|It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer|
No. 100, Part II, 24 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 URGES PARLIAMENT TO REVIEW ECONOMIC AND ANTI-CRIME BILLS. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 23 May appealed to the leaders of the Ukrainian legislature to speed up their review of 20 draft laws on economic reform and fighting crime and corruption, Interfax-Ukraine and Ukrainian Television reported the same day. He also said more legislation on the anti-crime campaign was needed. According to the Ukrainian newspaper Nezavisimost, only seven of the 77 bills needed to implement Kuchma's economic reform program have been adopted by the Ukrainian legislature. The president has frequently criticized lawmakers for dragging their feet on establishing a legislative base for economic reform. Also on 23 May, Kuchma said during a visit to Latvia that Ukraine's nonalignment doctrine is obsolete and has to be changed to take NATO's inevitable expansion into account, Reuters reported. He noted that Ukraine has so far maintained its neutrality but, under current circumstances, this was "nonsense" since Ukraine's geographical position contradicts that doctrine. -- Chrystyna Lapychak and Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. STANDOFF OVER CRIMEA CONTINUES. Crimean parliament speaker Serhii Tsekov on 23 May said the legislature will carry out plans to hold a regionwide referendum on the banned Crimean Constitution even if its resolution on the vote is overturned by Kiev, Interfax-Ukraine reported the same day. Radio Ukraine reported the same day that Volodymyr Butkevych, chairman of the human rights commission in the Ukrainian parliament, dismissed the separatist leader's latest proposal to cancel the referendum if Kiev overturned its ban on the document. Crimean deputies said earlier this week that in such a case, they would be agreed to abolishing those articles that contravene Ukrainian law. He said the Crimean legislature had no legal right to set conditions on their adherence to Ukrainian law. Meanwhile, Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Demydenko said his government will never agree to finance the plebiscite, which the Crimean assembly estimates will cost taxpayers 5.6 billion karbovantsi, UNIAR reported. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. US-UKRAINIAN MILITARY EXERCISE. The Peace-Shield-95 military exercise got under way on 23 May at the Yavorov training grounds in Western Ukraine, Interfax reported. Both American and Ukrainian troops are taking part in the maneuvers. The commander of Ukraine's 24th Motorized Rifle Division said the exercise will cost Ukraine nearly $5 million. Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatoly Lopata told reporters that Ukraine was also interested in cooperating with Russian military forces. When asked about the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO, Lopata replied that his department "never sets unachievable goals for itself." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. BELARUS PREPARES FOR SECOND ROUND OF ELECTIONS. Ivan Likhach, head of the Belarusian Central Electoral Commission, said on Belarusian Radio on 23 May that of the 2,340 candidates who ran in the first round of the elections, 432 made it to the second round, scheduled for 28 May. The majority (45.1%) are independents, 22.9% are from communist parties, 11.3% from the Agrarian Party, and 8.6% from the opposition Belarusian Popular Front. Sixty-two are heads of collectives and state farms, 39 are educators, 27 are in the legal and medical professions, 16 work for the president's administration, 21 work in enterprises, and 18 are journalists. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN LATVIA. Leonid Kuchma, during his two-day visit to Latvia on 23-24 May, met with his Latvian counterpart, Maris Gailis, President Guntis Ulmanis, and Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs, BNS reported. The presidents signed a joint political declaration and five interstate agreements, including ones on friendship and cooperation, mutual aid in customs issues, and legal aid in criminal and civil cases. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LATVIAN GOVERNMENT TAKES OVER LARGEST COMMERCIAL BANK. Latvian Prime Minister Maris Gailis and Bank of Latvia President Einars Repse signed a memorandum on 23 May according to which the Latvian government completely took over Baltija Bank and pledged to guarantee the bank's deposits, BNS reported. Repse the previous day suspended the operations of the bank (excluding regaining extended loans) when the Baltija Bank asked for more cash. About a fifth of Latvia's population has deposits in the bank, and many of them have been trying to withdraw them. -- Saulius Girnius , OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA PROMISES TO RETURN LITHUANIAN DEPOSITS, EMBASSY BUILDINGS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, in a telephone conversation with his Lithuanian counterpart Adolfas Slezevicius on 23 May, promised that Lithuania will get back its deposits in the former Vneshekononbank and its embassy buildings in Rome and Paris without any further delay, BNS reported. Lithuanian government spokesman Vilius Kavaliauskas said that Chernomyrdin pledged that Russia will transfer about $10 million ($7 million original deposits and $3 million interest) to Lithuania this year. He also said that Chernomyrdin gave instructions to the Foreign Ministry on returning the Lithuanian embassy buildings in Rome and Paris, which are currently used as Russian diplomatic missions. * Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLISH PREMIER DISAGREES WITH POPE'S CRITICISM. Jozef Oleksy said in an interview with Polish Radio on 23 May that he was "surprised by the Pope's radical views" on intolerance in society. John Paul II, during his visit to Poland the previous day, had said that "under the banner of tolerance in public life and the mass media, intolerance is growing. There is a tendency to push believers out of the realm of public life." Rzeczpospolita on 24 May quoted left-wing politicians, like Labor Union leader Ryszard Bugaj, as disagreeing with the Pope. But some right-wing leaders, such as Stefan Niesiolowski from the Christian National Union, supported the pontiff's views. -- Jakub Karpinski , OMRI, Inc. CZECH PRESIDENT VETOES ANTI-SMOKING LAW. Vaclav Havel on 23 May returned to the parliament a controversial law that restricts smoking and aims to reduce alcoholism and other drug dependency, Czech media reported. Havel's spokesman said that while the president, a smoker, was not opposed in principle to restrictions on smoking and the sale of tobacco products, he believed the law had several basic flaws. It was the fifth time Havel has refused to sign a law. The anti-smoking legislation was widely criticized when the parliament adopted it in April. Some deputies said they would refuse to observe provisions limiting smoking in restaurants and pubs and banning smoking in many public buildings, including the parliament. The legislature can overturn the veto if more than 100 of the 200 deputies vote for it a second time. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. RECORD LOW INCREASE IN FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN SLOVAKIA. Narodna obroda on 20 May reported that foreign direct investment in Slovakia reached 16.9 billion koruny ($565.4 million) by 31 March. Of that amount, 79% came from Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, the U.S., and France. During the first quarter of 1995, FDI grew by only 398 million koruny (2.4%), the lowest quarterly increase since the Slovak Statistical Office began collating such figures. Rudolf Filkus of the opposition Democratic Union told Pravda on 23 May that the drop in FDI is connected with the country's political situation: "The concentration of power--political and economic--in the direction of totalitarianism contradicts what we want to do economically." Ladislav Lysak of the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia said he is "dissatisfied" with the low level of foreign investment in Slovakia but expects "a marked increase" in the future. -- Sharon Fisher , OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN SERB LEGISLATURE VOTES FOR UNION WITH KRAJINA. Parliamentary speaker Momcilo Krajisnik said that deputies voted "by acclimation" to unite with Croatian Serbs, Nasa Borba reports on 24 May. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is quoted in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as saying that the new western Serbian state would be formed "very soon" and would have to be a unitary one "because federations are unworkable." It remains unclear, however, what such a new entity would mean in practice. Both Knin and Pale have suffered recent reverses on the battlefield and have witnessed strains in their relations with Serbia. But both have pushed for a greater Serbia since Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic began to engineer the destruction of the former Yugoslavia, even before launching his war in 1991. -- Patrick Moore , OMRI, Inc. UN SAYS SOME CROATS AND SERBS REMAIN IN BUFFER ZONE. A spokesman for the world body stated in Knin that some 100 Croatian and 50 Serbian soldiers remain in what are supposed to be UN buffer zones in the Dalmatian hinterland. Nasa Borba on 24 May says he added that 11,000 Serbs have fled western Slavonia since the Croats retook it on 1-2 May. Some 4,000 of them have gone to eastern Slavonia; and a similar number remain in western Slavonia, of whom 1,800 have applied to leave. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, however, cites UN officials in Zagreb as saying that the Croatian evacuation of the buffer zones is largely complete. -- Patrick Moore , OMRI, Inc. MAZOWIECKI CASTS DOUBT ON SERBIAN CHARGES AGAINST CROATS. The Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung also reports that the UN special envoy for human rights, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, says it is unclear whether the Croatian army deliberately fired on civilians during this month's Operation Blitz or whether the 20 or more dead civilians were caught in crossfire. The Serbs have repeatedly charged the Croats with these and similar human rights violations in western Slavonia. UN spokesmen have called the evacuation of the area probably the most orderly such procedure in the history of the Yugoslav conflict. A CIA study earlier this year and numerous other reports have stressed that the Serbian side alone has used "ethnic cleansing" in a systematic and deliberate fashion to achieve political goals, making the Serbs responsible for at least 90% of the atrocities in Bosnia. Hina quotes a Croatian government spokeswoman as calling the latest charges "greater Serbian propaganda." -- Patrick Moore , OMRI, Inc. BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT FORCES ADVANCE FROM BIHAC. Encircled government troops have pushed Serbian forces out of several villages in the Bihac pocket. Pressure on the Serbs was intensified thanks to an offensive by Bosnian Croat and regular Croatian forces in the Livno valley, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports on 24 May. Meanwhile, Vecernji list says that the Roman Catholic bishop of Banja Luka, Franjo Komarica, has entered the seventh day of his hunger strike to protest Serbian abuses and has sent a long and urgent plea to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN UPDATE. US envoy Robert Frasure left Belgrade on 23 May after failing to secure Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's agreement to a deal that would have lifted some sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia in exchange for Belgrade's recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Nasa Borba reports on 24 May that Russian envoy Alexander Zotov, due to arrive in Belgrade the same day, will also try to persuade the Serbian leader to reach an agreement on the issue. The newspaper also carried excerpts of a press conference held by Vuk Draskovic, leader of the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement, who stressed that Serbian unity cannot be achieved through "war and against the will of the [rest of] the world." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN LEADER CONVICTED IN MACEDONIA. Arben Rusi, a leader of the Party for Democratic Prosperity of Albanians, was sentenced to eight months in jail on 23 May, Flaka reported the following day. Rusi was convicted on charges of obstructing the police during riots that broke out when thousands of people tried to prevent policemen from closing down the self-declared Albanian-language university in Tetovo. Rusi was the fourth Albanian sentenced in connection with the riot, in which one Albanian died. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. CONFERENCE ON TOLERANCE IN BUCHAREST. A four-day international seminar on tolerance opened in Bucharest on 23 May, Radio Bucharest and international agencies reported. More than 250 participants from 53 countries are attending the conference, which has been jointly organized by the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the Romanian government in cooperation with UNESCO. President Ion Iliescu, speaking at the opening ceremony, praised what he described as the "traditional tolerance" of the Romanian people while warning against a worldwide surge of intolerance in various forms. Debates will focus on the role of civil society, the media, national authorities, and international organizations in combating racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, religious fundamentalism, and aggressive nationalism. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. CONTROVERSIAL RESTITUTION LAW ADOPTED IN ROMANIA. The Chamber of Deputies on 23 May adopted a controversial law on returning property nationalized by the Communists to its former owners, Radio Bucharest reported. The new law allows former property owners to reclaim only one piece of property, regardless of how much they previously owned. Owners are entitled to compensation for all other properties. The democratic opposition denounced the law as an attempt to "legalize communist-era theft." A spokesman for the Liberal Party '93 said his party will appeal to the Romanian Constitutional Court and international organizations in a last-ditch attempt to annul the new legislation, which must still be endorsed by the Constitutional Court and signed by Iliescu. Also on 23 May, Iliescu received an IMF delegation, which expressed support for the economic reform process in Romania, Radio Bucharest reported. -- Dan Ionescu , OMRI, Inc. GYPSIES DEMONSTRATE IN BUCHAREST. The Gypsies Association of Romania on 23 May staged a rally in downtown Bucharest to protest the planned change in their official name, Radio Bucharest reports. Romania's Foreign Ministry has recommended that the traditional Romanian name for Gypsy ("Tsigan") be used in official documents rather than "Roma" or "Romany," as Gypsies prefer to call themselves. Gypsies regard the term "Tsigan" as pejorative. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. LEBED ADDRESSES RUSSIAN STATE DUMA. 14th Army Commander Lt. Gen. Alexander Lebed, speaking at the Russian State Duma hearings on 23 May, said Moldova could soon look like Chechnya if the Russian Defense Ministry carries out plans to downgrade his unit. Interfax quoted Lebed as saying that the possible withdrawal of the 14th Army from the Dniester region depends on the outcome of negotiations between Chisinau and Tiraspol. But he added that the two sides apparently are not interested in direct negotiations on the issue. Lebed also warned of chaos in the region if weapons and ammunition fell into the hands of criminal gangs. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS LAND LAW. The Constitutional Court on 23 May ruled that an amendment to the land restitution law passed by the Socialist majority contravenes the constitution, Radio Sofia reported the same day. The law was passed on 14 April and vetoed by President Zhelyu Zhelev two weeks later. After the parliament overruled his veto on 10 May, Zhelev and 51 deputies from the Union of Democratic Forces asked the Constitutional Court to declare the law void, saying the new amendment contradicts the principle of the invulnerability of private property. According to the amendment, land owners wishing to sell their plot must first offer it to their neighbors and then to the state, which has to decide within two months whether to buy it. The parliament, government, and Ministry of Agriculture have two weeks to respond to the court's decision. -- Stefan Krause , OMRI, Inc. BULGARIA, TURKEY WILL COOPERATE TO FIGHT TERRORISM. Turkish Interior Minister Nahit Mentese, during his visit to Sofia on 23 May, said that the Bulgarian government has agreed to prevent the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) from operating on Bulgarian territory, international agencies reported the same day. Mentese said the Turkish government has information that the PKK is attempting to set up organizations in Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine. He added that the group's activities "could harm Bulgarian-Turkish relations, if not checked." Bulgarian Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev stressed that the PKK is currently not operating in Bulgaria. About 9,000 people of Kurdish origin are living in Bulgaria, most of them citizens of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey. Bulgaria and Turkey will also cooperate to fight drug trafficking and organized crime. Mentese was the first Turkish interior minister to visit Bulgaria in 10 years. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIA TO CLAMP DOWN ON ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS TO ITALY. Albanian Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi on 23 May assured Italian Deputy Interior Minister Luigi Rossi that his government will take measures against illegal Albanian immigrants who are smuggled to the Italian coast in motor-boats, Reuters reported the same day. Rome has been under pressure from its European partners to impose stricter controls on the EU's external borders. Meksi also pressed for liberalization of the Italian visa regime, the opening of Albanian consulates in Italy, the legalization of Albanian refugees in Italy, and seasonal jobs for Albanian workers. Rossi, who was heading a delegation to Tirana to discuss Albanian President Sali Berisha's upcoming visit to Italy, assured Meksi of his "government's intention to solve the issue of immigration." Italy has employed 700 policemen and soldiers to guard the coast of Puglia against illegal immigration. -- 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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