|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
Vol. 1, No. 40, Part II, 28 May1997
Vol. 1, No. 40, Part II, 28 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 * RUSSIAN PREMIER'S COMMENTS BEFORE VISIT TO UKRAINE * U.S. DESCRIBES SLOVAK REFERENDUM AS FLAWED * ALBANIAN PARTIES FAIL TO AGREE THAT ELECTIONS ARE BINDING End Note: Yeltsin Draws a Line in Europe xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE RUSSIAN PREMIER'S COMMENTS BEFORE VISIT TO UKRAINE. Speaking on the eve of his trip to Ukraine, where he is to make preparations for Russian President Boris Yeltsin's upcoming visit, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said in Moscow on 27 May that the two countries' dispute over the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet must be resolved during Yeltsin's visit. According to Chernomyrdin, the Black Sea Fleet is "indissolubly linked" to the signing of a wide-ranging political treaty between the two countries. ITAR-TASS quoted Chernomyrdin as saying that Moscow is worried by what he called "Ukraine's increasingly distinctive policy of squeezing out the Russian language and culture" from the state and from intellectual life. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma--speaking on 27 May in Tallinn, where he attended a regional summit--said he had "very high hopes" for signing the treaty with Russia during Yeltsin's visit. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko said in Kyiv the same day that Ukraine might be willing to lease the port of Sevastopol to Russia for 20 years as part of an agreement on the Black Sea Fleet. UKRAINE ADMITS CONDITIONS FOR CRIMEAN TATAR RETURNEES ARE POOR. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko said on 27 May that Ukraine does not have funds to improve conditions for Tatars returning to Crimea, dpa reported. He urged the international community to increase its aid. Only about half of deported Crimean Tatars who have returned to Crimea have received accommodation in Ukraine. Speaking at a seminar in Kyiv, Udovenko noted that the camps for ethnic Tatars in Crimea often do not have electricity and that 80% do not have water supplies. He also said most adult Tatars have little hope of finding employment in the country. WORLD BANK SAYS COAL SECTOR REFORMS IN UKRAINE SLOW. Lazslo Lovei, a World Bank official in Washington, says the implementation of coal sector reforms in Ukraine has been much slower than expected and that the country will not be ready for the second half of a loan to finance the reforms for another several months, RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported on 27 May. In December 1996, the bank approved a $300 million restructuring loan to help Ukraine close unproductive mines and privatize the entire coal sector. Ukraine drew the first $150 million of the loan in December, but Lovei said a review team in April 1997 found that the required reforms were going slowly. The second $150 million tranche is dependent on the country's having met specific conditions. Meantime, an IMF three-year loan of up to $3 billion will only be release after Ukraine's approval of the state budget. PRESIDENTS OF BALTIC STATES, POLAND, UKRAINE MEET IN TALLINN. Following their summit meeting in the Estonian capital on 27 May, the Baltic, Polish, and Ukrainian presidents issued a joint statement expressing their approval of the Russia-NATO Founding Act, signed in Paris earlier the same day,. BNS reported. The five leaders stressed that NATO "should remain open" to all countries ready and able to join and that each state has the right to choose the best way to ensure its own security. They also called for the "further intensificatio n of north-south European economic integration" through improved cooperation between regional organizations. During their meeting, the five presidents discussed the situation in Belarus, which, they said, "gives cause for concern." They agreed to "get together with Belarus to seek a solution to the problem." ESTONIA INQUIRES ABOUT SCANDAL OVER FERRY DISASTER COMMITTEE. Minister for Transport and Communications Raivo Vare has asked his Finnish and Swedish counterparts to comment on the recent scandal surrounding the Swedish-Finnish-Estonian committee investigating the sinking of the passenger ferry Estonia, ETA reported on 27 May. The vessel sank in a storm southwest of Finland en route from Stockholm to Tallinn in 1994, killing 852 people. Olof Forssberg, Sweden's chief investigator into the incident, resigned on 26 May after admitting he had lied about a letter indirectly related to the disaster. He later retracted that statement but announced his resignation after meeting with the Swedish transportation minister. LITHUANIAN-POLISH JOINT ASSEMBLY. Parliamentary speakers Vytautas Landsbergis and Jozef Zych, following their meeting in Vilnius on 27 May, issued a statement saying the two countries' parliaments will adopt in June a joint resolution on setting up a Polish-Lithuanian Assembly The two leaders told journalists that the joint assembly will first seek to resolve bilateral political issues and then submit joint proposals to the countries' legislatures and European organizations. "This will doubtless facilitate the integration of Lithuania and Poland into the EU and NATO," Zych said. The first session of the assembly is to be held in summer 1997. It is planned that the body will convene at least twice a year. POLAND'S SOLIDARITY ALLIANCE UNVEILS ELECTION PROGRAM. Solidarity Election Action (AWS) chairman Marian Krzaklewski told journalists in Warsaw on 27 May that if the AWS wins the September elections, it will introduce crucial institutional reforms and make sure that everyone has a chance to share in Poland's economic success. Krzaklewski promised to give local governments more power, overhaul public services, and create a more equitable society while ensuring continued economic growth. Krzaklewski said AWS experts have prepared draft laws on reforming the social security and health care systems, privatization, returning assets confiscated under communism to their former owners, vetting public officials, and a pro-family tax system. CZECH LEADERS DISCUSS NEW GOVERNMENT DECLARATION. Leaders of the three coalition government parties began on 27 May to discuss a declaration to accompany the planned government reshuffle. Czech Prime Minister told journalists after the talks that he will push for rapid cabinet changes to try to end the political uncertainty, which has caused a sharp fall in the Czech crown. On 27 May, the crown lost about 8% of its value after speculators forced the Central Bank the previous day to allow it to float. Klaus said that the three ruling parties' chairmen would present a joint statement about the coalition's governing program to their respective party leaderships for approval . Czech President Vaclav Havel met all three coalition leaders earlier in the day. He demanded that the coalition present a clear program and warned again against mere "cosmetic" changes to the cabinet. U.S. DESCRIBES SLOVAK REFERENDUM AS FLAWED. U.S. State Department spokesman John Dinger told reporters on 27 May that Slovakia's 23-24 May referendum on NATO membership and direct presidential elections was "flawed," RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported. Noting that the referendum was a matter of serious concern to the U.S., Dinger said that Slovak voters were unable to express their will on two issues of obvious importance to them. The ballot, approved by the referendum commission, contained four questions--three on NATO membership and one on direct presidential elections. However, Interior Minister Gustav Krajci distributed ballots with only the three NATO questions. The referendum was widely boycotted and officially declared void on 26 May. Dinger said the U.S. viewed the Slovak government's conduct during this referendum as a step backward from Slovakia's "democratic record of free and fair elections" since 1989. He added that the Slovak government showed a lack of respect for the rule of law. HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES BASIC TREATIES, DESPITE OPPOSITION OBJECTIONS. The parliament on 27 May passed bills approving Hungary's bilateral basic treaties with Russia, Slovakia, and Romania, Hungarian media reported. Four out of the five opposition parties--the Democratic Forum, the Independent Smallholders' Party, the Christian Democratic People's Party, and the Alliance of Young Democrats--voted against the Hungarian-Slovak basic treaty, pointing to Slovakia's anti-democratic measures against its Hungarian minority. The same parties abstained from voting on the Hungarian-Russian treaty because of the unresolved issue of the return of Hungary's art treasures confiscated by the Soviet Union. The opposition Democratic People's Party voted in favor of the treaty with Romania, while the other four opposition groups abstained again, arguing that the text of the treaty is "weak." However, they expressed confidence in the current democratic changes in Romania HUNGARY, VIETNAM TO BOOST ECONOMIC TIES. Visiting Vietnamese Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet and his Hungarian counterpart, Gyula Horn, met in Budapest on 27 May and agreed to improve economic cooperation and to build what they called "politics-free ties, based on mutual advantage," Hungarian media reported. Horn said his country wanted to participate in several projects in Vietnam, and he offered assistance with the privatization program under way there. Tamas Horvath, an adviser to Horn, said Hungary appreciated Vietnam's "correctness" in repaying debts accumulated during the "Soviet era." He added that Horn offered "preferential treatment" if Vietnam agreed to pay the remaining debt (some $41 million) in installments larger than $ 3 million. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN PARTIES FAIL TO AGREE THAT ELECTIONS ARE BINDING. Representatives of 10 political parties met in Tirana on 27 May but failed to agree that the 29 June election results will be binding for all sides. Six parties, including the Socialists, repeated their demands that President Sali Berisha lift the state of emergency. Socialist delegate Ethem Ruka argued that "under the state of emergency, [Democratic Party] Interior Minister [Belul Cela]...could have more power than the [coalition] government," Albanian media reported on 28 May. The state of emergency could also be used to ban rallies of political parties, since it allows for the dissolving of any public meeting of more than three people. In Tirana, however, the Socialist Party held its first election rally on 27 May, attended by at least 10,000 people. OSCE BEGINS DEPLOYING ADVISERS ACROSS ALBANIA. The OSCE sent out 14 election adviser teams to Elbasan, Durres, Kavaja, and Kruja on 27 May. Soldiers from Operation Alba accompanied them on their first day in the field. A total of more than 50 advisers will take up positions throughout Albania soon. In late June, an additional 400 monitors will join them for the final days of the campaign and for voting. Meanwhile, in Vlora there is still no civil administration in place after police abandoned the city last week, Dita Informacion reports on 28 May. OTHER NEWS FROM ALBANIA. Democratic Party members in Berat demanded that former party chairman Eduard Selami run in their district, adding they will not vote for a candidate proposed by the party's national leadership in Tirana. The national leaders sacked Selami in early 1996 after he disagreed with Berisha over the question of a new constitution. Meanwhile, only 60% of the personnel of Tirana's military hospital had returned to work by 27 May, despite pledges from the Defense Ministry to fully investigate the recent attack on the hospital by elite troops, Dita Informacion reported on 28 May. And on Tirana's money markets, the lek was devalued by 8% on 27 May. REPORT SAYS UN TO DELAY RETURN OF EASTERN SLAVONIA TO CROATIA... The International Herald Tribune on 28 May quotes an unnamed Western ambassador in Zagreb as saying that UN troops will stay on in Croatia's last Serb-held enclave until 15 January, which is six months longer than planned. The report says the Security Council will approve the measure soon. The article adds that "Washington and its European allies [are] angered by the stubborn refusal of the Croatian government to permit 350,000 exiled ethnic Serbs to return to their homes" and have decided to postpone the return of eastern Slavonia as punishment. The reported decision follows repeated warnings from Washington and other capitals that Croatia must let Serbs who want to go home do so. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman said recently that it would be "unreasonable" to expect his country to take so many people back. He has likened the situation of Croatia's Serbs now to that of Czechoslovakia's Germans after World War II. The return of eastern Slavonia and the town of Vukovar is a highly emotional issue in Croatia, but it is unclear whether a decision by foreigners to postpone the return would hurt Tudjman politically or play into his hands. ...BUT SLAVONIA'S INTEGRATION INTO CROATIA GOES AHEAD. On 27 May, the first train in almost six years ran from Croatia's Vinkovci to Serb-held Vukovar, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Vukovar. The local Serbian political leader, Vojislav Stanimirovic, returned from talks with Tudjman in Zagreb and said that the Croatian president will take his re-election campaign to Vukovar in early June. Stanimirovic added that he invited Tudjman to Beli Manastir as well and that he hopes that the president's visit will be constructive and not humiliate the Serbs by displays of Croatian nationalism. On 26 May, eastern Slavonian Serbian and Croatian political leaders met in Osijek to lay the ground rules for new local government bodies, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Osijek. MORE INFLUENCE FOR HARD-LINERS IN MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT. Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski announced key changes in his cabinet in Skopje on 27 May. Among those fired were Construction Minister Jorgo Sundovski, whom public prosecutors have linked to the collapsed TAT pyramid scheme. Also out are two prominent reformists, namely Deputy Prime Minister Jane Miljovski and Foreign Minister Ljubomir Frckoski. The foreign affairs portfolio goes to former Defense Minister Blagoj Handziski. Foreign diplomats told news agencies that the reshuffle favors neo-communists at the expense of reformists. ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER ON ECONOMY. Victor Ciorbea told the press on 27 May that the rate of inflation has considerably slowed down but will still reach 110% by the end of 1997. He said the rate for the first four months was 90%. The present situation is "difficult," Ciorbea said, but if reform is not pursued, it will be "unbearable." He also forecast that unemployment, estimated at 10.3% for 1997, will drop to 8.7% by 2,000 and that the budget deficit will decrease from its present 4.5% of GDP to 2.5% in 1998-2000, Radio Bucharest reported. Meanwhile, the Chamber of Deputies on 27 May rejected an opposition motion (the third in this legislature) criticizing reductions of personnel in the education, health, justice and agriculture ministries. HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT ENDS ROMANIAN VISIT. Arpad Goencz on 26-27 May visited the Transylvanian towns of Cluj and Targu Mures, both of which have large Magyar populations. He was given a warm welcome, and the visit ended without incidents. The nationalist mayor of Cluj, who earlier had called for demonstrations against Goencz, urged Romanians in the city to refrain from demonstrating and not to fall victim to the alleged "provocations" of "hundreds of Hungarian agents disguised as tourists," an RFE/RL Cluj correspondent reported. Both Goencz and President Emil Constantinescu vowed to prevent extreme nationalists from undermining the historical reconciliation between their countries, Reuters reported. ROMANIA TO HAVE MEMORIAL FOR VICTIMS OF COMMUNISM. The Senate on 27 May passed a law providing for a memorial to the victims of communism to be erected in the former Sighet prison in north-western Romania, where many of the country's politicians and other elites were imprisoned and perished in the 1950s. The house rejected an amendment moved by two members of the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania, who wanted the memorial to be dedicated also to the victims of the 1938-1944 dictatorships of King Carol II and Marshal Ion Antonescu as well as to those who perished at the hands of the Fascist Iron Guard movement, Mediafax reported on 27 May. The Chamber of Deputies approved the initiative in April. MOLDOVAN PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY WANTS EARLY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. A statement released by the movement For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova (MPMPD), the main political group backing President Petru Lucinschi, calls for early parliamentary elections, BASA-press reported on 27 May. The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for spring 1998, but the MPMPD, which is not represented in the legislature, said the current composition of the parliament hinders the necessary rapid reforms and "cardinal problems remain unsolved." It added that "certain irresponsible forces" are refusing to tackle priority issues, creating a "danger of destablizing the political situation." The main faction represented in the parliament, the Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova, rejected the idea, as did parties belonging to the right wing of the political spectrum. The latter are involved in an attempt to create a unified right-wing block but have so far failed in this quest, the agency said. BULGARIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE INVESTIGATES STATE SAVINGS BANK. Vladimir Manolov, acting chief of Bulgaria's National Security Service, says the service is investigating the State Savings Bank (DKS), which is suspected of mishandling funds and granting illegal loans to state and commercial banks, an RFE/RL Sofia correspondent reported on 27 May. Meanwhile, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported the same day that contrary to previous reports, Bistra Dimitrova, the head of the DKS, is now refusing to resign. She recently promised to quit following a demand by Prime Minister Ivan Kostov. She was appointed by the previous Socialist-dominated parliament (see RFE/RL Newsline, 22 and 27 May 1997). MEETING OF BULGARIAN, ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS Bulgarian Defense Minister Georgi Ananiev says his country and Romania are not rivals in the quest to join NATO. He said "sooner or later" the two countries will occupy "their rightful place" in the alliance. Ananiev spoke on 27 May in the northern Bulgarian town of Russe after meeting with his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Babiuc said the good neighborly relations between the two states contribute to the region's political stability. The two ministers agreed to intensify bilateral military cooperation, including an exchange of information on the reform of the military under way in both countries. END NOTE Yeltsin Draws a Line in Europe by Paul Goble Even as NATO moves to overcome divisions in Europe, Boris Yeltsin contin ues to assert there is one line in Europe that the Western alliance must not cross -- the borders of the former Soviet Union. Prior to signing the NATO-Russian Founding Act, the Russian president wa rned that a NATO decision to offer membership in the alliance to any former Soviet republic would "fully undermine" Moscow's relationship with NATO. His press secretary added that such a step would force Russia, against its will, to turn to the East for allies. Many in the West are likely to view Yeltsin's comment as strictly for Ru ssian domestic consumption. Many others will probably dismiss it as an outburst of hard-line rhetoric just prior to what they regard as a major Russian concession -- Moscow's acceptance of NATO's eastward expansion, an alliance of which it is not a member. But there are three important reasons why Yeltsin's remarks should not b e ignored. First, they reflect the unfortunate tendency of the Russian government to ignore the provisions of agreements that Moscow has signed or to unilaterally revise them for its own benefit. The Russia-NATO accord signed on 27 May explicitly states that neither NATO nor Russia has "a veto over the actions of the other." The document also specifies that it does not give either side the right to take actions to the detriment of the security of third countries. Yeltsin has agreed to all of this on paper, but he is continuing to insi st that those words do not mean what they say and that, in effect, Russia has a veto on both the actions of NATO and the efforts of other countries to advance their own security. The recent history of the modification of the Conventional Forces in Europe accord provides a model for how the Russian government may behave on this point as well. Moscow used the fact that Russia would be in violation of the CFE accord to pressure the West to agree to changes. And the West agreed to many of Moscow's demands largely in order to preserve the accord. Second, Yeltsin's words are cleverly designed to prompt the West to acce pt such a new dividing line in Europe, at a time when Western leaders are proclaiming that they have achieved a Europe without such divisions. Many Western leaders are already congratulating themselves for securing Russia's agreement to the inclusion of three or four East European countries. And consequently, at least some of them appear to be willing to grant Russia something in return. Yeltsin is clearly hoping that the West will -- at least implicitly --gi ve him the recognition of Russia's sphere of influence that he seeks. But if that happens, the former Soviet republics and the Baltic States -- which were never legitimately part of Moscow's empire -- are certain to conclude that the West has indeed retreated from its own commitments and betrayed its own principles. Such conclusions -- to the extent they are justified -- will not be lost either on the many other countries around the world that depend on the West for protection against stronger neighbors or on those stronger countries that may seek to take advantage of the weakness of others. Third, Yeltsin's words suggest a Russian agenda with respect to its neig hbors that not only threatens their security but that of Europe and the West as a whole. To the extent that the West appears to accept that Russia has a sphere of influence over the territory of the former Soviet Union and the Baltic States, those countries will find themselves increasingly isolated and likely subject to ever greater pressures of various kinds from Moscow as Russia recovers from its present weakness. Those pressures, in turn, will have a significant impact not only on the domestic development of these states but also on their relations with one other and the world as a whole. Internally, such increased pressure is likely to divide many of these countries politically, thus weakening and isolating them still further. Externally, such responses may lead to precisely the kind of conflicts that everyone wishes to avoid and no one wants to be drawn into. Western countries are right to seek a Europe without new lines, but it w ould be a tragedy for everyone if they allowed Yeltsin to resurrect an old one -- the border of a country that no longer exists. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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