|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 85, Part II, 31 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 *BELARUS PROTESTS RUSSIAN PRESSURE OVER ARRESTED JOURNALISTS *ALBANIAN PREMIER GIVES PRIORITY TO CREATING JOBS *KARADZIC TO TALK TO WAR CRIMES TEAM? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUS RESISTS RUSSIAN PRESSURE OVER ARRESTED JOURNALISTS. In a statement issued on 30 July, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's office expressed "surprise" at remarks the previous day by Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin had said he was indignant over the arrests of Russian journalists Pavel Sheremet and Dmitrii Zavadskii, who, Belarus says, illegally crossed the country's border from Lithuania while preparing a report. Sheremet and Zavadskii both work for the Russian Public Television (ORT) network. The statement says it is unacceptable that the current and future union of Russia and Belarus be put in doubt by the "banal provocation of one man." Lukashenka claimed the same day that Sheremet is in the pay of foreign intelligence services. Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antonovich called on Russia not to let the row worsen the countries' relations. Meanwhile, Amnesty International has called for the journalists' immediate release. If convicted, the two journalists could receive up to five years in prison. MORE GOVERNMENT APPOINTMENTS IN UKRAINE. President Leonid Kuchma on 30 July appointed former Economics Minister Yuri Yekhanurov to head the newly created committee on promoting business, Reuters reported. Oleksander Osaulenko was named as head of the state statistics committee. Kuchma reappointed Serhiy Osyka as minister of foreign economic relations and trade and Valery Kalchenko as emergency situations minister. GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS UKRAINE CRUCIAL FOR EUROPEAN STABILITY. Klaus Kinkel said at the close of his visit to Kyiv on 30 July that Ukraine plays a key role in European stability. Speaking to reporters, Kinkel praised the recent diplomatic achievements of Ukraine, notably the conclusion of friendship treaties with Poland and Romania and a border agreement with Belarus as well as Ukraine's participation in peacekeeping operations in Bosnia. Kinkel said Ukraine "is now much stronger than several years ago" and is becoming an increasingly important member of the international community. He said that "Germany supports Ukraine on its way to Europe, democracy, and a market economy." He also commented Europe recognizes the sensitivity of Ukraine's relations with Russia and will strive to prevent Ukraine from becoming a buffer zone between East and West. ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN WASHINGTON. Toomas Hendrick Ilves told journalists in the U.S. capital on 30 July that he expects "long and somewhat tough negotiations" before his country becomes a member of the EU. He said that Tallinn expects to join the union within seven to 10 years. The European Commission recently named Estonia among six countries recommended to begin talks on EU membership. Asked about Russia's objections to the Baltic States joining NATO, Ilves said that Moscow has no right to interfere in the security arrangements of other nations. He added that Russian opposition to Baltic membership in NATO is one reason why Estonia wants to join the alliance. Ilves, a former ambassador to the U.S., is in Washington to mark the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Estonia. LATVIAN PRESIDENT ON LINEUP OF NEXT GOVERNMENT. Guntis Ulmanis on 30 July urged political parties not to include in the new government those ministers who resigned amid the recent corruption scandal, BNS reported. He said he shares the opinion of the Fatherland and Freedom party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 1997) that cabinet members who were found to have violated the anti- corruption law should not be reappointed. Ulmanis was speaking before his departure to the U.S., where he is to receive the American Bar Association's Central and East European Law Initiative prize for his contribution toward building a state based on the rule of law. Premier-designate Guntars Krasts, meanwhile, has said he will demand written verification from his ministers that they will comply with the anti-corruption law. He added that he hoped the new cabinet could be approved during an extraordinary session of the parliament on 7 August. POLISH FINANCE MINISTER ON REBUILDING AFTER FLOODS. Marek Belka told journalists on 30 July he will propose spending cuts in many areas in 1998 to raise funds to rebuild areas devastated by the recent floods. "This will be a budget of modest spending in many areas...and real wage increases will be limited next year," he said. He declined to give more details. The cabinet is scheduled to debate the budget in September. Belka also said Poland may be forced to introduce a "flood tax" to meet the costs of repairing flood damage. He said the imposition of a 1 percent tax on incomes "would be a better solution" than the issue of a government bond. Meanwhile, the central bank has unveiled plans to increase official interest rates within the next several weeks to prevent credit action and domestic spending from accelerating even more because of the flood. U.S. AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH SLOVAK DEPUTY PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN. Ambassador to Slovakia Ralph Johnson on 30 July met with Slovak parliamentary deputy chairman Marian Andel, CTK reported. Andel said Johnson had initiated the meeting in order to discuss two lectures he gave in Bratislava on 14 July in which he explained why the U.S. could not support Slovakia as a candidate for the first round of NATO expansion. The lectures caused an angry reaction from Slovak government officials. Johnson and Andel also discussed the case of former deputy Frantisek Gaulieder, who was stripped by the parliament of his deputy's mandate after he quit Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. The Constitutional Court ruled on 25 July that the parliament had acted unconstitutionally. Johnson commented that the U.S. State Department would make an official statement on the case only after the parliament had make known its position. HUNGARIAN ENVIRONMENTALISTS APPEAL TO PREMIER. Nineteen environmentalist groups concerned with the outcome of the Gabcikovo dam trial at the International Court of Justice in The Hague on 30 July wrote to Prime Minister Gyula Horn, asking him not to make a separate deal with his Slovak counterpart, Vladimir Meciar, at their meeting scheduled for 15 August, Hungarian media reported. The letter says that Hungary's aspirations toward European integration justify the "consistent pursuit" of the lawsuit at the International Court of Justice. Since State Secretary Janos Nemcsok's appointment as commissioner for Danube matters, suspicion has been growing that the two countries' leaders are preparing an agreement behind the scenes. Gyoergy Szenasi, Hungary's legal representative in The Hague, said he was not aware of any such deals. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN PREMIER GIVES PRIORITY TO CREATING JOBS. Bashkim Fino and six cabinet ministers held talks with top Italian officials in Rome on 30 July. Fino said the purpose of his trip, which includes attending an international donors' conference on 31 July, is to set priorities for the reconstruction of Albania's economy. He stressed that Tirana is not interested in simply attracting large sums of money from abroad but rather in setting up sound programs that will create jobs. Fino stated that the best thing his government can do is to create an economic environment in which citizens can save, invest, and prosper. He refused, however, to reimburse directly persons who lost their savings in collapsed pyramid schemes earlier this year. His Socialist Party had led people to believe during the recent election campaign that they would indeed be reimbursed for their losses. ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT DEALS WITH PYRAMID IMBROGLIO. The legislature on 30 July approved a measure aimed at controlling the four pyramid investment schemes still functioning. The government now has the power to appoint an administrator for each of the four and to publish lists of the companies' assets. Anastas Angjeli, who heads the parliament's finance committee, said that another law will soon be passed to control how the four disburse money. The 30 July measure also permits investigations of collapsed pyramids to see if any lost investments can still be returned. Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry appealed on television to draft-age men who have not yet served in the military to report for duty and to recent veterans to return to active service. The new government is trying to revive the armed forces, which disintegrated in the anarchy following the collapse of the pyramids. MONTENEGRINS BLOCK ROAD TO ALBANIAN TRUCKS. Local people set up barricades on the main highway near Virpazar in Montenegro in the night of 28-29 July, BETA reported on 30 July. Police intervened to secure passage for a convoy of about 100 trucks carrying scrap metal from Albania, but no further trucks crossed into Montenegro at an illegal border crossing near Ulcinj. The residents of Virpazar are angry about the effects on their environment and infrastructure from the constant stream of trucks. Meanwhile in Tetovo, Macedonia, a local court delayed until October the sentencing of top ethnic Albanian local officials in conjunction with recent unrest over the hoisting of the Albanian flag. And in Novi Pazar in Sandzak, Muslim leaders protested against what they called a systematic campaign by Belgrade to deny the Muslims basic democratic rights. Muslim leaders from Kosovo came to Novi Pazar to express solidarity. BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY TALKS TOUGH ON DAYTON. Robin Cook said after meeting with President Franjo Tudjman on 30 July in Zagreb that "the patience of the international community is running out over the slow progress in implementing the Dayton agreement." Cook added that the international community has "set deadlines" for the return of refugees to their homes and for handing over indicted war criminals to The Hague. In recent days, Cook delivered a similarly tough message to Serbian and Muslim officials in his tour of the region. Cook also said in Zagreb that Croatia can join European institutions "only if it embraces standards of a modern European state." He added that "there is no plot, no conspiracy by the international community to create a south-eastern political union. Former Yugoslavia is finished, nobody is attempting to rebuild it." KARADZIC TO TALK TO WAR CRIMES TEAM? Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, has urged the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to send representatives to Pale to question Radovan Karadzic, BETA reported from Belgrade on 30 July. Krajisnik added that he was sure Karadzic would cooperate with the investigators to clear his name and that "all of [the Bosnian Serbs'] documents and institutions" would be at the investigators' disposal. Krajisnik said Karadzic could easily clear up the war crimes charges against him and that Karadzic's testimony would put an end to what Krajisnik called an international campaign to ascribe to all Serbs a collective guilt for war crimes. Meanwhile in The Hague, the indicted Bosnian Serb Milan Kovacevic appeared before the court for the first time and denied he is guilty of war crimes. CROATIAN UPDATE. Foreign Minister Mate Granic said in Zagreb on 30 July that "a group" of Bosnian Croats is willing to go the war crimes tribunal in The Hague if they have assurance that their cases will be processed within three months, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. Granic's ministry, meanwhile, issued a statement accusing Yugoslavia of trying to force its Croatian minority out of cities, especially Zemun. But Zagreb's soccer club Croatia defeated by a score of 5:0 Belgrade's Partizan, which had won a politically charged match the previous week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 1997). Both matches took place without any serious incidents. And on the island of Hvar, more than 1,000 firemen and numerous volunteers fought a losing battle with a fire that has swept over 3,000 acres. NEW FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF IN ROMANIA. Presidential counselor Catalin Harnagea on 30 July was appointed director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. His predecessor, Ioan Talpes, recently resigned from that post (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 1997). Harnagea, aged 39, has no experience in intelligence work and no party affiliation. He is an engineer by training and worked as a journalist after 1989. In 1997, he graduated from the National Defense College, having written a thesis on "Crisis Management and the Secret Services." Harnagea was Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea's campaign manager when Ciorbea ran for and won the Bucharest mayoralty in the 1996 local elections. ROMANIAN REFORM MINISTER CRITICIZES ECONOMIC SITUATION. Ulm Spineanu told journalists on 30 July that a list of 12 state-owned enterprises slated for immediate liquidation is to be submitted to the government. He said that paying the debts of those companies would require some nine years. Spineanu criticized the general economic situation, saying that although production is steadily decreasing, supply still far exceeds demand on the domestic market. He added that there is a demand for some of those products on foreign markets but that those managers who are incapable of responding must be replaced, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In other news, the World Bank on 30 July announced that it is lending Romania $70 million to promote educational reform. The project will cost $130 million. The remainder of the costs will be covered by the Council of Europe ($14 million) and the Romanian government ($46 million). UNFOLDING SAGA OF HUNGARIAN FLAG IN CLUJ. Gheorghe Funar, the nationalist Cluj mayor, on 30 July again ordered the Hungarian national flag hoisted at Budapest's Cluj consulate to be taken down. The same day, he went to the consulate at a head of a team that included the three persons who recently stole the flag (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1997). The deputy head of the local police ordered the group to leave. The mayor claimed that the hoisted flag was not that of Hungary but one that bore the Hungarian symbols of Transylvania. That allegation was denied by the Hungarian consul in Cluj, RFE/RL's correspondent there reported. TIRASPOL REFUSES TO ALLOW CHISINAU OFFICIAL TO VISIT ALLEGED TERRORIST. The authorities in Tiraspol refused to allow Moldovan presidential counselor Anatol Taranu to visit Ilie Ilascu, who has been sentenced to death for alleged acts of terrorism in December 1993 after being arrested by the Tiraspol authorities in June 1992. Ilascu, who on 30 July celebrated his 45th birthday, is being detained in the Hlinoaia prison. Three other members of the so-called "Ilascu group" are also in prison. The leader of the breakaway region, Igor Smirnov, said he had received no "official request" from Chisinau for the visit, while the chairman of the breakaway region's Supreme Soviet, Grigore Markutsa, said Ilascu is regularly visited by members of his family but other people "may be denied permission" to visit him. Romanian President Emil Constantinescu, the extreme nationalist mayor of Cluj Gheorghe Funar, and the Bucharest Mayor Viorel Lis sent birthday messages to Ilascu, whom many Romanians view as a national hero. BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES LAW ON OPENING COMMUNIST POLICE FILES. The parliament on 30 July approved a bill allowing communist secret police files to be opened (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1997). The opposition Socialist Party deputies walked out of the chamber in protest, saying the bill harmed national security and was anti-constitutional. They said they will contest it in the Constitutional Court, Reuters reported. Deputies representing the third-largest faction in the parliament, the Union for National Salvation, abstained. Under the new law, the files of all members of the parliament, senior government officials, and high-ranking judges will be immediately opened and screened to find out whether they worked for the communist secret services. Within a year, all Bulgarian citizens will have access to their own files. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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