|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 127, Part II, 29 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 RUSSIAN MEDIA EMPIRES. Government and business entities control many major Russian media. This special report on the RFE/RL Web site lists the important players. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rumedia/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II *NEMTSOV CASTS DOUBT ON RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN UNITY *NATO AND RUSSIA DISCUSS PEACEKEEPING IN BOSNIA *PLAVSIC POSTPONES PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE NEMTSOV CASTS DOUBT ON RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN UNITY. In the 26 September "Byelarusskaya delovaya gazeta," Russian First Deputy Premier Boris Nemtsov said that he opposed unity between the two countries unless Minsk changed its policies. "Just as you cannot unite the economic systems of North and South Korea, just as you cannot unite the economies of Florida with nearby Cuba, you obviously cannot integrate the economies of the Russian Federation and Belarus, whose economic fundamentals differ." BELARUS AND INDIA PLAN CLOSER MILITARY TIES. India has welcomed a proposal by President Lukashenka for closer military ties between the two countries, AFP reported. Lukashenka said on 26 September in New Dehli that his country is ready to repair and maintain Soviet-made weapons in the Indian arsenal. India's acceptance of the proposal was conveyed by Indian Minister of State for Defense N.V.N. Somu to Belarusian Defense Minister Alyaksandr Chukakov during a closed-door meeting today in New Delhi. The former Soviet Union was India's main defense supplier and most of India's weapons today are of Soviet origin. Lukashenka said on 27 September that his current trip to India would help re-establish relations between the two countries following the break-up of the Soviet Union. Lukashenka's visit started on 26 September and ended on 28 September. RUSSIAN ADMIRAL CRITICIZES OUTSIDERS ON THE BLACK SEA. Russian Black Sea commander Admiral Viktor Kravchenko told Interfax 26 September that there was "no need for the presence of third countries on the Black Sea." He said that the only countries whose navies should be on that body of water were the coastal states. Kravchenko's comments come after the NATO-backed Sea Breeze exercises in which the U.S. participated and just before the joint Russian-Ukrainian exercises scheduled for later October. UKRAINE SAYS IT WILL NOT NEED IMF LOANS AFTER YEAR 2000. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko told journalists in Kyiv on 28 September he believes his country will not need funds from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank beyond the year 2000. But he also said Ukraine could still benefit from advice from the two international financial institutions even after that date. He said he expects Ukraine to reach a normal stage of economic reform in the next few years. Among the transition economies, Ukraine is seen to be lagging badly in the reform process. Tyhypko said the country should not abandon "clever things that have been offered to it" by the IMF, and that it can decide what is in its own interests. The IMF has delayed making available a $2.9 billion loan until Ukraine meets the required criteria, replacing it with a smaller, interim deal of $542 million. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SATISFIED WITH NEW VOTING SYSTEM. Leonid Kuchma on 26 September welcomed the recent approval of a new, proportional representation-type of voting for elections to Ukraine's parliament. Kuchma, on an official visit to Mexico, was quoted by UNIAR news agency as saying he is satisfied that agreements reached with the parliamentary factions before he left on his trip were implemented. Under the new voting scheme, to replace the majority system, half the legislature's 450 seats will be decided on the basis of party lists, with the rest going to candidates elected on an individual basis. The number of seats allotted to the parties is proportional to the percentage of the votes they receive. Ukraine will hold its next parliamentary election in March 1998. NEW POLITICAL MOVEMENTS IN UKRAINE Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko was chosen on 27 September to head a new political movement in Ukraine that its leaders said will openly oppose the government of President Kuchma. Members of Hromada (Community) elected Lazarenko as their chairman at a congress of the movement. Lazarenko described his party as social-democratic and said its main task would be to win a majority in the new legislature to be elected next March. A Hromada spokeswoman, Yulia Timoshenko, said the group will be "in open opposition to the ruling regime." Kuchma dismissed Lazarenko in July amid accusations of corruption and a lack of dedication to reforms. On 28 September, 50 Muslims representing Islamic communities in 15 Ukrainian regions met in Donetsk to form a Ukrainian Muslim Party, Itar-Tass reported. The as-yet unregistered party will be headed by Rashit Bragin. ESTONIA SET FOR BORDER TALKS WITH RUSSIA. Estonian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ehtel Halliste told Interfax on 26 September that Estonia intends to conduct border talks with Russia in a constructive spirit and hopes to complete them this year. Halliste also refuted a statement by the Russian delegation leader, Vasily Svirin, that Estonia was going to renew its territorial claims to Russia. "We have no territorial claims on Russia whatsoever," she said. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin said in Moscow a day earlier that the Estonian side was showing a nonconstructive approach at bilateral border delimitation talks. At the Moscow negotiations on 23-24 September, he said, the Estonian side refused to examine Russian amendments to the draft of a state border delimitation treaty, although it had not been initialled by the delegation leaders. Nesterushkin said that such "an absurd approach may bring the negotiating process to a halt." LATVIA, LITHUANIA PRESS FOR EUROPEAN UNION MEMBERSHIP. BNS reported on 26 September that the European Commission has promised the Latvian government that it will update its statistics on that Baltic state. Latvia had complained that the EC had used out of date numbers when it decided to invite Estonia but not Latvia and Lithuania for accession talks. Meanwhile, Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas told a conference on "Lithuania in the European Union" that Vilnius does not understand why it has not been invited but will continue to press for EU membership. LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES RUSSIAN DUMA'S RESOLUTION. Algirdas Brazauskas on 26 September criticized the Russian State Duma's resolution passed earlier the same day. In the resolution, Russian lawmakers warned against the "hasty" signing of a treaty on the state border between Russia and Lithuania, Interfax reported. The signing ceremony is due to take place in October. The lawmakers also asked President Boris Yeltsin to join forces with the legislature in order to work out a single position designed to protect "Russia's interests." Brazauskas told journalists that some Russian politicians repeatedly "call into question Lithuania's territorial rights over the Klapeida region." He said all border disputes have been resolved in official negotiations and that in October "we will sign a treaty on the state border with Russia." POLISH PRESIDENT STARTS CONSULTATIONS ON NEW GOVERNMENT. Polish President Aleksandr Kwasniewski said he would meet with Marian Krzaklewski on 29 September to begin talks on the formation of a new government, PAP reported. In addition to meeting with the leader of the largest party in the new government, Kwasniewski has said he will meet with the leaders of other parties this week as well. CZECH COALITION PARTIES IN FLUX. At its congress on 27-28 September, the Christian Democratic Union (KDU-CSL) of Deputy Prime Minister Josef Lux criticized its two coalition partners--the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus--for experimenting with economic transformation. Lux said that his party wants to pursue social market policies tried successfully in Western Europe. He said the government will lose the KDU-CSL's support unless its policies change. The executive committee of the ODS on 27 September criticized party leaders for a lack of leadership and demanded that they regularly present reports to the committee. The so-called "right-wing faction" within the ODA declared at a weekend meeting that the government must push through economic transformation or face losing the faction's support in the parliament. POLITICAL CHANGES IN SLOVAKIA? Slovak Parliament Chairman Ivan Gasparovic told a meeting of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) on 26 September that the party plans to take some steps by the end of November to change things criticized by the European Commission. The Commission in July failed to recommend Slovakia for talks on EU membership, owing to political problems in the country. Gasparovic said the next parliamentary session, which starts on 30 September, will discuss opposition representation on parliamentary committees with a monitoring function and a bill for a minority language law. HUNGARIAN PARTIES CROSS-COOPERATE ON GABCIKOVO RULING. The leaders of the six Hungarian parliamentary parties consulted with Premier Gyula Horn on 26 September and agreed to set up a cross-party committee to examine Hungary's strategy for the talks with Slovakia on implementing the International Court of Justice ruling on the Gabcikovo power plant. Interior Minister Gabor Kuncze said future efforts should be geared at a "zero option" on mutual compensation claims and at the return of the Danube river bed to its original course, Hungarian media reported. In other news, the Foreign Ministry on 26 September confirmed that the third round of talks between Hungary and NATO has been postponed from 3 October to 13 October at the request of NATO officials. Hungarian ambassador to NATO Andras Simonyi confirmed that NATO will grant special status to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic as of January 1998, as an important step toward membership. ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS HUNGARY. Romanian Defense Minister Victor Babiuc, who paid a visit to Hungary on 26-27 September, agreed with his Hungarian counterpart Gyoergy Keleti that the document providing for the establishment of a joint Hungarian-Romanian peacekeeping battalion will be signed in Bucharest later this year. The battalion will become operational in the second half of 1998, Hungarian and Romanian media reported. The original intention was to have the battalion set up this year, but plans had to be postponed due to financial difficulties in both countries. Babiuc also met with Premier Horn, with whom he discussed the latter's visit to Romania, planned for October. They agreed to "isolate extremist parties" which seek to undermine Hungarian-Romanian relations and democratization. Correction: On 26 September, Newsline erroneously reported that Polish Premier Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz had resigned Cimoszewicz had, at that time, submitted his resignation, but it has not yet been accepted. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO AND RUSSIA DISCUSS PEACEKEEPING IN BOSNIA. NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and the 16 foreign ministers of the NATO member states agreed during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov of the NATO Russia Permanent Joint Council at the United Nations in New York on 26 September to form a working group to elaborate principles and tasks in peacekeeping, including in Bosnia. Primakov reiterated Russia's position that the UN Security Council must be asked for advance approval for the use of force in peacekeeping operations. Moscow is concerned that NATO may try to detain indicted war criminals in Bosnia without prior approval from the Kremlin. The NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council participants expressed satisfaction with the way municipal elections were carried out in Bosnia earlier this month and reiterated their determination to help bring peace and security to Bosnia through the Dayton peace accords. PLAVSIC POSTPONES PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS ... Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic said 27 September that parliamentary elections in Republika Srpska have been postponed eight days until 23 November due to what she called technical reasons. Elections for the presidency of the Serb republic and for the Serb representative in Bosnia's tripartite presidency are set for 7 December. In an interview on Bosnian Serb TV, Plavsic accused former Bosnian Serb president and indicted war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic of having withdrawn DM 49 million from Banja Luka banks last year. Plavsic rejected suggestions that the international community is hostile toward Republika Srpska, saying the NATO-led Stabilization Force "is not an occupier, it protects our borders, repairs our houses and schools, and defends peace". . . . WHILE SDS CHIDES HER. The ruling Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in Pale has so far ignored Plavsic's comments on Karadzic. But it objected to other remarks in her interview as "misleading", "unfair" and "arbitrary". SDS dismissed her accusations of corruption in the Bosnian Serb Interior Ministry and denied her allegation that SDS had negotiated with the ruling Bosnian Croat party (HDZ) about exchanging territory between Republika Srpska and the Muslim- Croat Federation. SDS said "such statements are not naive insinuations but a criminal act of spreading untrue reports." EXPLOSION WRECKS INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER OFFICE. A nightime explosion on 27 September ripped through the offices of "Alternativa", the only opposition newspaper in the Bosnian Serb town of Doboj. The blast damaged several apartments and sparked a fire. There were no injuries. This was the second attack in recent weeks on the paper, which is owned and edited by retired Bosnian Serb army colonel Milovan Stankovic, an open supporter of Plavsic in her power struggle with pro-Kradzic hardliners. KOSOVARS DEMONSTRATE FOR RETURN OF SCHOOLS. More than 1,000 ethnic Albanian students and residents of the Kosovo towns of Pristina, Mitrovica, Pec, Prizren and Gnjilane demonstrated on 28 September to protest the intolerable situation in education in the province and demand the return of their school buildings. Serbian authorities shut down Albanian schools six years ago. Last year, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic reached agreement with Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova to reopen the schools but the accord was never implemented. The Students Union of the University of Pristina plans to launch peaceful protests in seven towns 1 October to force the reopening of the university. But Rugova told reporters that the protests should be postponed to a later date and staged only in Pristina. He called on Belgrade to show good will and implement the education agreement. FINANCE MINISTER INSISTS PYRAMID SCHEMES MUST BE CLOSED. Albanian Finance Minister Arben Malaj said on his return from the IMF-World Bank meeting in Hong Kong that the extent of western aid to Albania depends on the elimination of pyramid schemes. He says international bankers criticized Albania at the Hong Kong meeting for tardiness in closing down the pyramid schemes. He added that Albania can expect "all necessary funds" for the country's reconstruction and development once the schemes have been eliminated. Meanwhile, former Austrian chancellor Franz Vranitzky is to step down at the end of October as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's envoy for Albania. Vranitzky said 28. September he believed his task had been completed following elections in Albania in June and July. FORMER ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF ENTERS POLITICS. Virgil Magureanu, the former director of the Romanian Intelligence Service, on 28 September said that "within two months" he will set up a "centrist" political party. In an interview with the private Pro FM radio, Magureanu said he hopes other centrist formations in the opposition will collaborate with his party with the purpose of taking over political power, the daily "Libertatea" reports on 29 September. ROMANIAN OPPOSITION ALLIANCE CALLED OFF. The leader of the Greater Romania Party (PRM), Corneliu Vadim Tudor, on 26 September called off the planned alliance of his party with the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1997). In response to PDSR leader Ion Iliescu's statement on Romanian television one day earlier, who called on Tudor and Socialist Labor Party vice-chairman Adrian Paunescu to "temperate" their extreme nationalist postures, Tudor said the PRM rejected Iliescu's "attempt to use the unification of the opposition to return at the head of the state." The PRM leader said that a "genuine national opposition" can only be formed around himself, Paunescu and Cluj mayor Gheorghe Funar, Radio Bucharest reported. The PDSR on 28 September signed an agreement with the anti-Hungarian "Vatra romaneasca" organization and several other small parties and organizations for setting up an anti-government alliance. WORLD BANK OFFICIAL ASSESSES ROMANIAN PERFORMANCE. Kenneth Lay, director of the World Bank's Southeastern Europe department, told a press conference in Bucharest on 26 September that the bank agrees with the "general line" of the policies pursued by the government, but "rigorous discussions" are going on concerning "detail implementation." He said that the pace of privatization in the banking and agricultural sectors is unsatisfactory and that corruption remains a serious problem. Lay also said there are doubts concerning the state budget's capability of supporting the costs arising from a draft law which grants foreign and local investors equal taxation cut benefits. The bank is to discuss the approval of two new installments of a $630 million loan, the RFE/RL Bucharest bureau reported. In other news, the government on 27 September approved a draft law extending the powers of local government to collect taxes for the purpose of self-administration. WORLD BANK LOAN TO BULGARIA. World Bank officials and representatives of the Bulgarian government on 26 September initialled in Sofia an agreement for a $100 million loan to further support the country's economic reforms, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. The agreement must be approved by the bank's board at its meeting on 30 October. BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT LAW ON CIVIL SERVICE. A draft law on public administration approved by the government on 27 September stipulates that former members of the communist nomenklatura will be prohibited from filling high positions in the civil service for a period of five years, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. The interdiction will apply down to the level of former county party secretary. The draft also stipulates that one year after the law comes into effect, civil servants can no longer be dismissed following a change of government. In other news, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior on 26 September said that files of the former East German Stasi recently handed over to Bulgaria appear to contain no evidence that Bulgaria's secret service was involved in the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, Reuters reported. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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