|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 141, Part II, 22 July 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 141, Part II, 22 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 * BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATES ON 'FIRST DAY' AFTER LUKASHENKA * OJDANIC SAYS ARMY MAY INTERVENE AGAINST PROTESTS * SERBIAN RESERVISTS SET DEADLINE FOR PAYMENTS End Note: EFFECTS OF RUSSIAN CRISIS CATCH UP WITH LITHUANIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATES ON 'FIRST DAY' AFTER LUKASHENKA. More than 3,000 people took part in the opposition "folk festival" near the presidential office in Minsk on 21 July to mark the end of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's legitimate term in office. The demonstrators carried placards urging Lukashenka to step down and pronouncing 21 July "the first day without Lukashenka in power." Police troops, which were present in large numbers, did not intervene but arrested 53 people after the protest ended. The same day, the opposition Supreme Soviet convened to declare Lukashenka's tenure over. Viktar Hanchar, who was elected Supreme Soviet first deputy chairman, said Supreme Soviet chairman Syamyon Sharetski is now "de facto the head of state." Earlier the same day, artist Ales Pushkin dumped a wheelbarrow of manure with Lukashenka's portrait in front of the presidential office, saying his action is intended to thank the president "for five years of fruitful work." JM U.S. TO MAINTAIN TIES WITH LUKASHENKA ON 'DE FACTO BASIS.' State Department spokesman James Rubin said on 21 July that the U.S. government will continue to deal with Lukashenka even though he lost his legitimacy after 20 July. "The fact that we'll continue to deal with him on a de facto basis, in our view, does not legitimize him," Rubin said. He added that unless the Lukashenka regime shows respect for human rights and democracy, the U.S.'s "policy of selective engagement will remain very much in effect." JM UKRAINE CUTS IMPORT DUTIES TO FIGHT FUEL SHORTAGE. President Leonid Kuchma reprimanded his government on 21 July for the acute gasoline shortage in the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1999). The cabinet responded by ordering the lifting of a 2 percent duty on oil imports land and freeing domestic producers from a 0.01 euro duty on each kilogram of oil products until 1 January 2000. Deputy Economy Minister Viktor Kalnyk said the government also ordered tax authorities to give local oil refineries more time to pay value-added tax and excise duties. The government, meanwhile, plans to import 500,000 tons of diesel fuel from Azerbaijan to help farmers with the harvest campaign. As a result of the gasoline crisis, the exchange rate for the hryvnya sank to 4.2 to $1 in trading between banks on 21 July, having remained stable for several months at around 3.9 to $1. JM ESTONIA, LITHUANIA JOINS EU POSITION ON LUKASHENKA. Both Estonia and Lithuania joined the EU in its stance on the end of Belarusian President Lukashenka's term in office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1999). The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said in a press release that Vilnius "joins the efforts of the international community to develop a dialogue with Belarus on consolidating respect for human rights in that country, the freedom of press and the principles of free elections," BNS reported. The Estonian Foreign Ministry said that it joined the "common position" on Lukashenka. MH LITHUANIAN OIL TERMINAL OPERATION DISRUPTED. Protestors from Latvia on 21 July disrupted the first operations of the Butinge Oil Terminal, a key part of Lithuania's oil industry. Four environmental protestors chained themselves to a buoy near the terminal until they were removed by the Lithuanian coast guard and were later deported. Oil began pumping at the terminal in mid- afternoon, the first 70,000 tons of which is to be purchased by British Petroleum. Latvian Environmental Minister Vents Balodis said it was appropriate for Lithuanian officials to arrest the protestors, but he noted that as a person with "Green sympathies," he "understood" the action of the protestors, BNS reported. The official opening of the Butinge Terminal is scheduled for 22 July. MH POLISH GOVERNMENT DELEGATION UNABLE TO SPEAK FOREIGN LANGUAGES? Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek on 21 July demanded that a Polish government delegation led by Deputy Interior Minister Bogdan Borusewicz explain its behavior at a UN conference on human rights in Geneva on 19 July. Polish Television reported on 21 July that in answering questions posed by the UN Human Rights Committee, virtually none of the 14 Polish delegates was able to communicate in any of the UN official languages. "This is the first such humiliation in the history of the UN," a Polish Television correspondent reported from Geneva. JM CZECHS NOT AFRAID OF COMMUNIST POPULARITY GROWTH. A poll released by STEM on 21 July shows that 55 percent of Czechs are not afraid of the recent growth in the popularity of the Communist Party of Bohemia (KSCM) and Moravia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 1999), CTK reported. Forty-five percent said they are afraid of the findings' implications. Seventy-seven percent of Freedom Union supporters expressed that opinion. as did 56 percent of Civic Democratic Party backers and 28 percent of Social Democratic Party supporters. MS SLOVAK POLL SHOWS GOVERNMENT SUPPORT DECLINING. A public opinion poll conducted by Focus shows that support for Slovakia's four-party coalition government, which recently announced economic austerity measures, is declining, Reuters and CTK reported. The government now has 52.8 percent backing, compared with 57.6 percent in June. The combined support of the opposition parties now exceeds 41 percent, compared with 37.9 percent one month earlier. The opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia is leading the field, with 28.7 percent backing, followed by the Slovak Democratic Coalition (19.6 percent) and the Democratic Left Party (14.5 percent). The Slovak National Party, the other opposition party, is backed by 12.4 percent, the Hungarian Coalition Party by 11 percent, and the Party of Civic Understanding by 7.7 percent. MS HUNGARIAN PARTY IN SLOVAKIA TO 'RECONSIDER' PARTICIPATION IN GOVERNMENT. The Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) is to "reconsider" its continued participation in the government coalition given that "its political expectations have not been fulfilled," according to a statement by the SMK leadership to CTK on 21 July. The SMK has opposed the government- sponsored bill on the use of national minority languages in contacts with the authorities, saying its provisions are too restrictive. MS HUNGARY REBUFFED ON VOJVODINA AT BRATISLAVA CONFERENCE. Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan, one of the two UN special envoys on the Balkan crisis, told a 21 July international conference in Bratislava devoted to the future of Yugoslavia that it is now necessary to solve the complicated problems in Yugoslavia, Kosova, and the Balkans rather than "make up new ones," such as autonomy for Vojvodina's Hungarian ethnic minority, CTK reported. Jiri Dienstbier, UN envoy for human rights in Yugoslavia, said it is "very dangerous" for the Hungarian government "to play with fire abroad," and Dusan Mihajlovic, chairman of the Serbian New Democracy Party, said the issue of autonomy for the Vojvodina Hungarians is "a Yugoslav problem that could find a solution in granting a very high degree of regional autonomy [to Vojvodina]." Joszef Kasza, head of the Federation of Vojvodina Hungarians, told the forum that autonomy is "a promising model for solving minority problems." MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE OJDANIC SAYS ARMY MAY INTERVENE AGAINST PROTESTS... General Dragoljub Ojdanic, who is chief of the General Staff and a staunch supporter of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, told a meeting of the government in Belgrade on 21 July that the military will "support the state" and its "elected leadership" in peacetime as well as in war, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM ...AS PERISIC SLAMS HIM. General Momcilo Perisic, who was Ojdanic's predecessor as chief of staff, told the Belgrade-based weekly "NIN" that the government seriously mismanaged the crisis in Kosova. He charged that the army leadership is now openly politicized on the side of Milosevic and Mira Markovic, who is the president's wife. Perisic added that all democratic forces in Serbia must unite if they want to get rid of Milosevic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 22 July. Milosevic fired Perisic and replaced him with Ojdanic in November 1998 following public criticism by Perisic of Milosevic's policies in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 November 1998). PM SERBIAN RESERVISTS SET DEADLINE FOR PAYMENTS. Several hundred reservists blocked a road outside Kragujevac to demand that the army give them their back pay within 48 hours. They also demanded that the authorities pay the reservists' water and electricity bills and provide benefits for the families of dead or disabled soldiers in the Kosova conflict, Reuters reported. A spokesman for the reservists said they will march on Belgrade if the authorities do not meet the deadline. Earlier the same day, Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic said the army will pay back wages totaling $90 million in six monthly installments. Serbian economists noted that the average monthly salary there is about $40 and that a rapid influx of freshly printed money into the economy could trigger rampant inflation, AP reported. PM MILOSEVIC GOVERNMENT CALLS OPPONENTS 'TRAITORS.' Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic said in Novi Pazar on 21 July that unnamed opponents of Milosevic "were visiting our enemies and requesting them to keep bombing while we were defending our country," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He was referring to Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic, whom a court has summoned to a hearing on 28 July over charges that he failed to respond to a military call-up notice during the Kosova conflict. The Democratic Party said in a statement that the authorities are "trying to settle accounts with democratic forces...[and prevent] inevitable changes." In Novi Pazar, the opposition Sandzak Coalition said in a statement that Marjanovic's visit was an example of "bad taste and cheap political propaganda." PM ADDITIONAL JAIL SENTENCE FOR NOVKOVIC? Protests continued in Leskovac on 21 July for the 17th straight day to demand the release from jail of television broadcaster Ivan Novkovic, who had appealed on the air for anti-Milosevic protests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1999). The broadcaster is serving a 30-day sentence. On 22 July, a local judge ruled that Novkovic faces a criminal charge of "misusing an official position" in connection with the same televised appeal. If found guilty, Novkovic could face up to five years in prison, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM BELGRADE FINES RADIO PANCEVO. The authorities sent a $35,000 bill to the independent Radio Pancevo "for use of state-owned frequencies," AP reported on 21 July. A spokeswoman for the station said the government "does not consider us patriotic" and is trying to bankrupt the station to force it off the air. She stressed that Radio Pancevo does not have the money to pay the bill. PM STUDENTS DEMONSTRATE IN NIS. Several hundred secondary school and university students demonstrated in southern Serbia's principal city on 21 July to demand that Milosevic resign. A spokesman told Reuters that "Serbia, headed [sic.] by its students, must change because this is not life, this is a twilight zone." Another student added that protests will become much bigger in September and October after the summer holidays. Observers noted that the march in Nis was the first large student anti- Milosevic protest in several years. During the Kosova crisis, students often wore anti-NATO badges and turned out for public rock concerts organized by the authorities. Elsewhere, representatives of the Independent Farmers' Union called for protests and a general strike on 2 August, AP reported from Belgrade. PM KFOR FREES SERBIAN POLICE. International peacekeepers have returned to the Serbian authorities four Serbian police whom KFOR troops recently arrested in northern Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 21 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1999). The four said they did nothing wrong and mistakenly entered Kosova because they "misread their map." PM UNHCR OUTLINES KOSOVA RECONSTRUCTION COSTS... A spokesman for the UNHCR said in Prishtina on 21 July that approximately 25 percent of the buildings in the province's 29 largest cities and towns were "heavily damaged" during the recent crisis. He estimated that reconstruction costs for the rest of 1999 at $333 million. PM ...AS DOES WORLD BANK. World Bank President James Wolfensohn said in Prishtina on 21 July that "water, power, fire services, and, most important, police [must be restored]. The fabric of civil [sic.] government needs to be put together, because it does not exist today. [We also need] a basis for re-establishing commerce, including banking and the provision of micro- credit to get [the economy] moving forward," Reuters reported. Wolfensohn stressed that "it's important to rebuild confidence, establish a normal way of life." He noted that law and order are a prerequisite for attracting foreign investment. Wolfensohn estimated reconstruction costs "for the next two months" at approximately $50 million. PM PRODI WARNS AGAINST 'BUREAUCRACY.' Incoming European Commission President Romano Prodi said in Strasbourg on 21 July that the EU "will be the first to contribute [to the Kosova reconstruction effort], but there is a danger that the impact of its support will get buried in a complex web of competing structures. We desperately need to simplify things." He warned that money must be directed primarily to projects in Kosova and not to salaries of EU officials. Critics of the EU effort have charged that officials dealing with the program should be working in Kosova and not in Thessaloniki or Brussels, where EU aid coordinator Bodo Hombach reportedly plans to have a large office. PM BOSNIANS BLAST EU OVER SUMMIT PLANNING. Edhem Bicakcic, who is prime minister of the mainly Muslim and Croatian Bosnian federation and the head of Bosnia's organizing committee for the 30 July Balkan reconstruction summit in Sarajevo, said on 21 July that the EU "has put the summit into question...by its lack of understanding of the need for timely preparation" of the meeting. The EU approved a budget of $1.6 million for the summit only on 19 July. The Bosnian authorities expected an unspecified, larger sum at an earlier date. PM BOSNIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ADOPT TV LAW. The legislature of the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation ended a session on 21 July without passing proposed legislation to regulate television in the federation. The international community's Carlos Westendorp had given the parliament a deadline of midnight that day to pass the law. He is likely to enact the legislation by decree on 22 July, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Sarajevo. PM ARE THERE SPIES IN THE HAGUE? The Dutch intelligence service said in its annual report on 21 July that members of unnamed "Balkan secret services" have sought to infiltrate the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The agents allegedly sought to influence the court's work and to obtain information about the identity of witnesses who have testified in confidence to the tribunal. The report did not elaborate. PM WORLD BANK TO HELP MACEDONIA. Wolfensohn said in Skopje on 20 July that the World Bank "will do all we can along with the G-7 and other European countries to ensure that the financing, which is needed to reach the level of the assessed damage [resulting from the Kosova conflict], can be put together in the coming months" He did not specify a figure. During his visit, he signed agreements for several projects totaling more than $50 million, Reuters reported. Wolfensohn stressed that Macedonia must reform its legal, banking, justice, and financial systems. Only by instituting key reforms, he continued, can Macedonia "be organized to face the future." PM ROMANIAN SENATE CHAIRMAN JOINS CRITICS OF GENERALS' SENTENCING. Petre Roman on 21 July said he fully agrees with Defense Minister Victor Babiuc's criticism of the sentence passed last week on Generals Victor Stanculescu and Mihai Chitac. Roman, who heads the Democratic Party, to which Babiuc also belongs, said the sentence is "discrediting the army as a whole," adding that it is "strange" that shortly after a former head of the Securitate, General Mihai Pacepa, was rehabilitated, the judicial system sentences two generals who participated in the 1989 revolution, treating them "as if they were war criminals," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS ROMANIAN NATIONALISTS CRITICIZE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. The Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) on 21 July said a recent ruling by the Constitutional Court is likely to have "baleful consequences" for the country. The previous day, the court ruled that the amended Education Law passed by the parliament last month does not violate the constitution. It also ruled that when the parliament is in recess, the cabinet is entitled to ratify by government regulation the European Charter on Minority and Regional Languages. Twenty- five senators and 61 deputies from the PUNR and the Party of Social Democracy in Romania had urged the court to rule that both the law and the charter contradict the provisions stipulating that Romania is a "unitary and national state" and that the country's only official language is Romanian. The group also argued that only the parliament can ratify the charter. MS MOLDOVAN OFFICIALS DENY TURKISH INVOLVEMENT IN KURDISH REBEL'S CAPTURE. The Moldovan Interior and Security Ministries on 21 July denied any knowledge of the capture in Moldova of a Kurdish rebel, the RFE/RL Chisinau bureau reported. Turkish Premier Bulent Ecevit had said earlier the same day that Cevat Sosyal was arrested in a secret Turkish operation and brought to Turkey. Xemgin Abdulah of the Kurdistan Association of Moldova told journalists that Sosyal was arrested in Chisinau on 13 July by the Security Ministry and later extradited to Turkey. Reports from Turkey said Sosyal is the second-ranking Kurdish rebel leader after Abdullah Ocalan, who was recently condemned to death in Turkey. The Kurdistan National Liberation Front, which is the political wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), said in a written statement that Sosyal was a rebel activist, but not a senior PKK leader. MS BULGARIAN PREMIER IN GREECE. Ivan Kostov told journalists in Athens on 21 July that "Greece is Bulgaria's most important partner among EU states" and that his government is interested in further Greek investments in Bulgaria. Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis said Athens wants its EU partners to agree at the Helsinki summit in December to start membership negotiations with Bulgaria, and he expressed support for Bulgaria's NATO accession bid. Simitis added that his government remains committed to participating in the construction of a highway linking Bulgaria to northern Greece but that the project is being delayed by "environmental considerations." Kostov said officials from the two countries and from Russia will meet at the end of this month to discuss a possible pipeline linking Bulgaria's Black Sea port of Burgas with Alexandroupolis, on the Aegean Sea. The project has been delayed by disputes among the countries involved and doubts about its efficiency. MS END NOTE EFFECTS OF RUSSIAN CRISIS CATCH UP WITH LITHUANIA by Michael Wyzan In the first few months after the Russian economic crisis erupted in August 1998, Lithuania seemed less affected by that development than the other two Baltic states. GDP rose by 5.1 percent in Lithuania in 1998, compared with 4 percent in Estonia and 3.6 percent in Latvia. The Lithuanian economy's apparent ability to withstand the crisis better than those of the neighboring countries was surprising in view of its greater dependence on trade with Russia. By far Lithuania's largest partner, Russia accounted for 22 percent of Lithuanian exports and 23 percent of its imports in 1998. Russia's weight in Estonia's trade last year was 13 percent for exports (third place) and 11 percent for imports (second), while for Latvia the comparable figures were 12 percent for exports (third) and 12 percent for imports (second). Despite the strong GDP growth for 1998 as a whole, Lithuania's economy was performing weakly by the fourth quarter. GDP growth was only 0.2 percent in that quarter, compared with the same period in 1997. Much of the blame for the slowdown in growth can be attributed to the foreign sector: total exports were 22 percent lower than during the final quarter of 1997. Most indicators point to a deterioration in economic performance in early 1999. GDP fell by 5.7 percent during the first quarter, compared with the same period in 1997. From January-May, sales of industrial production were down by 8.5 percent, compared with one year earlier. Nonetheless, the worst may well be over. During the first two months of the year, industrial sales were down by 12.2 percent. Moreover, the official unemployment rate, after rising from 6.9 percent at the end of 1998 to a record 8.5 percent in March, has since subsided to 7.8 percent in May. A large decline in trade with Russia, similar to that experienced by both Estonia and Latvia in 1998, has finally hit Lithuania this year, especially with regard to exports. From January through April, Russia purchased only 7 percent of Lithuanian exports, putting it in fourth place. However, with regard to Lithuanian imports, Russia remained the most important partner, accounting for 20 percent of the total. Thus, Lithuania remains more vulnerable to economic developments in Russia than Estonia or Latvia. That vulnerability is even greater than the figures suggest because much of Lithuania's imports from Russia consists of crude oil for the Mazeikiai refinery, whose supplies have been cut off twice this year (in late January and in late May, on both occasions for several days). Since Mazeikiai accounts for about 10 percent of GDP, these shutdowns have a significant impact on the economy. The weakness of the economy this year has had predictable fiscal consequences. The government of former Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius, who was replaced on 19 May by Rolandas Paksas, had targeted a balanced budget for 1999. However, that goal was predicated on 5.5 percent GDP growth and 5 percent inflation. Given the unrealistic targeted GDP growth, the current government is considering expenditure cuts of varying sizes, with the IMF supporting a reduction of $104 million. There is, however, one silver lining for Lithuania's economy this year--namely that the current account deficit, which had reached an alarming 12.1 percent of GDP in 1998, fell to 9.6 percent of GDP during the first quarter. In line with the slowing economy, imports contracted by 20.2 percent from January through April over the same period in 1998. Such a decline kept the trade deficit from growing excessively in the face of a 23.5 percent fall in exports over this period. Large current account deficits have not yet undermined Lithuania's commitment to maintaining the fixed exchange rate under the currency board introduced in April 1994, although there is debate about how and when to switch from pegging to the dollar to fixing to the euro. Moreover, foreign direct investment of $920 million in 1998, largely on the strength of the sale in July to Swedish and Finnish interests of the telecommunications monopoly for $510 million, was sufficiently large that the foreign reserves grew by $397 million, despite the big current account imbalance. Projections for Lithuania's GDP growth this year vary, with the IMF projecting 2.5 percent and other observers predicting a decline of 1-2 percent. Exports to Russia are likely to remain far below their past levels, so that reorienting foreign trade toward the EU must be given a high priority if sustained economic growth is to be achieved in the coming years. The author is a research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria. 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. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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