|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 148, Part II, 2 August 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 148, Part II, 2 August 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 * HUNGARIAN PREMIER ON VOJVODINA * U.S. FORCES PROTECT FLEEING SERBS * SFOR DETAINS BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMES SUSPECT End Note: IMPLICATIONS OF A ROMANIAN COURT DECISION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN POPULAR FRONT HOLDS CONGRESS... As widely expected, the congress of the Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) that took place in Minsk on 31 July-1 August turned into a battleground over the form of leadership to be pursued by the main opposition movement. One group supported BNF leader Zyanon Paznyak, who obtained political asylum in the U.S. in 1996 and has ruled the BNF from abroad since then. Another group, led by Paznyak's deputy, Vintsuk Vyachorka, argued that Paznyak's leadership is too authoritarian and demanded that more powers be given to members inside Belarus. Paznyak, who sent a message to the congress from Poland, called on the BNF to side only with those Belarusian opposition organizations that "in no way participate in Russian politics." JM ...FAILS TO ELECT LEADER. The congress proposed two candidates to lead the BNF, Paznyak and Vyachorka, but neither obtained the required majority of votes to become BNF chairman. On 1 August, 152 delegates voted for Vyachorka and 160 against him. Paznyak was supported by 152 votes and opposed by an equal number of delegates. The BNF is technically left leaderless, with Paznyak as acting chairman until the BNF reconvenes in the fall to tackle the issue of leadership once again. The congress did, however, adopt a declaration calling for the protection of Belarus's sovereignty and condemning Russian-Belarusian integration. JM UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT FIRES FIRST DEPUTY PREMIER. Leonid Kuchma has sacked First Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Kuratchenko, Kuchma's spokesman said on 31 July. He provided no reason for the dismissal, however. Observers say the dismissal can be linked to Kuratchenko's remarks last week that Ukraine should revive state economic planning and change its course of reform (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 1999). The government's press service issued a statement on 29 July confirming the country's commitment to market reforms. JM UKRAINE, U.S. AGREE ON KOSOVA MISSION, EXTENSION OF WEAPONS DEAL. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen told President Kuchma on 31 July that the U.S. and other NATO members will provide one-time aid to send 800 Ukrainian peacekeepers to Kosova. Kuchma's spokesman quoted Cohen as saying that NATO has already taken a decision in principle on the issue, while financial details will be worked out in the near future. Moreover, Ukraine and the U.S. agreed to a six-year extension--until 2006--of the U.S.-sponsored program to destroy ICBMs and long-range bombers that were left in Ukraine after the breakup of the USSR. JM NINE CANDIDATES TO COMPETE FOR UKRAINIAN PRESIDENCY. The Central Electoral Commission on 31 August registered Cherkasy Mayor Volodymyr Oliynyk as the last candidate in the 31 October presidential elections, bringing the total number of presidential hopefuls to nine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 1999). Several other aspirants failed to qualify because they could not produce the required 1 million signatures in their support, Interfax reported. JM BALTIC PRESIDENTS TAKE PART IN BALKAN STABILITY SUMMIT... Lennart Meri (Estonia), Vaira Vike-Freiberga (Latvia), and Valdas Adamkus, taking part in the 29-30 July Sarajevo summit on Balkan reconstruction, pledged their countries' assistance in that effort. Meri offered Estonia's "proven approach" in achieving stability and economic progress, adding that "human rights will be respected only when people believe they have a vested interest in economic well-being," BNS reported. Vike- Freiberga commented that "we need not remain slaves to our history," while Adamkus also offered to share Vilnius's "experience of [its] relationship with neighboring countries" and show that problems can be solved "peacefully and without using bullets and tanks," ELTA reported. MH ESTONIAN DEPORTER SENTENCED. A Parnu court sentenced Mikhail Neverovski to four years in prison following his conviction for involvement in the 1949 deportations. The court ruled that in his capacity as a former KGB agent, the 79-year-old Neverovski was responsible for the deportations of nearly 300 individuals to Siberia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 1999). This is the first deportation case to result in a prison sentence, as others led to suspended sentences. Neverovski can appeal the verdict. MH POLISH TRADE UNIONS TO RESUME SOCIAL DIALOGUE? The National Trade Union Accord (OPZZ), a major coalition of left-wing trade unions, has confirmed it wants to discuss with Solidarity the principles and the future of social dialogue in Poland. OPZZ leader Jozef Wiaderny on 30 July said that he has sent a letter to Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski inviting him to take part in such talks. Wiaderny noted that since Jerzy Buzek took over as the prime minister in 1997, there has been no social dialogue in Poland. According to PAP, Krzaklewski does not rule out the possibility of meeting Wiaderny, but he said he would like the dialogue to take place within the so-called tripartite commission, formed by the government, employers, and trade unions. JM SWITZERLAND SENDS BACK SLOVAK ROMA... A Swiss police spokesman on 31 July said 85 Slovak Roma were sent back to Slovakia last week. The spokesman said the Roma arrived at Zurich airport on three flights and had no money on them. In line with the Swiss law, all persons seeking to enter the country must show they have adequate financial resources for the duration of their stay, the spokesman said. He added that none of the Roma asked for political asylum, Reuters reported. A spokeswoman for the Czech national carrier Ceske Aerolinie on 30 July warned Slovakia's Romany minority not to travel to Switzerland in search of political asylum there. The spokeswoman said that those doing so would lose the money they paid for the air tickets and face "other difficulties," CTK reported. MS ...WHILE SLOVAK OFFICIAL CALLS FOR EUROPEAN WIDE ASYLUM LEGISLATION. Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jan Figel told Markiza television on 1 August that Europe must harmonize its legislation to cope with the problem of Romany emigration. Figel said that "obsolete" and "soft" legislation in countries such as Finland and Norway, where asylum applicants receive sums larger than the average Slovak salaries and applications can take as long as one year to be processed, must be changed. Also on 1 August, the daily "Pravda" said that if present demographic trends continue, 1 million Slovak Roma will live in Slovakia in 10 years and will make up the majority of the population by 2060. MS HUNGARIAN PREMIER ON VOJVODINA. Viktor Orban, in a 30 July interview with Duna Television, said that although the issue of Vojvodina's autonomy was not included in the Balkan Stability Pact signed in Sarajevo the same day, the participants had "at least become familiar" with the province's demands. He added that the pact "does not deal substantively with the most important questions." Earlier, he told delegates to the summit that Hungary will not accept any agreement on the future of Yugoslavia that fails to provide legal and institutional protection for minorities. But after the summit he said that he considers it a major success of Hungarian diplomacy that EU special coordinator Bodo Hombach announced that an international conference will be held jointly with Hungary. The conference is to serve as a forum of opposition-led local governments in Serbia. MS/MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE U.S. FORCES PROTECT FLEEING SERBS. KFOR ground troops and helicopters prevented ethnic Albanians from attacking a convoy of 450 Serbs in 150 automobiles and tractors on 1 August. The Serbs had requested protection as they fled north from Zitinje, in southeastern Kosova. They told reporters that they no longer feel safe in their ethnically mixed village. Local ethnic Albanians said that some of the Serbs had earlier looted Kosovar homes. The Albanians added that they intend to take back their property if they see any Serb trying to leave with it, Reuters reported. PM BOMB ATTACK ON SERBIAN CHURCH. Unknown persons set off a bomb that damaged the unfinished Prishtina Serbian Orthodox Cathedral on 1 August. No one was injured. The UN's Bernard Kouchner said that "there are people who want to destroy, symbolically, Orthodox churches. I find this behavior absolutely unacceptable." Serbian Orthodox Father Sava, who favors reconciliation between Serbs and ethnic Albanians, added that "Albanian extremists are organizing a systematic campaign of destruction of Orthodox churches, with the intention to blot out all traces of Serbian existence" in the province. Sava added that "we very much wonder why [the attack] could not have been prevented," AP reported. Work on the cathedral began in 1996. PM BLAIR URGES END TO VIOLENCE. British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Prishtina on 31 July and urged local Albanians that "justice must apply to all people whatever their race, whatever their religion, whatever their class, whatever their background," AP reported. Blair met separately with both the Kosova Liberation Army's (UCK) Hashim Thaci and his main rival, Ibrahim Rugova. He also met with local Serbian politicians and leaders of the Serbian Orthodox Church, who have expressed increasing concern about the revenge attacks against Serbs. Father Sava told Blair that Albanian looters recently destroyed or damaged 35 medieval Serbian Orthodox churches. He stressed that these buildings "survived 500 years of Turkish occupation but not the 40-something days of peace with the international peacekeepers." FS KOSOVA'S THACI SLAMS RUSSIANS... Thaci sharply criticized Russian KFOR soldiers after they briefly detained UCK General Agim Ceku on 31 July near Kijeva. Ceku heads the guerrillas' general staff. Thaci said that "as [prime minister of the UCK-backed] provisional government of Kosova, we condemn this act as premeditated, with a political aim.... It shows our doubts about Russian troops' participation within KFOR were correct," Reuters reported. Thaci warned that "we will defend our honor" if such incidents occur again. A KFOR spokesman in Prishtina said, however, that the soldiers detained Ceku to check his identification and to verify whether he had KFOR's permission to wear a UCK uniform. Ceku was traveling with four armed bodyguards and was not carrying the card authorizing him to do so. FS ...WHILE RUSSIA CALLS THACI REMARKS 'UNACCEPTABLE.' The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 1 August in Moscow calling Thaci's complaints "unacceptable and impermissible." The statement says that "the impunity of the UCK, carrying out illegal violent acts against local Serbs, has reached the point where its leaders are already making public threats against the international peacekeepers.... Any pretence on the part of the UCK that it is somehow in charge of the situation in Kosova and controls territory in the province directly contradicts UN Security Council resolution 1244...and other documents describing the status and tasks of international peacekeepers." FS SARAJEVO SUMMIT UNDERSCORES POLICY DIFFERENCES. U.S. President Bill Clinton, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and several other Western leaders joined many of their Balkan colleagues in signing a declaration on Balkan regional development in Sarajevo on 30 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 1999). EU countries issued a separate statement blaming Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for Serbia's isolation. Russia had refused to approve any explicit reference to Milosevic in the declaration (see Part 1). Elsewhere, unnamed U.S. officials called on the EU to follow Washington's lead and "lift trade controls on Balkan products." The officials stressed that EU countries "must bear the lion's share of the burden" in the reconstruction and development of the Balkans. After the conference, EU aid coordinator Bodo Hombach denied charges by unnamed critics that the summit was only a "media spectacle," the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 2 August. Official Belgrade media slammed the gathering as "anti-Serbian." PM SERBIA'S AVRAMOVIC: MILOSEVIC MUST GO SOON. Dragoslav Avramovic told AP in Belgrade on 1 August that Milosevic must resign by late September if Serbia is to receive sufficient international aid in time for the winter. He argued that any attempt at reform with Milosevic still in power would be "like building a house on a landslide." Avramovic is a senior banker whom many observers believe will head the first post-Milosevic government, PM SERBIAN POLICE IN SCUFFLE WITH OPPOSITION. In Paracin on 1 August, an unspecified number of police beat several persons. Those protesters had sought to prevent the police from interfering with efforts by opposition activists to collect signatures on a petition calling for Milosevic to resign. Following the incident, officials of the opposition Democratic Party said they will press legal charges against the local chief of police and several of the police involved in the scuffle, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Leskovac and Valjevo, several hundred demonstrators demanded Milosevic's resignation. In Nis, a hunger strike staged by 14 army reservists for back wages entered its seventh day. PM SFOR DETAINS BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMES SUSPECT. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said in Brussels that NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia detained indicted war criminal Radomir Kovac on 2 August. Solana added that NATO officials will soon send Kovac to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Kovac is a former police official and paramilitary leader whom the court indicted in connection with the alleged systematic rape of Muslim women in Foca during the 1992-1995 war. PM CROATIA'S TUDJMAN BLASTS HAGUE TRIBUNAL. Speaking in Sarajevo on 30 July, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman denied recent charges by a Hague tribunal prosecutor that he is responsible for Bosnian war crimes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 1999). "That accusation...is as much surprising as it is completely unfounded. Croatia, and I personally, have done everything to defend Bosnia," AP reported. Tudjman also charged that "those dilettantes in The Hague" failed to take note specific actions he took on Bosnia's behalf. Tudjman recalled that he urged local Croats to vote in Bosnia's 1992 referendum on independence from the former Yugoslavia and that Croatia was the first country to recognize independent Bosnia. He stressed that "Croatia and Bosnia are so linked that they cannot exist one without another." Earlier that day, he and Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic signed an agreement defining the border between the two states. PM WESTENDORP IMPOSES BOSNIAN PUBLIC BROADCASTING LEGISLATION. In one of his last official acts as the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, Carlos Westendorp decreed measures establishing a single public broadcasting service for the entire country, Reuters reported from Sarajevo on 31 July. The service will provide newscasts to television stations both in the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation and in the Republika Srpska. The new service will represent Bosnia in the European Broadcasting Union and consequently have the rights in Bosnia to broadcast international sporting events. Westendorp's office said in a statement that he decreed the legislation "following the failure of the relevant local authorities" to agree on a number of unspecified issues "vital to the continued implementation" of the 1995 Dayton peace agreement. Austria's Wolfgang Petritsch will shortly take up his post as Westendorp's successor, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 2 August in an interview with him. PM HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ROMANIA. Janos Martonyi on 31 July and 1 August toured settlements in Transylvania inhabited by ethnic Hungarians and met with leaders of the Hungarian ethnic minority. On 30 July, he told journalists that Hungary does not promote border revision and that such fears on the Romanian side are due to "incorrect information" or are "fueled by circles with a vested interest." Martonyi said he and his Romanian counterpart, Andrei Plesu, agreed that a Hungarian consulate will be opened in Miercurea Ciuc in 2000. He said there are still "problems" in bilateral relations stemming from the discrepancy between declarations and their implementation. In this context, he pointed to the restitution of Church property and the setting up of a Hungarian-language state university. Martonyi also said he and Plesu agreed that the planned Budapest-Bucharest highway must pass through Transylvania and "serve the interests" of its population. MS ROMANIAN RULING PARTY REACHES COMPROMISE ON LEADERSHIP. Prime Minister Radu Vasile and National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) chairman Ion Diaconescu agreed on 31 July to postpone the election of a new party leadership until an extraordinary party congress scheduled for 2001. According to the party's statutes, the new leadership is to be elected in January 2000. Vasile provoked an uproar within the party when he said he will not lead the PNTCD during the parliamentary elections scheduled for 2000 unless he is appointed party chairman. The two PNTCD leaders also agreed that the party will decide on coalition partners only after the parliamentary elections. Vasile said in an interview with Reuters on 29 July that he may opt for a coalition partnership with "leftist parties." The declaration was criticized by other PNTCD leaders and welcomed by Party of Social Democracy in Romania chairman Ion Iliescu. MS MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW VERSION OF PRIVATIZATION BILL. The parliament on 30 July approved a new version of the bill on the privatization of the Moldtelcom company. An absolute majority of all deputies voted in favor of the bill, after the Constitutional Court declared invalid a bill approved earlier. The new version of the bill drops the provision granting the winner of Moldtelcom's privatization tender the right to operate mobile telephones as well. Also on 31 July, parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov, changing his previous position on the privatization of the Tirex- Petrol company, sent the bill on that company's privatization to President Petru Lucinschi for promulgation. The legislation provides for a Romanian consortium to take a 51 percent stake in Tirex-Petrol in exchange for paying part of Moldova's electricity delivery debt to Romania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 29 July 1999). MS BULGARIAN DEPUTY STRIPPED OF PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY. The parliament on 31 July voted 190 to seven with 12 abstentions to strip Euroleft deputy Tsvetelin Kanchev of his parliamentary immunity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1999). The legislature went on to approve by 134 to 81 with six abstentions that Kanchev be detained immediately. Prosecutor- General Nikola Filchev, in a letter to the parliament, said Kalchev is suspected of "serious crimes," including racketeering and the "threat of battery and murder," an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. MS END NOTE IMPLICATIONS OF A ROMANIAN COURT DECISION by Michael Shafir The Supreme Court's recent decision to sentence Generals Victor Athanasie Stanculescu and Mihai Chitac to 15 years in prison and the responses to that decision raise several questions. The most obvious is why the judiciary waited nearly a decade to put the two generals on trial. After all, it was an "open secret" that they had been executing the orders of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu when they led the attempt to quash the December 1989 popular revolt in Timisoara, which triggered the toppling of the communist regime. The answer is that the Romanian judicial system was not allowed to pursue the perpetrators of the crimes committed during the popular revolution. The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), the Greater Romania Party and the Party of Romanian National Unity--the three opposition parties in the parliament are right when they claim that the court's decision is a "political one." But it is political only in the sense that it reverses their earlier objection to let justice be done. As long as they had been in power, the investigation into the December 1989 events was never completed for alleged "lack of evidence." Romanian democracy, whose "birth certificate" was marred by the mock trial of Ceausescu and his wife, continued in a judicially ambiguous limbo. Even those members of the Ceausescu leadership sentenced to prison terms immediately after the overthrow of the former regime were freed from jail on health grounds, and most remained at liberty till after the 1996 elections. One should avoid concluding from this "evidence" that in order to legitimize their rule, Romania's post- 1989 leaders had staged the resistance to the revolution. The jury is still out on that question. But it is beyond doubt that Stanculescu (who first became minister of industry and later defense minister) and Chitac were associated with the post-revolutionary regime of Ion Iliescu and Petre Roman. This common past must make Iliescu and Roman (despite their having since parted political ways) to wonder whether they will not be the ultimate targets of an all-out judicial campaign. And even if the two former allies were to be pronounced innocent by a court of justice, they would be unlikely to survive the ordeal politically. This may explain PDSR deputy chairman Adrian Nastase's denunciation of the sentence as attesting to a "political war" in which the two generals are "just the first two victims" and Iliescu and Roman the ultimate ones. By the same token, Defense Minister Victor Babiuc commented initially that the verdict was "not just a legal mistake" and a "blunder with strong political bias" but was aimed at "discrediting the army as a whole." It would be a mistake, however, to suggest that in responding this way, Babiuc was putting party interests (as one Roman's deputies in the Democratic Party) above professional ones (he is a lawyer by training). Babiuc's main objection was to the "institutional implications" of the sentence. First, as both Babiuc and Chief of Staff General Constantin Degeratu pointed out, the verdict questions the very principle on which armies are supposed to function--namely, carrying out orders. Indeed, the court, rejecting the two generals' plea that they had obeyed orders, ruled that "military discipline excludes blind subordination and does not annul responsibility for a crime." This issue has haunted military and military-like structures ever since the Nuremberg trials and cuts across party lines. For example, Interior Minister Constantin Dudu Ionescu, taking a stand very different from that of other National Peasant Party Christian Democratic leaders, revived a proposal he had first made in 1998. It was the "responsibility of the political class," he said at the time, to find a way out of the haunting legacy of December 1989 by agreeing to amnesty those involved in the events of that time. And Ionescu, who was briefly defense minister when the Democrats walked out of the coalition in February 1998, had become even more convinced of his "solution" when Interior Ministry forces sent to stop the miners' march on Bucharest in January this year reportedly hesitated about obeying their superiors lest they be accused by a PDSR successor government of having implemented "criminal orders." Second, the court ruled that the Ministry of Defense must pay compensation to relatives of those killed or wounded in 1989. Babiuc said the ministry will appeal the ruling, which, in his opinion, affects the Romanian army's honor, transforming it into a collective accomplice to a crime. Some observers even argued that the army's budget should not be slashed as a result of the compensation ruling, particularly at a time when the army is undergoing reform under considerable budgetary restraints. None of these arguments, of course, carries any real weight. Stanculescu and Chitac were brought to justice for individual, not collective, deeds. Carrying out the orders of a democratically elected government is not, and cannot be considered tantamount to implementing the orders of a dictator and thus does not undermine hierarchical principles. Moreover, it is not the army but the "body politic" that assumes responsibility by compensating the victims of 1989, and it is certainly not those victims who have to carry the mundane burden of budgetary constraints. Democratic justice, after all, is also guided by moral responsibilities. Whether those responsibilities can triumph in the fast-approaching election year in a country where the army rates in opinion polls as one of the two state institutions enjoying almost unanimous confidence is a matter that the pending appeal of the sentence will help clarify. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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