|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
Vol. 1, No. 60, Part II, 25 June 1997
Vol. 1, No. 60, Part II, 25 June 1997 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 PARLIAMENT APPROVES LUKASHENKA'S BROAD POWERS * STORMS KILL 12 PEOPLE IN UKRAINE, BELARUS * ALBANIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS DECREE AGAINST PYRAMID SCHEMES End Note ROMANIA'S MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY SPLITS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES LUKASHENKA'S BROAD POWERS. The Belarusian parliament on 24 June confirmed the sweeping powers won by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in a controversial referendum in November 1996. Vladimir Karavai, the head of the parliamentary legislation and state-building committee, told journalists that lawmakers had "consolidated the decisions taken by a majority of Belarusian citizens last fall." Critics said the referendum was illegitimate and ignored the old constitution. The constitutional changes approved by the referendum extended Lukashenka's term by more than two years to 2002 and tightened his grip on state institutions, including parliament. Following the referendum, Lukashenka re-formed both houses of the parliament, which now give him overwhelming support. WORLD BANK REPRESENTATIVE CRITICAL OF BELARUS. Christopher Willoughby, the World Bank's representative in Minsk, told journalists on 24 June that Belarus continues to back away from reforms and is increasing state interference in the economy. The bank's Minsk office opened three years ago but is now moving to Kyiv, Ukraine, as part of a bank reorganization. Willoughby said the main obstacle to reform is at the political level. He said economic restructuring has been "in reverse" since late 1995 and that, since then, the bank and the IMF have suspended their lending activities in Belarus. Willoughby is preparing a new memorandum of understanding between Belarus and the bank, which spells out the reforms the bank would require the country to undertake to resume lending. He told reporters, however, that the situation in Belarus is worse than it was two years ago. RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reports that officials in the U.S. capital say no new loans are being considered. STORMS KILL 12 PEOPLE IN UKRAINE, BELARUS. A storm with high winds that struck western Ukraine and parts of Belarus on 24 June killed 12 people and injured scores of others. A spokeswoman for Ukraine's Emergencies Ministry told journalists in Kyiv that eight people died and some 30 others were injured in Ukraine's Volyn region. Most were killed by falling trees or were electrocuted by downed powerlines. Winds reportedly reaching 115 km an hour left three people dead and more than 40 injured in neighboring Belarus. The Minsk and Brest regions were hardest hit by the storm. Authorities say 620 homes were destroyed in Belarus and 140 farming installations were damaged. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT TELLS UN CHORNOBYL WILL CLOSE. Leonid Kuchma told the UN General Assembly on 24 June that Ukraine will honor its commitment to close the Chornobyl nuclear power plant by the year 2000, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported. Addressing a special General Assembly session on world environmental issues, the so-called Earth Summit, Kuchma said "it is not economically profitable to pollute the environment." Later in the day, Kuchma met Russian Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin and Argentine President Carlos Menem. UKRAINIAN OFFICIAL SUGGESTS JOINING NATO. Deputy Foreign Minister Anton Buteiko, speaking at a press conference in Kyiv on 24 June, suggested that Ukraine will eventually consider applying for membership in NATO. "We have already integrated into one trans-Atlantic structure, the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe. Another target is NATO." He added that the charter on special cooperation between NATO and Ukraine, which is scheduled to be signed in Madrid on 9 July, will create a legislative base for the practical integration of Ukraine into NATO." BALTIC LEADERS REITERATE DETERMINATION TO JOIN NATO. The Baltic States again made their case for admission into NATO at the alliance's security forum in Prague, CTK reported on 24 June. Estonian Defense Minister Andrus Oovel said the Baltic States' admission into the alliance would enhance security on the continent and also compensate for past injustices toward the Balts. In an interview with RFE/RL's Estonian service, Oovel did not mention any possible date for Estonia's entry into NATO, saying a lot still needed to be done in the country to achieve that goal. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas said NATO should express "clear political will" toward countries that are not invited to join the alliance in the first wave of enlargement. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs hailed the expected admission of some former communist-bloc countries into NATO and said he expected those new members to be the Baltic States "natural allies." LITHUANIAN BANKER COMMITTED SUICIDE. Gennady Konoplyov, the former manager of the Tauras bank who was found dead with a gunshot wound in the head (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1997), committed suicide, Interfax reported, citing the Lithuanian Prosecutor's Office. The 52-year-old banker left behind a letter explaining he had taken his life because of the "artificially caused collapse" of the bank. He also claimed that he and his family had been "terrorized by the KGB [and] various rogues wanting to become 'politicians,' recently the ruling majority." Tauras ran into financial difficulties in March, and the Central Bank recently stripped the bank's board of decision-making powers and barred the bank from all banking operations. POLISH PARLIAMENT WANTS RUSSIA TO COMPENSATE DEPORTED POLES. The lower chamber of the Polish parliament, the Sejm, approved a resolution on 24 June demanding compensation from Moscow for Poles who were deported to Siberia by the Soviet Union during World War II, dpa reported. The resolution calls on the Polish government to open talks with Russia on the issue. After the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland in September 1939, as many as 1.5 million Poles were deported to work in forced labor camps in Siberia. Hundreds of thousands are believed to have died in the camps. An association representing camp survivors says it now has more than 100,000 members. POLISH GOVERNMENT SPLIT OVER DEATH PENALTY. Polish government members are divided over whether the death penalty in Poland should be restored. Calls among the public to reintroduce the death penalty have intensified in the wake of a series of recent murders. Interior Minister Leszek Miller told a news conference in Warsaw on 24 June that potential murderers could be deterred by the death penalty. However, Justice Minister Leszek Kubicki argued against restoring capital punishment, telling the same conference that the best deterrent is to ensure criminals were caught and the law enforced. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz told Polish Radio that he is opposed to restoring the death sentence, which was suspended shortly before the 1989 fall of communism and abolished in a new criminal code recently approved by the parliament. On 23 June, thousands had marched through Warsaw to protest the recent killing of a 19-year-old student by a gang whose members were angry he had attended a picnic in woods they regarded as their turf. CZECH PRESIDENT DECORATES GEN. JOULWAN. Vaclav Havel on 24 June decorated U.S. Gen. George Joulwan, NATO's supreme commander in Europe, with the Order of the White Lion. Joulwan received the honor, the country's highest, in acknowledgment of his "considerable services" to the Czech Republic, Czech TV reported. The general praised the Czech Republic and its soldiers for the role they played in the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. Joulwan, who is retiring next month, is in Prague as the chief organizer of a security forum on NATO. EU AID TO SLOVAKIA USED TO REWRITE HISTORY OF HOLOCAUST. The European Commission admitted on 25 June that EU aid to Slovakia was used to fund a children's history book that seeks to justify the mass deportation of Jews to concentration camps during World War II. A commission spokeswoman told journalists in Brussels that the book, intended for use in every primary school in Slovakia, was published using funds intended to help the country prepare for admission to the EU. The commission has written to the Slovak authorities demanding they withdraw the book and ensure there is no repeat of the incident. The book, written by Milan Durica, a Roman Catholic priest, has been severely criticized by leaders of Slovakia's Jewish and Protestant communities. A nominally independent Slovak state was established under the control of Nazi Germany during the war. SLOVAK POLITICAL ROUNDUP. A government spokesman told journalists on 25 June that Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar will invite opposition party representatives to talks in early July. Following their 23 June talks with President Michal Kovac, leaders of two government parties and eight opposition parties said they are ready to attend round-table talks between the opposition and the coalition parties chaired by the premier. Meanwhile, on 24 June, the coalition deputies rejected most proposals made by the opposition. But the parliament did approve the opposition bill on direct presidential elections in its first reading. Two more readings are required for the bill to pass. RUSSIA RENEWS DRIVE TO SELL MiGS TO HUNGARY. A delegation of the State Duma's Defense Committee has renewed the drive to convince Budapest to purchase Russian-made aircraft, Hungarian media reported. Committee chairman Lev Rohlin argued at a meeting with members of the Hungarian parliamentary Defense Committee in Budapest on 24 June that the overhaul of 30 MiG-21 aircraft would cost some $150-180 million, while the price of the same number of Western-made planes would be at least $2 billion. He added that Russia is ready to sell Hungary MiG-29 jets as well as SZ-300 missiles and noted that the deal could help clear Russia's state debt to Hungary. A similar offer was made in late May by Russian Deputy Premier Vladimir Bulgak during a visit to Budapest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 1997). SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS DECREE AGAINST PYRAMID SCHEMES. Sali Berisha has signed a decree providing for strict controls on investment companies and aimed ultimately shutting them down, ATA reported on 24 June. The IMF and the World Bank demanded the appointment of independent administrators to control and then close the pyramid firms. Both institutions sent a joint letter to Berisha on 22 June warning him that future international financial help will depend on complying with their demands as soon as possible. Some of the schemes still continue to operate, such as VEFA, which also runs passenger ferries and its own TV station. VEFA is repaying investors' original deposits in increments but will no longer pay interest, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. POLLING STATIONS TO STAY OPEN LATE IN ALBANIA. President Berisha said on 24 June that he cannot legally change the closing times of the polling stations from 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., as the Central Election Commission had requested (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1997). The commission responded by asking the Constitutional Court to decide, "Indipendent" reported. The majority of the commission, including its secretary from Berisha's own Democratic Party, supported the earlier closing time, but two other Democrats were strongly opposed. The OSCE has asked for the polling stations to close at 6:00 p.m. The parliament has been dissolved, and Berisha is currently the only person who can deal with such matters. He changed the opening hours of the polling stations for the May 1996 parliamentary elections on voting day itself. THREE POLICEMEN SHOT OUTSIDE HOUSE OF ALBANIAN POLICE CHIEF. Four unidentified persons injured three policemen in a shoot-out outside the Tirana home of police chief and Deputy Interior Minister Agim Shehu, "Indipendent" reported on 25 June. It remains unclear whether the incident was politically motivated. Meanwhile, four smugglers were shot and injured in two separate incidents on the northern border with Kosovo in the region of Tropoja and Kukes, "Gazeta Shqiptare" wrote. In the mountainous region between Shkoder and the Montenegrin border, Red Cross officials have begun investigating reports of famine. And in Tirana, additional election monitors are arriving, bringing the total number of OSCE observers to 450, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Albanian capital. LILIC ENDS TERM AS FEDERAL YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT. Zoran Lilic, who is barred by the constitution from seeking reelection, completed his four-year mandate on 25 June. Upper house speaker Srdja Bozovic is interim president until the parliament elects a new chief executive, which it must do by 25 July. The only declared candidate is Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who has the endorsement of his own Socialist Party of Serbia and its Montenegrin allies. His election is a foregone conclusion, since he has a comfortable majority in the legislature. The Belgrade press has centered its attention on who will succeed Milosevic in the Serbian presidency. Also in Belgrade, Zoran Djindjic of the Democratic Party said on 24 June that the Zajedno coalition has ceased to exist. He added that the most serious opposition to Milosevic now comes from Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and his allies. MONTENEGRIN OPPOSITION BLASTS SUPPORT FOR MILOSEVIC CANDIDACY. All opposition parties have criticized the governing Democratic Socialist Party's (DPS) decision to endorse Milosevic for the federal presidency, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Podgorica on 24 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1997). An opposition spokesman accused the government of postponing a session of the parliament in order to avoid criticism of the DPS's endorsement of the Serbian leader. Meanwhile in Pristina, Milosevic arrived on 25 June for his first visit to Kosovo in two years. And in Belgrade the previous day, Refugee Minister Bratislava Morina received representatives of Kosovo Serbs who have been staging a hunger strike to force the government to deliver on its promises of housing and other assistance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 1997). WASHINGTON BLOCKS LOAN FOR CROATIA. Croatian Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa said in Dubrovnik on 25 June that the U.S. decision to veto a $30 million loan to his country from the World Bank is "wrong." A State Department spokesman commented in Washington the previous day that the U.S. is disappointed with Zagreb's failure to implement key provisions of the Dayton agreement, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the U.S. capital. The spokesman singled out Croatia's poor record on the return of Serbian refugees and on cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Meanwhile at that court, Croatian Gen. Tihomir Blaskic has denied the charges against him, which are related to atrocities against Muslims in the Lasva valley in 1993 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1997). He said he had been under fire in his bunker at the time of the alleged incidents and did not know what his ill-disciplined peasant recruits were doing in the field. UN TO DELAY WITHDRAWAL FROM EASTERN SLAVONIA? UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in New York on 24 June that some peacekeepers should remain in eastern Slavonia in mid-July, when that Serb-held region is slated to return to Croatian control. Annan suggested that some troops stay at least until mid-October and then leave only if Croatia has kept its promises regarding treatment of the Serbs. Ivan Simonovic, Croatia's ambassador to the UN, criticized Annan's call for UN peacekeepers to supervise the Croatian police and for the UN's Jacques Klein to have a veto over the work of the local Croatian civilian authorities, BETA reported. ROMANIAN CONTINUES BID FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP. In an interview with RFE/RL on 24 June, President Emil Constantinescu said that "in a paradoxical way," the failure of Romania to be nominated for membership in NATO in the first wave has worked to the country's advantage. Constantinescu said Romania is now the focus of attention of international diplomacy and the international media. He added that nobody doubted that Romania will eventually be admitted into the organization. The question, he said, is only "when and how." In a separate interview with RFE/RL, Defense Minister Victor Babiuc said it will be "illogical" to extend NATO without Romania, which is "the missing link" in NATO's southern flank. Foreign Minister Adrian Severin, on a two-day visit to Belgium to promote NATO membership, met with Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene, Foreign Minister Derycke Erik, and other officials on 24 June. ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER WRAPS UP U.S. VISIT. An eight-day visit to the US by Victor Ciorbea ended on 24 June with his "unexpected return" to Washington from New York for talks with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, an RFE/RL Washington correspondent reported. A State Department official who did not want to be identified said the meeting did not mean the U.S. has changed its mind about which countries should be invited to join NATO in the first wave. After the meeting, Ciorbea declined to comment on speculations in the Romanian and international media that President Bill Clinton is planning a visit to Romania in the near future. However, Ciorbea noted that a "surprising move" confirming the "strategic alliance" between Bucharest and Washington can be expected. The premier had made a similar comment to the RFE/RL Romanian service after his meeting with Vice President Al Gore on 18 June. ROMANIAN FASCISTS MARK ANNIVERSARY. Veterans of the Fascist League of the Archangel Michael (also known as the Iron Guard) gathered in Iasi, in northeast Romania, on 24 June to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the movement. The Private television channel "Antena 1" reported that the ceremony was attended by participants from Bucharest, Cluj, Timisoara, Ploiesti, and Sibiu. Representatives of organizations of young people supporting the revival of Iron Guard ideology were also present. HAILSTORMS CAUSE EXTENSIVE DAMAGE IN ROMANIA. Hailstorms on 24 June hit several counties in Romania, causing extensive damage. Two persons were hospitalized "in serious condition" in the southern Olt County. The hailstorms also affected the northwestern Maramures region , severely damaging houses in several villages. On 21-22 June, seven people were killed and more than 80 had to be hospitalized following hailstorms in the southern counties. BULGARIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL CRITICIZES LUKANOV SETTLEMENT. Ivan Tatarchev on 24 June told an RFE/RL Sofia correspondent that former Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov's family should not have been paid $7,000 in compensation for his arrest and detention before it returned to the state "a significant amount of money" the assassinated politician spent on travel and medical bills in Austria before 1989. The compensation was paid in line with the ruling of a Council of Europe Human Rights Court in Strasbourg. Lukanov was killed in front of his Sofia home in October 1996. In 1992, he was stripped of parliamentary immunity and jailed for six months on charges of misappropriating funds in the 1980s. The court ruled that the detention had violated the European Human Rights Convention. BULGARIA PLANS TO SET UP GENDARMERIE. An Interior Ministry official announced on 24 June that Bulgaria plans to establish a national gendarmerie to guard strategic sites and help fight crime, Reuters reported. The official said troops currently used to guard embassies and consulates will be transformed into a force modeled on the French gendarmerie. The units will also guard industrial sites and oil pipelines--among them the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, the Maritsa East coal mining and thermal power complex, and the Neftochim oil refinery. In other news, the government on 24 June dismissed the manager of the Bobovdol mine, where a tragic accident occurred the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1997). BTA cited Deputy Prime Minister Evgeni Bakardizhev as saying that more than 20 miners have been killed at the Bobovdol mine in the past eight years, noting this was an "unacceptable" safety record. END NOTE ROMANIA'S MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY SPLITS by Michael Shafir The split that marked the end of the 20-21 June National Conference of Romania's main opposition party, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), came as no surprise. Tensions within the party had surfaced well ahead of the conference, the first major PDSR gathering since the party was roundly defeated in the November 1996 elections. In most democracies, such debacles call for those responsible to be replaced--witness the recent resignations of John Major as leader of Britain's Conservative Party and of Alain Juppe as leader of the French central-right alliance. But such democratic practice is rare in formations that remain prisoner s of their communist legacy. Ion Iliescu, the former president of Romania and the current PDSR chairman, became party leader only after losing the presidential contest to Emil Constantinescu. But it was generally acknowledged that before November 1996, the party was headed in all but name by Iliescu, who, as president, was constitutionally barred from belonging to a party. Rather than assuming responsibility for the PDSR's loss of its parliamentary majority, Iliescu assumed the formal leadership of the PDSR. At the same time, other PDSR leaders could still have been called to acc ount for the party's failure in the 1996 elections. Of these, Adrian Nastase, executive chairman of the PDSR from 1992 to 1996 and first deputy chairman after Iliescu assumed the party leadership, was by far the most prominent. Perhaps nothing contributed more to the PDSR's poor performance in 1996 than Nastase's image--whether justified or unjustified--of a politician embodying corruption. On the eve of the PDSR National Conference, a manifesto was published b y a reformist group within the party, which called itself the Opinion Group for the Transformation of the PDSR. The group includes several "newcomers," whom, ironically, Iliescu had promoted to leading positions shortly before the last elections in a bid to improve the party's image: former Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, the head of the group; former Deputy Prime Minister Mircea Cosea; Iosif Boda, a former ambassador to Switzerland; Marian Enache, a former ambassador to Moldova; and the economist Viorel Salagean. The group demanded that the PDSR rid itself of corrupt members and force those responsible for the party's electoral defeat to assume responsibility. It also urged the party to move ideologically from the Left to the Center-Left. But precisely the opposite happened at the National Conference. Colored by his lengthy experience of communist infighting, Iliescu was able to consider the demands of the reformists from only one perspective: namely, that his own position as PDSR leader might ultimately be affected. This explains his unrestrained attack on Boda in early June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 1997), which even Iliescu himself described as "Bolshevik-like" a few days later. It also explains his statement that newcomers to the PDSR would be better advised to "work at the grass-root level" than criticize the leadership that co-opted them (conveniently forgetting that he, too, was a "newcomer" to the party). His "democratic centralist" attack on "party factionalism" and his declaration that the party should move to the Left may also be traced back to this single, communist-influenced perspective. In the event, the pro-reform group was not allowed even to present its platform at the National Conference. Iliescu rejected Melescanu's last-minute "compromise proposal" that neither the pro-reform group nor Nastase and his cronies run for leadership positions. Melescanu was thus left with no choice than to announce he was leaving t he PDSR, which both he and Cosea proceeded to do on 21 June. Two other members of the group, Boda and Salagean, had been expelled from the party the previous day, while Enache had submitted his resignation on 19 June. Mugurel Vintila, an advocate of radical reform, also quit the party, even though he is not a member of Melescanu's group. Several days later, on 24 June, Ioan Pintea followed suit. Those resignations leave the PDSR faction in the legislature weakened, s ince all but Salagean are parliamentary deputies. The group is unlikely to heed the call by Iliescu, who was re-elected PDSR chairman by an overwhelming majority, that its members resign from the parliament. In fact, Melescanu has already rejected that option, saying he will not join other formations but hopes to set up a new political entity. What happened at the PDSR National Conference is almost a carbon-copy of the developments that led to the "divorce" of Iliescu's conservative group from the reformist group headed by Petre Roman in 1992. An alliance between Melescanu and Roman's Democratic Party cannot be ruled out. As for Iliescu, he still has Nastase as first deputy chairman and also Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the extremist Greater Romania Party, as his new-old political ally following a period in which the two were avowed enemies. Attending the PDSR gathering, Tudor expressed regret for having earlier attacked Iliescu. The delegate applauded enthusiastically. But it is debatable whether the "born-again, red-brown alliance" will find the same approval among voters in election-year 2000. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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