|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
No. 93, Part II, 14 May 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 CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINIAN BORDER DEMARCATION. Ukraine has demarcated its borders with Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 May. Working maps delineating the border with Belarus should be complete by the end of the year. Territorial disputes remain unresolved with Romania. Debate continues with Russia on the borders in the Black and Azov seas. Sewage leakage from the Moldovan cities of Soroki and Yampil into Ukrainian gardens and fields is another source of minor border disputes. -- Ustina Markus RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN OIL TARIFF DISPUTE CONTINUES. Russian oil supplied to Hungary and Slovakia through Ukraine's Druzhba pipeline will increase to 1.5 million tons in May from 900,000 tons in April, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 May. Ukraine has threatened to block the transit of oil for 16 Russian oil exporters that refuse to pay an increased transit fee. Ukraine raised the fee at the beginning of this year from $4.53 to $5.2 per ton of oil piped through 100 km of Ukrainian territory. Moscow has insisted that Russian firms pay the old rate claiming that the price hike was done unilaterally. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS DISMISS TOP TV OFFICIALS. The Ukrainian Parliament voted to dismiss state TV and radio's two top officials for alleged corruption, Reuters and Radio Rossii reported on 13 May. The head of the legislature's media commission charged Zinovii Kulyk, chairman of the State Committee on TV and Radio, and Oleksandr Savenko, head of the national TV company, with giving free air time to broadcast companies with foreign capital and of corrupt licensing practices. Deputies said President Kuchma promised to remove the two officials last June after signing an agreement with legislators on the separation of government powers. -- Chrystyna Lapychak RUSSIA CLAIMS ESTONIA HAS IRA CONTACTS. Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) spokesman Mikhail Kirilin told BNS on 13 May that the Irish Republican Army has contacted representatives of Estonia's volunteer defense force, Kaitseliit, and some non-government groups to buy weapons. Kirilin did not say when the contacts were made. He also emphasized that the FSB only had information on the contacts and not on the sale of weapons. Kirilin said the FSB did not supply any information on the IRA contacts to Estonia's special services, which do not have "sufficient strength, means, or high enough professional standards to conduct operative investigations and retain confidentiality." Estonia's Foreign Ministry has refuted claims that Kaitseliit sold weapons to the IRA. -- Saulius Girnius GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN WARSAW. Volker Ruehe in a two-day visit to Poland on 13 May met with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Defense Minister Stanislaw Dobrzanski to discuss bilateral relations and Poland's efforts to join NATO. Ruehe said Poland will be among the first new NATO members, but any specific decisions concerning the expansion will not be made before 1997. He said that as a defense minister he is "particularly happy about relations between soldiers from both countries." In a lecture at the International Relations Center, Ruehe said it is Germany's duty to facilitate Poland's return to Europe and Poland's role for Germany is "equally important to that of France." -- Jakub Karpinski SOUTH KOREAN PRIME MINISTER IN WARSAW. South Korean Prime Minister Soo- sung Lee began a four-day visit to Poland on 13 May. After meeting with his Polish counterpart, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Lee said Korea wants to develop economic ties with Poland and to create companies that would combine Polish technology with South Korean capital. This is the first visit of such a high-ranking South Korean official to Poland since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1989. Last year Polish-South Korean trade totaled $542 million, of which Korean exports amounted to $411 million and Polish exports to $131 million, Polish and international media reported. Korea's Daewoo Corporation has been particularly active on the Polish market and formed a joint venture with Poland to produce cars at the former state-owned FSO car plant in Warsaw, with a planned investment of $1.1 billion over six years. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH TELECOM DEAL IN QUESTION. Charges and counter-charges have been made since a Prague court invalidated last week a privatization deal that awarded 27% of Czech Telecom's shares to the foreign consortium TelSource, Czech media reported. The deal, worth over $1 billion, represents the biggest foreign investment in the Czech Republic to date. The controversy is whether or not the representation of shareholders in the deal was valid since the power of attorney that Economic Minister Karel Dyba used at the shareholders' assembly was over a year old. While independent lawyers suggest that the court's decision could jeopardize TelSource's participation in the privatization, government representatives said they were not worried. An appellate court will now rule on the case. -- Jiri Pehe BROADCAST TELEPHONE CONVERSATION COMPROMISES REPUTATION OF SLOVAK OFFICIALS. Radio Twist, a private Bratislava-based station, on 13 May broadcast a recording of a telephone conversation between the head of the Slovak Intelligence Service, Ivan Lexa, and Internal Affairs Minister Ludovit Hudek that suggests that the two officials have been trying to manipulate the results of the investigation into the kidnapping case of Slovak President Michal Kovac's son. President Kovac has long maintained that the kidnapping was organized by Lexa's agency as an act of political revenge; the government has denied such charges. Radio Twist claims the tape was left in their offices by unknown persons; however, there is some speculation that the Slovak opposition's contacts in the secret service obtained the tape. Former Slovak Internal Affairs Minister Ladislav Pittner of the opposition Christian Democratic Movement is to hold a press conference on 14 May to identify the perpetrators of the kidnapping. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK HUNGARIANS ASKED TO SIGN DECLARATION OF LOYALTY. Representatives of Slovakia's ruling parties at a meeting in Bratislava on 13 May demanded that Hungarian minority leaders adopt a declaration expressing their loyalty to the Slovak Constitution and their agreement with the existing Slovak-Hungarian treaty, Slovak media reported. The government parties have made adoption of the declaration a precondition to talks on adopting a law on the use of minority languages and a constitutional amendment on the rights of ethnic minorities. -- Jiri Pehe HUNGARY'S NEW FINANCE MINISTER SUFFERS FIRST PUBLIC DEFEAT. Peter Medgyessy suffered his first public defeat when the government on 10 May postponed the planned 1997 reintroduction of interest tax, the Budapest Sun reported. Medgyessy was the main advocate of the interest tax, which was first introduced in 1988 during his last tenure as finance minister and was eliminated in 1994. The government is currently seeking alternative budget revenues to compensate for planned cuts in the current 48% personal income tax rate. In other news, Medgyessy has asked former Finance Minister Mihaly Kupa to be his advisor during the public introduction of the state budget reform. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE WHO ARE THE SEVEN MYSTERIOUS BOSNIAN MUSLIMS? A scandal is emerging over a U.S. IFOR officer's decision last week to hand over to Bosnian Serb police a group of seven uniformed and armed Muslims. The men surrendered to the Americans near Zvornik, on the Bosnian border with Serbia, shortly after IFOR heard explosions in the area, Reuters reported on 13 May. The officer said he turned the men over to the Serb police because they appeared to be civilians despite their dress, their weapons were in violation of the Dayton agreement, and they were caught on Bosnian Serb territory. U.S. Maj. Gen. William Nash reportedly disagreed with his subordinate's action and tried unsuccessfully to retake the men from the Serbs. Bosnian officials suggested that the men escaped the fall of Srebrenica last summer and had been hiding out in caves ever since, but IFOR doubted this saying the seven men looked too well fed and groomed. The Bosnian government says the Muslim men are not its soldiers and has played down the incident, but AFP reported that Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic has demanded that IFOR free the men. -- Patrick Moore ROW OVER ELECTION TIMING IN BOSNIA. International community High Representative for Bosnia, Carl Bildt, on 13 May in Brussels briefed EU foreign ministers on the situation in Mostar following the boycott of the electoral process by six Bosnian Muslim parties, AFP reported. Bildt's spokesman in Sarajevo said Bildt "prefers a late election to a premature one," due to "serious problems" posed by the lack of freedom of movement. However, EU foreign ministers recommended that the EU administrator for Mostar, Ricardo Perez Cassado, hold the Mostar elections according to the Dayton peace accord schedule. Delay of the elections could negatively affect the peace accord implementation, but a boycott "could create a precedent," causing other election boycotts elsewhere in Bosnia, AFP quoted an EU spokesman in Mostar as saying. -- Daria Sito Sucic UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES WARNS FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT IS RESTRICTED. Sadako Ogata said on 13 May that freedom of movement remains "severely restricted" in Bosnia, citing Mostar as an example, AFP reported. She also warned European governments that they would "destabilize the fragile peace" if they sent home 700,000 Bosnian refugees prematurely, Onasa reported. That same day, the ministers for refugees of the Republika Srpska, of the Bosnian Federation, and of Bosnia-Herzegovina, signed a joint declaration saying they would encourage individuals expelled by ethnic cleansing to visit their homes. The declaration is based on the 10 principles introduced by UNHCR that regulate visits of returnees to their pre-war homes, Nasa Borba reported on 14 May. -- Daria Sito Sucic RUMP YUGOSLAV BANK GOVERNOR SURVIVES CONFIDENCE VOTE . . . The board of rump Yugoslavia's national bank met on 13 May, but unexpectedly did not recommend that its governor, Dragoslav Avramovic, be removed from his post. Reuters on 13 May reported that the board was widely expected to call for Avramovic's ouster, a move that would presumably have brought the issue of Avramovic's position up for discussion in the federal parliament and led to his formal dismissal. Avramovic said in response to the developments: "Either my information was wrong or they changed their minds." Earlier in the day, Avramovic told some 4,000 people at a workers' demonstration in Belgrade, that he suspected the board and federal authorities were coordinating efforts aimed at his ouster. -- Stan Markotich . . . BUT FOR HOW LONG? The rift between Avramovic and the governing authorities has now emerged as the major topic of open discussion in local media. Avramovic has clashed with Belgrade over several major issues including his unwillingness to endorse policies that would result in rampant inflation, his advocacy of rump Yugoslav membership in international institutions such as the IMF, and his support of privatization. However, he remains popular with the public, which Nasa Borba on 14 May suggested may be enough to compel the government to "wait until June" before attempting to remove him from office. -- Stan Markotich SERBIA DOES NOT ALLOW RETURN OF DEAD REFUGEES' BODIES. Serbian border authorities have not allowed the return of six Kosovar refugee's bodies who drowned on 23 April in the Danube after their boat capsized near Esztergom, KIC reported. The rump-Yugoslav embassy in Budapest, which was to arrange the paperwork for the bodies' return, refused to assist the victims' relatives. A total of 16 refugees were on the boat attempting to cross from Hungary into Slovakia. Two of the refugees are still missing. -- Fabian Schmidt BRITISH DIPLOMAT CALLS FOR KOSOVO TALKS. British Belgrade ambassador Ivor Roberts has called on rump Yugoslavia to enter talks with the Kosovo shadow state government, AFP reported on 12 May. Roberts argued that "Belgrade should make the first step . . . because it has the power and should try to create an atmosphere of confidence." He said that "the borders of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia cannot be changed unilaterally," and called on the Albanians to end their boycott of the Serbian administration and participate in the region's political life. Shadow state President Ibrahim Rugova meanwhile repeated his demand for international mediation and pointed out that it is Belgrade's turn to start talks. In other news, a Serbian policeman and an ethnic Albanian were wounded in a shoot-out in Pristina on 11 May. Police claim the Albanian was a criminal who opened fire to escape arrest. -- Fabian Schmidt ILLEGAL PHONE-TAPPING SCANDAL IN ROMANIA. At a press conference in Bucharest of the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM) on 13 May, a captain on the staff of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) played illegally taped conversations of politicians and other personalities of public life, the media reported on 14 May. For some time now, the PRM leader, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, has been accusing the director of the SRI of such practices. Vasile Vacaru, chairman of the parliamentary committee overseeing the activities of the SRI said this was "very grave" and investigations will immediately be started. Other observers, however, stress that the captain, Constantin Bucur, declined to say whether Magureanu, Director of the Romanian Intelligence Service, had authorized the taps and point out that Tudor is surrounded by many discontent former and present SRI members who might have tapped the conversations themselves in order to discredit Magureanu. -- Michael Shafir ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS OPPOSITION MOTION. The Chamber of Deputies on 13 May rejected a motion by the opposition to debate failures in the government's policies that led the IMF to suspend a stand-by loan after the Nicolae Vacaroiu cabinet failed to implement the loan agreement, Radio Bucharest reported the next day. The premier told the chamber that the "essential purpose" of the memorandum signed with the IMF has been attained given a "spectacular drop" in inflation and consistent improvement in the country's foreign currency reserves. -- Michael Shafir BULGARIAN SOCIALIST PARTY PLENUM SUPPORTS STRUCTURAL REFORM. A Bulgarian Socialist Party plenum over the weekend voted in favor of accelerating structural reform, including liquidating 70 enterprises whose combined losses are 127.5 billion leva ($1.16 billion) and which employ 40,000 people, Pari reported on 13 May. The plenum supported Premier Zhan Videnov's proposal to privatize the Sodi Devnya chemical works despite the objections of Minister of Industry Kliment Vuchev. Observers suggest this means that Videnov is on his way out. Former Premier Andrey Lukanov lauded the plenum's decisions but remarked that they should have been made six years ago. The additional 40,000 unemployed will add 1.1% to the unemployment rate, which Pari currently puts at 12.5%. The plenum supported compensating these individuals, with the amount to be decided within two weeks. -- Michael Wyzan UPDATE ON BULGARIA'S FINANCIAL CRISIS. Bulgaria's currency, the lev, has lost some 70% of its value since the beginning of 1995, plunging the country into one of its worst crises since the fall of the communist regime. Premier Zhan Videnov on 10 May urged the parliament to pass laws that would shore up the banking system, guarantee deposits, and affect badly needed privatization measures that the cabinet enacted on 12 May. Videnov announced that unproductive state-owned factories would be shut down, with workers receiving cash payment compensations. Meanwhile, Bulgarian dailies speculate that the economy is on the brink of hyperinflation. -- Stan Markotich AUSTRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR ALBANIA'S EUROPEAN INTEGRATION. Wolfgang Schuessel said Austria will continue to support Albania's transition to democracy and efforts for integration into Europe, Republika reported on 11 May. During his one-day visit, Schuessel discussed economic cooperation and the Kosovo crisis with Albanian President Sali Berisha, Prime Minister Alexander Meksi, and Foreign Minister Alfred Serreqi. Austria's main investments in Albania include one large hotel in Tirana's center and the Austrian firm OMV's oil drilling in the region. Austrian aid to Albania in the past three years amounted to $16 million. Schuessel also called for an internationally mediated dialogue in Kosovo. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Deborah Michaels ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU 2) To subscribe, write: SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L FirstName LastName (include your own name) To unsubscribe, write: UNSUBSCRIBE OMRI-L 3) Send the message REPRINT POLICY To receive a copy of OMRI's reprint policy, contact OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ or see the Web page at http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html OTHER OMRI PUBLICATIONS TRANSITION OMRI publishes the biweekly journal TRANSITION, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. 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