|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
Vol. 1, No. 28, Part II, 12 May 1997
Vol. 1, No. 28, Part II, 12 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/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * UKRAINE, U.S. DISAGREE OVER SHORT-RANGE MISSILES * REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN BEGINS IN SLOVAKIA * FATE OF ALBANIAN ELECTION PACT UNCERTAIN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE, U.S. DISAGREE OVER SHORT-RANGE MISSILES. Volodymir Horbulin, the secretary of the Ukrainian Security Council, told reporters in Kyiv on 10 May that Ukraine cannot accept new U.S. demands that would restrict the production and use of tactical missiles in the country. The demands were made as a condition for Ukraine's joining a 25-state nuclear nonproliferation treaty called the Multilateral Missile Technology Control Regime. Horbulin argued that Ukraine, as a space technology country, cannot give up the right to produce and use missiles that are not linked to the agreement on medium- range missiles. He said the issue will be discussed during President Leonid Kuchma's visit to Washington next week. BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT PRAISES UNION CHARTER WITH RUSSIA. Alyaksandr Lukashenka says a committee revising the union charter with Russia has resolved several complicated issues but still has to deal with two unspecified matters. Lukashenka spoke to journalists in Minsk yesterday. The previous day, he said on Russian TV that he was displeased with the latest version of the charter, adding that Russia is not prepared for union with Belarus. Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Lukashenka are expected to sign the final charter agreement on 23 May. Meanwhile, at a Victory Day ceremony in Minsk on 9 May, Lukashenka said Belarus does not need anyone else's assessments or instructions. ESTONIA CRACKS DOWN ON RUSSIAN-SPEAKING OFFICIALS WITH POOR KNOWLEDGE OF ESTONIAN. The Justice Ministry on 9 May called for criminal proceedings to be launched against two Russian-speaking judges from the northeastern towns of Narva and Kohtla-Jarve, BNS reported. The move came two days after the state prosecutor dismissed four Russian-speaking district attorneys in the northeast of the country for inadequate knowledge of Estonian and for possessing false Estonian- language proficiency certificates. Under Estonian law, state officials must have Estonian citizenship, for which the most important requirement is elementary Estonian. Also on 9 May, a second list of former KGB informers was published in the government's official journal, Riigi Teataja.. The secret police is required to reveal the names of those informers who failed to report their role by 1 April 1996. LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT. Vytautas Landsbergis has been named as the presidential candidate of the ruling Homeland Union, BNS reported on 10 May. A former music professor who played a key role in Lithuania's drive for independence from the Soviet Union, Landsbergis was nominated by unanimous vote at a party conference in Vilnius. Last year, he helped the party remove the former communists from power in the December parliamentary elections. Incumbent President Algirdas Brazauskas, the former head of the communist party, has said he will not decide whether to run until the fall, when the presidential election campaign is due to begin. Meanwhile, Brazauskas today begins a four- day official visit to Japan, Interfax reported. POLISH PRESIDENT UNDER FIRE OVER DRAFT CONSTITUTION. Former Prime Minister Jan Olszewski claims that Aleksander Kwasniewski is deceiving the nation over the constitutional referendum scheduled for later this month, PAP reported. Olszewski, who is the leader of the Reconstruction of Poland movement (ROP), told a news conference yesterday that a letter from Kwasniewski that is being sent to citizens along with the new draft constitution is "manipulative propaganda designed to mislead citizens." In that letter, the draft is called the "Constitution of the Republic of Poland." But, as Olszewski pointed out, it will become law only if approved in the 25 May referendum. Olszewski said Kwasniewski was misleading the public by failing to state that the document was only a draft. Meanwhile, Kwasniewski has expressed dismay at the Catholic bishops' statement that the draft constitution raises "serious moral objections." POLISH PREMIER APPOINTS EU INTEGRATION ADVISORY COUNCIL. Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 9 May appointed a council to advise the government during preparations for accession talks with the EU, Polish media reported. The 68-member council includes chiefs of all caucuses, heads of employers' groups, business executives, economists, academics, well-known journalists, and cultural experts. CZECH PRESIDENT ON UPCOMING U.S. TRIP. Vaclav Havel said in his regular radio address yesterday that his working visit to the U.S., which begins tomorrow, takes place at a time when there is significant opposition to NATO expansion among U.S. senators and congressmen. Noting that NATO will decide at its Madrid summit in July about admitting new members, he said the issue is of key importance for the Czech Republic. Havel remarked that another reason for his trip is to receive the European Statesman Award, together with German President Roman Herzog. The award is being given to the two leaders in connection with the approval of the Czech-German declaration, which is regarded as a step toward reconciliation between the two states. REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN BEGINS IN SLOVAKIA. A 10- day campaign leading up to the 23-24 May referendum on Slovakia's NATO membership and direct presidential elections began yesterday. Slovak TV and Radio began broadcasting campaign slots by various political parties the same day. Slovak President Michal Kovac, speaking on Slovak Radio on 10 May, urged citizens to vote in favor of NATO membership. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar said on Slovak Radio the previous day that the referendum question on direct presidential elections will be unnecessary if the Constitutional Court rules that the constitution cannot be changed through a plebiscite. He also noted that U.S. criticism of the pace of democratic reform in his country is based on a "misunderstanding." UPDATE ON SCANDALS INVOLVING HUNGARIAN SOCIALIST DEPUTIES. Judit Csehak, deputy prime minister in Hungary's last communist government, has admitted that, as a member of the former Hungarian Socialist Worker's Party's politburo, she had access to state security reports, Hungarian dailies report today. Csehak, who spoke after the results of an investigation carried out by a screening panel were made public, said "there is no fact I should be ashamed of and which I could not make public." Those subject to the screening process may either resign or face public scrutiny in the courts, but Csehak has not resigned her position as deputy. In other news, Socialist deputy Gabor Kiss, who has been implicated in a recent intelligence office scandal (see RFE/RL Newsline, 18 April 1997), pledged to quit public life at the end of the current legislature, Vilaggazdasag reports. He said the scandal has put him in a "morally untenable" position. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE FATE OF ALBANIAN ELECTION PACT UNCERTAIN. Leaders of Albania's Salvation Committees met in Vlora yesterday and praised the election agreement brokered by OSCE envoy Franz Vranitzky on 9 May. But they said that only a larger meeting scheduled for the end of this week can decide whether to disband the committees. Under the 9 May agreement, the committees must dissolve themselves by 14 May and the parliament must pass a new election law today enabling President Sali Berisha to sign a decree by 15 May that confirms elections will be held on 29 June. The opposition wants the law to increase the number of seats elected by proportional representation so that smaller parties will have chance to enter the parliament. Meanwhile in Tirana yesterday, some 10 assailants beat up Social Democratic leader Skender Gjinushi. ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER IN WASHINGTON. Bashkim Fino arrived in the U.S. capital yesterday to discuss the situation in Albania with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. En route to Washington, Fino met in Rome with his Italian counterpart, Romano Prodi. The ministers of foreign affairs, defense, and justice also make up the Albanian delegation. Meanwhile in Tirana, Italian Defense Minister Beniamino Andreatta on Friday repeated his opposition to expanding the mandate of Operation Alba, which, he said, would lead to clashes with armed gangs. BALKAN PYRAMID SCHEME UPDATE. The Albanian parliament on 9 May passed legislation regulating pyramid investment schemes, ATA reported. The collapse of five such scams in January led to anarchy across much of the country. Four other pyramid investment companies are still operating but have stopped paying interest. Meanwhile in neighboring Macedonia, some 5,000 people demonstrated in Bitola on 9 May to demand government reimbursement for money lost in the collapse of the local TAT pyramid scheme. The authorities have promised partial reimbursement and started legal proceedings against key figures in the scam. CAN KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY UNDERMINE SERBIAN CONTROL? The clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) has the potential to disrupt Belgrade's grip on its mainly ethnic Albanian province, the New York Times wrote on 11 May, quoting U.S. intelligence officials. In his first-ever interview to Western journalists, the group's leader, who called himself "Alban," told the newspaper that the UCK is not a terrorist organization and is carrying out "attacks only against the representatives of the Serbian regime." Alban added that Serbian control of Kosovo will collapse in three years. In recent months, the UCK has increased the frequency and professionalism of its killings and is targeting primarily ethnic Albanians whom it considers to be collaborators. CROATIAN PRESIDENT NAMES ETHNIC SERBS TO PARLIAMENT. Franjo Tudjman on 10 May appointed ethnic Serbian political leaders Vojislav Stanimirovic and Jovan Bamburaca to the upper house, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. He also named writer Ivan Aralica, former central banker Pero Jurkovic, and presidential advisor Slobodan Lang among the five appointments he makes to the 68-seat body. Also in Zagreb, a team of foreign and Croatian doctors said yesterday that Tudjman is in "excellent health" and that his medical treatment is nearly over. The Croatian president visited a U.S. military hospital last November, which touched off speculation at home and abroad that he has terminal cancer. Meanwhile, the Croatian authorities announced today that direct presidential elections will take place on 15 June. CROATIAN OPPOSITION LEADER DENIES TREASON CHARGES. Pro-government dailies reported on 9 May that Stipe Mesic, an opposition politician and former confidant of Tudjman, has given extensive evidence to the Hague- based war crimes tribunal in which he betrayed both Tudjman and Croatia. The newspapers accused Mesic of telling the court that Tudjman and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic met frequently in the early 1990s to partition Bosnia-Herzegovina. Mesic told RFE/RL that he has never testified before the court but that he did speak to its representatives. He called the media campaign a "political lynching" that constitutes a threat against his life. BOSNIAN SERB, CROAT LEADERS MEET. Leading Bosnian Serb and Croat politicians met in Banja Luka on Saturday, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from there. Bozo Rajic represented the Croatian Democratic Community, while Aleksa Buha spoke for the Serbian Democratic Party. Neither the meeting nor its contents have been officially confirmed. Muslim leaders and international representatives have repeatedly warned the Serbs and Croats not to make any private deals. Meanwhile in The Hague, EU Commissioner Hans van den Broek told Dutch TV on 10 May that Bosnian refugees should not be sent home until indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic is caught. ROMANIAN PREMIER IN LUXEMBOURG, DEFENSE MINISTER IN NORWAY. Premier Victor Ciorbea met with his Belgian counterpart, Jean Claude Juncker, and bank officials during his visit to Luxembourg on 10 May. Minister for European Integration Alexandru Herlea, who accompanied Ciorbea, said in an interview with RFE/RL that Juncker fully endorsed Romania's bid for early NATO membership. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Victor Babiuc, who ended a two-day visit to Norway on 11 May, was unable to enroll Oslo's support for Romania's membership bid. He told Radio Bucharest that Norway has not yet "made up its mind" on which countries should be invited to join the enlarged NATO at the July Madrid summit. ROMANIAN ECONOMIC NEWS. World Bank President James Wolfensohn on 11 May began a two-day visit to Romania, where he will meet with President Emil Constantinescu, Premier Victor Ciorbea, and members of the government, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. On arriving, he said his visit is intended to "demonstrate the [bank's] support" for the Ciorbea cabinet. He said the loans the bank will grant "have not yet been decided on" but will now be "discussed in detail." In other news, the National Statistics Commission said on 9 May that inflation dropped from nearly 31% in March to 6.9% in April. But the annual rate of inflation has already reached 88.7% and is expected to be higher than the 90% forecast by the government. MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT TO RESTORE CEMETERY FOR ROMANIA'S WWII SOLDIERS. A commemorative plaque has been put up at a site in Moldova where some 12,000 Romanian and Russian soldiers who fell during World War II are buried, BASA-press and Radio Bucharest reported on 9 May. The former cemetery was leveled by Soviet bulldozers in 1944 and a cattle farm was set up on the site. The ceremony was attended by the Romanian and Russian military attaches in Chisinau, Gen. Gheorghe Secu and Gen. Sergei Buturev. BASA-Press said Moldovan Premier Ion Ciubuc and Romanian ambassador Gheorghe Dinu will visit the site this week, when Ciubuc will be traveling by car to Romania for an official visit. WORLD BANK APPROVES HUMANITARIAN LOAN FOR BULGARIA. The World Bank on 9 May approved a $40 million loan to Bulgaria for the immediate purchase of goods in short supply, such as medicine, wheat, and fuels. An RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported that the bank said the loan will support the first phase of the new government's program and is crucial for stopping and reversing the country's economic crisis. In other news, outgoing interim Premier Stefan Sofiyanski announced on 9 May that the country's telecommunications company and its cement industries are to be privatized. He said he hoped the telecommunications company will bring revenues of more than $ 1 billion. BULGARIA TO SEEK CHEAPER RUSSIAN GAS. The director-general of the state monopoly Bulgargas says the company will try to get Russian gas at cheaper prices. Vasil Filipov told a press conference in Sofia yesterday that the prices charged by Russia's Gazprom company rose "an unrealistic 24%" last year and that Bulgargas will try to obtain gas at cheaper prices from foreign firms that have loaned money to Gazprom and are accepting repayment in the form of gas deliveries. He said "Gazprom creditors offer us favorable prices and we will swing to such suppliers." xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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