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No. 24, Part II, 4 February 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 *********************************************************************** OMRI, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Announcement: Due to a restructuring of operations at the Open Media Research Institute, OMRI will cease publication of the OMRI Daily Digest with the issue dated 28 March 1997. For more information on the restructuring of the Institute, please access the 21 November 1996 Press Release at: http://www.omri.cz/about/PressRelease.html On 2 April, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty will launch a daily news report, RFE/RL Newsline, on the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. A successor to the RFE/RL Daily Report and the OMRI Daily Digest, the new daily will nonetheless represent a major departure from its predecessors. In addition to analytic materials, RFE/RL Newsline will carry news gathered by the correspondents, bureaus, and broadcast services of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. RFE/RL will disseminate this new publication both electronically and via fax to all those now receiving the OMRI Daily Digest and for the time being under the same terms. OMRI will continue to publish the periodical Transition, for more information on Transition please access http://www.omri.cz/publications/transition/index.html or send a request for information to: transition-DD@omri.cz ********************************************************************* CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE BRITISH DEFENSE SECRETARY VISITS UKRAINE. In his first official trip to Ukraine on 2-3 February, Michael Portillo urged Ukraine to seek a special relationship with NATO, Western agencies reported. In talks with Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin and Defense Minister Oleksander Kuzmuk on the first day, Portillo said that a special partnership agreement could be worked out before the next NATO summit in July during which the first candidates for NATO membership are likely to be announced. The partnership entails cooperation, but is not full NATO membership. The next day he met with Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko and gave a speech at the Ukrainian Defense Ministry in which he said that the partnership agreement would guarantee Ukraine's "sovereignty and integrity." -- Saulius Girnius RESIGNATION OF LITHUANIAN FINANCE MINISTER ACCEPTED. After an hour-long meeting with Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius on 3 February, President Algirdas Brazauskas accepted the resignation of Rolandas Matiliauskas, Radio Lithuania reported. When Matiliauskas submitted his letter of resignation last month (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 January 1997), Vagnorius asked the procuracy to investigate his then unrepaid low- interest loan from the Kreditas Bank. Although nothing irregular was discovered, Matiliauskas was arraigned on 31 January on criminal charges of embezzlement and foreign currency violations. Vagnorius said that he would name a replacement soon, -- Saulius Girnius RESIGNATION OF POLISH FINANCE MINISTER. Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said in a radio interview on 4 February he has accepted the resignation of Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Grzegorz Kolodko. The Polish press on 4 February reported that Kolodko submitted his resignation on 24 January. Cimoszewicz said President Aleksander Kwasniewski, would also accept the resignation and Kolodko would be replaced by President Aleksander Kwasniewski's economic adviser, professor Marek Belka. -- Jakub Karpinski POLISH, GERMAN AND FRENCH DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET. France's Charles Millon, Volker Ruehe of Germany, and Stanislaw Dobrzanski of Poland ended a two day meeting in Warsaw on 3 February and signed a document providing for the three armed forces to hold annual military exercises and creating a special military coordinating group to oversee the links between the members of the Weimar Triangle, consisting of France, Poland, and Germany. The German and French ministers assured Warsaw that its NATO entry bid was on track despite Russian opposition. At a joint news conference after the signing, Ruehe made clear that the first candidates for NATO entry, widely expected to include Poland, would be invited to start talks at a NATO summit in Madrid on July 8 and 9, whether or not the Western alliance had reached an arrangement with Russia by then. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH WRITER FALLS TO HIS DEATH. Bohumil Hrabal, considered one of the greatest Czech writers of the 20th century, died on 3 February in tragic accident, Czech media reported. Hrabal, who was 82 years old, fell out of a fifth-floor hospital window while attempting to feed pigeons on the window sill. Hrabal had been in the hospital since December for back pain. Hrabal's works have been translated into many languages. The film adaptation of his book, Closely Observed Trains, won the Oscar for best Foreign Film in 1967. Under the communist regime, Hrabal was allowed to publish some of his books; others were widely distributed via samizdat publications. -- Jiri Pehe HUNGARY URGES SLOVAKIA TO PASS MINORITY LANGUAGE LAW. Hungary on 3 February appealed to Slovakia to approve a long-delayed minority language law, Reuters reported. Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said that by delaying the law's passage, Slovakia is contravening commitments to its Hungarian minority and to the Council of Europe. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and other government officials promised to approve the legislation after the parliament passed a controversial law on the Slovak language in November 1995. However, the minority languages bill has yet to be placed before parliament, and the Slovak nationalities council on 21 November voted against the approval of such a law. Although that Slovak language law took effect at the beginning of last year, its actual implementation was delayed until 1 January 1997. In recent days, controversy has centered over the fact that Hungarian-language schools have begun to issue grade reports only in Slovak, although bilingual versions had been issued by such schools since 1921, Sme reported on 1 February. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK OPPOSITION AGREES TO COOPERATE. Opposition representatives met on 3 February, agreeing to work together to renew parliamentary democracy in Slovakia, TASR reported. They criticized the methods of the ruling coalition parties, which aim to "strengthen their own power" and confirm that the ruling coalition does not have an interest in creating real conditions for Slovakia's entry into NATO and the EU. The opposition also accused Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar of not having a real interest in holding multiparty talks. In other news, parliament chairman Ivan Gasparovic announced on 3 February that he will not respond to the U.S. Helsinki Commission's complaint about the stripping of deputy Frantisek Gaulieder's parliamentary seat (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 January 1997). He said that the Slovak Constitutional Court must first decide on the issue. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS RUSSIA HAS OBSOLETE VIEW OF NATO. Laszlo Kovacs on 3 February told Reuters that Russia's opposition to the enlargement of NATO was based on an obsolete view and dismissed as "nonsense" the idea that enlargement to include the Central European states posed a threat to Moscow. Kovacs also said that the accession of those who are widely considered the most advanced to join the organization would not turn over the military balance in the region. According to Kovacs, both by ruling out early membership for the Baltic States and by stating it had no intention of stationing nuclear weapons in Central Europe, NATO had taken away the biggest reasons for Russia to feel threatened. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN PROTESTERS' RESOLVE IN FACE OF GOVERNMENT VIOLENCE. Serbian opposition leaders on 3 January called for peaceful resistance in the face of police crackdowns to the continuing protests. Vuk Draskovic, head of the Serbian Renewal Movement and Zajedno leader, urged "We must all turn into a river of non-violent resistance...All schools and faculties must close, we must not pay any taxes and bills and we must all go on strike. They are taking money from the citizens to pay the police who beat the people," Reuters reported. Meanwhile, reports from 3-4 February continued to circulate of police beatings, albeit on a scale which did not reach that of the previous evening. Nasa Borba on 4 February, meanwhile, reported on the magnitude and severity of the police crackdown on that night of 2-3 February under the headline "The Police Beat Whomever They Could." -- Stan Markotich INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY CONDEMNS CRACKDOWN IN SERBIA. A flood of international criticism has greeted Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and his government for the decision to employ violence against peaceful protests. State Department Spokesman Nicholas Burns deplored "the most serious use of force [on 2-3 February]" and called "on the Serb police and the Serb authorities led by President Milosevic to exercise restraint in the streets of Belgrade," Reuters reported on 3 February. Meanwhile, U.S. charge d'affaires Richard Miles met Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic on 3 February to "condemn" the police violence and "to call upon the Serbian government officially to refrain from using police force in the streets of Belgrade." But for his part, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic attended a state medal awards ceremony in which high ranking officials, including police dignitaries, were honored, international media reported. -- Stan Markotich SERB LEADERSHIP BREAKS OFF COOPERATION WITH CROATIAN GOVERNMENT. Mirko Tankosic, deputy head of the Office for Transitional Administration in eastern Slavonia, told the Croatian pro-government daily Vjesnik on 4 February that the local Serb leadership has decided to break off all contacts and cooperation with Croatian government representatives. Tankosic said the break will possibly last until 5 February, when the Serb "regional assembly" will meet and decide on a future political direction. The local Serb TV station, Beli Manastir, reported on 3 February that local Serb leadership is very disappointed by the UN Security Council's decision to endorse the Croatian government's letter of intent for reintegration of eastern Slavonia into the rest of Croatia. -- Daria Sito Sucic ATTACK ON INDEPENDENT SARAJEVO MONTHLY. Five people on 2 February entered the premises of the independent Sarajevo magazine Dani and tried to evict its staff, Onasa quoted a press release by the Sarajevo Canton Interior Ministry. Claiming they owned the premises, the five threw tear gas canisters and attacked the magazine's deputy editor in chief, Ozren Kebo. Police arrested the perpetrators and said charges would be filed against them. In other news, another cab-driver was murdered in Vogosca, a Sarajevo suburb, on 2 February, following the murder of a cab-driver at suburb of Ilidza several weeks ago, Onasa reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic KARADZIC INTERVIEW PRODUCES OUTRAGE . . . In response to the public warning by indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic that a Serbian loss of Brcko could lead to war (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 February 1997), Colum Murphy, the spokesman for the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt, said: "Dr. Karadzic's statement threatening war over Brcko is an outrageous provocation. Dr. Karadzic has made a major mistake. He will not only not be allowed to fan the flames of war, but by such outrageous statements he has hastened the day when he will be able to comment only from The Hague. We will also demand of our colleagues of the international community that indicted war criminals should go sooner rather than later to the Hague tribunal," reported AFP. Bosnian co-Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic said, however, that the international community deserved Karadzic's remarks "because they left those war criminals running around freely for so long." -- Patrick Moore . . . AND A DENIAL. The Republika Srpska's Information Ministry, AFP continued, denied the whole story, which ran in the Greek daily, Elevtheros Typos: "At the most delicate moment in the process of arbitration ... [the paper] inexplicably carried out an invented interview with Radovan Karadzic. [The text runs] completely contrary to the positions of the Republika Srpska regarding war and peace, the Dayton agreement, and the arbitration itself. Having transferred all his powers to [Republika Srpska President] Biljana Plavsic on 30 June 1996, Radovan Karadzic has not made any public appearances, nor has he authorized anybody to put forward any views in public on his behalf, particularly not views contrary to the official Serb position." Regarding Brcko, the Bosnian Serb leadership has relied primarily on quiet diplomacy in recent weeks, although on 16 December, Plavsic also raised the specter of war should the arbitration go against the Serbs. The Greek journalist, for his part, contended that the interview took place on 25 January, and his paper published a photo of the interview in progress. -- Patrick Moore CONSTANTINESCU IN BRUSSELS. President Emil Constantinescu is scheduled today to meet with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana for talks on Romania's bid to join the alliance, international agencies reported. After meeting with Constantinescu, European Commission President Jaques Santer said on 3 February that the EU has been encouraged by progress in Romania since the November 1996 elections. The EU's Foreign Affairs Commissioner, Hans van der Broek, said after talks with Constantinescu that the EU nations should release some $80 million in aid for Romania, which had been blocked when the former government failed to meet its pledge for reforms. He also said that the commission will "give a willful ear" to a $640 million program for aiding those likely to be hardest hit by the envisaged reforms. -- Zsolt Mato CONTROVERSY OVER TREATY WITH UKRAINE? Responding to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's opposition to Romania joining NATO without previously recognizing the existing borders (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 February), Foreign Minister Adrian Severin said Kuchma's attitude was "unsuitable" and amounted to "blackmail," the daily Jurnalul national reported. He emphasized that his country has no territorial claims on Ukraine. Adrian Nastase, deputy chairman of the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania, said the present leaders' change of policy toward a Romanian/Ukraine treaty was "worrying." Nastase added that the treaty should not be concluded "at any price." The leader of the extreme nationalist Greater Romania Party, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, said his party's very denomination indicated its position and "we would rather forego the conclusion of the treaty than recognize the abandon of those ancient Romanian lands." At that price, he added, "we do not understand why we should join NATO at all." -- Zsolt Mato ROMANIAN EX-MONARCH INVITED TO ROMANIA. Exiled King Michael has been invited to visit the northeastern Romanian city of Iasi by its mayor, Constantin Simirad, Romanian television reported on 2 February. Simirad said he sensed there was still "reluctance" on the part of the government to the king's visit and thus wanted to test declarations that the former monarch could visit the country at any time. The promise, first made by Foreign Minister Adrian Severin shortly after the new government had been sworn in, was reiterated by the secretary general of the main coalition member, the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic. King Michael's citizenship was revoked by the communists after his forced abdication in 1947 and has never been restored to him. -- Dan Ionescu TIRASPOL LEADERSHIP CONFLICT OVER GOVERNMENTAL STRUCTURE. The Transdniester Supreme Soviet has refused to approve the new government proposed by the breakaway region's president, Igor Smirnov, BASA press reported on 3 February. On 30 January, the legislature proposed nominating a first deputy premier, who should become prime minister following an amendment to the existing constitution. Under the present basic law, Transdniester's president is also prime minister. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS ANNOUNCE NEW GOVERNMENT . . . Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) premier-designate Nikolay Dobrev on 3 February announced the lineup for his government, RFE/RL reported. Dobrev will present his cabinet to President Petar Stoyanov on 4 February, and a confidence vote in the parliament is scheduled for the following day. The government includes two deputy premiers: Georgi Pirinski, who returns to the Foreign Ministry, and newly-appointed Social Affairs Minister Nikola Koychev. More than half of the portfolios will be headed by new ministers, including interior, defense, industry, and justice. Gen. Sava Dzhendov will become interior minister, while Gen. Lyuben Petrov will take over defense. Finance Minister Dimitar Kostov, Foreign Trade Minister Atanas Paparizov, and Agriculture Minister Krastyo Trendafilov are among the key ministers who will keep their post. Dobrev said he will announce the ministers of economic development and of education at a later date. A BSP plenary meeting passed the new lineup with 146 votes to 7. -- Stefan Krause . . . WHILE PROTESTS MOUNT. Protests against the formation of a new BSP government and for early parliamentary elections intensified on 3 February, Reuters and AFP reported. Traffic came to a virtual standstill in Sofia and Plovdiv as public transport workers struck and students and protesters blocked main intersections. In Sofia, 15 students were injured by angry drivers. Some 20,000 people demonstrated in the capital. Bus and train services were suspended, while roads were blocked throughout the country. Road and train links to Greece were blocked for a 6th consecutive day. Union of Democratic Forces Chairman Ivan Kostov said the protests will continue until early elections are called. Strike organizers said Sofia public transport will go on an indefinite strike if the parliament approves the new government. Meanwhile, Dobrev warned that "peaceful protests are understandable, but civil disobedience is outside the law." National Police Chief Hristo Marinski called on Stoyanov and politicians to find a way of keeping the protests peaceful. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN OPPOSITION REJECTS PRESIDENT'S ROUND TABLE. Opposition parties, newly united in a "Forum for Democracy," dismissed the invitation of President Sali Berisha for round table talks of about 20 political parties and organizations. Instead, they renewed demands for the government's resignation, Reuters reported. "The Forum is not in favor of a technical solution as advanced by this round table but for a political solution," senior Socialist Party leader Pandeli Majko said, adding that "we have already declared that the first step for a political solution is the resignation of the government." The Social Democratic Party accused Berisha of staging a public relations exercise. Elsewhere, 24 more demonstrators have been formally charged with public offenses in Lushnje and Berat. -- Fabian Schmidt ALBANIAN INVESTORS TO GET MONEY BACK. Some 350,000 distraught investors are scheduled to receive partial refunds on 4 February. Five schemes have folded in the past three months, but compensation has been announced only for two pyramid schemes whose assets were seized in state banks. Bankers told state television that investors in the Populli scheme would get back 60% of their stake, while payments from the Xhaferri scheme would start a day later. Depositors would be free to choose between cash or government certificates, which could be exchanged later. A top official in the Gjallica pyramid scheme has been arrested on fraud charges. The crisis has put pressure on the lek currency, which has lost 30% of its value against the dollar since January. Last week, it sank to 135 lek to the dollar, rallied at the weekend, but fell again on 3 February to 120. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Valentina Huber ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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. WWW http://www.omri.cz/Publications/DD/Index.html FTP ftp://FTP.OMRI.CZ/Pub/DailyDigest/ REPRINT POLICY To receive a copy of OMRI's reprint policy, contact OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ or see the Web page at http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Reprint.html OTHER OMRI PUBLICATIONS TRANSITION OMRI publishes the biweekly journal TRANSITION, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the OMRI Daily Digest. For subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ or visit the Transition Web page at http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Transition/Index.html RUSSIAN REGIONAL REPORT The Russian Regional Report is a weekly publication (published every Wednesday) initially focusing on the local elections taking place throughout Russia during the Fall of 1996. After the election season is over, the Russian Regional Report will continue, turning to broader social, political, and economic issues of Russia's regions. To subscribe, please follow these instructions: 1) Compose a message to: MAJORDOMO@OMRI.CZ 2) In the body of the message, write: SUBSCRIBE REGIONS Your Name Fill in your own first and last names where shown 3) Send the message PURSUING BALKAN PEACE Pursuing Balkan Peace contains the latest news about developments in the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the other countries of Southeastern Europe. 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