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Vol. 1, No. 16 part II, 23 January 1995
This is Part II of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part II is 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 PRESIDENT ISSUES DECREE ON AGRICULTURAL REFORMS. Leonid Kuchma on 20 January signed a decree reforming the country's agricultural market, Interfax-Ukraine reported the same day. Farmers will be free to sell their produce to the state, on commodities exchanges, in trading houses, and through purchasing or brokerage agencies. The measure allows foreign investment in the production, processing, and storage of farm products, excluding grain. It also exempts foreign investors from export quotas and licensing. Kuchma has instructed the National Bank of Ukraine to arrange the sale of futures and forward contracts for agricultural products by the Ukrainian Interbank Currency Exchange until commodities exchanges are set up. The central bank will also explore the possibility of allowing commercial lending to farmers using future harvests as collateral. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. RUKH, PARLIAMENT SPEAKER OPPOSE RESTORATION OF SOVIET UNION. Oleksander Moroz, socialist chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, has criticized organizers of a campaign supporting the restoration of the Soviet Union, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 21 January. Addressing leftist political forces in Dnipropetrovsk, he said internal developments in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia make renewal of the Soviet Union impossible and could lead to war. But he added that the three republics should seek closer political and economic ties and advance toward a new commonwealth of nations. Interfax-Ukraine reported on 22 January that the nationalist organization Rukh has circulated leaflets in Kiev demanding that the Ukrainian prosecutor-general's office investigate the "illegal" activities of procommunist groups collecting signatures for a referendum on the reunification of the former Soviet republics. The leaflets called the campaign "destabilizing" and said it could lead to civil strife. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIANS SAID TO BE TAKING ALL BLACK SEA FLEET PLANES. The commander of Ukraine's naval air force has charged the Black Sea Fleet's leaders with unilaterally disbanding the fleet's air force. Interfax on 20 January quotes Nikolai Volovin as saying he fears that when the two countries eventually divide the naval air force, there will be nothing left to divide. He reported that the unit stationed at Veseloye, on the Crimean peninsula, was disbanded in 1994 and its equipment moved to Russia. Veseloye was the home of a naval heavy bomber regiment, equipped with Tu-22M "Backfire" jet missile-carrying bombers. Volovin said he feared the same fate awaited other naval air force units at Donuzlava, Gvardeisky, and Oktyabrskoye. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. BELARUSIAN NEWS. The Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus has called for mass demonstrations on 26 January to protest the violation of their rights, Belarusian Radio reported on 20 January. According to deputy federation head Frants Vitko, the workers have decided on such action because the problem of social security has not been solved and the liberalization of prices has led to price anarchy. Meanwhile, the Belarusian Cabinet of Ministers has approved an agreement with Italy on military cooperation and investment in the defense sector. The agreement was concluded by First Deputy Minister for External Economic Relations Syarhei Veksham. It was also reported that Former Deputy Prime Minister Viktar Hanchar was appointed secretary-general of the CIS Economic Court. Hanchar resigned from President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's government in December because he said Lukashenka had fallen under the influence of "adventurers" and could no longer influence policy. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. ESTONIA NOT TO GRANT ASYLUM TO HIGHJACKER. The Estonian government on 19 January decided it will not grant political asylum to Vladimir Bozhko, BNS reported on 20 January. The 36-year-old locksmith from Vorkuta hijacked a Russian plane from Syktyvkar to St. Petersburg in mid- November, demanding to be flown to Denmark. After the plane landed in Tallinn, he surrendered peacefully and released all the passengers and crew, When Russia asked for Bozhko's extradition on 25 November, he requested asylum and threatened to kill himself if turned over to Russia. Estonia is deciding when and how to transfer Bozhko to Russia. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. FURTHER TALKS ON BALTIC EU ASSOCIATE MEMBERSHIP. Deputy Foreign Minister Albinas Januskas, heading the Lithuanian delegation to the first round of talks on associate membership in the European Union, described the 19 January meeting as "successful," BNS reported on 20 January. The two sides exchanged opinions on the draft association agreement proposed by the European Commission. An Estonian delegation, headed by Foreign Ministry Deputy Chancellor Priit Kolbre, held similar talks on 20 January. Estonian Ambassador to Brussels Clyde Kull noted that the draft agreement's provisions on the movement of the work force, the transfer of social insurance, and the setting up of businesses needed additional work, BNS reported on 21 January. Estonia's major concern--the date of possible full membership in the EU--was not discussed. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. SIEGE MENTALITY IN POLISH PARLIAMENT. The Sejm on 20 January unexpectedly rushed through the first reading of a constitutional amendment that, in the event of a presidential dissolution order, would keep the parliament in session until after new elections. Current regulations would leave the country without a sitting parliament for several months, until the newly elected Sejm and Senate convened--such as occurred in 1993, following the no-confidence vote in Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka's government. Virtually all parties supported the amendment, and a final vote could take place as soon as early February (a presidential veto is likely, however). Sejm deputies continued to insist that President Lech Walesa has no legal grounds to dissolve the parliament, but an atmosphere of near-panic has clearly taken hold in anticipation of the president's next move on the 1995 budget. Rzeczpospolita notes on 21-22 January that some deputies are even considering stockpiling food and supplies for a possible sit-in if a dissolution order is made. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. FORMER CZECH COMMUNIST LEADERS AVOID PROSECUTION. Two former leading members of the Czechoslovak Communist Party will not be prosecuted on charges of illegally arming the party's paramilitary force, Czech media reported on 21 January. Former General-Secretary Milos Jakes and Karel Hoffmann could not be found when indictments against them and five others were issued just hours before a statute of limitations covering their alleged crime came into effect. They were charged in absentia, but legal officials last week decided this procedure was illegal and unjustified after the two proved they did not deliberately hide from the law. Jakes and Hoffmann were key hard-line members of the "normalization" regime that purged the party and cracked down on dissidents following the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. Because the statute of limitations came into effect at the end of December, they can no longer be charged over the issue of diverting arms from the Defense Ministry to the People's Militia in 1985. The five others charged, including former Prime Minister Lubomir Strougal, still face prosecution. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK PARLIAMENT APPROVES CABINET PROGRAM. The Slovak parliament on 20 January approved the cabinet's program and passed a vote of confidence in the government of Vladimir Meciar. Of the 139 deputies present, 83 supported the program, 44 voted against it, and 11 abstained. According to Pravda on 23 January, two deputies from the opposition voted in favor of the program: Lubomir Roman of the Christian Democratic Movement and Peasant Movement Chairman Jozef Klein. Marian Andel of the Slovak National Party reportedly voted against the program. Roman and Andel both later claimed, however, that their votes were recorded incorrectly, Sme reports. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. MDS MEMBERS PLEDGE TO PAY IF THEY LEAVE PARTY. Sme on 23 January reports that deputies from the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia have pledged to pay 5 million koruny to the MDS if they switch to another party during the current parliament term. This was confirmed in a recent interview with RFE/RL by MDS deputy and legal expert Jan Cuper, who said his party justified the payment because of the money spent on the election campaign. When asked whether this contravenes the constitution (which says deputies are the representatives of citizens and are responsible to vote in accordance with their conscience,) Cuper claimed that other parties have similar agreements but refused to name them. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSCHNIK TO LEAVE MOSTAR? Hans Koschnik, former mayor of Bremen and current EU-appointed mayor of Mostar, told Deutsche Welle on 22 January that he regards obstruction by local Croats as the main problem in implementing the terms of the Croat-Muslim federation in Mostar. He also warned that he would give up his mandate if things do not improve. Koschnik recently held meetings with top officials of the Republic of Croatia, including the prime, defense, and foreign ministers, in apparent preparation for meetings with Croatian and Muslim representatives from Bosnia and Herzegovina. He appears to have met with the Zagreb Croats first to shore up their support in his dealings with the Herzegovinian Croats. Hina added that the Croatian government delegation also held talks with the Mostar Croats, all of whom "firmly supported the Bosnian federation," according to Foreign Minister Mate Granic. Prime Minister Nikica Valentic added that the Zagreb delegation helped bring things "one step closer to a solution," Vecernji list reports on 23 January. But he could not accept Koschnik's assertion that the local Croats were the main problem. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. YET ANOTHER SHIFT IN US BOSNIAN POLICY. The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times on 23 January report on the latest in a series of flip- flops in Washington's policy toward Bosnia and Herzegovina, namely, the decision to end the policy of no direct talks with the Bosnian Serbs and to send a US envoy to Pale. Ambassador Victor Jackovich, who favors a policy of pressure and sanctions against Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his followers, was recalled to Washington on 18 January, while his deputy went to Pale for talks the next day. US Contact Group negotiator Charles Thomas beat the same path to Karadzic's headquarters on 22 January, where he held talks that he called "very constructive." US Secretary of State Warren Christopher had earlier announced the change in policy to the Bosnian government in a letter saying the decision was contingent on the Serbs' opening roads into Sarajevo. They have promised several times to open the routes, but these still remain closed. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. OTHER BOSNIAN NEWS. International media reported on 20 January that the first Serbian-Muslim prisoner exchange took place under the terms of the current cease-fire. The Los Angeles Times on 22 January noted that the exchange of 100 people is the first time one of the provisions of the current cease-fire has been honored. Meanwhile, in the Bihac pocket, fighting again intensified over the weekend after a brief lull, while AFP reported from Tuzla that a controversial Serbian liaison officer has left the airfield there. The BBC on 23 January ran an interview with the UN commander in Bosnia, General Sir Michael Rose, whose tour of duty is about to end. Rose defended his and the UN's records, noting that they are required to be impartial while "not being indifferent" to the situation of the Bosnian government, which is a member of the UN. He nonetheless repeatedly warned against the "siren voices calling us to war." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. POLITICAL TRIALS IN SANDZAK. The independent Monitor reported on 20 January that since December, "almost the entire leadership of the Party of Democratic Action for Montenegro (SDA)--20 youngsters from Cetinje and the legislator Acim Visnjic"--have been sentenced to long prison terms. The newspaper claims that these are political trials of "foes of the current system" and quotes the lawyer of the ethnic Muslim SDA as saying the prisoners have been physically and psychologically tortured. The sentenced SDA members have been accused of separatist activity, while the 20 ethnic Montenegrin youngsters from Cetinje were sentenced to a total of 17 years in prison for slandering Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic. Of the 20, six have also been charged with obstructing a parliament session. Visnjic, a member of the extreme nationalist Serbian Radical Party, was sentenced to five months for publicly "slandering the state and the president of the Republic of Montenegro." -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIA'S RULING COALITION EMBRACES EXTREMISTS. The ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania and Party of Romanian National Unity have signed a protocol of "collaboration" with the Greater Romania Party and the Socialist Labor Party, thereby formalizing their alliance, Radio Bucharest and Romanian TV reported on 20 January. It is expected that the cabinet will soon be enlarged to include members of the chauvinist GRP and the SLP, the heir to the Romanian Communist Party. The four parties will consult on the "activity and the structure of the executive" and on the "co-opting of specialists" from among the signatory parties into "central administration" structures. GRP leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor, who had threatened to withdraw parliamentary support unless his party was allowed to join the coalition, expressed satisfaction with the agreement. But PRNU leader Gheorghe Funar said he regretted the accord did not include a clause on outlawing the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, as his formation had proposed. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT DENOUNCES NEW HUNGARIAN MINORITY COUNCIL. Radio Bucharest on 20 January reported that the Romanian government has denounced a recent decision by the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania to set up a council coordinating local administration policies. It said that if the HDFR did not abolish the council, it intended to appeal to "the judiciary and to [make use of] all other constitutional and legal instruments" available in a "state based on the rule of the law." The government said the HDFR council is an infringement of the principles of local administration democracy and was bound to discriminate between those who do and do not belong to the Hungarian minority. The PRNU announced the same day that it will ask to the Constitutional Court to ban the HDFR. Justice Minister Iosif Gavril Chiuzbaian, a PRNU member, told the Mediafax news agency that in his opinion there are sufficient grounds to start procedures for outlawing the HDFR. At a press conference in Bucharest on 20 January, Train Bandila, executive secretary of the GRP, also reiterated his party's long-standing demand that the HDFR be outlawed. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. LINE-UP OF NEW BULGARIAN CABINET. The Bulgarian Socialist Party and its partners on 22 January approved the cabinet proposed by BSP chairman Zhan Videnov, Reuters reported the same day. The government will be headed by Videnov, who will have four deputy premiers: Rumen Gechev, Doncho Konakchiev, Kiril Tsochev, and Svetoslav Shivarov. The first three will also have economic portfolios, with Gechev exercising overall control over the economy as minister for economic development. Georgi Pirinski, who was deputy foreign trade minister under the Zhivkov regime, has been named foreign minister. Historian Ilcho Dimitrov will be education minister--a post he held in the 1980s. Reserve Admiral Dimitar Pavlov will be the new defense minister; and Lyubomir Nachev, a former police officer, will take over at the Interior Ministry. The Finance Ministry will be headed by Dimitar Kostov. The BSP's coalition partners will hold three of the 17 posts. Vasil Chichibaba of the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union "Aleksandar Stamboliyski" will be in charge of agriculture, and Georgi Georgiev of the Political Club Ekoglasnost will be environment minister. Of the 14 ministers nominated by the BSP, only six are party members, 24 chasa reported on 23 January. The new cabinet will be presented to President Zhelev on 23 January and to the parliament on 25 January. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. FINANCIAL CRIME IN BULGARIA ON THE RISE. Financial crime in Bulgaria increased last year, causing huge losses to the economy, Pari reported on 19 January. National Police Director Hristo Gatsov said the number of financial crimes reported in 1994 was 20.6% up on 1994 levels, while losses to the country's economy increased by two-thirds, totaling 12 billion leva (about $180 million). The real number of crimes, however, is eight to ten times higher, Gotsov added. He said money-laundering, embezzlement, tax evasion, and privatization-related crime have increased. He blamed this increase on delays in structural reforms of Bulgaria's economy, which has allowed corruption and racketeering to flourish. He added that the police are too poorly paid and ill-equipped to cope with the problem. Interim Prime Minister Reneta Indzhova said in December that crime is evident at all levels of state authority and that the judicial system is unable to break the influence of criminal groups. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIA TO HOLD MILITARY EXERCISES WITH U.S. As part of its attempts to prepare for NATO membership, Albania will hold joint military exercises with the United States from 26-29 January. The naval search-and-rescue exercise, code named "Sarex '95," will involve the US Sixth fleet warship Ponce and six Albanian naval vessels, 600 infantry, and aircraft. "This is Albania's first step in the integration towards NATO," Reuters reports Albanian Defense Minister Safet Zhugali as saying on 20 January. Albanian already provides port and airfield facilities to NATO and the WEU. -- Michael Mihalka, 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. 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