|It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 117, Part II, 15 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 * CEFTA SUMMIT IN SLOVENIA * LARGE TURNOUT IN BOSNIAN VOTE * BELGRADE WILL NOT HAND OVER KARADZIC xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE CEFTA SUMMIT IN SLOVENIA. A summit of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) took place in the Slovenian resort of Portoroz on 12-13 September. The meeting was attended by the prime ministers of the six member countries: Slovenia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania. Officials of six countries seeking membership--Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, and Ukraine--were guests. In his opening address, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek said CEFTA membership would help countries prepare to join the EU. CEFTA was established in 1991 to abolish trade barriers and establish a free trade area by 2001. Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, along with several others, emphasized that the organization is not simply a form of training for the EU. Rather, he said, it is proof of the commitment to open and liberal market economics. SLOVAK-HUNGARIAN ROW AT CEFTA SUMMIT. A declaration issued on 12 September said participants in the CEFTA summit had discussed the state of talks for expanding the EU into Eastern Europe, Reuters reported. But Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar told journalists the same day that Hungary had demanded the deletion of a provision committing the member countries to supporting one another's applications for EU membership. Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn said that all East European countries have "equal rights" in applying to join the union but all must meet the same human rights criteria. "Like all other associate members of the EU, Slovakia must apply the requirements--political, economic, and others--as is required of Hungary for EU membership," Horn said. Meciar denied that, during his meeting with Horn in Gyor in mid-August, he had suggested that ethnic Hungarians be moved from Slovakia to Hungary. He said he had merely commented that Hungary could take in any of its "ethnic kin" who wished to leave Slovakia. SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTRY ANGRY WITH HUNGARY. State Secretary at the Slovak Foreign Ministry Jozef Sestak on 14 September criticized the Hungarian delegation to the CEFTA summit for demanding the deletion of the provision on member countries' mutual support in integrating into the EU. "The Hungarian delegation proceeded very unfortunately," Sestak told the private television company Markiza. He noted that none of the other five premiers had identified himself with "the strange behavior of Hungary." Sestak argued that it is normal for each CEFTA member to express support for other members during the EU integration process. "It is even anchored in the Slovak-Hungarian political treaty, and we do not understand what is behind Budapest's negative stand," he added. BULGARIA INVITED TO CEFTA MEMBERSHIP TALKS. The six CEFTA member countries have agreed to open talks with Bulgaria on joining the organization, RFE/RL's Bulgarian service reported on 12 September. Negotiations with Sofia are expected to be completed as soon as next year. Bulgarian membership would enlarge CEFTA to a trade area of 100 million people. RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported that Bulgaria views CEFTA membership as a step toward EU integration. UKRAINE TO SIGN TRADE TREATIES WITH CEFTA STATES. Ukrainian Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko has agreed with CEFTA on a plan for Ukraine's entry into the organization, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Ties Sergei Osynka told Interfax-Ukraine on 14 September . The scheme envisages concluding bilateral free- trade agreements with CEFTA members. Osynka said the Polish and Slovak prime ministers want to complete talks with Ukraine on such agreements later this year. The Slovenian prime minister expressed the wish to sign bilateral accords with Kyiv by the end of this year or by early 1998. UKRAINE SEEKS TO ATTRACT MORE FOREIGN INVESTMENT. Ukraine has set up a Chamber of Independent Ombudsmen to help mediate disputes between foreign investors and government offices, UNIAN reported on 12 September. The new body includes specialists on Ukrainian and international law and representatives of consulting firms, whose task is to help resolve disputes and make recommendations to the government and president. Roman Shpek, head of the new chamber and director of the Agency for Reconstruction and Development, told journalists that Ukrainians must understand there is a serious problem with attracting foreign investment to their country. He estimated that Ukraine has attracted only $1.6 billion in foreign investment during the past six years-- which, he noted, is less than neighboring Romania. SEARCH CONTINUES FOR MISSING TROOPS IN ESTONIAN SEA TRAGEDY. Estonian sea rescue services have recovered the bodies of three of the 12 soldiers who were listed as missing after being washed away during a military exercise (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 1997), BNS and ETA reported on 14 September. The bodies were found in the sea near Paldiski, 50 kilometers west of Tallinn. The search for the nine other missing men continues. Military officials said the unit's commander had not requested permission to carry out the maneuver and had failed to "properly assess weather conditions." Meanwhile, the government has set up a commission, headed by Justice Minister Paul Varul, to investigate the incident. VILNIUS BALKS AT JEWISH PRESSURE OVER GENOCIDE CASES. Lawmakers on 12 September postponed discussion of legal amendments aimed at facilitating the prosecution of Nazi war criminals, BNS and AFP reported. Egidijus Bickauskas, leader of the pro-government Centrist Union faction, said discussion had been postponed for one week "so as not to bow to pressure from international Jewish organizations." According to BNS, another reason for the postponement were doubts about the legal effectiveness of the amendments. At a ceremony the previous day honoring the Gaon of Vilnius on the 200th anniversary of his death, President Algirdas Brazauskas reaffirmed that Lithuania is "ready to prosecute war criminals and to do it conscientiously." The Israeli-based Simon Wiesenthal Center had called for a boycott of the anniversary commemorations, saying that Vilnius is dragging its feet on bringing suspected war criminals to trial. POLISH-LITHUANIAN COOPERATION COUNCIL LAUNCHED. Poland and Lithuania have launched a government cooperation council, BNS and Reuters reported. Members of the new body met in Vilnius on 14 September under the chairmanship of Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius and his Polish counterpart, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz. The council aims to increase cooperation in security, education, culture, and the economy. It will also form a joint peacekeeping battalion, to be stationed in Poland. Vagnorius and Cimoszewicz told reporters that the council "opens a new important stage in the deepening and strengthening of Lithuanian-Polish relations," according to ITAR-TASS. POLISH ELECTION CAMPAIGN ENTERS FINAL WEEK. Marian Krzaklewski, leader of the opposition Solidarity Election Action (AWS), addressed nearly 200,000 participants in a workers' pilgrimage in the city of Czestochowa on 14 September, PAP reported. He urged the crowd to help defeat the ruling ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) by not wasting their ballot on parties that have no chance to enter the parliament. Archbishop Damian Zimon called on Solidarity supporters to cast their ballots. Surveys suggest that a turnout of at least 60 percent will increase the AWS's chances of defeating the ex-Communists. Two recent opinion polls show the SLD slightly ahead of the Solidarity-led alliance. Former President Lech Walesa on 12 September urged small opposition parties to withdraw from the 21 September parliamentary election to give the larger parties a "fighting chance" to oust the ex- Communists. OPPOSITION COLLECTS ENOUGH SIGNATURES FOR BINDING REFERENDUM. The Alliance of Young Democrats--Hungarian Civic Party and the Hungarian Democratic Forum announced on 13 September that the 200,000 signatures required for a binding referendum on land ownership have been collected, Hungarian media reported. The opposition is opposed to foreigners owning land. However, a new poll shows that only 23 percent of Hungarians agree with the opposition, while 60 percent support the government's position. Parliamentary speaker Zoltan Gal on 12 September expressed the hope that President Arpad Goencz will call the referendum on NATO and land ownership for 16 November, as originally scheduled. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE LARGE TURNOUT IN BOSNIAN VOTE. Spokesmen for NATO peacekeepers and for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which supervised the 13-14 September Bosnian local elections, said that more than 60 percent of those Bosnian citizens entitled to vote did so. Of those who voted, some 90 percent cast their ballots for local officials in the areas where those individuals had lived before the war. The OSCE's Robert Frowick and U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard said the strong turnout by refugees suggests that displaced people want to go home and undo the results of ethnic cleansing. Election monitors noted, however, that most refugees did not return to their old homes but voted by absentee ballot. The monitors added there were isolated incidents in Drvar, Mostar, central Bosnia, and eastern Bosnia in which the current authorities tried to prevent returning refugees from voting. BOSNIAN VOTE TALLY TO BE COMPLETED WITHIN ONE WEEK. OSCE officials said in Sarajevo on 14 September that the widespread use of absentee ballots means that final results will not be available for one week or so. In Tuzla, however, the Muslim Party for Democratic Action conceded defeat by Mayor Selim Beslagic's multi-ethnic Joint List. Frowick said the international community may have to maintain a civilian and military presence in Bosnia indefinitely. Some observers suggested that problems will arise in many localities in which refugees of one nationality elect a council that is not accepted by current authorities of another nationality. The observers added that this situation could lead to local governments-in-exile being set up across Bosnia. BELGRADE WILL NOT HAND OVER KARADZIC. Serbian Information Minister Radmila Milentijevic said in Washington on 12 September that Belgrade will not extradite indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. She added: "If you want Dr. Karadzic, you'll have to go and get him. No respectable Serbian leader today can deliver on this issue." Observers noted, however, that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and all other signatories to the Dayton peace accords are obliged to cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. MORE ATTACKS ON KOSOVO POLICE STATIONS. Serbian police said in Pristina on 14 September that unidentified persons armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades attacked two more police stations in the mainly ethnic Albanian province. Ten police stations across the province were targeted the previous week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 1997). Observers suggested that the attacks were most likely the work of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which frequently singles out symbols of Serbian authority in Kosovo. Meanwhile in Feketic, in Vojvodina, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic opened a stretch of highway on 14 September, just one week before the Serbian legislative and presidential elections. Some 200 busloads of Milosevic supporters, mainly ethnic Serbs from Kosovo, arrived for the event, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. MONTENEGRIN ELECTORAL COMMISSION BOWS TO BELGRADE. The Republican Electoral Commission announced in Podgorica on 13 September that it has registered President Momir Bulatovic as a presidential candidate of the Democratic Socialist Party (DPS). The commission thereby complied with a ruling by the Yugoslav Constitutional Court, which on 10 September decided that more than one candidate may run for the presidency from the same party. The bulk of the DPS membership had earlier selected Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic as the party's sole presidential candidate. The commission's decision marks a setback for Djukanovic and for other reformists, who argued that the Belgrade court has no right to rule on Montenegro's electoral law and who made the issue into a test case for Montenegrin autonomy from Belgrade. SLOVENIA TO VOTE IN NOVEMBER. Janez Podobnik, the speaker of parliament, announced in Ljubljana on 12 September that presidential elections will take place on 23 November and parliamentary elections four days later. Polls show incumbent President Milan Kucan to be the runaway favorite in the presidential race. In other news from the former Yugoslavia, Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak returned from surgery in the U.S. and entered a Zagreb hospital. Susak, who is widely regarded as the second most powerful politician in Croatia, has been suffering from lung cancer for over a year. TURKEY TO HELP REBUILD ALBANIAN ARMY. Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Sezgin said in Tirana on 13 September that his government will help reorganize the Albanian military as part of a bilateral cooperation program. Turkey will train Albanian officers and give the army logistical and equipment support. Ankara will also back Tirana's bid to join NATO. Turkey has strong cultural and other links to Albania and other Balkan countries dating back to the Ottoman era. Since the fall of communism, Ankara has shown interest in promoting the political stability and general development of Albania, Bosnia, and Macedonia, in particular. EXPLOSION CUTS TIRANA WATER SUPPLY. An explosion, possibly caused by a bomb, destroyed part of the main water system in the Albanian capital on 13 September, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. Thousands were left without water for more than 24 hours. The authorities recently imposed restrictions on water use in the wake of a prolonged drought. IMF RELEASES LOAN TRANCHE TO ROMANIA. The IMF has released an $82 million tranche of its $414 million stand-by loan to Romania, RFE/RL's Romanian service reported on 13 September. The IMF approved the stand-by loan in April and made disbursement contingent on progress toward economic reform. The IMF's Bucharest representative issued a statement on 13 September saying that Bucharest has brought down monthly inflation to some 5 percent. He also praised Bucharest's efforts to restructure the state sector by launching plans to privatize 17 loss-making firms. ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN HONG KONG. Emil Constantinescu concluded a five-day state visit to China on 12 September with a tour of Hong Kong. RFE/RL's Romanian service reported that Constantinescu visited the headquarters of Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption. He also met with officials from Hong Kong's Chamber of Commerce. Constantinescu is the first foreign head of state to visit Hong Kong since the former British colony became an autonomous region of China on 1 July. MOLDOVA RATIFIES HUMAN RIGHTS CONVENTION. The Council of Europe has announced that Moldova has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. A council statement said Moldova formally presented the ratification instruments on 12 September. The statement noted that by ratifying the document, Moldova has recognized the right of individuals to petition the European Commission with complaints about human rights violations. SOFIA CONFERENCE URGES JOURNALISTS' RELEASE. Journalists taking part in a UNESCO conference in Sofia have called on Turkey and Belarus to immediately release imprisoned journalists, RFE/RL reported on 13 September. The conference also criticized censorship in Azerbaijan and legislation in Croatia allowing prosecution for insulting the head of state. In a formal statement, conference delegates criticized strict state control over radio and television in Serbia and Montenegro. The delegates urged the UN General Assembly to make the Universal Declaration of Human Rights binding for all signatory countries. Article 19 of that declaration recognizes the right of all people "to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers." xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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