|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 121, Part II, 19 September 1997
A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. This is Part II, a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Part I covers Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia and is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * OSCE TO OPEN OFFICE IN BELARUS? * BOSNIAN ELECTION RESULTS DELAYED * ALBANIAN PARTY DEPUTY INJURED IN SHOOTING End Note ON THE EVE OF POLISH ELECTIONS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE OSCE TO OPEN OFFICE IN BELARUS? Belarus has agreed to resume negotiations with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on sending an OSCE mission to Minsk to promote democracy, RFE/RL'S Vienna correspondent reported on 18 September. The decision was announced after a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council attended by Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich. He said his country will now allow a European mission to set up a local office to monitor democratic and economic progress. OSCE Chairman and Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen said later that no date has been set for the mission to start work but talks will begin soon on the details. The agreement on an OSCE mission is "an important step forward in the efforts to promote democratic development in Belarus," he added. CRIMEAN OFFICIAL SHOT. Crimean Deputy Minister for Tourism Dmitry Goldich was shot twice in the head by unidentified assailants in Simferopol on 18 September, Reuters reported. The 26-year-old Goldich remains in a coma. Interfax quoted investigators as saying they suspect the attack was a contract hit. Crimean media have recently reported on several scandals involving the privatization of holiday resorts on the peninsula, which was once the favorite vacation destination of the Soviet elite. KUCHMA SAYS CIS IS FLAWED BUT "NECESSARY". Addressing Kazakh journalists in Almaty on 18 September, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said the CIS's shortcomings include its focus on political, rather than economic, problems and its attempts to unilaterally resolve unspecified problems between member states. He said all CIS member states share the blame for this state of affairs but that Russia is the biggest culprit. He also stressed that Kyiv favors "more active" bilateral relations between CIS members and rejects attempts to transform the CIS into a supranational organization. He conceded, at the same time, that the CIS facilitated the peaceful demise of the USSR and is "necessary," despite all its faults. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has frequently expressed similar reservations about the CIS. UKRAINE CONSIDERS PEACEFUL USE OF STRATEGIC BOMBERS. An unnamed official at the headquarters of the Ukrainian air force told ITAR-TASS on 18 September that the strategic bombers inherited by Ukraine after the collapse of the USSR may be used for peaceful purposes. "They may come in handy when the International Ocean Safety Service is formed," the official said. But he conceded that it would be necessary to re-equip the aircraft for this purpose and that Kyiv has no money to do so. Ukraine has 19 Tu-160 and 23 Tu-95MS bombers based on airfields in Priluki, Chernigov Region, and in Uzina, Kyiv Region. It had planned to use the bombers as payment for Russian energy supplies. Russian Presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii, however, told journalists in Moscow on 16 September that Russia had no intention of purchasing the bombers. GERMAN-DONATED MINE SWEEPERS ARRIVE IN TALLINN. Two mine sweepers donated by Germany to the Estonian Navy arrived in Tallinn on 18 September, BNS and ETA reported. At a welcoming ceremony attended by high-ranking German and Estonian officials, German Deputy Defense Minister Bernd Wilz said Bonn wanted to use the "opportunity to take part in ensuring security and stability in Europe, and we wish to offer that opportunity to Estonia as well." The two vessels, built in the late 1960s, have been completely overhauled, and their Estonian crews have received trained in Germany. LATVIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER SURVIVES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. Vilis Kristopans has survived a vote of no confidence submitted by opposition deputies, BNS reported on 18 September. The vote was 44 to 16 with five abstentions. The opposition had criticized Kristopans for "unsatisfactory" public transportation policies and for alleged violation of the anti-corruption law. Kristopans was one of several ministers in the previous government whom the Prosecutor- General's Office found to have violated anti-corruption legislation by holding business posts. He retained his post in the government formed by Guntars Krasts in July. In its 19 September issue, "Diena" reported that Kristopans intends to prove his innocence in court, according to RFE/RL's Latvian service. LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT SETS UP EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE. Deputies on 19 September voted unanimously to establish a European Affairs Committee, BNS reported. First deputy parliamentary chairman Andrius Kubilius was appointed head of the 24-strong committee. The news agency commented that the decision should help indicate that Lithuania is prepared for early negotiations on EU membership. POLISH SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT TO BECOME PARTY. Poland's Solidarity-led alliance on 18 September announced plans to turn itself into a Christian-democratic that will seek to push ahead with market reforms. Marian Krzaklewski, the leader of the alliance, told journalists in Warsaw that the parliamentary party will unite many of the alliance's nearly 40 small rightist groups and those members of the Solidarity trade union who want to turn to politics. The alliance, named Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), was formed last year by the trade union that helped topple communist rule in 1989. In opinion polls, the AWS is running neck and neck with the postcommunist Democratic Left Alliance in the runup to the 21 September general elections (see also "End Note" below). CZECH PREMIER ON NATO. Vaclav Klaus said in a lecture delivered to an international conference in Zurich on the 51st anniversary of former U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill's "European" speech that "NATO amounts to the protection of a common idea and cultural and ethical values--not an organized search for a common enemy-- and that is why the Czech Republic wants to belong to it." He argued that "we must not allow the collapse of communism to be considered the final victory of freedom and democracy and an "end to history,' as is sometimes indicated. There still exist new dangers, new conflicts, new threats, and they will unfortunately always exist." Klaus added that the Czech Republic as well as other countries invited to start NATO admission talks (Hungary and Poland) knew that their entry into the alliance "would not be free of charge." DEMONSTRATIONS IN BRATISLAVA AGAINST LE PEN. Several hundred people took part in a demonstration in Bratislava on 18 September to protest French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen's visit to the Slovak capital, Slovak Radio reported. The demonstration was held outside the offices of the Slovak National Party (SNS), which invited Le Pen. The SNS is a member of the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. Meciar's spokeswoman said the previous day that Le Pen was not invited by the government and that Meciar has called on members of his cabinet not to meet with him. Le Pen's party is accused by mainstream French politicians of promoting racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia. But Le Pen's security guards told journalists that the French politician met with several government ministers on 18 September, including Education Minister Eva Sladkovska, Defense Minister Jan Sitek, and deputy parliamentary chairman Marian Andel. SLOVAK PRESIDENT IN TURKEY. On his arrival in Ankara on 18 September, Michal Kovac sought Turkish support for his country's bid to join NATO, Slovak news agencies reported. Turkey is a NATO member, and Slovakia was not included in the list of countries slated for the first wave of NATO expansion. Turkish President Suleyman Demirel said there are several fields in which the two countries could improve their bilateral cooperation. He said that Kovac's visit will provide an impetus to improve ties. A senior Turkish diplomat told the "Turkish Daily News" on 19 September that Turkey is interested in acquiring "defense equipment" from Slovakia. HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTY APPEALS TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. The Hungarian Democratic Forum on 18 September asked the Constitutional Court to rule whether the law on referenda contravenes the constitution, Hungarian media reported According to that law, the government's proposed referendum on foreign ownership of land takes precedence over the opposition's referendum initiative, which has been supported by 282,000 signatures. Former Justice Minister Istvan Balsai, a member of the forum's steering board, said his party considers the present legislation to be in "disharmony" with both the electoral law and the constitution. He accused the government coalition of ignoring the will of those citizens who have signed in support of the opposition referendum. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN ELECTION RESULTS DELAYED. David Foley, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said on 19 September that the results of the 13-14 September Bosnian municipal elections will not be announced, as scheduled, on 20-21 September. Foley said the delay was caused by the need to open a second vote-counting center in Serb-held territory. He estimated that it may be possible to begin announcing results "in the middle of next week." The counting of votes was suspended temporarily in a suburb of Sarajevo on 18 September because of Serbian complaints about absentee voting. SOLANA ON NATO'S ROLE IN BOSNIA. Speaking at a news conference in Washington on 18 September, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said the alliance must concentrate on implementing the Bosnian peace accords now and must not be distracted by questions about what will happen after the scheduled departure of NATO troops next June, an RFE/RL correspondent in the U.S. capital reported. Solana said NATO's Bosnia Stabilization Force (SFOR) will not continue in its present form. But he stressed that the international community must not abandon Bosnia. CAR BOMB EXPLODES IN MOSTAR. Several dozen people were injured, some seriously, when a car bomb exploded outside a police station in the Croat-controlled western half of Mostar on 18 September. A police official told Reuters the explosion was the worst in Mostar to date. UN CRITICIZES CROATIA. The UN Security Council on 18 September expressed concern at the Croatian government's "lack of substantial progress" toward creating conditions for the repatriation of Serbian and other refugees to Eastern Slavonia and the devolution of executive authority to the region. The Security Council called on Zagreb to remove administrative and legal obstacles to repatriation and take measures to integrate repatriates into economic and social life. The statement also called on Croatia "to cooperate fully" with the international tribunal investigating war crimes in former Yugoslavia. ALBANIAN PARTY DEPUTY INJURED IN SHOOTING. Controversial Democratic Party deputy Azem Hajdari was hospitalized with serious injuries on 18 September after being shot several times by Socialist deputy Gafur Mazreku during an argument inside the parliament building. Hajdari and Mazreku had quarreled and engaged in a fist fight during a 16 September parliamentary debate on value-added tax but apparently had since been reconciled. President Rexhep Meidani denounced the shooting as a "primitive" incident that had "destroyed the climate of peace and tolerance we are trying to build," Reuters reported. Prime Minister Fatos Nano argued it was criminal and not political in nature. Former President and Socialist Party leader Sali Berisha, however, termed the shooting an attempted political killing by Meidani. Some 2,000 Democratic Party supporters convened a rally in central Tirana to protest the shooting. A U.S. government spokesman condemned the incident and endorsed Meidani's appeal for calm. BLAST DESTROYS SOCIALIST PARTY HEADQUARTERS. Just hours after the shooting of Hajdari, the Socialist Party headquarters in the northern city of Shkodra was destroyed by an explosion. No one was injured in the blast. Police officials said they suspected a link between the two incidents. Shkodra is a stronghold of the opposition Democratic Party. ROMANIAN PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN IN MOSCOW. Ion Diaconescu, the chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, met with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, and the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin in Moscow on 18 September, Radio Bucharest and Mediafax reported. Primakov said there are "good grounds" to believe the pending basic treaty between the two countries could be signed next year if both "make the last necessary efforts." He also expressed "surprise" at Romania's "lack of interest" in the Russian market, saying bilateral trade could and should be improved. During his meetings with Seleznev and Lukin, Diaconescu raised the issue of the Romanian state treasure unreturned since World War One as well as the situation in the Republic of Moldova. Romanian media reported that the positions of the two sides differed significantly over those issues. MOLDOVA, RUSSIA AGREE ON GAS SUPPLIES. During a two-day visit to Moscow, Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Valeriu Bulgari reached an agreement with his Russian hosts on gas deliveries to Moldova during the coming fall and winter, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 18 September. A communique issued by the Moldovan embassy in Moscow does not specify the quantities of gas to be delivered. As of 1 September, Moldova owed Russia's Gazprom company $238.7 million, while the breakaway Transdniester region owed $241.3 million. Moldova pledged to pay $68 million of its debt for supplies delivered in 1997. The embassy said that Bulgari also met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov to discuss, among other things, boosting economic cooperation between the two countries. MOLDOVAN POLICE WITHOUT TELEPHONE LINES. The lines of several Moldovan police stations in Chisinau have been cut because the Interior Ministry has not paid its debts to the Ministry of Telecommunications for the use of the phones, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported on 18 September. The phones of about one-third of the stations in the Moldovan capital were disconnected several days ago. Interior Minister Mihai Plamadeala said the police's work is seriously affected. He added that the Ministry of Finance, rather than the Ministry of Telecommunications, is to be blamed for the situation. ZHIVKOV RELEASED FROM HOUSE ARREST. Former Bulgarian communist leader Todor Zhivkov was released from house arrest on 18 September, BTA reported. A military prosecutor said Zhivkov will have to report daily to the local police and notify them when traveling elsewhere in Bulgaria. He will not be allowed to leave the country. The 86-year-old Zhivkov is under investigation for channeling funds to procommunist groups in the Third World and for forcing Bulgarians of Turkish origin to change their names in 1984- 1985. In September 1992, Zhivkov was sentenced to seven years in prison after being found guilty of embezzling public funds. His sentence was overturned by the Supreme Court in February 1996, however. The release from house arrest follows a recent amendment to the Penal Code stipulating that a defendant cannot be held in any kind of detention for more than two years without trial. END NOTE ON THE EVE OF POLISH ELECTIONS by Jan de Weydenthal Poles will cast their ballots on 21 September in a parliamentary election that is likely to prove a political watershed. The contest involves two large electoral alliances, the post- communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the anti-communist Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS). Several smaller parties are also taking part in the vote, the most prominent being the centrist Freedom Union, the non-communist leftist Labor Union, the Peasant Party, the nationalist Movement for the Renovation of Poland, and the newly formed Party of Pensioners and Retirees. There is a 5 percent threshold for entry into the parliament. At stake are 460 seats in the Sejm (the lower chamber) and 100 seats in the Senate. There are more than 6,600 candidates running for the Sejm and 519 for the Senate. The electoral campaign has been relatively peaceful, as most groups have basically similar views on several important issues. There is also general agreement that Poland should make major efforts to join such Western institutions as the EU and NATO and that the country should move more resolutely toward market economy. Some parties, however, favor a more gradual transition to the market, while others are pressing for a speedy resolution to such issues as privatization of state assets and modernization of enterprises. At the same time, there is little doubt about the major differences between the contenders. Those differences are largely over two issues: the Roman Catholic Church, its mission, and its teachings; and past political developments, in particular the communist experience. The right-wing AWS--an umbrella group of some 30 small nationalist and Christian parties, led by the increasingly populist Solidarity labor union--has closely identified with the Church. Its leaders have consistently supported views expressed by Church officials, particularly on the politically explosive issue of abortion. Moreover, the AWS also has received the unequivocal and public support of the Church hierarchy in the run-up to the elections. The Peasant Party and the Movement for the Renovation of Poland have also identified with the Church. The Freedom Union, for its part, has expressed some reservations about the Church's teachings. Many of its leaders and activists have also supported the liberalization of abortion regulations. Meanwhile, the SLD and the Labor Union have insisted on the separation of Church and state, opting for the primacy of lay institutions in the judiciary and the executive. More important and of greater political significance is the division between those groups that have a communist past and those that have always been anti-communist. The former communists can be found among a variety of groups, including regional and trade unionists, state bureaucrats, and newly rich entrepreneurs. During four years of government dominated by the post-Communists, most posts in the administration, the judiciary, the armed forces and the security services have been filled by the followers of the SLD and its allies. Likewise, the SLD-led government has granted its supporters licenses for television networks and provided them with opportunities to profit from the privatization of state companies. But such practices have only reinforced longstanding anti- communist tendencies among large sectors of the population and have turned the country's communist past into a major election issue. Recent opinion polls show the SLD and the AWS running neck and neck, with the former Communists having a slight edge (32 percent, compared with 29 percent for the AWS). They are followed by the Freedom Union (about 12 percent), the Movement for the Renovation of Poland the Peasant Party (7-9 percent), the Labor Union (5 percent), and the Retirees (also 5 percent). If those percentages do not change, Poland's new parliament will be hopelessly divided, making the formation of a stable government exceedingly difficult. The author is a senior RFE/RL correspondent. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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