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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 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to email@example.com 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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