|Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. - Thomas Carlyle|
No. 99, Part II, 22 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 FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH EU OFFICIALS. Hennadii Udovenko met with the European Commissioner for External Relations Hans van den Broek and the foreign ministers of Italy, Ireland, and Spain on 21 May in Rome, AFP reported. The meeting focused on Ukraine's relations with the EU and on how the organization can financially assist Ukraine in its economic reform program and the eventual shutdown of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant by the year 2000. The foreign ministers also released a statement noting that the EU considers Ukrainian independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty vital to European security. In an interview with ITAR-TASS on 22 May, Udovenko reiterated that Ukraine should not become a buffer zone between NATO and Russia and questioned NATO expansion unless some agreement can be worked out with Russia. -- Roger Kangas SECOND BELARUSIAN HUNGER STRIKER RELEASED. The Belarusian authorities on 21 May released Belarusian Popular Front leader Yuriy Khadyka who had staged a hunger strike for the previous 23 days, Reuters reported. Khadyka had been protesting his detention on charges of organizing a rally in Minsk on 26 April that opposed the pro-Russian policies of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. He went from prison to the Minsk hospital, where his co-hunger striker Vyachaslau Siuchyk has been receiving treatment since 17 May. The detention of the two BPF leaders prompted numerous appeals and a demonstration in Minsk for their release. The charges against the two have not been dropped, and they could face up to three years' imprisonment if convicted. -- Saulius Girnius ESTONIA ALLOWS RUSSIA TO OPEN CONSULATE IN TARTU. The Estonian Foreign Ministry has agreed to the opening of a Russian consular department in Tartu, ETA reported on 21 May. The ministry had rejected previous requests by Russia for such an office, arguing that Estonia was so small that the embassy in Tallinn and consular office in Narva were sufficient. The decision, announced prior to the next round of border talks between the two countries in Pskov on 22-23 May, is expected to make it easier for some Russian citizens living in Estonia to vote in the June presidential elections in Russia. -- Saulius Girnius DATE SET FOR LATVIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. The Saeima Caucas Council has announced it will convene a special session of the parliament on 18 June to elect a new state president, BNS reported on 21 May. It also proposed that the parliament's spring session end on 17 June and the fall session begin on 8 August. The term of President Guntis Ulmanis expires on 7 July so there will be ample opportunity to hold a second round of voting if none of the nominees wins in the first round. The four candidates so far are Ulmanis, supported by the Farmers' Union, Christian Democratic Union, and Latvia's Way; Ilga Kreituse of the Democratic Party Saimnieks; Imants Liepa of the Popular Movement of Latvia; and imprisoned former Communist Party First Secretary Alfreds Rubiks. -- Saulius Girnius POLES ON RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION . . . A recent public opinion poll conducted by the Warsaw-based Public Opinion Research Center (OBOP) shows that 42% of Poles over the age of 15 are anxious about the outcome of the presidential elections in Russia next month. Only 7% of respondents were "hopeful" about the outcome, with 24% saying they were not interested and 20% declaring indifference. Of the respondents, 59% believed that Russia would like to subordinate Poland to Russian rule; only 23% did not believe this was the case, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 22 May. -- Jakub Karpinski . . . AND CZECHS ON CZECH-GERMAN DECLARATION. More than 55% of the respondents in a recent opinion poll say they would accept a Czech- German declaration in which the Czechs admitted the "moral incorrectness" of the expulsion of some 3 million Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II if the Germans gave up property claims and compensated Czech victims of the Nazi regime. Conducted by the Factum agency and published in Mlada Fronta Dnes on 22 May, the poll revealed that such a declaration would be unacceptable to only 30% of the respondents. Previous polls have indicated that an overwhelming majority of Czechs are opposed to an official apology for the expulsion; the Factum poll used the term "admitting moral incorrectness." According to the poll, those who experienced World War II and those with leftist views are more likely to oppose any settlement of the Sudeten German issue, while young people tend to be more pragmatic. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S SON REACTS TO POLICE DECISION. Michal Kovac Jr. on 21 May issued a statement to TASR responding to the police's decision the previous day to adjourn the investigation into his kidnapping. He wrote that, "I do not wish for anyone, even those who would rather believe in lies, to experience such an approach of the state to its citizen [as I have]." Alluding to his father, he noted that "this state has tried to discredit its citizen in every way possible in order to remove from office another citizen, coincidentally the first citizen of this state." In an attempt to reach its aim, the state "tried to use the police in order to discredit [Kovac Jr.] and put him in prison," even utilizing "the services of individuals with a criminal past," he argued. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK CABINET SUES SLOVAK JOURNALIST. The government on 21 May announced that a law suit has been filed against Sme editor Peter Toth and its publisher for "intolerance and gross and ungrounded attacks against the cabinet," TASR reported. The government is demanding a public apology and compensation "for the damage to civic honor and human dignity." Toth, who has closely covered the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son, has been a frequent victim of criticism from coalition representatives. He was physically attacked last October. The current charges stem from Toth's statements at former policeman Robert Remias's funeral, when he accused the Slovak Information Service and government circles of involvement in Remias's death. Sme chief editor Karol Jezik told CTK that the suit is "an attempt at intimidation," adding that the cabinet has already filed more than ten lawsuits against Sme and its editors. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN FIGHTER PLANES LEAVE FOR POLAND WITHOUT PARLIAMENT'S APPROVAL. Hungary's armed forces have sent MiG-29 aircraft to Poland for military exercises without the approval of the parliament, Hungarian media reported on 22 May. The Hungarian Army's official 1996 schedule provided for the deployment of eight MiG fighters to Poland on 16 May, but the parliament did not give its approval by that date. The planes were reportedly sent to Poland without even the approval of Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti. Magyar Hirlap quotes the constitution as stating that the armed forces cannot cross the country's borders without the prior consent of parliament, except in the case of military exercises within the framework of international treaties or peacekeeping activities carried out at the request of the United Nations. The five opposition parties on 21 May unanimously demanded the dismissal of Keleti. -- Zsofia Szilagyi HUNGARY TO GRANT COMMON LAW RIGHTS TO HOMOSEXUAL COUPLES. The parliament on 21 May amended the Civil Code to grant common law rights to homosexual couples, Hungarian media reported. Homosexuals are now entitled to inherit property from their partners and receive a deceased partner's pension. But they will not be allowed to adopt children. The amendment was required after a Constitutional Court ruling in March 1995 extending recognition of common-law relationships to homosexual couples. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BILDT FAILED TO OUST KARADZIC? High Representative for Bosnia Carl Bildt and commander of IFOR ground troops Lt. Gen. Sir Michael Walker, meeting with the Bosnian Serb leadership at Pale on 21 May, failed to receive a commitment that the Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic would resign, international agencies reported. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic noted that the effort to unseat Karadzic has failed, AFP reported. Meanwhile, in an interview with the B 92 radio station, Bildt said he will ask Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to help arrest Karadzic and another indicted war criminal, Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic. Nasa Borba on 22 May commented that if Bildt reports to the UN Contact Group that Milosevic has failed to help implement the Dayton peace agreement, sanctions to the rump Yugoslavia could be resumed. -- Daria Sito Sucic BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT THREATENS TO BOYCOTT ELECTIONS. Vice President Ejup Ganic has said his government will not take part in the vote slated for mid-September unless indicted war criminals Karadzic and Mladic are removed from power. He also demanded a change in the election rules to ensure that people can vote in home areas from which they have been expelled. "The danger of these elections, if they are not done correctly, is that they will verify ethnic cleansing. They will become a blueprint for how to ethnically expel people," the New York Times on 22 May quoted him as saying. Ganic's views are in keeping with the Dayton agreement, but its key architect, Richard Holbrooke, now seems to have doubts about the principles Ganic recalled. Holbrooke told the BBC on 21 May that massive and involuntary demographic changes have become "a fact of life" in Bosnia. He added, however, that elections must take place this year even if they are "flawed" lest they never be held. -- Patrick Moore NATO NOT TO HUNT DOWN KARADZIC? Atlantic Alliance sources on 21 May said that IFOR troops will not go after Karadzic for fear the move could lead to casualties among the peacekeepers, Onasa reported. The head of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, Justice Richard Goldstone, said however that he cannot "believe that 60,000 [IFOR] troops would have difficulty" in arresting the war criminals, The New York Times noted on 22 May. Meanwhile in Washington, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the U.S. has spoken to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic about his obligation to make sure the Bosnian Serbs observe all aspects of the Dayton accord, including bringing war criminals to justice. Milosevic reportedly told the Americans that he wants the Bosnian Serbs to comply, but he did not say what he will do about it, Onasa added. Burns also called Karadzic's plans for a referendum "a lot of hot air," adding that "it won't happen because we won't let it happen," Reuters stated. -- Patrick Moore SERBIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH NEW ACTING BOSNIAN SERB PRESIDENT. Meanwhile, Milosevic met with Biljana Plavsic on 21 May, Nasa Borba reported the following day. Recently appointed by Karadzic, she was accompanied by vice president Nikola Koljevic. Their meeting focused on major political issues in Bosnia, with Milosevic encouraging the Bosnian Serbs to set up and respect "democratic institutions" before the elections. Milosevic recently has come under pressure from the international community to secure a change in the leadership of the Bosnian Serbs, in particular Karadzic's removal from power. -- Stan Markotich SERBS TORTURED SEVEN MUSLIM PRISONERS. Bosnian Serb policemen beat and abused seven uniformed Muslims arrested by U.S. IFOR troops in eastern Bosnia earlier this month and then handed them over to the local police force. A UN spokesman said the torture to obtain confessions took place in a prison in Zvornik, Oslobodjenje reported on 22 May. The men, whose origin and identity are unknown, are now being held in Bijeljina, where they have received some medical attention. The Muslims were armed, and explosions were heard before they surrendered to the Americans. Bosnian officials maintain they may be refugees from Srebrenica who have been hiding out in the woods and mountains, but NATO said they looked too well fed and groomed to have been living rough since last summer. -- Patrick Moore SERBS BEGIN DEMILITARIZATION IN EASTERN SLAVONIA. Jacques Klein, UN administrator for the Croatian Serb-held eastern Slavonia, has announced that Serbian demilitarization in the region began on 21 May following the full deployment of the 5,000-strong multinational UN peacekeeping force (UNTAES), international and local media reported. Demilitarization is to be completed within one month. UN sources said the Serbs have already withdrawn most of their heavy weapons to Serbia and Montenegro. Croatian Radio on 21 May reported that telephone lines between eastern Slavonia and other parts of Croatia have been partly restored as a step toward full reintegration with the rest of Croatia. -- Daria Sito Sucic NATO TROOPS TO PARTICIPATE IN JOINT MILITARY MANEUVERS IN ROMANIA. At the request of President Ion Iliescu, the Chamber of Deputies on 21 May approved the participation of NATO troops in six joint military exercises to be held on Romanian territory this year within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program, Radio Bucharest reported on the same day. Socialist Labor Party deputy Silviu Somacu vehemently opposed the proposal, raising arguments described by Adevarul as "typical of communist propaganda." Some deputies called him a "dirty Communist," and fist-fight was narrowly averted, Evenimentul zilei reported. -- Michael Shafir MOLDOVAN CAPITAL WARNS OF SPREAD OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES. The Chisinau Mayor's Office has declared a state of emergency "in connection with the danger of spread of acute diarrhea, cholera, and other infectious diseases," BASA-press reported on 20 May. Deputy Major Dumitru Gatcan said the office has banned selling perishable products on the streets. An official of the National Hygiene and Epidemology Center told BASA that the cholera danger persists this year, especially in the Transdniester region, where most cases were reported in 1995. -- Michael Shafir OSCE MISSION HEAD'S MANDATE ENDS IN MOLDOVA. Michael Wygant, whose mandate as head of the OSCE mission in Moldova has ended, on 20 May met with President Mircea Snegur, BASA-press reported . Snegur said the mission has helped Moldova maintain peace and take steps toward reaching a settlement to the Transdniestrian dispute. At the same time, he insisted that such a settlement "must proceed from the premise of Moldova's independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, [which are] recognized by the mediators." Wygant said the time when "theoretical discussions will be replaced by practical action in a united, integral, and independent Moldova" was not far off. -- Michael Shafir COUNTERFEIT WESTERN BILLS FLOOD BULGARIA. With the lev continuing to fall against the U.S. dollar and with many Bulgarians trying to trade their lev savings for hard currency, large amounts of counterfeit U.S. and German bills are circulating in Bulgaria, Bulgarian National Bank Deputy Governor Dimitar Dimitrov told Bulgarian TV on 21 May. A senior police official estimated that "dozens of millions" of counterfeit U.S. dollars are on the Bulgarian market. According to 24 chasa, the bogus bills come from the Middle East via Turkey. In other news, Bulgaria and the EU on 21 May agreed to boost nuclear safety at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, RFE/RL reported. Kozloduy's Reactor No. 1 was shut down for EU-sponsored safety tests last week. Bulgarian and EU experts will jointly decide when it will go back on line. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES BANKING LAWS. The Bulgarian parliament on 21 May passed on first reading a law on compensating citizens and enterprises that have lost their savings in banks facing bankruptcy proceedings, Bulgarian media reported The law envisions full compensation for citizens and 50% compensation for companies. Finance Minister Dimitar Kostov estimates these measures will cost 20 billion leva ($159 million). -- Michael Wyzan BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER IN CHINA. Zhan Videnov on 21 May reaffirmed that Sofia remains committed to its "one China" policy, Trud reported. Speaking in Beijing, he commented that Bulgaria will not establish official contacts with Taiwan. Videnov also said that Tibet is an "autonomous region" in China and that the Tibetan issue is China's internal affair. Videnov told his Chinese counterpart, Li Peng, that his government considers good relations and cooperation with Beijing one of its foreign-policy priorities. Several bilateral agreements have been signed so far, including ones on cooperation in public security, education, science, and patents. Videnov is the first Bulgarian prime minister to visit China in some 40 years. -- Stefan Krause RECORD ECONOMIC GROWTH IN ALBANIA. According to an IMF report, Albania continues to be the poorest European country, but its economy is the fastest-growing in Europe, AFP reported on 21 May. The report states that the economy grew by 11% last year, while the budget deficit was 7% of GDP and annual inflation only 6%. Foreign investment amounted to $2.5 billion, and remittances from Albanians working abroad reached $400-600 million. However, wages remain low--at an average of $70 a month--and unemployment is still widespread. The Frankfurter Rundschau on 22 May reported that official unemployment is 15% but soars to almost 50% in the former industrial regions in the north. -- Stefan Krause PROSECUTOR DEMANDS LIFE IMPRISONMENT FOR FORMER ALBANIAN COMMUNISTS. Prosecutor Arjan Sulstafa on 21 May demanded that former President Haxhi Lleshi, Deputy Prime Minister Manush Myftiu, Supreme Court Chairman Aranit Cela, and Deputy Interior Minister and head of the secret police Zylyftar Ramizi be sentenced to life imprisonment, Reuters reported. He also urged that the fifth defendant, former Prosecutor-General Rrapi Mino, receive a 25-year sentence. The five former officials are charged with crimes against humanity while in power. They are also accused of ordering the internal exile of political opponents. -- Stefan Krause [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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