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Vol. 1, No. 16, Part II, 22 April 1997
Vol. 1, No. 16, Part II, 22 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 * RUSSIAN, CZECH PRIME MINISTERS DISAGREE OVER NATO * KOSTOV ON NEW BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT'S PROGRAM * WORLD BANK ANNOUNCES MISSION TO ALBANIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE TO UNILATERALLY DELIMIT BORDER WITH RUSSIA. Ukraine has begun unilaterally delimiting the Ukrainian-Russian border, Interfax reported yesterday. Leonid Osavolyuk, a member of the Ukranian State Committee for the Protection of the State Border, said that Moscow has rejected Ukraine's proposals for when border talks can begin. He argued Russia's consent is not needed to begin delimitation because the current border between Ukraine and Russia will be used. UKRAINIAN FOREIGN POLICY INITIATIVES. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel has told his Ukrainian counterpart, Gennady Udovenko, that it is advisable for Ukraine to reach a special agreement with NATO as soon as possible, RFE/RL's Ukrainian service reported. The two politicians met in Bonn yesterday. Meanwhile, Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz told Austrian politicians in Vienna yesterday that Ukraine would like to join the traditionally neutral states of Austria, Finland, and Switzerland in seeking to influence the evolving European geopolitical equation, Unian reported. He said the interests of neutral countries are being ignored as NATO prepares to expand eastward. NEW PROJECTS TO INCREASE SECURITY AT CHORNOBYL. The U.S. company Westinghouse has started a new project to increase security at Chornobyl's nuclear power plant, Interfax reported yesterday. The project includes construction of a storage facility for used nuclear fuel and a facility for processing liquid nuclear waste. A separate project is to focus on increasing security at the third reactor. Westinghouse is to issue tenders to find partners to complete the projects. A $134 million grant from the EBRD, which Ukraine received late last year, is to be used to fund the project. Meanwhile, a new round of talks on the closure of Chornobyl begins today in Kyiv. Experts from Ukraine, the G-7 nations, and the European Commission are taking part. BELARUSIAN ROUNDUP. Belarusian authorities say some 4 million people took part in the 19 April subbotnik--a throwback to the Soviet-era when people were compelled to do "voluntary" work. The committee overseeing the event told the Belta news agency yesterday that even President Alyaksandr Lukashenka took part. Along with Prime Minister Sergei Ling and other government officials, Lukashenka did construction work on Minsk's subway system. Meanwhile, Minsk officials have sanctioned a march and rally in the capital on 26 April to mark the 11th anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster. Some 30,000 people are expected to take part. Most of the nuclear fallout from the 1986 catastrophe settled on Belarusian territory. ESTONIAN POLICE SEIZE MORE THAN $1 MILLION IN FAKE BILLS. Estonian police have seized more than $1 million in counterfeit bills from a printing shop in Tallinn, BNS reported yesterday. In a raid on the shop last week, police confiscated printing presses and other equipment as well as forged customs documents, counterfeit Russian excise stamps, and false seals of the Estonian Central Bank. The secret print shop was producing high-quality $100 bank notes of the design launched recently by the U.S. to discourage counterfeiters. Two suspects have been arrested. YELTSIN ON RUSSIAN-LATVIAN RELATIONS. Russian President Boris Yeltsin says that relations between Moscow and Riga depend on the situation of the Russian minority in the Baltic State, Interfax reported yesterday. In a letter to his Latvian counterpart, Guntis Ulmanis, Yeltsin said that the measures taken by the Latvian authorities to deal with the "interests and concerns of our countrymen remain and will remain the decisive factor" in bilateral relations. Moscow, he said, has "grave concern" for the rights of Russians living in Latvia. Yeltsin was responding to a letter he received from Gulmanis last month. RUSSIAN OFFICIAL COMMENTS ON NATO, RELATIONS WITH POLAND. Ivan Rybkin, secretary of the Russian Security Council, says an accord between Russia and NATO will help "allay anxieties" in Moscow over the alliance's plans to expand eastward. Speaking in Warsaw yesterday after his meeting with Poland's National Security Bureau head Marek Siwiec, Rybkin said "European security is impossible without Russia." He urged Polish officials "not to lose old friends while searching for new ones." Siwiec said his country wants a dialogue with Moscow as the best way to remove doubts over NATO expansion. POLISH UNEMPLOYMENT LOWEST IN FIVE YEARS. Labor Minister Tadeusz Zielinski says the number of unemployed dropped to 2.2 million in March, the lowest level in the past five years. Zielinski told journalists in Warsaw yesterday that last month, unemployment fell by 77,000 and that the unemployment rate dropped from 13.4% in February to 13%. He added that there were 81,000 job openings registered in March, up by 20,000 on the previous month. RUSSIAN, CZECH PRIME MINISTERS DISAGREE OVER NATO. Viktor Chernomyrdin and his Czech counterpart, Vaclav Klaus, say they clearly understand each other's position on NATO expansion but will continue to disagree. The two leaders, who were speaking at a press conference in Prague yesterday, agreed that those differences must not stand in the way of good economic relations. Meanwhile, NATO expansion was on the agenda of the meeting between U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and Czech Defense Minister Miloslav Vyborny in Washington yesterday, RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported. Talks focused on how the Czech republic can prepare for entry into NATO, including upgrading its defense capabilities and the level of defense spending required to achieve that goal. SLOVAKIA, HUNGARY WANT NEW BORDER AGREEMENT. Slovakia and Hungary are to negotiate a new agreement on their common border to replace the accord signed 40 years ago. Following a meeting with his Hungarian counterpart, Gabor Kuncze, in Bratislava yesterday, Slovak Internal Affairs Minister Gustav Krajci told journalists that "both sides agreed that the border agreement needs updating." He pointed to numerous changes in the Slovak-Hungarian border caused by the regulation of rivers and other natural changes. More than half of the 678 km border is formed by rivers. Krajci and Kuncze also agreed to exchange information on public administration reform. HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER URGES SLOVAKIA TO DRAFT MINORITY LANGUAGE LAW. Hungarian Internal Affairs Minister Gabor Kuncze has urged Slovakia to draft a law on the use of minority languages as soon as possible. At his meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar in Bratislava yesterday, Kuncze suggested that laws that have a "negative effect" on national minorities should be reviewed. Meciar said he believed the situation of ethnic Slovaks in Hungary to be worse than that of ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia. But Kunze rejected that argument, pointing out that under Hungarian law, anyone can address the Hungarian parliament in his own language. During his recent visit to Slovakia, Max van der Stoel, the OSCE high commissioner on Minorities, urged Slovakia to adopt a law on the use of minority languages. UPDATE ON HUNGARIAN SECRET SERVICE SCANDAL. Istvan Nikolitis, who is minister without portfolio in charge of the civilian secret services, says neither Gabor Kiss nor any other deputy has "any kind of confidential relationship with the Intelligence Office," Hungarian media reported. Nikolitis was speaking to reporters yesterday after briefing the Socialist Party faction about the so-called Operation Birch Tree scandal, which erupted after he filed an official complaint with the Prosecutor-General's Office last month alleging that Intelligence Office employees were gathering data on several deputies (see RFE/RL Newsline, 18 April 1997). Nikolitis said that the Intelligence Office is drafting an official report about an unidentified person suspected of violating state secrets. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSTOV ON NEW BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT'S PROGRAM. Ivan Kostov, leader of the United Democratic Forces, which won the 19 April elections, says the new government's program will comply with agreements reached with international financial institutions earlier this year, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. He said the cabinet will declare war on organized crime and corruption, strive for membership in the EU and NATO, and make possible access to communist secret police files of ministers and Supreme Court judges. Privatizing and restructuring the state sector, freeing prices, and providing an investor-friendly legal climate are also on the agenda, he said. Kostov added that he hoped the Socialists would join in the effort to stabilize the country, saying he believed a dialogue with them was "possible." He ruled out a referendum on the monarchy in the next few months. BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT LIBERALIZES PRICES. Meanwhile, the outgoing caretaker government yesterday lifted price controls on all but eight staple foods. Trade Minister Daniela Bobewa said that prices for flour, bread, cooking oil, fresh sausage, milk, yogurt, some kinds of cheese, and bottled water remain fixed, an RFE/RL Sofia correspondent reported. The lifting of price controls was coordinated with the IMF. Interim Finance Minister Svetoslav Gavrisky said that current hard-currency reserves ensure Bulgaria will not default on foreign loan payments in June. ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS JUNE ELECTION STILL ON. Arjan Starova said in Vienna yesterday that the Albanian general election will go ahead on 29 June because the government is regaining control in the rebel south. Speaking after talks with Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel, Starova said rebel committees holding some southern towns are the only obstacle to the vote. Most Albanian parties have been reluctant to commit themselves to a date for the ballot. Western aid donor countries are encouraging Albanian politicians to stick to the 29 June date as a means of stabilizing the political situation. WORLD BANK ANNOUNCES MISSION TO ALBANIA. The World Bank will send a delegation to Albania by the end of the month to assess how much money is needed for reconstruction projects. Franco Passacantando, an executive director of the bank, said in Rome yesterday that the mission will examine the damage to infrastructure caused by weeks of armed unrest in which some 300 people have died. He added that the bank has already set aside money for health care and for projects to rebuild homes and schools. But Passacantando noted that the bank will not reimburse people for their lost investments in failed pyramid schemes. Earlier this month, the Greek government said it will provide some money for reimbursement lest thousands of impoverished Albanians flee their homeland in search of work. SERBIAN OPPOSITION COALITION BACKS DRASKOVIC FOR PRESIDENT. The governing body of the Zajedno yesterday endorsed Vuk Draskovic of the Serbian Renewal Movement as its candidate for the Serbian presidency, Nasa Borba reported. The coalition also announced plans to broaden its popular and institutional base. Former federal Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic said in Nis yesterday that the entire opposition must unite behind one candidate and that this candidate now appears to be Draskovic. Elections are to take place before the end of the year. The only other announced candidate is banker and broadcaster Bogoljub Karic, who is running as an independent. Critics charge that Zajedno is no match for the governing Socialists because the coalition lacks real cohesion and a common program. MILOSEVIC'S MYSTERY VISIT TO ATHENS. Nasa Borba reports today that President Slobodan Milosevic's unpublicized arrival in Athens on 18 April is tied to key Yugoslav domestic political issues. The Belgrade daily says that Greek officials gave him a frosty reception and denied they are siding either with him or his Montenegrin rivals. Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, an opponent of the Serbian president, went to Greece on 17 April to bolster political and economic ties. The increasingly self-confident Montenegrin leadership could block Milosevic's plans to become federal Yugoslav president this June. He is constitutionally barred from seeking another term as Serbian president. CROATIAN PRESIDENT IN HUNGARY... Franjo Tudjman said in Budapest yesterday that his country's independence is a fact and that Zagreb will resist any European or U.S. attempts to force it into close cooperation with the other former Yugoslav republics. He stressed that Croatia belongs to Central Europe and not to the Balkans. Tudjman also suggested that Croatia and Hungary should work together to secure integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. Hungarian President Arpad Goencz agreed to that suggestion but added that Hungary wants to play a bigger economic role in Croatia and its postwar reconstruction, including in the privatization of the Adria pipeline. Goencz also expressed interest in helping upgrade the port of Rijeka. ...AND SAYS SLAVONIAN REFUGEES CAN START GOING HOME. Tudjman also said in Budapest yesterday that Croatian and Hungarian refugees can move back to their homes soon after eastern Slavonia returns to Croatian rule in July. He added that the refugees' right to go home is guaranteed even if their houses were destroyed or if Serbs have since moved into them. Meanwhile in Zagreb, Development Minister Jure Radic said that Serbs from other parts of Croatia who are now living in eastern Slavonia will receive aid to help them go back to their homes. In Vukovar, UN officials announced that the Croatian government will open offices in six eastern Slavonian towns today to help refugees return there, an RFE/RL correspondent in the area reported. IZETBEGOVIC WARNS BOSNIA IS FALLING APART. Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim chair of the joint presidency, told representatives of the international Contact Group, the EU, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Sarajevo yesterday that his country is in danger of disintegrating. He stressed that the international community must enforce the Dayton agreement, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Bosnian capital reported. He singled out the Serbs for special blame, saying that the Bosnian Serbs are not letting Muslim and Croatian refugees return to their homes on Serbian territory. Izetbegovic also blamed federal Yugoslavia for undermining Bosnia's sovereignty. ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN WASHINGTON. Adrian Severin appears to have been unable to convince U.S Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that Romania should be admitted to NATO in the first wave of enlargement. Following their meeting yesterday in the U.S. capital, Albright told a press conference that she had assured Severin that "the first [new members] shall not be the last." A Romanian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Albright asked Severin about the progress of privatization and was particularly interested in the status of negotiations with Ukraine on the basic bilateral treaty. Severin told her the treaty will be "signed soon," the spokeswoman said. The foreign minister also met with Deputy Secretary of Defense Walter Slocombe and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who said Romania was a "credible aspirant" to NATO membership, an RFE/RL Washington correspondent reported. HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN ROMANIA TO DISCUSS NATO MEMBERSHIP. Gyorgy Keleti met with his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, in Bucharest yesterday to discuss their countries' quest to join NATO, RFE/RL's Bucharest Bureau reported. The two leaders sent a joint letter to the French and German defense ministers asking for support to set up a Hungarian-Romanian rapid reaction force using the model of the German-French military contingent. Both Babiuc and Keleti emphasized that their countries are partners rather than competitors in the quest to join NATO, but Keleti said the admission of one country into NATO ahead of the other would not destabilize the region. Keleti also met with Premier Victor Ciorbea and members of the parliamentary defense commissions. MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION RENEWS ATTACK ON PROPOSED ACCORD WITH TIRASPOL. The Party of Democratic Forces (PFD) released a statement yesterday saying that Chisinau's intention to sign the memorandum on settling the conflict with the Transdniester breakaway authorities is "irresponsible and dangerous." The PFD argued that if the Moldovan leadership signs the document, the Tiraspol separatists will be granted a priori "what can be granted only by the majority of the population" in a nationwide referendum, Infotag reported. It said the concept of a "united state," which was introduced into last week's amended version of the memorandum, is an "attempt to grant judicial backing to Tiraspol's demand to transform the Republic of Moldova into a confederation." The PFD said it is particularly concerned about Chisinau's intention to settle the debt to Gazprom by granting Russia shares in Moldovan companies. This will give Moscow control over Moldovan enterprises and restrict the country's political and economic independence, the party argued. Bulgaria's Anti-Communist Coalition Braces Itself for Economic Reform by Ron Synovitz A majority victory in Bulgaria's parliamentary election last weekend has put the anti-communist United Democratic Forces (ODS) in a strong position to implement urgently needed economic reforms. Loss-making state firms have to be closed, the privatization of large state companies launched, and currency reforms put in place. Reform of the collapsed banking sector also is desperately required, along with a new legal infrastructure to help attract foreign investment. To push ahead with these reforms, the ODS has already decided on three key government appointments. Bulgaria's next prime minister will be 47-year-old ODS leader Ivan Kostov. At least two members of the caretaker cabinet also will retain their posts: Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev and Economic Affairs Minister Alexander Bozhkov. But Ivan Krastev, an unofficial adviser to the ODS, says Kostov's government will have only "a very short time" in office before popular support starts to wane. He says a "popular majority rather than a parliamentary majority" is now necessary to keep a government in power. Pressure on the new cabinet, he continues, will be greatest after thousands of people have lost their state jobs in bankruptcy closures but before the benefits of shock therapy reforms are felt. That could mean more street demonstrations later this year. But Krastev says support for reforms from trade unions and Euroleft, a group of Socialist Party defectors, could prevent a populist backlash. The ODS won 137 of Bulgaria's 240 parliamentary seats in the 19 April ballot. The Socialist Party (BSP) now becomes an opposition force with 57 seats, down from a 125-seat majority in the last parliament. Three smaller parties also made it into the National Assembly by clearing the 4% threshold. They are the alliance of ethnic Turks and monarchists called the Union for National Salvation (20 seats); Euroleft (14 seats); and the populist Bulgarian Business Bloc (12 or 13 seats). Krastev says support from Euroleft would demonstrate a clear political will for painful but necessary economic reforms. He says its support also would show Western leaders that Sofia's desire to join NATO and the EU has wide backing. The BSP opposes Bulgarian membership in NATO, but Euroleft supports membership as long as nuclear weapons are not deployed on Bulgarian territory. Euroleft is led by Alexander Tomov, a former Socialist deputy prime minister who broke away from the BSP in 1994 to form a more centrist group. In the 1994 elections, Tomov narrowly failed to break the 4% barrier. That loss now looks like a blessing. By sitting out of the last parliament, he has escaped blame for the economic collapse that began in 1995 under Socialist Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. Tomov formed Euroleft this year as a refuge for other center- leaning Socialist defectors. The group's ranks were swollen by a wave of BSP defections in the final days of Videnov's discredited cabinet, and analysts say more defections are possible in the future. There seems little likelihood of cooperation between Kostov and Bulgarian Business Bloc leader George Ganchev. Kostov has been very critical of Ganchev since January, when the Business Bloc leader failed to support the massive anti- Socialist street demonstrations that brought about the 19 April ballot. It is more likely that Kostov will work with the Union for National Salvation (ONS), which is led by Ahmed Dogan's mostly ethnic-Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS). Nevertheless, cooperation between Kostov and Dogan is a shaky proposition. The fall of former Prime Minister Philip Dimitrov's anti-communist government in 1992 occurred because Dogan had withdrawn the support of the DPS. When King Simeon II returned to Bulgaria for two days last week at the invitation of monarchists in Dogan's alliance, he urged all anti-communist reformers to unite under a "broad coalition." The popular anti-communist President Petar Stoyanov says he agrees with the idea. Some members of the ODS want to expand the constitutional powers of the president. But to amend the constitution--which was drawn up by Bulgaria's communists in 1990 and repeatedly used during the last seven years by the BSP to stall market reforms--Kostov would need a two-thirds parliamentary majority. Support from both Euroleft and the ONS would give him that majority. Moreover, cooperation between the ODS and Euroleft would show that Bulgarian democracy is maturing. 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