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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 102, Part II, 26 May 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 102, Part II, 26 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 * MECIAR CRITICIZES CONCESSIONS TO MINORITIES * NEW WAVE OF REFUGEES HEADED FOR MACEDONIA * SERBIAN POLICE SEAL OFF KRUSEVAC End Note: WEST MAY BE ONLY HOPE FOR POST-MILOSEVIC SERBIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE LUKASHENKA SAYS IMF POLICY TOWARD BELARUS 'UNFAIR.' Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 25 May said he is not satisfied with relations between Belarus and the IMF. "The IMF's policy regarding Belarus is unfair and extremely politically motivated.... I can't name a single objective reason to justify such a low level of cooperation," AP quoted Lukashenka as saying after meeting with IMF official John Odling-Smee, who is in Minsk to prepare an annual report on the Belarusian economy. Belarus sought a $100 million loan from the IMF last year, but the fund demanded changes in the country's economic policy. Odling-Smee told journalists on 26 May that the IMF "does not deem it possible" to issue a loan to Belarus, Belapan reported. He cited Belarus's failure to fulfill its pledges regarding systemic reforms and monetary policies as the main reason for refusing the credit. JM KUCHMA LAYS DOWN POLITICAL PRIORITIES FOR NEXT DECADE. Addressing a joint congress of the Confederation of Employers and the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said the "consolidation of the government system" and national security is Ukraine's top priority in the next stage of its development, Interfax reported. The second priority is the continuation of systemic reforms and market-oriented transformations, while the third is to achieve economic growth of 5-6 percent of GDP in the next five years and 8 percent in 2010. He also cited the "drastic" restructuring of the Ukrainian economy as a priority. The congress unanimously voted to support Kuchma in the October presidential elections. JM ALBRIGHT SAYS UKRAINE 'VERY COOPERATIVE' OVER OIL EMBARGO ON YUGOSLAVIA. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on 25 May said that Ukraine has been "very cooperative" in NATO efforts to maintain a strict oil embargo against Yugoslavia. She added, however, that the U.S. will "soon" talk with Kyiv about allegations that Ukrainian barges have been shipping oil to Belgrade via the River Danube. "The New York Times" on 25 May quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying that oil is loaded onto Ukrainian barges in Ukrainian ports and then shipped across the Black Sea to the Danube. JM LARGE PROTEST IN NORTHEASTERN ESTONIA. Between 6,000 and 8,000 protesters staged a rally in Narva on 25 May to protest the restructuring of the energy sector and its effect on employment opportunities in the area, "Postimees" reported. Vladimir Aleksejev, who organized the protest, told the daily that although most protesters came from the energy sector, employees from other sectors in the region also participated. The official unemployment rate for the northeastern Ida-Viru County is approaching 10 percent, but Aleksejev estimates the real figure to be closer to 20 percent. MH ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT DELAYS TOBACCO EXCISE HIKE. The cabinet on 25 May announced it is delaying the scheduled rise in levies on tobacco. The six-month delay is expected to prevent an increase in tax evasion at a crucial time, according to ETA. Prime Minister Mart Laar said Estonia's tobacco tax is twice as high as Latvia's, thus there is already an "environment [conducive to] smuggling and illegal trade." Evidence shows that the tax hike on 1 January 1999 caused a 50 percent drop in cigarette sales and a significant increase in trade in illegal cigarettes on the black market. MH VAN DER STOEL CONTINUES LATVIAN VISIT. OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel continued his visit to Latvia on 25 May by meeting with President Guntis Ulmanis. The commissioner thanked President Ulmanis for six years of cooperation, which is the amount of time each has served in his present capacity, according to BNS. Later, Van der Stoel met with Naturalization Service director Eizenija Aldermane, whom he asked why there are so few applications for the naturalization of children of non-citizens. Aldermane responded that most parents of children who qualify are themselves undergoing naturalization, which automatically covers their children. At a press conference, the commissioner called for the language law under discussion in the Latvian parliament to be better defined in order to prevent ambiguities. MH LATVIAN TELECOMMUNICATIONS TARIFF COUNCIL SACKED. The government on 25 May officially sacked the Telecommunications Tariff Council. The decision follows a resolution recently passed by the parliament. However, the government maintains that the resolution passed by parliament is unconstitutional, as the council comes under the government's jurisdiction, according to LETA. The work of the council became subject to controversy in March when Transport Minister Anatolijs Gorbunovs vetoed a tariff change at the last minute. MH POLAND REPORTS PROGRESS IN SLAVE LABOR TALKS WITH GERMANY. Jerzy Widzyk, chief of staff of the Polish Premier's office, said on 24 May that Germany has agreed that Nazi-era slave laborers from Poland should receive the same amount of compensation as those living elsewhere. Widzyk was speaking after meeting with Bodo Hombach, chief of staff of the German Chancellor's Office. "There has been a clear declaration regarding this issue by the German side," PAP quoted Widzyk as saying. JM POLISH GOVERNMENT APPEALS FOR AUSCHWITZ CROSSES TO BE REMOVED. The government appealed on 25 May for the removal of some 300 crosses that were erected near the former Auschwitz Nazi death camp without permission from the Catholic Church. "The government appeals to all who in good faith put up the sacred Christian symbols...and who would like to take them back to their parishes, to do it as soon as possible," government spokesman Krzysztof Luft said in a statement, AP reported. Luft said the so-called papal cross erected in 1979 will remain in place. He added that the government itself can remove the crosses under the law on the protection of former concentration camps, which went into effect on 25 May. Some media suggest that the government wants to have the controversial crosses removed before Pope John Paul II's visit to Poland from 5-17 June. JM CLINTON SENDS LETTER TO HAVEL. U.S. President Bill Clinton wished his Czech counterpart, Vaclav Havel, a speedy recovery from his current illness and thanked him for his support of the NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, Czech media reported on 25 May. Havel was hospitalized last week after he contracted bronchitis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 1999). Doctors said on 25 May that Havel's condition is improving and he should soon be able to leave hospital, CTK reported. In other news, Czech police said they have increased security in Vyskov after receiving an anonymous letter saying a bomb will go off at the close of the upcoming NATO exercises in the town, Czech media reported on 25 May. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Havel are scheduled to attend the exercises on 3 June. VG MOST CZECHS BELIEVE WALL SEPARATING CZECHS FROM ROMA NOT RACIST. A poll has found that 72 percent of Czechs do not feel that the idea of building a wall to separate ethnic Czech residents from their Romani neighbors is based on racial hatred, CTK reported on 25 May. Only 28 percent of respondents felt that the idea was based on racism. The poll was referring to plans by local officials in the city of Usti nad Labem to build a wall between the Czech and Romani residents of Maticni Street. The poll also found that 64 percent of respondents do not consider Czech society to be racist. In other news, emigration statistics show that some 1,000 Roma have left the Czech Republic since the beginning of the year, "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 26 May. Most of them have applied for asylum in Britain. VG SLOVAKIA'S MECIAR CRITICIZES CONCESSIONS TO MINORITIES. Former Slovak Prime Minister and current presidential candidate Vladimir Meciar told the Czech daily "Hospodarske noviny" of 26 May that Slovakia does not have a "minority rights" problem at the moment, but rather a problem with "concessions to nationalists and separatists." He said certain representatives of the ethnic Hungarian minority in Slovakia and certain politicians in Budapest aim to create a "Greater Hungary." Meciar said he rejects any suggestions that minorities are being oppressed in Slovakia. He also added that some "uninformed European institutions" believe that "concessions should be made to the demands of minorities." Meciar also described the NATO campaign in Yugoslavia as illegal. He said the conflict in Yugoslavia represents a challenge for Europe as to whether it will be able to develop its own security model or whether it will follow "U.S. doctrine" in international relations. VG LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT VISITS HUNGARY. Valdas Adamkus told reporters in Budapest on 26 May that his country is ready for NATO membership and would be "disappointed" if its aspirations were not realized. He said Russia continues to express displeasure at the Baltic States' efforts to become NATO members. Adamkus met with Hungarian President Arpad Goncz, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky. Representatives of the two countries signed an agreement on mutual capital investment guarantees. Lithuania is Hungary's largest trading partner in the Baltics. More than $55 million worth of Hungarian goods were exported to Lithuania last year. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NEW WAVE OF REFUGEES HEADED FOR MACEDONIA. Some 2,000 Kosovars arrived on the border with Macedonia on 25 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). In Geneva, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that some 150,000 refugees may soon arrive in Macedonia. There is room in existing refugee camps there for only an additional 15,000, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Some observers suggested that the latest wave may be a result of a "final push" by the Serbian authorities to remove the last ethnic Albanians from Kosova. Other observers said the Serbian authorities may be seeking to "flood" Macedonia with refugees in order to force NATO troops there to concentrate their time and energies on humanitarian tasks and not on preparations for an eventual occupation of Kosova. PM THUNDEROUS RECEPTION FOR RUGOVA. Thousands of Kosovar refugees greeted ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova at the Stenkovec refugee camp in Macedonia on 26 May. Reuters reported "wild celebrations" during his 10- minute visit. It was Rugova's first appearance in a refugee camp since he left Kosova on 5 May. Critics charge that he has since spent too much time talking to foreign politicians and diplomats and that he has not spent time with the refugees and other Kosovar leaders (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 May 1999). PM MORE KOSOVAR DETAINEES ARRIVE IN ALBANIA. Several hundred male refugees arrived in Albania via the border crossing of Morina on 25 May, Reuters reported. They said that Serbian forces released them from the prison in Smrekonica where paramilitaries had held up to 3,000 men hostage in recent weeks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). Apart from visible emaciation and malnourishment, the men were suffering from exposure to the sun. A witness reported that the prison guards were not police but paramilitaries. He added: "They treated us like animals, they beat us, some people in the head, everywhere." Medical aid workers said that the men have bruises from the beatings they received to the abdomen, hands, feet, ribs, and, in some cases, the head. FS EU OFFICIALS PROMISE ALBANIA PREFERRED TRADE STATUS. Hans van den Broek, the EU commissioner in charge of foreign affairs, told Albanian Prime Minister Majko Pandeli in Brussels on 25 May that the EU is willing to grant Albania "preferential trade terms," dpa reported. He added that the EU Commission on 26 May will also discuss the timetable and steps to be taken for the possible admission of Albania and Macedonia into the union. FS PROSTITUTION RACKETEERS KILL REFUGEE GIRL IN KIDNAP ATTEMPT. Gangsters belonging to a prostitution ring in Vlora killed a 16-year-old girl in a kidnap attempt on 24 May, Reuters reported. The refugee girl was living with her father in a rented house in the outskirts of the city. The father told police that the gangsters fired shots at both the girl and himself after he had tried to drive them back. Police surrounded the area immediately after the incident and arrested five suspects. Relief agencies have warned that gangs are trying to kidnap young girls from Kosova to send them as prostitutes to Italy or Greece. FS RED CROSS CONVOY REACHES KOSOVA. A spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross said in Geneva on 26 May that five Red Cross relief trucks reached Prishtina the previous night. The arrival there of eight ICRC staff on 24 May marked the return of that organization to the province. The relief organization withdrew its 19 staff members from Kosova on 29 March. The Serbian authorities recently gave the ICRC permission to return. PM YUGOSLAV TROOPS ABDUCT KOSOVAR MALES. Members of the Yugoslav army removed 50 males from a group of about 500 ethnic Albanian refugees as they were attempting to cross into Montenegro on 25 May, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The soldiers took the Kosovars to an unknown destination. PM SERBIAN POLICE SEAL OFF KRUSEVAC. Paramilitary and local Serbian police barred roads leading into and out of Krusevac on 25 May. The police prevented busses and river ferries from running and restricted the movement of vehicles within the town, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. A mother of a soldier serving in Kosova told RFE/RL from Krusevac by telephone that coffins containing dead Serbian soldiers arrive in the town "constantly." She added: "The mothers are not afraid of either the politicians or the police. The mothers will go [to Kosova], and find their children." And in Cacak, which was also the scene of recent anti- war protests, one of the recently arrested protesters said that her arrest is an attempt by the Serbian authorities to intimidate those who oppose the war (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 1999). PM MORE NATO TROOPS FOR KOSOVA FORCE. NATO officials agreed in Brussels on 25 May to increase the size of Operation Joint Guardian from some 28,000 soldiers to up to 45,000, the "Berliner Zeitung" reported. In London on 26 May, British Defense Secretary George Robertson said that he hopes the additional troops will go to the Balkans "in the next few weeks." He added that the force may face "a hostile environment," by which he presumably meant that they might enter Kosova without Serbian permission. Some 24,000 NATO troops are already stationed in or near the Balkans as part of Operation Joint Guardian. More than half of those soldiers are in Macedonia. The operation, which NATO officials often call KFOR-Plus, is intended to be a peace-keeping force in Kosova to ensure that the refugees can return home safely as part of an eventual peace settlement. Observers note that KFOR-Plus could easily form the core of a large force to invade Kosova if NATO decides to embark on such a course. PM FISCHER WARNS ABOUT SANDZAK. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said in Washington on 25 May that if NATO fails to secure the safe return of refugees to Kosova, the conflict could spread and the Balkans remain unstable for many years, Reuters reported. He argued that "if [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic can continue [with his program of ethnic cleansing], we can see next what will happen in the Sandzak..., you will see an overthrow of [the democratic government in] Montenegro. You will see that Albanian nationalism will explode. And this will have severe consequences for stability in the whole region, especially in Macedonia." PM FOREIGN MONEY FOR BOSNIA. A spokesman for the World Bank said in Sarajevo on 25 May that Bosnia will need $2.6 billion in development and reconstruction assistance for the period 2000- 2004. Elsewhere, a spokesman for the international community's Carlos Westendorp noted that $760 million of the $1.05 billion approved last week by an international donors' conference will be allocated for reconstruction projects. The balance will go for peace implementation costs and support for the state budget and balance of payments. Representatives of the international community have stressed in recent months that Bosnia must make a transition from depending on foreign aid to attracting foreign investments. To do that, the Bosnian authorities must do more to end corruption, the foreign experts warn. PM GRENADES HIT PEACEKEEPERS' HOUSES. Unknown persons on 26 May fired rocket-propelled grenades at two houses in Zvornik inhabited by SFOR peacekeepers, NATO said in a statement issued in Tuzla. SFOR officials are investigating the incident, in which no one was injured. The text did not identify the nationality of the troops. Zvornik is in the Republika Srpska. SFOR troops there are under U.S. command. PM ILIESCU WARNS AGAINST RUSSIAN PRESENCE IN BALKANS. Former Romanian President Ion Iliescu called on the U.S. not to give Russia a chance to re-establish its domination in the Balkans by participating in a peacekeeping mission after the conflict in Kosova, Mediafax reported on 25 May. In an article entitled "Moscow on the Danube: Bad News After Kosovo," which was published in "The Washington Post" on 23 May, Iliescu said Russian military involvement in the Balkan peace process could destabilize the region. VG ROMANIAN SENATE ADOPTS LANGUAGE BILL. The Senate on 25 May adopted a language bill stating that in districts where ethnic minorities form at least 20 percent of the population, those minorities have the right to use their own languages in dealings with local authorities, according to a Mediafax report cited by the BBC. The bill has yet to be debated in the Chamber of Deputies. VG COMMUNISTS WIN IN ELECTIONS IN MOST MOLDOVAN COUNTIES. Communist candidates won majorities in six of Moldova's nine counties in the 23 May local elections, according to preliminary results cited by BASA-Press on 25 May. Communist deputy Victor Stepaniuc said his party had been "expecting much more." Vasile Soimaru, a deputy from the Party of Democratic Forces, described the election results as a "victory of the extreme left." Ion Neagu of the Christian Democratic Convention said the results reflect the frustration of the people over the government's mismanagement of state affairs. VG BULGARIAN PREMIER MEETS WITH D'ALEMA... Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema said his country will lobby in favor of negotiations on Bulgaria's accession to the EU beginning in December, according to a 24 May BTA report cited by the BBC. D'Alema's comments came after he met with Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov in Rome. Kostov, who had earlier met with Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, said Macedonia urgently requires humanitarian assistance to deal with the influx of refugees from Kosova. He added that so far Macedonia has not received any "concrete financial assistance." He also said that work should begin immediately on plans for the return of the Kosova refugees to their homes once the conflict in Yugoslavia is over. VG ...SEES KEY ROLE FOR BULGARIA IN BALKANS. Kostov told the Italian ADN-Kronos agency that his country will be "a useful partner" for NATO in maintaining stability in the Balkans and preventing any future conflicts. He pointed out that disputes still exist between Greece and Turkey, between Greece and Macedonia, and between the Turkish government and that country's Kurdish minority. Kostov also said the conflict in Yugoslavia demonstrates that his country needs more access routes to Central Europe and Italy. VG BALKAN DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET IN SOFIA. The deputy defense ministers of seven Southeastern European states as well as delegations from Italy and the U.S. discussed the Kosova conflict at a 25 May meeting in Sofia, Bulgarian Radio reported. The deputy ministers said an international peacekeeping force should be charged with securing the return of the Kosova refugees to their homes and another multinational contingent should be in charge of the region's infrastructure, BTA reported. They are scheduled to visit the proposed headquarters in Plovdiv for a possible multinational Balkan peacekeeping force. VG END NOTE WEST MAY BE ONLY HOPE FOR POST-MILOSEVIC SERBIA By Andrej Krickovic As NATO air strikes devastate Serbia's economy and infrastructure, the Serbian opposition is beginning to speak out against Slobodan Milosevic. At the end of April, former Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic criticized Milosevic for lying to the Serbian people and called on him to accept a peaceful solution to the crisis. He paid for his boldness by losing his job and being returned to the ranks of the opposition. Democratic Party President Zoran Djindjic and Social Democratic Party President Vuk Obradovic have taken Draskovic's criticism a step further. Both have called on Milosevic to bow to NATO demands in order to end the bombing, and both have vowed that Democratic forces in the country will unseat Milosevic once the NATO intervention ends. But Western leaders should not take this as a signal that they can cut a deal with Milosevic and that the opposition will take care of him after the bombings. A compromise deal that is more acceptable to the Serbs than Rambouillet would mean a victory for Milosevic, allowing him to continue to play on nationalist sentiment. Like Sadam Hussein, Milosevic could turn defeat into victory by claiming he stood up to the full force of the Western alliance and defended Serbia's vital national interests. And, like Iraq, Serbia could become a pariah state that is a constant threat to regional stability. While NATO has been winning the air war, Milosevic has been busy clamping down on the opposition and silencing independent media. Independent outlets like Belgrade's Radio B92 have been shut down and reopened with pro-government staffs. Others are afraid of the consequences of speaking out and have more or less voluntarily toed the Milosevic line. Many believe that the slaying of Slavko Curuvija, the editor-in-chief of the popular Belgrade daily "Dnevni Telegraf" was intended as a message to would-be critics of the regime. Several anti-Milosevic activists and opposition leaders have fled to Montenegro, including Djindjic. A post-war opposition movement would have to recover from these losses and operate in an atmosphere of fear and brutal repression. Moreover, it is also doubtful that the opposition is capable of leading Serbia into a post-Milosevic era. Draskovic and Djindjic have been proponents of Serbian nationalism and supported the wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. At the same time, both have blown their best opportunities. They failed to capitalize on the street protests of 1996-1997, allowing Milosevic to emerge stronger than ever. Many observers regard them as opportunists, at best. Although Obradovic has been a vocal opponent of Milosevic, his Social Democracy party has only a small following. Most Serbs continue to hold the same nationalist beliefs that have inflicted so much harm on them and their neighbors during this decade. Even Milosevic's most consistent opponents have failed to condemn ethnic cleansing in Kosova, instead focusing their criticism on "NATO aggression." The most independent-minded media, such as the weekly "Vreme," have portrayed reports of massacres in Kosova as NATO propaganda and claimed that the Western alliance is to blame for the hundreds of thousands of refuges fleeing Kosova. Belgrade's students were the backbone of the 1996-1997 protests. Yet they have failed to show any interest in the suffering of Kosova Albanians and have instead flocked to government- sponsored anti-NATO rallies. The destructive nationalism that Milosevic has manipulated so successfully in the past is still strong among the Serbian people. One would be hard pressed to find a Serb who believes that the Albanians have as much right as the Serbs to live in Kosova or who admits Serbian nationalism is responsible for the wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosova. Most Serbs continue to insist that Kosova is sacred Serbian land and that the Albanians and international community are the ones committing aggression and ethnic cleansing. The international community is unlikely to accept the Serbs "back into the fold" as long as they continue to view themselves martyrs and/or victims of the Albanians or of NATO. Several key Western leaders have suggested that Serbia must purge its media, political culture, and educational system of nationalism before it can return to the ranks of European nations. Such a development will remain impossible while Milosevic is in power. But the Serbs may never be unable to rid themselves of Milosevic if the West allows him to stay in power. The author is a free-lance journalist based in Zagreb xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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