|To appreciate nonsense requires a serious interest in life. - Gelett Burgess|
No. 89, Part II, 9 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 KUCHMA COMPARES ECONOMIC STRUGGLE TO WORLD WAR II CHALLENGES. President Leonid Kuchma said Ukraine's struggle to emerge from its current economic crisis can be compared to the challenges faced during World War II, Radio Ukraine and Reuters reported on 8 May. In an address to war veterans, Kuchma stressed that a new unity of purpose was vital in Ukraine's transformation to democracy and a free market economy, which he said was being complicated by "fierce resistance, intrigues and demagoguery" by political opponents to reforms. The president was scheduled to preside over a military parade down Kiev's main thoroughfare, the Khreshchatyk, on 9 May and then fly to Moscow to join commemoration ceremonies there and discuss with Russian President Boris Yeltsin the division of the Black Sea Fleet and other issues. The Ukrainian leader emphasized that Ukraine was the "epicenter" of the war on the Eastern front and the country lost more than eight million people. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFICIAL SAYS UKRAINE COULD JOIN THIS YEAR. The chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Miguel Martinez, said during a visit to Kiev that the procedure for Ukraine to enter the CE is in its "concluding stage" and the country could join this year, Interfax-Ukraine and Ukrainian Television News reported on 7 May. He said the lack of a post-Soviet Constitution would not hinder Ukraine's bid for membership because the existing much-amended document, adopted in 1978, does not contradict international standards. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. BELARUS GENERAL PROSECUTOR RESIGNS OVER ADOPTION CHARGES. The chief prosecutor of Belarus resigned on 6 May amid charges of backing trade in children by wanting to relax rules for foreigners seeking to adopt Belarusian children, Interfax-West and Reuters reported on the same day and on 7 May. Narodnaya Gazeta also accused Vasily Sholodonov of illegally privatizing two apartments for himself and his son, the agencies wrote. Some commentators connected the allegations to Sholodonov's growing criticism of recent government decisions. Stanislav Bubin, a senior education ministry official, said Sholodonov had only approved a memorandum, which carries no legal force, in favor of simpler adoption procedures. Foreigners are currently allowed to adopt only children with mental and physical disabilities. A new law is being drawn up for approval by the government and parliament. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. BOMB ATTACK ON SYNAGOGUE IN LATVIA. Unknown attackers hurled a bomb from a passing car into the synagogue in Riga on 6 May, Reuters reported. There were no injuries, but damage was estimated at $30-40,000. The Interior Ministry press center reported that an anonymous caller to the police identified himself as the commander of the sabotage group "Rubiks" and said there will be more bombings if former Communist Party First Secretary Alfreds Rubiks is not discharged from prison within a week, BNS reported on 8 May. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. ONLY THREE LITHUANIAN BANKS WILL PAY 1994 DIVIDENDS. Laima Cernaite, director of the Inspection Department of the Bank of Lithuania, told Interfax on 6 May that only three of the country's 20 banks -- Vilnius, Hermis,and Snoras -- will pay their investors dividends for 1994; respectively, 15%, 20%, and 30%. Many banks paid dividends of 70-80% in 1993. Although Lithuania's banks had a net profit of 331 million litai ($82.75 million) in 1994, they ended the year with a shortfall of 167 million litai because a December 1994 law required them to transfer 498 million litai to the Bank of Lithuania for creating funds to cover unrepaid credits. During 1994 the joint-stock capital of Lithuania's commercial banks increased from 119 million litai to 262 million litai and hard-currency deposits increased by 110%. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. WALESA'S SPEECH ON VE-DAY COMMEMORATIONS. Polish President Lech Walesa on 8 May paid tribute to the Red Army for destroying Nazism but condemned Stalinist repression, the murder of Poles during and after the war by Soviet security forces and abuses committed under Moscow-imposed communism. In a speech to a joint session of the parliament, Walesa also reproached Poland's western allies for abandoning it to Nazi and Soviet aggression during the war and called for Poland to be accepted now into Western and European structures. Aleksander Kwasniewski, the leader of the ruling postcommunist coalition and possible rival to Walesa in the upcoming presidential election, criticized the speech as too divisive. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. POLAND'S LABOR UNION SELECTS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. The Labor Union, a leftist party with 37 deputies in the 460-seat Sejm, on 7 May selected Ombudsman Tadeusz Zielinski as its presidential candidate, Polish and international media report. At the Union's congress, Zielinski, 69, received160 votes against 81 for Jacek Kuron, who has already been declared the candidate of another party, the Freedom Union. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. CZECH PREMIER REGRETS POSTWAR EXPULSION OF GERMANS. Vaclav Klaus has admitted that his countrymen behaved unjustly and violently in the postwar expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia, Mlada fronta dnes reported on 9 May. "None of us can can mention these crimes without regret. It should not have happened," Klaus told an East-West forum in the Bavarian border town of Furth am Wald. "Everyone must begin (by looking at) himself, and not with what wrong was done to him but with how he did wrong," Klaus added. At a ceremonial concert in Prague on 8 May to mark the 50th anniversary of VE-day, Klaus said that the Czech Republic has successfully rid itself of the legacy of occupation and totalitarianism since the fall of communism in 1989. -- Steve Kettle SLOVAK PARLIAMENT APPROVES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE IN PRESIDENT. The parliament on 5 May passed a no-confidence vote in Michal Kovac, Slovak media reported. Slovak National Party deputy Vitazoslav Moric proposed the motion, which was approved by 80 deputies representing the government coalition. One deputy from the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia abstained, while 40 opposition deputies voted against. There are no legal consequences of the vote, since the Constitution states that the parliament can only remove the president for activities "against the sovereignty or territorial integrity of Slovakia" or against the country's "democratic constitutional system." Even in that case, the vote requires a three-fifths majority (90 votes in the 150- member parliament). Kovac later called the vote unconstitutional and stressed that he will not resign. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. CONFLICT BREWING WITHIN SLOVAKIA'S COALITION? At a press conference on 5 May, Slovak National Party Chairman Jan Slota said his party supports neither the govern-ment's proposed amendments to the criminal law nor its draft law on conflicts of interest. He also said the decision of the SNP not to support the ratification of the Slovak-Hungarian treaty is final. Speaking on Slovak Radio on 5 May concerning the ratification of the treaty, Premier Vladimir Meciar said it is necessary to take preventative measures to avoid a government crisis but that he will begin discussions on the treaty with other political parties. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARY'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS REFERENDUM. Hungarian media and Reuters reported on 6 May that the country's Constitutional Court has rejected a call by the Smallholders Party for a national referendum on strengthening presidential powers. Hungary's presidency is now largerly a figurehead post with few executive powers. The court ruled that constitutional changes cannot be the subject of referendums. The Smallholders collected more than 156,000 signatures in support of a directly elected, strong presidency and said they would nominate their leader, Jozsef Torgyan, for the post. Hungary's presidents are currently elected by parliament. A referendum must be held if it is requested by more than 100,000 people. The ruling Socialists have indicated that they intend to reelect Arpad Goncz to the post when his term expires in July. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN SERBS STEP UP ATTACKS . . . On 9 May, international media report that Bosnian Serb forces have intensified attacks against a number of targets in Bosnia, including the two UN-protected cities of Tuzla and Sarajevo. Serb forces, violating UN heavy weapons exclusion zone regulations, used tanks against Bosnian government troops just north of Sarajevo in one of the first reappearances of tank attacks in over a year of the conflict. Meanwhile, on 8 May Hina reported that Serb forces from parts of Croatia's Krajina region launched an estimated 24 rockets at Coralici, western Bosnia, in the morning of the previous day. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. . . . IN THE WAKE OF RECENT MORTAR ATTACK ON SARAJEVO. A Serb mortar attack on a Sarajevo suburb on 7 May killed 11 persons. It was the worst such incident since the February 1994 mortar attack which claimed 68 lives and has come to be known as the "Sarajevo Market Massacre." On 8 May, UN officials in Zagreb ruled out calling for retaliatory NATO airstrikes on the grounds that such a move may have "possible repercussions," prompting strong reactions from US and Bosnian government officials. US Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright was quoted by Reuters as saying "I fail to understand the logic behind turning down such a request [for NATO air power] given the kinds of activities that have taken place in and around Sarajevo." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ZAGREB ON KRAJINA. According to Croatian media accounts, official Zagreb is involved in a concerted effort to normalize life in the recently retaken territory of western Slavonia, formerly held by the country's rebel Krajina Serbs. On 8 May, Croatia's army chief-of-staff General Zvonimir Cervenko told a press conference that "I have assured the people in Pakrac area [in Western Slavonia] that the Croatian army will withdraw as soon as the police begin operating regularly." Meanwhile, Adalbert Rebic, Croatian minister and head of the government office for displaced persons and refugees, met with some 160 evacuated persons, mostly elderly and of Serb ethnicity, promising them that "You will go home in a few days as soon as the security condition allows such a move," Hina reported. In other news, Reuters on 9 May reports that, contrary to earlier accounts, a monument at Jasenovac to Serbs and Jews slaughtered by Croatian fascists during World War II as well as the Serbian Orthodox Church in the area survived intact the advance of the Croatian army in western Slavonia. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE IN ROMANIA. Romania's President Ion Iliescu on 5 May signed a decree replacing the culture and commerce ministers in Nicolae Vacaroiu's left-wing government, Radio Bucharest reported. The new culture minister, Viorel Marginean, is a painter and director of the National Arts Museum; he replaces the writer Marin Sorescu, who has been accused in the media of having mismanaged the cultural sector. The new commerce minister, Petru Crisan, replaces Cristian Ionescu, who had asked to be released from duty on health grounds. Both Marginean and Crisan stated that they have no party affiliation. At the swearing-in ceremony, Iliescu stressed that the changes in the government had no political connotation. On 8 May, the two ministers were officially installed in the presence of Prime Minister Vacaroiu. The media noticed that this was the fifth reshuffle since the fall of 1992, when Vacaroiu's cabinet took office. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN CIVIC PARTY HOLDS CONGRESS. Between 4 and 6 May, the opposition Party of Civic Alliance (PAC) held its second nation-wide congress in the Transylvanian town of Alba Iulia, Radio Bucharest reported. The congress adopted a new party program and statutes and reelected Nicolae Manolescu as party president. PAC, which defines its doctrine as neo- liberal, supports the idea of reconstructing Romania's political elite, which had been destroyed under the Communists. This was the first national meeting of the organization since leaving the opposition alliance known as the Democratic Convention of Romania in March this year. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. GENERAL LEBED DENIES RESIGNATION REPORTS. Lieutenant- General Aleksandr Lebed on 6 May denied that he had submitted his resignation from the post of commander of the 14th Russian army headquartered in Tiraspol, Interfax reports. Lebed added, however, that he would soon announce his final decision on his future. At a press conference in Moscow on the same day, Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said that Lebed, whom he described as "the army's capricious child," has been told to either carry out his superiors' orders or to quit the army. He accused Lebed of making statements "under the influence of different political groupings which seek to come to power" in Russia. Grachev further defended his ministry's recent decision to downgrade the 14th army. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. IMF MANAGING DIRECTOR IN CHISINAU. Michel Camdessus, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, paid a two-day visit to the Republic of Moldova, Interfax reports. On 7 May, Camdessus told President Mircea Snegur that his organization would continue to assist Moldova in getting Western credits for developing its industry. He also said that the IMF was supporting economic reforms in that country, which should be irreversible. He pleaded for structural reforms and price stabilization, and expressed the hopes that the fall in Moldova's industrial output will stop in 1995. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT DEFENDS ANTI-CRIME MEASURES. Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev on 5 May defended the government's proposal for new anti-crime measures, Reuters reported the same day. Nachev said the government plans to extend police investigative powers, tighten arms licensing, and curb the activities of private security firms. Private individuals will be allowed to carry arms only in exceptional cases, while private security guards will be allowed to carry them only while on duty. According to the minister, 49,775 crimes were committed during the first three months of 1995, of which 15,504 are unsolved. Crime rate growth has halved compared to the first quarter of 1994, and murder cases have fallen by 20%. Also on 5 May, Justice Minister Mladen Chervenyakov announced that the government will tighten residence permit requirements for foreigners in order to curb the spread of international crime into Bulgaria. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ILLEGAL BUSINESS IN BULGARIA ON THE RISE. Illegal business activities in Bulgaria amounted to $9.5 billion in 1994, equivalent to the country's Gross Domestic Product, dpa reported on 8 May, citing an article in Trud the same day. The trade union newspaper referred to statistics of the Bulgarian National Bank. Illegal business includes drug trafficking, forged customs declarations, and trade with countries that are under an embargo. According to Trud, many private restaurants, hotels and casinos are just front businesses created in order to justify profits to the revenue office. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. MACEDONIA RECEIVES $55 MILLION IMF LOAN. The International Monetary Fund on 5 May granted a $55 million loan to Macedonia, dpa reported the following day. The money is intended to assist economic reforms in the country. IMF officials in Washington said the loan was granted after the marked stabilization of Macedonia's state finances, which ended hyperinflation and lowered state debts. -- Stefan Krause OSCE TO MEDIATE MACEDONIA MEMBERSHIP. The Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) has received agreement in principle from Greece and Macedonia to mediate the issue of Macedonian membership in the organization, international agencies reported on 8 May. The current chair of the OSCE, Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, said: "During his recent visit, the foreign minister of FYROM [Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia] raised the issue and today Greece has also indicated that it would welcome OSCE playing a role in solving the problems." Greece has blocked Macedonia's entry into the OSCE because it objects to the country's use of the name Macedonia. Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias, visiting Budapest for talks with Kovacs, said: "We want to overcome the crisis." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIA TIGHTENS BORDER CONTROLS. Albanian police and army tightened up border and coast controls to cope with illegal immigration and emigration, AFP reported on 8 May. Interior Minister Agron Musaraj said that an additional 300 police, as well as helicopters and motorboats, have been mobilized to check boats on the Adriatic and stop Albanians and other citizens from illegally crossing the sea to Italy. The government also wants to stop illegal immigration to Albania. Musaraj said that 600 persons without valid documents were denied entry to Albania over the past two weeks. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. [As of 12:00 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. 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
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