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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 98, Part II, 20 May 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 98, Part II, 20 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * NO WINNER IN BELARUS'S SHADOW PRESIDENTIAL POLLS * HUNDREDS OF SERBIAN SOLDIERS DESERT IN KOSOVA * GEORGIEVSKI PLEDGES OPEN BORDER End Note: RUGOVA SPEAKS OUT TOO LATE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE NO WINNER IN BELARUS'S SHADOW PRESIDENTIAL POLLS... The Central Electoral Commission on 19 May announced the final results of the Belarusian opposition presidential elections, which took place from 6-16 May. Viktar Hanchar, head of the commission, said slightly more than 4 million voters, or 53 percent of the total electorate, cast ballots. That figure was sufficient for the vote to be declared valid. However, the commission ruled that the results of balloting were invalid because of "irregularities" during the vote, citing the "hostility" of the authorities, the absence of conditions for free election campaigning, and the "violation of the election law" by presidential candidate Zyanon Paznyak. Paznyak had withdrawn from the elections, claiming that the commission had falsified turnout figures. The commission announced it will organize another presidential poll within three months. JM ...WHILE 'UNOFFICIAL DATA' SHOW PAZNYAK CAME FIRST. The Central Electoral Commission did not disclose the number of votes cast for Paznyak or Mikhail Chyhir in the opposition presidential elections. A correspondent for RFE/RL's Belarusian Service was told by a member of Paznyak's electoral staff that, according to "unofficial data," Paznyak won the poll with 2.37 million votes, while Chyhir gained 1.62 million votes. Meanwhile, Lyavon Barshcheuski, acting chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front (BNF), said the BNF will address the Supreme Soviet with a request to assess the activities of the Central Electoral Commission. "While in the initial stages [of the election campaign] we had only a few allegations, the final stage has produced a scandal. It discredits all democrats in Belarus," Barshcheuski said. JM LUKASHENKA DECREES PRICE REGULATION. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka on 19 May signed a decree on regulating prices and service charges, Belarusian Television reported. The decree bans any increase in the prices of specified goods and services without "adequate" social security measures. It provides for the government and the National Bank to set ceilings each year on increases in the price of Belarus-manufactured goods. And it establishes penalties for violations of its provisions. JM UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT TO DISCUSS PUNISHING CABINET. The Supreme Council on 19 May announced it will hold a special debate on punishing the government for its failure to collect sufficient revenues. The decision was made a day after the government told the legislature that unpaid pensions and wages to state employees rose by 10 percent in January-March to 3.6 billion hryvni ($916 million). In more bad economic news, the State Statistics Committee reported the same day that foreign investments in Ukraine plunged 52 percent in January- March, compared with the preceding three months. JM ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT PLANS SMALL BUDGET SURPLUS IN 2000. Estonian Finance Minister Siim Kallas told an IMF delegation in Tallinn on 19 May that Estonia plans to have a state budget with a surplus equivalent to 0.5 percent of GDP next year, ETA reported. John Odling- Smee, head of the delegation, welcomed the cabinet's "conservative approach" to the 2000 budget, as well as the "austerity measures" contained in this year's negative supplementary budget. At the same time, he warned that the report on the Estonian economy shortly to be submitted to the fund's board of directors will be more critical than in previous years. The IMF recently argued that Estonia's 1999 budget should be cut by 2.3 billion kroons ($156.5 million), rather that the 1 billion kroons reduction foreseen by the negative supplementary budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 1999). JC LATVIA'S NEW PARTY TO REMAIN IN COALITION. The board of the New Party has voted to remain in the ruling coalition, following the dismissal last week of its economics minister, Ainars Slesers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 May 1999), LETA reported on 19 May. The party had threatened to respond to Slesers's dismissal by withdrawing its cabinet ministers. Also on 19 May, the board nominated parliamentary deputy Ingrida Udre as the next economy minister. Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans praised both decisions as a "logical step." JC CREATION OF POLISH OIL GIANT SPARKS PROTEST. The Petrochemia Plock refinery and the CPN gasoline distribution concern have merged to form the Polish Oil Concern (PKN), Polish Television reported on 19 May. Several dozen CPN employees protested the same day against the planned restructuring and workforce reductions. They demand two-year employment guarantees and high severance payments, saying that some 3,000 people, or 50 percent of the CPN workforce, will lose their jobs in the restructuring. The PKN board chairman said the concern will not give preferential treatment to CPN employees at the cost of its other component, Petrochemia Plock. JM ATTEMPT TO LUSTRATE POLISH PREMIER CONTINUES. Tomasz Karwowski, a parliamentary deputy from the right-wing Confederation for an Independent Poland-Homeland (KPN- O), lodged an appeal on 19 May against the decision of the lustration prosecutor not to launch lustration proceedings against Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 12 May). Buzek's spokesman Krzysztof Luft called Karwowski's action a "kind of madness." Andrzej Potocki--spokesman of the Freedom Union, a member of the ruling coalition --said that by accusing the premier of collaboration with communist-era secret services, the KPN-O is seeking "to destabilize Poland [and] to overthrow the government." JM HAVEL HAS CHEST INFECTION. Czech President Vaclav Havel has fallen ill with a viral chest infection, Czech media reported on 19 May. Havel's doctor, Ilja Kotik, said the president's temperature rose to 37.7 degrees Celsius on 18 May but receded the next day. Kotik said the president's schedule for this week has been canceled and that he will be treated at home. Last year, Havel underwent an urgent colostomy operation. Later, he contracted a life-threatening bout of pneumonia, when doctors operated again to remove the colostomy bag. In 1996, doctors operated to remove a malignant tumor from his lungs. VG CZECH COURT SENTENCES TWO COMMUNIST POLICE OFFICERS. A regional Czech court on 20 May sentenced two former communist police officers, Michal Danisovic and Bedrich Houbal, to three-and-a-half and three years in prison, respectively, for abuse of power in connection with a police crackdown against demonstrators in central Prague on 17 November 1989, CTK reported. In other news, the Czech Republic signed a military cooperation agreement with Georgia as well as an agreement to sell 120 T-54 and T-55 tanks to that country. Visiting Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze dismissed speculation that the tanks were destined for use by the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, CTK reported on 18 May. VG FORMER SECRET AGENT DENIES IMPLICATING MECIAR IN CRIME. Former Slovak Intelligence Service deputy director Jaroslav Svechota on 19 May said he has never suggested that former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar was implicated in the 1995 abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son, CTK reported. On 17 May, chief police investigator Jaroslav Ivor said that Svechota, who is currently being detained in connection with the abduction, had sent a letter to Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda requesting a pardon and mentioning Meciar in connection with the abduction (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 18 May 1999). Svechota said he had spoken about the former prime minister only "in connection with privatization." According to Ivor, Svechota has come under pressure from unnamed sources to retract his confession in connection with the Kovac case. At one point, Ivor said Svechota received a warning in the form of a razor blade placed in a book as a bookmark. VG SCANDAL OVER FIDESZ LOBBY FOR NEW U.S. AMBASSADOR. A letter signed by 31 parliamentary deputies and three political state secretaries from FIDESZ who are recommending that Stephen M. Jones be the next U.S. ambassador to Hungary has caused an uproar within the party, Hungarian media reported on 19 May. The letter was addressed to U.S. senators Jesse Helms and Joseph Biden of the Foreign Relations Committee but reportedly never reached its destination. Jones, a senior official at Lockheed Martin Corporation, had been lobbying in Budapest in connection with his firm's participation in a postponed Hungarian tender for fighter aircraft. FIDESZ parliamentary group leader Jozsef Szajer apologized to U.S. Ambassador Peter Tufo and said his party will launch an investigation into the matter. Political analysts say the letter amounts to an unprecedented intervention by Hungarian politicians in U.S. internal affairs. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE HUNDREDS OF SERBIAN SOLDIERS DESERT IN KOSOVA. At least 800 Yugoslav army troops left their units in Kosova on 19 May to return to their homes in Krusevac and elsewhere in central Serbia. For several days, their families had been protesting to demand their return, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 1999). Some of the deserters handed in their uniforms and weapons before leaving their posts. Other soldiers took their arms and equipment with them, some of whom "used their weapons" to enable fellow deserters to pass the roadblocks of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's paramilitary police. Army spokesmen in Belgrade said the men going home were mainly reservists and that their withdrawal had been scheduled. The BBC reported that the number of deserters was as high as 2,000 and that some soldiers left after bitter arguments with their commanders. In Washington, State Department spokesman James Rubin said the desertions are particularly significant because they involved "entire units." PM U.S. SHOWS EVIDENCE OF MASSACRE. State Department officials showed a video in Washington on 19 May that they said proved the accuracy of earlier reports and surveillance photographs to show that Serbian forces massacred a group of elderly Kosovars at Izbica in mid- April. Rubin added that there are eyewitnesses to the atrocity. He did not elaborate. PM CACAK CITIZENS CALL ON BELGRADE TO PROTECT KOSOVARS. Members of Cacak's unofficial "citizens' parliament" condemned what they called the dictatorship of the governing Socialist Party of Serbia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 19 May. The parliament also called on the Serbian authorities to "protect [ethnic] Albanian families and their civil rights, and to enable them to return" to Kosova. Observers note that this is one of the first calls by the Serbian opposition for the protection and return of the ethnic Albanians. PM MONTENEGRO SAYS YUGOSLAV ARMY 'HIJACKING' AID TRUCKS. Zorica Maric, who is Montenegro's diplomatic representative to the U.S., said in Washington on 19 May that Yugoslav troops have recently begun diverting to the Kumbor army barracks humanitarian aid trucks arriving from Croatia. She added that "the confiscation of humanitarian aid is already jeopardizing the humanitarian situation in the refugee camps," AP reported. In Podgorica, Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan said the government will try to "convince [the military] to leave the border area. If they don't, we will find another way of dealing with [the problem]. People are getting very impatient with all this," Reuters quoted him as saying. "The army wants to suffocate us," he added. PM GEORGIEVSKI PLEDGES OPEN BORDER. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in Skopje on 19 May that Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski has promised him that he will keep Macedonia's border open for Kosovar refugees, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Georgievski added that Macedonia's government is currently able to cope with another 30,000 refugees. Elsewhere, Georgievski announced the appointment of new economics, agriculture, and health ministers. A member of the Liberal Democratic Party joined the government as a minister without portfolio, bringing the number of parties in the governing coalition to four. Also in Skopje, a bomb exploded outside a mosque in the central part of the mainly ethnic Albanian part of town. Two people were seriously injured. Police are investigating. PM ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS KOSOVAR RIVALS TO TIRANA. Paskal Milo in Tirana on 19 May called on "all political groups in Kosova to send their representatives to a meeting in Tirana in the next few days." He urged them to "reaffirm once again their commitment to work together and to talk with one voice, on the basis of the agreement that they reached in Paris after the Rambouillet talks," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. The rival groups had agreed in France in March to create a joint provisional government. Meanwhile, in an apparently conciliatory gesture, Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) spokesman Jakup Krasniqi said that he welcomes Tirana's role as a mediator between the rival Kosovar factions. The previous day in Tirana, British Prime Minister Tony Blair had urged UCK representatives and the nationalist scholar and writer Rexhep Qosja to reach an understanding with Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova. FS ALBANIA REINFORCES TROOPS AROUND KUKES. The Albanian army moved additional troops, tanks, and other military equipment into the Kukes area on 19 May, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, U.S. A-10 "tankbuster" planes continued to attack military positions on the Yugoslav side of the border. Elsewhere, no additional refugees crossed the main border checkpoint at Morina. FS ITALIAN COAST GUARD RESCUES 30 KOSOVAR REFUGEES. An Italian coast-guard vessel rescued 30 Kosovar refugees from Albanian's Karaburuni Peninsula on 19 May, Reuters reported. Instead of bringing the refugees to Italy as promised, smugglers from Vlora dumped them on the Karaburuni Peninsula after a short trip across the bay of Vlora and wished them good luck. The refugees said they paid about $2,500 each for the journey. FS ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT FACES POTENTIAL STRIKE. Prime Minister Radu Vasile warned that a threatened general strike would destabilize the country, Reuters reported on 19 May. Vasile's comments came after inconclusive talks between his government and union leaders. The unions are expected to decide on 20 May whether to go ahead with a general strike on 24 May. Vasile also said labor unrest would crush Romania's bid to take part in the planned Balkan reconstruction plan after the Kosova conflict. The Vasile cabinet is facing a confidence vote in the parliament on 20 May in connection with a package of economic reform laws (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 1999). VG NEW BILINGUAL RADIO STATION TO GO ON AIR IN TRANSYLVANIA. Gyorgy Frunda, a senator for the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), announced that a 24-hour Hungarian- and Romanian-language radio station will be launched in Targu Mures on 1 September, the BBC reported on 19 May, citing Hungarian Duna TV. VG MOLDOVAN DEPUTIES WANT STRONGER GOVERNMENT. A group of 39 parliamentary deputies from Moldova's governing Alliance for Democracy and Reforms has submitted to the Constitutional Court a package of constitutional amendments on expanding the government's powers, Infotag and BASA-Press reported on 19 May. According to Moldovan law, all amendments to the constitution must be examined by the court before the legislature can deal with them. One of the deputies said the amendments would give the government the power to "pass decisions of a legislative character," provided the parliament did not reject them within "two to three days of their adoption." Deputy parliamentary speaker Iurie Rosca said the proposed amendments are part of President Petru Lucinschi's attempt to "reduce the role of the parliament to that of a decorative body under governmental subordination," BASA-Press reported. A non-binding referendum on expanding the president's powers is scheduled for 23 May. VG OSCE PRAISES BULGARIAN ROMA INTEGRATION MODEL. Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Veselin Metodiev said the OSCE is planning to apply the Bulgarian model for integrating Romani communities and organizations to other countries, according to an 18 May BTA report cited by the BBC. Metodiev's comments came after he met with OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel in Sofia. BTA also cited a government official as saying that the EU's PHARE program has approved funding for projects connected to Bulgaria's Romani minority. In other news, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mikhailova met with her Austrian counterpart, Wolfgang Schuessel, in Vienna on 19 May, BTA reported. Schuessel said "almost no other country" in the region has suffered as many losses owing to the Kosova conflict as has Bulgaria. VG END NOTE RUGOVA SPEAKS OUT TOO LATE by Fabian Schmidt Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova has finally outlined his political strategy some two weeks after arriving in Rome from Kosova, where he spent more than one month under Serbian house arrest. He told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 17 May that he does not recognize the provisional government of Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) leader Hashim Thaci, thereby clearly defining his position in the ongoing power struggle over the future of Kosova. His statement, even if addressed more to a Western readership than to the Kosovars, was certainly overdue. Rugova failed to take advantage of the extensive international media coverage he received immediately after he arrived in Rome. He refrained from stating clearly his position on key issues and explaining what had happened to him while he was under house arrest. Then he lost more valuable time by travelling to Paris, Brussels, Bonn, and London, where he met with numerous Western leaders. Albanian and Kosovar politicians both in Tirana and elsewhere were left guessing about his political views and plans. By mid-May, the UCK had become a strong political force. It quickly filled the vacuum created by the collapse of Rugova's shadow state in the course of the Serbian ethnic-cleansing campaign. Thaci's government draws its legitimacy primarily from an agreement on forming a provisional government that the Kosovar delegates to the Rambouillet peace talks concluded in March. Thaci, who headed the Kosovar delegation in France, went on to claim the post of prime minister for himself and assigned several ministerial positions to the various Kosovar parties represented in Rambouillet. The key ministerial positions went to the UCK, while Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) received less important ones. This was apparently one of the main reasons why an LDK delegation, led by shadow-state Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi, declined to join the Thaci government when visiting Tirana on 2 May. Another reason was reportedly that Bukoshi still has large funds from Diaspora donations and does not want to simply hand over the money to Thaci. Instead, Bukoshi suggested forming a new government, which he invited the UCK to join. On 3 May, UCK spokesman Jakup Krasniqi dismissed Bukoshi's proposal as "unacceptable," making clear that "there is already a government of Kosova led by Hashim Thaci." Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, who had invited the rivals to meet in Tirana, urged them--in vain--to unite. Foreign Minister Paskal Milo stressed that "there is no time to lose as to who will be prime minister and who will be ministers." He added that "it is important to set up a government representing all Albanians in Kosova." Each side, nonetheless, insisted that its rivals join its own government first, and each remained unwilling to compromise. Two days after the Albanian government's mediation effort ended, Rugova arrived in Rome with his family. He had a golden opportunity to promote unity among the Kosovars and thereby influence the Albanian government to take positions close to his own. But by focusing on meetings with Western leaders rather than spending time with his own people, he left the political initiative to Thaci. On 12 May, the Albanian parliament's Socialist majority voted to recognize the Thaci government. That same day, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer announced that Rugova had decided to stay in Germany. By that time, Rugova had not yet explained to the Kosovar public what had happened to him in Serbian captivity and whether he signed a document with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic under duress or voluntarily. That document called for autonomy within Serbia and for direct Serbian-Kosovar negotiations, with foreigners present only "as guests." Instead, Rugova said he preferred not to talk about his meetings with Milutinovic. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Paskal Milo on 14 May urged Rugova to declare his support for the Thaci government. Milo stressed that the Albanian government does "not support one side [of the Kosovar political spectrum] against the other" but rather seeks to promote Kosovar unity. Milo also called on Rugova to visit Tirana, saying that "if [Rugova] says he is the [president] of the [Kosovar] Albanians..., then first of all he needs to come and see Albanians. [It is] unacceptable, unthinkable that he would not come to Albania, where there are 440,000 people from Kosova. He must come here to encourage them, to support them." Rugova finally clarified his position in an interview with the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 17 May. "Whatever I signed in Belgrade is meaningless," he said, adding that he put his signature to the document to protect his family. Rugova also said that he will travel to Macedonia and to Albania and visit refugee camps there. Furthermore, he sounded a conciliatory note by saying that "it is tragicomical that we have two provisional governments at the same time." Rugova added that he will invite Kosovar political leaders from all political groups to Bonn to discuss forming a new provisional government. It remains to be seen how the UCK will respond to that suggestion. Indeed, Rugova risks losing the little sympathy he may have left among the UCK. In an interview with the Hamburg weekly "Die Woche" of 19 May, he called on the West not to arm the UCK and to negotiate with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Rugova seems to be working on the assumption that his most important asset is his good personal and political links to Western politicians. But he must be careful not to lose contact with his electorate in the refugee camps and with fighters in the field if he wants to maintain his position. Sooner or later the Kosovars will hold an election, and foreigners will not be the ones voting. 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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