|The only thing one knows about human nature is that it changes. - Oscar Wilde|
No. 169, Part II, 30 August 1996
Note to readers: The OMRI Daily Digest will not appear on 2 September 1996, a U.S. holiday 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 UKRAINIANS GO ON TRIAL IN BELARUS. The trial of seven Ukrainians accused of causing public disorder and insulting police during the 26 April Chornobyl anniversary demonstrations in Belarus began in Minsk on 29 August, RFE/RL reported. The defendants have been in jail since the rally. They face prison sentences of up to three years if found guilty. Six of the defendants have pleaded innocent, while one has admitted to disturbing the peace and obstructing traffic. ITAR-TASS reported that the defendants have denied belonging to the ultranationalist Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian Self-Defense Organization. The trial will be open to the press, and one Ukrainian deputy will be attending. -- Ustina Markus RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN COMMUNITY AGREEMENT GOES INTO FORCE. The Agreement on the Formation of a Community, signed by Russia and Belarus on 2 April, officially went into force on 29 August, ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV reported. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov exchanged the instruments of ratification with Belarusian Ambassador to Russia Viktar Danilenka. The agreement was overwhelmingly ratified by both parliaments but also gave rise to mass protest demonstrations in Belarus. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS UPDATE. U.S. Senator Richard Lugar arrived in Ukraine on 28 August to meet with parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz and head of the National Security Council Volodymyr Horbulin, Ukrainian Radio reported. Talks focused on economic cooperation and international security. ITAR-TASS the next day reported that NATO commander of European Forces Gen. George Joulwan met with President Leonid Kuchma, Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko, and Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk. Discussion touched on Ukraine's participation in the Balkan peacekeeping effort. Finally, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharshvili arrived in Ukraine on 30 August for talks on increasing Ukrainian-Georgian cooperation and expanding economic ties. -- Ustina Markus INCONCLUSIVE BORDER TALKS DELAY LATVIAN RATIFICATION OF OIL AGREEMENT. Following Latvia and Lithuania's failure to reach agreement over their sea border, Latvian Prime Minister Andris Skele has asked the Saeima to postpone ratifying an oil prospecting agreement with the Amoco and OPAB oil companies, BNS reported on 29 August. Skele said he was confident progress would be made over the border issue, while head of the Saeima's Foreign Affairs Committee Indulis Berzins said the agreement did not have to be ratified until the end of October. Under the agreement, the two oil companies would be allowed to conduct oil explorations in the disputed area of the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Latvia. -- Ustina Markus MORE PROBLEMS AT POLISH PUBLIC TV. The Public TV Board on 29 August failed by one vote to dismiss TVP1 Director Tomasz Siemoniak, Polish media reported. TVP1 is the most popular TV channel in Poland. Siemoniak had replaced Maciej Pawlicki in that post earlier this year, prompting the resignation of TVP Director Wieslaw Walendziak. Siemoniak is considered to hold centrist views, while both Pawlicki and Walendziak tend toward right of center. Two members of the five-strong TV board who have links to the ruling Democratic Left Alliance reproached Siemoniak for his unwillingness to fire several young journalists who were hired under the Pawlicki-Walendziak management and are considered to be right of center. Those journalists have been dubbed "pampers" to stress their youth. The TVP board has canceled a new program produced by them and will also take off the air another "pampers" program called "Pulse of the Day," Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 30 August. -- Jakub Karpinski FORMER POLISH PRESIDENT ON ELECTORAL UNITY. Lech Walesa, speaking at the conference on "Solidarity: Sources, the Present, and the Future" in Szczecin on 29 August, declared his support for Solidarity Electoral Action, which aims to draw up a joint list of candidates for the 1997 parliamentary elections in order to beat out the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance and the Polish Peasant Party. Walesa warned Solidarity not to take over government, saying it should not abandon its trade union vocation. He praised the leadership of the Freedom Union, which includes former Premier Tadeusz Mazowiecki, who also spoke at Szczecin. Walesa rejected any cooperation with the Movement for Poland's Reconstruction, led by another former prime minister, Jan Olszewski. -- Jakub Karpinski BODYGUARD ACCUSED OF STEALING FROM CZECH PRESIDENT. Czech police on 29 August arrested one of Vaclav Havel's bodyguards and charged him with stealing money and "various objects" from the president's house in Prague, Czech and international media reported. In a press statement, the president said he was "disappointed." and that he has had "the best possible experience with the members of his security detail." Police did not reveal how much money and which objects were stolen. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK NATIONAL UPRISING COMMEMORATED . . . Several hundred citizens gathered in Bratislava on 29 August to lay wreaths honoring the 52nd anniversary of the anti-fascist Slovak National Uprising (SNP), Slovak media reported. President Michal Kovac noted the historical importance of the event, stressing that "if we do not want to betray the message of the SNP, we must fulfill it not only verbally but also in every-day life." He added that "we must purposefully and persistently cultivate in our lives the political culture of a mature democracy but also the culture of decent interpersonal relations, true understanding, tolerance, and moderation." Small ceremonies were also held in Banska Bystrica, Kosice, and other towns. Kovac was joined in Bratislava by parliamentary deputy chairman Marian Andel, Deputy Premier Katarina Tothova, and representatives of the Anti-Fascist Fighters Union, political parties, and the Israeli and Russian embassies. -- Sharon Fisher . . . BUT SOME EXPRESS DISAPPOINTMENT, ANXIETY. Meanwhile, Slovakia's leftist opposition expressed disappointment that while lavish festivities took place to inaugurate the new regions, major SNP celebrations were not held this year, CTK reported. It also criticized the fact that official history textbooks containing passages on the SNP were withdrawn under pressure from the nationalist cultural organization Matica slovenska. Kovac expressed anxiety that during discussions on Slovakia's wartime history, "responsibility for acts against humanity, against civil and human rights [and] for acts motivated by political or racial intolerance is denied or minimized." He said interpretation of those events should be left to qualified and objective historians to avoid their use as instruments for permanently dividing society. The ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia on 27 August issued a statement praising the SNP. But its junior coalition partner--the Slovak National Party--has, together with other nationalist forces in Slovakia, attempted to glorify the war-time state and its president, Jozef Tiso. -- Sharon Fisher SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CONTROVERSY MOUNTS OVER BOSNIAN VOTE. The two largest Muslim parties are still threatening to boycott the 14 September elections, despite the OSCE's agreeing to their demand that the municipal vote be postponed. The governing Party of Democratic Action and the Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina remain concerned about massive voter registration fraud by the Serbs, AFP reported on 30 August. The anti-nationalist Republican Party, led by prominent Croatian politician Stjepan Kljuic, called for the abolition of the practice of allowing people to register in any area except where they used to live, Oslobodjenje reported. Pale's Serbian Democratic Party, however, seems to have decided to ignore the OSCE ruling and will go ahead with its own municipal ballot on schedule, Tanjug noted on 29 August. The leading party among the Croats, the Croatian Democratic Community, has also condemned the OSCE's decision, Onasa reported. -- Patrick Moore. NATO HOLDS 65 SERBIAN POLICEMEN AFTER SHOOTINGS. IFOR troops on 29 August arrested and disarmed a contingent of Bosnian Serb police in the village of Mahala, near Zvornik. The Serbs had fired on two dozen elderly and middle-aged Muslims who had returned to rebuild their homes after four years in exile, the BBC and AFP reported the next day. Ten Muslims were injured, and some of their fellows pelted the arrested Serbs with stones. In Zvornik itself, an angry and increasingly drunken crowd surrounded a UN police office and trapped six people inside while attacking and destroying several UN vehicles. NATO ground forces commander Gen. Sir Michael Walker then released the 65 Serbs and the mob in Zvornik dispersed. Walker took the weapons to Bosnian Serb acting President Biljana Plavsic in Banja Luka. -- Patrick Moore VOTERS IN SERBIA STAY AWAY FROM POLLING STATIONS. Refugees registered to vote in the 14 September Bosnian elections have stayed away from polling stations in Serbia for a second consecutive day, AFP reported on 29 August. According to official statistics, approximately 85,000 refugees have registered to vote in Serbia. But only one of the four polling stations in Belgrade reported activity by midday--and that was the arrival of one voter. It seems that voter apathy, however, is not the reason. Beta reported that voters were encountering a number of "technical difficulties." In Leskovac, for example, a number of voters complained they had not received ballot papers. -- Stan Markotich KORNBLUM MEETS WITH SERBIAN PRESIDENT. U.S. envoy John Kornblum met for three hours with Slobodan Milosevic on 29 August to discuss the 14 September Bosnian elections. Kornblum said after the meeting that "we discussed the decision to postpone the municipal elections, and I made clear it was primarily the manipulation of voter registration by the Republika Srpska which led to this development," Reuters reported. The U.S. envoy gave no indication of whether Milosevic would support efforts to remedy abuses in the electoral process. -- Stan Markotich SECRET TALKS BETWEEN KOSOVO ALBANIANS, SERBIAN GOVERNMENT. Deputy leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo Fehmi Agani and head of the Albanian Education Trade Union Agim Hyseni have held secret talks with the Serbian government on the readmission of ethnic Albanian students to secondary school, Nasa Borba reported on 30 August. The dialog, which is reported to have begun under international mediation, may lead to resuming Albanian-language education for some 300,000 students who have been taught at private shadow state schools since the abolition of autonomy in Kosovo in 1989. It is unclear, however, whether any results have yet been achieved. -- Fabian Schmidt LIGHTNING KILLS NINE OUTSIDE MACEDONIAN CHURCH. Nine people were killed and 41 seriously injured on 29 August when lightning struck outside an Orthodox church in the east Macedonian town of Berovo, Nova Makedonija reported. Around 10-15,000 people were celebrating Assumption Day outside the Church of the Holy Virgin when a thunderstorm struck Berovo. Witnesses said that first aid units found it difficult to access the site because panic broke out and people blocked the streets. An ambulance driver said it took him 35 minutes to drive 3 kilometers from the hospital to the Church. Eyewitnesses also noted that the police failed to properly organize the rescue of the injured. -- Stefan Krause BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTER IN MACEDONIA. Hasan Muratovic arrived in Skopje on 29 August for a two-day visit, Nova Makedonija and AFP reported. He met with his Macedonian counterpart, Branko Crvenkovski, to discuss political, economic, and trade relations and regional developments. Both sides expressed their willingness to upgrade relations to ambassadorial level. Earlier that day, the 900 Bosnian refugees in Macedonia who are registered for the upcoming Bosnian elections started casting their ballots. In other news, the Turkish-Macedonian Joint Commission for Economic Cooperation held its first session on 28-29 August in the Turkish city of Izmir. The commission decided to give priority to setting up a joint Turkish-Macedonian bank. -- Stefan Krause ROMANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH POLITICAL LEADERS TO DISCUSS TREATY WITH HUNGARY. President Ion Iliescu on 29 August met with leaders of all parliamentary parties to discuss the Romanian-Hungarian basic treaty, Romanian and Western media reported. The treaty is due to be signed next month. Most politicians expressed support for the treaty, but nationalist and neo-communist leaders reiterated their criticism of the document, which they perceive as a threat to Romania's territorial integrity. Gheorghe Funar, leader of the chauvinistic Party of Romanian National Unity, repeated his remark that the treaty is "an act of national treason." Adrian Paunescu, first deputy chairman of the Socialist Labor Party, described it as a "capitulation" to Hungarian and Western pressure. Bela Marko, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, noted that the treaty was offering less than Romania's ethnic Hungarians had expected. -- Dan Ionescu MENINGITIS EPIDEMIC IN ROMANIA. Romania is facing the biggest epidemic of meningitis and meningo-encephalitis since 1986, Romanian and Western media reported. There are currently 179 registered cases, of which 136 are in Bucharest. Ten people have died since early August. The Health Ministry advised the population to avoid unfamiliar sources of water and food. In a separate development, Daniela Bartos, the new health minister, announced that the budgetary allocation for the health care system has been increased by 249 billion lei (some $78 million). According to Bartos, this will allow "moderate investment" in the country's ailing medical sector. -- Dan Ionescu GROWING TENSION IN EASTERN MOLDOVA. The Security Ministry of the self- declared Dniester Moldovan republic has said it is prepared to "oppose an attack by the enemy," BASA-press reported on 29 August . The statement comes after weeks of tension over the status of the town of Bendery (Tighina), located on the Western bank of the Dniester river. The town has both a Moldovan and a Dniester police force. Tom Zenovich, head of the town's administration, was quoted as saying he did not exclude the resumption of the armed conflict in the region. He added that the deteriorating situation was related to the forthcoming presidential elections in both the Republic of Moldova and the Dniester region. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN ROUNDUP. Energy Minister Rumen Ovcharov on 29 August said he cannot promise that there will be no electricity rationing during the winter, Demokratsiya reported. He noted that if tests at Reactor No. 1 at the Kozloduy nuclear power facility are not finished soon, the reactor will be unable to go back on line for the winter season. Ovcharov said electricity prices will probably not be raised by more than 5-10% before the end of the year. In Sofia, street-lighting will be turned off until the city pays its 30 million leva ($149,000) debts to the state electricity company. In other news, the Supreme Court will rule on 2 September against the Central Electoral Commission's refusal to register the Socialist presidential and vice presidential candidates- -Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and Culture Minister Ivan Marazov, Duma reported. According to Standart, the Socialists are already looking for new candidates. -- Stefan Krause BREAK-THROUGH IN ALBANIAN POLITICAL DEADLOCK? The ruling Democrats and the opposition on 29 August agreed that the election laws need reviewing and that dialogue is essential, Reuters reported. The talks, organized by the U.S. International Republican Institute, focused on 31 recommendations made by the institute following Albania's disputed parliamentary elections in May. Topics covered included the role of the media, election administration, and election-day procedures. There was, however, no compromise in sight on the composition of the election commissions, a key issue for upcoming local elections. -- Fabian Schmidt ALBANIAN MUSLIM FUNDAMENTALISTS RANSACK ORTHODOX CHURCH. Muslim fundamentalists are suspected of having destroyed large parts of Voskopoja's 18th-century Saint Nicholas Church, Zeri i Popullit reported on 28 August. In what is the first religious-motivated case of vandalism since the end of communism, the culprits--reportedly Muslim pupils encouraged by Arab teachers--destroyed 23 frescoes. Police found inscriptions such as "Allah Is Great" on the walls. The head of Albania's Muslim community, Hafiz Sabri Koci, denounced the destruction as an attack against religious tolerance in Albania. Meanwhile, the Albanian Helsinki Human Rights Committee has sharply criticized the activities of Arab foundations in Albania, saying they are offering money to poor families and then manipulating their children in religious courses, international agencies reported. -- Fabian Schmidt GREEK-ALBANIAN ROUNDUP. Theodoros Pangalos arrives in Albania today, Reuters reported. He is scheduled to attend the inauguration of a Greek consulate in Gjirokastra and to meet with his Albanian counterpart, Tritan Shehu, and President Sali Berisha in Vlora. The Albanian government on 26 August agreed to increase the number of Greek-language classes in secondary schools. Greek-language elementary schools also opened for this new school year in three towns. In other news, the Albanian government on 28 August asked Greece to explain an increasing number of deportations of Albanian immigrants, Reuters reported. Greece deported about 5,000 Albanians within five days. Elsewhere, the Albanian Orthodox church has sent a letter to Constantinople protesting the appointment of ethnic Greek Bishops to Albania as interference in the Albanian Church's internal affairs, Albania reported on 28 August. -- 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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