|The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle 1975-1881|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 138, Part II, 14 October 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 *SLOVAK GOVERNMENT SHUTS DOWN INDEPENDENT RADIO *SOLANA ADDRESSES NORTH ATLANTIC ASSEMBLY *BOSNIAN SERBS AGREE ON PARLIAMENTARY VOTE End Note SERBIAN ELECTION COVERAGE REVEALS INTOLERANCE ALSO AMONG OPPOSITION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE SLOVAK GOVERNMENT SHUTS DOWN INDEPENDENT RADIO. A subdivision of the government-controlled Slovak Telecommunication, which owns all television and radio transmitters in the country, has shut down Radio Twist, the only domestic private station in Slovakia covering news, Slovak media reported on 13 October. Radiocommunication said it took this step because Radio Twist has failed to pay some 170,000 Slovak crowns ($5,300) for using the company's transmitters. RFE/RL's Slovak service reports that Slovak Television and Radio currently owes Slovak Telecommunication $1 billion crowns (some $30 million), as does the private, government- close television station VTV. A spokesmen for Radio Twist said the station is current in its payments and that Radiocommunication's action is politically motivated. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar recently accused Radio Twist of "lying" and said he favored new legislation to prevent it from continuing to operate the way it had been to date. BELARUSIAN COURT FINES TWO DEMONSTRATORS. A Minsk court on 13 October fined Pavel Serinets and Yevgeniy Skochko $10 each for taking part in the 12 October demonstration, at which an effigy of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka was burned, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, speaking at the opening of a hospital established near Minsk to treat victims of the Chernobyl accident, Lukashenka praised Austria for its assistance in setting up the facility and chided Russia and Ukraine for not doing more, Belarusian media reported. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT THREATENS TO VETO ELECTION LAW. Leonid Kuchma will veto the election law passed by the parliament in September unless lawmakers make small changes to bring the bill into line with the constitution, Interfax reported on 13 October, quoting presidential administration chief Yevhen Kushmaryov told . Kuchma has until 16 October to sign the bill if the parliament modifies it or veto the measure if it does not. PLATOON LEADER SPEAKS OUT ON ESTONIAN TRAINING TRAGEDY. In an interview with the daily "Eesti Paevaleht" on 13 October, Lieutenant Jaanus Karm accused the commanders of the Estonian peacekeeping company and the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion of negligence, ETA reported. Karm was head of the unit that lost 14 members during a training exercise in mid-September. While not seeking to shift the blame from himself, Karm said he had not received any instructions from his immediate superiors. "There was a total confusion about who was responsible for what," he told the newspaper, adding that he was forced to take over the duties of the company and battalion commanders. The security police have found Karm to be solely responsible for the tragedy, but no official charges have been brought so far. DUTCH OFFICIAL ADVISES VILNIUS NOT TO PUSH FOR EU ENTRY TALKS. During his visit to Vilnius on 13 October, Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo advised Lithuania not to push for inclusion in early negotiations on EU membership, BNS and dpa reported. Van Mierlo told reporters that negotiations are a waste of time and energy for countries that still have a long way to go to meet EU requirements. But he stressed that The Netherlands' is willing to continue helping Vilnius prepare for EU entry. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas said his country will take the Dutch recommendations seriously but added that the criteria for EU membership are not specific enough for Lithuania to comply with. During his two-day visit, Van Mierlo met with President Algirdas Brazauskas, Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius, and parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis. DISPUTES MAR POLISH COALITION TALKS. Solidarity Electoral Action leader Marian Krzaklewski has said he will present a candidate for prime minister to President Alexander Kwasniewski by 16 October, Polish media reported. But Krzaklewski said he is unwilling to give his coalition partner, the Freedom Union, the two posts it has demanded: the deputy premiership for Leszek Balcerowicz and the foreign portfolio for Bronislaw Geremek. Such appointments, Krzaklewski said, would fly in the face of the electorate's will. POLES GAIN CONFIDENCE IN BANKING SYSTEM. Forty percent of Poles currently put their savings in banks, the highest figure since the fall of communism in Poland, according to the results of a September poll published in the 13 October issue of "Rzeczpospolita." The poll also found that only 3 percent of Poles now keep their savings at home. In other news, intelligence chief General Andrzej Kapkoski has issued instructions that no Polish spy should spend more than six hours a day on surveillance if the weather is bad, no pregnant spy should work more than eight hours a day, and no spy should put in more than 40 hours a week, PAP reported on 11 October. HUNGARIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OPPOSES GOVERNMENT REFERENDUM INITIATIVE. The Constitutional Court on 13 October ruled that the parliament's decision to use the government's wording of the referendum on land ownership by foreigners is unconstitutional. The court pointed out that the opposition-backed wording had been supported by more than 200,000 signatures and argued that, under the basic law, the opposition version must take priority over the government one. The government coalition responded by announcing it wants the 16 November referendum to be on NATO accession only. The opposition, however, insists that the referendum include the one question on NATO entry and the two questions on foreign land ownership as formulated by the opposition. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SOLANA ADDRESSES NORTH ATLANTIC ASSEMBLY. Addressing the closing session of the North Atlantic Assembly in Bucharest on 13 October, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said the costs of expanding the alliance are minor compared with the advantages of admitting new members. Solana called for a continued NATO presence in Bosnia, saying it would be a "political, military, and moral mistake" for SFOR to withdraw from the region (the peacekeepers' mandate runs out in June 1998). Earlier, the assembly adopted a resolution calling for expansion to continue so as to include Romania, Slovenia, the Baltic States, "and other southeast European countries." RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. that the reference to "other southeast European countries" was added at the insistence of the German delegation. BOSNIAN SERBS AGREE ON PARLIAMENTARY VOTE. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, agreed in Belgrade on 13 October in talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to hold parliamentary elections on 23 November. Plavsic and Krajisnik had decided in Belgrade in September on a 15 November vote, but the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe asked for a later date so that it would have enough time to organize the elections. Krajisnik and the other hard-liners opposed the delay. In the summer, Plavsic dissolved the current parliament, which is dominated by her hard-line rivals. Krajisnik said in Belgrade on 13 October that elections for his job and for that of Plavsic will take place on 7 December, as he and Plavsic agreed in September. It is unclear, however, whether the presidential elections were included in the 13 October agreement. NATO TO KEEP CONTROL OF BOSNIAN SERB TRANSMITTERS. A spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 13 October that SFOR peacekeepers will not return four television relay stations to Krajisnik's hard-line Pale Television. Westendorp noted that the Serbs have refused NATO's demand that Pale sack the current television management before the transmitters are returned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 1997). KEY BOSNIAN TOWN TO HAVE MULTI-ETHNIC POLICE. Robert Farrand, the international community's chief administrator of the strategic town of Brcko, ordered on 13 October that Muslims and Croats be included in the Serb-run police force. He said that international experts will soon arrive to train the force, which will be headed by a Serb with Muslim and Croatian deputies. Local Serbian officials, however, called Farrand's order "drastic" and difficult to implement. In the 13-14 September local elections, Serbian nationalists won the single largest bloc of votes in the new town council, but no ethnic faction secured a majority. Serbs were in a minority in pre-war Brcko but have held the town since the start of the war in 1992. REWARD POSTED FOR INFORMATION ON BOSNIAN TERRORISTS. The Sarajevo local authorities on 13 October announced a $30,000 reward for information leading to the uncovering of a presumed Muslim terrorist group that has recently attacked Roman Catholic institutions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 1997). The federal government ordered the city authorities to install police video cameras in some parts of downtown Sarajevo in the wake of the incidents. Meanwhile in Tripoli, Libya formally protested Bosnia's recent decision to recognize Israel. And in Dhaka, Bangladeshi President Shahabuddin Ahmed told visiting Bosnian Gen. Rasim Delic that Bangladesh will help rebuild Bosnia's economy and defense forces. Some 20 Bosnian officer cadets are currently training in Bangladesh. CROATIAN ARCHBISHOP DISTANCES CHURCH FROM STATE. Josip Bozanic, Zagreb's new archbishop, said on 13 October that "the [Roman Catholic] Church does not wish to be close either to the government or to the governing party," the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. Bozanic's statement suggests that the Church intends to continue the policy of former Cardinal Franjo Kuharic, who resisted the government's and the HDZ's attempts to co-opt the Church as a political ally. Kuharic strongly defended Church interests in such matters as control over religious instruction in the schools and in the military. But he also tended to steer clear of overtly political issues, except when he repeatedly criticized the war with the Muslims in 1993. ALBANIA'S LAST COMMUNIST PRIME MINISTER DIES. Adil Carcani has died of heart disease in Tirana, state media reported on 14 October. Carcani was a protege of dictator Enver Hoxha and prime minister from 1982 until February 1991, when student-led protests ended communist rule. The postcommunist government imprisoned Carcani and some other former leaders for abuse of power, but Carcani was later freed because of poor health. During the anarchy earlier this year, Ramiz Alia, Hoxha's successor, fled Albania to join his son in France. ROMANIAN PREMIER ADDRESSES NORTH ATLANTIC ASSEMBLY... Victor Ciorbea told the North Atlantic Assembly on 13 October that his cabinet's aim is not to gain access to NATO but to turn Romania into a country that the Western alliance and the EU would like to have as one of their members. Ciorbea reviewed the economic and legislative reforms undertaken so far by the government as well as the administrative measures implemented to improve inter-ethnic relations. He said economic legislation aimed at attracting foreign investments and a revised penal code that meets international standards will be submitted to the parliament in the near future. ...MEETS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS' DEMANDS. Following his meeting with representatives of high school students on 13 October, Ciorbea announced that matriculation examinations in 1997 will be conducted, as previously, in four compulsory subjects and an additional optional one. Under a new curriculum, students would have taken examinations in seven subjects (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 1997). It was also agreed to set up a council composed of representatives of high school students and of the Education Ministry at county and central levels, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MOLDOVAN OFFICIALS DENY 'FEDERALIZATION' REPORTS. Presidential counselor Anatol Taranu on 13 October denied media reports that Moldova's de facto federalization is provided for by the document on which experts from the two sides of the Transdniestrian conflict agreed in Moscow recently. Taranu said the document makes no mention of a Transdniestrian separate parliament, government, anthem, or state symbols. He said the document reflects the principle of "Transdniester [as] an integral part of the Moldovan republic," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He refused to reveal the contents of the agreement, saying that the two sides reached an understanding whereby details will be made public only after Moldovan and Transdniestrian leaders have approved the document. Constantin Lazar, a member of the Moldovan delegation to the 5-9 October negotiations in the Russian capital, said the agreement ensures Chisinau will have "sole competence [over] Moldovan citizenship, foreign policy, customs, and frontiers." BULGARIAN, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS AGREE ON MEETING. Nadezhda Mihailova and her Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, have agreed to meet in Moscow on 1 December for what the Russian Foreign Ministry described as a "working meeting." Bilateral relations have been particularly strained recently over accusations in the Bulgarian media that Russia is trying to impose unfair conditions for its natural gas deliveries and that the Russian ambassador to Sofia is trying to undermine Bulgaria's efforts to integrate into Euro-Atlantic structures. ITAR-TASS on 13 October said Mihailova's visit will be in preparation for a summit of the two countries' presidents later in December. END NOTE SERBIAN ELECTION COVERAGE REVEALS INTOLERANCE ALSO AMONG OPPOSITION Yasha Lange Serbian State Television's (RTS) coverage of the recent parliamentary and presidential election campaign was fundamentally flawed. The evening news featured endless rallies of the ruling party's candidate. Each day, several red ribbons were shown being cut (at the opening of highways, hospitals, construction sites, and so forth). Favorable economic figures were quoted by government ministers. And opposition candidates were heard criticizing one another but not the candidate from the ruling party. All in all, nothing very surprising. What is more surprising, however, is that the attitude of some opposition members toward the media reveals similar intolerance. Despite the existence of various political parties, and despite diversity in the press, there is a marked lack of national debate in Serbia. Four problems contribute to this state of affairs. First, RTS is the only nationwide television station in the country, and an estimated one-third of the population has no access to other electronic media. The failure by RTS to provide balanced coverage of the recent election campaign means that millions of Serbs may have gained a seriously distorted picture of the country's political landscape. Second, Serbian viewers are strongly influenced by RTS newscasts--the "official version" of reality--in their perceptions of domestic politics, even when other sources of information are available to them. RTS conveys a message of completeness: it makes the viewer believe that he does not have to watch other newscasts Many ordinary Serbs remain reluctant to question that message, perhaps because during 40 years of communism, the gap between what people saw on television newscasts and their own experience of reality could easily be bridged. Unlike in some Soviet bloc countries, people did not automatically distrust what they saw on the evening news programs. Third, the Serbian government is not alone in its desire to control the media. Some members of the opposition seem similarly reluctant to accept that television news can operate without the interference of political parties. The 30 September dismissal of the director and editor-in-chief of Studio B--the TV station controlled by the Belgrade municipal authorities--is just one case in point. Lila Radonjic, the editor-in-chief of Studio B says that during the last six months of her tenure, the television station received "as many as 10 calls a day" from Vuk Draskovic, his wife Danica, and senior officials from his Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO). Milan Bozic, the vice president of the SPO, is reported to have said, "We're not going to pay for a television station that does not work for us." The eventual outcome was the dismissal of the two Studio B officials. And in Nis, the second largest city in Serbia, the SPO-controlled municipal television station did not allow the local mayor to express his point of view in his ongoing dispute with Draskovic. Such an attitude on the part of the SPO mirrors the atmosphere of intolerance that the RTS helped create. Fourth, the criteria for licenses and frequencies continue to obstruct the development of private electronic media. There are some 70 local television stations in Serbia. Most are controlled by the local authorities, and no fewer than 58 operate without a license. Moreover, there are only three private television stations with a license. Since 1994, when the last licenses were distributed, discrepancies between laws on the federal and republican levels and the insurmountable difficulties in registering have prevented private broadcasters from acquiring a legal status. The non-distribution of frequencies and/or licenses and the fact that transmitters remain in the control of the state have been instrumental in preventing independent broadcasters from reaching their potential audiences. The Serbian government's influence over the state-owned media is by no means unique in the region. Less common are the legal barriers for private electronic broadcasters, although some countries, such as Bulgaria and Croatia, likewise lack a regulatory framework. In Serbia, it is particularly regrettable that some opposition forces also want to impose control over the electronic media. The author is project manager for the East-West Cooperation Program of the European Institute for the Media, Dusseldorf, Germany. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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