|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 77, Part II, 21 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 * UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST "CONSTITUTIONAL COUP" * REPUBLIKA SRPSKA PRESIDENT REMAINS DEFIANT * RELATIONS BETWEEN NATO, BOSNIAN SERBS TENSE End Note MORE THAN A VOICE BUT LESS THAN A VETO xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST "CONSTITUTIONAL COUP." Leonid Kuchma on 19 July vowed to thwart a bid by his opponents to seize more power for the parliament and weaken his position by making changes in the constitution, Ukrainian Radio reported. Parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz had said the previous day that lawmakers will meet in late August to push constitutional changes that would alter the balance of power between the president and the parliament. Kuchma accused the speaker, a Socialist, and his anti-reform allies of plotting a "constitutional coup." He said that in his capacity as president, he has "sufficient means" to block the proposed amendments. Kuchma charged the parliament with destructive self-interest, saying lawmakers "would do better to work on real problems and the creation of a legal base for concrete work." UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES HUMAN RIGHTS CONVENTION. The parliament on 18 July ratified the European Human Rights Convention, RFE/RL's Kyiv bureau reported. The convention is aimed at safeguarding human rights. Legislators, however, did not vote on a protocol that would abolish capital punishment, an issue that is the subject of an ongoing debate in Ukraine. Kyiv pledged to abolish the death penalty when it joined the Council of Europe in November 1995, But according to the Interior Ministry, the death penalty was carried out some 170 times last year. No convicts have been put to death so far in 1997. Local media report there are currently about 135 prisoners in Ukraine who have been sentenced to death. RUSSIAN GAS SUPPLIES TO BELARUS TO CONTINUE AT CURRENT LEVELS. Nikolai Mechernyuk, director-general of the Beltransgas company, said on Belarusian Television on 19 July that Russia and Belarus have agreed that supplies of Russian gas to Belarus will continue at current levels for the time being. Earlier, the Russian Gazprom company had warned Belarus that it may cut gas supplies after 19 July because of Minsk's outstanding debts, which amounts to $123 million. Mechernyuk said the agreement reached between his company and Gazprom is to be in effect for a few days only. All outstanding issues are expected to be resolved in Moscow, where a Belarusian government delegation is scheduled to arrive on 21 July. FOUR DEMONSTRATORS REPRIMANDED BY BELARUSIAN COURT. The Minsk district court on 18 July reprimanded four protesters for demonstrating against the planned closure of the Belarusian Humanities School, which is the only school in Minsk in which all classes take place in Belarusian, Belapan reported. The four were charged with participation in an unsanctioned demonstration. The previous day, several people protesting the plans to close the school were clubbed and detained by police. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka had issued an order on 14 July to transfer the building housing the school to the Presidential Administrative Department. Opponents of the order say it is an attempt by Lukashenka to curb organizations to which he objects. ESTONIAN ROUNDUP. Estonia will not extradite to Latvia the suspected terrorist "Viktor," who in recent months threatened to blow up various buildings in Riga (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1997), BNS reported on 18 July, citing the Latvian police chief. A Tallinn court will try the 35-year-old Estonian businessman on charges drawn up by the Latvian authorities. In other news, financial analysts report that the EU Commission's decision to recommend Estonia for talks on membership in the union have pushed up share prices. They are also confident that the decision means investors can count on a positive country risk rating. LATVIAN PREMIER ON GOVERNMENT CRISIS. Andris Skele told a press conference in Riga on 18 July that the current government crisis has been triggered by the "frivolous attitude to the anti- corruption law by a number of ministers and ultimatum-like announcements by political parties that might be perceived as political blackmail," BNS reported. He said he will soon propose a "detailed plan" to resolve the crisis but declined to elaborate. Also on 18 July, the Privatization Agency announced that the state-owned news agency LETA will be auctioned off in August. LETA has been operating with huge losses in recent years. Meanwhile, the government announced on 19 July that former Soviet passports carried by Latvian citizens will be declared invalid as of 1 November. More than 90 percent of the population have so far been issued Latvian passports, according to the Interior Ministry. MORE HEAVY RAIN IN POLAND, CZECH REPUBLIC. Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes in Poland and the Czech Republic on 19-20 July as heavy rains continued across Central Europe. Nearly 9,000 people were evacuated as a precaution in northeastern Czech Republic, where emergency flood alerts were in force on several rivers. A state of emergency also has been declared in the northeastern industrial city of Ostrava and in Uherske Hradiste, farther to the south. In Poland, the government deployed some 45,000 troops and 80 helicopters to evacuate residents stranded in flooded villages. In eastern Germany, the Oder River reached its highest level for 50 years in Frankfurt on the Oder. The flooding in the region has killed more than 100 people in the past two weeks. SLOVAK PREMIER WANTS AGREEMENT WITH VATICAN. Vladimir Meciar told journalists on 20 July in Trencianske Teplice that a "big agreement" between the Slovak government and the Holy See is to provide the foundation of relations between the state and the Church. Meciar was speaking following talks between cabinet members and Church leaders on 19 July in the presence of papal nuncio Luigi Dossena. Relations between the state and the Church must be defined by an agreement, Meciar said. The agreement will anchor the adoption of mutual commitments, rights, and duties, he added. Further talks between the government and the Catholic hierarchy will take place in the second half of August. CENTRAL EUROPEAN SUPPORT FOR SLOVAK MEMBERSHIP IN NATO, EU. The foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland issued a joint statement in Prague on 18 July saying they want Slovakia to be granted NATO and EU membership, CTK reported. Darius Rosati of Poland said Slovakia's membership in the two organizations is in Poland's interest in terms of its nationhood and defense needs. He added that Slovakia can count on backing from Poland. Hungary's Laszlo Kovacs said that any dividing line between Hungary and Slovakia is out of the question, adding that Budapest wants Slovak foreign policy to be pro-European and pro-Atlantic. Josef Zieleniec of the Czech Republic said that Slovakia's foreign policy standing is causing considerable concern in the Czech Republic. He added that "it is impossible to imagine Slovakia remaining for a long time outside the political and economic organizations that will be joined by the Czech Republic." HUNGARIAN POLITICAL UPDATE. Christian Democratic People's Party Chairman Gyoergy Giczy said on 18 July that he intends to dissolve the party's parliamentary faction. He said the faction has distanced itself from the party by refusing to follow policies set out by the party leadership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1997). Giczy will also ask parliamentary speaker Zoltan Gal to rescind the faction's right to use the party's name. Meanwhile, Interior Minister and Free Democrat leader Gabor Kuncze rejected founding party member Gaspar Miklos Tamas's proposal that the party quit the governing coalition and join the opposition until at least 2002. In a recent opinion poll published by "Magyar Hirlap" on 19 July, the Free Democrats received the support of only 9 percent of decided voters. The Socialist Party led with 32 percent. HUNGARIAN OFFICIALS ON "OPERATION BIRCH TREE." National Security Committee Chairman Imre Konya has rejected accusations that the civilian secret services conducted an unlawful operation against politicians involved in the so-called "Operation Birch Tree" scandal (see "RFE-RL Newsline", 12 June 1997), Hungarian media reported on 19 July. Commenting on the committee's final report, which was completed on 16 July, Konya and Ferenc Koeszeg of the Free Democrats said they did not made the document public immediately as Secret Services Minister Istvan Nikolits had wanted to examine it for potential state or service secrets leaks. They also said that one newspaper misled the public by reporting only on irregularities by the Intelligence Office's staff. They stressed that the report also points out errors committed by Nikolits and his associates. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE REPUBLIKA SRPSKA PRESIDENT REMAINS DEFIANT... Biljana Plavsic said in Doboj on 20 July that she is "relieved" by the governing Serbian Democratic Party's (SDS) decision the previous night to expel her from the SDS. She added that she will now have more time and energy to devote to the presidency. She also shrugged off the party's call for her to give up that office in favor of Vice President Dragoljub Mirjanic. Asked about Radovan Karadzic's role in corruption, Plavsic said that "nothing happens [on the black market] without his knowledge." Western media reported on 19 July that Plavsic had told the German weekly "Der Spiegel" that she is willing to use the army and police to arrest Karadzic. She charged that her predecessor "murders his own people" and has let himself "be dragged into the criminal underworld." ...WHILE HER ENEMIES KEEP UP PRESSURE. The official Pale news agency SRNA said that top officials from the police and army met in Bijeljina on 20 July and gave their backing to Plavsic's opponents. No independent confirmation of the story is available. The Pale media have previously misrepresented the views of the army, which has generally sided with Plavsic. The police, however, are the most important armed force in the Republika Srpska, and they are loyal to Karadzic. BETA, meanwhile, reported that Pale Television charged Plavsic is trying to ingratiate herself with Western governments and the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. The station claimed she knows that the court has indicted her for war crimes and is trying to "save her own head [by offering up] the heads of some other Serbs." RELATIONS BETWEEN NATO, BOSNIAN SERBS TENSE. Some 11 French and Italian armored personnel carriers assembled together about 50 yards from the home of Radovan Karadzic in Pale on 19 July while a NATO helicopter hovered overhead. A NATO spokesman in Sarajevo later claimed, however, that "there is no unusual patrolling activity in Pale." In recent days, explosions took place near the homes or vehicles of SFOR or UN personnel in Doboj, Mrkonjic Grad, and Prijedor. The Vienna daily "Die Presse" wrote on 18 July that SFOR is on special alert after receiving a written threat signed by a group calling itself the Black Hand. The group dubbed SFOR "an occupying army" and said the peacekeepers would "go home in coffins." The original Black Hand was a Serbian nationalist group founded in 1911 with strong links to the Serbian army. It was involved in the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. UN OFFICIAL SAYS TUDJMAN WILL LET SERBS GO HOME. Bill Richardson, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said in Vukovar on 20 July that Croatian President Franjo Tudjman had told him the previous day that Serbian refugees with Croatian citizenship may return home. Richardson said that the U.S. welcomes Tudjman's comments and that "Croatia's behavior will be a test of its readiness to be integrated into Western institutions," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the eastern Slavonian town. Meanwhile in Zagreb, Jaksa Muljacic, the Croatian ambassador to the Netherlands, told state-run television that Croatia will not honor a ultimatum from the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. The court has given Croatia one month to supply key documents in the case of Gen. Tihomir Blaskic and for Defense Minister Gojko Susak to appear in The Hague. Muljacic said that the court does not have the authority to issue such demands to sovereign states. ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS SAY BERISHA IS STALLING. The Socialist Party said in a statement on 20 July that President Sali Berisha is deliberately avoiding convening the new parliament, in which the Socialists and their allies have a large majority. The text also charged that Berisha refuses to say when he will resign, although he has promised to leave office. The Socialists added that Berisha's delays threaten to upset the timetable for a series of international gatherings aimed at drafting plans for foreign assistance to Albania. The Socialists, furthermore, threatened to call a session of the parliament themselves if Berisha does not do so. AFP said that Berisha is reluctant to step down before he has tried all possible means to block his arch-rival Fatos Nano from becoming prime minister. The Socialists argue that Berisha has no role in determining the composition of the next government. ALBANIAN ELECTION COMMISSION ANNOUNCES FINAL RESULTS. The Central Election Commission stated on 19 July in Tirana that the Socialists won 100 out of the 155 mandates in the 29 June ballot. The Socialists allies took 17 seats, thereby giving the new coalition more than the two-thirds majority it needs to change the constitution. Berisha's Democrats have 27 seats. Meanwhile, the first Italian peacekeepers to leave Albania returned home on 19 July after bad weather prevented their leaving the previous day. Killings and kidnappings are reported to continue unabated in the south. In one recent incident, gangs crossed into Greece and kidnapped Greek farmers, whom the gangs then held for ransom. Albanian police said in Gjirokaster on 21 July that Greece has closed the main border crossing at Kakavia. SWISS PROTEST ROMANIAN ESPIONAGE ACTIVITIES. The Swiss Foreign Ministry has protested espionage activities carried out by Romania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 July 1997), the independent news agency Mediafax reported on 19 July. President Emil Constantinescu has instructed Radu Boroianu, Romania's ambassador-designate to Bern, and the Ministry of Justice to collaborate with the Swiss authorities. He said that if evidence is produced of involvement by the Romanian Intelligence Service, those responsible will be dismissed. The Romanian Foreign Ministry on 18 July said it is willing to cooperate with the Swiss authorities. Foreign Minister Adrian Severin told Mediafax the next day that the ministry is conducting an inquiry into the case, stressing that the ministry and the presidential office are "in no way" involved in it. ROMANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS APPEAL AGAINST TREATY WITH UKRAINE. The Constitutional court on 18 July rejected an appeal against the treaty with Ukraine submitted by half of the judges at the Supreme Court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1997). The Constitutional Court said the appeal was made after President Constantinescu had promulgated the law on the treaty previously ratified by the parliament. Also on 18 July, the Constitutional Court rejected an appeal by a group of deputies and senators against a law recently passed by the parliament on the reorganization of the judiciary system. The court ruling that the law was in line with the basic document. BILINGUAL SIGNS TAKEN DOWN IN ROMANIA. The Targu Mures prefect on 19 July ordered that six signs in both the Hungarian and Romanian languages be taken down. The prefect acted on the orders of the government after unidentified persons painted the colors of the Romanian national flag on the signs, which had been put the previous day. The government says the signs have first to be approved by the local government council. The Executive Committee of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania said on 20 July that the dismantling of the signs "is in violation of international accords signed by Romania" and "gravely affect the process of the country's democratization." In line with a recent government ordinance, bilingual signs are allowed where ethnic minorities make up 20 percent or more of the population. MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS NEW DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. The parliament on 18 July elected Andrei Diaconu as its new deputy chairman. Diaconu, who represents the Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova, was elected with the support of the Socialist Unity-Edinstvo faction, which is the second-largest group in the legislature. Socialist Unity-Edinstvo conditioned its support on the dismissal of former Deputy Chairman Dumitru Diacov, a supporter of President Petru Lucinschi. Diacov's dismissal was approved by the legislature one day earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 18 July 1997), Infotag and BASA- press reported. In other news, the Moldovan Ecologist Party on 18 July joined the Democratic Convention of Moldova opposition alliance, which was formed in June by the Party of Revival and Accord and the Popular Christian Democratic Front. The three parties appealed to the opposition to unite before the parliamentary elections scheduled for 1998. CHISINAU ACCUSES TIRASPOL OF PROCRASTINATION. Anatol Taranu, the head of the Moldovan delegation to negotiations with the breakaway region of Transdniester, has accused Tiraspol of procrastinating on reaching an agreement based on the memorandum signed in Moscow in early May. Taranu told Infotag on 18 July that the Transdniester authorities are attempting to circumvent the basic principle of the memorandum, which recognizes Moldova's territorial integrity. He also said that while Chisinau has agreed that negotiations be based on a draft proposed by the presidents of Russia and Ukraine and by the OSCE representatives in June, Tiraspol has "still not given a clear answer" on that issue. He also said Tiraspol's representatives rejected Chisinau's proposal that the two sides' experts meet twice a week, instead of once, in order to step up the negotiations. END NOTE MORE THAN A VOICE BUT LESS THAN A VETO by Paul Goble. The first organizational meeting of the NATO-Russia Joint Council suggests that Moscow is likely to have more than a voice but less than a veto in future decisions by the Western alliance. The 18 July session seems certain to exacerbate rather than end the debate between those like U.S. President Bill Clinton who argue that the council gives Russia a say but not a veto in NATO affairs and others, like former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who believe Moscow has gained an effective, if not explicit, veto. The body's inaugural session had to be delayed by one day because the Western alliance refused to give into a Russian demand for a modification of the 27 May Founding Act that established the council. That accord calls for body to have three co-chairmen--the NATO secretary-general, a representative of Russia, and a representative of NATO member countries selected on a rotating basis. Russian ambassador Vitalii Churkin argued that there should be only two co-chairmen, one representing the alliance and another representing Russia. NATO members refused to comply, lending support to the claim that Russia will not have a veto in the council. But at the same time, the alliance did concede that the chairmanship would rotate among the three chairmen from one session to the next. As a result of that concession to Moscow, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana chaired the first part of the meeting, the NATO member representative (in this case, the Belgian ambassador) the second, and the Russian ambassador the third. Critics who argue that the NATO-Russia Founding Act gives Moscow a veto over the alliance's actions are likely to see this diplomatic arrangement as a confirmation of their position. But the outcome of the 18 July meeting fails to fully vindicate the position of either side. Rather, it suggests the new council will give Russia more than simply a voice but not a genuine veto if NATO leaders are prepared to stand their ground. There are three reasons for drawing this intermediate conclusion. First, the NATO countries are very publicly committed to making the council work. Confident that NATO members will not want to be blamed for any breakdown in the talks, Russia will seek to expand its influence by making demands. Second, the likelihood that NATO will seek to adapt its position so as to avoid antagonizing Russia will extend not only to those issues that NATO agrees to include on the agenda of the council but also to those that NATO leaders may feel should not be discussed there. At the next meeting of the council on 11 September, NATO and Russia are scheduled to discuss Bosnia. When talking about that issue with Moscow, NATO countries will find it hard to exclude military issues that they have said will not be discussed by the joint council. As a result, Russia will gain influence over matters in which, according to the Founding Act, it has no say. Moreover, Moscow will be able to extend its voice on issues NATO might refuse to discuss in the joint council by linking agreement on something discussed there to a NATO concession on matters that the council had never had before it. And the expectation that the Russian government will do that is likely to become an implicit part of the calculations of NATO planners. That too will mean that Russia's voice will only grow with time. Third, as the procedural debate makes clear, NATO can block or simply ignore Russian demands if the alliance is united and if its most important members indicate they are prepared to stand up to Moscow on any issue--large or small. This last point illustrates that Russia does not have the simple veto that President Boris Yeltsin and Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov have claimed. But the certainty that Russia will exploit divisions within the alliance and the desire of many of NATO members to reach agreement almost certainly means that the council will give Russia a much larger and more influential voice than the text of the Founding Act suggested. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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