OMRI DAILY DIGEST
Vol. 1, No. 127, 30 June 1995
SEVEN OFFICIALS APPARENTLY RESIGN OVER BUDENNOVSK.
Pavel Grachev, Interior Minister Viktor Yerin, Federal Security Service
Director Sergei Stepashin, Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Yegorov, Security
Council Chairman Oleg Lobov, Stavropol krai Governor Yevgeny Kuznetsov, and
Prosecutor-General Alexei Ilyushenko tendered their resignation at the Security
Council meeting on 29 June, Russian media reported. State Duma Speaker Ivan
Rybkin revealed the names to reporters, but no official documents listed who
had offered their resignations. The president will decide the fate of the
ministers after the Duma declares its position on the government on 1 July.
Rybkin told Russian TV that he should do so before 10 July. Earlier, Yeltsin
had announced that he would make his decision only by 22 July, when the Duma's
summer session was over. Waiting will allow Yeltsin to avoid the appearance
that he had to sack some of his ministers because of pressure from the
parliament. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
MINISTERS STILL AT WORK.
Sources inside the Kremlin say that Yeltsin
will not accept all of the resignations, according to NTV on 29 June. The press
secretaries of Lobov, Stepashin, and Yegorov said their bosses had not formally
offered to resign. Although, on his way out of the Security Council meeting,
Stepashin had told reporters that "they want to put me on a pension," a Federal
Security Service spokesman later explained that his statement had been in jest,
Russian TV reported. All of the power ministers were at work as normal after
the Security Council meeting, Russian Public Television reported on 30 June. --
Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
POLITICAL PARTY CAMPAIGN FINANCING DISCUSSED.
An intensive effort to
find financial backers for the parliamentary campaign is underway,
Izvestiya reported on 29 June. To wage a successful campaign, parties
must spend approximately $2 million, according to the paper's estimates. The
author said the Agrarian Party receives substantial funds indirectly from the
state budget, in the form of donations from agribusiness concerns which receive
large credits and subsidies. The Communist Party has 500,000 dues-paying
members and 120 newspapers and bulletins to publish campaign propaganda. By
contrast, Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic Choice is mired in financial
difficulties, since many of its 1993 backers are supporting Chernomyrdin's
bloc, Our Home Is Russia, this year. Izvestiya noted that risk-averse
businesses are not likely to support radicals or parties of "pure ideas." --
Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.
COSSACK UNION MEETS IN MOSCOW.
The All-Russian Cossack Union met in
Moscow on 28-29 June to discuss the status of Cossacks in Russia, NTV and
Russian TV reported. Currently the Cossacks serve only in military units
subordinate to the Defense Ministry in Chechnya. Since December, the Cossack
leaders have wanted to set up units that can help the local police in Stavropol
krai when unexpected situations arise, such as the attack on Budennovsk.
According to Union leader Alexander Martynov, Yeltsin supports the idea. The
Cossack leaders are also planning to submit a draft law to the Federation
Council that would grant them the right to guard and protect Russia's borders.
Ministerial sources say that a draft law and five presidential decrees on the
Cossacks are under consideration. The Cossack Union marked its fifth
anniversary on 28 June. It unites 2.5 million members from Russia's 10 million
Cossacks. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
EXTREMISTS CALL FOR DEPORTING CITIZENS FROM THE CAUCASUS AND CENTRAL
Nikolai Lysenko's National-Republican Party of Russia (NRPR) is
distributing leaflets calling for the expulsion of all natives of the Caucasus
and Central Asia from Russia, Izvestiya reported on 30 June. The
leaflets depict certain ethnic groups as snails and insects being cleared away
by a Russian man in camouflage wearing the NRPR insignia. Lysenko's party has
distributed similar leaflets for more than a year, but more than a million new
copies were printed following the Budennovsk hostage crisis. Izvestiya
said such calls for "pogroms" or deportations violate the constitution and play
into the hands of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. -- Laura Belin, OMRI,
CHECHEN NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE.
Despite sporadic fighting overnight,
Russian and Chechen negotiators continued working in Grozny on 29 June, Russian
and Western agencies reported. Russian television reported that discussions
centered on a Russian proposal, called the "zero option." In order to prepare
for new elections in the fall, the proposal calls for the current Moscow-backed
Chechen authorities and separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudaev to both renounce
their claims to being the legitimate government of Chechnya, followed by the
declaration of a general amnesty for all participants in the Chechen fighting.
Although the talks adjourned at the end of the day without reaching agreement,
Chechen delegation head Usman Imaev said the atmosphere remained "friendly."
Russian negotiator Arkady Volsky also told journalists that if a third round of
talks becomes necessary, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is prepared to
personally lead the Russian delegation. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.
YELTSIN SIGNS TREATY WITH SAKHA.
President Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail
Nikolaev, President of the Sakha Republic (Yakutiya), signed an agreement on 29
June that delineates the division of powers between the federal and Sakha
governments, Russian Public Television reported. The treaty is the fifth such
accord signed between Moscow and subjects of the Russian Federation. At the
signing ceremony, President Yeltsin praised the agreement as a successful
example of center-regional relations. However, a recent analysis published in
Nezavisimaya Gazeta contends that such treaties contradict the Russian
constitution. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.
RUSSIAN MILITARY LACKS FUNDS TO PAY TROOPS.
The Russian Defense
Ministry has enough money to pay only about 30% of its military personnel this
month, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 June. The agency reported that sources in the
ministry blamed the federal government for the problem, which apparently
resulted from late allocation of funds to the ministry from the federal budget.
Some personnel may have to wait until September for their pay, a situation
which might "create undesirable tension" in the military, the agency added. The
report comes one day after President Yeltsin told a gathering of military
officers that military spending would not be cut in 1996. -- Scott Parrish,
YELTSIN SIGNS LAW ON PENSION INCREASES.
President Yeltsin signed a
law increasing all pensions by 20% and raising the minimum pension to 52,486
rubles ($12) per month, Radio Rossii reported on 29 June. However, the chairman
of the board of the pension fund said the fund lacks the money to implement the
increases, which would cost an extra 1 trillion rubles ($227 million) a month.
He added that the pension fund is currently owed more than 2 trillion rubles
($454 million) from the federal budget. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.
LEADERS VIEW U.S.-RUSSIA SPACE COOPERATION.
Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin and U.S. Vice President Al Gore watched a live broadcast of the
American space shuttle Atlantis docking with the orbiting Russian space station
Mir, Russian and Western agencies reported on 29 June. The docking was the
first meeting of American and Russian spacecraft since the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz
mission. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.
KOZYREV CRITICIZES FRANCE FOR RESUMING NUCLEAR TESTS.
before the International Conference on Disarmament on 29 June, Foreign Minister
Andrei Kozyrev criticized the French government's recent decision to resume
nuclear testing, Russian and international agencies reported. Kozyrev called on
France to adhere to the existing voluntary moratorium on testing and said that
a resumption of testing would violate the spirit of the decisions reached at
the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference this spring. -- Scott Parrish,
FOREIGN MINISTRY REGRETS U.S. CONGRESSIONAL VOTE.
Ministry spokesman Grigory Karasin expressed regret at the recent vote in the
U.S. House of Representatives to suspend aid to Russia under the Nunn-Lugar
program, Russian TV reported on 29 June. Karasin said the 13 June vote, which
called for a suspension of the aid unless President Bill Clinton certifies that
Russia has no biological weapons program, would complicate Russian efforts to
dismantle its nuclear weapons. Karasin said Russia "decisively rejects the
insinuation" that it is violating its obligations under a 1992 agreement on
biological weapons with Britain and the U.S. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI,
U.S. TO HELP RUSSIAN DEFENSE PLANTS BUILD HOUSES.
provided by the Nunn-Lugar program, a U.S. consortium plans to convert three
Russian plants that once built weapons of mass destruction into producers of
prefabricated housing for demobilized Russian officers. According to a Pentagon
press release on 28 June, the three Russian companies were NPO Soyuz, NPO
Kompozit, and NPO Mashinostroeniya. Besides converting the plants, the U.S.
consortium--American Housing Technologies--will train Russian military and
defense industry personnel in the manufacture and marketing of the
prefabricated units. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
OMRI DAILY DIGEST
Vol. 1, No. 127, 30 June 1995
TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA
MORE THAN 20 KILLED ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER.
Russian border forces
clashed with a group of suspected drug-traffickers on 28 June, killing more
than 20 of them, Western agencies reported. The group was part of a caravan
that was attempting to cross into Tajikistan from neighboring Afghanistan along
the Pyandj River. When the Russian troops tried to stop them, they opened fire.
No Russian casualties were reported. Meanwhile, troops of the Tajik army's 11th
brigade have taken a deputy regional governor, Akakbir Odinayev, hostage in
Kurgan-Tyube, according to Western sources and Ekho Moskvy. The brigade was
under the command of Izat Kuganov, a Tajik parliament deputy also described as
a local warlord, who was murdered recently. The soldiers are dissatisfied with
Dushanbe's efforts to find and punish the killers. Tajik officials have gone to
Kurgan-Tyube to try to negotiate Odinayev's release. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI,
LOANS TO TRANSCAUCASIAN REPUBLICS.
The IMF has approved loans for
Armenia and Georgia, Reuters reported on 29 June. Armenia is to receive $96
million to improve economic growth and living conditions and reduce inflation;
Georgia is to get $157 million to speed economic reform, reduce inflation, and
stabilize the economy. The same day, the World Bank announced that it had
approved a $61 million rehabilitation loan for Azerbaijan provided in the form
of an SDR credit from the bank's affiliate, the International Development
Association. It will be used to improve the water supply in Baku. -- Lowell
Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.
VORONOV: NO COMMANDO CAMPS IN ABKHAZIA.
Abkhaz Deputy Prime Minister
Yuri Voronov rejected allegations that there are training camps in Abkhazia for
Middle Eastern commandos destined for Chechnya, according to Radio Rossii on 29
June. Voronov's statement was confirmed by the head of the UN military
observers' mission in Abkhazia. The day before, Ekho Moskvy reported that the
head of the Abkhaz security service had denied separate allegations that Shamil
Basaev is hiding in Abkhazia. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SAYS ECONOMY IS A CATASTROPHE.
There are no
indications that the Kyrgyz economy is on the road to recovery or that the
financial situation in the industrial sector is improving, Kyrgyz President
Askar Akayev said in a 29 June interview on Radio Mayak. He added that the
government will not be able to meet the budget accepted in December 1994. Also,
103 large and medium-sized businesses, which amounts to one out of every five
business in the country, shut down in May and more than 100 others do not have
the money to pay wages to workers. The government itself needs another 500
million som ($45 million) to pay wages. While accepting that the government
shares some of the blame for the situation, Akayev also criticized enterprise
managers. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.
OMRI DAILY DIGEST
Vol. 1, No. 127, 30 June 1995
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
KUCHMA ANNOUNCES SHIFT IN ECONOMIC REFORMS.
Ukrainian state TV and
radio reported on 28 June that President Leonid Kuchma announced a shift in
economic reforms during a visit to Transcarpathia. The changes would ease
fiscal policy and increase state support for restructuring industry and
overhauling the social welfare system. Kuchma admitted Ukraine would not meet
IMF targets to lower monthly inflation to 1-2% by the end of the year. He said
4-5% was a more realistic figure and would allow the government to support
special projects in developing a self-sufficient energy sector, agricultural
reforms, aviation and shipbuilding, gold mining, and the nuclear and space
industries. Kuchma said he hoped to begin new talks with the IMF and planned
major government changes to be announced this week. -- Chrystyna Lapychak,
Deputies from three factions blocked a quorum in
the Crimean legislature on 29 June, demanding a change in the leadership of the
98-member assembly which is dominated by pro-Russian separatists, Ukrainian TV
reported the same day. Members of the Crimean Tatar Kurultai faction, plus
Reformists and Agrarians, refused to register for the session, insisting the
leadership be replaced by lawmakers who better reflect the whole political
spectrum. In other news, Crimean Prime Minister Anatolii Franchuk complained
that the governments of Russia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have distanced
themselves from the issue of Tatar repatriation to the peninsula. He insisted
Kiev turn to all CIS countries to take up the matter. Franchuk also complained
that Russian and local media sensationalized last weekend's violence between
Crimean Tatars and alleged criminal groups, turning away badly-needed tourist
money from the region. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO RATIFY EBRD AGREEMENT.
reported on 29 June that the parliament failed to ratify a credit agreement
with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The credits were to
be used towards developing small and medium businesses, raising the
effectiveness of commercial banks, and for social programs. Deputy Finance
Minister Borys Soboliv said the failure to ratify the agreement deprived
Ukraine of substantial hard currency revenues. Legislation is being prepared
which will allow credit lines to become available without needing the
parliament to ratify agreements, so that such situations do not recur in the
future. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
A special advisor to US President Bill
Clinton, Coit Blacker, met with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in
Minsk on 28 June, Belarusian television reported. Lukashenka said that
technical aid from the US would help Belarus greatly in attracting investment
and creating a better tax system. He pointed out that the US had allocated $30
million to fight crime in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and
Belarus was the first country to start tracing financial crimes. Lukashenka
noted that Belarus had made other positive initiatives towards the West, such
as joining NATO's Partnership for Peace program, but the problem of coming to
terms with the IMF over a stand-by credit must still be resolved. Blacker told
Lukashenka that officials in the US view Belarusian policies as submissive to
Russia's. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
POLICE PROVOCATION LEGALIZED IN POLAND.
The Sejm on 29 June voted
amendments to the laws on the police, allowing police agents to conduct
otherwise prohibited transactions, such as buying and selling drugs or arms or
offering bribes. An agent's testimony and tape or video recording of such
transactions, which must be authorized by the interior minister with the
consent of the general prosecutor, can be used in courts. Surveillance and
eavesdropping will be allowed not only to detect but also to prevent a crime,
Polish media reported on 30 June. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.
POLISH PARLIAMENT LIMITS PRESIDENT'S POWERS.
The Sejm on 29 June,
apart from limiting the president's prerogatives in defense matters (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 29 June), also overruled a presidential veto on the law on the
National Radio and Television Council. The council, a nine-member body
appointed by the parliament and the president, issues broadcast licenses and
supervises broadcast media. The Sejm's vote deprived the president of his right
to nominate the council's chairman, who will be appointed instead by other
council members, Polish and international media reported on 30 June. -- Jakub
Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.
UPDATE ON THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IN POLAND.
leaders and presidential candidates met on 29 June in the Sejm at the
invitation of Republican Party leader Zbigniew Religa. Polish National Bank
President Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, still hesitating over her candidacy, said
that she cannot withdraw from the presidential race, having read recent opinion
poll returns that gave her second place in popularity with 64%, behind former
Labor Minister Jacek Kuron on 69%, Rzeczpospolita reported on 30 June.
-- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.
CZECH PARLIAMENT REDUCES TOP TAX RATES.
Czech lawmakers on 29 June
voted to reduce taxes further than the government wanted, Czech media report.
From next year, the highest rate of income tax will fall from 43% to 40% for
people earning more than 564,000 koruny annually. The threshold for paying tax
was raised by 2,400 koruny to 26,400 koruny annually while the bands for the
lower rates of income tax were widened. Company tax was reduced from 41% to
39%. On the other hand, cigarettes, non-leaded petrol and sparkling wine will
be more expensive. Finance Minister Ivan Kocarnik, who had proposed milder tax
reductions, said they would take 22.5 billion koruny out of the state budget.
-- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.
CZECH TEACHERS STAGE DEMONSTRATION.
Around 5,000 teachers held a
rally in Brno on 29 June to protest what they consider to be inadequate wage
rises. Union leaders who addressed the rally confirmed that a one-day strike
will take place on 4 September, the first day of the new school year, if the
government does not relent. The teachers want a 20% wage rise, while the
government has decreed a 10% increase. Meanwhile, the deans of four philosophy
faculties -- from universitites in Brno, Olomouc, Ostrava and Prague's Charles
University -- issued a declaration warning that the future study of humanities
in the Czech Republic is seriously threatened. The declaration, published in
Lidove noviny on 30 June, called on the education ministry to reconsider
the way it allots places and funds. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.
ETHNIC HUNGARIANS HOLD PROTESTS IN SOUTHERN SLOVAKIA.
Hungarian parents and teachers held demonstrations in a number of towns across
southern Slovakia on 29 June, protesting the dismissal of directors of several
schools for the Hungarian minority who had objected to the government's plan to
implement "alternative" (bilingual) education in the fall, Narodna
obroda reports. The Education Ministry issued a statement on 29 June
stressing that alternative education is aimed at improving the level of
teaching of the Slovak language in ethnically mixed territories. Protesting the
"disinformation" of ethnic Hungarian politicians about the program, the
ministry says it will be implemented on a voluntary basis and will proceed
unhindered by protests or the disruption of classes. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI,
SLOVAK TELEVISION REFUSES TO BROADCAST PRESIDENT'S SPEECH.
Television (STV) officials refused to allow President Michal Kovac to appear on
television the day before the visit of Pope John Paul II to Slovakia. According
to a report in Pravda on 30 June, STV responded to Kovac's request for
5-6 minutes of airtime by saying that because the pope was invited by the
Bishops' Conference, representatives of the Roman Catholic Church would appear
instead. Since last fall's parliamentary elections, the ruling coalition has
taken control of STV, limiting appearances of opposition representatives as
well as the president. In a press conference on 29 June, the opposition
Democratic Union protested posters which have appeared around Slovakia,
featuring a picture of Premier Vladimir Meciar alongside the pope. The DU said
the posters give the impression that the papal visit, due to start on 30 June,
is a governmental one. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.
SLOVAKIA TO LIMIT CZECH IMPORTS.
According to a TASR report on 29
June, the Slovak Economy Ministry on 1 July will begin to monitor imports of a
number of Czech products, including live cattle, pigs and poultry; milk; cream;
butter; sugar; non-alcoholic drinks; beer; wine; spirits; cigars; cigarettes;
brown coal and tractors. According to ministry official Ladislav Sandtner,
Czech exporters will require a license to sell such goods in Slovakia. The
ministry will also implement quotas on Slovak exports of raw wood and iron
waste to the Czech Republic. The two countries have had a customs union since
the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993, but Slovakia threatened to cancel it after
the Czech parliament voted to abolish the bilateral trade clearing agreement.
-- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.
HUNGARY TO PRIVATIZE ITS UTILITIES.
Privatization Minister Tamas
Suchman told journalists on 29 June that the government has approved a plan to
privatize some of the country's biggest businesses, such as oil and gas supply
and distribution companies. The sales would start later this year. The
government expects to earn the equivalent of $1.2 billion from the sales to
offset Hungary's huge trade deficit. Hungarian trade unions are opposed to the
move, fearing job losses. The union representing electricity workers has
already called for a strike to protest the plan. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI,
OMRI DAILY DIGEST
Vol. 1, No. 127, 30 June 1995
CROATIA PROTESTS RUMP YUGOSLAV MILITARY PRESENCE.
another protest letter to the UN on 29 June over what Zagreb has described as a
growing rump Yugoslav military presence on Croatian soil occupied by rebel
Serbs. Ambassador Mario Nobilo, delivering the letter on behalf of his foreign
ministry, told a news conference: "We would not be surprised if these troops
and equipment are used against Bihac [in Western Bosnia] in a matter of days.
In fact we have convincing information to this effect." Reuters also reports
that the letter to UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali alleges that
nearly 5,000 soldiers have been sent to Croatia from the rump Yugoslavia since
14 June. A prior Croatian claim of a rump Yugoslav military presence is being
investigated by the UN. (See OMRI Daily Digest, 26 June). -- Stan
Markotich, OMRI, Inc.
BOSNIAN SERBS BLAST UN IN SARAJEVO.
Bosnian Serb forces on 29 June
launched three mortar rounds into the headquarters of UN operations in
Sarajevo, Reuters reports the following day. "It is difficult to say but, when
we receive three rounds together, we are obliged to consider this as a direct
attack," said spokesman Major Guy Vinet. No casualties were reported. In other
news, Nasa Borba on 30 June reports that on the previous day Bosnian
Serb forces fired another rocket at the media facility of Radio and Television
Sarajevo. While there were no casualties in this incident, Bosnian Serb bombing
of the facility on 28 June resulted in 5 deaths and 38 people injured. -- Stan
Markotich, OMRI, Inc.
TRAVEL BAN FOR BOSNIAN SERB LEADERS.
Vjesnik on 30 June
reports that the US has petitioned the UN sanctions committee to bar 40 Bosnian
Serb leaders from traveling abroad. International sanctions introduced in 1994
already prevent Bosnian Serb leaders from leaving the country for any reason
apart from peace talks, but as yet no list of specific affected individuals has
been compiled. The US proposal names, among others, Radovan Karadzic and
Bosnian Serb military head General Ratko Mladic. In other news, Nasa
Borba on 30 June reports that US President Bill Clinton has told Congress
that the White House plans to take $50 million from the Pentagon budget as
support for the rapid reaction force in Bosnia. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI,
BLACK SEA SUMMIT IN BUCHAREST.
Bucharest hosts a conference of
senior political leaders from the Black Sea region on 30 June, Western agencies
and Radio Bucharest report. The conference, which is attended by heads of
state, prime ministers and other top officials from the 11 countries belonging
to the "Black Sea Economic Cooperation" organization, is expected to focus on
boosting economic ties as well as on ways to defuse tension in the region. The
three-year old organization groups Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria,
Greece, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. Several
countries, including Poland, Austria and Italy, have been admitted as
observers. On 29 June, Romanian President Ion Iliescu received his Georgian and
Moldovan counterparts, Eduard Shevarnadze, and Mircea Snegur, respectively. --
Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.
SNEGUR IN BUCHAREST.
Moldovan President Mircea Snegur on 29 June
arrived in Bucharest to attend the Black Sea conference, Romanian media
reported. In a statement broadcast by Radio Bucharest, Snegur said that
security was a top priority for all countries in the region. He also stressed
the importance of economic cooperation in the Black Sea zone. In a reference to
his talks in Moscow with Russian President Boris Yeltsin on the previous day,
Snegur reiterated Moldova's rejection of Russian plans to set up military bases
in the breakaway Dniester region, and insisted that the 14th Russian Army
should be withdrawn from the area. On the same day, Snegur discussed bilateral
relations with Romanian President Ion Iliescu. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI,
NEW LAWS STIR CONTROVERSY IN ROMANIA.
A law on restitution of houses
nationalized under communism has stirred widespread controversy in Romania,
western and Romanian media report. The law, which was adopted by a 289 to 153
vote in a joint session of the parliament on 28 June, rules out full
restitution of property seized by the former regime in the late 1940s and the
1950s. It provides that former owners are entitled to get back only one
habitation unit, while receiving up to 48 million lei ($24,000) for any further
confiscated property. The Liberal Party `93 said that the law de facto
sanctioned communist abuses and announced it would challenge it in the
Constitutional Court. In another development, deputies belonging to the
Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania on 27 June issued a declaration
denouncing the "cynical way" in which their amendments to a new education bill
had been rejected by the parliament. The law, which was adopted in parliament
on the following day, has been criticized for restricting ethnic minority
rights to mother tongue education. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.
AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT IN BULGARIA.
Heidar Aliyev on 29 June arrived
in Sofia on an official visit, Reuters reported the same day. Aliyev and his
Bulgarian counterpart Zhelyu Zhelev signed a cooperation accord between the two
countries and several trade and economic documents. They also discussed
possibilities of piping Azerbaijani oil to Italy via Bulgaria, Macedonia, and
Albania. Zhelev stressed the importance of "an alternative source of such
strategic supplies." Bulgaria is currently totally dependent on Russian gas and
oil. A $35 million deal to export Bulgarian buses to Azerbaijan was arranged,
and concrete steps were taken for a Bulgarian firm to build a pharmaceutical
plant in Azerbaijan. The two sides are also negotiating to import 6,000 tons of
Azerbaijani cotton to Bulgaria. International agencies reported that, during
his visit, Aliyev confirmed that Bulgarian communist leaders repeatedly tried to
join the Soviet Union in the 1970s, but he said he always "confidentially
advised" them to stay independent. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
GREECE ATTACKS CHIRAC.
Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Konstantinos
Bikas on 29 June lambasted French President Jacques Chirac for his support of
Turkey's aim to establish closer ties with the EU, international agencies
reported the same day. During the EU summit in Cannes, Chirac proposed that the
Union immediately forge closer links to Turkey to strengthen its southern flank
and to prevent the country from slipping towards Islamic fundamentalism, even
though he said he was aware of Turkey's poor human rights record. Bikas said
that Greece disagrees and said the country "considers that the logic of
unconditional support for [Turkish Prime Minister Tansu] Ciller . . . is
simplistic and dangerous." He drew a parallel to the 1930s, when "humanity had
to pay a dear price for supporting Nazism in order to fight Bolshevism." It was
one of the strongest attacks the Greek government has ever made on one of its
European partners. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
COUNCIL OF EUROPE APPROVES ALBANIAN MEMBERSHIP.
The Council of
Europe's Parliamentary Assembly on 29 June approved Albania's application for
membership in the organization, international agencies reported the same day.
The approval came after Pjeter Arbnori, chairman of the Albanian parliament,
signed a declaration pledging to respect the CE's demands to guarantee human
rights and democracy. Albania promised to impose a moratorium on the death
penalty immediately and abolish it within three years, introduce reforms
guaranteeing the independence of the judicial system, increase press freedom
and adopt a new constitution. Also, Albania has to sign the European convention
on the rights and the protection of ethnic minorities. The decision is due to
be approved by the CE's Committee of Ministers, probably in mid-July.
Presidential Spokesman Fatos Beja said the membership represents another step
for Albania's integration into the international community. -- Stefan Krause,
[As of 12:00 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Steve Kettle