|The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it. - Franklin P. Jones|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 226, Part II, 19 November 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 226, Part II, 19 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 HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST ARRESTED * U.S., EU, SERBIAN OPPOSITION TO PLAN FOR FUTURE * OPPOSITION HEADING FOR VICTORY IN CROATIAN ELECTIONS? End Note: FORMER LEADERS ARGUE OVER MEANING OF 1989 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST ARRESTED. Police on 18 November arrested Ales Byalatski, leader of the human rights organization Spring-96, Belapan reported. Byalatski was reportedly asked to come to a Minsk district police department to pick up computers that had been confiscated from his organization in early October. He was arrested, however, and told he will stand trial the next day as one of the organizers of the 17 October opposition "freedom march." JM BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TO STAGE PROTEST ON 24 NOVEMBER. The Minsk city authorities have refused permission for the opposition to stage a "chain of freedom" along Minsk's central avenue on 24 November. They said the action may be held only on a square on the outskirts of the city. The Coordination Council of Democratic Forces--which unites several opposition parties and NGOs--decided on 18 November to drop the idea of a "chain of freedom" and observe instead an "hour of sorrow and solidarity" on 24 November. It is expected that some 2,000 people holding candles will stand along Minsk's central avenue to commemorate victims of the Soviet regime and express solidarity with prisoners of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime. The council adopted an appeal to the Minsk police "not to organize provocations against participants in the peaceful action." JM UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT GIVES INITIAL APPROVAL TO ZERO-DEFICIT BUDGET. The parliament on 18 November approved in the first reading a zero-deficit draft budget for 2000 and sent it to the government for fine-tuning, Interfax reported. The government originally proposed a budget with a 0.4 percent surplus. Yuliya Tymoshenko, head of the parliamentary Budget Committee, commented that the approval of the budget was a "colossal victory for the parliament." Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov said the government and the parliament continue to disagree over budget revenues and expenditure targets. He added that the budget cannot be submitted for a second reading before 10 December. JM UKRAINIAN REGIONAL LEADERS WANT PUSTOVOYTENKO AS PREMIER. Kharkiv Oblast Governor Oleh Dyomin told Interfax on 18 November that oblast administration heads, the Crimean prime minister, and heads of the Kyiv and Sevastopol city administrations have asked President Leonid Kuchma to re- appoint Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko as head of a new cabinet. "We have no right to experiment, since [Pustovoytenko's] government has achieved positive results in its work, in particular, industrial growth," Dyomin said. Meanwhile, press speculation is rife as to who will be appointed prime minister. Apart from Pustovoytenko, newspapers mention deputy parliamentary speaker Viktor Medvedchuk, Deputy Premier Anatol Kinakh, Deputy Premier Serhiy Tyhypko, State Tax Administration head Mykola Azarov, and Security Service chief Leonid Derkach as the most likely candidates for the post. JM ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER SLAMS RUSSIA OVER CHECHNYA. In a speech to the OSCE Istanbul summit on 18 November, Mart Laar slammed Russia's military campaign in Chechnya. Laar said that the "excessive use of force will cause an endless cycle of violence" and that "the international community knows of other ways to fight alleged terrorism than the one employed at present in Chechnya." Laar stressed that "no one may demonize a whole nation. That is racism, pure and simple." He warned that if the OSCE cannot stop the Russian military action, "the future of this organization will come under question." The same day, the Estonian parliament passed by a vote of 57 to one a resolution on the crisis in Chechnya. The statement condemned terrorism in every way and expressed concern and dismay over the violence against civilians in Chechnya, ETA added. MH SMOKING KILLS 2,000 A YEAR IN ESTONIA. An average of 2,000 people die every year from diseases caused by smoking. The Social Ministry's public health department head Andres Lipand told the press on 18 November that in addition, some 3,000 smokers fall seriously ill each year due to smoking-related illnesses. The specialist said that there are approximately 355,000 smokers in Estonia (out of a population of about 1.5 million) and that 70 percent wants to quit. MH LATVIA CELEBRATES INDEPENDENCE DAY. Latvia celebrated the 81st anniversary of its independence on 18 November. In speaking to the country's military, which celebrated its 80th anniversary several days earlier, President Vaira Vike- Freiberga said "independent Latvia would never have been able to last if its fearless sons had not been ready to sacrifice themselves to win freedom for their native country," BNS reported. In a special session of parliament, speaker Janis Straume said "freedom means responsibility, and it is often difficult for a person to adhere to this." He urged Latvians to "take responsibility and develop the nation together, making it better, more trustworthy, cleaner, and more European," LETA reported. MH LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT SUGGESTS CFE ENTRY. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, speaking at the OSCE summit in Istanbul on 18 November, said Lithuania might accede to the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. Adamkus, however, stressed it must be in the country's interest to take that step, ELTA reported. He noted that the "processes of European and transatlantic integration [is becoming an] indispensable element in building comprehensive security, stability and, confidence for the whole OSCE area." With regard to Chechnya, Adamkus stressed that the "protracted armed conflict and deteriorating humanitarian situation" is a cause for "deep concern." And on the subject of Belarus, Adamkus said, "It is of utmost importance to assist in developing a genuine dialogue between the Belarus authorities and the opposition leading to free and democratic elections." MH POLISH PARLIAMENT PASSES CONTROVERSIAL TAX REFORM BILL. By a vote of 231 to 182, the lower house passed a tax reform bill that cuts income tax rates and eliminates some tax exemptions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 1999). In order to take effect on 1 January 2000, the bill must be approved by the upper house and signed by the president by the end of this month. The opposition Democratic Left Alliance obstructed the passage of the bill, saying it gives priority to high income earners and widens the gap between the poor and the rich. By a vote of 235 to 179 with three abstentions, the parliament also decided to gradually lower the current corporate tax rate from 34 percent to 22 percent by 2004. JM CZECH STATE ATTORNEY CONSIDERS PROSECUTING NAZI WAR CRIMINAL. The Czech Republic's Supreme State Attorney on 18 November sent new evidence implicating the former commander of the Nazi concentration camp in Terezin, Anton Malloth, in war crimes, CTK reported. State Attorney Jaroslav Fenyk said he has sent the materials to Germany, where Malloth currently resides. Earlier this year, German prosecutors said there is not enough evidence to bring Malloth to court. Fenyk said Malloth may also be prosecuted in the Czech Republic. In other news, senior Social Democrat Jaroslav Foldyna said he intends to file a lawsuit against an American of Czech descent for sawing in half a wooden board with a painting of the Czech flag on it in Usti nad Labem, CTK reported. The man was protesting against the construction of a wall on Maticni Street that divides local ethnic Czechs from Romany inhabitants. VG RUSSIA, YUGOSLAVIA PROTEST CZECH 'INTERFERENCE.' The Russian Foreign Ministry on 18 November called in the acting Czech ambassador to Russia to protest the visit of Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov to Prague, CTK reported. The Russian Foreign Ministry described Akhmadov's meetings with Czech officials as "gross interference in Russia's internal affairs" (see Part 1). The same day, Yugoslav Ambassador to the Czech Republic Djoko Stojicic described President Vaclav Havel's decision to invite Serbian opposition leaders and the Montenegrin president to the OSCE summit in Istanbul as "rude interference in the internal affairs" of Yugoslavia. VG SLOVAK COALITION PARTNERS DEBATE OVER MINISTERS. The Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), a member of the governing coalition, has called for the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister for Legislation Lubomir Fogas and Agriculture Minister Pavol Kocos, "Narodna Obroda" reported on 19 November. Both ministers are members of the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL). SDL chairman Jozef Migas rejected the SMK's calls. CTK reported that the SMK did not support Fogas's bill on minority languages and that it was upset at Koncos's refusal to fulfill an agreement according to which an SMK member is to be appointed to head the State Land Fund. Cabinet discussions on the performance of the coalition government during its first year in office are to continue next week. VG SLOVAK POLITICIANS BLAST MECIAR'S PARTY FOR MILOSEVIC VISIT. Various Slovak politicians on 18 November slammed a decision by a delegation from Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) to meet with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade, TASR-SLOVAKIA reported. Deputy Prime Minister Pavol Hamzik said the visit "reveals the nature of the HZDS's foreign policy priorities." Deputy Prime Minister Jan Budaj described the visit as a "provocation" and said it damaged Slovakia's reputation ahead of the December EU summit in Helsinki. Democratic Party chairman Jan Langos said the meeting was an expression of political extremism on the part of the HZDS, but he added that it was not surprising. VG ORBAN URGES MINORITY ACTION AT OSCE SUMMIT. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 18 November urged OSCE member countries at the Istanbul summit to grant local government rights and autonomy to national minorities. He said a lesson of the Kosova crisis is that genocide cannot be averted without a system of defending minorities. Orban urged the OSCE to send observers to Vojvodina and Muslim-inhabited regions of Serbia to monitor the situation of minorities. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE U.S., EU, SERBIAN OPPOSITION TO PLAN FOR FUTURE. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in Istanbul on 18 November that representatives of her country, the EU, and the Serbian opposition will soon meet to begin making concrete plans aimed at promoting democratic change in Serbia. She stressed that "Yugoslavia, too, will soon begin the journey [to democracy] under new leadership." In Belgrade, Ivica Dacic, who is a spokesman for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party, said that the opposition leaders are foreign puppets who "went to do the bidding of the murderers of our children while the graves of all [those] killed in [NATO's] aggression are still fresh," AP reported. Dacic called on the OSCE summit to "condemn NATO's illegal aggression against Yugoslavia." PM MONTENEGRIAN PRESIDENT DJUKANOVIC ASKS OSCE FOR HELP. Milo Djukanovic told the OSCE summit in Istanbul on 18 November that moves toward democratization in his country "are in a critical phase," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He appealed for unspecified "effective help." PM BRITISH EXPERTS: SERBS HID WAR CRIMES EVIDENCE. Catherine Nettleton, who coordinates British investigations into war crimes, said that Serbian forces tried to hide evidence of atrocities by burning the bodies of their victims, dropping them into rivers, or burying them in cemeteries, London's "The Guardian" reported on 19 November. She added that the real number of victims of the Serbian forces may never be known. British experts remain convinced that their original estimate of 10,000 victims is accurate, the daily added. PM MACEDONIAN ELECTION COMMISSION TO RECONVENE. The commission ruling on complaints of irregularities in the recent presidential vote suspended its work on 18 November. Chairman Josif Lukovski said the commission was unable to do its work with at least 25,000 angry protesters outside its building, who claimed that defeated Social Democratic candidate Tito Petkovski was cheated of victory. The commission will reconvene on 19 November to examine charges by the Social Democrats of extensive fraud, particularly in western Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 1999). Elsewhere in Skopje, French Ambassador to Macedonia Jacques Huntzinger said that the "election was not rigged," Reuters reported. Western officials have stressed in recent days that the election had some irregularities but was not basically flawed. Social Democratic leader Branko Crvenkovski nonetheless said in Skopje on 18 November that "we shall fight to topple this government...by democratic means...and call new elections," AP added. PM NATO, MACEDONIA AGREE TO END BORDER BOTTLENECK. Macedonian Interior Minister Pavle Trajanov and NATO's Hans Jorg Eiff agreed on 18 November in Skopje to ease traffic congestion at the Blace border crossing between Macedonia and Kosova. An additional lane will soon be added to the existing highway in order to speed up humanitarian aid shipments. The measure is an emergency one designed to relieve pressure until an $18 million project to completely reconstruct the crossing can be carried out. Macedonian officials and NATO representatives have accused one another of being responsible for the bottleneck. PM BREAKTHROUGH IN MACEDONIAN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT CASE? A Czech police spokesman said in Prague on 17 November that police have "detained" a 35-year-old Macedonian citizen whom the spokesman described as an "internationally wanted drug boss," CTK reported. The spokesman added that Macedonian police are "interested" in the detainee in conjunction with the October 1996 attempt on the life of President Kiro Gligorov. Macedonia has not requested the extradition of the man, whom the spokesman identified only by the initials A.N. Investigations into the assassination attempt have not yielded any results (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 1999). PM CROATIA TO AVERT CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS? Parliamentary speaker Vlatko Pavletic said on 19 November that he will meet later in the day with representatives of the parties represented in the legislature. An unnamed parliamentary official told Reuters: "They will be discussing the possibility of holding another parliament session. I assume they will be seeking a consensus to pass a law whereby Pavletic would act as temporary president." The legislature's mandate runs out on 27 November. Key issues requiring immediate presidential attention include issuing a call for parliamentary elections on 22 December and approving the budget for 2000. President Franjo Tudjman has been hospitalized since 1 November, and most observers do not expect him to recover. The constitution is widely regarded to have been written for Tudjman and provides for sweeping powers for the president. PM BUDISA CALLS FOR SWEEPING REVISION OF CROATIAN CONSTITUTION. Opposition leader Drazen Budisa told the Rijeka daily "Novi List" of 19 November that time has come to change the constitution and reduce the powers of the president. He added that continuing the present system would mean "turning the government into a circus." Leaders of all six main opposition parties agree that the constitution must be changed quickly if a political crisis is to be averted, the daily added. PM OPPOSITION HEADING FOR VICTORY IN CROATIAN ELECTIONS? The independent Zagreb daily "Jutarnji list" reported on 19 November that a new poll by the U.S.-based International Republican Institute suggests that the main opposition coalition will win in eight out of 10 electoral districts. The coalition of the Social Democrats and Budisa's Croatian Social Liberal Party will take 35 percent of the overall vote, compared with 24 percent for the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), according to the poll. A coalition of four small opposition parties is in third place. Recent polls published in the same daily suggest that the top vote-getters in any future race to replace Tudjman would be the Social Democrats' Ivica Racan, followed by the moderate HDZ leader Mate Granic, who is currently foreign minister. PM POLL: MOST ROMANIANS SAY THEY WERE BETTER OFF UNDER COMMUNISM. A poll released by the Open Society Fund on 18 November found that 61 percent of Romanians say they were better off under former communist ruler Nicolae Ceausescu, Reuters reported. The poll of 2,019 Romanians showed 84 percent of respondents saying they lack confidence in the current government. More than 80 percent of respondents said they had lost confidence in the parliament and in political parties. The poll also found that 77 percent of Romanians favor a market economy. The results come after an earlier poll conducted by the Center for Urban and Regional Sociology found that most Romanians believe the switch from communism in 1989 has been a "success" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 1999). VG ROMANIAN WORKERS DEMONSTRATE. Thousands of Romanian workers marched through several major cities on 18 November to protest falling living standards, Reuters reported. Demonstrations took place in Constanta, Timisoara, Ploiesti, and Turnu Severin. Meanwhile, on 17 November, four major Romanian trade unions agreed to coordinate their protests against the government in the coming days, Mediafax reported. VG ROMANIAN-LANGUAGE TESTS FOR MOLDOVAN STUDENTS. Moldovan Education Ministry officials on 18 November announced that beginning next year, all university applicants will have to pass tests of their knowledge of the Romanian language and literature, BASA-Press reported. VG MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT DELAYS VOTE ON GOVERNMENT. Prime Minister-designate Valeriu Bobutac on 18 November asked the parliament to postpone a confidence vote in the cabinet until next week, BASA-Press reported. Communist deputy Victor Stepaniuc said the vote was put off because of "some small misunderstandings." In other news, the Moldovan prosecutor- general asked the parliament to lift deputy speaker Iurie Rosca's immunity in connection with a September car accident. Also, the Democratic Convention of Moldova expelled parliamentary deputy Ala Mandacanu for supporting the new government structure proposed by the Communists and the Christian Democratic Popular Front. VG OSCE CONSIDERS FUNDING RUSSIAN WITHDRAWAL FROM MOLDOVA. OSCE mission head to Moldova William Hill said the organization is prepared to fund the withdrawal of Russian forces from Moldova, but he added that the cost must first be determined, Reuters reported. A number of OSCE countries have proposed that the organization carry out an inventory of Russian arms and equipment in Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester VG USAID EXTENDS GRANT TO BULGARIA. The United States Agency for International Development has extended a $25 million grant to Bulgaria to deal with the effects of the NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia earlier this year as well as to ease the impact of economic reforms, AP reported on 18 November. In other news, the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party expressed reservations about preparations for U.S. President Bill Clinton's upcoming visit to Bulgaria. The party on 18 November protested plans to ban street traffic in parts of Sofia during the visit and complained that Clinton does not plan to address the parliament. VG END NOTE FORMER LEADERS ARGUE OVER MEANING OF 1989 By Jeremy Bransten Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former U.S. President George Bush, former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, former Polish President and Solidarity union leader Lech Walesa, and the wife of the late French President Francois Mitterrand were all awarded high state honors in Prague on 17 November. The awards were conferred by former dissident and current Czech President Vaclav Havel. The visit of the former leaders was planned as a largely ceremonial occasion. But at a panel discussion that preceded the award ceremony, participants sharply disagreed over the significance of the anti-communist revolutions and their aftermath. The talk laid bare the ideological rifts that still exist among some former adversaries and that could threaten to bring more divisions between East and West next century. Thatcher called the fall of communism a triumph of freedom and capitalism, especially as espoused by Britain and the U.S. She took a large measure of credit for the collapse of communism and said the two countries provided a shining example for the East to follow. Thatcher said the best thing the U.S. and Britain could do would be to continue exporting their values and way of life abroad. "I think our task today is not to ponder on what happened in the last 10 years but to see how we extend liberty to those countries that do not know it," she commented. Thatcher's views earned a gentle rebuke from the moderator, Oxford history professor Timothy Garton Ash, who noted that other European democracies had also perhaps contributed to inspiring the East's quest for freedom. But it was Gorbachev who took on Thatcher directly, accusing her of communist-style rhetoric in the service of a narrow ideology. He said that if anything, the past 10 years have proven that new ideas are needed--something approaching a synthesis between capitalism and communism, to solve problems in an increasingly global world economy: "I think that just as an inferiority complex is a bad thing, a victor's complex is no less harmful. I think we should say that no single ideology at the end of the 20th century can answer the challenges of the 21st century and the global problems that stand before us--neither liberal, nor communist, nor conservative." Gorbachev also reminded Thatcher that it was the Communists who saw everything in black and white, and he questioned whether she had not stumbled down the same path. Former union leader and ex-President Walesa chastised the West for congratulating itself over the end of communism without providing sufficient aid and assistance to those countries now trying to transform their economies. He drew a parallel with the end of World War II and said Western Europe has benefited from U.S. assistance through the generosity of the Marshall Plan. But Walesa noted that 10 years after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, no comprehensive assistance has been forthcoming from the U.S. and a now prosperous Western Europe. He warned that in many countries across the East, democracy is now endangered by the failure of economic reform, crime, corruption, and a nostalgia among some people for the old regime. Czech President Havel called the year of revolutions a magic moment. But he said that it was not, as some once predicted, the end of history. The revolutions of Eastern Europe, he said, marked a victory for human dignity and universal human values, not any particular ideology. "If I posed myself the question: what triumphed over what or who triumphed over whom 10 years ago, then I wouldn't answer that it was the victory of one ideology over another, of one state over another state, or of one superpower over another," he said. "But I'd say certain values triumphed. Freedom triumphed over oppression. Respect for human dignity triumphed over humiliation. Respect for human rights triumphed over disdain for human rights. But it was one small battle in an unending chain of battles, because the war continues." Kohl said the revolutions of 1989 were clearly interconnected, and he praised the bravery of those Central and Eastern Europeans who stood up against communism and overthrew it. But Kohl noted that both the former Soviet and U.S. leaders deserve recognition for their role as catalysts to the process. "No one in Europe, and this is my considered opinion, should think there would have been success had it not been that the two great powers set out on a rational road." Bush, like Thatcher, noted the leadership of Britain and the United States in ending the Cold War. But he also spoke of Washington's initially cautious approach to the momentous events of 1989: "The U.S. was concerned that if we provoke, needlessly provoke, then President Gorbachev, who knows how the forces to his right, his military, might have reacted. And so we tried to be very careful about not dancing on the [Berlin] Wall, for example." Bush paid homage to his host, Havel, and to Walesa. He called both men heroes of the democratic revolutions of 1989, whose example inspired the U.S. people. He argued that what "got through" to the U.S. people were the "symbols" of the new-won freedom, in this case, Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague. 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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