|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 38, Part II, 22 February 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ IZETBEGOVIC TAKEN TO HOSPITAL "FOR SUDDEN HEART PROBLEMS". Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic has been taken to hospital because of unspecified heart trouble. A group of doctors are treating him, and a statement said that he must be "spared all strain." The 70-year-old leader of the Muslim Party of Democratic Action is a professional lawyer and lifelong activist for Islamic causes, for which he was jailed by the communists. Izetbegovic became president in November 1990 in Bosnia's first postcommunist elections. -- Patrick Moore ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN U.S. Leonid Kuchma and U.S. Vice President Al Gore on 21 February signed an agreement allowing Ukraine to enter the commercial satellite launch market, international agencies reported. Ukraine will be obliged to charge as much as U.S. companies for its launches. The agreement expires in 2001. Kuchma also addressed allegations that Ukraine was leasing Antonov cargo planes to Columbian drug traffickers. He said Ukraine had no control over the leasing of Ukrainian-made aircraft, noting that it was Columbia's responsibility. He added that the Ukrainian security service has proposed that it meet with its U.S. counterpart to discuss the issue. Talks with U.S. President Bill Clinton centered on economic issues, including compensation for tactical nuclear weapons removed from Ukraine. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN WORKERS HOLD ONE-HOUR STRIKE OVER LIVING STANDARDS. Workers in eight Ukrainian oblasts halted work for one hour on 21 February to protest unpaid wages and declining living standards, Ukrainian and international agencies reported. Leaders of the Federation of Trade Unions claimed 12 million employees of primarily state-owned coal mines and factories either took part in or supported the strike. Some 2,000 people held a rally in Dnipropetrovsk. Kiev did not respond to the protest actions. A two-week strike by coal miners that was suspended on 16 February cost Ukrainian industry more than 40 trillion karbovantsi ($215 million). -- Chrystyna Lapychak CEPA DELEGATION VISIT TO ESTONIA. A Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly delegation were in Estonia from 19-21 February to gather information for a report about the human rights situation in the country, according to BNS. Rudolf Bindig, chairman of the CEPA legal affairs and human rights subcommittee, said Estonia should ratify the European human rights convention before May, when it will preside over the CE Council of Ministers. He also noted that the situation in Estonian prisons was improving but was still unsatisfactory. He proposed that the language tests for naturalization be simplified and that Estonia draw up a refugees policy more quickly. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN TROOPS JOIN BOSNIAN PEACEMAKING FORCE. LITPLA-4, a unit of 34 Lithuanian soldiers, has been stationed about 150 kilometers northwest of Tuzla as part of a Danish battalion, BNS reported on 21 February. Their assignment includes the reconstruction of a bridge over the Bosna River and monitoring traffic crossing it. Similar Estonian and Latvian platoons are scheduled to be sent to Bosnia as peacemaking forces later this year. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER ON RUSSIA, NATO. Dariusz Rosati on 21 February told the Senate Foreign Affairs Commission that regardless of the outcome of the Russian presidential elections, Russia will oppose NATO expansion but eventually will have to accept it, since it will need financial support from western countries. Rosati also noted that allegations against former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, who is suspected of collaborating with Soviet and Russian secret services, damaged Poland's credibility as a prospective Western partner. He said it was "unfortunate" that Oleksy had been elected leader of Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland in January, which forms the core of the governing coalition. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said he did not agree with Rosati remarks on Oleksy, Polish dailies reported on 22 February. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECHS REJECT NEW U.S. CRITICISM OF CITIZENSHIP LAW. The Czech Foreign Ministry on 21 February rejected renewed criticism from the U.S. Congress that the Czech Republic's citizenship law is discriminatory, Czech media reported. Leaders of the congressional committee that monitors the 1975 Helsinki accords said the previous day that the law denies citizenship to thousands of residents who were Czechoslovak citizens before the split of the country at the end of 1992. They said a recent amendment to the law approved by the Czech government (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 February 1996) did not go far enough and urged Czech authorities to grant citizenship to all long-term residents. A Foreign Ministry spokesman denied U.S. accusations that the law had overnight created thousands of stateless people. The head of the parliament's foreign affairs committee also rejected the criticism. -- Steve Kettle CZECH SKINHEADS SENTENCED FOR RACIST ATTACK. A court in Breclav sentenced a 21-year-old skinhead to six years in jail on 21 February for an attack on a local Rom in which the victim lost an eye. Three other teenage skinheads received suspended sentences for attacking Josef Polak and his wife on a street last October with rubber truncheons. The Romani woman was slightly injured. Polak's father and other Roma protested inside and outside the courtroom that the sentences were unjustly light, Mlada fronta Dnes reported. -- Steve Kettle CONFUSION IN SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTRY OVER AUSTRIAN COURT'S RULING. The Slovak Foreign Ministry's reaction to the Vienna court's decision on President Michal Kovac's son may have been the result of a mistranslation by TASR, CTK reported on 21 February. The ministry did not wait for official notification of the ruling but instead sent a diplomatic note to the Austrian charge d'affaires in Bratislava based on a "news agency report." The ministry protested the court's accusations about the involvement of state organs in the kidnapping and demanded that the Austrian Foreign Ministry take action. But some media representatives present at the hearing said the court spoke of an "abduction by [Slovak] nationals." Kovac Jr., who says he is innocent in the Technopol fraud, told Sme on 22 February that he plans to go to Munich to face charges. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK ROUNDUP. Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) deputy chairman Pavol Kanis on 21 February announced that his party must decide soon whether it will enter the coalition government, possibly before the SDL congress in April. According to Kanis, the SDL has not received an official invitation from the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). But he claimed that some members of the SDL, HZDS, and Association of Workers of Slovakia (ZRS) are in favor of cooperation among the three parties, Narodna obroda reported. In other news, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar decided to sue Vladimir Palko of the opposition Christian Democratic Movement for his behavior during a Slovak TV discussion program on 18 February. -- Sharon Fisher NUCLEAR TRAIN ARRIVES IN HUNGARY. A train carrying used nuclear fuel rods from the closed nuclear power plant in Greifswald, eastern Germany, arrived at Hungary's Paks nuclear plant on 21 February, Hungarian dailies reported the next day. The plant was closed down for safety reasons after German reunification. Environmentalists criticize the Hungarian authorities' decision to "buy" the rods from Germany and argue that Paks is not as safe as is claimed by the plant's management. Paks officials say the fuel rods can be safely used for one year. The shipment of the "nuclear trash" saves nearly 3 billion forints ($21.5 million) for Hungary. While the nuclear train was en route from Germany, German authorities mobilized 800 police and border guards to monitor protests organized by Greenpeace. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN SERBS RESTORE LINKS TO INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY. The Bosnian Serb leadership on 21 February announced it is "reestablishing full cooperation with representatives of the international community, in accordance with the Dayton agreement and the results of the Rome summit," SRNA reported. But it continued to protest the "unprincipled conduct" of the Bosnian government in what it called the "kidnapping of senior Serbian officers." The Bosnian Serb leaders demanded the immediate release of the officers. Meanwhile, Carl Bildt, the international community's chief envoy to Bosnia, met the same day with Bosnian Serb premier Rajko Kasagic, TANJUG reported. Bildt said he was pleased that dialogue with the Serbs has been restored, while Kasagic said the work of the joint commissions will be resumed. -- Michael Mihalka IFOR CERTIFIES COMPLIANCE WITH DAYTON PEACE AGREEMENT. IFOR commander U.S. Admiral Leighton Smith on 21 February officially certified that the "parties to the General Framework Agreement for Peace to be in general compliance with the military aspects of the (Dayton) peace agreement," international media reported. According to UN Resolution 1022, sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs can be lifted the day after the IFOR commander informs the UN Security Council that the Serbs have withdrawn from the zones of separation laid down in the peace accords. -- Michael Mihalka SERBIAN EXODUS FROM SARAJEVO CONTINUES. Despite bad weather and calls by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and the anti-nationalist Serbian Civic Council for them to stay put, residents of five Serb-held suburbs slated to pass to government control continue to leave. The BBC on 22 February quoted UN sources as putting the number at 20,000. Two fires are burning out of control in Vogosca, but the fire department has apparently already left, Reuters said. "Nervous and upset" people blamed the mayor for not providing them with adequate transportation and confronted him in an ugly scene. Throughout the suburbs, banks and schools have closed or are shutting down. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Nasa Borba blamed the Bosnian Serb leadership for forcing the exodus of ordinary Serbs. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher has urged the residents to stay. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN SHORT TAKES. Some 10,000 Croats and Muslims are expected to return to Vogosca after it reverts to federal control, Onasa reported on 21 February. A group of 50 federal experts will be sent there to clear mines. Oslobodjenje wrote on 22 February that many of the Sarajevo Croats who fled to Mostar and elsewhere during the war have begun to return. But a meeting of Croatian and Bosnian government officials slated for 26 February has been postponed. Onasa said that the problems are Bosnian access to the port of Ploce and the abolition of Croatian visas for Bosnian citizens. The news agency added that Bosnia's first postwar strike ended when miners accepted assurances that their January salaries of about DM 80 would finally be paid. -- Patrick Moore SERBIAN ORTHODOX BISHOP CALLS ON SERBS TO REJECT ETHNIC CLEANSING. The Orthodox bishop for northwestern Bosnia, Hrizostom, urged Serbs to return to their homes outside the Republika Srbska and reject attempts to settle them in dwellings of expelled Muslims and Croats. "This is the moment when we decide whether we will be the beggars of this world, or whether we will return to our homes as international accords and conventions foresee. [The Pale leaders] are cheating you when they tell you that they have solved our problems by giving us burnt and looted homes which belong to others, who are also refugees just as we are.... The Serb politicans...have used our trust against the interests of their people." Onasa carried the report on 21 February, citing Belgrade's Vecernje Novosti. -- Patrick Moore BELGRADE SEEKS IMF MEMBERSHIP. The rump Yugoslavia is officially seeking membership in the IMF, Belgrade TV reported on 21 February. In a letter to IMF chief Michel Camdessus, rump Yugoslav National bank Governor Dragoslav Avramovic said "conditions for the normalization of relations between the IMF and [rump] Yugoslavia have been met.... We believe that we could benefit from the assistance, experience, and advice of international organizations, above all, from the IMF." Avramovic also wrote that the rump Yugoslav economy was undergoing reforms that would result in a broad privatization program and liberal, free market practices. -- Stan Markotich CROATIA, BRITAIN SIGN AGREEMENTS. Croatia and Britain on 21 February signed agreements on cooperation in air traffic, culture, science, and education, Novi List reported. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic said the agreements signaled "progress in bilateral relations," while British Foreign Ministry official Nicholas Bonsor said agreements would pave the way for the cooperation in tourism and the improvement of air traffic between the two countries. The situation in the region was also discussed, especially regarding the Rome agreements on Bosnia- Herzegovina. -- Daria Sito Sucic WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL INTERVIEWS SERBS IN ROMANIA. Members of The Hague International War Crimes Tribunal are in Timisoara to interview people from Serbia who were detained in Moslem camps during the war in the former Yugoslavia, Radio Bucharest reported on 21 February. The interviewees volunteered to testify. Timisoara was chosen "at the request of the Serbian citizens," who consider the Romanian town near the Serbian border to be "a safe place, where nothing can happen to them." The findings will be made public once the interviews are over. -- Michael Shafir MOLDOVA COMMUTES DEATH SENTENCES. Death sentences passed on 19 people in Moldova have been commuted to life imprisonment to meet commitments made when that country joined the Council of Europe in July 1995, Moldovan and international agencies reported on 21 February. President Mircea Snegur signed a decree commuting the sentences. The Moldovan parliament abolished capital punishment in December 1995. Those to whom the decree applies were sentenced before then. -- Michael Shafir BELARUSIAN PRIME MINISTER ENDS VISIT TO SOFIA. Mikhail Chyhir on 21 February concluded a two-day official visit to Bulgaria, Bulgarian and international media reported. Chyhir and his Bulgarian counterpart, Zhan Videnov, signed eight bilateral agreements on trade and industrial cooperation, including the mutual protection and promotion of investments. They said the agreements lay the foundation for broad cooperation in a number of areas and that they expect bilateral trade to increase. Belarus will export more butter, grain, and car tires to Bulgaria, while Bulgaria will increase its exports of vegetable oil and pharmaceuticals to Belarus. In 1995, bilateral trade turnover was $40 million. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN JOURNALISTS RELEASED. Dimitar Shtirkov and Valentin Hadzhiev, correspondents in Smoylan for Trud and 24 chasa, on 21 February were released from detention, 24 chasa reported. Legal proceedings against them will continue, however. The two journalists were arrested for libel on 20 February. Regional Prosecutor Slavcho Karzhev, who ordered the arrests, said he considers his action to conform with Bulgarian law and added that he will initiate proceedings against the local correspondents for Duma and Novinar who wrote similar reports. The Union of Bulgarian Journalists and Svobodno Slovo (Free Speech) have protested the arrests. Since the fall of the communist regime, several journalists have been charged with libel. This was the first time that journalists were arrested. -- Stefan Krause CROATIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ALBANIA. Mate Granic arrived for a two-day visit to Tirana on 21 February, international agencies reported. Meeting with his Albanian counterpart, Alfred Serreqi, both sides agreed on the territorial integrity of all Balkan countries and the inviolability of present borders. Granic said that Croatia supported the rights of all ethnic minorities in the Balkans, while Serreqi stressed that the problem of Kosovo could not be reduced to a question of basic human rights and freedoms. He added that "Kosovo is [not] only an internal problem of Serbia [but a] a fundamental element of the crisis in the former Yugoslavia." The two sides agreed on increased economic and cultural cooperation. Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, in Tirana on 21 February, told President Sali Berisha that Britain will raise its diplomatic representation in Albania from charge d'affaires to ambassador, AFP reported. -- Fabian Schmidt GREECE, ALBANIA AGREE ON PRISONER RETURN. Albanian Justice Minister Hektor Frasheri and his Greek counterpart, Evangelos Venizelos, meeting in Athens on 21 February, agreed on the return of some 730 Albanians serving prison sentences in Greece, Reuters reported. Greece will now speed up the implementation of an agreement whereby prisoners will serve sentences in Albanian prisons. The first 70 inmates will be moved to Albania in the next two weeks. Some 130 of the inmates are juveniles, and another 400 are still awaiting trial. It is unclear whether the latter will be tried in Greece. There are no imprisoned Greeks in Albania. Greek prisons are overcrowded. and tensions between Greek and Albanian prisoners recently resulted in riots. -- Fabian Schmidt GREEK-TURKISH NEWS. Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis on 21 February began a tour of EU capitals in a bid to rally support for his country in the dispute with Turkey over the islet of Imia/Kardak, AFP reported the same day. Simitis met with EU Commission President Jacques Santer and Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene in Brussels. He told a news conference that Turkey's position makes it "difficult for us to cooperate so that the customs union [between the EU and Turkey] functions freely." Meanwhile, Reuters cited EU sources as saying Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos has threatened to block a vote approving 375 million ECU ($487 million) in EU aid to Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Deniz Baykal said Turkey has fulfilled its commitments vis-a-vis the customs union, and he called on the EU not to give in to "Greek blackmail." -- Stefan Krause [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Roger Kangas and Jan Cleave [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. Before reprinting or redistributing this publication, please write firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the new policy or look at this URL: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html OMRI also publishes the biweekly journal Transition, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. 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
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.