Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends. - Benjamin Disraeli 1804-1881
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 206, Part II, 21 October 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 206, Part II, 21 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

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Headlines, Part II

* JAILED BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ON HUNGER STRIKE

* LITHUANIAN POLITICAL CRISIS DEEPENS

* DJUKANOVIC SAYS MONTENEGRINS' PATIENCE RUNNING OUT
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

JAILED BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ON HUNGER STRIKE. Social
Democratic Party leader Mikalay Statkevich has gone on hunger
strike to protest his 17 October arrest for helping
organizing the "freedom march" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18
October 1999), Belapan reported on 20 October. Statkevich
told a lawyer who visited him in jail that the clashes
between riot police and demonstrators on 17 October were
provoked by the authorities. He added that he will not answer
questions posed by investigators. The same day, oppositionist
Anatol Lyabedzka was sentenced to 10 days in prison for his
part in organizing the "freedom march." Meanwhile, the
Chamber of Representatives, a legislature hand-picked by
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in 1996, has condemned the
opposition "freedom march" and applauded the intervention of
law enforcement bodies. Belapan quoted one deputy as saying
that democrats should be beaten "correctly but very
painfully." JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION URGES RUSSIA TO STOP SUPPORTING
LUKASHENKA. The Consultative Council of Belarusian opposition
parties on 20 October adopted an appeal to Russian President
Boris Yeltsin, Premier Vladimir Putin, the State Duma, and
the Federation Council to stop supporting the current
Belarusian regime, Belapan reported. The appeal stressed that
any agreements or treaties signed by Lukashenka after his
term in office expired on 20 July 1999 may not and do not
have any "legal force or political prospect." Belarusian
oppositionists also expressed their intent to appeal to the
international community to declare the Russian Federation an
aggressor with regard to Belarus if Moscow continues
supporting Lukashenka. Meanwhile, Lukashenka is to address
Russia's lower house on 26 October at the invitation of Duma
deputies. JM

BELARUS TO KNOCK THREE ZEROS OFF CURRENCY. President
Lukashenka has ordered the exchange of old 1,000 Belarusian
ruble bills for new 1 ruble ones over a three-year period
beginning 1 January 2000. According to the edict, the move is
intended "to strengthen the national currency, improve money
circulation in the country, [and] simplify accounting and
settlements in the national economy." The National Bank
current exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble is 297,000 to
$1, while the street exchange rate is some 660,000 to $1.
Former National Bank head Stanislau Bahdankevich told Belapan
that the edict can be justified from a "technical" viewpoint
but is "absolute nonsense" from an economic one. According to
Bahdankevich, Belarus has neither stabilized its economy nor
suppressed inflation, thus the redenomination will not
strengthen the Belarusian currency. JM

KUCHMA SAYS CORRUPTION IN UKRAINE NO BIG DEAL... Speaking on
regional television in Vinnytsya on 20 October, Ukrainian
President Leonid Kuchma said the situation in Ukraine with
regard to combating corruption is "far better than in many
other countries of the world," Interfax reported. Kuchma
noted that corruption is not a "Ukrainian invention." At the
same time, Kuchma admitted that there are cases of corruption
in Ukraine, "but they are being brought about by the system
itself." According to Kuchma, corruption can be defeated by
introducing economic and administrative changes. "If a state
servant is paid appropriately, not 100 hryvni ($23) a month,
then I think he will have sufficient wisdom and will not to
deal with such matters as corruption," Kuchma noted. JM

...PLEDGES TO MAKE PARLIAMENT RESPONSIBLE FOR FORMING
CABINET. Kuchma also said that if he wins the presidential
elections, he will ask the parliament to create a
constructive majority that will share responsibility with the
president for forming a cabinet. "Then there will be no
mutual accusations, fruitless discussions in the parliaments,
or reporting to the parliament [on the government's
performance] every week," Kuchma noted. He also repeated his
threat to call for a referendum to create a bicameral
legislature if the current parliament refuses to cooperate
with the president after the elections. JM

ELECTORAL INCENTIVES NOT GOOD FOR HRYVNYA? Citing an
"informed source" in Ukraine's financial circles, Interfax
reported on 20 October that the volume of cash in circulation
in the country has increased by 1.23 billion hryvni ($570
million) since 1 July. According to financial experts, this
increase is linked to the government's effort to pay back
wages and pensions before the 31 October presidential
elections. The hryvnya has been officially devalued from 3.95
to $1 to 4.46 to $1 since the beginning of July. Street
dealers and Ukraine's interbank currency market have recently
quoted the hryvnya at 4.7-4.8 to $1. JM

OSCE OFFICIAL LAUDS ESTONIAN INTEGRATION EFFORTS. The
president of the OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly, Helle Degn,
said that Estonia is making a "great effort" to integrate its
300,000 non-Estonian residents, according to dpa on 20
October. However, Degn pressed officials to liberalize the
country's language law and received assurances "at the very
highest level" that the law's provisions will be eased. Degn
met with Estonian President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Mart
Laar, and Minister for Ethnic Affairs Katrin Saks. MJZ

LATVIAN RULING COALITION BACKS EASING OF PENSION LAW. The
ruling coalition parties on 20 October agreed to call for
allowing both men and women to retire two years before the
mandatory minimum retirement age and receive 80 percent of
the pension due them, according to "Diena." The People's
Party of Prime Minister Andris Skele later backed out of the
agreement, however. The early retirement provision, along
with other previously announced amendments to the pension
law, appear designed to forestall rejection of controversial
pension reforms in a national referendum scheduled to take
place in mid-November. MJZ

NEARLY THREE-QUARTERS OF LATVIANS PREPARED TO OFFER BRIBES. A
study by the Criminology Center has found that 72 percent of
Latvia's residents have lost faith in state institutions and
are prepared, if necessary, to offer a bribe to a government
employee. Latvian Justice Minister Valdis Birkavs revealed
that statistic during an international conference on crime
that was held in Riga, "Diena" reported on 21 October. MJZ

LITHUANIAN POLITICAL CRISIS DEEPENS. Chairman of the Social
Democratic Party Vytenis Andriukaitis has called on leaders
of other political parties in Lithuania, former President
Algirdas Brazauskas, NGOs, and experts to join efforts to
stop the negotiations between Lithuania and the U.S.-based
Williams International on the partial privatization of
Lithuania's oil refinery complex, ELTA reported on 20
October. Andriukaitis said it is not too late to invoke
national security laws and stop the privatization, which, he
added, is opposed by a majority of Lithuanians. The following
day, parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis released a
letter sent by the president of Williams International, John
Baumgarner, assuring the Lithuanian parliament that the
company is demanding no money from the Lithuanian government,
ELTA reported. Baumgarner claimed that the refinery is
"insolvent" and cannot cover its own debts which now exceed
$307 million. AB

LITHUANIA TO COMPLAIN OVER JOURNALISTS' MISTREATMENT IN
BELARUS. ELTA reported on 20 October that the Human Rights
Committee of the Lithuanian parliament will file a complaint
with the OSCE against Belarus for the mistreatment of
Lithuanian reporters during the 17 October opposition
demonstrations in Minsk. Belarusian police detained two
reporters for LNK, a private Lithuanian television station,
for four hours after they had attempted to film the
opposition demonstrations. They also seized the reporters'
videotape and refused to return it. AB

POLISH COURT REOPENS TRIAL OF POLICEMEN ACCUSED OF 1981
MARTIAL LAW KILLINGS. The trial of 22 former riot policemen
accused of killing nine miners who opposed the December 1981
martial law crackdown on Solidarity was reopened at the
district court in Katowice, southern Poland, on 20 October.
The first trial, which lasted four-and-a-half years ended in
November 1997 with the ruling that the available evidence was
insufficient for a conviction. Prosecutors and the Justice
Ministry appealed the verdict. JM

CZECH LEGISLATURE REJECTS DRAFT BUDGET. The Czech Chamber of
Deputies on 20 October turned down the draft budget in its
first reading, Czech media reported. The Civic Democratic
Party, the Freedom Union, and the Christian Democrats voted
against the budget, while the Communists abstained. The three
parties that voted against the bill rejected the Finance
Ministry's decision to include money from recent
privatizations in the budget. They also said the budget
should have included the losses of the state Konsolidacni
banka. Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik said he will prepare a
new draft by mid-December. ODS leader Vaclav Klaus said the
budget should not have been submitted to the parliament while
discussions continue on the possible formation of a new
governing coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1999).
VG

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT DISMISSES PROPERTY FUND HEADS. The Slovak
legislature on 20 October voted to dismiss National Property
Fund President Ludovit Kanik and Vice President Ladislav
Sklenar, Slovak media reported. Kanik and Sklenar were
dismissed for mishandling the state's reaquisition of the gas
storage company Nafta Gbely. Their ouster was strongly
supported by Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and
received support among deputies from both government and
opposition ranks. However, Democratic Party Deputy Chairman
Peter Zajac, whose party is part of the coalition led by
Dzurinda, criticized the decision. Zajac accused the prime
minister of relying on the opposition to dismiss the two fund
heads. The Democratic Party had nominated Kanik as fund
president. VG

BUDAPEST CEFTA MEETING FAILS TO RESOLVE PROBLEMS. The 20
October Budapest summit of prime ministers from Central
European Free Trade Agreement countries failed to resolve
disputes among member states over agricultural exports,
Hungarian media reported. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor
Orban said the current level of liberalization should be
maintained in bilateral agricultural trade. Polish Prime
Minister Jerzy Buzek commented agricultural trade cannot be
liberalized within CEFTA as long as member-states continue to
subsidize agricultural production in different ways. Orban
said after the summit that all seven delegations "see the
roots of the problem in the same way but no longer wish to
formulate a joint agricultural policy." VG

HUNGARIAN, ROMANIAN JUSTICE MINISTERS DISCUSS RECONCILIATION.
Visiting Romanian Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica said on 20
October that he regrets the 6 October events in the Romanian
town of Arad, where anti-Hungarian demonstrators disrupted
the unveiling of a statue of Hungarian heroes of the 1848
revolution. Stoica, who was visiting Budapest, told Hungarian
Justice Minister Ibolya David that the concept of
"reconciliation" between the two countries should be replaced
by one of "friendship." Stoica said the demonstrators had
"failed to understand that emotions must be expressed in a
civilized manner." VG

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

DJUKANOVIC SAYS MONTENEGRINS' PATIENCE RUNNING OUT...
Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said at RFE/RL
headquarters in Prague on 20 October that a "critical mass"
of the Montenegrin population is determined to press ahead
with democratization, even if this means declaring
independence from Serbia. He noted that independence
supporters tend to be not "romantic, old nationalists" but
rather "impatient young people." Montenegrins have already
"lost a decade" of political and economic development during
the rule of Slobodan Milosevic and are determined not to lose
any more time. The president added that Belgrade has not
begun "to negotiate seriously" with Podgorica about
redefining the relationship between the two republics.
Montenegrins' patience is running out and they will not wait
indefinitely, Djukanovic stressed. PM

...SAYS HE'S NOT WORRIED ABOUT MILOSEVIC'S ALLIES...
Djukanovic said that he does not believe that Milosevic's
Montenegrin allies will try to secede from the republic or
start a war, as did his supporters in Krajina in 1991 or in
Bosnia in 1992. Democratic forces in Montenegro are strong
enough to block any attempt at secession. Milosevic's backers
there, moreover, know that he deserted his supporters in
Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova, Djukanovic stressed. He also
noted that the international community has "tens of
thousands" of troops in the western Balkans and will stop
Milosevic if he tries to start a new war. PM

...SEES TWO PROBLEMS FACING YUGOSLAVIA... Djukanovic argued
that the federation's first problem is how to strengthen
democracy, noting that no reform is possible as long as
Milosevic remains in office, so Montenegro does what it can
to help the Serbian opposition. The president said that the
second problem is Kosova. The international community
underestimated the potential disruptive effect on the region
of growing ethnic Albanian demands for independence. If
Kosova becomes independent, the result is likely to be a
series of wars to establish a greater Albania, Djukanovic
continued. PM

..AND SAYS MONTENEGRO BECOMING MORE DEMOCRATIC. Djukanovic
conceded that "democracy is not perfect" in Montenegro. He
argued, however, that even if state television is controlled
by his party, there are ample alternatives on the media scene
in which others can present their views. The country will
become more democratic as the economy improves. He stressed
that some of Montenegro's problems with democracy stems from
the fact that the country remains part of an undemocratic
federation in which Montenegro is the junior partner. He
denied that Montenegro played a key role in Milosevic's wars
in Croatia and Bosnia, saying that all the important
decisions are made in Belgrade. PM

INDEPENDENT RADIO BANNED IN MONTENEGRO. Officials of the
Telecommunications Ministry said in Podgorica on 20 October
that Radio Free Montenegro must stop broadcasting because it
does not have a license or the technical staff that the law
requires of all broadcasters. Nebojsa Redzic, who heads the
station, told reporters that the real reason the authorities
want his radio off the air is political. In Prague,
Djukanovic said that he learned of the closure of the station
only that same morning. He argued that the ministry's
decision is not final and that the station has "two months or
so" to clear matters up with the authorities. PM

DJINDJIC FEARS ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. Democratic Party leader
Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade that "the secret services are
preparing an assassination attempt against me," "Danas"
reported on 21 October. He said that he and some of his
friends have recently been subjected to surveillance by
unknown persons. Djindjic recently accused Milosevic's wife
Mira Markovic of planning to have him killed (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 19 October 1999). PM

UN INVESTIGATING OWN OFFICIALS IN SERBIAN PROPERTY SALES. A
UN official who requested anonymity told AP on 21 October
that UN police are investigating reports that several fellow
officers have persuaded Serbs to sell their property below
market value to ethnic Albanians. AP reported that there is a
possible business link between the men under investigation
and a local Albanian lawyer, who drew up the sales contracts.
PM

NATO FEARS VIGILANTE ACTION IN KOSOVA. A spokesman for the
Atlantic alliance said in Prishtina on 20 October that
unknown persons have posted bogus lists of "indicted Serbian
war criminals" allegedly signed by the former Kosova
Liberation Army or local Albanian militias. The spokesman
expressed fears that the presence of such lists could prompt
ethnic Albanians "to take justice into their own hands." PM

UN BEGINS BUS SERVICE IN KOSOVA. The UNHCR has launched a bus
service in the Gjilan area of southern Kosova to enable non-
Albanians to shop and go visiting, AP reported on 20 October.
In Prishtina, the UN's Bernard Kouchner opened the
Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims. He also signed
into law a series of measures aimed at eliminating
discrimination in housing and employment. PM

BELGRADE BLOCKS CIVILIAN FLIGHTS TO KOSOVA. KFOR on 20
October suspended civilian flights to Kosova, which had
resumed five days earlier. The suspension comes after the
Yugoslav authorities issued a note to airlines warning them
not to fly into Kosova from Macedonia. A KFOR spokesman
protested the Yugoslav move, saying that the June agreement
between Belgrade and NATO gives KFOR exclusive control over
Kosova's airspace. Military and humanitarian flights will
continue. PM

BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT BACKS REFUGEE RETURN PROGRAM. The
caretaker cabinet of Prime Minister Milorad Dodik approved a
program sponsored by the international community for the
return of displaced persons between the two Bosnian entities.
An RFE/RL correspondent reported from Banja Luka on 20
October that the program envisages the return of 10,000
families to their former homes on what is now Bosnian Serb
territory. PM

CROATIAN COURT RULES THAT 'TUTA' CAN GO TO HAGUE. The
Constitutional Court ruled on 21 October that the authorities
did not violate the rights of indicted Bosnian Croat war
criminal Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic during the ongoing procedure
of extraditing him to The Hague. The decision removes the
last legal obstacle to Tuta's extradition, Reuters reported.
He is expected to undergo heart surgery on 22 October,
however, and it is unclear when he will be healthy enough to
travel. PM

OPPOSITION SLAMS TUDJMAN STAND ON ELECTIONS. Representatives
of the coalition of six opposition parties objected to recent
"ambiguous" remarks by President Franjo Tudjman on whether he
will respect the outcome of the upcoming parliamentary
elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1999). In a
statement in Zagreb on 20 October, the opposition politicians
said that they are "disturbed" that Tudjman failed to say
clearly that he would appoint a prime minister from the
opposition if the opposition wins the elections. In London,
Croatian Social Democratic leader Ivica Racan said that
Tudjman will help "open the door" for Croatia's integration
into European institutions if he respects an opposition
victory, "Jutarnji list" reported on 21 October. The ballot
must take place by 2000 at the latest, but it is widely
expected before Christmas. PM

CROATIAN FARMERS BLOCK KEY HIGHWAY. An unspecified number of
farmers blocked the Zagreb-Belgrade highway near Vukovar for
nine hours on 20 October. The farmers demand that the
government pay its debt for deliveries of grain and other
agricultural products. They also want several tax breaks and
legal measures to protect Croatian agriculture from foreign
competition, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

GERMANY TO PROVIDE MORE MILITARY AID TO MACEDONIA. German
Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said in Skopje on 20
October that all Balkan countries must improve democracy as a
first step toward increased regional stability. His
Macedonian counterpart, Nikola Kljusev, announced that
Germany will provide 100,000 assault rifles and machine guns,
an unspecified quantity of anti-aircraft guns, and radar
equipment for the fledgling Macedonian military. Germany is
Macedonia's largest supplier of military equipment, AP
reported. PM

MAJKO WARNS NANO OVER ALBANIAN SOCIALIST CONGRESS. Albanian
Prime Minister Pandeli Majko told Fatos Nano, who heads his
Socialist Party, not to go ahead with a planned party
congress on 22 October, AP reported from Tirana on 20
October. Majko said that holding a congress "will bring about
a complete division of the party," which will in turn affect
Albania's stability. Nano wants to hold a congress in order
to replace at least some members of the party's steering
committee, which, he said, was not elected according to the
rules (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999). PM

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES LAW ON ACCESS TO SECURITATE FILES.
Romanian legislators on 20 October passed a bill that will
allow the public greater access to the files of the former
communist secret police, Securitate. The new law will provide
public access to the files of the president, parliamentary
deputies, cabinet ministers, and other officials. The bill
must now be signed by President Emil Constantinescu. VG

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT URGES GOVERNMENT TO SOLVE HEATING PROBLEM.
Constantinescu on 20 October called on the government to take
immediate action to resolve the heating crisis in Romania, an
RFE/RL correspondent reported. Hundreds of thousands of
Romanians are without heating because they cannot afford to
pay their bills. Since apartment buildings in Romania are
generally connected to blocs with a common heating station,
many Romanians who have paid their bills are also without
heating. VG

ROMANIAN NEWSPAPER EDITOR CONVICTED FOR RACIST ARTICLES. A
Romanian court on 20 October convicted a newspaper editor of
violating a law against racial discrimination, AP reported.
The court handed Mihai Bogdan Antonescu a two-year suspended
sentence for publishing articles designed to "spread
intolerance toward Jews," according to Mediafax. The weekly
newspaper, "Atac la persoana," regularly described
politicians as "dirty Jews" and contains a column titled
"Swastika." Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica has called for an
investigation into the weekly. VG

ROMANIAN MAYOR WANTS TO HIRE EX-SERVICEMEN TO DEAL WITH ROMA.
Piatra Neamt Mayor Ioan Rotaru said he is thinking of hiring
two ex-servicemen from Moldova to help remove a group of
illegal Romany occupants from two housing complexes in his
municipality, Basa-Press reported on 20 October, citing the
Romanian agency Mediafax. The two former soldiers have
reportedly served in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Rotaru said he
does not know what methods the two men will use to remove the
Roma, but he said he is sure they will employ "legal means."
VG

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT INSISTS ON CHANGING CONSTITUTION. Petru
Lucinschi on 20 October sent a letter to the leaders of four
parliamentary factions in which he reaffirmed his
determination to strengthen the powers of the president in
the constitution, Infotag reported. Lucinschi said he cannot
understand why the deputies are opposed to holding a
referendum on the issue. He added that if the constitutional
changes do not secure the necessary two-thirds majority in
the parliament, he will call a referendum on the issue. VG

GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER PLEDGES HELP FOR BULGARIA. Rudolf
Scharping said his country will help Bulgaria prepare its
armed forces for potential integration into NATO. Scharping,
who was on a visit to Sofia, said Germany will provide
Bulgaria with advice on trimming its military and creating a
social security net for officers who retire. He also offered
German assistance in modernizing Bulgaria's Soviet-made T-72
tanks. Scharping said that military security in the Balkans
is an important pre-condition for the region to attract
foreign investment. VG

BULGARIAN GROUP CITES IRREGULARITIES IN LOCAL ELECTIONS. The
Citizens' Initiative for Free and Democratic Elections on 20
October noted that an average of 7 percent of ballots cast in
local elections across Bulgaria last week were declared
invalid, BTA reported. In districts with a mixed ethnic
population, more than 10 percent of all ballots were invalid.
Mikhail Mirchev, a member of the initiative, said the
relatively complex voting procedure cannot have been
responsible for such a high number of invalid ballots. He
attributed the large percentages to ballot manipulations. The
initiative also remarked that it has never taken so long to
count the votes in an election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18
October 1999). VG

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