|Be slow of tongue and quick of eye. - Cervantes|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 104, Part II, 28 May 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 104, Part II, 28 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 * POLISH GOVERNMENT REMOVES CONTROVERSIAL AUSCHWITZ CROSSES * MIXED REACTIONS TO MILOSEVIC INDICTMENT IN WEST * GERMANY HOSTS BALKAN DEVELOPMENT MEETING End Note: FOREIGN-POLICY CONFUSION IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE LUKASHENKA TO NATIONALIZE TRADE IN COUNTRYSIDE. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 27 March attended a congress of the Belarusian Union of Consumer Cooperation, which deals with trade in consumer products in the countryside, Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka accused the union of poor performance and announced that he will soon issue a decree subordinating to the state both the union and the consumer trade sector in the countryside. "You will be put under the most rigorous conditions, you will work [the way] all state structures are working in our republic," he told the congress. He also advised the union to earn hard currency by selling mushrooms and wild berries gathered by villagers in Belarusian woods directly to foreigners, bypassing intermediaries, whom he called "private dealers and swindlers." JM OSCE PROPOSES TALKS BETWEEN BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES, OPPOSITION. Following an earlier announcement by OSCE official Adrian Severin (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 19 May 1999), the organization has offered to host talks between the Belarusian authorities and the opposition in Bucharest from 11-13 June, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 27 May. The talks would focus on three topics: executive power, media, and elections in Belarus. The OSCE also proposed a list of participants in the negotiations, which consists of representatives of the government, the political opposition, and Belarusian NGOs. JM IMF RESUMES LOAN PROGRAM, APPROVES NEW MONEY FOR UKRAINE. The IMF on 27 May approved the release of a $180 million tranche of its $2.2 billion loan to Ukraine, Reuters reported. It also endorsed Ukraine's request for an extra $366 million in financial support. "In view of the country's heavy debt service obligations, Ukraine's economic recovery will require the continued involvement of private creditors. A collaborative solution to Ukraine's debt service must be found in line with Ukraine's capacity to pay," the fund said in a statement. The news agency added that the fund wants Ukraine to use IMF money to repay debts to private creditors. JM UKRAINIAN, ROMANIAN PRESIDENTS MEET. Leonid Kuchma and his Romanian counterpart, Emil Constantinescu, met in Kyiv on 27 May and discussed border demarcation issues and prospects for economic cooperation. "We have made good progress in resolving the question of border demarcation," AP quoted Kuchma as saying. The agency added, however, that no "major breakthrough" has been achieved on the issue. Ukraine and Romania disagree on how to demarcate a part of the continental shelf in the Black Sea where large oil and gas deposits are believed to be located. Interfax reported that both presidents also discussed plans for transporting Caspian oil to Western Europe. Ukraine proposes a route extending from Supsa, in Georgia, via Odesa and Ukraine to Poland, while Romania prefers a route from Odesa to the Romanian port of Constanta. "The two routes will not compete because they will service different areas," Kuchma commented. JM ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT HOLDS MARATHON SESSION. The parliament on 26 May held a marathon session that ran into the early morning of the following day. The opposition Center Party used delaying tactics in an attempt to block the approval of the negative supplementary budget in the first reading. However, the controversial bill was approved, and the second reading is scheduled for June. Both sides regard the lengthy session as an indication of how future readings of the budget bill will unfold. Returning to work five hours later for the session on 27 May, the parliament passed amendments retaining zero value-added tax on heating. MH DATE OF LATVIAN PRESIDENTIAL VOTE SET. The parliament on 27 May officially set 17 June as the day lawmakers will vote for a new head of state. Four of the parties represented in the parliament have already nominated their candidates: Anatolijs Gorbunovs (Latvia's Way), Vaira Paegle (People's Party), Janis Priedkalns (For Fatherland and Freedom), and Raimonds Pauls (New Party). The Social Democratic Alliance will choose between three possible candidates within a week, while the leftist For Equal Rights in an Integrated Latvia will not put up a candidate. To win, a candidate must gain at least 51 votes in the 100-member body. MH LATVIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES PORK TARIFFS. The Latvian parliament on 27 May approved a bill that establishes import tariffs for pork. The legislation, which will be in effect from 1 June to 17 December, imposes a 70 percent import duty on pork and pork products. The Latvian government pushed for an exemption for Estonia and Lithuania, but the parliament failed to support the government's plan, according to Baltic news agencies. Following the bill's passage, Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans said: "It appears that international commitments have been violated and neighboring countries could conceivably impose sanctions on Latvia," according to LETA. Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar expressed his regret at the decision. He has called for a meeting of the joint committee on the Baltic Free Trade Agreement. MH LATVIAN-LITHUANIAN BORDER DEAL INITIALED. Latvian and Lithuanian representatives initialed the long-delayed maritime border agreement in Vilnius on 27 May. Officially titled "Delimitation of the Continental Shelf and Economic Zones in the Baltic Sea," the treaty must be approved by both governments. However, the issue of the oil deposit along the originally disputed zone remains to be solved in another document. In April, the two sides agreed to separate the demarcation issue from the economic interest zone, according to LETA. MH POLISH FARMERS BLOCK ROADS AGAIN. Following an appeal by Andrzej Lepper, populist leader of the radical Self- Defense union, Polish farmers blocked some 90 roads throughout the country to protest government agricultural policies, Polish media reported. The blockades come after Lepper accused the government of not keeping its promises and broke off negotiations with the Agricultural Ministry. This time, the police acted more decisively than during similar protests in February, using force to clear roads in eight localities. Serious clashes occurred in Nowy Dwor Gdanski, where several policemen and farmers were hospitalized. Agricultural Minister Artur Balazs said the government will offer subsidies to grain producers as part of an aid package for the agricultural sector. So far, the government has refrained from subsidizing farmers, seeking instead to purchase agricultural products at prices above the minimum level negotiated with farmers' unions. JM POLISH GOVERNMENT REMOVES CONTROVERSIAL AUSCHWITZ CROSSES. Police on 28 May removed some 300 crosses and a wooden chapel erected by radical Catholics at the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, AP reported. According to a joint statement issued by the government and the Polish Episcopate, the crosses have been placed in a monastery near the city of Oswiecim. The legal grounds for the police action, which was intended to end a protracted Jewish-Catholic controversy over religious symbols at Auschwitz, are provided by the law on the protection of former concentration camp sites, which took effect last week. On 27 May, the police arrested Kazimerz Switon, a Catholic radical activist who had led the campaign to erect crosses on the Auschwitz site. The same day, the police detonated an explosive device laid by Switon on the site in a bid to prevent the crosses from being removed. JM NATO EXERCISES BEGIN IN CZECH REPUBLIC. Almost 2,000 NATO officers from 14 NATO countries and 12 Partnership for Peace countries started military exercises in the Czech town of Vyskov on 27 May, Czech media reported. Meanwhile, police have continued to maintain high security at the site after receiving a bomb threat. VG CZECH PREMIER REJECTS CRITICISM OF MEDIA BILL. Milos Zeman on 27 May rejected criticism of the Czech cabinet's new media bill, CTK reported. The bill would require publications to publish responses by readers who feel their reputation has been damaged by an article, even if the reported information is correct. The bill would also give the authorities the power to fine or suspend the publication of periodicals that spread hatred against people because of their race, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation. Zeman said the bill is aimed at ensuring a plurality of views in the media and preventing the spread of hatred. VG SLOVAK PREMIER CALLS ON PEOPLE TO VOTE. Mikulas Dzurinda delivered a televised address to the nation on 27 May callling on Slovaks to participate in the 29 May presidential vote, TASR reported. While not openly supporting either candidate, Dzurinda called on Slovaks not to believe "those who brought this country to the edge of economic collapse." He also made reference to the difficulties caused by the fact that the previous president and the previous government were incapable of working together. Dzurinda's coalition government supports the candidacy of Kosice Mayor Rudolf Schuster. His comments were a clear reference to former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's government and the latter's conflicts with former President Michal Kovac. The latest polls show Schuster leading Meciar by 56 percent to 44 percent. Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia on 27 May accused Dzurinda of violating the law banning election campaigning within two days of the vote. VG PROTESTS AGAINST BOHUNICE DECISION. A member of the environmental caucus of Germany's governing Social Democrats said Slovakia's decision to delay the closure of the Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear power plant could affect the country's EU accession talks, TASR reported on 27 May. Slovakia, which had initially agreed to shut down the plant in the year 2000, now says the plant will continue to function until other means of generating electricity are found. Greenpeace on 27 May denounced the decision, saying Bohunice is "one of the most dangerous nuclear plants in the world." VG SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE HAGUE COURT INDICTS FIVE BELGRADE LEADERS. Louise Arbour, who is the chief prosecutor for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, announced on 27 May that the court has indicted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on three counts of crimes against humanity and one count of a violation of the laws or customs of war (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 1999). The court also indicted Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, General Dragoljub Ojdanic, and Serbian Interior Minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic for their roles in carrying out deportations, murders, and persecutions of Kosovars. Arbour said: "I believe that it is an extraordinary achievement, by any law enforcement standard, for us to have brought to successful confirmation, an indictment against the five accused for crimes of this magnitude committed since the beginning of this year. This has been achieved in less than five months." PM MIXED REACTIONS TO MILOSEVIC INDICTMENT IN WEST... French President Jacques Chirac said in Paris on 27 May that "we will not negotiate with Milosevic, but rather make Yugoslavia accept a peace plan that is fair and balanced." U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in Washington that "we want to see [Milosevic] in The Hague." Her spokesman James Rubin noted, however, that "we are not going to rule out contacts if they can achieve our objectives." Spokesmen for several U.S.- based human rights organizations told VOA that it is unlikely that Milosevic and his colleagues will be arrested unless international peacekeepers in Kosova receive a much tougher mandate to arrest war criminals than SFOR has in Bosnia. For his part, former President Jimmy Carter told CNN that he fears the indictment will make it more difficult for diplomats to end the crisis soon. PM ...AND IN YUGOSLAVIA. The federal Yugoslav government said in a statement on 27 May that the indictment shows that Arbour is a "puppet in the hands" of those "conducting a war" against Yugoslavia. The statement called the indictment a "disgraceful act" and the tribunal a "private court of Madeleine Albright, James Rubin and [NATO commander General] Wesley Clark." In Podgorica, Montenegrin Justice Minister Dragan Soc said that the indictment increases the possibility that Milosevic will stage a coup against the Montenegrin government, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM CLINTON SPEAKS TO KOSOVARS... U.S. President Bill Clinton, in a 27 May radio address to the Kosovars broadcast in the Albanian language by RFE/RL and VOA, said he personally has heard from Kosovars "stories of innocent people beaten and brutalized for no reason but their ethnicity and faith--people rounded up in the middle of the night, forced to board trains for unknown destinations, separated from their families." He stressed that NATO and the Kosovars alike want the refugees to be able to "return in safety" to their homes. Clinton added that this "will take time...[but] there is no doubt what the outcome will be. The campaign of ethnic cleansing...will end. You will return. Our military campaign is daily increasing the pressure on the Serbian leadership and on Serbian forces.... We will persevere until the Serbian forces leave and you are allowed to return home, with NATO there to prevent a return to violence," he concluded. PM ...THANKS ALBANIA, MACEDONIA. Clinton also said in his 27 May radio address: "We are grateful to the people of Albania and Macedonia for accepting refugees into their countries and their homes. It is not easy for any nation to absorb huge numbers of people; and it is certainly not easy for two nations still struggling to meet the needs of their people. We recognize your sacrifices and we are committed to help, by easing your burden, and helping you build security, prosperity and democracy at home and in your neighborhood," he concluded. Meanwhile on the Macedonian-Kosovar border, UN spokesmen said that the flow of refugees has "slowed to a trickle." The spokesmen added that they are not sure why the recent wave of refugees has all but stopped (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 1999). PM NATO 'LEVELS PLAYING FIELD' FOR UCK. Rear Admiral Thomas Wilson told a Washington press conference on 27 May that NATO air strikes have helped the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). "We believe that it's important to continue to destroy [Yugoslav army heavy] equipment and also to try to make it immobile and keep them...out of the fight, because it tends to level the playing field between the [UCK] and the army." Meanwhile at Morina on the Kosovar- Albanian frontier, Serbian forces and the UCK fought for control of the key border crossing. PM RUGOVA REFUSED TO GO TO TIRANA. Moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova recently turned down an invitation from the Albanian government to meet with Albanian officials and Kosovar leaders in Tirana, dpa reported on 27 May. Foreign Minister Pascal Milo said that the government had wanted Rugova to come to Albania following his brief trip to Macedonia on 26 May but he had refused to do so. Majko suggested that Rugova did not want to face embarrassing questions from other Kosovars about his contacts with Milosevic and other Serbian authorities during Rugova's month of house arrest in Prishtina this spring. PM UCK WILL NOT MEET WITH RUGOVA. Rugova said in Paris on 28 May that the UCK's Hashim Thaci and other leaders left the French capital without meeting him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 1999). Thaci recently said that Rugova represents no one but himself and his body guards. He and other critics charge that Rugova 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 GERMANY HOSTS BALKAN DEVELOPMENT MEETING. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told representatives of more than 30 countries and 10 non-governmental organizations in Bonn on 27 May that his proposed "Balkan stabilization pact" must include realistic prospects for EU membership for Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Yugoslavia, and Albania, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. He added, however, that the process will take years and does not mean that the five countries will receive easy terms for membership. The stability pact will also include Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia. Its aim is to promote a regional approach to political and economic development and to security issues. The previous day in Brussels, EU Commissioner Hans van den Broek said that Balkan regional cooperation is an essential means to prevent future conflicts there. He stressed that the EU will offer long-term development assistance to Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia, the "Berliner Zeitung" reported. PM ROMANIAN SENATE COMMISSION STRIPS TUDOR OF IMMUNITY. The Senate's Legal Commission voted to strip Senator Corneliu Vadim Tudor of the Greater Romania Party of his parliamentary immunity from criminal prosecution, according to a 27 May Mediafax report cited by the BBC. Tudor will be investigated in connection with seven criminal charges. The opposition staged a walkout during the commission meeting to protest the governing coalition senators' refusal to consider delaying the vote so that Tudor could defend himself. Meanwhile, the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic on 26 May announced that it will support President Emil Constantinescu for a second mandate as head of state. In other news, the government on 27 May approved a package of incentives for the Renault car manufacturer to pave the way for the sale of shares in the Romanian car maker Dacia Pitesti to the French company. The package of incentives includes exemptions from value-added tax and customs duties, Rompres reported. VG WORRIED DEPOSITORS CROWD ROMANIAN BANK. Thousand of worried depositors lined up at branches of Romania's Bankcoop bank on 27 May in an attempt to withdraw their savings, AP reported. Two days earlier, the Central Bank had ordered Bankcoop to limit its payouts to depositors. Central Bank officials expressed concern at the outbreak of general panic. VG MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT CRITICIZES ELECTORAL COMMISSION. Deputies from the Moldovan parliament have criticized the Moldovan Central Electoral Commission (CEC) for delaying the vote-counting process for the 23 May referendum and local elections, BASA-Press reported on 27 May. Deputy Alexandru Mosanu said the manner in which preliminary information about the election results have been released to the media by CEC officials raises "suspicions." The parliamentary commission for control and petitions is preparing a report on the CEC's handling of the vote. CEC spokesman Anatol Semionov dismissed the criticism. Meanwhile, the CEC on 27 May announced that turnout in the referendum may have been larger than the 56 percent announced in the preliminary results. VG BULGARIA'S ETHNIC TURKS COMPLAIN ABOUT GOVERNOR. Representatives of the largely ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms as well as mayors from the region of Kurdzhali have called for the dismissal of the region's governor, Plamen Ivanov, according to a 26 May Anatolia report cited by the BBC. Kurdzhali Mayor Radim Musa said that Ivanov has threatened some Turkish mayors in the region and that his actions may cause ethnic tensions to escalate. Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov has launched an investigation into the complaints against Ivanov. In other news, the Bulgarian parliament on 27 May passed a law on refugees, which envisages creating an agency for dealing with refugees. The law defines a refugee as "an alien who has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion." In other news, thousands of Bulgarian workers from metalworking, machine building, and arms industries marched through Sofia on 27 May to protest against plant closures and decreasing living standards, Reuters reported. VG GREEK PRESIDENT PLEDGES TO HELP BUILD BRIDGE. Kostas Stephanopoulos has said his country will take the initiative in organizing a trilateral meeting with Bulgaria and Romania on the construction of a new bridge linking the latter two countries, according to a 27 May BTA report cited by the BBC. Stephanopoulos, who is on a state visit to Bulgaria, said Greece wants the issue resolved without delay. Meanwhile, Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov asked Stephanopoulos for his country's assistance in getting aid to the ethnic Bulgarian minority in eastern Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). Stephanopoulos and Kostov also discussed joint Bulgarian-Greek investment. VG END NOTE FOREIGN-POLICY CONFUSION IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC by Victor Gomez The ongoing NATO campaign in Yugoslavia seems to have elicited all manner of reactions across Central and Eastern Europe. But perhaps few countries have presented such a mixed array of foreign-policy statements from politicians in leading positions as has the Czech Republic. Foreign observers and statesmen might be excused for wondering what exactly the country stands for in this conflict. Moreover, the Czech political authorities seem to be at odds over other questions of foreign relations, revealing problems of coordination and leadership in the development of a clear foreign policy. The Kosova conflict has seen the development of differing positions among Czech politicians. First, there is President Vaclav Havel's firm stance in support of the NATO campaign. Second, there is Foreign Minister Jan Kavan's "peace initiative," which he has presented in cooperation with his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou. Among other things, the plan calls for a NATO initiative for a cease-fire and only a partial withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosova, which NATO is not prepared to accept. Third, there is Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus's repeated insistence that the NATO campaign was wrong from the start, that it has clearly failed, and that the alliance is now merely trying to "save face." Such disagreements are evident in other areas of the Czech Republic's foreign policy. When Kavan visited China as part of a Far East tour in mid-May, government spokesman Libor Roucek noted that not only did the current Social Democratic administration disagree with the previous government's stance toward China, but it also conflicted with Havel's opinions on relations with that country. While such conflicting statements do not always reflect long-term policy, they tend to confuse the domestic public and send mixed signals to partners abroad. Observers note that over the years Czech political leaders have largely agreed on the country's most important foreign-policy objectives, such as gaining membership in NATO and the EU. It would not have taken an extraordinary amount of coordination for the country's key politicians to formulate a common policy on Kosova--one that would take into account both concern over the humanitarian aspects of the conflict and the country's obligations as a NATO member. The same could be said about the Czech Republic's relations with China. However, the inability or unwillingness of Czech politicians to formulate a consistent foreign policy line hints at a deeper problem. While Havel's position on the Kosova crisis has been relatively clear and consistent from the beginning of the conflict, there appears to be less consistency among some other politicians. At first glance, Klaus appears to have been relatively consistent in his criticism of the NATO campaign. However, it is odd for a politician to emphatically state that he respects his country's obligations as a NATO member while continuing to publicly blast NATO strategy. Meanwhile, the cabinet of Milos Zeman has continued to waver on the issue. Zeman says the Czech Republic must fulfill its obligations as a NATO member; at the same time, he points out that the decision to bomb Yugoslavia was made before the Czech Republic became a member. His interior minister says the country will accept 5,000 Kosova refugees, but a lower-ranking official says the country cannot afford to take in that many. First, Foreign Minister Kavan says his ministry is working on a "peace plan" for the conflict, then he says it is a "political initiative," finally insisting that it is a "supplement" to the G-8 plan that contains "suggestions" for NATO with regard to the conflict. Obviously, there are differences between the positions of Havel and Zeman. Havel is finishing off what will be his last term as president, having never been directly elected by the Czech people. Zeman, in contrast, is at the head of a minority government, and both the government and Klaus's party are aware that a growing number of Czechs are opposed to the NATO bombing campaign. On the other hand, Zeman is aware that as a new member of NATO, his country cannot adopt an attitude that would be perceived as breaking the alliance's unity on the Kosova conflict. Hence the wavering attitude toward the NATO campaign in Yugoslavia. The problem is that the wavering has been noticed in the West. And if its neighbors and allies--not to mention countries like China--are to take the Czech Republic seriously as an independent state, some of Prague's politicians will have to start working out common and firm stances on key foreign-policy issues. On the home front, perhaps the Czech public would be more appreciative of a government that showed some leadership and took a firm stand on issues such as the Kosova conflict. While many Social Democrats may bemoan the fact that they are losing support to the Communists in the polls "because of Yugoslavia," they themselves can hardly deny that few things look worse than a government that wavers in the face of a major international crisis. 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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