Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

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

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