Accessibility links

Newsline - June 15, 1999




MORE RUSSIAN TROOPS HEADING FOR KOSOVA

General-Colonel Georgii Shpak told Interfax in Moscow on 15 June that a Russian convoy of eight trucks and three other vehicles left Bosnia-Herzegovina bound for Kosova on 15 June. The convoy is reportedly bringing supplies and money for the about 200 Russian soldiers who are already in Kosova. The previous day Shpak denied unspecified press reports that the Russian army sent additional troops into Kosova by plane, but he told Interfax that the Defense Ministry has ordered about 2,500 paratroopers to prepare to participate in the international peacekeeping force in Kosova (KFOR). Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania have denied Russian planes an air corridor en route to Kosova until NATO and Russian officials agree on a command structure for KFOR. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 1999 and related stories in Part II). FS

FSB CHIEF EXPECTS QUICK SETTLEMENT OF RUSSIAN ROLE IN KFOR...

Vladimir Putin, director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), told the members of the Russian Security Council that he expects a settlement of Russia's role within KFOR "within two days at most," Russian Television reported. He added: "As soon as these matters have been agreed on, transportation of major forces will begin." Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin said that "the Russian battalion at the Slatina airfield [in Prishtina] is merely a token of Russia's presence in the Balkans," adding that "Russia [must] carry out its peacekeeping mission fully, not symbolically." He added that non-military aspects of the Kosova problem will be on the agenda of an upcoming G-8 meeting this week. Meanwhile, officials from the Defense Ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, slammed the Foreign Ministry for failing to obtain an air corridor for Russian flights to Kosova, Interfax reported. FS

...AFTER CLINTON AND YELTSIN AGREE TO 'INTENSIFY DIALOGUE'

Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his U.S. counterpart, Bill Clinton, agreed during a telephone conversation on 14 June to "intensify bilateral dialogue," ITAR-TASS reported. Stepashin told AFP on 15 June that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev in Helsinki on 16 June. He added that "I am convinced that all misunderstandings which have come up will be solved by the end of the week." He added that "without a doubt, the UN resolution to disarm the Kosova Liberation Army must be carried out." FS

BAD WEATHER THREATENS HARVEST

Because of a cold snap in May and the prospect of a drought this summer, the Russian Agriculture Ministry is predicting that fulfillment of 1999 crop production targets may prove difficult, "The Moscow Times" reported on 15 June. Meteorologists forecast that the nation could experience a drought similar to that which occurred last year and contributed to the country's worst harvest in the last 40 years. Several Russian regions, including Central Russia, the Volga region, Omsk and Novosibirsk oblasts, Stavropol Krai and the Republic of Kalmykia are experiencing unusually high temperatures reaching 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) at which point it becomes almost impossible to keep crops sufficiently watered, according to the daily. In addition to bad weather, a successful harvest is also threatened by the usual shortage of fuel and usable farm equipment. While at least 85,000 combine harvesters are needed, only 65,079 are currently functional, the newspaper reported. JAC

STEPASHIN TO MEET WITH CAMDESSUS

Prime Minister Stepashin will hold his first meeting as head of the Russian government with IMF Director Michel Camdessus on 15 June. Stepashin said he would inform Camdessus about the government's progress thus far in fulfilling the agreement with the fund negotiated earlier by Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov's government, Interfax reported. The two officials are also likely to discuss the government's draft 2000 budget, which was released last week and envisions new financing worth $3-3.85 billion from international financial organizations to cover the deficit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 1999). State Duma Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov told reporters on 15 June that the Duma will consider the controversial bill imposing a tax on gasoline stations on 17 June after it is reviewed by the trilateral commission composed of members of the Duma, Federation Council, and government, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

KAMCHATKA RESIDENTS TO APPEAL TO THE UN

As the Kamchatka Oblast continues to be plagued by energy shortages, residents are collecting signatures on a petition requesting the establishment of UN control over their peninsula, Russian Television reported on 14 June. According to the television station, the region's largest power plant was shut down that day due to a lack of fuel. More than 2,000 signatures had been collected as of 15 June, ITAR-TASS reported. On 12 June, the national holiday, residents were treated to a complete energy blackout, as electricity was being provided only for a three-hour period every other day, ITAR-TASS reported earlier. Fuel supplies dried up after Slavneft, the region's usual fuel provider, declared that it would no longer ship fuel on credit. JAC

REGIONS GET NEW INJECTION OF LUZHKOV'S LARGESSE

Amidst reports that the city of Moscow will have difficulty making payments to its foreign creditors, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov submitted an order to the city's legislative assembly for a 125 million ruble ($5.2 million) credit to the Yaroslavl Oblast for the completion of a hockey rink there, "The Moscow Times" reported on 15 June. The newspaper reported earlier that the oblast already owes the city some $8 million for an earlier loan to build the rink that it cannot repay (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 5 May 1999). Now, according to the daily, some city legislators are angry that the mayor is spreading the city's resources too thin in an attempt to expand his political influence before presidential elections. Earlier in June, Luzhkov approved 20 million rubles to Ryazan as "temporary financial aid for spring agricultural projects." JAC

GOVERNMENT SUGGESTING DEPOPULATING THE NORTH?

First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko announced during a trip to the Komi Republic that a program for moving residents from the city of Vorkuta to southern and central Russia might be resumed as soon as July, "Rossiya" reported in its June issue. According to the publication, Aksenenko said that the government wants the Northerners moved because that would cost less than building living accommodations for them in Vorkuta. Aksenenko has responsibility for resolving the problems of the north under the current division of labor within the Stepashin cabinet. At an April Security Council meeting devoted to "northern" issues a local legislator from the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) said that the north's industrial slump is increasing the outflow of the population to the south and that "a time will come when it will be necessary to return people to work within the Polar Circle and that will be much more expensive to do" (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 7 April 1999). JAC

PENSIONS BACKLOG TO BE WIPED OUT BY SEPTEMBER

Labor Minister Sergei Kalashnikov told Ekho Moskvy on 15 June that all of the country's pension arrears will be paid off by September. Already, according to Kalashnikov, pension arrears declined from 30.6 billion rubles ($1.3 billion) in November 1998 to 14.6 billion rubles in June. Pensions are expected to increase by 10 percent on 1 October. JAC

SECURITY COUNCIL GETS NEW MEMBERS

President Yeltsin signed a decree on 14 June appointing new members to the Security Council, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin assigned Prime Minister Stepashin, First Deputy Prime Ministers Aksenenko and Viktor Khristenko, Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, Economics Minister Andrei Shapovalyants, and General Director of the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information Vladimir Matyukhin. JAC

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS CALL OFF STRIKE

Air traffic controllers in Kaliningrad suspended their hunger strike hours after it began (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 1999), ITAR-TASS reported on 14 June. The controllers were protesting low wages and management agreed to renegotiate salaries and working conditions. JAC




ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI TROOPS CLASH

Azerbaijani and Karabakh Armenian forces engaged in a four-hour exchange of fire on 14 June close to the northeastern border of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Azerbaijani agencies said that 300 Armenian troops mounted an offensive using firearms, mortars, and heavy machine guns in a series of unsuccessful attempts to capture Azerbaijani positions, but retreated after sustaining severe casualties. According to an Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman, Armenian forces opened fire in order to repulse an Azerbaijani attack. He said two Armenian soldiers were wounded in the fighting. Azerbaijani sources give their losses as two killed and four wounded. The exchange of fire was the most serious incident on the line of contact since the summer of 1997. LF

U.S. AMBASSSADOR HOPES FOR AMENDMENTS TO AZERBAIJANI ELECTION LAW

Stanley Escudero said after a two-hour talk with first deputy parliamentary speaker Arif Ragimzade that the U.S. government "is absolutely confident" that deputies will introduce four unspecified amendments to the law on municipal elections before it is passed in the third and final reading, Turan reported on 14 June. Opposition deputies have criticized the bill as undemocratic. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT NOT TO ATTEND LUXEMBOURG SUMMIT?

Turan on 14 June quoted unnamed sources as saying that on his doctors' advice, President Heidar Aliyev will not travel to Luxembourg to attend the 22 June summit of Transcaucasus presidents. Prime Minister Artur Rasizade will represent Azerbaijan at that meeting, which Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists on 14 June is of a "consultative" character. The main objective of the meeting is the ratification of agreements between the three South Caucasus states and the European Union. Aliyev was also scheduled to discuss the Karabakh conflict with his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT UNDERSCORES TIES WITH RUSSIA

Speaking at a press briefing in Tbilisi on 14 June, Eduard Shevardnadze called for a "radical overhaul" of relations with Russia, insisting that "no one is driving Russia out of Georgia," Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Shevardnadze said that Georgia is "open for cooperation with Russian businessmen, politicians, the military." The previous day, Georgian parliamentary chairman Zurab Zhvania had similarly expressed regret that Russia's policies towards Georgia are counterproductive and serve only to undermine bilateral cooperation, according to "Dilis gazeti" of 14 June. LF

U.S. INVESTIGATES KAZAKHSTAN'S URANIUM SALES

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan told journalists on 14 June that the U.S. Trade Department has not yet completed the investigation begun earlier this year into allegations that Kazakhstan has violated a 1992 pledge not to sell uranium on the world market at "dumping" prices, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Kazakh National Atomic Company official Murat Zhakishev and Kazakhatomprom Vice President Viktor Yazikov have both denied that Kazakhstan was violating the 1992 agreement. Interfax on 11 June reported that the U.S. has already imposed anti-dumping sanctions on Kazakhstan's uranium suppliers, adding that Kazakh uranium is being sold in the U.S. at 15 percent less than world prices. LF

KYRGYZSTAN AGAIN WITHOUT GAS

Intergas, the Kazakh company that supplies gas from Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan, again cut supplies to northern regions of Kyrgzystan, including Bishkek, on the morning of 14 June, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The Kyrgyz government owes Intergas some $3.2 million for past deliveries, and Intergaz has halted supplies several times earlier this year because of Bishkek's failure to meet that debt. A senior Kazakh government official had assured the Kyrgyz government in late May that there would be no further disruptions in supplies. LF

KYRGYZ PREMIER'S VISIT TO UZBEKISTAN POSTPONED

A visit to Tashkent by Amangeldy MurAliyev scheduled for 12 June has been postponed indefinitely, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 12 June. No explanation has been given for the postponement. LF




BELARUSIAN PEASANT PARTY DEFIES REREGISTRATION DECREE

The Belarusian Peasant Party has refused to comply with the presidential decree on reregistration of political parties and public associations in Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 14 June. Under the decree, all Belarusian parties and organizations are obliged to reregister with the Justice Ministry by 1 July. "We think that this decree violates the constitution, in particular, Article 101 part 2, which stipulates that the president has no right to issue decrees that change the basic law. Therefore, [the reregistration] is an anti-constitutional action," party leader Mikhail Antanenka told RFE/RL. According to the Justice Ministry, only some 10 percent of the public organizations in Belarus have reregistered. JM

OSCE LAUNCHES POLITICAL DIALOGUE IN BELARUS, BUT WITHOUT GOVERNMENT

Representatives of the Belarusian opposition and NGOs participated in the OSCE-sponsored hearings on Belarus in Bucharest on 11-14 June. OSCE official Adrian Severin told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 14 June that the main goal of the hearings was to find a "solution to how to hold free and fair elections [in Belarus]...which could be recognized on both the domestic and international level." Severin said the hearings were successful in working out a single stance of the Belarusian opposition on the issue of elections, adding that the meeting has inaugurated a "long and difficult process" of political dialogue in Belarus. Official Minsk, though invited, boycotted the Bucharest meeting. JM

KUCHMA SUPPLIES SIGNATURES IN SUPPORT OF HIS RE-ELECTION BID

The electoral staff of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 14 June submitted voter registration forms with nearly 2 million signatures supporting Kuchma's re-election bid in the 31 October presidential elections. Each of the 18 candidates registered by the Central Electoral Commission must collect at least 1 million signatures by 13 July in order to be allowed to run. Meanwhile, former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko, who is seeking political asylum in the U.S., has announced that he has dropped out of the presidential race. Lazarenko accused the government of a harassment campaign against his supporters in Ukraine and urged them to support any of the contenders who oppose Kuchma. JM

UKRAINE'S OIL, GAS EXTRACTION DOWN, COAL MINING UP

Ukraine's oil and gas production decreased by 3.8 percent and 0.7 percent respectively in January-May 1999, compared to the same period last year. The Naftohaz state company reported that Ukraine extracted 1.5 million tons of oil and 7.3 billion cubic meters of gas in the first five months of 1999. The coal production in the same period totaled 33.5 million tons, increasing by 1.9 percent compared to last year. The increase is attributed to the fact that the government has managed to increase the level of cash payments for the mined coal. According to First Deputy Premier Volodymyr Kuratchenko, 65 percent of the bill for the coal mined last month was paid in cash. JM

LATVIAN PREMIER IN FINLAND LOBBYING FOR EU SPOT

Vilis Kristopans made a one-day visit to Helsinki on 14 June, BNS reported. With a mainly EU-related agenda, Kristopans met with several high-ranking officials, including Finland's minister of European affairs and foreign trade, Kimo Sassi, to discuss Latvia's bid to join the "front-running" group for EU membership. BNS reported that Sassi believes there is good chance Latvia will be promoted to that group at the Helsinki European Council summit later this year. MH

RUSSIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER IN LITHUANIA...

Aleksandr Avdeev met with Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus in Vilnius on 14 June, BNS reported. Avdeev noted his "surprise" at the continued orientation of Lithuania's oil industry to the West and the fact that Lithuania chose to "purchase oil from Rotterdam at a higher price" than oil from Russia would cost. The two also discussed the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas to Moscow on 29 June, while Avdeev extended an invitation from President Boris Yeltsin for Adamkus to visit Russia. Avdeev is in Lithuania for the foreign ministers meeting of the Council of Baltic Sea States (CBSS) being held in Palanga from 14-15 June. He is there in place of Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who stayed in Moscow because of the military deployment in Kosova. MH

...AS IS UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER

Borys Tarasyuk, accompanied by a trade delegation, was also in Lithuania on 14 June. Tarasyuk met with President Adamkus to discuss wide- ranging bilateral and international issues, with the focus on economic issues. In response to Lithuanian concerns that Ukraine's across-the-board import tariffs violate a free trade agreement, Tarasyuk said: "These are not import tariffs, just an extra, small levy on imported goods," according to ELTA. Tarasyuk will also attend the CBSS meeting, as Ukraine holds observer status. MH

POLISH NURSES STAGE SIT-INS TO DEMAND HIGHER SALARIES

Nurses in Poland have stepped up a pay protest by staging sit-ins in regional health fund offices throughout the country, PAP reported on 14 June. The nurses demand that their monthly salary be increased to some 2,000 zlotys ($500). "There is something gravely wrong if a hospital director makes 25,000 zlotys a month, an ordinary health employee earns 1,700, a cleaner gets 1,000, but a nurse's base pay is only 600 zlotys," Reuters quoted a nurses' trade union activist as saying. JM

POLISH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS TO DISSOLVE THEIR PARTY

The Social Democracy of the Polish Republic (SdRP), the party of reformed communists created after the collapse of communism in Poland, is to be dissolved at a party congress on 16 June. It is expected that SdRP members will join the Democratic Left Alliance, the new party created one month ago from the namesake election coalition between the SdRP and the leftist All-Poland Trade Union Alliance. Adam Herman--liquidator of the assets of the Communist-era Polish United Workers Party to which the SdRP was legal successor--told PAP that the SdRP is trying to avoid paying its debts to the state treasury. According to Herman, the SdRP owns some 60 million zlotys ($15 million) to the state. SdRP General Secretary Krzysztof Janik has said the party will repay 2.4 million zlotys it owes to the state on 15 June. JM

FLU KEEPS POPE IN BED

Pope John Paul II, stricken with flu on 14 June, has canceled all his public appearances in Krakow and Gliwice on 15 June and will remain in bed, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced. Navarro-Valls added that no decision has been made yet about the pope's schedule for the rest of the week. John Paul was to stay in Poland until 18 June, then make a quick trip to Armenia to visit the ailing Orthodox Patriarch Garegin I before returning to Rome. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT TO VISIT KOSOVA THIS MONTH...

Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek on 14 June announced that Vaclav Havel will visit Kosova "and probably other places in the Balkans" at the end of June, shortly after a visit to Prague by Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov, CTK reported. Havel announced his intention to visit Albania and Macedonia already one month ago, saying he will "not go there because it is fashionable," but "to mediate and aid people who are suffering." Also on 14 June, Spacek told CTK that Havel believes the situation created by the Russian presence in Kosova was "not as serious as to arouse excessive fears." This followed a telephone conversation Havel had with U.S. President Bill Clinton, who told him that talks on reaching an agreement on the Russian participation in KFOR had "developed positively." MS

...WILL NOT INTERFERE IN THE DEBATES ON PRESS LAW

Reacting to the recent appeal of the World Association of Newspapers (WAN, see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 1999), Havel said through his spokesman that he does not intend to "in any way interfere" in the deputies' debates on the government- proposed press law. MS

SLOVAKIA RATES FIRST IN EUROPE IN GRANTING ASYLUM

Slovak Emigration Office director Bernard Priecel on 14 June told CTK that Slovakia rates first in Europe in regard to the ratio of refugees to whom asylum has been granted to those who requested that status. Since 1993 until the end of May this year, 2,566 refugees applied for asylum and the status was granted to 478 people. Priecel said that 378 applications were rejected and asylum-granting procedures were canceled in 1,502 cases. Proceedings for 158 applications are underway. Priecel admitted, however, that Slovakia is still considered by most refugees as a "transit country" and not a "final destination." MS

ORBAN WORRIES ABOUT VOJVODINA HUNGARIANS

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 14 June told the Western European Union assembly in Paris that the 350,000 ethnic Hungarians in Vojvodina might become Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's next target. Orban said that the most dangerous time for the Hungarian minority has ended with the conclusion of NATO air strikes, but he added that he fears Serbs fleeing Kosova would be settled in Vojvodina. "This would further upset a demographic balance already shaken up in recent years by the arrival of quarter of a million Serbs from Bosnia," he explained. MSZ

BUDAPEST EXPLOSIONS MIGHT HERALD NEW GANG WARS

The car of a businessman involved in casinos and slot machines exploded on 14 June in Budapest, slightly injuring one person. The blast came just two days after an apparent assassination attempt and two other explosions. Police spokesman Laszlo Garamvolgyi said that the car explosion does not appear to be related to the weekend incidents. The daily "Vilaggazdasag" reports, however, that police fear the bombings are the first step in a renewed underworld war. MSZ




SERBIAN FORCES RETREAT FROM KOSOVA...

A spokesman for German peacekeepers said in Prizren on 15 June that all Serbian military, police, and paramilitary forces have left the area. A Defense Department spokesman noted in Washington the previous day that Serbian forces are "making a strong effort" to withdraw from Kosova in accordance with the deadlines set down in the recent agreement between Belgrade and NATO. The spokesman noted that "the roads are jammed [and Serbian commanders] are having a hard time getting [their forces] out." In Peja, AP reported that some of the retreating Serbs engaged in a "final spree of burning, shooting, and alleged rapes." One Serbian officer said: "We're finishing up." PM

...AS CIVILIAN EXODUS MOUNTS

Thousands of Serbs continue to flee Kosova on 15 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 1999). It is unclear how many intend to leave permanently and how many want to stay temporarily in Serbia or Montenegro to see how the situation in Kosova shapes up. Momcilo Trajkovic, who is the leader of the Serbian Resistance Movement in Kosova and a critic of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, called on the international community to protect the remaining Serbs. He stressed that the Serbs will have no choice but to defend themselves if they feel they are in danger, the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported on 15 June. Trajkovic urged Serbs to stay and work for a political solution in the province. He also warned Belgrade politicians not to use the Serbs of Kosova for their own political purposes. PM

WHAT IS GOING ON IN DECAN?

An unspecified number of fighters of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) attacked several ethnic Serbian villages in the Rahovec and Decan areas, prompting Serbs to seek refuge in local monasteries, "Danas" reported on 15 June. Some 200 villagers took refuge in the Decan monastery alone. Two days earlier, Bishop Artemije, who is the leading Serbian Orthodox cleric in the province, said in a statement that KFOR "is arriving too slowly" to protect Serbs. It is not clear whether peacekeepers have meanwhile reached the monasteries. PM

ETHNIC ALBANIANS CELEBRATE IN PRIZREN

Thousands of Kosovars staged a massive street party in Prizren to celebrate the departure of Serbian troops and the arrival of German KFOR peacekeepers, Deutsche Welle reported on 15 June. One Kosovar told "The New York Times" that the Serbs "will never come back. Kosova is Albanian." He added that "ninety percent" of the Serbian population "has bloody hands." PM

EVIDENCE OF ATROCITIES MOUNTS

Dutch peacekeepers found some 20 charred bodies in a village near Prizren, Reuters reported on 15 June. The UCK tipped the Dutch off about the atrocity. German KFOR troops found a mass grave in the area containing 71 bodies, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Elsewhere, both U.K. and U.S. peacekeepers found further evidence of mass burials in the province, the BBC reported. In Kacanik, British troops continue to put together details of the apparent "mass slaughter" of Kosovars by Serbian forces this spring, "The Guardian" wrote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 1999). NATO officials said they are concerned that Kosovars will inadvertently destroy evidence of war crimes in their haste to give victims a decent burial. Observers note that the villagers are generally simple people with little understanding of the role and practices of forensics. PM

NATO ARRESTS UCK FIGHTERS IN DEATH OF SERB

British KFOR troops arrested five suspected UCK guerrillas in Prishtina in conjunction with the shooting death of a Serb the previous night, a British military spokesman said in London on 15 June. The spokesman stressed: "What we're trying to achieve is a stable situation. People wandering around with weapons and shooting at us or each other is clearly not acceptable." PM

ANNAN PRESENTS KOSOVA ADMINISTRATION PLAN TO SECURITY COUNCIL

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented his finalized plan for a civil UN administration for Kosova to the Security Council on 14 June, Reuters reported. The plan puts the EU in charge of reconstruction and gives the OSCE primary responsibility for establishing democratic institutions, organizing elections, and monitoring human rights. The UNHCR will take charge of the resettlement of refugees and displaced persons. The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo [UNMIK] will administer the police, justice, schools, public transport, telecommunications, and power plants. An international police unit of up to 2,000 will oversee the establishment of a Kosova police force. On 12 June, Annan appointed UN Undersecretary-General Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil as interim special representative. FS

MORE REFUGEES RETURN TO KOSOVA FROM ALBANIA

Hundreds of refugees returned to Kosova despite efforts by UCK soldiers to stop them from doing so until conditions are safe, AP reported. Meanwhile, many Albanian inhabitants of villages in the border region returned to their homes, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. The border region was mostly calm with the exception of an exchange of fire near the village of Letaj, but no details are available. Serbian forces fired several artillery shells into Dobruna in the same area, which is the site of a UCK base. Another RFE/RL correspondent reported that many UCK fighters came down from the border region into Prizren to look for their families and inspect their homes. FS

IMF GIVES NEW LOAN TO ALBANIA

Officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) told Reuters in Washington that they have given a $12.9 million loan to Albania. The IMF will also increase the credits available to Albania under a 1998 agreement by $13.1 million to $60.6 million. IMF officials said the impact of the refugee crisis on Albania's inflation and economic growth will be small because other foreign donors are covering most refugee-related costs. The IMF officials issued a statement saying that if "the refugees...have returned home by early 2000, foreign direct investment resumes, and fiscal consolidation and structural reforms continue as programmed, growth is expected to average 7 to 8 percent a year, while inflation stabilizes at industrial country levels." FS

MILOSEVIC LAUNCHING CAMPAIGN?

Milosevic made a rare public appearance on 14 June, ostensibly to inaugurate the reconstruction of destroyed bridges in Novi Sad. He praised what he called the unity and determination of the population during the NATO air strikes. Some 10,000 people turned out to greet him, state-run television reported. He moved about in the crowd with what the "Berliner Zeitung" called the appearance of a politician on the stump. Elections are not due until 2000, but the opposition wants them to take place this fall. PM

DJUKANOVIC: MIXED MESSAGE ON INDEPENDENCE

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Bucharest on 14 June that his mountainous republic will continue to work for reform, democracy, and the promotion of good relations between Balkan countries, Romanian Television reported. He stressed that Montenegro will realize its aims, with or without Serbia. He added, however, that the time is not yet ripe for holding a referendum on independence and that he does not consider independence the only way to achieve his goals, the Romanian broadcast quoted him as saying. PM

MEIDANI: BOTH KOSOVA AND MONTENEGRO MUST BE INDEPENDENT

Albanian President Rexhep Meidani said in Bonn that both Kosova and Montenegro should become independent of Yugoslavia, the "Berliner Zeitung" reported on 15 June. He urged that all European countries become part of one federal state on the U.S. model. He stressed that an independent Kosova and Montenegro integrated into a united Europe would be a factor for stability. PM

KOSCHNICK CALLS FOR FIRMNESS

Hans Koschnick, who is Germany's special envoy for the Balkans and a former EU administrator in Mostar, told the "Berliner Zeitung" of 15 June that it is "impossible" to use compromise as a means of solving difficulties in the Balkans. He stressed that a willingness to compromise with the parties on the ground will be taken by each of them as a sign of weakness. Any partition of Kosova will lead to demands for a wholesale redrawing of frontiers on the peninsula, Koschnick warned. He stressed that refugees will gladly go home once they feel they will be secure there. He urged that international reconstruction aid be well coordinated and that it be extended to the Serbs as well. PM

BOSNIAN SERB MINE CLEARERS FOR KOSOVA

An official of the UNHCR told Reuters in Sarajevo on 14 June that a group of Bosnian Serb mine-clearing specialists will soon leave for Kosova. "It is quicker to send people from here now than to train people" from Kosova, the official said. The German non- governmental organization HELP will help organize the mission. HELP sponsors two Serbian, two Croatian, and two Muslim demining teams in Bosnia, and may send some of the Croats and Muslims to Kosova as well. PM

ROMANIA REFUSES RUSSIAN OVERFLIGHTS TO KOSOVA

President Emil Constantinescu on 14 June said Romania is refusing a Russian request to allow overflight transportation of troops to Kosova without prior approval of those flights by the UN Security Council, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. "Even if the UN gave that permission, the request would have to follow the same procedure as that which has applied to the NATO overflight request, that is to say it would have to be approved by the parliament," Constantinescu said. In other news, U.S. President Bill Clinton on 14 June phoned Premier Radu Vasile, thanking him for the position adopted by Bucharest in the Kosova conflict. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT INTERVENES IN LABOR CONFLICT

Representatives of the teachers' trade unions will meet on 15 June with Premier Vasile in an attempt to end the teachers' strike. The move follows President Constantinescu's intervention one day earlier. The president met with the unions' leaders and phoned Vasile in their presence, requesting the resumption of the parleys between the government and the strikers, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

ROMANIAN SENATOR CALL FOR ANTONESCU'S REHABILITATION

Senator Ion Moisin, a member of the ruling National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, demanded on 14 June that the Senate pass a resolution for the rehabilitation of Romania's wartime leader, Marshal Ion Antonescu, Mediafax reported. He said Antonescu had been "a great Romanian patriot, who fought for his country till his death." Antonescu was executed in 1946 as a war criminal. Moisin said that unlike the recently- rehabilitated Romanian spy chief, General Ion Mihai Pacepa, who served the Communist regime, Antonescu "fought against the USSR, and liberated Bessarabia and Bukovina." He also denied Antonescu bore any responsibility for the Holocaust, claiming that "on the contrary, he saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews, refusing to carry out Adolf Hitler's order to send them to Germany." Moisin's demand was supported by independent Senator Sergiu Nicolaescu. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ASKS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO RULE ON REFERENDUM

Presidential spokesman Anatol Golea on 14 June told journalists that President Petru Lucinschi will ask the Constitutional Court to rule whether the resolution adopted by the parliament on 10 June is in line with the constitution. The resolution says a referendum is invalid if less than 60 percent of eligible voters participate in it and was adopted in reaction to the Central Electoral Commission's validation of the 23 May non-binding referendum on changing the parliamentary system into a presidential one (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 June 1999). Golea also hinted that Moldovan parliament members were behind a declaration adopted by the Central European Initiative at its Prague meeting of 6-8 June that stated "concern over political developments in Moldova, where parliamentary democracy is endangered by anti- democratic, authoritative tendencies that could lead to destabilization." MS

BULGARIA DENIES MOSCOW REQUEST FOR AIR SPACE

Government spokeswoman Stoyana Georgieva on 14 June said the government will withhold permission from Russia to use its air space for flights to Kosova until NATO and Moscow reach an agreement on the implementation of the international peacekeeping operation in that region, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 1999). Georgieva also said that the Bulgarian government has "many times said that a partition of Kosovo would be against Bulgaria's national interests." In other news, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia on 14 June reported that a two-week NATO naval exercise began off the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Participants include the U.S., Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria. MS




IS ROMANIA THE FUTURE OF SLOVAKIA?


By Michael Shafir

An interesting analysis of the Slovak parliamentary and presidential elections has been recently provided by two members of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Jan Buncak and Valentina Harmadyova. The two Slovak sociologists, unlike other analysts of the Slovak scene, do not believe that the victory of the four-party coalition in the ballot conducted for the legislature last autumn, or Rudolf Schuster's May victory over former Premier Vladimir Meciar in the presidential elections are an indication of the Slovak electorate's move to the right of the political spectrum.

Buncak and Harmadyova point out that there are right and left forces both in the new coalition and in the opposition, as they emerged after the parliamentary ballot. The real confrontation, the two sociologists show, is between approaches to reform. One orientation is to the West, the other towards an "own Slovak path," the latter being embodied by Meciar and his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), but also including such rightist parties as the Slovak National Party. Schuster's own political views, they point out, would place him more on the left side of the political spectrum, yet that part of the Slovak left has apparently concluded that only emulation of the West in introducing reform can take Slovakia out of the economic dead end which it had reached under Meciar's rule. Precisely the opposite is true for the other side of the spectrum. The opposition, Buncak says, though divided between left-center and right oriented streams, is nonetheless "united by the unwillingness to accept standard methods and by the effort to seek an original Slovak solution."

Harmadyova points out that psychological, rather than political factors, play an important role in this cleavage. The "Slovak-oriented" side, she says, is also connected with "the traditional Slovak countryside community." It is made up of "people who accept changes only with difficulties." Both sociologists conclude that the division reflected in the last elections is more one between town and countryside orientations.

Three caveats arise here, however. First, there is nothing either new, nor indeed originally Slovak about this division. "Urbanists" and "populists" have been known to confront one another under different names through the eastern part of the European continent for longer than a century. Second, Buncak and Harmadyova overlook what political scientists call the "performance" criterion. After all, Meciar and his HZDS lost the elections not because the structure of the population underwent a radical change in the last four years, but simply because the "Slovakia's way" recipe had produced nothing but an economic dead end combined with increasingly apparent evidence of corruption among Meciar cronies. Finally, they also fail to consider the ethnicity factor. It is not an exaggeration to state that it was the Hungarian vote that decided the outcome of both elections and that this vote cut across the classical town- village division. These caveats, in turn, are food for thought for further speculation. If the town-countryside division could be overcome due to the "performance criterion," this means the outcome of the elections is also easily reversible. In other words, unless the four-party coalition implements its intentions and proceeds to austerity measures and radical reforms, then in four years the electorate will remember the former and fail to benefit from the latter. "Declarations of intent" are simply destined to be short-lived, as the Romanian case amply demonstrates. In that country, the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) in 1996 had displaced the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), whose social base, like that of the HZDS, is in the countryside and in smaller urban settlements, precisely because of the "performance record" of the PDSR. Now, most polls indicate that the PDSR and its leader, former President Ion Iliescu, are likely to win the next elections. Instead of having implemented its program, the CDR, fearing social unrest at the earliest stage of its rule, has plunged the country into the "NATO membership" substitute. Having failed to achieve the latter, it is now left without credibility (and probably running out of time) for its capacity to lead the way to the former.

Slovakia may be more fortunate, for the government of Premier Mikulas Dzurinda has made admission to the EU "fast track" group, rather than NATO membership, its main target, and that, in itself, calls for "performance evidence." But as viewed by the EU, such evidence must come not only in economic, but also in political form. And above all, the Slovaks are expected by the EU to pass a minority-language bill. As in Romania, where the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania has been a member of the coalition but encountered difficulties in achieving concrete results in the legislation it wants to promote for the benefit of this minority, in Slovakia the Hungarian Slovak Coalition, having once joined the government, is facing opposition in the same quest. It might not be a bad idea for Bratislava to take a better look at Bucharest. It will find a lot of similarities, starting from the inapplicability of the classic left-right spectrum to believers in "Romania's way," a category uniting leftists and rightists alike. This glance may help the Slovaks avoid repeating the mistakes of their Romanian peers.


XS
SM
MD
LG