|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 163, Part II, 22 August 1995
This is Part II of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part II is a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, 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 CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE KUCHMA RESCINDS DECREE. President Leonid Kuchma has rescinded a March decree, issued in his campaign to clamp down on Crimean separatism, that placed the government of Crimea directly under the Ukrainian government's control, Ukrainian TV reported on 21 August. Kuchma issued a new decree returning the power to appoint a prime minister to the Crimean legislature, whose new leadership is now dominated by forces more loyal to Kiev. The decree stipulates, however, that candidates for the post must first be approved by the Ukrainian president. The Crimean prime minister has the authority to appoint other government members with the consent of the Crimean assembly. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN ECONOMIC NEWS. The National Bank of Ukraine has raised its critical refinancing rate from 60% to 70% amid signs of growing inflation, Ukrainian TV and Interfax-Ukraine reported on 21 August. Inflation rose from 4.8% in June to 5.2% in July and is expected to increase further in August after a recent devaluation of the provisional currency, the karbovanets. The tender edged up slightly against the dollar in trading on the Interbank Currency Exchange from 167,000 to 165,000 to $1 since last week. Commercial interest rates have remained around 60-70%, but most lending has remained short-term, signaling lingering low confidence in the economy. Ukrainian TV also reported that the State Property Fund of Ukraine, the body charged with privatizing state-owned enterprises, has revoked the operating licenses of 14 investment trusts after uncovering numerous criminal violations, including fraud. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN BALTIC STATES. Volker Ruehe held talks on 21 August with his Lithuanian counterpart Linas Linkevicius, Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius, Foreign Minister Povilas Gylys, and armed forces commander Maj. Gen. Jonas Andriskevicius, BNS reported. Ruehe noted that while the visit could be termed "historic" because it is the first to the Baltic States by a German defense minister, subsequent visits will become "normal" events for the European partners. After meeting President Algirdas Brazauskas in the morning of 22 August, Ruehe travels to Latvia for talks with Latvian officials and a visit to the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion training center at Adazi. He will then complete his Baltic tour in Estonia. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LITHUANIAN INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION DECLINES. The Lithuanian Department of Statistics announced that industrial production in July was 8.5% lower than in June while the use of electrical energy declined by 10%, BNS reported on 21 August. The production of tobacco products decreased by 71%, furniture by 54%, lumber by 43%, electrical equipment by 34%, and basic metals by 33%. The declines were offset, however, by increases in the production of peat by 243%, in oil refining by 39%, and of automobile parts by 23%. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. STRIKE ENDS IN MINSK. A strike by metro workers in Minsk was ended on 21 August when police arrested several union leaders and brought in train drivers, protected by a police escort, to replace the strikers, international agencies reported. A union official said masked police arrested two union leaders and brought them to the prosecutor general and then to the municipal court. Under Belarusian law the strike was illegal. The head of the Independent Trade Unions, Syarhei Antonchyk, said that police had detained 15 strikers and 60 were fired. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told Belarusian radio he had information that the strikers, who said they had not been paid since June, were abetted by Polish and American unions. He also accused the nationalist opposition of having a hand in organizing the strikes. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BELARUS. Klaus Kinkel was in Minsk on 21 August where he met with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir, and his Belarusian counterpart Uladzimir Syanko, Belarusian Radio and Russian Public Television reported. Afterwards, Kinkel gave a negative report on the outcome of the meetings. He said that he did not receive any guarantees from Lukashenka that Belarus would continue dismantling weapons as obliged under the CFE treaty, and therefore Germany did not extend any guarantees of disarmament aid to Belarus. Lukashenka halted CFE reductions in February because of financial difficulties and said the disarmament will not resume until Belarus receives financial aid for the reductions. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. POLISH PARLIAMENT'S WORK ON CONSTITUTION. The constitutional commission of the Polish parliament approved on 21 August 11 articles of the constitution's draft. Ratification and repealing the most important international treaties concerning political and military alliances or citizens' freedoms and rights would demand prior parliamentary approval. Transfer of state legal prerogatives to an international organization would require a two-thirds parliamentary majority, and may be submitted to a referendum. The commission is finishing its work on the long overdue draft of the constitution and the commission's head, presidential candidate Aleksander Kwasniewski, hopes the draft will be ready before the date of presidential elections is announced. Opposition deputies are pressing Kwasniewski to resign to exclude a possible conflict of interest between his work on the constitution and his campaign, Polish media reported on 22 August. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. DATA ON POLISH FOREIGN TRADE. Poland's Main Statistical Office (GUS) has published data on foreign trade for the first half of 1995. Exports in that period amounted to $10.8 billion while imports totaled $13.2 billion. Both exports and imports grew by nearly 40% compared with the first half of 1994. Countries of the European Union, Germany in particular, remain Poland's most important trading partners, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 22 August. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. CHURCH-GOVERNMENT TENSION IN SLOVAKIA. Some 3,000 Catholics demonstrated in Banska Bystrica on 21 August against what they see as government intimidation of Catholic Church officials, Slovak media report. On 18 August, Church officials accused the government of communist-era practices after police stormed the office of Rudolf Balaz, head of the Slovak Bishops Conference, allegedly investigating a report that Balaz might be involved in the illegal trading of religious antiquities. Church officials have claimed that the house search was was an act of retaliation against the Bishops Conference for expressing support for President Michal Kovac in his conflict with Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. The government has distanced itself from the house search but the investigation continues. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK PRESIDENT REACTS TO ACCUSATIONS. Michal Kovac on 21 August responded to a statement made on 19 August by Tibor Cabaj, chairman of the parliamentary caucus of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). Cabaj said on Slovak Television that in the light of Kovac's recent statements, citizens are beginning to be afraid that the president wants to engineer a crisis similar to that which led to the ouster of Meciar in March 1994. In his response, Kovac said Cabaj's accusations were "regrettable." The president argued that he wants the HZDS to remain in power until the next regular parliament elections. Moreover, said the president, "I never engineered any March crisis; nor am I preparing one now." He noted that what makes citizens afraid and nervous are not his own statements but others such as those made by Cabaj. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARY'S SOCIALISTS SURPASSED IN OPINION POLL. An opinion poll released on 21 August by Marketing Centrum shows Hungary's ruling Socialists trailing an opposition party for the first time since the Socialists' landslide election victory in May 1994. The results of the poll, published in Nepszava, show the Socialists running in second place with 16%; the right-of-center populist Smallholders placed first with 22%. The Socialists' junior coalition partner, the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats, finished third with 14%. The popularity of Prime Minister Gyula Horn's Socialist Party has been dwindling for nearly a year, but the slide accelerated following the passing of an austerity package in March aimed at cutting the country's huge budget and current account deficits. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIA ACCUSES UN OF ABANDONING GORAZDE. International media on 22 August quoted Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey as condemning the UN decision to withdraw the remaining peacekeepers from the "safe area" of Gorazde and replace them with unarmed monitors. Given the UN's track record in Srebrenica, Zepa, and elsewhere, the presence or absence of UN troops is unlikely to deter the Serbs from overrunning Gorazde. Sacirbey, however, seems concerned with the political and symbolic implications of the world body's move. Nasa Borba, meanwhile, quoted UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko as saying that one shell is no reason for NATO intervention. He was replying to Sacirbey's earlier criticism of the UN for not calling in air strikes when three children were killed in Gorazde on 20 August. Sacirbey asked: "When will enough be enough, and what will it take for the United Nations and NATO to react to this terrorism?" -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. CROATIAN UPDATE. The mayor of Dubrovnik on 21 August told a press conference that demilitarization could be one answer to the city's problems posed by Serbian artillery in the heights above. News agencies reported from Montenegro, however, that Bosnian Serb forces are building up strength in the area. Elsewhere, the UN continued to criticize Croatia. It appealed to Zagreb not to return some 25,000 Muslim refugees loyal to Bihac-pocket warlord Fikret Abdic to Bosnian government- controlled territory. It also accused Croatia of not admitting Muslim refugees from Banja Luka. Croatia has denied the charges, saying that it has already taken in 2,500 Muslims from the latest round of Serbian "ethnic cleansing" of the Banja Luka region's once large Muslim and Croatian populations. Croatia hosts another 50,000 Muslim refugees whom it has admitted since 1992. Opinion polls have shown, however, that many Croats resent the idea of able-bodied Muslim men sitting out the war in Croatia and feel such people should go back to Bosnian government- controlled territory. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. TUDJMAN CALLS ON RUSSIA TO INFLUENCE SERBIA. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman on 21 August urged Russian presidential envoy Aleksandr Zotov to persuade Serbia to recognize Croatia. Hina said that Tudjman "underlined the willingness of Croatia to settle the problem on the basis of mutual recognition [between Belgrade and Zagreb] and urged Russia to use its influence on Serbian authorities to this end. Failing that, Croatia will feel obliged to resort to all means at its disposal to liberate the remainder of its occupied territories" and to enable refugees to go home. Vecernji list on 22 August asked whether some joint U.S.-Russian peace proposal is in the offing, but Mlada fronta dnes on 18 August warned Western powers against trying to rid themselves of the current crisis by giving Moscow undue diplomatic influence in the Balkans. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. A NEW BOSNIAN PEACE PLAN. Slobodna Dalmacija on 21 August reported on suggestions in international media over the weekend that Karadzic had been ousted by the military commander, General Ratko Mladic. The paper also discussed a new 12-point peace plan by Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic that stresses the "sovereignty and territorial unity" of the state. The project apparently makes no mention of any confederal ties to either Serbia or Croatia. It does, however, guarantee the Serbs full rights. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN REFUGEE UPDATE. BETA on 21 August reported that the total number of Krajina Serbs now in rump Yugoslavia is 154,079. Of that number, approximately 83,000 are in Serbia's ethnically mixed Vojvodina province, and about 3,000 in the predominantly ethnic Albanian province of Kosovo. Montena-fax observes that some 1,115 have found refuge in Montenegro. Belgrade officials continue to articulate concern for the humanitarian needs of the refugees, and on 22 August AFP quotes national bank Governor Dragoslav Avramovic as saying the best way to meet them is "to reduce budgetary spending in general while promoting production and boosting revenues." Meanwhile, on 21 August the BBC reported that the UN has protested to Serbia over its having press-ganged about 1,000 "military-aged" Krajina male refugees last week. The men have been forcibly deported to Bosnia. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN JEWISH COMMUNITY'S NEW RELIGIOUS LEADER TAKES OFFICE. Rabbi Mark Yehezkel, the new leader of Romania's Jewish community, arrived in Bucharest on 20 August and on the following day met members of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania, Radio Bucharest announced on 21 August. Rabbi Yehezkel, who was elected to the position by the federation on 28 May, succeeds the deceased Chief Rabbi Moses Rosen. Although he will not, for the time being, have the title of Chief Rabbi, his jurisdiction extends over all of the country's Jewish congregations. Unlike Rabbi Rosen, Rabbi Yehezkel will not be president of the federation, a function now fulfilled by a layman, Professor Nicolae Cajal. Rabbi Yehezkel was born in 1928 in Romania. He left the country for Israel in 1946, lectured at Israel's Bar Ilan religious university in Tel Aviv and was head of a South African Jewish congregation between 1970 and 1972. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN MILITARY INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION. Citing Rompres, Radio Bucharest said on 21 August that the Romanian troops who participated in the joint Hungarian-Romanian exercise in Hodmezovasarhely had returned to the country. The exercise was held within the Partnership for Peace Program and lasted 11 days. Hungarian Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti told the guests they should "bring home the message that Hungary is capable and prepared to defend itself" and has the means to do so. In other news, Romanian television reported on 21 August that the first contingent of 105 peacekeeping troops has left for Angola. The Romanian battalion will eventually be manned by a total of 750 soldiers. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. PULL-OUT OF RUSSIAN WEAPONS FROM MOLDOVA TO BEGIN. The press center of the Operational Group of Russian Forces in Moldova -- the former 14th Army -- announced on 21 August that the repatriation of its weapons and equipment from the Transdniestr region would begin shortly. ITAR-TASS quoted the group's commander, Lt. Gen. Valery Yevnevich, as announcing that the first shipment would take place on 25 August. The report said that Russian troops were currently loading four trains with military cargo, and that these would all leave for Russia before mid-September. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. TURKISH DEFENSE MINISTER IN MOLDOVA. Turkish Defense Minister Mehmet Golhan began on 20 August a two day-visit to Moldova. BASA-press reported on 21 August that Golhan said upon his arrival that Ankara hoped the issue of the presence of Russian troops in Moldova will be solved "in a manner that will not harm Moldovan independence." He added that Turkey and Russia were "neighboring countries that . . . do not interfere in each other's domestic affairs." Moldovan Defense Minister Pavel Creanga said no documents will be signed during the visit, but the two sides will continue work on drafting a cooperation program between the two ministries. Golhan is also scheduled to meet President Mircea Snegur, Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli, and Foreign Minister Mihai Popov. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. PRIVATE TV IN MOLDOVA. The first Moldovan private independent television station, Catalan TV, began broadcasting on 21 August, BASA-press reported on the same day. The station will mainly air original programs dealing with local events. Catalan TV reaches an area of 35 kilometers around Chisinau. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN BANK MERGER. BTA on 21 August reported that three large banking institutions -- Sofiabank, Serdika Bank and Biochim Bank -- have announced a merger plan. Total capital assets of the new company are expected to be about 1.3 billion leva ($19 million), and among the chief shareholders are at least two Russian banks. The merger plan has already been approved in principle by the government. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS MACEDONIA. Albanian Foreign Minister Alfred Serreqi and his Macedonian counterpart Stevo Crvenkovski on 21 August accused Belgrade of attempting to modify borders in the Balkans by flooding Kosovo with Serb refugees, AFP reports the following day. Concerning the situation in Bosnia, both politicians agreed that "Macedonia and Albania consider unacceptable any change to borders by force and ethnic cleansing." The two sides will formulate a "common strategy" to cope with a possible widening of the war to Kosovo that might follow the relocation of Krajina refugees there. Serreqi, on a three-day visit to Macedonia, also met with Parliament Speaker Stojan Andov and representatives of parliamentary parties, including the main ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity. Serreqi will meet President Kiro Gligorov and Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski in Ohrid the same day. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. NEW ALBANIAN MILITARY DOCTRINE. Albanian President Sali Berisha presented a new military doctrine on 21 August, Zeri I Popullit reports the next day. He said the army went through a period of restructuring and has been modernized in cooperation with NATO and other countries. The new doctrine therefore focuses on strengthening the army but mainly on regional cooperation. Reuters, however, quotes Berisha as saying that "although Albania's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity is . . . guaranteed with political means, we cannot renounce having armed forces able to secure a convincing defense of the country [but] Albania does not threaten militarily any other state and . . . it is resolved to solve disagreements through dialogue." -- 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 Please note that there is a new procedure for obtaining permission to reprint or redistribute the OMRI Daily Digest. Before reprinting or redistributing this publication, please write email@example.com for a copy of the new policy or look at this URL: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html 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
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