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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 46, 00-03-06

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

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

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 4, No. 46, 6 March 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY ISSUES ULTIMATUM TO PRESIDENT...
  • [02] ...WHILE ONE OF PROPOSED VICTIMS REJECTS THAT DEMAND
  • [03] ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY INSTITUTE RENAMED AFTER SLAIN
  • [04] TALKS ON TRANS-CASPIAN GAS PIPELINE CONTINUE IN BAKU...
  • [05] ...AS AZERBAIJAN SEEKS ALTERNATIVE EXPORT POSSIBILITIES
  • [06] ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS AZERBAIJAN
  • [07] RUSSIA DEMANDS CLOSURE OF CHECHEN REPRESENTATION IN
  • [08] ...PROTESTS GERMAN DIPLOMATS' FILMING OF RUSSIAN BASE
  • [09] POLL INDICATES LOW LEVEL OF TRUST IN GEORGIAN POLITICIANS
  • [10] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION DISCUSSES LEGAL ACTION AGAINST STATE
  • [11] ...AS KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER EXCLUDED FROM RUNOFF POLL
  • [12] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER ANNOUNCES PRESIDENTIAL
  • [13] TAJIK, KAZAKH PRESIDENTS CONCERNED ABOUT AFGHAN ESCLATION
  • [14] TURKMEN PRESIDENT OUTLINES CLEMENCY PROPOSAL FOR DISMISSED

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [15] NATO FORCES ARREST BOSNIAN SERB ACCUSED OF WAR CRIMES
  • [16] BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT MEMBERS EXPELLED FROM PARTY
  • [17] CROATIAN OFFICIALS CRITICIZE BLASKIC JAIL SENTENCE...
  • [18] ...WHILE U.S. APPROVES
  • [19] CALM REPORTED IN MITROVICA AFTER ETHNIC ALBANIANS RETURN
  • [20] SUSPECTED MURDERER OF RUSSIAN KFOR SOLDIER ESCAPES DETENTION
  • [21] THOUSANDS MARK ANNIVERSARY OF SLAIN UCK COMMANDER
  • [22] FIGHTING BETWEEN ETHNIC ALBANIANS AND SERBS OUTSIDE OF
  • [23] SERB OPPOSITION AGREES ON ANTI-MILOSEVIC PROGRAM
  • [24] BELGRADE READY TO RESUME RELATIONS WITH BOSNIA--
  • [25] SERBIAN POLICE TIGHTEN BLOCKAGE AGAINST MONTENEGRO
  • [26] CHIRAC PRAISES MACEDONIA
  • [27] ROMANIAN COALITION RIFT DEEPENS...
  • [28] ...AS LIBERAL LEADER ACCUSED OF BACKING BABIUC
  • [29] OSCE MISSION ENDS VISIT TO MOLDOVA
  • [30] BALKAN FOREIGN MINISTERS CALL FOR 'SAFER KOSOVA'
  • [31] BULGARIAN QUEEN MOTHER BURIED IN ITALY

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [32] BALTICS PREPARE FOR EU MEMBERSHIP

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY ISSUES ULTIMATUM TO PRESIDENT...

    In a statement adopted on 3 March in the presence of Prime

    Minister Aram Sargsian, the Miasnutiun parliament bloc

    demanded that President Robert Kocharian fire his chief of

    staff, Serzh Sarkisian, and Armenian National Television

    Director Tigran Naghdalian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported.

    The statement accused the two men, who are among Kocharian's

    closest political allies, of misrepresenting and obstructing

    the ongoing investigation into the "attempted coup d'etat,"

    by which it meant the 27 October parliament shootings. On 2

    March, lawyers for presidential aide Aleksan Harutiunian and

    Naghdalian's deputy, Harutiun Harutiunian, both of whom are

    charged with complicity in the shootings, had criticized the

    conduct of the investigation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March

    2000). The statement calls on the president to "create normal

    conditions" for the activities of the state body responsible

    for conducting that investigation. Sargsian, whose brother

    and predecessor as premier, Vazgen, died in the attack, said

    that both he and the family of a second victim, parliamentary

    speaker Karen Demirchian, have absolute trust in the

    investigators. LF

    [02] ...WHILE ONE OF PROPOSED VICTIMS REJECTS THAT DEMAND

    Naghdalian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 4 March that he

    will not resign, saying that the demand that he be fired

    constitutes a threat to freedom of speech in Armenia. He said

    it is "absurd" to victimize him for National Television's

    coverage of the two lawyers' 2 March criticisms, which were

    widely reported by other media. Naghdalian denied that

    Presidential Chief of Staff Sarkisian controls or dictates

    media coverage of the investigation into the parliament

    shootings. He added that the president is not empowered to

    order his dismissal. Only the board of directors of National

    Television is empowered to appoint or dismiss its director.

    LF

    [03] ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY INSTITUTE RENAMED AFTER SLAIN

    PREMIER

    The Defense Ministry's Military Institute has been

    renamed after Vazgen Sargsian, who served as defense minister

    before being named premier last year, ITAR-TASS reported on 5

    March. President Kocharian and military leaders laid wreaths

    at Sargsian's tomb on 5 March, which would have been his 41st

    birthday. LF

    [04] TALKS ON TRANS-CASPIAN GAS PIPELINE CONTINUE IN BAKU...

    Edward Smith, president of the PSG corporation, told

    Azerbaijani officials in Baku on 3 March that since Turkmen

    President Saparmurat Niyazov signed an agreement with Turkey

    last year to export 16 billion cubic meters of gas annually

    via the planned Trans-Caspian pipeline, Niyazov could permit

    Azerbaijan an export quota of only 5 billion cubic meters,

    Turan reported. Azerbaijan is demanding 50 percent of the

    pipeline's throughput capacity. Smith, whose corporation is

    to operate the planned Trans-Caspian gas export pipeline,

    said talks are continuing on a transit treaty to be signed by

    Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan and four

    separate agreements between PSG and those four countries. On

    4 March, Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Abid Sharifov said

    that Baku will present new proposals to Ashgabat within one

    week, Caucasus Press reported. Sharifov said that PSG is

    seeking permission to manage the entire Azerbaijan gas

    pipeline system but that Baku will not agree to that demand.

    LF

    [05] ...AS AZERBAIJAN SEEKS ALTERNATIVE EXPORT POSSIBILITIES

    Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev and top managers from the

    Azerbaijan International Operating Company and from BP/Amoco

    attended a presentation in Baku on 4 March at which

    Azerbaijan sought to interest investors in the reconstruction

    and extension through Georgia of an existing pipeline to

    export to Turkey natural gas from the Shah Deniz field, A

    similar presentation was held in Ankara one week earlier.

    Commenting on 3 March on BP's interest in that project, PSG

    President Smith said on 3 March that construction of one

    large pipeline rather than two smaller ones would lower

    construction costs, according to Interfax. LF

    [06] ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS AZERBAIJAN

    Toomas Hendrik

    Ilves and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Vilayat Guliev, signed

    an inter-governmental agreement on trade and economic

    cooperation in Baku on 2 March, ITAR-TASS reported. Ilves

    held talks with Guliev and with Parliamentary Speaker Murtuz

    Alesqerov on strengthening bilateral relations and

    cooperation, and also met with President Aliev, Turan

    reported. Ilves advocated a peaceful solution to the Karabakh

    conflict and expressed his support for the accession of both

    Azerbaijan and Armenia to the Council of Europe as full

    members. LF

    [07] RUSSIA DEMANDS CLOSURE OF CHECHEN REPRESENTATION IN

    GEORGIA...

    Georgia's ambassador to Moscow was summoned to the

    Russian Foreign Ministry on 3 March and informed of Moscow's

    demand that the Georgian authorities immediately close the

    Chechen "Representation Office" and "Information Center" in

    Tbilisi, Caucasus Press reported the following day, citing a

    Russian Foreign Ministry statement. The statement said the

    Russian Embassy in Tbilisi is the sole legitimate Russian

    representation in Georgia. It claimed that the two Chechen

    offices, which together employ more than 100 people, are

    engaged in funding bandit groups, and organizing supplies of

    arms and ammunition to Chechnya and the transportation of

    wounded fighters to other countries for medical treatment. By

    tolerating the presence on its territory of those offices,

    the statement said, the Georgian leadership is acting counter

    to its expressed wish to improve relations with Russia. LF

    [08] ...PROTESTS GERMAN DIPLOMATS' FILMING OF RUSSIAN BASE

    The

    press service of the Group of Russian Forces in the

    Transcaucasus issued a statement in Tbilisi on 4 March

    accusing two German diplomats of taking photographs and

    videos of the Russian military base at Vaziani, near Tbilisi,

    earlier that day, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. The

    statement termed those actions illegal. But a Georgian

    Defense Ministry spokesman commented later that day that

    neither Georgian nor international law prohibits

    photographing the exterior of either Russian or Georgian

    military bases on Georgian territory. LF

    [09] POLL INDICATES LOW LEVEL OF TRUST IN GEORGIAN POLITICIANS

    A

    poll recently conducted among 400 Tbilisi residents indicates

    that President Eduard Shevardnadze enjoys the highest level

    of trust among respondents, with a rating of 24 percent,

    Caucasus Press reported on 6 March. Parliamentary speaker

    Zurab Zhvania came second with 9 percent, followed by Union

    of Citizens of Georgia parliamentary faction leader Mikhail

    Saakashvili (8 percent) and former Communist Party leader and

    presidential candidate Djumber Patiashvili (7 percent each).

    Eighteen percent of respondents said they do not trust any

    Georgian political figure. LF

    [10] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION DISCUSSES LEGAL ACTION AGAINST STATE

    MEDIA...

    Leaders of several Kyrgyz opposition parties decided

    at a roundtable discussion in Bishkek on 3 March to form a

    coordinating group, of which Democratic Movement of

    Kyrgyzstan chairman Djypar Djeksheev was elected head,

    RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Participants

    discussed the possibility of recruiting a group of lawyers to

    initiate legal action against those state-controlled media

    that slandered opposition candidates during the runup to the

    20 February parliamentary elections. Some participants also

    demanded the convening of a session of the outgoing

    parliament at which Central Electoral Commission Chairman

    Sulaiman Imanbaev would be required to report on election

    violations. LF

    [11] ...AS KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER EXCLUDED FROM RUNOFF POLL

    A

    local election commission in Bishkek ruled on 3 March that El

    (Bei Bechara) Chairman Daniyar Usenov may not participate in

    the runoff after a rival candidate claimed that Usenov failed

    to mention in his income declaration that he owns apartments

    in Bishkek and the town of Kara-Balta, RFE/RL's Bishkek

    bureau reported. Usenov told the commission that he sold the

    Kara-Balta apartment in 1994. LF

    [12] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER ANNOUNCES PRESIDENTIAL

    CANDIDACY

    Former Bishkek Mayor Feliks Kulov, who last year

    founded the opposition Ar-Namys (Dignity) Party, told

    participants at the 3 March opposition meeting that he

    intends to contest the presidential poll due in December

    2000, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kulov said he

    advocates abolishing the presidency and declaring Kyrgyzstan

    a parliamentary republic. The Central Electoral Commission

    has not yet clarified whether Kulov qualifies for the runoff

    elections in single-mandate constituencies to be held on 12

    March. LF

    [13] TAJIK, KAZAKH PRESIDENTS CONCERNED ABOUT AFGHAN ESCLATION

    In

    a telephone conversation on 4 March, Imomali Rakhmonov and

    Nursultan Nazarbaev expressed concern over the recent

    intensification of fighting in Afghanistan and support for

    proposed measures to strengthen protection of the southern

    borders of the CIS (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March 2000),

    ITAR-TASS reported. Fighting was reported that day at a

    distance of only 7-8 kilometers from the Afghan-Tajik border.

    On 3 March, the Russian Foreign Ministry had issued a

    statement calling on the international community to take

    urgent measures to effect an immediate cessation of the new

    hostilities, which it blamed wholly on the Taliban and their

    supporters, Interfax reported. LF

    [14] TURKMEN PRESIDENT OUTLINES CLEMENCY PROPOSAL FOR DISMISSED

    MINISTER

    Niyazov on 3 March offered former Deputy Premier

    and Energy and Industry Minister Saparmurat Nuryev the choice

    of facing prosecution or repaying the $2.5 million he is

    accused of having embezzled from the state treasury, Interfax

    reported. Nuryev was accused of nepotism and abuse of office

    and dismissed as deputy premier in January (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 31 January 2000). Niyazov has also instructed the

    Turkmen parliament to draft legislation that would allow

    convicts to perform penal servitude in outlying regions of

    the country rather than serve a jail sentence, Interfax

    reported on 3 March. Niyazov explained that proposal by

    pointing to the Turkmen "traditions of justice and humanism,"

    but observers note that the country's prisons are very

    overcrowded. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [15] NATO FORCES ARREST BOSNIAN SERB ACCUSED OF WAR CRIMES

    SFOR

    troops arrested Dragoljub Prcac near Prijedor on 5 March and

    transferred him to the war crimes tribunal at The Hague. NATO

    said in a statement that the arrest marks "another step in

    NATO's drive to arrest the remaining war crimes indictees."

    It was the fourth arrest of an alleged war criminal in Bosnia

    in the past three months. Prcac was a deputy commander of the

    Omarska prison camp in 1992. Thousands of inmates were

    reportedly tortured, raped, and murdered at the Omarska,

    Keraterm, and Trnopolje camps during the Bosnian war. PB

    [16] BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT MEMBERS EXPELLED FROM PARTY

    Four

    members of the Republika Srpska government were expelled from

    the Bosnian branch of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's

    Socialist Party on 3 March, AP reported. The four had refused

    the party's order to resign from the government of Srpska

    acting Premier Milorad Dodik. The party said the four were

    expelled because they considered being in power "more

    important than membership in the Socialist Party." PB

    [17] CROATIAN OFFICIALS CRITICIZE BLASKIC JAIL SENTENCE...

    Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan said on 3 March that the

    45-year jail sentence given by the Hague tribunal to former

    Bosnian Croat General Tihomir Blaskic is "very harsh,"

    Croatian Radio reported. Racan said the sentence "will have

    to be re-examined in the appeals process." Croatian Defense

    Minister Jozo Rados called the sentence "exceptionally stiff,

    given what the Croatian public knows about Blaskic and his

    activities during the war in Bosnia." The harshest criticism

    came from Drazen Budisa, the head of the Social Liberal party

    and the runner-up in the recent presidential election, who

    said he considered Blaskic an "innocent man" and added that

    "this is a terrible punishment that brings into question the

    credibility of the Hague tribunal." Racan and President Stipe

    Mesic have pledged to fully cooperate with the Hague court.

    PB

    [18] ...WHILE U.S. APPROVES

    The U.S. State Department said on 3

    March that it welcomes the sentence given to Tihomir Blaskic,

    an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. Spokesman

    James Rubin said Blaskic was found responsible for having

    ordered atrocities in central Bosnia and that the verdict

    shows that the Hague tribunal is making progress in bringing

    justice to the victims of war crimes committed during the

    1992-1995 war. Mirza Hajric, who lost 20 members of his

    family at Ahmici in the bloodiest massacre in the Lasva

    Valley, said "when you think of all the killings that took

    place here, then [the 45-year-sentence] is not a lot." PB

    [19] CALM REPORTED IN MITROVICA AFTER ETHNIC ALBANIANS RETURN

    NATO-led peacekeepers said that the divided Kosovar city of

    Mitrovica was calm on 4 March, one day after some 40 ethnic

    Albanians were moved back to their homes in the Serb-

    dominated northern part of the city, Reuters reported. The

    ethnic Albanians were escorted by a convoy of armored troop

    carriers and had to fend off a mob of Serbs before bringing

    them to three apartment towers, which are being guarded by

    French peacekeepers. Serbs also live in those apartment

    blocks. The city has been the scene of constant clashes

    between Serbs and ethnic Albanians, which have resulted in 10

    deaths. PB

    [20] SUSPECTED MURDERER OF RUSSIAN KFOR SOLDIER ESCAPES DETENTION

    An ethnic Albanian suspected in the murder of a Russian

    peacekeeper in Kosova escaped from prison on 5 March, just

    two days after being captured, Reuters reported. Major

    Kristian Kahrs, a spokesman for Kosova Force (KFOR), said the

    suspect is 15 years old. He gave no details of the escape.

    Russian soldier Igor Korshunov was killed on 29 February in

    Srbica. PB

    [21] THOUSANDS MARK ANNIVERSARY OF SLAIN UCK COMMANDER

    Tens of

    thousands of ethnic Albanians gathered in the small village

    of Prekaz on 5 March to commemorate the 1998 killing of a

    founder of the rebel Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), Adem

    Jashari, Reuters reported. Some 50 people--including several

    women and children--were killed in an attack by Serbian

    security forces in an attempt to capture Jashari. Some 20

    members of his family were also killed in the assault, which

    took place just 40 kilometers southeast of Prishtina. The

    attack is considered by many to have been a turning point in

    the conflict in Kosova because large numbers of ethnic

    Albanians either joined or rallied behind the UCK after the

    incident. PB

    [22] FIGHTING BETWEEN ETHNIC ALBANIANS AND SERBS OUTSIDE OF

    KOSOVA

    Fighting erupted on 4 March between ethnic Albanians

    and Serbian police in the village of Dobrosin, AFP reported.

    Some 175 ethnic Albanians fled into Kosova after gunshots

    were exchanged in the village, which is in a demilitarized

    "border zone" with Kosova. The town is part of an area where

    a new rebel group, the Liberation Army of Procovo, Medvedja,

    and Bujanovac, has emerged. It claims to be protecting the

    some 70,000 ethnic Albanians in the area from harassment by

    Serbian security forces. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine

    Albright said in Prague on 5 March that she is "very

    concerned" by the violence and urges both sides not to incite

    tensions there. In other news, 25 ethnic Albanians were

    released by Serbian officials from a prison near Pozarevac.

    They were accused of belonging to the UCK. An estimated 1,700

    ethnic Albanians are still being held in Serbia on similar

    charges. PB

    [23] SERB OPPOSITION AGREES ON ANTI-MILOSEVIC PROGRAM

    Serbian

    opposition leaders agreed in Belgrade on the need for free,

    democratic elections and urgent political and economic

    reforms, Beta reported on 3 March. The numerous opposition

    parties and alliances failed, however, to agree on a date for

    holding mass demonstrations against Yugoslav President

    Slobodan Milosevic. Secretary of State Albright said in

    Prague on 5 March that Serbian opposition groups must work

    together in order to create a democratic alternative to

    Milosevic. In other news, the unemployment rate in Yugoslavia

    grew to 27.3 percent last year, up from 25.2 in 1998,

    according to the Group of 17 independent economists on 5

    March. The official Belgrade estimate is much lower. PB

    [24] BELGRADE READY TO RESUME RELATIONS WITH BOSNIA--

    CONDITIONALLY

    The Yugoslav government said it is willing to

    resume diplomatic relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina if

    Sarajevo drops the charges it has filed against Belgrade at

    the International Court of Justice, Reuters reported on 3

    March. Hajrudin Somun, the spokesman for the Bosnian Foreign

    Ministry, said Belgrade is ready to start talks if Bosnia

    drops the charges, which were filed in 1993 for Yugoslavia's

    part in the Bosnian war. Bosnia was Serbia's top trading

    partner last year. PB

    [25] SERBIAN POLICE TIGHTEN BLOCKAGE AGAINST MONTENEGRO

    Serbian

    police have reportedly stopped some Yugoslav army trucks from

    carrying food into Montenegro, Montenegrin newspapers

    reported on 5 March. The daily "Glas Javnosti" said the food

    was for Yugoslav troops based in Montenegro and that the

    situation caused angry exchanges at the Montenegrin-Serb

    border. PB

    [26] CHIRAC PRAISES MACEDONIA

    French President Jacques Chirac

    praised Macedonia on 3 March for being a stabilizing force in

    the Balkans during the Yugoslav air strikes last year, AP

    reported. Chirac made his comments to Macedonian Premier

    Ljubco Georgievski, who is on a visit to Paris. The EU is

    negotiating a "stabilization and association" pact with

    Macedonia. PB

    [27] ROMANIAN COALITION RIFT DEEPENS...

    The National Coordinating

    Council of the Democratic Party has accused "a group within

    the National Liberal Party" (PNL) of violating the coalition

    agreement, which gives the Democrats the right to appoint the

    defense minister. The council said on 3 March that this means

    the PNL has "renounced its political alliance" with the

    Democratic Party, adding that from now on Democrats'

    representatives in the legislature will cooperate with the

    ruling coalition only on legislation linked to budgetary

    issues and the bid to join the EU. Democratic Party leader

    Petre Roman said that by procrastinating over the replacement

    of Victor Babiuc as defense minister, Prime Minster Mugur

    Isarescu, who is an independent backed by all coalition

    members, risks becoming identified with just one party. A

    spokesman for Isarescu said the premier continues to regard

    Babiuc's replacement as "a political decision that must be

    taken by the coalition leadership." MS

    [28] ...AS LIBERAL LEADER ACCUSED OF BACKING BABIUC

    Democratic

    Party Deputy Chairman Stelian Dutu said on 5 March that the

    group in the PNL that "encouraged the deserter Victor Babiuc"

    is led by Valeriu Stoica, PNL deputy chairman and Justice

    Minister, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Also on 5

    March, PNL Deputy Chairman Horia Rusu said his party is

    "keeping all options open" for the fall parliamentary

    elections. Rusu said it cannot be ruled out that the PNL

    might decide to run on separate lists from the Democratic

    Convention of Romania in that ballot, as it will do in the

    local elections. He also said that after the election, it

    cannot be ruled out that the PNL will agree to form a

    governing coalition with the Party of Social Democracy in

    Romania (PDSR), provided that the PDSR accepts the Liberals'

    "fundamental conditions." MS

    [29] OSCE MISSION ENDS VISIT TO MOLDOVA

    A five-member fact-

    finding delegation from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly

    wrapped up a two-day visit to Chisinau and Tiraspol on 3

    March, RFE/RL's bureau in the Moldovan capital reported.

    Delegation head Kimmo Kiljunen told journalists that the

    delegation has invited representatives of the separatists to

    participate as members of the Moldovan delegation in an

    assembly meeting scheduled to take place in Bucharest in July

    2000. He said the OSCE hopes that by then, the two sides will

    have reached an agreement on the definition of a "common

    state." Such an accord, he added, could result in the

    assembly's adopting a "resolution by consensus" on how to

    solve the Transdniester conflict. Separatist leader Igor

    Smirnov told Kiljunen that the OSCE must stop treating the

    Transdniester "as an unrecognized state." MS

    [30] BALKAN FOREIGN MINISTERS CALL FOR 'SAFER KOSOVA'

    Meeting in

    Plodviv on 5 March, the foreign ministers of Bulgaria,

    Greece, and Turkey said efforts must be made to ensure "safe

    living conditions for all ethnic communities" in Kosova, BTA

    and dpa reported. Nadezhda Mihailova, Georgios Papandreou,

    and Ismail Cem expressed the hope that the Stability Pact for

    Southeastern Europe will give a strong impetus to the

    economic development of the entire region. They said they are

    discussing the possibility of concluding a "non-aggression

    pact" between their countries. Also on 5 March, the

    opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, departing from its

    previous position, said it will support Bulgaria's quest to

    join NATO, dpa reported. MS

    [31] BULGARIAN QUEEN MOTHER BURIED IN ITALY

    Queen Ioanna, mother

    of exiled Bulgarian former monarch Simeon, was buried on 5

    March in Assisi, Italy, AFP reported. She died in Portugal on

    26 February, aged 92. The Bulgarian royal family, and Queen

    Ioanna in particular, contributed to efforts to save

    Bulgaria's Jews during World War II. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [32] BALTICS PREPARE FOR EU MEMBERSHIP

    By Breffni O'Rourke

    The three Baltic states have all set ambitious target

    dates for joining the EU. They want to accede to the union

    within four years at the latest.

    But the experience of front-runner Estonia may provide a

    cautionary signal to Latvia and Lithuania, which will open

    their own substantive negotiations at the end of this month

    After two years of detailed talks with Brussels, Estonia has

    finalized only eight of the 31 required chapters of

    negotiations.

    In the run-up to the start of talks with Lithuania and

    Latvia, diplomats in Brussels from all three states spoke to

    RFE/RL.

    The head of Estonia's mission to the EU, Ambassador

    Priit Kolbre, said his country is more than willing to share

    with its Baltic neighbors the insights gained during two

    difficult years of negotiations. He said there have been

    frequent contacts on the subject between the three

    governments. His personal advice to negotiators is to be

    "tough," although he admits that "in order to be tough and

    successful, you should very clearly understand what is behind

    the EU requirements during the negotiations, and whether they

    are just positions in principle, or whether there is a

    substantial interest to maintain."

    Lithuanian diplomatic mission counselor Zigismund

    Pavilionis says that advice from Estonia is welcome but that

    his country is also receiving guidance from other countries.

    Pavilionis mentioned Poland--which he called Lithuania's

    "strategic partner"--as well as other advanced Central

    European candidates and Nordic countries like Finland, that

    have only recently joined the EU. Pavilionis is optimistic

    that Lithuania can catch up with Estonia's lead. He predicts

    that "15 negotiating positions will be ready at the actual

    start of the talks, though of course we will submit only

    those positions suggested by the EU, that should be opened

    during the Portuguese presidency (until 1 July) but in any

    case we hope that this year we will open more than half of

    all the negotiating chapters".

    Latvian diplomatic mission Second Secretary Aldis

    Austers says his country would like all three Baltic states

    to enter the EU at the same time. He added that Latvia, too,

    has prepared i15 chapters for the coming negotiations with

    the EU and hopes to open as many as eight chapters during

    Portugal's Presidency.

    Estonia's envoy Kolbre, however, doubts the likelihood

    that all three Baltic republics can be ready for accession at

    the same time. "In theory, the three countries could join

    together, but looking from the other side, I personally

    believe that if the EU allows Estonia to continue without any

    artificial delays in the negotiations, that other countries

    could not simply catch up [with] two years of negotiations--

    it has been very tough work."

    Ukraine figures in the Baltic states' considerations.

    Under the EU's internal single-market rules, Estonia and

    Lithuania will have to terminate their successful free-trade

    agreements with Kyiv when they accede to the EU. That means a

    loss both for the Balts and Ukraine, particularly for Kyiv.

    Lithuania's Pavilionis says Vilnius is in contact with

    Kyiv and is willing to offer help wherever possible: "As you

    know, we have historic ties with Ukraine and that's why we

    would like that that country would find some new relations

    with the EU, because it is so important in our part of

    Europe."

    Estonia's Kolbre notes that there are several years to

    go before the trade accords with Ukraine must be ended. He

    says much depends on how quickly businesses in the Baltics

    and in Ukraine can adjust to the new conditions created by

    the imposition of EU tariffs. If the adjustment process goes

    well, he adds, not all trade with Ukraine need be lost.

    The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.

    06-03-00


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


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