|The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it. - Franklin P. Jones|
Vol. 1, No. 43, Part II, 2 June 1997
Vol. 1, No. 43, Part II, 2 June 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 WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * UKRAINIAN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS SIGN POLITICAL TREATY * ALBANIA GETS NEW SECRET POLICE CHIEF * ALBRIGHT IN FORMER YUGOSLAVIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS SIGN POLITICAL TREATY. Leonid Kuchma and Boris Yeltsin signed a wide-ranging political treaty on 31 May in Kyiv. The 10-year treaty, which will automatically be extended for 10-year periods if neither side cancels it, states that Russia accepts Ukraine's territorial integrity and its sovereignty over the Crimean peninsula. It also confirms that Russia will assume all foreign debts accrued by Soviet-era Ukraine in exchange for all foreign assets accumulated by Kyiv under communism. Kuchma hailed the signing of the treaty as an "event of huge importance" that opened "a new stage" in bilateral relations. Yeltsin's spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said the agreement solved all outstanding problems between Russia and Ukraine and ended a cycle of "distrust" and "suspicion," Interfax reported. Yastrzhembskii had said on 30 May that Yeltsin was concerned about discrimination against the Russian language and culture in Ukraine. SECURITY ASPECTS OF RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN TREATY. Under the new treaty, Russia and Ukraine have pledged not to enter into agreements with third countries aimed against each other and not to allow their territories to be used to the detriment of each other's security. Yeltsin and Kuchma also signed a declaration on the division of the Black Sea fleet, formalizing a deal reached during Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's recent visit (see RFE/RL Newsline, 29 May 1997). In addition, the two presidents called for reinforcing the role of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and issued a statement against stationing NATO troops and nuclear weapons in countries that are not yet members of the alliance. But Yeltsin's spokesman Yastrzhembskii told reporters on 30 May that Russia remains opposed to the NATO-led "Sea Breeze" naval exercises scheduled for August off the coast of Crimea, Reuters reported. KYIV REJECTS YELTSIN'S OFFER OF DEFENSE "IN EXTREME SITUATIONS." Ukrainian Security and Defense Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin says Kyiv has not asked Russia to help defend Ukraine, Reuters reported on 30 May. In a TV interview broadcast before he left for Kyiv, Yeltsin said that under the Russian-Ukrainian agreements to be signed, the two countries would "participate together to defend Ukraine" if it became necessary and would help each other "in extreme situations." Horbulin commented, "I think President Yeltsin was guided by his best intentions but there were no [such] requests from the Ukrainian side." WORLD BANK APPROVES GUARANTEES FOR UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN COMPANIES INVOLVED IN SEA LAUNCH VENTURE. The World Bank has approved partial risk guarantees worth $200 million to cover Russian and Ukrainian enterprises involved in the Sea Launch joint venture, RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported on 3O May. The companies involved in that venture, which is aimed at launching commercial satellites from a converted oil platform, are the U.S. Boeing Commercial space company, Russia's RSC Energia, Ukraine's Yuzhnoye, and Norway's Kvaerner Maritime. Russian and Ukrainian rockets and launch systems will be transported to the U.S. to be assembled with Boeing satellites and taken to a remote area of the Pacific for launching. The guarantees cover only political risks and are a complex arrangement involving the companies as well as the governments of Russia and Ukraine. World Bank Vice President Johannes Linn said the project should foster economic benefits for Russia and Ukraine totaling some $2 billion and help maintain up to 30,000 high-paying jobs in both countries. BELARUSIAN ROUNDUP. Niels Helveg, Denmark's foreign minister and acting president of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told journalists in Vienna on 30 May that Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antonovich agreed the previous day to allow the OSCE to set up a mission in Belarus. The mission will advise the authorities on ways to promote democracy. Meanwhile, Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian began an official visit to Belarus on 1 June. He is scheduled to visit military installations and meet with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Interfax reported that Chi will also meet with Prime Minister Sergei Ling and Defense Minister Alexander Chumakov. The two defense ministers are expected to sign a military accord. BALTIC FOREIGN MINISTERS' MEETING. Estonia's Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Latvia's Valdis Birkavs, and Lithuania's Algirdas Saudargas met on the Estonian island of Saaremaa on 1 June and urged the EU and NATO to accept all three countries as new members, ETA reported. They reiterated their stand that EU expansion negotiations should be started simultaneously for the three Baltic applicants and that the first round of NATO expansion should not be the last. The ministers also proposed that the Via Baltica highway become a regional project, which, they said, would pave the way for financing under the EU's PHARE program. The meeting was the last within the framework of the Baltic Council of Ministers under Estonia's chairmanship. Latvia takes over the chairmanship on 1 July. ESTONIAN POLICE CHIEF RESIGNS. Police Department Director-General Ain Seppik resigned on 30 May, BNS and ETA reported. He cited disagreements with Interior Minister Robert Lepikson over proposed personnel changes in the police leadership as well as insufficient funding for the police force. Seppik also pointed to recent attempts by the Coalition Party to "politicize" the police leadership and "worsening cooperation" between the Police Department and the Interior Ministry. Lepikson, who attended the press conference at which Seppik announced his resignation, confirmed that he would proceed with the proposed personnel changes. The same day, the minister approved a new leadership structure for the Police Department, according to RFE/RL's Estonian service. LITHUANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES TV, RADIO CHIEF'S DISMISSAL ILLEGAL. The Constitutional Court has ruled that the dismissal of Vytautas Kveitkauskas as radio and television chief was illegal, BNS reported on 30 May. The parliament in December passed a resolution setting up a new council of National Radio and Television (LRTV), which subsequently fired Kveitkauskas from his post. The Constitutional Court ruled that the parliament had contravened two articles of the basic law in setting up the new governing body. Kvietkauskas is seeking to be reinstated as LRTV chief and receive compensation for lost wages. POPE STARTS 11-DAY VISIT TO POLAND. Pope John Paul is currently in Poland for an 11-day visit. Upon his arrival at Wroclaw airport on 31 May, the pontiff said he has noted an "infusion of optimism" in Poland but added he is concerned about "at times very painful" problems and tensions. He later met with President Alexander Kwasniewski, who told reporters after the meeting that the Pope understands Poland's strengths but also its weaknesses and will give both warnings and encouragement during his trip. Kwasniewski, a former Communist, said Poles should "accept those observations" and "ponder their meaning." On 1 June, the Pope celebrated mass in Wroclaw. This is his seventh visit to his native Poland since he was elected in 1978. CZECH PRESIDENT WELCOMES GOVERNMENT'S DECISIVENESS. Vaclav Havel said on 1 June, in his regular radio address, that he welcomes the "new resoluteness" of the government of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus. He said he considered the announced government changes, which affect only two ministries, to be less important than the ruling coalition's consensus on a program to stabilize and reinvigorate the economy. A day earlier, Havel welcomed Klaus's announcement that he would ask the parliament for a vote of confidence in the government at the legislature's next session. SLOVAK PREMIER ATTACKS OPPOSITION. Vladimir Meciar said on national radio on 30 May that the Slovak opposition's calls for his and Interior Minister Gustav Krajci's dismissal were an attempt to "disrupt society." He added that the opposition is incapable of compromise. The right-of-center opposition parties have said they will propose a vote of no confidence in the two politicians over their role in the failed referendum on Slovakia's NATO membership and direct presidential elections. Meanwhile, leaders of the opposition Democratic Left Party (SDL) told journalists on 31 May that the SDL will reject any proposal for a no confidence vote in the government, although it considers the cabinet's conduct "unacceptable." The SDL said the "thwarting of the referendum by the Meciar government amounted to a direct attack on citizens' basic constitutional rights and harmed Slovakia's international position." At the same time, the SDL said President Michal Kovac and the right-wing opposition shared responsibility for the chaos preceding the referendum. HUNGARIAN SOCIALIST LEADER WARNS OF RIGHT-WING THREAT. Socialist Party parliamentary faction leader Imre Szekeres says the Left has the responsibility to prevent a surge in popularity of the right-wing Hungarian Justice and Life Party, Independent Smallholders' Party, and Christian Democratic People's Party, Hungarian media reported. At a meeting of the Socialist Party's Left-Wing Group on 31 May, Szekeres said that since they came to power in 1994, the Socialists have been unable to pursue a traditional left-wing policy. He stressed that a left-wing party must represent the values of democratic socialism rather than build capitalism. He also noted that the three right-wing parties represent a threat to democracy and expressed the hope that Socialist leaders would recognize that threat and present a united front ahead of the 1998 elections. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SECURITY SITUATION IN ALBANIA STILL TENSE. An explosion rocked downtown Tirana near Socialist Party headquarters. No details are yet available. Rebels in Vlora shot at an Italian helicopter on 30 May as it was taking an injured child to an Italian hospital, Gazeta Shqiptare reported . The rebels were reported to have thought that Berisha had sent the helicopter to attack them. A spokesman of Vlora's insurgent committee told a press conference in Tirana that election preparations are proceeding apace and all parties are participating, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Albanian capital. But another committee representative told Dita Informacion on 1 June that "a blood bath" could result if Berisha tries to campaign in Vlora. And in Gjirokaster, the local insurgent committee rejected charges that it was responsible for blocking the car of a team from the European Community Monitoring Mission in the area last week, Koha Jone wrote on 1 June. Finally, the government in Tirana protested to the Macedonian ambassador on 30 May about an incident on 25 May during which Macedonian troops allegedly fired into an Albanian village on the two countries' tense border. ALBANIA GETS NEW SECRET POLICE CHIEF. President Sali Berisha named Arben Karkini from the Republican Party as the new head of SHIK on 30 May in Tirana. The coalition government also nominated the Socialist Arben Rakipi to be Karkini's deputy, but Berisha has not agreed. Namik Dokle, a top Socialist politician, charged Berisha with delaying Rakipi's appointment for political reasons, Dita Informacion wrote. Democratic Alliance leader Meritan Ceka said Karkini will not make any difference in the structure of SHIK, which the opposition and the independent media regard as a tool of Berisha. Karkini is currently prosecutor in Kavaja. ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS OFFER BALLOT PLACES TO SMALLER PARTIES. The Socialist Party offered in Tirana on 30 May to nominate joint candidates from smaller parties and organizations in over 25 of the 115 electoral districts. The move came at a meeting of the Forum for Democracy, which is an umbrella organization composed of several small political groups. Forum leader Fatos Lubonja nonetheless refused such a ballot place for himself, Koha Jone reported on 1 June. Meanwhile, Democratic Party spokesman Vili Minarolli said in Tirana that his party is willing to continue the coalition government after the elections, Indipendent wrote on 1 June. The Socialists did not respond to his offer. ALBRIGHT IN FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Zagreb, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Brcko, and Banja Luka over the weekend. In all those places, she delivered a tough message: war criminals must be brought to justice, refugees must be able to go home, and the Dayton agreement must be enforced. The U.S., she stressed, is eager to work with those parties to Dayton who want to put the treaty into practice. But those who do not meet their obligations, she warned, will find themselves isolated. Albright and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman differed openly over the return of Serbian refugees. She publicly told Croatian Development Minister Jure Radic that he was "lying" and that he "should be ashamed of himself" because of the destruction of Croatian Serbs' property. Her spokesman said that her meeting with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was the toughest one she has had with a foreign leader since becoming secretary of state early this year. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic, by contrast, stressed her willingness to cooperate with the U.S.. Albright promised Plavsic generous housing reconstruction aid if the Republika Srpska allows Muslim and Croat refugees to go back to their homes on Bosnian Serb territory. MONTENEGRO UNDERSCORES DIFFERENCES WITH BELGRADE. Blagota Mitric, the president of Montenegro's Constitutional Court, said on 1 June that federal Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic's recent remarks against the Kosovo Albanians were "unconstitutional." Lilic had said that if the Kosovars want their own state, they could go to Albania. Mitric replied that it is unheard of for a head of state to tell his fellow citizens to leave the country, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. Also in Podgorica, the Montenegrin Helsinki Committee for Human Rights said the Montenegrin government's recent dispatch of a delegation to the Hague-based tribunal was "significant and positive" (see RFE/RL Newsline, 30 May 1997). KLEIN WARNS CROATS OVER VUKOVAR POWER PLAY. Jacques Klein, the UN's chief administrator for eastern Slavonia, said in Vukovar on 1 June that Croatia will "pay a high price" for the governing Croatian Democratic Community's recent attempt to set up a municipal government in Vukovar without the participation of the Serbs or of the UN (see RFE/RL Newsline, 29 May 1997). He nonetheless denied Croatian and international press reports that the UN plans to prolong its mandate in eastern Slavonia, BETA news agency reported. In other news from the former Yugoslavia, trains are running again in Slovenia, but union leaders said in Ljubljana on 31 May that the strike will resume on 5 June if pay demands are not met. And in Pristina, a court sentenced 20 ethnic Albanians on 30 May to sentences totaling up to 106 years on charges of terrorism. WESTENDORP TO REPLACE BILDT IN BOSNIA. International diplomats voted in Sintra, Portugal, on 30 May to name Spain's former Foreign Minister Carlos Westendorp to succeed Sweden's Carl Bildt as the international community's high representative in Bosnia. Westendorp told the Sarajevo paper Dnevni Avaz in New York that he fears that fighting might resume in Bosnia if the security situation worsens. He also said that he would like to keep Bildt's deputy, Michael Steiner, as his deputy as long as Steiner chooses to stay. The Muslim media had wanted Steiner to replace Bildt. Critics in Bosnia and abroad charged that Westendorp knows little about the complex region and called instead for the appointment of a prominent politician like former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. EXTREME NATIONALISTS MAKE THREAT ON ROMANIAN PRESIDENT'S LIFE. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea said in an interview with RFE/RL on 1 June that if necessary, the "relevant authorities" will take "all appropriate measures" against threats on the life of Romanian President Emil Constantinescu. The threats were made in connection with the signing on 31 May of the Romanian-Ukrainian basic treaty. The extreme nationalist Greater Romania Party's weekly Politica on 24 May published a letter, signed by the Association of Romanian Nationalists in the Diaspora, saying Constantinescu, Ciorbea, and other officials will be "assassinated" because they are guilty of "high treason." The letter also says Romania will not be admitted to an expanded NATO because its main enemy is "international Jewry headed by the freemason Bill Clinton, whose foreign minister is the Jewess Iana [sic] Miriam Korbel, known under the pseudonym of Madeleine Albright." ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH ALBRIGHT. Foreign Minister Adrian Nastase told U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Sintra, Portugal, on 30 May that his country meets all the criteria for joining NATO. He asked Albright to send a special envoy to Romania to examine the situation at first hand. After the meeting, he told reporters he could see "no rigid attitude" on Albright's part. He quoted the secretary of state as saying the media had "exaggerated" in reporting her position, adding that Albright was only trying to emphasize that enlargement should strengthen, rather than weaken, the alliance. Severin said he told Albright that limiting expansion to only a few states may lead to weakening the alliance, Radio Bucharest reported. Severin also said the Romanian-Hungarian-Austrian "trilateral group" has "officially been launched" following meetings in Sintra with his Hungarian and Austrian counterparts. UNREST IN ROMANIAN RULING COALITION. At a meeting of the Democratic Party (PD) caucus in Pitesti on 31 May, Foreign Minister Severin accused the government of "blocking" reform. He was supported by other participants, who said the pace of reform was too slow. Some speakers said that while the PD was trying to press for reform measures, even if those steps were unpopular, other members of the coalition were still "adopting an electoral campaign-like attitude." The meeting was attended by PD ministers, deputies, prefects, and mayors. But PD leader Petre Roman said there is no substantial friction in the coalition and added that his party will back the government in the vote of confidence scheduled for 3 June. CHISINAU COMPLAINS ABOUT ROMANIA'S TREATMENT OF MOLDOVAN CITIZENS. During a meeting at the Ungheni border crossing on 31 May, Deputy Foreign Minister Aurelian Danila told his Romanian counterpart, Dumitru Ciausu, that Moldovan citizens are mistreated at Romanian-Moldovan border-crossings. Radio Bucharest quoted Danila as saying that while Romania talks about "special relations" with Moldova, it is "compromising" that concept by raising "artificial barriers." He said border-crossing procedures must be simplified. Danila also complained about "Medieval practices" of the Romanian custom services. Ciausu said he did not think the situation was "that unsatisfactory." Officials from the two countries' internal affairs, transportation, and industry ministries also took part in the meeting. Agreement was reached to increase efforts to simplify border-crossing procedures for both merchandise and people. BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT REPLACES STATE SAVINGS BANK HEAD. The parliament on 30 May dismissed Bistra Dimitrova as head of the State Savings Bank (DKS) and replaced her with Spas Dimitrov, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Dimitrov, who is a lawyer by training, told reporters he intends to put an end to the use of the bank for political manipulation. Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev had earlier accused Dimitrova, who was appointed DKS head by the previous, Socialist-dominated parliament, of being responsible for money illegally lent to state and commercial banks linked to the former ruling party. MONEY-LOSING BULGARIAN STATE FIRMS TO BE FINED FOR RAISING SALARIES. Deputy Prime Minister Evgeny Bakardzhiev says the directors of state-owned companies will be fined large sums for raising salaries at a time when companies are losing money. Bakardzhiev made the announcement in Sofia on 1 June, after a meeting with the leaders of the largest trade unions. He said the cabinet will decide on 2 June about the exact size of the fines. The announcement is in line with government efforts to cut spending to meet International Monetary Fund requirements. On 30 May, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov told managers of the state-owned Neftochim oil refinery that they should lower wages. He admonished them for having raised wages threefold since the end of February. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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