|Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon|
Vol. 1, No. 1, Part II, 1 April 1997
Vol. 1, No. 1, Part II, 1 April 1997 This is Part II of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Newsline. Part II is a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Part I, covering Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, is distributed simultaneously as a second document. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PREMIER TO ADDRESS PARLIAMENT. Pavlo Lazarenko is to address the parliament to explain the government's position on the budget, RFE/RL reported. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has asked Lazarenko to give the speech. Kuchma has sharply criticized the prime minister and his government for failing to deal with the country's severe economic crisis. He has also warned he will dismiss the government if the situation is not fixed. Lazarenko has returned from an official visit to Egypt, where he met on 29 March with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. In other news, Gen. George Joulwan, Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in Europe, is scheduled today to begin a two-day visit to Ukraine. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CRITICAL OF RUSSIAN- BELARUSIAN UNION. Kuchma has told journalists in Kyiv that the planned union between Russia and Belarus is "nonsense." According to Kuchma, the union is a way to destroy the CIS. Kuchma also said he does not support some of Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's recent actions, such as the crackdown on the media in Belarus. ESTONIAN FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER GOES ON TRIAL. Heiki Arike on 31 March went on trial on charges of participating in illegal weapons trading and illegally signing weapons trade documents. Arike, a former deputy secretary of the Internal Affairs Ministry and internal affairs minister under Prime Minister Mart Laar, denied the charges. He admitted to having signed last-user certificates beginning in spring 1993 but only for companies previously approved by the police for such deals. The charges against Arike carry a maximum sentence of three years. The trial continues today. ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO ENLARGEMENT. Toomas Hendrik Ilves says that during talks last week in the U.S. capital, U.S. officials expressed support for a second wave of NATO enlargement to follow the first and for a special charter on relations with the Baltic States. The charter would be an explicit statement of U.S. relations to the Baltic states. It would contain neither security guarantees nor commitments by the U.S. Ilves was speaking at a press conference on 30 March in Washington. He said Estonia has proposed a Washington summit in 1999 at which another batch of European countries would be admitted to NATO. "The Madrid summit [in June 1997] must be the formal beginning of a process rather than the climactic end," Ilves commented. STRONG WINDS KILL 10 IN POLAND. Hurricane-strength winds killed at least 10 people in Poland, PAP reported. Most of the victims were killed by uprooted trees or falling debris. Dozens of others were injured. Some 13,000 firefighters took part in rescue actions across Poland. Many villages in the southern and western parts of the country were left without electricity or phone links. SLOVAK PREMIER ON NATO. Vladimir Meciar claims that U.S. State Secretary Madeleine Albright told him in July 1996 that Slovakia will not be admitted to NATO. Albright, who at the time was U.S. ambassador to the UN, was accompanying Hillary Clinton, wife of the U.S. President, on a visit to Slovakia. Meciar made the claim in an interview with Markiza TV on 28 March. Sme reported the next day that the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava does not want to comment on Meciar's statements "at this point." Meanwhile, retired Gen. Jan Husak is quoted by Slovensko as saying his Slovak Anti-Fascist Fighters Union has sent a letter to the Russian War Veterans Committee defending Slovakia's possible entry into NATO and stressing NATO membership is one of the Slovak government's priorities. His letter comes in response to the veterans' request that the union join them in opposing NATO's eastward expansion. SLOVAK POLITICIAN CALLS FOR CONGRESS OF "NATIONALLY-ORIENTED" PARTIES. Slovak National Party Chairman Jan Slota wants to hold a conference in Slovakia of "European nationally-oriented parties," the Austrian news agency APA reports today. Slota said he will discuss such a conference with leaders of 15 parties who attended the party congress of the French National Front in Strasbourg over the weekend. Slota is to meet with front chairman Jean-Marie Le Pen today. HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT ORDERS INVESTIGATION INTO INTELLIGENCE SERVICE. The government last week ordered an investigation into the Information Office, Hungarian media reported. Several office members are reported to have gathered information on a number of parliamentary deputies, including Environment Minister Ferenc Baja and parliamentary speaker Zoltan Gal, without seeking prior authorization. Minister without portfolio Istvan Nikolits, who is in charge of the civilian secret services, is to lead the investigation and will brief the government within two weeks. The cabinet agreed that those deputies targeted in so- called Operation Birch should be given the opportunity to study the data gathered on them. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE DEADLY COLLISION IN ADRIATIC. President Sali Berisha declared 31 March a day of mourning following a collision between an Albanian ship carrying refugees and an Italian naval vessel three days earlier. Some 34 Albanians survived the incident, while four are reported dead and 87 missing, mainly women and children who were below deck. This is the most serious incident to date in the exodus that has seen 13,000 Albanians flee to neighboring countries. Each side blames the other for the sinking. The Italians have arrested the Albanian captain and called for a joint investigation. The Albanian authorities say the Italians deliberately rammed the Albanian boat. INTERNATIONAL MISSION APPROVED FOR ALBANIA. The UN Security Council on 29 March voted in favor of an OSCE proposal to ensure aid deliveries and help the Albanian government restore order before the June elections. The Albanian parliament gave its consent the following day. Deployment is expected to begin as early as this week. The force is expected to consist of some 2,500 troops, with a similar number held in reserve. Countries mentioned as definite or possible participants include Italy, France, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Austria, Hungary, Turkey, and Slovenia. The Italians have been ready since mid-March for such an operation, but their role may have to be reviewed in the aftermath of the incident on the Adriatic. Rebels in the southern port of Vlora have threatened to kill any Italian soldiers who arrive there with the mission. UPDATE ON FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. The UN Security Council has voted to send 186 additional police and 11 civilian personnel to the disputed northeastern Bosnian town of Brcko. In Vukovar, several hundred local Serbs pelted stones at visiting politicians from the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), RFE/RL reported. The HDZ commented that it will nonetheless go ahead with its campaign for the upcoming elections, which are a key element in the reintegration of eastern Slavonia into Croatia. Meanwhile, a Rijeka court has found four Bosnian Muslims guilty of "an act of international terrorism" in allegedly planning to kill renegade Muslim kingpin Fikret Abdic in April 1996. IMMINENT CHANGES IN GERMAN DEPORTATION OF BOSNIAN REFUGEES? U.S. spokesmen have said Washington plans to take 18,000 people from Germany and elsewhere in Europe who might be in special danger if sent back to Bosnia. These include people from mixed marriages, traumatized individuals, and former concentration camp inmates. Elsewhere, UN spokesmen on 29 March blasted Bavaria deporting refugees in the middle of the night and sending them back into unsafe circumstances. In Germany itself, former Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and many other public figures have signed a declaration against the deportations. It noted that "among those deported were pregnant women, patients receiving treatment for heart illness, and other people whose deportation is incomprehensible," including survivors of Srebrenica. Current Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel admitted there are problems and said he will visit Bosnia to discuss the policy, RFE/RL reported on 29 March. KOSOVO ALBANIAN LEADER REJECTS SERBIAN OPPOSITION'S OFFER. Fehmi Agani, vice president of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), called the Zajedno coalition's latest offer inadequate. The LDK is the main ethnic Albanian group in the country. The Serbian opposition suggested making Kosovo a "region," RFE/RL reported on 30 March. Agani added that the Albanians "have been proven correct" in their assessment that one should not be too eager to embrace Zajedno and that the coalition is really no alternative to the present Serbian regime. In other news, the shadowy Kosovo Liberation Army has taken responsibility for a recent series of killings, RFE/RL said on 29 March. IMBROGLIO OVER COLLAPSED PYRAMID SCHEME IN MACEDONIA. Political fallout continues over the demise just over a month ago of TAT, a Bitola-based pyramid scheme. Its collapse led to the loss of $60 million for 30,000 people and the arrest of the firm's owner and the deputy governor of the National Bank. Construction Minister Jorgo Sundovski denied reports he had resigned in connection with the affair. On the weekend, Bitola's Mayor Siljan Bicevski and his wife were detained for helping funnel money from public and other sources into TAT to keep it afloat. Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski has meanwhile promised a war against crime and corruption, AFP reported. NO PROGRESS IN ROMANIAN-UKRAINIAN TALKS ON BILATERAL TREATY... Talks between Romania and Ukraine on a basic treaty appear to have stalled, RFE/RL reported on the weekend. A press release issued in Bucharest said Romania wants to review once again issues discussed in earlier rounds of talks, while Ukraine has advanced "new formulations" for the accompanying document. According to Segodnya, Bucharest demands that Ukraine agree to the demilitarization of Serpent Island and its declaration as a zone unfit for human habitation. The Russian daily says this would exclude the island from disputes over border areas, preventing Ukraine from laying claim to the rich oil deposits believed to be located in the island's continental platform. The island was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1946. ...OR IN ROMANIAN-RUSSIAN PARLEYS. Following talks in Moscow, a Romanian Foreign Ministry official said Russia wants the basic treaty with Romania to be based on a text agreed upon in April 1996. That text makes no mention of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. But Romania want the text to be supplemented by "ideas reflecting the contemporary situation in Europe...and provisions included in similar treaties" concluded by Bucharest. This is apparently a reference to Security Council Recommendation 1201, which the treaty with Hungary mentions. Romania also wants to discuss the issue of the state treasures deposited in Moscow during the First World War, Radio Bucharest reported on the weekend. GREATER ROMANIA PARTY INVITES LE PEN. Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the xenophobic Greater Romania Party (PRM), told the French National Front congress in Strasbourg that the PRM "adheres without hesitation" to the front's program and ideas, RFE/RL reported on 31 March. He called for a "brotherhood alliance" between the two parties. The service cited French sources, according to whom Le Pen is to visit Romania in 1997. On 28 March, thousands of farmers demonstrated in Bucharest and Brasov last week to protest the government's decision to close down state-owned farms and reduce subsidies. They also chanted PRM slogans. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the extra-parliamentary Socialist Labor Party announced that his formation is close to forging an alliance with the PRM. MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON TREATY WITH ROMANIA. Petru Lucinschi on 31 March told journalists in Chisinau that Moldova wants to conclude the basic treaty with Romania "in the nearest future." He said the treaty should dispel "some existing suspicions" and do away with the argument that "the past was different," revealing his opposition to reunification. With regard to the withdrawal of Russian forces from the breakaway Transdniester region, Lucinschi said Russian President Boris Yeltsin sees "no problems" but wants Moldova to offer assurances that it will not turn into a "dangerous state" for Russia in military terms, Radio Bucharest reported on 31 March. Meanwhile, Lucinschi and Premier Victor Ciubuc, attending the CIS summit in Moscow, met with Gazprom President Rem Vyakhirev. They signed a document on settling Moldova's 1994-1996 debts to the company, Infotag reported on 28 March. NEW PARTY FOUNDED IN MOLDOVA. The United Social Democratic Party--composed of the former Moldovan Social Democratic Party, the Party of Social Progress, the Republican Party, the Party of Socialist Action, and the Party of Economic Rebirth--was founded in Chisinau on 29 March, BASA-press reported. The new party says it is "center-left oriented" and rejects "shock-therapy in economic reforms... and the concentration of property and capital in the hands of a small social group." It also supports Moldova's neutrality and opposes the country's federalization. The leaders of the five united parties were elected co-chairmen of the new formation. BULGARIA REDUCES GASOLINE PRICES. In a surprise move, Bulgaria's interim cabinet on 31 March reduced the price of gasoline by nearly 9%, according to an RFE/RL correspondent. It ordered a report within two weeks on the effects of the full liberalization of fuel prices. Bulgaria has experienced a fuel shortage for months. The government also announced a 35% increase in the price of electricity for households, a 30% hike in coal prices, and a 70% rise in the cost of heating. Interim Prime Minister Stefan Sofiyanski said last week that all wages will be go up 70% starting on 1 April and that a new social security system will be implemented. Meanwhile, a court has declared the state-owned Mineralbank bankrupt, saying it was unable to meet payments to foreign creditors exceeding $240 million, BTA reported. The bank's total debt was not revealed. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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