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Vol. 1, No. 51, Part II, 12 June1997
Vol. 1, No. 51, Part II, 12 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 * RUSSIA-BELARUS TREATY GOES INTO EFFECT * SLOVAK PREMIER WANTS TALKS WITH PRESIDENT * CROATIAN OPPOSITION RALLY BANNED? End Note ENLARGING EASTERN EUROPE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE RUSSIA-BELARUS TREATY GOES INTO EFFECT. The Russia-Belarus union treaty went into effect on 11 June with the exchange of the two countries' ratification documents. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka attended the ceremony in Minsk. ITAR-TASS quoted Primakov as calling the exchange of ratification documents an "historic event." He said the treaty provides an "exceptionally important mechanism for the unification of the two peoples." Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich said the union has a great chance for success. He described the union as a peaceful entity that will help the two nations "overcome difficulties together and ensure the well-being and security of the two peoples." Lukashenka told Interfax he intends to meet Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in Sochi to discuss attempts by some Russian government officials to "water down" the union treaty. Lukashenka is scheduled to start his vacation in the Black Sea resort on 12 June. UKRAINIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR INCREASED TRADE WITH CHINA. Pavlo Lazarenko told Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian during a meeting in Kyiv on 11 June that Ukraine and China are capable of increasing trade turnover to $1 billion a year, Interfax reported. Turnover was $846 million in 1996 and $347 million in the first four months of 1997. Lazarenko said Ukraine is prepared to cooperate with China in all areas where it is "on the cutting edge," including aircraft, ship and tank building, missile and space technology, and joint research into and utilization of outer space. The two leaders called for the expansion of military and military technological cooperation. ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS CONTROVERSIAL LAW ON ADVERTISING. Lawmakers voted by 43 to 28 on 11 June to adopt a widely disputed law on advertising that imposes a total ban on advertisements of tobacco products, ETA reported. The new legislation also prohibits the advertising of narcotic substances and strictly limits alcohol advertisements. The Reform Party has strongly criticized the draft law, arguing, among other things, that it prevents the revival of the Estonian tobacco industry and endangers the freedom of the press by depriving it of advertising income. The law still has to be signed by the president. LATVIAN PRESIDENT, PREMIER CONDEMN MONUMENT BOMBING. Guntis Ulmanis on 11 June condemned the bombing of the controversial World War II monument in Riga, BNS reported. Two people were killed in the 6 June blast at the monument, which commemorates the Soviet victory over Nazi occupying forces. Ulmanis called the incident a "provocative and defiant attempt to damage Latvia's international relations." He said ties with Russia are deeper and stronger than those responsible for the blast likely believe them to be. Also on 11 June, Prime Minister Andris Skele described the attack as an "absurd provocation" that might have "unpleasant" consequences both inside and outside the country. Meanwhile, the chief investigator into the bombing has said up to 20 kg of plastic explosives were used rather than TNT, as earlier reported, according to BNS. CACHES OF STOLEN NUCLEAR FUEL FOUND IN LITHUANIA. Police have discovered two separate caches of stolen uranium totaling 50 kilograms, BNS and Western agencies reported on 11 June. Some 30 kg were located in an underground vault near Vilnius, while the other 20 kg were found in the town of Visaginas. The discoveries were made after police interrogated suspects in the 1992 theft of 170 kg of uranium from the Ignalina nuclear power plant. The Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation when 10 kg uranium were discovered close to the nuclear plant last October. A former plant engineer believed to be behind the theft is reported to be in hiding in either Russia or another former Soviet republic. His suspected accomplices have been ordered not to leave Vilnius. The Lithuanian penal code provides for prison sentences of 10 years for the theft of radioactive substances. COURT RULES FORMER POLISH PRESIDENT DOES NOT OWE TAXES. An administrative court in Gdansk ruled on 11 June that Lech Walesa does not have to pay tax on $1million he received in 1989 for film rights. The court rejected a motion by the local tax office, which had argued that Walesa owes taxes for money he received from the Warner Brothers company for the right to make a film about his life. The court ruled that even if Walesa was required to pay tax, he should have done so by the end of 1994 and thus was no longer obliged to do so. The issue of Walesa's taxes became public during the 1995 presidential election in which he was defeated by Aleksander Kwasniewski. Walesa argued at the time that the money was not liable to taxation in Poland and that taxes had been paid in the U.S. Walesa told Reuters he felt only partially vindicated by the court's ruling because his reputation had been damaged. SLOVAK PREMIER WANTS TALKS WITH PRESIDENT. Following a meeting of government coalition parties on 11 June, Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar has proposed holding talks with President Michal Kovac. Meciar said he wants private discussions with Kovac about halting mutual recriminations, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. Meanwhile, Kovac on 11 June formally appointed Zdenka Kramplova as the country's new foreign minister. Kramplova has said foreign policy will not change during her term and that Slovakia will continue to pursue its goal of entering NATO and the EU. Kramplova replaces Pavol Hamzik, who resigned two weeks ago in protest over the way in which a controversial referendum on whether to join NATO was conducted. UPDATE ON HUNGARIAN SPYING SCANDAL. Kalman Kocsis, the former head of the Hungarian Intelligence Office, on 11 June appeared before the parliament's National Security Committee to testify in the investigation into the so-called "Operation Birch Tree." In March, it was revealed that the Intelligence Office spied on members of the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April and 12 May 1998). Kocsis, who has meanwhile been appointed ambassador to Bosnia, said the law has not been broken and those guilty of violating internal regulations have been punished. Committee chairman Kalman Konya said the committee must not only investigate the breach of the law but also determine what made it possible. He suggested the committee now hear testimony from Civil Secret Service Minister Istvan Nikolitis and chief of staff, Maj.-Gen. Tamas Somogyi, Hungarian media report on 12 June. HUNGARIAN OFFICIAL SACKED OVER FALSE CREDENTIALS. Agriculture Minister Frigyes Nagy on 11 June dismissed Deputy State Secretary Lajos Buzassy because of a university degree said to have been obtained "under dubious circumstances," Hungarian media reported on 12 June. Buzassy received a degree from the University of Horticulture in just three months, without having registered as a student there He claims to have obtained the degree lawfully but acknowledges that the university revoked it after a parliamentary investigation into the case. He says he will appeal the decision. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ITALIAN, ALBANIAN SHIPS EXCHANGE FIRE. An Albanian freighter carrying 700 people fired at an Italian Coast Guard ship near Durres on 11 June. The Italians returned fire and forced the ship to return to port. Albanians on the ship denied that any of them had fired on the Italians. Also on 11 June, five Albanians were robbed and killed near the Greek border by an armed gang after they returned from Greece. In nearby Gjirokaster, the Greek consulate closed temporarily after it was fired on. And in Tirana, Nikolle Lesi, the publisher of the independent daily "Koha Jone," said that President Sali Berisha's bodyguard recently sprayed Lesi's car with machine gun fire and nearly attacked his home. Lesi threatened "blood revenge" if he or any of his family is hurt. ALBANIAN ELECTION FACES PROBLEMS. Albanian authorities have not yet set up all polling stations, even though the deadline passed on 31 May, "Dita Informacion" reported from Tirana on 12 June. Many of the district commissions do not have regular meeting places, either. The Central Election Commission wants computers set up in all 115 districts, but it is unclear whether the Institute for Applied Mathematics will be able to do so in time. Meanwhile in London, Brian Pridham, who recently quit as OSCE election coordinator, told reporters that he resigned because his moral and professional standards would not permit him to continue. He said the OSCE is determined to validate the Albanian elections, despite widespread irregularities. ALBANIAN SOCIALIST DENIES PLAN TO REPAY PYRAMID LOSSES. Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano continued his tour through southern Albania on 11 June, holding meetings in Tepelena, Memaliaj, and Ballsh, "Zeri i Popullit" reported on 12 June. He told the rallies that most Albanian dailies wrongly reported his speech in Vlora the day before (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 1997). He denied that he intends to compensate investors for money lost in the collapse of the pyramid schemes. He made clear, however, that he will try to track down the money and give it back if he can find it. He then left for Athens to meet with representatives of the Greek government and Albanian immigrants. MILOSEVIC NOMINATED FOR FEDERAL YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT. The steering committee of the Socialist Party of Serbia has officially nominated Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic for the federal Yugoslav presidency, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade on 11 June. Incumbent Zoran Lilic's term runs out on 25 June. But in Podgorica, the steering committee of the governing Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) voted to postpone until 23 June any decision on the federal presidency, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. The issues at stake are whether the DPS should endorse Milosevic's candidacy as well as his calls for increased federal presidential powers and the direct election of the federal president. Milosevic needs the support of the increasingly independent-minded DPS in the federal parliament to succeed on all three counts. KOSOVO SERBS LAUNCH HUNGER STRIKE. Women from 12 Serbian families from Istok on 11 June joined a hunger strike in a park outside the Belgrade offices of Serbian President Milosevic. The men from those families began their hunger strike the previous day. The Serbs demand apartments and other social benefits that they say the authorities promised them in 1991. The government settled the families in Istok after they fled their homes in Slovenia and Croatia. The hunger-strikers told BETA that no top government officials have met with them, despite promises to do so. One woman complained that the authorities have time only for "war criminals [and not for] ordinary people." Meanwhile in Kosovo, a judge in Vucitrn said that a bomb went off in the center of town near a Serbian cafe the previous day but that nobody was injured. MORE MASSIVE VOTING FRAUD IN BOSNIA. OSCE monitors said in Sarajevo on 11 June that they are closing all four voter registration offices in Brcko because of massive fraud by the Bosnian Serb authorities in registering voters. The monitors added that all voters in the strategic northern town will probably have to register again. Last year, local elections across Bosnia were postponed until September 1997 because of massive fraud in signing up voters, especially by the Serbs. Each of the three sides has registered voters in such a way as to consolidate its hold over key territories. Also in Sarajevo, monitors said on 10 June that a Muslim hospital director in Zenica has been dictating to his staff how to register. The monitors said that every Bosnian must be free to choose whether to register and, if so, where to do so. SLAVONIAN MURDER CASE GOES TO THE HAGUE. A spokesman for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal said on 11 June that the court is tightening security measures following leaks of confidential information to the press in the former Yugoslavia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from The Hague. In Zagreb, the attorney for Jadranka Reihl-Kir said on 10 June that his client will ask the tribunal to press charges against Ante Gudelj, her husband's murderer, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. The Croatian authorities recently pardoned Gudelj after he had barely begun serving a 20-year sentence for the 1991 murder of Josip Reihl-Kir. Reihl-Kir was a Slavonian moderate police chief whose murder by Croatian hard-liners was a key development in the run-up to the war between Serbs and Croats. CROATIAN OPPOSITION RALLY BANNED? Spokesmen for Social Democratic presidential candidate Zdravko Tomac said on 12 June that the Zagreb city authorities will not give Tomac a permit to hold a rally in central Jelacic Square on 13 June. The spokesmen said they interpret the authorities' decision as tantamount to a ban on the rally, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. President Franjo Tudjman will hold a rally in Jelacic Square on 12 June, while Liberal candidate Vlado Gotovac spoke there the previous night. Polls currently put Tomac in second place behind Tudjman for the 15 June elections. Meanwhile, Development Minister Jure Radic said on 10 June that only 4,353 Serbian refugees have formally applied to return to their homes in Croatia. Radic was responding to claims by U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith and others that tens of thousands of Serbs are waiting to return, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. ROMANIAN PREMIER CLAIMS GERMANY BACKS NATO MEMBERSHIP. Victor Ciorbea, addressing a Movement of Civic Alliance meeting in Bucharest on 11 June, confirmed that German Chancellor Helmut Kohl has promised to back Romania's bid for admission to NATO in the first wave of expansion, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The German leader was reported to have made that pledge at a meeting of the European People's Party faction in the European Assembly in Strasbourg the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 1997). In response to a question of an RFE/RL correspondent in Berlin, however, the chief of the German Federal Press Office in Bonn said he "could not confirm" the position attributed to Kohl. Meanwhile, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" on 12 June quotes the Chancellor's Office as saying that while in Strasbourg Kohl "expressed sympathy" for Romania's NATO bid but that the Christian Democratic leaders' expression of support cannot be viewed as a decision that only NATO can take. ROMANIAN LABOR PROTEST. Thousands demonstrated on 11 June in Bucharest and nine other towns against the government's economic policies, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The demonstrations were organized by the National Syndicate Block (BNS), one of Romania's largest trade unions. BNS leader Dumitru Costin said the previous day that his union is protesting the lack of dialogue between the government and the unions and the slow pace of implementing social protection measures. The BNS is demanding pay rises and indexing salaries to reflect price hikes, as well as cutting value-added tax on basic food products. In other news, Gen. Ion Stan, the commander of Romania's air force, and his co-pilot were killed on 11 June near Timisoara when their two-seater Czech-made L-39 plane crashed while attempting to land. A military commission has been set up to investigate the incident. TRANSDNIESTER APPLIES FOR MEMBERSHIP IN CIS PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY. At the CIS Parliamentary Assembly session in St. Petersburg on 8-9 June, the Transdniester breakaway region applied for membership in that body, Moldovan media reported. Moldovan parliamentary deputy chairman Dumitru Diacov told Infotag that a Transdniester Supreme Soviet delegation attended the meeting because the forum was scheduled to discuss the settlement of the Chisinau-Tiraspol conflict. He said the delegation used this opportunity to apply for membership, adding he was confident no CIS member would "risk" backing the application. Diacov also said the Moldovan delegation refrained from responding because "it was clear that such a request cannot be considered by the assembly," which, he said, can accept only internationally recognized states as members. WORLD BANK'S IDA EXPANDS MANAGER TRAINING IN MOLDOVA. The World Bank's International development Association (IDA) on 11 June approved a $9 million credit to Moldova to expand a program for training business managers to work competitive market economies. An RFE/RL correspondent in Washington cited the bank as saying the virtual non-existence of a supportive network for small and medium-sized industrial enterprises is a "particularly acute problem in Moldova" because of the small domestic market and traditional agricultural specialization. A similarly-funded IDA loan granted in February helped radically restructure 15 enterprises. The new program will train at least 400 managers from 200 private enterprises. The bank says that unless such training is quickly undertaken, a majority of the country's private enterprises will be forced into bankruptcy in the next few years. BULGARIAN PRINCE ADVISES ON ECONOMIC AFFAIRS. Prince Cyril of Saxe-Coburg-Gota, the son of exiled king Simeon, was received by President Petar Stoyanov on 11 June and attended a meeting of the presidential Economic Development Council that discussed ways to stabilize the economy, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. The prince, a 33-year-old economist with the Lehman Brothers bank in London, also met with Prime Minster Ivan Kostov and Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Bozhkov. The previous day, Reuters quoted Prince Cyril as saying the international finance community considers Bulgaria's introduction of a restrictive monetary system under the new currency board as an "extremely positive step." BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES CHANGES TO INSURANCE LAW. The cabinet on 10 June approved changes to the insurance law in a bid to stop organized crime using insurance companies as a front for racketeering. The U.S.-based "Journal of Commerce" reported on 12 June that the amended law raises the minimum authorized capital for incorporating life insurance companies from 200 million leva (some $127,000) to 2 billion leva. It also bans insurers from running other businesses, such as security services. More than 100 companies registered as insurers are reported to be involved in racketeering. Kostov said no measure against organized crime would be efficient without first fighting the '"pressure insurers." A National Insurance Council is to monitor and supervise the activity of insurance companies. BULGARIAN COURT DISMISSES CASE ON PIRATE COMPACT DISCS. A court on 11 June acquitted the defendant in the country's first case on alleged piracy of compact discs, Reuters reported. Bulgaria ranks second, behind China, in CD piracy. The prosecution accused Marko Mihailov, manager of a local firm, of organizing the production of CDs in 1995-96 in breach of the country's copyright laws. The discs were sold in Russia, Romania, and the Czech Republic. A representative of a Dutch company said the acquittal was owing to "some serious gaps in the materials presented to the court." She added that the case was nonetheless a "positive indication" that the authorities are fighting CD piracy. END NOTE ENLARGING EASTERN EUROPE by Paul Goble Growing links between countries on either side of what was once the bord er of the Soviet Union are the latest evidence of a trend that expands Eastern Europe, reduces the likelihood of conflicts among countries there, and improves the chances that those countries will gradually be absorbed into Western institutions. The most dramatic and potentially the most important of those new linkag es are between the two largest countries in the region, Poland and Ukraine. Last month, Polish President Aleksandr Kwasniewski and his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, signed a joint declaration intended to overcome the often difficult past relationships of their peoples and lay the foundation for the development of closer economic, political, and security ties. The product of intensive diplomatic efforts by both sides, this document is one of a series of agreements between Poland and other traditionally East European states, on the one hand, and the Baltic countries and former Soviet republics, on the other. Also likely to have an impact on future developments across this region are the recent rapprochement between Poland and Lithuania and, to an even greater degree, the agreement between Ukraine and Romania defining their common border. Speaking before the signing of the Polish-Ukrainian declaration, Kwasnie wski said that he and his fellow leaders in the area want agreements like the one he and Kuchma signed to have an "effect on the region and on Europe as a whole." Those hopes may well be justified. Accords of precisely the kind signed by Kuchma and Kwasniewski may come to play a larger role in the transformation of both Europe and international relations than even the well-publicized NATO-Russia Founding Act. There are three reasons for this. First, agreements across what was the border between Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union further reduce the importance of that frontier in the thinking of leaders on either side of that line and in the calculations of leaders in countries further afield. Ukrainian, Moldovan, and Baltic leaders increasingly see themselves as part of Eastern Europe, thus expanding the boundaries of that concept. Moreover, leaders of countries beyond this region increasingly view those countries in that way, thereby reducing the relevance of the boundaries of the former USSR for any current or future purpose--regardless of what some Russian nationalists may say. Second, such agreements also reduce the possibility of new conflicts bet ween countries and peoples that have frequently been at odds in the past. Poles and Ukrainians, for instance, have often been locked in conflict; their leaders have now pledged that they never will be again. To the extent that they are adhered to, such pledges not only integrate Eastern Europe as an entity in its own right but also transform the meaning of that region for Europe as a whole and the rest of the world. For many people in Western Europe and even further afield, Eastern Europe has been almost a synonym for internal divisions and conflict--except when it has been occupied or dominated by some outside power. With accords like the ones signed between Poland and Ukraine and between Ukraine and Romania, East Europeans are demonstrating that these are misconceptions and that Eastern Europe is ready to take its place in a truly united Europe. Third, the willingness and ability of countries such as Poland and Ukrai ne to cooperate sends a strong signal to NATO and the European Union that they are now able to engage in precisely the kind of integrative activities that lie at the basis of both those Western institutions. As a result, those countries who reach such agreements may make themselves stronger candidates for inclusion in those Western bodies. The U.S. and many European countries have made such cooperation among th e countries in the region a test and precondition for their inclusion in Western institutions. On occasion, Eastern Europeans have chafed at those requirements, but the leaders who have sought to meet them are likely to be the beneficiaries xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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