|He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 218, Part II, 9 November 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 218, Part II, 9 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 * BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES GIVE BACK LICENSES TO INDEPENDENT PRESS * CLINTON OUTLINES BALKAN 'CHALLENGE' * MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT VOTES NO CONFIDENCE IN CABINET xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES GIVE BACK LICENSES TO INDEPENDENT PRESS. Mikhail Padhayny, head of the State Press Committee, said on 8 November that his committee has registered the nine independent publications whose licenses were revoked in September. One of those publications is "Nasha svaboda," which was to have succeeded the opposition newspaper "Naviny." The latter newspaper closed down after a court imposed a heavy fine on it for publishing an allegedly slanderous article about State Security Secretary Viktar Sheyman ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1999). Meanwhile, "Naviny" on 8 November lost its appeal lodged with the Minsk City Court against a ruling whereby the newspaper was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine. JM BELARUSIAN ROCK MUSIC NOT WELCOME IN MALADZECHNA. The city authorities of Maladzechna have refused permission for a rock festival to take place in the city in mid-November, Belapan reported on 8 November. In an official response to the organizers, the city mayor wrote that Maladzechna "long ago chose its direction in holding festivals--namely, festivals of theater as well as Belarusian songs and poetry." The city does not need a rock festival, he added. One organizer told Belapan that the city authorities are afraid to host "such unofficial events" as rock concerts. In August, a rock concert in Maladzechna ended in arrests of performers as well as members of the audience. "The authorities treated the purely cultural action as a political one and took adequate measures," the organizers said in a statement. JM KUCHMA, MARCHUK MAKE ADVANCES TO EACH OTHER AHEAD OF RUNOFF. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has said in an interview with the Lviv-based "Vysokyy zamok" that he is ready for cooperation with Yevhen Marchuk, Interfax reported on 8 November. Kuchma, who faces Communist Petro Symonenko in the 14 November presidential runoff, is seeking support among non-leftist candidates. In the first round of the election, Marchuk obtained 8.13 percent of the vote on an election platform similar to the incumbent's. Marchuk on 8 November called on voters to take part in the 14 November ballot and "to say 'no' to the Communists." He also commented that if Kuchma supports his economic program as whole, he is "ready to set about implementing it," provided that he is given "appropriate powers in the state authority system." JM BALTIC PRESIDENTS GATHER IN FINLAND. The presidents of Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland gathered in the Finnish town of Jyvaskyla on 8 November to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Speaking at a forum titled "Ten Years of Freedom in Europe," Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus cautioned that a Cold War mentality remains with regard to Baltic membership in NATO, ELTA reported. Estonian President Lennart Meri similarly warned of the lingering feelings of the Cold War, noting that "many Moscow politicians think that the Cold War continues" and "believe that conflicts are settled only with force," "Eesti Paevaleht" reported. Among a series of bilateral meetings, host and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari told Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga that EU enlargement will be able to proceed in 2003 after EU internal reforms have been completed, according to BNS. MH BALTIC, NORDIC PREMIERS MEET IN STOCKHOLM. The prime ministers of the Baltic and Nordic countries met in Stockholm on 8 November under the so-called "5+3" formula (which brings together Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, and Sweden). The meetings focused on EU enlargement, as well as regional cooperation issues in areas such as security and energy policy. Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar expressed satisfaction over the European Commission recommendation that Latvia and Lithuania begin membership talks with the EU, ETA reported. MH NEW LITHUANIAN PREMIER INTRODUCES GOVERNMENT PROGRAM. Andrius Kubilius presented his government's program to the parliament on 8 November. Foreign policy gives priority to NATO and EU membership, while domestic policy focuses on a balanced budget, the fight against organized crime and corruption, lowering barriers to foreign investments, and selective assistance to industry hurt by the regional economic slump, dpa reported. Kubilius criticized those who claim that Lithuania is experiencing severe financial difficulties, saying "this is not a situation for panic." The same day, Kubilius also said that the savings compensation scheme for ruble deposits will be suspended for up to two years, BNS added. The IMF has criticized that scheme. The parliament is scheduled to vote on the new government's program on 11 November. MH POLAND REOPENS TRIAL OF GENERAL JARUZELSKI. The Supreme Court on 8 November ruled that the trial of General Wojciech Jaruzelski and nine former communist officials accused of being responsible for the death of 44 people during the 1970 protests will be reopened in Warsaw. The court decided to move the proceedings to Warsaw from Gdansk because Jaruzelski and two other defendants could not appear at the latter location for health reasons. Jaruzelski was defense minister in December 1970, when army troops and police killed 44 people protesting in Polish coastal cities against food price hikes. In 1996, a parliamentary committee dominated by ex- Communists decided that Jaruzelski should not stand trial for imposing martial law in 1981, at which time he was prime minister and first secretary of the communist party. JM POLISH PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST 'EUROSKEPTICISM.' Aleksander Kwasniewski told journalists in Finland on 8 November that events marking the 10th anniversary of the demise of the Soviet bloc are "the last chance to take advantage of...the historic enthusiasm to overcome the West's Euroskepticism" with regard to EU enlargement, PAP reported. Kwasniewski pointed to the recent elections in Austria as evidence that such skepticism is growing. He noted that the EU will soon start addressing the issue of enlargement with less enthusiasm, while the EU would-be members' ability to overcome this skepticism is "very limited." JM CONTROVERSIAL AD PROMPTS CZECH PROTEST. Prime Minister Milos Zeman said after talks with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Washington on 8 November that he is "glad" to hear that the U.S. administration has "distanced itself" from a controversial advertisement placed in "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" by businessman Ronald Lauder, CTK reported. Lauder, who is the majority owner of Central European Media Enterprises (CEM), warns that the Czech government encourages foreign investors but does little to protect them. The CEM is involved in a dispute over ownership rights with Nova television and is currently suing that station. Zeman had responded earlier to the advertisement, saying it is "incorrect and untrustworthy." He pointed out broadcasts are not regulated by the government but by the independent Council for Radio and Broadcasting, which had yet to rule on the dispute between Lauder and Nova. MS CZECHS ASK RUSSIANS TO RETURN JEWISH GOLD. The Czech Republic has officially asked the Russian government to return gold originally belonging to Czech Jews and taken out of the country by the Red Army after World War II, AP reported on 8 November, citing a Foreign Ministry statement. The statement says 396 kilograms of gold that was deposited in the National Bank during the Nazi occupation after being confiscated from Jews were taken to the Soviet Union. So far Moscow has not responded to the Czech request, which is based on the findings of a group of historians investigating the fate of Jewish valuables stolen during the occupation. Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky on 8 November was quoted by "Mlada Fronta " as saying "I doubt it will be possible to receive any compensation from a country that still...owes us $3 billion." MS CZECH ROMA COMPLAIN OF RACISM IN LETTER TO PREMIER... The Romany Board of Representatives, whose members have been staging protests for several days near the wall erected in Usti nad Labem, sent a letter to Prime Minister Milos Zeman and his cabinet on 8 November asking them to "use all means" to remove the wall and other manifestations of racism and discrimination against the country's Romany population. The board said the construction of the wall has shifted the Czech's enmity toward the Roma "to the level of institutional racism," CTK and AP reported. The protesters were joined recently by Polish and German Roma. MS ...WHILE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS ROMA DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT. The Constitutional Court on 8 November rejected a compliant by parents of Romany children whom the authorities have sent to special schools, CTK reported. The parents argued that the decision to send their children to special schools deprived them of the right to education. The court ruled, however, that the children had previously been in the care of pedagogues and psychologists who had recommended they be placed in those schools. The court said it has no power to order the Education Ministry to draft an education reform plan aimed at erasing racial discrimination, as demanded by the plaintiffs. The parents intend to appeal to the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg. MS SLOVAKS CAN TRAVEL TO FINLAND, NORWAY WITHOUT VISAS. The Foreign Ministry on 5 November announced that as of the next day Slovaks no longer need entry visas for Finland and Norway. Finland introduced that requirement on 6 July, and Norway followed suit three weeks later in response to the influx of Slovak Roma asking for asylum in those countries. The Foreign Ministry said Finland has warned that it may re- introduce the requirement if the number of asylum-seekers sharply increases again, CTK reported. MS HUNGARIAN CABINET TO DISMISS CSER AGAIN? Imre Frajna, state secretary for health insurance funds, told Hungarian media on 8 November that the government will again dismiss Agnes Cser as director-general of the National Health Insurance Fund. Cser attempted to resume her work after a court had reinstated her in that post on 5 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 1999). Frajna said he does not require Cser's services and will initiate her dismissal as soon as he receives in writing the court verdict reinstating her. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CLINTON OUTLINES BALKAN 'CHALLENGE.' In a speech at Georgetown University on 8 November marking the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, U.S. President Bill Clinton stressed that U.S. policy faces four challenges: Russia, the Balkans, Greek-Turkish tensions, and the need to maintain U.S. "leadership and engagement in the world" (see Part I). Referring to Serbia and its neighbors, Clinton said that it will be important to bring stability to the Balkans so that "bitter ethnic problems can no longer be exploited by dictators and Americans do not have to cross the Atlantic again to fight in another war." In particular, Clinton called for a democratic transition in Serbia from the rule of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, whom the president called "the last living relic of the age of European dictators of the communist era," AP reported. PM THACI ARGUES KOSOVA IS NOT CHECHNYA... Hashim Thaci, who heads the provisional government appointed by the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 8 November that Serbia no longer has any authority over Kosova. The Kosovars have no intention of permitting "another Chechnya" by allowing Serbian troops to return, he stressed. Thaci condemned violence against non-Albanian minorities in the province. He argued that there are armed groups active in Kosova who are outside the control of the UCK. These groups include people who entered Kosova after the recent armed conflict. He did not elaborate but may have meant criminal gangs that entered Kosova from Albania after the withdrawal of Serbian forces in June. Frankfurt's Serbian-language daily "Vesti" on 9 November reported that a previously unknown masked group calling itself the Real UCK has carried out a series of attacks on moderate Kosovars loyal to shadow-state leader Ibrahim Rugova. PM ...SAYS SERBIAN CIVILIANS ARE WELCOME... Thaci said in Vienna that all Serbian civilians who did not take part in atrocities are welcome to stay in or return to Kosova, "Die Presse" reported on 6 November. The daily quoted a Serbian journalist who listened to Thaci's speech as saying that Thaci's words are one thing, "but the reality in Kosova is something quite different." Local Serbs have frequently charged that Thaci calls for peace and inter-ethnic harmony when speaking to foreigners but tells his own people that they are now masters in the province. PM ...AND NOTES PROBLEMS REMAIN BETWEEN KOSOVARS. Thaci told "Die Presse" of 8 November that relations between the UCK and Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) "could be better." He accused Rugova of having a "totalitarian mentality," by which he meant that Rugova considers himself the only leader of the Kosovars. Thaci argued that the political scene "has room for everyone and not just one man." He added that the LDK continues to control funds from the diaspora and uses some of the money for its own political purposes instead of helping the population in general. Observers note that some Kosovar critics charge that Thaci and the UCK have sought to monopolize political power for themselves. They also note that there are deep differences in political style and outlook between the younger generation of leaders around Thaci and older people, such as Rugova, whose political careers began under Josip Broz Tito in the 1970s. PM RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT WANTS POLITICAL SETTLEMENT. Russian Ambassador to the UN Sergei Lavrov said in Prishtina on 8 November that talks should begin "as soon as possible" between Belgrade and the various ethnic communities in Kosova, AP reported. The news agency added that his remarks reflect the "increasing frustration" among the Serbian minority regarding their status and safety in the province. He also criticized KFOR and the UN not doing enough to protect ethnic minorities, Reuters noted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 1999). PM CALL FOR MONITORING OF KOSOVA 'POLITICAL TRIAL.' The New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch appealed on 8 November to diplomats and the media to monitor the trial of Flora Brovina, which begins in Nis on 11 November. Brovina heads the League of Albanian Women in Kosova and is charged with "terrorism." She has been held for several months under difficult conditions in the prison of Pozarevac. Among the other prominent Kosovars still held in Serbian jails is student activist Albin Kurti. PM HAGUE COURT PRESIDENT DEMANDS ARREST OF BIG FISH. Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald said at the UN on 8 November that the world body and NATO must take action to arrest major war criminals. She said it is unacceptable that only relatively minor figures have been sent to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. McDonald also urged the international community to get tough with the governments of Serbia, Croatia, and the Republika Srpska. She charged that these three governments "thumb their nose" at the court and do not cooperate with it, as they are obliged to do under the 1995 Dayton peace agreement. McDonald leaves her position at the court on 16 November and will live in New York. PM EU READY TO START OIL DELIVERIES TO SERBIA. An unidentified EU "source" told Reuters in Brussels on 8 November that the EU will start heating-oil shipments to the opposition-run cities of Nis and Pirot between 15 and 20 November. Mladjan Dinkic of the independent G-17 group of Serbian economists told "RFE/RL Newsline" in Munich recently that the opposition will use independent shippers. He added that the deliveries will receive much publicity in the independent media in order to deter the government from stealing the fuel. The deliveries are a pilot project of the opposition's Energy for Democracy program. The program's goal is to show voters that the opposition is able to obtain needed fuel from abroad at a time when international sanctions weigh heavily against the Belgrade regime. PM GRAND OLD MAN OF SLOVENIA DIES. Leon Stukelj died of heart failure in Ljubljana on 8 November, just four days before his 101st birthday. He was the world's oldest surviving Olympic athlete and won a total of six medals in gymnastics for the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1924, 1928, and 1936. He regularly topped popularity polls in Slovenia and was recently voted its Man of the Year. Stukelj attributed his longevity to "moderation in all things and a glass of red wine every day," VOA's Croatian Service reported. PM ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT SEEKING TO DEFUSE BRASOV LABOR CONFLICT. Delegations from several ministries and unions representing workers at Brasov's Roman truckmaker reached agreement on 8 November on several proposals, following riots in Brasov three days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 1999). Under those proposals, the Defense and Interior Ministries will purchase some 320 vehicles in part payment of the company's debts to the state budget, Romanian radio reported on 9 November. The government is to meet on 9 November to discuss the proposals. MS JEWISH CEMETERIES VANDALIZED IN ROMANIA. Vandals have destroyed more than 50 tombstones in two Transylvanian Jewish cemeteries over the last days, Mediafax reported on 8 November, citing sources from the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania. On 5 November, 25 tombstones were overturned, while others were smashed in the Satu Mare cemetery. A few days earlier, the Resita cemetery was also desecrated and 26 tombstones overturned, as a result of which some were destroyed. Last February a similar incident took place in the Alba Iulia cemetery, which is also in Transylvania. MS MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT VOTES NO CONFIDENCE IN CABINET. Fifty- eight out of a total of 101 deputies have backed the motion to dismiss Ion Sturza's cabinet, Infotag reported on 9 November. Deputies from the outgoing coalition did not take part in the vote as a sign of protest. The previous day, President Petru Lucinschi had told journalists that the resignation or dismissal of the cabinet was "inevitable." He said the government's performance is far less spectacular than claimed by Sturza and that many of those claims are "inventions." Asked how a cabinet could be formed by the Communists and the ideologically opposed Popular Front Christian Democratic, Lucinschi said the new government will have to be "much less politicized" than its predecessor, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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