Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends. - Benjamin Disraeli 1804-1881
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 1, No. 30, Part II, 14 May 1997


Vol. 1, No. 30, Part II, 14 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/

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Headlines, Part II

* UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT CRITICIZES TREATY WITH
ROMANIA

* SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON
REFERENDUM

* ALBANIA FACES NEW POLITICAL CRISIS

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT CRITICIZES TREATY WITH
ROMANIA. The Ukrainian parliament has criticized the
Ukrainian-Romanian Treaty on Cooperation and Good
Neighborly Relations, which was initialed on 3 May, Interfax
reported yesterday. Deputies said the treaty deviates
from Ukraine's foreign-policy concept of protecting the
country's sovereignty and territorial integrity. They asked
the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry yesterday to explain why
the treaty was signed. In particular, the parliament is
concerned that the Foreign Ministry might have exceeded
its powers by making concessions to Romania on Serpents
Island. The treaty states that no offensive weapons can be
placed on the island. Meanwhile, President Leonid Kuchma
starts a three-day official visit to the U.S. capital today.

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS FINED. Semyon
Sharetsky, a former speaker of the disbanded parliament,
has been fined 5 million Belarusian rubles ($190) for taking
part in an illegal anti-government rally, Belarusian media
reported. Alexander Bragin, the chairman of the court that
fined Sharetsky, told journalists that Sharetsky said after
the verdict he does not feel guilty in front of his country
and the people. Scores of people were clubbed, beaten, and
detained during the 15 March demonstration in Minsk, which
was organized to mark the anniversary of Belarus's
constitution and to protest President Alyaksandr
Lukashenka's authoritarian rule. Opposition leader Valery
Shchukin, also a member of the disbanded parliament, was
recently convicted of organizing the rally. He was fined
22.5 million Belarusian rubles ($850).

ESTONIAN ROUNDUP. At a closed session yesterday, the
government voted to scrap the post of European affairs
minister and to name Andra Veidemann, the holder of that
post until now, as minister for ethnic relations, ETA
reported. The move follows Prime Minister Mart Siimann's
decision to assume responsibility himself for issues
related to European integration. Veidemann is tasked with
finding solutions to inter-ethnic problems. Some 30% of
the population is non-Estonian, most of whom are Russian
speakers from the CIS. Also yesterday, the parliament
voted in favor of including a total ban on tobacco
advertisements in an advertising bill, which is due to go
into effect next year. Economics Committee chairman Tiit
Made and parliamentary speaker Toomas Savi proposed the
motion during a second reading of the bill.

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT INCREASES STATE BUDGET.
The Latvian government has passed amendments to this
year's state budget increasing revenues and expenditures
by 35 million lats (some $65 million) each, BNS reported
yesterday. Finance Ministry officials told journalists in
Riga yesterday that despite the planned changes, the
budget will remain balanced. Revenues will be raised
through increased resources from the State Property
Privatization Fund and will be used to finance several
investment projects.

POLAND TO PRIVATIZE TELECOMMUNICATIONS. Polish
Telecommunications Minister Andrzej Zielinski told
journalists in Warsaw yesterday that the government will
sell a minority share in its state-owned
telecommunications company, Telekomunikacja Polska SA.
The government will likely start offering shares in the
middle of next year on the domestic and foreign stock
exchanges. The sale is intended to increase the company's
existing capital by some 15%, thereby helping to
modernize Poland's aging telephone network. Zilelinski
also said the government plans to introduce competition in
domestic long-distance telephone services as of January
1999. This would end Telekomunikacja Polska's monopoly
and allow other operators to build networks to expand
Poland's telephone infrastructure.

CZECH PRESIDENT IN U.S. TO DISCUSS NATO. Vaclav
Havel arrived yesterday in the U.S. for talks on the
timetable and prospects of NATO's expansion. Havel told
journalists before his departure he wants not only to lobby
for the Czech Republic but also to discuss in general the
meaning of the Alliance and the principles of a new
European security system. Havel also said that the
European Statesman Award he will receive in New York
later this week is for him part of the "psychological pre-
conditions for the political integration of Europe". Havel is
to share the award, presented by the Institute for East-
West Studies, with German President Roman Herzog for the
Czech-German reconciliation accord, signed earlier this
year.

SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON
REFERENDUM. The Constitutional Court has rejected a
government request to rule whether the constitution can
be changed by a referendum. A court official told CTK today
that since the government is not permitted by law to take
part in calling a referendum, it cannot participate in a
dispute over the interpretation of the basic law. Premier
Vladimir Meciar's government made the request in
connection with the 23-24 May referendum on direct
presidential elections, which Slovak President Michal
Kovac called after receiving a petition organized by the
opposition. The government says a referendum cannot
change the constitution.

SLOVAK PREMIER'S PARTY WANTS EARLY ELECTIONS.
Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a
Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), the main party in Slovakia, has
submitted a proposal to the parliament to shorten the
current legislature's term by four months. The HZDS wants
the next parliamentary elections to be held in June 1998.
The last parliamentary elections took place in early fall
1994. The government coalition does not have the three-
fifths majority of deputies needed to pass a constitutional
amendment on calling early elections.  The HZDS says the
parliamentary election should be brought forward because
presidential elections are scheduled for next spring and
local elections for next fall.

SLOVAK PREMIER MEETS OPPOSITION LEADER TO
DISCUSS EU. Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Jan
Carnogursky, speaking to journalists after his meeting
yesterday with Meciar, said the prime minister told him
that Slovakia might not be invited to talks on EU
membership because of unsolved domestic issues. The two
leaders subsequently agreed that Slovakia's major
political parties should meet to discuss Slovakia's internal
political problems after the May parliamentary session.
Leaders of other parliamentary parties had mixed
reactions to the idea of the meeting of major parties. Some
called the initiative ill-concieved, while others have
welcomed it.

SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S SON WILL NOT GET BACK HIS
PASSPORT. The Supreme Court ruled has ruled that Michal
Kovac junior, the son of the president, will not get back his
passport. Kovac was stripped of his passport last year
when he was on his way to Munich to be questioned about
his alleged participation in a fraudulent scheme against the
Slovak Technopol company. A Munich state attorney had
issued an arrest warrant for him. The Supreme Court says
Kovac is being prosecuted for fraud in Slovakia and that
the investigation in Slovakia takes precedence because he
is a Slovak citizen. Kovac's lawyer says he will turn to the
Slovak Constitutional Court. Kovac was kidnapped in
September 1995 by unknown assailants and taken to
Austria. A Vienna court later ruled against a German
extradition request, saying Kovac was taken to Austria by
force.

ESTONIAN PRESIDENT IN BUDAPEST. Lennart Meri met
with his Hungarian counterpart, Arpad Goncz, in the
Hungarian capital yesterday to discuss the promotion of
business and cultural ties, Estonian and Hungarian media
reported. The two leaders underscored the need to sign
agreements on protecting investments and avoiding
double taxation. Meri and Goncz also pledged to support
each other's aspirations to join the EU and NATO.
Addressing the Hungarian parliament, Meri stressed that
aspiring members of the EU and NATO want to be
"providers, not simply consumers, of security." This is the
first visit to Hungary by an Estonian head of state since the
Baltic State regained independence in 1990.

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

ALBANIA FACES NEW POLITICAL CRISIS. The future of
both the broad-based coalition government and the 29
June elections is unclear today as the Socialists and other
opponents of President Sali Berisha's Democratic Party
(PD) meet to discuss their course of action. Some media
reports from Tirana suggest that at least the Socialists
have already decided to boycott the vote. Berisha, for his
part, announced this morning that the election will go
ahead as scheduled. The crisis follows the parliament's
passage yesterday of the PD's draft election law without
consulting other parties or international mediators. Details
of the law have not been made public, but observers say
the text is unlikely to meet opposition demands for
proportional representation, free access to the media, and
changes in a law barring former communists and police
informers from office. The Socialists and other opposition
parties had earlier threatened to boycott the elections
unless those points are included in a new law.

U.S., OSCE BLAST ALBANIAN ELECTION LAW. State
Department spokesman Nicholas Burns slammed the law,
saying its passage violates the principle of consensus on
which the current Albanian government is based. Franz
Vranitzky, the OSCE's chief mediator for Albania, said the
Democrats "introduced into the parliament [their own]
election bill without consulting the other Albanian parties
and the OSCE." He added that the PD thereby violated an
earlier agreement on maintaining a consensus. Meanwhile,
Berisha praised the new law, saying that it meets European
norms. He also chided the opposition over their threats to
boycott the vote.

CROATIA MOVES TO MEND FENCES WITH U.S., BOSNIA.
President Franjo Tudjman's office announced in Zagreb
yesterday that Foreign Minister Mate Granic and
Development Minister Jure Radic will lead a delegation to
Washington tomorrow. The Croats will review bilateral
relations with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, an
RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital.
The move follows a meeting of Tudjman's Council for
Defense and National Security to discuss President Bill
Clinton's recent tough letter to his Croatian counterpart
(see RFE/RL Newsline, 13 May 1997). Also yesterday,
Tudjman sent his special envoy Franjo Greguric to Sarajevo
to discuss implementing the Dayton agreement with
presidency members Alija Izetbegovic and Kresimir Zubak.

MONTENEGRIN PRIME MINISTER WINS A ROUND
AGAINST MILOSEVIC... The steering committee of
governing Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) has
unanimously re-elected Milo Djukanovic as party vice
president, Nasa Borba reported yesterday. State President
Momir Bulatovic and other backers of Serbian President
Slobodan Milosevic have been trying to undercut the prime
minister, who favors more autonomy for Montenegro. Many
observers think that Djukanovic's faction within the
Montenegrin leadership may block Milosevic from assuming
the federal presidency later this year. Djukanovic built up
his wealth and power through sanctions-busting during the
international community's blockade of federal Yugoslavia
in the course of the Croatian and Bosnian wars.

...BUT BULATOVIC WANTS LAST WORD. President
Bulatovic told Montenegrin TV last night, however, that
Milosevic will have Montenegro's backing should he seek
the federal presidency. The Montenegrin president added
that the DPS will in any event back the presidential
candidate of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, an
RFE/RL correspondent reported from Podgorica. The show
of support for Djukanovic within the DPS and Bulatovic's
latest statement suggest tensions will continue within the
party and the parliament.

NEWS FROM AROUND FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. The trial
opens in Zagreb today of Croatian employees of George
Soros's Open Society Foundation on charges of tax evasion
and violation of currency laws. Soros' organization in New
York called yesterday for international condemnation of
Croatia. In Skopje, Macedonian officials said that two
Albanians were killed and two Macedonian border guards
wounded when 100 Albanian refugees tried to enter
Macedonia near Gostivar. And in the Serbian capital, Nasa
Borba reports today that a strike of medical and social
personnel seeking unpaid wages has entered its third day
and is spreading throughout the country.

KOSTOV NAMED BULGARIAN PREMIER. President Petar
Stoyanov today officially asked Ivan Kostov, the leader of
the United Democratic Forces alliance, to form the next
government. Kostov is scheduled later today to fly to
Germany. He will be accompanied by interim Foreign
Minister Stoyan Stalev. Outgoing caretaker Prime Minister
Stefan Sofiyanski, who began a visit to Germany yesterday,
is discussing projects that include rebuilding Sofia airport
and constructing new hotels and roads. An RFE/RL Sofia
correspondent reported that Sofiyanski will also confer
with Deutsche Telekom about the privatization of
Bulgaria's state-owned telecommunications company.

ROMANIA AMENDS LAND OWNERSHIP BILL. The
government yesterday approved a draft law amending the
land ownership bill to provide for the restoration of
ownership of nationalized agricultural land incorporated
into State Agricultural Enterprises (IAS) by the
Communists. The previous version of the bill, passed under
former President Ion Iliescu, provided for the restitution
of land incorporated into agricultural cooperatives but
excluded land incorporated into IASs. Under the amended
bill, ownership cannot exceed 10 hectares and restitution
applies only to original owners and their first-generation
inheritors. Romanian citizens residing abroad are eligible
to claim back property. The parliament has yet to approve
the bill.

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS OPPOSITION
MOTION. The Chamber of Deputies yesterday rejected an
opposition motion criticizing the Ministry of
Transportation's intention to impose a road-use tax on all
vehicles. At a press conference, Adrian Nastase, the
deputy chairman of the main opposition formation, the
Party of Social Democracy in Romania, accused the cabinet
of "improvising" and "lacking a clear strategy" in
implementing economic reform. Nastase also protested
the intention of the ruling coalition to change the
procedure for lifting parliamentary immunity, saying it
showed the government wanted to "politically cleanse" the
legislature.

OBSTACLE TO ROMANIAN LIBERAL PARTIES' PLANS TO
UNIFY. Ion Diaconescu, the chairman of the Democratic
Convention of Romania (CDR), says the planned unification
of three liberal (centrist) parties cannot go ahead without
the approval of the CDR. A wing of the National Liberal
Party-Democratic Convention (PNL-CD) led by Nicolae
Cerveni, the Liberal Party '93, and the National Liberal
Party-Campeanu announced last weekend their intention to
merge in June. The two last-named parties are not
members of the CDR alliance, while the PNL-CD has split
over the planned unification. The anti-Cerveni wing, led by
PNL-CD senator Alexandru Popovici, has the unofficial
backing of the CDR leadership. Diaconescu warned that no
CDR member party can merge with parties outside the CDR
without endangering its membership in the alliance.

TRANSDNIESTRIAN LEADER WANTS RELATIONS WITH
CHISINAU BASED ON RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN TIES. Igor
Smirnov says relations between the breakaway
Transdniester region and Chisinau should be based on the
example of "the emerging union between Russia and
Belarus." Smirnov told a news conference in Tiraspol
yesterday that the Chisinau-Tiraspol memorandum signed
last week in Moscow views Moldova and the Transdniester
as "two independent states that must build a common
entity" without either side forfeiting "any rights." He said
each side must have its own "armed forces, currency, and
state symbols," Infotag reported. Smirnov said the
Transdniester will have its own constitution and "the right
to maintain international relations in scientific, cultural,
technological, and other fields." Above all, he said, the
Transdniester will be able to maintain separate economic
ties with other states.

MOLDOVAN REACTIONS TO CHISINAU-TIRASPOL
MEMORANDUM. Left-wing forces in Moldova have
welcomed the signing of the memorandum, while right-wing
groups criticize the move, Infotag and BASA-press
reported yesterday. The Movement for Democratic and
Prosperous Moldova, which supports President Petru
Lucinschi, says the document preserves the country's
sovereignty, territorial integrity, and unity. The Party of
Moldovan Communists views the signing of the
memorandum as a "victory of common sense over hostility,
offense, and mistrust." At the other end of the political
spectrum, the Moldovan National Peasant Party says the
document infringes on the country's independence,
constitution, and efforts toward European integration. It
argues that the driving force behind the memorandum is a
group promoting "the country's colonization by Russia."
Other right-wing parties have similarly criticized the
memorandum.

END NOTE

EASTERN EUROPE'S HEALTH IN CRISIS

by Kitty McKinsey

        An epidemic is sweeping Eastern Europe. Citizens of
the former communist countries--especially middle-aged
men--are dying in staggering numbers from cardiovascular
diseases, lung cancer, and cirrhosis of the liver. In most of
these countries, life expectancy is dropping sharply
because of the rise of diseases that are largely
preventable and mostly self-induced.
        A few figures illustrate the catastrophic situation in
Eastern Europe. According to the World Bank and the World
Health Organization, in Hungary the prevalence of cancer in
males is the highest ever recorded in the world. Also in
Hungary, where every fifth male is considered to be an
alcoholic, the rate of cirrhosis of the liver is 14 times that
of Sweden, which also has a reputation for heavy drinking.
In Poland, lung cancer kills half of all Polish men who die
before reaching 65. In both Bulgaria and Romania, life
expectancy at birth has been declining since 1989.
        The trend began some years ago but has become more
pronounced in most of these countries since the collapse
of communism in 1989 and the transition to market
economies. In fact, the marked decline in life expectancy,
especially in countries like Hungary and Russia, caused the
British magazine The Economist to ask in an article last
year, "Is capitalism lethal?"
        On the contrary, say experts on health in the region.
They argue that the epidemic of chronic diseases is a
legacy of the communist system, which made huge strides
in controlling infectious diseases like tuberculosis but
failed to address the more recent causes of killer
diseases, namely, individual lifestyles. Bad habits--such as
excessive smoking, drinking, and unhealthy diet--persist
in most countries of the region.
        Experts point out that the former communist
countries face a double burden of having to fight an
explosion of disease with less money. The public health
establishment in former communist countries is still
struggling to recover from the collapse of the command
economy and the switch to the market. The public health
systems and the medical establishments can no longer
count on government subsidies, and some countries--like
Bulgaria--are facing gaps in basic medical services.
        The root of the problem lies in the approach of the
communist system to health care. As in many other fields,
the communists stressed quantity over quality. Emphasis
was placed on providing ever more hospital beds and
training ever more doctors. Little regard was paid to the
overall state of health of the population. The surviving old
system is largely ineffective in combating modern
diseases caused by unhealthy lifestyles. The challenge now
for the former communist countries is to treat the huge
numbers of sick people with funds that are no longer
increasing or, in many cases, are decreasing.
        Most of the countries in Eastern Europe have come to
understand that they can no longer afford the large health
system that they have had. However, so far, little has been
done in most Eastern European countries toward effective
restructuring of the system or toward making the switch
from preferring quality over quantity in the provision of
health care.
        Observers say that Eastern European countries must
take major steps toward disease prevention and health
education--banning cigarette smoking, getting people to
exercise more, encouraging healthier diets--with money
saved by cutting hospital beds and laying off some doctors.
But such a program has proven difficult to sell to the public
and especially to doctors who would lose their jobs.
Experts agree that the reform of the region's health-care
systems is likely to a very long process.





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