|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
No. 216, Part II, 7 November 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 BLACK SEA FLEET TALKS STALL. Ukrainian National Security Adviser Volodymyr Horbulin said the 6 November talks in Kyiv on the Black Sea Fleet did not go smoothly, ITAR-TASS reported. Horbulin said neither side will make concessions that may harm national interests. He added he was not optimistic about the current round of discussions and did not see any place for compromise. Both the closing session of the talks and the joint dinner were canceled. Horbulin said he doubted the Russian prime minister would visit Kyiv in November. The same day, Reuters reported that Horbulin said Ukraine did not exclude the possibility that it could eventually join NATO. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN CURRENCY SLIPS IN OCTOBER. The value of Ukraine's new currency, the hryvnya, slipped by 3.5% in trading against the dollar in October, the first such depreciation of a Ukrainian tender in three months, Ukrainian TV reported on 5 November. Experts attributed the decrease--from 1.76 to 1.82 hryvnyas for $1--to a printing of unbacked hryvnyas by the National Bank to pay for energy supplies for the winter because of a huge shortfall in government revenues. National Bank Governor Viktor Yushchenko said he expected the hryvnya would remain within a corridor of 1.82 to 1.87 hryvnyas to $1 by the end of the year. The government revealed its total debt in public sector wages and pensions now amounts to 3 billion hryvnyas ($1.7 billion). -- Chrystyna Lapychak BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ISSUES REFERENDUM DECREE. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's latest decree was published on 6 November saying, "changes and amendments may be made through a binding national referendum ... questions on changes to the constitution approved in a binding referendum are regarded as legally-binding and do not need to be confirmed," ITAR-TASS reported. The decree was publicized two days after the Constitutional Court ruled that the constitutional referendum, scheduled for 24 November, would not be legally binding. Several leading Belarusian legal specialists, including Justice Minister Valyantsin Sukalo, said the court has overstepped its powers by ruling on the referendum. The same day, parliament decided the only two referendum questions that are legally-binding are the question on changing the national holiday, and the question on electing local authorities. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS AMNESTY LAW. An amnesty law adopted on 5 November will allow for the release of some 10,000 people out of 60,000 currently in prison, Belarusian radio reported on 6 November. Deputy Minister of Interior Uladzislau Kashalenku said that this law, initiated by the president, would be of extreme importance to the state as it would save considerable financial resources--about 101 billion rubels ($6.7 million). Kashalenku said in some cases, people sentenced to two- years for stealing a sack of potatoes worth 250,000 rubels, while some 1,000,000 rubels was spent by the state each year on keeping them in custody. -- Sergei Solodovnikov BELARUSIAN JOURNALISTS PROTEST CENSORSHIP. Some 50 journalists from Radio 101.2, which was closed down three months ago, rallied on 5 November in downtown Minsk protesting the government's crackdown on the independent media, Polish Radio 1 reported the same day. Association Deputy Chairman Uladzimir Glod compared the present situation in Belarus to that of the darkest periods of the USSR, when the only source of information was foreign broadcasts. A new threat hangs over Belarus's largest independent newspaper Svaboda, which may soon be shut down at the request of the State Committee on the Press for publishing what in the committee's opinion were untrue articles. During the rally, thousands of Minsk residents signed a petition demanding that Radio 101.2 be allowed back on the air. -- Sergei Solodovnikov LATVIAN PRIME MINISTER ON RUSSIAN BORDER TREATY. Andris Skele said on 6 November that Latvia should follow the recent example of Estonia in trying to settle its border with Russia, BNS reported. He suggested that Latvia should also give up its demand that a border agreement with Russia had to note the continued validity of the 1920 peace treaty. In his opinion, the border agreement should only precisely and accurately define the shared border. Saeima Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Indulis Berzins backed Skele's position, saying that Latvia was more interested than Russia in concluding a border agreement since better border control could reduce smuggling and illegal refugee migration, thus help obtain visa-free regimes with West European countries. -- Saulius Girnius CONTROVERSY OVER TAXES CONTINUE IN POLAND. Tax rates in 1997 remain an unresolved problem in Poland, while the Senate is expected to vote on the tax law. The Polish Sejm approved tax rates of 17%, 20%, 33%, and 45% on 24 October, while the government wanted tax rates of 20%, 31%, and 43%, lowering them from the current 21%, 33%, and 45%. Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko, speaking to the Senate commission dealing with tax law, said on 6 November that he will support the government proposal. Kolodko said that if the Sejm proposals are accepted, the government will resign "because it would not be able to take responsibility for measures that are wrong from the economic point of view and irresponsible politically." Kolodko's statement, before the Senate vote on the tax law, is a threat to the government's junior partner, the Polish Peasant Party, supporting the Sejm proposal. -- Jakub Karpinski KLAUS SETS UP COMMISSION TO FIGHT BUREAUCRACY. The Czech Prime Minister on 6 November named former Transportation Minister Vladimir Budinsky to head the new Commission for Fighting Bureaucracy, Czech media reported. The commission will deal with citizens' complaints of state bureaucracy excesses in various areas. Klaus told journalists that the commission will not have its own bureaucracy; its only permanent staffer will be a secretary. None of the commission's 30 members will be paid. Klaus's initiative has been criticized by the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD), who described it as a "Potemkin village." The CSSD is convinced that establishing an ombudsman would be a better solution. Klaus and his party oppose that idea. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK OPPOSITION DAILY LOSES SLANDER CASE. A Banska Bystrica district court on 6 November ordered Sme to apologize to all 18 cabinet members for an article published on 14 May and demanded that its publisher pay each minister 400,000-500,000 crowns ($13,000-16,000), Slovak media reported. The article quoted a speech by Sme journalist Peter Toth at ex-policeman Robert Remias's funeral stating that "these are the first victims of a political cold war that the government is waging against Slovak citizens." Remias was the closest friend of a key witness in the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son, and the secret service was widely suspected of involvement in Remias's death in a car explosion in April. Sme's lawyer said the daily will appeal. Also on 6 November, the parliament refused to allow for the prosecution of Christian Democratic Movement Deputy Ladislav Pittner, who led a commission investigating the Kovac Jr. kidnapping and accused police of committing crimes. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN WELFARE MINISTER'S RESIGNATION CONFIRMED. Prime Minister Gyula Horn on 6 November confirmed that Gyorgy Szabo has offered his resignation, citing personal reasons, Hungarian media reported. Horn said he was undecided whether to accept the resignation. Szabo has recently been under fire for cuts in services and medical supplies at hospitals and other health care institutions because of austerity measures. Szabo's resignation would be the 10th departure of a minister from Horn's government. Szabo's predecessor, Pal Kovacs, quit in March 1995 after former Finance Minister Lajos Bokros introduced austerity measures. Opposition representatives on 6 November criticized the government's health and social policies, noting that Szabo's fall should be a warning signal for Horn. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL UPDATE. Marta Tocsik on 6 November refused for the fifth time to appear before the special parliamentary commission investigating the privatization scandal, Hungarian media reported. The commission is reviewing her 804 million forint ($5 million) "success fee" for negotiations between the state privatization company (APV) and municipalities. Noting that criminal proceedings have been launched against her, Tocsik said her answers to the commission could be used against her. Meanwhile, Tamas Toth, head of the APV secretariat responsible for submitting reports to the APV board, told the commission that unusual procedures were used in hiring Tocsik. He said her hiring report was not processed through regular channels nor was it filed in APV archives. -- Sharon Fisher SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MUSLIM POLICE TORCH SERB HOMES? A NATO spokesman said that IFOR personnel in a helicopter saw Muslim police speed away in a car from burning Serbian homes near Kljuc in northwestern Bosnia. The Canadian troops observed that the car returned to a police station in the area, which a Muslim-Croat offensive captured just over a year ago. NATO is investigating, Nasa Borba and the BBC reported on 7 November. In a related incident, the UNHCR said that the Serbs may have mined 96 Muslim homes near Prijedor on the basis of a UNHCR-supplied list of Muslims wanting to return to their homes. And in Mostar, Muslim refugees from Capljina protested the mining of 12 Muslim homes in the Croatian- controlled region to federal President Kresimir Zubak, Dnevni avaz noted. The Dayton agreement guarantees the right of all refugees to go home, but nationalists on all three sides are trying to block them. -- Patrick Moore MUSLIMS AND CROATS DISCUSS DELEGATION OF FEDERAL POSTS. The two governing parties in the Bosnian Federation met on 5 November in Sarajevo to discuss the assignment of leading posts in the federal government, Onasa reported. The Croat Democratic Community (HDZ) and the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) have to decide on candidates for the post of federal president and vice president, prime minister, parliament speaker and government ministers. The SDA allegedly wants Muslims to hold the post of president and prime minister. But Bosnian Presidency Croat member Kresimir Zubak suggested a principle under which the federal president and prime minister will not be of the same nationality. Zubak said that Muslims were federal prime ministers for two terms, and the post should be now commissioned to a Croat, Onasa reported. Meanwhile, the federal House of Representatives held its inaugural session the next day and adopted a binational flag, coat-of- arms and seal, Oslobodjenje reported on 7 November. -- Daria Sito Sucic SOLANA WANTS FULL NATO FORCE IN BOSNIA NEXT YEAR. NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said on 6 November in Bonn that he hoped all 33 countries taking part in the NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) in Bosnia would agree to join a follow-on force after the current mandate expires on 20 December, Reuters reported. Solana said that NATO's obligation in Bosnia is to help cement peace and aid in reconstruction. German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe said Germany would start to train some 3,000 soldiers for a new Bosnian mission. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said he was confident the U.S. force would be part of a new mission, although Solana did not specifically mention it. NATO is considering plans for a new 20,000-30,000-man multinational peacekeeping force in Bosnia once the IFOR mission ends. -- Daria Sito Sucic FEDERAL YUGOSLAV ELECTION FINALS. The leftist coalition headed by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and his wife Mirjana Markovic, and its potential supporters, have failed to win a two-thirds majority in the 138-seat federal parliament. A two-thirds vote there can assure a potential candidate election to the post of federal president, an office Milosevic may seek when his mandate as Serbian president expires in late 1997. Nasa Borba on 7 November reported Milosevic's leftist coalition holds 64 seats, and a likely ally, the Democratic Socialist Party, has 20. It is Montenegro's ruling party. Milosevic's main opposition, the Zajedno or Together coalition, has 22 seats, the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party 16, and the remainder are parceled out among six minor parties and coalitions. Milosevic may curry favor with the minor parties as a way of gaining the support of 91 deputies in a bid for the federal presidency. -- Stan Markotich HOW MUCH ARE BELGRADE'S ARMS WORTH? Federal Yugoslavia could earn up to $200 million by selling its surplus arms, Onasa, citing Nedeljni Telegraf, reported on 6 November. According to the terms of the Dayton accord, Belgrade must dispose of the weapons before year's end. The report says federal Yugoslav authorities have gone on record pledging the weapons will be destroyed and that Belgrade has already allocated about $10 million "for dismantling and shredding expenses." Onasa also reported several domestic and international companies, as well as countries in Africa, are interested in making purchases, and have floated "tempting offers." -- Stan Markotich ILIESCU PLEDGES STABILITY IF RE-ELECTED. Romanian President Ion Iliescu said on 6 November, that, if reelected in the runoff to the presidential election on 17 November, he would be the "guarantor of [political] stability" in Romania. Iliescu launched thinly-veiled attacks at the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), saying there are "too many ambiguities" in CDR's policies and that "radical groups" had too much influence within that alliance. The CDR won the parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, cabinet negotiations between the CDR and the Social Democratic Union (USD) continued, with the USD reportedly insisting on portfolios of foreign affairs, defense, labor, tourism, and telecommunications. Also on 6 November, the Central Electoral Bureau announced that more than two million ballots were declared invalid, which amounts to some 5% of the total number of votes cast. -- Dan Ionescu and Zsolt Mato BULGARIAN POLITICAL UPDATE. Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and the Sofia branch leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), Nikola Koychev, are the frontrunners to succeed Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, Standart reported on 7 November. Koychev, who is also chairman of the Parliamentary Economics Commission, said he was ready to take over if necessary, while Pirinski did not comment. Former BSP leader Aleksandar Lilov told Duma that the BSP must reform itself and will disintegrate as a political force if no new government is formed soon. Local party leaders increasingly call for a national conference of party congress. Meanwhile, President-elect Petar Stoyanov on 6 November resigned as deputy chairman of the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), as deputy chair of the SDS parliamentary faction, and as parliamentary deputy. The Central Electoral Commission confirmed that he won the presidential elections with 59.73% against 40.27% for Culture Minister Ivan Marazov of the BSP. -- Stefan Krause GAZPROM TO AVOID BULGARIA IN ROUTING GAS PIPELINE. Russia's Gazprom decided on 5 November to route a new pipeline under the Black Sea via Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, and beyond, avoiding Bulgaria, which will now miss out on hundreds of millions of dollars annually in fees, Standart reported on 6 November, citing ITAR-TASS. The paper reports that a former Russian diplomat in Bulgaria said the Bulgarian "government finally has to understand that it cannot fool around with Russia." Experts believe Bulgaria's failure to approve by 15 October a proposed arrangement for a routing through Bulgaria contributed to Gazprom's decision. Gazprom also views Turkey as a more financially solvent partner. The news is a blow to Premier Zhan Videnov, whose Bulgarian Socialist Party rival, Andrey Lukanov--who was assassinated on 2 October--had close connections with Gazprom. -- Michael Wyzan ALBANIAN PRESIDENT CHARGES COMMUNIST-ERA SECRET SERVICE WITH BOMB BLAST. Albanian President Sali Berisha blamed former Sigurimi agents for the bomb attack that destroyed appeals court chief judge Prel Martini's house on 6 November, injuring five people. Berisha said: "I guarantee the ... determination of the Albanian state to face crime forcefully and give terrorists what they deserve," reported Reuters. Prime Minister Alexander Meksi linked the bombing to a trial on 5 November in which Martini upheld long prison sentences of nine senior communist-era officials. Police said they did not know what kind of device caused the explosion. A special group has been set up to investigate. Interior Minister Halil Shamata said that police evidence pointed to a link between the attack and an alleged terrorist group called Revenge of Justice. -- Fabian Schmidt MYSTERY SURROUNDS INVESTIGATIONS INTO ALBANIAN TERRORIST GROUP. The Albanian daily Koha Jone on 6 November raised serious doubts about allegations by Interior Minister Halit Shamata that Klement Kolaneci, son-in-law of late communist dictator Enver Hoxha, was in possession of about $1 million that was allegedly stolen by the mysterious Revenge of Justice group. According to a protocol, signed by Kolaneci and two policemen, a safe found in Kolaneci's office contained only about 1040 lek ($10), 16,000 Greek drachmas ($67) and several documents. Kolaneci was only interrogated once, but not about any of the charges against him. He also has been denied free access to his lawyers and only met them twice briefly. Meanwhile, Kolaneci should have been released, since no court hearing concerning the legitimacy of his pre-trial detention took place within ten days, but he still remains in detention. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Valentina Huber ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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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