|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 156, Part II, 11 August 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 FOREIGN, DEFENSE MINISTERS VISIT DISPUTED ISLAND. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko and Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov visited Serpent Island in the Black Sea on 10 August, Reuters reported. Ownership of the 1.5 sq. km island, which was handed over by Romania to the Soviet Union in 1947 and used as a military base, has been disputed by Romania. Romanian officials have said the island is just a small cluster of rocks and cannot be considered a full-fledged part of either country. But large deposits of oil and gas have reportedly been found just off the island, and Romania wants to renegotiate "an accord on borders and on mapping out Black Sea areas." This could mean that 2,800 sq. miles of sea area will be disputed. Ukraine maintains that current borders are inviolable. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Natalya Zarudna said neither the island nor the ministers' visit should concern Romania since the island is part of Ukraine. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. BELARUS TO MEET IMF TARGET BY MID-AUGUST. The Belarusian government has committed itself to meeting the IMF target on renewing investment funds' licenses by 15 August, Belarusian TV reported on 9 August. This should help persuade the IMF to release credits worth $250-300 million to the republic. The investment funds' licenses were rescinded after the first round of Belarusian privatization in March. Deputy Minister for State Property and Privatization Vasil Nekrashyevich defended the move, saying that many investment funds were exploiting their clients by buying privatization checks below their face value and then reselling them at higher prices. Nekrashyevich said that such activities have now ceased and that only three investment funds are still under investigation. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. BELARUS INCREASES FUEL PRICES. Belarusian Radio on 10 August reported that the price of oil and oil products in Belarus will increase to match those of Russia. To date, Belarus has maintained some of the lowest prices for fuel among CIS countries. Its decision to raise those prices was prompted by its customs union with Russia, which foresees uniform fuel prices in both countries. Ironically, integration with Russia was promoted in Belarus with the argument that closer ties would keep energy prices down. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. NORWEGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN BALTIC STATES. Jorgen Kosmo began a tour of the Baltic States on 8 August by signing a bilateral military cooperation agreement with his Lithuanian counterpart, Linas Linkevicius, in Vilnius. Kosmo then traveled to Latvia where he signed a similar agreement with Prime Minister Maris Gailis and visited the training base of the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion at Adazi. He toured the Tallinn port on 10 August, discussing Norwegian aid for the Estonian navy, the recently opened defense forces training center in Paldiski, and the Amari airfield, BNS reported. The next day, he signed a military cooperation agreement with Estonian Defense Minister Andrus Oovel. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. EIGHT PERSONS REMOVED FROM LATVIAN SAEIMA ELECTION LISTS. The Latvian Central Electoral Committee on 10 August crossed off eight names from the lists of candidates in the fall parliamentary elections, BNS reported. Six candidates of the Socialist Party were removed because they were active members of the Communist Party after 13 January 1991. A Russian Citizens' Party candidate was removed for having a forged state- language test certificate and a National Democratic Party candidate for having been an employee of the Soviet security services. The Riga Center District Court the previous day ruled that the stipulation that former communists cannot run in the parliamentary elections did not contradict the Latvian Constitution. It also rejected the Socialist Party's demand that former Latvian Communist Party First Secretary Alfreds Rubiks be reinstated as a parliamentary candidate. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LITHUANIA'S HARD-CURRENCY RESERVES "MORE THAN SUFFICIENT." Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius told a press conference on 10 August that because of "more than sufficient" reserves of gold and hard currencies, the value of the litas will remain stable, BNS reported. He said the reserves are worth almost $700 million, exceeding the amount necessary to cover all the litai in circulation by $130 million. Slezevicius also noted that the per capita reserves of Lithuania were larger than those of Poland. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. UPDATE ON ATTEMPT TO POSTPONE POLISH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. Polish TV on 10 August quoted three independent but unidentified sources as saying that Polish Ambassador to Russia Stanislaw Ciosek, in his letter to the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) leader Aleksander Kwasniewski suggesting that presidential elections be postponed (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 August 1995), proposed that President Lech Walesa's term of office be extended for another two years, after which he would not seek re- election. His successor would be elected by the National Assembly and Kwasniewski would be assured of being elected. Gazeta Wyborcza on 11 August quotes an SLD politician Danuta Waniek as saying that Walesa was pressing in June for the "new round table," as Ciosek's proposal is known, "otherwise 100,000 people will be [protesting] on the streets." -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. CZECH FOREIGN RELATIONS. Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra on 10 August told reporters that he has met with German Foreign Ministry State Secretary Peter Hartmann several times to discuss ways to improve bilateral relations, Rude pravo reported. Major disagreements are over views on the Nazi occupation of the Czech Lands during World War II and the Czechoslovak government's forced expulsion of Sudetan Germans after the war. Meanwhile, Czech Premier Vaclav Klaus and Agriculture Minister Josef Lux met with Polish Agriculture Minister Roman Jagelinski in Prague on 10 August to discuss bilateral relations, the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), and membership in the EU. Preparations were also made for a meeting between Klaus and Polish Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy scheduled for 17 August. Lux and Jagelinski signed an agricultural cooperation agreement that, according to Lux, should increase Czech exports of fruit, vegetables, and consumer goods to Poland, CTK reported. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. CZECH ANNUAL INFLATION RATE BELOW 10%. The Czech Statistical Office has announced that annual inflation reached only 9.7% in July, Hospodarske noviny reported on 11 August. Although housing prices increased, grocery prices fell, particularly those of seasonal vegetables. In other news, the Czech unemployment rate fell to 2.9 percent in July. The highest level was in the district of Karvina (6.8%) and the lowest was in Prague (0.2%). -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK OPPOSITION TAKES ACTION. Democratic Union Deputy Chairman Roman Kovac confirmed that 43 opposition deputies from the DU, Christian Democratic Movement, Common Choice, and the Hungarian coalition have filed charges with the Constitutional Court against a parliamentary commission established in November 1994, Narodna obroda reported on 11 August. The commission, which consists only of coalition members, is investigating the "constitutional crisis" of March 1994 and has called in for questioning a number of deputies who left the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and Slovak National Party in 1993 and 1994. The apparent aim of the commission is to collect evidence against the DU and the Slovak president. Kovac said the commission has been given executive powers, thereby violating the constitutional division of powers. Another DU Deputy Chairman, Milan Knazko, criticized the government's current campaign against the president. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK GOVERNMENT COUNCIL HOLDS EXTRAORDINARY SESSION ON ROMA. The Slovak government Council for Nationalities on 10 August held an extraordinary session at which it adopted proposals on issues of racism and violence against Roma, Sme reported. The session was attended by 12 Romani groupings (comprising 6 Romani political parties and a total of 30 organizations) as well as representatives of districts with large Romani populations. The council adopted 10 recommendations aimed at preventing the spread of violence and, specifically, at monitoring the activities of skinheads. Council chairman and Deputy Premier Jozef Kalman said details of the measures to be taken would be worked out soon. The council also condemned the events of 21 July in Ziar Nad Hronom as a criminal act. One Romani youth died after being set on fire by skinheads. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARIAN-ROMANIAN MILITARY EXERCISES. Hungary and Romania on 10 August began military exercises provided for by a cooperation agreement signed by the two countries' Defense Ministries last year, Radio Bucharest reported. The exercises are taking place in central Hungary and will last for 10 days. Romania has sent a platoon of some 35 men, who will participate in shooting practice with their Hungarian counterparts. Reuters quoted Lieutenant Colonel Laszlo Tikos as saying that a Hungarian platoon will visit Romania on 28 August. He added that tank exercises and maneuvers between the countries' Danube River fleets are also planned for later this year. Both fleets are involved in enforcing the trade embargo against the rump Yugoslavia. -- Jan Cleave, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE U.S. PRESENTS EVIDENCE OF SREBRENICA MASSACRE. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright told the Security Council on 10 August that there is "compelling evidence" that Bosnian Serb forces killed up to 2,700 Muslims in Srebrenica and buried them in a mass grave. She produced photos and an eyewitness, who said he escaped by pretending to be dead and then fleeing to Bosnian government territory. The Security Council has demanded that the Serbs allow human rights monitors into the area. The international media also stated on 11 August that Amnesty International has released a report saying that up to 4,000 Muslims remain unaccounted for. The Guardian, however, wrote that there is not sufficient evidence to conclude that a massacre has taken place. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. REPORTS ON MLADIC'S GRISLY ROLE IN SREBRENICA. Newsday reporter Roy Gutman on 8 August wrote that Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic took an active interest in the fate of the captured Srebrenica Muslims and "personally attended much of the butchery that followed." He would reassure his victims that he would protect them and then promise his troops a massacre in what one observer called the typical "fascist pattern we've seen throughout" the conflict. Referring to the men and boys, Mladic announced to his soldiers that there would be "a feast . . . with blood up to your knees." Of the women, eyewitnesses said the internationally wanted war criminal told his troops: "Beautiful. Keep the good ones over there. Enjoy them." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. REFUGEE UPDATE. International media on 11 August reported that the Security Council has called on Croatia to protect the thousands of Serbs fleeing to Bosnian Serb territory and to Serbia. Particularly ugly incidents were reported from Sisak, where Croatian crowds not only pelted the Serbs with stones and bricks but also hauled them out of their vehicles and beat them as police looked on. The International Herald Tribune said that some Serbs swore vengeance, but that one man blamed the collapse of Krajina on the Serbs' own "crime, smuggling." Novi list wrote that Serbs in Benkovac forced 70 Croats to flee with them and killed three of the elderly. The BBC noted that some Bosnian Serbs have begun joining the Krajina exodus, fearing that the Bosnian or Croatian armies will move into their areas next. The VOA reported that Krajina Serb refugees in the Banja Luka area have started forcing the few remaining Muslims and Croats to flee and that those Muslims and Croats have begun arriving in Croatia. The broadcast also noted the "qualitative difference" between the flight of the Krajina Serbs in a well-coordinated movement of vehicles loaded with goods and the expulsion of the Croats and Muslims on foot and with little more than the clothes they were wearing. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTER WITHDRAWS RESIGNATION. In a move little noticed while media attention was on Croatia, Haris Silajdzic offered to resign on 3 August. International media reported on 11 August that he agreed the previous day to stay on after receiving much support from Bosnia's allies abroad and a request to remain in office from President Alija Izetbegovic. Silajdzic told the Italian daily Il Messaggero on 10 August that Izetbegovic had acquired more and more power at his expense over the past year. Silajdzic demanded that the government be responsible only to the parliament and not to the president. He slammed the legislature as well, saying that it showed no interest in the fate of the people of Srebrenica and Gorazde. Finally, the prime minister said that the current in-fighting was simply about power and did not include an ideological debate on the role of political Islam. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. BELGRADE COMPLAINS OF "CROATIAN AGGRESSION" . . . Tanjug on 10 August reported that federal rump Yugoslav authorities plan to appeal to the UN Security Council to help restrain "Croatian aggression." According to Tanjug, Belgrade believes that Zagreb remains the key source of "danger . . . to [an] expansion of the conflict." Belgrade is also expected to call again for a lifting of sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. . . . AND CONTINUES TO MOBILIZE. AFP on 10 August quoted eyewitnesses as saying that Belgrade is continuing to move troops and military hardware closer to the Croatian border in eastern Slavonia. The news agency, citing the Belgrade newspaper Telegraf, also observed that rump Yugoslav military authorities may mobilize up to 26,000 reservists who are likely to be added to the army near Novi Sad, bringing its total up to some 35, 000 troops. Since 5 August, convoys of at least 100 armored vehicles carrying anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles have made their way to Sid, on the border with Croatia. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. BELGRADE MEDIA SIGNAL SHIFT ON "GREATER SERBIA" POLICY? State-run Serbian TV newscasts since 7 August have used a new format for weather reports. Previously forecasts were accompanied by maps of the rump Yugoslavia as well as maps denoting "Serbian lands" occupied by Serbian forces outside the rump Yugoslavia. Recent broadcasts have shown instead flower arrangements when commentary switched to accounts of weather outside the rump Yugoslavia. This development has added fuel to speculation that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has signaled he is moving away from the goal of incorporating Serb-held and -populated territory outside the rump Yugoslavia into a "Greater Serbia." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN DAILY RENEWS ATTACKS OVER EMBARGO. Romania libera editor-in- chief Petre Mihai Bacanu, speaking at a press conference on 10 August, renewed allegations that Nicolae Vacaroiu's cabinet endorsed oil contraband to the rump Yugoslavia, Radio Bucharest reported. Bacanu first made the accusation in a 26 July article. He told journalists that the government was "lying to everybody, including the Security Council," over its adherence to the UN embargo, citing several instances of sanctions-breaking. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry the same day said his department was strictly applying the sanctions. He mentioned hundreds of cases in which police and border guards have confiscated fuel from smugglers. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. MOLDOVAN PREMIER SENDS OPEN LETTER TO DNIESTER LEADER. Andrei Sangheli, in an open letter to Dniester leader Igor Smirnov, has urged that Moldovan pupils in the breakaway region be allowed to learn their mother tongue in the Roman alphabet, Infotag and Interfax reported on 9 and 10 August. Sangheli deplored the confusion reigning at local schools following a ban on the teaching of "Moldovan" in the Latin script imposed by Tiraspol last year. The pro-Russian Dniester leadership insists on the use of the Cyrillic alphabet at schools there. The ban resulted in the closure last year of Moldovan schools for several months. The so-called Moldovan language is a Romanian dialect. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT INCREASES ELECTRICITY PRICES. The cabinet on 10 August announced increases in electricity prices by 25% for private households, and 38% for industry, Bulgarian newspapers reported the following day. The new prices will go into effect on 1 September. From 15 November, electricity prices will be adjusted to take into account inflation. Pensioners will receive a monthly compensation equivalent to the price of 500 kW. Trud reported that the government expects inflation to go up by 2% as a result of the hikes. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIA TO MAKE DEBT PAYMENT. AFP on 10 August reported that Bulgaria will pay part of its debt to Paris Club creditors on 19 August. The agency cites a report in Standart based on statements by unidentified Finance Ministry officials. The next regular debt payment of around $10 million is slated for 30 September. Total repayment on the principal in 1995 amounts to $50 million, while another $5-6 million is due in interest payments. Standart also reported that the National Bank's reserves amounted to $1.5 billion on 1 August, up from $889 million in January. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. RECORD HIGH FOR ALBANIAN TOURISM. Albania in the first half of 1995 registered a record number of foreign visitors, BETA reported on 10 August. Some 36,000 tourists visited the country. Tourism is a key element in Albania's strategy for economic development. Most foreigners went to the southern part of the country, where Italian and German businesses are the largest investors. -- 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. ISSN 1211-1570
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.