|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 181, Part II, 18 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 POLISH, CZECH MINISTERS MEET IN WARSAW. Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski met with his Czech counterpart, Josef Zieleniec, in Warsaw on 16 September. They agreed that Poland and the Czech Republic will exchange information on progress toward integration into NATO, though negotiations with the organization will be conducted separately. Defense Ministers Zbigniew Okonski and Vilem Holan signed protocols on Polish-Czech military cooperation, on air rescue operations, and on land-surveying and cartography, Polish press reported on 18 September. Holan said that the Czech Republic was considering purchasing U.S. F-16 jet fighters to upgrade its air force. He reportedly proposed that the two countries join efforts in acquiring the American jet. -- Jakub Karpinski and Doug Clarke POLISH CENTRAL BANK LOWERS INTEREST RATES. The National Bank of Poland lowered interest rates by two percentage points effective 18 September, Rzeczpospolita reported. The refinance rate is now 31%, the lombard rate 28%, and the discount rate 25%. NBP President Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz said the steady decline in inflation since April justified the reduction. According to the Main Statistical Office, prices rose just 0.4% in August, yielding a year-on-year rate of 25.7%. -- Louisa Vinton MORE NEWS ON BELARUSIAN BALLOON INCIDENT. ITAR-TASS on 16 September reported Polish Defense Minister Zbigniew Okonski as saying Poland alerted Belarus that hot air balloons would be flying into Belarusian airspace last week, thereby bringing into question Belarusian air defense forces claim they had not been informed (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 September 1995). U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns complained that Belarus added insult to injury by fining two other balloonists, who were forced to land, $30 each for not having visas. Burns warned that Minsk should be careful how it treats American nationals in the country if it wants to maintain good relations with the U.S. Segodnya reported that the two balloonists killed when the balloon was shot down were equipped with radios, but probably did not respond to Belarusian calls because they had lost consciousness after the balloon suddenly climbed to a high altitude. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has ordered an investigation into the incident. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR PERIOD OF PROTECTIONISM. Yevhen Marchuk, speaking to leading Ukrainian economists in Kiev on 15 September, called for increased government support for industry and temporary protectionist measures in foreign trade to boost domestic production, Reuters reported the same day. Echoing remarks by President Leonid Kuchma, Marchuk said the government program for 1996 would provide credits and tax breaks to some enterprises and impose import tariffs and other customs barriers on goods entering Ukraine, but he stressed the measures would be temporary only. Meanwhile, chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko told a news conference on 15 September that the government's July decision to print 12 trillion unbacked karbovantsi ($7.2 million) for a state grain order and its secretiveness about imminent monetary reform were to blame for the recent 15% decline in the value of the karbovanets, Ukrainian TV reported the same day. -- Chrystyna Lapychak FUND FOR BALTIC-AMERICAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP OPENED IN RIGA. The Fund for Baltic-American Entrepreneurship opened on 16 September in Riga, BNS reported. Acting chairman of its board, Daniel Rose, said the fund is a non-profit organization set up within the framework of the U.S. government's foreign assistance program for the Baltic States to promote the development of small and medium-sized private enterprises. Credits ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 will be given at low interest rates for up to five years, especially to enterprises in tourism, light industry, food and timber processing, transport, and storage services. The fund will grant credits of up to a total of $50 million. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH PRIME MINISTER IN LITHUANIA. Josef Oleksy, on a two-day official visit to Lithuania, held talks with his Lithuanian counterpart, Adolfas Slezevicius. At a press conference on 16 September Slezevicius announced that the two countries are planning to prepare and sign a bilateral free-trade agreement by the end of the year, BNS reported. Oleksy promised support for Lithuania's entry into CEFTA, possibly some time next year. The premiers stressed their determination to seek membership in NATO, despite Russian objections, and signed an agreement on cooperation between their border guards. -- Saulius Girnius RUDE PRAVO DROPS "RUDE" FROM MASTHEAD. Rude pravo (Red Justice), the former organ of the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (KSC), on 18 September dropped the word "Rude" from its title. Editor-in-Chief Zdenek Porybny wrote that the move may come as an unpleasant surprise for some of the daily's longtime readers but did not mean a change in the paper's style or content. Founded in 1920, Rude pravo became the KSC's mouthpiece the following year. After the fall of communism, it was bought by Porybny and other senior staff. As an "independent" paper, it is now close to the Social Democratic Party and is one of the three biggest-selling Czech dailies. -- Steve Kettle CZECH PRESIDENT DEFENDS INTERIOR MINISTER AGAINST MECIAR. Vaclav Havel on 17 September defended Jan Ruml for making critical remarks about Slovakia that almost caused Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar to call off a meeting with his Czech counterpart last week. Referring to the kidnapping of Slovak President Michal Kovac's son, Ruml said Slovakia was in a deep political crisis and "the atmosphere there plays into the hands of psychopaths, members of the former StB [Czechoslovakia's communist secret police], the KGB and whoever." Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus distanced himself from the remarks on 10 September before meeting with Meciar, who said Ruml should remember he is a government minister and no longer a cowherd in Slovakia (one of the few jobs Ruml was allowed to hold as a dissident under communist rule). In his weekly radio address, Havel said Ruml had the right to comment on any country and that Meciar should remember the circumstances under which Ruml was forced to become a cowherd. -- Steve Kettle SLOVAK PRESIDENT CRITICIZES CABINET'S REACTION TO SON'S KIDNAPPING. Michal Kovac, in an interview with Die Presse on 16 September, said he was "dissatisfied" with the cabinet's rejection of his proposal that the Foreign Ministry formally ask for his son's return from Austria. Kovac said he did not know of any case where a government had no interest in the return of a citizen of its country. In other news, Christian Democratic Movement Deputy Chairman Frantisek Miklosko asked for the resignation of Slovak Information Service director Ivan Lexa and head of counter intelligence Jaroslav Svechota for "total incompetence," Sme reported on 16 September. Miklosko said that after the two men came to office, several strange events began to occur, including the searching of the house of the head of the Slovak Bishops' Conference, the kidnapping of the president's son, and the beating up of Miklosko himself. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK FOREIGN RELATIONS. Slovak Economy Minister Jan Ducky and Czech Industry and Trade Minister Vladimir Dlouhy, at a private meeting on 13 September, agreed that it is in the interest of both states that the bilateral customs union continue, Pravda reported on 16 September. A meeting of the Customs Union Council is scheduled for the end of October, during which questions such as Slovakia's recently approved measure permitting duty free imports of small cars are to be discussed. TASR on 15 September reported that Ducky and Dlouhy also dealt with the construction of Slovakia's Mochovce nuclear plant, in which several Czech firms and banks have expressed interest. In other news, U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry arrived in Bratislava on 17 September for a two-day visit focusing on European security and NATO enlargement. -- Sharon Fisher NEW ROMANI COALITION IN SLOVAKIA. Fifty Romani delegates met in Kosice to found a coalition of Romani political parties, TASR reported on 16 September. The parties include the Romani Civic Initiative, the Romani Democratic Movement, the Labor and Security Party, the Democratic Alliance of Roma, and the Romani Congress. The coalition, named the Union of Romani Political Parties of Slovakia and estimated to have some 40,000 members, chose Mikulas Horvath as its chairman. CTK also reported the same day that the parties began working together in April when the Slovak government requested they unite. The coalition also adopted a declaration to the president, parliament, and government opposing official policy on Roma and asking that posts for special commissioners on Roma be set up in both Bratislava and Kosice. -- Alaina Lemon EUROPE'S OLDEST SUBWAY REOPENED IN HUNGARY. Following a multi-million dollar facelift, Europe's oldest subway, built in 1896, was reopened in Budapest on 15 September, international media reported. "Budapest must develop her mass transport system to meet the challenges of the 21st century if our city is to become a regional financial center," Mayor Gabor Demszky said at the opening ceremony. The subway has been restored in its original, turn-of-the-century style and is expected to become a major tourist attraction. The six-month facelift cost over 3 billion forint ($27 million) and was partly financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO GIVES SERBS 72-HOUR REPRIEVE. International media on 18 September reported that the Atlantic alliance the previous night agreed to continue suspending its air attacks on Bosnian Serb positions until 10:00 p.m. on 20 September. The decision came after the Serbs pulled some 150 of 300 pieces of heavy weaponry out of the Sarajevo exclusion zone by the 17 September deadline and said that the rest would go shortly. The VOA reported that the Rapid Reaction Force will nonetheless stay to reassure the Bosnian government because mortars smaller than 82 mm or anti-aircraft guns may remain. Sarajevo airport has reopened, as have at least some land supply routes. It is unclear what the Serbs are doing with the artillery they remove, and the BBC said they may need the guns in the west of the republic. There Serbian forces are apparently in full retreat and are abandoning their big guns. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT, CROATS PRESS ON IN CENTRAL BOSNIA. Sanski Most, Bosanska Krupa, and possibly Prijedor have fallen to the advancing allies over the weekend, the BBC said on 17 September, quoting Belgrade media. The Bosnian Serbs at first denied the reports, but their leader, Radovan Karadzic, later conceded "big losses," although he claimed his new front was holding, Nasa Borba reported on 18 September. He also sent his "foreign minister" to Moscow for "military assistance." Mlada fronta dnes said that 100,000 Serbs have fled toward Banja Luka, and the VOA noted that they are clogging roads in what appears to be a rout and a humanitarian crisis. The panicked Serbs are abandoning even positions assigned them by the current partition plans, and Mlada fronta dnes reported that their losses now amount to 3,000 sq km. The road to Banja Luka seems open, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted that the allies are only 50 km from that goal. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN AUTHORITIES URGE REFUGEES TO COME HOME. Bosnian Television on 17 September continued to run footage of victorious Bosnian and Croatian forces on the move as well as of happy refugees going home. General Mehmed Alagic told viewers: "Dear Bosnians, come home! The time has come, your homes are free and waiting for you," news agencies noted. Silajdzic defended the offensive, saying "this is the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and we are entitled to liberate our territory." British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, however, condemned the advance after meeting on 18 September with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade. Rifkind said only a negotiated settlement is possible, while rump Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic told AFP that "we are very concerned about this offensive and that is not part of the peace process." But his Bosnian counterpart, Muhamed Sacirbey, told VOA that "the best diplomacy is created on the ground." -- Patrick Moore CROATS TO HAND OVER INDICTED WAR CRIMINAL. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 18 September reported that the Bosnian Croats will deliver Ivica Rajic to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. He is wanted in conjunction with the massacre of Muslim civilians in Stupni Do on 23 October 1993. The same paper on 15 September quoted the head of the tribunal, Judge Richard Goldstone, as warning against granting immunity to any internationally wanted war criminals as part of a peace package. The Serbs have charged him with partisanship because virtually all of the indicted men are Serbs, including Karadzic, his military commander General Ratko Mladic, and Krajina leader Milan Martic. -- Patrick Moore ANOTHER ANTI-NATO RALLY IN BELGRADE. As many as 3,000 people gathered outside the U.S. embassy building in Belgrade on 15 September to protest NATO air strikes against Bosnian Serbs and the U.S.'s backing of NATO, international media reported the same day. Protesters "besieged" the embassy, shouting abuse aimed at various political leaders and members of the NATO alliance. This latest rally comes on the heels of a similar event on 13 September, which attracted only several hundred participants. -- Stan Markotich PERRY PRAISES SLOVENIA. US Secretary of Defense William Perry, at the start of his tour of Central Europe, said on 17 September in Ljubljana that Slovenia is just as qualified as the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland to join NATO, international media reported. "Of all of these countries, I believe that Slovenia has made perhaps the greatest progress in the transition to democracy, the transition to a market economy and the smooth turnover of the military to civilian control," he commented. Perry the previous day expressed "cautious optimism" that the arms embargo against Slovenia will be lifted this year. -- Michael Mihalka ROMANIAN EXTREMIST LEADER TO RUN FOR PRESIDENCY. The National Council of the extremist Greater Romania Party has nominated party chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor as its candidate for the 1996 presidential elections, Radio Bucharest reported on 16 September. Tudor said that, if elected, he would oppose alleged plans to turn Romania "into a colony of occult forces worldwide." He also promised to become a second Vlad the Impaler, the 15th-century Wallachian prince notorious for his cruelty. Tudor the previous day had demanded the removal of head of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) Virgil Magureanu, whom he accused of having established a "political police [force]." He also blamed the SRI for allegedly allowing Hungarians "to buy up Transylvania through all kinds of private companies." Tudor's attacks against the SRI come in the wake of the recent publication of documents showing he was a Securitate informer. -- Dan Ionescu ROMANIA'S HUNGARIANS STAGE SCHOOL PROTEST. Some 8,000 pupils, teachers, and parents on 15 September rallied in Sfantu Gheorghe, a Transylvanian town where ethnic Hungarians are in an overwhelming majority, to protest the education law adopted this summer. Romania's Hungarians see the legislation as discriminating against ethnic minorities. Romanian media, however, reported on 16 September that, despite calls by the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, there were no similar protests in other Transylvanian towns. President Ion Iliescu, speaking in Oradea at a ceremony marking the beginning of the new school year, appealed to Romanian and Hungarian pupils and teachers to support his initiative for a "historic reconciliation" between the two countries. Iliescu launched the initiative at a meeting with political leaders on 14 September. -- Dan Ionescu MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OVERRULES DISMISSALS. Moldova's Constitutional Court overruled the parliament's decision to dismiss parliament deputy chairman Nicolae Andronic, chairman of the Law Committee Eugen Rusu, and chairman of the State Security and Public Order Committee Ion Ungureanu, Infotag and BASA-press reported on 15 September. The three were fired in late July following their resignation from the ruling Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova. The court said the dismissals were anti-constitutional and amounted to political persecution. Members of the parliamentary majority criticized the court's decision as "hasty and violating parliamentary regulations." -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR "MINI-MARSHALL PLAN." Zhelyu Zhelev on 15 September called for a program funded by the West to help Balkan states recover from the losses suffered during the former Yugoslav conflict, Reuters reported the same day. Meeting with the ambassadors to Bulgaria of the EU and NATO member countries, Zhelev said a "mini-Marshall plan should include all Balkan states which have suffered economic losses from the Yugoslav conflict, among which is Bulgaria." Standart on 16 September reported that the government supported Zhelev's position. International institutions estimate Bulgaria has lost trade worth $1.4 billion as a result of the sanctions. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER OFFERS BASES FOR STEALTH BOMBERS. Alfred Serreqi has offered air bases for stealth fighter-bombers that the U.S. wants to use in Bosnia, AFP reported on 14 September. Italy earlier refused to provide bases for the F-117 jets, demanding that Rome be allowed to participate in the Bosnian peace process. Three U.S. reconnaissance planes have been based at the Gjader base since mid-July. Elsewhere, Albanian and U.S. military units on 14 September started their seventh joint military exercise, code-named "Peaceful Eagle," Reuters reported. The exercise aims at training Albanian units to be deployed in future UN peacekeeping missions. -- Fabian Schmidt [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. 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