|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 95, Part II, 17 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 BELARUS PREMIER FEARS DELAY IN NEXT ROUND OF PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS. Mikhail Chihir said he fears the next round of elections to the country's first post-Soviet parliament may be delayed for an indefinite period, Interfax reported on 16 May. Only 20 out of 260 seats were filled in the 14 May ballot. Chihir, stressing that his government will provide only minimal financing for future votes, suggested that money could be saved by scrapping the requirement that a candidate win 50% plus one vote in his electoral district to gain parliament representation. He also said his government was in no rush to begin printing coins and bank notes with the Soviet-era emblem and flag, which the population voted to bring back in the 14 May referendum. The project would cost $7 million, he said. On the overwhelming popular support for economic integration with Russia expressed in the same referendum, Chihir said the first important steps were taken when Belarus and Russia signed a protocol last week on a customs union agreement. He said the process had entered a second stage in which the two countries would formulate a "single-price policy" and sign an agreement on a "payments union." -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. BELARUSIAN-UKRAINIAN RELATIONS. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Henadii Udovenko ended a two-day visit to Minsk on 16 May, Interfax and Radio Ukraine reported the same day. He and his Belarussian counterpart, Uladzimir Senko, told a press conference that 40 bilateral agreements had already been signed and an additional 14 were being prepared in anticipation of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's state visit to Belarus. The date of the Belarus-Ukraine summit will be fixed during the 26 May CIS summit in Minsk. Udovenko said the Belarusian defense minister had been invited to observe Ukrainian-American military exercises in western Ukraine scheduled for late May. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINE HOLDS TALKS WITH G-7 ON CHORNOBYL SHUTDOWN. A G-7 delegation and representatives of the World Bank and EBRD are meeting with Ukrainian officials in Kiev to discuss the closure of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, Interfax-Ukraine and UNIAR TV News reported on 16 May. Ukraine has pledged to close the plant by the year 2,000. Ukrainian officials presented the delegation with a list of expenses and a timetable for decommissioning the two still-functioning reactors at Chornobyl. The Ukrainians emphasized that the final costs of the shutdown would approach $4 billion. The G-7 delegation offered Ukraine $400-500 million in grants and $1.5 billion in loans for the project. The timetable calls for Unit No. 1 to be shutdown in 1997 and Unit No. 3 by the end of 1999. But Ukrainian officials say this deadline can be met only with substantial Western assistance. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. CRIME IN BALTIC STATES. The Latvian Interior Ministry has announced that the number of crimes registered in Latvia during the first four months of 1995 was down 6.8% on the same period in 1994, BNS reported on 12 May. Registered crimes in Estonia and Lithuania for the same period, however, increased by 6.4% and 18%, respectively. The crime rate per 10,000 inhabitants was 78.9 in Estonia, 54.8 in Lithuania, and 48 in Latvia. In the first quarter of 1995, crimes involving the use of weapons decreased by 18% in Latvia and 27% in Lithuania but increased by almost 50% in Estonia. The number of smuggling cases more than doubled in Latvia and Lithuania but increased by only 28.6% in Estonia. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. ESTONIAN PRESIDENT IN FINLAND. Lennart Meri, accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Riivo Sinijarv and State Chancellor Uno Veering, arrived in Helsinki on 16 May for an official three-day visit, BNS reported. Talks with Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari focused on security questions, energy cooperation, and trade issues. Estonia agreed to Finland's conditions for establishing visa-free travel between the two countries, and accords on jointly fighting crime and returning illegal immigrants were signed. Meri is scheduled to give a lecture at Turku University and visit a mobile telephone factory in Salo and the Arctic Center at Rovaniemi, the capital of Laplania. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. NEW LITHUANIAN ENERGY MINISTER SWORN IN. Arvydas Kostas Lescinskas was sworn in as energy minister on 16 May, Interfax reported. Lescinskas, a 48-year-old mechanical engineer, was a member of the Lithuanian parliament from 1990-1992 and deputy transportation minister from 1993- 1995. He replaced Algimantas Stasiukynas, who resigned after raising electricity prices from 1 May from 0.16 litas ($0.04) to 0.2 litas per kilowatt-hour. Hot water prices are expected to be increased significantly in June. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. STATE'S ROLE IN POLISH PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN QUESTIONED. Members of the Political Advisory Committee at the Internal Affairs Ministry have asked the minister to convene a committee meeting to discuss the role of the State Protection Office (UOP) in the upcoming presidential elections, Polish media reported on 17 May. The committee members expressed concern about the UOP's "interest in public figures, including members of the ruling coalition." Aleksander Kwasniewski, chairman of the parliamentary Constitutional Commission, said on 16 May that he does not regard his current duties and presidential candidacy as incompatible. Polish law is unclear on whether officials holding high office may run for the Presidency. But some commentators have debated whether Supreme Court President Adam Strzembosz, and Ombudsman Tadeusz Zielinski should give up their posts while taking part in the presidential race. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. POLAND INTRODUCES SEMI-FLOATING CURRENCY RATES. Partly floating exchange rates for convertible currencies were introduced in Poland on 16 May, Polish media reported. The rates of exchange will be allowed to deviate by up to 7% from the rate established by the Central Bank, which is based on a 1.2% monthly devaluation. The zloty gained 1.5% on the U.S, dollar and 2.2% on the convertible-currencies basket on 16 May. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. CZECHS TO CRACK DOWN ON RACISM AFTER MURDER OF ROMA. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus on 16 May called a special meeting of ministers, police, and the chief state attorney to prepare tougher action against racist speeches and attacks, Czech media reported. The meeting was held in response to the murder four days earlier of a 42-year-old Roma in the town of Zdar nad Sazavou. A group of young skinheads broke into the Roma's home and, in front of his five children, beat him around the head with a baseball bat. "It's not a run-of-the-mill case," Klaus said, adding that the attack was completely unprovoked. Justice Minister Jiri Novak was instructed to prepare proposals that racist attacks be subject to greater punishment than at present. State attorneys will be urged to push for the highest possible penalties. Last year, 160 racist clashes-- mainly between skinheads and Roma--were registered in the Czech Republic, Rude pravo reported. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. DEMONSTRATION IN SUPPORT OF SLOVAK PRESIDENT. Two Slovak opposition parties, the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and the Democratic Union, organized a demonstration in Bratislava on 16 May to express support for President Michal Kovac, Slovak media reported. The rally came in the wake of the parliament's recent no-confidence vote and the coalition parties' subsequent calls for his resignation. Bratislava Mayor Peter Kresanek as well as representatives of the Hungarian Christian Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party joined the demonstrators, estimated to have numbered between 20,000 and 40,000. Meanwhile, following the lead of the Conference of Bishops of Slovakia, the Ecumenical Council of Churches issued a statement expressing concern about the tensions between the parliamentary majority and the president, Narodna obroda reported on 16 May. The council said it valued the efforts of the president to build broad cooperation, regardless of political or religious orientation. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS TO BEGIN AGAINST FORMER SLOVAK INFORMATION SERVICE OFFICIALS? Ivan Lexa, director of the Slovak Information Service, has asked the Slovak attorney-general to begin criminal proceedings against his predecessor, Vladimir Mitro, as well as former SIS intelligence chief Igor Cibula. Lexa is accusing Mitro of acting against the security of the republic and of breaking his legal obligation to remain silent, Sme reported. Both Mitro and Cibula, who resigned from their posts in February claiming they did not enjoy the confidence of the government, have discussed their situation with representatives of the press. Lexa is a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SARAJEVO UNDER SIEGE. Sarajevo and its surrounding areas came under heavy attack on 16 May, international media reported the following day. According to Vecernji list, it was one of the fiercest days of fighting between Serbian and Bosnian Muslim forces in the Bosnian capital. The same newspaper also reported that at present, there is no reliable information on casualties. Nasa Borba stressed that serious artillery duels have been taking place and that heavy weapons--banned within Sarajevo's exclusion zone limits--have been used by both sides. According to some agency accounts, Serbian forces just outside Sarajevo have also seized a UN weapons cache. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. BOUTROS GHALI ON BOSNIAN PEACEKEEPING. The BBC on 17 May reported that UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali has outlined four options for the future of UN peacekeeping operations in war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina. He noted that the recent intensification of fighting in the country may result in maintaining operations at their present level, using air strikes, pulling out, or scaling down. Boutros-Ghali, said he preferred scaling down. Bosnian UN ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey responded that any such move would amount to serious losses for the Bosnian government and people. NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes, for his part, rejected any ideas of scaling down or withdrawal, the BBC reported on 17 May. He argued that the UN has to get tougher to regain credibility. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. "SEX, DRUGS, AND HEINEKEN." This is one of the favorite mottos of Dutch peacekeepers in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Die Presse reported on 12 May. The men there have established a reputation for alcohol and drug abuse, as well as for violence against local prostitutes. But now Dutch opinion is scandalized by fresh reports that the force has used children lured with candy as guinea pigs to test for mine fields. Military and civilian authorities are investigating. Meanwhile, AFP on 16 May reported on the general malaise and feeling of uselessness among the UN peacekeepers in Croatia. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. CROATIAN PRESIDENT IN GERMANY. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman met with ranking German officials, including Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, in Bonn on 16 May, Vjesnik reported. Tudjman reiterated his promise that the Croatian army would withdraw from a UN buffer zone separating Croatian forces and rebel Krajina Serbs on 16 May. But the BBC reported the next day that it is unclear whether Croatian forces are pulling back in accordance with deadlines. In other news, Nasa Borba reported that Vuk Draskovic, leader of the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement, is to arrive in Germany on 17 May at the invitation of Foreign Minister Kinkel. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. TRIALS IN MACEDONIA. Defense lawyers of the director of the self- proclaimed Albanian-language university in Tetovo Fadil Sulejmani have offered DM 50,000 for his release on bail, Flaka reported on 16 May. Sulejmani was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for "inciting resistance." His case is to reviewed by a court of appeal. Meanwhile, the trial of Nevzat Halili, leader of the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity-Party for the Peoples' Unity (PPD-PUPM) began in Tetovo the same day. Halili is charged with "participating in a rally interfering with public authorities, executing their duties" and with "organizing that rally." Like Sulejmani, he was arrested in connection with a riot that broke out after the police crackdown on the Albanian- language university on 17 February. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. MACEDONIAN-GREEK UPDATE. In an effort to settle the diplomatic dispute between Macedonia and Greece, UN mediator Cyrus Vance and U.S. President Bill Clinton's special envoy Matthew Nimetz on 13 May met with Greek opposition leader Miltiadis Evert in New York, Greek newspapers reported the following day. Vance said he expected progress in settling the Greek-Macedonian dispute, while Evert assessed the meeting as useful and said that his party, New Democracy, always believed in the need to settle the questions between Greece and Macedonia by dialogue. Meanwhile, the Athens daily Elevtherotypia on 12 May cited diplomatic sources in Athens as saying the Macedonian-Greek talks will be completed by the end of the summer. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. GERMAN PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO ROMANIA. Roman Herzog, at the end of his official visit to Romania, told a joint session of the bicameral parliament on 16 May that ethnic minorities must be included in the reform process. Radio Bucharest carried the speech live. Herzog noted that if reforms do not foresee adequate protection for employees, social tension may endanger the reform process. He pledged to assist Romanian efforts to become part of European and NATO structures. At a joint press conference with President Ion Iliescu, Herzog said that attracting more foreign investment depended not only on legislation but on how the law is implemented. Also on 16 May, representatives of the Romanian and German Foreign Ministries signed a bilateral cultural agreement. At the start of his private visit to Romania, Herzog traveled the same day to the Transylvanian town of Sibiu, where he met with representatives of the German minority. The German president is scheduled to visit three more settlements linked to the historical presence of Germans in Romania. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN UNION DEMANDS GOVERNMENT'S DISMISSAL. The leader of Alfa, a major trade union confederation in Romania, told a press conference in Bucharest that the union's leadership is demanding that the parliament dismiss Nicolae Vacaroiu's government. Radio Bucharest and Romanian Television on 16 May quoted Bogdan Hossu as saying the decision was adopted by a meeting of the confederation's Coordinating Council, also attended by leaders of other large trade union confederations. Hossu noted that the decision was in response to a referendum conducted among union members. He added that the parliament and the president should appoint "a new government team" that is credible in the eyes of the trade unions and capable of concluding a "social pact" with them. The union said it would start countrywide labor protests if its demand is not met by 26 May. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. MOLDOVAN OFFICIAL CHALLENGES LEBED STATEMENT. Dumitru Diacov, chairman of the Moldovan parliament's Commission for Foreign Relations, told BASA-press on 13 May that Lt. Gen. Alexander Lebed's statement the previous day advising against the withdrawal of Russia's 14th Army was unjustified. He said Lebed's expressed fears that the withdrawal might provoke a new outbreak of conflict can be explained only by the fact that there are forces in the breakaway region interested in prolonging the Chisinau-Tiraspol dispute. Diacov stressed that Moldova will not resort to force and that Lebed is aware of that. But Stanislav Khadzhev, defense minister of the self-styled republic, told BASA-press that Tiraspol's position on the withdrawal was identical to Lebed's. If the 14th Army is withdrawn before the resolution of the Transdniestrian dispute, a new armed conflict will be inevitable, he said. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. HELSINKI COMMITTEE, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CRITICIZE TIRASPOL. Stefan Uratu, chairman of the Moldovan Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, said on 15 May that the situation of Ilie Ilascu has worsened recently, BASA-press reported. Ilascu, who has been condemned to death by the Tiraspol authorities for alleged terrorist activities, is suffering from severe dropsy. The Helsinki Committee has been negotiating with Tiraspol since late February to have independent doctors provide medical attendance to Ilascu and other detainees. Radio Bucharest on 13 May reported that Amnesty International has published a report on violations of human rights in the Transdniester breakaway region. The report also deals with the case of the "Ilascu group." BASA-press said the report claims the worsening of Ilascu's condition is also due to the economic crisis in Tiraspol, which has resulted in inadequate food supplies to prisons. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN PRESIDENT, PREMIER HOLD TALKS. Zhelyu Zhelev and Zhan Videnov on 16 May met to discuss the political situation in Bulgaria and their differing political views, Bulgarian newspapers reported the following day. The two leaders agreed that cooperation between state institutions must improve, regardless of ideological and political differences. But they avoided discussing Bulgaria's possible membership in NATO. Kontinent wrote that many questions "remained unanswered" after the meeting. The press centers of the president and the prime minister announced that meetings between the two leaders will take place on a regular basis. But 24 chasa suggests that "the cold war [between the two men] will continue," as it is "rooted in the constitution" and there is no qualified parliamentary majority to change it. -- 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. 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