|To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else. - Emily Dickinson|
No. 162, Part II, 21 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 CIVIC CONGRESS APPEALS TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE. The leftist Civic Congress of Ukraine has appealed to the Council of Europe and various international trade unions and human-rights organizations to pressure the Ukrainian government to pay its huge wage debt to public-sector employees and end its crackdown on leaders of the coal miners' union, UNIAR reported on 19 August. The group complained that the government's debt to workers is "the most blatant violation" of their rights and freedoms and claimed the wage-arrears crisis had become a deliberate policy aimed at attracting IMF credits. It said only large organized groups, such as the miners' unions, that could inflict substantial losses by striking, had a chance at dialogue with the government. The Civic Congress's appeal also demanded the release of three organizers of the July miners' strike who were arrested recently in what is seen as a crackdown on independent labor unions. It complained that the mass media have been intimidated by the government into toeing the official line on these events. -- Chrystyna Lapychak MORE ON TAIWANESE OFFICIAL'S VISIT TO UKRAINE. The visit of Taiwanese Vice President Lien Chan to Ukraine has given rise to controversy, international agencies reported on 20 and 21 August. Ukraine recognizes the People's Republic of China and, in adherence to Beijing's "one China" policy, does not have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Ukraine's Foreign Ministry denied knowledge of Lien's trip, which was explained as an unofficial visit at the invitation of Kyiv University, where Lien was awarded an honorary degree. China condemned the visit, saying it had political overtones even if it was ostensibly a private visit. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing was preparing to lodge an official protest with Kyiv. Last year, Ukraine's trade with Taiwan totaled $224.8 million, with Ukrainian exports to Taipei accounting for $180 million. Ukraine's trade with China amounted to almost $1 billion and was also slanted in favor of Ukrainian exports. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PROMOTES OFFICIALS. Leonid Kuchma has issued a decree upgrading the chairmanships of five state committees to the level of cabinet ministerships, Ukrainian TV reported on 19 August. The chiefs of the Anti-Monopoly Committee, the State Property Fund, the Secret Service of Ukraine, the State Customs Committee, and the Committee for the Defense of State Borders will now rank as ministers. In other news, Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko promised leaders of Ukraine's writers', artists', and cinematographers' unions that he would determine the feasibility of allowing them tax breaks and other privileges to support their artistic endeavors. The groups asked Lazarenko to consider such aid especially for Ukrainian-language book publishers, who have found it most difficult to adapt to market conditions. The government has allocated 455 billion karbovantsi ($2.4 million) in subsidies this year to the unions, up from 316 billion karbovantsi last year. -- Chrystyna Lapychak TRIALS OF UKRAINIANS BEGIN IN BELARUS. The trials of seven Ukrainians arrested in Minsk for participating in the 26 April Chornobyl anniversary demonstration began on 21 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The Ukrainians allegedly belong to the radical nationalist Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian Self-Defense Organization. The Belarusian press has frequently accused the organization of cooperating with the nationalist Belarusian Popular Front against Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's pro- Russian policies. The nearly four-month detention without trial of the Ukrainians has strained relations between Ukraine and Belarus. -- Ustina Markus ROUND TABLE IN BELARUS. The leaders of some 15 parties and movements are scheduled to meet on 21 August to hold a round-table discussion on the political and socioeconomic situation in Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported. Participants in the discussion will include Agrarians, Communists, and members of the nationalist Belarusian Popular Front. It is also expected that government representatives will take part in the talks, though President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said he will not participate. One of the key points on the agenda is a resolution calling for a five-year moratorium on amendments to the constitution. Lukashenka plans to make a number of changes to the document and have them approved in a national referendum in November. -- Ustina Markus BALTIC, NORDIC FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs hosted his counterparts from Estonia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland in Riga on 20 August, Baltic agencies reported. He said the ministers agreed that the lifting of visa requirements would promote regional integration and mutual contacts at various levels. While noting that the future security structure of Europe cannot be created without the active participation of Russia, they expressed support for NATO membership for the Baltic states. They also stated that negotiations with the EU on new members should begin simultaneously for all candidate countries. It was the fourth meeting of the countries' foreign ministers. -- Saulius Girnius NEW LATVIAN AMBASSADOR TO LITHUANIA ACCREDITED. Ajis Sjanits submitted his letter of accreditation to Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas on 20 August, Radio Lithuania reported. The Latvian diplomat said his central task is to confirm and accelerate the unity between Lithuania and Latvia in foreign policy and in their common goal of membership in the EU and NATO. The unsettled sea border and Latvia's plans to ratify oil-exploration agreements with two foreign companies, however, cast a shadow over the accreditation. The Foreign Ministry did not host the traditional welcoming dinner for Sjanits, who also did not meet with Prime Minister Mindaugas Stankevicius. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN DEBTS TO GAZPROM. Prime Minister Mindaugas Stankevicius met with Finance Minister Algimantas Krizinauskas, Energy Minister Saulius Kutas, and Lietuvos Dujos Director Kestutis Sumacheris on 20 August to discuss the problem of debts to the Russian gas supplier Gazprom, BNS reported. Kutas's promise to pay $7 million in July and $8 million in August has been only partially fulfilled; he also pledged that the republic would pay $31.7 million by the start of the heating season. Gazprom has threatened to increase the price of gas beginning on 1 September and to end gas supplies to Lithuania next year if the debts are not paid. While Lithuanian construction work in Moscow for Gazprom covers part of the debt, the bulk of the debt is to be paid with two $10 million loans from Swiss Union Bank. -- Saulius Girnius POLAND TO CLAMP DOWN ON PRIVATE SECURITY COMPANIES. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 20 August told reporters that the Interior Ministry will present a bill to the cabinet later this week regulating private security companies, Reuters reported. He said the new legislation will specify conditions for granting licenses, stipulate whom firms can and cannot hire, and ensure that firearms are used acceptably. The move comes amid growing public concern over violence involving private security companies. In the latest such incident, a fight broke out last weekend at a border crossing with Belarus over escorting traders from the former Soviet Union to a large outdoor market in Warsaw. Hundreds of men attacked a bus carrying employees of a security firm and were halted only after an off-duty policeman on the bus fired at the ground. Seven policemen have been suspended on suspicion of moonlighting for the firm without permission. Cimoszewicz stressed that the police should be prohibited from working for security companies during their free time. -- Jan Cleave JEWISH CEMETERIES IN POLAND REDEDICATED. Three Jewish cemeteries in southern Poland were rededicated on 20 August by rabbis from the U.S. and Israel, Western agencies reported. The cemeteries at Sedziszow, Strzyzow, and Debica had been left neglected after World War II, during which most of Poland's Jewish community perished at the hands of the Nazis. Many of the tombstones have been restored by the Nissenbaum Foundation, which has been working on neglected Jewish cemeteries and synagogues in Poland since 1983. In a speech during the rededication ceremony in Debica, Rabbi Hertz Frenkel noted that "Jewish life in Poland is almost extinct. The least the citizens of Poland can do is give the proper respect to those who are buried in the existing cemeteries." -- Jan Cleave CHINESE MILITARY DELEGATION VISITS CZECH REPUBLIC. A high-level Chinese military delegation that arrived in the Czech Republic on 17 August for a five-day stay meant "to broaden and strengthen Czech-Chinese military cooperation" visited the Tatra truck plant in Koprivnice on 20 August, CTK reported. The report noted that China has been one of Tatra's best customers, purchasing 400 trucks this year. -- Doug Clarke SLOVAK CABINET APPROVES DRAFT UNIVERSITY LAW. Marian Tolnay of the Education Ministry's university department said the university bill--passed by the government on 20 August--is "acceptable" to the academic and scientific communities, Narodna obroda and CTK reported. The cabinet refused, however, to consider the recommendations of the Slovak Rectors Conference, which, according to Tolnay "is not a partner of the government" and is "dictating" its demands. The academic community reportedly is most opposed to Article 15, which defines the ministry's powers in relation to universities, and to Article 22 on postgraduate study. If passed by the parliament, the legislation would restrict universities' autonomy by allowing a failed student or dismissed professor to appeal the decisions of academic councils to the ministry. The ministry would also control financial flows to individual institutions. Although the bill provides for the establishment of private universities, it requires that two branches of Hungarian universities in southern Slovakia ask for government approval. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK BILL ON PROSECUTOR-GENERAL PASSED. Also on 20 August, the cabinet approved a bill on the prosecutor-general, limiting his term in office to seven years. Prosecutor-General Michal Valo told CTK that the bill would help make the public prosecution service "more independent," since dismissal would be possible only for health reasons, at the prosecutor-general's own request, or following a court decision. Presently, the prosecutor-general is elected for an unlimited term and can be dismissed at any time by the president at the parliament's recommendation. Opposition politicians have been calling for Valo's dismissal based on alleged unconstitutional moves and political bias. The government also approved the unilateral abolition of visa requirements for Canadian tourists and business people for visits of up to 90 days, TASR reported. The move "demonstrates the closeness of [the two countries'] political and economic systems and confirms [Slovakia's] interest in intensive cooperation," according to a government statement. -- Sharon Fisher ETHNIC HUNGARIAN LEADERS CALL FOR ANOTHER MINORITY SUMMIT. The leaders of ethnic Hungarian organizations beyond Hungary's borders have harshly criticized the draft of the Romanian-Hungarian basic treaty and demanded that yet another Hungarian minority summit be convened, Hungarian media reported on 21 August. The minority organizations oppose Budapest's plan to sign the treaty in its present form. They fear that the inclusion in the treaty of an interpretation of Council of Europe Recommendation 1201 could dash their hopes of establishing ethnicity-based autonomy and collective rights. Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn told Hungarian Radio over the weekend that he fully supports the draft and sees it as an essential step to Hungary's joining the EU. Meanwhile, a Romanian negotiating team arrived in Budapest on 20 August for consultations on the final text of the treaty. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE 'OPERATION VOLCANO' CONTINUES, AS DOES CRITICISM. IFOR went ahead on 20 August with Operation Volcano, its destruction of unauthorized Bosnian Serb munitions discovered in Margetici two weeks ago (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 August 1996). According to Onasa reports on 20 August, IFOR that day destroyed 36 tons of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines and other munitions in pits 27 meters wide and 7 meters deep. Also continuing are Bosnian Serb protests against the IFOR operation. Acting President Biljana Plavsic, complaining that the arms are being destroyed at the same time as the Muslims and Croats in the Bosnian federation are being armed, proposed that IFOR instead sell the weapons or transfer the depot, AFP reported. As part of an aggressive media campaign, the Pale-based news agency SRNA alleged that the detonations have caused cracks in the walls of "the region's oldest church." Bosnian Serb officials' litany of complaints against Operation Volcano also includes allegations that the operation is jeopardizing underground water supplies and that IFOR has been dumping radioactive waste materials. Responding to the allegations, IFOR spokesman Maj. Max Marriner has said water sources are in no danger and IFOR is "not in the business of dumping radioactive waste," Onasa reported. -- Stan Markotich and Daria Sito Sucic IFOR STEPS UP CONTROL IN BRCKO REGION. IFOR troops have increased their control over goods and passengers and set up new checkpoints around the northern Bosnian town of Brcko, Onasa reported on 19 August. Brcko is becoming an increasingly important issue for both the Bosnian Serbs and the Muslim-Croat federation. While Bosnian Serb leaders have said that "Brcko is more important for Serbs than peace," Bosnian federation officials and parties also underscore its significance for their side. The status of Brcko is to be decided by 14 December through arbitration. The only traffic artery connecting Bosnian Serbs in western parts of the country with those in eastern areas and with Serbia runs through Brcko. Bosnian federation Vice President Ejup Ganic stressed that 56% of Brcko's prewar population was Muslim and that those forcibly expelled by Serbs should return to their homes. Ganic said the subject of arbitration is the whole area, including the town itself, and not just the contentious line of separation around the town, as Serbs claim. -- Daria Sito Sucic SERBIA SENTENCES ITS 'SPIES.' Four people have been sentenced by a military court in the Serbian city of Nis on charges of participating in criminal activities against the state, including spying and compromising military secrets, Politika reported on 21 August. According to the report, Marjan Cop has received one and a half years' imprisonment, Ankica Brckovic five years in prison, and Zeljko Medic a two-and-a-half-year term, with each being sentenced for spying. The fourth, Josip Baric, received one year in prison for compromising military secrets. -- Stan Markotich MONTENEGRIN PARTIES PLAN, CONSIDER ELECTION BOYCOTT. Two of Montenegro's main opposition parties failed to attend a 19 August meeting in Belgrade at which participating parties signed an accord on media coverage of the run-up to the 3 November federal elections. A representative of the Liberal Alliance of Montenegro explained his party's absence by noting that it was not concerned with how the state-backed media especially would provide coverage, since his party "will not be taking part in the elections," Beta reported on 19 August. In a related development, Dragisa Burzan, a representative of the Social Democratic Party of Montenegro, said that party "has yet to decide whether to run." -- Stan Markotich CONTROVERSY OVER ROMANIAN OPPOSITION LEADER'S PRO-MONARCHY STATEMENT. The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 20 August charged the presidential candidate of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), Emil Constantinescu, with endangering national security. The PDSR statement was triggered by an interview with Constantinescu reprinted in the daily Jurnalul national on the same day. Constantinescu said in the interview (which was originally given to a Romanian-language U.S. publication) that he hoped for a hand-off of power to the country's "lawful leader," King Michael, after a referendum on the monarchy. The CDR said in reaction to the PDSR attack on Constantinescu that it reflected the ruling party's panic in view of its likely electoral defeat, which makes it resort to "insult and calumny" instead of rational argumentation. -- Michael Shafir ROMANIAN ECONOMIC CRISIS. International financial experts and U.S. officials say Romania has virtually emptied its foreign-exchange reserves, has stopped paying its oil-import bills, and faces a winter without adequate fuel to heat homes or keep factories working. An RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 20 August that the "grave" Romanian situation has been triggered by the government's move last November to "artificially" freeze the exchange rate at around 3,000 lei to the U.S. dollar. The move was designed to hold domestic energy prices and inflation down until after the November 1996 presidential and parliamentary elections. It has, however, drained the country's foreign-currency reserves, leaving importers unable to pay for the needed crude oil. -- Michael Shafir CIS OFFICIAL VISITS MOLDOVA. The executive director of the CIS, Ivan Karatchenya of Belarus, on 20 August met with Moldovan President Mircea Snegur, Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli, and parliament Chairman Petru Lucinschi. BASA-Press quoted Snegur as telling Karatchenya that Moldova aims at "integration into European structures" but will pay special attention to "mutually advantageous bilateral ties" with many of the former Soviet republics. Lucinschi told the guest that, in CIS activity, emphasis should be laid on economic, rather than political, issues. Moldova is a founding member of the CIS but participates only in the economic functions of the organization, refusing to join its political-military structures. -- Michael Shafir BULGARIAN PREMIER CRITICIZES FARMERS. Prime Minister Zhan Videnov in an interview with the Socialist daily Duma published on 21 August blamed the present grain crisis largely on producers. Videnov said farmers have not fulfilled their obligations under contracts signed with the state, for which they received money from the state agricultural fund. Videnov said the farmers tend to hold back grain in expectation of rising prices and thus threaten the living standard of the population. He said that the state would have to get more involved in pricing. Videnov admitted that the import of grain will not solve the problem and that "grain production must be stimulated by higher domestic prices, ... and on this basis we must steadily liberalize foreign trade--not just imports but also exports." Government policy aims to keep domestic prices under world market prices and at the same time tightly restricts exports of foodstuffs. -- 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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