|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
Vol. 1, No. 41, Part II, 29 May1997
Vol. 1, No. 41, Part II, 29 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 * UKRAINE, RUSSIA SIGN AGREEMENTS ON BLACK SEA FLEET * BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT READY TO TALK WITH OPPOSITION * ALBANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OVERTURNS GOVERNMENT DECISION TO SACK POLICE CHIEF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE, RUSSIA SIGN AGREEMENTS ON BLACK SEA FLEET. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Pavlo Lazarenko, signed on 28 May agreements on the division of the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet and the conditions for stationing the Russian part on Ukrainian territory, ITAR-TASS reported. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma attended the signing ceremony in Kyiv. Chernomyrdin told reporters later that Ukraine had agreed to allow Russia to keep its share of the fleet at Sevastopol for the next 20 years. During that period, Ukraine will lease port facilities to Russia. He said the documents also addressed the technical and financial aspects of the stationing of the Russian and Ukrainian parts of the fleet on the Crimean peninsula. In addition, Chernomyrdin and Lazarenko signed agreements on long-term economic and technical cooperation. Russian President Boris Yeltsin is scheduled to visit Kyiv on 30-31 May to sign a wide-ranging political treaty with Ukraine. BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT READY TO TALK WITH OPPOSITION... Alyaksandr Lukashenka told a news conference on 28 May he is ready to open talks with the opposition on possible changes to the constitution. Adopted in November 1996 in a controversial referendum, the constitution gave broad powers to Lukashenka, who has imposed restrictions on opposition parties and media. The opposition has refused to recognize the text. Lukashenka said he was ready to listen to all opposition proposals for reforming the political system and the constitution. He urged the opposition to come up with constructive ideas and to avoid what he called "political clashes." ...SUPPORTS RUSSIA-NATO TREATY. Lukashenka also said he supports the Russia-NATO treaty, signed the previous day in Paris. But he added that he regretted that Russian President Boris Yeltsin had failed to inform him about his decision to re-target nuclear missiles away from NATO member countries. He also said Yeltsin's statement came "as a bit of a surprise." Lukashenka noted the treaty had not reduced the "strategic significance of Belarus" for the defense of the CIS. ESTONIAN DEPUTIES CRITICIZE PRIMAKOV STATEMENT ON BORDER PACT. Parliamentary deputy speaker Tunne Kelam says that Russia's opposition to referring to the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty in an Estonian parliament declaration on the Russian-Estonian border pact is a "typical pretext not to sign the accord," BNS reported on 28 May. Kelam was responding to recent comments by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov (see RFE/RL Newsline, 26 May 1997). The Estonian official compared those comments to "previous excuses" not to sign the agreement such as humanitarian issues and technical problems. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mart Siimann told journalists in Tallinn on 28 May that the summit meeting of the Baltic, Polish, and Ukrainian presidents the previous day was "in no way directed against Russia." Siimann's statement followed Russian press reports suggesting the summit had an "anti-Russian tone" and was scheduled to take place at the same time as the Russian-NATO meeting for a "certain purpose." LATVIAN GREENS OPPOSE CONSTRUCTION OF LITHUANIAN OIL TERMINAL. Latvia's Green Party is opposed to Lithuanian plans to construct an off-shore terminal at Butinge for the transshipment of oil and oil products, BNS reported on 28 May. Green Party Co-Chairman Askolds Klavins said that if there were an oil leakage or an accident at Butinge, the Latvian environment would suffer because winds and sea currents would spread pollution to the Latvian coasts. The oil terminal will be situated 1.3 km from the Latvian border with Lithuania. The total cost of the project is estimated at $260 million. POLISH COURT CALLS FOR ABORTION LAW TO BE RE-EXAMINED. The Constitutional Tribunal ruled on 28 May that the abortion law lacks clarity and must be re-examined by the parliament, RFE/RL's Warsaw correspondent reported. The law allows women to terminate pregnancies until the 12th week for difficult social and economic reasons. A court official told journalists that the law poorly defined what "difficult conditions" meant. A two-thirds majority in the parliament is needed to override the court's ruling. However, it is unlikely to do so since the election campaign is under way and abortion is certain to be a major issue. Parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place in September. POLAND SUPPORTS SLOVAKIA'S NATO MEMBERSHIP. Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati told journalists in Warsaw on 28 May that "Poland certainly wants to see Slovakia in NATO even after the recent controversial Slovak referendum." He added that "it is in Poland's interest to have a nation that is a member of NATO at its southern border." He noted that Poland wants its "friends" to put in their domestic affairs in order and enter NATO as soon as possible. CZECH COALITION ANNOUNCES STABILIZATION PROGRAM, GOVERNMENT CHANGES. Leaders of the three government coalition parties on 28 May announced radical stabilization measures aimed at dealing with growing economic problems. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told journalists the new set of austerity measures will be "painful" and will result a temporary economic decline and rising unemployment. The measures include budgetary cuts, wage restrictions, and possibly new import barriers. The coalition leaders also announced that Education Minister Ivan Pilip will replace Finance Minister Ivan Kocarnik and Czech Ambassador to London Karel Kuenhl will take over the trade and industry portfolio from Vladimir Dlouhy. Parliamentary Security Committee Chairman Petr Necas is Interior Minister Jan Ruml's replacement, and Czech Ambassador to Germany Jiri Grusa is to become minister of education. MECIAR SAYS SLOVAKIA CAN STILL JOIN NATO. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar argued in a television debate on 28 May that the door to NATO is not yet closed for Slovakia. He said it is still being decided which countries will be invited to the talks on admission. Meciar denied that either his government or Interior Minister Gustav Krajci is responsible for the failure of the 23-24 May referendum on NATO membership and direct presidential elections. He said the referendum was invalid not because it was flawed but because not enough voters turned out at polling stations. Meanwhile, the Slovak Foreign Ministry has issued a statement saying that U.S. State Department spokesman John Dinger's statements on the referendum were rash and inappropriate (see RFE/RL Newsline, 28 May 1997). HUNGARIAN-RUSSIAN PROTOCOL ON MINORITIES. Csaba Tabajdi, state secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, and Russian Minister for Nationalities Vyacheslav Mihailov met in Budapest on 28 May and initialed an agreement on cooperation in minority affairs, Hungarian media reported. The agreement says the two sides will study each other's minority policies and exchange delegations annually. Tabajdi said that owing to the large ethnic minorities the two countries have outside their state borders, he considers Russia to be Hungary's "strategic partner." SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OVERTURNS GOVERNMENT DECISION TO SACK POLICE CHIEF. Judge Rustem Gjata ruled in Tirana on 28 May that a decision by Prime Minister Bashkim Fino to sack police chief and deputy Interior Minister Agim Shehu was illegal, Indipendent reported the following day. Shehu is a member of the Democratic Party and has often been accused by the opposition of using the security forces for political purposes. Gjata argued that "the appointment and sacking of high [security] officers is in the competence of the president only." Gjata is a communist-era judge whose previous rulings have often been in line with the policies of President Sali Berisha. Justice Minister Spartak Ngjela, who supported Fino's decision, has refused to comment on Gjata's ruling. SOCIALISTS AGAIN THREATEN ALBANIAN ELECTION BOYCOTT. Fatos Nano repeated warnings in Tirana on 28 May that his party may boycott the June elections unless the state of emergency is lifted. Parliamentary speaker Pjeter Arbnori of the Democrats, however, rejected the idea. He told Dita Informacion that the state of emergency is no longer as tough as originally and does not hinder election campaigns or meetings. He also called on the opposition to use their influence with the southern insurgent committees to persuade them to dissolve before the ballot. ALBANIAN SOCIALIST LEADER TO RUN IN VLORA. The Socialist Party leadership proposed on 28 May in Tirana that Nano run for parliament from Vlora, Dita Informacion reported the following day. The local party branch in Vlora has welcomed the idea. Also in Vlora on 28 May, the local organization of the Democratic Party has said they do not want Berisha to hold an election rally in the town, which was the center of the anti-Berisha revolt earlier this year. In other news, monarchist Legality Party leader Guri Durollari announced in Tirana that his party is ending its electoral alliance with the Democrats, the Albanian Daily News reported. Some opposition politicians have charged claimant to the throne Leka Zogu with being too close to Berisha. ALBRIGHT ADDRESSES YUGOSLAV WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright pledged in The Hague on 28 May to intensify efforts to catch and bring to justice indicted war criminals from the former Yugoslavia. Referring to her upcoming visit to that region, she said: "I'm going to be delivering a new, tougher message to both [Croatian President Franjo] Tudjman and [his Serbian counterpart Slobodan] Milosevic that their lack of cooperation is a roadblock...to their full membership in the international community.... I am confident that a price will be paid for the atrocities that ravaged Bosnia for four years. Until it paid by those who perpetrated the crimes, it will be paid by those who protect them." Meanwhile in Sarajevo, U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard handed over to the Bosnian presidency a letter from President Bill Clinton pledging tough action to help implement the Dayton agreement in the coming weeks. CROATIAN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN BEGINS. The three candidates approved by the electoral commission on 27 May launched their campaigns in Zagreb the following day. President Franjo Tudjman of the Croatian Democratic Community used the backdrop of a ceremony honoring air force pilots to stress his and his party's record in achieving independence and sovereignty. The Social Democrats' Zdravko Tomac and the Liberal-led coalition's Vlado Gotovac each promised at separate press conferences to call new parliamentary elections should Tudjman win the 15 June presidential vote. Polls suggest that the best the opposition can expect to do is to force the incumbent into a second round of voting. SERBIAN-CROATIAN UPDATE. Representatives of the leading Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) and Independent Democratic Serbian Party met in Vukovar on 28 May to conclude local power-sharing arrangements, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the east Slavonian town. The mayor of Vukovar will be a Croat and the council president a Serb. In Beli Manastir, the mayor will be a Serb and the council chief a Croat. UN administrator Jacques Klein stepped in to block the HDZ from shutting out the Serbs and making a deal with a small hard-line Croatian party in Vukovar. And in Zagreb on 27 May, Foreign Minister Mate Granic and his Yugoslav counterpart, Milan Milutinovic, signed an agreement on diplomatic and consular relations. Granic said he is unhappy with the situation of Croats in Serbia, while Milutinovic insisted that all Croatian Serbs who want to go home should be allowed to do so. The two countries will seek to draft by mid-June agreements on border regulations and on road and rail transportation. NEWS FROM AROUND FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. The UN Security Council on 28 May voted to extend the mandate for the 1,100 peacekeepers in Macedonia until the end of the year. In Ljubljana, Slovenian officials say they have been told by NATO representatives in Brussels that Slovenia will be included in the first round of NATO expansion, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported. Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek, for his part, wrote in the Christian Science Monitor that Slovenia will bring NATO only benefits and not burdens. In The Hague, Carl Bildt said on 27 May in his farewell speech as chief international representative in Bosnia that Europe's poor performance in the former Yugoslavia since 1991 proved that "only the United States can act and only the United States can deliver" in the Balkans. In Sarajevo, over 500 foreign and local companies launched a trade fair to promote the rebuilding of Bosnia's infrastructure. In Podgorica, the governing Democratic Socialist Party reached agreement with the opposition Popular Concord coalition on parliamentary control of the Montenegrin intelligence services. CLINTON PRAISES IMPROVED ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN RELATIONS... In a speech in The Hague marking the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, U.S. President Bill Clinton on 28 May praised improved relations between Romania and Hungary. He noted that "in Bucharest, democracy has overcome distress, as Romanians and ethnic Hungarians for the very first time are joined in a democratic coalition government." President Emil Constantinescu attended the ceremony. ...WHILE ROMANIAN, HUNGARIAN PRESIDENTS SEND MESSAGE TO CLINTON. Constantinescu and Arpad Goencz, in a joint letter to President Clinton, say their countries are "both interested in joining a united Europe built on democratic values." They thanked Clinton for his support and said that the "favorable evolutions in Romania in the last months" and the implementation of provisions of the treaty Hungary and Romania concluded last year have created "a historic chance for an active partnership" between the two countries. That partnership, they noted, serves the interests of both the Magyar minority in Romania and the Romanian minority in Hungary, Rompres reported on 28 May. ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ON NATO MEMBERSHIP. Victor Babiuc says his country is optimistic that it will soon join NATO because of its strategic position and because Russia has not expressed opposition to the possibility of Romania's joining the alliance in the first wave of expansion. In an interview with AFP on 28 May, Babiuc said Romania was "happy" that Moscow "did not raise any special objections against Romania, as it did for the Baltic countries." He also said that the "countries of the northern zone of NATO" are beginning to understand that Romania was the "link which was missing in the southern flank, from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, all the way to Turkey." Babiuc added that Romania was a stabilizing factor between the Balkans and the Middle East, which should be viewed as high-risk zones because of "Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism, [and] drug trafficking." RUSSIAN TROOPS COMMANDER IN TRANSDNIESTER SAYS REORGANIZATION OVER. Lt.-Gen. Valerii Yevnevich, the commander of the Russian troops in Moldova's breakaway region, said on 28 May that the reorganization of the "operational group" has ended. He noted that the number of troops in the former 14th Army has been cut from 5,000 to 1,900, ITAR-TASS and BASA-press reported. Yevnevich harshly criticized the Transdniester leadership for preventing obsolete Russian ammunition from being scrapped. Yevnevich and Moldovan Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat recently agreed that some of the ammunition should be destroyed at the Ribnita plant in Moldova, which the Transdniestrian leadership opposes. Yevnevich stressed the armament and the hardware are "Russian federal property" and only the Russian government can make a decision about it. In 1995, the region's Supreme Soviet declared itself the owner of the Russian army's property. BULGARIA PLEDGES TO PRIVATIZE ARMS INDUSTRY. Industry Minister Alexander Bozhkov says the new Bulgarian government will privatize the entire military-industrial complex of the country. In an interview with state radio on 28 May, Bozhkov said the government was aiming to transfer 40% of state enterprises into private hands by the end of 1997. He also noted that his ministry is already preparing privatization plans for the state telecommunications company, the national airline, and the railroads. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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