|Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. - Thomas Carlyle|
No. 34, Part II, 16 February 1996
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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ HOLBROOKE SAYS BOSNIAN PEACE PROCESS FACES 'MOST SERIOUS THREAT' TO DATE. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke said in Paris on 16 February that the Rome summit has been brought forward to this weekend because the peace process is facing its "most serious threat" so far. Holbrooke said "sloppiness" in the Dayton peace accord is mainly responsible for the current problems, as each side is interpreting it to its own advantage. Holbrooke added that the issue of war crimes, which prompted the Bosnian Serbs to boycott talks with the Bosnian government and international organizations, is "non-negotiable." Meanwhile, the international community's Carl Bildt included among the issues to be addressed at the summit the continued Bosnian Serb boycott, unfulfilled pledges from the international community to provide aid for reconstruction, and the scheduled elections, which are supposed to take place by September. -- Michael Mihalka ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINE, FRANCE SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENT. The defense ministers of Ukraine and France, Valerii Shmarov and Charles Millon, have signed two bilateral military cooperation agreements during the latter's two-day visit to Kiev, Ukrainian and international agencies reported on 15 February. The agreements provide for joint military exercises, exchange of expertise on military training, and cooperation in military technology. Ukraine and France have already begun to cooperate in peacekeeping in the former Yugoslavia. Millon said France was "satisfied" that some 600 Ukrainian military personnel were serving in the French-monitored sector in Bosnia. -- Chrystyna Lapychak MILITARY LEADERS PROPOSE REFORM OF UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES. More than 700 generals and officers have signed an open letter proposing that Ukraine's armed forces be reformed, Ukrainian TV and ITAR-TASS reported on 15 February. They suggest that the number of troops be reduced over the next 15 years, saying a smaller, more mobile defense force would be more feasible financially. They also claimed their plan has won the approval of specialists and government officials. Ukrainian Defense Minister told reporters on 15 February that Kiev will proceed with a plan to cut the country's armed forces from 470,000 to 350,000 over the next four years. Meanwhile, President Leonid Kuchma on 12 February fired Anatolii Lopata, the army's chief of staff, for proposing a larger force. -- Chrystyna Lapychak UKRAINIAN PREMIER SAYS IMF MAY AGREE TO LARGER DEFICIT. Yevhen Marchuk told Ukrainian TV on 15 February that he is confident the IMF will accept a larger deficit in the country's 1996 draft budget. He said he believes the IMF will agree to a deficit of 6.4% of GDP rather than 6%, as agreed previously. This would pave the way for granting Ukraine the fourth tranche of a $1.5 billion standby loan. The IMF delayed the installment, worth $700 million, because of Kiev's failure to approve this year's budget and make debt payments for energy imports. Marchuk said some 37 trillion karbovantsi of the new deficit would be covered by National Bank credits, which he called "undesirable, but unavoidable." He stressed that the parliament needs to adopt the budget by 6 April, when the IMF board is scheduled to decide whether to release the funds. -- Chrystyna Lapychak SEJM APPROVES NEW POLISH GOVERNMENT. The Sejm on 15 February approved Wlodziemirz Cimoszewicz's cabinet by a vote of 273 to 87 with 28 abstentions, Polish media reported. Cimoszewicz succeeded Jozef Oleksy, who resigned in January after military prosecutors launched an investigation into allegations that he had spied for Moscow. Cimoszewicz said after the vote he was confident his government would remain in office until next year's parliamentary elections. -- Jakub Karpinski LATVIAN-ESTONIAN SEA BORDER TALKS. Latvian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstins has said it may be necessary to refer Latvia's maritime border dispute with Estonia to an international court or to arbitration, BNS reported on 15 February. Negotiations with Estonia on 13 February in Stockholm reportedly made little progress in settling the dispute. Latvia, rejecting Estonia's claim that the area around the Ruhnu and Kihnu islands is part of its economic zone, has proposed that the two states divide up the Gulf of Riga equally. In December, Estonian warships forcibly expelled Latvian fishing boats that entered the disputed area. The next round of talks on the sea border are likely to take place in late March. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN PREMIER APPROVED. The Seimas on 15 February approved the appointment of Mindaugas Stankevicius as prime minister by a vote of 70 to six with two abstentions, BNS reported. The major opposition parties did not participate in the vote, saying that although they were opposed to the formation of another Democratic Labor Party government, they would not hinder the appointment of Stankevicius. Stankevicius has 15 days to name a government, which must be approved by President Algirdas Brazauskas, and to present his program to the Seimas. It is unclear whether the opposition will try to force early parliamentary elections. -- Saulius Girnius CZECH PARLIAMENT PASSES MONEY LAUNDERING LAW. By an almost unanimous vote, the Czech parliament on 15 February adopted a law designed to restrict money laundering. Under its terms, banks and other financial institutions will have to report the details of people making transactions of more than 500,000 koruny ($18,500) and unspecified "unusual transactions" to the Finance Ministry, Czech media reported. The law was three years in the making. Meanwhile, the country's mass privatization program, now officially completed, has repeatedly been described as providing a perfect cover for laundering "dirty money." -- Steve Kettle CZECH STEEL GIANT FACES BANKRUPTCY. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs on 15 February began bankruptcy proceedings against the leading Czech steel producer, Poldi Ocel, for not paying employees' social security payments totaling 170 million koruny ($6.3 million), Czech media reported. The move followed the breakdown of a government-endorsed rescue plan whereby engineering giant Skoda Plzen would have taken over the hugely indebted steelworks. Vladimir Stehlik, Poldi Ocel's controversial majority owner, refused to relinquish control to Skoda. National Property Fund Chairman Roman Ceska said a suit will also be filed accusing Stehlik's firm Bohemia Art of improperly acquiring a majority stake in Poldi Ocel, which employs 6,500 workers and which during the communist era was a major supplier to the Comecon countries. -- Steve Kettle SLOVAK PRESIDENT ACCUSES SECRET SERVICE OF SON'S KIDNAPPING. Michal Kovac on 15 February for the first time publicly accused the Slovak Information Service (SIS) of kidnapping his son to Austria last August, Sme and international media reported. He told a news conference that Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar had spoken "untruths and half-truths" a day earlier when he said there was no evidence of SIS participation in the abduction. Kovac said SIS equipment and employees were involved in the kidnapping, adding: "I do not assume, however, that the prime minister knew about it." Kovac called on the director of the SIS, Meciar's ally Ivan Lexa, to resign, saying that the kidnapping could not have taken place without his involvement. -- Steve Kettle HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER RECEIVED BY POPE. Gyula Horn on 15 February had a private audience with John Paul II in the Vatican, international agencies reported. The two men talked about an expected papal visit to Hungary in June 1996, when Hungary celebrates the 1,100 anniversary of its founding. They also discussed a possible concordat between Hungary and the Roman Catholic Church. Horn the previous day met with outgoing Italian Prime Minister Lamberto Dini for talks on Hungarian membership in the EU. -- Jiri Pehe SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE IFOR SEIZES 'FOREIGN FIGHTERS.' IFOR on 15 February detained 11 heavily armed individuals near Sarajevo who were carrying a significant number of weapons and munitions, international media reported. IFOR did not reveal the identity of the individuals, saying only they were not natives of Bosnia and that their presence appeared to violate provisions of the Dayton peace accords prohibiting the presence of "foreign forces." Some sources say that a few of the men were Iranians. Both IFOR and the Bosnian government have officially maintained that there are no "foreign fighters" in the country, but the U.S. has repeatedly complained to the Bosnian government that their continued presence threatens military aid. -- Michael Mihalka PLAN FOR TRANSFER OF SERB-HELD SARAJEVO SUBURBS. Michael Steiner, deputy to the international community's Carl Bildt, on 15 February presented a plan for the phased transfer of Serb-held Sarajevo suburbs to Bosnian government control, Hina and international media reported. A federal police force is to take over on 20 March and will reflect the composition of the national population based on the 1990 census. Serbian police officers who are not indicted for war crimes may serve in the force. Steiner added there was no longer any need to discuss the matter with Bosnian Serb authorities, who have boycotted meetings with international organizations. -- Michael Mihalka SARAJEVO BUS TARGETED FROM "KNOWN LOCATIONS." An IFOR spokesman has said that sniper shots aimed at a Sarajevo bus on 14 February can be traced to "the same location from which IFOR soldiers were fired at," Onasa reported the next day. Two people were injured in the 14 February shooting. Meanwhile, Onasa also reported that a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has said that the corridor linking downtown Sarajevo to Serb-populated Ilidza will be restored when authorities determine it to be safe. -- Stan Markotich HOLBROOKE SAYS BOSNIAN SERB GENERAL MUST GO. Reuters on 15 February quoted U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke as saying NATO will "demand compliance" with regard to the status of Bosnian Serb General and accused war criminal Ratko Mladic. Holbrooke said that by continuing to hold onto his post, Mladic is "defying the Dayton agreement." He also said that Mladic is likely to be a major topic of discussion at the Rome summit this weekend. -- Stan Markotich CROATIAN POLICE ARRIVE IN MOSTAR. Hina on 15 February reported that 101 police officers from Croatia have arrived in the Bosnian city of Mostar with the mandate to preserve peace and law and order. Josko Moric, Zagreb's deputy interior minister, said the officers will wear Croatian uniforms. He added that they will not police Muslim-held parts of the city and will not come under the command of EU police authorities. Croatia had promised at Dayton to send more than 100 police officers to Mostar. Meanwhile, Slobodna Dalmacija on 16 February reported that Mostar's Croatian and Muslim mayors are slated to meet in Sarajevo on 16-17 February for discussions aimed at restoring contacts and resolving outstanding differences. -- Stan Markotich SERBIAN AUTHORITIES CLAMP DOWN ON INDEPENDENT TV. Belgrade's only politically independent television station, Studio B, is the latest target in the government's campaign against independent media in the rump Yugoslavia, Nasa Borba reported on 16 February. A Belgrade court the previous day revoked the station's status as a private company. Reuters quoted Milorad Roganovic, general manager of Studio B TV, as saying "I don't know how you can have a private company for six years and then all of a sudden it doesn't exist. This is stupidity." The BBC on 16 February reported that the attempt to take over Studio B appears to be part of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's plan to control and manipulate information as rump Yugoslav general elections approach. -- Stan Markotich ROMANIAN SENATE PASSES LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES. The Romanian Senate on 15 February approved the draft law on political parties, Radio Bucharest reported. Since the draft differs from one passed by the Chamber of Deputies, a mediation commission will now attempt to bridge differences between the two texts. The bill raises the minimum membership of political party from 2,500 to 10,000 members. The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) faction walked out in protest and did not participate in the ballot. UDMR senator Gyorgy Frunda told the parliament before the vote that the draft infringes on both the right to free association and the international convention on the rights of national minorities, which Romania has signed. The UDMR has said it will appeal the bill at the Constitutional Court. -- Michael Shafir GROWING LABOR UNREST IN ROMANIA. Most of the 4,000 employees at a Romanian car plant co-owned by South Korea's industrial giant Daewoo have been on strike for more than a week, despite a court ruling that the protest action is illegal, Romanian and international media reported on 15 February. The strikers are demanding that their wages be indexed to the dollar. President Ion Iliescu, meeting with union leaders and management at the car plant, said the strike was endangering Korean investment in Romania. South Korea is Romania's largest foreign investor. Meanwhile, more than 5,000 steel workers in the town of Hunedoara protested for the third consecutive day against lay-offs caused by cuts of energy supplies at their plant. At a rally outside the city hall on 15 February, they threatened to launch an indefinite strike if energy supplies are not resumed. -- Matyas Szabo MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER AT EU HEADQUARTERS. Mihai Popov on 15 February held talks in Brussels with Hans van den Broek, the EU Commissioner for relations with Eastern Europe and the CIS, to review progress on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova. Reuters quoted Popov as saying there were good chances that Russia's commitment to withdraw its troops from eastern Moldova will be carried out soon. He added, however, that the unstable political situation in Russia may complicate the withdrawal. Russia has pledged to remove troops from the breakaway Dniester region within six months to comply with one of the conditions for its recent successful application to join the CE. -- Matyas Szabo BULGARIAN OPPOSITION ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. Leaders of the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), the People's Union (NS), and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom on 15 February held talks on selecting a joint candidate for upcoming presidential elections. Standart reported that SDS Chairman Ivan Kostov failed to persuade other party leaders to preliminary elections among the parties' members. Kostov said that incumbent President Zhelyu Zhelev can "on no account" be the SDS's candidate but he can be the candidate of the united opposition. But he added that the president will have to participate in the preliminaries. Kostov also said that the "necessary circumstances" for former Tsar Simeon's candidacy do not exist. Kontinent reported that the NS will set up a political council of all parties supporting Zhelev's candidacy. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN MINE PRIVATIZATION TO GET UNDER WAY. Albanian authorities on 15 February announced they will start the privatization of the country's mines in the coming weeks, international agencies reported the same day. Director of the National Privatization Center Niko Glozheni said smaller mines will be put up for auction in the first wave of privatization. Glozheni said that in 1995, 2,924 small and medium-sized state enterprises and 50 large ones were privatized. Albania is the world's third biggest chrome producing country. In other news, Albania and Germany signed an agreement whereby Germany will provide aid worth $13 million to help improve the water supply system in three Albanian towns. The agreement is the second stage of a project on which Germany has already spent about $5.8 million. Negotiations on a similar program in two other towns are currently under way. -- Stefan Krause EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT BACKS GREECE IN DISPUTE WITH TURKEY . . . The European Parliament on 15 February passed a declaration backing Greece in its dispute with Turkey over the islet of Imia/Kardak, AFP reported the same day. The vote was 342 to 21 with 11 abstentions. The resolution condemned "Turkey's dangerous violation of Greek sovereignty" and voiced concern about "increased military tension in the Aegean." Meanwhile, a Greek Aegean Ministry official said Athens will continue with a resettlement program involving 10 islets, which was unveiled last July. Also on 15 February, the Greek government named Gen. Athanasios Tzoganis as new armed forces chief of staff. Tzoganis, until now chief of the air force, replaces Admiral Christos Limberis, who was fired on 8 February for his handling of the crisis. -- Stefan Krause . . . WHILE TURKEY REJECTS LEGALITY OF RESOLUTION. The Turkish Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, termed the European Parliament's resolution "devoid of any legal basis" and noted that the parliament is maintaining its "biased and far from constructive stance," Reuters reported on 15 February. The ministry the same day summoned a Greek envoy to demand that Greece withdraw a speedboat reportedly anchored off the Kardak/Imia islet in the Aegean. -- 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. 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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