|When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years. - Mark Twain|
No. 51, Part II, 13 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 G-24 SAYS NO REFORM, NO AID. The Group of 24 industrialized countries on 10 March warned Eastern Europe that if reforms do not continue, aid will cease, Reuters reported. A statement released that day said there were concerns about "the possible effects on the pace of reform resulting from certain recent political developments. . . . Recipient governments are encouraged to continue pursuing active reform policies, [which] are important to the future development of G-24 assistance." A senior official at the European Commission said that the recent ouster of the reform government in Estonia and developments in Slovakia are on people's minds but added that the warning extends to all countries in the region. The commission coordinates aid from the G-24, which has pledged 74.7 billion ECUs since 1989. Another official noted that compared with the $100 billion a year that eastern Germany receives from the federal German authorities, aid to the region has been modest. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RFE/RL BEGINS LIVE BROADCASTS FROM PRAGUE. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty began live news broadcasts from their new operations center in Prague on 10 March. A statement released by the U.S. radios says that broadcasters from the Russian, Ukrainian, South Slavic, and Latvian services delivered the first newscasts from studios in the former Federal Assembly Building. RFE/RL broadcasts news and current affairs programs in 21 languages to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Responding to an offer from the Czech government and president to relocate to Prague, President Bill Clinton ordered last July that RFE/RL move to the Czech capital from Munich, Germany, where the radios have been based since 1951. Congress approved the President's decision in August 1994. RFE/RL broadcasts from Prague will expand over the next three months, and the Munich facility will be closed down by 30 June. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN UKRAINE. Ukrainian Television on 11 March reported that while Ukraine's population exceeds 52 million, the country attracted only some $200 million in foreign investment in 1994. In contrast, the Czech Republic and Hungary, each of which has only one- fifth of Ukraine's population, secured $1.4 billion and $750 million, respectively. Much of the blame for this lies with the government and the legislature, the report said. But it is hoped that recent legislation aimed at encouraging investors and the plan to make substantial headway in privatization this year will help change the situation. Meanwhile, IMF head Michel Camdessus arrived in Kiev on 10 March, international agencies reported. With regard to Ukraine's energy debt with Russia, Camdessus said he had raised the subject with Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin during his recent visit to Moscow. Camdessus met with parliament speaker Olek- sander Moroz, who argued that the IMF's demand that Ukraine's budget deficit be kept down to 4.2% was unrealistic. He suggested that 7.2% was a more likely figure. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. ANOTHER BOMB EXPLOSION IN CRIMEA. Interfax on 12 March reported that a bomb exploded in Crimea near the home of Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Arkadii Demidenko, killing the person holding the device and breaking several windows. Demidenko has not ruled out that he was the target of the explosion, and police are investigating a possible link between the latest explosion and threats against Crimean Prime Minister Anatolii Franchuk. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. ZHIRINOVSKY IN BELARUS. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of Russia's Liberal Democratic Party, attended the Belarusian Liberal Democratic convention in Minsk on 11 March, Interfax reported the same day. Zhirinovsky told the convention that Russia now has two enemies, the U.S. and China, which have masterminded the stillbirth of the CIS and provoked armed conflicts in Russia. He said the West is using differences between the Russian president and mayor of Moscow to stage a coup d'etat, which, he claimed, will take place on 18-25 March. If the coup fails, he continued, two Russian nuclear power stations will be blown up and a U.S.-led UN contingent will enter Russia on the pretext of protecting remaining nuclear power stations. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. US BUSINESS DELEGATION TOURS BALTIC STATES. Ruth Harkin, president of the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation, headed a delegation of banking, telecommunications, transport, and energy specialists who visited Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia on 6-10 March, BNS reported. The purpose of the tour was to help American companies find suitable partners for investments. Several agreements were reached, including a saw mill project worth $4 million in Lithuania and telecommunications projects in Latvia. President Bill Clinton expressed support for strengthening economic ties with the Baltic States at a conference on trade and investment in Eastern Europe that took place in Cleveland in January. The tour can be seen as a concrete follow-up to the conference. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. DUTCH COMPANY LIKELY TO RECONSTRUCT LITHUANIAN AIRPORT. Lithuanian Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius told a press conference on 9 March that the Dutch electronics company Philips appears to have won the contest to convert the former Soviet military airport at Zokniai to commercial use, BNS reported the next day. Philips estimates that the reconstruction can be carried out within a year at a cost of about $24 million and that the investment can be recouped within seven years if there are at least 13 flights a day. Zokniai is one of the largest air bases in Europe. After runways and lighting are repaired and a new navigation system installed, it will be a major competitor among European commercial airports. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. CHURCH-STATE TENSIONS IN POLAND. Polish Primate Cardinal Jozef Glemp statement on 10 March that "the PRL [Polish People's Republic] still exists and there's no need to create a PRL II" drew sharp protests from the ruling coalition. Glemp was referring to Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy's pledge in his inaugural address that Poland faced no threat of a "PRL II," despite the presence of former communists in the government. Glemp also described work on the new constitution as "defense of the ancien regime," Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 11-12 March. Spokesmen for both the government and the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) issued protests asserting that the ruling coalition is seeking a dialogue with the Catholic hierarchy and suggesting that Glemp was to blame for any impasse. The Constitutional Commission, headed by SLD leader Aleksander Kwasniewski, has been unable to reach agreement with Poland's denominations on how to define Church-state relations in the draft constitution. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. DIVISION WITHIN POLAND'S FREEDOM UNION. The Freedom Union (UW), Poland's largest opposition party, adopted a "charter of economic freedoms" in Sopot on 11-12 March. UW Chairman Tadeusz Mazowiecki endorsed former Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka as the party's presidential candidate, whereas UW parliament floor leader Bronislaw Geremek supported former Labor Minister Jacek Kuron, Radio Warsaw reported on 13 March. UW members remain deeply divided over whether to seek an election alliance with other "post-Solidarity" parties or a "historic compromise" with the postcommunist Democratic Left Alliance. Tension is also building over an anticipated contest for the chairmanship between Mazowiecki and economic reform architect Leszek Balcerowicz, who recently joined the UW. Balcerowicz made a major address in Sopot arguing that "a party dominated by emotion . . . cannot be effective politically" and stressing that even the most brilliant election program need not bring victory without effective organization. Most rank-and-file UW members apparently favor a solution keeping both Mazowiecki and Balcerowicz in leadership positions. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. GERMAN WAR DEAD NOT TO GET SEPARATE CEMETERY. Up to 2,000 German soldiers who died in the Czech Republic during World War II will be buried in the same cemetery as Russians, Americans, and other war dead, Czech media report. The remains of the German soldiers were collected from western and northern Bohemia but have been kept in a workshop in Cheb while the town council decided what to do with them. The council originally approved a plan by the German war graves organization for the Germans to have their own cemetery, but the council that took office after local elections last November rejected the idea. A compromise whereby the Germans will be buried alongside some 200 Russian soldiers and 70 Americans, Belgians, French, Hungarians, and Poles was approved by the Cheb council on 10 March. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. POWERS OF SLOVAK CABINET OFFICE STRENGTHENED. The Slovak parliament on 10 March voted to strengthen the powers of the cabinet office, particularly as regards control over ministries and enterprises, Sme reported the next day. State secretaries will be able to vote in place of ministers at cabinet discussions, and the government will be able to appoint the leadership of various central organs of the state administration. The parliament also approved a cabinet proposal to create the new Ministry of Construction and Public Works. Critics said these measures were another attempt to centralize power. Meanwhile, another round of talks on the Hungarian-Slovak treaty on 10 March in Budapest ended without any results, Pravda reported on 11 March. The next round is due to begin on 14 March in Budapest. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. WORKERS CONFERENCE IN CENTRAL SLOVAKIA. A worldwide conference of workers and labor parties was held in Banska Bystrica on 11-12 March. Organized by the Association of Slovak Workers, which is a member of Slovakia's governing coalition, the conference was attended by 189 delegates from 44 countries. The delegates approved an open letter to governments stating that the UN Social Development Summit in Copenhagen "is proof of the inability of all governments to solve tragic problems," Pravda reported. The statement was particularly critical of the IMF, the World Bank, and the EU. The next conference is scheduled to take place in Paris in 1996. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARY DEVALUES FORINT, WILL CUT SOCIAL SPENDING. At a press conference on 12 March, Hungarian Finance Minister Lajos Bokros, flanked by Prime Minister Gyula Horn and Hungarian National Bank President Gyorgy Suranyi, announced a series of harsh economic measures designed to reduce the country's spiraling debts, MTI and Western news agencies report. Bokros announced that as of 13 March, the forint will be devalued by 9% in order to improve the competitiveness of exports while curtailing consumption. He said that wage controls will be introduced at state-owned companies and an 8% duty imposed on all imports beginning 20 March. Bokros also announced that as of 1 July, the government will pay family allowances only for low-income citizens and that in September, general tuition fees will be introduced at state-owned universities. He argued that the measures were necessary to restore international investor confidence in Hungary. Disagreeing with the measures, Minister for Social Welfare Pal Kovacs and Bela Katona, minister without portfolio in charge of the secret services, offered their resignation. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE TUDJMAN AND U.S. REACH COMPROMISE ON PEACEKEEPERS. Hina on 12 March reported on Croatian President Franjo Tudjman's address to the UN Social Development Summit in Copenhagen, on his press conference with U.S. Vice President Al Gore, and on his statement upon returning to Zagreb. The president said "the current international presence [meaning UNPROFOR] may continue to perform functions related to its mission in Bosnia- Herzegovina and functions essential to the continued implementation" of a package of agreements regarding Croatia and its Serbian-held territories. "The US has pledged to assist Croatia in restoring its sovereignty over the whole of its territory," and there will be "international control of Croatia's borders with Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina." Tudjman stressed that the current UNPROFOR mandate will end on 31 March, as he declared in January, and that any future agreement will "ensure the main task of Croatian state policy, which is to control the Croatian borders." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. "THE DEVIL LIES IN THE DETAILS.' This is how Croatian UN Ambassador Mario Nobilo described to the BBC the problems in negotiating a new mandate for "an international presence" in Croatia. He added that Zagreb wants to reintegrate the 30% of its territory held by rebel Serbs "by peaceful means" but stressed that Croatia would take back Krajina by force to prevent a lasting partition of the country. The BBC commented that it will be harder to negotiate the new mandate than the old one, and the BBC's Croatian Service in its 13 March British press review concluded that total confusion reigns as to what Tudjman's statements will mean in practice. It is clear, however, that he insists on an international force of Western troops to patrol his borders with neighboring republics, which a Serbian diplomat in Washington called "a non-starter" for all Serbs. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. TUDJMAN'S STATEMENTS RAISE QUESTIONS RATHER THAN GIVE ANSWERS. Numerous questions surround the Croatian president's declarations. To what extent had he been bluffing on wanting to end UNPROFOR's mandate? What forms of pressure have been exerted on him by Washington and Bonn in the meantime? What incentives might he have been given? Has he emerged as the winner in the current diplomatic game by obtaining a Western presence to guard at least some major crossing points of Croatia's international borders? How big will that force be and how large the continued "international presence" in Krajina? What if Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs fight to prevent the arrival of NATO or other Western troops on their borders? What will happen on the front lines and in Croatia's domestic and international politics if the de facto partition indeed continues? -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN UPDATE. In addition to ongoing harassment against rump Yugoslavia's independent media, Belgrade authorities appear to be readying for a sustained campaign against charitable organizations. Among those targeted is the Soros Foundation, which last week was attacked in the state-run press and by government officials. The independent daily Nasa Borba on 11-12 March reported that officials from Serbia's Education Ministry joined the assault, describing the work of the foundation in supporting student scholarships and stipends as "illegal." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. NEWS FROM MACEDONIA. Unknown offenders vandalized some 130 Christian Orthodox tombs in Kumanovo during the night of 10-11 March, AFP reported on 12 March. The incident followed a similar incident involving about 40 Albanian tombs on 20 February. Meanwhile, deputies from the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity ceased their boycott of parliament sessions, Vecer reported on 10 March. The boycott began in late February in protest at the crackdown on the Albanian-language university in Tetovo. Also on 10 March, Nova Makedonija reported that Gerd Ahrens, coordinator of the working group on ethnic and national minorities at the Geneva Conference on the Former Yugoslavia, met with representatives of the Macedonian government to discuss higher education in Albanian and possible forms of local self-administration. The talks will continue in Skopje on 30 March. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. TWO MORE PARTIES TO QUIT DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION OF ROMANIA. The National Council of the Liberal Party '93 on 11 March voted not to sign the Democratic Convention of Romania's revised protocols of 17 February. The decision appears to have caused a split within the party. Several leading figures in the PL--including deputies Crin Antonescu, Stelian Tanase, and Ioan Ghise--warned that the PL's withdrawal from the CDR could lead to political isolation. Tanase told a Radio Bucharest correspondent that efforts were being made to set up a new liberal party to replace the PL within the CDR. Meanwhile, the National Committee of the Party of Civic Alliance on 12 March said it dismissed as "an ultimatum" the demand that it sign the February protocols in order to remain within the CDR. PAC President Nicolae Manolescu stressed that his party had been coerced into making the decision to leave the CDR. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. ILIESCU MEETS EU COMMISSION PRESIDENT. Romanian President Ion Iliescu on 10 March met in Brussels with European Commission President Jacques Santer, Reuters reported. The meeting, attended also by Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu and EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek, focused on Romania's ties with the EU. Iliescu and Santer discussed Romania's long-term prospects for EU membership and how it can take full advantage of its association agreement with the EU, which went into effect on 1 February. An EU spokesman said after the meeting that the commission urged Romania to step up its economic and political reforms if it wanted to entertain realistic hopes of joining the EU. Iliescu was on his way to Copenhagen to attend the UN Social Development Summit. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN-AMERICAN MILITARY EXERCISE. Albanian and U.S. forces began a joint military-medical exercise on 12 March, Populli PO reported the same day. The exercise, which is taking place in the northwest of the country, focuses on evacuations from mountainous areas. Turkish, British, French, and Bulgarian Troops are also participating in the maneuvers. -- Fabian Schmidt, 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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