|If you wish to live wisely, ignore sayings--including this one. - Heywood Broun|
No. 174, Part II, 9 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 UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WARNS OF TRADE WAR WITH RUSSIA. Leonid Kuchma warned that Russia's proposed tax on Ukrainian imports could lead to a trade war, Reuters reported on 7 September. Last month Moscow said it would impose a 20% value added tax on imports from Ukraine to curb Kyiv's mass dumping on the Russian market. A one million ton quota on Ukrainian sugar was also to be introduced. Kuchma said the moves violated a free trade agreement signed within the context of the CIS. Moscow has postponed imposing the tax and quota until October. According to Kuchma, since the measures apply only to Ukraine, they are not motivated by economic considerations, but political ones, and must be resolved politically. Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko was more upbeat about relations. During a visit to Stockholm on 6 September, he said relations with Russia were developing successfully, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT SETS REFERENDUM DATE. The parliament set 24 November as the date of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's referendum and parliamentary by-elections, international agencies reported on 6 and 7 September. The parliament also decided to place its own questions on the referendum. Lukashenka proposed asking the electorate if they agreed with extending his term of office and his powers. He confidently told reporters he expected to remain president for 12 more years. Parliament added two of its own referendum questions, including asking the people whether they preferred the pre-sident's or the parliament's version of the constitution. The parliament's version abolishes the presidency. -- Ustina Markus MORE DEMONSTRATIONS IN BELARUS. Over 3,000 people gathered on 8 September in Minsk to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Orsha in 1514, when Lithuanian and Belarusian forces defeated Moscow, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported. The rally turned into a protest against Lukashenka and his pro-Russian orientation. Speakers denounced Lukashenka for trying to impose dictatorial rule, violating the constitution, and selling the country out to Russia. The demonstration ended peacefully. -- Ustina Markus ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES LAYOFFS. Finance Ministry official Ingrid Preeks on 6 September announced the government's plans to lay off 963 officials and dissolve 36 executive agencies and inspectorates in the course of administrative reform, BNS reported. The dismissals, beginning as early as October, should result in salary increases of about 10% for the some 62,000 remaining employees financed from the state budget. According to the Public Service Act, dismissed employees must be paid six months salary. -- Saulius Girnius FOLLOW UP TO BUCHACZ'S DISMISSAL. Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 7 September explained his recent decision to dismiss Foreign Trade Minister Jacek Buchacz, Polish media reported. Cimoszewicz accused Buchacz -- a member of the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) -- of badly managing state funds. He said the chemical trade corporation Ciech's president wrote to him that he was pressured by Buchacz to sign documents conflicting with the Ciech board's resolutions. Ciech's president questioned a plan to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars of state funds to a private bank in Ukraine. The PSL had threatened to quit the coalition with the Cimoszewicz's Democratic Left Alliance, arguing that the unexpected dismissal was a breach of the coalition contract; however, meeting on 6 September, PSL leaders failed to decide on the matter. President Aleksander Kwasniewski said the ruling coalition should continue until the end of the parliament's term, in fall next year. -- Jakub Karpinski SLOVAK ACADEMICS PROTEST UNIVERSITY BILL. Slovak university representatives gathered in Bratislava on 6 September to protest a draft law that restricts academic freedom, Slovak and international media reported. The controversial bill was approved by the government last month (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 August) and is expected to be placed on the parliament session beginning on 11 September. The academic community asked the parliament to confirm academic rights and freedoms and the autonomous position of university bodies and asked that the new university law respect the Rectors' Conference's recommendations. Meanwhile, on 5 September, some 700 cultural figures gathered to demand the dismissal of Culture Minister Ivan Hudec based on his interference in the operation of theaters, museums, and other cultural institutions. Although the opposition hopes to discuss Hudec's dismissal during the upcoming parliament session, both Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and Slovak National Party Chairman Jan Slota have supported him. -- Sharon Fisher POPE ENCOURAGES HUNGARIANS. Pope John Paul II, appearing frail and exhausted, visited Hungary on 6-7 September for the first time since 1991, Hungarian and international media reported. On the second day of his visit, the pope celebrated mass in the western Hungarian city of Gyor, drawing some 150,000 people despite bad weather. He asked Hungarians not to be discouraged by economic and social difficulties, including unemployment, impoverishment, and declining moral values. The pope also held talks with Hungarian President Arpad Goncz and Prime Minister Gyula Horn. Horn and the pope approved three agreements between the Vatican and Hungary concerning state financing of churches, restitution of church property, and the financing of church schools. It was the pope's second visit to Hungary. -- Sharon Fisher and Petronella Gaal NEW HUNGARIAN INDUSTRY MINISTER APPOINTED. President Arpad Goncz on 6 September appointed Tamas Suchman as Industry and Trade Minister, AFP reported. Suchman, 42, replaced Imre Dunai, a non-party technocrat who resigned in mid-August (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 August). In his new post, Suchman -- a Socialist Party member who had overseen privatization as minister without portfolio -- said he aims to promote exports and to serve businesses rather than control them. Although the cabinet scrapped the privatization portfolio, Suchman will continue to control privatization. -- Sharon Fisher SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE OSCE WARNS BOSNIAN SERBS NOT TO VIOLATE ELECTORAL RULES... Judge Finn Lynhgjem of the OSCE announced that "public statements that undermine or deny the sovereignty and territorial integrity of ... Bosnia-Herzegovina constitute serious violations of the [Dayton] agreement," and he called on those who have made such statements "to retract them," AFP reported on 6 September. This declaration comes after weeks of Bosnian Serb leaders openly campaigning for the division of Bosnia. Senior officials of the ruling Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) publicly declare that Republika Srpska (RS) has the right to secede from Bosnia and join Serbia. The OSCE has done nothing to punish the parties violating the electoral process, arguing that it can only act when receiving a complaint. The main Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) has lodged a complaint on the Serb campaigning, and is waiting for the OSCE's ruling. -- Daria Sito Sucic ...BUT SERBS INTENSIFY SEPARATIST RHETORIC. Despite the SDS spokesman's denials of violating the electoral rules while campaigning, party officials have continued their campaign tour in the same tone. On 7 September SDS head Aleksa Buha said in the northern Bosnian town of Bosanski Brod that Bosnia will disintegrate into separate states, AFP reported. The next day in Trebinje, southeastern Bosnia, acting RS President Biljana Plavsic said Serbs who decide to live with Muslims "will no longer be Serbs, but Turks or Catholics (Croats)," AFP reported. Also on 8 September, in the northern Bosnian town of Kotor- Varos, Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serb candidate for Bosnia's new rotating presidency, promised to lead his supporters into a union of Serb states. He devoted much of his speech to the strategic town of Brcko, claimed by both the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serbs, saying it was "alpha and omega of the RS," AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic IZETBEGOVIC FOCUSES CAMPAIGN ON RETURN TO BRCKO. During an 8 September SDA rally held in a village near this northern town, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic underscored the importance of Muslim refugees' return to Brcko, Oslobodjenje reported. Otherwise, he warned of serious trouble but did not clarify. Bosnian federation Prime Minister Izudin Kapetanovic told the crowd "a big battle for Brcko is ahead of us," AFP reported. The town is vitally important for Serbs because its narrow corridor links the western and eastern parts of the RS. It also controls a major communication route between the Muslim-Croat federation and Croatia. If international arbitration on Brcko fails, the issue could result in renewed fighting. In other news, a Ukrainian peacekeeper was shot dead on 8 September early morning by an unknown assailant. The soldier was guarding a warehouse where voter ballots were stored. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROATIANS LOOK AT HERZE-GOVINIAN NEIGHBORS. A survey conducted by the pro-government weekly Odbor showed that some 58% of Croatians surveyed think parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina controlled by Croats will eventually join with Croatia, AFP reported on 8 September. The Bosnian Croat mini- state of Herceg-Bosna was to have been dissolved on 31 August, with its powers devolving to the Muslim-Croat federation, but so far this has not taken place. In addition, only 19% of the 450 respondents said they feel 14 September elections in Bosnia will have the effect of reinforcing Bosnia as a multiethnic state made up of Muslims, Serbs, and Croats. Nearly 61%, however, said they feel the elections will divide Bosnia's ethnic communities. -- Stan Markotich VOJVODINA HUNGARIAN PARTY'S RESERVATIONS ABOUT COALITION POLITICS. The Democratic Community of Hungarians in Voj-vodina (DZVM), during its annual general meeting in Subotica on 7 September, resolved to stay out of any coalitions heading into federal rump Yugoslav general elections on 3 November. According to party leader Andras Agoston, joining a coalition, which may include parties not advocating regional autonomy for Vojvodina, may compromise the DZVM in its aim of promoting this objective, Nasa Borba reported on 9 September. Agoston, however, did not rule out coalition politics in local balloting to be held that same date. In related news, Sandor Pal, in behind closed-door plenary sessions that Nasa Borba reported went "late into the night," lost his post as deputy head of the DZVM. -- Stan Markotich SLOVENIAN UPDATE. Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek on 6 September announced his country's candidacy for membership in the UN Security Council. "Membership in the Security Council would give Slovenia a much better chance to gain international recognition," he said. In other news, Reuters on 6 September reported that a section of border tunnel between Slovenia and Austria crashed that day, injuring one Slovene and two Slovaks. -- Stan Markotich ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN MILITARY TREATY. Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca and his Hungarian counterpart Gyorgy Kelety on 6 September signed in Arad, western Romania, a treaty providing for enhanced mutual trust and security. The treaty, which expands on the measures provided for by the 1994 Vienna OSCE document, stipulates that the two states will notify each other 42 days in advance on troop movements larger than one battalion within a radius of 80 kilometers at their common border, exchange information, and raise the frequency of mutual military inspections while at the same time reducing early notification of intended inspections. They are also to exchange observers at military exercises and conduct two yearly joint maneuvers. The treaty is not limited in time, and Radio Bucharest said it provides a proper background for the signing of the basic treaty on 16 September. -- Michael Shafir COURT REJECTS OBJECTIONS TO ILIESCU'S CANDIDACY. The Constitutional Court has unanimously rejected objections raised to President Ion Iliescu's candidacy in the presidential elections scheduled for 3 November, Radio Bucharest reported on 8 September. The court said the objections lacked foundation and that its decision was "final." It ruled that the number of mandates, limited by the constitution to two, counted only from the time of the basic document's adoption, and that consequently Iliescu's service as president before 1992 was not to be taken into consideration for this purpose. -- Michael Shafir GREATER ROMANIA PARTY "SWALLOWS" ALLY. The extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM) on 6 September merged with the small non-parliamentary Romanian Party for a New Society (PRNS). The latter formation had been part of the National Bloc, an alliance with non-parliamentary formations established by the PRM. The PRNS's leader, retired Gen. Victor Voichita, became a vice-chairman of the PRM. In other news, Titus Raveica, a former senator representing the Party of Social Democracy in Romania and later chairman of the Audio-Visual Council, announced his intention to run for parliament on the PRM lists, Curierul national reported on 7 September. Finally, PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor demanded that the U.S. withdraw Ambassador Alfred Moses, whom Tudor accused of interfering in internal Romanian politics for having stated that Romania's post- electoral government should be "centrist." Calling him "an obscure provincial lawyer" and "an old man with dictatorial inclinations," Tudor said Moses displayed "political primitivism." -- Michael Shafir CHISINAU-TIRASPOL NEGOTIATIONS TO BE RESUMED? Infotag reported on 6 September that the leadership of the breakaway Dniester region will "consider" Moldovan President Mircea Snegur's recent proposal to resume negotiations on drafting a special status for the region. The region's leaders, President Igor Smirnov and Supreme Soviet chairman Grigorii Markutsa, stated their intent to resume negotiations following a meeting with the Russian ambassador to Moldova, Alexander Papkin, and the special representative of the Ukrainian president, Yevhen Levitsky. Levitsky said after the meeting that there was now hope that the process may break out of its present standstill. -- Michael Shafir IMPRISONED MOLDOVAN LEA-DER QUITS PARTY. Ilie Ilascu, who is imprisoned in the breakaway Dniester region where he has been accused of terrorist actions and condemned to death, has resigned from the Popular Front Christian Democratic Party (FPCD). In a letter addressed to the FPCD leadership and published in Saptamana, Ilascu, who earlier announced his intention to run for president, said he considers the party's decision to back President Mircea Snegur in the 17 November electoral contest "unwise," BASA-press reported on 6 September. Ilascu said he fails to understand why a party that is pro-Romanian unionist should help people who are "generally unfriendly to our national ideals." -- Michael Shafir IMF DELAYS LOAN TO BULGARIA. The IMF decided to withhold further loan disbursement to Bulgaria until the government speeds up promised economic reforms, RFE/RL and The Wall Street Journal reported on 7 September. IMF officials said Bulgaria is ineligible for the second installment of a $580 million standby loan because it did not get a favorable review during an IMF mission's recent visit. It is unclear when the installment of $116.7 million will be disbursed. The IMF mission said the government failed to implement structural reforms in the banking system and to close down 64 unprofitable state firms as agreed on with the IMF. Only five of those companies were closed down. The Bulgarian government had agreed with the IMF to implement a comprehensive reform package but after announcing it and receiving the first installment of the loan took no further action. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS GOVERNMENT. In a state TV address on 7 September, Zhelyu Zhelev accused the Socialist government of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov of leading Bulgaria to a "catastrophic state " and to economic collapse, Reuters reported. He blamed the Socialists in particular for the ongoing grain crisis and the rapid decline of the standard of living of large parts of the population. Zhelev said that if the situation does not improve, "responsibility will be sought not only through resignations but probably also through the courts." Zhelev accused Videnov of using rhetoric reminiscent of the "darkest years of Stalinism" in order to lay the blame on other people. The government in turn issued a statement the following day accusing Zhelev of delaying reform by vetoing legislation and of being irresponsible. The statement said Zhelev "relies on rude demagogy to force society to work against its own interests." -- Stefan Krause BIGGEST BALKAN SYNAGOGUE REOPENS IN SOFIA. The Sofia synagogue reopened on 8 September after major renovation, Reuters reported. More than 1,000 Jews from all over the world gathered for the ceremony that was attended by Zhelev and Israeli Knesset Speaker Dan Tihon. The synagogue was first inaugurated in 1909. It was hit by a bomb during World War Two and restoration was forbidden by the Communist regime. The renovation so far cost $370,000, mostly donations by the international Jewish community. Tihon said the synagogue was "a house of Jewish culture...not just a religious center." He noted that tens of thousands of Bulgarian Jews were "saved by the Bulgarian people" from Nazi concentration camps. Around 5,000 Jews still live in Bulgaria, mostly in Sofia. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIA REJECTS MACEDONIAN ACCUSATIONS OF INTERFERENCE. The Albanian government on 7 September rejected Macedonian accusations that it interfered with Skopje's domestic affairs, international media reported. The Macedonian government over the past week repeatedly accused Tirana of supporting the right of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia to higher education in their mother tongue in an attempt to divert attention from domestic political problems. A statement by the Albanian Foreign Ministry said Albania wanted good relations with Macedonia but added that it would continue to demand those rights because they are "based on international norms and documents." -- Stefan Krause As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Sharon Fisher ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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