|We are always the same age inside. - Gertrude Stein|
No. 229, Part I, 26 November 1996
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE VOTERS SUPPORT LUKASHENKA'S CONSTITUTION. The parliament's draft constitution received only 7.9% of votes cast in the 24 November referendum, international agencies reported the next day. Earlier, it was reported that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's draft constitution won 70.5% of the vote. 88.5% of respondents voted in favor of changing the national holiday from 17 July, when the republic declared independence, to 3 July, when the Red Army liberated Minsk from the Germans. Lukashenka's other two questions--on banning the free sale and purchase of land and on retaining the death penalty--also passed by a wide margin. Neither of the parliament's two questions passed. Only 29.9% voted for electing local administrations by direct popular vote and only 32.1% were in favor of funding all state agencies directly from the budget. Voting among the KGB and military was particularly high, with 99.6% casting ballots. Former head of the Central Electoral Commission Viktar Hanchar said the results were forged, and independent observers claimed irregularities in voting procedures. -- Ustina Markus INTERNATIONAL RESPONSES TO BELARUSIAN REFERENDUM. A number of western countries and organizations have voiced concern over the results of the referendum, AFP reported on 25 November. The EU and the OSCE insisted that the Constitutional Court's decision on the consultative, non-binding nature of the referendum must be respected. A U.S. State Department spokesman emphasized the lack of open debate before the referendum, which, he said, deprived it of legitimacy. He added that the plebiscite was "neither free, nor fair". Russia, however, said the result of the referendum was "normal" and concluded that its bid to diffuse the political crisis in Belarus had been successful. Meanwhile, Belarus has turned its last 18 nuclear warheads over to Russia. -- Sergei Solodovnikov UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DENIES PRESSING FOR EARLY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. Leonid Kuchma has denied accusations by lawmakers that he is leading a campaign to dissolve the parliament and hold early elections, Ukrainian agencies reported on 22 November. Legislators have drawn that conclusion from his recent appeal to the Constitutional Court to review two parliamentary decisions that he believes violate the country's basic law. The next parliamentary elections are not due until spring 1998. Kuchma said an early vote would be too costly and could destabilize the country. Deputies have postponed until April a second reading of a new election bill that would transform Ukraine's electoral system. -- Chrystyna Lapychak UKRAINIAN AIR FORCE OFFICIALS SURVIVED HIJACK CRASH. Three members of a Ukrainian Defense Ministry mission survived the hijack crash of the Boeing-767 on 23 November in the Comoro Islands, international agencies reported on 25 November. They are Deputy Commander of the Ukrainian Air Force Lt. Gen. Viktor Strelnikov and two other high Ukrainian military officials who were in Addis Abeba to negotiate modernizing MiG-21s belonging to the Ethiopian Air Force. The fate of the fourth member of the mission is still unknown. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS AGREEMENTS WITH ISRAEL. Leonid Kuchma on 25 November signed several economic agreements with Israel, AFP and Ukrainian radio reported. Those accords are on sea trade, protection of resources, and cooperation on customs issues. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he received assurances from Kuchma that Ukraine is not signing any arms deals with Iran and that it has decided not to sell tanks to Baghdad. He stressed that Ukraine was not seeking any compensation from Israel for this, nor was Israel offering any to Kyiv. Netanyahu also said Israel hoped Ukraine's government would work to reduce the risks for foreign investors in Ukraine. He added he had accepted an invitation to visit Ukraine, and would come along with a delegation of businessmen. -- Ustina Markus SLOVENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ESTONIA. Davorin Kracun, during his visit to Tallinn on 25 November, discussed EU expansion with President Lennart Meri, ETA reported. He repeated Slovenian President Milan Kucan's invitation that Meri make a state visit to Slovenia. Kracun also held talks with Prime Minister Tiit Vahi on developing economic and trade relations and on achieving integration into European economic and defense structures. Kracun and acting Foreign Minister Riivo Sinijarv are scheduled to sign a free trade agreement today. Together with agreements on the protection of investments, the prevention of double taxation, and visa free travel that are still being prepared, that accord is expected to significantly boost trade. -- Saulius Girnius FIRST SESSION OF NEW LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT. The 137 deputies elected to the Seimas have been formally sworn in by Constitutional Court Chairman Juozas Zilys, Radio Lithuania reported on 25 November. President Algirdas Brazauskas urged the deputies not to make sharp changes in foreign policy and to continue the main goals of membership in the EU and NATO. Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis was the only candidate nominated for the post of Seimas chairman. He was elected in a secret ballot by a vote of 107 to 28. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH SHIPYARD WORKERS OCCUPY GOVERNMENT BUILDING. Some 1,500 workers at the Gdansk shipyard--birthplace of the Solidarity movement in 1980--demonstrated in front of the local governor's building, Polish and international media reported on 26 November. Two hundred or so stayed on to occupy the building. The workers are demanding that the government issue restructuring plans and financial guarantees for building ships for Germany. Last week, Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko refused to extend credit guarantees for the bankrupt shipyard, but Treasury Minister Miroslaw Pietrewicz said today that the government may consider offering guarantees if the management proposes viable restructuring plans. The shipyard has debts totaling 415 million zlotys ($148 million) and currently employs about 5,000 people. -- Beata Pasek VAST MAJORITY OF POLES CLAIM MASS PRIVATIZATION VOUCHERS. More than 25 million Poles--or 95% of those eligible--have claimed a total of 25,675,090 privatization vouchers over the past 12 months, Polish and international media reported on 26 November. A year ago, only one in ten Poles said they would claim vouchers, and the government expected to distribute about 10 million. Wieslaw Kaczmarek, head of the privatization agency at the Treasury Ministry, said that his ministry, encouraged by the success of the first stage of mass privatization, will draft a new version of the program including other state-owned companies. Vouchers sold by state banks for 20 zlotys ($7) are currently selling for some 150 zlotys on the stock exchange. Next year, the vouchers will be exchanged for shares in 15 investment funds managing some 500 enterprises. -- Beata Pasek SLOVAKIA, RUSSIA STRENGTHEN TIES. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 25 November received a delegation led by Slovak parliamentary Chairman Ivan Gasparovic to discuss economic and political ties, Slovak media and ITAR-TASS reported. Gasparovic stressed that although Slovakia wants to decide for itself on EU and NATO membership, "we do not want to take these steps violently and without consideration, and they will certainly be decided in a referendum." Gasparovic's four-day trip to Russia coincides with a visit by Culture Minister Ivan Hudec to launch a Slovak cultural festival in Moscow. On 23 November, Slovak Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Sergej Kozlik announced in Bratislava following an intergovernment meeting that a free trade agreement with Russia is expected by late June. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK MEDIA ROUNDUP. The Slovak PEN Club on 26 November protested the recent ruling by a Banska Bystrica court ordering the opposition daily Sme to apologize to and pay cabinet ministers 7.5 million crowns ($242,000) in compensation for publishing a "damaging" article (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 November 1996), Praca reported. The PEN Club stressed that the court made the ruling without questioning the ministers or examining the extent of their "psychological trauma." The group also noted that the European Court of Human Rights has approved verdicts making it clear that individuals have broad rights to criticize politicians, public servants, the government, and state institutions. Sme is appealing the ruling. In other news, the private TV Markiza share of hours viewed daily grew to 37.3% (36% in prime time) in October, while Slovak TV's share fell to 23.9% (27.4%), according to TASR on 25 November. With regard to news programs, Slovak TV remains the most popular with 25%, while Markiza news has 20-22% viewership. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARY WILL SOON INVITE BIDS FOR COMMERCIAL BROADCASTS. The National Radio and Television Commission will publish tenders for commercial television and radio stations in early December, Hungarian and international media reported on 26 November. Two commercial TV channels and two commercial radio stations will start broadcasting on 1 September 1997. The primary owner can have up to 49% ownership and the secondary owner 25%, with a minimum of 26% remaining in Hungarian hands. Under the media law, at least 51% of the programs must originate in Hungary and another 30% from other parts of Europe. U.S.-led consortia headed by Ronald Lauder and Mark Palmer, Germany's West Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung and Bertelsman Group, as well as and France's TF1 are all expected to bid. -- Zsofia Szilagyi CORRECTION: The item "Ukrainian Parliament Suspends Privatization of 'Strategic' Enterprises" in the 25 November 1996 issue of the OMRI Daily Digest incorrectly listed the number of state-owned enterprises originally barred by Kyiv from privatization. The item should have read that Ukrainian lawmakers have increased the number of those enterprises from 5,500 to 7,111. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BELGRADE PROTESTS GAIN MOMENTUM. Up to 200,000 people marched in downtown Belgrade on 25 November to protest the authorities' decision to nullify opposition wins in the 17 November local elections, Radio B92 reported. It was the sixth consecutive day of mass demonstrations in the capital, which are reported to have been larger than the 1991 anti-government demonstrations. Landmarks such as the Serbian legislature, the Politika publishing house, and TV Serbia were pelted by thousands of eggs. March organizers urged participants to remain calm and to "peacefully" target only designated landmarks. Mass demonstrations are planned to continue daily both in and outside Belgrade. -- Stan Markotich in Belgrade OTHER NEWS FROM SERBIA. The opposition coalition Zajedno has appealed to the Serbian Supreme Court to overturn the authorities' decision to nullify its local election wins, Nasa Borba reported on 26 November. Meanwhile, Ilija Djukic, chair of the Democratic Party's foreign affairs committee, said he received a favorable hearing from Western officials whom he had briefed on the current situation in Serbia. He added that he would not like to be in Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic's place when Milutinovic explains to leaders from other countries currently meeting in Brussels about ongoing developments in Serbia. -- Stan Markotich in Belgrade BOSNIAN WAR CRIMES TRIAL WINDS TO A CLOSE. U.S. Deputy Prosecutor Brenda Hollis said in The Hague on 25 November that accused Bosnian Serb war criminal Dusan Tadic is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. She argued that witnesses' testimony clearly identified him as being present with "a special status" at the Omarska, Keraterm, and Trnopolje concentration camps in 1992, AFP reported. Tadic's lawyers maintain that many of the witnesses are unreliable and that, at best, charges against their client are based on mistaken identity. Meanwhile in Croatia, the authorities have placed 39 ethnic Serbs on trial for war crimes allegedly committed during the conflict in 1991 and 1992, Hina noted. Twelve are present in the court in Split, while the rest are being tried in absentia. And in Zagreb, a top-level international commission on missing persons in the wars of the Yugoslav succession met with President Franjo Tudjman. The group is headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. -- Patrick Moore ISLAMIC COUNTRIES DISCUSS AID TO BOSNIA. The group for aid mobilization to Bosnia-Herzegovina of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) convened for a two-day meeting in Sarajevo on 22 November , Oslobodjenje reported. Representatives of 12 countries and the Islamic Bank discussed economic, social, humanitarian, and military issues. Bosnian Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic said the Islamic world has provided 15% of the total amount of reconstruction aid to date. Muratovic criticized High Representative Carl Bildt for trying to postpone some reconstruction projects until the three-man presidency agrees to appoint the Council of Ministers. Muratovic also complained that Bildt was attempting to postpone a forthcoming donors' conference in Brussels. "If Bildt does not change his attitude very soon..., we'll be forced to ask for diplomatic help from our friends," he added. -- Daria Sito Sucic in Sarajevo PROBLEMS FACE TRANS-BORDER BOSNIAN TV. Representatives of four local Bosnian TV stations participating in the internationally sponsored project TV International/Open Broadcast Network (TVIN/OBN) have announced they will complain to sponsors about their status in the project, Oslobodjenje reported on 24 November. TVIN/OBN was designed as an independent television network aimed to overcome internal borders in Bosnia. But local TV stations participating in the $10 million project complain they have been excluded from the financial planning and the decision-making on programs. Local stations were granted equipment worth $1 million to improve their programs and broadcasting facilities. -- Daria Sito Sucic in Sarajevo ROMANIAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE SEES ECONOMIC REFORM AS PRIORITY. Victor Ciorbea has said he plans to focus on economic reforms in order to woo international financial institutes back into the country, Radio Bucharest and AFP reported on 25 November. He said he will meet with an IMF delegation on 30 November and try to mend fences with that organization. The IMF suspended part of a $250 million loan to Romania earlier this year, accusing the outgoing government of failing to meet a pledge to reduce the budget deficit and restructure state institutions. Ciorbea said this year's budget deficit will reach 4.5% of GDP, more than double the 2% pledge made to the IMF. He added that his government will speed up privatization by eliminating bureaucratic and legal obstacles. Meanwhile, Cronica romana reports on 26 November that the decision to change the title of premier to chairman of the Council of Ministers has been revoked because it would have required a constitutional amendment. -- Michael Shafir UKRAINE OPPOSES RUSSIAN MILITARY PRESENCE IN MOLDOVA. Radio Bucharest reported on 25 November that Ukraine has expressed opposition to a recent Russian State Duma resolution calling for a permanent status for the Russian contingent in Moldova. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Ukraine is opposed because it respects Moldova's territorial integrity, which extends to the breakaway Dniester region. -- Michael Shafir BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS CURRENCY BOARD TO BE INTRODUCED IN EARLY 1997. Zhan Videnov on 25 November said that a currency board would be introduced in the first weeks of 1997, Bulgarian media reported. He added that the parliament would have the final word on the matter. According to Videnov, there are three outstanding issues: whether the 1997 budget will be balanced, whether the banking system will maintain strict discipline, and what level of funding will be provided by international financial institutions to support the currency board's fixed exchange rate. Other issues currently being debated are whether to tie the lev to the dollar or the German mark and whether to set the current exchange rate or a further devalued one. Videnov also said that no foreigners or representatives of Bulgarian political parties or banks would sit on the board. -- Michael Wyzan BULGARIA TO REOPEN UMBRELLA MURDER CASE? President-elect Petar Stoyanov told The Times on 25 November that the murder case of Georgi Markov will be reopened, AFP reported. Stoyanov said that clearing up Markov's murder will be one of his priorities after assuming office in January 1997. He noted that "for Bulgarian society, this question has acquired symbolic importance." Markov was a prominent writer who fled Bulgaria after falling out with the communist authorities. In 1969, he settled in London, where he worked for the Bulgarian section of the BBC World Service. Later, he joined RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service in Munich. He was murdered in September 1978 in the British capital, most likely stabbed by a specially prepared poisonous umbrella. A tiny pellet containing the highly poisonous ricin was found in his leg after his death. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN TRADE UNION LEADERS FILE CHARGES AGAINST EACH OTHER. Azem Hajdari and Valer Xheka, presidents of their respective factions of the Unions of Independent Trade Unions (BSPSH), have filed charges against each other, ATSH reported on 25 November. Hajdari wants the court to recognize him as the legitimate leader of the BSPSH and to order the assets of the BSPSH frozen until a court ruling. Xheka says the Durres congress at which Hajdari was elected as president of the breakaway BSPSH violated the trade union's statutes. He wants Hajdari to be banned from using its name. He also charged Fatmir Musaku, an ally of Hajdari, with embezzling $4,168 during a visit to China in May. Meanwhile, Hajdari was re-elected president of his faction at a congress on 23 November, Dita Informacion reported. -- Fabian Schmidt
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