Minsk "Dynama" market on 5 May to protest the
crackdown by the police and tax inspectors on small trade in
Belarus, Belapan and AP reported. According to the
protesters, Lukashenka's decrees on "protecting the consumer
market" and on "regulating economic relations" are being used
by the authorities for confiscating goods without quality
certificates from private traders and subsequently selling
them in state-run shops in an attempt to replenish the state
budget. Lukashenka's regulations allow authorities to sell
confiscated goods without the quality certificates that are
required from vendors at city markets. "The situation of
traders at city markets is on the verge of an explosion," the
protesters said in a letter to the government. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT OVERRIDES KUCHMA'S VETO ON VETERANS'
BENEFITS. The Supreme Council voted 11 times on 5 May to
override President Leonid Kuchma's veto of a bill providing
for a special pay to World War II veterans, AP reported. The
parliament finally voted by 303 to 11 to approve annual
payments to veterans ranging from 41 to 162 hryvni ($12-$41),
in addition to the veterans' current pensions. Kuchma vetoed
the bill in December, arguing that the budget does not
include the 340 million hryvni needed to cover the additional
payments. Communist parliamentary deputies also sought to
override Kuchma's veto on increasing the monthly minimum
pension from 16.6 hryvni to 55 hryvni. After failing to do
this, the parliament re-approved its initial bill. In order
to block the pension increase Kuchma will have to impose a
new veto. JM

GERMAN OFFICIAL SAYS NO MONEY TO UKRAINE BEFORE IT REPAYS
DEBT. Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber said in Kyiv on
5 May that Germany will not lend Ukraine any more money until
it repays a German loan for the construction of a chemical
plant, Interfax reported. Germany has extended a credit line
for Ukrainian industry, including a loan of DM 22 million
($12 million) for the Oriana chemical plant in Kalush, Ivano-
Frankivsk Oblast. Ukrainian Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko
assured Stoiber that Ukraine will repay the debt by resorting
to "social welfare funds," the agency reported. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DENIES BEING 'ENEMY OF THE PRESS.'
Kuchma's press secretary Oleksandr Martynenko said on 5 May
that the Ukrainian president may file suit against the U.S.
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) for calling him an
"enemy of the press" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 1999),
Interfax reported. In addition, Kuchma intends to send a
letter to the CPJ refuting the "inaccurate information" on
whose basis he was included on the CPJ's list of the 10
biggest oppressors of the press. According to Martynenko, the
parliament, not the president, is responsible for tax
policies in Ukraine, therefore Kuchma cannot be accused of
using those policies as "instruments of his hostility toward
journalists." JM

INTERNATIONAL AGENCY REAFFIRMS LATVIA'S CREDIT RATING.
Standard & Poor's has reaffirmed its credit rating for Latvia
as BBB, which indicates a favorable environment for
investment, LETA reported on 6 May, citing a press statement
released by the rating agency. The same rating has been
granted to Latvia's eurobond issue worth some $160 million
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 1999). The statement says that
despite the impact of the Russian crisis and the resulting
decrease in GDP growth, market reform and the development of
the private sector are proceeding "successfully" in Latvia.
At the same time, the agency notes that problems in the
banking sector and the current-account trade deficit could
have a negative impact on Latvia's credit rating. JC

LITHUANIAN ACTING PREMIER SAYS SHE DOESN'T WANT THE JOB.
"Lietuvos Rytas" on 5 May quoted acting Premier Irene
Degutiene of the ruling Conservative Party as saying she is
not qualified to hold the position permanently. "I took the
prime minister's post temporarily.... I still lack the skills
to take on such duties [permanently]," she told the
newspaper. On appointing Degutiene as caretaker prime
minister, Adamkus called her a "capable administrator."
Meanwhile, Algirdas Saudargas, foreign minister and leader of
the junior coalition Christian Democrats, told journalists
that his party will agree to hold cabinet posts "in
proportion to the number of seats it holds in the
parliament." He rejected the suggestion of a Christian
Democrat premier, saying that this would be a "qualitatively
unproportional share of responsibility [that] the Christian
Democrats do not intend to shoulder." JC

LUSTRATION PROSECUTOR DROPS INVESTIGATION INTO POLISH
PREMIER. Boguslaw Nizienski said on 5 May that he has found
no evidence to support allegations that Prime Minister Jerzy
Buzek collaborated with the communist-era secret services,
Polish media reported. The allegations had been made by
parliamentary deputy Tomasz Karwowski of the rightist
Confederation for an Independent Poland-Homeland (KPN-O) (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1999). Karwowski said he will
appeal Nizenski's decision. "It seems we are dealing with
attempted manipulation, an attempt at concealing the need for
an honest lustration process in Poland," PAP quoted KPN-O
leader Adam Slomka as saying. JM

POLAND, NORWAY AGREE TO BUILD GAS PIPELINE. Premier Buzek and
his Norwegian counterpart, Kjell Magne Bondevik, have signed
a declaration of intent on building a gas pipeline from
Norway to Poland, PAP reported on 5 May. The new pipeline
will be built on the bed of the Baltic Sea and subsequently
via either Sweden or the Danish Straits. It will carry some
3-4 billion cubic meters of gas annually and limit Poland's
dependence on Russian gas supplies. Earlier the same day,
both premiers signed a deal on Norwegian gas supplies via
Germany from 2001-2006. Those supplies will total 500 million
cubic meters annually. JM

POLAND'S RADICAL FARMERS HOLD CONGRESS. Some 2,000 people
attended a congress of the radical farmers' union Self-
Defense in Warsaw on 5 May. Andrzej Lepper, the organizer of
road blockades during the farmers' protests in February, was
unanimously re-elected chairman of the union. Lepper said
Self-Defense demands that the government introduce higher
prices on domestic agricultural products, make timely
payments for agricultural supplies, impose a moratorium on
farmers' debts, and protect the domestic market against the
"uncontrolled" import of agricultural products, "Gazeta
Wyborcza" reported on 6 May. Lepper did not rule out that
Self-Defense will turn into a political force competing in
general and local elections. JM

KLAUS SAYS GRAND COALITION UNLIKELY. Czech parliamentary
speaker and Civic Democratic Party (ODS) leader Vaclav Klaus
said that a grand coalition between the ODS and the ruling
Social Democrats would be a solution only for an "extreme
situation," CTK reported. Klaus made his comments in response
to ODS deputy chairman Miroslav Macek's statement, published
in the daily "Hospodarske noviny" on 5 May, that such a
coalition would be the best solution to the current economic
and political situation in the Czech Republic. Klaus said
Macek always speaks in "an extreme and pointed way" and that
he was expressing his personal opinion, not that of the ODS.
Freedom Union leader Jan Ruml said he would prefer a
coalition of right-center parties, adding that his party is
willing to hold talks on the subject. PB

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER BACKS SLOVAKIA JOINING NATO. Vladimir
Vetchy said at a military arms fair in Brno on 5 May that
Slovakia's admission to NATO is in the interests of the Czech
Republic, CTK reported. Vetchy said Prague has "above average
relations" with its eastern neighbors. He said that the Czech
and Slovak armies should cooperate more in the future,
particularly in efforts to modernize military equipment.
Slovak Defense Minister Pavol Kanis said that he hopes
Slovakia will become a NATO member in "two or three years."
PB

CHIRAC BACKS SLOVAKIA'S NATO, EU BIDS. French President
Jacques Chirac told Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda in Paris
on 5 May that he supports Bratislava's bid to join NATO and
said he hopes Slovakia is admitted soon, CTK reported. Chirac
told Dzurinda that France's support for Slovakia was as
strong as its support for Slovenia and Romania. Dzurinda said
that Slovakia's chances "of being included in the first group
of candidates for EU membership" at the EU summit in Helsinki
in December "are growing." In Bratislava, Slovak Deputy Prime
Minister Pavol Hamzik said the country's economic performance
is the most important factor in determining when it will join
the EU. He said he believes 2004 "is realistic." PB

SIS OFFICIAL ADMITS TO ROLE IN ABDUCTION OF PRESIDENT'S SON.
Robert Beno, the former head of the surveillance department
of the Slovak counterintelligence agency (SIS), confessed on
5 May to involvement in the abduction of then-President
Michal Kovac's son to Austria, Slovak Television and TV
Markiza reported. Chief detective Jaroslav Ivor said that
Beno described the entire planning of the operation. So far,
10 people have been indicted in the affair and five are in
custody, including former SIS head Ivan Lexa. In other news,
nine Slovak Romany political parties signed an agreement
establishing a coalition that is to take part in the next
parliamentary elections. PB

NATO FIGHTERS TO ARRIVE IN HUNGARY. The Hungarian government
has complied with NATO's request that the alliance be allowed
to deploy 24 F-18 Hornet fighters and 500-800 service crew at
the Taszar military base in southwestern Hungary, Defense
Minister Janos Szabo announced on 5 May. He said the fighters
are capable of attacking targets in Yugoslavia, and will
defend Hungarian air space and engage in surveillance
flights. The planes will also provide protection to C-135
tankers due to arrive at the Budapest airport on 6 May. Szabo
stressed again that no armed Hungarian units will take part
in eventual peacekeeping operations. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

MYSTERY SURROUNDS RUGOVA'S ARRIVAL IN ROME. Kosovar leader
Ibrahim Rugova arrived in Rome on a previously unannounced
Italian military flight on 5 May. He had been under house
arrest in Prishtina since 31 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29
April 1999). Yugoslav Foreign Ministry spokesman Nebojsa
Vujovic told Serbian Television in Belgrade on 5 May that
Rugova is a free man, but he added that the Kosovar leader
will remain involved in negotiations about the Kosova crisis.
Italian officials said Rugova and his family are guests of
the government. Neither Rugova nor Italian officials have
provided any further information. The offices of his
Democratic League of Kosova in Stuttgart and the league's
Kosova Information Center in London were unable to provide
"RFE/RL Newsline" with any further information. Rugova will
give a press conference later on 6 May. Observers suggested
that his release may have been mediated by the Roman Catholic
Sant Egidio Society, which specializes in non-violent
conflict resolution and which helped hammer out an education
agreement between Belgrade and the Kosovars before the
current crisis began. FS

CLINTON SAYS AIR CAMPAIGN TO 'INTENSIFY.' U.S. President Bill
Clinton told U.S. pilots at Germany's Spangdahlem Air Base on
5 May that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's "so-called
ethnic cleansing has included concentration camps, murder,
rape, the destruction of priceless religious, cultural and
historic sites, books and records. This is wrong. It is
evil." He added that "we will continue to pursue this
campaign [of air strikes] in which we are now engaged. We
will intensify it in an unrelenting way until [NATO's]
objectives are met." PM

CLINTON: PEACE POSSIBLE WITH MILOSEVIC. Clinton told
journalists in Frankfurt, Germany, on 6 May that the
conflicts in Bosnia and Kosova were the result of a
"carefully calculated campaign" to put and keep Milosevic in
office. Clinton stressed that NATO's goal is to enable the
Kosovars to go home in safety under the protection of an
international armed force. He added that NATO wants the
Kosovars to enjoy the autonomy "that Mr. [Josip Broz] Tito
put in [in 1974] and Mr. Milosevic took away" in 1989. When
asked whether this autonomy will be possible with Milosevic
still in power, Clinton replied: "Yes... [The alternative
would be] for the international community to declare war on
Yugoslavia and march on Belgrade, [but] no one has suggested
that." Clinton argued that the question of Milosevic's
individual responsibility for the conflicts in Bosnia and
Kosova--he did not mention those in Slovenia or Croatia--can
be decided only by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. PM

CLINTON SEES 'INTEGRATED FUTURE' FOR BALKANS. The U.S.
president told the press conference in Frankfurt on 6 May
that there must be an "integrated vision" for the Balkans as
a whole once the Kosova conflict is over and planning for the
future of the entire region can begin. Clinton stressed that
Serbia's role in the region will "depend on how the Serbs
behave" toward their neighbors. He noted that Romania and
other, unnamed countries with a smaller industrial base than
Serbia's have made "great efforts" to promote democracy at
home and good relations with their neighbors. Clinton cited
Romania's efforts to improve its relations with Hungary as an
example for other Balkan countries to follow vis-a-vis their
respective neighbors. Clinton suggested that Serbia must make
similar efforts if it wants the international community to
accept it as a full-fledged partner. PM

MACEDONIA CLOSES BORDER TO KOSOVARS. "Thousands of ethnic
Albanian refugees were reported stranded across the border in
Serbia on 6 May after Macedonia abruptly closed its
frontiers" with Kosova the previous day, according to
Reuters. Serbian police used clubs to force some refugees out
of the "no-man's land" back into Serbia, splitting up some
families in the process. On 6 May, a train containing another
several thousand expellees arrived near the border. A
spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees told AP
that the Macedonian decision amounts to "blackmail with
people's lives." The Macedonian authorities have repeatedly
threatened to close the border unless the international
community provides more aid and takes at least as many
refugees out of Macedonia as arrive there on any given day.
There are at least 200,000 Kosovars in Macedonia, which is
equivalent to 10 percent of the country's population. PM

MORE REFUGEES FROM MACEDONIA EXPECTED IN ALBANIA. Government
officials told an RFE/RL correspondent in Tirana on 5 May
that 6,000 refugees from Macedonia will soon arrive in a
newly built camp in the Korca region. Albanian government
officials have offered to take in a total of 50,000 refugees
from Macedonia over the coming weeks and have called for more
international assistance. Albania currently has an estimated
total of 420,000 refugees. Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima
visited Albania on 5 May to inspect the relief operation by
Austrian soldiers overseeing a camp in Shkodra. Meanwhile, in
northern Albania, Serbian forces again shelled the village of
Letaj. In Padesh, near Tropoja, skirmishes broke out between
Serbian forces and the UCK. NATO and the UNHCR continued with
evacuations from Kukes, but the number of refugees leaving
the town was still lower than the international relief
organizations had planned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May
1999). FS

REFUGEES TELL MORE STORIES OF MASSACRES. Refugees told
Reuters in Kukes on 5 May that they found the mutilated
bodies of many of their relatives with their eyes gouged out
or noses cut off after the latter had fled their homes in the
village of Studime near Vushtrri. The refugees belonged to a
group of about 7,500 who arrived in Albania the previous day
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 1999). Many refugees said they
saw the bodies of about 50 civilian victims. Other refugees
told of another massacre near the village of Ceceli, but it
was not clear how many victims it had claimed. Eye-gouging is
a centuries-old practice in the Balkans that has frequently
emerged in the wars in the former Yugoslavia since 1991. FS

DJINDJIC: TRY MILOSEVIC FOR WAR CRIMES. Serbian Democratic
Party leader Zoran Djindjic told British journalists in
Montenegro on 5 May that Milosevic should be tried before an
international war crimes tribunal modeled after the Nuremberg
court that judged Nazi leaders following World War II.
Djindjic appealed to the EU to help bring an end to
Milosevic's rule and help create a "European Serbia." He said
that he fears for his own safety following the recent murder
of independent journalist Slavko Curuvija in Belgrade.
Djindjic added that he frequently moves between undisclosed
locations in Serbia and Montenegro. He added: "You cannot
belong to the democratic opposition in the Balkans without
taking risks." Critics in Serbia and abroad have accused
Djindjic over the years of being ineffective and
opportunistic. PM

PEROVIC: MILOSEVIC MEANS END OF YUGOSLAVIA. Montenegrin
Foreign Minister Branko Perovic said in Podgorica on 5 May
that the Yugoslav federation will break up if Milosevic
remains in power much longer, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service
reported. Perovic added that the Yugoslav army in Montenegro
"tries to destabilize the government on a daily basis." He
argued that popular support for the democratic government of
President Milo Djukanovic has so far proven strong enough to
enable Djukanovic to resist attempts by the army and local
Milosevic supporters to destabilize the government. PM

WESTENDORP TO STEP DOWN. The international community's Carlos
Westendorp told Sarajevo's "Dnevni avaz" of 6 May that he
will leave his post at some point this summer (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 30 April 1999). He added that he would become
"part of the problem rather than part of the solution" if he
remained in Bosnia longer. The former Spanish foreign
minister noted that his Social Democratic party is counting
on him to run for the European Parliament in the 13 June
elections. PM

CROATIAN BANK FAILURE TIED TO CORRUPTION. The recent
bankruptcy of the Komercijalna Banka is the result of
Director Josip Soic's giving or lending the bank's money to
individuals, charities, and other institutions linked to
President Franjo Tudjman, his family, and the governing
Croatian Democratic Community, AP reported on 6 May. In just
one case, nearly $250,000 went to a charity run by Ankica
Tudjman, the president's wife. Unnamed persons provided the
independent weeklies "Globus" and "Nacional" with copies of
incriminating bank files. "Thousands" of depositors have been
unable to withdraw their money since the bank declared
bankruptcy, AP added. It is unclear whether the state will
reimburse them for any of their losses. A Zagreb court has
launched a criminal investigation against Soic's son, who was
a bank executive. Director Soic is currently in a mental
hospital, but it is unclear whether he is really ill. PM

CROATIAN COURT INDICTS WHISTLE-BLOWERS. A Zagreb court on 6
May indicted Ankica Lepej and three former colleagues at
Zagrebacka Banka for leaking confidential bank documents to
the independent daily "Jutarnji list" in 1998. The court also
indicted the journalist who wrote the resulting article about
details of Ankica Tudjman's undisclosed bank accounts, which
contained several hundred thousand dollars. PM

AIRPORT CHIEF SACKED FOR "PAPAL TAX." Romanian Transport
Minister Traian Basescu fired Dumitru Parscoveanu, the
director of Bucharest's Baneasa airport, for implementing a
tax on journalists covering the papal visit later this week,
Reuters reported. Basescu said Parscoveanu has been ordered
to return any taxes that were already collected. Parscoveanu
said that print journalists would have to pay $30 and
television reporters $200 for "access" to the airport during
the visit of Pope John Paul II. He said the money would help
defray the costs associated with the Pope's visit (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 1999). Parscoveanu argued after
being fired that an airport council had approved the taxes.
In other news, Bucharest city officials have banned the sale
of alcohol in the parts of the city that the Pope will visit
during his 7-9 May stay. PB

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BUCHAREST. Vartan Oskanian held
talks with Romanian President Emil Constantinescu and other
top officials during a two-day visit to Bucharest on 4-5 May,
Rompres reported. Talks centered on boosting bilateral trade
and Romania's involvement in the "Silk Road" project.
Romanian Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu pledged Bucharest's
support for Armenia's bid to join the Council of Europe.
Oskanian visited an Armenian Orthodox church and also held
talks with the leaders of the Armenian community in Bucharest
before leaving. PB

RUSSIAN HUMANITARIAN AID LANDS IN SOFIA. A Russian plane
carrying humanitarian aid landed in Sofia on 5 May, one day
later than planned, Reuters reported. The shipment was
delayed as the plane awaited clearance from Bulgarian
authorities. Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said
in Moscow that Eastern and Central European countries should
"not forget about older, proven friends." He said he hoped
the shipment would not experience any further delays in
Bulgaria. A truck convoy will take the aid to Kosova for
distribution. PB

END NOTE

EU, EAST EUROPEAN CANDIDATES REVIEW PROGRESS

By Breffni O'Rourke

	Last week, the EU held its annual Association Council
meetings in Brussels with Slovakia, Romania, and Estonia.
German State Secretary Guenter Verheugen, in his capacity as
council president, met separately with the foreign ministers
of those countries.
	Though grouped together for one day, the three countries
are in quite different situations with regard to their
membership prospects. Estonia belongs to the "fast-track"
group of candidates, along with Poland, Hungary, the Czech
Republic, and Slovenia, and has already opened membership
negotiations with the EU Executive Commission. Romania, its
reform effort stumbling, is widely seen as dropping even
further behind the leading group. Slovakia is confident that
the reforms and democratization pursued by the present
government of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda are now
reversing years of stagnation that constituted a barrier
between it and the EU.
	The head of the EU Integration Section at the Slovak
Foreign Ministry, Jan Kuderjavy, told RFE/RL the association
meeting revealed the extent to which relations between
Slovakia and the EU have changed since the election of
Dzurinda's pro-reform government. He noted that Verheugen
showed "appreciation" of the changes that have occurred in
Slovakia and welcomed measures undertaken by the new Slovak
government, particularly in the political sphere.
	Kuderjavy said Slovakia expects that on the basis of the
EU's next country-by-country progress report, to be issued in
the fall, the EU Executive Commission will recommend to the
EU Helsinki summit in December that membership negotiations
be launched with Slovakia.
	Romanian Ambassador to the EU Constantin Ene told RFE/RL
that Romania considers the association meeting to have been
particularly successful. He said that in light of the
conflict in Yugoslavia, Romania stressed the positive role
the country plays in maintaining stability in the Balkans.
And he noted that just one day before the meeting, the EU
foreign ministers had issued a statement recognizing the
regional role played by both Romania and Bulgaria.
	Commenting that the EU member countries seemed receptive
to Romania's argument that the momentum toward accession
should be maintained among the 10 East European candidate
countries, Ene said his country hopes that the Helsinki
summit will also decide to start negotiations with Romania.
He said the EU side gave no immediate response to that
suggestion but appeared to take good note of it.
	Ene acknowledged that his country is not ready for
accession and does not expect it anytime soon. But he said
that starting negotiations would be a positive political
move, demonstrating to the country that it has not been "left
outside," particularly considering conditions in the region.
He said the same applies to neighboring Bulgaria.
	The ambassador also put in a plea for other fellow
Balkan countries. "Give them a clear perspective that they
belong to Europe, [don't] leave them somewhere in a corner of
the continent. Certainly Romania and Bulgaria are in a better
position because we are already associated [with the EU], but
others may have the feeling that they are somehow isolated.
Therefore one of the decisions to be implemented will be to
raise the status of the EU's existing agreements with
Macedonia and Albania and to conclude with them association
agreements."
	Estonia, for its part, discussed with the EU panel its
progress towards accession. The head of press relations at
the Estonian Diplomatic Mission to the EU, Ann Haermaste,
told RFE/RL that there was general satisfaction about the
overall level of progress. But she said the Estonian side
expressed concern at the problems Estonian ships are having
at Finnish ports. Finnish trade unions are blocking the
handling of Estonian vessels in protest at the much cheaper
wages paid to Estonian crews. They want Estonian sailors to
be paid more.
	The Finnish government has not intervened with this
industrial action on the grounds that the labor unions are
free of state control. But Haermaste says her country sees
this as a matter of competition policy and believes that
Finland is in breach of the EU's free competition rules. She
said her side has asked the EU commission for an assessment
on the situation, adding that the Association Council noted
Estonia's concern about the need to preserve free competition
in maritime transport in the Baltic Sea region and encouraged
continued discussions in order to resolve the dispute.

The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in Prague.

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