|The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it. - Franklin P. Jones|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 115, Part II, 11 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 *BOMB EXPLOSION IN MINSK *BOSNIAN WAR CRIMINALS TO VOTE UNHINDERED? *INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE ON BOSNIAN CROATS TO VOTE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BOMB EXPLOSION IN MINSK. A bomb exploded on 10 September at a district court building in the Belarusian capital, causing damage but no casualties, Belarusian state radio reported. The Interior Ministry refused to comment, while the radio station called the bombing a "major political provocation" by the opposition. Leading opposition figures, for their part, said the explosion seemed to be a government provocation. Vyacheslav Sivchik, executive secretary of opposition Belarusian Popular Front, said neither the front nor any group or individual associated was connected with the bombing. An unidentified man called an independent local newspaper and took responsibility for the blast on behalf of a group calling itself the Belarusian Liberation Army. The group said it bombed a gas pipeline earlier this year. Nothing is known about the group, however. BELARUSIAN KGB CONFISCATE ORT EQUIPMENT. The Belarusian KGB on 10 September confiscated video equipment from the Minsk office of Russian Public Television (ORT). ITAR-TASS quoted officials from the Russian embassy in Minsk as saying they were told the equipment was needed for investigations into the case of jailed ORT journalist Pavel Sheremet. The officials said the Russian embassy had expressed its concern that this latest incident will further strain Russian-Belarusian relations. Belarusian authorities have arrested two ORT crews over the past two months for allegedly violating the Russian-Lithuanian border. The other ORT employees were released, but Sheremet --a Belarusian citizen--remains in jail. Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said on 10 September that Moscow will not give up its efforts to secure Sheremet's release. UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS CALL FOR UNION WITH RUSSIA, BELARUS. Eighty-six legislators in the 450-seat parliament on 10 September called for creating a union with Russia and Belarus, Interfax reported. The deputies issued a statement stressing the need to tighten ties between "brotherly Slavic peoples." They vowed to work for closer political and economic ties. In May, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a long- awaited friendship and cooperation treaty, but Ukraine has steered clear of agreements linking Russia and Belarus in a loose union. AUSTRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN UKRAINE. Wolfgang Schuessel on 10 September told journalists in Kyiv he appreciates Ukraine's role in Europe as a stabilizing factor. During his one-day visit to the Ukrainian capital, he met with Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko and Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko. The two sides discussed bilateral relations and Ukraine's cooperation with the EU. Schuessel and Udovenko exchanged documents about the mutual protection of investments in both countries. The Austrian minister also met with President Leonid Kuchma. ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT ADOPTS DRAFT 1998 BUDGET. The cabinet has adopted a draft budget for next year, which Prime Minister Mart Siimann called the "most conservative" since Estonia regained independence, ETA reported on 10 September. Revenues are put at 14.46 billion kroons (some $1 billion) and are planned to exceed expenditures by 53.8 million kroons. That sum is to be channeled into a reserve fund, which will include unused revenues from the 1997 budget and proceeds from the privatization of the Estonian Shipping Company. Siimann indicated that the fund , which is expected to exceed 500 million kroons, was necessary because the economy is showing signs of overheating. "The government must be ready to avoid a repetition of events [such as those recently] in the Czech republic," he commented. The IMF has recommended a 1.3 billion kroon stabilization fund, but Siimann said Estonia did not have the necessary means. ESTONIA TO KEEP RUSSIAN-LANGUAGE SCHOOLS BEYOND 2000. The parliament on 10 September declared void a provision of the law on schools requiring Russian-language high schools to adopt Estonian as the language of instruction by the year 2000, ETA reported. It voted in favor of an amendment stating that the transition to Estonian- language instruction at those institutions will start by 2008. Some deputies said they feared that prolonging state-financed Russian- language education would become an obstacle to integrating ethnic Russians into Estonian society. LATVIAN ANTI-CORRUPTION UPDATE. The Prosecutor-General's Office has found that 18 members of the parliament have violated the anti-corruption law by holding business posts, BNS reported on 10 September. The office stressed, however, that none of those deputies has received remuneration from those posts and that none has been "in a real situation of conflict of interests." The office also sent a letter to the president, prime minister, and parliamentary speaker pointing out what it said are several inconsistencies in the anti-corruption law. POLISH PRESIDENT WITHDRAWS LAWSUIT. Aleksander Kwasniewski on 10 September withdrew a lawsuit against one of two newspapers that alleged he had met with a Russian spy. Kwasniewski's office said in a statement that the president has dropped his action against "Dziennik Baltycki," which has retracted its reports, but that he would proceed against the national daily "Zycie," which is standing by its story. The newspapers both alleged that in 1994 that Kwasniewski and Russian intelligence officer Vladimir Alganov were at the same resort hotel at the same time and that the two men had met. Kwasniewski's spokesman Antoni Styrczula said the allegations were part of a campaign to discredit the ruling Democratic Left Alliance in the run-up to 21 September parliamentary elections . CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES SECURITY AMENDMENT. The government on 10 September approved a draft constitutional amendment on the security of the Czech Republic, Czech Television reported. President Vaclav Havel attended the cabinet session. The amendment outlines how state institutions should act during various crises, ranging from natural disasters to war. It provides for limiting some basic human rights during a state of emergency and for establishing a State Security Council. The adoption of the amendment was prompted by the catastrophic flooding in July, during which some officials called for a clear definition of the duties and powers of state institutions. Internal Affairs Minister Jan Ruml told journalists that another three bills related to the constitutional amendment are being drawn up. FINLAND BACKS SLOVAKIA'S EU MEMBERSHIP. Finnish Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen on 10 September told journalists in Bratislava that Finland can envisage Slovakia joining the EU. Halonen made the comment to reporters today after a meeting in Bratislava with her Slovak counterpart, Zdenka Kramplova. She said that in the meantime, it is necessary for Slovakia to strengthen its democratic institutions. She also commented she is optimistic the Slovak government will be able to make progress on resolving problems linked with the Hungarian minority. Halonen had separate talks with President Michal Kovac and Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. SLOVAK DELEGATION IN BRUSSELS. Slovak Deputy Premier Jozef Kalman on 10 September told journalists in Brussels that the EU should not divide states into those eligible to join and those not. He said this could divide society and provoke some people to feel that "if they don't want us, we'll stay away." Kalman is chairman of the Slovak government's commission for European integration. He is in Brussels, along with Foreign Minister Kramplova and State Secretary at the Foreign Ministry Jozef Sestak, to meet with European commissioners Leon Brittan and Hans van den Broek. He rejected the European Commission's comments on the position of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia. "They have an above-standard position for Europe," he argued. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN WAR CRIMINALS TO VOTE UNHINDERED? The hard-line Bosnian Serb parliament voted in Pale on 10 September to take part in the Bosnian local elections on 13-14 September. The Pale leadership had earlier threatened to boycott the vote. The change in policy came after Deputy Prime Minister Velibor Ostojic announced that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is supervising the ballot, agreed that indicted war criminals will not be arrested if they appear in public to vote. The OSCE also promised to review the voting lists in the contested town of Brcko, where the reinstatement of 3,000 Serbian voters previously dropped from the lists because of irregularities could ensure the victory of the Serbian nationalists . The OSCE further guaranteed Pale that municipal administrations will be formed by the party that receives the most votes, not by all parties on the basis of proportional representation. MILOSEVIC INVOLVED IN BOSNIAN VOTE? Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative for Bosnia, and his deputy Jacques Klein were in Belgrade on 10 September to discuss the Bosnian elections in Belgrade with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Some observers said the talks were inconclusive, but other observers suggested the negotiations led to the Pale parliament's decision not to boycott the vote. Meanwhile in Banja Luka, Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic urged her supporters to take part in the elections. INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE ON BOSNIAN CROATS TO VOTE. EU diplomats told Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic in Zagreb on 10 September that relations between Zagreb and Brussels will be adversely affected if the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) of Bosnia-Herzegovina makes good on its threat to boycott the vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 1997). U.S., German, U.K., and other diplomats also brought tough messages about the boycott to Granic, who replied, however, that Croatia does not control the Bosnian HDZ. In Sarajevo, OSCE officials and Western diplomats held inconclusive talks with HDZ leaders. An OSCE representative said later that any party that boycotts the vote is harming its own interests. In Brussels, NATO warned all parties in Bosnia that calls for a boycott run counter to the Dayton agreement. In Paris, the government said it will suspend aid to communities whose leaders call for a boycott. PLAVSIC SAYS KARADZIC ORDERED COUP. President Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 10 September that indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic ordered the Serbian Democratic Party to stage the recent attempted coup against her (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 10 September 1997). She added that Karadzic said it does not matter if the coup led to bloodshed. Plavsic stated that the peacekeepers "prevented a blood bath" by thwarting the coup attempt, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Banja Luka. In Sarajevo, Jacques Klein said peacekeepers in Banja Luka took many weapons from the Pale delegation headed by Momcilo Krajisnik on 9 September. Klein added that the hundreds of demonstrators bussed in by the hard-liners for the coup had been paid $55 each. In Pale, Krajisnik said on 10 September that his experience in Banja Luka was an "ordeal." He claimed that he had not gone there "to trigger conflicts." BELGRADE OVERRULES PODGORICA ON ELECTIONS. The Yugoslav Constitution Court on 10 September ruled that a Montenegrin law stipulating each party may nominate only one candidate for that republic's presidency is unconstitutional. The court's verdict overrides previous decisions by its Montenegrin counterpart and by the Montenegrin Election Commission. It allows current President Momir Bulatovic to run for reelection as the candidate of a faction of the governing Democratic Socialist Party, even though the majority of that party backs Milo Djukanovic for the presidency. Djukanovic and his allies have said a court decision allowing Bulatovic to run will lead to a constitutional crisis between Belgrade and Podgorica. NATO TO HELP ALBANIA REBUILD ARMY. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano signed an agreement in Brussels on 10 September whereby the Atlantic alliance will help rebuild the Albanian army. The cornerstone of the program is to put the military firmly under civilian control. Nano added that he wants to integrate his country into European structures and to bring Albania up to European standards in all spheres of public life, including military affairs. Albania joined NATO's Partnership For Peace program in 1994 and seeks to join the alliance itself. Meanwhile in Tirana, Russian special envoy Vladimir Shizov ended a three-day visit aimed at restoring relations that were neglected during the recent chaos. ALBANIAN ROUNDUP. Former President Sali Berisha left Tirana on 11 September to attend the funeral in Calcutta of Mother Teresa, who was an ethnic Albanian from Macedonia. Observers said his presence at the funeral, together with that of President Rexhep Meidani, underscores the political rivalry between the two men. Meanwhile, the government announced it has renamed the country's main hospital in Tirana after the famous nun. Still in Tirana, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced that its emergency relief program for Albania will soon end. In the Italian city of Turin, police deported 191 Albanians whom the police said had broken Italian law. ROMANIA TO CLOSE 30 MINES IN NEXT TWO YEARS. Nicolae Staiculescu, a state secretary at the Ministry of Industry has said 30 of the country's unprofitable coal mines will be shut down during the next two years, RFE/RL's Romanian service reported on 10 September. No indication was given as to how many miners will lose their jobs because of the closures. Staiculescu said about 42,000 miners have been laid off in the past month. Most left voluntarily to take advantage of a government compensation offer of up to 20 months' wages. Staiculescu said some 4,000 miners have retired in the past month and another 15,000 have been transferred to other mines. ROMANIAN CENTRAL BANK TO MEET IMF CONDITIONS. A spokesman for Romania's central bank said the bank will meet conditions laid down in the IMF's Article 8 within the next few days, Bloomberg Financial News reported on 10 September. Article 8 prohibits countries from restricting international payments and transactions without first receiving the fund's approval. It also prohibits certain currency practices without IMF approval. Romania has pledged to meet the IMF conditions in order to receive the next tranche, worth some $83 million, of a $414 million stand-by loan. The IMF board of directors is expected to meet in Washington on 12 September to discuss the disbursement. BELGIAN PREMIER SUPPORTS SOFIA'S EU, NATO BIDS. Jean-Luc Dehaene concluded a state visit to Sofia on 10 September by pledging support for Bulgaria's efforts to join the EU and NATO, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. In a speech to the parliament, Dehaene said cooperation between the two countries is "intensive" and serves as "a lever for Bulgarian integration into NATO." Dehaene on 10 September was present at the signing of a contract whereby Belgium's Union Miniere paid $80 million for a 56 percent stake of Bulgarian copper producer MDK Pirdop. As a result of the sale, Belgium has surpassed Germany as the largest direct foreign investor in Bulgaria, with its total investments exceeding $251 million. GEORGI MARKOV SENTENCED BEFORE DEATH? The Sofia daily "Trud" reported on 9 September that six years before his death, dissident writer Georgi Markov had been sentenced in absentia by authorities in his native Bulgaria. The newspaper said he was given a six-and-a- half year sentence at a closed-door trial in Sofia in 1972 on charges of "working for foreign organizations to undermine his own country. " Markov worked as a broadcaster at RFE/RL, the BBC, and Deutsche Welle. He died on 11 September 1978, four days after he was stabbed in the thigh with a poison-tipped umbrella while waiting for a bus in London. His assailant has not been found. UNESCO CHIEF SAYS OBSTACLES BLOCK FREE PRESS. Federico Mayor said on 10 September that the development of independent and pluralistic media in Eastern Europe is hampered by an "excessive concentration of ownership" and intimidation by organized criminal groups. Mayor made the comments at a seminar in Sofia attended by some 300 journalists from 40 countries. Mayor said the application of laws protecting press freedom in East Europe "is often very limited." The four-day seminar is sponsored by UNESCO. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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