|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
Vol. 1, No. 53, Part II, 16 June1997
Vol. 1, No. 53, Part II, 16 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 * SLOVAK CULTURE MINISTRY WARNS AGAINST NEW PRESS AGENCY * ALBANIAN PARTY LEADERS TRADE CHARGES * VIOLENCE RAGES ACROSS ALBANIA End Note : CROATIA REELECTS PRESIDENT TUDJMAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN ROUNDUP. The Russian-Belarusian Parliamentary Assembly on 14 June decided to use the music of the former Soviet anthem for the national hymn of the new Russia-Belarus Union, Interfax reported. Gennadii Seleznev, speaker of both the Russian Duma and the assembly, signed the resolution at a ceremony in the Belarusian town of Viskuli, near Brest, in the same hall where the accords on disbanding the Soviet Union were signed in 1991. Seleznev had proposed that the Russia-Belarus union adopt the music of the former Soviet anthem and combine it with new lyrics. Meanwhile, a Vitebsk court on 14 June convicted the poet Slavomir Adamovich of writing and distributing a poem called "Kill the President," Belapan reported Adamovich was sentenced to the time he had already spent in prison and was thus freed after sentencing. UKRAINIAN PREMIER PREDICTS GROWTH. Pavlo Lazarenko, who is currently on an official visit to Canada, has predicted slight growth in Ukraine's gross domestic product and lower inflation in1997. Lazarenko told journalists in Ottawa on 13 June that he expected Ukraine's inflation not to exceed 11-12% this year. He said GDP growth for the year should be about 1%, compared with a 10% drop in 1996. RFE/RL's correspondent in Ottawa reported that a large part of Lazarenko's trip is aimed at "damage control." The premier is anxious to reassure potential investors that Ukraine is determined to implement economic reforms and to deal with corruption in government. Foreign investors in Ukraine have complained about corruption and bureaucratic interference in their business dealings. ESTONIA TO EXPEL EIGHT RUSSIAN RESERVE OFFICERS? According to Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrick Ilves, the committee that deals with issuing residence permits to Russian reserve officers has advised the government to refuse permits to eight officers, ETA and BNS reported on 15 June, citing the daily "Eesti Paevaleht." Ilves, who heads the committee, said the men pose a "danger for the security of Estonia...because they are young." Most of them are in their 30s and are married to Estonian citizens. Ilves also commented that he did not believe the decision to expel the officers would create "foreign-policy problems" for Estonia. Under a 1994 Russian-Estonian treaty, which regulated the withdrawal of Russian soldiers from Estonia, Tallinn has the right to deny residence to reserve officers. The government recently allowed Russian reserve officer Yevgenni Zobnin, who was expelled because he had no residence permit, to return to Estonia on a 30-day visa (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 1997). LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH ALBRIGHT. Valdis Birkavs met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Washington on 13 June, one day after the U.S. announced that its supports the inclusion of only the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland in the first wave of NATO expansion. According to State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns, Albright assured Birkavs that the door will remain open for Latvian membership in NATO after the July summit in Madrid. Birkavs, for his part, said Latvia "fully supports" the U.S.'s decision in a "process that has to remain, and we are sure will remain, inclusive." He added that Riga "firmly believes that NATO enlargement will not be complete until the Baltic states...are members of the alliance." Birkavs was in the U.S. capital on a three-day visit to push for NATO membership for all three Baltic States. LITHUANIAN ROUNDUP. The parliament has approved the establishment of an assembly composed of Lithuanian and Polish parliamentary deputies, which will discuss bilateral questions and international issues, BNS reported on 13 June. The Polish legislature is due to vote on the assembly soon. Meanwhile, parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis met with a visiting Chechen parliamentary delegation in Vilnius on 13 June. The Lithuanian leader was quoted as saying that "Lithuania automatically recognizes Chechnya, as Russia has 'de facto' already done by signing a peace treaty" with the Chechens. According to the Lithuanian parliamentary press service, the meeting focused on inter-parliamentary relations. POLAND DETAINS A RECORD NUMBER OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. Polish border guards on 13 June detained 46 Sri Lankan nationals trying to enter Poland illegally from Ukraine. The PAP news agency quoted a border guard official as saying the illegal immigrants were found huddled in a Ukrainian truck in a secret compartment covered with bags of corn. The official said a growing number of mostly Asian illegal immigrants traveling westward have been detained in Poland over the past few months. Meanwhile, Hungarian Defense Minister Gyoergy Kaleti is due to begin a three-day official visit to Poland on 16 June. CZECH FINANCE MINISTER WILL BREAK LAW TO PAY STATE-SECTOR WAGES. Ivan Pilip said on Czech TV on 15 June that he is prepared to break the law in order to pay wages to state employees. The payment of wages has been delayed by several days because the government has already exhausted the amount of money it can borrow from the Central Bank each month. Under the current law, the monthly limit is 16 billion crowns ($500 million). Pilip proposed that the government ask the parliament to act quickly to change the limit, which was set several years ago, when the Czech budget was much smaller than now. SLOVAK, RUSSIAN JUSTICE MINISTERS SIGN AGREEMENT. Slovak Justice Minister Jozef Liscak and his Russian counterpart, Valentin Kovalyov, signed a cooperation agreement between their ministries in Bratislava on 13 June, TASR reported. The accord is intended to develop and strengthen ties in the legal sphere, facilitate an exchange of experts and delegations, and promote other bilateral activities. Slovakia and Russia have signed some 130 bilateral agreements to date, including 16 accords during a visit by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to Bratislava in late April. SLOVAK CULTURE MINISTRY WARNS AGAINST NEW PRESS AGENCY. The Culture Ministry on 13 June ordered state institutions not to use the services of the newly established Slovak Information and News Agency (SITA). The ministry described the agency as "oppositionist." Dusan Kleiman, the director-general of the state-run agency TASR, said he supported the ministry's order. He noted its decision was fully in keeping with the law on TASR, whereby the agency is obligated to report on behalf of the state, for which it receives funds from the state budget. The SITA offices were burglarized on 7 June and most of its electronic equipment stolen (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1997). SLOVAK PRESIDENT COMMENTS ON NATO, EARLY ELECTIONS. Michal Kovac says he believes the U.S.'s 12 June decision to support the candidacy of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland for NATO expansion could put greater pressure on the Slovak government to persuade the West that it, too, belongs to the first group. He was speaking at a 14 June press conference in Budapest, where he delivered a speech in honor of Frantisek Cardinal Tomasek, a Czech catholic primate, who posthumously was awarded St. Adalbert Award. The previous day, Kovac told journalists in Bratislava he was ready to conduct talks with Premier Vladimir Meciar. The premier proposed meeting with Kovac after the opposition snubbed his invitation to attend a round-table discussion on current problems facing Slovakia. Kovac also said early elections should be called to resolve the present deadlock in the country. FURTHER HUNGARIAN REACTIONS TO U.S. DECISION ON NATO ENLARGEMENT. Prime Minister Gyula Horn told a public gathering in Nyirbator, east Hungary, on 13 June that his country's possible admission to NATO in the first wave of enlargement is "a kind of recompense" for Hungary's "sufferings and achievements during the transition period," Hungarian media reported . Also on 13 June, Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs told AFP during a visit to Germany that he did not consider the U.S. decision not to invite Romania and Slovenia to join NATO in the first wave as final. He said there was no reason why tensions with Romania should surface again if Bucharest fails in its bid to be admitted now, because both Budapest and representatives of the Hungarian minority who visited Washington have done "their utmost" to advocate Romania's inclusion in the first wave. JEWISH CEMETERY DESECRATED IN HUNGARY. Hungarian police reported on 13 June that a Jewish cemetery in the northern town Balassagyarmat was desecrated ahead of a commemoration of Holocaust victims scheduled for the next day. Vandals smashed one tombstone and uprooted several others. They also smeared swastikas and Nazi slogans over the tombstones and surrounding fence, AFP reported. A statement release by the Federation of Jewish Communities expressed "shock" and said the incident was the result of the authorities' past failure to make full use of the law against "anti-Semites and racists." SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN PARTY LEADERS TRADE CHARGES. President Sali Berisha on 15 June blamed the Socialists for the armed rebellion that has reduced much of Albania to anarchy. He told several thousand people in Vlora that pledges by the Socialists to reimburse people for their losses in failed pyramid schemes are "fraudulent, cynical, and dishonest." Socialist leader Fatos Nano recently made such offers but then denied that he ever promised anything more than to try to find the lost money and give back as much of it as possible (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 1997). Meanwhile in Kucova on 15 June, Nano and Prime Minister Bashkim Fino pledged to bring prosperity to Albania. Earlier the same day in Athens, Nano said the Kosovo question can be solved only by the "Europeanization" of the Balkans and by the democratization of Serbia. VIOLENCE RAGES ACROSS ALBANIA. At least eight people died and many more were injured in continued violence on 13-14 June. In Vlora, gunmen attacked local Democratic Party leader Argent Grabova on 14 June and killed one of his relatives. Grabova had appeared with Berisha at a rally in Fier the previous day. "Rilindja Demokratike" blamed the Socialists for the incident. On 13 June near Shkoder, unidentified assailants killed Betim Muja, a high-ranking official of the Interior Ministry, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Muja was police chief in Shkoder from1992-1994. Journalists attributed some of the other recent violence in Kruja, Burrel, and Lezha to traditional vendettas. And in Tirana, some 300 women held a demonstration against violence on 15 June in central Skanderbeg Square, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. ALBANIAN PRESIDENT NAMES DEPUTY CHIEF OF SECRET POLICE. Berisha on 14 June appointed Dashamir Kadena to the number two slot in the secret police (SHIK). Kadena is a native of Vlora and has been a judge in Tirana since 1990, "Rilindja Demokratike" reported. He does not belong to any political party, but it is unclear whether the Socialists or others in the opposition will object to his appointment on political grounds. Meanwhile, "Indipendent" reported on 15 June that the authorities have sent former SHIK chief Bashkim Gazidede and his family to the Albanian embassy in Ankara to protect him from possible revenge attacks. And in Tirana on 13 June, the lustration committee said it has disqualified 31 legislative candidates because of their previous links to the communist-era secret police (Sigurimi). Most of the candidates came from the smaller parties, including seven members of the monarchist party. CROATIA'S TUDJMAN WINS THIRD TERM... President Franjo Tudjman appears to have taken some 60% of the 15 June vote as returns continue to come in. This preliminary result indicates he has won a third term and will not have to face a run-off. Social Democrat Zdravko Tomac currently has 22% of the vote and Liberal Vlado Gotovac is in third place with 18%. Returns are still due from Bosnia and abroad, where Tudjman is expected to do well. Meanwhile in eastern Slavonia, journalists quoted Western diplomats as saying that many Serbs have been inexplicably dropped from the voting lists since the local elections in April. ...AS CONTROVERSY CENTERS ON WHY PEOPLE DON'T VOTE. Turnout for the 15 June elections is estimated at 57%, down from 75% in the 1992 presidential vote. A spokesman for Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community said that the drop in voter turnout reflects trends in most Western democratic countries. Opposition spokesmen, however, said many people stayed home because they were bored by the campaign. They also noted that the opposition will have to try harder to get across its message in the future. Some journalists suggested that voter interest is likely to remain sluggish as long as the present generation of older politicians remains on the scene and until the parties rejuvenate both their leaderships and their programs (see also "End Note" below). ARKAN SUES CNN FOR SLANDER. Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan, said in Belgrade on 14 June that he has filed a slander suit against CNN in a Belgrade court. Arkan claims that CNN "doctored" footage to make him appear to be a war criminal, and he stresses that the Hague-based war crimes tribunal has not indicted him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 1997). Bosnia and Croatia have nonetheless asked the court to indict him, and Interpol has issued several warrants for his arrest on criminal charges. The CNN documentary argued that there is ample evidence to indict Arkan for war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and that Arkan is close to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. NEWS FROM BELGRADE. The Student Movement of Serbia held its inaugural meeting in Belgrade on 15 June, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. Its agenda includes defense of university autonomy and reversing cuts in government spending on education and scholarships. Representatives of the political opposition attended the meeting, which attracted student representatives from across Serbia. Also in Belgrade, the health workers' union called on clinics to halt all but emergency services starting 16 June. The new tactics also include staging more street protests and disrupting traffic near clinics. The strikes have now entered their sixth week. Meanwhile, the independent daily Nasa Borba said on 16 June that the authorities are stepping up measures to harass that paper by claiming back taxes and other payments. UPDATE FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. A Sarajevo court on 14 June refused to reopen the case of the Bosnian Serb soldier Srecko Damjanovic, who is serving a prison sentence on several counts of murder. Damjanovic's lawyers said that the testimony against him should be reexamined completely following the discovery that two of his alleged victims are alive and well on Muslim-held territory. In Pristina, an RFE/RL correspondent reported that a conference of ethnic Albanians concluded that 700,000 Kosovars lack health care, 75% of the employable population lacks jobs, and 90% of the population lives near the poverty line. MINERS UNREST CONTINUES IN ROMANIA. Miners in the Jiu valley resumed their strike on 16 June after having picketed company headquarters in Petrosani the previous two days, Radio Bucharest reported. Talks with a government team headed by Vlad Rosca, who is in charge of relations with trade unions, broke down in Deva on 13 June. The strikers had demanded that wages be increased by 45% and that the government dispatch a new negotiations team to Petrosani. The next day, the government approved subsidies to state-owned companies worth 1,053 billion lei, of which 24 billion lei ($3.5 million) is earmarked for mining companies in the Jiu valley. Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara said it was "mere coincidence" that the subsidies were approved after the miners went on strike. LIBERAL PARTIES MERGE IN ROMANIA. Two center-right formations--the National Liberal Party-Democratic Convention (PNL-CD) and the Liberal Party '93--merged at a congress in Bucharest on 14 June. PNL-CD leader Nicolae Cerveni was elected chairman and Liberal Party '93 leader Dinu Patriciu executive chairman of the new grouping , which plans to call itself the Liberal Party once a tribunal has ruled on the ongoing dispute within the PNL-CD. A rival PNL-CD group, headed by Senator Alexandru Popovici, does not recognize the merger, while the National Liberal Party-Campeanu Wing has decided not to join the new grouping until the dispute is clarified. Cerveni said the new party will continue to be a member of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR). But Mircea Ionescu-Quintus, whose National Liberal Party is the largest liberal formation within the CDR, says the new party's membership must be approved by the CDR joint leadership. FLOODS KILL THIRTEEN IN ROMANIA. Thirteen people drowned and ten were missing in floods that swept through several villages in Bihor County, in western Romania, on 15 June. A team of government experts has been dispatched to coordinate rescue operations. CONGRESS OF MOLDOVA'S AGRARIAN PARTY. At its fourth congress in Chisinau on 14 June, the Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova (PDAM) reelected Dumitru Motpan as party leader. Motpan told the gathering that the PDAM, which has a majority in the legislature, does not accept "full responsibility" for the policies pursued by Ion Ciubuc's cabinet. He also noted that the PDAM had backed President Petru Lucinschi in the second round of the 1996 presidential elections but added that the economic reform program pursued since then by Lucinschi and the government is "simplistic" and "needs to be corrected," an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported. Motpan also attacked parliamentary deputy chairman Dumitru Diacov, who set up the pro-presidential Movement for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova. He commented that Diacov had failed in his bid to bring about the PDAM's disintegration. BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO EXPANSION. Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova has said that while Bulgaria "respects" the U.S. decision on admitting only three new members in the first wave of NATO expansion, it "regrets" that "Bulgaria will probably be left out" of this initial group. In a statement carried by BTA on 13 June, Mihailova said her country "still believes it meets all criteria for NATO membership and can contribute to stability in the organization." She expressed hope that Bulgaria will be included among the countries to which NATO will provide assistance in the process of preparation for joining later. Mihailova also said it was important to keep in mind the "need for establishing a geographic and military-political balance in southeastern Europe." GEORGE SOROS DECORATED IN BULGARIA. President Petar Stoyanov on 13 June decorated the U.S. financier and philanthropist George Soros with Bulgaria's highest award, the Order of the Balkan Mountain Range, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Soros said after the ceremony that he had made an exception in accepting the award because it marked a turnaround from the suspicion displayed by the former Socialist government toward his Open Society Fund, which promotes democratic values. END NOTE CROATIA REELECTS PRESIDENT TUDJMAN by Patrick Moore Early returns from the 15 June elections show that Croats have reelected President Franjo Tudjman to a third term. The opposition put up a good fight but failed to overcome some barriers of its own making and others that Tudjman's party had put in its path. Tudjman's new mandate will run until 2002. He is widely believed to be suffering from cancer and may not be able to complete his five-year term. But neither his health, his authoritarian style of rule, nor the widely-perceived corruption within his Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) deterred voters from reelecting the charismatic president. One major reason was popular disgust with the opposition. This attitude was already evident in the local elections in April, when voters handed the HDZ a clear victory in most of the country, including in the bitterly contested race for the Zagreb city council. The opposition did well only in some other cities and in Istria. The opposition itself was largely responsible for this state of affairs. It has yet to produce a leader who could pose a credible alternative to Tudjman. Furthermore, with the possible exception of the ex-communist Social Democrats, no nationwide opposition party has developed a political program that sets it apart from the center-right HDZ. The opposition parties frequently fight among themselves and thereby sap their own strength. This was evident in the runup to the presidential campaign. At least eig ht parties finally agreed to back the Liberals' Vlado Gotovac as a joint candidate. Some tiny right-wing parties, moreover, failed to get enough signatures to place their candidates on the ballot. But the Social Democrats insisted on running their own Zdravko Tomac rather than help present a united front of all opposition parties. Perhaps the Social Democratic Party felt that the time was now ripe, since it had made a strong showing in April after years on the margins of politics. The most likely reason for its gains in the spring was that it was the only party that presented itself as a clear social alternative to the HDZ in a country where most people have trouble making ends meet. But there was no popular ground swell for Tomac. Both the Social Democra ts and the coalition supporting Gotovac alike had to fight an up-hill battle in the presidential race, and they still were unable to attain even their minimal goal, which was to force Tudjman into a second round. They complained bitterly that the HDZ made full use of its prerogatives as the governing party to create an unfair environment for the elections. First, they noted that Tudjman had recently staged--at the taxpayers' expense--several public functions that smacked of campaigning. Just one week before the vote, he took 2,000 politicians, officers, entertainers, and other guests on a train trip to Vukovar. That eastern Slavonian town has been of great symbolic importance to Croatia since the 1991 war and is slated to pass to full Croatian sovereignty in mid-July. Second, the Vukovar trip, together with Tudjman's recent birthday gala a t the National Theater and other major events, received extensive coverage in the state-run media, particularly on television, which is a HDZ monopoly. The opposition charged that its candidates were given little coverage and that most of what they received was unfavorable. A third point of contention was the HDZ-controlled state election commis sion. The opposition noted that opposition monitors were not present to check voting by 300,000 ethnic Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina or by thousands more in Germany and elsewhere abroad. Tomac had told a press conference in Zagreb on 12 June that polling stations outside Croatia would provide the HDZ with a golden opportunity to manipulate the results. A final issue was that of "dirty tricks," the last prime example of whic h was a decision by the Zagreb city authorities not to allow Tomac to hold a rally on central Jelacic Square on 13 June. Gotovac had spoken there two days earlier, and Tudjman the day after Gotovac. Tomac said the decision showed that he was "not an equal candidate. It's apparently thought in this country that everything begins and ends with Tudjman." This was an apparent allusion to Tudjman's address in Jelacic Square, which marked the end of the campaign for all candidates. More serious, however, were acts of violence against the opposition. Tom ac noted at his last press conference before the vote that uniformed men had stoned his van during one point in the campaign. But the most dramatic incident was in Pula on 5 June, when a uniformed army captain hit Gotovac on the head and left him with a concussion. The state-run media said the attacker was drunk and that he was immediately arrested and suspended from duty. The Liberals, however, asked why Tudjman and the HDZ did not condemn the incident. Some opposition journalists also charged that the captain was a known agent-provocateur for the regime. Whatever the case, Gotovac did not recover fully from his injuries in ti me for the 15 June vote. Aware that this would be the case, he had asked the election commission to postpone the ballot by two weeks. The commission turned him down, however, saying there is no legal provision for delaying an election. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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