|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
No. 172, Part II, 5 September 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 COMPLICATIONS IN HRYVNYA INTRODUCTION. Some complications have emerged involving the introduction of the hryvnya, Ukrainian Radio reported on 2 September. Although the old karbovantsi are to be exchanged for the new currency without restriction at a rate of 100,000 for one hryvnya, some banks ran out of the new currency by midday. In Crimea, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 September, the new currency is practically nonexistent because Kyiv failed to provide the peninsula with a sufficient supply. Most Crimeans have only seen the hryvnya on TV. In addition, Crimeans are confused as to whether the new currency should be called by its Ukrainian name, "hryvnya," or its Russian name, "gryvna." -- Ustina Markus RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETING. The Russian-Belarusian Executive Committee held its fourth meeting in Moscow on 4 September, ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV reported. Russian Minister for CIS Cooperation Aman Tuleev said it was decided that Russia and Belarus should synchronize their tax systems by January 1997. The committee also decided to set up a joint customs union. The committee will discuss the establishment of a joint border guard in the next session. Tuleev said the future of the integration process depended on Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Any change in the Belarusian leadership could nullify all previous agreements. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN POLITICAL UPDATE. The controversy over President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's referendum has heated up. While most deputies oppose it and back parliamentary speaker Syamyon Sharetsky, a group of 60 legislators met with the president on 4 September and signed a statement supporting the president and his referendum, Russian Public TV reported. Lukashenka has been dipping into the state treasury to gain support. He issued a series of decrees increasing pensions, student stipends, aid to families with many children, and child support. Enterprises were also ordered to pay workers all back wages owed, and prices on energy, transport, medicine, and several consumer goods, including milk and bread, are to remain regulated until the end of the year. -- Ustina Markus HEARING FOR RUSSIAN ACTIVIST DEPORTED FROM ESTONIA POSTPONED. A district court in Tallinn on 4 September postponed the hearing of the appeal by Petr Rozhok that his deportation from Estonia in March 1995 was illegal, BNS reported. Rozhok, who was the representative of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party in Estonia, unsuccessfully appealed the deportation twice before and both times was forcibly expelled again after the visa given to him for the hearings expired. The hearing this time was postponed until 4 October at the request of the Estonian immigration officials after Rozhok's new lawyer, Boris Kuznetsov, reportedly one of highest paid defense lawyers in Russia, filed a 19-page supplement to the appeal. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIA, NETHERLANDS SIGN AGREEMENT ON MARITIME TRANSPORT. Dutch Transport Minister Annamari Jorritsma-Lebbink and Latvian Communications Minister Vilis Kristopans signed a bilateral agreement on maritime transport in Riga on 4 September, BNS reported. They also signed a memorandum on the introduction of the information system Eucaris to Latvia. The system, currently operating in the Benelux countries, Great Britain, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, provides for data exchange on cars and their drivers, thus making transit of stolen cars through Latvia more difficult. -- Saulius Girnius CRISIS IN THE POLISH RULING COALITION: FOREIGN TRADE MINISTER FIRED. President Aleksander Kwasniewski, on Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz's motion, on 4 September dismissed Jacek Buchacz, foreign trade minister since early 1995. Buchacz, is a member of the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), the ruling coalition's junior partner. The government said the grounds for Buchacz's dismissal were "insufficiently clear links between public and private capital in export insurance." Buchacz said his dismissal is "a clear breaking of the coalition agreement" and he accused the senior coalition partner, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), of using methods reminiscent of the communist regime. Tensions in the ruling coalition have been provoked by the current government reform. The PSL has demanded the government's resignation, the SLD only changes in ministerial posts. The PSL is expected to decide on 6 September whether to continue coalition talks. -- Jakub Karpinski POLISH PUBLIC OPINION ON POLITICAL PARTIES. According to a poll by the Public Opinion Research Center published earlier this week, if the parliamentary elections had been held in August, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) would have received 21% of the votes; Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), also 21%; former Prime Minister Jan Olszewski's Movement for Poland's Reconstruction, 14%; the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), 10%; the Freedom Union (UW), 6%; the Labor Union (UP), 4%; and the Union of Real Politics (UPR), 3%. Only four of those--the SLD, PSL, UW, and UP--are now represented in the Sejm. The latter two parties may lose their Sejm positions in the next election because of the 5% threshold. Recently, the SLD proposed an alliance with the UP, while the UW is negotiating an alliance with the AWS. -- Jakub Karpinski U.S. PRESSING POLAND ON TANKS FOR BOSNIA. A special U.S. envoy is traveling to Warsaw this week to urge Poland to provide tanks to Bosnia, Reuters reported on 4 September. U.S. Balkan envoy James Pardew is to meet with Polish officials on 6 September to try to convince them to sell up to 45 T-72 tanks. They would be paid $50 million by NATO for the deal. Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati has said Poland will not sell the tanks because it has an agreement with the EU not to supply arms to countries in the former Yugoslavia. -- Doug Clarke CZECH TRUCKS FOR AMERICAN JET FIGHTERS? A spokesman for the Czech Skoda engineering group proposed on 4 September that Skoda's Tatra factory supply trucks to the U.S. in return for American F/A-18 "Hornet" jet fighters, Reuters reported. Skoda is the local agent for McDonnell Douglas, maker of the F/A-18. Karel Samec said it would be "a barter deal. They would supply the fighters, and we would supply Czech goods to the states, namely Tatras and other things." The Czechs have been looking for a replacement for their aging MiG-21s. Radio Prague reported that Czech Chief of Staff Jiri Nekvasil had grounded the MiGs following the crash of one of the Russian-built planes on 2 September. -- Doug Clarke SLOVAK POLICE ADMIT BOMB KILLED FORMER COLLEAGUE. Police investigation department head Jan Kostov on 4 September announced that the car explosion that killed police officer Robert Remias in late April was "most probably" caused by 150 to 200 grams of explosives, Narodna obroda reported. Remias was the close friend of Oskar Fegyveres, a key witness in the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son. While police previously claimed the explosion was due to the malfunctioning of Remias's car, opposition representatives said he was the victim of political murder. Slovakia's new Interior Minister Gustav Krajci said on 4 September that he will not devote himself to the Kovac Jr. case, noting that he currently has "other, more important tasks." The investigation was adjourned for a second time on 30 August. -- Sharon Fisher ANOTHER BOMB IN BRATISLAVA. A bomb destroyed a car in Bratislava's Ruzinov district on 3 September, CTK reported the following day. It was the third explosion in the city in less than two weeks. No one was injured, but the explosion damaged several cars and shattered the windows of an apartment building. The motives remain unknown. Krajci and Police President Jozef Holdos on 4 September announced the preparation of measures to prevent the growing wave of bomb attacks. They said the effects should be felt within a few months but refused to give details. Krajci also warned about a drop in police discipline--a policeman is suspected of involvement in the 26 August explosion. So far this year, 15 explosions have taken place in Slovakia, causing damage of almost 3.5 million Slovak crowns ($114,000), while 34 explosions were reported last year. -- Sharon Fisher DATE SET FOR SIGNING ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN TREATY. A spokesman for the Romanian Foreign Affairs Ministry announced on 4 September that the basic treaty between the two countries will be signed on 16 September in the western Romanian city of Timisoara, Romanian and Hungarian media report. The news was confirmed by the office of Hungarian Premier Gyula Horn in Budapest. Horn and Prime Minister Nicoale Vacaroiu will sign the document in the presence of Romanian President Ion Iliescu. Reuters reported that the choice of Timisoara was a compromise, since neither side agreed to have the document signed in the other's capital. It was also announced that two additional documents stemming from President Ion Iliescu's August 1995 initiative for a "historic reconciliation" between the two countries are to be signed later. -- Michael Shafir and Zsofia Szilagyi. SECOND HUNGARIAN MINORITY SUMMIT CONVENES IN WESTERN HUNGARY. A second round of the ethnic Hungarian minority summit was held in the western Hungarian city of Papa on 4 September, Hungarian media reported. Discussion focused on the Hungarian-Romanian basic treaty, and its impact on Romania's 1.6 million ethnic Hungarians. Participants strongly objected to the choice of Timisoara as the venue for the signing of the treaty. Bela Marko, president of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania called the two governments' choice of venue a "mockery of the revolutionary traditions of Timisoara." -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE IZETBEGOVIC: SDA WILL BOYCOTT VOTE IF HERCEG-BOSNA REMAINS. Alija Izetbegovic, the Bosnian president and leader of the ruling Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), on 4 September said his party will boycott the forthcoming Bosnian ballot if the Bosnian Croat para-state of Herceg-Bosna is not dissolved, AFP reported the next day. Izetbegovic also said he would not recognize the Serbian entity in Bosnia unless 600,000 non-Serbs expelled during the war return there. Speaking to a meeting of 20,000 SDA supporters in the southern town of Jablanica, Izetbegovic threatened for the second time this week that the largest Muslim party might boycott the 14 September poll. According to a U.S.- brokered agreement, Herceg-Bosna should have been dismantled on 31 August (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 August 1996). But as of 4 September its government was still working, AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic PLAVSIC WARNS FEDERATION DELEGATION NOT TO VISIT BRCKO. Acting Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic on 4 September informed Roberts Owen, the Brcko arbitration group chairman, that the Republika Srpska has not approved an announced visit by a federal delegation to this northern Bosnian town, Nasa Borba reported. Owen had earlier said a delegation from the Bosnian federation should come to Brcko to inspect the town's infrastructure. But Plavsic warned that if the federal delegation tries to enter Brcko--which both entities claim--they will be stopped, and if incidents develop, those who authorized the arrival will bear the responsibility. Plavsic also said Owen does not have "jurisdiction" to give permission for inspection, and only Republika Srpska authorities have such powers. Meanwhile, Bosnian Serbs, Muslims and Croats agreed on 4 September to allow the exhumation of alleged mass graves in territories they control, AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic OSCE FUNDS PARTY OF ETHNIC CLEANSING. The OSCE, which is supervising the 14 September Bosnian elections, has paid $222,000 to the Party of Serbian Unity (SSJ) out of a $3.4 million fund to help political parties. The SSJ is headed by Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan, who is an internationally wanted felon and a suspected war criminal. His paramilitary gangs are generally believed to have committed some of the worst atrocities associated with ethnic cleansing in the wars in Bosnia and Croatia. German taxpayers provide over half the funds, AFP reported on 5 September, quoting The Guardian. The OSCE's Jean Ouellet defended the payment, saying, "The political campaign funding is basically for all political parties to get their message across. We may not agree with some of them, but we cannot censor them. There is still the right to free speech in this particular country." -- Patrick Moore SERB POLICE, MOB BLOCK BRITISH TROOPS. Bosnian Serb police and--in a now familiar pattern--"a typical Balkan mob" of 300 civilians blocked British IFOR soldiers who were attempting to remove illegal weapons near Banja Luka. The NATO troops left only after taking shelter at a Bosnian Serb army base, the BBC reported on 5 September. In Bihac, the trial in absentia of local kingpin and accused war criminal Fikret Abdic began on 4 September, Oslobodjenje reported. In Sarajevo, the OSCE has confirmed 3,398 candidates for the 14 September elections. -- Patrick Moore NEW ETHNIC CLEANSING IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA. Ethnic-related incidents continue as the 14 September elections approach, news agencies reported on 3 September. The common denominator seems to be the determination of nationalists to consolidate "ethnically pure" regions as a prelude to a possible breakup of the country along ethnic lines. In a Banja Luka suburb, some of the town's few remaining Muslims were driven from their homes by Serbs and had to be evacuated by the UN. In Croatian-held west Mostar, a gang tried to throw a Muslim woman from her balcony, while other Croats succeeded in driving an ethnically mixed couple out of town. In the strategic Serbian-held town of Brcko, a series of incidents has taken place against Muslim property. In Muslim-held Bugojno, former Croat residents returning for an election meeting were pelted with stones by Muslims, although the rally nonetheless took place, Vecernji list reported on 4 September. -- Patrick Moore DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF SERBIA SNUBS "TOGETHERNESS." Vojislav Kostunica, head of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), said 4 September that his party would not accept an invitation to join several other opposition parties in a grand coalition aimed at ousting the ruling Socialists in the 3 November elections. Nasa Borba on 5 September reported that Kostunica said one major point of contention with the "Zajedno" (together) coalition agreement is that it bars signatories from joining with non-signatories in a postelection coalition. We're going to the polls by ourselves," Kostunica said. The leaders of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), the Democratic Party (DS), and the Serbian Civic League (GSS)--Vuk Draskovic, Zoran Djindjic, and Vesna Pesic--on 2 September signed the agreement, which gives the SPO 54% of allotted federal list seats, with 41% for the DS and 5% for the GSS. -- Stan Markotich SKOPJE, BELGRADE SIGN TRADE AGREEMENTS. Visiting Prime Minister Radoje Kontic of rump Yugoslavia and his Macedonian counterpart Branko Crvenkovski on 4 September signed seven trade and economic agreements aimed at liberalizing bilateral trade, Reuters and Nova Makedonija reported. Kontic said the agreements "envisage [a total of] $1 billion [in bilateral trade] over the next year." The documents include agreements on protection of investments, against double taxation, on customs cooperation, and on the regulation of air and rail traffic. In 1989, trade between the then-Yugoslav republics of Macedonia and Serbia- Montenegro totaled $2.5 billion. -- Stefan Krause SNEGUR PROPOSES RESUMPTION OF TALKS ON DNIESTER STATUS. In a letter addressed to the leader of the breakaway Dniester region, Igor Smirnov, Moldovan President Mircea Snegur proposed the resumption of talks on the region's special status, Moldovan agencies reported on 4 September. Snegur said after the two sides' teams meet to discuss the negotiation process, a summit of the two leaders should have on its agenda "the current situation and the most urgent economic issues." He denied accusations that a "standstill" had been reached on the special status talks. The two leaders had agreed in June on a memorandum on normalizing relations, but Snegur later refused to sign the document, saying it would legitimize the separate existence of the Dniester region and infringe on Moldovan sovereignty. The leadership in Tiraspol reacted by calling the proposal "one more change" in Snegur's stance and said there was "no hope for the resumption of negotiations before the Moldovan presidential elections" scheduled for 17 November. -- Michael Shafir BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION UPDATE. The Supreme Court on 4 September overruled the Central Electoral Commission and ordered it to register the presidential and vice presidential candidates of the united opposition, Petar Stoyanov and Todor Kavaldzhiev, Demokratsiya reported. The decision of a five-member magistrate was unanimous. It is final and cannot be appealed. Meanwhile, Prime Minister and Bulgarian Socialist Party Chairman Zhan Videnov called on his party's followers over the national media to support the Socialist team: Culture Minister Ivan Marazov and Deputy Foreign Minister Irina Bokova. -- Stefan Krause BIG BREAKTHROUGH IN ALBANIAN DOMESTIC POLITICS. A round table of 13 political parties and President Sali Berisha agreed to change various procedures to ensure fair local elections on 20 October, Koha Jone reported on 5 September. The agreement is the first step toward ending a political deadlock after the disputed parliamentary elections in May. The agreement foresees that the deputy chairmen of the permanent central election commission and all local election commissions including the polling stations come from the Socialist Party. The only exception are electoral zones in which the ethnic Greek Human Rights party gained a majority before. The duties and rights of the deputy chairmen and the Democratic Party appointed chairmen are equal. The agreement also rules that the opposition gets equal airtime on television and that a disputed screening law, banning former communist official from running, would be changed. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Janet Hofmann ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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