|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 35, Part II, 19 February 1996
** New OMRI Analytical Brief: "North Korea Blasts ITAR-TASS for Coverage of Embassy Incident", by Scott Parrish. Available only on OMRI's WWW site at http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Analytical/AB.960219-005.html 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ TWO-DAY BOSNIAN SUMMIT ENDS. Foreign ministers of the Contact Group countries met in Rome on 17 and 18 February with the presidents of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia. Nasa Borba on 19 February reported that five documents were issued at the end of the meeting covering the reunification of Sarajevo, the reunification of Mostar, the Croat-Muslim federation, the implementation of the Dayton agreements, and the normalization of relations between Zagreb and Belgrade. The BBC added that the documents addressed the "practical contradictions" of bringing war criminals to justice and ensuring freedom of movement. The Serbian and Bosnian presidents will hold monthly meetings and set up a telephone hotline. The Croats and Muslims accepted a plan for Mostar that Deutsche Welle said was virtually the same as EU administrator Hans Koschnick's proposal, which the Croats have rejected. A joint police force will be set up on 20 February, and the EU's mandate for Mostar was extended by six months. -- Patrick Moore ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINIAN MINERS SUSPEND STRIKE. Ukrainian miners on 16 February announced they were suspending their strike after the government agreed to hold talks with union leaders, international agencies reported. The miners are demanding that back wages be paid and government subsidies be granted to the industry. More than 200 of Ukraine's 227 mines initially went on strike, but by 16 February, the number had dropped to 25. Talks between union leaders and Deputy Prime Minister in charge of energy Vasil Yevtukhov are to begin on 19 February, but the miners have warned that they will resume the strike if no agreement is reached. Ukrainian TV on 17 February quoted President Leonid Kuchma as saying that the strike has caused considerable damage to Ukraine's economy and could have led to an "energy catastrophe." He added that laws should be passed holding strike leaders accountable for their actions. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES BUDGET. Ukrainian lawmakers on 16 February passed the draft 1996 state budget on its first reading, Ukrainian Radio reported. Parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz spoke in favor of the budget for the first time. The draft must incorporate deputies' criticisms within two weeks to gain the approval of the parliamentary budget commission. -- Ustina Markus KYRGYZ FOREIGN MINISTER IN UKRAINE. Roza Otumbayev arrived in Ukraine on 18 February for an official visit, Ukrainian TV reported. Otumbayev met with her Ukrainian counterpart, Hennadii Udovenko, President Leonid Kuchma and Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk. Talks focused on economic relations, particularly future energy imports from Kyrgyzstan to Ukraine. Preparations were also made for an upcoming visit to Ukraine by Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev. -- Ustina Markus ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES NATIONAL DEFENSE POLICY. Defense Minister Andrus Oovel on 16 February said that the draft defense policy paper approved by the government the previous day was not simply a "declarative act" but a document that will lay the foundation of Estonia's national defense and defense legislation, BNS reported. The defense forces will consist of the army, the paramilitary Defense League, and Interior Ministry forces, including the border guards. The primary defense goal is joining NATO and the Western European Union. Oovel said the parliament is likely to accept the draft, since suggestions by the various caucuses have been taken into account. -- Saulius Girnius COUNCIL OF EUROPE SECRETARY-GENERAL IN LATVIA. Daniel Tarschys on 16 February participated in the inauguration of a Council of Europe information and documentation center in Riga BNS reported. The previous day he met with President Guntis Ulmanis, Prime Minister Andris Skele, and parliamentary chairwoman Ilga Kreituse, to discuss the admission of Russia into the council. He stressed that Latvia had nothing to fear since Moscow would be subject to all the council's admission procedures and would not be able to "bully" the European human rights body. -- Saulius Girnius PETITION FOR LATVIAN ALTERNATIVE CITIZENSHIP BILL FAILS. For the Fatherland and Freedom union seems to failed in its bid to gather 131,004 signatures, or one-tenth of electorate, in support of a more restrictive citizenship law, BNS reported on 16 February. All signatures should have been collected by mid-February. The law, which would have introduced an annual naturalization quota of 0.1% of Latvia's citizens, was opposed by many international organizations. Unofficial results released by the Central Election Committee indicate that only 126,595 signatures were collected. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH COAL MINERS SUSPEND STRIKE. The Solidarity trade union representing striking Polish coal miners and President of the Nadwislanska coal company Henryk Stabla reached an agreement on 18 February, Polish media reported. Solidarity has dropped its demand that the company pay each miner an additional 600 zlotys for 1995 in return for wage hikes if productivity goals are met. The strike has been suspended until 20 February, when Stabla is expected to have reached agreements with other trade unions representing workers at the company. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz SLOVAK SECRET SERVICE DENIES ROLE IN ABDUCTION OF PRESIDENT'S SON. The Slovak Information Service on 16 February denied that SIS agents participated in the kidnapping of Michal Kovac Jr. Responding to the president's accusations against the SIS the previous day (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 February), it claimed that the president accused the SIS "without submitting a single piece of concrete evidence." Interior Minister Ludovit Hudek, prosecutor general Michal Valo, and the government office also protested Kovac's accusations, Narodna obroda reported. In other news, Kovac on 15 February vetoed the law on the immorality and illegality of the communist regime, which was approved by the parliament on 2 February. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN FINANCE MINISTER RESIGNS. Lajos Bokros on 18 February tendered his resignation after a tumultuous cabinet debate in which his proposal to levy a new, social insurance tax was rejected, Hungarian media reported the next day. Bokros, who has been under increasing attack since the announcement of a radical stabilization program last March, said the new tax was necessary to meet the IMF requirement that the 60 billion forint social insurance deficit be reduced by more than two- thirds. In his resignation letter, he noted that without government support, he could neither visualize nor guarantee the success and implementation of public spending reform. Top government officials have pledged to continue with the stabilization program, but the unexpected resignation of the internationally respected finance minister may jeopardize the country's prospects for OECD membership and for an impending IMF loan. -- Zsofia Szilagyi POLISH PRESIDENT IN HUNGARY. Aleksander Kwasniewski, on a two-day unofficial visit to Hungary, stressed that Poland and Hungary are not competing to gain admission into NATO and the EU, Hungarian media reported on 19 February. He added that his visit to Budapest was of symbolic significance and he praised developing relations between the two countries, Kwasniewski met with Hungarian President Arpad Goncz, and the two presidents told a joint news conference after their meeting that Poland and Hungary regard each other as partners in their efforts to join the EU and NATO. They also noted that "their strategic aims and interests are similar". With regard to Russian fears about NATO's eastward expansion, the Polish President suggested that a dialogue be opened with Russia after the June Russian elections. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MIXED EVALUATIONS OF BOSNIAN SUMMIT. Outgoing U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke said he was pleased with the results of the Rome gathering, saying it served to smooth out the "bumps in the road" that had emerged and presented the Dayton process with its first serious crises, the BBC reported on 19 February. Leading Bosnian Serb politicians responded differently to the provisions dealing with the future of the Serbs in Sarajevo, and Nasa Borba noted that 800 Serbs left the suburb of Hadzici for Branunac in eastern Bosnia even as the summit was taking place. -- Patrick Moore IFOR RELEASES SUSPECTED TERRORISTS. IFOR on 16 February handed over to Bosnian government authorities 10 people detained in a raid on an alleged terrorist camp the same day, international media reported. Eight of the detainees were Bosnian and had documents identifying them as employees of the Bosnian Interior Ministry. The remaining two were Iranian nationals whom, according to the Iranian government, were on a humanitarian mission. Another Iranian national with a diplomat's passport was released after questioning. -- Michael Mihalka IFOR GAINS ACCESS TO BOSNIAN SERB WEAPONS DEPOTS Following the use of anti-tank aircraft and helicopter gunships in a show of force, IFOR gained access to two Bosnian Serb weapons depots on 17 February, international media reported. IFOR has twice been prevented from entering the depots, near Han Pijesak and Han Kram, in eastern Bosnia. Some 25 tanks and 13 armored fighting vehicles were discovered. Meanwhile, the Bosnian Serbs have pulled back 10 tanks from the 20-km exclusion zone separating the Bosnian entities. IFOR on 16 February said it will destroy all unreported weapon systems in the zone. -- Michael Mihalka IFOR AT FULL STRENGTH. IFOR has reached its full strength of 60,000 troops, according to U.S. General George Joulwan, NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe. International media quoted him as saying on 18 February that the movement of IFOR forces into Bosnia was "the biggest and most complex in Europe since World War II." Some 50,000 troops from 16 NATO states and 10,000 from 16 non-NATO states make up the force. Negotiations are still under way with Albania, Bulgaria and Bangladesh about contributing troops to IFOR. -- Michael Mihalka UPDATE ON STUDIO B TAKEOVER BID IN BELGRADE. Some 20 journalists working for independent Studio B Television were fired on 17 February for refusing to cooperate with a new editorial board appointed by the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia, Serbian media reported. This development came one day after a Belgrade court ruled that Studio B had been improperly constituted. Leaders of most major parties called press conferences on 16 February to criticize the SPS and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic said the latest bid to take over Studio B underscores Milosevic's fundamental lack of commitment to democracy, free speech, and freedom of the press. The government's action also prompted public protests in Belgrade on 16 February. -- Stan Markotich KOSOVO TERRORIST GROUP CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR REFUGEE CAMP BOMBING. A previously unknown terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the bombing of Serbian refugee camps in Kosovo on 11 February (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 February). The Kosovo Liberation Army sent a letter to Rilindja saying the attacks were only a "first warning" to the Serbs, whom it accused of wanting to "colonize" the province, AFP reported on 17 February. The group called on the international community to recognize the self-declared independence of the province. Meanwhile, an unidentified leader of the National Movement for the Liberation of Kosovo, told Gazeta Shqiptare on 18 February that the group is preparing for a guerrilla war. Neither of these groups are supported by the main political formations in the province. -- Fabian Schmidt HOLBROOKE SAYS KOSOVO OF "HIGHEST IMPORTANCE." U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke has renewed the commitment to open a U.S. Information Agency office in Kosovo "in the very near future." Holbrooke stressed that there has been no "meeting with the Yugoslav leadership in which [he has] not discussed this issue." He added, however, that "I'm not going to go into the nature of the confidential diplomatic exchanges on issues like this because they don't serve the purpose," AFP reported on 18 February. -- Fabian Schmidt GOVERNMENT PAPER SAYS TUDJMAN IS OUT OF TOUCH WITH POLITICAL REALITY. Slobodna Dalmacija on 19 February reported that Vlado Gotovac has replaced Drazen Budisa as head of the Croatian Social and Liberal Party- -the country's largest single opposition grouping--following the party's poor showing in last October's parliamentary elections. The Croatian opposition has failed to offer a serious presidential alternative to Franjo Tudjman and, above all, has been unable to present a united front against the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). It has nonetheless managed to win control of the city and county of Zagreb, although Tudjman has blocked its first candidate for mayor and now plans to veto the second one and thereby force new elections. News agencies on 18 February quoted the government-controlled daily Vjesnik as saying that HDZ party professionals expect their party to lose Zagreb by an even bigger margin in a fresh vote but have found Tudjman unwilling to listen. In its virtually unprecedented criticism of the chief executive, the paper suggested that the president was "out of touch with political reality." -- Patrick Moore ANOTHER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IN ROMANIA. The Socialist Party on 18 February chose chairman Tudor Mohora as its candidate in the fall presidential elections, Romanian TV announced on the same day. Incumbent President Ion Iliescu has not yet officially declared his intention to run again but is widely expected to do so. Among the other declared contenders are Chairman of the Democratic Convention of Romania Emil Constantinescu, Chairman of the Democratic Party--National Salvation Front, former Premier Petre Roman, leader of the extremist Greater Romania Party Corneliu Vadim Tudor, and Radu Campeanu, the leader of a group that split away from the National Liberal Party. Also on 18 February, former international tennis star Ilie Nastase was named the Party of Socialist Unity in Romania's candidate for mayor of Bucharest. Local elections will probably take place in May. -- Michael Shafir UPDATE ON RUSSIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM MOLDOVA. Valerii Yevnevich, commander of the operational group of Russian forces stationed in the breakaway Dniester region, has said the withdrawal of the troops is being hindered by Moldovan, Ukrainian and Dniester authorities, Romanian TV reported on 16 February, citing international agencies. According to Yevnevich, only two out of 19 rail convoys have left the region, since the Moldovan authorities have failed to provide rail cars. Chisinau says Moldova's share of the military equipment should be transported back to Moldova by the Russians, while Yevnevich claims the Moldovans should fetch it themselves. He also said there are problems with transit because Dniester custom officials are demanding a share of armaments in exchange for allowing the rail cars to transit the region. Ukrainian custom officials want "alcohol and $20 per rail-car." -- Matyas Szabo BULGARIAN ETHNIC TURKS PROTEST ANNULMENT OF KARDZHALI ELECTIONS. Some 6,000 ethnic Turks on 17 February demonstrated against the annulment of the local elections in Kardzhali, AFP reported the same day. The election of both the city council and Rasim Musa from the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS) as mayor was declared invalid on 5 February after the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) charged there had been irregularities. DPS Chairman Ahmet Dogan warned that "If this house catches fire, everything will burn down." He told demonstrators that pressure should be exerted on the government by all legal means. By- elections in Kardzhali have been called for May. In other news, Reuters reported that BSP parliamentary deputy and chairman of the parliament's Agriculture Committee Todor Todorov, who was found shot at his house on 5 February (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 February 1996), died on 19 February without regaining consciousness. -- Stefan Krause OIL THIEVES POLLUTE DRINKING WATER IN BULGARIAN TOWN. Thieves who tried to siphon diesel oil from a pipeline in Varna on 16 February polluted the drinking water of the Black Sea town and eight surrounding villages, Bulgarian and Western media reported. The oil from the underground pipeline connecting Varna with the Neftohim oil refinery soaked into water supplies and leaked into a nearby river. Water tankers carried emergency supplies to Varna over the weekend. Neftohim spokeswoman Tatyana Hadzhieva said 60 similar thefts were registered last year. She added that Neftohim in 1995 invested 80 million ($1.1 million) leva for changing pipelines for environmental reasons and another 13 million leva ($175,000) to have Interior Ministry troops guard pipelines. Meanwhile, Bulgarian media on 19 February reported that the situation is "normalizing" itself but that drinking tap water is still forbidden. -- Stefan Krause RUSSIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER IN ALBANIA. Sergei Krylov arrived for a two-day official visit to Tirana on 16 February, international agencies reported the same day. The two sides pledged to try to find a political settlement to the Kosovo conflict but could not agree about how to negotiate an end to the conflict. Russia rejected Albania's demand that Serbia's admission to international organizations be linked to solving the conflict in Kosovo. They also disagreed about whether Serbia should be forced to accept mediation by a third party. Krillov was received by President Sali Berisha. -- Fabian Schmidt UPDATE ON GREEK-TURKISH DISPUTE OVER ISLET. The European Commission on 16 February confirmed its "solidarity" with Greece in the dispute over the Imia/Kardak islet, Reuters reported. But at the same time, it stressed this did not mean it was taking a stand on the "legality of either the Turkish or Greek positions." Meanwhile Athens has called for an EU-Turkey ministerial meeting scheduled for 25 March to be postponed because it coincides with the Greek national holiday marking the beginning of the insurrection against the Ottoman Empire in 1821. -- Lowell Bezanis and Stefan Krause[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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For Transition subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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