|Every man passes his life in the search after friendship. - Emerson|
Vol. 1, No. 68, Part II, 8 July1997
Vol. 1, No. 68, Part II, 8 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 * HISTORIC NATO SUMMIT OPENS IN MADRID. * ROMANIA, SLOVENIA STILL HOPE FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP * ALBANIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADER RESIGNS End Note Council of Europe's 'Soft' Standards for East European Members xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE HISTORIC NATO SUMMIT OPENS IN MADRID. Leaders of the 16 NATO countries are taking part in a historic summit in Madrid on expanding into Eastern and Central Europe. Opening the summit on 8 July, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana called the meeting a "defining moment" for the alliance, saying it will be remembered as the time when "North America and Europe came together to shape the course of a new century." The NATO leaders are scheduled to issue invitations to between three and five Central and Eastern European countries to join the alliance. The U.S. has backed first-wave inclusion of only Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has strongly backed the U.S. argument that NATO's eastward expansion should be limited to just three countries, RFE/RL correspondents in Madrid report. But France and Italy also want to invite Romania and Slovenia. French President Jacques Chirac, addressing fellow NATO leaders at the summit, said NATO could damage its cohesion by refusing to include Romania and Slovenia as new members in the first wave of expansion. NATO is also to sign an agreement on a special relationship with Ukraine at the summit. BELARUS REVOKES RUSSIAN REPORTER'S ACCREDITATION. Pavel Sheremet, Minsk bureau chief of Russia Public Television (ORT), was stripped of his general accreditation in Belarus on 7 July. He had already been stripped of his special events accreditation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1997). He is the second Russian correspondent to face sanctions for his coverage this year. In March, the government expelled a correspondent from the independent station NTV. Sheremet told journalists in Minsk that he was summoned to the Foreign Ministry and notified of the decision. He said that no official reasons were given but that one official told him his coverage was "distorted." Sheremet, who is Belarusian, accused President Alyaksandr Lukashenka of increasingly stifling press freedom in Belarus. He expressed pessimism about the present situation in Belarus and said he does not think he will be the last journalist to be denied accreditation. OUTGOING U.S. AMBASSADOR COMMENTS ON BELARUS'S FUTURE. Kenneth Yalowitz, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Belarus, has blamed a lack of democracy and market reforms for the small amount of U.S. investment in Belarus. Yalowitz, who is leaving Minsk at the end of a three-year tour, told reporters that investment depends upon Lukashenka's government restructuring its Soviet-style economy in accordance to the guidelines recommended by the IMF. Yalowitz said he is leaving Minsk with a feeling of concern that is shared by officials in Washington and Europe. The Interfax news agency quoted Lukashenka as telling Yalowitz that Belarus intends to improve its ties with Western nations. Lukashenka also admitted his government may have been "too tough" in its dealings with Europe and the U.S. Western governments have criticized Lukashenka for numerous human rights violations. UKRAINE CANCELS PLAN FOR LAND EXERCISES WITH NATO. The Defense Ministry announced on 7 July that Ukraine has decided not to hold land exercises with NATO on the Crimean peninsula in August. A ministry spokesman told journalists that the military decided to move the exercises elsewhere because Crimea lacks the necessary infrastructure. A spokesman for the U.S. Sixth Fleet confirmed that the U.S. has agreed to the change. He said he was unaware of the reason for the switch. Pro-Russian groups in Crimea have recently been protesting against the plan to hold land exercises there. The U.S. Sixth Fleet and other NATO navies will still carry out sea maneuvers off the Crimean coast in an operation code-named "Sea Breeze." UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ON TREATY WITH RUSSIA. Leonid Kuchma told journalists in Kyiv on 7 July that there will be problems with the ratification of the Ukrainian-Russian basic treaty in the Ukrainian parliament. Kuchma said there are many forces in the parliament that will be seeking to "score points" over the issue. He noted that the treaty between the two countries, signed by Kuchma and Russian President Boris Yeltsin at the end of May, would have been criticized both in Russia and Ukraine regardless of its contents. He argued the chief task regarding current bilateral relations is to "lift trade restrictions." ESTONIA OPPOSED TO NATO-BALTIC CHARTER. Estonia's Ambassador to NATO Juri Luik has said that Tallinn is not interested in signing a charter between the alliance and the Baltic States because "such a document would establish a special relationship with NATO and delay eventual membership," BNS reported on 7 July. Luik was responding to a suggestion by French President Jacques Chirac the previous day to step up NATO-Baltic cooperation and to sign a charter on ties if necessary. Luik stressed that Estonia's aim is to become a full member of NATO. He commented that while some NATO members regard the Baltics as "serious candidates," others regarded them as "three midgets on Russia's borders whom it would be difficult to take into the Western alliance." LATVIAN PRESIDENT ON EU ADMISSION. Guntis Ulmanis, speaking on national radio on 7 July, said that the admission of just one Baltic State to the EU in the first wave of expansion would be a "big achievement" and the "first definite signal that [the Baltics] are finally leaving the Russian shore," BNS reported. Ulmanis admitted that Estonia's economic performance gave it "more hope for a speedier entry into the EU" but stressed he was confident that Latvian economic indicators would improve. He also reiterated the importance of informing Latvians about the EU. Both Estonia and Latvia have said they believe the entry of just one Baltic State into the EU would increase the chances of the other two for admission. LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT IN FRANCE. Algirdas Brazauskas was in Paris on 7 July to meet with his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, dpa reported. Chirac said France would like to see all three Baltic States admitted to the EU and NATO at the same time. He added that their simultaneous admission could take place "as soon as Russian objections had been overcome." He also urged the Baltic States to "do their utmost to largely align their economic performance." Brazauskas travels to Madrid on 8 July to attend the NATO summit and returns to Paris the following day to meet with Donald Johnson, head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. FLOODS IN POLAND, CZECH REPUBLIC, SLOVAKIA. Several days of heavy rain have caused widespread flooding in southern Poland, the eastern part of the Czech Republic, and northern Slovakia. Fourteen people are reported missing in Moravia and six in Poland. At least 10 people were seriously injured when an express train traveling from Vienna to Warsaw derailed in floodwaters near the Moravian city of Ostrava on 7 July. Virtually all rail traffic has come to a halt in Moravia, while several lines have been closed in the northern part of Slovakia. Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz is leading a delegation to observe developments in the worst affected provinces of Poland--including Katowice, Walbrzych, and Opole. CZECH PRIME MINISTER PRESENTS REPORT ON GOVERNMENT. Vaclav Klaus on 7 July presented a report to the parliament on the work of his government since the June 1996 elections. Klaus admitted the government had made mistakes but denied that it lacked vision. He said the ultimate objective of his government was to transform the Czech Republic into a stable, democratic country. President Vaclav Havel has repeatedly criticized the government for improvising and not knowing what it wants to achieve. Opposition Social Democratic Party chairman Milos Zeman said in response to Klaus's report that the government will "leave in disgrace." SLOVAKIA'S NEW POLICE CHIEF ON HIS APPOINTMENT. Peter Nemec, the newly appointed police chief in Slovakia, told journalists on 7 July that he has never been a member of the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and that he stopped any political activity after the 1989 overthrow of the communist regime. "I am not preparing any personnel changes and I shall not bring any of my former police colleagues from Central Slovakia to the Bratislava headquarters," Nemec said. Interior Minister Gustav Krajci told journalists that Jozef Holdos, who was replaced by Nemec, was not dismissed on political grounds. Krajci rejected media allegations that Holdos's removal was the HZDS's revenge on the Slovak National Party (SNS) , a junior government coalition member, which nominated Holdos. The SNS recently declined to support the HZDS in its effort to privatize Slovak Television's second channel by granting a license to TV Dovina, which is close to the HZDS. HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER APPEALS FOR SLOVENIAN, ROMANIAN ENTRY INTO NATO. Before leaving for Madrid to attend the NATO summit, Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs on 7 July appealed to the alliance to include Romania and Slovenia in the first wave of enlargement, Hungarian media reported. He said the move would ensure stability in southeastern Europe and would contribute to the improvement of bilateral relations. He added that setting up a time frame for a second wave would prevent a new division in Europe as a side effect of the enlargement. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ROMANIA STILL HOPES FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP... Before leaving for the NATO summit in Madrid, Emil Constantinescu said his country is hoping that the "most favorable possible solution" to his country's bid for integration into the alliance will be reached. He added that admission to NATO was a "complex process" and this is why Romania wishes it to start "immediately," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Foreign Minister Adrian Severin, who is accompanying Constantinescu, reiterated Romania's determination to fight for admission in the first wave "up to the very end" of the summit. U.S. President Bill Clinton has said the two countries "could well be strong candidates for future admission" but noted that "other nations" might also qualify later. ...AS DOES SLOVENIA. Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek wrote in the "Wall Street Journal" on 8 July that his country deserves to be invited to join the alliance at the Madrid summit. Drnovsek noted among the would-be members, only his country never belonged to the Warsaw Pact and hence Slovenia's admission could not be regarded as offensive to Russia. He added that Slovenia could play a stabilizing role in the neighboring Balkans if it were part of NATO. Drnovsek also pointed out that Slovenia's military already cooperates with its Hungarian and Italian counterparts and that Slovenia could provide a land bridge between Italy and Hungary, which currently borders no NATO country. Italian President Luigi Scalfaro said in Ljubljana on 7 July that Slovenia should become both a member of NATO and an associate member of the EU. ALBANIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADER RESIGNS. Tritan Shehu said in Tirana on 7 July that he is quitting his post as chairman of the Democratic Party following its overwhelming defeat in two rounds of parliamentary elections. Latest unofficial figures for the 155-seat legislature give the Socialists at least 77 mandates and the Democrats only 15. The Socialists and their coalition partners will probably secure the two-thirds parliamentary majority necessary to change the constitution. In quitting his post, Shehu blamed what he called "armed Stalinists" for his party's poor showing. President Sali Berisha is likely to succeed Shehu on resigning the presidency, which Berisha has promised to do. Since Balkan political parties have traditionally been organized around charismatic individuals rather than around programs or ideologies, it is no surprise that Berisha will stay in charge of his party, despite its electoral losses. OPERATION ALBA TO END BY MID-AUGUST. Italian Chief of Staff Admiral Guido Venturoni, who heads the 7,000-strong multinational Operation Alba, said in Rome on 7 July that the foreign troops will begin to withdraw from Albania on 20 July and that the withdrawal will be complete 20 days later "if there are no complications." Italian forces make up about half of the 11-nation mission. Venturoni said that Operation Alba had "performed miracles" by getting Turkish and Greek forces to work together and by persuading the French to accept foreign command. He defended the policy of not disarming looters and gangs, saying that a more aggressive approach toward armed civilians would have touched off banditry and street fighting on a level worse than that in Somalia. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has written Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini to praise Italy's role in Operation Alba. ALBRIGHT CALLS FOR SUPPORT FOR PLAVSIC. U.S. President Bill Clinton said in Madrid on 7 July that he does "not expect there to be a statement [at the NATO summit] explicitly dealing with the rules of engagement [for SFOR troops] in Bosnia." Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, however, said the U.S. will call on its allies to take "coordinated action" against the Bosnian Serb leaders opposed to the Dayton agreements, especially Radovan Karadzic. Albright added that she will urge her NATO colleagues to support the embattled President Biljana Plavsic as "the duly-elected leader of the Republika Srpska." Also in Madrid, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen refused to rule out the possibility of swift action to bring Karadzic and other indicted war criminals to justice. BOSNIAN SERB UPDATE. Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, on 7 July criticized attempts by what he called "busy bodies from the international community" aimed at telling the Serbs how to run their affairs. Plavsic invited Krajisnik to meet with her in Banja Luka, adding that she fears for her safety in areas controlled by her opponents. She noted that she and Krajisnik have been "old allies from the start" of the Bosnian conflict. Meanwhile in Belgrade, opposition leader Vuk Draskovic pledged support for Plavsic. He threatened to call "democratic Serbia" out onto the streets if President Slobodan Milosevic intervenes in the Bosnian Serb feud on behalf of Plavsic's opponents. MILOSEVIC UPSTAGES OPPOSITION OVER NATIONAL CELEBRATION. The Serbian authorities quickly implemented their own plans on 7 July to welcome home the Yugoslav national basketball team, who have just won the European championships in Barcelona. The officials at the same time overruled opposition plans to organize celebrations for the team. The players returned on a government plane to Belgrade. State television covered the welcoming festivities, which attracted more than 100,000 people, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. Basketball is highly popular throughout the former Yugoslavia. The federal Yugoslav national team's victory after a war-time ban from international sport was widely reported as a major boost to national pride and self-confidence. REFUGEE RETURN BEGINS IN EASTERN SLAVONIA. Croatian Development Minister Jure Radic announced in Zagreb on 7 July that the planned return of 80,000 Croatian refugees to eastern Slavonia has begun. The government wants to resettle as many people as possible in time for the start of the school year and sowing season in the fall. Some 40,000 Croats are expected to go home by the end of the year, starting with those whose former homes suffered little or no damage. The government has launched a special program to build 10,000 flats in Vukovar, which the Serbs leveled in the 1991 siege. As part of the overall resettlement project, some 2,100 Serbian families will leave eastern Slavonia for their old homes elsewhere in Croatia. An additional 2,400 Serbian families have opted to leave Croatia entirely. ROMANIAN SENATE RATIFIES TREATY WITH UKRAINE. By a vote of 65 to 50 with three abstentions, the Romanian Senate on 7 July ratified the treaty with Ukraine signed by the two country's presidents in early June, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Chamber of Deputies had approved the treaty on 26 June; the document must now be promulgated by the two countries' presidents. The three opposition parties voted against the approval. In other news, dozens were hurt in southern Romania when a passenger train left tracks that had buckled in the sun following a long heat wave. FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN ROMANIA. As of 1 July, foreign investment in Romania totaled $2.57 billion, Mediafax reported, citing the Romanian Agency for Development. The largest investments benefited Daewoo Automobile Romania ($57.5 million), Daewoo Mangalia Heavy ($53 million), New Holland Romania ($50.1 million), Shell Romania ($47 million), Shell Petroleum NV ($44 million) and Coca Cola Bucharest ($32.8 million). Holland is the biggest investor in Romania ($294.5 million), followed by Germany ($238.2 million), Korea ($235 million), France ($225.1 million), Italy ($197.6 million) and the U.S. ($193.6 million). MOLDOVAN ECONOMIC UPDATE. Moldova's foreign trade in the first five months of 1997 amounted to $753.9 million, an official of the Foreign Economic Relations Department told BASA-press on 7 July. While this total is similar to the 1996 level, the trade balance has worsened. Exports dropped by 6.9 percent compared with 1997 to $294.2 million, and imports rose by 5.5 percent to $459.7 million. BASA-press also quotes an official of the Statistics Department as saying that inflation was 2 percent in June, up from 0.6 percent in May 1996. Since the beginning of 1997, annual inflation has stood at 8 percent. BULGARIAN PRESIDENT ON NATO. Before leaving for NATO's Madrid summit on 7 July, Petar Stoyanov said previous governments had wasted years "dithering at Europe's gates," while other former communist countries knew how to choose "the right course" to integration with Western organizations, BTA reported. Stoyanov added that the "first obstacles" would not stop the country's new ruling authorities from seeking membership, emphasizing that "NATO's southern flank is not complete without Bulgaria." He said membership in NATO "for us means not only reforms in the army, but [also] democracy, a developed economy, a [high] living standard, free journalists, motivated young people, and, above all, that way of life that has been chosen on the eve of the 21st century." BULGARIAN CABINET APPROVES DRAFT LAW ON COMMUNIST POLICE FILES. The cabinet on 7 July approved a bill on opening the files of the former state security service, Reuters reported. The bill makes mandatory the opening of all files of members of the parliament, ministers, senior government officials, and high-ranking judges, who will be given one month to admit their past activities. Those who comply will not have their names read out in the parliament and will be left to decide themselves whether to resign. Deputy Premier Vesselin Metodiev said that people who were spied on by the state security will have access to their personal files but will not be allowed to give information about other people mentioned in them. One year after the law is enforced, the files will be transferred to the National Archives and be made available to the general public. END NOTE Council of Europe's `Soft' Standards for East European Members by Joel Blocker Controversy has erupted in some Central and East European circles follow ing the recent publication of an interview in an Alsatian newspaper ("Les dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace," 26 June 1997) with the Council of Europe's outgoing number-two man. Deputy Secretary-General Peter Leuprecht told the daily he was taking early retirement this month in protest at what he called a lowering of the Council's human-rights standards for its new Central and East European members. Leuprecht characterized those once rigid Council standards as "soft" for Eastern members. Leuprecht is the first Council official to say in public what many in th e Council of Europe Secretariat have said in private for years. The majority of Council officials clearly believe that, under pressure from West European member states like France and Germany, the 40-state organization has granted membership too fast and uncritically to many of the 16 former communist nations that have joined over the past seven years. Leuprecht told the Alsatian newspaper that he has always considered the Council of Europe to be a "community of democratic values." But he argued that in recent years, Council officials' references to democracy and human rights have become a "ritual." The organization, he continued, enlarged too fast and paid the price in the dilution of its values. "Some admissions [to the Council] stick in my throat," he remarked. Leuprecht mentioned only one such admission by name: Croatia, the newest Council member state, having joined some eight months ago. He described a recent meeting of the Council's Committee of Ministers (the body's chief policy- and decision-making organ) at which Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic argued at length that his country is a model democracy that fully respects human and minority rights. Leuprecht recounted: "None of the ministers present said a word. Not even one said, 'What do you take us for, idiots?' There was only a soft, soggy consensus." But in a second interview, which he gave to Bosnia's independent TV-International station one day later, Leuprecht did name other Eastern European member states, notably Romania and Russia. He said that the Council began "to go soft" four years ago, when it admitted Romania, which, he said, was still far from meeting the organization's human-rights standards at that time. He was careful to add, however, that Romania has made significant democratic progress since it became a member. As for Russia, which was admitted in early 1996, Leuprecht dismissed that country's human-rights record as even further removed from Council standards. Those standards were established nearly a half-century ago when, in 1949 , the Council of Europe was created to promote democracy, the rule of law, and human rights across the continent. Until the collapse of European communism in 1989, the organization largely languished in Strasbourg without much clout. But soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Council--then with only 21 members, all from Western Europe--began to expand its membership to include Central and Eastern European countries. Eventually, it became the only multilateral body on the Continent with what it calls a "pan-European vocation." Now that he has bared his soul in public, the Austrian-born Leuprecht ha s become the object of controversy--not so much in the Secretariat, which largely agrees with him, as in Central and East European member states. According to one Council official who requested anonymity, Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Severin--himself a long-time human-rights activist and former member of the Council's Parliamentary Assembly--telephoned Secretary-General Daniel Tarschys to complain about Leuprecht's candor. The official said Severin was worried that Romania's candidacy for both NATO and the EU might be affected by Leuprecht's remarks. Tarschys reportedly replied that Leuprecht was no longer a Council of Europe staff member and therefore could say whatever he liked to whomever he liked. According to some diplomats in Strasbourg, both Russian and Croatian officials have also made known to the Council their countries' displeasure over Leuprecht's remarks. Neither Tarschys nor any other high Council official has yet commented publicly on the controversy. But within the Secretariat, there is reported to be real pleasure that Leuprecht has voiced many staffers' views. A high official of the Council's human-rights division told RFE/RL that the Council "was simply overwhelmed by human- and minority-rights violations in several Eastern member states." The official mentioned Slovakia and Ukraine as well as Russia and Croatia as among the regular violators of Council standards. As for Albania, the official added, "it's impossible to keep track of anarchy." Now that Leuprecht has spoken out, the Council of Europe can expect a lo t more criticism from outside observers. By letting the wind out of the Council's human-rights sails, he has paved the way for what will doubtless be a very public and heated debate. The author is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who regularly reports on developments at the Council of Europe. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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