|A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. - Jonathan Swift|
No. 2, Part II, 3 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 POLITICAL UPDATE. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has appointed Piotr Prakapovich first deputy prime minister, Belarusian radio reported. Prakapovich, an economist, is considered a moderate. He will be responsible for implementing the government's socio-economic development program until the year 2000. In other news, several regions- including Minsk, Mahileu, and Hrodna-have nominated candidates to the Council of the Republic, the new upper chamber of the legislature, Belapan reported on 31 December. The lists of candidates are to be submitted to the Central Electoral Commission on 4 January. Lukashenka has the final say over the candidates. * Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT INCREASES CONTROL OVER ARMS EXPORTS. President Leonid Kuchma has issued a decree aimed at increasing control over defense-related exports, Ukrainian Radio reported on 28 December. The decree transforms the State Export Commission into the State Commission for Export Control Policy. The Export Technical Committee will be renamed the State Export Control Service under the cabinet of ministers. The reorganization is meant to establish strict control over international transfers of arms and military technology as well as raw materials and skills that may be used for the production of weapons and other military technology. * Ustina Markus UKRAINIANS SAY THEIR LIVING STANDARDS CONTINUE TO DECLINE. An opinion poll asking 1,200 Ukrainians about their living standards in 1996 showed the majority still feel their standards are declining, Den reported on 31 December. Of the respondents, 37% said their living standards declined significantly in 1996, 33% said they declined somewhat; and 23% said their standards did not change. Only 6% said their standards improved somewhat; and 1% said they improved significantly. The average wage in the first 11 months of 1996 was 144.76 hryvnyas ($77), but real wages fell by 23% over the same period owing to inflation. Official unemployment levels remained at a low 1.1%, but real unemployment is believed to be at least nine time higher. Prices rose by 38.5% over the first eleven months of the year. * Ustina Markus FREE AGRICULTURAL TRADE ZONE GOES INTO EFFECT IN BALTICS. The agreement on a free agricultural trade zone in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia went into effect on 1 January, ETA reported. The pact, signed in Vilnius last June, abolishes customs duties, tariffs, and import-export quotas in agricultural trade. At the same time, it allows a member country to implement some protective measures if its economic situation takes a turn for the worse. In April 1994, an agreement on the free trade of industrial goods in the Baltics went into effect. * Ustina Markus LATVIA CONCERNED ABOUT EU REPORT ON CORRUPTION. Interior Minister Dainis Turlais has criticized an EU report alleging corruption at all levels in Latvia, BNS reported on 2 January. In particular, the police, which are subordinated to the Interior Ministry, were singled out for criticism for accepting bribes and other irregularities. Turlais said citing corruption without mentioning specific names or instances makes no sense, adding that Latvia is not the only country suffering from corruption. The minister admonished the country for presenting itself in a bad light. * Ustina Markus YOUNG POLISH OFFICERS COMPLAIN ABOUT ARMY CONDITIONS. Ensigns from the 17th Mechanized Brigade have sent a letter to President Aleksander Kwasniewski complaining about the lack of funds and out-dated equipment, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 3 January. They commented that today, the basic training for soldiers is not shooting but reading instructions about shooting. Under such conditions, it would be impossible to train soldiers in 12 months, as the Defense Ministry is currently planning to do. The young officers also complained about high expenditures on ceremonies involving the participation of high-ranking officers, noting that, meanwhile, the basic needs of the army are not being satisfied. Defense Minister Stanislaw Dobrzanski, who is currently on vacation, was unavailable for comment. * Jakub Karpinski CZECH SECRET SERVICE DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN KOVAC JR. KIDNAPPING. The Czech intelligence service (BIS) has categorically rejected allegations by the Slovak pro-government newspaper Slovenska Republika that the BIS was involved in the kidnapping of the Slovak president's son in 1995, Czech media reported on 3 January. Slovenska Republika based its accusation on a Czech TV interview with Oskar Fegyveres, a key witness to the kidnapping of Michal Kovac Jr. Fegyveres has been in hiding for more than a year. The paper alleged that the interview took place in a building in southern Moravia that the BIS uses as a base for its activities. The BIS has also denied that is the case. In addition to the BIS, the paper accused the Hungarian and Swiss intelligence services as well as U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Ralph Johnson of cooperation with Fegyveres. * Victor Gomez SLOVAK PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN SAYS PARLIAMENT ACTED UNCONSTITUTIONALLY. Vladimir Stefko told Reuters on 2 January that the parliament violated the constitution last month when it approved a new version of the penal code amendment on the protection of the republic. President Michal Kovac had vetoed an earlier version of the law approved in March; and according to the constitution, the parliament was required to discuss the legislation again before passing a new version. "The president has deemed it unconstitutional that the deputies approved a new, almost identical version, without rejecting the old one," Stefko said. Sme on 3 January wrote that if the parliament passes the later version of the amendment for a second time, Kovac will be unable to sign it until the first version is rejected. * Sharon Fisher SLOVAKIA'S "LUSTRATION" LAW NO LONGER IN EFFECT. Jan Langos, Democratic Party chairman and former Czechoslovak interior minister, told TASR that as of 31 December 1996, the 1991 Czechoslovak lustration law is no longer in effect in Slovakia. The law, designed to cleanse state bodies of communist-era secret service (StB) agents and top communist officials, has not been enforced in Slovakia since the 1992 parliamentary elections. Langos and several other opposition deputies submitted a bill in February 1996 on regulations for opening StB files, but the parliament has yet to decide on the issue. The law would prevent the current secret service from illegally using the files and would give each citizen the right to see his file, if one exists. It would also require that the Interior Ministry publish the real names of StB agents and informers. * Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT REFUSES TO SIGN "CONFLICT OF INTERESTS" BILL. Arpad Goncz on 2 January rejected the parliament's draft law on conflict of interests, saying several of its provisions are inappropriate, Hungarian dailies reported. The parliament passed the much-debated legislation last month. Goncz was particularly critical of a provision permitting deputies to retain private-sector posts secured before the 1994 general elections. Opposition parties said they were pleased that the president has rejected the bill, since they share his concerns. The governing parties, however, claimed to be surprised by his decision. The parliament now has 60 days within which to amend the contested provisions. * Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH BLASTS MILOSEVIC. Thousands of Belgrade protesters on 2 January continued their latest tactic of making noise with pots, whistles, and other implements during Serbian TV's 7:30 p.m. newscast, CNN reported. Also in the capital, the bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church issued a declaration blasting President Slobodan Milosevic for "pitting Serb against Serb." They noted that, "Force has been used by the regime with the intention of stifling the freely expressed will of the people. The blood of the innocent [had flowed because the regime was] trying to sow discord and provoke bloodshed just so it can hang on to power. The Holy Synod condemns the authorities who have not only ignored the wishes of the electorate, but...have crushed underfoot our glorious and painful history...[and] national and moral values. Only the respect of democratic principles and human rights, the recognition of the November 17 elections, can bring hope of a better future" to Serbia, AFP and Nasa Borba reported. The bishops also accused him of betraying the cause of the Krajina Serbs. * Patrick Moore SERBIAN WRITERS SAY MILOSEVIC USES "STATE TERRORISM." Yet another prestigious Serbian body, the writers' association, has slammed the president. Reflecting the same themes as the Synod, the writers told Milosevic in an open letter that: "By senseless vote stealing, your party has hit a blow against the state, the constitution and the law, and by your incomprehensible decisions you have led Serbia to the verge of civil war. You have deliberately provoked battles in the streets of Belgrade between peaceful demonstrators and people, led astray, whom you brought here [on 24 December]," AFP reported on 3 January. Meanwhile, the U.S. has urged the OSCE to condemn the Serbian authorities if they continue to drag their feet on accepting an OSCE report upholding the 17 November local elections results, Nasa Borba wrote. * Patrick Moore NATO TO SEIZE UNREGISTERED BOSNIAN ARMY MUNITIONS. The NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) said on 2 January it will confiscate tank ammunition donated to the Bosnian army through a U.S.-sponsored "Train and Equip" program because the munitions were not properly registered, Reuters reported. NATO spokesman Maj. Tony White said the force in Bosnia strictly insists on peace-time rules requiring armies to fully document all weapons or ammunition stored at designated depots. SFOR troops have confiscated 474 unregistered tank rounds out of a total of 11,000 shipped to the Bosnian federation under the U.S.-sponsored aid program. In other news, NATO announced the same day that at least a dozen houses formerly inhabited by Bosnian Muslims and Serbs were destroyed over the past week in a Croat-held area near Mostar. The attacks are aimed at discouraging non-Croatian refugees from returning to their homes south of Mostar, Reuters reported. * Daria Sito Sucic CROATIA INDICTS SOROS FOUNDATION FOR TAX EVASION. Zagreb's public prosecutor is pressing charges against three senior officials at the local branch of the Open Society Institute for alleged financial malpractice and tax evasion, international agencies reported on 2 January. After storming the foundation's premises in Zagreb, Croatian police said they had found evidence of "illegal financial transactions." The prosecutor charged that since December 1995, employees at the OSI's Zagreb office have been receiving two salaries: one in Croatian kuna and another in U.S. dollars. The latter, he said, was not reported to the Croatian tax authorities. Unpaid taxes are said to total 2.7 million kuna ($490,000). But the Soros Foundation in New York implicitly denies the charges, saying there was every reason to believe that its Croatian affiliate complied with local laws. The foundation has spent some $15 million in Croatia since 1992 on humanitarian and cultural projects. * Daria Sito Sucic CROATIAN RAIL WORKERS END STRIKE. The Croatian State Railroads (HZ) and the rail workers' union have reached a deal on wages, ending an almost month-long strike, international media reported on 2 January. The HZ management agreed to sign the first part of a collective agreement to guarantee higher wages. In return, the union agreed to halt the protest action. The government has said it wants to lower subsidies to the railway company, which totaled 1 billion kuna ($200 million) in 1996. Croatian TV said parliament will soon discuss a long-term solution for the company. Meanwhile, the HZ has increased rail fares by up to 52% as of 1 January, the Croatian press reported. * Daria Sito Sucic MACEDONIAN INFLATION REMAINS LOW. According to year-end figures published by the Macedonian Statistical Institute, inflation reached 3.0% in 1996, Nova Makedonija reported on 3 January. Consumer prices were up 2.3% compared with 1995. Services increased by 6.8%, industrial foodstuff 2.4%, other industrial products 1.8%, and beverages by 1.1%. The price of agricultural products, however, fell by 8.2%. Vecer reported that the Macedonian telecommunications company has halved the price of a new phone line from the equivalent of $650 to $325. * Stefan Krause ROMANIA IS MOST OPTIMISTIC FORMER COMMUNIST COUNTRY. According to a recent Gallup poll, 61% of Romanians believe that 1997 will be better than 1996, Radio Bucharest reported on 2 January. Romania took first place in the poll, which was conducted in several former communist countries. Georgians are the second most optimistic nation, while Hungarians are the most pessimistic. A majority of Bulgarians and Slovaks also expect 1997 to be worse than last year. * Michael Shafir ROMANIA, MOLDOVA GRAPPLE WITH BIG FREEZE. Forty-three people, most of them homeless, have so far frozen to death in Romania, as temperatures plunged to around minus 25 degrees Celsius, Reuters reported on 2 January. Citing Rompres, the agency said that traffic has nonetheless returned to normal in the eastern and southern parts of the country, which were the most affected by last week's blizzards. Thick ice is still preventing traffic on parts of the Danube, and flights between Bucharest and six provincial towns have been halted due to fog or icy runways. Otopeni, Bucharest's international airport, is operating, however. In neighboring Moldova, 29 people have died as a result of fires caused by the faulty use of electrical devices in attempts to alleviate freezing conditions, BASA-press reported on 2 January. * Michael Shafir MOLDOVA SUES KAZAKSTAN OVER NON-PAYMENT FOR SERVICES RENDERED. Moldova has begun legal proceedings against Kazakstan for the non-payment of cereal transportation costs in 1993, Moldpres reported on 2 January. The agency said Kazakstan owes Moldova 17 million tons of cereals or their equivalent in cash. The case is to be heard by the Minsk-based Economic Court of the CIS on 6 February. * Michael Shafir IS BULGARIAN INDEPENDENT TRADE UNION BACKING SOCIALISTS? Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Chairman Georgi Parvanov has met with Krastyo Petkov, leader of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (KNSB), to discuss the formation of a new BSP-led government, the Bulgarian press reported on 3 January. Petkov noted that the next prime minister and cabinet must enjoy the confidence of international financial institutions. He proposed that a coalition government be formed, saying that four ministers in the last cabinet-Interior Minister Nikolay Dobrev, Defense Minister Dimitar Pavlov, Agriculture Minister Krastyo Trendafilov, and Trade Minister Atanas Paparizov-were "worthy to stay on." Parvanov said the meeting reflected the BSP's new, "more open" policy. According to Duma, both leaders agreed that over the next few months, the KNSB would ensure that civil peace is maintained in order to allow the cabinet to carry out its duties. * Maria Koinova in Sofia WHO WILL BE BULGARIA'S NEXT PREMIER? With consultations on the formation of a new government under way, Bulgarian media are speculating who will head the new cabinet. According to Standart on 3 January, KNSB leader Petkov favors parliamentary speaker Blagovest Sendov or First Deputy Foreign Minister Irina Bokova. Interior Minister Nikolay Dobrev and former Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski have also been frequently named as possible successors to Zhan Videnov, who resigned last week. Trud reports that Sofia-based foreign diplomats have made it clear that Dobrev would enjoy little, if any, support abroad. 24 chasa says that Dobrev is disinclined to become prime minister and would prefer to keep his present post and become deputy premier. Meanwhile, the newly elected BSP Supreme Council convenes today to elect a new Executive Bureau, the party's highest decision-making body. * Stefan Krause GREECE PLEDGES TO LEGALIZE ALBANIAN IMMIGRANTS. The Greek government has said it will issue work permits to illegal Albanian immigrants this month, Deutsche Welle's Albanian-language service reported on 2 January. Immigrants will be given a time-frame in which to register. Those who fail to report to the authorities will risk expulsion. * Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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