|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 238, Part II, 11 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 1997 NATO SUMMIT TO ISSUE MEMBERSHIP INVITATIONS. NATO foreign ministers agreed on 10 December that an alliance summit meeting on 7-8 July in Madrid will decide which of the 11 Eastern European applicants will be invited to accession negotiations, international agencies reported. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana refused to reveal which countries would be selected, saying only that "one or more" would receive invitations. Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary are still believed to be the leading candidates, although Slovenia, Romania, and Slovakia are still under consideration. -- Scott Parrish UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT FIRES HIS CHIEF OF STAFF. Leonid Kuchma has dismissed presidential chief of staff Dmytro Tabachnyk and stripped him of the military ranks acquired in the last three years as a reserve officer, Ukrainian and international media reported on 10 December. The official reason for Tabachnyk's removal is transfer to another job, but the decree did not specify which. Tabachnyk--one of the country's most influential politicians, whom the media describe as the president's shadow--has faced sharp criticism in the parliament, and has been accused of illegal dealings in real estate and abuse of his position. A parliamentary anti-corruption commission is conducting an official investigation into the allegations that Tabachnyk had illegally obtained a second apartment in Kyiv. Tabachnyk, 33, played a key role in Kuchma's victory in the 1994 presidential elections. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev UKRAINIAN INDUSTRY: HIGH DANGER FOR ENVIRONMENT. Ukrainian Emergency Situations Minister Valerii Kalchenko said up to 42% of Ukrainian enterprises, employing one-third of the workforce, are ecologically unsafe, UNIAN reported on 10 December. Minister said Ukrainian railways, where 16% of crossings need replacing, are especially dangerous. Ukraine faces problems with destruction of chemical weapons of the former USSR. Kalchenko said many of 4,000 wagonloads of shells near Kerch in Crimea had exceeded their shelf life. Meanwhile, officials at Radical chemical factory in Kyiv warned that chlorine compound stored in an aging storage tank at the plant could soon be released into atmosphere, exposing nearby residents and forests, RFE/RL reported on 10 December. The factory cannot afford new containers to store 20 metric tons of the highly toxic material. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev UKRAINE ON NATO, SEVASTOPOL. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko said at a North Atlantic Cooperation Council meeting in Luxembourg that Ukraine would like to have a separate agreement with NATO, Ukrainian radio reported on 10 December. He reiterated Ukraine's opposition to the deployment of nuclear weapons on the territory of new NATO member states. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said NATO had no plans for such deployment. The same day, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yurii Serheyev said Ukraine would not enter into any negotiations with Russia over the status of Sevastopol, because Ukraine's territorial integrity was recognized internationally. On 11 December Ukraine's parliament began examining a law on the status of foreign troops on Ukrainian territory. The previous day ITAR-TASS reported the Justice Ministry finished drafting the law on the status of Kyiv and Sevastopol. Under the new constitution, the two cities have a special status. -- Ustina Markus ANOTHER ANTI-PRESIDENT DEMONSTRATION IN BELARUSIAN CAPITAL. About 500 students demonstrated in Minsk on 10 December to mark the International Human Rights Day, international agencies reported. The demonstrators marched down the central avenue waving UN and EU flags, handing out leaflets containing the UN Charter and other human rights documents. They protested the government's numerous human rights violations, and demanded the release of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's opponents arrested at recent demonstrations. The rally was peaceful, but police arrested several students as the demonstrators were dispersing. Meanwhile, at least 40 Supreme Soviet deputies, who refused to recognize the new Belarusian parliament, assembled in the Minsk-based House of Writers, Belapan reported. They also adopted a statement reaffirming their loyalty to the 1994 Constitution, non-recognition of the results of the 24 November referendum, and declaring the Supreme Soviet the only legislature in Belarus. -- Sergei Solodovnikov MCDONALD'S RIOT IN BELARUS. The opening of the first McDonald's in Belarus on 10 December led to rioting at the restaurant in Minsk, Reuters and AFP reported. A 4,000 strong crowd descended at the McDonald's and tried to push their way in because of rumors that the first customers would get free food or a prize. Riot police beat people with truncheons to keep them from forcing their way in. In all, McDonald's plans to open four restaurants in Minsk.. -- Ustina Markus ESTONIA TO ISSUE ALIEN PASSPORTS TO RUSSIAN MILITARY PERSONNEL. The Estonian government decided on 10 December to change its policy and issue alien passports to nearly 10,000 retired Red Army officers and their families, BNS reported. About 20,000 retired officers--of whom more than 50% acquired a citizenship of a foreign country, in most cases Russia--have received permission to live in Estonia. Residence permits are affixed to the new passports. Regional Affairs Minister Tiit Kubri said the earlier ban on issuing alien passports to retired officers had been discriminatory, which had precluded them from being readmitted to Estonia in case they went abroad. -- Saulius Girnius NEW LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT SWORN IN. The Seimas on 10 December voted 87 to 21 with 13 abstentions to support the 1997-2000 government program of prime minister designate Gediminas Vagnorius, Radio Lithuania reported. After the vote, the 17 member Cabinet and Vagnorius were sworn in as the 8th government since the re-establishment of Lithuania's independence. The program devotes the most attention to economic and law-and-order issues. It forecasts that inflation will fall to 7% and average monthly wages will double by 1999. The government is formally a coalition of two parties--the Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) and the Christian Democratic Party--but two ministries were given to the Center Union and one to the Confederation of Industrialists. All but four of the new ministers are members of the Seimas. -- Saulius Girnius CONTROVERSIES OVER POLISH CONSTITUTION. The co-ruling Polish Peasant Party (PSL) contested the proposed three-level local administration scheme included in the constitution draft, Polish dailies reported on 11 December. The PSL demands a statement in the constitution that "the family farm is the basis of the rural structure of the Polish state." The PSL and the leftist Labor Union demand also that the constitution establishes the so-called social rights: for housing, free health care and education. The chances that Poland will have the new constitution before the parliamentary election scheduled for 1997 are therefore slim. -- Jakub Karpinski DOCTORS STRIKE IN POLAND. About three quarters of Poland's hospitals and a half of outpatient clinics have joined the first day of strike, and more are going to join, international media reported on 11 December. Only emergency cases are treated, and cancer, psychiatric, children's, and maternity wards are not participating in the strike. The All-Poland Doctors' Union, representing about a third of 84,000 doctors, began the protest after the two-month negotiations with the government stalemated. The doctors demand a collective wage deal that would increase their salaries up to three times the average wage. They also want budget spending on the health care to be increased to 6% of the GDP instead of the planned 4.5%. The government rejects the demands, citing financial constraints and the prospect that the planned health care reform will bring a wage increase for doctors in two years' time. -- Beata Pasek CIS VISITORS IN POLAND. One million people from the CIS countries are in Poland every day, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 11 December. Poland had 2,313,000 Russian visitors in 1995, 3,275,000 visitors from Belarus, and 4,740,000 from Ukraine. The mass influx of eastern visitors to Poland means more jobs for Poles and more hard currency in the country, as Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians import huge amounts of goods from Poland and leave there from $1 to 2 billion yearly. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH PRESIDENT DOING BETTER. Vaclav Havel's physicians told journalists on 10 December that the president's health is improving. Havel underwent surgery for lung cancer on 2 December. A twelve-member team is looking after Havel. Pneumonia that developed in Havel's left lung is, according to his doctors, currently the most serious problem. Robert Ginsberg of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, an external consultant who has joined the medical team, told journalists that he had expected "a very sick man" but was pleasantly surprised. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK TV HAS A NEW DIRECTOR. Slovakia's parliament on 10 December elected a new director of state-run Slovak TV (STV) in a secret ballot vote, press agencies reported. Jozef Darmo, the former director of the pro-government station, was dismissed from his post yesterday by the decision of 106 deputies. Darmo said that parliamentary deputies are responsible for the fact that STV directors are often replaced, causing a total collapse of STV in program and organizational structure. Darmo continued that "the functioning of STV has been influenced by the country's permanent political struggle." Igor Kubis, the new STV director, previously worked as a newscast editor and is often said to have very close contacts with the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. -- Anna Siskova HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES BASIC TREATY WITH ROMANIA. The Hungarian parliament on 10 December ratified the bilateral treaty with Romania, aimed at normalizing bilateral relations between the two countries, Hungarian media reported. The treaty was signed in September and ratified by the Romanian parliament in October, ahead of the parliamentary elections. The vote in Hungary was 249 for the treaty, 53 against with 12 abstentions. Although opposition parties have criticized the treaty, saying it does not guarantee sufficient minority rights, ratification was never in doubt because the ruling coalition has a 72% majority in the parliament. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE STANDOFF IN BELGRADE. The opposition carried out its threat to boycott the federal Yugoslav parliament session that took place on 10 December, international media reported. Protests entered their fourth week and continued in the streets with the demand that the authorities recognize the opposition victories in the 17 November runoff local elections. Meanwhile, the federal supreme court upheld the decisions of its Serbian counterpart to cancel those poll results. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has now repeatedly failed to take advantage of opportunities to end the confrontation in a peaceful and legal manner by having courts uphold the opposition victories. Elsewhere. federal Interior Minister Vukasin Jokanovic said that force will not be used against the protesters unless they attack public property. Finally, the 400,000- strong independent metal workers union Nezavisnost announced a strike starting 11 December in Kragujevac and Nis, AFP reported.-- Patrick Moore CLINTON TELLS MILOSEVIC TO ACCEPT VOTE RESULTS . . . U.S. President Bill Clinton urged Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to respect the outcome of the 17 November ballot. CNN on 10 December quoted him as saying: "Elections should be respected and the voice of the people should be heard... The United States has made its statement and its position clear. Neither we nor anyone else would seek to interfere in the internal events of Serbia but our sympathies are always with a free people who are struggling to express their freedom and want to have the integrity of their elections respected." The protesters have paid close attention to reactions to their cause from abroad, and Clinton's statement is likely to be regarded as the most important message in their favor to date. -- Patrick Moore . . . AS DOES NATO . . . The Atlantic alliance, after a meeting of its foreign ministers, told Milosevic that NATO "strongly deplores" his decision not to recognize the election results. The ministers urged him "to respect the democratic will of the people by reversing [his] decision," AFP reported on 10 December. The NATO statement praised the opposition for remaining peaceful and warned the authorities against using violence. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher added: "The people of Serbia deserve what their neighbors in central Europe have: clean elections, a free press, a normal market economy. If President Milosevic respects their will, Serbia can enjoy the legitimacy and assistance it needs. If he seeks to rule Serbia as an unreformed dictatorship, it will only increase his isolation and the suffering of his people." Washington called of a visit to Belgrade by envoy John Kornblum as a message to Milosevic. -- Patrick Moore . . . AND THE BOSNIAN SERB LEADERSHIP. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic told TV Pale that she supports the students, adding that "the entry of students always means that freedom and democracy are endangered," Reuters and Deutsche Welle reported on 10 December. Plavsic stressed that this is the moment for Serbia to finally break with its communist past, adding that "the Croats [long ago] resolved this problem very quickly." She also said that Milosevic was not important to ensure the implementation of the Dayton agreement, arguing that its success depended on the directly affected people. -- Patrick Moore HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS STILL PERSIST IN KOSOVO. On the occasion of the International Day of Human Rights, the Kosovo Human Rights Council issued a statement on 9 December saying that Albanians in federal Yugoslavia continue to be "subjected to cruel human rights violations." The statement adds that the situation in the Serbian province has deteriorated since the abolition of its autonomy in 1989 and that "violence, terror and other persistent patterns of genocide acts" by the Serbian authorities continued with the same intensity throughout 1996, including "arbitrary, inhuman and degrading treatment." The Council pointed out that ethnic Albanian emigrants with valid Yugoslav passports have been barred entry, that schools continue to be closed for Albanian pupils--despite the September agreement with the Serbian government-- and that most Albanians are excluded from the health care and social insurance system, and remain unemployed. -- Fabian Schmidt CROATIA, SERB REFUGEE ORGANIZATIONS SIGN AGREEMENT ON RETURN. Adviser to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman Slobodan Lang and Serb and Croat refugee associations signed an agreement on the return of Serbian refugees who fled Croatia in 1995, when Croatian troops ran over the rebel Republic of Srpska Krajina, AFP reported on 11 December. Some 100 families may return by the end of the year to the towns of Okucani, Gornji Bogicevci, Stara Gradiska, Lipik, and Pakrac, in western Slavonia. No such mass authorization has so far been issued by Croatian authorities. In other news State Department deputy spokesman Glyn Davies called the decoration of indicted war criminal Tihomir Blaskic [see OMRI Daily Digest 9 December] "completely inappropriate," adding that "it does raise questions about [Croatia's] commitment to Dayton," Reuters reported. -- Fabian Schmidt PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES APPROVE ROMANIAN CABINET NOMINEES. Joint committees of the Parliament's two chambers on 10 December approved all nominees for ministers in Victor Ciorbea's cabinet, Jurnalul National reported. The longest hearing was held for the foreign minister nominee, Adrian Severin, who had been contested even from within the governing coalition long before his official nomination. Severin said Romania's relations with the West must have priority over those with the East. According to RFE/RL, Romanian nationalists criticized Severin for being "too European." One of the two ethnic Hungarian ministers, Gyorgy Tokay of the Office for National Minorities, received negative votes from the two extremist parties represented in parliament, the Party of Romanian National Unity and the Greater Romania Party. Both parties oppose Hungarian presence in the new government. The parliament is expected to vote today on the cabinet on the whole. -- Zsolt Mato OUTGOING MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT TO STAY IN POLITICS. Outgoing President Mircea Snegur stated on 10 December that he was not going to either quit politics or accept a post in the new administration, Infotag reported. Snegur said he felt responsible for the 800,000 people who had voted for him in the 1 December runoff and promised to continue to combat the left-wing forces that endanger both the reform process in Moldova and the country's integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures. Snegur welcomed as "very timely" an initiative of setting up the Democratic Convention of Moldova as a political expression of the unified opposition. The initiative was launched on 7 December by parties and organizations belonging to the Pro-Snegur Civic Movement, an ad-hoc political alliance that had backed Snegur during the electoral campaign. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN INFLATION ALMOST 224% FOR FIRST 11 MONTHS OF YEAR. Consumer price inflation was 9.7% in November, down from 16.7% in October, bringing the first eleven months cumulative figure to 223.6%, Bulgarian media reported on 11 December. The National Statistical Institute blames the continuing high inflation on the collapse of the lev, which was fixed by the national bank at 504.30 against the dollar on 11 December, compared to 369.42 a week ago and 70.47 a year earlier. Since the beginning of the year, electricity prices have risen by 382%, transport and communications services by 203%, and food prices by 227%. Meanwhile, a study carried out by a team headed by presidential advisor Yordan Hristoskov concluded that one third of workers work informally, not paying taxes or paying only part of them, 24 chasa reported on 11 December. This has cost the budget 31 billion leva ($193 million) this year. -- Michael Wyzan [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Sava Tatic ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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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