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OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 22, Part II, 31 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

UKRAINIAN OFFICIAL SAYS GROWING CRIME HINDERS ABOLITION OF DEATH
PENALTY. Borys Olijnyk, vice president of the Council of Europe's
Parliamentary Assembly, has said "it is impossible to fully abolish
capital punishment in Ukraine at present," ITAR-TASS reported on 30
January. His statement comes in the wake of harsh criticism from the
Council of Europe for failing to honor its commitment to put a stop to
the death penalty (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 January 1997). Ukrainian
authorities registered 4,896 premeditated murders in 1996, most of which
were in the economically developed regions of Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk,
Luhansk, Odesa, Crimea, and Kyiv. The number of contract killings grew
from eight in 1993 to 210 in 1995, while 400 per 100,000 of the
Ukrainian population received prison sentences last year. -- Oleg
Varfolomeyev

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN FRANCE. Leonid Kuchma has been assured by French
President Jacques Chirac that France will support G-7 financing of the
Chornobyl nuclear plant closure, international agencies reported on 30
January. Kuchma, who is on a two-day official visit to France, said
Chornobyl will be shut down in 2000, revoking earlier threats that
Ukraine might backslide on its promise to shut the plant owing to
economic problems. The G-7 has pledged $3.1 billion to assist the
closure, but Ukraine has demanded the money sooner than planned. France
will finance building nuclear plants at Rivne and Khmelnitsky to replace
Chornobyl. The same day, an agreement was signed to establish a joint
economic commission to boost bilateral trade. France is the last of the
G-7 countries to receive a visit from Kuchma. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

NATO REJECTS BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT'S PROPOSAL FOR NUCLEAR-FREE ZONE. NATO
has rejected Alyaksandr Lukashenka's proposal to create a nuclear-free
zone in Central and Eastern Europe, AFP reported on 30 January. The zone
would have included Belarus, Ukraine, the Baltic states, Poland,
Hungary, and the Czech Republic. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana
said in a letter to Lukashenka that the alliance welcomes the withdrawal
of all nuclear weapons from Belarusian territory but cannot support
creating a denuclearized zone in the region. It also said that member
countries of the alliance have "no intention, plan or motive to deploy
nuclear arms on the territory of the new members." Meanwhile, Belarusian
Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich confirmed that the Russian and
Belarusian position on NATO enlargement remains unchanged, Nezavisimaya
gazeta wrote. He stressed that if the alliance were to be enlarged,
Belarus and Russia would be compelled to revise their security policies.
-- Sergei Solodovnikov

COUNCIL OF EUROPE ENDS MONITORING OF ESTONIA. The Council of Europe's
Parliamentary Assembly on 30 January voted to end monitoring whether
Estonia is honoring the commitments it made on becoming a member in May
1993, RFE/RL reported. The assembly, however, recommended that Estonia
make greater efforts in four areas: abolishing the death penalty,
improving treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers, granting citizenship
to non-ethnic Estonian residents, and improving conditions in prisons.
The Russian Foreign Ministry earlier that day announced that Estonia was
failing to keep its promise to end discrimination against ethnic
Russians. The assembly, however, rejected Russian delegates' appeals to
extend the monitoring period. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION APPROVES LUSTRATION LAW. A Sejm
commission has approved draft legislation providing for the screening of
high-ranking officials and candidates for top state posts to determine
whether they collaborated with the communist-era secret service, Polish
media reported on 31 January. A special lustration court will be set up
to rule in individual cases. However, the draft law does not prohibit
someone who admits to having been a collaborator from holding a high
state post. In the case of appointed officials, the final decision is to
be made by a higher authority. In the case of parliamentary candidates,
voters will have the final say. Danuta Waniek, head of the Presidential
Office, said President Aleksander Kwasniewski will probably veto the
bill if parliament clears it in its current form. The opposition Freedom
Union and the Labor Union are in favor of the draft, while the ruling
postcommunist Democratic Left Alliance is opposed. It remains unclear
whether the co-governing Polish Peasant Party will support it in the
Sejm. -- Beata Pasek

GERMAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES CZECH-GERMAN DECLARATION. The Bundestag on 30
January approved the Czech-German declaration by a vote of 578 to 20
with 23 abstentions, international media reported. Most deputies of
Bavaria's Christian Social Union, which has criticized the declaration,
voted in its favor. Czech opposition leader and parliamentary speaker
Milos Zeman had traveled to Germany earlier this week to try to convince
German politicians that a preamble closing all property issues was
needed. But the German parliament ignored his proposal. German
Chancellor Helmut Kohl said before the vote that Germany respects Czech
laws. "We Czechs and Germans want to be good neighbors," he said. --
Jiri Pehe

U.S. EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER SLOVAK ANTI-DEMOCRATIC TRENDS. The U.S.
State Department's annual report on human rights says disturbing trends
away from democratic principles continued throughout 1996 in Slovakia,
RFE/RL reported. The report, released on 30 January, cites human rights
monitors as reporting police brutality against Roma. It also points to
"credible allegations" that the secret service spied on senior political
figures and their spouses and that the dismissal of some public
officials was politically motivated. The Slovak government's failure to
seriously investigate the 1995 kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's
son "undermines its commitment to the rule of law," the report asserts.
The Slovak press is considered free and uncensored, but the report cites
several libel cases instigated by the government. Nonetheless, it
concludes that the government generally respected most of its citizens'
human rights. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH OPPOSITION AGAIN. Michal Kovac on 30 January
met with the leaders of opposition parties for the fifth time, TASR
reported. The main aim of the meeting was to ensure cooperation among
all opposition parties. The participants also discussed the country's
integration into European structures, especially the intention of the
ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia to hold a referendum on
Slovakia's membership in NATO. Kovac does not intend to hold talks with
the representatives of government parties, presidential spokesman
Vladimir Stefko said. Those parties have been invited several times to
attend the meetings but their answer was always negative or arrogant, he
added. -- Anna Siskova

GRENADE ATTACK KILLS TWO IN BUDAPEST. Two Chinese women were killed
shortly after midnight on 31 January when a hand grenade exploded in a
toilet of a Chinese restaurant in Budapest, international media
reported. The victims of the Yugoslav-made grenade were the wife and
daughter of the restaurant's owner. Police said the attack occurred
after closing time and was apparently part of a growing conflict among
protection money gangs. Some 15 similar attacks have taken place in
Budapest recently, with targets including businesses, nightclubs, and
car showrooms. This attack was the first to single out foreigners, AFP
reported. -- Sharon Fisher

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES TO REIMBURSE SCAM VICTIMS. In a 97-0 vote, the
legislature agreed to compensate the victims of the failed Xhaferi and
Populli pyramid schemes, international media reported on 30 January. The
government had frozen the two companies' assets, worth up to $300
million, which will be used toward compensating the victims in cash
payments and in guaranteed savings accounts with rates of interest above
those of inflation. It is unclear whether the compensation will be 100%-
-President Sali Berisha had earlier said it would not be--or whether the
legislation will affect those who lost their money in other failed
pyramid schemes. Reimbursement will start on 15 February. -- Patrick
Moore

ALBANIAN OPPOSITION COALITION SET UP. At least seven opposition parties
from across the political spectrum agreed on 30 January to launch the
Forum for Democracy, international media reported. In the wake of the
pyramid scheme protests, they demand the resignation of the government
led by the Democratic Party, the setting up of an interim government of
technocrats, and the holding of new elections. The new coalition brings
together the ex-communist Socialist Party and the vehemently anti-
communist Association of Political Prisoners and the monarchist Legality
Movement. The former prisoners' spokesman said: "The police state of
Berisha is pushing Albania into a new communist dictatorship."
Meanwhile, the number of persons detained by the police in the wake of
the protests has been put at between 149 and 200. -- Patrick Moore

PROTESTS CONTINUE AS BULGARIAN OPPOSITION REJECTS SOCIALISTS' OFFER. The
opposition on 30 January rejected a proposal by Interior Minister
Nikolay Dobrev, the Bulgarian Socialist Party's (BSP) premier-designate,
that a government headed by him would serve only for three to five
months and that early parliamentary elections would then be held, RFE/RL
and Reuters reported. The opposition is demanding that elections take
place by May and that no BSP-led government be formed in the meantime.
BSP Chairman Georgi Parvanov again invited all parliamentary parties to
discuss "the type, the task, and the working period of the new
government." Meanwhile, protests and work stoppages continued throughout
the country, and roads to Greece and Turkey were blocked. A spokesman
for the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria said
250,000 people had joined strikes and that 1.5 million had taken part in
some form of protest. -- Stefan Krause

EU: AID TO BULGARIA IS CONTINGENT ON POLITICAL STABILITY. President
Petar Stoyanov, meeting with European Commission President Jacques
Santer and EU commissioners in Brussels on 30 January in a bid to secure
EU help, was told that any aid to Bulgaria will depend on political
stability, Reuters reported. A European Commission statement said the EU
will consider launching an international aid effort "as soon as the
political situation in Bulgaria allows it." EU External Relations
Commissioner Hans van den Broek called on the Bulgarian parties to
resolve their differences and create a climate in which economic reforms
can succeed. Stoyanov said meeting international debt obligations could
have "unpredictable social consequences" if international help were not
forthcoming. In other news, former Tsar Simeon II has for the first time
spoken out in favor of restoring the monarchy. He believes that, in his
capacity as king, he could have a calming effect, international media
reported. -- Stefan Krause

FEDERAL YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT ON OPPOSITION PROTESTS. Zoran Lilic, speaking
in Montenegro on 30 January, said that Zajedno opposition victories in
the November local elections should be recognized. However, he added
that protesters were making unacceptable demands, especially by calling
for Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's resignation, Tanjug reported.
The opposition "needs to be aware of its responsibility not to insist on
demands that are not following the will of the people and are not linked
to the local elections," he commented. Meanwhile, the Serbian government
met to discuss the ongoing protests. It was decided to withhold or slash
state funds to educational institutions whose students have taken part
in the protest. In a statement, the government said that student actions
have breached several major laws, and it resolved "to apply the law
strictly against the offending establishments and withhold funds from
them for the period they were not working." -- Stan Markotich

MUSLIM REFUGEES BEGIN TO RETURN HOME. A group of 28 Muslims returned to
the village of Gajevi just inside Serbian lines on 30 January,
Oslobodjenje reported. They had all completed procedures agreed on by
the Serbs, Muslims, and the UN, and SFOR had checked them for weapons.
Joint patrols involving the UN's International Police Task Force and the
Republika Srpska police have also begun. Some 36 families in all are
slated to return to Gajevi, in keeping with the Dayton agreement, but
have been delayed by a series of violent incidents. Republika Srpska
President Biljana Plavsic told the international community's Carl Bildt
that she will issue instructions to local authorities on the procedures
regarding the border area. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright will meet today with Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour to discuss
ways of bolstering the effectiveness of the International Criminal
Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, VOA reported. -- Patrick Moore

ONLY SMALL NUMBER OF SERBS TO LEAVE EASTERN SLAVONIA? Croatia's Interior
Minister Ivan Penic on 30 January said Croatia is not expecting many
Serbs to move into Republika Srpska--Bosnia's Serbian entity--after the
reintegration of eastern Slavonia into the rest of Croatia, Hina
reported. Penic was meeting with SFOR commander Gen. Klaus Fruehhaber in
Zagreb to discuss the possible destabilization of neighboring Bosnia in
the event that a considerable number of Serbs left eastern Slavonia and
moved to that country. The two officials also discussed incidents at the
border between Croatia and Bosnia, at a section controlled by Bosnian
Serbs. Meanwhile, Gen. Pero Colic, head of Republika Srpska Army General
staff, said the army will defend the disputed Bosnian region of Brcko
"even with military resources if needed," Onasa reported on 30 January,
citing Beta. At a meeting with SFOR Deputy Commander Gen. Cordy Simson,
Colic expressed the hope that SFOR "understands the significance" of
Brcko for Bosnian Serbs and "our determination to defend it with all our
means." -- Daria Sito Sucic

MIXED SIGNALS FROM KOSOVO. The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the
leading Albanian political organization in the mainly ethnic Albanian
province, said that Serbian police have arrested 37 ethnic Albanians in
recent days, news agencies reported on 30 January. The LDK said that the
police had "exercised brute force against those arrested and members of
their families during systematic house searches," and that at least one
man was badly beaten. This comes amid much speculation by Serbian
opposition leaders that President Slobodan Milosevic will try to provoke
a crisis in Kosovo as an excuse for declaring a state of emergency
throughout the country. The LDK also suggested that Milosevic is
cracking down in Kosovo to divert attention from his problems in Serbia
proper. Elsewhere, on 29 January a joint Serbian-Albanian commission met
in Belgrade to discuss implementing the 1 September agreement on
education in Kosovo, Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service reported. --
Patrick Moore and Fabian Schmidt

FIRST MACEDONIAN MINISTER VISIT TO GREECE. Culture Minister Slobodan
Unkovski on 30 January arrived in Greece for an official visit--the
first by a high-ranking official from Macedonia since that country
gained independence, Nova Makedonija and AFP reported. Unkovski was in
Thessaloniki for the city's inauguration as 1997 European culture
capital. He also met with his counterparts from Greece, Albania,
Bulgaria, Montenegro, Romania, and Serbia. In other news, the U.S. State
Department's annual report on human rights says that Macedonia generally
respects the human rights of its citizens, according to RFE/RL. But the
report pointed out that problems exist between the government and the
ethnic Albanian minority and that ethnic Macedonians hold a
disproportionately high number of positions in state institutions. It
also noted discrimination against women and occasional police brutality.
-- Stefan Krause

ROMANIAN PREMIER SEEKS TO AVOID "BULGARIZATION." Victor Ciorbea told a
30 January press conference broadcast live on radio and TV that the
tough reform program being drafted by the government is the last chance
to avoid Romania's "Bulgarization." Also present at the press conference
were representatives of the World Bank and the EU, which are helping
draft the program. Ciorbea again accused the former government of giving
false reports on economic performance and failing to take timely
measures to fight economic deterioration. He pledged to introduce the
necessary reforms "whatever the political price" the government may have
to pay. Ciorbea predicted the economy would register a negative growth
in 1997, but he expressed confidence that, soon thereafter, it would
take off. Noting that the reform package will contain measures to
protect the socially disadvantaged, Ciorbea said it will be made public
within two weeks. -- Dan Ionescu.

ROMANIA AND NATO. U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns on 30
January said the U.S. administration is "impressed by the progress
Romania has made politically and economically. " He added that Romania
should not be ruled out as a potential member of NATO. The same day,
U.S. Senator Tom Lantos said in Bucharest that he will support Romania's
bid to join NATO at the same time as other Central European states,
Reuters reported. Russian Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznyov, also on a
visit to Romania on 30 January, said Romania does not need to join NATO,
which he called "archaic" and "very expensive." Meanwhile, Romanian
Defense Minister Victor Babiuc has announced Romania's decision to
create its first Rapid Reaction Force. The unit will be compatible with
NATO forces and will consist of some 5,000 soldiers. It is scheduled to
be operational in the last quarter of this year. -- Zsolt Mato

HUMAN RIGHTS IN MOLDOVA. A U.S. State Department report on human rights
released on 30 January says that human rights are generally respected by
the Moldovan government but are being abused in the Transdniester
breakaway region, RFE/RL reported. The Tiraspol authorities continue to
put pressure on the media, make questionable detentions, and
discriminate against Romanian speakers. The report also cites several
isolated cases of potential human rights abuses in Moldova, including
the mysterious disappearance of a deputy chairman of an independent
television station who was abducted by men in police uniform in January
1996. The Interior Ministry says its personnel was not involved and
attributes the abduction to a private settling of accounts among
criminals. -- Dan Ionescu

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Jan Cleave

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            Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
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