News round-up

12 - 19 May 1997

Albania deal paves way for new elections

Warring political parties in Albania have signed an agreement that should open the way for new elections. Under the deal, the citizens' groups, which were formed to restore order after the insurrection caused by the collapse of fraudulent pyramid investment schemes earlier this year, will have to disband by 14 May.

The agreement was brokered by Franz Vranitzky, Head of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and was signed by Albania's ten key parties. A dispute between President Sali Berisha's Democratic Party and the rest of the nine-party Government of National Reconciliation had threatened to scupper the election. However, President Berisha will have to issue a decree by Thursday 15 May in order for the election to go ahead on June 29 as planned.

Poland's Olszewski hits out at President's Constitution

Former Prime Minister Jan Olszewski has attacked Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski, claiming that he is deceiving the country ahead of this month's constitutional referendum. Mr Olszewski, Leader of the right-wing Reconstruction of Poland (ROP) movement, says President Kwasniewski is misleading the public by failing to state that the document about the constitution being sent to the Polish general public is only a draft.

The ROP has been campaigning for voters to be allowed to choose between the draft adopted by Poland's leftist-dominated Parliament and an independent version drawn up by the right-wing Solidarity movement. As things now stand, Poles will only be able to approve or reject the draft constitution being promoted by the President.

Slovakia's PM rejects foreign criticism

The Slovak Republic's Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar has dismissed United States (US) and European Union (EU) criticism of the pace of democratic reform in his country with the claim that it was based on a 'misunderstanding'.

Slovakia, which wants to join the EU and is planning a referendum on joining NATO, has been attacked by the EU and the US over alleged shortcomings in its democratic process, particularly in its treatment of a 500,000-strong Hungarian minority. Most recently the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright asked Bratislava to move towards endorsing a national minorities language law and to give a greater voice to the opposition in Parliament. But Mr Meciar said the criticisms that implied a lack of democracy in Slovakia were a misunderstanding.

Hungarian Govt intensifies fight against crime

Gabor Kuncze, Hungary's Interior Minister, said he will install thousands more police to fight rising crime in tourist rip-offs that have damaged Hungary's image abroad. In a news conference he announced plans to add 4,000 officers to Hungary's 40,000 police personnel. The Ministry is seeking Government approval for a US$200 million police spending package over three years.

Poland sets up EU integration council

Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz has appointed a council of business executives, politicians and experts to advise the Government during preparations for integration negotiations with the European Union (EU). The 68 members of the council will include chiefs of all parliamentary caucuses, heads of employers' groups, top business executives, economists, academics, journalists and cultural experts.

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