|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 154, Part II, 9 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 GOVERNMENT CUTS OFF POWER TO THOUSANDS OF DELINQUENT CUSTOMERS. The government has cut off power to 15,000 delinquent customers, chiefly businesses, Ukrainian TV and Reuters reported on 8 August. Energy Ministry officials told reporters that more than 50,000 enterprises, including small retail outlets and large factories owe regional utilities some $1.1 billion in unpaid bills. In other news, Ukraine's acting Prosecutor General announced that his office had found evidence of large-scale corruption among officials and managers of enterprises in the coal mining, education, health care, and other government-financed sectors. Oleksander Khrystenko said his investigators had discovered dozens of cases of embezzlement of government funds destined for wages, particularly by the managers of 10 coal mines in eastern Ukraine, which greatly exacerbated the wage debt crisis. He also said ministry officials neglected to monitor the use of the funds. Khrystenko said his office would continue its inquiry, which may prompt pressing charges. -- Chrystyna Lapychak QUESTIONS ON BELARUSIAN REFERENDUM NARROWED DOWN. The number of questions on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's 7 November referendum has reportedly been reduced to two, Belapan reported on 8 August. The referendum will now ask if people prefer public or private land ownership and whether they approve of the new version of the constitution. The government is reportedly launching a large-scale propaganda campaign to educate people on the necessity of amending the constitution. Prior to the May 1995 referendum, in which each of the four questions passed with more than 75 percent of the vote, the state-controlled media had worked overtime promoting Lukashenka's agenda. It can be expected to do the same this fall, and the yes-or- no nature of the vaguely worded questions will likely work to Lukashenka's advantage. -- Ustina Markus SEVASTOPOL CUTS ELECTRICITY TO BLACK SEA FLEET. The aviation squadron of the Black Sea Fleet has had its electricity cut off because it owes the supplier Krymenergo 25 billion karbovantsy ($140,000), ITAR- TASS reported on 8 August. In addition, 500 servicemen in the squadron have not been paid since the beginning of the year. The electricity cut coincided with the Ukrainian government's crackdown on enterprises that fail to pay their bills. During a 5 August press conference, Ukrainian Navy Commander Volodymyr Bezkorovainy addressed the fleet's debts, saying it was "living off of Ukrainian money," Ukrainian radio reported The fleet owes the city of Sevastopol 2 trillion karbovantsy ($11 million) for utilities, and 5 trillion ($27.7 million) for damages to the city. -- Ustina Markus ELECTION UNION OF ESTONIA'S RIGHT-WING PARTIES FORMED. Representatives of the Pro Patria Union, the Moderates, the Estonian Farmer's Party, and the Republican and Conservative People's Party signed an agreement on 8 August establishing the coalition "Right- Wing Parties and Moderates" for the local elections in Tallinn on 20 October, ETA reported. Pro Patria Chairman Toivo Jurgenson noted that the coalition is only for Tallinn and that, depending on local conditions, the four parties could run on separate lists in other areas. None of these parties are in the current ruling coalition, but ruled the country from 1992 to March 1995 under different names. -- Saulius Girnius EU HELPS LITHUANIA DRAFT MONEY-LAUNDERING LAW. Three coordinators of the "Money Laundering" project under the auspices of the EU PHARE program "Combatting Drugs in Eastern and Central Europe" arrived in Lithuania on 8 August, BNS reported. The goal of their three-day visit is to analyze the situation and help draft a law on money laundering. Dr. Ona Grimalauskiene, deputy chairwoman of the State Narcotics Control Commission, said that the adoption of such a law might influence the attitudes of foreign governments and attract more investments to Lithuania. The republic intends to join the 1988 United Nations Convention on the Control of Illegal Narcotics Funds. One of the most important criteria for membership is the adoption of a money-laundering law. -- Saulius Girnius COURT DECLARE GDANSK SHIPYARD BANKRUPT. The regional court in Gdansk ruled on 8 August that Gdansk shipyard is bankrupt. The Solidarity movement was born in the shipyard in 1980 and Poland's former President Lech Walesa worked there as an electrician. The shipyard employs 6,000 people and has debts of 414 million zlotys ($152.1 million) and assets of only 350 million zlotys ($128.6 million). The shipyard's creditors have two months to file claims. The current management has created a new company using some of the shipyard's assets. The company, New Gdansk Shipyard, is to take over the profit- generating contracts of the bankrupt shipyard. It is estimated, however that half of the work force will lose their jobs. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH REPUBLIC'S KREDITNI BANKA COLLAPSES. The Pilsen-based Kreditni Banka on 7 August became the most recent Czech financial institution to have its banking license revoked by the Czech National Bank, Hospodarske noviny reported the following day. Kreditni Banka's losses may run as high as 10-12 billion crowns ($370-$440 million), and more than 4 billion crowns worth of claims against the bank have already been filed by its depositors. This sum, which is likely to increase in the future, is well in excess of what can be covered either by Ceska pojistovna, Kreditni Banka's owner and the Czech Republic's largest insurance company, or by the banking insurance fund. Since the state holds significant equity stakes in Ceska pojistovna's shareholders, Czech taxpayers are likely to pick up the tab for the losses incurred by Kreditni Banka's incompetent, if not outright fraudulent, management. -- Ben Slay SLOVAK PROSECUTOR GENERAL VIOLATES CONSTITUTION? Prosecutor General Michal Valo has ordered that President Michal Kovac's pardon of two men involved in the Technopol fraud case (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 July) cannot be implemented until the Constitutional Court rules on Valo's earlier complaint regarding presidential pardons, Narodna obroda reported on 9 August. Valo had filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court after Kovac pardoned former secret service agent Oskar Fegyveres, who confessed to participating in Kovac Jr.'s abduction last year. The two men granted pardons by Kovac were his son's business associates. Kovac argued that the case was overly politicized, and he wanted to allow them to testify in Germany. In a letter to Valo, Kovac pointed to sections of the Constitution and Penal Code obliging the prosecution to immediately accept a presidential pardon. Presidential legal expert Ivan Trimaj said "it is hard to imagine a grosser infringement of the constitution and the law." -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN ENVIRONMENTALISTS DEMAND END TO DANUBE DIVERSION. Hungarian environmental activists and hydrotechnicians demanded at a 7 August meeting that Slovakia stop diverting the Danube to feed the Gabcikovo hydroelectric plant, CTK reported the following day. The meeting's participants called on the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where the case is waiting to be heard, to rule that Slovakia should stop diverting the waters. "Hungary is not just asking the court to rule whether Slovakia was justified in completing Gabcikovo after Hungary pulled out of the project. We are also asking the court to decree that the full amount of water should be released into the old Danube course," activist Laszlo Valki told MTI. The joint Slovak- Hungarian project was launched in 1977, but Hungary pulled out after communism fell. -- Sharon Fisher Southerern Europe SECURITY COUNCIL THREATENS SANCTIONS OVER KARADZIC, MLADIC. The UN's top body approved a non-binding resolution on 8 August demanding that all sides in Bosnia-Herzegovina cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, the BBC reported. The text added that "the council is ready to consider the application of economic enforcement measures to ensure compliance by all parties with the obligations under the peace agreement," Reuters noted. The latest resolution singles out the Bosnian Serbs' failure to deliver to the court their military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic and leading civilian figure Radovan Karadzic. Earlier sanctions hit Belgrade and Pale hard and helped bring the Serbs to the peace talks in Dayton last year. Bosnia's UN ambassador, Muhamed Sacirbey, cautioned that any initiative to reimpose sanctions would have to start in the major capitals, not at the UN. -- Patrick Moore MUSLIMS, CROATS FAIL TO AGREE ON HERCEG-BOSNA. Bosnian Federation senior officials failed to agree on 8 August on the dissolution of the Croat mini-state of Herceg-Bosna, Oslobodjenje reported the next day. Bosnian Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic said the Croats had presented new conditions on the Herceg-Bosna dissolution instead of simply abolishing it. Bosnian Federation President Kresimir Zubak accused Muslims of preventing the functioning of the federation by not transferring the authority from the republic to it. U.S. envoy to Bosnia John Kornblum and Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic were present at the meeting. Kornblum voiced deep regrets over the failed talks, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, the High Representative for Bosnia Carl Bildt said he was not satisfied with anything concerning the implementation of the federation, Reuters reported on 7 August. Bildt said he remained concerned about its future despite the Mostar power-sharing agreement between Muslims and Croats. -- Daria Sito Sucic OSCE CONCERNED OVER SERB STATEMENTS ON SOVEREIGN STATE. The OSCE's spokesman in Sarajevo, Joanna van Vliet, said on 8 August that the organization overseeing Bosnia's upcoming general elections was concerned over Bosnian Serb officials' statements giving the Republika Srpska (RS) the right to assert sovereignty as an independent state, international agencies reported. Biljana Plavsic, acting RS president, said repeatedly during her pre-election campaign that the September elections would "legalize the sovereignty" of the RS, Reuters reported. The OSCE reminded Bosnian Serb officials that the rules set up by the Dayton peace accords state that "Bosnia-Herzegovina shall consist of the two entities, the Bosnian Federation and the Republika Srpska." Meanwhile, UN special envoy to Bosnia Iqbal Riza discussed security arrangements for Bosnia's elections with RS Foreign Minister Aleksa Buha. Buha was concerned over possible incidents if a large number of voters crossed from one entity to the other, AFP reported on 8 August. -- Daria Sito Sucic SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS REACT TO MILOSEVIC-TUDJMAN SUMMIT. Serbia's opposition leaders have begun reacting to the 7 August summit between Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, Nasa Borba reported on 9 August. The Serbian Renewal Movement, led by Vuk Draskovic, welcomed news of a possible normalization of bilateral relations but queried: "Why didn't Tudjman and Milosevic agree on normalization three or four years ago? Why didn't agreementŠcome when nearly a million Serbs lived in Croatia?" The SPO added that it would "fight for the return of Serbs to Krajina [in Croatia] and to those places where they have lived for centuries." For his part, Vojislav Seselj, accused war criminal and ultranationalist leader of the Serbian Radical Party, said Milosevic once again "sold out" Serbian national interests, especially by abandoning the Serbs in eastern Slavonia through his hints that he would recognize Croatia's international borders. -- Stan Markotich SERBIAN PRESIDENT ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL? Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic may be trying to influence voters for in the industrial town of Kragujevac, where he has recently promised to give the local car manufacturer Zastava a large cash grant of about $19 million, Reuters reported on 8 August. Opposition Democratic Party spokesman Slobodan Vuksanovic reacted to Milosevic's announcement by saying the president "is buying social peace ahead of the electionsŠIt is a usual thing. This is the best time for the government to start promising and misleading people." Federal parliamentary elections in Serbia-Montenegro are due before year's end. -- Stan Markotich ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE IN OFFING? President Ion Iliescu, Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu, and other leaders of the Party of Social Democracy (PSDR) in Romania discussed on 7 August the feasibility of a government reshuffle, Radio Bucharest reported on 9 August, citing the independent news agency Mediafax. The Health, Agriculture, Labor and Social Protection and Youth and Sports ministries are likely to be affected, as well as several county prefect positions. A final decision is to be made next week. Also next week, the PDSR leadership expects a reply from Minister of Foreign Affairs Teodor Melescanu to the PDSR initiative that he take over managing President Ion Iliescu's electoral campaign. Melescanu is officially not a PDSR member and the offer has been criticized by some political observers and opposition leaders. -- Michael Shafir CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING ROMANIAN NEWS AGENCY. A group of employees of the Information and Synthesis Center of the RADOR news agency, which is part of the Romanian Radio Company, on 7 August protested the dismissal of their editor in chief and his replacement by a former activist of the Communist Party's Central Committee. Its protest letter, which was received by OMRI, says that Mihai Andrei, the dismissed editor in chief, set up the center six years ago and implemented stringent standards for unbiased, non-discriminatory reporting and prompt delivery of information. The center monitors broadcasts in Romania and foreign broadcasts in the Romanian language, supplying information bulletins to government and non- governmental organizations, political parties, and news agencies. The signatories say Andrei's dismissal will endanger independence and emphasize that this bodes ill on the eve of elections. -- Michael Shafir SMIRNOV ON CHISINAU-TIRASPOL RELATIONS. Dniester breakaway region leader Igor Smirnov told a press conference on 7 August that "Moldovan President Mircea Snegur is the only one to blame for the delay in signing the memorandum on settling relations between Moldova and the Dneister region," BASA-Press reported the next day. Smirnov said Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma are "ready to sign the memorandum" and everything now depends on Snegur. Snegur himself left on 8 August for Moscow, heading the Moldovan delegation attending festivities for the Yeltsin inauguration. A Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman told BASA-Press that he could not comment on speculations that the memorandum will be signed in Moscow on this occasion, but added that the Dniester representatives will be present at the event too. -- Michael Shafir BULGARIA TACKLES GRAIN SHORTAGE ADMINISTRATIVELY. The Bulgarian government submitted to parliament on 8 August the annual bill governing the trade regime in grain, Trud reported the same day. The proposed law limits grain producers' profitability to 15%, requires them to declare the size of their harvests within one month of their gathering, allows the government to introduce "extraordinary measures"--which some interpret as forcible grain requisitioning--in cases of shortage, and sets fines for grain trading without a license and refusing to provide information on grain dealings. The government has set aside 25 billion leva ($134 million) to purchase this year's harvest, whereas 70 billion leva is needed, Pari reported on 7 August. In other economic news, consumer price inflation in July was 23.3%, the highest rate since March 1991, bringing such inflation to 81.9% so far this year. -- Michael Wyzan BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS UPDATE. The Central Electoral Commission for the upcoming presidential election held its first meetings on 7 and 8 August, Trud and Standart reported. At the initial meeting, opposition and majority representatives in the commission disagreed on whether candidates should register as "Bulgarian citizens" or "Bulgarian citizens by birth." The latter could bar the Socialist candidate, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, from registering, since he was born in New York and acquired U.S. citizenship at birth. At the 8 August meeting, the commission approved a registration form on which the candidate does not have to declare his citizenship. But candidates must present a certificate from the police stating their citizenship and saying how they acquired it. Candidates must register between 12 August and 22 September. Decisions of the Central Electoral Commission must be made by two thirds of its members. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN SPECIAL COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE THE DEATH OF ALLEGED BANK ROBBER. A special commission has been set up to investigate the mysterious death of Shpetim Cashku, president of the Agi trade company, Koha Jone reported on 9 August. Cashku was shot by special police forces inside the Tirana Savings Bank on 27 July and later died in the hospital. Reports are conflicting, however. Early ATSH reports said Cashku had taken hostages after he was refused a credit of $300,000, but bank employees later denied that report. ATSH also quoted witnesses as saying that only Cashku's arm was injured, but later he reportedly died of shots in his back. Koha Jone also mentions a mysterious letter from Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi, who apparently had approved the credit, that later disappeared. Koha Jone also pointed out that the Albanian TV broadcast the 27 July incidents live for about an hour. -- Fabian Schmidt NUMBER OF ALBANIAN DESERTERS ON THE RISE. In the past six months, 166 army deserters have been sentenced to between four and six years imprisonment in Tirana alone, international agencies reported on 7 August. Reportedly four times as many deserters are awaiting trial in the capital. Hundreds more have fled the army to neighboring countries and the situation is similar in other parts of Albania. Prosecutors have reportedly begun calling for harsher sentences against deserters and draft dodgers. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Carla Atkinson --------------------------------------------------------------------- --- Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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