|Some things have to be believed to be seen. - Ralph Hodgson|
No. 165, Part II, 26 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 U.S GRANTS POLITICAL ASYLUM TO BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service on 23 August informed Belarusian Popular Front leaders Zyanon Paznyak and Syarhei Naumchyk that it was granting them political asylum, Western agencies reported. The service said "it has been determined that you have established a well-founded fear of persecution were you to return to your country." This is the first time since the 1991 collapse of the USSR that leaders from a former Soviet republic have been granted asylum. Poznyak said the decision will help his "work to save democracy in Belarus." Vladimir Zametalin, deputy head of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's administration, said the decision "only arouses amazement and regret." He added that he hopes it does not signal U.S. backing for what he called political "adventures" to undermine Belarusian authorities. -- Saulius Girnius UKRAINE TO INTRODUCE NEW CURRENCY SOON. President Leonid Kuchma on 25 August issued a decree providing for the introduction on 2 September of a permanent currency, the hryvna, Ukrainian and Western agencies reported. National Bank of Ukraine Governor Viktor Yushchenko said on national TV that residents will have until 16 September to exchange the current temporary tender, the karbovanets, for the hryvna. An exchange rate of 100,000 karbovantsi to one hryvna will be used. Yushchenko said there will in principle be no limit to the amount that can be exchanged at the 20,000 or so exchange booths being set up at the country's banks. But he added that the banks are hoping people agree to allow sums over 100 million karbovantsi to be deposited into their accounts, instead of requesting cash. He said wages and pensions for September will be paid in the new currency. He also noted that Kyiv is still awaiting the IMF's decision on a $1.5 billion stabilization fund for the hryvna. -- Chrystyna Lapychak UKRAINIANS CELEBRATE FIVE YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE. Ukrainians celebrated the fifth anniversary of independence from the former USSR on 24 August with a military parade in Kyiv, Ukrainian and international agencies reported. President Leonid Kuchma, government officials and lawmakers watched a parade of several thousand soldiers and officers from Ukraine's armed forces in downtown Kyiv. Defense Minister Oleksander Kuzmuk affirmed the military's loyalty to the new state and called for further modernization of the army. At a ceremony on European Square, the flags of Ukraine and the Council of Europe (CE) were raised side-by-side in the presence of Kuchma and CE officials, who praised Ukraine's progress toward democracy. In a televised address on the eve of the anniversary, Kuchma hailed his country's success in avoiding the kind of violence that has plagued other former Soviet republics. He said Ukraine has entered a new phase since the adoption of a new constitution, which, he said, provides for a clear path toward democracy and a market economy. -- Chrystyna Lapychak MOSCOW, CONSTANTINOPLE PATRIARCHATES REACH ACCORD ON ESTONIAN CONGREGATIONS. Delegations from the Constantinople and Moscow Patriarchates reached an initial accord in Tallinn on 23 August on how to divide the Orthodox congregations in Estonia, BNS reported. Although two congregations have not yet decided whose rule to observe, only 30 or so of the 84 Orthodox congregations will be under Moscow's jurisdiction. But together they constitute some 40,000 of the estimated 55,000 believers in the republic. The delegations also signed a memorandum on the canonical settlement of the dispute over the congregations. A joint commission will be set up and its conclusions presented to Estonian Prime Minister Tiit Vahi. The delegations will meet again in a few months, probably in western Europe. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIAN DECLARATION OF OCCUPATION SURPRISES RUSSIA. Sergei Prikhodko, the Russian Foreign Ministry official in charge of relations with the Baltic states, on 23 August expressed surprise over the Saeima's passage of a declaration on the USSR's and Germany's occupation of Latvia during World War II, BNS reported. The declaration had been approved the previous day by a vote of 76 to 10. Prikhodko commented that "we did not expect there to be so many open opponents to the normalization of relations between Latvia and Russia." The document expresses regret that "the Russian Federation has not admitted that what the USSR did [amounted to] an occupation." It also calls on the world community to help Latvia remove the consequences of Soviet rule, pointing out that the Abrene district of Latvia was unlawfully incorporated into Russia in 1944. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH POLITICAL UPDATE. The Supreme Council of the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) has concluded that the government should be recalled through a "constructive" no-confidence vote, Polish media reported. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski expressed his opposition to the idea, saying that the re-negotiation of agreements between the PSL and the co- ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) will take too much time and consume too much energy. SLD leader and former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy also criticized the PSL's announcement. Meanwhile, Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski on 24 August said that former President Lech Walesa will "certainly" support Solidarity Electoral Action, because he "always supports what is strong." Leszek Balcerowcz, leader of the opposition Freedom Union, called on 25 August for unity between all Solidarity successor parties. -- Jakub Karpinski CONTROVERSY OVER SALARIES OF TOP CZECH OFFICIALS. Defense Minister Miloslav Vyborny, who is a leader of the coalition Christian Democratic Union, has criticized Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's announcement that he will personally prepare a bill on pay cuts for top officials, Czech media reported on 26 August. Klaus said last week he will submit the draft legislation as a deputy, thereby excluding the government from its preparation. Vyborny argued that the government should prepare such a bill. The current salaries of deputies, ministers, and other top officials are several times higher than the average wage. Klaus, whose minority government is under pressure, apparently sees his initiative on cutting wages as a way of increasing his popularity. The extreme-right Republican Party recently submitted a bill proposing significant cuts in the salaries of top officials. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK PREMIER DENIES CROWN TO BE DEVALUED. Economic ministers of the Slovak government met at Trencianske Teplice on 24 August to discuss the future development of the economy, Narodna obroda reported on 26 August. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar told a press conference after the meeting that fears about a possible devaluation of the Slovak crown are speculative and unjustified. "On the contrary, the hard currency reserves of the National Bank have grown by $200 million recently, so there is no reason for devaluation," Meciar said. -- Steve Kettle CAR BOMB IN BRATISLAVA. A car bomb exploded in central Bratislava on 25 August, causing damage to other cars parked nearby and to buildings but no injuries, Slovak media reported. The blast occurred in front of an apartment rented by a group of Ukrainians who were not at home at the time. Police refused to give any details about the explosion. Previous car bombings in and around Bratislava have been blamed on disputes between rival criminal gangs. -- Steve Kettle HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION WANTS PARLIAMENTARY SESSION ON TREATY WITH ROMANIA. Four out of Hungary's five opposition parties are collecting signatures from deputies to convene a special parliamentary session on the Hungarian-Romanian basic treaty, Hungarian media reported on 24 August. While the opposition Hungarian Democratic People's Party has not officially supported the move, several of its deputies--including former Foreign Minister Geza Jeszenszky--have joined the initiative. Smallholders' Chairman Jozsef Torgyan noted that a special session of the legislature cannot prevent the basic treaty from being signed, since the governing parties have a parliamentary majority. The Hungarian Democratic Forum commented that if the cabinet signs the current draft of the treaty, those parties now in opposition will review the basic treaty after the 1998 elections. Ethnic Hungarian leaders from Romania are expected to discuss the treaty with Prime Minister Gyula Horn on 26 August. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ARE 8,000 CANDIDATES TO BE DROPPED FROM BOSNIAN BALLOTS? A statement issued by the OSCE says that the status of 8,000 out of the 28,000 declared candidates for the 14 September elections is in doubt because the individuals' names do not appear on the election rolls. Those rosters are based on the 1991 census, and it thus appears that the 8,000 may have subsequently come to Bosnia from elsewhere. The OSCE did not identify the names of the candidates or their parties but said it was working to clarify matters. Two of the candidates are ineligible because they are indicted war criminals, AFP noted on 25 August. Meanwhile, the OSCE's election supervisor, Robert Frowick, is consulting with all three sides about postponing the municipal elections, which are one of the seven components of the 14 September vote. A postponement seems likely after it came to light that the Serbs were registering voters on a massive scale in key strategic towns, although all three nationalist parties have engaged in the practice to at least some extent. -- Patrick Moore CROATS, SERBS, MUSLIMS ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL. The Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) officially launched its campaign on 25 August in Sarajevo, AFP reported. The party is the leading Croatian party in both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. Bosnian federal President Kresimir Zubak told 1,000 supporters at the local sports center that Bosnia must be the home of Croats, Serbs, and Muslims alike. Meanwhile in Banja Luka, Bosnian Serb acting President Biljana Plavsic argued for "a single Serb state" and ruled out any union with other nationalities. She slammed the idea of "unification with the Muslims and Croats," claiming that Bosnian Serbs "want the unification of all the Serbs of the Balkans in a single state called Serbia." Plavsic added that "there is an alternative to peace. . . . The Serb nation and its state are more sacred than any peace." In Croat-held Capljina, a local imam told a rally of the Muslim Party for Democratic Action (SDA) on 24 August that "the Koran is our constitution. Jihad is our path, our salvation." -- Patrick Moore ZAGREB, BELGRADE SIGN NORMALIZATION ACCORD. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic and his rump Yugoslav (SRJ) counterpart, Milan Milutinovic, have signed an agreement on the normalization of bilateral relations, Tanjug reported. The two leaders met in Belgrade on 23 August. While parts of the text remain open to interpretation, the document notes that the two countries will establish "full diplomatic and consular relations . . . within 15 days of the signing." Tanjug noted that Zagreb has accepted the continuity between the SRJ and the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and that the outstanding issue of succession is to be resolved by consensus. Outstanding territorial questions, such as the Prevlaka peninsula, are to be considered within "the framework of negotiations and in the spirit of the UN Charter and good-neighborly relations." Nasa Borba reported that Western diplomats have praised the accord for its importance to regional peace, while the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party dubbed it "the biggest treason and capitulation." -- Stan Markotich SLOVENIAN COURT RELEASES SERBIAN GENERAL. A Ljubljana district court on 23 August found Gen. Milan Aksentijevic not guilty of serving "an enemy army," Delo reported. Aksentijevic was indicted in September 1995 on charges related to his leading Yugoslav army forces against Slovenia during the 1991 war. He was detained on 12 July while visiting relatives in Slovenia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 July 1996). The court ruled that the Yugoslav army had not been formally designated an "enemy" before the war; and, on these grounds, it decided in the general's favor. -- Stan Markotich SLOVENIA, HUNGARY TO ABOLISH PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS. Hungarian President Arpad Goncz met with his Slovenian counterpart, Milan Kucan, in the Slovenian town of Prosenjakovci on 25 August, AFP reported, citing Hungarian radio. They agreed to abolish passport requirements for citizens crossing the Hungarian-Slovenian border. Hungary will now have to make some legislative changes enabling its citizens to cross the border with only an identity card. -- Stan Markotich NEW CABINET APPOINTMENTS IN ROMANIA. Two new ministers were appointed on 23 August to replace those who resigned earlier last week, Radio Bucharest reported. Daniela Bartos, a 44-year-old cardiologist, is the new health minister and the first woman to be given a portfolio since the end of Nicolae Ceausescu's regime. She pledged to continue reforming the health system in Romania, saying she will ask for more funding for the sector. Grigore Zanc, a university professor and a former prefect of Cluj County, was appointed culture minister. He said he plans to reform the department's structures. A government spokesman announced further personnel changes, including the replacement of two secretaries of state at the Industry Ministry and one at the Health Ministry. -- Dan Ionescu ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES TREATY TALKS WITH HUNGARY. The cabinet on 23 August discussed progress to date in the negotiations over the basic treaty with Hungary, Radio Bucharest reported. Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu said the current draft was a "reasonable compromise," and he suggested that the text could be signed in the first half of September. Melescanu's remarks were made after a two-day meeting of experts in Budapest designed to put the finishing touches to the treaty. Also on 23 August, Gheorghe Funar, chairman of the chauvinistic Party of Romanian National Unity, asked for an extraordinary meeting of the parliament's two chambers to debate the treaty, which he described as "crucial for Romania's future." Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the Greater Romania Party, said his party "vehemently opposes" the inclusion in the treaty of the "villainous" Recommendation No. 1201 of the Council of Europe. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN AGRARIANS SACK LEADER . . . The Governing Council of the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union (BZNS), meeting in an extraordinary session on 24 August, dismissed Anastasiya Dimitrova-Mozer as the BZNS chief secretary, Demokratsiya reported. Party speaker Georgi Pinchev has been appointed to replace her. The council said Dimitrova-Mozer will no longer represent the party within the People's Union, a coalition of the BZNS and the Democratic Party. She was blamed for "the deep organizational crisis" within the BZNS and for trying to usurp the party's name. Her dismissal follows long-standing conflicts within the party in which she has been directly involved. Dimitrova-Mozer, who is currently in the U.S., said she will not accept her dismissal. She called the present Governing Council "illegitimate," arguing that procedures for a party congress are under way and that calling a council meeting now thus contravenes the BZNS statutes. -- Stefan Krause . . . AND CAST DOUBT OVER OPPOSITION COOPERATION. President Zhelyu Zhelev on 23 August warned that Dimitrova-Mozer's sacking will inevitably lead to breakups of both the BZNS and the People's Union, RFE/RL and Bulgarian newspapers reported. He said her dismissal means that one of the signatures to the opposition agreement on a common presidential candidate is no longer valid and thus the agreement as a whole has been "nullified." Under that agreement, Zhelev will not run in the 27 October presidential elections after losing in the primaries to Petar Stoyanov of the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS). Zhelev did not say whether he will run after all. SDS Chairman Ivan Kostov criticized Zhelev's statement, saying the agreement was signed by political forces and not by individuals. But Kostov and many other opposition leaders, including People's Union Co-Chairman Stefan Savov, were critical of Dimitrova-Mozer's dismissal shortly before the presidential elections and in her absence. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS DROP MARXIST DOCTRINE FROM PARTY PROGRAM. The Socialist Party, convening for its annual congress in Tirana on 25 August, officially condemned the former Stalinist dictatorship and dropped all references to Marxist philosophy from its program, Reuters reported. The move is seen as the biggest push for reform since the fall of communism in 1990. The congress voted for the party program to be reformed to embrace social democratic elements and expressed its commitment to stimulate the private sector. Delegates re-elected imprisoned party leader Fatos Nano, who previously had rallied for such reform and had criticized the current leadership for resisting change. Servet Pellumbi, acting party leader, resigned, saying that his viewpoints differ too much from those of Nano. The Socialists also decided to continue their boycott of the parliament, which they started after the elections because of alleged fraud. -- Fabian Schmidt U.S. CALLS FOR BROADER POLITICAL DIALOGUE IN ALBANIA. The U.S. State Department has called for "broadening the political dialogue in Albania between the ruling and opposition parties as the first step toward holding free and fair local elections," Reuters reported. The statement also called for adopting a new constitution and holding new parliamentary elections "at the earliest opportunity." The Democrats should offer the opposition a substantive role in preparing local elections and in the electoral commission, the statement continued. It called on the opposition to participate fully in the election process. The opposition has threatened to boycott a new ballot, saying the makeup of the electoral commission is no better than it was during the parliamentary elections. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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