|You see things and you say 'Why?' But I dream thing that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'. - Geroge Bernard Shaw|
No. 164, Part II, 23 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 DONETSK COURT DISBANDS MINERS' STRIKE COMMITTEE. The Donetsk Court of Arbitration ruled on 20 August to disband the Donetsk Workers' Committee for organizing illegal miners' strikes in July, blocking roads and railroad tracks, and causing huge losses for local mines and railroads, Ukrainian agencies reported on 20 and 21 August. The court used as evidence videotaped interviews by local TV reporters with the imprisoned leaders of the committee, arrested recently for organizing the strikes. The leftist Civic Congress of Ukraine has issued a protest against the court's ruling, calling it a sign of the "advance of totalitarianism . . . based on nationalist ideology" in Ukraine. -- Chrystyna Lapychak BELARUSIAN REFERENDUM CONSIDERED LEGAL. Justice Minister Valyantsin Sukala said President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's proposed referendum is legal under the constitution, Belapan reported on 21 August. Under Article 74 of the constitution, the president or the people can initiate a referendum and parliament should set a date within 30 days of the proposal. Any referendum questions are under the authority of the initiator. Parliamentary Speaker Syamyon Sharetsky agreed that parliament must set the referendum date within a month of receiving the proposal, but he said the full texts of the referendum questions have not yet been presented to the parliament. During a round-table discussion that day, it was suggested that parliament may add its own questions to the referendum or hold an alternative referendum. Under the constitution, parliament has the right to initiate a referendum if 70 deputies back the move. -- Ustina Markus TRIAL UPDATE IN BELARUS. The trial of nationalist poet Slavomyr Adamovich began in Vitsebsk on 22 August, ITAR-TASS reported. Adamovich is being tried for instigating terrorism with his poem "Kill the President," which was published in the Vitsebsk paper Vybar. Adamovich is also accused of illegal weapons possession and trying to cross the border illegally. A day earlier, Belarusian TV reported on the beginning of the trial of seven Ukrainians accused of participating in activities leading to public disorder. The Ukrainians were apprehended during the 26 April Chornobyl demonstrations and face up to three years in prison. -- Ustina Markus ESTONIA, LATVIA RATIFY SEA-BORDER AGREEMENT. The Estonian and Latvian parliaments on 22 August unanimously ratified the agreement on sea borders signed by Prime Ministers Tiit Vahi and Andres Skele on 12 July, BNS reported. The agreement, which went into effect upon the ratifications, foresees conclusion of a bilateral agreement on fishing in the Gulf of Riga by 1 September. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIA POSTPONES RATIFICATION OF OIL-DEPOSIT AGREEMENT. The Saeima on 22 August did not ratify agreements with Amoco and the Swedish company Oljeprospektering AB for oil exploration off Latvia's coast, Radio Lithuania reported. This was not due to appeals by the Lithuanian parliament to postpone the matter but because the lawmakers ran out of time to discuss the 25th item on their agenda. The ratification is to be discussed at the next session on 29 August. Lithuania claims part of the territory where explorations are envisioned by the 31 October 1995 agreement and has asked that they not be ratified before the sea border is settled. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH ECONOMY CONTINUES TO ROLL. Data for the first seven months of 1996 released on 22 August by the Central Statistical Office show that Poland's economy continues to deliver strong results. According to reports in Polish dailies on 23 August, industrial production at the end of July was 10% above its July 1995 level, while prices actually declined by 0.1% in July. Industrial growth was powered by Poland's continuing investment boom--real investment spending at the end of June was 24% above mid-1995 levels--and by consumption, which reflected a 9.4% increase in real wages in July (relative to July 1995 levels). The price stability attained in July also means that the official consumer- price inflation forecast of 17% for the year remains within the realm of the possible. On the other hand, the rapid growth in real wages has pulled down state enterprises' profits. Also, Poland's trade deficit at the end of June had risen to $3.1 billion, compared with the $500 million deficit recorded in mid-1995. -- Ben Slay CZECH CHEMICAL GIANT ACQUIRES ARMS-EXPORT COMPANY. Chemapol Group, a Czech trading and chemicals conglomerate, announced on 22 August that it had gained an 80% interest in Omnipol, the country's largest arms trader, Reuters reported. Chemapol's general director, Vaclav Junek, said his group hoped to double Omnipol's sales over the next two years. He also said that Chemapol would use Omnipol's connections in an effort to acquire the Czech aircraft builder Aero Vodochody. -- Doug Clarke HUNGARY BUYS TANKS FROM BELARUS. The Hungarian Defense Ministry on 22 August revealed the terms of a previously announced deal to purchase 100 T-72 tanks from Belarus, Napi Gzdasag reported. Hungary has agreed to pay $130,000 each for the tanks, which are to be shipped from Belarus later this year. Belarus would have had to destroy the tanks to meet its commitments under the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. In a related matter, the Hungarian Defense and Finance ministries were reported to have agreed on a governmental guarantee for a 30 billion forint tender to purchase new air defense missiles and radars. The tender is expected to be issued in two weeks. -- Doug Clarke HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT POSTPONES ENERGY-PRICE INCREASE. The government on 22 August announced that it will not raise energy prices until 1 January 1997, despite its earlier pledge to foreign investors to do so, Hungarian dailies reported. The decision comes in the wake of months- long debate within the cabinet and between government members and foreign investors over whether a price increase is justified. Socialist members of the government cited "social" reasons for putting off the rise, and Industry and Trade Minister Imre Dunai's resignation last week is thought to be owed to his firm stand in favor of raising the prices. The price hike would have been the second major increase this year. -- Zsofia Szilagyi HUNGARY TO SELL HOTEL CHAIN. The State Privatization and Holding Co. (APV) on 22 August announced that it has approved Danubius Hotels' 8.1 billion forint ($52 million) bid for the 14-member HungarHotels chain, Hungarian media reported. Danubius's main rival was a domestic investment consortium that included HungarHotels' management. The consortium bid 6.6 billion forints. Danubius, the shares of which are held by both foreign and domestic investors, pledged to spend $13 million on development over the next three years and to keep the present work force for at least a year. The privatization of HungarHotels has been marked by controversy. Prime Minister Gyula Horn called off an agreement between APV's predecessor and the American General Hospitality (AGH) chain in 1994, saying it would have caused a serious loss to the country. AGH had offered 5.6 billion forints ($36.8 million at the current exchange rate) for a 51 percent stake in the entire chain, which then also included the Forum, one of Budapest's most luxurious hotels. In March, APV separated the Forum from the chain; it is now being offered for sale individually. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE PRE-ELECTION VIOLENCE GETTING WORSE IN BOSNIA. The UN spokesman in Sarajevo, Alexander Ivanko, said on 22 August that opposition parties' leaders and supporters are being increasingly intimidated by the ruling parties in the northern towns of Cazin and Teslic, Onasa reported. Along with eight explosions in the Bihac region during the past week, three explosions were reported in Cazin on 22 August, all of them believed to have been directed at supporters of opposition parties. The UN received a letter from a local opposition party accusing the ruling Muslim Party of Democratic Action of acts of intimidation in Cazin. Meanwhile, in the Republika Srpska, a police unit controlled by the ruling Serbian Democratic Party has taken into custody a factory director in Teslic who headed the local opposition party. Ivanko said special Serbian forces continue to operate around the town, with city officials refusing to explain their presence. -- Daria Sito Sucic NEW TRIBUNAL OFFICES IN SARAJEVO, BELGRADE. Graham Blewitt, prosecutor for the war-crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, on 22 August opened an office in Sarajevo and announced that a Belgrade office would open the next day, Onasa reported. Blewitt said the tribunal's Sarajevo office will assist the investigation team arriving in Bosnia in early September to resume mass-grave explorations. He said the Belgrade office represents a major step forward, since the prosecutor's office has been trying to establish a base in the city since 1994. The Belgrade office will allow the war-crimes tribunal to investigate alleged atrocities against Serbs. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROATIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BELGRADE. Mate Granic on 23 August arrived in Belgrade, where he and rump Yugoslav counterpart Milan Milutinovic are to sign an agreement on the normalization of relations, Nasa Borba reported on 23 August. Earlier in the week, Croatian Foreign Ministry sources had hinted that a number of outstanding issues, including jurisdiction over the strategic Prevlaka peninsula and disagreements over the division of assets, could delay the signing (See OMRI Daily Digest, 20 August). But on 22 August, Zagreb announced that Granic would participate in the "landmark" ceremony in Belgrade. The BBC on 23 August, however, reported that a signing would not necessarily mean that all outstanding issues had been resolved; contentious issues could be deferred. -- Stan Markotich SERBIAN OPPOSITION CRITICIZES ELECTION COVERAGE. Vojin Dimitrijevic, a member of the opposition Serbian Civic League, told a 21 August press conference that he thought it would be impossible for opposition parties to gain equal access to media coverage during the federal campaign. He also dubbed a recent agreement on media coverage little more than "a state order submitted for signature," reported the BBC monitoring service, citing Tanjug. As of 21 August, a total of 35 parties had signed an agreement on media coverage. -- Stan Markotich MONTENEGRIN OPPOSITION PARTIES FORGE ELECTORAL ALLIANCE. Novak Killibarda, leader of the People's Party of Montenegro (NSCG), and Slavko Perovic, head of the Liberal Alliance of Montenegro (LSCG), released a statement on 22 August outlining a cooperation accord for the 3 November elections, Nasa Borba reported on 23 August. According to the agreement, the parties have resolved to campaign together, recognizing that "it is imperative for us to fold up our party banners and set aside those factors that divide us so as to raise the flag of democracy over Montenegro." The NSCG, which holds 14 seats in the 85-seat republican legislature, has advocated maintaining federal ties with Serbia, while the LSCG, which has 13 seats, has pushed for Montenegro's outright independence. -- Stan Markotich TOP SERBIAN OFFICIAL CALLS FOR DIRECT TALKS ON KOSOVO. The chairman of the Serbian parliamentary committee on security, Radmilo Bogdanovic, on 22 August said it is "time for serious talks on Kosovo" between the Serbian government and the Kosovo Albanians, Western media reported, citing state-run Borba. But at the same time, he set conditions that the Kosovars are likely to reject. Bogdanovic--a close aide to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and a former Serbian interior minister-- said the Kosovars should take the first step and "ask for talks," and he rejected Kosovar shadow state President Ibrahim Rugova's call for international mediation. Bogdanovic said that "the state does not need a witness to talk to its own citizens." -- Stefan Krause BOSNIAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATES DETAINED IN SLOVENIA. Bosnian politicians Ivo Komsic of the Croatian Peasant Party and Nijaz Skenderagic of the Social Democratic Party on 21 August were detained by police in Slovenia as they were about to address a campaign meeting, Oslobodjenje reported. The police told them that according to Slovenian law they cannot hold a meeting that has not been properly announced. Komsic said Croatia and Slovenia are the only two European countries that do not allow such political meetings, Oslobodjenje reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic ROMANIAN ELECTORAL UPDATE. A "national committee" supporting incumbent President Ion Iliescu's candidacy was formed on 22 August, Romanian television announced on the same day. The committee is chaired by Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu. Iosif Borda, Romania's ambassador to Switzerland, has been appointed director of the president's electoral campaign. The Romanian ambassador to Moldova, Marian Enache, is also a member of the committee. The announcement was met with criticism in the opposition press. The daily Romania libera printed excerpts from the Statutes of the Diplomatic Corps, which forbid Romanian diplomats to be members of political parties or become involved in party activities. In other news, several Roma parties that had set up an umbrella organization called Roma Unification appointed sociologist Nicolae Gheorghe as their presidential candidate, Radio Bucharest announced. -- Michael Shafir RULING PARTY DECIDES TO FREEZE CONSUMER PRICES. In a move obviously triggered by electoral considerations, the Permanent Delegation of the major coalition partner, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, on 22 August decided to freeze consumer prices of 54 products, Radio Bucharest reported. The freeze is to be in force till 1 January 1997. It will affect prices for gasoline and fuel for home heating, coal, public transportation, bread, milk, comestible oil, butter, pork and poultry, medicine and medical services, cigarettes, telephone charges, rents, and others. The independent daily Libertatea on 23 August called the move "a bomb whose exploding effects after the elections will be terrible." -- Michael Shafir BENDERY AUTHORITIES PREPARE FOR EMERGENCY STATE. BASA-press reported on 22 August that the local authorities in Bendery (Tighina), a town in the Dniester region where the Chisinau authorities have managed to keep a police force that acts parallel to the Dniester forces, have started preparations for a state of emergency. The move reflects rumors of a concentration of Moldovan army units preparing an attack on the town. Sources close to the city administration told the agency that envelopes containing instructions on mobilization, to be opened only in case of an attack, have been distributed to workplaces. The authorities have also ordered a Dniester military unit to confine men to barracks and to start fortifications. Gen. Victor Catana, the Moldovan Deputy Interior Minister and co-chairman of the Joint Control Commission (JCC), said in a press release that the allegations on the impending attack are a "premeditated misinforming of public opinion." The JCC and the OSCE mission in Moldova on 21 August released a joint statement calling on public organizations, decision makers, and the population at large to "refrain from actions that may increase tension." -- Michael Shafir SNEGUR ON PRESIDENTIAL REPUBLIC. Moldovan President Mircea Snegur, addressing a meeting of the National Press Club on 22 August, said that Moldova should become a presidential republic and that he intends to pursue this change if re-elected in November, Infotag reported on the same day. He said that if his main rivals in the electoral contest, Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli and parliament Chairman Petru Lucinschi, lose, it would mean that the government and the parliamentary majority have lost the trust of the electorate. -- Michael Shafir BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS REGISTER. The Bulgarian Socialist Party's (BSP) candidates for president and vice president, Georgi Pirinski and Ivan Marazov, on 22 August handed in registration documents to the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK), Trud reported. Pirinski, the current foreign minister, turned in a Justice Ministry certificate saying that he never lost his Bulgarian citizenship and is not a naturalized citizen. He did so to prove that he fulfills the constitutional requirement that the president be a "Bulgarian citizen by birth." TsIK Deputy Chairwoman Zlatka Ruseva said the opposition representatives on the commission will examine Pirinski's documents "very carefully." Standart reported that the BSP has two reserve teams, one of which will be registered in case the TsIK rejects Pirinski and Marazov, the current culture minister. Novinar reported that, in that case, Pirinski may replace Zhan Videnov as prime minister in the fall. On 23 August, registration documents for the united opposition's candidates, Petar Stoyanov and Todor Kavaldzhiev, were filed. -- Stefan Krause IMF MISSION HEAD CRITICAL OF BULGARIA. Anne McGuirk, head of an IMF mission presently visiting Bulgaria, on 22 August said it was not clear whether the country will qualify for the second installment of a $580 million IMF loan, international media reported. McGuirk said the government has been slow in implementing economic reforms and singled out delays in closing down 64 major loss-making state enterprises. Closing those companies and cutting off subsidies to another 70 enterprises was part of a deal agreed on in May between Bulgaria and the IMF. McGuirk also voiced concern about the decline of the Bulgarian lev and called for tighter monetary policies. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN OPPOSITION LEADER RENEWS RELEASE EFFORTS. The lawyer for imprisoned Socialist Party Chairman Fatos Nano has contacted the European Court of Human Rights in an effort to secure Nano's release, Reuters reported on 22 August. Nano's lawyer, Perparim Sanxhaku, said he has direct contacts with the court and plans to launch an appeal there against Nano's sentence. Nano was sentenced in 1994 to 12 years in prison for embezzlement during his term as prime minister in 1991. President Sali Berisha has rejected domestic and international appeals for Nano's release. The Albanian parliament last month ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, from which the court draws its authority. -- Stefan Krause GREEK PRIME MINISTER CALLS EARLY ELECTIONS. Kostas Simitis on 22 August announced that early parliamentary elections will be held on 22 September, 13 months before the parliament's regular four-year term expires, Greek state radio reported. Simitis cited the need to revive the economy and to strengthen the country's position vis-a-vis Turkey as the main reasons for the early balloting. Under the Greek constitution, early elections can be held if the premier believes that a "major national issue" requires the government to be approved by popular vote. President Kostis Stephanopoulos signed the decree for new elections on 23 August. -- 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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