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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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/

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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

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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.





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