|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 158, Part II, 12 November 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 News from the Armenian Service's Yerevan bureau is posted to RFE/RL's Armenia Report each weekday. RFE/RL ARMENIA REPORT http://www.rferl.org/bd/ar/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * RUSSIA HOPES TO OVERCOME 'DISTRUST' IN BALTICS * PRAGUE, SOFIA DENY INVOLVEMENT IN RADAR SALE TO IRAQ * PLAVSIC WANTS TO JOIN U.S. MILITARY PROGRAM xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS RUSSIA HOPES TO OVERCOME 'DISTRUST' IN BALTICS. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov announced on 11 November that Russia hopes to continue consultations in order to "transform the Baltic region into a zone of stability, trust, and cooperation," Russian news agencies reported. Commenting on the rejection by the Baltic presidents of Russia's offer to guarantee their countries' security, Tarasov expressed hope that in time "the interests of good-neighborliness and cooperation" in the Baltic region will overcome "distrust" and "psychological" issues inherited from the past. Russian State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told journalists the same day that he expects the Baltic States to "play a game with Russia," judging by their continuing aspirations to join NATO. Seleznev recalled that President Boris Yeltsin and the Duma have both said Russia will reconsider the Founding Act signed with NATO in May if the alliance admits the Baltics. LB EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE PRAGUE, SOFIA DENY INVOLVEMENT IN RADAR SALE TO IRAQ. Speaking in Washington on 11 November, Czech Premier Vaclav Klaus denied any Czech involvement in attempts to sell military equipment to Iraq. Klaus said the claims are a "provocation" and noted that Czech regulations on exporting sensitive equipment bar such a deal. The same day, the Ministry of Trade in Sofia denied that any Bulgarian firms or individuals are involved in such attempts, BTA reported. Such assertions "undermine Bulgaria's international prestige," the ministry commented. An article published on 12 November in "The Washington Times" says a group of Bulgarian arms dealers is working secretly with Czech military officials to arrange the sale to Baghdad of five "Tamara" electronic warfare systems. Those systems are capable of detecting and shooting down radar- evading U.S. stealth bombers. MS UKRAINE-EBRD SIGN FRAMEWORK DEAL ON CHORNOBYL. The Ukrainian government and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on 11 November signed an agreement defining how the international community will help provide some $750 million to make the Chornobyl reactor safe and ultimately to close it, Interfax reported. President Leonid Kuchma has repeatedly said that Kyiv will not close the plant without help, but the latest agreement does not necessarily mean that Western assistance will arrive in sufficient quantities to meet Ukraine's needs. PG MORE BELARUSIAN OFFICIALS CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION. The Belarusian Security Council has ordered the arrest of Agricultural Minister Vasiliy Leonov and a senior agricultural manager, Vasiliy Starovoitov, for corruption and embezzlement, Belarusian state television reported on 11 November. The council charged the two with "theft of property on an especially large scale." PG ESTONIAN BANKS MOVE TO HALT STOCK MARKET SLIDE. Four of Estonia's largest commercial banks announced on 11 November that they will no longer require investors to sell repurchase portfolios, ETA reported. Some analysts have blamed recent steep declines in share prices on investors' having to sell those portfolios in order to meet loan payments. However, Hansapank, the largest commercial bank in Estonia, declined to take such action, saying it must protect the interests of its shareholders. Following an initial slump, the TALSE index rallied in response to the banks' decision to close 1.72 percent down on the previous day. Meanwhile, top bank directors, meeting in Tallinn on 11 November, concluded that neither the kroon nor the banking sector is in crisis. JC LATVIA'S RUBIKS PLANS RETURN TO POLITICS. At his first press conference since being released from prison, former Communist Party leader Alfreds Rubiks said he will try to consolidate the country's leftist forces, BNS reported on 10 November. Stressing he is still a Communist, the 62-year-old Rubiks said he wants to "unite" the poor, the unemployed, and the Russian minority. He added that he plans to visit Moscow in the near future to meet with State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin, and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov. JC SOLIDARITY TO REGISTER AS POLITICAL PARTY. Solidarity Electoral Action leader Marian Krzaklewski told reporters on 11 November that his movement, which won the recent parliamentary elections, will register as a political party on 13 November. Krzaklewski said the new party will seek to promote market economics and Christian principles. PG CZECH OFFICIAL SAYS NO END TO BUD WARS. Czech Agricultural Minister Josef Lux told the daily "Hospodarske Noviny" on 11 November that he is now opposed to settling a trademark dispute between the Czech Budvar brewery and the Anheuser-Busch brewery in the U.S. Earlier Lux had backed an arrangement whereby the U.S. firm would be able to use its Bud trademark in various markets in exchange for an agreement to purchase hops from Czech farmers. But Budvar officials have opposed any such deal, and Lux has now bowed to their position. PG CZECH PARLIAMENT APPROVES SECURITIES MONITOR. On 11 November, the parliament voted to establish a capital markets commission to supervise the activities of these bodies, much as the Securities and Exchange Commission does in the United States, CTK reported. But in contrast to the U.S. and to original plans, the Czech body, expected to begin operations sometime in early 1998, will be subordinated to the Finance Ministry. PG HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS CONTROVERSIAL DEPUTY SPEAKER. By a vote of 164 to 53, Independent Smallholders deputy Sandor Kavassy has been elected as deputy speaker of the parliament, despite controversy over his irredentist views (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 1997), Hungarian media reported on 11 November. The Free Democrats boycotted the vote, objecting to Kavassy's statements in favor of amending the Trianon treaty. The governing Socialist Party was divided over his election. MSZ HUNGARY, UKRAINE BOOST COOPERATION. Visiting Ukrainian Prime Minister Valery Pustovoytenko on 11 November signed agreements with Hungary on liberalization of trade, border-zone cooperation, and rapid notification of nuclear accidents. In talks with his Hungarian counterpart, Gyula Horn, Pustovoytenko said there is no reason for Hungary to be concerned about Kiev's new bill on minority languages, which has been submitted to the parliament. The bill will not restrict Hungarian-language education in Transcarpathia, he explained. Pustovoytenko also said that Kyiv welcomes Hungary's invitation to join NATO. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE PLAVSIC WANTS TO JOIN U.S. MILITARY PROGRAM. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic told the SRNA news agency in Banja Luka on 11 November that the Bosnian Serb army (VRS) should join the U.S.-sponsored "Train and Equip" program, provided no preconditions are attached. She warned Bosnian Serb hard-liners that the Republika Srpska cannot isolate itself: "[regional] integration processes have started and whoever rejects them has no sense of reality." Some of the VRS leadership supports Plavsic's view and argues that the army must join "Train and Equip" in order not to fall behind the Muslim and Croatian forces, which participate in the program. PM ZUBAK TO DISCUSS TUDJMAN'S PROPOSAL. Kresimir Zubak, the Croatian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, said in Sarajevo on 11 November that the Muslims do not have the right to decide for the entire presidency on Croatian President Franjo Tudjman's proposal for closer links between the two states (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 1997). Zubak added that he will put Tudjman's proposal on the agenda of the next meeting of the presidency, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. PM BOSNIAN SHADOW CABINET APPEALS TO CROATIA. Sejfudin Tokic, who heads the shadow government formed by non-nationalist parties, appealed to the Croatian parliament to send a delegation to discuss with his shadow cabinet future relations between the two states. He said in Sarajevo on 11 November that Bosnian-Croatian relations are of strategic importance for the entire region. Tokic added that any proposal to tighten links between the two states must be submitted to a referendum, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. PM U.S. ENVOY WARNS OF NEW WAR. Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith said in Zagreb on 11 November that "there's a good chance that a precipitous withdrawal [by NATO from Bosnia] could lead to a situation where war would break out." He added that he believes that Croatia may play less of a role in Bosnia in the future than it has to date: "I think most Croatians would prefer to disengage from Bosnia. Croatia has achieved its national objectives of reunifying its country and would now like to be on the Slovenia track into NATO and Europe. A continued major role in Bosnia is a potential albatross." Tudjman and prominent Herzegovinians, such as Defense Minister Gojko Susak, nonetheless favor an active role for Croatia in Bosnia. PM BOSNIA TO GET UNIFIED CURRICULUM. Bosnian Federation Education Minister Fahrudin Rizvanbegovic announced in Sarajevo on 11 November that Croatian and Muslim pupils and students will soon study from the same textbooks and that those books will stress Bosnia is a single, multi-ethnic state. Croatian schools now use texts from Croatia, while Muslim schools have their own books. Critics charge that both sets of texts are nationalist and that maintaining separate education programs helps promote the division of Bosnia along ethnic lines (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 29 October 1997). PM SREBRENICA WOMEN PROTEST. Several hundred women from Srebrenica and the Drina valley region of eastern Bosnia marched through Sarajevo on 11 November to demand that the international community provide more information about the 8,000 or so missing men believed to have been massacred by the Serbs after the fall of Srebrenica in 1995. The women also demand the release of three Muslim males now held prisoner by the Serb. PM FIRST TRAIN BETWEEN CROATIA, SERBIA. Local trains began running between the two former Yugoslav republics on 11 November for the first time since 1991. The line connects Vinkovci with Sid. Direct trains between Zagreb and Belgrade will start in May 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 1997). Meanwhile in Podgorica, the Montenegrin Helsinki Committee demanded that local border traffic be restored between Croatia and Montenegro. The committee also called for the two former Yugoslav republics to open consulates on each other's territory. Committee President Slobodan Franovic claimed that Belgrade supports the restoration of direct links with Croatia for Serbia but not for Montenegro. PM CONFLICT DEEPENS BETWEEN ALBANIAN CENTRAL, LOCAL GOVERNMENTS. Deputy Prime Minister Bashkim Fino on 11 November charged that Democratic Party-controlled local governments are preventing central government agencies from functioning properly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 1997). Fino urged citizens to demonstrate against obstructionist local officials, "Dita Informacion" reported. He added that the Interior Ministry will organize local elections between December and January in some areas where the local government has collapsed. Meanwhile, Albert Brojka, the head of the Association of City Mayors, challenged a Council of Ministers' decision to sack 420 centrally appointed local officials, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. FS ALBANIAN DAILIES THREATEN STRIKE. The publishers of nine dailies and two weeklies demanded on 11 November that the government lower taxes levied on the press or face a shutdown of news publishing on 15 November. The publishers claim that newspapers are threatened with bankruptcy, largely owing to an increase in value-added tax to 20 percent in September. Taxes on newspaper sales, paper imports, and advertising are also problematic, "Koha Jone" reported. FS ONE-THIRD OF ALBANIANS LIVE IN POVERTY. Prime Minister Fatos Nano said in Tirana on 11 November that more than 1 million Albanians live below the poverty line. Some 40 percent of those people are pensioners, who receive between $7 and $22 a month. Most of the poor live in urban areas. Nano promised to launch a new program in 1998 aimed at taking people off welfare rolls and having them work on public projects. FS ROMANIAN COALITION LEADERS ON UPCOMING RESHUFFLE. Following a secret meeting in Bucharest on 11 November, several leaders of the governing coalition parties said on Romanian state television that a new Council of Reform will be set up as a result of the upcoming reshuffle. Premier Victor Ciorbea will head that body. The idea of setting up a new Ministry of Privatization has been abandoned, but it has been agreed to merge the State Property Fund, the Agency for Development, and the Agency for Privatization. The head of the new structure will have ministerial rank. Also on 11 November, President Emil Constantinescu met with leaders of the main trade unions to discuss both the reshuffle and economic reform. MS ETHNIC HUNGARIANS ON ROMANIAN EDUCATION LAW. The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) on 11 November warned that it will draw the "appropriate consequences" if there is any deviation from the "agreed government program." The statement, which was made by an ad-hoc body that meets only to discuss emergencies, came after negotiators representing the UDMR and the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic failed to reach an agreement on amendments to the Education Law. In another development, the Chamber of Deputies on 11 November rejected a motion of the three opposition parties criticizing the government's policies in the industrial sector, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. BULGARIA RETURNS FORESTS TO PRE-COMMUNIST OWNERS. The parliament on 11 November passed a law providing for the return of forests nationalized during the communist era. Foreign citizens are not eligible either for restitution or for compensation, AFP reported. The legislation will affect 15-18 percent of forests now belonging to the state. Local government authorities, monasteries, and mosques will be able to apply for the restitution. Owners whose forests were destroyed are to be compensated. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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