|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 159, Part II, 17 August 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 159, Part II, 17 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 * OSCE SAYS LUKASHENKA SHOULD NOT PICK OPPOSITION DIALOGUE PARTNERS * TWO SERBS KILLED IN MORTAR ATTACK * UP TO $1 BILLION LOST IN BOSNIAN FRAUD xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE OSCE SAYS LUKASHENKA SHOULD NOT PICK OPPOSITION DIALOGUE PARTNERS. Adrian Severin, head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's group for Belarus, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 16 August that neither the OSCE nor Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has the right to select which oppositionists participate in the talks that are planned to take place under the aegis of the OSCE on the 2000 parliamentary elections in Belarus. Severin was responding to Lukashenka's statement that the Supreme Soviet--which was chosen by opposition parties as their mouthpiece at the talks--does not represent the country's opposition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 1999). "From the point of view of democratic principles, we cannot accept as reasonable to exclude anybody from the dialogue," Severin noted. JM UKRAINE'S MARCHUK SAYS AUTHORITIES BLOCKING PRESIDENT'S RIVALS. Yevhen Marchuk, former prime minister and a presidential candidate, has accused the government of blocking his and other candidates' presidential campaigns to ensure President Leonid Kuchma's re- election, AP reported on 16 August. "Public servicemen, who are paid by the state...are being used in Kuchma's election campaign," Marchuk noted. He said police disrupted his meeting with voters in Luhansk on 14 August by citing a bomb threat and ordering all those present out of the building. According to Marchuk, the event was a "provocation" staged by the authorities to prevent him from meeting with voters. JM UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VETOES BILL GRANTING IMMUNITY TO LOCAL DEPUTIES. Kuchma has refused to sign a bill amending the law on the status of local council deputies. The changes, approved by the parliament on 15 July, stipulated that local deputies cannot be detained or arrested "without approval by corresponding local councils until a verdict of guilty has been declared by court," the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported on 16 August. Kuchma argued that the constitution grants legal immunity only to parliamentary deputies, judges, and the president and does not mention local council deputies. JM LAST COMPETITOR JOINS UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL RACE. Ukraine's Supreme Court has ordered the Central Electoral Commission to register Yuriy Karmazin, leader of the Party of the Fatherland's Defenders, as a presidential candidate, the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported on 16 August. The commission previously refused registration to Karmazin, recognizing as valid only some 849,000 signatures out of the 1.7 million he had submitted. Karmazin will be the 15th and last presidential hopeful to be registered. JM BALTIC DEFENSE COLLEGE OPENS. The Baltic Defense College, located in Tartu, Estonia, opened its doors on 16 August. A total of 32 cadets from the three Baltic States, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, and the U.S. make up the initial student body. The curriculum meets NATO standards, and most instructors are from NATO member states. The three Baltic States are sharing maintenance costs, while material assistance is supplied by Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.S. MH ESTONIAN MERCENARIES IN RUSSIAN ARMY. The daily "Eesti Paevaleht" reported that there are currently six Estonian mercenaries in the Russian military in Kosova. One of the six told the newspaper that "the unit consists of men hardened by experience in the Afghan and Chechen wars." He said that a one-time payment of $1.5 million would be paid to his children "if something were to happen to me." According to the daily, Russian troops in Kosova receive some $2000 per month. A high-ranking Estonian Foreign Ministry official said he sees no problem, noting that the mercenary who spoke to the newspaper is "a free man from a free country, and he has the right to offer his services." MH LITHUANIAN POLICE OFFICERS HEAD TO KOSOVA. Ten Lithuanian police officers left for Kosova on 16 August to join the UN sponsored police mission. Of the 10, five are veterans of a similar operation in Bosnia- Herzegovina. In addition, there are 10 Lithuanian medics working in Albania, and Lithuania provided one member of a Kosova verification mission. Lithuania also has seven police officers in Croatia and Bosnia as part of an OSCE mission, as well as 137 troops in Bosnia as part of the peacekeeping mission. MH PEASANT LEADER URGES POLISH PRESIDENT TO ASSUME 'RESPONSIBILITY.' Andrzej Lepper, leader of the radical Self-Defense farmers' union, has sent an open letter to Aleksander Kwasniewski urging the president to be a "general inspector" and assume "responsibility" for monitoring "harmful phenomena" in the country, PAP reported on 16 August. In Lepper's opinion, the government fails to resort to financial reserves when the country lacks money and continues to exempt foreign firms in Poland from paying taxes. Lepper also asked Kwasniewski to make public what happened to money from the privatization of state-owned companies. According to Lepper, state-owned property was estimated at $400 billion in 1990 and up to 70 percent of it has since been sold. JM CZECH DAILY SAYS DEPUTY PREMIER HAS ILLEGAL FOREIGN BANK ACCOUNT. "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 16 August that Deputy Premier Egon Lansky has a bank account in Austria that was opened without the prior approval of the Czech National Bank, as is required by law. The daily said Lansky could be fined for failing to notify the central bank of that account. MS CZECH PRESIDENT RETURNS BILL TO PARLIAMENT. Vaclav Havel on 17 August returned to the Chamber of deputies an amendment that would have deleted from the list of lawyers those with less than four years' professional experience, with the exception of government and local government officials, senators, and other civil servants, CTK reported. Havel concluded that the bill gave "unjust advantages to civil servants." MS CZECH WWII SLAVE LABORERS SUE GERMAN COMPANIES. Lawyers in the U.S. representing Czech citizens employed as slave laborers during World War II are suing the Austrian and German companies Steyr-Daimler- Puch, Daimler-Chrysler, Volkswagen, and Siemens, CTK reported on 13 August. The Czech citizens are demanding $1 billion in compensation. The lawyers said that although negotiations on with the Austrian and German companies on compensation are on-going, they decided to file suit because the compensation offered by the companies is lower than that paid to survivors living in Western Europe. MS SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER WARNS AGAINST SLOVAK ROMA EXODUS TO BELGIUM. Eduard Kukan on 13 August told journalists that the number of asylum requests made by Slovak Roma in Belgium has recently increased and that it is "not out of the question" that Belgium will decide to impose visa requirements on Slovak nationals, SITA and CTK reported. He said that in the last 10 days, the Belgian authorities have received 103 such requests and expect another 300 or so by the end of the month. Kukan said Slovakia will deal with the problem because it recognizes that the "Roma problem must be solved at home, not abroad." MS SLOVAK POLICE WANT PARLIAMENT TO LIFT IMMUNITY OF MECIAR, KOVAC. Chief investigator Jaroslav Ivor on 16 August told journalists that police will ask the parliament to lift the parliamentary immunity of former Premier Vladimir Meciar and former President Michal Kovac and to relieve them of their oath of secrecy. Ivor said that in his former position Meciar had had access to secret information and his testimony is essential for the investigation into the 1995 abduction of Kovac's son. He noted that Kovac is willing to provide the information he has on his son's kidnapping. Ivor also said that former Slovak Counter- Intelligence (SIS) chief Ivan Lexa is not only a suspect in the abduction case but is also believed to have committed "abuse of office" that resulted in losses to the SIS totaling several million Slovak crowns. Ivor declined, however, to provide any other details, SITA reported. MS HUNGARY DENIES JAMMING YUGOSLAV BROADCASTS. In a statement to "Magyar Hirlap" published on 17 August, the Foreign Ministry denied the Yugoslav claim that broadcasts on Serbian radio and television are being jammed in Hungary and Croatia. The statement added that the ministry has received no official complaint from Yugoslavia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 1999). MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE TWO SERBS KILLED IN MORTAR ATTACK. Unknown persons fired nine mortar shells at the village of Klokot in the U.S. sector of Kosova on 16 August. Two Serbian teenagers were killed and five other Serbs wounded. It was one of the most serious incidents of apparently ethnically motivated violence since the fighting ended in June, AP reported. In a separate incident, unknown persons shot and wounded an ethnic Albanian boy in Petrovce, which is also in the U.S. sector. PM PLIGHT OF KOSOVAR SERBS WORSENS. UNHCR special envoy Dennis McNamara told BBC Television on 16 August that the UNHCR recently helped an unspecified number of Serbs to leave Kosova. He added that Serbs are increasingly faced with the danger of revenge attacks by ethnic Albanians and that the "pressures [on Serbs] seem to be mounting on a daily basis." His agency may evacuate more Serbs soon, McNamara noted, pointing out that it is not the policy of the UNHCR to encourage people to leave but rather to assist them if they choose to do so. He said that some people who had wanted to be evacuated but whom his agency did not evacuate subsequently lost their lives. On 17 August, Reuters reported that in Prishtina, armed ethnic Albanians locked an elderly Serbian woman in her kitchen and robbed, beat, and attempted to rape her daughter-in-law. The women and their Serbian neighbors later fled for safety. British peacekeepers said it was the third such incident in 24 hours. PM MILOSEVIC DEMANDS RETURN OF SERBIAN TROOPS TO KOSOVA. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic said in a statement on 16 August that KFOR has "tolerated the rampage of bandit groups" in Kosova. He added that "the gravest crimes against Serbs have been committed [as well as] the ethnic cleansing of non-Albanians" since Serbian forces left under the terms of the June peace agreement. Milosevic demanded that KFOR speed up the disarmament of Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) fighters and expel "hordes of criminals and robbers" who have recently arrived from Albania. He also repeated the recent call by several other top Serbian officials that the UN allow Serbian forces to return to the province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 1999). PM SERBIAN RAILWAY MEN RETURN TO WORK. Some 200 ethnic Serbian railway workers in Fushe Kosova returned to work on 16 August. A UN spokesman told BBC Television that the men's experience will be a big help in arranging for the efficient transportation of supplies for the coming winter. The men will not work with their ethnic Albanian former colleagues. PM KOUCHNER SUSPENDS 'APARTHEID' LAWS... UN spokeswoman Nadia Younes told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent in Prishtina on 16 August that UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner has suspended "apartheid" legislation discriminating against individuals on ethnic or religious grounds. Kouchner issued the ruling at a 15 August meeting with some 50 judges and prosecutors from throughout Kosova. He also appointed a 19-member working group, co-chaired by the ethnic Albanian Professor of Law Blerim Reka and UN legal experts, to review the existing laws. One of those laws likely to be abolished is that prohibiting Albanians from buying real estate from Serbs. FS ...AFTER CRITICISM FROM KOSOVAR JUDGES. Reka told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent on 16 August that Kouchner suspended the discriminatory laws after several ethnic Albanian judges had criticized them. The professor noted that "there is confusion about which laws will be applied in Kosova," pointing out that "the first decree that Bernard Kouchner signed says explicitly that those laws will be used in Kosova that were in force until 24 March of this year. These were the laws of the Yugoslav occupiers." Reka added that most ethnic Albanians believe that "one cannot apply the laws of a regime that committed genocide on the territory of and toward the people who were the victims of that genocide." FS SERBS, ALBANIANS NEGOTIATE COMPROMISE IN MITROVICA... Bajram Rexhepi, who is the UCK- appointed mayor of Mitrovica, asked a group of ethnic Albanian protesters there on 16 August to disperse peacefully. He told them that Serbian and Albanian representatives found a compromise earlier that day--under UN mediation--to allow the return of ethnic Albanian displaced persons to the northern, Serb-dominated part of town. Rexhepi told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent that "according to the agreement, 25 families will return to their homes in the north every day. It also provides for free access by students to the metallurgic faculty in the north.... We also agreed on the creation of a joint board of directors for the Trepca mines." FS ...BUT QUESTIONS REMAIN OVER IMPLEMENTATION. Rexhepi added that "we will try to implement that agreement in the coming days. If it brings concrete results it is fine, but if not the population will try to find other ways to end the [partition] of the city." An unidentified Western official, however, told Reuters that neither side has signed any agreement. He suggested that Rexhepi is misrepresenting the state of affairs by presenting his side's bargaining points as a done deal. FS SHPAK SAYS UCK DEMILITARIZATION BEHIND SCHEDULE. Colonel-General Georgii Shpak, who is commander of the Russian paratrooper units, told Interfax on 16 August that the UCK is behind schedule with its demilitarization plan. He added that unidentified attackers have "often" fired shots near Russian checkpoints, but he added that there have been no direct attacks on the paratroopers. FS SERBIA'S DINKIC CALLS DEMO 'LAST CHANCE FOR PEACEFUL CHANGE'... Mladjan Dinkic of the G-17 group of independent economists told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 16 August that the opposition demonstration slated for 19 August in Belgrade will prove decisive for Serbia's political future. He called it "the last chance for a peaceful transition of power and the last chance for the opposition to unite." He stressed that Milosevic must leave office before winter sets in. The alternative could be a violent revolution on the model of Romania in 1989, Dinkic warned. He expressed understanding that Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle will not take part in the demonstration. Dinkic noted that Pavle must represent all Serbs, "including those on the other side." The opposition leader added, however, that many clerics will march in the protest and that the Orthodox Church has called for Milosevic to go. PM ...OUTLINES PROGRAM FOR SERBIA'S FUTURE. Dinkic also told "Die Presse" of 16 August that the G-17's "Stability Pact for Serbia" calls for a one-year transitional government to organize free and fair elections and to draft plans for economic reform (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1999). Dinkic stressed that Serbia must quickly reach a "reasonable understanding" with Montenegro over the future of their relationship. He noted that Serbia also must join the international stabilization project for southeastern Europe and make its markets attractive for foreign investors. If Milosevic does not step down or is not overthrown soon, Serbia is likely to "remain a black hole in Europe for the next 10 years," Dinkic warned. PM CONFUSION PERSISTS OVER BELGRADE RALLY'S LIST OF PARTICIPANTS. Dinkic did not mention that generals- turned-politicians Vuk Obradovic and Momcilo Perisic do not plan to attend the demonstration. Kosovar Serb leader Momcilo Trajkovic, moreover, said that no one from the opposition has invited him or anyone from his Serbian Resistance Movement, "Danas" reported on 16 August. Alliance for Change leader Vladan Batic told Reuters that his group will attend the rally, but "we don't know who else will turn up." The main problem involves the sequence and number of speakers. The clash of egos among opposition leaders has long been the major obstacle to unity within the opposition. PM LEADING BUSINESSMAN LEAVES MILOSEVIC GOVERNMENT. Bogoljub Karic has resigned his position as minister- without-portfolio in the Serbian government, AP reported on 16 August. Karic said that his "government obligations have inflicted severe damage to my business." He is one of 308 top Yugoslav officials whom Western countries have withheld visas. PM UP TO $1 BILLION LOST IN BOSNIAN FRAUD. "The New York Times" of 17 August reported that U.S.-led anti-fraud investigators have found that Muslim, Serbian, and Croatian nationalist leaders have stolen up to $1 billion from public funds or international aid projects since the Dayton peace agreement was signed in 1995. The report, which exceeds 400 pages and was compiled for the office of the international community's high representative, details widespread corruption. In one incident, a Bosnian bank "lost" $20 million belonging to 10 foreign embassies or aid agencies. In Tuzla, $200 million "disappeared" from the 1999 budget. Tuzla officials had the local schools painted four times in 1998, at a cost several times the going-rate, even though international aid organizations also had them rebuilt and painted. The schools have no heating. Few corrupt officials have ever been brought to justice, the report added. Observers note that Bosnia requires massive investments and a vigorous expansion of the private sector to combat rampant unemployment and poverty. PM CROATIAN OPPOSTION COALITION TOTTERS. Officials of the opposition Istrian Democratic League and the Liberal Party said in Rovinj on 16 August that their parties do not approve of the recent "strategic alliance" struck between the Social Democrats and Social Liberals. In Zagreb, an official of the People's Party said that the emergence of the two-member alliance threatens to destroy the six-party electoral coalition that seeks to win a majority in the parliamentary elections due by the end of 1999. The Social Democrats and Social Liberals are the two largest parties within the six-member coalition. Opinion polls suggest that the coalition seems likely to defeat the governing Croatian Democratic Community. PM ROMANIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY SENDS 'MESSAGE TO TRANSYLVANIA.' Democratic Party leader Petre Roman revealed in Targu Mures on 16 August his party's "Message to Transylvania," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Roman said that his party does not want the Romanian majority to "merely coexist" with the Hungarian minority because "coexistence [means] separate development." The Democrats, Roman said, want the region to build on its historical traditions and spearhead cooperation among all Romanians on the country's progress toward integration into European structures. Addressing the region's Hungarian ethnic minority, Roman said "we respect and back your fidelity toward your national cultural values and we expect to receive from you a political pledge of fidelity toward the Romanian national unitary state." MS ROMANIAN OPPOSITION LEADER PROTESTS FRENCH-SWISS TV PRODUCTION. Party of Social Democracy in Romania leader Ion Iliescu, in an open letter addressed to Romanian political leaders and journalists, demanded that a protest be launched against the French television channel TV 5's showing of what he called "a profoundly anti-Romanian" movie, Romanian media report. The movie, which was aired on 12-13 August, depicts the ordeals of an ethnic Hungarian who returns to Romania after 1989 and finds out that his brother has been killed by the Ceausescu secret police. Iliescu said that the film is based on "falsehood and myth, ignorance of historical reality [and] fabricated lies." A spokesman for the channel told AFP that the movie was "fiction, which by definition cannot be guided by the same criteria of objectivity as a report." MS MENINGITIS EPIDEMIC SPREADS TO MOLDOVAN CAPITAL. The meningitis epidemic has spread from Romania--where more than 2,000 cases have been recorded so far--to Chisinau, Infotag reported on 16 August, citing an official from the National Center of Preventive Medicine. The official told the agency that 67 cases were registered in July and another 67 in the first 10 days of this month. He said no information is available on the spread of the disease to other parts of Moldova. MS BULGARIA TO DEMOLISH DIMITROV MAUSOLEUM. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Construction said on 16 August that the Georgi Dimitrov mausoleum will be demolished by 8 September because "experts agree that it does not match Sofia's overall architectural image," Reuters reported. Dimitrov's body was removed from the mausoleum and cremated in 1990. The opposition Socialist Party said that the decision is "politically motivated" and linked to the October local elections. It added that it wants the building to be turned into a memorial for Bulgarian soldiers. MS BULGARIAN EURO-LEFT NOMINATES CANDIDATE IN SOFIA MAYOR ELECTIONS. Nikolai Kamov of the Euro-Left Party will run for the Sofia mayoralty in the fall local elections. Kamov's candidacy has also been endorsed by the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party (BSDP) and the United Labor Bloc, BSDP honorary chairman Petar Dertliev told BTA on 13 August. Kamov was originally expected to be the candidate of the entire leftist opposition, but the Bulgarian Socialist Party has nominated former minister Rumen Ovcharov to run for the post. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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