|The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it. - Franklin P. Jones|
No. 231, Part II, 2 December 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 BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS NEW CONSTITUTION. Alyaksandr Lukashenka signed a new constitution in a ceremony on 28 November, international agencies reported. No diplomats from European embassies accepted Lukashenka's invitation to attend the ceremony. A day earlier, NTV reported that the text of the constitution appeared in the country's largest newspapers, Sovetskaya Belorussiya and Narodnaya hazeta. According to the new basic law, it comes into effect from the day of its publication. On 28 November, police only allowed "old" parliamentary deputies into the parliament to pick up their personal belongings. The rump old legislature said its government phone lines had been cut, and the official excuse for their barring was that their rooms needed "redecoration." The same day, the new House of Representatives opened its first extraordinary session and dissolved the old legislature. Anatol Malfeyeu was elected speaker of the new lower house of the legislature, and Uladzimir Konoplyau was elected deputy speaker. On 29 November, Lukashenka signed a bill terminating the authority of the old parliament. -- Ustina Markus PORTUGUESE PRESIDENT REFUSES TO MEET WITH BELARUSIAN COUNTERPART. President Jorge Sampaio of Portugal refused to meet with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka before the opening of the OSCE summit in Lisbon, AFP reported on 1 December. The refusal was officially attributed to a lack of time in the Portuguese president's schedule; however, observers noted that the position of the president was in line with that of the European Union and most western countries, which criticized the way in which the recent referendum in Belarus was held. OSCE Chairman Flavio Cotti sought to hold a special meeting on the situation in Belarus, but was blocked by Russia. Russia, meanwhile, recognized the referendum as constitutional, noting that stability in Belarus is a critical precondition for further integration of the two countries. -- Sergei Solodovnikov UKRAINE CLOSES A REACTOR AT CHORNOBYL. Ukraine shut down reactor No. 1 at the Chornobyl nuclear power station on 30 November, international agencies reported. Despite earlier pledges to permanently close the 19- year old reactor, Ukrainian officials say it is being closed temporarily for maintenance and repair and could be restarted if the winter is harsh. According to an agreement with the G-7, the whole plant must be closed by 2000 in return for $3 billion in aid. The closure leaves only reactor No. 3 operating. Ukraine suffers from severe energy shortages and has repeatedly threatened to go back on its promise to close Chornobyl if it does not receive the international aid promised from the G-7 in October. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ON HALTING BLACK SEA FLEET DIVISION. After Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksander Kuzmuk failed to reach an agreement in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Igor Rodionov over the basing of the Black Sea Fleet, President Leonid Kuchma proposed that the division of the fleet be halted and a treaty on friendship and cooperation between Russia and Ukraine be signed, Russian Public Television and AFP reported on 30 November. Kuchma said the treaty would address a strategic partnership between Russia and Ukraine in the Black Sea zone, and it is within this framework that the basing issue can be resolved. He said without the treaty the two sides were operating in an atmosphere of suspicion in which it was impossible to resolve problems. Other issues were settled more successfully during the Moscow talks. Ekho Moskvy reported that Russia agreed to compensate Ukraine for 25 strategic bombers (ten TU-160s and 15 TU-95MSs) to the tune of $320-350 million. The sum will be deducted from Ukraine's energy debt to Russia. The defense ministers also signed an agreement on cooperation between their ministries. -- Ustina Markus MINORITY ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT FORMED. President Lennart Meri on 1 December approved the new government formed by Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, ETA reported. Vahi named replacements for the six ministers who resigned when the Reform Party left the ruling coalition. He decided not to form a coalition with the Center Party and the government will be supported by only 41 members of the 101-member parliament. The Estonian ambassador to the U.S., Toomas Ilves, was appointed Foreign Minister on 28 November. The other five new appointments are: Interior Minister Riivo Sinijarv, Social Minister Tiiu Aro, Education Minister Rein Loik, Economy Minister Jaak Leimann, and Transport and Communications Minister Raivo Vare. -- Saulius Girnius NEW LITHUANIAN PRIME MINISTER APPROVED. The Seimas on 28 November voted 95-5 with 20 abstentions to approve the nomination of Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) [TS(LK)] board Chairman Gediminas Vagnorius as prime minister, Radio Lithuania reported. The next day President Algirdas Brazauskas charged Vagnorius with forming a new cabinet and to present his program to the Seimas within 15 days. Vagnorius proposed a cabinet that would have 11 ministers from the TS(LK), three from its coalition partner, the Christian Democratic Party, and the vice president of the Confederation of Industrialists, Vincas Bobilius. Vagnorius also offered two minister posts to the Center Union, whose council on 1 December decided not to object the offers. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION DECIDES ON DRAFT LUSTRATION LAW. A Sejm commission has decided that all state officials, from deputy governor to the president, parliamentary deputies, judges, prosecutors, and candidates for those posts will be screened to determine if they cooperated with the communist-era secret service, Polish media reported on 30 November. The persons under lustration will be asked to declare in writing whether they were a secret service functionary or collaborated with one before 1990. The commission members of the opposition parties outvoted the PSL's coalition partner Democratic Left Alliance's proposal that lustration be conducted ex officio on the basis of information by the defense minister or internal affairs minister on whether their archives contain documents proving someone's collaboration with the secret service. The declarations will be made public. According to the opposition draft, the declarations will be verified by a special commission of judges. -- Beata Pasek ROW OVER CZECH SENATE CHAIRMAN. Czech coalition parties were unable on 29 November to agree on whom to nominate as chairman of the recently elected upper chamber of the Czech Parliament, Czech media reported. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS) nominated Irena Ondrova, who is deputy mayor of the town of Zlin. The Christian Democratic Union nominated former Czech Prime Minister Petr Pithart. The ODS, however, said it is opposed to Pithart, arguing he had failed in his post as prime minister. President Vaclav Havel on 1 December expressed support for Pithart, describing him as "a thoughtful, understanding, and educated person." Defending Pithart's credentials, Havel noted that Pithart was the prime minister in very difficult times. The opposition Social Democrats and the Communists said they would support Pithart's candidacy. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR REFERENDUM ON INTEGRATION. Vladimir Meciar on 28 November said Slovakia's entrance into NATO and the EU should be decided by a referendum, Slovak media reported. Slovakia does not want to join European structures as a beggar but as a equal partner, he stressed. There is a stream of Slovak intellectuals who prefer Slovakia's neutrality or later integration into NATO, Meciar said, adding that a referendum on NATO membership would ideally be held in May 1997. In other news, the republican council of the ruling Movement for Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) issued a statement on 30 November warning of radicalization on the political scene. "The situation was caused by some opposition parties, who by their unprofessional and unreasonable attacks raise uncertainty and chaos in society and in the parliament," the party claimed. HZDS Deputy Chairman Sergej Kozlik stressed his party's will to cooperate with other political parties but said that the happiness and prosperity of the Slovak nation must be in the parties' common interest. -- Anna Siskova HUNGARIAN POLITICAL UPDATE. Prime Minister Gyula Horn on 27 November announced that Agriculture Minister Laszlo Lakos will be replaced on 15 December, Reuters reported. "A leadership change at the ministry has become necessary in light of the need for a national agricultural program that would meet European Union requirements," a statement said. Lakos is the 11th minister to depart from Horn's coalition government since its formation in May 1994. Horn on 28 November nominated Frigyes Nagy to succeed Lakos. Nagy, a 57 year-old agriculture engineer, is a parliamentary deputy representing Horn's Socialist Party and vice president of the European Integration Committee. In other news, Horn on 29 November fired four top police officials as a result of the gang- related violence that has swept through Budapest. -- Sharon Fisher SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN POLICE VOW CRACK DOWN . . . Belgrade police authorities issued a statement on 1 December promising to "hold responsible" organizers of ongoing mass public demonstrations, triggered after the regime nullified victories by the opposition Zajedno movement during 17 November runoff municipal elections. The police say they have been more than tolerant in the face of unlawful behavior, and are now prepared to crack down on what they claim are "serious breaches of the law," Tanjug reported. For their part, Zajedno leaders have gone on record saying that police have already harassed and arrested protest organizers. The Serbian regime continues to manipulate press coverage of the protests, and independent media are coming under pressure to conform with the government line, with the most recent target of regime interference being the recently founded daily Blic. Independent Radio B 92, for its part, has had its frequencies jammed. -- Stan Markotich . . . WHILE OPPOSITION VOWS TO FORGE AHEAD WITH PROTESTS. Zajedno opposition leaders say they will continue with peaceful, Serbia-wide mass demonstrations against Serbian authorities and have promised to peacefully take over local institutions on 2 December in the urban areas where Zajedno originally won elections. The only thing that can prevent a full-scale boycott of the republican and local legislatures, say Zajedno leaders, is a ruling by the Serbian parliament nullifying third round results that overturned the 17 November results. Parliament is slated to meet 3 December. In related news, the BBC on 30 November reported that police authorities physically abused two student protesters during an "interrogation" session. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has been roundly criticized by the international community for his tampering with the results of the local elections. -- Stan Markotich BOSNIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS TO GO AHEAD. The OSCE's chief election monitor for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ambassador Robert Frowick, announced on 1 December that the Bosnian Serbs have agreed to accept the OSCE's monitoring of the local elections slated for 1997, VOA reported. This removes the last major obstacle to the OSCE's organizing of the vote, which the Muslims and Croats have already accepted. An adviser to President Alija Izetbegovic said, however, that continued Muslim support will depend on the exact nature of the new election rules, AFP noted. The Muslim leaders fear that the Serbs will again try to abuse a controversial clause in the previous election rules that enables people to cast their votes for areas in which they claim they will eventually live. The new regulations contain this option, but will require the voter to prove a "connection" to the place, such as a home, business, or blood relative. -- Patrick Moore FIRST SENTENCE HANDED DOWN BY HAGUE COURT. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia announced on 29 November that it has sentenced Drazen Erdemovic to ten years in prison, the BBC and Oslobodjenje reported. Erdemovic is an ethnic Croat whose underworld activities eventually led him to the Bosnian Serb side and participation in a massacre of 1,200 Muslims after the fall of Srebrenica in 1995. The court said it was lenient because Erdemovic, who had turned himself in, showed remorse and had been cooperative. His testimony revealed a massacre that had not been reported before and that is now under investigation. It is the first sentence for war crimes since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials at the end of World War II. -- Patrick Moore IS THE BOSNIAN SERB POWER STRUGGLE OVER? The civilian leadership of the Republika Srpska has achieved two of its main goals in its confrontation with the military establishment based at Han Pijesak. On 28 November, the cashiered commander and indicted war criminal Gen. Ratko Mladic agreed to step down. On 1 December, his deputy, Gen. Milan Gvero, did likewise, AFP reported. Neither man went quietly, however. Mladic warned the government that it must do something about the poor morale and state of preparedness in the army, claiming that his intelligence reports show that "the Muslims" will renew fighting later in 1997. Gvero lambasted the civilians, arguing that they "believe that the services of the officers and generals who fought the war are useless and harmful." -- Patrick Moore PARLIAMENT ADOPTS CONTROVERSIAL BUDGET. The Croatian parliament (Sabor) on 29 November adopted a controversial 1997 budget, international and local media reported. The budget, which totals 35.42 billion kunas ($6.4 billion), allots increases of up to 50% to government offices, while education, science and the judiciary get up to 10% more. The majority of deputies from the ruling Croatian Democratic Community outvoted the opposition in passing the budget. Vlado Gotovac of the opposition Social-liberals criticized the government for spending too much at a time when a tight budget is needed. In other news, the head of Croatia's supreme court, Krunoslav Olujic, who was sacked amid allegations of pedophilia (see the OMRI Daily Digest, 27 November 1996), said his dismissal was "purely political" and "a public lynching," Novi List reported on 30 November. -- Daria Sito Sucic UNPREDEP MANDATE EXTENDED IN MACEDONIA. The UN Security Council on 27 November approved a six-month extension of the UN Preventive Deployment Force in Macedonia, Reuters reported. The mandate was extended until 31 May, but UNPREDEP's strength will be reduced from a current 1,100 to 800 troops and monitors by 30 April. Russia abstained from the vote, saying the current extension should be the last one. In other news, the second round of local elections took place on 1 December. Macedonian media put the turnout at around 60%. First official results are not expected until late on 2 December. -- Stefan Krause NEW ROMANIAN PRESIDENT TAKES OATH. Emil Constantinescu was sworn in as Romania's new president on 29 November, Romanian media reported. The same day he held talks with leaders of all political formations represented in parliament: the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, the Social Democratic Union (USD), the Greater Romania Party, and the Party of Romanian National Unity. Afterwards, Constantinescu officially designated Victor Ciorbea, the CDR mayor of Bucharest, to form the new government. Constantinescu stressed that he wanted a "solid government . . . one for four years and not just for several months, as some people would like." Two days earlier, USD leader Petre Roman, who was Romania's premier from 1990 to 1991, and Ion Diaconescu, chairman of the National Peasant Party -- Christian Democratic, were elected chairmen of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, respectively. -- Dan Ionescu PRO-RUSSIAN ELECTED MOLDOVA'S PRESIDENT. Parliament Speaker Petru Lucinschi was elected Moldova's president in a runoff on 1 December, Moldovan and Western agencies reported. According to preliminary data, Lucinschi's led with 53.14% of the vote, over incumbent President Mircea Snegur with 46.86%. Lucinschi, 56, who was the highest ranking ethnic Moldovan in the hierarchy of the defunct Communist Party of the Soviet Union (he was Central Committee secretary), was backed by leftist forces, including the ruling Agrarian Democratic Party, the socialists, the Communists' Party of Moldova and the Edinstvo-Unitate movement. He is generally seen as pro-Russian; during the electoral campaign, he repeatedly advocated closer ties with the Commonwealth of Independent States and Russia. In a first statement, Lucinschi said that his "victory [was] one for the people ... who want a change for the better." -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN PRESIDENT QUESTIONS CONSENSUS ON CURRENCY BOARD. Zhelyu Zhelev expressed serious concerns in a 27 November letter to IMF Managing Director Michael Camdessus about whether a political consensus for the introduction of a currency board in Bulgaria can be reached, international and national media reported. He said opposition support for the board may help the current Socialist government but noted that a board would be discredited if supported only by the Socialists in parliament. The cabinet issued a statement labeling Zhelev's letter as misleading and causing great damage to Bulgaria's relationship with international institutions. Meanwhile, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Regional Director Olivier Descamps said on 29 November that the bank will no longer participate in state-sponsored projects in Bulgaria because of questionable support by the IMF and the World Bank and the slow development of the reform program. However, loans would still be made to support private-sector projects. -- Maria Koinova HEAVY PRISON TERMS FOR EIGHT ALBANIAN COMMUNIST-ERA OFFICIALS. A Tirana court headed by Judge Andi Celiku on 27 November sentenced eight Communist Party officials to long prison terms. They were found guilty of the "large-scale deportation of people, violations of the Albanian constitution and of international conventions," AFP reported. Shkoder party Secretary Enver Halili and former secret police officer Mehdi Bushati were tried in absentia and were both sentenced to 22 years in prison. Others sentenced include local party chairmen and secret police officers Raqi Iftica (17 years), Marash Kola (16 years), and Hysen Shehu (4 years). Others tried in absentia included Qemal Bregasi (18 years), Lahedin Bardhi (18 years), and Jorgaq Mihali (16 years). -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Pete Baumgartner ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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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