|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
No. 160, Part II, 19 August 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 CRIMEAN SEPARATIST FAIL TO FORCE SPECIAL PARLIAMENTARY SESSIONS. Separatist forces in Crimea, demanding greater autonomy for their region, failed to garner the support of lawmakers to call special sessions of the Ukrainian and Crimean legislatures, Ukrainian agencies reported on 17-18 August. Nine legislators out of 35 in Kyiv who had backed the effort withdrew their signatures at the last moment from a petition demanding an extraordinary session to amend the new national constitution in favor of more Crimean autonomy. Serhii Tsekov, former Crimean assembly speaker, initiated the petition for the special session, which by law requires 33 signatures. Tsekov's drive to call a special session of the regional legislature on 17 August also failed to garner the support of the required number of deputies. Tsekov and the Rossiya bloc had hoped legislators would vote to hold a regionwide referendum on provisions in the new Ukrainian constitution that, they feel, afford the region insufficient powers. They also aimed to call a vote of confidence in Crimean Prime Minister Arkadii Demydenko. -- Chrystyna Lapychak UKRAINIAN-U.S. NAVAL EXERCISES. The flagship of the U.S. 6th Fleet, the USS La Salle, was in Odessa from 16 to 18 August, NTV and UNIAN reported. U.S. Vice Adm. Charles Abbott called joint naval exercises and working visits the most effective ways of consolidating cooperation between the two countries' navies within NATO's Partnership for Peace program. He said the exercises demonstrate America's commitment to Eastern Europe. Abbott was in Odessa on Ukrainian Commander Volodymyr Bezkorovainy's birthday. U.S. naval representatives plan four more visits to Ukraine this year, and two Ukrainian warships are to participate in joint naval exercises in the United States in September. -- Ustina Markus MORE ON BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT'S HRODNA SPEECH. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka gave a lengthy speech in Hrodna on 15 August urging the Belarusian electorate to support him in a 7 November referendum, Belarusian television reported. Lukashenka told the public that there is no need for the 24 November parliamentary by-elections and that the 200 deputies already elected are sufficient for a country the size of Belarus. He also recommended votes against the right to buy and sell property and against the abolition of the death penalty. Lukashenka announced that his amended version of the constitution would be published on 3 September and debated 11 days later at the first Belarusian National Congress by 6,000 people representing all of the country's regions. Lukashenka praised Russian President Boris Yeltsin for writing off Belarus's debts but criticized Moscow for not implementing the customs union. He also assured the public that Russia would continue to offer Belarus oil and gas for less than world prices. He made a sensational revelation when he said he had been offered $10 billion by the West for the radar station near Baranovichy used by Russian troops, but he said he would not trade his friendship with Russia for Western money. -- Ustina Markus MERI AGREES TO SEEK ESTONIAN PRESIDENCY. Incumbent Lennart Meri held an impromptu press conference on 16 August following a visit by 21 parliamentary deputies supporting his candidacy for Estonia's presidency, ETA reported. Meri announced that he had accepted the proposal and expected to receive the necessary 68 of 101 votes from legislators on 26 August. Another possible candidate, Rural People's Party Chairman Arnold Ruutel, said he would decide whether to run after his party's congress on 21 August. Center Party Chairman Edgar Savisaar the next day called Meri's decision to run "rash," since, according to Savisaar, Meri is unlikely to get 68 votes and other candidates will appear in the next round. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIAN, RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTERS DISCUSS IMPROVING RELATIONS. Andris Skele telephoned Viktor Chernomyrdin on 16 August and accepted an invitation for a short working visit to Moscow in early September, BNS reported. Skele congratulated Chernomyrdin on his recent reappointment as prime minister and expressed the hope of further developing bilateral relations, especially economic relations. Chernomyrdin said he would appoint his deputy Valerii Serov as the Russian head of a Latvian-Russian intergovernmental commission to discuss the completion of unconcluded bilateral agreements on such topics as air communications and the avoidance of double taxation. The commission, whose formation was agreed upon in late 1994 but has never met, would also review Russia's decision to abolish beginning on 1 September lower railroad rates for Russian cargo passing through Latvia. -- Saulius Girnius RUSSIA DISMISSES ITS AMBASSADOR TO LITHUANIA. President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree on 15 August relieving Nikolai Obertyshev of his duties as ambassador to Lithuania because of a transfer to another post, ITAR-TASS reported. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Povilas Gylys told BNS the next day that he had not yet received official notification of the change. Gylys expressed the hope that the appointment of a new ambassador would not change the character of Lithuanian-Russian relations. Unconfirmed reports state that Russia's ambassador to Tajikistan, Mechyslau Sienkevich, a 59-year- old ethnic Belarusian known for his advocacy of imperial policies, may replace Obertyshev. -- Saulius Girnius RUSSIAN AIRLINER MAKES EMERGENCY LANDING IN WARSAW. An Aeroflot airliner on a flight from Rome to St. Petersburg made an unscheduled landing at Warsaw's Okecie International Airport on 18 August after receiving a warning that there was a bomb onboard, PAP reported the same day. Police searched the plane but found nothing. Following the search, the plane, with 144 passengers, resumed its flight to St. Petersburg. Airport authorities said they would issue a detailed statement on 19 August. -- Jiri Pehe POLAND'S UNIATE CHURCH MARKS 400th ANNIVERSARY. Three days of ceremonies commemorating the founding of the Uniate Church in Poland culminated on 18 August in the town of Jaroslaw, PAP reported. The Uniate Church was founded in 1596 in the so-called Union of Brest. Under the union, the Orthodox bishops accepted the authority of the pope, while retaining their Byzantine liturgy, priests' right to marry, and their own hierarchy. The church was founded partly to strengthen Poland's rule over its eastern territories, embracing much of Ukraine. In 1946, Stalin outlawed the church in the Soviet Union, forcing it to merge with the Russian Orthodox Church. Since the fall of communism, it has enjoyed a revival. On 18 August, papal envoy Achille Silvestrini adorned with diamonds and a crown a famous icon of the Virgin Mary in a Jaroslaw church. Tens of thousands of pilgrims, many of them from Belarus and Ukraine, also gathered on 18 August at the Gabarka shrine near the Belarusian border. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER ON RELATIONS WITH HUNGARY. Speaking on Slovak Radio on 16 August, Vladimir Meciar commented on the declaration issued at last month's ethnic Hungarian summit in Budapest that called for autonomy for ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries. Meciar said the declaration is a continuance of the "permanent effort, apparent in Slovakia since 1918, to renew greater Hungary under various pretexts." He continued: "We understand these autonomy [efforts] as the first step. . . . We have the right to request that the Hungarian government publicly distance itself from the signing of the document as an act that conflicts with international law." The Slovak prime minister added, however, that such a distancing is not a condition for a meeting with his Hungarian counterpart, Gyula Horn. Meciar said his recently canceled meeting with Horn had been postponed after "mutual agreement." -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK POLITICAL ROUNDUP. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar attended the inauguration of the second of Slovakia's eight new administrative regions in Nitra on 18 August, Slovak media reported. Meciar stressed the importance of the new administrative plan, the main goal of which is "decentralization and bringing the state administration closer to the citizen." The Hungarian minority accounts for more than 30% of the population in the Nitra region, and the publicly elected mayors of three Hungarian-dominated districts refused to attend the ceremony. Ethnic Hungarian politicians have criticized the new system, as have opposition representatives, who claim it strengthens the position of Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. -- Sharon Fisher CARTER AWARDED PRIZE IN HUNGARY. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on 17 August received Hungary's Order of Merit for contributing to the development of bilateral ties and for returning St. Stephen's crown in 1978, international media reported. The crown, a Hungarian national symbol, was confiscated by the Nazis during World War II and later captured by Americans. It remained in the United States until Carter returned it to Hungary. Hungarian President Arpad Goncz noted that the crown's return "fundamentally changed bilateral relations and triggered the process of deep change [in Hungary]." Last week, Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, helped build 10 new houses for the socially disadvantaged in the northern Hungarian town of Vac under the auspices of U.S.-based Habitat for Humanity. Carter and his wife were given the key to the city of Budapest by Mayor Gabor Demszky, and Carter announced Habitat for Humanity's plans to build houses in Budapest for Roma. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN OPINION POLL RESULTS. A poll carried out by Szonda Ipsos showed that trust in the Hungarian government was up slightly in July over the previous month, reaching 51.7%, Hungarian media reported on 17 August. Among the individual ministers, respondents had the most trust in Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs (69%), followed by Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti (61%). Prime Minister Gyula Horn had the trust of only 49% of respondents, putting him in ninth place. The most popular politician was President Arpad Goncz, with the trust of 75% of respondents in July. Kovacs was next with 65%, followed by Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky with 62%. -- Sharon Fisher SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE 'OPERATION VOLCANO' UNDER WAY AMID SERBIAN CRITICISMS, THREAT. IFOR troops destroyed the first batch of contraband Bosnian Serb munitions on 19 August, international media reported. The batch, reportedly comprising several hundred tons of material, was part of an ammunition dump consisting of "rockets, packets of TNT, small arms ammunition, and about 5,700 cases of anti-tank and anti- personnel mines" found in a former schoolhouse in Margetici two weeks ago, Onasa reported on 18 August. Onasa added that the Bosnian Serb reaction to the destruction was hostile, with the Bosnian Serb army dubbing the destruction plan, or Operation Volcano, "a very dangerous provocation" and saying the munitions dump was kept in accordance with the terms of the Dayton accord. Destroying the rest of the munitions is expected to take nearly a week. -- Stan Markotich OPPOSITION SUPPORTERS ATTACKED IN BOSNIA. The day after three separate explosions occurred in the northwestern Bosnian city of Cazin, Alexander Ivanko, a UN spokesman, noted on 16 August that violent harassment of opposition-party supporters continues there, Onasa reported. Explosive devices were aimed at the homes of three people campaigning on behalf of opposition candidates in Bosnia's upcoming elections. No injuries were reported. Ivanko said the International Police Task Force was encouraging the Cazin police to conduct a full investigation, but one of the victims said he did not trust the police force, which, he said, had harassed him. Meanwhile, the Joint List of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a coalition of five opposition parties, issued a statement complaining that the regional police in Bihac on 15 August confiscated the coalition's campaign posters and leaflets, Oslobodjenje reported on 18 August. -- Daria Sito Sucic BOSNIAN SERBS APOLOGIZE FOR VOTER MANIPULATION. The ruling Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) on 17 August issued a public apology for using humanitarian aid to manipulate voters in the towns of Doboj and Modrica, Reuters reported. The apology was prompted by the OSCE (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 August 1996). In other news, the international community's high representative for Bosnia, Carl Bildt, visited Srebrenica and Zvornik. He warned SDS officials there that they risk disqualification from Bosnia's elections unless Radovan Karadzic posters disappear, Reuters reported on 18 August. An SDS official in Srebrenica said the international community can eliminate Karadzic from public life but cannot forbid people to love him. Srebrenica officials complained to Bildt about such problems as a shortage of running water and electricity. In response to pleas for help, Bildt said Bosnian Serb leaders have refused international assistance earmarked for Bosnia-Herzegovina because they want their own independent state. -- Daria Sito Sucic SERBIAN GENERAL KILLED IN CROATIA. Milorad Miscevic, a retired 75- year-old ethnic Serbian general of the former Yugoslav army, was reportedly killed in Vrebac on 14 August when a mine planted at his doorstep exploded, AFP reported on 18 August, citing Novi list. Croatia's Interior Ministry has said it is investigating the incident but would neither confirm nor deny reports linking Miscevic's death to the circumstances mentioned by Novi list. AFP also reported that "a number of sometimes deadly attacks" have been made against mostly elderly Serbs residing in parts of Croatia that were reclaimed in 1995 from rebel Serbs. -- Stan Markotich BELGRADE DELEGATION IN ZAGREB, AND VICE VERSA. A Foreign Ministry delegation from Belgrade arrived in Zagreb on 16 August. The delegation, on a two-day visit, was reportedly charged with helping arrange the "final details" of an agreement that would move Croatia and Serbia-Montenegro toward a normalization of relations, Hina reported that same day. On 19 August, Nasa Borba reported that a Foreign Ministry delegation from Zagreb was to arrive in Belgrade that day to continue talks. These latest rounds of diplomatic activity follow in the wake of a 7 August summit between Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, held near Athens, where both leaders agreed in principle on a normalization of relations. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic is slated to meet his Belgrade counterpart, Milan Milutinovic, on 23 August in Belgrade. -- Stan Markotich AIR TRAGEDY NEAR BELGRADE. A Russian transport plane crashed near the Belgrade airport early on 19 August, reportedly killing all 12 people aboard. One security official said the plane's cargo was class "B"--that is, consisting of military supplies, Reuters reported. Witnesses and airport officials said the craft exploded into a giant fireball before collapsing in a cornfield near the airport. -- Stan Markotich KOSOVO ALBANIANS WILL BOYCOTT RUMP YUGOSLAV ELECTIONS. Kosovar shadow state President Ibrahim Rugova on 16 August said ethnic Albanians in Kosovo will boycott the 3 November rump Yugoslav elections, AFP reported. He said the Kosovars "have held [their own elections], and thus the elected body is legitimate and legal." Meanwhile, Albanian President Sali Berisha rejected rumors that Albania wants to annex Kosovo. In an interview with the Austrian daily Die Presse, he said that Albania respects other countries' borders but would "not tolerate a division of [Kosovo] or any ethnic-cleansing campaigns." He said he favors negotiations involving Tirana, Belgrade, and a third party on the Kosovo problem. Berisha said that the situation of Kosovo's Albanians has deteriorated significantly since the signing of the Dayton agreement in December 1995. -- Stefan Krause U.S. WELCOMES ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN BASIC TREATY. The U.S. State Department on 15 August welcomed the successful negotiation of a bilateral basic treaty between Romania and Hungary, RFE/RL reported the following day. The statement described the agreement as a "significant breakthrough" that demonstrates the two countries' commitment to European integration. Meanwhile, politicians in Hungary and Romania continued to react to the event. Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs on 16 August told representatives of parliamentary parties that Budapest had "made no concessions" to the Romanian side. A spokesman for Romanian President Ion Iliescu on 17 August described as "an act of gross disinformation" a statement released by Gheorghe Funar, the leader of the chauvinistic Party of Romanian National Unity, warning of dangers posed by the treaty. The extreme-nationalist Greater Romania Party called for the postponement of the treaty's signing until after the November presidential and parliamentary elections. -- Dan Ionescu MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER CRITICIZES SNEGUR. Gen. Pavel Creanga renewed accusations that President Mircea Snegur, who is also the country's supreme commander, was hindering his activity, BASA-press reported on 17 August. The attack came in an interview published in Pamant si Oameni (Land and People), the mouthpiece of the ruling Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova. Creanga further suggested that the president is trying to take control of the army through orders that lack any legal basis. According to Creanga, Snegur's ultimate goal is to provoke a crisis to justify the proclamation of a state of emergency and the establishment of direct presidential rule in the Republic of Moldova. Creanga had been dismissed by Snegur on 15 March for inability to stem corruption at his ministry. The Constitutional Court, however, reinstated Creanga on 4 April. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN ROUNDUP. Interior Minister Nikolay Dobrev on 18 August announced new measures against rising street crime, Standart reported. After a meeting of high-level police and intelligence officials, Dobrev said video cameras would be put up at strategic locations in big cities and that new police cars and uniforms would be introduced. Dobrev said that the fight against crime has thus far been "ineffective and inadequate." On 17 August, police conducted a major raid in Sofia, reclaiming eight stolen cars and arresting three suspects. In other news, the U.S. oil company Amoco announced plans to invest $50 million to build a network of about 50 filling stations in Bulgaria, Pari reported. That would make Amoco one of the biggest foreign investors in Bulgaria. The first Amoco station is scheduled to open in Burgas on 14 September. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN ROUNDUP. Albania's opposition parties on 16 August rejected an offer by the ruling Democratic Party to participate in round-table talks regarding the upcoming local elections, international media reported. The Socialist Party and six other opposition parties in a joint statement objected to the election date and to President Sali Berisha's decision to create an electoral commission by decree, without consulting them. The opposition demands a review of the local-elections law and new parliamentary elections by the end of 1997. In other news, Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos plans to visit Albania in late August to discuss improving bilateral relations. Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis will reportedly visit Albania at the end of 1996. Relations greatly improved after Albania announced the opening of Greek-language schools and Athens pledged to legalize the status of most of the approximately 300,000 Albanians living in Greece. -- Stefan Krause [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Tim Rostan ------------------------------------------------------------------- Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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