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No. 237, Part II, 7 December 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, 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/Index.html ************************************************************************ Do you need sharply focused economic news? OMRI's weekly Economic Digest provides thorough coverage of business and financial developments throughout the region. This week's edition includes stories on the economic turbulence in Macedonia caused by the lifting of sanctions, and the superior performance of Russia's privatized enterprises compared to state-run outfits. For subscription and rate information, please send a message to email@example.com *********************************************************************** ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ DEPLOYMENT OF NATO TROOPS IN BOSNIA GETS UNDER WAY. The first U.S. military flight landed in Tuzla on 6 December, bringing a 12-member liaison team tasked with maintaining a permanent link with UN troops on the ground until they are replaced by NATO forces, Reuters reported. According to international media on 7 December, 10 planes arrived in Sarajevo the previous day, despite delays owing to heavy snow. Of the more than 700 military personnel the U.S. is contributing to NATO's vanguard in Bosnia, only 41 had arrived by 6 December--the delay being explained by the political sensitivity of having U.S. troops arrive before the Bosnia peace accord is signed and before UN peacekeepers are officially replaced by NATO troops. British soldiers arrived in Sarajevo on 6 December and headed to Gornji Vakufas, where the 13,000 British contingent will patrol central and western Bosnia. AFP on 7 December quoted Pentagon officials as saying that mines, snipers, and the cold weather will be the main obstacles that NATO troops face in Bosnia. A British officer told news agencies that the new rules of engagement will be very different from UNPROFOR's and that he intends to take firm action against Bosnian Croat soldiers who torch and loot Serbian villages. -- Daria Sito Sucic ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINE, ROMANIA WRANGLE OVER SERPENT ISLAND. Ukrainian officials are dismayed by recent comments by Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu that his government is considering taking its claim on a tiny Black Sea island, now part of Ukraine, to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, international agencies reported on 6 December. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko told reporters during his visit to China that the suggestion "was tantamount to Romania making territorial claims on Ukraine." Udovenko said that Ukraine will not make any territorial concessions and that it has decided to recall its ambassador in Bucharest for consultations. Romania claims Serpent Island was unjustly turned over by Communist authorities to the USSR in 1948. According to Ukraine, there are potentially lucrative oil and gas deposits off the coast of the island. Romanian claims on land annexed by the Soviet government and now part of Ukraine have long held up the signing of a border agreement between the two countries. -- Chrystyna Lapychak UKRAINIAN ECONOMIC RECESSION DEEPENS. An economic study conducted by the Geneva-based International Labor Organization reveals that the ailing Ukrainian economy is sinking further into recession, international agencies reported 6 December. The report said industrial production in Ukraine has halved since 1991, and a quarter of all managers fear bankruptcy. Hidden unemployment affects one out of three factory employees, with many on unpaid leave owing to their employers' inability to pay wages. Some managers have paid workers in factory products or food and health care goods, instead of money. The survey said some 15% of women have been put on maternity leave, despite not being pregnant. The official unemployment rate this year is 0.5% because many cases are not reported. -- Chrystyna Lapychak NEW LATVIAN GOVERNMENT. Prime Minister-designate Ziedonis Cevers presented his cabinet to President Guntis Ulmanis on 6 December, BNS reported. The cabinet consists only of members of the National Conciliation Bloc, as efforts to garner the support of other right of center parties have failed. It is composed of five ministers from Cevers' Saimnieks party, four from the Popular Movement for Latvia, and two each from the Unity and National Harmony Parties. Only three of the ministers are not Saeima deputies. The Saeima session on 7 December, voting on the approval of the government, was delayed two hours when it was noticed that one of the deputies was absent. -- Saulius Girnius ASIAN IMMIGRANTS DETAINED IN LITHUANIA. The police in Vilkaviskis Raion arrested 92 Asian immigrants on 5 December, BNS reported the next day. Twenty-eight of the immigrants came from Sri Lanka, 23 from Pakistan, and 21 from Bangladesh. The police also found the corpse of a 29-year- old Sri Lankan who apparently suffered from diabetes and died after his supply of insulin was exhausted. Almantas Gavenas, deputy director of the immigration department of the Interior Ministry, said all refugee quarters have been overcrowded for a long time and that it is becoming more difficult to persuade Belarus to take back illegal migrants. -- Saulius Girnius BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN DENIED TV APPEARANCE. Belarus Television refused to broadcast a message from Mechyslau Hryb urging people to take part in the second round of the parliamentary elections on 10 December. Hryb then asked Russian Television and Radio Company Chairman Oleg Poptsov to be allowed to appear on Russian Television to do so, RFE/RL radio reported on 6 December. -- Saulius Girnius SOLIDARITY TO CREATE ANTI-COMMUNIST BLOC. The National Commission of the Solidarity trade union, at its meeting on 6 December, has said it wants to create an anti-communist bloc. In order to gain entry to the alliance, groups will have to support Solidarity's draft constitution and agree to endorse citizens being allowed to own shares in state property. Commission chairman Marian Krzaklewski said that Solidarity will respect the Supreme Court's verdict on the validity of the elections, which is expected to be announced on 9 December, Rzeczpospolita reported on 7 December. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz AMERICAN FINANCIAL GROUP TAKES STAKE IN CZECH TV STATION. Stratton Investments, which in recent weeks has spent more than $200 million acquiring controlling stakes in several Czech companies, on 6 December bought 15% of the ailing television station Premiera for an undisclosed figure, Czech media reported. Stratton, headed by financier Michael Dingman, purchased the stake from Investicni a postovni banka (IPB), which owned 45% of Premiera. A bank spokesman said IPB will sell a further 20% by the end of the year. IPB has been looking for investors for more than a year for Premiera, the first Czech commercial station to go on the air. Since its debut in 1993, Premiera has been plagued by financial difficulties and its status as a regional station; it reaches only about 60% of the Czech Republic. Stratton's investment has to be approved by the Board for Radio and Television Broadcasting. -- Steve Kettle SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTY ON MEDIA. Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) Chairman Peter Weiss, in a letter to parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic, has called for opposition representation on the boards overseeing state-run Slovak Television (STV) and Slovak Radio (SRo), Slovak media reported on 6 December. He also proposed the creation of a commission to work out a new law on STV and SRo. Since November 1994, the STV and SRo boards have consisted only of members proposed by the ruling coalition. According to Weiss, STV is being "used directly in the political battle." In particular, he criticized the two appearances by Peter Krylov, who is the main witness against the son of Slovak President Michal Kovac. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES MAIN POINTS OF 1996 BUDGET. The Hungarian parliament, in a marathon session on 6 December, approved setting the 1996 budget deficit at 132.6 billion forint ($1 billion)--3 billion forint more than originally planned--and the state sector deficit at below 4% of GDP, Hungarian media reported. Deputies approved, among other things, allocating 15 billion forint for a wage increase for state-sector employees and a 2 billion forint subsidy for Budapest public transportation. The vote on the 1996 budget came in the wake of the passage on 5 December of an amendment to the law defining tax brackets. In 1996, a 48% tax will be levied on annual gross incomes over 900,000 forint. -- Zsofia Szilagyi MAX VAN DER STOEL IN BUDAPEST. OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel arrived in Budapest on 6 December on a fact-finding mission to investigate the status of Hungarian minorities in Slovakia, Romania, and Serbia. Van der Stoel held talks with Csaba Tabajdi, state secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, who stressed that international organizations must consider how to stop the increasingly grave trends in the situation of Eastern Europe's minorities. Tabajdi also asked Van der Stoel to use his good offices to ensure that the Slovak language law takes effect simultaneously with a minority language law offsetting some of the discriminatory provisions of the law. The high commissioner later told reporters that he would visit Bratislava in January to discuss the minority issue with Slovak government officials in light of the contentious language law and pending minority bill. -- Zsofia Szilagyi EASTERN EUROPEAN FOREIGN MINISTERS ATTEND NACC MEETING. Foreign ministers from neutral and former Warsaw Pact countries joined their NATO counterparts in Brussels on 6 December for the semi-annual meeting of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, Western agencies reported. The ministers were eager to take part in NATO's deployment operations in Bosnia but were disappointed to hear that NATO has effectively shelved plans for enlargement for at least a year. Bulgaria has proposed participating in the NATO force, although Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski said this was unlikely to involve military troops and would require external financing, BTA reported on 6 December. -- Michael Mihalka SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CHIRAC WARNS MILOSEVIC OVER FATE OF PILOTS. At a time when Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic seems eager to make domestic and international political capital out of his new-found role as a man of peace, French President Jacques Chirac reminded him in a telephone call on 6 December of his obligations stemming from the Dayton treaty. That document, plus an earlier agreement between Belgrade in Pale, makes Milosevic responsible for the conduct of the Bosnian Serbs. Chirac warned Milosevic that if the two pilots shot down in August "were not released in the coming days, France would be forced to draw all the appropriate conclusions," the International Herald Tribune and Nasa Borba reported on 7 December. The Bosnian Serbs originally said they were holding the two men and providing medical treatment, but later Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic claimed they had been "kidnapped" by unknown abductors. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN SERBS DENY KARADZIC'S IMMINENT DISMISSAL. After several days of speculation that Milosevic was about to remove Karadzic from power (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 December 1995), Karadzic's colleagues have formally denied the rumors. Pale's SRNA news agency said that the leadership "is absolutely united on all the essential matters" and that the report, first carried by the independent Beta agency, "is just another attempt to cancel out the results of four years' struggle by the Serb people for their basic right to liberty in their own country and in their own state. This manner of proceeding has no chance of succeeding, because the people and the army are backing [their] leaders, despite attempts to sow dissension among them." -- Patrick Moore GERMAN PARLIAMENT VOTES TO PARTICIPATE IN NATO BOSNIAN FORCE. By a surprising vote of 543 to 107, the German parliament on 6 December voted to send 4,000 troops to participate in the NATO force in the former Yugoslavia, Western agencies reported. Even half of the deputies belonging to the leftist Green party voted for the resolution, signaling a considerable turnaround in German policy toward the region. As recently as June, the Bundestag agreed by a vote of 386 to 258 to send Tornados to support UN peacekeepers in Bosnia. Meanwhile, NATO officials are expressing concern that the deployment of the civilian administration provided for by the Dayton peace accord is not keeping pace with that of its military counterpart. -- Michael Mihalka SLOVENIA ENDS SANCTIONS AGAINST RUMP YUGOSLAVIA. STA reported on 6 December that Slovenia has become the first former Yugoslav republic to lift sanctions regime against the rump Yugoslavia. The announcement followed in the wake of a parliamentary vote held the previous day. Despite the decision to lift sanctions, Ljubljana is to continue to insist that all assets from the former Yugoslavia remain frozen until their distribution can be negotiated. According to Ljubljana, its share of assets includes at least $2 billion worth of property that remains in the rump Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich SERBIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES FORM "DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE." BETA on 6 December reported that Milorad Jovanovic of the Democratic Party of Serbia announced that his party has reached an agreement with the Democratic Party, the Serbian Liberal Party, and the Parliamentary People's Party to forge a coalition--the Democratic Alliance--in the near future. While the objective is to coordinate efforts in upcoming electoral contests, Jovanovic stressed that each party will "retain its full autonomy." Jovanovic also remarked, presumably only on behalf of his own party, that the presence of NATO troops in Bosnia amounts to "a [foreign] invasion." Meanwhile, Nasa Borba on 7 December reported that Milos Minic, former minister of foreign affairs, is appealing for the release of General Vlada Trifunovic and several of his co-defendants. Trifunovic and other officers are currently serving sentences for undermining national security. In 1991, the Varazdin corps, which at the time were under their command, fled from advancing Croatian troops. -- Stan Markotich ROMANIAN-GERMAN RELATIONS THREATENED BY ROMANIAN CRIMINALS IN GERMANY. Romanian Interior Minister Doru Ioan Taracila on 6 December began an official visit to Germany to discuss cooperation between the two countries' Interior Ministries in combating crimes committed by Romanians on German territory, Radio Bucharest reported. German police sources quoted by the Romanian press suspect that the criminals, who are reported to be well trained, have links to the Bucharest authorities. Die Welt quoted a high-ranking German government official as saying the Romanian authorities' unwillingness to cooperate may affect relations between the two countries, which he described as "tense." -- Matyas Szabo JEWISH BLOOD LIBEL REVIVED BY BABY SMUGGLING SCANDAL IN ROMANIA. Romanian police on 6 December announced they had detained an Israeli citizen and three Romanians in Iasi on suspicion of smuggling babies across the border into Moldova and to Israel, Reuters reported the same day. A spokesman for the police identified the Israeli citizen as Mahmud Asadi, a Palestinian who converted to Judaism and claims to have been a personal secretary to assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Resurrecting a centuries-old anti-Semitic blood libel, the Bucharest weekly Baricada had written in mid-November that there was no chance of ever seeing the smuggled children alive because "as is well known, Jewish matza [unleavened bread] demands kosher, young Christian blood." But "as long as the Jewish Mafia" involved in "collecting kosher blood" is protected by the Mossad, it is "unlikely" that proof of the horrible deed can be produced, the weekly said. -- Michael Shafir BULGARIAN STATE RADIO BOSS SACKS DEPUTY. Director-General of Bulgarian National Radio Vecheslav Tunev on 4 December dismissed his deputy, Rayna Konstantinova, saying it was "in the interest of the [radio's] work," Demokratsiya reported on 7 December. Tunev reportedly accused Konstantinova of involvement in the protest staged by 53 BNR journalists who accuse the radio's management of censorship. Konstantinova claims not to have met with them, and her claim is supported by the dissenting journalists. In an interview with 24 chasa, Tunev said the dismissal has "neither political nor professional reasons." Konstantinova in an interview with the same paper stressed that she did not have anything to do with the program on which the journalists worked, since she was responsible for BNR's foreign language service. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN HEALTH MINISTER SAYS SHE WILL NOT RESIGN. Mimi Vitkova, responding to demands by medical organizations and trade unions that she resign, said on 6 December that there is no need for her to do so since "the reform of the health care [system] is not blocked--on the contrary it is starting to take effect," 24 chasa reported the following day. Vitkova is accused of hindering reforms in the health care sector, putting obstacles in the way of physicians running private practices, and preventing the creation of an effective health insurance system. Vitkova announced that a new salary scale will be introduced in 1996, leading to a significant hike in doctors' incomes. The average salary among physicians is currently 9,000 leva ($128). -- Stefan Krause ARTICLE 19 EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER LUSTRATION LAW. The International Center Against Censorship (also known as Article 19) sent a letter to Albanian President Sali Berisha on 4 December expressing concern about Albania's screening law, adopted on 30 November (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 December 1995). Article 19 criticizes the fact that the commission reviewing communist-era secret service files will be composed of seven people nominated by the premier, the justice, defense and interior ministers, the parliament, and the head of the secret service. The group argues that the commission will not be independent and could veto the right of citizens to participate in elections. It also says that since journalists are included in the categories of people to be examined by the commission, freedom of expression is endangered in Albania. -- 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. 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. 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