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Vol. 1, No. 42
28 February1995

We welcome you to the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest--a compilation of news concerning the former Soviet Union and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. Contributors include OMRI's 30-member staff of analysts, plus selected freelance specialists. OMRI is a unique public-private venture between the Open Society Institute and the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting.

Copyright (c) 1995, Open Media Research Institute. All rights reserved.


GRYZUNOV TO BE FIRED? State Press Committee Chairman Sergei Gryzunov, a
liberal who has shut down several fascist newspapers during his five months in
office, announced on 27 February that he would be dismissed because "not all
officials" share his belief in a free press, Interfax reported. But a
presidential source told Interfax on 27 February that President Boris Yeltsin
supports Gryzunov, who is "widely known for his democratic and anti-fascist
views." The mixed signals continued into the evening, when Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin confirmed that Gryzunov would be dismissed. The heads of
nearly every major Russian newspaper, television, and radio company praised the
outgoing chairman in a letter to Yeltsin calling Gryzunov's rumored dismissal
"unfounded" and "unjustified." The letter suggests that Gryzunov's opponents
intend to stir up resentment toward the president and divisions within the
democratic camp in the early stages of this year's electoral campaign. Last
autumn, Gryzunov was appointed coordinator of the Russian government's
Temporary Information Center on the Chechen conflict, but he was soon removed,
reportedly because of his "inability to cope" with discrepancies in the
government's official version of events. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

RUSSIAN TROOPS SEAL GROZNY. Russian troops have formed a second circle
around Grozny, effectively sealing off the city, and are proceeding to hunt
down those Chechen fighters still remaining there, Interfax and AFP reported on
27 February. Russian troops advancing south from Grozny were halted by
intensive Chechen resistance in the village of Stary Atagi. Also on 27
February, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, Interior Minister
Viktor Yerin, and other ranking Russian officials arrived in Mozdok for a
conference on economic reconstruction in Chechnya. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

CAMPAIGN HEATS UP IN THE REGIONS. Communist Party candidates won a majority
of seats in elections to the Orel Oblast legislature on 26 February, Interfax
reported. Additionally, preparations for the December parliamentary elections
are rapidly moving ahead outside Moscow. Agrarian party leader Mikhail Lapshin
just completed a visit to Rostov Oblast, while Russia's Choice leader Yegor
Gaidar was seeking support in Smolensk, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on
28 February. On 25 February, Nizhnii Novgorod hosted the founding conference of
a new national organization, Spring Union. That organization, under the
leadership of State Duma Deputy Vadim Bulavinov, is seeking to strengthen the
Russian state by fostering parliamentary democracy. In an earlier incarnation
as a strictly regional organization, the Spring Union succeeded in electing 20
of its 24 candidates to the State Duma and the Nizhnii Novgorod Assembly. It is
now actively seeking allies among the other political parties for the
parliamentary elections. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

the ultra-nationalist leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, told Interfax on
24 February that the Russian government will refuse to call parliamentary
elections in December of this year. He claimed that as the political climate in
Russia worsens in the summer of 1996, the government will use the "civil war"
as an excuse to further postpone legislative elections. Based on recent
meetings with unnamed members of the Russian armed forces, Zhirinovsky asserted
that "only the army can guarantee that the election takes place." -- Laura
Belin, OMRI, Inc.

capital from Russia totaled about $50 billion in 1994, according to an official
of the Interior Ministry's Main Department for Economic Crimes, cited by
Interfax on 26 February. He said the illegal capital outflow was rising at a
rate of $1.5-2 billion a month, much of it stolen from the public. About 9,600
crimes were recorded in the financial sphere in 1994, 4,800 of them involving
theft. A 24 February Interfax report, also citing an Interior Ministry
official, said the state apparatus had been eroded by corruption. State
officials figured in 2,700 law suits, more than half of them on bribery
charges. In an article published in Izvestiya on 28 February, former
Finance Minister Boris Fedorov poured scorn on the official bribery figures for
1994, arguing that there were more likely to have been 5 million than 5,000
cases. He blamed the scourge on high-level reluctance to address corruption,
judicial shortcomings, unclear bureaucratic decision-making procedures, and the
power of officials to issue credits, licenses, and quotas. -- Penny Morvant,
OMRI, Inc.

Russian Peasants' Party has accused "agrarian apparatchiks of large-scale
cattle slaughter which is a crime against the Russian people," according to a
report read by party leader Yuri Chernichenko at the Fourth Party Congress in
Moscow on 27 February, Interfax reported. Chernichenko compared the huge cattle
slaughters in state and collective farms to those under Stalin in 1929-1933.
Commenting on federal allocations to the agro-industrial sector, he said
farmers are being oppressed throughout the country by high taxes and government
diktats. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

banking legislation in the Duma met on 27 February to spell out the details for
the bill "On Changes and Amendments to the Russian Law on Bankruptcy of
Enterprises." The law is expected to address the bankruptcy peculiarities of
banks and credit organizations, Interfax reported. The bill will change the
procedure for declaring a bank insolvent. Arbitration courts will initiate the
insolvency case before a bank is stripped of its license. The license annulment
will be the final stage of a bank's bankruptcy and will only be admissible if
the Central Bank approves the liquidation commission's report. The bill will
also address how to sell insolvent banks. Temporary control over the insolvent
bank will be exercised by authorized persons from highly reliable banks and
auditing firms. The bill will also allow bank liquidation if reorganizational
inefficiency can be proven. The liquidation commission must involve an
authorized representative from the Bank of Russia. Under the bill, bank
shareholders will have property accountability for bank obligations in case the
bank goes bankrupt. The bill will be submitted to the State Duma this spring.
-- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

stock market commission has passed a resolution to allow the Toggliatti-based
AvtoVAZbank of Russia access to the American stock market, the first company to
do so, Interfax reported on 24 February. Several other Russian companies,
including the leading LUKoil holding, also plan to break into the U.S. stock
market. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

KOZYREV PUBLISHES NEW BOOK. Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev presented his
book, Transformation, on the formation of Russian foreign policy, on 27
February in Moscow, Interfax reported. Describing Russia's place on the
international stage as "more solid and dignified than that of the USSR," he
said the latter may have been more feared but Russia has earned greater
respect. Commenting on extracts published earlier, he said Japan was not
offended by his revelation that the country had offered Russia $28 billion for
the four Kuril islands. Boris Likhachev, director of International Relations
Publishing House, said the book will be translated into English and published
abroad. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

State Warren Christopher continued to express concern about the Russian plan to
supply Iran with nuclear reactors, international agencies reported. "We oppose
any nuclear cooperation with Iran by Russia or other countries," he said on 27
February. Meanwhile, Sergei Karagonov, a member of the Russian Presidential
Council, said, "We are negotiating (the sale) of a peaceful nuclear facility
(for a) power plant. We aren't selling them anything which can be connected
with arms." Russia's failure to drop the deal may threaten Clinton's proposed
visit in May, a Foreign Ministry source told Interfax. A Nuclear Ministry
source accused the U.S. of duplicity for intending to send the same kind of
reactors to North Korea. He said the U.S. action may subvert the extension of
the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty when it comes up for review in April. Iran
and other states may decide not to sign if they are prevented from pursuing
peaceful nuclear programs. Contrary to U.S. beliefs, Russia maintains that the
Iranian program is entirely peaceful. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy
Mamedov was in Iran over the weekend and secured yet another statement from
Tehran that it would continue to adhere to the NPT. However, one Yeltsin
adviser shares U.S. concerns. In a Deutsche Welle interview on 26 February,
Aleksy Yablokov, head of the Security Council environment commission, said
Iranian interest in the proposed nuclear power plant has only one purpose,
"Tehran wants its own atomic bomb." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

safety deal with the European Union that will greatly facilitate Western aid in
nuclear safety projects, Reuters reported on 27 February. EU Foreign Affairs
Commissioner Hans van den Broek and Russian Atomic Energy Minister Viktor
Mikhailov signed the document, which contains a controversial clause limiting
the liability of Western suppliers in the event of a nuclear accident. The lack
of a liability-limitation deal has stalled a number of EU-backed safety
projects. The EU will continue to press Russia to sign the Vienna Convention
which limits liability to the owner of the nuclear facility. -- Michael
Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

Foreign Minister Kozyrev has warned once again against the "hasty expansion
of NATO," ITAR-TASS reported on 28 February. The timing of his comments are
particularly important as the U.S. has been actively pursuing efforts to secure
Russian approval for NATO expansion. That was one of the topics Russian Deputy
Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov discussed last week on his visit to Washington.
Kozyrev told Japanese journalists before his trip to China, "it is not with
expanding the old NATO that one needs to hurry, but with the joint quest for
ways to transform the alliance, to develop a genuine Russia-NATO partnership."
He reminded them that Yeltsin had spoken of "a cold peace" at the CSCE summit
in December. "In our view, this danger is an extremely real one," he said. --
Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

UNEMPLOYED UP 75,000 IN FEBRUARY. The Federal Employment Service announced
on 27 February that the number of officially registered unemployed increased by
almost 75,000 in February to 1.71 million, Interfax reported. The actual number
of unemployed is thought to be two to three times the official figure. A
quarter of the unemployed had been working in state organizations. According to
the Labor Ministry, 85% of vacancies are for blue-collar workers, while
two-thirds of the unemployed have a higher or specialized secondary education.
-- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

Vol. 1, No. 42
28 February1995

We welcome you to the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest--a compilation of news concerning the former Soviet Union and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. Contributors include OMRI's 30-member staff of analysts, plus selected freelance specialists. OMRI is a unique public-private venture between the Open Society Institute and the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting.

Copyright (c) 1995, Open Media Research Institute. All rights reserved.


TAJIK ELECTION UPDATE. Up to 85% of Tajikistan's 2,684,000 registered
voters participated in the parliamentary elections of 26 February, a Central
Electoral Commission spokesman told Interfax on 27 February. Candidates were
elected in 161 of 181 constituencies. Repeat elections will be held in 13
constituencies where no single candidate obtained the necessary minimum number
of votes, and results are still outstanding in the remaining seven. Among the
candidates elected are Abdulmadzhid Dostiev and Shodi Shabdolov, leaders of the
Tajik People's Party and the Tajik Communist Party respectively. A spokesman
for the Tajik Foreign Ministry told Interfax that the government will continue
to cooperate with the OSCE despite that organization's refusal to send
observers to monitor the elections. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

Vol. 1, No. 42
28 February1995

We welcome you to the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest--a compilation of news concerning the former Soviet Union and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. Contributors include OMRI's 30-member staff of analysts, plus selected freelance specialists. OMRI is a unique public-private venture between the Open Society Institute and the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting.

Copyright (c) 1995, Open Media Research Institute. All rights reserved.


WAR OF NERVES IN POLAND. The meeting between President Lech Walesa and
prime minister candidate Jozef Oleksy failed to take place as expected on 27
February. It is now planned for 28 February, just one day before the Sejm is to
vote on the constructive no-confidence motion. The delay was at the president's
initiative and reflects his determination to keep the ruling coalition guessing
as to his views on the attempt to form a new government. In comments to
reporters quoted by Radio Warsaw, Oleksy maintained his courteously correct
manner, saying that he welcomed the president's views on the entire cabinet but
that "these opinions do not have constitutional force." If they proved
sufficiently convincing, he added, the coalition might be swayed. But he again
stressed that "there are no presidential ministries." The role of Deputy Prime
Minister and Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko in the new government remains
unclear, and there has been media speculation that the coalition may be
preparing to sacrifice him to win the president's assent to the formation of
the new government. The leadership of the Social Democracy of the Polish
Republic (the leading force in the Democratic Left Alliance) meanwhile voiced
its "wholehearted" support for Oleksy's mission. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.

parliament commissions are expected to begin reviewing the 1995 draft budget
later this week, UNIAR reported. The draft budget, submitted by the government
on 27 February, calls for tight fiscal policy measures and a 5% budget deficit
in an effort to obtain a $1.3 billion standby loan from the IMF.
Interfax-Ukraine reported that the Ukrainian government is expected to draft a
memorandum on its economic policy and has invited the IMF leadership to Kiev in
the second half of March. In other economic news, UNIAR reported that Ukrainian
President Leonid Kuchma's advisory council on economic reforms has released
further details about the plan to issue short-term government bonds to finance
the budget deficit. Six-month bonds worth $100 million will be available for
purchase as of 1 April at all local branches of the State Savings Bank and at
several commercial banks. The bonds are expected to be sold for U.S. dollars at
a discount to attract buyers, with a guaranteed 6% interest rate in greenbacks.
-- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

UKRAINE'S FOREIGN TRADE. Interfax on 27 February reported Ukraine's
Statistics Ministry as saying that Ukraine had a trade surplus of $114.7
million in 1994. During the first six months of 1994, Ukraine ran up a deficit
of $500 million but registered a trade surplus with non-CIS states in the
second half of the year. Ukraine's trade with CIS states was $1.7 billion in
the red, largely on account of energy imports from Russia and Turkmenistan. In
all, Ukraine traded $19.65 billion worth of goods, with its exports totaling
$9.88 billion and imports $9.767 billion. Its largest trading partner was
Russia, accounting for 39% of Ukraine's total trade. Belarus, China, and
Moldova each accounted for 5%; and the U.S. and Switzerland 3%. A total of 59%
of Ukrainian imports came from Russia, mostly in energy supplies. Its other
main energy supplier, Turkmenistan, accounted for 7% of Ukraine's imports,
followed by Germany with 6%, Belarus and Switzerland 3% each, and the U.S. 2%.
Energy supplies accounted for 52% of all Ukraine's imports. -- Ustina Markus,
OMRI, Inc.

diphtheria recently in the northern city of Sumy, bringing the total number of
deaths from the disease this year to 24, including four children,
Interfax-Ukraine reported on 27 February. The Ukrainian Health Ministry told
Interfax that another 20 diphtheria cases were registered in recent days and
that there are now a total of 682 patients in the country, including 119
children. Most cases are in Kiev, Crimea, and the Donetske, Kherson, and Odessa
regions. A mass vaccination campaign is taking place in Crimea with the help of
a $300,000 grant for that purpose from the World Health Organization. --
Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

UPDATE ON CORRUPTION CHARGES IN BELARUS. Mikhail Udovikau, the head of the
Belarusian temporary parliament commission on investigating source materials
used by the mass media, has denounced some materials used by President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka during his election campaign as "non-objective and
unverified," Interfax reported on 27 February. Udovikau was referring to a
speech in which Lukashenka claimed that Chairman of the Supreme Soviet
Mechyslau Hryb had mob connections. Lukashenka said he had a video tape showing
Hryb and a businessman, Amanheldi Bahdanau, at a party together. According to
Lukashenka, Bahdanau was organizing terrorist acts. The Public Prosecutor's
Office investigated the charges and concluded there was little evidence of
Bahdanau's preparing terrorist acts. It also found that Hryb had no financial
relations with Bahdanau. Moreover, most officials thought it was not Hryb on
Lukashenka's video, but only a person who looked like Hryb. -- Ustina Markus,
OMRI, Inc.

Novok has released the results of an opinion poll in Belarus on the 6 January
Belarusian-Russian agreements, Belarusian Television reported on 27 February.
Of the respondents, 19% approved of the agreements, 33% partly approved; 9%
partly disapproved; 4.5% fully disapproved; and a majority, 35%, were unable to
say how they felt about the accords. The nationalist opposition has sharply
criticized the agreements as compromising the country's sovereignty. In
particular, it is concerned about the accord allowing Russian troops to lease
two early-warning stations in Belarus for 25 years. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI,

Enn Tupp (Estonia), Janis Trapans (Latvia), and Linas Linkevicius (Lithuania),
meeting in Vilnius on 27 February, signed an agreement on closer defense
cooperation, BNS and Interfax reported. The new accord updates a framework
agreement on defense and security cooperation signed more than three years ago.
The three states pledge to coordinate relations with the UN, NATO, the WEU, and
those organizations' member countries. They will also jointly participate in
NATO's Partnership for Peace program. The defense ministers reportedly gave top
priority during their discussions to cooperation in monitoring the Baltic
republics' air space and territorial seas. The pact, however, is not a defense
union: thus if one of the signatories were attacked by an aggressor, it would
not be automatically defended by the other two. The Baltic defense ministers
also announced that their deputies will meet in Riga in March to draw up an
airspace monitoring agreement. -- Doug Clarke and Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Sergei Krilov and Latvian Ambassador to Moscow Janis Peters, meeting in Moscow
on 27 February, formally exchanged ratification notes of agreements signed in
1993-94, BNS reported. The accords cover the Russian troop withdrawal from
Latvia; social guarantees for military pensioners; legal assistance and
judicial relations in civil, family, and criminal cases; and protection of
migrants' rights. The Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe on 23 February appointed Charles Magee as head of its
mission to Latvia to supervise the implementation of the agreement on social
rights for Russian military retirees. The council also decided to visit
regularly the Skrunda radar station during its dismantling. -- Saulius Girnius,
OMRI, Inc.

that Estonian exports in January were worth 1.588 billion kroons ($136 million)
and imports 2.023 billion kroons, resulting in a deficit of 441.1 million
kroons or 224.2 million kroons less than in December, BNS reported on 27
February. Exports fell by 62.3 million kroons and imports by 286.5 million
kroons. Finland, Russia, and Sweden accounted for the largest volume of both
imports and exports. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Minister Vaclav Klaus and his Hungarian counterpart, Gyula Horn, discussed
bilateral cooperation in Prague on 27 February but continued to differ over the
importance of the "Visegrad Four" regional grouping, Czech media reported. Horn
said the Visegrad forum--which aims to promote economic cooperation between the
Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary--is worth maintaining. But he
added that he agreed with Klaus "that it is not good to make a fetish out of
it, to give it a greater significance than it has," Telegraf reported.
Klaus has long maintained that there is no need to institutionalize ties among
the four Central European countries and that the emphasis should be on
strengthening and liberalizing economic cooperation through bilateral
relations. The two premiers discussed ways to reduce Hungary's trade deficit
with the Czech Republic and the two countries' progress toward applying for
membership in NATO and the EU. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.

February said that the Czech Republic's eventual membership in the EU will
benefit not just Czechs but also Europe as a whole. After talks with President
Vaclav Havel during a two-day visit to the Czech republic, Scalfaro told
journalists he was impressed by the desire of all Czechs, ordinary citizens as
well as politicians, to join the EU as soon as possible. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI,

of the ethnic Hungarian coalition parties in Slovakia met with a delegation of
deputies from the Hungarian Socialist Party on 27 February in the Slovak town
of Samorin to discuss the Slovak-Hungarian state treaty. Miklos Duray, chairman
of the ethnic Hungarian Coexistence movement, said the meeting took place
because political circles in Bratislava have shown no interest in meeting with
representatives of the Hungarian coalition, although Slovak Prime Minister
Vladimir Meciar promised to do so during his visit to Budapest in January,
Pravda reports. Also on 27 February, a group of representatives from the
ethnic Hungarian coalition held a long-awaited meeting with Minister of
Education Eva Slavkovska in Nitra to discuss "alternative education" for
national minorities. Some social science courses are to be taught in the Slovak
language. Coexistence representative Edit Bauer told Sme that no
agreements were reached, and Slavkovska said that alternative education is
expected to start on 1 September. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

of the Slovak Syndicate of Journalists (SSN) has criticized a statement by
Association of Slovak Workers Chairman Jan Luptak on the accreditation of
journalists at the Worldwide Conference of Workers' Parties and Labor
Organizations to be held on 11-12 March in Banska Bystrica. Luptak said
journalists from Sme, Novy cas, and Smer dnes would not be
given accreditation to attend the conference because of their "attacks on the
working class in Slovakia." The SSN reacted by saying that the right to
information is one of the basic constitutional rights, Narodna obroda
reported on 27 February. ASW spokesman Jozef Mazar, speaking with TASR the same
day, said his party's republican council decided long ago that no journalists
from the three newspapers would be granted internal information. Mazar stressed
that, without exception, "the ASW will give its official standpoints to all
newspapers through TASR." -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

LOCAL ELECTIONS IN SLOVAKIA. A total of 49.96% of eligible voters
participated in local elections held on 25 February in 29 districts.
Independent candidates gained the most mayoral seats,winning 30.19% of the 53
posts. Candidates from the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia won 20.75%, the
Christian Democratic Movement 16.98%, and the Party of the Democratic Left
13.21%. CDM candidates won 29.41% of the 357 local deputy seats, the MDS
24.09%, independents 18.49%, and the PDL with 12.61%, Praca reports. --
Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

Vol. 1, No. 42
28 February1995

We welcome you to the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest--a compilation of news concerning the former Soviet Union and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. Contributors include OMRI's 30-member staff of analysts, plus selected freelance specialists. OMRI is a unique public-private venture between the Open Society Institute and the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting.

Copyright (c) 1995, Open Media Research Institute. All rights reserved.


DEMIREL'S VISIT TO SARAJEVO IS OFF. International media reported on 27
February that Turkish President Suleyman Demirel's trip to Sarajevo was
canceled after Bosnian Serb forces refused to guarantee his safety. This is
what happened in July when Demirel wanted to visit the besieged Bosnian
capital; and the problem came to the forefront again on 25 February, when
unidentified gunners hit an aircraft carrying Demirel's advance party. Turkish
Television carried a report suggesting, however, that Demirel himself is still
ready to go to Sarajevo but that the UN prevented him, giving reasons such as
"the pilots won't fly" or "this is a no-fly zone." He nonetheless went ahead
with plans for visiting Zenica, where Turkish UNPROFOR troops are stationed,
and Croatia. As the anticipated date of Demirel's arrival neared, sniper fire
increased in Sarajevo, leaving four wounded in the most recent outburst,
according to the BBC's Croatian
and Serbian Services on 28 February. Turkey maintains excellent relations with
both Bosnia and Croatia, but most Serbs regard it as the heir to their
traditional Ottoman enemy. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

February reported that the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the Council of
Europe's Parliamentary Assembly opened a two-day session in Zagreb. The meeting
is part of a process to review how well Croatia meets the standards of the
Council, which it is anxious to join. The Croatian authorities prepared a tight
program for the participants, who have some tough questions of their own about
minority rights and freedom of expression. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

DIPLOMATIC FOCUS ON BELGRADE. Nasa Borba on 28 February reported
that Miltiadis Evert, a leader of Greece's conservative opposition party New
Democracy, was due to arrive in Belgrade the same day and for the second time
this year. The report, citing Greek press accounts, observes that Evert's visit
appears linked to "international diplomatic efforts at averting conflicts"
throughout the former Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, Reuters on 27 February reported
that representatives of the international Contact Group will meet in Paris on 1
March "to review what seems to be a grim situation" throughout the former
Yugoslavia. British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd also said that Contact Group
representatives would be in Belgrade on 1 March for another round of talks with
Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

February decided to set up a commission to work out guidelines for joining the
EU, Radio Bucharest reported. Academician Tudorel Postolache, an economic
expert and Romania's ambassador to Luxembourg, was appointed chairman of the
new commission. The government mouthpiece Vocea Romaniei wrote on 27
February that the idea of creating such a commission stemmed from President Ion
Iliescu. Also on 24 February, the government announced it would set up an
Inter-ministerial Committee for European Integration and reorganize the already
existing Department for European Integration, which is subordinated to the
prime minister. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

BULGARIAN NUCLEAR REACTOR SHUT DOWN. Bulgaria has shut down Reactor No. 1
at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant for five months, Radio Sofia reported on 27
February. Officials will check the reactor's safety standards while it is
switched off. Reactor No. 1, which was built in 1974, is the oldest of
Kozloduy's four reactors. AFP cited State Energy Committee head Nikita
Shervashidze as saying that the safety standards are judged insufficient and
that the reactor may be shut down for good. It was modernized in 1991 and 1992,
at a cost of $16 million, under pressure from the International Atomic Energy
Agency. The nuclear power plant at Kozloduy supplies between 30-40% of
Bulgaria's total energy needs. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

will continue to veto a customs union between the EU and Turkey, Reuters
reported on 27 February. European Affairs Minister Georgios-Alexandros Mangakis
said that Greece has "exhausted its good will" and that its "position will not
change." He indicated, however, that Athens will agree to negotiations, saying
it "does not want a cancellation [of a EU-Turkey meeting] but a solution."
Mangakis was cited by AFP as saying that "things are difficult, but the road is
not closed." Greece links its agreement on the customs union to a specific
timetable for membership talks between the EU and Cyprus. Prime Minister
Andreas Papandreou told a private television channel that the opening of those
talks constituted the "essential question" for the lifting of Greece's veto,
AFP reported. EU officials will meet on 1 March in a last effort to reach a
compromise, before France--currently presiding over the EU--decides whether to
call a meeting between the EU and Turkey for 6 March. French Foreign Minister
Alain Juppe said he will call the meeting only if the 15 EU members reach an
agreement on the customs union. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave