|It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer|
Vol. 1, No. 64, Part II, 1 July1997
Vol. 1, No. 64, Part II, 1 July1997 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 * LAST RUSSIAN STRATEGIC FORCES LEAVE BELARUS * SLOVAK OPPOSITION LEADERS READY TO MEET WITH MECIAR * ALBANIAN PRESIDENT ADMITS DEFEAT End Note CONFUSION PERSISTS IN ALBANIA AFTER THE ELECTIONS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE LAST RUSSIAN STRATEGIC FORCES LEAVE BELARUS. Sergei Yastrzhembskii, the spokesman for Russian President Boris Yeltsin, told journalists in Moscow on 30 June that the last Russian strategic forces have left Belarus. He said that the last missiles were formally removed from Belarusian territory in November. Yeltsin has sent Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka a message noting that the two countries have fulfilled their international obligations. Under international arms control treaties, Russia has taken over the nuclear arsenals of all the former Soviet republics. Yastrzhembskii said the SS-25 Topol (Poplar) missile systems taken from Belarus will continue to serve in Russia for the defense of both countries, which have a mutual defense treaty. UKRAINE SAYS IT NEEDS MORE THAN $300 MILLION TO SHUT DOWN CHORNOBYL. Environment and Nuclear Safety Minister Yuri Kostenko Ukraine told journalists in Kyiv on 30 June that $300 million pledged by the Group of Seven major industrialized countries to shut down the Chornobyl nuclear power plant is not enough. Kostenko said Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and U.S. Vice President Al Gore will chair a conference of donor nations in the fall to confirm or revise the plan for shutting down the plant. Under a memorandum signed by the G-7 countries and Ukraine, Kyiv is to close the plant by 2000 with sufficient Western support. Kostenko said that Ukraine will need at least $500-600 million to ensure the safety of the plant's destroyed reactor. CZECH PRESIDENT IN UKRAINE. Vaclav Havel met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in Kyiv on 30 June to discuss economic cooperation and European security. Havel hailed Ukraine's favorable stance toward NATO expansion and was quoted by Interfax as welcoming the charter Ukraine plans to sign with NATO at the Madrid summit later this month. Kuchma said that the strategic goal of Ukraine is integration into the EU. Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Oleksander Moroz, however, criticized the planned expansion of NATO at his meeting with Havel. He argued such a step is aimed against Ukraine, "Lidove noviny" reported. Havel and Kuchma signed agreements on cooperation in nuclear energy and industry, on avoiding double taxation, and on joint efforts in fighting crime and drug-trafficking. LATVIAN INTERIOR MINISTER RESIGNS OVER TALSI ACCIDENT. Dainis Turlais resigned on 30 June over the tragic accident at a firefighters' celebration two days earlier in the western town of Talsi, which killed eight children and injured some 20 others (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1997), BNS reported. Prime Minister Andris Skele, who cut short a vacation in Britain to oversee the investigation into the accident, accepted Turlais's resignation. The interior minister said he felt "morally responsible" for what had happened at Talsi. Also on 30 June, Firefighting and Rescue Service head Juris Labis handed in his resignation. ITAR-TASS quoted Deputy Prime Minister Anatolijs Gorbunovs as saying that it appeared that the firefighters had breached elementary safety rules. President Guntis Ulmanis has visited Talsi to meet with the relatives of the victims and with the injured. LITHUANIA TO REINFORCE BORDER WITH BELARUS. Under the chairmanship of President Algirdas Brazauskas, the State Defense Council on 30 June decided to deploy army units closer to Lithuania's 650-km border with Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported, citing the Lithuanian presidential press service. Speakers at the meeting noted that large numbers of illegal immigrants seeking to reach the West enter Lithuania through its eastern border. Parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis expressed concern about the large number of illegal immigrants from Asia and Africa who enter Lithuania. He commented "this is becoming a dangerous phenomenon and threatens to destabilize the situation in the country." Also on 30 June, the parliament passed a law defining the legal status of those who were ""illegally persecuted by the occupational forces of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union." Such legal status will enable those people to social welfare and other benefits. POLAND, TURKEY SIGN MILITARY AGREEMENT. Polish Defense Minister Stanislav Dobrzanski and Turkish General Staff deputy chief Cevik Bir signed a military agreement in Ankara on 30 June aimed at cooperation in education, technology, and science, dpa reported. The two officials told journalists that the agreement defines the scope and principles of mutual cooperation. It provides for cooperation in military training, logistics and logistical systems, the defense industry, research, budget programming and planning, as well as aviation and maritime technology exchange. POLISH EX-COMMUNISTS' ELECTION SONG CAUSES STIR. The ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) has been accused of using a song to launch its election campaign that sounds like a number by the Australian band Men at Work, Reuters reported. The copyright owners, the Polish representatives of Sony Music International, said they have heard reports that the melody resembles that of a song performed by the Australian band. Sony also said the SLD has not applied for permission to use the melody. Dariusz Klimaczewski, the spokesman for the SLD, commented if there were any doubts about the song, it would not be used in the campaign. SLOVAK OPPOSITION LEADERS READY TO MEET WITH MECIAR. Following his meeting in Prague on 30 June with Czech Senate Chairman Petr Pithart, Slovak Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) chairman Jan Carnogursky told journalists he did not rule out sitting at the negotiating table with Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar. "We do not reject talks, but we want them to be well prepared or else they would be pointless and this would just deceive the public." Frantisek Miklosko, the leader of the KDH parliamentary caucus, told Pithart that the recently formed Blue Coalition, an alliance of five opposition parties, will "almost certainly be victorious in Slovakia's next elections." Pithart noted, however, that the coalition has been unable to come to an agreement on a leader and future premier. Also on 30 June, official invitations to round-table talks were sent from Meciar to parliamentary party leaders, the Slovak daily "Pravda" reported. The talks are slated to take place on 4 July. HUNGARY AWARDS PRIVATE NATIONAL TV LICENSES. The Hungarian Television and Radio Commission has granted national television licenses to two Western-led consortia. One consortium is headed by CLT-Ufa, which has interests in 19 television stations across Europe and in which the German media giant Bertelsmann owns a 50% stake. Most of its stations operate under the banner of RTL. The second consortium is led by the Scandinavian Broadcasting System (SBS), of which the U.S.-based Walt Disney owns 22.8%. The tender is seen as a setback for Central European Media Enterprises (CME), which had hoped to add a Hungarian license to its Central and Eastern European portfolio. That porfolio includes the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Ukraine, and Poland. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN PRESIDENT ADMITS DEFEAT. In a declaration broadcast on state television, Sali Berisha thanked voters on 30 June for casting their ballots and the international community for its assistance in the elections. He acknowledged the defeat of the Democratic Party and called on his supporters to respect the election results. Berisha urged his backers to help "consolidate democracy in keeping with the principles enshrined in the law [and] with dignity and courage [while serving as the] opposition." He did not specify if or when he would resign as president. Berisha still has four years of his present term to serve but said earlier that he would resign if his party were defeated. ALBANIAN ELECTION UPDATE. According to unofficial returns, the coalition of the Socialist Party and the Social Democratic Party won 63 directly elected seats, while the Democrats took only seven, "Indipendent" reported on 1 July. In Lezha, independent candidate and "Koha Jone" owner Nikolle Lesi won his contest. In the southern city of Korca, Pavli Kristaq Mykerezi of the Albanian United Right coalition defeated presidential spokesman Genci Pollo. Elections will have to be repeated in at least two districts, Malesia e Madhe in the north and Skrapar in the south. Runoffs will be necessary in at least 18 districts and results are still not in from another 18. Preliminary official results are expected in the evening of 1 July. Socialist leader Fatos Nano said in Tirana on 29 June that Premier Bashkim Fino will hold "a high-ranking position" in the next government. OUTCOME OF ALBANIAN VOTE ON MONARCHY IN DOUBT. Uncertainty remained on 1 July over the vote on the monarchy in the 29 June referendum. While the monarchists claim victory, sources close to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe told an RFE/RL correspondent in Tirana they have no indication that their claim is valid. "Albania," for its part, published a list of the cities in which the monarchy allegedly took between 54% and 82% of the votes. These include Tirana, Durres, Kavaja, Kruja, and Elbasan in central Albania; Gjirokaster and Korca in the south; and Shkoder in the north. But in the southern rebel stronghold of Vlora, only 30% of the voters reportedly opted for a king. Meanwhile in Tirana, monarchists celebrated, but the Socialists canceled a victory rally due to an increasingly tense security situation. Many Albanians celebrated by firing gun shots into the air throughout the afternoon and evening (see also "End Note" below). BOSNIAN SERB PRESIDENT ACCUSES KARADZIC OF STAGING COUP... Biljana Plavsic said in Bijeljina on 30 June that Radovan Karadzic is still running the Republika Srpska from behind the scenes and that he attempted to stage a "coup" against her the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1997). Plavsic added she is preparing a text that will show who actually controls the Republika Srpska, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade. Bosnian Serb police continued to detain her early on 30 June, but international peacekeepers took her later that day to a helicopter that transported her back to her headquarters in Banja Luka. Observers in the former Yugoslavia and abroad noted that the nationalist former professor is trying to establish the rule of law against the mafia-like structures linked to Karadzic, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, and Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency. ...BUT HER RIVALS DENY ACCUSATION. Krajisnik said that Plavsic is pursuing a personal vendetta and "harming state interests," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pale on 30 June. A spokesman for Karadzic stated that Plavsic is "breaking the unity" of the Bosnian Serb leadership, BETA wrote. The Bosnian Serb army meanwhile appealed to international peacekeepers to reduce their presence on the road connecting the rival power centers of Pale and Banja Luka and around the Bosnian Serb military command center at Han Pijesak. An army spokesman said that the current crisis is political in nature and can be "solved [only] by government institutions." The Bosnian Serb army is widely believed to be sympathetic to Plavsic, while her rivals reportedly can count on the Interior Ministry and the police. In Sarajevo, Muslim political leaders charged that the police actions against Plavsic show that Milosevic is interfering in Bosnia's internal affairs, "Oslobodjenje" reported. HAGUE COURT LAUNCHES NEW STRATEGY AGAINST EX-YUGOSLAV WAR CRIMINALS. Chief prosecutor Louise Arbour said in The Hague on 30 June that the recent arrest and deportation of Slavko Dokmanovic from eastern Slavonia was legal, even though the court had not previously announced his indictment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1997). She also indicated that the court may order the arrest of more war criminals without informing them of their indictment. Belgrade dailies reported that the developments surrounding Dokmanovic have left many Serbian leaders shaken. Meanwhile in Washington, U.S. military officials expelled Bosnian Gen. Selmo Cikotic from an elite training course after Croatia claimed he had committed atrocities against Croats in 1993, the "International Herald Tribune" reported. POLITICAL NEWS FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. In Zagreb, Vlado Gotovac, the leader of the Croatian Social and Liberal Party (HSLS) and defeated presidential candidate, said on 30 June that he intends to remain head of the HSLS. He added that the party's governing body will discuss the long-standing feud between him and his rival Drazen Budisa, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. In Belgrade, opposition deputies ended their boycott of the parliament. They promptly introduced 1,300 amendments to the draft law on local government in a bid to block the legislation, which the opposition says will strengthen the hand of the governing Socialists. And in Podgorica, President Momir Bulatovic now has four announced rivals for the presidency from within his own Democratic Socialist Party, including its three vice presidents. ROMANIAN PREMIER WANTS MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN FIRED. Victor Ciorbea is demanding the sacking of a press officer from the Foreign Affairs Ministry who recently criticized him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1997), RFE/RL's Romanian Service reported. He said it is inappropriate for a person who attacks the chief of a state administration to be employed by that administration. Ciorbea initially demanded an explanation of spokeswoman Gilda Lazar's comments, but Foreign Affairs Minister Adrian Severin has commented only that an investigation is being launched. A statement issued on 30 June by the ministry said Lazar will not be allowed to talk with journalists until the investigation is completed. Lazar told RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau that she has not been suspended. The Romanian daily "Ziva" recently quoted her as suggesting that Ciorbea had been begging for NATO membership and financial assistance during his recent visit to Washington. GAZPROM THREATENS TO CUT SUPPLIES TO MOLDOVA. Gazprom on 30 June warned Chisinau that it will cut gas supplies to Moldova unless debts totaling some $500 million are repaid within a few days, Interfax reported. The same day, dpa quoted an IMF official as saying that the Moldovan government should hand over responsibility for the payments to the energy firms Moldenergo and Moldovagas. Those two companies buy gas from Russia and sell it to customers in Moldova. The IMF has accused Moldova of using credits from the fund to pay off Russian debts. The IMF loans were earmarked for projects that help establish a competitive, free market economy. COUNCIL OF EUROPE OPENS INFORMATION CENTER IN MOLDOVA. The Council of Europe on 30 June opened an information center in Chisinau, RFE/RL reported. Daniel Tarschyz, the secretary-general of the council, attended the opening ceremony. Moldovan President Petru Luchinschi said the center will promote the establishment of democracy in Moldova. He noted that since Moldova joined the Council of Europe two years ago, it has ratified 20 council documents. However, Chisinau has yet to ratify the European Convention on Human Rights. END NOTE CONFUSION PERSISTS IN ALBANIA AFTER THE ELECTIONS by Fasolt Kovacevic Initial returns from the 29 June parliamentary elections point to a land slide victory for the Socialists. At the same time, Albanians may have voted in a referendum to restore the monarchy. The purpose of the elections was to end confusion about Albania's politi cal future. All parties agreed that clarification was necessary following the country's descent into anarchy when get-rich-quick pyramid schemes collapsed at the beginning of the year. But the results seem paradoxical and only add to the confusion. On the o ne hand, Albanians voted to move to the Left and oust an administration that had been increasingly accused of corruption and authoritarian methods. On the other hand, according to monarchist Justice Minister Spartak Ngjela, between 50% and 60% of that same electorate may have voted to change the constitutional system and return to a monarchy. The paradox is all the greater when it is remembered that the present claimant to the throne, Leka Zogu, is the son of Zog I, who promoted himself from president to king in 1928. The dynasty can hardly be considered to represent a tradition that was either long or democratic. Moreover, Zog was ousted by his Italian patrons in 1939. Many Albanians identify Zog's rule with its small base of support in the central Mat region and with despotism and corruption. Leka himself is known as an arms-dealer on account of his previous business activities in the former Rhodesia and in South Africa. But Leka's image as a successful businessman is appealing to many Albanians, who see him as a "padrone" in the traditional, southern European fashion. A referendum result in favor of the monarchy may, in fact, be simply a protest vote against current President Sali Berisha. This would explain the apparent anomaly of the simultaneous victories of the Socialist Party and the monarchists. At the same time, the results claimed by the Socialists and monarchists suggest that the voters are looking for new options amid social and political insecurity but without really knowing what they want. It cannot be ruled out that the same voters will be cheering Berisha in the streets six months from now if the current victors disappoint them. Nor is it clear what practical impact the referendum itself will have. Berisha decreed holding such a vote, but it is non-binding on the parliament. The constitution does not provide for referenda, and hence there are no rules defining how to apply their results. What is more, the referendum did not ask precisely what kind of monarchy the voters want. Ngjela assumes that the constitutional provisions of 1928 would apply if the monarchy were to be restored. But the referendum did not stipulate what kind of constitution would be in force. It will be up to the new parliament to decide whether the referendum can be considered valid. Even if Prime Minister Bashkim Fino is correct in his estimate that 53% of the participating voters decided in favor of a monarchy, that number may be far less than half of the total electorate. The parliament could choose to disregard the results of the referendum on the grounds that only a majority of all eligible voters can decide on such an important constitutional question, as is the case under Danish law. The legislators could also argue that numerous technical irregularities during the elections and the lack of security during the campaign preclude recognizing the referendum as valid. But such a scenario is unlikely since the newly elected legislators would also be casting doubt on the legitimacy of their own mandates. They are more likely to object to the referendum on the grounds that conditions in the country were chaotic at the time it took place. But before such questions are addressed, the legislators will have to ho ld negotiations about possible coalitions. The Socialists offered to form a new broad-based "reconciliation government" prior to the vote. It remains to be seen whether they are ready to share their newly won power. The author is a freelance writer on Albanian affairs. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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