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No. 72, Part II, 11 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 EU PROVIDES "ROUGH GUIDE" TO MEMBERSHIP. The EU provided a "rough guide" to membership at its meeting of foreign ministers 10 April, Western agencies reported. The foreign ministers of six East European states-- Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia-- joined the meeting as the first example of "structured dialogue" agreed to at the EU summit in Essen in December 1994. The EU commissioner for foreign relations, Hans van den Broek, sketched an outline of the EU White Paper on membership requirements set to be unveiled later in April. Although Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski said he and his East European colleagues were glad to see that the EU moving ahead with its plans to expand eastward, he added, "We'd be happier if the plan had time-tables and more specific facts." He also noted that the EU should provide incentives for Eastern Europe to adapt its economies to suit EU policies. Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs welcomed the opportunity to meet with his EU counterparts. "Every meeting brings these countries closer to the EU; after every meeting we understand each other a little better," he said. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. ZIELENIEC ON CZECH EU MEMBERSHIP. Speaking after the EU meeting on 10 April, Czech Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec said he was convinced that the Czech Republic can meet all criteria for EU membership within five years. The Central European Free Trade Area (CEFTA) was discussed during the foreign ministers' talks. Zieleniec said that the Czech Republic did not want to establish CEFTA as "a closed institution" that would not be open to new members. On the same day, Zieleniec also participated in the first meeting of the so-called Association Council consisting of the 15 EU foreign ministers and the Czech foreign minister. The council will meet once a year. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. TALBOTT IN KIEV. US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott was in Kiev on 10 March preparing for US President Bill Clinton's upcoming visit to Ukraine in May, Ukrainian radio reported. Talbott met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and other top officials to discuss a number of issues, including the country's domestic and foreign problems and its relationship with Russia. The discussions will serve as the basis for preparing documents to be signed between the US and Ukraine during Clinton's visit. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINE WILL NOT SHUT CHORNOBYL. On 10 April UNIAN reported that a special Ukrainian cabinet meeting was held to discuss the preparation of a statement on the continued operation of the Chornobyl nuclear power station. Claiming that Ukraine would incur a loss of $4 billion by closing the station, the draft statement says it cannot be shut down in the immediate future. The government proposes continuing operations for the time being but putting all profits generated from the station into a special fund for the plant's closure. Over the next month the government will draft proposals for the G-7 countries on alternative sources of energy to substitute for Chornobyl's output. The plant was to be closed down at the end of 1993, but parliament voted to keep it running since the country could not afford to replace the lost energy. Chornobyl accounts for some 7% of the country's electricity. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. BELARUSIAN NEGOTIATIONS WITH IMF. On 10 April Radio Mayak reported that Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir admitted that disagreements exist between his government and the IMF over Belarus's economic policies. The IMF recently postponed making any final decisions about releasing the second part of a Systematic Transformation Facility loan worth $100 million because Belarus was not adhering to its economic reform program. Chyhir singled out the government's raising of the minimum wage from 30,000 to 60,000 Belarusian rubles ($3 to $6), but said that the move would not spur inflation as the IMF fears. In April the weekly inflation rate has been around three percent. Chyhir said he believes the IMF will reconsider its position and release the credit. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. PARTY CONGRESSES IN LATVIA. The Second Congress of Latvia's Way on 9 April focused primarily on discussion of the election campaign and the party's platform, BNS reported on 10 April. The draft party program, which is expected to be approved at the party's conference in May, calls Latvia's Way a liberal political party representing the interests of the people. The party's stated goal is to transform Latvia into a highly- developed European state which is a comfortable and safe home to the Latvian people and other residents of the country. Also on 9 April the 6th congress of the Latvian Democratic Labor Party reelected Juris Bojars as chairman for the third consecutive year. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. MARCH INFLATION IN THE BALTIC STATES. The Latvian Statistics Committee announced that in March the Latvian inflation rate (2.6%) was higher than that in Estonia (2.4%) and Lithuania (1.4%), BNS reported on 8 April. In the first two months of the year inflation in Lithuania was 5.7% and 3.9%, respectively, compared with 1.4% and 2.9% in Estonia and 3.5% and 3.2% in Latvia. In Latvia inflation was driven by higher costs for communication services (by 38.1%), press editions (by 10.3%), public transportation (by 8.2%), and dairy products (5.6%). In Lithuania prices for clothes and footwear grew by 2%, for fuel and culture and education services by 1.6%, while prices for medical services and for transport and communication services declined by 0.7% by 0.4%, respectively, Interfax reported on 9 April. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. KWASNIEWSKI LEADS POLISH POLL. According to a CBOS poll taken on 30 March-3 April and published on 10 April, Aleksander Kwasniewski, chairman of the post-communist Union of the Democratic Left, remains the favorite to win this year's presidential elections. A total of 18 percent of respondents backed Kwasniewski, one percent less than in March. Support for current President Lech Walesa fell to 7 percent from 13 percent in March, when his popularity rose following successful efforts to remove Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak, who was replaced that month by Jozef Oleksy. Among other candidates, former Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jacek Kuron, who recently gained the support of the Freedom Union (formerly Democratic Union), got 14 percent, while Supreme Court president Adam Strzembosz got 11 percent. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK-CANADIAN DEFENSE AGREEMENT. On 9 April in Toronto Slovak Defense Minister Jan Sitek and his Canadian counterpart David Collenette signed an intergovernmental agreement concerning military relations and a Memorandum of understanding between the two countries' defense ministries, Narodna obroda and Praca report on 11 April. Stressing that the recent signing of the Slovak-Hungarian state treaty shows that Slovakia is able to resolve problems in bilateral relations, Collenette said the treaty also strengthens Slovakia's position among countries interested in NATO membership. According to Collenette, Canada will support Slovakia's entry into NATO. Sitek is currently on a 5-day visit to Canada and the US. Traveling to the US on 10 April, Sitek is expected to meet with US Secretary of Defense William Perry as well as representatives of the National Security Council and the State Department. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. GROWING DISSATISFACTION WITH HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT. A public opinion survey published by Magyar Hirlap on 10 April shows a substantial decrease in support for the government of Prime Minister Gyula Horn. Compared to March, approval for the government's performance in general declined from 40.9 to 34.4 percent. Meanwhile, support for the government's handling of social problems fell 12 percent, and its credibility declined 11 percent. The survey measured the public's reaction to the cabinet's announcement in March that it would implement rigorous economic measures designed to reduce the state budget deficit that involve substantial cuts in social spending. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARIAN REFERENDUM ON ELECTION OF PRESIDENT? The National Election Committee announced on 10 April that the Independent Smallholders Party headed by Jozsef Torgyan collected enough valid signatures (157 000) to initiate a referendum on whether the president of the republic should be elected by direct popular vote and whether the scope of his authority should be expanded, Magyar Hirlap of 11 April reports. Under the current constitution the president has limited powers and is elected by the parliament, thus receiving his mandate from the legislature and not from the people. The referendum would also ask the population to answer whether the right of young people to a place of employment and to housing should be enshrined in law and whether the pension age of women should be reduced to 55. Some constitutional lawyers and government politicians questioned the legality of holding a referendum on a question that involves changing the constitution. The parliament's constitutional committee plans to ask the Hungarian Constitutional Court to decide the matter. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE UN CALLS IN NATO FLIGHTS OVER SARAJEVO. AFP reported on 11 April that NATO aircraft flew in pairs over the Bosnia capital for several hours the previous night. The UN called them in for at least the third time in a week in the face of repeated Serb shelling. The Bosnian government has banned public gatherings, including outdoor cafes and markets, as of 11 April to help prevent further casualties at the hands of Serb gunners and snipers. Elsewhere, Serb and Croat forces on 10 April clashed near Zepce to the north of Sarajevo, while government artillery wounded five civilians in Serb-held Teslic. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN GENERAL SACKED IN EASTERN CROATIA. The 11 April Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that the Russian general in charge of UN forces in Sector East of Serb-held Croatia has been relieved of his command. The paper says this indirectly confirms a Croatian government charge in late March that the general at least covered the movement of 900 Serbian troops and 20 or more tanks from Serbia into Sector East (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 March). The UN subsequently tried to avoid confirming the report, which Croatia maintained was true and which seemed to fit into a larger pattern of Serbian support for the Krajina rebels. Croatia suspects Russian peacekeepers of sympathizing with and aiding the Serbs, as well as of dealing heavily on the thriving black market. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN UPDATE. Nasa Borba on 11 April reports that representatives of the international Contact Group are heading to Belgrade for what appears to be another round of attempts to convince Serbian authorities to extend recognition to Bosnia and Croatia in exchange for an easing of sanctions against rump Yugoslavia. This latest diplomatic initiative comes, however, in the wake of Belgrade's reinvigorated resistance to such proposals. On 10 April Tanjug and Reuters quoted rump Yugoslav Foreign Minister Vladislav Jovanovic as saying that "We do not wish to repeat the mistake the European Community and then others in the international community made by prematurely recognizing the former Yugoslav republics. That was not wise." Meanwhile, Tanjug reports of 10 April suggested also that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, following meetings with China's visiting foreign minister, has focused attention on urging Beijing to exert pressure on the international community to have sanctions against Belgrade lifted. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. MACEDONIA RULES OUT FEDERATION WITH NEIGHBORS. In an interview with Macedonian radio on 8 April, President Kiro Gligorov ruled out the possibility of a Yugoslav or Balkan federation or confederation, saying it would "only lead to new divisions and new conflicts in the Balkans," Nasa Borba reported on 10 April. Politika cited Gligorov as saying his country will not consider participating in any federation "based on ideological, religious, ethnic of other foundations." Considering any kind of "organic" ties with neighboring states is possible only if all Balkan states have a democratic and European orientation, Gligorov stated. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIA-EU ASSOCIATION COUNCIL HOLDS FIRST MEETING. A joint Romanian- European Union council met for the first time on 10 April in Luxembourg. Radio Bucharest, which defined the council as being the main mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the 1 February 1993 association agreement between Romania and the EU, reported on 11 April that the meeting was attended by Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu. The radio quoted Melescanu as saying that Romania intended to officially apply for full EU membership as soon as the drafting of a national strategy to join the EU was completed. He mentioned June as a possible deadline. Also on 10 April, Melescanu participated in the "15 + 6" foreign ministers' conference in Luxembourg. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. TECHNICAL FAULT BLAMED FOR ROMANIAN AIRBUS CRASH. Investigators of the 31 March Airbus crash near Bucharest said on 10 April that the accident resulted from an engine's failure to respond to a command to reduce power, Radio Bucharest and Western agencies report. The inquiry commission, which is expected to release a preliminary report soon, formally ruled out an explosion or fire on board. All 60 passengers and crew died in the crash. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. MOLDOVA LAMBASTES RUSSIAN DUMA. The Moldovan Foreign Ministry released on 10 April a statement accusing the Russian State Duma of interference in Moldova's internal affairs, Interfax and Reuters report. The ministry criticized a Duma vote of 7 April on staging a debate over the "inadmissibility" of the Russian 14th army withdrawal from Moldova's breakaway Dniester region. It also denounced the presence of Duma deputies at last month's local elections and referendum in that region. According to the statement, such steps represent an interference in the internal affairs of an independent and sovereign state, and a violation of international law principles. The declaration further accused some Duma deputies of "striving to give open support to separatism" in Moldova. The Duma, which is dominated by conservatives and nationalists, opposes a deal concluded in October 1994 between Moscow and Chisinau providing for the withdrawal of the 14th army within three years. The agreement has not gone into effect thus far. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. GENERAL WARNING-STRIKE IN ALBANIA. The Albanian independent trade unions announced a one-hour long general strike, beginning at 11:OO on 11 April. The unions expect 70,000 workers in the education, telecom and hospitals to join the strike, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 11 April. According to the unions, during the strike no telephone lines will be working in Albania and only the emergency departments of the hospitals will be served. The strikers demand a wage increase of about 35% to cover increases in consumer prices. The unions warned that a 24-hour long general strike might follow on 22 April, if the strikers' demands will not be met. The government, however, had announced earlier that the state's current finances do not allow it to meet the demands. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. TURKISH DEFENSE MINISTER IN ALBANIA. Turkish Defense Minister Mehmet Golhan began a three-day visit to Albania on 10 April, Reuters reported the same day. Golhan is expected to work out an agreement on bilateral military ties which will be signed during the visit. Golhan, who will also meet with President Sali Berisha and visit military units, said: "The visit will develop our relations more deeply and is another measure in stopping the spillover of the (Yugoslav) conflict down in the south." Meanwhile, Albanian Foreign Minister Alfred Serreqi is paying a two-day visit to Croatia, Rilindja Demokratike reported on 11 April. Serreqi is expected to meet with his counterpart Mate Granic and Croatian Prime Minister Nikica Valentic and to sign a cooperation agreement with Croatia. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIANS SAY DETAINED ARMS ARE NOT BULGARIAN. Bulgarian government officials and representatives of Air Sofia denied that the weapons on board of an airplane detained in Cap Verde on 9 April (see OMRI Daily Digest, 10 April 1995) came from Bulgaria, Bulgarian media reported on 11 April. Ivan Kolev, deputy chairman of the Council for Trade with Military and Special Products, stated that no Bulgarian arms were on board the Antonov AN-124, and that Bulgaria has no part in the arms deal with Ecuador. A Bulgarian company was just the intermediate between the producer and the buyer. Duma said that the plane came from Minsk in Belarus and did not fly over Bulgarian territory. According to Kontinent, the Air Sofia plane was leased by a company in Minsk which has a license to export arms. BTA cited Air Sofia Chairman Evgeniy Neychev as saying that competitors tried to defame his company. Demokratsiya notes, however, that Air Sofia was involved in a failed attempt to transport arms to Sarajevo or Zagreb in 1993. -- 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. 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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