|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
Vol. 1, No. 8, Part II, 10 April 1997
Vol. 1, No. 8, Part II, 10 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/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HEADLINES, Part II *BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS RUSSIAN TV STAGED "SAVAGERY" AT UNAUTHORIZED RALLY *FRANCHUK MAKES COMEBACK AS CRIMEAN PRIME MINISTER *ITALY APPROVES ALBANIAN MISSION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS RUSSIAN TV STAGED "SAVAGERY" AT UNAUTHORIZED RALLY. Alyaksandr Lukashenka has accused the opposition Belarusian Popular Front of staging unauthorized marches in Minsk to enable opposition and Russian media to report negatively on Belarus. Speaking at a rally in Kobrin in the south of the country yesterday, he said, "We do not need lessons in democracy. Marches are allowed where they are authorized." He claimed that rally participants are being recruited by the opposition. Later, Lukashenka told collective farm officials in western Belarus that Russian TV staged clashes between protesters and riot police. Referring to the suppression of an unauthorized rally last week, he told the farmers that the "savagery" they saw on Russian TV channels "never happened." The opposition says some 300 were injured at the rally and another 300 detained. ANOTHER DEMONSTRATION IN MINSK. Some 10,000 workers held an authorized rally near the tractor stadium in Minsk yesterday to protest what they say is government indifference toward their demands for higher wages, new jobs, and the stable functioning of factories, Belapan reports. The Association of Independent Industrial Trade Unions organized the rally. Calls for militia officers' wages to be given to workers instead and for police to stop beating people in the streets were greeted with a storm of applause. Participants pledged to continue their protests until the government and president meet their demands. FRANCHUK MAKES COMEBACK AS CRIMEAN PRIME MINISTER. Anatoly Franchuk has been installed as caretaker Crimean premier, after the peninsula's parliament voted to oust Arkady Demidenko as head of the government, Interfax reported yesterday. Parliamentary speaker Anatoly Gritsenko said the move had been discussed beforehand with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Previous attempts to remove Demidenko had been declared invalid by Kuchma. According to the constitution, the Ukrainian head of state must approve cabinet changes in Crimea. Franchuk goes to Kyiv today and then to Moscow to seek assistance. ELECTRICITY PRICE HIKE IN ESTONIA. The Estonian government is to increase electricity prices by one-third starting next month, BNS reported yesterday Heido Vitsur, economics adviser to the prime minister, said the move was recommended by an independent price commission. The hike is the largest since Estonia regained independence in 1991. The average electricity price will total 0.49 kroons (3 cents) per one kilowatt-hour from May until the end of this year. LATVIAN OFFICIALS RESPOND TO OSCE CRITICISM OF CITIZENSHIP TEST. Eizenija Aldermane, director of the Latvian Naturalization Office, told RFE/RL's Latvian Service yesterday that the country's citizenship test is not too "complicated." She was responding to criticism by OSCE High Commissioner on Ethnic Minorities Max van der Stoel earlier this week (see RFE/RL Newsline, 8 April 1997). Aldermane said there are many reasons why non-Latvians are reluctant to apply for citizenship, including the desire to avoid military service. She added that only some 10% of the 124,000 non- citizens eligible to apply have shown any interest in doing so. But in a separate interview with RFE/RL, Janis Jurkans, leader of the leftist Harmony Party, agreed with Van der Stoel that the test is too stringent. He argued that the current citizenship law is impeding the integration of non-citizens. POLISH PARLIAMENT TO DISCUSS TOBACCO ADVERTISING. The Polish parliament is to vote this week on an amendment to the 1995 law on tobacco advertising, RFE/RL's Warsaw correspondent reports. Under the law, cigarette packs sold after the end of this year will have to carry a health warning covering at least 30% of the front and the back of each pack. The proposed amendment would overturn that requirement before it takes effect. Polish anti-smoking campaigners yesterday launched a campaign against the amendment. Last year, some 90 billion cigarettes were sold in Poland. CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES CHURCH RESTITUTION PROPOSAL. The Czech government yesterday approved a Culture Ministry proposal to return 232 state-owned buildings to the Roman Catholic Church and other religious communities, Czech media reported. But it ruled out the restitution of 228 other buildings and decided that the return of another 112 is "problematic" and will be subject to further examination. Among the real estate regarded as "unproblematic" are the medieval Bouzov castle in Moravia, the spa of Karlova Studanka, the Gothic church in Most, and buildings currently used as schools, museums, galleries, and offices throughout the country. CZECH PRESIDENT CLARIFIES LEADERSHIP HIERARCHY. Havel has resolved a dispute between the leaders of the two houses of parliament and Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus over the constitutional ranking of senior officials, according to a press release by the President's Office yesterday. The dispute caused protocol problems during recent official visits. Havel's spokesman says that, following discussions between the president and several state agencies, it has been decided that Havel is followed in rank by Senate speaker Petr Pithart, Chamber of Deputies Speaker Milos Zeman, and Prime Minister Klaus, respectively. Havel's office says the reasons for the decision were that elected officials have priority over appointees and the Senate is the upper house. UPDATE ON SLOVAK RESPONSE TO HAVEL STATEMENT. Vladimir Meciar has denied that recalling the Slovak ambassador to the Czech Republic for consultations will worsen relations between Bratislava and Prague. Speaking on Slovak TV last night, he said the recall is a "normal democratic step." The move came one day after the Slovak government demanded an apology from Czech President Vaclav Havel for saying in an interview with Le Figaro last month that Meciar is paranoid about Slovakia's being excluded from NATO expansion. Meciar hinted he might retaliate by making public the five-year-old transcripts of talks with Havel on dissolving the Czechoslovak federation. Meanwhile, Sme quotes former Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan of the opposition Democratic Party as saying that recalling the ambassador can "only harm" Slovakia. Slovakia's Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement says the current dispute between Prague and Bratislava is "far from sufficient cause to react in such a manner" NATO OFFICIAL IN BUDAPEST. NATO Deputy Secretary- General Norman Ray says new members of the alliance from Central Europe will be free to buy Russian military equipment, Reuters reported. Ray told journalists that NATO has no centralized control over armaments planning, budgeting, or procurement. He said the main criterion for prospective members will be their ability to work within the alliance, regardless of the source of their military equipment. Ray was in Budapest for discussions with Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ITALY APPROVES ALBANIAN MISSION. The Italian parliament agreed last night to send troops to lead a European force to Albania. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi made a last-minute deal with the center-right opposition to clinch a majority vote. Prodi said that the more than 5,000 troops will start deploying on 14 April. France, Romania, Spain, Turkey, and Greece also plan to send troops. The peacekeepers' goal is to restore order and protect the delivery of humanitarian aid. ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER CALLS AGAIN FOR DEPLOYMENT. Bashkim Fino said in Tirana yesterday that the international force is badly needed so that his government can concentrate on battling organized crime. Fino told Reuters that conditions throughout the country remain dangerous because so many people are armed. Rebel leaders say that they will give up their weapons only after new elections and only to international peacekeepers. But the international force's mandate does not include confiscating arms. Meanwhile, President Sali Berisha says that the June elections may not go ahead after all, the Vienna daily Die Presse reports. "We have set the election date for June. But at the moment there is no real progress because the [rebel] committees are still functioning," Berisha told the newspaper. ALBANIA LIFTS PRESS CURBS. The Albanian parliament voted yesterday to end press restrictions. The emergency all- party government imposed the press curbs on 2 March at the height of the armed anarchy. The restrictions require government-appointed committees to censor articles before publication. The dailies of three main political parties are the only papers still publishing, after fire destroyed the offices of the main independent daily, Koha Jone. UN NOT TO CUT MACEDONIAN FORCE. The Security Council voted unanimously in New York yesterday to suspend the planned reduction in its peacekeeping force in Macedonia. The decision comes in response to unrest in neighboring Albania. The council acted on Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recommendation that it revoke last November's decision to reduce the size of the UN Preventive Deployment Force in Macedonia (UNPREDEP) while extending the force's mandate until 31 May. The 1,050 peacekeepers include some 500 U.S. troops. UNPREDEP's main mission is to prevent conflicts elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia from spilling over into Macedonia. KOSOVO TALKS END IN NEW YORK. Inter-communal talks in New York aimed at easing tensions in Kosovo ended yesterday without significant agreement. But participants described the discussions as a solid first step toward resolving the decade-old crisis. They also agreed to meet regularly, although they did not set a date for the next round of talks. In a final statement, Serbs and ethnic Albanians said any future agreement must be based on principles of democratization, mutual respect, respect for human rights, and promotion of regional stability. Albanians, who make up 90% of Kosovo's population, seek independence for the region, while Serbs insist it must remain part of Serbia. SLAVONIAN SERBS URGED TO VOTE. Serbian leaders in eastern Slavonia said in Vukovar yesterday that local Serbs should go to the polls on 13 April to elect representatives, an RFE/RL's correspondent in Osijek reported. Earlier, the Serbian leaders met with UN administrator Jacques Klein, who once again urged them to take part in the elections. Eastern Slavonia is the last Serb-held part of Croatia. The 13 April ballot is seen as a key step in the UN-administered region's return to Croatia. The local Serbian leadership had delayed a final decision on participating in the polls in the hope of winning more concessions from the UN and the Croatian authorities. SCANDINAVIA ENCOURAGES BOSNIANS TO GO HOME. Norway is offering two-year residency permits to its 12,000 Bosnian refugees if they now agree to go home, an RFE/RL correspondent in Copenhagen reported yesterday. Denmark will give its 16,000 Bosnians $2,500 each if they leave and, beginning 1 May, Sweden will raise departure payments to its 60,000 Bosnians from $300 per individual to $3,000 per adult and $2,000 per minor. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung yesterday quotes Swedish Development Minister Pierre Schori as saying his government is not trying to encourage the Bosnians to leave but rather make things easier for them if they want to go. Most Bosnians in Denmark and Sweden have permanent residency status and show little interest in going home. ROMANIA, IMF SIGN LETTER OF INTENT. Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara, National Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu, and chief IMF negotiator for Romania Poul Thomsen yesterday signed a letter of intent for an IMF loan. RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported that the agreement, which provides for a $400 million loan to support reforms, is to be approved by the IMF's board later this month. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea said the World Bank is also expected to approve a $600 million loan on 22 April. He added that Bucharest anticipates funds this year from the EU and donor countries totaling some $1 billion. Most of those funds will be channeled to the social welfare system, restructuring industry and agriculture, road construction and repairs, and environmental protection. Meanwhile, Citibank has announced it will grant credits worth $157 million to help the state-owned RAIF agricultural company purchase U.S.-made agricultural machines. ROMANIAN EXTREMIST PARTIES CONCLUDE POLITICAL PACT. The Greater Romania Party (PRM) and the extraparliamentary Socialist Labor Party (PSM) have formed a political alliance, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported yesterday. The PRM will represent PSM standpoints in the parliament. The agreement also provides for joint candidates in local by-elections scheduled for next month. PRM chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor said that given the current political situation, the alliance's doctrine "is neither of the left nor of the right, but Romanian." The PSM failed to win representation in the legislature last autumn. IMF DISSATISFIED WITH MOLDOVA'S ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE. The IMF says that Moldova's economic performance is "unsatisfactory" and that it will not release the remaining installments of a May 1996 loan worth a total of $195 million, the Romanian independent news agency Mediafax reported yesterday. Only two installments worth $16.25 million each have so far been released. An IMF delegation is to visit Chisinau later this month to discuss measures needed to improve the Moldovan economy. A recent IMF statement says the Moldovan government has not yet implemented measures agreed on early last year. OSCE MISSION IN TRANSDNIESTER STILL FACES PROBLEMS. Infotag reported yesterday that another car transporting OSCE mission members was stopped by Tiraspol law enforcement officials on the outskirts of Bendery-Tighina. This was the third such incident in three weeks preventing the OSCE from participating in a meeting of the Joint Control Commission, which is overseeing the truce in Moldova's Transdniester breakaway region. Tiraspol began last month voicing objections to the OSCE's participation in the commission meetings, claiming the agreement on the commission, which expired in early February, must be renewed. Besides the OSCE officials, the members of the commission are representatives of Moldova, Russia, and Tiraspol. G-24 ENDORSES BULGARIAN STABILIZATION PROGRAM. The G-24 group of donor nations and organizations has agreed to grant loans and credits to cover Bulgaria's external financing obligations for 1997-98. RFE/RL's Washington bureau that the group said in Brussels yesterday that Bulgaria's caretaker government has shown "strong commitment to implementing a bold macroeconomic stabilization and structural reform despite exceptionally difficult circumstances." The IMF is expected to approve tomorrow a new stand-by loan of some $659 million. In addition, Bulgaria will be allowed to draw about $29 million from a special facility the fund maintains for countries experiencing a temporary export shortfall or a sudden increase in cereal imports. LEADING BULGARIAN BANKERS ARRESTED. The Interior Ministry yesterday announced the arrest of three top bankers for allegedly granting bad loans totaling some 100,000 million leva ($65 million). An RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported that three more bankers have been put under police surveillance and made to post bail. One of those under surveillance is former deputy director of the National Bank Emil Harsev, who is known to oppose IMF involvement in the country. Harsev told RFE/RL's Bulgarian service that the prosecutor's decision was a politically motivated move before the 19 April elections. He rejected any accusations of mismanagement. All six bankers were on the board of directors of Mineral Bank, which declared bankruptcy last year. POLAND TO VOTE ON NEW CONSTITUTION by Jan B. de Weydenthal Poland, the first Central European country to end communist domination in 1989, is the last to adopt a charter institutionalizing the political and economic changes since then. On 25 May, Poles are to cast their votes in a national referendum on the long-awaited new constitution. Until now, the country has used as its constitution a communist-era document enacted at the height of Stalinist rule in 1952, although that document has been frequently amended in recent years. Early efforts to prepare a new constitution repeatedly failed owing to recurrent political crises. Finally, after more than three years of protracted debates in the parliament and animated public discussions in the media, Poland's National Assembl--composed of both parliamentary chamber--last month overwhelmingly approved a draft of the basic law. The vote was 461 to 31, with five abstentions. Before becoming law, the constitution has to be signed by the president, who has the right to suggest modifications. The assembly then discusses his suggestions, and the final document is put to a national referendum. The debate on President Aleksander Kwasniewski's suggested changes was brief. His proposals were largely minor, merely confirming his right to several appointments in the military and the judiciary. Following the debate, the date for the referendum was set by Kwasniewski. The draft is a compromise between the individual parliamentary groups. But it also includes the views of parties and organizations not represented in the parliament, most notably the Catholic Church. The draft's preamble invokes God as the "source of truth, justice, goodness, and beauty," but it also says that non-believers can draw those universal values from other sources. The demand, made by the Church and right-wing politicians, that the charter recognize God- given or "natural" law as higher than any man-made law was rejected. The draft protects human life, but not from conception to natural death, as was demanded by the Church. Rather, it leaves the issue open to interpretation. At the same time, accepting the Church's views, the draft outlaws homosexual marriages and provides guarantees for religious instruction in schools. The Church itself is granted autonomy from the state. The draft says that democracy returned to Poland in 1989, after a long period in which the former communist regime violated "fundamental freedoms and human rights." It also enshrines market economy as the basis of the country's political and economic systems but emphasizes the need to respect social needs through cooperation and dialogue between individual groups. It clearly defines relations between the parliament, the president, and the government, eliminating ambiguities that have repeatedly caused political conflicts within the institutional establishment. It also provides for the independent judicial review of laws. The draft was approved by the ruling coalition of post- communist and left-wing peasants but also by the opposition democratic left and centrist groups. It was opposed by some right-wing opposition deputies. Commenting on the draft, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, a former centrist prime minister and one of the principal authors of the preamble, said the proposed charter is "perhaps not ideal, but not bad." He also said that the intention of the draft was "to unite rather than divide" Poles. Poland's Catholic Primate Jozef Cardinal Glemp said that "many people accept this compromise constitution, regarding it as historically important." The draft has been strongly criticized by several right- wing politicians. Piotr Zak, spokesman for the Solidarity-led coalition of rightist groups, said that the proposed charter was "imposed on the nation by left-wing parties." Solidarity has drafted its own version of the basic law, which is rooted in religious principles and replete with anti-communist arguments. It demanded that its version be put to the referendum as well but failed to win parliamentary and presidential approval. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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