|To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else. - Emily Dickinson|
Vol. 1, No. 13, Part II, 17 April 1997
Vol. 1, No. 13, Part II, 17 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/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * BELARUSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES 1996 REFERENDUM IS BINDING * AUSTERITY MEASURES ANNOUNCED IN CZECH REPUBLIC * OSCE MEDIATOR NOT TO MEET WITH ALBANIAN REBELS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES 1996 REFERENDUM IS BINDING. The Constitutional Court has overturned its ruling on the November 1996 presidential referendum, which gave Alyaksandr Lukashenka sweeping powers, RFE/RL's Minsk correspondent reports. The court ruled last year that the vote was non-binding. Lukashenka responded by issuing a decree that reversed the court ruling, prompting the resignation of seven of the court's justices. Yesterday, the court endorsed the presidential decree by ruling that the referendum is binding. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT TO VETO OUSTER OF CRIMEAN PREMIER. Presidential Chief-of-Staff Yevhen Kushnariov told journalists yesterday that Leonid Kuchma will veto the ouster of Crimean Premier Arkadiy Demydenko by the peninsula's parliament and ask the Constitutional Court to rule whether Crimean legislators had the right to dismiss the premier. By announcing his planned veto, Kuchma is indirectly challenging his former political ally Anatoliy Franchuk, whom the Crimean parliament named as Demydenko's replacement and whose son is married to Kuchma's daughter. Franchuk was loyal to Kyiv during his previous term as Crimean premier in 1995. In other news, Kuchma signed a decree yesterday banning creation of so-called citizens organizations in Crimea, which, he said, were unconstitutional. SHARANSKY VISITS BABI YAR. Natan Sharansky, Israeli trade minister and former Soviet political prisoner, paid an emotional visit yesterday to Babi Yar, where an estimated 34,000 Jews from Kyiv were killed by the Nazis in September 1941. Later, tens of thousands of Jews and non-Jews were also executed at the ravine. Sharansky said he was visiting the memorial site for the first time and found it a very difficult experience. Sharansky was persecuted for his fight to allow Jews in the Soviet Union to emigrate to Israel. He returned to Ukraine on 13 April for the first time since he left in the 1960s to attend university in Moscow. ESTONIA SAYS IT WILL NOT RENEGOTIATE BORDER TREATY WITH RUSSIA. Prime Minister Mart Siiman says Estonia considers a draft border agreement with Russia to be final and does not intend to reopen negotiations, dpa reported yesterday. Siiman was responding to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement criticizing Tallinn's position on the draft accord and calling for another round of negotiations (see RFE/RL Newsline, 16 April 1997). The Estonian premier said new talks would "indefinitely delay the signing of a treaty" and stressed that Tallinn is ready to sign the agreement as it now stands. Meanwhile, Estonian lawmakers yesterday were unable to reach agreement on ratifying a protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans the death penalty. Most speakers called for keeping capital punishment but voted to postpone making a decision until September. SOLIDARITY URGES POLES TO REJECT NEW CONSTITUTION. The National Committee of the Solidarity trade union has urged its supporters to take part in the 25 May referendum on the country's new constitution and to cast their ballots against that document, RFE/RL's Warsaw correspondent reported yesterday. The new constitution was adopted by the National Assembly earlier this month. Solidarity chairman Marian Krzaklewski said yesterday that the four major parliamentary parties that voted in favor of the new constitution have refused to let the public choose between the parliament's constitution and a draft backed by Solidarity. He added that the four parties also rejected any amendments to the parliament's constitution proposed by the right-wing opposition. An opinion poll conducted last month by the Public Opinion Research Center showed 41% of respondents supporting the parliament's constitution, 15% rejecting it, and the remainder undecided. AUSTERITY MEASURES ANNOUNCED IN CZECH REPUBLIC. The Czech government announced yesterday that it will cut budget expenditures by 5%, slash the growth of wages in the state sector, and introduce a system of import deposits in a bid to stem the rapidly growing foreign trade deficit. It will also prosecute more vigorously those involved in economic crime and seek to improve the tax collection system. The devaluation of the crown is not envisaged. The government also pledged that in the long term, it will go ahead with outstanding privatization projects and adopt laws making capital markets more transparent. The chairmen of the three government coalition parties told journalists that the short- term economic measures will be painful but are unavoidable. Long-term changes are intended to revive the economy and "strengthen the rule of law," they added. The coalition leaders were unable to agree on changes in the government lineup, however. SLOVAK OFFICIALS ON CONTROVERSIAL EDUCATION MINISTRY DECREE. Deputy Prime Minister Katarina Tothova says a Ministry of Education memorandum urging that some subjects in minority schools be taught only by ethnic Slovaks is "unfortunate." Tothova was speaking to journalists yesterday following her meeting in Bratislava with OSCE High Commissioner on Ethnic Minorities Max van der Stoel, who has criticized the memorandum. Speaking on Slovak Radio, Foreign Minister Pavol Hamzik took issue with presidential spokesman Vladimir Stefko's statement that both President Michal Kovac and Van der Stoel said during their meeting yesterday that the memorandum is discriminatory and violates human rights. Stefko said Van der Stoel noted only that the memorandum violates the spirit of the Slovak Constitution. Education Ministry State Secretary Ondrej Nemcok, the author of the memorandum, told Radio Twist that the document is in accordance with government policies. But he added that those policies will be somewhat modified. HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO MEMBERSHIP. Laszlo Kovacs says the ambassadors of all 16 NATO member countries support Hungary's bid to join the alliance. The foreign minister was speaking to reporters yesterday in Brussels after he met with the permanent ambassadors' council of the member states. He also submitted his country's official application for NATO membership at the alliance's headquarters. Magyar Hirlap today quotes a NATO official as saying the minister can rest assured that Hungary will be among the first group of applicants invited to accession negotiations at NATO's July summit in Madrid. No more official NATO-Hungarian meetings will take place before the summit. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE OSCE MEDIATOR NOT TO MEET WITH ALBANIAN REBELS. Franz Vranitzky, the OSCE's mediator for Albania, is remaining in Tirana today, after canceling plans to travel to the northern city of Shkoder and to meet with rebel leaders in Vlora. One of the rebels said Vranitzky's move is the result of interference by Albanian President Sali Berisha, who maintains the rebels are hindering progress toward elections and refuses to negotiate with them. Vranitzky said yesterday he believes it is useful to listen to rebel leaders but that he will deal only with the Albanian government. Vranitzky also argued that the June elections are being jeopardized by deep differences among political parties on how best to deal with the rebels. PROBLEMS THREATEN ALBANIAN ELECTIONS. Berisha says he does not want OSCE monitors present during the June elections. Speaking in Tirana yesterday, he noted there were "terrible problems" when OSCE monitors were on hand during the May 1996 parliamentary elections. Berisha said he prefers the Council of Europe to do the monitoring. The OSCE and many other foreign observers claimed the 1996 vote was flawed, but the Council of Europe was less critical. Berisha also suggested that holding the elections should be linked to the conclusion of an all-party agreement on ending the debate over the collapse of pyramid schemes, which wiped out the savings of hundreds of thousands of Albanians. Meanwhile, Justice Minister Spartak Ngjela told Vranitzky that it will not be possible to disarm civilians by election day. MORE AUTHORITY FOR HAGUE COURT? Discussions have begun at the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia that could make or break the court's authority, an RFE/RL correspondent reported yesterday. At issue is whether the tribunal can call for measures to be taken against states that refuse to comply with its requests for cooperation. If the court gets the necessary international backing, it will be able to demand the arrest of key individuals or invoke sanctions against the offending state. The debate was triggered by the failure of the Croatian and Bosnian federal defense ministers to hand over evidence in the case of Croatian Gen. Tihomir Blaskic, who is in custody in The Hague. Court officials insist that their work will not be a deterrent against future war crimes unless the tribunal is able to punish those who do not cooperate with it. OSCE ON CROATIAN ELECTIONS. The OSCE says the 13 April Croatian elections were largely free and fair but that problems did occur. In a report issued yesterday in Zagreb, the organization noted problems in the Serbian enclave of Eastern Slavonia continued even after the UN --which organized the ballot there--extended voting to a second day. Those problems included an absence of ballot papers and ballot boxes, misprinted ballots, and incomplete voting lists. The OSCE commended the UN, however, for correcting the problems. UN officials are expected to decide later this week whether to declare the Slavonian elections valid. The OSCE said voting in the rest of Croatia was an "improvement" over the 1995 parliamentary elections but that problems remain. It said opposition parties lacked proper access to state-run media and that voting secrecy was not guaranteed at many polling stations. MONTENEGRIN PRIME MINISTER TO CHANGE GOVERNMENT BUT ON OWN TERMS. At the start of his visit to Greece, Milo Djukanovic has received pledges for credits worth $90 million from bankers in Athens, Nasa Borba reports today. Before leaving home, he said at a stormy meeting of the governing Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) that he will reorganize the government within 60 days. He insisted, however, that he will not make the changes "immediately or on anyone's orders," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Podgorica yesterday. Djukanovic is under pressure from President Momir Bulatovic to fire three ministers who have been critical of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. SLOVENIA STARTS TO RATIFY EU AGREEMENT. Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek said in Ljubljana yesterday that the parliament will start procedures today to ratify Slovenia's association agreement with the EU. He added that his party will also press for changes in Slovenian law in keeping with that agreement. The main issue is changing the constitution to allow foreigners to own property. Fears remain among the public that such changes will enable Austrians and especially former Italian residents of Slovenia to buy up real estate. Slovenia is the only former Yugoslav republic to have an association agreement with the EU. ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ON TREATY WITH UKRAINE. Victor Babiuc says talks with Ukraine on the pending basic treaty are deadlocked over the demarcation of the countries' common border in the Danube delta, ownership of the continental shelf around Serpents Island in the Black Sea, and the situation of the Romanian minority in the Ukraine. In an interview with RFE/RL's Romanian service yesterday, Babiuc said that contrary to international practice, Ukraine wants the common border traced on the Romanian side of the Danube's Chilia branch instead of in the middle of the waterway. Kyiv is also demanding ownership of the continental shelf around Serpents Island, while Bucharest wants the Hague International Tribunal to rule on the matter if negotiations are still stalled after two years. Finally, Bucharest is demanding that the Romanian minority in Ukraine be granted rights recognized by the Council of Europe. ROMANIAN POLICE LAUNCH INVESTIGATION INTO BUSINESS TYCOON. George Constantin Paunescu, the business tycoon known for his close ties with Romania's previous government, has been officially placed under investigation for forgery, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reports. Colonel Pavel Abraham, chief of the police general inspectorate, told a press conference yesterday that Paunescu is suspected of using a $10 million loan from abroad for purposes other than those officially declared. Crin Halaicu, former mayor of Bucharest, is also under investigation for fraud. MOLDOVA CUTS NATURAL GAS SUPPLIES TO TRANSDNIESTER. Moldova has cut off or substantially reduced natural gas supplies to several towns in its breakaway Transdniester region, Infotag reported. Yesterday's move is linked to the announcement earlier this week that Russia will sever supplies to Moldova if its debts to Gazprom are not settled within 30 days (see RFE/RL Newsline, 16 April 1997). More than half of the $570 million debt is owed by Tiraspol. Vladimir Atamaniuk, deputy chairman of the Transdniester Supreme Soviet, said that if Tiraspol is asked to pay separately for its gas deliveries, it should also "receive its legitimate share of the assets of the former Soviet Union." He accused Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi of applying "massive economic and political pressure" on the Transdniester. RUSSIAN DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER ON TROOP CUTS IN TRANSDNIESTER. Gen. Vladimir Toporov says the Russian military contingents stationed in the Transdniester will be reduced to the "most propitious level," BASA-press reported. Toporov, who met yesterday in Chisinau with Moldovan Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat, said the "very large" infrastructure of Russia's Transdniester-based troops "imposes huge expenses." He said the reorganization of the contingent has already started and will continue, adding that no decision has yet been taken on "what [Russian military equipment] can be destroyed, what will be withdrawn, and what will remain." He did not specify a deadline for the withdrawal, nor did he confirm Russian Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin's February statement that of the 6,000 or so troops stationed in the region, only 2,500 will remain after the reorganization. BULGARIAN PRESIDENT SAYS HE FAVORS REFERENDUM ON MONARCHY. Petar Stoyanov says that if the new parliament elected this weekend decides to hold a referendum on reintroducing the monarchy, he would "accept the decision with satisfaction and immediately set a date for it," RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Stoyanov was speaking yesterday after meeting with Bulgaria's former monarch, Simeon II. The president pointed out that the Tirnovo constitution, which provided for a constitutional monarchy, was abolished when the country was "under the occupation of a foreign military power." xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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