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No. 56, Part II, 20 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 UKRAINE MOVES TO LIMIT CRIMEAN AUTONOMY. The Ukrainian parliament on 17 March annulled Crimea's constitution and abolished its presidency, international agencies reported. The move was prompted by threats among Crimean deputies to hold a referendum on reunification with Russia during municipal elections set for 29 April. Speaker of the Ukrainian parliament Oleksandr Moroz told reporters that repeated calls for Crimea to bring its constitution into line with Ukraine's have been ignored, despite concessions Kiev has made in favor of the region's autonomy. Ukrainian legislators also voted to launch criminal proceedings against Crimean President Yurii Meshkov for promoting secession from Ukraine, and they moved to disarm his presidential guard. Crimean deputies denounced the Ukrainian parliament's resolution as an affront to the Crimean population, but they stopped short of any retaliatory measures. With the exception of the Crimean Tatars, they appealed to Russian leaders to postpone signing a long-awaited friendship treaty with Ukraine and intervene on the region's behalf. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. REACTIONS AMONG RUSSIAN OFFICIALS TO CRIMEAN EVENTS. Chairman of the State Duma's Committee for CIS Affairs Konstantin Zatulin told a closed- door parliament session that sanctions may be considered against Ukraine in response to Kiev's move against Crimea, Interfax reported on 17 March. He said all official Russian state visits to Ukraine should be canceled; the Duma should consider suspending trade and all economic agreements with Ukraine; Russia should demand the immediate repayment of Ukraine's debts to Russia; and measures should be taken to ensure the security of Russian citizens and servicemen in Crimea. But Chairman of the State Duma Ivan Rybkin said the issue of Crimea is an internal Ukrainian affair. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. COALITION TALKS IN ESTONIA. Tiit Vahi, chairman of the Coalition Party and Rural Union (KMU) alliance, which won the most seats in the 5 March parliament elections, held talks with Reform Party Chairman Siim Kallas on a possible coalition on 16 March, BNS reported the next day. The Center Party, a possible third coalition member, has not yet held formal talks with the KMU but did meet with members of the Reform Party. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LATVIA FIRES LATVENERGO PRESIDENT. State Energy Minister Juris Ozolins on 16 March fired Gunars Koemecs, president of state-owned Latvenergo, the largest energy monopoly in Latvia, BNS reported the following day. Prime Minister Maris Gailis dismissed Latvenergo's board on 14 March and placed Ozolins temporarily in charge until a new board is named on 21 March. Koemecs claimed he was fired because when he was industry and energy deputy minister, he dismissed Ozolins from his post as chief of the ministry's foreign affairs department, citing his poor job performance. Koemecs is consulting with lawyers on appealing his dismissal in a civil court. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. SEJM OVERRULES WALESA. The Sejm on 17 March voted by 303 to 11 with 21 abstentions to overturn a presidential veto of a constitutional amendment that would enable the parliament to remain in session after a dissolution order is issued. President Lech Walesa had argued that the amendment would disrupt the tripartite balance of power. Citing the experience of Hanna Suchocka's government in 1993, which ruled without a legislature for three months, the deputies argued that the amendment restored parliament control over the government. But they seemed most determined to limit the president's room for maneuver. Under the new legislation, the Sejm remains in session until after new elections but can neither alter the constitution, the budget, and electoral laws nor adopt legislation entailing major financial consequences. The president's spokesman warned the Sejm to expect a "determined response" from Walesa. In another move to curtail Walesa's powers, the Sejm voted 346 to 27 to give the National Broadcasting Council the right to select a chairman from among its ranks. The president currently makes that appointment. The legislation must be approved by the Senate. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. POLISH BISHOPS OPPOSE "NEUTRAL" STATE. The Polish conference of bishops, in a communique issued on 18 March, said the new constitution must invoke God as the highest authority, defend human life from the time of conception, and enshrine the principle of "tolerance" rather than "neutrality" on worldview questions, Gazeta Wyborcza reported. "The term 'worldview neutrality,' like the 'separation of Church and state,' are associated with the postwar practice of favoring nonbelievers and expelling religion from all areas of public life," the episcopate's statement said. Polish Primate Cardinal Jozef Glemp argued in a sermon on 19 March that enshrining the separation of Church and state could facilitate a return to totalitarian practices. But Constitutional Commission chairman Aleksander Kwasniewski of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) told Radio Zet on 19 March that "worldview neutrality" was "a self-evident principle" that must guide the state. Polish leading dailies report that the bishops' tough stance has created a dilemma for the former communist SLD, which wishes to avoid antagonizing its anti- clerical voters but also dreads an all-out war with the Church. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. CZECH PARTIES DENY THEY INTEND TO LEAVE COALITION. Two of the four governing parties, the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) and the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party (KDU-CSL), have denied they are planning to leave the coalition, Czech media reported on 20 March. Tensions within the coalition increased on 17 March when Josef Reichman, head of the ODA Secretariat, was formally accused of corruption in connection with a 52-million koruny debt the party owes to a now failed bank. President Vaclav Havel and Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus last week discussed the possible implications of the affair, which is the most serious threat to date that the government could break up. But a party spokesman said the ODA did not intend to leave the government. A KDU-CSL spokesman made a similar denial. Reichman is currently being treated for nervous exhaustion in a psychiatric hospital. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. CZECH PREMIER STRESSES SUDETEN GERMAN ISSUE IS CLOSED. Vaclav Klaus on 17 March said again that the issue of the expulsion of millions of Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia at the end of World War II and the confiscation of their property is "definitively closed," Mlada fronta dnes reported the next day. Klaus was reacting to a speech by German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, who called on the Czech government to open a dialog with Sudeten groups. Klaus has repeatedly refused to do so. Klaus on 19 March met with German Finance Minister Theo Waigel, leader of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, which has long supported Sudeten German demands. The two did not discuss the Sudeten question but Waigel asked Klaus to eliminate "strains" in Czech-German relations, Rude pravo reported. "I don't see any strains whatsoever," Klaus told journalists. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAKIA AND HUNGARY SIGN BILATERAL TREATY. Slovak and Hungarian prime ministers Vladimir Meciar and Gyula Horn on 19 March signed the basic Slovak-Hungarian treaty in Paris, where they are taking part in the Conference on the Pact of Stability from 20-21 March, Pravda reported. The Slovak cabinet approved the wording of the treaty in a late-night session the previous day. The bilateral treaty will have to be ratified by both countries' parliaments, which could cause problems within Slovakia's governing coalition. Slovak National Party Chairman Jan Slota said the signing of the agreement was "premature." He also called some provisions of the text "unacceptable," particularly the inclusion of Council of Europe Recommendation 1201, which grants national minorities the right to set up autonomous organizations, Sme reported on 18 March. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. KOVAC RETURNS BILL ON SLOVAK SECRET SERVICE. Slovak President Michal Kovac on 17 March returned a bill passed by the parliament on 6 March that would have transferred the power to appoint and remove the director of the Slovak Information Service from the president to the government, Pravda reported on 18 March. SIS director Vladimir Mitro resigned in February, and the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia apparently wants to appoint its own candidate. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN PLANE WITH SLOVAK ARMS HELD IN AZORES. A Russian An-124 transport suspected of carrying Slovak arms to Ecuador was detained by Portuguese authorities in the Azores on 16 March, Reuters reported the following day. The plane was flying from Bratislava to Quito, Ecuador, according to a Portuguese air force spokesman. It landed in the Azores to refuel, where the Portuguese authorities became suspicious. When they inspected the plane, they found it loaded with arms, although the cargo manifest indicated the plane was carrying medical supplies. Ecuadorian and Peruvian troops have clashed over a disputed border area, and while sales of weapons to either party is not illegal, most countries have denounced sending arms to areas where fighting is taking place. Concealing weapons and ammunition as medical supplies is illegal. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MUSLIMS SEND CONDOLENCES FOR DEATH OF CROATIAN GENERAL. AFP reported on 19 March that Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic sent formal condolences to Federal President and Bosnian Croat leader Kresimir Zubak for the apparent murder of Bosnian Croat General Vlado Santic in the Bihac area on 8 March. The telegram said that "the two of us have been confronted with almost insoluble problems before, but we have managed to solve them successfully." The murky Santic affair has strained Croatian-Muslim relations in recent days, but Slobodna Dalmacija on 18 March quoted Zubak as saying that "for all that we are doing, we need patience, tolerance, and consideration." Bosnian authorities on 15 March arrested three Muslim military policemen in connection with the disappearance of Santic. Nasa Borba on 20 March quotes Bihac Muslim rebels as saying that government soldiers killed Santic and threw his body in the River Una, but Vjesnik reports that "there is no information about his fate." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. BOSNIAN SERBS STEP UP PRESSURE ON UN. International media reported on 19 March that Bosnian Serb forces fired a mortar shell in the direction of a French air transport at Sarajevo airport and that French UNPROFOR positions returned fire. Serb snipers fired on city streets, and gunners hit the Bosnian government's sole supply road along Mt. Igman. In the meantime, a Russian UN observer was arrested by Serbs at a checkpoint outside Sarajevo. A UN spokesman said it was "likely" that the Serbs were "stepping up an organized campaign of harassment." He added that the UN "may use force to neutralize" any position firing on UN aircraft in the future. The Serb reaction to these statements is not known. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. TUDJMAN HOLDS HIS GROUND REGARDING UNPROFOR. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman told CNN on 18 March that Zagreb has not changed its position in agreeing to a new international presence in Croatia. He maintained that Croatia was firm in saying that UNPROFOR had to go and that the primary task of a new international body under a different mandate would be supervising Croatia's borders. He added that he remained optimistic that both Belgrade and Knin would come round to a negotiated settlement to Zagreb's liking. But The New York Times on 20 March reported that "messy" discussions are under way in UN circles about the composition and mandate of the new force. Croatia wants it to "control" its borders with Serbia and Bosnia, but the most likely mandate on offer will be for the small force to "monitor" its frontiers. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. BELGRADE DIPLOMACY. Nasa Borba on 20 March reported that EU officials have rejected Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's condition that sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia be lifted before Belgrade agrees to participate in a summit on the situation throughout the former Yugoslavia. Milosevic, following meetings with Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias, called on the EU on 17 March to help lift sanctions. He noted that since the EU was the architect of the embargo, "it would be fair if an initiative to lift the sanctions were to come from [that organization]," AFP reported. Finally, Nasa Borba on 18-19 March reported that rump Yugoslavia Foreign Minister Vladislav Jovanovic met with Pope John Paul II on 17 March. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIA STANDS FIRM ON BILATERAL TREATY WITH HUNGARY. Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu told Radio Bucharest on 18 March that he visited Bratislava the previous day to discuss the Hungarian-Slovak agreement to sign a basic treaty. He noted that Romania will continue to reject the inclusion in the treaty of "the principle of autonomy based on ethnic criteria." Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu, after meeting with members of parliament parties, told the press that Romania will not agree to enshrining in the treaty Council of Europe Recommendation 1201, which grants national minorities the right to set up autonomous organizations. But Vacaroiu said Romania agreed with the provisions of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. He added that the government's position was backed by the parties at the meeting and that there was consensus on the need to conclude a basic treaty with Hungary. The Romanian premier will attend the final session of the EU Conference on the Pact of Stability in Paris, where he will explain Romania's position on the treaty. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. GREATER ROMANIA PARTY WANTS MORE SAY IN DECISION-MAKING. The leader of the extremist Greater Romania Party, at a press conference broadcast by Radio Bucharest on 17 March, said the four-party protocol signed on 20 January was "not worth the paper it was written on." Corneliu Vadim Tudor pointed out that two months after the protocol was concluded, his party still had "no access to the decision-making process." Should the Party of Social Democracy in Romania and the government continue to ignore the protocol's provisions, he added, the new National Bloc (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 March 1995) will "find the means to wake them up to reality and save Romania." -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN PREMIER DISCUSSES BUDGET WITH MAYORS. Zhan Videnov and members of his cabinet on 19 March met with the mayors of Bulgarian's 100 biggest towns to discuss the state budget for 1995, Bulgarian newspapers reported the following day. According to Duma, 29 billion leva ($435 million) will be put aside for the needs of cities and villages. Some mayors said that the sum is insufficient and that the communities will run out of money in the summer, 24 chasa reported. Videnov also announced that the country's administrative and territorial reform is the government's top priority. Finance Minister Dimitar Kostov asked for strong budgetary discipline, while Deputy Prime Minister Doncho Konakchiev said the mayors should not plan any new building activities. Meanwhile, Standart reported on 20 March that construction of the water pipeline linking rivers in the Rila mountains to the Iskar dam, Sofia's main water reservoir, has been completed on schedule. The pipeline is designed to alleviate the water crisis in the Bulgarian capital, which has been experiencing strict water rationing since November. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIA WANTS KOSOVO DISCUSSED IN GENEVA CONFERENCE. Albanian Foreign Minister Alfred Serreqi repeated demands that an overall peace plan for former Yugoslavia must include a settlement of the Kosovo crisis, Reuters reported on 18 March. Albanian President Sali Berisha had earlier called on the Serbian and Kosovar leadership to start talks under international mediation without specifying preconditions, the Albanian-language service of Deutsche Welle reported on 16 March. The Kosovar leadership, which continues to maintain that Kosovo is an independent republic, has expressed its willingness to take part in the negotiations. Mahmut Bakalli, a high-ranking Kosovar official, said meeting Kosovo's demands is a prerequisite for preventing further wars in the Balkans, Nasa Borba reported on 18 March. Meanwhile, Albanian Defense Minister Safet Zhulali said Greece has invited Albania to take part in a military exercise, Reuters reported on 19 March. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. GREECE, MACEDONIA TO BEGIN DIRECT TALKS. Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias said on 19 March that Greece will resume direct talks with Macedonia under UN auspices in April, AFP reported the same day. Senior officials from both countries and former UN mediator in Yugoslavia Cyrus Vance will meet in New York, Papoulias said. He added that the economic embargo of Macedonia, which Greece imposed in February 1994, will remain in force during the talks. Greek Government Spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said the resumption of negotiations signifies only "Greek participation in the process of mediation" rather than the start of a "dialogue." Any normalization depends on "the attitude of Skopje," Venizelos was cited as saying. Meanwhile, the Greek weekly To Vima on 19 March said the announcement followed strong pressure on both sides from the U.S. -- 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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