|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 50, Part II, 12 March 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 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ In the 7 March issue of OMRI's journal, TRANSITION**: BALKAN UNREST - Pyramid Schemes Leave Albania on Shaky Ground - Back to the Basics in Bulgaria - Protests in Serbia Raise Hopes of Reconciliation in Kosovo - In Post-Dayton Balkans, Change Comes Where It's Least Expected PLUS... - RUSSIA: Chernomyrdin: A Prime Minister Without Politics - VIEWPOINT: Azerbaijan: Democracy in a State of Emergency and "Reviving the Black Sea" For subscription information about OMRI's new monthly, send an e-mail message to transition-DD@omri.cz **See important message below on the upcoming changes to TRANSITION ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UPDATE ON RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN INTEGRATION. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, addressing the Russian-Belarusian parliamentary assembly in Minsk, urged that steps be taken to speed up integration between the two countries, international agencies reported on 11 March. While criticizing Russia yet again for the little progress toward this goal, Lukashenka proposed every citizen of Russia and Belarus have "Community" citizenship as well as their national passport. He said the equal union of Russia and Belarus was the most acceptable form of integration but stressed there is no need for Belarus to synchronize its economic reform with Russia's. He noted that the most significant progress to date was the creation of a joint air-defense system. Meanwhile, the National Bank of Belarus has promised to do away with multiple-exchange rates in accordance with an agreement signed in Moscow last week. -- Ustina Markus 100 ARRESTED IN MINSK DEMONSTRATION. Some 100 people, mostly youths, who took part in a Minsk demonstration against integration with Russia, have been detained by Belarusian security forces, Reuters reported on 11 March. They face fines and up to two weeks in prison. Despite Lukashenka's restrictions on demonstrations, the democratic and nationalist opposition is planning additional rallies for the spring. Vyacheslau Siuchyk, a leader of the Belarusian Popular Front, said a rally will be held on 15 March, the anniversary of the adoption of the 1994 constitution. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN PREMIER ON WAGE, PENSION ARREARS. Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko told the parliament on 11 March that Ukraine owes 1.36 billion hryvnyas ($750 million) in wage arrears and 1.2 billion (more than $700 million) in unpaid pensions, ITAR-TASS reported. He said the debts have accrued because budget revenues were smaller than predicted, because unforeseen wage increases were being financed from the budget, and because local budgets were higher than envisaged. He also noted that many ministries have high expenditures. Lazarenko said he hoped that 35% of all wage arrears would be paid by May and all pensions dating from December 1996 by the end of this month. -- Ustina Markus VODKA PIPELINE UNEARTHED BETWEEN ESTONIA, LATVIA. Estonian and Latvian customs officials have discovered an underground pipeline probably built to smuggle vodka between the two countries, BNS reported on 11 March. The 300-meter pipeline ran between two border villages alongside the main Riga-Tallinn road. ITAR-TASS reported Estonian authorities as saying the pipeline was discovered before it began operating. The price of vodka in Estonia is 60% higher than in Latvia. -- Jan Cleave LATVIAN PRESIDENT ON LOCAL ELECTIONS. Guntis Ulmanis has said that the low turnout in the 9 March local elections was a protest against the current situation in Latvia, BNS reported on 11 March. Less than 60% of the electorate took part in the ballot. In Riga, the leftist Social Democratic Party emerged as surprise victor, winning 11 of the 60 seats on the city council (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 March 1997). Ulmanis said he considers no party on the Latvian political scene capable of assuming the political responsibility of leadership. He added that he was not surprised by the emergence of new leftist forces. -- Jan Cleave POLISH POLITICAL UPDATE. Gen. Tadeusz Wilecki, who earlier this week was dismissed as chief of staff (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 March 1997), has notified the Supreme Military Prosecutor's Office about an alleged crime involving the abuse of the secret services for "political purposes," the Prosecutor-General's office announced on 11 March. The office says it has launched an investigation into the allegations. Meanwhile, some 2,000 Gdansk shipyard workers on 12 March blocked the most important road junction in central Gdansk to protest the shipyard's closure (OMRI Daily Digest, 7 March 1997), Polish media reported. -- Jakub Karpinski RELEASE OF POLISH FISHING BOAT IMPOUNDED ON RUSSIAN WATERS? Polish Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati on 11 March said the Russian authorities have announced the release of the Polish fishing boat Aquarius, Polish media reported. The Polish vessel was fishing on the Sea of Okhotsk when it was impounded last month by Russian inspectors from the Environment Protection Ministry. Communications with Aquarius have not yet been restored, however. The Russian authorities claim that Aquarius did not have a fishing permit on board, while the crew said it had a temporary permit. Rosati said the decision to release Aquarius was taken by Russian Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin. Russia is demanding $200,000 to cover the costs of impounding the Aquarius. -- Jakub Karpinski ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES RFE/RL IN PRAGUE. Speaking at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters on 11 March, Emil Constantinescu reaffirmed his support for tough economic reform and more foreign investment in Romania, RFE/RL and international media reported. He said the alternative would be "social chaos." Constantinescu argued that Romania has no security alternative to NATO membership, and he urged the alliance to support Bucharest's bid for rapid membership. Constantinescu said that Romania had already met all NATO membership criteria, except upgrading its military equipment to Western standards. He noted that to pay for the upgrading, Romania first has to implement economic reform. "That is why we speak of Romania's nomination in the first wave followed by the effective integration when all the conditions would be fulfilled," he said. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER REFUSES TO MEET WITH PROTESTING ACTORS, DEPUTIES. Vladimir Meciar on 11 March refused to receive the actors and opposition deputies who occupied the Culture Ministry the previous night, Slovak media reported. He also prevented them from entering the government office building to make their demands, which Democratic Union deputy Ludovit Cernak called "illegal." The demonstrators are demanding Culture Minister Ivan Hudec's dismissal and an investigation into police "brutality" against protesters at the Culture Ministry on 10 March. But Interior Minister Gustav Krajci on 11 March defended the police, saying their steps were "fully conformed with the law." Krajci rejected reports that the incident involved police brutality, adding that he believed it was "a provocation." Meanwhile, Confederation of Trade Unions Vice President Jozef Kollar said the demonstration was the result of rising tensions between the government and Slovak citizens. He warned that other unions might soon organize similar protests. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK CABINET ASKS PRESIDENT TO ACCEPT TRANSPORT MINISTER'S RESIGNATION. Magda Pospisilova, the prime minister's spokeswoman, told TASR on 11 March that Meciar has asked President Michal Kovac to accept the resignation of Transport, Postal Services, and Telecommunications Minister Alexander Rezes. Rezes, who reportedly has health problems, is closely connected with the east Slovak steel giant VSZ. Pospisilova said his replacement will be one of Rezes's "close associates." The new minister must be approved by the president. CTK reported that VSZ President Jan Smerek is one of the candidates for the post but added that the job will more likely go to Slovak Postal Services Director Jan Jasovsky or to government highway construction commissioner Viktor Spakovsky. -- Sharon Fisher ROMANIAN PREMIER IN HUNGARY. Victor Ciorbea arrived in Budapest on 12 March, becoming the first Romanian premier to visit Hungary since communism collapsed in 1989, Hungarian and international media reported. Before departing, Ciorbea said it is no accident he has chosen Hungary for his first official trip abroad. Rather, "it is proof of how important we regard our bilateral relations and what enormous importance we give to the active partnership with Hungary." Ciorbea's delegation includes Gyorgy Tokay, minister responsible for ethnic minority affairs who is an ethnic Hungarian. Boosting bilateral economic ties and the two countries' bids to join NATO are high on the agenda. Romania has said that Hungary and Romania should be admitted to NATO at the same time. Hungary fully supports that position as long as it does not slow down its integration into the alliance. -- Zsofia Szilagyi HUNGARY GETS NEW WORLD BANK LOAN. The World Bank on 11 March announced it has approved a $225 million loan to Hungary to help efforts to reform the country's corporate and banking sectors, international media reported. The funding will be disbursed in two tranches worth $112.5 million each. World Bank officials said Hungary is currently in an advanced stage of transforming itself into a market economy and has achieved "unprecedented progress in reforming its enterprise and financial sectors." The funding will help the government complete reform, including the privatization of four major banks. Meanwhile, another World Bank agreement on an $200-250 million loan to help finance the reform of pensions and health care is being drafted in Washington. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN CRISIS INTENSIFIES. The Albanian crisis has begun spreading to the country's north, the strongest support base of President Sali Berisha. On 11 March, rebels looted a military base in Bajram Curri, some 215 km north of Tirana, seizing artillery and caches of ammunition, international agencies reported. In the town of Kukes, just 16 km from the border with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, looters seized weapons from a local military depot. In several instances, government troops offered little or no resistance. Meanwhile, gunshots and explosions were heard in Tirana during the night from 11 to 12 March, eyewitnesses said. Sources in the U.S embassy in Tirana said diplomats' families will be leaving the country, while the Foreign Office in London has urged all nationals to leave Albania as soon as possible. -- Stan Markotich NEW ALBANIAN PREMIER NAMED. Berisha on 11 March named Bashkim Fino as prime minister in what appears to be the president's latest bid to resolve the crisis. The 35-year old Fino is a member of the opposition Socialists and a former mayor of Gjirokastra, a southern town currently under rebel control. Albanian state radio and television reported that the parliament on 11 March passed legislation granting an amnesty to all those involved in "protests," and calling for rebels to turn in their weapons by 20 March. But AFP reports that the president's concessions to date have failed to calm the rebels. -- Stan Markotich SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER SEEKS INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT. Zoran Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party and new mayor of Belgrade, has once again urged Western governments to support the promotion of democracy in Serbia, Reuters reported on 11 March. Speaking at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Bonn, he said "we need support from abroad" and cautioned that without it, "we can be sure the communists will be back by 1999." In other news, Nasa Borba on 12 March reported that a delegation headed by Montenegrin Premier Milo Djukanovic was in Washington on a working visit. Following a meeting between Djukanovic and Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum, agreement was reached on releasing five Montenegrin cargo vessels impounded for the past five years in U.S. ports. The ships were seized in accordance with sanctions imposed on Belgrade for its role in promoting the wars in the former Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich SECURITY COUNCIL DEMANDS ARREST OF CROATS RESPONSIBLE FOR MOSTAR SHOOTING. The UN Security Council on 11 March strongly condemned the involvement of Bosnian Croat police in a shooting incident in Mostar last month that left one dead and 34 wounded, AFP reported. The council said those responsible for the incident should be arrested. But High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina Carl Bildt said the Bosnian Croat authorities were continuing to reject UN demands to arrest the three police officers seen on photographs pointing guns at a Muslim crowd. Sir Martin Garrod, chief of the High Representative's Office in Mostar, said the two long-term problems in Mostar were the delay in forming a Muslim- Croat police force and the obstruction of the multi-ethnic city council's work, Oslobodjenje reported on 12 March. Meanwhile, U.S. military envoy to the Balkans James Pardew said the U.S. has now replaced Iran as Bosnia's leading military backer, AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic BOSNIA'S GAS SUPPLY TO BE CUT OFF. The Bosnin gas company Energoinvest will cut all supplies of gas at the end of this month because of its $12.3 million debt to the Russian concern Intergaz, AFP reported on 11 March. Intergaz reduced its pipeline supplies to Bosnia last month owing to outstanding debts from 1996. Energoinvest said the Bosnian Federation has paid its part of the debt, but the other Bosnian entity, the Republika Srpska, has failed to pay its share. In other news, the Bosnian donors conference may be postponed for a fourth time because of delays in passing new economic legislation, AFP reported. The conference is aimed at raising $1.4 billion for Bosnia' s reconstruction. -- Daria Sito Sucic KLEIN SETS ELECTIONS IN EASTERN SLAVONIA FOR NEXT MONTH. Gen. Jacques Klein, UN transitional administrator for eastern Slavonia, has announced that elections in the region would be held on 13 April, together with nation-wide elections, Hina reported on 11 March. Klein said voters have to register by 25 March and lists of candidates have to be published within the next two weeks. But Serbs in the region are reported unhappy with the date since they do not feel it gives them enough time to prepare, according to AFP. UN spokesman Philip Arnold said 37% of the local population has so far applied for Croatian citizenship, Hina reported. Meanwhile, Croatian Deputy Premier Ivica Kostovic has said Croatia will seek help from donors and the UNHCR to enable the return of Croatian refugees to eastern Slavonia and the region's reconstruction. -- Daria Sito Sucic EU ALARMED OVER INTER-ETHNIC TENSION IN MACEDONIA. The British, French, and Greek ambassadors to Skopje have handed over an EU declaration to Premier Branko Crvenkovski expressing concern about rising inter-ethnic tension in Macedonia and its effect on Balkan stability, Nova Makedonija reported on 12 March. They pointed to Macedonia's obligations to the OSCE and the Council of Europe to guarantee minority rights and strive for good relations with neighboring states. The parliament convened a special session on 12 March to discuss relations between Macedonians and ethnic Albanians. Meanwhile, Tome Nenovski, deputy governor of the National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia (NBRM), has resigned, while NBRM Governor Borko Stanoevski is under growing pressure to quit over alleged negligence and personal involvement in the scandal surrounding the failure of the TAT savings house in Bitola (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 March 1997). Ministers and politicians are suspected of profiting from TAT's activities. -- Michael Wyzan MORE LEAFLETS AGAINST ROMANIAN-UKRAINIAN TREATY. Leaflets denouncing the government's intention to renounce any territorial claims on Ukraine in the pending treaty with Kyiv have been discovered in the Transylvanian town of Cluj, Romanian TV reported on 11 March. In the past, similar leaflets found elsewhere were anonymous. But those discovered in Cluj were signed by the Association of Christian Orthodox Students in Romania (ASCOR). The leaflets said Romania's "access to NATO should not mean forgetting one's own history." In a Romanian TV interview, an ASCOR member said one cannot forgo one's right to deal with "national problems" just for the sake of "appeasing the world powers." Orthodox Bishop Anania refused to comment on the ASCOR initiative but said the Romanian Orthodox Church "supports the country's reunification" within its historical borders. -- Michael Shafir MOLDOVA, UKRAINE SIGN CUSTOMS AGREEMENT . . . Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma paid a one-day visit to Moldova on 11 March, Infotag reported. He and Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi signed five agreements, the most important of which deals with setting up a customs union between the two countries. Customs legislation and tariffs are to be unified, customs controls improved, and bureaucratic obstacles to trade removed. At a press conference in Chisinau, the two presidents said the customs union will be totally different from that between Russia and Belarus, because it will be based on full equality. -- Michael Shafir . . . DISCUSS SENDING UKRAINIAN PEACEKEEPERS TO TRANSDNIESTER. Kuchma also said at the press conference that Ukraine is willing to step up its mediation efforts between Chisinau and Tiraspol. He said this was one of the reasons for visiting the breakaway region after his stay in Chisinau. He added that Ukraine is "very interested" in the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Transdniester and that Kyiv would work out a "mutually acceptable approach" to the issue of withdrawing Russian troops transiting Ukrainian territory. He noted that while Russia must pay for the transit, Ukraine would not seek to "make any profit out of it." Following Kuchma's discussions with separatist leader Igor Smirnov, Ukrainian Security and Defense Council head Volodymir Horbulin said both Chisinau and Tiraspol have asked Ukraine to send peacekeeping troops to the conflict region. -- Michael Shafir RUSSIA OFFERS BULGARIA $1 BILLION IN JOINT PROJECTS. Visiting Russian Deputy Premier Oleg Lobov on 11 March said that Russia will invest $1 billion in Bulgaria, Kontinent reported. Projects include the reconstruction of a gas pipeline ($600-650 million) and a nuclear plant ($250 million) as well as participation in privatizing Balkankar, Neftohim, and other companies. Although Lobov lost his job in the cabinet reshuffle in Russia, he asserted that the Russian government would honor his signature on the protocol signed during his visit. President Petar Stoyanov told Lobov that he wants to meet with Russian President Boris Yeltsin to discuss Bulgaria's desire to join NATO. -- Michael Wyzan [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave *^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^! What's in Store for the magazine Transition We've learned much in the last two years about what sort of magazine Transition can be and what role it should play in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Of greatest help in this process has been the advice of readers. Among some of the desired changes are for Transition to offer even more articles by writers in the region - lively opinion pieces as well as fact-filled analysis and expanded departments. Accordingly, Transition will be substantially restructured and relaunched as a monthly with the issue dated June 1997. The last biweekly issue will be 6 April, followed by a brief hiatus. All existing subscriptions will be honored and extended according to the new monthly frequency, which is priced at $65 for 12 issues. As before, we offer a substantial discount for readers in and of the countries we cover (apply to the contacts listed below for more information). For engaged intellectuals, policymakers, journalists, and scholars from the region, the new Transition will provide a rare forum for the exchange of ideas and criticism on political, economic, and cultural issues and events. For more information, contact the OMRI Marketing Department at tel. (420-2) 6114 2114, fax (420-2) 6114 3181; email: transition-DD@omri.cz *^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^! ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to email@example.com 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. WWW http://www.omri.cz/Publications/DD/Index.html FTP ftp://FTP.OMRI.CZ/Pub/DailyDigest/ 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/Reprint.html OTHER OMRI PUBLICATIONS TRANSITION OMRI publishes the biweekly journal TRANSITION, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the OMRI Daily Digest. For subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ or visit the Transition Web page at http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Transition/Index.html RUSSIAN REGIONAL REPORT The Russian Regional Report is a weekly publication (published every Wednesday) initially focusing on the local elections taking place throughout Russia during the Fall of 1996. After the election season is over, the Russian Regional Report will continue, turning to broader social, political, and economic issues of Russia's regions. 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