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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 219, Part II, 10 November 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 219, Part II, 10 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 * UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT BUYS MARCHUK'S SUPPORT? * SERBIAN POLICE BEAT DEMONSTRATORS * PRIME MINISTER SAYS CROATIAN GOVERNMENT FUNCTIONING 'NORMALLY' End Note: FOUR YEARS AFTER ERDUT, EASTERN SLAVONIA CONTINUES TO LAG xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE RUSSIAN OMBUDSMAN SAYS NO HUMAN RIGHTS PROBLEMS IN BELARUS. Oleg Mironov said in Minsk on 9 November that there are no problems with human rights in Belarus, Belarusian Television reported. According to Mironov, Belarus meets world standards with regard to the independence of the judiciary, while "in terms of some other [human rights] indicators, [the situation in Belarus] is even better than in Russia." Following his meeting with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka the same day, Mironov noted that one of the aims of his visit to Minsk is "to shatter a myth about large-scale violations of human rights and freedoms in Belarus." He added that Lukashenka invited him to extend his activities to Belarus until the country enacts a law on the institution of ombudsman. JM LUKASHENKA SAYS UKRAINE MAY JOIN RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION. Lukashenka told journalists in Minsk on 9 November that Ukraine may join the Russia-Belarusian Union "within a year" if the union "is realized and begins to develop dynamically." Lukashenka added that Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan also "look closely" at developments in the union. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told the 10 November "Izvestiya" that the "Slavic union is nothing more than a political trick, an abstract theoretical construction that has no real basis or historical prospects." JM U.S. AMBASSADOR CALLS ON BELARUS TO 'BREAK DOWN BARRIERS.' In a statement issued on the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Daniel Speckhard said that Belarus is much closer to the rest of Europe than many other CIS countries, Belapan reported. Speckhard noted, however, that it will not benefit from this until it "breaks down barriers that hampers its economic and democratic development." The ambassador added that "as Belarus tears down the remaining walls, the United States will be ready to forge new and enduring ties between our people, societies, and economies." JM UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT BUYS MARCHUK'S SUPPORT? President Leonid Kuchma on 10 November appointed former Prime Minister and Security Service chief Yevhen Marchuk chairman of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, ITAR-TASS reported. Marchuk came fifth in the 31 October ballot with 8.13 percent backing. Both Kuchma and Marchuk have signaled their willingness to cooperate in order to defeat Symonenko in the runoff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 1999). JM UKRAINE'S RUNOFF CAMPAIGN SEEN AS 'LUKEWARM.' According to AP, "lukewarm campaigning and voter apathy" prevail in Ukraine before the presidential runoff between incumbent President Kuchma and Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko on 14 November. Kuchma's campaigners, as expected, have taken to publicizing the "red revenge" message to the electorate. Television channels broadcast documentaries about the communist horrors and compare Symonenko's view of Ukraine's future to that of Cuba and North Korea. Kuchma on 9 November appealed to young people to vote on 14 November in order to keep his rival out of office. In a bid to lure votes of the moderately leftist electorate, Symonenko's supporters have began to promote him as a reformed Communist, comparing him to Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski. JM FRENCH FIRM WINS TENDER TO BUILD ESTONIAN RADAR SYSTEM. French company Thomson CSF has won a tender to build a comprehensive air surveillance system for Estonia, BNS reported. The cost of the system will exceed 1 billion kroons ($66 million).The system is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2001 and will become an integral part of BALTNET, the joint Baltic airspace surveillance system, which corresponds to NATO requirements. MH OPPOSITION FILES SUIT AGAINST TALLINN MAYORAL ELECTION. The opposition Center Party on 9 November appealed the election of Tallinn Mayor Juri Mois. Party leader Edgar Savisaar told BNS that the Centrists want the court to annul the Tallinn City Council vote for mayor and to suspend Mois from the office until a ruling is made. The opposition argue that Mois should not have been allowed to run for the post a second time after failing to receive a majority vote on 4 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 1999). Mois was elected in the second ballot. Mois has chosen to hold on to his parliamentary seat, which means he must forego his mayoral salary. Also on 9 November, Tarmo Loodus was sworn in as interior minister to replace Mois. MH OMON TROOPS CONVICTED IN LATVIA. The Riga District Court on 9 November handed down guilty verdicts against 10 former OMON officers who took part in crackdowns during the 1991 independence struggle. The 10 received suspended sentences of between one and four years and probation of up to three years, LETA reported. The OMON forces were charged with attacks against various targets, such as the offices of the Latvian Popular Front and the Latvian National Independence Movement (LNNK), and the headquarters of Latvian Television. BNS added that all civilian claims, such as for property damage, were dismissed. Another five OMON officers are involved in a separate trial. Neither the prosecutors nor the convicted officers indicated whether they will appeal the verdict. MH NEW PARLIAMENTARY BOARD APPOINTED IN LITHUANIA. The Lithuanian parliament appointed a new board on 9 November. Conservative Party deputy chairwoman Rasa Jukneviciene and Social Democrat Rimantas Dagys are new deputy speakers of the parliament. Conservative Vytautas Landsbergis remains speaker. Two of the four deputy speaker posts were vacated when Andrius Kubilius became prime minister and Center Union leader Romualdas Ozolas resigned to move into full opposition. MH POLAND'S TAX REFORM UNDER HEATED PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE. A 9 November heated parliamentary debate on the tax reform bill proposed by the coalition Solidarity Electoral Action and Freedom Union failed to yield any results since the parliament lacked a quorum to vote on an opposition motion to reject the draft legislation, PAP reported. The coalition is eager to push the bill through the parliament as soon as possible because new taxes have to be approved and published by 30 November if they are to take effect in January 2000. The opposition Democratic Left Alliance says the bill is unconstitutional (because the trade unions were not consulted) and vows to contest its legality in the Constitutional Court immediately after the bill's passage. The draft calls for personal income tax rates of 19 percent, 29 percent, and 36 percent and the reduction of corporate tax from 34 percent to 30 percent in 2000. JM CZECH MINOR OPPOSITION ALLIANCE WILLING TO CONSIDER COALITION WITH ODS. In a statement to CTK on 9 November, the "four- party coalition" says it will be willing to start talks with the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) on forming a new government if the ODS backs its motion of no confidence in Milos Zeman's cabinet. The coalition, which includes the Christian Democrat Union (KDU-CSL), the Freedom Union, the Civic Democratic Alliance, and the Democratic Union, initiated a no-confidence motion on 2 November but the ODS has refused to back it. The coalition, moreover, does not have the necessary parliamentary strength to have the motion debated. Meanwhile, CTK and Reuters reported that the ODS-initiated meeting to discuss forming a new parliamentary majority will take place on 13 November. The ODS, the Social Democrats, the Freedom Union, and the KDU-CSL will all participate in that gathering. MS SLOVAK DEPUTY PREMIER PRAISES HUNGARIAN COALITION PARTICIPATION... Deputy Premier Pavol Hamzik told journalists on 9 November that the presence in the government of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK) has contributed greatly to the cabinet's success. Hamzik said the SMK's participation has "erased the nationalist scarecrow" and made life more difficult for those who wish to "manipulate" the electorate by means of "Hungaro-phobia." Hamzik added that the SMK itself has benefited from its participation in the cabinet because it had to "change its style" and work for promoting the interests of all Slovaks--not just those of the Hungarian minority. MS ...AS SLOVAK NATIONALISTS PROVOKE ANTI-HUNGARIAN INCIDENT. Slovak National Party (SNS) deputy and honorary chairman Vitazoslav Moric and several other SNS members shouted insults at participants in a 9 November ceremony at the grave of 1848 Hungarian revolution hero Gyorgy Lahner in the village of Necpaly, central Slovakia, CTK reported. Hungarian Ambassador to Slovakia Miklos Boros was among those taking part in the ceremony, which the SNS constantly interrupted by singing Slovak nationalist songs. Moric said that for Slovakia, 1848 signifies the beginning of the era of "flagrant Magyarization." They also objected to the fact that the ceremony was conducted in the Hungarian language. Deputy Premier Pal Csaky of the SMK described the incident as "undiplomatic, unjustifiable, and...offensive." MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN POLICE BEAT DEMONSTRATORS. Police in Belgrade forcibly broke up a protest by the student opposition organization Otpor (Resistance) on 9 November, injuring about 50 demonstrators, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The students want the resignation of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, early elections, and the repeal of legislation regulating universities and the media. Police prevented several buses from reaching the capital from elsewhere in Serbia. PM DRASKOVIC BACKERS WALK OUT OF SERBIAN LEGISLATURE... Deputies belonging to Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) walked out of the parliament on 9 November after legislators belonging to the governing coalition rejected a motion to investigate a mysterious car accident last month that left three of Draskovic's aides dead. Draskovic has called the accident an "assassination attempt" against him staged by the authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1999). PM ...ARE SKEPTICAL ON REGIME'S ATTITUDE TOWARD ELECTIONS. Before the SPO deputies walked out of the parliament, the legislature approved an opposition motion to discuss early general elections. SPO legislator Milan Mikovic said, however, that "it's a tactical maneuver [on the part of the governing coalition]. They are afraid of elections and have no real intention of holding them," the "Wall Street Journal Europe" reported. The legislature also began discussions of proposed changes in legislation regarding elections to local government posts. The opposition, which controls more than 30 municipalities, is opposed to the proposed changes. PM MILOSEVIC MEETS WITH RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT. Sergei Lavrov, who is Russia's ambassador to the UN, discussed Kosova with Milosevic in Belgrade on 9 November. The two men agreed that UN resolution 1244 is the "sole document" regulating the affairs of the province. The resolution states that Kosova remains a part of Yugoslavia and of Serbia. They also agreed on the need to send Serbian forces back to Kosova, to ensure the return of all refugees, and to disarm remaining "armed formations" in the province. Western diplomats stopped meeting with Milosevic after the Hague-based war crimes tribunal indicted him in May for atrocities in Kosova. PM CHURCH DESTROYED BY FIRE IN KOSOVA. Unknown persons set fire to the Serbian Orthodox church in the village of Donji Zakut in the early hours of 9 November. KFOR troops previously maintained a 24-hour presence at the church but recently began to limit their role to occasional patrols in order to conserve manpower. PM ARTEMIJE APPEALS TO SERBIAN REFUGEES. In Belgrade, Archbishop Artemije and other leaders of Kosova's Serbian National Council urged some 100 Serbian refugees from the province to return to their homes. Artemije stressed that the refugees must go back if a Serbian presence is to be maintained in Kosova. PM MACEDONIA POSTS REWARD IN GLIGOROV CASE. The government on 9 November announced that it will pay up to $550,000 for information leading to the arrest of the persons who in October 1995 attempted to kill President Kiro Gligorov with a car bomb. Interior Minister Pavle Trajanov noted that "it's been four years since the attempt on President Gligorov's life, and the investigation has produced no result," AP reported. Gligorov lost an eye and suffered extensive damage to his face in the explosion. He will leave office following the election of his successor on 14 November. PM PRIME MINISTER SAYS CROATIAN GOVERNMENT FUNCTIONING 'NORMALLY.' Speaking in Zagreb on 9 November, Zlatko Matesa denied rumors that the government is unable to function because President Franjo Tudjman has been incapacitated. Matesa stressed that "everything is functioning completely normally," including the security services, "Jutarnji list" reported. The Zagreb daily added that Tudjman's doctors have stopped issuing daily reports on his condition. Observers note that the Croatian Constitution assigns 24 powers to the president that he cannot delegate to anyone else. These include key decision-making functions in military and security policy. The constitution is widely believed to have been written to guarantee Tudjman a commanding role in state affairs. His recent illness has led to much speculation as to what would happen if he were to die or become incapacitated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 1999). PM CROATIAN BISHOP WARNS AGAINST ISOLATION. Archbishop Josip Bozanic told a meeting in Zagreb to discuss the Vatican's recent European Bishops' Conference that Croatia must remain "politically and psychologically" oriented toward Europe, "Jutarnji list" reported on 10 November. He warned that if Croats "close themselves off" from Europe, they will find themselves "back in the East." Bozanic also noted that the effects of communism on society have proven more deeply rooted and longer lasting than most people thought at the time the system collapsed. He added that the period of post- communist optimism is long past. Observers note that some elements in the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) have reacted to frequent criticism of its policies by the EU and OSCE by expressing the view that Croatia does not need to take European views into account. PM BOSNIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES MEASURE ON CORRUPTION. The legislature on 9 November approved a comprehensive anti- corruption plan put forward by the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch. Measures include establishing an independent judiciary, setting up tighter border controls, and making a survey of the change in officials' wealth between 1992 and the present, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Observers note that corruption is rampant throughout Bosnia and is widely seen as a major stumbling block to post-war reconstruction and development. PM OSCE APPEALS TO BOSNIAN JOURNALISTS. The office of the OSCE in Sarajevo called upon all journalists to report to the organization any threats that they may have received, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 9 November. Reports will be treated as confidential. The move comes after several violent attacks on journalists. PM ROW OVER BOSNIAN SERB TELEVISION CHIEF. The Bosnian Serb parliament will soon discuss the controversy over the government's decision to replace Andjelko Kozomara with Slavisa Sabljic as head of Radio Television of the Republika Srpska (RTRS), "Oslobodjenje" reported on 10 November. Prime Minister Milorad Dodik says that he sacked Kozomara because he has become politically too close to Milosevic. Petritsch's spokesmen argue that Dodik has no right to make changes in the administration of RTRS and that Kozomara has not allowed his personal views to affect program content, "Oslobodjenje" and "Vesti" reported on 9 November. In related news, "Jutarnji list" wrote on 10 November that Tudjman's top aide Ivic Pasalic is seeking to "build up a media empire" in Bosnia. Pasalic is one of the most prominent Herzegovinian Croats in the Zagreb power structure. PM ROMANIAN SENATE APPROVES LAND RESTITUTION BILL. The Senate on 9 November approved by a vote of 89 to 12 with 27 abstentions a bill providing for the restitution to former owners of up to 50 hectares of farmland and 10 hectares of forest confiscated by the communist regime, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Chamber of Deputies passed the law earlier this year in a version that provided for the restitution of up to 30 hectares of forest. A bicameral commission will now mediate to decide on a final version of the law. MS ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT ENDORSES BRASOV AGREEMENT. The cabinet on 9 November approved the main points of an agreement reached one day earlier between its representatives and unions representing workers at the Roman truckmaker in Brasov, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 1999). The cabinet did not approve that part of the agreement that provides for granting workers tax exemptions and financial bonuses. It also rejected the demand to raise salaries, dismiss managers, and revise layoff plans. AP reported from Brasov that union leaders accuse the government of fomenting tension by dispatching riot police to the town. Meanwhile, thousands of students resumed protests in Bucharest and other Romanian cities to push their demands for higher grants and better living conditions in dormitories. MS MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CALLS PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER 'IRRESPONSIBLE.' Petru Lucinschi told journalists on 9 November that parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov is "irresponsible," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Lucinschi was responding to Diacov's statement earlier that day accusing Lucinschi of having "provoked" the government crisis "in order to impose a state of emergency in the country and hold early parliamentary elections." He also rejected Diacov's accusation that he is responsible for the split in the For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc, saying "not me, but Dumitru Diacov promoted the split...by exercising pressure [on deputies] to force them to vote" the way Diacov wanted. Also on 9 November, the World Bank followed the lead of the IMF by announcing it is suspending credits to Moldova owing to the parliament's refusal to approve the laws on the privatization of wineries and the tobacco industry. MS EU WILL HELP BULGARIA MEET COSTS FOR NUCLEAR PLANT SHUTDOWN. Guenter Verheugen, EU commissioner in charge of expansion, said the EU will help Bulgaria meet the costs for shutting down the four aging nuclear reactors at Kozloduy. In a video- recorded address to participants in an international meeting in Sofia on 9 November, Verheugen said the EU is prepared to finance the modernization of the two units that went on line in 1989, but he added that the older four reactors "cannot be brought up to Western safety standards at reasonable costs." He also said democracy has been "firmly established in Bulgaria" and the country has made "sustained progress" in bringing its legislation into line with the EU's. There has been progress toward establishing a functioning market economy, but Bulgaria has yet to complete privatization, bring accounting and taxation up to EU standards, and develop a "stable environment" for business, AP reported. MS END NOTE FOUR YEARS AFTER ERDUT, EASTERN SLAVONIA CONTINUES TO LAG by Christopher Walker When the Erdut Agreement was signed four years ago, much of Eastern Slavonia was unsure whether to expect another round of bloodshed or an end to the violence that had plagued that region since 1991. The regional capital of Osijek remained garrisoned--store windows were taped and buildings barricaded with wood planks and sandbags against possible attack from the Serbian forces that held positions across the Drava River. After Croatia declared independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in June 1991, Serbian rebel forces had seized about 30 percent of Croatian territory, including a large portion of Eastern Slavonia. The agreement reached in Erdut, a small village on the bank of the River Danube, brought to an end the fighting over the last Serb-held area in Croatia and provided the framework for the peaceful return of that territory to Croatian administration. In fact, the agreement, which was concluded during the Dayton negotiations on Bosnia-Herzegovina, set out ambitious settlement terms for Eastern Slavonia (and the regions of Baranja and Western Sirmium). It provided for a United Nations Transitional Administration (UNTAES) to oversee the reintegration of the region into the Republic of Croatia as well as functioning as an interim political authority, supervising the return of refugees, organizing elections, training a police force, and demilitarizing the Serbian rebels who had gained control of Eastern Slavonia. The two- year mandate of UNTAES expired in January 1998. However, the passage of four years since the cessation of hostilities has neither eased the raw feelings that exist between Croats and Serbs in the region nor enabled Eastern Slavonia to restore its hobbled economy to its pre-conflict status. In fact, the legacy of the conflict and the embittered atmosphere that persists threaten to keep Eastern Slavonia in the same chronically impoverished state as plagues other war- torn ex-Yugoslav territories, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosova, and Serbia. Nevenka Cuckovic of the Zagreb-based Institute for International Relations observes that Eastern Slavonia has "remained economically depressed and not much progress has been achieved in the last three or four years. The [Croatian] government started many programs, but the [effort to build] housing and infrastructure reconstruction prevailed in all initiatives, while neglecting economic restructuring, privatization and business start-ups." The outbreak of war eight years ago disrupted trade and supply routes. Traditional regional economic links remain frayed to this day. Local business people complain that the region has been unable to shake the image it has acquired over the years--namely one of on-and-off fighting. Moreover, the post-conflict period has been marked by tense inter- ethnic relations, economic stagnation, and substantial population shifts. With regard to refugees and the internally displaced, the Erdut Agreement provides for facilitating the return of those people "under secure conditions, assuring them the same rights as all other residents." This task has proven very difficult. A report published by Human Rights Watch earlier this year concluded that the "exodus of [Eastern Slavonia's] Serbs calls into question the success of the UNTAES mission beyond peaceful reintegration into the territory" of the Republic of Croatia. On this same subject, the OSCE has been critical of the lack of political will shown by Croatian authorities in upholding basic rights of the Serbian minority. This exodus has been just one in a series of population transfers in the region involving Serbs and Croats alike. This phenomenon is of course not specific to Eastern Slavonia. Real or perceived concerns about personal security, discrimination by local authorities, and miserable economic prospects are common to all parts of the former Yugoslavia that have experienced violent conflict. To add to the region's woes, much-needed international assistance has been stretched to its limits by the onset of new crises. Over the course of this decade, assistance flows have been subject to the demands of successive conflicts, each fresh conflict more serious than the previous one. In 1991, world attention was focused on Kosova, where Slobodan Milosevic--then in power for less than two years--was stepping up his repression of ethnic Albanians in Serbia's southernmost province. Events in Eastern Slavonia in late 1991, punctuated by the horrors in Vukovar, then diverted attention from Kosova. Ironically, eight years later, Croatian officials point out that Kosova--as well as Bosnia-- has absorbed critical aid that could otherwise have been used in Eastern Slavonia. In addition, the Kosova war has had a spillover effect on the region. Cuckovic notes that "NATO intervention also hurt legal economic entities in Eastern Slavonia, while the informal [gray] economy was flourishing during the conflict." Eastern Slavonia is just one small piece of the damaged fabric of the former Yugoslavia. Sadly, as the case in most of the other conflict-ridden areas in the Balkans, few observers are bullish on the region's prospects for renewal in the short term. For the time being, conditions in Eastern Slavonia will continue to suggest a cessation of hostilities rather than an enduring peace. The author is a New York-based analyst specializing in Eastern European affairs (email@example.com) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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