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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 72 Part II, 15 April 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 72 Part II, 15 April 1998 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 RUSSIAN MEDIA EMPIRES II Businessmen, government leaders, politicians, and financial companies continue to reshape Russia's media landscape. This update of a September report identifies the players and their media holdings via charts, tables and articles. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rumedia2/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * CZECH PARLIAMENT APPROVES JOINING NATO * CROATIA AT 'TURNING POINT' ON REFUGEE RETURNS * ALBANIAN COALITION TO FORM NEW GOVERNMENT End Note: THE POLITICAL ENDS OF RUSSIAN ECONOMIC ADVICE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE CHORNOBYL REACTOR TO RESUME OPERATION. Serhiy Parashyn, director of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, told journalists on 14 April that the plant's third reactor will resume operation on 5 May following President Leonid Kuchma's directive to that effect, ITAR-TASS reported. The reactor has been undergoing repairs for the past nine months, and further repairs are planned for later this year. The first and second reactors remain shut down under pressure from the West, while the fourth, which exploded in late April 1986, is buried under a concrete sarcophagus urgently in need of reconstruction. According to Parashyn, the G-7 intends to pay Ukraine only $400 million out of the $750 million originally pledged to reinforce the sarcophagus. JM UKRAINE, RUSSIA LAUNCH JOINT NAVAL MANEUVERS. The Russian and Ukrainian naval fleets began large-scale joint maneuvers in the Black Sea on 14 April. The two countries are deploying a combined total of 37 vessels in what a Russian naval spokesman described as "the biggest Russian-Ukrainian maneuvers since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991," AFP reported. The eight-day exercises will simulate pursuit of enemy submarines and include missile launches and parachute landings on the Crimean peninsula. JM IMF CLOSES OFFICE IN MINSK. Richard Haas, head of the IMF permanent representation in Minsk, is to return to Washington, "Svaboda" reported on 15 April. Following his departure, an IMF representative in Lithuania will assume responsibility for Belarus. The IMF, which set up an office in Minsk in 1992, has released only $70 million of the $500 million in credits it originally pledged to Belarus. According to "Svaboda," the IMF has stopped cooperating with Belarus owing to the government's unwillingness to carry out reform, in particular establishing the independence of the National Bank and accelerating privatization. JM OPPOSITION CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT OVER 'SUBOTNIKS.' Vintsuk Vyachorka, deputy chairman of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front, told journalists on 14 April that the government's decision to hold "subotniks" (days of unpaid or partly paid labor) on 11 and 18 April violates labor legislation and human rights, Belapan reported. Under the law, Vyachorka explained, mandatory labor for which part of the earnings is paid into various funds can be enforced only in the event of a natural disaster. "Most likely, recent events in the Belarusian economy are put on a par by the authorities with a natural disaster," he said. JM ESTONIAN SUPREME COURT RULES CLEMENCY BILL UNCONSTITUTIONAL. The Supreme Court on 14 April ruled that the clemency bill is unconstitutional since it would have curbed the president's right to grant clemency, ETA reported. President Lennart Meri had twice refused to sign the bill, objecting to its provision for a committee that would have advised the president on matters related to granting clemency. The court ruled that the committee's authority would have been too great and that the president's constitutional right to grant clemency cannot be curtailed. JC LATVIAN WORKING GROUP DIVIDED OVER 'NATURALIZATION WINDOWS.' A working group composed of government parties on 14 April failed to agree on how to change the system of "naturalization windows" enshrined in the citizenship law, BNS reported. All members of the group stressed that the system should be amended, but they could not agree on what those changes should be. One proposal is that all non- citizens born in Latvia be granted citizenship by 2001; another is that people who came to Latvia as minors be included among those granted citizenship by 2001; and a third proposal is that the "naturalization window" be removed altogether. The group was due to meet again to seek a consensus on the issue. JC IMF COMMENDS LATVIA ON ECONOMIC SUCCESSES. Latvia has received a commendation from the Executive Board of the IMF for its economic and financial successes, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. But while praising Riga for its "prudent financial policies," the board cautioned that Latvia must re-energize the privatization process, especially for large enterprises. It also urged Latvian authorities to continue improving tax collection and administration, in addition to increasing the transparency of the budget process and pushing ahead with pension system reforms. JC RUSSIA WELCOMES ADAMKUS'S READINESS FOR DIALOGUE. The press office of Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 14 April issued a statement welcoming a recent statement by Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus expressing readiness to continue an active dialogue with Russia. "The strengthening of genuine good-neighborliness and trust with Lithuania remains a priority in Russian foreign policy. That is the firm intention of the Russian leadership," the statement said, according to ITAR-TASS and BNS. The statement also greeted Lithuania's intention to develop cooperation with Kaliningrad Oblast, adding that the conclusion of a long- term, intergovernmental agreement on the oblast would increase prospects for "deepening Russian-Lithuanian relations." JC POLISH GOVERNMENT TO REDUCE 70,000 JOBS IN COAL MINING. Polish Deputy Economic Minister Janusz Szlazak announced on 14 April that by the year 2000, some 70,000 jobs in the coal mining industry will be slashed, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported. Szlazak said the government does not plan group layoffs; rather, it believes that a social protection package will prompt miners to resign. That package will include paid leave and unemployment benefits for miners nearing retirement age as well as one-time payments for younger miners. The job cuts are intended to make the coal-mining industry financially self-sufficient. JM CZECH PARLIAMENT APPROVES JOINING NATO. The lower house of the Czech parliament has voted by 154 to 38 in favor of joining NATO, CTK reported on 15 April. Only the Communists and the extreme Republicans opposed joining the alliance. Deputies spent the previous day debating the issue, and small pro- and anti-NATO demonstrations were held. The issue must still be approved by the Czech Senate, which is dominated by mainstream parties that support NATO accession. PB CZECH PRESIDENT RECOVERING AFTER EMERGENCY SURGERY. Vaclav Havel is in stable condition after emergency abdominal surgery in Innsbruck, Austria, on 14 April. Havel, who was vacationing in Austria, complained of abdominal pain and was rushed to a hospital, where he underwent nearly four hours of surgery to repair a tear in his large intestine. He is expected to remain in hospital for 10-12 days. PB HUNGARY, AUSTRIA AT ODDS OVER VISAS FOR ROMANIANS. Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said on 14 April that he is against imposing visa requirements on Romanians, as Austria is insisting. Kovacs said in Debrecen that Hungary should not differentiate between Slovakia and Romania in applying visa regulations and that Budapest does not want an "impenetrable wall" erected between Hungary and Romania, where many ethnic Hungarians live. Kovacs did acknowledge that the border must be tightened. Austrian Interior Minister Karl Schlogel said on 12 April that one-third of illegal aliens entering via Hungary are of Romanian origin. PB SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CROATIA AT 'TURNING POINT' ON REFUGEE RETURNS. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman told U.S. and U.K. diplomats in Zagreb on 14 April that Croatia will consider all requests by Croatian Serbs to return home on an individual, humanitarian basis. Tudjman cautioned that the arrival of all refugees at the same time could prove destabilizing and lead to what he called the tense state of affairs that prevailed before the Serbian uprising in 1990-1991, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. The diplomats reminded Tudjman that the pace of Croatia's integration into Euro-Atlantic structures is closely linked to its treatment of returning refugees. The diplomats also expressed the hope that the parliament will approve measures on refugee return recently worked out by Croatian and international officials. U.S. Ambassador to Croatia William Montgomery said that "this is a fork in the road for Croatia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March and 1 April 1998). PM SAKIC CASE OFFERS OPPORTUNITY FOR CROATIA. A spokesman for the Croatian People's Party said in Zagreb on 14 April that the current case surrounding suspected World War II war criminal Dinko Sakic is an excellent opportunity for the present Croatian state to underscore the differences between it and Hitler's wartime puppet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1998). The spokesman said the government's request that Argentina extradite Sakic is a step in the right direction. In Buenos Aires, a Croatian embassy spokesman said Argentina has agreed to the request. Meanwhile in Belgrade, several Serbian experts on World War II war crimes called for the extradition of Sakic's wife as well, the daily "Danas" reported on 14 and 15 April. The experts charge that Nada Sakic (who now uses the name Esperanza) was the wartime commander of the women's concentration camp at Gradiska, where she committed atrocities. PM GERMANS WILLING TO HELP CATCH KARADZIC. German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe said in Sarajevo on 14 April that German peacekeepers will participate in any NATO action to apprehend indicted war criminals if the Germans are asked to do so. Ruehe added that he is confident that all indicted war criminals will appear in The Hague sooner or later. On 11 April, the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA quoted Radovan Karadzic's wife Ljiljana as saying that her husband will never give himself up (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 1998). On 14 April, Serbian media quoted hard-line Bosnian Serb politician Bozidar Vucurevic as saying that Karadzic is in eastern Herzegovina and that 23,000 Bosnian Serb soldiers will defend him against any attempt to arrest him. PM SLOVENIAN AID FOR BOSNIA. Slovenian parliamentary speaker Janez Podobnik presented Bosnian officials in Sarajevo on 14 April with an aid package worth $600,000. Slovenian Foreign Trade Minister Marijan Senjur added that total Slovenian assistance to Bosnia this year will reach $3 million. Presidents Milan Kucan and Alija Izetbegovic met in Ljubljana the previous week. PM GARROD WARNS HERZEGOVINIANS. Martin Garrod, who is the international community's chief representative in Mostar, called on the ultranationalist Croatian leadership in the town of Stolac to investigate recent minings and burnings of Muslim homes in the area, and to publish the findings of their investigation. In February, Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, fired the police chief of Stolac for not allowing Muslim refugees to go home. In March, Westendorp sacked the mayor of Stolac for the same reason. PM SESELJ SAYS WEST WON'T START WAR IN KOSOVA. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj told a private television station in Lesovac on 14 April that there will be no war in Kosova because the Western powers "prefer to advance their goals by peaceful means," BETA news agency reported. In Prishtina, a policeman was wounded when unidentified individuals threw at least two hand grenades into a police station in an ethnic Albanian neighborhood. And in the Decan area, some 40 ethnic Serbian families recently left their villages and are now settled together in a nearby recreation area. The Serbs told BETA that they moved because they feared attacks by armed Albanians. It is unclear if they moved voluntarily or were resettled by the authorities. PM RADIOACTIVE SALT IN SERBIA. The opposition Democratic Party said in a statement in Belgrade on 14 April that it wants those persons responsible for the import of radioactive salt from Belarus to be investigated and punished. Some 50,000 kilograms of imported Belarusian table salt were found last week to be radioactive, the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported. The Democratic Party statement added that 50,000 tons of Belarusian salt were imported last year and that plans for this year call for total salt imports from Belarus to reach 100,000 tons. PM ALBANIAN COALITION TO FORM NEW GOVERNMENT. Members of the governing center-left coalition agreed in Tirana on 14 April to set up a new government with 18 members, down from the current 22. Socialist Deputy Prime Minister Bashkim Fino will replace fellow Socialist Sabit Brokaj as defense minister, and Socialist Luan Hajdaraga will become interior minister in place of the Democratic Alliance's Neritan Ceka, who will take up the portfolio on local government. Socialist Ilir Meta will head the new Ministry for Euro- Atlantic Integration, "Koha Jone" reported. The parliament must approve the new government. Socialist Prime Minister Fatos Nano has repeatedly criticized the outgoing cabinet for inefficiency and indifference (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April 1998). FS ALBANIAN POLICE ACTION OVER MISSING CHILDREN. Tirana police seized birth registers and related files from the capital's hospitals on 14 April, "Koha Jone" reported. The police are investigating reports of alleged organized traffic in children and in the organs of children. Meanwhile near Fier, a gunman killed two policemen, bringing the total number of Albanian police killed this year to nine. And near Tirana, police arrested four suspects in connection with the recent shooting of two British diplomats on Mount Dajti (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1998). FS MOLDOVA'S COMMUNISTS TO FORM OPPOSITION? Vladimir Voronin, head of the Party of Moldovan Communists, said on 14 April that the party could function as the opposition, even though it won the most votes in the 22 March elections, Infotag reported. Voronin said it would be easy for the Communists to remain in the opposition, although they are still willing to form a coalition with the For a Prosperous and Democratic Moldova Bloc (PMDP). Voronin said the Communists are not against private businesses or the free market but that "runaway capitalism" has turned Moldova into "one big Turkish bazaar." The PMDP has not rejected forming a coalition with the Communists but says it will most likely form a government with the other two parties elected to the parliament. PB GREECE, BULGARIA TO DEVELOP INFRASTRUCTURE. Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov said on 14 April that Balkan policy in the future will be "big infrastructure projects," Reuters reported. Stoyanov was speaking to reporters after meeting with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis. Stoyanov said the two countries will work to build a "new pro-European image of the region." He said they agreed to build a highway between the Black Sea port of Bourgas and the Greek city of Ormenion. Simitis also met with his Bulgarian counterpart, Ivan Kostov. Greece is Bulgaria's fourth largest trading partner. PB GREECE SUPPORTS BASING BALKAN FORCE IN BULGARIAN CITY. A Bulgarian parliamentary spokesman said on 14 April that Greece supports the basing of an all-Balkan rapid reaction force in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, AFP reported. His comments came after Greek Foreign Minister Teodoros Pangalos met with Assen Agov, the head of the Bulgarian parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee. The proposed force would include troops from Slovenia, Turkey, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Albania. The establishment of such a force was discussed at the recent Romanian-Bulgarian-Greek meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1998). PB END NOTE THE POLITICAL ENDS OF RUSSIAN ECONOMIC ADVICE by Paul Goble Even as Moscow applies economic pressure to Latvia, Russian officials are once again seeking to use economic arguments to promote Moscow's political influence over the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Last week, a spokesman for the Russian Ministry for Relations with the CIS Countries suggested that reversing the decline in trade turnover among those countries is the key to restarting their economic growth. Deputy Minister Marat Khasmutdinov noted that overall trade turnover among the CIS countries was down 10 percent in 1997, following similar decreases after the collapse of the USSR. He said that such trade now amounted to only 6 percent of the CIS's total GDP, down from 21 percent in 1992. Only by increasing trade, he concluded, can those countries deal with their current economic slump. On the face of it, such arguments are plausible; after all, an expansion in foreign trade has often helped power economic growth. But there are three reasons why the countries involved are unlikely to take such arguments seriously, even if Western commentators find them attractive. First, the decline in trade turnover among the former Soviet republics belonging to the CIS is not the primary cause of their economic distress. And reversing that decline would not necessarily be the primary cause of their recovery. Indeed, such a change might impede further economic reform. It is certainly the case that dislocations in trade following the collapse of the USSR had an impact on the economic situation of the 12 member states of the CIS. When the Soviet Union fell apart, enterprises and ministries on the territory of each of the 12 countries suddenly had to seek new partners to obtain raw materials and spare parts as well as new markets to sell their own products. But whatever impact that process had on their economic growth, an even greater role was played by the shift toward a free market in many of those countries, the collapse of political authority, and the impact that uncertainty about those two processes had on both foreign and domestic investment. Second, the CIS itself has little prospect of becoming the most relevant trade organization for most of the countries that are currently its members. On the one hand, most have more natural trade partners beyond its borders. Moscow managed the Soviet economy in such a way as to promote the integration of its empire into a single state, cutting off the republics from most foreign trade and creating chains of economic activity that could be described only as irrational. In many cases, individual republics could have made far more by selling their products abroad than they did by providing them to Moscow. And few of them could have foreseen the effect their past dependence on Moscow for determining prices and patterns of trade would have on their ability to make their own way after the collapse of the USSR. On the other hand, the CIS is increasingly becoming more a Russian claim than a genuine reality. Since its creation in December 1991, the CIS has adopted some 800 agreements, very few of which have been approved by all the members or implemented even when they are approved. As a result, and whatever the advocates of the CIS say in its defense, the commonwealth is simply not the most important actor in either the economic or political lives of its member states. Indeed, an increasing number of the leaders of those countries have indicated that they remain members only because of the likelihood of a sharp Russian reaction should they leave. Third, such arguments obscure the fundamental difference between economic integration and economic reintegration. As the Soviet Union approached its end, President Mikhail Gorbachev and his supporters routinely pointed to developments in the EU, arguing that integration rather than disintegration was the order of the day. Russian officials are again making such claims, but those arguments are unlikely to impress many because they represent a confusion between integration and reintegration. Integration is a natural process, reflecting both individual national interests and a level of self-confidence that would allow countries to yield some of their sovereignty for other gains. Reintegration, particularly in this context, is about the forced remarriage of countries that have only recently completed their divorce. Even before all the CIS member countries of the CIS can feel confident about their status, some Moscow officials are advocating that in the name of economic interests, those countries yield some of the sovereignty that still alludes them. But the reactions of the non-Russian countries to such proposals in the past suggest that most of those states will view such arguments for what they almost certainly are: a political program to expand Moscow's influence rather than a genuinely economic one intended to benefit them all. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word "subscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO RETRIEVE BACK ISSUES VIA EMAIL (1) Send an email to email@example.com with the letters "ls" as the subject or body of the message. This will retrieve a list of available files. 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