|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
No. 87, Part II, 03 May 1996
Newly published OMRI Analytical Briefs: No. 92: "Man Tied to Kidnapping Case of Slovak President's Son Killed in Explosion," by Sharon Fisher No. 93: "Censorship in Belarus," by Ustina Markus No. 94: "Is Rump Yugoslavia Aiming at Its Own Foreign Policy," by Stan Markotich No. 95: "How Free Is the Media in the CIS?," by Laura Belin Available on 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 CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINIAN JUSTICE MINISTER ON CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM. Serhii Holovaty, who also heads the Constitutional Commission, said that according to the current constitutional accord, a national referendum on adopting the constitution can only take place if both the president and the parliament agree to it, Ukrainian radio reported on 30 April. The mechanism for adopting the new constitution has not yet been decided. It will be difficult for any draft constitution to win the necessary two- thirds majority in parliament and it has been proposed that the constitution be passed by a simple majority in parliament and then put to a national referendum. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINE ROTATES IN BOSNIAN PEACEKEEPING FORCES. The rotation of Ukraine's 240th peacekeeping battalion, which is part of the multinational forces in Bosnia, began on 3 May, ITAR-TASS reported. The battalion is under French command because Ukraine could not afford to pay for the unit's upkeep. As a neutral state, Ukraine also decided it was inappropriate to subordinate its forces directly to NATO command. The first 500 Ukrainian servicemen have been flown to Bosnia. -- Ustina Markus JOURNALISTS CRITICIZE CENSORSHIP IN BELARUS. The Belarusian Association of Journalists issued a statement criticizing the intimidation of journalists during the 26 April demonstrations, Ekho Moskvy reported on 2 May. The association said several journalists were beaten and two arrested. A journalist working for Belarusian radio, Uladzimir Dzyuba, is still being held by the police. The statement claims that during the 1 May demonstrations, unidentified security personnel confiscated camera equipment from NTV journalists and workers from the president's security service detained Respublika's photographer, Leanid Kushnera. The association called upon journalists from democratic countries to unite with their Belarusian collegues against dictatorship and violation of human rights. Journalists from Gazeta wyborcza and RFE/RL echoed the association's complaints. -- Ustina Markus HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT VISITS ESTONIA. Arpad Goncz, accompanied by a delegation of businessmen, began a three-day visit to Estonia on 2 May by meeting with President Lennart Meri, ETA reported. He pledged Hungary's full support for Estonia's aspirations to become an EU and NATO member. In talks with Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, Goncz called for increased contact between the two countries' parliaments and between their Interior and Environment Ministries. Vahi and Goncz said it is necessary to adopt agreements on mutual investment protection and free- trade, which may be signed before the end of the year. -- Saulius Girnius PRIVATIZATION OF LATVIA'S VENTSPILS NAFTA. During a recent visit to Moscow, Eriks Kaza, state minister of Industry, Property, and Privatization, held talks with Russian Energy and Fuel Minister Yurii Shafrannikh, BNS reported on 2 May. They signed an intention protocol stating that Russia wants at least 30% of the capital when the Ventspils Nafta (VN) terminal is privatized. Shafrannikh noted that Russia has started building a new oil terminal at Primorsk which would be a competitor of VN. He said that if Russia were to get the 30% share of VN, it would guarantee that oil shipments through Ventspils would not be decreased. Kaza said that more decisive talks with Russia on VN can be held after the Russian presidential elections. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH ANTI-SMOKING LAW TAKES EFFECT. A law limiting smoking to designated areas in the workplace, public buildings, hospitals, schools, and sports centers took effect on 1 May in Poland, international media reported the same day. The law also bans tobacco advertising in the broadcast media, cinemas, and youth and children's publications. It stipulates that 20% of the space in tobacco ads must consist of health warnings. Cigarette packets will have to carry at least two health warnings covering 30% of their surface. Parliament rejected a proposal to ban all cigarette ads, fearing it would harm independent publications and plans to privatize Poland's large state-owned tobacco industry. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz TRUST IN CZECH GOVERNMENT, PARLIAMENT DROPS. An opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research and published in Mlada fronta Dnes on 3 May indicates that only 48% of Czechs trusted their government in April, a drop from 55% in March. The same poll shows that only 24% of the respondents trusted the parliament, while in March the figure stood at 31%. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS CAR EXPLOSION "POLITICAL MURDER." Frantisek Miklosko, deputy chairman of the Christian Democratic Movement, on 2 May alleged that the death of Robert Remias in a car explosion three days earlier (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 May 1996) was "the first political murder since November 1989." Miklosko pointed out that Remias was "thoroughly acquainted with all the circumstances surrounding the participation of [former Slovak Information Service agent] Oskar F. in the kidnapping of Michal Kovac Jr." Interior Ministry spokesman Peter Ondera called Miklosko's statement "ill-considered and shocking," noting that the investigation into the explosion has not revealed any evidence of murder. In other news, the Constitutional Court on 2 May rejected an amendment to the referendum law that would have curtailed presidential powers. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER LISTED AS ONE OF 10 "WORST ENEMIES OF THE PRESS." The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) on 2 May presented its list of the 10 "worst enemies of the press," which includes Vladimir Meciar, along with top officials from Tajikistan, Turkey, China, Cuba, and other countries, RFE/RL reported. The CPJ stressed that there were "renewed attempts by the ruling coalition to limit freedom of expression in Slovakia in 1995," noting in particular the situation at state radio and TV. The Slovak government office has protested Meciar's inclusion on the list, saying that "since 1989 no case of persecution, imprisonment, or violent death of a journalist because of his journalistic activities has been recorded in Slovakia." Meciar's party--the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS)--responded to the criticism by blaming "the current opposition, headed by President Michal Kovac," Narodna obroda reported. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN ECONOMIC GROWTH EXPECTED TO SLOW. Analysts at the Postabank and the economics research firm GKI Gazdasagkutato Rt. have published their forecasts projecting that economic growth will fall to just 1% this year, down from 1.5% in 1995, Hungarian media reported on 2 May. Meanwhile, unemployment is expected to rise from 496,000 individuals in 1995 to 520,000 in 1996. Inflation will fall to 24-25%, slightly lower than last year's 28.2% rate. The inflow of foreign capital in 1996 is projected to total $2-2.5 billion, down from $4.5 billion last year. The current account deficit is to decrease to $2 billion, compared with $2.5 billion in 1995. The foreign trade deficit should also fall, from $2.6 billion in 1995 to $2-2.3 billion this year. Exports are expected to increase by 9-10%. -- Sharon Fisher SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT-IFOR RELATIONS WORSEN. The local branch of the Bosnian federal police in Trnovo near Sarajevo said the presence of IFOR and the International Police Task Force (IPTF) in the area is "not desired" and that their security cannot be guaranteed, Onasa reported on 2 May. The statement followed recent incidents in which Serbs prevented Muslims from visiting their homes and gravesites during the holiday Kurban Bajram. Two people died in the clashes. A federal police commander said "Serbs will not be allowed freedom of movement," adding that his officers will block the roads linking Trnovo with Lukavica and Dobrinja and cut off all telephone wires in the area. His forces have already set up a checkpoint in Trnovo. IPTF commissioner Peter Fitzgerald will meet with federal Interior Minister Avdo Hebib to discuss these developments. -- Fabian Schmidt BOSNIAN SERBS RELEASE FOUR BOSNIAN CROATS. Bosnian Serbs on 2 May released four Bosnian Croats who had been held as suspected war criminals. The release followed a statement by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia that it will not try the men. The men said they were not harassed during their detention. The Dayton agreement demanded that all prisoners of war be released by 19 January. According to the UN, however, the Bosnian Serbs are still holding seven war crimes suspects and the Bosnian government five. -- Fabian Schmidt TWO MUSLIM WAR CRIME SUSPECTS ARRESTED. The Bosnian authorities have arrested two Muslims wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, AFP reported on 2 May. It is the first international arrest warrant that has been honored by any of the Bosnian parties. The 31-year-old Hazim Delic is suspected of killing at least 14 people, torture, rape, and beatings. The 23-year-old Esad Landzo is wanted for murder and torture. Both allegedly committed the crimes at the Celebici detention center near Konjic in central Bosnia in 1992. Another Muslim, the 48-year-old Zejnil Delalic, who was arrested by the German authorities on 18 March, is to be handed over to the Tribunal soon. -- Fabian Schmidt CROATIAN INDEPENDENT PAPER SHUT DOWN. Croatian state financial police on 1 May closed down the independent Croatian newspaper Panorama for allegedly violating national environmental and property legislation. The paper's deputy editor, Andrej Rora, has publicly speculated that the government's move was in response to statements the paper published criticizing Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. Rora said Panaroma hopes to resume publishing. Reuters meanwhile reported on 2 May that in recent weeks Zagreb authorities have clamped down on independent media. Authorities fined the daily Novi list in April some $2.5 million for alleged unlawful use of equipment imported from Italy. -- Stan Markotich ZAGREB MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT DISSOLVED . . . Croatia's government dissolved Zagreb's democratically elected municipal council on 30 April, following Croatia's Constitutional Court's decision that a budget submitted by the opposition-dominated local authority was illegal. A coalition of opposition parties held a majority of 30-20 seats in the capital following October 1995 elections. Hina reported that the Croatian government has appointed a commissioner to run city affairs for the 60 days prior to new local elections. Representatives from the opposition parties said that the dissolution was not entirely unexpected and that "this [dissolution] is in fact the culmination of Zagreb's undemocratic policies." -- Stan Markotich . . . AND CROATIAN PRESIDENT CRITICAL OF OPPOSITION. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman criticized Zagreb's dismissed opposition municipal authorities, saying they were unrepresentative, harmful politically for Croatia, and disrespectful of Croatia's constitution. On 2 May, AFP quoted Tudjman as saying "the rise of Nazism in Germany was made possible by lack of firmness in the democracy. We must therefore stop people who don't represent the majority from coming to power." Tudjman made his remarks in the town of Okucani, some 120 kilometers east of Zagreb, on the first anniversary of Croatia's retaking of Western Slavonia from rebel Serbs. -- Stan Markotich BOSNIAN SERB PREMIER SIDES WITH SERBIAN PRESIDENT. Rajko Kasagic openly sided with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in a move signaling an ever growing rift between the premier and the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. In a 2 May interview with Le Monde, Kasagic said "I feel close to Milosevic; he is a realist." Kasagic, who has in the past sided with Milosevic, is regarded by some observers as a possible successor to Karadzic. -- Stan Markotich UN HUMAN RIGHTS ENVOY VISITS KOSOVO. Elisabeth Rehn, after a meeting with shadow state President Ibrahim Rugova, said she was "very concerned" about the situation in Kosovo and called for negotiations with Belgrade under international mediation, AFP reported on 2 May. Rugova declined comment after the meeting. Rehn also visited Velika Reka, where a child was killed in a bomb explosion last week, and met with the head of the Human Rights Council, Adem Demaci. Rehn will later visit the Muslim majority region of Sandzak between Serbia and Montenegro. Elsewhere, Reuters reported that the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt warned that "peace in Bosnia depends on the stability of the whole region and the political leadership in Belgrade; Kosovo and Tirana must seek a political solution and prevent a major crisis." -- Fabian Schmidt GROUP CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR KOSOVO VIOLENCE. An organization calling itself the Kosovo Liberation Army claimed responsibility for recent shootings in which five Serbs were killed last week, AFP reported. The group had sent a letter to the Albanian-language service of the BBC warning that as long as there is "support for the Serb aggressor and disrespect for the requests of the oppressed Albanian people" the armed conflict in Kosovo and the Balkans will continue. The message added that "the armed conflict in Kosovo is a war of liberation...[not] terrorism, interethnic, or religious confrontation." The group made itself known for the first time in February when it claimed responsibility for attacks on Serbian refugees' homes. The Kosovar shadow state government has condemned the attacks. -- Fabian Schmidt CRIME MARS ROMANIAN ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN. Opposition leaders on 2 May accused the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) of encouraging crime before the local elections scheduled for 2 June, Radio Bucharest reported. Emil Constantinescu, chairman of the Democratic Convention of Romania, and Mircea Ionescu-Quintus, leader of the National Liberal Party, told journalists that burglars broke into their parties' offices in the town of Botosani and stole documents. Constantinescu said that the incidents were aimed at creating confusion to facilitate election-rigging. Last week, local rowdies in the town of Sascut stoned the car of Petre Roman, former premier and current head of the Democratic Party. Roman's party accused a local PDSR leader of leading the mob. Ionescu-Quintus said the incidents have overshadowed NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana's visit to Bucharest that started on 3 May. -- Dan Ionescu POLL ON SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ISSUES IN MOLDOVA. Some 70% of respondents in a recent poll described the political and social situation in their country as "bad" and "very bad," Moldovan news agencies reported on 30 April. The results also showed that 82% of those questioned were dissatisfied with the level of democracy in Moldova, 67% with the activity of the parliament, 61% with the cabinet's performance, and 49% with the presidential office. According to 25% of those polled, the old, communist system lives on in Moldova under new names. The poll was conducted by the independent Opinia agency jointly with the Chisinau branch of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. -- Dan Ionescu NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN SOFIA. Javier Solana on 2 May arrived in Bulgaria on a two-day visit, Reuters and Pari reported. Solana met with President Zhelyu Zhelev, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, and Defense Minister Dimitar Pavlov. Solana said Bulgaria contributed positively to NATO's Partnership for Peace program, but he agreed with Zhelev that "it is clear there is no consensus [in Bulgaria] about [NATO] membership." Zhelev said membership would make Bulgaria's transition to democracy irreversible and that Bulgaria's "special contribution" to NATO would be its strategic location in the Balkans. Videnov said that the government will state on 6 May its position on membership. The Union of Democratic Forces handed a memorandum to Solana, reaffirming its pro-NATO position and asking for consultations between NATO and the Bulgarian opposition. -- Stefan Krause RFE/RL JOURNALIST BEATEN UP AT BULGARIAN MAY DAY RALLY. Kurdish demonstrators at the central May Day rally of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) beat up Georgi Koritarov of RFE/RL's Sofia office. He is suffering a concussion, after being attacked while trying to interview the Kurds, who shouted at him "you have to die" and "the police sent you," 24 chasa reported on 2 May. One Kurd claimed Koritarov had provoked them. Another Kurd said the BSP had invited them to the rally, which BSP spokeswoman Klara Marinova denied, Standart reported. A police statement blamed the incident on an "independently organized group of foreign students." RFE/RL has come under fire from the BSP because of the station's critical position on the Socialist government and its license may be endangered after a recent government decision to review all private licenses (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 April 1996). -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN ROUNDUP. National Police Director Ivan Dimov on 2 May announced that the crime rate in the first quarter of 1996 was 21% lower than during the same period last year, Bulgarian media and Reuters reported. This marked the first drop in the crime rate since 1990. Dimov said that economic crime rose by 16% compared to last year, but 40% of all crimes were solved as opposed to 8% last year. Meanwhile, Trud on 3 May reported that the British Foreign Office issued a travel advisory warning tourists of incidents involving theft and violence against foreigners. In other news, the Bulgarian lev continues its free fall against the U.S. dollar. On 3 May, the Bulgarian National Bank fixing was 95.323 leva to the U.S. dollar, compared to 87.978 lev one week earlier. But Duma reported that the U.S. currency was selling the previous day for 115-120 leva in exchange offices. -- Stefan Krause [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Deborah Michaels ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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