|It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 91, Part II, 8 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 *NEW LATVIAN GOVERNMENT CONFIRMED BY PARLIAMENT *STOLEN MISSILES FOUND IN ALBANIA *ROMANIAN LABOR PROTEST xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE SUPPORT FOR BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT HIGH. A poll conducted by the Minsk-based Independent Institute for Social, Economic and Political Research indicates that more than 45 percent of Belarusian voters would vote for incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka if the presidential elections were held now, Interfax reported on 7 August. More than half of the respondents said they hoped Lukashenka would take the country out of the economic crisis. Some 3.5 percent of respondents said they wanted to see former Parliamentary Chairman Stanislau Shushkevich as president. RUSSIA CRITICAL OF NAVAL EXERCISES IN BLACK SEA. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said in Moscow on 7 August that Russia will not take part in international naval exercises which will be held later this month in the Black Sea on Ukraine's initiative, Itar- Tass reported. The exercises, called Sea Breeze-97, are scheduled to be held off Crimea's coast. They will involve ships from Ukraine, the U.S. and other countries. Russia has repeatedly criticized the exercises in the past. Sergeyev said the Russian military does not understand the aim and tasks of these exercises. Nevertheless, Sergeyev also said he has a positive attitude to joint undertakings by the navies of Russia and Ukraine. He said Russia and Ukraine have decided to conduct their own joint naval exercises, which he said would have "a peace-keeping character." NEW LATVIAN GOVERNMENT CONFIRMED BY PARLIAMENT. The government of new Latvian Prime Minister Guntar Krasts was formally voted into power by parliament on 7 August, BNS reported. Krasts leads a six-party coalition that ranges from nationalists to left- of-center parties. His government was supported by 73 deputies in the 100-seat parliament; his coalition has 67 seats. Krasts, economy minister in the previous government, said he would stick to the strict monetary and budget policies of former Prime Minister Andris Shkele. He also has vowed to accelerate economic reforms and strive for Latvia's membership in the European Union and NATO. LATVIA PROTESTS RUSSIAN TAX AUTHORITIES' ACTIONS. Einar Repshe, the president of the Bank of Latvia, told journalists on 7 August that the activities of St. Petersburg tax police might negatively affect Russian-Latvian economic relations. His comments came after the police froze the accounts of 14 Baltic banks, including eight from Latvia. Viktor Kononov, a Russian tax police official told journalists on 7 August that the 14 Baltic banks failed to pay value added taxes amounting to some 200 billion rubles to the Russian federal budget. Theodoras Tveriyonas, Latvia's Chairman of the Association of Commercial Banks, said on 7 August that it is "absurd" to suspend payment transactions from accounts of Latvian banks because of non-paid taxes He said the value added tax should be paid by bank customers, rather than by the banks. The Latvia Foreign Ministry has asked the Russian Foreign Ministry for an explanation. LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT WANTS REGULAR NEIGHBOR SUMMITS. Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas told journalists on 7 August that he would like next month's conference organized by the Lithuanian and Polish presidents to turn into "a regular event." The presidents of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine and Belarus, and the Russian prime minister are to take part in the 5-6 September conference in Vilnius. The conference is titled "Coexistence of Nations and Good Neighborly Relations as a Guarantor of Security and Stability in Europe." Brazauskas met with the organizing committee for the conference on 7 August. Petras Vaitiekunas, foreign policy adviser to the Lithuanian president, told BNS that the idea of adopting a joint declaration at the conference "has been given up." He said only very general and "empty" phrases could be included in such a communique because of the different stances of the participating states on many issues. SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER IN POLAND. Goran Persson on 7 August visited Poland's devastated southwestern regions to determine how his country can help in reconstruction after the recent floods. A Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman told journalists Persson wanted first-hand information on the situation. Persson flew by helicopter to flood-hit provinces of Walbrzych and Opole to inspect the scope of damage. He was accompanied by Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz. POLISH TV BOARD NAMING SURROUNDED BY CONTROVERSY. Poland's National Radio and Television Council (KRRiT), the electronic media watchdog, on 7 August appointed seven people linked to ruling coalition political parties to public television's new supervisory board. The move raised concern over news media freedom before next month's parliamentary elections, Reuter reported. "People connected to the ruling coalition have a seven-person controlling package and can do what they want. This does not augur well," said KRRiT head Boleslaw Sulik. Sulik, linked to the opposition, was outvoted by KRRiT members allied with government parties. Allies of the ruling parties also were appointed to the supervisory board of public radio. The board of public television appoints the management and shapes program policies. ANOTHER CZECH COALITION ROW IN THE OFFING. The Christian Democratic Union (KDU-CSL), one of the three Czech government parties, on 7 August sent a letter to Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec, who is a member of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party. In the letter, the KDU-CSL asked the foreign ministry to explain why it has refused offers of foreign aid from abroad in the wake of recent catastrophic floods. The letter was sent by Parliament foreign chairman Josef Holan of the KDU-CSL. The third coalition party, the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), said on 7 August that it considers the KDU-CSL's request for an explanation to be "justified." The government's chief representative for flood relief, Environment Minister Jiri Skalicky of the ODA, on 7 August rejected a claim by a foreign ministry spokesman that he was in charge of deciding about using various offers of aid. Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Winkler told journalists on 7 August that his ministry registered and positively reacted to all such offers. CZECH BANK LODGES COMPLAINT AGAINST SLOVAKIA. The daily "Pravo" reported on 7 August that the first Czech-Slovak court dispute since the division of the Czechoslovak Federation in 1993 will begin in the international arbitration court in Washington. The Czechoslovak Commercial Bank (CSOB), two-thirds of which are owned by the Czech state, has lodged a complaint against the Slovak Republic for its failure to repay the bank a debt of approximately 11 billion crowns of the Slovak Inkasni bank, which was guaranteed by the Slovak Finance Ministry four years ago. The Washington court has already called on both sides to name their representatives to a three-member senate of arbitrators. The court proceedings in Washington could last up to two years. The dispute could be handed over to the International Court of Justice in the Hague if Slovakia does not comply with a court ruling. SLOVAK PRESIDENT, CZECH SENATE CHAIRMAN MEET. Slovak President Michal Kovac and Czech Senate Chairman Petr Pithart met at the Strbske Pleso holiday resort in the High Tatra mountains on 7 August, to discuss the situation in the two countries. No details of their discussion were released to the press. They agreed to meet again next week, the Czech Senate press office told CTK. Kovac and Pithart are both spending their holidays in the Slovak mountains. HUNGARIAN POLITICIANS' FUTURE TROUBLED BY PhD DISSERTATION? Data protection commissioner Laszlo Majtenyi ruled that doctoral dissertations of Prime Minister Gyula Horn and Independent Smallholders' Party chairman Jozsef Torgyan should be made available to the general public, Hungarian media reported on 8 August. Journalists who sought access to the texts were refused by the Academy of Sciences. Horn said he has no objection, and that he is "standing by" his 1977 dissertation on Yugoslav economic policy. Torgyan's dissertation, written in 1954, deals with the post World War II peace treaties, and praises the "extremely generous attitude displayed by the Soviet Union regarding reparations to be paid by Hungary." It stresses that contrary to "treaty-breaching imperialists," the Soviet Union fought to establish a fair burden for small states. Smallholder adviser Andras Varhelyi said the attempt to discredit Torgyan is part of a "disgusting political campaign." SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE STOLEN MISSILES FOUND IN ALBANIA. Albanian police and army experts on 7 August found some 15 stolen surface-to-surface and surface-to-air Chinese Silkworm-type missiles in Lazarat near Gjirokaster. The police know who stole the missiles from an underground tunnel on 20 July and are on the thieves' trail (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 23 July 1997). Defense Minister Sabit Brokaj said in Tirana that the crooks planned to dismantle the missiles and sell them in Greece, but that increased security along the border thwarted their plans. GANG WAR RAGES IN VLORA. Some 100 masked gunmen paraded down Vlora's main street in military vehicles and shot in the air in a show of force on 7 August. A gun battle with a rival gang ensued, sending ordinary citizens fleeing to their homes for cover. Two members of one gang were wounded. Fellow gang members sealed off the hospital where the two were taken lest the rival gang try to take revenge on the wounded men. Interior Minister Neritan Ceka said on 6 August in Tirana that a special police force has gone to Vlora to collect information on the gangs. CLINTON PLEDGES HELP FOR ALBANIA. U.S. President Bill Clinton has sent Prime Minister Fatos Nano a letter in which he promises to back the reconstruction and democratization of Albania, news agencies reported from Tirana on 7 August. Clinton wrote that "the United States and our partners in the international community are ready to assist your government in its pursuit of meaningful political and economic reform necessary to restore normal conditions in your country. Your pledge to include the broad spectrum of political forces in the governing process is very encouraging in light of the political polarization that has afflicted your society. The civil unrest and economic uncertainty affecting your country present your government with a tremendous task." KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR SHOOTINGS. The clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) issued a statement in Pristina on 7 August in which it said it carried out the recent shootings of two Serbian policemen and an ethnic Albanian close to the Serbian authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1997). The statement added that the UCK "will continue with actions until the complete liberation of the ethnic [Albanian] territories" is achieved. It warned the international community not to wait and react "too late, after the massacre that threatens the Balkans." Up until late 1996, the UCK carried out only occasional and random attacks, such as spraying Serbian cafes with gunfire. HALF A LOAF FOR HOLBROOKE. U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke met in Lukavica on Bosnian Serb territory on 7 August with the three members of the Bosnian joint presidency: the Muslim Alija Izetbegovic, the Croat Kresimir Zubak, and the Serb Momcilo Krajisnik. Holbrooke secured agreements to reestablish a joint telephone system and to authorize new ambassadorial appointments, but failed to secure one on war criminals or refugees. The ambassadors will include 13 Muslims, 11 Serbs and eight Croats, plus one joint appointment by Izetbegovic and Zubak. The U.N. posting goes to a Muslim, Washington to a Serb, and Tokyo to a Croat. But even if the new ambassadors take up their posts, the three sides do not have a common foreign policy for them to implement. Holbrooke promised sanctions and other punishments for those who do not help enforce the Dayton agreement. SERBIAN REFUGEES APPEAL TO HOLBROOKE. The Belgrade-based Society for Refugee Assistance wrote to Holbrooke on 7 August to appeal for a permanent solution to their plight, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. The refugees say they need both money and the strict implementation of the Dayton agreement, which would enable them to go home. At the start of the decade, Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic incited the Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia to go to war with their neighbors so that the Serbs could "remain in Yugoslavia." He refuses, however, to give Serbian refugees from those two republics Yugoslav citizenship or the prospect of a new life in federal Yugoslavia. REPUBLIKA SRPSKA OPPOSITION UNITES. Some 15 opposition political parties pledged in Banja Luka on 7 August that they will work together during and after the parliamentary elections that President Biljana Plavsic has slated for 10-12 October, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from that northwest Bosnian town. The parties promised that, if they win the vote, they will set up a government of experts to guarantee constitutional government and the independence of the judiciary, and to fight organized crime. Also in Banja Luka, an aide to Plavsic said that she will set up her own political party -- the Serbian Party of the Republika Srpska (SSRS) -- on 8 August. The Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) recently expelled her for having challenged Radovan Karadzic and the rest of the Pale- based leadership. She helped found the SDS in 1990. NEWS FROM THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. Officials from the Croatian government, the U.N. administration in eastern Slavonia, and local governments in that region signed an agreement in Zagreb on 7 August to regulate the reintegration of eastern Slavonia's schools into the Croatian educational system. In Belgrade, the Croatian embassy filed a formal protest with the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry over the desecration of Croatian graves in Vojvodina and the mistreatment of ethnic Croats in Zemun. In Luxembourg, the EU Presidency announced the EU will monitor the September Serbian elections only if it is allowed to monitor the entire process and if all parties have free access to the media. The government has invited monitors but wants to impose restrictions on their work. ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER ANNOUNCES "TEST OF FIRE" FOR REFORMS. Following criticism by the IMF on the slow pace of liquidation or privatization of state-owned unprofitable enterprises, Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea on 7 August announced the government is closing down 17 enterprises. Close to 30,000 people will lose their jobs as a result of the decision, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Ciorbea said this was the "test of fire" for the government's reform program. Those laid off will receive compensation equal to between six and 12 months wages. Among the liquidated enterprises are three refineries, which have been producing well beyond Romania's consumption needs and have accumulated large arrears to the state budget. To speed up the liquidation process, energy deliveries to the 17 enterprises are being stopped as of 8 August. ROMANIAN LABOR PROTEST. The IMF chief negotiator for Romania, Poul Thomsen, told the private TV channel Pro TV on 7 August that he proposed to the government to offer compensation of more than 12 monthly salaries to those laid off to avoid labor unrest. But Radio Bucharest, on 8 August, already reported on several outbursts of protest. Some 5,000 workers at the Petrotel refinery in Ploiesti broke windows at the company's headquarters and chanted "we are not guilty, we want to work." The protesters were joined by some 800 workers from the Vega refinery, which like Petrotel, is slated for liquidation. Mediafax reported that workers at the Romfosochim enterprise in Valea Calugareasca blocked the railway and stopped traffic between Bucharest and Galati, as well as between Bucharest and Iasi. On the other hand, the leader of the largest miners' trade union confederation called off a warning strike after negotiations yesterday with Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea. ROMANIA'S "KING OF GYPSIES" DEMANDS HOLOCAUST COMPENSATION. Florin Cioaba, who calls himself "king" of Romania's Roma community, is demanding that Germany pay more than 350 million marks in compensation for the extermination of Gypsies at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Mediafax reported on 6 August. Cioaba told a press conference that representatives of the Roma communities from Hungary, Poland, Greece, Austria, Germany and Romania last week decided at a meeting in Auschwitz to set up a Parliament of European Roma to defend the interests of the communities in Europe. Cioaba says 10,100 Gypsies were exterminated at Auschwitz-Birkenau. CHISINAU-TIRASPOL NEGOTIATIONS STALLED. Anatol Taranu, the head of the Moldovan delegation at the negotiations under way with the Transdniestrian separatists, says the discussions are stalled because of Tiraspol's refusal to accept Article 1 in the draft proposed by the three mediators, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 7 August. Taranu said the draft mentions a "special status" for the breakaway region in a sovereign and "territorially indivisible Moldova." Vladimir Grigoriev, a representative of the Transdniester delegation, told Infotag and BASA-press that Tiraspol was ready to accept the formula of a "common state" agreed on in Moscow last May. But Grigoriev said Tiraspol has its own interpretation of the formula and sees no reason to accept the draft of the mediators. He said the draft diverges from what the Chisinau and Tiraspol leaders agreed to in Moscow MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS APPEAL TO FORMER CPSU MEMBERS. The Central Committee of the Party of Communists of Moldova on 6 August appealed to former CPSU members to join its ranks, Infotag reported. The party's first secretary, Vladimir Voronin, said former membership of the CPSU would be recognized by his formation as counting for seniority. He attacked leaders of states that were included in the former USSR, saying that they "strive to erase from the minds of the people notions such as communism and socialism, the rule of the people, Lenin, October." Voronin also announced that his party has collected the 200,000 signatures necessary to force a debate in the parliament on holding a referendum on the law of land tradability. The law, which Voronin's party opposes, was approved by the legislature. OTHER MOLDOVAN POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS. The Peasant Christian Democratic Party of Moldova (PTCDM) on 7 August decided to join the right-wing Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM) alliance, BASA-press reported. For this purpose, the PTCDM has left the Alliance of Democratic Forces (AFD). Two other former AFD members, the Ecologist Party and the Women's Christian Democratic League, had left that alliance in order to join the CDM, which also includes the Popular Christian Democratic Front, the Moldovan Party of Rebirth and Conciliation and a group of leaders who recently left the Moldovan National Peasant Party. Also on 7 August, the Ministry of Justice officially registered the Moldovan Civic Party headed by Vladimir Slonari, who left the Socialist Unity-Edinstvo faction. The new party defines itself as "centrist." BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS CRITICIZE TEACHING OF RELIGION IN SCHOOLS. The opposition Socialist Party on 7 August criticized the government's decision to give pupils the option of studying religion in school. The party said the introduction of religion in classes would lead to "greater alienation on an ethnic and religious basis," RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. They warned against infringing on the separation of state and church. The official press agency BTA reported on 6 August that in the new school year beginning in September, pupils aged 7 to 10 will be able to study religion once a week with theology teachers, if they want to do so. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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