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No. 90, Part II, 09 May 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 CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTIONAL UPDATE. Corrections to the text of Ukraine's draft constitution were almost completed by the end of last week, Ukrainian Radio reported on 6 May. Mykhailo Syrota, leader of the "Center" caucus, said 11 parliamentary groups took part in editing the draft, which is now 80-85% finished. The Communists, however, refused to take part in the process. Meanwhile, the dispute over whether to have a bicameral or unicameral parliament has been resolved. The majority of deputies prefer a single-chamber parliament, but President Leonid Kuchma supports a bicameral one. Ukrainian TV on 7 May reported that Kuchma has agreed to a unicameral parliament for a five-year interim period, after which it will become bicameral. -- Ustina Markus INFLATION IN UKRAINE. The Ukrainian Ministry of Statistics has announced that inflation in April was 2.4%, Ukrainian Radio reported on 7 May. This is the lowest rate of inflation Ukraine has had in recent years and is lower than government predictions. At the same time, real incomes in the first quarter of the year decreased by 19%. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ADVOCATES STATE-RUN ECONOMY. Alyaksandr Lukashenka told war veterans on 8 May--Victory Day in Belarus--that the state will be in complete control of the country's economy and that banks will soon be back under government control, Reuters reported on 8 May. Lukashenka plans to increase state control over the six largest banks in Belarus, but he dismissed Western concerns that the plan amounts to nationalization. Last year, the IMF halted the disbursement of a $300 million standby credit to Belarus because of the lack of market reforms in the country. Less than 10% of enterprises are privately owned in Belarus. In a statement that will not help loosen the IMF's purse strings, Lukashenka told war veterans they will be compensated for savings wiped out by post-Soviet inflation. -- Ustina Markus UPDATE ON BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TRIALS. Deputy leader of the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) Yuriy Khadyka on 7 May was formally charged with organizing and participating in an illegal rally, an RFE/RL correspondent and Western agencies reported. When Khadyka began a hunger strike following his arrest, his lawyer appealed to the court to have him released on bail on grounds of his age (Khadyka is in his late 50s). The appeal was rejected. Another arrested BPF leader, Vyacheslau Sivchik, is also on a hunger strike but has not yet been charged. Belapan on 6 May reported that the Justice Ministry has sent a warning letter to the BPF, which is seen as part of a campaign to ban the organization. -- Ustina Markus RUSSIA, ESTONIA EXPEL DIPLOMATS. Estonian Ambassador in Moscow Mart Helm was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on 8 May to be informed that embassy official Argo Kuunemae was being expelled for "activities incompatible with his office." Western agencies reported. The Estonian Foreign Ministry later revealed that two weeks earlier Russia had agreed to meet Estonian demands that Russian diplomat Sergei Andreev, who had allegedly been spying for six months, leave Estonia without publicity. The ministry added that for this reason, it was surprised that Russia had retaliated publicly. Meanwhile, President Lennart Meri sent back to the parliament the law on local elections, saying it contravenes the Estonian Constitution and the UN convention on civil rights. The law requires local government candidates who did not graduate from an Estonian-language high school to pass exams in written and spoken Estonian. Russian organizations and parties have protested the law, arguing that it will prevent many Russian candidates from running. -- Saulius Girnius UNITY PARTY LEAVES LATVIAN RULING COALITION. Edgars Bens, head of the Latvian Unity Party (LVP) caucus, said on 7 May that his party is quitting the ruling coalition, BNS reported. The move was prompted by Prime Minister Andris Skele's dismissal the previous day of LVP Chairman Alberts Kauls as agriculture minister. The coalition's majority in the parliament is not endangered since the LVP had only seven deputies. Meanwhile, Kauls predicted that the government will have to resign within two months since it is unable to tackle nationally important problems. Ziedonis Cevers, who heads Saimnieks, the coalition's largest party, complained that Skele fired Kauls without discussing the issue with other coalition members. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT IN LATVIA. Algirdas Brazauskas, during his visit to Latvia on 6-7 May, issued a communique with President Guntis Ulmanis saying they will "continue concerted efforts to achieve the common strategic goal of their foreign and security policy--full NATO membership," Reuters reported. The two leaders discussed the controversy over their joint sea border and expressed the hope that it will be settled during the next round of talks, scheduled to take place in Vilnius on 19-20 May. Ulmanis noted that signing a free trade agricultural agreement would help create a unified Baltic economic zone more likely to attract foreign investment. Brazauskas also invited his Baltic counterparts to meet in Vilnius on 28 May to discuss common efforts to join the EU. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH GOVERNMENT TO LOWER TAXES NEXT YEAR. The Polish government has announced it will lower income taxes next year in an effort to maintain high economic growth and low inflation. The plan, which must be approved by the parliament, foresees cutting income taxes currently ranging from 21-45% to 20-43%, Rzeczpospolita reported on 8 May. The government also plans to reduce corporate taxes by 2% and to abolish or reduce some tax breaks. For example, Poles will no longer be able to deduct donations to private individuals or expenses for vocational training. Tax exemptions for those investing in private companies or buying government bonds will also be lifted. The tax cuts are part of the government's four-year economic plan aimed at bringing Poland's economy into line for future membership in the European Union. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz POLISH PARLIAMENT MAY ENDORSE CONCORDAT. Sejm speaker Jozef Zych on 7 May said deputies may ratify the concordat signed three years ago by the former Solidarity government and the Holy See. The document has not yet been ratified because of opposition from within the parliament. Zych, following a meeting with President Aleksander Kwasniewski, said the lower chamber will debate the concordat in June and may ratify it sometime next year, before adopting the new constitution, Rzeczpospolita reported on 8 May. Among other things, the concordat regulates Church finances and confirms the Church's right to run its own schools, newspapers, and broadcasting outlets. Many Poles, including leftist parliamentary deputies, believe the document gives the Church too much influence over public life. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz SLOVAK PREMIER BACKS DOWN ON ANTI-SUBVERSION LAW. Vladimir Meciar on 8 May said the law on the protection of the republic will not be debated again by the Slovak parliament at its May session, Pravda and Reuters reported. Meciar told foreign journalists that "a wider democratic discussion" is needed to ensure that the law complies with international human rights conventions. The law has been widely criticized by the Slovak opposition and from abroad as a quasi-totalitarian means of stifling dissent. It was passed by the parliament in March, but President Michal Kovac returned it to the parliament. Meciar also denied that Slovakia was lagging behind other post-communist countries in creating democratic structures, saying that any rapid enlargement of NATO without Russia's prior agreement could lead to the creation of a "Russian-Chinese-Arab grouping." Meciar also strongly criticized the Czech Republic for its refusal to cooperate more closely with Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary in preparing for admission to the EU and NATO. -- Steve Kettle HUNGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER TO VETO PREMIER'S PROPOSAL FOR INVESTIGATIVE OFFICE? Gabor Kuncze has been authorized by the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), the junior coalition party to which he belongs, to exercise his veto power if the cabinet decides to establish a central investigative office, Hungarian media reported on 8 May. Prime Minister Gyula Horn has long been promoting the idea of establishing such an office to curb large-scale white-collar crime. However, he continues to be at odds with his coalition partner over the issue. Magyar Hirlap reported that the SZDSZ will only accept a solution whereby ad hoc coordination groups are established at the initiative of the police to investigate the most serious economic crimes. The Socialist Party is divided over Horn's proposal but Socialist ministers are expected to back the premier. According to recent polls, 62% of Hungarians consider a permanent investigative office unnecessary. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CROATIA DENIES REPORT OF SECRET MEETING. The Croatian Embassy on 7 May denied Bosnian media reports about alleged secret talks between Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, Onasa stated. According to a story run by the biweekly magazine Slobodna Bosna, Karadzic had been smuggled into western Herzegovina in a car with license plates issued by the Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna. The embassy said the reports are part of a local smear campaign against Croatia's policy toward Bosnia and that the authors' ultimate goal is to destroy the Croatian-Muslim federation. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN ROUNDUP. Bosnian government forces freed two Serbs following a ruling by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that there is no reason to hold them on suspicion of war crimes. The Serbs consequently released three Muslims they had been holding, AFP reported on 8 May. Elsewhere, IFOR commander U.S. Adm. Leighton Smith said that the Serbian people "as a whole basically carries the blame for the atrocities that occurred in this war. What the Serb population needs to do is to bring the people to justice who were the cause of the atrocities, so that the blame is shifted from the Serb population to the individuals who were responsible." IFOR has been criticized for its reluctance to hunt down war criminals. -- Patrick Moore LATEST KILLINGS IN BOSNIA. Following the killing of a Russian IFOR soldier in Bosnia on 6 May, another IFOR soldier has been found dead from a gun shot wound in the head at Visegrad, eastern Bosnia, AFP and Nasa Borba reported on 8 May. IFOR said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the soldier's death. According to AFP, IFOR has sustained 23 fatalities and some 140 injured soldiers in Bosnia to date. Meanwhile, Nasa Borba reported that the Serbian police and the International Police Task Force on 6 May found the bodies of four Serbian civilians who were allegedly kidnapped and then killed by an unknown Muslim terrorist group near Milici, eastern Bosnia. -- Daria Sito Sucic UN URGES BELGRADE TO ACT AGAINST WAR CRIMINALS. The UN Security Council on 8 May urged Belgrade to arrest three men charged with the 1991 killing of at least 260 civilians in the Croatian city of Vukovar. The accused were named last month in a letter from The Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. The council has also issued a statement saying it "deplores the failure to date of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to execute the arrest warrants issued by the Tribunal against the three individuals." Meanwhile, Onasa on 8 May reported that Dusan Tadic, the first war crimes suspect to be on trial at The Hague, has sent a letter to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic pleading for help. -- Stan Markotich SERBIAN PRESIDENT URGED TO COMPLY WITH DAYTON ACCORD. Reuters on 7 May quoted High Representative for Bosnia Carl Bildt as saying he has "stressed to President Milosevic that he has a responsibility...in a number of ways. He has an obligation under the peace agreement and we talked about that." Bildt said that during his recent trip to Belgrade, he discussed a number of issues with the Serbian president, including the war crimes tribunal at The Hague. He declined to give details, however. -- Stan Markotich U.S. APPOINTS TEMPORARY DIPLOMAT TO KOSOVO. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher has assigned a U.S. diplomat to Kosovo on a temporary basis as a first step toward opening a U.S. Information Agency office in Pristina. According to the State Department, administrative problems had delayed the appointment of such an official. Meanwhile, Christopher discussed the Kosovo conflict with his Albanian counterpart, Alfred Serreqi, on 8 May, AFP reported. -- Fabian Schmidt CROATIAN WEEKLY WARNS OF "TOTALITARIANISM." In the ongoing battle between the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) and the independent media, the editor of the satirical weekly Feral Tribune, Viktor Ivancic, has been charged with defaming Tudjman under a new press law. Critics charge that the law is part of a package to muzzle press freedom by enabling top officials to sue if they feel "insulted." Tudjman said he was offended by materials in the 29 April issue of the Split-based weekly that satirized his recent speech on national reconciliation and the Jasenovac war memorial. The paper often tests the limits of good taste, but the authorities' latest moves against Ivancic are part of a long-standing conflict between the HDZ and the few remaining independent periodicals. Feral Tribune announced in response that "totalitarian methods" are being used against Ivancic in "the beginning of a final settling of accounts between President Tudjman and all those who don't think like him," AFP reported on 8 May. -- Patrick Moore SLOVENIA, U.S. SHORE UP DEFENSE TIES. Slovenian Premier Janez Drnovsek and U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry on 8 May signed an accord on closer defense cooperation. The agreement includes commitments to exchange classified military information, Reuters reported . Drnovsek also met with Vice President Al Gore during his trip to the U.S. -- Stan Markotich COMMUNIST NOSTALGICS PLACE CROSS ON CEAUSESCU'S GRAVE. The Romanian Workers' Party (PMR), an extraparliamentary group composed of "communist nostalgics," have erected a cross on the presumed grave of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in a Bucharest cemetery, Evenimentul zilei reported on 8 May. The day marked the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Romanian Communist Party. Although Ceausescu himself was an atheist, his grave is now marked by a cross inscribed with his name and dates of birth and death. The PMR also placed a cross on the grave of Ceausescu's predecessor, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, whose body was moved from a pantheon to a regular cemetery. -- Michael Shafir MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS CABINET RESHUFFLE. The Moldovan parliament on 8 May rejected President Mircea Snegur's proposal to reshuffle the cabinet but urged the premier to consider whether some government officials are suitable to hold office, Moldovan and international agencies reported. The parliament said that the government is failing to carry out its program on social security reform. It also ordered the cabinet to come up with a plan over the next two weeks to deal with wage arrears. Two days earlier, Snegur said on Moldovan TV that "many government members are simply unable to carry out their constitutional obligations." He called upon the parliamentary majority to cooperate with the president's office in reshuffling the cabinet, and he threatened to call a national referendum if deputies rejected his request. -- Matyas Szabo MOLDOVA, RUSSIA TO SET UP JOINT COMMISSION ON TROOP WITHDRAWAL. Moldovan and Russian officials, meeting in Chisinau on 8 May, agreed to establish a joint commission on procedures and deadlines for withdrawing Russian troops from eastern Moldova, international agencies reported, quoting ITAR-TASS. The decision came at the end of a two-day talks on the Russian troop withdrawal from Moldova's breakaway Dniester region. The next round of talks has been scheduled for the fall in Moscow, Infotag reported on 8 May. -- Matyas Szabo BULGARIAN LEV PLUNGES AS IMF MISSION ARRIVES. IMF Bulgaria mission chief Ann McGirk arrived in Sofia on 8 May, just as the lev "decided to demonstrate the desperate situation throughout the whole country" by dropping significantly against the U.S. dollar, Pari reported the next day. On the interbank market, the Bulgarian currency fell by another 30 leva, reaching 136.5 to $1 at one bank. The Bulgarian National Bank acknowledges it is powerless to arrest the decline because of its tiny foreign reserves ($670 million on 30 April) and massive imminent foreign debt payments. On 9 May, it was offering an exchange rate of 112.84 lev to $1. Dealers have observed that a reassuring announcement--either from the IMF on a new credit or from the BNB on a policy change--is needed to calm the market. -- Michael Wyzan ALBANIA MOURNS BOAT VICTIMS. Albanian President Sali Berisha announced a day of mourning on 9 May following a boat accident in which 13 teenagers and one adult drowned, AFP reported. The boat capsized on Lake Prespa, near the border with Greece and Macedonia, two days earlier. Police suspect that the boat was overloaded. The youths, aged 17-18, came from Starova and Pogradec and had planned to visit a church on Maligradi Island. The boat was only some 100 meters from the shore when it sank, but most of the youths could not swim. Four survived the accident. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU 2) To subscribe, write: SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L FirstName LastName (include your own name) To unsubscribe, write: UNSUBSCRIBE OMRI-L 3) Send the message REPRINT POLICY To receive a copy of OMRI's reprint policy, contact OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ or see the Web page at http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html OTHER OMRI PUBLICATIONS TRANSITION OMRI publishes the biweekly journal TRANSITION, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. 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