CHECHEN LEADERSHIP SPLIT OVER ELECTIONS?
The chairman of Chechnya's
Central Electoral Commission, Mumadi Saidaev, told ITAR-TASS on 9 December that
the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 27 January might
have to be postponed unless all Russian troops are withdrawn from Chechen
territory by that date. Also on 9 December, Chechen parliament speaker Amin
Osmaev said in Grozny that it free and fair elections are impossible in
Chechnya at the moment. Osmaev characterized the present Chechen coalition
government as "a coalition of separatist field commanders who will manipulate
elections to support their policy of secession from Russia," and claimed that
the majority of the Chechen population is against secession and "does not have
the slightest idea of what sovereignty is and where it can lead Chechnya."
Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 9 December, Aleksandr Kazakov,
deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, said that the elections
could be postponed "without detriment to the Chechen people," ITAR-TASS
reported. -- Liz Fuller
ADMINISTRATION CLAIMS VICTORY IN REGIONAL ELECTIONS . . .
presidential administration continued to explain away its losses in the
gubernatorial elections, following the defeat of several more incumbents on 8
December. First Deputy Chief of Staff Aleksandr Kazakov said that only
newly-elected Bryansk Governor Yurii Lodkin was an actual representative of the
opposition, while the other five elected governors are "normal, sensible people
with solid managerial experience." He claimed that there has always been some
dissatisfaction with the federal government but that more "emotion" might be
added to the relationship now. Izvestiya claimed that the score is now
22-8 in favor of the administration since 1 September. All-Russia Coordinating
Council leader Sergei Filatov blamed the administration losses on the poor
economic conditions. -- Robert Orttung
. . . AND SO DOES OPPOSITION.
The pro-Communist Sovetskaya
Rossiya on 10 December scoffed at Kazakov's claims, asking why the
administration changes its attitude toward the opposition candidates as soon as
they are elected. According to the paper's (incomplete) count, the score is
14-13 in favor of the opposition. Spiritual Heritage leader Aleksei Podberezkin
claimed that the elections would change the face of the Federation Council. --
STOLICHNYI BANK HEAD TO BECOME "REAL BOSS" AT ORT?
Since Russian Public
TV (ORT) replaced Ostankino as Russia's Channel 1 broadcaster in April 1995,
the chairman of the ORT board, Aleksandr Yakovlev, has been a mere figurehead.
Boris Berezovskii, whose LogoVAZ empire owned 8% of ORT shares, wielded the
most influence at the network, even though formally he was deputy chairman of
the ORT board. Now that Berezovskii has resigned his ORT post (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 9 December 1996), it appears that Stolichnyi Bank Chairman
Aleksandr Smolenskii will take his place as the network's unofficial "real
boss," Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 10 December. Although he has
not previously been active concerning ORT's affairs, Smolenskii was chosen to
head a new consortium of commercial banks called ORT-KB. Those banks combined
now hold 38% of the shares in the 51% state-owned network. -- Laura Belin
INGUSH GOVERNMENT SACKED.
Ingush President Ruslan Aushev dismissed his
government on 9 December for bad economic management, ORT and Russian TV (RTR)
reported. Additionally, Aushev claims to have information that several
government members were involved in corruption, according to RTR. Valerii
Fateev, the first deputy prime minister of Ingushetiya and former executive
head of Smolensk Oblast, is reportedly behind the dismissal and is said to be
the most probable candidate to head the new government, according to
Segodnya on 10 December. The health, education, justice, and interior
ministers are likely to retain their positions in the new government. -- Anna
Paretskaya in Moscow
RUTSKOI LOWERS BREAD PRICES IN KURSK.
Bread prices in Kursk Oblast are
now among the lowest in Russia after Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi brought down
prices by about 70-100 rubles per loaf, RIA-Novosti and NTV reported on 9
December. A loaf of bread in Kursk will now cost between 1,500 and 1,800 rubles
($0.27 to $0.33); the national average is 3,222 rubles. A representative of the
gubernatorial administration said bakeries had reduced their own production
costs and some trade surcharges were lowered by 5%, making the oblast-wide
price decrease possible. Bread prices in Kursk may be reduced further after 1
January 1997 if certain prerequisites are met, including decreased electricity
tariffs and lower transportation costs for flour and bread. After his election
in October, Rutskoi pledged to implement a social and economic program to
improve living conditions in the oblast. -- Laura Belin
MUSLIM UNION OF RUSSIA SEEKS BETTER RELATIONS WITH AUTHORITIES.
congress of the Muslim Union of Russia which concluded on 7 December called for
an improvement in Muslim relations with the authorities and countering
increasingly anti-Muslim feeling in Russian society, Kommersant-Daily
reported on 10 December. The congress voted to seek greater unity among
Russia's estimated 20 million Muslims. It will also seek state support for
increasing public broadcasting about Islam and including mullahs in the
military along with Orthodox priests. The Muslim Union has one deputy in the
State Duma, Nadyrshakh Khachilaev. -- Robert Orttung
SACKED POLICE OFFICER TO BECOME ADVISER TO FEDERATION COUNCIL CHAIRMAN.
Interior Ministry Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Rushailo is to become an adviser to
Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 December.
Until recently, Rushailo headed the Moscow Regional Administration for
Organized Crime (RUOP). In October, he was transferred to the post of deputy
head of the Main Administration for Organized Crime (GUOP) but refused to
accept the job and was fired (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 October 1996).
In his new post, Rushailo is likely to be responsible for legal issues. --
NATO FOREIGN MINISTERS REASSURE MOSCOW.
U.S. Secretary of State Warren
Christopher, in Brussels for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on 10
December, said that "NATO has no intention, no plan, and no need to station
nuclear weapons on the territory of any new members," Reuters reported. In an 8
December interview with Welt am Sonntag, German Foreign Minister Klaus
Kinkel said that to reassure Russia, NATO should propose creating a 17-
member security consultative committee, on which Russia would sit as an equal
with the 16 NATO members. It remains unclear exactly what powers the council
would have, and whether Moscow would have a veto over certain issues.
Kommersant-daily on 7 December criticized Russian Foreign Ministry
officials for thus far rejecting such proposals as insufficient, arguing that
they might be Moscow's last chance to bargain seriously over the enlargement
issue. -- Scott Parrish
SOLANA: "RUSSIA IS A PARTNER, NOT A THREAT TO US."
That was the title of
an interview with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana that ran in the
government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta on 10 December. Solana said that
since 1991, "Russia has always been regarded by us as a partner rather than a
threat," and stressed the importance of developing "global frameworks for
relations between NATO and Russia in parallel" to NATO's "external adaptation,"
by which he meant the admission of new members. The accompanying newspaper
commentary complained that Solana "avoided answering the question" of what
concrete measures would be taken to allay Russia's concerns over NATO
expansion. -- Peter Rutland
MORE REACTIONS TO ALBRIGHT APPOINTMENT.
Vladimir Lukin, head of the Duma
Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the new nominee for U.S. secretary of
state, Madeleine Albright, will be "an active and energetic supporter" of NATO
expansion and will strengthen U.S. ties with Ukraine and Azerbaijan, ITAR-TASS
reported on 9 December. Lukin, a former Russian ambassador to Washington,
conceded that Albright is an "energetic and persistent diplomat," while
Pravda-5 on 7 December dubbed her the "Steel Lady," a successor to "Iron
Lady" Margaret Thatcher. -- Peter Rutland
POTANIN ARRIVES IN KEMEROVO.
First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir
Potanin arrived in Kemerovo Oblast on 10 December at the start of a two-day
visit to look into the problems of the region's coal industry, ITAR-TASS
reported. In a jibe at Potanin, who used to head the powerful Oneksimbank,
Kemerovo Oblast Governor Mikhail Kislyuk argued on 9 December that Russia is
facing the threat of a "comprador bourgeois revolution" driven by commercial
banking circles acting contrary to Russia's national interests, ORT reported.
The number of Kuzbass miners taking part in the national strike that began on 3
December has reportedly fallen following the dispatch of 430 billion rubles to
the area for social benefits. According to the miners' union Rosugleprofsoyuz,
300,000 miners from 129 underground mines and 15 strip mines across the country
were on strike as of 9 December. The coal company Rosugol said 113,000 miners
were on strike at 98 mines and 10 open-cast pits. -- Penny Morvant
NEW FEES TO BE INTRODUCED ON RUSSIAN BORDER.
President Yeltsin signed
amendments on 29 November to the law "On the state border of the Russian
Federation" that introduce a special fee for crossing the border,
Izvestiya reported on 10 December. According to the new law, every
person crossing the border in both directions, Russians and foreigners, will
pay approximately $10 per person. Vehicles and cargo are also subject to a fee.
The amendments, designed to provide the Federal Border Guard Service with
additional sources of funding, allot it with a number of new duties, ranging
from the right to prolong foreigners' visas to investigation functions. Since
the Duma and the Federation Council already approved the amendments on 4
October and 14 November respectively, it will go into effect as soon as it is
LAW TO COMBAT MONEY-LAUNDERING.
The government and the Communist faction
of the State Duma have prepared a draft law on preventing money-laundering,
Kommersant-Daily reported on 10 December. The law stipulates that banks,
real estate agencies, shops, and other such enterprises, will be required to
report all transactions in excess of 500 minimum salaries (currently 38 million
rubles, or about $7,000) to tax authorities. If a transaction exceeds 1,000
minimum salaries, customers will have to fill in a special form stating the
source of their income. If organizations fail to report to tax authorities,
their personnel could be punished by a two-year imprisonment. The draft drew
criticism from the business community and the media, who complained that it
violates human rights and will hamper the formation of the middle class. In
fact, even in the U.S. all banks have to report cash deposits in excess of
$10,000. -- Natalia Gurushina
RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS FOR COMPROMISE ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH.
Yevgenii Primakov said after a meeting in Moscow with his Armenian counterpart,
Aleksandr Arzumanyan, that Russia is interested in a peaceful resolution of the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 December. He added that a
compromise solution should recognize "Nagorno-Karabakh's right to
self-determination and self-government while preserving Azerbaijan's
territorial integrity." Addressing the 24 November presidential election in the
disputed enclave, Primakov reiterated the official Russian position that such
votes should not be held until "a mechanism for settling the conflict is worked
out," while Arzumanyan said the election did not hamper the peace process. The
two ministers pledged to "develop fraternal and friendly relations," ITAR-TASS
reported. -- Emil Danielyan
THREE ABKHAZ SOLDIERS KILLED.
Three Abkhaz troops were killed and two
wounded on 8 December when their vehicles were fired on near the border between
Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 December, quoting
Abkhaz security chief Astamur Tarba. Tarba blamed the attack on the Georgian
security services. Georgia has denied the charges. In a 2 December letter to UN
Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali, Abkhaz Foreign Minister Konstantin
Ozgan accused the UN of "a one-sided approach" to resolving the Abkhaz conflict
and the Georgian leadership of "subversion and terror," according to Iprinda on
3 December. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with Abkhaz
presidential representative Anri Djergenia recently and proposed that Abkhazia
be incorporated into the Russian-Belarus sphere of integration, Pravda-5
reported on 10 December. -- Liz Fuller
TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER ARRIVES IN KUNDUZ.
United Tajik Opposition
leader Said Abdullo Nuri flew to Kunduz on 9 December, arriving one day late
for a scheduled meeting with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, international
press reported. Details on Nuri's delay are conflicting, with some reports
claiming that Taliban aircraft forced the plane down at Shindan then
transferred it to Kandahar, while others claiming that the plane had technical
difficulties and requested a landing for repairs. One thing is certain, Nuri
did meet with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. -- Bruce Pannier
KAZAKSTANI PRESIDENT IN INDIA.
Nursultan Nazarbayev arrived in New Delhi
on 9 December to discuss bilateral relations and the situation in Afghanistan
with his Indian counterpart, Shankar Dayal Sharma, Russian and Western agencies
reported. Nazarbayev said he is seeking "the speediest resolution" to the
Afghan conflict and welcomed "the active and constructive role played by
India." Agreements on import taxes, investment protection, and cultural
relations were signed and cooperation in non-military nuclear research was
discussed. -- Bruce Pannier
UKRAINIAN METROPOLITAN CALLS FOR UNITY OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH.
leader of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Filaret,
called for unification of the country's splintered Orthodox church, RFE/RL
reported on 9 December. Filaret said a united Orthodox church must be created
in Ukraine to mark the anniversary of Christ's birth in 2000. He also announced
plans to meet for the first time with the leader of Ukraine's Russian-based
church, Patriarch Volodymyr Sabodan. The Independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church
was formed in 1992, after Filaret broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church,
which has been traditionally dominant in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church
enjoyed the support of Ukrainian nationalists and former President Leonid
Kravchuk. About 35 million of Ukraine's 52 million people are estimated to be
Orthodox. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev
UKRAINE DENIES SELLING ARMS TO LIBYA.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yurii
Serheyev denied there was any truth to a 9 December Washington Times
story that accused Ukraine of selling SS-21 SCUD-B missiles to Libya, AFP
reported. The story claimed to be based on a top-secret CIA document, and
outlined two deals: a $510 million shipment of SS-21 missiles; and a second
deal for providing maintenance and parts for Libyan submarines and other
vessels. Serheyev said the charges were an effort to discredit Ukraine in front
of the U.S. and internationally. Another deputy foreign minister, Kostyantyn
Hrishchenko, described the report as "madness." He added that the newspaper had
published similar reports on the eve of important disarmament and arms control
conferences. -- Ustina Markus
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER DETAINED.
One of the main organizers of the
unauthorized rally on 8 December in Minsk, Social Democrat leader Nikalai
Statkevich, was arrested with 10 people, NTV reported on 9 December. The
detainees are still being kept at a police station and it is not clear when
they may be released, as the court session to consider their case has been
postponed for a few days. It is suspected that Statkevich's arrest was
politically motivated, since, under Belarusian law, the maximum punishment for
disturbing public order in the city is a fine. Meanwhile, protests against the
recent referendum's results are to continue today in the Belarusian capital. --
NEW BELARUSIAN DEPUTIES WILL NOT BE CONFIRMED.
The Central Electoral
Commission decided not to confirm new deputies elected during the 24 November
parliamentary by-elections, Belarusian television reported on 5 December. The
decision was made in accordance with the new constitution which provides for a
smaller parliament. Four new deputies had been elected, and more could have
been expected to win seats in runoff elections. -- Ustina Markus
LATVIA'S FOR THE FATHERLAND AND FREEDOM UNION 3RD CONGRESS.
Congress of the For the Fatherland and Freedom (TB) union on 8 December in Riga
reelected Maris Grinblats as chairman, BNS reported the next day. Grinblats
stressed that the TB should remain in the government coalition in order to
ensure at least partial implementation of its program. The congress affirmed
plans to cooperate more closely with other rightist parties such as the Latvian
National Conservative Party and Christian Democrats Union to form a unitary
national conservative union for the next parliament elections. Prime Minister
Andris Skele thanked the five TB ministers for their work in his government,
but criticized the TB deputies who had opposed amendments to the land ownership
and local elections laws. -- Saulius Girnius
LITHUANIAN PREMIER SATISFIED WITH HIS TENURE.
Outgoing Premier Mindaugas
Stankevicius said on 9 December that the new Lithuanian government will find a
better situation than the one he faced when he assumed office last March, Radio
Lithuania reported. He expressed particular satisfaction that the 1996 rate of
inflation will not be 25% as he had foreseen but only 14%, and that the
country's GDP growth will accelerate from 3% in 1995 to 4% in 1996. He called
the 1996 budget unrealistic due to various tax exemptions causing a 300 million
litai ($75 million) budget deficit. He also confirmed that he will probably
give up his Seimas seat that he had won as the second person on the Lithuanian
Democratic Labor Party list. -- Saulius Girnius
MEDIA POPULARITY IN POLAND.
Polish Public TV's Channel 1 is the most
popular channel in Poland with 81.5% of viewers, private Polsat is second with
68.4% of viewers, and Public TV Channel 2 third with 64.4%, according to a
survey by the Estymator Institute, as reported by Rzeczpospolita on 10
December. Polish Radio 1 is the most popular radio program -- with 31.5% of
listeners. Gazeta Wyborcza leads among the dailies with 14% of the
readership, although its market share is diminishing, Warsaw Super
Express is second with 10%, Rzeczpospolita third with 5%. Pani
Domu (The Lady of the House) is the most popular weekly with 14%,
Poradnik Domowy (House Advisor) leads among monthlies with nearly 14%,
Claudia is next with 12%. The survey was conducted from September to
November on a representative sample of 5,842 Poles aged from 15 to 80 years. --
CZECH-GERMAN DECLARATION PUBLISHED.
Czech and German media published the
text of the long awaited Czech-German declaration on 9 December. Czech Foreign
Minister Josef Zieleniec admitted that the published text is basically
identical to the one that was to be officially released in the second half of
December. In the declaration, both sides express regrets over past mutual
injustices. The Czech Republic regrets "injustices that were caused by post-war
expulsions and forced resettlement of Sudeten Germans." Some three million
Sudeten Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II. Both
sides agree to set up a common fund to finance projects of "common interest,"
and that they will not "burden their relations with political and legal
questions arising from the past." Representatives of Sudeten Germans have
already criticized the declaration as bypassing their interests. Official
regrets over the expulsion are certain to galvanize Czech radicals into action
. -- Jiri Pehe
SLOVAK JUDGES ASSOCIATION EXPRESSES CONCERN.
The Association of Slovak
Judges expressed concern about anonymous letters addressed to Milan Cic, the
Chair of the Slovak Constitutional Court, press agencies reported on 9
December. The association considers the death threats to Cic an attack against
the court as a whole and a means of political intimidation. -- Anna Siskova
SLOVAKS THINK GOVERNMENT IS NOT LEADING
COUNTRY TOWARD NATO.
According to the latest Focus agency poll, about
54% of Slovaks believe that the government's current policies are not conducive
to membership in European structures, CTK reported on 9 November. About 26% of
those polled thought the contrary and 19.8% did not know. People with higher
education were more critical of the government. Those who were convinced that
the current government is steering Slovakia toward the EU and NATO with its
policies are mainly supporters of Premier Vladimir Meciar's Movement for
Democratic Slovakia. -- Anna Siskova
NEW HUNGARIAN WELFARE MINISTER NOMINATED.
Prime Minister Gyula Horn on 9
December nominated Mihaly Kokeny to be welfare minister, Hungarian media
reported. Kokeny's predecessor, Gyorgy Szabo, resigned in November saying that
funds allocated in the draft 1997 budget fell 11 billion forints ($67 million)
short of what was needed to maintain the country's ailing health service.
Kokeny, a high-ranking welfare ministry official, said he would accept the
current 1997 health spending plans and expressed hope that the long overdue act
on health care and social insurance will soon be passed. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
SERBIAN OPPOSITION VOWS BOYCOTT.
Zoran Djindjic, head of the Democratic
Party (DS) and one of the leaders of the opposition Zajedno coalition, told
Radio B92 on 9 December that Zajedno will boycott the opening session of the
federal parliament, slated for today. This is the latest opposition move to
pressure the regime of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to recognize the
opposition victories in the 17 November runoff municipal elections. For his
part, Djindjic did not rule out the possibility of negotiating an end to the
mass political protests, but added that Milosevic would have to acknowledge the
opposition victories as a precondition to any talks. -- Stan Markotich
DEMONSTRATIONS CONTINUE IN SERBIA.
In the streets of Serbia's major
urban centers, mass demonstrations against Milosevic and demands for a
recognition of opposition victories in municipal balloting continue unabated.
Rallies in Belgrade are entering a fourth week. On 9 December, demonstrators in
the capital also vented against the arrests and beatings of peaceful
protesters. Dejan Bulatovic, a student demonstrator aged 21, who on 6 December
carried an effigy of Milosevic dressed in a prison uniform, was reportedly
beaten and tortured following his arrest. He has been unable to see a lawyer.
Meanwhile, international reports also note that industrial workers, known for
their opposition to Milosevic, have not formally sided with the opposition in
great numbers. -- Stan Markotich
BRCKO ARBITRATION POSTPONED.
Internationally mediated binding
arbitration to decide the fate of the strategic north Bosnian town of Brcko,
scheduled for 14 December, has been postponed for two months. Carl Bildt's
office announced on 9 December that the Serb side had requested the delay and
that the Muslims agreed to it, Oslobodjenje noted, but the exact
circumstances remain unclear. Brcko lies astride the narrow supply corridor
linking the eastern and western parts of the Republika Srpska, and the future
of this area was the only territorial issue not settled in the Dayton agreement
just over a year ago. On 1 December the Serbs announced they were leaving the
talks because the American mediator had made decisions without consulting them.
The following day the U.S. State Department said that the talks will go ahead
with or without the Serbs. -- Patrick Moore
NEW EVICTIONS OF MUSLIMS IN MOSTAR.
The latest in more than 70 evictions
of Serbs and Muslims from the Croat-held part of Mostar was carried out on 9
December, only hours after NATO warned Bosnian Croat army units to stop them,
AFP reported. After a victim recognized one of the assailants as a member of
the Second HVO (Croatian Defense Council) Brigade, that particular unit of the
Bosnian Croat army admitted carrying out evictions of Muslims from western
Mostar, AFP reported on 6 December. On 9 December, the NATO-led Implementation
Force warned the HVO of "unspecified military consequences" if its soldiers are
found continuing evictions. -- Daria Sito Sucic
BOSNIAN MUSLIM RULING PARTY NAMES CANDIDATES FOR COUNCIL OF MINISTERS.
The Party of Democratic Action (SDA) on 9 December nominated three candidates
for posts in the Council of Ministers, the newly-formed power-sharing central
government, Oslobodjenje reported the next day. Former Premier Haris
Silajdzic of the Party for Bosnia-Herzegovina has been nominated as co-chairman
of the Council. Bosnia's Serb entity is supposed to name the other co-chair.
The SDA also nominated Hasan Muratovic, the outgoing republican premier, as
minister of foreign trade and economic relations, and Husein Zivalj as deputy
foreign minister. Bosnian Croat leaders should appoint the minister for foreign
affairs and the Serbs should name the minister for civil affairs and
communications. -- Daria Sito Sucic
CLEAR RESPONSE TO CROATIA'S TUDJMAN.
There have been extensive reactions
at home and abroad to President Franjo Tudjman's 7 December speech in which he
blasted a host of "enemies of Croatia" ranging from the weekly Feral
Tribune to George Soros to the BBC (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9
December 1996). Novi List on 10 December carried many comments likening
Tudjman to a bad communist propagandist who seeks power at all costs. The
speech had been intended to unite Tudjman's governing Croatian Democratic
Community (HDZ) behind him, but some critics charge that it will only undermine
the HDZ itself. Soros, for his part, told the Feral Tribune that his
"Open Society only supports the development of a democratic society in Croatia.
We help education, publishing, media, art, culture, health, legal and economic
reforms. Does that make me a bad guy?" -- Patrick Moore
ILLNESS OF ETHNIC ALBANIAN CHILDREN IN MACEDONIA CAUSED BY STRESS?
Health Organization (WHO) officials said on 6 December that a mysterious
illness that afflicted more than 1,000 ethnic Albanian children in Macedonia's
Tetovo district was probably caused by psychological factors, RFE/RL and
international media reported. The schoolchildren, aged 11-17, complained of
abdominal pains, headaches, and breathing difficulties in late September and
early October. Most of them were hospitalized for 2-3 days before recovering.
Some ethnic Albanians claimed the children had been poisoned by ethnic
Macedonians. The WHO said the evidence collected by an WHO team during a
three-week trip to Macedonia suggested the illness was not caused by poisoning,
infection, or environmental pollution but by "psychologically induced events
linked to stress and anxiety." The team indicated tensions between ethnic
groups and school conditions as the main factors. -- Stefan Krause
NEW ROMANIAN CABINET ANNOUNCED.
Designated Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea
announced his proposed cabinet and its governing program on 9 December,
Romanian media reported. The new government comprises 27 ministers and state
secretaries, all but one representing the three parties that form the governing
coalition. The minister of Labor and Social Protection, Alexandru Athanasiu, is
an independent. Most cabinet posts (18) went to the Democratic Convention of
Romania, including three out of the four highest level ministerial posts:
finance, reform and industry and trade. The Social Democratic Union holds 6
posts, including foreign affairs, while the Hungarian Democratic Federation of
Romania has the Ministry of Tourism and the Office for National Minorities.
Parliamentary committee hearings of cabinet members should start today. --
POLITICAL REALIGNMENT IN MOLDOVA.
Political blocs were set up on 7
December in support of President-elect Petru Lucinschi and outgoing President
Mircea Snegur, respectively, BASA-press reported on 9 December. The
pro-Lucinschi social and political movement "For a Democratic and Prosperous
Moldova" includes the Party of Social Progress, the Social Democratic Party,
the Party of Economic Rebirth, the Socialist Action Party, and a series of
youth and students' organizations. Parties that had joined the Pro-Snegur Civic
Movement during the electoral campaign launched the idea of forming a permanent
umbrella organization under the name of Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM).
No deadline was set for the formation of the CDM, which was described as an
"expression of the united opposition." Meanwhile, the Central Electoral
Commission released the official results of the 1 December presidential runoff.
Lucinschi beat Snegur by 54.02% to 45.98%. -- Dan Ionescu
BULGARIA APPROACHING HYPERINFLATION?
Prime Minister Zhan Videnov
announced on 9 December that his government and the Bulgarian National Bank
(BNB) can fend off hyperinflation for three more weeks, Pari and
Standart reported. According to Videnov, BNB cannot intervene in the
financial market anymore, since it needs to preserve its foreign currency
reserves when the envisaged currency board is introduced. The same day, the
U.S. dollar was trading for 560-600 leva, 90 more than the previous day. The
dollar should trade for no more than 300-350 leva once the currency board is in
place, Videnov commented. Many Bulgarians have stopped driving their cars,
since they can't afford the steadily rising fuel, tax, and insurance costs. The
leva's all-time low also prompted many shop-owners to close their shops to
recalculate prices. -- Maria Koinova
BULGARIAN MAIN OPPOSITION GROUP POSTPONES KEY DECISIONS.
The 9 December
extraordinary meeting of the National Coordinating Council of the Union of
Democratic Forces (SDS) failed to resolve any of the issues that topped the
agenda of the biggest opposition force over the past weeks, Pari
reported. The meeting took no decision on the controversial idea to transform
the SDS from an alliance of 15 political parties and movements into a single
party. It also took no decision on the date of the next National Conference,
which should decide on the proposed merger. The council meeting also failed to
decide whether the SDS will ask for a vote of no confidence for Zhan Videnov's
government. -- Stefan Krause
ALBANIA AND ITALY AGREE TO FIGHT ORGANIZED CRIME.
Minister Giorgio Napolitano and his Albanian counterpart Halit Shamata signed a
police cooperation agreement on 9 November in Tirana. The agreement provides
for joint efforts in fighting organized crime, such as drug trafficking and
illegal immigration, Reuters reported. Italy will provide more technical
assistance to the Albanian police. Napolitano said Italy was ready to cooperate
more on legal immigration of Albanians, adding that "Italy does not have a
closed-door policy." Napolitano further pointed out that "Albanians may come
legally ... but not in an unlimited number and not in an uncontrolled manner."
Hundreds of immigrants enter Italy illegally each year from Albania . The
Italian government sent troops last year to Puglia to stop the influx of
illegal immigrants. Napolitano also met with President Sali Berisha and Prime
Minister Alexander Meksi. -- Fabian Schmidt
ALBANIA AND MONTENEGRO REOPEN RAILWAY LINE.
Albania and Montenegro have
restored their rail link, severed in 1992 following the international embargo
on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, international agencies reported. The
line between Shkoder and Podgorica is Albania's only rail link with the
international railway network. Albania had blamed Montenegro for delaying the
reopening after the end of international sanctions in early 1996. The line was
opened in August 1986 but can be used only for the transport of goods, because
Albania has not joined the European Association of Railway Passenger Transport.
In other news, Albania was reinstated into FIFA on 3 December. -- Fabian