|The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 169, Part II, 31 August 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 169, Part II, 31 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 * BELARUS TO HAVE GOVERNMENT IN EXILE? * U.S. WARNS UCK * MENINGITIS EPIDEMIC POSTPONES ROMANIAN SCHOOLYEAR End Note: FISCHER WINS, KLAUS LOSES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUS TO HAVE GOVERNMENT IN EXILE? Exiled Supreme Soviet Chairman Syamyon Sharetski, who is Belarusian head of state under the 1994 constitution, proposed on 30 August that the Supreme Soviet approve former Premier Mikhail Chyhir as head of a new government, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Chyhir remains in jail, having been arrested on charges of embezzlement in March. No Western country has so far taken a position on Sharetski's powers following the end of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's legitimate term as of 20 July. Meanwhile, Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 30 August congratulated Lukashenka on his 45th birthday and assured him that Moscow opposes "all Western and certain neighboring countries' attempts to put pressure on Belarus," according to Interfax. JM BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONISTS SAY KUCHMA SHOULD NOT MEET LUKASHENKA. A group of prominent Belarusian oppositionists has appealed to Ukrainian political parties and organizations to "remind" Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma that Lukashenka is now a "usurper," Belapan reported on 30 August. The appeal calls Kuchma's planned meeting with Lukashenka in Belarus a "political and moral mistake. To support Lukashenka means to approve the restoration of the Russian empire," the Belarusian oppositionists conclude. JM BELARUS'S 1999 HARVEST FAR BELOW TARGET. Belarus's harvest is "significantly lower than was planned," Belarusian Television reported on 30 August. According to the Agricultural Ministry, the country has harvested 3.7 million tons of grain, down from some 5 million last year and far below the 1999 planned target of 6 million tons. The average grain yield was 1.73 tons per hectare. JM KUCHMA SAYS LEFTIST PRESIDENT SPELLS UKRAINE'S ISOLATION. Leonid Kuchma said in Simferopol on 30 August that Ukraine will find itself in "political and economic isolation" if a left-wing candidate wins this fall's presidential elections, Interfax reported. Kuchma argued that if a leftist president is installed in Ukraine, "the world will never agree to restructure or write off our debts, and we will become bankrupt and a default will be declared." He expressed the conviction that his re-election will make it possible for Ukraine to restructure its debts. "Poland had $15 billion of its external debt written off, and it is time to do the same for Ukraine," the "Eastern Economic Daily" quoted Kuchma as saying. JM UKRAINE, GREECE SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION ACCORD. Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzpoulos and Ukrainian Industry Minister Vasyl Hureyev, meeting in Kyiv on 30 August, signed an agreement on military and technical cooperation, Interfax reported. Ukraine will soon supply two hovercrafts worth $100 million to the Greek navy. Tsohatzpoulos told journalists that Greece is also interested in buying tanks and transport planes from Ukraine. JM RUSSIAN PARTIES JOIN FORCES FOR ESTONIAN ELECTION. ETA reported on 31 August that the Russian United Peoples' Party and the Russian Party in Estonia have announced they will set aside their past quarrels and combine forces for the upcoming local elections in the capital The new alliance is called the Peoples' Choice. The Peoples' Trust, which is composed of various Russian organizations and headed by parliamentary deputy Sergei Ivanov, has also declared its intention to run in the Tallinn local elections. AB RUSSIAN ACTIVIST ORDERED TO LEAVE ESTONIA. BNS reported on August 30 that the Estonian Citizenship and Migration Department (KMA) has ordered Oleg Morozov, a leader of the Tallinn Russian Citizens' Union, to leave the country. Under that order, Morozov, a Russian citizen who has refused to apply for a residence permit, must leave the country by 20 January 2000. A spokesman for KMA told BNS that "Morozov was informed that he will have until then to legalize his stay in Estonia." AB LATVIA'S SKELE SAYS 'CHEKIST' RUSSIAN PREMIER OBSTACLE TO IMPROVED RELATIONS. LETA reported on 30 August that Latvian Prime Minister Andris Skele said on Latvian Independent Television the previous day that no major improvement in Latvian-Russian relations should be expected, given that the head of the Russian government, Vladimir Putin, is a former "chekist." While many Latvian lawmakers did not dispute Skele's analysis, a large number criticized him for speaking so candidly and running the risk of offending the Russian government. The Latvian Foreign Ministry reaffirmed on 30 August that, irrespective of Skele's statement, Latvia remains open to dialogue with Russia. It noted that it is a government priority to develop good relations with all neighboring countries. MJZ LATVIAN PRESIDENT AGREES TO FIRST POST-1991 STATE VISIT TO ESTONIA. BNS reported on 30 August that President Vaira Vike- Freiberga has agreed to make the first state visit by a Latvian head of state to Estonia since independence was renewed in 1991. Vike-Freiberga agreed to the visit during a meeting with Estonian President Lennart Meri at Meri's summer residence at Paslepa. No date has been announced for the visit. Vike-Freiberga's predecessor, Guntis Ulmanis, never paid an official state visit to Estonia during his six-year tenure as Latvian head of state. MJZ LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT TAKES UP BUDGET CUT PROPOSAL. Finance Minister Jonas Lionginas has asked the parliament not to delay the passage of the adjusted 1999 Budget Law, ELTA reported on 30 August. The proposed cut to the total state budget is 537 million litas ($134.2 million). Lionginas noted that international finance organizations are watching the outcome of the parliament's deliberations because those debates will affect the country's investment ratings and ability to borrow. BNS reported that opposition leader Ceslovas Jursenas continued to criticize the government's proposed budget cuts as "unrealistic." AB POLISH DEPUTY PREMIER TO BECOME LUSTRATION VICTIM? Citing a "reliable source" at the Lustration Court, PAP reported on 31 August that Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Janusz Tomaszewski's statement denying collaboration with Communist-era secret services has been questioned by the lustration prosecutor and sent to the court for scrutiny. Tomaszewski, a member of the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), was a Solidarity activist in the 1980s. The communist authorities arrested him during the 1981 crackdown on Solidarity. AWS official Jacek Rybicki said the previous day that an AWS member should resign his public post if his lustration statement has come under scrutiny by the court. JM CZECH AUTHORITIES HALT CONSTRUCTION OF CONTROVERSIAL WALL. The Usti nad Labem regional authorities have rescinded the permission granted to a local company to erect a two-meter- high ceramic wall fencing off Roma from other inhabitants, Reuters reported on 30 August. That permission had been granted by a municipal district council, which said that the permit's withdrawal is "temporary." The decision to withdraw the permit was taken because the wall would violate "environmental and human rights," the agency reported, citing Czech Television. Construction of the wall was to have begun on 31 August. MS CZECH PREMIER HINTS DEPUTY WILL BE SANCTIONED. Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 30 August said he will make no exception in handling the case of Deputy Premier Egon Lansky, who is suspected of violating financial legislation, CTK reported. The law will apply "to a deputy premier as to any other citizen," Zeman told the Frekvence 1 radio station. Lansky, who is responsible for European integration, admitted he did not apply for a permit from the National Bank before he opened an account in Austria. He admitted that he "probably committed a misdemeanor." In 1996, the Finance Ministry allegedly transferred to Lansky's Austrian account 290,000 crowns (some $8,300) in partial settlement of a debt that the state owed a Luxembourg company whose head is one of Lansky's friends. MS SLOVAKIA TO INTRODUCE VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR UKRAINIANS. Inspecting the Slovak-Ukrainian border on 30 August, Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner told journalists that Slovakia will "probably" introduce visa requirements for Ukrainian citizens and nationals of other former Soviet countries by the end of 1999, CTK reported. He said he would have preferred the requirement to have been introduced a long time ago but noted that Slovakia wished to coordinate its visa policy with that of the Czech Republic and other Visegrad group countries. Pittner said that the Slovak government regards the border with Ukraine as being "the future eastern border of the EU" and that "Brussels views it the same way." MS HUNGARIAN CHESS CHAMPIONS LEAVE FOR ISRAEL. The parents of three world-famous Hungarian chess players, the Polgar sisters, have decided to spend part of the year in Israel because of increasing anti-Semitic hate mail against the family, Laszlo Polgar, the sisters' father, told Hungarian and international media on 29 August. Letters addressed to the Polgars suggested that the family leave for Israel because "that's where you belong." "We have received such letters before, but it has gotten worse lately," Polgar explained. In other news, the U.S. Embassy in Budapest on 30 August denied a "Nepszabadsag" report that said Hungarian officials obstructed co-operation between Hungarian and U.S. law enforcement agencies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 1999). MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE U.S. WARNS UCK... U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke said in Prishtina on 30 August that "ethnic differences in this region really are...just racism. The Serbs of this region have a historic right to live here, too." The ambassador stressed that Kosova is the "ultimate test for the UN's capability and its potential." Speaking at the same press conference, U.S. Senator Joseph Biden warned the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) that it must meet its 19 September deadline to disarm completely: "If it appeared as though the very forces...and people we came to help were now not engaged on a path that was moving toward democratization, support from the U.S. Congress would evaporate overnight," Biden said. The senator warned against any attempts to partition Kosova on an ethnic basis. PM ...BUT ARE THE KOSOVAR GUERRILLAS LISTENING? After meeting with Holbrooke, General Agim Ceku, who heads the UCK General Staff, said in Prishtina on 30 August that his organization will meet the deadline. He added, however, that "the UCK will transform in several directions.... One part will become part of the police, one part will become civil administration, one part will become the Army of Kosova, as a defense force. And another part will form a political party." Holbrooke refused to comment on Ceku's remarks. The June agreement between NATO and the UCK does not refer to any Kosova army. PM RAHOVEC DEADLOCK CONTINUES. On 30 August, ethnic Albanians began their second week of protest aimed at preventing Russian KFOR troops from entering their town (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 1999). Russian officers called off a planned meeting with local Albanians when the Russians learned that General Wolfgang Sauer could not be present at the talks. It is unclear why the German commander was not available. PM UN SECURITY COUNCIL WANTS END TO VIOLENCE. The UN's highest body said in a statement on 30 August that it condemns violence against civilians in Kosova, especially against members of ethnic minorities. The text also reaffirmed "the principle of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia," AP reported. PM UNMIK CALLS ON KOSOVA FIRMS TO REGISTER. Officials of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) called on import- export firms to register with UNMIK, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 30 August. UNMIK officials said that they want to introduce import-export permits to put an end to the current "chaos," which, they added, has been exploited by organized criminals from Albania. PM 'FIRST SHOCK WAVES' FROM SERBIA'S NEW REFUGEES. The school year is about to begin in Serbia, which for many communities has led to the first serious problems in conjunction with the 170,000 refugees from Kosova, Belgrade's "Danas" reported on 30 August. Many of the refugees are housed in schools, and alternative quarters are proving difficult to find. In Kraljevo, which is north of Kosova, there are 350 teachers and 3,500 school-age children among 26,000 refugees, but few of those children will be allowed to register for classes there. The Belgrade authorities insist that, wherever possible, refugee children return to schools in Kosova. Failing that, the children are to register in districts bordering the province. The only pupils who will be allowed to register elsewhere in Serbia are those whose parents were sent there by the government or their employer. PM ALBANIAN LEADERS URGE VOJVODINA HUNGARIANS TO BE MORE ASSERTIVE. President Rexhep Meidani and Prime Minister Pandeli Majko told visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Tirana on 30 August that Vojvodina should have a "new status." The Albanian leaders did not elaborate, dpa reported. Majko said that unnamed Serbian politicians are speaking more about Serbia and less about Yugoslavia. Vojvodina Hungarians should also "think more about themselves," the Albanian prime minister commented. PM KFOR, MACEDONIA TRADE CHARGES. A KFOR spokesman said in Skopje on 30 August that a Norwegian peacekeeper being held by Macedonian authorities can be investigated or tried only by Norway in conjunction with a recent fatal traffic accident (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 1999). Macedonian media accused KFOR of "arrogant, violent, and insensitive behavior" since the peacekeepers arrived in the spring, Reuters reported. Interior Minister Pavle Trajanov demanded tighter controls by Macedonian authorities over the movements of KFOR forces. He called for a ban on helicopter flights over Skopje at night and for "regulation" of troop movements and soldiers' leaves. In Brussels, top NATO officials met with the Macedonian ambassador. The outcome of the talks is not known. PM BATIC SETS CONDITIONS FOR SERBIAN ELECTIONS. Vladan Batic, who is one of the leaders of the opposition Alliance for Change, said in Belgrade on 30 August that the alliance will not take part in any elections in which there are candidates whom the Hague-based war crimes tribunal has indicted. The alliance also insisted that persons whom the EU has banned from travel to EU states not be allowed to run for office. Observers note that these two conditions are tantamount to a rejection of any election in which Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his top officials participate. Elsewhere, a spokesman for Milosevic's Socialist Party said that there is no need for foreign monitors to observe any elections in Serbia. He added that "the stories of electoral fraud are unreal and so are the [opposition's] demands for OSCE monitors," AP reported. PM DODIK SAYS NO ELECTIONS IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA. Nikola Poplasen, whom the international community's Carlos Westendorp has sacked as Republika Srpska president but who refuses to step down, wrote caretaker Prime Minister Milorad Dodik and parliamentary speaker Petar Djokic that parliamentary elections must be held soon. He argued that early elections are the only way out of a deadlock that has left the Bosnian Serb entity without a government for nearly a year, the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" reported on 31 August. Dodik replied that Poplasen is no longer president and has no right to seek new elections. Dodik added that Poplasen's move was instigated by unnamed persons in Serbia in order to destabilize the Republika Srpska. He did not elaborate, Reuters reported. PM EXPERTS FIND MASS GRAVES IN BOSNIA. Forensics experts from the Muslim Commission for Missing Persons found a mass grave near Serb-held Teslic, in the Doboj region, Sarajevo's "Dnevni avaz" reported on 31 August. A commission spokesman said that the grave may contain the remains of more than 40 Muslims. Experts recently exhumed a grave containing 10 Muslims or Croats in the Serbian Sarajevo suburb of Grbavica. PM CALL FOR ETHNIC SERBS TO VOTE IN CROATIAN ELECTIONS. Milorad Pupovac, who is a political leader of Croatia's ethnic Serbs, told the Belgrade daily "Vecernje novosti" of 30 August that he wants Zagreb to allow Croatian Serb refugees living in Serbia to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections. He added that he believes that the international community will support his efforts. Observers noted that prior to the dissolution of former Yugoslavia in 1991, ethnic Serbs formed some 12 percent of Croatia's population. They now form perhaps 2 percent. The Croatian authorities are unlikely to allow the refugees to vote lest they tip the political balance in many districts. PM 'TUTA' TO THE HAGUE THIS WEEK? A leading Croatian legal expert told "Jutarnji list" of 31 August that the authorities might extradite indicted war criminal Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic to The Hague as early as 2 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 1999). On 30 August, a Zagreb court ruled that Tuta is well enough to stand trial, overturning an earlier ruling that he is too ill to do so. In The Hague, chief prosecutor Louise Arbour told the Zagreb daily that Croatian President Franjo Tudjman actively sought the partition of Bosnia during the 1992-1995 conflict. She added, however, that this in itself does not constitute a war crime. PM MENINGITIS EPIDEMIC POSTPONES ROMANIAN SCHOOLYEAR. The start of the new school year has been postponed for at least one week in five Romanian counties and in Bucharest, RFE/RL's bureau in the capital reported. Nearly 4,000 cases of meningitis have been registered so far. Health Minister Hajdu Gabor said school directors who ignore the order will be sent to prison. MS ROMANIAN JOURNALIST SAYS HE WAS ORDERED TO WRITE ANTI-SEMITIC ARTICLES. Mihai Antonescu, told prosecutors that his former boss, publisher of "Atac la persoana" Dumitru Dragomir, ordered him to write anti-Semitic articles. Antonescu quit his job as the weekly's deputy chief editor last week and currently is being investigated on charges of incitement to racial hatred. Dragomir, who is one of the three deputy chairmen of the Romanian Soccer Federation (FRF), denies the allegation and claims Antonescu bears sole responsibility for the articles he wrote, Reuters reported on 30 August. The International Federation of Amateur Football has asked the FRF to investigate Dragomir's responsibility, following complaints by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 1999). MS MOLDOVA TO RESTORE BULGARIAN DISTRICT? Petar Konstantinov, chairman of the Bulgarian National Committee for the Protection of Bulgarians Beyond Borders, told journalists in Sofia on 30 August that the Moldovan government has decided to restore the separate status of the Taraclia district, BTA reported. The district, whose population is 60 percent Bulgarian, was incorporated in the newly established Cahul County earlier this year. Konstantinov said this is the first time that the Bulgarian minority in Moldova has successfully protected its rights. He added that if the legislature rejects the government decision, the Bulgarians of Taraclia will hold elections on setting up a "self-governing authority." MS BULGARIAN CHIEF OF STAFF CRITICIZES PLANNED CUTS. General Miha Mihov on 30 August criticized the government's plans for cuts in the military over the next four years, AFP reported. Mihov told the daily "Standart" that the plans are "increasingly demoralizing and infuriating" members of the armed forces, creating "tension" and "insecurity" among them. Under the government plans, the armed forces will have only 7,000 officers by 2004, instead of the current 15,000. The government, Mihov said, hopes this will improve Bulgaria's chances of joining NATO. Mihov also criticized the Defense Ministry for having no plans to help soldiers who are demobilized. MS BULGARIAN COURT ORDERS REGISTRATION OF CONTROVERSIAL PARTY. The Supreme Administrative Court has overturned the 25 August decision of the Central Electoral Commission to refuse to register the Ilinden United Macedonian Organization-PIRIN. The decision is final and cannot be appealed, BTA reported on 30 August. PIRIN is the Bulgarian abbreviation for "Party of Economic Development and Integration of the Population" but is also the name of part of historical Macedonia that now belongs to Bulgaria. PIRIN was set up in 1998 and strives to preserve the traditions of Pirin Macedonians and refugees from Aegean Macedonia. The Constitutional Court has still to rule on an appeal by 61 deputies of various political stripes who want PIRIN outlawed on grounds of violating the constitutional provision that bans parties set up on ethnic or religious lines. MS END NOTE FISCHER WINS, KLAUS LOSES By Victor Gomez Something is stirring in the Czech Republic's political morass. The overwhelming victory of a travel agency owner in a Senate by-election has galvanized both the media and the public and shaken up the country's political power-brokers. Riding on the fame of his successful travel agency and a large amount of campaign spending, Vaclav Fischer has swept into the Senate with the support of more than 71 percent of those who voted in his Prague district. In so doing, he crushed seven candidates who were all supported by political parties. However, it is easy to over-estimate the importance of high-profile by-elections. First, only 34 percent of eligible voters bothered to participate. The low turnout is in keeping with previous elections to the upper house and belies the ongoing public impression that the Senate is a useless and largely powerless public body. It should also be remembered that Fischer is by no means the first independent candidate to run in a Czech election. While Fischer may certainly have benefited from growing public frustration with politicians and parties, it should also be noted that few independent candidates have so much money and name-recognition. Thus, Fischer's success does not automatically mean that dozens of other Fischers will appear on the Czech political horizon in the near future. That said, this particular by-election is important for at least two reasons--one practical and the other symbolic. First, the election means that the parties of Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus no longer have a constitutional majority in the Senate. This will make it more difficult for Klaus and Zeman to fulfill one of the key aspects of their so-called "opposition agreement." Under that agreement, the two parties are to use their constitutional majority to push through a package of constitutional and legal amendments designed to change the country's electoral system and alter the powers of certain state bodies. While the parties are still haggling over the electoral changes, they have come to a preliminary agreement on amendments that would limit certain presidential powers. For his part, Fischer has made it clear that he is opposed to the "opposition agreement" between Zeman and Klaus, as well as to their decision to use their parties' combined majority in the parliament to pass constitutional amendments. While Fischer has also said he is not opposed in principle to changing the electoral system, his animosity toward the "opposition agreement" itself makes it unlikely that he would support any major constitutional changes initiated by Zeman and Klaus. Since four of the other five parties represented in the Senate have said they are opposed to the package of amendments, that leaves the four Communist senators. The Communists have sent out mixed signals on the issue. On the one hand, the party has been a vocal opponent of the "opposition agreement." On the other hand, it has voiced support for the idea of restricting the president's powers. The issue appears to be a delicate one for the purveyors of the "opposition agreement." Neither Zeman nor Klaus will want to be seen making deals with Communist senators in order to pass changes to the constitution. Despite its recent success in public opinion polls, the Communist Party remains anathema to many Czechs and particularly within Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS). Aware of this problem, some ODS members have started emphasizing that constitutional changes require the support of only a three-fifths majority of all Senators present at the time the vote is taken. In other words, the ODS has been reduced to hoping that at least one senator takes ill on the day the upper house is to vote on major changes to the constitution. In sum, Fischer's victory seems to have thrown a wrench into the workings of the "opposition agreement." However, this does not mean that Zeman and Klaus cannot go ahead with plans to change the electoral law. At present, the two parties are discussing the possibility of introducing "majoritarian elements" into the lower house's proportional representation system. Such changes would not require a constitutional amendment, and the two parties have a strong enough majority in both houses to pass any law they agree on. This leads to the second key aspect of Fischer's election. The fact that Klaus's party was defeated in the heart of a city considered an ODS stronghold is significant in its own right. Nevertheless, the defeat would not have acquired as much symbolic significance as it did if Klaus had not become so actively involved in the election campaign. He personally pushed his party into accepting the actress Jirina Jiraskova as its candidate. He attended many of her rallies and exhorted voters to support her. And he signed his name under advertisements and posters that not only emphasized the crucial importance of the vote but also contained personal attacks against Fischer. Thus, the result was not so much Fischer's victory as Klaus's defeat. Klaus staked his own popularity on a by- election that was supposed to result in a "comfortable" victory for his party--and lost. One wonders what voters might do if he forces through changes to the electoral system that are clearly designed to give his party a "comfortable" majority in the parliament. 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. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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