|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 173, Part II, 6 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 BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT WANTS NEW REFERENDUM DATE. The Belarusian parliament has called for holding President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's referendum at the same time as parliamentary by-elections on 24 November, instead of the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, 7 November, as proposed by Lukashenka, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 September. The exact questions to appear on the referendum are still unknown, but they will be aimed at revising the constitution to enhance the president's powers. Parliament is considering holding an alternative referendum at the same time, asking the people if the post of president of Belarus should be abolished altogether. There is some contradiction in holding the by-elections and referendum simultaneously, since Lukashenka's version of the constitution envisages a smaller, bicameral legislature, in which there would be no room for any more elected deputies. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN APPOINTMENTS. President Leonid Kuchma signed a decree on 5 September appointing Yurii Rusantsov as Coal Minister, Susana Stanyk as Minister of Family and Youth Issues, and Andrii Svyrdyuk as Health Minister, Ukrainian radio reported. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIANS SENTENCED IN BELARUS. Seven Ukrainians have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to two and a half years in Belarus for participating in the Chornobyl anniversary rally and causing public disorder, RFE/RL and ITAR-TASS reported on 6 September. The presiding judge said the defendants' citizenship was not taken into account when the court passed sentence, but the sentences are much harsher than those received by any other defendants tried for their participation in the rally. The usual sentence for those arrested was under two weeks, and the two organizers who went on hunger strike, Vyacheslau Siuchyk and Yurii Khadyka, received suspended sentences. The Ukrainian consul in Minsk, Mikhail Moskalenko, said the trial was unfair and he would appeal the verdict in the Belarusian Supreme Court. -- Ustina Markus BALTIC ASSEMBLY TO PROPOSE CONDITIONS FOR ENDING DEATH PENALTY. Lithuanian deputy Algirdas Kuncinas said 4 September that the Baltic Assembly's legal committee last week prepared a resolution on ending the death penalty in the Baltic states for submission to the assembly's October session in Riga, BNS reported. He said the resolution calls for ending the penalty only after certain conditions have been fulfilled. These include sharply decreasing the number of particularly heinous crimes, changing public opinion, and constructing special prisons and cells for persons whose death sentences would be changed to life imprisonment. -- Saulius Girnius TALLINN, ST. PETERSBURG SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT. Tallinn City Council Chairman Koit Kaaristu and his St. Petersburg counterpart Yuri Kravtsov on 5 September signed an agreement on promoting cooperation between the two municipal councils, BNS reported. It provides for the exchange of adopted regulations and programs for urban development, promoting contacts between the municipal governments, law-enforcement authorities, and nongovernmental organizations. The Tallinn City Council has also signed a protocol of intent with its Moscow counterpart, but it is unclear whether a cooperation accord can be signed before Estonia's local elections on 20 October. -- Saulius Girnius TORTURER FROM STALINIST TIMES IMPRISONED IN POLAND. Adam Humer, former chief of the Investigation Department of the Stalinist political police in Poland in the 1950s, sentenced in March for nine years imprisonment, was finally sent to prison this week, Polish dailies reported on 6 September. Humer tortured political prisoners 40 years ago in the same Mokotow prison where he will be confined. Humer is 80 years old and the court acceded in March to the defense motion that Humer undergo medical investigation before imprisonment. The doctors concluded recently that he can stay in prison under constant medical supervision. -- Jakub Karpinski FOLLOW-UP ON POLISH GOVERNMENT CRISIS. Tensions in the ruling coalition, provoked recently by governmental reform, were exacerbated by the dismissal of Foreign Trade Minister Jacek Buchacz on 4 September (see OMRI Daily Digest 5 September 1996). Buchacz, in the post since early 1995, represented the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), the ruling coalition junior partner. Polish dailies provided details on the "Buchacz empire," a conglomerate of private and state-owned institutions aimed at helping Polish exports. The PSL said that "the PSL and Minister Jacek Buchacz have repeatedly warned of a growing foreign trade deficit, which could reach $10 billion this year." PSL representatives suggested that the minister's dismissal came as a response to these warnings. The PSL has threatened to leave the coalition with the Democratic Left Alliance, which may lead to earlier elections than those scheduled for fall 1997. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH PRIME MINISTER IN JAPAN. On a three-day official visit to Japan, Vaclav Klaus on 6 September met with Emperor Akihito, Czech and international agencies reported. Klaus met the previous day with his Japanese counterpart, Ryutaro Hashimoto, requesting more Japanese investment in the Czech Republic. Hashimoto asked Klaus to improve investment conditions, but Klaus rejected appeals to grant Japanese companies tax breaks. Hashimoto and Klaus expressed support for U.S. missile attacks on Iraq. Also on 5 September, Klaus and Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda and International Trade and Industry Minister Shumpei Tsukahara discussed increasing bilateral trade. Klaus's Asian tour will include visits to Malaysia and Singapore. -- Sharon Fisher BAVARIAN PRIME MINISTER WARNS CZECHS. Edmund Stoiber told German Radio 5 September that the planned Czech-German declaration on reconciliation will not be signed until Prague talks to Sudeten Germans expelled after World War II, Reuters reported. The majority of the Sudeten Germans and their descendants now live in Bavaria and are a key constituency of Stoiber's Christian Social Union, a member of Germany's ruling coalition. Stoiber said the signing before the end of the year "depends on whether the text is acceptable for those who are seriously affected" and "whether...there is readiness from anyone on the Czech side to have talks with the Sudeten Germans." He added that "it must be possible for the Czech side now to say, without any material claims arising, that the expulsion [of the ethnic Germans] was wrong under international law." -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK COURT RULES CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF PRESIDENT'S SON VIOLATED. The Senate of Slovakia's Constitutional Court on 4 September ruled that the Foreign Ministry's inactivity earlier this year in the Michal Kovac Jr. case constituted a violation of his right to free entrance to Slovak territory, Narodna obroda reported two days later. The day after the decision, Constitutional Court judge Jan Drgonec said that as a state organ, the Foreign Ministry "should have fulfilled the state's obligation to secure the protection of a citizen's constitutionally guaranteed rights." The court was referring to Kovac Jr.'s request after his kidnapping last year that the Foreign Ministry ask for his extradition from Austria. Kovac Jr. on 5 September announced he will sue the state for damages. -- Sharon Fisher EUROPE'S LARGEST SYNAGOGUE REOPENS IN HUNGARY. Thousands of people, including former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, attended a ceremony 5 September celebrating the reopening of the world's second largest synagogue after five years of renovation, Hungarian and international media reported. The synagogue was built in 1850 and served as a shelter for thousands of Jews during World War II. "The reconstruction is a clear indication that the present Jewry of Hungary is confident in the future, that it can again build a prosperous life," Peter Feldmajer, president of the Hungarian Jewish Communities, said before the ceremony. So far the renovation has cost 1,250 million forints ($8.3 million). The Hungarian government paid 80% and the rest came from international donations. The reconstruction is due to be finished by next autumn. -- Zsofia Szilagyi THOUSANDS PROTEST HUNGARIAN-ROMANIAN BASIC TREATY IN BUDAPEST. About 10,000 to 20,000 people demonstrated against the Hungarian-Romanian basic treaty outside the Parliament building last night, Hungarian media reported. Catholic Bishop Jozsef Tempfli of Oradea, Romania, and Hungarian Calvinist Bishop Lorant Hegedus gave speeches saying the treaty the two governments are about to sign will not help reconciliation between the two nations. A speaker from the opposition Smallholders' Party said the cabinet is committing "treason" by signing the document. The demonstration was also supported by the far-right extra-parliamentary Hungarian Justice and Life Party. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE FIRST BODY FOUND AT VUKOVAR HOSPITAL MASSACRE GRAVE. War-crimes investigators uncovered the first body at the Ovcara mass grave in eastern Slavonia, thought to contain the bodies of Croats executed in the 1991 Serb-Croat war, international agencies reported on 5 September. The exhumation is part of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia's investigation into events that occurred in the Vukovar hospital and at Ovcara in November 1991. U.S. forensics expert William Haglund said about 170 to 260 bodies were estimated to be in the grave. The site was revealed by a former Vukovar hospital patient who survived the massacre, and reportedly had not been disturbed since last inspected in 1993. Three senior officers of the former Yugoslav national army were indicted last November for war crimes for the Ovcara massacre, but Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has refused to allow their extradition to the war-crimes tribunal in The Hague. -- Daria Sito Sucic BOSNIAN ELECTION DEADLINE EXTENDED...The OSCE, which is supervising the vote, said 5 September that absentee ballots from abroad can be sent in until 14 September, when the elections will be held across Bosnia- Herzegovina. The governing Muslim Party of Democrat Action (SDA) has called for voting in Bosnia to be extended to 15 and 16 September as well, Oslobodjenje reported on 6 September. The OSCE has reversed its earlier decision and approved the candidacies of Zlatko Lagumdzija and "several hundred" other people running on the slate of the opposition anti-nationalist five-party coalition, the Joint List (ZL). -- Patrick Moore ...AS CAMPAIGNING CONTINUES. The ZL has accused the SDA and its Croatian counterpart, the Croatian Democratic Community, of having established a de facto coalition, Oslobodjenje noted 6 September. The ZL also called for the leading Serbian presidential candidate, Momcilo Krajisnik, to be banned from the ballot because of his public statements that Bosnia does not exist as a state. In the small part of suburban Sarajevo still under Serbian control, several thousand people cheered at a rally in support of indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, news agencies reported 5 September. And in the Bosnian Serb capital of Pale, the leader of the Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haris Silajdzic, appeared on a talk show on Bosnian Serb TV, the most important Muslim to be invited to do so since the war began. -- Patrick Moore HOLBROOKE ON BOSNIAN ELECTIONS. Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. mediator who brokered the Bosnia peace accord, warned on 5 September that the same political leaders who threw Bosnia into a civil war might win the elections, international agencies reported. He singled out Bosnian Serb acting President Biljana Plavsic, the head of the ruling Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) Aleksa Buha, and Bosnian Serb parliamentary speaker Momcilo Krajisnik as the greatest cause for concern that "fascists and separatists might be elected future leaders in Bosnia," AFP quoted him as saying. Holbrooke called for another Dayton-type conference after the elections to correct some of the mistakes made at Dayton. He also said a reduced military presence should be maintained in Bosnia after the NATO peace mission ends. -- Daria Sito Sucic SERBIAN UPDATE. The ongoing hunger strike of the Zastava arms plant workers in Kragujevac seems to be taking a dramatic turn, Nasa Borba reported 6 September, with the protest taking an exacting toll on participants. The newspaper also reported on the fallout from the resolution by the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) to stay out of the opposition coalition "Zajedno" (together), which is challenging the Socialists in November elections. Some party members found the decision highly objectionable, the newspaper noted. Finally, on 3 September Tanjug reported Col. Cedomir Gilanovic's impressions of the rump Yugoslav military inspection team's 26-28 August tour of Croatian army facilities. Gilanovic said the Croatian officers were very professional, and added that a team from Belgrade was to begin a three-day inspection of facilities of the Muslim-Croat federal army on 4 September. -- Stan Markotich SLOVENIAN ELECTION DATE SET. Slovenian President Milan Kucan announced 5 September that general elections will take place 10 November, STA reported. He made the announcement after meeting with representatives of most of the parties represented in parliament. "Although a consensus with all political parties could not be reached, most favored this date and believed balloting should take place as soon as possible," Kucan said. The opposition United List of Social Democrats had lobbied to hold off the polling date until the Constitutional Court could rule on whether a referendum on electoral reform should be held before the elections, Reuters reported. The last national elections were held in 1992, and under the terms of the constitution would have had to take place no later than 8 December 1996. -- Stan Markotich ROMANIAN ELECTORAL UPDATE. The campaign for the presidential and parliamentary elections of 3 November was officially launched on 4 September. The next day, President Ion Iliescu became the first candidate to register with the Central Electoral Bureau (BEC). Meanwhile, no less than 51 contestations against Iliescu's candidacy were registered with the BEC, the daily Libertatea reported. The Association for the Defense of Human Rights-Helsinki Committee and the League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADO) on 5 September officially joined those claiming Iliescu's candidacy is unconstitutional because he is running for a third term. The BEC must rule by 7 September. Its decision can then be appealed to the Constitutional Court, which, however, is known to be packed with pro-Iliescu supporters. LADO said it might appeal against the court's ruling before the European Court for Human Rights and before the OSCE commission overseeing electoral processes. -- Michael Shafir BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES MEDIA LAW AGAIN. The parliament on 5 September overruled President Zhelyu Zhelev's veto of the electronic media law, Reuters reported. The Socialist majority voted to adopt the law without any changes. Zhelev had returned the law for further discussion, saying parts of it violated the constitution by limiting freedom of expression and speech. Klara Marinova, media specialist of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and chair of the parliamentary media commission, said Zhelev, by interfering in the parliament's work, "is breaching the powers granted to him by the constitution." The opposition Union of Democratic Forces announced it will turn to the Constitutional Court to have the law declared unconstitutional. The ethnic-Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom criticized the law for not permitting broadcasts in minority languages and said it conflicts with the European Framework Convention for the Defense of National Minorities. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN ROUNDUP. Special anti-terrorist police found and defused two makeshift bombs in Sofia's central railway station, Bulgarian and Western media reported. Train traffic had to be stopped temporarily, and the station building was evacuated. Two anonymous phone calls less than one hour apart had warned of the bombs. It was unclear whether the calls were linked with each other or not. In other news, 48 flight controllers from the Sofia and Varna airports were dismissed on grounds of participating in an illegal strike. Bulgaria's flight controllers went on strike on 3 September, demanding higher wages, but the strike was declared illegal by the Sofia Municipal Court. Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and Transportation Minister Stamen Stamenov met to discuss the situation, which might result in serious problems for the country's air traffic. The Varna airport may be closed for lack of qualified personnel. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN PEACEKEEPERS TO JOIN IFOR TROOPS IN ZADAR. The Albanian parliament passed a law on 5 September allowing the Albanian army to participate in peacekeeping missions abroad. A unit of 50 soldiers will leave for Zadar, Croatia, on 9 September to serve with the German IFOR contingent. State Secretary of Defense Leonard Demi said the new law showed Albania was committed to the principles and objectives of NATO's Partnership for Peace. -- Fabian Schmidt ALBANIANS STORM NEWLY OPENED GREEK CONSULATE. Several hundred Albanians seeking visas clashed with police outside the newly opened Greek consulate in Gjirokastra on 4 September. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, but about 100 Albanians stormed the building and caused damage to the office equipment, international agencies reported. Earlier, the Greek consul had promised he would ease visa procedures for Albanians and issued 500 visas in the early morning before the unrest started. Afterward he said, "We will never make such a mistake again." The consul had made his promise following the visit of the Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos to Albania last week. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Janet Hofmann ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU 2) To subscribe, write: SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L FirstName LastName (include your own name) To unsubscribe, write: UNSUBSCRIBE OMRI-L 3) Send the message REPRINT POLICY To receive a copy of OMRI's reprint policy, contact OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ or see the Web page at http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html OTHER OMRI PUBLICATIONS TRANSITION OMRI publishes the biweekly journal TRANSITION, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. 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