|A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner. - Samuel Johnson|
Vol. 1, No. 26, Part II, 7 May 1997
Vol. 1, No. 26, Part II, 7 May 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/ Note for readers: Newsline will not appear tomorrow, 8 May, a holiday in the Czech Republic. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * IS UKRAINE RETHINKING ITS POLICY OF NEUTRALITY? * BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST ALTERING UNION CHARTER * UNHCR BLASTS ITALIAN DEPORTATIONS OF ALBANIAN REFUGEES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE IS UKRAINE RETHINKING ITS POLICY OF NEUTRALITY? National Security Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin, a leading adviser to President Leonid Kuchma, has signaled Ukraine is re-thinking its official policy of neutrality. Horbulin said in a letter to the parliamentary Foreign and CIS Relations Committee, which was made public yesterday, that Ukraine's "absolute neutral and non-aligned status" can be viewed "only conditionally." He added that Ukraine's "sensitive geopolitical position" makes full neutrality impossible and that although Ukraine has not officially considered applying for NATO membership, it reserves the right as a member of the UN to join any political or military union. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana is in Kyiv today, following his talks with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenni Primakov in Luxembourg. He is scheduled to meet with Kuchma, Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko, and parliamentary chairman Oleksandr Moroz. UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT DISCLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR GAS DEBT TO TURKMENISTAN. Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko says his government is not responsible for the debt to Turkmenistan for natural gas deliveries. He told journalists in Kyiv yesterday that the accrued debt is the sole responsibility of private Ukrainian gas delivery firms. He added that the government has contracted directly with the private firms for gas deliveries. Meanwhile, Kuchma has abolished the Power Engineering and Electrification Ministry and the State Nuclear Power Committee and created the Power Engineering Ministry to replace them. Yuriy Bochkaryov, the former power engineering and electrification minister, is head of the new ministry. BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST ALTERING UNION CHARTER. Alyaksandr Lukashenka has warned Russian lawmakers not to alter the charter outlining steps for further integrating the two states, Reuters reported. Lukashenka noted that the document has already been initialed by himself and Yeltsin. He also criticized the Russian media for "inflicting irreparable damage" and dampening Russian public support for the union. The charter is accompanied by a statement, signed last month by Lukashenka and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, pledging to form a union between the two states. Russian deputies opposed to the union succeeded in reducing the original treaty to the charter, whose signing has been delayed to allow a six-week "public debate." WORLD BANK APPROVES LOAN TO LATVIA FOR PUBLIC PENSION REFORM. The World Bank said yesterday that it has approved an $18.1 million loan to Latvia to help finance a welfare reform project, an RFE/RL Washington correspondent reported. The bank says that Latvia will become the first country in Central and Eastern Europe to embark on a major reform of its public pension system. The project, estimated to cost nearly $39 million, will allow pensioners benefits to be calculated in just 15 minutes, as opposed to four to 15 days under the current system. RUSSIAN DEPUTIES URGE END TO ALLEGED DISCRIMINATION IN LATVIA. A Russian State Duma delegation currently in Latvia has called for an end to what Moscow perceives as discrimination against ethnic Russians in Latvia, RFE/RL and BNS reported. Mikhail Vakulenko, head of the Russian delegation, met yesterday with Latvian parliamentary speaker Alfreds Cepanis, who said Vakulenko threatened economic sanctions against Riga if the situation does not change. Delegates also said the Duma may not ratify a border treaty between Russia and Latvia if the situation of ethnic Russians does not improve. LITHUANIAN DEPUTIES FORM GROUP FOR TIES WITH RUSSIA. Lithuanian lawmakers have set up a group to establish parliamentary ties with Russia, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. The group will be headed by Arvidas Vijunas of the ruling Conservative Party. Until now, the legislature had no group for parliamentary contacts with Russia. Meanwhile, Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas says he is ready to make an official visit to Moscow but only on condition that the border with Russia is delimited beforehand. The next round of talks on the Lithuanian-Russian border are due to begin shortly. BALTIC DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET IN DENMARK. German Defense Minister Volker Ruhe, Polish Defense Minister Stanislaw Dobrzanski, and Danish Defense Minister Hans Haekkerup arrived in Skagen, Denmark, yesterday for a bi- annual meeting to discuss military cooperation, Polish media reported. Their talks are focusing on training exchanges and joint maneuvers. German and Danish defense cooperation with Poland is outside the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace. The Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian defense ministers are joining the three-day meeting today to discuss multilateral cooperation. EU WANTS CZECH GOVERNMENT TO RESPOND TO CRITICISM OF IMPORT DEPOSITS. The European Commission expects Prague to respond formally by 12 May to the commission┘s negative stance on the recent introduction in the Czech Republic of import deposits, a commission spokesman told journalists in Brussels yesterday. The Czech government decided two weeks ago that importers of selected consumer goods and foodstuffs must first deposit money with a Czech bank, which they will be allowed to collect only after six months. The commission says it does not think the trade deficit in the Czech Republic is so critical as to warrant the introduction of import deposits. It added that the deposits are ´incompatible└ with the association agreement between the Czech Republic and EU. ANOTHER CAR EXPLOSION IN SLOVAKIA. A car with foreign license plates exploded in the central Slovak town of Zilina yesterday, Slovak media reported. It was the 37th car explosion in Slovakia so far this year. No one was injured in the blast. A policeman died after a bomb planted in his car exploded in Zilina on 28 April. Less than a week later, another policeman was shot to death in front of his flat in Bratislava's Petrzalka housing estate. The so-called Slovak Secret Army has claimed responsibility for the killings, but most observers believe the murders were committed by criminal gangs. The Slovak government last week offered a 1 million koruny reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the explosions. HUNGARIAN CABINET PROPOSES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS ON REFERENDA. The government yesterday proposed amending the constitution to double the number of signatures needed for a referendum from 100,000 to 200,000, Hungarian media reported. But only 100,000 signatures would suffice if the initiative were approved by the parliament. A referendum could. also take place if proposed either by the president, the government, or one-third of deputies and then approved by the parliament. Referenda on obligations resulting from international treaties, the dissolution of parliament, and the government's program would be banned under the proposed amendments. CRACKDOWN ON ORGANIZED CRIME IN HUNGARY. Prime Minister Gyula Horn and Interior Minister Gabor Kuncze say police are currently investigating some 150 mostly fictitious companies and some 200 individuals, Hungarian media reported. They told journalists yesterday that it is hoped the operation will be a turning point in the struggle against organized crime. Horn added that some members of the police and the customs office are suspected of links to organized crime and that the "necessary measures" have been taken against them. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE UNHCR BLASTS ITALIAN DEPORTATIONS OF ALBANIAN REFUGEES. A UN refugee affairs official said in Geneva yesterday that persons fleeing Albania should not be sent back before they have had a chance to present their case. She added that "the UNHCR remains against interdiction on the high seas and arbitrary return of people currently fleeing." Meanwhile in Rome, an Italian Interior Ministry spokesman said his country has so far deported 2,712 Albanians as "undesirables." This is about one-fifth of the total number of Albanians who have arrived in Italy this year. ALBANIAN UPDATE. Franz Vranitzky, the OSCE's chief envoy to Albania, arrives in Tirana today to try to break the deadlock that is holding up plans for early elections in June (see RFE/RL Newsline, 6 May 1997). Meanwhile in Vlora, a bomb destroyed government welfare offices yesterday. In Elbasan, thieves stole flour from an international aid depot. And in a town south of Tirana, three people were killed when a drunk boarded a bus and set off a grenade. Unofficial tallies put the death toll in violence across Albania since early this year at about 700. CROATIA'S TUDJMAN CALLS FOR DEMILITARIZED FRONTIER. President Franjo Tudjman says he wants the border area between Croatia, Hungary, and federal Yugoslavia demilitarized, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. Tudjman was speaking yesterday in Zagreb with Jacques Klein, the UN's top administrator in eastern Slavonia. Tudjman also noted that the Croatian Constitution permits dual citizenship and that he favors an agreement with Belgrade on cross-border traffic. Klein had earlier called for demilitarizing the border and for other confidence-building measures. Belgrade and Croatian Serb leaders seek dual Croatian and Yugoslav citizenship for Croatian Serbs. But Croatian officials have not endorsed the idea, pointing out that Yugoslavia does not grant its ethnic Croats or Albanians the right to dual citizenship. BOSNIAN SERB TO APPEAL WAR CRIMES VERDICT. Lawyers for Dusan Tadic say he will appeal his conviction for crimes against humanity and torture. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia found him guilty today on 11 counts dating from 1992, when he worked as a guard at the Prijedor concentration camp. The court acquitted him on 13 charges of murder. This is the first conviction of an indicted war criminal by the tribunal. Most indicted war criminals, including all major ones, are still free. BOSNIAN LOCAL ELECTION UPDATE. Many Bosnian Serb refugees living in federal Yugoslavia are afraid they will lose their legal rights to remain in that country if they register to vote in the Bosnian local elections slated for September. Some observers consequently expect that only 50,000 of the 200,000 refugees will join in the ongoing registration process, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 5 May from Belgrade. U.S. SAYS NO TO KOSOVO ELECTIONS. Richard Miles, the U.S. charge d'affaires in Belgrade, told Kosovar shadow- state President Ibrahim Rugova in Pristina yesterday that Washington "has never supported the idea of elections for a separate parliament in Kosovo." Rugova wants to call legislative elections with foreign monitors soon because the underground parliament's mandate runs out later this month. The international community has been stressing to the Kosovars recently that their future is within Serbia and not in an independent state or a greater Albania. Diplomats have also been urging the Kosovars to take part in Serbian political life as a means of promoting democracy throughout federal Yugoslavia. LJUBLJANA NOT READY FOR RELATIONS WITH BELGRADE. Government spokesman Ivo Vajgl told state radio in Ljubljana yesterday that it is unlikely Slovenia and federal Yugoslavia will establish diplomatic relations in the near future. Serbian opposition leader Zoran Djindjic said in the same program that the main obstacle to setting up formal ties between the two former Yugoslav republics is the "stubborn Serbian bureaucracy." Belgrade insists that federal Yugoslavia is the sole legal successor to Tito's Yugoslavia, while the other republics want a division of former federal assets among all six ex-Yugoslav republics. MACEDONIA INDICTS TWO MAYORS OVER FLAG- HOISTING. The Interior Ministry filed charges in Gostivar on 5 May against the mayors and some other officials of the predominantly Albanian towns of Gostivar and Tetovo, Macedonian media reported yesterday. The accused allegedly ordered the Albanian flag to be flown from public buildings during recent holidays. In some areas the Turkish flag was also hoisted in contravention of laws on displaying foreign symbols. Macedonian media say that Radio Tirana subsequently defended and encouraged the display of the Albanian flag on Macedonian territory. BULGARIA'S NEW PARLIAMENT CONVENES. The new parliament is convening today for the first time. Earlier this week, Ivan Kostov, the leader of the United Democratic Forces (ODS) and the most likely candidate for premier, held separate consultations with leaders of the other parliamentary groups to discuss a multi-party "Declaration of National Consensus" on the stabilization of the national currency and proposed economic reform. The declaration, as envisaged by the ODS, endorses the IMF recommendation for a currency board controlling monetary policy, supports the opening of the former secret police files on political leaders and judges, and backs the bid to join NATO and the EU. Georgi Parvanov, the leader of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) said his formation supports most of the declaration's points but noted that the BSP remains opposed to NATO membership. He said his party will make its own proposals on opening secret police files. FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE SCANDAL IN ROMANIA. President Emil Constantinescu says he has dismissed two deputy directors of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) for leaking information to the National Peasant Party--Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and the Democratic Party (PD). Both parties are members of the ruling coalition. Constantinescu told RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau yesterday that Gen. Constantin Silinescu and Gen. Dumitru Ciobanu leaked the information "recently" and not during the 1996 election campaign, as was claimed last month by the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania. Constantinescu added he sees no reason to dismiss SIE director Ioan Talpes, who, he said, was not involved in leaking the information and whose "performance is good." Ion Diaconescu and Petre Roman, the leaders of the PNTCD and the PD, had denied that SIE information had been leaked to their parties. ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN BONN. Victor Babiuc says Romania's geo-strategic position in the Balkan region and on the Black Sea makes it "an important communication link" between NATO's southern and northern tiers, German media reported. Babiuc, who is in Bonn at the invitation of his German counterpart, Volker Ruhe, told the Friedrich Ebert Foundation yesterday that his country's admission to NATO would improve the organization's security and reduce Romania's own defense costs. Babiuc is currently touring several West European countries in a bid to improve Romania's chances of NATO membership. His next two stops are Norway and Holland. FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON TREATY WITH UKRAINE. Ion Iliescu, the former president and the current leader of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, says Foreign Minister Adrian Severin should attach a "letter of clarification" to the treaty with Ukraine before it is signed in order to prevent "some of [its] grave consequences," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported yesterday. Iliescu was speaking after a meeting between President Emil Constantinescu and opposition representatives to discuss the treaty. Iliescu said the letter should "make explicit" the condemnation of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and that the signing ceremony should take place after the Madrid July summit on NATO enlargement to avoid the impression that the treaty is being signed under pressure. At the same time, he stressed the PDSR will vote in favor of the treaty. CIS COMMISSION ON TRANSDNIESTER BEGINS WORK IN MOLDOVA. A CIS Parliamentary Assembly commission headed by Vasilii Likhachev, deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council, started its work in Moldova yesterday, Infotag reported. Mihai Laur, the Moldovan member of the commission, told ITAR-TASS that the commission backs the idea of granting "large economic powers" to the Tiraspol authorities within the framework of the envisaged accord on a special status for the region. But he emphasized that "political decisions" must be taken in Chisinau alone. At Moldova's request, the commission was set up in March 1996 to help find a settlement to the Transdniestrian conflict. Meanwhile in Moscow, Moldovan presidential adviser Anatol Taranu said Russia and Ukraine must make explicit declarations guaranteeing Moldova's territorial integrity at tomorrow's signing of the memorandum on the settlement of the conflict between Chisinau and Tiraspol, Mediafax reports. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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