|Be slow of tongue and quick of eye. - Cervantes|
No. 21, Part II, 30 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 CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT RE-CONFIRMS GOVERNMENT'S OUSTER. For the second time in less than a week, the Crimean parliament has approved a no-confidence motion against Arkadii Demidenko's government, international media reported on 29 January. The pro-Russian majority voted 54 to one to oust the government, defying Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's decree suspending the resolution on the government's dismissal (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 January 1997). Crimean Tatar deputies protested the motion by abstaining. Crimean parliamentary speaker Vasyl Kyselyov said the vote was a "grave mistake and an act of defiance against the Ukrainian president," while Demidenko warned he would urge Kuchma to disband the Crimean parliament. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev UKRAINE RESPONDS TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE RESOLUTION ON DEATH PENALTY. Following the Council of Europe's resolution severely criticizing Russia and Ukraine for their continued use of the death penalty (see item in Russian section above), Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Justice Minister Serhii Holovaty pledged that Ukraine will abide by its commitment to stop executions, international media reported on 29 January. The previous day, the government submitted to the parliament a draft law providing for a moratorium on executions and for life imprisonment to replace the death penalty. Ukraine pledged to stop executions when it became a member of the Council of Europe in November 1995. However, more than 100 people in Ukraine were executed in 1996. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev BELARUSIAN TRADERS PROHIBITED FROM RE-SELLING FOODSTUFFS. The Belarusian authorities have banned private traders from reselling foodstuffs, ITAR- TASS reported on 30 January. Under the new regulation, the sole right to sell agricultural products is given to the manufacturers. This rule is in effect at Minsk's central market, which was recently taken over by the state. President Aleksandr Lukashenka said he believes that city markets play the most important role in setting food prices. He added that criminal groups were preventing farmers from setting up market stalls and were thus able to set their own high prices. -- Sergei Solodovnikov ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN LATVIA. Toomas Hendrik Ilves, on his first official visit to Latvia, has met with President Guntis Ulmanis, Prime Minister Andris Skele, Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs, and Saeima Chairman Alfreds Cepanis, BNS reported on 29 January. The foreign ministers exchanged the documents of ratification of an agreement on cooperation in social security and discussed increased bilateral cooperation in improving border controls, fighting organized crime, and working for a common Baltic market and customs union. They also agreed to coordinate actions for integration into NATO and the EU and to inform each other about border talks with Russia. -- Saulius Girnius SKELE RE-NOMINATED AS LATVIAN PRIME MINISTER. President Guntis Ulmanis has asked Andris Skele, who unexpectedly resigned as prime minister last week, to form a new government, BNS reported on 29 January. Skele said that the cabinet would probably include the three major caucases-- Latvia's Way, Democratic Party Saimnieks (DPS), and For the Fatherland and Freedom--but not the Unity Party. Skele is likely to cancel an earlier informal agreement between former coalition parties giving a resigning minister's party the right to nominate a new candidate for the vacant post. He has already said that the finance minister will be chosen by him and not the DPS. That party's choice of Vasilijs Melniks for the finance portfolio caused a controversy because he was not considered appropriate for the post, prompting Skele's resignation (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 January 1997). -- Saulius Girnius POLISH PRIME MINISTER IN FRANCE. Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, meeting with French President Jacques Chirac in Paris on 29 January, discussed Poland's admission into the EU and NATO, international agencies reported. Chirac expressed his continued strong support for Polish EU membership as early as 2000. Cimoszewicz handed over to the French leader the "National Integration Strategy," outlining the Polish government's plans for becoming a member of both organizations (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 January 1997). The two men agreed that an acceptable role for Russia in European security was crucial to NATO expansion. Chirac had expressed France's strong support for Poland's admission to NATO during his visit to Warsaw last September. -- Jakub Karpinski PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE SAYS CZECH REPUBLIC IS NOT A POLICE STATE. The parliamentary committee overseeing the Security and Intelligence Service (BIS) has concluded that documents recently submitted by parliamentary speaker Milos Zeman do not show that the country is becoming a police state, Czech media reported. According to Zeman, the documents demonstrated that the BIS had trailed members of political parties, including his Social Democrats. He added that, in doing so, it had coordinated its activities with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The committee rejected those claims, saying most documents submitted by Zeman were forged. Some government coalition politicians say that Zeman must have known the documents were forgeries and that he should bear political responsibility for triggering a political scandal and destabilizing the country. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAKIA, CROATIA DISCUSS FREE TRADE ZONE. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and his visiting Croatian counterpart, Zlatko Matesa, signed a declaration on 29 January expressing interest in setting up a Slovak- Croatian free trade zone, Slovak media reported. Slovakia supports Croatia's admission to the Central European Free Trade Zone (CEFTA), and Croatia has to conclude free trade agreements with all CEFTA members to become a member. Also on 29 January, the Slovak government announced that "a free trade agreement with Russia is not the only solution to Slovakia's trade deficit with Russia." Recently, the possibility of a free trade zone with Russia has been widely discussed in Slovakia. At the same time, the government says that "developing economic cooperation with Russia will undoubtedly strengthen Slovakia's economic power." -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK RULING PARTY STARTS MEMBERSHIP CAMPAIGN IN BIGGEST FACTORY. The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has started a membership campaign in Slovakia's biggest industrial enterprise, CTK reported on 29 January. According to some employees at the East Slovak Ironworks (VSZ), the campaign is targeted at staff occupying "higher positions." VSZ employs some 25,000 people. VS¬Z spokesman Jozef Marko said no pressure has been put on employees to join the HZDS. The HZDS is seeking to boost its membership ahead of the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for 1998. -- Anna Siskova HUNGARIAN POLITICAL ROUNDUP. The opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum has again called for a no-confidence motion in Prime Minister Gyula Horn's coalition government, Hungarian media reported on 30 January. It argued that economic problems--together with the ongoing privatization scandal in which both governing parties have been implicated--are behind the country's current crisis. But despite its repeated calls for Horn's resignation, the Smallholders' Party seems unlikely to back the initiative. Meanwhile, Tamas Deutsch, vice president of the opposition Young Democrats, has ruled out pre-election cooperation between his party and two of the four other opposition parties in the parliament. Horn has indicated that general elections will be held in May 1998. -- Ben Slay SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN MILITARY REMOVED FROM PUBLIC BUILDINGS. Army personnel sent to guard key buildings in central Tirana last weekend left on 30 January, AFP reported. Tritan Shehu, who is foreign minister and head of the governing Democratic Party, said "the situation is calm this morning and it is no longer necessary to keep the army outside public buildings." They were sent in response to the unrest resulting from the collapse of pyramid schemes. Following those protests, the government claimed that damage to state and public property totaled $50 million. The previous day, President Sali Berisha said that victims of two scams will be compensated but not entirely and only in stages lest there be serious damage to the economy, VOA reported. This approach risks generating even more unrest, however. Meanwhile in Washington, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said: "The United States remains very concerned about the political and economic unrest in Albania," and has dispatched two economists to Tirana. -- Patrick Moore ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS CLAIM 500 MEMBERS ARRESTED. The opposition Socialist Party's daily Zeri i Popullit wrote on 30 January that police the previous day arrested 500 of its members, AFP reported. The Socialists charge that the authorities are using moves against the unrest as a pretext for cracking down on the opposition. The Democrats, in turn, have accused the Socialists of stirring up trouble and violence by politicizing the anger of those who lost their savings in the scams. The Interior Ministry said: "In all regions where there were incidents, a considerable number of citizens who committed acts of violence [were taken into custody]. The police have information and irrefutable documents proving that the persons in question encouraged, organized, or committed acts of violence and participated in the destruction of government property." It is unclear whether those rounded up have been formally arrested or just detained. -- Patrick Moore NATIONWIDE STRIKES, PROTESTS IN BULGARIA. One-hour warning strikes, rallies, and temporary street blockades took place throughout Bulgaria on 29-30 January in response to a strike call by the country's three main trade unions, RFE/RL reported. The strike action, which did not affect key industries, was supported by the opposition. Up to 50,000 people demonstrated in Sofia, while protests also took place in other cities. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Nikolay Dobrev, who is the Bulgarian Socialist Party's premier-designate, called on the opposition to join talks on holding early parliamentary elections within three to five months, saying that such a ballot was the "only alternative," AFP reported. He added that if a coalition government were to be formed, someone else might become premier. Meanwhile, Union of Democratic Forces Chairman Ivan Kostov said no talks on a coalition government will be held unless Dobrev gives up his mandate to form a government. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIA STRUGGLES WITH HIGH INFLATION. The outgoing government on 29 January announced that public-sector wages and pensions will be doubled beginning 1 February, Duma reported. However, these increases will not be paid out in full until the end of February. First, the parliament must pass legislation enabling the government to function before adoption of the 1997 budget. It is expected that such a law will be passed today. The government has also prepared a memorandum to the EU requesting $23.5 million for one-time payments of up to 6,000 leva ($5.87) to Bulgaria's poorest families. Meanwhile, President Petar Stoyanov, in Brussels on his first foreign visit since taking office, called on the EU to help Bulgaria help itself. He also urged more direct EU investment and quick talks on EU membership in order to stabilize the Bulgarian economy and democracy, RFE/RL and Reuters reported on 29 January. Stoyanov was addressing the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. -- Michael Wyzan and Stefan Krause BELGRADE POLICE KEEP A LOW PROFILE . . . While some 10,000 students blocked traffic in downtown Belgrade on 29 January, local traffic police and riot forces seemed to be keeping well out of sight, Nasa Borba reported. In recent weeks, police have been highly visible and have resorted to force against demonstrators. Reuters estimated that up to 20,000 students squeezed on to Slavija Square, bringing motorists to a halt. The students also marched along the city's main boulevards past state-run and pro-regime media outlets, whose staff were regaled with chants of "Join Us." -- Stan Markotich . . . AS ZAJEDNO LEADERS VOW TO CONTINUE PROTESTS. Opposition Zajedno leaders told protesters assembled in the Serbian capital that they will continue the protest action at least until Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's regime recognizes opposition wins in the November local elections. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic said that, "We have been here for 70 days but we shall last 700 days, if need be," Reuters reported. But Vesna Pesic, opposition Serbian Civic Alliance leader, recently hinted that her party may be willing to reach a compromise whereby demands for the recognition of wins in all municipalities where Zajedno came out ahead would be dropped in exchange for recognition of the opposition's victory in Belgrade, CNN reported on 30 January. Milosevic has consistently hinted that his regime will not tolerate an opposition municipal government in Belgrade. -- Stan Markotich CLINTON RULES OUT ROLE FOR SFOR IN CATCHING WAR CRIMINALS. President Bill Clinton told a Pentagon meeting with new Secretary of Defense William Cohen on 29 January that SFOR will not be used in arresting indicted war criminals in Bosnia. He suggested, however, that a permanent war crimes tribunal might be set up with some means of going after those it wants to try, news agencies reported. "We can't expect people who are sent into a very volatile situation...to do this other work unless they literally come in contact with those people who should be arrested and returned. So there would have to be a completely different way of dealing with this if we're going to have a permanent war crimes tribunal, which I think has a lot of merit." He added that the tribunal would be responsible not just for Bosnia. -- Patrick Moore PLAVSIC SAYS MUSLIMS CAN COME HOME. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said that Muslim refugees can return provided they actually had homes in the area in question before the war and have completed mutually agreed procedures, Oslobodjenje wrote on 30 January. She and the international community's High Representative, Carl Bildt, agreed to set up a joint commission to begin immediately to investigate a 26 January incident in which a well-organized Serbian mob attacked Muslims helping to rebuild the village of Gajevi just inside the Serbian side of the former front line. It is unclear, however, whether the agreement between Plavsic and Bildt to set up joint UN-Bosnian Serb police patrols in the area has gone into effect. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN MUSLIMS, CROATS REACH ACCORD ON JOINT ARMY. Ambassador James Pardew, U.S. military envoy in charge of supervising the U.S.-backed military program "Equip and Train," announced on 29 January that Bosnian Muslims and Croats have taken the final steps to form a joint army after a long-stalled process, Oslobodjenje reported on 30 January. Alija Izetbegovic, Muslim member of Bosnia's three-man presidency, and Kresimir Zubak, the presidency's Croatian member and president of the federation, signed orders for the appointment of the commander and joint command of the army. -- Daria Sito Sucic SERBS BLOCK ACCESS TO PENSION OFFICES IN EASTERN SLAVONIA. Between 30 and 40 young Serbs on 29 January blocked access to offices distributing Croatian pensions in Borovo Selo and Trpinja, AFP reported. The previous day, some 50 Serbs had stoned Croatian pension officials in Borovo Selo (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 January 1997). The payment of pensions to local Serbs has since been postponed. Pension distribution to Serbs started recently as part of the process to reintegrate the last Serb- held region of eastern Slavonia. Local Serbian officials condemned the incidents and refused help offered by the UN, saying they would handle the situation. Meanwhile, Serbian political representatives in eastern Slavonia have called on Croatian Serbs in the area to take Croatian citizenship. UN Administrator for Eastern Slavonia Jacques Klein also called on Croatian Serbs either to become Croatian citizens or to live a life of a refugee deprived of human dignity, Novi List reported on 30 January. -- Daria Sito Sucic ROMANIA SEEKS CLOSER TIES WITH NEIGHBORS. Foreign Minister Adrian Severin told a press conference in Strasbourg that Romania is actively seeking closer relations with its neighbors, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 29 January. Severin said that his country was considering forming a "triangular association" between Poland, Ukraine, and Romania and that Hungary might eventually join the group. According to Radio Bucharest, he also discussed the pending basic treaty with Ukraine, saying it was imperative to avoid the "Pandora box" in which the talks had been stranded so far--an apparent allusion to Romania's former insistence that the treaty mention the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Severin added that Romania now wants a reference to Council of Europe Recommendation 1201 to be included in the treaty to ensure the protection of the rights of the Romanian minority in Ukraine. That recommendation is referred to in Romania's basic treaty with Hungary. Romania's relations with Hungary have improved recently, Severin commented, adding that they are even considering the formation of a joint military unit similar to the Franco-German one. -- Zsolt Mato MOLDOVAN SOCIALIST UNITY PARTY DISAPPOINTED OVER NEW GOVERNMENT LINEUP. The Moldovan Socialist Unity-Edinstvo faction in the parliament told Infotag on 29 January that it is disappointed that none of its candidates had been included in Ion Ciubuc's cabinet. It expressed "particular concern" over the government's "monoethnic" composition, saying it went against President Petru Lucinschi's electoral pledge to ensure that non-Moldovan ethnics would be represented. The faction also commented that the new cabinet lineup will "complicate ... the Transdniestrian reintegration process." At the same time, it said it had voted in favor of the new cabinet because it had no reason to doubt the "professionalism" of its members. -- Dan Ionescu [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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