|The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 103 Part II, 1 June 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 103 Part II, 1 June 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx SPECIAL REPORT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIAN MEDIA EMPIRES III A new prime minister has taken office, Boris Berezovsky's now a CIS official, and the state plans to form a new media holding company. See our updated media report. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rumedia3/index.html (English) http://www.rferl.org/bd/ru/russian/content/reports/rumedia3/ index.html (Russian) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * HAVEL WARNS AGAINST VOTE FOR EXTREMIST PARTIES * DJUKANOVIC WINS IN MONTENEGRO * ANOTHER SERBIAN OFFENSIVE UNDER WAY IN KOSOVA End Note: WHY "WAG THE DOG" SHOULD NOT BE SHOWN IN ALBANIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE IMF SAYS BELARUS'S ECONOMIC POLICY UNSTABLE, UNSUSTAINABLE. Richard Haas, head of the IMF permanent office in Belarus (which is to be closed later this month), said in Minsk on 29 May that the economic policy of the Belarusian leadership is "unstable and unsustainable," Belapan reported. Commenting on the visit of an IMF group to Belarus earlier in May, Haas said IMF experts are concerned about tight state control over prices and currency-exchange rates, an ever-increasing number of barter deals, and the large volume of state credits and subsidies. They are also worried about a draft presidential decree stipulating the subordination of the National Bank to the government. While commenting on the National Bank Chairman Pyotr Prakapovich's pledge to liberalize exchange controls by the end of this year, Haas said that the IMF's aim is "not to finance the status quo but to finance transformation," Reuters reported. JM KUCHMA SAYS CONSULTATIONS WITH BONN "OUTSTANDING EVENT." Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has hailed the political consultations between Ukraine and Germany, which were launched by his 28 May meeting with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Bonn, as an "outstanding event in the history of relations of the two countries," Ukrainian Television reported. He added that Ukraine counts on German support in its aspirations toward European integration. Kohl, for his part, advised that Ukrainian ties with the EU and NATO should not be too hastily developed. "I am strictly against naming concrete dates," dpa quoted the German chancellor as saying. But he was more upbeat about the prospects of building a large German-Ukrainian-Russian transport aircraft, based on the Russian-Ukrainian An-70 aircraft, saying the decision will be taken next year following a feasibility study by aviation experts. JM UKRAINE, GAZPROM SET UP OIL, GAS EXPLORATION COMPANY. Ukraine's Chornomornaftohaz oil and gas company on 29 May signed a deal with the Russian monopoly Gazprom on creating a joint venture to prospect for oil and gas deposits in the Black and Azov Seas, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the Chornomornaftohaz director Mikolay Ilnitskyy, those deposits are estimated at 1.5 billion tons and may be tapped by the new joint venture "in a year or two." The deal provides for the equal role of the two companies in the undertaking and the joint use of gas fields around Crimea. JM ESTONIAN POLITICAL LEADER TO FACE EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGE? The Prosecutor-General's Office on 29 May appealed to the chancellor of justice to launch proceedings to lift the parliamentary immunity of Reform Party chairman Siim Kallas, ETA reported The investigators want to charge Kallas, who is a former president of the Bank of Estonia, with abuse of office, giving false information, and intent to embezzlement. The charges are in connection with the five- year-old $10 million affair in which the central bank issued a guarantee to the former North Estonian Bank following the collapse of a deal with a Swiss-based company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 1998). Investigators have reportedly found a document signed by Kallas granting a guarantee to the North Estonian Bank. Kallas has admitted the deal was "bad" but regards the central bank's action as justified. JC SAIMNIEKS WANTS CEVERS TO CONTINUE AS CHAIRMAN. The board of Latvia's Democratic Party Saimnieks has said Ziedonis Cevers must continue as party chairman at least until the general elections scheduled for this fall, BNS reported on 29 May. Saimnieks caucus leader Viesturs Boka argued that the party has become more open and that Cevers should take "this period of awakening" into account. "The party's face should not be changed so that it fails to recognize itself in a mirror," he added. Last month, Cevers told reporters that he planned to quit as party chairman over political intrigues connected with his name. He also complained of having no opportunity to speak openly about opponents while he heads the party. JC ETHNIC RUSSIAN CHARGED WITH SOVIET-ERA GENOCIDE IN LITHUANIA. The Vilnius District Prosecutor's Office has charged an ethnic Russian with genocide of Lithuanian nationals during the Soviet occupation, BNS reported on 29 May. Agafon Surinin, 77, is accused of deporting three families from Lithuania to the Soviet Union and torturing a woman during interrogation. Surinin was charged in absentia as doctors say he is not well enough to be interrogated. Last week, the parliament voted to declare mass deportations from Lithuania to the USSR a "grave war crime" to which no statute of limitation applies, according to the news agency. JC POLAND'S ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM PROMPTS ROADBLOCKS. Local communities in Poland's five provinces blocked roads on 30- 31 May to protest the state administrative reform under way in the country, Polish media reported. According to that reform, Poland's 49 provinces are to be replaced by 12 larger regions vested with greater powers than their predecessors. Michal Kulesza, the government plenipotentiary for administrative reform, criticized the roadblocks, saying they defended interests that had existed until now as well as "centralist principles of exercising power," Polish Television reported. JM LEFTIST TRADE UNION DEMANDS TALKS WITH GOVERNMENT. A congress of the left-wing National Trade Union Alliance (OPZZ) in Warsaw on 29-31 May called for the government to hold a trilateral meeting with the OPZZ and Solidarity devoted to work out a "pact for the Polish family," "Zycie Warszawy" reported. Jozef Wiaderny, who was re-elected OPZZ chairman at the congress, said the pact should be a "mutual obligation assumed by the government and its social partners to ensure a non-conflicting course of state administrative reforms." The OPZZ is to step up its protests if the government fails to meet its demands. The alliance is highly critical of the current administrative reform as well as of privatization and has accused the government of favoring Solidarity in its contacts with trade unions. JM HAVEL WARNS AGAINST VOTE FOR EXTREMIST PARTIES. Czech President Vaclav Havel, speaking on state radio on 30 May, warned voters not to cast their ballot for extremist parties in the 19-20 June elections, CTK reported. Havel said that people opting for parties that advocate policies of a "firm hand" would eventually regret their choice as such a government would "sooner or later turn against those who voted for it." Havel criticized mainstream parties for failing to gain sufficient respect among voters to prevent the rise of extremist formations. In other news, a public opinion poll conducted by the STEM institute shows that the main opposition Social Democratic Party's (CSSD) lead has shrunk to only 5 percent. The CSSD is backed by 24 percent, while former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party is backed by 19 percent. MS SLOVAK PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT FAILS AGAIN. The parliament on 29 May again failed to elect a president, Reuters reported. The only candidate in the seventh round of voting was the independent Vladimir Abraham, who had been proposed by an independent parliamentary deputy. He received just 11 votes, 79 short of the minimum majority required by the constitution. Parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic has set the next ballot for 11 June, Reuters reported. Also on 29 May, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, in a telephone conversation with Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima, rejected the appeal to postpone the startup of the controversial Mochovce nuclear plant, Reuters reported, citing TASR. MS COALITION TALKS BEGIN IN HUNGARY. The Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ-MPP) on 29 May offered the post of justice minister and a deputy premiership to its election ally, the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF), MTI reported. MDF deputy parliamentary faction leader David Ibolya said his party is "satisfied" with the offer. The same day, the Independent Smallholders re-elected Joszef Torgyan as their chairman. Also on 29 May, the Socialist Party elected outgoing Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs as its faction leader. On 30 May the leader of the Hungarian Democratic People's Party, Ivan Szabo, resigned following his party's failure to gain representation in the parliament. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE DJUKANOVIC WINS IN MONTENEGRO. For a Better Life, the coalition loyal to reformist President Milo Djukanovic, has won an outright majority in the 31 May election to the Montenegrin parliament and to local assemblies. With 72 percent of the votes tallied, candidates loyal to former President Momir Bulatovic, who backs Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, have some 35 percent of the vote. Final results are to be announced on 2 June. A spokesman for Bulatovic conceded defeat in Podgorica on 1 June. Djukanovic supporters in the Montenegrin parliament will be able to change the composition of the Montenegrin delegation in the upper house of the federal parliament in Belgrade and thereby affect the balance of power between supporters and opponents of Milosevic there. PM ANOTHER SERBIAN OFFENSIVE UNDER WAY IN KOSOVA. Serbian forces launched a fresh offensive in the Peja and Decan areas on 29 May, the Kosovar KIC news agency reported from Prishtina on 31 May. The semi-official Serbian Media Center added that the police killed "several dozen ethnic Albanians in response to an attack by armed separatists" over the weekend. According to KIC, Serbian police are holding 200 Albanians captive at one location in Decan and 70 at another. Some 3,000 refugees from Decan arrived in Lipjan. There is no independent confirmation of these and other reports of fighting because the Serbian authorities have kept almost all foreign journalists out of the combat area for nearly a month. Some telephone lines in the region "were cut" in recent days, the VOA reported on 1 June. The same day in Tirana, Interior Ministry spokesmen said some 1,000 Kosovar refugees have arrived in Albania over the past 24 hours. PM RUGOVA GETS BACKING FROM CLINTON... Meeting in Washington on 29 May, President Bill Clinton praised Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova and other top Kosovar officials for their commitment to non-violence. Veton Surroi, who is Kosova's leading journalist and a member of Rugova's negotiating team, said after the meeting: "the overall general assurance, I think, the umbrella assurance is that Bosnia will not be repeated." Clinton's press spokesman noted that Clinton expressed concern that Belgrade is "resorting to large-scale indiscriminate violence in western Kosova" and that Clinton expects a "swift and firm response" from the international Contact Group to the Serbian offensive. Rugova told reporters that he urged Clinton to take "urgent action" to protect the Kosovars. PM ...AND ALBRIGHT. The Kosovars on 30 May received promises of political backing from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Albright's press spokesman said she "offered full U.S. support for the dialogue process and emphasized that it must deal urgently with substantive issues." He added that the Kosovars told her "that they are prepared to hold the dialogue on a continuous basis given the critical security situation on the ground." Surroi, however, said the Kosovars want an improvement in the security situation before talks can continue. Elsewhere, USAID Director Brian Atwood said Washington will increase assistance to Kosova this year from $7.5 million to $13.5 million. PM GINGRICH PRAISES U.S. MISSION IN BOSNIA. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said at the U.S. Bosnian base at Camp McGovern on 31 May that "the American mission here is very, very important, and I talked to people who see differences between violence and that what is now happening.... We have to be prepared to do here what we can for children to have a chance to grow up in peace, to get a chance to get a job and peaceful lives." Gingrich stressed, however, that the Bosnians themselves must shape their own future and that getting them to do so "is a big challenge." Meanwhile in Banja Luka, Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic told her Serbian People's League on 30 May that she has opted to return the Bosnian Serbs "to the normal, civilized world but without abandoning national goals," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM SARAJEVO SERBS URGE EQUALITY. The convention of the Serbian Civic Council (SGV), which represents Bosnian Serbs who remained loyal to the Bosnian government throughout the war, reelected Mirko Pejanovic as chairman in Sarajevo on 30 May. The delegates passed a measure calling for the establishment of full legal equality of Muslims, Croats, and Serbs throughout all of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a prerequisite to solving key problems, including the return of refugees. PM THUGS THREATEN JOURNALISTS. In Sarajevo on 30 May, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights issued a statement condemning a verbal attack by former military police commander Ismet Bajramovic, also known as "Celo," against the staff of the independent bi-monthly "Dani." The previous day, Celo and four of his body guards threatened physical violence against the journalists, whose magazine recently published an article on organized crime. The Helsinki Group said that "responsibility for the prevalence of this sort of anarchy should be shouldered by the centers of the highest political power.... [It is the top leadership's] fault that people from the margins of society have been promoted into heroes and have been allowed to become rich and powerful and out of reach of justice." PM ALBANIAN ARMY OFFICERS DETAINED OVER ARMS THEFT. A Tirana military court on 29 May ordered the continued detention pending trial of two officers whom it suspects of involvement in the recent theft of 100 mortar shells and 1,000 artillery shells (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 28 May 1998). The court charged two other officers with negligence but did not order their arrest. The depot in Shkoze, north of Tirana, was not guarded when unknown thieves stole the ammunition. Arms prices on the black market have skyrocketed since the outbreak of fighting in Kosova in February. Meanwhile, the Forum of Albanian Intellectuals said in a resolution in Tirana on 30 May that NATO should deploy troops in Kosova. FS SCHOOL CHILDREN CLEAN UP TIRANA. Thousands of pupils from 70 schools on 29 May followed the call of Prime Minister Fatos Nano and the OSCE to clean up their neighborhoods. The children collected 10,000 bags of garbage, for each of which the OSCE will donate $2 for the purchase of school supplies. Garbage is a serious problem in Tirana and elsewhere in Albania, reflecting both the boom in urbanization since the fall of Communism and a lack of civic consciousness. FS ROMANIA'S ETHNIC HUNGARIANS DEMAND UNIVERSITY IN CLUJ. Bela Marko, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), announced on 30 May that the UDMR will submit to the parliament by 15 June a draft law for setting up a separate Hungarian-language university in Cluj. Marko said that the UDMR will "cease cooperation" with the other coalition partners if government regulations nos. 22 and 36 are not amended to the satisfaction of the Hungarian minority. Regulation 22, which allows for street signs in minority languages, has been rejected by the Senate and the Constitutional Court ruled that it contravened the basic law. Regulation 36 changed the education law to satisfy Hungarian demands but was amended by the Senate. Meanwhile, on 31 May, Prime Minister Radu Vasile said he will invite Viktor Orban, the likely future Hungarian premier, to pay a visit to Romania. MS ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY SETS UP 'SHADOW CABINET.' The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 29 May announced it will to set up a 10-member "shadow cabinet" to monitor the activities of the government. The cabinet is to be headed by PDSR deputy chairman Adrian Nastase. In a letter to President Emil Constantinescu, the PDSR demanded early elections. Also on 29 May, in an interview with Pro TV, Premier Vasile complained that he is being undermined by members of the ruling coalition and of his own party who, he said, are "set on demonstrating that this cabinet will have the same fate as that headed by [Victor] Ciorbea," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS BULGARIA, RUSSIA 'SATISFIED' WITH RELATIONS. Foreign Ministers Nadezhda Mihailova and Yevgenii Primakov, meeting in Luxembourg on 29 May, said they are now "satisfied" that bilateral relations have improved after the signing in April of the agreement on Russian gas deliveries to Bulgaria. They added that preparations are now under way for "speeding up" the visit to Moscow by President Petar Stoyanov. The two countries' premiers are also to meet. Primakov said Russia "fully shares" Bulgaria's position that "economic sanctions" over Kosova "can only have an adverse effect on the economies of Yugoslavia's neighbors" and are "a dubious instrument" for pressure on Belgrade. In other news, Deputy Industry Minister Stefan Stavrev and his Ukrainian counterpart, Valeriy Subarev, meeting in Plodviv on 29 May, agreed on closer cooperation between the two countries' arms industries in order to produce new equipment and sell it to third countries, dpa reported. MS BULGARIA'S ROMA THREATEN 'HUMAN TORCH' PROTEST. Members of the Romani community in the northern town of Lom are threatening to set themselves on fire to draw attention to their plight as victims of discrimination and racist abuse, AFP reported on 30 May. They have been on a hunger strike since 25 May to protest the refusal of state firms to employ Roma and media coverage that ignores the Roma's problems and focuses on criminal activities among the Romani community. The protest is also directed against the Lom local authorities, which has not paid them welfare benefits since the beginning of 1998. Andrei Terziyski of the Romani Union estimated that 92 percent of Roma in Bulgarian towns are unemployed and that 90 percent of inmates in the country's jails are Roma. MS END NOTE WHY "WAG THE DOG" SHOULD NOT BE SHOWN IN ALBANIA by Fabian Schmidt Months after the movie "Wag the Dog" reached cinemas in the U.S. and much of Europe, it has not yet arrived here in Albania, which plays a pivotal role in the movie. But it would probably be for the best if the film never played in Albanian movie theaters. First, the movie would create unnecessary misgivings among Albanians about U.S.-Albanian relations. Many Albanians would have to recognize how insignificant their country looks from a U.S. perspective, and their patriotic feelings could be greatly hurt in the process. A few years ago, there was a heated debate about whether Gianni Amelio's movie "Lamerica"--which depicted the exodus of thousands of Albanians by sea -- presented Albania in an excessively ugly light. That, however, could prove to be only a foretaste of reactions to "Wag the Dog." The movie is not about Albania, but about the White House. It begins with a female student claiming sexual harassment by a fictitious U.S. president just days before an election. The presidential advisers quickly conclude that the only way to detract media attention from the scandal is to start a war. Consequently, the president's public relations consultant (Robert DeNiro) hires a Hollywood movie producer (Dustin Hoffman) to start an imaginary war against Albania, but just for the television screens. The character played by DeNiro offers a simple and clear argument for choosing Albania: "Why not?" He points out that Albania is the ideal candidate because nobody knows anything about it and nobody would notice that the war was purely a Hollywood production. This indifference and ignorance regarding Albania crop up throughout the movie. The only picture of Albania is as much a product of the imagination as the war itself: A young girl running over a bridge, holding a kitten and crying from fear, as houses burn and machine guns fire around her. That scene is produced in a video studio from several components, none of which is real. The girl is neither Albanian nor holding a kitten. In reality, she carries a bag of potato chips. Her folk costume looks more Russian or Polish than Balkan. And her hysterical crying against the background of three Balkan-style houses, an unpaved road in between, and the bridge are as much computer simulation as are the smoke and machine gun fire. But the result is surprisingly realistic. In another scene, the president returns from a visit abroad to a rainy U.S. airport and meets a supposedly Albanian refugee girl and her mother. In a carefully planned gesture, he offers his raincoat to them, just as George Bush did to an elderly lady during a visit to Budapest after the fall of Communism. The girl says something in a garbled language that is certainly not Albanian. The only scene in the whole movie in which the Albanian language is spoken--albeit only three words--is a television interview with the Albanian-U.S. actor Jim Belushi. Furthermore, the media picture of Albania that has little, if anything, to do with reality is completed by several stereotypes, including a group of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists trying to smuggle a small nuclear bomb into the U.S. from Albania via Canada. The second reason why the movie should not be shown in Albania is that some Albanian viewers may start believing that the film reflects U.S. reality. Many may come to think that successful media manipulation is what democracy is all about, which would seriously endanger the fragile sense of democracy that has developed since the fall of Communism in 1991. Also, many Albanians may develop a variety of conspiracy theories about U.S. policy toward Albania and thus may mistakenly conclude that Albania really is a key factor in U.S. politics. A favorite subject of endless and fruitless debates in Tirana coffee houses is how competition between the EU and the U.S. is reflected in their respective policies toward Albania. "Wag the Dog" would add ample fuel to numerous conspiracy theories on this and similar questions. While some may only mistake the movie as reality, others may want to make it reality, which leads to the third reason why it should not be shown here. The biggest danger is that politicians, journalists, and influential media representatives in Tirana may be tempted to take a cue from the movie. In a U.S. context, it is unthinkable that the film's scenario could actually become reality. CNN's Christiane Amanpour would quickly land in Tirana to see what is actually going on. But in Albania's still developing media landscape, mingling fact with fantasy has a much greater chance of succeeding. Journalism and politics in Tirana are closely interconnected, and journalistic standards generally remain low, with much speculation and few hard facts dominating coverage. Over the centuries, Albanians have developed a highly sophisticated, Byzantine cynicism about politics. With computer-video technology currently coming to Albania, journalists and politicians in the country may soon be able to "wag the dog" much better than Hollywood, helped by the lack of ambitious, investigative reporters. But in the last analysis, the danger that "Wag the Dog" will come to Albania is rather remote. Out of Tirana's eight former cinemas, only one has survived post-communist privatization. Most of the others have been turned into bingo parlors, which are more lucrative. The only remaining cinema shows almost exclusively pornographic and children's films. The author is Tirana Project director of the Institute for Journalism in Transition. 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. 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