|Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. - Thomas Carlyle|
Vol. 1, No. 50, Part II, 11 June1997
Vol. 1, No. 50, Part II, 11 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 * BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES RUSSIAN OPPONENTS OF UNION * CZECH GOVERNMENT WINS CONFIDENCE VOTE * CROATIAN PRESIDENTIAL VOTE IN DOUBT? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES RUSSIAN OPPONENTS OF UNION. Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 10 June said unidentified Russian government officials have "watered down" accords on integration between Russia and Belarus and were trying to "torpedo" the two countries' union treaty, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier the same day, the upper houses of the Russian and Belarusian parliaments voted to ratify the treaty. That document and the accompanying charter were previously approved by the lower chambers of both countries. Addressing the upper house of the Belarusian parliament, Lukashenka said he may take up the matter with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin when he meets with him "in the nearest future" and with Russian President Boris Yeltsin afterward. But a Russian government spokesman and the presidential press service in Moscow denied knowledge of any such meetings. Lukashenka also told reporters that Russia and Belarus will exchange the ratified treaties on 11 June. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov is to attend the special ceremony in Minsk. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH CHINESE DEFENSE MINISTER. Leonid Kuchma told Chi Haotian during talks on 10 June in Kyiv that Ukraine wants closer ties with China, Interfax reported. Kuchma noted that bilateral military and technical cooperation is successful, and he predicted significant economic, political, and military cooperation between Kyiv and Beijing. Chi told journalists Beijing is ready to develop military ties with Ukraine and welcomes the recently signed Ukrainian-Russian friendship treaty, saying such agreements "make a major contribution to regional and international stability." Ukraine is the world's 14th largest arms exporter. Kyiv would like to sell more weapons abroad and offer repair and upgrading services to countries that possess weaponry made in the former Soviet Union. Last year, China wanted to buy SS-18 long-range missile technology from Russia and Ukraine, but the U.S. urged Moscow and Kyiv not to sell the equipment. BALTIC, NORDIC DEFENSE CHIEFS WRAP UP MEETING IN ESTONIA. In a joint communique issued at the end of their two-day meeting on the Estonian island of Saaremaa, the Baltic and Nordic defense chiefs urged NATO to give a clear sign next month in Madrid that its doors will remain open after the first wave of expansion, BNS and ETA reported on 10 June. The statement stressed that all the Nordic states support NATO membership for the Baltics. But Norwegian Defense Minister Jorgen Kosmo told BNS the same day that the Baltic countries will not be among the first NATO members because their defense capabilities and military infrastructures are underdeveloped. In addition, the joint statement said that the BALTBAT Baltic peace battalion will allow its troops to go on independent missions under a UN mandate starting in 1998. The battalion is composed of 300 soldiers from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. ESTONIA TO RECONSIDER DEPORTATION OF RUSSIAN OFFICER. Minister for Ethnic Affairs Andra Veidemann has said Tallinn is reconsidering the deportation of a Russian reserve officer who did not have a residency permit, ETA reported on 10 June. Yevgenii Zobnin was expelled on 5 June and forced to leave behind his Estonian wife and child. Some 10,000 discharged Russian soldiers were allowed to stay on in Estonia after Russian troops were withdrawn from the country in 1994. But under the law on aliens, residence permits may not be granted to active or reserve military personnel. Zobnin's residency application was turned down by a government commission in 1995. Moscow has not responded to the case. SECOND VICTIM OF WWII MONUMENT BOMBING IN RIGA. Citing confidential information from a preliminary police investigation, Latvian dailies reported on 10 June that a second body has been found in the rubble from the 6 June bombing of the controversial World War II monument in Riga, according to BNS and Interfax. Earlier reports said only one person died in the blast. Neither of the two victims have been identified. However, scraps of documents also found at the site refer to the Latvian paramilitary organization Aizsargi, which was officially registered in 1994 and derives its name from an organization that existed in Latvia before 1940. Investigators say the bomb, estimated to contain between 10 kg and 20 kg of TNT, exploded in the hands of one of the victims. They suspect that a third person may have been involved in the attack. POPE ENDS POLISH VISIT. Wrapping up his visit to Poland, Pope John Paul II presided over an open-air mass on 10 June at the airport of Krosno, in the southeast of the country, Reuters reported. The mass was attended by some 500,000 people The pope canonized the 15th-century Franciscan monk Jan of Dukla, who in 1474 helped his people repel a Tatar attack on Lvov, now part of Ukraine. In his sermon, the Pope praised both the saint for his patriotism and modern-day Church leaders who had opposed communism. He urged Poles to cling to their centuries-old religious beliefs in the face of mounting secularism. The Polish Catholic Church said more than 6 million people attended masses and other functions with the pontiff during his visit. CZECH GOVERNMENT WINS CONFIDENCE VOTE. The coalition government of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus on 10 June won a parliamentary confidence vote by the narrowest possible margin of 101-99 votes. The government survived owing to deputy Josef Wagner, who earlier this year was expelled from the opposition Social Democrats after he voted in favor of the government's budget proposal. Wagner conditioned his support on the government's promise not to privatize large banks without the parliament's consent. Shortly before the vote, Klaus agreed to Wagner's demand. The prime minister said his government will seek to build a broader social and political consensus for its policies and will attempt to improve communication with the public. SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTIES REJECT TALKS WITH MECIAR. Slovakia's nine major opposition parties have rejected Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's call for round-table talks on the future of Slovakia, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. The talks were scheduled to take place on 11 June in the capital. Leaders of eight of the opposition parties said they would take part only if Interior Minister Gustav Krajci were dismissed. They accuse Krajci of violating the constitution by question on direct election of the president from last month's referendum. Democratic Left Party chairman Jozef Migas said he would not participate because the subject of the discussion was not known. Meciar invited opposition leaders to the round-table talks in a speech at a political rally last week in which he singled out individual opposition leaders and President Michal Kovac for sharp criticism and insults (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 1997). HUNGARY HOSTS INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ORGANIZED CRIME. High-ranking police officers from Europe, the U.S., South Africa, Israel, Interpol, and Europol attended a three-day conference in Budapest from 8 to 10 June, Hungarian media reported. Delegates focused on the spread of organized crime from the former Soviet Union through Europe. "Hungary has become a European crossroads for organized crime, and the international police response to combat the upsurge has been inadequate," according to Laszlo Tonhauser, head of the Hungarian police's organized crime unit. Hungarian Interior Minister Gabor Kuncze noted that an "East-West movement from the CIS has caused many problems." The Russian delegation canceled its participation in the conference at short notice. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN ELECTION UPDATE. President Sali Berisha toured northern Albania on 10 June, while Socialist leader Fatos Nano attended rallies in the south, "Dita Informacion" reported. Both men drew crowds numbering in the thousands, "Rilindja Demokratike" and "Zeri i Popullit" noted. Meanwhile, Brian Pridham, the election coordinator from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has resigned in Tirana and been replaced by former coordinator Tony Welch. The OSCE said Pridham left for personal reasons, but diplomatic sources told an RFE/RL correspondent in the Albanian capital that the ongoing instability in that country contributed to his decision. Meanwhile, the OSCE is continuing to prepare for the elections to go ahead on time. In Rome, the countries sponsoring Operation Alba agreed that their troops will leave Albania once a new government is in place following the 29 June elections. SMALL ALBANIAN PARTIES TRY TO FORCE DEAL ON ELECTION LAW. Following the failure the previous day of round-table talks involving 10 political parties, the Republican Party held another closed-door meeting with most of the parties on 10 June. The Democratic Party, however, did not attend the talks. The parties involved called for new round of negotiations attended by President Berisha, "Dita Informacion" reported. The small political formations argue that their chances to get into the parliament have decreased following last week's Constitutional Court ruling that struck down the election law's provision on proportional representation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1997). It remains unclear whether the president will decree new legislation himself or reconvene the parliament to pass a new electoral law. Many observers believe that the smaller parties must get into the parliament if the current polarization between Democrats and Socialists is to end. DEADLINE FOR REGISTRATION OF ALBANIAN CANDIDATES EXTENDED. Authorities in Tirana have extended the deadline for candidates to register for the parliamentary elections until 12 June, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Albanian capital. The move came following the lustration committee's failure to issue its report on candidates in line with the original 9 June deadline. The delay considerably reduces the period for printing and delivering ballot papers. Meanwhile, the Socialists, the Social Democrats, and the Democratic Alliance held secret talks in Tirana on 10 June to discuss the nomination of joint candidates in some districts, "Indipendent" reported. That move would increase the two small parties' chances of gaining entry to the parliament by winning directly elected seats. BALKAN MEETING ENDS IN SALONICA. Top Foreign Ministry officials from Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, Greece, Macedonia, Turkey, and Albania ended a two-day meeting in the Greek port of Salonica on 10 June. Observers from Bosnia, Croatia, and Russia also attended. The diplomats issued a declaration on promoting regional stability, minority rights, and improved living standards. The document also referred to "the important role of NATO for peace and stability in Europe" and called for the free flow of information and for establishing independent media. Albanian Deputy Foreign Minister Albert Rakipi, however, warned that problems facing the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and western Macedonia could fuel regional instability. Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, for his part, praised the "change of climate" in relations between Athens and Skopje. GREECE, RUSSIA CALL FOR MAJOR BALKAN SUMMIT. Pangalos and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasevskii said in Salonica on 10 June that leaders of regional countries, the EU, Russia, China, and the U.S. should meet next year to discuss Balkan stability. They also called for numerous preparatory meetings involving ministers for foreign and economic affairs. Observers believe the main purpose of the Greek-Russian initiative is to signal that the two countries want to exert an influence over Balkan affairs. Some have noted that Russia is now trying to institutionalize its role in a region where it has always tried to maintain great-power status. Bulgarian and Romanian diplomats, however, told reporters that they are wary of a special Balkan role for Moscow. CROATIAN PRESIDENTIAL VOTE IN DOUBT? Croatian opposition coalition candidate Vlado Gotovac said in Zagreb on 10 June that he will have to decide whether to stay in the presidential race, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. Gotovac says he is disappointed by the authorities' refusal of his request to postpone the 15 June vote. Gotovac asked for the delay because he is still recovering from injuries following an attack by a uniformed army captain last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 1997). Social Democrat Zdravko Tomac, the other opposition candidate, said he will also reconsider whether to stay in the race. In Pula, the authorities said that the captain faces charges of assault that could lead to up to eight years in prison. U.S. BACKS $13 MILLION LOAN FOR CROATIA. The State Department announced in Washington on 10 June that the U.S. will support a loan by the International Finance Corporation to modernize a Swiss-owned cement factory in Koromacno, near Pula. Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said that Washington's decision is a "positive signal" to Zagreb and comes because President Franjo Tudjman recently reopened the Brcko bridge to Bosnia, ordered the arrest of several Croats who had attacked local Serbs, and made a speech in eastern Slavonia that Washington considers conciliatory toward the Serbs. The spokesman credited recent pressure by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for Croatia's new cooperative attitude. Burns warned, however, that the U.S. will block future loans to Croatia if Tudjman goes back on his promises. GROWING NUMBER OF REFUGEES DYING OF HUNGER IN YUGOSLAVIA? Representatives of an organization representing the 700,000 mainly ethnic Serb refugees in federal Yugoslavia say the refugees' social and economic situation is bad and growing worse, "Nasa Borba" reported on 10 June. Problems include death by starvation among the elderly and infirm. The activists note that both the government and the opposition alike ignore the refugees and that "the most hated person" among those who fled Croatia and Bosnia is Bratislava Morina, Serbia's chief official in charge of refugees. Observers say that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic fanned the flames of nationalism among ethnic Serbs throughout the former Yugoslavia starting almost 10 years ago but turned his back on the Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia when it suited his purposes to do so. He provoked the wars in Croatia and Bosnia on the grounds that the Serbs there "wanted to remain in Yugoslavia," but he denies most of the refugees Yugoslav citizenship. MAJOR PROGRESS FOR ROMANIA'S NATO MEMBERSHIP BID. Wilifred Martens, head of the European People's Party faction in the European Assembly, said after a meeting of Christian Democratic leaders in Strasbourg on 10 June that all participants supported Romania's admission in the first wave of NATO expansion. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl also attended the meeting, as did Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea. Germany has been considered one of the countries opposed to Romania's inclusion in the first wave. Also on 10 June, Senate Chairman Petre Roman met with Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, senators, and members of the House of Representatives during his ongoing U.S. tour aimed at promoting Romania's NATO membership. ROMANIAN JEWISH FEDERATION PROTESTS WJOR STATEMENT. Nicolae Cajal, the chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania (FCER), has criticized a statement by Naphtali Lavy, the deputy chairman of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJOR). Lavy said recently that the organization is opposed to admitting Poland, the Czech Republic, and Romania to NATO because those countries are deliberately protracting the restitution of Jewish property. In an interview with Reuters on 10 June, Lavy said the WJOR would not seek to block the entry to NATO of the three countries but would promote that of Hungary, "which has complied with all the restitution promises." Cajal said the FCER was "surprised" by Lavy's statement, because the WJOR deputy chairman had visited Romania in April and reached "excellent agreements" with the authorities, which have since taken steps for their implementation. He said the FCER has not been consulted and that it deplores the statement's "blackmailing-like" tone, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. COMMANDER OF ROMANIAN FINANCIAL GUARD DISMISSED. Gica Danila has been dismissed as commander of the Financial Guard, Romanian Television reported on 10 June. Minister of Finance Mircea Ciumara said his dismissal is part of a drive to reorganize the ministry but added that the Financial Guard's performance was not satisfactory. He said the vacancy will be filled by competition. MOLDOVAN PRIVATIZATION MINISTER RESIGNS. Ceslav Ciobanu on 10 June submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc, Infotag and ITAR-TASS reported. Some two weeks previously, the parliament voted no-confidence in Ciobanu for his role in the privatization of a sanatorium sold to a private university in which his wife has a 16% share (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May 1996). President Petru Lucinschi has appointed Iurie Badir, a member of the Moldovan Accounting Chamber, as Ciobanu's successor. BULGARIAN DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER DISMISSED. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on 10 June dismissed Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Penchev without offering an explanation for the move. Penchev had been in charge of financial issues at the ministry. He was replaced by an employee of the Finance Ministry, Yordan Yordanov. An RFE/RL Sofia correspondent reported this is the second time in two days that a leader in the defense establishment has been dismissed. On 9 June, the cabinet asked President Petar Stoyanov to dismiss army Chief of Staff Gen. Tsvetan Totomirov and replace him with air force commander Gen. Miho Mihov. Stoyanov approved the proposal. ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION CHAIRMAN SUPPORTS BULGARIA'S NATO CANDIDACY. Alfred Cahen, the secretary-general of the Atlantic Treaty Organization (ATA), told reporters after meeting with President Stoyanov that he supports Bulgaria's early admission to NATO. Founded in 1954, ATA is comprised of non-governmental organizations in the NATO states and aims at informing the public about the alliance. Its 43rd assembly will take place in Sofia in October, Reuters reported. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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