|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
Vol. 1, No. 38, Part II, 26 May1997
Vol. 1, No. 38, Part II, 26 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 * REFERENDUM ON CONSTITUTION IN POLAND * SLOVAK REFERENDUM ENDS IN CHAOS * ALBANIAN SPECIAL POLICE ATTACK MILITARY HOSPITAL End Note : Integration as the Final Stage of Disintegration xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE RALLY IN MINSK IN SUPPORT OF UNION CHARTER. More than 15,000 people took part in a rally in Minsk on 23 May in support of the union charter, signed the same day in Moscow by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Belapan reported. The signing of the charter follows a shorter union treaty concluded last month. Both documents call for closer integration between Russia and Belarus. Semen Sharetsky, former head of the parliament disbanded by Lukashenka last year, said on 24 May that the signing of the charter adds "nothing new" to current relations between Russia and Belarus. Viktor Chikin, leader of the communist party of Belarus, expressed hope that other states would join the Belarusian-Russian union. He urged the parliaments of both countries to ratify the charter as soon as possible. UKRAINE, RUSSIA NEAR SOLUTION ON DIVISION OF BLACK SEA FLEET. Viktor Semenov, the mayor of the Crimean city of Sevastopol, told Interfax on 24 May that the problem of dividing the Black Sea Fleet is close to being solved. Semenov spoke upon his return from Moscow after taking part in a meeting of a joint Russian-Ukrainian commission that is drawing up a bilateral agreement. The accord is scheduled to be signed when Russian President Boris Yeltsin visits Kyiv on 30 May. Semenov said that never before have Ukraine and Russia been so close to solving the problem as they are now. He refused, however, to reveal details of negotiations. GERMANY TO BUILD HOUSING FOR ETHNIC GERMANS IN UKRAINE. Germany has announced plans to build two housing projects for ethnic Germans near Odessa, Interfax reported on 24 May. The announcement was made by a German government delegation, which visited Kyiv and Odessa to get acquainted with the problems of ethnic Germans in Ukraine. Germany has also offered to help Ukraine by supplying industrial equipment, setting up joint ventures, and modernizing Odessa airport. RUSSIA WANTS 'CLOUDLESS RELATIONS' WITH ESTONIA. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov told journalists in Moscow on 24 May that Russia wants "cloudless relations" with Estonia, BNS and ITAR-TASS reported. But he noted the development of bilateral relations is hampered by several problems, including Estonia's intention to include reference to 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty in the parliament's statement on the Russian-Estonian border agreement and Estonian policy "aimed against ethnic Russians." He stressed that Moscow wants Tallinn to respect OSCE recommendations about its Russian-speaking population and to hold a dialogue with Russia on "humanitarian issues." LATVIAN PREMIER READY TO RESIGN IF FOUND GUILTY OF G-24 CREDIT MISUSE. Andris Skele told a Latvian newspaper on 23 May that he will step down as premier if it is proven he was responsible for the misallocation of G-24 loans, BNS reported. Skele has repeatedly rejected allegations that he had ties to the firm Lata International, established to service farm credits. In 1992, Lata extended G-24 credits to 12 companies. Those loans--which one report estimates at $10 million -- had not been repaid when the company was declared bankrupt in November 1995. Former Agriculture Minister Dainis Gegers was charged with negligence and abuse of power. Skele was deputy agriculture minister at the time. A parliamentary investigative committee is examining the case. Meanwhile, a new party called Freedom has been formed in Latvia. Andris Rubins, one of its founders and an independent deputy, said the party aims at ensuring the welfare of Latvia's citizens. LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS EMIGRE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES. The parliament has again rejected a bill that would have abolished the requirement that presidential candidates be permanent residents of the country for the previous three years, BNS reported on 23 May. The bill, proposed by the Centrist Union, was aimed at allowing Valdas Adamkus, a U.S. environmental official of Lithuanian descent, to run for the presidency of the Baltic state. Presidential elections in Lithuania are scheduled for December. Adamkus has fared well in opinion polls but would face strong opposition from parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis, who spoke out against the bill. Incumbent President Algirdas Brazauskas is to announce in the fall whether he will seek re-election. REFERENDUM ON CONSTITUTION IN POLAND. According to unofficial results based on exit polls released by Polish TV late on 25 May, the majority of voters supported a new constitution in a referendum held earlier that day. According to the polls, 57% of voters approved the basic law and 43% rejected it. President Alexander Kwasniewski said the voter's approval came at the end of a long process enshrining democracy and economic reform in Poland. He expressed disappointment at the low turnout, which was estimated at 40%. The text of the constitution is a compromise between the post-communist majority and the opposition. Among the strongest opponents of the proposed new constitution was the Catholic Church, which criticized its failure to ban abortions. Former Polish President Lech Walesa said the referendum result and turnout were "tragic." CZECH GOVERNMENT CHANGES ANNOUNCED, PRESIDENT CRITICAL. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told a news conference on 24 May that Finance Minister Ivan Kocarnik and Interior Minister Jan Ruml have resigned. Klaus said the ministers, both members of his Civic Democratic Party (ODS), will be replaced by Jiri Waigel and Petr Necas, respectively. Waigel is Klaus' chief adviser and is not formally affiliated to any party. Necas, an ODS deputy, is chairman of the lower house's defense and security committee. Trade and Industry Minister Vladimir Dlouhy confirmed at a 23 May meeting of the coalition Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) that he will leave his post as part of the cabinet reshuffle. Dlouhy's successor is not yet known. Czech President Vaclav Havel on 25 May criticized the cabinet reshuffle, saying he would not participate in what he called "half-baked, cosmetic changes." Havel said the proper constitutional solution would be for the three-party coalition government to resign and form a new cabinet. SLOVAK REFERENDUM ENDS IN CHAOS... The 23-24 May referendum on NATO membership and direct presidential elections was marred by a low turnout and confusion over whether voters should use ballots with three or four questions. The Central Referendum Commission is expected to issue official results on 26 May. However, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar has already said the turnout was less than 10% and declared the vote "invalid." The Central Referendum Commission approved ballots with four questions, of which three were on NATO admission and the fourth on direct presidential elections. But Interior Minister Gustav Krajci distributed ballots with only the three questions on NATO. President Michal Kovac refused to cast his vote when presented with a ballot including only three questions. ...WHILE OPPOSITION PLANS COUNTERMEASURES. Slovak opposition parties said on 25 May they will submit a bill to the parliament providing for the direct election of the president, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. Nine opposition parties agreed to seek the constitutional amendment at an upcoming special session of the legislature. Eduard Kukan, head of the opposition Democratic Union, told journalists the opposition will demand the resignation of Interior Minister Gustav Krajci and possibly also that of other ministers. Some opposition leaders said they will bring criminal charges against Krajci for spoiling the referendum. If the parliamentary bid to change the constitution fails, then the opposition will launch a petition for another, separate referendum on the presidential issue. HUNGARIAN JUNIOR COALITION PARTNER ELECTS NEW LEADER. Internal Affairs Minister Gabor Kuncze on 24 May was overwhelmingly elected leader of the Alliance of Free Democrats, Hungarian media report. Kuncze, who had been the party's acting chairman since Ivan Petoe's resignation in April, said he wants "to breathe fresh life into the party." He acknowledged that joining the Socialist-led ruling coalition after the 1994 elections has diminished the Free Democrats' popularity. Kuncze's mandate will expire in fall 1998. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN SPECIAL POLICE ATTACK MILITARY HOSPITAL. Members of the National Guard in armored personnel carriers attacked and shelled a Tirana military hospital on 25 May. The angry policemen blamed the hospital staff for negligence in the death of a guardsman the previous night from head injuries. The man was wounded in a shoot-out on 23 May in Cerrik, in which five elite policemen died and 13 were injured. The unrest erupted after a small contingent of special police forces from Tirana searched cars for arms on the city's main street. President Sali Berisha, who had planned to visit Cerrik that afternoon as part of his election campaign, pledged not to send special police forces to the city again. But the daily Dita Informacion on 25 May quoted Berisha as vowing a crackdown on southern Albanian insurgent committees. ROW OVER POLITICAL ROLE OF ITALIAN AMBASSADOR TO ALBANIA. Rome-based news agencies and the Tirana paper Indipendent said on 25 May that the Italian Foreign Ministry is about to replace Ambassador Paolo Foresti. He allegedly meddled in Albanian politics and contravened OSCE policies. The decision to sack Foresti reportedly came after Indipendent published what it said was the text of a taped telephone conversation between Foresti and Berisha's Democratic Party chairman Tritan Shehu on 21 May. Foresti allegedly advised Shehu not to agree to a compromise that OSCE mediator Franz Vranitzky hammered out between the government and Berisha on holding elections at the end of June. Meanwhile in Durres on 25 May, Berisha rejected Prime Minister Bashkim Fino's request to lift the 9:00 p.m. curfew. Fino said an end to the state of emergency would improve the atmosphere for the elections. CROATIA'S TUDJMAN CALLS RETURN OF ALL SERBS "UNREASONABLE." President Franjo Tudjman told state-owned media in Zagreb on 25 May that his country has promised to reintegrate the Serbs of eastern Slavonia. He added, however, that it is "unreasonable" for foreigners to insist that all Serbs who fled Croatia be allowed to go home. Tudjman argued that "no one is making demands that all Sudeten Germans [be allowed to] go back" and said that Croatia's priority is bringing home Croatian refugees, many of whom have been displaced since 1991. The president suggested that Croatia should not take too seriously criticism from other countries, since, he argued, the others need Croatia as much as it needs them. On 23 May, ambassadors from the Contact Group countries delivered a formal protest in Zagreb over Croatia's treatment of its ethnic Serbs, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. "CROATIAN COMMUNITY OF HERCEG-BOSNA" SET UP. Leading representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Croats--especially of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) --met in Neum on 24 May to found a successor to their para-state, which is banned by the Dayton agreement. Delegates adopted a statute, flag, and coat-of-arms. Top Bosnian HDZ politicians present included collective presidency member Kresimir Zubak and federal Co-Prime Minister Vladimir Soljic. Franjo Greguric, who is Tudjman's special envoy to Bosnia, also attended. Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak, who is the most prominent Herzegovinian in Croatia's HDZ, told delegates that they were right in setting up their own para-state during the war. The opposition Croatian Peasants' Party refused to go to Neum, saying that it is counterproductive to maintain a para-state now that the Dayton agreement has gone into effect, Novi List wrote on 25 May. KARADZIC FEARS HE MAY BE KILLED BEFORE APPEARING AT THE HAGUE. In the first installment of a five-part interview with the Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti on 25 May , indicted war criminal and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic strongly hinted that he might implicate some other prominent Serbs before the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. He suggested that such individuals could have an interest in killing him before he can tell what he knows. Karadzic told Serbian journalists last week that he is tired of being hunted and wants to clear his name (see RFE/RL Newsline, 20 May 1997). Reports in the Serbian press suggest that he may try to implicate before the tribunal Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, whom many Bosnian and Croatian Serbs feel abandoned them. NEWS ABOUT FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. The assembly of eastern Slavonia's Vukovar-Srijem county held its first meeting in Borovo on 24 May, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Vukovar. The assembly is the first to bring together Serbs and Croats in the area since 1991. In Gostivar, at least 4,000 ethnic Albanians protested recent measures by the Macedonian authorities against displaying the Albanian flag. In Munich, a Bavarian state court on 23 May found Novislav Djajic, a Bosnian Serb, guilty on 14 counts of taking part in the mass murder of Muslims. It was the first conviction in Germany for war crimes since the Nuremberg trials. HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT IN ROMANIA. At the beginning of his three-day official visit to Romania, Arpad Goencz met with President Emil Constantinescu, Premier Victor Ciorbea, and former President Ion Iliescu, who is also leader of the main opposition party. Goencz said Budapest will do "everything it can" for Romania's integration into NATO in the "first wave" and into the EU. Constantinescu said relations between the two countries have become "a model" for others, which would have been "inconceivable" just a few years ago, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He added that he has received Vienna's agreement to a Romanian proposal to establish a "trilateral" group aimed at improving security in central Europe and comprising Romania, Hungary, and Austria. He is to discuss the proposal with Goencz. DEMONSTRATION AGAINST GOENCZ'S PLANNED VISIT TO CLUJ. Defying the local prefect's order forbidding demonstrations against Goencz's visit to Cluj on 26 May, two organizations that call themselves "cultural" organized such a meeting the previous day. Nationalist mayor Gheorghe Funar and Vasile Matei, a deputy representing Funar's Party of Romanian National Unity, addressed the meeting, Romanian TV reported. On 25 May, U.S. congressman Tom Lantos, on a visit to Romania, handed Constantinescu and Goencz a letter from President Bill Clinton, praising Goencz "historic visit" to Romania. Meanwhile, the Romanian government announced that amendments to the Local Administration Law, which are about to be submitted to the parliament, allow for national minorities to use their mother tongue in dealings with local government authorities in areas where they make up more than 20% of the population. ROMANIAN PRESIDENT TO VISIT BONN. Constantinescu will meet with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl during a private visit to Bonn on 2 July. The discussions, one week before the Madrid NATO summit, will concentrate on Romania's bid to be admitted to the organization in the first wave of new NATO members, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 23 May. CHISINAU, TIRASPOL LEADERS MEET TO DISCUSS IMPLEMENTATION OF MEMORANDUM. President Petru Lucinschi and Igor Smirnov, the leader of Moldova's separatist breakaway Transdniester region, met in Chisinau on 24 May to discuss the implementation of the memorandum signed by the two sides in Moscow on 8 May. An RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported that they agreed on a protocol mainly dealing with the economic aspects of their relations. They also agreed to set up several joint groups of experts, one of which is to work on drafting a special status for the breakaway region. But Tiraspol continues to claim it is an independent state. The groups will begin working on 4 June. They will also discuss security arrangements in the Dniester River area. BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA, NATO. Nadezhda Mihailova says her country's desire to join NATO will not damage relations with Russia. Addressing an international conference on Bulgarian-Russian relations in Sofia on 23 May, Mihailova said ties with Moscow are among the foreign policy priority of the new Ivan Kostov government. In related developments, an RFE/RL Sofia correspondent reported on 23 May that the state-owned Bulgargaz company announced it has reached a deal with unspecified Russian gas exporters that could bring down the price of natural gas by about 10%. The largest Bulgarian private gas importer, Overgaz, is a subsidiary of the Multigroup consortium, widely regarded as representing the interests of the Russian Gazprom company. Multigroup has been set up by former communist officials and has repeatedly claimed that the price of Russian-imported gas cannot be reduced. EBRD APPROVES NEW LOANS FOR BULGARIA. The EBRD on 23 May announced it has approved new loans for Bulgaria totaling $300 million. Olivier Decamps, the bank's director for southeastern Europe, said he expects an increase in lending to Bulgaria and that the EBRD supports Kostov's new government. Industry Minister Alexander Bozhkov said the latest EBRD loans will help Bulgaria upgrade and develop its railroads, highways, and airports as well as privatize parts of the tourist sector and create competitive markets in agriculture. In other news, Alexander Sabotinov, who heads the Bulgarian privatization agency, announced on 25 May that Bulgaria will privatize Chimco, its main manufacturer of chemical fertilizers. END NOTE Integration as the Final Stage of Disintegration by Paul Goble The new Russian-Belarusian union charter calling for closer integration of those two countries makes the formation of a single federal state including them or other former Soviet republics significantly less, rather than more, likely. As signed by Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 23 Ma y, the charter contains some impressive language about cooperation in a variety of spheres, including foreign policy, economic reform, energy, and transportation. It raises the possibility of a common currency and even common citizenship in the future. And it creates a Supreme Council that is supposed to increase cooperation between those two states and to prompt other former Soviet republics to sign the charter. But like all previous efforts to promote integration in the former Sovie t Union, this one does little to change the general situation. Instead, it highlights just how far apart Moscow and Minsk now are--let alone Moscow and any other former Soviet republic capital--on both the meaning or even the desirability of closer ties. Despite his reputation of seeking unity with Russia at all costs, Lukash enka himself made it very clear that there are limits to just how far even he is prepared to go. Notably, he spoke out against any arrangement that might threaten Belarusian independence or give Moscow a free hand or even an expanded voice in Belarus itself. On 21 May, two days before signing the charter, Lukashenka said that "setting up a federation with Russia would be worse for Belarus than when it entered Stalin's Soviet Union." The next day, he forced Yeltsin to drop a clause the Russian president had inserted in the charter suggesting that the two countries should ultimately merge into just such a federal state. And just prior to the signing ceremony at the Kremlin, Lukashenka dismis sed the claims of some Russians that the charter was the first step toward the re-establishment of a single, Moscow-led state on the territory of the former Soviet Union. He told Ekho Moskvy that the new charter would do nothing more than "confirm in law what has existed in fact for quite some time." Lukashenka's past statements, his transparent personal ambition for powe r in Moscow, and his increasing authoritarianism at home have combined with widespread assumptions about the supposed lack of any fundamental differences between Russians and Belarusians to conceal the broader implications of what this latest charter means. But it is precisely Lukashenka's personal approach and how close Belarus and Russia are in certain respects that provide some important clues on the more general issue of how Moscow and the non-Russian countries are likely to relate to one another in the future. If Belarus and Lukashenka are not prepared to proceed toward total reintegration with Russia, which many in Moscow want, then certainly no other country in the region is likely to be willing to go even as far Minsk has. Even less so than Belarus and Lukashenka, no other non-Russian country or leader is willing to move toward closer integration with Russia in the absence of Moscow's recognition of the independence and equality of that country and the lack of willingness by Russia to commit to a specific set of rules that will control Russian actions just as they control non-Russian actions. What is more, no Russian leader is willing to make such commitments to t he equality of those countries vis-a-vis Russia or to tie Moscow's hands in its actions toward its neighbors. Indeed, just as in the current case, Russian leaders are the ones who have rejected any move toward a more precise definition of the permissible. Such differences in understanding about what integration should mean are becoming an ever greater obstacle to any agreement that might be freely arrived at between Moscow and Minsk and between Moscow and the other former Soviet republics. That is certainly how many of the leaders in this region view the situation. As Kazak Deputy Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov commented, the Russian-Belarusian accord is likely to share "the fate of many other integration deals" within the CIS and remain "only on paper." Such an outcome, of course, would not be a tragedy for many of them. Ind eed, it would confirm the victories of 1991. But unfortunately, the failure of agreements like the one signed on 23 May could lead to another outcome. It could prompt some in the region to conclude that re-integration should be pursued by means other than democratic and voluntary ones. If that happens, it would be a tragedy not only for the countries most directly involved but for everyone else as well. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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