|In the effort to give good and comforting answers to the young questioners whom we love, we very often arrive at good and comforting answers for ourselves. - Ruth Goode|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 70, Part II, 10 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/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * SWITZERLAND, AUSTRIA STOP CREDITS TO BELARUS * NATO MOVES AGAINST WAR CRIMINALS * TWO DEAD IN ETHNIC VIOLENCE IN MACEDONIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE SWITZERLAND, AUSTRIA STOP CREDITS TO BELARUS. Switzerland and Austria have frozen credit lines to Belarus, a Belarusian Economics Ministry official told Reuters on 9 July. The two countries have followed the example of Germany. "Of unused credits in open credit lines, Germany has frozen $66 million, Austria $470 million and Switzerland $7 million," the official said. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka recently said Belarus does not need foreign credits. The official, who asked not to be named, admitted that foreign credits are wasted in Belarus, as real economic reforms have not been introduced. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PROPOSES COUNCIL ON ECONOMIC REFORMS. Leonid Kuchma on 9 July proposed the creation of a presidential council to make crucial economic decisions, Ukrainian Radio reported. The council may be given powers to approve this year's state budget. Kuchma outlined his proposal in a letter to the parliament. The proposal comes after a six-months delay by the legislature in approving the 1997 budget. Ukraine could lose up to $3 billion in credits from the IMF because of the delays. Kuchma's proposed that the council include representatives of both the presidency and the parliament. He also reiterated his suggestion to delay parliamentary elections by one year in order to give the current legislature more time to approve economic reforms. In Kuchma's view, holding the next parliamentary ballot at about the same time as the presidential elections in 1999 would save the state money. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for March 1998. FRENCH PRESIDENT SAYS UKRAINE NEEDS TO PURSUE ECONOMIC REFORMS. Jacques Chirac told his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, in Madrid on 9 July that Ukraine must speed up economic reforms if it wants more international financial aid. Reuters quoted an unnamed French official as saying that Kuchma appealed to Chirac to support Ukraine's drive for IMF loans. Chirac praised Ukraine's recent settling of disputes with Russia and outlined steps Ukraine needed to take to win further Western financial backing, including speeding up privatization and introducing structural reforms. CZECH, HUNGARIAN, POLISH SUPPORT FOR BALTICS' NATO BID. The presidents of the Baltic States, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland met briefly in Madrid on 9 July, one day after the three Central European countries received invitations to join NATO. Reuters reported that the Baltic leaders clasped hands with their Central European counterparts in a symbolic gesture after the latter had promised to fight for the Baltic cause within the alliance. Estonian President Lennart Meri said the 8 July NATO declaration places the Baltic States on an equal footing with Romania and Slovenia for a second round of expansion, an RFE/RL correspondent in Madrid reported. Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas said he believes his country will be asked to join NATO in the second wave, while his Latvian counterpart, Guntis Ulmanis, said he expects the Baltic States will be invited to join NATO within five to seven years. U.S.-BALTIC CHARTER TO BE SIGNED IN SEPTEMBER? Estonian Ambassador to NATO Juri Luik told BNS on 8 July that a U.S.-Baltic charter may be signed in Washington in September when U.S. President Bill Clinton meets with his Baltic counterparts. A meeting of the four presidents in Madrid scheduled for 9 July was canceled. Luik said there was "no point" holding such a meeting before U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright meets with the Baltic foreign ministers in Vilnius later this week. The charter is intended to establish the foundations of cooperation between the U.S. and the Baltic States aimed at helping the latter integrate into Western structures. POLAND, JEWISH ORGANIZATION REACH INITIAL AGREEMENT ON RESTITUTION. The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) told Reuters on 9 July that it has reached an initial agreement with Poland on the return of communal property. It said that if the agreement were implemented, it would not argue against Poland's entry to NATO. "If we are invited to give testimony [to the U.S. Congress], and if [the Polish] government's understanding with us holds as now, we will certainly give a positive report," WJRO Vice President Naphtali Lavie told Reuters. Under the agreement, the WJRO, Polish Jewish communities, and the Polish government will set up a foundation to agree on and manage properties to be restituted. A joint commission will study a list of 6,000 properties identified by the WJRO and decide which claims can be processed. DEATH TOLL RISES IN FLOODS IN POLAND, CZECH REPUBLIC. At least 28 people are reported dead and many more missing in continuing floods in Poland and the Czech Republic. Flooding has spread into the southern Moravian region in the Czech Republic. More than a third of the Czech Republic's territory is now under water. In Poland, some 250 towns and cities have been hit by the floods. At least 35,000 hectares of land, 7,000 kilometers of road, and 45 bridges have been affected. Some 40,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in Poland. Both the Czech and Polish governments have released emergency funds to help the victims. Damage in the Czech Republic is estimated to have reached 50 billion crowns ($1.7 billion). The floods also have also caused considerable damage in Slovakia, although there are no reports of deaths or injuries in the country. SLOVAK PRESIDENT CONGRATULATES NEIGHBORS OVER NATO ENLARGEMENT DECISION. In a statement released to the media on 9 July, Michal Kovac congratulated the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland for having been invited to join NATO, RFE/RL's Bratislava office reported. Kovac said the Slovak government's policy is the main reason why Slovakia has been left out of NATO. Meanwhile, the recently formed coalition of five opposition parties said on 9 July that Madrid "represents a total failure of [Prime Minister Vladimir] Meciar's policy." Bela Bugar, a leader of the coalition of the ethnic Hungarian parties, backed this stance. Two coalition parties--the Slovak National Party and the Union of Slovak Workers--said they were satisfied with the NATO decision because they do not want Slovakia to be a member of the alliance. Meciar, who met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on 9 July, stressed again that Slovakia is a victim of NATO's double standards over accepting new members. SLOVAK ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF REJECTS GOVERNMENT PROPOSAL. Gen. Jozef Tuchyna on 9 July rejected the government's draft amendment to the law on the army, whereby the force would no longer be headed by the chief of staff subordinated to the president but by a defense ministry state secretary appointed by the government. Tuchyna told a press conference in Bratislava that a compromise solution could be to merge the posts of the chief of staff and the planned post of state secretary, who, however, would be appointed by the president. Tuchyna said that no one had offered the post of state secretary to him so far. He predicted that the government's proposed amendment will end up at the Constitutional Court. REPORT ON HUNGARIAN PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL MADE PUBLIC. Members of Hungary's two governing parties released to the press on 9 July the report of the parliamentary commission that investigated the so-called "Tocsik privatization scandal" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 1997). The opposition had objected that the move would violate the privacy of those mentioned in it, Hungarian media reported. The document blames Imre Szokai, former chairman of the State Privatization and Holding Company (APV), and senior legal counselor Peter Liszkai for abusing their position when hiring the financial consultant Marta Tocsik, despite a board resolution not to make use of her services. Former Privatization Minister Tamas Suchman is also blamed for interfering in the APV's personnel and professional decisions. Commission chairman Tamas Deutch said the coalition's attempts to reject the report's conclusions are an effort to prevent establishing who bears political responsibility. HUNGARY DISCUSSES HOW TO PREPARE FOR NATO ACCESSION. Leading Hungarian politicians on 9 July expressed diverse views over when a referendum on NATO membership should be held, Hungarian dailies reported. Prime Minister Gyula Horn and Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs say the referendum should be conducted in the fall, before the parliamentary elections. Parliamentary chairman Imre Szekeres believes that a national vote should not take place until the terms of accession are known, while Free Democrat faction leader Istvan Szent-Ivanyi proposed the vote take place in the first quarter of 1998, since the accession treaty is to be signed by then. Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen, arriving in Budapest for a one-day visit, said all three states about to join the alliance should spend more on restructuring their military communications and control systems and less on "building expensive arsenals." SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO MOVES AGAINST WAR CRIMINALS. NATO troops killed Simo Drljaca in Prijedor on 10 July, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in London. Drljaca was the Serbian police chief in Prijedor during the Bosnian war and was linked to the "ethnic cleasing" of Croats and Muslims, as well as to concentration camps. In their surprise 10 July operation, British troops arrested Milan Kovacevic, who is wanted for complicity in war crimes. The previous day, U.S. President Bill Clinton and other top NATO officials said in Madrid that they did not want to comment on press reports that NATO intends to capture Radovan Karadzic or other indicted individuals. Clinton added, however, that the U.S. is clear about its support for embattled Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic "and what she's trying to do. We oppose the unconstitutional efforts to restrict her authority. We appreciate the fact that, even though we don't agree on everything, she has stated her adherence to the Dayton Accords and has tried to follow them." Meanwhile in Brussels, the EU announced that it is suspending all non-humanitarian aid to the Republika Srpska as long as Karadzic is free. PLAVSIC, MILOSEVIC CLASH AGAIN. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic met in Belgrade on 9 July with Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian representative on the Bosnian joint presidency. Plavsic refused to attend, saying to Milosevic in a letter that he should come to her headquarters in Banja Luka if he wanted to meet, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the west Bosnian town. Plavsic also challenged Milosevic's view that the current political fight in the Republika Srpska is a struggle between rival power centers in Banja Luka and Pale. The real issue, she said, is "whether we will become a state based on the rule of law or whether we will continue to be a party-run fiefdom sunk in crime." Meanwhile in Bijeljina, Plavsic's backers staged a rally in her support. TWO DEAD IN ETHNIC VIOLENCE IN MACEDONIA. At least two ethnic Albanians were killed and many more wounded following clashes between Macedonian police and hundreds of Albanians in Gostivar on 9 July. Police arrested more than 300 Albanians; several police were injured in the violence. Tensions began when police pulled down Albanian flags flying from the city hall and some Albanians tried to rehoist them. AFP reported that UN peacekeepers left town during the violence. A new Macedonian law allows the Albanian and Turkish minorities opportunities to display their national symbols, but generally not on public buildings. The question of flags is politically sensitive because many Macedonians suspect that the banners are a symbol of irredentism. NEWS FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. In Skopje, the Macedonian government on 9 July announced the devaluation of the denar by 15 percent, in keeping with recommendations made by the IMF. In Belgrade, federal Yugoslav military authorities said that one Yugoslav soldier was wounded in a clash with an armed Albanian gang along the two countries' border. Also in the Serbian capital, Bosnian Roman Catholic Cardinal Vinko Puljic met with Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle. They announced the setting up of an interfaith council in Bosnia that will include Muslims and Jews as well as Catholics and Orthodox. And in Grude in western Herzegovina, thousands attended the funeral of Mate Boban, the Herzegovinian Croat leader who died of a stroke on 7 July. Among those present were Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak and Croatian nationalist politicians Vladimir Seks and Branimir Glavas. FIRST CASUALTY IN INTERNATIONAL FORCE IN ALBANIA. An explosive device went off on the grounds of the Italian medical center in Vlora on 9 July, killing one Italian soldier and wounding three. The dead man was the first fatality among the 7,000 foreign troops participating in Operation Alba since April. It is not clear how the bomb found its way into the Italian complex. Also in Vlora, one man died and two were wounded in an exchange of gunfire between armed gangs. Foreign news agencies reported additional deaths in Elbasan and Shkodra. Current estimates suggest that there are 1 million weapons in private hands across the country following the looting of military and police installations at the start of the year. VRANITZKY SAYS ALBANIA STILL NEEDS INTERNATIONAL FORCE. Franz Vranitzky, the Organization for Security and Europe's chief envoy to Albania and former Austrian chancellor, said on 9 July that Operation Alba troops should stay on beyond their planned withdrawal deadline of 12 August, Austrian media reported. He argued that "the question of security is essential. One cannot simply withdraw and think that Albania is entirely peaceful." The August withdrawal date "is certainly too early." Vranitzky has argued since late spring that the peacekeepers will be needed well after the elections, which ended on 6 July. Italy, which leads Operation Alba, nonetheless wants to conclude the mission in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1997). Foreign media report that many Albanians say the troops have brought a measure of stability and should remain. ALBANIAN COALITION TALKS WELL ADVANCED. The Socialist Party and its election allies have virtually completed negotiations aimed at allocating cabinet posts in the new government, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 10 July. Members of the Democratic Alliance will head the Interior and Defense Ministries, while a Social Democrat will manage foreign affairs under Socialist Prime Minister- designate Fatos Nano. Foreign diplomats told news agencies that the government could be in place by 17 July. Elsewhere in Tirana, election officials said the Socialist-led coalition has more than a two- thirds majority in the parliament following the second round of elections on 6 July. Unofficial totals give the coalition 107 out of 155 seats, or four more than the 103 needed to change the constitution. ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN MADRID. Emil Constantinescu told the inaugural session of NATO's Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council on 9 July that Romania has the "irrevocable desire" to participate in deciding Europe's "security architecture" and to join NATO as soon as possible. He said Romania was rediscovering her "historical vocation as a mediator and as a point of convergence" in southeastern Europe. He added that the basic treaties signed with Hungary and Ukraine and the trilateral pacts signed with Ukraine and Moldova should help build a "flexible and lasting structure" capable of preventing or at least localizing potential conflicts. At a later press conference, Constantinescu said he assumes "personal responsibility" for the NATO-bid outcome and thanked in particular French President Jacques Chirac for his support. ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT ENFORCES AMENDED EDUCATION LAW. The government on 9 July approved an "urgent ordinance" amending the education law, thereby postponing parliamentary debate on the issue and allowing immediate implementation. The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania had threatened to leave the ruling coalition if the law were not enforced by ordinance, since debate in the legislature would have prevented its implementation in time for school year 1997-1998. George Pruteanu, the chairman of the Senate's Education Commission and a member of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, opposed the amended version, along with other members of the ruling coalition parties. The amended law abolishes the provisions whereby high-school final exams and university entrance tests had to be in the Romanian language. It also provides for education in the mother tongue at all levels, including the instruction of history and geography. Under the previous version of the law, both of those subjects had to be taught in Romanian. EXPLOSION KILLS 16 AT ROMANIAN MILITARY AIR BASE. Sixteen people died on 9 July at a military airfield in Craiova, southern Romania, when an "experimental bomb" produced in the country exploded while being loaded into a plane. A Defense Ministry statement said the explosion caused a chain reaction and detonated other bombs in the YAR-93 aircraft. Eight of the dead were defense industry workers and the other eight were military engineers. Three other people were injured, one seriously. MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT IN MADRID. Petru Lucinschi has said Chisinau views the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council as contributing to Moldovan security and is ready to "start a dialogue with interested parties." He was addressing the inaugural session of the council in Madrid on 9 July. Lucinschi failed to specify whom he head in mind but added that it was necessary to improve mechanisms geared at "conflict prevention." In an interview with Infotag the same day, Lucinschi said NATO's expansion was the outcome of the "evolutionary changes" that its three new members had undergone. Moldova's possible accession to the alliance was a matter "for the 21st century," he said in response to a question. For the time being "Moldova has proclaimed its neutrality and seeks to implement it in practice." The "mutually exclusive" political views dividing Moldovan society should not be enhanced by additional confrontations, he said. COUNCIL OF EUROPE TO DISCUSS MOLDOVAN CHURCH CONFLICT? The Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has recently been asked to include on the assembly's agenda for the fall the issue of the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church, BASA- press reported on 9 July. Vlad Cubreacov, who represents the opposition Popular Front in the assembly, says he has the endorsement of deputies from 10 European states to debate the issue. The Moldovan government refuses to recognize the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church, which is subordinated to the Patriarchate in Bucharest. Meanwhile, the Synod of the Moldovan Orthodox Church (which is recognized by the authorities in Chisinau) on 9 July asked the parliament to pass a law allowing religious instruction in schools. TURKISH MINORITY PARTY WANTS BULGARIAN CONSTITUTION AMENDED. Yunal Lyutvi, a leader of Bulgaria's ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms, says the constitution should be amended to recognize the presence of a Turkish minority in the country. He told a press conference in Sofia on 9 July that the present basic law is "inadequate for the changes and challenges faced by Bulgaria," Reuters reported. Also on 9 July, Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov told reporters in Sofia that the invitations issued the previous day to the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland to join NATO signifies that the alliance's doors are now wide open. He expressed confidence that the country will be invited to join NATO in the future if the reforms continue at the pace of recent months. BULGARIA TO REDUCE LENGTH OF MILITARY SERVICE. Defense Minister Georgi Ananiev on 9 July told a press conference in Sofia that compulsory military service in Bulgaria will be reduced from 18 months to one year beginning 1 January 1998. Ananiev said the Supreme Military Council has approved amendments to the Defense and Armed Forces Law, which will now be discussed by the government and submitted for approval by the parliament, Reuters reported. Ananiev said the envisaged reforms will "set the legal grounds for a professional army." Chief of Staff Miho Mihov recently announced the intention to transform the army into a professional one (see RFE/RL Newsline, 20 June 1997). Army entrants would be cut up by 15,000 every year, saving the state several million leva, Ananiev said. The draft law also envisages a reduction of military service for university graduates from 12 months to nine. EU LOANS TO BULGARIA. The EU will grant Bulgaria several loans totaling $515 million to support the country's economic reform efforts, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported on 9 July, citing a press release of a visiting EU Commission delegation. The delegation says the main loan will total $280 million and its first installment is expected in the fall. The package also includes a $168 million loan to upgrade the country's aging power plants and improve electricity supply as well as a $40 million Phare program loan for structural and social security reform. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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