|To appreciate nonsense requires a serious interest in life. - Gelett Burgess|
No. 67, Part II, 4 April 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 CRIMEAN LEGISLATORS AVOID NEW CLASH WITH KIEV. The Crimean parliament held an emergency session on 3 April to debate a response to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's decision to assume temporary control of the region's government, Reuters and Interfax-Ukraine reported the same day. The deputies rejected a proposal to hold a regionwide referendum on Crimea's status, voting instead to issue an appeal to the Ukrainian parliament to overturn Kuchma's decree on the grounds that it violates the Ukrainian Constitution. Several deputies told reporters they wanted to avoid further endangering ties with Ukraine. The latest standoff was sparked by the Ukrainian legislature's 17 March decision to annul the Crimean Constitution and abolish the region's Presidency. Speaker of the Ukrainian parliament Oleksander Moroz told reporters that his assembly has no intention of overturning the president's decree. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN CHINA. Ukrainian Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov arrived in China at the head of an official delegation, Ukrainian Radio reported on 3 April. He participated in the second meeting of a Chinese-Ukrainian commission on trade and economic cooperation. According to the report, China, which is Ukraine's second largest trading partner after Russia, is prepared to pay in cash for Ukrainian machinery, including hardware produced by the military- industrial complex. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ISSUES DECREE ON ELECTIONS. Alyaksandr Lukashenka has signed a decree calling on local authorities to prevent unauthorized rallies urging citizens to boycott the 14 May elections, Belarusian Television reported on 31 March. The decree instructs the authorities to register cases of chauvinistic propaganda or propaganda aimed at changing the constitutional system or violating the territorial integrity of the state. It also states that civil servants must suspend their duties while campaigning for the elections. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. BELARUS ON CUSTOMS UNION WITH RUSSIA. Following a meeting between Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov and his Belarusian counterpart, Mikhail Myasnikovich, on 31 March, the head of the Belarusian Customs Committee said the implementation of the 6 January agreement on a customs union will take place in two stages, Belarusian Radio reported. The first stage is to take four months, during which period both countries will bring their legislation on trade into line with each other's. The second stage foresees the lifting of trade barriers and the establishment of a common trade zone. The relevant documents still have to be confirmed by the Belarusian parliament. There has been stiff opposition from Belarusian nationalists to the customs union. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. UN ASKS LATVIA TO FREE REFUGEES. Hans Tholen of the UNHCR told Reuters on 3 April that Latvia has been asked to free the more than 100 refugees confined to two train carriages at the railroad station at Karsava since 29 March. UNHCR representatives visited the scene and reported that the conditions on the train were very bad. Tholen said the majority of the group were political refugees who "can under no circumstances be returned to their country of origin at the moment." This contradicts Latvian government announcements calling the refugees "economic migrants." Tholen stressed that whatever their status, the refugees have to be treated "in a decent way" and not kept as hostages, as is the case at the moment. He noted that Latvia could receive financial help for the upkeep of the refugees from both the UN and the Nordic states. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. BALTIC PRESIDENTS WILL NOT ATTEND WWII CEREMONIES IN MOSCOW. President Algirdas Brazauskas issued a statement on 3 April declaring that he and his Latvian and Estonian counterparts, Guntis Ulmanis and Mart Laar, will not attend the ceremonies in Moscow on 9 May marking the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, Western agencies report. ITAR- TASS on 2 April erroneously reported that Brazauskas decided to attend the ceremonies after a telephone conversation with Ulmanis. Brazauskas noted that "the victory over fascism did not bring the restoration of a democratic and independent Lithuanian state. Of all the pre-war European states only the three Baltic States were not put back onto the political map of Europe after the war." -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. BALTIC HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER IN ESTONIA. Ole Espersen, commissioner for democratic institutions and human rights with the Council of Baltic Sea States, began a four-day trip to Estonia on 3 April, BNS reported. He visited the human rights information center in Tallinn, whose director, Larisa Yakovleva, cited several cases where Estonian citizenship was not issued to eligible applicants within the established time frame. She also questioned the legality of the expulsion without a court order of Petr Rozhok, the representative of Russia's Liberal Democratic Party in Estonia, and noted that similar expulsion orders, issued to nearly a dozen other non-citizens, have not yet been enforced. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLAND MARKS KATYN ANNIVERSARY. Speaking at ceremonies to mark the 55th anniversary of the CPSU-ordered execution of more than 21,000 Polish officers at Katyn and other sites in 1940, President Lech Walesa said that Poland expects from "our eastern neighbors" the full disclosure of all circumstances surrounding the murders, "sincere regret," and true justice, Rzeczpospolita reported on 4 April. Good relations with Russia depend on an honest reckoning with the past, Walesa said. Cardinal Jozef Glemp criticized the Allied powers for maintaining decades of silence about Soviet responsibility for the Katyn murders. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. SOLIDARITY STAKES OUT RIGHT-WING POSITION. Solidarity Chairman Marian Krzaklewski, speaking on 3 April at a conference organized by the union's Warsaw region, proposed reaching a "political contract" with nationalist and right-wing forces on a joint candidate for the presidential elections. Solidarity is the only force capable of organizing a movement to prevent "recommunization," Krzaklewski argued. The Solidarity chairman also proposed that right-wing forces campaign jointly to block approval of any new constitution adopted by the current parliament. He condemned current privatization policies as "theft," Rzeczpospolita reported. Krzaklewski's remarks were designed to present Solidarity as the pivotal force for a right-wing challenge in the presidential elections, but the union's populist stance on economic questions has so far divided the right-wing parties. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. CZECH GOVERNMENT ACTS TO REDUCE COMPANY DEBTS. The Czech government plans to allow firms owed large amounts to offset the money against taxes in an effort to avoid a wave of bankruptcies, Mlada fronta dnes reported on 4 April. According to some estimates, inter-company debts amount to some 200 billion koruny. It quoted Deputy Finance Minister Jan Klak as saying firms could claim one-third of unrecoverable debts against taxes or, if the company chose to take a debtor to court, the whole amount would be offset against taxes over three years. Long-term debts (that is, outstanding for more than two years) would not be covered by the scheme. Indebtedness was expected to spark a series of company failures when a bankruptcy law came into effect in 1992. In practice, only a few hundred firms--mostly small businesses--have gone under. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SHAKE-UP IN SLOVAKIA'S GOVERNING COALITION? Slovak media on 4 April reported on internal conflicts within the Association of Slovak Workers, a member of the governing coalition. Miroslav Kocnar, one of the party's three parliament deputies who walked out of the ASW congress on 1-2 April, told reporters on 4 April that the meeting was poorly prepared. He also said that several members of the ASW had decided to create a club of independent deputies, which would continue to cooperate with the other governing parties but on a different basis. "Until now, we have done nothing for the people, we have not initiated a single law . . . ," Kocnar told Narodna obroda. He added that his party has supported things that "we thought we would never vote for" prior to the elections. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK PREMIER ON EDUCATION, AUTONOMY. Vladimir Meciar, speaking to Slovak Radio on 31 March, said that Slovakia's education system will have to be transformed and that raising wages is not enough, Pravda and Sme reported the following day. He commented that "if, in fact, schools want only money from the cabinet and [the government] does not have the right to interfere with or influence the entire transformation process in education, then we will reach a situation where everyone will be dissatisfied." With regard to minorities, Meciar emphasized that Slovakia's territory cannot be divided, saying the Slovak Republic is the home of "Slovaks as well as all nationalities. We will not have separation in Slovakia based on the ethnic principle. We will not create autonomy." Meanwhile, more than 52,000 ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia sent a letter to Pope John Paul II complaining about discrimination within the Catholic Church in Slovakia. The letter stated that although Hungarians make up approximately 10% of Slovakia's population, there are almost no Hungarian representatives in the Church, Narodna obroda reported on 1 April. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN UPDATE. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 4 April reported that Bosnian Serbs have intensified their harassment of Western citizens. Two Swiss nationals were taken the previous day from a UN armored vehicle near Sarajevo, and two days earlier a German relief aid worker was arrested. Meanwhile, the Krajina Serbs and their local allies stepped up their attacks in the Bihac pocket on 3 April. Fierce fighting also continued in the Majevica hills northeast of Tuzla. From Mostar, EU-appointed administrator Hans Koschnick criticized the UN for not enforcing its own arms embargo on the former Yugoslavia. He said that all the embargo has meant in practice is that the various armies have to pay a bit more for their weapons. Finally, China became the 92nd country to recognize Bosnia-Herzegovina. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. BELGRADE LIBEL CAMPAIGN WIDENS. Nasa Borba reported on 4 April that Belgrade's ongoing campaign against charitable organizations, notably the Soros Foundation, has spilled over from Serbia proper into the other rump Yugoslav republic, Montenegro. Montenegrin Deputy Premier Rade Perovic is reported as criticizing the foundation for its "anti-Yugoslav character." Serbia's own campaign against the foundation reached fever pitch last month in the state-run media. The state-run Borba on 20 March ran a headline stating "Ban the Soros Foundation." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. UPDATE ON ROMANIAN AIRLINE CRASH. Radio Bucharest, citing AFP, reported on 3 April that an organization calling itself "The Hand of Allah" has claimed responsibility for the crash of the Tarom aircraft on 31 March. The head of the team investigating the accident said the wreckage shows sign of an explosion. Sorin Stoicescu told Radio Bucharest on 3 April that it was 40% certain there had been an explosion on board. The head of the Bucharest coroner's office confirmed that the victims died "before the aircraft hit the ground" and that the cause of death was an explosion. Also on 3 April, an anonymous caller reported a bomb on board a Tarom aircraft scheduled to fly from Bucharest to Paris. The plane landed in Timisoara, where passengers were evacuated by emergency measures. The authorities issued a security alert at Bucharest's international airport, Otopeni, which was temporarily evacuated. A false bomb alert on 31 March led to the evacuation of Baneasa airport, which is mostly used for domestic flights from Bucharest. Another hoax call said a bomb had been left in the Transylvanian town of Cluj, prompting the closure of a large area for over three hours. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. BUCHAREST SUBWAY WORKERS ON STRIKE. A wildcat strike by Bucharest subway workers entered its sixth day on 4 April, causing serious traffic problems in the city. Thousands of subway workers went on strike on 30 March after a court ordered a regular strike suspended for 40 days while union demands for higher wages are discussed. The strikers blocked the subway terminals, closing the network. The daily Romania libera reported the same day that the strikers threatened to shut themselves in the subway tunnels if force were used against them. Negotiations took place with the management on 2 April but failed to bring any results. The strikers are demanding a 30% pay increase, while management is offering 8.6%, Radio Bucharest reported on 3 April. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. UPDATE ON MOLDOVAN STUDENT STRIKE. A Rompres report, cited by Romanian Television on 3 April, said a solution to the problems that prompted the student strike in Chisinau was expected later this week. Radio Bucharest quoted Petru Lucinschi, chairman of the Moldovan parliament, as telling student representatives on 2 April that the legislature would "promptly examine those demands that are in line with the constitution" and that a solution would be "gradually found." The strikers' demands, however, include changes in the Moldovan Constitution (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 April 1995). A commission set up by President Mircea Snegur to deal with the economic implications of the strikers' demands met again on 2 April with strike representatives. It said the government lacks funds to pay arrears in pensions for February and March, although the students received payments for March and will also receive those for April. Meanwhile, workers in two Chisinau enterprises announced they intended to go on strike, and Chisinau trolley bus workers ran substantially reduced services, saying they supported the strikers' demands for better pay. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIA, SOUTH KOREA SEEK CLOSER COOPERATION. President Zhelyu Zhelev, in talks with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Yung-sam, on 3 April in Seoul, pledged closer relations and extended economic cooperation, Bulgarian newspapers reported the following day. A South Korean spokesman said the two leaders agreed to encourage joint-venture projects in electronics and chemical goods for sale to third countries. Kim said that South Korea will actively participate in the privatization of Bulgarian enterprises, while Zhelev stressed that Bulgaria is a potentially important trade partner for South Korea because of its location. Demokratsiya reported that Bulgaria will soon receive a $50 million loan from South Korea. According to Standart, Zhelev said that Bulgaria will support South Korea's candidacy for a seat in the UN Security Council. Zhelev, who is on a four-day state visit to South Korea, is the first Bulgarian president to visit that country since diplomatic relations were established in 1990. Also on 3 April, Bulgarian Minister of Culture Georgi Kostov and his South Korean counterpart signed an agreement to increase cultural and scientific cooperation, Standart reported. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN GERMANY. Georgi Pirinski on 3 April began a three-day visit to Bonn, Pari reported the following day. He held official talks with Minister of State Bernd Schmidtbauer on the consequences of the Schengen agreement for Bulgarian citizens, who are now subject to stricter visa requirements, Duma reported. Pirinski is also due to meet with his German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel, to discuss bilateral relations, the prospects for Bulgaria's integration into European structures, and trade losses sustained by Bulgaria owing to UN sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN MEDIA FOCUS ON INTERNATIONAL BALKAN CONFERENCE. Bulgarian dailies on 3 April gave prime coverage to a conference in Sofia dealing with the current situation in the Balkans in light of the experiences of the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. Speakers included President Zhelyu Zhelev and former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. The Sofia press generally gave front-page coverage to Brzezinski's remarks to the effect that NATO is unlikely to take on new members in the Balkans before the present conflict ends. Brzezinski warned the current Socialist-dominated government not to offset Bulgaria's good standing abroad by returning to Stalinist ways. He also said that the kind of militant language used in the government's recent "White Paper" was disturbing. Like numerous other participants, he praised Zhelev's cautious policy toward Macedonia, a region that many speakers feared could again find itself at the center of a general Balkan conflict. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. PERSONNEL CHANGES IN ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY? Aleanca on 4 April alleges that there has been an "earthquake" in the Foreign Ministry. According to the daily, at least 60% of the country's diplomatic personnel, currently working in 25 embassies abroad, have been recalled to Tirana. The paper says that the staff affected, including some ambassadors, have been informed that they will be assigned new duties. The Foreign Ministry reportedly confirmed the changes, saying they are part of a new but normal practice. Aleanca, however, maintained that "the Albanian foreign policy is undergoing an almost total reform." -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES 1995 BUDGET. The Albanian parliament on 3 April began discussions on the 1995 budget, Gazeta Shqiptare reported the next day. The budget includes very optimistic predictions for unemployment and economic growth. Gazeta Shqiptare said that Anastas Angjeli, a member of the opposition Socialist Party who sits on the parliament Financial and Economic Commission, "praised the work of the specialists in the ministry." But he added that his party will "offer some useful proposals." The Social Democrats reportedly made similar statements. -- 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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