|There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. - Graham Greene|
Vol. 1, No. 19, Part II, 25 April 1997
Vol. 1, No. 19, Part II, 25 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 * CZECH PRESIDENT ADDRESSES GERMAN PARLIAMENT * SERBIA'S RULING PARTY STRENGTHENS HARD-LINERS * ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE CHIEF RESIGNS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE CZECH PRESIDENT ADDRESSES GERMAN PARLIAMENT. Vaclav Havel told the Bundestag yesterday that "just as today's Germany cannot bring back to life the tens of thousands of Czech victims of Nazism..., neither can today's Czech Republic give back homes to the [Sudeten] Germans who were driven out of the country" after World War II. Havel also argued that the concept of the "nation state" has outlived itself. Earlier this year, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus signed a joint declaration in which both countries expressed regret for the past injustices. German President Roman Herzog is due to address the Czech parliament on 29 April. Meanwhile, groups representing Czech Jews who survived Nazi concentration camps yesterday called on the German government and parliament to compensate Czech victims of Nazism. POPE, GORBACHEV IN CZECH REPUBLIC. Pope John Paul II today begins a visit to the Czech Republic to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of the death of St. Adalbert, Czech media reported. The pope is due to meet with President Vaclav Havel tomorrow before celebrating mass in Hradec Kralove to mark the death of the Czech saint, who brought Christianity to Poland and who was the first bishop of Czech origin. The pontiff will also hold an open-air mass in Prague on 27 April. Meanwhile, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev arrives in Prague today to attend the funeral of his friend Zdenek Mlynar, who was one of the leaders of the 1968 Prague Spring reforms. Gorbachev will also meet with President Havel, CTK reported. UKRAINE, G-7 AGREE ON CHORNOBYL SARCOPHAGUS PLAN. Ukraine and the Group of Seven major industrial nations have agreed on a plan to stabilize the sarcophagus encasing the reactor at Chornobyl that caused the world's worst nuclear accident 11 years ago. Ukrainian Environment Minister Yuri Kostenko and Carol Kessler, a representative of the G-7, said in Kyiv yesterday that the plan will run through the year 2005 and could cost up to $780 million. A new shell is be built around the cracked sarcophagus, while the corroded and broken parts of the present containment structure are to be removed. RUSSIA'S BLACK SEA FLEET COMPLETES EXCERCISES. Russia's Black Sea fleet is concluding10-day exercises today with a major landing operation involving 5,000 men and 500 pieces of military hardware, Interfax reported. Ukrainian ships and aircraft are also taking part. Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have worsened because Russia wants to make the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol the base of its Black Sea Fleet. ESTONIA AMENDS LAND REFORM LAW TO CHURCHES' ADVANTAGE. The Estonian parliament yesterday amended the 1991 land reform law to grant Churches the right to buy land at prices lower than the market price, RFE/RL's Estonian service reported. Under the amended law, both Churches and student organizations are exempted from restitution costs (of delimiting and measuring the land returned to them, for example). Previously, only private individuals did not have to those costs. The latest amendments are seen as simplifying the restitution process for Churches and organizations and as speeding up land reform, which has been criticized as sluggish. LITHUANIA IS WORLD'S MOST NUCLEAR-DEPENDENT COUNTRY. The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Lithuania is more dependent on nuclear energy than any other country in the world, dpa reported yesterday. A new IAEA study says that more than 83% of Lithuania's electricity supply last year was generated by the Ignalina nuclear power plant. France is the second most nuclear-dependent country, with 77% of its 1996 energy derived from nuclear power. The Ignalina reactor, which also exports electricity to Belarus and Latvia, has long been criticized in Western Europe for its obsolete design and insufficient security procedures. The EU has hinted that Lithuania's reliance on Chornobyl-type reactors could hinder its bid for union membership. LITHUANIA APPEALS FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP. Lithuania's parliament yesterday sent an appeal to NATO urging the alliance to include at least one Baltic state in the first wave of enlargement, BNS and Reuters reported. The appeal said that Lithuania is convinced the Baltic States' progress toward democracy and stability would be threatened if they were left out of NATO. Eighty-six of the 87 deputies present in the 138- seat house approved the appeal. The U.S. has repeatedly reassured the Baltic States that they will not be left in a security gray zone and that NATO entry remains open for those not included in the first wave. POLISH PREMIER CRITICIZES EU OVER ALLEGED PROTECTIONISM. Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz has criticized the EU for alleged protectionism following a row between Poland and Spain over citrus fruit, Reuters reported. Spain has insisted that Poland scrap its 22% value-added tax on imported citrus fruits, while Poland argues that if it abolishes the tax, it will lose some 200 million zlotys ($65 million) in revenues. Cimoszewicz told the news agency that Poland has opened up many areas to competition from EU countries, even though its economy is much weaker. He noted that some of those moves have not been reciprocated and that the EU's advantage in trade relations is highlighted by Warsaw's large trade deficit with EU countries, which accounted for 60% of its total shortfall in 1996 of $8.2 billion. SLOVAK PRESIDENT BLASTS GOVERNMENT OVER REFERENDUM DELAY. Michal Kovac yesterday accused the government of undermining confidence in the rule of law by postponing a referendum on whether the public or the parliament should elect the president. Earlier this week, the government ordered that preparations for the 23 May plebiscite be suspended, saying the Constitutional Court must first rule whether the constitution can be changed by a referendum. Premier Vladimir Meciar said on Slovak TV on 23 April that the basic law can be changed only by the parliament. SLOVAK AMBASSADOR TO RETURN TO PRAGUE. Ivan Mjartan, who was recalled to Bratislava for "consultations" two weeks ago, will return to Prague "in a relatively short time," Slovak Foreign Ministry State Secretary Josef Sestak told CTK yesterday. He said Mjartan will go back to the Czech capital tasked with taking "diplomatic-political steps" aimed at resolving problems in Czech-Slovak relations. Mjartan was recalled after Czech President Vaclav Havel gave an interview to the French newspaper Le Figaro in which he described Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar as "paranoid" in his position on NATO expansion. The Slovak government has demanded an apology and demanded that the Czech Republic return some 4.5 tons of Slovak gold. HUNGARIAN DEPUTIES SUSPECTED OF SECRET AGENT ACTIVITIES UNDER COMMUNISM. Zoltan Hodaszi, who chairs a panel screening judges, says several deputies are suspected of having worked as secret agents, Hungarian media reported yesterday. Two committees are currently examining the records of some 600 officials to establish whether any were employees of the III/III counter-intelligence department of the communist-era Interior Ministry, whether they collaborated in the hunting down of insurgents in the 1956 uprising, or whether they had links with the pre-communist Arrow Cross fascist party. Hodaszi did not specify for whom the suspected deputies are supposed to have worked. Meanwhile, the ruling Socialist Party leadership has said that Istvan Nikolitis, minister without portfolio overseeing the civilian services, bears no political responsibility for the way "Operation Birch Tree" has been handled (see RFE/RL Newsline, 18 and 22 April 1997). SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIA'S WOULD-BE KING LEKA GETS COOL WELCOME IN VLORA. Leka Zogu spent only 20 minutes in the turbulent southern port of Vlora yesterday, leaving after chants from the crowd of up to 5,000 people switched from "Long live the king" to "Down with Berisha" and "We want our money back." Bystanders told reporters that Leka should run for parliament if he wants to have a role in Albanian public life. Before his departure, Leka laid a wreath in honor of independence leader Ismail Qemali. Also in Vlora, an additional 150 Italian soldiers arrived as part of the multinational force to ensure the delivery of aid shipments. ALBANIAN ROUNDUP. Slovenian Defense Minister Tit Turnsek announced in Ljubljana yesterday that his country will soon send a specialized medical unit of 20 soldiers to Albania. Slovenia has told NATO that the Alpine republic can make a valuable contribution to the alliance because it is able to offer trained specialists for specific projects. Meanwhile, the official news agency ATA reports that primary and secondary schools in the capital will reopen on 29 April with armed guards on duty. Schools across the country have been shut since 2 March, but it is unclear when those outside Tirana will reopen. BOSNIAN SERB, CROATIAN LEADERS MEET. Representatives of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) and the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) met in Pale yesterday to discuss refugee return and the administration of localities divided by the inter-entity border, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. The SDS and HDZ expressed dissatisfaction with the composition of the joint Bosnian diplomatic service, saying that the Muslims hold an unfair number of key jobs. Next week, HDZ and SDS representatives will meet in Banja Luka to discuss the possible revision of borders between Croat- and Serb-held areas, which the Dayton treaty allows by mutual agreement. BOSNIAN SERBS SENTENCE "ZVORNIK SEVEN." A court in Zvornik yesterday sentenced three Muslims to 21 years in prison for the murder of four Serbs and for carrying illegal weapons. The other four accused Muslims got one year each on the weapons charge. Since they have all spent 12 months in prison already, the three men will serve 20 years each and the other four will go free. The international community has widely slammed the trial as unfair. Meanwhile in Brcko, the international community's administrator Robert Farrand announced a plan for refugees to come back to that strategic Serb-held town. It is unclear, however, who will enforce the procedure or what will happen if one side balks. Refugees enjoy the right to go home under the Dayton agreement, but that provision has remained a dead letter. INTERNATIONAL COMMERCIAL AIR TRAFFIC RETURNS TO BOSNIA. SFOR announced in Sarajevo yesterday that international commercial air traffic over Bosnia-Herzegovina has restarted after a five-year hiatus. A NATO spokesman said that air corridors at altitudes higher than 10,000 meters have been reopened for civilian aircraft. He said SFOR will continue to control the overall airspace above Bosnia-Herzegovina, while air traffic control in Zagreb and Belgrade will guide the aircraft onto established routes. SFOR gave no date for normalizing civilian air traffic within Bosnia and for reopening the airports in Mostar, Tuzla, and Banja Luka for civilian use. CROATIAN UPDATE. Election officials in Zagreb said yesterday that final returns show the HDZ won 42 out of 63 elected seats in the upper house of the parliament. The Croatian Social and Liberal Party follows with 11 seats, while the remaining 10 are claimed by other opposition parties. Also in Zagreb, Development Minister Jure Radic unveiled a plan to enable 40,000 refugees to go back to their original homes across Croatia, regardless of the refugees' nationality. The authorities will provide temporary housing for those whose old homes were destroyed or occupied during the war. Non- citizens will not be allowed to keep the homes they have taken, however. Meanwhile in Zadar, a court has sentenced in absentia Yugoslav Gen. Momcilo Perisic to 20 years in prison for his role in deliberately shelling civilian targets there in 1991. SERBIA'S RULING PARTY STRENGTHENS HARD-LINERS. The steering committee of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) met in Belgrade yesterday to reorganize the SPS leadership in time for the Serbian elections due later this year. Prominent hard-liners returned to several key posts after having been out of the political limelight for some time, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. Meanwhile, Nasa Borba today reports the results of a poll showing that the Zajedno coalition is the country's most popular political formation. It would take 22% of the vote, compared with 15% for the SPS and 13% for the Serbian Radical Party of Vojislav Seselj. Some 31% of the respondents were undecided. BULGARIAN PRESIDENT SAYS SOFIA MUST SIGN MINORITY RIGHTS CONVENTION. Petar Stoyanov says his country must sign the Council of Europe's Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, BTA reported. Stoyanov told reporters on returning from Strasbourg on 23 April that the Council of Europe is now looking with "new eyes at Bulgaria's new face" and that the Bulgarians deserve this respect because of the reform steps taken in recent months. Some political forces in Sofia have expressed concern that the convention would enable Bulgaria's ethnic Turkish minority to declare autonomy. Stoyanov's 23 April statement is the strongest sign to date that Bulgaria will sign the convention. ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE CHIEF RESIGNS. Virgil Magureanu submitted his resignation to President Emil Constantinescu yesterday, RFE/RL reported. The controversial chief of the Intelligence Service (SRI) had headed that body since it was established in March 1990. Next week, he is scheduled to present to the parliament a report on the SRI's activities last year. Recently, he has been the target of numerous attacks by Romanian journalists as well as by Romanian exiles. Former communist spy Ion Mihai Pacepa, who defected to the U.S. in the early 1980s, wrote in The Washington Times last week that Magureanu's presence at the head of the SRI hinders Romania's entry into NATO. In late 1995, Magureanu admitted to having been a captain in the Securitate, the communist secret police. ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER WRAPS UP U.S. VISIT. Adrian Severin said at the end of his four-day visit to the U.S. that Romania is waiting for Washington to decide on "a clear strategy" for NATO expansion. In an interview with RFE/RL Romanian service's yesterday, Severin said his country will "not abandon" its efforts to be admitted if it is not nominated at the NATO's July summit in Madrid because "this is our historical chance." But he noted that the decision not to include Romania in the first wave would have a negative impact on joint security structures that Romania has established or is about to establish with its neighbors. Also yesterday, the parliament unanimously passed a resolution appealing to all NATO members to support Bucharest's bid. COUNCIL OF EUROPE ENDS SPECIAL MONITORING OF ROMANIA. The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly yesterday announced it will cease special monitoring of Romania's commitment to respect human rights. Romania undertook to honor those rights when it was admitted to the council in October 1993. The assembly said Romania has "honored the most important obligations" but noted special monitoring will resume if Bucharest fails to keep its pledges. It also said Romania must still amend its penal code and other legislation to confirm with the European Convention on Human Rights. The assembly urged Bucharest to take "resolute action" to combat racism, xenophobia, and intolerance, particularly toward the Roma population. Romania will now be subject to the regular monitoring that applies to all 40 countries. MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION RESPONDS TO STATEMENT BACKING RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN UNION. A group of deputies from the opposition Party of Revival and Accord in Moldova (PRAM) says the decision by 57 deputies from the ruling party and its allies to back Russian-Belarusian union is a "denial of independence and democracy," Infotag reported on 22 April. The 57 deputies issued a statement the previous day saying the union was proof of "current international integration tendencies" and set a positive example "for the further integration of the CIS." The PRAM deputies argue that the statement is "a cynical betrayal" of the signatories' "own nation" and demonstrates that the ruling party and its allies are striving to "turn the Republic of Moldova into a new colony." xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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