|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 187, Part II, 26 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 REACTION TO WARNING OF POSSIBLE EXPLOSION AT CHORNOBYL. Ukrainian experts and officials have tried to minimize or have openly contradicted Environment Minister Yurii Kostenko's warning that another explosion is possible at Chornobyl, RFE/RL and Ukrainian agencies reported on 25 September. National Security Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin said Kostenko is mistaken in concluding that three recent increases in neutron emissions signaled a chemical reaction that could lead to a thermal explosion in the fourth reactor. Chornobyl plant director Serhii Parashyn denied there had been any rise in radiation at the plant. He said torrential rains had seeped under the encased reactor, causing the measuring equipment to malfunction and register a change in the density of neutron flux. A spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency agreed with that assessment, although he said a full explanation for the recorded rises in radiation may never be found. He stressed that no Western experts believe another explosion is likely. -- Chrystyna Lapychak BELARUSIAN NEWS. Delegates have been elected to the All-Belarusian People's Congress, which is to debate President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's proposed constitution, Belarusian radio reported on 25 September. Lukashenka had originally planned that 6,000 delegates attend the congress. The report did not specify how many were ultimately elected but noted that between six and 18 delegates were elected in rural raions, and 166 in oblasts. Some 40% of the elected delegates are directors of enterprises or representatives of the president's so-called "vertical" structures. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS. Following Lukashenka's recent announcement that Russia is to help finance Belarus's air defense forces (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 September 1996) Izvestiya quoted on 24 September a Russian air defense official as saying Russia is prepared to pay for its own anti-aircraft defense but not for Belarus's. He added that Russian- Belarusian military cooperation is such that neither is in fact paying the other, only mutually waiving costs. The following day, Trud wrote that Lukashenka has suggested that certain Russian circles are opposed to him. Those "circles" were taken to mean Security Council chief Aleksandr Lebed and Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov. Both have recently visited Belarus but refrained from offering Lukashenka their support. -- Ustina Markus FORMER ESTONIAN DISSIDENT SENTENCED FOR TREASON. A Tallinn city court on 25 September sentenced former dissident Tiit Madisson to two-and-a-half years in prison for treason, ETA reported. Madisson was arrested on 31 May for circulating a document on behalf of the Liberation Army in Estonia, whose declared aim is to overthrow the post-communist regime and impose a military dictatorship. Madisson denied all charges, saying the document was intended only to collect funds toward the founding of a voluntary military organization called the Defense League. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIAN PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES DEATH PENALTY MORATORIUM. Guntis Ulmanis, addressing the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg on 24 September, announced a moratorium on the death penalty pending a formal parliamentary vote to abolish it altogether, Reuters reported. The council had stipulated its abolition as one of the conditions Latvia has to fulfill to gain membership. Earlier this year, it urged Latvia, along with Russia and Ukraine, to end the death penalty. An Amnesty International Report released at that time noted that Latvia executed two people by firing squad in January 1996 and two others were on death row. Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas on 25 September granted pardons to 38 convicts. The amnesty commission, however, did not discuss four appeals to commute the death sentence because it is waiting for parliament action, BNS reported. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH-RUSSIAN GAS CONTRACT SIGNED. The Polish state-run gas company on 25 September signed a major contract with Gazprom, international media reported. Three billion cubic meters are to be supplied in 1997. Thereafter, supplies will be increased gradually; and after 2010, Poland will be supplied 12 billion cubic meters of Russian gas annually by the Yamal-Western Europe pipeline, which transits Poland. President Aleksander Kwasniewski and the government dismissed fears that the contract would endanger Polish sovereignty by making the country dependent on Russian energy supplies. Polish Industry Minister Klemens Scierski stressed that Poland will continue to utilize its own gas sources. He added that the contract is advantageous because of the low cost of Russian gas and the potential it offers for the creation of new jobs. Currently, 60% of Poland's gas supplies come from Russia. -- Jakub Karpinski and Beata Pasek SEJM LUSTRATION COMMISSION ORDERS MINISTRIES NOT TO DESTROY SECRET POLICE FILES. The Sejm lustration commission has ordered the Ministries of Defense and Internal Affairs not to destroy files created before 1 August 1990, Polish media reported. Deputy Internal Affairs Minister Jerzy Zimowski responded that the order is superfluous because destroying files is a crime that the ministry is not about to commit. He added that before February 1990, secret police files were systematically destroyed; as a result, 40-50% of materials are missing. Antoni Zielinski, director of the State Security Office archives, noted that the amount of files destroyed differs from province to province and that in Gdansk only 5% were disposed of. Former Internal Affairs Minister Krzysztof Kozlowski commented that the most important agents did not sign anything and that members of the political, cultural, and church elites were too reluctant to do so. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH GOVERNMENT ON RESTITUTION OF CHURCH PROPERTY. The government has decided to return some church property confiscated by the communist regime, Czech media reported on 25 September. Only those buildings (and the land on which they were built) that are currently in the possession of the state will be restituted. The churches have until 30 November to reclaim their property. The Catholic church has demanded the return of all its former forests, but the government's decision omitted any such reference. Both the opposition Social Democrats and Communists have threatened to block a large-scale restitution of church property that included forests. -- Jiri Pehe CZECH TRADE DEFICIT REMAINS STEADY. Czech Premier Vaclav Klaus told journalists on 25 September that the country's foreign trade deficit reached 100 billion crowns ($3.7 billion) at the end of August, Czech media reported. This figure is equal to the trade deficit for 1995. Klaus has asked five of his ministers to prepare analyses of the situation and suggest solutions within two weeks. Some economists and exporters have urged the government to devalue the crown, but the government has so far refused such pressure. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK PREMIER IN GERMANY. Vladimir Meciar on 25 September began a two- day unofficial visit to the German states of Hessen and Baden- Wuerttemberg, Slovak media reported. He met in Frankfurt-am-Main with the head of Germany's largest private bank, Deutsche Bank, to discuss foreign investment in Slovakia. Meciar also met with Hessen Prime Minister Hans Eichel. He is due to arrive in Stuttgart today to meet with Baden-Wuerttemberg Premier Erwin Teufel. -- Jiri Pehe HUNGARIAN NAMED BEST REGIONAL BANKER. The British financial monthly Euromoney has named Hungarian Central Bank Governor Gyorgy Suranyi as the top banker in Central and Eastern Europe in 1996, Hungarian dailies reported on 26 September. Euromoney wrote that the stabilization policy conceived by Suranyi and former Finance Minister Lajos Bokros has reinstated Hungary's financial equilibrium. Readers of the latest edition of the U.S. financial magazine Global Finance also gave Suranyi an excellent rating. The magazine notes that during Suranyi's 18-month term in office, the independence of the central bank has been reinforced, inflation has shrunk, and the introduction of "crawling peg" devaluation has stabilized the national currency. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE IZETBEGOVIC WARNS OF NEW WAR IN BOSNIA. President Alija Izetbegovic warned the UN General Assembly that the conflict could resume in Bosnia- Herzegovina if the Dayton peace accord is not enforced. He argued that an international military presence will be necessary "for a certain and limited period of time" and criticized the local Croats for maintaining their para-state of Herceg-Bosna, despite numerous promises to dissolve it. Izetbegovic singled out the Bosnian Serbs for criticism because they block Muslim and Croatian refugees from going home and because they refuse to hand over indicted war criminals to the Hague-based tribunal. Oslobodjenje on 26 September quoted him as saying that "if genocide without punishment is possible, then Bosnia and Herzegovina is not possible." With regard to the new government for the entire country, he said that it should include representation from the opposition and seek to enforce the Dayton agreement and promote media freedom. -- Patrick Moore NATO PLANS FOR NEW ROLE IN BOSNIA. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic, who is currently in New York, has rejected any extension of the one-year mandate for UN peacekeepers in eastern Slavonia, Vjesnik reported on 25 September. The local Serbs want the foreign troops to stay on for at least another year. In Bergen, Norway, NATO defense ministers announced for the first time that the alliance will start planning a possible role in Bosnia after IFOR's mandate expires at the end of the year. No concrete measures are likely to be announced until after the U.S. elections in November, the BBC reported. British Defense Secretary Michael Portillo said that "we can't abandon the investment we've made there" in promoting peace and stability. In Paris, Foreign Minister Herve de Charette announced that a major international meeting on Bosnia will take place in early November to deal with the future of Bosnian state institutions, AFP reported on 26 September. -- Patrick Moore CONTINUING IMBROGLIO OVER MUSLIM REFUGEES. Tensions continue to run high over the village of Jusici on Bosnian Serb-held territory, where armed Muslims have returned to rebuild their homes. The UNHCR is expected to clarify the matter soon, Oslobodjenje reported on 25 September. But U.S. General George Casey said later that day that the Muslims must first leave and process the necessary paperwork before they can live there. Nasa Borba stated on 26 September that Bosnian Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic has agreed to this formula. It appears, however, that the Muslims are determined to force the issue of their right to go home, as specified in the Dayton agreement, and that the original number of returnees has grown from 100 to 300, Reuters said. A UN police spokesman accused the Muslims of taunting the local Serbian police. -- Patrick Moore COLD WEATHER FORCES END TO BOSNIAN EXHUMATIONS. International experts have suspended their excavation of mass graves in eastern Bosnia until next spring. They have uncovered nearly 500 bodies this year, virtually all of whom are Muslim males from Srebrenica who appear to have been executed, international news agencies noted on 25 September. The experts stressed that it is necessary for Bosnians to know the truth about war crimes if they are to begin looking toward the future. Izetbegovic recently made the same point at the UN. -- Patrick Moore UN REFUSES TO LIFT SANCTIONS AGAINST SERBIA. The UN Security Council on 24 September decided not to lift sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia, AFP reported. But diplomats said they expected Washington and Moscow to agree on a solution shortly. Russian UN Ambassador Sergei Lavrov has drawn up a document that, in accordance with the Dayton agreements, ends sanctions 10 days after the elections take place. He argues that since the ballot took place on 14 September, the sanctions should have been lifted on 24 September. The U.S., however, has rejected his plan, saying the election results have not yet been validated. -- Fabian Schmidt SERBIAN UPDATE. The strike at the Kragujevac Zastava arms and automobile works has entered its 29th day. Workers demonstrating in front of the local municipal parliament on 25 September demanded back wages and talks with the government and the plant management. Former Central Bank governor Dragoslav Avramovic has announced he will visit the factory on 26 September to talk to the strikers. Meanwhile, Vuk Draskovic, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), has denied earlier reports that Avramovic is planning a political career with the SPO and other opposition parties in the Zajedno (Together) coalition. Draskovic claims the report was "part of a plan to discredit" Avramovic and the leaders of Zajedno, Nasa Borba reported on 26 September. -- Fabian Schmidt TWO CROATIAN JOURNALISTS ACQUITTED IN KEY RIGHTS CASE. Judge Marin Mrcela on 26 September acquitted editor in chief Viktor Ivancic and journalist Marinko Culic on charges of slandering President Franjo Tudjman (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 September 1996), AFP reported. The two men work for the outspoken Split-based satirical weekly Feral Tribune, which has often been a thorn in the side of the government and the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). The acquittal signals a major victory for freedom of the press because it is the first such case under a new media law aimed at silencing critics of the government and HDZ. Croatia has been warned by the Council of Europe and other international bodies that the new law is unacceptable if that country wants to join European institutions. -- Patrick Moore ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT OFFERS NEW PAY INCREASE. Romania's cabinet on 25 September announced a 6% increase in state employees' wages as of 1 October, Radio Bucharest reported. The hike in the average wage amounts to 23,600 lei (some $7). Employees will also receive the second tranche, worth 6,000 lei (less than $2), of compensation for energy, fuel, and bread price increases. Finance Minister Florin Georgescu said the move will help compensate for most of this year's inflation, which he estimated at about 30%. But domestic media expressed doubts over the minister's statement, suggesting that the real reason for the increase was to gain electoral support for the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania. -- Dan Ionescu MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT, DEFENSE MINISTER RESUME HOSTILITIES. Defense Minister Gen. Pavel Creanga has rejected the "serious accusations" brought against him by President Mircea Snegur in late June as "groundless," BASA-press reported on 25 September. Creanga said Snegur had asked the prosecutor-general to investigate his actions under the suspicion that he was trying to split the army and destabilize the political situation in the country. Snegur had also accused him of disseminating confidential information and of conspiring against the president. Creanga demanded that the results of the prosecutor's investigation be made public. A presidential spokesman said that most of the accusations against Creanga have proven valid but that the president does not intend to discuss the matter with Creanga through the media. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIA'S MASS PRIVATIZATION TO START. The government has announced that the long-delayed mass privatization will begin on 7 October, RFE/RL reported on 25 September. Some 3 million Bulgarians are expected to bid for shares in 968 out of a total of 1,063 state companies up for sale. Under the mass privatization scheme, the state will continue to exert control over "strategic companies" such as oil refineries and tourist offices; only 25% of their shares will be offered to investors. Banks, arms factories, railroads, power plants, and companies offering services will not be privatized. About 65% of shares in medium-sized companies and 90% in small ones will be privatized. Results of the bids will be announced by the end of November. -- Maria Koinova BULGARIAN ROUNDUP. Ivan Marazov, the Democratic Left's presidential candidate, said in Bonn on 25 September that Bulgarian institutions are "at war," international agencies reported. He blamed President Zhelyu Zhelev for making too liberal use of his right to veto bills passed by the parliament. During his visit to Bonn, Marazov met with German government officials and deputies. In other news, two tons of hashish have been seized at the Bulgarian-Greek border checkpoint of Kulata, Reuters reported on 24 September. The drugs were hidden in a truck containing marble slabs on its way from Greece to Bulgaria. -- Maria Koinova ALBANIAN LOCAL ELECTION WRAPUP. The opposition on 25 September expressed concern for the local elections next month, most of the international monitors will come from the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly and not from the OSCE, Koha Jone reported on 26 September. The latter had issued a more critical report on the May parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, the Center Pole coalition has sent a protest letter to the Central Election Commission saying that President Sali Berisha and government members have violated the electoral law by participating in the election campaign. It also argued that the municipality of Tirana should not be allowed to organize the ruling Democratic Party's public rallies, as was the case on 22 September, Poli i Qendres reported on 26 September. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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