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