|The only thing one knows about human nature is that it changes. - Oscar Wilde|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 86, Part II, 1 August 1997
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 * LUKASHENKA CANCELS RUSSIAN VISIT * INTERNATIONAL MEETING AGREES TO HELP ALBANIA HELP ITSELF * MORE ETHNIC ALBANIAN POLICE FOR MONTENEGRO End Note : WALKING THE MOLDOVAN TIGHTROPE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE LUKASHENKA CANCELS RUSSIAN VISIT... Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's office announced on 31 July that Lukashenka has canceled a trip to Russia because of the controversy over the journalists from Russia's ORT television network were recently arrested in Belarus, Interfax reported. Lukashenka's office said his visit to Kaliningrad Oblast, due to start on 1 August, has been cancelled at the request of the oblast governor owing to "concern" about the arrests. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has demanded an official explanation from Moscow of the snub, according to ITAR- TASS .A spokesman for Lukashenka's office told journalists that Russian pressure over the issue would seriously hinder the development of bilateral relations. The ORT crew has been officially charged with illegally crossing the Belarusian-Lithuanian border and is being held in custody. Russian President Boris Yeltsin recently expressed his surprise and indignation over the arrests. ...WHILE MORE JOURNALISTS DETAINED IN BELARUS. Fifteen journalists working for local and foreign media were briefly detained in Minsk on 31 July, Belapan reported. The reporters were detained while covering the handing in at the president's office of a petition in support of the jailed Russian television crew. The petition calls for their release. The Belarusian Interior Ministry press service says the 15 journalists detained on 31 July must appear in court on 1 August to face charges of violating restrictions on public rallies. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW SECURITY CHIEF. Leonid Kuchma on 31 July named Vasily Durdinets as chief of the National Bureau of Investigations, ITAR-TASS reported. Durdinets until now was first deputy prime minister. He replaces Oleg Litvak, who was recently appointed prosecutor-general. Kuchma also reappointed Yuri Kostenko as environment minister and named new heads of the Ministries of Justice, Transportation, Information, and Social and Family affairs. ESTONIAN ROUNDUP. Tiit Vahi, former prime minister and chairman of the governing Coalition Party, has announced he will resign from the leadership of the party at its annual congress in December, ETA reported on 31 July. Vahi said he made the decision to resign some time ago. Over the past month, he has increasingly criticized government policies, particularly the plan to impose custom duties and higher taxes. In other news, Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott in Washington on 31 July. Discussions focused on the situation in Europe following the NATO Madrid summit and on Estonian-Russian relations. According to the Estonian Foreign Ministry press service, Talbott commented that Estonia has done a great deal to improve relations with Russia. LITHUANIA TO CONTINUE TO PUSH FOR EU MEMBERSHIP. Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius told journalists on 31 July that his government will give priority to having Lithuania included among the countries invited to begin membership talks with the EU in 1998, Interfax reported. He said the European Commission's July decision to recommend that only six countries receive such an invitation was based partly on "political" criteria. "Such a biased assessment...may create new dividing lines," he commented. Vagnorius also said he was confident that Vilnius will be able to do much to resolve "economic, social, and other problems" before the EU summit in December. In other news, Defense Minister Ceslovas Stankevicius announced on 30 July that a NATO mission will be opened in Lithuania to help promote the country's integration into the alliance and its involvement in the Partnership for Peace program. POLISH, GERMAN OFFICIALS DISCUSS FLOOD RELIEF MEASURES. Polish Finance Minister Marek Belka and Manfred Stolpe, the premier of the neighboring German state of Brandenburg, met on 31 July to discuss ways to regulate the Oder River, which runs along the Polish-German border and has flooded large areas of both countries. Belka told journalists after the meeting that a flood-relief project might be jointly financed by Poland, Germany, and the EU. "We will discuss the topic further and are awaiting comments from the German side," Belka said. Stolpe has also met with Polish Interior Minister Leszek Miller to discuss improving coordination of flood relief efforts. EU COMMISSIONER ON FLOOD DAMAGE IN CZECH REPUBLIC. Emma Bonino, the EU commissioner responsible for humanitarian aid, told journalists in Prague on 31 July that damage and economic losses caused by recent flooding must not be allowed to threaten talks over the Czech Republic's entry into the EU. On the contrary, it was necessary for the EU to show more solidarity, she added. Deputy Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said EU assistance in dealing with flood damage is an opportunity to show Czechs how important the EU is. Meanwhile, Environment Minister Jiri Skalicky, the government's commissioner for dealing with flood damage, rejected the idea that the Czech Republic delayed approaching the EU for aid. "As a decent, civilized country, we had to wait until the EU itself showed an interest in finding out about the situation in the Czech Republic," he said. HUNGARY ALLOCATES $78 MILLION FOR EU, NATO PREPARATIONS IN 1998. "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 1 August that the 1998 budget includes a separate section allocating 14.9 billion forints ($78 million) to cover the costs of preparations for EU and NATO membership. Gusztav Bager, a department head at the Finance Ministry, said the amount represents 2 percent of the total budget. Analysts estimate that 60 percent of the allocated amount will be spent toward EU admission and the remainder toward NATO membership. In addition, individual ministries will allocate funds from their budgets to deal with accession issues. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE INTERNATIONAL MEETING AGREES TO HELP ALBANIA HELP ITSELF. Representatives of more than 30 countries and international organizations agreed with Albanian government leaders in Rome on 31 July to hold two more international aid conferences once the Albanian government finalizes its own program. Franz Vranitzky, who is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's chief envoy to Albania, and the conference's final statement both stressed that the Albanians must quickly restore security and implement democratic practices. The statement said that "all the Albanian parties must admit that the stabilization of the situation rests in their hands first and that international assistance will depend on the degree of cooperation they show towards the international community. Law and order must be re-established in Albania, human rights and democratic rules must be respected." Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini said some Italian troops will remain after 12 August to train security forces. ALBANIAN POLICE TO BEGIN ROUNDING UP GUNS. Pashk Tusha, the police chief of Tirana, said on 31 July that his forces will soon start rounding up the illegal weapons that proliferate in the capital. Tusha added that the project will begin in the suburbs. He stated that citizens in Tirana are tired of the nightly firing of weapons and that "Tirana is more quiet that the rest of the country, so we are able to start the operations immediately." A Greek ship arrived in Durres on 31 July with bullet-proof vests and other equipment to help police in their work. There are an estimated 1 million illegal weapons across Albania, which claim several lives daily. Albanian military sources as say, however, that thefts of large weapons, such as anti-aircraft guns and missiles, have increased recently. Such stolen goods are usually sold abroad. ALBANIAN JUDGES DEFY MINISTRY. A group of judges said in Tirana on 31 July that an order from Justice Minister Thimio Kondi to close the courts during August and urge lawyers to go on vacation was "illegal." Kondi's office claims that many court buildings have been damaged, which, he argues, prohibits the courts from functioning. The judges say that the ministry has no right to tell them what to do and that they suspect that Kondi is trying to curb their independence. Under the previous government, the court system was purged of all Socialists and Democratic Party loyalists appointed to replace them. MORE ETHNIC ALBANIAN POLICE FOR MONTENEGRO. Representatives of the Democratic Union of Albanians political party and Montenegrin Interior Minister Filip Vujanovic agreed in Ulcinj on 31 July to increase the number of ethnic Albanian police. More Albanians will be stationed in areas with large Albanian populations, especially in Ulcinj, BETA reported from that town. A local Albanian leader said there are now only four Albanian policemen in Ulcinj, although ethnic Albanians make up 85 percent of the local population. DJUKANOVIC GOVERNING PARTY CANDIDATE FOR MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENCY. The Republican Election Commission in Podgorica on 31 July registered Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic as the sole official candidate from the Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) for the October elections. Djukanovic said at a campaign kick-off rally that Montenegro wants to continue to be a part of federal Yugoslavia, but only as Serbia's fully equal partner. It seems likely that incumbent President Momir Bulatovic will form a splinter party to challenge Djukanovic. The DPS recently voted Bulatovic out of the party presidency, but he and his allies in Belgrade refuse to recognize that decision. Also in Podgorica, a representative of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal said Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour has accepted the Montenegrin prosecutor's invitation to visit Podgorica, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. SLOVENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER RESIGNS. Zoran Thaler submitted his resignation as foreign minister in Ljubljana on 31 July. Thaler said in a statement that some Slovenian politicians for purely political reasons have been undercutting his efforts to integrate Slovenia in Western and European institutions and that he cannot continue under those circumstances. Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek has asked him to reconsider his decision. Some deputies in the parliament strongly opposed constitutional amendments necessary for Slovenia to secure associate membership in the EU. The changes, which allow foreigners to own property, were finally approved on 15 July. Many Slovenes fear that Italians whose families fled Slovenia at the end of World War II will now buy up scarce land. SANDZAK MUSLIM LEADER BLASTS SERBIAN "COLONIALISM." Sulejman Ugljanin, a political leader of Sandzak's Muslims, told a Belgrade radio station on 31 July that the latest trial against him proves "there is no democracy in Serbia and the authorities have a colonial attitude to the Sandzak region." The Serbian authorities have recently removed the legally elected Muslim government of Novi Pazar, stripped Ugljanin of his parliamentary immunity, and put him on trial. Meanwhile in Brussels, the EU appealed to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to permit international observers to monitor the Serbian presidential and legislative elections slated for 21 September. The EU also upbraided Belgrade for not implementing earlier OSCE recommendations on electoral reform and media freedom. WESTENDORP SAYS NO IMMUNITY FOR BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMINALS. A spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the chief international negotiator in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo that anyone who has been indicted by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal is liable to arrest. Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, had cited "security concerns" as his reason for not attending a recent meeting with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on Bosnian government territory. Westendorp's spokesman replied to Krajisnik's remarks: "If Mr. Krajisnik feels that he's on a list somewhere, that's for him and his conscience. We welcome the process of sealed indictments, we think it's good, and if its strikes terror into the hearts of those that should be frightened then we're all for it." MORE INTER-ETHNIC INCIDENTS NEAR TUZLA. Angry crowds of Serbs turned back between 40 and 50 Muslims who were trying to return to their village of Svjetlica on 30 July. Some of the Muslims were soldiers, and one Muslim was injured in a fist-fight with the Serbs. A few days earlier, Muslims beat up Serbs near the village of Ratkovici. On 31 July, up to 300 Muslims blocked a road to protest that their village is to be included in a Croatian municipality. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, OSCE representatives slammed Bosnian Serb Television for engaging in propaganda in "gross violation" of the rules set down in the Dayton agreement. Some recent broadcasts have used racist epithets against UN personnel, and others have claimed that NATO planes were dropping poisons and vermin onto the Republika Srpska. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel and U.S. Senator Carl Levin have called on NATO to jam the broadcasts. ROMANIAN TRADE UNIONS WALK OUT OF MEETING WITH PREMIER. Representatives of Romania's largest trade unions on 31 July walked out of a scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea after the premier did not appear on time. They accused the government of failing to provide documentation for the meeting on the discussions under way with the IMF and of changing the meeting's agenda. They also said that various ministers were providing contradictory information on privatization plans. One of the unions' leaders commented that there are only two possible solutions: the resignation of the government as a whole or an immediate reshuffle. The trade unions said that they will not return to the negotiating table unless President Emil Constantinescu takes part in the talks, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Premier Ciorbea blamed the discord in the government on the "lack of communication" among ministers. ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER RESPONDS TO CLUJ MAYOR. Adrian Severin on 31 July accused Cluj Mayor Gheorghe Funar of pursuing "separatist" and "segregationist" policies in Cluj, Radio Bucharest reported. He said Funar's recent statements are likely to create "tension and confusion" and to "seriously harm" Romania's interests. Severin also said Hungary has expressed concern about the mayor's actions opposing the hoisting of the Hungarian flag at the Cluj consulate. But he added that Budapest does not view those developments as endangering bilateral relations or as in any way reflecting "Romanian state policy or the feelings of the Romanian people." Also on 31 July, Funar addressed another open letter to Severin reiterating claims that hoisting the flag was illegal and that the Hungarian national emblem represents "Greater Hungary" since one of its six symbols is the Hungarian crest of Transylvania. WORLD BANK WORRIED ABOUT MOLDOVAN REFORMS. Roger Grawe, the new chief of the World Bank's department for Moldova, expressed concern about the slow pace of Moldovan reforms at a meeting in Chisinau on 31 July with Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc. He said the bank will monitor Moldovan developments in August and then make a decision on whether to approve a credit for structural reforms, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Grawe said the World Bank was concerned that the Moldovan parliament will slow down the passage of legislation on reforms ahead of the elections scheduled for early 1998. BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW COAT OF ARMS. The parliament on 31 July approved a new coat of arms to replace the one abolished in 1991, Reuters reported. The new crest replaces a red star above a lion with the crown of the 14th century monarch Ivan Shishman above the lion. The dispute over the new coat of arms had divided the legislature for seven years. During the communist era, the Saxe-Coburg crown on the country's emblem was replaced by a red star. After 1989, the Socialist Party remained opposed to reintroducing the crown because it wanted no symbols of the monarchy on the crest. In July 1996, the then Socialist-dominated parliament approved an uncrowned lion as the country's official post-communist emblem, but former President Zhelyu Zhelev vetoed that decision. The coat of arms approved on 31 July is a compromise since the crown of the former Saxe-Coburg dynasty was replaced by that of Ivan Shishman. END NOTE WALKING THE MOLDOVAN TIGHTROPE by Michael Shafir More than a few eyebrows must have been raised when Moldovan Foreign Minister Valeriu Pasat paid a two-day visit to Romania on 24-25 July and agreed with his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, to set up a "joint peacekeeping unit." That agreement follows a recent pattern triggered in part by the efforts of would-be NATO members to "prove" to the West that their militaries can be "providers of security, not merely security consumers" (as Romanian officials recently put it) and to demonstrate that territorial disputes with neighbors are being resolved. While reaching an agreement to set up joint peacekeeping units has evidently become a rite of passage for NATO candidacy, it has seldom been followed up in practice. A Hungarian-Romanian peacekeeping unit has been in the offing for more than half a year, and there has also been talk about setting up Romanian-Ukrainian and Romanian-Polish units. More recently, Bulgaria followed suit when it decided to set up a joint peace-keeping unit with neighboring Turkey. But while the Romanians are clearly still hoping to gain entry to NATO in a second wave of expansion, the question to be asked is why the Moldovans would be keen on such a unit. President Petru Lucinschi has repeatedly emphasized that Moldova intends to keep its neutrality and that NATO membership can be considered only sometime in the distant future, following Moldova's integration into the EU (which is clearly far from being imminent). The question is all the more relevant given that Transdniester separatists cite the "danger" of Moldova's reunification with Romania as the main reason for pursuing independence. Why should Chisinau, then, wish to provide Tiraspol with additional ammunition? While it is true that both Babiuc and Pasat stressed that the envisaged unit will not be deployed in the Transdniester, such statements are unlikely to convince Igor Smirnov's supporters. Viewed from this angle, Pasat's expressed interest in the purchase of PUMA helicopters produced in Romania under U.S. license seems to have verged on irresponsibility. It was also unclear why such intentions were made public. Furthermore, the 24 July agreement states that Moldovan officers would receive instruction at Romanian military establishments. Moldovan Chief of Staff Gen. Vladimir Dontu, who accompanied Pasat to the Romanian capital, explained that the Moldovan officer corps could not be trained in Russia because Moscow conditioned such collaboration on participation in the CIS collective security system, to which Moldova does not belong. He added, however, that problems may arise with the plan to have officers trained in Romania because Moldovans do not have sufficient command of Romanian. The Moldovans' seemingly strange behavior was soon explained, however. Shortly after Pasat's visit, it transpired that the "Bucharest show" was a smoke screen designed to pre-empt criticism of a real policy departure being prepared by the Chisinau government and likely to enrage the pro-unification opposition. No sooner had Pasat returned from Bucharest than he left on another visit, this time to Moscow. And it was "not a coincidence" (as "Pravda" used to write) that he reached there two agreements (one of which is still to be signed at deputy premier level) that seemed carbon-copies of those concluded in Bucharest. There was one significant difference, however: Russian, not Romanian, troops are stationed on Moldova's territory. Nothing was said about the significance of the agreements for Moldova's non- integration in the CIS collective-security structures. But while Pasat was still in Moscow, an announcement was made in Chisinau that a CIS summit in the Moldovan capital in early fall was "under consideration." That nothing Pasat and Dontu did or said in Bucharest was "coincidental" was demonstrated at the end of the visit to Moscow, when it was revealed that Moldova was studying the possibility of purchasing Russian-made helicopters. The agreements reached in Moscow provide for the instruction of Moldovan officers at Russian military establishments (where they apparently will have no communication problems) and for joint military maneuvers of "peacekeeping forces." The first such maneuvers are to be held in Moldova in October. The location has not yet been specified, but it is a safe bet that it will not be in the Transdniester. To hold maneuvers on that territory would infringe on what Tiraspol regards as its "sovereignty," which, such as it is, would not exist without the continued presence of the Russian troops. While in Moscow, Pasat discussed with Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin the withdrawal of the Russian troops and the ratification by Russia of the basic treaty with Chisinau. The agreement on the withdrawal dates back to 1994 and that on the basic treaty to 1992. This, in itself, says volumes about Chisinau's recent show of tightrope-walking. While such a feat may be taken for skillful diplomacy, the origins of the metaphor should not be forgotten -- namely, the circus. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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