|It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer|
No. 92, Part II, 12 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 EASTERN EUROPE WELCOMES RUSSIA'S SIGNING OF PFP. East European foreign ministers, attending a meeting of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, welcomed Russia's decision to sign an individual work program under NATO's Partnership for Peace, Western agencies reported on 11 May. Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, Czech Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec, and Slovak Foreign Minister Juraj Schenk each applauded the Russian move but stressed that Russia has no right to veto their entry into NATO. Meanwhile, the 34-member council agreed on 11 May to continue suspending Russia's application to join that body. Council Secretary- General Daniel Tarschys noted that "there is still a general agreement that is it desirable to have Russia as a member as soon as possible." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. CLINTON IN UKRAINE. U.S. President Bill Clinton began a two-day state visit to Ukraine on 11 May, international and Ukrainian news agencies reported the same day. After his meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Clinton praised Ukraine's drive to speed up the process of nuclear disarmament, implement long-delayed radical economic reforms, and improve relations with Russia. He also pledged further aid for Ukrainian disarmament and offered $10 million under the so-called "Warsaw Initiative," which, pending its approval by the U.S. Congress, is to help countries participating in the Partnership for Peace. President Kuchma stressed Kiev's support for the gradual expansion of NATO but expressed concern that a hasty expansion could turn Ukraine into a buffer zone between Europe and Russia. The two leaders also discussed increased U.S. technical aid and private investment. Clinton was also scheduled to deliver a speech at Kiev State University and lay a wreath at the Babyn Yar memorial to the 180,000 mostly Jewish victims killed there by the Nazis during World War II. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. WORLD BANK RELEASES SECOND TRANCHE OF LOAN TO UKRAINE. The World Bank has released the second tranche, worth $250 million, of a $500-million rehabilitation loan to Ukraine, UNIAR reported on 11 May. The credit was approved last December to finance critical imports and support the country's balance of payments. World Bank official Oleksander Kaliberda said the bank was ready to expand its aid program to Ukraine. He noted that among the 19 projects currently under review for financing are a proposal for institutional development worth $44 million, for which the bank could appropriate $27 million, and a project to rehabilitate hydroelectric power plants in Ukraine, with the bank possibly providing a $115 million loan. He said that if Kiev continues to pursue economic reforms, there will be no reason for it not to qualify for $1 billion annually in World Bank assistance. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. ISRAELI-ESTONIAN COOPERATION. Israeli Brig. Gen. David Shoval, accompanied by Israel's military attache to Latvia, held talks in Tallinn on 11 May with Estonian Interior Minister Edgar Savisaar, BNS reported. They discussed cooperation opportunities between the two countries in the areas of combating crime and border defense. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. DEATH SENTENCE UPHELD IN LITHUANIA. The Lithuanian Pre-sident's Pardon Commission on 10 May turned down the clemency plea of Boris Dekanidze, leader of the criminal group known as the Vilnius Brigade, Interfax reported the next day. Dekanidze was sentenced to death in November 1994 for organizing the murder of Vitas Lingys, deputy editor of the Respublika newspaper, on 12 October 1993. President Algirdas Brazauskas signed the official rejection of the clemency plea on 11 May. It is likely that Dekanidze will be executed by firing squad within several weeks. Lithuania has executed five convicted murderers since regaining independence in 1991. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LATVIA JOINS CONVENTION ON PROTECTION OF NATIONAL MINORITIES. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs on 11 May in Strasbourg signed the General Convention on Protection of National Minorities, BNS reported. The convention, drafted after the 1993 summit meeting of the Council of Europe, determines the basic principles to be observed by the signatory countries to ensure the protection of national minorities. Birkavs also attended an informal meeting of the foreign ministers of the Baltic and Nordic states. He discussed with the Danish and Swiss foreign ministers the possibility of introducing a visa-free regime. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLISH CONSTITUTIONAL QUARRELS CONTINUE. Polish Premier Jozef Oleksy has written to Lech Walesa saying the president's nomination of Marek Jurek as head of the National Radio and TV Council is unconstitutional, the Polish press reported. According to the Polish constitution, the president's action must be endorsed by the premier or the relevant minister. This had not happened in the case of Jurek's nomination. Oleksy wrote to the president that "the highest level of government cannot be treated like a playground with the rules of one's own choosing." Walesa recently accused Oleksy of disrespect for the president's foreign policy prerogatives (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 May 1995). -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. "FREE CAUCASUS" RADIO TO BROADCAST FROM POLAND. Independent Russian Television (NTV) on 11 May reported on the preparations to open the Free Caucasus radio station, which will broadcast in several languages and be managed by the Chechen Information Center in Cracow. The exact location of the station is being kept secret, and its equipment has been supplied by Solidarity, which still has radio equipment from its underground period. NTW noted that the Russian authorities have already protested the Chechen Information Center's activities in Cracow but that the city authorities have called the protest an intervention in "internal city affairs." -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. MINISTER SAYS CZECH TRADE DEFICIT COULD REACH 80 BILLION KORUNY. Trade and Industry Minister Vladimir Dlouhy on 11 May said that the Czech Republic's foreign trade deficit may increase more than sixfold this year to 60-80 billion koruny ($2.35-3.15 billion), Czech Television and Mlada fronta dnes reported. Dlouhy told a conference of business leaders that Czech goods have become less competitive internationally. The 1994 deficit was 12.5 billion koruny, but the shortfall for the first quarter of 1995 was 18.3 billion koruny. Finance Minister Ivan Kocarnik told the parliament's budget committee that the government expects a 3.4% rise in GDP this year. He said industrial production rose 5.8% in the first three months of 1995, while construction was up 11.7% -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK PRESIDENT ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT. Michal Kovac, addressing the parliament on 11 May, said the recent no-confidence vote in him was unlawful since "state organs can act only on the basis of the constitution," Sme reported. According to the basic law, the parliament can remove the president only for activities endangering "the sovereignty or territorial integrity of Slovakia" or the country's "democratic constitutional system." Moreover, the vote was supported by only 80 deputies, whereas the constitution states that a three-fifths majority or 90 votes in the 150-member parliament are required. Kovac also stressed that his conflict with Premier Vladimir Meciar is based not on "personal relations" but on differences of opinion over how politics "should be applied in a parliamentary democracy and a free, open society." The majority of the deputies representing the government coalition walked out of the parliament prior to the speech. Representatives of the opposition have confirmed their support for the president, as has the Conference of Bishops of Slovakia. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK PARLIAMENT PASSES CONFLICT OF INTERESTS LAW. The Slovak parliament on 11 May approved a law on conflict of interests, proposed by the governing Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and the opposition Party of the Democratic Left, Pravda reported. The law applies to constitutional officials and top representatives of the state administration. Of the 130 deputies who voted, 92 were in favor, three against, and 33 abstained. The law will take effect on 1 November. Also on 11 May, the parliament appointed Jozef Mudrik to the post of National Bank of Slovakia vice governor, TASR reported. Mudrik formerly headed Slovakia's largest bank, Vseobecna uverova banka. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK PREMIER ON CZECH-SLOVAK CLEARING AGREEMENT. Vladimir Meciar on 11 May told journalists that the Czech cabinet's "unilateral" decision to cancel the clearing system governing Slovak-Czech trade is "an ultimatum, which is unusual in international relations." The system has been in place since the split of Czechoslovakia in January 1993. He also stressed that Slovakia is ready to negotiate changes in payment conditions in accordance with international norms and the Czech aims of OECD membership and securing full convertibility for the Czech koruna. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARY TO RATIFY TREATY WITH SLOVAKIA SOON. A Hungarian government official on 11 May said that the parliament will soon ratify the basic treaty with Slovakia, Hungarian and international media reported. The treaty was signed in April by the countries' prime ministers. According to the official, the vote is likely to take place on 22 or 23 May. Also on 11 May, the Hungarian government made public a letter from Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn to Slovak President Michal Kovac saying "the Hungarian side aims to execute the treaty as soon as possible." Although some political groups in the Hungarian parliament are opposed to the treaty, unofficial reports indicate it is likely to be ratified. There is also opposition to the treaty in the Slovak parliament, and disputes over it have caused strains within Slovakia's ruling coalition. Both governments have been informed that ratification of the treaty is crucial for their joining the European Union and NATO. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SARAJEVO'S "SNIPER ALLEY" CLAIMS ANOTHER VICTIM. A French UN peacekeeper was critically wounded on 11 May after being shot in the head along Sarajevo's main strip, known as "Sniper's Alley," Nasa Borba reported the following day. The total of French peacekeepers critically wounded or killed in Bosnia-Herzegovina now stands at 37. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on 11 May said the new French government will debate the possibility of withdrawing its troops from the former Yugoslavia if safety conditions do not improve, international media reported. Emerging from meetings with UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali the same day, Juppe also indicated that empowering UN peacekeepers to employ greater force against violence may be an alternative to a pullout. France has some 4,500 troops in Bosnia--the largest contingent in the region. Meanwhile, representatives of the Contact Group are slated to meet on 12 May to probe ways of improving prospects for peace in war-torn Bosnia, Vecernji list reported. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. FIERCE BATTLES IN NORTHEASTERN BOSNIA. Serbian forces continue to pound the Croatian enclave of Orasje, in northeastern Bosnia-Herzegovina, international media reported on 12 May. According to Reuters, recent Serbian attacks on the enclave appear to be the fiercest in several years, with an estimated 500 shells landing in the hamlet of Matici on 11 May. The Serbian offensive appears to be aimed at forcing the Orasje Croats back across the border into Croatia in order to remove the pocket as an obstacle to a Serbian supply corridor. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN PARLIAMENT REBUKES CROATIA. The Serbian legislature on 11 May adopted a resolution condemning Croatia's 1 May offensive against a rebel Serb-held enclave in Western Slavonia, Nasa Borba reported the following day. The offensive resulted in the retaking of territory. Tanjug reports that according to the text of the resolution, the Serbian parliament especially condemns "crimes against the civilian population" and Croatia's "lack of respect for the ceasefire." Ultranantionalists, notably accused war criminal and Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj and leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia Vojislav Kostunica, have registered their opposition to the resolution. They claim it is too mild and a de facto testament to Serbian President Slobodan Milo-sevic's unwillingness to defend either Croatia's rebel Serbs or the ideal of a greater Serbia. Meanwhile, Reuters on 11 May reported that UN authorities have somewhat "backed away from earlier allegations that the [Croatian] army shot fleeing Serbs" as it advanced in Western Slavonia. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIA SIGNS CONVENTION ON PROTECTION OF NATIONAL MINORITIES. Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu on 11 May presented in Strasbourg the instruments of ratification for the Council of Europe's Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities. The Romanian parliament ratified the convention in April. According to Radio Bucharest, Romania was the first country to officially complete the ratification procedure. Melescanu was quoted by Radio Bucharest as saying that the event was a clear indication that Romania was attaching particular importance to basic human rights and freedoms, including those of ethnic minorities. Romania has repeatedly stressed that it prefers the framework convention to other Council of Europe documents, which appear to favor territorial autonomy based on ethnic criteria. It recently expressed serious reservations about a decision by the council's Parliamentary Assembly making Recommendation 1201 mandatory for all members. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. TRANSDNIESTER WOMEN DEMONSTRATE IN MOSCOW. Thirty women from Moldova's breakaway Dniester region arrived in Moscow on 10 May to picket the Russian Defense Ministry in protest over plans to reorganize the 14th Army, headquartered in Tiraspol, BASA-press reported. The group is headed by Svetlana Migulya, a 14th Army female soldier, and is composed of members of the Women's Union for the Defense of Transdniester. The protesters intend to hand over to State Duma deputies letters from Transdniester citizens criticizing the plans to downgrade the 14th Army, which were recently announced by Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT RECOGNIZES PARTISANS AS WW II COMBATANTS. The Socialist majority on 11 May adopted a law giving former partisans the status of combatants against Nazi Germany in World War II, Demokratsiya reported the following day. Opposition deputies voted against the bill. The Union of Democratic Forces argued that the communist-dominated partisan movement was controlled by Moscow and did not emerge until Germany's attack on the Soviet Union in 1941. They also pointed out that most sabotage acts were directed against Bulgarian installations and not against German military facilities. Socialist Deputy Angel Wagen-shtayn, a well-known film director, said that "whoever thinks the anti-fascist resistance was illegitimate is a fascist." The UDF faction issued a declaration saying that the law in effect restores the privileges of former communist party members and proves that the Socialists have not broken with their communist past. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN CABINET EXPECTS ECONOMIC GROWTH, SWIFT PRIVATIZATION. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economic Development Rumen Gechev on 10 May said that the government's major economic goals in 1995 are strict financial discipline and 2.5% economic growth, BTA reported the same day. The cabinet projects an increase in GDP averaging 4.5% a year during its term in office. Gechev said that privatization, to be carried out in two stages, will start in January 1996 and end in late 1997. Some 150 enterprises will be selected for privatization. The Kozloduy nuclear reactor, the military-industrial complex, the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company, the Bulgarian Post, and one or two major banks are among those enterprises that will not be privatized, Gechev said. The private sector's share in GDP, which accounted for 30% in 1994, is projected to reach 55-60% by the end of 1996 and 70-75% in late 1997. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER TOPS OPINION POLLS IN SOFIA. In an opinion poll published by Trud on 12 May, Zhan Videnov headed the list of Bulgarian top politicians. Some 36% of respondents said they have a favorable impression of him, while 23% said their impression is unfavorable. Ivan Kostov, leader of the Union of Democratic Forces, came second, with 26% and 11%, respectively. President Zhelyu Zhelev ranked third (23% and 28%). Videnov's strong showing and the high percentage of negative votes for Zhelev are attributed to the ongoing fight between the president and government, particularly over Bul-garia's possible application for NATO membership and the land restitution law. The opinion poll was conducted in Sofia, which is one of the UDF's strongholds. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. [As of 1200 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. To receive the OMRI Daily Digest by mail or fax, please direct inquiries to OMRI Publications, Na Strzi 63, 140 62 Prague 4, Czech Republic; or electronically to OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ Tel.: (42-2) 6114 2114; fax: (42-2) 426 396 OMRI also publishes the biweekly journal Transition, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. For Transition subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ
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