Genius is an African who dreams up snow. Vladimir Nabokov - Vladimir Nabokov
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 1, No. 32, Part II, 16 May1997


Vol. 1, No. 32, Part II, 16 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

* ALBANIA FACES RENEWED POLITICAL DEADLOCK

* LBRIGHT BLASTS CROATIA OVER SERBIAN REFUGEES

* OPPOSITION STAGES BIG RALLY IN SKOPJE

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WELCOMES RUSSIA-NATO
ACCORD. Leonid Kuchma says the Russia-NATO pact
"corresponds with the interests of Ukraine because Russia
supports the necessity of signing an analogous
agreement...between Ukraine and NATO." Kuchma was
speaking to journalists yesterday in Washington. Ukraine is
currently negotiating its own charter with NATO, which U.S.
officials expect to be completed soon. RFE/RL's
Washington correspondent reported that Kuchma and U.S.
President Bill Clinton will meet at the White House in
Washington today for broad discussions on economic and
security issues.

ECONOMIC NEWS FROM UKRAINE. Finance Minister Ihor
Mityukov told journalists in the U.S. capital yesterday that
even without the large, long-term loan Ukraine expects to
get from the IMF soon, the country is doing better than the
fund's targets, RFE/RL's Washington correspondent
reported. Mityukov said the targets agreed with the IMF
for 1997 are inflation no higher than 25% a year and a
budget deficit of 4.2% of GDP. Mityukov said inflation was
only 4.1% in the first four months, which, he added, means
the economy can absorb the expected 3-4% hike in
inflation that will be caused by the raising of tariffs on
municipal services. Mityukov further said Ukraine is in the
final stages of preparing to seek funds on the Japanese and
European capital markets. Meanwhile, State Minister
Anatoly Minchenko told a press conference in Kyiv
yesterday that Ukraine plans to cut its purchases of
Russian natural gas by more than half in the next few years.

UKRAINE'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT MAKES FIRST
RULING. The recently established Constitutional Court
made its first decision yesterday, ruling that
parliamentary deputies cannot simultaneously hold
government posts or most private sector jobs, Ukrainian
media reported. The ruling confirms a clause in the
constitution, which was adopted last year. The tribunal
ordered lower courts to review earlier decisions allowing
legislators to government posts. Many officials may be
forced to choose between parliament and their other
occupations. However, that will not apply to Prime Minister
Pavlo Lazarenko and a number of other senior figures,
because the court ruling says those who were elected to
the parliament before June 1995 and have held government
posts continuously since then can keep both jobs.

BELARUSIAN OFFICIAL REJECTS MERGER WITH
RUSSIA. Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvostov says he
sees no possibility to merge Russia and Belarus. Khvostov
told journalists in Minsk yesterday that the plan, which was
outlined by Russian President Boris Yeltsin in a television
interview a day earlier, will be studied by Minsk but that
"under no circumstances will the statehood of Belarus be
placed in doubt." Yeltsin said he favored the "ultimate"
merger of the two Slavic neighbors into a single state. The
initiative for union between the two states came from
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Last month,
Yeltsin and Lukashenka signed an agreement to tie the two
countries more closely together. The accompanying
charter was put to six weeks of public discussion, which
ends today. Yeltsin said yesterday that he and Lukashenka
will sign the charter on 23 May.

SOROS FOUNDATION SUSPENDS ACTIVITIES IN
BELARUS. The Soros Foundation yesterday suspended its
activities in Belarus after tax officials emptied its bank
account to pay fines totaling almost $3 million. Foundation
spokeswoman Veronika Begun told journalists in Minsk that
the Belarus government ordered the bank to transfer all
the money on the Soros account to pay the tax fines. She
said the foundation now cannot even pay its office costs
and that it has appealed the tax officials' decision but has
received no answer yet. The Soros foundation was initially
granted a tax-exemption status by the Belarus
government. However, tax inspectors began an audit of the
foundation in March, when the government accused its U.S.
director of backing the nationalist opposition and barred
him from returning to Belarus from a trip abroad. The audit
led to claims that the foundation was violating the status
of a charitable organization.

ESTONIAN BANS SOVIET-ERA PASSPORTS. The
government yesterday banned the use of Soviet-era
passports by Estonia's non-citizens. Unidentified
government officials were quoted as saying that the non-
citizens, most of whom are ethnic Russians, can receive
alien passports that are valid for travel abroad. Many of
the 300,000 ethnic Russians who live in Estonia have not
acquired citizenship and until now have used old Soviet-era
passports as their main form of identification. They
complain the alien passports confer second-class status.
Also yesterday, the parliament began considering
amendments to the law on aliens that would give
permanent residence permits in July 1998 to all non-
citizens who applied for such permits before July 1995,
Interfax reported. Non-citizens currently have renewable
five-year permits.

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT SURVIVES NO-CONFIDENCE
VOTE. The Latvian government survived a no-confidence
vote by the parliament yesterday, BNS reported. The move
was rejected by a vote of 50 to 16 with two abstentions.
The no-confidence move was launched by opposition
deputies in response to the government's alleged failure
to abide by the provision in the law on agriculture
stipulating that farm subsidies should amount to 3% of the
state budget. According to the government, subsidies to
the agricultural sector make up 1.84% of the total budget.

PROGRESS IN LITHUANIAN-RUSSIAN BORDER TALKS.
Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Albinas Januska told
BNS yesterday that progress has been made in border
delimitation talks with Russia. Januska and chief Lithuanian
border negotiator Rimantas Sidlauskas discussed
yesterday in Moscow possibilities for speeding up the
delimitation of state borders with Russian Deputy Foreign
Minister Aleksandr Avdeev and chief Russian negotiator
Alexei Obukhov. The two sides agreed to begin to prepare
maps delimiting the joint frontier.

CZECH CROWN UNDER PRESSURE. The Czech National
Bank intervened on foreign exchange markets yesterday in
an effort to support the Czech currency, the crown.
National Bank spokesman Martin Svehla says the bank is
ready to intervene again if necessary. The bank spent
between $150-200 million to support the crown. Financial
analysts see the move as a sign of continued troubles for
the Czech economy. Last month, Prime Minister Vaclav
Klaus's government made budget cuts and imposed import
restrictions to try to revive the economy. The crown has
lost more than 15% of its value against the U.S. dollar since
early this year.

CZECH PREMIER NOT READY TO RESIGN. Vaclav Klaus
told journalists in Prague yesterday that he will not resign
as prime minister, despite economic troubles and the fact
that recent opinion polls indicate a sharp drop in the
popularity of his Civic Democratic Party (ODS). Opposition
Social Democratic Party (CSSD) Chairman Milos Zeman told
journalists his party will not call for early elections but
agreed with Deputy Prime Minister Josef Lux that an early
ballot can be expected if the package of economic
measures recently adopted by the government fails. Lux's
Christian Democrats are seen as a potential CSSD coalition
partner. Analysts agree that the decline in the ODS's
popularity could result in replacing Klaus as ODS chairman.

SLOVAK PREMIER IN NETHERLANDS. Vladimir Meciar, on
a one-day working visit to The Netherlands, said yesterday
that Slovakia should be in the first group of the Central
European countries to enter the EU, Slovak media reported.
Meciar met his Dutch counterpart, Wim Kok, whose country
currently chairs the EU . Meciar also met with OSCE High
Commissioner Max van der Stoel to discuss problems
related to the Hungarian ethnic minority in Slovakia. Earlier
this week, opposition Christian Democratic Movement
chairman Jan Carnogursky revealed that EU officials had
warned Slovakia it may not be invited to talks on EU
membership owing to unsolved domestic problems.
Carnogursky and Meciar agreed that Slovakia's political
parties will meet soon to discuss domestic problems.

REFERENDUM IN SLOVAKIA IN DOUBT. Slovakia's Central
Referendum Committee has urged the Ministry of Internal
Affairs to print and distribute one ballot with four
questions to be posed in the 23-24 May referendum. Slovak
voters are to be asked to decide whether Slovakia should
be a NATO member, whether there should be nuclear
weapons or foreign bases on Slovak territory, and whether
the president should be elected directly. The Slovak
government has opposed including a fourth question on
direct presidential elections and has asked the
Constitutional Court to rule whether the constitution can
be changed by a referendum. The court on 14 May decided
the government was not entitled to lodge such a query.
Despite the ruling, Slovak Interior Minister Krajci
yesterday refused to order printing ballots with the fourth
question included. He argued he has to abide by the
government's decision.

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES AGREEMENT
WITH HOLY SEE. A government spokesman says the
agreement with the Vatican on property restitution and
financing of the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary is of
"historical importance," Hungarian media report. The
agreement was approved yesterday by the government.
Under the agreement, the state is return to the Catholic
Church assets totaling 100 billion forints ($550 million) and
the church will renounce any further claims. Real estate
worth some $320 million confiscated by the Communists
will be returned gradually by the year 2011. The remainder
of the claims will be met as annual payments to the Church.
The agreement still has to be approved by the parliament.

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

ALBANIA FACES RENEWED POLITICAL DEADLOCK... A
spokesman for the Socialist Party said in Tirana today that
his party is meeting with other opposition groups to
discuss a possible boycott of the 29 June elections. The
parliament, which President Sali Berisha's Democratic
Party controls, passed an election law yesterday that
seems to be the same as the one it adopted earlier this
week. The Democrats promised OSCE envoy Franz
Vranitzky to change the law to make it more acceptable to
the opposition. Vranitzky had threatened to cut off
international aid to Albania unless the elections go ahead.

...AND AN EARTHQUAKE. A quake measuring 5.5 on the
Richter scale hit 25 miles east of Tirana this morning, West
European seismic institutes reported. The epicenter was
near the Albanian-Macedonian border, and the jolt affected
northwestern Greece as well. In other news, an explosion at
an ammunition dump killed at least three near Gjirokaster
yesterday. Unconfirmed reports said the Albanian army
was attempting to transfer ammunition when the blast
occurred.

ALBRIGHT BLASTS CROATIA OVER SERBIAN REFUGEES.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright sharply
criticized Croatia's policies toward returning Serb
refugees at her meeting in Washington yesterday with
Foreign Minister Mate Granic. She stressed that Croatia will
not be accepted into Western political and other
institutions unless it fulfills its obligations under the
Dayton accord. Her spokesman, Nicholas Burns, said he
could not remember a "tougher meeting" between Albright
and a visiting foreign minister. U.S. officials described the
Croats' remarks as defensive and added that Albright did
not receive a satisfactory answer to her questions about
mob violence against Serbs and about why the Serbs cannot
go home. Jacques Klein, the UN chief administrator for
eastern Slavonia, presented the Croats with concrete
examples of discrimination against Serbs.

CROATIAN SERBS EXPELLED FROM HOMES. The Croatian
Helsinki Committee said in Zagreb yesterday that more
than 100 Serbs were recently thrown out of their homes
and that crowds attacked several Serbs this week. The
incidents took place around Hrvatska Kostajnica in the
Banija region of central Croatia and involved returning Serb
refugees and some of the 1,500 Bosnian Croats who had
moved into the area. Local Croatian officials denied that
there is systematic violence against the Serbs, who had
allegedly returned in an unorganized fashion and evicted
Bosnian Croats living in the Serbs' homes. Croatian Serb
legislator Milorad Pupovac said in Zagreb, however, that
the matter is serious and that he will raise it in parliament.
Pupovac added that the incidents do not bode well for the
smooth reintegration of eastern Slavonia.

NEWS FROM SERBIA. Some 3,000 health workers
demonstrated in Belgrade yesterday to demand payment
of their March wages, an RFE/RL correspondent there
reported. Elsewhere in the capital, opposition leader Vuk
Draskovic promised to lead Bosnian and Croatian Serbs
back to their homes if he becomes Serbian president. After
meeting with Krajina Serbs, Draskovic said that "the
Serbian banner will flutter in Knin again," Nasa Borba
reported today. Still in Belgrade, federal customs director
Mihalj Kertes charged yesterday that domestic cigarette
companies are heavily involved in the black market trading
of their products. In Pristina, army commander Gen.
Momcilo Perisic stated that extra security measures along
the Albanian border have proven effective and that there
are fewer incidents now than there were before anarchy
erupted in Albania.

OPPOSITION STAGES BIG RALLY IN SKOPJE. Some
30,000 people attended a protest rally in Skopje
yesterday organized by the Internal Macedonian
Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE). The party sent
a letter to President Kiro Gligorov demanding the
resignation of Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski, a
caretaker government of "technocrats," and new elections
in three months. The VMRO-DPMNE wants to use popular
anger over a collapsed pyramid scheme to force new
parliamentary elections. The party boycotted the last
ballot and thereby shut itself out of much of public life.
Elsewhere in Skopje, the authorities said they are closing
the border with Albania to stop an influx of refugees. In
New York, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for a
six-month extension (until 30 November) of the mandate
for UN peacekeepers in Macedonia.

LABOR PROTESTS IN BUCHAREST. Thousands of workers
converged on the Romanian capital yesterday to protest
government policies that are forcing living standards to
plummet. The demonstrators marched past government
headquarters calling Victor Ciorbea's cabinet a group of
"liars" and "thieves." The Fratia trade union, which
organized the march, says the demonstrations will continue
daily until the government issues what it deems "a
reasonable welfare program," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau
reported. Labor unrest was also reported elsewhere in the
country.

FORMER ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER OFFICIALLY
CHARGED. Gen. Victor Athanasie Stanculescu, who was
minister of defense in 1990-1991, has been formally
charged with abusing public office, conspiring to commit
fraud, and damaging the country's economy. The military
section of the Prosecutor-General's Office says
Stanculescu and seven other persons, one of whom is also a
general, were responsible for the illegal acquisition of
mobile phones for the Defense Ministry at a loss to the
state of some $8 million. They are suspected of having
shared among themselves the difference between the
producer's price and the price paid for the phones to
intermediaries. If found guilty, Stanculescu faces between
five and 15 years in prison, Radio Bucharest reported
yesterday.

MOLDOVAN PREMIER IN ROMANIA. Ion Ciubuc, on his first
visit abroad as premier, met with his Romanian
counterpart, Victor Ciorbea, in Bucharest yesterday,
RFE/RL's Bucharest Bureau reported. Ciorbea said Romania
should be Moldova's gateway to the EU and Moldova
Romania's gateway to the CIS. Ciubic noted that Moldova
placed much hope on the future Romanian-Moldovan-
Ukrainian "Euroregions" (see RFE/RL Newsline, 29 April
1997). The two sides signed treaties on cooperation
between their ministries of justice and culture and a
number of commercial agreements. Ciubuc is scheduled to
visit today the Cernavoda nuclear plant and the Constanta
port. Romania has proposed that Moldova invest in the
construction of a second reactor at Cernavoda in exchange
for electricity supplies.

BULGARIAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE WANTS TO PEG LEV
TO GERMAN MARK. Ivan Kostov says the Bulgarian
national currency should be pegged to the German mark. He
was speaking yesterday upon his return from a visit to
Germany, where he met with Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Last
week, Kostov had been quoted as saying it would be better
for the Bulgarian lev to be linked to the U.S. dollar rather
than the German mark. Caretaker Premier Stefan
Sofiyanski, who traveled with Kostov, said officials from
the Deutsche Bank indicated that Kostov's announcement
would greatly encourage German investments in Bulgaria,
RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Bulgarian Radio reported
that Kohl praised Bulgarian efforts to push ahead with
reform.

BULGARIAN CARETAKER INTERIOR MINISTER WANTS
FORMER PREMIER TRIED. Bogomil Bonev says former
Premier Zhan Videnov should be put on trial and sentenced
for his role in the country's grain crisis. An RFE/RL Sofia
correspondent reported yesterday that Videnov was
questioned by a prosecutor about the export of state grain
reserves by several private firms in 1995 and 1996. The
firms, which were closely linked to Videnov, made large
profits because the Socialist government allowed them to
make the exports. This resulted in the depletion of state
grain reserves, and the country has since suffered severe
bread shortages. Vasil Chichibaba, a former agriculture
minister under Videnov, and three of his deputies, were
charged in March with economic crime. Bonev, who is
expected to retain his portfolio in the new government,
said there is evidence that Videnov was "categorically
responsible" for Bulgaria's grain shortages.



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