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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 114, Part II, 10 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 * OSCE AGAIN EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER BELARUS * KARADZIC BACKERS LEAVE BANJA LUKA * CROATIAN, SERBIAN NATIONALISTS TO BOYCOTT BOSNIAN VOTE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE OSCE AGAIN EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER BELARUS. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has again urged Belarus to accept its offer to provide assistance in developing a democratic form of government, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. A spokesman at OSCE headquarters in Vienna said on 9 September that the organization is ready to resume negotiations on opening an OSCE office in Minsk. Belarus gave preliminary permission in June but stopped the negotiations in July following a dispute with the OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly. The spokesman said the organization remains concerned about developments in Belarus and the political situation there. Belarusian Foreign minister Ivan Antanovich is scheduled to discuss the proposed mission at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna on 18 September. WORLD BANK MAY REVIEW ITS UKRAINE PROGRAMS. Edilberto Segura, the World Bank's mission chief in Kyiv, told journalists on 9 September that the bank may need to refocus its programs in Ukraine now that the country has a new leadership. Segura spoke after meeting with Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko. The bank recently suspended a $317 million electric utility loan because the parliament did not raise electricity rates, as required to receive the loan. Second tranches on two other loans--$150 million for restructuring the coal industry and $150 million for agricultural projects--have not been released because Kyiv has failed to meet the necessary criteria. RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reports that Paul Siegelbaum, the bank's Washington-based director for Ukraine and Belarus, will travel to Kyiv in mid-October. BALTIC LEADERS ON EU ACCESSION. Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves told Radio Estonia on 9 September that Tallinn should not demand that Latvia and Lithuania be admitted to the EU in the first round of expansion since this would mean "we put the European Commission's July decision [to recommend Estonia] in doubt," BNS reported. But he said Tallinn should support the aspirations of its Baltic neighbors "in some way." In Riga, Premier Guntars Krasts again remarked that cooperation between the Baltic States will be endangered if accession talks are started with only Estonia. He argued that Tallinn has already lost interest in the proposed Baltic customs union. And in Stockholm, Lithuanian Premier Gedeminas Vagnorius told a congress of the European People's Party that a decision not to include Lithuania in the first wave would leave the country vulnerable to Russian pressure. He noted that relations with Moscow are now good but added there is uncertainty about the future. VILNIUS COMMEMORATES TALMUD SCHOLAR. The Lithuanian capital has begun commemorating the 200th anniversary of the death of the Gaon of Vilnius, BNS and dpa reported on 9 September. Highlights of the state-sponsored, week-long event include a ceremonial parliamentary session remembering the Talmud scholar and a concert and reception hosted by President Algirdas Brazauskas. Four torahs are to be handed over to the Vilnius synagogue in a special ceremony. The Israeli-based Simon Wiesenthal Center has called for a boycott of the event, arguing that Lithuania has failed to prosecute individuals suspected of involvement in the persecution of Jews during World War Two. POLAND ADOPTS PLAN TO MODERNIZE ARMY. The government on 9 September adopted a 15-year plan to modernize its armed forces at a cost of tens of billions of zlotys. President Aleksander Kwasniewski told reporters that Poland has a "very concrete program" for modernizing the armed forces until the year 2012. Forces will be cut from 220,000 to some 180,000 and military service shortened to 12 months. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said equipment needs include anti-tank missiles and electronic devices for Poland's Huzar helicopter. The helicopter deal is being contested by Israeli firms and a consortium led by the U.S. Boeing company and backed by NATO states. Kwasniewski said a final decision will be made only after the 21 September parliamentary elections. CZECH DEFENSE BUDGET WILL BE INCREASED. Following his meeting with President Vaclav Havel on 9 September, Defense Minister Miloslav Vyborny told journalists that the promised Defense Ministry budget increase is not threatened. "If Finance Minister [Ivan Pilip] proposes something else, he is not so much in disagreement with me as with the government's decree," Vyborny said. He and Havel agreed that the 1998 defense budget must be increased by 0.1 percent of GDP, as the Czech Republic has pledged to NATO. Pilip said after meeting with Havel later the same day that "because so many cuts are having to be made elsewhere, voters need to be shown that money is being well spent on the army." He told Czech Radio he was proposing that if the defense budget rises by 0.1 percent of GDP next year, a commission monitoring sales and procurement of army equipment should be set up and clear rules established for the tenders. SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON LANGUAGE LAW COMPLAINTS. The Constitutional Court on 9 September ruled that a provision in the language law requiring all Slovak citizens to use the Slovak language when writing to state bodies is unconstitutional, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. Opposition deputies filed the complaint against the provision. The constitution guarantees ethnic minorities the right to use their mother tongue in official contacts. The court, however, did not uphold 10 other opposition complaints against the language law, saying that a number of mistakes were made in filing them. Court chairman Milan Cic said that if the deputies had used different legal arguments, the final results might have been different. HUNGARY CRITICIZES SLOVAK PROPOSAL ON MINORITY EXCHANGES. Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs told the parliament on 9 September that a Slovak proposal for ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia to resettle in Hungary violates a friendship treaty between the two countries. Kovacs said he will do his best to bring international pressure on Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar to abandon the idea. Meciar told a rally of his ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia on 4 September that he had proposed Hungary accept any ethnic Hungarians who do not want to live in Slovakia. Slovak authorities have denied that Meciar made the proposal during talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn, but Horn says he did. There are some 500,000 ethnic Hungarians living in Slovakia. HUNGARIAN SCREENING PANEL URGES FINANCE MINISTER TO RESIGN. The panel examining the communist past of senior officials has called on Peter Medgyessy to resign within 30 days, Hungarian media reported on 10 September. The panel said that in his capacity as deputy prime minister between December 1987 and May 1990, Medgyessy had access to secret files, which, it argued, is incompatible with his present position. Medgyessy has refused to resign, saying that in the last communist government, he dealt only with economic issues and did not use secret files made available to him. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KARADZIC BACKERS LEAVE BANJA LUKA. An RFE/RL correspondent in Banja Luka said the situation is calm there following the failed coup attempt by backers of Radovan Karadzic against Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 1997). Peacekeepers cleared the way for Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, and over 70 other Karadzic backers to leave their hotel on 9 September. The hotel was surrounded by Plavsic's police and angry crowds. Krajisnik's automobile convoy spent some hours at a nearby SFOR base before returning to eastern Bosnia. U.S. WARNS BOSNIAN SERB HARD-LINERS. A State Department spokesman in Washington on 9 September praised SFOR's role in preventing the coup against Plavsic. The spokesman also said SFOR may retake a television transmitter that peacekeepers recently returned to the hard-liners unless Pale honors its obligations to broadcast materials supplied by the international community (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 1997). In related news, former U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke said the U.S. will not tolerate any armed threats against its personnel in Bosnia. Some observers noted, however, that the international community has not always made good on such warnings in the past. CROATIAN, SERBIAN NATIONALISTS TO BOYCOTT BOSNIAN VOTE. Meeting in Mostar on 9 September, leaders of the Croatian Democratic Community called on Croats across Bosnia-Herzegovina not to take part in the 13-14 September local elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 1997). Bosnian Croat leader Kresimir Zubak charged that international election officials favor Muslims over Croats in disputes about voter registration. He added that Muslims and Serbs alike try to push the Croats to the margins of Bosnian politics. In Pale, the hard-liners' Serbian Democratic Party also called for a boycott of the vote. In Sarajevo, however, international officials in charge of the elections warned that the international community will penalize those who call for a boycott. The officials urged all parties to take part in the vote. Observers noted that political parties throughout the former Yugoslavia often threaten to boycott elections but do not always do so. VOJVODINA CROATS DEMAND NEW ELECTION RULES. Leaders of the Democratic League of Vojvodina Croats said in Subotica on 9 September that their party insists on guaranteed representation for Serbia's ethnic minorities in the new parliament slated to be elected on 21 September. The ethnic Croatian leaders charged that the current electoral districts have been set up to the detriment of ethnic minorities and that Croats are split up among six different districts. Vojvodina has been a mosaic of various Central European peoples since the Habsburg era. But Croats, Hungarians, Slovaks, and others have often accused the Serbian authorities over the past 10 years of discrimination against minorities. SERBIAN POLICE ARREST NINE KOSOVO ALBANIANS. State-run Pristina Television said on 9 September that police arrested a "gang of nine bandits" who have allegedly carried out a series of "terrorist acts" in Prizren since August. The nine men, who have Albanian names, will go on trial soon. The television broadcast also showed what it said was a large quantity of weapons found in the arrested men's possession. Observers noted that over the past few years, the Serbian police have periodically arrested groups of what the police called armed Albanian terrorists. Ethnic Albanian human rights groups have charged in response that the men were framed and the weapons planted on them. Meanwhile in Pozarevac, Vojislav Seselj, the Radical Party's candidate for the Serbian presidency and wartime paramilitary leader, said he will deport to Albania all Kosovo Albanians who cannot prove they are Serbian and Yugoslav citizens, "Danas" reported. MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT WANTS PEACEKEEPERS TO STAY. Kiro Gligorov said on 9 September that international peacekeepers must stay on to provide the necessary stability for Macedonia to overcome its poverty and social problems. He added that he hopes that Macedonia, which marked the sixth anniversary of its independence on 8 September, can eventually join both the EU and NATO. Also in Skopje, several hundred people attended memorial services for Mother Teresa, who was born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in that city in 1910. ALBANIAN PREMIER PLEDGES END TO RIGHTS ABUSES. Fatos Nano said in Vienna on 9 September that his government will set down legal guarantees for human rights to ensure that the authorities do not abuse their power. Nano will proceed to Brussels on 10 September and then to Luxembourg to promote links between Albania and European institutions. It is his first extended trip abroad since winning the 29 June elections. Meanwhile in Athens, police arrested three Albanians and two Greeks and confiscated from them drugs and weapons, including 130 pounds of hashish and 44 Kalashnikovs. Greek police said that there has been a constant influx of arms and drugs into Greece since law and order collapsed in Albania early this year. ROMANIA PLANS CONSULATES IN SHANGHAI, HONG KONG. President Emil Constantinescu, who is currently on a state visit to China, said his country plans to open consulates soon in Shanghai and Hong Kong, RFE/RL's Romanian service reported on 9 September. Constantinescu made the announcement after talks with Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng. Beijing has approved a license allowing Bucharest to export 15,000 Romanian-built Dacia cars annually to Chinese retailers during the next three years. Constantinescu expressed regret about a recent decline in bilateral trade, while Li told him that Romanian products must be competitive in order to sell in a free market, according to Bucharest. ROMANIAN BANK HOLDS TALKS WITH ABN AMRO. The vice president of the private Banca Comerciala "Ion Tiriac" said negotiations are under way to sell the institution to Bank of The Netherlands, Bloomberg Financial News reported on 9 September. Serban Bobulescu said he expects final negotiations to be concluded in October. The bank was founded by Ion Tiriac, a former Romanian tennis player and coach, who now owns a 31 percent stake. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development holds another 20 percent. Tanno Massar, a spokesman for ABN Amro, refused to comment directly but said the Dutch bank is working to further develop its network and improve its position "either by autonomous growth or by acquisitions." ABN Amro has branches in the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. WORLD BANK TO LEND MOLDOVA $100 MILLION. The World Bank's International Development Association (IDA) has approved two loans totaling some $100 million to support the Moldovan government's economic reform program, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported on 10 September. The credits are to be used to offer short-term support to basic public services and to provide foreign currency for imports critical to the country's economic stabilization and recovery. IDA officials said the loans are designed to help Moldova de-monopolize and privatize its energy sector, accelerate land reform and privatization, overhaul the pension system, and complete the privatization of state firms. The credits are to be disbursed in three tranches based on the progress of reforms. IMF PRAISES BULGARIAN PROGRESS ON REFORM. The IMF's deputy chief has said that Bulgaria has made positive steps on its reform program since Prime Minister Ivan Kostov took office in April, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported on 10 September. Stanley Fischer praised Sofia's determination to tackle difficult issues in the enterprise and banking sectors. He said the country's currency board, which is the core of an IMF-recommended reform program, has drastically improved economic stability even though inflation remained high during the summer. Fischer said recent inflation figures reflect essential adjustments made in utility prices and that underlying inflation remains very low. Bulgaria experienced hyperinflation at the beginning of 1997, and the lev was in free fall against the dollar before the currency board was established. BELGIAN PRIME MINISTER IN SOFIA. Jean-Luc Dehaene arrived in Sofia on 9 September for two-day talks aimed at encouraging Bulgarian efforts to join NATO and the EU, RFE/RL reported. Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said several accords intended to strengthen relations between the two countries are currently being drafted. Dehaene said he expects economic cooperation between the two countries to deepen. He added that Bulgaria must meet NATO criteria by 1999 in order to begin entry negotiations. He said Brussels will offer "bilateral cooperation" to help Sofia in its membership bids. PRIVATIZATION OF BULGARIAN METALS PLANT APPROVED. Alexander Sabotinov, the director of the Privatization Agency, said on 9 September that the government has approved the sale to a Belgian metals firm of a majority stake in a state-owned copper refining complex, RFE/RL reported on 9 September. Belgium's Union Miniere has agreed to pay some $55 million for a 56 percent stake in MDK Pirdop and agreed to invest another $300 million to revamp the facilities and to construct a new refinery. The sale would make Belgium the largest direct foreign investor in Bulgaria. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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