|The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle 1975-1881|
No. 242, Part II, 17 November 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 RUKH HOLDS FIRST ALL-UKRAINIAN CONFERENCE. The first party conference of the Narodnii Rukh (People's Movement) of Ukraine met on 14-15 December in Kyiv and unveiled its pre-election program for 1997, ITAR-TASS reported the following day. The party also called for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. One part of the program calls for the integration of Ukraine into the EU, WEU, and NATO, while another section focuses on fighting poverty. Rukh called on other Ukrainian democratic and reformist parties to unite against the left. A total of 490 delegates from 26 local party organizations, more than 30 Ukrainian parliament deputies, and guests from abroad attended the conference. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN SOUTH KOREA. Leonid Kuchma arrived in Seoul to meet with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Young Sam, and sign an agreement on civil aviation and a declaration on the principles of bilateral relations and cooperation, Ukrainian Radio reported on 16 December. The two countries' ministers of external economic relations signed agreements on investment protection. During the visit, Kuchma received an honorary degree from Kyunghee University. -- Ustina Markus FIRST SESSION ON BELARUSIAN LOWER HOUSE BEGINS. The House of Representatives of the Belarusian Parliament met for its first session on 17 December, ITAR-TASS reported. The house is made up of 110 deputies from the old unicameral parliament who acknowledged the legitimacy of the 24 November constitutional referendum, and expressed their desire to serve in the new bicameral legislature. The speaker of the new lower house is Anatol Malafeev. The session will deal primarily with organizational issues. The house will have to organize standing committees, elect members to the committees, and change the law on the budget. It would also have to confirm a new prime minister, but President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said he is content with acting Prime Minister Syarhei Ling, and will not bother appointing a replacement. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SPEAKS AT WOMEN'S FORUM. Alyaksandr Lukashenka spoke on 14 December at the first forum of women's organizations, Belarusian Radio reported. Women are among the most vulnerable social groups in Belarus, with some 60% of them unemployed. The president suggested that some 30% of the upper house of parliament should be composed of women, and that women's organizations should administer the public humanitarian aid and children's health programs. He said the status of women is linked to the country's economic performance, noting that the economic decline has been halted and GDP is expected to increase by 2%-3% in 1996. -- Sergei Solodovnikov 74 ASIAN REFUGEES LEAVE LATVIA. The Interior Ministry press center announced on 16 December that 74 Asian refugees from the Olaine internment camp had left Latvia, BNS reported. They had arrived illegally in Latvia in 1995 through Russia or Belarus. Their legal status in Latvia was unclear since the country has not yet complied with requests of the Nordic countries that it adopt and implement refugee legislation in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees. As most of the refugees have relatives in nearby countries, 53 of them will go to Sweden, 19 to Denmark, and two to Australia. Another 47 will leave for Finland and Norway in the near future. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR WAR AGAINST SMUGGLING. Algirdas Brazauskas on 16 December called smuggling "more than a terrible thing" and urged the new government to carry out a revolution in border protection, BNS reported. He said that Lithuania's budget is losing more than 1 billion litai ($250 million) a year in revenues because of smuggling. Since 90% of the contraband goods entering the country pass through official border posts and replacing border officials has not improved the situation, he called for modernizing border control to minimize the human factor of the task. He also pointed out that poor border controls would hinder the country's efforts to gain membership in the EU. -- Saulius Girnius EXPERIMENT IN POLISH ADMINISTRATION REFORM. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 16 December met the organizers of the Municipal Area of Public Services, an experimental alliance of 14 communes in Nowy Sacz province in southern Poland, Rzeczpospolita reported on 17 December. As of 1 January, the area administration will manage the region's health service, education, culture, sport, and foster homes and will serve as a test for an intermediary level of local administration between the commune and the province, known in Polish as the powiat. Cimoszewicz said he advocates establishing powiats and enlarging provinces. President Aleksander Kwasniewski has suggested that a national referendum be held on the three-tiered administration scheme. The Democratic Left Alliance supports the scheme, but the Polish Peasant Party, the other governing coalition partner, opposes it. -- Jakub Karpinski SLOVAK PARLIAMENT APPROVES PENAL CODE AMENDMENT. The parliament on 17 December passed the controversial penal code amendment on the protection of the republic that was submitted by a group of Slovak National Party deputies, TASR reported. Of the 77 deputies who took part in the vote, 66 voted in favor, five against, three deputies abstained, and three did not vote. The Party of Democratic Left (SDL) was the only opposition party to participate in debates on the amendment, but because the governing coalition did not want to delete controversial points from the proposal, the SDL deputies left the session, joining the other opposition parties who were already absent. The amendment, first passed in March, has attracted fierce criticism domestically and internationally. -- Anna Siskova SLOVAKIA TO BE WITHOUT PRESIDENT? Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar on 16 December told Slovak Radio that he does not support recent opposition calls for constitutional amendments that would provide for the direct election of the president. The opposition fears that when President Michal Kovac's term expires in March 1998, the parliament will be unable to agree on a new candidate since a three-fifths majority is needed--a scenario that Meciar also believes is likely. The prime minister would thus take over the presidential duties until a new president could be elected after the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for fall 1998. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK RULING COALITION DENIES PROBLEMS. Deputy Parliament Chairman Augustin Marian Huska told RFE/RL's Slovak Service on 16 December that European authorities should also listen to the government, adding that there is a tendency in the West to see the situation in Slovakia through the "eyes of the opposition." Huska, who also serves as a co-chairman of the EU-Slovak Joint Parliamentary Committee, on 10 December received a warning letter from his European counterpart, Herbert Bosch. Bosch expressed concern about the decision to revoke Frantisek Gaulieder's mandate and said recent events have strengthened EU concern about the Slovak parliament's supervision of the intelligence service and opposition participation in all parliamentary committees. Bosch added that if the trend does not change, it could have "serious consequences" for Slovakia's for early entry EU. -- Anna Siskova HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER APPOINTS VON HABSBURG AS AMBASSADOR OF EUROPEAN INTEGRATION. Gyula Horn on 16 December appointed the 32-year-old Archduke Georg von Habsburg, grandson of the last king of Hungary, as Hungary's ambassador for European integration, Hungarian media reported. Horn said the appointment would enhance Hungary's international reputation and also serve as recognition for the work of Otto von Habsburg, Georg von Habsburg's father, who is a European Parliament deputy from Austria and has been pushing Hungary's case for European integration. In other news, Horn on 16 December appealed to the EU not to open simultaneous talks with all countries applying for membership but to start with those most ready to join. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN OPPOSITION TAKES A SECOND TOWN . . . A court in the Serbian town of Smederovska Palanka on 16 December ruled that the local electoral commission must turn over the municipal council to the opposition Zajedno coalition, thereby recognizing the opposition's victory in the 17 November municipal elections. It was the second such ruling in two days (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 December 1996). For his part, Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said that "recognition of second round [17 November] elections is the best solution," Nasa Borba reported on 17 December. Finally, in another sign that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic may be willing to make concessions and amid growing trade union support for the daily mass demonstrations across Serbia, the Serbian government announced it would not debate an unpopular labor bill that could throw as many as 800,000 people out of work, Reuters reported on 17 December. -- Stan Markotich . . . AND VOWS TO CONTINUE WITH MASS DEMONSTRATIONS. Opposition leaders have pledged to continue with peaceful mass rallies at least until Milosevic recognizes opposition victories in all 12 of Serbia's largest municipalities, where the Zajedno coalition scored second-round victories. On 16 December, the 27th consecutive day of peaceful rallies in Belgrade, an estimated 100,000 people demonstrated, Nasa Borba reported. Zoran Djindjic, leader of the opposition Democratic Party, told the crowd that the opposition coalition would continue to back nationwide protests and encourage groups from all across Serbia to trek to Belgrade in solidarity with protesters in the capital. Reuters quoted him saying: "One thousand people from each of 30 towns in Serbia will walk to join us here in Belgrade in the new year, we will be world champions in protest marathons." -- Stan Markotich PLAVSIC WARNS OF WAR OVER BRCKO. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said on 16 December that the contested strategic town of Brcko is and will remain Serb. She warned that there will be war if international arbitration takes it away from the Serbs, VOA reported. "Through its force and its good organization, the army must show that Brcko is a territory which is inviolable and dangerous for all enemies," Plavsic told the local military contingent. The formerly mainly Muslim town controls the key land corridor that links the eastern and western halves of Republika Srpska. It is the only territorial issue that was not resolved at Dayton. Mediation was to have settled the matter by 14 December, but the deadline was moved to 15 February after the Serbs refused to attend meetings. Plavsic may be trying to repair links to the army, whose leadership she purged in November. -- Patrick Moore OPPOSITION PARTIES FROM BOTH BOSNIAN ENTITIES TO FORM SHADOW-GOVERNMENT? The Sarajevo-based Union of Bosnian-Herzegovinian Social-Democrats (UBSD) and the Banja Luka-based Liberal Socialist Party on 15 December proposed the formation of an alliance of non-nationalist parties to try to resolve various disputed issues and prevent the country from falling apart, Onasa reported. The Democratic Alternative Forum (FDA) alliance would stand against nationalists who are working for Bosnia's division. Miodrag Zivanovic, head of the Liberal Socialist Party, said the opposition in both entities is long overdue in creating a reconstruction project to improve living conditions in all of Bosnia. He added that the situation in Republika Srpska is critical because no foreign aid is coming in. "The isolating policy of the current Bosnian Serb leadership jeopardizes the population," international agencies quoted him as saying. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROAT REFUGEES FROM SERBIA RESETTLE FORMER SERB-HELD AREA IN CROATIA . . . Croats from Serbia's province of Kosovo, forced to leave Serbia in 1991, are resettling in the small town of Kistanje located in the Krajina area, which was held by Croatian Serbs for four years, AFP reported on 16 December. Kistanje is at the heart of a pilot scheme designed to encourage the repopulation of a region that became a wasteland after some 180,000 Serbs fled into Serbia or Bosnia during the Croatian army offensive last year. Croatian authorities hope to move in more than 1,000 Croats from Kosovo by 1 January. Employment for several hundred people will be provided by the rehabilitation of a local metal works, AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic . . . WHILE SERBS RETURN TO MUSLIM-CROAT FEDERATION. In a rare experiment, Serbs from the village of Krtova, located in a demilitarized zone near Tuzla, have returned to their homes in the Bosnian Federation, international agencies reported on 16 December. About half of the 1,150 people who fled in September 1995, when the Bosnian army recaptured the area, have returned. While attempts by Muslims to move back to their homes in a demilitarized zone of the Bosnian Serb entity have encountered resistance, these Serbs have had no problems with Muslim- Croat federation officials. Meanwhile, the Bosnian Federation is demanding the release of 40 people arrested by Serbs this year while practicing their right to freedom of movement, which is guaranteed under the Dayton peace accords, Oslobodjenje reported on 16 December. -- Daria Sito Sucic SHALIKASHVILI CALLS FOR NEW FORCE TO ARREST WAR CRIMINALS. The head of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili, visited Bosnia and praised IFOR, international and regional media reported on 16 December. The peacekeepers' mandate ends on 20 December, but the smaller SFOR will then take over IFOR's duties and facilities. The U.S. general said that IFOR could be proud of its work but regretted that more was not done to arrest indicted war criminals, which IFOR and the general call "police work." NATO claims that responsibility for arresting war criminals lies with the various former Yugoslav civilian authorities, but critics charge that IFOR has deliberately turned a blind eye toward war criminals in order to avoid violence. Shalikashvili said that "a way must be found for an international police force to be constituted" and arrest suspects. The UN's International Police Task Force has long been in place but, like IFOR, it also keeps away from touchy situations involving war criminals. -- Patrick Moore SERBIAN AUTHORITIES DETAIN RETURNING KOSOVO ALBANIANS. Serb police on 7 and 14 December detained 14 Kosovo Albanians, including a mother with two children, at the Pristina Airport as they returned from Switzerland, ATSH reported on 16 December. The Pristina based Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms said all of the detained Albanians had valid travel documents. Meanwhile, shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova left the U.S. for Paris on 14 December, after meeting with U.S. senior officials, including Secretary of State Warren Christopher. The official announcements after the meeting gave no indication, however, that any concrete steps or substantial diplomatic efforts would be undertaken on the Kosovo issue. -- Fabian Schmidt CONSTANTINESCU VOWS TO FIND 1989 REVOLT TRUTH. President Emil Constantinescu has pledged to uncover and reveal the truth about the events of December 1989, which toppled dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, RFE/RL and Radio Bucharest reported on 16 December. Speaking in Timisoara, at ceremonies marking the beginning of the 1989 events, Constantinescu said it is the duty of the country's new leaders to investigate allegations that hundreds died as a result of confusion purposely sowed by those who succeeded Ceausescu and his team to leadership positions. The crowd, estimated at some 15,000, cheered and chanted "the truth, the truth," and waved flags with the center torn out--the symbol of the 1989 revolt. His predecessor, Ion Iliescu, who had never participated in ceremonies marking the revolt in Timisoara, sent a message to the gathering. -- Michael Shafir ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT DISMISSES STATE TELEVISION HEAD. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea's government on 16 December announced the dismissal of Dumitru Popa, widely regarded as a partisan of the previous executive, as head of Romanian state television. The decision was, however, explained in legalistic terms. The communique said that since Popa was not a member of the television administration's board, he was legally barred from staying in the position. Popa was "temporarily" replaced by film director Stere Gulea. The head of the Free Trade Unions in Radio and Television, Dumitru Iuga, protested against the dismissal and said he is disappointed that the new government behaves just as its predecessor did, Radio Bucharest reported on 17 December. -- Michael Shafir MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES IN SNEGUR'S FAVOR. Moldova's Constitutional Court on 16 December ruled against an appeal launched by the country's prosecutor general, who had contested outgoing President Mircea Snegur's assumption of direct control over the Defense Ministry last April. Snegur's decision followed fruitless attempts to dismiss Defense Minister Gen. Pavel Creanga, whom Snegur had accused of corruption. The parliament and government did not back the attempt to dismiss Creanga, and the Constitutional Court then ruled that Snegur could not dismiss him without the legislature's consent. In response, Snegur assumed direct control over the ministry and the court has now confirmed that the measure was in line with the constitution, which defines the president as commander in chief and grants him the right to directly command the armed forces, Infotag and BASA-press reported on 16 December. -- Michael Shafir BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER REJECTS OPPOSITION'S CONSENSUS FORMULA. Zhan Videnov on 16 December said at a meeting with local Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) leaders in Vratsa that the currency board--proposed by the IMF as a "key element" in Bulgaria's economic stabilization--should be introduced by his government and passed by the present parliament, Duma and Standart reported. Videnov's statement amounts to a rejection of the United Democratic Forces' (ODS) proposal that the board be created only if a consensus is reached in parliament on early elections and the resignation of the Bulgarian National Bank's current executive board. Videnov said the cabinet will publish a document on the country's financial stabilization--including stringent financial discipline and a fixed exchange rate--before the 21-22 December extraordinary BSP congress. Videnov apparently aims to use the document to shore up his leadership before the congress, at which many observers believe he will either lose his position as BSP leader or prime minister. -- Maria Koinova in Sofia BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER STARTS ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN. Nikolay Dobrev on 16 December launched a campaign against corruption in his ministry, Duma reported, citing an unnamed source. Ministry officials will have to declare their income, real estate, and cars annually. Officials leaking confidential information will be fired and taken to court. On 13 December, Dobrev said corruption within the state administration and low motivation among ill-paid police officers are the main obstacles to fighting organized crime, Demokratsiya reported. He said corruption and the selling of classified information are major problems and noted that police operations against organized crime are always plagued by information leaks. He said "criminal groups have more agents in the [Interior Ministry] than we have among them." -- Stefan Krause [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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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