Change is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast. In the pool where you least expect it, will be a fish. - Ovid
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 1, No. 3, Part II, 3 April 1997


Vol. 1, No. 3, Part II, 3 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.
Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine are available through RFE/RL's
WWW pages:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/
Back  issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through OMRI's
WWW pages:
http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

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VIOLENT DEMONSTRATIONS IN MINSK
UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PREMIER RESIGNS
PRESSURE MOUNTS TO SEND TROOPS TO ALBANIA

EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

VIOLENT DEMONSTRATIONS IN MINSK. RFE/RL
correspondents in Minsk report that calm has returned to the
streets of the Belarusian capital this morning, following
clashes between baton-wielding police and several thousand
demonstrators yesterday. An unspecified number of people
were hurt and about 100 detained in what are described as
the most violent demonstrations over the past six months. Led
by members of the opposition National Front, demonstrators
called for the ouster of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The
demonstrations followed the signing yesterday in Moscow of
the agreement on union between Russia and Belarus. Several
hundred supporters of the union gathered in a park in central
Minsk.

UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PREMIER RESIGNS... Viktor Pynzenyk,
deputy prime minister in charge of economic reforms, has
submitted his resignation, RFE/RL's Kyiv bureau reported on
2 April.  Spokesman Dmitri Markov says President Leonid
Kuchma has not yet decided whether to accept his resignation.
The move follows Kuchma's criticism of the government for
failing to resolve delays in wage and pensions payments.
Kuchma has warned he will sack the government if the
situation does not improve.  Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko
said last week that once a "realistic budget" is approved, the
government will pay back wages within six months. The
parliament has refused to pass the government's proposed
1997 budget. A $3  billion loan from the IMF is conditional on
the passage of the budget and tax reforms.

...WHILE PRESIDENT PLANS TO GET TOUGHER WITH
GOVERNMENT. Meanwhile, Kuchma is working on what he
calls a "revolutionary decree" providing for a tougher line
toward Lazarenko's cabinet and the government's executive
branch, spokesman Yevgeny Kushnarev told journalists in
Kyiv yesterday. No further details were given. Kushnarev said
Kuchma decided on the decree after meeting with leaders of
various parliamentary factions who expressed dissatisfaction
with Lazarenko's cabinet.

U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO ON BUFFER STATES. Robert
Hunter says that the phenomenon of "buffer states" has lost
its significance and that NATO can now cooperate with all
interested countries. Speaking to journalists  in Tallinn on 2
April, Hunter stressed the importance of including Russia in
the military alliance's activities. The Estonian news agency
ETA reports that in a meeting with Estonian President Lennart
Meri today, Hunter said the U.S. will continue to pursue close
relations with Estonia.

ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO ENLARGEMENT.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves says "there is no clarity yet as to a
possible second round of NATO enlargement, as the first round
is consuming all the attention of the alliance's members." Ilves
was speaking to journalists yesterday on returning from the
U.S. Ilves said this was the reason why his proposal that
Estonia should be admitted into the alliance in the second
round--and preferably as early as in 1999--was not the subject
of broader discussion. He added that Estonia has better
opportunities to work toward membership in the EU than in
NATO since in the case of the EU, more depends on the
country itself.

EU COMMISSIONER IN BALTICS. Hans van den Broek, EU
commissioner responsible for relations with Eastern Europe
and the CIS, is on a three-day visit to Lithuania and Latvia to
explain the EU's current assessment of those countries, EU
officials in Brussels told RFE/RL on 2 April. Van den Broek
will inform Riga and Vilnius of areas where increased efforts
are needed if they are to be admitted to the EU. RFE/RL's
correspondent in Brussels reported that Van den Broek will
also urge Lithuania not to re-start two of the Chornobyl-style
reactors at the Ignalina nuclear power plant until urgent safety
measures recommended by international experts are
implemented. The two reactors are due for shut-down this year
for routine maintenance.

LITHUANIAN POLITICIAN ON ESTONIAN NATO INITIATIVE.
Lithuanian parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis
says a NATO initiative outlined by Estonian Foreign Minister
Toom Henriks Ilves in Washington last week is "worth
discussing." Ilves proposed a meeting of the presidents of the
Baltic States and the U.S. in Washington in 1999 to discuss a
new wave of NATO expansion.  Landsbergis suggested that it
may also be worth discussing whether expansion should occur
in waves  or should be incremental. Landsbergis made those
comments after meeting with members of the Estonian
parliamentary Foreign Committee.

POLISH NATIONAL ASSEMBLY APPROVES CONSTITUTION.
The National Assembly has approved the much-debated
constitution by an overwhelming majority, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from Warsaw on 2 April. It accepted
most of the 41 amendments to the constitution proposed by
President Aleksander Kwasniewski, including the presidential
right to nominate the heads of the country's top judicial bodies
and military leaders. But the assembly rejected limiting
deputies' immunity. Kwasniewski has decreed that the
constitution will to be put to a nationwide referendum next
month.

FRENCH PRESIDENT IN PRAGUE. Jacques Chirac ends his
official visit to Prague today by addressing both houses of the
parliament. In talks with Czech President Vaclav Havel
yesterday, Chirac promised France's "unreserved support" for
the Czech Republic's candidacies for membership in both the
EU and NATO. Chirac said he believes and hopes the Czech
Republic will enter the EU in the year 2000 and that it will be
truly integrated into NATO one year earlier, RFE/RL's
correspondent reported. He also said France wants NATO's
scheduled summit meeting in July to approve the candidacies
of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Romania.

SLOVAKIA TO COMPLAIN TO NATO OVER PROPERTY
DISPUTE WITH CZECHS. The Slovak government says it will
complain to NATO about the division of the former
Czechoslovakia's assets, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reports.
Slovakia says the Czech Republic is unlawfully holding Slovak
gold reserves, among other assets. The Czechs say Slovakia
has failed to pay its debts to the Czech Republic. The Slovak
government noted yesterday that one of the conditions of
NATO membership is clearing up misunderstandings with
neighboring countries. "The Czech Republic is not fulfilling
that condition," the Slovak government said. Slovak Prime
Minister Vladimir Meciar has postponed his visit to Prague,
complaining of a negative campaign against him in the Czech
Republic.

COUNCIL OF EUROPE CRITICIZES SLOVAK POLICE. The
Council of Europe says in a report published yesterday that
the Slovak police are using brutal methods against detained
criminal suspects. The report was drawn up by the council's
Committee for the Prevention of Torture and is based on a
fact-finding mission to Slovakia in summer 1995. Investigators
say they found some suspects handcuffed to radiators for
several hours, while others were beaten or bitten by police
dogs. A Slovak government statement included in the report
says two police officers were disciplined in 1995 for unlawful
treatment of prisoners. But the statement also said suspected
lawbreakers had to expect a certain degree of forcefulness from
police.

HUNGARIAN PREMIER, PARTY LEADERS AGREE NOT TO
SEND TROOPS TO ALBANIA. Gyula Horn and parliamentary
party leaders have agreed not to dispatch Hungarian soldiers
as part of an international peacekeeping force to Albania, the
Hungarian press reported. They say nothing justifies the
participation of a Hungarian contingent. Horn consulted with
party leaders following the Italian government's request that
Hungary  contribute 250 troops to an international force. He
stressed that tensions in Albania were caused neither by
ethnic nor international conflict but by an internal political
crisis. He argued this was a matter for Albanian politicians to
resolve.

HUNGARIAN POLITICIAN CALLS FOR UNITY AMONG
EUROPE'S NATIONALIST PARTIES. Istvan Csurka, leader of
the Hungarian Justice and Life Party, has called for cohesion
among European nationalist parties and the harmonization of
their goals in order to oppose the "impending alliance" of what
he called left-wing and liberal forces. Csurka attended the
congress of the French National Front in Strasbourg last
weekend. He said that, like the front, his party rejects charges
of extremism, anti-Semitism, and racism. He added that its
aim is to protect national interests against "invading
foreigners," Hungarian media reported.

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

PRESSURE MOUNTS TO SEND INTERVENTION FORCE TO
ALBANIA. The Italian and Albanian prime ministers have
agreed to work quickly to get troops to the strife-torn country.
To ease tensions between the two neighbors in the wake of last
Friday's maritime disaster, Italy has agreed to raise the
sunken vessel and compensate families of the victims. OSCE
representative Franz Vranitzky said in Rome yesterday that
the "indispensable" force should be on the ground within 10 to
14 days. He added that "the United Nations have given us
three months" and stressed the international community must
not repeat the mistakes it made in dealing with the former
Yugoslavia. Vranitzky argued that "Albania has need of aid, of
restoring public order, of economic reconstruction, and [of]
restoring confidence in its political system."

GREECE TO HELP ALBANIA. Athens is also interested in
helping its neighbor restore its economy, police, and army,
Prime Minister Kostas Simitis told his Albanian counterpart,
Bashkim Fino, in Athens yesterday. Once the situation has
stabilized, Greece will provide $74 million in aid, including
compensation to those who lost money in failed pyramid
schemes. Greece fears an influx of refugees and ultimately
regional destabilization unless Albania becomes stable and
reasonably prosperous. In Tirana, police were deployed outside
the U.S. embassy to control crowds of youths following the
spread of false rumors that the U.S. will admit those wanting
to flee the anarchy. Meanwhile, the Socialists have agreed to
end their 11-month boycott of parliament in order to help the
country "emerge from the crisis," party leader Fatos Nano said.

ALBANIA LETS KING COME HOME. King Leka's office in
Johannesburg, South Africa, says the Albanian government
decided Tuesday to let the heir to the throne return to the
country he last saw in 1939 as a newborn baby. The son of the
late King Zog I has not yet decided when to take up the offer,
but he has been paying increasing attention to Albanian affairs
in recent years, AFP reported on 2 April. He will have to work
hard if he wants to become a serious political player, however.
The tiny monarchist parties are given to fighting among
themselves, and the regionally-based House of Zogu never had
a chance to develop into a national institution during Zog's
shaky decade-long reign.

BOSNIAN, CROATIAN UPDATE. In Pale, a police spokesman
said the Croats are blocking the return of Serbian refugees to
Drvar, RFE/RL reported. The west Bosnian town had a 97%
ethnic Serb population before the breakup of Yugoslavia, but
the Serbs fled during the 1995 Croatian offensive. Meanwhile,
in the Slavonian region of Hrvatska Dubica, identification
begins today of the remains of 56 Croats massacred by the
Serbs in 1991.

STRIKE HITS MONTENEGRO. Some 1,800 workers at the
Radoje Dakic big metallurgical enterprise are on strike to
demand back wages and that management be punished,
RFE/RL reported. The aging communist-era plant was crippled
by economic sanctions against federal Yugoslavia, and most of
its workers are now either laid-off or underemployed. Also in
Podgorica, President Momir Bulatovic's office yesterday denied
reports that he is in poor health. The president is engaged in a
battle of wills with Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and other
government officials opposed to close ties to Serbian President
Slobodan Milosevic.

MACEDONIAN MINISTER RESIGNS. Macedonian Prime
Minister Branko Crvenkovski has accepted the resignation of
Construction Minister Jorgo Sundovski, Nasa Borba reports
today. Sundovski was eased out of office as part of
Crvenkovski's anti-corruption campaign following the recent
collapse of the TAT pyramid scheme. Media in the former
Yugoslavia have linked Sundovski and other prominent figures
to TAT, but Sundovski earlier denied charges of wrongdoing.

VAN DER STOEL ON HUNGARIAN MINORITY IN ROMANIA.
Max van der Stoel, OSCE commissioner for national
minorities, says his meeting yesterday with Bela Marko,
chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania
(UDMR), was 'the most encouraging' he has ever had with a
Hungarian minority leader in Romania. He added that the
government's line on minorities was 'courageous.' Marko told
Van der Stoel that the UDMR's participation in the governing
coalition may lead to a resolution of the Hungarian
community's problems. But he added that legal solutions are
still being sought to enable the implementation of national
rights. Van der Stoel also met with Premier Victor Ciorbea,
with whom he discussed primarily inter-ethnic relations.
Ciorbea assured the commissioner of the government's good-
will on the issue of minorities, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau
reported.

ROMANIA TO RETURN JEWISH PROPERTY?  Senate
Chairman Petre Roman says the restitution of Jewish property
nationalized by the fascist and communist regimes is 'no
particular problem.'  Roman was talking yesterday in
Bucharest to Menahem Ariav, head of an association
representing Israelis of Romanian origin. Roman noted the
restitution of nationalized property belonging to individuals
must be settled through legislation that applies to all those
forced to leave the country. He said he opposed 'hasty
solutions' that might trigger 'tensions' but stressed that the
'illegality' of the property confiscation must be made clear,
RFE/RL's bureau in Bucharest reported. Earlier this week,
Foreign Minister Adrian Severin said the restitution of Jewish
property is a necessary act of justice that would help
Romanians come to terms with their history, the independent
news agency ARPress reported.

ROMANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REFUSES TO RULE
ON NATIONALIST POLITICIAN'S IMMUNITY. The
Constitutional Court says it is not within its competence to
rule on the appeal by 43 senators contesting the parliamentary
procedure used to lift the immunity of Greater Romania Party
Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor, Radio Bucharest reported.
Nevertheless, the court said immunity is renewed if a deputy is
re-elected and that lifting it requires the whole procedure to be
repeated. The parliamentary majority last month ruled that the
decision to lift Tudor's immunity, taken by the previous
legislature, was still in force.

OECD ON BULGARIAN REFORMS. The Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development says Bulgaria needs
to follow a comprehensive reform course to overcome its
current crisis, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Paris.
An OECD economic survey says the reform process begun in
Bulgaria some years ago has foundered and that the country is
mired in crisis when much of Central and East Europe is
achieving stability and growth. The OECD proposes a 14-point
program designed to help the Bulgarian economy, including
the reform of the banking sector, the closure of loss-making
enterprises, and the introduction of measures to restore
foreign and domestic confidence in the economy. The report
says Bulgaria will not be able to do everything alone and calls
on the international community to offer generous support to
Sofia.

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT TO VISIT RUSSIA? Petar Stoyanov
has raised with the Russian ambassador to Sofia the
possibility of visiting Moscow, RFE/RL's correspondent in the
Bulgarian capital reported. The President's Office said the visit
depended on Moscow. Stoyanov's scheduled visit to Moscow in
late January was canceled because of President Yeltsin's
illness.  Caretaker premier Stefan Sofiyanski is scheduled to
visit the Russian capital before the end of this month. In other
news, Stoyanov has invited Pope Paul John II to visit Bulgaria.
Foreign Minister Stoyan Stalev told BTA before departing for
Turkey earlier this week that the most important  issue on his
agenda is Turkish support for Bulgaria's quest to join NATO.

Russia's Farms: Still Collective and Far Less Productive

by Robert Lyle

        Russia's 1996 grain harvest would have been 150 million
tons, instead of 69 million tons, if only Russian farms were
as efficient as Finnish ones, according to a study by a
private non-profit organization focusing on the problems of
land reform in countries in transition. The Urban Development
Institute of Seattle, Washington, adds that the situation in
Russia compared with Finland and other countries has in fact
deteriorated since the days of heavy subsidies. Even then,
productivity was far below levels of agricultural systems in
similar agro-climatic settings.
        The report, entitled "Prospects for Peasant Farming in
Russia," says Russia's 26,000 giant agricultural enterprises,
"still collectives in all but name," produce even less today
than they once did. The old Soviet yields were terrible, it
comments, producing 35% less grain per hectare than Canadian
farms and 60% less than Finnish family farms. Despite the
great benefits to be expected from a system of peasant farms,
"there has been no net increase in the number of peasant
farms in Russia since the beginning of 1994."
        The report says that although most collective and state
farms have been privatized and re-registered as joint-stock
companies and in other forms, they "continue to function as
inefficient behemoths whose hundreds of members have little
incentive to maximize production, reduce production costs or
preserve capital assets." They also still suffer from the
inefficiencies of collective agriculture: "World experience
demonstrates that smaller farms operated by single families
and small groups consistently outproduce collective farms."
        Based on an on-the-ground survey conducted by three
experts from the institute, along with two experts from the
Agrarian Institute in Moscow, the report asserts that
prospects for the growth of peasant farming are now
"substantially more encouraging than at any time in the past
three years." At present, only about 6% of Russia's
agricultural land is in peasant farms, but those farms are
already producing far better yields than the large
collectives.
        The land of the old collectives and state farms is being
distributed as land shares, but in most places it is being
leased back to the collective at rates equal only to the
amount of land tax. Even at the least productive, the report
says, this land yields 100 times more than that value. It
says this availability of cheap rental land depresses the
lease value of land shares and interferes with the emerging
land share rental market.
        Still, there is a potential positive aspect of this,
the report argues. Peasant farmers are paying "about four
times as much per hectare in land share lease payments as
agricultural enterprises." Even though Russian lease payments
per hectare are "quite low" by world standards, the peasant
farmers' higher payments may force agricultural enterprises
to offer better leasing terms to compete successfully. For
example, while Russian peasant farmers are paying 11-15% of
total yield in rent and large enterprises are paying around
3%, similar rents in the U.S. are equivalent to 25% of yield.
        At the same time, lease payments are a valuable income
supplement for land owners--especially pensioners, who
generally own around 40% of land shares. The report urges the
Russian government to undertake an intensive program to
inform pensioners and other land owners about their rights
and options. Now, it says, most continue to lease back to the
old enterprises because it seems least risky and they want to
make sure they don't offend old leaders who might cut their
pensions. However, the report argues, this is merely a
continuation of collective farming and the government should
make sure land owners know what they are legally allowed to
do with their property and set rules that make their rights
clear.
        The report also says that another major impediment to
peasant farmers is the unavailability of machinery. Peasant
farmers in Rostov and Samara, among other places, are
exchanging machinery for short periods or even renting a
combine and driver for 20% of the product harvested, paid in
kind. The biggest difficulty is a worsening shortage of
machinery available to share in many areas.
        The report concludes that there is a potential for "very
substantial growth of peasant farming" in Russia, but that
much remains to be done.

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RFE/RL NEWSLINE
Vol. 1, No. 3, Part II, 3 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.
Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine are available through RFE/RL's
WWW pages:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/
Back  issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through OMRI's
WWW pages:
http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^=
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

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. The Council
of the Russian State Duma will discuss today

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.


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