|History is made out of the failures and heroism of each insignificant moment. - Franz Kafka|
No. 146, Part II, 28 July 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 UPDATE ON POLISH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. The latest survey on Polish presidential preferences puts Democratic Left Alliance leader Aleksander Kwasniewski well out in front, with 23% support. He is followed by President Lech Walesa (14%), National Bank President Hanna Gronkiewicz- Waltz (12%), Civil Rights Spokesman Tadeusz Zielinski (11%), and former Labor Minister Jacek Kuron (10%). The Center for Public Opinion Research survey was conducted in mid-July and reported by Gazeta Wyborcza on 28 July. Kwasniewski has a comfortable lead in all opinion surveys, but competing polling organizations give slightly different rankings for the other candidates. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. POLISH BANKING CHIEF TALKS TOUGH. Polish National Bank President Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz on 26 July told reporters that she will not resign if, as now appears almost certain, she decides to run for president. Gronkiewicz-Waltz was responding to a report in that day's Zycie Warszawy that President Lech Walesa has sounded out the ruling coalition about having her removed from office. Walesa originally nominated Gronkiewicz-Waltz to the banking post but now clearly resents her presidential ambitions. In a veiled reference to the ruling coalition, Gronkiewicz-Waltz also accused "certain political forces" of attempting to limit the central bank's supervisory rights in order to conceal improper lending practices in certain banks. The government is now drafting revisions to the banking law. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. POLISH MILITARY FACES SCRUTINY. The armed forces are facing renewed criticism following the crash of an Su-22 fighter-bomber on 26 July and the mysterious theft of arms from a Warsaw army base on 21 July. The crash, the fourth this year involving an Su-22 plane, occurred when a bomb exploded during a test flight. Officials cited technical failures, but Defense Minister Zbigniew Okonski conceded that funding shortages have drastically limited flight time for Polish pilots. US pilots fly an average of 250 hours per year, whereas Poles fly only 60, Rzeczpospolita reported. The second incident, in which Russian-speaking, Kalashnikov- wielding thieves absconded with 75 pistols and ammunition from a virtually unguarded base, has raised questions about military security. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. INDEPENDENCE DAY DEMONSTRATIONS IN BELARUS. Police in Belarus broke up an Independence Day demonstration in Minsk on 27 July and detained a number of demonstrators, Reuters reported. Several dozen people gathered at Independence Square where demonstrations are prohibited. Five to eight were carrying the red and white Belarusian flag, which was recently replaced by the Soviet-era flag minus hammer and sickle. The flag bearers were briefly detained by the police. The opposition has criticized the police action, saying it showed that Belarus has reverted to a Soviet-era police state. Opposition deputy Syarhei Naumchik said the country now flies the Soviet flag and has an undemocratic leadership that listens only to Moscow, just as it did before independence. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. RECORD ESTONIAN TRADE DEFICIT IN JUNE. Customs Department officials announced that Estonia's foreign trade deficit in June reached a record monthly high of 1.032 billion kroons ($93 million), BNS reported on 27 July. Estonia exported goods worth 1.877 billion kroons but imported goods worth 2.909 billion. The major contributor to the trade gap was the increase by 294 million kroons in the import of jewels and precious metals, largely because of a single consignment of polished gems temporarily brought into the country from Germany. As a result of this shipment, Germany replaced Russia as the second-largest exporter to Estonia. Finland remained in first place for both imports and exports. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LATVIAN COMMUNIST LEADER SENTENCED TO EIGHT YEARS. The Latvian Supreme Court on 27 July sentenced Alfreds Rubiks, first secretary of the Latvian Communist Party from 1990-1991, to eight years in prison for conspiring to overthrow the government during the failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991, Western agencies reported. Rubiks thus became the only high-ranking communist official in the entire former Soviet Union to be tried and convicted for backing the coup. He was arrested on 23 August 1991, and his trial began in June 1993. Although imprisoned, he was elected to the Saeima but not allowed to take up his seat. His co-defendant, former communist party secretary Ojars Potreki, was given a three-year suspended sentence. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. IMF URGES STRICTER CONTROL OVER LITHUANIA'S COMMERCIAL BANKS. After a final meeting on 26 July with Lithuanian Finance Minister Reinoldijus Sarkinas and Bank of Lithuania officials, an IMF mission, headed by Julian Berengaut, advised the bank to carry out stricter inspections of commercial banks and not to rely on the audits they submit, BNS reported the next day. The mission suggested that in state-run commercial banks, the government guarantee only a specified average deposit. Berengaut viewed favorably the government's efforts to improve tax collection but advised cuts in spending to meet revenue targets. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. CZECHS STILL OPPOSE DIALOGUE WITH SUDETEN GERMANS. A majority of Czechs still oppose a formal dialogue with Sudeten Germans, according to an opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research and published in Rude pravo on 28 July. Thirty-one percent of respondents said they were definitely against any talks and the same number were "rather against." These responses were almost exactly the same as in a similar poll two years ago, despite an extensive public debate on the subject over the past six months. Only 23% of respondents in the 1995 poll were in favor of a dialogue that might lead to a resolution of the issue; of those, one-third said they were supporters of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party. The greatest opposition came from residents of northern Bohemia, part of the Sudetenland handed over to Germany in 1938 and from which 3 million Sudeten Germans were expelled after World War II. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK PRESIDENT VETOES PRIVATIZATION AMENDMENTS. Michal Kovac on 27 July returned amendments to the privatization law to the parliament for further discussion, calling them "unconstitutional," Narodna obroda reported. The legislation, passed in mid-July, cancels the coupon privatization program drawn up by the previous government and establishes a new privatization concept based on bonds. The president has not yet received the official texts of other economic legislation approved at the same parliamentary session, but he is expected to veto those laws as well. The opposition Democratic Union on 27 July criticized the cabinet for passing legislation that contradicts its program declaration. Opposition Social Democratic Party Chairman Jaroslav Weiss the previous day warned that the coalition parties will collect the 30 signatures needed to call an extraordinary parliamentary session in August in order to pass the legislation again. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK CABINET CRITICIZED OVER ROMA ATTACKS. Hungarian Civic Party Chairman Laszlo Nagy on 27 July expressed regret that the Slovak government has not taken a stand on the recent attacks on Roma by skinheads in Ziar nad Hronom (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 July 1995). Nagy argued that the current government "is neither able nor willing to seriously oppose such undesirable acts." He singled out the Slovak National Party, which, he said, "encourages such hatred" through some of its statements, Sme reported. A local police official told Sme that two youths are currently under investigation in connection with the attacks but that the charges have not yet been classified as attempted murder. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. MEETING IN HUNGARY ON RIGHTS OF ETHNIC HUNGARIANS ABROAD. The World Association of Hungarians organized a meeting on 27 July in the Hungarian town of Debrecen supporting unrestricted mother-tongue use for Hungarian minorities in Romania, Slovakia, and Serbia, international media reported. Sandor Csoori of the WAH stressed that whoever questions nationality schools and equal rights for minority languages "is attacking universal human values." Coexistence Chairman Miklos Duray, who was the only leader of Slovakia's Hungarian coalition to attend the gathering, criticized the current Slovak government for its efforts "to eradicate our language." The Slovak cabinet was criticized in particular for its draft law on the state language and plans to implement "alternative" (bilingual) education. The meeting was attended by several representatives of the Hungarian parliament and broadcast live on Hungarian satellite television. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. REACTIONS IN ROMANIA TO DEBRECEN MEETING. Bela Marko, leader of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), took the opportunity to call the recently adopted Romanian education law "cultural genocide" against ethnic Magyars, Radio Bucharest reported. UDMR Honorary Chairman Laszlo Tokes was quoted as saying that Romania is currently "waging a war against the Hungarian language." Traian Chebeleu, a spokesman for Romanian President Ion Iliescu, said the accusations of the UDMR leaders were "totally groundless" and part of a disinformation campaign aimed at damaging Romania's image abroad. Iliescu later said that the Debrecen meeting was feeding "primitive, extremist, and nationalist feelings." -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MAZOWIECKI BLASTS INTERNATIONAL "HYPOCRISY" OVER BOSNIA. Former Polish Prime Minister and Solidarity-era human rights activist Tadeusz Mazowiecki has released the text of the letter in which he resigned as UN special rapporteur for human rights in the former Yugoslavia on 27 July. He stressed that the UN's failure to defend Srebrenica and Zepa prompted his move. "One cannot speak about the protection of human rights with credibility when one is confronted with the lack of consistency and courage displayed by the international community and its leaders," the International Herald Tribune on 28 July quoted him as saying. He added that the "very stability of international order and the principle of civilization is at stake over the question of Bosnia." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SERBS SHELL MOSTAR, SARAJEVO. International media on 27 July reported that two people died in Serbian attacks on the Bosnian capital. Habena, the Herzegovinian Croat news agency, said that the Serbs fired on Mostar as well. AFP on 28 July quoted Auxiliary Bishop of Sarajevo Pero Sudar as calling on the West to end the conflict by destroying Serbian weapons, ammunition, and military infrastructure. "We must not hit them to kill them but hit them to make them understand that killing others is not allowed," Sudar said. Bosnian government sources reported that the Serbs were preventing 600 civilians from leaving Zepa by blockading their convoy at a checkpoint. In Srebrenica, retreating Dutch peacekeepers reportedly abandoned much of their military equipment to the Serbs. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SITUATION AROUND BIHAC REMAINS TENSE. As Krajina and Bosnian Serbs, together with Muslim renegades, press their attack on the Bihac pocket and ultimately on the smaller "safe area" itself, the UN has hit on a way to "separate the warring parties." UNCRO's Canadian command wants to interpose its men on the border between Croatia and Bosnia, which the Croatian government has wanted for over three and a half years. "The conditions of war exist now," Canadian Colonel Norris Pettis said in Zagreb. "The plan is to move as quickly as possible to deter an outbreak of hostilities," AFP quoted him as saying on 27 July. The UN reported that 5,000 Serbian refugees are fleeing before the Croatian advance. In the northwest, where the Serbs are attacking, the UN reported 1,000 detonations in one hour alone on 28 July. Elsewhere, the Krajina Serbs' "parliament" has elected a new government headed by prominent hard-liner Milan Babic. The cabinet includes 16 holdovers from the previous one, as a concession to backers of deposed Prime Minister Borislav Mikelic. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. REACTIONS TO SENATE VOTE TO LIFT BOSNIAN ARMS EMBARGO. President Bill Clinton is at pains to portray the decisive Senate ballot not as a rebuke to him but to the UN for failing to protect Srebrenica and Zepa. The VOA reported on his 27 July press conference at which he stressed this message. Russia, France, the U.K., and various West European politicians have condemned the vote, with British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind calling it "bizarre." International media also noted that the Senate move was warmly welcomed throughout the Muslim world, notably by Turkey and Egypt. In Islamic countries, the belief is widespread that the West would never have tolerated the Serbian atrocities in Bosnia if they had been carried out against Christians or Jews rather than Muslims. (See related item in Russian section) -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN OPPOSITION THREATENS WALKOUT. Serbian opposition deputies on 27 July agreed to boycott the republican parliament if the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia's decision to halt live television coverage of the legislature remains in force, BETA reported the same day. The decision was handed down on 26 July, evidently in response to an incident that day in which a member of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) assaulted a journalist from Radio and Television Serbia in the parliament, Nasa Borba reported. SRS deputies, including party leader and accused war criminal Vojislav Seselj, have been involved over the past year in a series of assaults and near-brawls in the parliament. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN, SLOVAK PREMIERS ON ETHNIC MINORITIES. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, speaking at the end of his two-day official visit to Bucharest, said his country is respecting individual rights of citizens belonging to ethnic minorities. He added that the Council of Europe's Recommendation No. 1201 should not be interpreted as recognizing collective rights for minorities. He also said he hopes that the terms of the future Romanian-Hungarian treaty will be "better" than those of the Slovak-Hungarian one. Romania's treatment of its Slovak minority shows that Romania "promotes a correct minority policy," he noted. Romanian Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu said that his country will not agree to including claims for collective minority rights and territorial autonomy in its treaty with Hungary. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS UPDATE. Bulgarian newspapers on 28 July reported that after meeting with representatives of all caucuses on 26 and 27 July, President Zhelyu Zhelev has still not set a date for the local elections. They stated, however, that the elections will be held sometime in October. The opposition favors a date in late October, while the Bulgarian Socialist Party wants the elections to take place as early as possible. The Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) will ask the Constitutional Court to review certain parts of the local elections law that it considers unconstitutional, Demokratsiya reported. Other media say Zhelev will do the same. Meanwhile, the national leaderships of the SDS, the People's Union, and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom met on 27 July to discuss choosing a common mayoral candidate for Sofia. No agreement was reached, however. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN TV BOSS SACKS TOP EXECUTIVES. Ivan Granitski, director-general of Bulgarian National TV (BNT), on 27 July fired a number of top officials, Standart reported the following day. Among them were BNT Executive-Director Kiril Gotsev and the heads of the two state TV channels. Granitski also dismissed four members of the board of directors. Parliamentary Chairman Blagovest Sendov ordered Granitski to return from a business trip to Moscow to explain the dismissals to the parliament's media commission, but the TV chief was apparently unable to do so. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ARSIDI TRIAL ENDS IN TIRANA. An Albanian court has sentenced former central bank governor Ilir Hoti to six years in prison and three former directors of Albania's National Commercial Bank--Adrian Xhyheri, Agim Tartari, and Agron Saliu--to between four and seven years, Reuters reported on 27 July. Hoti and Xhyheri paid $1.6 million to the French citizen Nikolla Arsidi to negotiate Albania's foreign debts in 1991, but the negotiations never took place. The two men were found guilty of abuse of office for causing the state to lose 63 million leks ($630,000). Saliu and Tartari each accepted $160,000 in bribes, which they deposited in a Luxembourg bank. The court ruled that former Prime Minister Vilson Ahmeti, who had been accused of abuse of office for signing the authorization for Arsidi, was innocent. The prosecutor had demanded longer jail sentences and said he would appeal. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIA RESTRUCTURES FOREIGN DEBT. Albanian Finance Minister Dylber Vrioni and Albania's creditors have agreed to cut the country's foreign debt and restructure the remainder. Commercial debts will be reduced from $500 million to $100 million. Banks now may swap their debts for 20% of the face value of the debt or exchange them at 100% of the face value for 30-year bonds without interest. The principle is backed by Zero-coupon 30-year U.S. Treasury bonds, which the Albanian government will buy in August, international agencies reported on 27 July. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. CLAES, GREECE CRITICIZE SENATE VOTE ON LIFTING BOSNIAN ARMS EMBARGO. Following the U.S. Senate's vote in favor of lifting the UN arms embargo against Bosnia-Herzegovina, NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes, on a private visit to Athens on 27 July, said such a move would widen the Balkan conflict, international agencies reported. In such a case, he said, "the United Nations would lose its credibility" and 50,000 peacekeepers would be needed. "There is no military solution, negotiations are the only solution," Claes was quoted as saying. Government Spokesman Evangelos Venizelos the same day criticized the Senate vote, AFP reported. He said the war in Bosnia must be solved by long-term political and diplomatic means. Venizelos added that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic should not be excluded from the peace process, despite being indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, saying Karadzic has to remain a party to any talks seeking a settlement for Bosnia. -- Stefan Krause, 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 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. ISSN 1211-1570
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.