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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/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT CRITICIZES TREATY WITH ROMANIA * SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON REFERENDUM * ALBANIA FACES NEW POLITICAL CRISIS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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