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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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/

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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
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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.

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