|If we are to live together in peace, we must first come to know each other better. - Lyndon B. Johnson|
No. 51, Part II, 13 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 CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY ON UKRAINE, NATO. Malcolm Rifkind said in Washington on 11 March that NATO should expand to Ukraine's eastern borders, NTV and Intelnews reported. He said the move would give the alliance the opportunity to prevent the development of ethnic conflicts. This is the first time a high-ranking official from a NATO member country has raised the possibility of Ukraine's inclusion into the alliance, and there has been confusion over how the remark should be taken. British Ambassador to Ukraine Roy Reeve played down Rifkind's statement, saying only that Ukraine has the right to choose its form of cooperation with NATO structures. Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk's reaction was to repeat Kyiv's position that there is nothing preventing Ukraine from joining the alliance in the future, but he did not say this was an immediate goal. -- Ustina Markus RESULTS OF RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN ASSEMBLY MEETING. The third session of the Russian-Belarusian Parliamentary Assembly ended in Minsk on 12 March, Belarusian Radio and Belapan reported. Russian Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev was elected chairman of the assembly and Belarusian National Assembly speaker Anatol Malafeyev deputy chairman. Otherwise, few concrete measures were taken to speed up integration. A proposal to immediately consider the need to create a federation between Russia and Belarus was voted down. Meanwhile, visiting Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov seemed to make more progress than the assembly in increasing ties with Belarus. Luzhkov signed agreements on health, technical-economic cooperation, and agricultural and machine deliveries. In talks with his Minsk counterpart, Uladzimir Yarmosh, Luzhkov said Moscow is prepared to place an order for 50 Belarusian trolley buses manufactured in Minsk. Luzhkov also plans to organize celebrations in Moscow on 2 April to mark the first anniversary of the Russian-Belarusian Community agreement. -- Ustina Markus LATVIAN ARMED FORCES TO BE REORGANIZED. Commander in Chief Juris Dalbins, speaking to journalists after meeting with President Guntis Ulmanis, said that Latvia's armed forces will be divided into three entities, BNS reported on 12 March. The Early Response Force will consist of the Baltic Battalion's Latvian company; the Forces on Duty will be made up of the Navy and the Air Force; and the core of the Basic Force will be the National Guard. Currently, the Latvian defense forces are organized as the National Guard, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Mobile Infantry Brigade. The government action program requires bringing the national defense system into line with NATO standards. A national defense plan has to be drafted by 1 July. -- Jiri Pehe LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT ON SECURITY SERVICES. Algirdas Brazauskas told journalists on 12 March that it was essential to increase funding for the country's security services, BNS reported. He was speaking after meeting with State Security Department (SSD) officials. Brazauskas noted that the security services are doing everything in their power to continue to function normally despite insufficient staff and technical equipment. He added that the SSD had to be strengthened to enable it to "fight Lithuania's domestic ills--corruption, contraband and the squandering of state property." -- Jiri Pehe LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN PROMISES SUPPORT TO LOCAL RUSSIANS. Vytautas Landsbergis, meeting with representatives of Lithuania's Russian organizations on 12 March, promised to seek to resolve the community's most pressing problems, BNS reported. Russians constitute the largest ethnic minority in Lithuania, accounting for 9% of the total population. The meeting focused on cultural and educational issues. Landsbergis mentioned the signing of a cultural cooperation treaty with Russia as a high priority issue. In his view, the 1992 cultural cooperation treaty has produced no tangible results. -- Jiri Pehe UPDATE ON SOCIAL UNREST IN POLAND. The National Committee of the Solidarity trade union on 12 March met in Warsaw, Polish media reported. The meeting coincided with a protest by some 2,000 Gdansk shipyard workers against the shipyard's closure (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 March 1997). Committee head Marian Krzaklewski said the shipyard's closure is an "act of political vengeance." Solidarity plans more protests in a bid to persuade the government to save both the shipyard and 400 other enterprises slated for restructuring. Krzaklewski said he has filed a complaint with the Prosecutor-General's office over the police action in Warsaw last week against protesting arms industry workers. The committee decided that Solidarity will continue to insist that the new constitution include references to God, the protection of life from the moment of conception, and the settling of accounts with the communist system. -- Jakub Karpinski NEW CZECH INTELLIGENCE SERVICE CHIEF NAMED. The Czech government on 12 March appointed Karel Vulterin as director of the Czech Intelligence Service (BIS), Czech media reported. Vulterin, who has experience neither in government nor the security services, is a scientist and trade union leader. The government looked for three months for a replacement for Stanislav Devaty, who resigned in November following charges that the BIS was shadowing politicians. Devaty was, in fact, only acting director, although he presided over the BIS for more than four years. The BIS has recently been rocked by a series of scandals over allegations of shadowing politicians and leaking secret documents. -- Jiri Pehe CZECH GOVERNMENT RAISES RENT, ENERGY PRICES. As of 1 July, apartment rents will be allowed to increase by as much as 100% in Prague and 62% in other cities, Czech media reported. Rents for apartments in smaller towns may increase by no more than 30%. The government also decided to increase energy prices by 15% this year. Previously the coalition parties had agreed that energy prices should rise by 35%, but the government saw such an increase as too steep. Energy prices will rise by 17% next January, however. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK PRESIDENT SUPPORTS STRIKING ACTORS. Michal Kovac on 12 March issued a statement expressing anxiety over events at the Culture Ministry two days earlier, Slovak media reported. He stressed that if Culture Minister Ivan Hudec does not "begin a constructive dialogue" with the striking actors, he should resign. Referring to the actors' sit-in (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11-12 March 1997), Kovac said "it is deplorable that this country's artists must resort to such methods to come into contact with their minister." He added that Hudec "should be an example of cultivation, communication, and dialogue and not [of] ... arrogance, intolerance, and conflict." Also on 12 March, the Slovak National Theater's ballet and students from several universities went on strike alert. Hudec, meanwhile, has filed criminal proceedings against those who participated in the "unauthorized and violent occupation" of his ministry building, CTK reported. Finally, the opposition announced it will propose parliamentary no-confidence votes in Hudec and Interior Minister Gustav Krajci. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK PARLIAMENT REJECTS DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. The parliament on 12 March rejected an opposition proposal for direct presidential elections, Slovak media reported. The proposal was defeated by a vote of 62 to 46 with 37 abstentions. Shifting the vote from the parliament to the people would require a constitutional change. Opposition parties still plan to hold a referendum on the issue, but the parliament will make the final decision. Also on 12 March, the parliament re-approved an opposition bill delaying bank privatization until the year 2003. However, a government amendment exempts two key banks--Vseobecna uverova banka and Investicna a rozvojova banka--from the bill, allowing their privatization to begin after 31 March. Only the privatization of Slovenska sporitelna and Slovenska poistovna will be prevented. Association of Workers Chairman Jan Luptak later apologized to his supporters for voting in favor of the government amendment. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN, ROMANIAN PREMIERS HAIL "NEW CHAPTER" IN BILATERAL RELATIONS. Gyula Horn and Victor Ciorbea, meeting in Budapest on 12 March, spoke of a "new chapter" in bilateral relations, Hungarian media reported. This is the first visit by a Romanian premier to Hungary since 1989. Horn and Ciorbea signed five agreements, including one establishing a commission to monitor the implementation of the basic treaty concluded last year. Ciorbea announced plans for a new Romanian law to protect minorities' rights in Romania that would include allowing the mother tongue to be used in education and official dealings. He noted that the two countries' strategic partnership as well as the involvement of the Hungarian minority in the Romanian government could serve as a model for the region. Ciorbea also expressed optimism about Romania's chances of joining NATO, saying that "it is up to us to see that these two nations- -without delays or slowdowns--step together on the road to Europe." -- Zsofia Szilagyi HUNGARY'S NEWS AGENCY ON VERGE OF FINANCIAL COLLAPSE. MTI could be insolvent within a month unless it receives financial assistance, Vilaggazdasag reported on 13 March. The news agency's management blames stagnating state support, excessive spending, and MTI's inability to collect outstanding debts to pay the 360 million forints ($2.1 million) it owes the social insurance fund. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIA ON BRINK OF CIVIL WAR? Rebellion has now reached the capital city, international media report today. In the early hours of this morning, looters ransacked the Tirana military academy. Some soldiers broke the city's curfew and chanted "Vlore" in the main square, in an apparent show of solidarity with the rebels in that southern town. Tirana's airport has been closed owing to the latest developments. Reuters reported that five people were killed and at least 40 injured during the night in the northern city of Shkoder, which until now had staved off the rebellion. Newly appointed Premier Bashkim Fino told the BBC that the country is now on the brink of civil war, AFP reported. "Let's be realistic. ... We're on the brink of civil war here. We're in danger. Europe has to help us at this difficult time," he said. -- Stan Markotich BOSNIAN MUSLIM VILLAGE ATTACKED. Gajevi, a Bosnian Muslim village in Serb-held territory in north-eastern Bosnia, came under attack on 11 March, international media reported the following day. According to UN officials, it was the third time this year that the town has been attacked, causing substantial damage to buildings. An unarmed band of up to 50 civilians were responsible for this latest incident, which came one day after the NATO-led Stabilization Force lifted its security cordon around the village, AFP reported. No casualties were reported, and Russian troops stationed near the village said they were unaware that it was under attack until they saw the flames from houses that were set ablaze. -- Stan Markotich FORMER YUGOSLAV PREMIER APPEALS TO SERBIAN PRESIDENT. Milan Panic, who was federal Yugoslav premier in 1992, has joined the chorus of voices urging Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to allow fair elections and take steps toward respecting independent media, Reuters reported on 11 March. Panic has written a letter to Milosevic saying that, "The dignity of the Serbian nation can be fully restored only if all future elections pass the test of the most rigorous international scrutiny. ... The essential first step to achieve this goal is to assure that the Serbian media is fully independent and free." -- Stan Markotich WASHINGTON CRITICAL OF MONTENEGRIN RULING PARTY. The U.S. State Department on 12 March criticized the ruling Montenegrin Democratic Socialist Party, saying that lawsuits it has brought against opposition politicians are merely a method of silencing critics, international media reported. Spokesman Larry Corwin said, "We are very concerned about the implications for democracy in Montenegro." The State Department's comments were made during Montenegrin Premier Milo Djukanovic's ongoing visit to the U.S. A Montenegrin court on 10 March found opposition leader Novak Kilibarda guilty of slandering both President Momir Bulatovic and Parliamentary Speaker Svetozar Marovic during last year's election campaign. Kilibarda has been ordered to pay some $13,000 in fines. Corwin said the ruling was "an effort by the Montenegrin ruling party to intimidate opposition parties." -- Stan Markotich ZAGREB PROTESTS "ANTI-CROATIAN" MEDIA CAMPAIGN. The Croatian embassy in Sarajevo on 12 March sent a sharply worded letter of protest to the Bosnian Foreign Ministry complaining of "an anti-Croatian campaign by the Sarajevo press," Hina reported. The embassy alleged that Sarajevo press practices were "unacceptable," because high-ranking Croatian officials are allegedly portrayed "improperly and, of late, in extremely bad taste." The letter added that "it is particularly worrying that statements by senior government officials of...Muslim nationality have also contributed to this campaign." -- Stan Markotich MACEDONIAN UPDATE. President Kiro Gligorov on 12 March upgraded the state of combat readiness already imposed a week ago (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 March 1997) at the Debar, Gostivar, Kicevo, Ohrid, and Tetovo bases, all near the Albanian border, AFP reported. A scheduled parliamentary debate on rising inter-ethnic tension was canceled on 12 March after the nationalist, non-parliamentary opposition VRMO-DPMNE refused an invitation to participate, MILS reported. Meanwhile, Premier Branko Crvenkovski may fire five ministers from the ruling Social- Democratic Union of Macedonia in connection with the scandal over the closure of the TAT savings house, MILS reported, citing Vecer. Finally, the health of 20 students on hunger strike to protest a law allowing instruction in Albanian at the Pedagogical Faculty is said to be deteriorating. The students say that over 40,000 people have signed a petition in support of their demands. -- Michael Wyzan ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER IN SLOVENIA. Romano Prodi paid a one-day visit to Ljubljana on 11 March, Western agencies reported. After meeting with Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek and President Milan Kucan, Prodi said Italy supports Slovenia's bid for inclusion in the first wave of new NATO members as well as its accession to the EU. He added that "in the next months, a mixed Italian-Slovenian group will be established that will work on bilateral questions so that all shadows of the past will disappear," Reuters reported. Italy is Slovenia's second most important trading partner, accounting for about 20% of Slovenia's total trade turnover. -- Michael Wyzan CLUJ HUNGARIAN UNIVERSITY TO BE RE-OPENED? Romanian premier Victor Ciorbea's announcement before his departure for Budapest that the Bolyai Hungarian-language university in Cluj will be reopened has prompted protests in Romania, not just among extremist parties. Cluj Prefect Alexandru Farcasan, who is a member of the ruling National Peasant Party-Christian Democratic, said reopening the university and permitting bilingual street signs are likely to cause "discontent" among the Romanian ethnic majority. The reopening of the Bolyay university, which in 1958 was merged with the Romanian-language Babes University, has long been demanded by the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, now a member of the ruling coalition. But ethnic Romanian faculty of the Babes-Bolyay University, including Rector Andrei Marga, are opposed to the move. Meanwhile, Radio Bucharest quoted Ciorbea as saying in Budapest on 12 March that a separate Hungarian-language department would be opened within the existing university and would train Hungarian- language teachers. -- Michael Shafir ROMANIA DENIES UKRAINIAN ALLEGATIONS OVER TREATY TALKS. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Gilda Lazar on 12 March denied that Romanian ambassador to Ukraine Ion Bistreanu said at a press conference that Bucharest is no longer abiding by the reported compromise reached with Kyiv in talks over the bilateral treaty, Radio Bucharest reported. ITAR-TASS had reported on the alleged press conference, and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko had deplored the new Romanian position in an interview with the agency, Romanian media reported on 13 March. Lazar said Bistreanu has not held a press conference for the last ten days. She added that the Romanian side was waiting for a Ukrainian response to its latest proposals. Foreign Minister Adrian Severin was "ready to travel anywhere and at any time" in order to help clarify outstanding issues, she added. -- Michael Shafir TRIPARTITE MEETING IN CHISINAU. Contrary to earlier reports, Infotag said on 12 March that Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and the leader of the Transdniester breakaway region, Igor Smirnov, met the previous day in Chisinau, not Tiraspol. The meeting was also attended by Moldovan Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc and parliamentary chairman Dumitru Motpan, as well as Transdniestrian Supreme Soviet chairman Grigore Markutsa. Boris Akulov, head of the breakaway region's State Committee for Information, said the talks do not signal "a resumption of the negotiation process." He said that summit meetings will be resumed only if and when Moldova agrees to sign the memorandum on the long-term settlement of the conflict. Kuchma has invited Smirnov to visit Ukraine in April to discuss the possible participation of Ukrainian troops in the peace- keeping process. He also spoke in favor of boosting trade with the Transdniester. -- Michael Shafir BULGARIA'S IMF DEAL HELD UP BY DISAGREEMENT OVER BANKS. Bulgarian Premier Stefan Sofiyanski on 12 March said different views over a $150 million IMF loan to recapitalize Bulgaria's banks were delaying agreement with the fund, Pari reported. Bulgaria's Banking Consolidation Company wants the money to be used for rehabilitating banks before privatization, while the fund insists that four banks be sold before the end of 1996 and that foreign managers be sought for another two. The IMF holds that the banks experienced difficulties because of bad management, weak supervision, and intentional malfeasance. It says it will not bale out corrupt institutions. Michael Depler, head of the IMF's European Department I, said on 12 March he expects an agreement to be reached within two days. -- 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. Transition will also offer readers from abroad a window on the experiences of countries moving away from a single ideology. We are certain that the magazine's new format and orientation will make it even more useful for your work, as well as contributing more to your understanding. 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 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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