|A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. - Jonathan Swift|
Vol. 1, No. 61, Part II, 26 June1997
Vol. 1, No. 61, Part II, 26 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 GOVERNMENT PROMISES TO IMPLEMENT REFORMS *FIVE SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTIES AGREE TO FORM ALLIANCE *ALBANIAN FINANCE MINISTER REFUSES TO SIGN ANTI-PYRAMID DECREE End Note HOLLOW VICTORY FOR MILOSEVIC IN MONTENEGRO xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT PROMISES TO IMPLEMENT REFORMS. The government on 25 June signed a memorandum of understanding with the World Bank agreeing to implement an economic reform package next year, an RFE/RL Washington correspondent reported. The reforms include reducing currency controls and privatizing small enterprises. The bank will provide loans of up to $100 million a year if Belarus fulfills its commitments and ensures the irreversibility of the reform process. The previous day, Christopher Willoughby, the bank's resident representative in Minsk, said Belarus continues to back away from reforms and is increasing state interference in the economy. The bank and the IMF both suspended their lending programs to Belarus in late 1995 because the government was not proceeding with reforms. BELARUS ARRESTS FOUR FOR TRYING TO SMUGGLE OUT URANIUM. A spokesman for the State Security Committee told journalists in Minsk on 25 June that four people--one Belarusian and three foreigners--have been arrested for trying to smuggle two kilograms of radioactive uranium out of the country. He said the four were recently arrested in the city of Brest. They were charged with illegally obtaining the uranium and trying to smuggle it abroad, where they hoped to sell it for $100,000. The spokesman said initial tests had shown the uranium to be radioactive but not enriched to weapons-grade quality. UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER MAY HAVE TO UNDERGO SURGERY. Pavlo Lazarenko may have to undergo surgery, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 25 June, citing the chief doctor of the hospital in which Lazarenko is hospitalized. "An operation is not ruled out, however the date has not been set yet," he commented. Doctors initially diagnosed exhaustion as the cause of the prime minister's illness, but it has since been reported that he is suffering from "varicose veins and arterial sclerosis." Lazarenko was "temporarily" dismissed by President Leonid Kuchma on 19 June, ostensibly for health reasons. First Deputy Prime Minister Vasily Durdinets was appointed acting prime minister the same day (see End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1997). U.S. OFFICIAL IN BALTICS TO DISCUSS CHARTER. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Ronald Asmus arrived in Riga on 25 June for talks with Latvian officials on a draft Baltic-U.S. charter, BNS reported. Earlier in the week, Asmus had visited Tallinn and Vilnius to speak with officials there. He told a news conference in Vilnius that the proposed charter is a "statement of shared values, principles and the common vision that we have of a new, free, democratic, undivided Europe." The document contains no security guarantees but does provide for cooperation in defense. It will be politically, but not legally, binding and is reportedly aimed at convincing the Baltics that the U.S. regards them as fully fledged members of the West. During his visit to Estonia, Asmus confirmed that the document should be signed at a "very high level." LITHUANIAN ROUNDUP. The parliament has begun to discuss the abolition of the death penalty, BNS reported on 25 June. Last year, President Algirdas Brazauskas urged a discussion on the issue; since then, the execution of prisoners sentenced to death has ceased. There are currently nine prisoners sentenced to death in Lithuania. Meanwhile, a poll conducted by the Vilmorus market research center in early June shows Brazauskas heading the field of potential presidential candidates. He won 27.2% of the vote, followed by Valdas Adamkus, the U.S. environmentalist of Lithuanian origin, with 24.7%. Parliamentary Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis scored 8.4%. A poll conducted last month by Baltic Surveys, a Lithuanian-British company, had shown Adamkus in the lead. POLISH DIPLOMATIC ACTIVITY. President Aleksander Kwasniewski met in Warsaw on 25 June with Bulgarian Vice President Todor Kavaldjiev, RFE/RL's Warsaw correspondent reported. Kavaldjiev also held talks with other Polish officials on bilateral and international security issues. Among the issues discussed were boosting agricultural trade and the repayment of a big grain loan Poland made to Bulgaria last winter. Also on 25 June, German President Roman Herzog arrived in Poland for an official visit. He is scheduled to travel to Gdansk. Meanwhile, Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz starts a two-day working visit to France and Holland on 26 June. POLAND FAVORS WIDER NATO ENLARGEMENT. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said in Strasbourg on 25 June that the enlargement of NATO should not be limited to the handful of countries expected to be invited to join next month, Reuters reported. Addressing the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, he said membership invitations expected to be issued to Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary should be only a first step. CZECH COMMUNIST-ERA PRISONERS WILL BE COMPENSATED. The Czech government on 25 June agreed to make one-time compensation payments to political prisoners of former Communist governments in then Czechoslovakia, CTK reported. Health Minister Jan Strasky told reporters the government voted to pay a total of around 400 million crowns ($12.6 million) to those who were sent to prisons and labor camps for political reasons. Each political prisoner will receive 625 crowns ($21.5) for every month spent in a Communist jail between February 1948, when the Communists seized power in Prague, and November 1989, when the "Velvet Revolution" took place. CONTINUED CRITICISM OVER SLOVAK HISTORY BOOKS. Hans van den Broek, the EU foreign affairs commissioner for Central and Eastern Europe, told journalists in Brussels on 25 June that he has demanded Slovakia withdraw a book, published with the help of EU funds, disclaiming the persecution of Slovak Jews during World War II. He was speaking at a meeting with Slovak Foreign Minister Zdenka Kramplova. The controversial book, The History of Slovakia and the Slovaks by Milan Durica, was published by the Ministry of Education and has been recommended by Bratislava as a handbook for history lessons in Slovak schools. Among other things, the book claims that conditions in Jewish labor camps in Slovakia were "close to the normal living conditions of the Slovak population." FIVE SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTIES AGREE TO FORM ALLIANCE. Slovakia's Democratic Party, Christian Democratic Movement, Democratic Union, Social Democrats, and Green Party agreed on 25 June to form a political bloc, RFE/RL's Bratislava office reported. The coalition, which will span the political spectrum and will most likely be called the Slovak Coalition, will cooperate with the coalition of Hungarian ethnic parties. The agreement is to be ratified by the leaderships of the five parties on 28 June. HUNGARIAN COMMISSION REJECTS REPORT ON PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL. A parliamentary commission on 25 June rejected a report drafted by Tamas Deutsch of the opposition Young Democrats on the so-called Tocsik scandal, Hungarian media report. Marta Tocsik, a consultant who in 1996 was paid more than 800 million forints ($5.3 million) for mediating between the state privatization agency and local governments over the division of income from the sale of state enterprises, was eventually dismissed and charged with mismanagement, fraud, and forgery (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 1997). Deutsch's report said members of the government carried "institutional responsibility" for failing to properly exercise control. But the government-supporting majority on the commission, as well as one representative of the opposition Smallholders Party, voted six to four to reject the report. The Smallholders wanted Prime Minister Gyula Horn and Interior Minister Gabor Kuncze to be personally blamed for the scandal. HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE "KALASHNIKOV AFFAIR." The parliamentary Defense Committee on 25 June decided to set up an ad hoc commission to investigate the non-delivery of Kalashnikov automatic guns paid for by Croatia, Hungarian media report. Commission chairman Jenoe Poda told the daily "Vilaggazdasag" that the commission will try to find out what happened to the $985,000 that Croatia paid to the Hungarian company Technika Foreign Trade in 1990 for a shipment of rifles. The agreement stipulated the delivery of 10,000 Kalashnikovs in four shipments. Three shipments were delivered, but the fourth never reached Croatia. Technika has since been liquidated by the APV Rt privatization agency. A Hungarian lawyer representing Croatia has filed a claim with the APV Rt, demanding the return of the money plus interest. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN FINANCE MINISTER REFUSES TO SIGN ANTI-PYRAMID DECREE. Arben Malaj on 25 June refused to countersign a presidential decree to regulate pyramid investment schemes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 1997). The Socialist Party cabinet member said that while preparing the text, President Sali Berisha had altered several key aspects of an earlier draft presented by the multi-party government. Malaj added there is now little hope of ending the standoff before the 29 June elections. "Dita Informacion" charged on 26 June that Berisha issued the decree shortly before the vote to detract attention from political disputes surrounding the elections and to deny the government enough time to review the changes. The government had worked on legislation to make stable companies out of some of the pyramids that were also operating other businesses. The aim was to allow the pyramids to repay at least some of the investors' original outlays. VRANITZKY TRIES TO MEDIATE REMAINING ALBANIAN ELECTION CONFLICTS. OSCE mediator Franz Vranitzky on 25 June met separately with Prime Minister Bashkim Fino and the Central Election Commission to solve the remaining disputes before the elections. Vranitzky made clear that it would be "a catastrophe for all sides" if the election results appeared dubious, "Koha Jone" reported. He announced a detailed plan for the election work of the OSCE monitors and the multinational forces. He also told Fino that the cooperation between both institutions is developing well, "Dita Informacion" wrote. He then held talks with Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano to discuss the dispute over the closing time of the polling stations. TENSIONS RISE IN VLORA. Two members of the Democratic Party were killed in Vlora and one injured, according to "Albania" on 26 June. The circumstances of the killings are unclear, but "Albania" blamed the incident on "gangs of the Socialist Party." According to "Dita Informacion," the city is plagued by gang-wars. One group said it will actively fight Zani Caushi, who is a gang leader and independent candidate for the parliament, "Indipendent" wrote. Meanwhile, the 140th public meeting of the city's rebel committee turned into a massive anti-Berisha rally on 25 June, according to "Koha Jone." Luftar Petroshati, the head of the committee, claimed to have information that "polling stations in Vlora will be blown up on election day." He added that residents of entire districts have received anonymous threats not to leave their homes to vote. SERBIA'S MILOSEVIC PROMISES NOT TO YIELD ON KOSOVO. President Slobodan Milosevic visited several towns in Kosovo on 25 June and told enthusiastic crowds of local Serbs that he will never give up "even a single piece" of the province. He also promised prosperity, saying that next year a highway will be built to connect Kosovo with Montenegro and the sea. It was his first visit in two years to the province, which has a 90% ethnic Albanian majority. Milosevic launched his political career roughly 10 years ago by portraying himself as the defender of Kosovo's Serbs. Local and foreign observers said his latest trip should be seen in connection with the presidential and parliamentary elections due later this year. SERBIAN WAR VETERANS LAUNCH PROTEST. Several hundred veterans and invalids from Serbia's wars in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia launched a demonstration in Belgrade on 26 June, BETA reports. They want full recognition of their legal status as veterans and invalids and all the benefits to which that status entitles them. They also want full survivors' benefits for the widows and children of their dead comrades. Seven of the veterans began a hunger strike in Belgrade on 17 June. Veterans protesting in Nis criticized the new anti-Milosevic government in that city for also being insensitive to veterans' issues, "Nasa Borba" wrote on 26 June. SERBIAN UPDATE. Outgoing federal Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic named Veljko Knezevic ambassador to Croatia on 25 June in Belgrade, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. Knezevic is currently charge d'affaires in Zagreb. In Athens, Greek Foreign Minister Kostas Simitis called for the readmission of federal Yugoslavia into the international community. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Radoje Kontic was on a one-day visit to Greece aimed at bolstering economic links, including Yugoslav use of the port at Salonika. In London, Yugoslav negotiators said that Belgrade can repay only $480 million of the $2.4 billion it owes to foreign commercial banks as part of its share of former Yugoslavia's debt. And in Belgrade, the Democratic Party blasted the Socialists' proposal to increase the number of electoral districts from nine to 29. The Democrats charge that the proposal will give the Socialists more power at the expense of the smaller parties. ROUNDUP FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. Slovenia on 25 June became a full member of the U.S.-sponsored program for economic development in southeastern Europe. It had earlier objected to the project, saying it wants integration with Central Europe and not with the Balkans. Croatia continues its opposition to what President Franjo Tudjman says is a veiled attempt to resurrect the former Yugoslavia. In Washington, the World Bank said it will delay a decision on a $30 million loan to Croatia until 1 July because of a request for the postponement by the U.S. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 1997). And also in the U.S. capital, Congress voted on 24 June to end funding for the Bosnian peace mission on 30 June 1998. ROMANIAN PREMIER ON U.S. VISIT. On his return from the U.S. on 25 June, Victor Ciorbea said the eight-day visit prevented a "serious risk of deterioration" in relations between Bucharest and Washington following the U.S. decision to exclude Romania from the first wave of NATO enlargement, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He said that the U.S. has already set up a team to conduct talks with Romania on the envisaged "strategic partnership" between the two countries, adding that the Romanian side will establish its team in the next days. Ciorbea also said his country will continue its drive to be admitted to NATO in the first wave. NEW ROMANIAN POLITICAL PARTY IN OFFING. Teodor Melescanu, who recently resigned from the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), told a press conference in Bucharest on 25 June that the group that left the PDSR will establish a new political formation, called the Alliance for Romania, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. A committee has been set up to organize gathering the 10, 000 signatures required by law for the registration of a political party. Melescanu said the party will, above all, strive to advocate moral principles in politics and to fight corruption. It will be a center-left, Social-Democratic formation, he said. HUNGARIAN MINORITY PARTY THREATENS TO WITHDRAW SUPPORT FROM ROMANIAN COALITION. Bela Marko, the chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), says his party may withdraw its support for the ruling coalition in the parliament, Romanian media report. Marko says the coalition is procrastinating on passing amendments to the education law agreed on with the UDMR. The amendments provide for instruction in the mother tongue at all levels of education and do away with the obligation to have history and geography taught in the Romanian language. Unless the amendments are immediately passed, the law cannot apply in the school year beginning 1 September. A majority of senators representing the largest coalition party, the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) opposes the cabinet's intention to have the amendments adopted by government ordinance (which ensures implementation before the parliament has approved the law). TRANSDNIESTRIAN LEADER ACCUSES CHISINAU OF INTRANSIGENCE. Igor Smirnov on 25 June said the leadership in Chisinau was to blame for the lack of progress in the talks on defining the breakaway region's special status, ITAR-TASS and Infotag reported. Smirnov claimed the Moldovan leaders were adopting an "intransigent" position because of the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in Moldova in 1998. Anatol Taranu, the head of the Moldovan negotiating team, rejected the accusations, saying Chisinau has offered to meet more frequently with Tiraspol's negotiating team but that offer was rejected. He added it was to be expected that the talks would be a long and difficult process. MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT PASSES AMENDED PRIVATIZATION BILL. The parliament on 25 June approved the privatization program for 1997-1998, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported. The passage of the bill required two rounds of voting because deputies representing parties that support the coalition refused to accept the draft submitted by the government. After negotiations, the government agreed to include changes proposed by the opposition Popular Front and Party of Revival and Accord. The amended bill was passed with their support. The Socialist Unity-Edinstvo party opposed the passage of the bill in both rounds of voting. The program envisages the privatization of 580 state enterprises. END NOTE HOLLOW VICTORY FOR MILOSEVIC IN MONTENEGRO by Patrick Moore Montenegro's ruling Socialists have endorsed Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's candidacy for the federal Yugoslav presidency. They have not given him all the political concessions he wanted, however, suggesting that the conflict between Belgrade and Podgorica is far from over. The governing body of Montenegro's Democratic Socialists Party (DPS) met in Podgorica on 23 June and endorsed Milosevic to become president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia by a vote of 56 to 31 with 10 abstentions. All three deputy chairmen of the party, including Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, voted against Milosevic. Barred by the Serbian constitution from a third term in office as republ ican president, Milosevic is trying to hold onto power by taking over the federal presidency instead. That largely ceremonial office has been held since 1993 by Zoran Lilic, who has faithfully done Milosevic's bidding throughout his tenure. Pundits have been speculating for months that Milosevic would try to take over from Lilic--who also cannot serve in that office again following the expiry of his current term on 25 June--and to expand the powers of the federal presidency, thereby turning that office into a real center of authority. Toward that end, Milosevic needs to make some changes in the constitutio n. The first is for the direct election of the federal president in order to give himself greater authority and legitimacy. Under the current system, both houses of the parliament (Federal Assembl y) would elect Lilic's replacement by a simple majority. This, in itself, is no problem for Milosevic, since he has a comfortable majority in both houses. But if he seeks to change the constitution to increase his legitimacy or powers, he will need to attract additional allies to muster the necessary two-thirds majority. It may prove difficult for him to do so and still hang on to all the parliamentary supporters he has now. Moreover, if he seeks to weaken the parliament, he risks massive opposit ion from Montenegro In the lower house (Chamber of Citizens), each deputy represents 65,000 constituents. But in the upper house (Chamber of Republics), Serbia and Montenegro each have 20 representatives, even though Serbia's population is ten times that of Montenegro. Many Montenegrin politicians thus fear that the proposed direct election s--or any other constitutional changes Milosevic may try to make--would greatly reduce their republic's influence in federal affairs by weakening the role of the parliament, in which Montenegro obviously plays a role much larger than its 600,000-strong population would justify. The Montenegrins' ultimate concern, moreover, is that the constitutional changes would be simply the first in a series of moves by Milosevic to eliminate the proud mountain republic's autonomy. It thus came as no surprise when, on 23 June, the same DPS body that endorsed Milosevic also decisively rejected his call for a constitutional change to permit direct presidential elections. Tensions between Serbia and Montenegro are nothing new and have deep historical roots. What is new is that the DPS, which was long loyal to Milosevic and to his lieutenant, incumbent Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic, has now split into two rival factions. Bulatovic remains the chief of the pro-Milosevic group. He has charged his critics with corruption, with neglect of northern Montenegro's development, and with misuse of the intelligence services. He has also sought a special party congress in the hope that he can use it to defeat the opposition once and for all. The opposition is headed by Djukanovic, a flamboyant leader who is widel y believed to have made his fortune as a war profiteer while federal Yugoslavia was under tight sanctions. Now, however, Djukanovic denies Bulatovic's accusations and argues that Montenegro needs all sanctions to be lifted in order to restore shipping and tourism, which are its prime sources of hard currency. He charges, moreover, that Milosevic's policies are responsible for some sanctions remaining in place. Djukanovic's ultimate argument is that Montenegro alone must be in charge of Montenegrin affairs and that Bulatovic is little more than a satrap of an arrogant Belgrade-based leadership. The issues in the current dispute between Podgorica and Belgrade are ser ious and complex--and hardly likely to go away soon. When Lilic's term ran out on 25 June, upper house speaker Srdja Bozovic took over as interim president. The constitution says that elections must be held within one month, but so far Milosevic is the only candidate. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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