|Experience is in the fingers and head. The heart is inexperienced. - Henry David Thoreau|
No. 29, Part II, 9 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. EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE WALESA ACCEPTS OLEKSY AS PRIME MINISTER. Presidential spokesman Leszek Spalinski told reporters on 8 February that Lech Walesa has "voiced no objection" to the selection of Sejm Speaker Jozef Oleksy to replace Polish Peasant Party leader Waldemar Pawlak as prime minister. The president is to meet with Oleksy on 9 February. Spalinski stressed that Walesa expects the coalition to respect his prerogatives when selecting the new cabinet (the president has the constitutional right to supervise defense and security policy). Democratic Left Alliance leader Aleksander Kwasniewski has taken pains to avoid antagonizing Walesa on this issue. While arguing that the defense, foreign affairs, and internal affairs portfolios are "incorrectly" known as "presidential" ministries, Kwasniewski has indicated that the coalition will seek to find candidates acceptable to the president. (He has already indicated that Andrzej Milczanowski will stay on as internal affairs minister.) Walesa would like Andrzej Olechowski to return to his former post of foreign affairs minister, Rzeczpospolita reports, citing unofficial sources. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. FATE OF POLISH BUDGET UNCLEAR. Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) leader Aleksander Kwasniewski told reporters that talks on the new cabinet could be concluded in a matter of days. But conflicts have already emerged and could delay a Sejm vote to approve the new cabinet. Leading SLD members have argued that President Lech Walesa should withdraw his constitutional challenge to the 1995 budget and sign it into law before Waldemar Pawlak is removed from office. But the president's spokesman has argued that the budget is an entirely unrelated issue, and he recommended that the coalition open talks with Walesa on the budget. Leading figures in the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), for their part, have argued that a new coalition agreement should be completed before Jozef Oleksy proposes a new cabinet to the parliament. They insist that the new deal give their party control over the economic ministries run by the SLD under the old agreement. Kwasniewski has argued that ministerial posts should be divided up in proportion to the two parties' relative strength in the Sejm (the SLD has 167 of the 460 seats and the PSL 131). Meanwhile, Freedom Union leader Tadeusz Mazowiecki stressed that his party will remain in opposition. Mere personnel changes, Mazowiecki said, cannot solve the country's political crisis. Other opposition forces likewise dismissed the coalition's moves as mere "cosmetic" changes. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. NATO LOOKS SOUTH INSTEAD OF EAST, DESPITE CHECHEN WAR. NATO Secretary- General, Willy Claes admits the Chechen war has put increased pressure on its Eastern flank. Claes, who has recently been meeting with representatives of East European and Central Asian countries, said "NATO expansion was the most important item on the agenda--so no doubt there's more pressure, and I've told the Russians this." He added, "The more President Yeltsin makes strong speeches against enlargement, the more the nations of Central and Eastern Europe are knocking at my door." Poland's ambassador to Belgium, Andrzej Krzeczunowicz, said, "Chechnya won't change the pace of expansion...but [it] has changed the climate. People are more aware that the political environment is unstable and that changes in Russia may not be irreversible," The New York Times reported. But Claes cited the Caucasus situation as one reason to redirect NATO's interest southward. "The situation in the Middle East and in the southern parts of the former Soviet Union is so serious that we have to increase our efforts to cooperate with the countries around the Mediterranean Sea," Claes told the Belgian newspaper Tijd. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES CASH EMISSION. The Ukrainian parliament has authorized a cash emission worth 25 trillion unbacked Ukrainian karbovantsi to meet outstanding payments for energy and fuel imports, pay wages and pensions, and finance this year's spring sowing, UNIAR News reported on 8 February. Viktor Pynzenyk, deputy premier in charge of economic reform, said the government was forced to request the emission after the parliament threatened a vote of no confidence if the government did not pay off the debts of state enterprises. Legislators have yet to review the 1995 draft budget submitted by the government, which calls for tight fiscal measures and deep cuts in state subsidies to businesses and in social expenditures. The emission is expected to further devalue the karbovanets and double inflation to around 30% in February. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN FOREIGN TRADE IN 1994. Russia was Ukraine's most important trade partner in 1994, Interfax reported on 5 February. No less than 39% of Ukraine's exports were to Russia and 30% of its imports came from that country. Former Soviet republics accounted for two-thirds of Ukraine's trade. Belarus accounted for 6% of its exports and 3% of its imports; Moldova, 5% and 1%; Turkmenistan, 3% and 7%; and Kazakhstan, 1% and 2%. Overall, Ukraine exported more than it imported. Among its non- CIS trading partners, China was the largest, accounting for 6% of Ukraine's total trade. The U.S. and Switzerland followed with 3% each; and Hungary, Italy, and Germany, 2% each. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. PRESIDENTS OF BALTIC STATES MEET. Baltic Presidents Lennart Meri (Estonia), Guntis Ulmanis (Latvia), and Algirdas Brazauskas (Lithuania) officially inaugurated the activities of the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion (Baltbat) at the former Soviet army base at Adazi, Latvia, Western agencies report. Ulmanis told a press conference that Baltbat was important for Baltic security and a clear example of Baltic cooperation. The presidents, after a meeting in Jurmala, issued a statement urging Western nations not to put the Baltic States on the slow track to NATO membership. "The criteria for admission to the North Atlantic Alliance need to be equal for all prospective members," the statement said. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LATVIA SIGNS INDIVIDUAL PFP PROGRAM. Latvian Defense Minister Janis Trapans, at a meeting with the NATO Council in Brussels on 8 February, concluded an agreement making Latvia the 11th country to sign an individual Partnership for Peace cooperation program, AFP reports. Trapans told a press conference that the agreement has symbolic and practical value, since it marked Latvia's return to the family of European nations and would help develop the country's military structures. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. MAJOR PRIVATE LITHUANIAN TV STATION CLOSES. The Lithuanian Radio and TV Committee on 8 February discussed use of the TV channel on which the bankrupt private company LitPoliinter TV had broadcast until the previous day, RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service reports. LitPoliinter TV owes 800,000 litai ($200,000) to the state and would need another 1 million litai as security to regain the right to broadcast. The committee decided to accept until 8 March offers from companies to use the channel. The applicants have to present programming schedules and a statement from a commercial bank guaranteeing their ability to pay necessary expenses. The committee also decided that the successful applicant will have to reach an agreement to continue rebroadcasting programs from Russia's Ostankino Television. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. CZECH STATE FIRMS BANNED FROM POLITICAL SPONSORSHIP. The Czech government on 8 February banned state-owned firms from giving donations to political parties, Czech media reported the following day. According to changes in legislation to be submitted to the parliament, companies in which the state has a majority interest or which receive state subsidies will be allowed to make donations only to charities and social welfare organizations. The changes were prompted by a fund-raising dinner organized by Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS) in November. The ODS invited industrialists, including several directors of state-owned companies, who paid up to 250,000 koruny (some $9,000) to attend. A public outcry followed, and other parties in the governing coalition charged that the ODS was effectively receiving hidden state subsidies. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. CZECH DEPUTIES PROTEST CHURCH TRANSFER. More than half of Czech parliament deputies signed a petition protesting a court decision to hand over St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague to the Catholic Church, Czech media report. The medieval cathedral, the principal place of worship in the capital and a major tourist attraction, is part of Prague Castle and was expropriated by the Communists in the 1950s. A Prague court ruled recently that it should be returned to the Church. The petition, delivered on 8 February to President Vaclav Havel's office in the Castle, called on the Castle authorities to appeal the decision because the cathedral has always been considered public property. Some 12,000 people signed the petition, among them 107 deputies and Transportation Minister Jan Strasky. The deadline for lodging an appeal is 10 February. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK ECONOMIC STATISTICS FOR 1994. The Slovak Statistical Office, at a press conference on 8 February, revealed that real wages in 1994 grew by 3.3% in industry, 2.1% in construction, 1.1% in trade, and 6% in transport, compared with 1993. Real industrial production rose 6.4%, while the private sector's share in retail trade reached 88.5%, in construction 73.6%, in transport 56.3%, and in industrial production 53.7%. Foreign investment increased by 53.8%, reaching 16.5 billion koruny. Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, the U.S., and France are the largest foreign investors in Slovakia, Narodna obroda reports. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KRAJINA SERBS CALL MILITARY ALERT, BREAK CONTACTS WITH ZAGREB. The BBC reports on 9 February that the Krajina Serb legislature has set up a military alert and that observers in the area have already detected signs of mobilization. A correspondent noted the "fear of a drift toward war." The government-controlled Belgrade press already seems to have started a campaign promoting war hysteria. One headline in the pro- Milosevic Borba reads: "Germany prepares for war." The Krajina legislature also suspended all political and economic contacts with Zagreb either until Croatian President Franjo Tudjman takes back his decision to cancel UNPROFOR's mandate or until the UN finds a way to keep on UNPROFOR with or without Tudjman's approval. Economic contacts between the two sides have been increasingly promising, but neither party is happy with the current political agenda, which is topped by a plan from international mediators. Both Zagreb and Knin will probably be glad if it now dies a quiet death. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. MORE ON SERBIAN MILITARY HELP FOR BOSNIAN SERBS. Newsday reports on 9 February that U.S. officials are continuing to show great concern over UN accounts of some 62 military helicopter flights from Serbia to Bosnian Serb forces at Srebrenica last week. The newspaper also notes that Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic has charged that Serbia recently sent some 90 tanks and 8,000 "volunteers" to help its beleaguered allies. Newsday also reports on the French proposal for an international conference on the Yugoslav crisis, which has drawn mixed responses from around the globe. One French diplomat said in its defense: "If not this, what else can we propose?" Meanwhile, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is quoted in the Belgrade dailies as saying that his side will not be bound by any decisions of the conference if he is not invited. French officials deliberately left him off the guest list in a move to increase his isolation because of his continued refusal to accept the current peace plan. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SARAJEVO TO REOPEN RAILWAY LINKS. The BBC's Serbian Service reports on 9 February that railway transport has restarted in the Bosnian capital for the first time in almost three years. A German locomotive pulled two cars into the city the previous day, but plans are under way to reopen soon the key route running south to Mostar and on to Ploce on the Adriatic. Elsewhere, UN spokesmen reported alarm at what they said was an increase of fighting in the Bihac area. Agencies quoted them as calling troop movements of hundreds of Krajina Serbs "alarming." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN AUTHORITIES CRACK DOWN ON STUDIO B. Nasa Borba on 9 February reports that the independent Belgrade-based Studio B, which has both radio and television broadcast facilities, may become the latest victim in the Serbian government's crackdown on the free media. The daily notes that the same pattern is evident as in other recent cases, including that of the independent daily Borba (reincorporated last month as Nasa Borba). The authorities on 8 February challenged Studio B's legal status or incorporation in what appears to be the first step in a takeover bid. Studio B director Dragan Kojadinovic remarked that his company may exist for no more than 20 days. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. SLOVENIAN, ITALIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET. Reuters on 8 February reported that Slovenian Foreign Minister Zoran Thaler met in Rome with his Italian counterpart, Susanna Agnelli. The meeting was described as one of "goodwill," with such divisive issues as a property dispute that has prompted Italy to block Slovenian efforts at EU membership being kept off the agenda. Thaler told reporters that discussions focused on how to develop "[bilateral] relations that are closer and not based on hate." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. CONTINUED DISAGREEMENT OVER HUNGARIAN-ROMANIAN TREATY. Romanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mircea Geoana said at a press conference on 8 February that the teams of experts that met in Budapest from 6-8 February still disagree over two points in the basic Hungarian-Romanian treaty. These concern minority rights and collaboration to achieve Romania's admission as a full member of the Central European Initiative and the Central European Free Trade Association. Geoana was quoted by Radio Bucharest as saying that Hungary has submitted new proposals, which he described as representing "some steps forward but also some backward." Responding to Hungary's proposal that the treaty be accompanied by a separate document detailing minority rights, Geoana said there should be no linkage between such a document and the basic treaty. He added that the proposal was not in line with what had been agreed by the two countries' foreign ministers a few days earlier in Strasbourg and during Theodor Melescanu's visit to Budapest last September. The Romanian side will make its own proposals at the next round of negotiations at expert level, to be held in Bucharest later this month. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. LEBED SAYS BAN ON REMOVING EQUIPMENT DOES NOT APPLY TO RUSSIAN ARMY. Lieutenant-General Aleksandr Lebed, commander of the Russian 14th Army, told Interfax on 8 February that a decree issued by the president of the self-styled Dniester Republic banning the removal of Russian military assets from the republic's territory does not apply to Russian military forces. He said the decree detailed "equipment, property, and other material resources purchased from the Russian 14th Army," which he interpreted as applying only to Dniester Republic residents who have purchased property from the army. He said vehicles, including general purpose trucks, have been sold after their term of service expired. He noted that he had received no instructions about the removal of 14th Army units from the region and suggested that discussion on the issue was superfluous at this stage. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN POLICE BREAK UP PROTESTS AGAINST WATER PIPELINE. Bulgarian police dispersed about 200 protesters who blocked work on a water pipeline project in the town of Sapareva Banya, Reuters reported on 8 February. Some 21 demonstrators were arrested. Construction of the pipeline, linking rivers in the Rila Mountains to the Iskar dam, has been stopped since residents of the Sapareva Banya region formed a human chain on 23 December and prevented workers from entering the construction site. The government on 6 February ordered work on the project to be continued. Meanwhile, international news agencies reported on 7 February that the persisting water shortage in Sofia is severe enough to justify evacuation of some of the capital's residents. A government spokesman said "the introduction of a state of emergency in Sofia and surrounding areas" cannot be excluded, since the shortage "threatens the health of the 1.5 million Sofia residents." -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIA TO REHABILITATE EX-COMMUNIST ACADEMICS. Bulgarian Minister of Education and Science Ilcho Dimitrov announced on 8 February that the government plans to revise a law barring former communists from higher academic posts, Reuters reported the same day. Under the present law, introduced in 1992, former senior communist functionaries are barred from governing bodies of universities, research institutes, and the Central Examination Board. Dimitrov called the law "absurd" and fascist." He added that he is allowed to be minister and run the whole educational system but cannot be a member of his university's faculty council. The law has been criticized by international human rights organizations. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN SUPREME COURT FREES ETHNIC GREEKS. Albanian Chief Supreme Court Judge Zef Brozi has suspended the prison terms of four ethnic Greeks sentenced to between six and eight years by a lower court last summer, international agencies reported on 8 February. They were found guilty of espionage and illegal possession of firearms, but their terms were later reduced. A fifth was released in an amnesty last fall. The Prosecutor- General's Office immediately protested the court ruling to release the four prisoners. As a result, they were freed only some nine hours after the ruling. -- 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. 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. Please direct inquiries to: Editor, Daily Digest, OMRI, Na Strzi 63, 14062 Prague 4, Czech Republic or send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: (42 2) 6114 2114 Fax: (42 2) 426 396
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