|We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers. - Martin Luther King Jr|
No. 103, Part II, 29 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 BELARUSIAN VOTERS FAIL TO ELECT PARLIAMENT. Belarusians on 28 May went to the polls for the second round of parliament elections but failed to elect enough deputies to form a new legislature, international agencies reported. According to preliminary results released by the Central Electoral Commission, just over half of the eligible electorate voted and some 86 of the 260 parliament seats were filled, well below the two- thirds that must be filled for the new parliament to resume its work. Elections were declared invalid in 26 districts with less than 50% voter turnout. Not a single seat in the 42 electoral districts in Minsk was filled, although well-known figures such as opposition leader Zyanon Paznyak, former parliament speaker Stanislau Shushkevich, and head of the National Bank Stanislau Bahdankevich were running there. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka initially said he would not vote and that he had spoiled his ballot in the first round of elections on 14 May because all of the candidates "would deceive voters in the country." But the president said he did cast his ballot in the second round because the country could not "exist without a parliament." The old Soviet-era legislature will continue to function while the president meets with it to decide what to do next. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. CENTRAL EUROPEAN PRESIDENTS MEET IN HUNGARY. The presidents of Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia met on 27 May in the Hungarian town of Keszthely to discuss regional cooperation and East European countries' prospects for integration into the EU, international media reported. A number of bilateral meetings also took place. Slovak President Michal Kovac and his Hungarian counterpart, Arpad Goencz, discussed bilateral relations, including the sensitive question of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia, TASR reported. Both presidents voiced their belief that the Slovak- Hungarian treaty, which addresses the question of minorities, will be ratified, despite opposition to it in both countries. Kovac stressed that he is in favor of dialogue with representatives of minorities but warned that territorial autonomy for ethnic Hungarians "is not supported by any Slovaks or the president." The escalating conflict in Bosnia was also high on the presidents' agenda. Czech President Vaclav Havel told journalists that in his opinion "military force should have been used in Bosnia a long time ago. Many human lives could have been saved that way." -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. CONSORTIUM OF WESTERN FIRMS TO DESIGN PLAN FOR CHORNOBYL SHUTDOWN. The Ukrainian government and a consortium of Western firms on 27 May signed a memorandum to design a joint project for shutting down the Chornobyl nuclear power station by 2000 and building a thermal plant to replace it, international and Ukrainian news agencies reported the same day. The group, led by the German-based Asea Brown Boveri, was hired to ensure the safe closure of the two still-functioning reactors at Chornobyl. The cost of decommissioning those reactors was estimated at $1.7 billion and constructing the new plant at $2 billion. A representative of the consortium said the group would draw on the experience of nuclear plants decommissioned in the U.S. and converted to other forms of energy generation. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. LATVIAN, ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTERS MEET. Maris Gailis and Tiit Vahi met in the Estonian town of Parnu on 26 May to discuss ways to settle the dispute over their sea border, BNS reported. The two leaders expressed willingness to compromise, but it is expected that the issue will not be resolved for several more months. They also discussed issues relating to a free trade treaty between the two countries and plans to introduce special border crossing regulations for local residents in the twin border towns of Valga and Valka. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. SOLIDARITY ACTIVISTS SCUFFLE WITH POLICE IN WARSAW. Some 6,000-10,000 Solidarity activists demonstrated in Warsaw on 26 May, Western and Polish media reported. The demonstration turned into an ugly battle with the police when demonstrators began hurling stones, bolts, and bags of dust and paint at government buildings. Police used water canons and dogs against the demonstrators. Up to 20 protesters and two policemen were injured. The protesters, most of whom arrived by bus from Silesia, shouted anti-communist slogans directed at Jozef Oleksy's post-communist coalition government. Increased economic assistance for Silesia was one of the demonstrators' key demands. Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski said in an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza on 29 May that intervention was necessary but that he would never order the use of fire arms against demonstrators. The demonstrations were the most unruly Poland's capital has experienced since 1989. They also constitute the most serious grass-roots challenge to the post-communist governing coalition since it took power in October 1993. -- Jakub Karpinski and Ben Slay, OMRI, Inc. POLAND'S SUPREME AUDIT CHAMBER PRESIDENT REMOVED. The Sejm on 26 May voted by 204 to 85 to remove Lech Kaczynski from his post. In an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza on 29 May, Kaczynski said he had no illusions concerning the ruling left-wing coalition and was convinced that it would not tolerate the head of an important institution whom it is unable to control. The Senate has 30 days to accept the Sejm's decision. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. CZECH RAIL WORKERS THREAT-EN ALL-OUT STRIKE. The Czech rail workers' union said on 27 May they are prepared to call a nationwide, all-out strike if their wage demands are not met by the end of June, Czech media reported on 29 May. The union claims wages should rise by up to 60% to put rail workers on par with other comparable groups. It also says much railroad equipment is antiquated and some in dangerous condition, and The chairman of Czech Railways, Emanuel Sip, who attended a union meeting in Ceska Trebova over the weekend, said wages could rise by 15% over two years if up to 10,000 workers were let go this year. -- Steve Kettle , OMRI, Inc. DOMESTIC POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN SLOVAKIA. The Democratic Union, in a statement released on 27 May, said it is protesting "the policy of breaking laws..., which creates the conditions for establishing a new totalitarian system" in Slovakia. The party was particularly concerned about the Slovak police's decision to check signatures on the petition lists that the DU submitted to run in the October 1994 elections. Despite the Constitutional Court's ruling in the DU's favor, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has continued to allege that a number of signatures on the DU lists were forged and that the DU should therefore have not been allowed to participate in the elections. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN SERBS ROUND UP PEACEKEEPERS. Following the NATO air strikes against Bosnian Serb positions on 25-26 May, Bosnian Serb forces shelled Tuzla on 27 May and continued to take UN peacekeepers hostage throughout the weekend. The Serbs clashed with French troops in Sarajevo the next day and had taken between 320 and 350 UN soldiers captive by the morning of 29 May, among them Czechs, Egyptians, and Ghanaians as well as Serbia's traditional allies: British, French, and Russians. At least three men have been chained to potential military targets, and at least six more are being used as human shields to deter further NATO air strikes. The Serbs say the men will be freed only when Pale has complete assurance there will be no more air attacks, international media reported. A UN spokesman said the Serbs were behaving like a "terrorist organization." -- Patrick Moore , OMRI, Inc. MOST GOVERNMENTS WAFFLE IN THE FACE OF SERB DEFIANCE. General reaction from major capitals over the weekend was confusion and indecision, key European dailies noted on 29 May. Many governments seem willing to defer any hard decisions until after a series of meetings in the course of the week, including those of the Contact Group, the EU foreign ministers, and the UN Security Council. Washington called for "strengthening" the position of the UN but still refuses to send any troops. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quotes German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel as saying that UNPROFOR should stay on in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but Bonn also has no intention of sending in any ground forces. -- Patrick Moore , OMRI, Inc. FRANCE IS INDIGNANT AT ITS ALLIES. The BBC on 29 May said that French Prime Minister Alain Juppe the previous day called the air strikes ill- prepared and demanded that the UN make UNPROFOR's mandate tougher. Paris and London have long wanted the troops more concentrated as well, which would probably mean abandoning at least the three Muslim enclaves in eastern Bosnia. Juppe almost seemed more upset with his allies than with the Serbs and once again hinted that France is considering withdrawing its peacekeepers. It has the largest single contingent in UNPROFOR, but President Jacques Chirac campaigned in the recent elections in favor of more air strikes and against withdrawal. An aircraft carrier has nonetheless been sent to the Adriatic. The BBC said the new government is anxious to carry out its domestic agenda and is irked that the Bosnian crisis is threatening to divert its attention. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. BRITAIN TO SEND 5,000 MORE TROOPS TO BOSNIA. British Prime Minister John Major is not only against withdrawal but is dispatching 5,000 additional forces to Bosnia. The BBC said on 29 May that the units are some of the best and toughest in the British army and will bring along heavy artillery. The move indicates that Bosnia has become an important matter of British national interest following the Serbian capture of 33 British UNPROFOR troops. The broadcast noted that the new force will be under British--not UN --command and that "military action seems imminent." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN MODERATES CALL FOR OVERTHROW OF KARADZIC. Nasa Borba on 29 May reports that the Sarajevo-based Serbian Citizens' Council has urged Serbs living under Pale's control to "rise up against [Bosnian Serb leader Radovan] Karadzic." The council represents at least 200,000 "forgotten Serbs" who want a multi-ethnic Bosnia-Herzegovina and oppose nationalism. It still remains unclear why Karadzic and his military chose their present defiant course and took even Russian, French, and British hostages. Pale has friends in the Belgrade Serbian military, the nationalist parties, and the Serbian Orthodox Church and may be trying to exacerbate the crisis in hopes of forging closer Serbian unity. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. BELGRADE REACTS TO HOSTAGE-TAKING, NATO AIR STRIKES. International media on 29 May reported that rump Yugoslav Foreign Minister Vladislav Jovanovic has condemned the Bosnian Serbs' decision to take UN peacekeepers hostage. Jovanovic said the hostage-taking would aggravate regional tensions. He also reiterated the position that only "peaceful" dialogue could lead to a resolution of regional tension. Earlier, on 26 May, Belgrade signaled opposition to developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina following NATO air strikes against Bosnian Serb targets near the self- styled Bosnian Serb capital of Pale. According to a government statement reported on 26 May by Tanjug, Belgrade is "deeply concerned over yet another escalation of armed clashes" in Bosnia, which, it believes, is "playing into the hands of those who advocate violent solutions." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. BOSNIAN FOREIGN MINISTER KILLED. International media reported on 28 May that Irfan Ljubijankic died near Bihac when Krajina Serb forces shot down his helicopter. They said it had violated their air space. He was the highest official on any side in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia to be killed in combat. Meanwhile in Zagreb, Novi list reported on 29 May that the Bosnian and Croatian Prime Ministers, Haris Silajdzic and Nikica Valentic, met Iranian Vice President Hasan Habibi the previous day. Teheran is a strong supporter of the Croatian-Muslim confederation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. CONGRESS OF HUNGARIAN MINORITY PARTY IN ROMANIA. The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) re-elected Bela Marko as its chairman and Reformed Bishop Laszlo Tokes as its honorary chairman at its congress in Cluj on 26-28 May, Radio Bucharest reported. It also adopted its new program and statutes. In line with a proposal by the "radical" faction, headed by Tokes, the designation of Romania's Hungarians was changed from "Magyar minority" to "Magyar National Community of Romania." The gathering approved by an overwhelming majority Tokes's demand for territorial autonomy. Tokes criticized President Ion Iliescu for his attempt to "interfere" in UDMR affairs by supporting the "moderate" faction in a message read out on the first day of the congress. Tokes also criticized the U.S. and the Hungarian government for pressing the UDMR to moderate its positions. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN NATIONAL BLOC ENLARGED. Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the chauvinistic Greater Romania Party (GRP), told a press conference on 26 May that the National Bloc set up by the GRP and the Bratianu Liberal Union in mid-March was enlarged on 24 May to six parties. Radio Bucharest quoted Tudor as saying the Romanian Party for the New Society, the People's Republican Party, the Republican Union Party and the Young Democracy Party have joined the bloc. All are fringe formations with no parliamentary representation. Political observers consider most of them "Ceausescu-nostalgic." -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. OSCE ENVOY BACKS RUSSIAN ARMY PULLOUT FROM MOLDOVA. Istvan Gyarmati, special envoy of the OSCE secretary-general to Moldova, said at the end of a visit to Chisinau that Russia should withdraw its army from the breakaway Dniester region as soon as possible, Reuters and Interfax reported on 26 May. Gyarmati added that "strict international control" was needed over all pullout procedures, especially in order to ensure the safety of the 14th Army's "huge ammunition depots." He noted that Lt. Gen. Alexander Lebed's proposal for defining the role of the 14th Army as peace-making was "utterly unacceptable" because "peace-making functions cannot be performed by the armed forces of [just] one country." -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. GAGAUZ ELECTIONS. Voters in the Moldovan autonomous Gagauz region went to polls on 28 May to elect the region's leader and the 35-member regional parliament and to decide whether the region's capital should be Comrat or Ciadar Lunga. ITAR-TASS reported the next day that George Tabunshik, former first secretary of the Comrat Communist Party district branch, and Mikhail Kendigelean, chairman of the outgoing parliament, received most votes for the region's leader and will face each other in a second round. Thirty-one parliamentarians were elected; the remaining four seats will be decided in run-offs. Voters opted in favor of Comrat as the region's capital. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. THREE BULGARIAN INVESTMENT FUNDS FOLD. International news agencies reported that three investment funds in the town of Varna folded on 25 May. BAMS, Spireli, and Tako Import-Export have stopped paying dividends and closed their offices, leaving thousands of shareholders in panic. Police said that some 25,000 investors lost a total of 10 billion leva ($151.5 million). The owners of the companies are reported to have fled abroad. The companies are suspected to be pyramid schemes. They offered a monthly yield of 14-18%, compared with 3-4% in most banks. -- Stefan Krause , OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ADOPT COMMON POSITION ON NATO. The National Assembly on 26 May failed to agree to a common position on cooperation with NATO and possible Bulgarian membership, despite a consensus reached the previous day by the parliament commissions on foreign policy and national security, Pari reported. The Socialist majority reportedly changed its position after Russia confirmed its objections to an expansion of NATO. The opposition issued a joint declaration saying Bulgaria has to adhere to its declared foreign-policy priorities. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIA, ITALY FORM WORKING GROUP ON MIGRATION. Italian Foreign Ministers Susanna Agnelli and her Albanian counterpart, Alfred Serreqi, have agreed to form a working group on migration, Reuters reported on 27 May. Agnelli told reporters that Albania has already taken measures at its borders with Macedonia and Greece to prevent the entry of illegal immigrants, mainly Kurds from Turkey and former Yugoslav citizens. The two ministers also agreed Italy will open a second consulate in the Albanian city of Vlora, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 28 May. Meanwhile, Albania's parliament has passed an emigration law that creates a legal framework for Albanians wishing to work abroad and for foreigners wishing to live in Albania. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIANS ARRESTED FOR FOUNDING COMMUNIST PARTY. Four men have been arrested in Gjirokastra for trying to found a communist party, international agencies reported. Communist parties, including Enver Hoxha's Party of Labor of Albania, have been banned since 1992. -- 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 Copyright (c) Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.
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