|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 180, Part II, 15 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 180, Part II, 15 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 * U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MINSK RESUMES DUTIES AFTER 15 MONTHS * RETURNING SERBIAN REFUGEES AMBUSHED IN KOSOVA * DJUKANOVIC TO MEDIATE BETWEEN FEUDING SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS? End Note: TEN YEARS LATER: HOW POLAND LED THE WAY xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MINSK RESUMES DUTIES AFTER 15 MONTHS. Daniel Speckhard returned to his post in Belarus on 14 September after being recalled to protest his eviction from the ambassador's residence in June 1998. The U.S. State Department said Speckhard's return was made possible by Belarus's pledge to abide by the Vienna Convention and to compensate for losses suffered by the U.S. embassy as a result of Speckhard's eviction. "I'm very glad to return to Belarus--we have fallen in love [with the country]," Speckhard said at a Minsk airport. "Having Ambassador Speckhard back in Minsk will enable us more effectively to promote democracy and human rights, help those who support and work for the restoration of democratic rule, and promote other interests that we have in Belarus," the State Department noted. JM KUCHMA'S RIVALS APPEAL TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE OVER ELECTIONS. Presidential hopefuls Yevhen Marchuk, Oleksandr Moroz, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Oleksandr Tkachenko have asked the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly to monitor the campaign for the 31 October presidential election in Ukraine. The four said they believe it is necessary to send observers in early October to "make it possible to conduct the final stage of the election campaign on the principles of lawfulness," UNIAN reported on 14 September. They also accused the government of illegally suspending the regular radio broadcast of parliamentary sessions in order to restrict the media access of President Leonid Kuchma's top rivals, who are all lawmakers. JM ESTONIAN OPPOSITION CALL FOR DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. Opposition groups in the parliament have heeded the Center Party's call for direct presidential elections. All factions that do not belong to the ruling coalition supported a bill calling for a referendum on changing the presidential election system. Currently, the parliament elects the president; in the event that it is unable to gain a two- thirds majority, an electoral college is convened. The ruling coalition has not made a statement on the opposition bill, although many prominent members, such as Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves, have made similar proposals. In the early 1930s, the Estonian Constitution was changed to provide for directly elected presidents, which indirectly led to the authoritarian regime of Konstantin Pats. MH ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES 2000 BUDGET. The government on 14 September approved the 2000 budget and will send it to the parliament once final details have been resolved later this month. The budget totals 17.1 billion kroons ($1.13 billion), foresees 3.8-4 percent growth in GDP, and, as Prime Minister Mart Laar stressed, is balanced. It also takes into consideration the introduction of import tariffs and the abolition of corporate income taxes. Only the Ministries of Defense, Education, Culture, and Foreign Affairs will receive more funds than in 1999. This year's budget totaled 17.46 billion kroons following the introduction of the 1 billion kroons negative supplement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 1999). MH POLAND TO CRACK DOWN ON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY THEFT. The Polish government on 14 September approved a bill aimed at cracking down on bootleg copies of compact discs, videos, and computer programs. The bill extends copyright ownership rights from the current 25 years to 70 years and empowers prosecutors to launch investigations without waiting for complaints from producer or other interested parties, as is the case now. Under the bill, those selling unlicensed audio, video, and software material will face up to two years in jail. According to government estimates, losses caused by intellectual property theft in Poland amounted to $227 million last year. The bill must be approved by the parliament and signed by the president. JM WARSAW AUTHORITIES BAN MASS PROTEST. The Warsaw Municipal Office on 14 September banned an anti-government protest that the left-wing National Trade Union Alliance (OPZZ) planned to hold in Warsaw on 24 September. The OPZZ had said it expected 100,000 people to take part in the protest. "The arrival in Warsaw of several dozen protesters and a march along Warsaw's main thoroughfares would paralyze the city transport," the municipal office argued. JM POLISH NURSES TO PROTEST AGAIN. Nurses and midwives will launch protest actions throughout the country on 20 September, PAP reported on 15 September. Those actions will include sit-ins at health care centers, pickets, marches, road blocks, and hunger strikes. Bozena Banachowicz, chairwoman of the trade union of nurses and midwifes, said the government has not fulfilled the promises it made in July following a wave of similar protests. "Some 90 percent of nurses have not obtained their [promised] pay rises," Banachowicz said. JM SUDETEN GERMANS WELCOME CZECH CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING. Franz Neubauer, spokesman of the organization of expelled Sudeten Germans, said a recent ruling by the Czech Constitutional Court is "a step in the right direction," CTK reported on 14 September, citing the Austrian news agency APA. The court had ruled that people of German and Hungarian origin whose property was confiscated under the 1945 Benes decrees and who can prove their loyalty toward the former Czechoslovakia and their innocence of collaboration with the Nazi occupying forces are entitled to the restitution of their confiscated property. At the same time, Neubauer said, the decision is based on "the presumption of guilt," since those affected must produce proof of their innocence. In a state based on the rule of the law, he argued, this is "inadmissible." MS CZECH DEPUTIES OVERRIDE PRESIDENTIAL VETO. By a vote of 173 to 14, the Chamber of Deputies on 14 September overrode President Vaclav Havel's veto of an amendment to a law that removes from the list of lawyers those with less than four years' professional experience, with the exception of government and local government officials, senators, and other civil servants (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 1999). Social Democratic Party deputy Zdenek Jicinsky said the presidential objections to the bill are "unsubstantiated" because the law "serves public interest." MS SLOVAK CABINET REVISES FOREIGN EXCHANGE REGULATIONS. The cabinet on 14 September approved amendments to the Foreign Exchange Act that liberalize the movement of foreign capital on Slovak markets, SITA reported. Finance Minister Brigita Schmognerova told journalists that the amendments, which must be approved by the parliament, improve Slovakia's chance of becoming a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. They also allow insurance companies, investment companies, and trusts to own real estate in Slovakia. Until now, this right was limited to banks. Moreover, the range of foreign stocks that can be traded without permission on the Slovak capital market is widened. Schmognerova said the amendments bring the Slovak crown close to full convertibility. MS SLOVAK NATIONALIST LEADER DENIES HUNGARIAN 'ALLEGATIONS.' Speaking to journalists in Bradlo on 13 September, Slovak National Party (SNS) honorary chairman Vitazoslav Moric denied Party of Hungarian Coalition (SMK) chairman Bela Bugar's "allegations" that the defacement of a monument to General Milan Rastislav Stefanik last month was a provocation aimed at fomenting anti-Hungarian sentiment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 1999). Moric said Bugar "must have gone mad" and that no Slovak would deface that monument. He said he felt "personally offended" because Bugar said the deed was committed by a former policeman from Martin who is a bodyguard to an opposition deputy. He pointed out that he himself is the only deputy from Martin who employs a former policemen as bodyguard. SNS chairman Jan Slota said that his party "will not be intimidated" into keeping silent about "those who anchored in their program this country's [territorial] disintegration," SITA reported. MS HUNGARIAN NATIONAL BANK'S VIENNA SUBSIDIARY INVOLVED IN MONEY LAUNDERING? Several former East European secret services made use of CW Bank in Vienna, and billions of German marks may have been smuggled out of the former East Germany to Austria in money-laundering operations, Hungarian National Bank (MNB) President Gyorgy Suranyi told journalists on 14 September. Suranyi was responding to Prime Minister Viktor Orban's recent decision not to nominate any official at the MNB until the matter of a 70 billion forint ($300 million) loss suffered by the bank's Vienna subsidiary is cleared up. Suranyi said the loss is due to "irresponsible and outrageous" mismanagement at CW Bank between 1991-1995. MSZ HUNGARIAN '56 REVOLUTION TRIAL OPENS IN BUDAPEST. The trial of Istvan Dudas, a former border guard commander in Mosonmagyarovar, western Hungary, and three of his former subordinates began in Budapest on 14 September. The four men are accused of crimes against humanity. In particular, the 75-year-old Dudas is charged with ordering his soldiers to open fire on a crowd of peaceful demonstrators on 26 October 1956; some 100 people died in that incident. In June, the Supreme Court overruled a lower court's decision saying that the statute of limitation does not apply to crimes against humanity and ordering the re-opening of legal proceedings. MSZ 'MEIN KAMPF' PUBLISHER TO BE INDICTED IN HUNGARY? Hungarian police have recommended that the Prosecutor-General's Office indict Aron Monus for publishing a Hungarian-language version of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," Hungarian media reported on 15 September. In 1997, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary protested the book's publication, saying it incited racial hatred. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE RETURNING SERBIAN REFUGEES AMBUSHED IN KOSOVA. Unidentified attackers fired at a convoy of returning Serbian refugees near Ranilug, in the U.S. sector of Kosova, on 14 September, AP reported. One unidentified person was killed and two Serbs injured. Elsewhere, KFOR soldiers found two elderly Montenegrin women killed in their home in Peja. In Prishtina, unidentified attackers fired a rocket-propelled grenade into a Serbian cafe, injuring three Serbs, Reuters reported. Tanjug reported that 13 prisoners in Mitrovica--11 Serbs, one Montenegrin, and one ethnic Albanian--went on a hunger strike to protest what they called "total disregard" of Serbian criminal law in proceedings that the recently established UN court has launched against them. In an open letter, the prisoners said they were jailed on the basis of "unfounded reports and testimonies" by anonymous ethnic Albanians. FS ETHNIC ALBANIAN REPRESENTATIVES AGREE ON DEMOCRACY PLAN. A group of 39 ethnic Albanians representing four political parties, various social organizations, and media outlets in Kosova agreed in Washington on 14 September on "a framework of basic principles, practices, and procedures to help guide Kosova during and after its transition to democratic self- rule," Reuters reported. The Kosovars, including the Kosova Liberation Army's Hashim Thaci, were invited by the U.S. Institute of Peace at the State Department's request. In a 10-page document, the Kosovars agreed to support a "multi- ethnic society that includes equal opportunity for all." U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told the delegation: "You must combat the temptations of revenge, corruption, and criminality.... Evidence of unchecked criminality would lose you the support of the international community and the trust of your people." FS PRODI URGES BALKAN PEOPLE TO OVERCOME HATRED. President- designate of the European Commission Romano Prodi told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 14 September that the people of the Balkans must overcome conflicts among themselves in order to be included in the process of European integration, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. The parliamentary commission on Southeastern Europe, headed by German legislator Doris Pack, is scheduled to submit a proposal to the European Parliament on 15 September on financing Kosova's reconstruction. The plan envisages annual expenses of 500 million euros ($519.5 million) up to the year 2004. Pack recently voiced sharp criticism of the EU agency for the reconstruction of Kosova and demanded that the EU office in Prishtina become largely independent of its counterpart in Thessaloniki (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1999). FS EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT SETS UP FUND FOR SERBIAN REFUGEES. The European Parliament has agreed to set up a special fund to help Serbian refugees from Kosova, Vladan Batic of the opposition Alliance for Change told the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" of 15 September. Batic added that the alliance recently proposed setting up the fund. Strasbourg's approval is the first success of the alliance on the international stage, he noted. PM NO SERBIAN JUDGES ON KOSOVA COURT. UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner swore in five judges and two prosecutors for a newly formed court of appeals in Prishtina on 14 September, Reuters reported. All are ethnic Albanians and some are legal professionals whom Milosevic fired in 1989. Kouchner said that he has been unable to find any Serbs who are qualified for jobs with the appeals court. He added that he will continue to look for suitable applicants and "hold open" an unspecified number of positions for Serbs. PM ANNAN 'ALARMED' OVER HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN SERBIA. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is "alarmed" over the "deteriorating humanitarian situation" in Serbia, his spokesman said in New York on 14 September. He noted that "the sharp contraction of the economy in 1999, coupled with inflation, is compounding severe pension and salary problems and dramatically reducing the population's resources. There is a real threat of rising food prices and dwindling drug supply, problems which will be exacerbated by plummeting household income, partly due to a dramatic increase in unemployment." This is the first time that Annan has raised such concerns in public, AP reported. PM SERBIAN PREMIER TELLS OPPOSITION NOT TO EXPECT OUTSIDE AID. Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic said in Belgrade that hyperinflation will not return (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 1999). He called unnamed opposition leaders "Lilliputians" whom NATO is using to "destroy the government," "Danas" reported on 15 September. He added that the government "does not have time to respond to mindless criticism from compromised politicians and leaders of tiny political parties." Marjanovic stressed that only the government is working for the benefit of Serbia's population. He warned opposition-controlled cities and towns not to expect any reconstruction aid from abroad. The EU recently pledged aid to "democratically controlled" cities and towns (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1999). PM CLINTON AND CO. FAIL TO APPEAR IN NIS. Judge Miloje Micic of the Nis County Court canceled a hearing on war crimes on 14 September because 14 indicted persons failed to respond to their respective summonses. The 14 included U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State Albright, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana. The judge said that he will announce a new date for a hearing once he has determined that the indicted persons have indeed received their summonses, "Danas" reported. PM DJUKANOVIC TO MEDIATE BETWEEN FEUDING SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS? Vojvodina opposition leaders Miodrag Isakov and Nenad Canak said that Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic has offered to mediate between Serbia's factious opposition leaders, "Vesti" reported on 15 September. The two Vojvodina leaders added that they support Montenegro's proposals for changing the legal relationship between Serbia and Montenegro. On 15 September, Djukanovic said in Budapest that he fully supports the Serbian opposition. He stressed that only Serbs can bring democracy to Serbia. PM KILIBARDA: MILOSEVIC MANIPULATING MONTENEGRIN CLANS. Montenegrin People's Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Novak Kilibarda said that Milosevic and Momir Bulatovic, who is his chief ally in Montenegro, have "manipulated" several recent meetings of traditional clan organizations for their own political ends. At the clan gatherings, many speakers called for the preservation of unity between Montenegro and Serbia, "Danas" reported on 15 December. Most recently, leaders of the Piper clan said they will secede from Montenegro if the government declares independence from Serbia. The Piper clan officials said that independence would render null and void the 1796 agreement under which the Pipers joined Montenegro. PM MUSLIMS RETURN TO PALE. Some 30 Muslim families received keys to their rebuilt houses in the Pale area on 14 September, Reuters reported. It was the first organized return of Muslim residents to the ski resort, which became the Bosnian Serb capital during the 1992-1995 war (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 September 1999). The UNHCR's Werner Blatter called the return a "breakthrough." PM KARADZIC IN SREBRENICA? Wartime Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic recently gave a speech in Srebrenica in the company of his long-time ally Momcilo Krajisnik, Reuters reported on 15 September. Karadzic praised the "heroism" of Serbian forces during the 1992-1995 war and urged Serbs not to leave the town "where the most glorious pages of Serbian history have been written." Srebrenica was the scene of the largest massacre in post-1945 Europe after Serbian forces captured it from the Muslims in July 1995. An agreement between the international community and Bosnian Serb leaders specifies that Karadzic is not to make any public appearances. Unconfirmed reports occasionally appear in the regional or international media that he has been sighted in Belgrade, Montenegro, or eastern Bosnia. He is one of the most wanted war criminals sought by the Hague-based tribunal. PM BOSNIAN SERBS TO RETURN TO MILITARY TALKS. A spokeswoman for the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch said in Sarajevo on 14 September that Bosnian Serb military officials have agreed to resume attending regular meetings of the Standing Committee on Military Matters with Muslim, Croatian, and international representatives (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 August 1999). PM MAJKO PROMISES SECURITY IN TROPOJA. Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, visiting Tropoja on 14 September, promised local inhabitants that he will restore the rule of law there, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. Majko said that it is necessary that the government and opposition communicate with each other and put an end to rhetoric of hate and "politics of the street." Majko accepted his administration's responsibility for the delayed implementation of public order in Tropoja region. He stressed that it is unacceptable that Tropoja is becoming an "oasis of crime." Majko rejected the view that in Albania there is antagonism between the north and the south, and he thanked the citizens of Tropoja for helping border guards and refugees during the Kosova conflict. FS ROMANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IS 'NATIONAL' AFTER ALL. Government spokeswoman Adriana Saftoiu said on 14 September that Prime Minister Radu Vasile has "used his prerogatives" to send to the parliament a draft law on religious denominations in which the Romanian Orthodox Church is defined as a "National Church." The government last week decided not to grant that status to the Church, prompting a strong protest by Patriarch Teoctist (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 13 September 1999). MS MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES MERCENARIES FOUGHT IN KOSOVA. The Defense Ministry on 14 September denied that Moldovan mercenaries fought on the side of Yugoslavia during the Kosova crisis, Flux reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1999). The ministry said allegations by the Moldovan Helsinki Committee on Human Rights chairman Stefan Uratu "tarnish the image of Moldova's army and of Moldova as a whole." However, the ministry indirectly confirmed Uratu's declaration the previous day that retired officers applied to serve in Yugoslavia. The ministry noted that those officers believed the Moldovan peace-keeping force about to be set up under the Partnership for Peace program would be sent there to serve with Yugoslav forces. MS END NOTE TEN YEARS LATER: HOW POLAND LED THE WAY by Jan de Weydenthal Ten years ago, the Polish Communists voluntarily stepped down from power, after losing the first partly free elections in a Soviet bloc country. The largest of the East European countries, Poland led the way in bringing about the demise of communism in the region. As Poland took step after step toward democracy without provoking a response from Moscow, other communist countries were emboldened to follow suit. It was in Poland that the Communists were first forced by popular protests to accept a major breach in their power. In September 1980, the labor union, Solidarity, was established as the first independent union in a communist country. Solidarity was suppressed by military force 16 months later, but public opposition to communist rule neither disappeared nor weakened. Solidarity rebounded at the end of the 1980s. It was also in Poland that the Communists were first forced by public pressure to accept free parliamentary elections. Such elections took place in June 1989, and the Communists were declared the losers. And it was in Poland that the first democratic government in East Central Europe took office after decades of communist rule. In fact, the Polish Communists themselves voted it into office on 12 September 1989. In the process, Poland's Communists, who had long claimed for themselves the right to determine all aspects of society's development, were gradually forced into obscurity. They dissolved their party in 1990 and became social democrats. The communists' downfall in Poland was a long time coming. Years of divisiveness, managerial inefficiency, and political corruption had weakened their control. Already in the 1970s, the Communists suffered severe political setbacks twice (in 1970 and 1976) when they were forced to change policies under pressure of workers' protests. Their authority was further undermined when former Cracow Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected pope in October 1978. Less than a year later, the pope, now known as John Paul II, paid a visit to his native country, prompting an outburst of national pride. In the eyes of most Poles, it was the pope, rather than any communist leader, who had the right to guide the nation. But ultimately, communism in Poland collapsed because its proponent did not secure effective support from the Soviet Union. Moscow declined to intervene to put down Solidarity, instead pressing their Polish allies to do so. The Soviet Union merely watched in early 1989 as the Communists in Poland negotiated away political control. And Soviet leaders eagerly opened a dialogue with the first democratic, non-communist Polish government. These developments were not lost on other countries in Central Europe. Dissidents in various countries had kept close contacts with their Polish colleagues. They all took note of Moscow's passive attitude toward Poland. And all were determined to put it to the test in their own countries. Kestutis Girnius, the coordinator of RFE/RL's Baltic services, notes that Soviet passivity toward Polish reform was encouraging to democrats in neighboring Lithuania "Similar processes were taking place in Lithuania, which began to become more free in 1989," he said. "And the fact that Moscow did not resort to violence to stop change in Poland and prevent Solidarity from coming to power encouraged Lithuania to believe that Moscow would eventually let them go." Some analysts say Moscow's paralysis was the result of a conscious policy guided by the widely proclaimed strategy of perestroika. Others say Moscow was unable to intervene because its economy was in decline and its army tied up in the Afghan war. The legendary leader of Solidarity, Lech Walesa, said at the time that communism collapsed because it was simply outdated. In November 1989, he told a press conference in Washington that political changes in the region merely reflected the spirit of the times: "The reforms in Eastern Europe are not happening because [Soviet leader Mikhail] Gorbachev or Walesa or somebody else wants them. The irreversibility of reform is based on the fact that those reforms are part of the development of civilization. After satellites, computers, and calculators, we are just following the steps of technology. So there is no question about reversibility or irreversibility of reforms. The question is not if, but how. The question is in what time span and what's the price going to be." Pro-democracy activists in other communist countries supported those moves. Within months of the emergence of a democratic government in Poland, an unstoppable wave of change swept the entire region. And the system that dominated Central European politics, economics and societies for decades became history. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague. 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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