|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 217, Part II, 8 November 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 217, Part II, 8 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 * UKRAINIANS STAGE RIVAL RALLIES TO MARK 1917 ANNIVERSARY * MONTENEGRO TAKES MEASURES FOR ECONOMIC STABILITY * ROMANIAN WORKERS RAID OFFICE OF BRASOV PREFECTURE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUS MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF 1917 REVOLUTION. Some 10,000 people took part in a state-sponsored rally in Minsk on 7 November to mark the 82nd anniversary of the 1917 October revolution, which is observed as a state holiday in Belarus, Belapan reported. With the exception of parliamentary speaker Anatol Malafeyeu, a Soviet-era Belarusian Communist leader, no top officials took part in the demonstration. Participants carried placards reading "Long Live Socialism" and "Lenin, Stalin, Lukashenka." At a rally in Homel, police detained three oppositionists who tried to display slogans other than those officially approved. Other opposition activists, however, succeeded in displaying a quote from Lenin: "Russia Is a Prison of Nations." JM MINSK TO OBTAIN $60 MILLION FROM PRAGUE TO BUY GRAIN. Belarusian Premier Syarhey Linh told Belarusian Television on 7 November that the Czech Republic has agreed to provide Belarus with a $60 million loan "on favorable conditions" to buy some 500,000 tons of grain, including 40,000 tons of food grain. Owing to the poor harvest this year, Belarus has a grain shortfall of some 2 million tons. JM UKRAINIANS STAGE RIVAL RALLIES TO MARK 1917 ANNIVERSARY. Supporters of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his competitor in the 14 November presidential runoff, Communist Petro Symonenko, held rival demonstrations across Ukraine to mark the anniversary of the 1917 revolution and to back the presidential bids of both candidates. "In these elections, we should return power to the people...and change the country's ruinous socio-economic course," Symonenko told a 3,500-strong crowd of Communist supporters in Kyiv. "Some call [the 1917 revolution] the dawn of a new era and others--a coup marking the beginning of the long rule of dictatorship and violence.... A look at the past should prevent us from repeating tragic mistakes," Kuchma said on television. In Lviv, nationalists threw eggs and bags with paint at Communists and burned the flags of the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian SSR. JM BALTIC WOMEN RECEIVE FAR LOWER WAGES THAN MALE COUNTERPARTS. BNS reported that a Finnish Labor Ministry study on the Baltic States shows that women receive significantly lower wages than their male counterparts. The report noted that the discrepancy is largest in Estonia, where women's wages are on average 37 percent lower than men's. The discrepancy is 30 percent in Latvia and 23 percent in Lithuania. The study also showed that workers under the age of 30 in Latvia have the highest average income, while those aged 30-39 in both Estonia and Lithuania earn the most. MH CONFUSION CONTINUES OVER TALLINN MAYORAL VOTE. Juri Mois's election as mayor of Tallinn continues to cause confusion in the Estonian capital (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1999). President Lennart Meri on 5 November reluctantly accepted Mois's resignation as interior minister, citing confusion over the mayoral election, BNS reported. The opposition in the Tallinn City Council called the vote illegal, as Mois failed to win an outright majority in the first round and won only in a second vote. And "Postimees" reported that parts of the transcript tape have since disappeared. Tarmo Loodus, who until recently was the mayor of Viljandi, has been nominated as interior minister. MH AHTISAARI DISCUSSES ESTONIAN LANGUAGE LAW. Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, speaking in Tallinn at the conference "Estonia and the EU" on 5 November, stressed the importance for Estonia of a language law harmonized with EU norms, BNS and "Eesti Paevaleht" reported. Ahtisaari said that "it is extremely essential to businesses, foreign investors and also from the point of view of the state's development." Ahtisaari also praised the rapid pace of development in the Baltics, in particular, the high educational standards, the strong work motivation, and the fact that "mutual investment between the countries of northern Europe is growing." Finland currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU. MH NEW LITHUANIAN CABINET FORMED. Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius on 5 November submitted the list of new government ministers, and President Valdas Adamkus soon after issued a decree approving the new cabinet. The only changes are at the Economics and Finance Ministries, as former Economics Minister Eugenijus Maldeikis and Finance Minister Jonas Lionginas both resigned just ahead of Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas's resignation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1999). Kubilius nominated current parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Vytautas Dudenas as finance minister and president of the computer firm Alna, Valentinas Milaknis, as economics minister. Justice Minister Gintaras Balciunas chose to remain in the cabinet and suspended his membership in the Center Union, which is now fully in opposition, ELTA reported. The government is scheduled to present its program to the parliament on 8 November. A vote is take place within a week. MH POLISH COALITION AGREES ON PRO-FAMILY TAX RELIEF. Freedom Union (UW) head Leszek Balcerowicz and Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) leader Marian Krzaklewski agreed on 5 November to grant tax relief to the lowest-income families, PAP reported. The agreement paves the way for submitting a tax reform bill to the parliament. The aim of that reform is to reduce and change the current system of three income tax brackets of 19 percent, 29 percent, and 36 percent to one composed of two brackets of 18 percent and 28 percent in 2002. While the UW is pushing for reductions in income and corporate taxes, the AWS stresses the need for tax preferences for those who have both the lowest income and at least two children. The opposition Democratic Left Alliance and Peasant Party have criticized the Balcerowicz-proposed plan to reduce taxes for people with high incomes. JM CEI TO TAKE ACTIVE PART IN BALKAN STABILITY PACT. Meeting in Prague on 5 and 6 November, the premiers of the Central European Initiative issued a declaration saying the CEI intends to "actively participate" in the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, CTK and BTA reported. The CEI premiers expressed concern over continuing cases of ethnic violence and intolerance in Kosova. They emphasized the high priority of creating conditions for the free, safe, and voluntary return of all refugees to their homes. They noted their "concern" over the situation in the Yugoslav section of River Danube and the urgent necessity of removing from the river debris caused by the NATO bombings. And they called for the "prompt start" of EU accession talks with Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia." The CEI is composed 16 Western and Eastern European countries. MS. SUSPECT IN SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S SON ABDUCTION TURNS HIMSELF IN. Lubos Kosic, one of three suspects in the 1995 abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son, surrendered to the police on 5 November, SITA reported. The two other suspects, Martin Liesovsky and Miroslav Segita, had turned themselves in on 19 October, one day after Slovak police launched a national search for the three men. None of the suspects worked for the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS), but the operation was led by a former SIS agent known as "Michal H, " who was detained in June after former SIS official Jaroslav Svechota gave testimony on the abduction. MS SLOVAK OPPOSITION 'MOVEMENT' TO BECOME 'PARTY.' The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) intends to transform itself into a political party at a HZDS congress in March 2000, CTK and SITA reported. Former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar told a meeting of the HZDS leadership in Piestany on 6 November that the new party will be based "on four pillars--Christian, national, civic, and social." He said that as a party, the HZDS will be able to provide Slovakia's citizens with "a vision" for solving society's problems. Meciar harshly criticized Mikulas Dzurinda's cabinet, saying that after one year, its performance has exceeded "the gloomiest vision painted by the HZDS" after last year's parliamentary elections. MS HUNGARIAN COURT REINSTATES DISMISSED HEALTH FUND HEAD. The Budapest Metropolitan Court on 5 November ruled that the dismissal of Agnes Cser, former director-general of the National Health Insurance Fund was unlawful, Hungarian media report. The court ordered that she be reinstated. Cser was dismissed in July 1998, shortly after the new government took office. According to the court ruling, she was not offered a suitable post after her dismissal, despite the fact that such a post could have been offered her at some 150 state organizations. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSOVARS REBURY MASSACRE VICTIMS. Several hundred ethnic Albanians attended a reburial ceremony on 7 November for 46 people killed by Serbian forces in Stutica in April. The village, which is in the Drenica region west of Prishtina, was a stronghold of the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). PM KOSOVA SERBS MEET WITH RUSSIAN ENVOY. Father Sava, who is the spokesman for Kosovar Serb leader Archbishop Artemije, told visiting Russian Ambassador to the UN Sergei Lavrov that Kosova "is exposed to severe ethnic cleansing [and] to extreme ethnic discrimination, not only against Serbs but against all Slav-speaking people." Father Sava added that ethnic Albanian extremists also discriminate against other Albanians who do not hold nationalist views, AP reported on 7 November. Momcilo Trajkovic, who heads the Serbian National Council's Executive Board, told the Russian visitor that KFOR and the province's UN-backed administration have, in effect, become instruments of the Albanian nationalists. Lavrov also met with representatives of the Serbian government. PM KFOR TO STAY FOR UP TO 10 YEARS? Daan Everts, who is the OSCE's chief representative in Kosova, told a Dutch television station in The Hague on 7 November that peacekeepers will probably be needed in Kosova for up to another 10 years. He condemned increasing attacks on the Serbian and Roma minorities in the province. Everts also slammed what he called attempts to partition Kosova into northern and southern halves, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM WHO TRIED TO BLOW UP KOSOVA RAILWAY BRIDGE? Unknown persons used up to 50 kilograms of explosives to damage a railway bridge near the divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica on 5 November. It is unclear who planted the charge, nor is it clear whether they intended to blow up a passenger train en route from Serbia or simply to damage the bridge, Reuters reported. UN spokesmen called the blast an act of sabotage. Spokesmen for local Serbs charged that ethnic Albanian nationalists set off the explosion. PM MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT GETS WASHINGTON'S BACKING. Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 7 November that he is pleased with the results of his recent trip to the U.S. Djukanovic stressed that he received pledges of $40 million in financial support so that he can carry out key reform projects, the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported. He added that his hosts endorsed his recent introduction of the German mark as legal tender alongside the Yugoslav dinar (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1999). PM MONTENEGRO TAKES MEASURES FOR ECONOMIC STABILITY. Economics Minister Vojin Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 5 November that his country is moving toward a "single currency system, which means that the [Yugoslav] dinar may be taken out of circulation," Reuters reported. The following day, the monetary council decided to limit payments in dinars from Serbia to Montenegro to prevent the authorities in Belgrade from "undermining Montenegro's monetary stability" by flooding the republic with dinars. PM FIRST MONTENEGRIN SALARIES PAID IN MARKS. An unspecified number of civil servants received their pay in German marks on 6 November. The previous day, some 34.5 tons of German coins and banknotes arrived from Germany by air in the Croatian port of Dubrovnik. Two trucks with Montenegrin license plates then took the marks across the border into Montenegro, AP reported. PM SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS PLEASED WITH U.S. VISIT. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 5 November that he and several fellow opposition leaders "achieved every point" on their agenda during their recent visit to Washington, AP reported. He noted that he and his colleagues received pledges of $1 billion in aid for Serbia once democratic changes take place there. PM MYSTERY DEATH OF SERBIAN OPPOSITION FIGURE. In Belgrade on 6 November, Djindjic demanded that the authorities "conduct a detailed investigation" into the recent death of his aide Branko Vasiljevic. Djindjic noted that the dead man's "only business was politics," AP reported. Police officials previously said that they are treating the case as suicide. Vasiljevic was shot in the back of the head. PM SERBIAN STUDENTS CALL FOR BOYCOTT OF CLASSES. Vukasin Petrovic, who heads the Otpor (Resistance) student movement, said in Belgrade on 7 November that his organization will hold a large protest on 9 November. He added that Otpor's goal is to launch a boycott of classes by all university students with the aim of bringing down the government. Petrovic said that his group will stage joint protests with other opposition organizations only if the demonstrations are endorsed by all opposition parties. In Nis, representatives of Otpor signed a joint declaration with several opposition parties. Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement did not endorse the document. PM TUDJMAN GIVES GO-AHEAD TO CROATIAN ELECTIONS. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman issued a document from his Zagreb hospital bed on 6 November announcing that parliamentary elections will take place on 22 December. The previous day, the upper house of the legislature endorsed new electoral legislation (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 November 1999). The Croatian government, for its part, rejected EU criticism of the electoral law. PM SPECULATION CONTINUES OVER TUDJMAN'S HEALTH. Tudjman's doctors said in a statement on 6 November that the Croatian president remains under intensive care following recent emergency surgery for what was officially described as a perforated large intestine. The doctors previously said that the president is suffering from complications. Tudjman is widely believed to have been suffering from cancer for at least two years. Zagreb's independent "Jutarnji list" wrote on 8 November that the authorities have not informed the public very well about Tudjman's condition. As a result, speculation about his health and its impact on his political future has been rife, the daily noted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1999). PM ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT WINS VOTE OF CONFIDENCE. Prime Minister Ilir Meta's new cabinet won a vote of confidence in the parliament on 5 November. Meta told legislators that his approach in governing will be pragmatic and that he will continue the fight against corruption and crime. Six legislators from the opposition Democratic Party defied party leader Sali Berisha's call for a boycott and attended the session. Berisha demands new elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1999). PM ROMANIAN WORKERS RAID OFFICE OF BRASOV PREFECTURE. Thousands of workers from the state-owned Roman truckmaker in Brasov raided the building of the local prefecture on 5 November to protest layoffs and unfulfilled promises of wage increases, an RFE/RL correspondent in Brasov reported. Some 1,800 employees of the company, which has large debts, have been made redundant, while another 2,600 are to be laid off next year. Owing to the company's poor performance, a June 1999 agreement with the government providing for a 15 percent wage hike in October and November has not been implemented. The Brasov mayor has banned any further demonstrations. Seventeen policemen were injured in the riots. A team from the Bucharest Prosecutor General's Office has opened an investigation into the incident. So far one person has been arrested and 20 detained for questioning. MS ROMANIAN PREMIER VISITS RFE/RL HEADQUARTERS. Radu Vasile, who attended the CEI summit in Prague (see above), said on 6 November that the meeting's most important result from a Romanian perspective was the consensus reached on the need to remove debris from the River Danube and reopen it for navigation. Vasile made the comment during a visit to RFE/RL headquarters in Prague. He said he wanted to "pay his respects" to RFE/RL for its work in the past as well as in the present. MS ROMANIAN MINORITIES MINISTER PROTESTS PLANNED ANTONESCU STATUE. Peter Eckstein Kovacs said he learned "with indignation" about the decision of the Cluj city council to erect a statue commemorating wartime leader and convicted war criminal Marshal Ion Antonescu (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 1999). In a facsimile dated 2 November, a copy of which was obtained by RFE/RL, Eckstein Kovacs said the decision is "an insult" to the memory of Jews and Roma killed or persecuted under Antonescu's rule "solely" on grounds of their ethnicity or nationality. He appealed to the city council to reconsider its decision, saying that "otherwise" he will demand that the "responsible state authorities" annul it for violating several laws. MS MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT ABOUT TO BE DISMISSED. A 5 November no confidence motion backed by a majority of 52 deputies is likely to trigger the government's dismissal when the legislature meets again on 9 November, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The motion was supported by the Communists, the Popular Front, and five independent deputies who had recently left the For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc. Also on 5 November, the parliament again rejected the government's bill to privatize Moldova's two main industries--wine and tobacco. IMF representative to Chisinau Hassan Al-Atrash said the decision means the fund will now freeze loans to Moldova. He said the World Bank and the EU are likely to follow the IMF, meaning that Moldova will forfeit some $150 million in loans next year. MS CEI TO SEND MISSION TO MOLDOVA. The CEI summit in Prague on 6 November approved a proposal by Czech President Vaclav Havel, whose country holds the organization's rotating chairmanship, to send a fact-finding mission to Moldova, CTK reported. The mission is to explore possibilities for a peaceful solution of the conflict with the separatist authorities in Tiraspol and for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country. On 7 November, separatist leader Igor Smirnov met with Premier Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss the conflict with Chisinau and the proposed withdrawal from the Transdniester of the Russian contingent, Romanian radio reported. MS BULGARIA, ROMANIA FAIL TO AGREE ON RIVER DANUBE BRIDGE. Meeting in Borovets on 5 November, Presidents Petar Stoyanov and Emil Constantinescu again failed to reach agreement over the location of a second bridge over the River Danube, BTA reported. Constantinescu said the meeting was "not confrontational" and that Romania would be willing to consider an option whereby the country disadvantaged by the location of the bridge would receive compensation from the EU. Romanian Premier Radu Vasile, speaking in Bucharest the same day, said that compensation could come in the form of "free of charge or token price" transit of Romanian electricity deliveries to Greece and Turkey via Bulgaria. Reflecting the irritation of Bulgarians at Romania's position, the Bulgarian daily "Demokratsiya" on 6 November ran the headline "Let Us Build a Bridge Over, or a Tunnel Under, Romania." MS 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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