Life, within doors, has few pleasanter prospects than a neatly arranged and well-provisioned breakfast-table. - Nathaniel Hawthorne
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

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

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