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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 94, Part II, 13 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 LAWYER DEFENDING RUSSIAN JOURNALIST MAY BE BARRED FROM PRACTICE * ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS END BOYCOTT OF PARLIAMENT * DID U.S. OFFER KARADZIC SAFE HAVEN? End Note : A NEW DANGER OF MORAL EQUIVALENCY xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN LAWYER DEFENDING RUSSIAN JOURNALIST MAY BE BARRED FROM PRACTICE. The Belarusian Prosecutor-General's Office has requested that the Ministry of Justice revoke the license of lawyer Garry Pogonyailo, who is defending the Russian Public Television (ORT) journalist Pavel Sheremet, Belapan reported. Pogonyailo was summoned to the Ministry of Justice on 12 August, the day when a court in Hrodno was to consider his petition for releasing Sheremet. The court subsequently ruled against his release, Interfax reported. Belarusian deputies issued a statement saying they hope the detention of the Russian TV crew will not worsen relations with Moscow or become "the reef on which the wishes and hopes of millions of Belarusians and Russians for a common future are smashed." Sheremet is to start fasting on 13. August in protest at his continued detention, ITAR-TASS reported, quoting an ORT spokesman in Minsk. BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DENIES OFFER TO HOST RUSSIAN-CHECHEN TALKS. Alyaksandr Lukashenka has denied Russian news reports that he had offered Belarus as a venue for a meeting between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1997), ITAR-TASS reported. But Lukashenka added that if Belarus is asked to host the talks, "we will give our consent." In other news, Lukashenka criticized the Cabinet of Ministers for failing to work with their Russian colleagues on "an equal footing," Interfax reported. Lukashenka said the president, his administration, and the cabinet should imagine "they are serving in a military organization in which order and discipline should be higher than at the Defense Ministry." UKRAINE ISSUES BONDS ABROAD WORTH $450 MILLION. Ukraine has issued its first foreign fiduciary state bonds, worth $450 million, UNIAN reported 12 August. The bonds are to be placed through Bankers Trust Luxembourg S.A. The leading manager of the bond placement is Nomura International London. FLOODS IN CRIMEA. Floodwaters have inundated 13 homes, a kindergarten, a sports school, city militia headquarters, and a car park in the town of Alushta in Crimea, killing one person. Militia rescued 35 detainees from a flooded jail house, UNIAN reported on 12 August. LATVIAN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES NEW CABINET. Guntis Ulmanis, addressing the first session of the new government, urged the coalition parties to refrain from "cheap, populist statements and decisions" ahead of the 1998 general elections, BNS reported on 12 August. He added that the cabinet's chief goals should be to continue with education and health care reform and to implement social security policy. He also stressed that Riga's top foreign policy priorities remain joining the EU and NATO. Premier Guntars Krasts warned that balancing the state budget could create disagreements among the coalition parties. Meanwhile, in an interview with RFE/RL's Latvian Service, Interior Minister Ziedonis Cevers said his goals include improving the image of the police and combating organized crime. He also denied allegations by some politicians that he had gathered compromising material about his political rivals while serving as interior minister in the government of Ivars Godmanis. LITHUANIAN FORMER DEFENSE MINISTER DETAINED ON SUSPICION OF BRIBE-TAKING. Audrius Butkevicius, a former defense minister and currently an independent parliamentary deputy, was detained briefly on 12 August for alleged bribe-taking, BNS reported. At the time of his arrest, Butkevicius was found in possession of $15,000, which he is suspected of accepting in return for promising to mediate at the Prosecutor-General's Office in an ongoing legal case. Prosecutor-General Kazys Pednycia is to request that Butkevicius's parliamentary immunity be lifted so that legal action can be brought against him. Butkevicius, who served as defense minister from 1991 to 1993, has denied any wrongdoing, saying his arrest may have been aimed at stemming his sharp criticism of government policy. POLISH PEASANT PARTY MOVES TO OUST PREMIER. Just weeks before parliamentary elections, the Peasant Party (PSL), the junior partner in the ruling coalition, on 12 August took steps toward a parliamentary no-confidence vote in Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz over differences in agricultural policy, a PSL spokesman told reporters. But the PSL insists that it does not want to leave the left-wing coalition. Meanwhile, Polish farmers blocked a key highway south of Szczecin to protest government agricultural policy and to demand better conditions for selling grain to the state, PAP reported on 12 August. CZECH COURT REVERSES RULING IN DISPUTE BETWEEN OPPOSITION LEADER, FORMER INTELLIGENCE CHIEF. The High Court on 12 August reversed the ruling of a lower court that had ordered opposition Social Democratic Party chairman Milos Zeman to pay former acting director of the Security and Information Service (BIS) Stanislav Devaty 1 million crowns ($29,400). The court also ordered Zeman to apologize for having said that the BIS had set up a unit to spy on Czech politicians. Czech media reported that Devaty intends to appeal the new ruling. They quote him as saying the ruling means that any public official could now be "stripped of all civil rights." FLOODS IMPACT ON CZECH ECONOMY NOT AS BIG AS INITIALLY FORECAST. Ivan Sujan, the deputy chairman of the Czech Statistical Office (CSU), on 12 August said the recent floods will not have as big an impact on the economy as originally forecast. He said the CSU has revised its forecasts and expects the economy to perform as the CSU had predicted just before the floods. He added that GDP will grow by 2 percent as a result of increased exports due to the crown's weak exchange rate. At the same time, he said unemployment is expected to rise to 5 percent. Meanwhile, an environmentally protected area along the Morava River near Litovel has experienced an explosion in the frog population, a reaction to the large numbers of mosquitoes in the area resulting from the floods, CTK reported on 12. August. Local environmentalist Ivo Machar says "there are millions and millions of different frogs and their croaking is unbearable." SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CALLS ON PARLIAMENT TO RESTORE DEPUTY'S MANDATE. The Constitutional Court on 12 August concluded that the ruling coalition acted unconstitutionally in withdrawing Frantisek Gaulieder's mandate. It called on the legislature to restore the deputy's mandate, Slovak media reported. Parliamentary speaker Ivan Gasparovic told Slovak Radio that the legislature violated neither Gaulieder's rights nor the constitution. He also commented that the judges of the Constitutional Court do not respect the rights of certain state organs. Meanwhile, the secret service (SIS) on12 August denied allegations by opposition politicians and news media that one of its agents, the son of a senior SIS official, was killed in an explosion three weeks ago while handling explosive materials in a car near Bratislava. ETHNIC HUNGARIANS IN SLOVAKIA APPEAL TO HORN. The coalition of ethnic Hungarian parties in the Slovak parliament have called on Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn to help improve the situation of ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia, Hungarian media reported on 12 August. In a letter handed over to the Hungarian ambassador in Bratislava, the parties said the situation of ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia has deteriorated significantly since the basic treaty was ratified in 1995, although they noted that several new border crossings have been opened and economic relations with Hungary slightly expanded. New laws, decrees, and government resolutions constitute violations of minority rights, the letter added. Slovak cabinet spokeswoman Magda Pospisilova told reporters that Slovakia has abided by the basic treaty in all areas and is not interested in heightening tensions between the two countries. Horn is due to meet with Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar in Gyoer on 15 August. REFERENDUM ON FOREIGN OWNERSHIP OF LAND IN HUNGARY? Four opposition parties and three agricultural interest organizations announced on 12 August that they will collect signatures for a referendum to decide whether foreigners be allowed to purchase land in Hungary. The Hungarian Democratic Forum, the Young Democrats, the Independent Smallholders, and the Christian Democratic People's Party, as well as the National Federation of Farmers' Societies, the Peasants' Federation, and the Agricultural Farmers Interest Advocacy Organization agreed to start a drive on 20 August to collect the 200,000 signatures needed for such a referendum. The campaign is launched against the government's planned amendment of the land law that would allow foreign companies to own farmland. The results of the referendum would be binding on the parliament. HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION LEADER BACKS AUTONOMY OF ETHNIC HUNGARIANS IN ROMANIA. Young Democrat chairman Viktor Orban told the Transylvanian Hungarian-language weekly "Erdelyi Naplo" that his party supports autonomy for ethnic Hungarians in Romania, Hungarian media reported on 12 August. He said that ethnic Hungarians need a university of their own and that the Hungarian Churches should have their confiscated properties returned. Orban accused the Hungarian government of being too cautious on those issues. In response, Free Democrat faction leader Istvan Szent- Ivanyi, who is also the chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, said the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, rather than Budapest, ought to decide about the needs of the ethnic Hungarian minority in Romania. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS END BOYCOTT OF PARLIAMENT. Democratic Party Vice President Genc Pollo said in Tirana on 12 August that his party will return to the parliament on 13 August. The Democrats have until now refused to attend sessions of the new legislature to protest what they called unfair elections. They claimed that they were not able to campaign in much of the south and that violence and irregularities elsewhere in the country hurt their electoral chances. Foreign observers said the vote was not perfect but was basically acceptable under the circumstances. The Democrats were routed in the elections and have only a handful of seats in the new parliament. ALBANIAN GANG LEADER VOWS REVENGE. Security forces on 12 August continued their crackdown on criminal gangs in Vlora, Gjirokaster, Saranda, and Tepelena (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1997). An Interior Ministry spokesman said in Tirana that the "police forces are determined to act with firmness against eventual resistance by armed gangs." But in Vlora, gang leader Zani Caushi said he and his men will fight on, despite the arrest of three of their group. "We have some 40,000 people with more than 25,000 guns, bombs, and grenades.... We will fight until former President Sali Berisha is hanged in Vlora's main square," he told "Koha Jone." Vlora's police chief Haxhi Demiri called Caushi the most wanted man in town. MONTENEGRIN COURT TO RULE ON PRESIDENCY. The reformist wing of the governing Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) appealed to the Constitutional Court in Podgorica on 12 August to overturn the Electoral Commission's ruling the previous day on the presidential election. The commission said that President Momir Bulatovic can run for reelection as a DPS candidate, even though the commission had earlier recognized the reformists' nominee, Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, as the DPS candidate. Montenegrin law allows for only one candidate per party. The commission said it recognized both men's right to run for the office because the DPS is now, in effect, two parties, even though it has not formally split. Meanwhile in Belgrade, Yugoslav Information Secretary Goran Matic said on 11 August that the authorities will soon set up a Yugoslav-wide television station. The most likely aim of the project is to influence the upcoming Montenegrin vote. DID U.S. OFFER KARADZIC SAFE HAVEN? Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic told the 13 August "Financial Times" that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright offered Radovan Karadzic safe passage to a third country if he leaves Bosnian Serb territory. Plavsic said that Albright made the offer during her visit to the former Yugoslavia in late May but that U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke did not repeat the proposal on his recent trip to the region. Plavsic told the London daily that Albright said to her "that within two weeks [the U.S.] expected me to tell the media that Radovan Karadzic had left the Republika Srpska and that I didn't know where he was." Plavsic said she regrets that Karadzic rejected this "last chance" offer and treated her "with animosity" when she brought him Albright's message. The U.S. embassy in Sarajevo told the newspaper that it knows nothing about the offer. ARE NATO COMMANDOS TRAINING TO CATCH KARADZIC, MLADIC? ABC TV News reported from Washington on 12 August that U.S., British, and French commandos are training in Europe with the help of some other countries to capture top indicted war criminals. The broadcast said that no decision has been made to use the commandos but that they may well go into action in the fall. Meanwhile in Bosnia, SFOR troops began inspecting paramilitary police forces and demanding that tanks and other weapons larger than side-arms be stored under rules set down by the Dayton agreement. Any police units that have not registered with SFOR by 31 August will be considered illegal. In Banja Luka, Plavsic agreed with SFOR commander Eric Shinseki on reforms for the Bosnian Serb police. BOSNIAN OPPOSITION SLAMS ANTI-CORRUPTION BODY. Associated List 97, a five-party non-nationalist opposition coalition, filed a formal protest in Sarajevo on 12 August against President Alija Izetbegovic's new anti-corruption commission. The coalition charged that the commission represents only Izetbegovic's party and the Muslims, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. Associated List 97 demands an official inquiry into corruption dating from the beginning of the war and that guilty persons be put on trial. WESTENDORP WARNS BOSNIAN SERB COURT. A spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 12 August that the international community considers Plavsic's recent dissolution of the Bosnian Serb parliament to be legal. The Bosnian Serb Constitutional Court is about to rule on her move. Westendorp's spokesman did not say what the international community will do if the court overturns Plavsic's decision. In Banja Luka, Plavsic said that she fears that her opponents are putting political pressure on the court, which will be unable to reach an objective decision. In Pale, the anti-Plavsic government objected to her request for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the parliamentary elections she has called for October. CROATS, MUSLIMS SAY REFUGEES CAN GO HOME. International mediators reached an agreement with Croatian and Muslim representatives in Jajce and Travnik on 12 August to enable Muslim refugees to return to Croat-held villages near Jajce by 25 August. A UN spokesman in Sarajevo added that the Croatian government guarantees the Muslims' security. He said, however, that he expects few Muslims to go home until it is clear that there will be no repetition of the recent attacks on the refugees by Croatian mobs. Meanwhile in Mostar, a spokesman for the UN police force said he is pleased with the progress made in setting up Croatian-Muslim police patrols, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Herzegovina's main town. ROMANIAN OPPOSITION WANTS SPECIAL PARLIAMENTARY SESSION. A spokesman for the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 12 August said his formation will support the initiative of the Party of Romanian National Unity to hold a special parliamentary session to debate the two government ordinances amending the education law and allowing bilingual signs in localities where minorities make up 20 percent or more of the population. PDSR spokesman Ovidiu Musetescu said that his party also wants the session to debate the recent government decision to liquidate 17 non-profitable enterprises, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Also on 12 August, Iuliu Pacurariu, a deputy of the Democratic Party, which is a member of the ruling coalition, said the parliament should change the minimum percentage required for bilingual signs to "more than 22.7 percent" to prevent the use of such signs in Cluj, Mediafax reported. TIRASPOL WORRIED ABOUT PLANNED MOLDOVAN-RUSSIAN JOINT MILITARY EXERCISE. The leadership of the breakaway Transdniester region is concerned about the Moldovan-Russian military maneuvers scheduled for October on territory controlled by Moldova, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 12 August. According to the media in the Transdniester, the separatist leader Igor Smirnov recently discussed the exercise with Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev in a telephone conversation and proposed that Transdniestrian "peace- keeping" forces participate in the scheduled maneuvers. He also told Sergeev that "voluntary forces" from the Transdniester are threatening to prevent the Russian military from leaving their barracks in order to obstruct the exercise, which Tirapsol has called a "smoke screen" for transferring Russian military technology to the Moldovan forces. Gen. Valerii Yevnevich, the commander of the Russian contingent in the Transdniester, said the threats "do not come from an uncontrollable mob" but are "inspired" by the Tiraspol leadership. BULGARIA ASKS AUSTRIA TO EXTRADITE FORMER COMMUNIST OFFICIAL. Bulgaria on 12 August asked Austria to extradite Ognyan Doinov, a former member of the Politburo. A Sofia prosecutor said Doinov is charged with selling his villa for a second time in 1990, having already sold it one year earlier. Austria rejected an earlier Bulgarian request to extradite Doinov on charges of channeling state funds to third-world communist parties while in power. Doinov was ambassador to Norway when the communist regime collapsed in 1989 and refused to return to Bulgaria. WHEAT HARVEST IN BULGARIA DOUBLES. The government on 12 August said the country's wheat harvest for 1997 will be almost double that of last year, BTA reported. More than 3 million tons of wheat have been harvested this year, compared with 1.7 million tons in 1996. END NOTE A NEW DANGER OF MORAL EQUIVALENCY by Paul Goble The old notion that the Soviet and U.S. systems are somehow morally equivalent has resurfaced in an unexpected place, one where its widespread acceptance could have even more serious consequences than it has had in the West. In an essay published in Tallinn on 8 August, Estonian commentator Jaan Kaplinski argues that there was no fundamental difference in the moral standing of the two systems represented by the former Soviet Union and the United States. He suggests that both systems sought to impose their will on others, despoiling the environment at home and dominating satellite states abroad. Moreover, he suggests that both systems are inevitably doomed by their hubris and overreaching. Because of this, he continues, Estonians should not view one of those systems as superior to the other or use the values derived from one to judge the other. Instead, they should develop their own ideas drawing from both sides. This superficially attractive proposition revives a concept known in the West as the moral equivalence of the two systems. The concept was widely advanced by a variety of political figures and analysts during the last years of the Soviet Union and on occasion since that time. Most Westerners making that argument suggested that since their own countries were less than perfect, they should refrain from any demand that Moscow and its system be judged according to Western standards. Whenever anyone pointed to an outrage in the Soviet Union, such people would insist that some U.S. actions were as bad or even worse. While such ideas may have contributed to a certain modesty, they also lead supporters of the idea of moral equivalency to argue that nothing should be done to promote Western values in the Soviet bloc as somehow superior and worthy of emulation. That attitude, in turn, often meant that not only was the West afraid to defend its own values but also that many in the communist bloc lost some of the faith they had in those Western ideals. The collapse of communism in Europe and the disintegration of the Soviet Union have largely discredited this view in the West. Few Westerners are willing to insist on moral equivalency between a system that had failed and their own, which is still very much live. But now the idea of moral equivalence between the two systems has reappeared in a country where one might least expect it, a country that has had experience with both systems and thus should be able to make comparisons. If many Estonians were to accept the ideas advanced by Kaplinski in his article, that in itself could mean that Estonia and other countries in the region would be exposed to three dangers potentially far greater than when the notion worked to restrain Western criticism of Soviet acts. First, such acceptance could call into question for many people the value of the still unfinished and quite difficult task of reestablishing democracy in a country that saw that political and social system destroyed by the Soviet invasion in 1940. Second, it could serve as a cover for the return of non-democratic forces to power. To the extent that Estonians are encouraged to think that there is no difference between systems, they would be more inclined to accept leaders whose commitment to democracy is anything but secure. And third, the acceptance of this idea could easily contribute to a more general moral relativism that would make the recovery from the impact of the Soviet invasion far more difficult. Consequently, all those concerned about the growth of democracy need to be worried when such ideas surface and remain uncontested. To paraphrase the great Russian memoirist Nadezhda Mandelshtam, unhappy is that country in which the despicable is not despised. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx SUBSCRIBING: 1) To subscribe to RFERL-L, please send a message to email@example.com 2) In the text of your message, type subscribe RFERL-L YourFirstName YourLastName 3) Send the message UNSUBSCRIBING: 1) To un-subscribe to RFERL-L, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org 2) In the text of your message, type unsubscribe RFERL-L 3) Send the message CURRENT AND BACK ISSUES OF RFE/RL Newsline: RFE/RL Newsline is available online on the World Wide Web. http://www.rferl.org/newsline/ BACK ISSUES OF OMRI Daily Digest: Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available on the World Wide Web and by FTP. 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