"THIRD FORCE" CANDIDATES ISSUE JOINT STATEMENT ON INTEGRATION.
Presidential candidates Aleksandr Lebed, Svyatoslav Fedorov, and Grigorii
Yavlinskii issued a joint statement calling for greater economic integration of
the countries making up the former Soviet Union within the framework of the
CIS, Russian media reported on 27 March. The three politicians criticized
attempts by both the Communist Party and President Yeltsin to expand Russian
influence among its neighbors as discrediting the idea of integration. Earlier,
they had called on the Duma not to denounce the Belavezha accords. The issuing
of these joint statements suggests the increasing cohesion of a "third force"
in the presidential campaign: Yavlinskii had previously shunned all alliances.
-- Robert Orttung
"THIRD FORCE" MAY USE PRIMARIES TO DETERMINE LEADER.
The "Third Force"
may organize a poll of its supporters in the regions to determine which of its
three leaders will be the group's presidential candidate, ITAR-TASS reported on
27 March, citing Konstantin Zatulin, a member of the Congress of Russian
Communities Council. According to Zatulin, Lebed is in favor of the idea,
Fedorov is leaning toward it, while Yavlinskii is skeptical, fearing
falsification of the results. Russia has not previously seen anything
resembling a party primary.
-- Robert Orttung
NTV CHAIRMAN DEFENDS DECISION TO JOIN YELTSIN STAFF.
president of the independent television station NTV, said his decision to join
President Yeltsin's re-election campaign staff will not affect NTV's reporting,
RFE/RL reported on 27 March. Observers had expressed concern that Malashenko's
decision might compromise the station's editorial independence (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 25 March 1996). Malashenko said his decision is not tied to
an attempt to secure advantages for NTV, but he did say that he expects NTV to
shortly receive permission to broadcast 24 hours a day. At present, NTV
broadcasts about eight hours a day. -- Penny Morvant
ZYUGANOV DESCRIBES FOREIGN POLICY GOALS.
Communist leader Gennadii
Zyuganov described his foreign policy goals as "extremely simple: maximum
openness both to the West and to the East but with active support and
protection for the internal market," ITAR-TASS reported 27 March. He also
argued that "everything that is connected with the territory of the former USSR
falls within the area of our vital interests." To back this claim, he noted the
25 million Russians living in the non-Russian former Soviet republics who "have
been thrown upon the mercy of fate and are not receiving any support."
Additionally, Zyuganov said that he would not allow the buying and selling of
farmland should he come to power and that Yeltsin's approval of such policies
is "killing" state and collective farms. -- Robert Orttung
LUZHKOV OFFICIALLY ENTERS MAYORAL RACE.
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has
officially announced that he will run for re-election, Russian media reported
on 27 March. Luzhkov was endorsed for re-election by a group of supporters on
13 March. Announcing his intention to stand for the 16 June mayoral poll,
Luzhkov said that he cannot leave his job without finishing it and "must be in
a race." Earlier this week, the Duma Communist Party faction announced that it
might put forward a Communist candidate for the Moscow mayoral race. Luzhkov is
considered to be the favorite. -- Anna Paretskaya
VOTE COUNTING SYSTEM WORKED WELL IN TATARSTAN.
Experts from a Moscow
research institute who deal with implementing the new computerized vote
counting system Vybory (Elections) have concluded that the system
performed well in Tatarstan's 24 March presidential election, ITAR-TASS
reported on 27 March. Specialists say the system prevents electoral fraud.
Moreover, it completes the counting procedure within several hours; the "final"
preliminary results of the December Duma elections, which were counted
manually, were released eight days after the poll. The Tatarstan election, it
should be remembered, had only one candidate. -- Anna Paretskaya
PREVENTIVE DIPLOMACY IN CHECHNYA.
Representatives of fifteen Chechen
political parties and deputies to the parliament of the Confederation of
Peoples of the Caucasus (CPC) adopted an appeal to the peoples of the North
Caucasus at a conference in Urus-Martan on 27 March to prevent the spread of
hostilities in the North Caucasus, Radio Rossii reported. Conference
participants also agreed to put forward Chechen parliament speaker Yusup
Soslambekov as a candidate for president of the CPC at the upcoming congress of
peoples of the North Caucasus in Nalchik. Speaking on local television on 27
March, Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev condemned the individual peace
agreements that more than 120 Chechen villages have signed with Russian federal
forces, AFP reported on 28 March. Russian troops resumed their artillery
bombardment of Bamut on 27 March; fighting was also reported elsewhere in
southern Chechnya and along the border with Ingushetiya, Russian Public TV
(ORT) reported. -- Liz Fuller
REPORT ON INTERIOR MINISTRY CASUALTIES IN CHECHNYA.
Figures released on
27 March indicate that the Interior Ministry's troops have suffered
considerable losses in Chechnya. Russian media quoted Lt. Gen. Anatolii
Shkirko, commander of the Internal Troops, as saying that 621 Interior Ministry
servicemen had been killed since the military campaign began in December 1994.
On 12 March, Radio Mayak quoted the first deputy commander of the troops as
saying that 423 internal troops had died and another 157 were missing in
action. Shkirko said that more than 23,000 of his men were currently deployed
in Chechnya. According to an ITAR-TASS report of 27 March, the establishment
strength of the Internal Troops is 272,000. The force has 29 divisions and 15
brigades in nine okrugs. It has been facing severe financial difficulties, and
morale is low. -- Doug Clarke and Penny Morvant
CIS DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET TO INCREASE COOPERATION.
Defense ministers or
their representatives from the CIS states, minus Moldova, met in Moscow on 27
March, Russian media reported. NTV reported that the discussion centered around
the implementation of the joint CIS air defense system that is to be launched
on 1 April and has been signed by all of the CIS states except Azerbaijan and
Moldova. Other topics of discussion included peacekeeping force policies and
the financing of CIS collective security measures. In addition, ITAR-TASS
reported that the defense ministers of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and
Kyrgyzstan prepared documents that are to be signed at the 29 March summit of
those country's presidents. In an interview following the meeting, Russian
Defense Minister Pavel Grachev emphasized the need to coordinate defense
policies, especially in light of the expected NATO expansion. -- Roger Kangas
COURT RULES DEFENDANTS CAN CHOOSE OWN LAWYERS.
The Constitutional Court
ruled on 27 March that defendants charged under the Law on State Secrets are
entitled to choose their own lawyers, Russian and Western agencies reported.
The ruling followed complaints that the stipulation in the law that defense
lawyers in such cases must first obtain security clearance was unconstitutional
and gave the prosecution an unfair advantage. One of the complainants was
retired Navy Captain Aleksandr Nikitin, arrested by the Federal Security
Service in February on charges of treason in connection with his work for the
Norwegian environmental organization Bellona. The ruling, which Bellona
described as a major victory, came a day after President Yeltsin promised
Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland that Nikitin would be allowed to
use his own lawyer. -- Penny Morvant
FOUNDATION WANTS EURO-DOLLARS FOR KOMSOMOLETS SALVAGE.
European Parliament's Committee on Petitions turned down a petition asking for
$12.5 million in EU funding to salvage the nuclear-armed torpedoes in the
sunken Russian nuclear submarine Komsomolets. According to a 26 March
press release, the Belgium-based Komsomolets Foundation requested the money
because the Russians could no longer afford to salvage the vessel. Former
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was listed among the foundation's backers.
The committee criticized the petition for being concerned solely with the
weapons aboard the submarine rather than its nuclear reactor. It did agreed to
forward the petition to two other committees in case they wished to pursue the
matter. -- Doug Clarke
INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICIAL DEFENDS DEATH PENALTY.
First Deputy Interior
Minister Vladimir Kolesnikov said on 27 March that 53 people have been executed
in Russia in the past three years, the BBC reported, citing Interfax.
Kolesnikov said that 423 people were sentenced to death in 1980, 225 in 1986,
and 160 in 1994, and that Russia has 69,500 prison inmates convicted on charges
of premeditated murder. He argued that abolishing the death penalty--a
condition of Russia's recent admission to the Council of Europe--would be
counterproductive and that Russia lacks the funds to take such a step. -- Penny
NEW $100 BILLS APPEAR IN MOSCOW.
At a joint press conference on 27
March, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Central Bank Chairman Sergei
Dubinin said that the introduction of new $100 banknotes is proceeding
smoothly, ITAR-TASS reported. The first consignment of $60 million worth of the
new bills arrived in Moscow on 25 March, AFP reported. The U.S. has spent $1
million on a publicity campaign reassuring Russians that the old bills will
still be legal tender. -- Peter Rutland
Petr Mostovoi, head of the Federal Insolvency
Administration, told ITAR-TASS on 27 March that Russia has made decisive
strides toward financial stabilization. He also claimed that the bankruptcy law
is starting to work effectively. Ten firms declared themselves insolvent in
1993, followed by 350 in 1994, and 1,103 in 1995. Following the recommendations
of Mostovoi's agency, courts declared 459 firms bankrupt over the past year.
However, this is only a small fraction of Russia's more than 40,000 firms;
virtually no large-sized enterprises have been declared bankrupt. -- Peter
MAJOR NEW OIL VENTURE BETWEEN SHELL AND EVIKHON.
The Russian oil company
Evikhon and Royal Dutch/Shell's Russian subsidiary have agreed to set up a
joint venture to exploit the Salym oil fields, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 March.
The Salym fields in Tyumen Oblast have recoverable oil reserves of 139 million
metric tons, and are expected to yield 6 million metric tons annually by the
year 2003. Over the next 25 years, up to $11 billion could be invested in the
project. Evikhon was created to develop the Salym fields in 1992: since then
Evikhon and Shell have already spent $100 million on exploratory work in Salym.
Shell officials said that the new venture's strategy in Russia will depend on
the outcome of the presidential election in June. -- Natalia Gurushina
RUSSIA TO SUPPLY NUCLEAR REACTORS TO CHINA.
The Russian government will
provide China with a 15-year $2 billion loan at 4% interest to supply Russian
reactors to a new nuclear power station in northeast China, Reuters reported on
27 March. The cost of the station, whose construction will begin in 1998, is $4
billion. The agreement to buy Russian reactors was signed during Prime Minister
Li Peng's visit to Moscow in June 1995. Chinese officials said that they chose
Russian reactors because they were 15-20% cheaper than Western ones. -- Natalia
PUBLICATION OF ARMENIAN NEWSPAPER SUSPENDED.
A Yerevan court has banned
the daily newspaper Lragir for three months for the serialized
publication of an article advocating the annexation by Armenia of predominantly
Armenian-populated regions of southern Georgia, Nezavisimaya gazeta
reported on 20 March. The paper's editor had ignored a warning from the
Armenian Justice Ministry not to continue publishing the article after its
first installment. -- Liz Fuller
PAKISTANI OFFICIALS ON TURKMEN GAS.
According to unnamed officials in
Pakistan's Petroleum and Natural Resources Ministry, the U.S. firm UNOCAL has
submitted a pipeline project to move natural gas from Turkmenistan's Dauletabad
field to Pakistan via parts of Afghanistan that are now held by the Taliban
rebel movement, AFP reported on 28 March. The cost of the 1,271 km-long
pipeline project is estimated at $3 billion. The Argentinean firm Bridas
proposed a similar plan in the past; last summer, the firm's president secured
numerous promises from Ashgabat, Islamabad, Kabul, and several combatants
involved in the Afghan civil war, only to see the deal unravel following
renewed fighting in Afghanistan. -- Lowell Bezanis
UNICEF CALLS FOR AID TO TAJIKISTAN.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF)
launched a fundraising campaign for Tajikistan on 27 March with the aim of
collecting $5.6 million, Reuters and AFP reported. Speaking from the
Kazakhstani capital Almaty, UNICEF's Executive Director Carol Bellamy said
Tajikistan is coping "with the double burden of outright civil war as well as
economic restructuring." The money would go for medical supplies, education,
and clean water programs for women and children. UNICEF reports show that
infant mortality in Tajikistan is running at more than 60 per 1,000 and that as
many as 2 million children suffer from respiratory and childhood diseases. --
UZBEK PRESIDENT IN VIETNAM.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov arrived in
Vietnam on 28 March to meet with President Le Duc Anh, Prime Minister Vo Van
Kiet, and Communist Party Secretary-General Do Muoi, ITAR-TASS reported. The
two sides signed several agreements on bilateral trade, investment protection,
and double taxation. Karimov is the first CIS president to visit Vietnam since
the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. -- Roger Kangas
UKRAINE RECEIVES 27 BLACK SEA FLEET VESSELS.
Russia turned over 27
warships of different classes to Ukraine at a ceremony in Crimea on 27 March,
Western and Ukrainian media reported. The ceremony was the first stage of an
expected transfer of 150 ships to Kyiv in compliance with Russian-Ukrainian
agreements to split the Soviet era Black Sea Fleet. Ukrainian Prime Minister
Yevhen Marchuk and Russian Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin met in Moscow on 26
March to hammer out remaining differences over dividing up the fleet. Russian
agencies reported that they reached agreements on the status of the Russian
fleet in the Black Sea and on the naval base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. A
treaty on leasing the fleet's Crimean infrastructure by Russia and the terms of
payment remains unresolved. Both sides have been trying to finalize agreements
before Russian President Boris Yeltsin's scheduled visit to Kyiv on 4-5 April
to sign a long-awaited friendship treaty with Ukraine. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
LEFTIST LAWMAKERS SUBMIT ALTERNATIVE DRAFT OF NEW UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTION.
A group of 125 leftist deputies have submitted to the parliament an
alternative draft of the new Ukrainian constitution, Ukrainian agencies
reported on 25 March. The document, which is called the Basic Law of the
Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, provides for the restoration of the former
Soviet-era regime but stops short of calling for union with other former
republics. It declares Ukraine a "socialist state," eliminates the Presidency,
and grants all powers to a supreme soviet or council. The draft also calls for
Ukrainian and Russian as state languages and the return of communist-era
emblems. The legislators are calling for a national referendum on the main
provisions of their draft constitution. Nationalist groups, including the
Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, called the move a provocation aimed at
destroying the constitutional process. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES UNION TREATY.
Lukashenka on 27 March told the parliament that he will sign a union treaty
with Russia in Moscow on 2 April, Western agencies reported. He distanced
himself from earlier comments suggesting the treaty will create "a unified
state" by saying "We are creating a union of two states" that will be similar
to the EU." Lukashenka described the organizers of the anti-treaty
demonstration in Minsk on 24 March as "enemies of the people." The organizers,
including Belarusian People's Front Chairman Zyanon Paznyak, have gone into
hiding to avoid arrest. But the parliament seemed unimpressed by his speech,
since it failed to pass two resolutions on the treaty. -- Saulius Girnius
ESTONIA, RUSSIA SIGN AGREEMENT ON MEDICAL INSURANCE FOR RETIRED MILITARY.
Representatives of the Estonian Social Insurance Department and the Russian
Defense Ministry on 27 March signed a medical insurance agreement for retired
Russian military, ETA reported. Russia agreed to transfer more than 1 million
kroons ($90,000) every month to a special bank account to pay the medical
expenses of the 6,500 people covered by the agreement. Talks on the matter
began in fall 1994. Meanwhile, Russian and Estonian delegations in Tallinn have
begun another round of talks on determining the border between the two
countries. -- Saulius Girnius
LITHUANIAN POLITICAL PARTY PROPOSES REFERENDUM ON PROHIBITING SALE OF LAND
The Lithuanian National Progress Party (LTPP) on 27 March
proposed to the Supreme Electoral Commission that a referendum be held on
prohibiting the sale of land to foreigners, Radio Lithuania reported. The
parliament last week approved an amendment to the constitution allowing
foreigners to purchase non-agricultural land. If the parliament passes the
amendment again after a three-month interval, it will go into effect
immediately. The prohibition of sale of land to foreigners would prevent
Lithuania from becoming a member of the EU. -- Saulius Girnius
POLISH PARLIAMENT TO DISCUSS DRAFT PENAL CODE.
The Polish government on
27 March submitted to the Sejm the draft penal code, which provides for more
lenient treatment of prisoners than under current legislation. Capital
punishment, which was recently suspended in Poland, is replaced by life
imprisonment. Anyone receiving a life sentence can apply to be released after
25 years. Justice Minister Leszek Kubicki told the Sejm that while citizens
want a tough law, public sentiment cannot define legislation that should be
oriented toward the future, Polish dailies reported on 28 March. -- Jakub
POLISH PREMIER, PRIMATE MEET.
Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 27 March met
with Cardinal Jozef Glemp, Polish dailies reported. Cimoszewicz said they
discussed "friendly world-view pluralism," while the primate noted that the
meeting proved that the Church and the state were looking for new ways to
collaborate. After a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Government and the
Episcopate the same day, Archbishop Jerzy Stroba said the Polish Foreign
Ministry has asked the Vatican for clarification of unclear points in the
Concordat, which has still not been ratified. Meanwhile, a group of left-wing
deputies have proposed that an extraordinary Sejm commission be formed to
investigate the restitution of Roman Catholic Church property; 175 deputies,
mostly from the ruling Alliance of Democratic Left, were in favor of the
proposal and 136 against. -- Jakub Karpinski
BRITISH QUEEN IN PRAGUE.
Queen Elizabeth II on 27 March arrived in the
Czech Republic from Poland for a three-day state visit, the first ever by a
reigning British monarch. At a state banquet in Prague Castle, she supported
Czech attempts to "regain a rightful place in the community of free nations,"
Czech media reported. "We strongly support the enlargement of the EU and NATO.
We welcome your ambitions to become a member of these institutions," the Queen
added. On 28 March, she is due to visit Brno. -- Steve Kettle
REACTIONS TO SLOVAKIA'S LAW ON PROTECTION OF REPUBLIC.
Kovac on 27 March said if he finds that the law on the protection of the
republic violates basic human rights and the constitution, he will have no
choice but to veto it, TASR reported. He added that neither the government nor
the president permanently represents "the national state interest," emphasizing
that neither is beyond criticism. Kovac said he does not feel that Slovak
statehood is currently endangered. What Slovakia really needs, he said, is laws
on the protection of the citizen and personal freedoms, since these would
strengthen democracy. Also on 27 March, Justice Minister Jozef Liscak said the
"protective provisions [of the new law] have long been required." He stressed
that the law "will never harm anyone who has not acted with the intent of
subverting the republic." -- Sharon Fisher
SLOVAK PARLIAMENT RE-APPROVES ANTI-COMMUNIST LAW.
The parliament on 27
March passed a slightly amended law on the immorality and illegitimacy of the
communist regime, Narodna obroda reported. The law, first approved in
early February, was vetoed by President Michal Kovac at the cabinet's request.
Opposition deputies criticized the coalition's "contradictory" behavior in
passing a law that condemns the previous totalitarian regime only one day after
approving the law on the protection of the republic. The parliament also
approved laws on highway and housing construction. -- Sharon Fisher
HUNGARY WELCOMES SLOVAK RATIFICATION OF TREATY BUT NOT "INTERPRETATION
Budapest has welcomed Slovakia's ratification of the bilateral
treaty but believes that the "interpretation clauses" rejecting collective
rights for minorities have no legal force, Hungarian dailies reported Foreign
Minister Laszlo Kovacs as saying on 27 March. He said those clauses contravene
the Council of Europe Recommendation 1201. Kovacs added that they also reveal a
one-sided interpretation of the treaty that should have no consequences for
Hungary. Both he and Prime Minister Gyula Horn stressed that Hungary will only
exchange ratification documents--thereby allowing the treaty to go into
force--if the clauses are not included. Meanwhile, Hungary's opposition parties
voiced concern about the treaty, with some suggesting that it should be
renegotiated. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
UNHCR HELPS FIRST GROUP OF BOSNIAN REFUGEES RETURN HOME.
Two busses and
a truck carrying 54 Bosnian Muslims and their belongings left the Nagyatad
refugee camp, in southern Hungary, as the UNHCR began helping Bosnian refugees
from outside former Yugoslavia return home, Hungarian and international media
reported on 27 March. Since January, some 300 refugees have left Hungary on
their own. The International Organization for Migration, the Hungarian
authorities, and the UNHCR are all taking part in helping the refugees. The
UNHCR provides $50 each to adults, $25 to children, and cold food for two days.
-- Zsofia Szilagyi
IFOR TO HELP WITH BOSNIAN CIVILIAN RECONSTRUCTION.
In an apparent
reversal of NATO policy, U.S. commander Gen. George Joulwan on 27 March said
that IFOR troops will join in civilian projects as well as perform purely
military tasks. They will concentrate on opening roads, building bridges, and
clearing mines to permit freedom of movement, AFP reported. The general said
that "if this doesn't happen right, then it's going to be very difficult to
carry out an election. If people can't travel along the roads, I don't call
that `mission creep,' I say that's part of the mission." IFOR had previously
insisted that freedom of movement was a police matter that did not concern the
peacekeepers. Joulwan added that the most serious Bosnian issue is now tension
between Croats and Muslims, which is threatening to undermine the federation,
the BBC reported on 28 March. In Washington, the U.S. Defense Intelligence
chief, Gen. Patrick Hughes, stated that IFOR will also arrest indicted war
criminals like Bosnian Serb civilian leader Radovan Karadzic and his military
counterpart, Gen. Ratko Mladic, Nasa Borba reported. -- Patrick Moore
CROATIAN-MUSLIM MEETING SCRAPPED.
The German government on 27 March
cancelled a planned session near Bonn to mark the second anniversary of the
Bosnian federation and to discuss practical questions about putting federal
structures in place. German officials said the feuding allies had to learn that
the international community cannot "hand them peace on a plate," AFP reported.
The meeting was scrapped because the two sides failed to make any substantial
progress on a host of issues dividing them. But Muslim, Croatian, and Serbian
lawyers meeting in Sarajevo did set up a Human Rights Commission,
Oslobodjenje said on 28 March. The UN police force, meanwhile, protested
to federal authorities about an alleged total lack of cooperation with it on
the part of federal police, Dnevni avaz reported. -- Patrick Moore
SACIRBEY WARNS ABOUT FUTURE OF FEDERATION.
Muhamed Sacirbey has resumed
his old job as Bosnia's ambassador to the UN, saying that peace "will fail if
the war crimes tribunal is not supported and does not bring about at least a
minimum level of justice," AFP reported on 27 March. He singled out the need to
protect mass grave sites and to arrest indicted war criminals like Karadzic and
Mladic. Sacirbey also warned that the federation is threatened by powerful
interests in the "Croatian para-state of Herceg-Bosna." He alleged that such
individuals would like to torpedo the federation, not for the sake of a greater
Croatia but for their own "criminal" economic gain. This includes such pursuits
as exacting customs and transit duties, the BBC reported on 28 March. --
SERBIA'S SUPREME COURT FREES MUSLIM PRISONERS.
A group of 24 Muslims
convicted of plotting the overthrow of the government and insurrection against
the rump Yugoslav authorities were freed in Novi Pazar on 27 March. All of the
accused were members of the Party for Democratic Action (SDA) of Sandzak. They
were convicted in 1994 and sentenced to six years in prison, but the terms of
18 were reduced following appeals. The SDA members were freed after a ruling by
the Serbian Supreme Court Council, Radio Bosnia-Herzegovina reported on 26
March. -- Stan Markotich
WHO OWNS MONTENEGRO'S AIRPORTS?
A row over who owns the airports in
Podgorica and Tivat has entered the public domain. On 26 March, Zoran Djurisic,
managing director of the republic's airlines, told Pobjeda that the
airport facilities "are Montenegro's." SRNA reports that Djurisic's remark is
in response to a statement by the director of rump Yugoslavia's airline that
"[we] will soon be ready to discuss use of the airports with the Montenegrins."
But Djurisic added that "[someone] is going to have to learn who the guest is
and who the host is." -- Stan Markotich
CROATIAN FARMERS, FISHERMEN STAGE BIG PROTEST.
The Croatian Peasant
Party (HSS) on 27 March organized a two-hour demonstration to protest imports,
smuggling, and comodity prices. Farmers blocked 25 border crossings with
tractors and demanded a halt to food imports until Croatia can determine what
it can produce for itself, news agencies said. A HSS spokesman argued that
imports and smuggling are threatening to ruin Croatian agriculture, from which
roughly a quarter of the population earns its living. The farmers blame
middlemen and others for the high cost of food, which approaches Western
European levels, despite the fact that Croats have much lower incomes.
Fishermen on the Adriatic also backed the protest. Meanwhile, Croatia has
joined the list of countries banning British beef, Reuters reported. -- Patrick
MACEDONIAN PRIVATE BANK RECEIVES $10 MILLION FROM EBRD.
Komercijalna Banka has received a $10 million investment and loan package from
the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, RFE/RL reported on 27
March. The package includes a $2.6 million investment in the bank and a
convertible loan of more than $7 million. The EBRD said the money is to be used
to increase term lending operations to private companies and to state firms
undergoing privatization. Komercijalna Banka is one of Macedonia's leading
private banks. EBRD President Jacques de Larosiere said he expects it to "play
a key role in advancing the transition process" in Macedonia. The EBRD will be
represented on Komercijalna Banka's board. -- Stefan Krause
ROMANIA TO APPLY FOR FULL NATO MEMBERSHIP THIS WEEK.
Foreign Ministry on 27 March announced that Romania will formally apply for
full NATO membership later this week, Romanian media and Reuters reported.
Romania is expected to ask NATO headquarters in Brussels to begin discussions
on the country's admission. A document mapping out Romania's "individual
dialogue" with the alliance has already been approved by the Supreme Council
for the Country's Defense and will be accompanied by a letter to NATO
Secretary-General Javier Solana. Jurnalul national on 28 March quoted
President Ion Iliescu as saying that drawing up a list of favorite candidates
for NATO integration could only "arouse suspicions." Romania was the first
former communist country to sign up for NATO's Partnership for Peace program.
-- Dan Ionescu
President Zhelyu Zhelev on 27 March concluded a
three-day visit to Belgium, Bulgarian dailies reported. Zhelev met with NATO
Secretary-General Javier Solana, EU Commission President Jacques Santer, EU
External Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek, and WEU Secretary-General
Jose Cutileiro to discuss Bulgaria's integration into Western structures.
Zhelev said he was surprised by the interest shown in Bulgaria. But RFE/RL's
Brussels correspondent noted that Zhelev was clearly disappointed by the
outcome of the talks. Bulgaria's chances of joining NATO or the EU in the near
future are considered poor, partly because of the slow pace of reform and
partly because of the Socialist government's position. In other news, Zhelev
approved the government's decision to recall Ambassador to Switzerland Elena
Kircheva, following her marriage to Petar Hadzhidimitrov, a Bulgarian emigre
known for his anti-Semitic and extreme right-wing views. -- Stefan Krause
GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN ALBANIA.
Volker Ruhe on 27 March wrapped up a
two-day visit to Albania, Western agencies reported. He and his Albanian
counterpart, Safet Zhulali, agreed to implement 25 military cooperation
projects this year, including training Albanian officers in Germany, a joint
military exercise, and German assistance in introducing modern command
structures into Albania's army. The projects are part of a 1995 bilateral
cooperation agreement under which Germany has already supplied Albania with
military equipment and helped upgrade the Skanderbeg Military Academy. Ruhe
said Germany will continue to back Albania's efforts to join NATO. In other
news, Albania on 27 March closed its borders to beef imports from the EU and
other European countries out of fear of the "mad cow" disease. -- Fabian
Schmidt and Stefan Krause
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave