|It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer|
No. 53, Part II, 14 March 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ TENSIONS BETWEEN CROATIAN, MUSLIM POLICE IN ILIDZA. The mainly Muslim federal police on 12 and 13 March turned back from Ilidza detachments of Croatian police from Kiseljak, AFP reported. The ostensible reason was that the Croats were wearing their own blue uniforms instead of the federal green, Oslobodjenje pointed out on 14 March. The real problem, however, is underlying mistrust or even bad faith. Mladen Tolo, the Croatian commander of Kiseljak's police and one of those turned away, said: "This means there is no federation. The [Muslims are] not accepting us as partners and allies." This is the second transfer of a Sarajevo suburb from Serbian to federal control that has been marked by tensions between the Croatian and federal police. -- Patrick Moore ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE NEW UKRAINIAN CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF APPOINTED. President Leonid Kuchma has issued a decree appointing Lt.-Gen. Oleksandr Zatynaiko as chief of the general staff of Ukraine's armed forces, Ukrainian Radio reported on 12 March. The position also carries the rank of first deputy defense minister. Zatynaiko has been acting chief of staff since Kuchma dismissed Anatolii Lopata from the post last month. Defense Ministry spokesman Valerii Korol on 13 March said the army would be trimmed down from its current size of 420,000 to 350,000 by the end of the year, Reuters reported. This means Ukraine's army will no longer be Europe's second largest; rather, it will occupy fourth place after Russia, Germany, and France. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINE CUTS SUBSIDIES FOR RENTS, UTILITIES. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Pynzenyk said Ukraine this year will cut subsidies for consumer rents and utilities by 20%, Ukrainian agencies reported 12 March. He added that the government is planning to eliminate these subsidies altogether in 1997. -- Chrystyna Lapychak TV DEBATE OVER RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN ACCORDS. Syarhei Kalyakin, head of the Party of Communists of Belarus, and Mykola Statkevich, head of the Social Democratic Hramada, took part in a Belarusian TV debate on 12 March over President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's recent visit to Russia. Kalyakin said he did not feel agreements reached during the visit infringed on Belarusian sovereignty, since they were not of a political nature. Statkevich responded that this argument, which has also been made by the Belarusian press, appears logical. But he stressed that the creation of supranational structures and the presence of foreign troops on Belarusian territory--which are ignored by the press--do present a threat to the country's sovereignty. -- Ustina Markus ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT'S CENTER CAUCUS SPLITS. Seven of the 16 members of the Center Party on 13 March decided to form a new liberal-centrist caucus, ETA reported. They back current party head Andra Veidemann, who is opposed by supporters of former party chairman Edgar Savisaar. Savisaar resigned as interior minister and chairman in the fall over his alleged involvement in the secret taping of conversations with other Estonian officials. Veidemann said that all the caucus members will remain in the party until it holds its congress on 30 March. -- Saulius Girnius FORMER LATVIAN NKVD HEAD DIES IN PRISON. Alfons Noviks, head of the NKVD Soviet security police in Latvia from 1940 to 1953, died in prison of 12 March, Western agencies reported the next day. A Riga court sentenced the 88-year-old Noviks to life imprisonment on 13 December 1995 for crimes against humanity. He was convicted of being one of the chief organizers of mass deportations, persecutions, and murders of thousands of Latvians. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES TO CONSIDER LIBERALIZING ABORTION LAW. The parliament on 13 March sent a bill liberalizing the anti-abortion law to legislative committees for further discussion, Polish media reported. Parliamentary committees for social policy, justice, and human rights will examine the draft law, which would allow women to terminate a pregnancy up to the 12th week if they are in a difficult social situation or have financial problems. Gazeta Wyborcza on 14 March reported that a group of some 150 pro-life activists staged a demonstration outside the parliament. The current law, which has the support of the Roman Catholic Church, provides for two-year prison sentences for doctors who perform abortions. Polish women have had to seek terminations either abroad or illegally in Poland. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz POLISH FILM DIRECTOR DIES. Krzysztof Kieslowski on 13 March died of a heart attack following by-pass surgery, Polish and international media reported. Born in 1941, Kieslowski attended Poland's Lodz Film School and was a student of renowned Polish director Andrzej Wajda. He was best known for his trilogy Three Colors--Blue, White, Red, which explored contemporary moral dilemmas. In 1994, Kieslowski announced he was giving up filmmaking, but he was later reported to have envisaged a return to directing. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz SLOVAK OPPOSITION TO COOPERATE. Slovak opposition parties on 13 March announced they will not call the extraordinary parliamentary session on which they had agreed two days earlier. Instead, they will try to expand the session beginning on 20 March by seven points, Slovak media reported. Those points will deal mainly with the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son, the role of the Slovak Information Service, and privatization. Democratic Party chairman Jan Langos noted it is the "first time ever" that opposition parties have agreed on a joint strategy. The session promises to be a stormy one, since topics of discussion proposed by the coalition include the territorial administration bill, the law on the protection of the republic, and the Slovak-Hungarian treaty. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAKS SUPPORT RATIFICATION OF TREATY WITH HUNGARY. A FOCUS poll carried out in mid-February showed that 50.8% of Slovaks favor the Slovak-Hungarian treaty, while 15.5% are opposed and 33.7% are uncertain or uninterested, Narodna obroda reported on 14 March. Ethnic Hungarians were most likely to favor the treaty, while supporters of the Association of Workers of Slovakia and the Slovak National Party were most likely to reject it. In other news, Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Istvan Szent-Ivanyi has said the draft law on Slovakia's new territorial arrangement conflicts with the treaty. Szent-Ivanyi's Slovak counterpart, Jozef Sestak, denied those claims in an interview with Pravda on 14 March. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARY APPROVES SOCIAL SECURITY BUDGET. The Hungarian parliament on 12 March approved Hungary's 1996 social security budget, Reuters and AFP reported on 13 March. The budget aims to cut the social security deficit for 1996 to 17.8 billion forints ($122 million) from 47.2 billion last year. Officials said the budget complies fully with IMF conditions and that the country's overall budget deficit should fall to below 4% of GDP. The government plans to reduce the shortfall in the social security budget by collecting unpaid contributions; but this could increase the budget deficit, since state-owned firms reportedly owe most of the arrears. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES LAW AGAINST RACIAL INCITEMENT. The parliament on 13 March approved an amendment to the Penal Code allowing courts to take more powerful action against extremists, AFP reported. Under the new law, anyone who incites hatred against any national, ethnic, racial, religious, or social group is subject to imprisonment of up to three years. Ethnic violence is punishable by up to five years in jail. The bill, which was approved by a margin of 212 to eight with 44 abstentions, follows the recent acquittal of two Hungarian neo-Nazi leaders. -- Sharon Fisher SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE VIOLENCE AGAINST SERBS IN ILIDZA. Muslim gangs from Sarajevo continue to terrorize the Serbs who resisted arson and intimidation from their own side to stay in their homes in Ilidza, the BBC reported on 13 March. There has been some increase in police protection, but over 100 cases of actions against Serbs have been reported. Muslims have been telling Serbs they intend to move into their homes, and many Serbs have fled or are wondering what to do next, Reuters noted. The key issue for IFOR is to prevent a repeat in Grbavica of the events of recent days in Ilidza. Crack French and Italian patrols have accordingly been stepped up in Grbavica, the next suburb slated to pass to federal control. Reports are nonetheless already coming in of Serbian "intimidation squads" on the move, AFP stated. -- Patrick Moore FRANCE, SERBIA OPPOSED TO LIFTING ARMS EMBARGO. The ban on light arms sales to the former Yugoslav republics was lifted on 14 March in keeping with the Dayton agreement. The aim of the American architects of the treaty was to allow the Muslims and Croats to achieve some kind of parity with the heavily armed Serbs and thereby deter the latter from new aggression. U.S. officials said they plan to go ahead with a military assistance plan costing some $700-800 million, AFP reported. Rump Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic said, however, that "it would be unreasonable while the peace process is in progress to undertake to arm any party." Serbia's traditional ally, France, has taken a similar view; and Foreign Ministry spokesman Yves Dutriaux told reporters that "France has two priorities in the region, stability and reconstruction. Rearmament is not a priority." This view will be represented by the EU at the 15 March conference in Ankara on arming the federation. -- Patrick Moore SARAJEVO MAYOR RESIGNS OVER CANTON ISSUE. Tarik Kupusovic has resigned over the Sarajevo authorities' decision to make the city a canton, Oslobodjenje and Onasa reported. The Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) says it considers Sarajevo's cantonal arrangement unconstitutional, but Omer Ibrahimagic, president of the city commission in charge of transforming Sarajevo into a canton, has said it is in accordance with the federal constitution. Ibrahimagic noted that under the new arrangement, the mandates of the old city assembly deputies and officials, including that of the mayor, cease to exist. Meanwhile, the HDZ has appealed to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman for support in protecting Bosnian Croat political and national interests. It has also urged Croatian officials in the Bosnian Federation to halt their involvement in implementing the civilian part of the Dayton peace accord. -- Daria Sito Sucic OIC PLEDGES TO HELP BOSNIA. An Islamic aid mobilization group on 12 March pledged to help Bosnia in its reconstruction and in pursuing trials of war criminals, Onasa reported, citing Reuters. The pledge came after a two-day meeting of the 51-nation Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). The OIC said the Islamic contribution would be within the framework of the Dayton peace accord, and it asked OIC member states to actively contribute to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Bosnia. In another development, Russia has said it disapproves of the U.S. decision to grant military aid to the Bosnian Federation. It noted that it will not take part in the 15 March Ankara Conference on military aid for the Bosnian Federation, which is sponsored by the U.S. -- Daria Sito Sucic SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ON CROATIAN, RUMP YUGOSLAV RELATIONS. Leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) Vojislav Kostunica on 13 March said that relations between Croatia and rump Yugoslavia "certainly must be normalized." He stressed, however, that any improvement in bilateral relations would entail addressing "the question of the remaining Serbs in Croatia as well as those Serbs who left Croatia," Beta reported. Kostunica also commented that Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic had no intention to discuss the topic with Croatian officials. Kostunica alleged that the interests of the Serbs outside the rump Yugoslavia were being harmed by Western powers, notably the U.S. -- Stan Markotich MONTENEGRINS WARY OF SERBIAN "LINGUISTIC OCCUPATION." The Montenegrin PEN club's committee for the use of language and history of literature on 11 March protested what it dubbed the "Serbianization" of the Montenegrin language. According to the Club, the preference given to the Ekavian variant of the language--which is spoken in Serbia--over the local Montenegrin Ijekavian is clear evidence of creeping "Serbianization." Montena-fax quoted club members as saying that since "1989, there has been a grave process of linguistic Serbianization in Montenegro--clearly under way in [many walks of] life, in the military, police, political, cultural, and economic occupation of Montenegro." -- Stan Markotich ROMANIAN BANKING SCANDAL. The Romanian National Bank has dismissed 10 executives from a leading commercial bank, the Cluj-based Dacia-Felix, and assumed direct supervision over it. Romanian TV on 13 March said bank president Ioan Sima, its vice presidents, and the entire administrative council were dismissed and banned from holding leading positions in the banking system for the next five years. Dacia-Felix was accused of "grave" irregularities, especially in credit operations and hard-currency transactions. National Bank Governor,Mugur Isarescu told Adevarul on 14 March that the losses of the bank currently amount to 800 billion lei ($300 million). -- Michael Shafir HUNGARIAN MINORITY PARTY IN ROMANIA TO APPEAL TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE. Iuliu Vida, leader of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) caucus in the Chamber of Deputies, said the draft law on local administration adopted by the chamber on 12 March will have a negative impact on the right of minorities to safeguard their national identity. Vida told a press conference that the UDMR will appeal the bill before the Council of Europe. The legislation stipulates that the Romanian language must be used at local council meetings even in regions where the majority is not Romanian. He said there were no other legal venues to appeal the bill, since it cannot be taken to the Constitutional Court, Radio Bucharest reported on 13 March. -- Michael Shafir MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT, OFFICIALS DISCUSS CORRUPTION. Mircea Snegur on 13 March discussed with senior Interior Ministry officials ways to combat corruption, BASA-press and Moldpres reported. Snegur said that corruption had spread to most branches of the administration. He added that his "declaration of war" on corruption has resulted in a "political offensive" against him. Meanwhile, the government's Commission for Foreign Trade Regulation rejected accusations made by Snegur during a recent parliamentary debate on corruption. The president had claimed that the commission authorized the export of "huge quantities" of sun- flower seeds and non-ferrous metals under dubious circumstances. -- Steliana Hanganu BULGARIA, SLOVENIA AGREE TO BOOST COOPERATION. Slovenian President Milan Kucan and his Bulgarian counterpart, Zhelyu Zhelev, meeting in Sofia on 13 March, agreed to improve cooperation between their countries, Bulgarian and Western media reported. They also agreed to sign accords on protection of investments and on avoiding double taxation. Kucan said that while Slovenia supports Bulgaria's initiative for a meeting of Balkan foreign ministers, it will attend only as an observer because "Slovenia looks at the Balkans through the eyes of a Central European country." Kucan also met with Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and Parliamentary President Blagovest Sendov. In other news, Videnov on 14 March began a two-day official visit to Russia, Duma reported. -- Stefan Krause GREECE, BULGARIA DISAGREE OVER OIL PIPELINE PROJECT. Greece and Bulgaria disagree over which companies should take part in a $700 million oil pipeline project, Reuters reported on 13 March. The pipeline will have a capacity of 600,000 barrels a day and will transport Russian crude oil from the Bulgarian port of Burgas to the Greek harbor town of Alexandroupolis. It will be built and operated by a Russian-Bulgarian- Greek company. Sofia wants fewer Greek construction firms involved, while Athens reportedly has promised a big share of the spoils to private Greek firms. Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Construction Minister Doncho Konakchiev said feasibility studies and economic reports must be completed before deciding which companies take part. -- Stefan Krause ONE ALBANIAN DROWNS, 30 MISSING AFTER BOAT CAPSIZES. One Albanian drowned and another 30 are missing after a boat capsized near Otranto, Zeri i Popullit reported on 14 March. The group came from Maqella in the Dibra region and wanted to illegally immigrate to Italy. The accident is the latest in a series of maritime accidents. Small motor boats crossing the Adriatic are mostly overfilled, and fires often occur, since the boats carry additional fuel in canisters. -- Fabian Schmidt UPDATE ON ALBANIAN JOURNALISTS' TRIALS. Populli Po chief editor Arben Hasani was fined $1,000 on 12 March for publishing an article saying that the Kosovars brought drugs and prostitution to Albania, Koha Jone reported. The cultural organization Kosova brought the charges against Hasani. On 18 March, he is to stand trial again--this time on charges of reporting incorrect information. The Albanian secret service SHIK claims that Hasani wrongly reported that a policeman in Shkoder had accused SHIK of involvement in the killing of a local opposition politician. Meanwhile, Koha Jone chief editor Aleksander Frangaj went on trial on 13 March for publishing an article about alleged corruption among police officers in Gjirokastra. -- 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. 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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