|Monday, 18 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 60, 97-06-25
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 60, 25 June 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 AFGHAN REFUGEES IN TURKMENISTANThe recent fighting between Taliban forces and their opponents in Afghanistan caused some 3,000-4,000 refugees to flee to southern Turkmenistan, Interfax and AFP reported on 24 June. A worker from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees said most of the refugees were women, children, and elderly people. Turkmen security and law-enforcement agencies "are currently taking measures to send the refugees back," according to Interfax.
 NIYAZOV SUSPENDS TURKMENROSGAZ OPERATIONSInterfax reported on 24 June, that Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov signed an order on 19 June suspending the activities of the Turkmen-Russian company Turkmenrosgaz. The company delivered gas to Ukraine after purchasing it through the ITERA International Energy firm. Turkmenistan, however, canceled the deal with ITERA in April and agreed to provide direct gas supplies to Ukraine.
 NO DECISION ON STATUS OF RUSSIAN LANGUAGE IN KYRGYZSTANThe People's Assembly (lower house) of the Kyrgyz parliament on 24 June, failed to pass a resolution on granting Russian "official" language status in the country, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. President Askar Akayev spoke in favor of amending the constitution to include Russian as an official, rather than state, language. However, only 40 of the 58 deputies present voted in favor of the resolution. A vote of two-thirds (47) of the total 70 deputies would have been needed for it to pass. Several deputies have called for a second reading. The resolution would also require the approval of the parliament's Legislative Assembly (upper house). The Russian news agency ITAR-TASS had reported the same day that the amendment was passed "unanimously" and was likely to be approved by the Legislative Assembly soon.
 GEORGIAN POLICE OFFICIALS SHOOT SEVENTwo Georgian Interior Ministry troops on 24 June shot dead seven people, including fellow servicemen, in a village close to the Georgian-Azerbaijani frontier, Western agencies reported. The two men fled in a hijacked car but were later apprehended by police. The motive for the killings is unclear.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ALBANIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS DECREE AGAINST PYRAMID SCHEMESSali Berisha has signed a decree providing for strict controls on investment companies and aimed ultimately shutting them down, ATA reported on 24 June. The IMF and the World Bank demanded the appointment of independent administrators to control and then close the pyramid firms. Both institutions sent a joint letter to Berisha on 22 June warning him that future international financial help will depend on complying with their demands as soon as possible. Some of the schemes still continue to operate, such as VEFA, which also runs passenger ferries and its own TV station. VEFA is repaying investors' original deposits in increments but will no longer pay interest, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana.
 POLLING STATIONS TO STAY OPEN LATE IN ALBANIAPresident Berisha said on 24 June that he cannot legally change the closing times of the polling stations from 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., as the Central Election Commission had requested (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1997). The commission responded by asking the Constitutional Court to decide, "Indipendent" reported. The majority of the commission, including its secretary from Berisha's own Democratic Party, supported the earlier closing time, but two other Democrats were strongly opposed. The OSCE has asked for the polling stations to close at 6:00 p.m. The parliament has been dissolved, and Berisha is currently the only person who can deal with such matters. He changed the opening hours of the polling stations for the May 1996 parliamentary elections on voting day itself.
 THREE POLICEMEN SHOT OUTSIDE HOUSE OF ALBANIAN POLICE CHIEFFour unidentified persons injured three policemen in a shoot-out outside the Tirana home of police chief and Deputy Interior Minister Agim Shehu, "Indipendent" reported on 25 June. It remains unclear whether the incident was politically motivated. Meanwhile, four smugglers were shot and injured in two separate incidents on the northern border with Kosovo in the region of Tropoja and Kukes, "Gazeta Shqiptare" wrote. In the mountainous region between Shkoder and the Montenegrin border, Red Cross officials have begun investigating reports of famine. And in Tirana, additional election monitors are arriving, bringing the total number of OSCE observers to 450, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Albanian capital.
 LILIC ENDS TERM AS FEDERAL YUGOSLAV PRESIDENTZoran Lilic, who is barred by the constitution from seeking reelection, completed his four-year mandate on 25 June. Upper house speaker Srdja Bozovic is interim president until the parliament elects a new chief executive, which it must do by 25 July. The only declared candidate is Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who has the endorsement of his own Socialist Party of Serbia and its Montenegrin allies. His election is a foregone conclusion, since he has a comfortable majority in the legislature. The Belgrade press has centered its attention on who will succeed Milosevic in the Serbian presidency. Also in Belgrade, Zoran Djindjic of the Democratic Party said on 24 June that the Zajedno coalition has ceased to exist. He added that the most serious opposition to Milosevic now comes from Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and his allies.
 MONTENEGRIN OPPOSITION BLASTS SUPPORT FOR MILOSEVIC CANDIDACYAll opposition parties have criticized the governing Democratic Socialist Party's (DPS) decision to endorse Milosevic for the federal presidency, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Podgorica on 24 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1997). An opposition spokesman accused the government of postponing a session of the parliament in order to avoid criticism of the DPS's endorsement of the Serbian leader. Meanwhile in Pristina, Milosevic arrived on 25 June for his first visit to Kosovo in two years. And in Belgrade the previous day, Refugee Minister Bratislava Morina received representatives of Kosovo Serbs who have been staging a hunger strike to force the government to deliver on its promises of housing and other assistance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 1997).
 WASHINGTON BLOCKS LOAN FOR CROATIACroatian Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa said in Dubrovnik on 25 June that the U.S. decision to veto a $30 million loan to his country from the World Bank is "wrong." A State Department spokesman commented in Washington the previous day that the U.S. is disappointed with Zagreb's failure to implement key provisions of the Dayton agreement, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the U.S. capital. The spokesman singled out Croatia's poor record on the return of Serbian refugees and on cooperation with the Hague- based war crimes tribunal. Meanwhile at that court, Croatian Gen. Tihomir Blaskic has denied the charges against him, which are related to atrocities against Muslims in the Lasva valley in 1993 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1997). He said he had been under fire in his bunker at the time of the alleged incidents and did not know what his ill-disciplined peasant recruits were doing in the field.
 UN TO DELAY WITHDRAWAL FROM EASTERN SLAVONIA?UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in New York on 24 June that some peacekeepers should remain in eastern Slavonia in mid-July, when that Serb- held region is slated to return to Croatian control. Annan suggested that some troops stay at least until mid-October and then leave only if Croatia has kept its promises regarding treatment of the Serbs. Ivan Simonovic, Croatia's ambassador to the UN, criticized Annan's call for UN peacekeepers to supervise the Croatian police and for the UN's Jacques Klein to have a veto over the work of the local Croatian civilian authorities, BETA reported.
 ROMANIAN CONTINUES BID FOR NATO MEMBERSHIPIn an interview with RFE/RL on 24 June, President Emil Constantinescu said that "in a paradoxical way," the failure of Romania to be nominated for membership in NATO in the first wave has worked to the country's advantage. Constantinescu said Romania is now the focus of attention of international diplomacy and the international media. He added that nobody doubted that Romania will eventually be admitted into the organization. The question, he said, is only "when and how." In a separate interview with RFE/RL, Defense Minister Victor Babiuc said it will be "illogical" to extend NATO without Romania, which is "the missing link" in NATO's southern flank. Foreign Minister Adrian Severin, on a two-day visit to Belgium to promote NATO membership, met with Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene, Foreign Minister Derycke Erik, and other officials on 24 June.
 ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER WRAPS UP U.S. VISITAn eight-day visit to the US by Victor Ciorbea ended on 24 June with his "unexpected return" to Washington from New York for talks with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, an RFE/RL Washington correspondent reported. A State Department official who did not want to be identified said the meeting did not mean the U.S. has changed its mind about which countries should be invited to join NATO in the first wave. After the meeting, Ciorbea declined to comment on speculations in the Romanian and international media that President Bill Clinton is planning a visit to Romania in the near future. However, Ciorbea noted that a "surprising move" confirming the "strategic alliance" between Bucharest and Washington can be expected. The premier had made a similar comment to the RFE/RL Romanian service after his meeting with Vice President Al Gore on 18 June.
 ROMANIAN FASCISTS MARK ANNIVERSARYVeterans of the Fascist League of the Archangel Michael (also known as the Iron Guard) gathered in Iasi, in northeast Romania, on 24 June to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the movement. The Private television channel "Antena 1" reported that the ceremony was attended by participants from Bucharest, Cluj, Timisoara, Ploiesti, and Sibiu. Representatives of organizations of young people supporting the revival of Iron Guard ideology were also present.
 HAILSTORMS CAUSE EXTENSIVE DAMAGE IN ROMANIAHailstorms on 24 June hit several counties in Romania, causing extensive damage. Two persons were hospitalized "in serious condition" in the southern Olt County. The hailstorms also affected the northwestern Maramures region , severely damaging houses in several villages. On 21-22 June, seven people were killed and more than 80 had to be hospitalized following hailstorms in the southern counties.
 BULGARIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL CRITICIZES LUKANOV SETTLEMENTIvan Tatarchev on 24 June told an RFE/RL Sofia correspondent that former Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov's family should not have been paid $7,000 in compensation for his arrest and detention before it returned to the state "a significant amount of money" the assassinated politician spent on travel and medical bills in Austria before 1989. The compensation was paid in line with the ruling of a Council of Europe Human Rights Court in Strasbourg. Lukanov was killed in front of his Sofia home in October 1996. In 1992, he was stripped of parliamentary immunity and jailed for six months on charges of misappropriating funds in the 1980s. The court ruled that the detention had violated the European Human Rights Convention.
 BULGARIA PLANS TO SET UP GENDARMERIEAn Interior Ministry official announced on 24 June that Bulgaria plans to establish a national gendarmerie to guard strategic sites and help fight crime, Reuters reported. The official said troops currently used to guard embassies and consulates will be transformed into a force modeled on the French gendarmerie. The units will also guard industrial sites and oil pipelines--among them the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, the Maritsa East coal mining and thermal power complex, and the Neftochim oil refinery. In other news, the government on 24 June dismissed the manager of the Bobovdol mine, where a tragic accident occurred the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1997). BTA cited Deputy Prime Minister Evgeni Bakardizhev as saying that more than 20 miners have been killed at the Bobovdol mine in the past eight years, noting this was an "unacceptable" safety record.
[C] END NOTE
 ROMANIA'S MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY SPLITSby Michael Shafir
The split that marked the end of the 20-21 June National Conference of Romania's main opposition party, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), came as no surprise. Tensions within the party had surfaced well ahead of the conference, the first major PDSR gathering since the party was roundly defeated in the November 1996 elections. In most democracies, such debacles call for those responsible to be replaced-- witness the recent resignations of John Major as leader of Britain's Conservative Party and of Alain Juppe as leader of the French central-right alliance. But such democratic practice is rare in formations that remain prisoners of their communist legacy. Ion Iliescu, the former president of Romania and the current PDSR chairman, became party leader only after losing the presidential contest to Emil Constantinescu. But it was generally acknowledged that before November 1996, the party was headed in all but name by Iliescu, who, as president, was constitutionally barred from belonging to a party. Rather than assuming responsibility for the PDSR's loss of its parliamentary majority, Iliescu assumed the formal leadership of the PDSR.
At the same time, other PDSR leaders could still have been called to account for the party's failure in the 1996 elections. Of these, Adrian Nastase, executive chairman of the PDSR from 1992 to 1996 and first deputy chairman after Iliescu assumed the party leadership, was by far the most prominent. Perhaps nothing contributed more to the PDSR's poor performance in 1996 than Nastase's image--whether justified or unjustified--of a politician embodying corruption. On the eve of the PDSR National Conference, a manifesto was published by a reformist group within the party, which called itself the Opinion Group for the Transformation of the PDSR. The group includes several "newcomers," whom, ironically, Iliescu had promoted to leading positions shortly before the last elections in a bid to improve the party's image: former Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, the head of the group; former Deputy Prime Minister Mircea Cosea; Iosif Boda, a former ambassador to Switzerland; Marian Enache, a former ambassador to Moldova; and the economist Viorel Salagean. The group demanded that the PDSR rid itself of corrupt members and force those responsible for the party's electoral defeat to assume responsibility. It also urged the party to move ideologically from the Left to the Center- Left.
But precisely the opposite happened at the National Conference. Colored by his lengthy experience of communist infighting, Iliescu was able to consider the demands of the reformists from only one perspective: namely, that his own position as PDSR leader might ultimately be affected. This explains his unrestrained attack on Boda in early June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 1997), which even Iliescu himself described as "Bolshevik- like" a few days later. It also explains his statement that newcomers to the PDSR would be better advised to "work at the grass-root level" than criticize the leadership that co-opted them (conveniently forgetting that he, too, was a "newcomer" to the party). His "democratic centralist" attack on "party factionalism" and his declaration that the party should move to the Left may also be traced back to this single, communist-influenced perspective.
In the event, the pro-reform group was not allowed even to present its platform at the National Conference. Iliescu rejected Melescanu's last-minute "compromise proposal" that neither the pro-reform group nor Nastase and his cronies run for leadership positions.
Melescanu was thus left with no choice than to announce he was leaving the PDSR, which both he and Cosea proceeded to do on 21 June. Two other members of the group, Boda and Salagean, had been expelled from the party the previous day, while Enache had submitted his resignation on 19 June. Mugurel Vintila, an advocate of radical reform, also quit the party, even though he is not a member of Melescanu's group. Several days later, on 24 June, Ioan Pintea followed suit.
Those resignations leave the PDSR faction in the legislature weakened, since all but Salagean are parliamentary deputies. The group is unlikely to heed the call by Iliescu, who was re-elected PDSR chairman by an overwhelming majority, that its members resign from the parliament. In fact, Melescanu has already rejected that option, saying he will not join other formations but hopes to set up a new political entity. What happened at the PDSR National Conference is almost a carbon-copy of the developments that led to the "divorce" of Iliescu's conservative group from the reformist group headed by Petre Roman in 1992. An alliance between Melescanu and Roman's Democratic Party cannot be ruled out.
As for Iliescu, he still has Nastase as first deputy chairman and also Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the extremist Greater Romania Party, as his new-old political ally following a period in which the two were avowed enemies. Attending the PDSR gathering, Tudor expressed regret for having earlier attacked Iliescu. The delegate applauded enthusiastically. But it is debatable whether the "born-again, red-brown alliance" will find the same approval among voters in election-year 2000.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty