|Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most times he will pick himself up and carry on. - Winston Churchill|
Vol. 1, No. 34, Part II, 20 May 1997
Vol. 1, No. 34, Part II, 20 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 PRESIDENT CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT, PARLIAMENT * ANOTHER BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN FINED * ALBANIAN POLITICAL SITUATION WORSENS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT, PARLIAMENT. Leonid Kuchma yesterday accused the parliament of deliberately delaying the passage of the long-delayed 1997 budget and of stalling reforms in the hope of "reaping the harvest" of voter discontent in next year's elections, Interfax reported. He said lawmakers were showing "sharpened opposition" to the president's reforms. Kuchma also criticized Pavlo Lazarenko's government, saying it had taken a "subservient position" on the budget issue by offering the parliament the opportunity to pass a budget based on an incomplete package of tax reforms. ANOTHER BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN FINED. Anatoly Lebedko, a member of the Belarusian parliament dissolved last year by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, has been fined by a Minsk district court in connection with a demonstration on 15 March, Belapan reported. The court yesterday fined Lebedko the equivalent of $190 for participating in the unauthorized demonstration. Lebedko told reporters he may stage a hunger strike in the court building. The same court earlier imposed large fines on two Supreme Soviet members, Semen Sharetsky and Valery Shchukin, for the same offense. ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES IN FAVOR OF PROTECTIVE TARIFFS. Deputies voted yesterday by 47 to 26 with four abstentions to reject an opposition Reform Party proposal to kill the draft law on protective tariffs in its first reading, ETA reported. The bill is the cornerstone of the coalition agreement between the Coalition Party and the Rural Union. It is also a condition for membership in the World Trade Organization. Before the vote, the news agency quoted Prime Minister Mart Siimann as denying reports that he would resign if the parliament voted against the tariffs (see RFE/RL Newsline, 19 May 1997). ESTONIAN PREMIER CONFIRMS SOVIET-ERA KGB FILES MISSING. Siimann has confirmed that a large number of KGB files handed over to Estonia in 1991 have disappeared or been destroyed because of what he called carelessness, ETA reported. He told the parliament yesterday that of the 87,000 foreign travel files taken over in 1991, only some 49,000 remain at the Estonian State Archives. Siimann blamed the disappearance of the files on what he called the "sloppiness and incompetence" of the authorities that assumed responsibility for the KGB archives. The same day, Interior Minister Robert Lepikson told the parliament that security police have gathered sufficient evidence to charge some of the people responsible for deporting Estonians to Siberia in March 1949. He said the names will not be made public now in the interests of preliminary investigation. More than 20,000 Estonian citizens were deported to Siberia in 1949. LANDSBERGIS ON RUSSIA-NATO ACCORD. Lithuanian parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis says certain points of the Russia-NATO Founding Act will "open the door to a better world order and a more secure life for us all," BNS reported. Landsbergis, who was speaking at a news conference yesterday in Vilnius, said it is very important for Lithuania that Russia has committed itself to reducing its conventional forces, since this "allows one to hope that the army in Kaliningrad Oblast will be reduced or at least not bolstered." Landsbergis also noted that the document binds Russia to opposing "aggressive nationalism," which, he said, would help strengthen confidence between Russia and its neighbors. LATVIA, LITHUANIA DETERMINED TO RESOLVE SEA BORDER ISSUE. Algirdas Saudargas and his Latvian counterpart, Valdis Birkavs, have issued a statement confirming their political will to "achieve a final and just solution to the issue of sea border delimitation," BNS reported yesterday. Saudargas was in Riga yesterday for a one-day official visit. He told a press conference that Latvia and Lithuania do not have "territorial problems" and that the settlement of the border issue is hampered only by "technicalities," such as the delimitation line. Birkavs said he is hopeful that the border issue will be settled before the EU begins accession talks with new members. Saudargas also met with Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis. WALESA ON RUSSIA-NATO ACCORD. Former President Lech Walesa, writing in Zycie Warszawy yesterday, accused NATO of a huge blunder in signing a deal with Russia, saying the agreement would encourage Moscow to continue a policy of confrontation with the West. In Walesa's opinion, NATO should have driven home the idea that no one could now stand up to it and that Moscow should therefore focus on its economic development. Meanwhile, Slovenian Foreign Minister Zoran Thaler told journalists yesterday in Warsaw that Poland and Slovenia agree that Russia's new partnership deal with NATO will benefit European security and pave the wave for an eastward expansion of the alliance. Thaler made the comments after a meeting with Polish Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati. CZECH GOVERNMENT'S POPULARITY DECLINES. An opinion poll released by the Institute for Public Opinion Research yesterday indicates that only 35% of Czechs have confidence in the government--a drop of three percentage points since the last poll. Only 10% of respondents believed the country's transformation has been successful, while 40% thought the results of that transformation are mixed. A full 69% of respondents said that the ministers responsible for the country's problems should resign. Meanwhile, Trade and Industry Minister Vladimir Dlouhy met yesterday with President Vaclav Havel to explain his 16 May suggestion that one possible solution to current problems is the resignation of the entire government. Dlouhy told Havel he was probably not the right person to make such a suggestion, Czech media report today. REFERENDUM BALLOTS DISTRIBUTED IN SLOVAKIA. Referendum ballots containing four questions--three on Slovakia's NATO membership and one on direct presidential elections--have been distributed to the country's 79 districts, RFE/RL's Bratislava office reported yesterday. Some 4 million ballot papers have been printed for the 23-24 May referendum. The government has tried to block the question on direct presidential elections, asking the Constitutional Court to rule whether the constitution can be changed by a referendum. The court at first ruled the government is not entitled to make such an appeal, but reports suggest it may decide today whether the constitution can be changed by such a vote. Interior Minister Ivan Krajci stressed yesterday that he is prepared to distribute ballots with just three questions, should the court rule the basic law cannot be changed in this way. If ballots with only three questions cannot be distributed in time, the fourth question would not be legally binding. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN POLITICAL SITUATION WORSENS. Socialist Prime Minister Bashkim Fino issued a statement in Tirana today saying he has failed to hammer out an agreement on the 29 June elections among the 10 parties in the broad coalition government. The statement said that although the debate continued all yesterday, it failed "not only to bring compromise or come near to compromise but, on the contrary, took Albania to the edge of a deeper crisis with unforeseeable consequences" (see RFE/RL Newsline, 19 May 1997). President Sali Berisha's spokesman said the key issue remains proportional representation. News agencies report from the Albanian capital that the OSCE's Franz Vranitzky may return soon for a sixth mediation mission, but the OSCE has not confirmed those reports. ALBANIAN UPDATE. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel told Fino in a telephone conversation on 18 May that it is in Albanians' own interest to find a way out of the impasse. Various foreign officials have repeatedly said in recent weeks that the elections must go ahead smoothly if Albania wants foreign help. Meanwhile in Vlora, gunmen killed two men yesterday. Many parents kept their children home from school, despite the presence of Italian military vehicles along the main street. The slayings brought the total killed across the country over the past few days to at least 10, police spokesmen in Tirana said. TUDJMAN'S PARTY TAKES CONTROL OF ZAGREB. Two councilors from the Croatian Peasants' Party joined their colleagues from the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) yesterday to elect the HDZ's Marina Matulovic-Dropulic as mayor of Zagreb and Zlatko Canjuga as council president. The vote comes in the wake of last month's elections and ends an 18-month stalemate during which President Franjo Tudjman vetoed several opposition candidates for mayor. Tudjman argued he could not turn over control of the capital to "enemies of state interests," even though the opposition had a majority on the council. The opposition suspected that the HDZ's real concern was that an opposition mayor would investigate corruption among previous HDZ administrations. Even HDZ members have accused Matulovic-Dropulic of corruption. CROATIA'S KUNA INTRODUCED IN EASTERN SLAVONIA. Richard Klein, the UN's chief administrator for eastern Slavonia, announced in Vukovar yesterday that the Croatian currency entered into circulation throughout the region as scheduled. The federal Yugoslav dinar will continue to be legal tender until 19 July, and Croatian citizens can turn in up to 2,000 dinars for kunas. In the first 18 hours, some 133,500 dinars were exchanged for Croatian money throughout the region, Vjesnik wrote today. RUSSIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER IN FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. Igor Ivanov held talks in Belgrade yesterday with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic on the first leg of a trip that will also include Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia. Ivanov told his Serbian hosts that federal Yugoslavia's membership in international institutions must be restored and noted that Russia is Yugoslavia's largest trading partner, BETA wrote. He said that democratization is Yugoslavia's "internal affair" but added that Russia is nonetheless interested that it develop. Ivanov also met with Serbian opposition leaders Vuk Draskovic, Vesna Pesic, and Zoran Djindjic. Draskovic and Pesic soon leave for Moscow, from where Djindjic and former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic recently returned. KARADZIC UPDATE. Bosnian Serb police stepped up patrols around the home of former political leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic in Pale over the weekend. AFP yesterday quoted Serb sources as saying that the move came in response to increased Italian SFOR patrols in the area, but SFOR stated that its movements were routine. Meanwhile in Belgrade yesterday, the pro- Bosnian Serb news weekly Argument wrote that Karadzic wants to go to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague to clear his name. The report says that he has amassed a large collection of documents to take to the tribunal. ROUNDUP FROM BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA. OSCE officials in Sarajevo yesterday warned the Bosnian Serbs against manipulating voter registration for the September local elections. In Banja Luka, a Bosnian Serb opposition leader said that the governing Serbian Democratic Party is using refugee registration to win votes for itself, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from there. In Mostar, leading Croatian representatives from around the republic discussed transforming their "Croatian Republic of Herceg- Bosna" into what they called a cultural organization. Herceg-Bosna was supposed to have disappeared long ago according to the Dayton peace treaty. ROMANIA'S NATIONAL LIBERAL PARTY ELECTS LEADERSHIP. At its congress in Bucharest at the weekend, the centrist National Liberal Party--a member of the ruling coalition--re-elected 80-year-old Mircea Ionescu-Quintus as chairman, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica, aged 44, was elected to the newly created post of first deputy chairman. He ran unopposed after his main rival for the position, Viorel Catarama, withdrew from the race. Catarama, who is accused of implication in the collapse of an investment fund and other irregular business deals, has been the target of criticism both within and outside the party. He was re-elected, however, as one of the party's four deputy chairmen. U.S. TO EXPEL NAZI CAMP GUARD TO ROMANIA. U.S. officials said yesterday they have taken steps to expel to Romania Nikolaus Schiffer, a former German concentration camp guard. AFP reports that Schiffer, a Philadelphian retiree, was stripped of his U.S. citizenship in 1995, after the Justice Department uncovered evidence that he served as a guard at the Sachsenhausen and Hersbruck camps, in Germany, and at Majdanek, in Poland. Schiffer, whose parents were Romanian nationals, was "an active participant in the persecution occurring at these camps in that he prevented inmates from escaping," the Justice Department said. THREE KILLED IN ROMANIAN COAL MINE EXPLOSION. Three miners were killed and 14 injured in an explosion at the Dalja coal mine in the Jiu valley, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported yesterday. The blast was due to the ignition of leaking methane gas. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea set up a commission to investigate the accident and said the families of those killed and injured will receive compensation. MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS RUSSIAN TROOPS IN TRANSDNIESTER. Valeriu Pasat on 18 May visited Russian troops stationed in the Transdniester breakaway region, BASA-press reported. He discussed with local commanders the future of Russia's military assets after the promised, but long-postponed departure of Russian troops from the region. In other developments, legislators from Chisinau and Tiraspol yesterday met in the Moldovan capital to discuss aspects linked to the drafting of a document on the special status of the Transdniester. The delegations were headed by the respective parliamentary chairmen, Dumitru Motpan and Grigori Markutsa. PREMIER-DESIGNATE PRESENTS CABINET TO BULGARIAN PRESIDENT. Ivan Kostov yesterday presented his cabinet to President Petar Stoyanov. Parliament is to vote on the new government tomorrow, an RFE/RL Sofia bureau correspondent reported. The proposed new cabinet retains five ministers from the caretaker government, including Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev and Defense Minister Georgi Ananiev. Alexander Bozhkov remains as deputy premier and industry minister. Nadezhda Mihailova has been named foreign minister. Kostov also submitted to the president his program for the next four years. Among other things, it provides for the restoration of confidence in Bulgaria abroad, a decisive fight against crime and corruption, and administrative reform. Kostov said he would not call his program "shock therapy" but noted parts of it would be "difficult" to fulfill. Stoyanov said that like everyone else in Bulgaria, he was "keeping his fingers crossed" for the success of the new government. PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE EXERCISE ENDS IN BULGARIA. Some 200 senior staff officers from four NATO and four eastern European countries will end tomorrow a four-day joint military exercise. BTA reported that the exercise includes staff officers from the U.S., Greece, Italy, and Turkey was well as from Albania, Macedonia, Romania, and Bulgaria. The exercise, called Peaceful Eagle 97, is taking place under the joint command of Bulgarian Maj. General Petko Dragoev and U.S. Maj. General Ed Smith. The focus of the maneuvers were peace-keeping operations. END NOTE A BIZARRE MEDIA CAMPAIGN IN CROATIA by Patrick Moore The state-controlled media launched a campaign on 9 May to depict one of Croatia's best-known politicians as a traitor. Stipe Mesic is accused of defaming both President Franjo Tudjman and Croatia in his alleged testimony to the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The campaign, however, reveals more about the regime and its fears than about Mesic or historical truth. According to dailies such as Vjesnik, Slobodna Dalmacija, and Vecernji list, the 62-year-old dapper politician from Slavonska Orahovica recently supplied the court with 10 pages of testimony. The text, the papers say, blames Tudjman and the top Croatian leadership for the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina and for the war crimes there. Mesic allegedly charged that Tudjman met many times with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to discuss the partition of Bosnia. The regime dailies stress that Mesic's testimony has shamed his country and its leadership in a "morally scandalous" fashion. The charges left Mesic baffled. That same evening, he told RFE/RL in a telephone interview that there is some truth in the media reports but that they also omit some key facts. First, he never was a witness in The Hague but simply gave an interview to court representatives last year. Second, the bulk of his testimony did not center on Tudjman or Croatia but on Milosevic's role in the destruction of the former Yugoslavia. Mesic was the last president of the Yugoslav presidency and was thus in a unique position to observe the destruction of the multi- ethnic state in 1991. Third, nothing he allegedly told the court was new. Mesic pointed out that Hrvoje Sarinic, a prominent pro- Tudjman politician, has admitted that the two presidents held many more private meetings after 1990 than either side has officially admitted. And Tudjman himself has often publicly expressed doubts about the viability of Bosnia as a state. He once even drew a map on a napkin for a British politician to show how Bosnia could best be partitioned. Mesic, in any event, has no idea who is behind what he calls his "political lynching" in the state-run media. But he knows it must be people very high up in the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). He charges that those Croatian leaders who conducted Bosnian policies that he opposed appear to be trying to shift some of the blame or embarrassment onto him. He fears, moreover, that the press campaign could lead to physical violence against him. Mesic might have added that there is yet another strange aspect to the campaign--namely that it is aimed at a man whose days of power and influence seem to be behind him. When Croatia became independent in 1991, he was already a leading member of the HDZ and was elected speaker of the parliament. In 1994, however, he joined the opposition and lost the post of speaker. Despite great efforts in the meantime, he never managed to regain his old prominence. Polls suggest that many regard him as a man of the past. The question remains as to why the HDZ ever bothered to launch the attacks. The most obvious answer is that presidential elections will take place in June and that the charges against Mesic are simply part of an ongoing campaign to identify Tudjman and the HDZ with Croatian state interests. One analyst in Zagreb told RFE/RL that the regime may be trying to divert popular attention from Tudjman's own failings in foreign policy and his growing isolation from the West. The analyst added that the articles may also reflect the leadership's fear of the tribunal at a time when Washington and other major capitals are putting pressure on Zagreb to cooperate with the court and to support the unity of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Another question is how the text of Mesic's remarks found its way from the tribunal into the Croatian press. Mesic told RFE/RL that he suspects it was leaked by someone in The Hague to embarrass Croatia. Court officials, however, told an RFE/RL correspondent in The Hague that the tribunal rigorously protects the identity of all those who supply it with information. In any event, the Zagreb- based analyst said he thinks it is heartening to note that the court might indeed be collecting testimony on the likes of Tudjman and Milosevic. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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