|He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson|
No. 106, Part II, 1 June 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 CALLS NON-BINDING PLEBISCITE TO BREAK POLITICAL DEADLOCK. Leonid Kuchma on 31 May ordered a legally non-binding nationwide plebiscite on confidence in himself and the parliament, international and Ukrainian news agencies reported the same day. The plebiscite is to be held on 28 June. Kuchma, in an address to the nation on state television, said he called the poll to break the deadlock between himself and the divided legislature over his recently approved law on separation of powers, which gives him increased executive authority to preside over economic reforms. Communists deputies recently blocked the enactment of the law by voting against changes to the constitution necessary for it to take effect. Under Ukrainian law, the president cannot alone decree a legally-binding referendum, so the results of the poll will carry no legal weight. Kuchma has said he will resign if he fails to muster the population' s support for his political and economic reform efforts. -- Chrystyna Lapychak , OMRI, Inc. CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT CANCELS CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM. The Crimean legislature on 31 May voted to cancel a regionwide referendum, scheduled for 25 June, on its banned constitution, thereby avoiding a public showdown with Ukrainian authorities, international and Ukrainian news agencies reported the same day. The deputies also charged a parliamentary committee with drafting a new constitution for the autonomous region in line with a 1992 Ukrainian law on power-sharing between Kiev and Simferopol. The Ukrainian parliament recently ordered Crimean deputies to cancel by 1 June the controversial referendum on the 1992 Crimean Constitution, which Ukraine annulled as too separatist. Crimean lawmakers have requested that a joint committee be established with Ukrainian legislators to hammer out differences over their autonomous status. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. BELARUSIAN ELECTIONS CRITICIZED BY DOMESTIC PRESS. Several leading Belarusian newspapers, including Zvyazda, Sovetskaya Belorussiya, Narodnaya hazeta, and Vyacherni Minsk, have criticized the recent parliamentary elections in Belarus, which failed to produce a new parliament, Belarusian Television reported on 30 May. The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, meeting the following day to discuss the situation, said one of the main problems was that under the current electoral law, elections can be repeated indefinitely. It was decided to call an emergency parliamentary session on 14 June to amend the electoral law. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER CRITICIZED FOR STATE OF NATION ADDRESS. Tiit Vahi, in his 31 May state of the nation address, said the 3.2% decline in GDP in 1994, reported by the Statistics Department, was due to declining demand for Estonian-made products, BNS reported. He commented that consumers seemed inclined to purchase imported goods rather than those locally produced, sharply increasing the trade deficit. Opposition deputies accused Vahi of painting an unfavorable picture in order to claim greater achievements later. He was accused of purposefully ignoring a Bank of Estonia report showing GDP in 1994 increasing by 4.7% and an IMF estimate of an even greater increase. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LATVIA' S BALTIJA BANK PARTIALLY RESUMES OPERATIONS. Latvia' s largest commercial bank, Baltija Bank, resumed partial banking operations on 31 May, Interfax reported. Bank of Latvia President Einars Repse suspended the bank' s operations on 23 May, and its shares were transferred to the government two days later to prevent its bankruptcy. Baltija Bank President Uldis Klauss said the bank resumed accepting deposits from the population, the exchange of cash and non-cash currency, and the repayment of money transferred to client accounts after 23 May. -- Saulius Girnius , OMRI, Inc. LITHUANIA SEEKS MORE GERMAN INVESTMENT. Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius, accompanied by several government officials, attended a conference in Duisburg on 30 May on business and investment possibilities in Lithuania, BNS reported the next day. The Lithuanian government and Lithuanian Investment Agency had previously arranged similar conferences in London and Copenhagen to encourage foreign investments. The conference discussed a project, estimated to cost about $350 million, to build a European-standard railway line from the Polish border to Kaunas. The project would be carried out by a German consortium including Siemens and Krups. Germany is Lithuania' s second largest trading partner. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLISH ANTIMONOPOLY COURT UPHOLDS VERDICT AGAINST FIAT. The Antimonopoly Court in Warsaw on 31 May upheld the verdict against Fiat Auto Poland issued by the Polish Antimonopoly Office in December 1994. The court ruled that the Antimonopoly Office acted entirely appropriately in finding that Fiat abused its dominant position on the Polish auto market by requiring Polish buyers of small Fiat cars to pay the total amount first and then wait three-six months for delivery. The court agreed that this meant the involuntary granting of interest-free loans to Fiat by Polish car buyers worth 30 million zloty ($1.4 million). The Antimonopoly Office fined Fiat the same amount. A Fiat spokesman told Gazeta Wyborcza on 1 June that his company is "surprised and disturbed" by the court' s ruling which, he said, "restricts both the development of the free market in Poland and Poland' s process of integration into the EU." -- Ben Slay, OMRI, Inc. CZECHS STILL WAITING FOR SLOVAK REPLY ON CLEARING SYSTEM. Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus on 31 May said he has received no reply from his Slovak counterpart, Vladimir Meciar, about ending the payments clearing system used for bilateral trade since the split of Czechoslovakia, Hospodarske noviny reported. Klaus, in a letter to Meciar on 10 May, proposed ending the system by 1 September and asked the Slovak premier to respond by the end of May. Under the system, the Czech Republic has run up a deficit every month for a year, which has to be made up in hard currency. Slovak Finance Minister Sergej Kozlik has said the clearing system could be modified, not scrapped. Slovakia revalued its currency within the clearing system on 19 May, slowing down the rise of the Czech deficit, which stood at 330 million ECU at the end of May, Hospodarske noviny quoted Slovak officials as saying. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. AGREEMENT REACHED BETWEEN SLOVAK CONSERVATIVES. Democratic Party (DS) chairman Peter Osusky and Permanent Conference of the Civic Institute (SKOI) leader Jan Langos on 31 May signed an agreement to join forces before the DS' s congress in November, Sme reports. The agreement was referred to as a first step toward uniting the Right and encouraging cooperation among Slovakia' s "non-socialist and democratic politicians." The SKOI will cease to function as a political subject but will remain a civic association. A number of SKOI members ran on the election list of the Christian Democratic Movement in last fall' s elections, and Langos is now a parliamentary deputy. The DS, which ran as an independent subject, failed to pass the 5% threshold needed to gain parliamentary representation. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK ECONOMIC UPDATE. Narodna obroda on 1 June reported that industrial production grew at an annual rate of 7.6% in March, a 1.2% increase over the figure for 1994. Construction rose at an annual rate of 3% in the same month, down from 8% in February and 5.3% in 1994. Slovakia' s unemployment rate fell to 14.6%, down from 15.2% in January. Hard currency reserves at the National Bank of Slovakia reached $1.969 billion, up from $1.745 billion at the end of 1994. The Slovak currency strengthened to 29.4 koruny to $1 in March, an improvement over the rate of 32 koruny in 1994. Annual inflation fell from 11.7% in 1994 to 11.3%. Meanwhile, Slovakia' s GDP grew at an annual rate of 4.8% in 1994, having dropped 4.1% the previous year. -- Sharon Fisher , OMRI, Inc. HUNGARIAN PREMIER CRITICIZES WEST. Gyula Horn on 31 May told an economic conference in Budapest that international financial institutions "do not pay proper attention to the predicament of the Central and East European region," international media reported. Horn argued that Western countries are not showing enough understanding for the difficulties of the transition from a centrally planned to a free market economy. Horn did not specify which financial institutions he had in mind, but the IMF and the World Bank have both said they will not extend further credits or development assistance until Hungary sharply reduces government spending and its huge current account deficit. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. EAST EUROPEANS APPLAUD RUSSIA-NATO PARTNERSHIP. East European foreign ministers, at a meeting of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council in the Netherlands on 31 May, welcomed Russia' s decision to forge a new partnership with NATO, international agencies reported the same day. Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu expressed the hope that the participation of Russia will demonstrate that the enlargement of NATO is a "beneficial process." His Polish counterpart, Wladyslaw Bartoszewki, said that whatever "binds Russia into the international security system is a very positive development for us." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN SERBS STEP UP ATTACKS ON SARAJEVO AND GORAZDE. Bosnian Serb forces shelled Debelo Brdo on the Sarajevo front on 31 May and increased their attacks on the mainly Muslim enclave of Gorazde, in eastern Bosnia. Nasa Borba the following day noted that similar Serb shelling in Sarajevo on 24 May prompted NATO air strikes. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says that the Serbs have captured a total of 36 UN vehicles, including six light tanks. They have begun cruising around government- held portions of Sarajevo using the vehicles with their original markings and intimidating UN staff. The Serbs called for direct talks with the Contact Group to discuss freeing the approximately 370 hostages, but the UN says that the Serbs must unconditionally release their prisoners now. -- Patrick Moore , OMRI, Inc. AKASHI REASSURES IZETBEGOVIC ABOUT BRITISH TROOPS. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 1 June reports that UN special envoy Yasushi Akashi told the Bosnian president that the approximately 6,000 British soldiers currently arriving will be under UN command. The Bosnians refused to let the contingent proceed beyond Gornji Vakuf to the British base at Vitez, in central Bosnia, until it was made clear that they were not part of any British effort to withdraw peacekeepers. Meanwhile, the EU mediator in the Yugoslav crisis for the past three years, Lord Owen, has announced he will step down at the end of June. He said the move was unrelated to the latest developments but added that he feared Britain was increasingly being sucked into a Balkan war, the BBC reported on 31 May. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. BOUTROS GHALI PRESENTS NEW PLANS FOR BOSNIA. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali has issued a paper stating that the present concept for UNPROFOR is untenable and suggested some alternatives. One proposal would involve reduced operations and concentrates on humanitarian aid and simply "monitoring" the UN-declared "safe areas" rather than trying to defend them. The other proposal would scrap UNPROFOR as an international peace-keeping mission and replace it with a more active multinational force under individual national commands, apparently on the model of the Gulf War. The world body is to debate the suggestions, international media reported on 31 May. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. CLINTON OFFERS U.S. GROUND TROOPS FOR BOSNIA. U.S. President Bill Clinton, addressing the Air Force Academy on 31 May, for the first time raised the possibility that U.S. ground troops would be sent to Bosnia. The measure would be "temporary" and only if the allies requested the soldiers to help UNPROFOR. He attached several additional conditions, including the need to consult an increasingly isolationist Congress. The VOA quoted Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole as saying that the U.S. should drop the UNPROFOR concept entirely and concentrate on arming the Bosnian government instead. -- Patrick Moore , OMRI, Inc. NEW TRIALS IN KOSOVO. The trial of 72 ethnic Albanian former policemen charged with separatist activities began in Pristina on 29 May, AFP reported the same day. The policemen are charged with setting up a shadow-state Interior Ministry, stockpiling large amounts of weapons and equipment, and spying on Serbian police and the Yugoslav army. They face up to 10 years in prison. The trial raises the number of former ethnic Albanian policemen tried on the same charges to 160. Meanwhile, at a trial in Gnjilan of ethnic Albanian policemen accused of "hostile activities," the prosecutor submitted a "decree of the government of Kosovo" allegedly signed by Prime Minister in exile Bujar Bukoshi in 1991. Defense lawyers, however, argued that the document was forged, pointing out that it was in Serbian and that Bukoshi was not prime minister in 1991, according to Kosova Daily Report on 31 May. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. INVESTIGATION INTO JOURNALIST ACCUSING ROMANIAN PRESIDENT OF KGB LINKS. International media reported on 31 May that Romanian police are investigating Sorin Rosca Stanescu, the editor-in-chief of the independent daily Ziua. Stanescu is suspected of having committed an "offense against authority" by writing that President Ion Iliescu was recruited by the KGB in the 1950s while studying in Moscow. The daily Curierul national on 1 June reported that Virgil Magureanu, director of the Romanian Intelligence Service, told the Senate commission supervising the activities of his organization, that the accusations were "pure invention." -- Michael Shafir , OMRI, Inc. REPORT ON DISMISSED ROMANIAN MAYORS. The European Council' s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in Europe on 31 May debated the case of recently dismissed Romanian mayors, Radio Bucharest reported the same day. The debate followed a visit to Romania by a council delegation earlier this month. The council recommended that the Romanian parliament and government amend the law on local administration to curtail the prerogatives of the prefects and increase the powers of the judiciary to review the cases of mayors who are dismissed or suspended. It also proposed speeding up the passage of laws ensuring the financial independence of local government and the better use of PHARE funds allocated to improve the training of local government officials. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. LUCINSCHI ON U.S. SUPPORT FOR MOLDOVA. The U.S. fully supports the independence and statehood of Moldova, parliament chairman Petru Lucinschi said in Chisinau on 30 May following his week-long trip to the U.S. Infotag reported the same day that Lucinschi met with senators and State Department and World Bank officials. Lucinschi said the U.S. shows understanding for Moldovan attempts to cooperate with Iran, despite the US-imposed embargo, because it realizes Chisinau must seek alternatives to Russian-imported energy. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. SUSPECT CHARGED IN BULGARIAN INVESTMENT SCANDAL. An investment fund clerk was charged with embezzlement on 31 May, international agencies reported the same day. Desislava Chaneva was arrested on 30 May as she tried to flee to Greece with 20 million leva ($310,000) belonging to shareholders of the Alba Bul investment fund, based in Varna. Alba Bul was the fourth fund in Varna within one week to stop paying dividends and close. At least 15 other such schemes are still operating in Varna. Investments in Alba Bul are estimated at $4.5 million. If convicted, Chaneva faces up to 10 years in prison. * Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. GREECE RATIFIES UN SEA CONVENTION LAW DESPITE TURKISH OBJECTIONS. The Greek parliament on 1 June unanimously ratified the UN Law of the Sea Convention, Reuters reported the same day. The treaty allows Greece to extend its territorial waters from the present six to 12 miles at a moment' s notice. Turkey opposes the treaty, saying an extension of Greece' s water would seal off its Aegean coastline and turn the Aegean into a Greek lake. Ankara has said any extension will be "cause for war," and Turkish diplomatic sources have been cited as saying Ankara will send warships down the Aegean if Greece implements the 12-mile zone. Athens has not said it will enforce the treaty, but Deputy Foreign Minister Georgios-Alexandros Mangakis commented that "Greece will exercise its rights whenever its interests dictate." -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIA' S LARGEST TRADE UNIONS TO BOYCOTT ILO SESSION. Podkrepa and the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria will boycott the 82nd session of the International Labor Organization in Geneva, Standart reported on 31 May. The decision was made after Labor Minister Mincho Koralski named the Association of Free Trade Union Organization as Bulgaria' s official delegate. According to the two unions, Koralski' s move contravenes the ILO statutes, which state that trade unions are to hold consultations over which representatives to send to ILO sessions. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIA' S NEW PENAL CODE TAKES EFFECT. Populli PO reported on 31 May that the new penal code, which takes effect on 1 June, will open "one of the doors to the Council of Europe." The council demanded that Albania abolish the death penalty and ratify the European convention on safeguarding minority rights before it decides on Albanian membership on 29 June. The new penal code enables communist party leader Fatos Nano to bring his case to an appeals court. Nano is serving a prison term for embezzlement and forging documents. His case has been treated as a human rights issue by various opposition parties. -- 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. 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 Copyright (c) Open Media Research Institute, Inc. 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