|It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer|
No. 239, Part II, 12 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 FOREIGN CREDITS TO UKRAINE. The World Bank approved a $300 million loan to Ukraine for its coal sector reforms, Reuters reported on 11 December. The loan will be dispersed in two equal tranches. It has a 17-year maturity and a five-year grace period, and was made at the bank's standard interest rate for dollar loans. Ukraine's coal sector reform program spans eight years. The same day, Ukrainian radio reported that the head of the national agency for reconstruction and development, Roman Shpek, signed a memorandum with the EU on funding for 1996. By the end of the year Ukraine will have received $40 million under the program for financing state structure reform, economic restructuring, private sector development, and for non-nuclear energy projects. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINE CONCERNED OVER ARMS SALES ALLEGATIONS. Deputy Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Hrishchenko called on the U.S. to make an official declaration that Ukraine had not violated its international commitments and sold arms to Libya, AFP reported on 11 December. The request was made in response to a Washington Times article, allegedly based on top- secret CIA documents, that said Kyiv sold SS-21 missiles to Libya. Reuters reported that the official Libyan news agency Jana denied Tripoli had made such a deal. Libya is under a UN arms embargo for its failure to hand over two suspects in the 1988 bombing of a U.S. airliner over Scotland that killed 270 people. Ukraine is the third largest recipient of U.S. aid and has been cautious not to engage in any deals that could strain its relations with the U.S. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN DEPUTIES APPROVE LEGISLATION ON BUDGET EXPENDITURES. The Ukrainian Parliament approved a law on financing the 1997 budget, Ukrainian television reported on 11 December. The law stipulates that current expenditures will be financed proportionately to budget revenues. Social expenditures--including wages, pensions, stipends, and subsidies for medicines--will have priority in budget financing. The law comes into force on 1 January. The budget itself hasn't been approved yet, and the government is pushing the legislature to do so by the end of 1996. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev BELARUS DEFENSE OFFICIALS MEET RUSSIAN COUNTERPARTS. Belarusian and Russian defense ministry delegations met in Minsk on 6 December, Belarusian TV reported. The defense officials approved a number of documents that are to be ratified at their next meeting later this month. The documents include a common defense policy draft and a new agreement between the two defense ministries, based on the April agreement on the establishment of the Belarusian-Russian Community. A joint Belarusian-Russian commission also worked out a protocol on Russian troops being withdrawn from Belarus. This included environmental issues and tax problems regarding Belarusian citizens employed by the Russian army, as well as compensation for Russian-built housing and the handing over of military facilities. -- Sergei Solodovnikov MEMBERS OF "OLD" BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT MEET. Members of the old parliament continued meeting on 12 December, RFE/RL reported. The rump parliament includes Speaker Syamyon Sharetsky, six of the nine presidium members of the old legislature, and nine out of 16 chairmen of its permanent committees. Some 40 deputies refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the new legislature. The deputies decided to include four deputies elected in the 24 November runoff elections. Despite their continued activity, the rump parliament hasn't been able to achieve anything, and the opposition doesn't seemingly pose any real threat to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, NTV reported on 10 December. RFE/RL reported that the Communist Party met on 7-8 December and expelled Anatol Malafeev--the newly-elected speaker of the lower house of the new legislature. The party also voted to oppose Lukashenka's domestic policies, but voiced continued support for his policy of integration with Russia. -- Ustina Markus RUSSIAN EXPERT GROUP VISITS ESTONIA. A group of Russian Foreign Ministry officials investigated the human rights situation of the Russian- speaking minority in Estonia on 10-11 December, BNS reported. The group was headed by the deputy head of the international and human rights department, Vladimir Parshikov. After meetings with Estonian Foreign Ministry officials, the OSCE mission in Tallinn, the parliament, and other government departments as well as representatives of the ethnic minorities, they admitted the situation was not as bad as they had thought. The inability of Russians to obtain citizenship, however, remained the key problem. The visit had been agreed upon at the 5 November meeting of the Estonian and Russian foreign ministers (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 November 1996). The experts did not connect their visit with the signing of a Russian-Estonian border treaty. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN PREMIER MEETS WITH IMF, WORLD BANK OFFICIALS. Gediminas Vagnorius on 11 December met with the IMF representative to Lithuania, Domenico Fanizza, to discuss the tax policies of his new government, Radio Lithuania reported. Reports said the value added tax is to be reduced from 18% to 15%; taxes on profits, interest, and dividends redirected into investments will end; and the property tax will be increased from 1% to 1.5%. He also discussed his economic plans and Lithuania's banking and energy problems with the World Bank's Baltic States Department Manager James Harrison. Noting that both officials stressed that Lithuania has already exceeded the 1996 borrowing limit of 1.98 billion litai ($495 million), Vagnorius said December would be "a diet month" and that the government will have problems in meeting commitments assumed earlier in the year. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH COMMENTS ON NATO ENLARGEMENT. Polish Deputy Defense Minister Andrzej Karkoszka said Poland welcomes the NATO ministers' decision, made on 10 December in Brussels, not to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of any new pact members. The decision removes the ground for escalation of "suspicions and distrust" in the neighboring countries, Karkoszka said after the "Integra '96" international seminar on strategic planning after NATO enlargement. Polish Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati, commenting on recent statements by his Russian counterpart Yevgenii Primakov in Brussels, said Russia wants to slow down the process of NATO enlargement but is preparing to accept the inevitable fact. -- Jakub Karpinski CHECHEN CONFERENCE IN POLAND. A "Round-table Conference on Rebuilding Chechnya, Peace in the Caucasus, and Democracy in Russia" opened on 11 December in Warsaw under the auspices of the Warsaw and Krakow town councils, Polish dailies reported. The Chechen interim deputy prime minister and foreign minister are at the conference, and Alla Dudayeva, deceased President Dzhohar Dudayev's widow, is a guest of honor. Answering Russian official demands to clarify his government's position on the conference, the Polish ambassador in Moscow, Andrzej Zalucki, said it is a municipal and not a governmental initiative. He was told that Russia is concerned by the activities of the "so-called Chechen representatives" in Poland. The Russian Foreign Ministry warned on 27 November that efforts to establish Chechen representations abroad with diplomatic status will be considered a gesture "inimical to Russia." A Chechen center is active in Krakow and another one is to open in Warsaw on 15 December. -- Jakub Karpinski POLISH DEMOGRAPHIC DEPRESSION. Poland's birthrate has declined from 79 live births per 1,000 women in reproductive age at the beginning of the 1980s to 45 live births/1,000 women, Polish media reported on 12 December, citing Main Statistical Office data. A drop in the birthrate characterized the period between 1994 and 1996, despite the introduction of a restrictive abortion law in early 1993 (recently amended). In the first quarter of this year there were more deaths than live births, the first time this has occurred in post-war Poland. Demographers estimate that by 2020 the total number of children in the country will decline by 1.1 million (compared to 1995). Polish couples frequently cite difficult economic conditions as the reason for having fewer children. -- Beata Pasek SLOVAK PRESIDENT ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT. President Michal Kovac delivered a very critical annual report on the state of the nation on 11 December, saying the ruling coalition is leading Slovakia into international isolation, press agencies reported. Before the speech, all governing coalition deputies left the parliament. Kovac said it is becoming customary that Slovakia is excluded from the first group of candidates for NATO and EU membership and added that the government is not reacting to such signals. He also criticized state TV for broadcasting "disinformation, apparently produced to manipulate public opinion," and called for a dialogue with minorities and implementation of the Slovak- Hungarian treaty. -- Anna Siskova U.S. AMBASSADOR MEETS SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER. Ralph Johnson held a two- hour long confidential talk with Vladimir Meciar on 11 December, Slovak media reported. Calling the meeting "friendly," Meciar's spokeswoman Magda Pospisilova denied that Johnson had issued a demarche. Over the past two years, Slovakia received one U.S. and two EU demarches over domestic political developments. Observers speculated that Johnson's meeting with Meciar dealt with the parliament's controversial decision to strip Frantisek Gaulieder--a breakaway deputy from Meciar's party-- of his parliamentary mandate (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 December). The meeting came one day after parliament Chairman Ivan Gasparovic held talks with a group of EU diplomats. Meanwhile, a Focus agency poll released on 11 December showed that 30% of Slovaks thought it was mainly the opposition that is damaging Slovakia's interests abroad, while 50% disagreed, TASR reported. -- Sharon Fisher SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN WORKERS JOIN PROTEST. Organized labor is beginning to add its voice to the peaceful mass protests, which concluded their 22nd day in Belgrade on 11 December, Nasa Borba reported. Meanwhile, CNN said that in some centers, such as Serbia's second largest city, Nis, crowds are beginning to thin. Nevertheless, delegations from throughout Serbia have arrived in the capital and Belgrade demonstrations continue to draw at least 100,000 supporters. Nasa Borba also reports that Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini is due in Belgrade on 12 December for talks with both Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and leaders of the opposition Zajedno coalition. Dini has told reporters he hopes to make "a contribution to resolving the crisis." Reuters reported on 12 December that Zajedno leaders are "pinning ... hopes on [trade] union backing and growing international support" in their efforts to have their 17 November municipal election victories recognized. -- Stan Markotich SERBIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR ASSET FREEZING. Serbian opposition leaders asked the international community to freeze overseas assets of twenty of Serbia's most influential families involved in the governing of the state, international media reported. Miodrag Perisic, vice president of the opposition Democratic Party, explained the request, observing "this is a way in which the international community can punish this dictatorship without imposing an economic embargo against the entire population." Opposition leaders oppose a reintroduction of sanctions, saying they hurt only ordinary people. Meanwhile, AFP reported that VOA announced on 11 December it will be broadcasting a daily 30-minute TV program throughout much of the former Yugoslavia in response to the political upheaval in Serbia. The show, called "America Calling Serbia," will air five times weekly and feature newscasts. -- Stan Markotich UN POLICE SPOT BUT DO NOT ARREST KARADZIC. Members of the International Police Task Force (IPTF) saw indicted war criminal and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic pass by in a car en route to his offices but did nothing to stop him, Oslobodjenje wrote on 12 December. Karadzic was accompanied by Republika Srpska special police armed with Kalashnikovs. The IPTF informed IFOR of the incident but the peacekeepers took no action. "We are not authorized to chase war criminals," IFOR Spokesman Major Brett Boudreau said in Sarajevo, AFP reported. Critics have charged that IFOR and the IPTF deliberately avoid bothering indicted war criminals. The IPTF's spokesman nonetheless publicly reminded the Bosnian Serb leadership that they are obliged to provide Karadzic with only one escort, "and that's to The Hague." -- Patrick Moore CROATIA'S TUDJMAN REPORTEDLY FIRES INTERIOR MINISTER . . . President Franjo Tudjman has fired Interior Minister Ivan Jarnjak, Radio 101 reported on 11 December. The ostensible reason was the discovery of a bugging device in the office of the opposition mayor of Rijeka, but some observers say the real reason was that Jarnjak failed to prevent massive anti-government protests in late November. There was no official confirmation of the firing, but the independent daily Novi List also ran the story on 12 December. Tudjman has taken a tough line against all manner of foreign and domestic "enemies" since his recent return from medical treatment in the U.S. (see Pursuing Balkan Peace, 10 December 1996). -- Patrick Moore . . . AND PLAYS TENNIS WITH THE GOVERNMENT WATCHING. Apparently to dispel rumors that he has terminal cancer, Tudjman appeared on Croatian Television playing tennis with the government in attendance, Reuters reported on 11 December. Critics called the event "surreal" and likened it to similar public shows of vitality once put on by communist leaders. Tudjman's recent statements against "enemies" have also been compared to communist-era rhetoric. An unnamed diplomat said that Tudjman is behaving like a man who has nothing to lose and will do as he wants. -- Patrick Moore ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW GOVERNMENT. A joint session of the parliament's two chambers on 11 December approved Victor Ciorbea's coalition government with 316 votes to 152, Radio Bucharest reported. The vote followed a five-hour debate in which the former ruling coalition, now in opposition, criticized the new government's economic program for containing "little concrete." Referring to the issue of Romania's integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures, the premier told the parliament that the next five years would determine "the future of many generations." Ciorbea and his government are committed to speed up the country's admittance into NATO and the EU. The new government will be sworn in today. -- Zsolt Mato SNEGUR CLAIMS SUPPORTERS PERSECUTED. Outgoing Moldovan President Mircea Snegur on 11 December decried the persecutions to which his supporters were allegedly submitted to by the new administration, Infotag reported. The statement came in response to an appeal sent by the Pro-Snegur Civic Movement to both Snegur and President-elect Petru Lucinschi, claiming that its members have been fired from their jobs or received threats of physical violence. Snegur described the campaign as "political blackmail" and warned that it "may seriously destabilize the political situation." In a separate development, acting Premier Andrei Sangheli on 11 December concluded a three-day official visit to Moscow, the second in less than two months. Sangheli met with his Russian counterpart, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and other senior officials, with whom he discussed loan agreements and Russian fuel deliveries for the winter. In exchange, Moldova will deliver, among other things, between 5 and 6 million liters of vodka. -- Dan Ionescu ANTI-CRIME CONFERENCE OPENS IN BULGARIA. A three-day conference on combating organized crime and corruption opened in Sofia on 11 December, RFE/RL reported. The meeting is jointly sponsored by the Council of Europe (CE) and the EU. Ministers and experts from 16 Central and East European countries (Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine) and CE legal and crime experts will attend. The conference is part of a year-long "Octopus" project, which aims at providing the participating countries with legal instruments to fight crime. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN OPPOSITION PROPOSES NATIONAL CONSENSUS FORMULA. The united opposition's Political Council on 11 December supported the Union of Democratic Forces' (SDS) formula for national consensus on setting up the currency board--an independent body in charge of monetary policy-- Duma and Demokratsiya reported. The plan links the consensus over the board with the demand for early parliamentary elections. SDS Chairman Ivan Kostov warned that if the currency board is set up by the current government without a broader consensus, it will fail and hyperinflation and a new moratorium on the foreign debt payments could be in the cards. The opposition project will be forwarded to the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) for consideration before it reaches the parliament. BSP Deputy Nikola Koychev told Trud on 10 December that Kostov's demands are "nebulous," adding that the currency board could be adopted even without a political consensus, although this was not "desirable." -- Maria Koinova ALBANIAN PRESIDENT PROMISES TO LOWER TAXES ON NEWSPAPERS. Albanian President Sali Berisha has asked the country's two journalists' associations to present him with concrete proposals for a lifting of taxes on newspapers, Koha Jone reported on 12 December. Berisha's announcement came as a surprise for the papers, which long demanded such a step. Newspapers are currently subject to 11 different taxes, and many of them are reportedly facing bankruptcy. Berisha, meanwhile, said the introduction of the VAT and the discontinuation of price controls and subsidies on bread, fuel, and electricity earlier this year had given the economy a boost, but admitted that it also resulted in a budget deficit due to tax evasion and an increase in inflation from 7% in 1995 to an estimated 16% this year. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Sava Tatic ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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