|A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. - Jonathan Swift|
No. 65, Part II, 31 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 UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT THREATENS TO DISSOLVE CRIMEAN LEGISLATURE. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, at Ukrainian government session attended by Crimean leaders, threatened to dissolve the Crimean legislature if it failed to renounce separatism and continued to violate Ukrainian law, Reuters and Radio Ukraine reported on 30 March. Kuchma added that he would take steps to subordinate the Crimean government to the Ukrainian president or government, effectively stripping Crimean leaders of their powers. The Ukrainian government also declared the 22 March dismissal by Crimean deputies of the Crimean prime minister and deputy prime minister as illegal. It added that the Crimean cabinet, led by Anatolii Franchuk, should continue to function, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The speakers of Crimea's local councils, who also attended the session, voiced support for the Ukrainian government's ruling on the dismissals. These were widely viewed as retaliation for Kiev's decision on 17 March to annul what it considered Crimea's separatist constitution and to abolish its Presidency. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. DIPHTHERIA OUTBREAKS IN UKRAINE PROMPT MASS VACCINATION CAMPAIGN. Thirty-eight people have died of diphtheria so far this year, prompting the Ukrainian Health Ministry to call for a mass vaccination campaign in the three regions that have been struck hardest by the disease, Reuters reported on 30 March. The ministry announced that 1,029 people have been diagnosed with the illness, primarily in southern Ukraine, Crimea, and Kiev. The World Health Organization predicted that Ukraine will have 4,000 cases this year, with a potential 20% mortality rate. In an effort to halt the spread of the highly contagious disease, the Finnish Red Cross has announced it will begin a vaccination program near Kiev aimed at some 9 million Ukrainians in that area, international agencies reported. The $2.2 million program will be funded by the EU. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. DANISH PRIME MINISTER VISITS BALTIC STATES. Poul Nyrup Rasmussen on 28 March traveled to Latvia, following a three-day visit in Lithuania, RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service reported. Rasmussen held talks with President Algirdas Brazauskas, Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius, and other officials to discuss helping Lithuania join European structures and NATO. The two premiers attended the signing of a contract between Lithuanian and Danish companies to extract oil from the Baltic Sea near Klaipeda. Rasmussen on 28-29 March met with President Guntis Ulmanis, Prime Minister Maris Gailis, Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs, and other officials. He discussed introducing visa-free travel between Latvia and Denmark, an arrangement that Estonia and Lithuania already have. Rasmussen on 30 March held talks with President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Andres Tarand, Prime Minister-designate Tiit Vahi, and other officials. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. ASIAN REFUGEE FATE STILL UNCLEAR. The 100 or so Asian refugees who have been shuttled on a train between the Baltic States and Russia for a week spent 29-30 March in two train cars in Latvia's Karsava train station, BNS reported. They are now being looked after by the Ludza District Council and the city's Red Cross, but Latvian border guards are still preventing reporters from talking to them. The refugees, who according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement came from Kazakhstan and Belarus, have displayed signs from the train's windows saying: "We Want Sweden" and "Save Us Train Refugees." Four of the refugees were hospitalized in Lithuania and two more were taken to a Latvian hospital on the night of 29 March. A UNHCR official is reported to have arrived in Pskov, near the Latvian border, to investigate the situation. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. ESTONIA'S KMU, CENTER PARTY INITIAL POSITIONS ON COALITION. The Coalition Party and Rural Union (KMU) and the Center Party on 29 March initialed their joint positions for a government coalition, BNS reported. But Center Party board member Siiri Oviir said his party was still holding talks with other groups on a possible alternative coalition and would probably make a final decision over the weekend on whether to join with the KMU. KMU leader and Prime Minister-designate Tiit Vahi must present his cabinet by 6 April. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER IN LATVIA. Qjan Qichen and his Latvian counterpart, Valdis Birkavs, on 30 March signed a protocol on consultations between their ministries, BNS reported. Qichen is heading a 15-member delegation that is to hold talks on cooperation in the economic, financial, science, education, and communication fields . He met with Prime Minister Maris Gailis and is scheduled for talks with President Guntis Ulmanis, Saeima Chairman Anatolijs Gorbunovs, and other officials. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLAND TO REVISE KUKLINSKI VERDICT? Poland's Supreme Court has ordered a review of the treason verdict handed down in 1984 to Col. Ryszard Kuklinski, the high-ranking military officer who provided U.S. intelligence with the plans for martial law in 1981, Rzeczpospolita reported. The court argued that the military tribunal that tried Kuklinski failed to consider whether his acts were motivated by patriotism and the desire to prevent a foreign invasion. Kuklinski, who lives in the U.S. under an assumed identity, was sentenced to death in absentia; an amnesty later reduced the sentence to 25 years imprisonment. The Polish justice system's failure to overturn the verdict has become a rallying cry for right-wing forces. Supreme Court Justice Adam Strzembosz, who recently announced his candidacy for president, conceded on 30 March that he had prepared the court's decision. Military authorities have argued consistently that espionage is treasonous, regardless of the foreign power served, and have urged Kuklinski to seek a presidential pardon. Justice Minister Jerzy Jaskiernia (a former communist party official) told reporters on 30 March that the case has been re-examined repeatedly over the past 10 years, but nothing had happened to warrant a revision of the verdict. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. POLAND OPENS SECRET POLICE ARCHIVES. Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski signed an order on 30 March opening Stalinist secret police (UB) archives dating from 1944-1956 to prosecutors, courts, historians, and journalists. No information on informants will be released, however. Milczanowski said his ministry would not vouch for the authenticity of archival documents. He added that secret police archives dating up to 1965 would also be opened shortly, in keeping with the 30-year principle observed in international practice. Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 31 March that the archives are a mess and that only 25% of the materials have been reviewed or classified. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. CZECH LEADERS REJECT INTELLECTUALS' INITIATIVE ON SUDETEN GERMANS. President Vaclav Havel and Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus have rejected an appeal by Czech and German intellectuals for the Czech government to start talks with Sudeten German groups. "Governments can meet only with governments," Havel said during his visit to New Zealand, according to Mlada fronta dnes on 31 March. Klaus told Lidove noviny he could not deny the intellectuals the right to think there should be a meeting with Sudeten German representatives. But he commented: "I can only express my opinion that it will not be like that." Former dissidents and historians were among the 105 intellectuals who earlier this week issued the appeal, called "Reconciliation 95." Their move was prompted by the reopening of the issue of the expulsion of 3 million Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia at the end of World War II. Other Czech political leaders also rejected the initiative. Mlada fronta dnes reported that the rector of Charles University in Prague and the chairman of the Czech Academy of Sciences believe that "Reconciliation 95" could worsen Czech- German relations. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK OPPOSITION CRITICIZES EDUCATION BILL. Christian Democratic Movement deputy Frantisek Miklosko, at a press conference on 30 March, expressed opposition to the government's bill on education, which will be discussed in the parliament session beginning 5 April. The draft law would give the education minister the right to name the directors of the school administration, who in turn would have the right to name the directors of schools. Democratic Union deputy Eva Rusnakova, in an interview with Sme, said the law could lead to an escalation of tension between the government and the Hungarian minority. Meanwhile, in an interview with Pravda on 31 March, Party of the Democratic Left deputy Robert Fico said the government's bill on foreigners residing in Slovakia, which was vetoed by the president but will be discussed again at the next parliament session, contradicts European norms on human rights. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SOFTWARE PIRATING IN SLOVAKIA. According to a representative of Business Software Alliance, approximately 90% of software in Slovakia is used illegally, compared with 86% in the Czech Republic, 87% in Hungary, and 98% in Russia, Pravda reports on 31 March. Meanwhile, Slovak Police Corps spokesman Dusan Ivan told the newspaper that in 1994 there were 517 cases of economic crime, resulting in losses totaling 1.837 billion koruny. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARIAN STUDENTS PROTEST TUITION FEES. Some 15,000 students demonstrated outside the Ministry of Finance in Budapest on 30 March to protest the government's decision to introduce tuition fees at all colleges and universities in Hungary at the beginning of the fall 1995, international and Hungarian media report. According to the government decision, students would pay 2,000 forint ($19) a month. In a petition to Finance Minister Lajos Bokros, the demonstrators demanded that the government cancel its plans. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE UNCRO FOR CROATIA? One day before UNPROFOR's peacekeeping mandate expired in the former Yugoslavia, the UN Security Council endorsed three draft resolutions calling for the continued presence of UN peacekeeping forces there, Nasa Borba reported on 31 March. One resolution permits a scaled-down force to remain in Croatia. According to Vjesnik, that force has been dubbed UNCRO (UN Confidence Restoration Operation). The name was apparently intended to meet Croatian President Franjo Tudjman's demand that "Croatia" be reflected in the title. But Reuters on 30 March reported that Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic had ruled out simply calling the force UNCRO since it did not include the full name of his country. The resolution was amended to state that the name of the force is "UNCRO in Croatia which shall be known as UNCRO," according to Reuters. An estimated 1,000 peacekeepers may be stationed along Croatia's international borders, apparently in response to Zagreb's demands that the force be charged with monitoring Croatia's frontiers with Serbia and Bosnia rather than its borders with Croatia's rebel Krajina Serbs. Details of how the proposal is to be implemented remain sketchy. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali has been asked to resume talks with involved parties on the proposal's implementation and to report back to the Security Council on 21 April. Meanwhile, Krajina leaders have renewed their opposition to altering the UNPROFOR mandate, Nasa Borba reported. The UN Security Council is expected to meet again on 31 March to discuss the mandate. Resolutions on peacekeepers in Macedonia and Bosnia leave those missions basically unchanged. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. SARAJEVO AIRLIFT SCALED DOWN. AFP on 30 March reported that the humanitarian airlift to Sarajevo has been "scaled down to 40% of normal capacity" due to Bosnian Serbs' unwillingness to permit deliveries to be made from the airport to the besieged city. Meanwhile, international agencies reported the same day that Bosnian government offensives appear to be bogging down because of continued heavy snowfall. In other news, the Indonesian news agency Antara on 31 March reported that Jakarta expects to send to Bosnia a battalion of soldiers specializing in clearing away mines. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. BILL ON BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA MUSTERS SUPPORT IN TURKISH PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE. The Turkish Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee has approved a bill authorizing the Council of Ministers to lift the arms embargo against Bosnia-Herzegovina, state-run TRT television reported on 30 March. The bill is aimed at enabling the Bosnian government to exercise its right of self-defense. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN OFFICIAL HINTS AT CHANGE IN KOSOVO POLICY. Mihajlo Markovic, one of the leading ideologists of the Serbian Socialist Party, has called for a dialogue with Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, international news agencies reported on 30 March. Markovic, in an interview with the Albanian independent weekly Koha, proposed a "debate on the re- establishment of Kosovo's territorial autonomy," which was revoked by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in 1989. Markovic said that it was time for Serbs and Albanians (the latter account for some 90% of Kosovo's population) to try to live together and give up violence. "We are all suffering, and nothing can be solved by force," he said. Markovic's remarks indicate a possible shift in Serbian policy toward Kosovo. But in the meantime, Serbian nationalists are planning a rally in Pec on 8 April to demand an even tougher stand toward the Kosovo Albanians. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN ITALY. Ion Iliescu on 29 March met with his Italian counterpart, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, Premier Lamberto Dini, and the heads of the Italian parliament's two chambers, Radio Bucharest reported. Senior Italian officials showed particular interest in Romania's democratization and reform process and pledged to continue to support Romania's integration into European structures. Economic cooperation, including closer contacts between Romanian and Italian firms, was high on the agenda. After a stopover in Genoa, the Romanian delegation returned to Bucharest on 30 March. Iliescu told Radio Bucharest on 31 March that his five-day trip to Albania, Italy, and the Vatican confirmed the positive trend in Romania's relations with those countries. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. RAILROAD WORKERS DEMONSTRATE IN ROMANIA. Some 4,000 railroad construction workers demonstrated on 30 March in Bucharest for better pay and increased job security, Radio Bucharest reported. Following a rally in Revolution Square, the protesters marched to the government's headquarters, where they presented their claims. Union leaders stressed that a lack of state investment in the sector would result in the loss of up to 30,000 jobs. According to Romanian Television, similar protests were staged in the towns of Constanta and Brasov. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. EU WORRIED BY DEVELOPMENTS IN BREAKAWAY MOLDOVAN REGION. The European Union expressed concern and regret over the local elections and referendum in the self-styled Dniester Republic on 26 March. Radio Bucharest, citing Moldpres, reported on 30 March that the EU, in a declaration read out at a meeting of the OSCE Standing Council in Vienna, said Tiraspol's initiatives could have a negative impact on efforts to find a political solution to the crisis in Transdniester, since they run counter to the constitutional order in Moldova. It also deplored the fact that leaders in Tiraspol took actions contradicting the provisions of the agreement between the Republic of Moldova and the Russian Federation on the withdrawal of the 14th army, initialed on 21 October 1994. The EU said it hopes this agreement will take effect as soon as possible. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES 1995 BUDGET. The Socialist-led government on 30 March approved the state budget for 1995, Bulgarian newspapers reported the following day. The final draft of the budget provides for a deficit of 47 billion leva ($700 million), or 5.6% of GDP. Expenditures are estimated at 387 billion leva ($5.8 billion), and revenues at 340 billion leva ($5.1 billion). GDP is expected to amount to 800-850 billion leva ($12.0-12.8 billion), while inflation is expected to drop to 40-50% from 121.9% in 1994. The estimated budget deficit has risen from the 42 billion leva projected on 24 March, because the government wants to grant the army and police more money. It also needs funds to finance its social projects, Kontinent reported. According to Otechestven Front, 20% of the budget deficit will be financed directly by the Bulgarian National Bank. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. GREECE DENIES ALBANIAN BORDER SHOOTING. Greece on 30 March denied that border guards shot at a group of four illegal Albanian immigrants, killing one and wounding another, Reuters reported the same day. The Defense Ministry and the army general staff categorically denied a report by the Albanian daily Koha Jone stating that the incident took place on 27 March about 15 kilometers inside Greece. The newspaper quoted one of the four Albanians as saying he was detained but later released and ordered to tell the Albanian authorities about the incident. He said that a 37-year-old Albanian was killed, while the wounded man was taken to a hospital in the Greek town of Kastoria. Koha Jone did not report on the fate of the third Albanian. The Albanian Interior Ministry has no knowledge of the incident, a ministry spokesman said. -- 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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