News round-up

17 - 24 February 1997

New invitations for Hungary's power companies

Hungary's three remaining state-owned thermal power companies have failed to attract acceptable offers in a recent tender, and new invitations will be drawn up, Ms Judit Csiha, a privatisation minister said on 14 February in Budapest. This is the second time the companies, Pecs, Bakonnyi and Vertes, were put up for sale, having failed to find buyers in the big energy sell off late in 1995. Vertes, which is seriously indebted, failed to attract any bids this time.

The companies comprise mainly old cold-fired generators and heating plants, with a total generating capacity of some 1,100 MW, about 15 per cent of the national total of around 7,200 MW. They come complete with integrated, overstaffed coal mines and potentially large clean up costs.

Latvian PM voted back in

Andris Skele, who resigned as Latvian Prime Minister last month in a row over a cabinet appointment, won Parliamentary approval to form a new government. After a reconciliation between President Guntis Ulmanis and Mr Skele, a businessman with no political affiliation, the fractious Parliament confirmed Mr Skele's new five-party coalition by 70 votes to 17.

Chernobyl Fund debated by G7

Officials from the group of seven industrialised nations will resume talks this week as to whether they should pay for Ukraine to shut down Chernobyl nuclear power station, site of the world's worst nuclear accident, and complete two new power stations. Following an independent report for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) that stated that the reactors were uneconomic, G7 experts reached no agreement in Washington on 14 February. Officials were concerned that "if we don't complete the plants with our expertise, then others might jump in" - a probable reference to the Russian nuclear industry.

Nato visit angers Kremlin

Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the Russian presidential spokesman, fiercely denounced Javier Solana, NATO Secretary-General, for his visit to four former Soviet republics yesterday (12 February). Russia's hostility to enlargement of NATO will be the main talking point in Brussels next week when NATO foreign ministers meet Madelaine Albright, the US Secretary of State.

Estonian Premier to resign soon

A privatisation scandal yesterday (12 February) spelled the end for Estonia's three-month minority Government. Tiit Vahi, the Prime Minister, announced he would resign "as soon as the political parties agree on a new government". The crisis began last month when Mr Vahi admitted his daughter was among the 181 influential Estonians who covertly got their flats in a special city sale. Separate allegations that state funds had been used in renovating the Prime Minister's appartment further weakened Mr Vahi.

IMF to see Bulgarian caretaker premier

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has outlined a mission to meet with the newly appointed 'caretaker premier' of Bulgaria, Mr Sofianski. The meeting is to take place next week and is aimed at resuming talks on the currency board. Mr Sofianski, the popular Mayor of Sofia, was appointed by Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov to run the country until general elections on 19 April.

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