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No. 52, Part II, 14 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 EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE NORTH ATLANTIC ASSEMBLY TO SUSPEND TIES WITH BELARUS. The North Atlantic Assembly (NAA), the interparliamentary organization of NATO members, has said it is freezing all ties with Belarus, RFE/RL reported on 13 March. NAA President and U.S. Senator Bill Roth said the freeze will last until a formal decision is made on Belarus's NAA membership status in April. Belarus is an associate member of the NAA. He said the decision was taken because President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's policies have undermined the rule of law and the democratic legitimacy of the country's legislature. * Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ARRESTED. Belarusian police raided the headquarters of the Belarusian Popular Front on 13 March, AFP and Reuters reported on 13 March. They arrested BFP deputy chairman Yuryi Khadyka, who was imprisoned last spring for his role in organizing demonstrations against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's policies. He was released after staging a hunger strike that lasted almost three weeks. The BPF organized an unsanctioned demonstration against Russian- Belarusian integration on 10 March, when a Russian delegation arrived in Minsk for further talks on integration. * Ustina Markus CHORNOBYL CUTS POWER OUTPUT BY HALF. The Chornobyl nuclear power station has halved its power output owing to fuel shortages, Reuters reported on 13 March. Only one of the power station's four reactors is in use, and station spokesman Valerii Idelson said that one may have to be shut down in a month if there are no additional fuel supplies. The Chornobyl plant owes $3.5 million for fuel deliveries from Russia but has no money to pay off the debt or buy new fuel. Consumers owe the station over 2 billion hryvnyas ($110 million) for electricity. Idelson said the situation could affect the plant's safety since power was needed to maintain and warm the reactor that continues to operate as well as the No. 1 reactor, which has not been fully decommissioned. Russia has supplied Ukraine with nuclear fuel as compensation for valuable materials in the nuclear warheads transferred from Ukraine to Russia. The final compensatory fuel delivery will be made this year, after which Ukraine will have to pay for the fuel. Ukraine's five nuclear power stations supply the country with as much as 45% of its electricity. During this winter, Kyiv has depended on half its electrical supplies from Chornobyl. * Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN PREMIER THREATENS GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATIONS. Pavlo Lazarenko told the cabinet on 13 March that the state will stop financing any governing organizations that have failed to pay employees' wages or deliver food supplies, medicines, or community services to workers, Ukrainian Radio reported. Lazarenko said he took that decision because so many government organizations have not abided by President Leonid Kuchma's decree ordering all government organizations to reduce their staffs by at least a quarter and submit a new budget based on those reductions by 10 March. At the same cabinet session, the January-February performance of the oil and chemical industry as well as the food, forestry, and coal industries was criticized. Crimea and Chernihiv were singled out as the least productive oblasts, with overall output falling by more than 30%. * Ustina Markus CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT STRIPS DEPUTIES OF POWER. The Crimean Presidium, meeting in a closed session on 12 March, stripped seven deputies belonging to an "Anti- criminal coalition" of their powers, UNIAN reported on 12 March. The seven included former Crimean parliamentary speaker Serhii Tsekov. The decision will go into effect if 49 of Crimea's 96 deputies sign the resolution. The following day, Ukrainian Radio reported the Presidium has decided not to pay deputies who do not have valid reasons for not attending parliamentary sessions and to use those funds to pay wage arrears to teachers. * Ustina Markus PARTY POPULARITY RATINGS IN ESTONIA. The Estonian Country People's Party was the most popular party in Estonia in February, BNS reported on 13 March. An opinion survey by Saar Poll showed the party receiving 16% support among the 1,001 respondents. It was followed by the Reform Party with 13% and the Moderates with 12%. The Center Party garnered 11% support, the Pensioners' and Families' League 6%, and the Coalition Party and Pro Patria Union 5% each. In a December poll, the Reform Party placed first with 15% support, ahead of the Country People's Party with 14%. * Jiri Pehe LATVIA, LITHUANIA DISCUSS SEA BORDER. Latvia and Lithuania will try to avoid linking the issue of their common sea border to economic questions, Latvian chief negotiator Maris Riekstins told BNS on 13 March. The Latvian and Lithuanian delegations negotiating the sea border met yesterday. They agreed that excluding economic interests from the border talks would improve the chances of reaching an agreement. The next meeting is scheduled for mid-April. * Jiri Pehe GDANSK SHIPYARD PROTEST CONTINUES. Gdansk shipyard workers continued to demonstrate in the port city on 13 and 14 March to protest the shipyard's closure, Polish media report. Some 3,000 employees at the shipyard are slated to lose their jobs. The protesters shouted anti- communists slogans and again blocked the most important road junction in downtown Gdansk. They also burned tires, engulfing the city center in black smoke. On 13 March, the protesters blocked railroad tracks and brought 30 trains to a halt, Rzeczpospolita reported. Solidarity plans to seek public funds in a bid to save the shipyard. * Jakub Karpinski CZECHS SUPPORT LATVIA'S MEMBERSHIP IN NATO. Czech Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec said after his meeting with his Latvian counterpart, Vladis Birkavs, in Prague on 13 March that NATO must remain open for all applicants even after its Madrid summit in July. At that meeting, NATO is to invite a first wave of new members to join the alliance. The Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Slovenia are considered to have the best chances of being asked to join first. A total of 12 Central and East European states have said they want to become NATO members. * Jiri Pehe CZECH REPUBLIC TO USE NORWAY AS GAS SUPPLIER? The Czech government on 13 March asked Trade and Industry Minister Vladimir Dlouhy to "continue intensive final talks" with Norway's GSU company on supplying gas to the Czech Republic, Hospodarske Noviny reported. The GSU is an umbrella company composed of the Statoil, Norsk Hydro, and Saga concerns. The government has considered offers made by other gas suppliers, but it appears to be leaning toward GSU. Dlouhy told journalists that his talks with GSU representatives should lead to a final decision soon. The government wants to diversify gas supplies in order to break its almost total dependency on Russian gas and Gazprom's monopoly on supplying gas to the Czech Republic. According to Dlouhy, the Czech Republic should start receiving "non-Russian gas" sometime this year. * Jiri Pehe SLOVAK PRESIDENT CALLS TWO REFERENDUMS. Michal Kovac on 13 March said nationwide referendums on whether the president should be elected directly and on Slovakia's NATO membership will be held simultaneously on May 23 and 24, Slovak media reported. "I will launch a personal campaign before the two referendums and will advocate a 'yes' vote to both," Kovac said after announcing the plebiscite. The referendum on direct presidential elections is a direct challenge to Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, whose ruling three-party coalition defeated an opposition attempt in the parliament to change the constitution in favor of such elections. The opposition then collected the 350,000 signatures needed for a referendum to be held on the issue. * Jiri Pehe SLOVAK STUDENTS SUPPORT ACTORS' PROTESTS. Several thousand students marched through the center of Bratislava on 13 March in support of actors protesting against Culture Minister Ivan Hudec's policies, international media reported. Four Bratislava university colleges have announced a strike alert to support the actors. Their actions are in response to a brutal police raid earlier this week at the Culture Ministry, when police attacked protesting actors and opposition lawmakers. The actors went on strike in protest against Hudec on 28 February. * Jiri Pehe CIORBEA URGES HUNGARIANS TO INVEST IN ROMANIA. Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea, on the last day of his visit to Hungary, urged Hungarians to help pull his country out of its economic crisis by investing there, Hungarian media reported on 14 March. Addressing some 100 Hungarian businessmen, he commented that, "We will not be able to overcome the economic crisis without foreign investment." He said he saw a big role for Hungarian business in Romania, assuring potential investors that new economic laws will provide firm ground for foreign capital in Romania. Ciorbea also pledged to allow foreigners to own land in Romania, to help develop the capital market, and to consolidate the stock exchange. The previous day, Hungary and Romania signed agreements strengthening ties in the economic, transport and foreign policy fields. * Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIA PLUNGES INTO CHAOS... Public order has now broken down in many cities and towns across the country, international media reported. Police and military personnel in several municipalities have abandoned their posts. In Tirana alone, an estimated 70 people were injured and 9 killed on 13 March. According to eyewitness accounts, gunshots could be heard in the capital during the night of 13-14 March. Tanks were sent to the city center, but it remains unclear who issued the order. Tirana's prisons have emptied, and among those to be released are Socialist leader Fatos Nano and former communist President Ramiz Alia. Mob violence and chaos are evident in most major cities, including the northern town of Shkodra, where mobs went on a rampage and set ablaze to public buildings. * Stan Markotich ...AS MANY SEEK SAFETY ABROAD. Italian air naval forces have evacuated some 700 foreign nationals since yesterday, AFP reports. The British Foreign Office reports that another 131 foreign nationals have left from the port of Durres. CNN reported earlier today that the children of President Sali Berisha have left for Italy. And according to AFP, former Defense Minister Safet Zhulali, who was replaced only two days ago, has arrived safely in that country with his family. Berisha has called for help from abroad to deal with the crisis. * Stan Markotich BELGRADE ISSUES STATEMENT ON ALBANIAN CRISIS. The government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in its first statement on the crisis in Albania, has called for a "peaceful" resolution, Reuters reported on 13 March. Belgrade said it is concerned about the "deep destabilisation...[which has] implications for the stability of the region." Reuters suggests that the statement was likely prompted by an incident along the Macedonian border with Albania demonstrating that the violence risks spreading to predominantly ethnic-Albanian Kosovo. On 13 March, Macedonian border guards exchanged fire with Albanian police, Macedonian Radio reported. * Stan Markotich U.S. MILITARY URGE EUROPEANS TO LEAD BOSNIA FOLLOW-ON FORCE. At U.S.-French talks in Washington on 13 March, senior U.S. military officials urged Europeans to take over peace-keeping duties in Bosnia-Herzegovina when U.S. troops leave, AFP reported. Robert Grant of U.S.- Crest, a Washington think-tank, said the French representatives insisted that the U.S. keep its SFOR ground troop force in Bosnia together with its European allies. In other news, High Representative for Bosnia Carl Bildt has called on the Council of Ministers to adopt a package of economic laws to allow the delayed international donor conference to take place. On 13 March, the council reached agreement on several foreign trade laws but failed to adopt other legislation. Haris Silajdzic, one of the council's two co- chairmen, said the High Representative's Office should also be blamed for the conference's delay. "Bildt's office failed to respond on privatization, restitution, and ownership draft laws submitted by the council," Oslobodjenje on 14 March quoted Silajdzic as saying. * Daria Sito Sucic IMF GRANTS CROATIA $486 MILLION CREDIT. The International Monetary Fund on 13 March announced it has granted Croatia a three-year credit line worth $486 million to support economic reform, AFP reported. The fund noted that Croatia began implementing an economic stabilization campaign in 1993, despite regional military conflict, and that it has managed to restore fiscal control and reduce inflation from more than 1,000% to industrial country levels. Meanwhile, Gen Jacques Klein, UN transitional administrator for Croatia's Serb-held region of eastern Slavonia, called for increased financial support from the international community to ensure stability in the region. In other news, Vittorio Ghidi, outgoing chief of the EU Humanitarian Office in Zagreb, said the EU will continue to provide humanitarian aid to Croatia in the form of bank loans or through the PHARE program, Hina reported on 13 March. * Daria Sito Sucic MACEDONIAN PREMIER GIVES MAJOR SPEECH ON ETHNIC ISSUES. Branko Crvenkovski delivered a speech on inter-ethnic relations to a special session of parliament on 13 March, Nova Makedonija reported. He noted that Macedonia finds itself in an "extraordinarily difficult situation" on the political, economic, social, and even security fronts. He added that many problems result from poorly-functioning institutions. He said the government's inter-ethnic policies and the current constitution are based on "political coexistence, mutual tolerance and respect, the overcoming of problems through the institutions of the system, and adaptation and drafting of our laws and procedures on the basis of European norms." He scolded the opposition for failing to respect those achievements and defended the law on the Pedagogical Faculty at Skopje University allowing instruction there in Albanian. The legislation has sparked student protests. * Michael Wyzan ROMANIAN PRESIDENT, PREMIER ON FUTURE OF BABES-BOLYAI UNIVERSITY. President Emil Constantinescu and Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea made separate statements on 13 March clarifying that the Cluj Babes-Bolyai University will remain unified. It will, however, be divided into two autonomous sections-one teaching in Romanian, the other in Hungarian. Radio Bucharest carried a press release in which Constantinescu said the Magyar community's demands to have institutes of higher education teaching in its language was "legitimate" and in line with "European norms." Premier Ciorbea, in an interview on national television, said both the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania and Hungary's ruling coalition and opposition were agreed to the continued existence of a unified university divided into two sections. Ciorbea discussed the issue with Hungarian officials during his trip to Budapest earlier this week. * Michael Shafir ROMANIAN EXTREME NATIONALIST STRIPPED OF IMMUNITY. The Romanian Senate on 13 March stripped Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the extreme nationalist Greater Romanian Party (PRM), of his parliamentary immunity, RFE/RL and local media reported on 13-14 March. The move, however, may contravene the house regulations, since the ruling coalition, which voted in favor, was short of the required two-thirds majority. National Peasant Party-Christian Democratic representative Nistor Badiceanu proposed an amendment saying the previous legislature's decision to lift Tudor's immunity was still valid, and Senate chairman Petre Roman decided that the vote on the amendment would be decided by a simple majority. Deputies from the PRM, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (which initiated the removal of Tudor's immunity last year but now opposes it) and the Party of Romanian National Unity walked out in protest. In their absence, the amendment was carried by a vote of 74 to three. Tudor has said that he will appeal to the Constitutional Court. * Michael Shafir ROMANIAN JOURNALISTS SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR LIBEL. A court in the town of Buzau has found three Romanian journalists guilty of libel against a former local prosecutor and sentenced them to one year in prison, RFE/RL reported on 13 March. The three journalists work for the local paper Opinia. Libel charges were brought against them after they published an article claiming that the former prosecutor's mother had rented her house to an illegal pyramid scheme. The journalists are free pending an appeal, which they must file by 21 March. * Michael Shafir BULGARIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL INVESTIGATES SOCIALIST AGRICULTURE MINISTER. Ivan Tatarchev on 13 March launched an investigation into whether Vasil Chichibaba, the first agriculture minister under former Socialist Premier Zhan Videnov, and three of his deputies were criminally negligent in allowing large-scale exports, Pari reported. They are suspected of negligence in forecasting the 1995 wheat balance, which led to excessive wheat exports that year as well as a shortage of bread grain in both 1995 and 1996. The damage to the economy caused by having to import grain after large-scale exports totaled 6.5 billion leva ($97 million). If convicted, Chichibaba and the three deputies face up to 10 years' imprisonment. Meanwhile, the government has approved a program to expedite Bulgaria's integration into NATO, including the speedier adoption of NATO military standards and a public education campaign about the alliance, Western agencies reported on 13 March. * 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. 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