|Life, within doors, has few pleasanter prospects than a neatly arranged and well-provisioned breakfast-table. - Nathaniel Hawthorne|
No. 53, Part II, 15 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. ************************************************************************ * OMRI also publishes Transition: Events and Issues in the Former * * Soviet Union and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. This * * bi-weekly journal provides in-depth analysis of political, economic, * * social, military, cultural, media, and foreign affairs in the * * region. For subscription information, please contact: * * firstname.lastname@example.org * ************************************************************************ EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT TIGHTENS CONTROL OVER HARD CURRENCY OUTFLOW . . . Leonid Kuchma issued a decree on 13 March aimed at preventing tax evasion and the illegal flight of hard currency earnings to foreign countries, Interfax-Ukraine reported the next day. The Ukrainian leader also reprimanded Deputy Prime Minister Ihor Mityukov for failing to carry out a similar order on the repatriation of hard currency accumulated in Ukraine and deposited in foreign banks. It has been estimated that billions of U.S. dollars, often illegally made by Ukrainian businesses and officials, are held in foreign accounts, depriving Ukraine of badly-needed tax revenues. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. . . . AND VISITS CHORNOBYL. Kuchma visited the Chornobyl nuclear power plant on 14 March in an effort to determine the fate of the two reactors still operating , Interfax-Ukraine reported the same day. Accompanied by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko and other officials, Kuchma told plant personnel that a final decision on the future of Chornobyl would be taken by the Ukrainian government during a special meeting on the matter in the near future. Despite pressure from the West to shut down the plant as an environmental hazard, Kuchma opposes its closure because it provides 7% of the country's energy at a time when Ukraine is experiencing a deep energy crisis. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINE WANTS SANCTIONS AGAINST BELGRADE EASED. Interfax on 14 March reported that Volodymyr Yelchenko, deputy head of the international organizations department in the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, has said Ukraine will press for the easing of UN sanctions against Belgrade. According to Yelchenko, Ukraine's losses due to sanctions amounted to $4 billion by the end of 1994. The heaviest losses were sustained by Ukraine's inland water transportation enterprises, especially the Danube Steamship Line, which has lost all its clients. Losses were also sustained by smelting plants oriented toward exporting their products to Austria. Yelchenko said that Kiev is aware that no one will compensate Ukraine for all its losses but it wants to see Ukraine's position taken into account. He added that Ukraine will at least press for an easing of the navigation regime on the Danube. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN NAVAL COMMANDER RESIGNS. Vice Admiral Volodymyr Bezkorovainy, commander of the Ukrainian Navy, submitted his resignation on 14 March, AFP reported. The official reason for his resignation was reported to be poor health, but the navy press center said that in the past 18 months, Bezkorovainy had not been sick once. According to AFP, Bezkorovainy was at odds with Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov over the Black Sea Fleet and had a poor working relationship with the fleet's commander, Admiral Eduard Baltin. Deputy Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk was reported to have said that Bezkorovainy's resignation was unexpected and regrettable. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. OPPOSITION LEADER ON RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN ACCORDS. Aleh Trusau, leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada, has said he hopes the parliament will have "the common sense" not to ratify the Russian- Belarusian agreements on setting up a customs union and leasing military installations in Belarus to Russia, Interfax reported on 14 March. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov recently announced that if Belarus does not ratify the agreement, Russia will reimpose customs duties on Belarus. Trusau dismissed the remark as a political bluff, saying that Belarus was a highway for some 60% of Russia's exports to the West. He calculated that if customs duties were imposed, Russia stood to earn less than $300 million, while Belarus would earn twice that amount. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. TRIAL OF FORMER ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER BEGINS. The trial of former Estonian Prime Minister Indrek Toome began at the Tallinn City Court on 14 March, Reuters reported. Toome, who was premier from 1988 to 1990, is charged with offering a bribe worth 30,000 kroons ($2,700) to a police officer for the return of three confiscated passports. Although Toome could be sentenced for up to two years in prison, state prosecutor Andres Ulviste asked only for a fine to be imposed. Toome's defense did not deny the bribery charges. but accused the police of setting a trap. The court is expected to pass judgment on 16 March. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLISH TRIBUNAL RULES ON WAGES. The Constitutional Tribunal ruled against President Lech Walesa on 14 March in declaring wage legislation adopted last December as constitutional, Rzeczpospolita reported. The law governs wage levels for employees who are paid from the state budget, such as teachers and doctors. It was designed to ease pressure on the budget by abolishing a 1989 provision that set budgetary wages at 106% of those in the industrial sector. The provision was always a dead letter; and successive governments struggled to obtain Sejm approval to suspend its implementation. The new law states that wages will be set through annual negotiations between unions, employers, and the government. The president had argued that the new legislation violated "the principle of social justice." In other economic news, Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy has lowered the government's sights on inflation, arguing that a December-on-December rate of 20-21% (rather than the official 17% goal) would be a success. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. MOVEMENT ON POLISH CONCORDAT. The concordat with the Vatican signed on 28 July 1993 does not violate the current constitution, according to a resolution approved unexpectedly by a special Sejm commission on 14 March. Following emotional debate, the commission rejected a subcommittee proposal to declare that the concordat violated the separation of Church and state and discriminated against non-Catholic denominations. The commission noted (as had the Suchocka government, which negotiated the treaty) that ratification would require amending existing legislation to ensure equal rights for all religions. The vote was carried by deputies from the Polish Peasant Party and the opposition Freedom Union, Gazeta Wyborcza reported. All Democratic Left Alliance deputies (except commission chairman Zbigniew Siemiatkowski) were opposed. Sejm debate on the commission's report is expected in April. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. HAVEL RENEWS CALL FOR CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS TO BE IMPLEMENTED. President Vaclav Havel on 14 March called again on the Czech parliament to fill the "holes" in the country's constitution before they become an issue in the 1996 election campaign. Havel said that the creation of a second parliament chamber, the Senate, and the redrawing of the Czech Republic's administrative districts were vital provisions in the constitution that had never been implemented. Following several political scandals in recent months, Havel also called on deputies to show a greater sense of public responsibility, and he opposed government policy on several points, including financing pension insurance from the state budget. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus refused to comment publicly on Havel's speech but told some cabinet members it was aimed against his Civic Democratic Party, the main partner in the governing coalition, Lidove noviny reported. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. CZECH INTERIOR MINISTRY SAYS INTERNATIONAL COMMUNIST GROUPS MUST LEAVE. Czech Interior Minister Jan Ruml on 14 March confirmed that three international organizations with close links to the former communist regime will no longer be allowed to have their headquarters in Prague, Czech Television and other media reported. The International Organization of Journalists, based in Prague since 1947, the International Students' Union, and the World Trades Union Federation were ordered by the federal Interior Ministry to leave Czechoslovakia in 1992. After a two-year appeal process, Ruml confirmed that they must remove their secretariats from Prague. But he added that the organizations will still be allowed to conduct activities in the Czech Republic. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK CABINET REFUSES TO HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE. The Slovak government has reacted angrily to an initiative by a number of Slovak newspapers to protest plans to raise value-added tax on commercial publications with more than 30% foreign investment, Narodna obroda reported. A number of Slovak dailies on 6 March printed a blank front page containing only a warning about the higher tax. The government said that cabinet members would not participate in a press conference "in protest against the deception of the public, the damaging of the interests of the Slovak Republic at home and abroad, the disruption of freedom of speech [as well as] intolerance, arrogance and lack of culture." Chairman of the Slovak Syndicate of Journalists, Julius Gembicky, said the blank pages were printed as a preventative measure addressed not to the government but to members of the parliament. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK TEACHERS DISSATISFIED WITH SALARIES. Kamil Vajnorsky, chairman of the education and science trade union, warned on 14 March that social tension is growing among teachers and scientists. Vajnorsky stressed that low salaries mean that the number of unqualified teachers in schools will continue to grow, while university professors and scientists will continue to seek employment elsewhere. Demands for a meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar to find a solution to these problems were rejected because the premier has no time to discuss such questions, Narodna obroda reported. Meciar pledged in his election campaign that the salaries of university teachers and scientists would double by 1995, but he reneged on such promises after signing the general agreement with the trade unions and employer associations in February. Association of Slovak Workers Chairman Jan Luptak criticized a proposal during the parliament's recent discussion on the 1995 state budget to raise teachers' salaries, stressing that workers' salaries are also low. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARIAN PROTESTERS URGE GOVERNMENT TO RESIGN. Nearly 10,000 people marched through Budapest on 14 March to protest an austerity package that will trim government benefits to families, MTI and Western news agencies reported. Protesters joined Jozsef Torgyan, chairman of the Independent Smallholders' Party, in calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Gyula Horn and his government. Torgyan, whose party holds 26 of the 386 seats in the parliament, accused Horn of "giving up our country's basic social achievements." The Horn government's austerity package, announced on 12 March, was also criticized by trade unions and other opposition parties. Two ministers and a deputy state secretary have tendered their resignations to protest the austerity measures, which include drastically cutting allowances for child care and imposing fees for university tuition. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE UNPROFOR TO BECOME UNFIC. Vecernji list and Nasa Borba on 15 March reported that the name of UN troops replacing UNPROFOR under a new mandate will be United Nations Forces in Croatia, or UNFIC. The Zagreb and Belgrade dailies also discuss the cacophony of opinions throughout Croatia and elsewhere on President Franjo Tudjman's new deal with the U.S. Nasa Borba quotes leaders of Croatia's Liberals and Independent Democrats as criticizing Tudjman, while Zagreb's top Serbian politician, Milorad Pupovac, welcomed the decision. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung suggests that the Serbs of Knin may accept it as well, since UN troops will remain to keep Croatian forces out of Serbian-held areas. International media also comment that the 500 UNFIC troops on Croatia's external borders pose no real threat to the Serbs, since UNFIC will not be able to completely monitor, let alone seal, a frontier more than 1,000 kilometers long. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. KARADZIC REJECTS UNFIC. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 15 March also reported, however, that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has slammed the idea of UN forces being stationed on that part of the Croatian border separating his forces from those of the Krajina Serbs. He threatened to take action against UNPROFOR in Bosnia if UNFIC indeed takes up such positions. UN mediator Yasushi Akashi accordingly came back from his latest talks with Karadzic depressed about the possibility of a new war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Hina reported on 14 March on a series of Serbian attacks in the Gradacac, Stolac, Orasje, and Mostar areas, while the same news agency and Slobodna Dalmacija on 15 March discuss continued tensions between Croats and Muslims. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN LEADERS ON NEW UN MANDATE. The Croatian agency Hina on 13 March reported on reactions by Serbian opposition leaders to the proposal for a new UN mandate in Croatia. Vojislav Seselj, controversial leader of the Serbian Radical Party, observed that "Serbia must not allow a change in the name, mandate, or role of the peace forces." Democratic Party of Serbia leader Vojislav Kostunica called the decision "dangerous." Vuk Draskovic, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, expressed the hope for regional peace, observing that "the forces of peace will win the battle with the forces of war." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ETHNIC ALBANIAN SHOT IN KOSOVO. An ethnic Albanian man has been shot and killed by police in the Serbian province of Kosovo, international agencies reported on 14 March. The Democratic League of Kosovo, the leading Kosovar shadow-state party, quoted an eyewitness as saying that police shot and kicked the 26-year-old Ejup Kasumi even after he had fallen to the ground. The shooting reportedly followed police raids for weapons in Urosevac. The Serbian military and police have launched a campaign to forcefully induct ethnic Albanians into the Yugoslav army. At least 20 Albanian youngsters have been arrested on charges of desertion or draft dodging after authorities sent some 200 draft notes to ethnic Albanians, Rilindja reported on 10 March. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN OPPOSITION ALLIANCE ON RECENT SPLITS. The Executive Committee and the Council of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) on 14 March said they regarded the Liberal Party '93 (PL) and the Party of Civic Alliance (PAC) as having withdrawn from the convention, Radio Bucharest reported. The two parties recently decided not to sign the CDR's revised protocols of 17 February. The leading bodies of the CDR also announced that some members of the PL and the PAC have opted to set up a new liberal party within the convention. The CDR includes two other liberal parties, the National Liberal Party and the National Liberal Party--Democratic Convention. The liberal formations in the CDR were given until 31 May to unify. Meanwhile, the Civic Alliance movement criticized the PAC's decision to leave the CDR and said it was withdrawing its moral and political support for that party. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT ACCUSED OF OBSTRUCTING PRIVATIZATION. Stefan Hadzhitodorov, a member of the Bulgarian Privatization Agency's supervisory board, on 14 March accused the government of obstructing the privatization process, Standart reported the following day. He claims that ministers have forbidden their ministries to close deals on their own. Bozhidar Kabakchiev, interim head of the Privatization Agency, said Deputy Prime Minister Rumen Gechev asked him to refrain from privatization sales. Gechev's deputy wants to check all deals concluded by the agency, Kabakchiev said. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. IMF OFFICIALS IN BULGARIA. A delegation from the International Monetary Fund is in Sofia to examine Bulgaria's state budget and balance of payments, Otechestven Front reported on 15 March. If the IMF approves the government's fiscal policies, a $300 million loan agreement will be signed. The IMF delegation has held talks with officials from the Bulgarian National Bank and will also meet with cabinet members. The Bulgarian government wants to cut the budget deficit to 4.5% of GDP and inflation to 50% in order to meet IMF requirements. Deputy Prime Minister Rumen Gechev was quoted as saying that a $150 million loan would cover Bulgaria's needs for 1995, but in the next few years, it would need larger sums to pay its foreign debts. Bulgaria has to pay $1 billion by the end of 1995, of which $280 million is owed to the IMF. National Bank Governor Todor Valchev was reported as saying that Bulgaria "will look for new creditors" if an agreement with international lending organizations cannot be reached. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. GREECE, ALBANIA TO DEVELOP FRIENDSHIP TREATY. Greece and Albania have agreed to develop a friendship treaty, Reuters reported on 14 March. Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias, who was on a two-day visit to Albania, met with Albanian President Sali Berisha on 14 March to discuss the status of the ethnic Greek minority in Albania and the possible legalization of the status of Albanians working in Greece. Berisha said the treaty could be signed this year, while Papoulias expressed the political will to solve a number of grievances between the two neighbors, adding that the prospects for practical results were excellent. Meanwhile, textile workers in Berat ended their hunger strike after the government promised to maintain production at their factory, Deutsche Welle's Albanian-language service reported on 14 March. -- Fabian Schmidt, 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. 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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