|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
Vol. 1, No. 63, Part II, 30 June1997
Vol. 1, No. 63, Part II, 30 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Part II *BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES U.S. OVER DISMANTLING OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS SILOS *CONTROVERSIAL TEXT BOOK WITHDRAWN FROM SLOVAK SCHOOLS *SOCIALISTS APPEAR HEADED FOR VICTORY IN ALBANIAN ELECTIONS End Note SLOVAK OPPOSITION BLOCKS PRIVATIZATION OF TELEVISION CHANNEL xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE EU SAYS EXPANSION TO GO AHEAD ON SCHEDULE. At the end of talks with the leaders of the 12 countries seeking EU membership, the EU on 27 June promised those countries that the union's recent failure to agree on institutional reforms will not affect it eastward expansion. Ten of the countries are from Central and Eastern Europe, and the other two are Cyprus and Turkey. Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok told journalists in Amsterdam that the EU's enlargement to nearly twice its present size will not be slowed down by internal reform questions. RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent reported Central and East European participants as saying that the issue of internal EU reform was barely discussed during their meeting with top EU officials. Kok confirmed that all 12 participating nations gave a positive assessment of the EU treaty agreed upon at the union's recent Amsterdam summit. UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES 1997 BUDGET. The parliament on 28 June approved the much-delayed budget for 1997 by a vote of 229 to 71 with 11 abstentions. The budget deficit was set at 5.7 billion hryvnas ($3.1 billion) or 5.7% of gross domestic product. Total revenues were estimated at 22.4 billion hryvnas ($12.3 billion). The IMF representative in Kyiv welcomed the passage of the budget but noted that said the government must still cut income taxes and improve tax collection before the fund will release a $3 billion loan necessary for market reforms. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WANTS TO POSTPONE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. Leonid Kuchma on 28 June again proposed postponing parliamentary elections for one year. Speaking to reporters on the occasion of the first anniversary of the passage of the constitution, Kuchma said elections would be costly and might cause a "final split in society." Kuchma said he was considering extending the parliament's term by one year so that deputies can approve much-needed economic legislation. But he said he had no plans to postpone presidential elections due in October 1999. The parliamentary ballot is scheduled for March 1998. DEMONSTRATIONS IN KYIV OVER LIVING STANDARDS. Also on 28 June, some 5,000 people marched through the Ukrainian capital to protest worsening living standards. Many of the protesters were pensioners. Parliamentary Speaker Olexander Moroz, a Socialist, urged the crowd to vote for the Left at the next parliamentary elections. BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES U.S. OVER DISMANTLING OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS SILOS. Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 27 June accused the U.S. of failing to pay for dismantling nuclear weapons silos, Interfax reported. The U.S. had agreed to provide Belarus with $40 million at the beginning of 1997 in accordance with the Nunn-Lugar program, Lukashenka told journalists. He argued that Belarus has strictly abided by the agreements and that it moved all its nuclear weapons to Russia in 1996. The U.S has recently expressed its displeasure over infringements of human rights practiced in Belarus under Lukashenka. Meanwhile, Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich starts a three-day visit to Cuba on 30 June to discuss economic cooperation and the opening of Belarusian embassy in Havana. CHINA WARNS ESTONIA AGAINST INVITING DALAI LAMA. The Chinese ambassador to Tallinn has warned Estonia against inviting the Dalai Lama to visit the country, ETA reported on 29 June, citing the daily "Postimees." Sun Dadong said that such an invitation would be an infringement of China's internal affairs. Estonia's Organization of Unrepresented Nations has invited the Tibetan spiritual leader to attend a conference in July. The Estonian Foreign Ministry noted that the Dalai Lama would need valid travel documents to enter Estonia. A Chechen delegation traveling on old Soviet passports, which are no longer recognized by Estonia, was recently refused entry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 1997). EIGHT CHILDREN DIE AT FIREFIGHTERS' CELEBRATION IN LATVIA. Eight children were killed in an accident at a 28 June celebration in Talsi, 100 km northwest of Riga, marking Firefighters' Day in Latvia, BNS and RFE/RL's Latvian service reported. Some 30 children were allowed to climb into a basket attached to a lifting device operated by the firefighters. After the basket had been raised about 20 m, the hoist collapsed and the basket plunged to the ground. At least 21 other children were injured, three of them critically. An Interior Ministry spokesman said that criminal negligence was involved, since far too many people had been allowed into the basket. He said a criminal investigation would be launched. Meanwhile, 30 June has been declared an official day of mourning in Latvia. LATVIA, LITHUANIA MAKE PROGRESS ON RESOLVING SEA BORDER DISPUTE. At bilateral negotiations in Vilnius on 26 June, Latvia and Lithuania agreed to draft two separate treaties in a bid to resolve the ongoing dispute over their common sea border, BNS and dpa reported. One treaty is to deal with the maritime frontier, and the other with economic interests related to potential offshore oil deposits. An intergovernmental working group is to be formed to hammer out the details of the economic treaty. The sea border dispute intensified in fall 1996, when the Latvian parliament ratified agreements with the U.S. company AMOCO and Sweden's OPAB on oil exploration and exploitation in the Baltic Sea. Lithuania protested that move by delaying the negotiations. The agreements are not due to go into force until the Latvian-Lithuanian sea border dispute has been resolved. POLISH PARTIES LAUNCH ELECTION CAMPAIGN. The two main political alliances have launched their campaigns for the September parliamentary elections, PAP reported on 29 June. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz is heading the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance's (SLD) campaign. The opposition Solidarity Election Action began its campaign with a mass in the town of Radom. In recent opinion polls, the two alliances have each won about 25% of the vote. Both are promising measures to curb inflation, cut unemployment, speed up privatization, and continue efforts to gain admission into the EU and NATO. But while the SLD says it will advocate a secular state and the right of women to have abortions, Solidarity is stressing pro-family and traditionalist values. MAJOR CZECH STEEL FIRM TO BE MODERNIZED WITH U.S. FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE. Nova Hut, one of the Czech Republic's largest steel producers, is to undertake a $650 million renovation and modernization of its facilities, RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported on 27 June. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank's affiliate for dealing with the private sector, says it has arranged a financing package worth $250 million to help finance the project: a $175 million syndicated loan from 17 major banks worldwide and a $75 million loan from the IFC. Nova Hut is currently undergoing privatization. According to the IFC, the 40-year-old facility must modernize, make major environmental upgrades, and increase its competitiveness on global markets. CONTROVERSIAL TEXT BOOK WITHDRAWN FROM SLOVAK SCHOOLS. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar told EU officials on 27 June that his government has withdrawn a widely criticized history textbook from the country's schools, Reuters reported. Two days earlier, the EU had demanded the withdrawal of Milan Durica's "The History of Slovakia and the Slovak," which critics say attempts to justify the deportation of almost 70,000 Slovak Jews to Nazi death camps by the nominally independent wartime Slovak government. The book was published by the Ministry of Education using EU funds. Meciar acknowledged that some parts of the text are "historically incorrect." But he added that now is "not the time for burning books." SLOVAK PREMIER DENIES WRITING LETTER TO ILIESCU. Meciar on 27 June categorically denied having written to Romanian former President Ion Iliescu calling for Iliescu's return to power and for their close cooperation with Moscow on security issues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 1997). Meciar told an RFE/RL corespondent at the EU meeting in Amsterdam that the letter is a "fake" and a "provocation" intended to embarrass him and Iliescu. The letter appeared in the Romanian newspaper "Romania Libera" and was written in English on stationery from Meciar's party, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. Also on 27 June, a spokesperson for Iliescu's party denied that the former president has received such a letter. But in an interview with RFE/RL's Slovak Service, Basil Stefan, the foreign-political editor of "Romania Libera," claimed the letter was "no forgery." OPEN SOCIETY ARCHIVES MOVED TO NEW BUDAPEST SITE. The Open Society Archives (OSA) have moved to the Central European University in Budapest. OSA's holdings include publications of RFE/RL's former Research Institute as well as its Russian, Polish, and Hungarian samizdat collections. The OSA Library, which is being integrated into the library of Central European University, includes RFE/RL's book and periodical collections. The library was established in 1995 by Hungarian-born U.S. philanthropist George Soros. The archives were opened to the general public in March 1996. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SOCIALISTS APPEAR HEADED FOR VICTORY IN ALBANIAN ELECTIONS. Election officials in Tirana say that the Socialists appear to have won the 29 June parliamentary vote. Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano told a press conference on election day that his party won 60 out of the 115 directly elected seats and 24 out of the 40 mandates chosen on the basis of proportional representation. Those results have not yet been officially confirmed. The Democratic Party did not offer its own estimate of the results, but a spokesman called the Socialists' claims "premature," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. The first tallies by the Organization for Security and Cooperation monitoring mission will be presented to the public on 30 June by European Parliament representative Catherine la Lumiere. JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS REFERENDUM FOR ALBANIAN MONARCHY SUCCESSFUL. Spartak Ngjela said on 29 June that more than half of the Albanian electorate voted for the re-introduction of the monarchy. Ngjela, who is a member of the monarchist Legality Party, estimated that up to 60% of the population nationwide approved the referendum. In the northern town of Shkoder, 75% of the population reportedly voted for that option. Prime Minister Bashkim Fino confirmed that the election returns indicate that a majority of the voters were in favor of a monarchy, but he cited the figure of only 53%. The referendum is non-binding, and it remains unclear how the new legislature will address the issue, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. MORE DEATHS AMID VIOLENCE IN SOUTHERN ALBANIA. Voting day throughout the country was quiet with a few exceptions, the new local private Radio Koha Jone and state TV reported on 29 June. The most serious politically motivated incident took place in a polling station near Fier, where a Socialist Party supporter shot dead the head of the polling station commission, who was a Democrat. Also in Fier, armed gangs killed two other people and wounded four more. In Gjirokaster, one person died when shots were fired at the Greek consulate, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. In Lushnja, in central Albania, a locally known criminal interfered in the polling process by stuffing additional voting papers into the ballot box. In the Malesia e Madhe in the mountainous far north, a local election commission experienced difficulties distributing voting materials and have decided to repeat the ballot one week later. FEDERAL YUGOSLAVIA PROTESTS ARREST OF INDICTED WAR CRIMINAL. In a carefully prepared, secret action, UN peacekeepers arrested indicted war criminal Slavko Dokmanovic on 27 June in eastern Slavonia and sent him to The Hague. Federal Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic blasted the peacekeepers' move, saying it is "serious [and could] endanger the whole peace process." The federal Yugoslav government issued a statement criticizing UN administrator Jacques Klein and saying that the arrest throws the peacekeepers' role into question. Belgrade also demanded Dokmanovic's release, "Nasa Borba" wrote on 30 June. The war crimes tribunal wants him in conjunction with the killing of 261 Croatian hospital patients in Vukovar in 1991. The arrest marks the first time that the court has directly intervened to arrest an indicted war criminal and the first time that peacekeepers have worked so closely with The Hague. SERBIAN POLICE QUESTION BOSNIAN SERB LEADER. Serbian police interrogated Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic after she returned to Belgrade from a visit to Britain on 29 June. They then took her to the Bosnian Serb border, from where Bosnian Serb police picked her up for questioning in Bijeljina, BETA reported. On 28 June, Plavsic had suspended Republika Srpska Interior Minister Dragan Kijac. The next day, parliamentary speaker Dragan Kalinic criticized Plavsic and charged that the international community is using local politicians to destabilize the Bosnian Serbs. Plavsic, with her power base in Banja Luka, is seeking to consolidate her authority over Kijac and others based in Pale who, in effect, control the economic life of the Republika Srpska. ROUNDUP FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. Three unidentified men attacked and robbed Mohamed Javad Asayesh Zarci, the Iranian ambassador to Bosnia, near Brcko on Bosnian Serb territory on 29 June. In Zagreb, presidential spokesmen said that the meeting between President Franjo Tudjman and his Bosnian counterpart, Alija Izetbegovic, slated for 30 June in Split has again been postponed, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Each side accused the other of not being serious about implementing the Dayton agreement. In Belgrade, representatives of the Kosovo Serbs from Istok told BETA they will continue their nearly month-old protest until the government delivers the housing and other benefits it promised. ROMANIAN PREMIER DEMANDS EXPLANATION FOR CRITICISM. Victor Ciorbea has demanded an explanation for criticism against him by the press officer of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, RFE/RL's correspondent in Bucharest reported on 30 June. The Romanian daily "Ziva" last week quoted ministry spokeswoman Gilda Lazar as suggesting that Ciorbea had been begging for NATO membership and financial assistance during his recent visit to Washington. Ciorbea has asked Foreign Affairs Minister Adrian Severin to clarify the circumstances surrounding Lazar's interview with "Ziva," which was conducted over the telephone by two Romanian journalists in Washington. BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES 1997 BUDGET. The parliament on 28 June approved the budget for 1997, which was proposed by Prime Minister Ivan Kostov after consultations with international financial experts. The budget calls for a deficit of some $550 million or 6.2% of GDP. Projected revenues are about $1.56 billion, and expenditures are expected to be about $2.11 billion. The budget's target for annual inflation is 556%. Between January and April, prices rose by some 450%. BULGARIA ON SCHEDULE TO ESTABLISH CURRENCY BOARD. Western financial experts say Bulgaria is on schedule to establish a currency board by 1 July, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 29 June. The parliament has provided the necessary groundwork recently by passing new laws on banking and privatization as well as the1997 budget. The 35-year-old economist Martin Zaimov has been named as head of the board. The 1 July deadline is seen as a key test of Prime Minister Kostov's ability to implement free market reforms. The IMF stipulated the establishment of the board as a condition for releasing further credits to Sofia. The board will limit the ability of the National Bank to manipulate foreign exchange rates by tying the value of the lev to its hard-currency reserves. The National Bank also will be barred from refinancing troubled commercial banks. END NOTE SLOVAK OPPOSITION BLOCKS PRIVATIZATION OF TELEVISION CHANNEL by Daniel Butora The Slovak parliament on 26 June passed a law prohibiting the privatization of Slovak Television's (STV) second channel. The opposition parties, which voted for the law, were supported by deputies from the two junior coalition partners of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS)--the Slovak National Party and the Union of Workers. While the opposition was not opposed in general to the privatization of STV's second channel, it rejected the project last week because the Slovak Board for Television and Radio Broadcasting had already granted a license for the channel to TV Dovina, which has links to the HZDS. Culture Minister Ivan Hudec had recently said that a television station close to the HZDS would soon appear. Meciar had also supported granting the license to TV Dovina. Besides STV's two channels, there are two private television stations in Slovakia: Vasa Televizia (VTV), which has only a small audience and broadcasts to only one-third of Slovak territory; and TV Markiza, which started broadcasting in September and is partly U.S.-owned. Initially, TV Markiza took care to avoid sensitive political topics and dared only occasionally to criticize the ruling parties. It did broadcast footage of the police attack on striking actors in the Ministry of Culture building earlier this year. But when Meciar screamed at one of its reporters that he would "smash his face," TV Markiza did not report the story, saying it was "uninteresting." More recently, TV Markiza has grown increasingly independent, particularly in its news coverage. By contrast, STV remains rigidly unprofessional, unbalanced, and partisan, clearly favoring the government. Significantly, TV Markiza's audience is three time larger than STV's, including for newscasts. That was one reason for the HZDS's decision to establish its own mouthpiece by privatizing STV's second channel, which has the best network of transmitters in the country. Several groups close to the HZDS competed for the license, but the Slovak Board for Television and Radio Broadcasting chose TV Dovina--a project of the so-called PRO-TV group. Under Slovak law, the board's choice was subject to the parliament's approval. The leadership of PRO-TV is very close to the HZDS. Partik Luther is head of the HZDS's youth organization, while Milos Mistrik, who until recently was an adviser to the director of STV, often writes pro-government articles for "Slovenska Republika," the HZDS's daily. Vladimir Ondrus is co-owner of Studio Koliba, which was privatized by people with links to the HZDS. And Rudolf Trella is a lawyer for the Second Trade Stock Company, which recently bought Nafta Gbely, a small Slovak oil producer, for less than $17 million. The market price of the oil company was estimated to exceed $106 million, and leading members of the HZDS are said to have been involved in that project. With such people involved, there was little doubt about the political leanings of the new television station. Also, the privatization projects with which various PRO-TV officials are associated would have allowed TV Dovina to buy foreign programs. That, in itself, would have helped the new station lure viewers away from TV Markiza. The opposition was quick to draw up a law prohibiting the privatization of the second channel. The HZDS coalition partners also had reasons to block the creation of a television station serving only the HZSD. When a government crisis erupted in June 1996, the HZSD-controlled "Slovenska Republika" did not hesitate to attack both of the junior parties. An HZDS-controlled TV station was thus seen by the two parties as a potential threat. The opposition's arguments against the PRO-TV project were not always direct. For example, Milan Ftacnik of the postcommunist Party of the Democratic Left argued that there was not a big enough market for another private television station. The opposition also claimed that TV Markiza was already reaping in large advertisement revenues and that another nationwide private television station would further reduce STV's revenues from commercials. Following its defeat in the parliament, the HZDS must come up with a new strategy if it is to have its own, private television station before the next elections, scheduled for October 1998. It may try to win more viewers for STV, or it may give its junior partners more of the "television privatization cake." But in the meantime, TV Markiza will be seeking to secure its position and to increase its independent news coverage ahead of next year's ballot. The author is an editor for RFE/RL's Slovak Service xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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