|Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon|
Vol. 1, No. 21, Part II, 29 April 1997
Vol. 1, No. 21, Part II, 29 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-BELARUSIAN UNION TO GO INTO FORCE BY JUNE? * RUSSIAN PREMIER DISCUSSES BILATERAL RELATIONS, NATO IN SLOVAKIA * POLITICAL ROW THREATENS ALBANIAN ELECTIONS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN UNION TO GO INTO FORCE BY JUNE? Vladimir Grigoriev, the deputy head of a Russian- Belarusian commission overseeing the creation of the union between the two countries, says the union could go into force by June. Grigoriyev told journalists in Moscow yesterday that he expects the agreement to be ratified by the countries' parliaments in June. Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, signed a watered-down version of the union treaty on 2 April. The accompanying charter was submitted for public discussion until 15 May. ESTONIA JOINS FIVE MAJOR EUROPEAN CONVENTIONS. Estonia has joined five major Council of Europe penal conventions, ETA reported. Karin Jaani, the Estonian permanent representative to the council, handed over the instruments of ratification to Daniel Tarschys, secretary- general of the council, in Strasbourg yesterday. The conventions are on extradition, cooperation in criminal proceedings, exchange of information on foreign law, the transfer of criminal proceedings, and the transfer of sentenced persons. Meanwhile, the Estonian secret police has submitted to the official publication Riigi Teataja the names of 25 people who collaborated with the KGB and who did not voluntarily admit to collaboration before 1 April 1996, BNS reported yesterday. Under Estonian law, Riigi Teataja must reveal the identity of KGB collaborators who have not owned up to their former activities. Earlier this year, the names of the first seven such collaborators were published. LATVIAN PRESIDENT IN POLAND. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and his Latvian counterpart, Guntis Ulmanis, have stressed their intention to join the EU and NATO, RFE/RL's Warsaw correspondent reported yesterday. Ulmanis, who is on a three-day official visit to Poland, is also expected to meet with top government and parliamentary leaders. Polish Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati and his Latvian counterpart, Valdis Birkavs, signed a free trade agreement that will gradually lift customs duties on industrial and agricultural goods. Trade volume between the two countries last year reached $97 million. EU TO HOLD SEPARATE TALKS WITH POLAND, HUNGARY. The EU foreign ministers have decided to hold separate discussions today and tomorrow with Poland and Hungary on issues related to those countries' possible admission to the union, RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent reported. The way for talks with Poland was cleared when the ministers decided Poland had made sufficient concessions on citrus fruit imports. EU officials have been pressing Poland for several weeks to relax its tough import-tax regime against citrus fruit, which the EU considers discriminatory. Trade issues such as Poland's special arrangements with the South Korean company Daewoo are expected to be dealt with. EU and Hungarian representatives are to meet simultaneously to discuss Budapest's decision to abolish tariffs against citrus fruits as of the end of this year. The EU is also seeking assurances that Hungary will phase out a general import surcharge by 1 July. CZECH POLITICAL ROUNDUP. The ruling three-party coalition agreed yesterday that they will draft by the end of next month a constitutional amendment subdividing the country into administrative regions, Czech media reported. The 1992 Czech Constitution stipulates that the regions be created, but the ruling coalition--in particular, Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party--has repeatedly postponed such a decision. Meanwhile, an opinion poll by the Institute for Public Opinion Research released in today's media today suggests that only 24% of Czechs are satisfied with the political situation, down 10 percentage points since last month. CZECHS MAY EASE IMPORT RESTRICTIONS. Czech Industry and Trade Minister Vladimir Dlouhy says the government may grant a Hungarian request to ease import deposit measures introduced last week. But he added that there will be no major changes. Dlouhy was speaking to journalists in Budapest on 28 April after meeting with Industry and Trade Minister Szabolcs Fazakas and Gabor Szeles, president of the National Confederation of Hungarian Industrialists. Dlouhy said there is no economic crisis in the Czech Republic but admitted that the country's trade balance and current account have worsened, necessitating the introduction of import restrictions. Fazakas said Hungary wishes to review the list of the goods to which the restrictions apply. SLOVAK AMBASSADOR RETURNS TO PRAGUE. Ivan Mjartan, the Slovak ambassador to the Czech Republic, returns to Prague today following his recall to Bratislava three week ago for what the Slovak government called consultations, CTK reports. Mjartan was recalled after Czech President Vaclav Havel told the French newspaper Le Figaro that Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar is paranoid in his position on NATO expansion. The Slovak government has demanded that Havel apologize for his comments and that the Czech government return about 4.5 tons of gold. Havel admitted in his weekly radio address on 27 April that his remarks may have been "impertinent." RUSSIAN PREMIER DISCUSSES BILATERAL RELATIONS, NATO IN SLOVAKIA. Viktor Chernomyrdin, who is on a two- day official visit to Bratislava, met with Meciar yesterday to discuss bilateral economic relations. Chernomyrdin told journalists later that the talks were "very successful" and that the two sides discussed the final details of several agreements to be signed today. A spokesman for Slovak President Michal Kovac said Chernomyrdin told the president earlier that day that Russia remains opposed to NATO's planned expansion and warned that former Warsaw Pact members seeking NATO admission "risk affecting their relations" with Moscow. SLOVAKIA CONSIDERS U.S. CRITICISM UNFAIR. Slovak Foreign Minister Pavol Hamzik says U.S. criticism over the pace of reforms in Slovakia is unfair. Hamzik told journalists in Bratislava yesterday that his country is progressing in the same direction as its neighbors. Referring to his visit to Washington last week, he said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's comments that Slovakia is dragging its feet over democratic reforms are "not justified." HUNGARIAN SOCIALIST FACTION WANTS TO BE RID OF HORN. The Socialist Democratic Group, a faction within the ruling party, says Prime Minister Gyula Horn must be dismissed as prime minister and party chairman, Magyar Hirlap reported today. The group says that although Horn's merits are beyond doubt, the radical right-wing parties will increase their electoral appeal if Horn remains in office. It pointed out that the electorate is disappointed with the mistakes of the leadership, whose methods, it said, are incompatible with "moral norms." The group also commented that the party lacks internal democracy. It urged the Socialists to call an extraordinary congress for the fall and choose a new candidate for the premiership. POSITIVE ECONOMIC TRENDS CONTINUE IN HUNGARY. The Ministry of Finance reported yesterday that exports grew 4.1% in dollar terms during the first two months of this year, while imports increased by 2.1%, Hungarian media reported. The ministry forecasts that GDP will grow 2-2.5% this year, as compared with 1.5% in 1995 and 1% last year. It says real wages grew by 6% in January and 4% in February and that wage growth is expected to continue slowing down. Consumer prices rose less than expected in the same period. But unemployment was 11% at the end of March, up from 10.5% in December 1996. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE POLITICAL ROW THREATENS ALBANIAN ELECTIONS. Albanian Justice Minister Spartak Ngjela said in Tirana yesterday that disagreements between rival political parties could derail plans to hold general elections in June. He added that he wants to reach agreement on voting rules by 15 May and that he has prepared a draft "emergency election law." Ngjela argued that holding the vote in August will be "too late." The governing Democratic Party wants legislators elected by direct ballot, while the opposition favors proportional representation. The current direct ballot system has kept many smaller parties out of the parliament. Ngjela also said that voter lists have been destroyed in the anarchy that followed the collapse of pyramid investment schemes early this year. ALBANIAN PRESIDENT SACKS BANK CHIEF. President Sali Berisha fired Kristaq Luniku as governor of the Bank of Albania over the weekend and replaced him with Qamil Tusha. Berisha said that Luniku has been away from Tirana too long to do his job properly, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported today. Luniku has spent the past two months in Washington working with the IMF, while Tusha has been the deputy director of the National Trade Bank. The German daily suggests that Berisha may firied Luniku on account of his outspokenness. CROATIA SENDS INDICTED WAR CRIMINAL TO HAGUE. Zagreb authorities handed over Zlatko Aleksovski to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal yesterday. He is wanted for atrocities against Muslims in the Lasva Valley during the 1993 Croatian-Muslim war. The Croatian government has been under considerable international pressure for some time to cooperate more fully with the court, but Aleksovski is the first person the Zagreb authorities have delivered to The Hague. Lat year, Gen. Tihomir Blaskic gave himself up voluntarily. U.S. AMBASSADOR CALLS RUSSIA BIGGEST ARMS SUPPLIER TO BOSNIA, CROATIA. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith told the independent Split weekly Feral Tribune yesterday that Russia was the single largest supplier of weapons to the two republics during the conflict. He also noted that Russia was officially strongly opposed to lifting the arms embargo on the former Yugoslav republics. International media attention has tended to focus on Iranian weapons deliveries to Bosnia and Croatia. Galbraith said that Washington was justified in "turning a blind eye" to the Iranian shipments because those weapons helped Sarajevo and other towns from suffering the same fate as Srebrenica and Zepa. CROATIAN UNIONS PRESENT ULTIMATUM. Five of the largest trade unions said yesterday that they want the government to agree on setting up an Economic and Social Council by 20 May, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. If the authorities do not agree, the unions will set up an arbitration board on their own. Also in Zagreb, Development Minister Jure Radic said it is not in Croatia's interest for Serbs to remain concentrated in eastern Slavonia after that area reverts to Croatian control in July. He added that the government will encourage Serbs not originally from there to go back to their old homes. CROATIA, SLOVENIA SIGN AGREEMENTS. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic and his Slovenian counterpart, Zoran Thaler, met in Ljubljana yesterday and signed several documents dealing with cross-border travel, cooperation, and social security. Granic said the two countries' views on outstanding border problems have become closer. But the key issues today are the same as six years ago, when the two former Yugoslav republics became independent. Those questions center on Slovenia's access to the sea, the status of the Krsko nuclear power plant, and the fate of Croatian deposits in the Ljubljanska Banka. BILDT, UN POLICE SLAM THREATS TO FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT IN BOSNIA. The office of the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt said yesterday that Muslim authorities in the Tuzla area prevented Serbian Orthodox Bishop Vasilj Kacavenda from attending Orthodox Easter services in the mainly Croatian-Muslim federation over the weekend. According to an RFE/RL correspondent in Sarajevo, Bildt's office charged that the Muslims' behavior reinforced the division of the republic along ethnic lines. Also in the Bosnian capital, the UN police say they will step up their presence in some parts of the city to guarantee freedom of movement and prevent the local police from abusing their powers. The police added, however, that the problems are not ethnic in nature. KOSOVO LEADER WARNS EU ON TRADE PERKS FOR BELGRADE. Shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova wrote the EU Council of Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg yesterday that any trade liberalization for federal Yugoslavia must be linked to an improvement of the situation in Kosovo. Rugova says that the Kosovo problem must be resolved in the ethnic Albanian majority's favor before the EU extends former Yugoslavia's trade privileges to Belgrade. The EU already grants such commercial rights to the other former Yugoslav republics, and the ministers are due to decide today on also giving them to federal Yugoslavia. ROMANIAN PREMIER, FOREIGN MINISTER IN BRUSSELS. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea says his country has important advantages over other candidates wishing to join NATO. Ciorbea was speaking to reporters after addressing the 16 ambassadors to the alliance. He noted that Romania was not integrated into the former Warsaw Pact and that 80% of its military equipment is produced at home. He also pointed out that the country has sent peace-keeping troops to three countries--Bosnia, Angola, and Albania. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Adrian Severin told an RFE/RL reporter that Romania's offer last week to replace U.S. troops in Bosnia with its own troops was neither a "proposal nor a pledge" and should be considered to express "only a political position" and a "technical possibility." A decision on such issues can be made only by the country's Supreme Military Council and is subject to the parliament's approval, Severin added. ROMANIA REACHES COMPROMISE WITH UKRAINE OVER BASIC TREATY. Severin also told reporters in Brussels that his country has reached "a compromise treaty" with Ukraine and that the accord will be initialed during his scheduled visit to Kyiv on 3 May, AFP reported. Severin said the document will protect Romania's "strategic interests" and contains "important provisions on the national minorities," but he gave no details. President Emil Constantinescu and his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, discussed the treaty in Istanbul, where they are attending a three-day Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) conference, Reuters reported. Following the meeting, Constantinescu confirmed that the treaty will be finalized at the beginning of next month. ROMANIA, MOLDOVA, UKRAINE TO ESTABLISH "EURO- REGIONS." President Constantinescu says he has agreed with his Ukrainian and Molodovan counterparts, Leonid Kuchma and Petru Lucinschi, to set up two "Euro-Regions" in areas where their three borders converge. Constantinescu told Radio Bucharest that the agreement was reached yesterday in Istanbul within the framework of the BSEC conference. He added that he originally proposed the idea to Lucinschi, who discussed it with Kuchma. The construction of new road links in the "Euro-Regions" will allow for intensified economic cooperation and cultural contacts. The regions will be mentioned in the pending bilateral treaty with Ukraine. MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON FUTURE OF TRANSDNIESTER REGION. President Lucinschi says "content" will be more important than "form" in determining the future of relations between Chisinau and the breakaway Transdniester region. In response to a BASA-press reporter's question of whether he would agree to the federalization of Moldova, Lucinschi said he has told the Transdniestrian leaders that "the novel should be written first and only later given a title." He added that it is more important to first negotiate removing obstructions to bilateral relations, such as the border guards on the Dniester River. But he noted that other non-federal states, including Spain, Italy, Finland, and Canada, have regions with a special status. Lucinschi was speaking on the occasion of the first 100 days of his presidency. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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