|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
No. 28, Part II, 8 February 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 POLISH COALITION OUSTS PAWLAK, SELECTS OLEKSY. Poland's two ruling parties, meeting on 7 February, have agreed to remove Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak from office and replace him with Jozef Oleksy of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). Oleksy, a former communist party chief in Biala Podlaska voivodship and the minister charged with trade union relations in Poland's last communist government, is currently Sejm speaker. Under the new agreement, the Polish Peasant Party's Jozef Zych will take over Oleksy's post in the parliament leadership in exchange for the PSL's relinquishing the premiership. The deal was one of three proposed by Pawlak (who suggested as alternatives that SLD leader Aleksander Kwasniewski assume the posts of deputy prime minister and foreign minister or that the PSL leave the government entirely). Talks on the composition of the new government begin on 8 February. The coalition expects to make the changes through a "constructive no- confidence vote," one of the few constitutional options that does not require the president's approval. A spokesman indicated on 7 February that the president would sign the 1995 budget if a new government were formed under a new prime minister. "If there were changes in the government, the issue of dissolving the Sejm would probably not have the same urgency," the spokesman was quoted as saying by Gazeta Wyborcza. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. BALANCE OF POWER SHIFTS IN POLISH COALITION. SLD leader Aleksander Kwasniewski has stressed that the coalition would now form a "new government" rather than make personnel changes in the old cabinet. The SLD said in a communique that new ministers would be chosen for their "professionalism and high ethical standards." That has been interpreted to mean that cabinet members currently facing corruption allegations (including Foreign Trade Minister Leslaw Podkanski and Customs Office chief Ireneusz Sekula) will be removed. Public administration chief Michal Strak is also likely to step down. The PSL is promising to drive a hard bargain on the division of cabinet posts, particularly key economic ones, so the formation of the new government could take several weeks. But the imminent change at the top suggests that the balance of power in the government has shifted away from the PSL to the SLD. This could spell an end to the paralysis afflicting official policy since the Pawlak government took power in late 1993. Movement on privatization and other issues could help blunt charges from the Solidarity opposition that selecting a former communist as prime minister signifies "recommunization." -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATE OVER CONSTITUTIONAL BILL DELAYED. Parliament Speaker Oleksander Moroz says a controversial draft law on the separation of government powers, submitted by President Leonid Kuchma and approved by parliament at its first hearing in December, is not ready for a second debate in mid-February as planned, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 7 February. Moroz told Interfax the previous day that he was unsatisfied with the work of the commission set up to define the main points of contention in the draft legislation and with suggestions made by parliament deputies. Moroz said he disagreed most with the suggestion to abolish the post of prime minister and turn over its authority to the president. Kuchma last week also came out in favor of retaining the post of premier. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT ASKS PARLIAMENT TO APPROVE NEW CASH EMISSION. The Ukrainian government and the Central Bank have requested permission from the parliament to put another 25 trillion unbacked Ukrainian karbovantsi into circulation to meet outstanding payments for energy and fuel deliveries, pay wages and pensions, and finance this year's spring sowing, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 7 February. The request was prompted by the recent price liberalization ordered by President Leonid Kuchma and the parliament's failure to debate the 1995 budget, according to a letter sent to the parliament. The government estimates that the emission would cause the monthly inflation rate to jump to 30-35% in February, over 15% in January. The exchange rate of the karbovanets is expected to fall to 131,000 karbovantsi to $1 in February and 150,000 in March, if the emission is approved (the current rate is 118,400 karbovantsi to $1). The request opposes the president's efforts at introducing tight fiscal policy measures to cut the country's budget deficit and reduce inflation. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. U.S. DELEGATION IN KIEV, MINSK. Ukrainian Radio reported on 7 February that a U.S. government delegation headed by Thomas Simons, the State Department's coordinator of assistance to the newly independent states, met with parliament speaker Oleksandr Moroz. Simons was quoted as saying that a great deal of progress has been made toward economic reform in Ukraine. He met the previous day with President Leonid Kuchma. The delegation arrived in Minsk on 7 February. During its visit, the U.S. Congress is expected to debate aid to Belarus from an $800 million fund set up on 25 May 1994 to help the former Soviet republics. Concern has been expressed that the Republican-dominated congress is considering cutting the aid program. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SENDS ARMS CONTROL BILL TO PARLIAMENT FOR RATIFICATION. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has sent a bill on chemical weapons to the Belarusian parliament for ratification, Belarusian Television reported on 6 February. The convention forbids the development, sale and proliferation of chemical weapons and also calls for the destruction of such weapons. This is the first convention which calls for the complete destruction of a whole category of weapons. The convention calls for the government to work out a plan for the liquidation of all chemical weapons within 30 days of its ratification. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. FRENCH DEFENSE OFFICIALS VISIT BALTIC STATES. A delegation from the French Defense Ministry's Strategic Affairs Department, headed by Deputy Director General Alain Faupin, began a tour of the Baltic States on 6 February, BNS reported the following day. It held discussions with Lithuanian parliament deputies in Vilnius on national defense concepts and cooperation between the Baltic States. On 7 and 8 February, the delegation visits Riga for meetings with representatives of the Latvian Defense Ministry, the National Defense Academy, and State Presidential Adviser on Military Issues Col. Dainis Turlais. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. INFLATION IN ESTONIA AND LITHUANIA. The Estonian State Statistics Office has announced that the consumer price index in January increased by 3.5% over December, BNS reported on 7 February. Prices of goods rose by 2.9% (food by 3.8% and manufactured items by 1.6%), while the price of services increased by 4.2%. Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Statistics Department reported that inflation in January reached 5.7%, mainly owing to a 8.7% increase in food prices. Prices for tobacco and alcohol increased by 2.7%, for transportation and communication by 2.5%, and for housing expenses by 2.2%. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. CSCE COMMISSIONER IN SLOVAKIA. CSCE Commissioner on Minorities Max van der Stoel, on a visit to Bratislava from 6-7 February, said Slovakia should offer education in both the Slovak and Hungarian languages. Slovak President Michal Kovac assured Van der Stoel that parents would be free to choose schools for their children, and he agreed that an independent committee should be set up to deal with education questions, Slovak and international press report. Van der Stoel said that the signing of the Slovak-Hungarian basic treaty will help bring stability to Central Europe. He stressed that the document should be signed by 21 March, the scheduled date for signing the Pact on Stability in Europe. Van der Stoel also met with Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, parliament chairman Ivan Gasparovic, and leaders of several opposition parties. Discussions focused on territorial divisions in Slovakia. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. NEW HUNGARIAN FINANCE MINISTER, BANK CHAIRMAN NOMINATED. Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn on 7 February nominated Budapest Bank President Lajos Bokros as finance minister and Gyorgy Suranyi, current head of the Central European International Bank, as Hungarian National Bank chairman, MTI reports. Bokros and Suranyi, both in their early 40s, are regarded as competent and independent-minded. Bokros is a former Hungarian Socialist Party parliament deputy, while Suranyi belongs to no party but supports the HSP's coalition partner, the Alliance of Free Democrats. The nomination of two respected bankers is designed to restore confidence in Hungary's financial management structure and to reassure foreign investors that the government will carry on with economic reforms. The AFD approved the nominations, but the coalition partners still have to reach agreement on a candidate for the post of minister without portfolio charged with overseeing privatization. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARIAN COURT RULING ON COMPENSATION. The Hungarian Constitutional Court has ruled that several paragraphs of a 1992 law on compensating people deported during World War II for political reasons were discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional, Magyar Hirlap reports on 7 February. The court ruled that the law's description of deportations for racial, religious, or political reasons as "mere deprival of liberty" was arbitrary. It also nullified the provision giving only those victims compensation who were forced to work in combat troops while denying it to those who were in noncombat units or were sentenced without a fair trial. The court called on the parliament to draft a new law by 30 September 1995 compensating all those left out of the reparation process. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE UN REPORTS 62 HELICOPTER FLIGHTS FROM SERBIA INTO BOSNIA. The New York Times on 8 February quotes UN spokesmen as saying that during the first four days of the month, 62 helicopter sorties took place apparently from bases in Serbia to Srebrenica, in eastern Bosnia, where Bosnian Serbs have stepped up attacks in recent weeks. Some of the helicopters were reported to have flown "in military formation." The U.S. is demanding a UN investigation and wants to know why UN monitors were denied access to Serbian airfields at Surcin and elsewhere during that time. If it can be proved that the flights indeed came from Serbia, economic sanctions could automatically be reimposed on that country. Meanwhile, Vjesnik reports UN sources in Croatia as saying the number of flights of airplanes and helicopters from the Krajina Serb base at Udbina is increasing. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. YET ANOTHER CHANGE IN U.S. BOSNIAN POLICY. The Clinton administration has apparently done another flip-flop on Bosnia, The New York Times reports on 8 February. During December and January, Washington cultivated direct contacts with the Bosnian Serbs at Pale and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke was said to be the "architect" of that policy. But after failing to persuade Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to cooperate in reaching a settlement, Holbrooke is now quoted as saying that "there is no point in shuttling up the hill from Sarajevo to Pale to listen to the kind of crap which is dished out by Karadzic." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. MILOSEVIC REFUSES TO RECOGNIZE CROATIA AND BOSNIA. AFP reported on 7 February that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has rejected French and EU calls for a Yugoslav-area summit, calling it "a waste of precious time." He also ruled out Belgrade's recognition of Croatia and Bosnia, saying such a move "would prejudge fundamental solutions," Tanjug reported. Reuters quoted rump Yugoslav Foreign Minister Vladislav Jovanovic as saying that such recognition was "out of the question." Croatian and Bosnian officials have long called for Serbia to recognize them in their internationally valid frontiers as proof that Belgrade has given up on plans to carve out a Greater Serbia at its neighbors' expense. Hina cites Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic as noting that President Franjo Tudjman would attend a summit "provided the meeting is organized and thoroughly prepared." He also pointed out the connection between holding a summit and the participants' recognition of one another's frontiers. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. BELGRADE, MOSCOW SIGN TRADE ACCORD. Tanjug on 7 February reported that Russian Deputy Premier Oleg Davydov and rump Yugoslav authorities signed a bilateral trade accord paving the way for Russian deliveries of kerosene and gas to the rump Yugoslavia until 2010. Davydov was on an official visit to the Serbian capital. Reuters quotes him as saying Russia will deliver kerosene even if the UN Sanctions Committee, monitoring the international embargo against Belgrade, were to signal its disapproval. "Should the UN Sanctions Committee fail to accept our decision, the only way out for us would be to leave the committee, or find a way of carrying out those deliveries," he commented. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN COALITION TRIES TO RESOLVE INTERNAL ROW. The leaders of the four ruling parties met on 7 February to resolve a dispute triggered by the Party of Romanian National Unity leader Gheorghe Funar's attacks on President Ion Iliescu and his position on Hungarian minority demands for autonomy, Radio Bucharest reports. The four parties agreed to "actively support" the presidential institution and Iliescu's role in defending "[Romanian] independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity" and in ensuring that the country's laws and constitution" are respected. Funar, who accused Iliescu of failing to fulfill those duties, said after the meeting that the positions of the PRNU and the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (the major coalition partner) on the country's Hungarian national minority continue to differ. Presidential spokesman Traian Chebeleu, in reply to Funar, said the government would have to "explain how it can work with a party whose leader expresses extremist views unacceptable to public opinion in Romania and abroad." RFE/RL's correspondent in Bucharest reported on 7 February that 53 coalition deputies asked the parliament to reject recent Hungarian demands for autonomy. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN TALKS ON BILATERAL TREATY RESUME. Negotiations between Hungary and Romania on the bilateral treaty resumed in Budapest on 7 February. Romanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mircea Geoana told RFE/RL's correspondent in Bucharest that the document may be completed and signed before the end of March. He said the recent tensions in Romanian interethnic relations have had a negative impact on ties with Hungary, but he added that he did not believe those tensions are crucial. Radio Bucharest quoted Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying that Budapest was ready to accelerate negotiations with both Romania and Slovakia and that the basic treaties could be signed in March. Radio Bucharest's correspondent in Budapest said on 8 February that the negotiations have been "constructive" but that national minority rights (one of the two main issues over which the two sides disagree) remain a sticking point. He noted that Hungary wants a separate document detailing the rights of the Hungarian minority in Romania. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIA INCREASES ROAD TRANSIT FEES. The Bulgarian Transport Ministry has trebled the charges for bus and truck transits through Bulgaria, dpa reported on 6 February. The new fees are 24,000 leva ($360) plus a highway fee of 64 leva ($1) per kilometer. Passenger cars are exempted from the transit payment but have to pay a highway fee of 6 leva per kilometer. The Transport Ministry said the increases are due to the steep devaluation in 1994 of the Bulgarian currency. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN POLICE MAKE COUNTRY'S BIGGEST-EVER DRUG HAUL. Albanian police have seized 3 kilograms of heroin in the country's biggest-ever drug haul, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 8 February. Four Turkish citizens were arrested in possession of the drug on 6 February. The haul has an estimated West European market value of about $500,000. The newspaper also noted that the consumption of heroin, virtually unknown in Albania until 1993, has somewhat increased. The first proof of heroin usage in Albania since the end of communism was the case of a 17-year-old girl admitted to the hospital for an overdose in early 1994. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN ETHNIC GREEKS' SENTENCES TO BE LIFTED? International agencies reported on 7 February that the prison terms of four ethnic Greeks sentenced for espionage and illegal possession of arms will likely be lifted by the Supreme Court. Gramoz Pashko, leader of the opposition party Aleanca Demokratike, said he is "confident" the court will make the right decision, adding that Tirana should take a more flexible attitude toward its ethnic Greek minority. Supreme Court chief judge Zef Brozi, who will preside over the trial, said a recent government move to lift his immunity may have been aimed at preventing him from freeing the four. The parliament voted against lifting his immunity. Greece has demanded the release of the four prisoners as a precondition for reestablishing normal diplomatic relations. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet Union and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. 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