|To appreciate nonsense requires a serious interest in life. - Gelett Burgess|
No. 21, Part II, 30 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 HUNGARIAN FINANCE MINISTER RESIGNS. Laszlo Bekesi announced his decision to resign at a meeting of the Hungarian Socialist Party's parliamentary group on 28 January in Siofok, MTI and Western news agencies report. Bekesi cited differences of opinion between himself and Prime Minister Gyula Horn over the pace of economic reforms and privatization. Earlier this month, Horn stopped a transaction to privatize a Hungarian hotel chain and dismissed the official in charge of privatization. Bekesi strongly disapproved and correctly predicted that Horn's intervention with the privatization process would send negative signals to foreign investors. Bekesi also rejected Horn's latest proposal to appoint a privatization minister and thereby take responsibility for privatization out of the domain of the finance ministry. The privatization minister is to report directly to the prime minister. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. IMPLICATIONS FOR THE COALITION. Bekesi's resignation was a further blow to the already divided HSP and Alliance of Free Democrats governing coalition. The AFD entered the coalition on the condition that Bekesi, the architect of the HSP's liberal economic program, be appointed finance minister. The AFD supported Bekesi in the coalition against the numerous HSP left-wing opponents of a liberal economic policy, and condemned Horn's meddling with privatization policy. While both Horn and AFD chairman Ivan Peto denied that Bekesi's resignation triggered a coalition crisis, tensions in the coalition clearly reached new heights. Peto warned the government against modifying the economic reform program formulated by Bekesi. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. WALESA RAISES STAKES IN BUDGET BATTLE. President Lech Walesa has submitted a second constitutional challenge to the 1995 tax law, based this time on the principle that legislation cannot have retroactive effect. The bill was signed into law after the start of the current tax year, largely owing to the president's own delaying tactics. In comments to Gazeta Wyborcza (28-29 January), presidential legal adviser Lech Falandysz said the challenge would prevent Walesa from signing the 1995 budget before his 30-day deadline expires on 3 February. Falandysz argued that the new delay would give Walesa authority to dissolve the parliament. The constitution allows the president to dissolve the parliament if it fails to meet a three-month deadline (measured from the date the government submits the draft to the Sejm) for the "adoption" of the budget. The current political upheaval hinges on whether "adoption" takes place when the Sejm votes to approve the budget, or only when the president signs it into law. Constitutional Tribunal chairman Andrzej Zoll took the unusual step of pointing out on Polish TV that a previous tribunal ruling had defined the moment of adoption as the Sejm's vote. The president's office disputes this interpretation, insisting that "if the president does not sign the budget by 4 February, the parliament is not protected from dissolution." Such threats are likely intended to improve Walesa's bargaining position in advance of a meeting with coalition leaders (anticipated in the next few days) to discuss the appointment of new ministers of defense and foreign affairs. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. HIJACKER IN ESTONIA COMMITS SUICIDE. Vladimir Buzhko, a 36-year old locksmith from Vorkuta who hijacked a Russian plane from Syktyvkar to St. Petersburg in mid-November, hanged himself in a Tallinn psychiatric hospital on 28 January, agencies reported. Bozhko surrendered peacefully in Tallinn and sought political asylum. On 19 January, the Estonian government rejected his asylum appeal (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 January 1995) and on 26 January decided to deport him to Russia. Bozhko had threatened to commit suicide if he was returned to Russia. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. RADIOACTIVE TUNGSTEN SEIZED ON LITHUANIAN-BELARUSIAN BORDER. Police at the Medininkai customs post on 25 January detained a truck traveling from Briansk to Telsiai, which was emitting high radiation, agencies reported. They discovered about two tons of radioactive tungsten hidden in a secret compartment. The radiation levels inside the truck reached 3,600 microroentgens an hour, far in excess of the level of 15 to 20 microroentgens considered safe. Tungsten is not naturally radioactive so it is not clear whether the radioactivity was acquired from the truck ,which might have earlier carried some other radioactive cargo, or from a prior storage place. The radioactive cargo was delivered to the Ignalina Nuclear Power Station for safekeeping, Interfax reported on 29 January. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. BELARUS TO CUT MILITARY FURTHER. Defense Minister Anatol Kastenka told a news conference in Minsk on 26 January that about 65,000 members of the armed forces will be shed under an on-going reform program. According to Interfax, he said that 96,000 servicemen and 64,000 civilians were currently in the armed forces. He did not break down the proposed reduction between military and civilian personnel. Kastenka said that the military will also give up jurisdiction over 15 defense plants, several hospitals, 59 housing departments and 140 military commissariats. He also indicated that two regiments of Russian strategic rocket forces remained in Belarus, fielding 36 mobile SS-25 ICBMs. These figures were unusual, in that an SS-25 regiment normally has only nine launchers. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS SUCCESS OF UKRAINIAN REFORMS DEPENDS ON FOREIGN AID. Viktor Pynzenyk says the Ukrainian government wants to accelerate economic reforms, but cannot expect to succeed without international aid, dpa reported on 28 January. Pynzenyk told world business leaders at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that Ukraine will eventually be able to implement reforms without outside help. At the moment, however, the demand for imported products, especially vital energy sources, is high, according to the deputy prime minister, who is charge of the country's economic reform plan. If the demand is not met, the government could lose its mandate among citizens already tired of coping with severe hardships and a successor government may follow a different path, Pynzenyk said. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX IN UKRAINE. Interfax reported on 29 January that the director of the Kharkiv National Institute of Physics and Technology, Viktor Zelensky, said Ukraine has the capability to produce nuclear fuel and needs only funding to develop the industry. All Ukraine's nuclear fuel is currently processed in Russia. Zelensky would like to see Ukraine develop its own processing industry using Western technology which produces superior fuel to Russia's. In other news, the parliamentary chairman, Oleksander Moroz, said he will try to speed up the financing for the production of T-80UD tanks at the Malyshev plant in Kharkiv. The plant should begin producing the tanks by the end of 1995. The new models are considered to be better protected against anti- tank weapons, and are more mobile and quicker. Production has been slowed by financial problems. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. CZECH GOVERNING PARTY IN CRISIS AFTER SCANDAL AND RESIGNATION? The Civic Democratic Alliance, one of four parties in the Czech governing coalition, has been shaken up by the resignation of a senior member who accused the party's leader of damaging the country's interests. Tomas Jezek, a co-founder of the CDA and creator of the Czech Republic's mass privatization program, left the party on 27 January, saying accusations made by CDA leader Jan Kalvoda that the counter-intelligence service spied on the party were the last straw for him. He said Kalvoda was trying to divert attention from a continuing affair over a 52-million koruny debt the party has outstanding. The cabinet last week rejected Kalvoda's charges as not proven, with even CDA ministers voting against their party leader. Kalvoda said the CDA was stable and not in danger of an internal split, Czech media report on 30 January. But Trade and Industry Minister Vladimir Dlouhy told Czech Radio that Jezek's resignation was not a good sign for the party. "The alliance is not in an easy situation," Dlouhy added. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK WORKERS CALL FOR REFERENDUM ON NATO AND EU. The Association of Slovak Workers, which is a member of the governing coalition, called for a referendum on membership in NATO and the EU during a meeting of its central council on 28 January. Party representatives also said that privatization has failed to rejuvenate the economy but has instead served to destruct industry, agriculture and the country's entire economic base, Narodna obroda reported. The party said it intends to revise privatization legislation and to prosecute those who misused it. The party also expressed support for the cabinet's program declaration, which stresses Western integration and a continuation of privatization. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. MECIAR ASKS FOR COOPERATION FROM OPPOSITION. In an interview published in Sme on 28 January, Christian Democratic Movement leader Jan Carnogursky said he received an invitation from Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar to cooperate on foreign policy. The first offer dealt with participation in an informal group with several members of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia as well as the president to discuss foreign policy issues, the second was to take part in preparations for the upcoming visit of Pope John Paul II to Slovakia, and the third concerned political guarantees for foreign investors. Carnogursky said he rejected the first offer but accepted the second and third. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN UPDATE. The BBC reports on 30 January that the UN hopes to evacuate 194 seriously ill or wounded persons from Gorazde in the course of the day, but that final approval has not yet arrived from Bosnian Serb headquarters. International media said over the weekend that heavy fighting continued in the Bihac pocket between government troops and forces led by local kingpin Fikret Abdic with Serbian backing. The New York Times notes the official commemoration of the 1,000th day of the siege of Sarajevo, with mayors from around the world in attendance. The paper adds, however, that the prevailing mood in the city is one of "outrage," and that Sarajevans demand that Bosnian Serb leaders responsible for the war and "ethnic cleansing" be brought to trial. The daily reports that Sarajevans feel that the Serbs will never accept a negotiated peace because their leaders fear an international investigation of their crimes. Reuters on 29 January suggests, however, that the Serb leaders have little to worry about. It quotes a Western diplomat as saying that no outside power has the political will to bring to bear the necessary force to move the Serbs to a settlement. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. PRECARIOUS EXISTENCE FOR BOSNIAN CROATS. Hina reports on 29 January on a meeting of cultural workers among the Croats of northeast and central Bosnia, whose communities were all but wiped out in the war with the Muslims in 1993. The session noted that the Croatian authorities have neglected the plight of the Bosnian (as opposed to Herzegovinian) Croats and that the Roman Catholic Church has been these people's strongest defender. It also mentioned that the Bosnian Croats in Tuzla, Travnik, Vares, and elsewhere are largely at the mercy of the Muslim authorities. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. TOUGH TIMES FOR CROATIA. The BBC on 28 January said that Prime Minister Nikica Valentic announced some cabinet changes to help streamline government "at a difficult time for Croatia." The broadcast also noted that the Paris Club has suspended talks on postponing debt repayments in the wake of Croatia's decision not to renew UNPROFOR's mandate. Negotiations are slated between Croatian authorities and Krajina Serbs on 30 January, but neither side appears to have modified its stand enough to permit hope for a political settlement. The morning's British dailies devote much space to the question of a new war in Croatia when UNPROFOR leaves, the BBC's Serbian Service reports. Opinions suggest that the Croatian military is strong, but not strong enough to retake Krajina. President Franjo Tudjman nonetheless seems to be banking on the idea that neither Serbia nor the international community would take action should he try to "liberate the occupied territories." He is also counting on Belgrade to sell out the interests of the Krajina Serbs in order to get favorable terms in a Bosnian settlement. And while neither Zagreb nor the Serbs say they want a new war, incidents could take place that could escalate into major fighting. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SESELJ GOES FREE. The flamboyant leader of the opposition Serbian Radical Party (SRS), the ultranationalist and accused war criminal Vojislav Seselj, was released from prison on 28 January, international media reported that day. Seselj was sentenced to a month in jail on 29 September 1994 for spitting on parliamentary speaker Radoman Bozovic, but on the day he was due for release he was sentenced to an additional three months for his attempt to provoke a brawl in the federal parliament last May. Seselj reportedly walked out of Belgrade's central prison to be met by some 300 flag-waving SRS supporters, whom he greeted with pledges of remaining defiant against his one-time ally, now staunch opponent, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN CABINET ON HUNGARIAN ISSUE. In a statement released on 27 January, Romania's government expressed "deep concern over recent actions" taken by the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, the main political organization of the country's Hungarian minority. The communique accused the HDFR of seeking "ethnic autonomy," which it described as being alien to the spirit of the Romanian Constitution and the laws on local administration. The government, the statement added, was not prepared to make any concessions on the issue. Also on 27 January, Viorel Hrebenciuc, Secretary General of the Romanian government, returned from Budapest, where he had apparently tried to mend the bilateral ties affected by recent polemics over the future of the Hungarian minority in Romania. A meeting with Hungarian Premier Gyula Horn was canceled at short notice. In a separate development, Bishop Laszlo Toekes said at a press conference in Budapest that the anti-Magyar drive staged by nationalist and communist forces in Romania could "jeopardize the democratic process" in that country. He further said that accusations that he had collaborated with the communist secret police were a "calumny" and an attempt to crush the democratic opposition in Romania. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER ON ECONOMY. Zhan Videnov on 26 January said that the main task of the new government is to revive the country's economy, dpa reported the same day. At his first press conference as prime minister, he said that the key to economic recovery lies in the "massive privatization " of state-owned companies, which still make up about 95% of Bulgaria's enterprises. The government wants to launch a privatization program in the second half of 1995, which will be based on the Czech coupon model. At the same time, the direct selling of enterprises will continue. The newly founded Ministry of Economic Development is supposed to promote privatization and to encourage foreign investments. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. FORMER GREEK MINISTER URGES END TO MACEDONIA BAN. Former Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos on 27 January called on the Greek government to end the trade embargo against Macedonia, AFP reported the same day. In an television interview, Pangalos said that the ban should be lifted before 1 February, when the European Court opens proceedings against Greece in a lawsuit filed by the European Commission. He said earlier that the embargo was a "fiasco" and a "source of additional tensions" between the two countries, which only makes a settlement of the dispute more difficult. Greek government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said on 25 January that lifting the trade ban was out of the question. Meanwhile, Greece blamed Poland for the decision of Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias not to attend the commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz on 27 January, international news agencies reported. Venizelos stated that "it was an unfortunate event on the part of the Polish government" to raise Macedonia's flag at the ceremony. Papoulias canceled his visit to Auschwitz after Poland took this decision. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. TWO US MARINES SHOT IN ALBANIA. Two US Marines, taking part in the first training exercise with Albanian naval units, were shot and wounded while on a liberty call in the port city of Durres, Reuters reported on 29 January. They were evacuated to a US Army hospital in Germany. One is in a serious but stable condition after doctors removed his spleen and one of his kidneys. The other was discharged from the hospital. According to Albanian police, the shooting followed a bar-room argument about an Albanian girl and one person was arrested. The military exercises, involving Albanian, British, German and Italian troops, ended on 29 January. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. KOSOVO UPDATE. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights reported serious cases of torture and interrogation without lawyers present involving about 200 ethnic Albanians arrested since November 1994 in the Serbian province of Kosovo, Reuters reported on 29 January. Most of the arrested Albanians are former policemen, who were dismissed in 1990 following the abolition of Kosovo's autonomy. The policemen are suspected of forming an interior ministry for the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo. The arrests, however, follow a petition issued by Serb nationalists in Kosovo accusing Belgrade of failing to fulfill promises to check the Albanian political movement and to resettle Serbs in the province. In January, Belgrade announced a program offering potential Serbian settlers interest-free credits for building houses in Kosovo. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle 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. To subscribe, send "SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L YourFirstName YourLastName" (without the quotation marks and inserting your name where shown) to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU No subject line or other text should be included. The publication can also be obtained for a fee in printed form by fax and postal mail. Please direct inquiries to: Editor, Daily Digest, OMRI, Na Strzi 63, 14062 Prague 4, Czech Republic or send e-mail to: email@example.com Telephone: (42 2) 6114 2114 Fax: (42 2) 426 396
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.