|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 199, Part II, 12 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 199, Part II, 12 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 PRESIDENT SAYS WEAK UNION TREATY BETTER THAN NOTHING * ALBANIA'S MAJKO TO REMAIN PRIME MINISTER * UN ADMINISTRATOR KILLED IN PRISHTINA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS WEAK UNION TREATY BETTER THAN NOTHING. Alyaksandr Lukashenka stressed on 11 October that the Belarus-Russia union treaty draft published in the press of both countries last week does not introduce anything that differs in essence from the 1997 Belarusian-Russian union treaty, Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka complained that the new document does not provide for a single union currency or a single money-issuing center. He added that while Belarus and Russia have agreed on the document, the draft is a "Russian version." Lukashenka argued, however, that the integration process must not be stopped and that the treaty must therefore be adopted even in its imperfect form. JM UKRAINIAN ELECTION ALLIANCE POSTPONES NAMING SINGLE CANDIDATE. The so-called "Kaniv four" alliance of Yevhen Marchuk, Oleksandr Moroz, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Oleksandr Tkachenko has postponed naming a single candidate to compete against incumbent President Leonid Kuchma in the 31 October presidential elections. Interfax on 11 October quoted Moroz as saying that the name of a single candidate will be made known on 13 or 14 October. Meanwhile, AP reported on 11 October that the postponement is intended to better ensure the safety of the single candidate. "We have information that attacks are being planned against our joint candidate," Oliynyk told the news agency, but he did not elaborate. Kuchma commented that he has "long said that the behavior of those four recalls an agony.... They have nothing to say about themselves, so they pour dirt [on the president]," according to AP. JM UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS OPPONENTS OF IMF LOANS. Kuchma said on 11 October that breaking or limiting relations with the IMF--as proposed by presidential candidates Natalya Vitrenko and Petro Symonenko--would spell "catastrophe" for Ukraine, Reuters reported. According to Kuchma, there are no credits cheaper or longer-term than those offered by the IMF and the World Bank. He added that Ukraine has to pay $3 billion in 2000 to service its international debts. JM KYIV MAYOR ALLOWS SALE OF LAND. Oleksandr Omelchenko recently decided to put municipal land in the Ukrainian capital on sale, AP reported on 11 October. The sale of land for non- agricultural purposes-which is opposed by Ukraine's leftist parliament--was made possible through a January presidential decree. According to the 11 October "Kievskie vedomosti," one hectare of land in Kyiv can be sold for 200,000-500,000 hryvni ($44,400-$111,000), compared with the average price of 100,000 hryvni elsewhere in Ukraine. JM FOREIGN MINISTERS OF EU 'FAST-TRACK' CANDIDATES MEET IN TALLINN. Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves on 11 October hosted his counterparts from Slovenia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary along with the chief EU negotiator for Cyprus. This was the first meeting at ministerial level of the countries that are included in the fast-track negotiations for EU membership. Among the issues discussed was an agreement calling on the EU to establish a timetable for concluding the accession negotiations. Ilves said those talks should end "in 2000 and no later than 2001." The Czech Republic's Jan Kavan said that the "group of six" supports beginning accession negotiations with all other aspiring countries, but he stressed that ongoing negotiations with the six should be accelerated. MH ESTONIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS WTO LAW. Lennart Meri on 11 October signed into law the ratification of the World Trade Organization accession protocol. While the parliament had passed the protocol last month by a vote of 48 to seven, Legal Chancellor Eerik-Juhan Truuvali suggested the ballot was not legal: as membership places a financial burden upon Estonia, Truuvali argued, majority support among the 101 parliamentary members is required (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1999). However, the government ruled that the vote was indeed valid, according to ETA. Estonia will become a member of the WTO 30 days after the organization's Secretariat is informed of ratification. MH OPPOSITION LOSES NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION AGAINST ESTONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER. The opposition Center Party on 11 October initiated a no-confidence motion against Interior Minister Juri Mois that failed by a vote of 32 to 45. The embattled minister has been fending off widespread criticism since he introduced a plan to cut the number of police officers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1999), which was supported by Prime Minister Mart Laar and the three-party ruling coalition. Some observers believe that the confidence vote is related to the local elections, as the head of the Center Party, Edgar Savisaar, is the incumbent Tallinn City Council chairman and the popular Mois is tipped as the mayoral candidate of the ruling Pro Patria Union. MH LATVIAN REFERENDUM PETITION DRIVE SUCCEEDS. The Latvian Central Election Commission announced on 11 October that the petition drive to hold a referendum on the controversial changes to the pensions law has succeeded (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1999). The commission said it received 184,383 signatures, representing 13.7 percent of Latvia's voters. Ten percent of voters, or 134,195 individuals, must support a referendum petition for it to succeed. MH CRUDE SUPPLY TO LITHUANIA CUT AGAIN. Russia halted crude oil shipments to Lithuania on 9 October, "Lietuvos Rytas" and news agencies reported. It is the third time this year that crude supplies have been interrupted, and officials from the Mazeikai Oil refinery said they will have to shut down operations if crude supplies are not resumed by the end of the week. A Mazeikiai Oil spokesperson told APF that the company believes the Russian Fuel and Energy Ministry ordered the cessation of supplies. Last week, Russian oil giant LUKoil announced it is pulling out of Lithuania (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 11 October 1999). Lithuanian Economics Minister Eugenijus Maldeikis noted that "it is possible that this is LUKoil's reaction" to having failed to acquire its desired stake in Mazeikiai Oil. MH POLISH LEFTIST LEADER CRITICIZES ADMINISTRATION REFORM. Leszek Miller, leader of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), said on 11 October that the state administration reform introduced last year has not been completed. He added that the ruling coalition either does not want to continue decentralization or is unable to do it. He criticized the personnel surplus in central and provincial administration offices and interference of provincial governors in the work of local governments. And he said that as soon as the SLD has "more influence on the course of public affairs," it will complete the reform. Government spokesman Krzysztof Luft said Miller's charges are "absurd." He recalled that the SLD did not do anything for the country's decentralization from 1993- 1997 when it shared power with the Peasant Party. JM CZECH 'OPPOSITION AGREEMENT' TO MAKE WAY FOR LARGE COALITION? Nova television on 11 October reported that the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) envisages that the "opposition agreement" will be replaced by a government in which all parliamentary parties, except the Communists, are represented, CTK reported. ODS chairman Vaclav Klaus said on Prima television that "certain changes" must take place in the government before the ODS's December national conference. Zdenek Skromach, deputy chairman of the Social Democratic Party, said the ODS's demand stems from "an internal ODS struggle" ahead of the party's national conference. He pointed out that ODS deputy chairman Ivan Langer is aiming to replace Klaus as the head of the ODS. Langer told Frekvence 1 radio that he would like to replace Klaus sometime in the future. MS CZECH PREMIER SAYS 'PRESSURE FROM BRUSSELS' HELPS EU DRIVE... In an interview with the German weekly "Der Spiegel," Prime Minister Milos Zeman said "pressure from Brussels" can only expedite the Czech Republic's entry into the EU. Zeman said he believes the Czech Republic will join the EU by 2003. He noted that the country's balance of payments was the best this year over the last six years and that inflation has plummeted from 10 percent to 3 percent. At the same time, he admitted that "our biggest problem is unemployment," CTK reported on 11 October. Asked whether he feared that Sudeten Germans would resettle in the Czech Republic after that country's EU accession, Zeman replied that anyone from the EU will be "allowed to buy land here, it is only a question of the price." MS CZECH GOVERNMENT REIMPOSES VISA REQUIREMENTS ON NORTH KOREA. The government on 11 October reimposed visa requirements on citizens of North Korea, Cuba, and Cambodia, CTK reported. It also decided not to reintroduce "for now" such requirements on nationals of Russia, Belarus, and China because of the possible negative impact on trade with those countries. Zeman told journalists that the government intends to reimpose the requirement on Ukrainian nationals and will discuss the measure later this month. MS NEW CENTER PARTY FORMED IN SLOVAKIA. Former Slovak Ambassador to Prague Ivan Mjartan was elected chairman of the newly established Democratic Center Party (SDS) on 9 October, CTK and SITA reported. The SDS, which held its first congress in Bratislava, said it is a center party. Mjartan told the gathering that Slovakia needs to become a modern, liberal state and "xenophobic isolation, envy, and economic exploitation" are not conducive to this end. He said that establishing a democracy has not in itself solved the country's problems. So far, he continued, transition has relied on "tough neo-liberalism and market tools" and has lacked a concept for establishing a democracy. He said "political privatization" and "cronyism" has "split Slovakia into many regional interests" and led to breaching electoral promises. MS SLOVAK SKINHEADS ATTACK FOREIGN STUDENTS. Three skinheads attacked a group of foreign students in Bratislava on 10 October, CTK reported, citing Radio Twist. A Peruvian student was injured and had to be hospitalized. CTK said that the police not only failed to help but even stopped the car in which the student was being transported to the hospital, demanding driving licenses and passports. Since none of the students had documents on them, the police fined all the passengers in the car. Police President Jan Pipta said it is uncertain whether the attack was racially-motivated. "The fact that the offenders had shaved heads does not necessarily mean they were skinheads. Bodyguards of politicians also have shaved heads sometimes," SITA quoted him as saying on 11 October. MS HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS AMEND PARTY STATUTES. The Socialist Party's congress on 8 October abolished the party's executive deputy chairmanship and created the posts of first deputy chairman and party director. Analysts say the creation of the post of first deputy chairman could pave the way for the return of former Prime Minister Miklos Nemeth. The congress also voted to introduce a quota system whereby one-fifth of the members of the party's elected bodies must be under 35 and/or women. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIA'S MAJKO TO REMAIN PRIME MINISTER. Pandeli Majko said in Tirana on 11 October that his government will remain in office "until a change is appropriate...while respecting the [need to preserve the] stability of the country," Reuters reported. He added that he feels "hurt in his moral and political legitimacy" by his recent defeat by Fatos Nano in the contest for the Socialist Party leadership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 1999). Majko had previously threatened to resign the prime minister's post if he failed to gain the party chair. Nano, who pledged to nominate a woman for Majko's job if Majko quit, appealed to the government on 11 October "not to take any hasty decisions." He added that the government "is legitimate and has the backing of the Socialist Party." Elsewhere, opposition leader Sali Berisha said that Majko no longer enjoys the backing of his own party and should call early elections. PM UCK COMMANDER DENIES WAR CRIMES CHARGES. General Agim Ceku, who headed the general staff of the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), told Zagreb's "Jutarnji list" of 12 October that only Serbs committed war crimes on Croatian territory during the 1991-1995 war. He added that he will not comment on allegations that the Hague-based war crimes tribunal is investigating him for war crimes in 1993, when he was a Croatian army commander in the Medak area near Gospic. Ceku said, however, that he expects that the Croatian government will "react" to the charges, which appeared in the latest issue of London's "The Sunday Times." The general told the Croatian daily that he has no information to suggest that he might have been secretly indicted for war crimes. PM SERBIAN NGO CALLS FOR RELEASE OF KOSOVAR PRISONERS. The Humanitarian Law Center said in a statement on 10 October that Serbian authorities continue to hold 2,000 ethnic Albanian prisoners. These include 25 minors, 11 women, about 200 wounded, and some 50 people who are sick. The statement stressed that "their immediate release is above all required on humanitarian grounds and is not subject to political debate." Some of the wounded were injured in the NATO attack on the Dubrava prison in Kosova in May. Some former inmates of Dubrava charge that Serbian security forces killed about 100 and wounded some 200 ethnic Albanian prisoners following the air attack, the statement added. Observers note that the June agreement between Belgrade and NATO did not oblige the Serbian authorities to release or provide lists of prisoners. UN and Red Cross officials argue that this was a key omission in the agreement. PM UN ADMINISTRATOR KILLED IN PRISHTINA. The UN's Bernard Kouchner said in Paris on 12 October that the UN civilian administrator beaten and shot dead in Prishtina the previous day "was apparently an American of Bulgarian origin," Reuters reported. Kouchner suggested that Valentin Krumov, who had arrived in Kosova earlier that day, spoke Bulgarian in a restaurant and the local inhabitants mistook him for a Serb. In Prishtina, a UN police spokesman said that a crowd attacked and beat Krumov in Mother Theresa Street before killing him. It was the first killing of a civilian administrator in Kosova. AP quoted an unnamed Polish member of the UN police force as saying that he never speaks Polish in public in Prishtina because local Albanians are often unable to distinguish Serbo-Croatian from other Slavic languages and react with hostility to the sound of any Slavic language. PM NO MASS GRAVE IN KOSOVA MINE. A spokeswoman for the Hague- based war crimes tribunal said in Prishtina on 11 October that international forensic investigators have found no bones or bodies in the Trepca lead and zinc mine near Mitrovica. She stressed that "they found absolutely nothing..., not even animal bones." Reuters noted that rumors have been circulating in Kosova that Serbian forces dumped the bodies of as many as 700 Kosovars in the important mine. PM NEW IDEAS FOR RAHOVEC? NATO's General Wolfgang Sauer said in Rahovec on 11 October that there has been little progress in talks between local ethnic Albanians and Russian peacekeepers. KFOR has assigned the Russians to the town, but the Kosovars say that Russians are pro-Serb and hence unwelcome. Sauer added that a former UCK commander proposed that the Russians stay out of Rahovec for one year "while the citizens rebuild their lives." After that, the local people "might" agree to a Russian presence, the UCK official argued. Elsewhere, Rahovec's Mayor Agim Thaqi suggested that Russians might immediately begin patrolling outlying villages but not the town itself, AP reported. In Moscow, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan again charging that the UCK "and other armed groups of Kosovar Albanians" have not yet been demilitarized, Interfax reported. PM EU TO LAUNCH LIMITED FUEL PROGRAM FOR SERBIA. EU foreign ministers agreed in Luxembourg on 11 October to try to send fuel trucks to the opposition-controlled towns of Nis and Pirot. How the EU will do this without encountering the opposition of the Yugoslav government remains unclear, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. The ministers agreed to maintain a ban on civilian flights to and from Serbia. German and Finnish diplomats sought to lift the ban, arguing that it affects ordinary people more than the top regime officials. Germany's Joschka Fischer stressed that the EU's ban on visas for leading officials is its key means of pressuring the Belgrade elite. Most leading members of the Serbian opposition stayed away from the meeting because of their objections to the EU's proposed text of a joint declaration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 1999). Elsewhere, Kouchner said that he doubts that the opposition has the strength to overthrow Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Radio Svobodna Evropa reported. PM MILOSEVIC BLASTS OPPOSITION. In Belgrade on 11 October, Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic said that the EU's demand that the opposition pledge to extradite war criminals to The Hague was "irresponsible at such a critical moment in Serbia's history." In Leskovac, Milosevic nonetheless accused his opponents of being the West's "bootlickers." He appealed to citizens not to "be fooled by those who drag themselves along the streets of our towns in the evenings," by which he apparently referred to the opposition's protest marches. Milosevic charged that the opposition wants to launch a "civil war." PM MONTENEGRIN PRIME MINISTER 'DISAPPOINTED' BY OPPOSITION. Filip Vujanovic said in Luxembourg on 11 October that he was "disappointed" by the decision of most Serbian opposition leaders not to attend the conference. He called their decision a "wrong move," the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" reported. PM PETRITSCH TO INVESTIGATE BOSNIAN SERBS' VISIT TO MILOSEVIC. A spokeswoman for the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch said that his office will ask Zivko Radisic, who is the Serbian representative on the Bosnian joint presidency, to explain his recent visit to indicted war criminal Milosevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 1999), Sarajevo's "Dnevni avaz" reported on 12 October. Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik criticized the visit by Radisic and two other Bosnian Serb politicians, which has led to a strain in relations between Dodik and Radisic, the daily added. PM ROMANIAN COALITION IN DISARRAY. The Senate on 11 October voted to set up three investigation commissions to examine the management of budgetary funds, privatization, and reform. Two commissions will investigate the activities of the Ministry of Culture and the State Property Fund, while the third will examine how RomTelcom was privatized. The ministry and the fund are both headed by members of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD). The initiative to set up the commissions came from the Democratic Party, the PNTCD's minor coalition partner. In the vote on forming the new commissions, the opposition backed the Democrats, while the PNTCD and other coalition members opposed the initiative. The Democrats are also demanding that a special commission be set up to examine whether the Environment Ministry (also headed by a PNTCD member) is meeting conditions for EU membership, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF ROMANIA DEPLETED BY DESERTIONS. Deputies Romeo Trifu and Liviu Spataru from the Democratic Party announced on 11 October their resignation from the party, which is headed by Senate chairman Petre Roman, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Two weeks earlier, the Democrats were deserted by deputy George Serban and Senator Radu F. Alexandru. Trifu said he is leaving the party owing to the Democrats' "arrogance" in relations with coalition partners and with rank-and-file members of the party. Spataru said his decision was prompted by the party's having distanced itself from a social-democratic orientation and by the fact that Roman is "the prisoner" of a "group of Democratic Party ministers who are demolishing the party's structures." MS BULGARIAN PREMIER WARNS AGAINST EU 'ILLUSIONS.' Ivan Kostov on 9 October warned Bulgarians that they must not entertain "illusions" about being accepted into the EU without building a competitive economy and a modern infrastructure, AP reported, citing BTA. Addressing a public rally in Dimitrovgrad, Kostov said that "some people imagine Europe as a charity organization." BTA reported the previous day that British Premier Tony Blair has addressed a letter to Kostov saying Sofia's commitment to close down the controversial Kozloduy nuclear plant will improve its chances of EU integration. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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