MORE TOUGH RHETORIC ON EVE OF SUMMIT ...
Speaking in Helsinki, where
President Yeltsin meets with his American counterpart Bill Clinton on 20-21
March, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii underlined Moscow's
continuing rejection of NATO expansion, which he termed "the West's biggest
strategic mistake since the end of the Cold War," international agencies
reported on 19 March. Yastrzhembskii said Yeltsin remains convinced that there
are not "any concrete reasons" which justify expanding NATO eastwards. He
argued that the dispute over NATO expansion has already undermined Russian
relations with the West, and said the summit was more likely to produce
"gradual progress" on NATO and other issues than any major agreements. -- Scott
... YELTSIN WARY OF TRADE OFF BETWEEN AID AND NATO EXPANSION.
would like the summit to feature new bilateral economic cooperation agreements,
which would demonstrate that despite the dispute over NATO enlargement, the
U.S. is not seeking to isolate Russia, Reuters reported on 19 March. But Moscow
is wary of agreements that might look like a "payoff" in return for
acquiescence on NATO expansion. A senior U.S. official told the agency that
Washington is prepared to offer "several billion dollars" of additional
investment financing to Russia through the Export-Import Bank and OPIC. Raf
Sharikov, the editor of Kommersant-Daily, said that at a recent meeting
with journalists, Yeltsin reported that Clinton had offered him a $4 billion
investment assistance package. Yeltsin said he declined the offer, stressing
that he did not want economic talks to undermine negotiations over NATO
enlargement. -- Scott Parrish
YELTSIN DECREES CHANGES IN DEFENSE MINISTRY LEADERSHIP.
Yeltsin has issued a decree abolishing one of five deputy minister of defense
positions, but creating two more, including a new first deputy ministerial
post, NTV reported on 19 March. The position of deputy defense minister in
charge of the Main Military Inspectorate has been abolished, since those
functions are being transferred to the new State Military Inspectorate, which
is an independent department of the presidential administration (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 5 November 1996). Anonymous Defense Ministry sources told the
network that the new first deputy minister position is likely to be filled by
Col.-Gen. Viktor Chechevatov, currently commander of the Far Eastern Military
District, who is widely viewed as a potential successor to Defense Minister
Igor Rodionov. -- Scott Parrish
DUMA WANTS MORE ACCESS TO STATE TV.
The State Duma on 20 April passed a
resolution asking the Federal Television and Radio Broadcasting Service to
change the licensing procedures for Russian TV (Channel 2), requiring it to
broadcast dispatches from the legislature's company three times a week (for a
total of 105 minutes) during prime time, ITAR-TASS reported. The vote passed
with a tally of 293-5, and one abstention. The government's Department of
Information and Culture, however, said that the resolution could not be
implemented because it violates existing legislation. In particular, the Duma's
press service can participate in the development of material for broadcast, but
not actually serve as the broadcaster, the executive branch noted. -- Robert
RUSSIA CANCELS PRODUCTION OF ADVANCED FIGHTER.
Anonymous sources in the
former Ministry of Defense Industry told ITAR-TASS on 19 March that since the
Russian Air Force cannot afford to buy new planes, the MAPO aircraft company
would not put the advanced Multi-Functional Fighter (MFI) into serial
production. A prototype of the plane (known as Project 1.42 in the West) has
undergone ground tests but not yet flown and is reported to incorporate
advances in "thrust vectoring," which would make it highly maneuverable. While
research on the MFI project will continue, MAPO will concentrate its production
resources on the MiG-35, an improved derivative of the MiG-29M fighter, which
is targeted at the export market in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. In
1996, the cash-strapped Russian military did not purchase a single new combat
aircraft. -- Scott Parrish
MASKHADOV UNVEILS NEW GOVERNMENT ...
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov
formally appointed several members to his new government on 19 March, Russian
and Western agencies reported. Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev and the head
of the Yunko state oil company, Khodzh-Ahmed Yarikhanov, remain in their posts,
as do two members of the previous government appointed by pro-Moscow former
President Doku Zavgaev. Maskhadov offered unspecified government posts to two
close allies of his defeated rival in the presidential election, field
commander Shamil Basaev. Isa Astamirov was named minister for the economy, and
Akhmed Zakaev, Maskhadov's national security advisor, will simultaneously serve
as minister of culture. -- Liz Fuller
... AND ISSUES DECREE RESTRUCTURING MILITARY.
On the same day,
Maskhadov issued a decree ordering the creation of a national guard, the
structure and size of which remains unclear, ITAR-TASS reported. The guard will
be partly made up of young Chechen fighters who formerly served in the field
commanders' units that are to be disarmed and dissolved by early April.
ITAR-TASS quoted a member of the Chechen general staff as confirming that
Chechnya plans to maintain a standing army of 2,000 men, including special task
battalions, an armored division, air defense units and a rapid reaction force.
On 18 March Radio Rossii quoted the commander of Russia's Interior Ministry
troops, Col.-Gen. Anatolii Shkirko, as stating that Maskhadov's decree on the
creation of Chechen regular armed forces violates the Russian constitution. --
DUMA MOVES TO LIMIT CITY NAME CHANGES ...
The parliament's lower house
on 19 March passed a draft law restricting the freedom of local authorities to
rename cities, ITAR-TASS reported. The bill states that name changes must be
approved by the federal authorities, who must take into account public opinion,
and sets out a series of procedures in the renaming process. The move comes two
months after Chechnya's outgoing government renamed Grozny, its capital,
Dzhokhar-Gala in honor of late Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. -- Penny
... CONSIDERS SOCIAL LEGISLATION.
Also on 19 March, the Duma passed on
second reading a draft law on the subsistence minimum, ITAR-TASS reported. The
bill defines how the subsistence minimum should be calculated and amended and
provides for its use in the formulation of regional social programs to assist
those on low incomes. The deputies also overcame a Federation Council veto on a
draft law setting the basic cost of a minimum consumer basket in 1990. The
figure will be used in the calculation of compensation to Russians whose
savings were devalued as a result of the economic reforms launched in
1991-1992. The Duma draft put the cost of the basket in 1990 prices at 444
rubles, whereas the government argues that it should be 524 rubles. -- Penny
LAW ON PRODUCTION SHARING BLOCKED AGAIN.
On 19 March, at the initiative
of the Liberal Democratic Party, the State Duma voted 234-127 to postpone a
planned discussion of the production sharing law, Russian TV (RTR) reported.
The law itself was passed in 1995, but in May 1996 the Duma blocked approval of
the government's list of approved deposits, without which the law cannot go
into effect. The recent government shuffle, leaving Chernomyrdin as prime
minister and Petr Rodionov as fuel and energy minister, does not suggest any
radical initiatives from the government will be forthcoming to break the
deadlock over energy policy. Energy output continues to fall due to a lack of
investment. In the first two months of 1997 oil output fell 2%, gas 1%, coal
4%, and electricity 4%, compared to the same period last year, ITAR-TASS
reported on 15 March. -- Peter Rutland
SUPREME COURT REJECTS HIGH-SPEED TRAIN CASE.
The Russian Federation
Supreme Court resolved on 19 March not to consider a lawsuit aimed at halting
the construction of a high-speed railway line between Moscow and St.
Petersburg, declaring that the case is outside its jurisdiction, ITAR-TASS
reported. The suit was filed on 27 February by Duma Environmental Committee
Chairwoman Tamara Zlotnikova, who has also threatened to appeal to the
Constitutional Court. Zlotnikova argues that the project, which would require
railway tracks to be laid through a national park, violates several laws and
would damage the environment. She has also questioned its estimated cost (75
trillion rubles), arguing that it would cost considerably more to implement. --
TAX SERVICE THREATENS BANKRUPTCY ...
On 19 March the State Tax Service
threatened bankruptcy proceedings against 90 firms whose tax debts total 35
trillion rubles ($6.1 billion), AFP reported. The list is headed by auto plant
AvtoVAZ, which owes 2 trillion rubles, and six oil and gas firms each owing
more than 1 trillion rubles. Although the new government has promised to crack
down on tax deadbeats, similar threats were made last fall (and the fall before
that), but not implemented. -- Peter Rutland
... BUT FACES UPHILL STRUGGLE.
Bankruptcy proceedings rarely produce
positive results in Russia. Complete closure of large firms is not an option
for political reasons, and bankrupt companies that continue operating
skillfully hide their revenues from the authorities. The State Tax Service
estimates that only 20-30% of payments to energy suppliers go into the firm's
main account, the rest being hidden, Radio Rossii reported on 18 March. Thus,
for example, the Chelyabinsk Metal Plant owes 90 billion rubles to the oblast
pension fund, and a local arbitration court ordered the "arrest" of its assets
on 18 March. Tax inspectors seized finished steel, while managers complained
that the steel had already been paid for by a foreign buyer -- which makes one
wonder where the money went. The West Siberian railway has filed for bankruptcy
against the giant West Siberian and Kuznetsk steel mills in Kemerovo Oblast for
unpaid bills, Izvestiya reported on 19 March. The court is considering
forcing the plants to issue new shares to cover their debts, but the newspaper
asked "what idiot would buy them?" -- Peter Rutland
PYRAMID SCHEME DOCUMENTS GIVEN TO GENERAL PROCURATOR.
Securities Commission (FKTsB) has passed documentation on the activities of 984
financial companies operating without licenses to the Interior Ministry and the
General Procurator's Office, Segodnya and Izvestiya reported on
19-20 March. Among these companies are the infamous financial pyramids MMM and
Vlastilina. FKTsB and the federal fund for defending shareholders' rights have
also decided to pay compensation to World War II invalids who lost their
savings in such pyramid schemes. The fund, which gets 2% of privatization
revenue, now has 10 billion rubles ($1.75 million) at its disposal. FKTsB head
Dmitrii Vasilev said that the commission made its decision in reponse to the
recent events in Albania. -- Natalia Gurushina
CENTRAL BANK'S GOLD RESERVES INCREASE.
The Central Bank (TsB) has
accumulated 390 metric tons of gold reserves, or 90% of all gold reserves in
Russia, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 19 March, citing TsB First Deputy
Chairman Sergei Aleksashenko. In 1996, TsB's gold reserves went up by 90 metric
tons. Aleksashenko said that the bank aims at increasing reserves by some 25% a
year in 1997 and 1998. Experts consider Aleksashenko's statement as a major
policy change for Russia, which was selling gold over the last few years in
order to finance economic reforms and bring down inflation. Russia's gold
output declined from 133 metric tons in 1994 to 101 metric tons last year. --
NAGORNO-KARABAKH LEADER TO BE APPOINTED ARMENIA'S NEW PRIME MINISTER?
RFE/RL on 19 March quoted deputies of the Armenian parliament as claiming that
President Levon Ter-Petrossyan is considering appointing the president of the
self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Robert Kocharyan, as Armenia's
new prime minister. Observers note that Kocharyan is currently in Yerevan,
holding consultations with senior Armenian officials. Kocharyan, 42, was named
president by the Nagorno-Karabakh parliament in late 1994 and was reelected to
that post by popular vote in November 1996 elections that were condemned by the
international community. Among other candidates to replace Prime Minister Armen
Sarkisyan, who resigned on 6 March because of poor health, is controversial
Yerevan Mayor and former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghyan. Earlier,
Siradeghyan, who is considered by the opposition as one of the main organizers
of the alleged 22 September election rigging, told RFE/RL that he will accept
the post if offered. -- Emil Danielyan
SADVAL, OPON MEMBERS SENTENCED IN BAKU.
On 18 March, Azerbaijan's
Supreme Court handed down sentences of between two and 15 years imprisonment on
seven members of the Lezgin separatist organization Sadval on charges of
treason, premeditated murder, and the violation of national equality,
Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 20 March. On 19 March, eleven former
members of the OPON special police were sentenced to terms of between five and
13 years for their part in the so-called "coup attempt" by Rovshan Djavadov in
March 1995, Western agencies reported. -- Liz Fuller
TURKISH PARLIAMENT SPEAKER IN AZERBAIJAN.
On 19 March, the first day of
a two-day visit to Azerbaijan, Turkish parliament speaker Mustafa Kalemli met
with his Azerbaijani counterpart Murtuz Alesqerov, who expressed the hope that
Turkey would participate actively in the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil to
the West, Turan reported. Addressing Azerbaijan's Milli Mejlis, Kalemli
reiterated that Turkey will not endorse any solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict that does not ensure Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, according to
ITAR-TASS. In an implicit warning to Moscow to cease its support for exile
Kurdish groups with links to the PKK, Kalemli also stressed Turkey's readiness
to develop partnership relations with all neighboring countries, especially
Russia, on the basis of mutual respect and non-interference in each other's
internal affairs. -- Liz Fuller
UIGHUR PROTEST AT CHINESE EMBASSY IN KAZAKSTAN.
A group of some 30
ethnic Uighurs held what was described as a "noisy protest" outside the Chinese
embassy in Almaty on 19 March, Reuters reported. The demonstration came in
response to reports by the United National Revolutionary Front of Eastern
Turkestan (the Uighur independence movement) about the planned execution of two
Uighur students in China. The students are charged with rioting in China's
western Xinjiang province in February. The Uighurs in Kazakstan claim that
hundreds of Uighurs were killed in the rioting. China says the figure was 10
killed and 100 wounded. Protesters outside the Chinese Embassy in Almaty
shouted "East Turkestan" and "Allah Akbar" (God is Great) while staff inside
the embassy videotaped them. -- Bruce Pannier
BELARUSIAN SOROS FOUNDATION FACES AUDIT.
The Belarusian Security Council
set up a commission to audit the Belarusian branch of the Soros Foundation, AFP
reported on 19 March. The commission was created days after the director of the
branch, Peter Byrne, was barred from re-entering the country because of alleged
ties with the opposition. The audit commission is made up of members of the
Security Council, the State Control Committee, and the Fiscal Committee. The
commission demanded that the foundation hand over various documents. -- Ustina
LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO EXPANSION.
speaking at a meeting with North Atlantic Council representatives in Brussels
on 19 March, said that at least one of the three Baltic countries should be
included in the first wave of NATO's enlargement, BNS reported. "Such a step
would ensure that the destiny of the three Baltic states is not hostage to Cold
War stereotypes," Saudargas said. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have all
applied for NATO membership. -- Jiri Pehe
FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN ESTONIA TO CONTINUE.
The director general of the
Estonian Foreign Investments Agency, Juri Sakkeus, said the volume of foreign
investment should not decline in the next two years, ETA reported on 19 March.
Sakkeus noted that the possible investment of $250 million in the Estonian
Energy Co. by the U.S. company NRG Energy would be comparable to a normal
annual investments volume. Finland and Sweden, with 35% and 24% shares,
respectively, are the leading investing countries, followed by Russia and the
U.S. From 1992 to the third quarter of 1996, foreign investment totaled 9.3
billion kroons ($775 million). Investment has gone primarily to the processing
industry (44.5%), retail and wholesale trade (26%), and transport and
communications (16%). -- Saulius Girnius
POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO: 'NO PHONY ARGUMENTS.'
spoke on 19 March in Britain with his counterpart Malcolm Rifkind about NATO
and EU enlargement. Rosati said NATO enlargement should not be delayed because
of pressures from Russia. He asked the West not to accept "phony arguments"
from Russia against NATO enlargement. Rosati said Poland has been satisfied so
far with progress on NATO enlargement but is concerned that "wrong decisions"
could be made at the U.S.-Russian presidential summit in Helsinki that starts
on 20 March. Poland opposes the barring from NATO membership of countries that
were once part of the USSR, as that would imply that the West recognizes
Russia's right to a sphere of influence, which is against the right of states
to determine their own foreign policy, Rosati said. -- Jakub Karpinski
POLISH SHIPYARD PROTEST INTENSIFIES.
Police on 19 March forcefully
removed some 70 Gdansk shipyard workers occupying the Treasury Ministry
building in a protest against the shipyard's closure, Polish and international
media reported. Workers' leader Adam Giera was transported unconscious to the
hospital. Shipyard workers occupying the Economy Ministry and Labor Ministry
buildings left without confrontation. Solidarity trade union leader Marian
Krzaklewski said the police action is a "physical attack" on the union that
calls for "extreme measures," including a general strike. Prime Minister
Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said he will not allow a violation of the law to go
unpunished. Before it went bankrupt, the shipyard employed 5,000 people. --
CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER ON NATO REFERENDUM.
Czech Parliament Speaker and
Social Democratic Party (CSSD) Chairman Milos Zeman, in Warsaw on an official
three-day visit, said on 19 March that a referendum on NATO membership in the
Czech Republic would not result in rejection of membership. The CSSD favors a
referendum on NATO membership. Opinion polls indicate that only one-third of
Czechs are in favor of membership, one-third do not know, and one-third are
against. "I am a fierce supporter of [Czech] entry into the two organizations
[NATO and the EU], but I still support the referendum," said Zeman. He noted
that about 160 deputies in the 200-member Chamber of Deputies back Czech entry
into NATO and the EU. Zeman is heading a Czech parliamentary delegation to
Poland. -- Jiri Pehe
SLOVAK POLITICAL ROUNDUP.
The cabinet on 18 March expressed support for
Culture Minister Ivan Hudec and Interior Minister Gustav Krajci, Slovak media
reported two days later. Claiming that there have been no limitations on
artistic and cultural freedom, the cabinet said that Hudec "consulted all
cultural institutions" concerning the transformation process. The cabinet also
said that police intervention to remove opposition deputies and actors from the
Culture Ministry on 10 May was lawful. At the insistence of the opposition
parties, a parliamentary no-confidence vote in the two ministers will take
place later this month. Meanwhile, Education Minister Eva Slavkovska dimsissed
student protests and said they should address the situation in education rather
than in culture. She also asked where the student strike committee gets the
money to finance its campaign. -- Sharon Fisher
SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER IN FRANCE.
Vladimir Meciar started his first
official visit to France (his first to a Western European country since 1994)
on 19 March, CTK and TASR reported. Meciar appealed to French businessmen for
greater investment, emphasizing the development of the Slovak economy and
highlighting the cheap, skilled work force. Slovak officials signed several
protocols for joint ventures with French companies. -- Anna Siskova
HUNGARIAN PREMIER ON EU, NATO.
Gyula Horn on 19 March said that
enlargement of the EU and NATO is impossible without Hungary's participation,
international media reported. He said a nationwide referendum on joining NATO
should be held in the first half of 1999, after the general elections next
year. Horn also called for a "treaty-based relationship" between NATO and
Russia and "special partnership ties" between NATO and nations that will not be
invited to join in the first round. On other matters, Horn noted that while
Hungary's bilateral relations with Romania have markedly improved, those with
Slovakia are stagnating. Horn referred to Slovakia's domestic political
problems and the ongoing trial over a hydroelectric dam on the Danube at the
International Court of Justice in The Hague. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
ITALY DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY OVER ALBANIAN REFUGEES.
a nationwide state of emergency on 19 March to deal with the refugee influx
from Albania, AFP reported. In Puglia refugee centers, convents, and churches
are overflowing with more than 10,000 Albanians. The authorities have begun
sending the refugees to other areas, in the north and center of Italy. The
emergency measures, approved by a special cabinet session, will see the
government diverting 61 billion lire ($38 million) to help cope with the
influx, while limiting residence permits to 60 days. Italy also repatriated
some 300 Albanians regarded as "dangerous," most of whom escaped from jail last
week. Albanian Prime Minister Bashkim Fino has asked Italy to delay
repatriations until Albania has restored its prisons, Germany's ARD TV
reported. -- Fabian Schmidt
ITALY CONSIDERS SENDING TROOPS TO ALBANIA.
Foreign Minister Lamberto
Dini implied after talks with his Albanian counterpart Arian Starova that Italy
may send troops to Albania, saying there is "an urgent need of humanitarian aid
... accompanied by a security force," AFP reported. Dini said "Italy would
prefer to act as part of the EU. But we are obviously ready to respond to
specific requests in a case of real emergency." AFP quoted "an informed source
in Brindisi" as saying that up to 1,000 Italian troops could be sent to Durres
to ensure aid is safely distributed. A troop ship with some 300 marines
and armored vehicles on board left Brindisi overnight. A helicopter carrier was
also ready to leave Brindisi. -- Fabian Schmidt
EU: ALBANIA MUST ESTABLISH SECURITY BEFORE RECEIVING AID.
leader Jan d'Ansembourg, however, said Albania "has to solve its own problems
before we can help." French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette said there is
"no question of Europeans intervening with troops to recover arms" from
anti-government insurgents. Meanwhile, 15 people, four of them children, were
killed on 19 March. Two of the children were killed by siblings playing with
guns. The commander of the rebel-held south, Xhevat Kociu, withdrew an
ultimatum to President Sali Berisha to resign and said that the 12
rebel-controlled districts will meet on 21 March to chart their next moves.
Prime Minister Bashkim Fino, meanwhile, canceled his planned visit to the south
after the vigilante group Committee of National Salvation, which supports
Berisha, threatened violence against the insurgents and people who negotiate
with them. -- Fabian Schmidt
U.S. COMMANDER URGES $2 BILLION FOR BOSNIA FORCE.
Gen. George Joulwan,
the commander of U.S. forces in Europe, said on 18 March that the fighting
readiness of U.S. troops in Bosnia will suffer if Congress does not quickly
approve $2 billion for peacekeeping in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Reuters reported.
Joulwan was referring to the increasingly important role of the 100,000 U.S.
troops in the region in providing rescue and other services, such as the recent
evacuation of hundreds of Americans and other foreigners from Albania. Joulwan
said the U.S. can be proud of having few casualties in Bosnia but it also
should anticipate the costs of that operation and its effects on readiness to
deploy forces elsewhere if needed. -- Daria Sito Sucic
POLL: CROATIA'S RULING PARTY WILL LOSE IN ELECTIONS.
Democratic Community (HDZ) is set to lose its majority in the upper house of
parliament and its control of a number of regional councils in the 13 April
local elections, according to a poll published in the independent weekly
Nacional, AFP reported on 19 March. However, Croatian President Franjo
Tudjman remained the most popular presidential candidate, the poll showed.
Tudjman had the support of 43.1% of respondents, followed by Zdravko Tomac of
the Social-Democratic Party with 10.4%, and Vlado Gotovac of the Croatian
Social Liberal Party with 9.3%. The HDZ would win 26 seats in the 68-seat upper
house--down from the current 38. Support for the opposition was strong in the
capital of Zagreb; in major Dalmatian towns such as Split, Zadar, and Rijeka;
and in the industrial town of Karlovac. The HDZ was strong outside of Zagreb
and in the former war zones. -- Daria Sito Sucic
BELGRADE UNIVERSITY RECTOR IS OUT.
Dragutin Velickovic has resigned his
post at Serbia's leading university, school officials confirmed on 19 March.
The announcement led to celebrations among students, who plan a bigger
demonstration on 20 March, international news agencies reported. The students
have staged protests for 118 days demanding the ouster of Velickovic, who is
regarded as a stooge of President Slobodan Milosevic and antagonistic toward
the students. The student protests ran parallel to those of the political
opposition. The interim rector is Dragan Kuburovic, who was Velickovic's
deputy. A new chief administrator will be named on 1 October. Nasa Borba
reported on 20 March that the Belgrade University Council held a "stormy
meeting" the previous night. -- Patrick Moore
U.S. BLASTS NEW SERBIAN MEDIA LAW.
State Department spokesman Nicholas
Burns said on 19 March that "instead of passing a new restrictive media law,
the Serbian government should encourage independent private media and ensure
independent non-partisan management of the state-owned media." He was
responding to a recent draft proposal by the authorities to greatly limit
private ownership of radio and television. Control of television in particular
has been central in enabling President Slobodan Milosevic to maintain his hold
on power. His near monopoly has, however, been threatened by the victories of
the political opposition in 14 municipalities and by the defection to the
opposition of the privately owned BK television station. Milosevic's new
information minister, Serbian-American Radmila Milentijevic, has been trying to
tighten control over the media. -- Patrick Moore
ZAJEDNO CALLS FOR FORWARD-LOOKING APPROACH IN KOSOVO.
Zajedno coalition's Kosovo branch said that any political dialogue must be
based on a discussion of developments only since 1974, when Kosovo obtained the
wide-ranging autonomy that Milosevic subsequently abolished. The Zajedno group
likewise warned both the Albanians and the Serbs against belaboring alleged
historical injustices prior to 1974, Nasa Borba wrote on 19 March.
Dealing with conflicts throughout the Balkans is especially difficult because
of a tendency in the region to dwell upon real or imagined grievances from the
past rather than looking toward the future. -- Patrick Moore
GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER IN MACEDONIA.
Theodoros Pangalos on 19 March
visited Macedonia, the first visit by a Greek cabinet member since Macedonian
independence in 1991, Nova Makedonija reported. Pangalos said little
about the dispute over Macedonia's name. He noted: "There is a threat of a
spreading of the [Albanian] crisis and all efforts are being made to prevent a
refugee exodus," and he urged Macedonia to cooperate with Greece in containing
the crisis. Pangalos said that Greece had proposed that the EU increase its
assistance to Balkan economies. Meanwhile, students holding a hunger strike in
Skopje since 3 March to protest a law allowing teaching in Albanian decided on
19 March to halt that strike but to continue protesting. Finally, President
Kiro Gligorov addressed parliament on 18 March, criticizing nationalist
Macedonian and ethnic Albanian politicians for heightening interethnic tension.
-- Michael Wyzan
ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BONN.
After Adrian Severin on 19 March met
with his German counterpart Klaus Kinkel, a German press release said Bonn will
make no commitment to support Romania's integration into NATO before the July
summit in Madrid, Romania libera reported. As for the EU, the
German communique said: "Candidates for entry have to satisfy certain
requirements, which demand extensive adjustments." The Romanian effort to win
Bonn's support was behind an invitation by Public Information Minister Radu
Boroianu to members of the German minority who left Romania, Reuters reported.
Boroianu said earlier this week that "repatriation would involve the right to
housing and jobs" and condemned "the criminal cash sale" of ethnic Germans by
Romania's ousted communists. -- Michael Shafir
FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WRITES AGAIN TO CURRENT PRESIDENT.
Iliescu, leader of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), in the
second letter this week to Emil Constantinescu, rejected the accusation that
his party is "obstructing" urgently needed legislation by boycotting
parliament. The letter, carried in the daily Jurnalul national on 20
March, said the PDSR will not obstruct the passing of the budget law. Reacting
to Constantinescu's accusations (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 March),
Iliescu says "national interest" cannot be defined outside the framework of "a
functioning democratic system and the institutions of the state based on the
rule of law"--thus justifying his party's decision to boycott parliamentary
debates because of what it regards as abuses by the ruling majority. Iliescu
called again on Constantinescu to organize a meeting of the leaders of all
parties represented in parliament. Constantinescu said he will convene such a
meeting. -- Michael Shafir
MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT PASSES BUDGET LAW.
The Moldovan parliament on 19
March approved the budget for 1997, Infotag reported on the same day. The
sometimes-heated debate on the law started on 7 March. The total budget is
2,246 million lei (some $488 million), 20 million lei higher than the figure
proposed by the government and is based on a deficit figure of 330 million lei.
The Defense Ministry was allocated 70 million lei, the Interior Ministry 85
million, and the Ministry of National Security 45 million. -- Michael Shafir
COMMISSION FOR TRANSDNIESTER HOLDS FIRST SITTING.
commission for Moldova's eastern districts, set up by President Petru Lucinschi
to coordinate a single policy toward the breakaway region, held its first
meeting on 19 March. BASA-press reported the same day that the chairman of the
commission, Presidential Adviser Anatol Taran, said the commission must involve
itself in solving the socio-economic problems faced by the Transdniester
population in order to gain its trust. -- Michael Shafir
BULGARIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS UPDATE.
The registration period for
the 19 April general elections ended on 19 March, paving the way for the
campaign to begin, RFE/RL and national media reported. Some 40 parties will run
for parliament, but the Central Electoral Commission received 57 applications,
as some parties will run both alone and in coalition. In a last-minute move,
the Aleksander Stamboliyski Union--an agrarian party and a former coalition
ally of the Socialists--decided to run separately, prompting
Demokratsiya to write: "the red coalition is dissolving." Party leader
Svetoslav Shivarov, an active figure in the former Socialist government, gave
no explanation for the move. Former President Zhelyu Zhelev also left a
coalition with the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom and
registered his own Liberal Forum coalition. The Liberal Forum, though, is
unlikely to pass the 4% vote threshold. -- Maria Koinova
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Pete Baumgartner and Susan Caskie