|Be slow of tongue and quick of eye. - Cervantes|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 99, Part II, 20 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 POLICE QUESTION RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS *UN POLICE SEAL OFF BANJA LUKA POLICE STATIONS *ALBANIAN PRESIDENT SACKS ARMY CHIEF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN POLICE QUESTION RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS. The Belarusian KGB on 19 August called three journalists to testify in the case of the four Russian Public Television (ORT) journalists detained near the Belarusian-Lithuanian border on 15 August, RFE/RL's Minsk correspondent reported. Those called to give testimony are ORT reporter Viktor Detlyakovich; Dmitri Novozhilov, the head of the ORT Minsk bureau; and Reuters correspondent Andrei Makhovsky, who also works for Belarus's "Delovaya Gazeta." Another Russian journalist, ORT reporter Vladimir Foshenko, was detained on 18 August for refusing to testify, Belapan reported. Russian Ambassador to Belarus Valery Loschinin said on 19 August that Moscow is now demanding that Minsk release the journalists, regardless of whether they broke the law. GDP IN UKRAINE, RUSSIA DECREASES. The Ukrainian Ministry of Statistics on 19 August reported that of the 11 CIS states, only Ukraine and Russia registered a decrease in gross domestic product in the first half of 1997, compared with the same period last year, Infobank reported. Ukraine's GDP fell by 7.4 percent, whereas Russia's was down 0.2 percent. During the same period, industrial production fell in Armenia, Ukraine, Tajikistan, and Moldova but rose by 22 percent in Kyrgyzstan, the highest increase within the CIS states. With the exception of Belarus and Georgia, all CIS states registered a decrease in the production of consumer goods. Food production in Belarus increased by 16 percent and non-food production by 32 percent. ESTONIAN COMMISSION TO CONSIDER ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM. The government on 19 August formed a five-member commission, headed by Prime Minister Mart Siimann, to consider a proposal for administrative reform, ETA reported. In January, Economy Minister Jaak Leimann, Transport and Communications Minister Raivo Vare, and Finance Minister Mart Opmann had proposed reducing the number of parliamentary deputies from 101 to 71, merging several ministries, and having only four local governments. The reform would save an estimated 500 million kroons ($36 million) a year. LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT LIFTS DEPUTY'S IMMUNITY. Lawmakers on 19 August voted unanimously to strip independent deputy and former Defense Minister Audrius Butkevicius of his parliamentary immunity, BNS and dpa reported. Prosecutor-General Kazys Pednycia had requested such a move against Butkevicius, who is suspected of accepting a $15,000 bribe from businessman Klemensas Kirsa in return for pressing for the dismissal of a legal case involving Kirsa's company, Dega Ltd (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1997). Pednycia said his office will immediately launch legal proceedings against Butkevicius. The 37-year-old deputy has admitted taking the money from Kirsa but claims it was a personal loan. IMMINENT SPLIT WITHIN POLISH COALITION?. The Polish Peasant Party (PSL) on 19 August submitted a parliamentary no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz of the post- communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), PAP reported. The two parties have been coalition partners for almost four years. The PSL said Cimoszewicz must go because he has blocked a decision to grant advance payments to farmers for the 1997 harvest. Other parties see the move as an attempt to boost the PSL's dwindling popularity ratings ahead of the 21 September elections. Jozef Oleksy of the SLD said the move was likely to lead to the breakup of the coalition. POLISH PRESIDENT IN SLOVAKIA. Aleksander Kwasniewski arrived in Bratislava on 20 August for a two-day official visit, Slovak Radio reported. The visit was scheduled to take place in July but was postponed owing to widespread flooding in the south of Poland. Kwasniewski last met with his Slovak counterpart, Michal Kovac, at a meeting of eight Central European presidents in Slovenia in early June. Kwasniewski is scheduled to meet with Kovac, Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, and other officials. SLOVAK OPPOSITION REQUESTS PARLIAMENT SESSION ON OUSTED DEPUTY. The opposition on 19 August requested that the parliament hold a special session to discuss the case of deputy Frantisek Gaulieder, who was stripped of his mandate in 1996. The Slovak Constitutional Court in July ruled that the parliament violated Gaulieder's constitutional rights. Gaulieder was forced to leave after the parliament received a resignation letter allegedly from him but which he says was forged. Gaulieder quit Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia one month before he was dismissed from the parliament, which is dominated by the ruling party. SLOVAKIA, BULGARIA REFUSE TO DESTROY SS-23 MISSILES. Responding to the U.S.'s request that Slovakia and Bulgaria destroy their short-range SS-23 missiles (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 1997), a Slovak Defense Ministry spokesman said Bratislava does not plan to eliminate its missiles. Slovakia says the weapons play an integral role in the country's defense. TASR on 19 August quotes the spokesman as saying that the elimination of the missiles would "have to be a political decision" resolved on the basis of compensation. However, another government spokesman was quoted as saying Bratislava was still willing to discuss the matter with Washington. A Bulgarian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on 19 August that scrapping Bulgaria's eight SS-23s would not be "in the national interest." SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE UN POLICE SEAL OFF BANJA LUKA POLICE STATIONS. The International Police Task Force (IPTF) and SFOR took charge of six police stations in Banja Luka on 20 August. IPTF spokesmen said that the UN police believe the buildings may have been the site of human rights violations. The stations belong to the police loyal to Pale-based Interior Minister Dragan Kijac, an arch-rival of Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic (see also "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 20 August 1997). On 18 August, Plavsic said that her police found large quantities of incriminating evidence in one of the stations. She added that one document referred to a secret political command called "Jedinstvo [Unity] 97," of which she had not previously known. She called this and other revelations "frightening." WESTENDORP, GELBARD BACK PLAVSIC'S CALL FOR NEW ELECTIONS. Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, underscored Plavsic's demand that Kijac be fired. The Spanish diplomat and U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard called for new elections in the Republika Srpska following their meeting with Plavsic in Banja Luka on 19 August. The diplomats said a new vote is the best way to solve the leadership crisis among the Bosnian Serbs. Plavsic plans to head a new party in parliamentary elections she has called for October. In the past week, Deputy Prime Ministers Ostoja Kremenovic and Djuradj Banjac have signaled their support for her and her party. Meanwhile in Pale, Dragan Kalinic, the president of the parliament, said there should be new presidential elections if Plavsic insists on going ahead with a legislative vote. PLAVSIC CALLS FOR DAILY DEMONSTRATIONS. President Plavsic told 2,000 of her supporters in Banja Luka on 19 August that they should assemble every evening to protest against the Pale-based "hawks" and their policy of "terror." She said that Kijac's police "are bugging your homes and tapping your telephones. You have no privacy. They are using the instruments of black terror.... Don't give your town to tyrants. We want freedom." But Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, warned that "if Mrs. Plavsic continues to heed her so-called advisers, she risks being isolated.... There is no force in the world that can save her." OTHER NEWS FROM BOSNIA. An SFOR spokesman in Banja Luka said on 19 August that peacekeepers there have received reinforcements, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the northwestern town. Republika Srpska Finance Minister Ranko Travar handed in his resignation to Plavsic, saying he can no longer deal with the current crisis. In Sarajevo, Gelbard read out a statement from U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke, who stressed Washington's long-term commitment to Bosnia. CROATIAN OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR PARTY CONGRESS. Drazen Budisa, one of the two main protagonists for the leadership of the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS), said in Zagreb on 19 August that a "special party assembly" is the only way out of the deadlock between him and former presidential candidate Vlado Gotovac. Budisa added that the meeting's main task will be to set up new elections for the party leadership, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. Budisa charged that Gotovac and his loyalists have hijacked the leadership. UN ENDS WEAPONS BUY-UP IN EASTERN SLAVONIA. Spokesmen for the UN administration in eastern Slavonia said in Vukovar on 19 August that the policy of buying up weapons has come to an end, and that as of 20 August anyone found in possession of illegal weapons will face prosecution. The spokesmen added that the buy-up program yielded 6,370 rocket or mine launchers, 14,000 grenades and bombs, and 2 million pieces of ammunition, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Vukovar. Critics charge that the UN paid for obsolete weapons and that some of the sellers bought better weapons with the money they received. NEWS FROM KOSOVO, MACEDONIA. The Kosovo Information Center on 19 August said that unknown persons shot and wounded Elez Miftari near Djakovica the previous night. The center is close to the Democratic League of Kosovo of shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova. In Skopje, the Foreign Ministry said it opposes any reduction in the number of UN peacekeepers in Macedonia. UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan has recommended cutting the force from 1,000 to 300 troops. BETA news agency says the government fears that Annan's proposal reflects a loss of confidence in the executive's willingness to reach a lasting settlement with the large ethnic Albanian minority. Also in Skopje, Transportation Minister Abdulmenaf Bedzeti said that a French firm has offered to help finance the proposed east-west railroad line across Macedonia. That railroad would greatly reduce Macedonia's economic and political dependence on Greece and Serbia, which control the existing north- south routes. ALBANIAN PRESIDENT SACKS ARMY CHIEF. President Rexhep Mejdani sacked army commander Gen. Adem Copani on 19 August and replaced him with Aleks Andoni. Defense Minister Sabit Brokaj recently called for the resignation or dismissal of officers whom he claimed the previous government had used to suppress demonstrations against President Sali Berisha. The Socialist-led government says it is trying to rid the judiciary, security forces, and military of incompetent political appointees and replace them with what it calls "experienced" personnel. The opposition Democrats charge that the Socialists are carrying out a political purge. Some observers feel that the Socialists are reverting to the practice in which the party in power appoints its loyalists to all government jobs (see "End Note" in "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1997). ALBANIAN UPDATE. A shoot-out near Erseka, close to the Macedonian and Greek borders, left two gangsters dead and three other gangsters and two policemen wounded on 19 August. Meanwhile in Gjirokastra, parliamentary speaker Skender Gjinushi said the government's "intention is to provide the country with a [new] constitution. And this intention will be realized at the beginning of next year, by mid-February." He added that a committee is already working on the document, which the government will then submit to a popular referendum. Berisha failed in a 1994 referendum to win approval for his proposed basic law. ROMANIA CREATES NEW STATE OIL COMPANY. The government on 19 August abolished the Romanian Petroleum Company, set up by Nicolae Vacaroiu's cabinet last year, and replaced it with the National Petroleum Society (SNP). The new company merges two refineries and the state-owned Peco gas stations, which account for some 43 percent of the country's retail gasoline sales. The two refineries will have an annual capacity of some 6 millions tons; the other five million tons needed to cover country's total needs will be imported, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The government intends to privatize the SNP in the second half of 1998. In other news, Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara told RFE/RL on 19 August that the ministry will be reorganized to improve control over tax control and customs, in particular. UPDATE ON TRIAL OF ROMANIAN MINERS' LEADER. Senate Chairman Petre Roman on 19 August told a Bucharest court that in September 1991, when he was prime minister, he had approved the arrival of the Jiu valley miners in the capital after he was informed that they were threatening train attendants with knives. Roman said he had agreed with former President Ion Iliescu that the government would "return its mandate" and be reshuffled to include other political forces. Instead, Iliescu had announced that he was accepting Roman's resignation. Roman also noted that the miners had been "manipulated." Miners leader Miron Cozma, who is charged with undermining state authority and breaking firearms laws, said his trial was "political" Romanian media reported. He also agreed with members of the public who shouted that Iliescu should join Cozma in the dock. ROMANIAN ULTRA-NATIONALIST INVITES LE PEN, LEBED. Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM), has invited French National Front chairman Jean-Marie Le Pen and former Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed to attend the PRM congress in November. Le Pen canceled a visit in May owing to the early French elections. At that time, Tudor announced the "imminent birth of a Nationalist International" (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 1 and 11 April 1997). After visiting Bucharest earlier this year, front deputy chairman Dominique Chaboche said the PRM and the front were "ideologically tied" in the struggle against a United Europe and the idea of "globalization dictated by the U.S." Tudor said he invited Lebed because he has a good chance of becoming the next Russian president and is among those with whom Tudor can discuss the reunification of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina (now part of Moldova and Ukraine) with Romania. MOLDOVAN COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF BESSARABIAN CHURCH. The Chisinau Court of Appeal on 19 August ruled that the government must recognize the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 14 August 1997). RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported that the government can appeal the decision within 15 days. The government has refused to recognize the Bessarabian Church, which is subordinated to the Bucharest patriarchate. It recognizes only the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which is subordinated to the Moscow patriarchate. The Bessarabian Church claims some 400,000 believers. MOLDOVAN DEPUTY PREMIER PREDICTS ECONOMIC GROWTH. Ion Gucu told ITAR-TASS on 19 August that Moldova will have to wait until the second decade of the next century to achieve economic growth comparable to the level 10 years ago. He said his forecast was based on calculations made by government experts. He added that he believes 1997 will be a turning point in the Moldovan economy, bringing to an end several years of decline. Gucu said the slight rise in production registered in the second quarter of 1997 was due to the resumption of economic reforms following the halt caused by the 1996 presidential campaign. Moldovan Academy of Sciences experts, on the other hand, believe without major foreign investments, the economy will continue to stagnate in the near future. TURKEY WANTS PLANT IN BULGARIA REOPENED. Turkey is trying to persuade the Bulgarian authorities to reopen an electronic components plant that was closed in July, Turkish media reported on 20 August. Osman Ak, chairman of the Turkish company that has a majority share in the Mikroark plant in the Bulgarian city of Botevgrad, says the plant's closure is threatening to discourage foreign investment in Bulgaria and is straining ties between Ankara and Sofia, A Bulgarian court ordered Mikroark shut down on 18 July, after a government-appointed trustee found that the agreement to establish the factory in 1992 was signed by the deputy minister of industry rather than the minister. Under Bulgarian law, the minister must sign such an agreement. Ak said the trustee was a member of the former communist establishment, which, he added, wants to torpedo foreign investments in Bulgaria. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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