|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
Vol. 1, No. 66, Part II, 3 July1997
Vol. 1, No. 66, Part II, 3 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 PRESIDENT ACCEPTS PREMIER'S RESIGNATION *ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER, PRESIDENT QUARREL OVER SECURITY FORCE *BOSNIAN SERB ARMY GIVES BACKING TO REPUBLIKA SRPSKA PRESIDENT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ACCEPTS PREMIER'S RESIGNATION. A spokesman for Leonid Kuchma told journalists on 2 July that the president has signed a decree accepting the resignation of Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko on health grounds. Lazarenko had announced earlier he was stepping down because of illness. He was temporarily relieved of his duties on 19 June and hospitalized. His deputy, Vasyl Durdynets, was named acting prime minister. The spokesman quoted Kuchma as saying that reforms will move faster in the country after the prime minister's resignation. Durdynets has been re-appointed acting prime minister, and Kuchma had decreed the cabinet should keep working until a successor to Lazarenko is named. CZECH, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTS WANT NATO TO REMAIN OPEN. Kuchma and his Czech counterpart, Vaclav Havel, said on 2 July that NATO's eastward expansion is a "natural process". The two signed a statement in Kyiv calling on NATO to remain "open to all interested countries which are ready for membership." At a joint news conference, Havel said that former Soviet republics are "fully within their rights to apply for membership and be accepted" into NATO. He specifically mentioned the Baltic States. Meanwhile, on 3 July, the presidents of Romania, Ukraine, and Moldova are scheduled to meet in the Ukrainian city of Izmail to discuss regional cooperation BELARUS CELEBRATES NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE DAY. A man tried to burn himself in downtown Minsk on 2 July to protest the authoritarian rule of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. With the help of bystanders, he wound up dousing the flames and walking away. The man condemned Lukashenka's policies as "concealed genocide" against his own people and said he wanted "to spoil the president's holiday." Belarus celebrates the National Independence day on 3 July. Formerly, the holiday was celebrated on 27 July but was changed after the controversial referendum in November. The new date coincides with Belarus's liberation from the Nazis. Opposition forces plan to celebrate Independence day on 27 July, which marks the anniversary of when Belarus broke away from the former Soviet Union. FOUR CHILDREN DIE IN BUS CRASH IN BELARUS. Four children died and more that 60 others were injured on 2 July when a bus overturned at high speed in heavy rain near Kobrin, in southern Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported. The bus was taking children aged 7 to 14 from a region of Belarus affected by the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear accident to a health resort in Belgium. Police said three of the injured were in serious condition. U.S. WITHHOLDS MILITARY AID TO BELARUS. The U.S. told Belarus on 2 July it will have to improve its human rights record if it wants Washington to unfreeze funds intended to help Belarus destroy Soviet-era nuclear missile launch pads, Reuters reported. A U.S. State Department statement says "some $40 million of planned Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) assistance was not released to Belarus in 1997 because the U.S. was unable to certify Belarus for compliance with the human rights requirements mandated by the CTR program." Meanwhile, the Belarusian government on 2 July announced that Belarus will send a delegation to the NATO summit in Madrid on 8-9 July. The delegation will be led by Victor Sheiman, the head of the National Security Council. BALTIC SEA COUNCIL CONVENES IN RIGA. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs, opening the sixth session of the foreign ministers of the Baltic Sea Council, said that the success of the regional cooperation body depends to a great extent "on the degree to which Russia gets involved in its activities," BNS reported on 2 July. Foreign ministers from the Baltic States, Scandinavia, Poland, and Germany are attending the two-day meeting in the Latvian capital. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev is representing Russia. He explained that Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov was unable to attend because of his "exceptionally tight schedule," stressing that his absence should not be "misconstrued...as neglect of the region or lack of respect for Latvia," Interfax reported. Latvia currently holds the rotating presidency of the council and has set economic cooperation as its priority goal. Birkavs noted that efficient use of the existing infrastructure would help reduce differences between the countries of the Baltic region. ESTONIAN PREMIER ON RELATIONS WITH LITHUANIA. Mart Siimann told journalists on 2 July that relations between Estonia and Lithuania are "perfectly normal and good," ETA reported. Siimann said press reports give the impression that Estonian-Lithuanian relations have recently become "very tense." He stressed this was not the case: "Estonian and Lithuanian views may not always coincide but there are no serious disputes." Siimann added that one issue over which the countries differ is the "attitude to [EU] enlargement." In June, the Baltic premiers failed to issue a joint declaration on joining the EU following their summit in Tallinn (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 16 June 1997). Estonia and Latvia were reported to be in favor of declaring that if only one of the Baltic States were admitted, the other two would nonetheless benefit. Lithuania, however, had wanted to state that the three countries are in favor of joining simultaneously. POLISH FINANCE MINISTER ON NATO MEMBERSHIP. Marek Belka told journalists on 2 July that his country's entry into NATO will stimulate the Polish economy, despite the costs of upgrading the armed forces. He said that, as a member of NATO, Poland will be perceived as a more secure and stable country, which will attract foreign investors, especially those bringing high technology. He said Poland's national budget was able to bear the direct costs--estimated at $100-150 million annually during the next few years--of making the armed forces inter-operational with NATO. He conceded that modernizing the army will be more expensive but noted that the costs will have to be borne anyway. Military analysts estimate modernization of the army will cost between $11 billion and $19 billion, spread over many years. POLISH PEASANT PARTY REJECTS 1998 BUDGET PROPOSALS. The junior partner in Poland's ruling coalition, the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), on 2 July rejected government proposals for next year's budget and told its members to vote against them. A party spokesman told journalists in Warsaw that the party rejects certain economic assumptions made by the Finance Ministry as it prepares a budget draft. He added that ministry proposals to shrink the country's budget deficit could slow economic growth, while maintaining high interest rates could halt business growth at a time of falling inflation rates. Party leader Waldemar Pawlak said the proposals could increase unemployment and would not stimulate exports. Recently, the coalition of the PSL and the larger Democratic Left Alliance--former Communists--has shown increasing strains. U.S. NOT CONCERNED ABOUT CZECH MEETING NATO OBLIGATIONS. U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns told journalists in Washington on 2 July that there is no concern whatsoever in the U.S. about the Czech Republic's ability to meet the financial criteria of NATO membership, despite the country's current economic problems, RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported. Burns said it would be hard to find a government in Central Europe--with the possible exception of Estonia--that has done so much to reform its economy. He added that although Prague is experiencing problems right now, there is no reason to question the U.S. decision to support the Czech Republic for membership in the Western alliance. Meanwhile, the Czech Foreign Ministry has announced U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will pay a two-day visit to the Czech Republic starting 13 July. PREMIER SAYS SLOVAKIA'S EU ENTRY MAY BE POSTPONED. Vladimir Meciar told top police officials on 2 July that Slovakia's membership in the EU is being "postponed for later times," as in the case of its entry to NATO, Slovak Radio reported. "When judged by its economic results, Slovakia ranks among the most developed Central European countries and most significant bidders, " Meciar argued. However, its invitation to join the EU is being postponed owing to "unnecessary domestic political clashes." The premier said Slovakia wants to continue cooperating with NATO countries on questions related to its security. "We will wait for the next wave of [NATO] enlargement," he added. POLISH PREMIER IN HUNGARY. Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, on a one-day visit to Hungary on 2 July, met with his Hungarian counterpart, Gyula Horn. Cimoszewicz stressed that Poland, like Hungary, wants Slovenia and Romania included in the first wave of NATO expansion, but he noted that "it is not us who will take this decision." Horn appealed to Poland and the Czech Republic not to ignore Slovakia's efforts to integrate into NATO and Euro-Atlantic structures. He called for "reactivating" the Visegrad group but not as a means of exerting pressure on Slovakia. Horn added that Budapest wants Slovakia to meet NATO and EU requirements "as soon as possible." HUNGARIAN COALITION WANTS PARLIAMENTARY INVESTIGATIVE COMMISSION DISBANDED. The Socialists and the Free Democrats on 2 July proposed that the parliamentary commission investigating the Tocsik privatization scandal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 1997) be disbanded. Tamas Deutsch, the chairman of the commission, said the coalition partners are opposed to approving, publishing, or allowing the legislature to debate the commission's final report because they are "implicated" in the affair, according to Hungarian media. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER, PRESIDENT QUARREL OVER SECURITY FORCE. President Sali Berisha said in Tirana on 2 July that "there will be no co-habitation," which presumably means he intends to keep his promise to resign following the Socialists' election victory. But Prime Minister Bashkim Fino said the same day that he is at odds with the president after Berisha ordered the elite presidential guard to protect streets and the National Bank in Tirana. Fino issued a counter-order, saying that such work is the duty of the police. The current interior minister, who controls the police, is the Socialist Sokol Baraj, whom Fino appointed after Baraj's Democrat predecessor fled the country on 1 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 1997). Fino refused the next day to appoint as minister the Democrat Azem Hajdari, who is Berisha's nominee, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. MONARCHISTS, SOCIALIST HOLD RALLIES IN TIRANA. The monarchist Legality Party held a rally attended by some 200 people in Tirana on 2 July. Speakers claimed that the Socialists stole the monarchists' victory in the referendum on the monarchy (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 2 July 1997). The police stopped the rally, which had not been formally registered as required by law, but there was no major violence, "Dita Informacion" reported. Also on 2 July, armed monarchists set up a roadblock, in Mamuras, north of Tirana, for a short time. Meanwhile in Tirana, the Socialists held a victory rally of about 10,000 people. Speakers included not only Socialist leaders but also key personalities from the Democratic Alliance and Social Democrats, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the capital. The party leaders called for national reconciliation and promised to establish the rule of law and democratic institutions. LARGE OIL BLAZE IN SOUTHERN ALBANIA. A large fire broke out in a oil storage area in Vlora when a storage tank caught fire on 2 July, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Local residents had to be evacuated, but looters hindered firefighters from doing their job. In Fier, three people were accidentally killed and seven injured on 2 July when people fired wildly into the air following Berisha's televised admission of electoral defeat, "Dita Informacion" reported. BOSNIAN SERB ARMY GIVES BACKING TO REPUBLIKA SRPSKA PRESIDENT... The leadership of the Bosnian Serb army met with embattled Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic in Banja Luka on 2 July, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from that Bosnian town. The general staff said in a statement that the army supports the constitutional order, which includes backing the president as the army's commander-in-chief. The generals added that they hope for a speedy end to the ongoing crisis between Plavsic and the hardliners around Radovan Karadzic, lest the feuding lead to a split among Serbs in general and in the army in particular. The army's support is doubtless a boost to Plavsic, but the main instrument of coercion in the Republika Srpska is the police, who are loyal to her opponents. ...WHILE SHE CONTINUES TO TRADE CHARGES WITH ENEMIES. Biljana Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 2 July that the charges made against her by her own Serbian Democratic Party are groundless (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 1997). She commented that it is strange that her opponents insist she resign over political differences, given that those same individuals did not call for the resignation of army commander Gen. Ratko Mladic after the Bosnian Serb army's disastrous defeats in 1995. Plavsic stressed that the Bosnian Serbs have no choice but to carry out the Dayton agreement, even though they did not sign it. Meanwhile in Pale, Republika Srpska Prime Minister Gojko Klickovic repeated accusations that Plavsic is doing the bidding of foreign powers and pushing for the re-establishment of a unitary Bosnia-Herzegovina. FOREIGN SUPPORT FOR PLAVSIC. British SFOR peacekeepers strengthened their patrols in Banja Luka in an apparent warning to Bosnian Serb hardliners not to use their police force against Plavsic. NATO helicopters flew overhead as part of the display of force. Meanwhile, U.S., British, and French government spokesmen all expressed support for the Bosnian Serb president. U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns added that Plavsic's main enemy, Radovan Karadzic, is a "snake in the grass" and a "poisonous influence" in the region. In Sarajevo, representatives of the UN and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also said they back Plavsic. NEWS FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. In The Hague, the prosecution in the trial of Dusan Tadic on 2 July called the Bosnian Serb "evil" and demanded life imprisonment for him. In Sarajevo, UN spokesmen said Jacques Klein, the current UN chief administrator in eastern Slavonia, will become first deputy to Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia. In Podgorica, the opposition coalition threatened to boycott the parliament unless the legislature discusses Montenegro's backing for Slobodan Milosevic's candidacy for the Yugoslav presidency. Opposition spokesmen said that the governing Socialists, who have endorsed Milosevic, cannot claim to speak for all Montenegro in the matter, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. And in Zagreb, a bomb damaged a boutique on 3 July. News agencies said the incident appears to be part of an increasingly violent competition among criminals. ROMANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH GERMAN CHANCELLOR. Emil Constantinescu, on a short "working visit" to Bonn on 2 July, discussed with Helmut Kohl Romania's bid to be admitted to the enlarged NATO. A spokesman for the German government said Kohl and the cabinet support the Romanian desire for early NATO membership. He added that the decision should "be made on the basis of consensus of the 16 NATO partners in Madrid." On his return to Bucharest the same day, Constantinescu said he discussed with Kohl the necessity to increase German investment in Romania and a number of "projects of European interests," Radio Bucharest reported. TENSIONS IN ROMANIAN COALITION. Following the 1 July publication of a report by Valerian Nastase, head of the government's Control Department, tensions are growing between the junior coalition partner, the Democratic Party, and other members of the coalition. The report says that Democratic Party chairman Petre Roman, Foreign Minister Adrian Severin, and Transportation Minister Traian Basescu illegally acquired apartments from the state and paid considerably less than their market value. The report also incriminates other members of the ruling coalition, as well as members of the former government (including former President Ion Iliescu). Basescu rejected the accusations on 2 July and said his party will soon discuss whether it is feasible to prolong the existing coalition partnership. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea said the Democratic Party's threats were "out of line." He added that the government cannot "stray from the principles" included in its program. MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. The parliament on 2 July debated President Petru Lucinschi's recent address urging lawmakers to pass legislation providing for the sale of land, administrative-territorial reform, and a higher retirement age, RFE/RL's Chisinau correspondent reported. Lucinschi had hinted that failure to pass the bills, which are considered by international financial organizations as conditions for the continuation of aid to Moldova, might lead to the dissolution of the legislature. On 1 July, Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc had threatened to resign if the bills were not passed. Most members of the majority Democratic Agrarian Party, as well as the Socialists and Socialist Unity-Edinstvo deputies, spoke out against the reforms at the 2 July session. The opposition said Lucinschi is now urging reforms that he previously blocked in his capacity as parliamentary chairman . RUSSIAN COMMANDER IN TRANSDNIESTER OPPOSES UKRAINIAN PRESENCE. Lt.-Gen. Valerii Yevnevich told a visiting delegation from the European Parliament on 2 July that he is "categorically opposed" to deploying Ukrainian peacekeeping troops in the region, BASA-press and Infotag reported. Ukrainian peacekeepers are stipulated in the 8 May agreement between Chisinau and Tiraspol. Yevnevich said that if they are brought in, "Russian peacekeepers will have nothing more to do here." He added that the Ukrainians should have come in 1992 "instead of waiting till somebody pulls the chestnuts out of fire" for them. Yevnevich told the delegation that part of the Russian contingent's stockpiles will be sold and the earnings channeled to help Transdniester's economic development. Erika Mann, the head of the European Parliament's delegation, said the EU might participate in finding solutions to the conflict by monitoring the withdrawal of Russian armament. BULGARIAN PRESIDENT IN GREECE. Petar Stoyanov, at the start of a three-day visit to Greece, met with his counterpart, Kostas Stephanopoulos, and Prime Minister Kostas Simitis, Reuters reported on 2 July. During his visit, the two countries will sign an agreement on the construction of a new bridge next to the existing one at the northern Greek Promahonas border post. The project will be financed entirely by Athens. Stephanopoulos said Greece backed Bulgaria's efforts to become a member of NATO and the EU. In other news, economic ministers of CEFTA member countries are scheduled to meet in Bled, Slovenia, on 3 July to begin negotiations with Bulgaria on its admission to the organization. BULGARIAN-SOUTH AFRICAN MILITARY ACCORD. At the end of his four-day visit to Bulgaria, South African Defense Minister Joe Modise and his Bulgarian counterpart, Georgi Ananiev, signed an agreement on military cooperation, BTA reported on 2 July. The agreement provides for cooperation in defense technologi es and military industries. Modise also met with Premier Ivan Kostov. On 30 June, a car transporting the two delegations was involved in an accident near Sofia in which a woman working for the French Embassy in the Bulgarian capital was killed and her husband injured. Modise and Bulgarian Deputy Defense Minister Gen. Simeon Petkovski were slightly injured. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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