East looks west for security

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The Independent Online
While Europe wrestles with problems of enlargement, the former Communist east edges closer. The European Union and Lithuania hold a second round of talks on Wednesday on a free-trade agreement. And the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia is expected to sign Nato's Partnership for Peace on Wednesday, turning its back on the Balkan tragedy.

Also concerned with Balkan matters, Romania's President Ion Iliescu visits Greece on Wednesday for talks on bilateral and regional relations. He will be accompanied by economic ministers and business leaders. In the Greek city of Salonika, on Thursday, a mass rally is planned to give support to Athens in its dispute with the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

Whatever the Italian elections may deliver, the country's former Socialist leader and prime minister, Bettino Craxi, who will probably lose his parliamentary immunity, goes on trial in Rome tomorrow for corruption. Eight others are accused of pocketing 17 billion lire in return for backing a contract between the state energy group ENI and the insurer SAI for employee insurance.

Other interesting trials include that of 24 students of the University of Lagos in Nigeria due in court tomorrow charged with armed robbery following clashes which led to the closure of the university earlier this month. If convicted, the students face the death penalty.

And Jack Nicholson is arraigned on Thursday on charges of misdemeanour, vandalism and assault stemming from an incident in which he is alleged to have smashed another driver's windscreen with a golf club.

In South Africa, right-wingers in the so-called Volkstaat are to shut down normal business tomorrow and Thursday to conduct marches, read proclamations and establish citizens' councils. The aim is to show the extent of their national support and campaign for an Afrikaner homeland, but since the right-wing split earlier this month, with the decision of Constand Viljoen to take part in next month's elections, the Conservative Party and the neo-Nazi AWB are no longer a force to be frightened of.

The west Slovakian village of Bojnice, renowned for its haunted castle, hosts the first international ghost festival on Wednesday. The organisers of the event hope to attract occultists from all over the world - in addition to other- worldly beings - but the root of the initiative seems to be commercial: 'We want this to be a festival of tourism to promote regions known for their ghosts,' the castle's curator, Jan Papco, explained.

Just in case the ghosts are frightened away by this unsupernatural approach, the festival is to lay on a virtual reality show that simulates ghosts for 'those who are not empowered or lack the belief to sight apparitions'.

The attendance of one visitor from beyond is, however, guaranteed: that of the castle's legendary Black Lady, who has been contacted through a clairvoyant. 'We have already succeeded to revive the spirit of the Black Lady and she has agreed to come,' Mr Papco said.

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