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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 206, Part II, 21 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * JAILED BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ON HUNGER STRIKE * LITHUANIAN POLITICAL CRISIS DEEPENS * DJUKANOVIC SAYS MONTENEGRINS' PATIENCE RUNNING OUT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 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. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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