|The burnt child shuns the fire until the next day. - Mark Twain|
No. 245, Part II, 20 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 *************************************************************************** NOTE TO DAILY DIGEST SUBSCRIBERS: The OMRI Daily Digest will not be published the week of December 23-27, 1996. It will return on Monday, December 30, 1996. *************************************************************************** CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS DECREE ON CABINET. Leonid Kuchma signed a decree fixing the number of ministers in the cabinet as well as the total number of ministries, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported on 19 December. The decree also directly subordinates the interior, foreign, information, and defense ministers to the president. The decree has sparked controversy among deputies, some of whom say it is unconstitutional and accuse the president of taking over some of parliament's prerogatives. Deputy Volodymyr Chemerys said parliament may turn to the Constitutional Court to have the decree revoked. -- Ustina Markus BUDGET DEBATES PROGRESSING IN UKRAINE. Ukraine's parliament has approved the constitutional commission's budgetary proposals for 1997 and sent them to the cabinet for further refinement, Ukrainian Radio reported on 19 December. The government has two weeks to work out the details of the budget. Parliament also debated a law on arbitrating in labor conflicts. The law foresees the creation of an independent labor arbitration service. Deputies were categorically opposed to a provision that would allow for the mass dismissal of workers, but the law was approved in its first reading. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON RELATIONS WITH THE WEST. Uladzimir Syanko said that although relations with Russia remain a priority in Belarus's foreign policy, the country is also seeking closer cooperation with the West as well, Belarusian Radio reported on 18 December. He noted that Western countries have recently taken on a more reserved stance toward Belarus, perhaps because of Belarus's support for Russia's position on NATO expansion. At the same time, Belarusian Ambassador to the UN Alyaksandr Sychou tried to dismiss allegations that Belarus is not abiding by the principles of democracy. Meanwhile, the Political Committee of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly decided to recommend that the assembly suspend Belarus's membership as an observer in the council, Russian TV reported on 19 December. -- Sergei Solodovnikov WORLD BANK LOAN TO LATVIA. The World Bank has approved a $60 million loan to Latvia to support a program promoting private developers and improved management of public resources, Reuters reported on 20 December. The funds would be released over three years, with the first $20 million tranche available immediately. Since joining the World Bank organization in 1992, Latvia has received $210 million for seven projects. -- Ustina Markus GERMAN, FRENCH, POLISH FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET IN WARSAW. Klaus Kinkel of Germany, Herve de Charette of France, and Dariusz Rosati of Poland met on 19 December for the sixth foreign ministers' meeting since 1991, when the three countries initiated the so-called Weimar triangle of cooperation. The ministers discussed European security and the process of bringing new members into the EU and met with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz. The three ministers said the heads of state of the three countries will meet next year, although a date has yet to be announced. They also said their three embassies in the Baltic states, Ukraine, and Belarus would cooperate. A common French-German-Polish cultural institute is to be created in Warsaw. -- Jakub Karpinski OLEKSY AFFAIR FOLLOW UP. The Sejm on 19 December accepted a special commission report on the Internal Affairs Ministry (MSW) and its former minister, Andrzej Milczanowski. Milczanowski a year ago accused former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia. In April, military prosecutors dropped the case against Oleksy, although investigations revealed that he had maintained social contacts with Russian agents operating under diplomatic cover. The commission report states that the State Security Office and Milczanowski "may have violated the law" in conducting the Oleksy case. During the stormy debate, Oleksy's party colleagues stated that Milczanowski and some intelligence officers were preparing a political plot against Oleksy. The opposition stressed the inappropriate character of Oleksy's social contacts with Russian diplomats. MSW Deputy Minister Andrzej Anklewicz fainted in the Sejm, suffering from what was thought to have been a heart attack. The Sejm voted 243-90, with 31 abstentions, in favor of accepting the report. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH PRIME MINISTER THREATENS TO LEAVE THE RULING COALITION. Vaclav Klaus on 19 December said that his Civic Democratic Party (ODS) may leave the coalition government, should parliament approve two controversial laws the ODS opposes. Klaus accused one the ODS's two junior coalition partners, the Christian Democratic Union-Czechoslovak People's Party (KDU-CSL), of violating the coalition agreement by helping to pass in the first reading an amendment to the retirement law and a bill on farming. Klaus was also angered by the fact that the KDU- CSL banded together with the Social Democrats to elect former Premier Petr Pithart to the post of Senate chairman, despite strong resistance from the ODS. Klaus said the two laws, if passed, would cast doubt on the country's transformation drive, and the ODS could not stay in the government under such circumstances. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAKIA'S MAIN RULING PARTY DEFENDS CONTROVERSIAL AMENDMENT. Representatives of the leading coalition party, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), say it will be impossible for the authorities to abuse the protection of the republic amendment to the penal code. HZDS legal expert Jan Cuper said on 19 December that the amendment's provision concerning the spread of false information about Slovakia abroad has been deleted from the original version. Cuper continued that opposition parties, which protested against the original version, do not even attempt to hide their own cooperation with "international political structures, which they effectively use for fighting against the government coalition." The new amendment, passed by parliament, makes it illegal to call for mass disturbances with the aim of overturning the constitution or Slovakia's territorial integrity and sovereignty. -- Anna Siskova HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES ACT TO MAKE PRIVATIZATION MORE TRANSPARENT. Parliament on 19 December passed an amendment to the privatization law, which aims to make the process more transparent, Hungarian dailies reported. The amendment was drafted by three deputies of the junior coalition partner, Alliance of Free Democrats. The legislation instructs the State Privatization & Holding Co. APV to place privatization related documents in the National Archives for public perusal within 30 days after closing each deal. Before the vote, deputies held a heated debate over the parliamentary constitutional committee's proposal for amending the draft law. The committee proposed that--under exceptional circumstances--APV be allowed to transfer state-owned property to local governments and cooperatives for free. The opposition Young Democrats said that the proposal, put forward by the Socialist-dominated committee, suggests that, in the wake of the privatization scandal, the government wants to establish the legal conditions for corruption, instead of concluding that corruption is wrong. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE FEDERAL YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER DOES NOT RULE OUT NEW ELECTIONS . . . The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's foreign minister, Milan Milutinovic, said on 19 December that yet another round of municipal elections in those centers where the opposition Zajedno coalition originally scored victories cannot be ruled out. But he added that such elections would be contingent on an OSCE recommendation. "Should the OSCE delegation which is coming here [on 20 December] recommend new elections in Serbia after making a thorough and impartial review, we would accept that," he said. Meanwhile, CNN reported that Milutinovic also said that the strategy of the demonstrators has outlived its usefulness. "Here in Serbia, there is an old saying that when the song is over, you stop singing," he said. -- Stan Markotich . . . AND DEMONSTRATIONS CONTINUE. Across Serbia, meanwhile, mass demonstrations demanding that the regime recognize the opposition electoral victories continued into a their 30th day on 19 December. Radio Index reported that more than 200,000 people marched in Belgrade in one of that city's largest single protest actions to date. For their part, Zajedno leaders also used the occasion for a mass celebration of St. Nicholas Day. On 18 December, some 37 students began a march from Kragujevac, about 120 km from Belgrade, to the capital with a protest letter they were intending to deliver to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Meanwhile, pro-Milosevic demonstrations continued on 19 December for a second day throughout small towns in Serbia, including Kosovo. So far, such events have been attended by only a few thousand people, mostly elderly and die-hard communists, and they have not taken place in Belgrade. -- Stan Markotich CROATIA, VATICAN SIGN KEY AGREEMENTS. Croatia and the Holy See signed three documents on 19 December to regulate their relations, Croatian and international media reported. The texts cover legal issues, education and culture, and the role of priests in the army and police. The head of the government's religious affairs commission, Jure Radic, said that Croatia has thus become the first former communist country of Eastern Europe to establish "full ties" with the Vatican, Reuters added. Cardinal Franjo Kuharic praised the agreements as legalizing the status of the Roman Catholic church, and stated that the still-open question of former church properties confiscated by the Communists could be solved soon. More than 90% of Croats are nominally Roman Catholic, but polls consistently show that, while Kuharic himself is well liked, there is strong opposition to a larger political role for the church and to the church's stand on abortion. -- Patrick Moore IZETBEGOVIC WARNS AGAINST SERBIAN BLACKMAIL OVER BRCKO. The Muslim member of the Bosnian presidency, Alija Izetbegovic, has warned the international community against yielding to Serbian pressure in the upcoming arbitration over the strategic town of Brcko, Onasa reported on 19 December. The president of the Republika Srpska, Biljana Plavsic, had said on 16 December that there will be war if anyone tries to take the formerly majority Muslim town away from the Serbs (see Pursuing Balkan Peace, 17 December 1996). Izetbegovic has now responded that his forces could have taken the town in late 1995 but accepted arbitration under the Dayton agreement instead. He said he did so because he believes the legal arguments are on his side, a point Dnevni avaz reiterated on 20 December. Izetbegovic concluded: "The only right that [the Serbs] stress is the right of the stronger. This right exists no more, because they are not stronger any more. If there really were a war for Brcko, there is no doubt who would win it. -- Patrick Moore HERCEG-BOSNA SAID TO BE OFFICIALLY DISMANTLED . . . Kresimir Zubak, the former president of the Muslim-Croat Federation and a Croat member of the three-man Bosnian presidency, said on 19 December that the Bosnian Croat para-state of Herceg-Bosna ceased to exist on 17 December, the same day that the Bosnian republican government transferred its functions to the federation, Oslobodjenje reported the next day. In a letter to international peace envoy Carl Bildt and U.S. envoy John Kornblum, Zubak said a special commission will be in charge of the details of dismantling the mini-state. Zubak said all stamps, stationery, and other documents will be withdrawn and requested that the same be done by the Bosnian government. Zubak also asked that the information and documentation agency, which the Croats claim is an espionage organization directed against them, be dismantled. He said the Federation Forum, which he prevented from convening last week, should meet as soon as possible to deal with the question of implementing the federation. -- Daria Sito Sucic . . . BUT EVICTIONS OF MUSLIMS FROM MOSTAR CONTINUE. UNHCR spokeswoman Ariane Quentier said an elderly Muslim couple was expelled from the Croat-held part of Mostar on 18 December, thus bringing the number of Muslims driven out since the beginning of the year to 73, AFP reported on 19 December. The couple were forced out by men who showed them "a temporary authorization" from Herceg-Bosna authorities to move into the apartment. Meanwhile, the Croat mayor of Mostar, Ivan Prskalo, accused his Muslim deputy, Safet Orucevic, of wanting to spark a conflict in the city, saying that his statements "only offer one option for the future: war," AFP reported. In other news, Croatian Ambassador to the UN Mario Nobilo said Croatia is not willing to support the Croat-Muslim Federation until the alleged poor treatment of Croats in central Bosnia and Sarajevo stops, Oslobodjenje reported on 18 December. -- Daria Sito Sucic RUGOVA MEETS BERISHA. After concluding visits to the U.S. and France, Kosovar shadow state President Ibrahim Rugova arrived in Tirana on 19 December for a meeting with President Sali Berisha. Both sides said they "wholeheartedly support the active protests of the Belgrade students and the Serbian democratic forces," adding that "this movement is directed against the dictatorship of [Serbian President Slobodan] Milosevic." The presidents concluded that "the democratization of Serbia in a democratic and peaceful way is an important and positive development ... for peace and stability in the region." The statement did not call on the Kosovo Albanians to turn out for street protests. -- Fabian Schmidt ROMANIAN TROOPS TO STAY WITH BOSNIA FORCE. Parliament on 19 December voted to keep the 200-strong Romanian engineering battalion in NATO's new SFOR force in Bosnia and offered Timisoara's airport, near the Serbian border, for possible use by SFOR. The decision came in response to President Emil Constantinescu's formal request in a letter to the legislature, Romanian and international media report. Constantinescu said maintaining the force (which was first sent to Bosnia in February as part of the former IFOR) will increase the prestige of the country and enhance its chances of being included in the first wave of new NATO members. -- Michael Shafir ION CEBUC LIKELY TO BECOME MOLDOVA'S NEXT PRIME MINISTER. Infotag reported on 19 December that Ion Cebuc, the current chairman of the State Accounting Chamber, is the candidate most likely to be designated the country's next prime minister. Citing Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova (PDAM) leader Dumitru Motpan, the agency reported that Cebuc's nomination was discussed at a recent meeting between President-elect Petru Lucinschi and the PDAM leadership. Motpan added that Cebuc has "vast experience" in politics and managing the economy, having served at different times as the head of Moldova's representation in Moscow, deputy foreign minister, and deputy minister of the economy. Infotag added that Motpan himself has a good chance of replacing Lucinschi at the head of the country's parliament. -- Michael Shafir TRANSDNIESTER AMENDS ITS CONSTITUTION. An amendment to the constitution passed by the Supreme Soviet of the breakaway Transdniester region on 19 December will make it possible to hold the 22 December presidential election as scheduled even if only one candidate is running for the post. The previous stipulation required at least two candidates. The amendment was passed after President Igor Smirnov's electoral rival, Vladimir Malakhov, threatened to withdraw from the race, arguing that his campaign had received "unequal treatment" from the Smirnov-dominated media. In related news, the Russian ultra-nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky appealed on Transdniestrian television to the electorate, calling on it to back Smirnov. -- Michael Shafir ANTI-GOVERNMENT DEMONSTRATIONS IN BULGARIA. Between 20,000 and 50,000 people demonstrated outside the parliament building in Sofia on 19 December to demand the government's resignation. The event was organized by the Union of Democratic Forces and the "Promyana" alliance, Standart and Trud reported. The demonstrators blocked downtown traffic, chanted slogans such as "Red garbage," and burned an effigy of Prime Minster Zhan Videnov. Speakers at the demonstration appealed to Sofia's citizens to rally against the government. They also announced that miners in Burgas have descended into their mines and gone on hunger strike, threatening not to come out until the government resigns. The demonstrators also protested against censorship in the national media. -- Maria Koinova in Sofia NO CONSENSUS ON BULGARIA'S CURRENCY BOARD. The parliamentary faction of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) on 19 December rejected the opposition formula for a national consensus on the adoption of the currency board adoption, Standart and Kontinent reported. The United Democratic Forces proposal for early parliamentary elections and the immediate resignation of the Bulgarian National Bank's executive board in exchange for the opposition support of the currency board idea, is "strange and not understandable," BSP deputy Stefan Gaitandzhiev said in parliament. Union of Democratic Forces deputy Alexander Bozhkov said that if the BSP parliamentary faction rejects the opposition proposal, the government should be ousted by street demonstrations. -- Maria Koinova in Sofia ALBANIA FACES FOOD SHORTAGE DUE TO GREEK ROAD BLOCKADES. Twenty-two days after Greek farmers set up road blocks all over Greece, Albania is facing a food shortage, Reuters reported. The blockade has so far inflicted $100 million worth of damage on the Greek economy and forced several Albanian factories to shut down. It has resulted in price hikes of up to 20% in Gjirokaster. Prices for oranges, apples, and potatoes have gone up by 30%. -- Fabian Schmidt SECOND COLLAPSE OF ALBANIAN PYRAMID SCHEME WITHIN A MONTH. Police prevented thousands of Albanians from storming the premises of the Sude investment company in Tirana on 19 December, Radio Deutsche Welle's Albanian language service reported. The four-year-old company was one of many Albanian pyramid schemes offering monthly interest rates of up to 30%. More than 10,000 Albanians are estimated to have invested in Sude. Many cheated Albanians reportedly blamed the government for allowing the companies to operate. Another pyramid scheme head disappeared with $13 million in November. -- 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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