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Vol. 1, No. 20, Part II, 28 April 1997
Vol. 1, No. 20, Part II, 28 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 * CHORNOBYL DISASTER REMEMBERED * HAS ANOTHER ALBANIAN EXODUS BEGUN? * UN WARNS ZAGREB, BELGRADE AGAINST CONFRONTATION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BLACK SEA ECONOMIC COOPERATION CONFERENCE STARTS. Officials and corporate leaders from throughout the Black Sea region began converging on Istanbul yesterday for a Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) conference, international agencies reported. Leaders from Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Georgia, and Romania are arriving today. More than 400 businessmen and representatives from 35 countries are participating. The discussions will end on 30 April with a meeting of the foreign ministers of the BSEC member countries. CHORNOBYL DISASTER REMEMBERED. Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia on 26 April marked the 11th anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster with official ceremonies that drew thousands of mourners. In Ukraine, ceremonies remembering those who died in the explosion and its aftermath were held at the Chornobyl site and in Kyiv, Ukrainian media reported. In Minsk, more than 20,000 people took part in a march to mark the anniversary and to protest President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's efforts to form a closer union between Belarus and Russia. An official commemoration ceremony in Minsk reportedly drew only 500 people. Russian President Boris Yeltsin praised the courage of those who battled to contain the Chornobyl nuclear disaster but said more needed to be done to help its victims, Reuters reported. NEW PARTY HOLDS CONGRESS IN MINSK. A new liberal political party called Yabloko held its constituent congress in Minsk yesterday, RFE/RL's correspondent in the Belarusian capital reported. According to its program, Yabloko favors democracy and a social market economy as well as the defense of civil rights over any state or religious interests. Seventy delegates from around the country attended the congress. The group has no affiliation with the Russian party of the same name, although a Russian Yabloko delegation headed by Grigorii Yavlinskii were among the guests at the congress. G-7 FINANCE MINISTERS EXPRESS CONCERN ABOUT UKRAINE. The finance ministers and central bank governors of the G-7 group of major industrial nations say they are "increasingly concerned" that Ukraine has been unable to implement economic reforms, RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported. The ministers, who met in the U.S. capital yesterday for their quarterly session, urged Kyiv to "engage fully and quickly to implement" the program agreed with the IMF late last year. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksander Kuzmuk and several senior military officers arrived in the U.S. yesterday to meet U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, State Department officials, and U.S. Congress leaders. An embassy spokesman told RFE/RL that discussions between Kuzmuk and Cohen will focus primarily on Ukraine's involvement in NATO's Partnership for Peace program. KUCHMA SAYS CRIMEA WILL REMAIN PART OF UKRAINE. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma says that Ukraine's ownership of the peninsula and the port city of Sevastopol is not open to debate. He was speaking to journalists during his trip to Crimea on 25 April. His comments were aimed at Russia's upper house of the parliament, which recently urged President Boris Yeltsin to raise the issue of Crimea's status with Kuchma when he visits Kyiv in June. Kuchma stressed that he and Yeltsin have already agreed that the Russian portion of the divided Black Sea fleet will continue to be based in Sevastopol and that the port will remain Ukrainian territory. BALTIC ASSEMBLY MEETING IN PARNU. The three Baltic prime ministers have agreed to dismantle the remaining barriers to free trade between their countries, BNS and ETA reported. The premiers met in the Estonian coastal town of Parnu this weekend within the framework of the 10th session of the Baltic Assembly, an inter-parliamentary advisory body. Meanwhile, the assembly passed resolutions calling on NATO to start membership talks with at least one Baltic country at the alliance's July summit in Madrid and urging the Baltic States to abolish the death penalty. The assembly also urged the Baltic States to support Chechnya in political, economic, and cultural terms but did not discuss recognition of Chechen independence. A resolution submitted by Latvia expressing concern about "infringements of democracy" in Belarus was rejected. Maris Rudzitis, leader of the Latvian delegation, said the resolution might have been viewed as interference in Belarusian internal affairs. POLISH SENATE REJECTS REINTRODUCTION OF DEATH PENALTY. The upper house of the Polish parliament on 26 April rejected a proposal to reinstate capital punishment, Reuters reported. The vote was taken during a debate on the country's new penal code, which has been ratified by the lower house of parliament. According to public opinion surveys, the majority of Poles want the death penalty reinstated for the most serious offenses. A moratorium on the death penalty was in place until it was officially abolished in March. The last execution in Poland was carried out in 1988. NEW POLISH AGRICULTURE MINISTER. President Alexander Kwasniewski on 25 April appointed Jaroslaw Kalinowski as agriculture minister, Reuters reported. Kalinowski, a member of the co-ruling Peasant Party (PSL), advocates protectionism in agriculture. Speaking to reporters in Warsaw following his appointment, Kalinowski pledged more efficient protectionist measures that are "compatible with Warsaw's international agreements." Kalinowski declined to give details about his views on market reforms. but said he supports "family-owned European-style farms." POPE URGES CZECH TO RENEW RELIGIOUS FAITH. During his visit to the Czech Republic this weekend, Pope John Paul II urged Czechs to renew their faith in religion and warned them not to succumb to the temptations of a consumer society. He also spoke out against secularization, saying it is an "acute threat for wide parts of Europe" and urging the country's economic advances to be matched by spiritual progress. On 26 April, the pontiff commemorated the 1,000th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Adalbert, the first Prague bishop of Czech origin, in the Bohemian town of Hradec Kralove. Yesterday, he celebrated a mass in Prague attended by more than 100,000 people. RUSSIAN PREMIER IN SLOVAKIA. Viktor Chernomyrdin, who arrived in Bratislava today for a two-day visit, is expected to sign agreements on military and technical cooperation and on the protection of classified information, TASR reported. On 26 April, Jan Ducky, chairman of the Slovak Gas Company, said a proposed agreement on creating a joint venture between state-run Slovak and Russian gas companies will not be signed during Chernomyrdin's visit. Ducky gave no explanation. SLOVAK REFERENDUM COMMISSION CLASHES WITH GOVERNMENT. The Central Referendum Commission on 25 April ruled that the government's suspension of a referendum on direct presidential election violates the law, RFE/RL's Bratislava Bureau reported. The government last week ordered the distribution of ballots to be halted pending a Constitutional Court ruling on whether the basic law can be changed by referendum. President Michal Kovac has argued the distribution should proceed unhindered. In his weekly radio address on 25 April, Premier Vladimir Meciar rejected the commission's decision, saying that "state institutions will follow the government's resolutions and implement them without any discussion." HUNGARIAN ROUND-TABLE ON AGRICULTURAL CRISIS. Prime Minister Gyula Horn has called for national unity to promote progress in the agricultural sector, Hungarian media reported. Horn was speaking at the opening of a 26 April round-table on the country's current agricultural crisis, which was attended by experts and representatives of the government. He noted that while Hungary is adjusting its agricultural policies to comply with those of the EU, it must continue to "reasonably" defend its own interests. The participants agreed on a15-point long-term agricultural program calling for subsidies to agriculture to be at least 2.5% of GDP and for an annual growth in agriculture of at least 3.5%. Agriculture Minister Frigyes Nagy said the round-table will meet again in September. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE HAS ANOTHER ALBANIAN EXODUS BEGUN? Italian coast guard officials in Barletta said yesterday that their vessels escorted a boat jammed with 571 Albanians into the harbor after the Albanian captain sent out a distress call. The boat was built to carry fewer than 50 passengers and reportedly came from northern Albania. More than 13,000 refugees have fled by boat to southern Italy since February. The flood of refugees came to a temporary halt after 28 March, when a boat carrying scores of Albanians collided with an Italian navy ship and sank in rough waters. But recently, the smuggling of people and drugs from Albania to Italy has increased, according to the Italian authorities. ALBANIAN AUTHORITIES BAN ISSUE OF INDEPENDENT DAILY. Nikolla Lesi, the publisher of Albania's main independent daily, Koha Jone, told news agencies in Tirana yesterday that a government ban on yesterday's issue of his newspaper is unjustified. The issue was to have included an article detailing calls by citizens' committees in the Vlora area for daily demonstrations warning against any postponement of the June elections. Officials prohibited distribution of the issue saying that the article violated emergency measures imposed to quell recent unrest. Lesi pointed out, however, that the government has already lifted those restrictions. Koha Jone has long been a thorn in the side of President Sali Berisha's Democratic Party. Unidentified persons torched the newspaper's offices in March. ALBANIAN ROUNDUP. Some 14 dissident Democratic Party deputies announced in Tirana on 26 April that they have set up the Movement for Democracy (MDP). They hope to form a coalition with other centrist and conservative parties after the June vote. In Shkoder, about 5,000 people turned out to welcome Leka Zogu, the claimant to the throne. Some supporters hope he will bring a quick fix for a host of problems. UN WARNS ZAGREB, BELGRADE AGAINST CONFRONTATION. The Security Council in New York voted on 25 April to urge Croatia and federal Yugoslavia to respect the demilitarized status of the Prevlaka peninsula and to refrain from any provocative actions. Recent days have seen the movement of Croatian heavy weapons and special police units in the area as well as the presence of Yugoslav rocket- launching gunboats. Prevlaka is Croatian territory, but Belgrade wants the peninsula since it provides access to Yugoslavia's only naval base, which is located at Kotor. Prevlaka is currently demilitarized and under UN supervision. Meanwhile, Jacques Klein, the UN administrator in eastern Slavonia, told the Vienna daily Die Presse on 25 April that Belgrade and Zagreb should set up a 50-km demilitarized border zone along the Danube. BILDT TELLS CROATS, SERBS NOT TO MAKE OWN LAND DEAL. Carl Bildt, the international community's high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, warned the leading Croatian and Serbian political parties not to try to redraw inter-entity borders by themselves. An RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo on 25 April that Bildt reminded the two parties that all sides would have to agree to any frontier revisions (see RFE/RL Newsline, 25 April 1997). Meanwhile in the disputed strategic town of Brcko, Bosnian Serbs attacked and injured Muslims in two separate incidents yesterday. And in Sarajevo, Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of the joint presidency, vowed on 25 April to free the three Muslim prisoners in Zvornik, whom the Bosnian Serbs have sentenced to 20 years in prison. SERBIA'S DRASKOVIC ON THE STUMP IN MOSCOW. Vuk Draskovic, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement and presidential candidate of the Zajedno coalition, said in Moscow on 25 April that Belgrade and Sarajevo should normalize relations. He added, however, that the results of "ethnic cleansing" should not be legitimized in the process and that all refugees from across the former Yugoslavia must be free to go home. Draskovic argued that real normalization will be possible only when those responsible for the war have gone from office. MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT WILL REIMBURSE PYRAMID SCHEME VICTIMS. Finance Minister Taki Fiti said in Skopje on 24 April that the government will make $12 million available to help offset citizens' losses in the collapsed TAT investment scheme. Some of the money will come from selling off TAT's remaining assets. IMF officials helped the Macedonian government draw up the plan, which is aimed at protecting economic stability and the denar, the national currency. Macedonia is determined not to let Albanian-style problems arise following TAT's collapse, in which some 30,000 people lost a total of between $28 million and $60 million. NEW BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT TO CONVENE ON 7 MAY. Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov issued a decree late last week saying the newly elected parliament will convene on 7 May. Leader of the Union of Democratic Forces Ivan Kostov, who is likely to be the country's next premier, said the same day that he expects the new cabinet to be formed by 20 May, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Meanwhile, caretaker Interior Minister Bogumil Bonev says it may be too late to open communist secret police files on public officials because they have probably been "tampered with." Bonev said he suspects the files were "selectively destroyed" during the rule of the Socialist Party, which was in power for six of the last seven years. Kostov last week said he wanted communist police files on members of the parliament and the government and on Supreme Court judges made accessible to the public. BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO ENLARGEMENT. Stoyan Stalev on 25 April said there ought to be a special status for the former communist countries that want to become NATO members and fail to be admitted in the first wave of the organization's enlargement. He spoke to reporters after meeting the alliance's 16 ambassadors at NATO's headquarters in Brussels, Reuters reported. Stalev said such a status would differentiate those countries from states that do not wish to join the alliance but participate in the Partnership for Peace program. FORMER BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER TO BE INVESTIGATED. An investigation is to be launched into Lyubomir Nachev and seven other officials of the Interior Ministry under the former socialist government. RFE/RL's Sofia bureau on 25 April reported that Nachev is suspected of having illegally obtained a large apartment in the center of the capital. The other officials, including two of Nachev's deputies, are suspected of embezzlement. FORMER ROMANIAN MONARCH CELEBRATES EASTER IN TIMISOARA. King Mihai celebrated Orthodox Easter by attending the midnight Resurrection mass in the cathedral of the western town of Timisoara yesterday. Tens of thousands of worshippers also took part in the mass. Romanian TV offered interchanging live broadcast of the Timisoara event and the mass celebrated by the Patriarchate in Bucharest, which was attended by President Emil Constantinescu, RFE/RL correspondents in the capital and Timisoara reported. The former monarch will also visit the central town of Brasov and the north-eastern town of Iasi. His trip ends on 7 May in Bucharest. IMF URGES MOLDOVA TO ACCELERATE REFORMS. At the end of a two-week visit to Moldova, an IMF delegation told President Petru Lucinschi that the government must accelerate economic reforms. BASA-press on 25 April quoted Lucinschi as responding that the government is now working on a program aimed at de-monopolizing the energy sector and making it possible to sell and buy land. He also noted that the executive is drawing up plans to reform the pension system. Earlier last week, the president told the cabinet that if "unpopular measures" are not taken immediately, the country's economic "disease" would not be "cured." Finance Minister Valeriu Chitan said that GDP in the first three months of 1997 had declined by 8%, compared with the same period last year. The country is facing difficulties in paying its external debt, he noted. THE MYSTERIOUS EXIT OF ROMANIA'S INTELLIGENCE CHIEF by Michael Shafir The resignation last week of Virgil Magureanu, the director of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), is clouded in mystery. Appropriately so, since the 56-year-old is an enigmatic figure with many different allegiances. Along with former President Ion Iliescu, the former party university lecturer belonged to the group that had been planning to overthrow dictator Nicolae Ceausescu since the 1970s. The group's various schemes invariably failed, but when the dictator was swept from power in a 1989 popular uprising, the plotters were on hand to fill the power vacuum. Magureanu was also among the handful of people who attended the show-trial preceding the execution of Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, on Christmas Day 1989. He became a member of Iliescu's inner circle in the transitional Council of the National Salvation Front (NSF) and in its successor, the National Unity Council. In April 1990, he was appointed head of the SRI, which had been set up the previous month; and, in the May 1990 elections, he was elected a senator on the NSF's lists. He subsequently resigned as senator because, under Romanian law, he could not hold both posts simultaneously. But it was not only those two posts that were legally incompatible. The post of intelligence chief would not have been filled by someone with Magureanu's past if the letter of the law had been respected in the first place. In late 1995, when he published his own personal file to preempt its publication by a former friend turned bitter foe (Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the extreme nationalist Greater Romania Party), it transpired that he had served as a captain in the dreaded Securitate, Ceausescu's secret police, which was disbanded at the outset of the post-communist regime. The record of the SRI is no less tainted. In early 1990, it was necessary to justify the setting up of a new secret service to replace the Securitate. The occasion was provided by the March 1990 clashes in Targu Mures between ethnic Hungarians and Romanians, in which members of the former secret police took part as provocateurs on either side. Although the SRI claimed to be largely free of Securitate staff, evidence increasingly came to light refuting those claims. Following the destruction of former secret police documents in 1991, scandals involving illegal telephone tapping, and other "affairs" in which the SRI seemed to be involved, Magureanu became a favorite target of the democratic opposition. But to everyone's surprise, he was one of the very few to survive the post-election transition. Some even claim that he prevented Iliescu's party from falsifying the election results. Moreover, in Delphian style, Magureanu said in October 1996 that he was voting for "change." But precisely what that meant was unclear, since the word had figured in the election slogans of both Iliescu and his rival Emil Constantinescu, who went on to win the race for president. Magureanu also noted at the time that he might consider resigning and would not rule out entering politics. Earlier this month, attacks against Magureanu intensified just as Bucharest's efforts to join NATO peaked with the arrival in Washington of Foreign Minister Adrian Severin. Among those leading the attacks were prominent Romanian emigres, including Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, Ceausescu's former master spy who defected in the 1970s. Last week, Pacepa published an article in The Washington Times claiming that Bucharest had no chance of joining NATO as long as people with records like Magureanu's were heading the country's intelligence service. The SRI responded by pointing to Pacepa's own record before he defected. (Ironically, some of those attacking Magureanu in the Romanian press were suggesting Pacepa as his replacement.) Magureanu's mandate was to have expired in September, and it is unclear whether he will leave his post immediately. But it seems that he was waiting for the right moment to change career and that he deemed his career chances would be improved if he could avoid being blamed for Romania's likely failure to be admitted to NATO in the first wave. As in the past, Magureanu will be simultaneously feared and courted--not least because of the information the former intelligence chief has amassed on the country's politicians. One such politician is Iliescu, currently chairman of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania. At a recent PDSR meeting, Iliescu urged the party to welcome Magureanu into its ranks if he decided to seek membership. At the same time, he was wary of the possibility that Magureanu might use the information he had collected "for political purposes." Magureanu's mysterious exit from the secret service may well herald his entry into politics. But that entry will doubtless be as shadowy as many of his earlier comings and goings and will certainly attract much attention among his detractors both at home and abroad. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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