|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
Vol. 1, No. 15, Part II, 20 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 UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT BACKS ODESSA OIL TERMINAL. The Ukrainian legislature has appropriated land for the construction of an oil terminal near the Black sea port of Odessa in an effort to ease Ukraine's energy dependence on Russia, Reuters reported on 19 January. Legislators voted 208 to 83 in favor of a site 40 km east of Odessa. The project was halted in 1994 after local officials vetoed it on grounds the terminal would damage the environment. Ukraine is still searching for funding for the $3.4 billion terminal, which could receive up to 40 million tons of oil annually either by tanker from the Middle East or through a pipeline across Turkey to the Black Sea. Most of Ukraine's oil needs, estimated at 36 million tons, are now met by Russia, which provides 8 million tons annually through state channels. Deputies say the terminal could be operational in 16-18 months, with an initial annual capacity of 12 million tons. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. BELARUS STRIKES MULTIMILLION TRACTOR DEAL. Interfax on 19 January reported that Belarus has signed a multimillion dollar tractor deal with Pakistan. Deputy Prime Minister Uladzimir Harkun says the deal provides for the export of 12,000 Belarusian tractors to Pakistan over six months for less than $5,000 each. When the USSR broke up, Belarus was the world's third-largest tractor manufacturer after the U.S. and Japan. Minsk is currently trying to negotiate a deal for the same volume of tractors with Iran. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. BELARUS SENDS MORE RUSSIAN WEAPONS TO U.S. The Belgian newspaper Le Soir reports that a sophisticated missile fire control system used by the Russians has been seized near Antwerp because customs authorities thought it might be bound for the Middle East. The paper discovered that the equipment--called "Rangir"--originated in Minsk and has been sold to "a well-heeled U.S. company." The "Rangir" is a mobile missile battery command post designed by the Agat Institute in Minsk and is used by the Russian armed forces to control SA-15 and SA-19 air defense missiles. Le Soir revealed that a number of even more sophisticated missile control systems, known as MP-22-E and also from Agat, recently passed through Antwerp en route to the U.S. from Minsk. Russian officials and commentators blasted Belarus for selling the modern S-300-PMU missile defense system to a U.S. company that turned out to be an agent for the U.S. government. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. ESTONIA PASSES NEW CITIZENSHIP LAW. The Estonian parliament on 19 January adopted a new citizenship law by a vote of 60 to 6, BNS reports. Under the previous legislation, people could apply for citizenship after two years residency in the country and could be naturalized one year after submitting the application. The new law requires five years residency to apply for citizenship. It also bans Estonian citizens from having dual citizenship but allows such citizenship for ethnic Estonians who are citizens of another country. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. STATUS OF FORMER SOVIET CITIZENS IN LATVIA. The law on the status of former Soviet citizens who are citizens of neither Latvia nor another state has been approved by the Saeima on its second reading, BNS and Interfax report on 19 January. The law, which will go into effect when approved on its third reading, gives former Soviet citizens rights such as free movement within Latvia, free exit from and entry into the country, and freedom of expression and religion. But it does not grant them the right, enjoyed by Latvian citizens, to take part in elections, buy land, or possess weapons for self-defense. Noncitizen passports will be issued to people who were permanent residents of Latvia before 1 July 1992, unless they retired from service in the Soviet army after 4 May 1990. Saeima Chairman Anatolijs Gorbunovs said the approval of the law on its second reading will greatly improve Latvia's chances of becoming a member of the Council of Europe in February. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN DUMA ASKS LITHUANIA NOT TO DEPORT EX-SOVIET ACTIVISTS. The Russian State Duma on 18 January issued an appeal to the Lithuanian parliament not to deport four Russian citizens who were active in the pro-Soviet organization Edinstvo. The four have been asked to leave Lithuania by 22 January. Parliament chairman Ceslovas Jursenas told RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service on 19 January that it was unlikely the parliament would discuss a response to the appeal but that the parliament's leadership would probably reply officially next week after it determines whether the deportation order conforms with Lithuanian law. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLISH SEJM DEBATES MILITARY COMMAND. President Lech Walesa on 19 January found himself isolated in a Sejm debate on the command structure of the armed forces, which took place after nearly one year's delay . Arguing that "military people should run the military," Walesa supported draft legislation that would give greater power to the General Staff, reduce the role of the Defense Ministry, and subordinate military intelligence and counterintelligence to the General Staff. Walesa opposed any reduction in the army's size, Rzeczpospolita reports. The ruling coalition and most of the opposition called for a command structure in which the General Staff would answer to the civilian Defense Ministry. Only two minor parties endorsed Walesa's version, but there was consensus that the armed forces should be shielded from political influence and that NATO membership is Poland's chief security goal. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. NO DECISION ON POLISH BUDGET. President Lech Walesa told a press conference in the Sejm on 19 January that his decision on whether to sign the 1995 budget depends on the coalition's willingness to come to terms with him. Walesa has until 2 February to make up his mind. Asked if he planned to dissolve the parliament, Walesa vowed not to violate the legal system but added that "we have good laws and still better lawyers, so the impossible often becomes possible," Gazeta Wyborcza reports. The constitution offers no legal grounds for the president to dissolve the parliament in the current situation. The coalition parties, fearing new legal improvisation on Walesa's part that will block the budget, are inclined to compromise. Walesa hinted that he had no objections to one of the coalition's rumored candidates for the Foreign Ministry but mentioned no names. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. CZECH GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATES INTERNAL SPYING CHARGES. A Czech government committee is investigating accusations that the state counterintelligence agency BIS illegally collected information on political parties, Czech media report. The committee is made up of one minister from each of the four parties in the governing coalition. The main charges of BIS spying were made by Deputy Prime Minister Jan Kalvoda. He took part in a committee session on 19 January in place of his designated party colleague Jiri Skalicky, who left with Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus on a visit to Egypt. Kalvoda said he provided the committee with broader information than he submitted to a parliament commission simultaneously investigating the issue. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES CABINET PROGRAM. Addressing the parliament on 19 January, Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar said the cabinet's most important strategic goal is European integration, Narodna obroda reports. He noted that to achieve this goal, the rights of all minorities must be respected and a policy of economic revitalization and development introduced. Slovakia plans to submit its application to the European Union by 30 June. Meciar said the country will strive to achieve a standard of living comparable to that of industrial European countries by the year 2010. The program has drawn criticism from the opposition as being overly ambitious and not specific enough about how to reach its goals. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. AUSTRIA CANCELS HEARING ON SLOVAK NUCLEAR PLANT. Austrian Environment Minister Maria Rauch-Kallat on 19 January announced that Austria's hearing on Mochovce, scheduled for 23-24 January in Vienna, will not take place because of the refusal of the two firms building the nuclear power plant to participate. She also said Austria would officially inform the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development of the meeting's cancellation, Sme reports. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. POLL ON HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT'S PERFORMANCE. An opinion survey conducted in December by Szonda Ipsos found that general satisfaction with the government was rated 44.9 points on a scale of 0 to 100, a drop of 0.8 points compared with November and a 3-point drop compared with October, Magyar Hirlap reports on 19 January. The government fared even worse with regard to its performance on the economy, the easing of social problems, and the maintenance of law and order (a combined total of 42.9 points). The population was most satisfied with the government's performance in developing relations with Hungary's neighbors and in guaranteeing media freedom, with the government's rating declining only by 1-2 points. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ESCALATION OF FIGHTING AROUND VELIKA KLADUSA. International media on 19 January reported UN officials as saying that 700 shells exploded near the UNPROFOR compound, close to Velika Kladusa. The town is the power base of local Muslim rebel kingpin Fikret Abdic, whose forces retook it last month with the help of Krajina and Bosnian Serbs after losing it to government forces in the summer. The Krajina Serbs and Abdic's units have not signed the current four-month cease-fire, although Abdic has given his verbal approval. The UN called the shellings a "significant increase in military activity" and reported that Krajina Serbs are bringing up heavy guns, but it is unclear who was responsible for how many of the latest exchanges. AFP also noted that the Bosnian Serbs have recently advanced about 1.5 kilometers into the UN-declared "safe area" of Srebrenica. Meanwhile, government delegates in Sarajevo walked out of a UN-sponsored meeting to discuss procedures on the separation of forces specified in the cease-fire agreement. The government wanted to protest the continued lack of progress in reopening Sarajevo supply routes. Croatian delegates joined the walkout, leaving the UN to talk with the Serbs. The Serbs, for their part, refused to join a planned helicopter monitoring flight over Mt. Igman, saying the area under inspection included territories outside the demilitarized zone. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. DIPLOMATIC INITIATIVES BY THE CONTACT GROUP AND GREECE. The Washington Post reports on 20 January that a delegation from the Contact Group will return to Sarajevo on 21 January. The paper suggests that the Clinton administration is anxious to be seen as taking serious action to restore the current cease-fire and thereby prevent a rumored return visit by former President Jimmy Carter to the area. Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic was unimpressed, telling reporters that "the Contact Group comes, we give them coffee, they ask questions, and they leave." Meanwhile, the government-controlled edition of Borba (see below) on 20 January reports that a representative of the Greek Foreign Ministry is visiting the Bosnian Serb headquarters in Pale. He is reportedly presenting a message on ending the conflict, but the paper notes that the Greek press provides no details. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. NASA BORBA LAUNCHED. Politika on 20 January reports that Belgrade's independent newspaper Borba, currently the target of a government take- over bid, has now officially reincorporated and registered itself as Nasa Borba. Gordana Logar is to stay on as editor in chief. Publication of Nasa Borba's first issue is expected to be delayed, due to a lack of newsprint. Meanwhile, Tanjug reports that Belgrade has asked TV stations throughout Serbia to reduce their hours of broadcasting to between 18:30 and 23:00 local time to help conserve electricity. Power shortages and cuts have been common throughout rump Yugoslavia this winter, with the opposition accusing Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's regime of reducing electricity supplies in order to barter that energy for oil with neighboring countries. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. CROATIAN UPDATE. Foreign Minister Mate Granic has stressed that President Franjo Tudjman's decision not to renew UNPROFOR's mandate at the end of March is final, Reuters reported on 18 January. He said Zagreb has "carefully considered" the concerns expressed by the UN but also noted that "on this occasion, it is again necessary to reiterate Croatia's decision." Much tougher language was used by Vladimir Seks, the lower house deputy speaker and one of the leading hard-liners in the governing party. Seks was quoted by Hina as saying the decision was "irrevocable" and no bluff. Meanwhile, Hina and Reuters quoted IMF officials as praising Croatia's efforts to end inflation and stabilize the economy. One official said Croatia's inflation must be the lowest in the world. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES CALLS TO BAN HUNGARIAN PARTY. Traian Chebeleu, a spokesman for Romanian President Ion Iliescu, on 19 January described calls to ban the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania-- the main political organization of Romania's Hungarian minority--as "extravagant." Gheorghe Funar, the controversial leader of the ruling Party of Romanian National Unity, recently proposed a referendum on whether to outlaw the HDFR. But Chebeleu said a referendum can be held only in accordance with the constitution, indicating that Funar has no constitutional right to call such a vote. Recent demands by the HDFR for more autonomy for Romania's ethnic Hungarians have prompted protests from nearly all other Romanian parties. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIA RELEASES NEW AIDS STATISTICS. The Romanian Health Ministry on 19 January announced that as of 31 December 1994, a total of 3,119 AIDS cases had been registered in the country, of whom 2,885 were children, Radio Bucharest reports. The statement said 1,154 people so far had died of the disease. It also noted that the number of new cases had recently dropped, mainly owing to such preventive measures as the use of one-time needles and screening blood for transfusion. Meanwhile, the parents of a child dying of AIDS continue their legal battle against a local hospital and the Health Ministry for 200 million lei (some $113,000) in damages. They say their daughter was infected when she was treated for influenza in 1992 in the Santa Maria hospital in Iasi. The Health Ministry on 17 January rejected the allegations, saying that the exact time of the child's infection could not be established. Social workers and lawyers expect the case to set a precedent for other child AIDS victims. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. SHEVARDNADZE IN SOFIA. During a one-day visit to Sofia on 19 January, Georgian parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze met with Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev and signed a bilateral treaty on friendship and cooperation. The two leaders also called for a peaceful resolution to the Chechen conflict, Western agencies report. Shevardnadze told a meeting of foreign businessmen that Georgia has prepared the legislative base for the transition to a market economy and is following IMF recommendations. Characterizing the domestic political situation as "more or less stable," Shevardnadze also proposed Georgia as the route for a new oil and gas export pipeline from Azerbaijan and Central Asia to the Black Sea ports of Poti and Batumi. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN NUCLEAR PLANT TEMPORARILY CLOSED. Block 3 of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant had to be shut down for seven hours for technical reasons on 18 January, AFP reported the same day. The director of the plant assured the public there was no nuclear leakage and no security risk. But he admitted that there was a technical problem in the block. The Soviet-built plant has been modernized several times in the past three years but still is considered unsafe by Western experts. Bulgaria refuses to shut it down, saying that it is dependent on the energy produced at Kozloduy, which provides some 40% of the country's supplies. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT CAN LIFT JUDGE'S IMMUNITY. Albania's Constitutional Court ruled on 18 January that the immunity of Chief Supreme Court Judge Zef Brozi can be lifted by the parliament, Reuters reported the next day. Brozi is charged with corruption by Chief Prosecutor Alush Dragoshi, who claims that Brozi illegally ordered the release of a Greek citizen involved in a narcotics case. A member of the ruling Democratic Party, Brozi was nominated by President Sali Berisha to stamp out corruption in the judiciary but later accused Berisha of abandoning him in his fight. The parliament ruled on 29 December that it is not entitled to lift a judge's immunity. Now it must decide whether to lift the immunity of two former ministers. Prosecutors are already investigating former Transport Minister Fatos Bitincka and Albert Gajo, an adviser to the prime minister, on charges of abuse of power and forgery. Meanwhile, the trial of Arben Lika, a former deputy of the Democratic Party who is charged with smuggling cigarettes, was postponed until 24 January because of a lack of witnesses, Koha Jone reported on 20 January. -- Fabian Schmidt, 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. 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