|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
No. 232, Part II, 3 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 UKRAINIAN JUSTICE MINISTER, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL DENOUNCE EXECUTIONS. Justice Minister Serhii Holovaty revealed that Ukraine has violated its pledge to the Council of Europe (CE) to uphold a moratorium on the death penalty, Ukrainian agencies reported on 29 November. He said more than 100 people on death row had been executed so far this year with 89 executions taking place in the first six months, in "shameful" violation of its promise to suspend executions as a condition for CE membership. The CE and Amnesty International condemned the news, with the latter claiming only China had carried out more executions this year, RFE/RL and AFP reported on 3 December. A 1993 Ukrainian law makes information on capital punishment a state secret. -- Chrystyna Lapychak UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DENIES CHANGING POSITION ON BLACK SEA FLEET. Ukrainian Security Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin said some Russian media misinterpreted President Kuchma's 30 November interview to Russian Public Television, ITAR-TASS and Ukrainian Radio reported on 2 December (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 December 1996). Horbulin said Kuchma did not propose to stop dividing the fleet and return it to joint control. The Ukrainian president believes the main task now is to sign a comprehensive treaty on friendship and cooperation with Russia and then return to the Black Sea fleet issue, according to Horbulin. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev SECOND CHORNOBYL REACTOR CLEARED FOR RESTART. Ukraine's State Committee for the Use of Nuclear Power has agreed to allow the restarting of reactor No. 2 at the Chornobyl nuclear plant, UNIAN reported on 2 December. The reactor, shut down following a fire in 1991, will be switched on between October and December 1997. Reactor No. 1 was closed on 30 November this year, leaving only reactor No. 3 in operation. A committee spokesman said the decision was prompted by the severe economic situation and does not contradict the agreement between Ukraine and the G-7 under which Chornobyl must be closed by 2000. Ukraine's State Committee for Nuclear and Radiation safety had already given its approval for the restart. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT FACES CRITICISM IN LISBON. Alyaksandr Lukashenka was subjected to harsh criticism at the opening of the OSCE summit in Lisbon, RFE/RL reported on 2 December. The more than 50-nation summit said the 24 November referendum was neither free nor fair. In response, Lukashenka defended the way the referendum was handled, arguing that it was held in full compliance with the constitution and legislation of the country. He denied that there is any political crisis or division in Belarus society, and warned other countries against interference in the internal affairs of his country. Lukashenka also condemned NATO plans to expand east, saying that it would cause a new split in Europe with the dividing line along the western border of Belarus. Meanwhile, the Vienna-based Helsinki Federation for Human Rights sent a letter to OSCE Chairman Flavio Cotti urging the OSCE to suspend Belarus of its membership in the organization. -- Sergei Solodovnikov NEW ESTONIAN EUROMINISTER NOMINATED. Prime Minister Tiit Vahi on 2 December proposed Andra Veidemann, the chairwoman of the Progress Party, for the post of Eurominister, which had become vacant when Riivo Sinijarv became interior minister, ETA reported. President Lennart Meri is expected to approve the nomination when he returns from the OSCE summit in Lisbon. Vahi noted that her inclusion as a minister would not result in the expansion of the government coalition that consists of the Coalition Party and three rural parties. -- Saulius Girnius FINNISH PRIME MINISTER VISITS LATVIA. Paavo Lipponen met with his Latvian counterpart Andris Skele during his one-day visit to Riga on 2 December, BNS reported. Lipponen expressed support for Latvia's efforts to join the EU but noted that the common European security system should also include Russia. Skele repeated that Latvia saw NATO membership as the only real guarantee for its security and would favor NATO and Russia signing an agreement as long as its contents were made public. -- Saulius Girnius WALESA AT CENTER OF PROBE. Warsaw prosecutors are probing security service allegations that former President Lech Walesa illegally kept secret documents he should have returned at the end of his term, Ryszard Kucinski, spokesman of the Warsaw prosecutors' office, said on 2 December. He said the investigation was launched on 28 November. Rzeczpospolita wrote on 3 December that Walesa received "Bolek" files from the State Security Bureau but did not return all of the files. "Bolek" was a code name the communist secret services used for Walesa. Among the missing documents is an alleged written statement from Walesa in which he states that he will not speak about the conversations he had with communist secret police officers and receipts for money he allegedly received from them. Copies of those documents were reprinted by the Polish press abroad three years ago. Walesa denied the allegations, saying they were cooked up by the ruling ex-communists to discredit him before next year's parliamentary elections. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH PRESIDENT OPERATED ON FOR LUNG CANCER. Vaclav Havel underwent surgery on 2 December, during which half of his right lung was removed, Czech media reported. Havel's physician said this step was necessary after doctors found a cancerous tumor in Havel's lung. According to experts, chances that the cancer will not spread are good. The president is to stay in the hospital for one week and will need another six weeks to fully recover. -- Jiri Pehe MECIAR CAUSES STIR OVER NATO REFERENDUM PLANS. Opposition Democratic Union Chairman Jozef Moravcik on 2 December called on Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar to resign since his government is unable to fulfill its declared goal of joining NATO and the EU, Slovak media reported. According to Moravcik--a former prime minister--Meciar has started to lead "a clearly organized campaign against NATO." Also on 2 December, Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Jan Carnogursky said Meciar is using the same trick with NATO as he used three years ago when he promised a referendum on the split of Czechoslovakia, offering five alternatives for relations with the Czechs. "Meciar is now offering ... four possible variants on how the links between Slovakia and European structures should look," Carnogursky said. -- Anna Siskova SLOVAK ROUNDUP. A bomb exploded shortly after midnight on 28 November in the courtyard of the home of Jan Smerek, president of the east Slovak ironworks VSZ, Slovak media reported. Smerek's firm has close ties to the government. In other news, a Bratislava court ruled on 27 November that Slovak TV (STV) must broadcast a correction to a story it ran about President Michal Kovac's son and pay him 500,000 crowns ($16,129) plus court costs. The station aired reports on 2 September 1995 alleging that Kovac Jr. owned casinos and gambling machines. This is the second suit STV has lost in a month. Also on 27 November, opposition Democratic Union Chairman Jozef Moravcik attacked the cabinet's new version of the penal code amendment on the protection of the republic, Reuters reported. Moravcik said the government made only cosmetic changes from the previous draft, which was vetoed by the president after gaining parliamentary approval in March. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO, RUSSIA. Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs asserted that differences between Russia and the West regarding NATO expansion are no longer irreconcilable, Hungarian media reported on 3 December. Kovacs was attending the OSCE summit in Lisbon. He observed that while Moscow had strongly opposed the expansion of the alliance at the OSCE's 1994 Budapest summit, this year Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin devoted only a little time to the issue in his summit speech, and adopted a tone that was in no way threatening. Meanwhile, Hungary's Ambassador to NATO, Andras Simonyi, noted that it is hard to get accustomed to the fact that Russian officials contradict each other on the issue. He was referring to Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov's recent speech which envisaged the targeting of nuclear missiles on Eastern Europe if NATO expansion takes place. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BELGRADE DEMONSTRATIONS SHOW NO SIGN OF WANING . . . Serbia-wide mass protests against Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic are now entering a third week, showing no signs of waning. Demands center on the authorities' recognizing the outcome of 17 November run-off municipal elections in which the opposition Zajedno coalition won majorities in Serbia's 12 largest urban areas. Vuk Draskovic, a key opposition leader, has said the protests will dry up when the regime recognizes the results of those elections, CNN reported on 2 December. The Milosevic regime has nullified most of those returns, claiming victory in a third round. But signs are emerging that suggest the protesters are having a significant impact. Police presence, notably that of riot forces, has been stepped up, especially in Belgrade. Moreover, the regime has intensified its state-media campaign against the demonstrators. On 2 December Vecernje novosti dubbed Zajedno a "terrorist" organization bent on "seizing power violently." -- Stan Markotich . . . WHILE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY URGES REGIME TO EXERCISE RESTRAINT. A growing wave of international condemnation is mounting against the Belgrade authorities, and primarily Milosevic. Many Western leaders are on record deploring the cancellation of the 17 November election results and are urging the government to refrain from reacting violently to the peaceful protests. For his part, U.S. State Department Spokesman Nicholas Burns has said "the results of the municipal elections ought to be respected. Some way must be found by the government to walk back from its decision to stifle those elections," Reuters reported on 3 December. Washington officials have also said an "outer wall of sanctions" will be maintained against Belgrade, as well as efforts at blocking the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's integration into institutions in the international financial community, partly because of the nullification of those elections. -- Stan Markotich MONTENEGRIN REACTIONS. While hard-line members of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia are reportedly urging the president to deal forcefully with the demonstrators, at least some Montenegrin leaders are on record advocating restraint. Montena-fax on 2 December quoted Svetozar Marovic, speaker of the Montenegrin republican legislature and member of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, delivering an oblique criticism of those authorities in Serbia inclined to deal with the demonstrators with force. "No one has the right to change the foundation of democracy, the will of the people, irrespective of whether it's done by the authorities or the opposition," he said. "It is critical in the most difficult of situations that those who take care of the people and the state keep a cool and rational head," he added. -- Stan Markotich SERBS LEAVE BRCKO TALKS. The Bosnian Serbs have pulled out of arbitration talks regarding Brcko and said they will not recognize the outcome of those talks. The northern Bosnian town and its surrounding "corridor" are the land link between the eastern and western halves of the Republika Srpska, and hence of vital importance to that "entity." The area had a Muslim and Croat majority before the war, however, and the Sarajevo government refuses to accept the results of "ethnic cleansing." It was the only territorial question that was not at least formally settled by the Dayton agreement and was left to be decided by international arbitration by 14 December. The ball now seems to be in the court of the international mediator, Roberts Owen, whom the Serbs charge made decisions without consulting them or the Muslims. The State Department said on 2 December, however, that the talks will go ahead with or without the Serbs, Reuters noted. -- Patrick Moore PLAVSIC PRAISES BRITAIN ON EVE OF LONDON CONFERENCE. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic commended the British government for treating the two Bosnian entities on an equal basis in preparations for the talks slated to open on 4 December, AFP reported on 2 December. Trouble seems likely at that Dayton review conference, however, because the Serbs have announced that Aleksa Buha will participate in his capacity as foreign minister, Oslobodjenje wrote on 3 December. According to the rules set down by the international mediators, only the joint foreign minister for the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina may attend with that title. In any event, Plavsic said that in London she will raise the issue of Muslim refugees returning to their homes in Serb-held border areas because she claims they are soldiers is disguise. It is not clear whether Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, who is believed to be suffering from cancer, or Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who is under political siege at home, will attend. -- Patrick Moore CROATIAN POLICE QUESTION EDITOR ON TUDJMAN ARTICLE. Croatian police questioned Vesna Jankovic, the editor of the independent bi-weekly Arkzin, about an article giving foreign analysts' reports on assets acquired by Croatian President Franjo Tudjman's family, Reuters reported on 29 November. Jankovic said she believed the questioning was linked to an earlier Tudjman announcement that he would clamp down "on false prophets ... who preach human rights and media freedom." A public prosecutor launched the investigation under a libel law protecting the country's top five officials, the same one under which the editor and a journalist from the weekly Feral Tribune were tried and eventually acquitted. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROATIAN RAIL WORKERS VOW TO CONTINUE STRIKE. Some 11,000 workers of the Croatian state railways (HZ) vowed on 2 December to continue a general strike that began on 28 November, Slobodna Dalmacija reported. The strike halted nearly 80% of services. Workers are demanding higher wages and better working conditions. International services and some cargo trains continued to operate. Strikers insist that a collective accord on substantial pay raises be concluded, and that arrears be paid. The minimum salary for a railway employee is about 1,890 kunas ($380). The Croatian government says the demands have no basis. But Zlatko Pavletic, the railway union leader, said HZ has internal reserves to increase workers' wages. The HZ said it was suffering daily losses of some 1.6 million kunas ($300,000) because of the strike. -- Daria Sito Sucic MACEDONIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS WIN MOST MAYORALTIES IN LOCAL POLL. The governing Social Democratic Alliance (SDSM) was the overall winner in 17 November's municipal elections, AFP reported on 3 December. First unofficial results after 1 December's second run-off give the SDSM 500 of the 1,903 council seats at stake, compared with 321 for the right- wing opposition coalition made up of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, the Movement for All-Macedonian Action/Conservative Party, and the Democratic Party (DP). The Socialist Party gained 140 seats and the Liberal Party 110. The ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity and the Party of Democratic Prosperity of the Albanians gained 156 and 107 seats respectively. Of the 123 mayors' posts, voted on separately, the SDSM took 52, compared with 27 for the right-wing coalition. Risto Popov of the DP was elected mayor of Skopje. -- Fabian Schmidt ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT IN THE OFFING. One month after general elections, negotiations over the new Romanian government have reached a final phase, Romanian media reported on 3 December. Designated Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea is to announce the cabinet later this week, while Parliament is expected to start hearings on the new ministers today. The three parties that will make up the government also convened to discuss the governing program, which is to be perfected by a group of apolitical experts. In other news, President Emil Constantinescu, at the OSCE summit in Lisbon, is due today to meet Hungarian Premier Gyula Horn. -- Zsolt Mato MOLDOVA'S NEW PRESIDENT PLEDGES PEACE, PROSPERITY. President-elect Petru Lucinschi on 2 December told journalists that his four-year term would bring stability and prosperity to Moldova. Lucinschi made the statement at the first press conference after his victory in the 1 December presidential runoff. Final results show him beating incumbent Mircea Snegur by an 8% margin. Lucinschi, who is generally seen as pro-Russian, was quoted as saying that "I have good personal contacts with the Russian leadership and intend to use them for the good of our country." Lucinschi will officially take office on 15 January. Meanwhile, the cabinet headed by Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli tendered its resignation "in order not to hamper president-elect Lucinschi to form a new cabinet." Parliament is expected to accept the resignation today. Lucinschi suggested that he would favor a cabinet of "national trust," made up of technocrats -- Dan Ionescu FLOODS IN BULGARIA FORCE EVACUATIONS. Torrential rains caused floods in southern Bulgaria that have led to three deaths since 1 December and roads, rail links and power have all been cut off in the Rhodopi mountains region, international and national media reported on 2 December. The Civil Defense Service declared a state of emergency in Zlatograd and Devin, where two thirds of all houses were flooded. Emergency crews are working to repair the damage in Devin, Kardzhali and other towns. -- Maria Koinova BULGARIAN POLITICAL ROUNDUP. The mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS) held its third National Conference in Kardzhali on 1 December, RFE/RL reported. DPS Chairman Ahmed Dogan said early parliamentary elections must be provoked by all legal means "no later than April or May." Dogan was reelected DPS chair for three years. Meanwhile, the Liberal-Democratic Alternative was formed on 30 November with outgoing President Zhelyu Zhelev's backing and in his presence. The new party seeks to replace the present parliamentary republic with a presidential republic. The delegates decided to press for early elections for an assembly which will alter the existing constitution. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIA SUSPENDED FROM FIFA. Following Albania's suspension from the international soccer governing body FIFA on 27 November, the Albanian government on 2 December annulled the previous suspension of Albanian Football Association General Secretary Eduard Dervishi and reinstated its executive committee, Reuters reported. The suspension had put a 14 December World Cup qualifying match against Northern Ireland in jeopardy. Albanian Sports Secretary Marjeta Pronjari had suspended Dervishi for consistently postponing executive committee elections. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Pete Baumgartner ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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