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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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/

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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

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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.


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