|We are always the same age inside. - Gertrude Stein|
No. 12, Part II, 17 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 COUNCIL OF EUROPE WARNS BELARUS OVER FUTURE RELATIONS. The Council of Europe warned Belarus on 16 January that further cooperation and eventual membership are conditional on that country's greater respect for democratic principles and human rights, international agencies reported. Earlier this week, the CE Parliamentary Assembly suspended Belarus's special guest status, which was conferred four years ago and allowed the country to participate in assembly meetings without voting rights. The assembly said the reason for the suspension was the "undemocratic" way in which the November 1996 referendum was held. The plebiscite gave sweeping powers to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The CE, however, has said it is prepared to continue assisting Belarus in the development of a civil society and free media. Meanwhile, Niels Helveg Petersen, the new president of the OSCE, has voiced concerns over Belarus's failure to restore democracy. He called on the government to respect OSCE norms and principles by entering into a dialogue with the opposition and ensuring freedom of the media, Reuters reported. -- Sergei Solodovnikov BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENTARY LEADERS MEET WITH RUSSIAN DUMA SPEAKER. Anatol Malafeyev and Paval Shypuk, leaders of the Belarusian lower and upper houses, respectively, met with Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 January. The April 1996 Treaty on the Formation of a Community provides for such meetings to take place regularly. One of the purposes of the meeting was to decide on a new head for the Russian-Belarusian integration committee. The previous incumbent was former Belarusian speaker Syamyon Sharetsky. Seleznev announced after the meeting that "the Russian side is suggesting that I take over the post, but this would have to be done with Belarus's approval." -- Ustina Markus CONTINUING DISPUTE OVER UKRAINE'S 1997 BUDGET. Parliamentary Chairman Oleksander Moroz has expressed displeasure at the "new anti-parliament campaign" over the passage of the 1997 budget, Ukrainian TV reported on 16 January. Moroz complained that the government has ignored the legislature's 19 December resolution instructing the executive to revise the 1997 budget draft within two weeks, adding that legislators would not approve half-finished documents. However, the parliament has not yet passed the tax-reform package necessary for the government to revise the budget draft. U.S. economist Jeffrey Sachs, following a meeting with President Leonid Kuchma on 13 January, said the parliament's repeated delays over adopting tax-reform legislation were "dangerous," Ukraina Moloda reported on 15 January. The parliamentary budget commission said a second reading of the draft will take place in late February or early March, according to Fax-gazeta on 16 January. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ON ARMED FORCES' MEAGER BUDGET. Oleksandr Kuzmuk, echoing the annual lament of his predecessors following the passage of the state budget, has said that the military has sufficient funds only to pay for the salaries and provisions of the armed forces, Ukrainian radio reported on 16 January. He complained that the role of the army is not limited to "eating porridge and receiving a paycheck" but should include enhancing the security of the country. He noted that no funds have been allocated for the purchase of military hardware and that the army has had to sell off military assets to cover other needs. Last year, such sales brought in 32 million hryvnyas ($17.7 million), most of which was spent on building housing for servicemen and buying military equipment. Kuzmuk said if the situation does not change, the army will be left with nothing but "national awareness and Kalashnikovs" by 2005. -- Ustina Markus ESTONIAN POLICE CHIEF GIVES POLICEMEN TWO YEARS TO LEARN VERNACULAR. Police Department Director-General Ain Seppik on 16 January announced that non-Estonian-speaking policemen in Estonia's northeastern Ida- Virumaa region and Narva will have until 1 January 1999 to pass the language proficiency test required for citizenship, BNS reported. The 1996 Public Service Act provides for the dismissal of policemen who have not been granted or have not submitted applications for Estonian citizenship by 1 February or who do not speak the Estonian language sufficiently well. A total of 192 policemen in Ida-Virumaa and Narva come under those categories. Twenty-two have already declared they will not submit citizenship applications. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT OVERRIDES PRESIDENTIAL VETOES. The Seimas on 16 January approved once again three laws that President Algirdas Brazauskas had refused to sign and had returned to legislators with suggested amendments, RFE/RL reported. Brazauskas is now required to sign the laws within three days. This is the fourth time the Seimas has rejected the president's veto, suggesting that the ruling coalition of Conservatives and Christian Democrats will feel confident to ignore his objections also in the future. The same day, the Seimas ratified the free-trade treaties with Slovenia, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. -- Saulius Girnius PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION APPROVES POLISH DRAFT CONSTITUTION. The parliamentary Constitutional Commission on 16 January approved the draft constitution, Polish media reported. The draft now goes to the National Assembly, which is expected to approve the document in February. It reduces the powers of the president and guarantees all citizens equality before the law as well as "free" public health care and education. Discrimination is prohibited on the basis of religion, gender, and sexual orientation. While virtually all parliamentary parties support the draft constitution, representatives of the opposition Solidarity trade union and other right-of-center parties not represented in the parliament are opposed to it. A national referendum on the basic law is expected in May. -- Ben Slay POLISH PRIME MINISTER CRITICIZED IN ISRAEL. Discussions about the restitution of property confiscated from Polish Jews by the Polish government in 1968 dominated the second day of Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz's visit to Israel, Zycie Warszawy reported on 17 January. Cimoszewicz pointed out that his cabinet's re-privatization legislation provides for restitution of confiscated properties to all present and former Polish citizens, irrespective of nationality or religion. Representatives of Polish Jewish organizations in Israel called for more favorable terms for the restitution of Jewish property. "The failure to amend the legislation raises questions about the continuation of a dialogue with the Polish government," one representative said. Legislation regulating restitution of and compensation for property confiscated during the communist period has been languishing in the Sejm since 1991. -- Ben Slay SLOVAK RULING PARTY SETS DATE FOR ALL-PARTY TALKS. Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) chairman Vladimir Meciar and leaders of all parliamentary parties will meet for talks next week, TASR reported on 16 January. Meciar had announced last month that such a meeting would take place. Among the topics to be discussed are changes in the electoral system and the timing of the next elections, HZDS spokesman Vladimir Hagara announced. Meciar is in favor of holding parliamentary elections next year in July rather than autumn and prefers combined or majority electoral system over the current proportional one. While the opposition rejects any changes in the electoral system, the HZDS has dismissed its petition calling for a referendum on direct presidential elections. -- Anna Siskova CZECH, SLOVAK RIGHT-WING PARTIES DISCUSS COOPERATION. Slovak National Party Deputy Chairman Marian Andel and Czech Republican Party Chairman Miroslav Sladek met in Bratislava on 16 January to discuss cooperation in preventing "media demonization" of their parties, Slovak and Czech news agencies reported. They also agreed to meet regularly for further consultations. In an interview with the Slovak pro-government newspaper Slovenska republika, Sladek once again commented that President Michal Kovac is bad for Slovakia's reputation. The previous day, he had refused to attend a meeting with the president. -- Anna Siskova FRENCH PRESIDENT WANTS HUNGARY TO JOIN EU IN 2000. Jacques Chirac on 16 January said that France supports Hungary's joining the European Union as early as 2000 and its application to join NATO, international media reported. He added that "France will do everything possible to realize this goal." Chirac was addressing the Hungarian legislature at the start of his two-day visit to Budapest. Later, Chirac conferred on Hungarian President Arpad Goncz and 12 other veterans of the 1956 uprising the Grand Cross of the Legion d'Honneur. Goncz honored Chirac with the Grand Cross of the Medal of Merit of the Republic of Hungary. The same day, the Hungarian Supreme Court handed down its first verdicts in the trials of those who helped put down the 1956 uprising. Three people have been sentenced to four to five years in jail for their involvement in the massacre of 46 protesters in the northern town of Salgotarjan in December 1956, more than a month after the revolution was over. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE OUTGOING PREMIER SAYS BULGARIA ALMOST BANKRUPT . . . Zhan Videnov on 16 January said Bulgaria is on the verge of bankruptcy and that a new government must be formed by the end of the month, RFE/RL and Duma reported. He said the state will "soon be unable to function" because its funds are exhausted and the 1997 state budget has not yet been passed by the parliament. He added that a new government is needed for negotiations with the IMF, urging that they start within a week. Meanwhile, four leaders of the Alliance for Social Democracy--a reformist faction within the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party--have announced they will quit the BSP because it is "incapable of reform." They called for immediate parliamentary elections. Kontinent reported they will form a new leftist party on 18 January. -- Stefan Krause . . . WHILE NO LETUP IN PROTESTS IN SIGHT. Some 15,000 people on 16 January protested in Sofia against a new BSP-led government and urged that early parliamentary elections be held, RFE/RL and Reuters reported. Some 2,000 students marched to the president's office, where a delegation was received by outgoing President Zhelyu Zhelev. Zhelev is still refusing to give the BSP a mandate to form a new government. Rallies were held in dozens of other towns throughout the country, and miners, factory workers, teachers, doctors and others continued with one-hour work stoppages. The BSP and the opposition appear to be no closer to an agreement on forming a new government and calling early elections. The opposition plans to stage a rally on 17 January near the parliament building, which was the scene of violent clashes last Friday. Zhelev is scheduled the same day to meet with Union of Democratic Forces leaders to discuss the situation. -- Stefan Krause HAS SERBIAN PRESIDENT BEEN MEETING WITH OPPOSITION? The Bosnian news agency Onasa, citing Beta, reported on 16 January that Zajedno leaders Vuk Draskovic and Zoran Djindjic have in recent weeks met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. No details of the meetings were given. According to Onasa, Djindjic has said the main purpose of the meeting was to find a solution to the political crisis gripping Serbia. He is also quoted as saying that Milosevic "indirectly proposed to the opposition that new elections be organized." However, Nasa Borba on 17 January reports that both Djindjic and Draskovic are categorically denying having met with Milosevic. Draskovic said that the Beta report alleging such meetings took place was a "lie." -- Stan Markotich PRESSURE ON MILOSEVIC INCREASES . . . Meanwhile, pressure on the Serbian president to recognize opposition wins in the 17 November municipal runoff elections shows no signs of abating. On the contrary. Zajedno leaders pledged at a mass rally in Belgrade on 16 January to continue the protests and, if necessary, to intensify pressure. Zajedno leader Vesna Pesic said, "I propose that we issue [the Serbian authorities] a deadline for fully recognizing the election results, and to say that after that deadline not a single institution in Serbia will have any legitimacy," Reuters reported. The OSCE has said it opposes the idea of Milosevic making piecemeal concessions to Zajedno. It urged him instead to recognize the opposition wins without delay. -- Stan Markotich . . . WHILE HE BIDES HIS TIME. For his part, Milosevic continues to deploy stalling tactics. Tanjug reports that he has offered concessions to the opposition, such as economic reform and cabinet shuffles, but has resisted recognizing the opposition victories. In what may be a related development, the Yugoslav Defense Council--which includes Milosevic, Federal Premier Radoje Kontic, Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic, as well as top military leaders--met on 16 January to discuss solutions to the political situation. Meanwhile, New Democracy, a coalition ally of Milosevic's ruling Socialists, has said it advocates finding a solution to the political crisis, Reuters reported on 16 January. -- Stan Markotich FORMER BOSNIAN SERB LEADER COMMITS SUICIDE. Nikola Koljevic, a professor of English literature and former vice president of the Republika Srpska, shot himself in the head in Pale on 16 January, news agencies reported. The 60-year-old Koljevic had attempted several times to end his life since his replacement as vice president following the September 1996 Bosnian elections. Koljevic participated in the talks that led to the Dayton agreement and cultivated an image abroad as a moderate, but Muslims in particular regarded him as a war criminal because of his role in the siege of Sarajevo. -- Patrick Moore IZETBEGOVIC ENTERS THE HOSPITAL. Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member and current chair of the three-man collective presidency of Bosnia- Herzegovina, entered the heart clinic of Sarajevo's Kosevo hospital on 16 January. His representative Mirza Hajric said that the 71-year-old leader will undergo a planned series of tests during a five-day stay, news agencies reported. Izetbegovic suffered a heart attack almost a year ago. The Croatian member of the presidency, Kresimir Zubak, has written Izetbegovic to ask him to name an acting chair of that body during his absence, Oslobodjenje wrote on 17 January. -- Patrick Moore MOSTAR CROATS EVICT ANOTHER MUSLIM FROM HER HOME. Two armed men on 14 January threw an unnamed 71-year-old woman Muslim woman out of the apartment in Croat-held west Mostar where she had lived for 30 years, AFP reported, quoting UN police. The thugs then took her out of town and dumped her. They warned her not to scream or she would "end up the same way" as another elderly Muslim woman who was evicted from her flat and left to die in an abandoned building on Christmas Eve. A Croatian soldier later moved into that apartment, claiming he had bought it in a bar for DM 3,000. The woman invovled in the latest forcible eviction case told police she is too afraid to go home. Both the UN police and the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt condemned the latest evictions, but they failed to say how such acts will be prevented in the future or what they will do to punish those involved. West Mostar is widely regarded as one of the most lawless areas in Bosnia-Herzegovina and a place where Croatian military personnel, politicians, and mafia figures cooperate closely. -- Patrick Moore NEW ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ON NATO INTEGRATION. Victor Babiuc on 16 January excluded the possibility of Romania not joining NATO, Radio Bucharest reported. Babiuc said "Romania should be admitted in the first wave and by all means alongside Hungary." According to Reuters, he also mentioned plans to privatize the country's weapons industry in order to bring its military structures in line with NATO standards. Such plans would depend largely on foreign investors, he added. In related news, Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Severin has responded to a statement by his Hungarian counterpart, Laszlo Kovacs, saying that the change of power in Romania facilitates Hungary's entry into NATO. Severin emphasized that the two countries should join the alliance simultaneously, pointing out that the September 1996 bilateral treaty calls for mutual support in the countries' bid for NATO, EU, and WEU integration. -- Zsolt Mato MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT NOMINATES NEW PREMIER. Petru Lucinschi on 16 January nominated Ion Ciubuc as prime minister to replace Andrei Sangheli, international agencies reported. The 54-year-old Ciubuc pledged to form a "cabinet of experts, irrespective of their political views." At the same time, he said he would offer posts to some 30% of the previous cabinet's members. Painting a bleak picture of the Moldovan economy, he promised to foster privatization and restructuring. During the Soviet era, Ciubuc, a trained economist, was a senior official at the State Planning Committee. After independence, he served as a first deputy prime minister and a deputy foreign minister. Since December 1994, he has headed the State Auditing Office. -- Dan Ionescu ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT SEIZES PYRAMID SCHEME FUNDS. In response to protests over crumbling get-rich-quick investment schemes, the government on 16 January ordered the seizure of 25.5 billion leks ($255 million) deposited in state-owned banks, Reuters reported. It said government sequestration will continue until a parliamentary committee has studied each investment account and ruled whether it belonged to a pyramid scheme. Large numbers of police were deployed around Tirana to prevent a repeat of clashes earlier this week. However, demonstrations against collapsing pyramid schemes have now spread beyond Tirana. Protesters in Vlora hurled stones at the city hall, breaking nearly all windows, to express their outrage over the Gjallica scheme's decision to postpone resuming payments to depositors. Similar protests have taken place in Shkoder. In the wake of the demonstrations, the opposition has called for mass protests against the government. -- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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