|Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead|
No. 61, Part II, 26 March 1996
New OMRI Analytical Briefs: - "Slovak Parliament Aproves Territorial Arrangement Law," 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON PLEDGES AID TO HELP REBUILD BOSNIA. The U.S. first lady visited Tuzla on 25 March and met American IFOR soldiers, Bosnian government officials, and Bosnian women who suffered during the war. Ms. Clinton promised $25 million to rebuild damaged homes and provide work for the huge number of unemployed, whose ranks have further swelled with demobilization. She talked with Vice President Ejup Ganic, who is filling in for ailing President Alija Izetbegovic, about reconstruction, reintegration, women's affairs, and respect for human rights, about freedom to express different religious and cultural traditions, Onasa reported. -- Patrick Moore ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS APPROVE PEACEKEEPERS FOR EASTERN SLAVONIA. The Ukrainian parliament has agreed to dispatch 500 soldiers to serve as UN peacekeepers in Serb-controlled eastern Slavonia, Reuters reported on 25 March. Defense Ministry officials said the troops will be based near Vukovar and equipped with 11 tanks and 16 helicopters. Communist deputies opposed the decision. Ukrainian servicemen have been eager to join UN forces in the former Yugoslavia, where their wages are substantially higher than the $8 per month they earn at home. Ukraine has about 500 troops in Croatia and another 500 in the NATO-led IFOR mission in Bosnia. -- Chrystyna Lapychak CONSOLIDATION OF UKRAINIAN CENTRISTS CONTINUES. Three Ukrainian political parties have formed a new political alliance called Mist [Bridge], Radio Ukraine reported on 22 March. The center-right Democratic Party of Ukraine, the centrist Social-Democratic Party, and the center-left Labor Party support democratic and free-market reforms but also favor maintaining a social safety network. Another center-right party, the Christian Democrats, announced it was joining several civic organizations in another political alliance, the Christian-Social Union, Ukrainian TV reported on 22 March. They are joined by the All-Ukrainian Association of Entrepreneurs as well as several similar regional groups. Recently, a new centrist caucus, Social-Market Choice, was formed. Its 31 members, which include former President Leonid Kravchuk and other well-known figures, is now the second-largest caucus after the Communists. -- Chrystyna Lapychak BELARUS SIGNS INTERIM TRADE AGREEMENT WITH EU. Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir signed an interim trade accord with the EU in Brussels on 25 March, Western agencies reported. The accord implements the economic aspects of a broader partnership agreement signed last year with the EU before that agreement is ratified by all 15 EU states. EU Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Hans van den Broek said the EU had hesitated to sign the trade accord because of doubts about the progress of political and economic reforms in Belarus. He added that he hoped the signing of the agreement would "contribute to the preservation of Belarus's independence and sovereignty." Chyhir noted that increased trade with the West would help Belarus pay its enormous debts to Russia for oil and gas. -- Saulius Girnius ESTONIAN PRESIDENT IN BENELUX COUNTRIES. Lennart Meri arrived in Holland on 25 March at the start of a three-day visit to the Benelux countries, ETA reported. He met with Prime Minister Wim Kok and Queen Beatrix to discuss the EU and its future development. Kok noted the importance of bilateral relations in preparing for EU enlargement and offered help for training Estonian officials. Meri is scheduled to meet with European Commission President Jacques Santer and European Parliament President Klaus Haensch in Brussels today. He is also to hold talks with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene. -- Saulius Girnius DIPLOMATIC INCIDENT BETWEEN LITHUANIA, ICELAND. The decision of the Lithuanian Agricultural Bank to order the trawler Vydunas to return to Klaipeda has created a diplomatic incident, Radio Lithuania reported on 25 March. In March 1994, the ship was leased for five years to an Icelandic fishing company. The bank claims that the firm owes it more than $500,000 and ordered its Lithuanian captain to return home. The firm denies it has any such debt. Four of the 63-man crew are Icelandic citizens who radioed to the police alleging that they were being held hostage. Lithuanian and Icelandic diplomats have discussed the matter and hope that it will be settled when the ship docks in Klaipeda on 27 or 28 March. -- Saulius Girnius QUEEN ELIZABETH II IN POLAND. The British monarch arrived in Poland on 25 March, Polish and international media reported. She laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and met with Polish pilots who fought in the 1940 Battle of Britain and other war veterans who were under British command. She also paid tribute at a memorial to Warsaw Jews who died in the Holocaust. At a reception at the presidential palace, the queen said: "We strongly support the enlargement of the European Union and NATO. We welcome your aspirations to join these institutions." On 26 March, she will visit Cracow and fly to Prague. -- Jakub Karpinski THOUSANDS JOIN CZECH DOCTORS' STRIKE RALLY. Doctors, nurses and other workers from around 130 of the Czech Republic's 200 state-run hospitals on 25 March joined a two-day strike to demand higher wages and protest the government's health policy, Czech media reported. Reduced services were maintained at all hospitals. According to police estimates, 16,500 people attended a mass rally in the center of Prague, making it one of the biggest strike protests in recent years. The strike was organized by the Doctors' Trade Union Club, whose chairman David Rath told the demonstrators the rally should demonstrate to the government how strong support was for the health worker's demands. They are pushing for a 40% wage increase and changes in the financing of the state health service. Rath said protest action would continue after the end of the strike on 26 March, possibly including another strike on 15 May--the official start of the parliamentary election campaign. -- Steve Kettle SLOVAK COMMISSION SAYS SECRET SERVICE INVOLVED IN KIDNAPPING OF PRESIDENT'S SON. An independent commission chaired by Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) deputy Ladislav Pittner on 25 March accused the Slovak Information Service of kidnapping President Michal Kovac's son, Sme reported. Pittner, a former interior minister, announced the commission's preliminary conclusions at a KDH meeting, saying the final results should be available next month. He gave the first names and last-name initials of SIS agents who allegedly prepared and participated in the kidnapping, specified their tasks, and described the cars they used. The commission also found that several of the police officers currently working on the case have criminal records. In other news, Kovac Jr. on 25 March filed a lawsuit against the "secret witness" who recently appeared on Slovak TV to allege that the kidnapping was staged. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK BISHOPS PROTEST DRAFT LAW ON PROTECTION OF REPUBLIC. A group of Catholic bishops on 25 March sent a letter to "the government, the parliament and the nation" expressing opposition to the draft law on the protection of the republic, Slovak media reported. The bishops warned that the bill compares to the 1948 law "based on which hundreds of thousands of innocent people were convicted, imprisoned, and tortured, sometimes to death." If passed, the amendment would put policemen, public prosecutors, and judges in the same position "as the criminals of totalitarianism," they stressed. Protests against the bill have recently come from the Association of Slovak Judges, the Slovak Helsinki Committee, and Greenpeace. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT IN EGYPT. Arpad Goncz arrived in Cairo on 25 March to hold talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Hosni Mubarak, Hungarian dailies reported. The two leaders discussed boosting economic ties as well as the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Middle East. Egyptian officials said Egypt hoped to redress the imbalance of annual bilateral trade, which is currently $27 million in Hungary's favor. The two countries are to sign accords on economic, legal, and scientific cooperation and on fighting organized crime. This is the first visit by a Hungarian president to Egypt since the two countries established diplomatic relations more than 40 years ago. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NEW MOSTAR ADMINISTRATOR UNBURDENED BY HISTORY. EU foreign ministers on 25 March endorsed the appointment of Spain's Ricardo Perez Casado to replace Hans Koschnick as administrator in Mostar. He is a socialist politician from Valencia who is better known as a businessman, Onasa reported. The news agency added that Perez "admitted he does not know much about issues in Bosnia and Mostar, which is regarded in Brussels as a comparative advantage, because the new administrator will be more efficient in solving unfinished tasks in Mostar by not being burdened with the past." Perez enters a complex environment that has no fewer than seven police forces, AFP noted on 26 March. Elsewhere in Mostar, the Croats freed 10 Serbian prisoners, the International Herald Tribune reported. -- Patrick Moore BRAWL BETWEEN BACKERS OF KARADZIC, MILOSEVIC. Supporters of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic lobbed a tear gas grenade into a meeting of the Socialist Party of the Republika Srpska (SPRS), which is the Bosnian branch of the ruling Serbian party of President Slobodan Milosevic. The incident took place on 24 March in the small town of Blatnica southwest of Doboj, AFP on 26 March quoted Radio Belgrade as saying. Among Karadzic supporters were local police officials. Several people were injured and some had to be taken to the hospital. Milosevic backers said that this was not the first such incident and that Karadzic's people are trying to intimidate the opposition in the run-up to the elections. The SPRS stated that it will file a formal complaint with the OSCE. -- Patrick Moore RUMP YUGOSLAV-TURKISH RELATIONS ON THE MEND. Ankara and Belgrade are preparing to upgrade bilateral relations, and may restore ambassadorial ties next month. Beta on 25 March quoted an unnamed official as saying that "establishing relations at the ambassadorial level may come as early as April. After that, [Turkish] President Suleyman Demirel is expected to include Belgrade as one of his planned stops during his [June] tour of the republics of the former Yugoslavia." Relations between Turkey and rump Yugoslavia have recently been strained and acrimonious over disagreements related to the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. -- Stan Markotich INTERNATIONAL INVESTORS IN BELGRADE. A group of U.S. bankers arrived in the rump Yugoslav capital on 25 March. Reports did not specify which individuals or companies are involved, by Tanjug suggested that Citibank, Chemical and Standard Bank, and Saloman Brothers are among the firms represented. Federal rump Yugoslav Finance Minister Jovan Zebic hinted that Belgrade wants to persuade the bankers to invest in rump Yugoslavia's recovery. After emerging from meetings with the group, he observed that rump Yugoslavia is aware of "the need for an international financial injection." -- Stan Markotich "ECOLOGICAL CATASTROPHE" OFF CROATIAN COAST. The state-owned oil company INA dumped between 100 and 150 metric tons of waste oil into Bakar Bay, a branch of the Adriatic south of Rijeka. The incident took place on 18 March and led to a protest by local mayors, the pro-government daily Vjesnik reported on 26 March. One of the mayors demonstrated how a stone thrown into the bay floated on the slick. Damage is estimated at DM 6 million. INA is known as a sinecure for politicians from the governing Croatian Democratic Community, and the mayors said it had become "a state within a state." The area is part of the Kvarner region that includes the nearby island of Krk and some of Croatia's best-known tourist resorts. -- Patrick Moore ROMANIAN PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION LEADER CLASH OVER TIES WITH RUSSIA. A presidential spokesman has rejected accusations by Emil Constantinescu, leader of the opposition Democratic Convention of Romania, that Ion Iliescu is promoting pro-Russian policies. In a communique published in Cronica romana on 26 March, the President's Office expressed "surprise" at Constantinescu's remark last week recalling that Iliescu had signed a treaty with the now defunct Soviet Union some five years ago. That move was widely seen as an attempt to place Romania in Russia's sphere of interests. The Soviet Union's demise prevented the treaty from being ratified. But the Romanian opposition has continued to suspect Iliescu-- a student in Moscow in the early 1950s--of pro-Russian sentiment. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN PRESIDENT IN BELGIUM. Zhelyu Zhelev on 25 arrived in Belgium for a three-day official visit, 24 chasa reported. Zhelev said only NATO can guarantee Bulgaria's security and the irreversibility of its democratic changes. He added that no country outside the alliance should have the right to block NATO expansion. Referring to the Russian State Duma's resolution on 15 March denouncing the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Zhelev said it only reaffirms the intention of countries wanting to join NATO. Zhelev held talks with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene. He also addressed the North Atlantic Council. -- Stefan Krause RUSSIAN DUMA DELEGATION IN SOFIA. A delegation from the Russian State Duma, headed by Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, arrived in the Bulgarian capital on 25 March for a three-day visit, Trud reported. Seleznev accused Zhelev of "getting all worked up" about the 15 March Duma resolution without having read the document first. At the same time, he hailed Prime Minister Zhan Videnov for intensifying Russian-Bulgarian relations, Kontinent noted. After meeting with Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, Seleznev admitted Russia can not prevent any country from joining NATO, but he repeated Moscow's anti-expansion position. -- Stefan Krause ARE RELATIONS BETWEEN TIRANA, ATHENS STILL TENSE? Greek Defense Minister Gerasimos Arsenis has said he will not attend a Balkan conference on security policy in Tirana later this week, Albania reported on 23 March. Albanian Defense Minister Safet Zhulali has invited his counterparts from the U.S., Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, and Italy to take part in the meeting. Arsenis argued that the conference has been hastily organized and complained that Belgrade has not been invited. His announcement is seen as an indication that Greek-Albanian relations remain strained, despite Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulos's recent visit to Tirana. Outstanding unresolved issues are opening Greek schools in southern Albania and practical steps by Athens to legalize Albanian immigrants. -- Fabian Schmidt LARGE FIRE DESTROYS MILITARY DEPOT NEAR TIRANA. A large fire has destroyed an army depot in Ndroq, 18 kilometers south west of Tirana. The depot belonged to an air defense unit, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 26 March. Some toxic material was stored at the depot. No injuries or casualties have been reported. -- Fabian Schmidt GREEK-TURKISH UPDATE. Greece on 25 March said that Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz's proposal for negotiations to settle the Greek- Turkish dispute over Aegean islets was "insufficient," Western agencies reported. Greek government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said Turkey must take the first step to quell tensions between Athens and Ankara before dialogue can be reopened. Yilmaz on 24 March proposed that Greece and Turkey sign a declaration of friendship and cooperation and work out military confidence-building measures. He said Turkey will agree to any mutually-acceptable form of settling disputes, including mediation by a third party. This is the first time Ankara hinted at the possibility of arbitration by the International Court in The Hague, which Greece has proposed several times. -- 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. 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
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