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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 63, 97-06-30

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 1, No. 63, 30 June 1997


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] GEORGIAN PROCURATOR-GENERAL TO ASSESS CHARGES AGAINST SECURITY MINISTER
  • [02] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION IN YEREVAN
  • [03] AZERBAIJANI POLICE BREAK UP COMMUNIST PARTY CONGRESS
  • [04] TAJIKS CELEBRATE SIGNING OF PEACE ACCORD
  • [05] KAZAK PRESIDENT ON "SOCIALIST SYNDROME"
  • [06] DEMONSTRATION IN BISHKEK

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [07] SOCIALISTS APPEAR HEADED FOR VICTORY IN ALBANIAN ELECTIONS
  • [08] JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS REFERENDUM FOR ALBANIAN MONARCHY SUCCESSFUL
  • [09] MORE DEATHS AMID VIOLENCE IN SOUTHERN ALBANIA
  • [10] FEDERAL YUGOSLAVIA PROTESTS ARREST OF INDICTED WAR CRIMINAL
  • [11] SERBIAN POLICE QUESTION BOSNIAN SERB LEADER
  • [12] ROUNDUP FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA
  • [13] ROMANIAN PREMIER DEMANDS EXPLANATION FOR CRITICISM
  • [14] BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES 1997 BUDGET
  • [15] BULGARIA ON SCHEDULE TO ESTABLISH CURRENCY BOARD

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [16] SLOVAK OPPOSITION BLOCKS PRIVATIZATION OF TELEVISION CHANNEL

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] GEORGIAN PROCURATOR-GENERAL TO ASSESS CHARGES AGAINST SECURITY MINISTER

    The parliament on 27 June handed over evidence against Security Minister Shota Kviraya to the procurator-general, Russian and Western agencies reported. The evidence includes a video tape, made in November 1993 in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi, in which Kviraya is seen shooting six members of the paramilitary formation Mkhedrioni who had been accused of looting. Further evidence consists of a written statement by an Interior Ministry official that Kviraya ordered the tapping of opposition journalists' telephones. Opposition parliamentary deputy Irina Sarishvili- Chanturia has charged that Kviraya was recruited by Russian intelligence after killing a woman in Moscow several years ago in a traffic accident. She also claims that he controls the nationwide black-market trade in cigarettes. In a statement published recently in the Georgian press, Kviraya rejected the accusations against him as groundless.

    [02] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION IN YEREVAN

    A Georgian delegation headed by deputy parliamentary speaker Vakhtang Kolbaya held talks in Yerevan on 25-27 June with Armenian parliamentary chairman Babken Ararktsyan, Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, Foreign Minister Aleksandr Arzumanian, and President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, the news agencies Snark and Noyan Tapan reported. Topics discussed included economic cooperation, regional conflicts, and the Georgian proposal to create a Transcaucasian interparliamentary assembly. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on 25 June attended the inauguration in an Armenian-populated village in southern Georgia of a new mains water supply. Shevardnadze's presidential fund will finance further reconstruction projects in the region, whose predominantly Armenian population is reportedly lobbying for autonomous status within Georgia.

    [03] AZERBAIJANI POLICE BREAK UP COMMUNIST PARTY CONGRESS

    Police on 29 June broke up a congress of Azerbaijan's banned Communist Party in Baku, Interfax reported. Party leader Ramiz Akhmedov and the director of the building in which the congress was taking place were detained. The party, which claims 100,000 members, was banned by the Ministry of Justice in September 1995.

    [04] TAJIKS CELEBRATE SIGNING OF PEACE ACCORD

    More than 4,000 people celebrated in the streets of Dushanbe on 28 June, one day after the signing of the Tajik Peace and National Reconciliation Accord in Moscow. President Imomali Rakhmonov addressed one of the rallies saying "peace has come to Tajikistan and enmity has ended." Said Abdullo Nuri, the leader of the United Tajik Opposition, said in Moscow that both sides need to make more sacrifice and effort." He also warned that "no political or regional group should use arms to take power." Preparations are under way to allow more than 22,000 refugees to return from neighboring Afghanistan. UN refugee workers are currently helping with preparations at the two border check points where refugees will enter Tajikistan from Afghanistan. The UN workers will also help rebuild 4,000 homes.

    [05] KAZAK PRESIDENT ON "SOCIALIST SYNDROME"

    Nursultan Nazarbayev has published an article in the 22-29 June issue of the Russian weekly "Moskovskie novosti" defending his country's reforms and criticizing nostalgia for the Soviet past. Nazarbayev write that the Soviet epoch was "a long and continuous line. A line to concentration camps, to emigrate, for food and housing." While conceding that education and health care were free and jobs and pensions guaranteed, he pointed out that in the Kazak capital in 1988, a supply of cooking salt intended for six months was bought up in three days by a public that was aware of and feared shortages. Nazarbayev added that reforms now need to be carried out quickly because "during the time that other countries used to find ways to [establish] a normal life, we missed out on everything owing to totalitarianism."

    [06] DEMONSTRATION IN BISHKEK

    More than 1,000 people demonstrated outside the government building on 30 June to protest the housing situation in the Kyrgyz capital, according to RFE/RL correspondents there. Members of the Yntymak movement began to gather in the late morning, claiming city officials are not keeping promises made by Prime Minister Apas Jumagulov. In early June, Jumagulov had told the homeless demonstrators, all ethnic Kyrgyz, would receive plots of land on the outskirts of Bishkek. But the demonstrators say that of the 1,800 people who have filed for such plots, only 20 have received anything. Police are trying to break up the unsanctioned demonstration by asking people to return home. No violence has been reported.

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [07] SOCIALISTS APPEAR HEADED FOR VICTORY IN ALBANIAN ELECTIONS

    Election officials in Tirana say that the Socialists appear to have won the 29 June parliamentary vote. Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano told a press conference on election day that his party won 60 out of the 115 directly elected seats and 24 out of the 40 mandates chosen on the basis of proportional representation. Those results have not yet been officially confirmed. The Democratic Party did not offer its own estimate of the results, but a spokesman called the Socialists' claims "premature," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. The first tallies by the Organization for Security and Cooperation monitoring mission will be presented to the public on 30 June by European Parliament representative Catherine la Lumiere.

    [08] JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS REFERENDUM FOR ALBANIAN MONARCHY SUCCESSFUL

    Spartak Ngjela said on 29 June that more than half of the Albanian electorate voted for the re-introduction of the monarchy. Ngjela, who is a member of the monarchist Legality Party, estimated that up to 60% of the population nationwide approved the referendum. In the northern town of Shkoder, 75% of the population reportedly voted for that option. Prime Minister Bashkim Fino confirmed that the election returns indicate that a majority of the voters were in favor of a monarchy, but he cited the figure of only 53%. The referendum is non-binding, and it remains unclear how the new legislature will address the issue, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana.

    [09] MORE DEATHS AMID VIOLENCE IN SOUTHERN ALBANIA

    Voting day throughout the country was quiet with a few exceptions, the new local private Radio Koha Jone and state TV reported on 29 June. The most serious politically motivated incident took place in a polling station near Fier, where a Socialist Party supporter shot dead the head of the polling station commission, who was a Democrat. Also in Fier, armed gangs killed two other people and wounded four more. In Gjirokaster, one person died when shots were fired at the Greek consulate, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. In Lushnja, in central Albania, a locally known criminal interfered in the polling process by stuffing additional voting papers into the ballot box. In the Malesia e Madhe in the mountainous far north, a local election commission experienced difficulties distributing voting materials and have decided to repeat the ballot one week later.

    [10] FEDERAL YUGOSLAVIA PROTESTS ARREST OF INDICTED WAR CRIMINAL

    In a carefully prepared, secret action, UN peacekeepers arrested indicted war criminal Slavko Dokmanovic on 27 June in eastern Slavonia and sent him to The Hague. Federal Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic blasted the peacekeepers' move, saying it is "serious [and could] endanger the whole peace process." The federal Yugoslav government issued a statement criticizing UN administrator Jacques Klein and saying that the arrest throws the peacekeepers' role into question. Belgrade also demanded Dokmanovic's release, "Nasa Borba" wrote on 30 June. The war crimes tribunal wants him in conjunction with the killing of 261 Croatian hospital patients in Vukovar in 1991. The arrest marks the first time that the court has directly intervened to arrest an indicted war criminal and the first time that peacekeepers have worked so closely with The Hague.

    [11] SERBIAN POLICE QUESTION BOSNIAN SERB LEADER

    Serbian police interrogated Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic after she returned to Belgrade from a visit to Britain on 29 June. They then took her to the Bosnian Serb border, from where Bosnian Serb police picked her up for questioning in Bijeljina, BETA reported. On 28 June, Plavsic had suspended Republika Srpska Interior Minister Dragan Kijac. The next day, parliamentary speaker Dragan Kalinic criticized Plavsic and charged that the international community is using local politicians to destabilize the Bosnian Serbs. Plavsic, with her power base in Banja Luka, is seeking to consolidate her authority over Kijac and others based in Pale who, in effect, control the economic life of the Republika Srpska.

    [12] ROUNDUP FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA

    Three unidentified men attacked and robbed Mohamed Javad Asayesh Zarci, the Iranian ambassador to Bosnia, near Brcko on Bosnian Serb territory on 29 June. In Zagreb, presidential spokesmen said that the meeting between President Franjo Tudjman and his Bosnian counterpart, Alija Izetbegovic, slated for 30 June in Split has again been postponed, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Each side accused the other of not being serious about implementing the Dayton agreement. In Belgrade, representatives of the Kosovo Serbs from Istok told BETA they will continue their nearly month- old protest until the government delivers the housing and other benefits it promised.

    [13] ROMANIAN PREMIER DEMANDS EXPLANATION FOR CRITICISM

    Victor Ciorbea has demanded an explanation for criticism against him by the press officer of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, RFE/RL's correspondent in Bucharest reported on 30 June. The Romanian daily "Ziva" last week quoted ministry spokeswoman Gilda Lazar as suggesting that Ciorbea had been begging for NATO membership and financial assistance during his recent visit to Washington. Ciorbea has asked Foreign Affairs Minister Adrian Severin to clarify the circumstances surrounding Lazar's interview with "Ziva," which was conducted over the telephone by two Romanian journalists in Washington.

    [14] BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES 1997 BUDGET

    The parliament on 28 June approved the budget for 1997, which was proposed by Prime Minister Ivan Kostov after consultations with international financial experts. The budget calls for a deficit of some $550 million or 6.2% of GDP. Projected revenues are about $1.56 billion, and expenditures are expected to be about $2.11 billion. The budget's target for annual inflation is 556%. Between January and April, prices rose by some 450%.

    [15] BULGARIA ON SCHEDULE TO ESTABLISH CURRENCY BOARD

    Western financial experts say Bulgaria is on schedule to establish a currency board by 1 July, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 29 June. The parliament has provided the necessary groundwork recently by passing new laws on banking and privatization as well as the1997 budget. The 35-year- old economist Martin Zaimov has been named as head of the board. The 1 July deadline is seen as a key test of Prime Minister Kostov's ability to implement free market reforms. The IMF stipulated the establishment of the board as a condition for releasing further credits to Sofia. The board will limit the ability of the National Bank to manipulate foreign exchange rates by tying the value of the lev to its hard-currency reserves. The National Bank also will be barred from refinancing troubled commercial banks.

    [C] END NOTE

    [16] SLOVAK OPPOSITION BLOCKS PRIVATIZATION OF TELEVISION CHANNEL

    by Daniel Butora

    The Slovak parliament on 26 June passed a law prohibiting the privatization of Slovak Television's (STV) second channel. The opposition parties, which voted for the law, were supported by deputies from the two junior coalition partners of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS)--the Slovak National Party and the Union of Workers.

    While the opposition was not opposed in general to the privatization of STV's second channel, it rejected the project last week because the Slovak Board for Television and Radio Broadcasting had already granted a license for the channel to TV Dovina, which has links to the HZDS. Culture Minister Ivan Hudec had recently said that a television station close to the HZDS would soon appear. Meciar had also supported granting the license to TV Dovina.

    Besides STV's two channels, there are two private television stations in Slovakia: Vasa Televizia (VTV), which has only a small audience and broadcasts to only one-third of Slovak territory; and TV Markiza, which started broadcasting in September and is partly U.S.-owned. Initially, TV Markiza took care to avoid sensitive political topics and dared only occasionally to criticize the ruling parties. It did broadcast footage of the police attack on striking actors in the Ministry of Culture building earlier this year. But when Meciar screamed at one of its reporters that he would "smash his face," TV Markiza did not report the story, saying it was "uninteresting."

    More recently, TV Markiza has grown increasingly independent, particularly in its news coverage. By contrast, STV remains rigidly unprofessional, unbalanced, and partisan, clearly favoring the government. Significantly, TV Markiza's audience is three time larger than STV's, including for newscasts.

    That was one reason for the HZDS's decision to establish its own mouthpiece by privatizing STV's second channel, which has the best network of transmitters in the country. Several groups close to the HZDS competed for the license, but the Slovak Board for Television and Radio Broadcasting chose TV Dovina--a project of the so-called PRO-TV group. Under Slovak law, the board's choice was subject to the parliament's approval.

    The leadership of PRO-TV is very close to the HZDS. Partik Luther is head of the HZDS's youth organization, while Milos Mistrik, who until recently was an adviser to the director of STV, often writes pro-government articles for "Slovenska Republika," the HZDS's daily. Vladimir Ondrus is co-owner of Studio Koliba, which was privatized by people with links to the HZDS. And Rudolf Trella is a lawyer for the Second Trade Stock Company, which recently bought Nafta Gbely, a small Slovak oil producer, for less than $17 million. The market price of the oil company was estimated to exceed $106 million, and leading members of the HZDS are said to have been involved in that project.

    With such people involved, there was little doubt about the political leanings of the new television station. Also, the privatization projects with which various PRO-TV officials are associated would have allowed TV Dovina to buy foreign programs. That, in itself, would have helped the new station lure viewers away from TV Markiza.

    The opposition was quick to draw up a law prohibiting the privatization of the second channel. The HZDS coalition partners also had reasons to block the creation of a television station serving only the HZSD. When a government crisis erupted in June 1996, the HZSD-controlled "Slovenska Republika" did not hesitate to attack both of the junior parties. An HZDS-controlled TV station was thus seen by the two parties as a potential threat.

    The opposition's arguments against the PRO-TV project were not always direct. For example, Milan Ftacnik of the postcommunist Party of the Democratic Left argued that there was not a big enough market for another private television station. The opposition also claimed that TV Markiza was already reaping in large advertisement revenues and that another nationwide private television station would further reduce STV's revenues from commercials. Following its defeat in the parliament, the HZDS must come up with a new strategy if it is to have its own, private television station before the next elections, scheduled for October 1998. It may try to win more viewers for STV, or it may give its junior partners more of the "television privatization cake." But in the meantime, TV Markiza will be seeking to secure its position and to increase its independent news coverage ahead of next year's ballot.

    The author is an editor for RFE/RL's Slovak Service


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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