|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 33, Part II, 15 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 SEJM SPEAKER AGREES TO FORM GOVERNMENT . . . Jozef Oleksy of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) has confirmed his readiness to form a government, Gazeta Wyborcza reports. A statement issued on 14 February after eight-hour coalition talks said the two parties have agreed on a joint program and the division of ministerial posts. Oleksy is to begin talks with individual candidates on 15 February. SLD leaders indicated that party proportions in the cabinet would remain roughly the same but that only one deputy prime minister, from the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), would be chosen (there are now three deputies). The coalition also accepted an SLD proposal to consolidate the economic ministries but resolved to postpone any restructuring until draft legislation is completed. Gazeta Wyborcza cites unofficial sources as reporting that current Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko is likely stay on to oversee the consolidation, if only because the economist Dariusz Rosati was considered likely to refuse the offer. The PSL overruled SLD proposals to give the task to former Finance Minister Marek Borowski. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. . . . BUT CONFLICT WITH WALESA LOOMS. While the coalition talks reportedly proceeded smoothly, Oleksy failed to reach agreement with President Lech Walesa on the three "presidential" ministries. Walesa, in a telephone conversation on 14 February, proposed Zbigniew Okonski for defense, Andrzej Milczanowski for internal affairs, and former deputy foreign minister Andrzej Ananicz for foreign affairs. In an interview with Polish Radio on 15 February, Oleksy stressed that the constitution requires him merely "to seek the president's opinion" on the three ministries. That opinion is non-binding, despite the practice of previous premiers to give Walesa veto power over the three posts. Moreover, Oleksy argued, the "constructive no-confidence vote" gives the Sejm the power to elect a "parliamentary government" that the president is obliged to appoint. Oleksy's interpretation is in keeping with the spirit of Poland's "little constitution" but provides for a collision course with the president. Walesa has consistently argued that the constitution empowers him both to select the three "strategic" ministers and to block the appointment of any government he does not accept. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTIONAL BILL ON SEPARATION OF POWERS NEARLY READY FOR FINAL DEBATE. President Leonid Kuchma on 13 February said the special commission drawing up a constitutional bill on the separation of powers has nearly completed its work, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 14 February. Kuchma, at a meeting with local authorities in the west Ukrainian city of Lviv, said agreement must be reached on only two articles before the bill is ready for final debate in the parliament in March. As proposed by Kuchma, those two articles would give the president sweeping executive powers, including the exclusive right to appoint a government without the parliament's approval and the authority to dissolve the legislature under certain conditions. The president said once the bill was approved, he would give priority to reforming the country's antiquated judicial system and creating a constitutional court to ensure the institutional changes provided for by the bill are implemented. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. JOINT VENTURE TO MAKE CELLULAR PHONES IN UKRAINE. The U.S. Department of Defense on 14 February announced that it was financially supporting a joint venture between a U.S. company and Kommunar Production Association of Kharkiv to manufacture cellular telephones in the Ukrainian city. The Pentagon will provide $3.2 million in Nunn-Lugar funds for the $7 million project, with Federal Systems Group of Virginia putting up the rest. Kommunar, with some 18,000 employees, formerly produced missile and space guidance control systems for military satellites. This latest conversion initiative is within the framework of a March 1994 agreement between the Pentagon and the Ukrainian Ministry of Machine Building, the Military-Industrial Complex, and Conversion. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION AGAINST COLLECTIVE SECURITY PACT. The opposition Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) has begun collecting signatures for a petition demanding that the country's leadership denounce the CIS Collective Security Pact, Belarusian Radio reported on 13 February. The petition also requests that the government acknowledge the unfairness of agreements signed with Russia, halt the building of Russian military bases on Belarusian territory, and remove all Russian military forces from Belarus. The BNF said that the agreements signed with Russia will drag Belarusian servicemen into Russian military conflicts and that Belarus will be exploited by Russia for its strategic location between Russia and the West. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. OTHER NEWS FROM BELARUS. Belarusian Television reported on 13 February that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has signed a decree regulating the country's external economic activities. The decree calls on the Ministry of External Economic Affairs to formulate Belarusian policy on foreign trade activities, and to coordinate that policy with other state and legal bodies. Meanwhile, the Belarusian forestry industry has become that country's first economic sector to obtain credits from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Belarusian Radio reported on 14 February. The EBRD has released $42 million to be used to develop forestry technology, establish new technical manufacturing plants for wood products, and to protect Belarusian forests against fires and vandals. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY ACCUSES ESTONIA OF PROVOCATION. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin said on 14 February that the resolution approved by the Estonian parliament the previous day calling for the recognition of Chechnya is "provocative" and "irresponsible" and will "inevitably have negative consequences for Russian-Estonian relations," Interfax reports. But Estonian Prime Minister Andres Tarand said his government has no intention to discuss official recognition of Chechnya in the near future. He added that the parliament's call for recognition could not be classified as interference in Russia's internal affairs since "human rights abuses on a mass scale are not a state's internal matter." -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LATVIA DEPORTS KURDISH, AFGHAN REFUGEES. Latvian Interior Ministry press secretary Normunds Belskis said most of the Afghan and Kurdish refugees sent back to Latvia from Estonia in December during an attempt to reach Sweden have been sent home or to West or East European countries, BNS reported on 14 February. Belskis refused to say which countries for reasons of "confidentiality," but he noted that some refugees have relatives living in the West. The refugees were held in barracks in Riga and were guarded by the Mobile Police. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. NORWAY SUPPORTS LITHUANIA'S INTEGRATION INTO NATO, EU. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Povilas Gylys, on a two-day visit to Norway, held talks with Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, Foreign Minister Bjorn Tore Godal, and members of the Norwegian parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, BNS reported on 14 February. Norwegian officials noted that although Norway voted in a referendum not to join the European Union, it supported Lithuania's integration into it and NATO. The two foreign ministers signed agreements on mutual customs assistance and an accord providing for exchange of information on nuclear facilities and prompt notification of nuclear accidents. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. NEW LAW WILL EXTEND CZECH CURRENCY'S CONVERTIBILITY. Economic ministers and the Czech National Bank on 14 February agreed on amendments to the foreign exchange law that should make the koruna fully convertible later this year, Czech media report. If approved by the cabinet and the parliament, the measures will ease restrictions on individuals and firms obtaining hard currency, transferring money abroad, and taking out foreign loans. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus said the timetable for deregulating the koruna will depend on when the parliament adopts the law, but he hopes it will come into effect by mid-year. Changes in limits on the amount of koruny Czech citizens can take abroad--5,000 koruny per trip with an annual ceiling of 100,000 koruny--have yet to be decided. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. MECIAR, CHERNOMYRDIN DISCUSS NATO. Russian Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin, during the second day of his visit to Slovakia, told reporters on 14 February that Moscow fears a new division of Europe if East European countries are admitted to NATO. He said that although Russia would not stop Slovakia from joining NATO, he warned the organization not to create artificial tensions in Europe. He also said he did not understand why Slovakia wants to join the alliance "so quickly" when no danger exists. Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar said his discussions with Chernomyrdin on NATO were uncontroversial and that "Russia considers this matter our internal affair," Narodna obroda reports. The two premiers also discussed economic issues and began preparations for a free trade zone. Meciar asked "Why should we leave the Russian market? It is our obligation to return back where we were," Pravda reports. With regard to Slovakia's controversial nuclear plant now under construction at Mochovce, Meciar said on 14 February that it will be completed even if the EBRD fails to provide a loan. Russia and Slovakia signed an agreement the previous day whereby Russia will provide funding, technology, and nuclear fuel for the plant. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. NEW MINISTER FOR PRIVATIZATION IN HUNGARY. The two governing parties-- the Hungarian Socialist Party and the Alliance of Free Democrats--have agreed to appoint a new minister without portfolio to supervise privatization, MTI reports on 14 February. The two parties also agreed to extend the authority of the finance minister: he will approve all economic proposals forwarded to the government. The AFD originally opposed creating the new post and wanted the finance minister to supervise privatization. The extension of the finance minister's authority was a compromise solution. The coalition partners expect to reach agreement on the candidate for the new post later this week. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE U.S. OFFERS SERBIA CONDITIONAL LIFTING OF SANCTIONS. The Washington Post and the BBC on 15 February report that the Clinton administration has again made a major change in its policy toward the former Yugoslavia in the hope of cobbling together a settlement before fighting resumes in Bosnia in the spring. The new plan calls for the immediate lifting of sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro for two months, with extensions if President Slobodan Milosevic agrees to several conditions. Those include recognizing the other former Yugoslav republics in their Tito- era boundaries, tightening his dubious blockade of the Bosnian Serbs, and pressuring Pale to accept the Contact Group's peace plan. The policy was agreed to only after much heated discussion, with opponents fearing that once the sanctions are lifted they will not be reimposed, even if Milosevic flagrantly breaks any promises he makes. The Serbian president is unlikely to agree to recognize Croatia's and Bosnia's frontiers, since that would mean giving up hopes of a Greater Serbia that he harbored even before starting the current war. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. BOSNIAN ARMY RETAKING LOST GROUND IN BIHAC POCKET. Radio Bosnia and Herzegovina reported on 14 February that government forces have reversed most, if not all, the gains the Serbs made in their counteroffensive last fall. The broadcast claimed that the Fifth Corps has retaken the strategic Debeljaca Hill from the Serbian forces there, which consist of units from both Bosnia and Krajina as well as of those loyal to local kingpin Fikret Abdic. If the reports are correct, then the government forces now control the frontiers of the UN-declared "safe area" of Bihac. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of 15 February also notes that the UN is trying to confirm the Bosnian claims. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. WILL CROATIA AGREE TO A NEW MANDATE FOR UNPROFOR? Ever since President Franjo Tudjman announced last month that UNPROFOR must leave Croatia when its current mandate runs out on 31 March, there has been much speculation as to whether his decision will stick. Some observers suggested that he had to stand by the new policy because of domestic political pressures. Others felt that equally strong demands from Washington and the EU would force him to reconsider. Now Vecernji list, Nasa Borba, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 15 February suggest that a compromise may have been found. The reports quote Deputy Director of the German Foreign Ministry Klaus-Peter Klaiber and the Croatian ambassador to the US as saying that UNPROFOR may be able to stay but under redefined conditions. Vecernji list notes that Klaiber did not spell out what changes he had in mind and whether they would be major or minor, but the Contact Group has reportedly made a concrete proposal to Zagreb. The Frankfurt daily quotes Ambassador Sarcevic as saying that "a new UN contingent for controlling the frontiers and monitoring human rights could be accepted." Elsewhere, Slovenia's foreign minister told his German counterpart that he hopes UNPROFOR's mandate can somehow be renewed but added that he understands that Croatia cannot accept a UN presence that merely serves to protect Serbian conquests and effectively partition the country. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN NATIONALISTS CALL FOR UNITY AGAINST KOSOVARS. Momcilo Trajkovic, leader of the Serbian Defense Movement for Kosmet, has called for unity among "all political forces, regardless of party affiliation, to hinder the [creation of a] parallel state of Albanian separatists in Kosovo and Metohija," the state-run Borba reports on 15 February. Trajkovic alleged that the Kosovar shadow government is harboring a "war option." Since the abolition of Kosovar autonomy in 1989, the Albanians have followed a program of non-violent resistance. According to the independent Nasa Borba, Trajkovic admitted that his organization has not yet gotten an answer to an open letter addressed to various institutions and parties in December calling for the creation of a "national council in which all political parties would work out one common national program." But he said that 40,000 people in Pristina have so far signed the letter. Reuters reported on 13 February that Albanian President Sali Berisha said a peace conference on former Yugoslavia, as proposed by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, should discuss the Kosovo crisis and invite the Kosovar shadow state government as that country's "legitimate representatives." -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. MACEDONIA SUFFERS HUGE LOSSES FROM EMBARGO, WANTS TALKS WITH GREECE. The Macedonian government wants UN-brokered talks with Greece, AFP reported on 14 February. Foreign Minister Stevo Crvenkovski said Macedonia favors dialogue, but only under UN auspices. Dimitar Bercev of the Foreign Ministry's economic desk revealed that the Greek trade embargo, which was implemented one year ago, has cost Macedonia about $500 million. Macedonia has been forced to reroute its trade through Albania and Bulgaria since Greece closed Thessaloniki harbor to Macedonian imports and exports. A ton of oil imported earlier via Greece cost $19; it now costs $57 via the Bulgarian port of Burgas. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PROTESTS DISMISSAL OF MAYORS. Seventy-one opposition deputies on 14 February tabled a motion expressing "deep concern" over what was described as the government's massive dismissal of local mayors and councilors and requesting their reinstatement until court decisions are taken on a case-by-case basis. In a communique released the same day and broadcast by Radio Bucharest, the government admitted that 133 mayors and 98 councilors have been dismissed over the last two years. But it noted that the dismissals were warranted on such grounds as corruption and abuse of office. The government also rejected accusations that those personnel changes were directed against the opposition, pointing out that some of those dismissed belonged to the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. BUCHAREST ON TIES WITH CHISINAU. The Romanian government, in a 14 February statement, has provided details of Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu's forthcoming official visit to the neighboring Republic of Moldova. The visit, scheduled for 20 and 21 February, is to take place at the invitation of Moldovan Premier Andrei Sangheli. The statement said the visit will offer the opportunity to analyze in depth "ties between the Republic of Moldova and Romania and prospects for economic integration and consolidation of the common cultural and spiritual space" of the two countries. The Romanian delegation will include Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, Transportation Minister Aurel Novac, and other senior government officials. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. GREECE TO AGREE TO EU-TURKEY AGREEMENT? Greek government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said on 13 February that Athens will probably sign a customs union agreement between the EU and Turkey, but only if several points are cleared up first, Reuters reported the same day. Greece last week drew criticism from most of its EU partners for saying it would veto the union. The Greek government has linked the customs union issue to EU membership talks with Cyprus. It is also demanding that less money be offered to Turkey to implement the union and that Greece receive more compensation for potential losses sustained by its textile industry. Turkish Foreign Minister Murat Karayalcin said his country hopes to overcome Greek objections, but not at too high a price. Meanwhile, the other EU members rejected most of Greece's conditions, AFP reported on 14 February. -- 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. 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