|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
Vol. 1, No. 47, Part II, 6 June1997
Vol. 1, No. 47, Part II, 6 June1997 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 * OSCE OFFICIAL POSTPONES TRIP TO BELARUS * MILOSEVIC TO RUN FOR YUGOSLAV PRESIDENCY * CROATIAN OPPOSITION PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BEATEN End Note : ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY IN TURMOIL xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE OSCE OFFICIAL POSTPONES TRIP TO BELARUS. Spenser Oliver, the secretary-general of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has postponed a visit to Belarus, RFE/RL's Vienna correspondent reported on 5 June. Oliver said the visit, which was due to start on 6 June, was postponed because the agenda included meetings with parliamentary deputies loyal to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka but offered no opportunity to meet with opposition politicians. A recent OSCE report says Belarus appears to be headed toward totalitarianism. The report was drawn up by an OSCE mission that visited Minsk in April and met with government members and supporters as well as representatives of the opposition. Oliver said the Parliamentary Assembly remains "extremely interested" in examining the parliamentary situation in Belarus. He also emphasized that his trip had been "postponed," not canceled. NEW PROSPECTS FOR RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN SPACE CENTER. Viktor Durasov, head of the Ukrainian Yevpatoria space center, told a 5 June news conference that an agreement reached by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, during their recent summit has opened up new possibilities for the center. Durasov said the agreement will accelerate the implementation of Ukrainian-Russian space projects and allow for the installation of up-to-date equipment. He also noted that the center's financial situation could improve considerably if the two countries were to use it jointly The Yevpatoria center was set up at the beginning of space exploration and has suffered significantly in recent years because of financial constraints. WWII VICTORY MONUMENT IN RIGA HIT BY EXPLOSION. A World War II victory monument in Riga was hit by an explosion on 6 June, BNS reported. Firefighters in the Latvian capital say that windows of nearby buildings were blown out but the monument is still standing. The cause of the blast is not yet known. A Latvian Interior Ministry spokesman said the Prosecutor's Office may launch a criminal investigation into the incident. The monument, located in downtown Riga, was erected to commemorate the liberation of Riga by the Soviet Army near the end of World War Two. In recent years, it has been the scene of rallies calling for restoration of the Soviet Union. TURKISH PRESIDENT IN LATVIA. Suleyman Demirel has stressed his country's full, unconditional support for Latvia's membership in NATO , BNS reported. The Turkish president was speaking in Riga on 5 June at the end of his four-day tour of the Baltic States. At a meeting with his Latvian counterpart, Guntis Ulmanis, agreement was reached to promote the conclusion of an accord on free trade. Turkey signed such accords with Lithuania and Estonia several days earlier, but an agreement with Latvia is still pending because several Latvian ministries object to some of its provisions, including those on textiles and agricultural goods. The previous day, the two countries agreed to set up a joint business council to promote bilateral trade. Four documents were signed during Demirel's visit, including a cooperation treaty on combating drug trafficking, international terrorism and organized crime. LITHUANIAN ROUNDUP. Lawmakers have adopted a controversial law on returning real estate to its former owners, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 June. The new legislation provides for the rights of tenants to be guaranteed by the municipal authorities when a residential building is restored to its former owner. The bill has prompted protests by citizens fearing they will become homeless once the legislation goes into effect. The opposition intends to appeal to the Constitutional Court to quash the new legislation. The previous day, three deputy culture ministers submitted their resignations, BNS reported on 5 June. They did not explain their resignation, but one of the deputy ministers told Lietuvos Rytas that he considers the leadership style of Culture Minister Saulius Saltenis "unacceptable." POLISH PRESIDENT REJECTS ABORTION REFERENDUM. A Polish presidential aide said on Polish Radio on 5 June that Aleksander Kwasniewski will not initiate an abortion referendum. The statement came one day after Pope John Paul II publicly opposed abortion, saying any nation that allows abortion has no future and deserves to be called a barbarian civilization (see RFE/RL Newsline, 5 June 1997). The Constitutional Court recently ruled that a law liberalizing rules on abortion is unconstitutional. The parliament would need a two-thirds majority to override that ruling. POLAND'S UNION FOR FREEDOM REJECTS PACT WITH LEFT, RIGHT. Leszek Balcerowicz, chairman of the Union for Freedom, rejected on 5 June the possibility of a coalition with either the ruling ex-communists or the opposition, led by the right-of-center Solidarity union. "These groupings are very similar conglomerates that merely have different names. It is hard to say which of the two would be worse for Poland," Balcerowicz is quoted as saying by PAP. Opinion polls suggest that the parliamentary elections, due in September, are likely to be won by the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance and the Solidarity Election Action. The Union for Freedom includes many of the intellectuals who were behind the pre-1989 opposition to communist rule and went on to form the first democratic governments. As finance minister, Balcerowicz steered Poland through shock-therapy reform. CZECH PRIME MINISTER'S PARTY CALLS FOR UNITY. The Civic Democratic Party (ODS) issued a statement on 5 June denying any divisions within the party. The statement stressed that the ODS unanimously backs the government and calls on its two junior coalition partners, the Civic Democratic Alliance and the Christian Democrats, to do the same ahead of a parliamentary vote of confidence expected on 10 June. In May, the three-party coalition agreed to austerity measures and a cabinet reshuffle to stem an escalating trade deficit and halt a drop in the Czech currency. But Klaus has come under increasing attack from his coalition partners as well as from within ODS ranks. Recent criticism from ODS founding member and current Foreign Minister Josef Zielieniec sparked rumors of an internal power struggle within the ODS itself. Meanwhile, Klaus told a business conference in Montreux, Switzerland, on 5 June that he expects the 10 June vote of confidence in his government to help stabilize the Czech currency. SLOVAK PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN MEETS WITH NEWT GINGRICH. Ivan Gasparovic said after his meeting in Washington on 5 June with Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich that U.S. awareness of Slovak efforts to join the EU and NATO is a "very positive signal toward Slovakia." Gingrich said there is no sense to exclude Slovakia from NATO expansion. He added that Slovakia is clearly eligible for membership but that the U.S. needs to work with Slovakia to develop its economic strength so it can sustain the kind of defense commitment that mutual security requires. The U.S. State Department recently protested a lack of respect for the rule of law in Slovakia in connection with the Slovak government's role in the failed 23-24 May referendum on NATO membership and direct presidential elections. SLOVAK PREMIER INVITES HEADS OF PARLIAMENTARY PARTIES FOR TALKS. Vladimir Meciar told a meeting of his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia in Bratislava on 5 June that he has invited the chairmen of all parliamentary parties for joint talks on domestic political issues, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. "If they come it is their business, if they do not come it is their business as well. They have been offered a chance," Meciar said. The premier also said that the opposition has little chance of having Interior Minister Gustav Krajci dismissed. The opposition hold Krajci responsible for the failure of the 23-24 May referendum . However, he said, the opposition's efforts to push through constitutional bill on direct presidential elections could pass in the parliament. GRENADE ATTACKS ON FOUR CAR DEALERSHIPS IN BUDAPEST. Four Yugoslav-made hand grenades exploded early on 5 June at the premises of four second-hand car dealers in Budapest, Hungarian media reported. Police believe the explosions, which caused no injuries but damaged several cars, could be the work of a single gang demanding protection money. Just two hours before the explosions, gunfire hit the rear window of a Budapest bus. The four passengers and the driver were not injured. The police do not exclude the possibility of a connection between that incident and the explosions. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE FINO CALLS FOR ALBANIAN ELECTION PACT. Prime Minister Bashkim Fino has invited all political parties to sign an agreement on the fair conduct of the election campaign. He said in Tirana on 5 June that the apparent assassination attempt on President Sali Berisha the previous day was a "dangerous precedent" (see RFE/RL Newsline, 5 June 1997). Politically polarized Albania has a tradition of political violence and is awash with weapons, but the attack on Berisha was the first such incident involving a major political figure in the current campaign. Also in Tirana, ATA reports that a bomb went off in a school yard but that police have arrested the culprits. In Vlora, Italian peacekeepers broke up a shoot-out involving 18 Albanians near the Italians' headquarters. MILOSEVIC TO RUN FOR YUGOSLAV PRESIDENCY, BUT MONTENEGRO BALKS. Top officials of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia said in Podgorica on 5 June that Milosevic will run for the federal presidency later this year, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. Montenegro's Democratic Socialist Party, however, has said it will decide later whether to endorse Milosevic. It added that it rejects Milosevic's plans to strengthen the federal presidency or to elect the president by direct vote. Current Federal President and Milosevic-loyalist Zoran Lilic's term expires later this month. Milosevic cannot legally seek a new term as Serbian president, and the opposition has said it will take to the streets again if he tries to bend the law to be able to run again. His alternative means of holding onto power would be to run for a strengthened federal presidency. SERBIAN OPPOSITION AGREES ON ELECTION PACT. Representatives of some 12 opposition parties met in Belgrade on 4 June and agreed on a set of minimum conditions that the government must meet before the parties will participate in the Serbian elections due later this year. Key points include ensuring access to electronic and other media and providing funding for the parties. If their demands are not met, the parties said they may actively obstruct the elections, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade. Meanwhile in Athens, the Greek telecommunications company OTE announced it will join Italy's Stet in taking a 49% share of Telecom Serbia. The London-based Financial Times wrote on 5 June that the deal "reflects a flourishing political relationship between Greece and Serbia, including the Bosnian Serbs." CROATIAN OPPOSITION PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BEATEN. Vlado Gotovac, the Liberal and opposition coalition candidate in the 15 June presidential elections, was assaulted by a man wearing a military uniform in Pula on 5 June. Gotovac fell to the ground and briefly lost consciousness. He then returned to address his followers in the Istrian port city. Croatian authorities have promised to issue a statement on the incident on 6 June, Hina reported. Tomac's party spokesman told reporters in Zagreb that he was flown back to the capital where he is undergoing medical tests. The spokesman added that Gotovac is suffering from a concussion and is in shock. Police arrested the assailant. Meanwhile in Osijek, the authorities have pardoned Ante Gudelj after he had just begun serving a 20-year sentence for the murder of Josip Reihl-Kir. Reihl-Kir was a local moderate police chief whose murder was a key development in the run-up to the war between Serbs and Croats in eastern Slavonia. WESTENDORP TO GIVE PRIORITY TO CATCHING BOSNIAN WAR CRIMINALS. Carlos Westendorp, the international community's new high representative in Bosnia, said in Madrid on 5 June that he will give priority to catching war criminals. He said he will try to persuade local leaders to hand over their war criminals and added that if they do not comply, he will consider what he called "pressure." Westendorp echoed recent statements by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stressing that the international community will help those who observe the Dayton accords and isolate those who do not. In Banja Luka, Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic discussed refugee return and economic cooperation with her federal opposite number, Vladimir Soljic. And in Pale, the Bosnian Serb government approved a trade agreement with federal Yugoslavia that in effect eliminates administrative restrictions on trade between Belgrade and Pale, BETA reported. SLOVENIA HOSTS CENTRAL EUROPEAN PRESIDENTS. A conference of eight presidents opens in Portoroz and Piran on the Slovenian Adriatic coast on 6 June. President Milan Kucan is hosting his counterparts from Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Italy, and Hungary. The gathering is especially important to Slovenia because it is counting on support from Germany and Italy, in particular, in its drive to join NATO and the EU. The main problem is that Rome could continue to block Ljubljana's EU candidacy unless Slovenia changes its laws to allow foreigners to own property. Many Slovenes are worried that Italians with family roots in Slovenia could buy up land and houses. Kucan told the Prague daily Pravo on 5 June that his country sees its future in Central Europe, not in the Balkans. ROMANIAN OPPOSITION MOVES SECOND NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION. A motion of no confidence in Victor Ciorbea's cabinet was moved on 5 June by 143 deputies from the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania and the Party of Romanian National Unity, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The motion will be debated on 9 June. The signatories say the reform package that the premier recently submitted to the parliament (see RFE/RL Newsline, 4 June 1997) is not in line with the government program approved by the parliament last year. The legislature is scheduled to debate on 6 June another no confidence motion proposed earlier by the opposition. RIFT WIDENS IN ROMANIA'S MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY. Mircea Cosea, deputy prime minister in charge of economic reform in the former cabinet headed by Nicolae Vacaroiu, has openly joined the camp of those calling for the restructuring of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (see RFE/RL Newsline, 4 June 1997). Cosea was interviewed on national television on 5 June, together with Iosif Boda, the main critic of the current party leadership. The two men said they do not intend to bring about a split in the party at its upcoming national conference. But they noted that their political future will depend on whether the PDSR is able to restructure itself and to allow a free democratic debate on the party's future course (see also "End Note" below). MOLDOVA'S GAS DEBT TO RUSSIA TO BE PAID IN INSTALLMENTS? President Petru Lucinschi on 5 June phoned his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, and First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov asking them to help find a formula to repay Moldova's debt to Gazprom in installments. Infotag and BASA-press reported that Lucinschi told the Russian leaders he had received a telegram from Gazprom threatening to cut off supplies if the debt were not cleared. According to the Moldovan presidential office, Yeltsin and Nemtsov agreed to negotiate a mechanism for the repayment of the debt without cutting supplies. Moldova owes Gazprom some $570 million, of which $300 million is the debt of the Transdniester breakaway region BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES LAW ON CURRENCY BOARD . The parliament on 5 June approved the law establishing the country's currency board within the National Bank. The law prevents the National Bank from fueling inflation, tying local money supply to foreign-currency reserves, and covering state budget deficits by printing money. The same day,. Ivan Kostov's government nominated former Finance Minister Svetoslav Gavriiski to replace Lyubomir Filipov as National Bank governor. Meanwhile, a team of FBI agents that will advise Bulgarian authorities on fighting organized crime met with Justice Minister Vassil Gotsev (see RFE/RL Newsline, 4 June 1997), RFE/RL Sofia correspondents reported. The team will also advise the government on drafting anti-crime legislation. BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER SUMS UP BRUSSELS VISIT. At a press conference in Brussels on 6 June at the end of his three-day visit, Kostov stressed that Bulgaria's quest to join NATO and the EU by no means diminishes the importance of its relations with Russia. During his visit, Kostov met with EU, NATO, and Belgian officials. ITAR-TASS quoted Kostov as saying that at his meetings at NATO headquarters on 5 June, he received assurances that the aim of the alliance's July Madrid summit is not only to establish which new members will be admitted to the organization but also to set up a "mechanism of open doors" providing for further NATO expansion in the future. END NOTE ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY IN TURMOIL by Michael Shafir The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) is scheduled to hold its annual national conference in June, its first major gathering since having been voted out of power last fall. The question is whether the party will be able to redefine its course of action and produce a leadership capable of finding a political formula that will win back voters disillusioned with its seven-year rule following the fall of communism. Presumably, the first thing it must do is present a united front and prove itself capable of pursuing a clear ideological line and doing away with what the electorate deems either obsolete or repugnant. Few political analysts would dispute that the remnants of communist ideo logy, which guided many of the PDSR leaders before 1989, are obsolete and the party's political clientelism--which is unavoidably linked with corruption and which Vladimir Tismaneanu, a U.S. political scientist of Romanian origin, diagnosed as early as 1990 as "kleptocracy"--is repugnant. Yet, the possibility of a united leadership capable of dealing with such issues seems even more remote than ever. In fact, the upper echelons of the PDSR seem increasingly engaged in a "war of all against all" as the national conference draws nearer. Nothing illustrates this better than the recent public duel between PDSR deputy Iosif Boda, on the one hand, and Ion Iliescu, Romania's former president and PDSR chairman, and one of his deputies, Adrian Nastase, on the other hand. Boda, who was the manager of Iliescu's ill-fated presidential campaign in 1996, accused Nastase of leading the party to a dead-end and demanded his resignation. The former campaign manager was harshly criticized by Iliescu, who demanded that Boda leave the party. For the time being, Boda, a former ambassador to Switzerland, has received only a warning from the party. But, according to sources in the PDSR, his expulsion cannot be ruled out. That Iliescu would act in a manner reminiscent of how he himself was tre ated by his presidential predecessor, Nicolae Ceausescu, is not surprising, given his personal history and the fact that Boda destroyed what Ceausescu would have called "the party-unity monolith." But the conflict is a lot more complicated than that. There are two possible ways to approach analyzing the rifts in the PDSR. A "Kremlinological" approach would search for alliances, acts of treason, and realignments within the party and would not overlook the fact that Boda has demanded Nastase's replacement by another PDSR deputy chairman, former Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu. Earlier, at a Sibiu branch PDSR regional conference, some delegates called for Iliescu's replacement as party chairman by Melescanu--a call reiterated at least at one other gathering of a PDSR branch. Until then, Iliescu was generally considered opposed to Nastase, who, justifiably or not, is perceived as embodying all the defects that helped the PDSR loose power, including corruption. The "Kremlinologists" would also emphasize that the "enemies of my enemy" are "my friends" and that Nastase is therefore Iliescu's buddy once again. To strengthen that argument, the "Kremlinologists" would also point to an ongoing ideological dispute. Boda and Melescanu are known to belong to a group that wants to forge a Western-style, social-democratic identity for the PDSR (one of its members, the Iasi deputy Mugurel Vintila, even called it the Social Democratic Movement of Romania). The group is said to be opposed by another that wants the PDSR to form an alliance with the leftist-nationalist opposition represented in the parliament. The trouble is that the "players" in this game of ideological musical c hairs seem to keep changing camps, leaving it unclear where either Iliescu or Nastase stands. On the other hand, it only goes to show that a second approach--one that is closer to political sociology than to "Kremlinology"--may be more appropriate in analyzing developments within the PDSR. As a "clientelist" party, the PDSR has been left in a most precarious position. Not only is it no longer able to "distribute goods" to prospective allies, but its members have been brusquely removed from influential positions in state structures and leading economic institutions. The "war of all against all" within the PDSR is perhaps no more than a struggle over diminished resources. Be that as it may, the "Boda affair" does not bode well for Iliescu's party. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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