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No. 36, Part II, 20 February 1997
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 OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html *********************************************************************** OMRI, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Announcement: Due to a restructuring of operations at the Open Media Research Institute, OMRI will cease publication of the OMRI Daily Digest with the issue dated 28 March 1997. For more information on the restructuring of the Institute, please access the 21 November 1996 Press Release at: http://www.omri.cz/about/PressRelease.html On 2 April, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty will launch a daily news report, RFE/RL Newsline, on the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. A successor to the RFE/RL Daily Report and the OMRI Daily Digest, the new daily will nonetheless represent a major departure from its predecessors. In addition to analytic materials, RFE/RL Newsline will carry news gathered by the correspondents, bureaus, and broadcast services of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. RFE/RL will disseminate this new publication both electronically and via fax to all those now receiving the OMRI Daily Digest and for the time being under the same terms. OMRI will continue to publish the periodical Transition, for more information on Transition please access http://www.omri.cz/publications/transition/index.html or send a request for information to: transition-DD@omri.cz ********************************************************************* CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE BELARUSIAN PRIME MINISTER CONFIRMED. Syarhei Ling on 19 February was confirmed as prime minister in a lower-house vote of 97 to 8, with one spoiled ballot, international agencies reported. Ling had been acting prime minister since the resignation of Mikhail Chyhir in November. Chyhir resigned in the runup to the November constitutional referendum because he disapproved of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's policies. Ling set out three key tasks for the government: reigning in inflation, paying off wage arrears, and firing incompetent officials. Ling had been deputy prime minister in charge of the economy after the USSR broke up, and he was appointed economy minister in 1994. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO RATIFY ZERO AGREEMENT. After a lengthy, heated debate, Ukraine's parliament failed to ratify an agreement renouncing Ukraine's share of Soviet assets in return for Russia assuming Ukraine's share of the Soviet Union's foreign debt, international agencies reported on 19 February. Instead, deputies voted 233 to 70 to present Russia with a list of conditions for ratification. The main condition was Russia's release of detailed information on the Soviet debt and money held in the central Soviet banking system when the USSR broke apart. Ukraine's share of Soviet assets includes claims to gold, diamonds, hard currency, and property. Under an agreement signed by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and former Ukrainian Prime Minister Vitalii Masol in 1994, Ukraine was to give up its share of 16.37% of Soviet assets in exchange for Moscow picking up Kyiv's 16.37% share of the $81 billion Soviet debt. The agreement has proved highly controversial in Ukraine's parliament, but Russia is unwilling to renegotiate. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINE DELIVERING FIRST SHIPMENT OF TANKS TO PAKISTAN. Pakistani Defense Minister Masar Rafi arrived in Kyiv on 18 February in connection with the shipment of the first 15 Ukrainian T-80 UD tanks to Pakistan, Ukrainian radio reported. Last year, Ukraine concluded a deal to deliver 320 tanks worth $550 million with Islamabad. The country's largest arms sale to date, it was criticized by Russian arms producers. On 19 February, ITAR-TASS reported Russian Foreign Trade Minister Oleg Davydov said he is opposed to the arms deal because Ukraine negotiated it without consulting Russia and it threatens India, Russia's strategic partner in the region. Davydov said his ministry will not issue licenses for the delivery of any components for the tanks from Russia. Russia has been concerned over Ukraine's efforts to develop its arms industry for foreign export because it views Ukraine as a possible competitor for its own arms sales. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN JUSTICE MINISTRY OFFICIALS SACKED FOR CORRUPTION. Justice Minister Serhii Holovaty announced an investigation has found evidence of corruption and abuse of office by several Justice Ministry officials, Ukrainian radio reported on 18 February. First Deputy Justice Minister Volodymyr Chernysh and several heads of the ministry's departments were fired. Holovaty said the evidence has been sent to law-enforcement bodies to initiate criminal proceedings against Chernysh. Earlier this month, President Leonid Kuchma launched a campaign against corruption in state bodies, sacking several governmental officials. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev U.S. RECONSIDERS POLICY TOWARD BELARUS. U.S. representatives at the OSCE said the U.S. is reconsidering relations with Belarus until the Belarusian government brings its policy into line with internationally accepted standards, Belapan reported on 18 February. U.S. government contacts with Belarus's government and parliament will be reduced. The U.S. also supports suspension of international lending institutions' programs in Belarus. American trade and development agencies will suspend their activities except to protect U.S. investments and support development of the private sector. At the same time, the U.S. government will continue to support democratization, defense of human rights, and independent media, and it will continue humanitarian aid to Chornobyl victims. -- Sergei Solodovnikov ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS GERMANY. Toomas Hendrik Ilves, at the European Commission office in Bonn on 18 February, urged the EU to consider Estonia's successful reforms and not its geopolitical position when enlarging. The next day, German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe told Ilves that it will not necessarily be the same countries that join the EU and NATO initially, BNS reported. He said Germany will tighten security and political ties with Partnership for Peace countries that are not included in the first round of NATO expansion. Ilves also discussed security questions with German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, who just returned from a visit to Moscow. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIA, TURKEY SIGN ECONOMIC AND MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENTS. President Guntis Ulmanis, accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Valdis Birkavs and Defense Minister Andrejs Krastins, began a four-day official visit to Turkey on 18 February. Birkavs signed agreements on protection of investments and on economic and trade cooperation and agreed to work on a free-trade agreement. The next day, Krastins and Chief of the Turkish General Staff Ismail Hakki Karadayi signed a military agreement on boosting cooperation in the technical, scientific, and training sectors, BNS reported. Krastins said the accord was important since it improved cooperation with another NATO country. Ulmanis also discussed the expansion of the EU and NATO with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan. -- Saulius Girnius NEW CHIEF OF POLISH NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICE. President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 19 February appointed Marek Siwiec as head of the National Security Office (BBN), Polish dailies reported. Siwiec replaces Jerzy Milewski, a former Solidarity activist, who died last week. Siwiec, 41 years old, remains presidential adviser in the rank of state secretary. Siwiec said he will try to establish a National Security Council and continue the BBN's work on a law providing for additional funds for the modernization of the army. He added that the referendum on NATO membership, proposed recently by the post-communist Social Democratic Party, is a bad idea. The BBN will also identify extra- military dangers to the state, such as crime or financial scheming. Kwasniewski will himself head the Committee on Political Strategy, headed until now by Siwiec. -- Jakub Karpinski HUNGARIAN, POLISH FOREIGN MINISTERS ON NATO. Laszlo Kovacs visited Poland and met his Polish counterpart Dariusz Rosati on 19 February, international media reported. The two ministers applauded "the timetable and philosophy for NATO's enlargement" set recently by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. They said Polish and Hungarian aims and views relating to NATO enlargement are identical. They added that the process of establishing NATO-Russia relations should not slow down the process of NATO enlargement. The ministers welcomed Albright's reassurance to countries that might not be in the first group of new NATO members that enlargement is an open process and will be continued. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH PREMIER IN ICELAND. Vaclav Klaus and Iceland's prime minister, David Oddsson, discussed the Czech Republic's admission to NATO at a meeting in Reykjavik on 19 February, international media reported. After the meeting, Oddsson said he believes the Czech Republic will be among the first countries invited by NATO for talks on membership in June. Klaus said that NATO expansion must be prepared in a way that does not harm relations between NATO and Russia. Klaus made a one-day visit to Iceland on his way to Canada. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK NATIONAL THEATER CANCELS STRIKE ALERT. Actors at the Slovak National Theater (SND) on 19 February canceled their strike alert after "constructive" talks with SND General Director Miroslav Fischer, Slovak media reported. All theaters across Slovakia were to join the strike, protesting government interference in cultural affairs. The situation at the SND has been tense since July, when Culture Minister Ivan Hudec fired the SND stage director, Peter Mikulik. Tensions reemerged on 8 February, when Fischer appointed Leopold Haverl as SND stage director even though Haverl did not participate in the public competition for that post, held in December. During the talks on 19 February, Fischer and the actors agreed on a compromise candidate for stage director, Juraj Slezacek, who placed second in the December competition. Actor Emil Horvath won that competition but is "unacceptable" to Fischer. Another controversial move involving Slovak theaters was the recent firing of Karol Spisak, director of the Nitra puppet theater. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK DEMOCRATIC LEFT SEEKS DISCUSSION WITH OPPOSITION PARTIES. Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) Chairman Jozef Migas on 19 February said his party insists on the bill banning the privatization of Slovakia's four largest banks even if the vote on the law is connected with a confidence vote in the government, CTK reported. The SDL wants to hold a meeting of the leaders of all parliamentary parties to discuss possible steps if the government loses a confidence vote. SDL Deputy Chairwoman Brigita Schmoegnerova said Premier Vladimir Meciar is pressing for quick bank privatization to provoke early elections. "By actually completing the connection of political and economic power, Meciar and his movement would take control of the whole society politically and economically," Schmoegnerova said. Also on 19 February, Transport Minister Alexander Rezes announced he is leaving his post in March. Rezes said he will publicly, economically, and politically stay with Meciar, adding that Slovakia would need "ten Meciars." -- Anna Siskova HUNGARIAN FARMERS TO STAGE ROAD BLOCKADE. The National Federation of Hungarian Farmers on 19 February announced a warning demonstration blocking state roads, Hungarian media reported. The blockade, scheduled for 24 February, will affect the Bacs-Kiskun and Borsod-Abauj-Zemplen roads. The federation is demanding the revocation of tax and social insurance laws that took effect on 1 January. If the previous legislation is not restored by 5 March, the farmers plan to organize state-wide action on 10 March. A meeting on 19 February between farmers and representatives of the ministries of agriculture and finance failed to break the deadlock. -- Sharon Fisher SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE U.S. PROPOSES 'SPECIAL' POLICE FORCE IN BRCKO. Washington will back an initiative to create a UN-mandated police force to help an international supervisor in the disputed Bosnian town until March 1998, when a final decision on Brcko will be made, AFP reported on 19 February. Arbitrators decided on 14 February to postpone for another year the decision on who should control the town claimed by both Serbs and Muslims. The U.S. is ready to contribute personnel to the police force, which would be separate from the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) but--in contrast to the existing UN police force--would be armed and authorized to use force. The existing UN police could not cope with incidents that might occur if thousands of Muslims and Croats try to return to Brcko. In other news, James Pardew, a senior U.S. envoy in charge of the military aid program for Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation, said that efforts to merge the Bosnian Muslim and Croat armies are in danger due to the inter-ethnic clash in Mostar, Reuters reported on 19 February. -- Daria Sito Sucic BOSNIANS GAVE WORLD BANK MONEY TO TOWN ON AID BLACK LIST. The World Bank said on 19 February that Bosnian Muslim authorities illegally allocated some $200,000 to Bugojno, a town in central Bosnia that is under an aid embargo by the World Bank and the high representative for Bosnia- Herzegovina, Carl Bildt, AFP reported. Bugojno is embargoed for all but humanitarian aid because its Muslim authorities refuse to allow the minority Croat population representation on the local council. The money came from a $100 million loan from the Dutch government and the World Bank. The Dutch ambassador to Bosnia, Valerei Sluyter, said she did not know what the money was used for or whether the Bosnian government has fulfilled its promise to take the money back from Bugojno. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROATIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BELGRADE. Mate Granic and his Yugoslav counterpart Milan Milutinovic met on 19 February to push ahead with normalizing relations between their countries, international and local media reported. While peaceful reintegration of the last Serb-held region of eastern Slavonia into the rest of Croatia dominated their agenda, they reached agreement on nearly 18 other issues, including citizenship, frontier trade and traffic, border crossings, cooperation between interior ministries, and the rights of Croats in Yugoslavia and of Serbs in Croatia. The two are expected to sign agreements in a few months on transportation, succession talks, missing persons, and refugees and property issues. Meanwhile, Serb leaders in eastern Slavonia warned that 50% of Serbs in the area will leave by the end of the spring as they are being treated unfairly, AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic SERBIA'S HARDLINERS ON THE OFFENSIVE AGAIN? Mirjana Markovic, wife and main political ally of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, on 19 February lambasted the opposition Zajedno coalition. In the state-run Borba, Markovic alleged that the opposition wants only to seize power and behaves like "diseased animals." In other news, Radio Index on 19 February reported that local Socialist Party officials in Leskovac are refusing to remove the local sacked party boss from his mayor's post, apparently in defiance of opposition wins in the locality following 17 November municipal runoff elections. Elsewhere on 19 February, protests by teachers and students continued and Zajedno formally agreed that Zoran Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party, will stand as mayor of Belgrade. -- Stan Markotich JAIL STRIKE BROADENS IN ROMANIA. Inmates in a Craiova prison launched a sympathy protest with fellow inmates of the Jilava prison in Bucharest who have been on a hunger strike since 17 February, Reuters reported on 19 February. The Jilava prisoners asked authorities to improve living conditions and speed up cases delayed in the courts. The prison holds 3,500 inmates, more than double its capacity. Chief Warden Ion Parjol said that while most of the prisoners' complaints were justified, conditions cannot be improved due to lack of funds. Gheorghe Lazaroiu, warden at the Craiova prison, warned of the possibility of a chain reaction. Romanian judicial sources reported that more than 45,000 inmates are being held in 35 prisons, about three times the acceptable capacity. -- Zsolt Mato MOLDOVA ATTACKS RUSSIAN DUMA'S DECISION TO SET UP DNIESTER PANEL. Members of the Moldovan parliament denounced as "interference in Moldova's domestic affairs" a decision of the Russian State Duma to set up a commission to deal with the Dniester region, BASA-press reported on 19 February. The newly created panel is to tackle the political and economic problems of Moldova's breakaway region as well as the issue of the presence of Russian troops there, Dniester media reported on 18 February. The 12-member board is headed by Adrian Puzanovski, an active supporter of Dniester interests in the Russian legislature. Deputies in the Dniester legislature welcomed the Duma panel as a step from "declarations to concrete actions." -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN ENERGY MINISTER ON DANGERS OF NUCLEAR POWER. Georgi Stoilov on 19 February became the first Bulgarian top official to discuss safety lapses in the country's energy program, AFP reported. Stoilov, a member of Ecoglasnost who was appointed minister with the rest of the interim cabinet on 12 February, said on state radio that the country's controversial Kozlodui nuclear power plant is "very dangerous" and a serious public health threat. "In my opinion, the danger exceeds an acceptable level of risk," he said. -- Stan Markotich BULGARIAN TRADE MINISTER TAKES STEPS TO BOOST EXPORTS. Daniela Bobeva, caretaker minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation, has created an off-budget Center for Encouraging Exports and begun talks with the EBRD for assistance in creating a facility to provide export credits, insurance, and guarantees, Pari reported on 20 February. Bobeva stressed the importance of signing agreements on the protection of investment and of joining CEFTA. Meanwhile, food prices have risen by 30% in the last week, with local economists predicting 100% inflation in February, 24 chasa wrote on 19 February. Those economists noted that the 1996 budget deficit was 11.2% of GDP--despite large cuts in spending on defense and social welfare--due to soaring interest expenditures. Finally, the Energy Ministry has proposed raising electricity and heating prices by 3.5 times effective 1 March. -- Michael Wyzan ALBANIAN UPDATE. President Sali Berisha visited stricken towns on 19 February to shore up support for his administration and for his handling of the crisis triggered by the recent collapse of several pyramid investment schemes. Berisha told an estimated 1,500 "hand-picked supporters" in Elbasan: "We cannot pay their debts but we can intervene to speed up growth and ensure the economic recovery of the people," Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Vehbi Alimucaj, director of VEFA Holding (one of the investment firms), said on 19 February that his company will reimburse investors. The company's repayment strategy will take about three months, Alimucaj said. -- Stan Markotich [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Susan Caskie ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to firstname.lastname@example.org 2) To subscribe, write: SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L FirstName LastName (include your own name) To unsubscribe, write: UNSUBSCRIBE OMRI-L 3) Send the message BACK ISSUES Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through the World Wide Web, by FTP and by E-mail. 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