|You see things and you say 'Why?' But I dream thing that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'. - Geroge Bernard Shaw|
No. 236, Part II, 9 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 PRESIDENT DENIES CONFLICT WITH PREMIER; WANTS NEW LANGUAGE LAW. Leonid Kuchma said he doesn't disagree with Premier Pavlo Lazarenko on major issues but only on tactical matters, UNIAN reported on 5 December. The night before, Kuchma had accused the government of inefficiency and lack of responsibility (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 December 1996). The differences concerned governmental proposals to ease tax pressure on producers and to cut social benefits to war veterans and the disabled. Kuchma said such measures would only aggravate the situation and cannot lead to increased budget revenue. In other news, Kuchma instructed his government to draw up a new version of the language law to increase the use of Ukrainian, Ukrainian radio reported on 6 December. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev NEW PARTY ESTABLISHED IN UKRAINE. The Agrarian Party of Ukraine held its founding congress in Kyiv on 5 December, Ukrainian radio reported. The congress approved the party program and elected Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Zubets as chairman. A co-founder, the deputy head of the Ukrainian Collective State Farms Council, Ivan Yemets, said the party will defend the interests of the entire agrarian sector. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev MORE QUARRELS OVER THE BLACK SEA FLEET. As a result of the Russian Federation Council's resolution saying Kyiv had no right to govern Sevastopol, Ukraine's parliament decided to consider adopting a law on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Ukraine's territory, Russian Public Television and UNIAN reported on 6 and 7 December. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksander Kuzmuk said joint command of the fleet was impossible, and the Ukrainian navy was capable of functioning without help from Russia's Black Sea Fleet, Radio Rossii reported. Ukrainian parliamentary Speaker Oleksandr Moroz warned that the adoption of a law forcing foreign troops to withdraw from Ukraine could have serious consequences, and he doubted it could be implemented. Ukrainian National Security Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin was highly critical of the Russian Federation Council's resolution, and denied that Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma had agreed to set up a joint command of the fleet. -- Ustina Markus LUKASHENKA'S NEW BATCH OF DECREES. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka signed five decrees on the Constitutional Court, including one appointing Ryhor Vasilevich acting chief justice, Belapan reported on 7 December. Vasilevich had been noted for being more partial to Lukashenka than other court judges. Another decree accepted the resignations of four Constitutional Court justices, not counting the former chief justice. Only six of eleven justices from the pre-referendum Constitutional Court remain. Lukashenka also signed a decree moving Mikalai Damashkevich from the post of head of the Presidential Control Service to head the Committee of State Control of Belarus (successor to the Presidential Control service). On 5 December, Belarusian radio reported Lukashenka signed a decree ruling out further by-elections to parliament and a decree on elections to the new upper house of parliament, Belapan reported on 8 December. Regional and Minsk city deputies are to be elected by 26 December. -- Ustina Markus OPPOSITION PROTESTS IN MINSK. The Belarusian opposition held its first protest rally in the capital since the 24 November referendum on 8 December, ITAR-TASS reported. Some 3,000 protesters marched downtown carrying Belarus's traditional flags and banners "Shame on Russia" and "Hands Off Belarus." They proceeded to the Russian Embassy to express their discontent with Russia's position of passive observer of President Lukashenka's quest for unlimited power. The demonstrators' main demand was Lukashenka's immediate resignation. Speaking at the rally together with other former parliament deputies, former Chairman Syamyon Sharetsky called the recent plebiscite "an act of violence against people." The protesters called on the democratic forces to unite in their opposition to Lukashenka. Between 10 and 20 protesters were reportedly detained for disturbing public order. -- Sergei Solodovnikov VAHI REELECTED CHAIRMAN OF ESTONIA'S COALITION PARTY. The Congress of the Coalition Party on 7 December in Tallinn re-elected Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, giving him 219 votes to 35 for challenger Ulo Nugis, ETA reported. Vahi said that the major policy goals of his government will be to introduce a "socially-oriented market economy" and improve relations with Russia. He explained that the fall in the party's popularity had been due to its need to maintain a balance in the ruling coalition between the liberal Reform Party and the rural parties. He noted that Estonia's GDP was expected to grow 3-3.5% this year and that, with the annual inflation rate falling to less than 15%, interest rates would also decrease. -- Saulius Girnius POLAND'S SOLIDARITY CONSIDERS TAX BOYCOTT TO PROTEST ABORTIONS. Solidarity is considering asking its supporters to withhold taxes and insurance payments to prevent the money of pro-life supporters being used to finance abortions, Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski said at the congress of the Polish Federation of Pro-Life Movements in Warsaw on 8 December. The question will be considered at the next meeting of the Solidarity leadership, Krzaklewski said. Legislation signed by President Aleksander Kwasniewski last month allows abortions virtually on demand. Krzaklewski said the Solidarity Senate caucus plans to appeal the newly- liberalized abortion law to the Constitutional Tribunal. He added that all Solidarity candidates in next year's general elections will have to undergo an "internal lustration," sign an "ethics charter" and perhaps even a notarized pledge to support pro-life initiatives. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH PREMIER REELECTED CHAIRMAN OF HIS PARTY. Vaclav Klaus was reelected chairman of his Civic Democratic Party (ODS) at a party congress held on 7-8 December, Czech media reported. Following the unimpressive showing of the ODS in the June general elections and in the recent Senate elections, analysts had speculated that Klaus's position may be in danger. He was, however, the only candidate for the post. The congress also elected four vice chairmen: Ivan Pilip, Jan Strasky, Josef Zieleniec, and Miroslav Macek. Delegates agreed that the ODS should find a new style and become more open, but did not agree on any radical changes in the program or the structure of the party. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK PARLIAMENT APPROVES 1997 STATE BUDGET. The parliament approved the cabinet's budget bill by a 80-15 margin on 7 December, Slovak media reported. Most of the opposition deputies left the 150-member parliament. Controversy centered on increased funding for the secret service and allocations of 70 million crowns for road construction to reach a recreational center owned by ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia Deputy Jana Gantnerova. The budget -- based on 6% GDP growth, 6% inflation, and 11-12% unemployment -- foresees expenditures of 208 billion crowns ($6.7 billion) and a deficit of 36.9 billion crowns. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK SKINHEADS ATTACK BRATISLAVA'S CHIEF RABBI. Rabbi Baruch Meyers was attacked by a group of skinheads on 6 December, press agencies reported. The skinheads first insulted Meyers verbally and then started to kick him. The attack took place in Bratislava's center, at a site where a synagogue previously stood and where Hanukkah was celebrated on 7 December. This was the second skinhead attack on Meyers, an American citizen who has held his post in Bratislava since 1993. -- Anna Siskova NO NATO CONSPIRACY AGAINST SLOVAKIA. Former North Atlantic Assembly Chairman Karsten Voigt said on 7 December that NATO's reservations toward Slovak membership are not part of a conspiracy against the country, CTK reported. Addressing a conference on NATO and European security in Prague, Voigt added that many Slovaks precisely believe the contrary. "It is not a conspiracy against Slovakia, it is the way in which we perceive democratic realities in the country," he stressed. -- Anna Siskova DOCUMENTS ON HUNGARY'S "OILGATE" SCANDAL GET 80-YEAR SECRECY STAMP. Istvan Nikolits, minister responsible for secret services, has placed an 80-year stamp of secrecy on data related to the so-called oilgate affair, Hungarian media reported on 9 December. The opposition Democratic Forum fiercely protested the move. Silence has surrounded the affair ever since a parliamentary commission was formed to investigate the charges brought by opposition deputies and the press that several Socialist party members had been involved in business deals related to Russia's repayment of its debt to Hungary. Among others, former Trade and Industry Ministers Imre Dunai and Laszlo Pal were accused of using their influence to secure contracts for certain Socialist-leaning business firms. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN COURT BACKS MILOSEVIC. Amid continuing daily mass protests across Serbia, the Serbian Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Belgrade's electoral commission to have the 17 November local election results -- in which the Zajedno opposition coalition won a majority -- recognized, Beta reported on 8 December. The court ruling has effectively upheld a third round of balloting that awarded the ruling Socialists 66 of 110 seats in the Belgrade municipal assembly. Electoral commission head Radovan Lazarevic has taken up a further appeal with the federal supreme court, the federal public prosecutor and the republic's public prosecutor. -- Stan Markotich PROTESTS CONTINUE THROUGHOUT SERBIA. On 8 December the demonstration in Nis attracted some 50,000 participants, many of whom smashed television sets in protest of the regime's biased media coverage, Reuters reported. Opposition leaders have also told the international press that police harassment and arrest of peaceful demonstrators continues, with at least 40 persons having been apprehended so far. For his part, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, in the face of growing demands for both a recognition of opposition victories in local polling and calls for his own resignation, tore up a draft memorandum on press freedom presented by a member of the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Finally, Serbian Information Minister Aleksandar Tijanic formally tendered his resignation on 6 December, Tanjug reported. -- Stan Markotich KRAJISNIK SAYS BOSNIAN SERBS CANNOT ACCEPT LOSS OF BRCKO. The Serb representative of Bosnia's three-member presidency, Momcilo Krajisnik, said the key Bosnian town of Brcko must be made an integral part of the Bosnian-Serb entity, AFP reported on 7 December. Krajisnik said he is opposed to any move that would put the town under international administration. Brcko is claimed by both Muslims and Serbs. The town had a Muslim majority before the war. Today, Brcko is the only link between the eastern an western parts of Serb-held territory in northern Bosnia. Under the Dayton peace accord, control of Brcko should be decided by an arbitration commission by 14 December, but Serb Prime Minister Gojko Klickovic said the Serbs would pull out and ignore the ruling of the commission because they distrust its chairman, Roberts Owen. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROATIA'S TUDJMAN BLASTS ENEMIES . . . President Franjo Tudjman again warned that those who complain about human rights and media freedom in Croatia are really seeking to subvert the Croatian state, Slobodna Dalmacija reported on 8 December. He said these critics are enemies of Croatian independence or "communist remnants." In a tirade to the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), he especially blasted the Open Society Institute, which supports independent media like the Feral Tribune and some NGOs; prominent critics like Ivo Banac, Chris Cviic, Slavko Goldstein, and Vlado Gotovac; and the BBC, VOA, and Radio 101, as well as the only independent daily, Novi List. Tudjman warned that these enemies "have spread their tentacles throughout our society." -- Patrick Moore . . . AND DECORATES INDICTED WAR CRIMINAL. The next day, Tudjman presented a number of military medals, including one to Gen. Tihomir Blaskic for his role in retaking the Knin region in 1995, Reuters said. Blaskic's wife accepted the award, since he is voluntarily appearing before the Hague-based war crimes tribunal on charges of having committed atrocities against Muslims. Tudjman's statement and presentation of the medal are classic examples of his insensitivity to foreign and domestic public opinion, which has long earned him the nickname "Mr. Own-goal." They also reflect his understanding of democracy and the uneasiness of the regime amid recent unrest and reports that Tudjman has cancer. -- Patrick Moore DONORS PLEDGE OVER $30 MILLION FOR EASTERN SLAVONIA. The UN said on 6 December that international donors have pledged over $30 million to help rebuild the last Serb-held part of Croatia, Eastern Slavonia, international and local media reported. Organizers of the donors' conference in Zagreb originally hoped to raise $1.2 billion. But Derek Boothby, deputy to Jacques Klein, head of the UN Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, said the money promised was a "very good start," according to AFP. Boothby said that foreign money would encourage the Serbs to stay and the Croats to return. Meanwhile, top local Serb representative Vojislav Stanimirovic said the Serbs want to have their own county in Croatia, where they would be a majority, Novi List reported on 7 December. Under Croatian law, the region would be split into two counties. Stanimirovic called for a referendum on the region's administrative status, AFP reported on 6 December. -- Daria Sito Sucic SLOVENES REJECT ELECTORAL REFORM. Preliminary returns from a nationwide ballot held in Slovenia on 8 December show the vote was met with apathy and tacit support for the status quo, STA reported. According to returns, only an estimated 35% of the electorate voted and none of the three proposed packages for fundamental changes in the national voting system received the requisite minimum 50% to become binding. Final results are expected on 12 December. -- Stan Markotich ROMANIAN PARTIES SIGN RULING COALITION ACCORD. On 6 December, the victorious parties in the November general elections signed a coalition accord aimed at giving parliamentary support to the new government, Romanian media reported. Leaders of the Democratic Convention of Romania, the Social Democratic Union, and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) signed the document in President Emil Constantinescu's presence. The coalition thus holds a majority 287 of the parliament's 486 seats. According to Constantinescu, the "solid parliamentary majority" resulting from the accord will back "a strong government set up to solve Romania's big problems." UDMR Chairman Bela Marko described his party's participation in the government as "natural" in view of the support it gave to democratic forces. Designated Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea will seek parliamentary approval for his cabinet on 10 December. -- Zsolt Mato DNIESTER MEDIATORS WELCOME LISBON DOCUMENT. The mediators brokering a settlement in the Dniester conflict welcomed on 6 December the stance of the OSCE Lisbon Summit on the issue, Infotag reported. At a briefing in Chisinau, the three mediators -- Donald Johnson, head of the OSCE Mission to Moldova, and special presidential envoys Yurii Karlov of Russia and Evgenii Levitsky of Ukraine -- praised the section devoted to Moldova in the Lisbon document. The document expressed concern over the lack of progress in implementing the October 1994 Moldovan-Russian agreement on the withdrawal of Russian troops from eastern Moldova. It also reiterated OSCE's commitment to assist in achieving a final solution to the dispute. The mediators stressed that the key to settlement lies in granting a special status to the Dniester region within a sovereign and independent Moldova. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR NATIONAL CONSENSUS. Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) Chairman Ivan Kostov said on 8 December that the opposition will support the establishment of a currency board if an agreement with the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party for calling early elections and changing the Bulgarian National Bank's Executive Board can be reached, Pari and Duma reported. However, Kostov's proposal must first receive the backing of the extraordinary SDS National Coordinating Council meeting on 9 December. The council must also decide on Kostov's other idea -- to turn the SDS into a single party before early elections. Over the weekend, 3 parties already backed him, while 6 others rejected the idea, albeit "ambiguously." -- Maria Koinova MOSQUE IN BULGARIA DAMAGED IN EXPLOSION. An explosive device went off in the Great Mosque in Kazanlak on 6 December, causing damage but no injuries, Duma and Novinar reported. Motives and perpetrators remain unknown. A bomb had been discovered and defused in the same mosque earlier this year, while mosques in Varna and Shumen were targets of arsonists in 1996. In other news, the EU said Bulgaria can restart the controversial reactor No. 1 at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant but should close the whole plant down as soon as it finds alternative forms of energy, Reuters reported. EU and Bulgarian experts said tests showed that "the material of the pressure vessel Š allows the [reactor's] safe operation." -- Stefan Krause ALBANIA BACKS SERBIAN OPPOSITION. The daily Rilindja Demokratike, a mouthpiece for the governing Democratic Party, praised the opposition protests in Belgrade, news agencies noted on 8 December. The editorial said it is to be hoped that the demonstrations bring down what it called the hated Milosevic dictatorship, which has opressed the Kosovo Albanians. Meanwhile, President Sali Berisha urged Kosovars to support the Serbian opposition, Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service reported. The Kosovars have taken the attitude that they want no part of Serbia and that Serbian politics hence do not concern them. Berisha's words may be seen as a clear, if gentle message to them that their future indeed lies with Serbia, and that they must help the opposition if they want to help themselves. -- Patrick Moore [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Sava Tatic ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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