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No. 107, Part II, 2 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 PARLIAMENT VETOES KUCHMA'S PLEBISCITE. The Ukrainian legislature on 1 June voted 252 to nine to veto President Leonid Kuchma's 31 May decree calling a legally non-binding plebiscite on confidence in himself and the parliament, international and Ukrainian news agencies reported 1 June. Lawmakers called the poll unconstitutional. They also said his decree did not specify how the cash-strapped government would pay for the nationwide plebiscite. The legislators prohibited the government and local authorities from allocating funds for any national referendum until the end of the year. They ordered Kuchma to submit the draft of a "constitutional accord" allowing the implementation of his law on separation of powers. They also proposed that he submit by 8 June a list of candidates for prime minister and the eight portfolios that, under current law, the parliament must approve. The current acting cabinet was dismissed in April, but Kuchma has waited for the enactment of the new political reform law to gain the exclusive right to appoint the ministers. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. PRICE HIKES IN UKRAINE. Ukrainian authorities increased utility prices for individual consumers as of 1 June, Interfax-Ukraine reported the same day. The price of heating has doubled, while those for water and sewage disposal have risen by 40%. The government announced recently that it intends to incrementally bring utility rates, which were previously heavily subsidized, to 60 % of their real costs; on 1 June, they stood at 30% . Bread retailers have threatened to raise bread prices by 10-20% next week. Such austerity measures are blamed for Kuchma's declining popularity in many parts of the country. A March poll by the International Sociology Institute in Kiev revealed only a 38% national confidence rating for the president, down from 76% in December. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN BRUSSELS. Ukrainian Radio on 1 June reported that Leonid Kuchma European Union Foreign Commissioner Hans van der Broek signed in Brussels a temporary agreement on trade and trade relations. European Commission President Jacques Santer hailed the agreement as establishing a special relationship between the EU and Ukraine. The agreement--the first of its kind to be signed by the EU and a former Soviet republic--was contingent on Ukraine's promise to close down the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. The same day Kuchma visited NATO headquarters and met with NATO chief Willy Claes. Claes said that Ukraine will be invited to a special "16 plus 1" meeting with NATO. Ukraine's recent policy toward NATO is to seek a special relationship with the alliance. * Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. CRIMEAN LEGISLATURE GIVES INITIAL APPROVAL TO NEW CONSTITUTION. Crimean deputies have given their initial approval to the draft of a new constitution, UNIAR reported on 1 June. The draft is based largely on the 1992 Crimean Constitution, annulled by Kiev in March as too separatist, but several amendments have been made, including the incorporation of the full text of a 1992 Ukrainian law on power-sharing between Ukrainian and Crimean authorities. Lawmakers also kept the article, opposed by Kiev, establishing a presidency in the autonomous region. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE ON IMF CREDIT TO MINSK. Interfax on 1 June reported that the IMF is continuing talks with the Belarusian government on releasing $250 million of a stand-by credit to Minsk. An IMF mission collecting data on the Belarusian economy began work last week. The IMF made $102 million available to the country in February but did not release the larger stand-by credit because donor countries, reportedly concerned about Belarus's failure to adhere to its economic reform program, would not confirm their co-financing. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. ESTONIA'S RUSSIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS WANT ALIENS LAW AMENDED. Viktor Andreev, a member of the Russian caucus in the Estonian parliament, on 31 May proposed that the aliens law be amended to guarantee permanent residence permits to everyone who settled or was born in Estonia before 1 July 1990, BNS reported. He also proposed that the 12 July deadline for aliens to file for residence and work permits be extended. Although about half a million non-citizens live in Estonia, only 210,000 applied for permits by 30 May. Officials may thus find it difficult to process other applications in the six remaining weeks. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LATVIAN PROSECUTORS BEGIN CRIMINAL CASE ON BALTIJA BANK. Biruda Bilbe, a spokesperson for the Latvian prosecutor's office, said on 1 June that a criminal investigation has begun against Talis Freimanis and Aleksandrs Lavents, former heads of the Baltija Bank, Reuters reported. The two have not been arrested but are forbidden to leave Latvia. They are charged with exchanging 60% of the bank's credit resources, worth about 80 million lati ($156 million), for Russian state treasury bonds redeemable in 2008 with 3% annual interest. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LITHUANIAN GANG MEMBER TO BE QUESTIONED IN GERMANY. A Lithuanian prosecutor will travel to Dusseldorf next week to interrogate Igor Tiomkin about the murder on 12 October 1993 of Respublika deputy editor Vitas Lingys, BNS reported on 1 June. Tiomkin, a member of the criminal gang known as the "Vilnius brigade," was arrested on 4 May. Lithuania has asked for his extradition and even agreed not to sentence him to death, but it may take several more weeks before a German court authorizes the transfer. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLAND TO BECOME MEMBER OF WTO. The Ministry of Foreign Economic Cooperation has announced that Poland will become a member of the World Trade Organization on 1 July. Polish President Lech Walesa on 30 May signed an agreement committing Poland to abolish all trade barriers, except customs, with the other 121 WTO members, Polish and international media reported on 2 June. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. POLISH REACTION TO RUSSIAN-NATO RELATIONS. Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, commenting on Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev's proposal for common NATO-Russian security guarantees for former Soviet satellites, said that "to belong to a security system or to receive a security guarantee is exclusively a matter of competence of an interested country. We don't want to accept security guarantees from somebody else. We want to be in a common security system and not inside a crossword puzzle," Polish media reported on 1 June. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. CZECHS SEE KOHL'S SPEECH AS CONCILIATORY. Czech leaders welcomed German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's conciliatory tone toward Czech-German relations in a speech to the Bundestag on 1 June marking the 50th anniversary of the expulsion of ethnic Germans from various Central and East European countries, Czech media reported. But they again insisted there can be no revision of the Benes decrees under which Sudeten Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II. Kohl thanked President Vaclav Havel and Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus for recognizing that the expulsions from Czechoslovakia were unjust. He added that he hoped "a reasonable solution with the Czech Republic" will soon be possible. Havel told Czech and German television that Kohl was accepting the hand of friendship extended by recent Czech diplomatic initiatives, while Klaus welcomed the tone of the speech. Both, however, rejected Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber's repeated demand that they repeal the Benes decrees. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. NEW PETITION LIST SCANDAL IN SLOVAKIA. The Association of Workers of Slovakia (ZRS), a member of the government coalition, may have competed illegally in last fall's parliamentary elections, Slovak media reported on 2 June. The election law requires that each new party collect 10,000 signatures to participate in the vote. Two former ZRS members have informed journalists that approximately 2,000 names on the ZRS lists were copied by current ZRS parliamentary deputy Jan Garaj from a list of unemployed people at the district labor office in Nove Zamky. Chairman of the extraparliamentary Republican Party Ivan Duris said his party has submitted a request to the attorney-general that the ZRS lists be investigated. This development follows an ongoing dispute over the petition lists of the opposition Democratic Union. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES AUSTERITY PACKAGE. The Hungarian parliament on 31 May adopted a package of measures aimed at drastically cutting the country's public sector deficit, which is expected to reach $2.28 billion this year, international media reported. Two socialist ministers have resigned since the austerity package, proposed by Gyula Horn's socialist-liberal government, was first unveiled on 12 March. It provides for sharp reductions in social benefits, layoffs of civil servants and teachers, and the introduction of fees for higher education institutions. Finance Minister Lajos Bokros estimates that the implementation of the package will save the government some 170 billion forints ($1.37 billion). -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KARADZIC WARNS OF "SLAUGHTER." Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, in his first public remarks in several days, said that the hostage crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina "has to be solved by political means." He added that "any attempt to liberate [the UN peacekeepers being held hostage by Bosnian Serbs] by force would end in catastrophe. It would be a slaughter." International media noted on 2 June that the number of hostages now stands at 372 and that a Swedish civil affairs officer was released soon after his capture the previous day. Britain has admitted that it is maintaining "contacts" with Pale but insists that these "are not negotiations," Nasa Borba reported on 2 June. AFP said the previous day that UNPROFOR troops are "living in fear of their own stolen vehicles" and that "every UNPROFOR vehicle could contain Bosnian Serbs in disguise, and so it has to be treated as a potential enemy." -- Patrick Moore , OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN FORCES CLOSE IN ON GORAZDE. Nasa Borba on 2 June reported that Bosnian Serb troops are now only 2 kilometers from the center of the besieged Muslim enclave, whose population is swollen with refugees. The Serbs continue to shell the town, but there is no confirmation of Bosnian government charges that the Serbs are bringing up reinforcements. The BBC reported that it was otherwise "a quiet night in Bosnia." -- Patrick Moore , OMRI, Inc. BOSNIAN FOREIGN MINISTER AGAINST CHANGING UN MANDATE. The Bosnian government and the Bosnian Serbs are both wary of any projected changes in UNPROFOR's mandate. The new Bosnian foreign minister, former UN ambassador Muhamed Sacerbey, told the BBC on 1 June that the UN suffered from having appeased the Serbs for too long and that any weakening of the mandate would turn the peacekeepers into "truck drivers for humanitarian aid." The Bosnian government wants instead to have the means to defend itself and some air cover but not foreign ground troops. The BBC and VOA on 2 June noted that the UN debate over the mandate is likely to drag on for at least two weeks and that neither the proposal to weaken the present arrangement nor the one to replace it with a multi-national military force is likely to be accepted. -- Patrick Moore , OMRI, Inc. CROATIA SLAMS "MORAL CAPITULATION." Foreign Minister Mate Granic warned that further concessions to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic would amount to "moral capitulation...at a time when the entire international community is faced with unprecedented acts of barbarity and the peace forces are suffering humiliation." Granic charged that Milosevic still "pulls the strings of war" in both Bosnia and Croatia, AFP reported on 2 June. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. CHRISTOPHER URGES BELGRADE TO MAKE CLEAN BREAK WITH BOSNIAN SERBS. Reuters on 1 June reported that U.S. Secretary of Sate Warren Christopher has appealed to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to "take sides with the rest of the civilized world" and break ties with the Bosnian Serb leadership. Christopher also remarked that U.S. diplomatic efforts so far have failed to convince Milosevic to isolate the Bosnian Serbs. He noted that recent meetings between Milosevic and U.S. envoy Robert Frasure produced no agreement on lifting sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia in exchange for Belgrade's recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In other news, Nasa Borba on 2 June reported that 1,000 ultranationalists, meeting in Belgrade the previous day, called for the unity of all Serbian lands and support for unification between Bosnian Serb-held lands and rebel Serb-held territory in Croatia's Krajina area. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ATTACKS HUNGARIAN MINORITY PARTY. Presidential spokesman Traian Chebeleu on 1 June told a press conference that the position of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) at its congress last week was "unacceptable and incomprehensible," Radio Bucharest reported. Chebeleu said the UDMR was attempting to "undermine the basic pillars of the Romanian state" and attempting to set up "a state within a state." He also attacked the congress's appeal to the U.S. to use most favored nation status as an instrument for ensuring Romanian's democratization and respect for minority rights. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARIAN MINORITY LEADER RECEIVES HOAX BOMB BY POST. Romanian Television on 31 May reported that Bela Marko, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), on 31 May received a parcel by post containing what appeared to be a bomb. The parcel, sent from Graz in Austria on 27 May, contained a book that was wired. Police and members Romanian Intelligence Service established that the bomb was a hoax. Senator Karoly Szabo of the UDMR said the parcel seemed to be "some sort of warning." -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIA OBJECTS TO REPORT PRESENTED AT NAA. Presidential spokesman Traian Chebeleu on 1 June said Romania was "disappointed" that at the North Atlantic Assembly session in Budapest in late May, the idea of enlarging NATO "in several stages" was again proposed and that Romania was not among the states perceived as likely to join NATO first, Radio Bucharest reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mircea Geona, in a statement carried by Radio Bucharest the previous day, said Romania was "surprised by...[and had] serious reservations about" a report presented by NNA President Karl Voigt and the deputy chairman of the Hungarian parliament's Defense Commission. Geoana said the report contradicted the "spirit" of the Partnership for Peace program. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON LEBED'S RESIGNATION. Mircea Snegur, in an interview with the Bulgarian news agency BTA, said that if Lt. Gen. Alexander Lebed's resignation is accepted, Moldova will propose "the appointment of a man who will not permit destructive forces to take over the enormous amounts of 14th Army armaments," BASA-press and Infotag reported on 31 May. He pointed out that a settlement to the conflict in the breakaway Transdniestrian region does not depend on who commands the 14th Army but on whether the Tiraspol leadership shows goodwill. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. GREEK-MACEDONIAN TALKS TO START SOON? Negotiations between Athens and Skopje will start at UN headquarters in New York in 10 days, MIC reported on 1 June, citing Greek Mega TV. Unnamed diplomatic sources in New York and Washington are quoted as saying that a transitional agreement will be signed providing for a new Macedonian flag and the simultaneous lifting of the Greek embargo. The text of the agreement is reported to be ready. Meanwhile, Macedonian government spokesman Guner Ismail said Macedonia still insists on Greece's lifting the embargo before the talks start. Matthew Nimetz, one of the mediators in the Greek-Macedonian dispute, told Macedonian Radio that "at least for the moment, a meeting is not foreseen." -- Stefan Krause , OMRI, Inc. UPDATE ON GREEK-TURKISH DISCORD. The Greek parliament's decision to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention was received coolly by Turkey, international media reported on 1 June. Turkish Foreign Minister Erdal Inonu made a clear distinction between ratification and any attempt to extend Greece's territorial waters, which, he said, Ankara would view as cause for war. Within hours of the Greek move to ratify the convention, Turkey went ahead with planned military maneuvers in the Aegean. Athens on 1 June criticized the Turkish maneuvers in the Aegean as provocative and announced it will closely monitor them, Reuters reported the same day. Government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said Ankara "is repeating its usual practice of artificial tension and provocations against Greece." Greece will hold a five-day exercise in the Aegean starting 5 June, but officials said it will not coincide with Turkish maneuvers. -- Lowell Bezanis and Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. G-24 OFFERS AID TO ALBANIA. Albanian Minister for Construction and Tourism Dashamir Shehi said after a G-24 meeting in Brussels that Albania has secured $1 billion for infrastructure investment. One-third of that amount is to come from the World Bank, one-third from EU countries, and one-third from the Albanian government, Reuters reported. Shehi also said the European Investment Bank, the World Bank, and the PHARE program have confirmed they will help finance the $28 million highway linking Tirana to Durres. Another road linking Durres to the Greek border is already under construction with funds from the EU's cross-border program totaling 45 million ECU, Rilindja Demokratike reported on 30 May. Other sectors to be supported are energy, telecommunications, and water supply. -- 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. 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