|The last of the human freedoms- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's way. - Victor Frankl|
No. 226, Part II, 21 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 OMRI 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 CALLS ON BELARUS TO RESOLVE CRISIS . . . The Russian State Duma on 20 November voted by 349 to nine to call on Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the parliament to resolve the political crisis within the framework of the current Belarusian constitution, AFP and Russian agencies reported. Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev then went to Smolensk to attend a meeting between the Belarusian president and parliament, which was also attended by Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev. Stroev urged the two sides to compromise over amending the constitution and spoke against dividing parliament into two separate chambers. Belarusian deputy parliamentary speaker Vasil Novikau said parliament would drop impeachment procedures against the president if Lukashenka canceled the referendum, rescinded his unconstitutional decrees, reinstated Viktar Hanchar as head of the Central Electoral Commission, and gave parliament air time. -- Ustina Markus . . . BUT LUKASHENKA THWARTS RUSSIAN MEDIATION EFFORTS. Russian attempts to mediate in Belarus's political crisis failed when President Lukashenka declined to attend the Smolensk meeting, international agencies reported on 20 November. Earlier the same day, Russian President Boris Yeltsin telephoned Syamyon Sharetsky and Lukashenka to ask them to reach a compromise and "not allow Belarusian society to be split." Afterwards, Sharetsky and Belarusian Communist leader Syarhei Kalyakin went to Smolensk. Lukashenka refused to attend the meeting, saying he was "very busy." Russian agencies attributed his refusal to Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's absence from the meeting. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER REFUSES TO MEET WITH PRESIDENT. On arriving at Lukashenka's residence on the morning of 20 November, Sharetsky ordered some 70 deputies holding consultations with the presidential administration to leave the building. He professed to be angry that the deputies were not at the Supreme Soviet while a session was under way. Explaining his refusal to meet with the president, Sharetsky said that "there can be no talks whatsoever between the president and the parliament speaker until all deputies are at their posts." The President's press office commented that the speaker's "hysterical scene" showed his unwillingness to resolve the political crisis. Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court announced it will commence hearings on the president's alleged violations of the constitution on 22 November. -- Sergei Solodovnikov UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ON NATO ENLARGEMENT. Leonid Kuchma, in an interview with the Czech daily Lidove Noviny, said NATO enlargement to the east must be accompanied by a moratorium on nuclear arms deployment in Central Europe, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 November. Kuchma said that every state has the right to decide for itself which international structures it wants to join and that only NATO members have the right to veto new members joining the organization. He also said integration into European structures is the priority in Ukraine's domestic and foreign policy. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev SIX ESTONIAN MINISTERS RESIGN. Six ministers from the Reform Party on 20 November sent an open letter to Prime Minister Tiit Vahi announcing they were resigning because Vahi signed a cooperation agreement with the Center Party behind their backs, Reuters reported. The Reform Party council was scheduled to vote the next day on whether to break its coalition with Vahi's Coalition Party. Reform Party Chairman and Foreign Minister Siim Kallas said that Vahi was apparently trying to change foreign policy by bringing Estonia closer to Russia. He noted that the cooperation agreement's chapter on international relations mentions Russia but not the EU. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN PARTIES SIGN FORMAL COALITION AGREEMENT. The Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) and the Christian Democratic Party (LKDP) have signed a formal coalition agreement, Radio Lithuania reported on 20 November. The two parties, which together have 86 of the 137 seats in the Seimas, agreed to cooperate fully on all internal and foreign policy matters and to submit a joint government program. Earlier, it was announced that three ministers, including foreign affairs and defense, would be LKDP members. The LKDP would also have the right to propose a candidate for one of the secretary posts in each ministry. Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission decided that by-elections would take place on 23 March in the four districts where no deputies were elected. Local elections are likely to take place the same day. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH PRESIDENT SIGNS ABORTION LAW. Aleksander Kwasniewski has signed an abortion law that permits an abortion in the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy if the woman is in a difficult social or financial situation, Polish media reported on 20 November. The law allows private clinics to perform abortions; under the previous legislation, only state clinics were authorized to do so. The Sejm passed the law last month, overriding a previous Senate veto. Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, secretary of the Episcopate, criticized the new law as "damaging for the Polish nation." Kwasniewski, for his part, called abortion "evil." He said that "we must do away with its causes," adding that "cooperation between the state, the church, and social organizations is needed." -- Jakub Karpinski POLAND STRENGTHENS CIVILIAN CONTROL OVER ARMY. Polish Defense Minister Stanislaw Dobrzanski has signed defense ministry bylaws providing for the direct subordination of commanders of all branches of the armed forces to the defense minister, Polish media reported on 21 November. According to Sejm deputies, the General Staff's role will be reduced to planning and the most important person in the army will be the ground forces commander, a newly created post to be filled by Gen. Zbigniew Zalewski. Zalewski is one of the two generals who refused to support the defense minister's dismissal at the infamous 1994 "Drawsko lunch," organized by then President Lech Walesa. Dobrzanski also plans to introduce limited terms of office for the most important army posts. -- Beata Pasek NEW MEDIA SCANDAL IN SLOVAKIA. The Slovak Syndicate of Journalists (SSN) on 20 November protested the barring of four reporters from cabinet press conferences and called for a boycott of government briefings, Slovak media reported. The journalists' accreditation was removed after they refuted Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's accusations that President Michal Kovac told them at a May meeting that Meciar was dying of a brain tumor. An SSN statement said "we appeal to all media not to yield to government pressure." The government press office called the SSN statement "demagogic," adding that it has offered the journalists' employers the possibility to accredit other reporters. If the four journalists "prove their professionalism" by no longer "abusing information they receive at informal meetings," the cabinet will "gladly change its decision," the office added. Meciar on 20 November alleged that several journalists had offered the government information from the May meeting and that one had done so for money. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK PRESIDENT RETURNS LAW ON SECURITIES. Michal Kovac on 20 November vetoed the law on securities passed by the parliament earlier this month, TASR reported. The bill, which amends the Commercial Code, allows shareholders to remain anonymous and gives joint-stock companies the possibility to halt public trading in their shares. Critics have complained that the law limits transparency on the stock market and violates the rights of small shareholders who took part in the first wave of coupon privatization. In a letter to parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic, Kovac stressed that he received the law just one day before the 15-day deadline stipulated in the constitution. The president asked the parliament to amend the law to ensure that securities can be traded only on the public market and to stop issuers from preventing securities from being traded on the public market. -- Anna Siskova HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT REOPENS DEBATE ON CONCEPT FOR NEW CONSTITUTION. The parliament has resumed the debate on the new constitution, Hungarian media reported on 20 November. Its constitutional committee drew up a new concept after the Socialist Party leadership rejected an earlier one in June on the grounds it was "too liberal." The Socialists said at the time that they wanted the new constitution to include references to social rights, make "interest coordination" compulsory for governing parties, and stipulate that the president be elected directly. Besides including these provisions, the new concept puts an additional emphasis on the interests of Hungarians living abroad and limits the president's sphere of competence. The parliament is expected to vote on the concept in December. The country's current constitution dates back to 1949, although various amendments have been made since 1989. -- Zsofia Szilagyi HUNGARY'S "OILGATE COMMITTEE" CALLS ON CHAIRMAN TO RESIGN. Members of the so-called oilgate committee investigating a corruption case linked to the repayment of Russia's debt to Hungary have called on chairman Ervin Demeter to resign, Hungarian media reported on 21 November. They charge Demeter, a member of the opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum, with breaking internal agreements. Those who oppose his chairmanship come from the ruling coalition and the opposition Smallholders. The committee will soon make public its final report on the case, which involves former Industry and Trade Ministers Laszlo Pal and Imre Dunai as well as a number of Socialist deputies. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MASS PROTEST IN ZAGREB OVER SHUTDOWN OF INDEPENDENT RADIO. The Croatian authorities announced on 20 November that they will not renew the license of the popular Radio 101, Novi List reported. Radio 101 is probably the only independent station there that deals with news and politics as well as broadcasting rock music. Several thousand people then staged a protest rally in which opposition politicians, journalists, and union leaders blasted the government's decision, while an army captain renounced his rank and medals, Reuters noted. U.S. Ambassador Peter Galbraith and the State Department also criticized the move, saying it raises basic questions about freedom of expression. Nino Pavic, a government loyalist who was awarded the frequency license for his planned Radio Globus 101, renounced the concession, saying he did not want to be seen as a threat to media freedom. The city branch of the governing Croatian Democratic Community also hinted that the government's decision might not be final. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN SERB POWER STRUGGLE UNRESOLVED? Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic held a four-hour meeting with cashiered army chief Gen. Ratko Mladic at his headquarters in Han Pijesak, Nasa Borba reported on 21 November. A statement from Mladic's office said there was no information on the contents of the talks. Plavsic has insisted that the general and his 80 loyalists must go, but Mladic is believed to be trying to maintain his influence in the army from behind the scenes. Meanwhile, the Bosnian Serb army (VRS) began destroying 13 tanks, 30 mortars, and two armored personnel carriers in Banja Luka as part of a month-long program to meet arms reduction quotas. The deadline for meeting all the limitations is the end of 1997, AFP reported. The OSCE criticized the Croats and Muslims for not having started their own program, the VOA noted. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN, CROATIAN SHORTS. NATO troops confiscated illegal mines, rockets, and explosives from the Croats at Orasje in northern Bosnia, news agencies said on 20 November. In Ploce, a $100 million U.S. arms shipment is being unloaded, Oslobodjenje reported on 21 November. In the village of Hajvaci near Mahala in northeast Bosnia, 12 houses were destroyed by anti-tank mines. The formerly Muslim village is on Serb- held territory in an area where Muslim refugees have been trying to go home, as they are entitled to do under the Dayton agreement. In Zagreb, Croatian and Slavonian Serb representatives signed several documents on the reintegration of eastern Slavonia into Croatia, Vecernje list wrote. -- Patrick Moore SERBIAN DEMONSTRATORS DEMAND MILOSEVIC RESPECT ELECTION RESULTS. An estimated 5,000 people gathered outside the Serbian parliament on 20 November to show solidarity with deputies from the Democratic Movement of Serbia (DEPOS) and the Democratic Party who are on a hunger strike inside the building. The strikers allege that the ruling authorities are guilty of political fraud, as demonstrated most recently by their refusal to recognize the returns of the 17 November local elections. DEPOS leader Vuk Draskovic told demonstrators outside the legislature that defending the 17 November victory was critical and that government tampering with returns amounted to "a great crime against the democratic will of the Serbian people." The opposition won the 12 largest districts, which account for roughly 60% of the republic's population. Both the strikers and leaders of the opposition Zajedno coalition have sent letters to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic appealing for him to stop undermining the election results. -- Stan Markotich in Belgrade OSCE OPTIMISTIC AFTER MACEDONIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS. OSCE observers on 20 November said they found few flaws in the first round of the Macedonian local elections on 17 November, Reuters reported. Most problems involved mistakes or omissions in electoral lists. Observers said that in some stations they monitored, 10-20% of the voters were not registered. EU monitors had previously said around 25% could not vote because their names were not on the electoral lists. On the other hand, the OSCE monitors said 89% of voters asked felt the voting process was conducted properly. "The information gathered and the friendly contacts we had ... give us an optimistic outlook on the development of the country's democratic future," the OSCE statement said. -- Stefan Krause INFLATION IN ROMANIA REACHES 45%. The National Statistics Commission reports that the annual rate of inflation in Romania has reached 45%, Radio Bucharest reported on 20 November. Inflation rose 3.4% in October compared with September and has increased by 35.5% since December 1995. Outgoing Finance Minister Florin Georgescu said the state's hard- currency reserves stand at $800 million, while the total amount deposited in Romanian banks is $2.1 billion. The country's foreign debt on 30 September reached $7 billion. -- Zsolt Mato MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES EXCHANGE SWIPES. President Mircea Snegur has accused parliamentary chairman Petru Lucinschi, his rival in the 1 December presidential run-off, of usurping legislative power, Infotag reported on 20 November. He pointed to Lucinschi's decision to cancel a parliament session on 20 November, which was to discuss the taping of a conversation between Snegur's campaign chief and Moldova's ambassador to Germany, Alexandru Burian (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 November 1996). In turn, Lucinschi said a Snegur victory in the second round would "stir up confrontation in society" because of Snegur's intention to transform Moldova into a presidential republic. In other news, Premier Andrei Sangheli made a contradictory statement saying he was ready to resign after the presidential elections but would give up his mandate as prime minister only "when the time comes." Sangheli's mandate expires in 1998. He also accused Snegur of having falsified the election results. -- Michael Shafir MAIN BULGARIAN OPPOSITION GROUP DIVIDED OVER PROPOSAL TO BECOME PARTY. Many organizations belonging to the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) have reacted unfavorably to a SDS National Executive Council proposal the previous day to transform the organization from a coalition of parties and movements to a single party, Bulgarian media reported. Leaders of 11 of the 15 SDS member organizations said the move was untimely, adding that early elections should first be called and won. Former SDS leader Filip Dimitrov supported that position, while SDS deputy leader Nadezhda Mihaylova stressed the benefits of transforming the union into a party. Meanwhile, seven member organizations announced that they have formed a "Union for National Renaissance" within the SDS before the presidential elections and that the SDS leadership knew of the idea well in advance. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN LEV HITS NEW ALL-TIME LOW. The lev was trading at exchange offices around the country at 331-332 to the dollar, up from 290 leva the previous day, Pari reported on 21 November. According to Standart, the dollar was trading for 360-370 leva. In some towns, most goods were marked in dollars. Pari said there were three reasons for the hike: rumors about an unnamed company seeking to buy large sums of hard currency, lack of intervention from the Bulgarian National Bank, and the withdrawal earlier this week of several billion leva from the State Savings Bank. Kontinent predicted that by the end of the year, the lev will be trading at 600 leva to $1. In other news, electricity and coal prices are to go up by 14% on 1 December, following a 9.7% increase last week. -- Maria Koinova CAMPAIGN AGAINST DEMOCRATIC PARTY DEPUTY IN ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT. Democratic Party deputies have called on the parliament to lift Azem Hajdari's immunity and to remove him from the chairmanship of the parliamentary commission on the secret service and police. They also accused Hajdari, who is also a Democratic legislator, of deliberately not purging the secret service SHIK of some communist-era secret service agents in 1992. They called for his removal from the party's caucus, Rilindja Demokratike reported on 19 November. Hajdari, meanwhile, said he will organize a congress of his breakaway Independent Trade Unions in December and organize a strike, Koha Jone reported on 20 November. Elsewhere, police in Gjirokaster arrested Hajdari's driver without explanation, according to Dita Informacion on 21 November. -- 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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