FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES LAND CODE...
The Federation Council on 3 July approved by 107 to zero a new land code prohibiting the purchase and sale of farmland, Russian news agencies reported. Ilya Yuzhanov, chairman of the State Committee on Land Resources and Land Tenure, said President Boris Yeltsin is certain to veto the code, which Yuzhanov called "reactionary" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 1997). At a cabinet meeting the same day, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin ordered Yuzhanov's committee to draft four presidential decrees and two government directives on land reform. The issue can be regulated by decrees and directives as long as no land code has been signed into law. Also on 3 July, the Council overrode by 135 to nine with four abstentions a presidential veto of a law on state regulation of the agro-industrial complex. The Duma overrode Yeltsin's veto of that law on 19 June.
...PASSES LAW ON PRIVATIZATION
The Federation Council on 3 June approved a law on privatization allowing the state to appropriate privatized property without compensating new owners if they failed to meet either investment commitments or social obligations to employees, ITAR-TASS reported. The law would also give the state a veto at shareholder meetings of "strategically important" privatized enterprises and require the government to submit its privatization plans for parliamentary approval (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 1997).
LAW RESTRICTING SOME RELIGIOUS GROUPS PASSED
The Federation Council on 4 July approved the controversial law "on freedom of conscience and religious associations" by 112 to 4 with one abstention, Russian news agencies reported. The law would limit the activities of foreign missionaries and grant unregistered "religious groups" fewer rights than accredited "all-Russian religious organizations," such as Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. Human rights activists protest that it would punish some minority groups and sects that were banned during the Soviet period (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 30 June 1997). However, Kaluga Oblast Governor Valerii Sudarenkov, who chairs the Federation Council's Committee on Science, Culture, Education, Health, and Ecology, argued the law is needed to "protect society from the massive expansion of pseudo-religious cults and organizations that through their proselytizing endanger individual rights and freedoms and the health of citizens."
LIST OF SITES FOR PRODUCTION-SHARING AGREEMENTS APPROVED
The Federation Council on 3 July approved a law authorizing five oil and gas fields, one gold mine, and one iron ore deposit for development under production-sharing agreements, Russian news agencies reported. Deputies approved the production-sharing list by 127 to 11 with 10 abstentions. Yeltsin is expected to sign the law, clearing the way for foreign companies to invest in the seven sites in exchange for a portion of the natural resources extracted in the future. Supporters of the law estimate that up to $16.5 billion may be invested in the approved sites over the next 20 years.
UPPER HOUSE TO APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT AGAINST PRESIDENTIAL VETOES
The Federation Council voted unanimously on 4 July to appeal to the Constitutional Court against Yeltsin's actions over the laws on trophy art and the government, Interfax reported. The trophy art law would prohibit the transfer to foreign countries of cultural valuables seized during World War II, and the law on the government would require the entire cabinet to step down if the prime minister resigned or was sacked. Yeltsin recently vetoed both laws for a second time, charging that the State Duma and Council had used unconstitutional voting procedures to obtain the two-thirds majority needed to override his earlier vetoes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 1997).
LAWS ON COOPERATION WITH IRAQ, LIBYA REJECTED
The Federation Council on 4 July rejected laws sponsored by Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia calling for increased cooperation with Iraq and Libya, Russian news agencies reported. One law would have resumed purchases from Iraq of oil and petroleum products and sales to Iraq of Russian equipment and spare parts. The other would have allowed Russian companies to sell any product other than weaponry to Libya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 16 June 1997). Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin praised the Council's decision, saying Russia must not violate international sanctions. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met with Iraqi National Council Chairman Saadoun Hammadi on 3 July and said the two countries are preparing to resume cooperation after sanctions against Iraq are lifted, Interfax reported. Hammadi was in Moscow following an invitation from the Federation Council.
SUPPLY SHIP DOCKS WITH "MIR"
The "Progress-35" cargo ship docked with the damaged "Mir" space station at 7:59 a.m. Central European time on 7 July, Russian media reported. "Progress-35" is carrying the necessary parts for the temporary repair of the station's "spektr" module as well as regular supplies. Repair work will not begin for 10 days or so to allow technicians on Earth to further study possible repair techniques in underwater simulation facilities.
BRITISH AID WORKERS ABDUCTED IN CHECHNYA
A British couple engaged in relief work in Chechnya were abducted in Grozny on 3 July, Russian agencies reported. Three days later, President Aslan Maskhadov ordered the creation of a special anti-kidnapping unit with "unlimited powers," according to AFP. Maskhadov has already warned that kidnappers who are brought to trial face a possible death penalty.
RUSSIA, AZERBAIJAN SIGN TREATY ON FRIENDSHIP, COOPERATION
Yeltsin and Heidar Aliyev on 3 July signed a treaty on friendship, cooperation, and security that provides for the promotion of international security systems and respect for the territorial integrity of both countries, Russian and Western agencies reported. Five intergovernmental agreements were also signed. Yeltsin subsequently told Interfax that he and Aliyev had "resolutely solved" all outstanding problems in bilateral relations but that some issues remain to be clarified. Aliyev said the next day that Moscow's refusal to extradite former President Ayaz Mutalibov is "inconsistent with the close and friendly ties that bind our countries," according to Interfax. Aliyev had met on 3 July with Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev but failed to reach agreement on Russia's continued use of the Gabala early-warning radar station in northern Azerbaijan.
YELTSIN CALLS FOR CONFERENCE ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH...
Following his talks with Aliev, Yeltsin said he has reached agreement with his U.S. and French counterparts, Bill Clinton and Jacques Chirac, to convene a meeting with the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan on ending the Karabakh conflict, Interfax and Reuters reported. Yeltsin said he instructed Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov to pay greater attention to the issue. Armenian presidential adviser Zhirair Liparitian told Interfax on 4 July that he welcomes Yeltsin's proposal for a conference of the five presidents plus representatives from Nagorno-Karabakh. Two days earlier, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparyan had called on the U.S., France and Russia as co-chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group to press for direct talks between Baku and the Nagorno-Karabakh leadership, Noyan Tapan reported.
...AND TRILATERAL COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE ARMS SUPPLIES
Yeltsin also proposed to Aliyev that a commission of Russian, Azerbaijani, and Armenian deputy prime ministers be set up to investigate the allegations of illegal Russian arms supplies to Armenia, Turan and Interfax reported. Aliyev denied that Azerbaijan had received any weaponry from Russia. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said after his talks with Aliyev on 4 July that Russia will not send any more arms to either Azerbaijan or Armenia until the Karabakh conflict is resolved.
AGREEMENT ON EARLY OIL "IMMINENT"
Aliyev also discussed the export via Chechnya of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil during his talks with Yeltsin, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, and Russian Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin, Russian agencies reported. Nemtsov told journalists on 4 July that a corresponding agreement will shortly be signed by the presidents of the Russian pipeline company Transneft, the Chechen state oil company Yunko, and the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR.
CHERNOMYRDIN IN GERMANY
During a two-day visit to Berlin, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin suggested to German officials that Russian and Germany could have joint jurisdiction over some disputed trophy art transported to the USSR during World War II, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 July. Chernomyrdin said he wanted to settle the restitution problem in a "civilized fashion," and he criticized the trophy art law recently passed by the Russian parliament. In meetings with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and German President Roman Herzog, Chernomyrdin also called for more German investment in Russia and repeated Moscow's opposition to NATO expansion. Addressing a symposium in Berlin on 4 July, Kohl commented that the "German-Russian relationship is better than ever before in history," AFP reported.
CHAIRMAN OUTLINES PLANS FOR ELECTRICITY GIANT
Boris Brevnov, the chairman of the board of Unified Energy Systems (EES) and an ally of First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov, addressed a cabinet meeting on 3 July, Russian news agencies reported. Brevnov asked the government to shorten the list of consumers that can buy electricity at discount rates as well as the list of organizations and enterprises to which power cannot be cut. Brevnov also said EES plans to raise $1.25 billion this year by issuing convertible bonds and seeks to reduce the government stake in the company from 52.3 percent to 50 percent plus one share, Interfax reported. The Duma recently passed a law that would require the government to retain a 51 percent stake in EES (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 1997). According to Interfax, EES holds controlling stakes in 72 regional utilities, which produce about 75 percent of total Russian electricity.
"IZVESTIYA" EDITOR SACKED
The board of directors of "Izvestiya" voted on 4 July to sack editor-in-chief Igor Golembiovskii. "Kommersant-Daily" suggested that the board was displeased with recent articles on the activities of Stolichnyi and Menatep banks, for which Golembiovskii assumed personal responsibility (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 July 1997). The board also approved a process for selecting Golembiovskii's successor that is expected to reduce the influence of the paper's journalists. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" on 5 July published a letter from First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais refuting allegations published in the newspaper on 1 July. Chubais said he would have expected to see such accusations published in the opposition paper "Sovetskaya Rossiya." He noted that he had personally helped "Izvestiya" fend off attempts by the opposition-dominated Supreme Soviet to take over the paper in 1992.
PROGRESS IN GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS
Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii returned to Moscow on 3 July following three days of shuttle diplomacy between Tbilisi and Sukhumi, Russian and Western agencies reported. Both Berezovskii and Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba said they were satisfied with the ongoing talks. Berezovskii told journalists on 3 July that agreement has been reached on a mechanism, but not a specific timetable, for the repatriation of ethnic Georgians who fled Abkhazia in 1992-3. Neither he nor Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze divulged any details, however. Interfax on 4 July quoted an unidentified source in Moscow as claiming that talks in Moscow last month between Russian, Abkhaz, and Georgian representatives resulted in almost complete agreement on a protocol on resolving the conflict. Berezovskii said the signing of that document "will not be delayed."
GEORGIAN SECURITY MINISTER RESIGNS
Shevardnadze on 5 July accepted the resignation of Security Minister Shota Kviraya, Russian and Western agencies reported. Opposition parliamentary deputies have accused Kviraya of black-marketeering, telephone-tapping, and shooting six men suspected of looting. Kviraya has rejected the accusation as "lies and insults." The following day, Shevardnadze named Deputy Security Minister Maj.-Gen. Guram Gakhokidze as acting security minister.
TURKMENISTAN PROTESTS CREATION OF NEW CASPIAN CONSORTIUM
The Russian oil companies LUKoil and Rosneft will have 30 percent and 20 percent holdings, respectively, in a consortium to explore and develop the Kyapaz oil field, 145 km east of Baku on the border between the Azerbaijani and Turkmen sectors of the Caspian Sea, Turan reported on 4 July. The Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR will have the remaining 50 percent. The presidents of the three companies signed a corresponding agreement in Moscow on 4 July after talks between Aliyev and Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov. The following day, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry issued a statement disputing Azerbaijan's ownership of the deposit and demanding the immediate annulment of the agreement, Interfax reported.
AFGHAN REFUGEES RETURN FROM TURKMENISTAN
Most of the 8,000 Afghan refugees who fled to Turkmenistan at the end of June and early July have returned to their villages in northern Afghanistan, according to Interfax and Reuters. Fighting between forces of the Taliban militia and Anti-Taliban coalition led by Gen. Abdul Malik has virtually ceased, allowing the refugees to return home. Conditions in the refugee camp in Turkmenistan were poor; 14 are reported to have died there and five are too ill to return. More than100 young men who do not wish to go back are currently being interviewed by the UNHCR's protection officer.
JAPANESE DELEGATION VISITS KAZAKSTAN
A Japanese delegation led by Keizo Obuchi, the head of the Economic Cooperation Committee of Japan's ruling Liberal-Democratic Party, pledged on 4 July to assist Kazakstan in its efforts to join the Asian-Pacific Cooperation Organization. Obuchi said Tokyo wants to participate in pipeline projects that will bring oil and gas from Kazakstan to China. He told journalists there are no obstacles to developing relations between Japan and Kazakstan and that Japan plans to increase investment in Kazakstan. Japan's Eximbank will finance 15 projects in Kazakstan and has increased the funds to finance those ventures to $6 billion, he added. Meanwhile, the IMF has announced that, based on Kazakstan's progress toward reforms in 1996, it will allocate some $1.35 billion instead of $200 million.
DEMONSTRATION IN BISHKEK
Some 400 people took part in a demonstration outside the government building on 7 July to protest the arrest two days earlier of Nurlan Alymkulov, leader of the Yntymak movement, for planning a public rally, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. Yntymak represents the young, unemployed, and homeless people of the Kyrgyz capital. The police asked the demonstrators to disband, telling them that Alymkulov has requested they do not hold any demonstration. When police attempted to take into custody Tursunbek Akunov, the chairman of Kyrgyzstan's Human Rights Movement, several women intervened to prevent them from doing so. The police then began using force to disperse the crowd. One woman has been hospitalized. This is the fourth demonstration in Bishkek in just over a month.
BELARUS CELEBRATES INDEPENDENCE DAY
At the start of official celebrations of Belarusian Independence Day, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in a 3 July televised address that Minsk will not allow the international community to exert pressure on the country. Lukashenka, who opposes NATO's planned eastward expansion, said he advocates "a new global security system." Belarus had previously celebrated Independence Day on 27 July, which marks the day in 1991 on which Belarus broke from the former Soviet Union. The new date coincides with Belarus's liberation from the Nazis. Opposition groups, meanwhile, plan to celebrate Independence Day on 27 July. The date was switched after a controversial referendum last November that broadened the powers of Lukashenka.
U.S. ORGANIZATION PROTESTS RUSSIAN REPORTER'S TREATMENT IN BELARUS
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has sent a letter to Belarusian President Lukashenka protesting official harassment of Russian television journalist Pavel Sheremet. The letter was made available to RFE/RL on 4 July. The group said that Sheremet, who is the Minsk bureau chief of Russian Public Television (ORT), has abeen stripped of special events accreditation and threatened with the loss of his general accreditation. It added that the action was in retaliation for Sheremet's 28 June broadcast in which he characterized the planned Independence Day celebration in Belarus as "President Lukashenka's idea." The committee said Sheremet was informed he had insulted the president and the nation of Belarus. It urged Lukashenka to cease harassing Sheremet. and pointed out that removal of credentials for such reasons violates international standards guaranteeing the right of the news media to freely gather and disseminate information.
UKRAINE, MOLDOVA, ROMANIA SIGN CRIME-FIGHTING AGREEMENTS
Presidents Leonid Kuchma (Ukraine), Petru Lucinschi (Moldova), and Emil Constantinescu (Romania) met in the Ukrainian border town of Izmail on 3 July, Interfax reported. They signed an agreement on cooperation against crime, weapons, and drug smuggling as well as a document setting up a free economic zone in the border area between the three countries, in the basin of the Danube River. A customs union agreement is expected to be concluded in September as the first concrete step toward establishing a free economic zone. The presidents told reporters after the meeting that the documents they signed will create favorable conditions for the three countries' integration into European institutions.
MULTINATIONAL MILITARY EXERCISE IN UKRAINE
A multinational military exercise codenamed "Cooperative Neighbor-97" began in Ukraine's western Lviv region on 5 July. The maneuver is taking place within the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Interfax reported that some 1,200 servicemen from Ukraine, the U.S., Greece, the Czech Republic, Moldova, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, and Georgia are participating. Italy, Bulgaria, Germany, and the Netherlands have sent observers. At a ceremony at the start of the exercises, Ukrainian Defense Minister Olexander Kuzmuk stressed the importance of Ukraine's participation in the Partnership for Peace program. At the NATO summit in Madrid on 8-9 July, Ukraine will sign a special partnership charter with the alliance. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen is expected to attend the closing of the exercise on 14 July.
LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CRITICIZES GERMANY'S STANCE ON EU ENLARGEMENT
Valdis Birkavs has criticized a statement by his German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel, saying that EU accession negotiations should start with the "most advanced" candidates, BNS reported on 4 July. Kinkel made the comment during the recent meeting of foreign ministers of the Baltic Sea States in Riga (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 1997). Speaking on Latvian Television, Birkavs said he "negatively" evaluates Kinkel's comment. He noted that the European Commission will publish reports in mid-July highlighting the issues that candidate states have to deal with. "Each state should be given time to tackle those problems," the foreign minister urged.
LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT SETS DATE OF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
The parliament has announced that presidential elections will be held on 21 December, BNS reported on 3 July. Under the constitution, elections for the presidency are to take place two months before the current term expires. In a poll conducted by the Lithuanian-British company Baltic Surveys in mid-June and published in "Respublika" on 4 July, Valdas Adamkus, a U.S. citizen of Lithuanian origin, won 32.7 percent of the vote, up 5.6 percentage points over May, and incumbent President Algirdas Brazauskas 23.6 percent (down 0.1 percentage point). It is unclear whether Adamkus will be able to run owing to legal hurdles, while Brazauskas has not yet announced if he will seek a second term. Meanwhile, Rimantas Smetona, the founder of the Lithuanian Euroskeptics movement and chairman of the Nationalist Democratic Movement For Independent Lithuania, has announced he will run for the presidency.
POLISH PRESIDENT SIGNS BAN ON DEATH PENALTY
Aleksander Kwasniewski has signed into law a new criminal code abolishing the death penalty, PAP reported on 3 July. He signed the bill, despite widespread calls last month to restore capital punishment after several murder cases in the country. The last execution in Poland was carried out in 1988. The death penalty was suspended shortly before the fall of communism in 1989 and was scrapped in the new criminal code approved by the parliament in June. The new code carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in jail and is to take effect on 1 January.
POLISH RESPONSE TO RUSSIA'S SUGGESTIONS ON OSCE
Polish President Kwasniewski, speaking at the opening of the annual session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Warsaw on 5 July, rejected suggestions by Russia that the role of OSCE would be weakened by NATO's planned enlargement, Reuters reported. Kwasniewski stressed the OSCE's unique importance but said his countrymen favor joining NATO. The Russian delegation, led by Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev, reiterated Moscow's opposition to NATO expansion. The Russians say they will propose amendments to a document on European security in the 21st century, which was endorsed by the OSCE's Lisbon summit in December.
BLOCKADE OF CZECH NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
Some 500 young people from the Czech Republic and elsewhere started a blockade of the Czech nuclear power plant in Temelin on 6 July, Czech Television reported. The demonstrators were responding to a call by the Citizens against Temelin association, which says the plant is expensive, unnecessary, and dangerous. Jakub Patocka from the Duha [Rainbow] environmental movement said participants in the blockade, which is to last several days, are exercising their right to life without nuclear energy. Demonstrators were able to enter the Temelin construction site without encountering resistance from guards. They later told journalists this meant the plant was poorly protected. The management of the plant later requested police to protect the plant.
SLOVAK ROUND-TABLE TALKS COLLAPSE
Talks on 4 July between Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and all but one of the Slovak opposition parties collapsed, RFE/RL's Bratislava correspondent reported. The participants failed to reach agreement on taking steps toward democratization or fulfilling EU and NATO conditions. One of Meciar's chief opponents, Democratic Party leader Jan Langos, was not invited to participate. The premier said after the meeting that he wants to continue with formal talks. But the opposition is strongly against further discussions because of the lack of results in the 4 July meeting. Meanwhile, the ruling coalition parties in the parliament refused on 4 July to appove any changes recently suggested by the EU as a condition for Slovakia to be included in the first round of union enlargement talks.
HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTY CALLS FOR CAMPAIGN AGAINST SLOVAKIA
Democratic Forum chairman Sandor Lezsak has called on the government to appeal to the OSCE and the EU to deal with the grievances of ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia, Hungarian media reported on 7 July. He said failure to do so would be to abandon the interests of ethnic Hungarians. He also called upon European Democratic Union leader Alois Mock to take steps to resolve the matter, and he criticized the governing parties for having concluded an "unacceptable" basic treaty with Slovakia in 1995.
FACTION LEADER EXPELLED FROM HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTY
The disciplinary and ethics committee of the Christian Democratic People's Party (KDNP) has expelled parliamentary faction leader Tamas Isepy for publicly questioning the legitimacy of the party's recent leadership elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 1997), Hungarian media reported on 5 July. Despite his expulsion, Isepy remains the party's faction leader. He said he would not leave the parliamentary group unless he loses a confidence vote by the group. KDNP parliamentary and local government deputies on 6 July set up the "Barankovics Platform" (named after a Christian Democratic leader of the 1940s), whose objective is to reintroduce what they call "genuine" Christian Democratic values into the party. They unanimously objected to Isepy's expulsion.
ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS HOPE FOR TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY IN RUN-OFF ELECTIONS
Socialist Party spokesmen said in Tirana that their party hopes to gain a two-thirds majority in the parliament after the run-off elections in 34 districts on 6 July. That majority would allow them to change the constitution. The Socialist and Social Democratic coalition took more than 80 of the legislature's 155 seats on 29 June. Socialist leader Fatos Nano said in Tirana on 6 July that he will be the next prime minister. Current Prime Minister Bashkim Fino may hold another senior position in the new cabinet, Nano added. According to ATA, Democratic Alliance leader Neritan Ceka defeated a Socialist candidate in Elbasan. Meanwhile near Shkoder, a gunman killed two members of a polling station commission and injured two more. In Mat, north of Tirana, one person was killed in another incident at a polling station.
CONFLICT BETWEEN ALBANIAN MONARCHISTS, GOVERNMENT SHARPENS
Ongoing tensions peaked on 3 July when Leka Zogu, the claimant to the throne, held a protest rally in Tirana. He charged the Socialists, in particular, with what he called the theft of the monarchists' victory in the 29 June referendum. The demonstration included a large number of armed people who attempted to march on the Central Election Commission, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. Leka himself wore fatigues and carried two guns and some hand-grenades, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Police stopped the demonstration, but a shoot-out developed in which one monarchist was killed and two other persons injured. Leka's policy adviser Abedin Mulosmani charged that the police used "communist methods" and compared the incident to the shooting of protesters by communist police in 1991, "Bota Sot" reported on 5 July.
REPUBLIKA SRPSKA PRESIDENT REFUSES TO MEET WITH RIVALS
Biljana Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 6 July that she fears for her safety and will not meet with Momcilo Krajisnik, the leading backer in the Bosnian Serb leadership of Radovan Karadzic. On 3 July, she dissolved the parliament and called early elections for 1 September. Karadzic's supporters, who have a narrow majority in the legislature, nonetheless began meeting near Pale on 4 July. They passed a series of measures aimed at weakening the president's powers and at facilitating her removal from office. The next day, Plavsic told several thousand supporters in Banja Luka that she should have informed them much earlier of the truth about crime and corruption in the Bosnian Serb leadership, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the area.
WILL NATO MOVE AGAINST KARADZIC?
U.S. special forces are preparing to arrest former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and take him to The Hague to be tried for war crimes, London's "Daily Telegraph" and the "Frankfurter Rundschau" reported on 7 July. President Bill Clinton has reportedly decided that Karadzic must be removed from the scene if peace in Bosnia is to have a chance. Clinton intends to discuss the question of Bosnian war criminals at the Madrid NATO summit on 8-9 July, the two dailies add. U.S. diplomats have been shuttling between Madrid, Belgrade, Banja Luka, and Pale in recent days, and German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel raised the issue of Karadzic with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade on 6 June. Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Washington that "it is terribly important...to apprehend these war criminals and bring them to justice."
FORMER HERZEGOVINIAN CROAT LEADER DIES
Mate Boban (55), the former head of the Herzegovinian-based Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna, died on 7 July in Mostar. He had suffered a brain hemorrhage three days earlier, and doctors said at the time that his condition was too serious to attempt to move him to a better hospital in Zagreb, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Mostar. In the Croatian capital, Roman Catholic Church spokesmen announced on 6 July that Pope John Paul II has appointed Bishop Josip Bozanic of Krk to succeed the retiring Cardinal Franjo Kuharic as archbishop of Zagreb. And the Croatian Peasants' Party voted to expel Zagreb city councilors Damir Bukovic and Josip Sporer, who had made their own deal with the governing Croatian Democratic Community to vote with that party in the council.
NEWS FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA
In Pristina, the Council for the Defense of Human Rights in Kosovo said on 4 July that Ali Qallopeku, an ethnic Albanian member of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, was killed near Glogovac. Nobody claimed responsibility for the murder, but the shadowy Kosovo Liberation Army has recently targeted ethnic Albanians whom it regards as collaborators with the Serbian regime. Meanwhile in Ljubljana, leaders of the parties represented in the parliament agreed on 4 July to cooperate to change the constitution by 15 July to enable Slovenia to meet EU requirements for associate member status. Many observers suggest, however, that Janez Jansa, the leader of the conservative Social Democrats, may nonetheless try to bring down the government and force new elections over the issue, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote. The proposed constitutional changes, which would enable foreigners to buy property, are unpopular among the public.
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT INVITED TO ADDRESS POST-SUMMIT NATO GATHERING
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana has invited Emil Constantinescu to attend a meeting of the Council of Euro-Atlantic Partnership in Madrid on 9-10 July. The council was set up on 30 May at the meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Sintra, Portugal, and includes NATO's 16 members and the countries participating in the Partnership for Peace program. The Romanian Presidential Office reported on 6 July that Constantinescu will address a "working session" of the council that will discuss "Effective Cooperation for Security in the Euro-Atlantic Zone: Risks, Provocations, Opportunities." The office quoted Solana as saying the first meeting of the new body marks a "historic moment" launching "a new and comprehensive European security structure based on cooperation."
ROMANIAN POLITICAL UPDATE
Under a compromise reached on 5 July, the Democratic Party agreed to the removal of Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Gilda Lazar, who had criticized Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea's visit to the U.S. In exchange, the executive rebuffed Valerian Stan, the head of the Government Control department, by placing the department under the direct supervision of the premier. Stan is a member of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD). The government said Stan's allegations that Democratic Party leaders were involved in the illegal acquisition of apartments had "mislead public opinion." One day earlier, Democratic Party chairman Petre Roman said there was a "breach of trust" between his party and the PNTCD, following a statement by PNTCD leader Ion Diaconescu mentioning the possibility of early elections and forming a government without the Democrats.
LABOR PROTEST IN MOLDOVA
Several thousand workers and pensioners continue to protest in Chisinau against the 60% hike in electricity prices introduced in March and against wage arrears. The demonstration, which began on 3 July, is organized by the Moldovan Trade Union Federation. whose leader, Ion Godonoga, met on 4 July with members of the cabinet. BASA-press reported that although an agreement was in sight on wage arrears, the government refuses to revoke its decision to raise electricity prices. Finance Minister Valeriu Chitan said the government cannot meet protesters' demand to increase wages because GDP declined by 6 percent in 1996.
MOLDOVAN PARTY EXPELS TWO DEPUTIES
The Socialist Unity-Edinstvo faction in the parliament on 3 July expelled Vladimir Slonari and Dimitrii Uzun and asked parliamentary chairman Dumitru Motpan to remove Slonari from the chairmanship of the Commission for Human Rights and Ethnic Relations, Infotag and BASA-press reported. The decision comes after Slonari voted in favor of the government-proposed draft law providing for the sale of land. Slonari, who recently set up a new political party called the Civic Party of Moldova, said the decision illustrates the growing "trend toward the Left, toward political radicalism and against reform" that is under way in the Socialist Unity-Edinstvo party.
BULGARIA LIFTS RESTRICTIONS ON CURRENCY TRADE
The government has lifted most restrictions on buying and selling foreign currency, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported on 3 July. Citizens and state-owned companies no longer need special permission from the National Bank to buy hard currency, but Finance Minister Muravei Radev said some restrictions on the amount of hard currency allowed to be taken abroad will remain in force until the parliament passes a new law regulating currency trade in general. In other news, the German publisher Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) acquired on 4 July 100 percent of Bulgaria's biggest press group, the 168 Chasa Press, which publishes the popular "24 Chasa" daily. In September 1996, the WAZ acquired 70 percent of the Bulgarian group's shares. The WAZ also owns a 70 percent of Media Holding, which publishes the country's second-largest daily, "Trud."
BULGARIAN HOLY SYNOD RE-ESTABLISHES INDEPENDENCE FROM STATE
The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church on 3 July formally re-established its independence from the state, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. The synod met for the first time in 44 years and was headed by Patriarch Maxim, whose foes criticize him for cooperating with the Communists. It decided to meet every four years and annulled the regulation imposed by the Communists whereby the patriarch had to be approved by the government. Maxim's opponents, headed by Metropolitan Pymen, boycotted the meeting. In 1996, Pymen declared himself patriarch and set up his own Holy Synod. He was subsequently excommunicated and anathematized by Maxim.
WHY ONLY THREE COUNTRIES WILL LIKELY BE INCLUDED IN FIRST WAVE OF NATO ENLARGEMENT
by Michael Mihalka
NATO will likely invite only three countries--the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland--to join the alliance at the Madrid summit on 8-9 July. Several NATO members wanted to extend an invitation to Slovenia and Romania, but the United States has made it clear that it would like the first wave of NATO enlargement to be small. The U.S. government's decision says a great deal about the current dynamics of European security.
First, by restricting the first wave to the three Central European countries, the U.S. has removed the Baltic States' candidacy from the security agenda for the time being. Both Washington and Bonn wish to avoid needlessly antagonizing Moscow, which strongly objects to NATO enlarging to include countries from the former Soviet Union. Russia acquiesced to the first wave of enlargement by signing the Russia-NATO Founding Act, which states that NATO has neither plans nor reasons to deploy nuclear weapons or foreign troops on the territory of the new members. Russia has interpreted this to also mean that NATO will not build any new infrastructure there either.
Second, the U.S. government is particularly concerned about how the debate on enlargement will unfold in the Senate. To date, the NATO enlargement process has failed to prompt a public debate in the U.S. This is surprising, since enlargement will entail not only clear obligations but also costs that have not yet been determined.
Third, many feel that Romanian democracy and economic reform, despite having made significant progress in the last year, need more time to take root before that country can be considered for NATO membership. The government of Vladimir Meciar in Slovakia has come under fire from both the EU and U.S. for its anti-democratic tendencies. And in Sofia, it is only recently that a center-right government in favor of NATO membership has been reinstalled to replace the Socialists, who had shown greater interest in siding with Moscow.
Fourth, while few observers dispute Slovenia's democratic credentials and its economic successes (despite lagging behind other countries in the region with regard to privatization), some point out that, with its population of some 2 million, it is unlikely to make much of a military contribution to the alliance. That argument has also been made against the candidacy of the Baltic States, whose prospects for NATO entry would be undercut by Slovenia's inclusion.
Fifth, the admission of Romania and Slovenia would cause a shift in the strategic focus of the alliance to southeastern Europe. This is one of the reasons that countries like Italy, Turkey, and Greece have been supporting Bucharest and Ljubljana. However, the implications of such a shift have not yet been thought through. And in the meantime, NATO's continued participation in Bosnia following the expiry of SFOR's mandate remains in doubt.
Sixth, the Madrid summit will cover a number of topics that will command the attention of the alliance. These include the enlargement of NATO's integrated military structure to include Spain and possibly France.
Finally, the alliance will also embark on an enhanced Partnership for Peace program to promote integration with those countries that are not be invited to join in the first wave. Planning cells will be set up in NATO headquarters in which the military from partnership countries will be invited to participate. The North Atlantic Cooperation Council has already been transformed into the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, which has increased responsibilities.
Thus, enlargement of the alliance to include the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland will take place at a time of considerable change within the alliance. Those three countries have sound democratic and economic credentials, and their accession to NATO will not significantly alter the alliance's strategic focus.
The author teaches at the George C. Marshall Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.