DUMA DENOUNCES BELOVEZHSK ACCORDS.
The Russian State Duma passed a
Communist-sponsored resolution, by a vote of 250-98, renouncing the RSFSR
Supreme Soviet decision of 12 December 1991 to abrogate the 1922 treaty forming
the USSR, Russian and Western media reported on 15 March. The Duma then passed
a second resolution, 252-33 with five abstentions, affirming the "legal force"
of the 17 March 1991 referendum on the preservation of the USSR, in which 71%
of those voting in Russia supported retaining the union. Together, the Duma
resolutions assert that the USSR legally continues to exist, and reject the
December 1991 Belovezhsk accords that formed the CIS. The Communist Party of
the Russian Federation, the Agrarian Party, and the Popular Power faction
supported the resolution. Yabloko, Our Home Is Russia, and several members of
the Russian Regions faction opposed it. Repeated attempts to push similar
resolutions through the previous Duma had failed. -- Scott Parrish
REACTION TO DUMA DENUNCIATION.
President Boris Yeltsin immediately
denounced the Duma resolutions as "scandalous" and unconstitutional, Russian
and Western media reported on 15 March. The president accused the Communists of
attempting to torpedo the June presidential elections by triggering an
international crisis. Yeltsin's representative to the Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov,
said the resolution lacks legal force, as the earlier decision to dissolve the
USSR can only be repealed by a new federal law, requiring passage by both
houses of the Federal Assembly and signature by the president. Following
negative international reaction, Yeltsin ordered Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov to inform foreign states and international organizations that the Duma
resolution would not affect Russia's international obligations. The U.S. and
Germany also criticized the resolution. In Moscow, liberal commentators said it
demonstrated the "opportunism" and "hypocrisy" of the Communist-led opposition.
-- Scott Parrish
COMMUNISTS RALLY IN MEMORY OF SOVIET UNION.
After the Duma voted on 15
March to declare the dissolution of the Soviet Union invalid, about 1,000
Communists rallied in Moscow to mark the fifth anniversary of the referendum
that supported keeping the USSR together, Western agencies reported. About 76%
of the Soviet citizens who voted on 17 March 1991 favored maintaining the
territorial integrity of the USSR. The rally attracted fewer people than a
similar one at the same time last year despite the Duma resolution. -- Penny
PROCURATORS FIND EVIDENCE OF FORCED SIGNATURES FOR YELTSIN.
Procurator General Vladimir Davydov informed the Duma that his office has found
evidence of officials unlawfully pressuring voters to sign petitions supporting
President Yeltsin's re-election bid, Russian media reported on 15 March.
Davydov singled out the Communications Ministry, the State Committee for
Metallurgy, and the East Siberian and Volga railroad administration, but he did
not say whether the officials involved would be prosecuted. Central Electoral
Commission secretary Aleksandr Veshkyakov suggested amending the electoral law
to prohibit signature collections at workplaces. Organizers of Yeltsin's
re-election campaign announced last week that they had already collected 8
million signatures supporting the president, far more than the 1 million
required to win a spot on the ballot, even if many are ruled invalid. -- Laura
ZYUGANOV UNVEILS ELECTION PLATFORM. . .
Communist Party (KPRF) leader
Gennadii Zyuganov unveiled his election program at a 17 March rally in Moscow,
Russian and Western agencies reported. If he comes to power, Zyuganov promised
among other things to guarantee all citizens the right to work, increase wages
and pensions, compensate those whose savings were eroded by inflation, end the
war in Chechnya, strengthen the ruble, and establish a state monopoly on trade
in goods "of strategic significance" within a "mixed economy." He denounced the
Belovezhsk accords that brought an end to the USSR but promised not to
"threaten anyone's sovereignty" if he were elected. Like the KPRF election
platform approved before the Duma elections, Zyuganov's platform does not
contain the words "Leninism," "communism," or "nationalization." -- Laura
. . .AND PICKS UP MORE ENDORSEMENTS.
Zyuganov was backed on 15 March by
Workers' Russia leader Viktor Anpilov and Union of Officers head Stanislav
Terekhov, who on 4 March had refused to sign a pact supporting him as the sole
candidate of left-wing and "patriotic" forces, Russian TV reported. More
surprisingly, former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi appeared at the 17 March
KPRF rally; he said he would support Zyuganov despite his differences with the
communist program because the people chose the KPRF in December elections,
according to ITAR-TASS. (Rutskoi had earlier joined the "third force" group,
which was formed to find an alternative to Yeltsin or Zyuganov.) Meanwhile, the
latest VCIOM poll shows Zyuganov with 25% support and beating all other major
presidential contenders in a head to head contest, NTV reported. However,
Yeltsin appears to be narrowing Zyuganov's lead; the same poll measured his
support at 15%. -- Laura Belin
CHECHEN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST WOUNDED IN TURKEY.
Sait-Emin Ibrahimov, a
former transport minister in the rebel Chechen government, was stabbed near
Taksim Square in Istanbul on 16 March, Western agencies reported the next day.
Hospital officials said the three wounds he received were not life threatening.
Living in Istanbul since March of last year, Ibragimov has been leading the
Turkey-based Human Rights Committee which releases information on alleged
crimes by Russian troops in Chechnya. Ibragimov said he has received threats
warning him to "not get involved with peace" ever since he published a book
entitled "The State of the World," Reuters reported. -- Lowell Bezanis
RUSSIA AND BULGARIA SIGN ECONOMIC ACCORDS.
Wrapping up a two-day
official visit to Moscow, Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov signed six
economic cooperation agreements with his Russian counterpart, Viktor
Chernomyrdin, Russian and Western agencies reported. The agreements cover
bilateral ties in the energy, forestry, and agricultural sectors, as well as
the sale to Bulgaria of Russian tanks and armored vehicles. The two leaders
emphasized that continued conflict in Chechnya and the Caucasus would not
affect their plans to possibly export Russian and Caspian oil to world markets
through Bulgaria. Videnov later met with President Yeltsin, and ITAR-TASS
reported that they agreed on the need to create a new European security system
that does not draw "new lines of division" in Europe, an oblique criticism of
NATO expansion, which Videnov opposes. -- Scott Parrish
WASHINGTON ASKS MOSCOW ABOUT NUCLEAR TEST.
According to a senior U.S.
diplomat, Washington has asked Moscow for "clarification" of whether Russia
conducted a nuclear test in January in violation of a voluntary moratorium that
has been in effect since 1992, AFP reported on 17 March. On 7 March, U.S.
Defense Secretary William Perry told Congress that some evidence suggested
Russia carried out a small-scale nuclear test at Novaya Zemlya, following
allegations published in The Washington Times (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 8 March 1996). Russian officials have denied that a test was
conducted. -- Constantine Dmitriev
NUCLEAR REACTOR SHUT DOWN AFTER SECOND ACCIDENT THIS YEAR.
a nuclear reactor at the Dimitrovgrad research center in Central Russia have
been suspended indefinitely after the second accident there in less than two
months, Russian and Western agencies reported on 15 March. The decision was
made after an air conditioner inside the reactor building caught fire.
According to ITAR-TASS, no one was exposed to radiation. At the end of January,
a defective valve in the reactor led to the release of a cloud of radioactive
vapor that contaminated the area around the facility. -- Penny Morvant
SOROS TO HELP RUSSIAN UNIVERSITIES LINK UP TO INTERNET.
financier and philanthropist George Soros will give $100 million to help 30
regional Russian universities link up to the Internet, Russian and Western
agencies reported. The program was announced after a meeting between Soros and
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in Moscow on 15 March. The Russian
government will provide telecommunications resources. In recent years, the
Soros Foundation has donated $200 million to support science, culture, and
education programs in Russia. -- Penny Morvant
TRADE DISPUTES OVER CHICKEN, VODKA.
On 16 March, the ban on imports of
U.S. chickens, announced a month ago by Russia's head veterinarian, Vyacheslav
Avilov, went into effect. This occurred despite earlier reports that Russia had
agreed to drop the ban (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 March 1996) . On 18
March, EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek arrives in Moscow,
and he is expected to protest the 12 March decision to set a minimum price for
EU vodka imports at $8.2 per liter, while imports from the CIS can be sold for
$3.8. -- Peter Rutland
LEGAL CHALLENGE TO LOAN/SHARE AUCTIONS.
The Procurator General's Office
is preparing to challenge the legality of last fall's 12 share-for-loan
auctions in the Arbitration Court, Segodnya reported on 15 March. The
purchase of Yukos shares by five companies formed only days before the auction
(such as ZAO Laguna), with financial backing from Menatep Bank, is to be one of
the issues raised. The procurator will argue that the list of firms should have
been fixed by the government, not by the State Property Committee, according to
President Yeltsin's original August 1995 decree, and that the procedure for
running the auctions was not registered with the Justice Ministry. Radio Rossii
reported on 16 March that the Chelyabinsk procurator is investigating the theft
of 22 billion rubles ($4.5 million) received from the sale of shares in
Magnitogorsk metal combine. -- Peter Rutland
CENTRAL ASIAN REACTIONS TO RUSSIAN DUMA'S CIS DECISION.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev said the Russian State Duma's resolution to
declare the dissolution of the USSR unconstitutional is "conducive to a sharp
destabilization," noting that it could, in the end, destroy Russian statehood,
according to a 17 March press release cited by the BBC. Uzbek Radio reported
that Uzbekistan's Oliy Majlis (parliament) condemned the measure in a 16 March
vote, with speaker Erkin Khalilov declaring that the Duma had "grossly
infringed on the political states of sovereign Uzbekistan. Official statements
from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan stressed the internal nature of the vote, saying
that it would not affect their own state sovereignty, ITAR-TASS reported.
Reaction was similar in the Transcaucasus, with Armenian President Levon
Ter-Petrossyan calling the vote a "provocation" and Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze stating that the vote "could only harm" the integration of the CIS
states, RFE/RL reported on 15 March. -- Roger Kangas
PRICE HIKES, SACKING IN TURKMENISTAN.
Turkmen President Saparmurad
Niyazov raised bread prices 150% and sacked the governor [hakim] of Mary
province [vilayet], Kurban Orazov, on 15 March, Western media reported the same
day. Orazov will be replaced by Deputy Prime Minister Amannazar Ilamov.
According to Reuters, Niyazov was shown on state television threatening to
dismiss officials who fail to provide the population with "adequate food."
There have been sporadic and unconfirmed reports of popular protests at bread
shortages in Turkmenistan and several regional officials have lost their jobs
recently. After Niyazov sacked 10 of 50 local administration heads for failing
to meet state orders for wheat supplies in August 1995, it has become apparent
that last year's grain harvest fell short of officially reported totals. --
KYRGYZ ARMY BESET BY ECONOMIC, ETHNIC PROBLEMS.
The Kyrgyz army is beset
by illiteracy, poor health, low pay, and regionalism, Nezavisimaya gazeta
reported on 14 March. A number of first-year conscripts weigh only 45-50
kg, instead of the standard weight requirement of 60-70 kg. The average pay of
an officer is only a fifth of what the Russia Border Troops earn; whereas the
10 som monthly pay of a conscript is equivalent to the price of a tube of
toothpaste. It quoted Colonel Talgarbek Ismailov, the military commissar of
Naryn region in Central Kyrgyzstan, as saying in an interview with
Respublika that "tribalism" is a key problem in the Kyrgyz army, as
officers from the north are reluctant to serve in the south. -- Bhavna Dave
UKRAINIAN OFFICIAL GIVES CHORNOBYL SARCOPHAGUS 10-15 YEARS.
Environment Minister Yurii Kostenko says the steel-and-concrete tomb encasing
the ruined Chornobyl nuclear reactor will last only another 10-15 years, UNIAN
reported 16 March. That is half the time originally estimated, Kostenko said,
and hastens the need to extract the damaged reactor's remaining 200 tons of
nuclear fuel and 3,000 tons of water. The official said the process of removing
the waste could cause some radioactive leakage and threaten the Dnipro River.
Kostenko also said there was no sense in continuing the resettlement of people
still living in contaminated areas to other regions because the radioactivity
had decreased and government funds would be better spent on cleanup, improved
medical care, and applying alternative farming methods. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
FEW BLACK SEA FLEET PERSONNEL CHOSE UKRAINE.
Of the more than 1,500
Black Sea Fleet officers whose posts were cut since the first of the year
because of a staff restructuring program, only 70 have opted to transfer to the
Ukrainian navy, a spokesman for the fleet's press center told the Unian news
agency on 15 March. He also said that only 280 of the 1,420 warrant and
noncommissioned officerswho have lost their jobs chose to switch. -- Doug
UKRAINE REACTS TO DUMA DECISION TO REVOKE CIS ACCORD.
sharply criticized the Russian Duma's decision to repeal the 1991 Belovezhsk
Accords, which created the CIS, Ukrainian and international agencies reported.
President Leonid Kuchma said that although the decision has no legal
consequences, the body's disrespect for and questionable intentions toward
Russia's neighbors poses a threat to them and the world community. He said
Ukrainian independence was based on the results of a December 1991 referendum
-- when over 90% of the population approved the split with Moscow -- not on the
CIS accord. Kuchma said the Duma decision had, however, "placed a mine under
the CIS." Leaders of Ukraine's national-democratic parties condemned the
decision as a political ploy by Russia's communists to incite leftist unrest in
Ukraine and other former republics. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT COMMENTS ON DUMA VOTE.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka made a
reserved but generally positive comment on the Duma decision denouncing the
1991 accords abolishing the USSR. "Regrettably," he said 15 March on Russian
TV, "the former union cannot exist now." He asserted that he would cooperate
with everyone favoring a new union and that the shape of this union would
depend on the positions of the parliaments and presidents of the participating
states. He noted that the union could be even closer than before. -- Saulius
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH RALLY IN ESTONIA.
Archbishop Kornilii of Tallinn
led a procession of Orthodox believers in the Estonian capital on 16 March
protesting the decision of the Constantinople patriarch in February to take
theEstonian Apostolic Orthodox Church under his jurisdiction. ETA estimated the
number of participants to be 7,000-10,000, while ITAR-TASS put the number at
15,000.The protesters asserted that the Orthodox Church in Estonia should
remain under the Moscow patriarch. They fear that the transfer from
Moscow'sjurisdiction could lead to the loss of church property and of the right
to pursue their religious beliefs. No incidents were reported during the
hour-and-a-half-long march. -- Saulius Girnius
POLAND FIRM ON NATO DESPITE MOSCOW SECURITY-GUARANTEE OFFER.
rejected Russia's suggestion of a security guarantee from Moscow on 15 March
and said it intends to go ahead with seeking full NATO membership, Polish and
international media reported the next day. Gazeta Wyborcza on 18 March
reported that Washington also rejected the idea of a U.S.-Russian joint
security guarantee for Poland. President Aleksander Kwasniewski told visiting
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov that while Poland fully intended to
join NATO, it also wishes to maintain good relations with Russia. Although
Primakov reaffirmed his country's opposition to an enlargement of NATO, the two
sides declared success in warming recently frosty relations. The countries have
decided to seek liberalization in trade and business and are working on a
military agreement facilitating arms trade. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz
PRIMAKOV SAYS OLEKSY WAS NOT A SPY.
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov, who headed Moscow's intelligence services in 1991-1996, said on 15
March that former Polish Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, accused by the security
services of spying for Moscow, has had no links with Russian intelligence.
Gazeta Wyborcza on 16 March quoted Primakov as saying that there had
been no operational file on Oleksy and therefore no "secret-agent relationship"
with him. Military prosecutors are to decide next month whether to bring
charges against Oleksy, who has denied all spying allegations but resigned from
office (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 January 1996) when prosecutors began a
probe. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz
CZECH JUNIOR GOVERNMENT PARTIES RISE IN POLL.
The two junior members of
the Czech governing coalition, the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) and the
Christian Democratic Union-Czechoslovak People's Party (KDU-CSL), are gaining
support as the late-May parliamentary elections approach, according to a poll
published on 16 March. The ODA's rating rose from 6.4% in February to 9.3% in
the poll conducted by STEM, and the KDU-CSL went from 7.8% to 8.9%. The Civic
Democratic Party, led by Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, fell slightly to 28.3%,
while the opposition Social Democrats rose marginally to 20%. According to the
poll, only two other parties are likely to win seats in the next parliament:
the Communists with 8.7% and the extreme-right Republicans with 5.6%. Up to 25%
of voters are, however, still undecided, Mlada fronta Dnes reported on
18 March. -- Steve Kettle
CZECH MiG-29s FOR POLISH HELICOPTERS.
The Czech Republic will receive 11
Polish-built Sokol helicopters in the last quarter of this year in exchange for
MiG-29s that were part of the Czech air force, CTK reported on 8 March. The
agency quoted the Defense Ministry as saying the helicopters would be used for
medical services. When Czechoslovakia split up, the Czech Republic received 10
MiG-29s, but the ministry decided they were too expensive to operate and
maintain. -- Doug Clarke
SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER DEFENDS PENAL-CODE AMENDMENT.
Vladimir Meciar on
15 March told Slovak Radio that his government's controversial bill on the
protection of the republic is needed "to protect the foundations of Slovakia,
its sovereignty, territorial integrity, security, and constitutional system."
He said comparable laws are in effect in such countries as Germany, Austria,
France, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.
"Anyone who rejects the bill and considers it undemocratic is also attacking
the legal arrangements of these other countries," Meciar stressed. He said the
bill is intended "to protect the state from anarchy and upheaval. It is not an
interference in personal freedom, the right to one's opinion, the right to
expression, and the right to a political position." Critics fear that the bill,
which is on the parliament's agenda this month, will be used against
journalists and ethnic Hungarian politicians. -- Sharon Fisher
IMF APPROVES LONG-AWAITED LOAN FOR HUNGARY.
The International Monetary
Fund board unanimously endorsed a $387 million standby loan for Hungary on 15
March, Hungarian media reported. The decision carries great significance for
Hungary, as it acknowledges the results of a strict austerity program and is
expected to enhance foreign investors' confidence in Hungary. The IMF agreement
removes the last barrier to the country's Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development membership -- on which an official decision is expected within
two weeks. Meanwhile, preparations are well under way for a nearly $200 million
World Bank loan to finance reform of Hungary's banking sector and accelerate
privatization. The IMF agreement was effectively a precondition for the
long-term World Bank loan, which would carry a 15-year repayment period at low
interest. The loan would be the first part of a larger credit package of up to
$400 million-$500 million, with the second part geared toward state-budget
reform. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
ARSON AND LOOTING IN GRBAVICA.
Bosnian Serbs continued over the weekend
to torch and trash the last of the Sarajevo suburbs slated to pass to federal
control on 19 March. In an apparently unique move against the vandals, IFOR
soldiers detained a total of 12 suspected arsonists. The peacekeepers then
handed them over to Serbian police, however, and the police released the men,
Reuters reported on 17 March. Federal firefighters who had come to Grbavica to
control the blazes were forced out by Serbian grenade attacks on 16 March.
Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic condemned the destruction and called for
protection for Serbs wanting to stay in their homes. In any event, Onasa said
on 17 March that Serbs will be able to return to their government-owned flats
any time up to six months after fleeing them. -- Padraig O'Moore
DIVISIONS DEEPEN IN BOSNIA.
Former Bosnian Prime Minister Haris
Silajdzic said on 17 March that the work of the international community in
Bosnia to date was actually helping to reinforce divisions rather than promote
a unified state. The previous day, the international community's high
representative, Carl Bildt, had also pointed out the dangers of increasing
ethnic polarization. News agencies further reported that Muslims have been
preventing Croatian refugees from returning to their homes in Bugojno. Federal
President Kresimir Zubak said that it will take three to four years to make the
federation work, Reuters noted on 17 March. Western officials, moreover, are
concerned about recent moves by the Muslim leadership that seem aimed at
setting up a Muslim ministate rather than a real multi-ethnic polity, the
International Herald Tribune reported on 16 and 18 March. -- Padraig
Near Mostar, Croatian police allowed Muslims to visit
graves on Croat-held territory, ending a blockade, news agencies reported on 17
March. Meanwhile, IFOR is preparing across Bosnia for the last stage of mutual
land transfers between the Muslim-Croat federation and the Republika Srpska on
19 March. In Ankara, the Bosnia "Train and Equip" Donors Conference ended with
only the U.S. and Turkey pledging definite amounts to build the federal army.
Washington offered $100 million and Ankara $2 million, the Turkish Daily
News reported on 16 March. -- Padraig O'Moore
SERBIAN PRESIDENT TO VISIT SKOPJE.
Slobodan Milosevic will visit Skopje
on 20 March to announce diplomatic recognition of Macedonia, international
media reported on 17 March, based on Vecer and Foreign Ministry
sources.Vecer reported that during his visit Milosevic will "announce
the normalization of relations" between rump Yugoslavia and Macedonia, while
Foreign Ministry sources said Macedonian Foreign Minister Ljubomir Frckovski
will visit Belgrade on 21 March to sign documents on mutual recognition. --
RUMP YUGOSLAV OFFICIAL'S `SUCCESS' WITH BOSNIAN SERBS.
Milojevic, the head of rump Yugoslavia's chamber of commerce, has said that his
recent visit to the Republika Srpska was "most successful" and that there would
in the very near future be development of economic links between Belgrade and
the Bosnian Serbs. While declining to give many specifics, Milojevic did say
that his Bosnian Serb hosts were interested in reopening the Bijeljina-Sid and
Ruma-Sabac-Zvornik railway links with rump Yugoslavia as well as establishing
regular flights between Belgrade and Banja Luka. No concrete agreements on
restoring the communication links were reached, but Milojevic stressed that
they would be "soon," SRNA reported on 15 March. -- Stan Markotich
COUNCIL OF EUROPE SETS CRITERIA FOR CROATIA'S ADMISSION.
Council of Europe's Political Committee has sent Croatia a 21-item list of
admission criteria that is to be signed by Croatian President Franjo Tudjman
and Croatia's parliamentary chairman by 19 March if Croatia is to enter the
organization in April, Croatian media reported on 14 and 15 March. The list was
detailed and specific, including references to freedom of the media and
democracy in electing the mayor of Zagreb. -- Daria Sito Sucic
PRESIDENTS OF BOSNIA, CROATIA, SERBIA MEET WITH CHRISTOPHER.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher is to chair a meeting of the five-nation
Contact Group on Bosnia on 18 March in Geneva, also to be attended by Serbian
President Slobodan Milosevic; his Croatian counterpart, Franjo Tudjman; and
Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic, representing President Alija Izetbegovic,
Nasa Borba and AFP reported. Russia's mission spokesman on 16 March said
a Russian representative would not attend the U.S.-convened meeting in Geneva
ahead of the Moscow Contact Group meeting next week, calling it hastily
arranged and unnecessary. Christopher confirmed that Russia would not take part
in the Geneva meeting but played down the importance of its absence, AFP
reported. Christopher reportedly was set to discuss with the Balkan leaders the
forthcoming elections in Bosnia, issues of free movement, and the prosecution
of war criminals, as well as the presence of foreign forces on the ground. --
Daria Sito Sucic
ZHELEV WANTS HEADS OF BULGARIAN NATIONAL BANK EXECUTIVES.
President Zhelyu Zhelev, at a meeting on 14 March with newly appointed
Bulgarian National Bank Governor Lyubomir Filipov, demanded that four of the
bank's top executives be replaced. The most prominent names mentioned were
Kamen Toshkov, head of banking supervision, and Stoyan Shukerov, chief of
foreign-currency operations. Zhelev charges these figures with exercising
little control over the banking system and lending large amounts of money to
selected struggling banks, contributing to the decline of the lev. In other
economic news, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank concluded a round
of talks with the government on 14 March without agreement on a new standby
loan, Duma reported. However, the government is taking measures to
demonstrate its seriousness on structural reform, announcing the official
closing of 30-40 loss-making enterprises. According to the World Bank, losses
at state enterprises are 20% of GDP. -- Michael Wyzan
BULGARIAN, ROMANIAN, GREEK FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET.
Teodor Melescanu, and Theodoros Pangalos met in Varna on 16-17 March, Bulgarian
and Western media reported. The three officials discussed the location of a
second Danube bridge linking Bulgaria and Romania but failed to reach a
decision. The EU is willing to finance the construction, but Sofia and
Bucharest cannot agree on a site. They also talked about transport,
telecommunication, and energy projects, including the planned oil pipeline from
Burgas in Bulgaria to Alexandroupolis in Greece, and agreed to set up a
regional center for coordinating infrastructure projects in the Balkans.
Melescanu and Pangalos backed a Bulgarian initiative to host a meeting of all
Balkan foreign ministers aimed at promoting regional cooperation and stability.
Greece said it will support Bulgaria's and Romania's wishes for parallel
negotiations for EU membership with all associated members from Eastern Europe.
-- Stefan Krause
DEFENSE MINISTER'S DISMISSAL SPARKS POLITICAL CRISIS IN MOLDOVA.
President Mircea Snegur's decision to dismiss Defense Minister Pavel
Creanga sparked a new political crisis in Moldova, Moldovan and Western
agencies reported. Snegur on 15 March appointed General Tudor Dabija as acting
defense minister to replace Creanga, whom he had accused of corruption. Creanga
initially resisted the president's order and refused to leave his ministry's
headquarters. Special troops were deployed around the ministry for several
hours. A provisional solution to the conflict could be brokered only after the
parliament convened in an emergency session, attended by Snegur,
representatives of the Constitutional Court, the general prosecutor, and the
military. All sides agreed to let the high court decide whether the firing had
been legal. The tug of war over Creanga's fate once more brought into the open
a long-simmering conflict between Snegur and the ruling Agrarian Democratic
Party. -- Dan Ionescu
ROMANIAN RULING PARTY, NEO-COMMUNISTS END ALLIANCE.
The ruling Party of
Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) and the Socialist Labor Party on 16 March
formally ended their political alliance, Romanian and Western media reported.
The announcement came after a meeting of the parties' chairmen, Oliviu Gherman
and Ilie Verdet, respectively. The two leaders were quoted as saying that they
parted because their alliance did not work anymore. The PDSR, which denounced
its alliance with the ultranationalist Greater Romania Party in October last
year, has only one ally left, the Party of Romanian National Unity, but
relations between the two are also deteriorating. Observers of the Romanian
scene see the PDSR's efforts to rid itself of its former nationalist and
neo-communist allies as aimed at improving the party's image both at home and
abroad. -- Dan Ionescu
ETHNIC HUNGARIANS IN TRANSYLVANIA CELEBRATE 1848 REVOLUTION.
ethnic Hungarians on 15 March gathered in the town of Sfantu Gheorghe to mark
the anniversary of a short-lived anti-Austrian revolution in 1848, Radio
Bucharest and Western media reported. The meeting was attended by leaders of
the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), representatives of the
Hungarian Embassy in Bucharest, and guests from Hungary. Similar rallies took
places in several towns in Transylvania, where most of Romania's 1.6 million
Hungarians live. Meanwhile, Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu was
quoted as saying that Romania wants to get a long-delayed treaty with Hungary
signed before this year's presidential and general elections. A bilateral
treaty is vital to both countries' ambitions of joining Euro-Atlantic
structures. -- Dan Ionescu
ALBANIAN PRESIDENT CANCELS FINE FOR KOHA JONE EDITOR.
Berisha has canceled a court fine imposed on Koha Jone Editor in Chief
Aleksander Frangaj, international agencies reported on 17 March. Frangaj was
fined $1,000 for publishing a false report under a disputed press law (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 15 March 1996). In unrelated news, Human Rights Watch
published its annual report on Albania. It concludes that, five years after the
first free post-communist elections, the citizens of Albania are still plagued
by serious human rights violations, such as restrictions on freedom of
expression and association, manipulation of the legal system, and violence by
the police. -- Fabian Schmidt
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Tim Rostan