|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 207, Part II, 22 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 207, Part II, 22 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 NGO REGISTERS POLICE ATTROCITIES AFTER 'FREEDOM MARCH' * CZECH COMMUNISTS LEADING IN THE POLLS * CROATIA TO VOTE ON 22 DECEMBER xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN NGO REGISTERS POLICE ATTROCITIES AFTER 'FREEDOM MARCH.' The public association Legal Assistance to the Population has issued a statement citing "gross violations of human rights" by the riot police vis-a-vis those detained after the opposition "freedom march" on 17 October, Belapan reported on 21 October. The association said it has received a "large number" of complaints from people who suffered from police mistreatment. In particular, victims reported that policemen beat them with truncheons, insulted them using foul language, and kicked at and trampled on them during their transportation in vehicles to police stations. Meanwhile, the authorities have given "expensive gifts" to some 60 riot policemen involved in suppressing the "freedom march" and awarded medals "for selfless service" to five policemen injured in the clashes. JM BELARUS WANTS TO IMPROVE TIES WITH EUROPE THROUGH FREE ELECTIONS. Belarusian Foreign Minister Ural Latypau told the Chamber of Representatives on 21 October that Belarus can normalize its relations with European countries primarily by holding free and democratic parliamentary and presidential elections, Belapan reported. In his opinion, talks between the government and the opposition could facilitate preparations for the elections. According to Latypau, the authorities are ready to begin such talks. He added, however, that the talks in Belarus will be different from those held in Poland and Czechoslovakia 10 years ago, when the opposing sides were "almost equal in strength" and discussed a transfer of power. In Belarus, Latypau said, an "absolute majority" of the population supports President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the two sides will discuss only how to hold elections that would be recognized by the EU as legitimate. JM UKRAINIAN SECURITY CHIEF DENIES CHECHEN ACTIVITIES IN CRIMEA. "Krymskaya pravda" reported on 19 October that "representatives of Chechen field commanders are buying dirt cheap apartments in Kerch, Feodosiya, and other towns of Crimea for families of [Chechen] militants," according to Interfax. The newspaper also suggested that Chechen militants are supported by "representatives of Crimean Islamist organizations of a fundamentalist orientation." Ukraine's Security Service chief Leonid Derkach told Interfax on 21 October that he has no information confirming that report. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said in Zhytomyr the same day that the authorities "are seriously keeping under control everything that is taking place in Crimea." He also said he will order that the "Krymskaya pravda" report be checked for accuracy. JM UKRAINIAN CHIEF BANKER CLAIMS TO HAVE BEATEN OFF ATTACK ON HRYVNYA. National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko on 21 October said the bank has fought off an attack on the national currency, which slipped below the government trading limit of 4.6 hryvni to $1 the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1999). Yushchenko said the attack was prepared by "Russian and Latvian banks," adding that it could be even more serious than the "fuel crisis in July-August," Interfax reported. Yushchenko noted that there are no "monetary reasons" for the destabilization of the financial market. The same day, President Leonid Kuchma commented on the recent hryvnya slide by saying that "money has appeared in Ukraine and people want to play on this." JM KUCHMA TO DEMAND $150 BILLION FROM RUSSIA? Speaking to journalists in Khmelnyskyy on 20 October, Kuchma said Ukraine intends to discuss with Russia the return of the money transferred from Ukraine's Savings Bank to Russia shortly before the breakup of the USSR. Earlier, Kuchma had said that in 1991 some 84 billion rubles ($150 billion at the official exchange rate of that time) were transferred from Ukraine to Russia. Kuchma argued that Ukraine has the right to a part of "what was accumulated and produced" during the Soviet era, according to Interfax. He added that it is difficult for him to say whether Ukraine will succeed in holding such talks since they depend on "the good will of both sides." JM ANTI-INDEPENDENCE ACTIVIST REJECTS TALLINN CITY COUNCIL SEAT. Yevgeny Kogan, who gained prominence in the late 1980s as one of the most vocal supporters of continued Soviet rule in Estonia, has given up the seat he won on Tallinn's City Council in the recent municipal elections, BNS reported on 21 October. Kogan, who ran as a candidate with People's Trust, a coalition of Russian parties, gave up his mandate "in order to avoid hindering People's Trust from fulfilling its obligations to the voters," according to coalition leader Sergei Ivanov. People's Trust is being wooed as a potential member of a majority governing coalition in Tallinn, and Kogan's presence on the party's list had been a stumbling block to reaching an agreement. MJZ ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT LEADER IN RIGA. Toomas Savi, the speaker of the Estonian parliament, met with Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins during his four-day official visit to Latvia, BNS reported on 21 October. Addressing the Latvian parliament, Savi congratulated Latvia on the European Commission's recent recommendation that the EU invite Latvia to begin accession talks before the end of 1999. Savi also praised the cooperation between Estonia and Latvia on defense issues, noting the value of such efforts given that both Estonia and Latvia aspire to become NATO members. Savi is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Andris Skele on 22 October. MJZ RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR MISSES SKRUNDA RADAR HANDOVER CEREMONY. Russian Ambassador to Latvia Aleksandr Udaltsev was conspicuously absent from the ceremony marking the return to Latvian control of the distant early warning radar site at Skrunda, according to BNS on 21 October. Some 30 foreign ambassadors attended that ceremony, during which Latvian and Russian officials signed documents formally ending nearly 50 years of Soviet/Russian military presence in Latvia. Udaltsev, however, did attend a reception that followed the ceremony, BNS reported. MJZ LATVIAN PARLIAMENT UPS PARTY MEMBERSHIP MINIMUM. Lawmakers have given final approval to a bill increasing from 200 to 1,000 the minimum number of members a political party requires to officially register, BNS reported on 21 October. Three of the six parties currently represented in the parliament--Latvia's Way, the New Party, and the left-wing alliance For Human Rights in an Integrated Latvia have fewer than 1,000 members and must raise their membership levels to that level by 31 March 2000 or risk having their registration revoked. Latvia's Way plans to ask President Vaira Vike- Freiberga to veto the legislation, according to party chairman Andrejs Pantelejevs. If Vike-Freiberga does not comply with that request, the party plans to file an appeal with the Constitutional Court. MJZ LITHUANIAN CRISIS OVER OIL DEAL CONTINUES. The leader of Lithuania's National Democratic Party, parliamentary deputy Rimantas Smetona, has accused President Valdas Adamkus of succumbing to the influence of the ruling Conservative Party during the ongoing crisis over the sale of a stake in Mazeikiai Oil to the U.S.-based Williams International company, ELTA reported on 21 October. "Now we must find out who the president stands with--the Conservatives or the nation," Smetona said during a news conference. Meanwhile, opposition parties continued to clamor for the rejection of Williams International's bid for a stake in Mazeikiai. Gediminas Kirkilas, a leader of the Democratic Labor Party, said that Lithuania would benefit more from breaking off negotiations with Williams rather than embarking on new talks. MJZ LITHUANIAN REGULATOR SAYS INGALINA IS Y2K READY. The State Nuclear Safety Inspectorate announced on 21 October that most millennium bug problems related to the Ignalina nuclear power plant and its safety systems have been solved, although some systems such as radioactivity monitoring and supervision still do not meet Y2K repair standards owing to a lack of funds. The plant has developed an emergency plan for dealing with potential Y2K problems and has confirmed that operations at Ignalina should not be affected if the Baltic States' electrical grid breaks down, ELTA reported. MJZ POLISH PARLIAMENT REJECTS 'DECOMMUNIZATION' BILL. The parliament on 22 October voted 215 to 176 with 23 abstentions to reject a bill that would have banned former communist officials from being appointed to public posts for 10 years. The bill was proposed last year by some 100 deputies of the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS). AWS deputy Marcin Kaminski told lawmakers the previous day that the bill provides "the last chance to cut the umbilical cord linking the Polish Third Republic with the totalitarian, collaborationist state that was the People's Republic of Poland." However, not only the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance and Polish Peasant Party but also the AWS's coalition partner, Freedom Union (UW), voted against the proposed legislation. The UW argued that the decommunization bill violates the constitution and applies the principle of collective responsibility. JM POLISH MINERS BLOCK RAIL TRACKS TO PROTEST MINING REFORM. Some 700 miners on 21 October blocked traffic at two rail junctions in Lazy and Tarnowskie Gory, southern Poland, to protest the government's restructuring of the coal mining sector. The miners want the government to slow down the rate at which it lays off employees and closes mines. They noted that there are not sufficient funds to pay severance to laid- off miners. The Transport Ministry has demanded that the Interior Ministry restore the flow traffic at the blocked junctions. However, the police have not intervened, arguing that the protests are taking place on a site controlled by the Railway Protection Service, which is subordinated to the Transport Ministry. JM CZECH COMMUNISTS LEADING IN THE POLLS. The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) topped the latest opinion poll by the Institute for Public Opinion Research, Czech media reported on 22 October. The Communists received 23 percent support, compared with 21 percent for the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and 17.5 percent for the governing Social Democrats. The Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats received 12 percent and 11 percent, respectively. It is the first time since the fall of the communist regime in 1989 that the KSCM has taken the lead in an opinion poll. President Vaclav Havel said the poll is a warning to the democratic parties to stop their "flirting and games" and start thinking about what is best for the country. ODS leader Vaclav Klaus said he does not believe the poll but added that it only reinforces his party's proposal for a "super-grand" governing coalition of all democratic parties. VG CZECH PARLIAMENT PASSES FOREIGNERS' LAW. The legislature on 21 October passed a law that sets stricter conditions on foreigners applying for residency in the Czech Republic, CTK reported. The legislature also passed a law on asylum for refugees, which provides for free legal aid to be granted to refugee applicants under certain circumstances. The government says the new laws are designed to ensure that Czech legislation in this area is in harmony with EU norms. VG SLOVAKIA AWARDS ORDER OF DUAL CROSS TO CHINESE AMBASSADOR. Slovak President Rudolf Schuster awarded the Order of the White Dual Cross (Second Class) to outgoing Chinese Ambassador to Slovakia Tao Miaofa, CTK reported. The order is one of the highest in Slovakia. The President's Office stated that Schuster acted on a proposal by the Foreign Ministry. Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said it is standard practice to award such orders to ambassadors at the end of their mission in the country. A small group of demonstrators gathered outside the presidential palace to protest the decision, saying the order should not be given to representatives of countries that violate human rights. VG HUNGARY SUBMITS LIST OF LOST ART WORK TO RUSSIA. The Hungarian Embassy in Moscow on 21 October submitted to the Russian Foreign Ministry a list of Hungarian art works that are believed to have been taken to Russia during and after World War II, Hungarian media reported. According to a law passed in Russia last year, the art works are now considered Russian state property. However, that law provides for bilateral negotiations in certain cases. In other news, the Federation of Jewish Religious Communities in Hungary has said that it is "shocked" by last week's unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the Hungarian gendarmerie that actively took part in the internment of some 430,000 Jews in ghettos during World War II. The plaque is dedicated to those gendarmes who were killed in action during the war. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CROATIA TO VOTE ON 22 DECEMBER. President Franjo Tudjman told the National Council of his governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) on 21 October that parliamentary elections will take place on 22 December, "Jutarnji list" reported. He said that the lower house of the parliament will dissolve itself "around 10 November," after which he will formally announce the date for the ballot. The HDZ council agreed that there will be 10 electoral districts of about 380,000 voters each, plus one "district" for Croats living abroad. Elections are due in 2000, but the HDZ and opposition alike had frequently said that the vote would take place sooner. Public opinion polls suggest that a six-party coalition of opposition parties is likely to win more votes than the HDZ, which many voters hold responsible for Croatia's low standard of living and high level of corruption. The strongest single opposition party is Ivica Racan's Social Democrats. Tudjman and the HDZ have profited in the past from the virtually incessant in-fighting within the ranks of the opposition. PM OPPOSITION, CHURCH CRITICAL OF TUDJMAN'S DECISION. The opposition coalition will present its official stand on the elections on 25 October, but initial reactions of several opposition leaders are negative, "Jutarnji list" reported on 22 October. The opposition politicians accused the government of seeking to profit from the "Christmas atmosphere." They added that the international community and Roman Catholic Church will most likely object to the timing of the vote so close to Christmas. In Rome, Archbishop Josip Bozanic, who is president of the Croatian Bishop's Conference, said that the important thing is that the election date is now finally known. Bozanic's spokesman said, however, that the government has clearly ignored a previous warning from the bishops that elections should not take place close to Christmas. PM HDZ SLAMS FARMERS' PROTEST. The government agreed on 21 October that the purpose of the farmers' protests is to embarrass the HDZ in the runup to elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1999). The HDZ National Council took the same position as the government. Farmers' spokesmen stressed that the protesters want to demonstrate their unhappiness with the government's agricultural policies and will continue their protest actions. PM IS HDZ TRYING TO PACK HIGHEST COURT? The parliament is expected to confirm on 22 October the nomination of eight individuals to fill vacancies on the 11-member Constitutional Court. Kresimir Rozman, who is vice president of a union of government workers, told AP that the authorities chose the eight on the basis of their loyalties to the HDZ. Any professional expertise that any of them may have is incidental, Rozman stressed. Vladimir Gredelj, who heads a professional organization of judges, told "Jutarnji list" that he has never heard of some of the nominees. Gredelj added that at least one nominee has made statements in public that reveal a lack of knowledge of even basic legal concepts. PM SERBIAN OPPOSITION SAYS ELECTIONS MUST BE AT ALL LEVELS. Representatives of the principal opposition parties and coalitions agreed in Belgrade on 21 October that they will participate only in elections that are simultaneously to the presidency, the parliament, and local offices, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The government favors elections to local governments only. The opposition controls some 40 municipal governments, including Belgrade and Nis. PM MILOSEVIC'S PARTY REJECTS ROUNDTABLE TALKS. Ivica Dacic, who is a spokesman for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party, said in Belgrade on 21 October that any talks about elections must take place in the parliament. He repeated his party's position that there is no need for an early ballot. The opposition wants a special roundtable to take up the issue of early elections. PM SERBIAN REGIME CONTINUES INTIMIDATION CAMPAIGN. Unidentified persons in Vranje on 20 October threatened local Democratic Party leader Dragan Janjic, warning him not to organize any demonstrations calling for Milosevic's ouster. Police sought to break up a meeting of the opposition Alliance for Change, which was attended by about 100 people, the private Beta news agency reported. In Kragujevac, police broke up a meeting at which wreaths were to have been laid in honor of high-school students killed by the Communists at the end of World War II. In Uzice, local people prevented police from detaining the leader of an independent police union. PM SECOND UN OFFICIAL ATTACKED IN PRISHTINA. Unknown persons on 20 October threw a grenade into the apartment of a Serbian interpreter for the UN mission in Kosova (UNMIK), injuring her seriously. A UN spokesman said the next day that she had previously been "harassed by Albanians," Reuters reported. Bernard Kouchner, who heads the UN mission, said that "this deplorable attack on innocent women [sic.] and on a UNMIK staff member deserves the world's condemnation." On 11 October, a crowd of ethnic Albanians killed a UNMIK official of Bulgarian origin after mistaking him for a Serb (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999). PM BERLIN DENIES REPORT OF MACEDONIAN ARMS SALES. A German Defense Ministry spokesman has denied press reports from Macedonia that Germany has agreed to provide Macedonia's small army with a considerable quantity of arms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1999). The spokesman said on 21 October that the ministry is studying a Macedonian request for arms but has not made any commitment. PM CAR BOMB ATTACK ON BOSNIAN SERB JOURNALIST. A car bomb seriously injured independent journalist and publisher Zeljko Kopanja in front of the Republika Srpska government complex in Banja Luka on 22 October, Beta reported. His "Nezavisne novine" recently ran a series of articles on war criminals and speculators. Hospital spokesmen told the private Onasa news agency that Kopanja is not in a critical condition. Several bystanders were also injured, dpa reported. PM PETRITSCH, BARRY PRESENT PROPOSED BOSNIAN ELECTORAL LAW. The international community's Wolfgang Petritsch and the OSCE's Robert Barry presented a proposed election law to the three members of the Bosnian joint presidency in Sarajevo on 21 October. Petritsch said that he hopes the Bosnian authorities will approve the law in time for the October 2000 elections. Observers note that the law is aimed at easing the grip that nationalist politicians have on their respective communities. It will require candidates to win at least some support on either side of the inter-ethnic boundary. At least one-third of all candidates must be women. Some anti-nationalist politicians say that the law does not go far enough because it does not enable many voters to cross ethnic lines when voting for members of the presidency. PM ITALY CALLS FOR BETTER ECONOMIC TIES WITH ALBANIA. On a short visit to Tirana on 21 October, Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema called for replacing the blossoming illicit trade between the two countries with more legitimate activities. "We should interrupt the trafficking of guns, drugs, and cigarettes and the disgusting smuggling of people which offends the conscience of Europe. We should replace that with a safe sea where ships carrying goods travel between the coast of Italy and the fascinating but not [economically developed] Albanian coast. Security and development move together," he added. D'Alema stressed that Italian business needs a peaceful environment in Albania if it is to develop economic ties there. "We want to make contact with the Balkans and the East through Albania. This is the role that Italy should play in order that the [EU's] Stability Pact does not remain an empty phrase," AP reported. PM ROMANIAN SENATOR BLASTS CHANGES TO NEW LAW ON SECURITATE FILES. Constantin Ticu Dumitrescu on 21 October accused the parliament of "killing" the recently passed bill on public access to the files of the former communist Securitate, according to a Mediafax report cited by the BBC (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1999). Dumitrescu, who drafted the original version of the bill, said parliamentary deputies had made so many amendments to his draft that it would now serve as a "veil" for the activities of the former Securitate. He said the fact that the new version of the bill does not allow people to study documents that do not deal with their own persecution defeats the original purpose of his draft. He also criticized the decision to allow the current secret service to lock away certain files on the pretext that they might be dangerous for state security. Dumitrescu called on President Emil Constantinescu not to sign the bill. VG ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES FUNDING FOR HEATING CRISIS. The Romanian government on 21 October decided to increase the 1999 budget deficit in order to secure funding for alleviating the country's heating crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline." 21 October 1999). The government plans to allocate 400 billion lei ($23 million) in subsidies to the country's heating distributors. Finance Minister Decebal Traian Remes refused to say whether the budget deficit increase would threaten the country's stand-by loan agreement with the IMF. The IMF has already expressed concern at the government's wage policies. VG MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES DEPUTY PROSECUTORS. Lawmakers on 21 October confirmed the appointment of three new deputies to the prosecutor-general, BASA-Press reported. The Christian Democratic Popular Front and the Communists voted against those appointments, saying that two of the candidates had been involved in attempts to interfere with police investigations. Prosecutor-General Mircea Iuga dismissed the accusations as "unfounded." VG BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES ECONOMIC PLAN... The cabinet on 21 October approved an economic development plan, Bulgarian media reported. The plan calls for a host of measures designed to achieve stable GDP growth, including administration restructuring, infrastructure development, and investment in human resources. It aims at annual GDP growth of 4 percent and a maximum inflation rate of 3 percent. Economic growth for the first half of 1999 equaled just 0.5 percent. Deputy Prime Minister Alexandar Bojkov said the government also plans to speed up the privatization process. Bojkov said this year's privatizations should bring in some $500 million. VG ...ADOPTS ARMED FORCES STRATEGY. The cabinet also approved a plan that calls for the personnel of the armed forces to be reduced by 44,800 from its current strength of 93,000 by 2004, BTA reported. Defense Minister Georgi Ananiev said the armed forces would be divided into rapid reaction, defense, territorial, and reserve forces. 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. 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