|[America,] it is the only place where miracles not only happen, but where they happen all the time. - Thomas Wolfe|
No. 78, Part II, 19 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CROATIAN HELSINKI GROUP SAYS GOVERNMENT EASY ON WAR CRIMINALS. The Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights on 18 April issued a public statement saying the government has failed to take a tough line against suspected war criminals. It notes that Ivica Rajic, who is wanted by the tribunal in The Hague, is staying with his family in a motel room in Split owned by the Defense Ministry. Dario Kordic, who has also been indicted by the court, is moving about the country unrestricted. Karlovac county gave an Honorary Citizen's Award to Mihajlo Hrastov, a high police official regarded as responsible for several atrocities against Serbs. Under pressure from Croatian allies and from within the governing party itself, the parliament has been considering a law to permit the extradition of war criminals to The Hague. -- Patrick Moore ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE BRITISH PRIME MINISTER IN UKRAINE. John Major arrived in Ukraine on 18 April for a one-day official visit, Ukrainian and international agencies reported. Major met President Leonid Kuchma, Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk, Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko, and the Head of the President's Administration Dmytro Tabachnyk. Major said that Britain supported Ukraine's integration into the EC. Both countries signed agreements on cooperation in crime-fighting. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT CREATES CONSTITUTIONAL COUNCIL. Alyaksandr Lukashenka signed a decree on 12 April creating a Legal Constitutional Council attached to the presidency, Belarusian TV reported on 17 April. The council will consist of 19 legal experts and headed by Alyaksandr Abramovich. It has the broad mandate to examine the legality of legislature and treaties. One of its first tasks will be examining the 2 April agreement with Russia on integration. Its relation to the Constitutional Court is still unclear. Lukashenka has been urging that the court be disbanded and its chief justice removed after it ruled that a number of his decrees contravened the constitution. -- Ustina Markus BELARUS SNUBBED FROM NUCLEAR ENERGY SUMMIT. Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Sannikau claimed in an interview with the independent weekly, Belaruska hazeta, that Belarus's exclusion from the upcoming G-7 summit in Moscow was "a demonstration of the West's contempt for Belarus," RFE/RL reported on 18 April. Democratic opposition deputy Pyotr Krauchanka blamed the country's own politicians for the exclusion, saying the Foreign Ministry should have seen to it that Belarus received an invitation. An unnamed U.S. State Department spokeswoman said Belarus did not receive an invitation because the summit will discuss the safety of nuclear reactors and nuclear smuggling, not the Chornobyl accident. Belarus has no nuclear reactors. Krauchanka speculated that Belarus's absence will mean less financial assistance for its Chornobyl cleanup. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN OFFICIALS DENY SEEKING OPPOSITION LEADER. Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Uladzimir Zamyatalin denied that Belarusian police were seeking opposition leader Zyanon Paznyak, Belarusian TV reported on 17 April. Paznyak had been forced to flee the country after President Alyaksandr Lukashenka issued a warrant for his arrest. Earlier in the week, Paznyak said he is in Poland and would fear for his personal safety if he returned to Belarus under Lukashenka's dictatorial regime. Zamyatalin dismissed the claim saying that Paznyak was only looking for support outside of Belarus's borders since his party, the Belarusian Popular Front, did not win a single seat in the parliamentary elections. -- Ustina Markus ONLY CITIZENS TO VOTE IN LATVIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS. The Saeima on 18 April rejected a proposal by the National Harmony Party to grant non-citizens the right to vote in local elections, BNS reported. The proposal also foresaw extending the term of office for local governments from three to four years, lifting a residency requirement for local deputies, and removing restrictions that kept former Soviet security officials from running for local offices. A total of only 25 members from the National Harmony Party, Socialist Party, Unity Party, Democratic Party Saimnieks, Latvia's Way, and For Latvia Movement voted for the proposal. The next local elections are scheduled for March 1997. -- Saulius Girnius NO PROGRESS IN RUSSIAN, LITHUANIAN SEA-BORDER TALKS. Talks in Kaliningrad on 17-18 April on the demarcation of the sea-border between Russia and Lithuania had few results, Radio Lithuania reported. Valerii Popov, a former Russian ambassador to Vienna, replaced Yuri Sholmov as the Head of the Russian Delegation. Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Rimantas Sidlauskas continued to head the Lithuanian delegation. The oil field No. D-6 on the Baltic Sea shelf remains the main obstacle to the border agreement. Lithuania protested a 1995 agreement between Russian and German oil companies to exploit the oil field, arguing that the border should have first been settled. -- Saulius Girnius ADMINISTRATION REFORM IN POLAND. Chief of the Government Office Leszek Miller presented to a Sejm Commission on 18 April an amendment to the government's draft law on central administration reform. The amendment establishes a Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration to replace the existing Ministry of Internal Affairs. The State Protection Office (UOP), previously under the ministry's jurisdiction, will be subordinated to the prime minister. The chief of the UOP would be obliged to inform the president and the prime minister about any matter that "has crucial importance for state security," Polish dailies reported on 19 April. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH PARLIAMENT TO MEET BEFORE THE ELECTIONS. Parliament Chairman Milan Uhde announced on 18 April that he has accepted a proposal by the ruling coalition's Civic Democratic Party and Christian Democratic Union to call a parliament session on 23 April, Czech media reported. The Civic Democratic Alliance did not join its two coalition partners--a move revealing deepening fissures within the coalition. Uhde said he has also received a proposal from the opposition Social Democrats and Left Bloc. The chances of the divided parliament approving either proposal--both of which significantly limit the agenda originally proposed for the last session--are slim. On 16 April, the parliament failed to approve an agenda for its last session before the parliamentary election and on 17 April, the leaders of parliamentary caucuses failed to break the deadlock. In a separate development, Mlada Fronta Dnes reported on 19 April that the three coalition parties have reached a gentleman's agreement not to slander one other during the election campaign. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER HOPES CZECHS WILL RATIFY BORDER TREATY SOON. Juraj Schenk on 18 April said he hopes the Czech Republic will ratify "as soon as possible" the treaty amending its borders with Slovakia, CTK reported the same day. The treaty was signed at government level in January and has already been ratified by the Slovak parliament. The Czech parliament was due to discuss it this week at its final scheduled session before general elections are held, but the session was aborted. Even if a rescheduled session takes place, strong opposition to the transfer of the Czech village U Sabotu to Slovakia would likely prevent the treaty being ratified. A commentary in Slovenska republika on 19 April said Czech deputies' attitudes towards the treaty showed their "conceit and haughtiness." -- Steve Kettle RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR SLAMS HUNGARY'S NATO PLANS. Russia's Ambassador to Budapest Ivan Aboimov said if Hungary joined NATO, Russia could be forced to take military measures, Hungarian dailies reported on 18 April. Aboimov added that NATO enlargement would weaken European security and redivide Europe. He said this would, therefore, necessitate Russian countermeasures. Aboimov's statement came on the eve of NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana's two-day visit to Hungary. Meanwhile, in an interview with Magyar Hirlap on 17 April, Solana said Hungary must strive for full NATO membership for the sake of its own security. Solana said NATO will begin intensive dialogues with the candidate countries this month. Solana arrived in Budapest yesterday for talks with top officials. -- Zsofia Szilagyi HUNGARIAN CABINET TO READJUST STABILIZATION MEASURES. The cabinet has decided to reduce customs surcharges by 2% this year and by an additional 2% every three months in 1997, in an effort to meet international commitments, Hungarian media reported on 19 April. Finance Minister Peter Medgyessy wants to eliminate the current 8% customs surcharge by 1 July, 1997. The move is part of a series of inflation- management measures that include reductions in state expenditures, in personal income tax rates and in social insurance payments. Medgyessy hopes to reduce annual inflation from 29% in 1995 to 20% this year, while analysts predict a 22-24% average monthly inflation rate for 1996. The cabinet also envisions a reduction in the current monthly devaluation rate of the Hungarian forint. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN MILITARY DISENGAGEMENT COMING ALONG WELL. NATO spokesmen said on 19 April that all three sides in Bosnia are continuing to demobilize some 150,000 troops and return the rest to peacetime barracks, despite expiration of the 18 April midnight deadline, international media reported. The officials added that any shortcomings were due to the magnitude of the task rather than to bad faith. The deadline is known as D-120 because it marks 120 days following the Dayton peace accords. Heavy weapons as well as soldiers are to be withdrawn to some 600 IFOR- approved sites. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN SHORT TAKES. The Hague tribunal lawyer for Bosnian Serb Gen. Djordje Djukic said that war-crime charges against his client will be dropped on 22 April because of Djukic's advanced pancreatic cancer. The attorney added, however, that he felt the court was really freeing the general because it knew it had no sound evidence against him, Reuters noted on 18 April. Also at The Hague, Croatian Gen. Tihomir Blaskic, who is being kept under some kind of house arrest, will be allowed better housing and more freedom of movement, Vjesnik reported on 19 April. In Sarajevo, the office of the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt told some hard-line officials in Croatian-held Stolac and Capljina and Muslim-controlled Vares and Bugojno that they will get no reconstruction aid. The four towns failed to set up the executive and legislative structures required under the Dayton agreement, Reuters said. -- Patrick Moore VOLKSWAGEN SUSPECTED OF RUMP YUGOSLAV EMBARGO BUSTING. Police raided the headquarters of Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, Germany on 18 April, AFP reported the next day. The Braunschweig Prosecutor-General's Office had ordered the raid to investigate allegations that Volkswagen violated the UN embargo by illegally delivering vehicles to rump Yugoslavia. A Volkswagen spokesman denied the allegations adding that since the embargo went into effect in 1992, "clear instructions" had gone out to all Volkswagen managers and commercial partners not to violate the ban. Volkswagen representatives said the suspected embargo violations may have resulted from the theft of vehicles and parts from a Volkswagen plant in a suburb of Sarajevo. The plant ceased operations in April 1992 and was later destroyed. -- Fabian Schmidt CROATIA CHARGES SERBS WITH TAKING SLAVONIAN OIL. Croatian authorities sent a letter to the UN administrator for eastern Slavonia, Jacques Klein, charging that rebel Serbs are stealing equipment and preparing to wreck the Djeletovci oil pumping station, Vjesnik reported on 19 April. Ivica Vrkic, the Croatian official in charge of reintegrating the last Serb-held part of Croatia, said that destroying the facility could cause major ecological damage. Croatia has frequently accused the Serbs of stealing oil from the Slavonian fields that Serbia seized in 1991. Croatia has shut down the Adriatic oil pipeline in protest of the Serbs' taking oil from Djeletovci and other sites, Nasa Borba added. -- Patrick Moore CROATIAN HITMAN ARRESTED FOR MURDER OF EX-MINISTER. Police in Istria arrested 33-year-old Sinisa Stracabosko for the recent murder of Marcelo Popovic, former Minister of Tourism in Croatia's first non-communist government, Novi list reported on 18 April. Stracabosko was known as "Rambo" when he fought in the Croatian military's Zebra unit in the 1991 war with Serbia. He was dishonorably discharged in 1995 after developing a criminal record. Police said that a local businessman and leader of the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), Sime Medanic, had promised the gunman up to $10,000 for the murder. Popovic had also been a member of the HDZ, but business debts, not politics, appear to be the motive for the killing. -- Patrick Moore GREEK MACEDONIAN UPDATE. Greece and Macedonia made a fresh effort to reach a compromise on the name of the former Yugoslav Republic in UN- sponsored talks, AFP reported on 17 April. Ambassadors from both countries met at the New York office of former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. They agreed to meet again in June, but no other results were reported. Vance is mediating the talks which resulted from a preliminary agreement made last September in which Greece recognized its neighbor as the "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" and dropped its trade embargo against the country. Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis also discussed the dispute with UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros- Ghali in New York last week. -- Fabian Schmidt ROMANIA, HUNGARY NEGOTIATING MILITARY COOPERATION TREATY. The Romanian and the Hungarian Defense Ministries are negotiating a military cooperation treaty which Romanian Chief of Staff General Dumitru Cioflina said may be signed before the conclusion of the bilateral treaty currently under negotiation between the two countries. RFE/RL's Romanian service interviewed Cioflina during his visit to Prague on 16- 18 April. Radio Bucharest reported on 18 April that Hungarian Deputy Defense Minister Tibor Toth will visit Romania between 19-21 April to prepare Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti's visit to Bucharest. In a related matter, Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca and his Ukrainian counterpart, Valerii Shmarov conducted talks in Suceava focusing on NATO enlargement and possible Romanian-Ukrainian cooperation under NATO's Partnership for Peace Program. They also discussed regional and security issues, as well as "possible aspects of future bilateral military cooperation," Radio Bucharest reported. -- Michael Shafir TURKISH PRESIDENT IN ROMANIA. On a one-day visit to Romania, Suleyman Demirel discussed with Romanian President Ion Iliescu international problems and regional cooperation, particularly in the Balkans, Romanian and international agencies reported on 18 April. They also discussed ways of making the Samsun-Constanta ferry more profitable and the feasibility of extending it to the Georgian Black Sea port of Poti. They met in the Black Sea coast town of Neptun. Demirel later inaugurated a Turkish-language school for the Turkish ethnic minority. Reuters cited Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu as saying Romania hoped Turkey will back its bid to join NATO. -- Michael Shafir TIRASPOL BLOCKS RUSSIAN MILITARY EQUIPMENT TRANSFER TO CHISINAU. The Tiraspol authorities have blocked the transfer of Russian military equipment to Chisinau. An agreement on the evacuation of equipment belonging to Russian troops stationed in the Transdniester signed last year between Moscow and Chisinau provided for the transfer. Lt. General Valerii Yevnevich, commander of the Russian troops, said the Transdniester authorities' attitude was "uncivilized." He said Russia wants to fulfill its obligations under the agreement but cannot, due to the breakaway republic's opposition. -- Michael Shafir RUSSIAN MILITARY EXERCISES IN TRANSDNIESTER? BASA-press reported on 18 April that it has learned from "inside sources" from the Russian troop command in the Transdniester that military exercises for a training program for "peacekeeping forces" have been started. The sources provided the information "on condition of anonymity." In an interview with the agency, the Russian troops commander, Lt. Gen.Valerii Yevnevich, denied the information. Chisinau is opposed to the Russian proposal to transform the troops stationed in the breakaway republic into "peacekeeping forces." -- Michael Shafir BULGARIAN PRESIDENT ACCUSES GOVERNMENT OF UNCLEAR SECURITY POLICY. Zhelyu Zhelev accused the socialist government of endangering the country's security by failing to adopt a clear policy on NATO membership, Reuters reported on 18 April. He called the hesitancy "very dangerous for Bulgaria" and pointed out that "all other former socialist countries have declared their readiness to join NATO." Zhelev stressed that "only NATO can provide guarantees for national security." The socialist government is keen to avoid upsetting Moscow, but has joined the Partnership for Peace Program. -- Fabian Schmidt MOLDOVAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS BULGARIA. Moldovan Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli arrived in Sofia on 17 April, international agencies reported. He met with his Bulgarian counterpart Zhan Videnov to discuss bilateral relations and economic cooperation. Later Sangheli met with Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev and Parliament Speaker Blagovest Sendov. Both sides signed agreements on bilateral investment protection, civil aviation, and cooperation in tourism. -- Fabian Schmidt RUSSIA CALLS ON BULGARIA NOT TO RAZE RED ARMY MONUMENT. Russia has protested against the planned demolition of the huge Alyosha monument dedicated to the Red Army in Plovdiv, Reuters reported on 17 April. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the decision of the Plovdiv City Council to raze the statue contravenes a 1992 cooperation accord between the countries. The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry supported Russia's opposition to the city's decision, saying the demolition would "cast doubt on the role of the former Soviet Union in the victory over fascism and insult the memory of those who died in the war". In 1993, the Bulgarian government halted demolition work on another Red Army monument in central Sofia following a similar Russian protest. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Deborah Michaels ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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