|Thursday, 17 January 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 18, 98-01-28
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 18, 28 January 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 NATO MAY CONSIDER INTERVENTION IN ABKHAZIAMikhail Machavariani, secretary-general of the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia, has told journalists in Tbilisi that NATO would "definitely consider" intervening to impose peace in Abkhazia if the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe requested such action, Caucasus Press reported on 28 January. Machavariani headed a Georgian delegation that met with Deputy Secretary-General Sergio Balandini and other senior NATO officials in Brussels on 20 January. Machavariani added that the two sides discussed the possibility of a more substantive cooperation program than provided for within the framework of Partnership for Peace. He said that such a program would be modeled on the one agreed by NATO and Ukraine. Georgia has also discussed with Armenia possible joint projects within the Partnership for Peace program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1998). LF
 "INTELLECTUAL ARMENIA" QUITS RULING COALITIONHovannes Tokmajian, leader of the Intellectual Armenia party, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 27 January that his party has quit the five- party Hanrapetutyun coalition. Tokmajian said Hanrapetutyun has retreated from its 1995 election platform. He accused the Armenian Pan-National Movement-- the senior coalition partner--of obstructing the adoption of new election legislation that would be acceptable to all the main political forces. He said his party demands the dissolution of the current parliament and parliamentary elections. Tokmajian also expressed his support for Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, who has been criticized by the ruling coalition for his rejection of the most recent draft Karabakh peace plan proposed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. LF
 AZERBAIJANI CENSORS CUT SUSURLUK ALLEGATIONSThe Azerbaijani Censor's Office on 27 January excised from all opposition newspapers any reference to the leaked Turkish government report on the Susurluk scandal, Turan reported. Extracts from the official investigation that appeared in the Turkish press claimed, among other things, that Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev handed over a Baku casino to Turkish casino magnate Omer Lutfu Topal as payment for a $6 million gambling debt incurred by Aliev's son Ilham (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 1998). LF
 TUBERCULOSIS RATE GROWS IN KAZAKHSTANAman Zhangireyev, the director of the Kazakh tuberculosis research center, as said the country is confronted by an "emergency situation" owing to the spread of the disease, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported on 27 January. The rate of deaths from tuberculosis has increased by 41 percent in the last three years. Currently, 53,000 people in Kazakhstan are infected with the disease, and more than 13,000 are carriers. Also on 27 January, the U.S. concern Chevron Oil announced it will contribute $2 million to a special program to combat tuberculosis in Kazakhstan. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 EU CALLS ON BELGRADE TO OPEN KOSOVO SCHOOLSBritish Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, speaking on behalf of the EU Presidency in Brussels on 27 January, called on the Serbian authorities to restore Albanian- language education in Kosovo. He said that "it's not just in the interests of Kosovo that the schools be reopened. It's in the interests of Belgrade. As long as the schools remain closed Belgrade is creating a breeding ground for terrorism and violence." Cook added that he told visiting Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo that "the EU supports a high degree of autonomy [for Kosovo] but we cannot support any acts of violence or terrorism." PM
 NATO CONCERNED ABOUT KOSOVO, MACEDONIAAn unnamed senior NATO official said at the Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium, on 27 January that growing violence in Kosovo could lead to regional destabilization. He added that "the wholesale transfer of weapons to Kosovo" from Albania following the breakdown of law and order there last spring contributed significantly to the violence. The official noted that Macedonia is worried the violence may spread across its border with Kosovo. He added that Skopje wants UN peacekeepers to remain in Macedonia beyond 1 July, when their current mandate expires. Reuters reported that NATO is considering a role for itself in preventing any future conflict in Kosovo from spreading to Macedonia. PM
 GLIGOROV, YELTSIN SIGN DECLARATIONMacedonian President Kiro Gligorov and his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, signed a "declaration of friendly relations and cooperation" in Moscow on 27 January. Yeltsin noted that this is the first document to be signed between "democratic Russia and sovereign Macedonia at the highest level." Macedonia is the only former Yugoslav republic to have such an agreement with Russia, he added. Gligorov pointed out that Russia was one of the first countries to recognize Macedonia and that the two countries have long- standing cultural and religious ties. Also on 27 January, Gligorov and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signed agreements on economic relations, cooperation in customs, environmental protection, and health care. Gligorov noted that Russian-Macedonian trade turnover is only one- tenth of what it was between the USSR and the former Yugoslav Macedonia, Interfax reported. PM
 CROATIAN WAR CRIMES COVER-UP?Spokesmen for the Interior Ministry said on 27 January that the ministry has launched an investigation into charges by three former soldiers that Croatian troops carried out kidnappings, executions and expulsions of Serbs and anti-nationalist Croats in the Gospic area in 1991. Earlier that day, the three former soldiers charged that prominent politicians knew of the atrocities in Gospic at the time they were carried out and that the Croatian authorities recently refused to listen to what the three men have to say about the killings. Last fall, Josip Manolic, President Franjo Tudjman's former top security official, informed the media about mass "liquidations" of Serbian civilians in Gospic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 1997). PM
 TUDJMAN SETS GOALSIn his annual state-of-the-nation speech on 27 January, President Tudjman said Croatia must overcome high unemployment and a large foreign debt. He called for greater "social justice" and for "the defense of the freedoms and rights of each citizen." Tudjman added that his goals for 1998 include continuing the reintegration of eastern Slavonia under existing international agreements. He called for normalizing relations with Belgrade and for demilitarizing the strategic Prevlaka peninsula. He also said he may send home UN peacekeepers based in Prevlaka and call for international arbitration if there is no agreement with Belgrade on demilitarization within four months. Tudjman added he plans to continue talks with Slovenia and with the Bosnian federation and to promote Croatia's integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. PM
 BOSNIAN SERB MINISTER WANTS MLADIC FREENew Bosnian Serb Defense Minister Manojlo Milovanovic told the 27 January issue of the Belgrade weekly "Svedok" that he hopes indicted war criminal General Ratko Mladic remains free. "He is safe. Thanks to the security system, [NATO-led peacekeepers] cannot get Mladic," he remarked. PM
 ARBITRATION FOR BOSNIAN LOCAL GOVERNMENTS?A spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which supervised the local government elections in Bosnia last September, said in Sarajevo on 27 January that only 45 of the 136 municipalities have respected the results of the vote, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. He added that the OSCE may carry out binding arbitration to set up the local government councils if the local leaders do not do so themselves. In many of the municipalities, refugees succeeded in electing representatives to local councils of towns from which they had been "ethnically cleansed." PM
 ALBANIAN JUDGES CONTINUE HUNGER-STRIKEEight judges who are protesting their allegedly politically motivated sackings began the 23rd day of their hunger strike on 28 January. Their state of health has severely deteriorated, the daily "Albania" reported. The judges claim that a new Socialist-backed law requiring university degrees from all judges and prosecutors favors communist-era judges and was designed to oust those justices who received their training at six-month courses under President Sali Berisha's government in 1993. The hunger- strikers said in a statement issued on 27 January that they will now refuse medical treatment and break off contact with their families, politicians and the press. Elsewhere, President Rexhep Meidani's adviser Mentor Nazarko visited former political prisoners who are staging a solidarity hunger- strike. Nazarko failed to convince them that the disputed law will not automatically lead to the dismissal of the judges. FS
 BIG WAGE HIKE FOR ALBANIAN OFFICIALSThe government approved new salary scales for the civil service on 27 January. In a bid to reduce corruption, it introduced wage hikes of up to 70 percent for top government officials beginning 1 April. The monthly salary of President Meidani will be doubled to $845, while ministers will receive $647-$760 a month. Other civil servants will receive 20 percent salary increases. The average monthly wage in Albania is $55-$65, "Koha Jone" reported. FS
 ALBANIAN LUSTRATION COMMITTEE UNCOVERS AGENTSThe parliamentary lustration commission, charged with rooting out communist- era secret service agents and foreign spies, has identified two former Sigurimi agents within the judiciary. Commission head Nafiz Bezhani told "Koha Jone" of 28 January that the commission will give details to the public once the final report is discussed in the parliament later this month. FS
 ROMANIAN COALITION CRISIS PEAKSIon Diaconescu, the chairman of both the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) and of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD), said on 27 January that the CDR council is demanding that the Democratic Party choose between three options by the following morning. Those options are to continue to be represented in Victor Ciorbea's cabinet, to guarantee its support in the parliament of a minority government, or to leave the existing coalition. Should the Democrats opt for the first or the second option, the CDR is ready to negotiate a new government protocol, Diaconescu said. President Emil Constantinescu announced he will convene a meeting with coalition leaders on 28 January and will then make known his position, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ASKED TO REMAIN IN GOVERNMENTPremier Ciorbea on 27 January said he has asked Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu to stay in the government, even if the Democratic Party decides to withdraw from it. Ciorbea explained that move by saying Plesu is an "outstanding personality" and is not a member of the Democratic Party, which proposed him for the post when the government was reshuffled in December 1997. Plesu said he has not yet decided what to do. Democratic Party Secretary-General Vasile Blaga said his party is abiding by its 14 January decision to withdraw its ministers but is ready to participate in a cabinet not led by Ciorbea. Earlier the same day, Democratic Party Chairman Petre Roman told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg that despite political differences, there was a consensus in the parliament on the need for reforms. He told a Radio Bucharest correspondent that the withdrawal of Democratic ministers would not mean the party leave the coalition. MS
 OPPOSITION LEADER READY TO SUPPORT MINORITY GOVERNMENTFormer President Ion Iliescu, who is currently chairman of the Party of Social Democracy (PDSR) in Romania, said on 27 January that the PDSR might agree to guarantee its parliamentary support of a minority government but will condition support on negotiations. Iliescu said the PDSR would "by no means make concessions similar to those made by the Democratic Party" on the restitution of property, a republican form of government, and the education law. He added that his party has had "unofficial" contacts with the Democrats as well as with the PNTCD. Meanwhile, Social Democratic Party (PSDR) chairman Sergiu Cunescu said his formation will not withdraw its ministers even if the Democrats decide to do so. The PSDR ran on joint lists with the Democrats in the 1996 elections. Finally, National Liberal Party chairman Mircea Ionescu-Quintus said his party is fully opposed to the idea of a minority government, which, he said, would make early elections unavoidable. MS
 BULGARIAN BOMBING SUSPECTS ARRESTEDBulgarian authorities on 27 January announced the arrest of four suspects who have confessed to the bombing earlier this month of the Sofia offices of the country's largest-circulation newspaper, "Trud" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 1998). Police said they also know the identity of the person who contracted the bombing. They added that the motive for the attack was an attempt by criminal groups to intimidate "Trud" in particular and Bulgarian media in general. The bombing caused extensive damage, but no one was seriously injured. MS
[C] END NOTE
 THE LEVOCA SUMMITby Genevieve Zalatorius
At a summit of 11 mostly Eastern European presidents in Levoca, Slovakia, on 23-24 January, some of Slovakia's closest neighbors announced they will support that country's bid to enter the EU.
"We cannot imagine Europe without Slovakia," Austrian President Thomas Klestil said. "We're going to support Slovakia," he said, adding that it is one of the "core countries" in Europe. Hungary and Poland expressed similar positions.
EU officials in December decided Slovakia would not be among the first countries to begin accession talks. The EU and other Western institutions have criticized Slovakia for not respecting democratic principles. But, Slovak President Michal Kovac, trying to remain upbeat during the summit, said those gathered are "interested in Slovakia becoming an integral part of Europe." That shows Slovakia is "not shunned and ignored and that there is no international conspiracy against Slovakia," Kovac commented.
Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov said the main significance of the meeting was that the participants have the "same philosophy--the philosophy of a united Europe."
Hungarian President Arpad Goncz said Europe "cannot be complete" without Slovakia. "Slovakia has its place in Europe," he added.
Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski said Slovakia has confirmed its desire to be part of European structures. "From the Polish position, we will support Slovakia wanting to be part of EU and NATO," he added.
Discussion at the summit concentrated on the integration of all Central European countries into Western structures such as the EU. The theme of the summit was "Civil Society--the Hope for a United Europe."
Romanian President Emil Constantinescu warned that a civil society "has to be on its guard." He singled out corruption as a problem. And he also emphasized the need to reach harmony with ethnic minorities.
Among those attending the summit for the first time was Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who said his country's long history of totalitarian domination left it farther behind other countries. Kuchma said the transition process will be more "painful" in his country than in others and will "take more time." Referring to his Moscow meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Kuchma said he would deliver "greetings" from the 11 presidents to the Russian leader. We all want to have "normal relations" with our eastern neighbor, Kuchma said.
Although Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar was invited to the summit, he chose not to attend. His absence only served to highlight the strained relations between Meciar and President Kovac, the summit's host. Kovac, who has fewer than 40 days remaining in office, was praised by the summit participants.
Hungarian President Goncz reminded summit participants that this was the last such conference with Kovac. "We see in [Kovac] a person of great determination. His personality is closely linked with the spirit of Europe, " Goncz said.
With Slovak presidential elections due on 29 January, those attending the summit said they will be closely monitoring the situation. Czech President Havel took time during his visit to meet with Slovak oppositionists, including representatives of the ethnic Hungarian minority. Havel told reporters that Czechs are interested in having better relations with their Slovak neighbors.
Hungary is also hoping to improve relations with Slovakia. President Goncz met with his Slovak counterpart one day before the summit began for unofficial talks. On that same day, the Slovak and Hungarian foreign ministers met in Budapest to discuss ethnic minorities and the Danube dam dispute.
The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Bratislava.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty