"FINAL ASSAULT" ON GROZNY IMMINENT?
Russian troops are preparing for the
"final assault" on Grozny, according to a Russian government press service
statemetanuary. The statement comes six days after Russian Defense Minister
Pavel Grachev claimed the army had liquidated Chechen resistance in the city.
One third of Grozny is estimated by Western correspondents and Chechen
officials to remain under Chechen control. Russian artillery bombardment of the
city continued on 30 January. In addition, Russian reinforcements were being
deployed south of Grozny in an apparent attempt to seal off the city, AFP
reported. In an interview given to a Kuwaiti weekly paper and summarized by
ITAR-TASS on 30 January, Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev affirmed that
continued resistance to Russian forces had been planned "on a scientific
basis," and the center of Chechen resistance would be relocated from Grozny to
the mountains. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
OSCE DELEGATION REPORTS ON CHECHNYA.
The Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) fact-finding mission returned to Moscow from
Grozny on 30 January, the Los Angeles Times reported. Delegation member
Audrey Glover said she had never seen anything as horrific as the consequences
of the Russian attack on the Chechen capital, the Czech daily Lidove
noviny reported. "It is only possible to compare Grozny to the state
Dresden was in after the Second World War," she said. Delegation head Istvan
Gyarmati specifically condemned Russian bombing of Chechen cities, which have
killed thousands of people. However, he found no evidence that Russian soldiers
are torturing and summarily executing Chechen prisoners. Gyarmati said both the
warring sides had agreed to allow representatives of the International
Committee of the Red Cross to visit their prisoners of war. This was the first
international mission to Chechnya during the seven-week war, and its
conclusions were at odds with Moscow's official version of events. -- Victor
Gomez and Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
SEMENOV TO RECONSTRUCT CHECHNYA.
Reconstructing most important
industries in Chechnya will require a special effort because of the flight of
many qualified workers from the republic, the new Russian governor of Chechnya,
Nikolai Semenov, said at a 30 January news conference broadcast on Russian TV.
Semenov called for an end to artillery bombardment and advocated negotiations
with all local political powers. According to "Vesti," Semenov also said he did
not intend to talk with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. He added that it is
up to the military to stop the fighting. Semenov said he intended to rely in
his work on a so-called National Salvation Committee that he has begun forming,
presumably comprised of members of the pro-Moscow opposition to Dudaev. --
Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.
BURLATSKY: EGOROV INITIATED CHECHEN WAR.
Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai
D. Egorov provided the first push for the military campaign in Chechnya, Fedor
Burlatsky charged in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 31 January. According to
Burlatsky, Egorov was probably influenced by the emotions of Cossacks who
suffered from living next door to a criminal zone. In this scenario, the
president's advisers prepared the decision, but the president himself made it,
and the Security Council was only a deliberative body. However, when the
decision was made, no one considered the character or the consequences of the
war. Burlatsky claimed the decision-making process for Chechnya was the same as
Josef Stalin's decision to start the Korean War and Nikita Khrushchev's
decision to place missiles in Cuba. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
SECURITY COUNCIL DEEMED USEFUL.
In the same article, Burlatsky argued
that the Security Council plays a necessary role that the media has not
understood. He denied that the recent inclusion of parliamentary leaders in the
body limits their ability to control the executive branch. Russians, he
charged, are too concerned about the idea of a separation of powers. Such a
separation cannot work when politicians refuse to cooperate with each other.
"Therefore it is necessary to have an institution in which the main figures
come together and collectively resolve the most important problems." The
speakers of both houses can use their position effectively to represent the
collective will of the legislature in the Council, he claimed. He advocated the
adoption of a new law on the Security Council which would restrict its
decision-making power to protecting state security at home and abroad, and
fighting armed groups, the mafia, and corruption. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI,
SHUMEIKO PROPOSES CONFERENCE ON THE PARLIAMENT.
In a letter to President
Yeltsin, Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko proposed the convocation
of an all-Russian conference on the future of parliament, Izvestiya
reported on 31 January. He warned that the level of disagreement about how to
elect a new parliament was so high, that without the conference, the country
might fall into another constitutional crisis. The events in Chechnya have
deflected the country's attention from the fact that, in a year when
parliamentary elections will be held, the country has no electoral law. "Now
there is no hope that the parliamentarians will be able to find a quick
solution in the eleven months before the elections," Izvestiya wrote. In
the Duma, the current members want to protect their interests by preserving the
seats elected by party lists. One consequence of this system has been that many
members come from the Moscow area. Many Federation Council deputies are unhappy
with the president's policies and with their own inability to influence them.
The council's impotence has raised concerns that important regional elites will
not be interested in it or in the electoral law used to choose its members. --
Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
DEFENSE MINISTRY SAID TO HAVE BEEN TOLD ABOUT NORWEGIAN MISSILE.
Russian Foreign Ministry official said his department had twice passed on
advance information to the Defense Ministry regarding the 25 January launch of
a Norwegian research rocket. The military at first thought the missile might be
headed toward Russia and while it was in flight, President Yeltsin consulted
with top military officials using his "black box" emergency communication
equipment. Yuri Fokin, Russia's new ambassador to Norway, said the confusion
was caused by "a misunderstanding which must not be repeated," Interfax
reported on 30 January. Fokin confirmed that Norway had complied with the usual
notification procedures regarding the rocket launch. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI,
CONTROVERSIAL JUBILEE OF SOVIET WRITERS' UNION.
Seven organizations of
Russian writers have protested against planned festivities to mark the sixtieth
anniversary of the Union of Soviet Writers, Russian TV's "Vesti" reported on 30
January. Formed in August 1934 by Josef Stalin's chief ideologist Andrei
Zhdanov, the Writers' Union played a key role in the oppression of Soviet
writers and the suppression of artistic freedoms in the former USSR. The
writers' union jubilee is scheduled for next month in the highly prestigious
Column Hall of the Unions' House. The gala event will be presided over by
82-year-old poet Sergei Mikhalkov, a co-author of the Stalin-era Soviet anthem.
-- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.
UNEMPLOYMENT, WAGE DIFFERENTIALS INCREASING.
Federal Employment Service
head Fedor Prokopov said more than 2 million jobs will be lost in 1995 and the
number of officially registered unemployed will rise to 3,600,000, ITAR-TASS
reported on 27 January. He expects half a million jobs to be lost in industry,
another half a million in agriculture, and 200,000 in construction; only the
service sector is expected to expand. On 29 January, a representative of the
union of textile and light industry workers told RIA that 400,000 people could
lose their jobs in these industries by the end of February, largely because of
shortfalls in cotton imports from Uzbekistan. Also on 29 January, Interfax
reported that the richest groups in society now earned 15 times as much as the
poorest groups. In 1991, they earned only four times as much as the poorest
sector. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
CASH-STRAPPED ZIL RESUMES PRODUCTION.
After a two-week halt in
production, ZIL, Russia's leading mid-range truck manufacturer, resumed
operations on 30 January, Interfax reported. The Moscow company temporarily
ceased production due to a cash flow crisis resulting from debtors' inability
to pay ZIL for truck parts. Interfax said ZIL is counting on state aid and
planned to produce 100-150 trucks a day over the next two weeks, down from a
daily average of 200 vehicles over the past two months. Last year, the factory
produced 30,000 trucks, a fraction of its 250,000 vehicle capacity. ZIL is best
known for its black limousines, which, in the Soviet heyday, were reserved for
the highest ranking government officials. But it also came close to bankruptcy
in 1994. Consequently, a restructuring plan was implemented which resulted in
layoffs for 20,000 of its 85,000 employees. The government promised to give the
troubled company a boost by offering a subsidy of 180 billion rubles ($44.5
million). That subsidy has yet to be seen. According to Interfax, ZIL's chief
executive, Valerii Satkin, said the factory's total debt is 420 billion rubles
(about $104 million). -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
COMPANY TO SELL AIRLINERS TO BRITISH FIRM.
The Samara-based Aviakor
aircraft company plans to sell ten Tu-145M airliners to the British leasing
firm TTG, in a deal worth about $50 million, an official from the Russian plant
announced on 26 January. Vladimir Safronov told Interfax this would be the
first major sale of Russian aircraft to a West European country. The former
Samara Aircraft Plant was one of the largest producers of Tu-154s in the USSR,
but only sold two of its planes in 1994. Last July, it entered bankruptcy
hearings and sent most of its workers on forced leave. The hearings were later
suspended for one year. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
TRANSCAUCASIA & CENTRAL ASIA
ENERGY SITUATION IN KAZAKHSTAN IMPROVES; SOME COAL MINERS RETURN TO WORK.
The energy situation in Kazakhstan improved 30 January as some coal miners,
who had been on strike for 17 days, returned to work, Reuters reported.
Deliveries of coal to the massive steelworks at Karmet, which had been
threatened with shutdown, resumed after the company agreed to pay part of its
debt for past deliveries. About 100,000 coal miners from the Karaganda field
went on strike to demand payment for wages due to them since autumn. Although
miners returned to one pit, most of the other pits remained on strike. Strike
leader Vyacheslav Sidorov said the situation is tense. "The mood of the miners
is still to take to the streets." Job security is the miners' main concern as
the government intends to close the smaller, unprofitable pits. "Payment of
wages is only a partial solution--the main problem is the fate of the Karaganda
coal basin," Sidorov added. Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mette was expected in
Karaganda, 800 km north of the capital Almaty, on 30 January to hold talks with
the miners. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
NAZARBAEV PROPOSES "ALTERNATIVE" TO OPEC.
Speaking at the World Economic
Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev called for
increased Western investment in his country's energy sector, AFP and ITAR-TASS
reported on 30 January. Nazarbaev stressed that at present, only about 1% of
Kazakhstan's oil potential is being exploited. The country has an estimated 4.5
billion tons of oil and 5.9 trillion cubic meters of natural gas in reserves.
Western investment in the Russian and Kazakh energy sectors would be mutually
beneficial and reduce Western dependence on OPEC, he argued. -- Liz Fuller,
RUSSIA OBJECTS TO US INVOLVEMENT ON UKRAINIAN DEBT.
US mediation over
the issue of Ukraine's energy debt to Russia is "unreasonable and out of
place," according to a statement issued by the Russian Petroleum Information
Agency on 30 January. Last December, Thomas Pickering, the U.S. ambassador to
Russia, proposed that his country act as a mediator in resolving the debt
problem. The agency statement said Russia views Ukraine's debt as a bilateral
issue between the two former Soviet republics. It also said Russia supports a
plan for Ukraine to use western credits in paying off its energy debts. --
Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
WALESA THREATENS "DECISIVE STEPS."
President Lech Walesa has demanded
that Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak appoint new defense and foreign affairs
ministers by 3 February, Gazeta Wyborcza reports. The president also
insisted that Pawlak name a new ambassador to the Vatican; this post has been
vacant for nearly a year. During a meeting with the president on 30 January,
Pawlak again reneged on previous pledges to present candidates for the vacant
cabinet posts. Press spokesman Leszek Spalinski warned that the president would
take "decisive steps to prevent the paralysis of government" if the new
deadline was not met. He did not specify what steps the president had in mind,
but acknowledged that Walesa had telephoned Sejm Speaker Jozef Oleksy on 26
January to propose the "self-dissolution" of the parliament. Parliamentary
leaders nervously contemplating Walesa's next move on the budget nonetheless
took heart in the president's decision to agree to meet with them on 6
February. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.
POLISH GOVERNMENT UNDER SIEGE.
A rapid response to the president's
ultimatum seems unlikely, as Pawlak departs on 31 January for an unofficial
visit to the US, returning only on 3 February. The normally taciturn prime
minister made an initial attempt to shore up the government's sagging
popularity with an unscripted television address on 28 January. In announcing
his decision to accept the resignation of national police commander Zenon
Smolarek, Pawlak praised both Smolarek and the police, and made no reference to
the corruption charges that prompted the resignation. Gazeta Wyborcza
found the prime minister's phrasings so obscure that it provided readers with
explanatory footnotes. Virtually all political forces criticized the speech as
an inadequate response to corruption allegations hanging over prominent members
of the ruling coalition. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.
AGREEMENT ON FINANCING BALTBAT TRAINING SIGNED.
Deputy Defense Ministers
Jonas Gecas (Lithuania), Janis Davidovics (Latvia), and Tarmo Molder (Estonia)
on 30 January in Vilnius signed an agreement on financing the Baltic
Peacekeeping Battalion (BALTBAT) exercises at the Adazi training center in
Latvia, RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service reports. Gecas said that Lithuania earlier
this month sent 36 officers to Adazi for courses in English-language and
officer training that will last six to eight months. The officers will then
train 110 Lithuanian soldiers who, joined by similar sized groups from Latvia
and Estonia, will later form the battalion. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
SOCIETY OF LITHUANIAN POLITICAL PRISONERS AND EXILES FORMED.
of Lithuanian Political Prisoners and Exiles was formed on 28 January in
Vilnius as an "independent patriotic social organization," RFE/RL's Lithuanian
Service reported on 30 January. Parliament deputy Antanas Stasiskis was elected
its chairman. The creation of the society had been prompted by the conversion
during the summer of the Union of Political Prisoners and Exiles from a social
organization into a political party, thus leaving out members who belonged to
other political parties. Lithuanian press reports that no representatives of
right-wing political parties attended the constituent assembly were incorrect:
Homeland Union Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis arrived before its closing to give
a speech. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
PANICKING WORKERS SHUT DOWN CHORNOBYL NUCLEAR REACTOR.
Operators at the
Chornobyl nuclear power plant panicked after noticing a small leak in an
emergency cooling system and shut down a reactor late on 29 January, with no
evident release of radiation, international media reported on 30 January.
Ukrainian authorities attributed the sudden shutdown to an overreaction by
tired workers, who took the station's no. 3 reactor off line after an alarm
signaled a problem. The operators were apparently uncertain of the seriousness
of the incident. A similar accident shut down the same bloc last October. The
shutdown left Chornobyl, which provides about 7% of Ukraine's energy, with a
single operating reactor. Reactor no. 2 has been closed since a fire in 1991,
while reactor no. 4, which exploded in April 1986 also due to operator error,
remains enclosed in a deteriorating steel-and-concrete sarcophagus. The
Ukrainian Parliament is scheduled to debate a bill on nuclear energy usage and
safety during the week beginning 5 February, Radio Ukraine reported on 30
January. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.
UKRAINIAN DELEGATION IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC.
A Ukrainian delegation led
by Deputy Economics Minister Lada Pavlykovska visited Prague this week to
discuss technical aid from the Czech Republic and expand cooperation between
the two countries, Ukrainian television reported on 30 January. Pavlykovska
said that Ukraine looked to the Czech Republic as an example of the economic
reform process which transformed it from a command economy to a market one. She
said that while Ukraine welcomed the advice of experts from the US, England and
France, these countries did not truly understand Ukraine's problems, while
Czech experts have a better understanding, having gone through the same process
themselves. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
RUTHENIANS HOLD CODIFICATION CEREMONY IN BRATISLAVA.
Revival, a cultural organization of Ruthenians living in Slovakia, held a
ceremony on 27 January to celebrate the codification of the Ruthenian language,
Smena reported on 28 January. Meanwhile, Ukrainian groups in Slovakia
have protested the move, claiming that Ruthenian is only a dialect of the
Ukrainian language and that the Ruthenian nation does not exist, TASR reported.
In the 1990 census, 17,000 people in Slovakia declared Ruthenian nationality,
compared with 14,000 who said they were Ukrainian. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI,
WEAK ECONOMIC RECOVERY IN SLOVAKIA?
According to a study by the
Forecasting Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, the macroeconomic
indicators which form the base of the government's program declaration are
overly optimistic. While the government plans for GDP growth of 5%, lowering of
the inflation and unemployment rates below 10% and a budget deficit of less
than 3% of GDP, the institute predicts that the recovery is still "very weak."
According to the study, GDP growth should reach between two and 4.3 percent in
1995, but is dependent on the continuation of the current economic policy,
stress on the currency's stabilization, a lowering of the inflation rate and a
continuation of the positive trade balance, Sme reported on 28 January.
According to figures released by TASR on 27 January, Slovakia's exports grew to
215.52 billion koruny in 1994, while imports reached 211.46 billion koruny. --
Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.
NO CHANGES IN HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT PROGRAM.
A joint communique issued by
the leadership of the ruling coalition parties, the Hungarian Socialist Party
and the Alliance of Free Democrats, states that the resignation of Finance
Minister Laszlo Bekesi will not result in any changes in government policy,
Magyar Hirlap of 31 January reports. It declares that economic policy
will continue to focus on stabilizing the economy by cutting budget and balance
of payment deficits. The communique states that any modifications to the draft
law on privatization, which has already been submitted to parliament, requires
the consent of both coalition parties. The statement also promises quick
government action to end long delays in appointing public officials and in
submitting vital legislation to parliament. Prime Minister Gyula Horn is to
disclose the names of his candidates for unfilled government posts and for the
president of the Hungarian National Bank within two weeks. The coalition
parties pledge to make every effort to appoint ombudsmen and new constitutional
judges and to restart negotiations on the draft law on the media. -- Edith
Oltay, OMRI, Inc.
DIPLOMATS SEEK SOLUTION TO KRAJINA QUESTION.
Dailies in Serbia and
Croatia on 31 January follow closely the latest efforts by international
diplomats to find a political arrangement for the third of Croatian territory
held by rebel Serbs. US Ambassador Peter Galbraith and his colleagues known as
the Z-4 group met the previous day with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and
also with Serb leaders in Knin. Vecernji list quotes Tudjman as saying
he will study the diplomats' latest proposal, but it seems clear that his
government and the Serbs still have very different expectations. Zagreb insists
on the full reintegration of the territories into Croatia and is prepared to
give the Serbs only local autonomy in the Knin and Glina districts, where they
made up a majority before 1991. The Serbs, however, want recognition as an
independent state with its own currency and police force. The also want
UNPROFOR to stay and make the renewal of its mandate a precondition for any
agreement with Tudjman. Politika quotes top Croatian officials as saying
they will not tolerate a "state within a state," and that autonomy on the model
of South Tirol is the best they can offer. The BBC's Croatian Service,
meanwhile, reported at length on the international diplomats' proposals and
suggests that the key to any solution lies with Serbian President Slobodan
Milosevic. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
IZETBEGOVIC OPTIMISTIC ON FEDERATION WITH CROATS.
on 31 January quotes Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic as saying that he
does not expect any new conflict to break out between Muslims and Croats and
stresses that Bosnia needs its Croats and Serbs in order "to be Bosnia." He
does not, however, see any future for his people or for Macedonians in a
reconstituted Yugoslavia under Milosevic, saying that the Muslims and
Macedonians would have no more rights than the Sandzak Muslims or Kosovo
Albanians have today. Elsewhere, the BBC's Croatian Service reports that
Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic repeated Izetbegovic's call for the
Bosnian Serbs to be given a three-month deadline to accept the Contact Group's
peace plan, which would roughly coincide with the end of the current cease-fire
period. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
KINKEL IN THE BALKANS.
Sarajevo on 31 January will play host to German
Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, international media report. The previous day he
visited Zagreb, where he tried to convince Tudjman to extend UNPROFOR's
mandate. He was probably given a polite hearing, but Germany no longer carries
the diplomatic weight it did in Croatia when Hans-Dietrich Genscher was foreign
minister. Washington now is probably Zagreb's most important partner ahead of
Bonn, with Vienna and the Vatican also playing important roles. -- Patrick
Moore, OMRI, Inc.
JOVANOVIC ON ISTRIA.
Politika on 31 January reports on
controversial comments made by rump Yugoslav Foreign Minister Vladislav
Jovanovic. According to the account, Jovanovic, in a recent interview with an
Italian paper, described at least portions of Istria as territory which Croatia
"holds under occupation" but which is rightfully Italian. In other news, the
same Belgrade daily reports that a group of former federal parliamentary
deputies, who last year broke with opposition leader Vuk Draskovic, have formed
a new political party, Narodna saborna stranka, with their colleague Slobodan
Rakitic as its first president. Finally, the state-run Borba, under the
headline "Bulgarians Wish to Go to Serbia," announces that a protest meeting
will be held in the Bulgarian city of Vidin on 6 February because of imposed
travel restrictions to Serbia. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.
ANTI-SERBIAN DEMONSTRATION IN BULGARIA.
Mirjana Markovic, wife of
Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, was greeted with jeers and anti-Serbian
posters in the city of Plovdiv on 30 January, 24 chasa reported the
following day. Participants in a demonstration for the rights of the Bulgarian
minority in Serbia carried posters saying "The Neuilly Treaty is dead",
"Freedom for the Bulgarians in Serbia" and "The Western Regions [former
Bulgarian territories which Serbia acquired in 1919] are ours." Markovic was in
Plovdiv to present the Bulgarian edition of her new book at the invitation of
the "Slavyani" foundation. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
ILIESCU ON ROMANIA'S ETHNIC HUNGARIANS.
A spokesman for President Ion
Iliescu read out at a press conference on 30 January a presidential statement
on the war of words between the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania and
the extreme-nationalist Party of Romanian National Unity over the issue of
broader autonomy for Romania's Magyar minority. Iliescu put the blame for the
recent escalation of ethnic tension in Romania on HDFR's policies, and accused
some of the party's leaders of "diabolic perseverance" in promoting the idea of
"ethnic-territorial autonomy." On the other hand, however, Iliescu denounced as
"irrational" and "ill-timed" recent statements by PRNU chairman Gheorghe Funar,
which, he said, included insulting remarks aimed at the Hungarian people.
Funar, who asked Iliescu on 27 January to declare a state of emergency in three
counties with large Hungarian populations, rejected Iliescu's criticism. Also
on 30 January, the Council of the Democratic Convention of Romania, the
country's main opposition alliance and which includes the HDFR, discussed the
implications of the recent polemics. Radio Bucharest said that apparently no
consensus could be reached within the DCR, with the Party of Civic Alliance and
the Romanian Social-Democrat Party taking a more critical stance against the
HDFR. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.
GERMANY WILL SUPPORT ROMANIA'S EFFORTS TO JOIN NATO.
Minister Volker Ruehe, on a two-day visit to Bucharest, said on 30 January that
his country will support Romania's efforts to join NATO, Reuters reports. Ruehe
added that Germany will join in military exercises to be held in Romania later
this year as part of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. -- Michael Mihalka,
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT MEETS CLINTON.
The President of the Republic of
Moldova, Mircea Snegur, who started an official visit to the United States on
28 January, was received on 30 January by President Bill Clinton. The US
administration assured Snegur that it will continue to support economic reforms
in Moldova and pledged to give that country another $22 million in technical
assistance. Snegur asked the US to support Moldova in its efforts to seek the
withdrawal of the 14th Russian Army from Moldova's territory. He suggested that
international monitoring was necessary to ensure that the withdrawal would take
place on schedule and under "normal conditions." Western sources reported that
Snegur met on the same say with US Defense Secretary William Perry. He also had
talks with representatives of the State Department, Congressional leaders and
senior officials from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. --
Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.
BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER ON FOREIGN POLICY.
Zhan Videnov said that
Bulgaria will follow a "pragmatic, transparent and open" foreign policy with
neighboring countries, Duma reports on 31 January. The Socialist
newspaper cited an interview published in the Greek weekly To Vima on 29
January. Videnov stated that Bulgaria's Balkan policy is a continuation of its
European policy, and that the aim is to "establish European standards in the
conduct between the Balkan countries," adding that the formation of blocs and
spheres of influence will lead the Balkan countries into confrontation. In an
interview with Trud, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski said that the
government's decision to attach economic priorities to Bulgaria's foreign
policy does not mean subordinating it to foreign trade. Forms and means will be
worked out, however, by which foreign policy will assist the economic
development of Bulgaria, Pirinski added. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
BULGARIAN EDUCATION MINISTER STILL UNDER FIRE.
Some 50 scholars and
employers of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences protested against the election
of Ilcho Dimitrov as Minister of Education and Science, Demokratsiya
reported on 31 January. In an open letter, they said that Dimitrov's
appointment will effect not only education and science but also domestic and
foreign policy and Bulgaria's international standing. Dimitrov "contributed to
the division of the nation" during the first time he was Education Minister in
the 1980s, the authors say, adding that they will do everything to alert the
Bulgarian and international public if there are any "attempts to restore
totalitarianism in Bulgaria." The ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedom
also repeatedly protested against the election of Dimitrov. The last MRF
declaration, published on 30 January, accuses the BSP of hostility towards the
ethnic minorities and of trying to restrict their rights and says the MRF will
resist any attempt of the "xenophobic minister" to deprive the minorities of
their rights in the field of education and culture. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI,
ALBANIAN DEMOCRATIC LEADER OFFERS RESIGNATION.
The leader of the ruling
Democratic Party, Eduard Selami, has offered his resignation, Gazeta
Shqiptare reported on 31 January. The paper says that Selami has criticized
the government for failing to carry out certain points in the party program.
Selami has proposed that the party leader should also be prime minister,
arguing that this would help promote the party's interests. He argues that the
government is making a mistake by "not listening to the voice of the party" and
adds that "there is a gap between the government and the Democratic Party,
which is in power and must carry out its policies." The Democratic Party has
decided that its most pressing aims are passing laws on social insurance and on
buying and selling land, and implementing rapid privatization by issuing stocks
and starting the restitution of real estate. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.
[As of 12:00 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Steve Kettle