|Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. - Thomas Carlyle|
No. 96, Part II, 17 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 GOVERNMENT UPS SUBSIDIES TO COAL INDUSTRY. The Ukrainian government passed a resolution increasing state support for the ailing coal sector, UNIAN reported on 13 May. The resolution calls for a revision of the state budget, raising subsidies for loss-making mines to 35 trillion karbovantsi ($189 million). The move was apparently made to head off a threatened miners' strike over unpaid wages. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian parliament has amended a law on the privatization of small- and medium-scale state enterprises aiming to encourage the privatization of food-processing plants, construction firms, some transportation industries, retail trade outlets, local utilities, and municipal services, UNIAN reported on 15 May. Lawmakers voted to continue allowing local authorities to sell off property that falls under their jurisdiction. -- Chrystyna Lapychak BELARUSIAN HUNGER STRIKER HOSPITALIZED. Belarusian Popular Front (BPL) leader Vyacheslau Svichyk, who was imprisoned for allegedly organizing a demonstration on 26 April in Minsk against the pro-Russian policies of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, was hospitalized on 15 May after losing consciousness and suffering from kidney failure, Reuters reported. Svichhyk, 34, and his BPL colleague Yuriy Khadyka, 57, had been on a hunger strike since two days after their arrests. About a fourth of the members of the Belarusian parliament have signed a petition for their release, as did 5,000 protesters in Minsk on 14 May. -- Saulius Girnius ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS LOCAL ELECTIONS LAW. The Estonian parliament on 16 May voted unanimously to approve amendments to the local elections law as requested by President Lennart Meri, ETA reported. Meri on 7 May refused to sign the law because it required graduates of non-Estonian language schools wishing to be political candidates to pass oral and written Estonian language examinations, which he said contradicted the Estonian Constitution. The amended law still requires candidates to sign a statement asserting their proficiency in Estonian but does not require proof beforehand. Members of the Russian caucus abstained in the vote, saying the language requirement should be abolished completely. -- Saulius Girnius RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT WOUNDED IN LITHUANIAN SHOOTING. Vladimir Pozdorovkin, First Secretary of the Russian Embassy in Vilnius, was shot in the left hip on 15 May by a 24-year old man who spoke unaccented Russian and was attempting to steal the embassy's Volvo-940 car, BNS reported. The Russian Foreign Ministry sent a protest note to its Lithuanian counterpart asking for an investigation into the attack and assurance of the embassy personnel's safety. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin described the incident as an attempted car theft, refuting an ITAR-TASS report that described it as an assassination attempt. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH OPPOSITION SPURNS PRESIDENT'S COUNCIL. Polish opposition parties on 16 May criticized Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski's project to form a cross-party National Security Council, Polish and international media reported. Kwasniewski wanted opposition leaders to join the body as a sign of broad national consensus on foreign policy matters, including rapid entry into NATO and the EU. The cross-party council would also help Kwasniewski's efforts to present himself as a president of all Poles, not tied just to the ruling Democratic-Left Alliance. A leader of the Freedom Union, Janusz Onyszkiewicz, said that the council would not work in the form the president proposed. Poland's 1992 interim constitution called for a security council that would advise the president on steering internal and external security policy. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz WALESA TO TOUR BRITAIN, U.S. Former Polish President Lech Walesa began a 15-day speaking tour of Britain and the U.S. on 16 May during which he will press for rapid decisions on NATO and EU membership for Poland and other Eastern European countries, Polish and international media reported. Walesa has speaking engagements in Leeds and at the Cambridge Union. He is due to meet with members of the Polish community in London before leaving for the U.S. where on 3 June he will meet with U.S. President Bill Clinton at the White House. He is also scheduled to inaugurate the Lech Walesa Latin American University in Miami and visit former U.S. President George Bush at his home in Maine. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz HUNGARY'S SUPREME COURT PASSES FIRST SENTENCE FOR RACIAL CRIME. Marking Hungary's first racial crime verdict, the Supreme Court has convicted a self-described Nazi for stabbing another man while using anti-Semitic language, domestic and international media reported on 16 May. The Hungarian man was sentenced to two years in prison for the 1994 incident that took place on the 15 March commemoration of Hungary's 1848 revolution. Radical right-wing groups have in recent years used national holidays for extremist demonstrations. Under the newly tightened legislation, racist crimes and inciting racial hatred can be punished with up to three-years imprisonment. Previously, the courts applied other provisions of the penal code, such as disturbing peace or grievous bodily harm, claiming racial crime verdicts implied restrictions on free speech. -- Zsofia Szilagyi NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN HUNGARY'S JET FIGHTER DEAL. The Israel Aircraft Industries on 16 May announced it could bring Hungary's MiG fighter jets up to NATO standards for $130-$150 million, less than a tenth the price of buying new aircraft, Reuters reported. Israel hopes this offer will win out over the Swedish and American competing proposals to sell Hungary Western-made planes (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 May 1996). The Israeli proposal to rebuild 28 of Hungary's aging MiG 21s would permit Hungary, which faces severe financial difficulties, to delay purchasing new fighters while still bringing the MiGs up to NATO standards. Israeli officials said the price for upgrading the MiGs was about 9% that of buying Swedish-made Gripens and just under 14% of the cost of upgrading American Lockheed F-16s, considered the main contenders for Hungary's jet fighter deal. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SLOVENIAN GOVERNMENT COALITION BREAKS UP. Slovenian Premier Janez Drnovsek on 16 May broke up the coalition alliance between his Liberal Democratic Party (LDS), which holds 30 seats in the 90-seat parliament, and the Christian Democratic Party (SKD), which has 15 seats, Radio Slovenija reported. This move followed a no-confidence vote in Foreign Minster and LDS member Zoran Thaler. The vote, supported by the SKD, was split 48-26, with Thaler tendering his resignation in the wake of the result. Thaler had come under increasing criticism in recent months, with Christian Democrats questioning his general level of competence and claiming he failed to improve ties with Italy and to bring Slovenia closer to EU membership. However, Drnovsek said on 17 May he will try to maintain the working relationship with the SKD. -- Stan Markotich INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY SUPPORTS SACKED BOSNIAN SERB PREMIER. The international community has strongly criticized the 15 May dismissal of moderate Bosnian Serb Premier Rajko Kasagic by Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana met on 16 May with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic urging him to see to it that Kasagic remain Prime Minister, Nasa Borba reported on 17 May. Meanwhile, Milosevic told U.S. government officials he would ignore the dismissal, Reuters reported on 16 May. Both Serbian and rump Yugoslav governments condemned the dismissal, calling it "illegal, null and void." High Representative for Bosnia Carl Bildt and Kasagic himself issued on 16 May a joint statement saying they will continue to work together to break the forces of isolationism that threaten implementation of the peace agreement. Kasagic said that Karadzic was not a "legitimate leader" of Bosnian Serbs because "he had not been elected by people as called for in the constitution but by a self-proclaimed parliament." -- Daria Sito Sucic and Stan Markotich PRESSURE TO CATCH KARADZIC GROWS. At the conclusion of meetings in Washington D.C. to shore up the shaky Croat-Muslim federation, federal Vice President Ejup Ganic again demanded that IFOR capture indicted Bosnian Serb war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic, while the U.S. maintained that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is responsible for arresting and handing them over to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, AFP reported on 17 May. Diplomats in Sarajevo are nonetheless considering pursuing Karadzic given his role in the current Bosnian Serb power struggle and the growing feeling that there will be no free elections while he remains free. Meanwhile in The Hague, the indicted Bosnian Serb Goran Lajic told the court that he is not guilty and that the case against him is one of mistaken identity. -- Patrick Moore FIRST CROATIAN JOURNALISTS TO APPEAR IN COURT FOR NEW PRESS LAW VIOLATION. Viktor Ivancic and Marinko Culic, two editors from the independent Croatian satirical weekly Feral Tribune, will be the first journalists tried under a new press law that forbids journalists to "offend" leading officials, Novi List reported on 17 May. The Prosecutor-General's Office on 16 May sent the journalists a court summons. They are accused of making Croatian President Franjo Tudjman "an object of libel and slander." Many international media organizations, political forums, and the Croatian opposition parties have condemned the law, which in the case of these journalists stipulates a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment for libel and up to six months for slander, Novi list reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROATIA'S FUTURE WITH THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE UNCLEAR. The Croatian Foreign Ministry issued a statement that "the Republic of Croatia confirms its commitment to the process of democratic development, thereby respecting the Council of Europe's criteria and norms," Reuters reported on 16 May. This is the first official comment on the Council's 14 May decision to block Croatia's admission, over which the Croatian statement also "expressed regret." The Council's move is widely viewed in Croatia as an attempt to hold the country to higher standards than those required of some member states like Russia, Romania, or Albania (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 May 1996). Those who hold this opinion say Croatia is being "punished" by Britain, France, and their allies for regarding the U.S., and not the EU, as its main partner. An editorial in the pro-government daily Vjesnik on 17 May said that Croatia wants eventual "entrance into Europe" but that its chief interest now is in close ties with the U.S. In Washington D.C., Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic said that Croatia will "fulfill all its obligations [toward the council] in the required time." He went on, however, to deny charges made by that body that the Croatian government controls the media, has violated democratic principles regarding the Zagreb city government, and shelters indicted war criminals. -- Patrick Moore SERBIAN PRESIDENT MEETS GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER. Slobodan Milosevic met Klaus Kinkel on 16 May to discuss bilateral relations and Belgrade's commitment to the Dayton peace process, particularly Belgrade's willingness to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Tanjug reported. Kinkel also met with his Belgrade counterpart, Milan Milutinovic, who raised the issue of the Serb refugees from Bosnia and Croatia in rump Yugoslavia. Milutinovic said he hoped Germany might use its influence to help Belgrade integrate into international organizations such as the UN and the IMF.-- Stan Markotich MACEDONIA ASKS FOR EXTENSION OF UN MANDATE. Macedonian Foreign Minister Ljubomir Frckovski has asked UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to extend the mandate of the UN peacekeeping troops for another year. The current mandate is due to expire at the end of May, AFP reported on 16 May. Frckovski said the situation in the former Yugoslavia remains unstable despite the Dayton peace accord and added that Macedonia is unable to defend its borders. The UN force, which has been in Macedonia since 1992, includes 500 U.S. troops and 500 soldiers from Nordic countries. -- Fabian Schmidt ILIESCU, LILIC SIGN BASIC TREATY. Romanian President Ion Iliescu and rump-Yugoslavia's President Zoran Lilic on 16 May signed in Belgrade a bilateral basic treaty, Romanian and international media reported. The document was initialed last month in Bucharest by the two countries' foreign ministers and emphasizes Belgrade and Bucharest's desire to integrate in European structures. The Romanian media played up the event, saying that the document is the first of its kind signed by rump Yugoslavia and that Iliescu is the first president to visit the federation since the cease-fire. Iliescu is scheduled to meet federal Prime Minister Radoje Kontic, as well as Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. -- Matyas Szabo ROMANIAN COALITION TO BREAK UP. With local elections scheduled for next month and against the background of repeated clashes between the two, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PSDR) on 16 May decided to "start procedure" for breaking the alliance with its last coalition partner, the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), domestic media reported. On 22 March the PSDR had already announced this intention, but nothing was concretely done to implement it. The coalition accord between the PSDR and the PUNR stipulates several steps before the alliance can be dissolved. Also on 16 May, Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu, hitherto officially a non-party affiliated technocrat, joined the PSDR and was immediately elected vice-chairman of the party, Romanian and international media reported. -- Michael Shafir MOLDOVAN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS MEET. On the eve of the CIS summit in Moscow, Mircea Snegur met with Boris Yeltsin mainly to discuss the situation in Moldova's breakaway Dniester region, Romanian media reported on 16 May. The two presidents agreed the existing problems should be resolved in the spirit of the Moldovan-Russian-Ukrainian joint declaration on the Dniester issue. They also discussed better economic cooperation within the CIS. -- Matyas Szabo BULGARIAN PRESIDENT CRITICAL OF GOVERNMENT REFORMS. Zhelyu Zhelev on 16 May criticized the Bulgarian Socialist Party government, saying its strategy to reform the economy and steer the country away from impending financial and economic ruin lacked vision. He said that, "The controversial statements by representatives of the government...give the impression that they are launching structural reforms without a clear concept," Reuters reported. Presidential spokesman Valentin Stoyanov added on Zhelev's behalf, "It is disconcerting that decisions related to structural reform are taken in the dark, in closed party plenums without dialogue between state institutions and political forces." -- Stan Markotich ALBANIA AND GREECE TO SIGN AGREEMENT ON SEASONAL LABOR. Albanian Foreign Minister Alfred Serreqi will visit Athens on 17 May to sign a number of bilateral agreements with his Greek counterpart, Theodoros Pangalos, including one regulating the status of illegal Albanian immigrants to Greece, Albania reported. Some 330,000 Albanians are currently estimated to do seasonal work in Greece, but large numbers of them are expected to return for the 26 May Albanian elections. The foreign ministers are also to sign an agreement opening consulates in Thessaloniki and Korca. -- Fabian Schmidt ALBANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY COMPLAINS ABOUT POLICE BEATINGS. Democratic Alliance (AD) parliamentary candidate Blendi Gonxhe accused a police chief of beating legislator Ridvan Peshkepia. Police allegedly detained Peshkepia while searching his car. Gonxhe also said that five AD members were arrested by police after a rally in the Tirana Student city, Reuters reported on 16 May. He alleged plain-clothed officers also beat up an AD candidate and an accompanying journalist in the south and charged police with obstructing the party's campaign rallies there. The Interior Ministry denied the allegations and accused the AD of using dirty campaign tactics, including provoking incidents with the police, to win votes in the May 26 elections. A statement from the ministry said, "The leaders of the AD cannot help but demonstrate this kind of behavior which is more characteristic of villains than of politicians." -- 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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