|It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. - Samuel Johnson|
No. 30, Part II, 10 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 POLISH COALITION DEAL LOOKS SHAKY . . . A revolt within the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) has cast doubt on the durability of the coalition agreement to replace Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak with Sejm Speaker Jozef Oleksy of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), Polish media report. The PSL's main executive council voted on 9 February to accept Pawlak's decision to step down, but the party's 170-strong parliament caucus sharply criticized the move. PSL deputies and senators denounced Pawlak's advisers and leading PSL cabinet members for agreeing to the deal without consulting them, and some urged a probe into corruption allegations against the prime minister. Others argued that the party should demand continued control of prime minister's post or opt to join the opposition. Pawlak's position within the PSL seems badly shaken. Even if the party opts to accept a prime minister from the SLD, the battle over the division of ministerial posts is certain to be fierce, and defections by PSL deputies in any "constructive no-confidence vote" to form a new government appear likely. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. . . . WHILE OLEKSY WAVERS. Sejm Speaker Jozef Oleksy, after meeting with President Lech Walesa on 9 February, said he has not yet decided whether to try to form a government, Rzeczpospolita reports. Oleksy insisted that the press is responsible for creating the impression that he has already opened talks on a new cabinet. Despite optimistic predictions on 8 February from SLD leader Aleksander Kwasniewski that the next Sejm session could vote a new prime minister into office, Oleksy said this was "practically impossible." He said his decision depended not only on the stance of the Polish Peasant Party but also on the fate of the 1995 budget. Oleksy indicated he was unlikely to undertake the task of forming a government if the budget were not signed first. The president hinted, however, that he would agree to sign the budget only after discussing it with a new prime minister. Walesa, cornered by journalists at a meeting of military chaplains, said the prospect of Oleksy as prime minister did not please him. But he added that "without the dissolution of the parliament, nothing more can be done." -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FORBIDS GOVERNMENT TO RAISE PRICES WITHOUT INCREASING WAGES. The Ukrainian legislature has forbidden the government to implement price hikes without wage increases, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 9 February. Legislators said the population's purchasing power has fallen drastically since President Leonid Kuchma ordered price liberalization in November. They also noted that the government has failed to request an increase in subsidies to state enterprises to cover appropriate wage increases. The legislature earlier this week approved a cash emission to finance, among other things, wage increases. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. BELARUSIAN NEWS. The Belarusian Constitutional Court has ruled that the law liquidating local councils is unconstitutional and has recommended that the parliament amend it, Belarusian Television reported on 8 February. Parliament deputy Aleh Trusau expressed his personal thanks to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka for finally having given a speech in Belarusian, albeit in the Lithuanian parliament. Lukashenka has been criticized by the opposition for speaking in Russian. Meanwhile, the pro-Russian "Belaya Rus" appealed to the president to go ahead with his plan to hold a national referendum on granting the Russian language official status (along with Belarusian) and increasing cooperation with Russia. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. ESTONIA'S LAST PRIVATIZATION ROUND. The deadline for bids in Estonia's last round of privatization expired at noon on 9 February, BNS reports. Privatization Agency Director General Vaino Sarnet said preliminary interest in the 43 enterprises offered for sale was great--an average of about six bidders per enterprise. The firms include 21 construction and building materials companies, five transportation firms, and three food processing enterprises. The largest of those companies is the Marat knitwear factory, with a total of 1,579 employees. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. EU FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER IN LATVIA. Hans van den Broek met on 8-9 February in Riga with President Guntis Ulmanis, Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs, Finance Minister Andris Piebalgs, and some EU ambassadors in Riga, BNS reports. He expressed optimism that the Baltic States would sign association agreements with the EU before the end of June. When asked for a time frame for the Baltic States' full EU membership, he responded that "We are now really talking about the process and we (should rather) talk about the conditions and what conditions have to be met than try to be speculative about the calendar," Reuters reports. Van den Broek left for Tallinn that evening. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. PRAGUE CASTLE APPEALS CATHEDRAL RESTITUTION. The office of President Vaclav Havel on 9 February appealed a court decision to hand over St. Vitus Cathedral, in Prague Castle, to the Catholic Church. Lubos Dobrovsky, head of the presidential office, told journalists there were doubts about aspects of the December court ruling to return the cathedral and about the Church's legal entitlement to initiate court proceedings, Czech media report. More than half of Czech parliament deputies signed a petition asking the presidential office, which is responsible for the cathedral and maintains it on behalf of the state, to appeal. But Dobrovsky denied that the action was taken because of public pressure. Members of the two Christian Democratic parties in the parliament criticized their fellow deputies for signing the petition. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus warned that the issue should not be allowed to blow up into an "unnecessary" political or public dispute. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTY WILL NOT EXAMINE DEMOCRATIC UNION LISTS. Christian Democratic Movement Deputy Chairman Ivan Simko, at a press conference on 9 February, said his party will not participate in a commission charged with examining the Democratic Union's election lists. Dusan Macuska, a member of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia who heads the parliament commission investigating the validity of the DU's mandates, recently called for the creation of a new commission that might include CDM and DU members. Simko argued that Macuska's current commission, consisting only of governing party representatives, did not invite opposition members to be present when its members unsealed the lists three months ago. He suggested that the lists may have been manipulated. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAKIA DENIES SELLING ARMS TO ALGERIA. The Slovak Foreign Ministry released a statement on 9 February saying recent international press reports about Slovakia's alleged sales of light weapons to Algerian Islamic fundamentalists are false. The ministry said it "denies any link between Slovakia and supplies of arms to extremist, terrorist, and illegal organizations throughout the world." It also noted that Slovakia "adheres to the principle of nonintervention in the internal affairs of other countries and condemns any manifestations of political or military extremism, radicalism, and terrorism." Allegations about Slovak arms sales to Algeria appeared in Le Monde on 4 February. The head of the Slovak government licensing commission, Colonel Ignac Hianik, said he is not aware of any exports of light weapons to Algeria. He added that the allegations are "a provocation" that damages Slovakia's image abroad, Pravda reports. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARIAN PREMIER REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO REFORM. Gyula Horn, during a visit to the European Union and NATO headquarters in Brussels on 9 February, stressed his country's commitment to economic reform and said that his government even plans to accelerate the pace of change, Western news agencies report. Horn was responding to a warning by the European Commission that Hungary's failure to stick to its reform program could derail its chances of joining the EU before the end of the century. Doubts about the Horn government's commitment to reform came in the wake of the resignation of liberal Finance Minister Laszlo Bekesi and the government's cancellation of a major privatization deal. Horn said he believed there is a good chance Hungary will become a member of NATO before it gains admission to the EU. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBS VIOLATE BOSNIAN CEASE-FIRE. The BBC's Serbian Service on 10 February reports major violations of the cease-fire the previous day by Bosnian Serb forces in Sarajevo and Krajina Serb units in the Bihac pocket. The UN, meanwhile, has complained again about Serbian authorities barring UN monitors from access to radar at Belgrade airport last week, when Serbian military helicopter flights to Bosnia were taking place. International media report that U.S. President Bill Clinton and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, meeting in Washington, called for strengthening the Croatian-Muslim federation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. TURKISH LEGISLATORS WANT UNPROFOR TO HELP ENFORCE PEACE. Hina reports on 10 February that visiting Turkish deputies told their Croatian counterparts that UNPROFOR's mandate in both Croatia and Bosnia needs redefining. The Turks stressed that UNPROFOR should not be trying to keep a peace that does not really exist but rather to make peace. Meanwhile in Krajina, the Serbs announced they will respect agreements in force on reopening the Zagreb-Lipovac highway and the Adria pipeline but will suspend those not yet put into practice. The latter include projects to reopen the railway line through the zone known as Sector West and to restart the water supply for Pakrac. The Serbian authorities also refused some Croatian refugees permission to visit their homes in occupied areas, although some Serbs have been allowed to return to their houses in Novska and Nova Gradiska. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. BALKAN DIPLOMATIC UPDATE. Nasa Borba reports from the Sandzak on 10 February that Rasim Ljajic, general secretary of the mainly Muslim Party for Democratic Action, has called for Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia to recognize one another in their internationally valid frontiers. Zagreb and Sarajevo insist on such recognition as proof that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has abandoned his ambitions to create a Greater Serbia, but Belgrade refuses to do so. The same newspaper also quotes American media sources and an interview with the U.S. ambassador to Croatia in a Zagreb weekly as indicating that Washington has warned Croatia not to expect any U.S. support if it renews the war in Krajina. Finally, rump Yugoslav Foreign Minister Vladislav Jovanovic is reported to be in Athens to discuss the possible opening of a "diplomatic office" in Skopje and its potential effects on Greek-Serbian relations. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. JOURNALISTS STRIKE IN SERBIA? Nasa Borba on 10 February reports that the editorial board of the journal Liberal has called for a journalists strike to protest Belgrade's recent attacks on Serbia's independent media. The board observes that the crackdown amounts to "the despotic regime of Slobodan Milosevic extinguishing the last free light in Serbia." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION TO BE OFFERED AT MACEDONIAN ACADEMY. The Academic Council of the Skopje Pedagogical Academy has agreed to offer Albanian-language instruction in education, psychology, and sociology, Flaka reported on 9 February. A program is to be worked out for Albanian-language instruction in all departments at the academy. Ethnic Albanian students have been boycotting classes for more than two months, arguing that education courses should be taught in Albanian because their purpose is to train school teachers who will teach in that language. Meanwhile, ethnic Albanian deputies in the Macedonian parliament demanded that the proposed new identification cards should be bilingual. They were overruled by the Macedonian majority. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION OF ROMANIA TO SEVER HUNGARIAN TIES? The Party of Civic Alliance, a member of the opposition Democratic Convention of Romania, has asked the DCR to sever ties with the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania if the HDFR does not give up its demands for regional autonomy based on ethnic criteria. The HDFR is also a member of the DCR, but its demands for autonomy have been denounced by virtually all other members. PCA Deputy Chairman Nicolae Taran told a press conference on 9 February that the DCR must state explicitly that Romania is "a national, sovereign, independent, unitary, and indivisible state." The HDFR objects to the term "national." Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Traian Chebeleu said at a Bucharest press conference that remarks made by HDFR President Bela Marko in an interview with the BBC were "propaganda" aimed at distorting Romanian realities. Chebeleu objected in particular to Marko's claim that Romania has been trying to assimilate the Hungarian minority since 1918. He also took exception to Marko's designation of the 1918 unification of Transylvania with Romania as an "annexation." -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. WORKERS STRIKE AGAIN IN RESITA . . . Employees at the Resita machinery plant went on strike on 9 February to demand big pay increases and protest broken promises. Radio Bucharest reported that negotiations broke down after strikers burst into the hall and forced the plant's director to resign. Leaders of the trade unions representing the strikers said negotiations will not be resumed until the State Property Fund confirms his resignation has been accepted. In late December 1994, some 15,000 workers in Resita staged strikes for eight days. Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu was forced to go there and accept most of the workers' demands. Western agencies quote the strikers as saying the government has failed to keep its promises. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. . . . AND MINERS THREATEN UNREST. Coal miners union leader Miron Cozma, who led several rampages through the capital in 1990 and 1991, has threatened that miners will take action to demand bigger state subsidies, Radio Bucharest and Reuters reported on 9 February. Cozma, who expects at least 300 union leaders to take part in protest marches and rallies in Bucharest next week, accused the government of seeking to close pits by limiting subsidies. He said if a single pit is closed, miners will press for the government's resignation and block roads across the country. In 1991, Cozma and the miners were instrumental in forcing the resignation of Petre Roman's government. Mine union leaders are demanding that subsidies projected in the 1995 state budget be increased by 25%. The parliament is currently debating the -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. MOLDOVA LEADERS ON ALMATY SUMMIT. Moldovan President Mircea Snegur, before departing for the Almaty summit, said Moldovan priorities at the meeting are mainly economic. Snegur was quoted by Moldpres as saying the decisions about to be taken in Almaty will provide opportunities for Moldovan exports that will prove "vital" for economic reform. Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli told Radio Chisinau he expected the summit to be "more complicated and difficult" than its predecessors, because of problems left unresolved after earlier meetings. He said Moldova's position was that each member country should have its own currency but that it could envisage agreement on a common currency. Sangheli also said Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus will not support the setting up of a Eurasian Union. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS COMMISSIONS. The Bulgarian parliament on 9 February elected the members of its 20 commissions, 24 chasa reported the following day. No fewer than 18 are headed by deputies of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party and the remaining two by Bulgarian Business Bloc deputies. The Union of Democratic Forces declined to head any commission, insisting instead that one of the deputy chairmanships of each commission be filled by a UDF member. The Socialists complied with that demand. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. GREECE BLOCKS EU CUSTOMS UNION WITH TURKEY. The Greek government on 9 February rejected a compromise formula on a customs union between the European Union and Turkey, saying it will maintain its veto until its demands are met, AFP reported the same day. Athens is pressing for Cyprus's admission into the EU. EU foreign ministers agreed on 6 February to open membership talks with Cyprus six months after the union's scheduled institutional overhaul in 1997, while Greece promised to lift its veto on the trade accord with Turkey. Greek government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said that while the Greek position is negative, "the government detects the possibility to continue talks" because there is "room for clearing up and improving the (EU) positions." Turkish officials said their country had met its obligations toward the EU and expects the union to do likewise. Noting that they were negotiating with the EU and not with Greece, they accused that country of continuing to block efforts to achieve a customs union. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. GREECE WELCOMES RELEASE OF ETHNIC GREEKS IN ALBANIA. Greek government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos on 9 February said the Albanian Supreme Court's decision to free four ethnic Greeks sentenced for espionage and illegal possession of firearms lays the foundations for resumed political talks between Greece and Albania, Reuters reported the same day. Following their conviction last fall, Athens broke off all contacts with Albania's leadership, saying no dialogue was possible until they were freed. A fifth defendant was released last December by presidential decree. -- 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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