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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 190, Part II, 29 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 190, Part II, 29 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 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER TO APPEAR UNDER NEW NAME * TWO DEAD IN EXPLOSION AT MARKET PLACE IN KOSOVA * UN ENVOY TO BALKANS SAYS BOSNIA TOO DEPENDENT ON AID End Note: LUKASHENKA PREFERS MONOLOGUE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER TO APPEAR UNDER NEW NAME. Law enforcement officials on 28 September seized from a Minsk printing house paper and other property belonging to the independent newspaper "Naviny," Belapan reported. They explained their action by saying that a Minsk court ordered "Naviny" to pay 15 billion Belarusian rubles ($52,000) in damages to State Security Council Secretary Viktar Sheyman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 1999). "Sheyman does not need that money, he needs to close our newspaper, because we could pay the fine if we continued to publish and sell the newspaper," "Naviny" chief editor Pavel Zhuk commented. Zhuk added that the editorial office intends to print the last issue of "Naviny" on 29 September and resume publishing the newspaper under the name of "Nasha svaboda" (Our Freedom). "Naviny" appeared in fall 1997 as the successor to "Svaboda," which had been banned by the authorities. JM KUCHMA BACKS REFERENDUM ON CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and the Union of the Regional and Local Authority Leaders signed a declaration on 27 September to initiate a referendum on the introduction of amendments to the constitution, ITAR-TASS reported. Kuchma is in favor of a bicameral parliament and believes that this issue should be submitted to a referendum. According to Kuchma, the constitution should also be approved in a referendum to put a stop to lawmakers' seeking to "raise the issue of constitutional changes at each parliamentary session." Kuchma also thinks that it is necessary to define more clearly the powers of executive and legislative authorities and give more power to the regions. JM ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES TARIFFS. The government on 28 September approved a package of customs tariffs, which are to go into effect on 1 January 2000. The imposition of such tariffs is in sharp contrast to the liberal trade policies championed by members of the three-party ruling coalition over the past few years, especially Prime Minister Mart Laar. The duties will apply to countries with which Estonia does not have a free-trade agreement, including Russia and the U.S. "Postimees" reported that food prices could increase in January by 5-15 percent as a result to the tariffs. Prime Minister Laar believes 90 million kroons ($6 million) will be collected from such tariffs, since the affected countries account for one-third of Estonian trade. MH ESTONIA TO BE PLUNGED INTO DARKNESS AT MILLENNIUM TRANSITION? As Estonia's power grid remains connected to the system in northwestern Russia, a failure on the Russian side owing to the "millennium bug" could disrupt power supplies in Estonia. According to Eesti Energia, the "worst case scenario" would cause disruption for 30 minutes--as the company says it can restore full power usage within that time, according to "Eesti Paevaleht" and ETA. Eesti Energia itself noted that it has taken precautions against the possible local problems and has worked out a deal to acquire emergency hydroelectricity from Russia's Lenenergo if necessary. However, as the power grid extends across several time zones to the Urals and the large nuclear facilities there, Eesti Energia could face disruption anytime after 6:00 p.m. local time on 31 December. MH LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES IN PRINCIPLE GOVERNMENT'S ENERGY STRATEGY. Lawmakers on 28 September approved a resolution supporting in principle the government's draft energy strategy, which calls for the shutdown of the first unit at the Ignalina nuclear power plant by 2005. The resolution was approved by a vote of 61 to 16, "Lietuvos Rytas" and ELTA reported. However, the resolution firmly states that the shutdown must be conditional on receiving generous foreign aid for that purpose--a condition strongly advocated by former Premier Gediminas Vagnorius. The opposition either voted against the resolution or abstained. MH COALITION PARTNER DISPLEASED WITH POLISH PREMIER. Jerzy Wierchowicz, head of the parliamentary caucus of the Freedom Union (UW), warned on 28 September that the UW may seek to oust Premier Jerzy Buzek, a member of the Solidarity Electoral Action, unless it get its way over an impending cabinet reshuffle and next year's budget draft, Reuters reported. Jan Litynski, another UW parliamentary deputy, told Polish Radio the same day that Buzek "is giving up ruling in favor of drifting." According to Litynski, "there should be a general change in the method of ruling that is linked with a change of team" but does not imply a "change of coalition." Buzek is expected to make a decision on a cabinet reshuffle this week. JM FOUR CZECH PARTIES TO WORK TOGETHER. Four opposition parties have announced that they will work together both before and after the next parliamentary elections, Czech media reported on 28 September. The leaders of the Christian Democrats, the Freedom Union, the Civic Democratic Alliance, and the Democratic Union made the announcement at a joint press conference. VG CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS DEAL WITH SCANDALS. The Social Democratic parliamentary group on 28 September gave an overwhelming vote of confidence to its chairman, Stanislav Gross, Czech media reported. Gross had offered to resign as chairman of the group and as deputy chairman of the Chamber of Deputies after reports surfaced that he had allowed a private company to pay for his cell phone (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 1999). However, recent reports indicate that Petra Buzkova, the party's most popular politician, also used a cell phone in the same manner. "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 29 September that the Chemapol group gave the party payment cards for purchasing gas during the 1996 election campaign. The party did not declare the gift and did not pay taxes on it. Many observers see the various scandals in the context of a power struggle within the party. VG EU WELCOMES SLOVAK NUCLEAR PLANT DECISION. The EU on 28 September welcomed Slovakia's decision to shut down two reactors at the V1 block of the Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear power plant between 2006 and 2008, Reuters reported. A European Commission spokesman said Slovakia might be entitled to a 20 million euro ($21 million) loan to assist with the closures. However, Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima said Bratislava's decision is unacceptable for his country. Klima sent letters to the EU member-states and Slovakia explaining Austria's position and calling for talks on the issue "immediately." He also stressed Austria's stance that "there can be no EU entry with unsafe nuclear reactors." VG SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER VISITS SLOVAKIA. Vuk Draskovic, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, arrived in Bratislava on 28 September for talks with Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and other Slovak leaders, TKE reported. Draskovic noted that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is holding "an umbrella above Albanian terrorism." He also noted tendencies in Hungary to "rekindle the times of the former empires," although he added that such tendencies are not officially supported by the Hungarian government. CTK reported that during Draskovic's previous visit to Prague, he held talks with U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic John Shattuck. The U.S. embassy in Prague refused to give any details about the meeting, saying it took place "in the context of meetings between U.S. officials and various Serbian opposition leaders." VG HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER MEETS CIA, FBI LEADERS. Viktor Orban on 28 September held talks in Budapest with CIA head George Tenet and FBI Director Louis Freeh on cooperation between the Hungarian and U.S. secret services, Hungarian media report. The talks focused on organized crime, money laundering by the "Russian mafia," and European security issues. Hungarian Interior Minister Sandor Pinter and Freeh signed an agreement granting the Hungarian police access to FBI databases on stolen cars, boats, and license plates. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE TWO DEAD IN EXPLOSION AT MARKET IN KOSOVA. Two Serbs were killed and at least 40 people wounded when two rifle- propelled grenades landed in a crowded market outside Kosovo Polje on 28 September, AFP reported. NATO-led peacekeeping forces in Kosova (KFOR) arrested four people suspected of being involved in the attack. Local Serbs, who make up the majority of the people in the area, blockaded a road between the town and Prishtina's airport to protest what they say is a lack of security. Bernard Kouchner, head of the UN mission in Kosova, said "this outrageous attack against innocent civilians puts in danger all efforts at building democracy in Kosovo." Stanimir Vukicevic, head of a Yugoslav government liaison with KFOR, said "this extremely inhuman act of madness is the consequence of KFOR and [the UN mission's] tolerant and benevolent attitude toward the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army." PB THACI REASSURES TURKISH MINORITY. Kosovar Albanian leader Hashim Thaci told a group of ethnic Turks on 28 September that they are welcome in Kosova and will help build a "free and democratic Kosova," the Albanian news agency ATA reported. Thaci made his comments in the village of Mamusha, near Prizren, which has an ethnic Turkish majority. Thaci said that Mamusha's "sons will join the protective troops of Kosova." Thaci said during a meeting with officials in the village that his goal is to establish a mission at the UN and allow the Kosova Protection Corps to participate "in NATO mechanisms in the framework of [its] Partnership for Peace" program. PB DOLE SAYS INDEPENDENCE COULD BE ATTAINED. In Washington, former U.S. Senator Bob Dole told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 28 September that if Kosovar leaders hold free elections, renounce violence, and move toward a market economy, "then I believe independence will be forthcoming and should be," AP reported. Dole criticized the U.S. for not "acting against [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic much earlier." Dole served as an envoy to Kosova for President Bill Clinton earlier this year. At the White House, Clinton said "what we have supported for Kosovo and what we continue to support is autonomy." PB LARGE RALLY IN NIS AS THOUSANDS PROTEST ACROSS SERBIA. Between 15,000-20,000 people gathered in Serbia's second- largest city, Nis, on 28 September to call on President Milosevic to resign, the Beta news agency reported. Some 20 opposition rallies were held throughout Serbia the same day. Only 10,000 or so turned out in Belgrade, far fewer than the 55,000 who demonstrated on 25 September. Speaking in Nis, Alliance for Change leader Zoran Djindjic said "the Serbian system cannot be altered by talks, only by action." He derided Milosevic for "ruining the country" over the last decade. Organizers said a march on Milosevic's home in the Belgrade district of Dedinje will be held on 29 September. Police, who until now have kept a low profile at Belgrade rallies, are expected to try to prevent the march as they did during protests in 1991 and in 1996-1997. PB MILOSEVIC MAKES RARE APPEARANCE TO REOPEN REFINERY... President Milosevic made a rare appearance on 28 September to speak at the reopening of an oil refinery in Pancevo that was destroyed by NATO air strikes, AP reported. Milosevic told company officials and employees that "in a year, two, or three, things will be better." He said "throughout these seven years of sanctions and even during the time of the brutal bombings we have been achieving [constant] progress." Milosevic was accompanied by Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, Serbian Premier Mirko Marjanovic, Serbian parliamentary speaker Dragan Tomic, and other officials. PB ...AS SERBIAN PATRIARCH URGES HIM TO GO TO THE HAGUE. Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle said on 28 September that President Milosevic should "resign peacefully so that people who enjoy the trust of the world can step in," Pancevo Radio reported. Pavle, speaking in the Kosovar town of Gorazdevac, said "it is clear at the moment that it is as if we are in a prison, behind a wall. There are no political, economic, or social ties with any other country." Pavle said he "would rather die...than [be] a true war criminal and have them say I'm a hero." PB UN ENVOY TO BALKANS SAYS BOSNIA TOO DEPENDENT ON AID. Carl Bildt said in Washington on 28 September that Bosnia- Herzegovina has been given too much unconditional aid by the West, Reuters reported. Bildt said he fears that the Bosnian economy would collapse if foreign aid were to be withdrawn. Bildt also criticized Bosnian leaders, saying "they have not been willing to undertake economic reforms. We have not been sufficiently tough with them." In other news, Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of Bosnia's presidency, said upon returning from a trip to the Middle East on 28 September that it "was first and foremost a visit to friends of Bosnia- Herzegovina." He said the visit did not violate any rules of the presidency. PB HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT PROPOSES COOPERATION WITH CROATIA. Arpad Goencz, speaking in Zagreb on 28 September, pledged greater cooperation between his country and Croatia and praised the situation of ethnic Hungarians in Croatia, MTI reported on 28 September. Goencz told Croatian Premier Zlatko Matesa in Zagreb that cross-border cooperation between Hungarian and Croatian regions should be developed. He also praised state support for ethnic Hungarian communities in Croatia. Matesa said he is hopeful that a free trade agreement between the two countries will be signed soon. Goencz also met with representatives of six Croatian opposition parties during his two-day visit. PB ALBANIA RATIFIES COUNCIL OF EUROPE CONVENTION ON MINORITIES. Albania formally ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the protection of ethnic minorities on 28 September, ATA reported. Albania's ambassador to the Council of Europe, Fotaq Andrea, handed the ratification documents to Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer in Tirana. The convention demands that members "ensure an effective equality between minorities and the majority, to ensure the necessary conditions for developing culture and preserving the identity of national minorities." Albania's ethnic Greeks constitute the country's largest minority, accounting for 3 percent of the population. PB NATO FORCES CONDUCT EXERCISES IN ALBANIA. Troops from NATO's Albanian Force 2 (AFOR 2) began exercises in Albania on 28 September, ATA reported. The exercises are being held in conjunction with the Defense Ministry in Tirana and are code- named Caravan of Friendship 99. They are aimed at promoting communication and infrastructure capacities in rural areas of the country. Also on 28 September, Albania's defense minister, Luan Haidaraga, met with the commander of the German contingent in Kosova, General Freidrich Riechman. They discussed cooperation between AFOR 2 and Albanian forces as well the situation in Kosova. PB ROMANIAN PRESIDENT VISITS FRANCE. French President Jacques Chirac told his visiting Romanian counterpart, Emil Constantinescu, that France will push to have Romania invited to accession negotiations with the EU at the December summit in Helsinki, according to a Rompres report cited by the BBC. The two presidents emphasized the warm historical relations between their two countries. Constantinescu called on French companies to invest in Romania, noting that his country's economy is steadily improving in several areas. Chirac added that trade between the two countries has been growing by an average of 30 percent every year. France is Romania's chief trading partner and main source of foreign investments. VG TWO LEGISLATORS QUIT ROMANIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY. Senator Radu Alexandru and Deputy George Serban on 28 September announced their resignation from the Democratic Party (PD). Alexandru said he has "reached the limits of humiliation and nonsense imposed by the entire PD leadership and especially by PD President Petre Roman," Romanian Radio reported. VG EU TO GIVE CREDIT, AID TO MOLDOVA. By the end of this year, the EU will provide Moldova with a 15 million euro ($15.7 million) credit line and humanitarian assistance totaling 2.2 million euros, Infotag reported on 28 September. Timo Summa, the head of an EU delegation visiting Moldova, said the previous day that he is satisfied with the Moldovan government's efforts to continue the reform process. In other news, Moldovan Prime Minister Ion Sturza and Romanian Defense Minister Victor Babiuc attended a ceremony to officially open a new border crossing linking the Moldovan village of Costesti to the Romanian village of Stinca. The new crossing is part of a transport corridor that will link Turkey with Europe. VG BULGARIAN PREMIER COMMENTS ON NUCLEAR PLANT. Ivan Kostov said he does not think the Soviet-made Kozloduy nuclear power plant will become a stumbling block to Bulgaria's entry into the EU, according to a BTA report cited by the BBC. Kostov said the time-frame for the closure of four reactors at the plant will be set within a month. He said the decision will be partly based on whatever financial support the country receives for the closures. Kostov added that he is satisfied with Bulgaria's discussions on the issue with the European Commission. In other news, the cabinet on 28 September held a special meeting to discuss a plan to reform the Bulgarian military. VG END NOTE LUKASHENKA PREFERS MONOLOGUE By Jan Maksymuik The OSCE-mediated talks between the authorities and the opposition in Belarus seem to be nearing an end even without having really begun. That, at least, is the perception of commentators in Belarus's independent press, based on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's 16 September meeting with the leaders of power ministries and law enforcement bodies and subsequent developments. At that meeting, Lukashenka took advantage of the public anxiety that followed the blasts in Moscow and Volgodonsk, in southern Russia, by ordering his subordinates to take tough security measures to prevent terrorist attacks in Belarus. According to Lukashenka, Belarus faces a threat not from elements in Russia but from domestic "extremists" and "nationalists" who intend "to destabilize" the situation in Belarus. In particular, Lukashenka ordered the border guards and customs officers to monitor the border so that "a mouse could not creep through it." He demanded that the authorities of Minsk and other cities identify venues where "all kinds of oppositionists and other scum" can hold demonstrations; protests in all other locations were to be banned. Lukashenka demanded that within the next three days, the state-controlled media inform the public both at home and abroad where "Belarusian nationalists" find money "to destabilize" the situation in Belarus. And he also ordered his administration to close down those newspapers that "assail state officials" without good reason, pointing to an allegedly libelous article about State Security Secretary Viktar Sheyman in the opposition newspaper "Naviny." The disappearance of opposition politician Viktar Hanchar several hours after the 16 September meeting is seen as an ominous indication of events to come in Belarus as a result of Lukashenka's instructions. As deputy chairman of the opposition Supreme Soviet and organizer of the alternative presidential elections in May, Hanchar fell into the category of domestic "extremists." The opposition regard Hanchar's disappearance as a kidnapping organized by the authorities to intimidate political opponents of the current regime. Hanchar was to have presided over a Supreme Soviet session on 19 September at which the opposition delegation to the talks with the authorities was to have been approved. Shortly after Hanchar's disappearance, law officers seized property belonging to "Naviny" and the author of the allegedly defamatory article about Sheyman, without waiting for a court order. Sheyman duly filed suit against "Naviny," demanding exorbitant damages (under Belarusian economic conditions) totaling 15 billion Belarusian rubles ($52,000).Two days later, a Minsk court ruled in Sheyman's favor. "Naviny", which turns a monthly profit of some $2,700, now faces closure. Western ambassadors to Minsk who expressed their concern over Hanchar's disappearance met with Lukashenka's response that they should look for Hanchar in the West before alluding to any sinister goings-on in Belarus. Echoing a high-ranking official in the presidential administration, official media said Hanchar staged his disappearance in order to gain more publicity. But as protests have increased around the globe, Minsk has launched an investigation into both Hanchar's disappearance and that of former Interior Minister Yury Zakharanka in May. The latest developments in Belarus highlight some unanswered questions about Lukashenka's regime and the attitude of Western democracies toward it. First, was Lukashenka's declaration to enter into a dialogue with the opposition really sincere? Or was he perhaps acting on a political calculation--as some Belarusian commentators suggest--to "simulate" negotiations in order to gain legitimacy for himself and his government in the West? "I have few illusions that we will be able to conduct talks with Lukashenka. He prefers to give endless monologues," Stanislau Bahdankevich, head of the opposition United Civic Party, noted in mid-August. Judging from developments since then, Bahdankevich was right. Second, has the OSCE--the proponent of political dialogue in Belarus--any leverage to make that dialogue happen? The answer again appears to be "no." Lukashenka's regime has not created any conditions for a "favorable political climate," as requested by the Belarusian opposition ahead of the OSCE-mediated talks. Those conditions included access to the state-run media for the opposition and the release of former Premier Mikhail Chyhir and other political prisoners. In fact, the political climate in Belarus has become even more oppressive than was the case before the preparations for the dialogue began. Third, what should be done by the West to promote democracy in Belarus, which is overtly defying Western political and moral values? Belarus offers embarrassing and puzzling proof of a regime in Europe that suppresses political opponents and tramples on human rights while enjoying a substantial measure of popular support and remaining virtually unpunished in the international arena. Unlike Turkmenistan, which engages in similiar practices with impunity, Belarus has no strategic reserves of natural gas. In this context, any Western response to Lukashenka's latest challenge will reflect not only the measure of his credibility in the international arena. It will also attest to the West's commitment to promoting democracy where it is so sadly lacking and so desperately needed. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. 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