|Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. - Sir Winston Churchill|
No. 48, Part II, 8 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 EAST EUROPEANS SKEPTICAL ABOUT THEIR FUTURE. The results of a Eurobarometer opinion poll, released on 7 March in Brussels, show that a majority of citizens in East-Central European countries view negatively the political and economic developments that took place in their countries in 1994. In none of the 18 countries surveyed were a majority of citizens satisfied with the development of democratic institutions. The lowest percentage of dissatisfied citizens was recorded in the Czech Republic (53%) and the highest in Bulgaria (91%). Since the previous Eurobarometer poll, the number of people who hope their country will gain membership in the European Union has doubled to 36%. Paradoxically, the lowest percentages of citizens who view the EU positively were registered in those countries whose governments are most actively striving for EU membership--Hungary (32%), the Czech Republic (34%), and Poland (42%). In only four countries--the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Albania, and Estonia--were more than half of the poll's respondents convinced that the situation in their countries is improving. The market economy is viewed most favorably in Romania (71%) and Albania (67%). The Eurobarometer poll was commissioned by the European Union. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. EUROPEAN AGREEMENTS WITH BELARUS. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, during a visit to Brussels on 6 March, signed an agreement with the European Union aimed at improving trade and opening the way for an eventual customs union between Belarus and the EU, Reuters reported. Once the accord is ratified by the European parliament and its 15 member states, Belarus is to be offered most-favored-nation status and restrictions on its exports will be removed. Belarusian Television reported the same day that the Belarusian Cabinet of Ministers has empowered Deputy Prime Minister Syarhei Linh to sign an agreement with Great Britain and Northern Ireland on taxation. The agreement is intended to prevent double taxation on income and savings. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. INFLATION IN ESTONIA AND LITHUANIA. The Estonian State Statistics Office has announced that the consumer price index increased by 2.9% in February, or 0.6% less than in January, BNS reported on 7 March. The price of goods grew by 3.0% (food by 4% and consumer goods by 1.3%) and services by 2.8%. Meanwhile, Kestutis Zaborskas, the head of the Lithuanian Statistics Department, said inflation was 3.9% in February, or 1.8% down on January, RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service reported. The price of margarine, which Lithuania does not produce and imports primarily from Sweden, increased by 24%. The increase was due to the decision to place higher import duties on Swedish goods after it joined the European Union. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. SWEDISH FERRY DECIDES TO RETAIN LINKS WITH ESTONIA. The Swedish ferry company Nordstrom & Thulin AB announced on 7 March that it was reversing its earlier decision to stop services between Sweden and Estonia, Reuters reported. The company, together with the state-owned Estonian Shipping Company, operated Estline, whose ferry "Estonia" sank off the coast of Finland on 28 September 1994, resulting in more than 900 deaths. This tragedy prompted the company to end ferry services between the two countries, but at the urging of the Estonian authorities, it decided to retain the Stockholm-Tallinn ferry link. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LATVIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY SECRETARY OFFERS RESIGNATION. Zigurds Tomins, a member of the Farmers' Union, issued a statement on 7 March urging the parliament to release him from his duties as Presidium member and parliament deputy secretary, BNS reported. Tomins said the reasons for his resignation were an incident in Washington and "the subsequent biased media campaign casting a shadow on the prestige and honor of a parliament official and member of parliament." Tomins was detained on 5 February by the police over an argument with an American woman who claimed Tomins had assaulted her. Tomins insisted he was the victim, and the U.S. authorities later dropped all charges. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLISH GOVERNMENT DECLARES WAR ON CRIME. Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, at a meeting of key ministers in the new Polish government, declared war on "all forms of crime," Polish media reported on 7 March. A spokesman for Oleksy told the media that internal security issues will be the top item on the new cabinet's agenda when it meets for its first regular session. According to the spokesman, the government intends to target organized crime in particular. He said Oleksy is planning to set up a special commission whose main task will be dealing with organized crime. The spokesman also said that Polish cities have experienced a wave of bomb explosions and assassination attempts--as a result of intensified conflicts among various organized criminal gangs. The motives are not political, the spokesman commented. Rather, the gangs usually target either businessmen who cannot or will not pay "protection" money or members of other gangs. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS POLAND TO BE AMONG FIRST NEW NATO MEMBERS. Volker Ruehe on 7 March said Poland will be among the first countries to be granted admission to NATO, AFP reported. He said that the Visegrad countries were particularly promising candidates, adding "There will be different speeds. Poland will certainly be in front in this." Ruehe also noted that Poland has made considerable efforts in its political and economic reforms and in adapting its military to NATO standards. He hoped that Germany will soon be able to make good on German President Roman Herzog's promise to facilitate Polish entry into NATO and the EU. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. CZECH CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO REVIEW GERMAN CONFISCATIONS. The Czech Constitutional Court is due on 8 March to hear a case challenging the legality of the confiscation of property owned by Sudeten Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia at the end of World War II, Czech media report. Decrees issued by President Eduard Benes in exile during the war and following his return to Prague in 1945 included ordering the expulsion of up to 3 million Sudeten Germans without compensation; they were termed enemies of the country and held responsible for its prewar break-up. The case was brought before the Constitutional Court by an ethnic German from the North Bohemian town of Liberec whose request for the return of property expropriated from his family was refused by a local court. Czech restitution laws provide only for the return of property confiscated after the communist takeover in 1948. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK PARLIAMENT PASSES 1995 STATE BUDGET. The parliament on 8 March approved the 1995 draft budget by a vote of 83 to 52 with three abstentions, Praca and Pravda reported. Proposals by opposition deputies to increase funding for the Health Ministry, state health and social insurance companies, education, and environmental protection were rejected. The opposition also complained that the budget provides higher subsidies for local transportation in Zilina than in Bratislava, arguing that the results of the November 1994 local elections were a major factor in that decision. (Slovak National Party Chairman Jan Slota was reelected as mayor of Zilina, while Peter Kresanek, the candidate of five centrist and rightist parties, won in Bratislava.) Meanwhile, Christian Democratic Movement deputy Mikulas Dzurinda told Sme that the budget offers practically no funding for public investment. Many consider the cabinet's macroeconomic forecasts unrealistic. The budget foresees 5% growth in GDP, 9% annual inflation, 14% unemployment, a trade surplus, and a budget deficit of 21 billion koruny. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE UPDATE ON CROATIAN-MUSLIM JOINT COMMAND. Nasa Borba on 8 March quotes Croatian President Franjo Tudjman as saying that the new military agreement with Sarajevo "is not directed against any third party." Croatian Television noted that the command will be headed by Croatian Chief-of-Staff General Janko Bobetko and that its purpose is "the defense of territory, borders, and population." Bosnian Foreign Minister Irfan Ljubijancic told the BBC that the new staff is not intended for war but for defense. He added that Bosnia fears that the current cease- fire could lead to a de facto partition of the republic, as has happened in Cyprus. He said he could offer no optimistic prognosis for peace. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. ARKAN'S MEN READY FOR A NEW WAR. If a fresh conflict breaks out, Arkan's Tigers are likely to be used once again as shock troops for Serbian attacks on Croatia. Nasa Borba reports that they are ready "to defend Krajina and Prevlaka," a strategic strip of Croatian territory running south from Dubrovnik down to the Montenegrin border. Vjesnik, meanwhile, says the Sarajevo-Zagreb alliance has the military advantage over the Serbs in numbers and in training. It also notes that "the Bosnians and Croats have been preparing for [a new war] for months." The BBC quoted the Red Cross as saying that a new conflict could send 200,000 refugees fleeing into Slovenia. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. BELGRADE TO OFFER RECOGNITION TO EX-YUGOSLAV STATES? Nasa Borba on 8 March speculates whether Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic intends to offer recognition to states of the former Yugoslavia. In a front-page story headlined "Milosevic Prepared to Recognize Slovenia and the 'Republic of Skopje,'" the newspaper says possible efforts to recognize Macedonia as the "Republic of Skopje" may be aimed at appeasing Belgrade's regional ally Greece, which is opposed to the former Yugoslav republic's use of the name "Macedonia." The same daily also observes that there is apparently some concrete development in bilateral Slovenian-rump Yugoslav relations. The daily reports on a press conference held by Slovenian Premier Janez Drnovsek the previous day at which he said Slovenia was prepared to resolve "practical" issues with Belgrade. He also hinted that a Ljubljana bureau will be opened in Belgrade in "the near future." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARIAN OFFICIAL SAYS PROBLEMS WITH ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN TREATY PERSIST. After signing the document to accompany the basic treaty with Romania, Ferenc Somogyi, secretary of state at the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, said there are "still problems," Radio Bucharest reported on 7 March. Disagreement persists on issues that one side considers important and to which the other gives lower priority, he added. Radio Bucharest quoted a spokesman for the Hungarian Foreign Ministry who said the signing of the document in Bucharest neither replaces the negotiations on the basic treaty nor has relevance for those talks. Somogyi's Romanian counterpart, Mircea Dinu, praised the document, saying it provides for a semi-annual review of the "level of [progress in] collaboration between Romania and Hungary." Radio Bucharest, quoting "sources close to the Romanian delegation," said "substantial progress" was made at the expert-level negotiations on the basic treaty in Budapest on 7 March. The next round of negotiations at expert level are to begin in Bucharest on 13 March. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. DEMIREL IN ROMANIA. Turkish President Suleyman Demirel paid a one-day visit to Romania on 7 March, Romanian media report. He met with President Ion Iliescu to discuss bilateral economic relations, regional cooperation, and cooperation with European and international organizations. Iliescu and Demirel told the press they supported any initiative aimed at achieving a peaceful, political solution to conflicts in the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia, and the Balkans. It was the fourth meeting between Iliescu and Demirel in the last two years, and Demirel's second visit to Romania over the same period. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS PLAN TO RESTRICT LAND OWNERSHIP. The Bulgarian Socialist Party plans to submit to the parliament an amendment to the land law, international news agencies reported on 7 March. The amendment will limit land owners' rights to use and sell their land and will promote collective farming. Owners wishing to sell their land will have to offer it first to the state, which will decide within two months whether to purchase it at fixed prices. Only if the state decides not to buy the land will the owner be allowed to sell it to a third party. The amendment will allow newly formed cooperatives to inherit the best and largest plots from the abolished communist collective farms. Deputies from the Union of Democratic Forces said they will go to the Constitutional Court if the amendment is approved. They argue that the planned amendment infringes the constitution, which states that "private property is inviolable." -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT LIFTS TAX DEMAND ON SOCIALIST PARTY. The Socialist- led government on 6 March overturned a state demand that the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the successor to the communist party, pay around $2 billion in outstanding taxes, AFP reported the following day. Government spokesman Nikola Baltov said the decision is one of the government's measures aimed at overturning anti-communist legislation passed by the Union of Democratic Forces government in 1991-92. The UDF government led by Filip Dimitrov froze the BSP's accounts in 1991 and demanded payment of 2.2 billion leva in taxes and another $700 million allegedly spirited away by the Communists in various state budgets from 1954-1989. UDF Chairman Ivan Kostov was quoted by Demokratsiya on 8 March as saying that the government is attempting to conceal "the dark side" of the communist party's finances. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN TRADE UNIONS DEMAND GOVERNMENT'S RESIGNATION. The National Council of the Trade Union Confederation has called for the government to resign, Populli PO reported on 8 March. The trade unions claim that the government has taken no measures to raise wages and pensions in the three years since it came to power. They also note that Albanian prices have risen tenfold on average, while the wages and pensions have increased only threefold. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN RADIO ENDANGERED BY VANDALISM. Albanian TV and Radio broadcasts are endangered in more than one-third of Albania because of robbery and vandalism at transmitter stations, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 8 March. Over the past two years, 76 such cases have been reported. The director- general of Albanian TV and Radio has asked the government to cover the costs for reconstruction, estimated at about $500,000. Meanwhile, it is reported that Tirana will have its own public TV and radio channel. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. GREECE THREATENS TO BLOCK EU-TURKEY CUSTOMS UNION OVER CYPRUS . . . Greece on 7 March again threatened to veto the customs union between EU and Turkey, Reuters reported the same day. The Greek move came after Ankara indicated it would annex northern Cyprus if the divided island joined the EU. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the customs accord was "definite" and ruled out the Greek demand for an urgent meeting on the issue. He also said the Turkish threats are "null and void." EU officials noted that Turkey has no say in whether Cyprus becomes an EU member. The customs union was signed on 6 March, after Greece lifted its veto. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. . . . AND JOINS WEU. Greece became the tenth member of the Western European Union on 7 March, international agencies reported. It had applied for membership in November 1992 but had to wait for ratification by all WEU member states. -- Michael Mihalka, 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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