|Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal. - John F. Kennedy|
No. 173, Part II, 6 September 1995
This is Part II of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part II is a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, 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 CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE SLOVAK PREMIER SAYS PRESIDENT MISINFORMED PUBLIC ABOUT SON'S KIDNAPPING. Premier Vladimir Meciar, speaking on Slovak TV on 5 September, alleged that President Michal Kovac misinformed the public about his son's kidnapping in Bratislava and subsequent arrest in Austria on suspicion of fraud (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 September 1995). Meciar called statements made by the President's Office "unqualified, misleading and in many cases contradictory," Reuters reported. Meciar also accused the president of giving "above average assistance in the case of his son" and of obstructing investigations into the matter. The cabinet the same day issued a statement expressing "understanding for the state of mind" of the president. Although Kovac asked the Foreign Ministry to formally request the return of his son from Austria, the cabinet expressed "firm conviction that no doubts can be cast on the democratic legal systems of Austria and Germany," which are now both involved in the case. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAKIA ENDS CUSTOMS DUTIES ON IMPORTED CARS . . . Government spokesman Tomas Hasala, following a cabinet session on 5 September, announced that customs duties on imported cars will be dropped. The measure, aimed at cutting down on vehicles emitting high levels of pollution, applies only to new passenger cars with engines less than 1.5 liters. It is likely to reduce their average retail price by up to 100,000 koruny ($3,300) and will take effect in two weeks and last through the end of 1996. Until now, imported cars faced 19% customs duty, plus a 10% import surcharge. The measure is expected to reduce state budget income by 40 million koruny by the end of 1995 and by 93 million in 1996, TASR reported. The cabinet also approved its plan for financing the Mochovce nuclear power plant. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. . . . WHILE CZECHS ARE UPSET BY SLOVAK DECISION. Czech politicians said the Slovak government's decision to scrap customs duties and import surcharges on foreign cars breaches the customs union between the two countries, Czech media reported on 6 September. "The customs union is beneficial for the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic and I don't understand the attempts by Slovakia to break it," Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told reporters. The end of import duties will seriously affect the competitiveness of Czech automaker Skoda's cars in Slovakia: under the Czech-Slovak customs union, they were already exempt from import duties and surcharges but now will be only a little cheaper than other foreign models. Skoda spokesmen played down the Slovak announcement, but even with its hitherto advantageous position, Skoda's sales in Slovakia have plummeted since the breakup of Czechoslovakia. Klaus said he would discuss the customs union with his Slovak counterpart, Vladimir Meciar, at a CEFTA summit in Brno on 11 September. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARY, SLOVAKIA TO DISCUSS GABCIKOVO DAM. A spokesman for the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 5 September told journalists in Budapest that experts from Hungary and Slovakia will meet "in the coming days" to discuss the Gabcikovo dam on the Danube River, international media reported. In 1989, Hungary abandoned the Slovak-Hungarian project, launched in 1977, claiming it was ecologically harmful. Slovakia went ahead with its part of the project, while Hungary took its case to the International Court of Justice in the Hague in 1993. Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn and his Slovak counterpart, Vladimir Meciar, recently agreed to try to settle the dispute over the dam before the court reaches a verdict. The Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the experts will "clarify in which areas the two sides could reach agreement in theory. He noted an out-of-court settlement would help bilateral ties. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN MINISTERS IN HUNGARY. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Slobodan Babic and Minister of Industry Oskar Fodor arrived in Hungary for a two- day visit on 5 September, Reuters reported the same day. Hungarian Political State Secretary Csaba Tabajdi, who is responsible for national minority issues, held talks with the delegation. He later said that "Hungary is monitoring the fate of the Hungarians in Vojvodina very closely and a long-term solution of the problem there is a test of the two countries' relations." About 300,000 ethnic Hungarians live in Vojvodina and have expressed fears that they will be driven out by ethnic Serbian refugees from Krajina. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. POLISH OFFICIAL QUESTIONS BACKING FOR NATO. Deputy Defense Minister Andrzej Karkoszka, speaking at a Sejm committee hearing on the Partnership for Peace program on 5 September, stressed that NATO membership would require Polish combat troops to participate in the alliance's military operations. He questioned whether the public would back putting Polish soldiers at risk in this way. Defense Committee chairman Jerzy Szmajdzinski of the ruling Democratic Left Alliance proposed a public debate on the subject. Opposition deputies criticized the proposal, arguing that the public is well aware of the implications of NATO membership. Karkoszka set the cost for Poland's PFP participation at 20 million zloty ($8 million) this year, Rzeczpospolita reported. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT RECONVENES. The Ukrainian parliament began its fourth session on 5 September with a speech by Socialist speaker Oleksander Moroz, who criticized the country's continuing economic decline, Radio Ukraine reported the same day. Citing government statistics, Moroz said an almost 14% decrease in industrial output and a 22% drop in the production of consumer goods in the first half of 1995 showed that President Leonid Kuchma's tight fiscal policies were insufficient. He said some signs of financial stabilization in the first six months of the year proved weak and short-lived, with inflation growing since June and the Ukrainian karbovanets having been recently devalued. The legislature is expected to debate 300 issues, including 100 bills and amendments related to economic reform. Among these will be the 1996 draft budget, the government's program for next year, and the draft of a new Ukrainian constitution. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. SOCIALISTS PROTEST END TO RUSSIAN-LANGUAGE SCHOOLING IN LVIV. Members of the Socialist Party and the leftist Civic Congress of Ukraine have been on hunger strike since 1 September protesting a decision by the Lviv City Council to stop enrolling students in the city's last remaining Russian-language class, UNIAN reported 4 September. The council of the heavily ethnic Ukrainian city ruled on 23 May to halt enrollment of first-year students in the city's only Russian-language class at Secondary School No. 9. Pavlo Khobzey, who heads the city's education department, has threatened to resign if Kiev orders Lviv to renew enrollment in the classes. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. PARLIAMENT VS. PRESIDENT IN BELARUS. Reuters and Belarusian Radio on 5 September reported that Chairman of the Supreme Soviet Mechyslau Hryb has accused President Alyaksandr Lukashenka of violating deputies' rights and seeking to increase his authority at the expense of the courts and legislature. Hryb's statement followed confirmation that Lukashenka passed a decree suspending deputies' immunity from arrest. Hryb asked the Constitutional Court to rule on the legality of the decree, while Lukashenka retaliated by withdrawing all draft laws forwarded to the parliament for approval. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. ESTONIAN CONSUL-GENERAL IN ST. PETERSBURG CALLS FOR BETTER TRADE RELATIONS. Estonian Consul-General in St. Petersburg Mart Volmar, speaking to Smena on 5 September, complained that imports from Russia are declining and that Russian exporters are using Finland as a transit route to the West rather than Estonia. He attributed Russia's reluctance to trade with Estonia to political considerations. Russia wants easier access to Estonia for Russians who live near the border but work or own property in Estonia. Volmar said the Estonian government is working on a draft law to facilitate border crossings between the Russian city of Ivangorod and the mostly Russian-speaking Estonian city of Narva. -- Brian Whitemore, OMRI, Inc., in St. Petersburg CANADIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN LATVIA. Andre Ouellet, during a brief trip to Riga on 4 September, held talks with President Guntis Ulmanis, Prime Minister Maris Gailis, and Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs, LETA reported the next day. Ouellet expressed support for Latvia's integration into NATO, stressing the need for Latvia to participate actively in the Partnership for Peace program. Birkavs said that agreement was reached on Canadian aid for cleaning up environmental damage at former Soviet military bases. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO CONTINUES ATTACKS AGAINST BOSNIAN SERBS . . . War planes of the Atlantic alliance suspended their assaults late on 5 September owing to bad weather but resumed them again the next morning. The BBC said they were "revisiting" the targets they had hit the previous week. The Lukavica barracks near Sarajevo appear to have been destroyed. Nasa Borba on 6 September reported that the Majevica communications tower, linking Pale with other Serbian conquests in Bosnia, has also become history. The Rapid Reaction Force near Sarajevo again shelled Bosnian Serb positions. A UN press release quoted Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali as saying the Serbs must choose between continued air strikes and meeting the Security Council's demands. A U.S. spokesman told the VOA that the air attacks may continue even after peace talks begin on 8 September. In anticipation of those discussions, the Bosnian and Croatian presidents met in Split on 5 September to harmonize their positions. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. . . . WHILE MLADIC REMAINS DEFIANT. "If you bomb us, we will defend ourselves. The more they bombard us, the stronger we are." This was the reaction of Bosnian Serb commander General Ratko Mladic to the air strikes resumed around 1:00 p.m. on 5 September after a break of more than three days, the International Herald Tribune reported the next day. The VOA said Mladic was "true to form," and also threatened to wage a Vietnam-style protracted war against his attackers. His men fired on Sarajevo, wounding some civilians and sending UN forces to their shelters. The BBC quoted Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic as saying the air strikes will accelerate the peace process. The Rijeka daily Novi list argued that the coming seven days will be "decisive" in the conflict. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL LAUNCHES INVESTIGATIONS OF CROATS. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has formally begun looking into charges against the Croats stemming from their retaking of Krajina in early August. The Hague-based body had previously taken such measures only against the Serbs, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted on 6 September. UN spokesman Chris Gunness told news agencies the previous day that 50 bodies have been found in the area and that the first reports have emerged of the destruction or desecration of Serbian Orthodox churches. Slobodna Dalmacija on 6 September discussed a report by the International Helsinki Federation on the alleged systematic torching of Serbian homes and property. Politika wrote that Serbian lawyers intend to challenge a threat by the speaker of the Croatian lower house of parliament to confiscate property left behind by fleeing Krajina Serbs. Novi list quoted liberal legislator Vlado Gotovac as warning that the ruling party's political behavior over the re-conquest foreshadowed "the Croatian way to totalitarianism." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SERBS EXPEL MORE REFUGEES FROM BANJA LUKA. AFP reported on 5 September that Bosnian Serbs have rounded up some 2,000 Croats and Muslims in a football field prior to deportation. Since 15 August, the Serbs have driven out some 17,582 people and another 11,000 are expected to follow. The Serbs began the systematic "ethnic cleansing" of the region's once large Croatian and Muslim populations in 1992. They have also tried to eliminate all physical traces of those communities and have destroyed all of Banja Luka's mosques, including two that were UNESCO-registered international cultural properties. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. HOLBROOKE MEETS WITH MILOSEVIC. U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke continued peace talks with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade on 5 September, Reuters reported the same day. Milosevic strongly protested the resumption of air strikes. But Holbrooke said "the meeting in other ways was productive," adding that he did not believe the NATO attacks would jeopardize the planned meeting of foreign ministers from Croatia, Bosnia, and rump Yugoslavia in Geneva on 8 September. Milosevic, who has formed an alliance with Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic against Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, promised the withdrawal of Bosnian Serb weapons from the exclusion zone around Sarajevo. Mladic, however, has challenged Milosevic by resuming the shelling of the Bosnian capital. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. RESTITUTION OF JEWISH PROPERTY IN ROMANIA. Chamber of Deputies chairman Adrian Nastase on 5 September said that "synagogues confiscated by the former regime and turned into warehouses should be restored to the Jewish community," Reuters reported the same day. The agency stressed that Nastase was referring only to property owned by the Jewish community, not to real estate confiscated from individuals by Romania's fascist and communist governments. The Israeli parliament in July passed a resolution demanding that Romanian Jews be compensated for properties they were dispossessed of. President Ion Iliescu rejected that demand. Iulian Sorin, secretary of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania, revealed soon afterward that a commission to study the return of property belonging to the Jewish community had been set up within the Council for the National Minorities. Nastase's 5 September statement comes amid preparations for Iliescu's unofficial meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton in Washington on 26 September. Two U.S. congressmen had protested Romania's stance on the matter in July, and U.S. Ambassador to the EU Steward Eisenstadt discussed the matter with Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu in Bucharest in late August. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN INTERNATIONAL MILITARY CONTACTS. Radio Bucharest on 5 September announced that Romanian and Hungarian troops have conducted joint military exercises within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program. The nature of the exercises, held in Timis County, was not specified. Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca will attend a ceremony marking the end of the exercises on 6 September. Meanwhile, Radio Bucharest also reported that Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Dumitru Cioflina has returned from a visit to Greece to discuss Balkan collaboration on improving regional security. Greece proposed that former Yugoslav states that have a "clear political identity and status" also participate. Radio Bucharest the same day reported the departure for Angola of a new battalion of Romanian peacekeeping forces. Col. Lucian Radulescu was quoted as saying that Romanian peacekeepers in Angola will total 659. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. MORATORIUM EXTENDED ON CHISINAU STRIKES. The strike committee of students and teachers has decided to extend the moratorium on protests declared on 4 May, Infotag and BASA-press reported on 5 September. The committee said the government has not met the strikers' economic demands but that it has nevertheless decided not to resume demonstrations on 6 September. The decision took into account both President Mircea Snegur's initiative to amend the constitution's provisions on the state language and the harvesting season. Meanwhile, Snegur on 5 September submitted to the parliament draft amendments to the property law and to land- ownership related legislation, Infotag reported the same day. His proposals are aimed at facilitating the sale and purchase of land. According to current legislation, land can be neither sold nor purchased before 2001. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. GONZALEZ SAYS SPAIN WILL HELP BULGARIA TO JOIN NATO, EU. Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, during his two-day visit to Sofia, said on 5 September that his country will support Bulgaria's efforts to join NATO and the European Union, Reuters and Demokratsiya reported. According to Gonzalez, the EU "has an obligation to expand eastwards . . . [and] Bulgaria has the right to belong to the EU." But he noted that meeting EU requirements will be "difficult and complicated" for Bulgaria. Gonzalez said Spain will also support Bulgaria's bid to join NATO, saying "no other country has the right to veto such a decision." Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov said his country has a long way to go to comply with EU standards. Experts estimate that the country has to adopt about 2,000 new laws to meet EU legislative standards, Videnov said. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. VANCE SAYS GREECE TO LIFT MACEDONIAN EMBARGO. UN mediator in the Greek- Macedonian conflict Cyrus Vance on 5 September said Greece will lift the trade blockade on Macedonia as soon as an agreement between the two countries is signed, Western agencies reported the same day. In return, Macedonia will change its flag and amend certain articles of its constitution. The agreement is expected to be signed by Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias and his Macedonian counterpart, Stevo Crvenkovski, in New York early next week. Vance called the meeting "the culmination of a long mediation effort" and added that the agreement will cover all outstanding issues, except for the name of the former Yugoslav republic, which will be discussed separately. Vance said that he does not expect the name issue to be resolved before the opening of the next UN General Assembly on 19 September. Both the Greek government and Skopje hailed the announcement, with the former denying it had bowed to U.S. pressure. -- 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.