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No. 55, Part II, 17 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 SLOVAKIA, HUNGARY AGREE ON BILATERAL TREATY... Vladimir Meciar and Gyula Horn, meeting on 16 March in Bratislava, agreed on the wording of the Slovak-Hungarian basic treaty, Pravda reported. Meciar said progress had been made toward the "strengthening of trust, cooperation, and friendship between our states and nations." Horn seconded Meciar's statement, saying that "to each question we found a responsible solution. What I consider to be particularly important [is that] the basic agreement meets European norms and requirements." The Hungarian premier also expressed satisfaction that the treaty will be signed on 20 March in Paris, before the EU Conference on the Pact of Stability opens in Paris on 20 March. He said this will demonstrate that it is possible in Central Europe to reach an agreement without the use of weapons and to create peaceful conditions for relations between states. The text of the agreement is being reviewed by experts on 17 March, and for that reason further details were not revealed. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. ...WHILE HUNGARY, ROMANIA CONTINUE TO DISAGREE. Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs and his Romanian counterpart, Teodor Melescanu, failed to bridge differences of opinion over the text of a bilateral treaty when they met in Budapest on 16 March, MTI and Western news agencies report. Hungarian minority rights were the chief stumbling block to reaching an agreement. Hungary wants to incorporate in the treaty a 1993 Council of Europe recommendation foreseeing "local or autonomous authorities or a special status" for minorities. Romania fears that such autonomy could lead to unilateral secession. Kovacs also reported differences of opinion over the use of minority languages; the interpretation of the right of assembly, in particular the founding of political parties; and compensation to Churches for injustices under communism. Hungary and Romania have come under intense pressure from European and U.S. diplomats to sign a basic treaty before the 20 March EU conference. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES 1995 PRIVATIZATION PROGRAM. The Crimean parliament has approved a 1995 privatization plan aimed at transferring up to 30% of state-owned enterprises to private hands by the end of the year, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 16 March. The program provides for privatization to be carried out on the basis of Ukrainian legislation, which calls for distributing privatization vouchers to all citizens through State Savings Banks. Some 100,000 Crimeans have already claimed their vouchers. These can be traded in for shares in large enterprises at special voucher auctions. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINE NEGOTIATES WITH TURKMENISTAN ON GAS SUPPLIES. The Turkmen company Turkmenelektro has said it may resume supplying Ukraine with gas in exchange for Ukrainian manufactured goods, Ukrainian Television reported on 16 March. Turkmenelektro has reportedly concluded an agreement with the Ukrainian firm Iskra, in Mykolaiv, to supply enterprises in the area with gas and to receive in return machinery produced by Iskra. Turkmenistan cut off all gas supplies to Ukraine in February 1994 because Kiev failed to make payments on a debt of more than $700 million. That debt now tops $1 billion, and Kiev and Ashgabat have been unable to reach agreement on payment and supplies. In other related news, the Ukrainian government has approved a plan for the first phase of construction of a oil terminal near the port city of Odessa, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 16 March. The terminal is expected to be able to process shipments of up to 40 million tons of crude oil a year. -- Ustina Markus and Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN NAVY CHIEF STAYS ON THE JOB. Vice Admiral Vladimir Bezkorovainy, commander of the Ukrainian Navy, said on 16 March that he had withdrawn his resignation submitted several days earlier. Reuters quoted Bezkorovainy as saying that talk of his resignation was "premature." While he had cited poor health as the reason for stepping down, the agency reported that he had been angry at Kiev's interference in the running of the navy. In particular, he was said to have resisted an order from Defense Minister Valery Shmarov to halve the crew of the navy's flagship as a cost-cutting measure. Bezkorovainy said he had found "support and understanding" when he met with Shmarov earlier in the week. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. COURT ACQUITS FORMER ESTONIAN PREMIER. The Tallinn City Court on 16 March acquitted Indrek Toome of charges of attempting to bribe a police official, BNS reported. Toome, who was prime minister from 1988 to 1990, was arrested on 28 November 1994 after giving a police official 30,000 kroons ($2,400) in exchange for three forged passports. The court accepted defense attorneys' claims that Toome fell into a trap set by the police, which had used methods not yet approved by law. Defense Police Chief Juri Pihl said that the court verdict indicated that Toome was guilty since the 30,000 kroons were confiscated. State Prosecutor Andres Ulviste is appealing the verdict. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. OSTANKINO TO RETURN TO LI-THUANIA. Broadcasts of Russian Ostankino TV programs, which were halted in early February after Lit-poliinter TV declared bankruptcy, will soon resume in Lithuania. The Lithuanian Radio and TV Board on 14 March declared that the new Free Independent Channel has won the contest to take over the channel that Litpoliinter used, BNS reported. FIC will transmit at its own cost Ostankino's main newscasts and selected cultural programs. Broadcasts are to run at least 18 hours a day. FIC's founders include the state-owned Lithuanian Agricultural Bank, the Lithuanian Workers' Union, and the joint-stock company Vingis, formed by some former Litpoliinter employees. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. BATTLE BREWING OVER POLISH TAX RATES. The Sejm will decide within a month whether to uphold the Constitutional Tribunal's ruling that the 1995 tax rates violate the constitution, Sejm speaker Jozef Zych told reporters on 16 March. Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy confirmed that budget necessity will force the ruling coalition to vote to overturn it, though not without "a certain legal distaste." Finance Ministry officials estimate that lower tax rates would deprive the budget of at most 1.1 billion zloty ($460 million) in planned revenues. But Rzeczpospolita argued that such calculations are misleading, as this year's unexpectedly high inflation would cover the budgetary gap. President Lech Walesa threatened to take action should the parliament continue to break the law (the first use of such rhetoric since the new government took office). Meanwhile, the opposition Freedom Union submitted a parliament motion to remove Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko from office, on the grounds of a tax directive cited by the Constitutional Tribunal as an egregious violation of the law. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. POLISH GROWTH RATE SLOWING? The Main Statistical Office (GUS) reported on 16 March that industrial production rose by 14.5% in February compared with the same month in 1994. Exports were up by 35.8% year-on-year in dollar terms, and unemployment fell to 15.8%. But growth rates for both industrial production and exports, while still very positive, have been slowing since November 1994, Rzeczpospolita reported. Prices rose by 2.1% in February. GUS revised upward, from 3.9% to 4.1%, its inflation count for January. The year-on-year inflation rate amounted to 33.6% in February, inching up from 33.4% in January. The Agriculture Ministry predicted on 15 March that food prices (one of the chief factors driving inflation) would rise by 25-29% this year; if import barriers are retained, the increase could be as high as 39%. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. FIRST CZECH CONVICTED OF DEFAMING HAVEL. A court in Kromeriz on 16 March sentenced a 62-year-old Czech to four months in jail, suspended for one year, for defaming President Vaclav Havel. Zdenek Svarovsky became the first person since 1989 to be convicted of defaming the head of state, Mlada fronta dnes reported. In Czech-language papers published in the U.S. and also distributed in Canada and the Czech Republic, Svarovsky termed Havel a traitor and false prophet and claimed he had been a member of the Communist Party until 1967. At Havel's prompting, the Constitutional Court last year removed provisions from the criminal code making it an offense to defame the government and parliament, but anyone convicted of defaming the president can still be jailed for up to two years. Havel's spokesman said the president would not comment on the Svarovsky case. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK NATIONAL BANK LOWERS DISCOUNT RATE. The Slovak National Bank's discount rate is to be lowered from 12% to 11% beginning 17 March, Pravda reports. The bank justified the decision by saying inflation in February reached only 0.5%. In other economic news, the Slovak Statistical Office reports that GDP reached 398.3 billion koruny in 1994, representing a nominal annual growth rate of 17.1% and a real growth rate of 4.8%. Average monthly nominal wages grew 17% in 1994, while real wages rose by 3%. Labor productivity at current prices grew 18.2% and nominal wages 17.0%, Praca reports on 17 March. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CROATIAN AND MUSLIM LEADERS GATHER IN WASHINGTON. Meetings took place on 16 March to mark the first anniversary of the U.S.-sponsored Croatian- Muslim federation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Vecernji list on 17 March said that Presidents Franjo Tudjman and Bill Clinton held a private discussion for about an hour before Tudjman went on to New York to talk with UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali. Both meetings presumably focused on the future of international peacekeeping operations in Croatia. Bosnian Croat leader and federal President Kresimir Zubak was the only original signatory present in Washington, although Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic took part via a video hookup while visiting Bonn. From there, he told reporters that there will be no extension of the current cease-fire unless the Serbs accept the Contact Group's peace plan, since the present arrangement only freezes Serbian conquests. In Washington, Bosnian and federal Vice President Ejup Ganic called on Clinton to pressure Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to recognize his government's sovereignty over Bosnia and Herzegovina. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SANTIC AFFAIR CASTS SHADOW OVER FESTIVITIES. While the VOA's broadcasts in Serbo-Croatian on 17 March stress the positive aspects of the federation, the BBC's emphasize its problems. One commentator called it "an anti-Serbian political idea" that has achieved nothing except to stop the 1993 Croatian-Muslim war. The BBC discussed at length the tensions stemming from the kidnapping in the Bihac pocket on 8 March of the Bosnian Croat commander there, General Vlado Santic. The Muslims have admitted that their military police were last seen with him after a drinking session but deny knowing where he is now. One theory holds that he has been killed in a settling of old scores, while another suggests it is the work of rogue Muslims who have never wanted peace with the Croats. The BBC and Nasa Borba both quote Bosnian Croat representatives as saying they are "freezing" official contacts with the Muslims until the affair is cleared up. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. DIFFERING AGENDAS IN THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA? Nasa Borba on 17 March, reporting on apparent differences of strategies among the five countries of the Contact Group, says Russia is interested primarily in shoring up its status as a great power. Britain and France, the paper continues, wants to prevent conflict; but fears of an alleged American or German preponderance in the post-1989 world have long been evident in their policies in the former Yugoslavia. Those policies often seem aimed at shoring up the Serbs and blocking the Croats and Muslims, who are perceived in London and Paris as clients of Bonn or Washington. The article adds that in reality, the U.S.'s "special relationship" in Europe is now with Germany, not Britain. The Frankfurter Allge-meine Zeitung picks up the theme, noting that Washington and Bonn are in the forefront of efforts to bolster the Croatian-Muslim alliance. That federation "is the cornerstone on which the Contact Group's peace plan rests, not the other way around," the German daily comments. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. RUMP YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER IN ROME. Vladislav Jovanovic met briefly with his Italian counterpart, Susanna Agnelli, in Rome on 16 March, Nasa Borba reported the next day. The leaders described the meeting, which focused in part on international sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia, in positive terms. Agnelli added that Italy may support the idea of easing the embargo. Nasa Borba also adds that Jovanovic is expected to meet with Vatican officials. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. MILOSEVIC MEETS WITH PAVLE? According to Nasa Borba on 17 March, "Belgrade political circles" have revealed that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic recently held "secret" talks with the leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Pavle. Sources within the Church have not confirmed those reports, but nor have they denied them. High Church officials from the Republic of Srpska and the Republic of Serbian Krajina are believed to have attended the meeting, which reportedly included discussion of Yugoslav Foreign Minister Vladislav Jovanovic's recent contacts with Vatican officials. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. MACEDONIA WANTS CHANGE IN STATUS OF UN TROOPS. Macedonia is demanding that the UN peacekeeping forces stationed on its territory be made independent of the UN forces in the former Yugoslavia, AFP reported on 16 March. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali was quoted as saying that, like Croatia, Macedonia wants an "independent operation that is not linked to other countries" that were part of Yugoslavia. Macedonian Foreign Minister Stevo Crvenkovski said that the government is seeking a new mandate with a "separate military, logistical and administrative structure under a special [UN] representative." The UNPROFOR mandate in Croatia expires on 31 March. Some 1,100 peacekeepers are currently in Macedonia. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. U.S., ROMANIAN PRESIDENTS EXCHANGE LETTERS. U.S. President Bill Clinton, in a letter to his Romanian counterpart, Ion Iliescu, dated 13 March, welcomed Romania's intention to join NATO, Radio Bucharest reported on 16 March He also praised efforts by the Romanian and Hungarian governments to sign a bilateral treaty as soon as possible, saying that it is particularly important to avert conflicts and tension in Central Europe in order to maintain stability in the region. He stressed that the U.S. was prepared to support Romania's democratization and economic reforms. In his reply on 16 March, Iliescu hailed Clinton's message as signaling a "friendly and benevolent stance toward Romania." He repeated his invitation to Clinton, issued last September in Washington, to visit Romania. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER POSTPONES VISIT TO BULGARIA. Viktor Chernomyrdin has postponed a visit to Sofia scheduled for 23-25 March, Bulgarian newspapers reported on 17 March. Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Aleksandr Avdeev said that the postponement was due to Russian domestic reasons and to the fact that President Boris Yeltsin is going on vacation on 27 March. But had added that Chernomyrdin will come "at the end of spring." Avdeev denied that disputes over Russia's $100 million debt to Bulgaria or Sofia's aspirations to join NATO were reasons for postponing the visit. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN NUCLEAR REACTOR SHUT DOWN AFTER LEAKS. The No. 5 Reactor at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant was shut down on 16 March, AFP reported the same day. The reactor had to be turned off after a leak was discovered in a generator cooling system. Officials at the power plant said the incident posed no danger of a radioactive leak, as the generator is located outside the reactor's nuclear core. Ivan Ivanov, deputy director of the Kozloduy power plant, was quoted by Bulgarian Radio as saying that the pipeline will be repaired within 24 hours and that the reactor will then be operational again. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT REFUSES TO LIFT LEGISLATORS' IMMUNITY. The Albanian parliament on 16 March refused to lift the immunity of two deputies from the ruling Democratic Party, Gazeta Shqiptare reported the next day. The prosecutor-general asked for former Finance Minister Genc Ruli and former Agriculture Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Rexhep Uka to be stripped of their immunity in order to investigate allegations of abuse of office and corruption. Sixty-three legislators voted against lifting their immunity, while 44 cast their ballot in favor. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN BUDGET FOR 1995. The Albanian Finance Ministry has presented the 1995 budget after consultations with the International Monetary Fund, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 16 March. The government expects revenues to total 53.4 billion lek (compared with 46,2 billion in 1994) and expenditures 87.2 billion lek (72.9 billion). The budget deficit is expected to increase from 26.8 to 33.9 billion lek but would fall from 8% to 7% of GDP. One US dollar is about 92 lek. -- 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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