|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 159, Part II, 16 August 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 NATIONAL BANK OF UKRAINE INTERVENES TO STABILIZE CURRENCY. The National Bank of Ukraine moved quickly to buy up karbovantsi in trading on its Interbank Currency Exchange in an effort to stabilize the falling provisional currency, Ukrainian TV and an RL correspondent in Kiev reported on 15 August. The move caused the tender to rise slightly from a record low of 167,700 to $1 on 14 August to 167,000 the following day. Bank chairman Viktor Yushchenko said the central bank would continue its intervention for three to four days to support the karbovanets, which has been relatively stable over the past half year due to the government's tight fiscal and monetary policies. Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Kinakh told Ukrainian TV that the government and National Bank would not allow the karbovanets to decline below the level of 180,000 to $1 agreed with the IMF. He said that while a devaluation was inevitable, the sudden plunge of the karbovanets this week was unexpected. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. ETHNIC UKRAINIANS NOW MAJORITY IN UKRAINE'S MILITARY. Ethnic Ukrainians now constitute 59% of the Ukrainian armed forces as opposed to 45% in 1993, the acting head of the Ministry of Defense's personnel directorate told reporters on 14 August. UNIAN quoted Ivan Khomyak as saying the percentage of ethnic Russians had dropped from 48% in 1993 to 37%. He added that five of the six new generals appointed in 1995 were also Ukrainian. Khomyak stressed, however, that Ukrainian citizenship and not ethnic origin was the main criterion in the formation of Ukraine's armed forces. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. LATVIA'S TRADE SHIFTS MORE TO WEST. The State Statistics Committee announced that in the first half of 1995 compared to same period in 1994 Latvia increased its exports of goods by 27.8% to 327.7 million lati ($620 million) and imports by 26.6% to 416.8 million lati, BNS reported on 15 August. The direction of the trade also shifted as the share of imports from the European Union grew from 35.5% to 50.9% and that of exports from 36.3% to 47.2%. Exports to the Commonwealth of Independent States declined from 42.9% to 37% and imports from 32% to 28%. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. BELARUSIAN LIBERAL DEMOCRATS CRITICIZE EDUCATION. Belarusian Radio on 15 August reported that the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus (LDPB) sent a letter to the president, prosecutor general, and minister of education proposing that a government commission be established to research the facts on Belarus's enemies in World War II. According to the LDPB, school text books should be replaced because of deficiencies. For example, in a fourth grade text book, the Great Patriotic War was not even mentioned; in a ninth grade book, it said that the USSR and fascist Germany had cooperated together and started the war in 1939. The LDPB warned that such text books were raising children "in the spirit of hate for their Slavic brother nations." -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. POLISH CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF ATTACKS POLITICIANS. The Chief of the General Staff, General Tadeusz Wilecki, said on 15 August, the Day of the Polish Army, that the army looks in vain for understanding among politicians and journalists. "Every pretext is good to attack the armed forces, and destroy any moral and commanding authority," Polish media quoted him as saying. Political elites, according to Wilecki, have other preoccupations and postpone matters of defense. Gazeta Wyborcza on 16 August writes that Wilecki's claims of being subordinated to the control of civilian authorities is ridiculous in the light of his public attack against these authorities. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. CZECH, BAVARIAN PREMIERS DISCUSS SUDETEN ISSUE. Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber met on 15 August to discuss the Sudeten question and Czech-German relations in general, Czech and international media reported. After the meeting in Domazlice near the Czech-Bavarian border, Klaus told journalists that finding a formula to draw a line under past disagreements, which should take into account sensitivities on both sides, may take longer than originally hoped. Stoiber, who was expected to inform Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the talks, has severely criticized the expulsion of Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II and called for the so-called Benes decrees to be repealed. A spokesman for Stoiber, however, said that opinions expressed by both sides at the previously unannounced meeting were "close together." Klaus repeated his view that Czech-German relations in general were "very fruitful." -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. FORMER COMMUNIST LEADER CHARGED AGAIN OVER 1968 INVASION. Milos Jakes, former General Secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (KSC), on 15 August was charged for the second time with treason over the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of the country. Jakes confirmed to Czech media that he received the charges from the Office for the Documentation and Investigation of Crimes of Communism. The original charges against Jakes and nine other former leading Communist functionaries were dismissed by a state attorney as being wrongly formulated. They were redrafted following a meeting between the heads of the Office and the attorney. Jakes called the new charges more concise and emphatic than the earlier ones but said they contained no concrete details. Others originally charged with Jakes for plotting to set up a shadow government to justify the invasion said they had not yet been served with any new charges. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK TRADE UNIONS STAGE PROTEST. Nearly 3,000 workers gathered in the central Slovak town of Martin on 15 August to protest government policy on public transportation, Pravda and TASR reported. Eugen Skultaty, deputy chairman of the KOVO Trade Union, which organized the rally, challenged the government coalition parties to fulfill their preelection promises concerning social issues and declared that trade unions will participate in the decision making process. Confederation of Slovak Trade Unions President Alojz Englis complained that the population has not yet felt the effects of improvements in macroeconomic indicators and stressed that workers "are no longer willing to carry the entire burden of the economic transformation on their shoulders." Stating that real wages in 1994 reached only 76.8% of the 1989 level, Englis also called for an increase in the minimum wage. Two more rallies will be held on 16 and 17 August in Krompachy and Snina. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK ROUNDUP. During its session on 15 August, the Slovak cabinet returned the controversial draft law on universities to the parliament for further discussion. The bill had been rejected by university officials, who claimed it limited academic freedom by allowing the Education Ministry to interfere in university affairs. In other news, speaking with Sme of 16 August, opposition Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Jan Carnogursky called attention to the fact that the National Property Fund (FNM) has recently increased direct sales of state-owned firms. He criticized the FNM's methods, saying that many attractive firms have been sold at a fraction of their value. Most recently, the FNM decided to sell 39% of its shares in the giant Slovnaft oil refinery to Slovintegra, a company owned by Slovnaft managers and employees. Although the shares are worth over 6 billion koruny, the FNM required a first installment of only 100 million koruny from Slovintegra, Sme reported on 15 August. The sale was made despite the interest of a number of foreign investors in the firm. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. ECONOMIC NEWS FROM HUNGARY. The country's Central Statistical Office announced on 15 August that Hungarian consumer prices rose by 0.9% in July from June and by 27.8% in comparison with July last year, international media report. Also on the 15th, Privatization Minister Tamas Suchman told journalists in Budapest that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is considering an investment of $300 million in Hungarian privatization, especially in the energy sector. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. CEFTA AGRICULTURE MINISTERS MEET IN SLOVAKIA. Agriculture ministers from Slovenia and the four member countries of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) held a two-day working meeting on 14-15 August. In Bratislava they discussed decreasing customs tariffs on more than 630 agricultural and food commodities. The commodities were divided into three categories: the first group including coffee, cocoa and tea will be duty free from January 1996, the second group of 21 products (including poultry, dried milk, hops, and sugar) will have low custom tariffs, while the third group (including "strategic" commodities such as milk, pork, and cattle) is more controversial. Negotiations are not yet finished, but when completed, the proposal will be discussed by the countries' prime ministers in the Czech town of Brno, TASR and Hospodarske noviny report. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KARADZIC CALLS EXPULSIONS FAMILY REUNIFICATION. The International Herald Tribune on 16 August said that 1,000 Bosnian Croat refugees arrived in Davor from Banja Luka on 14 August as did 1,200 on the 15th, while similar numbers are expected in coming days. A UN spokesman noted that the Bosnian Serb "authorities are putting out the word to all village heads to tell all minorities in their areas to assemble and prepare to leave." AFP quoted a spokeswoman for Medecins sans Frontieres as calling it "a perfect working system to get all those people out. It's scary." In contrast to the Krajina Serb refugees, who left in well-loaded columns of vehicles, the Croats can take only what they can carry and must pay at least DM 100 as a fee. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic said that "the world is trying now to move Muslims and Croats [out of Banja Luka]. I will not cause columns of refugees- But if somebody wants to leave and rejoin one's family, that is one's right." Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic said he feared that the military-age men being detained will wind up in "mass killings and mass graves." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT REJECTS U.S. PARTITION PLAN . . . U.S. Undersecretary of State Richard Holbrooke continues to travel around the former Yugoslavia with what a State Department spokesman called "fresh ideas." The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 16 August wrote that Holbrooke's package is a partition plan despite all assurances to the contrary, and the Wall Street Journal added that details are deliberately being kept vague and out of the public eye so that Washington can distance itself from the project if it proves unworkable. The International Herald Tribune said that "fog" is preventing Holbrooke from going to Sarajevo for two or three days. Bosnia's ambassador to Switzerland said that the plan "is only to buy time for the Serbs. We will never trade with our country." The project reportedly would require the government to swap Gorazde for land around Sarajevo. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. . . . BUT THE SERBS LIKE IT. The VOA on 16 August said that Bosnian Serb leaders are pleased with the plan sponsored by Holbrooke, who was known last January as "the architect" of the short-lived policy of directly negotiating with Pale despite a UN ban on such contacts. Bosnian Serb "Foreign Minister" Aleksa Buha told news agencies that if the details of the plan that he has read in the press are true, "then we can look to the future with greater confidence." Senior Bosnian Serb officials are said to be in Geneva for the first time in about a year. Parliament speaker Momcilo Krajisnik and Karadzic spokesman Jovan Zametica are reportedly holding talks with mediators Thorvald Stoltenberg and Carl Bildt. Karadzic himself wants a new international conference, saying that "the time is ripe for a conference which would bring a solution." SRNA also quoted him as saying that he expects "important political initiatives" by the end of August. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. CROATIA GIVES WARNING ON DUBROVNIK. The UN's "rapid reaction force" is having problems getting the Bosnian government and the Croats to agree to its deployment. Both suspect that the British and the French favor the Serbs and have come to prevent the Croat-Muslim federation from consolidating itself politically and from winning on the battlefield. A British spokesman with the 24th Air Mobile Brigade stuck on the coast noted that things are "not moving very swiftly." Meanwhile, Croatia's ambassador to the UN told Vjesnik on 16 August that Croatia will give a firm response if the Serbs continue shelling the Dubrovnik area from the nearby heights. Reuters added that army commander General Zvonimir Cervenko warned that, if the Serbs do not desist, "we shall very soon take measures to make them give up such actions." UN sources said that Croatian troops have been moving in the area, and that the UN is watching to see if a brigade on standby in Split starts moving south. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. MILOSEVIC ORCHESTRATES REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT. Reuters on 15 August carried a report explaining that police authorities in Belgrade have formed a tight cordon around the capital in order to keep most of the flood of Krajina refugees from entering the city. The report suggests that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has identified the refugees as a potential source of opposition to his regime, and is acting therefore "to disperse them [under police escort and throughout towns and villages] as quickly as possible." One Western diplomatic source is quoted as saying the "refugees will move the political agenda back to the right, back towards the nationalist rhetoric Milosevic has been trying to dump . . . That's why they cannot be allowed to stay together in large numbers." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. KRAJINA REFUGEES REFUSE TO GO TO KOSOVO. Some 800 refugees from Krajina have refused to board trains that would take them to Kosovo for two days, AFP and Reuters quote Radio B 92 as reporting on 15 August. Police are preventing the people from leaving the train station in Kusadak near Smederevska Palanka, south east of Belgrade, and are supplying the refugees only with water. Authorities reportedly also hindered local people from helping the refugees, or letting them use the telephone. Despite the strong attachment Serbian nationalists claim for Kosovo, only a few Serbs are willing to live in the impoverished region that has an Albanian majority. According to the Red Cross, only 1,180 out of 130,000 refugees who have crossed the border into Serbia since last week have reached Kosovo. Serbian authorities plan to settle 6,000 refugees in Kosovo immediately and another 10,000 subsequently. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER WARNS OF BROADENING CONFLICT . . . In a letter sent to the UN Security Council and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Contact Group, Albanian Foreign Minister Alfred Serreqi called on the organizations to take measures to prevent the extension of the war into the south of the Balkans. Serreqi said that Belgrade plans to colonize Kosovo with refugees and to indulge in more "ethnic cleansing". Serreqi warned that Kosovo could become "another Bosnia" and added that Albania will not stand passively on the sidelines if the conflict in former Yugoslavia extends to the province, Reuters reported on 15 August. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. . . . AND ROMANIAN RULING PARTY ON SITUATION. In a communique broadcast by Radio Bucharest on 15 August, the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) deplored the loss of human lives and the "dramatic fate" of the Krajina refugees. The PDSR expressed concern over a possible spill over of the conflict in former Yugoslavia as a consequence of the Croatian offensive and the resumption of armed actions in Bosnia. The party called on all sides involved to show restraint and return to the negotiating table in order to find a solution to the conflict. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. TWO SPY PLANES FAIL TO RETURN FROM BOSNIA TO ALBANIA. Two unmanned Predator spy planes deployed to monitor troop movements in Bosnia have not returned to their base in Gjader in northern Albania. According to a statement from the Pentagon, one plane crashed due to a motor defect and there is no confirmation whether the other was shot down or had a technical failure. The US had sent four Predator planes to Albania to take video pictures of Bosnia in support of NATO operations. The value of one plane is about $2 million. BETA carried the story on 15 August. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. NEW RUMP YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER NAMED. Tanjug on 15 August reported that rump Yugoslav Foreign Minister Vladislav Jovanovic has been replaced by Milan Milutinovic. Belgrade's ambassador to Greece, Milutinovic is reportedly a close personal friend of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. No official explanation has been offered for the change. Meanwhile, Jovanovic, who has also been a close political confidant of the Serbian president, is expected to be named as ambassador to the UN by federal President Zoran Lilic. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ON HDFR INITIATIVE. Romanian media reported on 15 August that the Constitutional Court has given the green light for parliamentary debates on a draft law for education in minority languages. The draft was worked out by the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, the main political organization of the country's large Hungarian minority. The HDFR, which collected nearly 500,000 signatures in favor of its legislative initiative, has been among the strongest opponents of a new education law that was recently adopted by the Romanian parliament. The HDFR considers that law as discriminating against ethnic minorities. The government repeatedly rejected the accusations. -- Dan Ionescu, 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 Please note that there is a new procedure for obtaining permission to reprint or redistribute the OMRI Daily Digest. Before reprinting or redistributing this publication, please write email@example.com for a copy of the new policy or look at this URL: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html 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
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