|One must learn by doing the thing; though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try. - Sophocles|
Vol. 1, No. 36, Part II, 22 May1997
Vol. 1, No. 36, Part II, 22 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 * SLOVAKIA'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT SAYS REFERENDUM LEGAL * ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS WANT ELECTION MONITORING * TENSIONS RISE ON ALBANIAN-MACEDONIAN BORDER xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN, POLISH PRESIDENTS MEET IN KYIV. Leonid Kuchma and his Polish counterpart, Alexander Kwasniewski, signed on 21 May a declaration of reconciliation, which is aimed at helping overcome the centuries-long animosity between the two countries. Kuchma said after the signing that the moment had arrived to draw a line beneath the two countries' difficult past, while Kwasniewski noted that conclusions should be drawn from history to ensure its negative aspects are never repeated. The two presidents also spoke out against isolating their neighbor, Belarus, which has been criticized in the West over its human rights record. BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT COMMENTS ON AGREEMENT WITH RUSSIA. Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 21 May he is confident that he and Russian President Boris Yeltsin will overcome their differences over a Russian-Belarusian union charter at their 23 May meeting in Moscow. Lukashenka ruled out any federation with Russia, saying he wants a union of two equal sovereign states. Yeltsin earlier said the ultimate goal of the union should be the merger of the two countries. ESTONIA, U.S. INITIAL LEGAL AGREEMENT. Ain Seppik, the director-general of the Estonian police department, and Richard Owens, the director of the U.S. Justice Department's international relations bureau, initialed a legal aid agreement in Tallinn on 21 May, ETA reported. The accord is an amended version of a 1924 bilateral agreement. It provides for mutual aid in solving criminal cases, extradition of detained persons, determining the whereabouts of suspects, and information exchange. Also on 21 May, Prime Minister Mart Siimann said Estonia will not be deterred by Russian opposition in its bid to join NATO. Siimann was responding to Russian President Boris Yeltsin's statement on 19 May that Moscow will reassess its relations with NATO if the alliance expands to include former Soviet republics. "In determining our foreign strategy, we have decided not to respond brutally to such declarations," Siimann said. RUSSIAN, LATVIAN BORDER TREATY TO BE SIGNED IN 1997? Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov wrote in a 21 May message to his Latvian counterpart, Valdis Birkavs, that he is hopeful an agreement on the countries' common border can be signed by the end of the year, Interfax reported. Latvia and Russia agreed on the treaty text in March but are still drawing up delimitation maps. Primakov expressed satisfaction with the development of bilateral relations but showed concern about the problems facing ethnic Russians in Latvia. He said he hoped that the two sides would discuss this and other issues at the Baltic foreign ministers conference in Riga in July. RUSSIAN, LITHUANIAN PRESIDENTS CONFIRM GOOD RELATIONS. In a telephone conversation on 21 May, Boris Yeltsin and Algirdas Brazauskas confirmed that bilateral relations are "constructive and good," Reuters reported, quoting a Lithuanian spokesman. The two leaders discussed the Russia-NATO Founding Act but did not touch upon Lithuania's bid to become a member of the alliance. They also discussed their common border and agreed that a Brazauskas's visit to Moscow in the fall should center on the signing of a border treaty, Interfax reported. POLISH INTERIOR MINISTRY PREPARES FOR POPE'S VISIT. Polish Interior Minister Leszek Miller told journalists in Warsaw on 21 May that authorities will prevent any group from disrupting Pope John Paul II's visit to Poland from 31 May to 10 June. Gay rights groups and Polish anarchists are planning protests in Wroclaw, the first stop on the Pope's tour. PAP reported that 33,000 policemen will be on duty during his visit. More than 4 million Poles are expected to see the Pope, and the Polish parliament is expected to ratify a treaty with the Vatican during his visit. The Pope is scheduled to meet with the presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia while he is in Poland. CZECH GOVERNMENT TO COMPENSATE SLOVAK VICTIMS OF HOLOCAUST. The Czech government announced on 21 May that it is willing to compensate Slovak victims of the Holocaust for gold confiscated from them and now deposited in Prague, CTK reported. Gold seized from Slovak Jews by the Nazi regime was deposited in a Bratislava bank until 1953, when it was transferred to Prague. Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, however, told journalists that his government still has to decide who should be compensated and in what way. Klaus argued the biggest problem is that the original owners of the gold have no descendants or legal heirs. Klaus has proposed that the Slovak government be involved in the process and provide about a third of the compensation. SLOVAKIA'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT SAYS REFERENDUM LEGAL. The Constitutional Court has ruled that a referendum on direct presidential elections is legal and that a change to the constitution can be the subject of a referendum. But it also ruled that if citizens vote to change the constitution in favor of direct presidential elections, the question remains of how the actual change to the basic law would be made. The referendum is to be held 23-24 May. Despite the court ruling, Interior Minister Gustav Krajci ordered on 21 May that referendum ballot papers be printed omitting the question on direct presidential elections. Krajci told journalists he has decided to assume responsibility for issuing ballot papers with only the three questions about NATO membership. The ballots with four questions--including the question on direct presidential elections--have in the meantime been distributed on the orders of the Central Referendum Commission. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS WANT ELECTION MONITORING. Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano said in a declaration in Tirana on 21 May that his party will take part in the 29 June elections if the international community monitors them. Socialist Prime Minister Bashkim Fino made the same point in a letter to Franz Vranitzky, the OSCE's special envoy to Albania. It is unclear whether the smaller parties agree, since their main concern is not monitoring but rather increasing the number of parliamentary seats elected by proportional representation. Meanwhile, Fino is continuing talks aimed at securing an all-party agreement on the elections. OSCE DECIDES ON ALBANIAN ROLE. OSCE officials discussed in Vienna on 21 May what that organization will do if Albanian political parties fail to reach an overall pact on holding elections. Vranitzky announced on 22 May that the Albanian parties have reached such an agreement, but no details have been given. One OSCE participant called the 29 June date a "total fantasy" in view of the anarchy prevailing in much of Albania. Other participants noted, however, that there is little hope of ending the turmoil or disbanding the rebel committees without an early vote. Vranitzky, Italian leaders, and other representatives of the international community have hinted that they are running out of patience and that outside aid to Albania will cease if there are no elections. TENSIONS RISE ON ALBANIAN-MACEDONIAN BORDER. The Macedonian Defense Ministry said in Skopje on 21 May that armed incidents are increasing along the Albanian frontier. The worst single case was a four-hour gun battle between Albanian bands and Macedonian security forces near Debar on 19 May. Defense Minister Blagoje Handziski visited the area the next day and promised to step up security along the border, which is already officially closed. In an other incident, a peacekeeper was wounded on 20 May by shots fired from the Albanian side of the frontier. U.S. URGES GERMANY TO HOLD OFF ON DEPORTING BOSNIANS. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said in Washington on 21 May that "the United States strongly supports the voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons to Bosnia. [But Washington also believes] that it is premature to return forcibly Bosnians to areas where their ethnic group is in the minority." The next day, German Interior Minister Manfred Kanther said that Germany does not need any advice from abroad. The State Department also announced the appointment of David Schefferas special envoy to deal with war crimes. He is currently an adviser to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who will visit Sarajevo at the end of the month. Meanwhile, U.S. charge d'affaires in Belgrade Richard Miles heard complaints from Sandzak human rights activists in Novi Pazar on 21 May. TUNNELS FOUND IN MOSTAR. Local Croatian authorities said in Mostar on 21 May that they have discovered a "catacomb" of tunnels under a road separating Croatian and Muslim positions on the west bank of the Neretva. The officials did not speculate on the purpose of the network, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Herzegovina's main town. In Sarajevo, four non-nationalist opposition parties said they will run a joint slate in the September local elections. Spokesmen added that their goal is to keep control of Tuzla and win at least one of the districts of Sarajevo. The parties' "shadow government" includes people from either side of the inter-entity frontier. CROATIA PROTESTS TO HAGUE COURT. Justice Minister Miroslav Separovic sent an open letter to the war crimes tribunal on 21 May charging that the court violated Croatian sovereignty by conducting investigations in the country without the government's permission. Also in Zagreb, Foreign Minister Mate Granic said that Croatia needs $3 billion in foreign assistance to help resettle returning Serbian refugees. In Vukovar, UN officials stated that fewer people than expected took advantage of a three-day program to exchange Yugoslav dinars for Croatian kunas (see RFE/RL Newsline, 19 May 1997). The officials added, however, that most local Serbs are using "other mechanisms" to convert their dinars to Croatian currency. SERBS DISCUSS KOSOVO. Representatives of several political parties met in Kosovo's Decani monastery and agreed that the province must remain part of Serbia and that the ethnic Serbs there must enjoy full rights. The parties also called for a democratic, peaceful solution to the Kosovo problem. Neither the governing Socialists nor Vojislav Seselj's Radicals attended the meeting, BETA noted. Meanwhile in Belgrade, Bratislava Morina, the federal official in charge of refugees, said that only 10% of the Bosnian refugees entitled to register to vote for the September elections have done so. Morina called for an extension of the registration deadline and said refugees' fears that voting will lead to deportation to Bosnia are "unfounded." ROMANIA, UKRAINE TO SIGN TREATY NEXT MONTH. The basic treaty initialed between the Romanian and Ukrainian foreign ministers on 3 May (see RFE/RL Newsline, 5 May 1997) will be signed by the two country's presidents, Emil Constantinescu and Leonid Kuchma, on 2 June in the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta. The announcement was made by President Kuchma in Kyiv and was confirmed by the Romanian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman. On the same occasion, the signatories will exchange letters detailing the agreed solutions to problems not mentioned in the treaty. Among these are the non-deployment of offensive weapons by Ukraine on the Black Sea Serpents Island, navigation on the Chilia branch of the Danube River delta and the delimitation of the continental shelf around Serpents Island. In the treaty itself, the two countries recognize present frontiers as inviolable and grant extensive rights to each other's national minorities. ROMANIA REFUSES ENTRY TO U.S.-EXPELLED NAZI. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says Nikolaus Schiffer lost his Romanian citizenship when he joined the German SS in 1943 and will not be allowed back in the country. The U.S. Justice Department announced earlier this week that it would deport Schiffer, who was a concentration camp guard during World War II, to Romania (see RFE/RL Newsline, 20 May 1997). RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reports that the ministry's spokeswoman said on 21 May that Schiffer lost his Romanian citizenship in line with the provisions of a 1939 law that prohibited service in foreign armies. She said Romania had on these grounds rejected a U.S. request in 1995 to allow Schiffer to return and had not been approached since. BELL HELICOPTER MAIN SHAREHOLDER IN ROMANIAN COMPANY. The U.S. Bell Textron Helicopter company has acquired 70% of the shares in the Brasov IAR aircraft company, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 21 May. The remaining shares are to be held by IAR employees. An agreement signed the same day in Bucharest stipulates that the Bell Textron IAR subsidiary will produce 96 Cobra helicopters, to be called AH-1 Ro Dracula, for the Romanian Defense Ministry. MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REFUSES CHANGE TO HOUSE RULES. The parliament on 21 May rejected an initiative to change house rules to allow deputies who have left the faction on whose lists they were elected to form new factions, Infotag reported. The initiative was submitted by 18 members of the house who, at different times, quit their parties. The largest number of supporters were defectors from the Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova and from the Socialist Unity-Edinstvo faction. Opponents of the initiative said it would encourage factionalism and thereby complicate and even paralyze the work of the legislature. BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW CABINET. The parliament on 21 May confirmed Prime Minister Ivan Kostov's government by a vote of 179 to 55. All deputies present, except for the opposition Socialists, voted in favor. Kostov told legislators that the "years of false reform" and "officially-sanctioned theft" have come to an end. He said his cabinet would immediately set to work to "bring Bulgaria into the 21st century as a civilized European country." The immediate priority of the government, he said, is to stabilize the national currency by tying the domestic money supply to foreign exchange reserves. The government would also privatize many state companies, sell off state banks, cut bureaucracy, and intensify the struggle against organized crime. Kostov said joining the EU and NATO are the country's main foreign policy goals. BULGARIAN PREMIER DEMANDS RESIGNATION OF BANK CHIEF. In his first act as premier, Ivan Kostov on 21 May demanded the resignation of State Savings Bank (DKS) chief Bistra Dimitrova. Dimitrova said she will resign by the end of the week. She was appointed to head the bank, where most Bulgarians keep their savings, by the previous Socialist-controlled parliament. An RFE/RL Sofia correspondent says Kostov's demand indicates his intention to do away with credit policies at state banks that are alleged to be politically-biased. The DKS is blamed for issuing bad loans to companies with links to the former Socialist government and failing to protect the interests of savers. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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