|The person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused. - Shirley MacLaine|
No. 86, Part II, 20 May 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. Back issues of the Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/OMRI.html EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT RECEIVED BY POPE. Leonid Kuchma, on the first day of an official three-day visit to Italy, was received in the Vatican by Pope John Paul II, Radio Ukraine reported on 2 May. They discussed relations between Ukraine and the Vatican as well as issues related to the Eastern Rite Ukrainian Catholic Church, previously banned by the Soviet regime. The Ukrainian leader is in Italy to sign a friendship treaty and accords on investments and aviation and cultural cooperation. Ukraine is seeking Rome's active support for its effort to join the Council of Europe, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Henadii Udovenko told Radio Ukraine. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. LATEST FIGURES ON TRADE AND UNEMPLOYMENT IN UKRAINE. According to official statistics, Russia remains Ukraine's chief trading partner, accounting for 38% of its exports and nearly half its imports, Radio Ukraine reported on 2 May. The second and third largest importers of Ukrainian goods are the U.S. (6%) and China (5%). Ireland accounted for 16% of Ukrainian imports and Turkmenistan 9%. The first quarter of 1995 saw a 10% rise in official unemployment over the previous three months. During this period, the Ukrainian government spent 150 billion karbovantsi on unemployment benefits. Unemployment is highest in the west Ukrainian region of Ivano-Frankivske and lowest in Kiev and Sevastopol. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. BELARUSIAN MILITARY REFORMS. The Belarusian Defense Ministry has said more attention will be paid to quality in the armed forces, rather than quantity, Belarusian Television reported on 28 April. There are currently 9,000 contract servicemen in the country's armed forces, or 18.5% of its soldiers and sergeants. The ministry hopes that the number of contract personnel will increase in the future. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. LITHUANIA TO BUY NEW FUEL FROM VENEZUELA. Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius, speaking on 2 May about his recent trip to Venezuela and Columbia, said Lithuania will import a new type of fuel--orimulsion-- from Venezuela, BNS reported. A 15-year contract with the company BITOR Europe Ltd. is to be signed within two weeks, and the first shipment should arrive in two to three months. The cost of the fuel, including transportation, will be around $50 per ton for the first two years or about half the cost of the Russian heating oil currently being used. The main user of orimulsion will be the country's thermal power plants, which will undergo minor, relatively inexpensive reconstruction to be able to use the new fuel. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. ELIMINATING CRIME IN LATVIAN ARMY. Andris Ligotnis, chairman of the Saeima Defense and Internal Affairs Committee, said on 2 May that special bodies have to be set up to eliminate crime in the Latvian armed forces, BNS reported. The committee discussed problems related to recruit hazing with the chief military prosecutor and representatives of the interior and defense ministries. Ligotnis noted that violence in the army can be reported to military prosecutors in Ventspils, Liepaja, Riga, Balvi, and Daugavpils. The committee on 3 March will consider amendments to the criminal code proposed by President Guntis Ulmanis on determining responsibility for violence against soldiers in the army. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLISH SUPREME COURT HEAD BEGINS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN. Adam Strzembosz, meeting in Warsaw on 2 May with Solidarity leaders and heads of political parties, said the parliament should dissolve itself and the government resign after presidential elections, Polish media reported. He cited as a precedent Presi- dent Lech Walesa's election in 1990 and the subsequent resignation of Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, who ran against Walesa in the presidential race. Strzembosz argued that the government's resignation following presidential elections should be a constitutional provision. But he said that if he is elected and the current, postcommunist government does not resign, he will cooperate with it. Born in 1930, Strzembosz became a Solidarity activist in 1980. He has never been affiliated with any party. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. HERZOG SAYS GERMANY SHOULD COMPENSATE CZECH VICTIMS OF NAZISM. German President Roman Herzog, on the final day of a two-day private visit to the Czech Republic, said on 2 May that Germany should finally compensate Czech victims of Nazism, Czech media reported. He said that agreement was quickly reached on the principle of compensation during talks with Czech President Vaclav Havel but that concrete steps would have to be taken by the German government and parliament. Havel told Czech Television that it is Germany's turn to take some initiative to improve Czech-German relations. But he also hoped that the two countries' parliaments would issue a joint declaration sometime this year rejecting political, legal, and economic claims that still dog bilateral relations. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK CABINET WANTS TO STRIP PRESIDENT OF ANOTHER POWER. The Slovak cabinet on 2 May approved a draft law transferring to the government the power to name the chief of the General Staff. The holder of that post is currently nominated by the defense minister and approved by the president. In other news, Party of the Democratic Left Chairman Peter Weiss said on 2 May that his party is prepared to support a no- confidence vote in Education Minister Eva Slavkovska. But Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Jan Carnogursky said the parliament will not discuss the issue at its session beginning on 3 May since the opposition does not have the support of the 76 deputies needed to pass the proposal, Sme reported. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK TRADE UNIONS CONTINUE TO CRITICIZE PRIVATIZATION PLANS. Alojz Englis, president of the Slovak Confederation of Trade Unions, has complained about the current government's plans to reduce the amount of property approved for coupon privatization, Sme reported on 3 May. The previous government, which drafted the program, promised to sell off property worth some 80 billion koruny, but the current cabinet is offering property worth a maximum of 40 billion koruny. Englis noted that under the current government's plan, which is intended to focus on sales to management and employees, the latter would receive only a small share of privatized companies, while the majority would go to management. The board of the KOVO trade union has also criticized the current government's privatization program. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. POPULARITY OF HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTY GROWS. An opinion survey conducted in April shows that while the ruling parties have lost substantial public support since the government announced its austerity package in March, the opposition Independent Smallholders Party (FKGP) has improved its ratings to become the third most popular party, Nepszabadsag reported on 29 April. Asked which party they would vote for if elections were held now, 11% of the respondents named the FKGP. The two ruling parties--the Hungarian Socialist Party and the Alliance of Free Democrats--received 16% and 12%, respectively. Another opinion survey, published by Nepszabadsag on 2 May, reveals an increase in the popularity of FKGP chairman Jozsef Torgyan, who now places 12th on a popularity list of 23 politicians. Prime Minister Gyula Horn, who for many months was among the five most popular politicians, slipped to 21st place. Torgyan, whose party has 26 mandates in the 386-seat parliament, has been the most outspoken opposition politician in criticizing the government's austerity measures. The FKGP organized a demonstration in March to protest those measures, which drew nearly 10,000 people. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE EXPLOSIONS ROCK ZAGREB. A series of blasts in the Croatian capital on 2 May left at least five dead and well over 100 wounded. Hina said the following day that the injured were taken to local hospitals and visited by President Franjo Tudjman. Several explosions occurred in the heart of downtown Zagreb, but UN sources counted as many as nine in different parts of the city, according to local peace groups. Croatian military sources blamed the blasts on Serbian rockets, but peace groups and Vjesnik on 3 May quoted witnesses as having seen small bombs lying on the ground. U.S. ambassador Peter Galbraith condemned the attack in an interview with CNN. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. MILITARY SITUATION IN CROATIA REMAINS TENSE. Talks between Serbian and Croatian representatives near Zagreb airport were suspended because the safety of the Serbs could not be guaranteed. Hina on 3 May added that Tudjman met the previous night with his top security advisers and declared the military action in western Slavonia over. Croatian forces took Okucani, and peace groups said the military are negotiating near Pakrac with the last significant group of armed Serbs in UN Sector West. The news agency noted that the region accounts for 11% of Croatia's total territory. Refugees are fleeing in droves from Bosnian Serb areas, despite Tudjman's assurances that only war criminals have anything to fear from Croatian authorities. The BBC added that UN officials are bracing for a major influx of displaced people in the Banja Luka area. Serbian authorities throughout Krajina have put out air raid warnings, Nasa Borba reported on 3 May. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. VOLUNTEERS COME FROM SERBIA, KARADZIC PLEDGES HELP. Nasa Borba on 3 May said that some 1,500 "volunteers" from Serbia are present in western Slavonia and that the rump Yugoslav Red Cross is assisting in the area. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic promised to help Krajina, saying that "we will fight together because we are one people and we regard Krajina as our land." It is not clear what Karadzic can do in view of the pressure on his own troops from government and Croatian forces, but his men shelled Sarajevo on 2 May. Meanwhile, Serbian forces in Krajina are holding at least 117 UN personnel, according to the Belgrade daily. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY CAUGHT OFF BALANCE. The major powers appear to have been taken unawares by the Croatian thrust into Sector West on 1 May, despite the fact that the Croatian military has been infiltrating units into the area for almost a month. Attention has been focused on Bosnia, where the four-month-old cease-fire ran out the same day. The U.S. State Department and the UN Security Council condemned the Croatian attack, and Interfax reported that the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 2 May demanding that hostilities cease at once and that negotiations resume. International media note a widespread fear in the Balkans and beyond that the current fighting in Croatia and Bosnia could lead to an expanded regional war. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. RUMP YUGOSLAV PRESIDENTS MEET. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and his Montenegrin counterpart, Momir Bulatovic, met with federal President Zoran Lilic on 2 May to discuss Croatia's military actions against the rebel Krajina Serbs, Nasa Borba reported the following day. The three leaders roundly condemned Zagreb, saying its moves were criminal and inexcusable attacks on civilians. Also present at the meeting were other key Belgrade officials, including Foreign Minister Vladislav Jovanovic and chief of the army General Staff, Momcilo Perisic. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. KOSOVAR TRIAL UPDATE. Seven ethnic Albanian former policemen were sentenced to between two and six years in prison on 28 April for allegedly forming a Kosovar shadow-state police force with the aim of seceding from Serbia. Of the 159 former policemen who have been arrested since November 1994, 16 have so far been sentenced. Lawyers claim that the charges are contrived and deny there is evidence that the ethnic Albanians planned to secede from Serbia. Hydajet Hyseni, vice president of the Democratic League of Kosovo, said Serbia's attempts to prevent any international presence in Kosovo showed its real intention. He also noted that the overall situation in the region was becoming untenable, with numerous dangers of further escalation, Kosova Communication reported on 1 May. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIA CHANGES OFFICIAL NAME FOR GYPSIES. The Romanian government has changed the official name for members of the Gypsy minority from "Roma" to "Tigani," Reuters reported on 2 May. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mircea Geoana said the change was aimed at preventing confusion between "Romanian" and "Gypsy." He added that the change put Romania in line with terminology used by such international organizations as the United Nations. But several recent reports, including a Council of Europe study in 1994, refer to the Romanian gypsies as "Roma." "Tigan" (singular) is the direct Romanian translation of Gypsy and is often used pejoratively. Nicolae Gheorghe, secretary of the Federation of Romany in Romania, said the decision was an insult. He said the Romany organizations demand that the government reverse its decision, which was taken without consulting Gypsy representatives. Deputy Gheorghe Raducanu, who represents the Gypsies in the parliament, said he will boycott the meetings of the legislature until the decision is changed. He also said that the Gypsies will boycott meetings of the Council on National Minorities. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARIAN EDUCATION MINISTER IN ROMANIA. Gabor Fodor and his Romanian counterpart, Liviu Maior, signed a cooperation agreement on education, Radio Bucharest reported on 2 May. The accord provides for exchanges of students and teaching staff as well as periodic consultations. Fodor was received the same day by Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu. Referring to the negotiations on a basic bilateral treaty, Vacaroiu said it was necessary to clarify "confused language" to avoid " later disagreements." He said forms of local autonomy that contravened the Romanian Constitution would create a "dangerous precedent" and would be "anachronistic" in an age of "regional and European integration." -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. COUNCIL OF EUROPE EXAMINES CASE OF DISMISSED ROMANIAN MAYORS. A Council of Europe delegation on 2 May began examining the case of the 133 mayors dismissed or suspended from office by the government over the past few months, Radio Bucharest and international agencies reported. During its two-day visit, the delegation is meeting officials in charge of local government structures and mayors dismissed or suspended. Rompres said the media have no access to the meetings but the delegation will release a report and a recommendation after its visit. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. DNIESTER LEADER CONDEMNS PLAN TO MAKE ROMANIAN OFFICIAL LANGUAGE. Grigory Marakutsa, chairman of the self- sproclaimed Dniester republic's parliament, said Moldovan President Mircea Snegur's initiative to make Romanian the official language of Moldova "may complicate relations between Tiraspol and Chisinau," Infotag reported on 28 April. He accused Snegur of being "under the thumb" of those pursuing unification with Romania and said renaming the official language may be followed by renaming the people and then unification. Marakutsa added that only a policy of "independence [from Moldova] may serve as a guarantee for Transdniestrians that they will not become Romanian citizens one day." -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. LOW TURNOUT IN MOLDOVAN LOCAL ELECTIONS. The results of the second round of the local elections in Moldova have been declared invalid in numerous Moldovan municipal and rural districts because of low turnout, Interfax and international agencies reported on 1 May. Voters went to the polls for a second time in two weeks on 30 April. These districts will be administered over the next four years by officials appointed by the president. Of the municipal districts, Chisinau had the lowest turnout: only 20% of voters cast their ballot, compared with 35% in the first round. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT DISCUSSES PROGRAM. The Socialist-led government on 2 May began discussing its four-year program. Standart reported the next day that the 200-page document concentrates on macroeconomic policies and legislative initiatives. It forecasts an increase in the standard of living, foreign investment, and economic growth in 1996-97. Deputy Prime Minister Doncho Konakchiev said the main targets are economic stabilization, the fight against crime, and integration into European structures. According to Demokratsiya, some ministers wanted the program to include figures only on estimated GDP, inflation, and the exchange rate. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. CAR BOMB KILLS BULGARIAN LOCAL POLITICIAN. Lyudmil Vodenicharov, a member of the Parvenec local council, was killed by a car bomb on 2 May, Bulgarian newspapers reported the following day. Vodenicharov was also chairman of the local liquidation council, which oversees the privatization of agricultural cooperatives. He was elected to the local council on the ticket of the Union of Democratic Forces. According to Kontinent, Vodenicharov had succeeded in repaying 2 million leva ($30,800) of a local cooperative's debts without selling off any of its property. Residents of Parvenec said Vodenicharov wanted to buy the cooperative's cold-storage depot, which is one of the largest in Bulgaria. This plan interfered with the business interests of wholesale fruit traders and may have been the reason for his killing. Duma reported that this was the first death by car bomb in Bulgaria. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. AUSTRIAN PRESIDENT IN ALBANIA. Austrian President Thomas Klestil, Foreign Minister Alois Mock, and Justice Minister Mickolaus Micklalek visited Albania on 2 May. It was the first visit to Albania by an Austrian president. Klestil was received by his Albanian counterpart, Sali Berisha, and Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi. The leaders discussed Albania's democratization process and integration into Europe as well as the Yugoslav crisis. -- 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. 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. To receive the OMRI Daily Digest by mail or fax, please direct inquiries to OMRI Publications, Na Strzi 63, 140 62 Prague 4, Czech Republic; or electronically to OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ Tel.: (42-2) 6114 2114; fax: (42-2) 426 396 OMRI also publishes the biweekly journal Transition, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. For Transition subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.