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Newsline - July 8, 1997


The Moscow branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) has opened a terrorism investigation into the alleged attempted bombing of the monument to Peter the Great in Moscow, Interfax reported on 7 July. FSB operatives defused seven explosive devices the previous day after a formerly unknown group calling itself the Revolutionary Military Council sent a warning to Interfax. The message reportedly said the bombs were a warning to those who wish to remove Vladimir Lenin's body from the mausoleum on Red Square. However, State Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a leading member of the Communist Party, denounced the bomb attempt as a "provocation by the authorities," which, he said, are looking for a "pretext to crack down on the opposition." Ilyukhin added that his party has no contacts with the group that allegedly claimed responsibility for planting the explosives.


President Boris Yeltsin has sent the State Duma proposed amendments to the criminal code to limit the application of the death penalty, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 July. Under the amendments, a person sentenced to death could not be executed until both the procurator-general and the chairman of the Supreme Court had reviewed the sentence and confirmed there were no grounds for appeal. Russia agreed to abolish the death penalty within three years of joining the Council of Europe in February 1996. Earlier this year, Russian officials signed Protocol 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which outlaws capital punishment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 1997). However, the Duma is considered unlikely to ratify that measure, since deputies voted down a proposed moratorium on the death penalty in March.


Russian environmental activists hope to enlist the president's help in saving centuries-old forests in the Republic of Karelia, where Yeltsin is currently on vacation, Russian news agencies and RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 7 July. Greenpeace activists have recently marked 15,000 cubic meters of old-growth forest in Karelia. The coordinator of the campaign, Sergei Tsyplenkov, said the action was aimed at halting any encroachment by timber companies. Two large Finnish companies have agreed to stop logging in the forests, but environmental campaigners say smaller logging firms are still active there. The weekly "Kommersant" reported in its 17 June issue that Karelian officials routinely blame Greenpeace activists for allegedly lowering both the republic's budget revenues and the living standards of local residents.


Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin says the Justice Ministry should play a greater role in drafting laws that the government submits to the parliament, Russian news agencies reported on 7 July. Introducing new Justice Minister Sergei Stepashin to the ministry staff, Chernomyrdin said Russian laws must be brought into line with requirements imposed by membership in the Council of Europe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 1997). He also pledged that the government will take steps to provide adequate financing for the Justice Ministry.


First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov has criticized the State Customs Committee and Defense Ministry over the sale of imported cars previously used by civil servants, NTV reported on 7 July. Speaking at a government meeting, Nemtsov said the results of the first car auction were "completely inadequate" and served to "discredit the decisions of the president and the government." Only five cars were sold in the first auction (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 1997). Nemtsov said the other cars offered for sale were suitable only for scrap metal. Some 56 cars, including a Mercedes used by former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, are to be auctioned in September.


The Federation Council on 4 July adopted an appeal asking Yeltsin to review two recent presidential decrees limiting the authority of Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Yeltsin recently transferred many of Nazdratenko's powers to Viktor Kondratov, the presidential representative in Primore. Council deputies protested that the decrees sought to limit the rights of Russian regions. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily," Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel suggested that by bolstering the powers of appointed presidential representatives, Moscow is trying to set up parallel executive structures in the regions in preparation for the presidential election in 2000. Meanwhile, Nazdratenko has continued to request a personal meeting with Yeltsin, who, he says, has been misinformed by his advisers and government officials about the situation in Primore.


The Federation Council on 4 July voted by 115 to three to approve the law "on military-technological cooperation with foreign countries," which declares a state monopoly on the arms trade, Russian news agencies reported. According to Reuters, Murmansk Oblast legislature head Pavel Sazhinov, a member of the Council's Defense Committee, urged deputies to support the law, saying that the state had lost income in recent years as arms manufacturers sold weapons abroad directly "at dumping prices." Also on 4 July, the Council approved by 123 to three a law on the status of persons serving in the armed forces or in troops subordinate to various federal agencies, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 1997). The Council's Budget Committee had recommended rejecting the law, saying Russia lacks the means to fund wage increases for servicemen.


The Federation Council on 3 July rejected a law outlining the procedure for calculating the subsistence level on a quarterly basis, ITAR-TASS reported. The government had opposed the Duma-backed law. The same day, the Council rejected legislation raising the minimum pension by 20 percent, from 69,575 rubles ($12) to 83,490 rubles, effective 1 July. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev had appealed to the Council to reject the increase, saying neither the federal budget nor the Pension Fund has the means to pay an additional 1.7 trillion rubles per month. Meanwhile, the Council on 3 July approved a separate law on the procedure for calculating and raising pensions for non-working pensioners. Supporters say that law--which, if signed, is to go into effect on 1 February 1998--would improve living standards for many elderly people.


The Federation Council on 3 July approved a 0.5 percent tax on foreign currency purchases by individuals and companies, Russian news agencies reported. The tax would not be levied on withdrawals of cash from foreign-currency bank deposits or foreign-currency purchases from the Central Bank by commercial banks. Revenues from the tax would be divided 60:40 between federal and regional budgets. The same day, the Council passed a law allowing a tax experiment to be conducted in Tver and Novgorod. The legislation would allow those cities to introduce a real estate tax in place of three current taxes: on property belonging to individuals, on property belonging to legal entities, and the land tax. The revenues from the real estate tax will go entirely to the cities' budgets.


The Federation Council on 4 July approved a law on management of the electricity giant Unified Energy Systems (EES), "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. That law would require the state to retain 51 percent of EES shares. An 18 percent stake would be managed by the federal government, while 33 percent of EES shares would be divided among regional governments. Yeltsin is expected to veto the law, which is not consistent with the current plans of EES management (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1997).


The Federation Council on 3 July approved a law on relations between autonomous okrugs and the oblasts or krais of which they are part, ITAR-TASS reported. Under the law, okrugs would sign agreements with krais and oblasts without interference from federal authorities. Tyumen Oblast authorities have long disputed with the resource-rich Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets autonomous okrugs, which are seeking to secede from Tyumen. The Council also approved a law to create ecological zones on and around Lake Baikal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 1997). However, deputies rejected a bill on local self-government that would have forced regional leaders to share authority on financial matters with city mayors in their regions, "Segodnya" reported on 5 July. The Council also rejected a law on citizens' electoral rights, which, among other things, would have canceled residency requirements included in regional electoral laws.


Yeltsin signed treaties with governors from five oblasts on 4 July, bringing to 31 the number of Russian regions that have signed bilateral power-sharing agreements with the federal authorities, ITAR-TASS reported. In addition to signing agreements with the leaders of Vologda and Saratov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 1997), Yeltsin signed treaties with the governors of Bryansk, Chelyabinsk, and Magadan oblasts. The treaties are part of the presidential administration's strategy to secure the support of new governors. Magadan Governor Valentin Tsvetkov was elected as an independent in November 1996, while Bryansk Governor Yurii Lodkin and Chelyabinsk Governor Petr Sumin won with the backing of the Communist opposition in December. Lodkin and Sumin had been staunch opponents of Yeltsin, who fired Lodkin as Bryansk governor in September 1993 and who supported the annulment of a Chelyabinsk gubernatorial election won by Sumin the same year.


Former Ingushetian Vice President Boris Agapov, who in June was appointed deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, told ITAR-TASS on 7 July that the Russian government's recent abolition of Ingushetia's status as a free economic zone is "incomprehensible." He argued that the republic's economy was only just beginning to gather momentum and that the favored economic status granted in 1994 had provided for the construction of an airport, a flour mill, and gas and water mains. Agapov warned that both the economic and the social situations in Ingushetia are likely to deteriorate as a result of the Russian government's decision, the official reason for which was the loss of federal and regional budget revenues. Of Ingushetia's 350,000 population, more than 70,000 are refugees whose livelihood is now in jeopardy, he added.


The Abkhaz Security service issued a statement on 7 July claiming that Georgia is concentrating armed units and heavy weaponry in the Kodori Gorge in preparation for a new offensive, Interfax reported. Georgia has not commented on the allegations. In his weekly radio broadcast, President Eduard Shevardnadze said that Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii recently made "non-standard, interesting, and useful" proposals for resolving the conflict, according to Russian Public Television (ORT). Spokesmen for the ethnic Georgians who fled Abkhazia in 1992-3 believe, however, that Russia is motivated solely by the desire to prolong the presence of its peacekeeping forces on the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, "Kavkasioni" reported on 4 July. Talks on resolving the conflict are to resume when Shevardnadze returns from the NATO summit in Madrid.


Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov on 7 July proposed creating a Turkmen-Azerbaijani commission to delineate the dividing line between the two countries' sectors of the Caspian Sea, ITAR-TASS reported. Two days earlier, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry had protested the signing of an agreement between Azerbaijani and Russia oil companies on the joint development of the Kyapaz deposit, which Turkmenistan claims is located in its sector (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1997). Turkmen Deputy Foreign Minister Yolbas Kepbanov said on 7 July that Ashgabat may appeal to an international court over two other Caspian oil fields claimed by Azerbaijan and currently being developed by a major international consortium. Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Halan Halafov and Khoshbakht Yusif-Zade, the deputy chairman of the state oil company SOCAR, both told TURAN on 7 July that they have not received any official protest from Ashgabat.


Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 7 July requesting that an international conference of donor nations be held to assist in the rebuilding of Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS reported. The two Tajik leaders confirmed their commitment to the Peace and National Reconciliation Accord signed in Moscow on 27 June but said "UN assistance and support will be absolutely indispensable during the transition period." The letter emphasized the need for humanitarian aid to the Tajik people.


Vitalii Voronov, a former opposition parliamentary deputy, has claimed that since Nursultan Nazarbayev was elected as "president of the Kazak Republic of the USSR" in 1991 and since his term was extended in a 1995 referendum, he could be considered a first-time candidate for president of the Republic of Kazakstan in the scheduled 2001 presidential elections, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 8 July. Under such an interpretation, Nazarbayev could run for another two five-year terms in office. Meanwhile, the newspaper also reported that "mountain climbers" who scaled a 4,376 meter peak once known as "Komsomol Peak" have erected a placard renaming it "Nazarbayev Peak." Nazarbayev, who celebrated his 57th birthday on 6 July, was reported to have expressed surprise at hearing the news.


Authorities in Kazakstan are searching for the last containers stolen from the warehouse of the Ulbinsky steel plant's warehouse in Ust-Kamenogorsk, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 July. Thieves stole aluminum containers with Beryllium dioxide, which is used in synthesizing the rare earth metal beryllium. They dumped the contents near the plant and then sold the containers at the market in Ust-Kamenogorsk. The material is described as "highly toxic" and warnings have been issued to the local population not to use the containers for storing water or milk. Police have recovered 28 of the containers. According to ITAR-TASS, more than 100 kilograms of uranium fuel for nuclear power plants, radioactive thorium, indium, and thallium have been stolen from the Ulbinsky plant so far this year.


Leaders of the 16 NATO countries are taking part in a historic summit in Madrid on expanding into CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE. Opening the summit on 8 July, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana called the meeting a "defining moment" for the alliance, saying it will be remembered as the time when "North America and Europe came together to shape the course of a new century." The NATO leaders are scheduled to issue invitations to between three and five CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEan countries to join the alliance. The U.S. has backed first-wave inclusion of only Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has strongly backed the U.S. argument that NATO's eastward expansion should be limited to just three countries, RFE/RL correspondents in Madrid report. But France and Italy also want to invite Romania and Slovenia. French President Jacques Chirac, addressing fellow NATO leaders at the summit, said NATO could damage its cohesion by refusing to include Romania and Slovenia as new members in the first wave of expansion. NATO is also to sign an agreement on a special relationship with Ukraine at the summit.


Pavel Sheremet, Minsk bureau chief of Russia Public Television (ORT), was stripped of his general accreditation in Belarus on 7 July. He had already been stripped of his special events accreditation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1997). He is the second Russian correspondent to face sanctions for his coverage this year. In March, the government expelled a correspondent from the independent station NTV. Sheremet told journalists in Minsk that he was summoned to the Foreign Ministry and notified of the decision. He said that no official reasons were given but that one official told him his coverage was "distorted." Sheremet, who is Belarusian, accused President Alyaksandr Lukashenka of increasingly stifling press freedom in Belarus. He expressed pessimism about the present situation in Belarus and said he does not think he will be the last journalist to be denied accreditation.


Kenneth Yalowitz, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Belarus, has blamed a lack of democracy and market reforms for the small amount of U.S. investment in Belarus. Yalowitz, who is leaving Minsk at the end of a three-year tour, told reporters that investment depends upon Lukashenka's government restructuring its Soviet-style economy in accordance to the guidelines recommended by the IMF. Yalowitz said he is leaving Minsk with a feeling of concern that is shared by officials in Washington and Europe. The Interfax news agency quoted Lukashenka as telling Yalowitz that Belarus intends to improve its ties with Western nations. Lukashenka also admitted his government may have been "too tough" in its dealings with Europe and the U.S. Western governments have criticized Lukashenka for numerous human rights violations.


The Defense Ministry announced on 7 July that Ukraine has decided not to hold land exercises with NATO on the Crimean peninsula in August. A ministry spokesman told journalists that the military decided to move the exercises elsewhere because Crimea lacks the necessary infrastructure. A spokesman for the U.S. Sixth Fleet confirmed that the U.S. has agreed to the change. He said he was unaware of the reason for the switch. Pro-Russian groups in Crimea have recently been protesting against the plan to hold land exercises there. The U.S. Sixth Fleet and other NATO navies will still carry out sea maneuvers off the Crimean coast in an operation code-named "Sea Breeze."


Leonid Kuchma told journalists in Kyiv on 7 July that there will be problems with the ratification of the Ukrainian-Russian basic treaty in the Ukrainian parliament. Kuchma said there are many forces in the parliament that will be seeking to "score points" over the issue. He noted that the treaty between the two countries, signed by Kuchma and Russian President Boris Yeltsin at the end of May, would have been criticized both in Russia and Ukraine regardless of its contents. He argued the chief task regarding current bilateral relations is to "lift trade restrictions."


Estonia's Ambassador to NATO Juri Luik has said that Tallinn is not interested in signing a charter between the alliance and the Baltic States because "such a document would establish a special relationship with NATO and delay eventual membership," BNS reported on 7 July. Luik was responding to a suggestion by French President Jacques Chirac the previous day to step up NATO-Baltic cooperation and to sign a charter on ties if necessary. Luik stressed that Estonia's aim is to become a full member of NATO. He commented that while some NATO members regard the Baltics as "serious candidates," others regarded them as "three midgets on Russia's borders whom it would be difficult to take into the Western alliance."


Guntis Ulmanis, speaking on national radio on 7 July, said that the admission of just one Baltic State to the EU in the first wave of expansion would be a "big achievement" and the "first definite signal that [the Baltics] are finally leaving the Russian shore," BNS reported. Ulmanis admitted that Estonia's economic performance gave it "more hope for a speedier entry into the EU" but stressed he was confident that Latvian economic indicators would improve. He also reiterated the importance of informing Latvians about the EU. Both Estonia and Latvia have said they believe the entry of just one Baltic State into the EU would increase the chances of the other two for admission.


Algirdas Brazauskas was in Paris on 7 July to meet with his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, dpa reported. Chirac said France would like to see all three Baltic States admitted to the EU and NATO at the same time. He added that their simultaneous admission could take place "as soon as Russian objections had been overcome." He also urged the Baltic States to "do their utmost to largely align their economic performance." Brazauskas travels to Madrid on 8 July to attend the NATO summit and returns to Paris the following day to meet with Donald Johnson, head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.


Several days of heavy rain have caused widespread flooding in southern Poland, the eastern part of the Czech Republic, and northern Slovakia. Fourteen people are reported missing in Moravia and six in Poland. At least 10 people were seriously injured when an express train traveling from Vienna to Warsaw derailed in floodwaters near the Moravian city of Ostrava on 7 July. Virtually all rail traffic has come to a halt in Moravia, while several lines have been closed in the northern part of Slovakia. Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz is leading a delegation to observe developments in the worst affected provinces of Poland--including Katowice, Walbrzych, and Opole.


Vaclav Klaus on 7 July presented a report to the parliament on the work of his government since the June 1996 elections. Klaus admitted the government had made mistakes but denied that it lacked vision. He said the ultimate objective of his government was to transform the Czech Republic into a stable, democratic country. President Vaclav Havel has repeatedly criticized the government for improvising and not knowing what it wants to achieve. Opposition Social Democratic Party chairman Milos Zeman said in response to Klaus's report that the government will "leave in disgrace."


Peter Nemec, the newly appointed police chief in Slovakia, told journalists on 7 July that he has never been a member of the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and that he stopped any political activity after the 1989 overthrow of the communist regime. "I am not preparing any personnel changes and I shall not bring any of my former police colleagues from Central Slovakia to the Bratislava headquarters," Nemec said. Interior Minister Gustav Krajci told journalists that Jozef Holdos, who was replaced by Nemec, was not dismissed on political grounds. Krajci rejected media allegations that Holdos's removal was the HZDS's revenge on the Slovak National Party (SNS) , a junior government coalition member, which nominated Holdos. The SNS recently declined to support the HZDS in its effort to privatize Slovak Television's second channel by granting a license to TV Dovina, which is close to the HZDS.


Before leaving for Madrid to attend the NATO summit, Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs on 7 July appealed to the alliance to include Romania and Slovenia in the first wave of enlargement, Hungarian media reported. He said the move would ensure stability in southeastern Europe and would contribute to the improvement of bilateral relations. He added that setting up a time frame for a second wave would prevent a new division in Europe as a side effect of the enlargement.


Before leaving for the NATO summit in Madrid, Emil Constantinescu said his country is hoping that the "most favorable possible solution" to his country's bid for integration into the alliance will be reached. He added that admission to NATO was a "complex process" and this is why Romania wishes it to start "immediately," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Foreign Minister Adrian Severin, who is accompanying Constantinescu, reiterated Romania's determination to fight for admission in the first wave "up to the very end" of the summit. U.S. President Bill Clinton has said the two countries "could well be strong candidates for future admission" but noted that "other nations" might also qualify later.


Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek wrote in the "Wall Street Journal" on 8 July that his country deserves to be invited to join the alliance at the Madrid summit. Drnovsek noted among the would-be members, only his country never belonged to the Warsaw Pact and hence Slovenia's admission could not be regarded as offensive to Russia. He added that Slovenia could play a stabilizing role in the neighboring Balkans if it were part of NATO. Drnovsek also pointed out that Slovenia's military already cooperates with its Hungarian and Italian counterparts and that Slovenia could provide a land bridge between Italy and Hungary, which currently borders no NATO country. Italian President Luigi Scalfaro said in Ljubljana on 7 July that Slovenia should become both a member of NATO and an associate member of the EU.


Tritan Shehu said in Tirana on 7 July that he is quitting his post as chairman of the Democratic Party following its overwhelming defeat in two rounds of parliamentary elections. Latest unofficial figures for the 155-seat legislature give the Socialists at least 77 mandates and the Democrats only 15. The Socialists and their coalition partners will probably secure the two-thirds parliamentary majority necessary to change the constitution. In quitting his post, Shehu blamed what he called "armed Stalinists" for his party's poor showing. President Sali Berisha is likely to succeed Shehu on resigning the presidency, which Berisha has promised to do. Since Balkan political parties have traditionally been organized around charismatic individuals rather than around programs or ideologies, it is no surprise that Berisha will stay in charge of his party, despite its electoral losses.


Italian Chief of Staff Admiral Guido Venturoni, who heads the 7,000-strong multinational Operation Alba, said in Rome on 7 July that the foreign troops will begin to withdraw from Albania on 20 July and that the withdrawal will be complete 20 days later "if there are no complications." Italian forces make up about half of the 11-nation mission. Venturoni said that Operation Alba had "performed miracles" by getting Turkish and Greek forces to work together and by persuading the French to accept foreign command. He defended the policy of not disarming looters and gangs, saying that a more aggressive approach toward armed civilians would have touched off banditry and street fighting on a level worse than that in Somalia. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has written Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini to praise Italy's role in Operation Alba.


U.S. President Bill Clinton said in Madrid on 7 July that he does "not expect there to be a statement [at the NATO summit] explicitly dealing with the rules of engagement [for SFOR troops] in Bosnia." Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, however, said the U.S. will call on its allies to take "coordinated action" against the Bosnian Serb leaders opposed to the Dayton agreements, especially Radovan Karadzic. Albright added that she will urge her NATO colleagues to support the embattled President Biljana Plavsic as "the duly-elected leader of the Republika Srpska." Also in Madrid, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen refused to rule out the possibility of swift action to bring Karadzic and other indicted war criminals to justice.


Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, on 7 July criticized attempts by what he called "busy bodies from the international community" aimed at telling the Serbs how to run their affairs. Plavsic invited Krajisnik to meet with her in Banja Luka, adding that she fears for her safety in areas controlled by her opponents. She noted that she and Krajisnik have been "old allies from the start" of the Bosnian conflict. Meanwhile in Belgrade, opposition leader Vuk Draskovic pledged support for Plavsic. He threatened to call "democratic Serbia" out onto the streets if President Slobodan Milosevic intervenes in the Bosnian Serb feud on behalf of Plavsic's opponents.


The Serbian authorities quickly implemented their own plans on 7 July to welcome home the Yugoslav national basketball team, who have just won the European championships in Barcelona. The officials at the same time overruled opposition plans to organize celebrations for the team. The players returned on a government plane to Belgrade. State television covered the welcoming festivities, which attracted more than 100,000 people, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. Basketball is highly popular throughout the former Yugoslavia. The federal Yugoslav national team's victory after a war-time ban from international sport was widely reported as a major boost to national pride and self-confidence.


Croatian Development Minister Jure Radic announced in Zagreb on 7 July that the planned return of 80,000 Croatian refugees to eastern Slavonia has begun. The government wants to resettle as many people as possible in time for the start of the school year and sowing season in the fall. Some 40,000 Croats are expected to go home by the end of the year, starting with those whose former homes suffered little or no damage. The government has launched a special program to build 10,000 flats in Vukovar, which the Serbs leveled in the 1991 siege. As part of the overall resettlement project, some 2,100 Serbian families will leave eastern Slavonia for their old homes elsewhere in Croatia. An additional 2,400 Serbian families have opted to leave Croatia entirely.


By a vote of 65 to 50 with three abstentions, the Romanian Senate on 7 July ratified the treaty with Ukraine signed by the two country's presidents in early June, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Chamber of Deputies had approved the treaty on 26 June; the document must now be promulgated by the two countries' presidents. The three opposition parties voted against the approval. In other news, dozens were hurt in southern Romania when a passenger train left tracks that had buckled in the sun following a long heat wave.


As of 1 July, foreign investment in Romania totaled $2.57 billion, Mediafax reported, citing the Romanian Agency for Development. The largest investments benefited Daewoo Automobile Romania ($57.5 million), Daewoo Mangalia Heavy ($53 million), New Holland Romania ($50.1 million), Shell Romania ($47 million), Shell Petroleum NV ($44 million) and Coca Cola Bucharest ($32.8 million). Holland is the biggest investor in Romania ($294.5 million), followed by Germany ($238.2 million), Korea ($235 million), France ($225.1 million), Italy ($197.6 million) and the U.S. ($193.6 million).


Moldova's foreign trade in the first five months of 1997 amounted to $753.9 million, an official of the Foreign Economic Relations Department told BASA-press on 7 July. While this total is similar to the 1996 level, the trade balance has worsened. Exports dropped by 6.9 percent compared with 1997 to $294.2 million, and imports rose by 5.5 percent to $459.7 million. BASA-press also quotes an official of the Statistics Department as saying that inflation was 2 percent in June, up from 0.6 percent in May 1996. Since the beginning of 1997, annual inflation has stood at 8 percent.


Before leaving for NATO's Madrid summit on 7 July, Petar Stoyanov said previous governments had wasted years "dithering at Europe's gates," while other former communist countries knew how to choose "the right course" to integration with Western organizations, BTA reported. Stoyanov added that the "first obstacles" would not stop the country's new ruling authorities from seeking membership, emphasizing that "NATO's southern flank is not complete without Bulgaria." He said membership in NATO "for us means not only reforms in the army, but [also] democracy, a developed economy, a [high] living standard, free journalists, motivated young people, and, above all, that way of life that has been chosen on the eve of the 21st century."


The cabinet on 7 July approved a bill on opening the files of the former state security service, Reuters reported. The bill makes mandatory the opening of all files of members of the parliament, ministers, senior government officials, and high-ranking judges, who will be given one month to admit their past activities. Those who comply will not have their names read out in the parliament and will be left to decide themselves whether to resign. Deputy Premier Vesselin Metodiev said that people who were spied on by the state security will have access to their personal files but will not be allowed to give information about other people mentioned in them. One year after the law is enforced, the files will be transferred to the National Archives and be made available to the general public.

Council of Europe's Soft' Standards for East European Members

by Joel Blocker

Controversy has erupted in some Central and East European circles following the recent publication of an interview in an Alsatian newspaper ("Les dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace," 26 June 1997) with the Council of Europe's outgoing number-two man. Deputy Secretary-General Peter Leuprecht told the daily he was taking early retirement this month in protest at what he called a lowering of the Council's human-rights standards for its new Central and East European members. Leuprecht characterized those once rigid Council standards as "soft" for Eastern members.

Leuprecht is the first Council official to say in public what many in the Council of Europe Secretariat have said in private for years. The majority of Council officials clearly believe that, under pressure from West European member states like France and Germany, the 40-state organization has granted membership too fast and uncritically to many of the 16 former communist nations that have joined over the past seven years.

Leuprecht told the Alsatian newspaper that he has always considered the Council of Europe to be a "community of democratic values." But he argued that in recent years, Council officials' references to democracy and human rights have become a "ritual." The organization, he continued, enlarged too fast and paid the price in the dilution of its values. "Some admissions [to the Council] stick in my throat," he remarked.

Leuprecht mentioned only one such admission by name: Croatia, the newest Council member state, having joined some eight months ago. He described a recent meeting of the Council's Committee of Ministers (the body's chief policy- and decision-making organ) at which Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic argued at length that his country is a model democracy that fully respects human and minority rights. Leuprecht recounted: "None of the ministers present said a word. Not even one said, 'What do you take us for, idiots?' There was only a soft, soggy consensus."

But in a second interview, which he gave to Bosnia's independent TV-International station one day later, Leuprecht did name other Eastern European member states, notably Romania and Russia. He said that the Council began "to go soft" four years ago, when it admitted Romania, which, he said, was still far from meeting the organization's human-rights standards at that time. He was careful to add, however, that Romania has made significant democratic progress since it became a member. As for Russia, which was admitted in early 1996, Leuprecht dismissed that country's human-rights record as even further removed from Council standards.

Those standards were established nearly a half-century ago when, in 1949, the Council of Europe was created to promote democracy, the rule of law, and human rights across the continent. Until the collapse of European communism in 1989, the organization largely languished in Strasbourg without much clout. But soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Council--then with only 21 members, all from Western Europe--began to expand its membership to include CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEan countries. Eventually, it became the only multilateral body on the Continent with what it calls a "pan-European vocation."

Now that he has bared his soul in public, the Austrian-born Leuprecht has become the object of controversy--not so much in the Secretariat, which largely agrees with him, as in Central and East European member states. According to one Council official who requested anonymity, Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Severin--himself a long-time human-rights activist and former member of the Council's Parliamentary Assembly--telephoned Secretary-General Daniel Tarschys to complain about Leuprecht's candor. The official said Severin was worried that Romania's candidacy for both NATO and the EU might be affected by Leuprecht's remarks. Tarschys reportedly replied that Leuprecht was no longer a Council of Europe staff member and therefore could say whatever he liked to whomever he liked. According to some diplomats in Strasbourg, both Russian and Croatian officials have also made known to the Council their countries' displeasure over Leuprecht's remarks.

Neither Tarschys nor any other high Council official has yet commented publicly on the controversy. But within the Secretariat, there is reported to be real pleasure that Leuprecht has voiced many staffers' views. A high official of the Council's human-rights division told RFE/RL that the Council "was simply overwhelmed by human- and minority-rights violations in several Eastern member states." The official mentioned Slovakia and Ukraine as well as Russia and Croatia as among the regular violators of Council standards. As for Albania, the official added, "it's impossible to keep track of anarchy."

Now that Leuprecht has spoken out, the Council of Europe can expect a lot more criticism from outside observers. By letting the wind out of the Council's human-rights sails, he has paved the way for what will doubtless be a very public and heated debate.

The author is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who regularly reports on developments at the Council of Europe.