On this shrunken globe, men can no longer live as strangers. - Adlai Stevenson
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 112, Part II, 8 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:
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Listen to news for 13 countries
RFE/RL broadcasts to countries in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Russia
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Headlines, Part II

* VILNIUS MEETING HIGHLIGHTS LUKASHENKA'S ISOLATION

* SERBIAN ORTHODOX PATRIARCH MEDIATES BETWEEN PLAVSIC,
KRAJISNIK

* ALBANIA MOURNS MOTHER TERESA

End Note : "THE SPIRIT OF VILNIUS"
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

VILNIUS MEETING HIGHLIGHTS LUKASHENKA'S ISOLATION. The 10
East European presidents attending the European security meeting in
Vilnius on 5-6 September were virtually unanimous in denouncing
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's authoritarian rule, an
RFE/RL correspondent at the meeting reported. Estonian President
Lennart Meri took the lead in criticizing Lukashenka, and his sharp
words were echoed not only by the East European leaders but also by
representatives of Belarusian public organizations. The meeting's
attitude toward the Belarusian leader was summed up by one official
who told RFE/RL that "Lukashenka is the Lysenko of today," a
reference to the Stalin-era agricultural researcher who largely
destroyed the science of genetics in the USSR (see also "End Note"
below).

BELARUS TO SEEK SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP WITH NATO. Lukashenka
told the Vilnius summit on 5 September that his country will seek to
negotiate an agreement with NATO similar to the ones the alliance
has signed with Russia and Ukraine. He said NATO's planned
expansion should not be allowed to create tension in the region and
that he wants an agreement to ensure the safety of Belarus.
Lukashenka accused Western governments and alliances of "double
standards," saying they view integration with the West as positive
but integration with the East as negative.

CHERNOMYRDIN DETAILS MOSCOW'S IDEAS ON BALTIC SECURITY.
Addressing the Vilnius summit on 5 September, Russian Premier
Viktor Chernomyrdin stressed Moscow's view that the eastward
expansion of NATO is the "largest strategic mistake since the end of
the Cold War." He said that in order to keep the Baltic states a "non-
bloc region, along with Finland and Sweden," Moscow is prepared to
adopt a variety of confidence-building measures for the region.
Those measures include a commitment that maneuvers in
Kaliningrad Oblast will be "defensive" only, the opening of a hot line
between the oblast and the three Baltic military commands, the
establishment of a joint military airspace control zone also involving
Poland and the Scandinavian countries, and the exchange of fleet
visits between those countries and Russia. All three Baltic presidents
responded by stressing that their countries remain committed to
joining NATO.

BALTIC-RUSSIAN BORDER AGREEMENTS IN OFFING? Following
bilateral meetings with Chernomyrdin in Vilnius, all three Baltic
presidents said on 5 September that they expect to sign border
agreements with Moscow in the near future. The absence of such
accords since the re-establishment of independence has been a major
obstacle to developing good relations between the Baltic States and
Russia and to integrating the three Baltic countries into the West.
Most Western institutions insist that the countries to be integrated
do not have outstanding border disagreements with their neighbors.

MISSING NUKES IN BALTICS? Chernomyrdin dismissed as "absolute
stupidity" a statement by former Russian national security adviser
Aleksandr Lebed that Moscow may have left behind some 100 small
nuclear weapons in the Baltic States or in other former Soviet
republis, BNS reported on 5 September. Speaking in Vilnius,
Chernomyrdin said that Lebed's claim, which was made on U.S.
television, was "totally out of the question." The Russian premier
repeated assurances that "all Russian nuclear weapons remain under
general and perfectly reliable control of the Russian armed forces."

LUKASHENKA SAYS SOROS MUST PAY TAXES. Lukashenka told
journalists in Vilnius on 5 September that the Soros Foundation in
Minsk can leave Belarus but must first pay taxes. The foundation,
which promotes democratic reforms in former communist states, said
on 3 September it was quitting Belarus in the face of demands for tax
and threats of prosecution. It said the closure of its offices in Belarus
was part of a campaign to destroy civil society in the former Soviet
state. The foundation noted it invested $13 million in humanitarian
projects in Belarus and said it was given assurances it was exempt
from taxes. The Belarusian authorities, however, are claiming it owes
$3 million in taxes.

EU LEADERS URGE REFORMS IN UKRAINE... Jean-Claude Juncker,
prime minister of Luxembourg and current holder of the EU's
rotating presidency, said if Ukraine wants to get closer to the EU, the
reforms that have taken place must continue and deepen. Juncker
and European Commission President Jacques Santer headed a
delegation that was in Ukraine for talks with President Leonid
Kuchma and other officials. The EU leaders praised Ukraine for
reducing inflation and stabilizing its currency but said the country
must move ahead with further economic reforms. Juncker said after
the summit that the EU has a positive view about the changes that
have taken place in Ukraine since 1991. But he said there is still
"much to be done."

...WHILE UKRAINE PROMISES REFORMS. Prime Minister Valery
Pustovoitenko told journalists on 6 September that economic reforms
will continue in Ukraine and that Kyiv hopes to further improve its
economic performance. He made the comment after signing a tax
agreement with Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker.
The EU signed a partnership and cooperation agreement with
Ukraine in 1994, replacing a trade treaty with the former Soviet
Union. More than 17 percent of Ukraine's imports originate in the EU.

GERMANY TO BACK LITHUANIA FOR EU MEMBERSHIP. During a
private visit to Vilnius on 7 September, German Bundestag speaker
Rita Suessmuth told Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas and
parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis that Germany will push
for Lithuanian entry into the EU, ITAR-TASS reported. Suessmuth
said "it is very important" that Lithuania have "concrete prospects"
for EU membership. But she warned that Vilnius will have to work
hard to merit inclusion. Up to now, she said, Lithuania has not done
enough, especially "in the sphere of privatizing big economic
projects."

LATVIA RESTRICTS USE OF FOREIGN TEXTBOOKS. Education minister
Juris Celmins issued a degree on 3 September limiting the use of
textbooks published abroad in the country's classrooms, ITAR-TASS
reported on 5 September. The decree is likely to have the greatest
impact on Latvia's Russian-language secondary schools, few of which
have enough textbooks published in Latvia. They had been using
texts published in the Russian Federation. If fully implemented, the
decree will limit such use.

POLISH HEALTH DISPUTE SETTLED. Following agreements on wage
increases, Polish doctors ended a protest that had threatened to
disrupt the country's health service, PAP reported on 5 September.
Some 200 doctors in the southwestern province of Opole returned to
work after health officials agreed to a 3.5 zloty ($1) increase over the
4 zloty they were receiving for each hour of emergency duty.
Anesthetists also returned to work after signing a separate pay
agreement with the Health Ministry in Warsaw. Provincial
authorities had been forced to call in military doctors and recruit
several others from Africa to shore up local health services following
Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz's announcement that the
1997 budget has no resources for wage hikes.

HUNGARIAN PREMIER SAYS MECIAR WANTS POPULATION
EXCHANGE. Gyula Horn told Hungarian Radio on 5 September that at
a mid-August meeting in Gyor, his Slovak counterpart, Vladimir
Meciar, suggested the voluntary repatriation of ethnic Hungarians
living in Slovakia and ethnic Slovaks living in Hungary. Horn said he
had categorically refused to discuss the topic, adding that it evokes
"very sad" and "tragic" historical memories. He said he had not
mentioned the matter earlier because he himself had not brought up
the topic and because he is unwilling to discuss it. At a rally in
Bratislava on 4 September, Meciar said he had proposed to Horn that
those people who do not want to be Slovak citizens go to Hungary
and live there.

HUNGARY'S CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS JOIN FORCES WITH YOUNG
DEMOCRATS. The parliamentary caucus of the Alliance of Young
Democrats--Hungarian Civic Party's (FIDESZ-MPP) voted on 7
September to admit 11 members of the Christian Democratic People's
Party's parliamentary group, which was recently dissolved. FIDESZ-
MPP is now the largest opposition party in the parliament, Hungarian
media reported. The 11 new members can work within FIDESZ-MPP
but will not join the party. The parliament's Constitutional Committee
has yet to approve the move.

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

SERBIAN ORTHODOX PATRIARCH MEDIATES BETWEEN PLAVSIC,
KRAJISNIK. Patriarch Pavle mediated between Republika Srpska
President Biljana Plavsic and Momcilo Krajisnik, the spokesman for
hard-line leader Radovan Karadzic, in Banja Luka on 8 September.
The outcome of the talks is not known. Earlier, five buses left the
hard-liners' stronghold of Pale carrying Karadzic supporters from
eastern Herzegovina. They plan to hold a rally in Banja Luka, where
Plavsic's headquarters is located. On 7 September, Banja Luka police
banned rallies in that town lest they lead to violence between
Plavsic's supporters and her opponents. Police spokesmen told BETA
news agency that the hard-liners from the Serbian Democratic Party
have not asked for permission to hold a rally. A spokesman for
Plavsic said that the rally is one more attempt by her enemies to
oppose her with street actions rather than by political means.

PLAVSIC WANTS U.S. HELP FOR BOSNIAN SERB ARMY. A military
affairs spokesman for Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 6 September that
she wants the U.S. to help train the Bosnian Serb army (VRS), just as
Washington has already done for the Croatian-Muslim federation's
military. She made the request to a visiting delegation from the U.S.
Defense Department, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Banja
Luka. Plavsic's spokesman added that U.S. assistance to the VRS
would convince Bosnian Serbs that the international community is
treating both sides in Bosnia equally. Observers noted that such aid
would further link the international community to Plavsic and
promote her program to help the Bosnian Serbs overcome
international isolation. U.S. involvement with the VRS would also
make the VRS a more professional organization and weaken the
lasting grip on it of warlords and indicted war criminals opposed to
Plavsic.

IZETBEGOVIC REELECTED HEAD OF MUSLIM PARTY. Delegates to the
6-7 September convention of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) in
Sarajevo reelected Alija Izetbegovic chair of the leading Bosnian
Muslim political organization on 8 September. The 72-year-old
chairman, who ran unopposed, told the convention that the party
needs younger leaders. Izetbegovic added that the SDA must devote
more time to social issues and transform itself "into a Bosnian variant
of a Social Democratic party," an RFE/RL correspondent reported
from Sarajevo. Izetbegovic also said that Bosnia needs more tolerance
and less nationalism. Observers noted, however, that, since the end of
the war, his SDA-led government has removed from office Serbs,
Croats, and moderate Muslims who remained loyal to Izetbegovic's
government throughout the conflict. The convention is part of the
campaign for the 13-14 September local elections.

ACCUSED CROATIAN WAR CRIMINAL WANTS TO DEFEND HIMSELF.
Nationalist politician Tomislav Mercep said on 5 September that he is
willing to appear before the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to
deny charges by a former subordinate that Mercep was involved in
war crimes against ethnic Serb civilians in 1991 (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 4 September 1997). In other news, the government
announced that the 60,000 citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina living in
Croatia can cast their votes in the upcoming local elections at 80
locations across Croatia.

MACEDONIA ARRESTS TWO ALBANIANS FOR KILLING POLICEMEN.
The Interior Ministry announced on 7 September that police have
arrested two ethnic Albanians in the Tetovo area for murder. Police
spokesmen said the brothers Agim and Besnik Alili had gunned
down two Macedonian policemen in the village of Dolno Palciste
Tetovsko. The two policemen were attempting to search the home of
one of the Albanians when the other Albanian opened fire with an
automatic weapon. Macedonian TV said that the brothers were illegal
immigrants from Albania. Armed gangs and smugglers have
frequently crossed from Albania into Kosovo and Macedonia since
early this year, when law and order collapsed in much of Albania.

ALBANIA MOURNS MOTHER TERESA. Prime Minister Fatos Nano on 6
September announced that Albania will observe three days of
mourning for the nun, who died in Calcutta the previous day. He also
said a square in Tirana will be named after her. President Rexhep
Meidani said she will remain a symbol of unity and humanity for
Albania, which is deeply divided along religious, regional, and
political lines. Mother Theresa was born Agnes Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in
1910 in Skopje, Macedonia, to an ethnic Albanian merchant family.
She is known in Albania as "the world's most famous Albanian" and
was a welcome visitor even in late communist times. In Skopje,
Mayor Risto Penov said on 6 September that the city is proud to have
been her birthplace and will "preserve her spiritual heritage and
transmit it to future generations." In Pristina, Kosovar shadow-state
President Ibrahim Rugova called her death a "painful loss" for
Albanians throughout the world.

ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT FIRES 17 GENERALS. President Meidani
signed an order on 6 September sacking 17 generals but allowing
them to keep their rank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 1997).
A Defense Ministry spokesman denied that the sackings are
politically motivated. He charged that the 17 men had "destroyed the
Albanian army" during the anarchy that gripped the country early
this year. The spokesman said the generals are to blame for the
collapse of military discipline and for the theft of many weapons and
much equipment by looters. In other news, Meidani announced on 7
September that a "national assembly" of ethnic Albanians from
Albania and abroad will discuss the Kosovo question. Observers said
that the new Socialist government is likely to continue its
predecessor's moderate line on Kosovo.

ROMANIAN POLICE CHIEF FIRED. The government on 6 September
fired Gen. Pavel Abraham from his post as head of the state police
force, RFE/RL's Romanian service reported. Interior Minister Gavril
Dejeu accused Abraham of showing a "lack of interest in solving cases
whose perpetrator was unknown." Other reasons cited for the firing
include "inefficiency" and "poor results in combating crime."
Abraham was appointed to the post earlier this year.. The dailies
"Ziua" and "Romania Libera" have reported that Abraham received
preferential loans from the state-owned foreign trade bank Bancorex.
That bank is at the center of an ongoing scandal linked to the
previous former communist government.

DEMOCRACY CONFERENCE ENDS IN BUCHAREST. A UN conference in
Bucharest on "New or Restored Democracies" ended on 5 September
with a call for continued assistance for social and economic reforms,
RFE/RL's Romanian service reported. In a final communique,
conference participants urged the World Bank and the IMF to remain
active where reforms are helping to establish democracy and free
market economics. The communique was forwarded to the UN
General Assembly. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a video-
taped message to conference participants that the UN has every
interest in strengthening democracies and safeguarding peace.

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT SAYS MINE MANAGERS 'CRIMINALLY
NEGLIGENT.' A government commission on 8 September published a
report saying "criminal negligence" resulted in the deaths of 10 coal
miners in a recent explosion, RFE/RL's Bulgarian service reported.
The commission implicated 24 to 30 managers in the 2 September
blast at the Bobov Dol coal mine, about 70 kilometers southwest of
Sofia. No formal charges have been filed. Seven miners were killed
instantly and three more have since died from their injuries. About
20 others were injured. RFE/RL reports that miners told investigators
they were sent to work near the explosion site before a gas-filled
chamber had been properly ventilated. The methane gas is thought
to have built up in the chamber during a one-month holiday recess.
President Petar Stoyanov and Prime Minister Ivan Kostov's
government reportedly are considering the closure of the mine.

LUKANOV'S ASSASSINATION ORDERED FROM WITHIN BULGARIA?
Bozhidar Popov, the chief secretary of the Bulgarian Interior ministry
says that former Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov was killed on the
order of someone within Bulgaria. On 7 September, the Sofia daily
"24 Hours" quoted Popov as saying that the investigation into
Lukanov's 2 October1996 assassination has uncovered evidence
about who commissioned the killing. He added that investigators
think there was no involvement or influence from forces outside
Bulgaria. Lukanov, a former Communist Party Central Committee
member who helped orchestrate the 1989 coup that ousted dictator
Todor Zhivkov, had been involved in business deals with Russia's
Gazprom and Bulgaria's powerful conglomerate Multigroup. As the
leader of a faction within the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Lukanov was
also engaged in an open feud with another BSP member--former
Prime Minister Zhan Videnov.

END NOTE

"THE SPIRIT OF VILNIUS"

by Paul Goble

        For the first time, the countries between the Baltic and the
Black Seas have found a common voice, one that will help them to
integrate into the West, even as they smooth their relations with one
another and with Moscow. At a meeting in Vilnius on 5 and 6
September, the presidents of 10 countries in the region sharply
criticized the retreat from democratic reforms in Belarus. They
stressed they want to work with both Russia and the West. And they
committed themselves to broader regional cooperation.
        As a result, a summit originally convened to help overcome
bilateral conflicts among those states was transformed into
something much bigger. That development would appear to justify
the claims of some of the leaders present that they will be guided by
the "spirit of Vilnius" in the future.
        The meeting, organized by the leaders of Poland and Lithuania,
attracted the presidents of Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary,
Latvia, Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine, as well as the prime minister
of the Russian Federation. The outcome of the meeting was defined
less by the individual positions that each of those leaders took than
by the collective spirit they displayed on three key issues.
        First, virtually all the presidents were sharply critical of the
increasingly anti-democratic behavior of one of their numbers,
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Their outspokenness
violated the usual diplomatic niceties of such sessions and indicated
that the countries of the region are at least prepared to take a hard
line against those who retreat from democracy and a free market
economy. It also largely dispelled the fears of those who had thought
Lukashenka might be able to exploit the Vilnius summit to escape his
regime's current isolation on the international scene.
        Instead, the Vilnius meeting underlined Lukashenka's isolation
from his own people, from neighboring states, and from both Moscow
and the West. Not only did the leaders of the other countries speak
out, but representatives of Belarusian society directly challenged
Lukashenka's claims.
        Second, the 10 presidents indicated they want to cooperate
with both East and West rather than being forced to choose between
one or the other. Part of the reasoning behind that position was
clearly tactical. Several leaders said they are interested in improved
relations with Russia in order to improve their standing with
Western governments that have made good relations with Moscow a
virtual requirement for inclusion in Western institutions.
        But at the Vilnius meeting, there were also strategic
considerations. The Baltic presidents, for example, did not react as
sharply as they have in the past to Russian Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin's latest elaboration of Russian suggestions that the
three rely on Moscow rather than NATO. Each calmly reiterated the
desire of his country to join the Western alliance, but each equally
calmly said that his country did not want involvement with the West
to preclude good relations with Moscow.
        This approach led to a remarkable breakthrough. Following
bilateral meetings with the Russian premier, each of the Baltic
presidents was able to announce that he would soon be signing a
border agreement with the Russian Federation, thus laying to rest a
long-standing sore point in relations with Moscow.
        Third, the 10 presidents asserted that they want to work
together precisely so that they can take responsibility for themselves
rather than waiting for one or the other outside power to decide
their fate, as has happened so often in the past.
        Two countries -- Poland and Ukraine -- offered to host a
follow-up regional summit in 1999. And the representatives of
several other presidents indicated they were interested in much
closer consultations across the region.
        In the past, efforts to promote such cooperation have
foundered on tensions among those countries and on the fears in
both Moscow and the West that such arrangements might become a
barrier to the inclusion of Russia into European institutions. But
precisely because the Vilnius summit was called to avoid setting up
such a barrier, this latest drive toward cooperation among the
countries of the region may be more successful than its predecessors
before World War Two and in the early 1990s.
        It has already attracted less opposition and more support from
outside. Not only did Moscow not denounce it, but U.S. President Bill
Clinton said it could play a useful role in "erasing the old dividing
lines in Europe." To the extent that the countries of the region
continue to act as they did in the Lithuanian capital, the "spirit of
Vilnius" may prove a turning point not only for them but for Europe
as a whole.

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               Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
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