|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
No. 19, Part II, 28 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 BELARUS PUSHES FOR TALKS ON CURRENCY UNION. Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Prakapovich last week announced that the Belarusian government has invited the Central Bank of Russia to start talks on synchronizing the two countries' exchange rates, Belarusian Radio reported on 26 January. This is considered an initial step toward unification of the two currencies. But Sergei Aleksashenko, first deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank, has denied receiving such an invitation from the Belarusian government. He stressed that although currency union is crucial, it should not be the starting point for unification in general. His point of view is shared by National Bank of Belarus officials, who argue that monetary union should not begin until substantial differences in the two government's monetary policies have been addressed. -- Sergei Solodovnikov UKRAINIAN MINERS PLAN MARCH ON KYIV. The Central Committee of the Ukrainian miners' union has urged the Coal Industry Ministry to insist that this year's budget include subsidies totalling $2.3 billion for coal-mining enterprises, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 January. The parliament is scheduled to debate the 1997 budget on 4 February. A trade union spokesman said that miners are planning to march on Kyiv to picket the buildings of the presidential administration and the parliament on 4-5 February. Some 2,000 miners are expected to take part in the march. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER ADDRESSES COUNCIL OF EUROPE. Tiit Vahi told the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg on 27 January that Estonia's future lies in a fully integrated Europe, ETA reported. He added that he hoped the council will decide later this month to stop monitoring Estonia. If it does, Estonia will become the second country in Eastern Europe, after Hungary, where CE monitoring has been scrapped. Vahi said one of his government's priorities is to help all permanent residents, especially the Russian-speaking community, to integrate fully into Estonian society. He also pledged to submit today the Geneva Convention on Refugees for ratification. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIA'S EU MEMBERSHIP HINDERED BY BORDER PROBLEMS. Anita Gradin, EU commissioner for immigration, justice, and internal affairs, has said that although Lithuania is ready to join the EU, it still needs to resolve border security issues, BNS reported. Gradin is currently on a three-day visit to Lithuania. She and Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius signed border aid agreements similar to those recently concluded with Latvia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 January 1997). Gradin noted that most illegal refugees in Lithuania are economic migrants who are not entitled to political refugee status. She did not say whether the EU will urge Russia and Belarus to sign readmission agreements with their neighbors. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH NEWS. Grazyna Opinska, spokeswoman for the Polish Committee for European Integration, has said Poland's relations with the EU have been strained by favorable conditions granted to the Korean automobile company Daewoo, Polish media reported on 28 January. Daewoo assembles cars from imported parts at automobile factories in Lublin and Zeran that it now owns. The EU claims that this arrangement constitutes the duty-free import of Daewoo cars. In 1996, Daewoo sold 38,000 cars in Poland, ten times more than in the previous year. In other news, the opposition Freedom Union is reported to be facing parliamentary extinction. In a recent Public Opinion Research Center (CBOS) poll, Freedom Union (UW) received only 4% of the vote--one percentage point short of the 5% support needed for parliamentary representation (although it performed better in other polls). Rzeczpospolita reported on 28 January that the UW is losing its electorate to Solidarity Electoral Action. -- Beata Pasek and Jakub Karpinski CZECH PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER IN GERMANY TO DISCUSS JOINT DECLARATION. Milos Zeman was in Berlin on 27 January to discuss the possibility of adopting a preamble to the Czech-German declaration, international media reported. The declaration, signed by the two countries' premiers last week, still has to be ratified by the Czech and German parliaments. Zeman told journalists before his departure that he would discuss several variants of the preamble with his German partners. After meeting with German President Roman Herzog, he said that Herzog had responded positively to his proposals for the preamble. Zeman is scheduled today to meet with parliamentary chairwoman Rita Suessmuth, Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, and representatives of all factions in the Bundestag. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK UPDATE. President Michal Kovac has asked Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) deputy Dusan Macuska to prove in court that recent allegations about the president's "economic crimes" are true, TASR reported on 27 January. Macuska made the allegations during a Slovak TV talk show broadcast on 26 January. Meanwhile, the private television station VTV--which has close ties to the HZDS--has broadcast a third "documentary" attacking Kovac's son (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 December 1996). The program featured more "secret witnesses" who backed government claims that Kovac Jr. himself staged his August 1995 abduction. Kovac Jr. plans to sue the station. Novy Cas reported on 28 January that the name of former VTV Director Jan Izak, who moderated and directed the program, appeared on the list of employees of the former communist secret police. In other news, Kovac Jr. received an anonymous death threat on 27 January. -- Anna Siskova and Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN JEWS DISAPPOINTED ABOUT SWISS LIST OF DORMANT ACCOUNT HOLDERS. Hungarian Jewish leaders have said that a Swiss list of 33 wartime bank account holders is only a fraction of what they believe could be the total number of accounts that belonged to Hungarian holocaust victims, Reuters reported. Switzerland on 27 January handed over to Hungary the list of accounts that were declared ownerless after World War II. Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs commented that it is not easy to identify the legitimate owners of the accounts because the list gives only names, many of which are followed by a question mark. Peter Feldmajer, president of the Hungarian Jewish Communities estimates that there could be several thousand dormant account holders. He added that they will search for the inheritors of the accounts and that the rest of the money will go into a foundation soon to be established to administer compensation to Jews. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS, OPPOSITION BLAME EACH OTHER FOR PYRAMID CRISIS . . . The ruling Democratic Party has issued a resolution calling the recent riots "terrorism organized by the leaders of the Socialist Party and other extreme left-wing parties against democratic institutions in Albania," local media reported. Tens of thousands of Albanians have recently taken to the streets to protest the collapse of pyramid schemes. The opposition, meanwhile, accused the government of involvement in the pyramid schemes and called for a caretaker government and new elections. It also criticized the parliament's decision to deploy the army, claiming that the country is de facto under martial law. President Sali Berisha, however, has rejected suggestions that martial law be imposed, and Defense Minister Safet Zhulali has said the army will "never be used against the people." Both the Democrats and the opposition have called for demonstrations in Tirana today. -- Fabian Schmidt . . . WHILE PROTESTS SPREAD NORTH. Some 1,000 people took to the streets in Shkoder on 27 January to demand a solution to the current crisis over the collapse of the pyramid schemes, international media reported. No clashes were reported. In Peshkopija, a mob set fire to the city hall and ambushed the local police station, injuring an unspecified number of policemen. Protesters also beat up a state TV cameraman and smashed his camera. In Tirana, soldiers guarded the central bank, television headquarters, and government buildings. Elsewhere, they cleared roads of barricades. Meanwhile, Socialist Party leader Ndre Legisi suffered a fractured skull after he was attacked by three or four unidentified men near the office of Zeri i Popullit. His condition is reported to be critical. -- Fabian Schmidt BULGARIAN PRESIDENT CALLS ON SOCIALISTS, OPPOSITION TO REACH COMPROMISE . . . Petar Stoyanov, in his first nationwide address as president, appealed to the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the opposition to find a solution to the current political crisis, RFE/RL reported on 27 January. Stoyanov said he will give the BSP a mandate to form a new government, as required by the constitution. But he urged the Socialists not to accept it and to agree instead to opposition demands for early parliamentary elections in May. Stoyanov also called on the opposition to end their boycott of the parliament and asked both sides to respond to his appeal today. He said he wants to name an interim government and call an extraordinary 10-day session of the parliament to pass crucial economic legislation. -- Stefan Krause . . . AND GETS MIXED RESPONSE. BSP Chairman Georgi Parvanov criticized Stoyanov's proposal, saying that 10 days is not enough to adopt the necessary economic legislation, international media reported. He added that he wants the next government to be headed by Interior Minister Nikolay Dobrev. But the opposition is unlikely to agree to that proposal since it holds Dobrev responsible for the violent clashes between demonstrators and police on 10-11 January. Meanwhile, Dobrev hinted that he may withdraw his candidacy if no solution to the crisis can be found, Trud reported. Union of Democratic Forces Chairman Ivan Kostov said "I did not exactly expect that from [Stoyanov], but we will support his efforts to overcome the crisis." Meanwhile, around 18,000 people in Sofia demonstrated against the formation of a new BSP government and called for early elections. Demonstrations also took place in other towns. The Confederation of Labor Podkrepa staged strikes throughout the country, but it is not known how many workers were involved. -- Stefan Krause BELGRADE COURT OVERTURNS ELECTORAL COMMISSION RULING. Belgrade's First District Court has overturned a ruling by the city's electoral commission recognizing opposition wins in the November local election run-offs, Nasa Borba reported on 28 January. Commission Chairman Radomir Lazarevic expressed his regret over the court's decision, saying it was "contrary to the law." The Belgrade electoral commission has several times recognized Zajedno victories in the capital. Most recently, it announced that the opposition coalition had won 64 of the Municipal Assembly's 110 seats. Meanwhile, Zajedno took office in the city of Nis- -one of four municipalities where the ruling Socialists seem to have accepted defeat. But it is unclear how much authority Zajedno will have. The local police force, for example, continues to report directly to the federal Interior Ministry, which is firmly under Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's control. -- Stan Markotich U.S. CRITICIZES SERBIAN POLICE VIOLENCE AGAINST CIVILIANS. U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns on 27 January said Washington has delivered a note to Belgrade protesting the "systematic use of the police to intimidate," Reuters reported. Meanwhile, men serving in the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia are being forced to join police cordons in downtown Belgrade, Onasa reported on 27 January, citing a Zajedno press statement. The report also noted that some victims of police intimidation are refusing to seek medical help for "fear that, by revealing their identity, they will continue to suffer police torture." -- Stan Markotich U.S. TO SET UP SPECIAL FORCE TO CATCH BOSNIAN WAR CRIMINALS? White House press spokesman Mike McCurry on 27 January said that the administration is considering options for catching indicted war criminals and bringing them to the Hague-based tribunal, U.S. media reported. "We've said for some time we're looking at ways of making that tribunal more effective. One possible option is to set up some type of special police force. We haven't made a decision on whether that's the best way to help the tribunal, but it does suggest itself as an option." NATO peacekeepers and UN police take the position that it is not in their mandate to go after war criminals, although they may detain ones with whom they come into contact. There is, however, ample evidence to suggest that the peacekeepers have frequently looked the other way and let such individuals slip past rather than risk casualties. Any new force would presumably be created with the clear understanding that it could expect to suffer casualties in carrying out its mandate. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN REFUGEE RETURN PROGRAM ON HOLD. The UNHCR-sponsored plan to return Muslim families to their home village of Gajevi, just inside Serbian territory, has been suspended for 48 hours. The Muslims had gone through lengthy procedures agreed to by all sides, but in recent days were subjected to well-organized mob violence by Serb civilian crowds with the apparent complicity of the Republika Srpska police. SFOR troops in the area did nothing to help. The international community's Carl Bildt began talks with Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic on 27 January, AFP wrote. Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the Bosnian Serb authorities "clearly reneged" on commitments made in the Dayton agreement "to facilitate the return of refuges and to avoid the destruction of property." -- Patrick Moore DUTCH EU PRESIDENCY WANTS BOSNIA TO HAVE PRIORITY. Dutch Foreign Aid Minister Jan Pronk, during his current visit to Bosnia, said on 27 January that the Netherlands will insist that Bosnia be a priority for the European Union, AFP reported. The Netherlands took over the six- month rotating EU presidency on 1 January. He noted that the Dutch government will strongly urge the EU donor conference for Bosnia take place in March, as scheduled, because a delay would have negative consequences for the country's reconstruction. Pronk is due to meet with refugees from Srebrenica, the former Muslim enclave that was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995, despite the presence of Dutch peacekeeping troops. Those troops later came under widespread international criticism. The Netherlands last year allocated $100 million for Bosnian reconstruction programs. Meanwhile, Haris Silajdzic, co-premier in the Bosnian government, called on the EU to grant Bosnia associate member status. -- Daria Sito Sucic STEP CLOSER TO ESTABLISHING CROATIAN COMMUNITY OF HERCEG-BOSNA? Bozo Rajic, head of the ruling Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) in Bosnia- Herzegovina, proposed on 27 January that representatives of all Bosnian Croat associations meet to set up a Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna, AFP reported. The new community would replace the banned para-state of the same name. Rajic said that the topics discussed at such a meeting would include the convening of a constitutive assembly to elect a president and executive council of the new community. Under the Dayton peace accords, the Bosnian Croat para-state of Herceg-Bosna should have been dissolved long ago. -- Daria Sito Sucic ALLEGED HEAD OF KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY ARRESTED. Serbian police have arrested the alleged head of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), Reuters reported. Police said the 31-year-old Avni Klinaku was taken into custody on 26 January, along with several other members of the National Movement for the Liberation of Kosovo. It remains unclear whether the UCK is part of that movement, but police claim they found "arms and ammunition of various calibers, drawings and plans for attacks on facilities, and other means for carrying out terrorist actions." -- Fabian Schmidt ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ANNOUNCES NEW FOREIGN-POLICY PRIORITIES. Foreign Minister Adrian Severin told Reuters on 28 January that, in order to boost its chances of early admission into NATO, Romania has put improved ties with Ukraine at the top of its foreign-policy agenda and is also seeking a new partnership with Hungary and Poland. Severin, who is due to meet today with visiting British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, said a "strategic partnership" with Poland and Hungary must be implemented very quickly, noting that it signaled "a different tune in our foreign policy." He added that Romania has a "strategic interest in the consolidation of Ukraine's independence and statehood." Romania and Ukraine resumed talks over a basic treaty earlier this month, but differences remain over Bucharest's insistence that the treaty mention the unjustness of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. As a result of that agreement, Romania lost territory now incorporated into Ukraine and Moldova. -- Zsolt Mato MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT "NOT SATISFIED" WITH NEW CABINET LINEUP. A presidential adviser who asked to remain anonymous told Infotag on 27 January that Petru Lucinschi is "not quite satisfied" with Ion Ciubuc's new cabinet. He said Lucinschi had not been able to keep his electoral promise of including "young, promising professionals" in the executive because of the composition of the parliament and because of the "divisions [within] and ambitions of" the Agrarian Democratic and Socialist Unity caucuses. The presidential adviser added that most of the new ministers had supported Lucinschi's rival--former premier Andrei Sangheli--in the first round of the presidential elections and had switched their allegiance to Lucinschi in the run-off. The president had fought "to the very end" to change the composition of the cabinet but was unable to do so owing to the "stubborn parliamentary majority," he added. The adviser also claimed that as a result Lucinschi had suffered a nervous breakdown and had received medical help. -- 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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