|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
Vol. 1, No. 35, Part II, 21 May1997
Vol. 1, No. 35, Part II, 21 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/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * POLISH PRESIDENT IN UKRAINE TO SIGN RECONCILIATION PACT * CZECH GOVERNMENT TO BE RESHUFFLED * ALBANIAN LEADERS REACH ELECTION AGREEMENT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE POLISH PRESIDENT IN UKRAINE TO SIGN RECONCILIATION PACT. Alexander Kwasniewski and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma are to sign a declaration of reconciliation in Kyiv today, Ukrainian and Polish media report. The declaration is designed to help overcome three centuries of rivalry and hostilities, including the killing of tens of thousands of Poles by pro- Nazi Ukrainian nationalists in 1943 and communist Poland's mass expulsion of ethnic Ukrainians in 1947. Kwasniewski told reporters yesterday that "we want to broaden the opportunities for young Poles and Ukrainians...but we also want these relations to have an effect on the region and Europe as a whole." He said he hopes a cooperation agreement between NATO and Ukraine will be signed soon, adding that NATO enlargement will have a positive effect on European security. Today, Kwasniewski addressed the Urkainian parliament. EU APPROVES ASSISTANCE TO UKRAINE, KYRGYZSTAN. The European Commission announced yesterday its approval of technical assistance programs for Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan this year within the framework of the TACIS program, RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent reported. The goal of the TACIS program is to support and accelerate the transition to a market economy. The assistance programs will be in the form of non-repayable grants, amounting to some $30 million for Ukraine and about $8 million for Kyrgyzstan. The program for Ukraine is focused on support for economic reform and developing the private sector. ESTONIAN PRESIDENT IN FINLAND. Lennart Meri met with his Finnish counterpart, Martti Ahtisaari, in Helsinki yesterday to discuss. Estonian membership in the EU, ETA reported. Ahtisaari repeated that Finland fully supports Estonia's joining the union in the first round of its expansion. Meri also met with Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, who spoke about his recent visit to Moscow, during which he had said Finland was prepared to help Estonia and Russia resolve their differences. Another round of Estonian-Russian talks are due to take place next month. LATVIA RESPONDS ANGRILY TO YELTSIN'S COMMENTS ON NATO ACCORD. Deputy Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins has harshly criticized Russian officials who "evoke the legitimate rights of the Baltic countries," AFP reported yesterday. He was speaking the day after Russian President Boris Yeltsin warned Moscow would "reconsider its relations" with NATO if the alliance expands to include former Soviet republics. Riekstins stressed each country's sovereign right to choose its security system and added that "no OSCE member country has the right to call into question this basic principle." Meanwhile, President Guntis Ulmanis pledged yesterday to consider granting citizenship to aliens more quickly. ITAR-TASS quoted Ulmanis as telling parliamentary leaders that Latvia cannot remain a "special" country in which 30% of residents have not been citizens "for a long time." The majority of Latvia's non-citizens are ethnic Russians who settled in the country during the Soviet era. LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT ON DIVIDING LAKE VISTYTIS. Algirdas Brazauskas has stressed he is seeking to have Lake Vistytis divided equally between Lithuania and Russia, BNS reported. The president was speaking to local inhabitants during a visit yesterday to the Vistytis border crossing. He said he will "do everything" to ensure that the part of the lake that belonged to Lithuania before the Soviet occupation remains in Lithuanian hands. The border through Lake Vistytis is the only stumbling block to the signing of a border treaty between Lithuania and Russia. Kaliningrad Oblast is claiming all of the lake, while Lithuania wants to halve it on the basis of the pre-war border treaty between Lithuania and Germany. Also yesterday, Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro praised Lithuania for maintaining good ties with Russia while seeking membership in NATO and the EU. Scalfaro met with Lithuanian leaders in Vilnius yesterday. He is due to arrive in Riga today. BALTIC DEFENSE COLLEGE TO BE SET UP IN TARTU. The Baltic Military Command has announced the creation of a Baltic Defense College, BNS reported. The Latvian and Estonian commanders in chief and the Lithuanian deputy chief commander made the decision at a 19-20 May meeting in Riga. The college will be established in Tartu, Estonia, and will train officers from the Baltic States. The project is supported by Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden. CZECH GOVERNMENT TO BE RESHUFFLED. The chairmen of the three coalition parties agreed at a meeting late last night that the government will soon be reshuffled, Czech Radio reported. No details have been given on how many ministers may be affected. The meeting was hastily arranged in an apparent bid to prevent the opposition Social Democrats from asking the parliament today to adopt a resolution on recalling some ministers. Approval ratings for the government and for Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party have been dropping steadily. An opinion poll by the Factum agency, published in today's Mlada Fronta Dnes, indicates that nearly 40% of Czechs think Premier Vaclav Klaus should resign, while 38% believe he should remain in office but that some ministers should leave. U.S. OFFICIAL SAYS SLOVAKIA, BULGARIA NOT READY FOR NATO. Congressman Christopher Smith, co-chairman of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, says Slovakia's treatment of ethnic minorities and the growing violence and intolerance against the political opposition and media there "work against" the country's being included in the first round of NATO expansion, RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported yesterday. Smith said Bulgaria has made impressive strides but still has to address issues such as civilian control of the military and religious freedom. The commission yesterday held another Congressional hearing on the human rights aspects of NATO enlargement. The Slovak, Bulgarian, and Hungarian ambassadors were invited to present their country's views on why they should be included in NATO. UPDATE ON SLOVAK REFERENDUM. The Slovak government yesterday asked President Michal Kovac to postpone the referendum on NATO membership and direct presidential elections until the Constitutional Court decides whether the constitution can be changed by a referendum, RFE/RL's Bratislava office reported. Meanwhile, opposition politicians have accused the government of hindering the distribution of referendum ballots in some districts. Interior Minister Ivan Krajci repeated he is opposed to distributing ballots with four questions until the Constitutional Court decides whether the question on direct presidential elections is legally binding. If the court were to decide that the constitution cannot be changed by a referendum, Krajci would distribute ballots with only three questions. The Central Referendum Commission ordered ballots with four questions to be distributed, but Krajci said yesterday that "the government is my boss." HUNGARY, ITALY, SLOVENIA TO ESTABLISH JOINT BRIGADE. Hungary, Italy, and Slovenia have agreed to create a joint military brigade by 1998 and to hold joint military maneuvers, Hungarian media report. The decision was taken in Budapest yesterday at the first meeting of Premiers Gyula Horn, Romano Prodi, and Janez Drnovsek. Prodi said his country unconditionally supports Hungary's and Slovenia's accession to NATO and the EU and would prefer to see both countries included in the first wave of expansion. The three premiers said preparations have begun for the construction of an international traffic corridor to be built from Trieste through Ljubljana and Budapest to Kiev. They also agreed to step up cooperation in a number of areas, including the environment, education, and judicial affairs. HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS COALITION "LIBERAL-BOLSHEVIK". Independent Smallholder Party leader Jozsef Torgyan repeatedly said in the parliament yesterday that the ruling coalition is "liberal-bolshevik", Budapest dailies report. Zoltan Szabo, state secretary at the Ministry of Culture, responded by recalling that Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels and wartime Hungarian fascist leader Ferenc Szalasi both drew parallels between bolshevism and liberalism as symptoms of a "Jewish plague". He said Torgyan, hiding behind his immunity as a parliamentary deputy, has used the same terms to refer to Jews. Former Prime Minister Peter Boross of the Hungarian Democratic Forum described Szabo's remarks as "unworthy" of the parliament. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN LEADERS REACH ELECTION AGREEMENT. President Sali Berisha and Prime Minister Bashkim Fino made a deal in Tirana last night that could allow the 29 June elections to go ahead if the political parties agree. Details of the agreement have not been made public, but it appears that Fino's government will select the electoral commission and invite foreign observers. News agencies report from Tirana this morning that international pressure was crucial in convincing Berisha to compromise. Social Democratic leader Skender Gjinushi said, however, that his party will insist the government also control the secret police and the electronic media. He noted that the question of gerrymandering electoral districts in favor of Berisha's Democratic Party has not been solved. KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR KILLING. The Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) issued a press statement in Pristina yesterday saying it was behind two recent violent incidents that left one ethnic Albanian dead and two Serbian policemen wounded (see RFE/RL Newsline,. 19 May 1997). The UCK said it killed the man as part of a campaign against Albanians it considers to be collaborators with the Serbian authorities. The statement also slammed the mainstream Kosovar leadership, calling its policy of non-violence "ineffective" and saying it gives the Albanian people "false hope." HAGUE COURT LOOKS INTO LEAK. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has interrupted for two days the trial of three Muslims and one Croat in connection with atrocities against Serbs at the Celebici concentration camp. An RFE/RL correspondent reported from The Hague yesterday that the court authorities have stopped work in order to investigate how a Bosnian newspaper obtained and published a list of 70 witnesses in the case. Some of the witnesses wanted their names kept confidential. Prominent Croatian politician Stipe Mesic told RFE/RL from Zagreb recently that someone at the tribunal leaked his interview with court officials (see "End Note," RFE/RL Newsline, 20 May 1997). Meanwhile, the UN Security Council yesterday elected to the tribunal 11 judges, none of whom comes from Eastern Europe. U.S., UN BLAST CROATIA. U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith told a press conference in Zagreb yesterday that "Croatia will go no further in the process of integration into Western institutions unless and until all Croatian Serbs who wish to return to Croatia are able to do this." He added that Washington is "appalled" at recent attacks on ethnic Serbs who tried to return to their homes in the Banija region. This is reported to be the toughest language Galbraith has used in public. Meanwhile, UN human rights envoy Elisabeth Rehn wrote Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic in Zagreb yesterday to express "serious concern" about the treatment of Croatia's ethnic Serbs. She warned that failure to remedy the situation could lead to "a tragedy for the peaceful reintegration of Eastern Slavonia." The Croatian authorities told Rehn that the Serbs are looting homes, churches, and museums in that region. MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT PASSES SECURITY LAW. The legislature approved a new security law yesterday, Belgrade media report. Opposition deputies walked out before the vote, saying the bill reflects an internal dispute within the governing Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) and does not involve other parties. Novak Kilibarda, a prominent politician of the Popular Concord opposition group, said the DPS wants changes in the security apparatus in time to secure President Momir Bulatovic's re-election later this year. SLOVENIAN RAILWAY WORKERS STAGE TEN-DAY STRIKE. More than 2,500 of the 9,655 employees of Slovenian state railways walked off the job yesterday in a pay dispute. The government had made an offer, but union spokesmen said it was too low, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Ljubljana. In Budapest, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek said his government will be "firm" in dealing with the strike, lest labor unrest spread to other sectors. The minimum wage for a railway worker is currently about $240 per month. Meanwhile in Serbia, the health workers' strike continues. The Kragujevac arms factory, the Jugopetrol-Kosovo enterprise, and some textile workers are also striking over back pay. ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER IN NETHERLANDS. Victor Ciorbea paid a one-day visit to The Hague yesterday and met with Prime Minister Wim Kok, who said his country has not yet made a decision on which states it will support to join an enlarged NATO, Radio Bucharest reported. He also told Ciorbea that The Netherlands, which currently holds the EU presidency, welcomes Bucharest's reform efforts. Kok said he is sure Romania will be among the countries with which the union will start membership negotiations next year. Those negotiations, he added, will be based on "strict objective, economic criteria." ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS OPPOSITION MOTION. The Chamber of Deputies yesterday rejected a motion by the opposition criticizing what it regards as an infringement of the Law on Local Administration. The opposition says the law prohibits Ciorbea from holding the posts of Bucharest mayor and premier simultaneously. It is demanding that he resign from the mayoralty. The government responded that Ciorbea is not breaking the law because he has not fulfilled his mayoral duties since an acting mayor replaced him, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The government intends to amend the law to allow mayors to retain their position while serving in government, although they would have to "suspend activity" while holding an executive position. The opposition also objects to the procedure chosen by the government to pass the amendment. Called "urgent government ordinance," this procedure does away with debate in the parliament and requires only the legislature's approval. OMBUDSMAN ELECTED IN ROMANIA. The Senate yesterday elected Paul Mitroi as Romania's first ombudsman, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The institution was first introduced in the constitution approved in 1991, but the law defining the ombudsman's role was approved only this year. Mitroi, who was nominated by the governing National Liberal Party, defeated the candidate of the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania, Rodica Stanoiu. Mitroi, aged 60, is a judge at the Supreme Court of Justice. He was expelled from the Faculty of Law in 1956 and was imprisoned for eight months for "propaganda against the [communist] state." PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE EXERCISE IN MOLDOVA. The first Partnership for Peace exercise to take place in Moldova and the first ever on the territory of a former Soviet republic began this week in Balti, in the northern part of the country. BASA-press reported that the exercise, called Medceur '97, involves about 80 U.S. medical troops and some 250 Moldovan troops, who will simulate emergency rescue operations. OUTGOING BULGARIAN PREMIER PRESENTS FINAL REPORT TO PRESIDENT. Stefan Sofiyanski yesterday presented to President Petar Stoyanov the final report on his government's activity and noted he was proud of having helped Bulgaria survive its worst economic crisis. He said he hoped the new government will have the same public support as his cabinet has enjoyed during its three months in office, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. BULGARIAN AUTHORITIES TO MONITOR CORRUPTION IN MASS PRIVATIZATION. The Interior Ministry says it has uncovered economic crimes amounting to $19 million since the caretaker government replaced the former Socialist government in February. Mincho Yashev, head of the ministry's economic police department, said his investigators will closely monitor all voucher funds set up under the mass privatization program, Reuters reported yesterday. The funds are to pool share vouchers issued to individuals. Yashev also said 200,000 illegally pirated audio compact discs have been seized in Bulgaria since February, and that the new government is determined to change Bulgaria's reputation as the biggest producer of pirate CDs after China. Industry officials say state and private plants in Bulgaria illegally copied more than 20 million CDs last year. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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