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Vol 1, No. 22, Part II, 30 April 1997
Vol 1, No. 22, Part II, 30 April 1997 NOTE TO OUR READERS: Newsline will not appear tomorrow, 1 May, a national holiday in the Czech Republic. 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 * U.S. AMBASSADOR BACK IN BELARUS * U.S. LAWMAKERS URGE SLOVAKIA TO IMPROVE HUMAN RIGHTS * THIRD TERM FOR SERBIA'S MILOSEVIC? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE U.S. AMBASSADOR BACK IN BELARUS. Kenneth Yalowitz returned to Minsk yesterday one month after the U.S. recalled him to Washington to protest human rights abuses in the country, RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported. But State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns told reporters that Yalowitz's return does not mean that Washington believes that an improvement is imminent in either the human rights situation or in U.S.-Belarusian relations. Burns said the U.S. regards the human rights record of President Lukashenka as "abysmal." He said Yalowitz would be carrying a "strong message" that the U.S. continues to have serious reservations about human rights in Belarus. He added that Yalowitz's return does not signal " business as usual." BELARUSIAN ACADEMICS DEFEND POET ADAMOVICH. The Literature Institute of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences has urged a regional court to stop prosecution of poet Slavomir Adamovich, Belapan reported yesterday. Adamovich has been accused of inciting terrorist acts by publishing a poem entitled "Kill the President." The Vitebsk Regional court had asked the Institute to rule whether Adamovich's poem can be considered to apply to current President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. In a letter to the court, the institute said that a judgment could not be based on "literary analysis" and that "in civilized democratic countries," poets and poetry are not taken to court, regardless of the authorities' suspicions about them. ESTONIA APPROVES SOCIAL SECURITY AGREEMENT WITH UKRAINE. The Estonian government yesterday approved a bill on the ratification of a social security agreement with Ukraine. The agreement, which covers pensions, medical services, child welfare, and compensation for accidents, has to be endorsed by both countries' parliaments before it goes into force. Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves told a news conference in Tallinn yesterday that the agreement is a further step toward closer bilateral relations. ESTONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER SACKED. President Lennart Meri yesterday relieved Riivo Sinijarv of his duties as interior minister. ETA reported that Prime Minister Mart Siimann sacked Sinijarv over his failure to properly investigate the abuse of official cars by Interior Ministry officials. Sinijarv is a member of Siimann's Coalition Party, the senior member of the government coalition. He was Estonian ambassador to Britain in 1993-1995 and served briefly as foreign minister and minister for European integration in 1996. RFE/RL's Estonian Service reports that Jaan Toots, a high-ranking official at the Interior Ministry, was also sacked yesterday. It recently became public that Toots had used ministry cars to transport his wife and children. ESTONIA, LATVIA SCRAP VISAS WITH NORDIC NEIGHBORS. The Estonian government approved an agreement with Iceland yesterday on visa-free travel and the return of illegal immigrants, BNS reported. Foreign Minister Ilves told reporters that after the agreement goes into force on 1 May, Estonian citizens will be able to travel to all Nordic countries without visas. The same day, Latvia and Norway initialed an agreement on the abolition of visa requirements and the return of illegal immigrants. Norway is the last of the Nordic countries to coordinate an agreement on the readmission of illegal immigrants with Latvia. Latvian citizens do not need visas to enter Denmark and Iceland, and agreements on a visa-free regime have been reached with Sweden and Finland. However, Sweden wants Latvia to ratify the UN Convention on Refugees before lifting visa requirements. AGRICULTURAL SITUATION IN LITHUANIA "DISMAL BUT NOT HOPELESS." Agriculture Minister Vytautas Knasis told the parliament yesterday that the agricultural situation in Lithuania is "dismal but not hopeless," ITAR-TASS reported. He said that as of 1 April, processing factories owed farmers a total of 104.7 million litai ($26.17 million) largely due to the limited demand for agricultural products. Grain processing factories alone currently owe farmers more than 12.5 million litai. Farmers, meanwhile, have been unable to buy fuel, machinery, spare parts, or fertilizers. Knasis said that the government was making an effort to sell meat and dairy products on the Russian market but noted that those operations would require state subsidies. POLISH PREMIER ON EU. Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz has denounced some EU states for taking unfair advantage of what he called Poland's weak negotiating position to enforce their demands over trade issues, Reuters reported. Poland yesterday submitted to Spanish demands by agreeing to cut value-added tax on imported citrus fruit from 22% to 7%. Failure to do so would have derailed today's annual Association Council meeting of EU and Polish foreign ministers in Luxembourg, which is seen as a step toward Polish membership in the union. Cimoszewicz also warned senior Polish officials that they will be fired if they once again fail to fully coordinate Warsaw's policy toward the EU. GERMAN PRESIDENT ASKS CZECHS FOR FORGIVENESS. Roman Herzog addressed a joint session of the Czech parliament and government yesterday and apologized to Czechs for past injustices. Herzog's speech was meant to be the final formal act in approving the Czech-German declaration of reconciliation, which was signed in January after two years of negotiations. In that document, both the Czechs and the Germans admit to wrongs committed during World War II. Herzog praised Czech President Vaclav Havel as "Europe's mentor" and a "spiritual pioneer" in overcoming the Cold War division of Europe. Herzog said Germany wholeheartedly supports Czech membership in NATO and the EU. "Europe remains incomplete as long as Prague, Budapest, and Warsaw do not belong to it," Herzog said. CZECH MINISTER, INTERPOL OFFICIAL RESIGN. Local Development Minister Jaromir Schneider, a member of the Christian Democratic Union--People's Party, resigned from his post yesterday under pressure from the party leadership, Czech TV reported. Local authorities in southern Moravia have launched an investigation into Schneider over a suspicious loan to the Zlin City Hall in 1994. Schnieder was mayor of Zlin at the time. In a separate development, Frantisek Zelenicky, the director of the Czech Republic branch of Interpol, announced his resignation yesterday following accusations that he had contacts with members of organized crime groups. SLOVAKIA, RUSSIA SIGN SERIES OF AGREEMENTS. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told journalists in Bratislava yesterday that the 15 agreements he signed during his visit to Slovakia will boost the growth of trade and technical cooperation. Contrary to earlier reports, the two sides signed a deal on forming a joint-stock company between Russia's Gazprom and the Slovak Gas Industry as well as a long-term agreement on Russian gas supplies to Slovakia. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar told reporters that Slovakia's needs will be fully covered under the accord on gas supplies, which is valid until 2008. Meciar also said that "in view of the U.S.'s negative attitude, it is very unlikely that Slovakia will be in the first wave of NATO applicants." U.S. LAWMAKERS URGE SLOVAKIA TO IMPROVE HUMAN RIGHTS. U.S. Senator Alfonse D'Amato and Representative Christopher H. Smith say in a letter to Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar that the deteriorating human rights situation in Slovakia over the past year means Slovakia most probably will not be among the first countries invited to begin negotiations on NATO accession. The text of the letter was released to the media yesterday. The two politicians called on Meciar to respond by making a determined effort to reverse the situation. The letter said Slovakia's most pressing human rights issue is the unsolved problem of political violence against government opponents. It said that unless those cases are reopened and solved, "a deep and lasting shadow will be cast over Slovakia's hopes for a future as a democratic state integrated into the West." SLOVENIAN PRESIDENT IN BUDAPEST. Milan Kucan says Europe is "doomed to cooperate" but the divides on the continent are "still tangible," Hungarian media reported. Kucan was addressing the Hungarian parliament yesterday. He also met with President Arpad Goencz. The two leaders agreed to open a Hungarian consulate in Szentgotthard and a Slovenian consulate in a location still to be decided. Prime Minister Gyula Horn told Kucan that Ljubljana is "slow" in responding to requests related to the problems of the Hungarian minority in Slovenia. ROMANIAN SENATE CHAIRMAN IN HUNGARY. Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs told visiting Romanian Senate chairman Petre Roman in Budapest yesterday that Hungary will continue "to do its utmost" to make sure that Hungary and Romania join an enlarged NATO at the same time, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Hungarian capital reported yesterday. President Arpad Goencz also met with Roman and said that Budapest is ready to share with Romania its experience in overcoming economic crisis during the transition to the market. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN UN AMBASSADOR PRAISES ITALIAN-LED MISSION. Pellumb Kulla told a press conference in New York yesterday that the situation in his country has improved since Operation Alba began earlier this month. He says that the foreign troops have "positively inspired" the Albanian military and police to restore order. Kulla added that most schools reopened under police protection yesterday and that the rest are slated to open today. He pointed out that the authorities are currently lifting press restrictions and that all political parties want the 29 June elections to go ahead. The ambassador noted, however, that there are still parts of the country where armed bands block access even to government officials. LEKA ZOGU CALLS FOR GREATER ALBANIA. The claimant to the throne said in Tirana yesterday that the unification of all Albanian-speaking areas would be in the long-term interest of all Balkan peoples and would promote regional stability. He added, however, that the Albanians must achieve unity only by peaceful means and that "the last thing we need is another conflict in the Balkans." Leka stressed that he regards himself as king of all Albanians, including those living in Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro. He argued that Albanians have the same right as Germans to national unification and that the "Albanian question" exists only because of foreign interference. ALBANIAN ROUNDUP. An Italian army spokesman told a press conference in Tirana yesterday that Italian soldiers acted within their mandate on 28 April when they intervened to help a bus driver, whom gunmen were attacking. Also in the capital, President Sali Berisha urged the IMF yesterday to send a team of experts to investigate the collapse of the pyramid schemes. At the EU foreign ministers' conference in Luxembourg, Italian diplomats called for an international conference on Albania. And at the Black Sea conference in Istanbul, Albanian representative Mirgjind Pefiku asked for help in reviving his country's economy. THIRD TERM FOR SERBIA'S MILOSEVIC? Opposition leader Zoran Djindjic told Nasa Borba today that it would be unconstitutional for President Slobodan Milosevic to serve a third term. Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Ratko Markovic said to the pro-regime Belgrade daily Politika ekspres that Milosevic could seek another term when his current one runs out this year. Markovic believes that the constitutional ban on more than two terms applies only to full terms of five years each, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade yesterday. Milosevic's first time in office, the deputy prime minister argues, was shorter and hence does not count toward his constitutional limit. Observers at home and abroad have long been expecting Milosevic to run for federal Yugoslav president later this year. Growing anti-Milosevic sentiment in Montenegro, however, may have prompted him to change his tactics. EU RETURNS TRADE PERKS TO BELGRADE. The federal Yugoslav government applauded the decision of the EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg yesterday to restore federal Yugoslavia's commercial privileges (see RFE/RL Newsline, 29 April 1997). Belgrade says that the move will strengthen links between it and western Europe but added that the EU should have lifted curbs soon after Milosevic signed the Dayton agreement in December 1995. The EU praised what it called an improvement in the opposition's access to the state media but said that future trade privileges will depend on Belgrade's policy toward the media, Kosovo, and a new election law. Also in Luxembourg, Macedonian Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski signed a four-year cooperation pact with the EU. SERBIAN OPPOSITION SPLIT AGAIN? The Democratic Party says that the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) seems about to leave the Zajedno coalition, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade yesterday. SPO leader Vuk Draskovic announced that his party is launching its own pre-election campaign, which prompted the Democrats' comment. Draskovic also said he will call "all of Serbia" out on the streets again if the government refuses to talk with the opposition about election rules. Also in Belgrade, former Prime Minister Milan Panic confirmed that he has joined Zajedno, according to Nasa Borba today. Panic added that the Kosovo problem is "more or less solved" because the international community feels that the province must remain part of Serbia. Panic argues that the Albanians must now "join the system, vote, and obtain the same rights as the Serbs." OSCE SETS UP BOSNIAN REFUGEE VOTING PROGRAM. The OSCE announced in Vienna yesterday that Bosnian citizens living abroad can register to vote in person or by mail between 5 May and 7 June. In Bosnia itself, the OSCE will have 2,300 observers on hand for the 13-14 September local elections, more than twice the number it had for last year's vote. The OSCE still needs more money to hold the elections, however, even though Germany and the U.S. recently announced additional contributions. Many observers regard the local elections as a last chance to reverse "ethnic cleansing" because voters will have the right to vote for local governments in their original home towns. ROMANIAN PREMIER ATTACKS OUTGOING INTELLIGENCE SERVICE CHIEF. Premier Victor Ciorbea says that Virgil Magureanu was among the country's "last Soviet relics," RFE/RL reported. Magureanu resigned last week as director of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI). Ciorbea told journalists in Bucharest yesterday that Moscow-trained staff in governmental and presidential institutions have been forced to quit their posts. Today, Magureanu is to submit the SRI's report for 1996 to a joint session of the bi-cameral parliament. The report was first submitted late last year but was sent back for revison following demands for clarifications. ROMANIA, TURKEY SIGN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT. Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and his Romanian counterpart, Emil Constantinescu, met in Istanbul yesterday and signed a free trade agreement, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The agreement is aimed at increasing the volume of bilateral trade to $ 1 billion. The two leaders also pledged mutual support in pursuing further integration with Europe. Demirel said Turkey considers it a "priority" to back Romania's bid to join NATO. ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN WASHINGTON. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen says Romania has made "tremendous progress" in asserting civilian control over the military and in modernizing its armed forces, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. Cohen was welcoming Romanian Defense Minister Victor Babiuc on his arrival at the Pentagon yesterday. Cohen reiterated that for the time being, the U.S. will take no position on which countries should be invited to join the enlarged NATO. Before his meeting with Cohen, Babiuc told reporters that he hopes to convince the U.S. that NATO expansion should include both the northern and the southern flanks of the alliance. This, he said, is the only way to preserve NATO's "cohesion." MOLDOVAN PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE REOPENS CASE AGAINST NEWS AGENCY. The Prosecutor-General's Office has asked a court to overturn a November 1996 ruling rejecting a demand by the office that BASA-press be forced to reveal an information source within the Ministry of Defense. In June 1996, BASA-press had cited a ministry source in connection with former Minister of Defense Pavel Creanga's statement that he would the army on alert, if President Mircea Snegur attempted to dismiss him. Snegur, who was voted out of office late last year, attempted to dismiss Creanga but failed to win the support of the government. Creanga has not denied the information that BASA received from the ministry last June. The Prosecutor-General's Office says that information had affected "state interests." xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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