|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
No. 127, Part II, 30 June 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 ANNOUNCES SHIFT IN ECONOMIC REFORMS. Ukrainian state TV and radio reported on 28 June that President Leonid Kuchma announced a shift in economic reforms during a visit to Transcarpathia. The changes would ease fiscal policy and increase state support for restructuring industry and overhauling the social welfare system. Kuchma admitted Ukraine would not meet IMF targets to lower monthly inflation to 1-2% by the end of the year. He said 4-5% was a more realistic figure and would allow the government to support special projects in developing a self-sufficient energy sector, agricultural reforms, aviation and shipbuilding, gold mining, and the nuclear and space industries. Kuchma said he hoped to begin new talks with the IMF and planned major government changes to be announced this week. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. CRIMEAN ROUNDUP. Deputies from three factions blocked a quorum in the Crimean legislature on 29 June, demanding a change in the leadership of the 98-member assembly which is dominated by pro-Russian separatists, Ukrainian TV reported the same day. Members of the Crimean Tatar Kurultai faction, plus Reformists and Agrarians, refused to register for the session, insisting the leadership be replaced by lawmakers who better reflect the whole political spectrum. In other news, Crimean Prime Minister Anatolii Franchuk complained that the governments of Russia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have distanced themselves from the issue of Tatar repatriation to the peninsula. He insisted Kiev turn to all CIS countries to take up the matter. Franchuk also complained that Russian and local media sensationalized last weekend's violence between Crimean Tatars and alleged criminal groups, turning away badly-needed tourist money from the region. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO RATIFY EBRD AGREEMENT. Ukrainian radio reported on 29 June that the parliament failed to ratify a credit agreement with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The credits were to be used towards developing small and medium businesses, raising the effectiveness of commercial banks, and for social programs. Deputy Finance Minister Borys Soboliv said the failure to ratify the agreement deprived Ukraine of substantial hard currency revenues. Legislation is being prepared which will allow credit lines to become available without needing the parliament to ratify agreements, so that such situations do not recur in the future. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. US-BELARUSIAN RELATIONS. A special advisor to US President Bill Clinton, Coit Blacker, met with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Minsk on 28 June, Belarusian television reported. Lukashenka said that technical aid from the US would help Belarus greatly in attracting investment and creating a better tax system. He pointed out that the US had allocated $30 million to fight crime in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and Belarus was the first country to start tracing financial crimes. Lukashenka noted that Belarus had made other positive initiatives towards the West, such as joining NATO's Partnership for Peace program, but the problem of coming to terms with the IMF over a stand-by credit must still be resolved. Blacker told Lukashenka that officials in the US view Belarusian policies as submissive to Russia's. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. POLICE PROVOCATION LEGALIZED IN POLAND. The Sejm on 29 June voted amendments to the laws on the police, allowing police agents to conduct otherwise prohibited transactions, such as buying and selling drugs or arms or offering bribes. An agent's testimony and tape or video recording of such transactions, which must be authorized by the interior minister with the consent of the general prosecutor, can be used in courts. Surveillance and eavesdropping will be allowed not only to detect but also to prevent a crime, Polish media reported on 30 June. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. POLISH PARLIAMENT LIMITS PRESIDENT'S POWERS. The Sejm on 29 June, apart from limiting the president's prerogatives in defense matters (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 June), also overruled a presidential veto on the law on the National Radio and Television Council. The council, a nine-member body appointed by the parliament and the president, issues broadcast licenses and supervises broadcast media. The Sejm's vote deprived the president of his right to nominate the council's chairman, who will be appointed instead by other council members, Polish and international media reported on 30 June. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. UPDATE ON THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IN POLAND. Right-of-center party leaders and presidential candidates met on 29 June in the Sejm at the invitation of Republican Party leader Zbigniew Religa. Polish National Bank President Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, still hesitating over her candidacy, said that she cannot withdraw from the presidential race, having read recent opinion poll returns that gave her second place in popularity with 64%, behind former Labor Minister Jacek Kuron on 69%, Rzeczpospolita reported on 30 June. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. CZECH PARLIAMENT REDUCES TOP TAX RATES. Czech lawmakers on 29 June voted to reduce taxes further than the government wanted, Czech media report. From next year, the highest rate of income tax will fall from 43% to 40% for people earning more than 564,000 koruny annually. The threshold for paying tax was raised by 2,400 koruny to 26,400 koruny annually while the bands for the lower rates of income tax were widened. Company tax was reduced from 41% to 39%. On the other hand, cigarettes, non-leaded petrol and sparkling wine will be more expensive. Finance Minister Ivan Kocarnik, who had proposed milder tax reductions, said they would take 22.5 billion koruny out of the state budget. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. CZECH TEACHERS STAGE DEMONSTRATION. Around 5,000 teachers held a rally in Brno on 29 June to protest what they consider to be inadequate wage rises. Union leaders who addressed the rally confirmed that a one-day strike will take place on 4 September, the first day of the new school year, if the government does not relent. The teachers want a 20% wage rise, while the government has decreed a 10% increase. Meanwhile, the deans of four philosophy faculties -- from universitites in Brno, Olomouc, Ostrava and Prague's Charles University -- issued a declaration warning that the future study of humanities in the Czech Republic is seriously threatened. The declaration, published in Lidove noviny on 30 June, called on the education ministry to reconsider the way it allots places and funds. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. ETHNIC HUNGARIANS HOLD PROTESTS IN SOUTHERN SLOVAKIA. Ethnic Hungarian parents and teachers held demonstrations in a number of towns across southern Slovakia on 29 June, protesting the dismissal of directors of several schools for the Hungarian minority who had objected to the government's plan to implement "alternative" (bilingual) education in the fall, Narodna obroda reports. The Education Ministry issued a statement on 29 June stressing that alternative education is aimed at improving the level of teaching of the Slovak language in ethnically mixed territories. Protesting the "disinformation" of ethnic Hungarian politicians about the program, the ministry says it will be implemented on a voluntary basis and will proceed unhindered by protests or the disruption of classes. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK TELEVISION REFUSES TO BROADCAST PRESIDENT'S SPEECH. Slovak Television (STV) officials refused to allow President Michal Kovac to appear on television the day before the visit of Pope John Paul II to Slovakia. According to a report in Pravda on 30 June, STV responded to Kovac's request for 5-6 minutes of airtime by saying that because the pope was invited by the Bishops' Conference, representatives of the Roman Catholic Church would appear instead. Since last fall's parliamentary elections, the ruling coalition has taken control of STV, limiting appearances of opposition representatives as well as the president. In a press conference on 29 June, the opposition Democratic Union protested posters which have appeared around Slovakia, featuring a picture of Premier Vladimir Meciar alongside the pope. The DU said the posters give the impression that the papal visit, due to start on 30 June, is a governmental one. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAKIA TO LIMIT CZECH IMPORTS. According to a TASR report on 29 June, the Slovak Economy Ministry on 1 July will begin to monitor imports of a number of Czech products, including live cattle, pigs and poultry; milk; cream; butter; sugar; non-alcoholic drinks; beer; wine; spirits; cigars; cigarettes; brown coal and tractors. According to ministry official Ladislav Sandtner, Czech exporters will require a license to sell such goods in Slovakia. The ministry will also implement quotas on Slovak exports of raw wood and iron waste to the Czech Republic. The two countries have had a customs union since the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993, but Slovakia threatened to cancel it after the Czech parliament voted to abolish the bilateral trade clearing agreement. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARY TO PRIVATIZE ITS UTILITIES. Privatization Minister Tamas Suchman told journalists on 29 June that the government has approved a plan to privatize some of the country's biggest businesses, such as oil and gas supply and distribution companies. The sales would start later this year. The government expects to earn the equivalent of $1.2 billion from the sales to offset Hungary's huge trade deficit. Hungarian trade unions are opposed to the move, fearing job losses. The union representing electricity workers has already called for a strike to protest the plan. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CROATIA PROTESTS RUMP YUGOSLAV MILITARY PRESENCE. Croatia sent another protest letter to the UN on 29 June over what Zagreb has described as a growing rump Yugoslav military presence on Croatian soil occupied by rebel Serbs. Ambassador Mario Nobilo, delivering the letter on behalf of his foreign ministry, told a news conference: "We would not be surprised if these troops and equipment are used against Bihac [in Western Bosnia] in a matter of days. In fact we have convincing information to this effect." Reuters also reports that the letter to UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali alleges that nearly 5,000 soldiers have been sent to Croatia from the rump Yugoslavia since 14 June. A prior Croatian claim of a rump Yugoslav military presence is being investigated by the UN. (See OMRI Daily Digest, 26 June). -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. BOSNIAN SERBS BLAST UN IN SARAJEVO. Bosnian Serb forces on 29 June launched three mortar rounds into the headquarters of UN operations in Sarajevo, Reuters reports the following day. "It is difficult to say but, when we receive three rounds together, we are obliged to consider this as a direct attack," said spokesman Major Guy Vinet. No casualties were reported. In other news, Nasa Borba on 30 June reports that on the previous day Bosnian Serb forces fired another rocket at the media facility of Radio and Television Sarajevo. While there were no casualties in this incident, Bosnian Serb bombing of the facility on 28 June resulted in 5 deaths and 38 people injured. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. TRAVEL BAN FOR BOSNIAN SERB LEADERS. Vjesnik on 30 June reports that the US has petitioned the UN sanctions committee to bar 40 Bosnian Serb leaders from traveling abroad. International sanctions introduced in 1994 already prevent Bosnian Serb leaders from leaving the country for any reason apart from peace talks, but as yet no list of specific affected individuals has been compiled. The US proposal names, among others, Radovan Karadzic and Bosnian Serb military head General Ratko Mladic. In other news, Nasa Borba on 30 June reports that US President Bill Clinton has told Congress that the White House plans to take $50 million from the Pentagon budget as support for the rapid reaction force in Bosnia. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. BLACK SEA SUMMIT IN BUCHAREST. Bucharest hosts a conference of senior political leaders from the Black Sea region on 30 June, Western agencies and Radio Bucharest report. The conference, which is attended by heads of state, prime ministers and other top officials from the 11 countries belonging to the "Black Sea Economic Cooperation" organization, is expected to focus on boosting economic ties as well as on ways to defuse tension in the region. The three-year old organization groups Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. Several countries, including Poland, Austria and Italy, have been admitted as observers. On 29 June, Romanian President Ion Iliescu received his Georgian and Moldovan counterparts, Eduard Shevarnadze, and Mircea Snegur, respectively. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. SNEGUR IN BUCHAREST. Moldovan President Mircea Snegur on 29 June arrived in Bucharest to attend the Black Sea conference, Romanian media reported. In a statement broadcast by Radio Bucharest, Snegur said that security was a top priority for all countries in the region. He also stressed the importance of economic cooperation in the Black Sea zone. In a reference to his talks in Moscow with Russian President Boris Yeltsin on the previous day, Snegur reiterated Moldova's rejection of Russian plans to set up military bases in the breakaway Dniester region, and insisted that the 14th Russian Army should be withdrawn from the area. On the same day, Snegur discussed bilateral relations with Romanian President Ion Iliescu. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. NEW LAWS STIR CONTROVERSY IN ROMANIA. A law on restitution of houses nationalized under communism has stirred widespread controversy in Romania, western and Romanian media report. The law, which was adopted by a 289 to 153 vote in a joint session of the parliament on 28 June, rules out full restitution of property seized by the former regime in the late 1940s and the 1950s. It provides that former owners are entitled to get back only one habitation unit, while receiving up to 48 million lei ($24,000) for any further confiscated property. The Liberal Party '93 said that the law de facto sanctioned communist abuses and announced it would challenge it in the Constitutional Court. In another development, deputies belonging to the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania on 27 June issued a declaration denouncing the "cynical way" in which their amendments to a new education bill had been rejected by the parliament. The law, which was adopted in parliament on the following day, has been criticized for restricting ethnic minority rights to mother tongue education. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT IN BULGARIA. Heidar Aliev on 29 June arrived in Sofia on an official visit, Reuters reported the same day. Aliev and his Bulgarian counterpart Zhelyu Zhelev signed a cooperation accord between the two countries and several trade and economic documents. They also discussed possibilities of piping Azerbaijani oil to Italy via Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania. Zhelev stressed the importance of "an alternative source of such strategic supplies." Bulgaria is currently totally dependent on Russian gas and oil. A $35 million deal to export Bulgarian buses to Azerbaijan was arranged, and concrete steps were taken for a Bulgarian firm to build a pharmaceutical plant in Azerbaijan. The two sides are also negotiating to import 6,000 tons of Azerbaijani cotton to Bulgaria. International agencies reported that, during his visit, Aliev confirmed that Bulgarian communist leaders repeatedly tried to join the Soviet Union in the 1970s, but he said he always "confidentially advised" them to stay independent. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. GREECE ATTACKS CHIRAC. Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Konstantinos Bikas on 29 June lambasted French President Jacques Chirac for his support of Turkey's aim to establish closer ties with the EU, international agencies reported the same day. During the EU summit in Cannes, Chirac proposed that the Union immediately forge closer links to Turkey to strengthen its southern flank and to prevent the country from slipping towards Islamic fundamentalism, even though he said he was aware of Turkey's poor human rights record. Bikas said that Greece disagrees and said the country "considers that the logic of unconditional support for [Turkish Prime Minister Tansu] Ciller . . . is simplistic and dangerous." He drew a parallel to the 1930s, when "humanity had to pay a dear price for supporting Nazism in order to fight Bolshevism." It was one of the strongest attacks the Greek government has ever made on one of its European partners. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. COUNCIL OF EUROPE APPROVES ALBANIAN MEMBERSHIP. The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly on 29 June approved Albania's application for membership in the organization, international agencies reported the same day. The approval came after Pjeter Arbnori, chairman of the Albanian parliament, signed a declaration pledging to respect the CE's demands to guarantee human rights and democracy. Albania promised to impose a moratorium on the death penalty immediately and abolish it within three years, introduce reforms guaranteeing the independence of the judicial system, increase press freedom and adopt a new constitution. Also, Albania has to sign the European convention on the rights and the protection of ethnic minorities. The decision is due to be approved by the CE's Committee of Ministers, probably in mid-July. Presidential Spokesman Fatos Beja said the membership represents another step for Albania's integration into the international community. -- 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 OMRI 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) 1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.
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