|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
No. 136, Part I, 16 July 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 PRESIDENT MEETS WITH GAZPROM DELEGATION. Leonid Kuchma met with visiting Gazprom officials to discuss expanding business links, Ukrainian agencies reported. The talks focused on how to improve the current system of supplying gas to Ukraine and transporting it across its territory to Eastern Europe. There was also discussion of the possibilities for mutual investment in the Russian and Ukrainian gas industries. Commentators on Ukrainian TV speculated the visit was spurred by Russian gas and oil industry concerns that Ukraine is seeking alternative sources of energy. They claimed recent talks between the Ukrainian and Iraqi governments about trading Iraqi oil for Ukrainian food supplies has made Russian gas and oil barons nervous about losing a major customer. -- Chrystyna Lapychak UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT PAYS OFF PART OF WAGE DEBT TO COAL MINERS. The Ukrainian government has paid off part of its wage debt to coal miners, Ukrainian Radio reported on 15 July. The government allocated 15 trillion karbovantsi ($81 million) to coal mines to cover wages for June. It has also promised that by 15 September, it will pay all wages owed since February. A special government commission assigned to deal with the crisis-stricken coal sector said a 12-day-old strike by miners throughout the country caused losses totaling nearly 4 trillion karbovantsi. First Deputy Prime Minister Vasyl Durdynets, who heads the commission, said total losses from various miners' strikes so far this year has cost the industry 20 trillion karbovantsi. -- Chrystyna Lapychak ESTONIAN PRESIDENT IN GERMANY. Lennart Meri, during his visit to Germany from 13-15 July, met with Chancellor Helmut Kohl for talks that focused on the possible eastward expansion of NATO and the EU. The German Investment and Development Fund announced during his trip that it will loan the Hansapank bank in Tallinn 10 million German marks ($6.7 million), according to Western media. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIAN GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLED. Prime Minister Andris Skele on 15 July announced he has approved the resignations of three ministers and the abolition of three ministerial posts, BNS reported. Environment Minister Maris Gailis, Culture Minister Ojars Sparitis, and Industry State Minister Eriks Kaza are resigning voluntarily for various reasons and will be replaced by candidates proposed by their parties. Skele abolished the posts of minister in charge of local government issues, state minister at the Foreign Ministry, and education state minister. He added that other ministerial posts not considered "useful" will be abolished in an attempt to reduce administrative personnel and state expenditures. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIA'S GAYS URGE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Eduardas Platovas, secretary of the Lithuanian Gay League, said the republic's gays are preparing to initiate a constitutional amendment legalizing freedom of sexual orientation, BNS reported on 15 July. He commented that the absence of any mention in the constitution of the individual's right to decide his or her sexual orientation provides the legal basis for justifying discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Platovas said gays will participate in the meetings of all political parties to gain an understanding of their position on gays. They will then decide which party to support. The gay community claims to constitute 4% of the population. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH PUBLIC OPINION ON NATO. Poles want to join NATO but do not want to pay for it, according to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Research Center (CBOS) earlier this month. Of the respondents, 83% are in favor of Poland joining NATO and concede that membership would mean large expenditures. Only 23%, however, want to reduce other budget expenditures to meet the cost of membership, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 16 July. The daily also reported that according to data published by the U.S. Information Agency, 9% of Hungarians, 8% of Czechs, and 7% of Slovaks approve of using public funds to bring their armies up to NATO standards. -- Jakub Karpinski PRIVATIZATION VOUCHERS ON POLISH STOCK EXCHANGE. Vouchers for Poland's mass privatization program were listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange on 15 July, Polish media reported. They began selling at more than five times the price citizens are required to pay for them. Since November 1995, Poland's adult citizens have been able to buy one voucher each for shares in funds that oversee some 500 former state-owned companies. While they have to pay only 20 zlotys ($7.40) for their vouchers, the price on the stock exchange was quoted at 104 zlotys. -- Jakub Karpinski SOCIALIST INTERNATIONAL MEETS IN SLOVAKIA. The Central and East European Committee of Socialist International is holding its first-ever meeting in Bratislava, Slovak media reported. More than 70 delegates and guests gathered in the Slovak capital on 15 July for the two-day session. Meeting with Slovak President Michal Kovac, Socialist International Secretary-General Luis Ayala said his organization aims to help strengthen democracy in Slovakia and to work toward the country's full integration into European structures. With regard to the political situation in Slovakia, Social Democratic Party chairman Jaroslav Volf noted that sharing of power among the coalition parties and participation in property distribution were the main reasons for the recent coalition crisis. Volf criticized the opposition's continued exclusion from key oversight committees. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER CLASHES WITH GM. Meeting with workers in eastern Slovakia on 14 July, Vladimir Meciar was accused of not helping the ailing armaments factory ZTS Dubnica by refusing GM's offer to buy it. Meciar responded by saying that his government offered to sell the firm to GM for 1 crown, to build villas with swimming pools for the managers in the nearby spa town of Trencianske Teplice, and to send a helicopter to Vienna weekly to buy goods for the managers' wives. "They did not accept it," Meciar said, alleging that GM's offer was not "serious." GM responded the next day by saying it "would not have negotiated with the Slovak government for more than 10 months if it did not seriously want to carry out the project." -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARY PREDICTS LARGE SOCIAL INSURANCE DEFICIT. Hungarian officials estimate that the pension and health insurance funds could run up a deficit totaling 68 billion forints ($453 million) by the end of the year, Magyar Hirlap reported on 16 July. That figure is almost four times higher than the amount stipulated earlier this year as a condition for an IMF $387 million standby credit. Both pension and health insurance officials blame the deficit on the failure to collect debts and contributions. Since the departure of former Finance Minister Lajos Bokros, who was a strong advocate of social welfare reform, his successor, Peter Medgyessy, has failed to come up with a plan to reform social insurance and tackle the social insurance deficit. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE OSCE GIVES SERBS UNTIL FRIDAY TO SACK KARADZIC . . . Robert Frowick, OSCE administrator for the Bosnian elections, has told the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) that it must find a way to "settle the matter" of Radovan Karadzic by 19 July, Nasa Borba and Reuters reported on 16 July. "By definition, if this campaign starts on Friday, you can be sure that things must be straightened out by that date," he said. Frowick has ruled that parties may not run in the 14 September elections if they are headed by indicted war criminals, Onasa added. The SDS recently re- elected Karadzic as its chairman, which is the most powerful job in the Republika Srpska. -- Patrick Moore ...AND DISQUALIFIES SEVEN CANDIDATES IN BOSNIAN ELECTIONS. The international organization has disqualified seven leading candidates of the ruling Party of Democratic Action (SDA) in Cazin, northern Bosnia, on the grounds that they were responsible for the incident in which former Bosnian Premier Haris Silajdzic was injured (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 June 1996), Oslobodjenje reported on 15 July. Silajdzic's Party for Bosnia-Herzegovina (SBiH) said this punishment is too mild and would only encourage those opposed to a democratic climate in Bosnia. It also accused the Bosnian authorities of failing to remove those who had organized and committed the attack on Silajdzic. Meanwhile, the Cazin branch of the SDA criticized the OSCE decision, saying it shows the organization is biased against the SDA, Onasa reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic SERBS THREATEN TO RETALIATE AGAINST PEACEKEEPERS. Bosnian Serb police have said they will take unspecified measures against international police if the two top indicted war criminals--Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic--are arrested, AFP reported on 15 July. "The Pale police chief threatened that if [they] are arrested the population will be mobilized against the [UN police] and other international organizations," UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko said. In May 1995, the Serbs took peacekeepers hostage in a successful attempt to force NATO to end its air strikes. A lack of decisiveness on the part of the international community in enforcing the Dayton agreement appears to have encouraged the Serbs to test the limits of the possible again. There has been a recent upsurge of attacks by the Serbs against the UN police across Bosnia, Oslobodjenje noted on 16 July. -- Patrick Moore BELGRADE CRITICIZES BOSNIAN SERBS. Belgrade's Foreign Ministry has sternly rebuked the Bosnian Serb leadership following reports that Pale is unsatisfied with conditions for arbitration on the future of the north Bosnian town of Brcko. Reuters quoted the ministry as saying the Bosnian Serbs' latest actions are "genuinely hostile to the people and citizens of the Bosnian Serb republic.... This latest act by the leadership deserves the strongest possible condemnation." AFP, citing SRNA, reported on 16 July that the Bosnian Serbs deny intending to withdraw from the Brcko arbitration talks. Vladimir Popovic, Bosnian Serb representative on the arbitration commission, said Pale was demanding only that the international community provide maps of the disputed territory. -- Stan Markotich EU APPOINTS NEW MOSTAR ADMINISTRATOR... The EU on 15 July appointed British commander Sir Martin Garrod to replace Ricardo Perez Casado as Mostar's EU administrator. Perez Casado, who recently announced his resignation from that post, had been criticized by Croats and Muslims for being absent from Mostar at crucial times, Reuters reported. Garrod came to Mostar in June 1994 as a member of an advance EU team. He announced the official results of the Mostar elections on 13 July. The EU also agreed to extend its mandate in the city for another six months. -- Fabian Schmidt ...WHILE CROATIAN MOSTAR MAYOR CRITICIZES GARROD. Mijo Brajkovic has criticized Garrod's decision to publish the final election results despite opposition from the Croatian members of the Electoral Commission, Slobodna Dalmacija reported on 13 July. The Croats continue to argue that there were irregularities in the ballots in Bonn and other European cities, where the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) failed to gain a majority of the vote. Brajkovic argues that the decision of an EU ombudsman to declare the Bonn ballot valid is a violation of the electoral law. Brajkovic said Garrod's announcement of the election results, which paves the way for the formation of city council was the result of an "occupation." He added that the HDZ would not participate in such a body. -- Fabian Schmidt UN EXTENDS MANDATE ON PREVLAKA PENINSULA. The UN Security Council on 15 July extended for six months the mandate of UN monitors on Prevlaka, the disputed peninsula on the border between Croatia and rump Yugoslavia, Nasa Borba reported. The council resolution asks both sides to continue negotiations on full normalization of relations. In other news, the Adriatic oil pipeline was opened on 16 July for the first time since September 1991, Nasa Borba reported. Serbia will be supplied with oil transported by ship to Croatia's Adriatic ports and then by pipelin through Croatian territory. -- Daria Sito Sucic SERBIA TO ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY? Serbian Justice Minister Arandjel Markicevic has said that Serbia plans to abolish the death penalty, Tanjug reported on 14 July. Speaking during a discussion sponsored by the official news agency, Markicevic said he envisaged changes to the criminal code whereby the most heinous capital crimes would be punishable by a 30-year prison sentence. The minister also commented on Belgrade's relations with The Hague tribunal, saying that he believed "remarks about the tribunal being a political rather a than legal institution...are justified." -- Stan Markotich ROMANIAN JOURNALISTS' JAIL SENTENCE SUSPENDED. Romania's chief prosecutor has decided to suspend the jail sentences of two journalists convicted last week for libel pending a re-examination of their case, Radio Bucharest reported on 15 July. The journalists, who work for the Constanta daily Telegraf, had reported on corruption in the city's municipal council (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 July 1996). The suspension follows protests by Romanian and international human rights organizations. According to Telegraf, police have been ordered not to carry out the sentence until 30 August. -- Michael Shafir IRON GUARD REVIVAL IN ROMANIA. The Legionary Movement--also known as the Iron Guard--has launched a month-long "summer camp" at the Black Sea resort of Eforie-Sud, the Bucharest daily Libertatea reported on 16 July The camp is modeled on those organized by the inter-war fascist movement and claims to be educational, including the study of the Legionary Movement doctrines. Last year, a similar camp organized at Padina, in the Carpathian mountains, was strongly criticized by the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) as undermining state security. Journalists and SRI representatives have been invited to the 1996 camp in order to see that its activities are not subversive. -- Michael Shafir MOLDOVAN POLITICAL UPDATE. The Socialist Party of Moldova (PSM), at its congress in Balti on 13 July, expelled the leadership of the Chisinau and Ungheni branches, Moldovan media reported on 15 July. Both leaderships were accused of engaging in activities that might split the party. Among those expelled is Veronica Abramciuc, who had been proposed as the party's presidential candidate by the Chisinau branch. The congress did not name a PSM candidate for the fall presidential elections, despite including the issue on its agenda. Also on 13 July, the National Coordinating Council of the Social Democratic Party of Moldova declined to nominate its own candidate and announced that it will support instead parliamentary chairman Petru Lucinschi, the candidate of a center-left electoral bloc not yet set up. -- Michael Shafir BULGARIAN PRESIDENT WARNS OF DICTATORSHIP. Zhelyu Zhelev, in an interview with a Western news agency on 15 July, warned that political and economic chaos might lead to social unrest, Standart reported. He repeated his call for the president's powers to be increased at the expense of the parliament. Otherwise, he said, "people will not want a presidential republic but a dictatorship because they are used to it." He said he was "not too enthusiastic" about the upcoming presidential elections, since neither Socialist candidate Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski nor opposition candidate Petar Stoyanov "have anything reasonable to offer." He said Stoyanov's victory over him in the primaries was the result of "massive manipulation" but did not give further details. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT RAISES PENSIONS, MINIMUM WAGE. The government has retroactively raised the minimum monthly pension to 2,160 leva ($11.50) as of 1 July, Standart reported on 16 July. This move is to partially compensate for inflation--consumer prices rose by 20.3% in June alone. The minimum monthly wage has been increased to 4,000 leva, while public employees are to receive a 20% increase, although no single hike may exceed 3,000 leva. The government forecasts that inflation will fall to 3.1% in August and amount to 100.9% for the year. The trade unions, however, predict at least 200% inflation for 1996. -- Michael Wyzan ALBANIAN DAILY THREATENED WITH BANKRUPTCY. With debts exceeding $300,000, Koha Jone is facing closure, international agencies reported on 16 July. Editor-in-chief Alexander Frangaj, who owns 40% of shares in the newspaper, resigned on 14 July, accusing publisher Nikolle Lesi of incompetence. The Demokracija printing house has refused to print any more issues of Koha Jone until it pays off its debts. Koha Jone has been a symbol of the independent media since its foundation in 1991 and has frequently been harassed by the authorities. The paper's decline was expedited by Lesi and Frangaj's using it as a platform for their election campaign in May.-- Fabian Schmidt MULTINATIONAL MILITARY EXERCISES IN ALBANIA. Troops from Albania, the U.S., Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey, and Slovenia have begun a joint military exercise code-named "Peaceful Eagle 96" within the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace Program, Reuters reported. The week-long exercise involves 2,000 troops and is taking place in the Martanesh mountains east of Tirana. It is the largest multinational exercise held so far in Albania. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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