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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 90, Part II, 7 August1997
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 * BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES CHARGE THIRD MEMBER OF ORT CREW * WORLD BANK ADVISES POLAND ON EU MEMBERSHIP * IMF SETS DOWN TERMS FOR ALBANIAN AID xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE Belarusian authorities on 6 August filed charges of illegally entering Belarus against the driver of a Russian television crew, RFE/RL's correspondent in Minsk reported. Yaroslav Ovchinnikov is part of an ORT news team that was detained late last month on charges they illegally crossed the Belarusian border from neighboring Lithuania. An ORT reporter and his cameraman have already been formally charged. Ovchinnikov was released from detention on 6 August after signing a pledge not to leave the country. Belarusian KGB spokesman Col. Gennady Sinyukov told journalists that Ovchinnikov was charged with complicity in violating the country's border and still faces up to five years in prison if convicted. UKRAINE SIGNS IMF COOPERATION MEMORANDUM. Ukrainian Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko and Ukrainian National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko on 6 August signed a cooperation memorandum with the IMF, Interfax reported. The memorandum was sent to the IMF the same day. The IMF board of directors will discuss a $525 million standby loan to Ukraine on 25 August. The loan will be provided over a period from July 1997 through July 1998, with the first IMF inspection scheduled for November. Ukrainian officials hope the standby loan program may be transformed into an Extended Fund Facility program later this year. The IMF has made such a change conditional on accelerating reforms in Ukraine. The approval of the Extended Fund Facility program would give Ukraine a chance to resume talks on World Bank loans. UKRAINE'S CHANGE OF VISA RULES CAUSES CONFUSION. Mykola Lesnikovsky, chief of the Kyiv international airport's consular department, told journalists on 6 August that dozens of foreign visitors have been sent back to their home countries from the airport in recent days after Ukraine tightened its rules for issuing visas. He said that visas previously were available to arriving passengers at the airport. But as of 1 August, the only people allowed to obtain visas at the airport have been citizens of countries where Ukraine has no embassy. He said visitors from countries where Ukraine does have an embassy have been turned back at the airport. Several of the people turned away were from the U.S. Ukraine's Foreign Ministry adopted the new policy in 1993, but it was only put into force on 1 August ESTONIA SECRETLY BOUGHT KGB FILES. The Estonian security police five years ago secretly bought files on some 500 KGB agents, "Postimees" reported on 6 August. The Estonian authorities managed to buy KGB agent files or their copies in the summer of 1992. They refuse to say who the source was. "What exactly (was obtained) and how the Estonian authorities obtained those documents I cannot comment," director of the Defense Police Juri Pihl told the newspaper. He said the files did not name any senior Estonian state officials as agents. "I can only confirm this one thing: the defense police has no KGB materials that would place anybody's oath of conscience under doubt," Pihl said. Estonia requires its MPs and senior state officials to take a so-called oath of conscience in which they swear that they did not collaborate with the KGB or other intelligence agencies of countries that occupied Estonia. NEW LATVIAN GOVERNMENT SAYS EU IS PRIORITY. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs told Reuters on 6 August that Latvia's incoming government would work to ensure that Latvia meets EU criteria so it is asked to start membership talks by an EU summit in December. The summit will decide on new members. He also said the country will accelerate economic reforms. The European Commission in July said Latvia was not ready to start early talks on EU entry. Of the Baltic states, only Estonia was chosen by the Commission to begin early talks. Birkavs also said the new government would complete privatization by the middle of next year and stick to tough monetary policies. The previous government collapsed after outgoing Prime Minister Andris Shkele quarrelled with his coalition partners. A parliamentary vote to confirm the new government is to be held on 7 August. LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT ORDERS INVESTIGATION INTO JEWISH DESECRATION. Algirdas Brazauskas on 6 August ordered police to investigate the desecration of a Jewish monument in the capital of Vilnius. It was the second such act of vandalism in a month. BNS reported that in the most recent case, authorities discovered on 6 August that a monument marking the site of Vilnius' oldest Jewish cemetery had been covered with graffiti and painted with swastikas. In a statement, Brazauskas called the desecration a "shameful act undermining the prestige of our state." He called for better care of the Jewish cultural heritage in Lithuania. In July, a memorial stone marking the site of the Vilnius ghetto was removed by vandals. WORLD BANK ADVISES POLAND ON EU MEMBERSHIP. The World Bank has given Poland a list of steps the country needs to take if it wants to become a full-fledged member of the European Union. In a report published in Polish media on 6 August, the bank advises a 6 percent reduction in public expenditures, which currently stand at 48 percent of the GDP and improved conditions for investment. The report says that to lower public expenditure, Poland must reform its pension system, privatize and restructure state-owned enterprises and banks, and "introduce regulatory reforms to increase private sector and foreign participation in infrastructure development." In addition, the World Bank suggests cutting income tax, which would be compensated by the scrapping of preferential Value Added Tax rates and improved tax administration. The report also advises Poland to eliminate "bureaucratic micro-management still dominant in some areas of imports" and to introduce "comprehensive judicial reforms. POLISH PARTIES ON COALITION CRISIS. The co-ruling Polish Peasant Party (PSL) wants the government's Agriculture Market Agency to pay in advance for cereals bought from farmers. But Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz refused to discuss the demands at the cabinet meeting on 5 August, leading to a coalition crisis (RFE/RL Newsline 5 August). Co-ruling Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland (SdRP) leader Jozef Oleksy said on 6 August that buying cereals is not a matter of contention., but the PSL's position on the matter may be an attempt to win peasants' votes. The leader of the opposition centrist Freedom Union Leszek Balcerowicz called the PSL's proposal to remove Cimoszewicz "a tasteless pre-electoral maneuver." Labor Union leader Ryszard Bugaj called changing the prime minister two months before the elections irresponsible. POLISH ARISTOCRATS CLAIM OWNERSHIP OF U.S. EMBASSY LAND. More than 70 members of an old Polish aristocratic family gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw on 7 August claiming ownership to the land on which the embassy stands. Members of the Czetwertynski family say the land was confiscated by the communist regime after World War Two and then leased--illegally, they maintain-- to the United States. The palace of the late Princess Roza Czetwertynska stood on the site until 1960, when the United States tore it down to build the embassy. After War World Two, the Polish communist government leased the property to the United States for 80 years. The U.S. embassy issued a statement today saying their lease was valid, and that the dispute is between the family and the Polish government. UPDATE ON LOST CZECH INTELLIGENCE DATA. The daily "Pravo" wrote on 7 August that Internal Affairs Ministry spokesman Jan Subrt has confirmed that the data contained in a portable computer stolen last week from an agent of The Bureau for Foreign Contacts and Information (UZSI), one of the three top Czech intelligence agencies, were rated "secret." (see RFE/RL Newsline, 5 August 1997). The spokesman said, however, the security of the Czech Republic was not compromised by the theft. "Lidove noviny" on 7 August quoted Subrt as saying that the sudden emergence of the affair in the media could be "an intentional provocation" aimed at compromising the Czech Republic after it was recently invited to join NATO. Some government officials have agreed with this hypothesis. Meanwhile, some opposition politicians have demanded Ruml's resignation over his failure to inform the parliament and the government about the incident. U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION URGES RENEWAL OF SLOVAK POLITICIAN'S MANDATE. The U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe has called on Slovak Parliament Chairman Ivan Gasparovic to take the lead in restoring the mandate of former deputy Frantisek Gaulieder, RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported on 6 August. Gaulieder was stripped of his seat in December 1996 after he left Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. The Slovak Constitutional Court has ruled that Gaulieder's removal was unconstitutional. In a letter to Gasparovic, the U.S. commission said the Slovak parliament's response to the court ruling will either provide more evidence that Slovakia is not committed to the rule of law, or, that it has taken a step away from isolation and toward rejoining the community of democratic nations. Meanwhile, German Ambassador to Slovakia Ludger Buerstedde stressed during a meeting on 6 August with Slovak Parliament Foreign Committee Chairman Dusan Slobodnik that the parliament should restore Gaulieder's mandate, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. HUNGARIAN DEPUTY RESIGNS OVER SECRET SERVICE LINKS. Socialist deputy Imre Simon said on 6 August he will give up his parliamentary seat on account of his collaboration with the secret service during communism, Hungarian media reported. Simon, who is also a local government leader and member of the European Parliament, was told by a panel of judges in June that they had found data on his collaboration with the communist secret service. Simon said he had been recruited in 1966 after his military service, before starting to pursue higher education studies. Socialist party deputy chairman Gyoergy Janosi said the announcement surprised him. The Socialist party's parliamentary faction and the party's leadership will discuss the matter. HUNGARIAN HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIAL REJECTS GYPSY COMPENSATION PLAN. The chairman of the parliament's Human Rights, Minorities and Religious Affairs Committee, Gabor Kis Gellert, opposes the idea of collective compensation for Hungarian Gypsies who suffered under the Holocaust, Hungarian media reported on 7 August. According to the Socialist deputy, such a solution, demanded recently by the National Gypsy Minority Council (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1997), would be unprecedented in Hungarian history. He said he would prefer a case-by-case compensation, like that given to other Holocaust survivors SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE IMF SETS DOWN TERMS FOR ALBANIAN AID. The IMF will provide emergency assistance for Albania, but long-term aid will depend on whether the Albanian government meets certain conditions, news agencies reported from Washington on 6 August. The IMF insists that the authorities restore security, consolidate their control over all parts of the country, close down the pyramid schemes, establish satisfactory tax records, and cut the budget deficit. An IMF spokesman said that plans to help Albania have been worked out and that an IMF delegation will go to Tirana in the coming weeks. In the Albanian capital, Finance Minister Arben Malaj expressed appreciation for the proposed package. He added that "after Bosnia and Georgia, we are the third country in IMF history to benefit from such a program, and it is vital to convince foreign investors to invest in Albania." POLITICAL HOUSE-CLEANING IN ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT... President Rexhep Mejdani sacked Ilir Zhilla as head of the state-run ATA news agency on 5 August and replaced him with independent journalist Frrok Cupi. The next day, however, Cupi refused the political appointment. Justice Minister Thimio Kondi told department chiefs in his ministry to resign voluntarily or be fired, "Albania" reported on 6 August. On 4 August, Defense Minister Sabit Brokaj had similarly warned unnamed top-ranking officers appointed by the previous government to resign lest they be fired and put on trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1997). But on 5 August, army Chief-of-Staff General Adem Copani held talks in Tirana with visiting Greek officials and concluded an agreement on Greek aid to the Albanian military. Copani was appointed by former President Sali Berisha. ...AND IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY. The National Council of the Democratic Party met in Tirana on 5 August to fire some leaders as scapegoats for the party's disastrous defeat in the June vote. Victims include former party Chairman Tritan Shehu and former Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Meksi blasted the decisions of the secret meeting and compared the National Council's methods to those of the late communist dictator Enver Hoxha's Party of Labor. Meksi was a founding member of the Democrats in 1991. Most of the other founders also have since parted ways from Berisha. ALBANIAN POLICE REPORT SUCCESS IN TIGHTENING SECURITY. Police officials in the southern town of Saranda, opposite the Greek island of Corfu, told ATA on 6 April that they have secured two important roads leading out of the town.. Police said they were able to break the power of armed gangs along the Saranda-Muzina road toward the seashore and the Saranda-Borsh toward Vlora despite the fact that the police lack basic equipment and vehicles. Buses left Saranda for Tirana and elsewhere for the first time in four months. And in Vlora, police reported a limited but growing number of phone calls from citizens wanting to turn in illegally held weapons. The police reported that callers say they do not need guns if the police can restore order. Weapons collections depots are now operating around the clock. HOLBROOKE CONFERS WITH TOP MILITARY IN BOSNIA. Richard Holbrooke, the former U.S. envoy who hammered out the Dayton peace agreement in 1995, began the second day of his latest Balkan trip by meeting on 7 August in Tuzla with U.S. Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and U.S. General Wesley Clark, NATO's supreme military commander. There were no official reports of what the men discussed, but Holbrooke wants to arrest indicted war criminals such as Radovan Karadzic. The NATO troops, for their part, would be an essential part of any operation to catch Karadzic and send him to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. After his meeting in Tuzla, Holbrooke went on to Sarajevo to meet with the members of the three-man joint presidency. A U.S. spokesman said that "bad flying weather" forced Holbrooke to postpone a meeting with Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic in Banja Luka. BOSNIAN AND CROATIAN PRESIDENTS PLEDGE TO ENFORCE DAYTON AGREEMENT. Holbrooke met in Split on 6 August with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and his Bosnian counterpart Alija Izetbegovic. The U.S. diplomat secured pledges from the two presidents to allow all refugees from the Jajce area to go home by 12 August and to bring to justice by 17 August those responsible for recent incidents against Muslim refugees (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 6 August 1997). More border crossings are to be opened, while proper frontier checks will be set up on the often uncontrolled border between Croatia and Herzegovinian Croat territory. Meeting alone, the presidents also agreed to launch talks on Bosnia's use of the Croatian port of Ploce and on Croatia's transit rights through Bosnia's tiny stretch of the Adriatic coast. The future agreement also will cover property rights and dual citizenship, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Split. The two sides have been trying to solve these questions for years. MORE TORCHINGS NEAR JAJCE. Spokesmen for NATO peacekeepers said in Sarajevo on 6 August that seven more Muslim-owned homes were burned near Jajce the previous night. Meanwhile in Banja Luka, Plavsic announced on 7 August that elections to the Republika Srpska parliament will take place on 10-12 October. Her political rivals do not recognize her recent dissolution of the existing parliament, however. And in Munich, the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" reported that Karadzic told that paper that he is ready to stand trial for war crimes provided the trial is held in the Republika Srpska. Western officials said, however, that Karadzic must go to The Hague. According to an agreement Karadzic reached with international mediators last year, he is not supposed to take any part in public life, which includes giving interviews. His latest remarks appear to be a response to Holbrooke's demands for Karadzic's arrest. MONTENEGRO SAYS SERBIA HAS IMPOSED "ECONOMIC BLOCKADE." Montenegrin Trade Minister Branko Vujovic said in Podgorica on 7 August that Serbia has put the mountainous republic under an "economic blockade." Vujovic added that this is Serbia's way of "punishing" the Montenegrin leadership for its increasing independence vis-a-vis Belgrade. Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and other top officials have in recent months slammed Belgrade's policies as harmful to Montenegro's interests. The small republic is dependent on shipping and tourism, and has accordingly suffered because of federal Yugoslavia's international isolation. On 6 August, supporters of pro-Belgrade President Momir Bulatovic held a break- away party congress of the governing Democratic Socialist Party in Kolasin. The meeting underscored the growing split in the party, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from that town. The main party organization backs Djukanovic and has removed Bulatovic from the party presidency. In Belgrade, the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement criticized the government's attempts to "pressure" Montenegro. IMF PRAISES ROMANIA'S REVISED BUDGET. The chief IMF negotiator for Romania, Poul Thomsen, is praising the restructured Romanian budget but adds that more effort is necessary to liquidate loss- making industries and state farms, Reuters reported. While announcing an agreement to extend the country's external debt ceiling by $500 million to $3.7 billion, Thomsen sidestepped questions on whether he would recommend to the IMF board to release the second $86 million installment of the standby credit agreed to last April. On the same day, Thomsen met Premier Victor Ciorbea, who then headed another meeting of the government on the budget and postponed a scheduled press conference for one day. Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara met with representatives of the World Bank. In an interview with RFE/RL, Minister of Reforms Ulm Spineanu said he had submitted a "blank resignation" to Ciorbea. He said he intends to activate the resignation if his program for reforms is not implemented. ROYAL VISIT MARRED BY BOMB THREAT. An anonymous telephone call caused the cancellation of a scheduled visit by Romania's former king to a market in the Transylvanian town of Oradea, Mediafax reported on 6 August. The anonymous caller threatened to blow up the city hall and a local church unless the former king's visit to the town was cancelled. The mayoralty decided to go on with the visit plans, but cancelled the visit to the market. King Michael is on a private visit to western Romania. The trip began on 3 August in Timisoara. OSCE MISSION TO MOLDOVA PROPOSES SHRINKING SECURITY ZONE. The head of the OSCE mission to Moldova, Donald Johnson, says the security zone dividing the two conflicting sides should be shrunk, transforming its northern and southern sectors into demilitarized zones. In an article published in "Mirotvorets," Johnson says checkpoints in the zone should be reduced to enhance mutual confidence. He said the presence of pro-Chisinau "border guards" and pro-Tiraspol "Cossacks" in the demilitarized zone violated the 1992 agreement on setting up the zone and they should leave, BASA-press reported. In other news, the deputy commander of the Russian "Operative Group" in the Transdniester, Col. Aleksandr Baranov, denied a report on the delay of the evacuation of Russian equipment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1997). He said no decision on the evacuation has yet been taken, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT READY TO RECOGNIZE BESSARABIAN CHURCH. A representative of the government on 6 August told the Chisinau Court of Appeals that the government was now ready to extend official recognition to the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church (BMB), which is subordinated to the Bucharest Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate. The government had refused recognition of the church for five years, recognizing only the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which is subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate. The court was about to rule on litigation between the government and the BMB and the government had appealed against a decision of the Chisinau Tribunal recognizing the BMB. The government representative said official recognition would be extended on 13 August, BASA-press reported. BULGARIA'S SOCIALISTS TO APPEAL AGAINST OPENING OF FILES. Bulgaria's main opposition Socialist Party plans to appeal to the Constitutional Court against the new law on the opening of communist era secret police files, Reuters reported on 6 August. A spokeswoman for the Socialists said the law contravenes the constitution, violates citizens' rights and harms national security. BULGARIA'S RIVAL MOSLEM COUNCILS PLAN UNIFICATION. Nadim Gendzhev and Fikri Sali, the heads of the two rival Moslem Councils (the High Moslem Council and the High Spiritual Council), on 6 August signed a declaration agreeing to hold a joint conference and unify the councils, Reuters reported. In March 1995, more than 1,000 Moslems at a special national conference voted to restore Sali as Chief Mufti, a position he held from 1992 to November 1994, when Gendzhev (first appointed Chief Mufti in 1988, under the Todor Zhivkov regime) replaced him. The vote followed allegations that Gendzhev had worked for the communist secret services. The Socialist government, however, refused registration on grounds that a registered Moslem council already existed. 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