|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 235, Part II, 6 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 DEPUTIES FIGHT OVER RED FLAG. Scuffles broke out between nationalist and communist legislators in the parliament after communist deputy Volodymyr Moiseenko put a small red flag on the table in front of him, Ukrainian TV and AFP reported on 5 December. The deputy hoisted the flag to mark the former Constitution Day, which was celebrated every 5 December when the Soviet Union still existed. Moiseenko said he does not recognize the constitution of the independent Ukraine, while speaker Oleksander Moroz warned he may be sued for an anti-constitutional act. The flag was torn up by nationalist legislators, while several communist deputies intervened to help their colleague. Communists and their allies hold more than half of the seats in the parliament. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev BELARUSIAN OFFICIAL SAYS CIS SUMMIT POSTPONED. CIS Executive Secretary Ivan Korotchenya told a news conference in Minsk on 5 December that the CIS summit scheduled to take place in the Belarusian capital on the commonwealth's fifth anniversary has been postponed until mid-January owing to Russian President Boris Yeltsin's state of health, Russian media reported. Korotchenya stressed that the CIS's five-year existence proves it is a viable regional organization. He denied claims that the 800 treaties and agreements signed within the CIS framework remain on paper only, saying that 365 of them have gone into effect. He said that the other agreements have not been implemented because of the unwillingness of individual leaders to do so. Korotchenya also pointed out that Belarus and Russia have taken more concrete steps toward closer integration than the other CIS member countries. -- Sergei Solodovnikov NEW ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER GIVES REPORT. Toomas Ilves, presenting the semi-annual report on the country's foreign policy to the parliament on 5 December, said that although EU and NATO membership are the main objectives, it is also necessary for Estonia to have relations with Russia as a "normal, friendly Western country" and not as a former colony or oblast, ETA reported. The border agreement with Russia scheduled to be signed soon is a necessary condition but not a guarantee for EU membership. Ilves also mentioned various economic agreements with other European countries which, he said, have improved the economy and serve as a security guarantee. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIA'S NATIONAL TV, RADIO LAW AMENDED. The Seimas on 5 December amended the National TV and Radio Law in an effort to reduce political influence over state media broadcasts, Radio Lithuania reported. Until now, the National TV and Radio Board has had 13 members, three of whom are appointed by the Seimas, four by the president, and six drawn by lot from the nominees of nine major professional associations. Under the new amendments, a new 15-member board is to be created by 31 December in which there will be no political appointees. Instead, 15 professional associations will each appoint one representative. It is unclear whether President Algirdas Brazauskas will approve the amendments. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH COALITION THREATENED BY ADMINISTRATION REFORM. The Polish Peasant Party (PSL) on 5 December threatened to quit Poland's ruling coalition if the government goes ahead with the planned reform of the administration, Polish and international media reported. The reform would introduce a new mid-level administrative unit, called the powiat. PSL Senate Speaker Adam Struzik made the threat, saying the PSL would see no possibility of participating in the coalition if the reform were implemented. The PSL's withdrawal would almost certainly result in early elections. The party has already made several such threats during its three-year governing coalition with the Democratic Left Alliance. -- Jakub Karpinski ALARMING HOUSING SHORTAGE IN POLAND. One-third of city dwellers and almost half of those residing in the countryside live in overcrowded apartments with two or more persons in one room, Polish media reported on 6 December, citing a report issued by the Housing Economy Institute. More than 1 million couples share flats with their parents or other relatives or sublet their apartments. Over the next 10-15 years, at least 1.1 million apartments will have to be demolished. Demographers predict that by 2005, the number of people of so-called marriageable age will have grown substantially. The Housing Economy Institute estimates that 3.8 million apartments will have to be built by 2010 if each family is to have its own accommodation. -- Beata Pasek COMPLICATIONS IN CZECH PRESIDENT'S RECOVERY. Pavel Pafko, the surgeon who removed half of President Vaclav Havel's right lung earlier this week, told journalists on 5 December that there "are mild complications" following the operation, Czech media reported. The surgery was necessary to remove a malignant tumor. Pafko said that "a light inflammation" has started spreading in the left lung. He noted this is not unusual after such radical lung surgery. Havel is receiving antibiotics and remains in an intensive care unit. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER ADDRESSES WEU. Vladimir Meciar, addressing the Western European Union's parliamentary assembly in Paris on 5 December, called for talks with Russia on security issues to be stepped up, TASR and CTK reported. He stressed that the European security structure cannot be built without an agreement with Russia and Ukraine, and he warned that failure to reach agreement with Russia could push Moscow to turn to China and Arab countries. Meciar said Slovakia has a functioning democratic system comparable to that of other Central European countries, adding that respect for minority rights in Slovakia is higher than the European average. He defended Slovakia's plans to hold a referendum on NATO integration, saying that the constitution demands referendums on all important issues. A November opinion poll by the Focus agency showed that of those Slovaks who would participate in such a referendum, 64% would vote in favor and 36% would vote against NATO membership, Narodna obroda reported on 6 December. -- Sharon Fisher EXPLOSION OUTSIDE SLOVAK DISSIDENT DEPUTY'S HOUSE. An explosion took place shortly after midnight on 6 December near the house of former deputy Frantisek Gaulieder, CTK reported. Gaulieder was stripped of his parliamentary mandate earlier this week. The explosion demolished the front of his house. Gaulieder was in the house at the time with his wife and five-year-old son, but no one was injured in the explosion. Gaulieder is considering asking for personal protection, following several warnings that he might share the fate of former police officer Robert Remias, who died in a car explosion several months ago. Gaulieder said the blast could be connected to political statements he has recently made. In other news, the opposition on 5 December called a special parliament session in an effort to dismiss parliament Chairman Ivan Gasparovic for his role in the removal of Gaulieder's mandate; however, Gasparovic survived the vote. -- Anna Siskova HUNGARY TO GET WORLD BANK LOAN FOR PUBLIC FINANCE REFORM. The World Bank on 5 December approved a $7.75 million credit to support the country's public finance reform, Hungarian media reported. The loan will cover 72% of the costs of the four-year project and will be used primarily for information technology development. Vilaggazdasag reported that the World Bank is expected to grant two more loans worth $200-250 million each later this year. One of those credits will be used to assist enterprise privatization and the other to alleviate the crisis in the country's social security system. Since gaining membership in 1982, Hungary has received credits totaling $3.7 billion from the World Bank. -- Zsofia Szilagyi HUNGARY TO EXTEND TECHNICAL UNIT'S MANDATE IN BOSNIA. The government wants to extend for one more year the Hungarian troops' participation in the Bosnian peace implementation force, Reuters reported on 5 December. Hungary has a 400-strong technical unit in the former Yugoslavia and has provided the U.S. army with logistics bases on Hungarian territory near the Croatian border. Mandates for both commitments are due to run out at the end of 1996. The government on 5 December said it will ask permission from the parliament to extend the two mandates to the end of 1997. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MASS PROTESTS CONTINUE IN SERBIA . . . For the 17th consecutive day, protesters gathered in Belgrade and other cities throughout Serbia on 5 December to protest the government decision to nullify the 17 November local election results, local independent media reported. The opposition Zajedno coalition had scored significant victories in those elections. Nasa Borba estimated that 150,000 people were out in the Serbian capital on 5 December. Some demonstrators threw paper planes at landmarks such as the RTS broadcasting facility and the Politika publishing house. Others lit candles to the memory of truth and freedom, which, they said, were extinguished by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's regime. -- Stan Markotich . . . AND BEGIN TO HAVE IMPACT. In one of several developments signaling that the government is succumbing to public pressure, Belgrade's election commission has requested that the Supreme Court ruling validating the annulment of the 17 November returns be re-examined, Nasa Borba reported on 6 December. The regime has also lifted its crackdown on the independent media covering the demonstrations. Belgrade's Radio B 92 is back on the air after being taken off for two days. Finally, Reuters on 6 December reported that one prominent member of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia who did not wish to be named said the authorities were preparing to "ease tensions" and recognize opposition victories in Nis, the second-largest city in Serbia. -- Stan Markotich LONDON CONFERENCE ON BOSNIA ENDS . . . The two-day international meeting to take stock of the implementation of the Dayton agreement ended on 5 December, international and regional media reported. Commentators noted that one of the gathering's main accomplishments was that the Serbs sat down with the Muslims and Croats as one delegation, but it is unclear whether the inter-entity cooperation will go much beyond that. British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind warned the three parties that they are responsible for their own future and that the international community has neither the will nor the intent to provide open-ended military or economic support. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic said that he expects military assistance to last up to another two years and economic help at least another ten. -- Patrick Moore . . . FOLLOWING ADOPTION OF NEW AGENDA. The conference heard much tough talk about the need to catch war criminals, but Judge Louise Arbour of the Hague-based tribunal noted that cooperation on the ground is "severely lacking." Additional responsibilities will be given to the international community's High Representative, Carl Bildt, but catching war criminals will still be dependent on the cooperation of the local authorities. The conference also adopted a new timetable to implement concrete provisions of the Dayton agreement, many of which are overdue. Local elections must now be completed in summer 1997 and the arms reduction program by 31 October. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN EX-SOLDIERS STAGE HUNGER STRIKE. About 100 workers from the construction firm GP Sarajevo went on a hunger strike to protest poor wages and living conditions, AFP reported on 5 December. The group includes many demobilized solders, reflecting the problem across Bosnia- Herzegovina that tens of thousands of men on all sides have little or no work. Fighting is the only trade that many of them know. The situation is particularly bad in the Republika Srpska, which has received only 2% of the international reconstruction aid to date. Aid agencies blame the attitude of the local Serbian authorities for the problem. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIA, CROATIA GRANTED LOANS FOR RECONSTRUCTION. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on 5 December signed a $32.7 million loan with Bosnia-Herzegovina to improve the war-damaged Sarajevo airport and roads and bridges throughout the country, Reuters reported. Officials said it was the first loan to be signed by both Bosnia's Serb and Muslim-Croat entities. But the international community warned that they would not support the country's economy forever. They also stressed future aid would depend on how the Bosnian sides comply with the Dayton peace agreement. Meanwhile, Croatia and the World Bank on 4 December signed a $102 million loan agreement on the reconstruction of road networks and mine clearance in Croatia, Hina reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROATIAN JOURNALISTS' ASSOCIATION CRITICIZES UN. The Croatian Journalists' Association on 5 December accused the UN of doing nothing to protect Croatian journalists at a Serb-led demonstration the previous day in the town of Vukovar, in eastern Slavonia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 December 1996), AFP reported. The journalists have sent a protest letter to UN administrator for eastern Slavonia Jacques Klein saying that "if the UN invites us to cover an event, their officials should guarantee the security of journalists." In other news, the Croatian Journalists' Union has said that pressure on and threats to journalists have increased since Croatia was admitted to the Council of Europe, Vecernji List reported on 6 December. Also, the Croatian official media have begun a campaign against journalists who work for the foreign media, accusing them of being communist agents paid to create "a poor image of Croatia in Europe," AFP reported on 5 December. -- Daria Sito Sucic ROMANIA'S RULING ALLIANCE ELECTS NEW LEADER. The Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) on 5 December elected Ion Diaconescu as its leader, Romanian media reported. The 78-year-old Diaconescu spent 17 years in jail during the communist period. He is chairman of the National Peasant Party--Christian Democratic, the leading member of the CDR. Diaconescu replaces Emil Constantinescu, who resigned after his election as Romania's president last month. The CDR won the November parliamentary elections and is currently forming a coalition government with the Social Democratic Union of former Premier Petre Roman and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania. -- Dan Ionescu ROMANIA, IMF TO RENEGOTIATE CREDIT PROGRAM. The new Romanian government and the IMF are to renegotiate a three-year stand-by credit program suspended in early 1996 by the IMF, Reuters and Romanian media reported on 5 December. IMF chief negotiator Poul Thomsen said in Bucharest that renegotiation is necessary because of the "significant deterioration in the [Romanian] economy." Next week, a team of IMF experts will evaluate the state of the economy. IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus is due to visit Romania later this month. Negotiations will start in January 1997, and an agreement is expected by March. The IMF credit program is essential for Romania, which has a slow privatization rate and a low level of direct foreign investment (just over $2 billion). -- Zsolt Mato BULGARIA CLOSER TO CURRENCY BOARD ADOPTION? Ivan Kostov, chairman of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), has said he will present to the 9 December extraordinary meeting of the SDS National Coordinating Council a plan for reaching national consensus on the adoption of a currency board, RFE/RL and Demokratsiya reported. Over the past week, Kostov has held talks with IMF, World Bank, and U.S. government officials. Bulgarian politicians have so far failed to agree on if and how the board should be introduced. Kostov said he supports the idea of a board but is against having one set up by the current government. He added that his plan would offer the basis for a stable new program for governing Bulgaria and could be supported even by some members of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party. However, he gave no details of the plan. In other news, a 10,000-lev bank note will go into circulation on 8 December as inflation continues to soar. -- Maria Koinova BULGARIA TIGHTENS BORDER CONTROLS. The Interior Ministry on 5 December announced that it has tightened border controls, 24 chasa reported. Troops, special police units, and border guards are jointly cracking down on the illegal trafficking of drugs and people and the smuggling of stolen cars and other goods. Special police and customs guards on 4 December seized 45.2 kilos of heroin hidden in a Bulgarian bus traveling from Sofia to Prague. The two drivers and the owner of the bus company were arrested. In other news, most newspapers on 6 December claimed that the government's decision to have nine public holidays over Christmas and New Year is aimed at diverting attention from the extraordinary Bulgarian Socialist Party congress on 21-22 December. They noted that since most papers will not appear during the holiday period, state TV and radio will be the main source of information about the congress. -- Stefan Krause ENVER HOXHA'S SON-IN-LAW TO REMAIN IN PRISON. Klement Kolaneci, son-in- law of late communist dictator Enver Hoxha, is to remain in prison pending trial for alleged membership in the Revenge for Justice terrorist group, Koha Jone reported on 6 December. A Tirana court the previous day upheld an earlier ruling. Kolaneci's lawyers said that Prosecutor Isa Jata did not present any evidence against Kolaneci and argued that Kolaneci should continue to be detained on charges of "forming an armed gang." Meanwhile, the court has ruled that Robert Kallanxhi, who is also a suspected Revenge for Justice member, is to remain in prison pending trial for forging car documents. Lawyers claim that the prosecutors neither questioned Kallanxhi nor produced any evidence. -- 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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