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Newsline - December 11, 1995


OMRI DD 11 DEC.
FEDERATION COUNCIL'S AUTHORITY EXTENDED FOR ONE MONTH.
At what was planned to be its final session on 9 December, the Federation Council acted on President Boris Yeltsin's request not to suspend its legislative work and voted to extend its authority until a new Council meets in January, Russian and Western agencies reported. Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko told NTV the same day that the Council will consider the 1996 budget and other laws recently passed by the State Duma on 19 December. Also on 9 December, the Council approved an appeal to the Constitutional Court questioning the legality of the law on the Council's formation (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 December 1995). -- Laura Belin

DUMA PASSES LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES.
Russia's so-called "divan parties," in which all the members could fit on a single sofa, may become a thing of the past under a law on political parties passed by the State Duma on 8 December. The law stipulates that only a group of at least 100 people can found a political party, ITAR-TASS reported. Parties that seek to violently change the constitutional order or to violate the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation would be prohibited, as would the creation of armed groups or parties that promote racial, ethnic, or religious hatred. The law has been sent to the Federation Council for approval. -- Laura Belin

FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES LAW SUSPENDING TV AND RADIO PRIVATIZATION.
Also on 9 December, the Federation Council approved by a vote of 96 to two a law suspending the reorganization, privatization, and liquidation of state-owned television and radio companies, as well as the transfer of state property to private television or radio companies, until a special federal law is adopted on the matter, Russian media reported. A similar law was passed by parliament last spring but vetoed by President Yeltsin in June. The law specifically targets 51% state-owned Russian Public Television (ORT), which was created under a November 1994 presidential decree restructuring the fully state-owned Ostankino television and radio company. ORT took over Channel 1 broadcasting privileges on 1 April; a 6 October presidential decree ordered the liquidation of Ostankino (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 October 1995). -- Laura Belin

NO FAVORITES YET IN PRESIDENTIAL RACE.
A poll by VCIOM found that there would be no clear favorite for the post of president if elections were held now, Interfax reported on 9 December. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Aleksandr Lebed each received the support of 6% of respondents, followed by 5% for eye-surgeon Svatoslav Fedorov, and 4% each for Boris Yeltsin, Grigorii Yavlinskii, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Such polls cast doubt on the argument that parties can use the Duma elections to launch their presidential candidates. Interfax also quoted Congress of Russian Communities leader Yurii Skokov as saying at a Moscow rally that his party has not yet decided which of its three leaders (Skokov, Lebed, and Sergei Glazev) to nominate for president. He said that choice will depend on the type of challenge facing the country by the time of next June's presidential elections--political, military, or economic. -- Peter Rutland

ANNIVERSARY OF USSR'S END PASSES WITHOUT INCIDENT.
The fourth anniversary of the Belovezhskaya agreement signed by Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus which brought an end to the USSR was marked on 8 December by a small group of demonstrators in central Moscow. The organizers, Working Russia, had anticipated a crowd of 20,000, NTV reported the same day. Stanislau Shushkevich, the former Belarusian leader, revealed that he had suggested inviting Mikhail Gorbachev to the meeting, but President Yeltsin vetoed the idea. -- Peter Rutland

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND ORENBURG OBLAST SIGN ACCORD ON POWER SEPARATION.
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Orenburg Oblast Governor Vladimir Yelagin signed an accord on the division of powers between the federal authorities an Orenburg in the areas of economic and agricultural policy, natural resources, international relations and trade, and military industries, ITAR-TASS and Russian TV reported on 9 December. Orenburg is the first oblast to sign such an agreement; previously, the federal government had only signed such accords with the Russian Federation's republics. Chernomyrdin said similar agreements will be signed with Krasnodar Krai and Sverdlovsk, Kaliningrad, and Murmansk oblasts. -- Anna Paretskaya

NEGATIVE REACTION TO CHECHEN-RUSSIAN AGREEMENT.
A spokesman for Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev condemned as "a provocation" the Russian-Chechen intergovernmental agreement signed on 8 December, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on 9 December. Former Chechen Prime Minister Salambek Khadzhiev told NTV the agreement will exacerbate tensions in Chechnya and former Russian parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov argued that Chechen Premier Doku Zavgaev is not empowered to sign the agreement on behalf of the Chechen people, Russian TV reported on 8 December. On 9 December, Khasbulatov withdrew his candidacy for the 17 December elections for a new Chechen republican leader, arguing that the vote would give rise to new bloodshed and "could split Chechnya into two parts," according to NTV. Also on 9 December, President Boris Yeltsin appealed to the Chechen people to participate in the 17 December elections which he termed crucial to the future stability of Chechnya. -- Liz Fuller

U.S. AMBASSADOR'S REMARKS PROMPT PROTEST.
The Foreign Ministry on 8 December formally protested remarks made by U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering during a recent visit to Sakhalin Island, Russian agencies reported. According to ITAR-TASS, Pickering said that the four southernmost islands in the Kuril chain are Japanese and should be peacefully transferred to Japan. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin told Interfax that Pickering's remarks represented unacceptable interference in Russian internal affairs and contradicted Washington's declared policy of partnership with Russia, although he acknowledged that the U.S. has long supported Japan's claim to the southern Kurils. -- Scott Parrish in Moscow and Constantine Dmitriev

RUSSIA ASKS THE HAGUE TO FREEZE CASES AGAINST KARADZIC AND MLADIC.
Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev told journalists that Russia has asked the International Tribunal in The Hague to put its cases against Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic on hold, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 December. Kozyrev also said that the Bosnian Serbs had asked Moscow to make the appeal. Russia called upon the tribunal to carefully re-examine the problem, taking all circumstances and facts into consideration. At the same time, Kozyrev said that Serbia should explain the fate of French pilots downed over Serbia if Belgrade does not want to find itself in international isolation. -- Constantine Dmitriev

DUMA DEPUTY KILLED IN CAR CRASH.
Vitalii Savitskii, the head of the Christian Democratic Union electoral bloc and a Duma deputy, was killed in a car crash in St. Petersburg on 10 December, ITAR-TASS reported. Savitskii was head of the Duma Committee on Religious Affairs and president of the Christian Democratic Union of Eastern Europe. He championed environmental causes in parliament and pressed for the revision of legislation on religion to crack down on sects such as Aum Shinri Kyo. Savitskii is the third candidate to die in the current election campaign. -- Penny Morvant

ACTIVISTS BLAST RUSSIA'S HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD.
Russia's human rights record has deteriorated significantly this year, according to a report released by Human Rights Watch at a Moscow news conference on 8 December. It said that the war in Chechnya was waged with "total disregard for humanitarian law" and accused the government of initiating "a backlash against human rights in legislation and in government institutions" and of failing to take steps to curb police brutality and abuse in the army, stop state-sponsored gender and racial discrimination, and improve the appalling conditions in Russian prisons, Reuters reported. Tatyana Kasatkina of the Russian human rights group Memorial said the backlash against civil liberties began after President Yeltsin used tanks to crush the rebellion in Moscow in October 1993. -- Penny Morvant

FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES ABM DEAL WITH U.S.
At an 8 December Moscow news conference, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin refuted Western media reports that Russia and the U.S. had reached an agreement clarifying the terms of the 1972 ABM treaty, Interfax reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 December 1995). Demurin said Russian and U.S. negotiators in the Standing Consultative Commission (SCC), which resolves disputes related to the treaty, are currently meeting in Geneva to hammer out mutually acceptable technical parameters specifying which defensive systems will be considered tactical and hence permitted under the treaty, and which will be considered strategic and thus banned. -- Scott Parrish in Moscow

MENATEP GAINS CONTROL OF YUKOS.
In an 8 December auction, Menatep bank acquired 78% of the shares in Yukos, Russia's second-largest oil company, through an intermediary company named Laguna, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 December. Laguna offered $150 million (guaranteed by Menatep) for a 33% stake in the investment auction and a $159 million credit (guaranteed by Menatep, Tokobank, and Stolichnyi bank) for a 45% stake in the loans-for-shares auction. The only rival bidder allowed was another Menatep-sponsored company, Reagent. Menatep was also the organizer of the auction. Under the terms of the tender, Menatep will have to invest a total of $350 million over three years: $200 million on reconstructing some 2,500 disused oil wells, $80 million on oil-refineries, and $60 million on storage facilities and gasoline stations. -- Natalia Gurushina



OMRI DD 11 DEC.
PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN. The 9 December elections to
Kazakhstan's lower house of parliament (Majilis) failed to fill one-
third of the chamber's seats, Russian and Western agencies reported.
Despite turnout estimated by the government at 78%, run-off elections
will have to be held in the 23 seats where the winning candidate
received less than 50% of the vote. The 43 deputies elected are two
short of the number required to form a quorum. One district, Kostanai,
has been delayed in turning in its results because of heavy snowfall.
(See related story in Transcaucasia and Central Asian section below).
* Bruce Pannier

IRREGULARITIES IN KAZAKHSTAN ELECTIONS.
Once again, international observers complained that there were many cases in Kazakhstan's 9 December elections where one individual voted for their entire family. Other observers said they were not allowed to watch the vote counting. Similar charges were considered by President Nursultan Nazarbayev as adequate grounds for disbanding the previous parliament in March 1995. The Communist Party complained that only nine of the 28 candidates they put forward received registration, while 38 candidates were registered for the Party of National Unity founded by Nazarbayev two years ago. Adding to voter confusion was the fact that ballots listed only the candidates' names, not their party affiliation. -- Bruce Pannier

IRAN OPTS OUT OF SHAKH-DENIZ.
Speaking at a conference in Tehran on 10 December, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmoud Vaezi stated that his country has rejected an offer from Azerbaijan to participate in the exploitation of the Caspian Sea's Shakh-Deniz oil and gas deposits as "unserious," AFP reported. Azerbaijan had solicited Iranian participation after initially caving in to U.S. pressure in April and withdrawing an offer to Iran to participate in the international consortium to develop a separate group of three major Caspian oil fields. Iran's Minister for Oil Gholamrezah Aghazadeh warned that the failure of Caspian littoral states to cooperate in exploiting the region's resources could increase tension and instability in the region but added that Iran will be guided by economic rather than political considerations in deciding on its participation in international projects, according to Interfax. -- Liz Fuller

DEMIREL VISITS BAKU.
Turkish President Suleyman Demirel paid a largely symbolic two-day official visit to Baku beginning on 7 December, Turkish and Azerbaijani media reported. Demirel signed one agreement with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, under which Turkey will provide Turkish-state television broadcasts to Azerbaijan. Demirel also met with opposition political leaders and visited refugees from Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. -- Lowell Bezanis



OMRI DD 11 DEC.

CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

CRIMEAN PRIME MINISTER VOTED OUT OF OFFICE.
The Crimean parliament on 8 December voted by 73 to 8 to remove Anatolii Franchuk from the post of prime minister, international agencies reported. The reason given for his dismissal was the failure to improve the economic situation on the peninsula. Crimean deputy Volodymyr Klychnikov said electricity was being cut off throughout the region, salaries had not been paid in months, and Crimea was not at all prepared for the winter. In March, the Crimean parliament voted to remove Franchuk, but the decision was reversed by a presidential decree from Kiev placing Crimea's government under Ukrainian control. Franchuk favored improving relations with Ukraine and was considered to have influence with President Leonid Kuchma. Nonetheless, he was viewed with suspicion by Crimean politicians who expressed reservations about his business links. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN ELECTIONS ARE UNSUCCESSFUL . . .
Another round of by-elections took place in 45 constituencies in Ukraine on 10 December to complete the country's 450-member parliament, international agencies reported. Preliminary results indicate the elections were valid in only 16 districts, with turnout in the remainder below the required 50%. But a second round may be necessary in most of the 16 districts where elections were deemed valid, because the winning candidate has to win over 50% of the votes cast. The strict provisions of Ukraine's election law made it necessary to hold a series of repeat elections after the first round of parliamentary elections in March 1994. In May 1995, a six-month moratorium was placed on elections because of the cost and because voter apathy continued to be in evidence. -- Ustina Markus

. . . WHILE BELARUS FINALLY ELECTS PARLIAMENT.
Preliminary results indicate that Belarus has succeeded in electing a parliament in the 10 December by-elections, international agencies reported. Since May, when voters elected only 119 deputies to the 260-seat legislature (55 short of the two-thirds necessary for the new legislature to convene), President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the old parliament and has sought to impede by-elections in the apparent hope that he could impose direct presidential rule. Voter turnout was put at 52.4% in the December runoffs, and a further 59 deputies were elected, bringing the total number of deputies to 198. -- Ustina Markus

UN SUPPORTS LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENTARY INSPECTORS.
Seimas Chairman Ceslovas Jursenas and Cornelius Klein, a representative of the UN Development Program in Lithuania, signed an agreement on 8 December providing $270,000 for the parliamentary institute of ombudsmen, established in Lithuania in 1994, BNS reported. Algirdas Taminskas, who is head of the institute, said that although the official document providing assistance has just been signed, the UN has been financing their projects for more than a year. The ombudsmen have used the UN . -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH SUPREME COURT VALIDATES PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
The Polish Supreme Court on 9 December announced that the November presidential elections were valid and that Aleksander Kwasniewski is therefore Poland's legally elected president for the next five years, Polish media reported. The decision was not unanimous, however, and was based on rulings by three panels of judges. The panels were unanimous that Kwasniewski violated the elections law by giving false information about his education, but they were divided over the effect that the misinformation had on the election result. The Supreme Court's ruling that it had no decisive influence cannot be appealed. Kwasniewski will be sworn in on 23 December. -- Jakub Karpinski

WALESA SENDS TAX BILL TO CONSTITUTIONAL TRIBUNAL.
President Lech Walesa sent the tax bill to the Constitutional Tribunal on 8 December, saying it "infringes on the principles of a democratic law-based state," Rzeczpospolita reported the next day. The bill introduces six tax brackets, abolishes indexation, cancels deductions for those who give money or goods to family members, and limits deductions for private health care. If the Constitutional Tribunal rules that the bill is constitutional, the president has to sign it immediately. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

CZECHS APPROVE TROOPS FOR BOSNIA, NATO TRANSIT.
The Czech parliament on 8 December agreed to send a Czech military unit to join the NATO peace implementation force (IFOR) in Bosnia, as well as approving the transit of NATO and other foreign troops across the Czech Republic, Czech media reported. Government and opposition deputies voted for the proposals, which were opposed only by the extreme left and extreme right. The Czechs intend to send an 850-man mechanized battalion that will be part of the Canadian brigade in the British sector in Bosnia. More than 1,000 Czech soldiers have already volunteered to serve in the battalion. By 10 December, four NATO trains from Germany had crossed the Czech Republic and Slovakia and entered Hungary, where troops and equipment will gather before going to Bosnia. The Slovak parliament approved the transit on 7 December. -- Doug Clarke and Steve Kettle

ROMA DEMONSTRATE AGAINST RACISM IN CZECH CAPITAL.
Between 200 and 400 people, mostly Roma, on 10 December gathered in Prague to demonstrate against racism and to commemorate the 28 Roma killed in racially motivated attacks in the Czech Republic over the last three years. Romani leaders and a Prague rabbi addressed the crowd. Placards bore messages recalling Auschwitz and Lety concentration camps, pictures of Martin Luther King and Vaclav Havel, and phrases such as: "Nazism is alive in this country." -- Alaina Lemon

SLOVAK POLITICAL UPDATE.
Prior to the opening of the parliamentary session on 11 December, which will deal with the ratification of the Slovak-Hungarian treaty, Robert Fico of the opposition Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) on 9 December challenged the coalition to start talks with the opposition if it lacks sufficient support for the treaty. Fico stressed that his party will not publicize its position on the treaty until the document is presented in the parliament. Meanwhile, the SDL has said the draft budget, which is to be discussed at the same session, is "unacceptable." The Democratic Party has also rejected the draft, criticizing in particular increased funds for the government office and the Slovak Information Service. In other news, the Slovak Cultural Ministry on 8 December announced that it has created a working group to draw up a bill on the protection of minority languages, TASR reported. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY SIGNS ELECTRICITY, GAS PRIVATIZATION CONTRACTS.
The State Privatization and Holding Company (APV Rt.) on 8 December signed contracts with the new owners of minority stakes in Hungarian electricity companies and majority stakes in the country's gas companies, Hungarian media reported. The sales brought the APV Rt.'s total revenues for 1995 to an estimated 233 billion forint. The major investors include the German consortium RWE-Energie-Versorgung Schwaben, Bayernwerk, and Isar Amperwerk; the French Electricite de France and Gaz de France; and the Belgian concern Powerfin S.A. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

FIRST U.S. TRANSPORT PLANES LAND IN HUNGARY.
The first Hercules C-130 transport planes, carrying 115 U.S. soldiers, landed in southwestern Hungary's Taszar air base on 9 December, Hungarian media reported. Meanwhile, Col. Jozsef Ronkovics, a department head at Budapest's Lajos Kossuth Military College, has been appointed commander of Hungary's 500-strong technical contingent that will be part of the Bosnian peacekeeping forces. Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti said the Hungarian contingent will be under British command and will help build and maintain roads and bridges, carrying weapons to be used in self-defense only, Magyar Nemzet reported. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



OMRI DD 11 DEC.
LONDON CONFERENCE DISCUSSES BOSNIA.
Some 52 countries and international organizations took part in the meeting on 8-10 December to plan the reconstruction of the war-torn republic. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on 11 December that the session approved a 47-point document setting down the broad guidelines that will have to be fleshed out. A steering committee has been set up and chief EU negotiator Carl Bildt will serve as its head. Bildt's first task centers on Sarajevo. He told Nasa Borba that "the civilian [reconstruction] aspect is the real key to a lasting peace." -- Patrick Moore

FRANCE'S ULTIMATUM ON PILOTS RUNS OUT.
The London meeting on the reconstruction of Bosnia was overshadowed by a French demand that the Bosnian Serbs free the two downed airmen by 10 December or face unspecified consequences. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung the next day said that his colleagues were supportive of the French foreign minister, and Germany's Klaus Kinkel pointed out that 50 of the 200 foreign casualties in the conflict have been French. The French have used tough but vague language to describe what they would do if the Serbs did not comply. CNN said that the Serbs remained silent as the deadline went past, and AFP noted that the usually loquacious Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic refused to give an interview. -- Patrick Moore

OSCE APPROVES BOSNIAN MISSION.
The OSCE, at a two-day meeting of its foreign ministers in Budapest on 7-8 December, has taken on its greatest challenge in its 20-year history by agreeing to oversee elections, arms control, and human rights in Bosnia, Western agencies reported. But it failed to agree on an individual to head its mission, with France opposing the U.S candidate. Many delegates expressed doubts as to whether the OSCE, which has few resources of its own, is up to the job. "Even if the military operation succeeds to the extent that you can establish security on the ground, it will not succeed if you don't manage to get elections going, to get the reconstruction of civil society," OSCE Secretary-General Wilhelm Hoynck said. -- Michael Mihalka

BOSNIAN SERB LEADERSHIP WANTS KARADZIC IN PARIS.
Speaker of the Bosnian Serb legislature Momcilo Krajisnik said in Banja Luka on 9 December that the leadership of the Republika Srpska insists that its head, Radovan Karadzic, attend the peace conference in Paris on 14 December and sign the final peace agreement, AFP and Nasa Borba reported on 11 December. He said that his government's delegation has not been consulted about the final version of the Dayton treaty and has not signed it. He also said that "no integral Bosnia" will exist after Dayton, claiming that the "full political independence" of the Republika Srpska has been agreed to. Meanwhile, Karadzic again warned the international community that having Sarajevo's Serbs under Moslem authorities would create "a Beirut," the BBC reported on 11 December. -- Daria Sito Sucic

IZETBEGOVIC REASSURES SARAJEVO'S SERBS.
Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic promised that all foreign Islamic fighters in his country will be sent home within 30 days, the International Herald Tribune reported on 11 December. He added that his government will work to reassure the 60,000-70,000 Sarajevo Serbs who will pass from Pale's to government control under the Dayton agreement. He added that the anxious population "is not fully informed of the provisions" of the treaty. Nasa Borba noted that the Croats and Muslims under Pale's rule have not asked for special guarantees, and that General Ratko Mladic offered none for the 70,000 Bosnian Serbs who remained loyal to the Bosnian government when Mladic's men shelled the city. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung pointed out that traditionally Sarajevo has not had ethnic ghettos, which are a concept of the nationalists. Elsewhere, Hina said on 10 December that the Bosnian Croat parliament approved the Dayton treaty, albeit with misgivings over northern Bosnia. -- Patrick Moore

BELGRADE MINISTER INTENSIFIES INTEGRATION EFFORTS.
BETA on 9 December quoted Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic as saying at the London Conference on Bosnia-Herzegovina that Belgarde has given "a big boost to the [Balkan] peace process" and for that reason should have "the right to suitable relations with the EU, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and other institutions." Milutinovic also used the opportunity to aruge once again that Belgrade was a victim of circumstances and not involved in instigating and supporting the war. "I would say that [the rump] Yugoslavia, because of the war in its neighborhood and because of the sanctions it was subjected to, has endured serious economic hardships," he added. -- Stan Markotich

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON UKRAINE, BOSNIA.
Returning from London, where he participated in the international conference on the Dayton agreement, Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu told Radio Bucharest on 9 December that he and his Ukrainian counterpart have decided to prepare a summit meeting between the two countries' prime ministers to discuss "steps that may be conducive to the conclusion of the bilateral treaty" between the two countries. Melescanu added that Romania has expressed its readiness to contribute to the NATO peacekeeping force with non-combat units. NATO's secretary-general approved his proposal and details are to be worked out soon, he said. Melescanu also noted that Romania wanted to contribute to the group of experts that will oversee the implementation of the human rights provisions of the Dayton agreements. -- Michael Shafir

HUNGARIANS PROTEST ROMANIAN EDUCATION LAW.
Thousands of ethnic Hungarian high-school students protested Romania's controversial education law, which, they say, discriminates against their language, Romanian and international media reported on 8 December. An estimated 3,000 pupils from the Transylvanian town of Sfantu Gheorghe demanded equal rights, equal chances, and education in [their] mother tongue." The protesters also demanded the return of Church property seized by the communists. Meanwhile, the Hungarian minority announced it will suspend its protest actions, started at the beginning of the school year, until after the winter holidays. -- Matyas Szabo

MOLDOVA ABOLISHES CAPITAL PUNISHMENT.
The Moldovan parliament on 8 December voted unanimously to abolish the death penalty, Moldovan and international agencies reported. Sentences ranging from 25 years to life will be meted out for such crimes as high treason, murder, terrorism, desertion during war, and rape of minors. "This is an important step toward bringing Moldovan legislation in line with that of other European countries," Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Dumitru Diacov said. Since 1991, 21 death penalties have been handed out. None has been carried out in Moldova, but an unknown number of people have been sent to Russia and Ukraine for execution. -- Matyas Szabo

BULGARIAN JOURNALISTS FORM UNION.
Some 64 journalists working for Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) on 7 December formed a trade union called Svobodno Slovo (Free Word), Demokratsiya reported. Most belong to the group of journalists who have accused BNR's management of censorship (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 November 1995). Representatives of the new union met with BNR Director-General Vecheslav Tunev to talk about procedural rules under which they will hold talks with the BNR management. Tunev on 8 December declared on BNR that the dissenting journalists have no desire for a constructive dialogue and that they have served the interests of all systems--from the communist era to the present day--"with the same servility." -- Stefan Krause

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER IN BULGARIA.
Vladimir Meciar, on a visit to Sofia from 7-8 December, met with his Bulgarian counterpart, Zhan Videnov, and parliamentary chairman Blagovest Sendov, RFE/RL reported. The two premiers signed five bilateral agreements, including one calling for the elimination of tariffs between the two countries within three years. Videnov and Meciar told the press that they have agreed on coordinated efforts toward European integration. During a visit to Slovenia earlier last week, Meciar won Slovenian support for Bulgarian membership in the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). On returning to Bratislava, Meciar said that as a result to his visit to Ljubljana and Sofia, his country now has "an open road to three seas"--the Baltic, the Adriatic, and the Black Sea. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN BUDGET DEFICIT EXCEEDS PROJECTION.
By the end of November, Bulgaria's budget deficit had reached 54 billion leva ($766 million), as compared with the projected deficit of 48 billion leva ($681 million), Leff Information Service quoted Finance Minister Dimitar Kostov as saying on 7 December. This puts the deficit at close to 7.5% of GDP. Kostov also predicted that December-to-December consumer price inflation for 1995 would be 35%. In a commentary in 24 chasa on 11 December, the opposition deputy Ventsislav Dimitrov pointed out that the increase in the deficit is due to the government's decision in April to help improve the balance sheets of two ailing state commercial banks. -- Michael Wyzan

BERISHA PARDONS JOURNALIST IN SLANDER CASE.
Albanian President Sali Berisha has pardoned Aleanca chief editor Blendi Fevziu, who was found guilty of slander, Koha Jone reported on 9 December. Fevziu was fined $2,000 for publishing an article that suggested that the head of the State Control Commission was involved in corruption (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 December 1995). Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court has ruled that the protocols of Supreme Court Chief Judge Zef Brozi's trial will be made available to the parliament. Deputies from the Democratic Alliance and the Socialist Party had demanded to see the documents. -- Fabian Schmidt

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave





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