|Человек - это то, во что он верит. - А. П. Чехов|
No. 37, Part II, 21 February 1996
New OMRI Analytical Briefs: - "North Korea Blasts ITAR-TASS for Coverage of Embassy Incident", by Scott Parrish. - "Hungary's Finance Minister Steps Down", by Zsofia Szilagyi - "Bulgarian Press Condemns Arrest of Colleagues", by Stefan Krause - "Austrian Court Releases Kovac Jr.", by Sharon Fisher Available only via the World Wide Web: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Analytical/Index.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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ AUSTRIA RELEASES SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S SON. A Vienna court on 20 February rejected a German request for the extradition of Michal Kovac Jr., who was abducted to Austria last August and jailed on fraud charges based on a warrant issued by a Munich prosecutor, Slovak and international media reported. The court ruled that Kovac Jr. was brought to Austria illegally and that his human rights had been violated. It said testimony indicated that the Slovak Information Service was involved in the abduction, noting that Slovakia had neither asked Austria for Kovac Jr.'s return nor protested against the kidnapping. The Slovak Foreign Ministry said the court's statements were "a grave defamation of a sovereign state." President Kovac welcomed the decision, saying "Austrian justice, in this case, showed the world that it is important to respect human rights everywhere." Kovac Jr. is expected to return to Slovakia on 23 February. -- Sharon Fisher ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINIAN UPDATE. President Leonid Kuchma arrived in Washington for a three-day visit on 20 February, international agencies reported. One of his priorities is to solicit more financial aid, particularly for reforming Ukraine's energy sector. State Department spokesperson Nicholas Burns, referring to recent reports that Ukraine has been selling Antonov cargo planes to drug traffickers in Columbia, said the subject will be raised during the visit. Meanwhile, a Ukrainian delegation headed by Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov arrived in Moscow on 21 February, ITAR-TASS reported. Talks are to focus on military cooperation, joint arms production, disarmament, and cooperation in guarding military production facilities. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS BANK APPOINTMENT. The Belarusian parliament has rejected President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's decree appointing Tamara Vinnikau as head of the National Bank of Belarus, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 20 February. It explained its move by saying the appointment violates the constitution, which stipulates that the president nominates the bank head but the parliament must make the appointment. Former acting bank head Mykolai Kuzmich was reconfirmed as acting bank chairman. This is the first serious clash Lukashenka has had with the new parliament, and it is unlikely to be settled easily since he has said he wants the bank subordinated to the president. Recently, in what was seen to be a conciliatory move vis-a-vis Lukashenka, parliamentary speaker Syamyon Sharetsky asked the Constitutional Court not to examine several decrees issued by the president. -- Ustina Markus ESTONIA OPTS OUT OF EUROPEAN DEATH PENALTY BAN. The Estonian government on 20 February submitted the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms to the parliament for ratification, BNS reported. Ratification is a condition for gaining EU membership. But the government did not submit Protocol 6, which calls for the abolition of capital punishment. Estonian political parties have been reluctant to approve the ban since opinion polls indicate that the overwhelming majority of Estonians support retaining the death penalty. There have been no executions in Estonia since it gained independence in 1991, even though courts have sentenced nine people to death during that period. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN FORMER PREMIER RESIGNS AS PARTY CHAIRMAN. Adolfas Slezevicius told the Democratic Labor Party (LDDP) Presidium on 19 February that he was resigning as party chairman, Radio Lithuania reported. He said he made this decision in order to prevent the party from splitting into factions. He added that he would continue to be a loyal party member. The LDDP council will meet on 2 March to approve an extraordinary congress to elect a new leadership. Slezevicius said he has informed President Algirdas Brazauskas that he will refuse an offer to become Lithuania's ambassador to the UK. He commented that "I do not think I could represent the interests of the state after I was said to be unable to lead the government." -- Saulius Girnius OFFICIAL RESULTS OF OWNERSHIP REFERENDUM IN POLAND. Turnout in the Polish ownership referendum on 18 February fell well short of the required 50%, meaning that the vote will be non-binding. Only 32.4% of the 28 million eligible voters participated, the State Electoral Commission said on 20 February. Of those, 94.5% approved the proposal to distribute among the population assets that remain in state hands. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 20 February said the government will take the result into account even if the referendum is invalid. -- Jakub Karpinski NEW APPOINTMENTS IN POLISH PARLIAMENT, TV. Marek Mazurkiewicz on 20 February was elected chairman of the parliamentary commission drafting the new Polish constitution. Mazurkiewicz is a deputy from the ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), like the commission's two former chairmen: Aleksander Kwasniewski, who was elected president in November, and Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, appointed premier on 1 February. Last week, Marek Borowski, a member of the SLD and former chief of the office of the Council of Ministers, replaced Cimoszewicz as deputy Sejm speaker. Meanwhile, the Polish Public TV Board on 20 February elected 29-year-old Tomasz Siemoniak as the new director of the Polish TV's Channel 1, the most popular TV channel in Poland. -- Jakub Karpinski ROMA PROTEST AT START OF PICKPOCKETS' TRIAL IN PRAGUE. Some 50 Roma demonstrated outside a Prague courthouse on 20 February to protest the start of a trial of 24 Roma accused of membership in organized groups of pickpockets, Czech media reported. The protesters claimed that the accused Roma were victims of racism and had been unjustly charged. If convicted, they face up to eight years in jail. Police registered almost 7,000 cases of pickpocketing in Prague last year, with victims being robbed of a total of some 50 million koruny (almost $2 million), Mlada fronta Dnes reported. -- Steve Kettle SLOVAKIA REJECTS POLISH PRESIDENT'S STATEMENTS. Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman Juraj Matejovsky on 20 February criticized Alexander Kwasniewski for saying during a recent visit to Budapest that Slovakia will gain EU membership later than the other Visegrad countries because of its domestic political situation, Slovak media reported. According to Matejovsky, Kwasniewski said Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic could become EU members at the same time. "Slovakia does not consider the process of integration into EU structures as a race," Matejovsky stressed, noting that his country "does not...publicly evaluate difficulties its neighboring countries are experiencing in the transformation process." Kwasniewski is scheduled to meet with his Slovak counterpart, Michal Kovac, on 1 March in the High Tatra mountains. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARY, AUSTRIA OUTLINE PLAN FOR ECONOMIC ZONE. Hungarian and Austrian local government officials have outlined plans for creating an economic cooperation zone to include three west Hungarian counties and three Austrian provinces, Magyar Hirlap reported on 21 February. The zone would cover the Hungarian counties of Gyor-Sopron- Moson, Vas, and Zala as well as the Austrian states of Burgenland, Steiermark, and Niederosterreich. Negotiations were chaired by Georg Katz, leader of the local World Trade Center in Schwechat, Austria. Hungarian ambassador to Austria Sandor Peisch said the main areas of cooperation would be infrastructure, environmental protection, and industrial development. He added that west Hungarian counties will be able to benefit from the EU's generous support for Burgenland. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SARAJEVO SERBS STAYING PUT? CNN on 21 February reported less than full success for the Pale leadership's forced exodus of Serbs from the five Sarajevo suburbs slated to pass to government control. Despite assurances from Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic that the Serbs could stay put and statements by the mayor of Ilidza that the Pale leadership was trying "to make 80,000 people homeless," Pale launched a three-day forced migration on 20 February. Nasa Borba said the deadline will be extended to 19 March "because of snowstorms." The leaders, who coined the term "ethnic cleansing," were trying to consolidate their hold on territories by moving their own people from their homes in Sarajevo to the conquered regions. Reuters said the committee formed by Pale to organize the enterprise had ordered people to leave but that it failed to provide adequate transportation and left "hundreds of panicky Serbs" stuck without vehicles in a snowstorm and protesting outside the offices of the mayor of Vogosca. -- Patrick Moore MOSTAR REUNIFICATION UNDER WAY. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher on 20 February said that "the news this morning is good from Mostar. The city has been reunited." AFP added that he was referring to the setting up of a joint police force, despite some scuffles. The move follows a compromise reached in Rome on 18 February whereby the Croats won a demand on setting up only a small central district and the Muslims obtained their wish for immediate freedom of movement. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, however, said he is not satisfied with the pace of the reunification and that he fears more delays down the road. The Sarajevo daily Vecernje novine on 21 February quoted Croatian Interior Minister Ivan Jarnjak as stressing the importance of freedom of movement. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN SERB BOYCOTT TO CONTINUE. Maj.-Gen. Zdravko Tolimir, deputy Bosnian Serb army commander, said on 20 February that his forces will continue to boycott contacts with IFOR until two of his officers held in The Hague on war crimes charges are released, SRNA and international media reported. Tolimar was speaking after a meeting in Pale with Lt.- Gen. Sir Michael Walker, commander of IFOR ground forces. Tolimar said he had failed to attend the meeting with his IFOR, Croatian, and Muslim counterparts on 19 February aboard the U.S. aircraft carrier George Washington because of bad weather and insufficient notice. -- Michael Mihalka BOSNIANS DEPORT THREE IRANIANS. The Bosnian government on 20 February deported three Iranians detained last week following a raid of a suspected terrorist safe house, international media reported. A U.S. State Department spokesman warned that the continued presence of "foreign fighters" in Bosnia threatened further U.S. military aid. He cited IFOR estimates that up to 300 fighters remain in the country. Meanwhile, Bosnian Croat police detained nine unarmed Iranians in central Bosnia and asked IFOR to take them into custody. A Bosnian Croat official said the Iranians were not mujahedeen, but the Bosnian government had failed to inform the Bosnian Croat authorities of the Iranians' itinerary. Hina quoted the Iranians as saying they were in Bosnia to perform in concerts. -- Michael Mihalka INSUFFICIENT AID FOR BOSNIA. The EU on 20 February said the reconstruction effort in Bosnia is threatened by donors' failure to deliver on their pledges of aid. Although more than $700 million was promised for vital reconstruction work in the first three months of 1996, only $62.5 million has arrived so far. Reportedly, that entire sum comes from the EU. The U.S., Japan, the Islamic countries, and the World Bank have so far not lived up to their promises, international media reported. Meanwhile, U.S. President Bill Clinton said he would ask Congress for $820 million in aid for Bosnia. -- Michael Mihalka RUMP YUGOSLAVIA RESTORES TIES WITH VATICAN. Tanjug on 20 February reported that Belgrade has restored full diplomatic relations with the Vatican. Dojcilo Maslovarica was named rump Yugoslav ambassador to the Vatican, a post that has been vacant for some three years. The announcement marks a decisive change in Belgrade's perception of the Vatican, which during the wars in the former Yugoslavia was vilified by Belgrade as one of the world centers of anti-Serb conspiracy. -- Stan Markotich BELGRADE PROPOSES AMNESTY. The federal government of the rump Yugoslavia has proposed legislation granting an amnesty to all fighting-age men who avoided military service during the wars throughout the former Yugoslavia, Nasa Borba on 21 February reports. The amnesty legislation has to be approved by the federal parliament. Some estimates suggest that up to 200,000 people from the rump Yugoslavia opted not to fight in the regional wars. -- Stan Markotich KRAJINA UPDATE. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia will begin hearings on the case of Krajina Serb leader Milan Martic, who has been indicted for war crimes because of a rocket attack on Zagreb, Nasa Borba reported on 21 February. The Hague-based court has also received documents from the Bosnian government charging rump Yugoslavia with genocide. Novi list wrote that some 14,000 Krajina Serbs have appealed to Croatia to be allowed to go home. Some 2,000 applications have already been approved. The organized return of Croats who fled western Slavonia during the Serbian occupation has begun and is slated to end by early May. -- Patrick Moore NEW UNPREDEP COMMANDER NAMED. Swedish Brig.-Gen. Bo Lennart Wranker on 20 February was named commander of the UN Preventive Deployment Force in Macedonia, AFP reported the same day. He will begin his duties on 1 March. The same day, Wranker was received by Macedonian Defense Minister Blagoj Handziski, who briefed him on the country's defense system, Nova Makedonija reported. -- Stefan Krause LABOR PROTESTS IN ROMANIA. Tens of thousands of workers in Bucharest and other Romanian towns on 20 February took part in demonstrations and other protest actions to demand job protection and state support for ailing companies, local and international media reported on the same day. The Democratic Convention of Romania introduced in the parliament a motion against the government of Nicolae Vacaroiu claiming the cabinet has shown an "irresponsible lack of interest" in ensuring energy resources. The motion has to be debated within six days but is not a no- confidence vote. The energy crisis has forced many companies to temporarily lay off workers with partial pay. Workers in Romania's arms industry in five towns protested against receiving reduced wages due to the crisis faced by this sector. The industry has lost many of its foreign customers in recent years. -- Michael Shafir ROMANIAN COURT FREES FORMER BANK BOSS SUSPECTED OF FRAUD. Marcel Ivan, former head of the Credit Bank who was re-arrested after serving a one- year sentence, has been freed by a Bucharest court, Romanian TV and Reuters on 20 February reported. Ivan's lawyer told Reuters that the court decided his arrest was "inappropriate" due to "lack of evidence to sustain the suspicions of fraud and forgery." The Prosecutor-General's office can appeal against the ruling within three days. -- Michael Shafir TWO BULGARIAN JOURNALISTS ARRESTED. Dimitar Shtirkov and Valentin Hadzhiev, correspondents for Trud and 24 chasa in the town of Smolyan, have been arrested and charged with libel, Pari reported on 21 February. Regional Prosecutor Slavcho Kardzhev ordered their arrest after they reported that the Devin district prosecutor was dismissed from the Smolyan police force because of corruption. The Interior Ministry said he was dismissed for damaging the police's prestige rather than for corruption. Bulgarian newspapers and journalists' organizations of all political stripes strongly condemned the arrests. Stefan Prodev, editor- in-chief of the Bulgarian Socialist Party's daily Duma, called the arrests a "scandal...impairing the freedom of the journalistic profession." Under Bulgarian law, arrests are allowed only if a suspect tries to escape. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN JOURNALISTS DEMAND TO MEET PRESIDENT. The Albanian Association of Professional Journalists on 20 February organized a meeting with the chief editors of the 14 newspapers threatened with closure following Finance Minister Dylber Vrioni's order that the publishing house Demokracia stop printing those publications. The journalists demanded a meeting with President Sali Berisha, pointing out that Vrioni should take the matter to court if he suspects the publications of tax evasion. A government spokesman has denied that Vrioni gave such an order, but both international agencies and Koha Jone on 21 February maintain the contrary is true. Vrioni demands that the papers retroactively pay a 15% turnover tax from the day of registration. -- Fabian Schmidt GREEK-TURKISH UPDATE. Inal Batu, Turkish deputy undersecretary responsible for Greek-Turkish affairs, told the Greek media on 20 February he was "happy" the crisis over the disputed Aegean islet of Imia/Kardak has abated. He linked its escalation to a breach in the "silent diplomacy" practiced by both sides before the mayor of Kalymnos hoisted the Greek flag on the islet. Noting that both Turkey and Greece do not want to take the case to the International Court of Justice, he proposed that a legal experts committee be established to help resolve the dispute. Meanwhile, Athens has protested to Turkey over the holding of a camel wrestling match in the ancient city of Ephesus last month, the BBC reported on 21 February. Greece considers Ephesus to be part of Hellenic civilization and has at times protested what it regards as the inappropriate use of such historical sites. -- Lowell Bezanis [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. 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