|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|
Vol. 1, No. 75, Part II, 17 July1997
Vol. 1, No. 75, Part II, 17 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 PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW PRIME MINISTER * OPERATION ALBA WINDS DOWN * SERBIAN OPPOSITION CONTESTS MILOSEVIC'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW PRIME MINISTER. The parliament on 16 July confirmed Valery Pustovoitenko as prime minister, Ukrainian media reported. A leading member of the People's Democratic Party, the 50-year-old Pustovoitenko was nominated by President Leonid Kuchma and was head of Kuchma's election team in the presidential campaign in 1994. He is regarded as one of the president's closest associates. From 1991-1993, Pustovoitenko chaired the Dnepropetrovsk city council and executive council. He has said that he will continue the policy of radical economic reforms. Kuchma told reporters that the parliament will be more involved in the formation of the new government than was the case in the past. But he declined to say what changes he intended to make in the cabinet. TAX BREAKS FOR FOREIGN INVESTORS IN UKRAINE REJECTED. For the second time in just over a month, the parliament on 16 July rejected a presidential proposal to restore tax and tariff breaks for foreign investors . The tax breaks were abolished this spring at the request of the government. They applied to investors whose ventures were registered before 1995. President Kuchma has urged the parliament to restore the benefits for companies involved in production. After rejecting the tax breaks, the parliament asked the government to provide more detailed information showing how tax breaks would help production. Ukraine has received only $1.5 billion in direct foreign investment since 1991. The U.S. telecommunications giant Motorola announced in April it was leaving Ukraine because of red tape and obstacles to foreign investment. ESTONIA, LATVIA REJECT RUSSIA'S OFFER OF SECURITY GUARANTEES. Tallinn and Riga on 16 July firmly declined Russia's offer to provide the Baltic States with security guarantees, BNS and ETA reported. The offer was made the previous day in Moscow by Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov, who commented that Russia has a "constructive alternative" to the Baltics' possible entry to NATO; namely, security guarantees. Estonian Premier Mart Siimann responded by saying his country "sees international security guarantees in unification with European structures, including NATO." He added that the best guarantee Russia could offer would be its "transformation into a democratic country with a well-developed economy that we could trust." Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis commented that "under no conditions, even on the level of a discussion, will we speak about Russian guarantees." Although there has been no official reaction from Vilnius, similar proposals have in the past been rejected by Lithuania, according to RFE/RL's Lithuanian service. NAZI-HUNTERS DEMAND ARREST OF ALLEGED LITHUANIAN WAR CRIMINAL. Israel's Simon Wiesenthal Center has urged the Lithuanian government to arrest and bring to trial Kazys Gimzauskas, a retired machinist accused of helping Nazis kill Jews during World War II, BNS reported on 16 July. The 89-year-old Gimzauskas was stripped of his U.S. citizenship last year for his alleged wartime activities. The Israeli Nazi-hunting organization sent a letter to President Algirdas Brazauskas calling on the Lithuanian authorities to "move against Gimzauskas following a decision...to indefinitely suspend legal proceedings on medical grounds against his superior, Aleksandras Lileikis" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1997). Gimzauskas and Lileikis both served during World War II in the Lithuanian Security Police, which was subordinated to the Nazis. POLISH PRESIDENT SIGNS NEW CONSTITUTION. Aleksander Kwasniewski signed the country's first post-communist constitution on 16 July. Speaking after the ceremony, which was broadcast live on television, Kwasniewski said the signing marked the end of an eight- year period of provisional laws. He said the new constitution ensured a "modern state, guaranteeing all basic rights and freedoms." The document, which was approved in a popular referendum in May, commits Poland to a democratic system based on the rule of law and guarantees personal freedoms and private ownership. It will become valid in three months. The Polish Constitutional Court on 15 July ruled that the referendum on the basic law was valid, despite low turnout. POLISH, CZECH PREMIERS WELCOME EU DECISION. Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz told journalists in Warsaw on 16 July that the EU's assessment of Poland's progress towards meeting the requirements for membership was even more positive than Poland had expected. He welcomed the news that the EU considers Poland to be among the six forerunners for membership in the next few years. Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told journalists in Prague he is glad about the developments and was prepared for intensive preparations for the start of negotiations. POLISH, CZECH GOVERNMENTS OFFER HELP TO FLOOD VICTIMS. The Polish parliament convened a special session on 16 July to pass an emergency aid program. The government is seeking authority to double the limit on borrowing from the central bank to 5 billion zloty ($1.5 billion) and to borrow $300 million from the World Bank. Each family whose house was affected by flooding will receive 2,000 zloty ($606) in immediate aid. The floods have killed 43 people in Poland and damaged 40 towns and 600 villages. Meanwhile, in the Czech Republic, where 37 people died in the floods and five are reported missing, the government on 16 July decided that people who lost their homes in recent floods will each receive some 150,000 koruna ($4,400) in immediate aid and preferential loans, Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told journalists. He said those who lost their homes and are planning to build new ones will be eligible for a low-interest loan of at most 850,000 koruna. The loan will be due in 20 years with a three-year grace period. EUROPEAN COMMISSION CRITICAL OF SLOVAKIA. The European Commission on 16 July criticized the Slovak government for its lack of democratic reforms, saying the country's current political problems make it ineligible for EU membership negotiations Hans van der Broek, the EU external relations commissioner, told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that "although the quality of democracy could be improved in most countries" seeking to join the EU, "only in Slovakia are political problems sufficiently severe to rule out in themselves negotiations." Van der Broek said Slovakia could soon meet criteria for membership negotiations on economic grounds but that it lacks stability of political institutions. REACTIONS IN SLOVAKIA TO EU DECISION. Parliamentary Foreign Committee chairman Dusan Slobodnik on 16 July told journalists that the decision by the European Commission to exclude Slovakia from the first wave of EU expansion talks is "not definitive" and that the "final verdict will only be announced in Luxembourg in December." Jan Luptak, deputy parliamentary chairman and head of the far-left junior coalition partner, the Slovak Workers' Party, rejected what he called "EU and NATO dictates." Opposition Christian Democratic Movement chairman Jan Carnogursky said on 16 July that "it is the fault of Premier Vladimir Meciar's government that Slovakia finds itself internationally isolated" and that Slovakia could enter the EU only if there were a change of government. The Democratic Party on 16 July called on Meciar's cabinet "to resign and leave political life forever due to the absolute bankruptcy of its policies and the serious damage it has inflicted on Slovak citizens." SLOVAKIA INTRODUCES IMPORT TARIFFS. A spokesman for the Finance Ministry announced on 16 July that the government has decided to introduce import tariffs on consumer goods and food, Slovak radio reported. The tariffs will initially amount to 7 percent of the goods' value and will decrease to 5 percent on 1 January 1998 and to 3 percent on 1 July 1998. They will be abolished on 31 December 1998. SLOVAK PREMIER CRITICIZES U.S. AMBASSADOR. Meciar, speaking on Slovak Television on 16 July, criticized the way in which U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Ralph Johnson explained Slovakia's failure to be in the first wave of NATO expansion talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 July 1997). "Dialogue cannot have a form where the ambassador of one state interferes with the political affairs of another country without dialogue with its government," Meciar said. He also noted he had warned U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the NATO summit in Madrid that she was receiving false information on Slovak developments from Ambassador Johnson. According to Meciar, "Slovakia has so far lost nothing by not having been invited to join NATO in the first expansion wave in Madrid." In his view, the Madrid summit communique indicates Slovakia was merely given a "two-year postponement." HUNGARY WANTS TO JOIN EU IN 2000. Premier Gyula Horn, addressing a meeting of Foreign Ministry staff in Budapest on 16 July, said the EU should accept Hungary as a full member in 2000, following two years of accession negotiations. EU officials had said earlier that the process of enlargement could last until 2002, but Horn voiced the opinion that accession should be decided by reviewing each country's performance. "Hungary's achievements are truly outstanding," he commented. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE OPERATION ALBA WINDS DOWN. The 7,000 foreign troops who began arriving in Albania in April started to return home on 16 July. Some 390 Romanian soldiers left Gjirokaster for the port of Durres, and some Italian contingents will also depart shortly. Many leading Albanian politicians and Franz Vranitzky, the OSCE's chief envoy to Albania, want the force to stay on, however. They argue that it has provided a basic degree of security and stability that could break down without the foreigners' presence. WHAT FUTURE FOR ALBANIA'S BERISHA? A meeting of the leadership of the Democratic Party decided in Tirana on 14 July that Secretary-General Genc Pollo will act as interim party leader. He replaces Tritan Shehu, who resigned in the wake of the party's crushing defeat in the 29 June elections. News agencies report there is opposition to making President Sali Berisha party chief, since many Democratic Party members blame him for the defeat. Some leaders prefer Eduard Selami, whom Berisha purged from the party in 1995 and who then left for the U.S.. Some members of the Central Election Commission have meanwhile called on Berisha either to resign the presidency--as he said he would do if the DP lost the elections--or give up his claim to the parliamentary seat he won in the 29 June vote. They argue that he cannot legally hold both offices at the same time. SERBIAN OPPOSITION CONTESTS MILOSEVIC'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. Federal Yugoslav parliament speaker Dragan Tomic said in Belgrade on 16 July that he will cease to be acting federal president on 23 July. On that day, Slobodan Milosevic is expected to assume the federal presidency and resign that of Serbia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. But opposition leaders on 16 July lodged an appeal with the courts against Milosevic's election by the parliament the previous day. The complaint alleges that under the law, the vote should not have taken place before 23 July. Observers charge that Milosevic sought to get the election out of the way quickly before the Montenegrin parliament held a scheduled meeting on 22 July. Milosevic's backers have been losing ground in Montenegro's governing party recently (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1997). POWER STRUGGLE CONTINUES IN MONTENEGRO. President Momir Bulatovic held a meeting with his closest supporters near Podgorica on 16 July to launch a petition drive for his reelection to the presidency. His recent ouster as president of the governing Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) has cast his political future in doubt. Meanwhile in Podgorica, the members of the DPS Steering Committee that ousted Bulatovic reconstituted themselves under the name of Coordinating Committee, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. EXPLOSIONS AT BRITISH BASE IN BOSNIA. Western officials said in Banja Luka on 17 July that four hand grenades were tossed into a British base during the night. British troops detained several suspects, but the extent of damage or injuries is unclear. This is the latest in a series of attacks against Western personnel in the Republika Srpska following NATO's recent direct intervention against indicted war criminals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1997). SFOR spokesmen said in Sarajevo on 16 July that they have no evidence that the incidents against Western personnel are related, but media in the former Yugoslavia suggest they are part of a Serbian campaign to discourage further arrests of war criminals. Meanwhile in Pale, Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, urged Serbs not to act against foreign personnel. MORE ARRESTS OF WAR CRIMINALS IN THE OFFING? U.S. and French officials in their respective capitals have denied press reports that France is opposed to apprehending war criminals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1997). In Zagreb, the weekly "Globus" suggested that NATO may be planning to catch Croatian war criminals soon. Many individuals linked to atrocities against Muslims and Serbs are living openly in Herzegovina, and some have moved to Croatia. In Vienna, the daily "Die Presse" reported from Banja Luka that many Serbs would like to see war criminals arrested but are afraid to say so publicly. The newspaper quoted a Bosnian Serb professor as saying that Croats and Muslims should be arrested as well as Serbs to counter the Serbian view that the Hague-based tribunal is anti-Serb. BOSNIAN UPDATE. In Zenica, a court on 16 July sentenced two French citizens to 20 years in prison for murder in connection with a robbery attempt. The two were former Islamic fighters in the Bosnian army. In Mostar, representatives of Muslim, Croatian, and Serbian refugees met for the first time. They will meet again soon to discuss a joint proposal for the return of refugees to their homes now under the control of another nationality or to provide for compensation for lost homes and property. SYSTEMATIC ROBBERY IN KOSOVO? Unknown persons, including one in a police uniform, robbed passengers on two tourist busses from Germany on 13 July outside Obilic near Pristina. The robbers' haul totaled $90,000 in cash and $40,000 in gold. Local ethnic Albanian journalists said the incident marked the 11th time this year that busses bringing Kosovars home on visits from Western Europe had been subjected to armed shakedowns. Ethnic Albanians in previous years have reported shakedowns by Serbian police at airports as well as on busses. ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WRAPS UP JAPANESE VISIT. Emil Constantinescu said at a press conference in Tokyo on 15 July that Romania finds itself now in a situation similar to that of Japan in the 1950s. The successes of the Japanese economy, he said, were not due to any "outstanding natural resources" but to its "outstanding human resources." Like Japan at that time, Romania has highly-educated human resources and good managers, he said. Also on 15 July, Constantinescu was received by Emperor Akihito. He travelled the next day to Kyoto and Osaka on a prviate trip to meet with businessmen there. On 17 July, he begins a three-day visit to Indonesia. ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER ON IMF MEMORANDUM. Victor Ciorbea said at a Bucharest press conference on 16 July that his government has fulfilled all the conditions stipulated in the memorandum signed with the IMF in April. A delegation from the fund recently arrived in Bucharest to begin assessing Romania's economic performance since the signing of the memorandum. The fund's chief negotiator for Romania, Poul Thompsen, will arrive on 22 July. Ciorbea said the "macrostabilization of the economy" has become "reality" and that the budget's deficit and the inflation rate are within the limits agreed on with the IMF. He added that the volume of foreign-currency reserves exceeds the provisions of the agreement, RFE/RL's Romanian service reported. Ciorbea also commented that the "de- Sovietization" of the intelligence services and the Foreign Ministry must be completed. SWISS DIPLOMAT SUSPECTED OF SPYING FOR ROMANIA. A Swiss diplomat has been detained by the police in Bern on suspicion of spying for the Romanian intelligence service, Romanian media reported on 17 July, citing foreign agencies. The diplomat was arrested on 1 July and has admitted his guilt. He is accused of passing on confidential political and economic information between 1991 and 1997 in exchange for cash and other "material rewards." MOLDOVA RATIFIES EUROPEAN CHARTER OF LOCAL SELF- GOVERNMENT. The parliament on 16 July ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government. The move follows criticism of its failure to do so in a recent report by the Council of Europe. Moldova had signed the charter in May 1996 but failed to ratify it until now owing to the opposition of parliamentary deputies who had reservations about some of its articles. Moldova must now amend legislation on local administration and local elections, Infotag reported. In other news, the Socialist Unity-Edinstvo faction has added its voice to those criticizing the inauguration of a private Slavic university (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 1997). It called for the opening of a state-financed Slavic university. CROATIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BULGARIA. Mate Granic on 16 July met with Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov and Premier Ivan Kostov, an RFE/RL Sofia correspondent reported. Following their meeting, Kostov said they had discussed the creation of a free trade zone and ways to share experience over help from international finance institutions. The previous day, Granic held talks with his counterpart, Nadezhda Mihailova. and with premier Ivan Kostov. He is the highest Croatian official to visit Bulgaria since Croatia declared its independence. In other news, Foreign Minister Mihailova told a press conference in Sofia on 16 July that the government has the necessary public support to implement reforms. She added that "we are optimistic that we shall soon overcome our economic problems and...reform delays which impeded our way into the European Union," Reuters reported. BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS INSURANCE LAW. The parliament on 16 July amended the law regulating the activities of insurance companies to put foreign companies on an equal footing with local ones, an RFE/RL Sofia correspondent reported. The amendment also bars insurance companies from engaging in other commercial activities, such as providing security services. Private insurance companies mushroomed after the collapse of communism and are widely believed to serve as cover for organized crime and money laundering. The amended law reflects the hope to attract foreign insurance companies and break the monopoly of local firms on the insurance market. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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