|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 106, Part II, 31 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 NEW UKRAINIAN PREMIER OFFERS BAILOUT OF COAL INDUSTRY. Pavlo Lazarenko, Ukraine's new prime minister, announced that his government will allocate another 35 trillion karbovantsi ($189 million) to bailout the country's troubled coal industry, Ukrainian TV reported on 30 May. He said part of the funds will go toward payment of the government's 38 trillion karbovantsi wage debt to miners, while some 6 trillion karbovantsi will be used for state coal purchases. Some 40 mines are on now strike, the largest walkout since employees at 100 mines held strikes in early February demanding payment of back wages. Coal Industry Minister Serhii Polyoakov said the government plans to shut down 100 unprofitable mines, mainly in the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. He said there are plans to transfer all social facilities and services in the country's coal mining towns to the jurisdiction of local councils. -- Chrystyna Lapychak MORE DEMONSTRATIONS IN BELARUS. Around 3,000 people demonstrated in front of the presidential palace in Minsk demanding the release of nine activists arrested during the 26 April Chornobyl demonstrations, international agencies reported. The crowd chanted slogans against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, at which point security forces broke up the demonstration, beating several protesters and arresting 100-200 people. Although no political party has taken responsibility for organizing the rally, authorities accused the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF). In the past, the government has blamed solely the BPF for instigating demonstrations that were in fact organized by a number of parties and organizations. The consistent allegations that the BPF is responsible for organizing mass protests is seen as a pretext to justify banning the organization. -- Ustina Markus ESTONIA'S FOREIGN POLICY PRESENTED. Foreign Minister Siim Kallas gave his regular semi-annual overview of Estonia's foreign policy to the parliament on 30 May, ETA reported. Its focus was on the normalization of relations with Russia. Kallas noted that from 1991 to 1996, 24 different agreements came into force between the two countries, four more were signed, and another 47 agreements were in various stages of preparation. He considered the agreements on prevention of double taxation, protection of investments, and cooperation between interior ministries to be the most important. Kallas also pointed out that "for the first time in history we have reached equilibrium (with the Nordic countries)." Countering what he called the "unfortunate impression" that Estonia wanted to join the EU before Latvia and Lithuania, he said the three states' policies would be guided by the gentlemanly formula "one for all, all for one." -- Saulius Girnius POLISH PARLIAMENT SLASHES EX-PRESIDENTS' PENSIONS. The Polish Sejm decided on 30 May to approve a Senate amendment to a 12 April Sejm bill, cutting in half pensions awarded to former presidents. The Sejm approved in April a bill granting former presidents a pension equal to the current president's salary. Now the former presidents will be entitled to $800 plus secretarial expenses of $1,500 per month. The average monthly wage in Poland is around $350. The amendment affects three former presidents: Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, Lech Walesa, and Ryszard Kaczorowski who is the only living president of Poland's exile government that functioned in London until Walesa was elected in 1990. The bill awaits the current President Aleksander Kwasniewski's signature. -- Jakub Karpinski SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER RESPONDS TO PRESIDENT'S CHARGES. Vladimir Meciar on 30 May said the law suit brought against him the previous day by Michal Kovac is another effort by the president to discredit the prime minister and increase social and political tension in Slovakia, Slovak media reported. The prime minister's spokeswoman Magda Pospisilova issued a statement saying that if Meciar is acquitted of the charges brought against him, then Kovac will be "morally and politically obliged to resign." Laszlo Gyurovszky of the Hungarian Civic Party told CTK that the president's lawsuit makes a "mockery" of Slovakia. He noted, however, that Kovac has political justification for making the charges, adding that "in normal states it is not common for the prime minister to make groundless accusations against the head of state." -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK INVESTIGATOR CRITICIZES INDEPENDENT COMMISSION. Policeman Jozef Ciz on 30 May rejected assertions made by opposition Christian Democratic Movement deputy Ladislav Pittner's commission investigating the kidnapping of Michal Kovac Jr., Slovak media reported. He called the commission's attacks on Interior Ministry officials, the prosecutor- general, and the Slovak Information Service "groundless" and criticized the commission for publicizing the full names of alleged participants in the kidnapping without offering proof. Ciz noted that SIS director Ivan Lexa has yet to say whether the Mercedes van that was parked in front of Kovac Jr.'s home before the abduction is used by the SIS. Police Investigation Department Chief Jan Kostov noted that Czech and German experts will assist in clearing up the case of former policeman Robert Remias's death in a car explosion last month. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT SACKS PRIVATIZATION AGENCY'S HEAD. The government on 30 May dismissed Attila Lascsik from his positions as CEO and board member of the State Privatization and Holding Co. (APV Rt.), Hungarian dailies reported. The cabinet spokesman said the personnel change will speed up the privatization of small- and medium-sized enterprises. However, analysts believe the sacking is connected to a controversial privatization deal in April, when APV Rt.'s management sold a 51% stake in a Szolnok-based oil drilling company, Koolajkutato Rt., to the Russian-owned Arhangelsk Geologia firm (AGH) despite objections from both Koolajkutato's management and the mayor of Szolnok. Privatization Minister Tamas Suchman's investigation into the affair found numerous irregularities during the invitation for tender. Also, the fact that AGH happened to be set up after APV Rt. extended the deadline for bids without any substantial reason raised many eyebrows. -- Zsofia Szilagyi HUNGARY POSTPONES JET FIGHTER TENDER. The Hungarian government has postponed until mid-1997 one of its most publicized tenders, a $1 billion deal to modernize its air force, international media and Hungarian dailies reported on 31 May. The government spokesman said Hungary will wait until NATO membership talks begin. Earlier, Hungary announced its intention to upgrade its ailing jet fighters with some 30 NATO-compatible jets and tender was to be announced by the end of 1996. Swedish-made Gripen, U.S.-made Lockheed F-16, McDonnell Douglas/Northrop's F-18s, and French Mirage 2000-5s are contending. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE OPPOSITION AND POLICE CLASH IN SOUTHERN ALBANIA. Many people were injured during clashes between supporters of the opposition parties and special police forces in Permet on 30 May, Gazeta Shqiptare reported. Children and women are among the injured and four people were hospitalized in critical condition. Two policemen were also hurt. The clashes developed after thousands of people from the surrounding villages came to the city to participate in a protest rally against the ruling Democratic Party's alleged massive manipulation of the elections. The Socialist Party, the Democratic Alliance, the Social Democrats, the Agrarian Party, the Party of National Unity, and the Party of the Democratic Right had earlier applied for permission to hold the demonstration, but the Interior Ministry refused the authorization. -- Fabian Schmidt in Tirana ALBANIAN JOURNALISTS PROTEST BEATING. After the severe beating of Bardhok Lala, a Dita Informacion journalist, the Association of Professional Journalists sent a letter of protest to President Sali Berisha requesting a meeting. In previous days, dailies published pictures of Lala, who was beaten all over his body and face on 28 May. Koha Jone on 31 May published an interview with Lala in which he said the kidnappers were members of the secret service (SHIK) who wanted him to become a collaborator. He added that they held a gun to his head five times threatening to shoot him. -- Fabian Schmidt in Tirana RUN-OFF IN ALBANIAN ELECTIONS ON 2 JUNE. Koha Jone on 31 May published the list of the 10 electoral districts in which a run-off between two candidates will take place. Election results from the first round indicate that the Democratic Party is likely to win all districts, which would give them 104 out of 115 direct seats in the 140-member parliament. Right-wing Balli Kombetar and the Republican Party members will most likely vote for the Democrats' candidate. The Socialists announced they will boycott the elections. None of the Democrats received less than 41% of the vote in the first round. -- Fabian Schmidt in Tirana CROATIAN GOVERNING PARTY TO SUE WEEKLY PAPER. The Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) said it will sue the independent muckraking weekly Globus over a story the paper ran alleging that the HDZ intends to launch a smear campaign against 50 opposition politicians. The weekly recently wrote that the HDZ is anxious over its prospects in upcoming local elections because polls show it will lose control of some cities and perhaps take only 20% of the total vote. Voters have grown impatient with the HDZ over recurrent reports of corruption, authoritarianism, and strong-arm tactics. There is also a feeling that Croatia has put the war behind it and must now build a multi-party democracy, Reuters reported on 28 May. Globus is one of the few independent papers with a nation- wide circulation and made its name with wartime battlefield coverage, investigative journalism, and a sensationalist approach aimed primarily at young male readers. -- Patrick Moore DUTCH TO QUERY FRENCH, UN OVER SREBRENICA ALLEGATIONS. The Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo said he intends to press Paris on recent British TV reports that the French allowed Srebrenica to fall as part of a deal with Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic last summer. "The French have already denied it... but I will certainly approach the French government for more information on the matter," Reuters quoted the minister as saying on 30 May. Until now, blame has chiefly been placed on Dutch peacekeepers, whose alleged cowardice was believed to have ultimately led to Europe's worst atrocity since World War II. Mierlo's own D66 party called for an international investigation into the events leading up to the fall of the "safe area," while the opposition Christian Democrats said that the Netherlands was bypassed in the decision-making process. -- Patrick Moore MAYOR OF BANJA LUKA THWARTS ATTEMPT TO SACK HIM. Predrag Radic, who is widely regarded as a moderate and a rival to the hard-line Bosnian Serb leadership in Pale, has dodged an attempt by his own governing Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) to remove him. Radic successfully argued that the proposal before the city council was invalid because it was not included on the legislative agenda, Nasa Borba reported on 31 May. The mayor has frequently been at odds with the SDS, which took virtually all of the Bosnian Serb vote in the 1990 elections. Banja Luka was known for some of the most vicious ethnic cleansing during the war but has increasingly presented itself as a rival to Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his colleagues in Pale. Opposition parties are counting on a large share of the vote in Banja Luka in the elections slated for this fall. -- Patrick Moore MOSTAR ELECTIONS SCHEDULED FOR 30 JUNE. EU Administrator in Mostar Ricardo Peres Casado announced that the city municipal elections will be held on 30 June, Oslobodjenje reported on 31 May. Casado met with Croatian and Muslim officials on 30 May to discuss the details of the elections and to agree on a new date, AFP reported. Refugees from Mostar who left the town involuntarily will be allowed to vote in four European countries if they are unable to return to Mostar on the day of the vote. But, on the insistence of the Croatian party, Mostar's Serbian citizens will be able to vote only in Mostar. Serb representatives in Mostar protested the decision and asked that Mostar Serbs be allowed also to vote in the Republika Srpska and rump Yugoslavia. -- Daria Sito Sucic BOSNIAN SERB SOCIALISTS ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL. On 31 May the Belgrade weekly NIN features an extensive interview with Dragutin Ilic, head of the Socialist Party of the Republika Srpska (SPRS), who appears to have used the interview as a platform to launch the opening salvo of his election campaign. Ilic suggested his party is independent, claiming no direct ties with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia: "The SPS was created out of the former League of Communists...but the SPRS was formed as a party... which has no continuity with [any other]." Ilic also stressed his commitment to Dayton saying, "We uphold the Dayton agreement to the fullest. That means we will strengthen the statehood of the Serbian entity to its fullest, and we will work with the other entity insofar as it is in our interests." Meanwhile, AFP on 30 May quoted Zivko Radisic, SPRS vice- president, as saying that Karadzic should be allowed to run in the September elections, so that his defeat may be effected on the political front. -- Stan Markotich UN EXTENDS PEACEKEEPERS' MANDATE IN MACEDONIA. The UN Security Council on 30 May extended UNPREDEP's mandate for six months till the end of November, Reuters reported. Russia abstained from the vote saying the mission is too large and expensive and should have been extended only for four months. Macedonian Ambassador to the UN Denko Maleski said UNPREDEP should not be restructured or terminated because threats to Macedonia have not been overcome yet, pointing to Kosovo. UNPREDEP has 1,050 troops, 35 military observers, and 168 civilian police. Some 550 UNPREDEP members come from the U.S., followed by 362 from Finland. -- Stefan Krause TAIWAN PROTESTS ARRESTS IN ROMANIAN STOWAWAY SCANDAL. Taiwan protested the arrest in Canada of seven Taiwanese ship officers accused of forcing three Romanian stowaways overboard on the high seas, Romanian and Western media reported on 30 May. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested the officers the previous day with warrants issued by Romania's Prosecutor-General. Canada says the seven could be extradited to Romania, where they face charges of first degree murder. However, the Taiwanese government maintains that Canada has no jurisdiction in the matter. Eight Filipino crew members deserted the ship in Halifax last week and disclosed the incident that took place in March aboard the Taiwanese container ship "Maersk Dubai." It has aroused a wave of indignation in Romania. -- Dan Ionescu DNIESTER LEFT-WINGERS CALL FOR SUPPORTING ZYUGANOV. The Tiraspol branch of the radical left-wing Bloc of Patriotic Forces called Dniester residents with Russian citizenship to vote for Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov in the Russian presidential elections, Infotag reported on 30 May. Albina Gogoleva, Chair of the Dniester Russian Community, said Zyuganov "is the best candidate able to fulfill the aspirations of most former Soviet Union residents to live together again," local media reported. There are some 30,000 Russian citizens living in the breakaway Dniester region. The Russian embassy in Chisinau said that on 16 June eight polling stations will be opened in Moldova. -- Matyas Szabo BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES NEW PRICE HIKES... The Socialist government of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov on 30 May announced price hikes and new tariffs, Bulgarian and Western media reported. The VAT was raised from 18% to 22%, and gasoline prices rose by 75%. Excise duties on tobacco and alcohol will also increase sharply, Videnov announced. The government introduced a 5% tariff on imports in order to head off a feared trade deficit. The tariff will be effective for one year starting on 1 July and then be lowered by 1% each successive year. Videnov said the price of electricity, transport, telecommunications, and pharmaceutical products will go up soon too. The tax and price hikes were agreed on with the IMF. The government hopes to raise an additional 140 billion leva ($950 million) this year by implementing a strict austerity policy. -- Stefan Krause ....WHILE PROTESTS AGAINST AUSTERITY MEASURES START. Meanwhile, people took to the streets of Sofia to protest the latest government-imposed price hikes. Thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the government building in central Sofia on 30 May, demanding the government's resignation. The two big trade unions--the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria and the Confederation of Labor "Podkrepa"--organized the rally. Union leaders said the meeting is only the start of nationwide protests. "Podkrepa" Deputy Chairman Dimitar Manolov said government and trade unions "will meet at the barricades." Several hundred taxi drivers staged a demonstration outside the parliament building. Protests were also reported from other towns. The Union of Democratic Forces announced that it will start proceedings for a no-confidence vote. -- 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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