Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 241, Part II, 13 December 1995


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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

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
MLADIC FREES FRENCH PILOTS. A Bosnian Serb army communique announced on
12 December that "in keeping with the traditional friendship between the
Serbian and French people, it was agreed that the [Serbs] release the
captured French pilots who bombed Serb settlements around Sarajevo on
August 30." General Ratko Mladic personally handed over the two men in
Zvornik near the Serbian border. They looked dazed and had been kept
isolated from the outside world in separate adjoining rooms. Nasa Borba
on 13 December quoted a Russian colonel on the scene as saying that "the
freeing of the pilots is a gesture of humanity. I hope this will show
what kind of people the Serbs really are." AFP said that France would
not have signed the Dayton accords had the pilots remained captive. It
is not clear why the Serbs stayed silent about the fate of the men for
so long or why they were so reluctant to free them. -- Patrick Moore
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

UKRAINIAN LAND REFORM IS SLUGGISH. Officials from the Ukrainian State
Property Fund, the agency in charge of privatization, say that less than
a third of the collective and state farms slated for privatization this
year have been transferred to private hands, the Eastern Economist Daily
reported on 12 December. Of the 3,690 farms scheduled to be handed over
to their employee collectives, only 1,071 had completed the process by 1
December. SPF officials say farm privatization has been most successful
in Vinnytsia, Poltava, and Odessa Oblasts. They claim local authorities
have been most resistant in the Kharkiv, Kherson, and Chernivtsi
regions. The SPF says, however, it expects the process to be over by the
end of 1996. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

BELARUSIAN PRIME MINISTER ON RELATIONS WITH UKRAINE. Belarusian Radio on
12 December reported Mikhail Chyhir as saying that relations between
Belarus and Ukraine are not entirely satisfactory. Speaking on the eve
of a two-day visit to Ukraine, he urged Minsk and Kiev to work more
closely to overcome economic difficulties . In 1992, trade between the
two countries totaled $1.16 billion; in 1994, it dropped to $322
million. Belarus recently signed military agreements with Russia during
Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's visit to Minsk. One of the
agreements provides for the joint use of regional forces and for the
Russian forces' use of Belarusian bases. Such agreements are likely to
deter Ukraine from closer cooperation with Belarus, despite Chyhir's
statements. -- Ustina Markus

REACTIONS TO BELARUSIAN ELECTIONS. Belarusian President Alyaksandr
Lukashenka said the election of a new parliament shows that Belarusians
continue to uphold the same ideals they had when they elected him
president in 1994, Belarusian radio reported on 12 December. Lukashenka
described these ideals support for his policies of closer integration
with Russia. Prior to the elections the president, saying he would not
vote, had publicly tore up his voting card. But Zyanon Paznyak, leader
of the nationalist Belarusian Popular Front, which did not win any
seats, said the success of the elections showed people were afraid of
Lukashenka establishing a dictatorship in the country. The leader of the
United Civic Party, former banker Stanislau Bahdankevich, agreed with
Paznyak's interpretation and added that his party hoped to cooperate
with the agrarians since their program was liberal in many ways. --
Ustina Markus

RUSSIAN EMBASSY UNHAPPY ABOUT TOO FEW POLLING STATIONS IN ESTONIA.
Vassilii Ostaptchuk, an official at the Russian Embassy in Tallinn, is
dissatisfied with the decision of the Estonian Foreign Ministry to
permit polling stations for the Russian elections on 17 December only in
Tallinn and Narva, ETA reported on 12 December. The ministry rejected
requests to open such stations in Tartu, Parnu, Sillamae, and Kohtla-
Jarve, noting that only 2,000 Russian citizens had registered to vote in
the elections. Citizens who did not register, however, are allowed to
vote. Estonia has 82,000 Russian citizens residing on its territory, the
largest per capita number in any foreign country. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIA'S BANKA BALTIJA DECLARED BANKRUPT. The Latvian Economic Court on
12 December declared Banka Baltija, the former largest commercial bank
in the Baltic States, officially bankrupt, BNS reported. Ugis Grube, the
former administrator of the bank, was appointed its liquidator. The
activities of the bank were suspended in May, and none of the proposals
to restore the bank was considered acceptable. The losses to the bank's
200,000 depositors are estimated at some 200 million lati ($370
million). The government has paid out slightly more than 1 million lati
in compensations to 6,214 depositors. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN PREMIER IN CHINA. Adolfas Slezevicius met with his Chinese
counterpart, Li Peng, in Beijing on 11 December to discuss economic
cooperation issues. The next day, he met with Minister of Foreign Trade
and Economic Cooperation Wu Yi and urged greater Chinese investment in
Lithuania, noting that although 72 Chinese companies operate in
Lithuania their investments are worth only $300,000, ELTA reported. Wu
responded that China is not a "fund exporting country" and called for
direct contacts between medium-sized and large companies in both
countries. Slezevicius also had "very friendly and fruitful talks" with
Chinese President Jiang Zemin. -- Saulius Girnius

OUTGOING POLISH PRESIDENT CALLS FOR UNITY AMONG RIGHT-WING OPPOSITION .
. . Outgoing President Lech Walesa, meeting on 12 December with the
caucus of the opposition Confederation for an Independent Poland (KPN),
said the rightist opposition had to unite in order to prepare for the
1997 parliamentary elections. He was supported by representatives of the
Freedom Union (UW), Christian National Alliance (ZChN), and Solidarity,
who also were invited to the meeting. "Whoever boycotts the common
election list is a traitor," he commented. He added that he had proof of
"oligarchic international activities" that had been "top secret," and he
promised to reveal the relevant details before his term ends,
Rzeczpospolita reported on 13 December. -- Jakub Karpinski

. . . AND REJECTS ANTI-TOBACCO BILL. Walesa has returned the anti-
tobacco bill to the Sejm, Rzeczpospolita reported on 13 December. The
bill prohibits tobacco advertisements on television and radio and in
cinemas, youth publications, and sports establishments. The president
pointed out that under the law, tobacco products can continue to be
advertised in the press and in public transport. In his opinion, the
total prohibition of all advertising of tobacco goods (following the
example of Canada and Norway) is the best way to protect the
population's health. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

CZECH PARLIAMENT APPROVES STATE BUDGET. By a vote of 114 to 57, Czech
deputies on 12 December approved a balanced state budget of 497.6
billion koruny ($18.655 billion) for 1996, Czech media reported. The
state sector will account for 43.3% of GDP next year, a fall of 0.9%,
Hospodarske noviny noted. Attempts by one of the governing coalition
parties, the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), to radically cut taxes and
state spending were defeated; and the ODA finally supported the budget.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs will receive the highest sum
from the budget, 158 billion koruny ($5.923 billion), but other
ministries' allocations were reduced from the original government
proposal. Provision was made in the budget for financing next year's
general election, the creation of a Senate and the sending of Czech
troops as part of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia. -- Steve
Kettle

FLU EPIDEMIC CLOSES CZECH SCHOOLS. The Chief Hygiene Officer of the
Czech Republic on 12 December ordered all elementary and secondary
schools across the country to be closed from 14 December because of a
flu epidemic, Czech media reported. Kindergartens will remain open, but
other schools will break up nine days earlier than planned for the
Christmas and New Year holidays. The epidemic, which is still spreading,
has hit more than 5,000 people per 100,000 in some areas. Education
Minister Ivan Pilip regretted the closure order, saying that some
schools could have combined classes in order to maintain some teaching
until the regular Christmas break. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAK PREMIER ON CABINET'S FIRST YEAR. On the occasion of his
government's first anniversary in office, Vladimir Meciar told Slovak
Radio that his government has fulfilled its promises to voters. He
stressed that certain negative expectations--including international
isolation and economic collapse--have not been fulfilled. Meciar
referred to the Slovak-Hungarian treaty, which will be discussed by the
parliament this month, as "a key document for the stabilization of
relations in Central Europe." Meanwhile, Sme on 12 December noted that
although the cabinet has succeeded in some areas, including the signing
of the treaty with Hungary and stabilizing monetary policy, it cannot
get rid of its "unfavorable image" and has received "a record number of
demarches." -- Sharon Fisher

FIRE AT SLOVAK NUCLEAR PLANT. A fire broke out on 12 December during the
repair of a switch at the compressor and cooling station of the
Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear power plant, located in western Slovakia,
Reuters and TASR reported. A statement released by the plant said there
was no danger of radioactive leakage. The Soviet-designed Bohunice plant
has been criticized by the West as dangerous, and Slovakia has been
asked to close down the older reactors once the country's second plant,
currently under construction in Mochovce, is completed. Representatives
of Slovenske elektrarne and Electricite de France (EdF) on 12 December
signed an agreement on the completion of Mochovce. The EdF's involvement
is expected to help the plant reach international safety standards. The
existing consortium for constructing Mochovce--which also includes
Czech, German, and Russian firms--remains in effect, TASR reported. --
Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN PREMIER IN JAPAN. Gyula Horn, on a three-day visit to Japan to
boost economic ties, has met with Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi
Murayama, Foreign Minister Yohei Kono, Emperor Akihito, and several
banking executives, Hungarian media reported. Horn is accompanied by
National Bank President Gyorgy Suranyi and officials from the Finance
and Industry Ministries. The talks focused on Japanese involvement in
Hungarian environmental projects, Hungary's OECD membership, and joint
projects to finance the reconstruction of the former Yugoslavia. The
Japanese Eximbank signed a $50 million loan agreement with the Hungarian
Eximbank to finance Hungarian exports to the Balkans. Horn requested the
expansion of preferential customs duties and the easing of restrictive
measures on Hungarian imports of agricultural and meat products to
Japan. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARY EXPECTS IMF STAND-BY-LOAN IN JANUARY. The final version of the
$300 million stand-by credit agreement between Hungary and the IMF is
now ready and will probably be signed in early January, Nepszabadsag
reported on 13 December. Under the terms of the deal, Hungary will have
access to the loan for 18 months as of February 1996. An IMF delegation
is currently holding talks with Hungarian Finance Ministry officials in
Budapest. A key stumbling block to date has been the delegation's
position that it will approve releasing the credit only after the 1996
budget for the country's social security system has been passed. The
long-awaited credit agreement is seen as helping to restore Hungary's
financial credibility rather than meeting any real financial need. --
Zsofia Szilagyi

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

BOSNIA CONFERENCE OPENS NEAR PARIS. Delegates from the five-country
Contact Group meet on 13 December with representatives of the
Organization of the Islamic Conference, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt,
Iran, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Senegal, and Turkey, to discuss
stability in the Balkans. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said that
the Bosnian conference is taking place 50 km north of Paris near Roissy
airport because of the strike-induced problems in the French capital.
Meanwhile, in the Sarajevo suburbs run by the Pale Serbs, AFP reported
that 98.78% of the voters rejected the Dayton agreement returning them
to Bosnian government authority. The validity of the ballot is
recognized only by the Bosnian Serbs. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN FEDERATION ASSEMBLY BACKS DAYTON ACCORD. Following a long
discussion, the Bosnian Federation's Constituent Assembly accepted the
Dayton peace accords on 12 December, Hina reported the same day.
Assembly members also agreed that new federal laws proposed in Dayton
should take effect on 20 December in keeping with the prescribed time
schedule. They authorized Federation President Kresimir Zubak to sign
the agreement in Paris on 14 December on its behalf, while Hina quoted
Bosnia-Herzegovina's President Alija Izetbegovic as saying "we travel to
Paris to sign the deal, not to negotiate." However, at a previously
unannounced session the same day, the Bosnian republican parliament
decided to reserve the right to annul the Dayton accord if it is not
carried out in due time. In such a case, the constitution of Bosna-
Herzegovina, as envisaged in the Dayton text, would be annulled and the
republican parliament would regain legislative power from the federal
authorities. -- Daria Sito Sucic

CROATIAN OPPOSITION FAILS TO BLOCK GOVERNMENT OVER DAYTON. Both houses
of the Croatian parliament on 12 December approved Foreign Minister Mate
Granic's report on the Dayton peace talks and the Basic Agreement on the
Region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Srijem, Hina reported
the same day. An opposition motion calling for Posavina to be included
in the Croat-Muslim federation and prohibiting negotiations on Prevlaka
failed. -- Daria Sito Sucic

SERBIAN PRESIDENT OPTIMISTIC ABOUT PEACE PROSPECTS. Slobodan Milosevic,
following meetings on 11 December with co-chairman of the International
Conference on Former Yugoslavia Thorvald Stoltenberg, told Radio Serbia
that the Dayton peace accord signaled that a lasting regional peace was
at hand. At the same time, he distanced himself from the Bosnian Serbs
and any possible actions they may undertake to undermine the peace. When
asked whether they would seek to foment regional hostilities, Milosevic
said such an eventuality was unlikely, but he did not rule it out. --
Stan Markotich

ROMANIAN CONTRIBUTION TO NATO FORCE IN BOSNIA. Romania hopes to increase
its ties with NATO by contributing engineering and telecommunications
units to the NATO peace-keeping forces in Bosnia. Radu Timofte, chairman
of the Senate's Defense Committee, told a NATO delegation that his
country's participation in the peace-keeping operations in Bosnia would
achieve far better results than "years of seminars" on the interaction
of the Romanian armed forces and NATO, Rompres and international
agencies reported on 11-12 December. Timofte also told the delegation
that all East Central European states should be integrated into NATO at
the same time to avoid creating insecurity. -- Michael Shafir

DNIESTER TEACHERS, LAWYERS STRIKE. More than 5,000 teachers in the
breakaway Dniester republic are refusing to return to class after going
on strike six days ago, the strike committee chairwoman told Infotag on
12 December. They are demanding higher salaries and normal working
conditions. A total of 74 schools and kindergartens are closed, and the
protest movement is expanding to other schools, she said. Court
officials from the Rybnitsa district joined the strike this week with
similar demands, paralyzing the work of the republic's courts. The
strikers say they will resume work only after all their demands have
been met. President Igor Smirnov said that those demands cannot be met
but that the authorities "will consider the problem." -- Matyas Szabo

"THE TSAR IS COMING." Under this headline, Demokratsiya on 13 December
published a declaration by former Bulgarian Tsar Simeon II, who is
living in exile in Spain. Simeon said he is willing to make his first
visit to Bulgaria since he was forced to abdicate and leave the country
following a referendum abolishing the monarchy in 1946. He gave no date
for his visit and did not say how long he intended to stay. In November,
101 intellectuals wrote to the former monarch asking him to help bring
the country out of its present crisis. The Foreign Ministry said he will
encounter no problems upon returning to Bulgaria since he was never
stripped of his Bulgarian citizenship, AFP reported. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON MEDIA CONTROL. The
Constitutional Court on 12 December overruled the parliament's decision
to transfer some of its legal powers to the parliamentary Commission for
Radio, TV, and the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, Standart reported the
following day. The judges also ruled that the commission does not have
the right to decide on the management of state-run media, structural
changes, the program schedule, or the media's statutes. But it retains
the right to propose the directors-general to the parliament and to
discuss and propose media-related legislation. The parliament had turned
over those rights to the commission after the Constitutional Court on 19
September declared the provisional statute on the national media's
operations unconstitutional. The judges ruled that the commission does
not have the right to take decisions on behalf of the parliament. --
Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN JOURNALIST BEATEN UP BY POLICE. Gezim Ashimi, a journalist for
Koha Jone, was called in for questioning on 12 December at the Devoll
police station, where he was severely beaten up, the same newspaper
reported the next day. Ashimi was attacked by an officer who previously
had been suspended from work for misconduct; reportedly, no other
policemen intervened. The officer claimed that the journalist had
discredited the police force in an article published on 8 December. When
Ashimi was allowed to leave the police station two hours after being
called in, the police station chief reportedly told him "not to write
anything against the president." -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Jan Cleave

The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet
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            Copyright (C) 1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                             All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
 
         

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