|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
No. 181, Part II, 18 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 PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Mikhail Chyhir met with his Russian counterpart Viktor Chernomyrdin in Moscow on 17 September, Russian and Belarusian agencies reported. Talks focused on Belarus's $165 million energy debt to Russia incurred since 1 February. Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka signed a "zero option" at the beginning of the year canceling Belarus's previous energy debt to Moscow. Payment terms for the new debt were agreed to, and Minsk will make most of its payments in barter. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN POLITICAL CRISIS CONTINUES... President Lukashenka reiterated his intention of holding the referendum on which version of the constitution to adopt on 7 November and not during the 24 November by- elections, the date parliament set. Lukashenka's version of the constitution increases his powers and diminishes those of parliament; parliament's version abolishes the presidency. Radio Rossii reported that parliament's version has little chance of winning. Parliament Speaker Syamyon Sharetsky asked the Constitutional Court to examine the referendum. -- Ustina Markus ...WITH MORE ATTACKS ON THE SPEAKER. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky sent an open letter to Belarusian Parliament Speaker Syamyon Sharetsky and a series of Belarusian newspapers, accusing the speaker of every imaginable sin, including moral depravity, accepting money from America, and having dealings with Israeli intelligence. Sharetsky said the letter was a provocation at a "very primitive level" and offered to put himself to a confidence vote in parliament. Russian Public Television reported that the pro-presidential faction Sohlasiye began collecting signatures from deputies in support of a motion to remove Sharetsky. Only 22 deputies voted in favor of the motion, while 200 supported the speaker and refused to include any discussion of his dismissal on the agenda. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINE EXTENDS CURRENCY EXCHANGE DEADLINE. The Ukrainian government has extended the deadline for residents to exchange karbovantsi for hryvyas, the new currency, until 16 October, Ukrainian and Western agencies reported on 16-17 September. Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko said that although the exchange had gone smoothly during the planned two-week exchange period, which ended 16 September, there were some 8.7 trillion karbovantsi ($49 million) still circulating in the economy. Meanwhile, IMF chief Michel Camdessus praised Ukraine for adhering to tight monetary and fiscal policies during the hryvnya introduction. -- Chrystyna Lapychak TWO MORE CANDIDATES FOR ESTONIA'S PRESIDENT. Parliament Deputy Chairman Tunne Kelam of the Fatherland Union and deputy leader of the Center Party Siiri Oviir on 17 September announced that they would run for president, BNS reported. Twenty-three representatives of local councils and 12 parliament deputies supported Kelam's candidacy, while 21 representatives supported Oviir's. It is not clear whether any more candidates other than incumbent president Lennart Meri and parliament Deputy Speaker Arnold Ruutel will be registered before the deadline of 18:00 on 18 September. A 374-member electoral college will meet in Tallinn on 20 September and vote for president. If no candidate receives a majority, a run-off between the two top candidates will be held. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIA'S PARLIAMENT LEADER QUITS SAIMNIEKS PARTY. Ilsa Kreituse announced on 17 September that she is quitting the Democratic Party Saimnieks because she learned that the party's board was planning to discuss her expulsion, BNS reported. Since Saimnieks had nominated her for the Saeima post, she will probably have to give it up. The party's council expelled her husband, Finance Minister Aivars Kreituss, four days earlier (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 September 1996). Prime Minister Andris Skele has not yet decided whether he will ask Kreituss to resign or ask the parliament to take a no-confidence vote on him. Decisions on whether the Kreituss couple will remain in their posts will only be made at the end of the month after Skele and President Guntis Ulmanis return from trips abroad. -- Saulius Girnius GOVERNMENT REFORM IN POLAND. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz nominated on 17 September eight temporary heads of ministries that are to be created under the government reform and seven liquidators of ministries and other offices that are to be abolished. The heads include Zbigniew Sobotka for the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration, Andrzej Malinowski for Economy, and Piotr Czyzewski for Treasury, Danuta Huebner for the Committee for European Integration. The acting heads are to resign when ministers are appointed after an agreement between the coalition parties. -- Jakub Karpinski DAEWOO RETHINKING INVESTMENT IN POLAND. South Korean car manufacturer Daewoo chairman Kim Woo Choong has written to Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, threatening to reconsider plans to invest nearly $2 billion because Daewoo rival Hyundai is already active in Poland, Zycie Warszawy reported on 17 September. In August, the Polish group Universal began assembling Hyundai Accent cars in its factory at Pultusk. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH BANKING CRISIS UPDATE. Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and Parliament Chairman Milos Zeman, leader of the opposition Social Democrats, met on 17 September to discuss developments in the banking sector (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 and 17 September), Czech media reported. In an effort to calm the public, the two politicians agreed to put the interests of the Czech economy, and the banking sector in particular, above their political differences and search jointly for solutions. They also agreed that a special parliamentary commission be set up to investigate the collapse of Kreditni Banka. Also on 17 September, Pavel Tykac, the head of the financial group Motoinvest, whose officials have been charged with crimes related to Kreditni Banka's collapse, left the country and is hiding. In a letter he left behind, Tykac explained that he was afraid for his life after he announced on 16 September that he knows who caused the bank's collapse. -- Jiri Pehe CZECH SENATE ELECTIONS CANDIDATE REGISTRATION FINISHED. Some 570 candidates will compete for Senate seats in 81 districts in the November elections to the upper chamber of the Czech Parliament, Czech media reported on 18 September. The registration of candidates ended at midnight on 16 September. Only the Civic Democratic Party, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, and the Social Democrats have nominated candidates in all 81 districts. The coalition Civic Democratic Alliance and the People's Party/Christian and Democratic Union have formed a preelection coalition. The extreme-right Republican Party decided against running in the Senate elections, arguing that it has always been opposed to the existence of a Senate. Analysts have, however, pointed out that the real reason for the Republicans' decision is that the Senate elections, unlike the elections to the lower chamber, are based on a majority system that greatly diminishes the chances of extremists to win any seats. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK PARLIAMENT RULES ON CULTURE MINISTER, NATIONAL ANTHEMS. The Slovak Parliament on 17 September failed to pass a vote of non- confidence in Culture Minister Ivan Hudec, who has been accused by the opposition of incompetence, Slovak media reported. Seventy-six votes were needed to remove Hudec but only 62 deputies in the 150-seat parliament took part in the voting; 59 were in favor of removing Hudec, 3 were against. The parliament also ruled that from 1 October the national anthem of a foreign state can only be played in Slovakia when a delegation from the given foreign country is present. Deputies representing the Hungarian minority in Slovakia voted against the bill, arguing it is designed to prevent ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia from singing the Hungarian national anthem on their own holidays. -- Jiri Pehe FORMER HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON BASIC TREATY. Geza Jeszenszky, Hungary's former foreign minister and now an opposition deputy, has criticized Hungary's basic treaty with Romania, which was signed in Timisoara on 16 September. According to Hungarian dailies on 18 September, Jeszenszky claims that the treaty fails to guarantee education in the native tongue for children of all ages, does not mention the reopening of a Hungarian university and consulate in Romania, ignores questions about the return of Hungarian assets confiscated by the Romanian government, does not address the issue of Hungarian national symbols in Romania, and does not contain any supervisory mechanisms. Nevertheless, Jeszenszky stressed that he and his party, the Hungarian Democratic People's Party, do not oppose the treaty's ratification. -- Ben Slay SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN PRESIDENT'S LEAD REMAINS STRONG. President Alija Izetbegovic of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) continues to lead his challenger for the Muslim seat on the three-man collective state presidency. He has 82% to 13% for Haris Silajdzic, AFP reported on 18 September. Among the Croats, Kresimir Zubak of the Croatian Democratic Community has 88%, putting him comfortably ahead of Ivo Komsic of the Joint List. The most interesting development is among the Serbs, where Momcilo Krajisnik of the governing Serbian Democratic Party has only 66% despite his party's virtual monopoly on the media and the police. Challenger Mladen Ivanic of the Alliance for Peace and Progress, which is close to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, has nearly 32% of the total so far despite a campaign of violence and intimidation against his party during the runup to the 14 September vote. Izetbegovic seems slated to be the first to hold the rotating chair of the presidency. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN VOTE CALLED INTO QUESTION. An OSCE spokeswoman told the BBC on 17 September that the delays in counting votes are mainly due to technical problems and the exhaustion of poll workers, but the BBC suggested that more fundamental difficulties are involved. The SDA has challenged the elections held on Bosnian Serb territory, saying there was no freedom of movement and that various discriminatory measures were taken against Muslim refugees wanting to go home to vote, Onasa noted on 17 September. (see OMRI Special Report , 17 September). The International Crisis Group of prominent public figures issued a statement on 16 September that "against this background of adverse conditions, electoral engineering, and disenfranchisement, these elections cannot be described as free, fair, or democratic." The London Daily Telegraph cited one case in which a polling station recorded votes equivalent to a turnout of 107%. -- Patrick Moore HAGUE TRIBUNAL CHIEF BLASTS NATO FOR NOT ARRESTING WAR CRIMINALS. Judge Richard Goldstone told The Independent on 17 September that his court and international justice in general will be dealt a "fatal blow" if NATO fails to arrest indicted Bosnian Serb war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic. Goldstone, head of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, charged that IFOR commanders are primarily interested in self-preservation and avoiding risks and casualties. He noted that ordinary soldiers, however, "feel a tremendous frustration that they aren't able to go out and get [the war criminals]." He concluded that "there is no political will to make [international justice] work." -- Patrick Moore DISPLACED CROATS CAN REPATRIATE WHEN SERB REFUGEES' HOUSING IS PROVIDED. Soaren Jessen-Petersen, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees special envoy for the former Yugoslavia, at a meeting with Croatian Vice Premier Ivica Kostovic on 16 September, said finding housing for Serbs now living in the homes of Croats displaced from the Serb-held region of eastern Slavonia was the condition for the return of those displaced Croats, Hina reported. Jessen-Petersen said some Serbs now living in Bilje could not return to their homes because their property had been destroyed or occupied in line with some Croatian laws. According to the UNHCR, to avoid creating new refugees after displaced Croats return to their homes, Serbs should be given back their property or otherwise compensated. -- Daria Sito Sucic JOINT EFFORTS OF BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT AND SERBS IN SREBRENICA. Bosnian government and Bosnian Serb forensic teams started on 17 September to work together for the first time on recovering the remains of hundreds of Muslims scattered on hillsides near Srebrenica, AFP reported. Up to 8,000 Muslim men are still unaccounted for after a former Muslim enclave was overrun by Bosnian Serbs last year. The head of the Bosnian Serb commission for the return of POWs and missing persons, Dragan Bulajic, says the victims were soldiers, while his Bosnian government counterpart Amor Masovic claims they were civilians. -- Daria Sito Sucic MACEDONIA TO BUY RUMP YUGOSLAV ARMS? The Macedonian and rump Yugoslav defense ministers are to meet soon to discuss the possibility of Skopje's purchasing military wares from Belgrade, Onasa, citing Vecer, reported on 16 September. Belgrade appears to be "in a hurry to dispose of its arms surpluses" to meet conditions of the Dayton peace agreement. Rump Yugoslavia is reportedly barred from contemplating the destruction of part of its arms stocks, as they may become part of discussions among all states from the former Yugoslavia over assets. Belgrade may believe it has found a loophole by giving control of its surplus arms to Macedonia and possibly working toward a military cooperation agreement with Skopje, noted Vecer. -- Stan Markotich ZASTAVA STRIKES DOMINATE MEDIA COVERAGE IN SERBIA. The ongoing work stoppage in Kragujevac, waged by workers of the Zastava car and military plants, enters its 23rd day continuing to dominate headlines in Serbian media. Car plant director Miodrag Bogdanovic said on 16 September that the job action has reached such a critical level that foreign investors, with whom talks have allegedly been under way, may be scared off. He said investors are considering pulling out of a deal rumored to be worth "hundreds of millions of investment dollars" to the Serbian economy, Tanjug reported. Meanwhile Nasa Borba on 18 September reports that the strikers have attracted the support of opposition party leaders, with Serbian Renewal Movement Leader Vuk Draskovic concluding the strikers and "workers of Kragujevac are effectively fighting for [the rights] of all Serbia's workers." -- Stan Markotich RUSSIA AGREES TO RESCHEDULE MOLDOVA'S DEBT. An agreement to reschedule Moldova's national debt to the Russian Federation was reached on 17 September in Chisinau, BASA-press and Infotag reported. The agreement was reached at the first meeting of the Moldovan-Russian Intergovernmental Commission for Economic Cooperation, presided over by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov and his Moldovan counterpart Valentin Cunev. The deal applies to $116 million worth of loans granted by Russia since 1992. The two sides also agreed to consider joint defense projects. A member of the Russian delegation, Minister for Relations with the CIS Aman Tuleev, said he regrets an interview published by the Moscow-based Pravda in which he said that Russia should not grant credits to Moldova if Mircea Snegur wins the November presidential election. Tuleev said he did not approve the final text of the interview. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN MEDIA LAW TO BE REVIEWED, PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS TO GET UNDER WAY. Bulgarian opposition deputies will submit the media law to the Constitutional Court, hoping for a ruling prior to 27 October presidential elections, Demokratsiya reported on 14 September. Experts say the law violates freedom of speech clauses in the constitution. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) parliamentary majority readopted the law on 5 September following a 1 August veto by President Zhelyu Zhelev. Meanwhile, in election update news, official campaigning for the presidency is expected to kick off on 24 September. So far, the candidate of the united opposition, Petar Stoyanov, is the favorite of 30% of poll respondents, according to a survey, and about 20% support the BSP's Ivan Marazov, Standart reported on 16 September. -- Maria Koinova EXPECTING A HUNGRY WINTER IN BULGARIA. Bread prices quadrupled in the past five months, Pari reported on 13 September. Because of a grain shortage, a kilo of bread now costs 85 leva, up from 62 leva in August. The lack of fodder forced some farmers to butcher pigs and export the meat for hard currency, which resulted in a rise in pork prices from 340 leva for 1 kilogram in August to 400 leva now. Trying to restore consumer confidence and restrain speculation, the government will introduce price controls for bread, milk, cheese, and oil on 1 October, Pari reported. Standart on 16 September called price controls a "tool of socialism" that would lead to black markets. Experts predict retail prices will jump to world levels this December. -- Maria Koinova MACEDONIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS TO BE HELD ON 17 NOVEMBER. Macedonian Parliament President Tito Petkovski announced local elections for 17 November, Nova Makedonija reported on 17 September. The local legislatures and mayors of 123 newly drawn municipalities and the capital Skopje will be elected. Petkovski said that almost six years have passed since current town assemblies were constituted and that most of them have been functioning badly or not at all, MILS reported. Each voter will be issued a voter registration card. -- Fabian Schmidt NEW TRIAL AGAINST ALBANIAN COMMUNIST-ERA OFFICIALS. Nine senior communists have gone on trial on charges of political persecution on 16 September, Reuters reported. State prosecutors Shkelqim Gani and Kadri Skeraj have charged the defendants, five of whom fled Albania and are to be tried in absentia, with crimes against humanity, including ordering the deportation of political dissidents. If found guilty, the defendants would face sentences ranging from 15 years in jail to the death penalty. One of the defendants was a member of the Communist Party's politburo, while the others were district party leaders. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Susan Caskie ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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