|Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. - Thomas Carlyle|
No. 45, Part II, 3 March 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 AND OLEKSY: AGREEMENT POSSIBLE? Polish President Lech Walesa and designated prime minister Jozef Oleksy, after a series of meetings on 3 March, appeared to have narrowed their disagreements over the composition of the new Polish government, Polish media report. The disagreements centered on the three "presidential" ministries, whose heads, Walesa claims, must be approved by the president. Walesa and Oleksy appeared to agree on two of the three ministers: Wlodyslaw Bartoszewski, currently the Polish ambassador to Austria, would become minister of foreign affairs and the current minister of internal affairs, Andrzej Wilczanowski, would remain in his post. Henryk Goloszewski, whom Walesa has proposed for the post of defense minister, said on 3 March that he will not accept a post in the new government, Radio Zet reported. Tension between the president and the ruling coalition was also apparent in the parliament. The legislature asked Oleksy to present his government program on 4 March, regardless of the results of his talks with Walesa. Aleksander Kwasniewski, the leader of the strongest Polish political group, the Democratic Left Party, told Radio Zet on 3 March that "President Walesa may be in for a surprise" if he continues his campaign "aimed at political destabilization." -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS TO PRESS FOR GOVERNMENT'S RESIGNATION. Petro Symonenko, leader of the Communist Party of Ukraine, has claimed that former Ukrainian Prime Minister Vitalii Masol was forced to resign by reformist ministers who want to dominate the government, Interfax- Ukraine reported on 2 March. Symonenko said his large communist faction will insist on the resignation of the entire cabinet during the parliament debate on the confirmation of First Deputy Premier Yevhen Marchuk as acting prime minister. Marchuk, who is considered an expert in security issues, was nominated by President Leonid Kuchma. Neither Symonenko nor other deputies ruled out the possibility of a vote of confidence in the government. Supporters of reform in the parliament hailed Masol's resignation as the removal of a major obstacle to implementing Kuchma's bold economic reform program. The former premier told Ukrainian radio on 1 March that he plans to take a long rest and then take up his duties as a deputy. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINE TO ACCEPT TERMS FOR IMF LOAN. Vasyl Havrylyshyn, Ukraine's representative to the IMF in Washington, and Anders Aslund, President Leonid Kuchma's economic adviser, have said that Ukraine will sign a letter accepting the IMF's terms for a $1.5 billion loan, The New York Times reported on 2 March. The credit should help Ukraine win some $4 billion in foreign economic assistance in 1995 to finance economic development. Aslund said he hoped to raise the rest of the money by persuading Russia to reschedule the $2.5 billion Ukraine owes it in payments for energy supplies. But Russia may be reluctant to reschedule the debt if it does not secure a $6.5 billion credit it is negotiating with the IMF. Ukraine's agreement to IMF terms puts pressure on Russia to accept the conditions for its loan. The Russian Finance and Foreign Trade Ministries have been reluctant to meet the IMF's demand that they surrender control over oil exports. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER RESIGNS. Serhiy Tsekov, the speaker of the Crimean parliament, resigned on 1 March during a closed session of the legislature in Simferopol, Reuters reported the same day. Tsekov threatened to quit after deputies charged him with failing to improve relations with either Ukraine or Russia. Sixty-six of the 75 deputies approved his resignation, despite warnings of a power vacuum on the peninsula. His resignation came after the legislature voted to dismiss two of Tsekov's deputies and 12 members of the parliament leadership. A political struggle has gripped the region since the Crimean parliament stripped President Yurii Meshkov of most of his authority last September. As an intermediary between the parliament and president, Tsekov saw his influence grow until deputies turned against him, fearing that both he and the pro-Russian Meshkov would cheat them out of the benefits of privatization in the region. The move has cast the troubled region into uncertainty, as neither the president nor the legislature is in a position to govern. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. ELECTION NEWS FROM BELARUS. Belarusian Radio on 2 March reported that the first phase of the parliament election process has begun. Initiative groups have begun to register their candidates, and deputies have been promoting their own candidacies in the parliament by making use of the floor's microphone to publicize their positions on various issues. The Belarusian mass media have recommended that deputies refrain from this practice. Meanwhile, the parliament has set 11 June as the date for elections to local councils. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS. Some 800,000 eligible voters will be able to cast ballots on 5 March to elect a new Estonian parliament. There are 1,256 candidates from 16 coalitions and parties competing for 101 seats, Western agencies reported on 3 March. More than half the parties are not expected to break the 5% threshold to gain seats. The front-runner in the final pre-election poll was the Coalition Party and Rural People's Party alliance, led by former Prime Minister Tiit Vahi and former Supreme Council Chairman Arnold Ruutel, with about 30%. The Reformist Party won 15%; the Center Party with 13%; the Moderates 7%; the current ruling party Pro Patria, in a coalition with the National Independence Party, 6%; and the Rightists 6%. Voters will be able to cast ballots at 688 electoral offices, 24 of which are outside Estonia. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. GAZPROM CUTS NATURAL GAS SUPPLY TO LITHUANIA. Kestutis Sumakeris, head of the state-run company Lithuanian Gas, told reporters on 2 March that the Russian gas company Gazprom stopped shipping natural gas to Lithuania the previous day, BNS and Interfax reported. Gazprom cut off supplies because Lithuania failed to pay a $56.6 million debt by 1 March. It also imposed an additional fine of $5.8 million for late payment. Sumakeris noted that his company is owed about $100 million; state companies and seven major plants whose closure would result in huge losses for Lithuania account for more than half of this sum. Cutting off Gazprom supplies has reduced the daily inflow of gas to Lithuania from 9 million to 6.8 million cubic meters. Gas supplies to individual consumers have not been affected, but those to industrial consumers have been reduced from 5.2 million to 2.6 million cubic meters per day. Lithuania is seeking foreign loans from Germany and Japan to repay the gas debt. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POPULATION DECLINES IN LATVIA AND LITHUANIA. Latvia's State Statistical Committee announced that the number of Latvian residents at the beginning of 1995 was 2,529,000--representing a decrease of 36,200 in 1994, BNS reported on 1 March. The number of deaths (41,400) was greater than those of births (24,000), and emigration exceeded immigration by 18,800. Since the January 1989 census, Latvia's population has decreased by 137,000. The Lithuanian Statistical Department reported that at the beginning of 1995, the country's population was 3,717,000--down 6,300 on the 1994 level, BNS reported. Births totaled 42,832 and deaths 46,486, while emigrants exceeded immigrants by 2,700. Last year was the first since World War II in which the population declined, but despite losses due to emigration since 1991, the current population still exceeds the 1989 census figure by 27,000. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK COALITION TO LIMIT PRESIDENT'S CONTROL OVER INFORMATION SERVICE? Movement for a Democratic Slovakia deputy Dusan Macuska has proposed that a law be passed transferring powers to appoint and remove the director of the Slovak Information Service from the president to the government, Pravda reported on 2 March. SIS Director Vladimir Mitro recently offered his resignation, but President Michal Kovac refuses to accept it until the government formally nominates a replacement. A leading candidate is said to be Ivan Lexa, whom the president rejected for the post as well as that of privatization minister in 1993. According to Slovak media on 3 March, several deputies from the MDS and the Slovak National Party agree with Macuska's proposal, while deputies from opposition parties have criticized the move. Party of the Democratic Left Chairman Peter Weiss told Sme that "the secret service must serve the state as a whole, not just the government." -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK DAILIES SHOW SOLIDARITY. In Bratislava on 2 March, editors-in- chief from Pravda, Narodna obroda, Praca, Novy cas, Smena, Sme, and Uj Szo reached "a considerable degree of mutual solidarity," Sme reports. Slovak Syndicate of Journalists Chairman Julius Gembicky said the regional dailies Smer dnes and Slovensky vychod also joined forces with their national counterparts. He said the editors agreed to cooperate if another proposal is made in the parliament to increase value-added tax on the commercial press. The move follows a proposal by MDS deputy Jan Fekete on 24 February recommending that VAT be levied on all commercial publications and radio and TV broadcasts whose foreign capital share exceeds 30%. The editors also provisionally decided that editorial staff will not accredit representatives from their dailies for the upcoming Worldwide Conference of Workers' Parties and Labor organizations. The decision follows statements by Association of Slovak Workers Chairman Jan Luptak that journalists from Sme, Novy cas, and Smer dnes will not be given accreditation for the conference. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SANTER: SECURITY ISSUE IS MAJOR OBSTACLE TO EU EXPANSION. Jacques Santer, head of the European Commission, said on 2 March that the security issue is the major problem that has to be solved before East European countries can join the EU, Reuters reported. In response to questions from the European Parliament, Santers said "the current debate on enlarging NATO eastwards prefigures in many ways another debate, that of how we prepare a security dimension for an enlarged union." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. NATO SAYS IT WILL DEFEND EAST EUROPEAN COUNTRIES IF THEY JOIN. A senior US official said on 2 March that NATO will defend East European countries if they become members of the alliance, international agencies report. Undersecretary of Defense Walter Slocombe's comments follow speculation in the West that those countries will not be granted full membership in NATO and thus will not be automatically entitled to assistance if attacked. Slocombe dismissed Russian fears about NATO expansion as "unfounded and irrelevant." He also said that East European countries will need to bring their militaries up to NATO standards to gain admission. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE A DEAL IN THE OFFING ON UNPROFOR IN CROATIA? The VOA, the BBC, and Reuters on 2 March all agreed that the chances are virtually zero that President Franjo Tudjman will reverse his decision to end UNPROFOR's mandate when it runs out on 31 March. It also appears unlikely that NATO or the WEU will accede to Tudjman's request to replace the international force on the front lines between Croatian troops and Serbian rebels with units of European or North American origin stationed on Croatia's internationally recognized borders with Serbia and Bosnia. Washington has now announced that Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke will go to Zagreb next week to explore alternatives. A Croatian Foreign Ministry official told Reuters that the Contact Group countries might supply border monitors and that this "would not require thousands...of troops. There are only about 20-25 important border crossing points that need to be monitored to prevent military interference from Bosnia or [rump] Yugoslavia." He made it clear, however, that such monitors could not be called UNPROFOR or be under UN control, since "Croatians now regard the UN banner as a symbol of international impotence and inertia in the face of the dismemberment of a UN member state by a rogue minority." Meanwhile in Belgrade, Nasa Borba on 3 March quotes Mihajlo Markovic, a top official in the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia, as saying that "the Serbian people" could not sit idly by if Croatian troops massacred the Krajina Serb rebels. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. IMPASSE IN BOSNIA. The Bosnian Serb leadership says it is trying to start direct talks with the Bosnian government, but the 3 March Los Angeles Times reports that the Muslims deny the story. The two sides differ over the substance of some recent remarks by President Alija Izetbegovic on the subject of possible negotiations. Finally, AFP said on 2 March that the Krajina Serbs have put a total ban on food convoys for the embattled town of Bihac, in northwestern Bosnia. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN UPDATE. "It didn't sound like much... I didn't see any breakthrough," is how one unnamed US official in Washington summed up Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's counterproposals to recent Contact Group peace initiatives for the former Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. The remarks came in the wake of preliminary reports on the 2 March Contact Group talks in Paris. The same source added: "The problem is always the same. [Milosevic] wants more sanctions relief but he doesn't want to give anything in return for that. We can't accept that." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN RULING PARTY MAPS OUT ELECTORAL STRATEGY... The National Council of the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania convened on 2 March to discuss, among other things, the party's strategy for the 1996 parliament elections. Radio Bucharest reported that President Ion Iliescu sent a message to the council expressing hopes that the meeting would give new life to the party's activities. PSDR Executive Chairman Adrian Nastase, whose address carried the motto "Let's win the elections," described 1995 as a "pre-election year." He urged the party leadership to draft an election platform as soon as possible and start preparations for the election campaign. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. ...WHILE OPPOSITION ALLIANCE CONTINUES TO DISINTEGRATE. The Executive Committee of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), the country's main opposition alliance, reiterated on 2 March that the CDR's revised protocols were not subject to further negotiation. CDR Chairman Emil Constantinescu was quoted by Radio Bucharest as saying the CDR considered the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania to have withdrawn from the coalition, since it refused to sign the protocols. In what appeared as a last-ditch attempt to avoid further defection from the CDR, the leaders of two more parties that have refused to sign the documents--the Liberal Party '93 and the Party of Civic Alliance--were invited to attend the meeting. But both LP leader Horia Rusu and PCA chairman Nicolae Manolescu expressed dismay over the atmosphere at the meeting, with Manolescu complaining about "a certain lack of democracy" in the alliance. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. CASE OF BULGARIAN BUSINESS BLOC LEADER TO GO TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. Otechestven Front on 2 March quoted Chief State Prosecutor Ivan Tatarchev as saying that parliament deputy and Business Bloc leader George Ganchev was a U.S. citizen until 31 January 1995. Ganchev, who was elected to the parliament in the December 1994 elections, claims he gave up his citizenship to run for the Presidency in the 1991-1992 elections. (Under the Bulgarian Constitution, only Bulgarians without another citizenship can be elected to the parliament or as president.) Tatarchev, who is drawing up a petition to the Constitutional Court in order to have Ganchev's election declared null and void, referred to a letter he received from the U.S. embassy. Ganchev, for his part, has submitted a letter to the parliament which, he says, is from the U.S. government and proves his Bulgarian citizenship. Meanwhile, deputies from the ruling Socialist Party are considering contesting the election of President Zhelyu Zhelev, Otechestven Front reported. Velko Valkanov, who was Zhelev's main rival in 1991-1992, claims he would have become president if Ganchev's U.S. citizenship had been known. He argues that he would have received two-thirds of the votes cast for Ganchev. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. GREECE DEPORTS OVER 300 ALBANIANS. Greek police on 2 March announced that they deported 329 Albanians who tried to enter the country illegally during the previous 24 hours, Reuters reported the same day. The driver of a Greek truck carrying 94 Albanians from the border to Athens was arrested. Greek border patrols are being stepped up to stop a recent increase in the number of Albanians trying to cross the Greek- Albanian border. A police spokesman attributed the increase partly to the good weather, which makes crossing the border easier. Meanwhile, government sources said the Greek Labor Ministry is preparing a bill to legalize the status of Albanians living in Greece. The issue is to be discussed during Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias's visit to Tirana, scheduled to begin on 13 March. Some 300,000 Albanians are estimated to be living and working illegally in Greece. -- Stefan Krause, 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. 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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