|It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time. - Sir Winston Churchill|
Vol. 1, No. 56, Part II, 19 June1997
Vol. 1, No. 56, Part II, 19 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, OPPOSITION LEADERS MEET *STRIKING ROMANIAN MINERS APPEAL TO PRESIDENT *ALBANIAN SOCIALIST LEADER BARRED FROM ADDRESSING RALLY xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION LEADERS MEET. Alyaksandr Lukashenka and representatives of the parliament dissolved last fall began talks in Minsk on 18 June on amending the constitution. Matthew Russell, an EU mediator in the talks, told journalists in Minsk that the aim of the talks is to amend the basic law to meet democratic standards. Russell said he and two colleagues arrived in Belarus at Lukashenka's invitation to organize the project and mediate the talks. The EU has accused Lukashenka of giving himself dictatorial powers by amending the constitution following a controversial referendum held in November 1996. European governments refused to acknowledge the referendum. They suspended Belarus's special guest status in the European Council after Lukashenka used his new powers to dissolve the lawfully elected parliament and replace it with a legislature that supports him. MINERS' STRIKE CONTINUES IN UKRAINE. Miners on 18 June protested in Kyiv for the second consecutive day but said they will consider a government offer to begin partial payments on back wages next month. The miners blocked the street outside the government building in Kyiv, until Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko addressed them. Lazarenko said that beginning 1 July, the state will pay out $210 million over six months to cover back wages. The miners had wanted the money paid within three months. The government reportedly owes farmers some $800 million in unpaid wages. Viktor Derzhak, chairman of the Union of Coal Industry workers, told journalists the miners will decide whether to continue their protest after the government proposes a resolution on the issue of back wages. UKRAINE, TURKEY SIGN OIL PIPELINE AGREEMENT. Turkish Energy Minister Recai Kutan and Anatoly Minchenko, Ukrainian state minister for industry and energy, signed a deal on 18 June to build an oil pipeline from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea through Turkey. The joint venture was signed in Ankara. Kutan told journalists the pipeline will initially carry 40 million tons of crude per year to Ukraine, whose oil demands are increasing. The Turkish state pipeline company Botas will oversee the project. It is unclear when construction of the project will begin. UKRAINE MAY JOIN MILITARY ALLIANCE. Security and Defense Council Chief, Volodymyr Horbulin, was quoted by Interfax on 18 June as saying Ukraine has not ruled out discarding its pledge of neutrality and joining a military alliance in the future. He added that the partnership pact Ukraine struck with Russia in May does not prevent it from entering any military alliance it chooses. Horbulin also said the Ukrainian government will go ahead with the production of tactical missiles, despite U.S. objections. He said he has sent a letter to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott explaining the decision. SOME CHARGES AGAINST "ESTONIA" SHIPYARD DROPPED. The organization representing relatives of the victims of the "Estonia" car ferry disaster has dropped some complaints against the German builder of the vessel, according to "Handelsblatt" on 18 June. Meyer Werft recently released a report claiming that bad maintenance on the part of the ferry's Swedish owner caused the locks of the bow door to fail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 1997). The relatives' organization says that, based on the findings of the report, it will make no accusations against the shipyard about undersized hinges or locks of the bow door. It says, however, that questions remain whether there were construction weaknesses in the bow visor and ramp. The Swedish-Finnish-Estonian commission investigating the incident is due to issue its final report later this year. The "Estonia" sank in high seas off the southwest coast of Finland en route from Stockholm to Tallinn in September 1994. More than 850 people died in the sinking. LATVIAN PRIME MINISTER ON CORRUPTION SCANDAL. Andris Skele appeared on nationwide TV on the evening of 17 June to express his "great concern about the political situation in Latvia," according to Interfax the next day. Recent reports have suggested that many government ministers have violated the anti-corruption law by holding positions outside the executive. Culture Minister Rihards Piks resigned earlier this week over the affair (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 1997). Skele said the scandal pointed to the emergence of a "new and privileged group of people" who do not find it necessary to observe the law. Moreover, it revealed "the ultimate alienation of the political elite from society," he said. DATE OF POLISH ELECTIONS SET. President Aleksander Kwasniewski has announced parliamentary elections will be held on 21 September. Kwasniewski said in a televised address on 18 June that he called the elections to put the country's affairs in order and strengthen its democracy. By law, the elections have to be held within a month before the end of the parliament's current term, which falls on 14 October. Kwasniewski also said top government officials will have to disclose any links they had with Poland's former secret police under the lustration law, which he signed earlier that day. Also on 18 June, the parliament approved setting up a Lithuanian-Polish Assembly, composed of 20 deputies from each country. Lithuanian parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, who had proposed setting up the assembly, was present during the vote. POLISH COURT CONVICTS FORMER OFFICIALS. The State Tribunal on 18 June convicted two ranking officials in the last communist government for failing to prevent duty-free imports of cheap vodka into the country. The tribunal found former Minister for Foreign Economic Cooperation Dominik Jastrzebski and former head of the Customs Office Jerzy Cwiek guilty of making wrong decisions during 1988-1989 that cost the state treasury millions of dollars in lost duty. The tribunal ruled that the two be barred from holding managerial positions in state companies and deprived of the right to run for public office for five years. Three other officials were acquitted. CZECH PRESIDENT ASKS GOVERNMENT TO RESTORE PUBLIC CONFIDENCE. Vaclav Havel on 18 June called on the country's government to take steps to regain the public's confidence. Following meetings with leaders of the four main political parties, the president said Vaclav Klaus's government must present the country with long-term policy proposals, adding that otherwise the public will not understand the sacrifices required by the austerity measures adopted to deal with the nation's economic troubles. Klaus's center-right government, which narrowly won a confidence motion recently, has been rocked by a recent decline in the value of the national currency and a growing balance of payments deficit. According to a recent opinion poll, the public's trust in the government has plummeted to 22%. SLOVAKIA IS ASKED BY EU TO IMPLEMENT REFORMS BY NOVEMBER. At the end of a three-day session in Bratislava, the joint EU-Slovak parliamentary committee issued a statement on 18 June saying that Slovakia must implement specific changes in domestic policy by the end of November. EU Commissioner Hans van den Broek recently gave a similar deadline to Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. The joint committee consists of deputies of the European Parliament and of the Slovak legislature. The committee recommended that Slovakia resume political dialog between the ruling coalition and the opposition, ensure opposition participation in special control committees to oversee intelligence activities, and prepare legislation on the use of national minority languages. If these criteria are met, the committee said, Slovakia will be able to join other countries in opening talks on EU membership. GERMANY SUPPORTS HUNGARIAN EU MEMBERSHIP. Visiting German Economy Minister Guenter Rexrodt told a news conference in Budapest on 18 June that Bonn strongly supports Hungary's bid for EU membership, Hungarian media reported. In a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn, Rexrodt said "Hungary will inevitably be at the top of the list" for EU membership. Thanks to the country's consistent economic policy since 1994, Hungary can serve as a model of economic transformation for Central and Eastern Europe, he added. Meanwhile, Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said Hungary hopes to conclude accession talks with the union by the year 2000 and that member countries would ratify Hungary's membership in the EU by 2002. He said EU officials consider Hungary's timetable "ambitious but not unrealistic." SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE OSCE WANTS ALBANIAN ELECTIONS TO GO AHEAD AS SCHEDULED. The presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has urged that elections go ahead, as scheduled, on 29 June, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Meanwhile, 5 million cardboard ballot boxes arrived in Albania under the protection of international forces. The printing of ballot papers is slated to begin soon in Italy. Candidates lists from most of the 115 electoral districts are now complete. One list comes from the rebel stronghold of Vlora and was published only on 18 June, which is six days later than scheduled. Rebel leader Myrteza Caushi, better known as Zani, will run as an independent candidate against another rebel leader, Albert Shyti, who is a candidate of the Social Democrats, "Indipendent" reported on 19 June. In Lezha, "Koha Jone" editor-in-chief and independent candidate Nikolle Lesi now has the endorsement of the Socialists and a large number of smaller parties, Lesi told an RFE/RL correspondent. ALBANIAN SOCIALIST LEADER BARRED FROM ADDRESSING RALLY. A group of armed men stopped a Socialist Party convoy on the way to the north-central town of Rreshen on 18 June and did not allow Party leader Fatos Nano to hold a rally there. The Socialists finally held a meeting but without Nano, who later charged President Sali Berisha and his "discredited clan" with having organized the incident, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Meanwhile in Tirana, the Osservatorio di Pavia, an Italian institution specializing in TV monitoring, published its analysis of last week's Albanian TV broadcasts. The report says that public TV adheres strictly to the rules outlined in the election law and provides air time for all parties, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. A multi-party round table met until late in the night to discuss possible last-minute changes in the election law. "Gazeta Shqiptare" says that no details are available. FINAL RESULTS OF CROATIAN ELECTIONS. Croatian Radio reported on 19 June that the final tally for the 15 June presidential vote gives President Franjo Tudjman 61.41% The Social Democrats' Zdravko Tomac follows with 21.03% and the opposition coalition candidate Vlado Gotovac of the Liberals with 17.56%. Some 57.68% of voters in Croatia turned out, as did 23.49% of those living abroad. Also in Zagreb, the governing Croatian Democratic Party (HDZ) and the Liberals reached a cooperation agreement on 18 June, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the capital. The HDZ-dominated city council subsequently elected the Liberals' Dorica Nikolic as deputy mayor. Gotovac and others in the Liberal leadership opposed to cooperation with the HDZ blasted the deal. Liberal Deputy Chairman Zlatko Kramaric said the party will probably formally split soon over the issue of links to the HDZ. WESTENDORP TAKES UP DUTIES IN BOSNIA. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 18 June that the Bosnian Serbs must not place any obstacles in the way of an upcoming international donors' conference. Earlier, Bosnian Serb representatives had balked at forming joint delegations with the Croats and Muslims in contravention of the international community's rules. She said such stubbornness would be "a luxury the Serbs cannot afford," since they have gotten very little international redevelopment aid to date. She met with the international community's new high representative, Carlos Westendorp. The former Spanish foreign minister, for his part, said that in his new capacity, he will place emphasis on bringing indicted war criminals to justice. Meanwhile in Brcko, the re-registration of voters has begun following the discovery of massive fraud on the part of the Bosnian Serbs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 1997). INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE ON BELGRADE. The U.S. administration on 18 June proposed to Congress that future ties between Washington and Belgrade be contingent on federal Yugoslavia's holding free and fair elections, ensuring media freedom, cooperating with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, and granting broad autonomy to Kosovo, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the U.S. capital. The document calls for the U.S. and the OSCE to bring pressure on Serbia to meet the conditions. Meanwhile, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade that Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic wants "to find out at first hand" what the recent EU summit in Amsterdam means for Yugoslavia. The EU called on Belgrade to respect the 1996 report on democracy in Serbia by former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzales and to grant autonomy to Kosovo. MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT, PRIME MINISTER ADDRESS PARLIAMENT. Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic addressed the parliament in Podgorica on 18 June, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. He slammed what he called "insinuations" about his wealth, which many Montenegrins believe came from sanctions-busting during the Croatian and Bosnian wars. President Momir Bulatovic is slated to address the legislature on 19 June in response to opposition demands that he and Djukanovic explain the development of the feud between them, which threatens to split the governing Democratic Socialist Party. UPDATE ON MACEDONIA, KOSOVO. In New York, representatives of Macedonia, Greece, and the UN met on 18 June to launch new efforts to find a permanent name for Macedonia. Greece has so far insisted that it be called "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia," or FYROM, because Athens says that the name "Macedonia" alone implies territorial claims on the Greek province of the same name. Skopje says the Greek claims are baseless. Meanwhile, EU spokesmen in the Hague expressed alarm at reports that 20 of the Kosovars recently convicted of terrorism had been tortured in Serbian custody. The Dutch government, which holds the EU presidency, blasted what it called Serbia's "non-respect for the rule of law." ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER MEETS WITH AL GORE. Victor Ciorbea says he and U.S. Vice President Al Gore agreed on 18 June to set up a "special strategic partnership" between their countries. Ciorbea, who met with Gore at the start of a three-day visit to the U.S, told an RFE/RL correspondent that the partnership is to "start immediately" but its details will be worked out at meetings between the presidents of the two states later this year. Ciorbea said he received explanations from Gore on the U.S. decision to limit admittance to NATO in the first wave to three countries. He said Gore reiterated the intention to have a second wave "from which Romania will not be absent if it pursues the road on which it has started." Ciorbea said Romania is still hoping to be admitted in the first wave. French European Affairs Minister Pierre Moscovici told Senate Chairman Petre Roman in Paris on 18 June that Romania should be admitted to NATO immediately, AFP reported. STRIKING ROMANIAN MINERS APPEAL TO PRESIDENT. The striking miners in the Jiu valley on 18 June appealed to Emil Constantinescu to mediate in their conflict with the authorities. The miners say they did not demand a 45% increase in wages but a retroactive 30% indexation, as implemented at other state-owned enterprises in March. They say they are ready to negotiate on the remaining 15%. Also on 18 June, representatives of miners from other parts of the country came to Petrosani to show solidarity with the strikers. Extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM) leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor, whom the miners have invited to go to the valley, told an RFE/RL correspondent that he was "honored" by the invitation and was ready to go there with a PRM task force "including five generals and ten parliamentarians." ROMANIA'S MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY TO SPLIT? In a 18 June declaration, the reformist wing of the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) says the party must work out a program combining "social-democratic with social-liberal" principles. The group headed by Teodor Melescanu calls on the party to "clearly dissociate itself" from those involved in "notorious acts of corruption" and to expel them. One of the group's leaders, Viorel Salagean, told an RFE/RL correspondent that the PDSR may split if the group's demands are rejected. But PDSR chairman Ion Iliescu says there is no danger of a split, adding that those who may envisage it are politically "suicidal." The former Romanian president also rejected the call for a more center-oriented program. The PDSR is to hold its annual congress 20-21 June. MOLDOVAN-RUSSIAN BORDER CONTROL COOPERATION AGREEMENT. An accord on cooperation between Moldovan and Russian border troops was initialed on 18 June at the end of a two-day visit to Chisinau by the commander of Russian border troops, Gen. Andrei Nikolaev. The documents must now be endorsed by Presidents Petru Lucinschi and Boris Yeltsin, BASA-Press reported. The accord provides for cooperation in information exchange, the search for suspected criminals, and mutual technical assistance. Nikolaev told a press conference that although the two countries have no common border, they must cooperate in fighting illegal migration, smuggling, and particularly arms and drug trafficking. During his visit, he met with President Lucinschi, Premier Ion Ciubuc, Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat, and Security Minister Tudor Botnaru. BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO MEMBERSHIP PROSPECTS. Nadezhda Mihailova says she is optimistic about Bulgaria's prospects of eventual membership in NATO. She told reporters in Washington on 18 June that her optimism is based on what she has heard recently from U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. Mihailova said Bulgaria's record of stability and its key position in the Balkans make it a "solid choice" for future NATO membership. In other news, Dimitar Ganchev, deputy head of the Foreign Ministry's European Integration Department, told Reuters on 18 June that the Amsterdam European Union summit of this week was "an encouraging sign" for Bulgaria, since it gives the country "more time to prepare to meet admission conditions." xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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