|Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. - Sir Winston Churchill|
No. 251, Part II, 29 December 1995
************************************************************************ Do you need sharply focused economic news? OMRI's weekly Economic Digest provides thorough coverage of business and financial developments throughout the region. This week's edition includes stories on the IMF's forecast of improvement in the Romanian economy next year and the huge energy debt CIS countries have with Russia. For subscription and rate information, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org *********************************************************************** 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/Index.html ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ U.S. LIFTS SANCTIONS AGAINST RUMP YUGOSLAVIA. U.S. President Bill Clinton announced on 28 December that Washington has suspended its sanctions regime against Belgrade. The suspension, which went into effect immediately, opened the way for fuel supplies and mechanical equipment to flow from the U.S. to Serbia, halted by presidential orders issued from June 1992. Clinton said in his statement that "we insisted on a credible reimposition mechanism to ensure no backsliding on the commitments made by the Serbs." Nasa Borba on 29 December reported that on the previous day Russia also suspended sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE EXPORT-IMPORT BANK TO LEND $230 MILLION TO UKRAINE. The Export-Import bank of Japan will lend Ukraine 24 billion yen ($230 million) to cover the financial aid the Japanese government has committed itself to offering Ukraine, AFP reported on 28 December. The bulk of the credit, 18 billion yen, will be extended in syndicated loans in cooperation with the World Bank, and only six billion yen would come directly from the Export-Import Bank. Japan promised the aid last March to help Ukraine stabilize its economy and dismantle the nuclear weapons on its soil. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINE WILL NOT PARTICIPATE IN BOSNIAN PEACE FORCE. Ukraine has informed the NATO peace Implementation Force (IFOR) that it would not be able to participate in its operations in Bosnia because of financial difficulties, AFP reported on 28 December. IFOR chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. William Carter said Ukraine's withdrawal should not be a setback for the NATO-led force since other countries have come forward with greater contributions than anticipated. Ukraine will continue to provide Antonov transport craft for the Bosnian operations. -- Ustina Markus HEAD OF BELARUSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ASKED TO RESIGN. The head of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's administration, Mikhail Myasnikovich, has asked the head of the Constitutional Court, Valerii Tikhinya, to resign, radio Ekho Moskvy reported on 28 December. Myasnikovich reportedly told Tikhinya that if he did not leave his post willingly, a decision to remove him would be made by the president. Lukashenka has reportedly been putting pressure on Tikhinya for some time. The court has found seven of Lukashenka's presidential decrees to be unconstitutional. In other news, Belarusian radio reported that although the cabinet of ministers has allocated three billion Belarusian rubles to the new parliament so that it can open, the money has not appeared on the secretariat's account. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN TRADE UNIONS SUSPEND STRIKE PLANS. Belapan reported on 28 December that The Federation of Trade Unions has decided to remove from its January agenda plans to hold a national strike. The decision was taken because the cabinet of ministers is reportedly taking the unions demands into consideration. The Independent Trade Unions of Belarus are reportedly planning to go ahead with their preparations for a national strike in January. The announcement came soon after President Alyaksandr Lukashenka warned that any mass protest actions could destabilize the country. The Federation of Trade Unions was the official union during the Soviet era and has often been more amenable towards the government than the Independent Trade Unions. -- Ustina Markus TWO PRIVATE ESTONIAN TV STATIONS TO MERGE. The private television stations RTV and EVTV--which currently broadcast on alternate days on the same channel--will combine their programs from the beginning of 1996 as the first step toward their full merger as new station TV3, BNS reported on 27 December. Some 70-80% of RTV's current shareholders are to take part in the founding of the new station while only one shareholder, Sweden's Kinnevik, will participate from EVTV. -- Saulius Girnius FORMER LATVIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTER INDICTED. A prosecutor told BNS on 28 December that Dainis Gegeris has been indicted for neglect of duty and abuse of service authority. The charges were brought in the case against the Lata International firm that was founded in 1992 to service foreign loans, but squandered the money. It was declared bankrupt by the Latvian Commercial Court on 22 November. The prosecutor noted that the new prime minister, Andris Skele, who was deputy agriculture minister at that time, did not play any role in the Lata case. -- Saulius Girnius UNPRODUCTIVE LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT SESSION ON BANK CRISIS. The extraordinary Seimas session called on 28 December to pass a government resolution on guaranteeing the stability of banks did not achieve its purpose, Radio Lithuania reported. After the opposition proposed an alternative measure, President Algirdas Brazauskas called the government resolution "somewhat abstract" and proposed the formation of a work group that would present a combined proposal to the parliament the next day. He said that the blame for the current problems should be shared by the government, the Bank of Lithuania, the leaders of commercial banks, as well as the credit givers and receivers. He urged the creation of a better bank supervision system. -- Saulius Girnius NEGOTIATIONS ON MINISTERIAL NOMINATIONS IN POLAND. The representatives of the ruling coalition of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Polish Peasant Party initially agreed on 28 December on the appointment of Jerzy Konieczny as Internal Affairs Minister, and Dariusz Rosati as Foreign Affairs Minister, Rzeczpospolita reported on 29 December. Konieczny, a professor of law, headed the State Security Office in 1992- 1993 and declared his support for Lech Walesa. Rosati, a professor of economics and former Communist Party member, was the SLD candidate to be Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in 1994, when Walesa blocked his nomination. The choice of the Defense Minister has not been decided, and, according to Polish dailies of 29 December, the SLD would like to nominate former Deputy Minister Jerzy Milewski, who was a Walesa supporter and then became President Aleksander Kwasniewski's security advisor. -- Jakub Karpinski POLISH SECURITY OFFICE PROMISES SUPPLEMENTARY EVIDENCE IN OLEKSY'S CASE. The Deputy Chief of the State Protection Office (UOP), Jerzy Nozka, said after a meeting with Sejm speaker Jozef Zych on 28 December that his office would give military prosecutors the supplementary evidence referring to alleged contacts between Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy and foreign (Soviet/Russian) intelligence, before 20 January. The prosecutors office formulated 12 questions to the UOP concerning the material former Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski delivered on 19 December. The chief of the Military Information Service (WSI), General Konstanty Malejczyk, said before the end of the year the WSI would provide the prosecutors with information on the activities of foreign countries' secret services in Poland (the prosecutors had demanded such a report). Contradicting what he said on 27 December, Oleksy said he does not exclude taking a temporary leave of office, Rzeczpospolita reported on 29 December. -- Jakub Karpinski POLISH CONSTITUTIONAL TRIBUNAL ON TAXES. The Polish Constitutional Tribunal has ruled that the tax law adopted for the first time by the Sejm on 13 October is unconstitutional, saying that vacatio legis, or the period for adaptation of the law, was too short. The law provided for a six-grade taxation scale of 19, 21, 24, 31, 38, and 45%, instead of the current 21, 33, and 45%. The last three thresholds will be in force for 1996, the Polish press reported on 29 December. The court's decision ended the legal fight between former President Lech Walesa on the one side and the government and parliament on the other. Walesa vetoed the bill on 27 November, and the Sejm overrode the president's veto on 1 December. Instead of signing the bill, Walesa sent it to the tribunal on 4 December. -- Jakub Karpinski FIRE AT CZECH NUCLEAR PLANT. A small fire broke out on 28 December at the nuclear power station at Dukovany in southern Moravia but was extinguished within 20 minutes, Czech media reported. Officials of the state nuclear security agency said the fire started in a transformer serving the plant's lighting system. No one was injured and the fire did not cause any safety problems. The plant is near the border with Austria, which has repeatedly asked the Czech government to close the station on safety grounds. Officials said the Austrian embassy in Prague was informed of the fire. They stressed that similar incidents happen about twice yearly, but so far Dukovany's reactor and safety systems have not been affected. -- Steve Kettle SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO PLEASED WITH IMPLEMENTATION OF BOSNIAN TREATY. The commander of NATO ground forces, Lieutenant General Sir Michael Walker, said that "it appears that all parties are demonstrating a spirit of cooperation in complying with the peace agreement . . . We are [however] in [the] early days, it is a honeymoon period." He added that the first 30 days would be decisive because all three sides must disarm their militias and civilians by 20 January. IFOR commander Admiral Leighton Smith echoed Walker's optimism, saying that he was "very happy at what has been achieved in the first week of the mission." The International Herald Tribune and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung carried the reports on 29 December. -- Patrick Moore TOP NATO OFFICIAL IN BELGRADE. NATO commander for Europe, U.S. General George Joulwan, arrived in Belgrade on 28 December and met with several rump Yugoslav officials, including army chief of staff Momcilo Perisic and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Following his two-hour talks with Milosevic, Joulwan said the meetings were "very productive" and conveyed "appreciation for the transit of IFOR, particularly American aircraft here in Belgrade, and allowing forces to transit through Serbia to Bosnia." Joulwan was accompanied on his visit by 54 U.S. soldiers, who shall become the first NATO troops to cross into Bosnia from the rump Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich WEATHER PROVES TO BE IFOR'S BIG ENEMY. NATO troops have been having to deal with threats not from the locals but from the elements (See OMRI Daily Digest, 28 December 1995). International media reported on 29 December that U.S. efforts to build a 310-meter pontoon bridge over the Sava River for U.S. troops have been held up by the floods. The waters also hit their camp at Zupanja after destroying a protective barrier. Senior U.S. and Croatian army officers have agreed to work together on the construction of the bridge. Meanwhile, the Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes said that American soldiers are preparing for a longer stay than planned at their bases in Hungary. -- Patrick Moore and Daria Sito Sucic BOSNIAN SERBS WAIT FOR SMITH'S DECISION. In accordance with the Bosnian Serbs' request to IFOR commander Admiral Leighton Smith, asking for about a year's delay in the transfer of authority of the Serb-held parts of Sarajevo to the Bosnian government (See OMRI Daily Digest, 27 December 1995), Bosnian Serb Parliamentary Speaker Momcilo Krajisnik said at Pale that they will wait for the decision until 30 January. "If [the] response is negative, we'll still have enough time to displace people, property and state enterprises," Beta quoted Krajisnik as saying on 29 December. Krajisnik also claimed that an agreement on certain corrections of Dayton's territorial maps was reached with the "Muslim side" relating to swaps of some Muslim and Serb villages in eastern Bosnia. -- Daria Sito Sucic HUNGARIAN RESPONSE TO ROMANIAN RECONCILIATION INITIATIVE. The Bucharest daily Evenimentul zilei reports on 29 December that the Romanian ambassador to Budapest, Ioan Donca, has received the Hungarian response to President Ion Iliescu's initiative for a "historic reconciliation" between the two countries. No details were provided. The daily also wrote that Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu sent a letter to his Hungarian counterpart, Laszlo Kovacs, including Bucharest's response to the latest proposals made by Hungary on the basic treaty between the two countries. -- Michael Shafir MOLDOVA REJECTS TURNING RUSSIAN CONTINGENT INTO PEACEKEEPING FORCE. The Moldovan delegation to the Joint Control Commission on 28 December issued a statement rejecting the proposal to turn the Russian contingent in Transdniester into a peacekeeping force. The proposal was made earlier this year by Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Sokolov, deputy commander of the Russian Land Force. According to Infotag, the statement says the proposal is unacceptable "due to a certain politicization of the contingent servicemen and their failure to remain unbiased in the conflict." -- Michael Shafir BULGARIAN PRESIDENT DEMANDS MEDIA CHIEF'S OUSTER . . . Zhelyu Zhelev publicly demanded that Vecheslav Tunev, Director-General of Bulgarian National Radio, submit his resignation, international media reported on 28 December. Prompting the call was an incident on 18 December, when seven state radio employees were dismissed by Tunev after alleging that management was censoring their work and following assurances by Tunev himself that they would not be fired (See OMRI Daily Digest, 19 December 1995). Zhelev called the firings "an outrage" and added that the one responsible "should not go unpunished." The president made his remarks following meetings with members of Free Speech Forum, a journalists' organization devoted to tracking the conditions affecting the freedoms of the media. -- Stan Markotich . . . AND PARDONS CONVICTED COMMUNIST OFFICIAL. Reuters on 28 December reported that Zhelev exercised his constitutional prerogative and pardoned Stoyan Ovcharov, a former Minister of Economy and Planning under communist dictator Todor Zhivkov. Ovcharov was in the second year of a nine-year sentence for embezzling funds that went to finance the education of Zhivkov's grandson. Zhelev cited Ovcharov's ill health, and said that humanitarian considerations led to the pardon. Former Prime Minister Georgi Atanasov (Ovcharov's co-defendant) was pardoned in 1994 after serving less than one year of his ten-year sentence. -- Stan Markotich MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES BUDGET WITH SMALL DEFICIT. The Macedonian parliament on 27 December approved the 1996 budget, which will be in deficit by about 3 billion denars ($79 million), about 4.5% of the GDP, Nova Makendonija reported the next day. The shortfall will be covered entirely by credits from international financial institutions. The budget is based upon a macroeconomic framework assuming 6% inflation, an exchange rate of 27 denar/DM, 2% growth of social product, a freeze of salaries in the budget sphere at the level of August 1995, the abolition of vacation pay, a reduction in the number of social welfare recipients, and continued reform of the banking system and customs service. In parliamentary discussions, cuts in agricultural subsidies and social welfare spending sparked the most controversy. -- Michael Wyzan BULGARIAN ATHLETES OPEN BANK, BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT TO OPEN ROADS. A group of prominent athletes, including soccer great Hristo Stoichkov, established a commercial banking enterprise on 26 December, dubbed National, 24 Chasa reported the following day. Among the first acts undertaken by management was to offer 101 free shares, each valued at roughly $1.5, to former communist dictator Todor Zhivkov, in what is widely regarded in the Bulgarian media as a publicity stunt. It is unclear whether Zhivkov, under house arrest, has claimed the shares. In a separate development, Reuters on the same day reported that the Bulgarian government plans a massive upgrading of the country's infrastructure over the next three years. Transport Minister Stamen Stamenov was quoted as saying that they will be able to rehabilitate some 2,000 kms of roads between Bulgaria and the Middle East by 1998, which he said would help the country get in line with EU standards. -- Stan Markotich BANS ON GRAIN, OILSEED EXPORTS EXTENDED THROUGH 1996. The Bulgarian cabinet on 28 December extended for another year the ban on the export of bread and feed grain and oil-bearing seeds and their derivatives, Demokratsiya reported the next day. The move had been controversial, even within the cabinet, with Trade Minister Kiril Tsochev (also a Deputy Prime Minister) against it because it would harm the country's chances of joining the World Trade Organization, as well as the interests of producers. The move comes on the heels of this year's "grain crisis": this year's harvest is the lowest in the last 15 years, except for 1985, and bread and grain have been scarce this fall. The cabinet also proposed that the export of meat, coal, and liquid fuels be subject to registration and that licenses be required for the export of gold and silver. -- Michael Wyzan EU SUPPORTS ALBANIAN INFRASTRUCTURE. The EU and the Albanian government have signed an agreement providing about 25 million ECU ($32.5 million) in aid for infrastructure development on 22 December, international agencies reported. The aid includes a program of 16 million ECU ($20.8 million) for ports and roads and an additional 9 million ECU for roads along the Adriatic Sea. Since 1991, the EU has provided $671.6 million in aid to Albania, making it the country's leading donor. -- Fabian Schmidt SEARCH FOR TURKISH PILOT OFF MITILINI. Greek and Turkish military aircraft are searching for the pilot of a Turkish F-4 jet fighter which crashed near the Greek island of Mitilini, Western media reported on 28 December. The plane, one of two which Athens claims violated Greek airspace, crashed due to mechanical failure after being intercepted by Greek warplanes. Greek and Turkish warplanes regularly engage in mock dogfights in the Aegean where the two countries dispute the extent of their respective territorial waters. In February a Turkish F-16 was lost in a similar incident. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Pete Baumgartner 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. 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