|Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon|
No. 18, Part II, 25 January 1996
************************************************************************ 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 why Russians are buying more dollars and why Estonian tax policy is wreaking havoc on cigarette producers. 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ POLISH PRIME MINISTER RESIGNS. Jozef Oleksy, who is facing a military investigation concerning his alleged spy activities, said on 24 January that he will resign from his post and fight to clear his name. Oleksy, who has held office since March 1995, claimed he had only social contacts with Vladimir Alganov, who proved to be a top Soviet spy in Poland. "I never betrayed Poland," said Oleksy, accusing former President Lech Walesa's supporters of misusing the secret services in order to regain power. After accepting Oleksy's resignation, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has 14 days to nominate a new prime minister, who has to be approved by the Sejm. -- Jakub Karpinski ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE INQUIRY LAUNCHED INTO POLISH PRIME MINISTER SPY ALLEGATIONS. The Warsaw military prosecutor's office on 24 January launched an investigation into Jozef Oleksy's alleged spy activities. The inquiry, which is also directed against former Soviet and Russian diplomats Vladimir Alganov and Grigory Yakimishin, follows a motion put forward by former Interior Minister Andrzej Milczanowski on 19 December 1995 which was leaked to the media that same day (see OMRI Daily Digest 20 December 1995). The prosecutor's office stated that materials provided by the Interior Ministry have been "operational" (collected by the counterintelligence officers) and have to be verified through formal penal law procedures, Polish and international agencies reported. -- Jakub Karpinski UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOWS TO SPEED UP PRIVATIZATION. Leonid Kuchma told a meeting of top ministers and regional governors that privatization will accelerate in 1996 through the issuance of new decrees expanding the number of enterprises available and improving conditions for foreign investors, Ukrainian radio and Interfax-Ukraine reported 24 January. Poor results of last year's scheme prompted the IMF last week to delay issuance of the fourth tranche of a standby loan, worth $350 million. On 23 January a presidential aide told reporters that Kiev had managed to privatize only 60% of small-scale enterprises and 40% of some 8,000 large-scale firms slated for privatization last year. State Property Fund Chairman Yurii Yekhanurov said his agency plans to complete small- scale privatization by June and its large-scale privatization program by December. -- Chrystyna Lapychak UKRAINE TO PROVIDE PEACEKEEPERS IN BOSNIA. Deputy Foreign Minister Volodymyr Khandozy announced on 24 January that the 550 Ukrainian soldiers currently in Bosnia will stay and take part in the IFOR peace implementation mission, Reuters reported. He also disclosed that UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali invited Ukraine to send an additional force to eastern Slavonia. -- Doug Clarke BELARUSIAN KGB OPENS CONFIDENTIAL PHONE LINE. In a move reminiscent of the Stalin-era, the Belarusian KGB announced it has opened a confidential phone line for people to call-in and report any information they have on crimes, Reuters reported on 24 January. Colonel Yauhen Babrau, who helps run the phone service, denied that it is meant to recreate an informant network as had existed in the former Soviet Union. News of the phone service comes just a week after the head of the President's Control Service, Uladzimir Bandarenka, gave an interview in which he said that 3,200 individuals had gone to the control service with their grievances against people engaged in unfair economic practices last year, and announced the control service's telephone numbers in all of the country's main cities for people to call in. -- Ustina Markus RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN OIL TALKS SUSPENDED. Failing to reach any agreement over Ukraine's decision to raise its transit fee for Russian oil, Russia's Mintopenergo and Ukraine's Ukrhazprom broke off talks until 2 February, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 January. Russia insists that the tariff increase was a unilateral move on Ukraine's part, and such hikes should only be done through agreement at the highest levels of government. For its part, Ukraine is displeased with Russia's efforts to tie the cost of transit to the cost of Russian oil supplies to Ukraine. Yevhen Dovzhok, who heads Ukrhazprom, said Russia's approach was "more than inappropriate." Meanwhile, Russia has stopped supplying Ukraine's Drohobych oil refinery with oil, in a move which is interpreted in Ukraine as a pressure tactic to force Ukraine to rescind the new tariff. -- Ustina Markus ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER IN BELGIUM. Tiit Vahi began a four day visit to Belgium on 23 January, holding meetings with European Commission President Jacques Santer and other EU officials. Vahi noted that Estonia's economy was making progress, which should help it be among the first countries to begin negotiations on EU membership. In talks the next day with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, Vahi said Russian extremists pose a threat to his country's security and called on NATO to admit the Baltic states as members. Later that day, he signed an investment protection agreement with Belgian Deputy Premier Philippe Maystadt and met with his Belgian counterpart, Jean Luc Dehaene, BNS reported. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN PRIME MINISTER ASKED TO RESIGN. President Algirdas Brazauskas has asked Adolfas Slezevicius to resign, Radio Lithuania reported on 24 January. If Slezevicius does not do so, Brazauskas will allegedly ask the Seimas to remove him from office. Slezevicius told Lithuanian radio later that day that talk of his resignation was premature. Meanwhile, the prosecutor general's office announced it had begun criminal proceedings related to the exorbitant interest paid to the prime minister's account at LAIB bank. Formal charges cannot be brought against Slezevicius without approval from the Seimas. -- Saulius Girnius SLOVAK SUPREME COURT CHAIRMAN RESIGNS. The Slovak government on 24 January approved the resignation of Karol Plank, replacing him with Milan Karabin, who was recommended for the post by Justice Minister Jozef Liscak. Karabin, who since 1989 has served as chairman of the Supreme Court's Senate, has worked as a judge for 22 years. Plank told TASR "the motivation for my decision is nothing else but a need to free myself from the demanding work and to make way for younger people." However, Democratic Union deputy chairman Jan Budaj expressed fear that Plank resigned under pressure. In November, the Supreme Court reversed a controversial decision by the Finance Ministry to cancel the license of the investment firm PSIS. Also on 24 January, the cabinet approved a bill allowing for the establishment of supplementary retirement insurance, Narodna obroda reported. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON RELATIONS WITH SLOVAKIA. According to Laszlo Kovacs, the status of the ethnic-Hungarian minority in Slovakia could improve in the future, due to expanding bilateral Slovak-Hungarian trade relations, Hungarian media reported. Speaking in the west Hungarian town of Gyor, near the Slovak border, Kovacs said it is regrettable that moves like the passing of Slovakia's language law offer a chance to curb minority rights. He said the government believes the problem can be solved by providing accurate information to the EU, the OSCE, the European Parliament and other international organizations. -- Zsofia Szilagyi HUNGARY AND NATO SIGN IFOR AGREEMENT. NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and Hungarian delegate to NATO Andras Simonyi signed an agreement in Brussels on 24 January regulating Hungary's participation in IFOR operations and marking NATO's formal acceptance of the Hungarian technical contingent, Magyar Hirlap reported. A separate financial settlement was signed as well, stipulating that all costs of the Hungarian contingent's operation, including board, accommodation, various services, medical supplies and fuel will be borne by Hungary. According to the document, Hungary agrees to participate in the peacekeeping operation until 31 December 1996. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBS, CROATS, AND MUSLIMS MEET IN SARAJEVO. The international community's High Representative for civilian affairs, Carl Bildt, met on 24 January with leading representatives of the political "entities" party to the Dayton agreement. The Bosnian government was represented by outgoing Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic and his designated successor Hasan Muratovic; the Muslim and Croat Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by Prime Minister-designate Izudin Kapetanovic; and the Republika Srpska by Prime Minister Rajko Kasagic. Reuters said the participants spoke favorably about the session, with Silajdzic calling it "relatively relaxed." Kasagic added that "the war is behind us, the war is over. We must now build the bridges of peace." Bildt stressed the importance of access to the media for the coming elections, and the participants set up a working group to sort out radio and television frequencies. -- Patrick Moore CROATS PREPARE FOR NEXT STAGE OF BOSNIAN PEACE . . . Oslobodjenje's Onasa News Agency reported on 24 January that the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) met in Mostar and nominated its candidates for posts in the new federal and republican governments. The leading Croatian party selected Jandranko Prlic to head the republic's foreign ministry, and Drago Bilandzija to be federal deputy prime minister and finance minister. Vladimir Soljic will head the federal defense ministry, while Mato Tadic will be at justice. The party also agreed to transfer its executive functions to the federation in keeping with the Dayton agreement, and called on the Muslims to do the same. -- Patrick Moore . . . ON BOTH CIVILIAN AND MILITARY FRONTS. The existing Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosna would thus become a political organization and give up its governmental role. Many Croats have been uneasy about what they regard as subordinating their role to the Muslims in the federation. The head of the Bosnian Croat army (HVO) general staff, General Zivko Budimir, told Vecernji list of 25 January that the Croats will have their own national units in the new federal army and thus be able to maintain "their national identity . . . and the traditions of the HVO." -- Patrick Moore POLITICKING STARTING UP IN BOSNIA. The first weeks of the implementation of the Dayton agreement have witnessed various parties and politicians gearing up for the elections slated for later this year. Onasa said on 24 January that Silajdzic refuses to rule out forming a new political party. If he does set up a new organization, it could be a big step in breaking up a political landscape hitherto dominated by three large ethnically-based parties. The small Social Democratic Party called for free and democratic conditions for the elections. Its Vice President Gradimir Gojer denied that his civic-based party is a-national or godless, claiming he is at least as good a Croat as the HDZ's Kresimir Zubak, and noting that SDP members observe Christmas or Ramadan. Meanwhile in Serbia, Nasa Borba on 25 January quoted Democratic Party leader Vojislav Kostunica as saying his group would not set up a Bosnian branch to take part in the elections, unlike some other Serbian parties. -- Patrick Moore FOUR PEACEKEEPERS KILLED IN SARAJEVO BLAST. Four IFOR peacekeepers were killed and six injured in a blast on 25 January at the Zetra Olympic stadium in Sarajevo, international media reported. Improper handling of ammunition was the suspected cause. Unconfirmed reports said two victims were Portuguese and one Italian. Elsewhere, four French soldiers were injured by an explosion during a training mission near Sarajevo. In another incident on 25 January, a mine explosion injured four Danish soldiers. -- Michael Mihalka WORLD BANK TO PROVIDE BOSNIA WITH $150 MILLION. The World Bank confirmed in Sarajevo on 24 January that it will provide $150 million in emergency aid for Bosnian reconstruction, international agencies reported. The funds, which come in addition to the some $500 million promised at a Brussels conference on Bosnia reconstruction last month, are primarily intended to help rebuild the country's devastated utilities. The World Bank estimates that Bosnia needs $5.1 billion over the next three years for reconstruction. -- Michael Mihalka BELGRADE SIGNALS COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE? Uros Klikovac, federal deputy premier and justice minister, announced on 24 January that an office of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia shall open in rump Yugoslavia in the near future, Nasa Borba reported. He suggested that this marked the start of cooperation between Belgrade and the Hague, as outlined in the Dayton accord, but stressed it did not signal that Belgrade would extradite suspected war criminals. Klikavac maintained that Dayton obliged Belgrade to cooperate but said the agreement did not specify "the means" of cooperation. "Insofar as [rump] Yugoslavia learns of someone being involved in war crimes, then our [legal] authorities are obliged to bring proceedings against such a person. As far as I know, precisely these kinds of proceedings are already being undertaken," he said. -- Stan Markotich BELGRADE-ZAGREB HIGHWAY TO REOPEN. UN officials announced that the main Belgrade-Zagreb highway will reopen on 25 January, but only to UN and NATO military traffic, Politika reported the same day. Formerly the highway of the "Brotherhood and Unity," connecting Slovenia in the north and Macedonia in the south, the busiest road in former Yugoslavia was closed ever since the war started in summer 1991, thus becoming a symbol of separation of the former Yugoslav republics. -- Daria Sito Sucic ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS SLOVENIA. Nicolae Vacaroiu on 24 January began a three-day tour through former Yugoslavia, Romanian and Western media reported. Accompanied by a group of economic experts, Vacaroiu discussed with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek and President Milan Kucan ways of expanding mutual economic cooperation. -- Matyas Szabo REBEL DNIESTER TO TAX MOLDOVAN TRANSIT CARGOES. The president of the self-proclaimed Dniester republic on 23 January decreed drastic customs control on Moldovan cargoes transiting the region, BASA-press reported the following day. The decree provides for duties on all goods exported or imported by Moldova through Dniester territory but gives no details of the new tariffs. A spokesman for Moldovan President Mircea Snegur said the move came as a shock, since it occurred the same day the Dniester leaders were discussing in Chisinau ways to de-block negotiations over the future legal status of the region. -- Dan Ionescu WAS MAXWELL THE "KING OF BULGARIA" . . . Bulgarian newspapers on 24 January reported on an article in The Guardian the previous day entitled "King of Bulgaria," which deals with the connections between late media tycoon Robert Maxwell and former Bulgarian Communist leaders. The article, based on the Maxwell biography "Foreign Body" by Russell Davies, says Maxwell, former Bulgarian Communist Dictator Todor Zhivkov, former Prime Minister Andrey Lukanov, and former Communist Party Politburo member Ognyan Doynov had developed "perfect channels" to transfer some $2 billion in foreign currency out of Bulgaria. Maxwell reportedly helped the Communist leaders to launder money, mainly through joint ventures set up in the West with Bulgarian capital. -- Stefan Krause . . . OR NOT? Lukanov in an interview with RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service on 24 January said articles such as the one in The Guardian are simply attempts by newspapers to boost their sales. He added that Maxwell's investment policy in Bulgaria prior to 1989 was "good for the country." Pari on 25 January cited Lukanov as saying "Bulgaria did not transfer $2 billion because it simply did not have it." Doynov, who worked for Maxwell for one year after 1989, told the BBC on 23 January that he has no knowledge about trade deals between Bulgaria and Maxwell and that no money was transferred out of Bulgaria while he was a Politburo member. Former Premier Dimitar Popov repeatedly asserted that $2 billion of foreign reserves "vanished during Lukanov's tenure." -- Stefan Krause HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT VISITS ALBANIA. Hungarian President Arpad Goncz visited Albania on 23-24 January, signing agreements on transport cooperation and the protection of investments with his Albanian counterpart Sali Berisha, Republika and international agencies reported. Goncz and Berisha expressed hope that the Dayton agreement will increase chances for a solution of the conflicts in Kosovo and Vojvodina and committed themselves "to contributing to the peaceful solution of these problems." -- Fabian Schmidt ALBANIAN STATE MEDIA ACCUSE OPPOSITION OF ESPIONAGE . . . Albania, Rilindja Demokratike, and public television on 24 January accused the independent media and the Socialist party of espionage. The allegations are based on an Italian news agency interview with a former Albanian secret police officer. Albania said "tens of millions of Italian lira" are being paid monthly by the "communist world," including "Moscow and Serbia," to direct a network of spies which aims to "control the policy of the Tirana government." Albania further claims that "Serbian Communists are financing the [communist-era Albanian] secret police, the Socialists, the [independent daily] Koha Jone and [the Socialist party daily] Zeri I Popullit." -- Fabian Schmidt . . . DEMOCRATS DEMAND INVESTIGATIONS. The Democratic Party reacted to the allegations by calling for a parliamentary investigation, the Albanian language service of Deutsche Welle reported on 24 January. The party also called on the prosecutor's office and secret police to investigate all funding and revenues of the Socialists and Koha Jone "to bring the culprits to justice," international agencies reported on 25 January. The Socialists said the charges are part of the election campaign. Koha Jone and Zeri i Popullit on 25 January denied receiving any money from Serbia. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Sharon Fisher 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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