|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 20, Part II, 27 January 1995
This is Part II of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part II is a compilation of news concerning East-Central and Southeastern Europe. Part I, covering Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, and the CIS, is distributed simultaneously as a second document. The Daily Digest picks up where the RFE/RL Daily Report, which recently ceased publication, left off. Contributors include OMRI's 30-member staff of analysts, plus selected freelance specialists. OMRI is a unique public-private venture between the Open Society Institute and the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting. EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE AUSCHWITZ LIBERATION MARKED. On the first day of ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, Nobel Prize laureates and delegates from 27 nations whose citizens were prisoners drafted an "appeal for peace and tolerance," to be proclaimed on 27 January, Rzeczpospolita reports. World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman sent a telegram saying he did not feel entitled to participate in the ceremonies as he had not been a prisoner at Auschwitz. Journalists interpreted his comment as an implicit swipe at President Lech Walesa, who was scheduled to speak three times during the two-day ceremonies. But the general tone was one of reconciliation aimed at countering charges that Polish organizers were attempting to "Polonize" or "Christianize" the event. Izrael Gurman of the Yad Vashem Institute stressed that "the Polish nation is not responsible for Auschwitz . . . but because this land is soaked with blood, because more than 3 million Jews lived here, we have a shared responsibility." After the official ceremonies, several hundred Jews (including Rabbi Avi Weiss, who was briefly detained by police on 25 January for picketing a Catholic church), local residents, and German President Roman Herzog prayed for Holocaust victims at Birkenau. - Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. POLISH DRAFT CONSTITUTION: PRESIDENT AS "ARBITER." The Constitutional Commission, currently preparing the draft constitution for submission to the National Assembly, voted on 26 January to define the president as "the guarantor of continuity" in the executive branch, rejecting the broader French-style Presidency proposed by President Lech Walesa. The vote on the issue was 43 to three. The commission also opted to retain the pendulum-swing procedures for forming a government that are now in force. Only two deputies favored giving the president the right to appoint and dismiss the premier. The bicameral parliament structure was preserved in the draft, but the Senate was saved from elimination by only a three-vote margin. The commission voted on 25 January to eliminate any preamble from the draft constitution, thus avoiding fractious debate on whether to include formulations referring to God, history, Solidarity, or "we the people." This pragmatic decision reflects the parliament's inability to reach consensus on the Church's role in public life or to come to a shared moral assessment of communism. The commission does not have the last word on the constitution. After the National Assembly votes on the draft, the basic law must be approved in a national referendum. - Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINE'S FIRST AUCTION WITH PRIVATIZATION VOUCHERS. Ukrainian citizens have started bidding for shares in state-owned enterprises at the country's first voucher auction center, AP reports. The center was opened on 26 January in the central Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr. Yurii Yekhanurov, chairman of the State Property Fund, said at the opening ceremony that the government is now showing that "we really are implementing radical reforms in our economy." After long delays due to resistance from the hard-line parliament, Ukraine began distributing vouchers to citizens in five regions, including Zhytomyr, at the beginning of the year. The crowd was small, however, at the auction center on its first day. Shares in 49 companies, including a sugar refinery and machine factory, were available. Citizens may bid for between 3% and 80% of a company's shares over a one-month period. Some 8,000 medium-sized and large businesses are slated to be transferred into private hands this year. Vouchers will be distributed to the rest of Ukraine's residents in February as auction centers are opened throughout the country. - Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. CAMPAIGN TO RESTORE SOVIET UNION VIEWED AS "NATIONAL THREAT." The Ukrainian Justice Ministry issued a statement on 26 January saying the initiative to hold a referendum on the restoration of the USSR was a threat to Ukraine's sovereignty, TANJUG reports on 26 January. Leftist forces in the heavily Russified eastern regions of Ukraine have been collecting signatures for a petition to bring the issue of a new political alliance with Russia and other republics to a national referendum. Ukrainian leaders have condemned the initiative as a potential catalyst for civil strife in the country. A ministry spokesman announced that anyone forcefully campaigning to merge Ukraine with a new union of former Soviet republics would risk a seven-year prison term. A public opinion poll taken in December by the Kiev-based International Sociological Institute revealed that 64% of Ukrainians continue to support their country's independence. - Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN-JAPANESE RELATIONS. Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Hakio Yanahisa was in Ukraine from 24 to 26 January on an official visit, Ukrainian Radio reported. Yanahisa met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and passed on a note from Japan's Prime Minister Tomichi Murayama pledging Japanese help for Ukraine's economic reform. Yanahisa's visit was intended to prepare for Kuchma's trip to Japan in March. - Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. STRIKES IN BELARUS. Reuters reported on 26 January that some 20,000 demonstrators rallied in Minsk to demand higher wages. Uladzimir Hancharyk, head of the Federation of Belarusian Trade Unions, said that wages had to keep pace with rising prices. He warned that the unions would strike if the government did not meet their demands. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said he was "insulted" by the demonstration since the unions had promised to be patient with his economic program. - Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. CASE DROPPED AGAINST BELARUSIAN EX-DEFENSE MINISTER. The Belarusian Prosecutor-General's Office has stopped its investigation into Former Defense Minister Paval Kazlouski's alleged abuse of office, Interfax reported on 26 January. President Lukashenka had accused Kazlouski of using state assets for the wedding last summer of Kazlouski's daughter to the son of Chairman of the Supreme Soviet Mechyslau Hryb. It was alleged that Kazlouski used 300 paratroopers to guard the wedding site. The Prosecutor-General's Office said the charge was not proven. Kazlouski has demanded that Lukashenka rescind the decree demoting him from colonel general to lieutenant general. He has also demanded a public apology from Lukashenka. Before Lukashenka's election as president, Kazlouski filed a libel suit against him because Lukashenka had accused him of corrupt practices. - Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. BALTIC STATES PLAN UNIFIED AIRSPACE. The Estonian General Staff announced on 25 January that senior air force officers from the Baltic Republics have proposed a single airspace monitoring system. Interfax reports that the system would combine military and civilian radar sites and would be part of a future unified air defense system. Such a system was approved in principle by Baltic military leaders in November. - Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. ESTONIAN PRESIDENT IN SWITZERLAND. Lennart Meri returned to Tallinn on 26 January after a five-day working visit to Switzerland, BNS reports. During his trip, he met with members of the Zurich regional parliament and gave a speech at the Vontobel Bank's annual meeting of diplomats and financial leaders. He also held talks in Bern with President of the Swiss Confederation Kaspar Villiger and the heads of both chambers of the Swiss parliament. The talks focused on Estonia's political development and how the war in Chechnya would affect relations between Russia and Europe. The Estonian president also addressed the Institute for International Relations in Bern and helped persuade several well- known Swiss companies to open subsidiaries in Estonia. - Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. NEW LATVIAN HEALTH MINISTER. The Latvian parliament on 26 January approved the candidacy of Peteris Apinis as health minister, BNS reports. The 37-year-old Apinis replaces Normunds Zemvaldis, who resigned on 16 January. A graduate from the Riga Medical Institute in 1982, Apinis was one of the founders of the Latvian Physicians' Society and is currently its vice president. The Saeima also approved Latvia's Way member Mariss Andersons as parliament deputy, replacing Valdis Birkavs, who has suspended his mandate during his term in office as foreign minister. - Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. CZECH MINISTERS VOTED AGAINST PARTY LEADER TO RESTORE CALM IN GOVERNMENT. Two ministers who apparently deserted their party leader in a key cabinet vote on 25 January did so at his request to calm recent tensions within the governing coalition, Czech media report on 27 January. Only Civic Democratic Alliance leader Jan Kalvoda voted against a resolution rejecting his charges that the counterintelligence service BIS illegally collected information on political parties. CDA ministers Vladimir Dlouhy and Jiri Skalicky said Kalvoda asked them to vote for the resolution. But another leading member of the CDA, Tomas Jezek, sharply criticized Kalvoda for making his charges public at a press conference. In an interview with TV Noza, Jezek said Kalvoda's action has damaged the country in the most serious way since the fall of communism in November 1989. The issue has dominated Czech politics for the past two weeks, highlighting differences and tensions among the four coalition parties. - Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK OPPOSITION PROTESTS RESOLUTION AGAINST PRESIDENT. Slovak opposition parties on 26 January condemned a parliamentary resolution passed the previous day criticizing President Michal Kovac for his response to a letter from William Orme, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. The opposition, in a statement to TASR, called the resolution an attempt to prepare the public for Kovac's removal from office and a serious violation of the constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and forbids censorship. Meanwhile, Milan Knazko of the opposition Democratic Union warned that at its next session, scheduled for early March, the parliament might try to take away the union's 15 parliamentary mandates, Narodna obroda reports. Knazko said eight of these mandates would go to the government coalition and seven to the opposition, giving the coalition the 90 votes needed to change the constitution and thus shorten the term in office of Constitutional Court judges and the president. In other news, the parliament on 25 January approved the nomination as attorney-general of Michal Valo, a political independent who served as Czechoslovakia's deputy military attorney-general until the end of 1992. The final decision on his nomination will be made by Kovac. - Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CARTER LAUNCHES NEW BOSNIA INITIATIVE. Newsday reports on 27 January that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has made fresh moves to break the logjam in the international Contact Group efforts to involve the Bosnian Serbs in serious negotiations about the current peace plan. The Contact Group and the Bosnian government take the position that the Serbs must first "accept" the plan as a basis for talks, while Pale basically wants an open agenda. Carter calls the idea of first requiring the Serbs to accept the plan "kind of forcing on the Bosnian Serbs the government's language." He now suggests that the Serbs be allowed to enter negotiations "on the basis" of the plan but without formally accepting it. This is unlikely to wash with the Bosnian government. But perhaps what is most interesting about Carter's move is how he made it. While White House officials said they asked Carter to keep open his lines of communication with Pale to ensure that the current cease-fire remains alive, Carter apparently took the latest initiative without consulting Washington but by sending a letter to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. He then informed the U.S. government in a fax sent to the Belgrade embassy. When asked why he chose to deliver the message to his own government in such a way, the former president said: "Well, I didn't send it to them. I sent it to Milosevic." - Patrick Moore , OMRI, Inc. JUPPE SAYS "PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE" ON BOSNIA. Reuters on 26 January quotes French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe as saying the Contact Group must keep working to bring the Bosnian Serbs around to negotiations. He told reporters that the mediators "must try and try again [but] not by asking the Sarajevo government to agree to further concessions." He added that much has already been achieved and argued that one should avoid "painting the bleakest possible picture about Bosnia." Meanwhile, dpa reports that another Serbian artillery attack on Bihac claimed many civilian lives. Reuters added that Serbs hauled a Muslim journalist from a UN armored transport at a Sarajevo checkpoint and detained him. The agency also said government forces have resumed their siege of UN forces in Tuzla after presenting fresh demands, including that the UN stop making reconnaissance patrols. The UN rejected the government's position as violating the cease-fire agreement. - Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN-GREEK MEETING. Former Greek Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis on 26 January met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade, AFP reported the same day. Mitsotakis said Milosevic reassured him Serbia would not recognize Macedonia until the conflict between Athens and Skopje is resolved. Vecher on 27 January quotes Mitsotakis as saying that Milosevic might help in solving the problems between the two countries. Mitsotakis added that the Serbian president's "policy of peace" is supported by the Greek people and parties, Politika reports. - Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN DISPUTE CONTINUES. The Party of Social Democracy in Romania, the main ruling party, has said the Romanian government never proposed to ban the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania. In a declaration broadcast by Radio Bucharest on 26 January, the PSDR rejected the claim by six Hungarian parliamentary parties (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 January 1994) that Romanian democracy was endangered, saying that ethnic minority rights are more respected in Romania than in Hungary. The PSDR added that the democratization process in Romania is threatened only by the HDFR's policies of promoting "personal, local government, and territorial autonomy" based on ethnic criteria. In another development, Nicolae Taran, vice president of the Party of Civic Alliance, told Radio Bucharest that the HDFR's demands for autonomy make it impossible for his party to continue collaborating with it. Both the PCA and the HDFR are members of the opposition Democratic Convention of Romania. Taran said the DCR must immediately take a clear position opposing that of the HDFR, unless it wants to be perceived by the electorate as an organization pursuing anti-national interests. - Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. SPANISH PREMIER IN ROMANIA. Felipe Gonzalez, on a two-day visit to Romania, met with Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu, President Ion Iliescu, Chamber of Deputies Chairman Adrian Nastase, Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, and leaders of the opposition, Radio Bucharest reported. Gonzalez and Vacaroiu signed economic and cultural agreements on 25 January. At a joint press conference with Iliescu the same day, Gonzalez said Spain would support Romania's "political, economic, and security aspirations" of integration into European structures. - Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN MINISTER ATTACKS ETHNIC TURKISH PARTY. Education Minister Ilcho Dimitrov has said the predominantly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom is anti-constitutional and its policies are harming national interests. Dimitrov, in an interview with 24 chasa on 27 January, added that he did not take an active part in the forceful Bulgarization of ethnic Turks' names in the 1980s, as the Turks have charged. But in an interview with Standart, he admitted that he was head of the Coordinating Council of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, responsible for the so-called "renaissance process." MRF deputy Ibrahim Tatarla, in an interview with 24 chasa, accused Dimitrov of being "the ideologist behind the assimilation of minorities." - Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. NEW PARTY FOUNDED IN ALBANIA. Defectors from the Social Democratic Party have formed a new group, the Social Democratic Union, Reuters reported on 26 January. The SDU's leader is Teodor Laco, who was appointed minister for culture in President Sali Berisha's latest government reshuffle. After Laco's appointment, the SDP left the coalition with Berisha's Democratic Party, saying its leadership had not been consulted about the move. Laco, who violated the party consensus by supporting Berisha's referendum on a draft constitution in November, said that 30 members of the SDP's 90-strong Central Committee have joined the SDU. The SDP now has six legislators, and the DP's only coalition partner is the SDU, whose sole parliamentary representative is Laco. Meanwhile, the joint military exercise involving troops from the U.S., Albania, Italy, Britain, and Germany began in Durres on 26 January. - Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN POLICE CLOSE PRIVATE RADIO STATION. One day after President Sali Berisha proposed the legalization of private radio stations, police closed down Radio Vlora and detained its director, Ferdinand Llambro, international agencies reported on 26 January. Llambro, who started up the private station with money he earned working in Greece, did not have a license to broadcast. He avoided any political commentary in his popular music programs. Another unlicensed private station is broadcasting from Patos, in southern Albania. - Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet Union and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. It is published Monday through Friday by the Open Media Research Institute. The Daily Digest is distributed electronically via the OMRI-L list. 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