|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 6, Part II, 9 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 WORLD BANK PROTESTS CORRUPTION IN UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT. World Bank President James Wolfenson sent a letter to President Leonid Kuchma at the beginning of the year criticizing corruption within the Ukrainian government, Ukrainian Radio reported on 8 January. The same day, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Pynzenyk admitted that the problem of government corruption exists, noting that international criticism has begun because of increased foreign investment in the country. He said budgetary laws currently under review would limit the opportunities for corruption in the government. He also called for the implementation of tax reform. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN SHADOW CABINET CONVENES. Belarus's shadow cabinet convened for the first time on 8 January, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Meeting at the headquarters of the United Civic Party, it announced the formation of a coalition of democratic parties. Unlike the shadow cabinet set up by the Belarusian Popular Front in 1992, the new shadow government embraces parties from the entire political spectrum, including democrats and communists. Its main goal is to offer an alternative to the incumbent regime. Henadz Karpenka, head of the shadow cabinet, said one of the primary tasks of the coalition is to draw up an economic program to pull the country out of its economic crisis. The shadow cabinet also plans to establish contacts outside Belarus, in particular with Ukraine's parliament and some deputies in the Russian State Duma. -- Ustina Markus NEW STATE-RUN TV CHANNEL IN BELARUS. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has announced that a second state TV channel will go on the air in 1997, ORT reported on 8 January. The new channel is to broadcast on the frequency used currently by ORT, which transmits to 93% of the country and has the largest TV audience in Belarus. The government has justified taking over the frequency by saying that ORT has failed to pay broadcasting fees. One of the most likely candidates to head the new Belarusian channel is Ivan Pashkevich, who advocates phasing out ORT over the next 18 months and then retaining only the most popular shows. Lukashenka has said he is unhappy about Russian media criticism of him and his policies. He has also complained that Russian TV is popular in Belarus and not under his control. -- Ustina Markus LATVIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS SET FOR MARCH. The Central Electoral Commission has announced that elections to 77 town councils and 489 rural district councils will be held on 9 March, the BBC reported on 9 January. Lists of candidates for the elections must be submitted from 18-28 January. The voting procedure will be the same as in the parliamentary elections, with voters choosing one list of candidates from the lists that have been registered. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN GERMANY. Algirdas Saudargas and his German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel, met in Berlin on 8 January to discuss Lithuania's desire to join the European Union, Radio Lithuania reported. The ministers confirmed that a final draft of a double-taxation accord will be completed soon. Saudargas also discussed with Berlin officials how Lithuania can reclaim the site of its former embassy building, which is currently rented to an automobile company. -- Saulius Girnius TWO MORE POLISH DEPUTIES QUIT OPPOSITION PARTY. Piotr Buczkowski and Andrzej Machowski have followed the example of the four deputies who quit the Freedom Union (UW) on 7 January, Polish media reported. Machowski was UW secretary when former Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki headed the party, while Buczkowski chairs the Sejm's commission on local government. The six deputies are expected to join a new conservative- liberal party to be set up on 12 January. Gazeta Wyborcza reports that the new party is expected to be pro-market, pro-NATO, and pro-European integration. It is also expected to participate in Solidarity Electoral Action, a coalition of a two dozen or so center-right political groups. Former Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka, who belongs to the UW's right wing, has said she will remain in the party as long as it moves in a center-right direction. -- Jakub Karpinski COMPROMISE REACHED OVER POLISH DRAFT CONSTITUTION. The ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), the opposition UW, and the Labor Union (UP) have reached a compromise over the issue of social rights in the new constitution, Polish media reported on 9 January. The constitution is to guarantee free education at public schools and basic health services for all citizens. However, no agreement has been forged over the introduction of a third administrative level--the powiat--within local government, which is supported only by the UW. The SLD withdrew its support for the powiat in exchange for the other parties' backing for a proposal that a two-thirds majority be necessary to override a presidential veto. The PSL and the UP want a lower threshold. -- Beata Pasek CZECH GOVERNMENT TO TACKLE TRADE DEFICIT. The Czech government on 8 January reconfirmed that it will not devalue the crown in order to deal with the rapidly growing trade deficit. Rather, it will seek to implement measures to boost exports, including tax breaks for exporters. The country's annual trade deficit in 1996 exceeded 150 billion crowns ($5.5 billion). According to unofficial estimates, the annual inflation rate for 1996 reached 8.6%, some 0.3% less than projected by the Statistical Office, Czech media reported. -- Jiri Pehe PETITION FOR REFERENDUM LAUNCHED IN SLOVAKIA. The opposition begins today collecting signatures for a referendum on direct presidential elections, Slovak media reports. Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) deputy Brigita Schmoegnerova has warned that political power may be abused if it is concentrated in one person. She added that Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar has already suggested changing to a presidential or German model. The SDL also argues that the constitution cannot be changed by a referendum but only by a three-fifths majority of deputies. The party is considering asking the Constitutional Court to explain how the basic law stands over this issue. The Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement (MKDH) is supporting the referendum on direct presidential elections. Novy Cas noted that this is the first time the opposition "is taking matters into its own hands" in an effort to prevent the ruling coalition from getting its way. -- Anna Siskova HUNGARIAN OFFICIAL ON INTERNATIONAL TRIAL OVER GABCIKOVO DAM. Gyorgy Szenasi, head of the international law department at the Foreign Ministry, has said that Hungary will have an advantage over Slovakia at the upcoming trial at the International Court of Justice because Slovakia will never concede it has violated international law, Vilaggazdasag reported on 9 January. The Hague-based court is due to convene in early March to rule on whether it was legal for the then Czechoslovakia to divert the Danube in 1992, whether the 1977 Hungarian- Czechoslovak accord was legally terminated when Hungary declared it so, and whether it was legal for Hungary to suspend and subsequently stop all construction work on the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros hydropower plant. Szenasi said a verdict is expected in late summer. He noted that confidential negotiations between the personal envoys of the Hungarian and Slovak premiers aimed at reaching an out-of-court settlement had yielded no results. -- Zsofia Szilagyi HUNGARY, TURKEY SIGN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT. Industry and Trade Minister Szabolcs Fazakas and Turkish state minister Ayfer Yilmaz signed a free trade agreement in Budapest on 8 January, Hungarian media reported. The accord abolishes import duties on 90% of Hungarian industrial products shipped to Turkey. It also stipulates that import duties on Turkish products entering Hungary are to be gradually phased out by 2001. The agreement does not apply to agricultural goods, for which preferential duties have been set. Yilmaz noted that Hungary is the first East European state with which Turkey has concluded a free trade agreement. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN GOVERNMENT CONCEDES LOSS OF NIS. Official Serbian media on 8 January ran a statement from the Ministry of Justice admitting that the opposition Zajedno coalition won control of the city council in the 17 November local elections. Nis is Serbia's second largest city, and the statement is a major concession from the authorities. But Zajedno says it will keep up its protests until the authorities restore all its election victories. The current wave of demonstrations began in Nis, where a local government-run radio station had self-confidently carried live coverage of the election returns. Listeners were able to hear from regime journalists themselves how the opposition was winning in precinct after precinct. Also in Nis, army Chief of Staff Gen. Momcilo Perisic visited the 63rd Parachute Brigade, Nasa Borba reported on 9 January. The elite unit has allied itself with the protests, but the army said there was no political purpose to the "routine" visit. -- Patrick Moore CHAOTIC PROTESTS IN BELGRADE. The opposition launched a campaign on 8 January to paralyze the government by blocking its telephones, RFE/RL reported. Meanwhile, slow-moving or supposedly broken-down cars blocked traffic, while some 50,000 demonstrators converged on central Belgrade to surround riot police. Zajedno leader Vuk Draskovic moved about in a van with a loudspeaker to address the police, whom he is trying to win over. He told them: "It is only a matter of a few days now, our brother policemen. The ruling powers will go," AFP quoted him as saying. -- Patrick Moore CROATIAN POLICE IN MOSTAR REFUSE TO COOPERATE WITH IPTF. UN spokesman Alexandar Ivanko on 8 January said police from the Croat-held part of Mostar are refusing either to provide the International Police Task Force with daily reports or to answer its questions, Onasa reported. Ivanko said Muslim-Croat police patrols in Mostar exist only on paper. The UN condemned the on-going expulsions of Muslims from the Croat-held part of the town. According to Ivanko, three abandoned Muslim houses near Capljina, in Herzegovina, were destroyed on 6 January in six explosions. No casualties were reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic ARBITRATORS MEET TO DISCUSS DISPUTED TOWN OF BRCKO. International mediators met in Rome on 8 January to discuss the future of Brcko, situated in northern Bosnia, international media reported. It was the first time that all Bosnian parties involved have gathered to discuss the issue. Control over the town is regarded crucial by Bosnian Serbs, on the one hand, and Muslims and Croats, on the other. The fate of Brcko was not resolved during the Dayton peace negotiations, and the issue was left to be decided by international arbitration at the end of last year. But U.S. arbitrator Roberts Owen postponed discussions for two months, after the Serbian party withdrew from the arbitration process. Serbs have sent 10 observers to Rome. Previously, Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic said the Serbs would rather resume the war than give up control of the town. In related news, Bosnian Serbs have announced they will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the declaration of the Republika Srpska in Brcko today. -- Daria Sito Sucic FRESH SPECULATION OVER TUDJMAN'S HEALTH. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman has disappeared from public view, which has revived speculation that he may not have long to live, RFE/RL reported on 8 January. He spent a week at Washington's prestigious Walter Reed Army Hospital in November, when U.S. sources told the media that Tudjman has inoperable stomach cancer and at most a year to live. Croatian spokesmen downplayed the reports, saying that he was treated for an ulcer, but the government's secretiveness only served to heighten suspicions that Tudjman is seriously ill. The normally publicity-minded president was last seen on government television at New Year's, looking "pale and gaunt," Reuters wrote. His office says only that "the president is in the country and performing his duties." Tudjman's next scheduled public appearance is in mid-January, when he is scheduled to receive the diplomatic corps. The speculation over Tudjman's health coincides with reports that he plans to turn over some of his duties to parliament, where his party has a majority. -- Patrick Moore DRNOVSEK TO RETAIN SLOVENIAN PREMIERSHIP? Janez Drnovsek's chances of staying on as Slovenian prime minister increased considerably after a deputy from the center-right Christian Democrats defected on 8 January, Vecernji list and Reuters reported. Ciril Pucko said he will support Drnovsek's candidacy because "we have economic and social problems that have to be solved not today, but yesterday." He said he will remain an independent deputy. Pucko's move could break the deadlock that followed last November's parliamentary elections. Drnovsek's Liberal Democrats won 25 seats in the 90-strong parliament and secured the support of several smaller left-wing parties that had a total of 20 mandates. But the right-of-center Slovenian Spring coalition--comprising the Social Democrats, the People's Party, and the Christian Democrats--also have total of 45 seats. Voting on a new premier was originally scheduled for 8 January but was postponed by one day. -- Stefan Krause ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS TRADE UNION LEADERS. Victor Ciorbea on 8 January met with leaders of major trade unions in an attempt to defuse growing popular dissatisfaction over recent price hikes, Radio Bucharest reported. Representatives of the Fratia (Brotherhood) confederation, the National Trade Union Block, the Alfa Cartel, and the Confederation of Democratic Unions in Romania took part in the meeting. Ciorbea, a former unionist leader, spoke of the need for "true social partnership" with the unions. He criticized the previous government's practice of indexing wages, which, he said, had led to inflation. Instead, he proposed tax cuts on salaries and profits to compensate for the recent wave of price increases. The talks are to be followed up by negotiations between the state, the employers' organizations, and the unions. Social tension has been growing in Romania since the doubling of gasoline prices on 1 January prompted a series of other price hikes. -- Dan Ionescu ROMANIAN PRESIDENT APPEALS TO CITIZENS TO FIGHT CORRUPTION. Emil Constantinescu, speaking on national television on 8 January, vowed to wage an uncompromising battle against corruption. He said that corruption and crime are "endangering national security" and that corruption must be halted if international confidence in the country is to be secured. While foreign companies in Romania often complain about corruption at all levels, the country is in dire need of direct foreign investment. To date, foreigners have invested only $2.2 billion. The president's appeal comes in the wake of the creation of a National Council of Action to fight corruption and organized crime. Jurnalul National reports that the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania supports the campaign but regards it as an attempt at "image- creating." Constantinescu has accused the party of widespread corruption. -- Zsolt Mato BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER CONFIRMED AS SOCIALISTS' CHOICE FOR PRIME MINISTER. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and its two coalition partners -- the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union "Aleksandar Stamboliyski" and the Political Club Ekoglasnost -- on 8 January nominated Nikolay Dobrev as their candidate for prime minister, RFE/RL and Trud reported. At a joint session of the three parties' leaderships and parliamentary deputies, Dobrev was approved by a vote of 206 to 0 with 3 abstentions. Parliamentary Speaker Blagovest Sendov was proposed by a Socialist deputy but refused to stand. The cabinet line-up and its program will be discussed at another plenary meeting on 12 January. Under the constitution, outgoing President Zhelyu Zhelev has until 13 January to ask Dobrev to form a new government. However, he is expected to do so on 11 January. Dobrev then has one week to form a government. -- Stefan Krause OPPOSITION PROTESTS IN BULGARIA. Around 30,000 Sofia citizens on 8 January protested the formation of a second BSP government, RFE/RL and Bulgarian media reported. As was the case on 3 January (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 January 1997), demonstrators gathered outside the BSP headquarters, which they pelted with snow balls and eggs under the watchful gaze of riot police and the opposition "special security" forces. Protests also took place the same day in eight other towns. Ahmed Dogan, leader of the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom, told a rally in Kardzhali that the opposition is ready to boycott the parliament and to organize a national strike. President Zhelyu Zhelev expressed his fear that unrest and violence that could discredit the protests. He urged the protesters to exercise discipline. -- Maria Koinova in Sofia. NATIONAL WORK COUNCIL FORMED IN ALBANIA. The Albanian government, the employers' association, and the government-backed Union of Independent Trade Unions (BSPSH) headed by Valer Xheka have founded a National Work Council. The dissident BSPSH, which is headed by controversial student leader and Democratic Party (PD) deputy Azem Hajdari, has sharply criticized the move, denying the legitimacy of Xheka's union, Koha Jone reported on 9 January. Hajdari organized a student protest action on 6 January. The same day, 400 workers at the Maliq sugar factory went on strike to demand payment of wage arrears as well as wage increases, Dita Informacion reported. They are continuing the strike and refusing to send their children to school, arguing that they have no money to feed them. Meanwhile, the PD leadership has proposed the expulsion of Hajdari from the party's caucus, Rilindja Demokratike reported. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 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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