|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
No. 15, Part II, 22 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 LUZHKOV MAY BE BANNED FROM ENTERING UKRAINE. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko said Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov could be declared a persona non grata in Ukraine, Ukrainian and international agencies reported on 21 January. Udovenko said Ukrainian law defines Luzhkov's "territorial claims" on Sevastopol as criminal, and suggested the parliament could act on the recommendation of its commission on international and CIS affairs and ban Luzhkov from entering the country. Udovenko said Ukraine's relations with Russia will not worsen despite Luzhkov's statements in Sevastopol on 17 January claiming that city legally belongs to Russia. He said Ukraine will continue to seek equality and neighborly relations with Russia, and expressed hope that when Russian President Boris Yeltsin recovers from his illness and returns to the Kremlin, "everything will return to its place." -- Oleg Varfolomeyev UKRAINIAN ENVIRONMENTALISTS OBJECT TO OIL TERMINAL CONSTRUCTION. A group of Ukrainian environmentalists has panned a project to construct an oil terminal in Kherson Bay, at the mouth of the Dnieper River on the Black Sea, calling it economically absurd and dangerous to nature, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 January. The environmentalists said reconstructing existing oil pipelines would cost $300 million less and allow the existing terminal and refinery in Kherson Bay to work at full capacity. Another terminal is located in Odesa, several hundred kilometers to the west. The planned new terminal, with a projected annual capacity of 6-8 million tons of oil, has already attracted some $26 million of investment, 20% of that from the national budget. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev RUSSIAN MINISTER CLAIMS BELARUS AND RUSSIA WILL UNITE BY 2000. Russian Minister of CIS Affairs Aman Tuleev said on 21 January that Russia and Belarus would formally unite by the year 2000, AFP reported. Despite the concerns that Belarus would be an economic burden for Russia, Tuleev said that Russia would gain both politically and economically from such a union, as it would reduce the cost of shipping Russian oil and gas across Belarus to the West. Tuleev, who is the lone member of the Russian government drawn from opposition ranks and its strongest proponent of reintegration among former Soviet republics, said Russo- Belarusian integration will go ahead despite what Tuleev claimed is staunch U.S. opposition. The same day, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said his country could only unify with another state as an equal partner and would not become merely a region in another state. -- Sergei Solodovnikov LATVIAN PRESIDENT HOLDS TALKS ON NEW PRIME MINISTER. President Guntis Ulmanis held talks with the For the Fatherland and Freedom parliamentary faction on 21 January on its proposal that he nominate Economics Minister Guntars Krasts as the next prime minister, BNS reported. It appeared likely that that faction, together with Latvia's Way and the Democratic Party Saimnieks, with whom Ulmanis has not yet met, will form the basis of the new government. The Latvian Free Trade Union Association and Bank of Latvia President Einars Repse expressed support for renominating Andris Skele, who resigned the previous day. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH REPORT ON NATO ENTRY COSTS. A group of Polish experts working under the auspices of the Euroatlantic Association has estimated the cost of Poland's accession to NATO at around $1.5 billion, Polish media reported on 21 January. Through 2010, when planned restructuring of the country's military should be finished, annual costs associated with joining NATO will be about 4% of the 1995 defense ministry budget. Costs were calculated based on the costs of participating in the alliance and did not include the costs of modernization. According to Janusz Onyszkiewicz, former defense minister and the Association's chairman, Poland will modernize its military whether or not it is admitted to NATO. The report stresses that the estimation is very general and a more detailed evaluation will be possible only after entry negotiations are completed. Deputy Defense Minister Andrzej Karkoszka agreed that Poland can afford to enter NATO. Experts commissioned by the U.S. Congress estimated the costs of NATO entry for all four Visegrad countries at around $61 billion. -- Beata Pasek DRAFT LEGISLATION ON RESTITUTION OF JEWISH PROPERTY IN POLAND. A Sejm committee has approved a draft law regulating the return of property related to religious and charitable activities belonging to Jewish congregations prior to the end of the World War II, Polish media reported on 22 January. A commission made up of government and representatives of local Jewish communities will decide on the return of properties on a case-by-case basis. Pawel Wildstein, chairman of the Polish Association of Jewish Communities, said Jews are "moderately pleased" with the draft. Representatives of Polish Jews abroad -- who number about 1 million -- criticized the law for excluding them from reclaiming property. Poland had a population of 3.5 million Jews before the war; now some 1,500 Jews belong to nine communities. -- Beata Pasek CZECH AND GERMAN PREMIERS SIGN DECLARATION. Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl signed a joint declaration in Prague on 21 January that addresses mutual historical grievances and paves the way for better relations, Czech media reported. The Germans "recognize their responsibility and express sorrow for" the 1938-1945 Nazi occupation of the Czech lands, while the Czechs "express regrets" that the expulsion of some three million Sudeten Germans after World War II "caused much suffering and injustices to innocent people." In return, Germany states unequivocal support for the Czech Republic's membership in the EU and NATO. Both sides also agree to ignore all future political and legal claims against each other arising from the past. In a speech at the signing ceremony, Kohl said: "We are asking for forgiveness and, at the same time, want to forgive." Klaus said the Czechs regret the expulsions took place but suggested the return of Sudeten Germans was no longer possible. Several hundred right-wing and leftist radicals staged a demonstration against Kohl's visit and the declaration. -- Jiri Pehe CZECH PRESIDENT'S RECOVERY ON THE RIGHT TRACK. A group of Czech and foreign physicians assembled to determine what kind of medical care Vaclav Havel needs following his recent lung cancer surgery announced on 21 January that the president is recovering quickly. The physicians decided that Havel does not need chemotherapy or radiation. The president will, however, need to undergo regular checkups. -- Jiri Pehe HUNGARIAN COALITION PARTIES DENY INVOLVEMENT IN CORRUPTION. Following revelations that large sums of state money were transferred to bank accounts of companies closely linked with the two coalition parties (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 January 1997), Prime Minister Gyula Horn rejected all allegations connecting his Socialist Party to corruption, Hungarian dailies reported on 22 January. Reacting to the opposition Democratic Forum's plans to initiate a no-confidence vote against the government in parliament, Horn said the opposition was merely making desperate efforts to bring down the cabinet. Both the Socialist Party and the Alliance of Free Democrats denied receiving money from the implicated companies. The investigation into the privatization scandal -- involving an unusually large payment to a consultant, allegedly on conditions that part of the money go to the two companies -- suggests the money was destined for election coffers, but the scandal erupted before it actually reached the parties' treasuries. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE IS THE SERBIAN GOVERNMENT PLOTTING A NEW STRATEGY? Serbia's Supreme Court ruled on 21 January that yet another town won by the opposition in 17 November municipal runoffs -- Smederevska Palanka, some 80 kilometers from Belgrade -- was in fact won by the ruling Socialists. It was the second such decision by a judicial organ in as many days. Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry issued a statement on 21 January saying there was no evidence of fraud or electoral improprieties in eight municipalities where the opposition Zajedno coalition scored victories but the Socialists claimed victory, Reuters reported. The eight centers are Kraljevo, Pancevo, Sabac, Jagodina, Vrsac, Soko Banja, Smederevska Palanka, and Pirot. While opposition leaders and supporters remain somewhat divided over just what the latest Justice Ministry statement means, it may represent another government effort to dishearten opposition demonstrations. Meanwhile, street demonstrations against the regime of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and calls for recognition of opposition wins in local elections continued. Nasa Borba reported on 22 January that students remained at the forefront of the protests and were standing "eye to eye" with a cordon of police officers who have prevented students from marching on Belgrade's main streets since 19 January. -- Stan Markotich FRENCH FAR RIGHT TREKS TO BELGRADE. Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the French far-right National Front, met in Belgrade on 21 January with Vojislav Seselj, leader of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, international media reported. Le Pen, who was invited by Seselj and is on a whirlwind Balkan tour, said Seselj's party protects and defends "near enough the same things that we defend," AFP reported. But some reports suggest Le Pen and Seselj may not have had a complete meeting of the minds. Le Pen expressed sympathy for the ongoing mass public demonstrations, while Seselj blasted the protesters, dubbing them dupes of the United States and Germany, Tanjug reported. -- Stan Markotich REHN WARNS OF 'CIVIL WAR' IN KOSOVO. The UN's special reporter for human rights, Elisabeth Rehn, said after a visit to the former Yugoslavia that Serbian-controlled Kosovo province is heading for "a real explosion, a fire. We can fear anything, even civil war," Reuters reported on 21 January. She said Washington is aware of the possibilities of "a new conflict," but Europe has been caught napping. Rehn was referring to the new campaign of assassinations by the shadowy Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) against prominent Serbs and Albanians regarded as collaborators (see Pursuing Balkan Peace, 21 January 1997). Controversy persists among Albanians, Serbs, and outside observers alike as to what the UCK actually is and who is behind it, AIM news service added. The Serbian authorities have tried to link the Serbian opposition to the UCK, while some opposition leaders have suggested the group is a fictional cover for regime provocateurs. -- Patrick Moore MORE MUSLIMS EVICTED FROM MOSTAR. Croatian gangs evicted two more Muslims from their apartments in west Mostar on 21 January, bringing the total of such illegal moves to 82, AFP reported. Muslim and international officials have protested the often brutal evictions, but threats and cajoling by international representatives have come to nothing (see Pursuing Balkan Peace, 21 January 1997). Muslims control east Mostar, which is sandwiched between the traditional Serbian stronghold of eastern Herzegovina and the long-time Croatian bastion of western Herzegovina. The internecine war of 1993 generated bitter animosities between the Muslims and Croats, who had often been historic allies. The Muslims now charge the Croats with trying to expel remaining Muslims from western Herzegovina, while the Croats say the Muslims have destroyed Croatian communities in central Bosnia that date back to the Middle Ages. -- Patrick Moore CROATIAN PARTY TO BOYCOTT BOSNIAN FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. The governing body of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) announced that its officials in the federal legislature and government will not carry out their functions pending a clarification or renegotiation of power-sharing arrangements with the governing Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Vjesnik reported on 21 January. The HDZ is an extension of the governing party in Croatia of the same name. It has its base among the more nationalistic Croats of Herzegovina rather than among the Croats of central Bosnia, who have traditionally lived integrated with Muslims and Serbs and are more pluralistic in their outlook. The HDZ claims the right to speak for all Croats, although the majority of Croats in Sarajevo did not vote for it. Smaller, non-nationalist parties accuse the SDA and HDZ of monopolizing power for themselves. In other news, the secretary to Roman Catholic Cardinal Vinko Puljic said Pope John Paul II plans to make a long-delayed visit to Sarajevo on 12-13 April. -- Patrick Moore WAR CRIMES UPDATE. Republika Srpska Prime Minister Gojko Klickovic on 22 January reaffirmed that the Serbs will not send indicted war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic to The Hague. He charged that the tribunal there has an "anti-Serb prejudice," news agencies reported. The court's chief prosecutor, Louise Arbor, stated after visiting the region that she is "exploring all options ranging from the mildest to the most severe" to secure the extradition of dozens of indicted war criminals. She also said that more indictments will be handed down in addition to the current 74. -- Patrick Moore TOP CROATIAN OFFICIALS VISIT EASTERN SLAVONIA. Defense Minister Gojko Susak, Interior Minister Ivan Penic, and intelligence chief Miroslav Tudjman held talks in Serb-held eastern Slavonia with the UN's chief administrator for the region, Jacques Klein, Reuters wrote on 21 January. Susak is widely regarded as the second-most powerful man in Croatia, while Miroslav Tudjman is the son of President Franjo Tudjman. The three Croats made explicitly clear that the region will fully return to Croatian control by mid-July, as is slated under current agreements, Vjesnik reported the next day. The Serbs have sought a delay and have complained about the memorandum Croatia submitted to the UN on its policies for the region's future. Klein, however, praised the Croatian document, saying it goes farther than might have been hoped for. The Croatian delegation did not meet with local Serbs. Susak warned the Serbs there will be no new talks and said they should concentrate on becoming full-fledged Croatian citizens. In his annual state-of-the- nation address on 22 January, President Tudjman urged the Serbs to vote in the local elections scheduled for 16 March, Reuters wrote. -- Patrick Moore FRANCE WANTS ROMANIA IN NATO 'FIRST WAVE.' French European Affairs Minister Michel Barnier said on 21 January that France supports Romania's bid to join NATO in the first wave of enlargement, Reuters reported. The French official was in Bucharest preparing for French President Jacques Chirac's visit to Romania next month. Chirac will be the first Western leader to visit Romania after the change of power last November. Barnier said he was impressed by the determined and responsible attitude of the new Romanian government toward the issue of NATO and EU integration. He expressed his belief that Romania "will be prepared to meet NATO requirements" for prospective members, expected to be nominated at NATO's July summit. -- Zsolt Mato BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS OFFER APOLOGY BUT INSIST ON FORMING NEW GOVERNMENT. Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) leader Georgy Parvanov was elected chairman of the party's parliamentary faction on 21 January, Duma and Trud reported. He surprised many by apologizing to the nation for the current economic situation caused by the previous BSP government. When former premier Zhan Videnov took the BSP's leadership in 1991 he also apologized for the 45 years of communist rule, Trud noted. Union of Democratic Forces Chairman Ivan Kostov described Parvanov's move as a "step in the right direction," but said BSP's real apology would be to refrain from forming a new government. The BSP continues to insist on forming the next government, saying that postponement for 6 months of the urgent measures they plan to introduce would lead to a moratorium on payments on foreign debts. Vasil Kalinov, member of the BSP's Executive Bureau, said BSP local leaders urged the party to take a tougher approach toward the opposition and organize counter-rallies against the anti-Socialist protests, Reuters reported. -- Maria Koinova ADVICE TO NEW BULGARIAN PRESIDENT: FIX ECONOMY FIRST. Whatever the solution is to the current political crisis, priority should be given to solving economic problems, IMF representative Franek Rozwadowski said after meeting with newly sworn-in President Petar Stoyanov on 21 January. Both Rozwadowski and Bulgarian economic experts meeting Stoyanov the same day said Bulgaria's economic situation is extremely grave, Pari and Demokratsiya reported. Rozwadowsky said that, for the IMF to aid in the establishment of a currency board, there must be a national consensus on the issue, a functioning parliament, and a constitutionally established government for the IMF to negotiate with. Opposition deputy and economic expert Alexander Bozhkov commented that a caretaker government with a two-month mandate from the president could negotiate with the IMF, but said the actual agreement should be signed by the government established by the parliament established after early elections. -- Maria Koinova ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT PROMISES FAST ACTION AGAINST PYRAMID SCHEMES. Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi announced on 21 January that he is setting up a commission to investigate get-rich-quick projects, Reuters reported. He said legislation will be drawn up based on its findings and sent to parliament by 27 January. "With this law we aim at giving a global solution for each case, so that everyone has the same compensation from the division of the properties of these companies," Meksi concluded. Recent days have witnessed angry protests by thousands of Albanians affected by the collapse of various pyramid schemes. Those protests have tended to become political as the opposition has accused the government of using the schemes for its own purposes. The authorities are clearly worried that protests in Albania could follow the examples of those in Serbia and Bulgaria (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 January 1997). -- Patrick Moore [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Tom Warner ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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