|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 184, Part II, 21 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 184, Part II, 21 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 TO PROBE OPPOSITIONIST'S DISAPPEARANCE * KOSOVA LIBERATION ARMY ACCEPTS CIVILIAN ROLE * PROTEST RALLIES PLANNED IN SERBIA, AS ACTIVISTS DETAINED IN CENTRAL TOWN End Note: MORALITY AND LOCAL POLITICS: THE CASE OF BULGARIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES TO PROBE OPPOSITIONIST'S DISAPPEARANCE. The Minsk City Prosecutor's Office has launched an investigation into the 16 September disappearance of Viktar Hanchar, deputy speaker of the opposition Supreme Soviet, and his friend Anatol Krasutski, Belarusian Television reported on 20 September. The station echoed allegations made by Ivan Pashkevich, deputy head of the presidential staff, that Hanchar staged his own disappearance to get more public attention. Earlier the same day, a group of Supreme Soviet deputies marched to the presidential administration building with a placard reading "Lukashenka! Bring back Hanchar!" Amnesty International, meanwhile, issued a statement saying that Hanchar and Krasutski "may be in solitary confinement where they will be at risk of torture, ill-treatment, or possible 'disappearance.'" JM UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS TO SEEK FAIR BALLOT. Nine presidential candidates--Yevhen Marchuk, Oleksandr Moroz, Oleksandr Tkachenko, Petro Symonenko, Volodymyr Oliynyk, Oleksandr Rzhavskyy, Mykola Haber, Yuriy Karmazin, and Oleksandr Bazylyuk--have signed an agreement on setting up an independent center for counting votes in the 31 October presidential elections. In a 20 September statement, the signatories said they fear the current administration of President Leonid Kuchma will rig the elections. Under the agreement, a computer network will collect voting figures from polling stations and compare it with official data released by the Central Electoral Commission. JM RUSSIAN EXTREMIST GROUP FOUNDED IN LATVIA. Some 20 people attended the 19 September founding meeting of the organization Limonka, named after leader of the Russian National Bolsheviks Eduard Limonov. The organization aims to assist the needy, arrange self-defense courses for its members, and campaign against bankers, state officials, and the U.S., according to LETA. The leader of the organization, Konstantin Mauzer, estimates that the new part has 70-80 members throughout the country. Latvian officials are currently considering the registration applications of Limonka as well as Kolovrat, founded by alleged members of the rival extremist Russian National Unity party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 1999). MH LITHUANIAN POLITICIANS ASSESS CABINET'S FIRST 100 DAYS. Commenting on the first 100 days of Rolandas Paksas's government, Deputy Chairwoman of the Conservative Party Rasa Jukneviciene, of which Paksas is a member, described the cabinet's achievements as "moderate," ELTA reported on 20 September. Parliamentary deputy Ceslovas Jursenas of the opposition Democratic Labor Party (LDDP) criticized the government for indecisiveness, while admitting that it treated the country's problems "more soberly" than had Gediminas Vagnorius's cabinet. Vagnorius, who is a member of the Conservative Party, criticized Paksas's government for "perilous financial populism," while President Valdas Adamkus commented that "the government is realistic about the current situation and looks for solutions." Paksas himself commented that his government's goal is to promote a liberal business environment and say "'no' to new taxes." MH MOLDOVAN PRIME MINISTER IN LITHUANIA. During his visit to Lithuania on 20-21 September, Ion Sturza met with President Valdas Adamkus and discussed bilateral ties, especially economic ones. Bilateral ties also featured prominently in the meeting between Sturza and Prime Minister Paksas. The two premiers signed an agreement on investment promotion and protection, while the two countries' agricultural ministers signed a cooperation agreement. Lithuanian exports to Moldova in the first half of 1999 totaled 10 million litas ($2.5 million) and imports from that country 14 million litas. The Moldovan delegation will continue its Baltic tour in Latvia later this week. MH POLISH OPPOSITION PARTY URGES COALITION TO RESIGN. Leszek Miller, leader of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), has called on the ruling coalition of the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW) "to acknowledge its incompetence and give up clinging to power at any price," PAP reported on 21 September. Miller's appeal came after a September poll showed a record 40 percent backing for his party. Jacek Rybicki, deputy head of the AWS caucus, commented that the "cynical methods of political struggle demonstrated by Mr. Miller may turn against him." UW Secretary Miroslaw Czech said the coalition will not give up power, adding that the "SLD black propaganda" misrepresents Poland's economic situation. JM ANOTHER CZECH TOWN WANTS ANTI-ROMA WALL. The residents of an apartment block in Vsetin, north Moravia, are considering building a wall to separate them from a nearby block inhabited by Roma, CTK reported on 19 September, citing Nova television. The Roma oppose the move. Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich said he would consider such a development "unfortunate." He added that the planned wall in Usti nad Labem has harmed Czech EU integration efforts. However, unlike in Usti nad Labem, the Vsetin town council opposes building the wall, CTK reported on 20 September. Also on 20 September, UN Commissioner for Human Rights Maurice Glele- Ahanhanzo visited Usti nad Labem and talked to supporters and opponents of the wall. He said that he will submit a report to the UN Commission on Human Rights in March. MS CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS' REGIONAL BRANCH CALLS FOR MINISTER'S RESIGNATION. The Central Bohemian Committee of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) on 20 September called for the resignation of Deputy Premier Egon Lansky in connection with his illegal bank account in Austria and his "inadequate performance" in the cabinet, CTK reported. Prime Minister Milos Zeman responded that the demand amounts to "criticism from just one of the CSSD's many regional branches." He stressed that he will take a decision after he sees the EU's annual assessment of the Czech Republic's performance as well as the report of the National Bank commission that is investigating Lansky's illegal account. MS CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES DEFICIT BUDGET. The cabinet on 20 September approved a second version of the 2000 draft budget, which is based on a deficit of 39.8 billion crowns ($1.1 billion), revenues totaling 594 billion crowns, and expenditures of 633.8 billion crowns. The draft foresees that GDP will grow by 1.4 percent, compared with 1 percent in the first version, CTK reported. MS SLOVAK PARLIAMENT DECLINES TO RULE ON MECIAR'S SECRECY OATH... The parliament's Constitutional Committee on 20 September turned down the request of chief police investigator Jaroslav Ivor to relieve former Premier Vladimir Meciar of his secrecy oath, SITA reported. Ivor wants Meciar to testify about the 1995 abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son and other infringements of the law by the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS). The committee ruled that it is not within the parliament's prerogatives to relieve Meciar of his oath; it proposed that the police apply to the "relevant state authority." Ivor said he will turn to SIS chief Vladimir Mitro. Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner responded that "the hunger strike is under way," referring to Meciar's 17 September threat to begin a hunger strike if forced to testify. MS ...WHILE MECIAR SUPPORTERS APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OVER REFERENDUM. The organizers of the referendum drive against the law on the use of minority languages in contacts with the authorities and against the privatization of "strategic enterprises" have asked the Constitutional Court to overrule President Rudolf Schuster's decision not to call a plebiscite on these laws, CTK reported. The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, the Slovak National Party, and the Matica slovenska cultural organization accused Schuster of having violated the basic rights and freedoms of the nearly 500,000 signatories in support of a referendum. MS SLOVAK COALITION PARTNER WANTS NEW AGREEMENT. Deputy Premier Pavol Hamzik said on Slovak Television on 19 September that it is necessary to draw up a new coalition agreement and replace some ministers, CTK reported. Hamzik, who heads the Party of Slovak Understanding, said that the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) "no longer exists" and that SDK chairman and Premier Mikulas Dzurinda cannot rely on any parliamentary group for support. The next day, Hamzik joined critics of Economy Minister Ludovit Cernak (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 14 September 1999). He told Radio Twist that he intends to raise in the coalition council the issue of Cernak's continued presence in the cabinet, which he called "untenable." Also on 20 September, Democratic Party Chairman Jan Langos commented that the time is "ripe" for Cernak's dismissal. MS HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS RECALL DEPUTY FROM COMMITTEE. The parliamentary group of the opposition Socialist Party has decided to recall Laszlo Paszternak as deputy chairman of the parliament's Employment Committee because of involvement in "unethical business deals," Hungarian media reported on 20 September The committee's Socialist chairman Laszlo Sandor, who is also head of the National Trade Union Federation, announced the same day that he will submit his resignation. Paszternak bought land in his children's names at a resort owned by the miners union, while Sandor was implicated in Postabank's "VIP loans" scandal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 1999). MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSOVA LIBERATION ARMY ACCEPTS CIVILIAN ROLE. Following tense negotiations with UN and NATO officials in Prishtina on 20 September, leaders of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) agreed to transform their force into a Kosova Protection Corps, Reuters reported. NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark flew to Kosova to help forge the deal, which had been held up by disagreements over the role of the corps and the kind of weapons to be kept by its members. UCK political leader Hashim Thaci and UN Kosova chief Bernard Kouchner signed the agreement, along with UCK Chief of Staff General Agim Ceku and Kosova Force (KFOR) commander General Mike Jackson. Under the agreement, the KLA will become the 5,000-member Kosovo Protection Corps, and Ceku will be its commander. Only 200 members of the corps will be allowed to carry weapons. A new insignia will also be worn on the uniforms of the corps, replacing the UCK emblem. The corps will operate under the supervision of the KFOR commander. PB SOLANA HAILS AGREEMENT, MOSCOW FEELS IGNORED. NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana said in Toronto on 21 September that the agreement marks "a milestone for the ongoing peace implementation efforts" in Kosova, AP reported. He warned, however, that anyone violating the weapons ban in the province "willl be dealt with severely." Kouchner said "we have to work all together to achieve not only the corps' transformation but offering services to the people of Kosovo." Belgrade strongly opposes the continued role of any aspect of the UCK in Kosova. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it has negative views on the "creation of paramilitary or semi-military formations under any name on the basis of the UCK," ITAR-TASS reported on 21 September. It added that Moscow's position on the issue was "ignored." PB SOME UN OFFICIALS SKEPTICAL OF NEW CORPS, AGREEMENT. While many hailed the formal end of the UCK's existence as a structured paramilitary organization, others voiced skepticism. One unidentified UN official told AFP on 20 September that "we are satisfied that the UCK has handed in 10,000 arms even if we know they still have 100,000." There were several reports of broken or very old weapons being turned over to KFOR troops during the demilitarization. Another UN source said "we know that some radical commanders will not accept the new agreements." AFP also reported that there is some friction between UCK political leader Thaci and the head of the new corps, General Ceku. Thaci reportedly opposed the idea of Ceku leading the civilian force. PB PROTEST RALLIES PLANNED IN SERBIA, AS ACTIVISTS DETAINED IN CENTRAL TOWN. Police arrested 12 members of the student organization Otpor (Resistance) on 20 September in the town of Kragujevac, Belgrade's Radio B2-92 reported. The students were detained for organizing a protest against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and were later released. In Novi Sad, Gordana Comic, leader of the Together caucus in the Vojvodina parliamentary assembly, said a protest outside the assembly building will be held on 21 September. She said the people gathered there will "indict all those who have mutilated Novi Sad and Vojvodina," BETA reported. In Leskovac, the opposition coalition Alliance for Change said it will begin daily protests on 21 September in the town's main square. It added that the highlight of those protests will be a mock trial of Milosevic and his wife, Mira Markovic. Zoran Djindjic, a leader of the Alliance for Change, said protests in 17 cities will be staggered and will be aimed at reminding citizens of the damage Milosevic has inflicted on the economy, the health care system, and agriculture. PB BOSNIAN SERB PREMIER MEETS WITH MILOSEVIC. Milorad Dodik, the acting prime minister of the Republika Srpska, met with Yugoslav President Milosevic in Belgrade on 20 September, the Onasa news agency reported. No details of the meeting are known. The meeting came a few days after Milosevic met with ousted Srpska President Nikola Poplasen and the former Serbian member of the Bosnian presidency, Momcilo Krajisnik. PB MONTENEGRO CHARGES YUGOSLAV PREMIER WITH PLANNING COUP. Montenegrin Prosecutor-General Bozidar Vukcevic on 20 September filed criminal charges against Momir Bulatovic for allegedly planning a military coup against Podgorica, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Vukcevic said in a statement that the Yugoslav premier had proposed at an April government meeting that the Yugoslav army "occupy" all media institutions in Montenegro. Vukcevic said the idea had been "tantamount to a putsch" and had jeopardized "state order" and the constitution. Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic has also said that Milosevic and his allies had planned a coup in Montenegro. PB SERBIAN BUSINESSES MOVING TO MONTENEGRO. Predrag Drecun, Montenegro's labor minister, said on 20 September that more than 1,000 Serbian businesses have relocated to his republic in the last few months, Radio B2-92 reported, citing "Glas Javnosti." Drecun said the companies moved because of "more favorable trading conditions." He added that their total value was some $70 million. PB U.S. TEAM IN BOSNIA TO INVESTIGATE CORRUPTION. A delegation from the U.S. arrived in Bosnia-Herzegovina on 20 September to investigate allegations of widespread corruption, AP reported. Robert Frowick, one of the heads of the delegation, met with Bosnian co-Premier Haris Siljdzic upon arriving in Sarajevo. Frowick said the mission is a fact-finding trip on behalf of the U.S. congress. He said the group would also look into reports on the failure of the government to collect taxes and customs revenues. In other news, 15 bodies were exhumed from a mass grave near Sarajevo on 19 September. They are believed to be Muslims killed by Serbian soldiers in June 1992. More than 24,000 people are still missing from the Bosnian wars. PB TUDJMAN DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM BOSNIAN CROAT WAR VETERANS. The office of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman said on 20 September that the president was unaware that he was to be awarded a medal from a Bosnian Croat army branch, AP reported. The Association of Homeland War Volunteers and Veterans issued "medals of gratitude" to Tudjman and late Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak at a ceremony in Siroki Brijeg on 18 September. Also given an award was Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic, currently wanted by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. He is being held in Zagreb. Tudjman's office added that no one was sent on the president's behalf to accept the medal. PB ISRAELI ARMS SMUGGLER INDICTED IN ROMANIA. The Prosecutor- General's Office on 20 September said it is indicting Shimon Naor for smuggling arms to two unnamed African countries that are on the UN embargo list, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Naor, who is of Romanian origin, had faked orders from the Sudanese embassy in Bucharest. Naor's accomplices, two Romanians and one Moldovan, will also be indicted. The Burundi honorary consul in Romania is being investigated under suspicion of involvement in the ring. MS OFFICIAL LANGUAGE TO PREDOMINATE IN MOLDOVAN ELECTRONIC MEDIA. As of 1 January 2000, 65 percent of all programs broadcast by all Moldovan radio and television companies must be in the official state language, Infotag reported on 20 September, quoting Alexei Chubashenko, chairman of the National Board for the Electronic Media. Violators of that regulation will receive punishments ranging from a warning to loss of their broadcasting license. The regulations will not apply to foreign broadcasters, cable and satellite television, or media outlets in areas that have large ethnic minorities. MS END NOTE MORALITY AND LOCAL POLITICS: THE CASE OF BULGARIA By Michael Shafir With no fewer 96 parties competing in next month's local elections, observers who are unfamiliar with politics in Bulgaria might be misled into concluding that the ballot's stakes are high. Those more familiar with Bulgarian reality see it otherwise. Take Prime Minister Ivan Kostov. Addressing journalists in Pernik on 12 September, he described the upcoming elections as "a political flea market." What Kostov "forgot" to mention was that his Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), as the strongest parliamentary group represented in the legislature, is responsible for the abundance of parties. Having postponed until this fall the passage of a new law on political parties that might have cut the number of formations eligible to compete to around 10, Kostov's party unwittingly brought about the current state of affairs. Many see the current contest as one between the ruling United Democratic Forces (ODS) and the opposition, among which the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) is the most prominent formation. Apart from the SDS, the ODS includes the Bulgarian Agrarian Union, the People's Union, and the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party. This alliance won the 1997 parliamentary elections but has since been weakened by the late 1998 split in the Social Democratic Party, a wing of which--led by Petar Dertliev--left the ODS and joined the opposition. That rift, however, is unlikely to play a major role in the local elections, since Dertliev has almost no followers. More significant was the departure from the ODS of the ethnic Turkish Initiative Committee for Renewal, which was recently renamed National Movements for Rights and Freedom (NDPS). But the NDPS will mainly be competing against the rival Movement for Rights of Freedom (DPS), headed by Ahmed Dogan, for the Turkish vote. Furthermore, NDPS leader Gyuner Tahir has already said that in those constituencies where his party is not fielding candidates, it will support the ODS. The ODS's goal is clear: to repeat its success at the 1997 parliamentary ballot. Local elections were last held in Bulgaria in 1995: at that time, the BSP won 194 mayoralties, the DPS 26, independents 17, the ODS 15, and the Business Bloc two. Viewed from this perspective, the slogan chosen by the BSP for the local elections "It Is Our Turn [to Win]" is undoubtedly misleading. In fact, the slogan makes sense only if seen against the background of the BSP's defeat in the 1997 parliamentary elections. But local elections are never a mirror of general elections; rather, they are often decided by strictly local issues and by local politicians who opt to ignore the interests of the "center" and to form alliances that may not conform with what the "center" would like to see. Moreover, local government is still weak in Bulgaria. Whatever the outcome of the October contest, it will have virtually no impact on the central government. According to a survey conducted by the MBDM polling institute and published in the daily "24 Chasa" on 9 September, the ODS will gain 27 percent backing and the BSP just 16 percent. Three days later, "Demokratsiya" published a poll by the Alpha Research Institute suggesting that the ODS will receive 32 percent of the vote and the BSP 17 percent. This is good news for the ruling alliance, although not as good as it might have wished. The Alpha poll had the ODS winning six out of the Bulgaria's 10 largest towns. SDS Chief Secretary Hristo Bisserov, speaking to journalists on 7 September, said the BSP "stands no chance in any of the large towns" and that the party will be "marginalized." Should that prove the case, the question would arise as to what extent it reflects pre-electoral maneuvering. In June, the ODS amended the law on local elections to stipulate that in localities with a population of less than 500, mayors will no longer be elected but appointed by the local district council. Depriving some voters of the right to exercise their democratic privilege is quite unacceptable, even if it is justified by budgetary constraints, as the ODS claims. Even Vice President Todor Kavaldjiev criticized the amendment. For all its drawbacks, however, the measure cannot be viewed as disadvantageous for the opposition. The BSP contested the amendment at the Constitutional Court and lost. It also challenged the provision obliging candidates to state whether they were informers for, or on the payroll of, the communist secret police. That requirement, the BSP claimed, infringes on constitutional rights. But the court did not support that view, arguing that the provision does not disqualify former informers or members of the secret police from running and stating that its "essence" was to be found its "moral character." Indeed, when it comes to morality, the BSP does have a problem. Whether many Bulgarians care about morality nowadays, having long suffered the economic hardships of a legacy with which the BSP itself is identified, is another question--one that for the time being remains unanswered. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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