|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
No. 163, Part II, 22 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 *********************************************************************** Available soon -- The OMRI Annual Survey of Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union -- "1995: Building Democracy." Published by M.E. Sharpe Inc., this 336-page yearbook provides a systematic and comprehensive review of the most pivotal events in the 27 countries of the former Communist bloc and former Soviet Union during 1995. Available to OMRI subscribers at a special price of $25 each (plus postage and handling). To order, please e-mail your request to: email@example.com *********************************************************************** CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE COMMISSION SET UP TO END DEATH PENALTY IN UKRAINE. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has established a commission to review and propose steps to "humanize" Ukraine's penal code and abolish the death penalty, Ukrainian radio reported on 21 August. Made up of legal experts, lawmakers, and administration representatives, the commission's chief aim will be to help bring the country's crime legislation in line with Council of Europe recommendations, which include the abolition of capital punishment. The president's order also calls for the possible suspension of death sentences for convicts currently on death row and the introduction of life imprisonment as an alternative. -- Chrystyna Lapychak UKRAINIAN EXCHANGE BEGINS FUTURES TRADING IN THE HRYVNA. The Kyiv Universal Exchange has begun futures trading in the hryvna, Ukraine's long-awaited but, as yet, unintroduced permanent currency, Ukrainian TV reported on 21 August. No details were provided on the terms of the contracts. National Bank of Ukraine Governor Viktor Yushchenko reiterated that the hryvna would be introduced by the end of the year at the latest. Trading on 21 August began at a rate of 100,000 karbovantsi to 1 hryvna; the day's average amounted to 101,604 karbovantsi to 1 hryvna. During a celebration marking the fifth anniversary of the central bank's founding, Yushchenko said it appeared inflation in August would be about 5%. -- Chrystyna Lapychak REPERCUSSIONS OF TAIWAN OFFICIAL'S VISIT TO UKRAINE. Following Taiwanese Vice President Lien Chan's visit to Kyiv, Beijing postponed a visit by a high-level Chinese government delegation to Ukraine, Ukrainian radio reported on 21 August. Foreign Minister Henadii Udovenko attempted damage control by saying Lien's visit should not lead to any deterioration in Chinese-Ukrainian relations. He said Ukraine's position on Taiwan is well known: it regards Taiwan as an integral part of the People's Republic of China. Kyiv is holding consultations with the Chinese ambassador to Ukraine over the affair. Taiwanese papers reported that Lien had met with President Leonid Kuchma during the visit, but the president's office denied that such a meeting had taken place. Taiwanese television also reported that Kyiv had agreed to exchange trade missions with Taipei, but Ukrainian officials denied there had been any official meetings with Lien and stressed that the visit was genuinely a private one. -- Ustina Markus DETAILS OF BELARUSIAN ROUND TABLE. Some 120 people representing 12 parties from across the political spectrum participated in a round-table discussion on the political situation in Belarus on 21 August, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported. After the Minsk meeting, a joint statement by the 12 parties was issued announcing the decision to convene a permanent body to assess human rights in the country, provide evidence of constitutional violations, and oversee freedom of the press. The statement also supported the holding of the 24 November parliamentary by-elections, which President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said he would cancel if the electorate approved his questions on a 7 November referendum. Participants at the round table said they would do everything legally possible to prevent the referendum. -- Ustina Markus ESTONIA'S NONCITIZENS SLOW TO REGISTER FOR ELECTIONS. Few noncitizens have enrolled for the 20 October local elections, even though registration is scheduled from 10 August to 10 September, BNS reported on 21 August. Noncitizens are eligible to vote if they are 18 or older, have applied for a residence permit, and have lived in the respective territory for at least five years. In Tallinn, only 2,448 of the estimated 77,000 eligible voters (3.2%) had registered by the evening of 20 August. The administrative secretary of Tallinn's Lansamae borough government said, "The people are apathetic and don't give a damn about the elections." The figures in Sillimae were only slightly better, as 770 of the estimated 11,120 eligible noncitizens (6.9%) registered in the first 10 days. An appeal by the Russian Party in Estonia to extend the registration period will likely be ignored, since its claim that long lines would form at registration offices has proved to be wrong. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIA'S CAUCUSES CRITICAL OF DRAFT COALITION AGREEMENT. Representatives of the largest parties in the ruling coalition on 21 August severely criticized the draft coalition agreement and action program proposed the previous week by Prime Minister Andres Skele (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 August 1996), BNS reported. Latvia's Way caucus head Andrejs Pantelejevs called the accord "too scanty and short," saying its "parts are mutually contradictory." Fatherland and Freedom caucus head Janis Straume said the program was immature and the agreement "a gesture of disrespect toward the caucuses." He asserted that the agreement should be only a supplementary protocol to the original agreement of 25 December 1995. The Democratic Party Saimnieks has prepared an alternative draft agreement. -- Saulius Girnius BRITAIN'S 'DESERT RATS' TO TRAIN IN POLAND. Some 3,500 troops and 440 armored vehicles from Britain's 7th Armored Brigade--called the "Desert Rats" following its World War II African campaigns--will begin training in Poland next week, the British Embassy in Warsaw announced on 21 August. Billed as the biggest British army exercises on the European mainland since the end of the Cold War, Ulan Eagle '96 will take place from 30 August to 20 September at the Drawsko military base, formerly used by Warsaw Pact troops. The maneuvers are the first to be held under a British-Polish military agreement signed in June. Polish forces will be invited to observe, and Polish engineers will construct a bridge. -- Jan Cleave CUTS IN CZECH STATE EXPENDITURES. Czech Finance Minister Ivan Kocarnik announced on 21 August that his ministry will have to cut 9.3 billion crowns in expenditures to maintain a balanced state budget for 1996, Czech media reported. The government agreed at its meeting on 21 August that the country's budget must not be a deficit one. Kocarnik explained to reporters that part of the current deficit has been caused by the failure of Russia to pay its debts to the Czech Republic and another part by overestimating the government's income from taxes paid by enterprises. The Finance Ministry plans to introduce spending cuts that will affect all ministries equally. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK ARMY WANTS MORE HELICOPTERS THAN TREATY ALLOWS. The planned reorganization of the Slovak armed forces would violate the terms of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, the Slovak chief of staff, General Jozef Tuchnya, told CTK on 21 August. He said that the army would increase is holdings of attack helicopters from the current 19 to 40. The CFE treaty limits Slovakia to 25. On the other hand, the air force would not need the 115 combat aircraft permitted under the treaty, and its inventory would drop to 72. Tuchnya indicated that the air force is pleased with its Russian-made MiG-29 fighters and said 465 million crowns ($16 million) would be allocated for their modernization. -- Doug Clarke SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTY ON PRIVATIZATION. The opposition Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) on 21 August demanded a retroactive examination of the entire privatization process, Narodna obroda reported. Calling current privatization "undemocratic, nonmarket, and against the people," SDL Chairman Jozef Migas noted that if fraud is discovered, the party will demand that property be reprivatized under "market principles." SDL Deputy Brigita Schmoegnerova criticized the east Slovak ironworks VSZ's recent acquisition of a 43.7% stake in Investicna a rozvojova banka, Slovakia's third largest bank. She said the move was not approved by the National Bank of Slovakia, which, according to the banking law, must authorize such purchases beforehand. Schmoegnerova also said the advice of the IMF--which recommended that the merging of financial institutions and the creation of mixed ownership between banks and their biggest debtors be avoided--was "ignored." -- Sharon Fisher LITTLE INTEREST IN 1968 ANNIVERSARY IN BRATISLAVA. Only about 70 people gathered at the grave of Prague Spring leader Alexander Dubcek to commemorate the anniversary of the 21 August 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, Slovenska Republika reported. Attendees included representatives of the Social Democratic Party of Slovakia (SDSS)--of which Dubcek was chairman in 1992--as well as from the president's office, the Party of the Democratic Left, and the Anti-Fascist Fighters. Although invited, no representatives of the ruling coalition or of other opposition parties were present, CTK noted. SDSS Chairman Jaroslav Volf said his party will continue to seek a re-examination of the "unclear circumstances" surrounding Dubcek's death in November 1992 of injuries suffered in a car accident. Meanwhile, on 20 August, the opposition Democratic Union warned that the current cabinet is a continuation of the "normalization" regime that followed the 1968 invasion. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARY READY TO SIGN TREATY WITH ROMANIA. Despite pressure from opposition politicians and representatives of Hungarian minority organizations abroad, the Hungarian government appears set to sign the Hungarian-Romanian basic treaty, Hungarian dailies reported. Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said that he sees no reason to convene another summit of Hungarians and ethnic Hungarians living beyond Hungary's borders and that the treaty could be signed in September. Kovacs also said the basic treaty is a matter for the two countries' governments to handle. None of the questions, he said, should be discussed with minority representatives. In a related development, the German Foreign Ministry on 21 August welcomed the in-principle agreement on the treaty. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE OSCE PENALIZES BOSNIAN CROAT PARTY. The OSCE said on 21 August that the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) has "seriously violated" the voter- registration procedure, Oslobodjenje reported the next day. The OSCE's Mostar office reported that an HDZ official had illegally taken forms filled in by voters in Jasenica, south of Mostar, possibly intending to tamper with them. An OSCE appeals board had ordered the removal from office of the local electoral commission president, Vlado Bevanda, who had denied HDZ involvement in the matter despite evidence to the contrary. It also ordered the removal of Bevanda's name from the HDZ party list and the immediate termination of his candidacy for public office. The OSCE also fined the HDZ $10,000. That same day, officials from the two ruling parties in the Bosnian federation agreed that obstacles to the revival of the Bosnian federation have been removed, Onasa reported. The Muslim Party of Democratic Action and the HDZ agreed to a more rapid institution of cantonal authorities and transitional municipal councils, but they failed to agree on a federal finance system and the status of the controversial state Agency for Research and Documentation. -- Daria Sito Sucic WHAT WILL BE DONE WITH ALL THE BOSNIAN SERB MUNITIONS? Operation Volcano, the destruction by IFOR of some 400 tons of contraband Bosnian Serb munitions found in Margetici, continues, with some 130 tons disposed of to date, but questions have arisen over what to do about an additional 16 sites declared by the Bosnian Serbs. Reportedly 10 of those sites contain some 2,600 tons of munitions similar to those discovered at Margetici. Suggesting that the additional munitions deposits may not be destroyed, Maj. Brett Boudreau has said that "all options are under consideration," Reuters reported on 21 August. Some speculation already centers on the possibility that IFOR might allow the Bosnian Serbs "to move the contraband to an already approved storage site," added Reuters. -- Stan Markotich LOCAL ELECTIONS ANNOUNCED IN SERBIA. Serbia's local elections have been called and are to be held on 3 November, Radio and Television Serbia reported on 21 August. Federal elections, as well as balloting in Montenegro, are to take place the same day. The leader of the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement, Vuk Draskovic, welcomed news of the Serbian local elections, observing that they may provide opposition parties the opportunity to challenge the governing Socialist Party of Serbia power base in local constituencies, Beta reported on 21 August. Reuters, however, provided an analysis suggesting that with local, one set of republican, and federal elections taking place at the same time, the opposition parties may find their resources and organizational abilities spread too thin, with the ruling parties ultimately posting gains. -- Stan Markotich SLOVENIAN CONSUL TO LIBERIA INVOLVED IN ARMS TRADE? Nicholas Oman, Slovenia's honorary consul to Liberia, was dismissed from his post on 21 August, some two months after an Italian prosecutor issued an arrest warrant accusing Oman of smuggling arms to Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Slovenia. Ljubljana offered no details of why it removed Oman from the post he has held since 1993, Reuters reported on 21 August. In other news, Oslobodjenje on 22 August reported that a member of the Bosnian presidency, Ivo Komsic, and Nijaz Skenderagic, a member of the leadership of the opposition Social Democratic Party of Bosnia- Herzegovina, were in Ljubljana on 21 August but were barred by Interior Ministry officials from speaking at a "promotional gathering" of five Bosnian opposition parties. -- Stan Markotich ROMANIAN MINISTERS RESIGN. Minister of Health Iulian Mincu and Minister of Culture Viorel Marginean have submitted their resignations, Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu told Radio Bucharest on 21 August. He said Mincu was resigning for personal and health reasons, as well as due to the fact that his work in the Senate took up much of his time. According to the AFP correspondent, however, Mincu, who was once Nicolae Ceausescu's personal nutritionist, has been implicated in several scandals since his appointment in 1992, including mismanagement of a World Bank loan to improve the health-care system. The resignations come against the background of the executive's efforts to rid itself of its corruption-tarnished image on the eve of elections. Marginean, Vacaroiu said, wished to return to his work as a painter. Reuters reported that he also came under attack in the media for having spent large amounts of public money to organize exhibits of his paintings abroad. He did not rule out other changes in the government. On 10 August, Vacaroiu had denied reports in the press that a reshuffle of his cabinet was in the offing. -- Michael Shafir ROMANIAN COALITION THREATENED BY TREATY WITH HUNGARY. The chairman of the Party of Romanian National Unity, Gheorghe Funar, said in an interview with Radio Bucharest on 21 August that he does not believe his party will continue to be a member of the coalition if the text of the basic treaty with Hungary is signed in the form agreed upon in Bucharest last week. Funar spoke after a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Marcel Dinu. President Ion Iliescu will meet with representatives of parliamentary political parties next week in order to consult them on the treaty, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in Bucharest on the same day. -- Michael Shafir MONARCHY CONTROVERSY--AN ELECTORAL MANEUVER? Following the controversy that erupted over the pro-monarchy statement attributed to the Democratic Convention of Romania's presidential candidate, Emil Constantinescu (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 August 1996), the daily Evenimentul zilei revealed on 22 August that the interview granted by Constantinescu to the U.S. Romanian-language publication Micro-Magazin had been tampered with. The journalist who interviewed Constantinescu admitted that he had "mended it," allegedly to reflect the views of American readers. Evenimentul zilei concluded that this was an electoral maneuver. The interview had been printed in Micro-Magazin as far back as 25 July, but there had been no reaction to it till the daily Jurnalul national reprinted it on 20 August. The Party of Social Democracy in Romania, Evenimentul zilei noted, then reacted to the Constantinescu interview with a speed that cannot be otherwise explained but by a plan to stage an electoral coup. Meanwhile, in an interview with Jurnalul national published on 22 August, Constantinescu said he "could not be a supporter of the monarchy," since he is a candidate for the presidential office. He said he told Micro-Magazin that former King Michael should be able to take up residence in Romania "like any other citizen of the country" and that he would "accept the people's decision if it opted for a monarchy in a referendum." -- Michael Shafir IS PIRINSKI NOT A BULGARIAN CITIZEN? Union of Democratic Forces Deputy Chairman Vasil Gotsev on 21 August said there is no documentation in the Central State Archives proving that Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski-- the presidential candidate of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party--ever acquired Bulgarian citizenship, Demokratsiya reported. Gotsev said no state decree on the New York-born Pirinski's naturalization has been located and noted that if no such document exists, Pirinski is not formally a Bulgarian citizen. He added that Pirinski's mother, a U.S. citizen, acquired Bulgarian citizenship based on a certificate by the Sofia administration of the Interior Ministry, which had no authority to change her citizenship. Gotsev said the opposition may ask the Constitutional Court to rule on the case when the new parliamentary session begins in September. Pirinski and the Socialists have not commented. -- Stefan Krause IMF MISSION IN BULGARIA. An IMF team headed by Anne McGuirk arrived in Sofia on 21 August for a regular review of the country's economic stabilization and reform program, RFE/RL and Bulgarian media reported. The mission "will review progress under the [reform] program" in connection with Bulgaria's next scheduled drawing from its current $580 million standby loan. Talks between the mission and the government will focus on monetary and fiscal policy, McGuirk said. She added that the government must continue its present course of reform. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN ROUNDUP. President Sali Berisha on 21 August urged the opposition to participate in local elections on 20 October, international media reported. He said that the elections will be "free and fair" and that the election law is "of European standards." Berisha said the elections would he held even if the Socialists--the biggest opposition party--boycott them. He said the Socialists "have chosen the boycott because they know they would be defeated in any elections." Berisha did not comment on opposition demands to reshuffle an electoral commission that was formed recently by presidential decree. The previous day, Berisha's Democratic Party had announced it would adopt a law preventing opposition representatives from pulling out of electoral commissions in the upcoming local elections by making it a punishable offense to do so, ATSH reported. -- 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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