|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 70, Part II, 7 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 EAST EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT HEADS AT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT. East European parliaments began a regular dialog with the European Parliament on 5 April, international agencies reported. Parliament leaders from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia attended a session on pre-membership strategy for Eastern Europe. Ivan Gasparvic from Slovakia said they would discuss the implementation of the Schengen accord at their next session. Romania's Radu Berceanu said he hoped the meetings would speed the entry of the East into the EU. Hans van den Broek, EU commissioner for foreign affairs, said he is seeking cooperation in political as well as economic matters. He added that entry into the EU for the six countries is only a matter of time. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. GAZPROM DENIES CUTTING GAS TO UKRAINE. Interfax on 6 April quoted parliament speaker Oleksandr Moroz as warning that Russia has threatened to cut gas supplies to Ukraine due to its outstanding debt. But Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Pynzenyk denied that Russia has made such threats. Segonya reported that Gazprom has reduced supplies but said this was due to planned maintenance work on pipelines and was not a punitive measure. Meanwhile, Gazprom denied that it had anything to do with supply cuts to 4,000 Ukrainian enterprises. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. BELARUSIAN ELECTION UPDATE. Alyaksandr Abramovich, head of the Belarusian Central Election Commission, has said candidates in the May parliament elections will receive 600,000 Belarusian rubles ($50) for their campaign, Interfax reported on 6 April. Each registered candidate will also be entitled to one radio slot and the free publication of his or her campaign platform. Chairman of the Supreme Soviet Mechyslau Hryb said he believes many districts will need runoff elections because no single candidate will receive the half of the votes necessary to win. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER IN ESTONIA, LITHUANIA. Ingvar Carlsson, during a six-hour visit to Tallinn on 4 April, met with President Lennart Meri, outgoing Prime Minister Andres Tarand, Foreign Minister Juri Luik, and Premier-designate Tiit Vahi. BNS reported. Carlsson discussed with Tarand the introduction of visa-free travel between the two countries and Estonian relations with Russia. He said Estonia could count on Sweden's support to join the European Union and asserted that Sweden would not remain indifferent if Estonia were attacked by an aggressor. Carlsson gave similar pledges to Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas and Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius in Vilnius on 6 April. He also discussed the problems of refugees trying to reach Sweden through the Baltic States and the safety of the atomic power plant at Ignalina. Carlsson postponed a visit to Latvia scheduled for 5 April to attend an important Swedish parliament session. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LATVIA TAKES REFUGEES OFF TRAIN. Prime Minister Maris Gailis on 6 April bowed to international pressure by agreeing to move the 100 or so Asian refugees from two train wagons at the Karsava railroad station to a planned internment center at Olaine, 25 km south of Riga, Reuters reported. Foreign Ministry official Martins Virsis held talks in Moscow with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Krylov on the refugees and succeeded in obtaining assurances that Moscow would accept those refugees who could prove they had come from Russia. Virsis said the Latvian immigration police had acted too hastily in trying to deport the refugees without the involvement of the Foreign Ministry. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLISH PREMIER GETS NO DATES IN BRUSSELS. NATO and EU officials highly praised Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy's decision to continue Polish foreign policy pursued since 1989 but gave no firm commitments on a timetable for possible Polish membership. Oleksy told reporters in Brussels on 6 April that he expects Poland to join NATO within three years and the EU by 2000. But European Commission chairman Jacques Santer said he opposes "fetishizing dates," according to Rzeczpospolita. Meanwhile, Gazeta Wyborcza quoted unnamed NATO sources in Brussels as expressing concern over Poland's delay in establishing structures for democratic control over the military In other news, the first line of Poland's only underground, planned since 1925 and under construction sporadically since 1951, was scheduled to start running in Warsaw on 7 April, Gazeta Wyborcza reported. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. STAR OF DAVID FINALLY ERECTED AT CZECH CONCENTRATION CAMP. A five-meter Star of David on 6 April was erected at the former Terezin concentration camp, north of Prague, from where more than 100,000 Jews and other inmates were dispatched to extermination camps during World War II. The steel and iron star was placed close to a cross with a crown of barbed wire in the cemetery at the entrance to Terezin's "Small Fortress." A group of American Jewish activists who last year visited Terezin complained that there was no monument to the Jews who died in the town's ghetto. The cemetery itself is a memorial to Terezin inmates who died in a typhus epidemic in the last months of the war and after the camp's liberation. Under communism, Terezin was portrayed simply as a site where anti-fascists were housed and then transported to death camps, without mentioning that the vast majority were Jews. A museum of the Jewish ghetto was opened at Terezin in 1991. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK PRESIDENT SAYS MECIAR BUILT PARALLEL INTELLIGENCE SERVICE. Michal Kovac, in a statement read to the parliament on 6 April, responded to an address by Premier Vladimir Meciar the previous day on the Slovak Information Service. Meciar told parliament deputies that since its creation, the SIS has opposed his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, and he accused SIS officials of shadowing him (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 April 1995). Kovac called Meciar's address "a pitiful example of how presumptions and disinformation can be confused with incontestable reality or facts." He accused Meciar of creating "an illegal parallel structure of intelligence activity" opposed to the president and other individuals. The parliament the same day reapproved a law allowing state secretaries to vote in cabinet sessions in place of ministers and transferring the Office of Industrial Property to Banska Bystrica on 1 May. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK MINISTRY REMOVES INVESTMENT FIRM'S LICENSE. The Slovak Finance Ministry on 31 March removed the license of Prva Slovenska Investicna Spolocnost (PSIS), Narodna obroda and Praca reported on 7 April. Harvard Investment, which is run by the father of MDS deputy Ivan Lexa, and Agroinvest were given temporary control over the PSIS portfolio. PSIS representatives say they will take every legal step to have the decision overturned. The PSIS is a shareholder in the firm that publishes the opposition daily Sme. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. OPINION POLL ON SLOVAK PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS. An opinion poll conducted by the FOCUS agency in March shows that the Presidency is the most trusted institution in Slovakia and television the least. Confidence in the president has fallen only 1% since November to 66%, while trust in Slovak Television has plummeted from 51% to 40%. Confidence in the Constitutional Court has dropped from 61% to 55%, in Slovak Radio from 60% to 54%, in the parliament from 57% to 51%, and in the government from 52% to 44%. The government, which took office in mid-December, has advocated changes bringing Slovak Television and Radio under its control. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE UN FIRES SMOKE SHELLS AT SERBS. The 7 April Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that UNPROFOR troops the previous day fired smoke shells at Serbs near Sarajevo. The Serbs had ignored an ultimatum from the peacekeepers to stop firing on the capital's only supply road, which crosses Mt. Igman. Serbs also shelled the government-held suburb of Hrasnica, killing at least two. News agencies reported US Undersecretary of State Richard Holbrooke as warning that the cease-fire is beginning to come apart. Outside Sarajevo, government forces pressed Serbian troops in the Doboj area and claimed to have surrounded the key Serbian television relay tower at Stolice, near Tuzla. Nasa Borba on 6 April reported that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has asked the UN to allow in shipments of oil "for agricultural purposes." NIN on 7 April, moreover, quotes his deputy, Nikola Koljevic, as warning Serbia that there will be "a civil war" among Serbs if Belgrade ever recognizes Bosnia-Herzegovina. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. CROATIA WANTS "INTENSIVE TALKS." Hina on 6 April quotes Foreign Minister Mate Granic as saying UN Security Council Resolution 981, which transforms UNPROFOR into UNCRO under a changed mandate, is the strongest document in Croatia's favor that the body has ever approved. He now wants negotiations, first with the international community and then with the Serb rebels, on extending Zagreb's sovereignty throughout its internationally recognized territory. He also noted that of the prewar population of 650,000 in Serb-held areas, only about 200,000 remain. Even about 120,000 Serbs have left, Granic said. UN officials added that there are no signs of demilitarization in Sector East around Erdut and Vukovar, which Serbia reportedly intends to keep because of its oil and agricultural wealth. The 7 April Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted that Croatia and Hungary have signed an agreement aimed at protecting the rights of the roughly 30,000 ethnic Croats in Hungary and the 25,000 ethnic Hungarians in Croatia, many of whom have become the victims of Serbian "ethnic cleansing" in Sector East. The treaty is based on Council of Europe norms. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. KRAJINA SERBS REJECT "PEACE AT ANY PRICE." Nasa Borba on 7 April quotes Krajina Serb leader Milan Martic as saying that Resolution 981 is unacceptable to his people. He blamed the new measures on the alleged domination of the Security Council by the U.S. and Germany. He accused the international community of trying to drive the Krajina Serbs "into a ghetto." Martic warned against attempts to station peacekeepers on Croatia's borders with Bosnia and Serbia, saying "there are no borders between Serbian territories." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. INDEPENDENT MONTENEGRIN RADIO IN TROUBLE. Nasa Borba on 7 April reports that Radio Elmag, the first independent radio station in the rump Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, is in dire straits. Government demands for fees and taxes is threatening to drive the station out of existence. Radio Elmag may become the latest victim in rump Yugoslavia's efforts to crackdown on the independent media. This campaign culminated in late 1994, when Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic attempted to eliminate the independent daily Borba, now reincorporated as Nasa Borba. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN TV UNION LEADER ENDS HUNGER STRIKE. Dumitru Iuga, leader of the Radio and Television Free Trade Union, has ended his hunger strike after 36 days, Romanian Television reported on 6 April. Iuga told journalists in Bucharest that he reached the conclusion that his protest, "in its present form, is no longer useful." Several other union members who fasted in solidarity with Iuga also ended their action. Iuga said he intended to use "totally different forms of protest in the future." He added that the authorities' handling of the conflict proved they had a plan to eliminate "by any means" candidates for the Radio and Television Administrative Council who were considered "troublesome." Since the parliament will hold new elections for the remaining eight seats on the council, continuing the strike would mean to "abandon the struggle," Iuga argued. In other news, subway workers ended their strike on 5 April, after the government agreed to a wage increase of 67,000 lei ($36). -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN OFFICIALS ON NATO AND RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA. Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca, in an interview with Radio Bucharest on 6 April, said that following talks with his Russian counterpart, Pavel Grachev, he hoped Russia better understands Romania's motives for pursuing integration with NATO. He said Romania sees no conflict between its efforts to become a NATO member and having good relations with Russia. Also on 6 April, Tinca met with Russian Federation Council Chairman Vladimir Sumeiko, who repeated his support for the withdrawal of Russia's 14th Army from the separatist Dniester region. Presidential spokesman Traian Chebeleu said the same day that relations with NATO are a matter to be decided between individual countries and the organization. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIA DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN MOLDOVAN STRIKES. Presidential spokesman Traian Chebeleu on 6 April told a press conference in Bucharest that Romania has played no role in the strikes in Chisinau and elsewhere in Moldova. He noted that "there are forces in Chisinau that try to blame Romania every time something goes wrong there." Also on 6 April, Radio Bucharest reported that Alexandru Scerbanschi, head of the commission set up by President Mircea Snegur to deal with the strikers' demands, has canceled a meeting with the strikers' committee "for health reasons." International agencies reported that thousands of strikers continued their protest on 6 April, halting traffic in the city and chanting anti-government slogans. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. SCANDAL IN BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT OVER NEW LAND LAW. The government's latest proposed amendment to the land law caused a scandal in the parliament on 6 April, Bulgarian newspapers reported the following day. The Socialist majority has proposed to restitute land on the basis of declarations submitted by owners when they joined farm cooperatives under communist rule. Vladislav Kostov of the Union of Democratic Forces said these declarations, submitted under pressure, were invalid, since many depicted the plots of land as smaller than in reality. Vasil Gotsev, deputy chairman of the UDF's National Coordinating Council, said the proposed amendment violates the right of ownership. One UDF deputy was expelled from the parliament for improper conduct. A vote was not taken on the amendment due to continuing disorder. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN NATIONAL BANK LOWERS PRIME INTEREST RATE. The Bulgarian National Bank on 6 April lowered the prime interest rate to 65% from 72%, Demokratsiya reported the following day. A BNB official said the rate was lowered because of low inflation in the first months of 1995, not because the government had insisted. As a result, production and investment are expected to be stimulated, but there may be disturbances on the currency market. BNB Governor Todor Valchev, however, said the bank is capable of keeping the lev's exchange rate under control. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. EUROPEAN COURT ADVOCATE SAYS GREEK EMBARGO IS LEGAL. European Court of Justice Advocate General Francis Jacobs on 6 April said the court should dismiss a complaint over Greece's trade blockade against Macedonia, AFP reported the same day. He said the complaint, filed by the European Commission in April 1994, fell outside the jurisdiction of the court, as questions of national security are up to each country to decide. According to Reuters, Jacobs said that given historical tensions in the Balkans, it is not completely unreasonable for Greece to fear war. The court, which is not obliged to follow Jacobs' opinion, is unlikely to rule on the case before the fall. Greek government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said his country "can only be entirely satisfied." The Macedonian Foreign Ministry considered Jacobs' position to be the "inauguration of a new form of economic violence." It expressed its "deep shock at such a stand encouraging economic blockades in the settlement of bilateral problems." -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT DENIES EMBARGO-BUSTING REPORTS. The Albanian Foreign Ministry has denied recent media reports that petrol and oil continue to be smuggled from Albania into Montenegro, Reuters reported on 6 April. It said "the Albanian government has taken the necessary measures to eliminate the smuggling of fuel in violation of UN sanctions." Reuters also quotes a senior police official as saying that smuggling from Albania to Montenegro has decreased since Romania and Bulgaria began to offer cheaper oil products. Albanian sanctions coordinator Arben Petrela said Albania's fuel imports dropped from 172,000 tons in the last three months of 1994 to 54,000 tons in this year's first quarter. But Gazeta Shqiptare carried a story on 6 April about large-scale oil smuggling on Lake Shkoder, which borders Montenegro. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES TREATY ON RETURN OF GOLD. The Albanian parliament has ratified a treaty on the return of 1,574 kilograms of gold, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 7 April. The U.S. and Albania signed the treaty on 10 March. Worth some $13 million, the gold was stolen by Germany during the occupation in World War II and later handed over to a commission, made up of the U.S., Britain, and France, for safekeeping. The Albanian parliament agreed that the U.S. can keep gold worth some $2 million for reparations to American citizens whose property in Albania was confiscated by the communists. Britain sanctioned the agreement in 1992. France has declared its willingness to return the gold without preconditions, but an accord has not yet been signed. -- 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. 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