|The only thing one knows about human nature is that it changes. - Oscar Wilde|
No. 233, Part II, 4 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 CONSTITUTIONAL COURT JUSTICES RESIGN. Three justices from the Constitutional Court have resigned to protest President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's new constitution, international agencies reported on 3 December. One of the justices, Mikhail Pastukhau, said the existence of a Constitutional Court was meaningless under the new basic law, which allows the president to appoint the majority of the court's members, including the chief justice. Under the old constitution, Lukashenka repeatedly ignored the court's rulings, including its decision that the 24 November referendum be non-binding. AFP reported there may be some complications with the resignations since they must be approved by the parliament. The three justices, however, sent them to Syamyon Sharetsky, speaker of the old parliament, which no longer exists. Pastukhau said a two-thirds majority (133 votes) was needed to dissolve the old legislature. He added that since the new lower house passed the law with a simple majority of 103 votes, the legislation has no legal force. -- Ustina Markus UPDATE ON BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT AT OSCE SUMMIT. Alyaksandr Lukashenka has had to withstand further criticism from member countries attending the OSCE summit in Lisbon, AFP reported on 3 December. OSCE Chairman Flavio Cotti told Lukashenka that the 24 November referendum was illegal and should be declared null and void. The OSCE leadership urged the Belarusian government to show restraint toward and start up a dialogue with the opposition. It also pressed for freedom of the media in Belarus as well as full respect for internationally accepted democratic and constitutional principles and practices. Meanwhile, RFE/RL reported on 3 December that the constitutional crisis in Belarus is not mentioned in the summit's final declaration, since Belarus, Russia, and some other countries imposed a veto. -- Sergei Solodovnikov CHORNOBYL VICTIMS, AFGHAN VETERANS PICKET UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT. Several dozen Chornobyl victims, Afghan war veterans, and Ukrainian pensioners picketed the parliament to protest proposed cuts in benefits next year, Ukrainian and Western agencies reported on 3 December. The Chornobyl Union and the Veterans of Afghanistan organization have appealed to President Leonid Kuchma and Speaker Oleksander Moroz to prevent lawmakers from approving large social spending cuts in the draft 1997 budget. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko insisted the cuts were necessary because they would provide the government with 2.9 billion hryvnyas ($1.5 billion) to pay off all wage and pension arrears early next year. The planned cuts would eliminate subsidies on public transport for working people and benefits for several categories of Chornobyl victims. The draft budget would also raise the retirement age in Ukraine and place limits on pensions for working retirees. -- Chrystyna Lapychak LATVIA SEEKS SOLUTION TO SEA BORDER DISPUTE WITH LITHUANIA. Foreign Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstins, head of the Latvian delegation on border talks with Lithuania, held informal talks in Vilnius on 3 December with Seimas Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis and future Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas, BNS reported. It is unclear why Riekstins made the trip since his Lithuanian counterpart, Rimantas Sidlauskas, was busy hosting a Russian border talk delegation. Latvian Prime Minister Andris Skele has said Latvia should have control over possible oil deposits in a disputed area since foreign companies would not begin exploration work until the Lithuanian-Russian sea border had been determined. Previously, he offered to share oil revenues evenly if Lithuania gave up its claim to the area. Lithuania maintains that the border must be determined before dividing revenues can be discussed. -- Saulius Girnius CZECH, GERMAN LEADERS DISCUSS JOINT DECLARATION. Czech Premier Vaclav Klaus and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, meeting during the OSCE summit in Lisbon on 3 December, discussed the bilateral declaration soon to be adopted by their two countries, Czech media reported. The document is to address past mutual grievances, such as the expulsion of some 3 million Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II. Negotiations have been continuing for the past two years. "We are both convinced that the negotiations can be completed by the end of the year," Kohl told a news conference. Klaus noted that "talks are practically finished," adding that the declaration is to be initialed by the countries' foreign ministers before being ratified by the parliaments and then signed by himself and Kohl. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK CABINET APPROVES MODIFIED PENAL CODE AMENDMENT. The government on 3 December approved a modified version of the amendment on the protection of the republic, TASR reported. Previous versions of the legislation, which is aimed at preventing economic crime and protecting Slovakia's territorial integrity, have attracted strong criticism from domestic and international observers. The parliament plans to discuss the legislation at its session beginning today. The cabinet also approved a controversial bill on the nationalist cultural organization Matica slovenska. Meanwhile, representatives of all opposition parties-- excluding the Party of the Democratic Left--met on 3 December to discuss a common strategy for the parliament session. -- Sharon Fisher STATE SECRETARY OF SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTRY REJECTS ATTEMPTS TO "DISCREDIT" HIM. Jozef Sestak on 3 December denied the validity of a letter broadcast the previous day by RFE/RL's Slovak Service and expressed his full support for Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and the government, CTK reported. The "strictly confidential" letter was addressed to opposition representatives in February 1994, shortly before the fall of Meciar's government at the time. "It is clear to all of you that it is impossible to cooperate with a government headed by Meciar," Sestak had written in the letter. He added that each day Meciar remains in office means that "not only the internal political, economic, social, and moral situation of the country gets worse but also the position of our young republic internationally." Sestak also proposed that opposition leaders establish "a coalition of democratic forces." Democratic Union deputy Milan Knazko told CTK that the letter is authentic. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER ON POLICE DISMISSALS. Gabor Kuncze, commenting on his decision last week to dismiss the four top police officials for their failure to halt gang-land bombings and shootings in the capital, said he has tried many times to restructure the police force in order to break the National Police Headquarters' centralization of power, Hungarian dailies reported on 3 December. He also commented that the firings were necessary because inefficient management practices and differences among top police officials have undermined the authority of law-enforcement executives. Some opposition figures have demanded Kuncze's dismissal as well, pointing to the spread of corruption in the police force, the failure to tackle organized crime, and the increase in crime in general. Several ministers have recently been replaced for failing to resolve the crises in their sectors. Premier Gyula Horn's camouflaged cabinet reshuffle is believed to be aimed at improving the chances of the government parties in the 1998 elections. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BELGRADE CLAMPS DOWN ON INDEPENDENT RADIO STATION. In another effort to muzzle the independent media and thwart the ongoing peaceful protests in Serbia, the Belgrade authorities have taken Radio B 92 off the air. The radio station has been giving extensive coverage to the protests. B 92 Editor Veran Matic told reporters that the station received a letter from the federal Ministry of Transport and Communications saying that B- 92 does not have the necessary authorization to broadcast. The student- run Radio Index has also been taken off the air. VOA reported today that B 92 is continuing to broadcast on VOA's Serbian-language frequencies. -- Stan Markotich MASS PROTESTS CONTINUE IN SERBIA. For the 15th consecutive day, mass demonstrations took place throughout Serbia to protest the authorities' decision to nullify the results of last month's run-off municipal elections, Nasa Borba reported on 4 December. An estimated 100,000 people again gathered in Belgrade. Demonstration organizers have vowed to continue with the protest action until all second-round municipal election returns are "honored." Meanwhile, Belgrade's electoral commission has questioned the legality of the nullification of the election results, which showed the opposition Zajedno coalition winning in the 12 largest municipalities. AFP on 3 December reported that the commission has sent a letter to authorities outlining its position. CNN on 4 December reported that the regime is stepping up the police presence at demonstrations. -- Stan Markotich WASHINGTON WARNS SERBIA. U.S. press spokesman Michael McCurry said on 3 December that Washington could retaliate against Belgrade in the wake of the clampdown on two independent radio stations. He noted that the U.S. still maintains its own "outer wall" of sanctions against federal Yugoslavia and could block that country's return to international organizations, AFP reported. Washington is also working to prevent EU countries from extending trade benefits to Belgrade at a meeting slated for 6 December, the BBC reported on 4 December. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said that "the Serbian government has painted itself into a corner," the VOA noted. Numerous international journalists' organizations and other NGOs have joined in the protest. Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia rejected the complaints, arguing that "elections in a country are above all a domestic matter," AFP reported. -- Patrick Moore CALL FOR JUSTICE ON BOSNIAN WAR CRIMES. The International Crisis Group-- an NGO consisting of prominent people and headed by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell--has called for tough measures against war criminals. Noting that the big fish are still on the loose, it wants IFOR to receive a mandate to arrest indicted individuals, the VOA reported on 3 December. The ICG urges donors to withhold aid from any country or locality that harbors war criminals and to give the money instead to the underfunded Hague-based war crimes tribunal instead. -- Patrick Moore EXPULSIONS CONTINUE IN BOSNIA. The UN reported that over 30 Muslims have been driven from their homes in the Bosanska Gradiska area of northern Bosnia over the past ten weeks, Oslobodjenje noted on 4 December. Their property is being taken by Serbs whose former homes in Donji Vakuf are now under federal control. A report by Human Rights Watch says that Serbian paramilitaries were involved in the expulsions and that the local authorities did nothing to stop them. Meanwhile, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights noted in its latest newsletter that the campaign to force Serbs to leave Ilidza is continuing. One man noted that "after every quarrel or beating, four or five Serb houses are sold cheap." -- Patrick Moore CROATIAN PRESIDENT IN EASTERN SLAVONIA. For the first time since 1991, Franjo Tudjman has visited the last Serb-held territory in Croatia, international and local media reported on 3 December. Speaking in the region's main town of Vukovar, the Croatian symbol of war-time suffering, Tudjman said his visit as president of Croatia is a sign that peaceful reintegration is on the right track, Vecernji List reported. He added that his visit is a signal for Croatian refugees that they should return to their homes and for local Serbs that they should opt for the Croatian state. Tudjman met with UN administrator for eastern Slavonia Jacques Klein and with a group of local Serbian officials. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROATIAN RAIL WORKERS HALT ALL TRAINS. The railroad union has shut down the country's railroad network, accusing the state railroads management of blacklisting and firing workers who took part in a general strike six days ago (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 December 1996), Novi List reported on 4 December. Union President Zlatko Pavletic said only army trains will continue to run if needed. He added that all other traffic will be suspended until the rail worker who was sacked on 2 December for continuing to strike is reinstated. The railroads management has denied threatening or sacking workers who refused to sign written statements criticizing the strike. Meanwhile, Hungarian Television (MTV) said some 600 freight cars have been held up on the Croatian-Hungarian border owing to the strike, Reuters reported on 3 December. MTV added that rail traffic between the two countries has virtually ground to a halt. -- Daria Sito Sucic LOCAL ELECTION RESULTS IN MACEDONIA. Preliminary results show that 114 of the country's 123 mayors have so far been elected following last week's local ballot, MILS reported on 3 December. The governing Social Democratic Alliance won 52 mayoralties, the right-wing opposition coalition 28, and the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity 12, plus one in coalition with the Democratic People's Party (PDP). The Party of Democratic Prosperity of the Albanians won only four mayoral mandates plus three in coalition with the PDP. The Socialists won three, the Turkish Democratic Party two, and the Serbian Democratic Party and the Party for Full Emancipation of the Roma one each. Returns have still to come in from Valandovo, Ohrid, Prilep, and Probishtip. -- Fabian Schmidt ROMANIAN PRESIDENT, HUNGARIAN PREMIER DISCUSS BILATERAL RELATIONS. Emil Constantinescu and Gyula Horn, meeting in Lisbon on 3 December during the OSCE summit, agreed that Romania's new foreign minister will visit Hungary soon, Romanian media reported the same day. Horn said that the Hungarian parliament will ratify the friendship treaty next week. That document was signed in September and ratified by Romania in October. The previous day, Horn had noted that Hungary backs Romania's efforts to achieve EU and NATO integration, and he had offered to "do [his] utmost to fulfill [that] goal." Constantinescu said Romania has the "historic chance" to become a stabilizing factor in the region. He added that all neighbors are "viewed as partners and not competitors" on the road toward integration. -- Zsolt Mato MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT ACCEPTS CABINET RESIGNATION. The parliament on 3 December unanimously accepted the resignation of Andrei Sangheli's government, BASA-press and Infotag reported the same day. It also asked the government to continue carrying out its duties until a new cabinet has been formed. Before the 1 December presidential run-off, Sangheli had said his government would resign immediately after the run-off results had been released in order "to allow the new president to form a cabinet with which he can cooperate in a more efficient way." Meanwhile, President-elect Petru Lucinschi described the cabinet's decision to step back as "just," arguing that Sangheli had not been "frank" about his ministers' mistakes. -- Dan Ionescu MOLDOVA'S OUTGOING PRESIDENT URGES RUSSIAN TROOPS WITHDRAWAL. Mircea Snegur, addressing the OSCE summit in Lisbon on 3 December, urged Russia to withdraw its troops from eastern Moldova, BASA-press reported. He complained that Moscow has not "honored the commitments" laid down in an October 1994 bilateral agreement. The troops withdrawal was a key factor to finding a peaceful settlement to the Dniester conflict, he added. Snegur also appealed to the summit to issue a "political declaration" on "the current state of affairs" in Moldova. The 1994 Russian-Moldovan accord has not yet been ratified by the Russian State Duma. -- Dan Ionescu NATIONAL STRIKE IN BULGARIA. The Confederation of the Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (KNSB) has called a 24-hour national strike for 4 December, Reuters and local media reported. Some 1 million people-- mostly miners, teachers, and light industry workers--are expected to support the strike. KNSB spokesman Snezhana Lyubenova said the action is to protest "incompetence and corruption within [Premier] Zhan Videnov's Socialist cabinet." The KNSB believes that the strike will help force early parliamentary elections. Another large trade union confederation, Podkrepa, has urged its members to join the strike if they wish, but it has not given its official backing. Some opposition parties have also expressed their "moral support," Kontinent noted. -- Maria Koinova ALBANIAN COURT SENTENCES COMMUNIST-ERA OFFICIALS. A Tirana court has sentenced communist-era Interior Minister Vladimir Hysi to 18 months in prison, Zeri i Popullit reported on 4 December. Irakli Kocollari, former chief of the communist secret service, was given a six-year sentence. The two men were charged with abuse of office for ordering the destruction of secret service files. They argued that the files had been put away for a limited period only and that the deadline for keeping them in storage had expired. Kocollari is still facing charges for human rights abuses committed when he was working for the secret services in Korca. -- Fabian Schmidt ALBANIA CHARGES MONTENEGRO WITH BLOCKING RAILROAD LINE. Albanian authorities have criticized Montenegro for refusing to unblock the Shkoder-Podgorica railroad line, international agencies reported on 3 December. The link has been closed for more than three years owing to international sanctions imposed against the federal Yugoslavia. The Albanian railroads have repaired their part of the line and are ready to reopen it. The line was scheduled to have opened at the beginning of this year. Local traders and the Albanian economy have suffered considerable losses as a result of the closure. Completed in August 1986, the Shkoder-Podgorica line is Albania's only connection with the international railroad system. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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