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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 185, Part II, 22 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 185, Part II, 22 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 * COUNCIL OF EUROPE ENDS MONITORING OF SLOVAKIA * THOUSANDS IN SERBIA DEMONSTRATE AGAINST GOVERNMENT * MOSCOW, BELGRADE DENOUNCE NEW KOSOVA CORPS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE U.S. CALLS ON BELARUS TO FIND MISSING DISSIDENTS. "The United States is greatly concerned about this pattern of disappearances of opponents to [President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka's continued rule in Belarus," the U.S. State Department said in a 21 September statement. It was referring to the disappearances of Supreme Soviet Deputy Chairman Viktar Hanchar on 16 September, former Interior Minister Yury Zakharanka on 7 May, and former National Bank Chairwoman Tamara Vinnikava on 8 April. The State Department called on the Belarusian government "to do everything in its power to locate" the missing persons and ensure their safety. JM GAZPROM OPENS YAMAL-EUROPE PIPELINE SECTION IN BELARUS. Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev and Belarusian President Lukashenka on 21 September opened a 209-kilometer section of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline stretching from the city of Nyasvizh to the Polish border. The new Belarusian pipeline stretch is connected to the existing inter-Belarus pipeline system and will allow Gazprom to export up to 30 million cubic meters of gas from Siberia to Poland. "We estimate that following the opening of this pipeline section we will improve solving our everyday problems by 60 percent," Lukashenka commented. "I want to say that we have never felt ill-will toward Belarus. We have always honestly and voluntarily done everything necessary for Belarus and for Russia," Belarusian Television quoted Vyakhirev as saying. JM UKRAINIAN CABINET FAILS TO REPAY BACK WAGES, PENSIONS. The Finance Ministry said on 21 September that since the beginning of the year, the government has repaid only 5 percent of its 2.4 billion hryvni ($524 million) debt in pension and wage arrears, AP reported. President Leonid Kuchma has ordered the government to pay off the debt by October. The parliament recently made this task even more difficult by increasing the minimum pension from 24.9 hryvni to 55 hryvni (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 1999). "If the decision takes effect, those paid 30 hryvni a month will be getting 60 and those paid 500 will be getting 1,000," Interfax quoted Kuchma as saying on 20 September. JM UKRAINE'S MARCHUK VOICES DOUBT OVER SURVIVAL OF ANTI-KUCHMA ELECTION ALLIANCE. Former Premier Yevhen Marchuk has voiced doubt whether his presidential election coalition with Oleksandr Tkachenko, Oleksandr Moroz, and Volodymyr Oliynyk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 1999) will field a single candidate against Kuchma in the 31 October elections, UNIAN reported on 20 September. Marchuk said the coalition may turn into a "group of three or even two" because "each member of the alliance is sure that he will be the candidate from the group." JM ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT CHANGES RULES ON RESIDENCE PERMITS, VISAS. The Estonian government on 21 September changed various rules on residence permits and visas that in part affect former Soviet military personnel deemed "dangerous" for Estonian independence, BNS reported. "Eesti Paevaleht" noted the next day that the 400 Soviet officers who were granted U.S.-funded apartments in Russia will not receive a permit to stay in Estonia. Estonia will also halt the issuing of visas at the border. Andres Kollist, director of the Citizenship and Migration Bureau, criticized that change, saying that "all European countries, including Russia, provide for the possibility of the issue of visas on the border." The changes are to go into effect on 1 October. MH LATVIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH ALBRIGHT. Vaira Vike-Freiberga met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in New York on 21 September. Albright praised Vike-Freiberga for vetoing the controversial new language law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 1999). While appreciating Latvia's contribution to the peacekeeping forces in the Balkans, Albright stressed the need for Latvia to increase defense spending and capabilities, BNS reported. Vike-Freiberga was in New York to take part in 54th UN General Assembly. MH LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT HALTS RUSSIAN BORDER TREATY RATIFICATION. The parliament's National Security and Defense Committee on 20 September failed to approve the border treaty with Russia, thereby delaying the ratification process. Only six of the 13 members of the committee voted in favor, "Lietuvos Rytas" reported. The agreement, signed in 1997, remains in limbo both in Vilnius and Moscow. MH POLISH CABINET IN CONFUSION OVER SACKING OF COMMANDO CHIEF. Deputy Prime Minister Leszek Balcerowicz said on 21 September that he thinks last week's firing of General Slawomir Petelicki, commander of the elitist Operational Mobile Response Group, was based on "shaky foundations," according to PAP. Special Service Minister Janusz Palubicki, who took charge of the Interior Ministry following the dismissal of Interior Minister Janusz Tomaszewski, took the decision to dismiss Petelicki. Deputy Interior Minister Bogdan Borusewicz, meanwhile, said he thinks that questioning Palubicki's decision could lead to a government crisis. Leszek Miller, leader of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance, told Polish Radio on 21 September that Petelicki's sacking was a result of an "internal fight" between three coalition leaders: Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, Solidarity Chairman Marian Krzaklewski, and Tomaszewski. Meanwhile, Palubicki vowed that Petelicki's sacking did not have a political character, adding that he himself does not intend to resign. JM LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH HAVEL. Valdas Adamkus told Czech President Vaclav Havel in Prague on 21 September that although his country would like to join NATO at the same time as Latvia and Estonia, it is not insisting on that as a condition of its membership, CTK reported. Both presidents said their countries wished to become members of the EU and make a "meaningful contribution" to the process of unifying the continent. Their "outstandingly good relations" can be "an inspiration" to the content's integration, Havel and Adamkus said in a joint declaration. Adamkus also met with Premier Milos Zeman and discussed economic and military cooperation. MS LATVIAN PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN IN CZECH REPUBLIC. Janis Straum met with Czech Premier Zeman in Prague on 21 September and discussed economic cooperation and the role of the two countries' parliaments and governments in advancing EU integration. He also discussed with Senate Chairwoman Libuse Benesova the issue of national minorities, which, Benesova noted, "is one of the main problems" hindering the EU accession of both Latvia and the Czech Republic. MS SLOVAK PREMIER MEETS WITH U.S. PRESIDENT. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda told journalists after meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton in New York on 21 September that Clinton "confirmed [NATO's] open-door policy and clearly said Slovakia has the best chance of becoming the next member of NATO," CTK reported. Addressing the UN General Assembly the same day, Dzurinda said that the Council of Europe needs to undergo reform. In an obvious allusion to the Yugoslav crisis, he said the council must "learn the lesson of its failures in recent crises" and avoid being "marginalized and losing its role in ensuring world peace and security." He added that Slovakia supports a political solution in Kosova and wants to see the democratization of the region "based on respect of human rights regardless of ethnic origin and respect of Yugoslavia's territorial integrity." MS COUNCIL OF EUROPE ENDS MONITORING OF SLOVAKIA. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, meeting in Strasbourg on 21 September, unanimously decided to end its monitoring of Slovakia, TASR and CTK reported. The decision was prompted by the favorable report of the council's two rapporteurs, Juris Sinka and Goran Magnusson, who said Slovakia has made significant progress in all areas monitored. The assembly said that Slovakia must still implement reforms related to the judiciary, ethnic minorities, and regional self-rule. It also noted that monitoring might be resumed if no progress is made in these areas. And it recommended that Slovakia ratify the European Charter on Regional and Ethnic Languages. MS SLOVAK OPPOSITION MOVES TO DISMISS ECONOMY MINISTER. The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) on 21 September moved a motion to dismiss Economy Minister Ludovit Cernat, CTK and SITA reported. The motion must be debated within seven days. HZDS Deputy Chairman Rudolf Ziak said the HZDS will also support the government's demand to dismiss National Property Fund chief Ludovit Kanik and his deputy, Ladislav Sklenar. The chairmen of the Party of Civic Understanding and Democratic Party, both of which are members of the ruling coalition, have also demanded that Cernak be dismissed. MS HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS VOTE AGAINST BUDGET. The cabinet on 21 September approved next year's draft budget without the support of any of the ministers representing the junior coalition Independent Smallholders. Agriculture Minister Jozsef Torgyan and Defense Ministry State Secretary Janos Homoki voted against the draft, while Environment Minister Pal Pepo abstained. Torgyan said the Smallholders will propose amendments to the budget draft. In other news, Laszlo Paszternak announced his resignation as chairman of the steel workers' union, after the Socialist Party recalled him as Employment Committee deputy chairman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 1999). MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE THOUSANDS IN SERBIA DEMONSTRATE AGAINST GOVERNMENT... Tens of thousands of people took part in protests on the evening of 21 September calling for the resignation of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Some 20,000 people in Belgrade protested in the capital's Republic Square. Crowds of some 10,000 were reported in Novi Sad, Nis, and Kragujevac, and smaller crowds were reported in 14 other towns and cities. The Beta news agency reported that police blocked roads in Vojvodina in an effort to prevent people from traveling to the protest in Novi Sad. Earlier that day, the Association of Independent Trade Unions declared a general strike to protest Milosevic's rule. The union claims some 150,000 members in Serbia and invited other labor groups to join in the protest. PB ...AS DJINDJIC CALLS MILOSEVIC 'EVIL.' Opposition leader Zoran Djindjic told the crowd in Belgrade that "we must finish our task this time. Who is stronger: the people or evil? Is it Serbia or Milosevic?" Djindjic exhorted the crowd to encourage others to take part in protests, and he vowed to continue the daily demonstrations until Milosevic resigned. He said "if there are 2 million people on the streets of Serbia after 10 days, it will mean that Serbia has cured itself," B2-92 reported. Dragoslav Avramovic, former head of the Central Bank, who has been nominated by one opposition movement to lead an interim government, said a leadership change is needed quickly to avert power and heating shortages this winter. The protests were organized by Djindjic's Alliance for Change and the Alliance of Democratic Parties. Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement did not take part. PB SERBIAN POLICE SEIZE COPIES OF WEEKLY PAPER, CLAMP DOWN ON INDEPENDENT RADIO. Serbian border police on 21 September confiscated a truck that was carrying copies of the independent Banja Luka weekly "Reporter," Beta reported. Perica Vucinic, the publisher of "Reporter," said the entire circulation for the Serbian market was on the truck, which is being held at the border crossing town of Sremska Mitrovica. She said this issue of the weekly, which is often critical of the Milosevic regime, included an article on Serbian tycoons that have allegedly robbed the country of state funds. In Belgrade, the Association of Independent Electronic Media in Yugoslavia reported that Radio Pancevo was asked by the Yugoslav Ministry of Communications to pay 800,000 dinars ($72,000 at the official exchange rate) to continue using its frequency. PB MONTENEGRO SAYS SERBIAN REFUSAL TO HOLD TALKS 'UNACCEPTABLE.' Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said on 21 September that his Serbian counterpart, Mirko Majanovic, has refused to hold direct talks with Podgorica on the nature of the two republics' relations, Reuters reported. Vujanovic, in a statement to the media, said Majanovic's decision to try to move the talks to the Yugoslav parliament because they may involve changes to the federal constitution is "unacceptable to us." He added that Montenegro is prepared to negotiate only "at the level of the two republics. Any agreement must be reached at that level." But he said the Montenegrin government is patient because "there is no need to increase tensions." Montenegro sent a proposal to Belgrade on 5 August requesting a new relationship between the two republics that would give Podgorica control over its economic, military, and foreign affairs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1999). Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic has threatened to hold a referendum on independence if the republics' relationship is not redefined. PB MOSCOW, BELGRADE DENOUNCE NEW KOSOVA CORPS. The Russian Foreign Ministry said on 22 September that the transformation of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) into the civilian Kosova Protection Corps is a "thoughtless political act," AP reported. In a statement, the ministry said the arrangement "is a graphic attempt to legalize part of military attachments of Kosovo gunmen" and goes "against the spirit" of UN Security Council resolution 1244 on Kosova. The Yugoslav Justice Ministry said the agreement will "only serve to perpetuate...the Serb exodus from Kosovo...and jeopardize the integrity of Yugoslavia." It added that the agreement threatens peace in Yugoslavia and violates the part of resolution 1244 that calls for a demilitarization of the UCK. In the divided Kosovar town of Mitrovica, Serbs said on 21 September that they will organize their own defense force in response to the formation of the new Kosovar Albanian corps. PB UN LEADER WARNS OF DESTABILIZATION ATTEMPTS BY SERBS. The UN's special representative in Kosova, Bernard Kouchner, said on 21 September that there are organized efforts by Serbs to destabilize Kosova, Reuters reported. Kouchner said "a lot of unofficial people are coming [to Kosova from Serbia]" and that some of the incidents "have been organized." He said "each attack, attempt, murder is a success for Milosevic." He added, however, that he has no proof of official Serbian or Yugoslav security personnel returning to Kosova. NATO Supreme Commander Wesley Clark said one of the three Serbs killed recently by Russian soldiers was carrying an identity card from the Serbian Interior Ministry police. PB CHILDREN KILLED BY UNEXPLODED CLUSTER BOMB. NATO peacekeepers in Kosova said on 21 September that four children were killed and two wounded when an unexploded cluster bomb blew up in a field in eastern Kosova. The bomb had been dropped by NATO forces during its air strikes on Yugoslavia. PB NATO MINISTERS AGREE TO CUT TROOPS IN BOSNIA. NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana said at a 21 September conference of alliance defense ministers in Toronto that it will be possible to reduce NATO forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina by one- third, dpa reported. Solana said a vote on the proposal, under which 10,000 of the 30,000 troops in Bosnia would be sent home, would take place at a meeting in Brussels in December. In other news, the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the canton of Sarajevo confirmed on 21 September that an associate of wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden who was arrested in Turkey had been carrying a valid Bosnian passport issued in 1997. PB CROATIAN PROSECUTORS SEEK 20-YEAR SENTENCE FOR CONCENTRATION CAMP COMMANDER. State prosecutors asked a Zagreb court on 21 September to sentence Dinko Sakic, a commander of a World War II concentration camp in Croatia, to 20 years in prison. Sakic, who was extradited from Argentina last year, is accused of crimes against humanity in his capacity as head of the Jasenovac camp from 1941-1945. Prosecutors said he was aware of the crimes being committed under his command and that he occasionally took part in the murders and torture of inmates. A verdict is expected by October. PB ALBANIAN MINISTER PROPOSES SEPARATING POLICE, MILITARY. The Albanian minister for pubic order, Spartak Poci, proposed on 20 September that the country's police force no longer be part of the armed forces, ATA reported. Poci said a bill on the change will be sent to the cabinet as well as to the parliament. The move is seen as a main step in a program to reform the Albanian police. In other news, Albanian President Rexhep Meidani sent a letter to the president of the European Radio and TV Broadcasting Union, Albert Sharf, asking for greater technical and material assistance for Albanian Radio and Television as well as for broadcast media in Kosova. PB IMF TEAM ENDS TALKS IN ROMANIA. The IMF team of experts will wrap up on 22 September its talks with Romanian officials on the implementation of the agreement reached earlier this year. The team will report its findings to the fund's executive board, which is to decide next month whether to release the second tranche of the $547 million stand-by loan. The Finance Ministry said the previous day that during the talks the team "appreciated some favorable results" achieved so far but noted that there are still "problems" deriving from wage policies and the restructuring of the banking system, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Media reports said the team refused to accept a Romanian request to raise the budget deficit from 3.9 percent to 4.9 percent of GDP. MS HUNGARIAN CONSUL IN ROMANIA DENIES NATIONALIST ALLEGATIONS. Hungary's new consul in Cluj, Laszlo Alfoldi, told journalists on 21 September that Mayor Gheorghe Funar is "a very interesting personality" but his actions represent "only a fraction of the Cluj political spectrum," Mediafax reported. Alfoldi denied allegations by Funar and the Greater Romania Party that he had engaged in spying in the late 1980s and was declared "persona non grata" in 1988 for that reason. Meanwhile, Cluj Prefect Alexandru Farcas has extended until 27 September the ban on demonstrations in Cluj. The ban was prompted by Funar's intention to call mass protests against Alfoldi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1999). MS BULGARIA, MACEDONIA SLAM SLOW START OF BALKAN STABILITY PACT. Meeting in the southwestern Bulgarian border town of Blagoevgrad on 21 September, the premiers of Bulgaria and Macedonia, Ivan Kostov and Ljubco Georgievski, criticized the West for being slow in implementing the Balkan Stability Pact agreed on in July, Reuters reported. Georgievski said that Macedonia and Bulgaria "have several joint projects to be implemented under the pact" but they noted that the pact is not functioning yet. Kostov said "skepticism of the Bulgarian government over the pact's actual implementation is growing," adding that "if there are no new developments soon, skepticism will change into disappointment." The two premiers pledged to continue promoting understanding between their countries, and Kostov said that this policy "will be our reply to both nationalists and Bulgarophobes." BTA reported that on 21 September Bulgaria delivered the second shipment of decommissioned tanks and howitzers to Macedonia. MS EU COMMISSIONER SAYS BULGARIA MAY SOON BEGIN ACCESSION TALKS. EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, speaking on Fenix television on 20 September, said the EU could decide at its December summit in Helsinki to begin accession talks with Bulgaria, BTA reported the next day. Verheugen said that "politically, Bulgaria has recently registered very positive achievements," but he added that economic development has been held up by the conflict in the Balkans. That is why Bulgaria must be helped to overcome these consequences, "which is exactly what we are doing," he said. At the same time, Verheugen warned that even if a decision on starting accession talks with Sofia is made, the parleys "will be long." "It would not be right to raise hopes that Bulgaria will become a full member in three, four, or five years," he commented. 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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