I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself. - Aldous Huxley
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 244, Part II, 19 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 UKRAINE TO REMOVE FUEL FROM CHORNOBYL SARCOPHAGUS. Ukrainian Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety Minister Yurii Kostenko said Ukraine will remove nuclear fuel from the concrete shell over the damaged No. 4 reactor, Ukrainian TV and Western agencies reported on 18 December. The process could take 30-50 years, while the preparation for it will require 10-15 years, according to Kostenko. In opting for the fuel removal method, which will be financed by the West, Ukraine has rejected French-British and Russian projects to reinforce the concrete structure. The fuel must be removed to rule out the possibility of a chain reaction inside the devastated reactor. Kostenko said Ukraine has received only $185 million out of the $3.1 billion pledged by the G-7 to fund the closure of the Chornobyl by the year 2000. He reiterated that Ukraine will have to reopen the second block of Chornobyl, because the only functioning reactor, No. 3, cannot meet national electricity needs alone. * Oleg Varfolomeyev REACTIONS TO RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN COMMUNITY. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 18 December said that the Russian-Belarusian community has proved its viability, despite some shortcomings, Radio Rossii reported. His comments came at the sixth meeting of the community in Moscow. Meanwhile, Izvestiya criticized Russia's official support for Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, warning that with the support of Gen. (ret.) Aleksander Lebed and the Russian patriotic opposition led by Sergei Baburin, Lukashenka may become a figure of extreme influence in the community. At the same time, Uladzimir Hlod, editor-in-chief of Belapan news agency's analytical service, called the draft agreement on further integration between Russia and Belarus a work of Russian chauvinist forces disappointed at the outcome of Russia's presidential election. The document calls for the countries' two legislative branches to be merged followed by a common presidential election. * Sergei Solodovnikov BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS STANDING COMMITTEES. The House of Representatives has elected the heads of its permanent committees, Belarusian TV reported on 18 December. Yuryi Malumau will head the Legal Committee; former KGB head Uladzimir Yahorau will head the National Security Committee; Syamyon Livishits will head the Economics Committee; Anatol Krastsky will head the state and Local Authorities Committee; Alyaksandr Zenchenka will head the Budgetary and Finance Committee; Mykola Kutsko will head the Agricultural Committee; Uladzimir Pletyukhau will head the Education and Culture Committee; Stanislau Hovorushkin will head the Labor, Health, Social Issues, and Sports Committee; Yuryi Kulakovsky will head the Human Rights and International Relations Committee; and Leanid Rachkau will head the International Relations and CIS Committee. A day earlier, Belapan reported the parliament voted to abolish abstentions in voting. Deputies must now vote for or against laws and resolutions. All resolutions on that day were passed unanimously. * Ustina Markus ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS BUDGET. The Rigikogu adopted the 1997 state budget on 18 December by a vote of 62-32, ETA reported. The volume of the budget is 12.512 billion kroons ($1 billion). The largest source of revenues come from the VAT, which should bring in 5.775 billion kroons, and a 44% personal income tax, which should amount to 2.25 billion kroons. The rest of the revenues will be secured through a corporate income tax (1.1 billion kroons), an alcohol exise tax (983.2 million kroons), a tobacco exise (326 million kroons), and a motor fuel exise (896 million kroons). The Social Ministry will get 2.184 billion kroons; the Education Ministry, 2.26 million kroons; the Interior Ministry, 1.546 million kroons; the Transport and Communications Ministry, 1.64 million kroons; and the Defense Ministry, 732.2 million kroons. The budget also includes expenses for preparing Estonia for entry into the EU. * Ustina Markus LATVIA COMES UNDER CRITICISM. A report prepared by EU experts has found corruption at all levels of the Latvian government, Latvian Radio reported on 17 December. It reported that about 50% of profits generated from criminal activities are spent on bribing government officials, especially customs and police officers. The report stated bribery is rife everywhere, adding that most organized crime in Latvia relates to Russia. In other news, the Latvian human rights bureau has found that several points in Latvian law do not meet international human rights standards. Those include regulations allowing only Latvians to work as private detectives, employees of armed security and aircraft services, lawyers and their assistants, firefighters, and pharmacists and veterinary licenses. * Ustina Markus SOLIDARITY DEMONSTRATIONS IN POLAND. Some 3,000 workers participated in three Solidarity-sponsored demonstrations in Warsaw on 18 December. The loudest demonstration was organized by the Gdansk Shipyard's Solidarity branch to demand greater state funding for the bankrupt company. Demonstrators threw firecrackers and smeared red paint on the walls of the government building. Another group, from the Swidnik helicopter factory, demanded more money in the stage budget to enable the Polish army to buy local armament industry products, including Sokol helicopters produced in Swidnik. The third group, from the power engineering industry, protested against the liberalization of energy prices. * Jakub Karpinski FORMER CZECH PREMIER ELECTED CHAIRMAN OF SENATE. Petr Pithart, the Czech premier in 1990-1992, was elected chairman of the first Czech Senate at its constituent session on 18 December, Czech media reported. Pithart was proposed by the coalition Christian Democratic Union-Czechoslovak People's Party, but his candidacy was opposed by Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS). Klaus's party claimed that Pithart had failed in his post of premier. Pithart, a former dissident, was a leader of the Civic Movement which competed against the ODS in the 1992 elections. President Vaclav Havel supported Pithart's candidacy, describing him as an educated and understanding man. The 81-member Senate failed to elect Pithart in the first round of voting, when Pithart received only 39 votes. In the second round, he received 41 votes. Klaus has expressed disappointment over the election of his former political rival. * Jiri Pehe SLOVAK PARLIAMENT DELAYS VOTE ON DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. The parliament, in a special session called by the opposition, voted on 18 December to postpone debate on the constitutional bill on the president's direct election until 15 February, Slovak media reported. The opposition plans to launch a referendum drive on the issue in the new year. If it collects 350,000 signatures, the president will be required to call a referendum within 30 days. In other news, the Slovak Syndicate of Journalists on 18 December protested the "protection of the republic" amendment that was approved the previous day, saying it threatens constitutionally-guaranteed civic rights and freedoms as well as journalists' right to freely exercise their profession. Also on 18 December, the Slovak Helsinki Committee criticized the amendment's vague formulations, saying that it "raises serious concerns among the public and chaos in the legislation," TASR reported. * Sharon Fisher SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER ON NATO. During an 18 December television debate, Vladimir Meciar said he thinks Slovakia could join NATO later if it fails to be included in the first wave of expansion, CTK reported. He added that the alliance "will not leave Slovakia behind" and "it can wait." Meciar said his government's support for a referendum on NATO membership will not change anything concerning its aim of joining the alliance, "but such a serious historical decision must have public support." He noted that while the public supports joining NATO, it is opposed to troop and nuclear missile deployment on Slovak territory. Regarding Western criticism of his governing practices, Meciar said that Western countries should be sending positive signals to Slovakia. He also noted that "Slovakia has complicated life for itself by taking impractical steps." * Anna Siskova SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN OPPOSITION SUFFERS A SETBACK? The electoral commission in the town of Smederevska Palanka on 18 December ruled that the governing Socialists won the 17 November municipal elections, Nasa Borba reported the following day. The commission's ruling comes after a court decision recognizing a Zajedno victory in the town. A similar court ruling in Serbia's second largest city of Nis which also recognized opposition victories has not been contested by the local electoral commission, at least for the moment. Meanwhile, at least 100,000 people marched in Belgrade on 18 December, with some of the protesters walking past the Russian Embassy to register their protest and anger at Moscow's support for the regime. About 30,000 students tried to march to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's residence, but they were turned away by police. * Stan Markotich SERBIAN PRESIDENT STANDS FIRM. In the latest sign that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is standing firm in his resolve to not recognize the opposition's victories in the recent municipal elections, about 2,000 Milosevic loyalists demonstrated in the village of Sremska Mitrovica, near Belgrade, to show support for the regime, RTS 1 reported. The demonstrators, almost all elderly, showed their support for the authorities by unfurling banners reading, "We love you, Slobo" or "Slobo-Peace and Progress," and injunctions against opposition demonstrators such as, "Think with your head, not your feet." * Stan Markotich ETHNIC CLEANSING REINFORCED IN BOSNIA. Three houses belonging to Muslims but located on Croat territory were dynamited last weekend, the UN police announced on 18 December. UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko added that the explosions in Capljina brought the total number of such incidents on Croat territory over the past three months to 35. Ivanko charged that the authorities should try to prevent such acts or at least try to catch the guilty parties. He noted, however, that nobody has been caught to date, AFP reported. Meanwhile, the UNHCR charged the Bosnian Serb authorities with preventing Muslims from returning to their homes in the Sipovo area in western Bosnia, near Mrkonjic Grad. The UN noted that the local Serbs had previously been helpful, and suggested that the authorities in Pale may have meanwhile issued orders to block any returns. The Dayton agreement provides for freedom of movement and the right to go home, but those provisions have scarcely been enforced. * Patrick Moore NEW UN HEAD DEMURS ON UN POLICE FORCE TO CATCH WAR CRIMINALS. Kofi Annan on 18 December said he doubts the UN International Police Task Force (IPTF), currently operating in Bosnia-Herzegovina under a limited mandate, is an adequate force to find and apprehend Bosnian war criminals, AFP reported. Annan said the governments in the region must be pressed to cooperate, a position already articulated by NATO. The head of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili, has promoted the idea of a separate international police force to hunt down war criminals, saying the NATO-led peace force in Bosnia is not trained for "police work" (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 December 1996). The still vague proposal suggests that the new police force might operate under the EU, the UN criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, or the OSCE. But critics say none of those organizations have the means or the experience to track down suspects. * Daria Sito Sucic CROATIA THREATENED BY FOREIGN FORCES WHO WANT YUGOSLAVIA? The Croatian Defense and National Security Council on 17 December claimed that "pressure is still being exerted by those who support the existence of Yugoslavia at all costs and who are against the creation of an independent Croatian state," AFP reported. The council, chaired by President Franjo Tudjman, stressed that those people have plans to push Croatia back into a Balkan or southeast European "melting pot." Those "foreign scenarios" aim to stage simultaneous demonstrations in Zagreb, Belgrade, and Sarajevo. In other news, Tudjman on 16 December replaced four government ministers who were either considered to be too independent or suspected of corruption. Senior police officers have pledged support for one of them, former Interior Minister Ivan Jarnjak, saying he is the only person who would be capable of handling the chaos that would ensue if Tudjman were to die in office, AFP on 18 December, quoting the independent weekly Globus. * Daria Sito Sucic NEW ROMANIAN LIBERAL ALLIANCE. The Liberal Party '93, the National Liberal Party-Democratic Convention (PNL-CD), and the National Liberal Party-Campeanu Group decided on 17 December to set up a new alliance called the National Liberal Union (UNL), Radio Bucharest reported. Dinu Zamfirescu of the Liberal Party '93 deplored the fact that the National Liberal Party (PNL) is attempting to "impose unacceptable conditions" on the unification of liberal formations. PNL first deputy chairman Viorel Catarama said on 12 December that his party must have a 60% representation in any future joint Liberal conference that will decide on the unification of Liberal formations. The Party of Civic Alliance (PAC) has also rejected Catarama's formula. It is unclear, however, how the UNL will get its act together, since the PNL-CD is a member of the Democratic Convention of Romania and the other two parties are not. PNL- CD vice chairman Alexandru Popovici said on 18 December that any unification must take place within the CDR.Question marks also loom over the future of the National Liberal Alliance, set up by the Liberal Party '93 and the PAC a few months earlier. * Michael Shafir ROMANIANS PROTEST APPOINTMENT OF ETHNIC HUNGARIAN PREFECTS. The leaderships of the Democratic Convention of Romania and the Democratic Party-National Salvation Front in Harghita county have protested against the appointment of an ethnic Hungarian to the post of county prefect, Radio Bucharest reported on 18 December. Ethnic Hungarians form the majority of the county's residents. The decision to appoint three members of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) as prefects was reached as a result of discussions among the new governing coalition parties. UDMR Senator Attila Verestoy told RFE/RL that based on its strength in parliament, the UDMR was entitled to five prefects but has agreed to have only three. Adevarul reported that President Emil Constantinescu and Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea promised ethnic Romanian members of parliament that they would "be on guard" against "infringements of the constitution and the country's laws"-an allusion to the UDMR program that calls for "local, territorial, and personal autonomy." * Michael Shafir RUSSIA, BELARUS, ABKHAZIA SEND OBSERVERS TO TRANSDNIESTRIAN ELECTIONS. Responding to an invitation from the Tiraspol authorities, Russia, Belarus, and Abkhazia will send observers to the 22 December presidential election in the breakaway region, local and international media reported on 18 December. The Russian delegation will include members of the State Duma from Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic faction and from the Communist Party faction. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov said the presence of the delegation will "not upgrade" the "purely local character" of the ballot. He said Russia continued to favor the settling of the dispute by granting the region special status within Moldova. The head of the OSCE permanent mission in Moldova, Donald Johnson, said no OSCE observers will be delegated because the organization "supported and continues to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova." * Michael Shafir SOUP KITCHENS OPEN IN BULGARIA. The city of Sofia on 18 December opened the capital's first 24 permanent soup kitchens to serve free meals to the poor, RFE/RL reported. The kitchens will offer warm soup and bread once a day to around 3,000 people. Hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians live in increasingly miserable conditions, with average monthly wages and pensions declining constantly, the latter to 5,700 leva ($12.3). The previous day, the Polish Red Cross-following a request from the Bulgarian Red Cross and Red Crescent-arranged for two cargo planes to send 9 metric tons of food to Bulgaria. Meanwhile, Demokratsiya on 19 December reported that of the 1.6 million Bulgarians dependent on central heating, 111,000 have had the heating in their homes turned off because they cannot afford it. Standart noted that all state-controlled heating companies will face bankruptcy when the price of Russian gas goes up in January. * Stefan Krause BULGARIAN EMPLOYERS, TRADE UNIONS SIGN ACCORD. The Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce (BSK) and the two big trade union confederations on 18 December signed an accord stipulating that Bulgarians receive their salaries every third day, if the country is hit by hyperinflation, or weekly, if monthly inflation reaches 40-50%, Standart and Kontinent reported. According to experts of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria, the inflation rate for 1996 is 300%, and BSK Chairman Bozhidar Danev said inflation is running at 25-27% in December alone. * Maria Koinova in Sofia HIGH-RANKING ITALIAN LAW-ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS VISIT ALBANIA. An Italian delegation led by Deputy Attorney-General Alberto Mariatti left Albania on 18 December after meeting with various Albanian official bodies to discuss greater cooperation in fighting organized crime, Rilindja Demokratike reported. The largest problem both countries face is the smuggling of arms, drugs, and people. In recent years, Albania and Italy have drastically raised their level of cooperation and have engaged in more mutual exchanges of crime-related information. Last week, the Italian and Albanian interior ministers signed a cooperation agreement in Tirana. * Fabian Schmidt ARAFAT VISITS ALBANIA. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat arrived in Albania on 18 December to meet with President Sali Berisha to discuss strengthening ties. Arafat expressed his commitment for the Middle Eastern peace process and thanked Albania for its consistent support of the Palestinian cause, describing it as a "brotherly country," international agencies reported. Communist-era Albania had sided with the Palestine Liberation Organization during its prolonged armed struggle with Israel. Like most other Communist countries, it refused to recognize Israel. * Fabian Schmidt [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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