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Vol. 1, No. 14, Part II, 19 January 1995
We welcome you to the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest Part II--a compilation of news concerning East-Central and Southeastern Europe. Part I, covering Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, and the CIS, is distributed simultaneously as a second document. The Daily Digest picks up where the RFE/RL Daily Report, which recently ceased publication, left off. Contributors include OMRI's 30-member staff of analysts, plus selected freelance specialists. OMRI is a unique public-private venture between the Open Society Institute and the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting. EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE KUCHMA'S CHIEF OF STAFF BLASTS OPPONENTS OF BILL ON DIVISION OF POWERS. President Leonid Kuchma's chief of staff, Dmytro Tabachnyk, attacked a 16 January meeting of regional and local council chairmen for what he called a deliberate effort to turn public opinion against a draft constitutional law on the separation of powers proposed by the president, Radio Ukraine reported on 18 January. The bill, which received preliminary approval from the parliament in December, would centralize many powers in the president's hands and limit those of national and local legislatures. Tabachnyk said the chairmen of the local soviets, as well as many deputies from the national parliament who participated in the meeting, were undermining public support for the bill. He said the participants, who issued a resolution voicing opposition to the bill, were driven by nostalgia and fear of the dissolution of the Soviet system of government. The parliament is scheduled to debate and vote on the bill within the next month. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT AVOIDS CONDEMNING RUSSIA ON CHECHNYA. Reuters on 18 January reported that some deputies in Ukraine's legislature proposed that a tough statement be issued condemning Russia's actions in Chechnya as a violation of human rights. The statement asked that Russia cease all military action immediately and begin talks with Chechen separatists. Other deputies were concerned that such a statement would be interpreted as interference in Russia's internal affairs and would prompt hard-liners in Russia to become involved with separatists in Crimea. Parliamentary speaker Oleksander Moroz removed the issue from the agenda, saying that it could be considered interference in Russia's internal affairs. In the Crimean parliament in Simferopol, deputy Oleksander Kruglov proposed issuing a statement lauding Russia's actions in Chechnya as "the first decisive step by Russia to strengthen its statehood and territorial integrity." The Crimean Tatars objected to the statement, and more moderate deputies suggested toning it down. The debate adjourned without a final decision. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINE MAY SELL STRATEGIC BOMBERS TO RUSSIA. At a meeting in Kiev on 18 January, a Russian military delegation and officials from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry discussed the possibility of Ukraine selling to Russia some of the TU-160 and STU-95 strategic bombers it inherited from the USSR, Ukrainian Television reports. Russian experts, together with Ukrainian officials, are expected to assess the condition and value of the aircraft. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. ESTONIAN UNEMPLOYMENT ON THE RISE. The Estonian Labor Department has announced that on 1 January 1995, 12,670 people or 1.51% of the country's working age population were officially registered as unemployed, BNS reported on 18 January. This is a 4.36% increase over the previous month. The number of people looking for work, including those not registered as unemployed, is almost three times as high, at 34,270. The highest urban unemployment rates are in Narva (3.98%) and Sillamae (3.61%), while the capital, Tallinn, has a very low rate (0.26%). -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. DECLINE IN LATVIAN INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION IN 1994. Latvia last year produced industrial goods worth 903 million lati ($1.64 billion) in actual 1994 prices, BNS reported on 18 January citing the State Statistics Committee. Production was down 9.3% on 1993 levels, with the volume of 78 of the 120 most important production categories being reduced. But there were increases in timber processing (30%), the extraction industry (12%), and the production of transportation equipment (9%). The value of unsold goods was 66.2 million lati or 74.6% of the total production in December. The largest stockpiles were to be found in the food processing (10.8 million lati) and textile (7.5 million lati) industries. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LITHUANIA AND RUSSIA AGREE ON MILITARY TRANSIT. The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry on 18 January presented a note to its Russian counterpart extending until the end of 1995 military transit regulations, established in an 18 November 1993 agreement, for Russian troops withdrawing from Germany, RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service reports. The Russians responded by stating that the trade agreement granting reciprocal most-favored-nation trade status has finally gone into effect. Both sides made concessions to achieve the agreement, signed in November 1993. Lithuania gave up its demand that all countries abide by its regulations on dangerous and military cargoes due to go into effect on 1 January 1995. Russia, in turn, settled for an agreement and not a treaty on military transit to and from Kaliningrad. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLISH PRESIDENT OFFERED OLIVE BRANCH OR BARBED WIRE? Adopting a more conciliatory stance toward President Lech Walesa, Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak on 18 January offered to hold negotiations without any preconditions and officially withdrew the candidacy of Longin Pastusiak for defense minister. He also requested that the president formally approve the dismissal of Foreign Minister Andrzej Olechowski and announced that the coalition would present the president with three nominees to head the Foreign Ministry. Pawlak stressed that all three are specialists with no party affiliation. Their names will be made public only after Walesa has been consulted, Radio Warsaw reports. Democratic Left Alliance leader Aleksander Kwasniewski described the coalition's moves as an "olive branch" but restressed his party's rejection of the president's candidate for defense minister, Zbigniew Wojciech Okonski. Queried at a press conference about the coalition's moves, Walesa quipped that Kwasniewski was more likely to approach him with "barbed wire" than an olive branch and that even "a rose has thorns." The president nonetheless accepted the offer of talks. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. HAVEL AND KLAUS DIFFER OVER TIMING OF CZECH EU APPLICATION. President Vaclav Havel believes the Czech Republic will apply for membership in the European Union this year but Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus still thinks the country will not be ready to apply until 1996, Czech media report on 19 January. Mlada Fronta Dnes quoted Havel as saying after talks with Polish President Lech Walesa on 18 January that an official application will probably be made this year, although the Czech Republic may be admitted first to NATO and then to the EU because conditions for the former are not so strict. Klaus did not exclude the possibility of applying to the EU this year but is in favor of sticking to the government's original plan of asking for membership before the 1996 EU summit. A government committee is due to begin work next month on the arduous task of ensuring that Czech laws meet EU standards. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK-AUSTRIAN CONFLICT OVER MOCHOVCE HEATS UP. Controversy surrounding the construction of Slovakia's nuclear plant at Mochovce has recently soured otherwise good relations between Slovakia and neighboring Austria, Slovak press and Reuters report. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, in an 18 January letter to Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky, criticized the Austrian side for "unilaterally" selecting the "place, time, and form" of discussion on the subject. He said the management of Mochovce considers the meeting organized by the Austrians on 23-24 January in Vienna as "inappropriate for achieving the intended goal." Slovak and French construction firms working on the Mochovce project have refused an invitation to attend the meeting, complaining it would likely be turned into an antinuclear demonstration. Austrian Environment Minister Maria Rauch-Kallat said it is "an unbelievable insult to Austria when someone says that in our country we cannot hold a peaceful and matter-of-fact discussion," Sme reports. She also noted the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development would have to extend the public hearing period if the Slovak side refused to attend. One of the conditions for an EBRD loan needed to complete the project is that studies on Mochovce be made available for public review. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF GHETTO LIBERATION IN HUNGARY. Survivors and dignitaries braved freezing temperatures to commemorate the Red Army liberation 50 years ago of Budapest's ghetto, Western news agencies report. Hundreds filled the Garden of Heroes behind the main synagogue, from where many Budapest Jews were transported to death camps. The ghetto was set up in late 1944 following the German occupation of Hungary in March of that year. More than 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished in Nazi camps, while some 50,000 survived in the ghetto. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE PROBLEMS CONTINUE FOR UN IN BOSNIA. International media report on 19 January that a host of problems continue to dog the UN's attempts to reinforce the shaky cease-fire in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Government forces fired on Serbian forces near Donji Vakuf; a Serbian sniper seriously wounded a Sarajevo teenager; and government forces were again spotted in the Mt. Igman demilitarized zone. Supply roads remain closed and Sarajevo's gas supply is precarious. In violation of the UN's no-fly zone over the embattled republic, Krajina Serb helicopters on 18 January flew at least 20 supply missions to Serbian forces around Bihac, the Los Angeles Times reported the next day. Bosnian Serb gunners also reinforced their positions around the "safe area" of Srebrenica. All these developments suggest that the current cease-fire is regarded by both sides as little more than a breathing space before resuming serious fighting in the spring. The New York Times concludes that the international community has given up on military deterrents and that other options have not worked. "Peace-making efforts . . . now lack direction, ideas, or any momentum," the newspaper says. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. OTHER BOSNIAN NEWS. The independent Borba on 19 January quotes US ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright as outlining eight points that rump Yugoslavia must clarify regarding its relations with the Bosnian Serbs. The move is connected to the extension of the partial lifting of sanctions against Belgrade for a second period of 100 days. One of the points is "ending all logistical and other support for the Bosnian Serb army." Vjesnik, meanwhile, describes continuing problems between the Muslim and Croatian partners in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Zagreb press has been reporting for some days on various tensions and frictions stemming from the Croatian fear that the Muslims view themselves as the dominant--if not ruling--element and refuse to treat the Croats as equals. In the latest exchange, the Constituent Assembly was unable to meet on 18 January because the two sides' leaderships could not reach agreement in advance on the rotation of the current president and vice president. The Muslims say that the term of the federation's Croatian president, Kresimir Zubak, has expired, while the Croats maintain that the length of his mandate must be linked to the implementation of all provisions of the Washington agreements that set up the federation. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. CROATIA TO RECONSIDER EXPELLING UNPROFOR? News agencies report on 18 January that Zagreb may let UNPROFOR stay on after its current mandate runs out on 31 March if Belgrade recognizes Croatia in its Tito-era boundaries and if Croatian refugees from Serb-held territories can go home. This would fulfill two key demands that Zagreb has long made regarding UNPROFOR's mandate. Meanwhile, Hina notes that the Croatian government will build a center near Osijek to house 40,000 refugees with Norwegian and other West European money. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. CROATIA'S JOBLESS LAWYERS. Hina reports on 18 January that Croatia had 247,55 registered unemployed in December 1994, up 1.8% over the previous year. The list is topped by lawyers and other "skilled and highly skilled professionals." Elsewhere, Finance Minister Bozo Prka on 17 January told Reuters that his government has "stabilized the economy and eliminated inflation," adding that "if we settle the political problems, Croatia will be a model for small countries in economic transition." Hina reported the same day that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has made a DM 70 million loan to Croatia to improve its road network, including completing a major highway between Zagreb and the Adriatic coast. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. BORBA SAYS IT'S GAINING SUPPORT. Borba on 19 January notes that the list of national and international voices offering their material and moral support to the independent newspaper has grown to include the Independent Syndicate of Metalworkers of Serbia. Leaders of the ethnic Hungarian community in Vojvodina have also registered their backing, recognizing Borba as "a symbol of objective, independent, and free" reporting. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's regime on 26 December attempted to silence Borba by backing the launching of a state- sanctioned version of the newspaper under the directorship of Milosevic's ally Dragutin Brcin. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. OSCE HIGH COMMISSIONER VISITS MACEDONIA. Flaka reports on 19 January that Max van der Stoel met with Fadil Sulejmani, the director of the self-declared and not legally recognized Albanian-language university in Tetovo, and with members of the ethnic Albanian Democratic People's Party. The Albanian representatives stressed that the educational situation of Albanians in Macedonia has deteriorated since Serbian authorities closed the University of Pristina in Kosovo. Van der Stoel noted that in accordance with international conventions signed by Macedonia in 1990, the Albanians have a right to higher education in their mother tongue. But he added that this issue must be solved in keeping with the law and that a new measure dealing with higher education, which could bring a solution to the conflict, might be passed by the parliament soon. Van der Stoel also met with Arben Xhaferi, the leader of the Tetovo-based wing of the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity, and his deputy Menduh Thaci. The splinter grouping is not legally recognized under the party's name but is vocal in its demands that Albanians and Macedonians be recognized as legal co- equals in the Macedonian state. This demand has been criticized by both other minorities and Macedonians who argue that the current constitution guarantees the equality of all citizens. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN PREMIER VISITS HUNEDOARA COUNTY. Nicolae Vacaroiu on 18 January visited several industrial facilities in Hunedoara county, including steel plants at Hunedoara and Calan and a mining equipment maintenance plant at Hunedoara. He was accompanied by a delegation that included the industry and transports ministers, as well as Adrian Nastase, executive chairman of the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania. The high- ranking officials, who were briefed on the precarious state of the ailing communist-era industries in the region, stressed in separate statements the need for restructuring Romania's metal industry. Some referred specifically to Resita, where an agreement has been reached on more government support for that purpose. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIA HOLDS TUGBOAT SUSPECTED OF VIOLATING UN SANCTIONS AGAINST RUMP YUGOSLAVIA. Reuters reported on 17 January that Romania was holding a tugboat suspected of violating UN sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. The tugboat, which was towing six barges laden with cement for Austria, was detained on 15 January. A senior Romanian police official said 11 tons of fuel oil were found aboard the vessel. Rump Yugoslavia has experienced an acute fuel shortage over the past two years because of the UN embargo. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. GAS SHORTAGE IN BULGARIA. Almost all heating plants in Bulgaria are currently working to a special schedule because of a shortage of gas supplies from Russia, Kontinent reports on 19 January. Lyulin Radulov, chairman of the government Committee for Energy, told 24 chasa that Bulgaria has received 1.5 million cubic meters less than it should. He added that Bulgaria has no alternative to supplies from Russia. On the same subject, Trud reported on 18 January that the metallurgical plant of Kremikovtsi near Sofia was forced to stop production for the first time due to a lack of gas supplies. The monthly losses caused by the gas shortage are estimated at 2.5-3 billion leva ($37-44 million) a month, Pari reported the same day. The newspaper notes that the honoring of contracts for exports worth $320 million is also at stake. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. UPDATE ON BULGARIAN WATER CRISIS. Petar Stankov, chairman of the Sofia City Council, said that the present water regulations for Sofia may be in force for the whole year, BTA reported on 18 January. Most districts in the capital currently have water only one day in four. If there is not enough rain, measures will be even stricter in the summer, Stankov added. 24 chasa reported on 17 January that the Union of Democratic Forces is trying to blame the former government led by Lyuben Berov for the water crisis, while Berov says "it is not the only one responsible." The former prime minister referred to a statement by UDF leader Ivan Kostov, who noted that the Berov government failed to secure a $98 million credit from the World Bank for water projects. Standart reported on 17 January that the mayor of Sofia, Aleksandar Yanulchev, has presented a program to the city council to secure water supplies by the year 2000. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet Union and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. It is published Monday through Friday by the Open Media Research Institute. The Daily Digest is distributed electronically via the OMRI-L list. To subscribe, send "SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L YourFirstName YourLastName" (without the quotation marks and inserting your name where shown) to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU No subject line or other text should be included. The publication can also be obtained for a fee in printed form by fax and postal mail. 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