|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
No. 32, Part II, 14 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 AGREES ON PROGRAM . . . Leaders of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) announced after meetings on 13 February that they reached agreement on the basic aims of the new government to be headed by Sejm speaker Jozef Oleksy, Rzeczpospolita reports. They are: to maintain economic growth on the basis of the "Strategy for Poland" (drafted by current Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko); to reform the public administration and strengthen local government; to streamline social welfare policy; and to take active steps towards Poland's integration into European structures. The only specific detail agreed upon, however, was the appointment of a government press spokesman (the SLD has long lamented Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak's lack of skillful public relations). Oleksy told reporters not to expect any "revolutionary reversal" from the new government as, he argued, Pawlak continued the reform process without "ruining anything in an obvious fashion." * Louisa Vinton . . . BUT OLEKSY STILL HESITATES. Oleksy also cautioned that he has still not decided whether to undertake the task of forming a government, and again hinted that the president's signing of the 1995 budget is a precondition. New sources of disagreement between the coalition partners are emerging daily. The SLD has proposed using the government overhaul to consolidate the economic ministries and create a new "state treasury," but the PSL opposes this idea as premature. The PSL wants most of the SLD economic ministers ousted, and former Justice Minister Aleksander Bentowski (PSL) argued that only two ministers from the outgoing cabinet should remain in office. Many SLD activists favor removing Kolodko on the grounds that he is "difficult" and replacing him with the economist Dariusz Rosati, whose candidacy for the finance ministry was vetoed by President Lech Walesa early in 1994. Labor Minister Leszek Miller (SLD) told reporters in Lodz on 13 February that the SLD may also demand control of the Senate speaker's post, currently occupied by Adam Struzik of the PSL. SLD leaders admitted on 13 February that the coalition was unlikely to propose a constructive no-confidence vote before the Sejm's 1-3 March session. * Louisa Vinton NATO DELEGATION IN KIEV. A NATO delegation headed by the Chairman of its Military Committee, Field Marshall Richard Vincent, arrived in Kiev on 13 February for meetings with Ukrainian Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov, Chief of Staff Anatolii Lopata, and other defense officials, Ukrainian television reported. After the meetings, Shmarov told reporters that the expansion of NATO was discussed, that Ukraine's non- aligned status is the right policy at this juncture and that the issue of NATO's expansion is a very complex problem which could lead to confrontation. "Today it would not be right to enlarge the circle of NATO countries," international agencies quoted Shmarov as saying. Vincent said NATO has no plans for early expansion, adding, "It is something that has to take place in a constructive and evolutionary manner." * Ustina Markus and Michael Mihalka UPDATE ON UKRAINE'S MILITARY REFORMS. Ukrainian radio reported on 13 February that the country's armed forces are to be reduced by a further 60-65,000 this year because of insufficient funding for the military. According to the head of the financial-economic department of Ukraine's armed forces, Major General Hryhorii Kukharsky, the military received only 16.9% of the funds in required for 1995. These funds, Kukharsky said, will only cover the military's grocery bills. * Ustina Markus CHORNOBYL TO REMAIN IN OPERATION. President Leonid Kuchma told a news conference on 13 February that Ukraine cannot shut down the Chornobyl nuclear power plant until alternative energy sources are found, AFP and Interfax-Ukraine reported on the same day. The president asked for Western aid to help build two new modern nuclear power stations at Slavutych, a town about 28 miles from Chornobyl that was built to accommodate plant employees and their families evacuated after the April 1986 nuclear disaster. The G-7 group of leading industrialized nations have withheld offers of badly-needed financial aid to Ukraine until it agrees to shut down the two remaining operating reactors at Chornobyl, which they say are unsafe and endanger Europe. Heavily dependent on Russia and other CIS states for energy supplies, Ukraine has been experiencing an energy crisis and has begun to rely more on its five nuclear power plants. The Ukrainian government has said it needs to keep Chornobyl in operation until the end of the decade because it provides 7% of the country's energy and employs 7,000 people. Mikhail Pavlovski, chairman of the Parliament's nuclear policy commission, said the West should help finance the construction of the new reactors, which would cost around $7 billion. * Chrystyna Lapychak BALTIC PRIME MINISTERS MEET IN RIGA. Prime Ministers Adolfas Slezevicius (Lithuania), Maris Gailis (Latvia), and Andres Tarand (Estonia) met in Riga on 13 February and adopted the Baltic Council of Ministers' action plan for 1995 that envisions joint activities in defense, environmental protection, and harmonization of laws, BNS reports. They founded four new committees: Information Technology, Culture, Customs, and Border Guarding to supplement the council. The premiers also adopted resolutions on the Via Baltica roadlink and on the establishment of the Baltic Customs Union by 1 January 1998. They failed, however, to sign an anticipated trilateral agreement on agricultural trade. Lithuania will take over from Latvia the rotating presidency of the council on 1 July. * Saulius Girnius ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT BACKS CHECHNYA RECOGNITION. The Estonian parliament on 13 February by a vote of 50-0 called for the recognition of Chechnya "at the first available opportunity as soon as the international situation makes it possible," Reuters and Interfax report. The resolution criticized international organizations for their inability to react swiftly to human rights violations during the Chechnya campaign. It views Russia's military operations in Chechnya as a violation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Code approved by the December 1994 summit meeting in Budapest. The parliament also called on its Russian counterpart to end "the Moscow-waged war in Chechnya and ensure the quickest return of refugees to their places of permanent residency." * Saulius Girnius COMMUNIST MINISTER RELEASED FROM JAIL. Czechoslovakia's last communist Interior Minister, Frantisek Kincl, was released from jail on 13 February after serving 19 months of a three-year sentence for abuse of power. In agreeing to release him early, a court in Brno put Kincl on two years probation, Czech media report. Kincl was sentenced in October 1992, along with two other senior officials, for organizing special police actions against dissidents and demonstrators in 1988 and 1989. His deputy Alojz Lorenc, who acted as head of the communist security services, has yet to serve his sentence; since the break-up of Czechoslovakia, decisions of Czech courts are not valid in Slovakia, where Lorenz lives. Last week, Czech authorities handed over the court files on Lorenz to their Slovak counterparts with a request that he be tried there. * Steve Kettle RUSSIAN PREMIER IN SLOVAKIA. Russian Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin began a two-day official visit to Slovakia on 13 February to meet with his Slovak counterpart Vladimir Meciar, President Michal Kovac, parliament chairman Ivan Gasparovic as well as business representatives, Slovak and international media report. Twelve agreements were signed on the first day of the visit, covering such issues as trade; cooperation in culture, education, science and technology; legalization of employment in the other country; cooperation in nuclear energy and in the production of aircraft; and provisions for visa-free visits. Russian-Slovak debt settlement as well as Slovakia's large trade deficit with Russia are major issues of bilateral concern, as is Russia's opposition to membership of former Soviet bloc countries in NATO. On 11 February, the Russian-Slovak intergovernmental commission for coop- eration in trade, economy, science and technology concluded a three-day session, led by Slovak Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Sergej Kozlik and Russian Deputy Premier Yuri Yarov, during which several agreements were finalized for signature by the two countries' premiers. After the meeting Kozlik said Russia would invest $150 million in materials, fuel and credit to assist Slovakia in completing its controversial nuclear power plant at Mochovce, AFP reported. Chernomyrdin is expected to visit Warsaw on 17-18 February despite political uncertainty there. * Sharon Fisher HORN SAYS NATO MEMBERSHIP POSSIBLE IN 1996. Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn said during his visit last week to Brussels that Hungary could become a member of NATO as early as 1996, Reuters reports on 14 February. "The relevant NATO decision, even if of merely orientational character, could come at the end of this year or in the first half of next year." Horn said. "In this case it is not completely excluded that we will be members of the North Atlantic Organisation as early as 1996." NATO is expected to complete its year-long study on the requirements for membership in December. Horn said meeting the European Union's requirements would be tougher and only under an optimistic scenario would Hungary join before the year 2000. * Michael Mihalka GROWING PUBLIC DISSATISFACTION WITH HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT. An opinion poll, conducted by the National Marketing Institute in the week following the resignation of Finance Minister Laszlo Bekesi, registered for the first time since September 1994 a significant drop in public satisfaction with the work of the government, Nepszava reports on 14 February. Public satisfaction with the government's work, which was not high to begin with, dropped by 6% to 26 points on a scale of 100, and trust in the government dropped by 7% to 35 points. The poll showed that the president of the republic continues to enjoy the highest public trust with 68 points followed by the Constitutional Court with 55 points. * Edith Oltay SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MORE SERB FLIGHTS - THIS TIME NEAR TUZLA. The 14 February Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that UN personnel have observed yet more flights over Bosnia in recent days by "Serbian combat aircraft," this time around Tuzla. Previously, Serbian helicopters and airplanes had been detected in the Bihac and Srebrenica areas. The UN reported its findings to NATO headquarters in Naples, but the Atlantic Alliance once again claimed to have found no trace of the Serbs on its radar screens. * Patrick Moore MORE REINFORCEMENTS FOR SERBS IN BIHAC POCKET. News agencies on 13 February noted that some 1,000 Serb fighters have arrived in northwest Bosnia from Krajina. It is not clear whether they are Croatian Serbs coming to help their allies or Bosnian Serbs who have been training in Krajina. In any event, this and other developments underscore the close connection between the Bosnian and Croatian Serb forces, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says on 14 February. Meanwhile, UN officials warn of growing starvation in Bihac, with the most vulnerable already dying and even the better off now in danger. * Patrick Moore US SOURING ON THE CONTACT GROUP? The 14 February Washington Post reports that US envoy Charles Thomas will leave his full time position as representative to the Contact Group and will be replaced by a part-time appointee. Thomas will concentrate instead on helping reinforcing the Croat-Muslim alliance. Thomas was active in recent direct negotiations with Pale, which Washington has now "concluded . . . were not leading to any productive discussion." The paper also notes that US Ambassador to Bosnia Victor Jackovich has been reassigned to Slovenia. Jackovich was reportedly unhappy with the Clinton administration's talking directly to the Bosnian Serbs in violation of a UN ban on such contacts as long as the Serbs reject the peace plan. * Patrick Moore CRIME NEWS FROM THE YUGOSLAV AREA. War is not the only source of news in the former Yugoslavia, and recent days have featured crime in the limelight. The Croatian media have been reporting at length about a weekend drug-bust, in which police confiscated some 30 kilograms of heroin. It was one of the biggest drug seizures ever reported in Croatia. Elsewhere, Nasa borba notes on 14 February that the Hungarian airline Malev has sacked 11 employees for stealing money from airmail letters being sent by citizens of rump Yugoslavia via Malev. The full extent of the thefts is still being investigated. * Patrick Moore SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS SIGN PACT, ALLEGED WAR CRIMINALS CHARGED. Nasa borba reports on 14 February that on the previous day opposition leaders from the Democratic Party (DS), the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), and the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), signed an agreement which details how the opposition will cooperate in future local and parliamentary elections. Leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) Vuk Draskovic has not, at least yet, signed the accord and AFP quotes controversial SRS leader Vojislav Seselj as saying the purpose of the pact is to effect "the overthrowing of the ruling Socialist Party and [Serbia's President] Slobodan Milosevic, starting from the local level." In other news, international media report that the UN tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has issued arrest warrants for 21 Serbs, including Omarska camp commander Zeljko Meakic, suspected of a host of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Bosnia and Herzegovina. At present, only one of those charged is in custody. * Stan Markotich ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT CONDEMNS HDFR STATEMENTS. Romania's Senate on 13 February adopted by a 103-1-5 vote a declaration voicing "perplexity and concern" over statements made by Bela Marko, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, during a recent visit to London. The declaration, of which large excerpts were broadcast by Radio Bucharest, said that Marko's statements on the current status and situation of Romania's Hungarian minority were in "evident contradiction" to reality and were trying to "spread untruths." Marko was quoted as rejecting the 1991 Constitution's definition of Romania as a "national state" as detrimental to ethnic minority rights. Also on 13 February, the Chamber of Deputies adopted a separate declaration on the same issue. In another development, a spokesman for the National Peasant Party-Christian Democratic, one of the main forces in Romania's opposition, said on 13 February that the decision to withdraw the party's representatives from a planned seminar on interethnic relations in Atlanta, Georgia, had been made by NPP-CD Chairman Corneliu Coposu. The spokesman said Coposu opposed the idea of having "a dialogue between Romanians and Hungarians staged abroad," since "this could convey the impression of arbitration by a foreign power." * Dan Ionescu ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN SYRIA, LEBANON. Romania's Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu started a four-day visit to Syria and Lebanon on 11 February, Radio Bucharest reports. In Damascus, Melescanu attended the first meeting of the joint Romanian-Syrian economic cooperation commission since 1988, and, on 12 February, co-signed a bilateral economic cooperation agreement. On 13 February, he was received by Syria's President Hafez al-Assad and held talks with his Syrian counterpart Farouq al-Shara. Melescanu expressed his country's support for Syria's call for a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and offered Romanian participation in a possible future peace-keeping force to separate Syrian and Israeli troops. On the say day, he went to Beirut for talks with high-ranking Lebanese officials, including the president, the premier and the foreign minister. He reiterated Romania's interest in participating in Lebanon's economic reconstruction. * Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN PRESIDENT VISITS US. Zhelyu Zhelev and US President Bill Clinton on 13 February signed a declaration of principles stressing the importance of democracy and human rights, international news agencies reported the following day. The declaration asserts that the security of Bulgaria and other countries in the region "is inseparably linked to that of the United States." The signing took place during talks the Bulgarian delegation had with Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Secretary of State Warren Christopher and National Security Adviser Anthony Lake. Clinton said the US supports Bulgaria's progress towards democratic and economic transition. He briefed Zhelev on details of a $7 million loan program for Bulgaria to support small and medium-sized private business, especially in rural areas. Zhelev stressed the importance of US support for his country, while he also pointed to Bulgaria's problems caused by UN sanctions against rump-Yugoslavia. Zhelev, who is on a three-day visit to the US, is accompanied by Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, Defense Minister Dimitar Pavlov and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economic Development Rumen Gechev. On 13 February, Zhelev met with Defense Secretary William Perry in the Pentagon. * Stefan Krause 7,000 HOMELESS FAMILIES IN TIRANA. More than 7,000 families in Tirana are homeless, Aleanca Nacionale reported on 14 February. The paper adds that about 1,500 families will have to give up their flats by the end of 1995, when a restitution law takes effect. Meanwhile, the staff of Tirana's state- run bread shops, most of whom are women, went on hunger strike on 13 February, Populli Po reported on 14 February. The hunger strikers are protesting against the restitution of the shops, arguing that the delivery of cheap bread by state shops would be endangered if too many shops have to close. The strikers also fear for their jobs. Elsewhere, the Council of Ministers discussed issuing privatization bonds, Rilindja reported on 14 February. The Ministry of Finance will distribute the bonds among all Albanians who were 18 years old by 1 August 1991. Rilindja said issuing the bonds would provide "the legal basis for a massive privatization of state enterprises." * Fabian Schmidt [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle 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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