|Be slow of tongue and quick of eye. - Cervantes|
No. 94, Part II, 16 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 BELARUSIANS OVERWHELMINGLY APPROVE ECONOMIC INTEGRATION WITH RUSSIA. Belarusian and international news agencies reported on 15 May that 64.7% of all registered voters in Belarus cast ballots in the elections to the country's first post-Soviet parliament. In the referendum on closer ties with Russia, all four questions proposed by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka were overwhelmingly approved: 83.1% agreed that Russian have equal status with Belarusian as a state language; 82.4% voted in favor of Lukashenka's efforts at economic integration with Russia; 75% supported the return of Belarus's Soviet-era state emblem and flag, and 77.6% favored giving the president the authority to dissolve the parliament if it violated the constitution. Only the results of the first three questions are legally binding. ITAR-TASS reported that only 18 out of a total 260 seats in the new parliament were filled because of the large number of registered candidates (some 2,400). The second round of elections, scheduled for 28 May, will limit the race to the top vote-getters in each district. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINE, BELARUS INITIAL FRIENDSHIP TREATY. The foreign ministers of Belarus and Ukraine initialed a bilateral friendship and cooperation treaty on 15 May in Minsk, Interfax reported the same day. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Henadii Udovenko arrived in the Belarusian capital on 15 May for two days of talks with his Belarusian counterpart, Uladzimir Senko. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN EXPERTS DEVISE PLAN FOR CHORNOBYL SHUTDOWN. Serhii Parashin, director of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, told journalists that a plan devised by Ukrainian experts on the gradual decommissioning of the facility was being presented to the Ukrainian government on 15 May, international agencies reported the same day. He said the timetable depended on Western financing for construction of an alternative gas- fired power station and rebuilding a cracked concrete sarcophagus encasing Chornobyl's fourth reactor. Parashin added that the plan called for the gradual shutdown of the two remaining reactors, as alternative power units were introduced to replace the 7% of energy provided by the Chornobyl plant. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN PAYMENTS FOR DECOMMISSIONING NUCLEAR BASE IN ESTONIA. Juri Tikk, the Estonian government special representative to Paldiski, has said that Russia will spend 17 billion rubles ($3.4 million) on dismantling the nuclear reactors and cleaning up environmental damage at the former submarine base, BNS reported on 15 May. Tikk said that Russia was planning to cover one of the reactor bodies with concrete and remove from Estonia all other remaining equipment by the end of September, when Russian crews working at the base must leave. Sweden and the U.S. have also promised to assist Estonia financially to reduce the environmental damage around the base. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS ALCOHOL CONTROL LAW. Algirdas Brazauskas has signed the controversial alcohol control law passed by the Seimas in April, BNS reported on 15 May. The law provides for stricter rules on liquor sales and bans the advertising of alcohol on television, radio, and newspapers. Under the new legislation, the sale of alcohol exceeding 100% proof as well as home-made beer and wine is banned and no alcohol may be sold before 11:00 a.m. Only one liquor license can be issued per 1,000 residents in urban areas and per 500 in rural districts. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. FORMER POLISH INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS GO ON TRIAL. Eight high-ranking officers, including General Edmund Bula, former chief of military intelligence services, went on trial on 15 May in Warsaw charged with the illegal destruction of intelligence files, Polish media reported. A special commission found that some 20,000 files have been secretly destroyed since July 1989. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. HAVEL PROTESTS TO YELTSIN OVER RED SQUARE PARADE. President Vaclav Havel on 15 May formally protested to Russian President Boris Yeltsin over the presence of troops involved in the Chechen conflict at the 9 May parade in Moscow marking the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, Czech media reported. The protest was delivered by the head of Havel's office, Lubos Dobrovsky, to Russian Ambassador Alexander Lebedev. While attending the Moscow celebrations, Havel said Russian authorities broke a promise that only World War II veterans would take part in the military parade. Havel also sent Yeltsin a personal letter expressing deep concern about the new Russian offensive in Chechnya and urging the Russian president to halt military operations there. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTS. National Bank of Slovakia Governor Vladimir Masar, in a report released on 15 May, said monthly inflation in April stood at 0.4% and annual inflation at 11.2%. He also noted that the bank's foreign currency reserves exceeded $2.3 billion by 10 May. Moody's Investors Service on 15 May granted Slovakia an investment grade rating of Baa3. Of the countries in the region, only the Czech Republic has a higher rating (Baa2). Premier Vladimir Meciar, speaking on Slovak Radio on 15 May, said the abolition of the Czech-Slovak trade clearing agreement will not mean the devaluation of the Slovak koruna. He also stressed that, like the Czech Republic, Slovakia is preparing for external convertibility of its currency. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. TURMOIL AT HUNGARIAN TV. Hungarian Television president Adam Horvath on 15 May announced that Janos Betlen, editor-in-chief of the major newscast, is to be replaced, Magyar Nemzet reported. Betlen was appointed to that post last summer, and his programs have been repeatedly criticized by the Hungarian Socialist Party, including Prime Minister Gyula Horn, for alleged bias and insufficient coverage of the government's views. The opposition parties protested Betlen's dismissal and accused the government of conducting political purges. Betlen's replacement comes in the wake of government plans to dismiss 1,000 television personnel. While the government says the cuts are a necessary cost-saving measure, the opposition and Hungarian TV staff believe they are politically motivated and endanger the independence of television. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. EAST EUROPEAN MINISTERS ATTEND WEU MEETING. Foreign and defense ministers from the six East European states that have European Union association agreements as well as the three Baltic states attended the Western European Union semi-annual ministerial meeting in Lisbon on 15 May, international agencies reported the same day. The meeting agreed, among other things, to bolster the WEU's operational capabilities. All 27 European countries attending the meeting endorsed a report defining the new security threats facing the continent, including unresolved border disputes, terrorism, organized crime, migration, and proliferation of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. The East European states are not full members of the WEU, which is the nascent defense arm of the EU. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN OFFENSIVE STALLED IN POSAVINA. Bosnian Serb forces regrouped on 15 May after largely failing to dent Croatian lines following a week- long offensive. Croatian troops successfully repulsed attacks on Vidovice and Grebnice in the Orasje area, and the Serbs withdrew "to lick their wounds," as a UN spokesman put it to AFP. The Serbs are trying to widen the narrow Posavina corridor that links Serbia with its conquests in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. The Croats received support from artillery on the Croatian side of the Sava River, but UN and Bosnian spokesmen denied Serbian media reports that the Croats had launched a counteroffensive against Serb-held Brcko. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. CROATIA TO WITHDRAW FROM UN BUFFER ZONES. International media reported on 16 May that Croatia's ambassador to the UN, Mario Nobilo, has assured the Security Council that the Croatian army will complete its pull-back from buffer areas in Sector South by 5:00 p.m. local time. The leading UN body has repeatedly demanded such a move but did not indicate what it would do if the Croats stay put. AFP added that President Franjo Tudjman has announced an amnesty for 47 Croatian Serbs and a brigade commander taken prisoner during the recapture of western Slavonia on 1-2 May. Zagreb is sensitive toward the views of the international community on its treatment of the Serbs in the former Sector West and is hoping to show Serbs there and elsewhere that they have nothing to fear from the return of Croatian administration. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. CROATIAN SERB COMMANDER OFFERS RESIGNATION. General Milan Celeketic has sent his resignation to Krajina Serb President Milan Martic, saying that he no longer has "the moral force necessary" to lead his forces. Serbian and international media said it is not clear whether Martic will accept the offer. Celeketic's move reflects growing tensions among Krajina Serb leaders between allies of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and those who seek to exercise their own authority. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. MACEDONIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN WASHINGTON. Blagoj Handziski on 15 May asked the U.S. to help his country gain exemption from the international embargo against the former Yugoslavia, Reuters reported the same day. During talks with U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry Handziski argued that Macedonia should be excluded because it has not contributed to the reasons for the embargo. He also expressed optimism that an agreement with Greece can be reached, saying that in his opinion the problems will be overcome "very soon." Perry said that the U.S. sees Macedonia as critical to the stability of the region. If necessary, the U.S. will send additional troops to Macedonia to help boost its security. At present, 500 U.S. soldiers are stationed in Macedonia in the framework of a UN mission. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. MONTENEGRIN JOURNALIST JAILED. A court in Podgorica has sentenced a journalist from the independent weekly Monitor to two months in prison for libel, Nasa Borba reported on 16 May. Seki Radoncic wrote an article claiming that retired Yugoslav army General Radomir Damjanovic had managed to obtain an expensive automobile for "little money." Radoncic is the third Monitor journalist to be sentenced since the publication was launched, Nasa Borba commented. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. FORMER KOSOVAR PRIME MINISTER ARRESTED. Jusuf Zejnullahu, former prime minister of the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo, was arrested in Pristina on 13 May, Kosova Communication reported on 15 May. After the abolition of Kosovar autonomy and the declaration of Kosovar independence in 1990, Zejnullahu headed the shadow-government until the formation of the current coalition government in 1992. Zejnullahu was later appointed director of the Belgrade Gama Bank's branch in Pristina. He is charged with committing "criminal offenses of association aimed at hostile activity" in connection with the approval of the Kosovar Constitution of Kacanik in 1990. Zejnullahu was released on 14 May and said he has no idea why he was arrested. He added that during his detention, he was not questioned. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. GERMAN PRESIDENT IN ROMANIA. Roman Herzog on 15 May began a three-day visit to Romania, Radio Bucharest reported. He met with his Romanian counterpart, Ion Iliescu, Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu, and leaders of opposition parties. Before his arrival, he told the press he hoped his visit will encourage the process of reform and democratization in Romania, RFE/RL and international agencies reported on 12 May. Herzog said that Germany will back Romania's bid for membership in NATO and the European Union but Romania must demonstrate that it can satisfy the conditions for membership. Reuters reported on 15 May that at a state banquet in his honor, Herzog called for a "change in the mentality" implanted by decades of communist rule. Without such change, he said, the establishment of a democratic government, a market economy, and respect for the rule of law are not possible. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. LABOR UNREST IN ROMANIA. Workers at the Transylvanian copper works at Abrud are continuing their wildcat strike, which began some ten days ago, Radio Bucharest reported on 15 May. They are accusing management of violating the collective labor contract and ignoring the need to improve work conditions. Management has said that the strikers must return to work by 17 May or face the temporary closure of the mine. In the Moldavian town of Botosani, a protest action that started three months ago continues to disrupt work at the Integrata de in company, Radio Bucharest reported on 12 May. Trade union leaders have met in Bucharest with officials from the Ministry for Industry but have reached no agreement on a program to save the company from bankruptcy. Health workers demonstrated in Bucharest on 12 May demanding a pay rise and additional social benefits. Meanwhile, employees of the Renel state electricity company and miners in the Motru valley staged a two-hour warning strike on 15 May to protest a government decision to link wage hikes with increased productivity. Their trade unions have threatened a general strike for 2 June. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. MOLDOVAN POLITICIAN SURVIVES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. Nicolae Andronic, deputy chairman of the Moldovan parliament, survived an assassination attempt on 12 May, Radio Bucharest reported three days later, citing Radio Moldova. The report said a hand grenade thrown through a window into Andronic's second floor apartment in Chisinau failed to go off. Andronic threw the grenade out of the window. The Chisinau police commissioner is quoted as saying that the device was found later and was still ready to go off. The National Security Ministry has launched an investigation into the case. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. MOLDOVAN-RUSSIAN GAS AGREEMENT. The Russian joint-stock company Gazprom and the Moldovan state company Moldova-Gaz have signed an agreement to set up a joint-stock company on a parity basis, Interfax reported on 15 May, citing sources close to Gazprom. The new company will guarantee the stable supply of Russian gas to Moldova and the transit of supplies to Central and Eastern Europe through Moldovan pipelines, which are to be modernized. Gazprom's contribution is to consist in canceling part of Moldova's $300 million debt for Russian gas deliveries. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER REVEALS GOVERNMENT PROGRAM. Zhan Videnov, at a press conference on 15 May, revealed his government's program for the next four years, Bulgarian newspapers reported the following day. The five major goals are stabilizing state institutions, promoting a market economy, increasing the competitiveness of domestic products, forming a civil society that meets European standards, and improving the economy and raising living standards to a level suitable for full EU membership. The premier said his government aims at reversing the present decline in GDP, lowering inflation from 121.9% in 1994 to 15% by 1998, and curbing unemployment. But he did not explain how the government will implement austerity measures while limiting social costs, as it has promised. Zemedelsko Zname accused the government of presenting "a program in communist style," while Demokratsiya said the program contains "nothing new." -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. UPDATE ON ALBANIAN EMBARGO-BUSTING. According to a report by German Television on 15 May, some 500,000 liters of fuel cross the Albanian- Montenegrin border every day. The report quoted EU sanctions monitor Richardt Vork as saying that an estimated 40% of the fuel smuggled into rump Yugoslavia comes from Albania. The U.S. State Department estimates that Albanian oil imports are 50% higher than the country's needs. The reports contradicts earlier statements by the Albanian sanctions coordinator Arben Petrela, who said Albania's fuel imports dropped from 172,000 tons in the last three months of 1994 to 54,000 tons in the first quarter of 1995. Albanian Interior Minister Agron Musaraj also claims that Albanian police have seized various trucks and other vehicles used for smuggling and have exerted tight control over the border, international agencies reported on 15 May. -- 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. 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