|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 105, Part II, 28 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 * RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BELARUS * SFOR CONFRONTS POLICE LOYAL TO KARADZIC * STRUGGLE FOR BOSNIAN SERB TV CONTINUES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BELARUS. On arriving in the Belarusian capital on 27 August, Yevgenii Primakov told reporters that he will discuss development of the Russian-Belarusian union as well as the recent detentions of Russian Public Television (ORT) staffers in Belarus. Two ORT journalists --both Belarusian citizens -- remain in jail, while five others have been released under pressure from Russia. Primakov said he has not come to Belarus as the journalists' "defender" and did not want to interfere in the country's internal affairs. But he added that "there is something to be discussed." Earlier, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told reporters that Primakov had been sent to Minsk by Russian President Boris Yeltsin under pressure from Primakov's political rivals, who know that his mission "was doomed to failure." Lukashenka suggested that Primakov's failure in Belarus will be used against him. UKRAINE TO INCREASE MILITARY BUDGET? Security and Defense Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin told reporters in Kyiv on 27 August that President Leonid Kuchma and the government will urge the parliament to more than double defense spending in 1998, UNIAN reported. The government will also appeal to the parliament to allot funds to reform the military. Horbulin proposed that 3.5 percent of the projected gross domestic product, the equivalent of about $1.9 billion be spent on the military next year. The 1997 budget allots 1.5 percent of GDP for defense spending ($811 million). Horbulin also said Kyiv wants to reduce the number of generals from 386 to 280 and that it will watch the progress of Russian military reforms for tips on how to improve its own army amid staff cuts. Some 350,000 people now serve in the Ukrainian military. KYIV WANTS CLOSER TIES WITH JAPAN. Ukrainian Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko on 27 August told a visiting Japanese parliamentary delegation that Kyiv wants closer links with Japan, AFP reported. Pustovoitenko said Ukraine is particularly eager to encourage the creation of joint enterprises between the two countries in electronics, construction, and oil exploitation. Juro Saito -- the speaker of Japanese House of Councilors (the upper house of parliament), who is currently in Kyiv with seven other Japanese members of parliament -- said Tokyo intends to help Ukraine with its economic and political reforms. He added that Japan would like to set up a joint Ukrainian-Japanese research center to study the effects of the explosion at the Chornobyl nuclear power station. ARE ESTONIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS WARMING? Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves has said that relations between his country and Russia appear to be warming, even though Russian officials continue to accuse Estonia of human rights violations. Ilves, who attended the recent Nordic Council security conference in Helsinki, made the comment in an interview published in the Finnish daily "Helsingin Sanomat" on 27 August. The previous day, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev had accused the Baltic States, and particularly Estonia, of discriminating against its Russian- speaking minorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 1997). Ilves denied that Estonia discriminates against its Russian speakers. At the same time, he said the government will not give Estonian citizenship to children born in Estonia whose parents are both of Russian nationality. FINNISH PRESIDENT TO HAVE GUEST STATUS AT VILNIUS SUMMIT. Martti Ahtisaari has asked the organizers of the Vilnius summit in early September to be allowed to take part as a guest to "stress the difference between his status and that of Belarusian President Lukashenka," BNS reported on 27 August. "This is a very official and very significant wish," a Lithuanian presidential adviser responsible for the Vilnius conference told the news agency. According to BNS, it will be stressed both in conference reports and in participants' conversations with Lukashenka that Belarus must respect its commitments to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe in the areas of human rights, democracy, press freedom, and dialogue with the opposition. In addition to Ahtisaari, the presidents of 10 East European countries will be taking part in the summit, together with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. WILL POLAND BUY SUKHOI JETS? Polish Defense Minister Stanislaw Dobrzanski was quoted by ITAR-TASS on 27 August as saying he can neither confirm nor deny press reports that Russia has proposed Poland purchase 100 Sukhoi-39 fighter jets worth $1billion. He said that Warsaw has not yet started talks on the purchase of the planes and that no official proposals have been made by Moscow. However, enterprises, including from Russia, have already begun making informal proposals, Dobrzanski said. He added it would be possible to speak about a tender for purchasing the aircraft only after the 15- year plan for modernizing the Polish army is approved. FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN POLAND. The National Agency for Foreign Investment (PAIZ) on 27 August announced that direct foreign investment in Poland over the last five years totaled more than $16 billion. Nearly $14 billion came from 535 large foreign companies, each of which has invested at least $1 million in Poland. Foreign companies are expected to invest a further $2-3 billion dollars by the end of 1997, PAIZ President Waldemar Dabrowski told journalists. The U.S. and Germany top the list of foreign investors, with $3.2 billion and $1.8 billion, respectively. They are followed by multi- nationals ($1.6 billion), Italy ($1.4 billion), and France ($1.2 billion). Italian auto-maker FIAT heads the list of individual foreign investors; it has already committed $1 billion and plans to invest a further $814 million. CZECH GOVERNMENT TO PRIVATIZE RAILROADS. The Czech government on 27 August announced it will privatize or abolish 37 percent of the railroad network in the Czech Republic by 2,000, Czech Television reported. The government also said that some 17,000 railroad workers will be laid off in an effort to reform the inefficient system. Meanwhile, the electricity distribution company Prazska Energetika on 27 August cut off power to the headquarters of the Czech Railroads company. The state railroad owes the power distribution company 304 million crowns ($9 million). Railroad officials told Czech Radio that the blackout at headquarters has not yet affected railroad operations. SLOVAK COALITION AGAIN BOYCOTTS PARLIAMENTARY SESSION. For the second consecutive day, the three-party ruling coalition boycotted a special parliamentary session called to discuss the expulsion of deputy Frantisek Gaulieder from the chamber. The parliamentary session was attended only by opposition deputies and had to be canceled because of the lack of a necessary quorum. The parliament stripped Gaulieder of his mandate in December 1996, one month after he left Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. Gaulieder argues that his mandate was removed on the basis of a forged letter of resignation. The Constitutional Court ruled in July that the parliament acted unconstitutionally, while the U.S. and Western European officials have criticized the decision to expel Gaulieder from the legislature. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SFOR CONFRONTS POLICE LOYAL TO KARADZIC. There were at least six incidents on 27 and 28 August involving SFOR troops and police loyal to the hard-line Bosnian Serbs under Radovan Karadzic, CNN reported. In Brcko, SFOR troops took up positions around a police station when police loyal to President Biljana Plavsic sought to enter the building, which Karadzic's police control. SFOR troops fired shots into the air to disperse hostile crowds, BETA reported. The town council then asked for a meeting with Robert Farrand, the international community's chief representative there. In Bijeljina, SFOR troops allegedly entered the police station. STRUGGLE FOR BOSNIAN SERB TV CONTINUES. In Doboj, Karadzic's police on 27 August retook control of a television relay tower that Plavsic's backers had seized the previous day. Karadzic's men also arrested Milovan Stankovic, a pro-Plavsic member of the Bosnian Serb parliament. SFOR spokesmen denied Serbian media reports suggesting that peacekeepers helped Plavsic's police and that shots were fired during the confrontation. TV Banja Luka and TV Pale are engaged in a fierce competition to dominate the air waves (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 27 August 1997). Since the Bosnian Serbs are largely spread out across rural areas, television is the most effective means of influencing public opinion in the Republika Srpska. MILOSEVIC WANTS TO GO TO BOSNIA. Spokesmen for SFOR said in Sarajevo on 27 August that peacekeepers are studying a request from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to fly to Bosnian Serb territory. Some observers said he wants to go to Banja Luka, where Plavsic has her headquarters, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recently warned Milosevic that he should "get off the fence" and unambiguously support Plavsic if he wants an end to Yugoslavia's international isolation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 1997). In Washington, the State Department announced it will make available $9 million in reconstruction aid for Bosnian Serb towns that back Plavsic. PALE THREATENS PLAVSIC SUPPORTERS. Gojko Klickovic, the prime minister of the pro-Karadzic government, said in Pale on 27 August that his authorities will "not tolerate" Plavsic and will "use all means" to limit the movements of her supporters on territory under Pale's control. In Banja Luka, Col. Mihajlo Mitrovic of the General Staff said that most top-ranking officers in the Bosnian Serb military support Plavsic and that those who do not will be replaced "very soon." In Sarajevo, spokesmen for the OSCE rejected a recent call by the Pale parliament to postpone the local elections slated for 14 September. BELGRADE COURT BACKS BULATOVIC CANDIDACY. The Yugoslav Federal Constitutional Court on 27 August "temporarily suspended" a decision by the Montenegrin election commission blocking the reelection bid of Momir Bulatovic, Montenegro's pro-Milosevic president. The Belgrade court gave the authorities in Podgorica 10 days to appeal the decision (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 1997). Blagota Mitric, the president of the Montenegrin Constitutional Court, said in Podgorica that the Belgrade court's decision is a violation of Montenegrin and Yugoslav law. Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, who is Bulatovic's main rival in the ongoing power struggle, argued that the Belgrade court's decision threatens not only the legal system but also the very principles of Montenegrin and Yugoslav statehood. CROATIAN SERBS GO HOME. UN administrators for eastern Slavonia said in Zagreb that 200 Serbian families left eastern Slavonia on 27 August to return to their original homes elsewhere in Croatia. The UN expects that as many as 10,000 Croatian Serbs could follow suit by the end of September. Also in Zagreb, the Foreign Ministry announced that Foreign Minister Mate Granic and his Yugoslav counterpart, Milan Milutinovic, will sign six agreements in Belgrade in September dealing with frontier, economic, and legal issues. In Jerusalem, the Simon Wiesenthal Center appealed to the Israeli government not to go ahead with plans to establish diplomatic relations with Croatia. The Center charged that the Croatian government has yet to repudiate that country's fascist legacy from World War II. FORMER ALBANIAN LEADER SETS CONDITION FOR RETURN. Eduard Selami said he will return to the Democratic Party if its current leadership leaves, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 28 August. Selami was sacked as party leader in 1995 after opposing President Sali Berisha over the question of a constitutional referendum. Meanwhile, Leni Fischer, the chair of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, has sent a letter to the Democrats to express solidarity with the hunger strike by former parliamentary speaker Pjeter Arbnori (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 1997). "Rilindja Demokratike" quotes Fischer as saying that "Arbnori's decision is an indicator that the rights of the opposition are not fully respected in Albania." Arbnori is demanding that the opposition receive one-third of television news air time. ALBANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT VALIDATES REFERENDUM. The Constitutional Court on 27 August declared valid the results of the 29 June referendum, in which more than 60 percent of the voters opted for a republic, "Koha Jone" reported. The monarchists had challenged the results and charged the Central Election Commission with fraud. Leka Zogu, the claimant to the throne, is now wanted by police after being involved in a violent demonstration after the referendum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 1997). ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT DISMISSES HIGH-RANKING OFFICIAL. The government on 27 August dismissed Valerian Stan as head of the government's Control Department for repeatedly displaying a lack of discipline. Earlier the same day, Stan had called a press conference at which he again accused leaders of the Democratic Party of having illegally purchased apartments from the state in 1991-92 at prices below market value (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 1997). Stan said he intended to resubmit the case when the new prosecutor-general is appointed, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The government accused Stan of undermining Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea's authority by bring up the case again without seeking the premier's approval. In an interview with Radio Bucharest on 28 August, Stan said his dismissal was "arbitrary and unjustified." ROMANIA'S ROMA WANT TO EMIGRATE TO IRELAND. Sociologist Nicolae Gheorghe, a leading activist for the rights of Romania's Roma community, has said some 500 Roma have left Romania for Ireland in the last six months. Gheorghe, who is a member of that community, says the Roma hope to be able to take advantage of Ireland's "good welfare system and stable economy," Mediafax reported on 26 August. Gheorghe also said intolerance in Romania toward the Roma has increased in recent months because the media has transformed the government's anti-corruption campaign into a "campaign against the 'Gypsy Mafia.'" 40,000 ROMANIAN MINERS ACCEPT SEVERANCE. Marin Condeescu, the leader of the largest miners' trade union in Romania, says some 40,000 miners have accepted the terms of a government plan whereby they will receive compensation for volunteering to be made unemployed, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 26 August. The government had expected only 32,000 miners to accept the offer. But Condeescu said the union expects some 150,000 of its 210,000 members to opt for the plan and to return to the countryside in "Romania's largest work-force migration of the last 30 years." Under the plan, the government is offers 850,000 lei ($120) a month over five years, which exceeds average monthly wages at some mines. The miners can also opt to take a $7,200 lump sum. BULGARIAN DEPUTY PREMIER ON RESISTANCE TO REFORMS. Deputy Premier and Industry Minister Alexander Bozhkov, in a 27 August interview with Reuters marking 100 days in office of the new government, said the cabinet is encountering resistance in its attempts to overhaul the economy, boost investments, and crack down on corruption. Bozhkov said there was "resistance from the state administration to speed up privatization" because of reluctance to "part with [state] ownership." In order to counter that resistance, the government is now drawing up sell-off schemes that would involve minimal participation of the administration. Bozhkov also said the legal system must be revised in order to deal with organized crime. He added that although amendments to the penal code were passed by the parliament in July, it will take time for some of them to become effective. BULGARIA RECEIVES IMF LOAN INSTALLMENT. Bulgaria recently received an $85 million installment of a $657 million standby loan approved by the IMF in April, an RFE/RL Washington correspondent reported on 27 August. A spokeswoman for the IMF said the installment has been released to help Sofia implement the economic reforms and stabilization program agreed on earlier this year with the IMF. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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