|Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead|
No. 16, Part II, 23 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 MORE THAN ONE THIRD OF UKRAINIANS WANT TO JOIN NATO. 36% of Ukrainians believe Ukraine should some day join NATO, according to a poll conducted by Socis-Gallup and the Democratic Initiatives Fund, UNIAN reported on 22 January. 19% said Ukraine should never join NATO; 45% were undecided. 12% of respondents said they trusted NATO, 19% did not trust it, 28% neither trusted nor mistrusted it, and 41% were undecided. Those who supported joining NATO were mostly young people, university graduates, and people who also favor private enterprise. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev DISCORD IN CRIMEAN POLITICS. Crimean political leaders continued to quarrel over how to react to the demands placed upon them by the new Ukrainian constitution, Ukrainian and Russian media reported on 22 January. Crimean Prime Minister Arkadii Demidenko, whose government is supposed to resign, said last week's vote by the Crimean parliament to change the name of his government in accordance with the Ukrainian constitution was unconstitutional. Meanwhile, pro-Ukrainian and Tatar deputies in the Crimean parliament failed in a new attempt to oust speaker Vasel Kyselyov. More than one-third of deputies voted to put a no-confidence motion against Kyselyov and the parliament's presidium on the official agenda. In other news, leaders of the Crimean Tatars' unofficial parliament appealed to Ukrainian and Crimean leaders to reverse sharp cuts in broadcasting in the Tatar language. Tatar leaders are collecting signatures to draw international attention to the problems of Tatars who have returned to Crimea after their nation's mass-expulsion in the 1940s. Some 100,000 repatriated Tatars still do not have housing, and over 250,000 who want to return are not able to because of lack of funds. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DEFINES TERMS FOR UNION WITH RUSSIA. Speaking to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry Collegium on 21 January, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said there are three basic principles under which Belarus can be part of any alliance, including a union with Russia, Belarusian radio reported. First and foremost is that Belarus retain its sovereignty and statehood by being an equal partner. Second, Belarusian citizens will never be sent to fight outside of the country, and third, any alliance must be mutually beneficial. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Alyaksandr Chumakou ruled out the possibility of a joint Russian- Belarusian Army, ITAR-TASS reported. Both men were reacting to Russian CIS Affairs Minister Aman Tuleev's statement the same day that Russia and Belarus would unite by the year 2000 (See OMRI Daily Digest, 22 January 1997). -- Sergei Solodovnikov CONTROVERSIAL LATVIAN FINANCE MINISTER RESIGNS. Prime Minister Andris Skele accepted the resignation of Vasilijs Melniks on 22 January and became acting finance minister, BNS reported. The controversy surrounding Melniks's appointment had prompted Skele's own resignation on 20 January. Skele and his cabinet will continue to work until the Saeima confirms a new government. The Democratic Party Saimnieks, the Latvia's Farmers Union, and the Christian Democratic Union have asked President Guntis Ulmanis to renominate Skele as prime minister. The second-largest party, Latvia's Way, while not yet formally backing Skele, conceded that his reappointment was likely. Ulmanis plans to meet with representatives of all the political parties, including opposition ones, before nominating a new prime minister. -- Saulius Girnius FIRST GENOCIDE TRIAL CONCLUDED IN LITHUANIA. A Vilnius district court found three Lithuanian former members of the NKVD (a predecessor of the KGB) guilty of "genocide" on 21 January, BNS reported. According to the verdict, on 17 May 1945, Kirilas Kurakinas, Petras Bartasevicius, and Juozas Sakalys burned Leopoldas Gaidys's house and killed four people, including his pregnant wife and six-month-old child. Gaidys had been hiding from the Soviet army. Kurakinas was formally sentenced to seven years imprisonment and the other two to three years imprisonment, but in compliance with an amnesty law, Kurakinas's sentence was reduced to two years while the other two men's prison sentences were canceled. However, the court confiscated all three of the men's property. The prosecutor general's office is investigating another six "genocide" cases, but none of those have yet been brought to court. -- Saulius Girnius SOLIDARITY-LED COALITION LEADS POLISH POLL. According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Research Center on 9-12 January, the center-right coalition Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) is the most popular political force in Poland with 29% of public support. According to the poll, published by Gazeta Wyborcza on 23 January, the co-ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) has 25%, the right-wing Movement for Poland's Reconstruction (ROP) 16%, the co-ruling Polish Peasant Party (PSL) 12%, and the centrist Freedom Union (UW) 7%. However, 35% of respondents expected the left to win this fall's parliamentary elections while 31% predicted the right's victory. There was also much greater consensus on who should lead a future left-wing government than on who should lead a right-wing one: 29% of respondents picked current Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz (SLD), while the next-most popular choices -- former prime ministers Jozef Oleksy (SLD, 4%) and Waldemar Pawlak (PSL, 3%) -- came far behind. ROP leader Jan Olszewski led with 11% among potential right-wing future prime ministers, ahead of UW leader Leszek Balcerowicz (10%) and AWS leader Marian Krzaklewski (7%). -- Jakub Karpinski HAVEL EXPLAINS KOHL'S COMMENT ON PROPERTY CLAIMS. After meeting German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on 21 January, Czech President Vaclav Havel spoke on Czech Television about Kohl's comment that the Czech-German declaration addressing mutual historical grievances does not preclude property claims, which Kohl made during the signing ceremony in Prague the previous day. Havel explained that although the Czech Republic and Germany promise in the declaration not to burden their future relations with legal claims arising from the past, the two countries cannot prevent individual Sudeten Germans from individually demanding property that was confiscated during the post-war expulsions of some 3 million Germans from Czechoslovakia. "What's important for us is that the German government will no longer support such claims," Havel said. In their meeting, the two politicians talked mainly about European integration, Czech media reported. -- Jiri Pehe IMF SAYS SLOVAK ECONOMY COULD OVERHEAT. In a report made public on 21 January, the International Monetary Fund warns Slovakia its economy is in danger of overheating and urges the introduction of stricter financial policies to curb domestic consumption. According to the report, which resulted from an IMF mission to Slovakia in October, "After three years of fast economic growth and decreasing inflation the Slovak economy shows signs of overheating." One such sign is the significant deterioration of the current account (essentially the foreign trade balance), which ran a $1.5 billion deficit in 1996 after a $648.8 million surplus in 1995. "A further signal of overheating is the fast growth of real wages, which increased by 12 percent over the past 12 months and to a high degree surpassed the growth of productivity," the report added. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK UNEMPLOYMENT INCHES UP. At the end of 1996, Slovakia's unemployment rate stood at 12.84%, up 0.67% from November, the National Labor Office announced on 22 January. Slovakia's average unemployment rate during the first nine months of 1996 was 12.2%. During that period, the lowest unemployment by region was 4.4% in Bratislava; the highest rates were in Trebisov (22.98%) and Rimavska Sobota (21.78%). -- Jiri Pehe EU SHOULD GIVE NEW MEMBERS SOME SLACK, SAYS HUNGARIAN BANK GOVERNOR. Central European countries seeking EU membership should not be required to meet the Maastricht economic criteria immediately, Hungarian National Bank Governor Gyorgy Suranyi told leading financial experts at a conference in Vienna sponsored by the British economic magazine Euromoney. Suranyi said inflation in the region will be much higher for at least five to ten years than what is required in the strict Maastricht criteria, Hungarian media reported on 23 January. In the course of accession negotiations, it should be taken into consideration that EU countries are slowly and gradually adjusting to the criteria while the Central European economies are going though a much faster and more painful transition, he added. -- Zsofia Szilagyi TWO HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT. The Smallholders Party and the Christian Democrats began joint preparations for the next general elections in 1998 with a pact signed on 22 January by the two parties' presidents, Hungarian dailies reported. Smallholders President Jozsef Torgyan and Christian Democratic President Gyorgy Giczy described the agreement as a loose grouping of conservative-oriented politicians. Giczy said the agreement could promote broader opposition cohesion and will provide an opportunity for opposition parties to carry out radical changes in Hungary once they win the elections. The pact follows the 14 January announcement by the opposition Young Democrats and Democratic Forum that they intend to field joint candidates in 1998 and would conclude a pre-election agreement by April. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN CROAT-MUSLIM COALITION ON VERGE OF COLLAPSE? The Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) made good on its threat to boycott parliament and government sessions of the mainly Croat and Muslim federation, Oslobodjenje wrote on 23 January (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 January 1997). Some opposition politicians spoke of a "collapse" in the coalition between the federation's two ruling nationalist parties, the HDZ and the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA). Matters were further complicated when Muslim Prime Minister Edhem Bicakcic pressed for the removal of his deputy and finance minister, the Croat Drago Bilajdzija, Dnevni avaz reported. Bicakcic has accused Bilandzija of giving special treatment to a Herzegovinian Croat company that cost the government $23 million in lost revenue, Onasa added. Political as well as economic motives may well be behind Bicakcic's move, given the generally poor relations between the SDA and HDZ. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIA'S IZETBEGOVIC LEAVES HOSPITAL. Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of the three-man Bosnian presidency, left Sarajevo's Kosevo Hospital on 22 January after a five-day stay. He underwent a planned checkup approximately one year after he suffered a heart attack that removed him from public life for some time. His doctor said tests showed his "condition is satisfactory," Reuters reported. -- Patrick Moore TUDJMAN SLAMS BALKAN INTEGRATION. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, delivering his annual state of the nation speech before parliament on 22 January, attacked recent attempts by the EU and the United States to persuade Croatia to join regional cooperation arrangements for southeastern Europe (see Pursuing Balkan Peace, 21 January 1997). For most Croats -- and for most Slovenes -- such groupings are anathema as they smack of an attempt to resurrect some form of Yugoslav state. Tudjman got hearty applause when he said: "Reintegration of Croatia into the Balkans is totally unacceptable for the Croatian people ... Croatia belongs to Central European and Mediterranean circles. A short Balkan episode in Croatian history [i.e. its inclusion in Yugoslavia] must never be repeated ... We should add a new article, a constitutional ban on attempts to merge Croatia with any Yugoslav or Balkan state or federation." He warned that any ostensibly economic regional project could lead down a slippery slope toward unacceptable political links. Tudjman said Croatia would enter into agreements with Balkan countries only when it was a member of the EU and could act together with its EU partners. -- Patrick Moore TUDJMAN GIVES NO HINT OF PLANNING CHANGES IN CROATIAN PRESIDENCY. During his 22 January state of the nation address, President Franjo Tudjman said presidential elections should go ahead in the second half of 1997 as scheduled, but did not say whether he would seek a third term. Independent newspapers had suggested that his health problems are so serious that he would try to postpone that vote and would propose sweeping constitutional changes to prevent any future head of state from having the French-type presidential powers he enjoys. But Tudjman did not even mention such changes. Western news agencies suggested that he looked thin but not as gaunt as immediately following his week-long stay at Washington's Walter Reed Army Hospital last November. At that time, American papers quoted unnamed diplomats saying Tudjman had inoperable cancer and perhaps only months to live. -- Patrick Moore FORMER MUNICIPAL OFFICIAL DESCRIBES SERBIAN VOTE RIGGING. Branko Todorovic, a former deputy head of the municipal authority in the industrial city of Nis, was quoted by the weekly Nedeljni Telegraf on 22 January saying the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia was involved in massive vote rigging during the 17 November municipal runoffs. According to Todorovic, two confidantes of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Nikola Sainovic and Gorica Gajevic, were largely responsible for the vote rigging. "Before the elections, between 15,000 and 20,000 forged ballots were handed to the Socialist Party of Serbia, along with the instruction to stuff them into ballot boxes," Todorovic said. In other news, the Belgrade electoral commission has again ruled that the opposition Zajedno coalition did in fact win the 17 November election in the capital, garnering 64 of a possible 110 seats in the Belgrade Assembly. -- Stan Markotich TOP U.S. OFFICIAL MEETS WITH SERBIAN STUDENTS. Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum met with representatives of Serbian students protesting the regime of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Reuters reported on 22 January. "It was important for us to hear their views ... we were able to stress to them our support for what they are doing," Kornblum said. Meanwhile, thousands of students continued their round- the-clock demonstration in front of a police barricade in downtown Belgrade, designed to prevent protesters from marching along the capital's main streets, Nasa Borba reported on 22 January. -- Stan Markotich SERBIAN, MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENTS MEET. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic met with Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic in Belgrade met on 22 January. Afterward the two presidents issued a joint communique stressing their commitment to unity. According to Nasa Borba, the main purpose of the meeting was for the two leaders to emerge denying a spate of recent reports of a rift in relations between the two republics of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Montenegrin and Serbian leaderships have at times appeared divided over how to resolve the ongoing mass protests in Serbia, with some Montenegrins, notably Premier Milo Djukanovic, advocating that at least partial concessions be made to end the crisis. Federal Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic's failure to attend the 18 January funeral of Montenegrin Foreign Minister Janko Jeknic had been interpreted as a sign that relations between Serbia and Montenegro were deteriorating. -- Stan Markotich WORLD BANK TO GRANT MOLDOVA LOANS FOR REFORMS. Moldova will get $100 million of credits from the World Bank in 1997, Moldpres reported on 22 January. The money is for various projects, including programs to speed up industrial restructuring and stimulate private investment. James Parks, the bank's permanent representative in Moldova, said the bank has been "encouraged" by recent statements made by Moldova's new President Petru Lucinschi and Premier Ion Cebuc in favor of speeding up economic reforms and the transition to a market economy. "The slowdown in structural reform has contributed to a further decline in industrial output," Parks said, speaking of the previous government. According to official data released on 21 January, the gross domestic product and industrial output both fell by a record 8% in 1996. -- Dan Ionescu DISPUTE OVER NEXT BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT CONTINUES. Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) leader Georgy Parvanov denied his party plans to organize "counter-rallies" against the opposition's protests, Standart reported on 23 January, but said the BSP could undertake "civilized mass action" to support the formation of a new BSP government. Stefan Savov, co- chairman of the opposition People's Union, said that if President Petar Stoyanov gives a mandate to the BSP, the BSP's attempt to form a cabinet would lead to "unwanted consequences" for Bulgaria. Union of Democratic Forces Chairman Ivan Kostov was cited by Trud saying that if the opposition agrees to a new BSP cabinet that would mean accepting that the Socialists hadn't failed and giving them a grace period. Stoyanov and Vice President Todor Kavaldzhiev, elected on the opposition ticket in the fall 1996 presidential election, took office in an official ceremony on 22 January. -- Maria Koinova ALBANIAN COURT SENTENCES PROTESTERS. Tirana District Court Chief Judge Qazim Gjonaj sentenced 13 out of 54 defendants to between one and two weeks in jail for participating in recent protests, Reuters reported on 22 January. Another 41 were fined 5,000 to 20,000 leks (about $50-$200) and two were acquitted. The average monthly wage in Albania is around $80. The protesters had participated in an anti-government demonstration on 19 January organized by the opposition Socialist Party and the Center Pole coalition. Prosecutors also started proceedings against the organizers. The Socialist Party has pledged to sue the government for using violence against the demonstrators. The protests were triggered by the collapse of pyramid schemes; in a related development, AFP reported on 23 January that the Albanian government had arrested about 50 people for alleged involvement in those schemes. In other news, an appeals court on 20 January acquitted former politburo member Pali Miska from charges of crimes against humanity but upheld long prison terms for eight other communist-era officials. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Tom Warner ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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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