|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
Vol. 1, No. 58, Part II, 23 June1997
Vol. 1, No. 58, Part II, 23 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 OPPOSITION MOVEMENT HOLDS CONGRESS *CONFUSION SURROUNDS UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER'S DISMISSAL *ALBANIAN PARTY LEADERS MEET IN ROME xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION MOVEMENT HOLDS CONGRESS. The Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) held its fifth congress in Minsk on 21-22 June. Zianon Paznyak, who fled Belarus in 1996 and now lives in the U.S., was re-elected leader of the movement. Lyavon Borshchevsky, who was arrested several days before the congress for his role in opposition protests earlier this year, was re-elected deputy leader. Borshchevsky was briefly released from custody to attend the congress and returned to jail on 22 June to serve the remainder of his five-day sentence. The BNF passed a declaration calling President Alyaksandr Lukashenka a "dictator" and denouncing his pro-Russian policies. In a videotaped address, Paznyak referred to Lukashenka's government as the "occupation regime" and criticized the president's efforts at reunification with Russia. CONFUSION SURROUNDS UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER'S DISMISSAL. A spokesman for Pavlo Lazarenko on 20 June denied reports that the prime minister will resign. He said that Lazarenko has been diagnosed with "physical exhaustion." The previous day, President Leonid Kuchma announced he was temporarily stripping Lazarenko of his duties and passing them on to Deputy Prime Minister Vasyl Durdinets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 1997). Many observers saw that move as permanent and predicted Lazarenko's resignation would soon follow. Lazarenko is considered responsible for Ukraine's continuing economic troubles and for not stopping corruption. Several parliamentary factions have called for his resignation. G-7 OFFERS $300 MILLION TO REBUILD CHORNOBYL SARCOPHAGUS. At the Denver summit from 21-22 June, the Group of Seven leading industrial nations promised to grant Ukraine $300 million to help rebuild the concrete shell around the Chornobyl nuclear reactor, Reuters reported. A G-7 statement said the Chornobyl reactor, scene of the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986, should be closed completely by the year 2000. The G-7 has been urging Ukraine for years to close the station. Ukraine says it can do so only when new reactors have been built at other plants. It wants $780 million to help build a new sarcophagus. G-7 ministers also expressed concern about the slow pace of economic reform in Ukraine. It urged Ukraine to step up the pace of reform and encourage foreign investors. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH TRANSDNIESTRIAN LEADER. Kuchma met with Igor Smirnov on 20 June in Kyiv and discussed the deployment of Ukrainian peace-keeping troops in the security zone of the breakaway region, ITAR-TASS reported. They also discussed economic cooperation. Under the terms of the 8 May memorandum signed by Chisinau and Tiraspol, the Transdniester can develop independent economic ties. Ukraine is one of the guarantors of the memorandum, alongside Russia and the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe. LATVIAN CORRUPTION UPDATE. Prime Minister Andris Skele on 20 June demanded the resignation of State Health Minister Juris Vinkelis, after the Prosecutor's Office found Vinkelis violated the anti-corruption law, BNS reported. Vinkelis denied any wrong-doing, saying the companies in which he reportedly holds posts have never really begun business operations. The office also announced Deputy Prime Minister Juris Kaksitis violated the law by failing to state he held a post in a company when filling out an income declaration. But since that company is non-profit, the violation is not considered serious, according to BNS. Meanwhile, the office said Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs has not breached the law since he withdrew from all posts outside the government before the 1 August 1996 deadline. At the request of Skele, the Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation into all government members following reports that many have broken the anti-corruption law. NEW PARTY IN LATVIA. At a joint congress in Riga on 21 June, the Fatherland and Freedom party and the Latvian National Independence Movement (LNNK) voted to establish a new political formation, to be called Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK, BNS reported. Fatherland and Freedom leader Maris Grinblats said the new party's program will be based on national values, the inviolability of the fundamental principles of the constitution, passage of a tough citizenship law, the promotion of the repatriation of aliens, and the preservation of the "purity of the Latvian language." The new party will have 17 parliamentary seats and will thus be the second-largest formation in the legislature. LITHUANIAN ROUNDUP. The Conservatives have drafted a bill aimed at preventing state officials from making personal profit from the office they hold, BNS reported on 20 June. First Deputy Parliamentary Chairman Andrius Kubilius told a news conference that prevention of corruption has not received any attention so far in Lithuania. He added that the anti-corruption law would allow the public eye to "X-ray the corridors of the governing bodies." Also on 20 June, two-day talks on the Russian-Lithuanian border concluded in Vilnuis, ITAR-TASS reported. The agency quoted Rimantas Sidlaumkas, the head of the Lithuanian delegation, as saying that "certain progress" was made. Sidlaumkas also noted that the talks, which began several years ago, are "nearing an end." NATO SECURITY FORUM IN PRAGUE. Czech President Vaclav Havel opened a NATO security forum in Prague on 21 June by calling on NATO leaders to give a clear timetable for expansion after the first wave of former communist countries are invited to join at the alliance's Madrid summit next month, Czech TV reported. The four-day Prague forum, is attended by top NATO officials and leaders of countries aspiring to gain membership in the alliance. Slovenian Foreign Minister Zoran Thaler told the forum on 22 June that his country's admission to NATO will boost security in southeastern Europe. Both Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski and Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova urged NATO to remain open for those nations left out of the first wave. EDU CONCERNED ABOUT SITUATION IN SLOVAKIA. The European Democratic Union says it is concerned about steps taken by the Slovak government that the EDU considers a serious breach of the rule of law and democratic principles, CTK reported on 21 June, citing Jan Figel, deputy chairman of the opposition Christian Democrats (KDH). Figel, who took part in a meeting of the EDU steering committee in London, said there are no longer any doubts that Slovakia has dropped out from the main integration stream and is heading neither for NATO nor for the EU. The EDU brings together about 40 conservative and Christian Democratic parties from Europe. COUNCIL OF EUROPE TO MONITOR ETHNIC RIGHTS IN SLOVAKIA. Jane Dinsdale, the deputy director of the Council of Europe's Human Rights Department, told journalists in Bratislava on 20 June that the council will continue to watch the situation of ethnic minorities in Slovakia and will largely focus on their language rights and relevant legislation. Dinsdale made the comment after the fourth meeting of EU representatives and government officials responsible for ethnic minority issues in Central and Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, in an interview with TASR on 20 June, commented on the results of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of the EU and Slovak parliaments, which gave Slovakia till the end of November to implement democratic reforms or face the prospect of not being included in EU expansion talks. Meciar said nobody can give ultimatums to the Slovak Republic, which, he stressed, is a sovereign state. HUNGARY, VATICAN SIGN AGREEMENT. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano and visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn on 20 June signed an agreement on property restitution to, and financing the activities of, the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary. According to the pact, the state will return to the Church, or pay it compensation for, buildings and property seized under communism. Sodano said the signing of the agreement "may serve as an example to other post-communist countries," Hungarian media reported. Hungary's junior coalition party, the Free Democrats, criticized the agreement for singling out one religion for support and for giving Roman Catholic schools the same status as state institutions. The Vatican denied that the pact gives a privileged status to the Catholic Church over Hungary's non-Catholic believers, who are mostly Protestants and Jews. HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTY RE-ELECTS LEADER. The national council of the Christian Democratic People's Party (KDNP) on 21 June re-elected incumbent Gyoergy Giczy as party chairman, Hungarian media reported. Giczy received 133 votes, while Zsolt Semjen garnered 102. Giczy's re-election ends a heated debate within the KDNP that began in May following a Supreme Court decision to annul the results of the KDNP's December 1996 contest for leadership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 1997). Giczy called for an end to factions within the party and urged the KDNP to bring about a "genuine change of regime." Semjen remarked that the 43% of the vote he gained indicates that his moderate policy has considerable support in the party. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN PARTY LEADERS MEET IN ROME. Six party leaders from the three largest election coalitions left for Rome on 22 June to reconcile their positions before the elections slated for 29 June. The sponsor is the Roman Catholic organization Sant Egidio, which specializes in non-violent conflict resolution, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 22 June. The key players are Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano, whose party leads a left-of-center coalition, and the Democrats' Tritan Shehu, whose party has also formed a coalition with smaller partners. A third coalition consists of small conservative parties. The aim of the meeting is to produce an agreement not to interfere in the electoral process and to respect the results of the ballot. Contested issues remain the closing time of the polling stations and how to assign seats on the basis of proportional representation. DEMOCRATIC PARTY SECRETARY HARASSED IN SOUTHERN ALBANIA. In the country's southern-most electoral district, which is near the town of Saranda, gunmen surrounded and harassed Democratic Party Foreign Relations Secretary Leonard Demi, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 22 June. The Democratic Party said that "armed gangs of [Socialist Party leader] Gramoz Ruci" attacked Demi, who has participated in a number of party rallies in southern Albania. President Sali Berisha has not spoken at any rallies in the rebel-controlled south out of concern for his safety. Meanwhile, a bomb injured four people in the night from 20-21 June in Tirana's Student City, "Dita Informacion" reported. The dormitory area has received a number of bomb threats in the last two weeks. ALBANIAN CANDIDATES' REGISTRATION PROCESS COMPLETED. The last candidates' lists reached the Central Election Commission on 21 June, nine days after the deadline, "Koha Jone" reported. The lustration committee has also finished its work. "Koha Jone" journalist Frrok Cupi succeeded on 21 June in getting the commission's earlier ban on his candidacy in Vlora overturned, "Dita Informacion" reported. The ballot papers can now be printed, and the OSCE estimates they will be ready by 26 June. This leaves the commission two days to distribute the material throughout the country. Confusion nonetheless remains over the exact role the OSCE and the multinational force will play in distributing ballot boxes and other high security materials. According to OSCE policy, the Albanian government must distribute the materials itself and the OSCE will only monitor the delivery. DENVER SUMMIT INSISTS ON RESPECT FOR DAYTON AGREEMENT. The leaders of the G-7 countries plus Russia announced in Denver on 21 June that development aid for Serbs, Croats, and Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina will depend on those parties' compliance with the Dayton agreement. The world leaders also said they expect Croatia and federal Yugoslavia to cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal and to observe international norms regarding human rights. The warnings reflect a growing view in major capitals that Bosnia is likely to split into three ethnically based parts unless the international community brings fresh pressure to bear on the treaty's signatories. But Momcilo Krajisnik, the Bosnian Serb member of the joint presidency, said in Pale on 22 June that the Bosnian Serbs will not give into "blackmail" in order to get reconstruction aid. He said his people would prefer aid from Serbia instead. DJUKANOVIC SAYS MONTENEGRINS UNITED. Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 22 June that Montenegrins uniformly oppose Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's plans to change the federal Yugoslav Constitution to Montenegro's disadvantage. The previous day, he met with Serbian opposition leader Zoran Djindjic in Tivat. They stressed the need for federal Yugoslavia to be allowed to resume membership in international organizations and for political and economic reforms at home. Djindjic and Djukanovic also discussed possible cooperation between their two parties, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade. Djukanovic's Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) has backed Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) in the past, but Djukanovic led a revolt in his party against that alliance. In Belgrade on 20 June, SPS Vice President Milorad Vucelic warned that fighting within the DPS could "weaken the [Yugoslav] federation" as a whole. MEDICAL STRIKE ENDS IN SERBIA. Representatives of the health workers' union have announced in Belgrade that their six-week strike will end on 23 June. Serbian Health Minister Leposava Milicevic and union leader Stevan Djordjevic signed an agreement on 21 June that provides for the payment of back wages by the end of the month, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. Also in Belgrade, Milos Vasic, the editor of the weekly "Vreme," was elected president of the Independent Society of Journalists of Serbia. Later that night, unidentified persons broke into the organization's offices and stole two fax machines and two telephones. ROW IN CROATIAN OPPOSITION PARTY. The national organization of the Croatian Social-Liberal Party (HSLS) said in Zagreb on 21 June that the recent agreement between the HSLS representatives on the Zagreb city council and those of the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) is "void." As a result of that pact, HSLS council member Dorica Nikolic was elected as deputy mayor and the national leadership decided to suspend the Zagreb group from the party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 1997). Nikolic said that, as deputy mayor, she could promote citizens' interests, but the HSLS leadership charged that she was motivated by personal ambition, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. Some observers suggest that events in Zagreb could force a formal split in the HSLS, whose members have long been divided over the question of cooperation with the HDZ. ROUNDUP FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. According to Croatian Development Minister Jure Radic, demands that Croatia extend equal rights to all its citizens, including to Serbian refugees who want to go home, are "unacceptable." Radic told the Zagreb daily "Vjesnik" of 21 June that such demands fail to differentiate "between those [Serbs] who took part in aggression and those [Croats] who defended themselves." Meanwhile, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek sent a telegram to President Bill Clinton on 22 June, asking him to reconsider his position on Slovenia's membership in NATO. And in Skopje, President Kiro Gligorov returned from a visit to the U.S.. He said Clinton agreed to help Macedonia combat poverty and that the two men agreed on issues related to Balkan security. UPDATE ON ROMANIA'S NATO BID. Victor Ciorbea met with U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and IMF President Michael Camdessus in Washington on 20 June. Cohen told reporters that the U.S. did not "say 'no' to Romania's bid to join NATO, but only 'not yet.'" Meanwhile, at the Summit of the Eight in Denver on 21 June, French President Jacques Chirac reiterated to U.S. President Bill Clinton that France wants Romania to be in the first group admitted to NATO. Clinton's National Security adviser Samuel Berger said after the meeting that the U.S. has not changed its mind. FINAL SPLIT IN ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY. Former Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu and former Deputy Prime Minister Mircea Cosea on 21 June resigned from the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR). They told a press conference in Bucharest they had failed to convince party chairman Ion Iliescu to agree to a compromise solution whereby neither the party's reformist group (headed by Melescanu) nor its conservative group (headed by Adrian Nastase) would be represented in the leadership team elected at the party's 20-21 June National Conference. Two other members of the reformist group, Iosif Boda and Viorel Salagean, were expelled from the PDSR by their respective Bucharest branches on 20 June, and a fifth member, deputy Marian Enache, resigned from the party one day earlier. Iliescu was re-elected PDSR chairman by an overwhelming majority, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. ROMANIAN MINERS END STRIKE. The miners in the Jiu valley on 20 June ended a ten-day strike after reaching an agreement with the state mining company. The agreement provides for a 23.3 % wage hike beginning 1 July and a further 7% raise as of 1 August, an RFE/RL correspondent in Petrosani reported. Also on 20 June, Marin Condeescu said his National Confederation of Mining Unions (which does not represent the Jiu valley miners) is demanding a 25% reduction in taxes on wages beginning 1 July. Condeescu said restructuring in the mining industry should proceed only after alternatives have been found for miners who stood to lose their jobs as a result of the reorganization. MOLDOVA CRITICIZED BY INTERNATIONAL FINANCE INSTITUTIONS. James Parks, the permanent representative of the World Bank in Chisinau, told the Moldovan government on 20 June that the privatization program currently debated by the parliament is not comprehensive enough, BASA-Press reported. The same day, the parliament ended a debate on privatization, after excluding several major enterprises from the process. The privatization program was not voted on because of the lack of a quorum. Also on 20 June, Infotag reported that the IMF has postponed granting a $25 million to Moldova because the conditions for the loan have not been met. Meanwhile, Petru Lucinschi, on a three-day visit to Israel, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister David Levy in Jerusalem on 22 June. Agreements on cooperation in education, civil aviation, science, culture and tourism were signed by members of the two delegations, AFP reported. BULGARIA ASKS TURKEY TO BACK NATO MEMBERSHIP BID. President Petar Stoyanov has asked Turkey to back his country's bid for NATO membership, the President's Office reported on 21 June. Stoyanov, who has postponed a scheduled visit to Turkey from 23-25 June until the formation of the new government in Ankara, made the request in a telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel. Demirel assured him that Turkey supports both Bulgaria's and Romania's NATO efforts as a "natural step for strengthening NATO's southern flank." In other news, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on 20 June presented in the parliament an austerity budget, in accordance with the law that also establishes the National Currency Board beginning 1 July. POLICE FREE BULGARIAN BUSINESS EXECUTIVE. Penko Dimitrov, the deputy executive director of the Bulgargas state monopoly, was freed on 20 June by police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 1997). Premier Kostov told a press conference in Sofia that Dimitrov was abducted by the Elos private security firm on the orders of Vesselin Todorov, the head of a firm whose interests "were badly hurt by the principled positions of the Bulgargas management," according to Reuters. He was freed by police after being held for 22 hours, Minister of Interior Bogumil Bonev told the same press conference. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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