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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 1, No. 31, Part II, 15 May1997


Vol. 1, No. 31, Part II, 15 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/

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Headlines, Part II

* REACTIONS TO RUSSIAN-NATO AGREEMENT

* UKRAINE, ARMENIA, GEORGIA ENDORSE CFE
AMENDMENTS

* ALBANIAN POLITICIANS STEP BACK FROM BRINK

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

REACTIONS TO RUSSIAN-NATO AGREEMENT. Czech
President Vaclav Havel told reporters in Washington that
he welcomes the Russian-NATO "founding act," signed in
Moscow yesterday. But he urged the U.S. to limit
concessions to Russia on future deployment of military
forces and equipment in new member states. Polish Foreign
Minister Dariusz Rosati said in Warsaw that his country
welcomes the agreement but will seek some form of
representation on the new council to be set up by Moscow
and NATO. Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn, speaking to
reporters in Germany, also welcomed the Russian-NATO
partnership deal. Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs
told reporters in Budapest he believed the agreement
would not create any difficulties for those countries that
wanted to join NATO. Slovak Foreign Minister Pavol Hamzik
said during a visit to Poland that he is satisfied with the
agreement. Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Severin told
Romanian Radio yesterday that Budapest hopes the
agreement refers only to relations between NATO and
Russia and not to the future of other countries, which, he
said, must be free to make their own choices.

BALTIC STATES CAUTIOUS ABOUT RUSSIAN-NATO
AGREEMENT. Lithuanian Parliamentary Chairman Vytautas
Landsbergis told journalists yesterday that his country--
as a prospective member of NATO--would like to see the
text of the Russian-NATO agreement before it is signed in
Paris on 27 May. A senior Latvian diplomat told Reuters
that "the very fact that NATO and Russia are cooperating is
good...so long as they do not use Baltic membership [in
NATO] as a bargaining chip." A spokesman for the Estonian
Foreign Ministry told journalists that "the fact that Russia
and NATO have made a step in developing their relations is
positive." Estonian President Lennart Meri, on a visit to
Hungary, said yesterday he was hopeful about the latest
Russia-NATO talks but urged the alliance to commit itself
to welcoming new East European members in future years.
He also said Russia was still "an evil empire" and called on
former Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact states to
challenge it.

DEMONSTRATION IN MINSK OVER PLANNED UNION
WITH RUSSIA. Several hundred people demonstrated in
Minsk yesterday to protest plans for a union between
Belarus and Russia, Reuters reported. Among those
addressing the crowd was former parliamentary chairman
Semyon Sharetsk, who lost his post when the parliament
was disbanded by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka after a
controversial referendum last November. A period of
public discussion on the planned union ends tomorrow, and
a union charter is due to be signed by Lukashenka and
Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 23 May. Meanwhile,
Yeltsin said yesterday on Russian TV that he favors a
complete merger of Russia with Belarus as the culmination
of the integration process between the two Slavic states.
He remarked that union would mean the two countries
would be "very close," to the point of "being a single state."

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN U.S. Leonid Kuchma arrived in
the U.S. yesterday on a three-day official. Together with
U.S. Vice President Al Gore, he will chair the first session
of a bilateral commission that is to discuss prospects for
the development of relations between the two countries.
Kuchma is also scheduled to meet with U.S. President Bill
Clinton, IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus, and World
Bank President James Wolfensohn. Meanwhile, U.S. State
Department spokesman Nicholas Burns says the NATO-
Russia agreement will not have a direct impact on a NATO
charter being negotiated with Ukraine. Burns says the U.S.
and NATO hope to establish a "singular" relationship with
Kyiv.

UKRAINE, ARMENIA, GEORGIA ENDORSE CFE
AMENDMENTS. Prior to his departure for Washington,
Kuchma told journalists that Ukraine has joined the so-
called Flank Agreement to the CFE treaty, Interfax
reported. The Armenian parliament also ratified the
agreement on 14 May, RFE/RL's Yerevan Bureau reported.
The agreement increases the number of troops and tanks
that Russia can deploy in the Caucasus and therefore
requires Armenia to cede part of its quota to Russia. The
Georgian parliament ratified the agreement on 13 May.
Previously, Ukraine, together with Moldova, Azerbaijan,
and Georgia, had expressed reservations about endorsing
the new limitations.

COUNCIL OF EUROPE WILL NOT SUSPEND UKRAINE. Leni
Fischer, the president of the Council of Europe's
Parliamentary Assembly, told reporters in Kyiv yesterday
that the suspension of Ukraine "is not on the [council's]
agenda," despite what she called Kyiv's inconsistent
progress toward abolishing the death penalty. The
Parliamentary Assembly warned Ukraine in January that it
might suspend Kyiv if it failed to keep its promise, made
when it joined the council two years ago, to end the death
penalty. The Justice Ministry says executions ceased that
month. Recently, Ukraine again pledged to abolish the
death penalty by signing Protocol Six of the European
Human Rights Convention. Kyiv reportedly put 169
criminals to death last year.

CRIMEAN TATARS DEMONSTRATE. About 250 Crimean
Tatars picketed the Council of Ministers building in
Simferopol yesterday, demanding the recognition of their
rights as a national minority of Ukraine and the right to
return to their homeland following forced deportation in
the Soviet era, dpa reported. In particular, the protesters
demanded the government grant Ukrainian citizenship,
jobs, housing, and equal educational rights for the Tatars,
many of whom recently returned from deportation in the
1940s. Organizers of the protest met with Arkadi
Demidenko, the chairman of the Crimean Council of
Ministers, who promised quick action.

POPULARITY OF CZECH PRIME MINISTER'S PARTY
DROPS SHARPLY. An opinion poll by the Institute for
Public Opinion Research, published in Czech media
yesterday, shows that Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic
Democratic Party (ODS) is now trailing the opposition
Social Democrats (CSSD) by 7%. The CSSD has the support
of 25% of the respondents and the ODS only 18%--a drop of
five percentage points since the last poll a month ago. The
Christian and Democratic Union of Deputy Prime Minister
Josef Lux came third with 14%, followed by the coalition
Civic Democratic Alliance with 10%. The only other party
that would pass the 5% electoral hurdle is the Communist
Party, with 6%.

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER SEES NO ALTERNATIVE TO
NATO MEMBERSHIP. Pavol Hamzik, speaking at a joint
session of the foreign committees of the bicameral Polish
parliament yesterday, said full-fledged membership in
NATO and the EU is the only possibility for Slovakia, Polish
and Slovak media reported. Commenting on the possibility
that Slovakia will be left out of the first wave of NATO
expansion, Hamzik said "we in Slovakia do not have the
feeling that we have not accomplished something. Slovakia
was in a more difficult position than the Czech Republic,
Poland, and Hungary, and we have still attained good
results in economic transformation." Hamzik told reporters
later that "the main political forces in the country favor
Slovakia's entry into NATO and that 54% of citizens support
it." He also met with President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

AGREEMENT ON U.S. TROOPS STATIONED IN HUNGARY.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs and U.S.
Ambassador to Budapest Donald Blinken yesterday signed
an agreement on the status of U.S. soldiers stationed on
Hungarian territory, Budapest dailies report. Kovacs said
the agreement is a compromise that breaches neither
Hungarian nor U.S. laws. Hungary is the first non-NATO
country to sign a comprehensive accord on the presence of
U.S. armed forces that have an IFOR/SFOR mandate.
However, once that mandate expires, the parliament will
have to pass separate resolutions on the presence of U.S.
troops in the country.

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

ALBANIAN POLITICIANS STEP BACK FROM BRINK. The
presidential spokeswoman said in Tirana yesterday that
Sali Berisha will hold off signing the decree on new
elections and the dissolution of the parliament until he
holds talks with the opposition. Socialist Prime Minister
Bashkim Fino is seeking to persuade anti-Berisha members
of the government and the parliament not to resign until it
is clear whether a deal to change Berisha's new election law
is indeed in the offing (see RFE/RL Newsline, 14 May 1997).
The opposition says it will boycott the 29 June vote unless
Berisha agrees to key changes in the law. Meanwhile, Franz
Vranitzky, the OSCE's special envoy for Albania, arrived in
Tirana today.

OTHER NEWS ON ALBANIA. Greek authorities briefly
closed the main border crossing to Albania at Kakavia
yesterday following a shoot-out on the Albanian side that
left three wounded. The Public Order Ministry in Athens
demanded that foreign troops patrol the Albanian side. In
Rome, the Italian government called an international
conference on aiding Albania for 18 June. In Vlora, a Greek
man became the first foreigner killed in the current chaos.
Earlier, the city's police chief resigned, saying "the police
are no longer able to ensure order." Armed gangs are out of
control in Vlora and have attacked the police station. And
in Tirana, the parliament passed a law allowing for
commercial radio and television stations. But it is unclear
whether this will lead to the loosening of state controls on
the electronic media, since a government commission will
decide who gets licenses.

ALBRIGHT TO STRESS DAYTON IMPLEMENTATION TO
CROATS... U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas
Burns says that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will
discuss implementing the Dayton accords today with
visiting Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from Washington yesterday. Burns
added that Albright will also raise with Granic reports that
Croatian authorities are putting Bosnian and Kosovar
Croats into the homes of Serbs in the Krajina region. He
said the U.S. is concerned that Zagreb has not taken the
steps necessary to facilitate the return of ethnic Serb
refugees.

...WHILE CROATIA REACTS DEFENSIVELY. In Zagreb, the
government announced that its new plan for the return of
refugees will effectively annul an earlier law that stripped
Serbian refugees of their property. The spokesman gave no
details. Meanwhile, Croatian pro-government media and
Croatian-U.S. organizations have complained recently that
articles on Croatian fascism, Serbian refugees' property,
and related topics in the New York Times are part of an
alleged U.S. campaign to discredit President Franjo
Tudjman's government.

GALA CELEBRATION FOR TUDJMAN'S BIRTHDAY. Some
750 guests took part in festivities in the Croatian National
Theater in Zagreb last night to mark Tudjman's 75th
birthday. Speakers especially extolled what they called
Tudjman's great role in Croatian history. This latest stage
in the personality cult surrounding Tudjman comes just
weeks before presidential elections, which he is expected
to win handily. In other news, the World Bank announced in
Washington yesterday that it will give Croatia a $95 million
loan to improve banking and speed up privatization.

BOSNIAN UPDATE. Croatian deputies belonging to the
Croatian Democratic Community walked out of the federal
parliament in Sarajevo yesterday after a disagreement
with Muslims over redrawing district boundaries,
Oslobodjenje reports today. Also in the Bosnian capital, U.S.
diplomats announced a project to restore train service
from Sarajevo via Brcko to Budapest by September, an
RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. Elsewhere
in that city, federal and Republika Srpska negotiators
concluded the first part of an agreement on commercial
exchanges. The final accord is due on 21 May. In Mostar,
Western diplomats expressed concern about the public use
of fascist slogans by local Croat military officials. The
diplomats also objected to plans by Croat officials to dig
up the common graves of Muslims and Croats who died
together fighting the Serbs in 1992. And in Brcko, OSCE
officials said the elections there will go ahead despite the
threat of a Croatian and Muslim boycott.

NEWS FROM FEDERAL YUGOSLAVIA. Striking medical
workers agreed in Belgrade yesterday to continue their
protest over back pay. They accused the government of
not negotiating "seriously," an RFE/RL correspondent
reported from the Serbian capital. In Podgorica,
Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic announced that the
republic's presidential elections will be held later this year
at the same time as the vote in Serbia. His Democratic
Socialist Party launched an initiative to nominate Bulatovic
for another term. The president himself sounded very much
like a politician on the stump when he went to Pljevlja and
appealed to world financial organizations to restore
federal Yugoslavia's full rights and memberships, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from the Sandzak town.

CLUJ LOCAL COUNCIL CRITICIZES MAYOR. A majority on
the Cluj municipal council has criticized nationalist Mayor
Gheorghe Funar for demanding the cancellation of
Hungarian President Arpad Goencz's planned visit to the
city (see RFE/RL Newsline, 13 May 1997). In a statement
published in the local press, the councilors say they will
not grant permission for the mayor to organize
demonstrations against the visit. The council also says that
Funar has received false information from "dubious
historians" since a book he attributes to Goencz and calls
"irredentist" was only translated by the Hungarian
president and was, in fact, written before World War II.
Meanwhile, Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor
Szentivanyi, said Funar's protest was an "isolated case" and
that the majority of Romanian political parties, as well as
the population, back the "positive trends" in the two
countries' relations, MTI reported.

ROMANIA'S ROMA DEMAND RESTITUTION. The Roma
community in Romania is demanding the restitution of
goods confiscated by the fascist and communist regimes.
The Ion Budai Deleanu Foundation and Roma leader Iulian
Radulescu, who calls himself Emperor Iulian I, say in a
letter addressed to the parliament, the president's office,
and the Council of Europe yesterday that the regime of
Marshal Ion Antonescu and the Communists confiscated
goods estimated at 12,500 billion lei (some $178 million)
from the Roma community. Mediafax reported that the
letter also demands a census be conducted to establish the
real number of Roma living today in Romania (the 1992
census put the number at less than half a million, but
estimates speak of 3 million and more).

UPDATE ON TIRASPOL LEADER'S READING OF
MEMORANDUM WITH CHISINAU. Igor Smirnov says people
living in the breakaway Transdniester region will not be
allowed to participate in the Moldovan parliamentary
elections scheduled for this year. Addressing a press
conference in Tiraspol earlier this week, Smirnov said the
8 May memorandum envisaging a common state "does not
mean that either [signatory] will renounce its statehood
and participate in the other's elections." He said Chisinau
was likely to exploit the signing of the memorandum to
achieve the ratification of the 1992 Russian-Moldovan
basic treaty. But he added that "one should not forget that
the [Russian] State Duma has recognized the Transdniester
as a zone of Russian strategic interest," Infotag reported
on 14 May.

DETAILS ON NEW BULGARIAN CABINET. Premier-
designate Ivan Kostov says he will present his cabinet to
President Petar Stoyanov on 19 May and that many
members of the caretaker cabinet will belong to the new
executive. RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported that Kostov
wants Industry Minister Alexander Bozhkov and Interior
Minister Bogomil Bonev to keep their posts. Labor Minister
Ivan Neikov is also likely to remain in office. Nadezhda
Mihailova, the deputy leader of the United Democratic
Forces (ODS), is likely to be the next foreign minister,
while ODS members Muravei Radev and Valentin Vassilev
seem set to become finance and trade ministers,
respectively.

END NOTE

"A Big Victory for Reason"

by Paul Goble

        Like the 1975 Helsinki Final Act to which it is already
being compared, the new Russia-NATO "founding act" is
likely to prove to be both less and more than its
signatories now claim and expect.
        On the one hand, comments about the agreement by
Russian and NATO leaders show that the two sides have not
resolved all their differences and do not even agree on the
meaning of certain key provisions in the agreement which
the two sides have signed. These differences will
inevitably spark new disputes and make future rounds of
negotiations every bit as difficult as the one that produced
this accord.
        But on the other hand, this "founding act" -- just like
the Helsinki accords -- is far more significant than the sum
of the provisions it includes. The existence of such an
agreement transforms the existing geopolitical landscape
by generating expectations with which both sides will have
to cope even as they seek to advance their own very
different positions. This combination of expectations and
institutions almost certainly will have an impact on both
Russia and NATO in ways that perhaps neither now intends
or expects.
        On 14 May, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov announced in
Moscow that they had reached agreement on a Russia-
NATO accord, a step that Primakov described as "a big
victory for reason" and "a big victory for Russia." Called a
"founding act" rather than a binding treaty, as Moscow had
earlier insisted, the accord creates a Russia-NATO joint
council that is to meet twice a year in Brussels to discuss
common concerns. It calls for the strengthening of the
OSCE and additional revisions in the CFE treaty, both
provisions Moscow had sought. And it also contains a
pledge, but not a guarantee, from NATO that the Western
alliance will not place nuclear weapons on the territory of
any new member states.
        As such, the accord is a series of important
compromises, with each side being able to claim some kind
of victory. But the statements of Russian President Boris
Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton suggest that the two
sides remain much further apart than either would like to
admit.
        Acknowledging that Moscow had been unable to block
the eastern expansion of the Western alliance, Yeltsin
argued on Wednesday that the agreement will at least
"minimize the risk for Russia" of a step NATO has long been
pledged to take. But the Russian president then made a
claim that the accord gives Russia an effective veto over
NATO's actions through its participation in the new joint
council, something NATO countries -- both individually and
collectively --have repeatedly pledged not to do.
"Decisions there can be taken only by consensus. If Russia
is against some decision, it means this decision will not go
through," Yeltsin commented.
        President Clinton, however, made it very clear in his
remarks welcoming the accord that Russia would not have
that kind of power: "Russia will work closely with NATO but
not in NATO, giving Russia a voice but not a veto."
Paradoxically, both leaders may prove correct. President
Clinton is certainly right in asserting that Russia will not
have a veto over NATO decisions. Even if Moscow has a
voice in the new joint council, it will not have a voice, much
less a veto, over most NATO decisions taken elsewhere.
        But President Yeltsin may also prove to be correct in
asserting that Russia will have some kind of veto, even if
not the absolute one he claims. The creation of the new
council means that all NATO members will be thinking
about the implications there of any decisions they make in
other venues. And such reflections will inevitably have an
impact on alliance decision-making.
        When the Helsinki Final Act was signed in 1975, few
could see the way in which its provisions, especially those
concerning human rights, would transform the world,
helping to bring down communism and the Soviet system.
Now, 22 years later, another accord has been signed
between East and West, one that Yeltsin has already
compared to Helsinki. It would be foolish to assume that
this breakthrough agreement will not have consequences
far beyond its specific language, even if some of its
provisions are never implemented.



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