|History is made out of the failures and heroism of each insignificant moment. - Franz Kafka|
No. 109, Part II, 6 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 OMRI 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 ISSUES ANOTHER DECREE ON REFERENDUM. Leonid Kuchma has issued a decree reconfirming his intent to hold a legally non- binding plebiscite on confidence in himself and the parliament on 28 June, Radio Ukraine reported on 5 June. The referendum is aimed at ending a protracted dispute between the president and the legislature over the law on the separation of powers, which would enable Kuchma to implement economic reforms. Kuchma said the parliament' s 31 May veto of his recent decree on the poll was direct and unconstitutional interference in his authority. He added that the poll did not contravene the constitution, as claimed by the divided legislature. Kuchma also said the poll would be financed from the government' s reserve fund, not from the state budget. But in a conciliatory gesture, the Ukrainian leader also sent an appeal to the parliament to support a proposal that lawmakers review a draft of the so-called "constitutional agreement" allowing the political reform law to take effect. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTS IN UKRAINE. Kuchma told farmers in Cherkasy over the weekend that Ukraine' s new currency, the hryvna, will be introduced this fall, perhaps as early as September, Reuters and Ukrainian Television reported on 5 June. He noted that the precise date will be determined once Ukraine establishes a $1.5 billion stabilization fund to back the currency. He also said the fact that the karbovanets has stabilized at around 150,000 karbovantsi to $1 may allow Ukraine to proceed with monetary reform. Interfax-Ukraine reported on 5 June that the monthly inflation rate dropped to 4.6% in May. Inflation has fallen steadily this year since reaching a high of 21.2% in January. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR ABOLITION OF LOCAL COUNCILS. Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said both local government and the economy need to be reformed, Interfax reported 5 June. He said that when a new parliament is elected, he will ask it to amend legislation on local government to abolish village, town, and district councils. Lukashenka added that if the newly elected deputies are opposed to such a move, he will alter the territorial division of the country by decree. He also said that not one factory in Belarus has been privatized without his consent since he was elected. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ESTONIA, IRELAND DISCUSS VISA-FREE TRAVEL. Estonian Prime Minister Tiit Vahi on 5 June discussed with Irish Ambassador to Estonia Daithi O' Ceallaigh establishing visa-free travel between Estonia and Ireland, BNS reported. O' Ceallaigh, who lives in Helsinki, is scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Riiva Sinijarv and Minister for European Affairs Endel Lippmaa during his five-day visit to Estonia. O' Ceallaigh displayed interest in Estonia' s relations with Russia, particularly the border issue, and in the implementation of market economy reforms. -- Saulius Girnius, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. SWEDEN LIKELY TO RETURN TAMIL REFUGEES TO LITHUANIA. Bjorn Weibo, head of the Swedish immigration board, said on 4 June that 29 Tamil refugees picked up the previous day on a 10-meter yacht adrift off the Swedish coast were likely to be returned to Lithuania, Western agencies reported. Swedish police arrested two Lithuanians on the yacht and charged them with smuggling illegal immigrants. Sweden is reluctant to return other refugees to Lithuania, fearing that they will be sent back to their native countries, where they risk persecution. Sweden, however, does not consider Tamils to be at risk in Sri Lanka and may try to discourage other refugees by sending them back to Lithuania. -- Saulius Girnius, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. POSTCOMMUNISTS GAIN SUPPORT IN POLAND. The postcommunist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) is gaining popularity. In an opinion poll conducted in mid-May and published by Gazeta Wyborcza on 6 June, the SLD received 25% of the vote. Other political parties have seen their popularity dwindle. The Freedom Union won 9%, the Polish Peasant Party 8%, the Labor Union 7%, and Solidarity 6%. If elections had been held in mid-May and the electoral law had remained unchanged, the SLD would have won a majority of 240 seats in the 460-seat Sejm. -- Jakub Karpinski, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. UPDATE ON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IN POLAND. Aleksander Hall, leader of the Conservative Party, which is supporting Supreme Court President Adam Strzembosz' s candidacy in the upcoming presidential elections, has called on other right-of-center candidates to withdraw from the race because, he says, they are only dividing the post-Solidarity electorate, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 6 June. Strzembosz, like incumbent President Lech Walesa, has received about 8% of the vote in recent opinion polls. Some right-of-center parties regard Polish National Bank President Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz as a possible candidate, but only if Walesa withdraws from the race. -- Jakub Karpinski, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. INFLATION IN POLAND. Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, president of the Polish National Bank, said on 5 June that the government' s wage- and price- curbing measures should keep the annual inflation rate this year to about 20%, Western agencies reported. Gazeta Wyborcza commented, however, that this prospect is becoming "more and more unreal." -- Jakub Karpinski, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. CZECH POLICE RAID "ECSTASY" FACTORY. Police last week raided a secret drugs laboratory on the outskirts of Prague and confiscated materials that could have been used to produce "ecstasy" tablets worth 300 million koruny, Czech media reported on 6 June. Five Czechs and three Dutch citizens were arrested and some 700 kilos of raw materials, sufficient to manufacture 35 million "ecstasy" tablets, were seized, The raid, which followed 18 months of surveillance, was the largest drugs bust since the Czech Republic gained independence, according to police spokesmen. -- Steve Kettle, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. SLOVAK PRESIDENT ON COLLECTIVE MINORITY RIGHTS. Michal Kovac on 5 June told OSCE High Commissioner for Ethnic Minorities Max van der Stoel that Slovakia will not grant collective rights to ethnic minorities, Narodna Obroda reported the next day. The president noted that Slovakia wants instead to "stabilize and strengthen individual rights." Van der Stoel is on a three-day visit to Slovakia to discuss the Slovak-Hungarian treaty and minority issues. Kovac assured the high commissioner that he would oppose any efforts to forcibly assimilate not only ethnic Hungarians but also Slovaks who live in regions where ethnic Hungarians constitute a majority. Both politicians agreed that the fears of Hungarian minority representatives in Slovakia are occasionally "exaggerated." Van der Stoel also met with Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, to whom he expressed his satisfaction over the signing of the Slovak-Hungarian treaty. -- Jiri Pehe, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KARADZIC HAS "NO IMMEDIATE PLANS" TO FREE HOSTAGES. The foreign and defense ministers of Greece met in Pale with Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on 5 June to persuade him to release the more than 250 remaining hostages. Greece is one of the Serbs' few friends, and it regards Serbia as an important market and an ally in the regional balance of power. Also present was Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic' s security chief, Jovica Stanisic, who said later that Karadzic "responded positively" to the appeals, news agencies reported. The VOA on 6 June, however, quoted the Bosnian Serb leader as saying he has "no immediate plans" to free his captives. -- Patrick Moore, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. BALKAN POKER GAME CONTINUES. The Greek ministers are holding talks with Milosevic in Belgrade on 6 June, international media reported. The BBC said the previous day that Western diplomats in the Serbian capital now feel that Milosevic has no real interest in the hostage question, except as a means of obtaining more concessions from the international community over the lifting of sanctions against Serbia-Montenegro. The VOA quoted Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic as warning against cutting deals with the Serbian strongman, saying the only way to deal with the Serbs is with firmness. -- Patrick Moore, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. RAPID REACTION FORCE FACES HURDLES. The RRF proposed by Western defense chiefs still needs to have its role and command structure clarified. It must also overcome Russian objections to an "independent" NATO presence in Bosnia, because Moscow can veto the project in the Security Council and is determined to maintain a check on the Western presence in the former Yugoslavia. Vjesnik on 6 June quoted Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic as telling Sarajevans not to expect much from the new force because "these troops are not coming to defend us." Meanwhile in Washington, officials have no firm evidence that the pilot shot down by the Serbs on 2 June is still alive. President Clinton defended his Bosnian policy on CNN, saying that it is not as successful as he would have liked but that it is responsible for the decrease in fatalities in the embattled republic. The VOA quoted Vice President Al Gore as stating that the sending of U.S. ground troops to Bosnia "is not going to happen." International media added that 3,500 troops and 100 helicopters are moving from U.S. bases in Germany to Italy for a possible rescue operation for UN peacekeepers. -- Patrick Moore, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. CROATS CAN SHELL VITAL SERBIAN ROAD. Nasa Borba on 6 June reported that Croatian artillery in the Dinara range can now hit the key supply road linking Knin with Bosnian Serb territory via Grahovo. Krajina leaders have threatened to shell Dalmatian cities in response. Vjesnik noted that Bosnian Serbs hit Mostar the previous day with heavy artillery. Reuters quoted a UN spokesman as saying the Croatian advance in recent days has put the Serbs into "a panic mobilization." Zagreb has promised the UN that it will not invade the area outright, but it appears clear that Croatia is following up on last month' s victory in western Slavonia and taking advantage of the current Bosnian crisis. Nasa Borba reported that Milosevic has expressed concern over the latest developments to UN special envoy Yasushi Akashi. -- Patrick Moore, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. U.S. REPORT ON GREEK SANCTIONS VIOLATIONS. A State Department report published on 5 June suggests that companies in Greece have promoted the breaking of international sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia, AFP and Reuters reported. But it also states that officials in Athens have not been linked to sanctions-breaking activities. "Although we cannot confirm allegations of complicity by the Greek government in the evasion of UN sanctions, there are areas of concern regarding Greek enforcement of sanctions," a State Department official said. A report on Greece' s enforcement of sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia was requested by the U.S. Congress prior to the release of U.S. military aid to Athens. -- Stan Markotich, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ROMANIAN STRIKE UPDATE. All electricity power plants in Romania continued to operate on 5 June, despite the strike by some 37,000 utility workers, Radio Bucharest reported. Their functioning was secured by the last pre-strike shift, which at some plants worked for more than 30 hours. Romanian law forbids a shift in a power plant to leave before the next one takes over. Victor Romert, director of the state electricity company Renel, told Radio Bucharest that the company was seeking a solution whereby workers would receive a "reasonable" wage increase, presumably meaning less than the 20% demanded by the strikers. Pavel Todoran, leader of the National Confederation of Romania' s Free Trade Unions-The Brotherhood, said the unions plan protest marches and a big rally in Bucharest on 14 June. -- Dan Ionescu SLOVAK PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN IN BUCHAREST. A Slovak parliamentary delegation headed by Ivan Gasparovic was received by Adrian Nastase, chairman of Romania' s Chamber of Deputies, on 5 June. Radio Bucharest reported that the talks focused on the bilateral treaty recently signed by Slovakia and Hungary. That document includes an explicit reference to Council of Europe Recommendation No. 1201 on ethnic minorities. Gasparovic told his hosts that Slovakia clarified its stand on Hungary' s interpretation of the recommendation in an annex to the treaty. Nastase said Romania might accept a similar statement in its bilateral treaty with Hungary if the articles providing for territorial autonomy and collective rights for minorities were approved. In a related development, Senator Adrian Paunescu of the Socialist Labor Party threatened to quit parliamentary life if the government accepted Recommendation No. 1201. -- Dan Ionescu, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT RECEIVES YELTSIN' S SPECIAL ENVOY. Mircea Snegur on 5 June received Vladlen Vasev, a special envoy of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Interfax reported. The two men discussed the situation in Moldova' s breakaway Dniester region. Snegur is scheduled to meet with the Dniester leadership on 7 June to discuss a draft law defining the region' s special status within the Republic of Moldova. Vasev will participate in those negotiations. Meanwhile, Interfax announced that Snegur will meet with Yeltsin in Moscow in late June. The summit is expected to focus on ways to implement a Moldovan-Russian agreement on the 14th Russian Army' s withdrawal from eastern Moldova, initialed in October 1994. -- Dan Ionescu, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. BULGARIA FAVORS NEW BALKAN OIL PIPELINE. The Bulgarian Construction Ministry is in favor of a new pipeline to help transport oil from former Soviet republics to Italy via the Balkans. A feasibility study for the pipeline is being prepared, Reuters reported on 5 June. The crude would be carried from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan by tanker to Bulgaria' s Black Sea port of Burgas and then transported to Italy' s Adriatic port of Brindisi via Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania. Russia, Bulgaria, and Greece are also considering carrying oil by tanker from Russia' s Black Sea port of Novorossiisk to Burgas and then pumping it overland to Greece. -- Fabian Schmidt SOUTH AFRICA AND BULGARIA SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENTS. South Africa and Bulgaria on 5 June signed three cooperation pacts, including an agreement to expand relations in art, sport, and science. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski is on a three-day visit to South Africa at the invitation of South African Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo, Reuters reported on 5 June. -- Fabian Schmidt, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. PROSECUTOR WANTS THREE-YEAR PRISON TERM FOR ALBANIAN DICTATOR' S SON. An Albanian prosecutor on 5 June requested that Ilir Hoxha be sentenced to three years in jail for calling the Albanian government "a pack of vandals," AFP reported the same day. The youngest son of former communist dictator Enver Hoxha is charged with inciting hatred against various groups of people and calling for the use of violence against them. The charges follow remarks Hoxha made in an interview with the newspaper Modeste in April. AFP quotes the prosecutor as saying that "Hoxha has rekindled old passions in a bid to cause political chaos and call for vengeance." Hoxha reportedly has sought to justify his comments by saying "It is my duty to defend my father." -- Fabian Schmidt GREEK, TURKISH NAVY MANEUVERS. The Greek navy began annual maneuvers on 5 June, AFP reported the same day. The five-day exercise in the Aegean Sea involves ships and submarines backed up by air and ground units. The Turkish navy will also hold maneuvers from 7-22 June in other parts of the Aegean Sea. Relations between Greece and Turkey deteriorated following the Greek parliament' s recent decision to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which allows Greece to extend its territorial waters. Meanwhile, for the first time since 1974, both countries will be taking part together in a NATO exercise. Other countries participating in the maneuvers, which will take place from 7- 13 June in the Black Sea, are Bulgaria, Italy, the Netherlands, and Romania. -- Fabian Schmidt, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ANOTHER EARTHQUAKE IN GREECE. Greece recorded a "strong" off-shore earthquake early on 5 June in the Ionian Sea, AFP reported the same day. The quake reached 4.8 on the Richter scale and is the latest in a series of tremors over the past few weeks. It took place near the island of Lefkas and was also felt on the islands of Corfu, Zante, and Cephalonia. There were no reports of casualties or damage. A big quake measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale caused widespread damage in northwestern Greece on 13 May. -- Fabian Schmidt, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. [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 OMRI 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 OMRI Daily Digest. 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