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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 162, Part II, 20 August 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 162, Part II, 20 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 * BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION WANTS SECURITY GUARANTEES FOR RETURNEES * MASSIVE TURNOUT FOR BELGRADE RALLY * STATE DEPARTMENT OBJECTS TO BOSNIAN CORRUPTION REPORT End Note: UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN -- SEEKING A DISTINCTIVE IMAGE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION WANTS SECURITY GUARANTEES FOR RETURNEES. The Belarusian opposition parties involved in the preparation of a political dialogue with the authorities are to create four experts groups. The parties pledged on 19 August to propose candidates for the opposition negotiation team by the end of this month. They also made the talks conditional on the authorities' providing security guarantees to political refugees who left Belarus from 1996-1999 and decide to return home now. Another condition, laid down by the opposition a week earlier, is that the opposition be given access to the state media. JM UKRAINIAN INCUMBENT PRESIDENT STARTS RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN. "I can say only today that I have started working for the future election," President Leonid Kuchma told journalists on 19 August, after visiting Ukraine's famous Sorochynskyy Fair in Myrhorod, Poltava Oblast. Kuchma, who was accompanied by Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi, noted that the presidential campaign is "becoming a negative factor in Ukraine's life," primarily because of the "frenzied, dirty" criticism by other presidential candidates of the incumbent, the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported. "They resort to methods originally used by the KGB," Kuchma commented (see also "End Note" below). JM UKRAINE'S TALKS WITH IMF UNSUCCESSFUL? Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko said on 19 August that he "cannot regard the recent talks with the IMF a success," the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported. Tyhypko added that Ukraine complied with all but one of the IMF requirements for obtaining the next IMF loan tranche. The exception is the increase in tariffs on public utilities. According to Tyhypko, the IMF has approved the Ukrainian cabinet's effort to balance the budget, which was the key issue in negotiations with the IMF mission in Kyiv last month. The fund is to decide on releasing its next tranche to Ukraine in September. JM WHO'S PROUD TO BE UKRAINIAN? The Social Monitoring Center has conducted a poll in eight oblasts--Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Khmelnytskyy, Kyiv, Luhansk, Lviv, Odesa, and Simferopol, -- on the attitude of Ukrainians toward their country's independence, UNIAN reported on 19 August. The poll showed that 46 percent of respondents were positive about Ukraine's independence, 38 percent were negative, 8 percent remained indifferent, and 8 percent could not make up their minds. In addition, 46 percent or respondents were proud to be citizens of independent Ukraine and 40 percent were not. JM ESTONIAN RULING COALITION TO ABOLISH CORPORATE INCOME TAX. "Postimees" and "Eesti Paevaleht" reported on 19 August that the three-party governing coalition has agreed to abolish the corporate income tax, effective 1 January 2000. In order to fill the resulting shortfall in the 2000 state budget, which Finance Minister Siim Kallas estimates at 800-900 million kroons ($54-60 million), the government plans to step up collection of other taxes and introduce protective tariffs on all food imported from non-EU countries. Abolition of the corporate income tax is a major political victory for Kallas's Reform Party. It was originally opposed by the other coalition members, the Moderate Party and Fatherland Union. MJZ LATVIANS ABROAD TO BE ABLE TO SIGN PENSION REFERENDUM PETITION. Latvia's Central Election Commission announced on 19 August that Latvian citizens in 28 countries other than Latvia will also be able to take part in the upcoming petition for a referendum on the highly unpopular pension reform recently adopted by the Latvian parliament, according to LETA and BNS. The pension reforms, adopted as part of Prime Minister Andris Skele's austerity budget, would make it illegal for Latvia's 640,000 pensioners to hold jobs while receiving a pension and would raise the minimum pension age for all Latvian residents to 62 from the current 55 for women and 60 for men. The petition drive will take place from 6 September through 5 October. MJZ LATVIA, WORLD BANK SIGN EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT LOAN. Latvian government and World Bank officials on 19 August signed a loan agreement to help fund a nearly $40 million program to repair Latvia's run-down schools, develop content and performance standards, and establish systems for controlling costs at both the national and local levels, according to LETA and BNS. The World Bank is providing $31.1 million in long-term, low-cost financing to support the program. MJZ LITHUANIA'S LANDSBERGIS IN TROUBLE OVER LAND SALE. Lithuanian parliamentary leader Vytautas Landsbergis may face a criminal investigation into the alleged falsification of his 1998 property and income declaration, ELTA and BNS reported on 19 August. Landsbergis is alleged to have bought property in a prestigious residential district in Vilnius at a price below the market value. He says he bought the property in accordance with a law granting signatories of Lithuania's 1990 Independence Restoration Act the right to buy land at significantly reduced prices. His purchase of the 9 acre plot does not appear, however, in a version of Landsbergis' income declaration published in the government newspaper "Valstybes Zinios." The opposition Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party is calling for Landsbergis to resign from the parliament. MJZ POLISH, SLOVAK PRESIDENTS TO BE 'PATRONS' OF COOPERATION. Aleksander Kwasniewski and his Slovak counterpart, Rudolf Schuster, pledged in Warsaw on 19 August to assume the "patronage" of cooperation between the two countries as well as between small and medium-sized firms, PAP reported. Schuster, who proposed the patronage initiative, said the Slovak-Polish border should be open in line with the Schengen agreements. Kwasniewski assured Schuster that Poland will support Slovakia's bid for NATO and EU membership and share with Bratislava its experience in European integration. JM SLOVAK PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL SETTLED OUT OF COURT? Lawyers representing businessman Vladimir Poor have submitted to the National Property Fund (FNM) a written statement in which Poor says he has canceled all contracts for the sale of the Nafta Gbely refinery to Konsorcium IPB-All, which represents the Cincinnati-based Cinergy Company, SITA reported on 19 August. The lawyers and the FNM agreed that Poor's 45.9 percent stake in Nafta Gbely will be transferred back to the FNM in an out-of-court settlement. SITA reported that the settlement will be sealed on 23 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1999). MS SLOVAK JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS NO AMNESTY FOR BILAK. Jan Carnogursky on 19 August said he "doubts" that the amnesty announced by President Schuster at his inauguration can apply to former Czechoslovak Communist Party chief ideologist Vasil Bilak. Carnogursky said the amnesty applies to those who committed crimes punishable by up to one year in jail, whereas Bilak is charged with high treason. He commented that Schuster may, however, grant Bilak an individual pardon. Bilak's lawyers say the amnesty applies to their client because it extends to those aged 65 and over. The Prosecutor- General's Office has not yet decided whether to recommend that Schuster pardon Bilak (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"18 August 1999). MS HUNGARIAN PREMIER SAYS MAGYARS EVERYWHERE ARE 'ONE NATION.' Viktor Orban, speaking at the 19 August inauguration of the new Office for Hungarians Beyond Borders, said that his government "cannot accept anything less than a guarantee that Hungarians living beyond our borders are granted the full opportunity to education and cultural fulfillment" in their mother tongue. Orban said that "all the citizens of Hungary and the Hungarians beyond its borders are members of a single and indivisible nation," MTI reported. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MASSIVE TURNOUT FOR BELGRADE RALLY... Some 150,000 people attended a demonstration in Belgrade on 19 August to demand the resignation of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Several opposition leaders, academics, and Serbian Orthodox clerics addressed the gathering. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told enthusiastic listeners that the opposition will hold daily street protests if Milosevic does not resign within two weeks. Observers noted that the Yugoslav leader is unlikely to bow to his opponents' demands. The opposition's main hope is to encourage Milosevic's colleagues and supporters to abandon the Yugoslav leader and join the opposition in daily displays of "people's power" on the streets of Serbia's main cities and towns. PM ...INCLUDING DRASKOVIC. Vuk Draskovic, who is the mercurial leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, unexpectedly turned up at the 19 August Belgrade gathering. He told listeners that no one should attempt to "take power from the streets," calling instead for early elections to be held by the end of November. Draskovic said recently that he would not attend the meeting. One of his spokesmen told the BBC on 20 August that Draskovic "happened to be in the center of Belgrade" and was "compelled" by supporters to speak to the crowd. Observers suggested that he may have intended to address the gathering all along but did not make his intentions known until the last minute in order to increase the dramatic effect. He may also have wanted to reaffirm his standing as an opposition leader in the wake of rumors that he recently made a deal with Milosevic to hold early elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 1999). PM CEKU SAYS UCK MEETS DISARMAMENT DEADLINE... General Agim Ceku, who is chief of the General Staff of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said in Prishtina on 19 August that the UCK has met NATO's second deadline for its disarmament, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. Ceku pledged to complete the UCK's demilitarization by 19 September, which is the scheduled end of the third and final phase of disarmament. An unidentified KFOR official told Reuters "I don't think there will be any problem with our saying that they have met the deadline, but we can't announce it officially yet." In June, the UCK pledged to hand in by 19 August all heavy weapons, all long-barreled weapons, such as Kalashnikov rifles, and 60 percent of all automatic small arms. FS ...CRITICIZES UN POLICE RECRUITMENT. Also on19 August, Ceku criticized the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) for including only a small number of former UCK members among the first group of local police recruits. According to dpa, only three UCK members have been accepted in the initial recruiting stage for the force. Some 200 people have been recruited during this first stage. The recruits will undergo five weeks of training at a police academy scheduled to be inaugurated on 21 August. Ceku stressed that "since it was founded, the Kosova Liberation Army has made it very clear that it is determined to achieve a democratic society in Kosova, which will be multi-ethnic and based on tolerance and respect for diversity," Reuters reported. FS KOSOVARS DISCOVER MORE MASS GRAVES. Ethnic Albanians discovered a mass grave site near Dragodan on 19 August, AP reported. Fadil Batalli, director of Prishtina's Forensic Institute, said that the bodies of up to 200 ethnic Albanians may be buried there. KFOR spokesman Roland Lavoie said KFOR troops will notify the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia about the site. FS ALBANIAN TELECOM TO EXTEND LINES INTO KOSOVA. Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko said in Tirana on 19 August that the state-owned Albanian Telecom will invest $200,000 to establish a microwave telephone link between Albania and Kosova and to install 30 pay phones in Gjakova, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. Majko made the remarks after a meeting of Telecom's board of directors. Majko recalled that in late July the governments of Albania and Montenegro agreed to link Shkodra and Podgorica with a fiber-optic telephone cable. He expressed hope that the two projects will promote regional integration. The Albanian government is planning to build similar links with Macedonia and Greece, Reuters reported. FS OVER 1,000 KOSOVAR ROMA ARRIVE IN ITALY. A fishing-boat carrying more than 1,100 Roma refugees, mostly from Kosova, arrived at Italy's southern coast on 19 August. The boat contained mostly women and children. FS STATE DEPARTMENT OBJECTS TO BOSNIAN CORRUPTION REPORT... State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington on 19 August that a recent report in "The New York Times" on corruption in Bosnia-Herzegovina exaggerated the extent of the problem (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 1999). He added: "It's hard enough to get support in this country for foreign assistance as it is. To have a false and unjustified and unsubstantiated perception that a billion dollars in foreign aid money has been stolen by the Bosnians...harms that cause.... We would like to see corrective measures taken that create the truth and not this false perception," Rubin noted. PM ...BUT 'NEW YORK TIMES' STANDS ITS GROUND. "The New York Times" Foreign Editor Andrew Rosenthal told Reuters on 19 August that, after talks with Rubin, the newspaper will publish corrections to three "details" of its story. Rosenthal stressed, however, that its story is largely correct. "We have reviewed all of [Rubin's'] complaints and found a couple of minor points on which we think we made factual errors, which we are going to correct in the paper tonight. The basic premise of the story is completely sound," the foreign editor noted. The previous day, the paper wrote that all of the "lost" $1 billion was international aid. U.S. government spokesmen have said that the aid component of the money embezzled is a tiny proportion, perhaps less than 2 percent. A spokeswoman for the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch said recently in Sarajevo that most of the stolen funds were Bosnian public money. PM CONTROVERSY CONTINUES OVER BOSNIAN CORRUPTION. Chris Hedges, who wrote the article on corruption for 'The New York Times," said that he stands by his story, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 20 August. He rejected recent charges by Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic that the article constitutes a "witch hunt against the Bosnian authorities." In Banja Luka, Republika Srpska Deputy Prime Minister Ostoja Kremanovic said that "corruption does not exist" in the Bosnian Serb entity. He acknowledged, however, that there may be "isolated cases" in which individuals have used their public office for personal gain. PM ROMANIAN PREMIER SAYS 'NO ALTERNATIVE' TO ECONOMIC POLICY. In an interview with RFE/RL on 19 August, Prime Minister Radu Vasile said there is no alternative to the government's austerity program. He noted that the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) may have to pay the political price for the austerity program but added that any government formed after the 2000 elections will have to pursue the same policy and respect the conditions the IMF has imposed on Romania. Vasile added that the PNTCD must "take into consideration the country's realities." If it wants to stay in power after 2000, the PNTCD cannot ignore the political strength of social democracy, he said. He explained that this does not "necessarily" mean, however, that the PNTCD must form a coalition with the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, which, he said, many had understood him to be advocating. MS ROMANIAN MENINGITIS EPIDEMIC CONTINUES SPREADING. Some 200 new cases of meningitis are registered in Romania every day, according to data released by the Health Ministry, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The number of registered cases now totals 2,160, of which 77 percent are under the age of 19. Meanwhile, an epidemic of chronic conjunctivitis has broken out, with most cases being registered in Bucharest. MS MOLDOVAN HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS MAY RECEIVE COMPENSATION. Moldovan Jews and Roma who survived the Holocaust may become eligible for compensation under the $1.25 billion collective suit filed in the U.S. against Swiss banks, according to Olga Tichovskaya, coordinator of the compensation information program for Roma. Flux on 18 August reported her as saying that her task is "extremely difficult" because about one- third of Moldovan Roma are illiterate. Therefore, the information will also be disseminated by enlisting the help of the four Moldovan Roma ethnic organizations. According to unofficial estimates, about 100,000 Roma live in Moldova. MS BULGARIA COUNTS ON NATO MEMBERSHIP BY 2004. Bulgaria believes it will be invited to begin NATO membership talks in 2001 and that the negotiations will be successfully concluded by 2004, Deputy Defense Minister Velizar Shalamanov said on 19 August, according to ITAR-TASS. The same day, the Bulgarian Defense Ministry released an "action plan for NATO membership," in line with U.S. suggestions for countries seeking NATO admission. The plan is divided into five sections that deal with political, economic, defense, legal, and security issues. Shalamanov said a program will be worked out next year that includes specific target dates and how the funds will be provided to meet those dates. He added that the goal of the plan is to demonstrate the irreversibility of military reforms in line with the NATO principles of civilian control over the army and of operational capability. MS END NOTE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: SEEKING A DISTINCTIVE IMAGE by Jan Maksymiuk By the 1 August deadline, Ukraine's Central Electoral Commission had registered nine candidates for the 31 October presidential elections: President Leonid Kuchma, parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko, Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko, Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz, Progressive Socialist Party chairwoman Natalya Vitrenko, former Premier Yevhen Marchuk, Cherkasy Mayor Volodymyr Oliynyk, as well as Hennadiy Udovenko and Yuriy Kostenko, leaders of the two splinter groups of the Popular Rukh. Following complaints by six other aspirants, the Supreme Court ordered the commission also to register Social Democratic Party leader Vasyl Onopenko, Mykola Haber of the Patriotic Party, Oleksandr Rzhavskyy of the Single Fatherland party, Oleksandr Bazylyuk of the Slavic Party, Vitaliy Kononov of the Green Party, and Yuriy Karmazin of the Party of the Fatherland's Defenders. The sheer number of presidential hopefuls makes an analysis of their election prospects a complicated task. Moreover, virtually all of the incumbent president's main rivals come from the left of the political spectrum, as a result of which their election programs are frequently similar, if not identical, on a variety of issues. But this state of affairs is problematic not only for analysts. The candidates themselves are experiencing difficulties forging their own distinctive political identity among the dozen or so competitors. For this reason, the main candidates are not only presenting their political platforms but are also seeking to project a "mythologized" image. Such images are usually limited to a handful of slogans, but it seems that such devices may be at least as important as official programs in mustering votes on 31 October. Incumbent President Kuchma is constantly present in the Ukrainian media and therefore has no need to seek to project his image in any special way. His re-election bid is handicapped, however, by Ukraine's disastrous economic situation. While keeping silent on economic issues, Kuchma's image-makers advertise him as a world statesman and the only Ukrainian politician who has some clout in the West. According to them, Kuchma is the only guarantor of Ukraine's transformation, and his re-election would mean the continuation of current reforms. Communist Party leader Symonenko lacks luster as a politician, but his assets include the unwavering support of the largest caucus in the parliament as well as that of disillusioned pensioners and the unemployed, who are openly nostalgic for the Soviet era. Symonenko promotes himself as the defender of the "ordinary people," an enemy of international financial organizations, and a proponent of Ukraine's integration with Russia and Belarus. Progressive Socialist Party chairwoman Vitrenko is the most radical and populist presidential candidate among those on the left wing. While earlier she had vehemently promoted herself as the only "true Marxist" in Ukraine, she now prefers to underscore her economic education and doctorate. Her "reform" program advocates reintroducing a command economy, halting privatization, and breaking all relations with the IMF and the World Bank. She sharply criticizes both Communist Symonenko and Socialist Moroz as "opportunists" and "betrayers" of the socialist idea. Socialist Party leader Moroz trails far behind Symonenko and Vitrenko in the polls, but this has not stopped him from asserting that he is the only leftist candidate able to defeat Kuchma. (It is expected that no candidate will win the first round of elections on 31 October and that Kuchma will face a left-wing rival two weeks later.) Moroz claims to be a moderate leftist who can attract communist, socialist, and social democratic votes. His party's newspaper, "Tovarysh" (Comrade), promotes him as an "intelligent" and "decent" man. Former Premier Marchuk is presented--especially by the newspaper "Den," which he sponsors--as a "strongman," a kind of Ukrainian General de Gaulle, whom the country urgently needs as it sinks into socio-economic chaos and is plagued by widespread corruption. Marchuk's campaigners make much of his former capacity as Ukraine's Security Service chairman--with the rank of general, no less--as proof that he is able to do away with corruption. (By the same token, they fail to mention his Soviet KGB activities). His main election slogan affirms that Ukraine can overcome the current crisis "on its own." He also tries to pose as a centrist equally suited to representing both the western ("nationalist") and eastern (more Russia-oriented) parts of Ukraine. While Tkachenko emphasizes his grass-roots origins and political career (he was born into a peasant family and ascended all steps of the Soviet state and party hierarchy, from raion party secretary to first deputy prime minister), he projects the image of the people's savior (who has a program of economic revival until 2015) and of a statesman equal in rank and importance to the incumbent president. "I am not the first person in Ukraine, but neither am I the second" is his well-publicized self-appraisal. Tkachenko is also another staunch supporter of Ukrainian integration with Russia and Belarus. Other candidates appear less outspoken than the six "heavyweights" listed above. However, their role in the overall distribution of votes on 31 October should not be underestimated. While lacking significant electoral support and/or distinctive media images, they may nonetheless have an influence on the final tallies of those leading the polls. And by voicing their preferences for the anticipated second round, they may tip the election balance in favor of one of the two final candidates. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. 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