|The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli|
No. 210, Part II, 27 October 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, 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 UKRAINIAN LEFTISTS RALLY AGAINST KUCHMA. Thousands of leftists held rallies in several major Ukrainian cities on 25 October demanding President Leonid Kuchma's resignation and an end to economic reforms that they claim have impoverished the population, UNIAN and ITAR-TASS reported. Some 2,500 members of the leftist All-Ukrainian Union of Workers and the Communist Party of Ukraine demonstrated in Kiev. Leaders of both groups blasted Kuchma for what they called his anti-labor policies, for selling out Ukraine to the West, and alienating Russia. Oleksander Bondarchuk, chairman of the workers' union, announced that his organization would start collecting signatures next month for a referendum on confidence in the president. -- Chrystyna Lapychak UKRAINIAN DEFENSE INDUSTRY IN CRISIS. Ukrainian Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov has said production in the country's defense industry is 10% percent of the 1991 level, Radio Rossii reported on 26 October. Shmarov said only 100 or so defense enterprises are still producing, compared with over 700 in 1991. The U.S. signed an agreement this year providing Ukraine with $20 million for conversion projects, but U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Green Miller said the investment climate in the country is not conducive to attracting the amount of investment needed to reform the economy. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN BRAZIL. Interfax on 26 October reported that Leonid Kuchma signed a friendship and cooperation treaty with his Brazilian counterpart, Enrique Cardosa, in Brazilia. Accords on trade and economic cooperation, on consultations between the countries' foreign ministries, and on visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic passports were also signed. Cardoso expressed interest in cooperating in the fields of gas pipeline construction and aerospace technology. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ISSUES NEW PENSION DECREE. Belarusian Radio on 26 October reported that under a new decree signed by Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 20 October, all pensioners will receive full pensions as of 1 November. Lukashenka signed the decree after meeting with veterans and pensioners who were unhappy with an earlier presidential decree reducing the pensions of those who continued to work. The new decree allows pensioners to work on a contract basis but does not reduce their pensions. The earlier decree had elicited protest from retirees since most argued they needed additional income to make ends meet. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN EXPORTS. Belarusian Radio on 26 October carried a report stating that in the first eight months of this year, the country's exports were up 3.1% over the same period last year. Trade totaled 61.3 trillion Belarusian rubles ($52.84 million) in August. Most of the trade was with CIS states, although Belarusian imports from CIS countries were down 8.3% on last year. The deficit with the CIS was made up by increased trade with non-CIS countries. -- Ustina Markus SEMINAR ON BALTIC REGIONAL SECURITY IN VILNIUS. A three-day international seminar on Baltic regional security, organized by the Lithuanian parliament and the North Atlantic Assembly, opened in Vilnius on 26 October, Radio Lithuania reported. Danish Defense Minister Hans Harkkerup said that it was impossible to talk about NATO expansion without taking the Baltic States into consideration. Lithuanian Defense Ministry Secretary Albinas Januska stressed that membership in the European Union and NATO were the highest priorities of Lithuanian foreign policy and warned that if Western countries decided to make distinctions between NATO applicants, new hot beds of insecurity would be created. He said that Russia was an important but not indispensable factor in Baltic security. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW TAX SCALE. The Polish Senate on 27 October approved the tax scale passed by Sejm earlier this month (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 October 1995). President Lech Walesa has repeatedly said he might veto the tax bill and send it to the Constitutional Tribunal, as he did last year. Meanwhile, the Sejm debated a draft of the new labor code. A government version provides for a 42-hour work week and 39 work-free Saturdays each year. The Sejm commission, which is dominated by the OPZZ trade union, opts for a 40- hour work week and all Saturdays free, Polish dailies reported on 27 October. -- Jakub Karpinski POLISH DEPUTIES DEMAND DISMISSAL OF PRIVATIZATION MINISTER. Fifty-seven deputies from the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), the Labor Union, the Confederation for an Independent Poland, and the Polish Socialist Party on 26 October demanded the dismissal of Privatization Minister Wieslaw Kaczmarek, a member of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). Labor Minister Leszek Miller said he considered the move to be part of former Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak's presidential campaign, Polish dailies reported on 27 October. Pawlak is head of the PSL. The PSL and SLD were coalition partners in Pawlak's government and have continued this alliance under Premier Jozef Oleksy. -- Jakub Karpinski WEIMAR TRIANGLE MEETING. At a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Weimar Triangle (France, Germany, and Poland) in Paris on 26 October, Herve de Charette and Klaus Kinkel suggested that negotiations on Poland's possible accession to the EU should start in the first half of 1997. Both ministers were in favor of Poland's entering the EU by 2000. Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski considered the meeting one of the group's most important as it may result in creation of bodies facilitating Poland's admission, Rzeczpospolita reported on 27 October. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz CZECH TRADE DEFICIT SLOWS DOWN. The Czech Republic recorded a foreign trade deficit of 4.5 billion koruny ($173 million) in September, the lowest monthly shortfall this year, the Czech Statistics Office announced on 26 October. For the first nine months of 1995, the current account deficit totaled 68.2 billion koruny ($2.62 billion), compared with 7.3 billion koruny ($280 million) for the same period last year. From January to September, imports increased by 29% and exports by 9.3% over the first nine months of 1994. The rapidly growing trade deficit had caused widespread concern within the government and among businessmen. But after releasing September's figures, officials estimated that the total deficit for 1995 will not exceed 95 billion koruny ($3.65 billion). -- Steve Kettle SLOVAK PRESIDENT TELLS CABINET TO HEED WEST'S CRITICISM . . . Michal Kovac, speaking at a press conference on 26 October shortly after returning from the U.S., said the Slovak government risks international isolation unless it heeds Western concerns. He also noted that signs of isolation are already apparent. Some members of the government coalition "do not want to realize that if 15 EU member states and the U.S. express concern, it is not because of the president's wrongdoings but rather because of steps taken by the government coalition," he commented. The EU handed Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar a demarche the previous day voicing anxiety about recent developments in Slovakia and U.S. President Bill Clinton also expressed concern (see OMRI Daily Digest, 26 October). Kovac also criticized the Slovak National Party's (SNS) accusations of treason against him. The SNS would not take such a step if it were really thinking of Slovakia's interests, Kovac stressed. -- Sharon Fisher . . . WHILE CABINET REAFFIRMS DESIRE TO JOIN EU. Government spokeswoman Ludmila Bulakova on 26 October announced that "the cabinet will deal with [the EU note] with full seriousness and resolution to continue in its efforts to reach full membership in the EU," Pravda reported. Meanwhile, controversy has raged over whether the EU warning was a "demarche" or an informal "communique" or an "aide-memoire." Both the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar claimed it was an informal note; however, European Commission spokesman Nico Wegter referred to it as a demarche. Wegter further said that the commission "fully identifies with the contents of the demarche" and stressed that it is "dissatisfied" with Slovakia's response to the first demarche, issued in November 1994, Sme reported. During a Movement for a Democratic Slovakia rally in Kosice on 26 October, Meciar stressed that the EU "needs" Slovakia because of its geopolitical position. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN PREMIER READY TO CONFER WITH MECIAR ON LANGUAGE LAW. Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn on 25 October told visiting ethnic Hungarian party leaders from Slovakia that he would appeal to Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar if Slovakia's language bill conflicted with the Hungarian-Slovak basic treaty, Hungarian newspapers reported on 26 October. Horn added that the Hungarian government would also consult the Council of Europe. Slovakia's language bill, which was approved by the Slovak government on 24 October, restricts the use of the Hungarian language. Ethnic Hungarian leaders in Slovakia fear that the bill contravenes the Hungarian-Slovak treaty; but a final version has not yet been published. -- Zsofia Szilagyi HUNGARY WILL NOT SEND TROOPS TO BOSNIA. Hungarian armed forces chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Sandor Nemeth on 26 October said that the Hungarian government has informed NATO officials in Brussels that Hungary does not intend to send armed troops to a NATO contingent that might be deployed in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Magyar Hirlap reported the next day. Nemeth, who is on an official visit to Rome, was quoted by MTI as saying that more important for NATO was the Hungarian government's agreement in principle to allow NATO troops to transit Hungarian territory. He added that NATO understands Hungary's position. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN PRESIDENT ON PEACE PROSPECTS. The New York Times on 27 October reported Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic as saying a stable peace cannot be forged for Bosnia-Herzegovia as long as the current Bosnian Serb leadership remains in place. "The criminals have to be removed. . . . That is the most important question," Izetbegovic said, referring to Bosnian Serb civilian chief Radovan Karadzic and his military counterpart, General Ratko Mladic. Both Karadzic and Maldic have been accused of war crimes. Izetbegovic also remarked that any proposed NATO- led peacekeeping operations for Bosnia ought not exclude Russia's participation. (See related item in Russian section) -- Stan Markotich WILL BOSNIAN SERBS LIFT SIEGE OF SARAJEVO? The UN on 27 October is to escort five civilian trucks and their cargo of humanitarian aid some 25 kilometers, from Kiseljak to Sarajevo and back, international media reported. If this objective is reached, the UN plans to escort busloads of civilians through Serb-held territory to Sarajevo on 29 October. In this way, the Bosnian Serb resolve to lift the siege of the Bosnian capital and observe the ceasefire is likely to be put to the test. The free movement of civilians to and from Sarajevo was a key condition of the ceasefire, which went into effect on 12 October. -- Stan Markotich UPDATE ON MASSACRES OF MUSLIM REFUGEES. UNHCR spokesman Kris Jankowski on 26 October said he had more evidence suggesting that earlier this month, between 2,000 and 3,000 Muslim men from northwestern Bosnia were "separated from their families . . . , perhaps beaten to death, perhaps killed," Reuters reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 26 October 1995). The UNHCR has questioned refugees from the region who reported the beatings and killings. Meanwhile, the Washington Post gave a detailed report of the Bosnian Serbs capture of Srebrenica in July. The report says "significantly less than half" of the 12,000 Muslim men who tried to flee to Tuzla made it to safety. It also states that "the massacres during the week starting July 11 were the worst atrocities committed in Europe since World War II." -- Fabian Schmidt MACEDONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER RESIGNS. Ljubomir Frckovski on 26 October handed in his resignation to Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski, Vecher reported. He said he felt "morally and politically responsible" because he had been unable to prevent the assassination attempt on President Kiro Gligorov on 3 October and because no arrests have been made in connection with the incident. Frckovski blamed a "financial-economic group of a neighboring country" for the attempt but refused to specify the country. He said a member of the organization built the car bomb, "together with fanatics and criminals from Macedonia's political underground," in an attempt to eliminate the president and destabilize Macedonia. -- Stefan Krause ROMANIAN OFFICIALS, STUDENTS DISCUSS EDUCATION LAW. Representatives of Romania's striking students have met with members of the parliamentary education committee to discuss possible changes in the education law, Radio Bucharest reported on 26 October. Romulus Dabu, president of the education committee, said "all rational demands of the students were accepted," while the spokesman of the Students' League said the results of the negotiations were "below expectations." The two sides were able to agree only on changes affecting the students' financial situation. A new draft will be submitted to the parliament within one week. The students plan to resume their protest on 30 October by blocking railway lines throughout the country. -- Matyas Szabo ROMANIAN-UKRAINIAN TREATY HIT SNAG OVER BORDERS. Volodymyr Vasylenko, a Ukrainian Foreign Ministry official, has said Romania refuses to guarantee post-World War II borders, Reuters reported on 26 October. "Some [Romanian] political forces are trying to justify territorial claims on Ukraine," Vasylenko commented following two days of talks with Romanian officials in Bucharest. The Romanian Foreign Ministry denied the accusation, saying Romania only wants recognition of the unfairness of the post-war carve-up. Vasylenko said the treaty talks are now frozen owing to "unilateral" changes sought by Bucharest. -- Matyas Szabo ORTHODOX CHURCH CELEBRATIONS IN BUCHAREST. Orthodox Church leaders gathered in Bucharest on 26 October to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the Romanian Orthodox Church's autonomy and the Romanian Patriarchate's 70th anniversary, Romanian media reported on 26 October. AFP reported the same day that Russian Patriarch Aleksii II boycotted the celebrations because Petru Paduraru--the Metropolitan Bishop of Bessarabia, whose position was approved by the Romanian Orthodox Church- -was attending. The Russian Orthodox Church believes that the Moldovan Church should be under Moscow's jurisdiction. Gheorghe Armasu, head of the Moldovan State Service on Religions, noted that granting a high church office to Paduraru constitutes "flagrant interference by the Romanian patriarchate in Moldova's internal affairs," BASA-press reported on 26 October. -- Matyas Szabo TOKES ACCUSES ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT OF ETHNIC CLEANSING. Reformed Church bishop Laszlo Tokes, at a meeting with UN human rights representatives in Geneva on 26 October, accused Romania's government of promoting ethnic cleansing, Romanian media reported. Tokes, who is also the honorary president of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, said discriminatory treatment of the Hungarian minority is the reason why ethnic Hungarians are emigrating from Romania. With the government's passive complicity, extreme nationalist parties are promoting anti- Semitic propaganda reminiscent of the years before the Holocaust, Tokes commented. -- Matyas Szabo EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT WANTS ROMANIA, BULGARIA REMOVED FROM BLACKLIST. The European Parliament on 26 October passed a resolution urging the European Commission to remove Romania and Bulgaria from the so-called blacklist of 101 countries for which strict visa requirements are to be enforced (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 September 1995), Pari reported the following day. The vote is non-binding for the commission. Of the former communist countries that have associate agreements with the EU, only Romania and Bulgaria are included in the list. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIA, MACEDONIA TO STEP UP TRANSPORT PROJECTS. Bulgaria and Macedonia on 26 October agreed to step up joint road, rail, and air transport projects, Reuters reported the same day. Visiting Macedonian Transport Minister Dimitar Buzlevski said in Sofia that he and his Bulgarian counterpart, Stamen Stamenov, discussed the completion of a railway link between Sofia and Skopje. Only 10-20 km have to be completed on the Bulgarian side, but long stretches still have to be built in Macedonia, which has invested $40 million in the project this year. Both sides agreed to go ahead with the construction of a highway between the two capitals, which is a part of a planned trans-Balkan highway (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 October 1995). Skopje will also allow the state-run Bulgarian airlines Balkan and Hemus Air to expand their operations in Macedonia. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIA RECEIVES PHARE GRANT. The EU on 26 October granted Albania 212 million ECU ($275.6 million) as part of its PHARE program. Reuters pointed out that the grant will cover 25% of Albania's public investment scheme. According to PHARE Program Coordinator Chris Hughes, 62 million ECU were granted to develop production and 72 million ECU to improve traffic links with Greece and Italy. Reuters said another 61 million ECU will "promote human and natural resources" and 14 million ECU will help upgrade legislative and other structures. Meanwhile, the Albanian government announced it will invest $52 million of a World Bank credit in the reconstruction of 1,000 km of roads in rural regions, Koha Jone reported on 26 October. -- Fabian Schmidt MUSLIM CLERGYMEN MEET IN ANKARA. A four-day meeting of Muslim clergymen from Central Asia, the Transcaucasus, the Russian Federation, and the Balkans ended in Ankara on 26 October, Yeni Yuzyil reported the next day. The meeting was organized by Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate to discuss the status of religion in the participating countries. The participants signed a declaration calling for the establishment of a Eurasian Islamic Council and decided that the gathering would become an annual event. -- Lowell Bezanis [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. 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