|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 174, Part II, 7 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 174, Part II, 7 September 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 AUTHORITIES CONTINUE TO OPPRESS OPPOSITION, DESPITE TALKS * RUSSIA'S AVDEEV WANTS UN TO REIN IN KFOR ACTIVITIES * DODIK BARS POPLASEN FROM OFFICES End Note: OLD ROGUES KEEP OLD PROBLEMS ALIVE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES CONTINUE TO OPPRESS OPPOSITION, DESPITE TALKS. Yury Khadyka, deputy chairman of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front, said on 6 September that despite the start of talks between the authorities and the opposition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 1999), the authorities continue to harass oppositionists. As proof, he cited the two summons he recently received from a court and a police station in connection with his alleged wrong-doings in opposition marches on 21 and 27 July. According to the Spring-96 human rights group, cited by Belapan, the authorities' treatment of Khadyka is aimed at making it difficult for oppositionists to prepare for talks with the government. Khadyka heads an opposition expert group for working out a schedule of the talks. JM KUCHMA DETAILS HIS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION PROGRAM... Unveiling his election platform on 6 September, President Leonid Kuchma said that if he had not sought re-election, "I would not have been able to respect myself," Interfax reported. The economic part of that platform, which Kuchma said was developed by the "cream of the production sector and academic circles," foresees GDP growth of 2 percent next year. Under his leadership, Kuchma promised, Ukraine would continue economic reforms to become a "socially oriented" state. He added that the country's foreign policy would be based on integration with the EU and at the same time close cooperation with the CIS. He stressed, however, that Ukraine would not join CIS supranational bodies. JM ...REMAINS UPBEAT ON FOREIGN DEBT... Kuchma also said he expects creditors to forgive part of Ukraine's foreign debt, which now exceeds $12 billion, AP reported. "It is in everyone's interests that there should be a stable Ukraine in the center of Europe and nothing like Yugoslavia," Interfax quoted him as saying. He added that a Ukrainian delegation is to leave soon for talks with the Paris Club. JM ...TOPS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION POPULARITY POLL. According to a poll conducted by Socis-Gallup in late August among some 2,400 Ukrainians, Kuchma has 30.61 percent backing, Natalya Vitrenko 23.03 percent, Petro Symonenko 19.88 percent, Yevhen Marchuk 6.52 percent, Oleksandr Moroz 6.38 percent, Oleksandr Tkachenko 2.78 percent, Hennadiy Udovenko 2.63 percent, Yuriy Kostenko 1.20 percent, Vasyl Onopenko 0.45 percent, and Volodymyr Oliynyk 0.23 percent, Interfax reported on 6 September. JM LATVIANS EXPRESS DISTRUST TOWARD BANKS. BNS reported that a survey carried out by the SKDS market research firm suggests Latvians do not trust local banks. Of the respondents, 74.4 percent said they have no confidence in Latvia's banks, while only 14.8 percent expressed confidence. The survey suggest that the higher the individual's income, the greater his trust in the banking sector. Nonetheless, only 28.2 percent of those making more than 127 lats ($215) a month expressed such trust. MH REFERENDUM PETITION DRIVE BEGINS IN LATVIA. The campaign to collect signatures for a referendum on amendments to the law on pensions began on 6 September. The unpopular measure, which would raise the retirement age and restrict pension payments for working pensioners, was passed last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1999). However, more than one- third of the parliament's members signed a petition for a two-month delay, allowing a petition drive for a plebiscite on the issue. Ten percent of voters must sign the petition within the next month for the vote to take place. Meanwhile, BNS reported that President Vaira Vike-Freiberga voiced reservations about the restriction of payments to working pensioners, saying "I think that a person has the right to the pension that he or she has earned." MH IRISH FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS LITHUANIA. During a visit to Lithuania on 5-6 September, David Andrews met with President Valdas Adamkus, Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas, and other officials. EU enlargement dominated the discussions, as well as the two countries' desire to win a seat on the UN Security Council. ELTA reported that Ireland will contest a seat for the 2001-2002 session, while Lithuania will do so for the 2004-2005 session. Andrews reaffirmed Ireland's support for Lithuania to begin EU accession talks. MH POLAND'S FORMER PREMIER ALLEGEDLY CHECKED FOR SECRET SERVICE TIES. Democratic Left Alliance parliamentary deputy Janusz Zemke has said the Lustration Court is checking his parliamentary colleague Jozef Oleksy, who was prime minister in 1995-1996, in connection with the latter's lustration statement, Polish Radio reported on 6 September. According to Zemke, Oleksy underwent training in military intelligence in the army but mentioned this fact not in his lustration statement proper but in an annex to it. This prompted the lustration prosecutor to submit Oleksy's statement to court scrutiny. Oleksy declined to tell Polish Radio whether he was trained for military intelligence in Communist-era Poland. The Lustration Court has not confirmed that it is examining Oleksy's lustration statement. JM POLISH MINING SECTOR REGISTERS BIGGER LOSSES THAN EXPECTED. The coal mining sector lost 1.92 billion zlotys ($477 million) from January-July, some 500 million zlotys more than planned for the entire year, PAP reported on 6 September. It is expected that the sector's losses for 1999 as a whole will total 3.3 billion zlotys. So far, the government has spent some $440 million on compensation to miners who have been laid off or are being retrained under a restructuring plan introduced last year. JM SLOVAK PREMIER RETURNS TO 'MOTHER PARTY'... Mikulas Dzurinda told journalists on 6 September that he has rejoined the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), SITA and CTK reported. He said his decision was influenced by prominent KDH members who on 1 September had called for an end of the confrontation between Dzurinda and KDH chairman Jan Carnogursky. Dzurinda, who remains chairman of the five-party Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) alliance, said it is "too early" to say whether he will challenge Carnogursky for the post of KDH chairman or whether the KDH statutes, which prevent SDK officials from seeking leadership posts in the KDH, will be changed. Dzurinda said he has never sought to transform the SDK into a new political party and that he will strive for the SDK and the KDH to "coexist." MS ...DRAWING MIXED RESPONSES. Carnogursky commented that Dzurinda is "welcome back" and that the KDH will now witness a "noble struggle" between two opinions on the movement's future. He said he hopes the confrontation will be "fair," adding that Dzurinda's decision shows that "it is impossible to liquidate the KDH." KDH deputy chairman Vladimir Palko said that Dzurinda, together with Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner and former Transportation Minister Gabriel Palacka (who also announced their return to the KDH), had to make a choice "between sacrificing their vision or their political future and they decided to sacrifice the vision," SITA reported. MS SLOVAKIA REOPENS DUBCEK DEATH INVESTIGATION. The Interior Ministry, responding to a request by the Social Democratic Party (SDSS), announced on 6 September it is reopening the investigation into the September 1992 death of former SDSS chairman and architect of the "Prague Spring" Alexander Dubcek, CTK and Reuters reported. Since the death, rumors have persisted that political rivals or the KGB may have been involved in provoking the car crash in which Dubcek died. His driver, who was found guilty of "negligence" in the earlier investigation, was also involved in the disappearance of communist secret service files on Vladimir Meciar, who was premier at the time of Dubcek's death. MS HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT IN SLOVAKIA. Arpad Goencz, on an official visit to Slovakia, told his Slovak counterpart, Rudolf Schuster, on 6 September that their two countries must take advantage of the present "historical opportunity," when their views "are identical," to boost cooperation. Alluding to the Hungarian minority in Slovakia, Goencz said that "a satisfied minority is the least dangerous minority." He also explained why the law on minority representation in the Hungarian parliament has not yet been passed, saying that the official recognition of more than a dozen minorities might "disrupt the balance of the Hungarian parliamentary system." Schuster presented a plan aimed at "cooperation without borders, because we do not want to have the Schengen border with either Hungary, or Poland, and least of all with the Czech Republic," SITA and CTK reported. MS FORMER HUNGARIAN PREMIER LEFT OUT OF BORDER OPENING ANNIVERSARY. Gyula Horn on 6 September complained that neither himself nor others who played a significant role in the opening of Hungary's border with Austria in 1989 are among those invited to a ceremony commemorating the 10th anniversary of that event. Horn, who was foreign minister at the time, said "an apparent falsification of history is going on." He added that the way members of the present government "try to present themselves as the sole resistance fighters" is both "low and primitive." Hungarian media report that among those not invited to the commemorative 10 September parliamentary session are Miklos Nemeth, who at the time was prime minister, German former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and German former Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE RUSSIA'S AVDEEV WANTS UN TO REIN IN KFOR ACTIVITIES... After meeting with Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic in Belgrade on 6 September Jovanovic, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev said that "under the slogan of maintaining sovereignty and territorial integrity, some Western countries are recommending solutions violating those principles and UN Resolution 1244 and are practically leading to [Kosova's] secession," Reuters reported, citing Tanjug. Avdeev added that Russia will work with the UN Security Council to try to make certain that KFOR abides by UN guidelines, ITAR-TASS reported. Observers noted that Avdeev was alluding to a recent decision by the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to declare the German mark Kosova's currency in place of the Yugoslav dinar (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 3 September 1999). PG/FS ...DEMANDS FULL ABOLITION OF UCK STRUCTURES. Avdeev told AP on 6 September that "we understand the demilitarization [of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK)] in the full sense of the word.... That is not only the confiscation of armaments, but also the disbandment of UCK structures. Russia feels negatively about all the variants providing for preservation of the army as an organized structure." Avdeev was referring to recent suggestions by NATO member states to transform the UCK into a lightly armed civil defense structure (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 1999). FS DRASKOVIC PRAISES RUSSIAN MEDIATION IN RAMBOUILLET. Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic told Avdeev in Belgrade on 6 September that Yugoslavia made a mistake by not signing the Rambouillet accord in late February. Draskovic said "our trouble was that [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic failed to demonstrate enough statesmanship during negotiations [on Kosova] in France early this year and did not heed the advice of the Russian representatives in the [international] Contact Group." Observers note, however, that Draskovic was Yugoslav deputy prime minister at the time of the Rambouillet talks and rejected the deployment of NATO troops. Instead, he had suggested the deployment of "a UN force that will disarm the Albanian terrorists together with our forces," BETA reported on 25 February. FS RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS KILL THREE SERBS. Russian peacekeepers shot dead three Serbian gunmen in a village near Gjilan on 6 September. The Serbs earlier fired at a passing car, killing one ethnic Albanian and injuring two. When the Russian forces arrived at the scene and tried to arrest the gunmen, the Serbs shot at the peacekeepers, who returned the fire. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said in Prishtina that "this incident...proves that the Russian troops behave according to the obligations that all KFOR troops have.... We have one KFOR, not two KFORs," Reuters reported. Solana also met with a delegation of ethnic Albanians from Rahovec who are blocking roads to prevent Russian troops from entering their town. A delegation member told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent that Solana "has been very correct. He said that the question of Rahovec cannot be solved against the will of its citizens." FS FISCHER CALLS ON THACI TO END REVENGE VIOLENCE. Speaking in Berlin on 6 September, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer urged the UCK's Hashim Thaci to end revenge killings by ethnic Albanians against members of the Serbian and Roma minorities. Referring to unspecified recent incidents, Thaci replied: "We have distanced ourselves from the events of the last days, and we condemn them.... There can be no acts of revenge against Serbs or Roma.... Our goal is to have democracy in Kosova...and we will complete the transformation of the UCK" from a guerrilla to a peace-time organization, Reuters reported. PM IS SERBIA'S PRESIDENT UNDER HOUSE ARREST? London's "The Guardian" reported from Belgrade on 7 September that Milan Milutinovic has fallen out of favor with his Yugoslav counterpart, Slobodan Milosevic. The newspaper quoted a spokesman for the New Democracy party as saying that Milutinovic is under house arrest and that "his life is threatened." The spokesman called for an independent commission to determine whether Milutinovic is able to carry out his duties. For several weeks, opposition media have suggested that Milutinovic was in hospital undergoing treatment for high blood pressure or that he was in confinement. Government spokesmen have dismissed the reports. Milutinovic is among the five top Belgrade leaders whom the Hague-based war crimes tribunal indicted in May. PM SERBIAN ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTERS SENTENCED. A Leskovac court sentenced five persons to eight months in prison on 6 September for damaging the home of Zivojin Stefanovic, who is the local chair of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia. The incident took place earlier this summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 1999). PM ALLIANCE FOR CHANGE SHUNS DRASKOVIC. Vladan Batic, who is the spokesman for the Serbian opposition Alliance for Change, said in Belgrade on 6 September that his group "will no longer have anything to do with" Draskovic. Batic charged that Draskovic seeks to fool voters into thinking that he is part of the opposition when in fact he sides with the regime. Turning to other topics, Batic said that the alliance will hold a "convention" in Novi Sad on 17 September to present its political platform to the public. Four days later, the alliance will launch in Belgrade a series of new protests aimed at creating "a critical mass large enough to bring the whole of Serbia to its feet," Reuters reported. PM DODIK BARS POPLASEN FROM OFFICES. The Republika Srpska's moderate caretaker Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said in Banja Luka on 7 September that he has barred Nikola Poplasen from using the presidential offices, security guards, phones, and cars. Dodik stressed that the international community's Carlos Westendorp ousted Poplasen as president in March, Reuters reported. Poplasen has refused to accept that decision, which, Dodik argued, has led to instability in the Republika Srpska. PM REPUBLIKA SRPSKA OFFICERS TOLD NOT TO GO ABROAD. The Bosnian Serb Defense Ministry issued an order on 6 September forbidding its officers to travel outside the Republika Srpska or Yugoslavia lest they be arrested for war crimes and sent to The Hague (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report." 31 August 1999). PM JOINT POLICE START PATROLS IN BRCKO. Joint police units consisting of Serbs, Croats, and Muslims began patrols in Brcko on 6 September. An RFE/RL correspondent reported from that town that the appearance of the patrols is one of the first tangible results of the international community's decision to place Brcko under joint rule of the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation and the Republika Srpska. In Tuzla, the organization representing Muslims from Brcko accused Ambassador Robert Farrand, who is the international community's representative for Brcko, of failing to ensure multi-ethnic management of enterprises in Brcko. PM CROATIA TO APPEAL TO INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE. Justice Minister Zvonimir Separovic said in Zagreb on 6 September that his government will ask the Hague-based International Court of Justice to rule whether the war crimes tribunal located in that city has jurisdiction with regard to the two 1995 offensives in which the Croatian army defeated ethnic Serb rebels. The war crimes court has threatened Croatia with sanctions if it does not provide various documents regarding the offensives and the subsequent flight of most of the local Serbian population. The Croatian authorities maintain that the tribunal has no authority to investigate the offensives, which Zagreb considers an internal matter. PM SLOVENIAN TRUCKERS, GOVERNMENT AGREE TO END BLOCKADE. Finance Minister Mitja Gaspari and Janko Razgorsek, who is the minister in charge of matters pertaining to small businesses, said in Ljubljana on 6 September that striking truckers will receive their overdue wages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 1999). The ministers also agreed not to issue any new permits for truckers to transport goods abroad. The truckers apparently dropped their demand for Razgorsek's ouster. Police did not intervene against the strikers, who blocked several of Slovenia's most important roads. PM ALBANIA CRACKS DOWN ON GANGS. Public Order Ministry official Fadil Canaj told dpa on 6 September that Albanian police have broken up 12 organized criminal gangs within the last four weeks, including the most notorious of them. Canaj said that last week police arrested the famous Vlora gang leader Myrteza Caushi--also known as "Zani"--and four of his associates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 1999). Investigators have charged Zani and his gang with the murder of at least 10 people, kidnappings, and several robberies. On 3 September in Durres, police also arrested gang leader Bujar Buzani and two other members of his gang. Buzani is accused of killing six policemen in June 1997 and has also been charged with other killings as well as robberies and rapes. Police have also arrested several gang members in the towns of Berat, Fier, Elbasan, Burrel, and Tropoja who had eluded the authorities since 1997. FS ROMANIAN SHIP OWNERS BLOCK DANUBE. Romanian ship owners on 6 September launched a three-day blockade of the River Danube near Calarasi to protest losses caused by Serbia's diverting traffic on the river and the international community's failure to respond, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Following the destruction of bridges during NATO air strikes, the Serbs diverted traffic to a bypass channel built last century. Nearly 30 Romanian ships, however, remain unable to leave the Novi Sad port. The Serbs say they will not rebuild the bridges since they have not been affected by their destruction. The ship owners also complain that the oil embargo against Yugoslavia has caused them $50 million in losses and that they have had to lay off some 3,400 out of 5,288 employees. Transportation Minister Traian Basescu said the protest is justified, adding that NATO and the EU bear the responsibility and that NATO has forgotten the promises it made to Romania during the crisis. MS GAGAUZ-YERI GOVERNOR LOSES RUN-OFF. Georgii Tabunschik, governor of the Gagauz-Yeri Autonomous Republic, has lost the 5 September run-off, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported the next day. Tabunschik's challenger, Moldovan Deputy Foreign Minister Dumitru Croitoru, received 61 percent of the vote (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 1999). MS BULGARIAN NATIONAL FLAG DESECRATED IN ETHNIC TURKISH REGION. Several national flags were desecrated on 5 September, the eve of Bulgaria's national holiday, in the town of Kurdzhali, AP reported the next day, citing BTA. More than half of the town's population belongs to the ethnic Turkish minority. On 6 September, Bulgaria marked the 114th anniversary of the end of Turkish rule. MS END NOTE OLD ROGUES KEEP OLD PROBLEMS ALIVE By Patrick Moore Milorad Dodik, who is the moderate caretaker prime minister of the Republika Srpska, told "Glas Srpski" last week that those responsible for the past decade's conflicts must leave office if the Balkans are ever to become stable. Dodik argued that "Serbia and the Balkans can find peace only if [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic, [his Croatian counterpart] Franjo Tudjman, [Bosnian Muslim leader] Alija Izetbegovic, and the Republika Srpska's wartime chiefs leave the political scene.... Milosevic is the main failure of the past 10 years. His policy of destabilization and launching ethnic conflicts has caused significant tensions in the Balkans and in southeastern Europe," Reuters reported. Observers both inside and outside the region have repeatedly noted the problems posed by the continuation in office of those responsible for the wars. In the case of Serbia, Milosevic has remained in power long enough to lead his country into no fewer than four wars. He has lost each and every one of them, as a result of which hundreds of thousands of Serbs have been forced to resettle. Should he manage to ride out the present political crisis, just as he has survived the previous ones, he might be tempted to engage in conflicts with Montenegro, the Sandzak Muslims, or Vojvodina. And should he prove as unsuccessful in those conflicts as he has in the last four, he soon may find himself reduced to governing a territory not much larger than the Ottoman Pashaluk of Belgrade. Something fundamental, moreover, has changed for Milosevic. Until this May, he was courted by international diplomats as the "one man who could make things happen" in the region, the mover-and-shaker who alone could make any peace agreement stick. Or so many thought. In late May, however, the Hague-based war crimes tribunal put an end to all that. The court indicted Milosevic and four of his top lieutenants for war crimes and thereby made them politically unacceptable as international negotiators, at least for countries where the rule of law holds sway. This move may have frustrated or angered those diplomats who would have preferred business-as-usual in Belgrade. The court, however, placed Milosevic beyond the pale of respectability once and for all. The indictment had repercussions within Serbia, too. After Milosevic lost Kosova in June, the long-silent opposition found its voice again. One of their key arguments against him was that under the indictment, he was ineligible to carry out his presidential duties because he could no longer represent the country abroad. The indictment of Milosevic and the other four men, moreover, further served to drive home the message to the Serbian public that their country had become isolated under Milosevic and had no future in the international community as long as he stayed in office. The shadow of The Hague hovers over Tudjman as well. In July, a prosecutor at the tribunal suggested that Tudjman bears responsibility for Croatia's anti-Muslim policies in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the 1993-1994 conflict. The prosecutor made the remarks at the trial of a Croatian indicted war criminal, who, the prosecutor suggested, was simply Tudjman's "tool." In recent days, the Croatian press has quoted court officials to the effect that the tribunal has not indicted Tudjman. It remains to be seen whether the president will venture to attend the opening session of the UN General Assembly this fall or engage in other foreign travel. Of late, the pressure from The Hague has been felt all the more sharply in Zagreb because the court threatened to bring international sanctions down on Croatia. The tribunal wants that country to extradite Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic for war crimes in Bosnia and to provide documents relating to the flight of perhaps as many as 200,000 Serbs from Croatia in 1995. Official Zagreb--unlike Belgrade--has staked its future on integration into Euro-Atlantic structures and cannot risk major sanctions. But the wheels of justice sometimes turn slowly in Croatia, and it is unclear if and when the government will meet the tribunal's demands. Bosnia presents a somewhat different picture. Few non- Serbs or non-Croats have seriously accused Izetbegovic himself of war crimes. But he is widely regarded at home and abroad as turning a blind eye toward corruption, particularly when those involved are persons who distinguished themselves in the 1992-1995 Muslim war effort. In fact, the close links between the political, military, and criminal structures among the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims are well known. Many observers from the region and abroad have stressed repeatedly that the main reason that precious little of the 1995 Dayton peace agreement has been implemented is that the people responsible for the war continue to hold power. These individuals have no reason to end a system in which each local warlord reigns over his few square kilometers of territory like a medieval potentate. How one might break the power of these individual warlords and the system they have built up is at least as daunting a question as is how to oust Milosevic and the other big fish. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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