|A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner. - Samuel Johnson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 81, Part II, 25 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 * UKRAINE WANTS EXPLANATION OF LUKASHENKA STATEMENT * SUSPECTED BOMB ATTACK ON APARTMENT BUILDING IN ALBANIA * U.S. SOLDIER'S CAR BOMBED IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA End Note POLITICAL STORIES FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE WANTS EXPLANATION OF LUKASHENKA STATEMENT. Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Deputy Secretary Alexander Razumkov has said Ukraine wants Belarus to explain a recent statement by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Interfax reported on 24 July. Lukashenka said two days earlier that Ukraine has failed to implement bilateral agreements reached by the two countries' presidents in Gomel, western Belarus, in the spring and that he intends to introduce "tight customs and border control measures" on the border with Ukraine because economic cooperation between the two countries at present "is not being developed appropriately." According to Lukashenka, Russia will impose the same regime on the border with Ukraine. "If Ukraine wants to become a sovereign country, let it be so, but not at our expense," Lukashenka had commented. Razumkov said that Ukraine has "every reason to ask on what grounds the president of a third country made a statement about a possible change of regime on the Ukrainian- Russian border." UKRAINE RECEIVES SIX WARSHIPS FROM RUSSIA. Russia has handed over to Ukraine six out of the 11 Black Sea Fleet warships it is due to receive, as the two countries complete the second stage of the division of the fleet, the Ukrainian Navy's press service told ITAR- TASS on 24 July. Kyiv has already received 12 out of 30 auxiliary vessels and 10 shore installations out of some 100 that it has been allocated. Under the division plan, the last warship is to be handed over to Ukraine before 25 July. The deadline for completing the division is 1 August. ESTONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER SUES PAPER FOR LIBEL. Robert Lepikson on 24 July announced he is suing the "Ohtuleht" evening daily for libel over a recent article claiming he was stopped by police for driving at more than two times the legal maximum speed, BNS and ETA reported. The article cited a radio amateur who claims to have tuned into a police frequency and heard how Lepikson's 280- horsepower Jaguar was stopped near Parnu after police had recorded a speed of 212 kmph. The speed limit is reported to have been 90 kmph. Lepikson said he was in Parnu at the time mentioned in the article, but he denied speeding or having been stopped by the police. He is suing the paper for 212,OOO kroons (some $15,000) and says he will donate the money to the police force to buy bullet-proof vests for officers. UKRAINE, LATVIA PLEDGE TO INCREASE TRADE TIES. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadi Udovenko, during his visit to Riga on 24 July, promised increased trade ties with Latvia, including the development of a Black Sea-Baltic Sea transport corridor, BNS reported. Udovenko discussed opportunities for boosting bilateral trade at a meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Andris Skele. Together with his Latvian counterpart, Valdis Birkavs, Udovenko signed bilateral agreements on the mutual protection of investments, the readmission of illegal immigrants, and visa requirements for both countries. Udovenko is scheduled to meet with Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves in Tallinn on 25 July. LITHUANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER CALLS FOR REORGANIZATION OF VILNIUS POLICE. Vidmantas Ziemelis has called for a reorganization and strengthening of the Vilnius police force following a series of violent attacks on foreigners in the capital, BNS reported on 24 July. The most recent of those attacks took place on 20 July, when French diplomat Patric Donobedian was badly beaten and robbed by three youths near his home in downtown Vilnius (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 1997). Donobedian had to undergo surgery, and the Vilnius police chief and two of his deputies resigned over the attack. Ziemelis, however, said that more dismissals are needed and that the police force will have to be enlarged and reorganized. "It is not the city that lives for the police, but vice versa," he commented. EU OFFERS AID TO POLAND. The European Commission announced on 24 July it is granting more than 65 million ECUs ($70 million) in aid to help Poland recover from recent floods. It also said it was asking the European Investment Bank to consider loans to the region. External Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek announced the decision at a press conference in Brussels. The floods, the worst in centuries, have left at least 55 people dead and more than 5,000 sq km (2,000 sq miles) in southern and western Poland under water. Van den Broek said that the money, which is in addition to some 300,000 ECUs already released, would come from the EU's PHARE program, the funding project aimed at former Communist countries seeking EU membership. Van den Broek said he has ordered commission staff to look for PHARE funds to help the Czech Republic, which has also been hit by floods. CZECH RULING COALITION PARTIES AT ODDS, AGAIN. Josef Lux, chairman of the coalition Christian Democratic Union, on 24 July threatened that his party will leave Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's ruling coalition over the government decision to reject the sale of some 100 tanks to Algeria. The sale had been prepared by the Ministry of Defense, which is headed by Miloslav Vyborny of Lux's party. Speaking on Czech Television, Lux objected to the way in which the government reached its decision, saying that the Civic Democratic Alliance blocked any discussion of the issue. Lux also protested the way in which the government decided to go ahead with the sale of the state's share in Investicni and Postovni Banka, the fourth largest bank in the country, to the Japanese Nomurra investment bank. He said that cabinet members received relevant documents on the sale only shortly before the government session at which the sale was discussed. He also argued that the sale is ill- prepared and disadvantageous for the country. CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES PAYMENT FOR SLOVAK JEWISH GOLD. Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Karel Kovanda told journalists on 24 July that the government has agreed to pay 20 million crowns ($580,000) to a Jewish foundation to settle claims on gold and jewels held by the Czech National Bank. The foundation has been formed by the Slovak and Czech Jewish communities to undertake charitable projects. The gold and jewels were among valuables confiscated from Slovak Jews during World War II that were eventually transferred to the former Czechoslovak state bank. Kovanda said the payment will be made as soon as a bank account is set up. He said the Czech Finance Ministry had valued the gold and jewels at 32 million crowns ($950,000). Under the formula devised for dividing the assets of the former Czechoslovakia, the Czechs are to pay two-thirds of the total. Jozef Weiss, a Holocaust survivor and director of the Slovak Union of Jewish Communities, said he is satisfied with the arrangement. SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF GAULIEDER. The Constitutional Court on 24 July ruled that the parliament violated the constitutional rights of deputy Frantisek Gaulieder when it adopted a resolution in December 1996 revoking Gaulieder's mandate. Gaulieder quit Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia in 1996 in protest against the party's alleged hushing up of the involvement of the Slovak Intelligence Service in the abduction of President Michal Kovac's son. Parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic later produced a letter from Gaulieder saying he was giving up his mandate. Gaulieder, however, says he never signed the letter. The court ruled that the parliament acted unconstitutionally, but it refused to order the legislature to restore Gaulieder's mandate. Constitutional Court chairman Richard Rapant told Radio Twist on 24 July that Gaulieder will be able to resume his parliamentary mandate only after the legislature reverses its unconstitutional decision to strip him of his mandate. HUNGARY TO OPEN AIR CONTROL CENTER. Armed forces chief of staff Ferenc Vegh announced on 24 July that the country's center for air space control will be opened in Veszprem, Hungarian media reported. He said the center, to be completed by mid-1998, will rank as "fairly advanced" in comparison with similar facilities in NATO member countries. The project is estimated to cost several million dollars and will be financed with U.S. aid. Vegh also announced that the air force will become an independent branch of the military. Following NATO's decision to invite Hungary to accession negotiations, the armed forces view the development of the country's air force as a top priority. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SUSPECTED BOMB ATTACK ON APARTMENT BUILDING IN ALBANIA. Police said that a bomb was most likely responsible for an explosion on 25 July that destroyed the top floors of an apartment building in Peshkopi, near the Macedonian border. The blast killed at least three persons and wounded another 16, but police say that more people could be buried in the rubble. In other news, Prime Minister Fatos Nano has named his cabinet and the new ministers have taken their oaths of office at King Zog's former palace, near Tirana. The 22 ministers represent five political parties. Key appointments include Deputy Prime Minister Bashkim Fino, Foreign Minister Paskal Milo, Economy Minister Ylli Bufi, Interior Minister Neritan Ceka, and Finance Minister Arben Malaj. BUSY DAY IN ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT. The newly elected parliament met on 24 July for its first full-day working session, which was televised live. Legislators voted to end the state of emergency and the 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew. They also elected Rexhep Mejdani president and Fatos Nano prime minister. Hundreds of people greeted Mejdani's election with gunfire, despite appeals from the police to stop. Three policemen and several civilians were accidentally wounded. Mejdani is one of the few top politicians who never belonged to Enver Hoxha's Party of Labor. In his acceptance speech, Mejdani urged Albanians "to help me realize my mission on the difficult road of normalizing the life of the country and its institutions. I call on all Albanian immigrants wherever they are to come back and contribute to the reconstruction of Albania." Immigrants, however, provide much-needed foreign exchange, and Albania at present cannot provide jobs for all its citizens. MILOSEVIC PROMISES DRASKOVIC FAIR ELECTIONS. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic discussed the upcoming Serbian legislative and presidential elections in Belgrade on 24 July. Milosevic promised Draskovic that the vote will be free and fair, the opposition leader said. Draskovic added that Milosevic agreed with him that "it is in the interest of Serbia and our people to stop divisions and hatred." Milosevic wants the opposition to participate in the elections, which 10 parties have threatened to boycott if the vote is not free and fair . It is unclear whether Milosevic addressed the opposition's specific demand for equal access to the media. Milosevic did not invite the other two main opposition leaders, Zoran Djindjic and Vesna Pesic, to the meeting, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade. SERBIAN ELECTIONS SLATED FOR 21 SEPTEMBER. Acting Serbian President Dragan Tomic has announced that the Serbian elections will take place on 21 September, Belgrade media reported. The steering committee of the governing Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) will meet on 25 July to select a presidential candidate. The most likely candidates include Ambassador to China Slobodan Unkovic and former Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic. Also in Belgrade, SPS Vice President Zivadin Jovanovic on 24 July called on Washington to mark Milosevic's inauguration as Yugoslav president by dropping sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. SANDZAK LEADERS APPEAL FOR HELP. In Novi Pazar on 25 July, Sandzak Muslim leader Sulejman Ugljanin and other opposition coalition politicians called on U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and various international organizations to support an end to Milosevic's political pressure on Sandzak's Muslim majority. Police banned an opposition meeting the previous day because of what the Interior Ministry called the interest of "the security of people and property." Milosevic recently installed his own nominees to govern Novi Pazar, and Ugljanin himself is being harassed with a court case. Sandzak is divided between Serbia and Montenegro and forms a land bridge between Bosnia and Kosovo. Many of its Muslim leaders have close ties to Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic's Party of Democratic Action. U.S. SOLDIER'S CAR BOMBED IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA. A SFOR soldier's car was firebombed outside his apartment in Vlasenica near Srebrenica on 25 July. It was the latest in an almost daily series of attacks directed at foreign personnel on Bosnian Serb territory. On 24 July, a Dutch soldier was injured when drunken Serbs threw a grenade at a group of Dutch soldiers in the Kotor Varos area, near Banja Luka. Meanwhile in Bijeljina, the senate of the Republika Srpska on 24 July called on President Biljana Plavsic and her enemies in the Bosnian Serb leadership to end their feud lest it lead to the disintegration of the Republika Srpska and its reintegration into the rest of Bosnia. SLOVENIA TO RETURN CHURCH PROPERTY. Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek and Archbishop Franc Rode reached an agreement on 24 July to return to the Roman Catholic church property nationalized by the Communists after World War II. It is unclear whether all former church property is involved. The transfer will begin on 1 November, BETA reported from the Slovenian capital. The United List of Social Democrats will challenge the agreement in the parliament on the grounds that the property does not belong to the government, which thus cannot legally give it to anyone. Drnovsek's governing coalition, however, has a large enough legislative majority to approve the Church-state agreement. Recent polls suggest that 80 percent of the population opposes the return of Church property. ROMANIAN FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF RESIGNS. Gen. Ion Talpes on 24 July resigned in connection with the Swiss diplomat spying affair (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 23 July 1997). President Emil Constantinescu accepted his resignation and said Talpes will be appointed to another position. In a letter to Constantinescu, Talpes said the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) has not been involved in espionage activities in Switzerland. But he added that an investigation has revealed that "for several years there had been sporadic contacts between a Swiss diplomat and SIE collaborators" and that, as a result, "Swiss-Romanian relations" were compromised. Talpes said he considers himself to bear "responsibility for this situation." He noted that the information provided by the Swiss diplomat was "not secret and in no way endangered Switzerland's interests or national security." BILINGUAL SIGNS IN TARGU MURES PAINTED OVER AGAIN. The Romanian-Hungarian bilingual signs in the Transylvanian town of Targu Mures have once again been painted over in the colors of the Romanian national flag, Mediafax reported on 24 July. Mayor Imre Fodor ordered the signs dismantled and cleaned, after which, he said, they will be put back up. He urged that the signs be permanently guarded in the future. Also on 24 July, Gheorghe Funar, the extreme nationalist mayor of Cluj, announced that the town's Hungarian consulate, which was opened the previous day, is to be fined 20 million lei (some $280,000) for hoisting the Hungarian national flag, which, according to Funar, is a violation of the Romanian Constitution. Funar added that the consulate would be fined another 10 million lei for decorating the entrance to the building where the consulate is temporarily located. MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN ROMANIA. Valeriu Pasat arrived in Romania on 24 July for a two-day visit. Together with his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, he signed an agreement on cooperation in military transportation. They also agreed to set up a joint peace-keeping unit. Moldovan Chief of Staff Col. Vladimir Dontu told RFE/RL that the Moldovan army is keen to familiarize itself with Romania's military instruction. Dontu said the most important thing for Moldova is that Bucharest offers such instruction free of charge, since Moldova is too poor to pay for officers to be trained abroad. But he admitted that Moldovans have "communication problems" when using the Romanian language. Dontu said there was "no close military collaboration" between Moldova and Russia because Moscow conditions such collaboration on participation in the CIS collective security system, to which Chisinau does not belong. DETAILS ON DRAFT SETTLEMENT OF TIRASPOL-CHISINAU CONFLICT. According to BASA-press on 24 July, the draft agreement proposed by the Joint Control Commission for a final settlement of the conflict in Moldova gives the Transdniester breakaway region the right to have its own constitution, parliament, flag, state symbols, and anthem. The official languages in the Transdniester would be Moldovan, Russian, and Ukrainian. Alluding to what Tiraspol perceives as the danger of reunification with Romania, the draft gives the Transdniester the right of self-determination if Moldova loses its independence. The draft also says Tiraspol would participate in foreign-policy making, security decisions affecting the breakaway region, and decisions on Moldova's budget (while maintaining its own budget). The region is also to decide its own structure of local government. MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT DISMISSES RADIO, TV CHIEFS. The parliament on 24 July voted to dismiss Adrian Usatai as head of the state radio company and Dumitru Turcanu as director of national television. They were accused of violating the provisions of the constitution on political pluralism and laws on providing accurate information. Usatai's dismissal was also linked to the broadcasting in November of a secretly taped telephone conversation between deputy Nicolae Andronic and Moldova's former ambassador to Germany, Alexandru Buruiana. Observers link the dismissal of Usatai and Turcanu to the ongoing struggle between the anti-reformist parliament and President Petru Lucinschi, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. In related developments, former parliamentary deputy chairman Dumitru Diacov declined Lucinschi's offer to take over the foreign affairs portfolio, saying that his presence in the legislature is more necessary for advancing reforms, Infotag reported. MOLDOVA RATIFIES EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS. The parliament on 24 July ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, which was signed by former President Mircea Snegur on joining the Council of Europe in July 1995, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The parliament, however, said that for the present, Moldova is unable to ensure the convention's implementation in the breakaway Transdniester region. It also said Moldova needs about a year to amend legislation that contradicts the convention's provisions. In other news, President Lucinschi on 24 July dismissed all four department heads of Moldova's traffic police for abuse of office and corruption, following the findings of an unannounced investigation, Infotag reported. BULGARIAN ENERGY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN REPLACED. Georgi Stoilov was replaced on 24 July as chairman of the energy committee, an RFE/RL Sofia correspondent reported. He attracted attention earlier this year when he became the first Bulgarian official to support warnings by international experts about environmental dangers arising from the nuclear plant at Kozloduy. The new chairman of the committee is Ivan Silyashki. All directors of the state-owned electricity company have also been dismissed. END NOTE POLITICAL STORIES FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA by Patrick Moore For many people in the former Yugoslavia, the most important event of the past week was the 23 July soccer game in which Partizan-Belgrade beat Croatia-Zagreb 1-0. But in addition to that highly politicized soccer match, there were at least three recent political stories that captured attention. The first such story involves the power struggle between Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and most of the rest of the Bosnian Serb leadership, who remain loyal to Radovan Karadzic, the former president of the Bosnian Serb Republic. Plavsic says she is determined to establish the rule of law and thereby uproot Karadzic's corrupt, mafia-like power structure. In recent weeks, she has fired Interior Minister Dragan Kijac, dissolved the parliament, called new elections, summoned support from the army and the Constitutional Court, said she would arrest Karadzic, and publicly called Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic the ultimate source of her problems. Her enemies have opposed her at every step of the way, but Plavsic refuses to be intimidated. Her campaign surprised many observers, because she is no less nationalistic than her opponents, with whom she had been allied since the founding of the Serbian Democratic Party in July 1990. Most important, she was Karadzic's hand-picked successor in 1996 when the international community forced him to leave public life. Plavsic says that those who thought she would be simply a puppet did not know her. The question nonetheless remains as to why she waited until now to launch her campaign. Plavsic says that her wartime job as vice president limited her to humanitarian affairs and that she has been able to show her mettle only since September 1996, when she became president. Some observers say that the corruption and profiteering became too much for her to bear as a citizen and as a president whose government was being cheated of huge amounts of revenue by the mafia. Other pundits speculate that she was encouraged to strike out on her own by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who visited the region less than two months ago. But for whatever reason Plavsic chose to take on the establishment, it is shrewd politics to attack the ill-gotten gains of a handful of profiteers in a country where the vast majority of people have to struggle on a monthly average income of $35. Plavsic has attracted support, particularly in her power base of Banja Luka, which is the Republika Srpska's only city and which has traditionally gravitated economically toward Zagreb rather than toward Belgrade. In any event, Plavsic is likely to remain a thorn in the side of Karadzic and his friends as long as she is on the scene. The second main recent political story involves Milosevic himself, who became president of federal Yugoslavia on 23 July. Just over a week earlier, his backers steamrolled his election through the parliament before Montenegrin deputies realized what was happening and could marshal their opposition. He now seems bent on turning the formerly ceremonial federal presidency into a real source of power. To do so, he must first amend the constitution to reduce the authority of Serbia and Montenegro with regard to federal institutions. The governing Montenegrin Democratic Socialist Party, which recently threw out Milosevic ally Momir Bulatovic as its leader, seems prepared to challenge him. Milosevic can also expect a fight from the Popular Concord coalition and other Montenegrin opposition groups, as well as from the Serbian opposition. But that opposition has shown itself as divided as ever, not only at a time when Milosevic is trying to amass more power but also as the September elections in Serbia draw near. Milosevic is nonetheless taking no chances regarding those elections and is using his now familiar tactics to ensure a victory for his Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). He made an emotional visit to Kosovo to show his support for local Serbs and forced out the Muslim leadership in the city government of Novi Pazar in Sandzak. The SPS and its legislative allies then passed a new election law that raises the number of electoral districts and ensures ample gains for the SPS. Milosevic has, moreover, begun to shut down the few local independent radio and television broadcasters in a bid to regain complete control over the electronic media outside Belgrade once again. The third news story also involves the past repeating itself, but in a different sense. On 15 July, the EU invited Slovenia to participate in the first round of its talks with prospective new members. An RFE/RL correspondent reported from Brussels that Slovenia alone of the former Yugoslav republics stood any chance of being invited. Jelko Kacin, the chair of the Slovenian parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, told RFE/RL in Ljubljana, however, that Slovenia's invitation from the EU does not mean that Slovenia is turning its back on its former Yugoslav partners. Geography, he says, makes that impossible. Kacin also pointed out that in socialist Yugoslavia, Slovenia was the economically most developed republic and hence always the "laboratory in which new social or economic experiments were tried out first." Now, Kacin explained, Slovenia is simply continuing the old tradition of being the first to try out a new system. "Europe," he concluded, will sooner or later come to the Balkans--via Slovenia. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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