|The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle 1975-1881|
No. 3, Part II, 6 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 GAZPROM THREATENS BELARUS WITH GAS CUTS. The Russian gas monopoly Gazprom has threatened to cut gas supplies to Belarus by 40% because of outstanding bills, AFP and Russian Public TV reported on 4 January. Last February, Russia and Belarus signed a "zero option" agreement that wrote off Belarus's gas debt. But since then, its gas payment arrears have climbed to $295 million. In December, Gazprom cut supplies by 15% for three days, prompting Minsk to hand over $10 million. -- Ustina Markus FORMER BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER STOPPED FROM TRAVELING TO POLAND. Stanislau Shushkevich has been prevented from traveling to Poland because his diplomatic passport is invalid, Reuters reported on 5 January. At the end of last year, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka decreed that diplomatic passports held by members of the 1996 legislature were no longer valid. Previously, Syamyon Sharetsky, speaker of the 1996 parliament, had been prevented from traveling abroad for the same reason. Shushkevich said he tried to obtain a regular passport, but the Interior Ministry refused to issue the document without approval from the presidential Security Council. -- Ustina Markus POLITICAL APPOINTMENTS IN BELARUS. President Lukashenka has signed a decree appointing Mikhail Myasnikovich as head of the president's administration, Reuters reported on 5 January. He appointed Hryhor Vasilevich as chief justice of the Constitutional Court and also named Justice Minister Valeryi Sukalo as a member of that body . Under the new constitution, Lukashenka has the right to appoint the chief justice and five other judges to the 11-member court. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINE'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT COMES INTO BEING. Ukraine's new Constitutional Court formally came into being on 3 January, Ukrainian Radio reported. The head of the court, Vitalii Boiko, met with President Leonid Kuchma to mark the occasion. So far, 16 out of the court's 18 judges have been appointed. The remaining two are be appointed by the parliament, which has the right to appoint one-third of the court's justices. The same day, Kuchma submitted his first case to be examined by the court. The case involves the accounting department of the parliament. -- Ustina Markus CRIMEAN DEPUTY RESIGNS OVER KYIV'S POLICIES. Oleksandr Bobrinev, a deputy from Sevastopol, has resigned, saying Kyiv is pursuing a policy that is increasing tension over Sevastopol and the Black Sea Fleet, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 January. Bobrinev said President Leonid Kuchma and parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz are reorienting the country toward the West and moving closer to a radical nationalist position. His resignation is retroactive to the beginning of the year. -- Ustina Markus CITIZENSHIP POLL IN ESTONIA. An opinion poll in Estonia shows that two out of three ethnic Russians aged 18-29 want to apply for Estonian citizenship, BNS reported on 3 January. Only one-tenth of young Russians in Estonia have acquired Russian citizenship, even though the procedure is considered very easy. Some 60% of Russian citizens said they took Russian citizenship only because they did not want to be without any citizenship and because the procedure for obtaining Estonian citizenship is more difficult. Twenty-one percent said they took Russian citizenship because of their ethnic background. Three-quarters of young Russians said they regarded Estonia as their country, while only 27% of elderly Russians said the same. Of the 110,000 Russian citizens in Estonia, 42% are pensioners over the age of 60. One-tenth of young Russians could not speak any Estonian, while half of the over-60 group had no knowledge of that language. Most of those polled said they felt it was right for Russian children to learn Estonian. -- Ustina Markus LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON VISIT TO POLAND. Algirdas Saudargas, who today begins a two-day official visit to Poland, told Rzeczpospolita that Lithuania should be treated like Poland over the issue of NATO admission. "We fulfill the same criteria," Saudargas said. "And, like Poland, our only frontier with Russia is through neighboring Kaliningrad Oblast." Referring to the controversial statement by Lithuanian Education Minister Zigmas Zinke-vicius on Polish-Lithuanian relations (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 January 1997), Saudargas said Lithuania will fulfill bilateral and international agreements on minority rights. He added that Polish-Lithuanian relations are now better than at any time in this century. This is the first official visit by a Lithuanian foreign minister to Poland since World War II. -- Jakub Karpinski NEW APPOINTMENTS IN POLAND. Internal Affairs Minister Leszek Miller has named Marek Papala the new chief of police, Polish dailies reported last week. Papala replaces Jerzy Stanczyk, who had headed the force since March 1995. Papala was Stanczyk's deputy. Col. Andrzej Anklewicz, an adviser to former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, was named chief of the Border Guards. The new heads of the fire brigade and Civil Defense have also been named. Former ombudsman Tadeusz Zielinki is the new labor minister, replacing Andrzej Baczkowski, who died in November. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH PRESIDENT TIES THE KNOT. Vaclav Havel on 4 January married actress Dagmar Veskrnova in a private, previously unpublicized ceremony, Czech media reported. Veskrnova has been Havel's companion for some time, but the President's Office did not officially acknowledge their relationship until recently. Havel's first wife, Olga Havlova, died on 27 January 1996, following a long battle with cancer. Havel is himself recovering from lung cancer surgery, which he underwent at the beginning of December. He told journalists after the wedding that he sees the marriage as the beginning of new period in his life. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK POLITICAL ROUNDUP. Christian Democratic Movement spokeswoman Lucia Faltinova has announced that, later this week, the opposition will launch a petition drive for a referendum on direct presidential elections, TASR reported on 3 January. The party urged all Slovaks to support the referendum, saying that elections would allow citizens to directly influence who becomes the head of state and would also increase their control over that position. A total of 350,000 signatures are needed for a referendum. An opposition proposal for a constitutional amendment on the issue was submitted to the parliament in December, but discussion was postponed until February. The president is currently elected by the parliament. The ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia opposes a constitutional change. Meanwhile, President Michal Kovac, taking part in a debate on private TV Markiza on 5 January, said he considers himself neither an enemy of the government coalition nor the leader of the opposition. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS AMENDMENT TO PRIVATIZATION LAW. Arpad Goncz has sent back to the parliament an amendment to the privatization law, Hungarian media reported on 6 January. The legislature passed the amendment last month following a heated debate over a clause stating that, under special circumstances, the State Privatization and Holding Co. can allocate public assets to local governments and co-operatives free of charge. The Socialists had insisted on including that provision. The parliamentary Constitutional Committee recommended omitting the disputed clause, but the Socialist-dominated parliament ignored its recommendation. Last week, Goncz rejected the law on conflict of interests, which the parliament also passed last month. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NOISY, CARNIVAL-LIKE WEEKEND IN BELGRADE. Opposition protesters continue to devise novel ways to circumvent the police ban on marches, which was imposed following violence between opponents and supporters of President Slobodan Milosevic on 24 December. On 3-4 January, the protesters once again made much noise by blowing whistles and beating pots and other implements during Serbian TV's evening newscast. On 5 January, they staged a "protest by traffic jam," in which drivers of all sorts of vehicles blocked Belgrade streets amid a carnival atmosphere, international media reported. Protesters plan to extend the traffic jam tactic throughout Serbia should the government fail to recognize the results of the 17 November local elections within a few days. -- Patrick Moore SERBIAN OPPOSITION STICKS TO ITS DEMANDS. The opposition Zajedno coalition has rejected the authorities' latest offer to accept part but not all of those election returns, CNN reported on 4 January. This time, the government proposed to acknowledge opposition victories in Belgrade and two smaller towns but called for a new vote in Nis. Zajedno says it will keep up its protests until the government unconditionally respects the 17 November results. Meanwhile, Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle gave a radio address in which he repeated the Holy Synod's recent condemnation of the Milosevic regime, the BBC stated on 4 January. The U.S., for its part, is also keeping up the pressure on Milosevic, who is increasingly isolated both at home and abroad, Nasa Borba wrote on 6 January. -- Patrick Moore BELGRADE DEMONSTRATORS APPEAL TO POLICE. The Zajedno leadership has called on people to stage a protest in the form a large "religious procession" on 6 January, which is the Orthodox Christmas Eve. Meanwhile, the students have appealed to the police not to block their marches, AFP reported on 6 January. One of their leaders said: "We appeal to those installing police cordons to withdraw them before January 9, so we don't have to do it for them." On a more diplomatic note, Zajedno issued a proclamation to the police as "dear friends," Nasa Borba wrote. The text stated: "Do not let yourselves be abused by the [Socialist Party of Serbia] thieves and do not allow yourselves to be pushed into a conflict with the people, whose lives are as difficult as yours. Think hard before obeying the orders of the thieves." The police are one of Milosevic's main pillars of support. -- Patrick Moore FEDERAL YUGOSLAV ARMY WILL NOT OPPOSE STUDENTS. One of the reasons Milosevic has relied on the police is that his relations with the army (JNA) have never been particularly good. On 6 January, Chief of Staff Gen. Momcilo Perisic told a delegation of students that the JNA will not oppose them, AFP reported. Army support was crucial to Milosevic in crushing protests in March 1991, which constituted the most direct challenge from the streets to his rule prior to the current unrest. -- Patrick Moore NEW BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT CONVENES. Bosnia's new government convened for the first time on 3 January in Serb-run Lukavica, near Sarajevo, international media reported. Earlier the same day, deputies in the lower house of the Bosnian parliament approved the government and the nomination of the two joint prime ministers--Boro Bosic, a Serb, and Haris Silajdzic, a Muslim. Silajdzic said the cabinet discussed who should take part in a delegation to a conference in Brussels on 9-10 January aimed at raising funds for the reconstruction of Bosnia. Meanwhile, Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of Bosnia's three-man presidency, has said he wants to see "reconciliation and acceptance of the characteristics of all the peoples" in Bosnia, AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic BOSNIA'S MUSLIM RULING PARTY CONFIRMS RECEIVING FUNDS FROM IRAN. The Party of Democratic Action (SDA), headed by President Alija Izetbegovic, has confirmed that it received $500,000 from Iran in mid-1996, Oslobodjenje reported on 4 January. But it added that the money was used for scholarships and not for the party's election campaign. Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that Iran gave Izetbegovic that sum for use in the run-up to the September elections (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 January 1996). In other news, Drazen Erdemovic, the first war criminal to be sentenced by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, has appealed his 10-year prison term, AFP reported on 3 January. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROATIA MAKES OFFER TO SERBS IN EASTERN SLAVONIA. The Croatian government has drafted a Memorandum on the Completion of the Peaceful Reintegration of eastern Slavonia and handed it over to Jacques Klein, the head of the UN Transitional Administration for eastern Slavonia, Vecernji List reported on 4 January. The document attempts to resolve the contentious issue of voting rights for those living in eastern Slavonia, as well as cultural and educational rights. Ivica Vrkic, the government official in charge of the region, said Croatian Serbs who were not living there in 1991 but had lived in another part of Croatia will be able to vote in eastern Slavonia if they choose. Previously, the government had insisted that only Croatian Serbs who had lived in eastern Slavonia before the war would be allowed to vote in local elections. The memorandum also offers the Serbs several senior posts in the government and gives Serbian men the option of not performing compulsory military service in the Croatian Army. -- Daria Sito Sucic KOSOVO POLITICAL UPDATE. Kosovo human rights activist Adem Demaci has been elected chairman of the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo, ATA reported on 5 January. Demaci, who also heads the Kosovo Human Rights Council, became a party member in fall 1996. Albanian Foreign Minister Tritan Shehu welcomed Demaci's election and praised the Kosovar shadow-state party system for its peaceful policies. Demaci is expected to compete with shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova in upcoming presidential elections. Elsewhere, Shehu urged Belgrade to fully respect the opposition victories in Belgrade and to allow an OSCE monitoring mission to Kosovo, AFP reported. The last monitoring mission left Kosovo in summer 1993 after Belgrade refused to prolong its members' visas. -- Fabian Schmidt ROMANIA'S FORMER RULING PARTY LAMBASTS GOVERNMENT OVER ECONOMIC POLICY. The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 4 January accused Victor Ciorbea's cabinet of failing to keep its election promises and not drawing up a government program, Romanian and Western media reported. The PDSR said recent gasoline price hikes were excessive and part of a "shock therapy" strategy. The cabinet, dominated by the Democratic Convention of Romania, responded the next day in a communique saying the hikes were unavoidable because of the economic "chaos" created by the previous administration. It also pledged to counter the effects of the price hikes through social protection programs. The price of gasoline almost doubled as of 1 January. -- Dan Ionescu MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH NEIGHBORING LEADERS. Moldovan President- elect Petru Lucinschi and Igor Smirnov, president of the self-declared Dniester republic, met in Chisinau on 3 January, BASA-press reported. The leaders discussed resuming bilateral negotiations over a special status for the breakaway region within the framework of the Moldovan state. Two days later, Lucinschi had an unofficial meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in Odessa. He appealed to Ukraine to take a more active part in mediating between Chisinau and Tiraspol. In 1995, Ukraine joined Russian and OSCE efforts to broker a solution to the Moldovan-Dniester conflict. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN MASS RALLY CALLS FOR EARLY ELECTIONS... More than 40,000 Sofia citizens on 3 January protested the Bulgarian Socialist Party's policies and called for early elections. The rally, organized by the United Democratic Forces (ODS), took place outside the BSP headquarters, where the Socialists were electing a new Executive Bureau. The protesters shouted "Mafia" and "Red rubbish" and threw eggs, pieces of bread, and stones at the building. Three windows were broken, and one policeman injured. Riot police were deployed after protesters broke down an iron fence in front of the BSP headquarters. Speakers at the rally stressed that parliamentary means to resolve the present crisis have been virtually exhausted. They said the ODS will use all legitimate means-- including street demonstrations and boycotting the parliament --to "turn the current government crisis into a parliamentary crisis." -- Maria Koinova in Sofia ...WHILE BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS ELECT NEW LEADERSHIP. The composition of the new BSP Executive Bureau, the party's highest decision-making body between party congresses, is seen as a victory for former BSP leader Zhan Videnov, Duma reported. Videnov's most prominent opponents failed to get elected, although some were proposed by new BSP chairman Georgi Parvanov, including former Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, former BSP Deputy Chairman Yanaki Stoilov, and the head of the parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee, Nikolay Kamov. Videnov himself refused to run for the Executive Bureau, saying former party leaders should not be on it. Originally, the Executive Bureau was to have had 20 members in order to represent all major tendencies within the party. The BSP Supreme Council, however, reduced that number to 15. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN DAILY PUBLISHES LIST OF PARDONED PRISONERS. The Daily Albania on 4 January published the full list of people included in President Sali Berisha's New Year amnesty. Two founders of a communist party, 54- year-old Timoshenko Pekmezi and 62-year-old Sami Meta are among those released. They were sentenced last year to two and three years in jail, respectively. The 15-year sentence of former Politbureau member Lenka Cuko was reduced by five years. Cuko was sentenced last year for crimes against humanity and for deporting dissidents into internal exile. Socialist leader Fatos Nano's prison term for embezzlement was reduced by six months. He has another 18 months left to serve, Reuters reported. Elsewhere, police have arrested 13 Kurds from Iraq in Vlora who were waiting to cross illegally to Italy, international agencies reported on 3 January. -- 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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