|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
Vol. 1, No. 65, Part II, 2 July1997
Vol. 1, No. 65, Part II, 2 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 * UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER REPORTED TO HAVE RESIGNED * BOSNIAN SERB PRESIDENT SAYS REPUBLIKA SRPSKA THOROUGHLY CORRUPT * BULGARIA IMPLEMENTS CURRENCY BOARD ON SCHEDULE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER REPORTED TO HAVE RESIGNED. Igor Gritsiak, an aide to Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, was quoted by the Russian RIA News Agency on 1 July as saying Lazarenko has tendered his resignation. Reuters, however, said President Leonid Kuchma's office could not confirm that Lazarenko has offered his resignation and said no decree has been issued on the subject so far. Meanwhile, "Eastern Economist" reported on 2 July that according to unofficial sources, Lazarenko was released from the hospital on 30 June. He was hospitalized on 19 June after being diagnosed as suffering from thrombo-phlebitis. The same source said Kuchma has already signed a decree dismissing Lazarenko that will be issued shortly. WORLD BANK WANTS UKRAINE TO SIGN AGREEMENT WITH IMF. Newly appointed World Bank Director for Belarus and Ukraine Paul Sigelbaum warned Ukrainian President Kuchma on 1 July that the bank will not be able to cooperate with Ukraine in restructuring several sectors of the economy if the country fails to sign an agreement with the IMF, UNIAN reported. Kuchma replied that Ukraine has not yet violated any of its agreements with the IMF and has "even followed the conditions on the size of the budget deficit." He said he is optimistic about the prospects for continuing cooperation with the IMF. The World Bank may disburse about $1 billion for reform of the energy and finance sectors, agriculture, and the government apparatus. OFFICIAL SAYS UKRAINE CANNOT AFFORD TO CLOSE DOWN UNPROFITABLE MINES. Nikolai Ivanov, an official at the state company overseeing the closure of money-losing mines in Ukraine, told Interfax on 1 July that Ukraine cannot afford to close 40 money-losing coal mines this year, as planned. He said Ukraine has received only a fraction of the money promised for the project. According to Ivanov, shutting the first 28 pits would cost 960 million hryvna ($525 million). He said even if the company receives the 238 million hryvna due under the 1997 state budget, it will be able to shut only five or six mines. The World Bank has given Ukraine the first half of a $300 million loan to underwrite the program of restructuring the coal industry. World Bank Director for Ukraine and Belarus Sigelbaum said after visiting the Donetsk coal mining region that the closure program would go ahead but that its pace may be slowed by lack of funding. CZECH PRESIDENT VISITS CHORNOBYL. Vaclav Havel on 1 July became the first president from a country other than Ukraine to visit the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, Ukrainian and Czech TV reported. He met with directors of the station and walked the streets of the abandoned city of Prypiat, near Chornobyl. Havel told reporters afterward that the site is a testimony to the lack of mankind's humility in face of nature. At a ceremony where he received an honorary doctorate from Kyiv National University, Havel said he considers Ukraine an integral part of Europe on account of both its history and its values. BELARUSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN CUBA. Ivan Antanovich, who is on a three-day official visit to Cuba, handed over to his Cuban counterpart, Roberto Moraina, a personal message from Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to Cuban leader Fidel Castro, ITAR-TASS reported. The text of the message has not been made public. At the meeting, Antanovich said Belarus is especially interested in Cuba's experience of surviving in complicated conditions and its ability to find its own path, notwithstanding pressure from outside. ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES AMENDMENTS TO LAW ON ALIENS. The parliament on 1 July passed amendments to the law on aliens granting the right to apply for permanent residence permits to non-citizens, BNS reported. Under the amended law, aliens who applied for a temporary residence permits before 12 July 1995 will be eligible to request permanent residency. It is estimated that the amendment will apply to some 200,000 aliens, mostly from Russia and other CIS countries. In addition, the amended law abolishes the provision allowing residence permits to be issued to only 1,000 residents of EU member states each year. The opposition Pro Patria Union opposed the amendments on the grounds that they will "dilute Estonia's strict citizenship and aliens policy." LATVIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTER RESIGNS. Roberts Dilba on 1 July submitted a letter of resignation to Prime Minister Andris Skele following charges by the Prosecutor's Office that he violated the anti-corruption law, BNS reported. Dilba had failed to declare shares in two companies when filling out an income declaration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 1997). Skele said he will accept Dilba's resignation but added he wants the minister to continue working until his successor is appointed "because there is plenty of work and important tasks remain." The premier also told Radio Latvia that a "crisis could hit his government if more ministers left their posts, " Reuters reported. Interior Minister Dainis Turlais resigned on 30 June over the tragic accident in which eight children plunged to their death during a firefighters' celebration in Talsi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 1997). LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT OVERRIDES PRESIDENTIAL VETO OF RESTITUTION LAW. The parliament on 1 July voted by 80 to 24 with 15 abstentions to override President Algirdas Brazauskas's veto of the controversial law on the restitution of property, BNS reported. Last month, Brazauskas returned the law to the parliament with suggested amendments. He must now sign the legislation within three days. Ceslovas Jursenas, leader of the opposition Labor Democratic Party's caucus, said he plans to collect signatures among lawmakers requesting that the Constitutional Court make a ruling on the law. Also on 1 July, the parliament founded a special commission aimed at solving problems related to the Ignalina nuclear power plant. The commission will provide help to employees of the plant or residents living nearby and deal with environmental questions. URANIUM TRAFFICKING SUSPECTED IN POLAND. The Polish daily "Rzeczpospolita," citing unofficial sources, reported on 1 July that Polish secret services have picked up the trail of illegal uranium traffickers operating in Poland. The paper said several intelligence officers offered to pose as undercover "buyers" to catch the traffickers but their superior refused, saying such an operation would cost millions of dollars. A spokesman for the secret services refused to comment on the report, saying only that the department has dealt with four cases of illegal uranium trafficking over the past seven years. Police have previously reported secret transactions in Poland involving uranium and plutonium but there has so far been no evidence that radioactive material enabling the fabrication of a bomb has transited or been delivered to Poland. AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE BACKS POLAND'S NATO MEMBERSHIP. An official of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) told journalists in Warsaw on 1 July that his organization backs Poland's efforts to join NATO, despite a controversy over the restitution of Jewish property. Meanwhile, leaders of the Israeli-based World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) have linked their group's support to demands that Warsaw steps up its efforts to give back Jewish property seized by the communists after World War Two. The seizure of Jewish properties came after most of Poland's Jews were killed by Nazi forces during the war. The WJRO is linked with another U.S.-based group, the World Jewish Congress. Polish officials fear their stance could harm chances of the U.S. Senate's ratifying Poland's admission to NATO. SLOVAKIA SAYS EU MEMBERSHIP IS PRIORITY. The government on 1 July said securing EU membership is one of the basic priorities of its foreign policy. A Slovak Foreign Ministry statement, issued to mark Luxembourg's accession to the EU chairmanship on 1 July, says Slovakia believes relations between the union and Slovakia will strengthen further during Luxembourg's EU chairmanship. It also says Bratislava believes Luxembourg will ensure that membership talks are started simultaneously with all EU associate member states. Slovakia has been criticized for shortcomings in its democratic development and has been given by EU representatives until November to introduce necessary reforms. SLOVAK DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS. The government on 1 July ordered the withdrawal from schools the controversial school textbook "The History of Slovakia and Slovaks" by the priest Milan Durica, TASR reported. The book, published under the EU Phare program, has been criticized by EU officials as glorifying the war-time Slovak state and including anti-Semitic remarks. Also on 1 July, Alexander Toth, an elementary school teacher from Roznava, eastern Slovakia, was fired because he issued bilingual school-leaving reports to ethnic Hungarian students instead of only Slovak ones, the opposition paper "Sme" reported. Toth was accused of violating the state language law in preparing the bilingual certificates. Meanwhile, the government has dismissed police president Jozef Holdos and appointed Banska Bystrica district police director Petr Nemec as his replacement. No explanation was given for the move. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CLASH BETWEEN ALBANIAN SOCIALIST LEADER, MONARCHISTS. Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano and Leka Zogu, the claimant to the throne, exchanged sharp accusations over the election results on 1 July. Nano argued in Tirana that only 20% of the electorate may have voted for the monarchy in the 29 June referendum. Leka, who says that up to 60% voted in favor of him, charged that Nano is trying to steal his victory, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 2 July. Leading writer Ismail Kadare said in Paris that monarchy has no roots in Albania and that people voted for it because they "hate the governing political class," "Dita Informacion" reported. Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission announced official preliminary results for 50 out of the 115 districts. According to this tally, 40% voted for a constitutional monarchy and 60% for a republic, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 2 July. ALBANIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY ACCUSES SOCIALISTS OF FRAUD. Democratic Party chairman Tritan Shehu and presidential spokesman Genci Pollo, sharply accusing the Socialist Party of having manipulated the parliamentary elections, have demanded a new vote in the south. The Democrats' "Rilindja Demokratike" suggested the OSCE was involved in the fraud. The newspaper claimed on 2 July that Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mediator Franz Vranitzky thanked the OSCE monitors for their "understanding for the widespread irregularities." According to first official parliamentary election figures for 50 electoral districts, the Socialist Party has won 47.6% of the votes, the Democratic Party 30%, the monarchist Legality Movement 3.32%, the ethnic Greek Human Rights Party 2.21% and the Democratic Alliance 2.01%, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. ALBANIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY ELITE FLEES COUNTRY. Interior Minister Belul Celo, his deputy Agim Shehu, and presidential guard commander Xhait Xhaferi left Albania between 30 June and 1 July, "Dita Informacion" reported. Celo asked Prime Minister Bashkim Fino for a three-day "vacation," which he intended to spend at his home in Fier. Instead, however, he reportedly took a plane to Athens. The daily claims that he was accompanied by other high-ranking Interior Ministry officials. Meanwhile in Tirana, a prison revolt started when prisoners took four policemen hostage in the evening of 1 July. Interior Minister Spartak Ngjela suggested that the prisoners had voted for the Socialists in the hope of being freed. They staged a revolt when freedom was not forthcoming, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. BOSNIAN SERB PRESIDENT SAYS REPUBLIKA SRPSKA THOROUGHLY CORRUPT... Biljana Plavsic said on Banja Luka Television on 1 July that Radovan Karadzic and his lieutenants conduct widespread illegal trade and that she intends to expose them and establish the rule of law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 1997). She said "the consequence of [the corruption] is an enormous accumulation of wealth by a relatively small number of our population. Do they think that the rest of the population will be their slaves?" Plavsic added that federal Yugoslav officials are also involved in the dealings, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Banja Luka. She stood by her earlier decision to sack Interior Minister Dragan Kijac and indicated that she also wants Prime Minister Gojko Klickovic to go. Plavsic further threatened to dissolve the parliament. She warned that the international community will abandon the Bosnian Serbs unless they get rid of their corrupt leaders. ...AND HER OWN PARTY TRIES TO OUST HER. The leadership of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) met in Pale on 1 July to launch proceedings aimed at ousting Plavsic. The party told her either to return to Pale and withdraw her decision against Kijac or else to resign from the presidency, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pale. The SDS leaders said they will ask the parliament to censure Plavsic when that body meets on 4 July. The Bosnian Serb constitution, however, says that a president can be ousted only in a popular referendum. Meanwhile in Belgrade, the pro-Milosevic tabloid daily "Vecernje novosti" charged that Plavsic and her family have received large amounts of money paid into alleged Swiss bank accounts by unknown sources in the U.S., BETA said on 2 July. WORLD BANK LOAN TO CROATIA INDEFINITELY POSTPONED. Following lengthy discussions, World Bank officials agreed on 1 July to a request by the U.S. to postpone indefinitely a $30 million loan aimed at improving the investment climate in Croatia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Washington. The U.S. requested the move because of what it called Croatia's poor record in implementing the Dayton agreement and in allowing ethnic Serb refugees to return to their homes. Croatia denies the charges and says that it does not need the loan anyway. Meanwhile in Mostar, U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard threatened to cut off all aid to the Mostar area unless local Croats form joint police forces with the Muslims. He also lambasted the local Croatian police for tolerating widespread trafficking in drugs, stolen cars, and other goods. UPDATE FROM FEDERAL YUGOSLAVIA. Macedonian Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski arrived in Belgrade on 2 July with a high-powered economic delegation. Also in the Serbian capital, federal Interior Minister Zoran Sokolovic said on 1 July that Yugoslavia will try war criminals itself and that the constitution prohibits delivering Yugoslav citizens to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Sokolovic denied that the Dayton agreement obliges Belgrade to extradite indicted persons to the court. Elsewhere, Croatia officially protested to the Yugoslav authorities after Belgrade basketball fans attacked the Croatian embassy. Police took half an hour to arrive and stop the vandals, who moved on the building after Yugoslavia scored a last-minute victory over Croatia in European championships in Spain. And in Podgorica, the Montenegrin parliament approved an opposition proposal to require state officials to disclose their property holdings and for this information to be published. ROMANIA BECOMES MEMBER OF CEFTA. Romania officially became a member of the Central European Free Trade Agreement on 1 July, RFE/RL reported. President Emil Constantinescu has described CEFTA membership as a kind of rehearsal for joining the EU. He noted that CEFTA functions in accordance with EU rules and that this will help ease Romania's bid for EU membership. He also said Romania will be able to regain access to Eastern and Central European markets because of its membership in CEFTA. Bucharest signed the necessary accords for CEFTA membership in April. Meanwhile, Vojka Ravbar, CEFTA's current president and Slovenia's state secretary for international economic relations, said he expects membership negotiations with Bulgaria to start later this month. Other current members of CEFTA include Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia. Countries that have expressed interest in joining are Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Macedonia, and Ukraine. BULGARIA IMPLEMENTS CURRENCY BOARD ON SCHEDULE. Bulgaria on 1 July pegged its currency, the lev, at 1,000 to 1 German mark as part of a plan agreed with the IMF to bring about fiscal discipline and ease inflation, RFE/RL reported. The currency board system prevents the Bulgarian National Bank from lending to the government or refinancing the country's troubled commercial banks. It also requires that each lev in circulation be fully backed by hard-currency reserves in the central bank. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said the currency board will speed up economic transition and the goal of eventually joining the EU. Implementation of the plan by 1 July had been seen in international financial circles as the first test of Kostov's ability to bring about free market reforms. "Duma," the newspaper of the opposition Socialist Party, complained that the currency board is stripping Bulgaria of its independence. SOFIA DENIES WRONG-DOING IN ARMS SMUGGLING CASE. A Bulgarian weapons manufacturer and the Trade Ministry in Sofia have denied any wrong-doing in an alleged attempt by two Lithuanian nationals to sell surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) to undercover U.S. agents. The agents were posing as arms brokers for a Columbian drug cartel. The ministry admitted to RFE/RL that a U.S. firm called Phoenix Arms International, which was represented by one of the arrested men, was given permission to purchase missiles from Bulgaria's state-owned Armimex in December 1996. The ministry says the deal did not go through because payments were never made. Bulgarian authorities say Aleksandr Darichev, who was recently arrested in Florida by U.S. agents, worked as a representative of Phoenix Arms International. The ministry also says Darichev's firm presented all the documentation needed to legalize the purchase. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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