|No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear. - Edmund Burke|
No. 63, Part II, 28 March 1996
New OMRI Analytical Briefs: - "Crisis in Baltic Banking," by Michael Wyzan Available only via the World Wide Web: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Analytical/Index.html 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ IFOR TO HELP WITH BOSNIAN CIVILIAN RECONSTRUCTION. In an apparent reversal of NATO policy, U.S. commander Gen. George Joulwan on 27 March said that IFOR troops will join in civilian projects as well as perform purely military tasks. They will concentrate on opening roads, building bridges, and clearing mines to permit freedom of movement, AFP reported. The general said that "if this doesn't happen right, then it's going to be very difficult to carry out an election. If people can't travel along the roads, I don't call that 'mission creep,' I say that's part of the mission." IFOR had previously insisted that freedom of movement was a police matter that did not concern the peacekeepers. Joulwan added that the most serious Bosnian issue is now tension between Croats and Muslims, which is threatening to undermine the federation, the BBC reported on 28 March. In Washington, the U.S. Defense Intelligence chief, Gen. Patrick Hughes, stated that IFOR will also arrest indicted war criminals like Bosnian Serb civilian leader Radovan Karadzic and his military counterpart, Gen. Ratko Mladic, Nasa Borba reported. -- Patrick Moore ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINE RECEIVES 27 BLACK SEA FLEET VESSELS. Russia turned over 27 warships of different classes to Ukraine at a ceremony in Crimea on 27 March, Western and Ukrainian media reported. The ceremony was the first stage of an expected transfer of 150 ships to Kyiv in compliance with Russian-Ukrainian agreements to split the Soviet era Black Sea Fleet. Ukrainian Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk and Russian Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin met in Moscow on 26 March to hammer out remaining differences over dividing up the fleet. Russian agencies reported that they reached agreements on the status of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea and on the naval base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. A treaty on leasing the fleet's Crimean infrastructure by Russia and the terms of payment remains unresolved. Both sides have been trying to finalize agreements before Russian President Boris Yeltsin's scheduled visit to Kyiv on 4-5 April to sign a long-awaited friendship treaty with Ukraine. -- Chrystyna Lapychak LEFTIST LAWMAKERS SUBMIT ALTERNATIVE DRAFT OF NEW UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTION. A group of 125 leftist deputies have submitted to the parliament an alternative draft of the new Ukrainian constitution, Ukrainian agencies reported on 25 March. The document, which is called the Basic Law of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, provides for the restoration of the former Soviet-era regime but stops short of calling for union with other former republics. It declares Ukraine a "socialist state," eliminates the Presidency, and grants all powers to a supreme soviet or council. The draft also calls for Ukrainian and Russian as state languages and the return of communist-era emblems. The legislators are calling for a national referendum on the main provisions of their draft constitution. Nationalist groups, including the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, called the move a provocation aimed at destroying the constitutional process. -- Chrystyna Lapychak BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES UNION TREATY. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 27 March told the parliament that he will sign a union treaty with Russia in Moscow on 2 April, Western agencies reported. He distanced himself from earlier comments suggesting the treaty will create "a unified state" by saying "We are creating a union of two states" that will be similar to the EU." Lukashenka described the organizers of the anti-treaty demonstration in Minsk on 24 March as "enemies of the people." The organizers, including Belarusian People's Front Chairman Zyanon Paznyak, have gone into hiding to avoid arrest. But the parliament seemed unimpressed by his speech, since it failed to pass two resolutions on the treaty. -- Saulius Girnius ESTONIA, RUSSIA SIGN AGREEMENT ON MEDICAL INSURANCE FOR RETIRED MILITARY. Representatives of the Estonian Social Insurance Department and the Russian Defense Ministry on 27 March signed a medical insurance agreement for retired Russian military, ETA reported. Russia agreed to transfer more than 1 million kroons ($90,000) every month to a special bank account to pay the medical expenses of the 6,500 people covered by the agreement. Talks on the matter began in fall 1994. Meanwhile, Russian and Estonian delegations in Tallinn have begun another round of talks on determining the border between the two countries. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN POLITICAL PARTY PROPOSES REFERENDUM ON PROHIBITING SALE OF LAND TO FOREIGNERS. The Lithuanian National Progress Party (LTPP) on 27 March proposed to the Supreme Electoral Commission that a referendum be held on prohibiting the sale of land to foreigners, Radio Lithuania reported. The parliament last week approved an amendment to the constitution allowing foreigners to purchase non-agricultural land. If the parliament passes the amendment again after a three-month interval, it will go into effect immediately. The prohibition of sale of land to foreigners would prevent Lithuania from becoming a member of the EU. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH PARLIAMENT TO DISCUSS DRAFT PENAL CODE. The Polish government on 27 March submitted to the Sejm the draft penal code, which provides for more lenient treatment of prisoners than under current legislation. Capital punishment, which was recently suspended in Poland, is replaced by life imprisonment. Anyone receiving a life sentence can apply to be released after 25 years. Justice Minister Leszek Kubicki told the Sejm that while citizens want a tough law, public sentiment cannot define legislation that should be oriented toward the future, Polish dailies reported on 28 March. -- Jakub Karpinski POLISH PREMIER, PRIMATE MEET. Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 27 March met with Cardinal Jozef Glemp, Polish dailies reported. Cimoszewicz said they discussed "friendly world-view pluralism," while the primate noted that the meeting proved that the Church and the state were looking for new ways to collaborate. After a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Government and the Episcopate the same day, Archbishop Jerzy Stroba said the Polish Foreign Ministry has asked the Vatican for clarification of unclear points in the Concordat, which has still not been ratified. Meanwhile, a group of left-wing deputies have proposed that an extraordinary Sejm commission be formed to investigate the restitution of Roman Catholic Church property; 175 deputies, mostly from the ruling Alliance of Democratic Left, were in favor of the proposal and 136 against. -- Jakub Karpinski BRITISH QUEEN IN PRAGUE. Queen Elizabeth II on 27 March arrived in the Czech Republic from Poland for a three-day state visit, the first ever by a reigning British monarch. At a state banquet in Prague Castle, she supported Czech attempts to "regain a rightful place in the community of free nations," Czech media reported. "We strongly support the enlargement of the EU and NATO. We welcome your ambitions to become a member of these institutions," the Queen added. On 28 March, she is due to visit Brno. -- Steve Kettle REACTIONS TO SLOVAKIA'S LAW ON PROTECTION OF REPUBLIC. President Michal Kovac on 27 March said if he finds that the law on the protection of the republic violates basic human rights and the constitution, he will have no choice but to veto it, TASR reported. He added that neither the government nor the president permanently represents "the national state interest," emphasizing that neither is beyond criticism. Kovac said he does not feel that Slovak statehood is currently endangered. What Slovakia really needs, he said, is laws on the protection of the citizen and personal freedoms, since these would strengthen democracy. Also on 27 March, Justice Minister Jozef Liscak said the "protective provisions [of the new law] have long been required." He stressed that the law "will never harm anyone who has not acted with the intent of subverting the republic." -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK PARLIAMENT RE-APPROVES ANTI-COMMUNIST LAW. The parliament on 27 March passed a slightly amended law on the immorality and illegitimacy of the communist regime, Narodna obroda reported. The law, first approved in early February, was vetoed by President Michal Kovac at the cabinet's request. Opposition deputies criticized the coalition's "contradictory" behavior in passing a law that condemns the previous totalitarian regime only one day after approving the law on the protection of the republic. The parliament also approved laws on highway and housing construction. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARY WELCOMES SLOVAK RATIFICATION OF TREATY BUT NOT "INTERPRETATION CLAUSES." Budapest has welcomed Slovakia's ratification of the bilateral treaty but believes that the "interpretation clauses" rejecting collective rights for minorities have no legal force, Hungarian dailies reported Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs as saying on 27 March. He said those clauses contravene the Council of Europe Recommendation 1201. Kovacs added that they also reveal a one-sided interpretation of the treaty that should have no consequences for Hungary. Both he and Prime Minister Gyula Horn stressed that Hungary will only exchange ratification documents--thereby allowing the treaty to go into force--if the clauses are not included. Meanwhile, Hungary's opposition parties voiced concern about the treaty, with some suggesting that it should be renegotiated. -- Zsofia Szilagyi UNHCR HELPS FIRST GROUP OF BOSNIAN REFUGEES RETURN HOME. Two busses and a truck carrying 54 Bosnian Muslims and their belongings left the Nagyatad refugee camp, in southern Hungary, as the UNHCR began helping Bosnian refugees from outside former Yugoslavia return home, Hungarian and international media reported on 27 March. Since January, some 300 refugees have left Hungary on their own. The International Organization for Migration, the Hungarian authorities, and the UNHCR are all taking part in helping the refugees. The UNHCR provides $50 each to adults, $25 to children, and cold food for two days. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CROATIAN-MUSLIM MEETING SCRAPPED. The German government on 27 March cancelled a planned session near Bonn to mark the second anniversary of the Bosnian federation and to discuss practical questions about putting federal structures in place. German officials said the feuding allies had to learn that the international community cannot "hand them peace on a plate," AFP reported. The meeting was scrapped because the two sides failed to make any substantial progress on a host of issues dividing them. But Muslim, Croatian, and Serbian lawyers meeting in Sarajevo did set up a Human Rights Commission, Oslobodjenje said on 28 March. The UN police force, meanwhile, protested to federal authorities about an alleged total lack of cooperation with it on the part of federal police, Dnevni avaz reported. -- Patrick Moore SACIRBEY WARNS ABOUT FUTURE OF FEDERATION. Muhamed Sacirbey has resumed his old job as Bosnia's ambassador to the UN, saying that peace "will fail if the war crimes tribunal is not supported and does not bring about at least a minimum level of justice," AFP reported on 27 March. He singled out the need to protect mass grave sites and to arrest indicted war criminals like Karadzic and Mladic. Sacirbey also warned that the federation is threatened by powerful interests in the "Croatian para- state of Herceg-Bosna." He alleged that such individuals would like to torpedo the federation, not for the sake of a greater Croatia but for their own "criminal" economic gain. This includes such pursuits as exacting customs and transit duties, the BBC reported on 28 March. -- Patrick Moore SERBIA'S SUPREME COURT FREES MUSLIM PRISONERS. A group of 24 Muslims convicted of plotting the overthrow of the government and insurrection against the rump Yugoslav authorities were freed in Novi Pazar on 27 March. All of the accused were members of the Party for Democratic Action (SDA) of Sandzak. They were convicted in 1994 and sentenced to six years in prison, but the terms of 18 were reduced following appeals. The SDA members were freed after a ruling by the Serbian Supreme Court Council, Radio Bosnia-Herzegovina reported on 26 March. -- Stan Markotich WHO OWNS MONTENEGRO'S AIRPORTS? A row over who owns the airports in Podgorica and Tivat has entered the public domain. On 26 March, Zoran Djurisic, managing director of the republic's airlines, told Pobjeda that the airport facilities "are Montenegro's." SRNA reports that Djurisic's remark is in response to a statement by the director of rump Yugoslavia's airline that "[we] will soon be ready to discuss use of the airports with the Montenegrins." But Djurisic added that "[someone] is going to have to learn who the guest is and who the host is." -- Stan Markotich CROATIAN FARMERS, FISHERMEN STAGE BIG PROTEST. The Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) on 27 March organized a two-hour demonstration to protest imports, smuggling, and comodity prices. Farmers blocked 25 border crossings with tractors and demanded a halt to food imports until Croatia can determine what it can produce for itself, news agencies said. A HSS spokesman argued that imports and smuggling are threatening to ruin Croatian agriculture, from which roughly a quarter of the population earns its living. The farmers blame middlemen and others for the high cost of food, which approaches Western European levels, despite the fact that Croats have much lower incomes. Fishermen on the Adriatic also backed the protest. Meanwhile, Croatia has joined the list of countries banning British beef, Reuters reported. -- Patrick Moore MACEDONIAN PRIVATE BANK RECEIVES $10 MILLION FROM EBRD. The Skopje-based Komercijalna Banka has received a $10 million investment and loan package from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, RFE/RL reported on 27 March. The package includes a $2.6 million investment in the bank and a convertible loan of more than $7 million. The EBRD said the money is to be used to increase term lending operations to private companies and to state firms undergoing privatization. Komercijalna Banka is one of Macedonia's leading private banks. EBRD President Jacques de Larosiere said he expects it to "play a key role in advancing the transition process" in Macedonia. The EBRD will be represented on Komercijalna Banka's board. -- Stefan Krause ROMANIA TO APPLY FOR FULL NATO MEMBERSHIP THIS WEEK. The Romanian Foreign Ministry on 27 March announced that Romania will formally apply for full NATO membership later this week, Romanian media and Reuters reported. Romania is expected to ask NATO headquarters in Brussels to begin discussions on the country's admission. A document mapping out Romania's "individual dialogue" with the alliance has already been approved by the Supreme Council for the Country's Defense and will be accompanied by a letter to NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana. Jurnalul national on 28 March quoted President Ion Iliescu as saying that drawing up a list of favorite candidates for NATO integration could only "arouse suspicions." Romania was the first former communist country to sign up for NATO's Partnership for Peace program. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN ROUNDUP. President Zhelyu Zhelev on 27 March concluded a three-day visit to Belgium, Bulgarian dailies reported. Zhelev met with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, EU Commission President Jacques Santer, EU External Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek, and WEU Secretary-General Jose Cutileiro to discuss Bulgaria's integration into Western structures. Zhelev said he was surprised by the interest shown in Bulgaria. But RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent noted that Zhelev was clearly disappointed by the outcome of the talks. Bulgaria's chances of joining NATO or the EU in the near future are considered poor, partly because of the slow pace of reform and partly because of the Socialist government's position. In other news, Zhelev approved the government's decision to recall Ambassador to Switzerland Elena Kircheva, following her marriage to Petar Hadzhidimitrov, a Bulgarian emigre known for his anti-Semitic and extreme right-wing views. -- Stefan Krause GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN ALBANIA. Volker Ruhe on 27 March wrapped up a two-day visit to Albania, Western agencies reported. He and his Albanian counterpart, Safet Zhulali, agreed to implement 25 military cooperation projects this year, including training Albanian officers in Germany, a joint military exercise, and German assistance in introducing modern command structures into Albania's army. The projects are part of a 1995 bilateral cooperation agreement under which Germany has already supplied Albania with military equipment and helped upgrade the Skanderbeg Military Academy. Ruhe said Germany will continue to back Albania's efforts to join NATO. In other news, Albania on 27 March closed its borders to beef imports from the EU and other European countries out of fear of the "mad cow" disease. -- Fabian Schmidt and Stefan Krause [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. 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