|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 204, Part II, 19 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 204, Part II, 19 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 AUTHORITIES CRACK DOWN ON PROTESTERS * KOSOVA SERBS SEEK OWN PROTECTION FORCE, CANTONS * TUDJMAN SEEKS CROATIAN 'ENTITY' IN BOSNIA End Note: UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATES FAIL TO PRESENT UNITED FRONT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES CRACK DOWN ON PROTESTERS... Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 18 October ordered law enforcement agencies "to identify organizers and active participants in the riots" that he said took place during the 17 October opposition "freedom march" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999), Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka also instructed the state media to report on the "real goals" of the opposition action. Presidential aide Mikhail Myasnikovich said on state television that the Belarusian opposition received "several hundred thousand dollars" from the West to stage the protest. Meanwhile, Minsk courts on 18 October continued to hand down fines or prison sentences to those arrested during the march, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Mikalay Statkevich, who was the main organizer of the march and is leader of the Social Democratic Party Narodnaya Hramada, faces three years in prison if convicted of organizing a "group action that grossly violated public order," a Minsk prosecutor said. JM ...WHILE OPPOSITION SAYS CLASHES PROVOKED BY POLICE. Organizers of the "freedom march" told a news conference in Minsk on 18 October that the clashes the previous day were provoked by riot police. According to Dzmitry Bandarenka, the police attacked the marching protesters after they turned back to avoid a police cordon. Bandarenka also asserted that Lukashenka personally ordered Interior Minister Yury Sivakou and presidential guard chief Uladzimir Navumau to suppress the protest action. According to the opposition, the authorities arrested some 200 people after the march, while another 100 have probably gone into hiding to avoid arrest. OSCE Minsk mission acting chief Hans-Peter Kleiner told Belapan that the authorities' refusal to allow the opposition to hold a march in downtown Minsk was the main reason behind the 17 October clashes. JM BELARUS'S SHARETSKI REPORTEDLY MEETS WITH KUCHMA. Syamyon Sharetski, chairman of the opposition Supreme Soviet, who is now residing in Lithuania, visited Kyiv last weekend at the invitation of Ukraine's Popular Rukh, Interfax reported on 18 October. Rukh spokesman Dmytro Ponomarchuk said Sharetski traveled to Kyiv "to warn Ukraine against repeating the Belarusian experience." Ponomarchuk added that Sharetski met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. However, Kuchma's spokesman Oleksandr Martynenko said the presidential staff "has no information" about Kuchma's meeting with Sharetski. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk criticized Belarus for breaking up the 17 October opposition march. "Beating people who take advantage of the right to express their opinion does not conform with international norms," Interfax quoted Tarasyuk as saying. JM COUNCIL OF EUROPE SAYS UKRAINE NOT MEETING MEMBER OBLIGATIONS. Meeting on 18 October in Kyiv, Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer and Iceland's Foreign Minister Halldor Asgrimsson criticized Ukraine for failing to fulfill its obligations as a council member. The council has repeatedly rebuked Ukraine for not abolishing the death penalty and for harassing independent media. On this occasion, council officials also expressed concern that presidential candidates have been granted unequal access to the state-controlled media. Earlier, the council postponed until January 2000 taking a decision on whether to suspend Ukraine's membership. JM LUXEMBOURG PRIME MINISTER IN ESTONIA. During a two-day visit to Estonia on 17-18 October, Jean-Claude Juncker discussed EU issues with Prime Minister Mart Laar, Finance Minister Siim Kallas, and parliamentary Speaker Toomas Savi. Juncker stressed that membership in the EU depends on the "readiness of each individual candidate country," BNS reported. Kallas noted that switching over to the Euro would pose few problems for Estonia, as the country meets most conditions for doing so. However, he added that it would be hasty to change to that currency before joining the EU. MH LITHUANIAN PRIME MINISTER SPEAKS OUT AGAINST OIL DEAL. In a live television address to the nation on 18 October, Rolandas Paksas expressed his opposition to the sale of a majority stake of Mazeikiai Oil to the U.S. company Williams International. Paksas noted that that under the agreement with Williams, the government would have to invest 1.4 billion litas ($350 million) in Mazeikiai, which he said would make the deal unsound because it would push the budget deficit up to a "dangerous" level. He added that he has refused to sign the deal. However, ELTA reported that the cabinet on 19 October voted to accept the Williams deal, which immediately led to both Economics Minister Eugenijus Maldeikis and Finance Minister Jonas Lionginas submitting their resignations. Only the two resigned ministers and Paksas voted against the deal. MH POLAND'S WALESA READY TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT. Former President and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa has said he is ready to run for the presidency in 2001, Polish media reported on 18 October. Walesa said the decision was prompted by his negative assessment of Poland's situation, and he added that he can change his mind if the situation improves. Also on 18 October, Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski said that Solidarity may support a single, right-wing candidate in the 2001 presidential elections. Krzaklewski said that he will decide whether to run in that ballot only after Solidarity convenes in December. According to a September poll by the CBOS polling agency, 56 percent of respondents would vote for the incumbent Aleksander Kwasniewski as Poland's next president. Krzaklewski received 8 percent support and Walesa 7 percent. JM SUPPORT FOR EU IN POLAND BELOW 50 PERCENT. According to an October poll by the Social Studies Laboratory, only 46 percent of Poles are in favor of EU membership, down 18 percent from February 1998, when the country began the EU accession talks. The poll also found that students and people under 24 are most supportive of Poland's EU membership, while people aged 40-59 are most strongly opposed. JM CZECH AIRLINES MARKED ROMA PASSENGERS WITH 'G.' For almost 18 months, Czech Airlines (CSA) kept track of passengers flying to London who appeared to be Romany by marking the letter "G," for "Gypsy," in their flight records, Czech media reported on 19 October. CSA's representative in London, David Thomas, said the practice was designed to speed up the processing of Czech Roma who were trying to emigrate to the U.K. Passengers who were marked "G" were directed to immigration officials in London. CSA President Miroslav Kula said the London branch office stopped the practice in February, but he added that until recently CSA employees continued to mark the flight records of Romany passengers owing to force of "habit." In other news, Vaclav Miko, a representative of the Board of Romany Regional Organizations, said the board believes that all Czech Roma should request asylum in Germany, which is the "nearest safe country," CTK reported on 18 October. VG SLOVAK ECONOMY MINISTER RESIGNS. Slovak Economy Minister Ludovit Cernak on 18 October announced that he has resigned from his cabinet post, TKE reported. The Democratic Union, of which Cernak is a member, announced that it is nominating its chairman, Lubomir Harach, to the post. Cernak, who refused to comment on the reasons for his decision, has been criticized by several members of the governing coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999). VG BRITAIN PRAISES HUNGARY'S PROGRESS. Great Britain strongly supports Hungary's admission to the EU because it believes Budapest has made considerable progress in its preparations for EU accession, British Secretary of State for European Affairs Keith Vaz told Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi on 18 October. Vaz, who was appointed to his post last week, said he selected Budapest as the destination for his first trip abroad in order to show the importance the U.K. attributes to Hungary's bid to join the EU. In other news, Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced on 18 October that his cabinet will consider a request from Australia to take part in peacekeeping operations in East Timor. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSOVA SERBS SEEK OWN PROTECTION FORCE, CANTONS. Some 150 representatives of Kosova's Serbian minority met at the Gracanica monastery on 18 October, the private Beta news agency reported. Agreeing that the new Kosova Protection Corps will be dominated by ethnic Albanians and that Serbs cannot count on it to protect them, the delegates proposed that the Serbs set up their own protection force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999). They also decided that Serbs should transform areas where they constitute a majority into self-governing cantons. The delegates called for a moratorium on activities by political parties and announced that a 49- member Serbian National Council is to be set up. PM KFOR TO BOOST PRESENCE IN PRISHTINA. NATO peacekeepers said in a statement on 19 October that they will increase their presence on the streets of Kosova's capital. The move came hours after the killing of a Serbian man and in the wake of other recent violence, primarily against Serbs and Roma. "This barbaric behavior cannot be tolerated and all efforts will be made to arrest those who think they can take the lives of others and just walk away. As a result of such cold- blooded murders, the KFOR command has decided to step up KFOR security presence in Prishtina," the statement added. PM HAS UCK'S POLITICAL POWER PEAKED? Many ordinary Kosovars have come to associate the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and its leader Hashim Thaci with violence and arrogant behavior, the "International Herald Tribune" reported on 18 October. The daily noted that the former guerrillas "are ensnared in a deep political crisis caused by unhappiness with their heavy- handed power grabs, rising disgust about the violence plaguing [Kosova], and the rebels' own underestimation of their political rivals." An unpublished opinion poll commissioned by an unnamed Western organization shows shadow- state President Ibrahim Rugova defeating Thaci in a two-way contest by a four-to-one margin. A second poll gave Rugova 92 percent against Thaci, the daily continued. Rugova's policy of remaining out of public view has added to his "mysterious, mystical" image among Kosovars, an independent analyst told the U.S. daily. PM MULTI-ETHNIC TEAM FROM KOSOVA IN 'TRUST-BUILDING EXERCISE.' Ten ethnic Albanians, three Serbs, two ethnic Muslims, and a Turk went to France on 19 October to begin what Major-General Jean-Claude Thomann of KFOR called a "trust-building exercise." They will receive training in fire-fighting, emergency rescue, and related activities from the French Civil Securities, AP reported. The Albanians, Muslims, and Turk belong to the Kosova Protection Force, while the Serbs were sent by the authorities in northern Mitrovica. Thomann said the participants in the program agreed to "talk to one another." He added that he feels it is too soon to expect Serbs and Albanians to serve together in the same force. Observers note that NATO and the UN regard the Civil Securities as the model for the Protection Force. The UCK, however, sees the force as its successor and the nucleus of a future Kosovar army. PM SOME SERBIAN PARTIES FORM ELECTION COALITION... Vladan Batic of the Alliance for Change said in Belgrade on 18 October that several of the parties belonging to the alliance will form an election coalition. Zoran Djindjic of the Democratic Party noted that the coalition parties will constitute a joint group of deputies in the parliament after the elections. Social Democratic leader Vuk Obradovic said that his party will remain in the alliance but not join the electoral coalition lest the Social Democrats lose their identity, Belgrade's "Danas" reported. The opposition insists that early elections be held by the end of the year based on a system of proportional representation. Batic stressed on 18 October that the alliance will not take part in any elections unless the regime introduces the electoral reforms that the opposition demands, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM ...BUT WILL THERE BE ELECTIONS? Several top officials of parties in the governing coalition said on 18 October that there will be no early elections, AP reported. However, the following day the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" quoted an unnamed official of the governing Socialist Party of Serbia as saying that elections will take place in December. Mira Markovic, who is the wife of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and the head of the neo- communist United Yugoslav Left, stressed that "elections can take place tomorrow as far as [her party] is concerned." Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said that he favors elections in March. He added that if the opposition protesters block streets, "we will arrest them and turn them over to the courts.... The police must react immediately and mercilessly." PM DJINDJIC FEARS VIOLENCE AFTER MARKOVIC STATEMENT. Djindjic fears that he may be the target of a violent attack following a recent interview by Markovic, in which she called him a "traitor," AP reported from Belgrade on 19 October. She used similar language about publisher Slavko Curuvija shortly before unknown thugs killed him in April. Djindjic said: "I'm not worried about what will happen to me, whether Mirjana Markovic will be consistent in punishing 'traitors' or only will accuse me verbally. I'm more worried that she has the power in Serbia to pronounce the sentencing." PM SESELJ ADMITS GOVERNMENT ROLE IN INFLATION. Seselj said in Belgrade on 18 October that the government recently printed $400 million in dinar notes in addition to the $1 billion already in circulation. He said that "we simply had to print money to support [postwar] reconstruction," AP reported. Previously, Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic denied that the government had printed additional money. He charged Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik with flooding Serbia with dinars after they began to use the German mark as an unofficial currency. PM RUSSIAN GAS ARRIVES IN SERBIA. Serbian Energy Minister Zivota Cosic said in Belgrade on 18 October that Russian gas deliveries via Hungary have resumed. Russia's Gazprom will provide some 4.5 million cubic meters of gas per day. It is unclear whether Serbia has cleared its $20 million debt to the Hungarian MOL company and signed a transit agreement, which the Hungarian authorities had demanded. Hungary observes EU sanctions against Belgrade but has agreed to limited gas deliveries on humanitarian grounds, Reuters reported. PM MONTENEGRIN AIRPORT REOPENS. The Podgorica airport reopened for civilian traffic on 18 October following the repair of damage caused by NATO airstrikes in the spring, RFE/RL's Slavic Service reported. The government hopes that the airport will increase Montenegro's direct links to the outside world independent of Belgrade and help revive the key tourist industry. PM ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT TO STAY. Socialist Party head Fatos Nano said in Tirana on 18 October that he does not plan any changes in the government. He made the statement after meeting with Prime Minister Pandeli Majko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," "End Note," 18 October 1999). PM TUDJMAN PREDICTS ELECTION VICTORY... Croatian President Franjo Tudjman told a press conference in Zagreb on 18 October that he is confident that his Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) will win the parliamentary elections widely expected to take place before Christmas. He argued that the HDZ "created Croatia," has the best program of any party, and will go on to victory "for the eighth time." Asked about the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, Tudjman said that "no Croatian general" will be sent to trial there. He stressed that those men "liberated their country from evil and cannot be held accountable" for atrocities. The president argued that the court does not take a "balanced" approach because it has indicted several Croats but none of the Serbs who shelled Zagreb during the 1991-1995 conflict. Observers note that no Croatian general has been publicly indicted. The majority of those indicted are Serbs. PM ...SEEKS CROATIAN 'ENTITY' IN BOSNIA. Tudjman added that the Bosnian state and the 1995 Dayton peace accord can continue to exist only if there is complete equality between Serbs, Muslims, and Croats. To this end, the Croats as well as the Serbs and Muslims should have their own "entity," he argued. Observers note that Tudjman has never hidden his belief that Bosnia is an artificial state that should be partitioned between Serbia and Croatia. As a signatory of the Dayton agreement, however, he is obliged to uphold the current constitutional order, in which the Serbs have one entity and the Croats and Muslims share power in a second one. PM TUDJMAN SPARKS REACTION IN BOSNIA. In Sarajevo, a spokeswoman for the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch said on 18 October that Tudjman's statement will not lead to any revision of Dayton, "Dnevni avaz" reported. Moderate Bosnian Croat leader Kresimir Zubak argued that he has never heard Tudjman advocate setting up a separate "Croatian entity" in Bosnia and that the idea must have come from hard-liners opposed to any links to the Muslims. PM WORLD BANK TO LEND $500 MILLION TO ROMANIA. The World Bank is preparing to grant Romania some $500 million in loans to support the country's integration into the EU, according to the bank's director for Romania, Andrew Vorkink. Vorkink told Romanian journalists on 18 October that the money will go to the mining and agricultural sectors, public administration reform, and the stimulation of industrial production. He praised Romania's success in maintaining currency stability and increasing its currency reserves. VG MAIN ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY ELECTS NEW CHAIRMAN. Delegates to the 16 October congress of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) elected Alexandru Athanasiu as the party's new leader, Romanian media reported on 18 October. Athanasiu defeated the other candidate, Emil Putin, by a vote of 482- 471. Athanasiu said he will follow his predecessor's political line. VG ROMANIA, YUGOSLAVIA SIGN HYDRO-ELECTRIC PLANT AGREEMENT. Romania and Yugoslavia have signed an agreement to make technological improvements at the Portile Fier I hydro- electric power plant on the countries' mutual border along the River Danube, according to a 18 October Mediafax report cited by the BBC. The agreement is based on a 1998 convention to coordinate work on the plant. VG FIVE MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES CREATE INDEPENDENT BLOC. Four parliamentary deputies from the Bloc for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova have joined a former deputy of the Party of Democratic Forces to form an independent bloc in the parliament, Infotag and Basa-Press reported on 18 October. The creation of the bloc weakens the government's support in the parliament and increases the chances that the cabinet would fall in any potential confidence vote. In other news, presidential spokesman Anatol Golea rejected recent suggestions by Prime Minister Ion Sturza that the president wants the government dismissed, Infotag reported. VG BULGARIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR EU LOANS TO YUGOSLAVIA. Ivan Kostov on 19 October called on the EU to extend loans to small and medium-sized businesses in Yugoslavia as a means of shoring up the democratic opposition to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, AP reported. Kostov also criticized the West for delays in implementing an economic aid plan for the Balkans. He expressed concern that the post-war reconstruction of the region might be designed to serve the interests of donors or private companies. VG MONTENEGRIN PREMIER VISITS BULGARIA. Filip Vujanovic on 18 October thanked Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandur Bozhkov for his country's stance during the Kosova crisis, according to a BTA report cited by the BBC. Vujanovic and Bozhkov also discussed ways of improving relations between Montenegro and Bulgaria. Vujanovic was in Sofia to attend the Southeast Europe Economic Forum. VG END NOTE UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATES FAIL TO PRESENT UNITED FRONT by Lily Hyde When four candidates announced in August that they were joining forces in the Ukrainian presidential race, the media generally welcomed that announcement. The four candidates-- socialist Oleksandr Moroz, parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko, head of the mayors' association Volodymyr Oliynyk, and former Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk--made their announcement in Kaniv, the rural, leafy burial-place of a national poet. They subsequently became known as the Kaniv Four. Analysts said a single candidate from the Kaniv Four could be a real challenger to President Leonid Kuchma, who is running for re-election. Two months later, the Kaniv Four are again in the news, but the media attitude has greatly changed. Moroz, the most popular of the four candidates, has lost voter support in the wake of a scandal surrounding the attack on the life of rival candidate Natalya Vitrenko. Tkachenko has been accused of breaking election laws by campaigning on Russian television. And the failure of the four to announce a single candidate, as promised, has led to widespread speculation that the Kaniv Four have splintered into a Kaniv Three, or even Two. The candidates delayed announcing their choice several times, saying they feared physical attacks on the chosen candidate. Finally on 15 October, Moroz's team announced that Tkachenko and Oliynyk would support Moroz, while Marchuk would continue his own campaign independently. Moroz's campaign manager said the Kaniv Four still intend to field a single candidate and it is "70 percent likely" that Moroz will be that candidate. The final announcement is expected just days before the 31 October election. Government media greeted the delays with derision. Kuchma was widely quoted as calling the behavior of the group "agonizing." He said the four candidates were "monsters" and that Moroz was "losing face." The press speculated that the announcement was delayed because the four have no strategy. Mykola Tomenko, head of the Kyiv Institute of Politics, told RFE/RL that he considers the delay in the announcement of a single candidate to be a reasonable response to an unstable situation. He said the decision of Oliynyk and Tkachenko to resign their candidacies in support of Moroz is significant: "It's the first serious step. I think if he remains the only one of four it will be a more serious step to a member of the Kaniv Four to have a claim on the presidency." Tomenko added that he thinks the group was wise not name Moroz as their candidate at this juncture. The media have been linking Moroz with the grenade attack two weeks ago against Vitrenko, who split with Moroz's Socialist party several years ago and now heads the more radical Progressive Socialists. Moroz has denied involvement and attempted to challenge the negative media coverage. The parliament last week ordered the state channel UT-1 to show Moroz defending himself against the allegations. UT-1 did not comply with the parliamentary order, which most commentators say has a dubious basis in law. Analyst Tomenko says the state media's criticism of the Kaniv Four is an indication that Kuchma sees the alliance as a serious threat. That is a line the candidates themselves have taken. "I think this only confirms the weight of the four. The official channel UT-1 and the program "Panorama" [recently] devoted 15 minutes to criticizing the Kaniv Four and 10 minutes to criticizing Oleksandr Moroz. It seems possible to draw the conclusion that the authorities are afraid of the Kaniv Four and afraid of Oleksandr Moroz as a real candidate." At a press conference on 18 October, the four candidates said they plan to appeal to the Central Election Commission to have Kuchma's candidacy annulled. They say he is unfairly using his government power over the media to further his campaign. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Kyiv. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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