|Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. - Thomas Carlyle|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 176, Part II, 9 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 176, Part II, 9 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 * BELARUS-RUSSIA UNION TREATY BECOMING MORE REMOTE PROSPECT * PLANS SHAPE UP FOR KOSOVA CORPS * SERBIAN REFUGEES RESUME MARCH xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUS-RUSSIA UNION TREATY BECOMING MORE REMOTE PROSPECT. After meeting with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Minsk on 8 September, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin intimated that reaching agreement on a Belarus-Russia union treaty could take more time than initially thought. "I hope the signing of the treaty on creating a union state of Belarus and Russia will take place before Russia's presidential elections," Putin said. Those elections are expected in June 2000. Last December, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Lukashenka pledged to finalize a Russian- Belarusian union state this year. Putin also said that some legal issues concerning the union state require more work. He added that a draft treaty will soon be submitted to public discussion but that such a discussion will not involve a referendum. "If Russia is not ready for radical steps..., let us sign a moderate variant of the treaty," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. JM BELARUSIAN WORKERS PROTEST PRESIDENTIAL DECREES. Some 6,000 employees of the Belaruskaliy producer of potash fertilizers in Salihorsk, Minsk Oblast, held a protest rally on 8 September. The workers of Belarus's largest exporter, which employs some 19,500 people, were protesting presidential decrees on labor discipline and pensions, which they said "encroach upon the workers' rights," Belapan reported. JM BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF MOSCOW DEFEAT. A 1,000-strong opposition meeting in Minsk on 8 September marked Military Glory Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the Battle of Orsha in 1514, at which 30,000 troops of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania defeated a 80,000-strong army of the Muscovite state. The event was sanctioned by the authorities, but in a move frequently evident at opposition gatherings, electricity was cut off to the meeting site, disrupting a rock concert that was part of the commemoration. JM UKRAINE'S MOROZ WANTS TO OUST KUCHMA'S 'REGIME OF BANDITOCRACY.' Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz, a major rival of President Leonid Kuchma in the upcoming presidential elections, pledged to pursue "genuine socialism" in his election platform published in the 8 September "Holos Ukrayiny." If elected president, Moroz said he will build a state-controlled, market-oriented "genuine national economy" based primarily on domestic industrial potential. According to the platform, an essential condition for implementing Moroz's "new course" for Ukraine is the elimination of the "existing regime of banditocracy," headed by Leonid Kuchma. JM MORE MONEY FOR KYIV IN THE OFFING? Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko announced after his meeting with Japan's new ambassador to Kyiv on 8 September that Tokyo may lend Ukraine $80 million in two credits. The second credit, worth $35 million, is to be spent on patching up budget gaps. Meanwhile, an IMF official in Ukraine told journalists the same day that later this month the fund will consider the release of a $90 million credit tranche to Ukraine in 1999, in addition to the $184 million loan approved on 7 September. JM NATO PARLIAMENTARY HEAD IN ESTONIA. The president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Javier Ruperez, visited Estonia on 7- 9 September. In talks with Defense Minister Juri Luik, the two concluded that disputes between NATO and Russia could be overcome, ETA reported. Ruperez said that the assembly would do "everything...to help Estonia in its wish to become a member of NATO," according to BNS. Ruperez, accompanied by assembly secretary-general Simon Lunn, also met with President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Mart Laar, Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves and members of the parliamentary Defense Committee. MH LITHUANIAN CABINET DECIDES ON PARTIAL IGNALINA SHUTDOWN. The government on 8 September approved a draft national energy strategy that provides for the first unit of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant to be decommissioned in 2005. Economics Minister Eugenijus Maldeikis stressed that the measure still needs parliamentary approval and that no timetable is included for closing down the second unit at Ignalina, BNS reported. ELTA added that experts believe the cost of decommissioning the first unit would be some 10 billion litas ($2.5 billion), while modernizing Lithuania's power sector up to 2020 would require 2.8 billion litas ($700 million). The fate of the second unit is to be included in the next energy strategy, which is due to be issued in 2004. MH LITHUANIA REPORTS STATISTICS ON ALCOHOL. The Lithuanian Statistics Office on 8 September released data on alcohol usage and its effects on the population for 1998. ELTA reported that sales of spirits dropped by 32 percent from 1997, while wine sales rose by 5.5 percent and beer by 14 percent. Average consumption fell by 5.5 percent. On the other hand, the study reports that last year there were 68,700 diagnosed alcoholics, with 2,600 suffering mental problems caused by alcoholism. A total of 1,189 individuals died of alcohol poisoning in 1998. MH POLISH COALITION POLITICIANS WANT TO REPLACE PREMIER. Aleksander Hall, deputy head of the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) caucus, said on 8 September that the ruling coalition of the AWS and the Freedom Union (UW) should consider replacing Premier Jerzy Buzek, PAP reported. Miroslaw Styczen, who is chairman of the Conservative-Popular Alliance (a member of the AWS coalition) noted that politicians are considering different scenarios, ranging from the replacement of several ministers to a full cabinet reshuffle. UW parliamentary deputy Wladyslaw Frasyniuk said that the cabinet needs a "deep and quick restructuring," including a change of prime minister. In recent opinion polls following sweeping but poorly implemented reforms in administration, health care, pensions, and education, some 80 percent of Poles assess Buzek's performance negatively. JM HAVEL SAYS EU NOT PREJUDICED TOWARD CZECH REPUBLIC... President Vaclav Havel on 8 September told journalists after talks with his visiting German counterpart, Johannes Rau, that there is "no political prejudice in the EU" toward the Czech Republic. He said that the timing of the country's entry into the EU depends "only on ourselves, on our enthusiasm for reaching this objective, and on the concrete work we do" to achieve that goal, CTK reported. Rau said that he firmly believes German companies must stop using "various reservations" to avoid paying compensation to World War II slave laborers. He said finding a solution to this problem is in Germany's interest not only "for moral and humanitarian reasons" but also "for economic and political reasons." MS ...SAYS BENES DECREES PROBLEM 'COMPLEX.' Havel also said that problems related to the 1945 Benes decrees are "complex" and added that saying the decrees have "faded away" does not resolve those problems. He was responding to a draft resolution introduced by the opposition Christian Democrats in the German Bundestag calling for the abolition of the decrees. Havel said that before the Czech parliament begins to debate the decrees, experts from both sides must make their views known. The outcome of the debate, he said, must "honor the Czech-German declaration, which clearly states that we shall not burden our future relations with the past." But Prime Minister Milos Zeman told journalists the same day that he is against reopening the debate, saying that he wants the issue to be considered "closed" following his statement earlier this year that the decrees have "faded away." MS CZECH GOVERNMENT TO ALLOW CONSTRUCTION OF ANTI-ROMA WALL? Government Commissioner for Human Rights Petr Uhl on 8 September said that "under certain conditions" he might initiate a proposal for the government not to oppose the planned construction of the wall fencing off Roma in Usti nad Labem. The conditions are that the two gates in the wall remain open at all times and that opposition to the wall's construction is reduced among both Roma and "international organization," CTK reported. MS NUCLEAR POWER PLANT 'LAST HURDLE' TO SLOVAKIA'S EU ACCESSION TALKS? European Commission chief negotiator Francois Lamoureux and Jan Figel, head of the Slovak negotiating team, told journalists in Bratislava on 8 September that Slovakia has fulfilled all political criteria for its invitation to accession talks and that an invitation now depends on adopting "a clear and realistic timetable" for closing down the Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear power plant. Lamoureux emphasized that the commission does not share Austria's opinion that the plant must be shut down as early as 2000, but he added that it wants a "realistic deadline" and considers that the plant "cannot be modernized" and "cannot remain in operation until the end of its life span." Figel said that the EU-Slovak "working group" will come up with "compromise proposals" recommending that the plant be closed between 2003 and 2014, CTK reported. MS WAS DESECRATION OF SLOVAK MONUMENT 'PROVOCATION'? Party of Hungarian Coalition (SMK) chairman Bela Bugar on 8 September told journalists that last week's defacement of the monument to General Milan Rastislav Stefanik was "a clear political provocation" aimed at fomenting anti-Hungarian sentiment in Slovakia. Bugar said that the SMK has managed to discover the offenders and has informed the police of who vandalized the monument as well as the car number plates of the perpetrators. Bugar said that the monument was defaced by former police officers, one of whom is now employed as a bodyguard to an opposition politician, and that they were paid 50,000 crowns ($1,200) to do so, SITA and CTK reported. JEWISH FEDERATION OBJECTS HUNGARY'S AUSCHWITZ EXHIBITION. The Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (MAZSIHISZ) complained on 8 September that an exhibit that Prime Minister Viktor Orban is to open in Auschwitz next May "barely conceals anti-Semitic undertones." MAZSIHISZ said in a statement that the exhibit "distorts the facts" of Hungary's treatment of Jews since "it makes no mention of anti-Semitism before 1914 and places all responsibility on Germans for what happened in the 1930s and 1940s." "It cannot be the Hungarian government's intention to open an exhibition in Auschwitz that condones the deeds of [Hungarian wartime leader Miklos] Horthy," the statement said. MSZ HUNGARY RULES OUT VOJVODINA AUTONOMY UNDER MILOSEVIC. Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi told Hungarian media on 7 September that he rules out any chance of reaching an agreement with President Slobodan Milosevic on the autonomy of Vojvodina. Such autonomy, he said, "must gradually be implemented and must be incorporated into the process of democratization in Yugoslavia." Hungary supports the autonomy plan proposed by the province's Hungarian community, but the Hungarian government "should never play the decisive part" in the process of implementing it, he concluded. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE PLANS SHAPE UP FOR KOSOVA CORPS. NATO ambassadors in Brussels on 9 September discussed the plan for the transformation of at least part of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) into a Kosova Corps (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 1999). A high-ranking NATO official told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent that the plan provides for a 3,000- strong force that will be organized into a "military structure" in six regions of Kosova and will have 2,000 reservists. Members of the force will wear uniforms but not carry arms, with the exception of guards or others exercising functions explicitly assigned to them by KFOR. The corps will include transport units, rapid reaction forces, medical units, and units for protection against chemical and bacteriological weapons. It will be subordinated to UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner and maintain permanent contact with KFOR through liaison officers. Kouchner will present the plan to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 9 September. FS EX-UCK SOLDIERS URGED TO JOIN CIVILIAN POLICE. An RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent in Brussels quoted a unnamed NATO official as saying on 8 September that many UCK soldiers who are not included in the Kosova Corps will be able to apply for jobs with the civilian police. In addition, international organizations clearing mines in Kosova have reserved 190 jobs for former UCK members. Kouchner's UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has also received pledges of 300 university stipends from several different countries for those UCK soldiers who interrupted their studies when war broke out. FS SERBS WERE TARGETS OF KOSOVA SHELLING. The victims of the recent shelling of Donja Budriga, near Gjilan, were all Serbs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 1999). U.S. Colonel Steve Hicks told AP on 8 September that the shells came from an ethnic Albanian village and struck two Serbian ones. BBC Television noted the next day that the shells were of Chinese manufacture and that the UCK has much Chinese-made weaponry. In Prishtina, a KFOR spokesman noted that ethnic tensions are on the rise in the Gjilan area, in southeastern Kosova, following a recent series of incidents. On 9 September, a KFOR spokesman said that a 65-year-old Serbian woman died in Prizren after a beating by members of the UCK, AP reported. PM EBU APPOINTS DIRECTOR OF PRISHTINA RADIO AND TELEVISION. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), meeting in Geneva on 8 September, appointed Erik Lehmann as the new head of Prishtina Radio and Television. Lehmann is currently president of Swiss Public Radio and Television. FS KOUCHNER TO LAUNCH PREPARATIONS FOR ELECTIONS. Kouchner told the Kosova Transitional Council in Prishtina on 9 September that he will hold a large meeting of all Kosovar political parties at the end of September, after the demilitarization of the UCK is complete. He said that the meeting will be the first step toward organizing elections next year. The Transitional Council also set up a commission to seek the release of more than 2,000 ethnic Albanians from Serbian prisons. Kouchner later promised about 200 ethnic Albanian protesters who had gathered outside the UN headquarters that KFOR will ensure the return of ethnic Albanians to the Serbian-dominated northern part of Mitrovica in the near future. Kouchner said that he is optimistic about the successful demilitarization of the UCK, the reconstruction of Kosova, and the holding of new elections, saying "I hope-- inshallah--to organize the whole thing." FS SERBIAN REFUGEES RESUME MARCH. Police on 8 September blocked a road leading from Kraljevo to Belgrade, forcing 350 refugees from Kosova to abandon plans to march on the capital. The refugees wanted to protest what they called the government's indifference to their plight. They resumed their march the following day. Local officials recently evicted them from their quarters in a school building so that fall classes could begin. AP reported that "the refugees were offered a windowless, roofless ruin with no electricity or water as alternative shelter. They refused and embarked instead on a protest march to Belgrade." Some 20,000 refugees from Kosova are officially registered in Kraljevo, but there are perhaps as many as 10,000 unregistered refugees there. The town lies directly north of Kosova on a main road linking it to Mitrovica and Prishtina. PM STUDENT PROTEST IN BELGRADE. An unspecified number of students belonging to Otpor (Resistance) demonstrated in front of the Belgrade military court on 8 September. They called for an end to legal proceedings against young men who did not respond to call-up orders during the Kosova conflict in the first half of 1999, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Several Serbian human rights groups say that legal proceedings have begun against 3,800 youths and that the number could eventually reach 20,000. PM SERBIAN PRESIDENT REAPPEARS. Milan Milutinovic met in Belgrade on 8 September with a delegation from the Zastava automobile plant. This was his first public appearance for some time (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 1999). The next day, he met with ousted Bosnian Serb President Nikola Poplasen. PM BERN: NO EVIDENCE OF MILOSEVIC FORTUNE. The Swiss government said in a statement on 8 September that its investigators have found no evidence that Milosevic and other top Serbian indicted war criminals have deposits in Swiss banks. There have been reports in foreign and independent Serbian media in recent years that Milosevic and his allies have deposited large sums of money in foreign banks. Much of the money is thought to be in Russia, Cyprus, or Greece. PM PETRIC URGES NATO NOT TO FORGET BOSNIA. Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's new high representative in Bosnia, told NATO officials in Brussels on 8 September that Bosnia will continue to need peacekeepers to provide basic security. He stressed that he realizes the importance of Kosova, but at the same time he urged NATO not to deplete its forces in Bosnia in order to send them to that province. PM IZETBEGOVIC: NO EVICTIONS FOR REFUGEES. Alija Izetbegovic, who is the Muslim member of the Bosnian joint presidency, told "Dnevni avaz" of 8 September that refugees living in Sarajevo flats should not obey court orders that they return those flats to their legal owners. He said that it is "unacceptable" that people with nowhere to go be told to leave their current dwellings. Observers note that the refugees are most likely to be Muslims from rural Bosnia. The owners of the flats are probably for the most part Serbs or Croats. PM BOSNIAN SERBS BOYCOTT MILITARY TALKS. A scheduled meeting of the Standing Committee on Military Matters did not take place in Sarajevo on 8 September because the delegation from the Republika Srpska refused to attend. Bosnian Serb officials told SFOR that they are concerned about their officers' security (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 1999). PM MORTAR SHELLS FALL NEAR RETURNING REFUGEES. Unknown persons fired several mortar rounds at a building in Kula Fazlagica near Gacko on 8 September. The building is the temporary home of 50 Muslims who recently returned to repair their houses before winter. The Muslims said that they will remain in the village, despite a series of incidents. Kula Fazlagica is near the Montenegrin border. It had been mainly Muslim before the 1992-1995 war, but Serbian forces drove the Muslims out at an early stage of the conflict. PM CASSESE TO LEAVE HAGUE COURT. Tribunal President Gabrielle Kirk McDonald wrote in a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 8 September that judge Antonio Cassese will leave the court on 1 February 2000 to return to the University of Florence. His decision means that the tribunal will lose three senior figures within a short time of one another. McDonald and chief prosecutor Louise Arbour will leave before the end of 1999. PM CROATIA TO EASE VAT. Top Croatian officials agreed in Zagreb on 8 September to end value-added tax on some basic foodstuffs, some medicines, and books. VAT will soon be raised for unspecified "luxury goods," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Observers note that VAT is highly unpopular in Croatia, where prices are similar to those in Germany but the average monthly wage is far lower. Parliamentary elections are expected by early 2000. PM ALBANIA'S POLLO WANTS TO UNITE OPPOSITION. Genc Pollo, who is the deputy leader of the Democratic Party and a candidate for party chairman, told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent in Tirana on 8 September that he wants to unite the right-of-center opposition. Pollo said that he intends to improve cooperation with the Republican Party and stressed that the political parties on the right must put an end to political infighting. The Republicans harshly criticized the Democrats during the unrest in 1997, charging party leader Sali Berisha with authoritarian behavior. A party congress in late September will decided the issue of the chairmanship of the Democratic Party. FS OSCE SAYS GAGAUZ-YERI ELECTIONS 'FAIR'... The OSCE on 8 September issued a statement saying that the 5 September run- off in the Gagauz-Yeri elections for governor and for 25 seats in the People's Assembly was "calm, orderly, free, and fair." Five OSCE observer teams visited 57 out of the 62 voting stations. The OSCE said the observers drew attention to some "procedural and technical problems" during voting and that "several aspects" in the electoral process "are in need of improvement." MS ...WHILE URGING FASTER WITHDRAWAL OF RUSSIAN WEAPONS FROM TRANSDNIESTER. Ten states, including the U.S., Germany and France, are ready to extend financial aid for the withdrawal and destruction of the arsenal of the Russian contingent in the Transdniester, Romanian Radio reported on 8 September, citing Moldpres. General Ramon Armosa of the OSCE mission in the region said that representatives of the 10 states will arrive in the Transdniester in the fall to evaluate the costs of the evacuation. He said that Russia proposes a five-year timetable for the withdrawal but that the OSCE experts believe the evacuation can take place more quickly. MS 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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