|One must learn by doing the thing; though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try. - Sophocles|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 111, Part II, 5 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 * BELARUS FREES ORT JOURNALIST * NATO COMMANDER WARNS MILOSEVIC * TIRANA POLICE CHIEFS CHARGED WITH DISTRIBUTING ARMS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUS FREES ORT JOURNALIST. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 4 September confirmed reports that one of the two Russian Public Television (ORT) journalists detained since the end of July has been freed. Lukashenka told journalists in Vilnius that cameraman Dimitri Zavadsky has been released but that his colleague, Pavel Sheremet, remains in prison. According to Lukashenka, Zavadsky asked for his release whereas Sheremet has not. The president commented that Sheremet "must like it in his cell." The two journalists are both Belarusian citizens and were arrested after filming near the border with Lithuania. They were accused of illegally crossing the border but denied the charges. Zavadsky reportedly sent a petition to the Belarusian authorities expressing his regret over the incident. Russian President Boris Yeltsin has appealed to Lukashenka to release the two journalists before Lukashenka's trip to Moscow on 6 September. BID TO DISMISS UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT. Igor Koliuchko, the secretary of the parliamentary Legal Committee, told journalists on 4 September that the committee has moved to dismiss President Leonid Kuchma, whom it accuses of "abuse of power" following his vetos of the law on local administrations. The parliament overruled both of the president's vetos, but the law was never signed because Kuchma claimed the deputies had violated the voting procedure and had not examined all his proposals. Koliuchko said the committee's motion to dismiss Kuchma will be submitted to the parliament soon. Kuchma on 4 September dismissed the move as "bluff and comedy." He said the decision has "no meaning for those who understand the Ukrainian Constitution," UNIAN reported. EU-UKRAINE SUMMIT STARTS IN KYIV. A spokeswoman for Hans van den Broek, the EU commissioner responsible for relations with Eastern Europe, told journalists on 4 September that the EU wants to help Ukraine integrate as rapidly as possible into the world economy. Speaking on the eve of a EU-Ukraine summit in Kyiv, she said Brussels fully supports Ukraine's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). EU President and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, Executive Commission President Jacques Santer, and Van den Broek are to meet with President Kuchma to discuss Kyiv's entry into the WTO, safety measures at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, and the implementation of a partnership and cooperation agreement between the EU and Ukraine. That agreement is expected to be fully ratified later this year by the EU's parliament. UKRAINE ANNOUNCES PRIVATIZATION PLANS . The State Property Fund has said shares in 58 state-owned companies will be sold this month on the nation's "over-the-counter" stock market, Bloomberg Business News reported on 4 September. A fund said the initial package of shares has an estimated value of some $2.1 million. It also pledged to sell shares in 139 companies, valued at $27 million, in October. Plans are currently being drawn up to sell some of the country's largest companies, including firms in the energy, petrochemical, and metallurgy sectors. ESTONIAN UPDATE. Tiit Vahi, the chairman of the ruling Coalition Party and former prime minister, has announced he is quitting politics, ETA reported on 4 September. Vahi said he will submit his resignation as party chairman and parliamentary deputy but will remain a member of the Coalition Party. Meanwhile, President Lennart Meri promised in a speech in Helsinki to improve the situation of the Russian minority in Estonia and simplify the process for gaining citizenship, ETA reported, citing the daily "Helsingen Sanomat." He also expressed the hope that non-Estonians living in Estonia would show greater interest in acquiring Estonian citizenship now that Tallinn's admission to the EU seems likely. LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS CHERNOMYRDIN... On the eve of the Vilnius summit on security and cooperation, Algirdas Brazauskas met with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in the Lithuanian capital, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 September. Chernomyrdin told reporters later that talks focused on stepping up the work of the intergovernmental Russian-Lithuanian commission, which, he stressed, is "capable of solving many trade and economic problems in a routine way." He said that the issue of cargo transiting Lithuania en route to Kaliningrad Oblast was also discussed. Refuting allegations that Russia is opposed to a readmission accord between Belarus and Lithuania, Chernomyrdin said the two countries will sign such an agreement "and then we shall join it." In an interview with the daily "Lietuvos Rytas" published the same day, the Russian premier spoke out in favor of improving relations with Vilnius. He commented that Moscow does not intend either to "conflict with Lithuania or smother her in a loving embrace," BNS reported. ...AND LUKASHENKA. Brazauskas also met with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to discuss bilateral relations, the signing of the readmission agreement, and progress toward delimiting the Lithuanian-Belarusian border. They confirmed the "existence of normal and good-neighborly relations between the two countries," ITAR-TASS reported on 4 September. In addition to Brazauskas, Lukashenka, and Chernomyrdin, the presidents of Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine are attending the two-day conference. Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari is taking part as a guest. POLISH PRESIDENT WRAPS UP PORTUGAL VISIT. Aleksander Kwasniewski, speaking at the end of his three-day visit to Portugal, said on 4 September he is satisfied with Portuguese support for Poland's eventual membership in NATO and the EU. Kwasniewski told reporters in Lisbon that Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres had expressed confidence that Poland will soon become a member of both organizations. The two met in the northern Portuguese city of Porto. FORUM 2000 CONTINUES IN PRAGUE. Czech President Vaclav Havel, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and Russian human rights advocate Sergei Kovalyov were among those who addressed the Forum 2000 conference in Prague on 4 September, RFE/RL's correspondents reported. RFE/RL is a media partner of the four-day conference. The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who is also attending the conference told journalists he is optimistic about future relations between Tibet and China because of the changes taking place inside Chinese society. He said that there are many intellectuals and thinkers in China who are realizing what is at stake for Tibet. He said he was aiming for a solution that would be acceptable to both sides and that he is "definitely not seeking independence" for Tibet. CZECH GOVERNMENT PRIVATIZES BECHEROVKA DISTILLERY. The Czech government on 3 September announced it has agreed to sell state-owned Jan Becher-Karlovarska Becherovka -- the distillery that produces the famous "Becherovka" herbal liqueur. The purchaser of the 89 percent stake in the distillery is Value Bill, a firm that is owned 40 percent by the Czech investment bank Patria Finance, 40 percent by the French distillery Pernod Ricard, and 20 percent by Karel Schwarzenberg, former head of the Czech President's Office. Value Bill was selected by the government from among six bidders. On 4 September, opposition deputies demanded that the government explain how it reached its decision, alleging that the government might have acted improperly. The parliament, however, rejected the motion to discuss the sale. SLOVAK OPPOSITION AGAINST EARLY PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. Ludovit Cernak, deputy chairman of the opposition Democratic Union, told journalists in Bratislava on 4 September that in order to hold presidential elections before 1 January 1998, the constitution would have to be changed. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar said on 3 September that the election of the new president will take place in December and that his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) is conducting talks with other parties on the issue. The constitution stipulates that the election of the new president take place during the last 60 days of the term of the incumbent president or within thirty days of his leaving office prematurely. Kovac was elected on 15 February 1993, but he was not sworn in until 2 March. According to opposition lawyers, the parliament can elect the new president on 1 January 1998 at the earliest. Meciar and the HZDS's legal experts say, however, that Kovac's term ends fours years after he was elected. HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES FOREIGN TRAVEL REGULATIONS. The government has passed a bill stating that people who owe more than 10 million forints (some $50,000) to tax, social insurance, or customs authorities will be barred from leaving the country, Hungarian media reported. Government spokesman Elemer Kiss told reporters on 4 September that the same rule will apply to those against whom criminal proceedings are under way for offenses punishable by at least five years in prison. The bill also provides for the reintroduction of diplomatic passports. It is expected to be approved by the parliament in November and to take effect within six months of that date. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO COMMANDER WARNS MILOSEVIC. Gen. Wesley Clark told Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Yugoslav Army Chief of Staff Gen. Momcilo Perisic in Belgrade on 4 September that SFOR has the right to use force if deemed necessary. Milosevic and Perisic denied charges that Yugoslav special police participated in recent Bosnian Serb mob violence against NATO troops. Meanwhile, a Pentagon spokesman said that the U.S. will transfer six F-16 aircraft from Germany to Italy to support SFOR in preparation for the 14 September Bosnian local elections. And in Brussels, U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard said on 5 September that those elections will go ahead even if the Bosnian Serbs decide to boycott them. Gelbard also urged European states to be tougher on Milosevic and insist that he stop backing Bosnian Serb hard-liners. CROATIA, ISRAEL ESTABLISH DIPLOMATIC TIES. Croatian and Israeli diplomats signed documents in New York on 4 September to set up diplomatic relations. Israeli press reports have suggested that Jerusalem agreed to recognize Zagreb in the hope of selling arms to Croatia and despite some Israeli misgivings about Croatia's fascist legacy from World War II (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 1997). Meanwhile in Split, former Interior Minister Ivan Vekic denied charges by former special police agent Miro Bajramovic that Croatian police committed atrocities against Serbs when Vekic was in office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 1997). Vekic called Bajramovic a "liar" and added that "the thing to know is whether his lies are the consequence of his psychological state...or whether he has been asked to take this role by world powers in order to discredit Croatia." MONTENEGRO TO KEEP OWN SECRET POLICE. Montenegrin Interior Minister Filip Vujanovic said in Podgorica on 5 September that he hopes the federal Interior Ministry will abandon plans to abolish the republican secret services. Vujanovic said he will ask Montenegrin deputies in the federal parliament to vote down the measure if the Interior Ministry goes ahead with it. Vujanovic insisted that Montenegro must maintain its own intelligence service independent of Belgrade. Also in Podgorica, Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said on 4 September that the 5 October presidential elections will be a referendum on whether Montenegrins want to retain their autonomy vis-a-vis Belgrade. POLICE STATION ATTACKED IN KOSOVO. Police spokesmen said in Pristina on 4 September that unidentified persons attacked a police station in a nearby town with a hand grenade and automatic rifles the previous night. No one has claimed responsibility for the act, but observers say it has the hallmarks of the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army. Meanwhile in Nis, Serbian presidential candidate Vuk Draskovic said on 4 September that his victory in the 21 September elections "will put an end to the [ethnic Albanians'] dream of an independent Kosovo." He urged "our dear Albanian neighbors" to accept that Kosovo will always be part of Serbia. Ethnic Albanian political parties are boycotting the election. Their spokesmen say that no Serbian party has a platform on Kosovo that the Albanians can accept. Meanwhile in Novi Pazar, the Muslim-led List for Sandzak coalition announced that Sulejman Ugljanin will head its slate in the legislative elections. TIRANA POLICE CHIEFS CHARGED WITH DISTRIBUTING ARMS. Most Tirana district police chiefs face charges for distributing about 300 arms to civilian supporters of the Democratic Party during the unrest in March, "Dita Informacion" reported on 5 September. The State Prosecutor's Office said that handing out the weapons constituted a violation of police regulations and that only one district chief did not take part in arming Democrats. In some cases, police failed to register the addresses of those who received the weapons. Those civilians who kept their arms after the 31 August deadline will also face charges. SHAKEUP IN ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY. Six of the seven directors of Foreign Ministry departments were replaced on 4 September, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Foreign Minister Paskal Milo asked all Albanian ambassadors abroad to resign because, he said, an ambassador's job is essentially political in nature and the new government wants its own appointees to represent it. The Socialist Bashkim Zeneli, the deputy head of parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, will resign his legislative seat to become ambassador to Germany. His colleague in Paris will be Luan Rama, who was sacked two years ago as press attache to France. Servet Pellumbi, a former Socialist Party secretary-general from the party's conservative wing, will go to Russia. It is unclear who will serve in Washington. In other news, the government on 3 September invalidated most diplomatic passports. Spokesmen said the former government issued some 700 such documents to political favorites. ALBANIAN DOCTORS SAY LEGISLATOR'S LIFE IS IN DANGER. Doctors in Tirana on 4 September urged Democratic Party member and former parliamentary speaker Pjeter Arbnori to end his hunger strike, which he launched two weeks ago to protest the allegedly biased reporting of state television news. It is unclear whether he has taken the doctors' advice. French President Jacques Chirac and other top French officials have expressed their concern for Arbnori's health. Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha earlier asked Arbnori to stop his hunger strike, but Arbnori refused. In Durres, prosecutors on 5 September concluded their investigations into the 4 June assassination attempt against Berisha (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 1997). The trial of assailant Ilir Ceta will begin shortly. OPENING OF ROMANIAN SECRET POLICE FILES DISCUSSED. The National Peasant Party (PNTCD), the senior ruling coalition party, is debating whether communist-era secret police files should be opened to the public, RFE/RL's Romanian service reported on 5 September. Ion Diaconescu, president of the PNTCD and chairman of the lower house of the parliament, said access to secret police files should be controlled by a parliamentary commission. Otherwise, he said, a national controversy is likely to result. But PNTCD member Tichu Dumitrescu is demanding that all secret police files be opened for public review, RFE/RL reported. Discussion of the bill, drafted by Dumitrescu, has been repeatedly postponed for three years. Both Diaconescu and Dumitrescu spent years in communist jails as political prisoners. BULGARIAN BUSINESS BLOC DISBANDS PARLIAMENTARY GROUP. The Bulgarian Business Bloc (BBB), the smallest party in the National Assembly, was forced to disband its parliamentary group on 5 September, RFE/RL's Sofia Bureau reported. The departure of Georgy Agofonov had reduced the size of the group to nine deputies (a minimum of 10 deputies are needed for a parliamentary group to exist). Twelve BBB candidates were elected to the parliament in April. Agofonov's resignation from the party comes after BBB leader George Ganchev on 4 September expelled two other deputies who had publicly criticized Ganchev. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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