|In the effort to give good and comforting answers to the young questioners whom we love, we very often arrive at good and comforting answers for ourselves. - Ruth Goode|
No. 193, Part II, 4 October 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 RUSSIA GOES AHEAD WITH TAX ON UKRAINIAN IMPORTS. Russia has implemented the long-discussed 20 percent VAT on Ukrainian imports, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 October. Checkpoints are to be set up on the main roads used to transport Ukrainian imports to Russia. Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz said the VAT was still not a closed issue. One complication is that Belarus, which has a customs union with Russia, has refused to impose the VAT on Ukrainian goods, leaving open the possibility that Ukrainian exporters will reroute their exports through Belarus. -- Ustina Markus PARLIAMENT DELAYS FORMATION OF UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. A congress of judges elected six more justices to the new Constitutional Court, but Ukrainian lawmakers failed to select the final six, postponing their decision for another week, Vseukrainskie vedomosti and Ukrainian TV reported on 2-3 October. The congress appointed Volodymyr Vozniuk, head of the state's screening commission for judges; Supreme Court justices Lyudmyla Malynnikova, Vasyl Nimchenko, Mykola Savenko, and Viktor Skomorokha; and Donetsk Oblast Chief Justice Lyudmyla Chubar to the 18-member court. The president made his six appointments earlier in the week. Presidential Chief of Staff Dmytro Tabachnyk accused the legislature of deliberately stalling its appointments because the court would put a stop to its habit of taking unconstitutional decisions. -- Chrystyna Lapychak DISPUTES OVER BELARUSIAN REFERENDUM CONTINUE. Viktar Hanchar, head of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), asked the prosecutor general to look into the legality of Finance Minister Paval Dik's refusal to release funds for the 24 November parliamentary by-elections and referendum, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 October. Hanchar said the CEC asked Dik three times to release the funds and the prosecutor general also appealed to Dik. Dik has not released funds because President Alyaksandr Lukashenka issued a decree forbidding the use of state funds to finance the referendum. Lukashenka is financing his referendum from a special account that the CEC cannot access. In other news, Belapan reported that Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma had sent a letter to Lukashenka saying that democracy could only be built in Belarus through consensus between all political forces in the country. Last week Russian President Boris Yeltsin made a similar call for political compromise in Belarus. -- Ustina Markus FEWER PEOPLE THAN EXPECTED APPLY FOR ESTONIA'S ALIEN PASSPORT. The Estonian Citizenship and Migration Department has received 112,443 applications for alien passports, BNS reported on 3 October. Koidu Mesilane, head of the department's Citizenship Division, said a little more than 177,000 applications had been expected. She suggested the main reason for the shortfall is an increase in the number of Estonian residents opting for Russian passports over Estonia's special passports for aliens. Russian deputies in the parliament, however, released a statement accusing the government of pressuring Russians in Estonia to obtain Russian citizenship. -- Saulius Girnius BALTIC FREE TRADE TREATY ON FARM GOODS RATIFIED. The Latvian Saeima voted 55 to 11 on 3 October to ratify the agreement on free trade in agricultural products in the Baltic states that was signed by the countries' prime ministers on 16 June in Vilnius, BNS reported. The parliaments of Lithuania and Estonia had ratified the treaty earlier and the passage by the Latvian legislature brings it into force. The treaty abolishes import and export duties and quotas on farm and fish products, as long as their Baltic origin is documented. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH POETESS RECEIVES NOBEL PRIZE. The 1996 Nobel prize in literature was awarded to Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, born in 1923 in Bnin, Western Poland. Since 1931, she has been living in Krakow. She published her first poem in 1945 and her first collection of poems in 1952. Since 1953 she has been a member of the editorial board of the Krakow literary weekly Zycie Literackie (Literary Life). In the early 1950s her poetry touched political subjects; since then, it has become more private, philosophical, and ironic. Among her collections of poems are Wolanie do yeti (Call to Yeti, 1957); Sol (Salt, 1962); Wszelki wypadek (Any Case, 1972); Wielka liczba (Great Number, 1976); and Koniec i poczatek (End and Beginning, 1993); Her poetry has been translated into 36 languages. Szymborska is the fourth Polish Nobel prize laureate in literature after novelists Henryk Sienkiewicz (1905) and Wladyslaw Reymont (1924) and poet Czeslaw Milosz (1980). -- Jakub Karpinski POLISH SENATE REJECTS LIBERALIZATION OF ABORTION LAW. The Polish Senate on 3 October rejected amendments liberalizing Poland's law against abortion, Polish media reported. The amendments, adopted by the Sejm on 30 August, would allow abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy if the woman is in a difficult social, family, or financial situation. The Senate vote, which the Sejm can override with a new vote by a majority of those present, fell 52-40 against the liberalization, with two abstentions and one vote ruled not valid. The critical votes came from the co-ruling Polish Peasant Party (PSL); 32 of the part's 35 senators voted no. "Today the Polish Peasant Party kept its Catholic, Christian, and peasant character," PSL Senator Adam Daraz said after the vote. On the day of the vote, thousands of protesters sang religious songs and prayed in front of the parliament building. No date was yet set for a new vote in the Sejm. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH PREMIER ATTACKS SOCIAL DEMOCRATS. Vaclav Klaus told journalists on 3 October that the recent policies of the opposition Social Democratic Party (CSSD) threaten the post-1989 reforms. Klaus complained that the CSSD has voted jointly with the Communists on several issues, and that the parliament, chaired by CSSD chairman Milos Zeman, is trying to control the government. Klaus called on the electorate to vote for his party in the fall Senate elections and thus break the current political deadlock. Zeman told journalists that Klaus suffers from paranoia, pointing out that the CSSD could have formed a majority government with the Communists and Republicans but rejected "the temptation of power." He said the parliament has the right to control the government and that the prime minister should perhaps retire from politics if he finds it difficult to play by democratic rules. -- Jiri Pehe U.S. VOICES CONCERN DURING SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER'S VISIT. During a visit to Washington by recently appointed Slovak Foreign Minister Pavol Hamzik, U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns on 3 October expressed concern about the Slovak government's weakening commitment to democracy, AFP reported. "The government of Slovakia continues to assure us that it is committed to strengthening democracy. We would like to see that translated into solid action on the ground," Burns said. Hamzik met this week with U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Defense Secretary William Perry. Also on 3 October, federal Yugoslav Prime Minister Radoje Kontic began a two-day visit to Slovakia, signing cooperation agreements in agriculture, culture, and air traffic. After meeting with his Slovak counterpart, Vladimir Meciar, Kontic said Bratislava had promised its "political support." -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER HITS BACK AT STRIKING ACTORS. During a Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) rally on 3 October, Vladimir Meciar joined Culture Minister Ivan Hudec in his attack on Slovak National Theater employees, Slovak media reported. "We will not allow the transformation of the National Theater into a workplace of the opposition against the government. Not for state money," Meciar said. Hudec said striking actors will not be paid, while Meciar indicated they will be replaced. "In regional theaters there are also many artists who have something to say to the audience and are accomplished personalities. Therefore, I think the National Theater must be opened to them," Meciar said. The same day, Hudec replaced the Trnava Theater's director with a HZDS member, Sme reported. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL CONTINUES. The Hungarian press has identified the man hired by the State Privatization and Holding Company (APV) and paid a record fee of 300 million forints ($2 million) to negotiate certain privatization deals (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 September 1996). Marta Tocsik, who is not a lawyer, was hired to negotiate deals involving municipal land with local governments, Hungarian dailies reported on 4 October. Jozsef Torgyan, leader of the opposition Smallholders Party, alleged that Tocsik's fee was later transferred to the Socialist Party's election funds. The scandal is being investigated by the APV's supervisory board and is expected to result in the firings of top APV officials as well as a drop in the coalition parties' popularity. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BELGRADE, SARAJEVO ESTABLISH FULL DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic agreed in Paris on 3 October that Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will exchange ambassadors. The two former Yugoslav countries also promised to institute visa-free travel, reestablish communications links, and promote mutual economic relations. They recognized the historic continuity of each other's respective states, while noting that the issue of legal succession to the former Yugoslavia will have to be settled in keeping with international norms and by the agreement of all concerned, Oslobodjenje reported on 4 October. The agreement is peppered with such words as "cooperation" and "friendship" and appears to be yet another step toward normalizing relations in the region. Each side made a major concession in the process: Sarajevo seems to have backed away from pressing Belgrade on charges of genocide stemming from Serbia's role in the Bosnian war, while Belgrade agreed to respect the territorial integrity of its neighbor, thereby implicitly repudiating the idea of a greater Serbia that would include Bosnian territory. Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic promptly issued a communique on 4 October blasting Milosevic as having betrayed the Serbs of Bosnia and Croatia, AFP reported. -- Patrick Moore CROATIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PROMISES SUPPORT FOR BANJA LUKA CROATS. After institutions of authority are established in line with the Bosnian election results, Croatia will open a consulate in Banja Luka, the Bosnian Serb stronghold in northwestern Bosnia, Mate Granic told Banja Luka's Roman Catholic Bishop Franjo Komarica on 3 October, according to Hina. The bishop stressed the difficult position of Croats in the Serb- controlled town and said Croatia's help was needed. Komarica is the only Catholic bishop who remained in Banja Luka during the four years of war. Meanwhile, Bozo Raic, president of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) in Bosnia, announced the formation of the Bosnian Croat National Community, "a community of the Croats living in Bosnia," Onasa reported on 1 October. Raic said the community will not be a substitute for the self-styled Bosnian Croat para-state of Herceg-Bosna. -- Daria Sito Sucic BOSNIAN MINERS GIVE UP STRIKE. Representatives of some 19,000 miners from all over Bosnia on 3 October rescinded a previous threat to call a general strike, but underscored their unhappiness with temporary solutions to their problems, Oslobodjenje reported. On 2 October, the miners had threatened to strike unless they received their salaries for August and September, Onasa reported. Federation Prime Minister Izudin Kapetanovic promised they would be paid for August by 4 October at the latest, but Sulejman Hrle, head of the Association of Bosnian Trade Unions, said it was a pitiful disgrace that the miners must rally each month to demand their salaries. -- Daria Sito Sucic SWITZERLAND AND FEDERAL YUGOSLAVIA AGREE ON RETURN OF KOSOVAR REFUGEES. The Swiss government's decision on 2 October to recognize the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will enable Swiss authorities to expel about 10,000 ethnic Albanian refugees international media reported. The Belgrade government had refused to allow the Albanians to return, but has now agreed to start negotiations with Bern over the return later this month. No date has been set for the return and a UNHCR spokesman urged the Swiss government to be cautious. Another 15,000 refugees from federal Yugoslavia have been either granted temporary residence or have applications pending. In other news, Louise Arbour, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said on 3 October that she would not protest the UN's lifting of sanctions against Belgrade, Reuters reported. -- Fabian Schmidt SERBIAN ARMS FACTORY WORKERS CALL OFF STRIKE. Workers at the Kragujevac arms factory decided to return to work on 3 October after a 34-day strike, Nasa Borba reported. The trade unions representing the workers said that all demands had been met, including the complete payment of June, July, and August salaries. The workers will also get extra pay for 1995 and 1996 amounting to 350 dinar ($70). Part of the deal is a 9.74 million dinar ($1.95 million) weapons order by the federal Yugoslav army. Following demands by the workers, the company's director, Lt. Col. Vukasin Filipovic; his deputy Dragan Milosavljevic; and the firm's sales and economic directors have been sacked. Meanwhile, workers at an electronic plant in Nis went on strike. -- Fabian Schmidt CROATIAN SUPREME COURT RULES ON WAR-CRIMES SUSPECT'S EXTRADITION. The Croatian Supreme Court has ruled that Zlatko Aleksovski, a Bosnian Croat wanted on war crimes charges by the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, should be extradited to The Hague, AFP reported on 3 October, citing Hina reports. Aleksovski, a member of the Bosnian Croat army, was accused along with four others of slaughtering more than 100 Muslims in the Lasva valley during the Muslim-Croat conflict in 1993. However, another two suspects charged with leading the slaughter, Ivica Rajic and Dario Kordic, are reportedly still at liberty in Croatia. -- Daria Sito Sucic ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES TREATIES WITH BUDAPEST, BELGRADE. The Romanian Chamber of Deputies ratified basic treaties with Hungary and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on 3 October, Romanian media reported. The chamber adopted the treaty with Hungary by 159 votes to 1. The main political organization representing Romania's Hungarian minority, the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), abstained, and the ultra-nationalist Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) and extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM) did not participate in the vote. The treaty with Belgrade passed with only two abstentions. The Senate had previously ratified both treaties. -- Zsolt Mato NATO COMMANDER DISCUSSES EXPANSION WITH ILIESCU. U.S. Army Gen. George Joulwan, Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces in Europe, discussed NATO's eastward expansion and Romania's prospects for joining the organization with Romanian President Ion Iliescu in Bucharest on 3 October, Romanian and international media reported. Joulwan also met Romania's chief of staff, Gen. Dumitru Cioflina; Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca; and other senior military and civilian officials during his two-day visit to the country. Joulwan stressed the need for closer military relations between Romania and its neighbors as a prerequisite for developing regional cooperation. -- Zsolt Mato NATIONWIDE STRIKE PLANNED IN BULGARIA. The opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) and trade unions will organize a nationwide strike against the government of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov immediately after the 27 October presidential elections, Standart reported on 4 October. In late September, trade unions demanded Videnov's resignation (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 September 1996). The strike will include teachers and workers in power plants, mines and transportation. Until the strike, trade unions plan to organize civil protests around the country. The SDS promised to support the protests without participating in their organization. Similar strikes and mass protests led to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Andrey Lukanov in 1990, paving the way for the SDS accession to power in 1991. -- Maria Koinova BULGARIA STEPS UP SECURITY AFTER LUKANOV MURDER. The government approved a proposal by Interior Minister Nikolay Dobrev on 3 October to step up security in the wake of former Prime Minister Andrey Lukanov's murder, Trud reported. Measures include intensified protection and control of strategic points and buildings. Main streets, important buildings, and "vulnerable objects" in towns will receive special attention. The daily notes, however, that the government had discussed such measures before Lukanov's murder on 2 October. Novinar reported that on 27 September, an explosive device was found in Lukanov's car when he visited his hometown of Pleven. Political scientist Andrey Raychev, a close friend and political ally of Lukanov's, told Kontinent that Lukanov planned to disclose proof of corruption in the highest echelons of power by 20 October. -- Stefan Krause EU LINKS AID TO BULGARIA WITH AGRICULTURAL REFORM. The EU will help Bulgaria alleviate its ongoing grain crisis if Sofia speeds up agricultural reforms, EU Representative in Bulgaria Thomas O'Sullivan said on 3 October, according to international media. He said Bulgaria could receive supplies for this year through commercial credits negotiated with individual EU member states, while future shortages could be compensated for by EU grants linked to progress in agricultural reforms. Bulgaria had asked the EU for help on 30 September, saying it needs 450,000 metric tons of grain for bread and 700,000 tons of fodder. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN TRADE UNIONS ANNOUNCE ONE-DAY STRIKE. Trade unions announced a 24-hour strike for 4 October, demanding government compensation for rising bread and fuel prices, Reuters reported. Independent Trade Union leader Estref Mersinaj said a one-hour warning strike on 16 September had failed. The government liberalized prices for bread, gas, and fuel in July, triggering a 30% rise in prices. About 200,000 public-sector workers took part in the September protest. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Tom Warner ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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