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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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/

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Headlines, Part II

* CEFTA SUMMIT IN SLOVENIA

* LARGE TURNOUT IN BOSNIAN VOTE

* BELGRADE WILL NOT HAND OVER KARADZIC

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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."


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