|Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon|
Vol. 1, No. 14, Part II, 18 April 1997
Vol. 1, No. 14, Part II, 18 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 * OCSE DELEGATION IN BELARUS FACES PROBLEMS BUT MEETS WITH OPPOSITION LEADERS * SLOVAK PRESIDENT SAYS PROSECUTOR-GENERAL INCOMPETENT * CROATIAN PARTIES WIN IN MOST SLAVONIAN DISTRICTS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE OCSE DELEGATION IN BELARUS FACES PROBLEMS BUT MEETS WITH OPPOSITION LEADERS. An OSCE official was barred yesterday from attending a Minsk court appearance of Belarusian opposition leader Vasily Novikov, AFP reported. Novikov, who was deputy speaker of the recently disbanded parliament, was fined 5 million Belarusian rubles ($200) for helping organize an opposition march in Minsk last month. The previous day, OSCE delegation members met with, among others, independent labor leader Hennady Bykov and former parliament chairman Semyon Shartesky, who asked the OSCE to urge Moscow to try to steer Lukashenka away from his authoritarian policies. Sharetsky is scheduled to stand trial today for refusing to comply with Lukashenka's demand that he resign from his post as parliament chairman. BELARUSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON RELATIONS WITH U.S. Ivan Antanovich has asked the U.S. to avoid drawing what he called "hasty conclusions" about his country. Antonovich told journalists in Minsk yesterday that Belarus is "very interested in eliminating misunderstandings" with the U.S., which he called the "great power of the modern world." Antonovich said U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Kenneth Yalowitz, who was recalled recently to Washington, will return shortly with a letter for the Belarusian president. Yalowitz left Belarus last month following the expulsion of Serge Alexandrov, first secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk, who was detained by police during an anti-government march last month. Belarus accused Alexandrov of being a CIA agent who had helped organize the rally. The State Department, however, said he was observing the protest as part of his "routine duties." UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CONVENES FOR FIRST TIME. Constitutional Court spokesman Yevhen Dmitrenko told journalists in Kyiv yesterday that Ukraine has gained "one more attribute of a democratic country" because it can now guarantee "all constitutional rights of [its] citizens and organizations." Dmitrenko was speaking on the first day the country's newly formed Constitutional Court convened. The court's 16 judges began considering an appeal from anti- reform lawmakers who want a constitutional provision barring legislators from holding other posts. Under the new Ukrainian Constitution, which was adopted last June after years of debate, legislators are barred from working in the government or in the private sector. Many reformist lawmakers hold top government posts in addition to serving in the parliament. UZBEK PRIME MINISTER IN KYIV. Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko says he wants to expand Kyiv's ties with the Transcaucasus and Central Asia, especially Azerbaijan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Lazarenko met in Kyiv yesterday with his Uzbek counterpart, Utkir Sultanov. Lazarenko said Ukraine wants to develop transit links through the regions and pursue agreements on energy supplies. Sultanov's visit also marked the first session of the Ukrainian-Uzbek Commission for Comprehensive Cooperation. EXPERTS TO START STABILIZATION WORK AT CHORNOBYL. An international team of experts is to start work next week on stabilizing the sarcophagus surrounding the reactor destroyed in the 1986 explosion, the plant's deputy director told Interfax yesterday. Following the explosion, which triggered the world's worst-ever civilian nuclear accident, emergency teams quickly erected a cement sarcophagus to prevent further leaking of radioactivity into the environment. The official said that the reactor still contains some 200 tons of highly radioactive material and that cracks in the sarcophagus are causing concern whether the structure would withstand a strong earthquake. An official at the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry told AFP today that a nuclear waste treatment facility will be built to handle radioactive waste from an exclusion zone around the plant and from within the reactor. ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO-RUSSIAN RELATIONS. Toomas Hendrik Ilves says that Estonia strongly supports NATO's efforts to work out a special relationship with Russia. In an article published yesterday in The Washington Post, he remarked that Russia remains a "great European power and must be constructively involved in the creation of a new Euro-Atlantic security architecture." Ilves noted that while Russian perceptions should not be ignored, nor should the views of "100 million East and Central Europeans." Estonia and the other 10 applicant countries want to join NATO not because of a sense of "impending threat" but because of the recognition that NATO continues to perform a "valuable function" after the end of the Cold War, he said. GERMANY SUPPORTS LATVIAN EU MEMBERSHIP. German President Roman Herzog says he believes Latvia will meet the criteria for admission to the EU, BNS reported. Herzog was speaking at a meeting with Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis in Berlin yesterday. The two presidents discussed German- Latvian relations and future German investment in the Baltic state. LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN IN PRAGUE. Vytautas Landsbergis says the union agreement between Russia and Belarus means democracy is deteriorating in both countries, which could heighten tension in Europe. Landsbergis, who is on a three-day visit to Prague, spoke to journalists yesterday after meeting with his Czech counterpart, Milos Zeman. Landsbergis today meets with Senate speaker Petr Pithart and Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec to discuss the Czech's Republic support for Lithuania's bid to join NATO and other European structures. He is also scheduled to give a speech at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters. Meanwhile, Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius, on a state visit to Denmark, said yesterday Baltic membership in the EU is not a substitute for full admission to NATO. POLISH ROUNDUP. Sejm speaker Jozef Zych says parliamentary elections will likely take place in Poland in mid- September, RFE/RL's Warsaw correspondent reported yesterday. Under Polish law, the speaker must choose a non- work day four weeks before the end of the parliamentary term. Meanwhile, Romanian Senate speaker Petre Roman told Polish senators in Warsaw yesterday that Romania and Poland must improve political and economic relations as they have the same strategic aims, above all, joining NATO. Roman said that for Romania, membership in the alliance would mean the "first step toward integration into the community of democratic and progressive states." SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER IN BRUSSELS. Pavol Hamzik has asked NATO not to overlook his country's bid for membership in the alliance, TASR reported. Hamzik was speaking yesterday in Brussels, where he met with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and other officials. Hamzik said the process of change in Slovakia was "absolutely comparable to the one taking place in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary." He asked for "understanding and support" from NATO over the issue of Slovak gold that Bratislava says Prague is unlawfully holding. SLOVAK PRESIDENT SAYS PROSECUTOR-GENERAL INCOMPETENT. Michal Kovac says the country's chief attorney has shown "professional and moral incompetence" in failing to pursue key criminal cases. Speaking to journalists in Bratislava yesterday, Kovac urged the parliament to dismiss Michal Valo and listed 26 unsolved cases, including the kidnapping of his own son, and what he called illegal deals in the privatization of state property. Valo later rejected the allegations at a press conference, saying he would not bow to pressure from the president to resign. Valo was appointed by Kovac in 1994 but can be dismissed only by the parliament. He added that Kovac's allegations have undermined the population's confidence in the police, the judiciary, and the prosecutor's office. HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES APPLYING FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP. Laszlo Kovacs has denied reports that Hungary has officially applied for admission to NATO (see RFE/RL Newsline, 17 April 1997). He told Hungarian state TV yesterday that in his 16 April talks at NATO headquarters in Brussels, he confirmed Hungary's desire to join the alliance and described the country's preparations for achieving that goal, which, he said, were "received positively." He added that the government considers it important to hold a referendum on joining NATO, although it is not obliged to do so under the constitution. HUNGARIAN INTELLIGENCE OFFICE SCANDAL. Gabor Kiss, a Socialist Party deputy, has denied informing on party members, Nepszabadsag reported yesterday. Last month, two members of the Intelligence Office were dismissed for having collected information on Socialist deputies without informing either the Minister for Secret Services Istvan Nikolitis or the legislature's National Security Committee. Magyar Hirlap reveals today that it received a warning from Nikolitis on 16 April that it would be violating state secrets if it published Kiss's denial. Meanwhile, the board of the Health Insurance Authority has voted to ask the cabinet to dismiss Agnes Cser as director-general of the Health Insurance Fund, thereby rejecting the recommendation of Welfare Minister Mihaly Kokeny (see RFE/RL Newsline, 14 and 15 April 1997). SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CONFUSION OVER ALBANIAN ELECTION DATE. Franz Vranitzky, the OSCE's chief envoy to Albania, said in Tirana yesterday that party leaders have agreed on 29 June as the date for early parliamentary elections but have not yet reached consensus on conditions for the poll. But later, Prime Minister Bashkim Fino told the ATA news agency that "the elections will be held by the end of June but a fixed date has not been agreed to." Tritan Shehu, a leader of President Sali Berisha's Democratic Party, told AFP that no date was even been discussed. Other issues to be resolved before the elections include dealing with the rebels in the south, drafting a new election law, granting all parties freer access to TV and radio, and clarifying why the pyramid investment schemes collapsed. CROATIAN PARTIES WIN IN MOST SLAVONIAN DISTRICTS. Croatian government spokesmen in Zagreb and ethnic Serb leaders in Vukovar said yesterday that early, unofficial returns show Croatian parties winning 16 out of eastern Slavonia's 27 districts. Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Ivica Kostovic told journalists that the governing Croatian Democratic Community has an absolute majority in most of those 16 areas. The remaining 11 were won by the Serbian Independent Democratic Party (SSDS). The SSDS, a broad Serbian coalition, claims victory in Beli Manastir and some other municipalities, while both the Croats and Serbs agree that the vote in Vukovar was evenly split. The UN administration in the area will begin to release official figures later today. BILDT CALLS FOR ISOLATION OF BOSNIAN SERB LEADER. Carl Bildt, the international community's High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, wrote UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan yesterday that there should be only "essential business contacts" with the Serbian member of the joint Bosnian presidency, Momcilo Krajisnik. Bildt says that Krajisnik is still close to former Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. Bildt called Karadzic's role "evil," an RFE/RL correspondent in Sarajevo reported. Meanwhile, Bildt's spokesman told reporters that there will be no international aid for Bosanski Samac and Foca in the Republika Srpska and for Croat-controlled Vitez because indicted war criminals openly take part in local government there. STEINER SLAMS BOSNIAN SERB TRIAL OF "ZVORNIK SEVEN." Bildt's deputy, Michael Steiner, has blasted the Bosnian Serb authorities for not allowing seven Muslim males to have their own lawyers in a trial that was slated to open this week in Zvornik. He said in Sarajevo yesterday that the trial is "a travesty of justice" and could lead to sanctions against the Serbs. Mystery has surrounded the case of the seven, who surrendered to U.S. peacekeepers near Zvornik last May. The Muslims claimed to be survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, but the Serbs charged them with murder and unauthorized possession of weapons. The peacekeepers handed the Muslims over to the Serbian police, which the Muslims say tortured them. OSCE LACKS MONEY FOR BOSNIAN ELECTIONS. Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Peterson said in Vienna yesterday that the OSCE is $32 million short of what it needs to organize the Bosnian local elections in September. He accused various unspecified countries of engaging the OSCE in various political projects but failing to provide the money to carry them out. Peterson said the time has come to abandon the system of financing the OSCE on the basis of voluntary contributions and to start assessing members dues instead. ALL SLOVENIAN PARTIES BACK NATO MEMBERSHIP. All parties signed a declaration in Ljubljana yesterday supporting membership in the Atlantic alliance. The parties say that Slovenia is ready to cover all expenses connected with joining. The opposition Social Democrats launched the initiative. Slovenia has been intensively lobbying NATO member states in recent weeks in a bid to be admitted in the first wave of new members. It is the only former Yugoslav republic that most observers give a serious chance of admission in the foreseeable future, although Croatian President Franjo Tudjman says that his country is ready to join. ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES BUDGET LAW. A joint session of Romania's bi-cameral parliament has passed the law on the 1997 state budget, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported yesterday. The leftist and nationalist opposition voted against the law. Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara told RFE/RL's Romanian service that the budget will require "a few months of sacrifice" from the population but will enable Romania to shake off its current economic impasse. The budget foresees a deficit amounting to 4.5% of GDP, an inflation rate of 90%, and an 8% unemployment rate. The same day, the government amended and approved the list of 10 state-owned loss-making companies slated for privatization or liquidation. Together, those companies account for 7.5% of the deficit in the state sector. ROMANIA WANTS TO PURCHASE USED U.S. FIGHTER PLANES. A Defense Ministry spokesman says Romania plans to buy used fighter and transport planes from the U.S. military to bring the country closer to NATO standards. He told Reuters yesterday that Defense Minister Victor Babiuc has sent a letter of intent to the U.S. Defense Department for the purchase of 12 F-16 or F-18 fighter jets and nine Hercules C-130 transport aircraft. The spokesman also said Bell Helicopter Textron of the States was "at an advanced stage" in its bid to buy a controlling stake in the Intreprinderea Aeronautica Romana company to jointly produce Cobra attack helicopters. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Adrian Severin and his Italian counterpart, Lamberto Dini, met in Rome yesterday and signed a joint declaration on a "strategic partnership" between their countries. An RFE/RL corespondent in the Italian capital reported that the document provides for Italian support for Romania's integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. RUSSIAN DUMA COMMISSION WRAPS UP MOLDOVAN VISIT. Adrian Puzanovsky, head of a State Duma commission for the Transdniester, says the Duma has not ratified the 1990 basic treaty with Moldova because the breakaway region's problems have not yet been solved, BASA-press reported yesterday. Speaking at the end of the commission's four-day visit to Moldova, Puzanovsky said the Duma's stance is "dictated by its responsibility" toward settling the conflict. He added that the commission was "highly appreciative" of the accords to resume negotiations signed by Chisinau and Tiraspol as a result of Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's mediation. The commission was received yesterday by President Petru Lucinschi and other Moldovan officials. BULGARIAN PRESIDENT WARNS CLINTON ABOUT EXCLUSION FROM NATO. Petar Stoyanov has sent a letter addressed to U.S. President Bill Clinton warning that leaving Bulgaria out of NATO risks creating a "gray area" in the Balkans, Reuters reported yesterday, citing a press release from the presidential office. Bulgaria itself could turn from an "island of stability" into an "island of uncertain security," he said. Stoyanov told Reuters he expects tomorrow's parliamentary elections to seal a new national consensus in favor of the market reforms delayed since the end of communist rule. He said Bulgaria was a latecomer to those reforms but could learn from the mistakes of its more advanced ex-communist neighbors. Meanwhile, the election campaign ended yesterday. The Internet in the Baltic States by Julie Moffett The Baltic States are making steady strides along the information superhighway by co-financing projects with Western nations and organizations that will help develop network services to increase Internet capability in the coming years. Overall, in terms of Internet technology and connectivity, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania appear well ahead of most former Soviet republics. Part of the reason for their success is the strong support they have received in this effort from the governments of Finland, Sweden, and Norway. In 1993, the Nordic Council of Ministers initiated a program called BALTnet, which provided funding for computer network development in the Baltic States. One of the most important aspects of the program was the immediate establishment of international network links between those states and their Scandinavian neighbors. However, the Baltic States, like most countries in the region, are hampered by a technologically outdated telephone system. Most of the phone lines in the Baltic countries are analog (designed to support voice) and not digital (designed to quickly exchange data). As a result, those people who do have Internet access are often restricted in their on-line time owing to frustrating delays and expensive telephone bills. Guntis Barzdins, a professor at the Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Latvia and a regional expert on the Internet, says that although most telephone lines in the Baltics are analog, roughly 50% of the lines in Riga and Tallinn are now digital. He says there are currently no digital lines in Lithuania but that preparations are being made for their installation in various locations in Vilnius. There are still several major obstacles in the way of improved Internet connectivity in the Baltic nations: the high cost of computer equipment, compared with the average salaries of workers; poor communication infrastructure and a lack of digital lines; expensive telephone lines; and dependency on international funding, making long-range planning difficult. However, progress is being made in each of the Baltic States. Since establishing an Internet connection, Estonia has concentrated on networking university, government, and commercial users. The government has played a large role in matching funds of private Western donors and making the issue a national priority. In 1995, the Open Society Regional Internet Program (OSI-RIP) invested in mobile radio links to extend connectivity to rural areas. According to OSI- RIP, it is estimated that nearly 50% of all secondary schools in the country now have some level of connectivity. Estonia also created the Estonian Educational and Research Network, or EENET. Most of the nation's schools and government and non-governmental organizations are now connected to this network. Future Internet projects include a coordinated effort called "Tiger Leap" between OSI-RIP and the Estonian government to connect all secondary schools to the Internet by the year 2000. Internet connectivity in Latvia is making rapid progress but is concentrated mostly in Riga. Because of a lack of funds, the Latvian government has been hard-pressed to financially support technology development and infrastructure building. Currently there are two main networks operating in Latvia.: the scientific and educational community largely use a network called LATNET, while banks and other commercial enterprises use a network called LATPAK. Internet connectivity for schools does not seem to have been vigorously pursued. Some estimates indicate that less than a quarter of secondary schools in Latvia have Internet access. OSI-RIP says its 1997 projects in Latvia will include an effort to provide more regional connectivity outside Riga and increase communication with libraries and cultural institutions. Lithuania's efforts to improve Internet connectivity have been hampered by a lack of government funding, but progress is being made. Its main operating network is called LITNet. In 1995, OSI-RIP purchased 100 used computers for secondary schools, which were used as servers to connect to electronic mail. The following year, the Lithuanian Ministry of Education installed thousands of computers in secondary schools following a $7 million equipment donation from the U.S. company IBM. Internet programs for 1997 include an OSI-RIP- funded expansion of Internet services into rural areas, additional Internet training and the testing of new satellite technology. More than 90,000 people are estimated to use the Internet in the Baltic States: some 35,000 each in Estonia and Latvia and 23,000 in Lithuania. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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