|The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited. - Plutarch|
No. 18, Part II, 27 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 OPPOSITION RALLIES IN MINSK. Some 5,000 people on 25 January participated in an opposition rally to demonstrate support for the popular movements in Serbia and Bulgaria, ITAR-TASS reported. The Belarusian Popular Front demanded early parliamentary elections and called on supporters to resist the authorities' attempts to restrict freedoms. It also accused Russia of trying to "occupy Belarus." Shouting anti-Russian slogans, demonstrators marched to the Russian Embassy building, which had been placed under heavy guard. Although the rally was not officially sanctioned, there were no serious clashes with the police. Meanwhile, a special mission composed of representatives of the EU, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE has begun its work in the Belarusian capital, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 January. The mission is to study the political situation in Belarus, focusing on the November referendum that increased President Aleksandr Lukashenka's powers. -- Sergei Solodovnikov UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER URGES CLEAR STANCE ON NATO. Oleksander Moroz has urged the parliament to take an official position on NATO expansion and the deployment of nuclear arms on the territory of new member countries, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 January. He complained about the often divergent opinions among politicians over Ukraine's possible membership in NATO at a time when a "a complicated process of re- evaluating the idea of NATO expansion is under way worldwide." Moroz's comments followed Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko's visit last week to Geneva, where he said non-affiliated Ukraine is not planning to join NATO. Earlier this month, Security Council Chairman Volodymyr Horbulin suggested Ukraine might join NATO by 2010. In other news, the parliament has ratified an international convention on torture and other violations of human rights, meeting one of the conditions for Council of Europe membership, Ukrainian Radio reported on 24 January. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev UKRAINIAN JUSTICE MINISTER: DISMISSAL OF CRIMEAN GOVERNMENT UNLAWFUL. Serhii Holovaty has said the Crimean parliament contravened the Ukrainian constitution by voting to oust the peninsula's government, Ukrainian media reported on 25 January. He noted that the Ukrainian constitution contains no provision allowing the Crimean parliament to suspend the powers of the Crimean government. The Crimean parliament on 23 January voted to dismiss the government and ordered the formation of a new Council of Ministers. Crimean Prime Minister Arkadii Demidenko has said the move was aimed at redistributing power and property and paving the way for new elections. He has appealed to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to overrule the Crimean parliament's decision. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev FURTHER DISCUSSIONS ON NEW LATVIAN GOVERNMENT. President Guntis Ulmanis on 25 January discussed the formation of a new government with the five smallest caucuses in the Saeima, BNS reported. Parliamentary representatives of the Latvia's National Independence Party, For People and Justice, and the coalition of the Farmers Union and Christian Democrats expressed support for Andris Skele's re-nomination as prime minister, but For Latvia representatives said they would vote against a Skele government. The largest caucuses--Latvia's Way, For the Fatherland and Freedom, and Democratic Party Saimnieks--met the same day but declined to make a public statement about their talks. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH LEGISLATURE ADOPTS 1997 BUDGET. The Sejm on 25 January approved the 1997 budget by a vote of 287 to 123 with 14 abstentions, Polish media reported. The budget foresees a 5.7% growth in GDP, compared with 6% in 1996, and a 13% inflation rate (18.5% last year). It also provides for a 2.8% budget deficit and a 5.5% increase in real terms in public sector wages. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said that with this budget, Poland will remain one of the fastest developing countries in the world. The opposition, meanwhile, accused the government of deliberately giving low figures for budget revenues so that it can use additional funds to "buy" votes for the fall parliamentary elections. -- Beata Pasek CZECH POLITICAL UPDATE. Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) Chairman Jan Kalvoda on 25 January announced he will not seek re-election at the party congress in March, Czech media reported. Kalvoda recently resigned from his government posts following reports that he had falsely claimed to have a doctorate. Trade and Industry Minister Vladimir Dlouhy, one of the most popular politicians in the country, has also said he will not run for the ODA chairmanship. Meanwhile, the Central Committee of the Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) has rejected a proposal by a group of party members to recall CSSD Deputy Chairman Milan Machovec, who is considered a political opponent of party chairman Milos Zeman. However, the committee has expelled Jozef Wagner, another opponent of Zeman, for a second time. Wagner was recently stripped of his party membership but was subsequently re-admitted by a local party organization. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK RULING PARTY ON TIMING OF NEXT ELECTIONS. The Republican Council of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) on 25 January proposed that the next parliamentary elections be held in early July 1998, instead of the fall, TASR reported. HZDS Deputy Chairwoman Olga Keltosova said this would give the party more time to prepare for the local elections, which are scheduled for fall 1998. She added that talks on the timing of the elections should be held within the ruling coalition and also with opposition parties. Meanwhile, the HZDS is waiting for the Constitutional Court to rule on the opposition's proposal for a referendum on direct presidential elections. Keltosova said that if such a referendum takes place, the HZDS will consider giving further powers to the next president and possibly changing the length of his term in office. She added that the HZDS will seek to hold a referendum on joining NATO in May since "more than 70% of voters" are in favor of such a vote. -- Anna Siskova STRONG CRITICISM OF HUNGARIAN SOCIALIST PLAN FOR QUICK SETTLEMENT TO GABCIKOVO DISPUTE. Representatives of opposition parties and civil organizations, meeting in Budapest this weekend, rejected the ruling Socialists' bid to secure an out-of-court settlement of the Gabcikovo dispute, Hungarian dailies reported on 27 January. The government, which is holding secret negotiations with Slovakia, is divided over the issue, since the junior coalition Free Democrats argue that the dispute should be settled at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Meanwhile, Hungarian environmental organizations have submitted a compromise plan to The Hague. They have also sent a letter urging the court to rule that nations do not have the right to destroy eco-systems, since rivers and forests are not their sole property. They warn that the Slovaks' unilateral re-routing of the Danube has caused a significant deterioration of the Szigetkoz region's eco-system, pointing out that two-thirds of the neighboring population have had to flee. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE RIOTS THROUGHOUT ALBANIA . . . Demonstrators clashed with police in towns throughout the country over the weekend as they protested the recent collapse of pyramid schemes, international media reported. Hundreds of thousands of Albanians have reportedly lost their life savings because of the collapse. Around 30,000 people rallied in Tirana on 26 January. Police fired pistol shots into the air when some 3,000 protesters tried to advance toward the parliament. Eighty-four policemen were reported injured, some seriously. About 30 people were arrested. The Democratic Party headquarters and government buildings were torched in Korca, Fier, and Vlora, while protesters set fire to the building of the oil company Albpetrol in Patos. On 25 January, demonstrators blocked the main north-south highway. Meanwhile, 230 rioting inmates at the Barwhor prison near Kavaja tried to burn down the prison; two prisoners died in clashes with the police in the night from 26-27 January. Justice Minister Kristofer Peci claimed the situation had returned to normal by early this morning. -- Fabian Schmidt . . . WHILE PARLIAMENT CALLS IN MILITARY. The parliament on 26 January gave President Sali Berisha special powers to deploy military units to restore law and order, international media reported. "A limited number of army units will be temporarily engaged alongside police forces to protect state and public institutions and to ensure the free flow of traffic on national roads," a parliamentary statement said. But Foreign Minister and Democratic Party Chairman Tritan Shehu, who was attacked at a demonstration in Tirana the previous day, said the parliament's decision has "nothing to do with a state of emergency." The army has been put on alert in Tirana to guard ministries, the central bank, and other strategic buildings. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi has told the demonstrators that they will get their money back beginning in early February. Authorities have seized around $300 million from two pyramid scheme accounts, but that sum is unlikely to cover all losses. Another mass demonstration is scheduled to take place in Shkoder today. -- Fabian Schmidt POLITICAL DEADLOCK IN BULGARIA CONTINUES. President Petar Stoyanov on 24 January held talks with leaders of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the opposition in an attempt to resolve the country's political crisis, RFE/RL reported. Stoyanov said no agreement is possible unless both sides become far more flexible, and he called the BSP's demands "very difficult" for the opposition to accept. BSP leader Georgi Parvanov said his party will agree to a "non-Socialist, broad- based" government that can take over until December 1997--provided that government is headed by BSP premier-designate Nikolay Dobrev, who is currently interior minister. On 26 January, Stoyanov had separate meeting with BSP and opposition leaders. Meanwhile, thousands of people took part in anti-BSP rallies over the weekend to demand new parliamentary elections. The Confederation of Labor Podkrepa has announced it will stage strikes in 14 cities, including Sofia. -- Stefan Krause BELGRADE DEMONSTRATIONS CONTINUE. By about 7:30 a.m. local time on 27 January, an estimated 300,000 demonstrators had taken to Belgrade streets in response to a call by Orthodox Church leaders, Reuters reported. The elderly Patriarch Pavle headed the demonstration, along with some two dozen priests, to mark Saint Sava's day. Earlier, police withdrew the cordon around downtown Belgrade, allowing some 50,000 students and others to march along the city's main streets. These latest developments follow a weekend of low-level violence in the capital and other Serbian cities. Meanwhile, Vojislav Seselj, ultranationalist leader of the Serbian Radical Party, has met in Belgrade with members of the Russian State Duma. Commenting on the mass demonstrations, Seselj told the government-controlled Vecernje novosti that "the leaders of [the opposition coalition Zajedno] are serving the West, contrary to the interests of their own people..., while the demonstrators march under foreign flags." -- Stan Markotich MORE VIOLENCE AGAINST MUSLIMS TRYING TO GO HOME. Bosnian Serb crowds on 25 January attacked Muslims who were attempting to deliver construction materials and otherwise help families seeking to return to the village of Gajevi just inside Serb-held territory (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 January 1997). Some 100 men armed with crowbars attacked and injured Semsudin Mujic, who was driving a tractor hauling prefabricated building materials, AFP wrote. The attackers stole some of those materials. A Muslim witness said that SFOR soldiers stood by and watched the beatings but did nothing. U.S. spokesperson Sgt. Marianne Mirabella said, however, that "security in the Republika Srpska is surely not the responsibility of SFOR. That's the responsibility of Republika Srpska police. They ought to be ashamed." The Muslim families are seeking to exercise their right under the Dayton agreement to go home. They have been vetted under a system supervised by the UN and agreed to by all sides. -- Patrick Moore MUSLIM-CROAT TENSIONS CONTINUE. The Croatian member of the Bosnian presidency, Kresimir Zubak, accused the Muslims of still harboring foreign Islamic fighters, AFP reported on 25 January. In further evidence of friction between the nominal allies, Federal Deputy Minister Drago Bilandzija, a Croat, told Oslobodjenje that the State Directorate- -a major public-sector company--is laundering money and evading taxes on a grand scale. He himself has been accused of corruption by Muslim Prime Minister Edhem Bicakcic. Increasingly, public tensions threaten to split the shaky coalition between the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). Leaders of the two parties, meeting over the weekend, issued an 11-point program aimed at harmonizing their relationship, Oslobodjenje wrote on 27 January. According to that text, the presidency and vice presidency of the federation will rotate annually between Croats and Muslims. The president for 1997 will be a Croat. -- Patrick Moore FORMER BOSNIAN SERB LEADER DIES. Nikola Koljevic (60) died on 25 January in the Belgrade military hospital as a result of a suicide attempt in Pale on 16 January, AFP said, quoting Tanjug. As a vice president of the Republika Srpska, he had helped negotiate the Dayton agreement. But he had been pushed to the political sidelines by the Bosnian Serb leadership after the 14 September elections. He became depressed as a result of this treatment, as he himself made clear in a suicide note left for his family (see Pursuing Balkan Peace, 21 January 1997). -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON MUSLIM-CROAT RELATIONS. Jadranko Prlic on 24 January met with his Croatian counterpart, Mate Granic, to discuss worsened relations between Muslims and Croats in the Bosnian Federation, international media reported. Prlic attributed that development to the increasing harassment of Muslims in Mostar and differences over issues such as defense, AFP reported. But he added "there is no problem that cannot be resolved with dialogue." Both officials agreed that the Federation Forum--over which U.S. envoy to Bosnia-Herzegovina John Cornblum is to preside--should convene "as soon as possible." Prlic also met Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak to discuss Croatia's assistance in training the Bosnian federal army, Dnevni Avaz reported on 27 January. The ministers discussed bilateral cooperation in preventing border incidents and implementing an agreement on sub-regional weapons control. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROATIAN OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATION PAYS TAXES FOLLOWING EVASION CHARGES. The Croatian office of the international humanitarian organization sponsored by George Soros has paid $500,000 in taxes one month after Croatian financial police charged the office with tax evasion, Reuters reported on 25 January. Office executive director Srdjan Dvornik said the taxes had been paid in order to prevent further problems in Croatia. He added that the foundation will appeal to get the money back once the police has sent the conclusions of its investigation. State-run television commented that by paying the taxes, the foundation has admitted it violated the law. Croatian financial police stormed the Zagreb premises of the organization in December and claimed to have found evidence of " financial malpractice." -- Daria Sito Sucic NEW GOVERNMENT IN SLOVENIA. Janez Drnovsek, prime minister-designate and leader of the Liberal Democrats (LDS), on 24 January announced he has formed a new government, Radio Slovenija reported. Talks between the LDS and the three conservative Slovenian Spring parties--which have 44 of the 90 parliamentary seats--broke down earlier this month. Drnovsek said he has forged a coalition with the former communist United List of Social Democrats and several minor parties, resulting in a one-seat majority. He said the LDS will have nine portfolios, the former Communists five, and two minor parties one seat each. The agriculture and justice portfolios still have to be filled. Drnovsek may attempt to extend an olive branch to the Slovenian Spring parties with offers of those two posts. -- Stan Markotich ROMANIAN ROUNDUP. The Executive Bureau of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania on 25 January said it will propose a "political and social pact" at a meeting later this week with President Emil Constantinescu, Radio Bucharest reported. The bureau said it was "concerned" about what it called the new government's "political purges." It asked the president to use his influence over the governing coalition to put an end to the firings and hirings among the heads of state institutions. Meanwhile, a Bucharest appeals court on 24 January rejected Miron Cozma's request for bail, Radio Bucharest reported. Cozma is being detained on charges of "undermining state authority" by helping organize the miners' rampages in the Romanian capital in 1990 and 1991. Cozma's lawyer said after the ruling that he was dropping the case because of a "work overload." Miners held protest rallies earlier this month to demand Cozma's release on bail. -- Zsolt Mato MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW GOVERNMENT. The legislature on 24 January approved Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc's government and its program, international agencies reported. Valeriu Pasat, former ambassador to Moscow, has been appointed defense minister. He is the first-ever civilian to be appointed to that post. Communist Mihai Plamadeala is the new interior minister, while Tudor Botnaru, former ambassador to Belgium, takes over the national security portfolio. Ciubuc said the government will restructure the economy, reduce budget expenditures, and launch privatization in energy and agriculture sectors. Meanwhile, following a meeting of work teams in Chisinau on 23 January, Moldova and the Dniester republic agreed to step up negotiations to find a settlement to the ongoing conflict, Infotag reported. -- Dan Ionescu [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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