Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 227, Part II, 22 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

COMPROMISE DEAL HAMMERED OUT IN BELARUS. Following a night of
negotiations, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and parliamentary speaker
Syamyon Sharetsky have signed an accord, Reuters reported on 22
November. The negotiations were mediated by Russian Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin and the speakers of Russia's two houses of
parliament. The agreement states that the 24 November referendum will
not be legally binding and that the parliament will drop impeachment
moves against Lukashenka. It also provides for a constitutional
committee composed of 100 representatives, half of which are to be
chosen by the parliament and the other half by the president. The
committee is to be headed by the president and will be formed over 20
days following the referendum. Its aim will be to draw up a new
constitution based on the results of the plebiscite. -- Sergei
Solodovnikov

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT, PREMIER TAKE HARD LINE ON BUDGET DEFICIT. Leonid
Kuchma and Pavlo Lazarenko have told representatives of some caucuses
that they will fight any attempts by lawmakers to increase social
spending and the 1997 budget deficit, Ukrainian agencies reported on 21
November. Lazarenko said the government has prepared a package of
amendments to the draft 1997 budget that provides for further reductions
in social benefits, the laying-off of civil servants, and tax cuts for
Ukrainian industry. Many lawmakers, including Speaker Oleksander Moroz,
have promised to boost social benefits and increase the projected
deficit from 5.8% to as much as 20% of GDP. Lazarenko said current
spending rates and high taxes on industrial enterprises, which alone owe
1.2 billion hryvnyas ($640 million) in revenues this year, have resulted
in a hidden deficit totaling 8 billion hryvnyas. In other news, the
parliament voted in favor of an amnesty for all coal miners who took
part in illegal mass strikes protesting the public sector wage debt this
year. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

ESTONIAN REFORM PARTY QUITS GOVERNMENT AND COALITION. The council of the
Reform Party on 21 November voted to leave the ruling coalition led by
Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, Reuters reported. The decision came after
Vahi's Coalition Party and the Center Party signed a cooperation
agreement without first informing the Reform Party. It is expected that
Vahi will form a new government with the Center Party, thereby restoring
the alliance that ruled Estonia in March-October 1995. The coalition had
collapsed over a scandal on illegal surveillance involving then Interior
Minister and Center Party leader Edgar Savisaar. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIA'S PROPERTY BANK RECEIVES OPERATING LICENSE. The Central Bank
of Lithuania on 21 November registered joint-stock capital totaling 83
million litai ($20.75 million) for the Property Bank, BNS reported. It
also issued the new state-owned bank an operating license. The Property
Bank was created to purchase "bad loans" from the Lithuanian Joint-Stock
Innovation Bank, the Savings Bank, and State Commercial Bank at market
prices. It will then manage the loans and sell them. The bank is not
allowed to accept deposits or extend loans. It is expected to terminate
its activities within ten years. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH SEJM ADOPTS TAX LAW. The Sejm on 21 November voted in favor of
the tax law approved by the Senate earlier this month, Polish media
reported. Under the new law, income tax rates will range from 20%
through 32% to 44%. Some 280 deputies, mostly from the co-ruling
Democratic Left Alliance and opposition Freedom Union, voted in
favor;135 deputies, the majority of whom are members of the co-ruling
Polish Peasant Party and opposition parties, voted against. Thirty-one
deputies abstained. -- Jakub Karpinski

SECOND ROUND OF CZECH SENATE ELECTIONS KICKS OFF. The second round of
the first-ever elections to the upper chamber of the Czech parliament
takes place on 22-23 November. Czech media report that 154 candidates
will compete in 77 run-offs. Only four candidates were elected in the
first round. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party
candidates is competing in 76 districts, while the opposition Social
Democrats qualified for run-offs in only 48 districts. Seventeen
candidates represent the coalition Christian Democratic Union, seven the
coalition Civic Democratic Alliance, four the Communists, and one the
extraparliamentary Democratic Union. Only one candidate is independent.
In the first round, turnout was less than 35%. Participation in the
second round is not expected to be much higher. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON PRIVATIZATION. The Constitutional
Court on 21 November ruled that legislation transferring control over
privatization from the government to the National Property Fund (FNM) is
illegal, Slovak media reported. The legislation was approved by the
parliament in November 1994. Since gaining control over privatization,
the FNM--all of whose board members of representatives of the ruling
coalition--has rushed to sell off state property through direct sales,
often at prices far below market value. The sales are often carried out
in a secretive way, and the true owners of certain key firms remain a
mystery. Under the 1994 legislation, the government, the Supreme
Supervisory Office, and courts had no control over the FNM. The court
noted that although the 1994 law is illegal, it is impossible to change
privatization decisions that the FNM has since taken. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK NATIONALITIES COUNCIL REJECTS MINORITY LANGUAGE LAW. The
government's Nationalities Council on 21 November voted not to recommend
the approval of a draft law on the use of minority languages submitted
by ethnic Hungarian representatives, CTK reported. Following the passage
of the state language law last November, the government promised to
submit a minority language law as well. Jozef Kalman, deputy premier and
deputy chairman of the Nationalities Council, said the majority of the
council's members, including some representatives of national
minorities, regard existing legislation as sufficient. The OSCE, the EU,
and other international organizations have all recommended that a
minority language law be approved. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK-RUSSIAN INTERGOVERNMENT COMMISSION CONVENES. A Slovak-Russian
intergovernment commission for trade, scientific, and cultural
cooperation met on 21 November in Bratislava to discuss ways to
strengthen bilateral ties, Slovak media reported. Slovak Deputy Premier
and Finance Minister Sergej Kozlik, who is also co-chairman of the
commission, told ITAR-TASS that "Slovakia attaches great importance to
the talks. Problems of developing bilateral trade and of its
liberalization unquestionably dominate the agenda." Also on 21 November,
Slovak Defense Minister Jan Sitek arrived in Moscow to discuss
opportunities for cooperation. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY TO INCREASE ENERGY PRICES NEXT YEAR. The cabinet has announced
that as of 1 January, natural gas will increase by 18.8%, electricity by
24.9%, and heating by 21.9%, Hungarian dailies reported on 22 November.
The increases guarantee only a 4% annual profit for energy distribution
companies. Earlier, the government pledged to guarantee an 8% profit to
energy companies with foreign ownership. The cabinet also decided to
raise pensions by 19.5% next year and to reduce expenditures in the 1997
budget by 14-14.5 billion forints to ensure that the public finance
deficit does not exceed 4.9% of GDP. Meanwhile, the National Bank
announced it will likely repay $1 billion in foreign debts ahead of
schedule. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

BELGRADE RALLIES CONTINUE. Leaders of the opposition Zajedno coalition
organized another rally in the city center to protest the regime's
alleged tampering with the results of the 17 November local elections.
Nasa Borba on 22 November estimated the rally to be the largest anti-
government demonstration since 9 March 1991, attracting some tens of
thousands of people. No serious incidents were reported. Demonstrators
marched toward the state TV building, where well-armed riot troops could
be seen. Opposition leader Zoran Djindjic summed up the proceedings by
remarking that "this evening, some 100,000 people passed along the main
streets of Belgrade, and all was peaceful." -- Stan Markotich in
Belgrade

OFFICIAL MEDIA COVERAGE OF FEDERAL YUGOSLAV LOCAL ELECTIONS. RTS I news
on 21 November intimated that the main aim of the demonstrations was to
incite mob violence and "terrorism." The broadcast also noted that while
the protest leaders claimed to "defend democracy..., their [actions] and
tactics serve only to undermine it." Meanwhile, Vecernje novosti on 21
November reported that the local election authorities consider the
ruling Socialists to have won a majority of municipal council seats in
Nis, a town earlier claimed by Zajedno. The daily observed that the
situation in Uzice, which also initially seemed to have gone to the
opposition, was dead-locked and would be resolved in a third round. At
an earlier rally in Nis, opposition leader Vuk Draskovic expressed fears
that the Socialists would engage in massive electoral fraud to win the
city (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 November 1996). Meanwhile, Radio B-92
has reported that Draskovic's wife has been kidnapped. Draskovic has
accused President Slobodan Milosevic of involvement. -- Stan Markotich
in Belgrade

100,000 DEMONSTRATE IN ZAGREB FOR RADIO. One of the largest mass
meetings in Croatian history took place on 21 November in Zagreb's
central Jelacic square. Protesters representing a broad cross-section of
society showed their support for independent Radio 101, which had lost
its license the day before (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 November 1996).
The authorities had meanwhile restored the license in the course of the
day, but the crowds turned out in the evening anyway. What began as a
protest in favor of freedom of speech turned into one for democracy as
well. The independent daily Novi List wrote on 22 November of a
"revolution in the air waves." It added that a wave of protests from
foreign governments and NGO's had turned "a local radio [into] a global
problem." Radio 101 also received a message from the 202nd rocket-
artillery unit, saying "we are with you with our voices, manpower, and
weapons if necessary." -- Patrick Moore

CROATIA'S TUDJMAN WEAK AFTER HOSPITALIZATION. President Franjo Tudjman
left Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington for a brief visit to the
Croatian embassy on 21 November. Croatian television showed him looking
"thin and exhausted," AFP reported. Government officials and the state-
run media continue only to say that he has received "treatment" for an
ulcer and swollen lymph glands. CNN earlier quoted unnamed State
Department officials and a Croatian diplomat as saying that he has
cancer and does not have long to live. Tudjman will return to Zagreb on
23 November. -- Patrick Moore

MISTREATMENT OF SARAJEVO SERBS. UN police spokesman Alexander Ivanko
said that Serbs are still victims of attacks in the capital. A list of
incidents prepared by the Democratic Initiative of Serbs includes the
bombing or torching of homes of prominent Serbs or their families and
the mistreatment of elderly Serbian women. The report also notes an
apparent singling out of ethnic Serb males between 16 and 60 years of
age for military call-ups, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in
Bosnia and Herzegovina reports in its latest newsletter. Meanwhile, the
leader of the Islamic community, Mustafa Ceric, urged President Alija
Izetbegovic to take action to prevent the Serbs from building on the
land in Banja Luka on which mosques once stood. The Serbs systematically
destroyed the all city's mosques, including two historic ones that had
been registered with UNESCO. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN SHORTS. Federal Vice President Ejup Ganic spoke of an "historic
day" as $100 million-worth of U.S. weapons for the Bosnian army were
unloaded in Croatia's port of Ploce. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, the
Commission for the Defense of Human Rights reported on violations of
rights of refugees as they attempt to go home in keeping with the Dayton
agreement. The group singled out local officials of the Republika Srpska
in this context, Oslobodjenje noted on 22 November. Also in the capital,
a Muslim threw a bomb into a cafe belonging to the Croatian cultural
society "Napredak." The man was arrested but his motives are not known.
-- Patrick Moore

KOSOVO EDUCATION SECRETARY DIES IN CAR ACCIDENT. Xhavit Ahmeti,
education adviser to Kosovar shadow state President Ibrahim Rugova, died
on 21 November when the car he was traveling in crashed with a truck
near Smederevo. Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) deputy chairman
Hydajet Hyseni, LDK secretary-general Fatmir Sejdiu, and the driver were
injured but are out of danger, Deutsche Welle's Albanian language
service reported. The four were on their way to Belgrade for meetings
with Western diplomats. Ahmeti was the key negotiator in talks with the
Serbian authorities that resulted in an education agreement that Rugova
and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic signed on 1 September. --
Fabian Schmidt

ILIESCU TO BECOME PARTY CHAIRMAN. Oliviu Gherman, chairman of the Party
of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), has resigned his post, Romanian
TV reported on 21 November. Gherman said the "soul chairman" of the PDSR
has always been outgoing President Ion Iliescu, while he himself was
only a "modest substitute." He added that now that Iliescu is no longer
constitutionally barred from belonging to the party, it is Gherman's
"moral duty" to resign and ask the PDSR leadership to replace him with
Iliescu. In other news, the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic
(PNTCD) has held separate negotiations over the new coalition with the
Social Democratic Union and the National Liberal Party-Democratic
Convention. Bela Marko, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation
of Romania, also conducted "preliminary discussions" with the PNTCD
leadership, saying his formation will not necessarily demand portfolios
affecting national minorities and may receive the Health Ministry. --
Michael Shafir

FURTHER ACCUSATIONS IN MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTIAL CONTEST. Moldovan President
Mircea Snegur has charged that Premier Andrei Sangheli is "dragging the
government into an exceptionally hazardous game." Referring to
Sangheli's accusation that pro-Snegur forces rigged the elections and
bought votes, he said that Sangheli's government was "anti-democratic
and anti-reformist" and that Moldova's independence was "in danger,"
Infotag reported on 21 November. In other news, the leadership of the
Edinstvo-Unitatea Party has announced it will back Snegur's rival,
parliamentary chairman Petru Lucinschi, in the run-off scheduled for 1
December. Radio Bucharest announced that chairman of the Party of
Democratic Forces Valeriu Matei, who ran in the first round, announced
his party will back Snegur in the run-off. -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN CURRENCY CONTINUES TO PLUNGE. The lev on 21 November continued
its free fall, RFE/RL and Reuters reported. The U.S. dollar was selling
at Sofia exchange bureaus for around 405 leva, up from 360-370 the
previous day. Demokratsiya reported that in Burgas, the dollar was
trading at as much as 500 leva. Many private exchange offices refused to
sell the dollar at all. Outside those continuing to sell hard currency,
fist-fights broke out for good positions in the line. The Bulgarian
National Bank's response was to increase the exchange rate from 287.91
leva to 344.29 leva for 22 November. Shop owners selling imported goods
now either mark their stock in dollars or adjust prices by the hour.
Meanwhile, official figures suggest an 8-10% GDP decline for this year.
Director of the National Statistical Institute Zahari Karamfilov told
Kontinent that he "can no longer project inflation." -- Stefan Krause

HAJDARI FIRED FROM ALBANIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION ON SECRET SERVICE.
Democratic Party legislator Azem Hajdari has been dismissed as chairman
of the parliamentary commission for public order and the secret service,
Albanian media reported on 22 November. Hajdari fell out of favor with
President Sali Berisha following his election as chairman of the
breakaway Union of Independent Trade Unions (BSPSH). Hajdari has called
for an extraordinary BSPSH congress for 22 September, saying he will
declare war against corruption and fight for higher salaries. He
compared the current situation in Albania with December 1990, when he
was leading the pro-democracy student movement that brought about the
end of communism, Koha Jone reported on 22 November. -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN POLIO OUTBREAK CLAIMS 15TH VICTIM. A 14-year-old boy has died
of polio in Albania, the 15th victim of the outbreak, Reuters reported
on 21 November. The boy had been hospitalized for the past three months.
The polio outbreak has affected 137 Albanians since April. The Albanian
health authorities and the World Health Organization launched a
nationwide immunization campaign in October. No new cases have been
reported since 12 November. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Jan Cleave

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            Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                      All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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