|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 184, Part II, 23 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 MERI REELECTED ESTONIAN PRESIDENT. The Electoral College, convening on 20 September in Tallinn, voted for Lennart Meri to serve a second five- year term as president, Western agencies reported. In the second round of voting, Meri received 196 votes and parliamentary deputy speaker Arnold Ruutel 126; 44 college members abstained and six cast invalid ballots. In the first round, which took place earlier that day to decide who should take part in the run-off, Meri received 139 votes, Ruutel 85, Tunne Kelam of the Fatherland Union 79, computer specialist Enn Tougu 47, and deputy leader of the Center Party Siiri Oviir 25. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN ELECTION CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF. The official campaign for parliamentary elections began on 20 September, Radio Lithuania reported. The campaign will end 30 hours before polls open on 20 October. Twenty- four parties and 17 independent candidates will compete in the elections. Voters will cast two ballots: the first for a candidate in one of the 71 individual districts, the second for a political party. Parties that receive more than 5% of the vote will gain representation in the 141-seat legislature. Campaign funding is strictly limited. Parties are not allowed to spend more than 700,000 litai ($175,000) and independent candidates 33,000 litai. -- Saulius Girnius RADIATION INCREASES AROUND CHERNOBYL. The Ukrainian Ministry for Environmental protection has admitted that there have been two detected increases in radioactivity around Chernobyl's No. 4 reactor, international agencies reported on 20 September. At the same time, it stressed that there has been no effect on the environment. The radiation releases occurred on 12 and 16 September. An examination of the exterior of the sarcophagus did not reveal what caused the radiation increase; it is not possible to examine the inside. Similar unexplained increases in radiation occurred in June 1990 and January 1996. -- Ustina Markus RUSSIA TO HELP FUND BELARUSIAN AIR DEFENSE FORCES? Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said that Russia will finance part of the Belarusian air defense forces, Russian Public TV reported on 22 September. Lukashenka noted he reached an agreement to that effect with Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov during his "secret blitz-visit" to Moscow on 7 September. Russia's Defense Ministry has not confirmed Lukashenka's statement. Russian Public TV noted that in the absence of information on Lukashenka's visit to Moscow, the Belarusian president has been freely interpreting what happened at meetings there. Nezavisimaya gazeta on 18 September wrote that Moscow is becoming an arbitrator in the political dispute between the president and parliament in Belarus. Lukashenka is reportedly courting the Russian military because he has fallen out of favor with Russia's gas and oil lobby as well as the Russian prime minister. -- Ustina Markus COMPROMISE IN SIGHT IN BELARUSIAN POLITICAL STRUGGLE? Deputies have voted 105 to 28 in favor of canceling the parliamentary referendum on a new constitution if the president cancels his proposed plebiscite, international agencies reported on 20-21 September. The deputies have proposed abolishing the presidency, while Lukashenka wants a new constitution that would greatly increase the president's powers. Pro- presidential deputies denounced the "zero option," but the president said he is ready to reconsider some parts of his referendum questions, including the proposal to grant former presidents life-long seats in the parliament. He also stressed that the current versions of his draft constitution and referendum questions are not necessarily final. Meanwhile, Radio Rossii reported that 60% of Belarusians live at or below the poverty line. More than 70% blame government structures for declining living standards, while 40% blame Lukashenka. -- Ustina Markus POLISH, BELARUSIAN PREMIERS MEET. Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and Mikhail Chyhir, meeting in Bialystok in eastern Poland on 21 September, signed an agreement to increase the number of crossing points on the Polish- Belarusian border, international reported. Cimoszewicz said Poland has started to build a new large customs terminal for trucks near Terespol. Work is under way to expand two other checkpoints. The premiers' talks also focused on ethnic minorities in the two countries. Some 350,000 Belarusians live in Poland and an estimated 500,000 Poles in Belarus. After their meeting, they visited a school in Kleszczele, in northeastern Poland, where all classes are held in Belarusian. They then traveled to Hrodna in Belarus to open a Polish school there. -- Jakub Karpinski POLAND CHOOSES ISRAELI OVER U.S. MISSILE. The Polish Defense Committee has tentatively decided to equip the army's new combat helicopters with an Israeli anti-tank missile rather than a U.S. one, a government official announced on 20 September. Reuters quoted Leszek Miller as saying that a group of Polish military experts will go to Israel in November to further evaluate the "Raphael" missiles. U.S. officials have been pressuring Poland to buy Rockwell's "Hellfire" missile for the 150 Huzar helicopters it plans to purchase. -- Doug Clarke CZECH PREMIER'S PARTY SUPPORTS FINANCE MINISTER. The Executive Council of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party on 21 September expressed support for Finance Minister Ivan Kocarnik and rejected calls for his dismissal as "politically motivated attacks," Czech media reported. The opposition Social Democrats have demanded that Kocarnik be recalled from his post, blaming him for the 2 billion crown ($75 million) losses resulting from the recent collapse of the Kreditni banka. Although Kocarnik knew in advance that the bank would collapse, he did not warn the Czech Customs Administration, which had deposited 2 billion crowns in the bank. Kocarnik, a member of the country's supervisory banking committee, argues he would have broken laws on banking secrecy if he had warned the customs administration. Meanwhile, Czech media reported on 21 September that Kocarnik has lost the support of the coalition of the People's Party and the Christian and Democratic Union. Under the Czech Constitution, the parliament cannot deliver a vote of non-confidence in individual ministers. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK PREMIER CRITICAL OF OPPOSITION ATTEMPTS TO OUST CULTURE MINISTER. Vladimir Meciar, in an interview with Slovak Radio on 20 September, criticized the parliamentary opposition for trying twice last week to oust Culture Minister Ivan Hudec. Meciar argued that opposition attempts to call votes of non-confidence in Hudec are designed "to make the cabinet nervous." He commented that "the opposition is supposed to oppose, not to destroy." In the same interview, Meciar also remarked that the Hungarian cabinet is beginning to "confront nationalism issues." He noted that the Hungarian government is faced with the question of whether to accept European standards and join integration processes or give in to pressure from Hungarian nationalists. Meciar said that recent steps taken by Gyula Horn's cabinet were "positive." -- Jiri Pehe TRANSYLVANIAN PAPER CRITICIZES TEXT OF HUNGARIAN-ROMANIAN BASIC TREATY. The Hungarian-language daily Szabadsag, published in the Transylvanian city of Cluj, says there are "startling differences" between the Romanian-Hungarian draft treaty and the version signed last week in Timisoara, Magyar Hirlap reported on 23 September. According to Szabadsag, the final text leaves key issues open to interpretation, despite public assurances that the treaty would be worded so precisely as to bind each signatory to take specific measures. The opposition has said it will raise the issue in the parliament, while Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs claimed any modifications are strictly of a "stylistic nature." In other news, former Polish President Lech Walesa, during his three-day visit to Budapest, met with Hungarian President Arpad Goncz, opposition leaders, and Reformed Bishop Laszlo Tokes of the Democratic Federation of Hungarians in Romania. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN VOTE TALLY THROWN OUT... The OSCE body that supervised the 14 September elections has said it has withdrawn its earlier, tentative elections returns, international media reported on 22 September. Spokesmen said there were numerous computer mistakes and other technical errors, such as counting some polling stations' figures twice. Hrair Balian of the NGO International Crisis Group (ICG), which has been critical of the elections, called the tally "a royal mess," adding that the OSCE's conduct throughout the poll was "irresponsible" and that its mismanagement invited challenges from nationalists who wanted to discredit the entire electoral process. The ICG had noted earlier that the returns showed that 104% of the total electorate had voted, the International Herald Tribune reported on 21 September. The Sunday Times suggested the next day that 107% of the Muslims had cast ballots. The turnout in the 1990 elections was 74%. -- Patrick Moore ...BUT IZETBEGOVIC DECLARED HEAD OF BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY IN RECOUNT. The OSCE nonetheless quickly backtracked and declared that a recount had shown Alija Izetbegovic to be the presidential candidate with the highest number of votes. What the OSCE called "preliminary final results" gave 731,024 votes to Izetbegovic, 690,130 to the Serbian candidate Momcilo Krajisnik, and 329,891 to the Croatian Kresimir Zubak, Reuters reported. Izetbegovic's original margin of victory had been 26,000 votes. The OSCE is not expected to announce final results before this Saturday, which is one week later than expected. The parties will then have 72 hours to register complaints, which the OSCE, in turn, has 72 hours to consider. Only then will it decide on the validity of the vote. The OSCE has been talking about holding municipal elections on 22- 24 November, but the imbroglio surrounding the previous vote makes such an early date increasingly unlikely. Meanwhile, OMRI's special correspondent reported from Sarajevo on 23 September that the OSCE has closed its press center there. -- Patrick Moore NATO CONFISCATES GUNS FROM ARMED MUSLIMS. IFOR peacekeeping forces on 21 September confiscated a dozen or so weapons found among a group of Muslims who had returned to repair houses in a Muslim village in the Bosnian Serb entity within a separation zone where weapons are banned, Oslobodjenje reported on 23 September. Major Brett Boudreau said IFOR is waiting to see if this was another "flash point" or if it indicated a legitimate return of Muslims to their villages. Meanwhile, the Bosnian Serb authorities on 20 September sacked the Prijedor police chief in line with a NATO ultimatum for his dismissal following an incident with IFOR troops earlier that week (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 September 1996), AFP reported. In other news, Bosnian Serbs said they will boycott arbitration talks over the northern town of Brcko because the maps of the disputed region have not been made public, Oslobodjenje reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic UN CRITICIZES CROATIA. The UN Security Council on 20 September criticized Croatia for "numerous incidents" in areas it has retaken from rebel Serbs, which, it said, are threatening efforts to reintegrate refugees and displaced persons, AFP reported. The UN expressed concern about the security of both Serbian refugees and human rights workers. Ivan Zvonimir Cicak, head of the Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, welcomed the UN statement, particularly its references to the frequent attacks on and threat to human rights activists in Croatia. The Croatian parliament the same day adopted a law amnestying Serbs who fought against Croatia but excluding war criminals and those who violated human rights. Meanwhile, Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic on 22 September left for New York to attend a UN General Assembly session and discuss the situation in eastern Slavonia, the last Serb- held part of Croatia, Hina reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROATIAN UNIONS THREATEN STRIKES. Trade union officials told AFP on 21 September that urgent action must be taken to fight unemployment, which has drastically increased following layoffs in the shipbuilding, textile and oil industries as well as the large number of demobilized soldiers on the labor market. Hasim Bahtijari, spokesman for the trade unions' umbrella organization, said demonstrations will be organized at the national and regional level "because the social situation has got worse since last year and the government has not responded to our demands." Croatian Trade Minister Davor Stern says unemployment is about 12% or 13%, but the unions estimate it is as high as 22%. Trade union officials said industrial restructuring is one of the reasons why people have been laid off, and they recommend businesses to opt for early retirements instead of layoffs. -- Daria Sito Sucic SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER CONVICTED OF LIBEL. Democratic Party (DS) leader Zoran Djindjic on 20 September received a suspended four-month prison sentence after being found guilty of libel, Beta reported. Djindjic has 15 days to appeal the Belgrade court ruling. Djindjic was charged with libel after running an advertisement earlier this year in Nedeljni Telegraf suggesting that Serbian Premier Mirko Marjanovic had been involved in the misappropriaton of grain and gas supplies. Dragoljub Belic, editor of Nedeljni Telegraf and Djindjic's co- defendant, was acquitted. Djindjic maintained throughout his trial that he did not intend to embarrass or belittle Marjanovic but to make the public aware of government abuse of authority. -- Stan Markotich RUMP YUGOSLAV PREMIER IN ROMANIA. Radoje Kontic on 22 September ended a three-day official visit to Romania, Radio Bucharest reported. Kontic met with his Romanian counterpart, Nicolae Vacaroiu, Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, Senate Chairman Oliviu Gherman, Chamber of Deputy Chairman Adrian Nastase, and President Ion Iliescu, who noted that the lifting of the economic embargo on Serbia and Montenegro will help "revitalize" bilateral economic relations. The two countries signed agreements aimed at boosting cooperation in agriculture, tourism, industry, and trade. Romania also pledged to back Yugoslavia's efforts to reintegrate into the international community. The two countries signed a basic treaty in May. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN-GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER SIGN ACCORDS. Georgi Pirinski and Theodoros Pangalos, meeting in the Bulgarian town of Smoliyan on 19 September, signed two accords on the use of strategic water reserves and the opening of three new checkpoints, Reuters reported. Bulgaria will guarantee 29% control over the average annual Maritsa River flow to Greece. According to Trud, Greece has controlled 80% of the flow until now owing to Bulgaria's lack of funds to construct new reservoirs. This accord ends a year-long dispute. The three new checkpoints-- at Gotse Deltchev-Drama, Smolian-Xanti, and Kardzhali-Komotini--are to be financed by the EU PHARE Program and INTERREG II. Last week, Bulgaria began transitting Russian natural gas to Greece, which is the second country--after Turkey-- to receive Russian gas via Bulgarian territory. -- Maria Koinova BULGARIAN PENSIONS RAISED. The Bulgarian National Insurance Institute on 20 September announced that as of 7 October, pensions will increase by 30% to take into account inflation, the Bulgarian press reported. The minimum pension has been set at 2808 leva ($11), while the average pension is to be 5712 leva and a ceiling has been imposed at 8424 leva. According to Social Minister Mintcho Koralski, "there is no shortage of funds for either pensioners or the unemployed." In the meantime, 24 Chasa reported that prices for electricity and heating will rise by 14 % beginning 1 October. -- Maria Koinova ALBANIAN LOCAL ELECTION UPDATE. President Sali Berisha on 20 September issued a decree appointing new members of the Central Electoral Commission, following an agreement with the opposition reached earlier this month. That body, in turn, has appointed 36 district commissions, a Tirana municipality commission, and a watchdog body to ensure fair public TV and radio coverage, ATSH reported. Meanwhile, the lustration commission has rejected five of the Democratic Party's 140 mayoralty candidates. It has not yet investigated opposition candidates. Koha Jone reported on 20 September that the Center Pole coalition has still not decided whether to take part in the ballot or not. Imprisoned Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano called on his party to participate in the ballot. -- Fabian Schmidt DID POLIO EPIDEMIC REACH ALBANIA FROM CHECHNYA VIA TURKEY? UNICEF vaccination expert Martin Bruno told AFP on 20 September that he believes the polio epidemic in Albania may have originated in Chechnya. Seventy-five cases have been reported in Albania since April, and seven Albanians have died from the disease. Bruno pointed out that this year's immunization program in Chechnya included only 58% of children due to the civil war. Some 150 polio cases have been reported there. He added that the disease probably reached Albania via Turkey, where 10 cases have been registered. The World Health Organization is to launch a mass vaccination program targeting some 3 million Albanians. -- Fabian Schmidt SOCIALISTS WIN GREEK ELECTIONS. Prime Minister Kostas Simitis's Pan- Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) has won the 22 September elections, gaining 41.5% of the vote (162 seats in the 300-member parliament), international media reported. New Democracy came second, with 38.17% (108 seats). Simitis ran an election campaign supporting membership in the European currency union and tough monetary policy. He also capitalized on nationalist sentiments over Greece's relations with Turkey and the Cyprus dispute. His new cabinet is to be announced on 24 September. Observers speculated that Education Minister George Papandreou, the son of late socialist leader Andreas Papandreou, may replace Theodoros Pangalos as foreign minister. Pangalos has failed to win strong support for Greece from within the EU over its disputes with Turkey. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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 BACK ISSUES Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through the World Wide Web, by FTP and by E-mail. 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