|The only thing one knows about human nature is that it changes. - Oscar Wilde|
No. 91, Part II, 11 May 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 SUGGESTS MORE HIGH-LEVEL TALKS WITH RUSSIA. Leonid Kuchma, in Moscow on 9 May to attend VE Day celebrations, met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and State Duma speaker Ivan Rybkin. He proposed that a new round of bilateral talks between the country's premiers and defense and foreign ministers take place, Interfax-Ukraine and Radio Ukraine reported on 10 May. He said the talks would be aimed at resolving differences over such thorny issues as the division of the Black Sea Fleet. Presidents Kuchma and Yeltsin are expected to meet again during a CIS summit in Minsk in late May. The Ukrainian leader also held talks with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien to discuss Kiev's possible participation in the annual G-7 summit at Halifax this summer, which is scheduled to discuss the closure of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINE EXPECTS INCREASED U.S. AID. Ukraine and the U.S. are expected to sign a number of bilateral agreements during President Bill Clinton's visit on 11-12 May, Interfax-Ukraine and RFE/RL reported on 10 May. Among them is an agreement with the U.S. Import-Export Bank opening two credit lines for short- and medium-term financing of government projects. One of the credit lines, worth $350 million, is aimed at offering enterprises and organizations credits for six to 12 months. The second, worth $500 million, will ensure medium-term loans for three to five years and some credits for up to 30 years. Ukrainian leaders are hoping Clinton's visit will encourage private investment in the Ukrainian economy. Ukraine is already the fourth largest recipient of U.S. government aid, having received $900 million in assistance so far. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN ACTIVISTS ASK BELA-RUSIANS TO VOTE "NO" IN REFERENDUM. National-democratic groups in Ukraine have issued an appeal to citizens of Belarus to vote against greater economic integration with Russia and declaring Russian an official language in the 14 May referendum called by Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenka. The appeal said such moves would encourage the creation of "a new empire under the name of the CIS." The statement followed an appeal by leftist groups in Ukraine calling on Belarusians to vote in favor of economic integration with Moscow. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. LITHUANIAN ENERGY MINISTER RESIGNS. Algimantas Stasiukynas has tendered his resignation to Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius, RFE/RL reported on 10 May. Stasiukynas said he resigned because of the opposition in the Seimas to the planned increase in energy prices. Bronislovas Vainora resigned as director-general of the Mazeikiai oil refinery the previous day, partly owing to a recent government decision to change the system of taxing the refinery's production. Vainora offered his resignation as energy deputy minister on 2 May, but Slezevicius has not yet accepted it, BNS reported on 10 May. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. ESTONIAN POLICE FOIL SALE OF URANIUM. Police arrested two men in the town of Haapsalu in western Estonia on 9 May when they tried to sell five kilograms of non-enriched uranium-238 to an undercover policeman, AFP reported the next day. The two unemployed men apparently had been trying to sell the uranium for 500,000 kroons ($45,500) over the past year. Uranium-238 does not pose an immediate danger, but the radiation around the container exceeded natural background radiation levels by about 50 times. The origins of the uranium are uncertain, but it is believed to have come from Russia. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN ANNULS MANDATES OF RUSSIAN DELEGATIONS TO BALTIC STATES. Aleksandr Udaltsov, deputy director of the Second European Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, told the Russian-language Estonian newspaper Molodezh Estonii that the previous week, President Boris Yeltsin annulled the mandates of the Russian delegations negotiating with the Baltic States, BNS reported on 10 May. Udaltsov said there had been no progress for the past six months in talks with Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. He added that intergovernmental commissions will have to be set up to solve economic, humanitarian, technical, and cultural problems. Udaltsov also noted that Russia's relations with Estonia are the most complicated and that a separate commission is needed for border questions. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. WALESA READY TO TAKE PREMIER TO STATE TRIBUNAL. Polish Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, returning on 10 May from the Moscow V-E Day celebrations, said his visit had been necessary and had "served Poland well," Polish and international media reported. The same day, aides to President Lech Walesa said a motion to take Oleksy to the State Tribunal is ready but has not yet been signed. The document accuses the premier of violating the constitution, which stipulates that the president is to supervise foreign policy. Walesa strongly criticized Oleksy's decision last month to attend the Moscow ceremonies and suggested that he account for his actions before the State Tribunal (OMRI Daily Digest, 21 April 1995). -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. HEAD OF POLISH RADIO AND TV SUPERVISORY BOARD NOMINATED. President Lech Walesa on 10 May nominated Marek Jurek, vice president of the Christian- National Union, as head of the National Radio and TV Council--a supervisory body that also grants broadcasting licenses. Under a new draft law, the council, rather than the country's president, would have the right to nominate its head. Polish media interpret Walesa's nomination of Jurek as aimed at gaining the support of the Christian- National Union in the upcoming presidential elections. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. CZECHS PROPOSE TO END CLEARING SYSTEM WITH SLOVAKIA BY SEPTEMBER. The Czech government on 10 May proposed ending the payments clearing system with Slovakia by 1 September, Czech media reported. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, in a letter to his Slovak counterpart, Vladimir Meciar, said the system has served its purpose and must be abolished before the Czech koruna becomes convertible later this year. The clearing system, which has regulated bilateral trade payments since the breakup of Czechoslovakia, is part of a customs union between the two countries and has to be terminated by mutual agreement. Slovakia must give the go- ahead by the end of May for the Czech parliament to abrogate the relevant legislation. Klaus refused to say whether the Czechs will act unilaterally if Slovak agreement is not forthcoming. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. CZECH INFLATION TOPS 10 PERCENT IN APRIL. Consumer prices in the Czech Republic rose 1.0% in April, giving an annual inflation rate of 10.2% over the same month in 1994, according to figures published by the Czech Statistics Office on 10 May. "It's rather more than we would have hoped for," said Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus. Increases in rail travel (66%), postal charges (40%), and telecommunications charges (20%) that came into effect in April have boosted the consumer price index. Finance Ministry officials estimated a 0.8% rise in April but insisted that the higher actual rate does not jeopardize the government's aim of keeping inflation below 10% this year. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK PARLIAMENT APPROVES AMENDMENT TO PENAL CODE. The Slovak parliament on 10 May approved an amendment to the criminal code allowing those who offer bribes to be immune from punishment. The amendment drew harsh criticism from the opposition. Ivan Simko of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) told Sme that it sends "a bad moral signal to the population" and conflicts with the cabinet's "clean hands" program. Of the 133 deputies present, 74 voted in favor, 56 against, and 2 abstained, Slovenska Republika reported. Meanwhile, the parliament on 11 May will discuss two variants of the draft law on conflict of interests. One was submitted by the governing Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the opposition Party of the Democratic Left (SDL); and the other by the KDH. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. HOLBROOKE IN SLOVAKIA. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke arrived in Slovakia on 10 May for a one-day visit to discuss ratification of the Slovak-Hungarian treaty and Slovakia's integration into NATO and the EU. He met with President Michal Kovac, Premier Vladimir Meciar, and representatives of the opposition. At a press conference after his meeting with Kovac, Holbrooke refused to comment on recent political developments in Slovakia, saying he did not want to interfere in the country's internal affairs. The parliament on 5 May passed a vote of no confidence in Kovac. While Meciar is pressuring Kovac to resign, the opposition has expressed support for the president. Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement representatives on 10 May said Kovac would be making "a big mistake" if he considered resigning. Meanwhile, the Conference of Bishops of Slovakia published a statement in Narodna obroda on 11 May expressing "full support for and trust" in the president. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARY PASSES PRIVATIZATION BILL. The Hungarian parliament on 9 May passed the long-awaited bill on privatization, Hungarian and Western media reported. The new law merges the two existing privatization agencies and outlines plans to sell most state-owned firms. Under the law, the government will decide on the privatization of banks, financial institutions, and large companies, while the privatization of medium- sized and small companies will fall under the jurisdiction of the privatization agency. A new 11-member board, composed of representatives of parliament parties, the government, and employers and employees, will supervise the privatization agency. Some opposition politicians and economists have criticized the law for not making the privatization process more transparent and for failing to give the parliament adequate powers to oversee the process. They also expressed fears that the government might use the supervisory board to interfere in the privatization process. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SHELL EXPLODES IN SERBIA. Tanjug on 10 May reported that a shell exploded in the Serbian border town of Mali Zvornik, killing one person and wounding two. Rump Yugoslavia's UN ambassador Dra-gomir Djokic has protested the incident to the Security Council, observing that Belgrade will not tolerate attacks against its territory. Serbian officials have alleged that the shell was lobbed, possibly by long-range artillery, from behind Bosnian-Muslim lines. Reuters noted that the closest held Bosnian government lines are proximately 20 km northwest of the Serbian town, which is situated on the River Drina. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. MORTAR ATTACK ON SARAJEVO. At least two mortar shells slammed into the old-town of Sarajevo on 10 May, injuring at least four people. Fighting in and around the city has intensified in the past few days, international media reported. Incidents of sniping are also said to have increased. Reuters on 10 May reported that fighting has intensified in a number of areas throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina, notably in the north, where Croatian and Serbian forces engaged in an artillery duel the same day. The Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA alleges that Croatian shelling of the corridor running between Brcko and Orasje has left 15 civilians wounded. Meanwhile, Bosnian Serb forces have said they shot down a helicopter in the Muslim enclave of Zepa on 7 May, killing 12 and wounding 11. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. TENSIONS IN CROATIA. Tensions appear to be on the rise in and near Sector South of Croatia, where both the rebel Krajina Serbs and the Croatian military are seeking to strengthen their positions, according to Nasa Borba on 11 May. The situation in that part of the country prompted the UN the previous day to warn that hostilities in southwestern Croatia, near the self-styled Krajina Serb capital of Knin, could erupt into open military action. Meanwhile, Krajina Serb President Milan Martic on 10 May alleged that Croatian forces "slaughtered" 150 people during their advance on Serb-held territories in Western Slavonia. Reuters observed that Slobodan Jarcevic, an adviser to Martic, had previously alleged that some 400 people were killed, but he offered no concrete evidence. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIA TO CRACK DOWN ON CORRUPTION. Romanian Interior Minister Doru Ioan Taracila, at a press conference on 10 May, vowed to crack down on corruption and stem economic crime. Reuters quoted Taracila as saying his ministry has launched "a big spring cleaning operation" that will not spare corrupt policemen and customs officers. He singled out contraband with oil and other goods to the rump Yugoslavia, which, he said, would not have been possible "without help from representatives of state authorities." Taracila revealed that more than 100 police officers have been suspended in corruption probes and that 16 are facing trial. He called for prosecutors and judges to back the police in their crime- fighting efforts by severely punishing those found guilty of corruption. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS NATIONALIST PARLIAMENTARIANS. Nicolae Vacaroiu on 10 May met with parliamentarians from the extreme nationalist Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), which since August 1994 has been participating in Vacaroiu's left-wing cabinet. Radio Bucharest reported that the discussions focused on government strategy in the economic and social sectors. The same day, PUNR leaders met with their counterparts from the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), the major ruling party, to discuss cooperation at the central and local level. Gheorghe Funar and Oliviu Gherman, in a joint communique released after the meeting, announced their parties' intention to boost cooperation between the two groups' local branches. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. PRO-MONARCHY DEMONSTRATION IN BUCHAREST. Some 6,000 people on 10 May marched through downtown Bucharest calling for the Romanian monarchy to be restored. Radio Bucharest reported that the main organizer of the demonstration was the Bucharest Students' League. Hundreds of riot police prevented the demonstrators from holding a religious ceremony at University Square to commemorate the victims of communism. The demonstrators, who chanted pro-monarchy and anti-presidential slogans, jeered and whistled when police prevented them from entering the square. Romania's last king, Michael, was forced to abdicate in 1947 and now lives in Swiss exile. The authorities have several times denied him permission to visit Romania. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. CONFLICT OVER BULGARIAN LAND LAW CONTINUES. The National Assembly on 10 May reapproved an amendment to the land restitution law, despite President Zhelyu Zhelev's objections, Western agencies reported the same day. The amendment stipulates that landowners wishing to sell their land must first offer it to their neighbors and then to the state, which has two months to decide whether to buy it. The amendment was passed by the Socialist-led parliament on 14 April but then vetoed two weeks later by Zhelev, who argued that it contradicts the constitution. He also said that he would take the matter to the Constitutional Court if the parliament overruled his veto. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIA, MOLDOVA DISCUSS NUCLEAR WASTE TRANSPORT. Bulgaria and Moldova on 10 May resumed talks on transporting nuclear waste from Bulgaria to Russia via Moldova, Reuters reported the same day. Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Valentin Cunev said that the two countries agreed in principle but that the matter has to be discussed very carefully for security reasons. Nikita Shervashidze, chairman of Bulgaria's Energy Committee, noted that the talks also included supplying Bulgaria with some Russian gas and oil from Moldova's quota. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Bulgaria has had to negotiate with Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova to obtain nuclear fuel and dispose of waste from the Kozloduy nuclear plant. Russia agreed in March to reprocess the spent fuel from the facility's six reactors. Russia and Bulgaria are expected to sign an agreement on nuclear matters during Russian Prime Minister Viktor Cherno-myrdin's visit to Sofia on 18-19 May. Cunev was in Sofia to mark the beginning of regular Air Moldova services between Chisinau and Sofia. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIA TO PARTICIPATE IN MANEUVERS IN GREECE. Albanian troops will participate in five-nation maneuvers in Greece from 22-26 May, AFP reported on 10 May. Albanian Defense Minister Safet Zhulali said that 40 soldiers will be sent to Kalamata to take part in the "Spirit 95" exercises, which are part of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Zhulali noted that this is the first time Albanian soldiers are participating in maneuvers outside Albania. He also commented that the exercises are "testimony to the reinforcement of relations between Greece and Albania in the military domain." Taking part are troops from Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, and the U.S. Observers from Great Britain, Germany, and Italy will also be present. Albania jointed the Partnership for Peace program in February 1994 and signed a cooperation agreement with NATO in January 1995. -- 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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