|A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner. - Samuel Johnson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 214, Part II, 3 November 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 214, Part II, 3 November 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 * UNION TREATY DRAFT APPROVED BY BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENTARY CHAMBER * MONTENEGRO INTRODUCES GERMAN MARK * DEL PONTE URGES ARRESTS OF MORE WAR CRIMES SUSPECTS End Note: MONITORS EVALUATE UKRAINIAN ELECTIONS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UNION TREATY DRAFT APPROVED BY BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENTARY CHAMBER. The lower house of the Belarusian National Assembly unanimously passed a draft treaty on a union between Russia and Belarus, Reuters reported. Leonyd Kozyk, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's representative for the union with Russia, said before the vote that "the union treaty...is a new stage in our relations with Russia, creating the basis for integration." Kozyk said, however, that Belarus is disappointed by the sluggish pace of integration and that differences remain in customs regulations and trade levies. He added that Russia still refuses to provide Belarus with oil and gas at "domestic" prices. And he noted that Belarusian citizens have been active in the discussion of the draft treaty, although he did not say how. PB EU CONCERNED WITH BELARUSIAN RIGHTS RECORD. An EU mission on a visit to Minsk said on 2 November that it is "concerned about the overall unsatisfactory record of human rights in Belarus," dpa reported. EU delegation head Rene Nyberg said "the inability of the authorities to shed light on disappeared [members of the opposition] is of particular concern." Hugues Mingarelli, the European Commission service head, said "our common objective is a free and just 2000 election." The EU also announced that Belarus has agreed to accept EU funding to support free media and independent unions. It is the first major agreement between the EU and Belarus since Brussels curbed cooperation with Minsk two years ago on account of its human rights record. The EU program earmarks $5.5 million for media and unions in Belarus. PB U.S. URGES FREE AND FAIR RUNOFF ELECTION IN UKRAINE. The U.S. State Department on 2 November called for Ukrainian officials to ensure a free and fair second round of presidential elections, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The State Department said such an election would contribute to Ukraine's development as a stable democracy. In other news, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 November that Russian Premier Vladimir Putin telephoned President Kuchma the same day to congratulate him on his showing in the first round of the election. A press spokesman said the two also discussed bilateral trade matters. PB UKRAINIAN OFFICIALS DETAIN SUSPECTED KUCHMA ASSASSIN. The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) said on 2 November that it has arrested a man suspected of planning an attack on President Leonid Kuchma, AP reported. The SBU said the man has admitted to having accomplices. It did not release his name. During the election campaign, several opposition candidates claimed there were plots to assassinate them, but no evidence was produced and such reports were dismissed as an election ploy to gain sympathy from voters. The only attack against a presidential candidate occurred on 2 October, against Natalya Vitrenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999). PB ESTONIAN MINISTER SEEKS TAX RELIEF FOR U.S. ENERGY INVESTOR. Estonian Economics Minister Mihkel Parnoja has asked the Environment Ministry for a significant reduction in the resource taxes and pollution compensation fees that are to be levied on NRG Energy, the U.S. company that plans to privatize a power plant in the northeastern Estonian city of Narva. According BNS on 2 November, a spokesman for the Estonian Green Movement claims that NRG Energy is unwilling to pay the proposed fees and the Economics Ministry is calling on the Environment Ministry to meet the investor half-way. Raivo Vare, Estonia's chief negotiator in talks with NRG Energy, said the request was not made by NRG but rather was prompted by concern about the future in Estonia of oil shale-based energy production. MJZ LATVIAN SECURITY POLICE CHIEF RESIGNS. Imants Bekess has submitted a letter of resignation to Interior Minister Mareks Seglins, after only two months in office, according to LETA. Seglins accepted his resignation on 2 November, and appointed Bekess's deputy, Janis Reiniks, as acting chief. Bekess said he resigned for "wholly personal" reasons and denied that he was pressured to leave his post. Andris Skele's government had demanded action from Bekess and the security police in stopping the contraband gasoline trade, and comments by government officials following Bekess's resignation reflect impatience on that score. BNS reported that opposition deputy Janis Adamsons had earlier claimed that unnamed parties tried to force Bekess to allow compromising materials to be purged from security police archives, while deputy Oskars Grigs announced that Skele himself exerted pressure on Bekess. Skele, however, vehemently denies that was the case. MJZ LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS RUSSIA WANTS BALTICS AS 'GRAY ZONE.' Indulis Berzins claimed in an interview published in the October/November issue of the Nordic Council magazine "Politik i Norden" that Russia "wants to retain the Baltic countries as a gray zone...because in the event Moscow becomes much stronger again it may use different mechanisms than now to increase its influence in the region," BNS reported on 2 November. Berzins said that as long as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania remain outside the EU and NATO, a zone of instability and insecurity will exist in the Baltic Sea Region. He added that the Nordic countries should work to ensure that Latvia is included in the first round of EU expansion. MJZ FORMER RUSSIAN PREMIER PRAISES LITHUANIA. Baltic and Russian agencies reported on 2 November quoted Yevgenii Primakov, leader of the Fatherland-All Russia electoral bloc, as saying after his meeting with Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus that he regards Lithuania as an excellent partner for Russia. Of the three Baltic countries, Lithuania has the closest relations with Russia, according to Primakov. The former Russian premier assured Adamkus that the State Duma will ratify the Russian-Lithuanian border agreement. Primakov also said that with regard to the deal giving U.S.-based Williams International a stake in Lithuania's oil sector, Adamkus assured him that Lithuania is open for contacts with Russia and that Lithuania does not wish to have a one-sided orientation in trade and investment. AB POLAND'S RULING PARTIES COMPROMISE ON TAX DEAL. The junior member of Poland's governing coalition, the Freedom Union (UW), said on 3 November that it has accepted a modified version of the UW's tax reform plans proposed by its ruling partner, the Solidarity Election Action (AWS), Reuters reported. The row between the two parties over tax reforms had threatened the stability of the government. Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz, who is also the leader of the UW, said the compromise is "more evidence of our goodwill." Balcerowicz indirectly threatened to pull his party out of the government unless the UW's tax plan is accepted. Under the revised plan, personal income tax brackets would be lowered to 19 percent, 29 percent, and 36 percent next year, to 19 percent, 28 percent, and 35 percent in 2001, and to 18 percent and 28 percent the following year. The UW had wanted to introduce the two-bracket system one year earlier to spur economic growth. PB POLISH SUPPORT FOR JOINING EU FALLS... A survey taken in October showed that only 47 percent of respondents would back Poland's entry into the EU if a referendum were held on the issue, PAP reported on 2 November. In a similar poll taken one year ago, 64 percent of respondents said they supported the country's entry into the union. PB ...AS UNEMPLOYMENT RISES. The National Labor Office reported on 2 November that last month the number of unemployed rose by 34,000 people to 12.1 percent of the workforce. The highest unemployment rate was recorded in Warmia and Mazury Province, in northeastern Poland, where 21.4 percent of workers are jobless. PB MINOR OPPOSITION PARTIES WANT TO DISMISS CZECH GOVERNMENT. The Freedom Union and the Christian Democratic Party are ready to submit a no confidence motion in Milos Zeman's cabinet, Czech media on 2 November quoted Jan Ruml and Jan Kasal, the chairmen of the two parties, as saying. They noted, however, that the two formations do not have enough votes in the parliament to submit such a motion (the support of 51 deputies would be required, while the two parties have 38 deputies in the lower house). Ruml and Kasal called on deputies representing the largest opposition formation, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), and the ruling Social Democratic Party to support the motion. But ODS chairman Vaclav Klaus, in an interview with Czech radio, called the proposal a "theatrical gesture" and said he does not believe any ODS deputy will join the initiative. MS EU PREPARED TO DISCUSS 'TRANSITION PERIOD' WITH CZECHS. German Foreign Ministry State Secretary Christoph Zoepel told CTK on 2 November that the EU is prepared to discuss with the Czech Republic a "transition period" with regard to the question of the purchase of land by EU nationals. He added that in order for such a period to be introduced, Prague must produce "proof" that such a transition period is really needed. Zoepel said the belief that allowing foreigners to purchase land would result in soaring prices is "biased" but he added that in exchange the EU might demand a transition period for the free movement of the Czech labor force in the EU. Zoepel was speaking after meeting in Prague with Czech Deputy Foreign Minister in charge of EU negotiations Pavel Telicka. MS VERHEUGEN SAYS SLOVAK REFORMS PACE WILL DETERMINE EU MEMBERSHIP. Guenter Verheugen, EU commissioner in charge of enlargement, told journalists in Bratislava on 2 November that there is no opposition in the EU to Slovakia's beginning membership negotiations as early as 2000. He said the pace at which Slovakia adopts the necessary reforms will determine whether it is accepted as an EU member. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said his country's strategic goal is to catch up with the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary, and become a member of the "fast track" group, CTK and AP reported. Verheugen also said Slovakia must work hard in reforming its civil service and other administrative sectors as a precondition to EU membership. He praised the government's decision to close down the two nuclear reactors at Jaslovske Bohunice within the next decade. MS SLOVAK PRESIDENT CALLS FOR REFORMS, GOVERNMENT UNITY. In his "state of the nation" address to the parliament on 2 November, Rudolf Schuster said economic reforms must continue, even if they cause a temporary drop in the government's popularity. Schuster blamed the former government of Vladimir Meciar for much of the present economic malaise but added that Dzurinda's cabinet is also at fault for being slow in rectifying its predecessor's mistakes and for divisions within the coalition. The president also commented that decisions are often taken at party level rather than at that of the cabinet, making the coordination of their implementation difficult. And he said that high unemployment is Slovakia's most serious problem and reflects "failed or unfinished social transformation." MS MOSCOW SLAMS BUDAPEST OVER NUCLEAR WEAPONS COMMENT. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told journalists in Moscow on 2 November that Russia is "seriously concerned" about Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban's recent comment in an Canadian newspaper saying that NATO nuclear weapons might be deployed on Hungarian territory in an "emergency situation," Interfax reported. Those remarks, Rakhmanin continued, are a "direct violation of the Russia- NATO Founding Act, in which NATO countries confirmed they had no intentions, plans, or causes to deploy weapons in the territories of new members." He added that they also "directly confirm Russia's concerns relating to NATO enlargement." Orban had told the Canadian newspaper that the alliance needs nuclear weapons "because of the uncertainties around the future of Russia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 1999). MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MONTENEGRO INTRODUCES GERMAN MARK... The Montenegrin government on 2 November introduced the German mark as its second legal currency (see "RFE/R" Newsline," November 1999). Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and other officials from the republic said Montenegro was forced to take the step to protect itself from bad monetary policy and instability in neighboring Serbia. Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said the move has "absolutely nothing to do" with "destructive" measures such as "secession," Radio Montenegro reported on 2 November. Meanwhile, Djukanovic said the move will "increase the time span" during which Montenegro can wait for changes in Serbia before taking further steps toward independence. VG ...WHILE U.S. EXPRESSES 'UNDERSTANDING'... The U.S. State Department on 2 November expressed understanding for Montenegro's currency decision. A State Department official said the U.S. "recognizes the serious economic concerns" that led Montenegro to such a decision. The official added that the move "underscores the need for democratic change in Yugoslavia." VG ...AND MOST YUGOSLAV OFFICIALS KEEP QUIET. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic made no official mention of developments in Montenegro on 2 November after a meeting with Serbian President Mirko Marjanovic, according to a Radio Belgrade report cited by the BBC. Instead, Milosevic congratulated Marjanovic on his efforts to reconstruct the country after the NATO bombing. The same day, however, the Yugoslav United Left party, which was formed by Milosevic's wife, denounced Montenegro's currency decision as the work of "separatists," Tanjug reported. Meanwhile, opposition Serbian Renewal Movement spokesman Ivan Kovacevic welcomed the Montenegrin decision and said Serbia should also introduce the German mark. Kovacevic said Montenegro's efforts to redefine its relationship with Serbia do not represent a threat to the existence of the Yugoslav federal republic. VG STUDENTS DEMONSTRATE IN BELGRADE. Between 2,000 and 3,000 Serbian students marched through the streets of Belgrade on 2 November to demand early elections. The rally, which was organized by 16 student organizations, was one of the first student-led rallies since the winter of 1996-1997. Demonstrators marched past the headquarters of the governing Socialist Party chanting calls for Yugoslav President Milosevic to be sent to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague. VG SERBIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES ASK EU TO LIFT SOME SANCTIONS. During a 2 November meeting with EU representatives in Budapest, a group of Serbian opposition politicians called on the EU to lift some of its economic sanctions against Yugoslavia, MTI reported. Slobodan Vuksanovic, deputy chairman of the Democratic Party, said the group repeated its request that the EU "differentiate between the Milosevic regime and the Serbian citizens, as the latter do not deserve to be punished." VG YUGOSLAV AUTHORITIES RELEASE BRITISH CORRESPONDENT. A British correspondent for "The Times" newspaper was released from prison on 2 November because of health problems, the Serbian Justice Ministry told Beta. Dessa Trevisan had been sentenced to 10 days in jail the previous day for travelling in Yugoslavia without a valid entry stamp in her passport (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 1999). Trevisan described conditions in the Belgrade prison as "inhumane" but added that she was not mistreated during the night she spent in jail, AP reported on 2 November. She said the judge told her British passports are "not appreciated" in Yugoslavia. VG STABILITY PACT COORDINATOR CALLS FOR 'RESTRUCTURED' SANCTIONS. The international community's coordinator for the Balkan Stability pact, Bodo Hombach, said on 2 November that while sanctions against Yugoslavia have been "effective," they need to be restructured to minimize the impact on average Serbs. VG U.S. DIPLOMAT CALLS FOR AN END TO ANTI-SERB VIOLENCE IN KOSOVA. William Walker has condemned recent attacks on ethnic Serbs in Kosova, AP reported on 2 November. Walker is well known and well respected among ethnic Albanians in Kosova for having condemned Serbian violence against Albanians in the province before the NATO bombing campaign began in March. Walker, who is on a visit to Kosova, said attacks on Serbs in the region play "into the hands of Milosevic." However, he also said the overall situation in Kosova has improved since he was last in the province. "When I was here before it was night, and now I think it's day," he commented. VG DEL PONTE URGES ARRESTS OF MORE WAR CRIMES SUSPECTS... Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, on 2 November urged SFOR troops in Bosnia- Herzegovina to engage in a "more active effort" to arrest war crimes suspects, Reuters reported. She added that the tribunal will issue more indictments next year. Since 1996, SFOR has arrested 14 war crimes suspects and killed two others while trying to arrest them. Some suspects, including former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, are still at large. Del Ponte, who is on a visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina, said that SFOR Commander Ronald Adams assured her that SFOR will continue to support the tribunal's efforts. VG ...WHILE ADAMS ANNOUNCES REDUCTION IN SFOR TROOPS. Adams on 2 November announced that SFOR troop strength will be reduced by one-third by April 2000 because of the improving security situation in Bosnia. There are currently about 30,000 troops from some 40 countries supervising the peace in Bosnia- Herzegovina. VG TUPURKOVSKI OFFERS TO STEP DOWN OVER ELECTION RESULT. Democratic Alliance chairman Vasil Tupurkovski on 2 November offered to step down as party leader after finishing third in the Macedonian presidential elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 1999), Reuters reported. He described his offer as a "normal gesture" for a politician who fails to achieve a stated goal. Tupurkovski added that his party is re-examining future relations within the governing coalition, of which the alliance is a member. The relatively poor showing of Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Trajkovski in the vote is causing strains within the governing VMRO-DPMNE, according to a source close to the government cited by Reuters. VG IMF GIVES ALBANIA POSITIVE ECONOMIC ASSESSMENT. A visiting IMF delegation on 2 November announced that economic growth in Albania is expected to reach 8 percent this year, while inflation will be around zero by the end of the year, dpa reported. The delegation said the budget deficit is under control and the government has made "notable progress" on its privatization program. The news agency also reported that the positive economic results are largely a result of the increased foreign assistance and hard currency flowing into the country as a result of the Kosova crisis. Albanian Finance Minister Anastas Angjeli said the government has agreed with the IMF that economic growth and inflation will total 8 percent and 3 percent, respectively, next year. VG ALBANIAN POLICE CONDUCT BORDER AREA SWEEP. Albanian police arrested 21 people in a 2 November sweep through the northeastern part of the country near the border with Kosova, dpa reported. The detained persons are suspected of smuggling as well as involvement in a series of robberies of ethnic Albanians from Kosova. The sweep comes as Albania prepares to sign an agreement with Germany on the repatriation of some 200,000 Kosova Albanians. The Kosovars are to pass through Albania on their way home. VG ROMANIAN SUPREME COURT QUERIES LAW ON ACCESS TO SECURITATE FILES. The Supreme Court on 2 November appealed to the Constitutional Court to consider the constitutionality of the recently passed law on access to the files of the former secret police, Mediafax reported. The law does not allow access to the files of employees of the post-communist secret services, with the exception of the directors of those services and their deputies. The Supreme Court says that this restriction infringes on Article 31 of the constitution, which provides for the freedom of information. The Constitutional Court will consider the appeal on 28 November. MS MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN CRITICIZES LUCINSCHI. Dumitru Diacov on 2 November said the government will ask the parliament to vote confidence in it on 4 November. He also accused President Petru Lucinschi of having organized an anti-parliamentary campaign, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Last week, the legislature rejected the government's draft law envisaging budget cuts as well as bills on the privatization of five of the country's leading wineries and the Chisinau cigarette factory. Diacov, who heads the formerly pro-presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc, said that if these laws are rejected again, the cabinet will resign because that would mean an end to financing from the IMF and the World Bank. In such a case, he added, responsibility will rest with Lucinschi and those parties and independent deputies who support him. MS BULGARIAN PREMIER IN FRANCE. Ivan Kostov said after talks with his French counterpart, Lionel Jospin, and President Jacques Chirac in Paris on 2 November that he is "leaving France very happy," BTA reported. Kostov told journalists that Jospin assured him that the EU will start accession talks with "all applicants of the second wave" at the same time. He said that France's "categorical position" is that all those countries, including Bulgaria and Romania, will be invited to join the EU. Kostov discussed with Chirac EU conditions for starting negotiations with Bulgaria. He said that they both agreed that "progress in economic reforms will be no problem." Kostov said that France "will not be the country to press" for closing down the Kozloduy nuclear plant, and he noted that Jospin expressed readiness to offer Bulgaria "expert assistance" on the matter. MS END NOTE MONITORS EVALUATE UKRAINIAN ELECTIONS by Lily Hyde Monitoring organizations unanimously agree that voting in Ukraine's 31 October presidential election was conducted in a peaceful and orderly fashion. The Committee of Ukrainian Voters (CVU), the International Republican Institute, and a joint statement by the Council of Europe and the OSCE all said that their monitors had seen minor infringements of the election law but these were insufficient to affect the outcome. They agreed that most violations seemed to be the result of ignorance or incompetence rather than deliberate fraud. The CVU did not gain official accreditation for its monitors because the Ukrainian government was giving such credentials only to foreign or international groups. The OSCE has called this discrepancy a "backward step" in the election law. But the CVU managed to send to polling stations some 16,000 people accredited as journalists. Igor Popov, head of the CVU, said that those observers found a large number of violations of the election law...but our general conclusion is that these violations have not significantly influenced the results of the election. We want to emphasize that the candidates who will go on to the second round were those really supported by Ukrainian voters." Popov noted that the gap between the first and second places, taken by incumbent Leonid Kuchma and challenger Petro Symonenko, and the third place is so large that the 300,000 to 400,000 votes considered questionable by the CVU could not invalidate the results. The CVU's Yevhen Radchenko divided violations into three types: electioneering on voting day, misconduct in the voting and counting processes, and, worst of all, interference by government officials. "The third group of violation, to our mind, is the most serious and dangerous that we detected," he commented. "These are violations committed by officials who are not legally participating in the election process. These officials often directly or indirectly intervened in the election process." In polling stations across the country, many election committees consisted of employees from one government institution, while committee heads were most often Kuchma appointees. For example, in one polling station in Irpin, a small town just outside Kyiv, more than half of the committee members worked at the forestry institute at which voting took place, and the head of the institute was present all day during polling as an official observer for Kuchma. Speaking to RFE/RL, the institute head said he had told all his staff to cast their ballots for Kuchma. But he rejected the idea that his presence during voting in any way influenced the vote. All the monitoring groups expressed deep concern at the conduct of the election campaign, which, they said, was characterized by media manipulation, illegal government participation, and even violence. The OSCE's report was especially damning on government interference prior to voting. It said that political intervention on behalf of incumbent President Kuchma had been undertaken by security forces, the post office, and housing authorities. Simon Osborne, head of the OSCE mission in Ukraine, told journalists in Kyiv on 1 November that the election observers mission received "numerous verified reports that public officials in state institutions were campaigning in favor of the incumbent president." For example, Osborne said, "observers noted that heads of state administrations in eight oblasts at various levels openly urged voters to vote for the president." Furthermore, the election mission "received numerous allegations that postal workers were distributing campaign materials for President Kuchma and that [housing authority] employees were canvassing support for the incumbent president in at least four oblasts. In the latter case, the involvement in the election campaign could easily be perceived as intimidation," according to the OSCE official. The OSCE also heavily criticized the lack of independent coverage in state-run media. The organization said this reporting overwhelmingly favored Kuchma. The author is an RFE/RL corespondent based in Kyiv. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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