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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 200, Part II, 13 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 200, Part II, 13 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 * UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ASKS U.S. CONGRESS TO HELP FIGHT CORRUPTION * BOSNIAN SERB PREMIER: KARADZIC MUST GO TO HAGUE * MONTENEGRIN PARTY AGREES TO TALKS WITH SERBIA End Note: A TEMPORARY REPRIEVE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE FATE OF POLITICAL DIALOGUE IN BELARUS STILL UNCERTAIN. The wing of the Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) that supports BNF Acting Chairman Lyavon Barshcheuski has ceased to be a full- fledged participant in the opposition group preparing the OSCE-mediated talks with the regime, Belapan reported on 12 October. Barshcheuski said the BNF will remain in the group only as an observer. He linked that decision to the authorities' recent crackdown on the independent press and NGOs in Belarus. According to Belapan, the opposition United Civic Party will issue a statement on "the impossibility of a negotiation process" in the current situation. Meanwhile, presidential aide Mikhail Sazonau told Belarusian Television on 12 October that the authorities are ready to start talks with the opposition "even today." However, Sazonau did not reveal whether the government will release political prisoners and grant the opposition access to the state- controlled media, as oppositionists have demanded. JM UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ASKS U.S. CONGRESS TO HELP FIGHT CORRUPTION. The Supreme Council on 12 October asked the U.S. Congress to hand over former Ukrainian Premier Pavlo Lazarenko's court testimony in connection with his appeal for political asylum in the U.S. Ukrainian lawmakers want to know whether President Leonid Kuchma, his family, and top Ukrainian officials have any bank accounts or real estate in the U.S. The parliament adopted the request following Lazarenko's recent pledge to "cooperate with the [Ukrainian] parliament and justice," UNIAN reported. It added that it hopes the U.S. Congress will "take a positive decision given the pressing need to fight international corruption and organized crime." JM UKRAINIAN CABINET CUTS SOCIAL DEBTS BY 5 PERCENT. Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov reported to the parliament on 12 October that the cabinet, which came to power in July 1997, has managed to reduce total arrears in wages, pensions, student grants, and other welfare payments from 2.675 billion hryvni ($594 million) to 2.541 billion hryvni, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. Mityukov noted that all previous cabinets had gradually increased the social debt. JM UKRAINE'S SYMONENKO SAYS HE WILL NOT WITHDRAW HIS CANDIDACY. Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko, who is one of the leading presidential candidates, has said he will not resign from the presidential race, AP reported on 12 October. Symonenko said he had been invited to join the so-called "Kaniv four" election alliance of Yevhen Marchuk, Oleksandr Moroz, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Oleksandr Tkachenko on condition that he does not run in the 31 October elections. According to Symonenko, he could not join a group that include an "anti-Communist" Oliynyk and Marchuk, "who is supported by many nationalist organizations." JM PARLIAMENT APPROVES COURSES IN ESTONIAN LANGUAGE AT ALL GRADE SCHOOLS. Lawmakers on 12 October approved a measure requiring that Estonian language be taught in all schools beginning with the first grade. BNS reported that many Russian-language schools already teach Estonian to young students, generally at the initiative of the parents or teachers. The amendment to the education law is effective as of September 2000. MH LATVIAN REFERENDUM DATE SET FOR 13 NOVEMBER. The Latvian Central Electoral Commission on 12 October announced that the referendum on amendments to the pension law will be held on 13 November. The commission also drew up the question to be asked in the referendum: namely, whether the voter supports revoking the amendments passed this summer, "Neatkariga Rita Avize" reported. The commission requested 822,750 lats ($1.4 million) to stage the referendum. The government-sponsored amendments, passed by a large margin in August, would raise the retirement age and restrict payments to working pensioners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1999). MH LITHUANIA ANNOUNCES GDP SLUMP IN SECOND QUARTER. The Lithuanian Statistics Office on 12 October announced that GDP in the second quarter of 1999 dropped by 4 percent. This follows a 5.8 percent decrease in the first quarter. The results for the second quarter were delayed by several weeks owing to late data, news agencies reported. Earlier, the Central Bank had predicted a second quarter drop of 3 percent. Latvia registered a 1.8 percent drop in GDP in the second quarter and Estonia reported a 2.4 percent fall (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 1999). MH POLISH MINERS PROTEST RESTRUCTURING PROGRAM. Some 300 miners staged a mock funeral of Polish coal mines outside the government office in Warsaw on 12 October. They were protesting the government's program to restructure the coal mining industry and demanded additional funds to help laid- off miners, PAP reported. A restructuring plan that took effect last year calls for the reduction of coal production to 110 million tons by 2002 from 137 million tons in 1998. It also cuts coal mining jobs by 40 percent, to some 138,000. Since the beginning of 1998, the government has spent more than 1.7 billion zlotys ($443 million) on payments to 34,500 miners who have left their jobs or are undergoing retraining. JM POLISH GOVERNMENT MOVES TO COMBAT MONEY LAUNDERING. Jerzy Buzek's cabinet has adopted a bill on combating financial crimes, particularly money laundering, "Zycie" reported on 13 October. If the bill is approved by the parliament, each "suspicious" or "big" transaction (that is, exceeding $10,000) will have to be registered with the office of a proposed inspector-general of Financial Information. In addition, the police will have the right to check private bank accounts. "This bill will fill a fundamental gap in our legislation. Its adoption will also mean [Poland's] compliance with EU requirements," a Finance Ministry official told the daily. JM CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER SKEPTICAL ABOUT EARLY ELECTIONS, GRAND COALITION. Civic Democratic Party (ODS) leader Vaclav Klaus told Czech Radio on 12 October that he does not believe a "grand coalition" of the ODS and the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD) is "possible right now." Early elections, he said, would obstruct the work of the parliament and the cabinet for one year and would thus mean that the Czech Republic would "miss the chance" to join the first group of new EU members. Klaus refused to tell CTK what proposals the ODS will submit at its meeting with the CSSD leadership, which is likely to take place on 13 October. MS CZECH PREMIER PULLING COMMUNIST RABBIT OUT OF HAT? "Premier Milos Zeman has reacted to ODS's actions by taking concrete steps. He has invited me to talks tomorrow, late afternoon. Maybe we can call it a working supper," Miroslav Grebenicek, leader of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, said on Czech Television on 12 October, CTK reported. MS CZECH ROMANY LEADER RECEIVES DEATH THREATS. A woman telephoned the mother of Romany leader Ondrej Gina and threatened to kill Gina's entire family, CTK reported on 12 October. Gina told the news agency that the threats will not make him change his stance "on the existence of apartheid in the Czech Republic." Ladislav Hruska, the mayor of Usti nad Labem, where a wall is to be constructed separating Czech and Romany residents, said he received five death threats by telephone last week. He added that he believes the threats came from opponents of the wall. At the same time, he noted that calls from people around the country volunteering to help the town far exceed the number of threats. MS SLOVAK PRESIDENT APPEALS TO EU. In an interview with Reuters on 12 October, Rudolf Schuster appealed to the EU to re-admit Slovakia into the "fast track" group from which it was dropped in 1997 because of the undemocratic policies of its previous government. "We got the yellow card," Schuster said, but that card was not shown "to me or to the people, but to the former government." He said it would be "a strong help for the opposition" if Slovakia were not re-admitted because former Premier Vladimir Meciar would be in the position to tell the government "you promised so many things...and are in the same position as myself." Schuster said that he is not expecting early elections but that the people must begin to see positive results of reforms in order to prevent a backlash in Meciar's favor. MS SLOVAK PARLIAMENTARY DEUPUTIES ENLARGE NAZI COMPENSATION ELIGIBILITY. The parliament's Committee on Human Rights has met demands by the Association of Jewish Religious Communities and the Union of Anti-Fascist Fighters. On 12 October, it amended the government-sponsored compensation bill to include persons held in prisoner-of-war camps and those persecuted because of their race or religion, SITA reported. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN SERB PREMIER: KARADZIC MUST GO TO HAGUE... Moderate caretaker Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said that former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and other indicted war criminals must go to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal "whether they like it or not." Dodik stressed that a few individuals must not be allowed to spoil the Republika Srpska's chances of receiving international aid, investments, and support, the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" reported on 13 October. He added that it is necessary to bring to justice people who killed others simply because the victims were of a different ethnic group. Dodik argued that such killers could easily murder persons of their own nationality as well. Observers note that this is the sharpest public statement yet by a moderate Bosnian Serb leader against indicted war criminals. Dodik does not appear to have mentioned General Ratko Mladic, however. Mladic is one of the tribunal's most wanted war criminals but enjoys considerable popularity among Serbs as a defender of his people. PM ...AS SHOULD MILOSEVIC. Dodik added that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj should go to The Hague, "Vesti" reported on 13 October. The Bosnian Serb leader suggested that this would be the best way for the two men "to prolong their biological lives." Dodik was presumably alluding to the political killings that are no rarity in modern-day Serbia. He added that he supports calls by representatives of the international community for a ban on the Bosnian branch of Seselj's Serbian Radical Party. PM BOSNIAN SERB LEADER DEFENDS TALKS WITH MILOSEVIC. Zivko Radisic, who is the Serbian representative on the Bosnian joint presidency, said that his recent talks in Belgrade with Milosevic were in the interests of the Bosnian Serbs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999). He added that he will speak with anyone "if it is in the interests of the Serbian people and the Republika Srpska," "Vesti" reported on 12 October. He chided his critics--although he did not name them, he meant Dodik and his government--for reacting "nervously" to his Belgrade meeting. Radisic said they should instead think about how they could better promote relations between Yugoslavia and the Republika Srpska. PM MONTENEGRIN PARTY AGREES TO TALKS WITH SERBIA. Miodrag Vukovic, who is a top official of Montenegro's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), said in Podgorica on 13 October that his party has accepted an offer by Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) to discuss the future of relations between the two republics (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 October 1999). Vukovic made it clear that the DPS will stick to the positions that the Montenegrin government set down in August in its statement on links with Serbia. He added that "Serbia must [become] a civic, open, and democratic state. Serbia's [policies have] made it the most isolated country in the world," Reuters reported. PM EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT INVITES SERBIAN OPPOSITION. Nicole Fontaine, who is president of the European Parliament, said in Brussels on 12 October that she regrets that many leaders of the Serbian opposition did not attend recent talks with EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999). She said that she plans to invite the opposition leaders to discuss prospects for democracy in Serbia with her and her colleagues. Bernard Kouchner, who heads the UN mission in Kosova, said that unnamed outside parties must have a "right to intervene" in potential conflict situations before bloodshed begins, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. PM OBRADOVIC CHIDES FELLOW POLITICIANS. The Social Democrats' leader Vuk Obradovic, who attended the Luxembourg meeting, said in Belgrade on 12 October that those opposition leaders who boycotted the session made a mistake. He denied that the EU would have insisted that they sign a declaration calling for Milosevic's extradition to The Hague, AP reported. Instead, Obradovic continued, the opposition missed a valuable opportunity to make progress in matters such as persuading the EU to lift its oil embargo against Serbia. PM SERBIAN OPPOSITION APPEALS TO EU. Representatives of the parties that did not go to Luxembourg signed a five-point declaration addressed to the EU, "Vesti" reported on 13 October. The parties called for holding elections in Serbia within three months under reformed election laws. The opposition leaders stressed the dismal state of the Serbian economy and appealed for the EU to press for the admission of Yugoslavia to the Balkan Stability Pact. The opposition representatives added that following the replacement of the current regime, the EU should make a gift of $1 billion to Serbia to help it deal with unspecified urgent problems. PM DATA MISSING IN DRASKOVIC ACCIDENT? A spokesman for Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement said in Belgrade on 12 October that key data is missing regarding the owner of the truck that caused the recent traffic accident involving Draskovic. The spokesman charged that the data "has been erased" from a police computer, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 October 1999). PM NATO COMMANDER: NO DECISION ON KFOR FUTURE BEFORE SPRING. Italian Admiral Guido Venturoni, who heads NATO's military committee, said in Copenhagen on 12 October that it would be "premature" to speculate about any reduction in the size of KFOR for at least "another five or six months." Current policy calls for keeping KFOR at a strength of 43,000. PM EXPERTS DISCOVER MASS GRAVE AT RAHOVEC. German forensics experts have found a mass grave near Rahovec that may be one of the oldest ones from the recent conflict, AP reported. Peter Koehler, who heads the team, said that the grave may contain up to 90 bodies and date from the July 1998 Serbian attack on the mainly ethnic Albanian town (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1998). PM CROATIA WANTS MONTENEGRO PRESENT AT PREVLAKA TALKS. The Croatian government wrote to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 12 October that talks between Belgrade and Zagreb on the future of the Prevlaka peninsula have not resumed because Serbia continues to "make unacceptable territorial demands" on Croatia. The government added that it does not consider any talks with Belgrade to be "legitimate" without the participation of Montenegrin delegates. This is the first time that Croatia has formally raised the issue of Montenegrin participation in the negotiations over the UN- controlled peninsula, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Prevlaka is Croatian territory but offers the only access to the Montenegrin port of Kotor, which is Yugoslavia's only deep-water naval base. PM SLOVENIA CONCERNED ABOUT HAIDER. Deputy Foreign Minister Franko Juri said in Ljubljana on 12 October that recent statements by Austrian right-wing leader Joerg Haider regarding Slovenia and Slovenian-Austrian relations amount to "blackmail." Haider has called on Slovenia to close its Krsko nuclear plant, return property confiscated after World War II to German-speakers, and improve the status of the tiny German-speaking minority. Earlier, President Milan Kucan said that the success of Haider's Freedom Party in the 3 October elections bodes ill for Slovenian-Austrian relations. PM ALBANIA APPEALS TO MACEDONIA OVER BORDER ISSUES. The Foreign Ministry handed over a statement to the Macedonian ambassador on 12 October calling on the authorities to prevent further fatal incidents along their border. The statement said that Macedonian border guards killed three Albanian shepherds over four months without giving the men a chance to explain why they had strayed over the frontier. Tirana also urged Skopje to liberalize visa requirements, open another border crossing, and allow seasonal agricultural workers to work in Macedonia. PM ROMANIANS SCANDALIZED BY DE-MYTHICIZED HISTORY TEXTBOOK. The Education Commissions of the two chambers of the parliament are meeting on 13 October to discuss demands for the withdrawal of a history textbook that the Ministry of Education has approved for the 12th grade. The Romanian Academy has protested against the use of the textbook, as has the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania, the Greater Romania Party, and the Party of Romanian National Unity. The editor in chief of the daily "Adevarul" claims that the textbook is the result of Hungarian machinations undertaken in league with the U.S.-sponsored Project on Ethnic Relations. The textbook (whose use is optional) questions some of the major Romanian historical myths (the Dacian-Roman origins of the Romanian nation as well as the roles of Vlad the Impaler, Michael the Brave, and others) that were propagated under the Ceausescu regime to promote nationalism. MS MOLDOVAN PREMIER REVIEWS ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE. Prime Minister Ion Sturza on 12 October said on national television that the decline in GDP this year will "not exceed 2-3 percent in real terms" compared with 1998. Sturza said that for the first time since Moldova became independent, budget revenues in January-September have exceeded planned revenues and were 36 percent higher than in 1998. He said Moldova's hard-currency reserves amount to $230 million, "which is sufficient to cover strategic imports for four-and-a-half months." Sturza said that the government has paid outstanding foreign debt totaling $235 million and that accumulated debt since January 1999 stands at only $35 million, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. In response to a question by Infotag, Sturza said he expects inflation over the next 12 months not to exceed 15 percent. MS BULGARIA BREAKS MONEY-LAUNDERING RING. Finance Minister Muravei Radev on 12 October signed orders terminating the activities of several companies involved in a money- laundering ring uncovered last week, BTA reported. On 8 October, Bulgarian officials said they had smashed a money- laundering ring that had siphoned more then $30 million through nine local banks over six months, Reuters reported. The Interior Ministry said that the money-laundering ring operated through ghost firms set up without proper registration and performing faked import operations. Nineteen people were arrested, five of whom have been charged with illegal money transfer. If convicted, they face sentences of between one and 10 years in prison. Radev said on 12 October that more arrests can be expected. MS BULGARIAN OIL REFINERY SOLD TO LUKOIL. The government on 11 October approved the sale of a 58 percent stake in Neftochim, Bulgaria's largest oil refinery, to the Russian LUKoil concern, BTA reported. The state will keep a "golden share" in Neftochim, which will give it veto power on decisions on suspending or substantially decreasing oil processing or fuel production, on granting access to the company's port facilities or pipelines, and on consolidations, mergers, or the liquidation of the company. LUKoil will pay $101 million for the stake and invest $408 million between 2000 and 2005. It will also take over Neftochim's $30.5 million debt to the state budget and its $3.6 million debt to the national insurance fund. MS END NOTE A TEMPORARY REPRIEVE by Jan Maksymiuk After several weeks of discussions, leaders of the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW) agreed on 10 October on a new cabinet lineup and coalition rules. There was no major shakeup of Jerzy Buzek's cabinet, as some Polish political commentators had predicted. Those commentators had argued that the current government needs a radical reshuffle to reverse the dramatic decline in its popularity. The November 1997 marriage of the liberal UW with the AWS, which brings together right-wing pro-Catholic parties advocating socially oriented policies, was a difficult one from the outset. Recent talks between the coalition partners had two major goals. First, the coalition policy of appointments required clarification: the UW had repeatedly complained that the AWS--a group with much stronger parliamentary support--gives key cabinet posts to party loyalists rather than to competent professionals. Second, the two sides sought agreement on a cabinet reshuffle that would breathe new life into that body and increase the public's confidence in it. The authors of the 10 October compromise agreement seem rather uncertain about the outcome of their negotiations. Premier Jerzy Buzek of the AWS said "the most important problems have been solved" but admitted that he is worried by the "lack of cohesion of the government." Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz of the UW commented that his party had the choice of leaving the coalition, which would mean the destabilization of the situation in the country, or continuing cooperation with the AWS and at the same time remaining uncertain if the coalition partner will observe the signed agreement. "We opted for uncertainty," Balcerowicz said. Some UW activists were less reserved in assessing the compromise agreement. "The mountain gave birth to a mouse," Donald Tusk commented. And UW spokesman Andrzej Potocki said the compromise on continuing the current coalition is "slightly rotten." The coalition agreed to sack Environmental Minister Jan Szyszko and Deputy Economy Minister Jan Szlazak, both from the AWS. The UW will not lose any of its ministers although the AWS pressed for the ouster of Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz and Justice Minister Hanna Suchocka. During the past several weeks, Interior Minister Janusz Tomaszewski (AWS) and Stanislaw Alot, head of the Social Security Agency, have also been dismissed: this means there have been only four major changes in the government since the coalition started to discuss the "restructuring" of Buzek's cabinet. Moreover, there have been no structural changes. The UW blocked the AWS proposals to create a ministry for regional development and housing and to merge the European Integration Committee with the Foreign Ministry. The coalition partners also agreed that their parliamentary deputies will back legislation proposed by the government (a rule often broken by AWS lawmakers) and that their ministries will not publicly criticize government policies. These provisions are a strong indication of the problems within the uneasy alliance of the UW and the AWS, which won the 1997 elections on a ticket promising considerable relief from the market-oriented reforms implemented earlier in Poland. However, the task of regaining the popularity that both the AWS and the UW enjoyed in 1997 would apparently involve more than simply reshaping the cabinet. September polls showed that almost 70 percent of respondents believe that Poland has taken a "wrong turn," while Buzek's cabinet has only 16 percent support. More than 30 percent said they favor early parliamentary elections. Most commentators believe that the plunge in the popularity of the AWS-UW cabinet is the direct result of its bungled performance in implementing the four major reforms-- of administration, health care, pensions, and education-- aimed at facilitating Poland's accession to the EU by 2003. That viewpoint may be correct, but in the long run Poles have more significant reasons for complaining. Foreign observers frequently forget the huge social costs Poles have had to pay for their country's widely acclaimed role as initiator and champion of market-oriented reforms in East and Central Europe. According to the 9 October "Polityka," 5.5 million Poles live in poverty (2 million of them in "extreme poverty"). Some 12.5 million people in Poland live in "subjective poverty" (they believe that their pride is damaged by their living standards), and some 16.5 million people live below or at Poland's subsistence minimum. Unemployment is another major problem: more than 2 million Poles have no jobs (12 percent of the country's workforce). Some 70 percent of them have already ceased to obtain unemployment benefits (which total up to 384 zlotys [$95] a month). And 62 percent of Poles have completed only an eight-grade school, making it extremely different for them to find new jobs under Poland's changed economic circumstances. These figures are alarming, and it is no wonder that the opposition Democratic Left Alliance and the Peasant Party are now pushing for early parliamentary elections, hoping to capitalize on the AWS-UW's current unpopularity and the public's growing disappointment with the economic situation. Radical farmers' leader Andrzej Lepper calls for a change of not only the government but the entire economic system and is threatening a "general blockade of the country" in November unless the parliament is dissolved and new elections held. Thus, it appears that the real test for Jerzy Buzek's cabinet (not to mention Poland's drive for EU membership) has not yet begun. 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. 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