History is made out of the failures and heroism of each insignificant moment. - Franz Kafka
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

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

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            Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
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