|The only thing one knows about human nature is that it changes. - Oscar Wilde|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 203, Part II, 18 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 203, Part II, 18 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 OPPOSITION STAGES 'FREEDOM MARCH' * CZECH OPPOSITION WANTS EVERYONE BUT COMMUNISTS IN GOVERNMENT * YUGOSLAV PREMIER THREATENS MONTENEGRO WITH ARMY End Note: ALBANIA'S RIVAL PARTIES STICK WITH OLD LEADERS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION STAGES 'FREEDOM MARCH'... An estimated 10,000-15,000 people took part in a "freedom march" and rally organized by the Belarusian opposition in Minsk on 17 October. The rally was the largest anti-government demonstration in Belarus since spring 1996. Its participants urged President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to resign and demanded that the authorities cease pursuing a union with Russia, release political prisoners, and stop repression against the opposition. Demonstrators burned the text of the draft union treaty and then marched from the city outskirts, where the rally was authorized to take place, to the center. JM ...CLASHES WITH POLICE. On the way to the center, the crowd increased to some 20,000 people and was stopped by riot police 500 meters from the presidential administration building. Police used truncheons, tear gas, and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators, who responded by hurling stones and pavement tiles. According to unofficial reports, nearly 150 people were injured in the clashes, including some 50 policemen. The authorities announced on 18 October that 92 people, including Social Democratic Party leader Mikalay Statkevich, had been arrested. "The action by the Belarusian opposition was earlier planned and financed by the West," AP quoted presidential administration chief Mikhail Myasnikovich as saying. JM CHORNOBYL TO OPERATE UNTIL SUMMER 2000. A Ukrainian governmental commission on 15 October decided that the Chornobyl nuclear power plant may operate until summer 2000, UNIAN reported on 16 October. Officials pointed out that the plant's nuclear fuel reserves will last until that time. The plant's only operational reactor is currently under repairs and will be restarted in December. JM UKRAINE BECOMES NONPERMANENT MEMBER OF UN SECURITY COUNCIL. The UN on 14 October voted in favor of Ukraine's becoming a nonpermanent member of its Security Council in 2000-2001. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk commented the next day that the election is proof of Ukraine's "balanced" foreign policy linked with President Leonid Kuchma, Interfax reported. Ukraine competed for the place on the UN Security Council against Slovakia, which withdrew its candidacy during the voting. JM ESTONIA HOLDS LOCAL ELECTIONS... Turnout at the 17 October local elections was 49.4 percent of total eligible voters, down from 52.1 percent in the 1996 local elections and the first time the figure has dropped below 50 percent. Among citizens, turnout was 50.9 percent (or 435,878 voters), while 43 percent (84,379) of non-citizen voters cast their ballot. Turnout was the highest in the rural areas of Polva and Jogeva counties, although that figure did not exceed 55 percent in either district. The lowest turnout was in the city of Tartu, where only 38.4 percent voted. Voter participation in Tallinn was 48.4 percent. However, the regional electoral commission of Kohtla-Jarve annulled early voting from 11-13 October owing to allegations of vote buying--either with money or vodka, the Estonian press reported. Some 700 people had to vote a second time. MH ...WHILE RESULTS INCONCLUSIVE IN TALLINN. The Center Party gained the most seats in Tallinn, winning 21 of the 64 seats in the City Council. The Pro Patria Union came second with 14. This means that no single party has the 33 seats needed to form a majority city administration (the three-party national coalition, led by Pro Patria Union, has a combined 28 seats). The mainly Russian-speaking listing of People's Trust is viewed as the kingmaker, and its leader Sergei Ivanov has said the group is "ready to cooperate with all political groups," "Eesti Paevaleht" reported on 18 October. In Tartu, meanwhile, incumbent mayor Andrus Ansip and the Reform Party won 20 of the 49 seats, and the three-party national coalition has 35 of 49 seats in Tartu. Nationally, the Center Party was the most successful party--especially in the cities and industrial northeast. MH POLISH PREMIER COMPLETES CABINET REVAMP. Jerzy Buzek has submitted a motion to the president on appointing Antoni Tokarczuk minister of environmental protection and Labor Minister Longin Komolowski deputy prime minister, Polish media reported on 16 October. Tokarczuk will replace Jan Szyszko, while Komolowski will take the post of Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Tomaszewski, who was fired in September. Buzek commented that these changes will end quarrels between the coalition Solidarity Electoral Action and the Freedom Union about the government's restructuring. "We will now focus on implementing our program...until the end of the government's term in two years," Reuters quoted Buzek as saying. JM CZECH OPPOSITION WANTS EVERYONE BUT COMMUNISTS IN GOVERNMENT. Former Premier Vaclav Klaus, the leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), proposed on 15 October that a "super-grand coalition" of all parties in parliament, except the Communists, be formed, CTK reported. Klaus ruled out early elections and said his party favors a coalition involving the ruling Social Democrats, the ODS, and the right-of-center Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and Freedom Union. The heads of the Freedom Union and the KDU-CSL, Jan Ruml and Jan Kasl, said the same day that they will participate in such a coalition only if the ODS ends the opposition agreement that allows the minority government of the Social Democrats to rule with ODS support. Klaus has said a new coalition must be formed first. Klaus and Prime Minister Milos Zeman are to meet on 18 October to discuss changes in the government. PB CZECH PRESIDENT CALLS FOR WALL TO BE KNOCKED DOWN. Vaclav Havel said on 15 October that the wall built last week to separate a mostly Romany housing project from ethnic Czech homeowners must be immediately torn down or the street it runs along should be renamed "Intolerance Street," CTK reported. Havel said the wall, built last week in Usti nad Labem (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 October 1999), "has a symbolic importance...as if it grew higher and wider every day, and we will not [be able to] see Europe across it soon. On the contrary, we will be shutting ourselves in stale parochialism." The same day, Walter Schwimmer, the secretary- general of the Council of Europe, called on the Czech government to do everything in its power to have the "wall of shame" brought down. In Beroun, Romany activists said after a meeting of 28 Romany regional leaders that they will organize rallies across the country to protest the wall. PB VISEGRAD GROUP TO UNITE AGAINST ORGANIZED CRIME. The prime ministers of Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic agreed during a 16 October meeting of the Visegrad group to cooperate in order to combat organized crime, Reuters reported. Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban called the decision "the most important" of the two-day talks in the Slovak resort town of Tatranska Javorina. A commission will be formed to seek ways to prevent cross-border crime. Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek said the Visegrad group was renewed last year to help Slovakia rejoin integration efforts but that now it will act as a bridge between the East and the West. The four premiers also agreed to set up a secretariat in Bratislava to deal with issues related to Roma. The next meeting will be in Prague in 2000. PB SLOVAK ECONOMY MINISTER MULLING RESIGNATION. Ludovit Cernak said on 15 October in Bratislava that he is considering leaving his post, Reuters reported. Cernak has been criticized by several members of the governing coalition for the long delays in the reprivatization of the gas storage company Nafta Gbely and for a lack of transparency in public tenders. Cernak is one of Premier Mikulas Dzurinda's closest allies. He said he has been made a scapegoat for government problems and that his accomplishments have not been fully recognized. PB HUNGARY VOWS NOT TO BARTER WITH RUSSIA. After a two-year break, the Hungarian-Russian Economic Cooperation Committee met in Budapest on 15 October and agreed to seek new ways to revive bilateral trade. Hungarian Economics Minister Attila Chikan said after the meeting that "commercial ties must be based on market demands and not on intergovernmental barter deals." Following last year's financial crisis in Russia, trade between the two countries dropped by 26 percent, while Hungarian exports to Russia fell by 70 percent. Russian Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov met with Hungarian Interior Minister Sandor Pinter to discuss combating money laundering and organized crime. MSZ HUNGARIAN PREMIER SAYS COUNTRY READY FOR EU IN 2002. Viktor Orban said in Frankfurt on 15 October that Hungary is at least as ready for EU membership as Greece or Spain were when they were admitted to the union, Hungarian TV reported. Orban said there should be "no obstacle whatsoever to our admission in January 2002." In other news, the government announced a plan to slim down state television, which will result in the laying off of some 500 employees. The broadcaster accumulated a 12 billion forint ($50 million) debt last year. PB SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE YUGOSLAV PREMIER THREATENS MONTENEGRO WITH ARMY. Momir Bulatovic said in Belgrade on 17 October that "the people" and army will not allow Montenegro to secede from the Yugoslav federation, AP reported. Bulatovic, who leads the pro-Belgrade faction in Montenegro, also called his rivals in Podgorica "cowards and traitors" for failing to resolutely back the Serbian regime in its conflict with NATO this spring. The Montenegrin authorities have frequently said they will hold a referendum on independence unless the Belgrade authorities negotiate seriously about redefining relations between the two republics. PM MONTENEGRIN REFERENDUM 'SOONER THAN ANYONE EXPECTS.' Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Perovic told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 16 October that relations between Belgrade and Podgorica have never been worse. He stressed that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is afraid of the effect on his power of the "Montenegrin model" of democracy and an open economy. Belgrade is unwilling to talk seriously with Podgorica about reforming bilateral relations, he said. Montenegrins are consequently getting impatient, and their government may call a referendum on independence "sooner than anyone expects." It has become more of a danger to Montenegro to remain in the same state as Milosevic than to hold a referendum, Perovic concluded. PM SERBIAN OPPOSITION BLAMES REGIME IN BOMBING ATTACK. Unidentified persons set off a bomb at the home of Democratic Party official Nebojsa Andric in Valjevo during the night of 16-17 October. No one was injured. In Belgrade, Veran Batic of the opposition Alliance for Change said that "those who don't want any changes in Serbia...are using terrorist methods to intimidate people and prevent the inevitable, namely the demise of Slobodan Milosevic and his clique," AP reported. Batic added that "the regime is obviously losing its head, it is ready to use any means just to stay in power. We are in a very critical phase [of the campaign to oust Milosevic]..., but all those attempts cannot stop the democratization process in Serbia." PM SERBIAN MINISTRY FILES CHARGES AGAINST PUBLISHER. The Information Ministry has sued Slavoljub Kacarevic, who heads the printing firm ABC Grafika and publishes the private daily "Glas Javnosti," the Association for Independent Electronic Media in Yugoslavia said in a statement on 15 October. The ministry charged that Kacarevic has violated the draconian press law by publishing without the ministry's permission the opposition daily leaflet "Changes" and reprinting it in his daily. Kacarevic argues that "Changes" is not a periodical but rather advertising and therefore does not have to be registered with the authorities. PM CITIZENS' ALLIANCE JOINS UMBRELLA GROUP. The Steering Committee of the Citizens' Alliance of Serbia announced in Belgrade on 17 October that it will join the opposition coalition Alliance for Change, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Novi Sad, some 10,000 students and other opposition supporters turned out the previous night for what the organizers called the first day of student protests in Serbia. PM BELGRADE TO 'CONTROL' USE OF EU OIL. Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Nikolic said in Belgrade on 15 October that the authorities will not prevent delivery of heating oil from the EU to opposition-run towns. He added, however, that federal government "will control" how the oil is used, AP reported. He did not specify how Belgrade will do that. The minister added that the municipal governments will not be allowed to charge citizens for the fuel because it is a gift from the EU. He argued that the "selective humanitarian help" would not be necessary if NATO had not bombed Serbia. PM ALBRIGHT, COOK DENY STORY ON CHINESE EMBASSY BOMBING. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright described as "balderdash" a story in the latest issue of London's "The Observer" to the effect that NATO deliberately bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in May. Speaking to CNN on 17 October, Albright said that "there is information that [the Chinese] were carrying on intelligence activities," but she stressed that the bombing was a "tragic accident." In London, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said that he knows "not a single shred of evidence to support [the weekly's] rather wild story." "The Observer" wrote that the NATO deliberately bombed the embassy because the Chinese were transmitting Yugoslav military communications in return for information about a U.S. Stealth aircraft that crashed on Serbian territory. PM THREE KFOR PEACEKEEPERS INJURED IN FIRE. Three British soldiers were slightly injured when a blaze that began in a store spread to a former Prishtina television building now housing KFOR troops. The fire began in the early hours of 18 October and quickly destroyed the television building, AP reported. KFOR and UN police are investigating the incident. PM KFOR SAYS UCK VIOLATED AGREEMENT. NATO peacekeepers said in a statement on 17 October that several members of the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) violated the guerrillas' agreement with the Atlantic alliance by appearing uniformed and armed in public. The previous day, 15 UCK veterans wore uniforms of the new Kosova Protection Corps and five wore UCK garb at a gathering of 350 people in Gornje Obrinje to mark the first anniversary of a massacre there. Several of the UCK veterans carried pistols. The KFOR statement stressed: "This gathering is a clear violation of the undertaking for demilitarization and transformation [of the UCK].... KFOR is not going to tolerate such actions of non-compliance. An investigation is under way and subsequent action will be taken as appropriate," the text concluded. PM KOSOVA'S SERBS TO SEEK OWN 'PROTECTION FORCE.' Momcilo Trajkovic, who is the political leader of Kosova's Serbian minority, said in Banja Luka on 16 October that the Serbs will have to set up their own "protection force" as a counterweight to the UCK-dominated Protection Corps. Observers note that NATO and the UN are likely to consider such a move illegal. Meanwhile in Prishtina, the first 173 graduates of the UN-sponsored Kosova police academy received their diplomas. The class was about 90 percent ethnic Albanian. PM DRASKOVIC BLASTS ALBANIAN PLANS FOR KOSOVA OFFICE. Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic said in Belgrade on 17 October that Albania is meddling in Serbian affairs and "destabilizing the Balkans" by wanting to open a diplomatic office in Prishtina. He added that setting up such a mission would be a "flagrant violation of international norms." Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said on a two-day visit to Kosova that Tirana wants to open an office in the Kosovar capital, as the U.S. and several other countries have already done. PM CROATIAN WAR CRIMES SUSPECT REMAINS IN ZAGREB. The Supreme Court ruled on 15 October that there are no legal grounds why Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic cannot be extradited to The Hague, where the war crimes tribunal has indicted him for atrocities committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. Tuta's lawyer says, however, that his client requires urgent heart surgery and is too ill to travel. The Hague court may send its own medical experts to Zagreb to investigate, a spokesman for the tribunal said on 17 October. PM ROMANIAN PREMIER DISMISSES ORPHANAGE PROBLEM. Radu Vasile said on 15 October that the problem of poor conditions at orphanages in his country is "practically solved," Mediafax reported. The problem was cited by the EU last week in its report suggesting that Romania should begin talks on joining the union (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 October 1999). Vasile said the only problems Romania still faces in joining the EU are those associated with the ongoing "macrostabilization process" of the economy. PB INFLATION FEARED AS ELECTRICITY PRICES GO UP IN ROMANIA. The government announced an increase in the price of electricity on 15 October, AP reported. The increase, which was made because of a drop in the value of the lei, means an 8 percent increase in utility bills for the average consumer. National Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu advised the government to avoid price hikes in fuel and utilities in the future, saying that such measures will lead to inflation on other consumer goods. Inflation was 39 percent through the first nine months of the year. PB MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT GIVES INITIAL APPROVAL TO LANDMARK BILLS. The parliament on 14 October approved in the first reading a bill stipulating that advertising must be in the country's official language, Infotag reported. Deputy Justice Minister Victor Cretu said the bill aims at ending the "alarming situation" where most of advertising in the media is in Russian. The legislature also approved in the first reading a bill on the prevention and fight against money laundering. The draft law stipulates that banks must inform authorities whenever the suspicion arises that deposits were acquired illegally. MS BULGARIA'S RULING PARTY SCORES DISAPPOINTING WIN IN LOCAL ELECTIONS. According to preliminary results, the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) received 35-45 percent of the vote in the 16 October local elections, RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service and AP reported. The ex-Communist Bulgarian Socialist Party is reported to have garnered around 30 percent of the vote, which is more than was predicted. Voter turnout was disappointing, with only some 50 percent of the electorate casting their ballots. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, the head of the UDF, said his party is paying the price for "painful reforms" that included spending cuts, layoffs, and tax increases. The UDF held on to the mayoral posts in both Sofia and Plovdiv, while a UDF candidate in the country's third- largest city, Varna, was ahead but will face a runoff next week. Runoff elections will be held in some 200 municipalities next week. PB END NOTE ALBANIA'S RIVAL PARTIES STICK WITH OLD LEADERS By Fabian Schmidt Members of the governing Socialist Party of Albania and the opposition Democratic Party have recently re-elected their respective leaders. Last weekend, former Prime Minister Fatos Nano of the Socialist Party defeated his successor in the government, 31-year-old reformer Pandeli Majko. And a week or so earlier, former President Sali Berisha of the Democratic Party fought back a challenge to his party leadership by its former secretary-general, the charismatic Genc Pollo. Nano and Berisha are bitter rivals who count among the older generation of Albanian politicians. The two are largely responsible for the polarization that has characterized Albanian political life since the end of communism, in 1991- 1992. Their rivalry grew into open personal antagonism after the mid-1990s, when Berisha's government arrested Nano on dubious corruption charges. In the wake of the unrest that spread throughout Albania in early 1997 following the collapse of pyramid investment schemes, Nano managed to escape from prison. He won the elections in July of the same year and became prime minister by presenting himself to the voters as the main challenger to an authoritarian regime. A Tirana court acquitted him of the corruption charges on 5 October 1999. Berisha, in return, accused Nano of being the mastermind of the 1997 unrest and blamed his government for the killing of senior Democratic Party legislator Azem Hajdari in Tirana in September 1998. The investigation into that murder has been deadlocked for more than a year. Democratic Party witnesses have refused to testify to investigators, arguing that they do not trust the authorities to conduct an impartial investigation. Nano resigned shortly after the Hajdari murder, when riots broke out during the legislator's funeral in Tirana. The Socialists then charged the Democrats with having conducted a coup attempt, a charge the Democrats vehemently denied. Nano and Berisha, furthermore, have not refrained from charging each other with involvement in corruption, arms smuggling, and other crimes. These exchanges have long been part of Albania's daily political discourse. Nano's resignation paved the way for a new Socialist government under Majko. Since taking office, he has sought to present himself as a dynamic, forward-looking politician who is willing to reconcile with the opposition for the benefit of the entire country by establishing rule of law and promoting economic recovery. The Kosova war gave Majko an opportunity to call for unity among all Albanians and to put aside old grievances. Majko also followed a policy of establishing good-neighborly relations with Macedonia, Greece, and Montenegro, and he made participation in the EU's Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe one of his government's priorities. But Majko's government has faced difficult tasks. It was unable to increase the level of public security until mid- summer 1999. At that time, his newly appointed Public Order Minister Spartak Poci launched an offensive against the country's most notorious gangs. Poci acknowledged in early October that unidentified politicians have put pressure on police and justice officials to have several of the arrested gang leaders released, thereby confirming that political corruption is indeed widespread. He did not disclose names, however. Before the party congress, Majko threatened to resign should Nano win the party chairmanship. After his defeat, however, he pledged to remain in office, arguing that he lost by a margin of only 30 votes. At the same time he stressed that he felt "hurt in his moral and political legitimacy"; but while the vote indicates that his support within the party is fragile, his decision to stay in government is nonetheless based on backing from the Albanian public and the international community, where Majko appears to enjoy more support than within his party's rank and file. Nano, on the other hand, is unlikely to seek to oust Majko as prime minister and return to government, since a second major change of government after two years could derail the fragile reform process and give a boost to the Democratic Party's demand for new elections. For their part, the Democrats have maneuvered themselves further into a corner by re-electing Berisha. Pollo's initial candidature seemed to offer an alternative to Berisha's tight control over the party and his role in the polarization of political life. Pollo pledged to bring several other center- right political parties into a coalition, most notably the Republicans. But with the reelection of Berisha--whom many potential Democratic voters consider too authoritarian--a major shift in voter support from the Socialists to the Democrats remains unlikely. The two party congresses have shown that the old- generation leaders--who were forced to resign after scandals and amid charges of corruption against their respective governments--do still have the backing of most party members. The two men owe their victories probably less to any real popular support for themselves and to their ideas than to their patronage of those within the party willing to back them in crucial leadership votes. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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