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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 128, Part II, 1 July 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 128, Part II, 1 July 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 * LUKASHENKA MIGHT RUN FOR BELARUSIAN-RUSSIAN PRESIDENCY * ANNAN TO SPEED UP ESTABLISHING CIVILIAN MISSION IN KOSOVA * TRIBUNAL'S RISLEY SAYS SERBIAN AUTHORITIES LAUNCHED DESTRUCTION CAMPAIGN End Note: WHY ORAL HISTORY MATTERS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE LUKASHENKA MIGHT RUN FOR BELARUSIAN-RUSSIAN PRESIDENCY. In an interview with Russian Public Television on 30 June, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said he is prepared to cede most of his powers to the Belarus- Russia union president if that office is created. He added that he might run for the union presidency. "If there is a union and its president is elected by the people, why shouldn't I run against Boris Yeltsin for the position?" he said. Lukashenka confirmed that the next presidential elections in Belarus will be held in 2001. He rejected the opposition's claim that his presidency will be illegitimate after 20 July. JM BELARUSIAN LEGISLATURE IMPOSES RESTRICTIONS ON NGOS' NAMES. The Chamber of Representatives on 30 June adopted amendments to the legislation regulating the activities of political parties, trade unions, and public organizations in Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The legislators banned the use of the words "popular" and "national" as well as "Belarus" and "Republic of Belarus" in the names of Belarusian NGOs. Other amendments established the minimum number of members required for registering an organization: 1,000 for political parties, 500 for trade unions. Under the new legislation, people acting on behalf of an unregistered organization will be fined up to 50 minimum wages and detained for 15 days if they repeat that offense. JM KUCHMA, SYMONENKO PUT ON PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT. The Central Electoral Commission has approved the candidacy of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko in the October presidential elections. Kuchma's supporters collected 1.64 million signatures supporting his electoral bid, while Symonenko's gathered 1.2 million. The other 16 presidential hopefuls must present at least 1 million signatures to the commission by 13 July in order to take part in the ballot. JM IMF APPROVES ANOTHER LOAN TRANCHE FOR UKRAINE. The IMF on 30 June approved the release of a $115 million tranche of its three-year $2.5 billion loan to Ukraine. IMF Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer praised Ukraine for meeting all economic objectives set by the fund last September. At the same time, Fischer noted that future payments will depend on successful debt- restructuring talks. The release of the tranche came after Ukraine and ING Barings agreed to extend the deadline for the country's $163 million bond payment until 9 July, Bloomberg News reported. "[The IMF] urged the authorities and Ukraine's creditors to persevere in their efforts to reach an agreement on terms comparable to other recent agreements with other creditors," Fischer said. JM VICTIM'S SON CONFESSES TO HIGH-PROFILE MURDER IN ESTONIA. Estonian police have announced that the son of Anatoli Paal, the director of Narva Power Plants, has confessed to his father's murder (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1999). Aleksei Paal reportedly confessed to killing his father over a domestic dispute. Officials said charges will be filed on 1 July. They clarified that the murder weapon was a blunt object, not a gun, as initially reported by Estonian news wires. MH ESTONIA NAMES ACTING MILITARY HEAD. President Lennart Meri has named Colonel Urmas Roosimagi as acting head of the Defense Forces while Lieutenant-General Johannes Kert is in the U.S. to take part in a year-long course. That decision is causing some controversy as Chief-of- Staff Ants Laaneots, who by law should be Kert's temporary replacement, was bypassed. President Meri's office explained that it would not be practical to have Laaneots fill both positions, chief-of-staff and acting commander, for a long period, "Postimees" reported. Roosimagi is currently the head of the air defense division. MH LATVIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT ON RUSSIAN TV. Vaira Vike- Freiberga, appearing live on Russian television on 30 June, defended Latvia's policies toward its Russian- speaking minorities, saying its citizenship laws have been approved by the international community, BNS reported. "Russian-language speakers can take their place within Latvia's community," she said, adding that "the only thing we ask of them is to learn the state language." Stressing that Latvia is one of a handful of countries where ethnic disputes remain "peaceful," Vike- Freiberga said: "I am very sorry to disappoint everybody who believes the opposite, but it is true." MH LEGAL ACTIONS BROUGHT AGAINST U.S. DEPORTEE. Lithuania has brought legal action against Vincas Valkavickas, who was recently deported from the U.S. over his activities during World War II. Valkavickas has been linked to several massacres of Jews while serving in Nazi-led forces during the German occupation of Lithuania. According to ELTA, the prosecutor plans to charge Valkavickas within weeks, though the accused maintains his innocence. Valkavickas voluntarily left the U.S. in June before being deported for his wartime activities. MH CZECH COURT SENDS SKINHEADS TO PRISON. A court of justice in Prague on 30 June sentenced three skinheads to prison terms ranging from six-and-a-half to eight- and-a-half years on charges of racially motivated murder and attempted murder, CTK reported. The court said it could not hand down more severe penalties because the three were under age when they committed the murder. In September 1993, the three, along with other skinheads, attacked a group of Roma in Pisek, southern Bohemia, and chased four of them into the Otava River. One Rom drowned in the incident, while the others were helped out of the river by police. Earlier this year, the three were sentenced to the same terms by a lower court, but that sentence was quashed on procedural grounds. MS CZECH COMPANY HEAD DENIES ILLEGAL ARMS DEAL WITH NORTH KOREA. Zbynek Svejnoha, chairman of the board of the Liberec-based Agroplast company, who is being tried in absentia for attempting to illegally export six unassembled MiG-21s to North Korea via Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 1999), on 30 June denied the charge against him, CTK reported. He told Czech Television that he had a valid license and that the MiG spare parts were destined for India. MS DEPUTY PREMIER APPEALS TO ROMA TO STAY IN SLOVAKIA. Pal Csaky, deputy premier in charge of human and national minorities' rights, has called on Slovakia's Roma not to leave the country and "beware of those seeking to make profit out of ethnic tourism." Csaky said the current wave of asylum seekers in Finland appears to have been "organized", as was the 1997 wave to the U.K. He said that "no citizen has reason to leave Slovakia on political or ethnic discrimination grounds" and warned that the Finnish authorities have not yet provided asylum to any of the Slovak Roma, CTK reported on 30 June. On I July, Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, whose country took over the EU rotating presidency one day earlier, said Finland might oppose Slovakia's joining the union because of the refugee flood. MS SLOVAK PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL CONTINUES. The cabinet on 30 June approved the decision of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda to dismiss National Property Fund (FNM) chairman Ludovit Kanik and his deputy, Ladislav Sklenar, but called on the two officials to submit their resignation willingly, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1999). Dzurinda said the two had acted in an "unprofessional manner." Kanik rejected the suggestion that he resign. He said that the deal, in which the U.S. Cinergy company bought from businessman Vladimir Poor shares in a refinery that had been illegally privatized, involved "political responsibility" since the Economy Ministry had been aware of the transaction. MS BUDAPEST MAYOR HELD AT YUGOSLAV BORDER. Gabor Demszky was kept waiting three hours at the Yugoslav border at the start of his 30 June visit to Subotica to meet with Jozsef Kasza, mayor of that city and chairman of the Federation of Vojvodina Hungarians. After the meeting, Demszky said Yugoslavia's reconstruction is impossible without its democratization, and he urged cooperation between cities in Hungary and Vojvodina, Hungarian media reported. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ANNAN TO SPEED UP ESTABLISHING CIVILIAN MISSION IN KOSOVA. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan chaired a meeting in New York on 30 June aimed at quickly developing the civilian administration in Kosova and setting up an international police force there. Present were top officials from the G-8 countries, 10 other states, the EU, the OSCE, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Participants made pledges to bolster the new police force from 1,000 to 1,938 members, but this still falls short of the 3,110 Annan wants to send urgently to the troubled province. Participants differed over whether reconstruction aid should be supplied to Yugoslavia and over the role that the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) should play in an eventual local police force. Annan appealed to his guests to increase their contributions for the reconstruction of Kosova, "The New York Times" reported. PM CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS NEW KOSOVA COURT. In Prishtina on 30 June, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who is Annan's special representative in Kosova, swore in nine judges for Kosova's new independent judiciary, including two judges in absentia. The nine are five ethnic Albanians, three Serbs, and one ethnic Turk. The judges' first task will be to try 221 people, recently detained by KFOR, for murder, looting, and other crimes. De Mello called the swearing in "a most important step forward toward building a new multi-ethnic, independent judiciary." Aziz Rexha, who is one of the five Albanian judges, told Reuters, however, that he and the other Albanians will not assume their duties unless the ethnic balance of the judiciary is altered to more accurately reflect that of Kosova, which is approximately 90 percent Albanian. Djordje Aksic, who was a judge under the former Serbian administration but not under the new one, argued that there must be additional Serbian judges if the exodus of Serbs from the province is to stop. PM TRIBUNAL'S RISLEY SAYS SERBIAN AUTHORITIES LAUNCHED DESTRUCTION CAMPAIGN. Paul Risley, who is a spokesman of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, told RFE/RL on 30 June that that Serbian forces deliberately destroyed houses in Kosova. He argued that the scale of destruction proves that the buildings were not damaged in fighting but that the perpetrators must have set fire to them systematically. He stressed that cities such as Peja and Gjakova are almost completely leveled and that in some cases artillery and mortar fire destroyed entire areas. Risley stressed that army, paramilitary, or police units "must have been directed or told to go to some areas [and]...create these fires, and then move on." There are currently five teams of international forensic experts working in Kosova, while up to five more teams are expected soon. The number of investigators will then total about 350. FS ADDITIONAL MASS GRAVES DISCOVERED IN KOSOVA. KFOR troops on 30 June discovered several mass graves, including the bodies of 119 people in two locations northwest of Prizren, dpa reported. Elsewhere, KFOR soldiers found 11 burned bodies in a house in Kalilane near Peja. A KFOR spokesman in Prishtina said all 11 appeared to be members of a single ethnic Albanian family. FS UCK COMMANDER CALLS ON ALBANIANS NOT TO TAKE REVENGE. UCK commander Rustem Mustafa Remi has called on ethnic Albanians not to take revenge on local Serbs, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 30 June. Remi said that "revenge brings nothing good to the Albanian people" and is "unacceptable to the UCK." He stressed that the UCK intends to introduce the rule of law and a democratic society for all citizens, independent of their ethnic origin. Remi harshly condemned the killings and maltreatment of Serbian civilians as well as the burning of their homes and property by ethnic Albanians. FS MORE REPORTS OF KILLINGS OF SERBS. Serbian Orthodox Father Radomir Nikcevic told the independent FoNet news agency on 30 June that unknown persons killed four Serbian civilians near Rahovec during the previous 24 hours and that an additional 19 Serbs have "disappeared." A local Serbian Red Cross official added that 4,000 Serbs fear revenge attacks by ethnic Albanians and have taken shelter at a church, AP reported. During the spring, Rahovec was the scene of some particularly grisly killings of Kosovars by Serbian forces. In Mitrovica on 30 June, KFOR sent doctors for the first time into the Serbian part of the city, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM FIRST TURKISH TROOPS LEAVE FOR KOSOVA. A convoy of 52 military vehicles left Ankara on 1 July for Kosova via Bulgaria and Macedonia. Turkey's NATO ally Greece refused to allow the convoy to cross its territory, thereby causing a delay in the departure of the vehicles, Reuters reported. A second group of troops will travel by train to Prizren on 2 July and a third and final contingent will fly to Skopje on 7 July before going on to Kosova. The Turks will be stationed in southwestern Kosova, where many ethnic Turks live. Since the collapse of communism, Turkey has shown a keen interest in reestablishing close ties with several Balkan countries that formerly belonged to the Ottoman Empire. PM DJINDJIC WARNS AGAINST ISOLATING SERBS. Zoran Djindjic, who heads Serbia's opposition Democratic Party, said on a visit to Prague on 30 June that democracy will not come to Serbia so long as Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic stays in power, AP reported. Djindjic added, however, that the international community should not isolate the Serbian people in the meantime. "Isolation of the government must not mean isolation of the nation. We cannot expect people who have nothing to support democracy. They could become an easy victim of demagogy," Djindjic concluded. PM MILOSEVIC TO RESHUFFLE CABINET? Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic met in Belgrade on 30 June with representatives of all parties represented in the parliament to discuss reconstruction following the NATO bombing campaign. The Serbian opposition parties belonging to the Alliance for Change have no parliamentary representation and were not invited. Montenegrin parties opposed to Milosevic rejected the invitation because they do not recognize the Bulatovic government as legitimate. Observers suggested that Milosevic may be seeking to solidify his power base by ensuring that Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party stays in government and by persuading Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement to return to the cabinet after having left earlier in the year. PM YUGOSLAV ARMY BLOCKS MONTENEGRIN FRONTIER WITH CROATIA. Yugoslav troops continue to prevent trucks and persons without Yugoslav passports from entering Montenegro from Croatia, "The Daily Telegraph" reported on 1 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 1999). The army recently turned back "hundreds" of trucks in a single day. The London-based daily added that Belgrade's goal is to prevent supplies from entering Montenegro by land and "place the country under partial siege." PM CROATIAN FARMERS' PROTEST OVER. Farmers dismantled their roadblocks at various locations throughout Croatia on 30 June after reaching agreement with the government on back payments to farmers and on the price of wheat (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1999). PM ALBANIAN AIRPORT STRIKE ENDS. Tirana airport ground staff returned to work on 30 June after being awarded a 30 percent salary increase, Reuters reported. The workers will receive an additional 20 percent wage hike in September. Commercial flights to and from the airport have meanwhile resumed. They were halted on 28 June when the 150 staff stopped work (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 1999). FS ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES LAND, FOREST RESTITUTION AMENDMENT... The Chamber of Deputies on 30 June approved the amended law on land and forest restitution, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The maximum amount of land that can be restituted to individuals has been raised from 10 to 50 hectares. The limit on forest restitution (which was not included in the previous version of the law) has been set at 10 hectares for individuals and 30 hectares for monasteries and churches, as demanded by the Democratic Party. The Senate has not yet debated the law. MS ...BUT RETURN OF REAL ESTATE PROVOKES CRITICISM. Also on 30 June, Prime Minister Radu Vasile rejected criticism from within the ranks of his own National Peasant Party Christian Democratic and the Liberal Party about the government's decision one day earlier to submit the amended law on real estate restitution to parliamentary debate under the so-called "urgency procedure" rather than issuing a government regulation. Vasile said the decision came after opposition threats to move a no- confidence vote and differences of opinion within the cabinet and among members of the coalition majority. MS HUNGARIAN MINORITY CONTENT WITH ROMANIAN EDUCATION LAW. Bela Marko, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, said on 30 June he is "satisfied" with the Senate's decision earlier that day to approve the amended version of the Education Law recommended by a mediation commission of the parliament's two chambers. The law allows the setting up within existing universities of departments offering instruction in national minority languages and the establishment of "multicultural" universities, whose language of tuition is to be established by separate laws. In high schools that offer instruction in minority languages, history and geography must be taught in Romanian. MS MOLDOVAN PREMIER SAYS ECONOMIC SECURITY ENDANGERED. In an article published in the daily "Moldova suverana" on 30 June, Prime Minister Ion Sturza said the country's economic security is in danger and speedy, far-reaching reforms are the only solution to that situation, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Sturza said Moldovan GDP has shrunk by 60 percent since the country became independent and per capita annual income is $500, thus making poverty "the number one problem" for the government. Also on 30 June, Sturza told journalists that the cabinet has approved a number of draft laws aimed at accelerating reforms, including legislation on guaranteeing against the expropriation of property, land-leasing, small and medium-sized enterprises, and various social measures. MS BULGARIA COMPLETES LIQUIDATION OF LOSS-MAKING STATE COMPANIES. Finance Minister Muravei Radev on 30 June announced that Bulgaria has sold 40 percent of its state assets and met the IMF-set deadline for selling or closing 41 large loss-making companies as part of its market reform program, AP reported. Under the terms of a 1997 three-year stand-by agreement for a $800 million loan, the companies had to be closed in order to cut losses in the public sector. Of the 41 companies, 30 have been sold, including the national carrier Balkan Air. Radev said that 7,000 jobs were cut and there will be another 6,000 layoffs by year's end if none of the nine remaining companies slated for closure is sold. MS END NOTE WHY ORAL HISTORY MATTERS by Michael J. Jordan Placed before the conference participants was a plastic three-ring binder, with three inches' worth of newly declassified documents. Those documents revealed the content of the Hungarian Politburo and Soviet- Hungarian meetings during the country's 1989 transition from Communist dictatorship to parliamentary democracy. But early on at the Budapest conference, as ex- dissidents debated that peaceful "negotiated" transition with their communist-era adversaries, those records took a back seat. The former opposition was more preoccupied with intrigue--wire-tapping, secret agents, back-room deals. On the hot seat was Gyorgy Fejti, the Politburo member who had controlled the Ministry of Interior and its police, secret police, spies and informants. But the tight-lipped Fejti gave his interrogators little satisfaction. As he would later tell a foreign journalist: "I'm here because 1989 was an exciting time and I'm curious what their perceptions were, but I have no desire to earn the everlasting love of these people. I'm not an angel, nor am I the devil. I'm just an average, down-to-earth guy." Still, the conference filled in gaps that could never be drawn from archives. Other players explained their actions, motivations, and emotions. On the heels of a similar meeting between U.S. and Vietnamese officials earlier this month, it was the latest in a growing number of "collective, critical" oral-history projects that are bringing together players from main Cold War events, from the 1962 Cuban missile crisis to the Vietnam War and martial law in Poland in 1980-81. As more archives are released, historians hustle to confirm all that they can while "witnesses" are alive to recount their role in history. "Reality is composed of both fact and perception, so documents alone don't come close to telling the whole truth," says Thomas Blanton, executive director of the Washington-based National Security Archive, a backer of these conferences. "While you can't fully re-create that reality or atmosphere of that period...you can get close enough by restoring human will and human agency to what happened." Oral history itself is nothing new--it predates written history. But this new trend was spurred by a need to learn the lessons of the past. In October 1987, with a spiraling nuclear arms race between the U.S. and Soviet Union, a small group of U.S. historians organized a conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to discuss the Cuban missile crisis. Later, during the mid-1990s, the nonprofit National Security Archive and the Cold War International History Project of the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars teamed up to organize a series of conferences in Central Europe, titled "Cold War Flashpoints," on the anti-Soviet uprising in Hungary in 1956, the Prague Spring in 1968, and the birth of Solidarity in Poland, 1980-1981. One of the highlights of that series was in November 1997, when Polish General Wojciech Jaruzelski was forced to defend his decision to impose martial law. Jaruzelski claimed he was a patriot, not a traitor, and that he had prevented a Soviet invasion. But the evidence presented at the conference, combined with the live testimony of Soviet military officials, indicated the Soviets would not have invaded. History, of course, is typically told by the winners. But today there is a drive to get numerous perspectives. Moreover, until 1989 most U.S. Cold War historians relied on English-language texts based primarily on U.S. or British accounts. Today, more archives are being unearthed, transcribed, and translated. And that has triggered a domino effect, says James Hershberg, director-emeritus of the Woodrow Wilson project. "We're creating an international openness movement, where openness is used as...leverage against closed archives everywhere," Hershberg said. "An opening in one place encourages an opening in another. We take newly released Soviet archives to the CIA, which pressures the CIA to release even more." While the key figures in history can freely publish one-sided, self-serving memoirs of how events unfolded, in these oral history roundtable discussions historians can confront those figures with the evidence. Such was the case in Budapest. "By preparing all those documents, we gave scholars a chance to have an impact on how events are remembered," says Csaba Bekes, director of the Cold War History Research Center in Budapest. Participants "can't just tell us anything, to mislead us as they would like. We...squeezed more information out of them than they otherwise would have produced." Conferences like the Budapest one also overcome the initial suspicion of participants, build trust, and encourage further participation. "Witnesses" have a vested interest in attending these conferences, say organizers. They cite the case of Jaruzelski, whose actions continue to be a politically sensitive topic in Poland. "History is going to get written one way or another, so you might as well try to influence it," Hershberg says. "If you don't show up, you're leaving your history to someone you may disagree with. Sometimes, just to hear what their counterpart says is incentive enough. We don't have to bribe them with honorariums." On the agenda this October are conferences in Warsaw and Prague, with others perhaps in Germany, Romania, and Bulgaria. They will conclude in 2000 with a large-scale conference in Moscow. But no one should expect a similar conference on NATO's campaign against Yugoslavia. A "critical mass" is necessary, says Blanton of the National Security Archive. "Unless there is sufficient distance from those events, with enough memoirs written and enough archives released, it may be premature," he says. "We spend a lot of energy trying to generate that critical mass." The author is a Budapest-based journalist [firstname.lastname@example.org] xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. 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