|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
Vol. 1, No. 25, Part II, 6 May1997
Vol. 1, No. 25, Part II, 6 May1997 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 * UKRAINE SIGNS PROTOCOL ON ABOLISHING DEATH PENALTY * SLOVAK AGRICULTURE MINISTER CRITICIZES EU POLICIES TOWARD ASSOCIATE MEMBERS * ITALY DEPORTS "UNDESIRABLE" ALBANIANS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE SIGNS PROTOCOL ON ABOLISHING DEATH PENALTY. Ukraine has signed the Council of Europe's protocol abolishing the death penalty, RFE/RL's Strasbourg correspondent reported yesterday. It also signed the organization's convention for the prevention of torture and inhumane treatment. The signature of those two documents means that a committee of independent experts will now be able to visit Ukrainian prisons, police stations, and detention centers. Four months ago, Ukraine's government proposed a draft law on abolishing the death penalty but the parliament has yet to pass the legislation. NUCLEAR REACTOR IN UKRAINE SHUT DOWN FOR REPAIRS. A reactor at the Khmelnitsky nuclear power station was taken off line yesterday, Ukrainian media reported. The reactor is to be closed for more than two months to allow repairs to be carried out. Three other reactors in Ukraine are currently undergoing repairs. Ukrainian officials warned last month that because of growing debts, Ukraine's five nuclear power plants will be unable to afford annual overhauling, which is normally carried out in spring and summer. LATVIAN PRESIDENT WANTS FUNDS DOUBLED FOR NATO COOPERATION. Guntis Ulmanis has said that budgetary allocations for NATO cooperation must be doubled next year, BNS reported yesterday. Ulmanis was addressing foreign diplomats in Riga at a 3 May ceremony marking the seventh anniversary of Latvian independence. He praised Baltic security initiatives proposed by such NATO member states as France, Denmark, Norway, Germany, and the U.S. He also said it is necessary to better inform the Latvian public about the EU. Recent opinion polls suggest that Latvians are not very optimistic about the country's accession to the union. IMF URGES LITHUANIA TO SPEED UP PRIVATIZATION. The IMF has urged Lithuania to push forward with privatization, AFP reported. Julian Berengaut, the head of the IMF mission in Vilnius, made the appeal in a meeting yesterday with Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius. The government plans this month to launch a privatization program that includes auctioning off the telecommunications network, a shipping company, the Baltia shipyards, a refinery, an oil terminal, and the national airline. The IMF has delayed releasing a $30 million tranche of a 1994 loan worth $186 million because of concerns about the lack of progress toward privatization in Lithuania. FRANCE SUPPORTS POLAND'S EFFORTS TO JOIN EU, NATO. French President Jacques Chirac yesterday reiterated his country's support for Poland's bid to join the EU in the year 2000 and its efforts to enter NATO. Chirac spoke at a press conference at the close of Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski's two-day visit to France. Referring to the French parliamentary elections later this month, he said "nothing will happen to change" France's position on Poland. He also proposed setting up a working group of officials from the two countries' presidential offices and foreign affairs and defense ministries to follow up on EU talks about its eastward expansion. Meanwhile in Warsaw, Polish and Greek Defense Ministers Stanislaw Dobrzanski and Akis Tsohatzopoulos agreed to strengthen military cooperation. Tsohatzopoulos reaffirmed support for Poland's bid to join NATO. TWELVE DIE IN POLISH TRAIN ACCIDENT. Twelve people were killed and 30 injured yesterday when several cars of a passenger train separated from the locomotive and crashed into a stationary freight train on a parallel track, Polish media reported. The accident took place near the train station at Reptowo, close to the port city of Szczecin. The cause of the accident is unknown. The train is reported to have been traveling at 120 kilometers per hour when the accident took place. CZECH PREMIER IN AUSTRIA. Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima says Austria will support the Czech Republic's bid to join the EU. Speaking to journalists in Vienna after a meeting with his Czech counterpart, Vaclav Klaus, Klima said the Czech Republic was "one of the countries most prepared for [EU] entry." In his opinion, talks with Prague should start six months after the close of the current intergovernmental conference on EU expansion. Klaus and Klima agreed to prevent long delays at the Czech-Austrian border by creating special channels to be used only by Czech and Austrian citizens. SLOVAK AGRICULTURE MINISTER CRITICIZES EU POLICIES TOWARD ASSOCIATE MEMBERS. Peter Baco has sharply criticized the EU for its agricultural trade policy toward associate member states. Baco told journalists in Bratislava yesterday that the situation is "shameful." He noted that "Slovakia exports to EU countries half as much produce as it did before 1990, while it imports twice as much as it did before 1990." He added that the situation in the Czech Republic and other EU associate member states was similar and reflected the "real commercial interests" of EU countries. "Our foolishness lies in the rapid decrease in subsidies to Slovak agriculture, which are currently a quarter of those in EU countries," Baco remarked. PORTUGUESE FOREIGN MINISTER IN BRATISLAVA. Jaime Gama says Portugal is in favor of EU and NATO expansion including Central European countries. Gama was speaking to journalists in Bratislava yesterday following his meeting with Slovak Foreign Minister Pavol Hamzik. He denied that Lisbon was opposed to EU expansion for fear of losing European subsidies and remarked that joining the EU and NATO enabled Portugal to stabilize its economic and political situation. But he pointed out that all applicants for EU and NATO membership must first meet certain criteria related to a political democracy and market economy. HUNGARY'S DEPUTIES DECLARE ASSETS. Some 350 out of the country's 384 deputies have submitted statements declaring assets held by themselves and their immediate family members, Hungarian dailies report. As of today, deputies who fail to submit declarations of their assets are not allowed to vote in the legislature or draw their salaries as deputies. Socialist deputies Lajos Varga and Laszlo Pal, who is chairman of the board of the state oil and gas company MOL Rt., are the only members of the parliament who have so far decided to give up their seats in favor of business interests. The Constitutional Court last week interpreted the law on conflict of interests to include politicians who took up business positions before 1994. Under the earlier interpretation of the law, deputies who held business positions before the last elections were allowed to keep both posts. HUNGARIAN PREMIER RESPONDS TO PARTY DISSENTERS. Gyula Horn says that as long as he is prime minister, he will "not support any changes in the government's and the Socialist Party's policies," Hungarian Radio and Budapest dailies report today. Horn was responding to the Socialist Democratic Group, a faction of the Socialist Party, which last week demanded his replacement as chairman of the party (see RFE/RL Newsline, 29 April 1997). He said the dissenting members of the group differ from Smallholders' Party leader Joszef Torgyan "only in style." Ivan Vitanyi, one of the group's leaders, reiterated yesterday that the party's chances in the next elections will improve only if it carries out personnel changes, including at the top. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ITALY DEPORTS "UNDESIRABLE" ALBANIANS. Military spokesmen said in Bari yesterday that 180 Albanians were deported soon after their arrival on an overcrowded Montenegrin tanker on 4 May. The spokesmen added that an additional 300 "undesirable" Albanians from the same ship will be sent home today. Meanwhile in Tirana, Lt.-Gen. Luciano Forlani, the commander of the international force, said foreign troops have calmed the situation in Albania but are powerless to stop the exodus of refugees. ALBANIAN POLITICIANS STILL DEADLOCKED. Leaders of the Democratic and Socialist Parties have again failed to agree on terms for holding early elections in June, the official ATA news agency reported yesterday. The Socialists want the Democrats to endorse a new election law as a precondition, while the Democrats want the Socialists first to disband the rebel committees in the south. The Socialists say they do not control the committees. Over the weekend, leading independent and opposition Tirana dailies praised U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's invitation to Prime Minister Bashkim Fino to visit Washington. The papers agreed that the invitation is a message to President Sali Berisha not to make trouble for Fino. VOTER REGISTRATION STARTS IN BOSNIA. Some 420 OSCE offices opened in Bosnia-Herzegovina yesterday to allow citizens to register for the 13-14 September local elections. Carl Bildt, the international community's High Representative, said in the disputed town of Brcko that registration offices will open there in a few days, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. The state- run media in federal Yugoslavia report that refugees can sign up for the Bosnian elections in various location in Serbia and Montenegro. Refugees living outside Bosnia have until 7 June to register either in person or by mail. The vote is seen as a last opportunity to reverse "ethnic cleansing" because refugees can cast ballots that will be counted in their former home towns. SERBIAN HOMES TORCHED IN CROAT-HELD AREA. The UN police and Bildt's office announced in Sarajevo yesterday that 25 empty Serbian houses were burned in Drvar over the weekend, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. Bildt's spokesman added that unidentified persons had also prepared an additional 25 Serbian dwellings for torching. The UN police say they will conduct their own investigation because they are dissatisfied with work of the local Croatian police in such matters. Local Croatian authorities had earlier agreed that the Serbs could return in keeping with the Dayton agreement. Drvar was a mainly Serbian town before the Croatian-Muslim offensive in 1995. Local Croatian nationalists want to consolidate their hold on the area, which is near the Herzegovinian Croat heartland and Croatia proper. GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS BOSNIAN RECONSTRUCTION AID DEPENDS ON GOOD BEHAVIOR. Klaus Kinkel said in Bonn yesterday that "by making reconstruction help strictly conditional, the international community disposes of an effective means of fixing bounds for the fomenters of ethnic tensions. Misguided fanatics must not be allowed to endanger what has been achieved." Kinkel spoke in response to the torchings in Drvar, which he called "alarming." Germany remains the most important foreign economic influence throughout the former Yugoslavia. CROATIAN POLITICAL UPDATE. The pro-government daily Vjesnik reports today that presidential elections will take place on 15 June and that the authorities will confirm the date within a week. Candidates will then have 12 days to register. Most observers expect President Franjo Tudjman to be re-elected. Yesterday, he set 12 May as the date for the opening session of the upper house elected last month. Meanwhile, the Zagreb county court pardoned seven ethnic Serbs charged with spying for the federal Yugoslav army at the start of the war in 1991, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. Two of the men will still have to face conspiracy charges. POWER MEETING IN BELGRADE. Federal Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic, Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic, Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic, and several other top officials met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade yesterday, Nasa Borba reports. No details of the meeting were given. Observers expect Milosevic to announce soon whether he will seek the federal presidency or try to run for a third term, despite the constitutional provision that the holder of that office may serve for only two terms. Also in Belgrade, Politika reported yesterday a growth in the murder rate. Some 40 murders took place this year, compared with 55 for all of 1996. Most such crimes involved an unregistered firearm and half remain unsolved. ITALIAN PREMIER BACKS ROMANIA'S BID TO JOIN NATO, EU. Romano Prodi says his country "irrevocably supports" Romania's bid to join NATO and the EU, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Prodi, who was in the Romanian capital yesterday to meet with his counterpart Victor Ciorbea, expressed his country's gratitude for Romania's participation in the international force in Albania. He also held talks with the chairmen of the two houses of parliament and was received by President Emil Constantinescu. Prodi is the first Italian prime minister to visit Romania in 20 years. Italy is Romania's second largest investor. ROMANIAN DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER TO BECOME NEW INTELLIGENCE CHIEF? Dudu Ionescu says in an interview with the independent news agency Mediafax that he has been asked to become the new chief of the Intelligence Service (SRI). He did not say who made the offer but noted he would "have to accept" if it came from "those authorized" to make it. Under Romanian law, the president appoints the SRI chief. Sources within the major governmental party, the National Peasant Party--Christian Democratic, say Ionescu has the support of party chairman Ion Diaconescu. But Mediafax says that President Emil Constantinescu favors Costin Georgescu, a deputy for the National Liberal Party and former financial manager of Constantinescu's presidential campaign. ROMANIAN COAL MINERS LEADER SAYS HIS TRIAL IS POLITICAL. Miron Cozma, the leader of the coal miners who rampaged through Bucharest on several occasions in 1990 and 1991, says the accusations against him are "politically motivated," Romanian media reported on 5-6 May. Cozma is charged with "undermining state authority" by playing a leading role in the demonstrations, which triggered the dismissal of Petre Roman's government in September 1991. He is also charged with the illegal possession of firearms and other offenses. Cozma said the miners were manipulated in 1991 by people who knew they would react violently to wage arrears and who wanted to bring about changes in the government but did not want to force Roman out of office. His trial began yesterday in Bucharest and is expected to last several months. BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER DENIES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. Bogumil Bonev says there is no evidence that the bomb found near Sofia airport last week was planted there to assassinate the presidents of Bulgaria and Romania (see RFE/RL Newsline, 5 May 1997). An RFE/RL Sofia bureau correspondent quoted the caretaker interior minister as saying an investigation is under way to establish who planted the explosive device and why. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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