|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 107, Part II, 1 September1997
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 * UPDATE ON ORT JOURNALISTS DETAINED IN BELARUS * PLAVSIC, U.S. BLAME BELGRADE FOR BRCKO VIOLENCE * ROMANIA, RUSSIA TO DISCUSS TREATY xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UPDATE ON ORT JOURNALISTS DETAINED IN BELARUS. Some 1,000 people, most of them journalists from Belarusian opposition publications, rallied on 30 August in Minsk to demand the release of two Russian ORT television employees detained by Belarusian authorities, Interfax reported. Some of the protesters were dressed in prisoners' uniforms. A total of seven ORT journalists were detained over the past month by Belarusian authorities on charges of violating the Belarusian-Lithuanian border. Five of them were released following pressure from Moscow. The remaining two--both Belarusian citizens--are still in jail. On 29 August, Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich said that ORT journalists may be allowed to resume their jobs in Belarus, but only if their bosses formally apologize for their recent illegal border crossing. SOUTH AFRICAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN UKRAINE. Alfred Nzo on 30 August concluded what he called a "historic" visit to Ukraine. The visit came three years after the two countries established diplomatic ties. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko said at a joint news conference with Nzo that the two discussed a wide range of issues aimed at strengthening relations in the political, economic, military, scientific and technological fields. Nzo also met with President Leonid Kuchma, Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko and the ministers of defense, trade and industrial policy. Nzo said his talks with Defense Minister Oleksander Kuzmuk were devoted to military cooperation agreements signed when South Africa's defense chief visited Ukraine earlier this year. On 29 August, Ukraine's foreign ministry announced President Kuchma is planning to visit South Africa late this year. NARVA TO SUPPLY RUSSIAN TOWN WITH WATER. The town of Narva on Estonia's northeastern border will not cut off water and sewage services to the town of Ivangorod in Russia, the Estonian news service ETA reported on 29 August. The two towns, divided by the Narva river, shared a common infrastructure as part of the Soviet Union until 1991. The Narva municipal water supplier Narva Vesi had threatened to cut services because of mounting debts incurred by Ivangorod until an agreement was reached on 29 August. Pavel Grigoryev, mayor of Ivangorod, promised to pay the current debt of roughly 3 million kroons ($200,000) before the end of 1997, Narva Vesi director Aksel Ers told ETA. Ivangorod plans to cover back interest on the debt by exporting oil shale to Narva. LITHUANIAN PRIME MINISTER IN POLAND. Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius and Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, meeting on 29 August in Wigry in northeastern Poland, agreed to establish a third bilateral government cooperation council, RFE/RL's Warsaw correspondent reported. It is to convene in two weeks in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, to deliberate on such matters as joint border controls, national minorities, and the integration of Baltic states into Western international institutions. The two countries already have joint presidential and parliamentary consultative forums. The prime ministers also discussed plans for a visit by Cimoszewicz to Lithuania in September. DEFENSE MINISTERS OF POLAND, GERMANY, DENMARK MEET. Polish Defense Minister Stanislaw Dobrzanski, German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe , and Danish Defense Minister Hans Haekkerp met 29- 31 August north of Warsaw to discuss Bosnia and the security situation in Europe. The ministers on 31 August announced plans to establish a joint military corps. The corps will begin operation after Poland's entry into NATO. Ruehe on 31 August warned Bosnian Serb hardliners in Pale against any attempts to torpedo the peace process. He said the "old forces" will not be allowed to destroy the young roots of peace in Bosnia. He said all sides should be aware that NATO is serious, and they should abide by the Dayton peace accords. Those failing to do so "will face hard times ahead." He noted that NATO peacekeepers are not in Bosnia to use force, but that their job is to ensure that the Dayton agreement is abided by. SOLIDARITY UNVEILS ITS ELECTION PLATFORM. The Solidarity Election Action (AWS) on 31 August unveiled its election platform three weeks ahead of the general elections, Polish media reported. The program has 21 points, outlining political and economic reforms. It was released on the 17th anniversary of Solidarity's emergence as the former Soviet bloc's first independent trade union. AWS chairman Marian Krzaklewski read out the planned reforms including a pro-family tax policy, stepped-up privatization, a crackdown on organized crime and the modernization of the armed forces to ensure Poland's smooth entry into NATO. The 21-point platform is a symbolic throwback to the 21 demands issued 17 years ago by striking shipyard workers. CZECH FOREIGN DEBT GROWING. "Mlada Fronta Dnes" wrote on 1 September that the foreign debt of the Czech Republic has grown from $8.5 billion in 1993 to a current $19.6 billion. According to the daily, the Czech Republic, previously known as one of the East European countries with a low level of foreign indebtedness, now has one of the highest per capita indebtedness in the region. The daily quotes Czech National Bank spokesman Martin Svehla as saying that the level of indebtedness has reached the point where investors have started to doubt the Czech economy's health and could start threatening the country's relatively good rating. SLOVAK PRESIDENT DEMANDS EXPELLED DEPUTY BE REINSTATED. Michal Kovac on 31 August appealed to the government to respect a Constitutional Court ruling which in July overturned the expulsion of deputy Frantisek Gaulieder from the parliament, Slovak Radio reported. In a special address to parliament commemorating the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution, Kovac said acceptance of the court's ruling could improve Slovakia's political image abroad. In December 1996, the parliament stripped Gaulieder of his mandate shortly after he quit Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). The Constitutional Court said the parliament had violated the Constitution, but it stopped short of ordering Gaulieder's reinstatement, saying it lacked the authority to do so. EU and NATO countries, including the U.S., have criticized the decision to expel Gaulieder. At the end of August, the Slovak coalition parties boycotted parliament sessions called to discuss Gaulieder's case on three consecutive days. SLOVAK OPPOSITION COALITION PROMISES MORE DEMOCRACY. The Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK)--a five-party election coalition-- said in a statement released on 30 August that it will strive for renewed democracy after the 1998 elections it is hoping to win. The coalition consists of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) , the Democratic Union, the Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party of Slovakia, and the Greens. The statement lists 15 points comprising the coalition's agenda, including efforts to secure a full-fledged position in NATO and the EU. The coalition says it will "punish crimes committed by the present government." HUNGARIAN CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS TO JOIN YOUNG DEMOCRATS. Eight members of the Christian Democratic People's Party's dissolved parliamentary faction, including ex-faction leader Tamas Isepy and party deputy chair Zsolt Semjen, announced on 29 August their intention to join the parliamentary group of the Alliance of Young Democrats - Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ-MPP). Zoltan Pokorni, Young Democrats' faction leader, welcomed the initiative and told "Magyar Hirlap" that FIDESZ will decide about receiving the eight new members at its September 7 meeting. He expressed hopes for a positive decision, saying the move would help establish a moderate, centrist opposition coalition. Meanwhile, the Hungarian Christian Democratic Union, established in mid-July and consisting of groups distancing themselves from the party's present leadership, elected Laszlo Surjan as the union's leader on 30 August. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE PLAVSIC, U.S. BLAME BELGRADE FOR BRCKO VIOLENCE. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 31 August that persons from Yugoslavia were behind the organized, armed attacks on NATO troops in Brcko last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 1997). Plavsic argued that "to take such irresponsible action there, driving in criminals from Yugoslavia... and then put women and children up front as shields is insane and amoral for any normal man." Observers note that all sides, however, used such tactics during the war. Meanwhile, police loyal to the hard-line leadership around Radovan Karadzic were still in control of the well-guarded police stations in Brcko and Bijeljina on 1 September. INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY NOT TO WORK WITH PLAVSIC RIVALS. Farrand also said in Banja Luka on 31 August that the international community will keep contact only with Bosnian Serb officials supporting Plavsic. Foreign diplomats had earlier refused to have anything to do with the Pale-based parliament, which she has dissolved. The international community has denied charges from Pale that the foreigners are taking sides and has responded that Plavsic is the Republika Srpska's only elected president and legitimate source of authority. Meanwhile, the Sarajevo-based daily "Vecernje Novine" and the Banja Luka-based "Nezavisne Novine" announced in Sarajevo that they will begin distributing each other's newspapers on 1 September. This is a landmark attempt to break the information barrier between the Croat-Muslim Federation and the Republika Srpska. U.S. ENVOY WARNS PALE OF "MOST SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES IMAGINABLE." Robert Gelbard called Karadzic spokesman Momcilo Krajisnik and other hard-line Bosnian Serb leaders "liars" during his visit to Pale on 30 August. The U.S. diplomat dubbed their policies "fascist and totalitarian" and warned the Pale leadership of tough consequences if they continue to defy the international community. Krajisnik responded that the Serbs "do not accept any threats." Some Western diplomats said that Krajisnik shrugged off the protests because only tough actions, and not tough talk, have an effect on the Serbs. Other diplomats argued that Krajisnik is nervous because he did not expect the Western reaction to the violence in Brcko to be so resolute. NATO TO TAKE HARD-LINE BOSNIAN SERB MEDIA OFF THE AIR? NATO ambassadors warned in Brussels on 30 August that SFOR will not tolerate further attacks against international personnel. The diplomats added that peacekeepers may silence media that incite violence or oppose the peace process, which observers said is a reference to Radio-TV Pale. Several international diplomats and U.S. lawmakers had earlier called for peacekeepers to shut down especially TV broadcasts from Pale, which, the critics said, openly incite Serbs to attack NATO troops. Meanwhile near Bijeljina, SFOR took over the Udrigovo TV relay station on 31 August. The station had been broadcasting programs from Pale to northeastern Bosnia. And in Doboj, Republika Srpska legislator and journalist Milovan Stankovic has gone on a hunger strike in prison. Hard-liners jailed him after he supported a pro-Plavsic takeover of a local TV transmitter (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 1997). IZETBEGOVIC PROMISES TO CATCH MURDERERS OF CROATIAN REFUGEES. Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim representative of the Bosnian joint presidency, demanded in Sarajevo on 31 August that federal and Travnik-area police quickly catch the persons who killed two Croatian returning refugees in Muslim-dominated Travnik the day before. Izetbegovic added that any crime against returning refugees is also a crime against the Dayton peace agreement, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. Croatian political leaders in the Travnik area warned that the murders have become a test case for the troubled Croat-Muslim Federation. The Croatian leaders said there is now reason to doubt the recent pledge by the Travnik authorities that the town is ready to receive 18,000 returning Croats. U.N. CRACKS DOWN ON SLAVONIAN FORCED PROSTITUTION RING. U.N. police officials announced in Vukovar on 30 August that they have freed 35 women from eastern European countries as part of a two- month crackdown on mafia-type activities in eastern Slavonia. The U.N. has contacted the women's embassies and made arrangements for those who want to go home to do so. The women had been lured to the area under promises of good jobs but were then forced into prostitution and their passports taken away. This is a familiar pattern involving eastern European women in brothels across much of the continent. U.N. officials said that mafia-type criminals have, moreover, resisted the reintegration of eastern Slavonia into Croatia, which the Mafiosi see as a threat to their economic interests. These involve fuel and cigarette smuggling and stolen cars, as well as prostitution. ITALY SETS DEADLINE FOR RETURN OF ALBANIAN REFUGEES. About 10,000 Albanians who took refugee in Italy during the unrest in March will be sent back by the end of November, "Dita Informacion" reported on 31 August. Italian Defense Minister Beniamino Andreatta said that the refugees would be expelled in a step-by-step approach starting soon, depending on the expiration date of their refugee documents. And in Gjirokaster, the conflict over the appointment of the local prefect and customs officials at the Greek border continues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 1997). The local branch of the Socialist Party claims that a large number of those appointed are corrupt. UPDATE ON ALBANIAN ARMS COLLECTION. Police collected 100,000 illegally held arms as of 30 August, according to Interior Minister Neritan Ceka. Up to 800,000 arms are, however, still in private hands. Ceka accused former President Sali Berisha of having ordered the arming of more than 4,000 of his Democratic Party supporters in March by taking advantage of his position as commander of the armed forces, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. According to "Zeri i Popullit," most of these weapons have since been turned in. Meanwhile, doctors said the health of hunger-striking former parliamentary speaker Pjeter Arbnori is worsening. Prime Minister Fatos Nano and President Rexhep Meidani sent messages to Arbnori, calling on him to end his protest and offered to start a discussion about democratization of the media. ROMANIA, RUSSIA TO DISCUSS TREATY. Romania and Russia have agreed to relaunch talks about a long-delayed treaty on bilateral relations, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 29 August. The treaty has been blocked by Bucharest's insistence that Moscow denounce the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact made in 1939 between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Under that pact, Romania lost control of territory in what is now Ukraine and Moldova. Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Severin said on 29 August that Bucharest wants to sign a new treaty with Russia as soon as possible after agreement is reached on the text. RFE/RL quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev as saying on 29 August that Russia also is prepared to resume negotiations. ROMAN REELECTED AS PARTY HEAD. Romania's former prime minister, Petre Roman, was reelected as head of the Democratic Party on 30 August during the party's national convention. Roman pledged that his party, a junior partner in the governing coalition of Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea, will continue to support radical economic restructuring -- including the closure of loss-making state industries. But Roman also said his party would criticize what it sees as errors in the application of reforms. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party passed a resolution asking for fair cooperation among the parties that make up the government. The Democratic Party said it will leave the coalition and ask for new elections if its coalition partners attempt to improve their own political profiles at the expense of its allies. The Democratic Party now controls the foreign affairs, defense and transport ministries. ROMANIAN PRESIDENT TO VISIT CHINA. Emil Constantinescu plans to make an official visit to China next week in an attempt to boost ties between the two countries. RFE/RL quotes officials in Bucharest as saying that the visit will take place between 8 and 12 September at the invitation of Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Constantinescu's schedule calls for meetings with Jiang and Prime Minister Li Peng, as well as with businessmen in Hong Kong and the economic zone of Zuhia. Foreign Minister Severin and several Romanian businessmen are expected to join Constantinescu's entourage. BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT MARKS 100th DAY IN OFFICE. Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov today marked his 100th day in office by issuing a report to his cabinet on its work to date. Details of the report are to be made public later today. RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reports that former interim Prime Minister Stefan Sofiansky attended the closed cabinet meeting. RFE/RL quotes a recent World Bank report noting progress toward financial stabilization and an improved climate for investment since Kostov's anti-Communist government took office. But the World Bank also says that several economic sectors, including retail trade, have so far failed to show signs of recovery. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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