|It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer|
No. 70, Part II, 9 April 1996
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ BELGRADE, SKOPJE ESTABLISH DIPLOMATIC TIES. Rump Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic and his Macedonian counterpart, Ljubomir Frckovski, met in Belgrade on 8 April to sign an accord establishing bilateral diplomatic relations. Frckovski hailed the agreement as opening "a new chapter" in relations with Belgrade. Milutinovic said that the accord represents progress in "strengthening" the regional peace process. Under the accord, both parties are to respect the "principles of equality, non-interference in internal affairs,...sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity." Nasa Borba, however, noted that the use of the term "Republic of Macedonia" in the agreement is likely to stir controversy. -- Stan Markotich ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE MORE DEPUTIES ELECTED IN UKRAINE. Six more deputies have been elected to the Ukrainian parliament in a fifth round of elections, Reuters reported on 8 April. This brings the total number of deputies in the 450-seat legislature to 425. Ukraine's voting system demands a minimum 50% voter turnout and that the successful candidate garner at least 50% of the vote. As a result, a number of constituencies are without elected deputies. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Radio on 6 April reported that parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz was hospitalized following a heart attack. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINE, VIETNAM SIGN AGREEMENT. President Leonid Kravchuk and his Vietnamese counterpart, Le Duc Anh, meeting in Hanoi on 8 April, signed an agreement on cooperation, international agencies reported. Accords on consular protection, avoidance of double taxation, and scientific cooperation were also signed. Kuchma is on the first leg of a week-long tour of Indonesia and Vietnam intended to boost bilateral trade. Trade between Ukraine and Vietnam stood at a mere $15 million last year. Meanwhile, the issue of Vietnam's debts to former Soviet republics remains unresolved. -- Ustina Markus UN DOWNGRADES UKRAINE. The U.N. has agreed to downgrade Ukraine's status from the "B" group of states to the "C" group, Reuters reported on 5 April. Kyiv asked for the downgrading during President Leonid Kravchuk's administration since the move means a reduction in Ukraine's fees to the UN. Ukraine owes the UN $243 million in unpaid dues. Volodymyr Yelchenko, head of the Foreign Ministry's UN department, said the decision to downgrade Ukraine's status meant one of Ukraine's main foreign-policy objectives had been achieved. -- Ustina Markus BELARUS TO SELL TANKS TO HUNGARY. An agreement was signed in Minsk on 4 April providing for the sale of 100 Belarusian T-72 tanks to Hungary, AFP reported the following day. The tanks would have had to be destroyed by Belarus under the terms of the CFE treaty. Ironically, they will be used instead to replace Hungarian T-55 tanks, which were dismantled under the same treaty. The value of the deal was not made public at Belarus's request. -- Ustina Markus RUSSIA WANTS COMPENSATION FROM ESTONIA FOR MISSING RUBLES. The Russian government has requested that Estonia offer compensation for rubles it failed to return to Russia some four years ago, Reuters reported on 8 April. In summer 1992, Estonia introduced its own currency, the kroon, but failed to give back to Russia the 2.6 billion rubles still in circulation, which were worth some $170 million at the June 1992 exchange rate. It has been alleged that most of the rubles were sold to the Chechen Republic via intermediaries. Estonian authorities have already started criminal proceedings over the sale of the rubles. -- Natalia Gurushina UPDATE: LATVIAN-ESTONIAN BORDER TALKS. Talks on the Latvian-Estonian sea border have made no progress, BNS reported on 6 April. Latvia has demarcated a line on the map, saying it will use naval forces to guarantee the safety of its fishing vessels in that zone if necessary. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs on 8 April commented that the dispute has been exaggerated and would not lead to war between the two countries. He added that the chances of finding a solution are good but will take time. The Latvian and Estonian prime ministers are to discuss the issue again during a Baltic Assembly meeting this week. -- Ustina Markus INCENDIARY DEVICES HURLED AT POLISH EMBASSY IN ROME. Two incendiary devices were hurled at the Polish embassy in Rome on 8 April, Polish and international media reported. The attack has been linked to a demonstration outside the Auschwitz concentration camp on 6 April that was organized by the Polish National Community, a fringe political group campaigning under the slogan "Poland for the Poles." The demonstrators rallied in support of plans to build a shopping mall near the camp, where the Nazis exterminated some 1.5 million people, mostly Jews. Diplomats in Rome believe that Italian Jews were behind the attack in protest against the Auschwitz demonstrations. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz CZECH-GERMAN DECLARATION WILL NOT BE READY BEFORE ELECTIONS. A Czech- German declaration to be adopted by the two countries' parliaments will not be ready before the 31 May-1 June Czech parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told Czech TV on 8 April. The document is intended to help Czechs and Germans put the traumas of their recent common past behind them. Czech media reported last week that in the declaration, the Czech Republic will apologize to Germany for some aspects of the expulsion of Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II. In exchange, Germany is to express willingness to abandon Sudeten Germans' property claims related to the expulsion. According to a survey by the Factum agency and published in Mlada fronta Dnes on 9 April, only 7% of Czechs want their government to apologize for the post-war expulsions, saying they would vote for political parties that favor making an apology. Some 86% of the respondents said they would not vote for such a party. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK TRADE UPDATE. Slovak imports reached 51.191 billion crowns in the first two months of 1996, up 37% on the same period last year, TASR reported on 4 April. The largest volume of imports came from the Czech Republic (24.8%), followed by Russia (19.9%), and Germany (13.3%). Imports from EU countries, which accounted for 30% of Slovak imports, increased by 30.5%. Exports grew by only 6.3% compared with the first two months of 1995, reaching 39.713 billion crowns. The Czech Republic (32.6%) and Germany (20.2%) were Slovakia's biggest export markets. The opposition Democratic Union on 4 April pointed out that although 19,000 Slovak firms are involved in exports, only 60 of them are of decisive importance. -- Sharon Fisher EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT IN HUNGARY. Jacques Santer on 5 April said that it is more likely that East European states will be admitted to the EU one by one rather than in groups, as has been the practice, Hungarian media reported. Santer, who was in Budapest for two-day talks on the eastward expansion of the EU, commented that negotiations with the East European associate countries could begin in early 1998. Prime Minister Gyula Horn said Hungary expects the EU to make a selective approach on the basis of candidates' individual performance. The European Commission is soon to hand over a 100-page questionnaire to EU associates to assess their preparations for membership. Santer urged Hungary to annul the 8% customs surcharge on EU exports to Hungary by the end of June 1997 and to decrease its subsidies for agricultural exports. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE REACTIONS TO RUMP YUGOSLAV-MACEDONIAN RECOGNITION. Greece on 8 April voiced its dissatisfaction with the mutual recognition agreement between rump Yugoslavia and Macedonia, AFP reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Konstantinos Bikas said recognition of Macedonia under that name "does not help stability in the region and cannot be considered a friendly act towards Greece." Bulgaria welcomed the agreement, saying it will "contribute to stabilizing the climate in the Balkans." Meanwhile, Vuk Draskovic, leader of the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement, said the agreement means "that Macedonia will now be Serbia's bridge to Greece and Serbia will be Macedonia's bridge to Europe." Milorad Jovanovic, representative of the Democratic Party of Serbia, was more cautious, saying the establishment of diplomatic relations was "a little hasty" because talks over the official name of Macedonia have not yet been concluded. -- Stefan Krause and Stan Markotich BOSNIAN SERBS PRESENT EVIDENCE OF WAR CRIMES. Serbian pathologists have spent some days examining the bodies of at least 181 people from a mass grave near Mrkonjic Grad in western Bosnia. The area was held by Bosnian Serb forces for most of the war but fell to Croatian units last fall. Doctors say that 102 out of the 181 show evidence of having been beaten to death, Nasa Borba reported on 9 April. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN BRIEFS. President Alija Izetbegovic warned that moves by former Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic to found his own centrist party could split the Muslim vote. He added that his own political future would depend on his health, Oslobodjenje reported on 7 April. The daily two days later discussed concern over the rapid loss of value of the Bosnian dinar. A rise in the legal limits on personal income and recent large payments to workers in state enterprises led to the fall in confidence in the currency, Vjesnik wrote. On 5 April, government forces freed 18 POWs, while the Croats released 28, the Onasa news agency reported. Controversy continues over whether the Serbs will be allowed to attend the upcoming conference on reconstruction aid if they do not free all their remaining prisoners. -- Patrick Moore CROATIA ARRESTS FOUR BOSNIANS ON TERRORISM CHARGES. The Interior Ministry on 4 April arrested four armed Bosnians in the Adriatic town of Senj on suspicion that they intended to carry out terrorist activities in Croatia, Vjesnik said on 8 April. The four reportedly had documents from the Bosnian Interior Ministry in Bihac, and it thought they may have been sent to assassinate former Bihac kingpin Fikret Abdic. The renegade Muslim leader has been living quietly in Croatia since last fall, after Croatian and Bosnian government forces put an end to his self-declared mini-state, which had become a client of the Krajina Serbs. Abdic is currently based in Rijeka, north of Senj. -- Patrick Moore MORE MOVES AGAINST PRESS FREEDOM IN CROATIA. Tax authorities have presented the country's only independent daily, Rijeka's Novi list, with a bill for DM 4 million. Customs authorities assessed the Italian minority's periodical Unija as owing similar amounts, Nasa Borba reported on 7 April. Opposition groups charged that the move is an attempt to crush what little press freedom there is in Croatia, Novi list wrote on 9 April. The tax and customs bills recall the earlier attempt to drive the independent weekly Feral Tribune out of business with a pornography tax. The latest measures come on the heels of two new major restrictive pieces of legislation and the impending closure of the independent Zagreb radio station "101." -- Patrick Moore SERBIAN CRACKDOWN ON ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE MEDIA IN KOSOVO. Serbian police in Kosovo have closed down the printing house of the Albanian-language weekly Koha, local media reported. The authorities had insisted that last week's issue be censored by the prosecutor-general's office before being printed but the weekly had refused to comply. That office has since initiated legal proceedings against Koha. The prosecutor-general reportedly took exception to photograph montages of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic standing next to men in Nazi uniforms under the title "Anschluss 1989." The montages appeared in an issue commemorating the abolition of Kosovo's autonomous status. Koha Editor in Chief Veton Surroi said he stands "firmly behind the main messages" of the satirical montage. He added that the prosecutor-general's action indicates that the weekly was right and that his office is trying conceal what happened. -- Fabian Schmidt ROMANIAN ELECTION UPDATE. Nicolae Manolescu, leader of the Party of Civic Alliance, said the Liberal Party '93 may soon join the pact concluded by his party and the Social Democratic Union for the local elections in May, Radio Bucharest reported on 7 April. The pact, which was announced on 4 April, provides for the signatories to jointly monitor election procedures and to support one another in the second round. Meanwhile, a new party calling itself Romania's Alternative held its first congress in Bucharest on 5 April. Also on 5 April, the Romanian Ecological Movement merged with the Ecological Convention, the National Agrarian Party and several non-government organizations to form a party called The Ecologists. -- Michael Shafir MOLDOVAN PREMIER REFUSES TO NOMINATE DEFENSE MINISTER. Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli has refused to nominate a new defense minister, accusing President Mircea Snegur of ignoring a Constitutional Court ruling (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 April 1996). Sangheli wants Pavel Creanga to remain in his post, but Snegur, in a letter to Sangheli dated 6 April, said investigations have "unequivocally" established that there is corruption within the Defense Ministry and that Creanga has failed to take appropriate measures, BASA-press reported on 6 and 8 April. Snegur also pointed to a statement by 100 army officers on 5 April saying Creanga cannot remain Defense Minister and that the court's ruling has only "aggravated" the situation. The officers say that until the problem is resolved, they will obey only orders from Snegur in his capacity as commander in chief of the military. Creanga says he intends to resume office. -- Michael Shafir MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH TRANSDNIESTER LEADER. Snegur on 8 April met with the leader of the breakaway Transdniester region, Igor Smirnov, in Tiraspol to discuss political and socio-economic issues, Moldovan media reported. Snegur asked Smirnov to pardon the so-called Ilascu- group, whose leader, Ilie Ilascu, was sentenced to death in 1992 for alleged terrorist activities. His sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment. Meanwhile, Romanian Justice Minister Iosif Gavril Chiuzbaian has urged France to intervene to secure the release of Ilascu, whom Bucharest is proposing for the Nobel Peace Prize, AFP reported on 8 April. -- Michael Shafir BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT DENIES LACK OF SUPPORT FOR ROVER. Minister for Economic Development Rumen Gechev on 8 April rejected as "absolutely groundless" charges by the Rover Group that the closure of the company's assembly plant in Varna was dictated by bureaucratic obstacles and lack of government support, Demokratsiya reported. Rover on 4 April had announced its decision to stop assembling cars in Bulgaria after only seven months (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 April 1996). Gechev said the main reasons for Rover's failure were uncompetitive products, a wrong marketing strategy, and lack of funding from the Bank for Agricultural Credit, which owns Rover's partner, Daru Group. He said the government will help Rover to find a new partner in the form of a "stable state- owned firm." Meanwhile, Standart reported that rump Yugoslav car maker Zastava has proposed assembling cars in Bulgaria. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN POLITICAL ROUNDUP. Hristo Miladinov, Bulgarian ambassador in Moscow, has handed a note to the Russian Foreign Ministry protesting Russian President Boris Yeltsin's remark that Bulgaria may join the integration agreement recently signed by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, 24 chasa reported. Miladinov noted that relations with Russia nonetheless remain a top foreign-policy priority for Bulgaria. Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev has insisted that the government officially reject Yeltsin's proposal. Meanwhile, Standart reported that Zhelev and Petar Stoyanov have vowed to conduct a fair campaign for primary elections scheduled for 1 June, which are aimed at finding a presidential candidate for the united opposition. Zhelev and Stoyanov are the only candidates in the primaries. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS ELECT NEW PARTY LEADER. More than one year after party leader Eduard Selami was fired, the Albanian Democrats have elected Tritan Shehu as his successor, Albanian media reported. Shehu has been acting party leader since Selami's dispute with President Sali Berisha in March 1995, which led to his dismissal. Selami offended Berisha by supporting the opposition view that the constitution should be adopted by the parliament. He also demanded that the position of party leader and prime minister be combined. Meanwhile, Berisha has pledged that the Democrats will promote "both pre- and post-election cooperation" among right-wing parties, Reuters reported. The Democrats' most likely coalition partner is the Republican Party, led by historian Sabri Godot. Godot has said that the two parties have the common aim of "fighting communism." -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.