|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 47, Part II, 7 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 APPOINTS GOVERNMENT, CONFLICT SUBSIDES. President Lech Walesa formally appointed Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy and the new cabinet on 6 March, Radio Warsaw reported. In what a spokesman called a "good-will gesture," the president also announced he was withdrawing his constitutional complaint against the 1995 budget, which, he said, he would sign into law. The budget still violates constitutional norms, the spokesman argued, but the president had decided to give the new government a chance. Walesa said that he "did not intend to limit the government's independence" but noted that "the Presidency is also an institution of executive power." Also on 6 March, the president vetoed a constitutional amendment that would have allowed the Sejm to remain in session until new elections in the event of the dissolution of the parliament. Under current law, the parliament ceases to meet. The legislation was adopted when Walesa's threats to dissolve the parliament were most pronounced. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. OLEKSY SETS NEW STYLE. The new prime minister's first decisions signaled an end to the decision-making paralysis that plagued his predecessor. Oleksy on 7 March appointed Jerzy Stanczyk, the candidate endorsed by the internal affairs minister, as commander of the national police force. The post had been vacant for nearly a month, and the police had effectively lacked leadership since the ousted commander was implicated in a corruption scandal last year. The prime minister also announced the formation of a special task force on crime. The new government's concern for good public relations was clear in Oleksy's selection of former TV reporter Aleksandra Jakubowska as press spokesman. Jakubowska said journalists would always be welcome at government headquarters. Friction between the two coalition partners was also immediately evident: the Polish Peasant Party protested Oleksy's decision to appoint Labor Minister Leszek Miller of the Democratic Left Alliance to head the government's social policy committee. At Oleksy's request, all cabinet members signed a statement saying they could not be implicated in any crimes or scandals. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. CRIMEAN EX-PARLIAMENT SPEAKER JUST FAILS TO BE RE-ELECTED. The Crimean parliament on 6 March nearly reinstated its chairman, Serhii Tsekov, only days after it pressured him to resign, Reuters and Interfax-Ukraine reported the same day. Tsekov, who served as intermediary during the power struggle last fall between Crimean President Yurii Meshkov and the legislature, fell one vote short of the absolute majority he needed in the 98-member parliament to regain his post. The other candidate was Mykhailo Shumakov, a factory manager. A second round of voting is expected later in the week. The power vacuum on the peninsula following Tsekov's resignation last week and the stripping of most of the Crimean president's powers by parliament last autumn has prompted calls for early elections to the Crimean legislature. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT IN BRUSSELS. Alyaksandr Lukashenka flew to the Belgian capital on 5 March for a three-day visit with heads of the European Union, Belarusian Radio reported. Before his departure, Lukashenka said this was probably his most important visit in the past six months. He stressed its economic significance, saying that the EU accounted for 35% of Belarusian exports, or almost all exports outside the CIS. Asked about the possibility of meeting with NATO officials, Lukashenka said it was necessary to inform the organization of the financial difficulties Belarus was encountering in scrapping military hardware, as required by the CFE treaty. Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Syanko said the visit demonstrated that Belarusian foreign policy is multifaceted and not solely Russian-oriented, as many people believe. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS IN BELARUS. Alyaksandr Abramovich, head of the Central Electoral Commission, said on 3 March that there will be 260 electoral districts in the parliament elections scheduled for 14 May, Belarusian Radio reported. In order to nominate a candidate, a support group must collect 500 signatures from among the electorate. Candidates may be nominated by both political parties and the public. Judges, ministers, and other officials appointed by the president cannot run for the parliament. The registration of candidates will last one month, after which the election campaign kicks off. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. ESTONIAN ELECTION UPDATE. Elections results released in the late afternoon of 6 March differed slightly from those issued in the morning, BNS reported. Pro Patria won eight and not seven seats and the Center Party 16 not 17. Coalition Party Chairman and likely prime minister Tiit Vahi refuted claims that the results indicated "a victory for the Left and a return of the former communists." He pointed out that the number of communists in his alliance was no greater than in many other alliances. Vahi also said he will hold talks with the right-of-center Reform Party, the Center Party, and the Rightists as possible coalition partners. Voter turnout in the 5 March parliament elections was 69.1%. The 52 international observers found no serious faults in the organization of the elections and no gross violations of the election law. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. GROWING ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION IN LATVIA. The State Statistical Committee reported that in 1994, Latvians consumed an average of 7.77 liters of absolute alcohol, BNS reported on 3 March. That figure was broken down as follows: 4.96 liters of vodka, 0.98 liters of wine, 0.30 liters of cognac, 0.30 liters of champagne, and 1.23 liters of beer. Per capita consumption of absolute alcohol was 5.23 liters in 1992 and 6.4 liters in 1993. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. FINNISH FOREIGN MINISTER IN LITHUANIA. Paavo Rantanen flew to Vilnius on 3 March on a one-day working visit, BNS reported. Talks with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Povilas Gylys focused on improving bilateral relations. The two leaders discussed visa-free travel between their countries, which will depend on Lithuania's control over its borders. Rantanen expressed support for Lithuania's effort to gain associate membership in the European Union and said he hoped that a major stumbling block, the ban on the sale of land to foreigners, will be resolved. The parliament began discussing a constitutional amendment to allow foreign ownership of land, but the amendment will have to be approved by the opposition because passage requires a two-thirds majority vote. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK INTELLIGENCE SERVICE UNDER CABINET CONTROL. Movement for a Democratic Slovakia deputy Dusan Macuska on 6 March proposed to the parliament that the power to remove and appoint the director of the Slovak Intelligence Service be transferred from the president to the government, Narodna obroda reported. Macuska said the proposal is logical because the SIS director is responsible to the Council of State Defense, of which the president is not a member and of which the prime minister is chairman. He said it does not make sense that the power to name the SIS director remains in the hands of the president, "who does not have the support of the parliament or even of the majority of the population." Rejecting claims that the proposal will lead to a concentration of power, Macuska said it is a move against such a concentration "in the hands of the president." Of the 79 deputies present (those from the opposition did not attend the session), 75 voted in favor and four abstained. The parliament also began to discuss the cabinet's 1995 budget draft, which Party of the Democratic Left Deputy Chairwoman Brigita Schmoegnerova called "more restrictive" than that of the previous government. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK COALITION REACTS TO PRESS STATEMENT. A number of Slovak dailies-- including Sme, Pravda, Praca, and Narodna obroda--on 6 March printed a front page featuring a single statement entitled "Anxiety." The statement, dated 3 March, was signed by leading dailies (both national and regional), magazines, the Presidium of the Association of Publishers of the Periodical Press (ZVPT), and the Slovak Syndicate of Journalists. It begins: "We express anxiety concerning the efforts to raise value- added tax for periodical and non-periodical press; to discriminate against foreign capital in this area; to limit advertising revenues, which would raise prices; and other efforts to exacerbate the already difficult situation of newspapers and magazines." The parliament caucuses of the governing parties, reacting to the statement, said the proposal to raise taxes has not been submitted for discussion in the current session of parliament, Pravda reports. Deputy Premier Katarina Tothova said she met on 3 March with members of the ZVPT Presidium and assured them that neither the government nor the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia wants to bring such a proposal before the parliament. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CROATIA AND BOSNIA SET UP JOINT MILITARY COMMAND. International media on 7 March reported that the governments of Croatia and the Croatian-Muslim federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina announced a new military alliance the previous day. It is not clear whether this is a concrete measure or one of mainly symbolic value, but it comes three weeks after the Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia took a similar step. The Boston Globe notes that Croatian Television ran the story about the Croatian-Muslim command in its 6 March newscast right behind one on talks between US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke and President Franjo Tudjman. The media speculated that Holbrooke had wanted to present new ideas to Tudjman on possible ways to extend UNPROFOR's mandate in Croatia, but Croatian sources later said that the two men talked only about what would happen when the peacekeepers left. In any event, Croatian Chief- of-Staff General Janko Bobetko's announcement that the joint command will "defend the Croatian-Muslim federation" is one more sign that a renewed conflict in the area may be in the offing. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. MLADIC SAYS UNPROFOR MUST LEAVE BOSNIA IF IT LEAVES CROATIA. Bosnian Serb commander General Ratko Mladic said on 6 March that the peacekeepers are not welcome in that republic if Tudjman evicts them from Croatia, the BBC reported. Meanwhile in Brussels, the EU foreign ministers endorsed a British and French proposal to link talks with Zagreb on a future cooperation agreement to Tudjman's allowing UNPROFOR to stay. Germany, Austria, and the EU Commission had wanted to start talks without reference to UNPROFOR, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on 7 March. In Bosnia itself, Vjesnik reported that Pale has levied a monthly per capita tax of about DM 200 on Bosnian Serbs working abroad. All sides in the former Yugoslavia have regularly "passed the hat" among the guest workers. And in London, Bosnian Foreign Minister Irfan Ljubijancic told the BBC that the West is wasting its time making political offers to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, because "the only language he understands is force." Nasa Borba adds that the minister warned that an expanded war is approaching. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. CONTACT GROUP TO RESUME MEETINGS ON FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. Nasa Borba on 7 March reported that representatives of the international Contact Group will resume talks in Paris the same day in what appears to be a renewed bid to avert a new war in the former Yugoslavia. One unnamed British official, quoted by Reuters, summed up the mood by observing "The clock is ticking. . . . It's a question of getting all hands on deck." Meanwhile, a report by Thorvald Stoltenberg and Lord Owen states that the international sanctions monitoring team stationed along the Serbian- Bosnian border is running out of funds, which may force the operation to close down. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. SLOVENIA TO NEGOTIATE WITH EU. International media reported on 6 March that the European Union has given the go-ahead for officials to begin negotiations with Slovenia on an association agreement. The announcement came in the wake of Italy's agreeing to drop its veto on an EU agreement with Ljubljana. AFP reported that the Slovenian capital has responded to Italy's move with a commitment "to modify by the end of its negotiations with the European Union, articles in its constitution discriminating against its large Italian minority." An association agreement offers the possibility of eventual EU membership. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN TREATY NEGOTIATIONS. Ferenc Somogyi, secretary of state at the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, began a two-day visit to Bucharest on 6 March, Romanian media reported the same day. Somogyi and his Romanian counterpart, Marcel Dinu, are expected to sign a document accompanying the basic treaty between the two countries. Expert-level negotiations on the treaty resumed in Budapest at the same time. Radio Bucharest, quoting MTI, reported on 7 March that the only outstanding issue to be resolved is that of national minorities. The previous day, Radio Bucharest reported that two new ethnic Hungarian organizations in Romania had issued a declaration noting the worsening situation of Hungarian minorities in "neighboring countries where aggressive nationalism is growing" and claiming that those minorities are facing a process of "assimilation and cultural genocide." The International Transylvanian Committee and the National Union of Transylvanian Circles insist that the "right to self-determination" for the Hungarian minorities must be included in basic treaties. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN OFFICIALS OVERSEEING NUCLEAR POWER PLANT CONSTRUCTION DISMISSED. Romanian Industry Minister Dumitru Popescu told Rompres on 6 March that two officials in charge of the construction of the nuclear power plant at Cernavoda have been dismissed and that the administrative council of the state electricity company RENEL has ceased to function. A new council will be appointed within five days. Popescu said that there were "unjustified delays" of three to four months in the construction at Cernavoda. He also accused the dismissed officials of delaying negotiations with the Canadian-Italian consortium supervising the work. The talks were to focus on the financing of a second unit at Cernavoda. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. MOLDOVA'S GAGAUZ MINORITY BACKS AUTONOMY. The commission responsible for implementing the special status of the Gagauz autonomous region announced on 6 March that at least 27 of the 36 ethnically mixed districts that participated in the 5 March referendum have voted to join the region, Interfax reported According to the same source, seven districts have decided not to join and the results from two districts are not yet available. But Reuters, quoting Moldovan officials, said 30 districts have decided to join. In some districts, the vote in favor was close to 90%. Observers from the Council of Europe praised the referendum as fair and said they hoped it will enable Moldova to speed up its membership in the council. One observer said that if other ethnic groups in other countries "could live together as well as you live in this country, the world would be more peaceful." Fears that other ethnic groups in southern Moldova would boycott the vote proved unfounded. Gagauz leader Stepan Topal told Interfax that the districts joining the autonomous region will not participate in the local elections scheduled elsewhere in Moldova for 16 April. Elections in the autonomous region are set for May. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. EU AND TURKEY CONCLUDE CUSTOMS UNION. The European Union and Turkey on 6 March signed a customs union agreement, AFP reported the same day. The accord, which will take effect on 1 January 1996, virtually incorporates Turkey into the EU's single market. Some Turkish industries will remain protected from EU competition, and Turkish agricultural exports will still face restrictions. Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller said the deal is a "crucial turning point" in the country's history, adding it will "pave the way for political and financial integration with Europe." Politicians and diplomats from EU member states agreed that the customs union will mean closer Turkish ties to the West and may prevent that country from sliding toward Islamic fundamentalism. Greece lifted its veto against the customs union on 3 March in return for an EU commitment to start membership talks with Cyprus, probably in 1997. The customs union can still be overruled by the European Parliament, which has threatened to vote it down because of Turkey's poor human rights record. -- 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. 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