If we are to live together in peace, we must first come to know each other better. - Lyndon B. Johnson
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 1, No. 10, Part II, 14 April 1997


Vol. 1, No. 10, Part II, 14 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/

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Headlines, Part II

* BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT

* ITALIAN PREMIER SAYS FOREIGN TROOPS TO LEAVE ALBANIA IN JULY

* FIRST ELECTION RETURNS FROM CROATIA
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka says no one "either in the West or in
the East" has the right to give Minsk grades for political
behavior. In his first address to the parliament since last
November's constitutional referendum, Lukashenka on 11
April argued that Belarus's international isolation is "gradually
disappearing." Lukashenka, who earlier this month signed a
union agreement with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, said
Belarus saw its security guarantees linked to that union. Also
on 11 April, he told journalists that he is prepared to embrace
the opposition argument that Belarus should retain its
sovereignty within the union. He also called on Belarusian and
foreign journalists and political parties to engage in an open
dialogue.

OSCE MISSION TO BELARUS AMID ONGOING
INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM. Belarus has agreed to allow an
OSCE "mission of enquiry" on its territory, RFE/RL's
correspondent in Vienna reported on 11 April. The mission is
due to arrive in Belarus tomorrow. Meanwhile, the foreign
ministers of the three current governing OSCE member
countries--Poland, Switzerland, and Denmark--met in
Copenhagen on 11 April and expressed "grave concern" over
the situation in Belarus. The same day, U.S. State
Department's spokesman Nicholas Burns said that relations
between Washington and Minsk will be very difficult as long as
Belarus continues to be governed the same way as now. He
was commenting on Lukashenka's statement, made earlier
that day, saying he sees the possibility for improved relations
with the U.S.

NATAN SHARANSKY RETURNS TO UKRAINE. Former Soviet
political prisoner and current Israeli Trade Minister Natan
Sharansky has returned to his native Ukraine on a four-day
visit, international agencies reported on 12 April. Sharansky,
who is leading an Israeli business delegation to Ukraine,
visited his former home and school as well as the cemetery
where many of his relatives are buried. His campaign for the
right of Jews to emigrate from the former Soviet Union to Israel
landed him in Soviet prisons on treason charges in 1977. After
nine years in the gulag, Sharansky was freed in a Cold War
spy swap in 1986. His visit coincides with the first session of
the Ukrainian-Israeli trade commission.

UKRAINIAN ENVIRONMENT MINISTER ON CHORNOBYL.
Yuri Kostenko told journalists in London yesterday that his
country is meeting all its obligations for the closure of the
Chornobyl nuclear facility, the 1986 site of the world's worst
nuclear accident. Referring to a 1995 memorandum between
Ukraine and the G-7 nations calling for Chornobyl's closure by
2000 and financial help totaling $2.3 billion, he said that if the
terms for closing the station were to change, Kiev might
reconsider its plans. Kostenko said Kiev disagreed with an
international panel's findings that plans to complete two other
nuclear reactors in Ukraine--Khmelnitsky 2 and Rovno 4--are
uneconomic. He said it is wrong to think that the current low
energy demand in Ukraine means no extra energy sources will
be needed after Chornobyl's closure. Western money is
earmarked to help build the two new plants.

RUSSIA SAYS BORDER TREATY WITH ESTONIA NOT YET
FINAL. Vasilii Svirin, Moscow's chief negotiator at Russian-
Estonian border talks, says a final agreement has not yet been
officially drawn up, BNS reported on 11 April. Speaking after
two days of talks in Tallinn, Svirin said the two countries have
not agreed upon the treaty's appendixes, which are an integral
part of the document. Svirin said Estonia unexpectedly
announced at the talks that since it has already endorsed the
text, no more changes can be made. He said Russia has
protested the announcement. Moscow still has the right to
amend the document before approving it, Svirin commented. A
draft text of the agreement and details on sea borders were
agreed upon last October.

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN SAYS U.S.
GAVE ASSURANCES OVER NATO ENTRY. Vytautas
Landsbergis said that during his visit to Washington last week,
he received assurances from U.S. officials that a planned
treaty between NATO and Russia will not block Lithuania's
admission into the alliance, BNS reported. Landsbergis told
reporters on returning to Vilnius on 12 April that U.S. officials
assured him nothing concerning Lithuanian membership in
the alliance will be solved without Lithuania's participation. In
other news, Landsbergis is scheduled to meet with German
Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Bonn tomorrow and with Czech
parliamentary leaders in Prague later this week.

POLISH PARLIAMENT PASSES LUSTRATION LAW. The Sejm
on 11 April passed a bill requiring all top officials and
candidates for political office, including the president, to
disclose their ties to the former communist security services. A
special court would examine the statements and determine if
their authors ever handed over information to the secret
police. The governing post-communist Democratic Left Alliance
is opposed to the bill, which still has to be approved by the
Senate and the president. It says no "precise definition" exists
of what constituted collaboration. Reuters on 11 April quoted
aides to President Aleksander Kwasniewski as saying he
supports the bill in principle but feels that, in its current form,
it could harm the security services.

CZECH PREMIER WANTS BETTER RELATIONS WITH
SLOVAKIA. Vaclav Klaus says the Czech Republic and
Slovakia should not allow "certain tensions" in their relations
to intensify. Speaking on Nova TV yesterday, Klaus urged
Prague and Bratislava to stop competing over the use of
"strong and stronger words." Czech-Slovak relations should be
considered a "valuable and fragile thing," he commented.
Klaus was responding to the question of whether President
Vaclav Havel should apologize to Slovak Premier Vladimir
Meciar over his statement in an interview with the French
daily Le Figaro that Meciar is "paranoid" about Slovakia's
exclusion from the first wave of new NATO members. The
Slovak government has officially requested an apology.
Meanwhile, Klaus has left for Brussels for talks with NATO
and EU officials.

SLOVAK OFFICIAL ON NATO EXPANSION. Deputy Foreign
Minister Jozef Sestak told Slovak TV yesterday that regional
tensions could arise between Slovakia and its three former
communist neighbors (Poland, Hungary, and the Czech
Republic) unless all four join NATO at the same time. Sestak
last week headed a delegation to talks with NATO in Brussels
over Slovakia's membership aspirations. Sestak said the key
issues at the talks were whether Slovakia could boost the
alliance's defense capability, whether it shared the same
values as NATO members, and whether it was carrying out
reforms as fast as its neighbors. Slovakia will hold a
referendum on NATO membership next month. Opposition
leaders accuse the government of planning the referendum in
a bid to cover up Slovakia's failure to be included in the first
wave of new members.

HUNGARIAN WELFARE MINISTER ORDERS
INVESTIGATION INTO HEALTH INSURANCE SECTOR.
Mihaly Kokeny has ordered an investigation into the country's
health insurance sector following a row this weekend over
whether Agnes Cser should be removed as head of the Health
Insurance Fund, Hungarian media reported. Peter Simsa,
deputy chairman of the Health Insurance Authority, has
accused Cser of causing billions of forints in losses, but Cser
says she uncovered those losses last summer. Simsa also says
Cser has largely ignored decisions taken by the authority and
has caused damage through her activities and statements.
Some interest groups reportedly want to get rid of Cser
because she has started to investigate several cases over the
use of public funds.

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

ITALIAN PREMIER SAYS FOREIGN TROOPS TO LEAVE
ALBANIA IN JULY. Romano Prodi said in Tirana yesterday
that the new multinational force arriving in Albania to secure
aid deliveries will not interfere in domestic politics and will
leave one month after the elections, which are now slated for
June. Prodi met with his Albanian counterpart Bashkim Fino
in Vlora, where he was given an enthusiastic welcome by
crowds, and with President Sali Berisha in Tirana. Critics
charge that the mission is headed for danger because the
problem in Albania is not hunger but lawlessness. The
Albanian authorities respond that comparisons with Bosnian
conditions are unjustified.

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT FIGHTS RIVALS IN OWN PARTY.
Leaders of President Berisha's Democratic Party met late into
the night yesterday to deal with a challenge to the president
and his leadership. At least 20 legislators and former ministers
have blasted Berisha, former Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi,
and former Foreign Minister Tritan Shehu for their roles in the
current crisis. The dissidents want a new leadership.
Democratic Party officials have not yet commented on the
results of the meeting.

LEKA RETURNS TO ALBANIA. Exiled King Leka returned
yesterday to his homeland and called for a referendum on the
restoration of the monarchy. He told some 2,000 supporters at
Tirana airport that he will start work immediately on such a
vote, adding that has come to share "the suffering" of the
people and plans to stay "as long as is necessary." Political
parties and President Sali Berisha agreed in principle last
week to a referendum but set no date. The pro-monarchy
Legality Movement, which organized Leka's visit, polled about
5% in elections last year and helps govern Shkoder as part of a
local government coalition.

FIRST ELECTION RETURNS FROM CROATIA... Preliminary
results of yesterday's elections show the ruling Croatian
Democratic Community (HDZ) leading in most of the 21
districts for the upper house of parliament. Voter turnout was
estimated at around 54% shortly before polls closed. Early
returns show an opposition coalition is closely challenging the
HDZ for control of the Zagreb city council, where the HDZ has
been in the minority since 1995. The HDZ may lose control of
Split, where it has only 26% of the vote so far.

...BUT POLLS STAY OPEN IN EASTERN SLAVONIA. UN
officials in Vukovar have ordered voting to continue today in
the Serb-held region of eastern Slavonia to give all eligible
voters the chance to cast their ballots. Many polling stations
opened late on Sunday because of the tardy arrival of ballot
papers. In addition, many ethnic Serb voters with valid
Croatian documents could not find their names on the lists.
UN officials criticized Zagreb for administrative incompetence
and attacked the Serbian leadership for waiting until the last
minute to decide to take part in the polls. U.S. Ambassador to
Croatia Peter Galbraith said there was a "certain pattern" to
the problems with the voting lists. Croatian refugees who plan
to go home once eastern Slavonia becomes Croatian again in
July voted elsewhere.

POPE IN SARAJEVO. Pope John Paul II paid a 25-hour visit
to the Bosnian capital on the weekend to meet with the
country's Catholic, Serbian Orthodox, Muslim, and Jewish
leaders. Yesterday, he also spoke individually with each of the
three members of the collective Bosnian presidency and
celebrated mass in the city's open-air stadium. Some 50,000
people, many of whom had crossed Bosnian Serb lines,
attended the mass. Security concerns overshadowed the visit,
during which police found 23 land mines and a remote control
detonator wired up under a road bridge. The visit had been
frequently postponed because officials had deemed conditions
in the Bosnian capital too dangerous.

U.S. WANTS RIGHTS RESTORED IN KOSOVO. Assistant
Secretary of State John Kornblum, outgoing top U.S. envoy to
the Balkans, has urged the full restoration of human rights in
the Serb-controlled province of Kosovo. Kornblum and his
successor, Robert Gelbard, met with Ibrahim Rugova, leader of
Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, in Pristina yesterday. Rugova said
that "with the help of the United States, the problem of Kosovo
will be solved." But Kornblum again ruled out support for
Kosovar independence, noting that the restoration of human
rights would mean a "Kosovo within Serbia." The two U.S.
envoys later traveled to Macedonia, where they met with
President Kiro Gligorov and other senior government officials.

ROMANIAN PREMIER SAYS PRIVATIZATION LIST IS
FINAL. Victor Ciorbea says the list of the 10 state-owned
companies facing imminent privatization will not be changed
unless the State Property Fund (FPS) produces evidence that
those companies are not loss-making, RFE/RL's Bucharest
bureau reported on 12-13 April. Ciorbea also wants to place
the FPS under direct government control in an apparent
attempt to discipline the fund, whose spokesman on 11 April
denied that the list was final. Ciorbea said both the
spokesman and other FPS staff would be dismissed. But he
added that he has "full confidence" in FPS director Sorin
Dimitriu, who had also said the list was tentative. The
government released the list last week.

ROMANIA SIGNS CEFTA AGREEMENT. Minister of Trade
and Industry Calin Popescu Tariceanu has signed the Central
European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) on his country's
behalf, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 12 April. The
signing ceremony was attended by Tariceanu's counterparts
from the five current member states --Hungary, the Czech
Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Romania will
become the organization's sixth member on 1 July.

ROMANIA BEGINS RESTITUTION OF JEWISH, GERMAN
PROPERTIES. The government announced on 11 April that it
will return six buildings confiscated from the Jewish
community during and after World War II and one building
confiscated from the German community. All the properties
are in Bucharest. The decision, which still has to be approved
by the parliament, does not extend to properties confiscated
from individual members of either group. The Jewish
community is to set up a non-profit organization to administer
the returned properties.

RUSSIA, UKRAINE TO GUARANTEE CHISINAU-TIRASPOL
MEMORANDUM? Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov
told journalists in Chisinau on 11 April that Russia and
Ukraine will be "guarantors" of the memorandum on settling
the conflict with Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region.
He added that Moscow will respect the accord signed with
Chisinau on the withdrawal of Russian troops and that it is
not considering an increase in the troops stationed in the
Transdniester. Tiraspol's demand to bring Russian "peace-
keeping forces" to the region is "not timely," he commented.
BASA-press reports that the article recently added to the
memorandum (see RFE/RL Newsline, 11 April 1997) stipulates
that the two sides will develop relations "within the common
state, within the borders of January 1990."

IMF APPROVES LOAN TO BULGARIA. The IMF on 11 April
approved a $657 million standby loan for Bulgaria to support
economic reforms. Ivan Kostov, leader of the United
Democratic Forces, said strict compliance with the IMF's tough
conditions for the loan "will deal a blow to corruption,
racketeering, and unfair competition" and "will stop the
chasing away of honest foreign and Bulgarian investors,"
Reuters reported on 12 April. Meanwhile, Deputy Premier
Alexander Bozhkov told the EBRD annual meeting in London
yesterday that Sofia plans to privatize six top banks by mid-
1998 in order to restore confidence in the banking sector.

KING SIMEON TO VISIT BULGARIA. A spokesman for former
King Simeon II announced yesterday that the exiled Bulgarian
monarch will visit Bulgaria on 15 April. In an interview with
the Spanish daily ABC, Simeon ruled out returning to live in
that country in the immediate future, saying he wants to
"contribute something positive and not just add to the
confusion," AFP reported on 13 April. Last week, members of
the Alliance for National Salvation, composed of several small
pro-monarchy parties, visited Simeon at his home in Madrid.
His spokesman said Simeon was the king of all Bulgarians and
did not support one party over another.


OPERATION ALBA THREATENED FROM THE START?

by Patrick Moore

Troops from six countries begin Operation Alba tomorrow to
secure humanitarian aid deliveries to lawless Albania. Many
observers feel, however, that the success of the operation is
threatened from the start because of the danger posed by
armed gangs.

On 11 April, the first Italian troops arrived at Durres as an
advance party for the mission. Up to 6,000 soldiers from Italy,
France, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Denmark, and Spain are
scheduled to join them, and an Austrian contingent may take
part later. Their aim will be to hold the ports of Durres and
Vlora, together with Tirana's Rinas airport, for aid deliveries.

The move comes in response to the armed anarchy that has
gripped Europe's poorest country for more than a month.
First, a series of pyramid schemes collapsed, wiping out the
investments of a considerable part of the population. There
followed mass protests against the government of President
Sali Berisha and his Democratic Party, whom the
demonstrators blamed for their losses. Then rebel committees
took over villages and towns in the south. All semblance of
order or authority evaporated, and people seized weapons from
police stations and army bases.

In central Tirana and in the pro-Berisha north, officials
handed out guns to Democratic Party supporters. Across the
country, armed gangs robbed at will, while crowds pillaged
shops, homes, and institutions. To date, at least 200 people
have died and hundreds more have been wounded in the
armed anarchy.

In early March, Berisha reluctantly agreed to an interim
coalition government, headed by the Socialist Bashkim Fino,
whose job is to restore calm and prepare for early elections in
June. The rebels, for their part, refuse to give up their guns
until Berisha resigns. But the president says he will not do so
unless he is voted out of office. A catch-22 situation has thus
emerged. As Fino himself put it: "If we say that the elections
cannot be held because the population is armed, we must also
look at the other side of the issue, which is that the weapons
will not be surrendered until elections are held."

Despite the breakdown of order and the proliferation of
weapons among the civilian population, the Italian
government, headed by Prime Minister Romano Prodi,
proposed intervening in the hope of calming the situation in
Albania and thereby stemming the flow of refugees across the
Adriatic into Italy. Officials in Rome say it is the first time
postwar Italy has had the opportunity to take the lead in
organizing a European intervention force. Politicians and
pundits across the continent argue that Albania has given
Europe as a whole the chance to show it has learned from its
mistakes in the Yugoslav wars and can now put things right in
another turbulent Balkan country.

But that may be easier said than done. Some observers,
including some aid workers already in Albania, say the
mission is flawed from the start. They argue that Albania
needs order, not supplies. The aid workers say the country
may be short of medicines and that some of the poor and
elderly need help, but they also note there is no famine or even
hunger. They are in favor of controlling the bandits and
restoring state structures. "You don't fight anarchy with flour
bags," commented one aid worker.

That skeptical attitude has been echoed by at least one
country, Portugal, to scuttle plans to participate in Operation
Alba. Defense Minister Antonio Vitorino said in Lisbon last
week that, "The involvement of forces should require a set of
military and political conditions. We believe that the political
conditions have not been satisfied. This is essentially an
internal, civil, guerrilla-style conflict.... I believe it is a highly
risky mission, and I have doubts it can reach its military
objective."

But part of the problem is that Operation Alba has no real
military objective. Its members may fire back if fired upon, but
they have no mandate to disarm or control the gangs and
bandits. This recalls some earlier adventures of foreign troops
in the former Yugoslavia, namely, the hapless UNPROFOR in
Croatia and Bosnia. They, too, had no mandate to make peace.
The result was that many simply sat around or joined the
locals in developing a flourishing black market. Worse still,
local thugs shot at them or took them hostage.

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RFE/RL Newsline Staff: Paul Goble (Publisher), goblep@rferl.org; Jiri =
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