|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 126, Part II, 26 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 ECONOMIC NEWS from this week's annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank is online at RFE/RL's Web site: http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/imfmeeting/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * BELARUS DENIES ACCREDITATION TO ORT CORRESPONDENTS * BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMINAL SENTENCED IN GERMANY * ALBANIA ASKS SKOPJE NOT TO SHOOT ITS CITIZENS ON BORDER End Note ROMANIA POLISHES GLOBAL IMAGE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUS DENIES ACCREDITATION TO ORT CORRESPONDENTS. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry on 25 September announced it will not give temporary accreditation to Russian Public Television (ORT) correspondent Vladimir Fosenko, ITAR-TASS reported. It added that it has denied permanent accreditation to the ORT crew of Pavel Sheremet, who remains under arrest on charges of illegally crossing the Belarusian-Lithuanian border in late July. Also on 25 September, Belarusian prosecutors announced they are extending by 30 days the investigation into the cases of Sheremet and two other ORT journalists, Belarusian media reported. The announcement came shortly before the deadline for holding Sheremet without trial is due to expire. A spokesman for the Belarusian KGB said the trial of the three journalists will begin as soon as the lawyers say they are ready. EU ISSUES LOAN TO UKRAINE. The EU on 25 September issued a 100 million ECU loan ($110 million) to Kyiv to help improve the country's balance of payments situation, ITAR-TASS reported. This is the second tranche of an EU credit to Ukraine for this purpose. The first installment was paid out in November 1996. ESTONIAN PRESIDENT MEETS RUSSIAN MINORITY REPRESENTATIVES. Lennart Meri on 25 September met with Vladimir Velman, editor-in-chief of the daily "Estonia," and other representatives of the Russian minority, ETA reported, citing "Postimees." The meeting came one day after "Estonia" had handed over to the president a petition with more than 10,000 signatures calling for Russian-language secondary education to continue beyond the year 2007. Under a recent law, the transition to instruction in Estonian is take place within the next 10 years. Velman said later that Meri understands the concern of the Russian-speaking population but recommends that no measures be taken for the time being. LITHUANIAN PREMIER IN GERMANY. Gediminas Vagnorius told journalists in Frankfurt on 25 September that Vilnius will do whatever it takes to become a member of the EU, dpa and Reuters reported. He noted that privatization in Lithuania is 95 percent complete, with only sectors such as transport, energy, and telecommunications remaining to be privatized. He also said Vilnius wants to end the currency board and give the Central Bank direct control over the litas, adding that the process is proceeding "step by step." Vagnorius was in Frankfurt to attend the opening of the first foreign office of the Lithuanian Economic Development Agency, intended to promote investment in Lithuania. Germany is Lithuania's largest trade partner within the EU. POST-ELECTION MANEUVERING IN POLAND. Premier Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz has resigned following the defeat of his Democratic Left Alliance in the 21 September elections, PAP reported on 25 September. The leaders of Solidarity Election Action (AWS), which won the election and has 201 of the 450 parliamentary seats, announced they will form a new party called the Social Movement for Solidarity Electoral Action. They are continuing talks with other groups about the possibility of a coalition. Meanwhile, AWS leader Marian Krzaklewski said his group has yet to decide which of its members should become prime minister. He told journalists in Warsaw that "there are 10 to 15 candidates" for that job. CZECH CABINET APPROVES BALANCED BUDGET. The government on 25 September unanimously agreed on a final version of a balanced budget for 1998. Expenditures are reduced from 30.9 percent to 29.2 percent of GDP or 1.1 billion crowns ($33 million), mainly in the area of agriculture and pensions. An increased tax on cigarettes is expected to boost revenues by 1.2 billion crowns ($36.2 million). Funding from the EU's PHARE program is saving the budget 400 million crowns in outlays for repairing damage from the July floods. The opposition Social Democrats and Communists have pledged to vote against the budget in the parliament. BRATISLAVA WELCOMES HAGUE RULING... The 25 September ruling by the International Court of Justice in the Hague on the Gabickovo- Nagymaros hydropower project has been welcomed by Bratislava. The Slovak government called the Hague decision a "legal victory and a success for Slovak diplomacy." It said it hopes that it will be possible to restore cooperation with Hungary over the use of the Danube River. The court ruling, which is final and cannot be appealed, said that both states had violated international law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1997) ...WHILE BUDAPEST IS DISAPPOINTED. The Hungarian government said it accepts the Hague verdict, but political state secretary Janos Nemcsok said the ruling was "slightly" below expectations. "Magyar Hirlap" on 26 September commented "we have no alternative except to find a mutually acceptable solution.... We must negotiate..., billions of dollars are involved." Leader of the environmentalist Danube Circle group Janos Vargha expressed disappointment, saying the judgment did not give sufficient weight to environmental considerations. SLOVAK ROMA SEEK TO REDUCE UNEMPLOYMENT. The Civic Association of Roma Self-Administration in the town of Prievidza is urging local Roma to return to the professions their forebears traditionally practiced. The move is a bid to reduce unemployment among the local Romani population, currently 60-80 percent. Traditional Romani crafts include making troughs and brooms, basket weaving, and blacksmithing. Roma activist Marek Balaz told "Sme" that requalification courses in traditional Romani crafts are being organized beginning next month in cooperation with municipal authorities. OPPOSITION AGREEMENTS IN HUNGARY. Democratic Forum chairman Sandor Lezsak has confirmed reports of an agreement between his party and the Alliance of Free Democrats (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1997). Meanwhile, Smallholders' Party chairman Josef Torgyan and Christian Democrat leader Gyorgy Giczy signed an agreement whereby the Smallholders will "provide every assistance" to the Christian Democrats in the 1998 parliamentary elections. The two parties will field joint candidate lists if an amendment to the electoral law, currently under discussion in the parliament, is passed. That amendment would do away with the provision requiring each party running on joint lists to receive 5 percent support in order to gain representation. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMINAL SENTENCED IN GERMANY. A Dusseldorf court on 26 September sentenced Bosnian Serb extremist Nikola Jorgic to life imprisonment for committing genocide, murder, kidnapping, and assault in the former Yugoslavia. The trial was held in Germany at the request of the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. The court found Jorgic, 50, responsible for two massacres in the Bosnian villages of Grapska and Sevarlije, where 29 Bosnian Muslims were found slaughtered in 1992. He was convicted on 11 counts of genocide and 30 counts of murder. Jorgic, who lived in Germany for 23 years, was arrested at Dusseldorf airport in 1995 upon returning from Bosnia. He has dismissed the charges as "lies" and claims to be the victim of mistaken identity. ZUBAK COMPLAINS ABOUT UPCOMING BOSNIAN SERB ELECTIONS. Kresimir Zubak, the Bosnian Croat member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, filed a written complaint on 25 September with the international community's high representative, Carlos Westendorp, on the upcoming elections in the Republika Srpska. The previous day, Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic and Momcilo Krajisnik, the Muslim member of the Bosnian presidency, recently reached an agreement with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on early parliamentary elections and on a vote for both Plavsic's and Krajisnik's posts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1997). Zubak said that elections in the republic can be organized only by all- Bosnian agencies, not on the basis of an agreement between officials in one of the two entities. FINAL RESULTS OF SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. According to the final results of the first round of the 21 September presidential elections, Zoran Lilic, Socialist candidate and ally of Yugoslav President Milosevic, won 35.7 percent of the vote. Ultra-nationalist Vojislav Seselj received 27.28 percent and opposition leader Vuk Draskovic 20.64 %. Lilic will face Seselj in a run-off on 5 October. SERBIAN POLICE DISRUPT PRISTINA PROMENADE. Serbian police, in an apparent bid to put stop to the traditional evening promenade of ethnic Albanians on the main street of the Kosovar capital, directed vehicles to drive down the main street, despite an evening ban on traffic. Numerous young people, nevertheless, continued to congregate on the sidewalks, the Kosovo Information Center reported on 25 September. Uniformed and plainclothes police harassed and beat at least two students. Meanwhile, some 300 Serbian police, backed by armored personnel carriers and helicopters, harassed dozens of ethnic Albanians in four villages in central Kosovo on 23- 24 September. Several villagers were beaten. The action followed reports of an alleged attack on a police patrol near Glina. SLOVENIA NAMES NEW FOREIGN MINISTER. The parliament in an extraordinary session on 25 September appointed Boris Frlec, currently ambassador in Bonn, as foreign minister, RFE/RL's South Slavic service reported. Frlec says he sees Slovenia's foreign policy priorities as improving ties with its neighbors and joining the EU. Frlec is a member of Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek's Liberal Democratic Party. He is Slovenia's seventh foreign minister since Ljubljana declared independence in June 1991. ALBANIAN POLICE OPEN CRIMINAL CASES IN SARANDA. Criminal police in the southern seaside resort have launched criminal proceedings against 40 Albanians accused of murder, rape, robbery, and kidnapping during unrest earlier this year, ATA reported on 25 September. So far, only six alleged perpetrators are in custody. The prosecutor's office and the courts have yet to join in the crackdown. Meanwhile, Italian police returned 119 Albanians lacking documents to the Albanian port of Durres on 24-25 September. Half of those sent back were young women detained for alleged prostitution. In September alone, Italy has deported some 2,500 Albanians to Durres. ALBANIA ASKS SKOPJE NOT TO SHOOT ITS CITIZENS ON BORDER. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo asked his Macedonian counterpart, Blagoi Handziski, during talks in New York on 24 September to help ensure that Albanian citizens are not shot when trying to cross the border illegally. He said the border crossing at Bllata, closed due to unrest earlier this year, should be reopened. The two ministers agreed on holding negotiations at expert level to continue work bilateral agreements of an economic nature and on the free movement of citizens. Milo also expressed his government's concern over problems facing Macedonia's ethnic Albanian population ROMANIAN COALITION TACKLES CONTROVERSIAL LEGISLATION. A joint commission of representatives of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) on 25 September agreed to draw up a "mutually acceptable" version of the amended education law. The commission was created the previous day. PNTCD chairman Ion Diaconescu said the commission's decisions will be binding on all coalition members, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Diaconescu said that if Senate Education Commission chairman George Pruteanu continues to stick to his position on the law, he will have to "face the consequences." UDMR chairman Bela Marko said several PNTCD representatives have displayed extreme nationalist positions similar to those of the opposition. The commission will also examine the amended Law on Public Administration, which allows bilingual street signs, and the draft law on the national minorities. ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT PROMOTES WOMEN'S REPRESENTATION. The Chamber of Deputies on 25 September adopted an amendment to the law on political parties aimed at promoting representation of women in the legislature. The amendment stipulates that subsidies for each party will be increased proportional to the number of its women members of the parliament. The amended law will go into effect if the entire text of the law is adopted by the chamber and subsequently approved by the Senate. Also on 25 September, Foreign Minister Adrian Severin met with his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, in New York. They agreed that in October, the two sides will resume at the level of expert the talks on a bilateral basic treaty. RUSSIA, UKRAINE DISCUSS TRANSDNIESTR REGION. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Boris Gudyma, met in Moscow on 25 September to discuss how to advance the dialogue between Chisinau and Tiraspol, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that Russia and Ukraine fundamentally agree on how to settle the conflict between the breakaway Transdniestr region and Moldova. The statement said that Moscow and Kyiv believe in "granting a special status to the region on condition of observing the principle of the territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova." RUSSIAN DEPUTY PREMIER ON FATE OF WEAPONS IN TRANSDNIESTER. In an interview with Interfax on 25 September, Valerii Serov said that during his recent visit to Chisinau and Tiraspol, it was agreed to destroy or sell that part of the Russian arsenal that will not be wihdrawn from the Transdniester region. He rejected the Transdniestrian claim to ownership of the assets but said that "proceeds from sales to third countries will be divided among the three [Russian, Moldovan, and Transdniestrian] sides." He added this would "compensate" Tiraspol for the stationing of Russian troops in the region. He also said it was "important that the weapons not be taken over by the Transdniestrians or the Moldovans or be...purchased by dubious commercial organizations." BULGARIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS TENSE. Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev on 25 September accused Russia of trying to blackmail Bulgaria with threats to cut off natural gas supplies unless it pays what he suggested are unfair high prices. Bonev said Russia must overcome its "imperial attitude" toward Sofia. Other Bulgarian officials noted that the Russian company Gazprom wants to charge prices higher than those for deliveries to other European countries, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Also on 25 September, AFP reported that Russia has filed an official protest for having been omitted from a list of countries invited to attend a security meeting in Sofia on 3 October. NATO and Partnership for Peace countries are to attend the meeting. END NOTE ROMANIA POLISHES GLOBAL IMAGE by Robert Lyle At the annual meeting of the World Bank and IMF in Hong Kong, Romania has made a bid to improve its image in the global financial community. Taking the opportunity offered by seminar sponsored by those two economic institutions, officials from Bucharest told global investors that the country now has its basic finances in order and will be forging ahead with a revised and improved privatization program. Romanian National Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu told the seminar that while the country has been "lagging behind" the rest of the region in shifting to a market economy (private business accounted for just 52 percent of the national economy in 1996), it is now rapidly catching up. The private sector should account for at least two-thirds of Romanian gross domestic product by next year. Similarly, while Romania has been slow in drawing foreign direct investment--it totaled around $624 million dollars in 1996, according to the UN World Investment Report -- Isarescu says that he expects it to jump to $1 billion by the end of this year. The country has set up a new privatization program, reorganized and redrawn by the State Ownership Fund. The fund's director, Adriana Miron, told the seminar that the organization is taking a market-oriented approach, valuing enterprises at their market value rather than at book value, and then offering the "largest and most attractive" first. The shift from book to market value makes a critical difference in the program. Some firms will sell for a lot more than book value because they have attractive futures. Older, worn-out heavy industry firms, which were costly to build but have little value on today's market, will be priced far lower. Miron said authorities learned many lessons from the first program, which managed to privatize only 3,000 enterprises--mostly small and medium-sized--in three years. She points out they privatized another 1,300 at the end of August and expect to have the total privatized to nearly 5,000 by the end of this year. "Our goal is to privatize 50 companies each week," she said. Miron said the first response to the changes has been very encouraging. The fund has begun to run advertisements in international finance and business publications about some of its first major offerings and is already receiving a large number of inquiries. Isarescu says that state-owned banks will to be among the firms privatized. Of the five major state banks, which currently control 70 percent of the banking sector in Romania, three are being prepared for privatization. He said he expects at least two to been sold off by the middle of next year. The rest of the banking sector in Romania is filled by around 30 licensed banks and 15 foreign banks. Isarescu says the central bank and the government are reviewing what further reforms might be needed for the country's banking system, including a commercial banking supervisory agency similar to those in Western nations. A private investment banker, Antonius van der Heijden, head of the Dutch ING Barings bank operation in Romania, told the seminar that for the first time since the end of Nicolae Ceausescu's regime, Bucharest seems headed in the right direction. "There is a good team in the government and they are doing a good job," he said. For the first time, there is a "totally changed perception of Romania." The country could be the "next European tiger," he said. The owner of a Canadian textile company which has had joint ventures in Romania since 1965, J. A. Seroussi, echoed Van der Heijden's endorsement. He said while nothing is ever perfect, he is more optimistic now than he has ever been about investing in Romania. Former World Bank treasurer Donald Roth, managing partner of a European investment group, acted as moderator at the seminar. He said there is no question that Romania is at "a crossroads." Which path it follows into the future depends on Bucharest's making good choices now, he added. The author is a Washington-based RFE/RL correspondent. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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