|Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. - Sir Winston Churchill|
No. 1, Part II, 2 January 1997
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 BELARUSIAN RADIO ON SYNCHRONIZING RUSSIAN, BELARUSIAN ECONOMIC REFORM. Belarusian Radio on 30 December discussed some of the problems of synchronizing Russian and Belarusian economic reform, as called for in the April 1996 Treaty on the Formation of a Community. It pointed out that in Russia, 65% of large and medium-size companies have been privatized, while in Belarus that figure is less than 15%. Russia has completed voucher privatization, which began in October 1992. By July 1994, Russian citizens had converted more than 97% of those vouchers. By contrast, only 16% of Belarusians eligible for vouchers have so far used them. The rest of the vouchers remain unused, the radio said, because their holders are uncertain they will be able to retain newly acquired assets and because there is nothing to trade them in for--since nothing is being put up for privatization. Natalya Zhyernasek, a specialist from the Ministry of State Assets, said Russia and Belarus noted that Russian and Belarusian law allows citizens of either country to participate in both the Russian and Belarusian privatization processes. She added that economic reform can be carried out by corporate structures and financial-industrial groups, citing Belarus's role in creating the Gazprom subsidiary Slavneft. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINE'S BUDGET DEFICIT TWICE AS LARGE AS FORECAST. Ukraine's budget deficit in 1996 totaled 8.6 billion hryvnyas ($4.57 billion), Reuters reported on 31 December. That is double the figure forecast when the budget was drawn up. Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko said that GDP fell for the fifth consecutive year and that, according to the most optimistic forecasts, it is not expected to reach the 1990 level for another 11 years. Lazarenko said wage arrears have not been paid because of "other commitments." On a more positive note, he added that Ukraine has paid off all its accumulated gas debts to Russia and Turkmenistan. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL APPROVES MILITARY PLAN. Secretary of the National Security Council Volodymyr Horbulin said the council has approved a program for the development of Ukraine's armed forces until the year 2005, UNIAN reported on 28 December. Horbulin said the program took all foreign-policy factors into account and was based on the state's financial resources. Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk noted that three operational and command directorates would be established on the model of the Carpathian and Odessa military districts and the Northern Command. The program envisages a new structure made up of mobile rapid-reaction units. The ground forces, air force, air-defense force, and navy will all remain part of the Ukrainian army. Kuzmuk also said this was the first time that the state has specified that the task of the armed forces is to ensure national security. -- Ustina Markus LITHUANIA TIGHTENS BORDER CONTROLS. Following the detention of a second large group of illegal immigrants, Lithuania's border guards have said they will increase border controls, Reuters reported on 31 December. Eleven Afghan immigrants were detained that same day 1 kilometer from the Belarusian border. On 29 December, 42 illegal immigrants of various nationalities were detained on the border with Poland. A total of 1,696 illegal immigrants were held in detention in 1995. The figure for 1996 is expected to be higher. -- Ustina Markus POLISH-LITHUANIAN RELATIONS. Polish organizations in Lithuania have protested Lithuanian Education Minister Zigmas Zinkeviczius's statements last month on Polish-Lithuanian relations, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 2 January. Zinkeviczius told Valstieciu laikrastis in December that schools using languages other than Lithuanian will be closed and that people who have an insufficient knowledge of Lithuanian will not be considered Lithuanian citizens. He added that Belarusian is the main minority language in Lithuania and that Polish organizations are seeking to impose the Polish language by force. Artur Plokszto, a Polish deputy in the Seimas, said Poles in Lithuania are demanding Zinkeviczius' resignation. Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas said Zinkeviczius had presented his own views, not those of the Lithuanian government. Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius has also distanced himself from Zinkeviczius's statements. -- Jakub Karpinski POLISH POLITICAL ROUNDUP. President Aleksander Kwasniewski, in a nationally televised new year's eve address, described Poland as a "secure country that has normal relations with its neighbors," Polish media reported on 2 January. In a centrist, conciliatory speech intended to reinforce his view of the presidency as "above party politics," Kwasniewski said the successes of Poland's transition can be attributed in part to such opposition leaders as former President Lech Walesa and former Prime Minister Jan Olszewski. He also described Poland's communist inheritance as "dismal." Meanwhile, Solidarity opposition leader Marian Krzaklewski called the government's decision to increase as of 1 January the prices of natural gas, electricity, and heat by 18%, 17%, and 10%, respectively, as provoking "social confrontation." -- Ben Slay CZECH PRESIDENT DELIVERS NEW YEAR'S ADDRESS. Vaclav Havel, in his traditional New Year's Day address broadcast on Czech TV, called on Czechs to avoid reconciling themselves to evil and negative societal trends. The president spoke for only nine minutes, as he is still recovering from a recent lung cancer operation. Havel, who has visibly lost weight and seems to have some difficulty breathing, began his speech on a personal note, saying that twice last year he came "face-to-face with death"--that of his wife and his own hospitalization. He said the two experiences have prompted him to reflect more deeply on the meaning of life. He also noted the "unsavory" political squabbling during the election year of 1996 as well as the various banking and financial scandals. He stressed that people should not assume that such developments are a normal part of public life. -- Victor Gomez CZECH POLITICAL PARTIES MADE PROFIT ON 1996 ELECTIONS. Although all Czech parliamentary parties spent millions of crowns on the two election campaigns in 1996, some of them made profits, thanks to a law that guarantees money from the state budget for each seat they secure in the parliament, Mlada fronta Dnes reported on 2 January. The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia registered the largest profit. It chalked up 56 million crowns ($2 million) after spending only 3.5 million crowns on its campaign for the lower house. The leading coalition party, the Civic Democratic Party, received 161.5 million crowns after a 120 million crown campaign in the lower house election and a 40 million crown expenditure on the Senate vote. (The parties received no money for the Senate election.) The Social Democrats spent 80 million crowns on their lower house campaign and 40 million crowns on the Senate campaign. They received a total of 140 million crowns from the state. -- Victor Gomez SLOVAKS CELEBRATE FOUR YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE. New Year's Eve celebrations took place throughout Slovakia to commemorate the gaining of independence on 1 January 1993. Together with other government representatives, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar attended celebrations at the Banska Bystrica State Opera, where he addressed citizens just before midnight, TASR reported. Meciar evaluated 1996 as a "good" year and asked Slovaks to find compassion for others. President Michal Kovac, in a New Year's address broadcast by Slovak TV on 1 January, criticized the ruling coalition's policies, which, he said, are limiting Slovakia's chances of Western integration. He urged Slovaks not to resign themselves to having someone else make decisions for them. Kovac expressed support for direct presidential elections, which have been demanded by the center-right opposition "blue coalition." Kovac said that although he would prefer not to run for re-election, he will reconsider if direct elections are held. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK PRESIDENT VETOES PENAL CODE AMENDMENT. Michal Kovac on 31 December returned the controversial "protection of the republic" amendment to the parliament for further discussion, Slovak media reported. The president said he opposed clauses in the law allowing the imprisonment of those who "call for mass riots with the intention of subverting the country's constitutional system, territorial integrity, or defense capability." Kovac said the amendment was unacceptable as a whole and that its adoption would contravene the constitution. The parliament approved the amendment last month. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT ON ECONOMIC HARDSHIPS. Arpad Goncz, in his New Year's address, said that the government's austerity measures have pulled Hungary out of its economic crisis, Hungarian media reported on 2 January. Goncz noted that the austerity program has had far-reaching social consequences that large sections of the population, including pensioners, have had to bear. He added that although Hungary has developed new political institutions and a market economy over the past six years, it will take much longer to change the attitudes and habits of a multi-faceted society. It is the duty of society, not of the state, to pull the country out of the morass of inappropriate values caused by historical developments, he noted. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN OPPOSITION RINGS IN NEW YEAR. At least 200,000 people braved the bitter cold to attend a gala open-air New Year's Eve party in central Belgrade, international media reported. Leaders of the Zajedno movement congratulated their followers and predicted victory over President Slobodan Milosevic, whom they accuse of having stolen the 17 November local elections. The crowds were entertained by some of the country's leading rock groups, and the once ubiquitous riot police were nowhere to be seen. The next day, demonstration organizers urged their followers to stay home and make as much noise as possible with pans, drums, and other implements during Serbian TV's main evening newscast to protest its biased coverage. The event was a success, although some 5,000 students also demonstrated on the streets of the city center. The protests show no sign of losing momentum. -- Patrick Moore MILOSEVIC PROMISES ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION. Meanwhile, the Serbian president made a New Year's speech on television but did not directly refer to the protests, VOA noted. However, he mentioned in passing internal and external attempts to destabilize the country. He also promised a new economic program that would "change the face of Serbia." Such grandiose rhetoric has long been typical of his political style, but it is doubtful whether his promises will meet with the eager popular approval they did in the late 1980s. On 31 December, Dutch diplomat Minno Censtro discussed the question of the election results with federal Yugoslav Foreign Ministry officials, who said they would "respect the will of the people," the BBC reported. It is unclear, however, what this will mean in practice. On 1 January, Montenegrin parliament speaker Svetozar Marovic urged Serbian authorities to accept an OSCE report that backs the opposition's position on the elections. -- Patrick Moore SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ADDRESSES POLITICAL SITUATION. Patriarch Pavle opened a two-day synod of 30 bishops on 2 January, AFP noted. Only the five bishops from Bosnia-Herzegovina did not attend the session aimed at discussing the ongoing protests. The church has openly embraced Serbian nationalism since the disintegration of the communist system, but many believers and some of the bishops feel it has been too close to the political authorities both under the communists and under the ex-communist Milosevic. Such persons identify more readily with the Bosnian Serb leadership under Radovan Karadzic, who does not have a communist past. In any event, Pavle called on the authorities not to use violence against the demonstrators, Vatican Radio reported on 1 January. -- Patrick Moore CIA SAYS BOSNIA HAS BROKEN MILITARY, INTELLIGENCE TIES WITH IRAN. The Clinton administration on 31 December said that Bosnia-Herzegovina has severed intelligence and military ties with Iran, international agencies reported. The statement followed a story published the same day in the Los Angeles Times claiming the CIA has evidence that Iranian agents secretly delivered some $500,000 in cash to Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic before his party's campaign for the September general elections in Bosnia. The newspaper said the story was based on classified documents it had obtained. Meanwhile, the CIA has provided U.S. Congressional committees with a classified report on Iranian activities in Bosnia. An unclassified version is expected to follow soon. State Department spokesman John Dinger said Izetbegovic recognizes his relationship with the U.S. is more important than that with Iran. As a result, the U.S. will go ahead with a plan to train and equip the Bosnian Federation forces with military gear, Dinger added. -- Daria Sito Sucic STEINER VOTED BOSNIA'S "FOREIGN PERSONALITY" OF 1996. Michael Steiner, who is deputy to the international community's High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Carl Bildt, has been chosen Bosnia's foreign personality of the year, Dnevni Avaz reported on 31 December. The poll was organized by Bosnian publications. The biweekly magazine Dani said Steiner's work "brings back the almost-lost credibility of international diplomacy and the existence of morality." In other news, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic has said that 1997 will be a year of consolidation for the country, AFP reported. But Izetbegovic also said he is dissatisfied with the slow progress of peace implementation in Bosnia, adding that time is running out. He added that he hoped the current situation would soon be eased. But if it is not, "it will be time for us to wonder if we want a peace of this nature," he commented. -- Daria Sito Sucic RUGOVA REJECTS CRITICISM ABOUT HIS STRATEGY. Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova has rejected criticism that his strategy is too "passive," Koha Jone reported on 31 December. He countered that "our policy is active" and that "this is appreciated by the international [community]." Political activists in Kosovo and Albanian President Sali Berisha have recently urged that Kosovar Albanians take to the streets to support the Serbian opposition in its struggle against the regime of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Rugova pointed out that the "resistance of the people of Kosovo is institutional." He added that as a result of its peaceful policy, Kosovo has "many friends abroad." At the same time, he noted that only the U.S. government has helped Kosovo. -- Fabian Schmidt FORMER ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DIES. Nicolae Militaru, Romania's first post-communist minister of defense, has died of a heart attack, aged 71, international agencies reported last week. Militaru belonged to a group of military men and politicians who unsuccessfully plotted against communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu in the 1970s and again in the 1980s. That group also included former President Ion Iliescu. The authorities reportedly found about the plot, but Militaru suffered nothing more than harassment. After 1989, it was alleged that Militaru had gotten off lightly because he had links with the KGB, whom Ceausescu did not want to annoy. Those and other allegations played a role in Militaru's resignation a few months after his appointment as national defense minister in late 1989. Militaru, who repeatedly denied any KGB links, ran for president in the 1996 elections. He came in last of 16 candidates, garnering less than 1% of the vote. -- Michael Shafir BULGARIAN PRESIDENT APOLOGIZES FOR ECONOMIC DOLDRUMS. In a televised address to the nation on New Year's Eve, Zhelyu Zhelev apologized for the country's economic crisis, Bulgarian media reported. He said no other politician would make such an apology but would prefer instead to blame others. Zhelev, however, pointed out that he was not responsible for the economic and social misery, adding that the president in Bulgaria has merely ceremonial functions. Zhelev characterized 1996 as "perhaps the most difficult year" since 1989, because people lost even their hopes for a better future. He called for compassion for the socially weak and for "merciless analysis" and public debate over developments during the past seven years. Zhelev also demanded that politicians explain why "the Bulgarian transition failed while [the transition of] other nations was successful." -- Maria Koinova in Sofia ALBANIAN NATIONAL FRONT UNITES WITH MONARCHISTS. The nationalist Balli Kombetar and the monarchist Legality Movement have formed an alliance. According to ATSH on 29 December, the parties have said they want to unite nationalist forces "in order to prevent the restoration of communism in Albania and [to establish] a powerful opposition" to the governing Democratic Party. The parties demanded a referendum about Albania's future constitutional status, adding that citizens should decide whether there is to be a parliamentary or presidential democracy or a constitutional monarchy and whether King Leka Zogu should return from his South African exile. The two parties do not intend to create a single formation and want to keep their separate identities. They have invited other right-wing parties to join the alliance. Meanwhile, Balli Kombetar deputy leader Hysen Selfo has confirmed that Abaz Ermenji is still party leader, Zeri i Popullit reported on 31 December. Ermenji left Albania for France last year following a dispute with Selfo over Balli Kombetar's recognition of the May election results. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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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