What you can become, you are already. - Friedrich Hebbel
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 1, No. 39, Part II, 27 May 1997


Vol. 1, No. 39, Part II, 27 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
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Headlines, Part II

* SLOVAKIA'S REFERENDUM DECLARED INVALID

* CZECH CROWN ALLOWED TO FLOAT, DEVALUATION EXPECTED

* ALBANIAN PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES ELECTION COMMITTEE LINEUP

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

SLOVAKIA'S REFERENDUM DECLARED INVALID. The Central Referendum Commission on
26 May officially told the parliament that the 23-24 May referendum on NATO
membership and direct presidential elections was invalidated owing to faulty
procedures, Slovak media reported. The commission said the referendum did not
comply with election rules because four questions, including one on direct
presidential elections, should have been included on the ballots. The
commission did not confirm a Statistics Office announcement that fewer than
10% of registered voters participated. A member of the Central Referendum
Commission denounced the ballot papers distributed by the Interior Ministry as
a "massive swindle" after the question on direct presidential elections was
dropped from ballots on the orders of Interior Minister Gustav Krajci. The
Constitutional Court earlier ruled that the question on direct presidential
elections could be included on the ballots but would not be legally binding.

SLOVAK PRESIDENT, PRIME MINISTER ASK EACH OTHER TO RESIGN. President Michal
Kovac said on 26 May that the failed referendum on Slovakia's NATO membership
and direct presidential elections has ruined the country's chances of early
entry into NATO and the EU. Kovac said Meciar's Movement for a Democratic
Slovakia should seriously consider whether Slovakia would benefit from
Meciar's complete withdrawal from political life. He also suggested that
Interior Minister Gustav Krajci resign. The president argued that
responsibility for the worsening international standing of the country lies
mostly with Meciar. Meciar, for his part, blamed Kovac for the failure of the
referendum and suggested that the president should resign.

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER RESIGNS OVER REFERENDUM. Pavol Hamzik resigned on 26
May, saying that the domestic political situation and the failed referendum on
Slovakia's NATO membership had made it impossible for him to continue. In a
statement, Hamzik said the circumstances surrounding the referendum have "to
the greatest possible extent" limited his ability to achieve Slovakia's
foreign policy goals. Hamzik said he wants his resignation to signal that
Slovakia's "vital international interests" are being subordinated to domestic
fights for power. Hamzik, a career diplomat who became foreign minister last
August, was regarded as an ardent support of Meciar's government.

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ON PARTNERSHIP WITH NATO. Leonid Kuchma urged Ukrainians
on 26 May to back his efforts for speedy integration with Western
organizations, including NATO. But he stressed that Ukraine is not currently
seeking to join the alliance. Speaking at a youth congress, Kuchma said the
Ukrainian people must understand the importance of the special partnership
expected to be signed this summer between NATO and Ukraine. He argued the
agreement is crucial for the security of Ukraine and Europe. Kuchma noted that
public acceptance will be difficult because "NATO was depicted by official
propaganda as our main enemy for half a century."

BELARUSIAN POPULAR FRONT REJECTS DEAL WITH RUSSIA. Lyavon Barshchevski, acting
president of the opposition Popular Front, told journalists in Minsk on 26 May
that his movement did not recognize the union charter signed by President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Russian President Boris Yeltsin last week. He
predicted it would strengthen public support for the country's independence.
Barshchevski said the charter threatened the independence gained by Belarus
when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The Popular Front, which admits it
has only minority support among the population of 10 million, has staged a
series of protests in recent months against Lukashenka's authoritarian rule.

BALTIC PRESIDENTS URGE NATO TO KEEP DOORS OPEN. Lennart Meri of Estonia,
Guntis Ulmanis of Latvia, and Algirdas Brazauskas of Lithuania have urged NATO
to keep its doors open to countries not included in the alliance's first wave
of expansion, BNS reported. The three Baltic leaders met on 26 May in the
southern Estonian town of Otepaa. In a joint statement, they called on NATO to
set up a Euro-Atlantic partnership council and to expand its Partnership for
Peace program. They also said they would work toward establishing a Baltic
customs union while seeking integration into the EU. The three presidents are
scheduled to meet in Tallinn on 27 May with their Ukrainian and Polish
counterparts, Leonid Kuchma and Aleksander Kwasniewski, to discuss economic
cooperation, security, and integration with European structures, ETA reported.

ESTONIA SCORES HIGHEST ECONOMIC FREEDOM RATING AMONG FORMER SOCIALIST BLOC. An
international study of economic freedom puts Estonia in 52nd position among
115 countries worldwide and in top place among former socialist bloc
countries, ETA reported on 26 May. The survey, entitled "Economic Freedom of
the World 1997," was based on 17 indicators, including finance, tax
collection, private property, inflation, and foreign trade. It notes that the
strongest point of the Estonian economy is free trade and also mentions that
foreign currency accounts can be opened, restrictions on business activity are
few, and income tax is low at 26%. On a scale of zero to 10, Estonia was
awarded 5.6 points. Of the former socialist bloc countries, Lithuania followed
with 5.5 points, the Czech Republic with 5.2 points, and Hungary with 5.1
points.

LITHUANIAN ROUNDUP. President Brazauskas sent a letter to Israeli
parliamentary speaker Dan Tikhon on 26 May promising Lithuania will
investigate all suspected former Nazis and prosecute those found guilty of
crimes during World War II, Interfax and Western agencies reported. The letter
followed Israeli requests to speed up the investigations. Meanwhile,
parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis said Russian Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov has no "historical memory," BNS reported. Landsbergis was
responding to the minister's comments about possible NATO membership of the
Baltic States, which Primakov called "ex-Soviet" (see RFE/RL Newsline, 26 May
1997). Landsbergis recalled the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and suggested that, in
evoking the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, Primakov revealed the
"true mentality" of the current Russian government.

POLISH CONSTITUTION APPROVED. Official final results of the 25 May referendum
on a new Polish Constitution, released to the media the following day showed
52.7% of Poles backing the document. Some 46% were opposed. Voter turnout was
43%. The constitution was drafted by the ruling Democratic Left Alliance, its
coalition ally, the Peasant Party, and two opposition parties in the
parliament. It retains the current political system but weakens the
presidency.

CZECH CROWN ALLOWED TO FLOAT, DEVALUATION EXPECTED. The Central Bank on 26 May
decided to abolish the 15% band in which the exchange rate for the Czech crown
was allowed to fluctuate. The step was announced at a press conference by the
bank's governor, Josef Tosovsky, and Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus. Klaus said
the government will adopt measures to stabilize the crown. But economic
experts predict that the bank will no longer be obliged to defend the band in
which the crown fluctuated, the currency will quickly devalue by as much as
15%. Bank officials said that despite last week's massive interventions to
support the crown, the bank still has about $10 billion in hard currency
reserves, which it would use if speculators drove the crown too low. President
Vaclav Havel said that in view of the latest developments, the ruling
coalition should restructure the government rather than make only cosmetic
changes.

RUSSIA OFFERS MiG FIGHTER JETS TO HUNGARY. A visiting Russian delegation, led
by Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Bulgak, has offered MiG and Sukhoi fighter
jets to Hungary, the daily Nepszabadsag reported on 27 May. The previous day,
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Anatolii Ogurcov told a Budapest press
conference that Hungary is Russia's second largest trading partner in the
region after Poland, with Russian-Hungarian trade totaling $2.5-2.7 billion
annually. The delegation intends to negotiate the payment of the former Soviet
Union's debt to Hungary and is expected to meet Industry, Trade, and Tourism
Minister Szabolcs Fazakas and Prime Minister Gyula Horn. Last week, in a sales
drive, U.S. aircraft producer Lockheed Martin Corporation displayed F-16 jet
fighters in Kecskemet, saying purchase would allow the Hungarian air force to
improve cooperation with NATO. Also last week, Defense Minister Ferenc Vegh
said Hungary will have to buy new aircraft if it is invited to join NATO.

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES ELECTION COMMITTEE LINEUP. Sali Berisha on 26 May
announced in Tirana the composition of the 17-member Central Election
Committee. The chairman will be Kristaq Kume, a member of the president's
Democratic Party and the deputy chairman Fatos Klosi, a Socialist. They will
share responsibilities and validate election returns jointly. The secretary
will be Democrat Thimio Kondi, the Interior Ministry's state secretary for
local government. Socialist Prime Minister Bashkim Fino's government will
challenge that appointment, since Fino nominated someone else. The Democratic
Party and the Socialists have four seats each. Eight other parties share the
remaining seats, the daily Indipendent reported on 27 May.

OPPOSITION STILL CONSIDERS ALBANIAN ELECTION BOYCOTT. Following a meeting with
Fino in Tirana on 26 May, eight parties in the broad-based coalition
government announced they want the lifting of the state of emergency, strict
international monitoring of the elections, and government control over the
secret service. The parties said they still may boycott the ballot if Berisha
does not meet their demands, Koha Jone reported. Meanwhile at a conference on
Albania in Rome, Italian Prime Minister Lamberto Dini warned Albanians that
future international aid to their country will depend on whether free and fair
elections take place. OSCE special envoy Franz Vranitzky said that Operation
Alba's mandate will have to be extended beyond the June elections (see RFE/RL
Newsline, 23 May 1997).

ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATES POLICE ATTACK ON HOSPITAL. The government on
26 May launched an investigation into the previous night's attack by members
of Berisha's elite National Guard on the Tirana military hospital (see RFE/RL
Newsline, 26 May 1997). Hospital doctors threatened to walk off the job unless
Berisha identifies the attackers. Defense Minister Shaqir Vukaj pledged "not
to tolerate such banditry anymore." A spokesman for the National Guard also
condemned the attack. Elsewhere, armed insurgents blocked a convoy of special
police forces from entering Gjirokaster on 26 May, before a visit by Berisha.
Several days earlier, on 23 May, shots were fired at the car of Leka Zogu, the
claimant to the throne, near Tropoja, Koha Jone reported on 27 May.

SERBIAN PRESIDENT REBUFFS U.S. DIPLOMAT. Slobodan Milosevic on 26 May told
Robert Gelbard, the new U.S. special envoy to the former Yugoslavia, that
Belgrade will not hand over indicted war criminals to the Hague-based
tribunal. Gelbard had earlier told Milosevic that federal Yugoslavia's
relations with the U.S., Western Europe, and international financial
institutions will depend on Belgrade's cooperation with the court and on its
willingness to solve the Kosovo question. Milosevic is obliged by the Dayton
agreement to work with the tribunal. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
reported from London on 27 May that Britain's new Labor government will
release its secret service documents on Bosnian war crimes, which many
observers expect to cast light on Milosevic's own involvement in the
atrocitiies.

SERBIAN OPPOSITION COALITION BEYOND REPAIR? Serbian Renewal Movement leader
Vuk Draskovic and Serbian Radical Party chief Vojislav Seselj have called for
the replacement of Belgrade Mayor Zoran Djindjic, an RFE/RL correspondent
reported from the Serbian capital on 26 May. Draskovic and Djindjic are
partners in the opposition Zajedno coalition but have been feuding in public
for weeks. Many moderates regard Seselj as a war criminal and as Milosevic's
political stalking horse. It is unlikely that such people will back Draskovic
as Zajedno's presidential candidate now that he has made common cause with
Seselj. Belgrade press reports say that former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan
Panic is hoping to emerge from the imbroglio as the eventual joint opposition
Serbian presidential candidate.

NEWS FROM AROUND SERBIA. Federal Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovc
returned from a four-day visit to Kuwait on 26 May and announced in Belgrade
that Kuwait will buy $50 million-worth of Yugoslav military equipment. Across
Serbia, 106 schools remain closed because of a teachers' strike, Nasa Borba
reported. In Kosovska Mitrovica, an ethnic Albanian couple was found murdered
in their home. The man was a retired employee of the Interior Ministry, BETA
wrote. In Novi Pazar, Serbian government Minister without Portfolio Milun
Babic warned the governing Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) that "this
is the first time in the history of the new Yugoslavia that a nationally-based
party holds total power." He told the SDA that "it must show how democratic it
is." The Serbian parliament is currently debating a bill that will guarantee
Serbs and Montenegrins a power role in regions where they are in the minority.


TENSIONS CONTINUE IN MACEDONIA. In the ongoing controversy in Macedonia's
Gostivar over hoisting Albanian and Turkish flags at the town hall, police on
26 May moved in to break up armed clashes between Macedonians, on the one
hand, and ethnic Albanians and Turks, on the other. In Debar, there was
another violent incident near the Macedonian-Albanian border, BETA wrote. No
details are yet available.

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT ASKS FOR CONFIDENCE VOTE. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea,
in a letter to the chairmen of Romania's bi-cameral parliament, asked for a
vote of confidence in his government, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 26
May. The parliament will vote on 3 June in a joint session of the two
chambers. The government is asking the legislature to approve its entire
reform program, including accords with international financial bodies. Under
the procedure used for this purpose, known as "government assumption of
responsibility," the opposition must move a vote of no-confidence within three
days. If it fails to do so, the government's program is regarded as having
been approved. The leader of the main opposition party, former president Ion
Iliescu, on 26 May accused the government of failing to implement its
electoral promises. His Party of Social Democracy in Romania will move a
no-confidence motion this week.

HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT CONTINUES ROMANIAN VISIT. Arpad Goencz and Romanian
counterpart Emil Constantinescu on 26 May unveiled a monument commemorating
Hungary's executed premier, Imre Nagy, in Snagov, near Bucharest. Goencz told
a joint session of the Romanian parliament the same day that his country
viewed Romania's joining an enlarged NATO as "vital" for its own interests. He
said he hoped the Romanian parliament will approve draft legislation submitted
by the government, which meets many of the Hungarian minority's demands,
RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Earlier, the two highest officials of the
Council of Europe--Secretary-General Daniel Tarschys and Parliamentary Assembly
President Leni Fischer, who are attending meetings of the council in
Bucharest--held talks with the two presidents. They noted that Goencz's visit
is an important step toward democratic stability in Europe.

CE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY MEETINGS IN BUCHAREST. Walter Schwimmer,
vice-chairman of the judicial and human rights committee in the Council of
Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, says Romania must further improve its human
rights record. Schwimmer spoke on 26 May in Bucharest, where the assembly's
committees are holding their summer meetings. He said the Penal Code's
provisions on punishment for homosexual acts must be changed. He also said
detention conditions must be improved in Romania's prisons, the passage of
legislation on the return of property confiscated by the communists should be
accelerated, and the government should launch a resolute campaign against
racism, xenophobia, and intolerance, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The
committee's chairman, Gunnar Jansson, said Romania has made progress in the
treatment of ethnic minorities, but problems remain with the Roma minority.
These, he said, are "all-European rather than specifically Romanian" problems.

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON RUSSIA-BELARUS TREATY... Petru Lucinschi says it is up
to Russia and Belarus to decide how far they will go toward integration. In an
interview with RFE/RL on 26 May, Lucinschi reiterated that Moldova was a
"neutral state" and had no intention to change its status or pursue the
Russian-Belarus model. He added that Chisinau must nonetheless collaborate
with other members of the CIS. The Moldovan president emphasized that the CIS
was not an organization aimed at reconstructing the former Soviet Union but a
"totally new organization aimed at achieving a new kind of regional community
of interests." Lucinschi shrugged off a question concerning his image as
"Moscow's man," saying it "would not be the first time in history that a
foreigner had been called on to lead another country." He said what counted
was to faithfully represent the interests of one's own country.

...AND ON MOLDOVA'S PRIVATIZATION DRIVE. Lucinschi is urging the parliament to
pass as quickly as possible the privatization program for 1997-1998. At a
government meeting, Lucinschi also said a national agency aimed at attracting
foreign investors should be set up, BASA-press reported on 26 May. One of the
conditions of a recent agreement with the World Bankfor a $100 million loan
(see RFE/RL Newsline, 22 May 1997) is the speeding up of privatization.

BULGARIAN SECURITY SERVICE CALLED TO BATTLE CLANDESTINE FINANCIAL GROUPS.
Bulgarian Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev on 26 May called upon the National
Security Service to investigate clandestine financial groups that he says are
trying to undermine Sofia's new economic policies. Bonev said some groups,
"especially among banking circles," are trying to place obstacles in the way
of the proposed currency board before it is set up in July. The board is to
link the Bulgarian lev to hard currency reserves in the National Bank. Bonev
said that the currency board is being attacked by groups that are trying to
siphon money from institutions like the State Savings Bank (DSK). Bistra
Dimitrova, who was appointed head of the DSK by the previous
Socialist-dominated parliament, resigned on 23 May under pressure from Prime
Minister Ivan Kostov (see RFE/RL Newsline, 22 May 1997). Bonev said
Dimitrova's activities at the bank are under investigation.





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