|A host is like general: calamities often reveal his genius. - Horace|
No. 68, Part II, 4 April 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ EU, U.S. CRITICIZE SLOVAK LAW ON PROTECTION OF REPUBLIC. The EU and the U.S. State Department on 3 April expressed concern that Slovakia's law on the protection of the republic could restrict freedom of speech, assembly, and expression, Reuters and RFE/RL reported. The new legislation was passed by the parliament on 26 March. Meanwhile, a State Department official said the law "contradicts the democratic values shared among NATO countries." Also on 3 April, Slovak opposition representatives agreed to adopt a common strategy on the new legislation. They further decided to form expert groups to coordinate policy in economy, media, privatization, and ethnic problems, Pravda reported. -- Sharon Fisher ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE REFERENDUM PROPOSED IN CRIMEA. The Crimean parliament included on its 3 April agenda the possibility of staging a regional referendum to determine Crimea's future, international media reported. The move came in response to Kyiv's repeated delays in approving the peninsula's new constitution, which it has been debating since November. The Ukrainian parliament failed to vote on the constitution on 3 April but is likely to approve it today, when the debate is scheduled to resume. However, deputies are unlikely to approve a long list of clauses they consider to be "separatist," including provisions for Crimean citizenship, recognition of the Crimean "people," and the establishment of Russian as the sole official language. Ethnic Russians make up about two-thirds of the peninsula's population. -- Jiri Pehe HUNT UNDER WAY IN UKRAINE FOR SERIAL KILLER. Ukraine's national guard and police units are patrolling villages in the Zhitomir region, 100 km west of Kyiv, where the most recent of some 40 murders attributed to a serial killer have been committed, international media report. The killer is believed to be the most murderous in Ukraine's history, the Ministry of Internal Affairs said on 3 April. The man generally ingratiates himself with a family before killing all its members with a hunting rifle. A total of nine families have been killed in Lviv, Zaporozhye, and Kyiv. A suspect was arrested on 30 March, but police remain unsure whether he was involved in the crimes. -- Jiri Pehe RUSSIA, UKRAINE REACH AGREEMENT ON OIL TRANSIT FEE. According to the Ukrainian State Oil and Gas Industry Committee, the Russian Fuel and Energy Ministry has finally accepted the new terms for shipping oil through the Druzhba pipeline, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported on 3 April. Ukraine on 1 January unilaterally increased the fee by 60 cents to $5.2 for each metric ton of oil transiting Ukraine en route to Central Europe. The Russian government is now willing to pay the new tariff, which is subject to change if the volume falls below or rises above 16- 19 million tons this year. Only last week it was reported that supplies of oil to Slovakia and Hungary had been interrupted because of the fee dispute. -- Peter Rutland ESTONIA SEEKS SECURITY GUARANTEES. Estonian Premier Tiit Vahi has urged the West to provide security guarantees to states left out of NATO expansion, Reuters reported on 3 April. The agency quoted Vahi as saying in an interview that the best guarantee for his country is full NATO membership. But he added that if some states are accepted in a first wave of NATO expansion, it is important to know what security guarantees the others will receive. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are participating in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, which offers increased military cooperation but no security guarantees. Meanwhile, the presidents of Estonia and Moldova, Lennart Meri and Mircea Snegur, have expressed concern about recent moves aimed at forging closer ties between Russia and Belarus. Snegur is currently on an official visit to Estonia. -- Dan Ionescu THIRD WORLD MIGRANTS ON HUNGER STRIKE IN LITHUANIA. A group of 44 people from China, Iraq, and Afghanistan are on a hunger strike in the northeastern town of Visaginas to press claims for refugee status in Lithuania, Reuters reported on 2 April. The asylum-seekers, who have been detained for three months at a makeshift camp, threatened suicide if their situation is not resolved. All of them reportedly came from neighboring Belarus. At least 500 refugees are currently being detained in Lithuania, which has become a transit route for migrants trying to reach the affluent Scandinavian states. -- Dan Ionescu POLISH-RUSSIAN MILITARY EXERCISES PROPOSED. Polish Defense Minister Stanislaw Dobrzanski, meeting in Moscow with his Russian counterpart, Pavel Grachev, has proposed holding Polish-Russian military exercises later this year in Poland. He also suggested that a Polish-Russian peacekeeping battalion be formed and that military-technical cooperation be expanded. Poland is to set up peacekeeping battalions with Lithuania and Ukraine. Dobrzanski said his Moscow visit is intended to improve Polish-Russian relations, ahead of President Aleksander Kwasniewski's scheduled visit to Moscow next week. He said an improvement is expected by Poland's future NATO partners, who have approved his proposals, Polish dailies reported on 4 April. -- Jakub Karpinski PERSONNEL CHANGES IN POLISH TV. Following the recent dismissal of TVP1 head Maciej Pawlicki and the resignation of TVP director Wieslaw Walendziak, two of Pawlicki's deputies and two chief editors have been fired. The director of cultural and entertainment programs, Waldemar Gasper, has been "suspended." Christian-National Alliance leader Marian Pilka said that during Walendziak's term, the TVP was pluralist and that it will be now be predominantly leftist, Polish dailies reported on 4 April. -- Jakub Karpinski SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS TWO LAWS. The Slovak Constitutional Court on 3 April ruled against two 1995 laws-- one giving the state a "golden share" in the privatization of certain "strategic" companies and the other allowing it to take possession of land if ownership cannot be determined within three months, Slovak media reported. The court ruled that the former violates ownership rights guaranteed to all citizens by the constitution and that the latter is also unconstitutional. Both laws were appealed by opposition deputies. The opposition on 3 April decided to also appeal the income tax law, which was vetoed by the president and recently re-approved by the parliament. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARY TO SELL FURTHER STAKE IN FOREIGN TRADE BANK. The Hungarian State Privatization and Holding Co. (APV Rt.) on 3 April announced it is ready to sell its 26.8% share in the Hungarian Foreign Trade Bank (MKB) to the Bayerische Landesbank, Magyar Hirlap reported. If the deal goes ahead, the German bank will own 51% of MKB. The APV Rt. invited the German Investment and Development Co., the EBRD, and the Bayerische Landesbank- -the three foreign joint owners of MKB--to make an offer, but only the last-named expressed interest. In 1994, the MKB was the first Hungarian commercial bank to be privatized. The bank's after-tax profits soared from 487 million forints in 1994 to 2.6 billion forints in the first six months of the following year. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE HAGUE TRIBUNAL TO REPORT RUMP YUGOSLAVIA TO SECURITY COUNCIL. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has reaffirmed that it regards rump Yugoslavia as "criminal" and will formally ask the highest UN body to take action against it. The issue is that Belgrade continues to harbor three Serbian army officers against whom the court has issued arrest warrants. The three are wanted in connection with the murder of 261 non-Serbs in the Croatian town of Vukovar after it fell in November 1991, Nasa Borba and the Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes reported on 4 April. Also in The Hague, Croatian Gen. Tihomir Blaskic pleaded "not guilty" in connection with the massacre of Muslim civilians in the Lasva valley in 1993. The court, meanwhile, returned Bosnian Serb Col. Aleksa Krsmanovic to Sarajevo, where he faces a possible trial for crimes against humanity. The Hague tribunal had concluded it did not have enough evidence to charge him. -- Patrick Moore ROW OVER DECLARATION ON BOSNIAN UNITY. Some 21 political parties and organizations have signed a statement backing the indivisibility of the republic, Oslobodjenje wrote on 4 April. Most of the groups are Muslim-- including President Alija Izetbegovic's Party of Democratic Action--but the Serbian Civic Council and representatives of the Jewish community have also signed. The five main opposition parties in parliament nonetheless balked, charging that they were not consulted by Izetbegovic and former Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic. The largest Bosnian Croat party also did not sign the resolution sponsored by the two men. The apparent rapprochement between the president and his estranged former prime minister is the subject of much speculation in Bosnia, Vjesnik reported on 3 April. -- Patrick Moore ANTI-NATIONALIST SERBS SAY SARAJEVO CAN STILL BE MULTIETHNIC. Bosnian Presidency member Mirko Pejanovic has said that the capital can still be multiethnic because many Serbs are interested in coming back. He argued that the main obstacles are the Serbian nationalist "war criminals" in Pale and "the state apparatus of local authorities" in Sarajevo, Onasa reported on 2 April. Pejanovic heads the Serbian Civic Council (SGV), which remained loyal to the Bosnian government throughout the war. The SGV has been active in persuading Serbs to stay in Sarajevo or to return there. -- Patrick Moore CROATIAN PARLIAMENT CURBING FREEDOM OF SPEECH? The Sabor on 29 March passed two controversial laws, which critics say are directed against the country's few independent media. Under the first measure, the public prosecutor must start legal proceedings against anyone offending or slandering the president, parliamentary speaker, prime minister, or and presidents of the supreme and constitutional courts, Reuters reported. The second is aimed at persons "revealing state secrets." Investigative journalism in Croatia is largely limited to one daily and two weeklies, and the latter especially are active in exposing corruption and abuse of office by some members of the governing party and their families. Government officials stated that the laws are in keeping with "European norms" and were passed to protect institutions, not personalities. Independent analyst Slaven Letica said that the law will be challenged in the courts because it violates the principle of equality of all citizens by singling out five top officials for special treatment. -- Patrick Moore MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS CALL FOR DISSOLUTION. The Macedonian parliament on 3 April rejected a motion by the Liberal Party demanding that the parliament be dissolved and early elections held, Nova Makedonija reported. The Liberals' claim that the parliament is no longer representative (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 April 1996) was dismissed by the Social Democrats and Socialists. Ethnic Albanian parties and independent legislators were split over the issue. The Social Democrats called the Liberals' proposal a "political bluff," saying the initiators of the motion should resign their seats in the parliament if they doubt its legitimacy. -- Stefan Krause SERBIAN POLICEMAN CONVICTED IN CONNECTION WITH KILLING OF ETHNIC ALBANIAN CHILD. Boban Krstic, deputy police chief in the Kosovar town of Kacanik, has been sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison in connection with the 1994 killing of a six-year-old ethnic Albanian boy, Bota Sot reported on 4 April. Krstic was convicted for "endangering public order" rather than for manslaughter. He had fired 30 bullets into a car in July 1994, killing the boy and seriously injuring his parents. He later claimed that he believed that a criminal suspect was in the car. Bota Sot said that Krstic was also involved in the death of an Albanian in the Kacanik jail in 1994. It added that he fought in Bosnia on the side of the Bosnian Serbs and was highly decorated there. -- Stefan Krause EXIT VISAS FOR KOSOVAR ALBANIANS ABOLISHED. The abolition of exit visas for ethnic Albanians in Kosovo took effect on 1 April, international agencies reported. Until now, Kosovars traveling to Albania via Macedonia without an exit visa risked imprisonment by the Serbian authorities if they had Albanian stamps in their passport. Albania praised the move as a step toward normalizing relations. -- Fabian Schmidt ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON BASIC TREATY WITH HUNGARY. Ion Iliescu on 3 April accused Hungary of delaying the signing of a bilateral basic treaty, Romanian and Hungarian media reported. He stressed that Romania was not prepared to make any concessions on including in the treaty Council of Europe Recommendation 1201, which is on ethnic minorities. Hungary is demanding that the recommendation be included. Iliescu said that if Hungary drops that demand, "we will immediately sign the basic treaty." He said ethnic groups that once formed a majority but are now a minority find it hard to give up their former privileges. -- Matyas Szabo BULGARIA COMPLAINS ABOUT NOT BEING INVITED TO ARMS CONTROL TALKS. The Bulgarian government on 3 April complained that it has not been invited to talks in Vienna on arms control in the post-cold war era, Reuters and Demokratsiya reported. Delegates are to discuss the so-called Wassenaar Agreement, which is intended to succeed COCOM. A Foreign Ministry spokesman spoke of "the apparent injustice" of leaving Bulgaria out of the meeting, which is to be attended by representatives of 31 states. He added that Bulgaria fulfilled all preconditions and that he hoped an invitation would be forthcoming. Georgi Dimitrov, head of the Foreign Ministry's International Organizations Department, said that of the 28 initial signatories to the Wassenaar Agreement, only the U.S. opposed Bulgaria's participation. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT SUBMITS MEMORANDUM ON NATO. The socialist government of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov on 3 April submitted a memorandum outlining its position on NATO to the parliament's foreign policy and national security commissions, Standart reported. The memorandum was in response to a request from NATO Assistant Secretary- General for Political Affairs Gebhardt von Moltke that the Bulgarian cabinet clarify its position on participation in NATO enlargement talks. Vasil Mihaylov of the Union of Democratic Forces said the document says nothing about whether Bulgaria wants to join NATO. Stoyan Denchev, deputy chairman of the foreign policy commission, said it is not the parliament's job to deal with such documents and that the memorandum should have been sent straight to NATO. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN PROSECUTOR SAYS HE MAY ARREST PATRIARCH. Prosecutor-General Ivan Tatarchev on 3 April said he will start legal proceedings against Patriarch Maksim and will arrest him "if necessary," Standart reported. Maksim is accused of involvement in the occupation of a candle-making factory that is run by the "alternative" Synod of Metropolit Pimen. In the latest of a series of incidents involving Maksim's and Pimen's supporters, the factory was occupied by priests loyal to the Patriarch on 18 March and was cleared by the police on 1 April. Maksim's followers, however, occupied the building again on 2 April. Maksim's and Pimen's supporters parted ways after the government invalidated Maksim's election in 1971 and appointed a new synod under Pimen. Pimen's followers have announced they may soon form a second Orthodox Church in Bulgaria. -- 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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