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Newsline - June 13, 1997




RUSSIA, CHECHNYA AGREE ON TRANSIT OF AZERBAIJANI OIL...

Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, have signed a "memorandum" that includes an agreement on the transit of Azerbaijani oil, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 June. The agreement envisages that the "early oil" from Azerbaijan's offshore fields will be exported to the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk via a pipeline transiting Russia. The 153-km stretch of the pipeline that transits Chechnya was badly damaged during the war. Earlier, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who is also minister for fuel and energy, said Moscow is confident it will raise the $2 million that Chechnya needs to finish repairing the pipeline, Reuters reported. Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Zakayev said that, despite Moscow's objections, Grozny will also sign a separate oil deal with the international consortium developing Azerbaijan's oil fields.

...DISCUSS WIDE RANGE OF OTHER ISSUES

Officials said the talks focused on a "very wide range" of economic and political issues. Maskhadov noted that the two sides reached agreement on a large number of questions and that their major task is to find practical ways of implementing earlier agreements, AFP reported. Boris Berezovskii, deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, said a "mutual understanding" was reached during the talks. Chernomyrdin reportedly asked the Chechen leaders about the kidnapping of Russian journalists in the breakaway region, but no details were reported about the Chechen reaction. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS quoted Chernomyrdin as saying a customs agreement may be signed on 13 June

YELTSIN ADDRESSES RUSSIANS ON NATIONAL HOLIDAY

President Boris Yeltsin addressed Russians on national television on 12 June, the anniversary of the 1990 declaration of sovereignty by the Russian Congress of People's Deputies. He argued that Russia is "moving forward on a path of real political and economic transformation" and hailed recent accords signed with Belarus and Ukraine. Yeltsin said that for the first time in 80 years, world recognition of Russia's importance was not based on fear. He noted that NATO is taking Russia's interests into account and that the G-7 group of industrialized countries will move toward including Russia at an upcoming summit. While acknowledging that the people have many "fair complaints" about himself and the authorities in general, he commented that "no one can say that the voice of the discontented in Russia is not heard." Yeltsin also renamed the 12 June holiday from Russian Independence Day to the Day of Russia.

OPPOSITION DECLINES TO CELEBRATE HOLIDAY

State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told reporters in the Belarusian city of Brest that he does not consider 12 June a holiday. Seleznev argued that Russia's gain of sovereignty "was one of the causes of the Soviet Union's collapse," Interfax reported. Opposition politicians who regret the disintegration of the USSR have frequently mocked the idea of celebrating Russia's independence.

FLAGS CHANGED ON BLACK SEA FLEET

In line with a recent presidential decree, Soviet flags on the Russian ships of the Black Sea Fleet were replaced on 12 June with the tsarist-era blue-and-white flags, RFE/RL's correspondent in Sevastopol reported. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, Navy Commander in Chief Feliks Gromov, and Black Sea Fleet Commander Viktor Kravchenko attended the ceremonies. Sergeev said joint Russian-Ukrainian naval exercises might be held later this year, Interfax reported. However, he confirmed that Russia will not take part in the NATO-led "Sea Breeze" naval exercises scheduled for August off the Crimean coast. Meanwhile, Moscow First Deputy Mayor Oleg Tolkachev told reporters in Sevastopol that the Moscow city government will finance construction of a 300-apartment building for Black Sea Fleet sailors, as well as a school in Sevastopol, ITAR-TASS reported.

DEFENSE MINISTER ON "RAPID REACTION UNITS"

Sergeev unveiled plans to create four "rapid reaction units" of unspecified size next year, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 June. He said two of the "units of the future" will be deployed in the Moscow military district, one in the Far East and one in the North Caucasus. Interfax quoted military experts as saying the units are likely to be rapid-response mobile formations with their own air and naval support.

CHUBAIS SAYS RUSSIA CAN BECOME WORLD'S "MOST DYNAMIC ECONOMY"

Addressing the council of the Russia's Democratic Choice (DVR) party, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais said the government has an opportunity to make Russia "the most dynamic economy in the world," as well as the "most attractive financial market," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported in 12 June. Chubais said "millions and millions of people understand and accept" the ideas that guided Yegor Gaidar when he was acting prime minister in 1992. He added that the government does not need to perform a miracle to lead Russia to prosperity since "the miracle has been performed.... Now we need only to avoid stupidities." Chubais has been a leading member of the DVR since its creation in 1994. He was also a prominent figure in the Russia's Choice movement, the predecessor of the DVR.

GAIDAR STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF ADOPTING NEW TAX CODE

In his address to the DVR party council, party leader Yegor Gaidar said tax reform is "the main thing standing between us and serious, dynamic economic growth," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 12 June. He praised the government for improving tax collection and moving toward an "honest budget," but he argued that the adoption of a new tax code was essential. Gaidar and experts from his Institute of Economic Problems of the Transition Period helped draft the code, which is scheduled to be considered by the State Duma in the first reading on 19 June. Gaidar added that Yeltsin would be forced to consider dissolving the Duma if deputies failed to adopt the tax code. Failure to approve the code would not in itself give Yeltsin legal grounds for disbanding the Duma.

NEMTSOV WELCOMES DUMA SCRUTINY OF TRIP TO JAPAN

First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov says he welcomes scrutiny of his recent trip to Japan, ITAR-TASS reported on12 June. Nemtsov took some 80 people with him to Tokyo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9-11 June 1997). A resolution asking the Audit Chamber to examine expenditures for Nemtsov's trip has been placed on the Duma's agenda. Nemtsov said he thought such checks were "absolutely normal" and suggested that foreign trips by Duma deputies also be audited.

DUMA FAILS TO OVERTURN VETO OF LAW ON OPPOSITION

The Duma on 11 June fell 34 votes short of the 300 needed to overturn a presidential veto of the law on guaranteeing the right of opposition activity, ITAR-TASS reported. The law would protect citizens' right to demonstrate and to make alternative proposals to government and presidential policies (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 5 March 1997). It would also allow the opposition to create a shadow cabinet. If at least one-third of Duma deputies supported the shadow cabinet, shadow ministers would be entitled to participate in meetings of the executive branch. Yeltsin's representative in the Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov, said the law was unconstitutional. In particular, he noted that it sought to define legislatures as opposition groups. A law on the opposition should deal with political parties or organizations, Kotenkov argued.

OKUDZHAVA DIES

The popular author, poet, and songwriter Bulat Okudzhava died aged 73 in a hospital near Paris on 12 June. Okudzhava, who had a history of heart problems, was recently hospitalized with pneumonia. Beginning in the late 1950s, Okudzhava was a "half-official dissident" in the Soviet Union. He was a member of the Communist Party and the Union of Writers, and his work was not officially prohibited. At the same time, many of his writings and songs did not find favor with the Soviet authorities and were widely distributed only in "samizdat" or bootleg tape recordings. In 1994, Okudzhava won the Russian Booker Prize for his last novel.

PATRIARCH NOT TO MEET WITH POPE

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II has confirmed that he will not meet with Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II in June, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 June. The Holy Synod, the forum which brings together the top clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church, said in an 11 June statement that unspecified outstanding differences prevented the meeting from taking place, AFP reported. The Synod's statement also included a "historical note" restating Orthodoxy's opposition to Catholic efforts to win converts in Russia. Church officials in Russia said recently that the Vatican and the Patriarchate were discussing a possible meeting between the John Paul and Aleksii in Vienna on 21 June ahead of an European Ecumenical Conference in Graz.

VORKUTA COAL MINERS END STRIKE

Work has resumed at all the coal enterprises in Vorkuta (Komi Republic) where workers went on strike on 1 June, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 June. A Finance Ministry official said some 110 billion rubles ($19 million) out of a 250 billion ruble government emergency aid package has arrived in Komi. The money will cover part of the back wages owed to the miners. A local trade union official said recently that the work stoppage in Vorkuta would continue until "strategic measures" to help the Pechora coal basin were adopted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 9 June 1997).

ANOTHER FORMER GOVERNOR ARRESTED

Yurii Komarovskii, former governor of Nenets Autonomous Okrug, has been arrested, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 June. Komarovskii is accused of "exceeding his authority while serving as governor," but no further details about the charges were available. Komarovskii was appointed by Yeltsin in 1991 and resigned in early 1996. At the time, the okrug legislature accused him of misappropriating budget funds and of granting dubious credits to certain enterprises. Nikolai Sevryugin, the former governor of Tula Oblast, was recently arrested on corruption charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1997).




UN MANDATE EXTENDED IN TAJIKISTAN

The UN Security Council on 12 June voted unanimously to extend by three months the mandate of the UN observer mission in Tajikistan. The team of more than 70 observers, military and civilian, will remain in the country until 15 September.

FIGHTING REPORTED IN SOUTH TAJIKISTAN

RFE/RL correspondents report that units of the Tajik army's First Brigade, commanded by Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, have moved into Yavon, some 60 kilometers south of Dushanbe, and its surrounding areas. Khudaberdiyev is reported not to have received orders from the government to take this action. He says he sent forces from their base in Kurgan-Teppe to the area to restore order. The move may have been made to oust Sher Abdullayev, a former commander in Tajikistan's pro-government Popular Front, from Yavon. Meanwhile, the mayor of Kumsangir has been forced out of office.

TURKMENISTAN TO KEEP DEATH PENALTY

The parliament on 12 June approved a criminal code that provides for the death penalty, ITAR-TASS reported. The code details 17 crimes that are considered capital offenses, for which punishment ranges from 20 years' imprisonment to execution. Capital offenses specified in the code include premeditated murder, crimes against the government, attempts on the life of the president, and the manufacture or possession of narcotics. The parliament also adopted legislation on refugees that brings Turkmenistan closer into line with the 1951 UN Convention and the 1967 Helsinki Act.

KRASNOVODSKII GULF RENAMED AFTER "TURKMENBASHI"

Following "numerous" requests by "workers and local authorities," the Krasnovodskii Gulf in the Caspian Sea has been renamed "Turkmenbashi Gulf," RFE/RL's Turkmen service and Reuters reported. The gulf's main port city, once called Krasnovodsk, was renamed Turkmenbashi City in 1993, after President Saparmurad "Turkmenbashi" Niyazov.

UZBEKISTAN CRITICIZED OVER RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS

The US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe published an open letter on 12 June calling on Uzbek President Islam Karimov complaining about the "erosion of religious liberty" in Uzbekistan. The letter, a copy of which was obtained by RFE/RL's Uzbek service, addresses "missionary activity." It mentions the confiscation from the Uzbek Bible Society of 24,960 Bibles translated into Uzbek and the case of Pastor Rashid Turibayev, who is charged with conducting "illegal Church services" and faces a possible three-year jail sentence. The letter notes that Uzbekistan is a "participating state" of the OSCE and requests that Tashkent "comply with its commitments." The letter does not address problems with Islamic groups in Uzbekistan.

U.S.-UZBEK COMMISSION FORMED

Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her deputy, Strobe Talbot, in Washington on 12 June, RFE/RL's Uzbek service reported. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns later announced that a joint commission has been formed to seek ways to expand cooperation in the areas of defense, military, trade, investment and energy, AFP reported. The commission is expected to begin work this fall.

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT WELCOMES MOSCOW TALKS ON ABKHAZIA

Eduard Shevardnadze has welcomed the 11 June meetings between Georgian and Abkhaz representatives in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 1997), Interfax reported on 12 June. The Abkhaz delegation, headed by President Vladislav Ardzinba, also met with senior Russian officials. Shevardnadze, however, warned that the peace talks and peacekeeping forces should not serve to "legitimize ethnic cleansing or genocide" in Abkhazia. Interfax also reported that Revaz Adamia, the chairman of the Georgian parliamentary Defense and Security Committee, has accused Russia of resuming arms supplies to Abkhazia. Adamia said the fact that Ardzinba was received "at a high level" in Moscow should be interpreted as Moscow's support for the "separatist regime" in Abkhazia.

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN IRAN

Aleksandr Arzumanyan on 12 June held talks with outgoing Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, AFP reported, citing the Iranian news agency IRNA. Arzumanyan welcomed Iran's "key role" in resolving regional crises and added that Armenia gives "special priority to its relations with Islamic Iran." Arzumanyan also called for multilateral cooperation with other countries in the region, "particularly with Turkmenistan, Georgia, and Greece." Velayati, for his part, said Tehran is interested in an "honorable and just" peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan.




EAST EUROPEAN REACTIONS TO CLINTON'S NATO ANNOUNCEMENT

Following U.S. Bill Clinton's announcement on 12 June that only the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary should be included in the first round of NATO expansion, Czech Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec said "this is a historic moment for the Czech Republic." Zieleniec, who spoke on arrival in Ljubljana, said NATO should remain open to new members after the first wave of expansion. He mentioned as prospective members in the second wave Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, and the Baltic States. Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Szentivanyi called the announcement a "major step," saying it strengthens Hungarian expectations that the NATO summit in Madrid next month will formally invite Hungary to join. Polish officials said they were happy about the U.S. support and called on NATO also to embrace other East European countries to increase security in the region. Slovenian Foreign Minister Zoran Thaler said his country will continue to push for early membership, despite the U.S. position. Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Severin commented that Washington's decision does not serve U.S. interests in Eastern Europe.

FIRST SESSION OF RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY

The Russian-Belarusian Parliamentary Assembly, composed of deputies from both chambers of the Russian and Belarusian parliaments, convened for the first time in the Belarusian city of Brest on 12 June, Itar-Tass reported. The assembly was set up under the union treaty recently signed by the two countries. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is attending the session, while the Russian delegation is led by Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev, who is also chair of the Russian-Belarusian parliamentary assembly. Seleznev proposed to the assembly that the former anthem of the Soviet Union be given new lyrics and become the national hymn of the Russian-Belarusian union. He also suggested that the "fraternal nation" of Ukraine may want to join the union.

UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN TRADE DECREASES

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Serghiy Tighipko told journalists on 12 June that trade between Ukraine and Russia dropped 20% in the first four months of 1997, compared with the same period last year. In Tighipko's opinion, Ukraine and Russia will have to be more pragmatic in their approach to boost trade between the two countries. Tighipko, who is in charge of economic reforms, is heading a delegation to Moscow for talks on how to improve the situation. Ukraine relies heavily on the Russian market. In 1996, 40% of Ukraine's exports, worth $14 billion, went to Russia.

BALTIC PREMIERS DECLINE TO ISSUE STATEMENT ON EU

The three Baltic prime ministers, meeting in Tallinn on 12 June, decided not to sign a joint declaration reaffirming their countries' readiness to join the EU, BNS and ETA reported. Instead, Estonia's Mart Siimann delivered a statement after the meeting saying that the Baltic states are ready to start accession negotiations with the EU. He said that "in principle" there were no disputes between him and his Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts, Andris Skele and Gediminas Vagnorius. But he added they had differed over the form of the declaration. The premiers had intended to issue a joint statement ahead of the EU summit in Amsterdam on 16-17 June to decide how to pave the way for accepting new members.

GERMAN SHIPYARD DENIES RESPONSIBILITY FOR ESTONIA FERRY DISASTER

In a report presented in Stockholm on 12 June, the German shipyard Meyer Werft says that the "Estonia" car ferry sunk because of bad maintenance and not because of the way it was built. In 1980, Meyer Werft completed construction of the "Estonia," which sank off the southwestern coast of Finland en route from Stockholm to Tallinn in heavy seas that ripped off the ferry's bow door. More than 850 people died in the sinking. The Meyer Werft report, carried out by a group of independent experts, says that bad maintenance on the part of the ferry's Swedish owner caused the locks of the bow door to fail. The final report by an Estonian-Swedish-Finnish commission, which is due to be released later this year, is expected to reiterate its findings that the ferry sank because of weak locks.

LATVIAN ROUNDUP

Ten opposition parliamentary deputies have proposed a vote of no confidence in Transport Minister Vilis Kristopans, BNS reported on 12 June. Karlis Cerans, a deputy of the For Latvia party, said the motion was submitted because Kristopans has "severely violated" the anti-corruption law by continuing to hold various posts outside the government. The Prosecutor's Office is currently examining whether ministers are abiding by the anti-corruption law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 1997). Also on 12 June, the parliament adopted a law providing for rewards to people who inform on smugglers. An informer will be entitled to 35% of the confiscated goods' value; 20% will go to the state and the remainder will be divided among the state agencies that confiscated the goods. Relatives of officials charged with tracking down smugglers are not eligible for such rewards.

UPDATE ON STOLEN URANIUM IN LITHUANIA

The Prosecutor's Office and state security officials say a total of 70 kilograms of uranium stolen in 1992 from the Ignalina nuclear power plant have been found, BNS reported on 12 June. Earlier this week, some 50 kg were discovered in a forest near Vilnius (earlier reports had said 30 kg), and 20 kg in the town of Visaginas, near the nuclear facility. Officials said that the uranium is from a nuclear fuel rod taken from Ignalina five years ago and that other parts of the rod may still be missing. They also said the stolen uranium posed no danger to the environment.

FEDERAL YUGOSLAV PRIME MINISTER IN POLAND

Radoje Kontic and Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz met in Warsaw on 12 June and signed several accords on increased cooperation in health, agriculture, and taxation. They also agreed to sign further accords on setting up direct air links and abolishing visas between the two countries. Speaking to journalists in Warsaw, Kontic rejected Serbian opposition calls for a mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to be sent to Belgrade. In a letter sent to OSCE President Niels Helveg Petersen on 10 June, the opposition coalition Zajedno asked for a mission to be sent to Belgrade "as soon as possible" to monitor the "totalitarian behavior" of President Slobodan Milosevic's government. "We do not see the need for such a mission," Kontic said.

BOYCOTT BY SLOVAK COALITION DEPUTIES PREVENTS RECALL OF INTERIOR MINISTER

Parliamentary speaker Ivan Gasparovic postponed the 12 June parliamentary session by one day because of the lack of a quorum. Gasparovic was the only deputy of the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar present in the chamber. Opposition deputies had called the special session in an attempt to deliver a vote of no-confidence in Interior Minister Gustav Krajci, whom they accuse of marring the May referendum on NATO membership and direct presidential elections. Krajci ensured that only three questions dealing with NATO expansion were on the ballot and that a fourth on direct presidential elections was deleted. The Constitutional Court had earlier ruled that the question on direct presidential elections could be included on the ballots. Krajci told reporters on 12 June he is willing to accept responsibility if the Constitutional Court proves his actions were illegal but that he will resign only if others responsible also give up their posts.

SCREENING PANEL URGES HUNGARIAN SOCIALIST DEPUTY TO RESIGN

A panel of judges screening parliamentary deputies to determine whether they actively collaborated with the Communist security services have called on Judit Csehak to resign as a socialist deputy, Hungarian media reported. The panel said that unless she does so within 30 days, it will make public its findings. Csehak, who was a deputy premier in the last communist government and a member of the party's Politburo, said recently that she does not intend to resign her seat (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 1997). In other news, Zsolt Sejmen, a deputy of the opposition Christian Democratic Party, will run against incumbent leader Gyoergy Giczy at the party's national conference scheduled for 21 June. Janos Latorcai, a long-time rival of Giczy's, has decided to withdraw from the race, according to "Magyar Hirlap."




SHOOT-OUT AT ALBANIAN ELECTION RALLY

Eight people were wounded during a shoot-out at a campaign rally of President Sali Berisha in Elbasan on 12 June. Most media accounts say the guards overreacted to anti-Berisha taunts from hecklers and that armed men then fired on the guards. At least three guardsmen were among those injured. "Indipendent" reported that some people also fired at the podium where Berisha was speaking. According to some media reports, armed men later ran Berisha and his motorcade out of town. Public television and "Rilindja Demokratike" charged that "terrorists" from the Socialist Party provoked the incidents. The pro-Berisha daily "Albania" warned that the Democrats will not recognize the election results in the rebel-held areas if "the Socialists continue their terror [campaign] with their [rebel] committees."

ALBANIAN SOCIALIST PARTY LEADER IN ATHENS

Fatos Nano met with Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos in Athens on 12 June to discuss the return of Albanian migrants for the 29 June vote. Pangalos promised to issue the ethnic Albanians with special papers that would allow them to return to Greece within a month. Nano also met with some of the Albanian migrants. The Socialist leader told reporters that President Berisha is to blame for the current chaotic situation in Albania, "Dita Informacion" reported on 13 June.

ALBANIAN ELECTIONS FACE MORE TROUBLES

At a meeting in Tirana on 12 June, members of the Central Election Commission (CEC) said there may be serious logistical problems in organizing the vote because there is so little time left. Socialist CEC member Taulant Dedja told an RFE/RL correspondent that most of the District Election Commissions have not yet convened. Meanwhile, the extended deadline for registering candidates expired on 12 June. The printing of ballot papers is scheduled to start in Italy on 15 June.

UPDATE ON LEKA ZOGU

Leka Zogu, the claimant to the Albanian throne, has protested the use of the term "constitutional monarchy" as an option in the referendum on the future constitutional order. Leka instead wants voters to say whether they are for or against a "democratic parliamentary democracy," "Koha Jone" reported on 13 June. A poll published the previous day in "Rilindja Demokratike" suggests that Leka faces an uphill fight among the voters in the capital. The survey claims that only 24% of the local electorate will vote for a monarchy in the referendum and that the monarchist Legality Party will win only 6% of the votes.

OSCE EXTENDS BOSNIAN VOTER REGISTRATION DEADLINE

The OSCE, which is supervising the 13-14 September local elections, has announced in Sarajevo that voters will have until 28 June, instead of until 16 June, to register. The move comes in the wake of the discovery of massive registration fraud in Brcko earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 1997). The OSCE has also announced that it has fired the Bosnian Serb officials in charge of the Brcko operation. To date, only 1.7 million out of 3.2 million potential voters have registered, despite an extensive publicity campaign by the OSCE.

U.S. WARNS BOSNIAN SERBS NOT TO RIG VOTE

State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns made clear that the U.S. will not tolerate any more electoral fraud in Brcko or anywhere else in Bosnia. Speaking in Washington on 12 June, Burns said: "It's very important that the Bosnian Serbs get the message that these elections are not going to be tainted.... [The Serbs] are not going to be able to succeed in intimidating the OSCE. We will stand up to them. And they will not be allowed to run false elections." His remarks reflect Washington's recently adopted, tougher stance in Bosnia.

CROATIAN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN ENDS

President Franjo Tudjman held his last rally of the campaign in Zagreb's central Jelacic Square on 12 June. Earlier that day, Social Democrat Zdravko Tomac blasted the city authorities' refusal to let him speak in the square the next day (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 12 June 1997). Tomac said the decision shows that the authorities treat him a second-class candidate, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. Meanwhile, Development Minister Jure Radic and Foreign Minister Mate Granic said the UN's military mandate in eastern Slavonia must end next month, as scheduled. Radic argued that "the gates of [eastern Slavonia] have to be open...[so that] many parts of the [Croatian] system can be implemented." The two men noted that the UN has been unable to ensure the safety of newly elected Croatian local officials in the region.

ROUNDUP FROM FEDERAL YUGOSLAVIA

Representatives of health workers meeting in Belgrade on 12 June demanded the resignation of the Serbian government. The medical professionals are on strike over back wages. Also in the capital, outgoing federal President Zoran Lilic warned against what he called domestic and foreign attempts to destabilize Yugoslavia by manipulating the Kosovo question. Lilic recently angered Kosovars by saying that there is no Kosovo problem except in the minds of a few Albanians. And in Podgorica, members of both the government and opposition parties have criticized state-run TV. "Nasa Borba" on 13 June quotes Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic as saying that he opposes Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's proposal to elect the federal president by direct vote. Bulatovic nonetheless backs Milosevic's candidacy for the top federal job.

MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT OFFERS COMPROMISE ON MINORITIES' FLAG ISSUE

The government in Skopje has proposed a draft law that will enable ethnic minorities to choose and use their own national symbols, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Macedonian capital on 11 June. If the parliament approves the bill, the Albanian and Turkish minorities will be able to fly the flags of Albania or Turkey at private, cultural, or sporting events. They may also display their flags on state holidays if they also fly the Macedonian banner. But they will not be allowed to fly their flags from public buildings. The bill comes in the wake of weeks of tension in Gostivar, where the Albanian and Turkish flags have been flying from the town hall. It is unclear whether the bill will pass the parliament or, if it does, whether it will satisfy the ethnic minorities.

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER IN ROMANIA

Dariusz Rosati and his Romanian counterpart, Adrian Severin, announced on 12 June that their countries will establish a "close partnership" of regional collaboration and that Ukraine may also join. Romania and Poland will also examine the possibility of setting up a joint military unit. The foreign ministers said Romanian-Polish relations will remain very close, despite U.S. President Clinton's 12 June announcement excluding Romania from the first wave of NATO expansion. Rosati pledged Polish support for changing that decision before the Madrid July summit, Romanian media reported.

MINERS VIOLENCE IN ROMANIA

Miners at three mines in the Jiu Valley on 12 June refused to go into the pits in protest at the government's economic policies. They also physically attacked a trade union leader whom they accused of not properly representing their interests. He was in a coma when transported to a Timisoara hospital. The miners are demanding a 45% wage increase, tax reductions, and the release from detention of Miron Cozma, the miners' leader on trial for his role in the September 1991 violent demonstrations in Bucharest. The striking miners are threatening to stage clashes in the valley resembling those in Bucharest in 1990 and 1991, Romanian media reported.

MOLDOVAN, TRANSDNIESTER EXPERTS MEET IN TIRASPOL

Experts from Moldova and the Transdniestrian breakaway region met in Tiraspol on 12 June and agreed on the agenda for further talks, BASA-Press reported. Presidential adviser Anatol Taranu, who is heading the Chisinau delegation, told Infotag that the OSCE mission to Moldova has drafted an agreement for a document on the status of the Transdniester, which is being considered by the sides. He said the draft is "a lot more concrete" than the memorandum signed by Chisinau and Tiraspol in Moscow on 8 May. "Unlike the memorandum, it leaves no room for conflicting interpretations of key provisions," Taranu said. Meanwhile, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported that Taranu told Moldovan TV that Tiraspol continues to interpret the memorandum as if it referred to two independent states.

TIRASPOL OFFICIAL ON MOLDOVAN GAS DEBT TO RUSSIA

Viktor Senev, the deputy leader of the Transdniester region, said that, following the signing of the 8 May memorandum, Chisinau must be viewed as the sole official debtor to Russia for natural gas deliveries. Tiraspol owes more than one-half of the total $456 million debt, Infotag reported on 12 June. Senev said the debt could be covered by selling the assets of the Russian army in the Transdniester, which, he claimed, are "large enough to cover both the Moldovan and the Transdniestrian debt." Lt.-Gen. Valerii Yevnevich, commander of the Russian troops in the Transdniester, recently criticized the Transdniestrian leadership for preventing obsolete Russian ammunition from being scrapped. He also dismissed Tiraspol's claim to other equipment belonging to the contingent, stressing that the armament and the hardware are "Russian federal property" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 1997).

POLICE CONFERENCE IN SOFIA

Police forces from Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia are to increase cooperation in an effort to crackdown on international crime. At a conference in Sofia on 12 June, high-ranking police officers from those countries decided to coordinate the fight against drug smuggling, car theft, and trafficking in women for prostitution. Dimitar Moskov, the deputy director of the Bulgarian police force, told a news conference that participants also discussed financial crime, intellectual property theft, and racketeering, Reuters reported. In other news, Bulgaria is to return to Greece a stolen 18th century manuscript. AFP reported that the manuscript, which recounts early Bulgarian history, disappeared from a Bulgarian monastery on Mount Athos and resurfaced last September in Sofia's National History Museum, which received it from an anonymous donor. Museum director Bojidar Dimitrov unsuccessfully tried to oppose an order by President Petar Stoyanov to return it to its rightful owners.




Corruption among State Officials in Eastern Europe


by Joel Blocker

A conference in Prague of justice ministers from the Council of Europe's 40 member states ended on 11 June with an appeal for greater support for the international community's fight against growing corruption and organized crime. In a final declaration, the ministers emphasized that corruption among state officials poses an increasing threat to the rule of law, democracy, and human rights. They noted this is particularly true of the 16 Council member states from Eastern Europe and the former republics of the Soviet Union that joined the organization after 1989.

Reports and speeches by several Eastern European ministers reflect great awareness of the moral corrosion and subversion of democratic values currently posed by widespread corruption in former Communist states.

In their reports to the conference, both Czech Justice Minister Vlasta Parkanova --who chaired the proceedings-- and her Hungarian counterpart, Pal Vastagh, underlined the trans-national character of crime and corruption in former Communist states. Parkanova said that corruption was now a serious problem in the Czech Republic extending not only into many areas of public administration but also into the political and law-enforcement communities. Vastagh said the same problem existed in his country, noting that some corruptive practices that had developed under Communist rule continued to flourish in post-Communist Hungary. He commented candidly that "at the time of the change of [the Hungarian] regime, it was believed corruption would no longer pose a big problem in an emerging market economy, since the reasons for it would have ceased to exist. This expectation, unfortunately, proved to be wrong."

The bluntest comments about widespread corruption in Eastern Europe, however, came from Ukraine's Justice Minister Serhiy Holovaty. Holovaty told the conference that the spread of corruption and organized crime in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics threatens "to undermine the fragile foundations of their emerging civil societies." Former Soviet elites in those countries, he said, "continue to cling to power. Having wielded tremendous administrative control over the lives and activities of their citizens [under Communism], the members of the 'nomenklatura' are now the virtually uncontrolled arbiters of the distribution and use of state property.... Today, because of the absence of accountability within hierarchical power structures, the scope for fraud, corruption, and self-aggrandizement is broad, to put it mildly. The nomenklatura is not interested in serious economic and administrative reform because its members profit handsomely from the existing unregulated environment."

Holovaty found that in the former Soviet republics, the link between organized crime and corruption--a phenomenon noted by most speakers at the meeting--has a "special character." He defined that character as follows: "The distinction between organized crime and certain aspects of government activity is often indistinguishable." As a result, he argues, there is an "increasing institutionalization of corruption, enormous losses of revenue to state budgets, retardation of the development of the private sector, the monopolization of certain aspects of economic activity, and pervasive unjust enrichment."

The same point was made, but far more diplomatically, by the chief Council of Europe official at the meeting, Deputy Secretary-General Peter Leuprecht. He told the meeting that the Council's four-year-old drive to aid international efforts at combating corruption has been considerably hampered by some member governments making verbal, rather than real, commitments to its efforts. At a press conference at the end of the two-day meeting, Leuprecht said that what is lacking in those states is "political will." Asked by the author to define the reasons for the absence of such will, he replied: "the penetration of criminal organizations in government."

Leuprecht and many other participants said they are convinced that the concrete proposals agreed upon by the ministers for increasing intra-European and international cooperation in combating crime and corruption will be adopted at the Council of Europe's second summit meeting in October. But neither he nor many of the Eastern ministers present at the meeting were optimistic about stemming crime and corruption in Eastern Europe, and particularly in the former Soviet republics, without a complete transformation of their societies and public attitudes. That goal, they stressed, will not be achieved in the foreseeable future. The author is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL.


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