|Praise yourself daringly, something always sticks. - Francis Bacon|
No. 117, Part II, 16 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 UKRAINE WARNS CHORNOBYL SHUTDOWN HINGES ON G-7 FINANCING. Volodymyr Horbulin, a member of Ukraine's Security Council and a presidential adviser, has warned that the shutdown of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant hinges on financing by G-7 countries, Reuters reported on 14 June. G-7 leaders are currently meeting in Halifax, Canada. Horbulin told a news conference that Ukraine will reconsider its decision to close the plant by the year 2000 if the G-7 leaders fail to increase the amount of aid offered. At the 1994 summit in Naples, Italy, they pledged $200 million in assistance, but Ukraine says it needs around $4 billion to construct a gas-fired electricity plant near Chornobyl and to replace a cracking concrete sarcophagus entombing Chornobyl's No. 4 reactor. Ukrainian officials have emphasized that assistance should be offered in the form of grants rather than credits. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. CRIMEAN LAWMAKERS CALL OFF PLEBISCITE ON SLAVIC UNION. Crimean legislators have formally called off a regionwide plebiscite on union with Russia and Belarus after the government refused to finance it, Reuters reported on 15 June. The Crimean government is loyal to Ukraine. Crimean lawmakers had planned to hold the legally non-binding poll during local elections on 25 June but pledged to scrap it after Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma rescinded his decree giving him direct control over the Crimean government. Local officials refused to fund and organize the referendum. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. BELARUS MOVES TO KEEP BELARUSIAN RUBLE STABLE. The National Bank of Belarus has ordered all commercial banks in the republic to sell their charter hard currency positions to the NBB or on the currency exchange at the official rate by 1 July, Interfax reported on 15 June. The NBB said it would dump some $50 million onto the Belarusian market, thereby enabling the Belarusian ruble (BR) to preserve its value against the dollar while allowing the bank to issue an additional 500 billion Belarusian rubles. The decision was criticized by Eduard Verenich, manager of a Minsk branch of Ukraine's INKO bank. Verenich said the move lacked "common sense" because the commercial banks' charter capitals would then be in Belarusian rubles and could devalue if the dollar rose. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. ESTONIAN-RUSSIAN AGREEMENTS. Estonian Prime Minister Tiit Vahi on 15 June met with opposition leaders--former Prime Ministers Mart Laar and Andreas Tarand as well as Reform Party Chairman Siim Kallas--to discuss the ratification of agreements signed by the Estonian and Russian presidents in July 1994, BNS reported, The accords, dealing with the withdrawal of the Russian army from Estonia and social guarantees for Russian military retirees, were successfully implemented without formal ratification, It seems doubtful that two-thirds of deputies will vote for the ratification, since the agreements imply that the border between the two countries is not determined by the 1920 Tartu Treaty, as stated in the Estonian Constitution. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. IRAN SEEKS CLOSER TIES WITH LITHUANIA. Iranian Ambassador to Lithuania Rez Astaneparast held talks with Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius on 14 June, BNS reported the next day. Astaneparast invited Slezevicius to pay an official visit to Iran and urged the opening of a diplomatic mission in his or a neighboring country. Trade between the two countries totaled a little more than $500,000 in 1994 but is expected to increase. Astaneparast mentioned the possibility of Iran's participation in the construction of the oil terminal at Butinge and subsequent sales of Iranian oil to Lithuania. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLISH DIPLOMATIC ACTIVITIES. Chinese Foreign Minister Li Peng's visit to Poland, initially scheduled for next week, will not take place, according to Polish dailies on 16 June. But Li Peng will visit Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. Rzeczpospolita on 16 June noted that at the Human Rights UN Commission in Geneva, Poland recently voted for a resolution condemning human rights abuses in China. Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, opening the new Polish Consulate General in Grodno, Belarus, on 15 June, said Poland would like to balance the "western and eastern options" in its foreign policy. The same day, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel met with the representatives of German minority associations in Poland as well as German minority Sejm deputies and senators, Polish dailies reported. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. VOTING INTENTIONS IN POLAND: "ANYBODY BUT WALESA." According to an opinion poll conducted on 26-29 May and published by Gazeta Wyborcza on 16 June, every second Pole is adamant that he will not vote for President Lech Walesa in the upcoming presidential elections. Walesa is first on the list of negative choices, followed by the Confederation of Independent Poland leader Leszek Moczulski (43%) and the leader of the liberal Real Politics Union, Janusz Korwin-Mikke (32%). -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. CZECH RAIL UNIONS CALL INDEFINITE STRIKE. Czech rail unions on 15 June called an indefinite strike beginning 21 June to demand higher wages, Czech media reported. The government has proposed a 10% rise for public sector employees (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 June 1995), but rail workers say their wages have fallen behind other groups. A meeting between union leaders and Transport Minister Jan Strasky is planned for 20 June. Strasky said the strike call was an act of pressure. Other ministers said the government would not give in to ultimatums. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told Lidove noviny that while production has grown in other sectors, turnover in transport services fell by 15% in the first four months of this year. The rail unions should try to explain how their wages can rise as demanded in such circumstances, Klaus said. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAKIA'S RULING PARTY TO MEET ETHNIC HUNGARIANS. Narodna obroda on 16 June reports that the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has sent letters to the three parties representing the Hungarian minority in the parliament requesting discussions on Slovakia's political situation. Hungarian Civic Party Chairman Laszlo Nagy said his party offered to hold talks with the HZDS in January and has been waiting for an answer ever since. He recommended that discussions focus on problems in Slovakia's democratic development and strengthening of executive power, financing of Hungarian culture and press, Hungarian education, and preparations for a law on the state language. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Juraj Schenk said the first item on the agenda of the next session of the parliament will be the ratification of the Council of Europe framework agreement on ethnic minorities. This will create conditions for the ratification of the Slovak-Hungarian treaty. -- Sharon Fisher , OMRI, Inc. SLOVAKIA, UKRAINE SIGN AGREEMENTS. Slovak and Ukrainian Premiers Vladimir Meciar and Yevhen Marchuk on 15 June signed agreements on international road and railway transport, telecommunications, border crossings, and customs issues. An agreement was also signed on cooperation between the two countries' economic ministries. Meciar was in Ukraine on a two-day official visit, accompanied by a number of top Slovak officials and businessmen. It is expected that an agreement on the prevention of double taxation will be concluded soon. Meciar also mentioned that the two countries may set up a common capital market, Slovenska Republika reported. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES BIG OFFENSIVE. International media on 16 June reported that Bosnian government forces launched a major drive at dawn to break the Serbian siege of Sarajevo. The move was rumored for days because of the buildup of 15,000-30,000 troops north of the capital. Both Serbian and government troops have taken many of their heavy weapons from UN storage depots, and the Serbs fired on Sarajevo with their six captured French light tanks. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, in a TV address hours before the offensive began, said supply routes would be reopened to "prevent further strangulation of the city." Intense fighting is reported both to the north and south of Sarajevo, and government forces have moved up from the Mostar area. In central Bosnia, they are attacking around Telsic on the Doboj-Banja Luka road. -- Patrick Moore , OMRI, Inc. WILL THEY BREAK THE SIEGE? The mainly Muslim army is strong on manpower but lacks sufficient arms, especially heavy weapons. But it now appears that the Bosnian Croats are helping by bringing up their big guns against the Serbs. Croatian TV estimates that the joint campaign could take up to 20 days and involve 3,000 casualties, while the BBC said that the government will probably need up to 50,000 men to dislodge the 12,000 Serbs. A correspondent in the city said that people are preparing for random Serbian shelling of civilian targets but that Sarajevans have stopped hoping for help from the international community. The VOA added that the government has placed all territory under its control on "unprecedented special alert" and that police patrols outside public buildings have been beefed up. -- Patrick Moore , OMRI, Inc. KARADZIC CALLS THE CAMPAIGN "A LAST TRY." Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic on 14 June cut short a visit to Washington, saying that his government was taking "countermeasures" to protect Sarajevo. News agencies quoted Mayor Tarik Kuposovic as adding that liberation is at hand. Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey said the offensive was prompted by the UN's failure to enforce the heavy weapons exclusion zone. UN special envoy Yasushi Akashi stated on 15 June that he is worried by the offensive, but "at the same time . . . can well understand the anxiety of the government about Sarajevo." Nasa Borba on 16 June quotes Karadzic as calling the offensive "a last try to change the situation on the ground." The local Bosnian Serb army commander, Major-General Dragomir Milosevic, told SRNA that his soldiers would smash any attempt to break the siege. He also warned that the activities around Sarajevo could be a ploy to distract attention from attacks elsewhere. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SECURITY COUNCIL BACKS RAPID REACTION FORCE. The G-7, meeting in Halifax on 15 June, urged the combatants in Bosnia and Croatia to cease all military activity and pursue a negotiated settlement. Meanwhile at the UN, the Security Council approved the RRF in a 13-0 vote on Resolution 998, with Russia and China abstaining. The question of financing has been postponed in view of uncertainties about whether the U.S. will pay for part of the costs. The troops will wear national uniforms and not have white vehicles, but otherwise it seems that the RRF will be just an arm of UNPROFOR. In Bosnia itself, the Serbs continue to hold 26 peacekeepers hostage, including two of the three Czech officers originally taken captive. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. KRAJINA REFUGEES IN SERBIA PRESS-GANGED. Serbian authorities have begun a new wave of rounding up ethnic Serbian refugees from the Serb-held Krajina regions of Croatia for military service, Reuters reported on 15 June. This latest wave began on 11 June with police and army night raids on refugee centers and residences housing refuges. It is the biggest such operation since January 1994. AFP observes that the operation, in contravention to both the United Nations and UN High Commissioner for Refugees charters, specifically targets ethnic Serbian refugees in Serbia's northern Vojvodina region. Some men press-ganged for service in the armed forces of the self proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina have "jumped off moving buses to escape," AFP noted. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. MACEDONIAN NATIONALISTS AND ETHNIC ALBANIANS DISCUSS COALITION. Negotiations on a coalition between the nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) and the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) and the Democratic People's Party (PDP) took place in Skopje on 15 June. The VMRO-DPMNE needs the PPD and PDP votes to elect a new mayor for the Macedonian capital. The PPD leadership has reportedly given the green light to its legislators. In exchange, it would gain the post of vice president at the Town Hall, until now held by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Macedonian National Democratic Union (VMRO-MNDS). Negotiations between the VMRO-DPMNE and the VMRO-MNDS reportedly ended "in total disaster," MIC reported on 15 June. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. EU AND SLOVENIA INITIAL ACCORD. The EU and Slovenia on 15 June initialed an association agreement on trade and political cooperation, international agencies reported. But Italy said it will sign the document only after Slovenia changes those parts of its constitution dealing with restitution to Italians who left the country after World War II. The Slovenian government has introduced the necessary legislation but the parliament has not yet approved it. If the dispute is settled, Slovenia will become the 10th East European country to conclude an association accord with the EU. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN TRADE UNIONS STAGE RALLY. Some 5,000 people on 15 June attended a rally staged by Romania's main trade union organizations in Bucharest's Union Square, Romanian media reported. The leaders of the National Confederation of Romania's Free Trade Unions-The Brotherhood, the National Labor Bloc, and Alfa Cartel expressed disappointment over the low turnout at the meeting, blaming pressure from the authorities. Alfa Cartel chairman Bogdan Hossu, in a press release, accused some labor leaders of "betraying" union members' interests. He said his organization was determined to continue the protests. Workers' rallies were staged in several other Romanian towns, including Resita, Hunedoara, Deva, Constanta, and Botosani. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES EDUCATION LAW WITH HUNGARIAN PREMIER. Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn, in a telephone conversation with Romanian President Ion Iliescu on 15 June, expressed concern over the adoption by Romania's Senate the previous day of an education bill, Radio Bucharest reported. Horn said the law was contrary to European norms. Iliescu replied that the new legislation had still to be approved by the parliament's other chamber, adding that he had no prerogatives to intervene in parliamentary procedures. Horn also commented that at talks over the basic Hungarian-Romanian treaty beginning in Bucharest on 19 June, an agreement such as that between Hungary and Slovakia could be reached if the political will existed. According to a communique issued by the Romanian Presidency, Iliescu shared Horn's optimism. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. MOLDOVAN OFFICIALS ON LEBED'S REPLACEMENT. Moldovan Parliament Chairman Petru Lucinschi on 15 June was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying he hoped Russian President Boris Yeltsin's decision to accept Lt. Gen. Alexander Lebed's resignation would not provoke tension in Moldova's Dniester region. Lucinschi also said that he was confident that the newly appointed commander of the 14th Russian Army headquartered in Tiraspol, Maj. Gen. Valeriy Yevnevich, would be able to maintain order and discipline within the troops and prevent the plundering of the army's arsenals. He added that Moldova wanted Russia to respect the provisions of the agreement, initialed in October 1994, on the withdrawal of the 14th army from the region. In related news, Moldovan Defense Minister Pavel Creanga, who is visiting Bulgaria, said Lebed's replacement should not affect the schedule of the 14th army's withdrawal. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN OPPOSITION AGREES TO SIGN ELECTION MEMORANDUM. The Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), the People's Union, and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) have agreed to sign a memorandum on joint action in the forthcoming local elections, Demokratsiya reported on 16 June. The memorandum allows opposition local organizations to nominate joint candidates for the post of mayor. The SDS leadership initially said it will not sign an agreement with the DPS on a national level, but the deputy chairmen of the three formations on 15 June agreed on a common text. The document is to be signed on 16 June by the leaders of the three parties. -- Stefan Krause , OMRI, Inc. UPDATE ON GREEK EARTHQUAKE. International agencies on 16 June reported that the death toll in the earthquake that hit Central Greece the previous day has risen to at least 16. More than a dozen people are still unaccounted for, while 73 were transferred to hospitals in Aigion and Patras. Authorities declared about 500 buildings uninhabitable. In Aigion alone, almost 900 houses were damaged. President Kostis Stephanopoulos and government members went to the area, while Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou issued a letter of condolence. French and Swiss rescue teams arrived in Greece to assist local authorities in the search for survivors, while Japan also offered its help. Meanwhile, MIC reported that Macedonia was hit by a quake on 14 June measuring 4 on the Mercalli scale. No damage or injuries were reported. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN WHO SHOT AT U.S. SOLDIERS SENTENCED. The Albanian who shot at two U.S. soldiers during the first joint military exercises between Albania and NATO in January has been sentenced to one year in prison, Reuters reported on 15 June. The man, who wounded the soldiers after a bar brawl, was convicted of illegal possession of arms. Charges of homicide were dropped after the court ruled he was mentally "irresponsible" when he fired the shots. The man claimed the Americans had molested his fiancee while he was celebrating his engagement with friends. He has a previous record of mental disorders. -- 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 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 Daily Digest. For Transition subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ Copyright (c) 1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.
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