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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 192, Part II, 1 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 192, Part II, 1 October 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 WORKERS PROTEST GOVERNMENT'S ECONOMIC POLICIES * SERBIAN RIOT POLICE BEAT DEMONSTRATORS AGAIN * SERBIAN DAILY SHUT DOWN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN WORKERS PROTEST GOVERNMENT'S ECONOMIC POLICIES. "Our enterprises are becoming bankrupt because of the current economic policy, extortionate taxes, the multitude of Belarusian ruble exchange rates, and excessive state expenditures," some 15,000 workers said in a statement adopted at a rally in Minsk on 30 September. The rally demanded that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka cancel his decree introducing a contract system of employment in Belarus. It also supported the trade union petition requesting access to state-controlled media, which some 300,000 people have already signed. Alyaksandr Bukhvostau, a trade union leader, told the crowd that the authorities resorted to "draconian measures" in order to prevent Minsk workers from participating in the demonstration. "As long as we have such a political authority, the state has no prospects," Belapan quoted Bukhvostau as saying. JM LUKASHENKA SAYS RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION TREATY DRAFT IS 'LAUGHING STOCK'... The Belarusian president on 30 September lashed out at Moscow for not meeting his expectations with regard to the planned Russia-Belarus union state. Referring to a draft union treaty approved by Russian President Boris Yeltsin for publication in the media, Lukashenka said "it is a laughing stock, not a treaty," Interfax reported. He added that the proposed draft "does not differ at all" from the union treaty currently in force. Lukashenka said he does not intend to publish the draft for public discussion in Belarus because he has a "constitutional right" to sign it even in its "radical version," which would provide for a common presidency. "If Yeltsin does not sign it, I still have time to sign the treaty with someone else," Lukashenka noted. JM ...LAMBASTES RUSSIA'S YAVLINSKII FOR 'INSULTING' BELARUS. Referring to Russian State Duma deputy Grigorii Yavlinskii's recent proposal to close the Russian-Belarusian border and stop financing Belarus, Lukashenka said Yavlinskii "appeared on television screens [on 26 September] on the orders of the West and, first and foremost, the U.S.," Interfax reported. According to Lukashenka, Yavlinskii's suggestions that Belarus is a "black hole" and a "weight around Russia's feet" are "insulting" to the Belarusian people. He added that he is sure that Yavlinskii's proposal was an election gimmick. "It will be a pity for Russia if such people come to power there, because they are pro-Western-minded politicians," Lukashenka commented. JM BELARUS PAYS COMPENSATION FOR EXPULSION OF U.S. AMBASSADOR. The Belarusian government has earmarked $119,500 in compensation to the U.S. Embassy in Minsk for the expulsion of Ambassador Daniel Speckhard from his residence at Drazdy in June 1998, Belapan reported. Earlier, the U.S. had said it invested some $800,000 in the reconstruction of Speckhard's residence there. JM UKRAINIANS BELIEVE PRESIDENTIAL POLL RESULTS WILL BE FALSIFIED. In a 1-12 September poll conducted among 1,200 Ukrainians by the Kyiv-based Institute of Politics, only 5 percent of respondents said they believe that the results of the 31 October presidential elections will not be falisified, Interfax reported on 30 September. Of those polled, 43.9 percent said the ballot will be falsified to a large degree and 26.7 percent said it will be falsified somewhat. The remainder were unable to answer the question. According to the same poll, 60.6 percent of respondents have not yet decided for whom they will vote in the elections. JM ESTONIA'S WTO RATIFICATION INVALID? Estonian Legal Chancellor Eerik-Juhan Truuvali has said that the parliament's ratification of the protocol of accession to the World Trade Organization was invalid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 1999). According to the constitution, he noted, ratification requires the support of a majority of the 101-member parliament because it places a financial obligation on Estonia, "Postimees" reported. The measure passed by a simple majority of 48 to seven. Truuvali recommended that the parliament hold another vote on ratification. Estonia is required to ratify the protocol and pass all relevant legislation by 31 October, otherwise it will have to renegotiate its accession package, thus delaying membership. MH LATVIAN PARLIAMENT SETS UP PANEL TO INVESTIGATE PEDOPHILIA SCANDAL. Lawmakers on 30 September formed a panel to investigate a growing pedophilia scandal. Ruling coalition members Latvia's Way and For Fatherland and Freedom as well as the opposition Social Democratic Workers Party called for the formation of such a panel; the main coalition People's Party, however, will not participate, LETA reported. Earlier this month, a television program broadcast by LNT and produced by parliamentary deputy Edvins Inkens of Latvia's Way accused a local beauty-pageant organizer of sexual assault and pedophilia and also linked two unnamed cabinet members to the scandal. The government has vehemently denied any involvement. To date, no concrete information has been presented to the Prosecutor-General's Office, and Prosecutor- General Janis Skrastins has suggested that the accusations made in the television program may have been unsubstantiated. MH LUKOIL WARNS LITHUANIA. Russian oil giant LUKoil demands to be an "equal partner" in Lithuania's oil sector and is threatening to cut off crude oil supplies if it is not granted that status, ELTA reported. Mikhail Mashkov, the representative of the Russian Gas and Industrialists Union to Lithuania, said on 30 September that LUKoil, as the "world's leading oil company," is "not satisfied" with the "prospect of purchasing 10 percent" of Mazeikiai Oil, Lithuania's oil- processing conglomerate. Unless LUKoil is allowed to buy a one-third stake in Mazeikiai, it will effectively pull out of Lithuania and will supply only enough crude for the company's gas stations in that country. Also on 30 September, the parliament approved a package of bills aimed at facilitating the sale of Mazeikiai Oil to U.S.-based Williams International, a measure that was supported only by the ruling Conservative Party and several Christian Democrats. Negotiations with Williams have proved difficult, missing every deadline established to date. MH PRODI REASSURES POLAND ON EU ENLARGEMENT, BUT GIVES NO DATE. European Commission head Romano Prodi reassured Premier Jerzy Buzek and President Aleksander Kwasniewski in Warsaw on 30 September that he is in favor of speeding up EU enlargement and will assist Poland in its EU membership bid. Prodi, however, appeared to distance himself from his earlier statements that the EU summit in Helsinki in December should set a timetable for accepting new members. "There is a little 'I do not know'," Reuters quoted him as saying when he was asked whether Poland and the five other fast-track candidate countries will know the date of their entry after the summit. JM EU AGAINST TRANSITION PERIOD ON SALE OF LAND. The EU has prepared a position document that opposes requests from prospective membership candidates to impose temporary restrictions on foreign ownership of land, CTK reported on 29 September. The union has asked for more information from countries that have requested such "transition periods," including the Czech Republic and Hungary. The Czech Republic's chief EU negotiator, Pavel Telicka, has insisted on the legitimacy of his country's stance on the issue, CTK reported on 30 September. VG GERMAN CHANCELLOR VISITS PRAGUE. Gerhard Schroeder on 30 September said his country will push to have the Czech Republic accepted into the EU in 2003, "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported. Both Schroeder and Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman said that Czech-German relations are at a high point. Schroeder noted that the Czechs showed solidarity with his compatriots 10 years ago in their efforts to emigrate to the West before the fall of the Berlin Wall. "It's time to repay solidarity with solidarity," he said. Schroeder also distanced himself from attempts by German opposition parties to pass a parliamentary resolution calling on the Czech Republic to cancel the Benes decrees, under which Sudeten Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II. VG CZECHS NOT WORRIED ABOUT SALE OF TANKS TO YEMEN. Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman has confirmed that the Czech Republic will sell 97 of its T-55 tanks to Yemen, despite concerns that Yemen may re-export the tanks to a third country, "Lidove noviny" and "Yemen News" reported on 1 October. Petr Necas, chairman of the parliamentary Defense and Security Committee, raised concerns on 30 September that Yemen might be planning to re-sell the tanks to Sudan. The UN has imposed a trade embargo on Sudan, which is suspected of engaging in terrorist activities. Earlier, Poland had signed a deal to sell T-55 tanks to Yemen but canceled the agreement when 20 of the tanks appeared in Sudan. VG PARLIAMENT COMMISSION CRITICIZES CZECH TELEVISION. The parliamentary media commission on 30 September accused state- owned Czech Television of failing to carry out its duties in connection with its decision to re-broadcast a communist-era television series, Czech media reported. Czech Television argued that it has been broadcasting the series, along with documentaries and discussions about each episode, as a means of "opening up a discussion on the past." The chairmam of the commission had earlier called on the Czech Television board to resign for allowing the series to be broadcast. VG SLOVAK PARLIAMENT DISMISSES SLOTA FROM KEY POST. The Slovak parliament on 30 September voted 82 to two with one abstention to remove Jan Slota from his post as chairman of the legislative oversight committee for the Slovak Intelligence Service, TKE reported. Slota is currently seeking to hold on to the chairmanship of the extremist Slovak National Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 1999). Christian Democratic Movement deputy chairwoman Anna Zaborska--who recently returned from a trip to the U.S.--said U.S. officials "saw an inconsistency" between Slovakia's stated commitment to democratic principles and the fact that it took the parliament so long to remove Slota from the key post. VG HUNGARY PRAISES SLOVAKIA'S IMPROVED MINORITIES' POLICIES. The Hungarian-Slovak Committee on Minorities met on 30 September in Bratislava, according to an MTI report cited by the BBC. The Hungarian delegation, led by Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth, praised steps taken by the current Slovak cabinet to remedy the violations of minority rights committed by the previous government. However, the delegation also expressed regret that the current law on the use of minority languages in Slovakia was framed in a way that is not acceptable to the country's Hungarian minority. The Slovak delegation argued that the law is both acceptable to European institutions and in accordance with the Slovak Constitution. VG SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN RIOT POLICE BEAT DEMONSTRATORS AGAIN... Serbian riot police charged at and beat back a crowd of some 40,000 protesters as they attempted to march to the main Yugoslav government building in Belgrade, the independent B2-92 Radio reported. At least 10 people were reported injured in the incident, which took place as marchers attempted to cross a bridge into Novy Belgrade. Police said 21 people were arrested, and they warned the organizers of the demonstrations, which have entered their ninth consecutive day, to stop disturbing "public peace and order." Zoran Djindjic, a leader of the Alliance for Change (SZP), said protestors will continue to rally and will attempt again to march to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's home in the Dedinje district. Rallies attended by some 10,000 people were also reported in Nis and Novy Sad. PB ...AS POLICE ACTIONS ARE CONDEMNED. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said in Madrid on 30 September that the Yugoslav government will not solve discontent among Serbs by "dealing violently with people demonstrating peacefully," Reuters reported. Solana said he would like to see opposition forces in Serbia "more united." Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic, who has refused to join in the opposition protests, said "Milosevic is ready for bloodshed...the lives of people mean nothing to him." Draskovic repeated his desire for early elections so that Milosevic can be replaced via the ballot box. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it is concerned by the clashes, and it urged dialogue between the opposition and the government. U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said the police actions in Belgrade are "contemptible," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Berger added that the use of force by Milosevic shows his regime's desperation. The U.S. based humanitarian organization Human Rights Watch condemned the "unnecessary and excessive use of force by Serbian police." PB SERBIAN DAILY SHUT DOWN. Police sealed off the offices of the independent daily "Glas Javnosti" on 30 September and slapped a 15-day ban on the publication of the newspaper, the AP reported. Police said the shutdown was due to "financial irregularities," while editor Vjekoslav Radovic said it was because the daily had printed leaflets distributed at opposition rallies. On 1 October, police also surrounded the offices of the Alliance for Change, reportedly to detain Ceda Jovanovic, the publisher of the leaflet "Promene" (Changes). Jovanovic told Reuters by telephone that he and several others had barricaded themselves in the office. He said the attempt to arrest him was "expected." PB SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS MEET TO DISCUSS EARLY ELECTIONS. The leaders of 17 Serbian opposition groups held a round- table meeting on 30 September to discuss their participation in early elections, Reuters reported. The meeting was organized by the Democratic Center. Miladin Kovacevic, an official from the Serbian Renewal Movement, said the meeting was constructive and was just the first in a series of discussions among the opposition on its strategy and tactics for calling early elections. In Paris, the dissident Serbian economists' Group 17 held talks with French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine on a plan to distribute oil to parts of Serbia governed by opposition parties. Vedrine said he backed the group's "energy for democracy" plan. PB KFOR COMMANDER CONCERNED ABOUT SECURITY IN KOSOVA. Lieutenant-General Michael Jackson, the head of NATO forces in Kosova (KFOR), said in Tirana on 30 September that he is not satisfied with the level of security in the Serbian province of Kosova, AP reported. Jackson added, however, that his troops are determined to break the "cycle of violence" in the province based on "ethnic hatred." Jackson met with Deputy Premier Ilir Meta and Defense Minister Luan Hajdaraga during his trip. Discussions centered on the situation in Kosova as well as the NATO troops in Albania (AFOR-2). There are some 2,000 troops in AFOR-2 operating under KFOR command. They maintain communications between the port city of Durres and the Kosova border. Jackson said those troops will likely remain in place as long as KFOR is in Kosova. PB ETHNIC ALBANIAN PATIENTS, STAFF REMOVED FROM HOSPITAL IN KOSOVA. KFOR troops have removed the remaining nine ethnic Albanian patients and 10 Albanian nurses and doctors from the main hospital in the divided town of Mitrovice, AP reported on 30 September. The hospital is in the northern part of the town, dominated by Serbs, while the southern part of the town is controlled by ethnic Albanians. French KFOR troops keep the two sides separated. Ethnic Albanians needing medical treatment will now be taken to Prishtina. PB BERISHA WARNS OF ALBANIAN FEDERATION... Former Albanian President Sali Berisha said on 30 September that Albanians throughout the Balkans may unite if "anti-Albanian racism" continues in other countries where Albanians are in the minority, Reuters reported. Speaking at a convention of the opposition Democratic Party, which he heads, Berisha said "we are not seeking to change borders" but one could not exclude the possibility of Albanians forming a "federation of free Albanians in the Balkans as a fundamental condition of survival." He added that UN governance in Kosova is only a "first step toward independence." PB ...AS HIS PARTY PURGES MODERATES. Three members of the Democratic Party's steering committee considered to be more moderate than party leader Berisha were expelled from the party on 30 September, AP reported. Ylli Vejsiu, who was often critical of Berisha for his autocratic ways, was dismissed along with two other committee members. The expulsions come one day after party official Genc Pollo's decision not to challenge Berisha for the chairmanship of the party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 1999), accusing Berisha of manipulating the nomination process. Local media also report that Pollo and his family had received death threats. PB U.S. BACKS ALBANIAN BID FOR WTO. The U.S. said on 30 September that it has agreed to support Albania's bid to join the World Trade Organization, AFP reported. In a bilateral agreement signed in Washington, Albania will reduce tariffs and other trade barriers in the agriculture, banking, insurance, and telecommunications sectors, among others. U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky said the agreement will benefit Albania by increasing its commercial ties with the U.S. and other WTO members. PB SLOVENE PRESIDENT PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR ALBANIA. Milan Kucan said in a meeting with his Albanian counterpart, Rexhep Meidani, in Ljubljana that Slovenia strongly supports the democratic process in Albania, ATA reported on 30 September. Kucan also said his government will work with Albanian officials to help them towards the country's goal of joining NATO and the EU. Meidani, on a two-day visit to Slovenia, said relations between the two countries were good but that increased trade and a more liberalized visa regime should be worked on. Meidani also met with Foreign Minister Boris Frlec and parliament speaker Janez Podobnik as well as attending a business conference. PB HUNGARIAN CONSUL BUILDING IN ROMANIA FINED FOR FLYING FLAG. The Mayor's Office in the city of Cluj-Napoca has slapped an 80,000 lei ($5) fine on the owner of a building inhabited by the Hungarian consulate-general for flying the Hungarian flag, according to a 29 September Hungarian TV2 report cited by the BBC. Mayor Gheorghe Funar said the building's owner would be fined again if the flag is not removed. VG INCREASE IN ATTACKS ON ROMANIAN JOURNALISTS. The Agency for Media Monitoring has noted a "sharp increase" in recent months in the number of attacks on Romanian journalists investigating corruption cases, AP reported on 30 September. The agency reported that three journalists who were writing stories on illicit business deals were attacked this month. Two of the journalists were pushed and shoved by a group of construction workers, while the third was thrown from a moving train. VG ROMANIAN MINORITY DEPUTIES WANT MORE REPRESENTATION. Representatives of minorities in Romania's parliament are planning to push for changes to the electoral law that would give those minorities greater representation in local and national legislatures, according to a 30 September Mediafax report cited by the BBC. VG U.S. PLEDGES TO CONTINUE SUPPORT FOR MOLDOVA. U.S. Undersecretary of State Strobe Talbott on 29 September told visiting Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicolae Tabacaru that the U.S. will continue to support Moldova's independence and integrity "especially in the context of the present situation in Southeastern Europe," Basa-Press reported. Both officials agreed that Moldova and Russia should quickly finalize plans for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Transdniester. VG BALKAN FINANCE MINISTERS CONCERNED ABOUT STABILITY PACT. The finance ministers of Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania voiced their concerns about the delay in implementing the Balkan Stability Pact, BTA reported on 30 September. Bulgarian Finance Minister Murayev Radev said the speed at which the Stability Pact is developing is "not satisfactory." The three ministers, who were meeting in Washington, D.C., agreed to approve a final report on their countries' infrastructure needs at a November meeting in Sofia. Radev said they will also invite finance ministers from Romania, Bosnia- Herzegovina, and Croatia to attend the meeting. VG 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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