|It matters if you don't just give up. - Stephen Hawking|
No. 63, Part II, 29 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. Back issues of the Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/OMRI.html EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT AND CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER MEET IN KIEV. Leonid Kuchma and Serhii Tsekov met in Kiev on 27 March to try to resolve the constitutional standoff over Crimea's status, Interfax-Ukraine reported the next day. Kuchma told reporters after the meeting he was ready to cooperate with the Crimean parliament if it respected Ukrainian law. He said he had refrained from calling for the dissolution of the Crimean legislature during the recent crisis because there was no guarantee that new elections would bring a "better" parliament to power. Tsekov told reporters he was pleased with the results of the meeting and expected progress within weeks on resolving the standoff. Tensions have been high between Ukraine and Crimea since the Ukrainian parliament annulled what it views as Crimea's separatist constitution and abolished its Presidency on 17 March. Crimean deputies retaliated on 22 March by dismissing Crimean Prime Minister Anatolii Franchuk, whom they consider close to Kiev. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT IN KIEV. Algirdas Brazauskas signed several agreements on partnership and cooperation with his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, in Kiev on 28 March, Ukrainian Radio reported. The two presidents spoke positively about increasing cooperation between their countries. Kuchma said his only regret over the visit was that the parliament was not meeting and so he could not ask his Lithuanian guest to attend a session to explain the difference between legislative rule and executive rule. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT VISITS CHORNOBYL. Alyaksandr Luka-shenka, after touring Belarusian regions affected by the 1986 Chornobyl disaster, visited the Ukrainian nuclear power station, Ukrainian Radio reported on 28 March. He was accompanied by Ukrainian Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said that the nuclear facility is primarily a political problem and that Ukraine was prepared to close the plant, provided that all problems related to its closure were resolved at the same time. Lukashenka extended an official invitation to Kuchma to visit Belarus. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. IMF CRITICIZES BELARUSIAN ECONOMIC REFORMS. Willem Middlekoop, the IMF representative to Belarus, said that the fund has postponed considering a $250 million stand-by loan to Belarus because of the country's failure to adhere to its economic stabilization program, Interfax reported on 28 March. The program was approved by the IMF in February. Inflation has been running at 33.7%, not 10%, as foreseen by the program. None of the 371 enterprises slated for privatization by the end of March has been privatized. And inefficient and insolvent enterprises have not been declared bankrupt by the government. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. ESTONIA NEARING COMPLETION OF LARGE-SCALE PRIVATIZATION. Reform Minister Liia Hanni told a news conference on 28 March that the majority of state-owned companies have been sold into private hands, BNS reported. The Privatization Agency sold 339 companies for 1.4 billion kroons ($112 million) in 1994, but as most contracts provided for payment by installments, privatization income amounted to only 431 million kroons. Among the major companies still to be privatized are Estonian Energy, Estonian Shipping Company, Estonian Railways, Estonian Air, and Estonian Oil Shale. After hearing Hanni's report, the government said that more attention should be paid to environmental protection during the privatization of companies. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LITHUANIA, LATVIA IN DISPUTE OVER ASIAN REFUGEES. The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry on 28 March handed a note to the Latvian embassy in Vilnius protesting Latvia's decision to send a train with about 100 Kurdish, Palestinian, and Afghan refugees to Lithuania, Reuters reported. The refugees were sent back to Latvia on 24 March, and both Russia and Lithuania have refused to accept them. Laurens Jolles, a UNHCR spokesman in Moscow, said the agency planned to send two people on 29 March to investigate the situation. "We want to find out who they are, if we know them, if Russia will admit, or re-admit them, what's happened to them and what the conditions are like," Jolles said. Officials believe that organized crime is behind the expanding business of smuggling people from Asia through the CIS and the Baltic States to Scandinavia. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLISH COALITION SPLIT OVER CONCORDAT. The Polish Peasant Party (PSL) has proposed that the Sejm revise its July 1994 resolution on the concordat with the Vatican to eliminate the requirement that a vote on ratification be postponed until the new constitution is completed. The party argues that consideration of the concordat cannot be held up because of a document that does not yet exist. The motion will be considered during the Sejm session beginning on 29 March, as will the report by the special commission that ruled the concordat does not violate the current constitution. The parliament is almost evenly split on the issue. The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Union of Labor will vote against, while most Freedom Union deputies and other opposition parties will back the motion. There has been press speculation that SLD leaders would be relieved to see the concordat approved (to avoid further conflict with the Catholic hierarchy), provided they themselves do not have to provide the necessary votes. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. POLISH GOVERNMENT PREPARES RESTITUTION LAW. Privatization Minister Wieslaw Kaczmarek on 28 March announced that the government will submit a draft law on restitution to the Sejm in May, Rzeczpospolita reported. Of the many drafts considered and rejected since 1989, the current proposal would place the smallest burden on the budget. Only property confiscated between 1944 and 1962 in violation of the law at the time would be covered. Compensation would be paid out in "privatization coupons" valid for the purchase of shares in privatized firms. No restitution in kind would be possible, though former owners would have first refusal if former assets were put up for sale. The larger the property, the smaller the proportion of its value the state would restore. Former owners have so far lodged 500,000 claims for property worth 20 billion zloty ($14 billion), or a quarter of the annual budget. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. CZECH INTELLECTUALS DEMAND DIALOGUE WITH SUDETEN GERMANS. Lidove noviny reported on 29 March that 105 Czech intellectuals have signed a statement urging the Czech government to start talks with representatives of Sudeten Germans. They said no question considered important by either side should be omitted from such talks. Former Czech Prime Minister Petr Pithart and a number of former dissidents are among the signatories. The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded by stressing its position that the Czech government will discuss Czech- German relations and Sudeten German questions only with the German government. President Vaclav Havel, in a partial reversal of previous statements apologizing for the postwar expulsion of some 3 million Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia, said on 15 March that the Czech Republic and Germany must stop making apologies to each other for past deeds. Some leading German politicians refuse to consider the Sudeten German question closed and have suggested that the Czech government start a dialogue with former Czechoslovak citizens of German origin. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. CZECHS OFFER TO FINISH MOCHOVCE. Slovakia has received an offer from the Czech firm Skoda Praha to finish two reactors at its nuclear plant at Mochovce, Sme reports on 29 March. The EBRD was to have decided on 27 March whether to grant a loan to Slovakia to allow a Slovak-French joint venture to complete the project, but Slovak Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Sergej Kozlik asked the EBRD to delay its decision until April. Kozlik said the request was based on the European Parliament's 15 March resolution stating that funding to finish the plant should be delayed until various safety measures have been addressed, but he added that the Economy and Finance Ministries have not yet completed their analysis for the project's financing. The Czech offer undercuts that of Electricite de France by one-third, but it remains unclear whether Western safety standards would be guaranteed. Russia has also expressed interest in helping to complete the plant. It offered to put up $150 million in February. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK POLITICAL NEWS. The Slovak cabinet on 28 March removed Zdenko Kovac from his post as chairman of the Anti-Monopoly Office, replacing him with Pavol Frano. It also approved proposals for several draft laws to be discussed at the next parliament session on 5 April. Bills on Slovak Television (STV) and Slovak Radio (SRo) would provide for members of the boards overseeing these bodies, who are currently unpaid, to receive compensation from the STV and SRo budgets. The government also approved the budget of the Employment Fund. In preparation for Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's scheduled visit to Ukraine from 4-5 April, an intergovernment agreement was passed on international transport. A memorandum on the liberalization of Slovak-Bulgarian trade was approved. And for the third consecutive week, the cabinet refused to take part in a press conference, sending instead its new 23-year-old spokesman, Tomas Hasala, who studied in the U.S. and worked as a journalist for several French dailies, Pravda reported on 29 March. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE IZETBEGOVIC FIRM ON PRECONDITIONS FOR TALKS. International media on 28 March reported that Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, addressing the congress of his Party of Democratic Action, reaffirmed "the two minimal conditions" necessary for him to agree to peace talks: Serbia's recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Bosnian Serbs' acceptance of the Contact Group's peace plan. Meanwhile, Nasa Borba on 29 March writes that the Contact Group has decided there will be no more "solo trips" by its individual members to Belgrade. American and Russian diplomats in particular have repeatedly tried to woo Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in recent weeks. The diplomats in Brussels agreed on the basic form of their next offer to Milosevic, namely that he recognize his neighbors, accept current peace plans, and allow effective monitoring of his border with the Bosnian Serbs before sanctions are suspended. He has repeatedly refused to budge until the sanctions are completely lifted, however. Moscow may in any event be preparing to offer him another "solo initiative" more to his liking, the independent Belgrade daily reports. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. CONFUSION STILL SURROUNDS BOSNIAN FIGHTING. Both the Bosnian government and Serbian rebels continue to claim success in the current fighting amid heavy snowfall in central and northeastern Bosnia. Both also seem equally determined to prevent UN observers and the media from independently checking out those claims. The stakes are high: Nasa Borba on 29 March notes that 90% of Serbian communications travel via the transmitter on Mt. Vlasic near Travnik and via another one at Stolice, in the Majevica hills near Tuzla, to the northeast. The paper adds that controlling these television relay stations is more important than taking cities and that government control of them would open up vast reaches of the republic to Sarajevo television broadcasts. It also quotes UN observers as saying the government wants to test the combat readiness of the Serbs. Vecernji list on 28 March suggests that the Bosnian government has not lost sight of its ultimate strategic goals in the northeast, namely liberating the Semberija region and cutting the vital Posavina land corridor linking Serbia with its conquests in Bosnia and Croatia. Finally in Sarajevo, the UN-sponsored airlift on 29 March marks its 1,000th day. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. CELEBRATIONS OF "SERBIAN NATIONAL DAY" IN KOSOVO. Serbian nationalists in Kosovo celebrated the sixth anniversary of the current Serbian Constitution on 28 March. Following protests in Kosovo in which 22 Albanians were killed by Serbian police in 1989, the Serbian legislature passed amendments to the republic's constitution effectively abrogating the autonomy of the Serbian regions of Kosovo and Vojvodina. The Albanian language-service of Deutsche Welle noted the same day that Albanian-language education was banned in elementary schools in recognition of the Serbian holiday. Meanwhile, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic sent a greetings message to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic saying that "the stability of Serbia guarantees the freedom of all Serbs," Nasa Borba reported on 29 March. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH POPE. Pope John Paul II on 28 March received Romanian President Ion Iliescu, who is currently paying an official visit to Italy and the Vatican. They discussed bilateral relations as well as the return of Greek-Catholic Church properties confiscated by the Communists in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Most of those properties eventually ended up in the hands of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Iliescu, in an interview with Radio Bucharest after the meeting, said he was confident that dialogue between the two Churches would result in a solution to the issue. He praised the Vatican's stance as "constructive." This was Iliescu's third meeting with the Pope, following audiences in 1991 and 1992. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. DUMA DEPUTIES SAY RUSSIAN TROOPS MUST STAY IN MOLDOVA. Russian deputies who monitored the 26 March elections and referendum in Moldova's breakaway Dniester region say they are convinced that the Russian 14th Army must remain there. Interfax quoted members of the Russian delegation as saying the best solution would be to give the area the status of a Russian military base. The deputies, who are in the Dniester region on an unofficial visit, belong to the Liberal Democratic and Socialist Parties as well as to the Communist and Agrarian factions. Moldova's Foreign Ministry protested the deputies presence in the Dniester Republic, saying it encroached on Moldova's sovereignty and violated international law. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. MOLDOVAN STUDENT PROTESTS SUSPENDED. Radio Bucharest, citing Moldpres, reported on 28 March that students and teachers in Chisinau agreed to suspend their protests until negotiations with the government are concluded. According to the same source, the Education Ministry in Chisinau has decided to revise plans to replace the study of the Romanian language and Romanian history with Moldovan language and history courses. The decision was taken after a new round of talks between a government commission and representatives of the students, who have been on strike for almost two weeks. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIA, RUSSIA REACH AGREEMENT ON DEBTS. Russia will repay its $100 million debt to Bulgaria by providing equipment, spare parts, and repair services for its air force as well as industrial equipment, Duma reported on 29 March. An agreement on mutual obligations was signed the previous day in Moscow by Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade Kiril Tsochev and Russian Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov. Tsochev also held talks with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who reaffirmed his intention to visit Bulgaria in mid-May. Tsochev said that 15 accords to promote trade and cooperation in the transportation and construction fields have already been drafted for the visit. He stressed that Bulgaria wants closer military technological cooperation with Russia. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN BUSINESS BLOC ABOUT TO SPLIT? A joint meeting of the Bulgarian Business Bloc's executive council and parliament faction failed to resolve political frictions, Demokratsiya reported on 29 March. The meeting was aimed at preventing the 12-member faction from splitting. BBB deputies have recently threatened to leave the party if BBB leader Georges Ganchev does not change party policies and his own leadership style. Orlin Draganov, a member of the BBB faction, accused Ganchev of pursuing "a leftist policy despite the [party's] rightist platform." A declaration stating that the faction "remains united and will fulfill its election program" was signed by just eight of the party's deputies. If more than two deputies leave the group, it will lose its status of parliament faction. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN NAVY IN TROUBLE. Rear Admiral Hristo Kontrov, acting commander of the Bulgarian Navy, warned that Bulgaria would have only three medium-sized and six small warships by 2000 unless urgent measures were taken, BTA reported on 24 March. Kontrov said the navy needed 11 billion leva for repairs, maintenance, and a recommended ship-building program. Of the four ex-Soviet Romeo-class submarines once in the navy, two have been sold, one is used only for exercises, and the fourth needs new batteries. Kontrov also complained that the navy was severely undermanned. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN SOCIALIST LEADER CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION. Namik Dokle, deputy leader of the Socialist Party, has been accused by the Democratic Party newspaper Rilindja Demokratike of embezzling some $400,000, the Albanian-language service of Deutsche Welle reported on 28 March. Dokle, who has denied the charges, allegedly received that sum in 1991 from communist-era President Ramiz Alia to buy a printing machine in Canada for the Socialist Party newspaper Zeri i Popullit. At the time, Dokle was chief editor of the newspaper. He claims the machine was bought but says he does not know of its whereabouts. -- 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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