|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
No. 1, Part II, 2 January 1996
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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ U.S. BRIDGES SAVA RIVER. Engineers on 30 December finished installing a pontoon bridge over the raging river that forms a border between Croatia and Bosnia. The BBC said the bridge is 500 meters long and the largest one to be built by the U.S. army since World War II. AFP on 2 January reported that some 200 vehicles had crossed into Bosnia already and that the flow was deliberately slowed in order not to overtax the roads on the Bosnian side. As this new route into Bosnia was opened, another began closing: four years and thousands of tons of food after it was first launched, the Sarajevo airlift is about to come to an end. Finally, news agencies on 31 December reported that one U.S. soldier was wounded by a land mine, making him the first American casualty in the peace mission. -- Patrick Moore ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINE TO PARTICIPATE IN BOSNIA OPERATIONS. Ukraine's Foreign Ministry has announced that a Ukrainian contingent will participate in peacekeeping operations in Bosnia-Herzegovnia, Ukrainian TV reported on 30 December. Since Ukraine is not a member of NATO, it was unclear whether the unit would be subordinated to NATO commanders or would have its own command. Ukraine will also offer use of military transport aircraft to countries participating in the operation. Kiev took part in UN peacekeeping missions in Bosnia over the past three-and-a-half years, but when NATO announced that operations would have to be funded by each participant, Ukraine considered pulling its troops out. The Foreign Ministry acknowledged that it will have to provide funding for the Ukrainian contingent and said it is seeking financial aid from other participants. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT REMAINS MOST POPULAR POLITICIAN IN BELARUS. According to an opinion poll conducted by the Minsk-based sociological research service Novak, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka remains the most popular politician in the country, NTV reported on 29 December. The poll indicated that 38% of the electorate would vote for Lukashenka if he were to run for president today. Former Prime Minister Vyacheslau Kebich gained only 3% support; former parliamentary speaker Stanislau Shushkevich 7%, and leader of the nationalist opposition Zyanon Paznyak 6.8%. All three had competed with Lukashenka for the Presidency in 1994. In other news, Belarusian TV on 28 December quoted leader of the Civic Party caucus Stanislau Bahdankevich as saying the caucus is ready to support the president and government if they draw up and implement a reform program. -- Ustina Markus LOCAL ELECTIONS IN BELARUS. The Central Electoral Commission has published the official results of local by-elections held on 29 November and 10 December. A total of 913 local deputies were elected, fulfilling the two-thirds quorum for local sessions to be able to convene, Belarusian Radio reported on 28 December. -- Ustina Markus 16,674 PEOPLE RECEIVE ESTONIAN CITIZENSHIP IN 1995. The Citizenship and Migration Department announced that Estonian citizenship was given to 16,674 people in 1995, BNS reported on 29 December. Two of them became citizens under the new citizenship law that went into effect on 1 April and the remainder under the 1938 law that it replaced. The number of people given citizenship on the grounds of a language test was greater than in 1994 indicating increased acceptance by aliens of the need to learn Estonian. Some non-citizens who had voted in the 1990 elections to the Congress of Estonia were also granted citizenship. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIA OPENS INTERNMENT CAMP FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. Interior Minister Dainis Turlais and Swedish Ambassador Andreas Adahl on 28 December opened an internment camp for illegal immigrants, LETA reported the next day. The new facilities in the town of Olaine, 30 kilometers from Riga, are meant for 70 to 80 people but could house up to 200 people in an emergency. Some 132 Asian migrants were moved to the camp from a former prison in Olaine. The Latvian government has spent some 360,000 lati ($670,000) on construction costs while Sweden has supplied bedding and other needed furniture. Latvia has been unable to find any country willing to accept illegal immigrants on its territory. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN PROGRAMS TO NORTH AMERICA TO BE TRANSMITTED FROM GERMANY. Lithuanian Radio and TV officials have signed a two-year contract with Deutsche Welle for the use of transmitters located near Frankfurt to broadcast its shortwave programs to North America from 1 January 1996, Radio Lithuania reported on 29 December. The previous transmission of the daily 30-minute programs by Russian transmitters near Krasnodar cost 300,000 litai ($75,000) a year. The new contract provides for the transmission of a 60-minute daily program for some 296,000 litai. -- Saulius Girnius NEW MINISTERS IN POLAND. Professor of law Jerzy Konieczny, who headed the State Protection Office in 1992-1993, replaced Andrzej Milczanowski as internal affairs minister on 29 December. The same day, Dariusz Rosati, a professor of law and communist party member from 1966-1990 who since 1991 worked in the analysis department of the UN's economic commission in Geneva, replaced Wladyslaw Bartoszewski as foreign affairs minister. Stanislaw Dobrzanski's appointment as defense minister to replace Zbigniew Okonski is still pending, Polish and international media reported on 2 January. Milczanowski, Bartoszewski, and Okonski were former President Lech Walesa's supporters who stepped down with him on 22 December. -- Jakub Karpinski RUSSIAN TV ON OLEKSY AFFAIR. Gazeta Wyborcza on 2 January reported that the Russian TV program "De facto" the previous day was devoted to the spy accusations against Polish Premier Jozef Oleksy. General Vitalii Pavlov, a KGB representative in Poland from 1973-1984, said his instructions from Yurii Andropov, at the time head of the KGB, were not to recruit informers among Poles. But Leonid Lusin, who made the program, commented that in the socialist era, high-ranking communist party officials--including Oleksy--aspired to have the best possible contacts with local KGB representatives. There is thus nothing strange in the fact that Oleksy was meeting Soviet, and later perhaps even Russian, intelligence representatives," Lusin said. -- Jakub Karpinski HAVEL SAYS CZECH "MORAL CLIMATE" MUST CHANGE. President Vaclav Havel, in his televised New Year's Day address, bemoaned property and financial speculation, the growth in crime and racism, and "many other matters that force us to consider whether our society is healthy." He said the "moral climate" in the country must change, adding that the Czech Republic's successful political economic changes in the past years "will not be worth much if a moral jungle predominates among people." He said the state should take better care of "socially sensitive" questions such as housing and the environment. However, Havel added that he hoped Czechs would vote in this year's parliamentary and Senate elections for candidates and parties that will continue the reforms of the past years and not for those who "parrot the ideas of others and long for the benefits of power." -- Steve Kettle SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S NEW YEAR'S ADDRESS. Michal Kovac, speaking on Slovak Television on 1 January, called on the coalition to be tolerant of its critics. "Suppressing critics, calling them traitors or enemies, is considered the first step toward a totalitarian regime," Kovac warned. Kovac called 1995 a "year of political retaliation." He said "the existence of fear is the most convincing argument that politics has overstepped the limits defined by democratic practice and no longer serves citizens." Kovac rejected attempts by "some political circles" to equate national interests with one political party. "Our real national interest is to integrate into the uniting Europe . . . together with our neighbors, in the first stage," he stressed. Kovac expressed optimism at continuing economic growth but noted that it should not be overestimated. "Until the economic results are reflected in the population's living standards, it is only a potential victory," he said. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN TROOPS PREPARE FOR MISSION TO BOSNIA, CROATIA. Hungary's 400- member peacekeeping contingent of army engineers is preparing to join NATO forces in mid-January, Reuters reported on 29 December. According to unit spokesman Major Emil Varadi, the Hungarian contingent will build bridges over the Sava River and roads in northern Bosnia. The Hungarian unit, which will be equipped with light weapons, will work with British troops and help defend them if they come under attack. -- Sharon Fisher SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NO DELAY IN HANDOVER OF SERBIAN SUBURBS. IFOR commander Admiral Leighton Smith said on 30 December that he has no authority to grant the 80-day extension to the deadline for the transfer of the Serb-held Sarajevo suburbs as requested by the Bosnian Serb leadership. The BBC said he wrote parliament speaker Momcilo Krajisnik that IFOR would nonetheless provide security for the Serbs. The broadcast called Smith's decision "a major setback for the Bosnian Serb leadership." -- Patrick Moore GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER LINKS AID TO COOPERATION WITH TRIBUNAL. Klaus Kinkel issued a statement on New Year's Day saying that reconstruction aid to the various sides in the Bosnian conflict should be tied to their willingness to assist the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia based in the Hague, international media reported. To date, seven Croats and 45 Serbs have been indicted, the most important of whom are Bosnian Serb civilian leader Radovan Karadzic and his military counterpart, General Ratko Mladic. Kinkel added that "reconstruction aid must if necessary be linked to legal action taken against war criminals who, if they fall into the hands of the troops of the NATO peace Implementation Force, must be arrested and handed over to the relevant authorities. For the establishment of a stable and lasting peace it is important that justice be done [on behalf of] the victims of war crimes and that the latter appear before a tribunal as defendants. Maintaining the accused in their present jobs would jeopardize the peace process." -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN SERBS RESCUE U.S. HELICOPTER CREW. IFOR has not written off a possible threat from foreign Islamic fighters still in Bosnia, but the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims have been going out of their way to be helpful. Reuters reported on 28 December that Bosnian Serb villagers from Sibovska in northern Bosnia provided a U.S. helicopter crew and guards with heat and shelter that saved them from a brutal blizzard after the helicopter landed because of transmission problems. The Americans declined offers of local plum brandy but praised the Serbs as "heroes." One Serb said he hoped the encounter on Christmas Day would show foreigners that the Serbs are not "the barbarians we are made out to be," while another added that "we are civilized people and we act like normal people." -- Patrick Moore DID SARAJEVO SERBS SEIZE 11 CIVILIANS? Bosnian government minister Hasan Muratovic on 1 January said that Serbs from Ilidza, a Serb-held Sarajevo suburb, have in the past week seized 11 civilians who were traveling on roads around Sarajevo opened recently by NATO, Reuters reported. Their fate is not known. NATO said it knew nothing about the incidents and noted that civilian police authorities were responsible for launching investigations. Muratovic called for a change in the IFOR mandate that would allow the force to deal with terrorism. He added that the Bosnian government may ban its citizens from passing through Ilidza until those captured are released and IFOR gives guarantees of safety, the BH news agency reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic SERBIAN PRESIDENT PROMISES RECONSTRUCTION IN 1996... Slobodan Milosevic, in his New Year's address, has promised the public that 1996 will usher in a period of economic stability and renewal, AFP reported on 30 December, citing official Tanjug reports. "Peace has been achieved. . . . I expect the next year to be a year of economic revival, increased employment, and an increase in the standard of living," he said. Milosevic added that 1996 will witness a crusade against "criminality" and a crackdown on those elements that have profited from violating sanctions. Hinting at how Belgrade will deal with the question of refugees who flooded into the rump Yugoslavia, he said "I expect . . . [the refugees'] return will become especially intense following the first free and democratic elections in the Serbian Republic and the Muslim-Croat federation." -- Stan Markotich . . . WHILE MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT PLEDGES UNITY. Meanwhile, Momir Bulatovic has stressed that relations between Montenegro and Serbia were sound at the close of 1995, Montena-fax reported on 31 December. Serbia and Montenegro "have to build on their unity . . . ; some 90% of our citizens want Montenegro to be in the [rump] Yugoslavia," he said. Bulatovic, who previously outlined the benefits of autonomy for Montenegro, seems intent on further backtracking from policies that might lead to conflicts between Podgorica and Belgrade. -- Stan Markotich RUGOVA AIMS FOR DIALOGUE. Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said he is working intensively on establishing a dialogue with Belgrade, BETA reported on 29 December. He commented that the U.S. will have to play a key role in solving the Kosovo conflict and that Tirana also supports negotiations taking place under an independent mediator. At the same time, he admitted that there are differences between the Albanian government and the Kosovar shadow-state but added that these are "insignificant." Albanian President Sali Berisha has called for a solution that recognizes international borders, while the Kosovars have unilaterally declared independence from Belgrade. -- Fabian Schmidt CROATIAN PRESIDENT GRANTS AMNESTY TO 455 PEOPLE. Franjo Tudjman marked the holidays by granting an amnesty to 455 persons who were arrested during and after Operation Storm in Krajina, Novi list reported on 2 January. They were released from prisons on 31 December. Those amnestied had not been charged with war crimes, while another 244 arrested at the same time were not included in the amnesty. The same day, 88 Croatian citizens were released from a prison under a separate amnesty. -- Daria Sito Sucic MELESCANU ON ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN PARLEYS . . . Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, speaking at a press conference in Bucharest on 29 December, said Hungary's response to President Ion Iliescu's proposals for a "historic reconciliation" includes some aspects that were not part of Bucharest's original proposal. He added that as a result, implementation may be delayed. With regard to the Hungarian-Romanian basic treaty, Hungary insists on including Recommendation 1201 and a more detailed definition of autonomy based on ethnic criteria and collective rights, Radio Bucharest reported the same day. -- Michael Shafir . . . AND ON FOREIGN POLICY OBJECTIVES FOR 1996. Melescanu also said that Romania's main foreign-policy objectives for this year are the country's integration into Euro-Atlantic structures, consolidating relations with the EU and neighboring countries, and concluding basic treaties with Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, and the former Yugoslav republics. He noted that parleys with Russia will not be influenced by that country's December elections, adding that Romania continues to insist that the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact be condemned in the treaty with Russia. With regard to Ukraine, he said the dispute over Serpent Island was about the delimitation of territorial waters and should not be seen as constituting a territorial claim on Ukraine. -- Michael Shafir BULGARIAN PRIVATIZATION TO START NEXT WEEK. Bulgarian newspapers on 29 December reported that the mass voucher privatization program is scheduled to start on 9 January. One million vouchers have already been printed and will be sold in post offices throughout the country. For a registration fee of 500 leva ($7), adults can obtain vouchers with a nominal value of up to 25,000 leva ($354) that can then be exchanged for shares in 1,300 state enterprises totaling about 200 billion leva ($2.8 billion). About half the enterprises are in industry, while most of the remainder are in tourism, agriculture, and construction. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN PRESIDENT'S NEW YEAR'S ADDRESS. Zhelyu Zhelev, speaking to Bulgarian citizens on 31 December, called for, among other things, a crackdown on crime and a program of land restitution whereby farmers would become "truly free and economically independent." Zhelev called on the parliament to pass legislation on health insurance and the state-run media. He also told the governing Bulgarian Socialist Party "to stop being afraid of and threatening others with the word NATO; after all, we are going into 1996 and not 1956." Trud published the address on 2 January. -- Stefan Krause AMNESTY IN ALBANIA. Albanian President Sali Berisha has decreed a New Year amnesty for 90 prisoners, including Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano and the widow of late communist dictator Enver Hoxha, international agencies reported on 30 December. Nano's sentence was reduced by eight months, which leaves him with more than two years to serve. His 12-year sentence for the misappropriation of Italian aid funds has been repeatedly reduced in amnesties and appeals. Nexhmije Hoxha's nine-year prison term has been shortened by six months. She was convicted in January 1993 for misappropriating state funds and for abuse of power. As a result of previous amnesties, she now has only two years left to serve. Former Politburo member Lenka Cuko, sentenced for abuse of power, was freed. The remaining 87 prisoners had committed crimes such as robbery and theft. -- 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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