|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 78, Part II, 22 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 *LATVIAN PREMIER SAYS AGREEMENT REACHED ON RESOLVING GOVERNMENT CRISIS *PLAVSIC WILL NOT GIVE UP BOSNIAN SERB PRESIDENCY *MILOSEVIC CRACKS DOWN AHEAD OF SERBIAN ELECTIONS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE IMF TEAM IN UKRAINE FOR TALKS ON LOANS. A delegation from the IMF is scheduled to arrive in Kyiv on 22 July to begin discussions on a one-year stand-by loan, RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported. The loan will be handled on a priority basis and is, according to sources at IMF headquarters in Washington, expected to be finalized and approved by the end of August. The loan, whose size has yet to be determined, is in lieu of the planned three-year loan program worth up to $3 billion that was put on hold in early July. An IMF review team said Ukraine had not yet implemented enough reforms to qualify for the loan. UKRAINIAN FOREIGN POLICY, SECURITY DEVELOPMENTS. Ukraine and Indonesia have agreed to work jointly to put satellites into orbit and to share scientific data. A Ukrainian space official told Interfax on 21 July that the agreement was reached two days earlier during a visit by Indonesian officials. The two countries also pledged to cooperate in building and launching satellites. Meanwhile, Russia is about to hand over the first batch of warships to Ukraine under a May agreement settling the dispute over control of the Black Sea Fleet. The fleet's Rear Admiral Boris Chernishkov told Interfax on 21 July that warships, a submarine, several patrol boats, naval destroyers, minesweepers, and other smaller vessels are to be delivered. CONTROVERSY OVER RUSSIAN GAS SUPPLIES TO BELARUS. Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Prokopovich, speaking at a press conference in Minsk on 21 July, denied earlier reports that the Russian gas company Gazprom cut off shipments to Belarus because of mounting unpaid debt. Prokopovich claimed that Belarus had paid all current bills to Gazprom and had transferred another $80 million toward payment of its 1996 debts. However, he did not deny that the Belarus government had received notification from Gazprom that it would reduce gas supplies to Belarus unless debts were paid. Earlier reports indicated that Gazprom had reduced by half the flow of gas to Belarus because of debts that, according to the Russian company, amount to $203 million. Belarusians claim the debt does not exceed $123 million. A Belarusian delegation is due in Moscow on 22 July to discuss Minsk's remaining debt to Gazprom. Belarus officials plan to offer a new schedule of payments for gas. ESTONIAN FOREIGN RELATIONS. Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Deguang met with Estonian President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Mart Siimann, and Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves in Tallinn on 21 July, BNS and ETA reported. Zhang praised bilateral relations and said he saw the potential to develop trade between the two countries. Estonian exports to China remain well below imports from that country. Zhang stressed that China sees Estonia as a possible transit country for developing trade relations with northern and western European states. He also said that Beijing "firmly supports" Estonia's bid to join the EU and, though not in favor of military blocs, backs Tallinn's wish to join NATO. Also on 21 July, a visiting delegation from Taiwan met with deputy parliamentary speaker Tunne Kelam and members of the parliament's Taiwan support group, ETA reported. LATVIAN PREMIER SAYS AGREEMENT REACHED ON RESOLVING GOVERNMENT CRISIS. Andris Skele announced at a 22 July press conference that he has reached agreement with the Cooperation Council, which is composed of members of the ruling coalition parties, on how to overcome the present government crisis, RFE/RL's Latvian Service reported. Three ministers have resigned over violations of the anti-corruption law; and Skele on 21 July called for the resignation of Transport Minister Vilis Kristopans over his failure to abide by that law. Interior Minister Dainis Turlais also quit his post recently over the accident at the firefighters' celebration in Talsi, which claimed the lives of eight children. Skele said parties must announce their candidates for the vacant ministerial positions by 4 August. He urged the parliament to approve the new ministers by 6 August. Details of the agreement with the Cooperation Council are to be released later on 22 July. LITHUANIA, RUSSIA DISCUSS IMPROVING MILITARY TRANSIT. Lithuanian and Russian officials have agreed to remove "organizational difficulties" that have occasionally obstructed Russian military transit across Lithuania, BNS reported on 21 July. Maj. Sigitas Butkus, the Lithuanian acting commissioner for military transport, said that a recent meeting in Vilnius of the two countries' transport services focused on ways to improve adherence to Lithuania's military transit regulations. The meeting came some two months after a Russian military unit had been refused entry to Lithuania from Kaliningrad Oblast; the unit had requested in advance, but not received, a transit permit. Russian officials had said the incident demonstrated "Lithuania's increased strictness" toward Russian military transit, while Lithuanian officials claimed Russia had sought to transport troops and cargoes from forces other than the army. The Lithuanian Transport Service issues single permits for military cargoes transiting Lithuanian territory. RAIN SUBSIDES IN CENTRAL EUROPE. Rain subsided on 21 July across Central Europe following two weeks of heavy falls have flooded huge areas of land and left thousands homeless. The death toll has reached 52 in Poland and 47 in the Czech Republic. Polish officials on 21 July denied Swedish press reports that recent flooding might add significantly to pollution levels in the Baltic Sea. RFE/RL's Warsaw correspondent quotes officials of the Polish Environmental Protection Ministry as saying there is no danger of significant pollution flowing into the sea from the Oder and Vistula Rivers. However, officials do say that at least 56 sewer treatment plants have been flooded by the overflowing rivers. The comments follow Swedish press reports that flood waters were carrying heating fuel, fertilizers, industrial chemicals, and other pollutants into the sea. SLOVAK PRESIDENT CRITICIZES ATTACKS ON U.S. AMBASSADOR. Michal Kovac has distanced himself from "verbal attacks" on U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Ralph Johnson made recently by Premier Vladimir Meciar and Parliamentary Chairman Ivan Gasparovic, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. Kovac met with Johnson on 21 July, one week after Johnson said in a public lecture that the main reasons for Slovakia's failure to be included in the first wave of NATO expansion were the centralization of power and the government's intolerant attitude toward people who do not share its opinions. Meciar accused Johnson of meddling in Slovakia's domestic affairs. Gasparovic made a similar statement. Kovac said Meciar's and Gasparovic's statements could not be considered the "legitimate stance of the government and parliament" but rather were the "private views" of the two leaders. MEETING OF SLOVAK, HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS. Zdenka Kramplova and Laszlo Kovacs, meeting in Komarno, Slovakia, on 21 July, agreed that Slovak Prime Minister Meciar will hold talks with his Hungarian counterpart, Gyula Horn, in Gyor, Hungary, on 15 August, Slovak and Hungarian media reported. A statement after the meeting said the prime ministers will focus on European integration and the implementation of an awaited ruling by the International Court in The Hague on the controversial Gabcikovo dam project. The last official meeting between Meciar and Horn was in Paris in early 1995, when they signed a friendship treaty under the auspices of the EU. Hungarian media report that the two foreign ministers were unable to agree on a number of issues and that setting the date of the prime ministers' meeting was the only result of the three-hour meeting. HUNGARIAN CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS LOSE PARLIAMENTARY FACTION STATUS. Ten members of the Christian Democratic People's Party's (KDNP) parliamentary faction decided to quit the group on 21 July, Hungarian media reported. The KDNP now has only 13 deputies in the parliament. Under house regulations, the party must have at least 15 seats in order to qualify as a parliamentary faction. The 10 deputies who quit the KDNP, including party chairman Gyoergy Giczy, want to establish a new Christian Democratic group. Those who remain in the faction recently distanced themselves from the party leadership's policies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1997). HUNGARY EXPANDS ECONOMIC TIES WITH CHINA. Visiting Hungarian Finance Minister Peter Medgyessy said on 21 July in Beijing that the Bank of China will shortly open a regional office in Budapest, Hungarian media reported. At a meeting with Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Li Lanching, Medgyessy discussed a $40 million credit from Eximbank to facilitate Hungarian exports to China. The two ministers agreed to establish in the near future a share-holding company that would promote bilateral trade and inform Hungarian companies of Chinese development tenders. Hungary's trade deficit with China was up 68 percent last year on the 1995 level, exceeding $175 million. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE PLAVSIC WILL NOT GIVE UP BOSNIAN SERB PRESIDENCY. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said on Banja Luka TV on 21 July that she intends to finish out her term in 1998, despite her recent expulsion from the governing Serbian Democratic Party (SDS). She charged that she "was not suitable for the party because [she] was merely insisting on resolving the crime problem in the Serb republic. Such widespread crime is the reason why the state cannot pay its workers and pensioners." Plavsic added that Karadzic chaired the meeting at which the SDS's governing body expelled her. Her campaign against the wealthy war profiteers, whom she claims run the Republika Srpska, has much appeal to ordinary Serbs, whose average income is $35 per month. JOINT POLICE PATROLS BEGIN IN MOSTAR. The UN police said in Herzegovina's main town on 21 July that Croatian and Muslim police have begun joint patrols on both sides of the Neretva River. In the coming weeks, more men will be added to the units, which will expand their beats to include more parts of the region. The Muslims have charged the Croats with sabotaging previous attempts in Mostar to set up joint patrols by the nominal allies, and the Croats argue that the Muslims obstruct practical cooperation in central Bosnia. Most observers agree that smooth teamwork on the ground between the Croats and Muslims is essential if their federation is ever to become more than just an agreement on paper. MILOSEVIC CRACKS DOWN AHEAD OF SERBIAN ELECTIONS. In recent days, the Serbian authorities have closed down several local radio stations and a television station in Kraljevo in the south. Some reports suggest that there have been closures in other towns as well. Officials claim that the stations are not legally licensed, but independent media spokesmen argue that the crackdown on the non- state stations is part of the governing Socialists' preparation for the Serbian elections due in September. Opposition spokesmen said in Belgrade on 20 July that they may boycott the vote following recent changes in the election law that clearly work to the Socialists' advantage. IS VATICAN HOLDING USTASHA GOLD? A recently released U.S. intelligence document from 1946 suggests that the Vatican held for safe-keeping gold sent by the pro-Axis Croatian government during World War II. It is unclear how much of the original gold valued at some $120 million might remain in the Vatican, which has not yet commented on the reports carried by Western media on 22 July. The press accounts say the Ustasha regime confiscated the gold from its own Serbian, Jewish, Roma, and moderate Croatian citizens. Meanwhile in Split, "Feral Tribune" reported on 21 July that the bibliography of President Franjo Tudjman's works in the country's two main libraries has been purged of almost all his writings from the 1950s and 1960s. The deleted titles deal with Tito's Partisan movement in World War II and with the founding of socialist Yugoslavia. MACEDONIAN UPDATE. Albanian Television on 21 July denied that Tirana played any role in recent ethnic unrest in Tetovo and Gostivar in Macedonia, as some Macedonian politicians have charged. The broadcast added that Belgrade is the most likely source of outside meddling in Macedonia's affairs. On 18 July, a delegation of ethnic Albanian political leaders from Kosovo went to Macedonia to try to calm the situation. Meanwhile in Skopje, Macedonian Defense Minister Lazar Kitanovski denied reports that his country wants to buy Russian tanks. He said that Russia and Macedonia signed an agreement on military cooperation on 20 July but that Macedonia will purchase only weapons that are compatible with NATO systems. BOMB ROCKS CENTRAL TIRANA. An explosion destroyed at least one cafe and damaged nearby buildings and vehicles in the early hours of 22 July in the center of Tirana, near the Interior and Defense Ministries. Three people were badly injured. News agencies said that the injured men were private guards at the Greek-owned cafe. The attackers drove up in a car and planted over four pounds of explosives. No motive for the attack is known, and such explosions are relatively rare in Tirana. ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT TO MEET. President Sali Berisha issued a decree on 21 July to summon the newly elected legislature for a session on 23 July. His own Democratic Party said in a statement on 20 July, however, that it will boycott the first few meetings of the parliament to protest the conditions under which the legislature was elected. A statement charged that "the elections of 29 June were held in a climate of violence and terror exercised by Socialist gangs against supporters of the Democratic Party and the population in general." International monitors, for their part, said that the elections were fair, if not perfect. Meanwhile, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 22 July that the Democrats have agreed to elect Berisha as party leader. He has yet to say when he will resign the presidency and take up his seat in the parliament and the party chair. GREECE STEPS UP SECURITY ALONG ALBANIAN BORDER. Prime Minister Kostas Simitis met with top security officials in Athens on 21 July to discuss the deteriorating situation along the Albanian frontier. After the session, the Interior Ministry said in a statement that the "police are to redouble their patrols and their activity will be intensified across the country, while security forces and the army will cooperate in the border regions." Albanian bandits have been attacking and kidnapping Greek citizens, and the Greek government has responded by sending army and police reinforcements to the north. On 22 July, Greece briefly closed and then reopened the main border crossing at Kakavia. UPDATE ON ROMANIAN COALITION TENSIONS. Defense Minister Victor Babiuc, in a report prepared for internal use by the Democratic Party, says the party should prepare an alternative program that would make its "separate Social-Democratic options" more clear to the electorate, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Babiuc said the dominance of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) in the present coalition is due to the influence of President Emil Constantinescu. Premier Minister Victor Ciorbea recently called for a meeting of coalition leaders to discuss differences that have emerged in the last weeks. Among other things, the Senate postponed discussing an amendment to the Land Restitution Law because many Democratic Party senators who oppose the PNTCD's intention to increase the restitution of land from 10 to 50 hectares per family were not present during the debate. FORMER DEPUTY PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN ON POLITICAL SITUATION IN MOLDOVA. Dumitru Diacov, who recently was dismissed by the parliament as deputy chairman, says President Petru Lucinschi has offered him the foreign affairs portfolio. Incumbent Foreign Minister Mihai Popov intends to resign on health grounds. In an interview with RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau on 21 July, Diacov said a group of deputies will soon announce their resignation from the main coalition party, the Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova (PDAM). Diacov said on 21 July that the group will support President Petru Lucinschi's economic reform program, which has met with resistance in the legislature. Diacov said the group will support Ion Ciubuc's cabinet only if there is a government reshuffle and new ministers who back Lucinschi's program are appointed. On 22 July, 11 PDAM deputies announced they have left the party. MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES AGAINST PRESIDENTIAL DECREES. The Constitutional Court on 21 July ruled that two decrees issued by President Lucinschi in April 1997 are unconstitutional. The decrees set up a government department for fighting organized crime and corruption and appointed the chief of the department. The court also declared unconstitutional a government decision issued in May 1997 in connection with the implementation of the decrees. The decrees and the government decision were contested in the court by Valentin Dolganiuc, the leader of the parliamentary opposition Christian Democratic Front faction. The court said the prerogative of setting up new departments of the government belongs to the parliament and not to the president. The court also ruled that the government decision on implementing the decrees infringes the constitutional right to personal liberty, the personal and family privacy, inviolability of domicile, and the secrecy of private correspondence and of telephone conversations. MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON ANNIVERSARY OF MEMORANDUM WITH RUSSIA. In a message on the fifth anniversary of the signing by Moldova and Russia of the memorandum on the principles of a peaceful settlement of the military conflict in the Transdniester region, Moldovan President Lucinschi said the "tragic consequences" of the conflict have not yet been overcome because Moldova's territory is "still split," Infotag reported on 21 July. He also noted that the negotiations for a final settlement are experiencing "great difficulties." Only when the country is "fully unified" will Moldova "take a worthy place among other European countries," he added. Russian President Boris Yeltsin, in a message to Lucinschi marking the anniversary, said Russia "desires to assist fully in the search for a constructive outcome" to the Transdniester conflict. He commented that no efforts should be spared until that settlement is reached. BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT ON EU MEMBERSHIP NEGOTIATIONS. The government on 21 July said the EU should start negotiations with all the countries aspiring to membership in the union, Reuters reported. The statement said such a move "would be a confirmation that all countries have equal chances to become members of a united Europe." It added that the government in Sofia appreciates the faith recently expressed by the European Commission in Sofia's intention to quickly implement the program of reforms. ZHIVKOV SAYS MARXISM IS WRONG. Speaking to reporters on the occasion of launching his memoirs (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 16 July 1997), Bulgaria's former communist ruler Todor Zhivkov says that in the book he is "smashing the whole Marxist theory. Marxism is mere nonsense, and I am the first one to say that it is completely wrong," Zhivkov told reporters at his grand daughter's villa in a wealthy Sofia suburb, Reuters reported on 21 July. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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