|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 25, Part II, 5 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 UKRAINIAN MINERS PICKET PARLIAMENT. Some 2,000 miners picketed the parliament in Kyiv on 4 February, demanding back wages, support for the coal industry, and a halt to pit closures, Reuters reported. The miners, most of whom were from the Donbass region, have not received wages for months. They want the parliament to approve funds to reduce back payments, estimated at 3.9 billion hryvnyas ($2.1 billion). About 50 of Ukraine's 270 pits are to be closed by 2000, and the more profitable mines are to be modernized with the help of a $300 million World Bank credit. The picketing was timed to coincide with the opening of the parliament's seventh session, which is to approve the 1997 budget. President Leonid Kuchma has said the draft budget is "unrealistically large." -- Saulius Girnius UKRAINE'S GRADOBANK DECLARED INSOLVENT. Gradobank--one of the banks in charge of disbursing German money to compensate victims of the Nazis--is insolvent, although it still owes 119 million marks ($72.5 million), Western agencies reported on 4 February. The cabinet is scheduled to meet on 7 February to decide how to handle the payment problems. Since 1993, Germany has paid 400 million marks in compensations ranging from DM 400 to DM 1,900 to about 541,000 Nazi victims. But some 20% of those eligible have not yet received any compensation. The original 1 February deadline for filing claims has been extended to 7 February. Claims from people living in remote provinces are still coming in. -- Saulius Girnius BELARUS, ISRAEL SIGN POLICE COOPERATION AGREEMENT. Belarusian Interior Minister Valyantsin Agelets and Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy, meeting in Jerusalem on 4 February, signed an agreement on police cooperation to combat organized crime, terror, and drug smuggling, AFP reported. Agelets is on a five-day visit to Israel at the invitation of Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani. -- Saulius Girnius ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT ENDORSES 1997 POLITICAL PROGRAM. The Estonian government on 4 February endorsed its political program for this year, ETA reported. Prime Minister Tiit Vahi noted that the top foreign-policy priority is to be in the first wave of EU expansion. On the domestic front, reform of pensions and health care and increased subsidies for rural areas and education are planned. Economic goals include 5% growth, an annual inflation rate of 10-14%, and large-scale administrative reform paving the way for the reduction of corporate income tax from 26% to 15% beginning in 1998. Vahi also said that interethnic relations would be improved by granting permanent resident permits to non- Estonians who currently have only temporary ones. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE WANTS SIX-PARTY CABINET. Andris Skele on 4 February said that he wants his new cabinet to be formed by six parliamentary parties, BNS reported. Those parties are the Democratic Party Saimnieks, Latvia's Way, For the Fatherland and Freedom, For People and Justice, the National Independence Party and Green Party coalition, and the Farmers' Union and Christian Democratic coalition. Skele's draft action plan provides for inflation at 11% in 1997 and a 50% increase in state subsidies to develop the infrastructure. It also calls for setting up a state institution to supervise Latvijas Gaze (gas), Lattelekom (telecommunications), and Latvenergo (energy), all of which have a monopoly over their sectors. The new cabinet is to be presented to the Saeima for approval on 13 February. -- Saulius Girnius RUSSIAN DUMA SPEAKER IN POLAND. Gennadii Seleznyov wrapped up his visit to Poland on 4 February by meeting with President Aleksander Kwasniewski and other officials. Seleznyov said that Russia will have to undertake "adequate measures"--including revising its national security policy and increasing its defense expenses--if NATO comes closer to its borders. He also said that Moscow would have to revise its commitments under international disarmament treaties. NATO enlargement would hamper the Russian parliament's ratification of the START-2 treaty, Seleznyov said. Meanwhile, Marek Belka has been appointed finance minister, replacing Grzegorz Kolodko, Polish media reported on 5 February. Belka is an expert in monetary policy as well as an avid supporter of a market economy and Poland's integration into the EU, according to Rzeczpospolita. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH RAILROAD WORKERS ON STRIKE. Czech railroad workers went on strike at midnight on 3 February, Czech media reported. The strike is scheduled to last for 48 hours and may be repeated if the demands of the trade unions representing railroad workers are not met. The unions claim that the railroads are not run efficiently. They are demanding changes in the railroad management and higher wages. The government has rejected most of the unions' demands. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus on 4 February said the strike was "unnecessary." -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK PARLIAMENT SESSION BEGINS . . . The parliament on 4 February voted to alter the composition of the Mandate and Immunity Committee, giving all parties proportional representation, Slovak media reported. After the fall 1994 elections, the opposition was overrepresented on the Environmental Committee but underrepresented on certain key parliamentary bodies, including the Mandate and Immunity Committee. That committee played an important role in the parliament's decision in December to strip Frantisek Gaulieder of his deputy mandate after he quit the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). The committee was expanded from 15 to 19 members, eight of whom now represent the HZDS. The ratio between the ruling coalition and the opposition representatives on the committee has changed from 10:5 to 11:8. -- Sharon Fisher . . . WHILE OPPOSITION PROPOSALS ARE REJECTED. The parliament rejected most of the opposition's proposals for the session's agenda, Slovak media reported. Those included issues concerning the Gaulieder case, the opening of communist-era secret police files, and a report on the cabinet's fulfillment of its program in its first two years in office. Changes in the parliamentary leadership and in the composition of boards overseeing the Slovak media and the National Property Fund were also rejected. Also on 4 February, Deputy Premier Katarina Tothova, a HZDS member, announced that legislation on changing the electoral system will be debated this year, CTK reported. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar has called for changing from a proportional system to a majority or mixed system. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER ON GABCIKOVO. Pavel Hamzik has confirmed that no mutually acceptable agreement was reached during recent Slovak-Hungarian talks on the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros hydropower plant, Hungarian dailies reported on 5 February. Hamzik told the Hungarian-language Slovak newspaper Uj Szo that Budapest and Bratislava have no choice but to wait for the ruling of the Hague-based International Court of Justice. The hearings are due to begin next month. Meanwhile, Gyorgy Szenasi, Hungary's legal representative in The Hague, warned that increasing speculation in Hungary about the outcome of secret Slovak-Hungarian negotiations could be to Hungary's disadvantage. The governments' attempt to seek an out-of-court settlement has unleashed a storm of protest from opposition political parties and environmentalists in Hungary. Even the junior coalition party, the Alliance of Free Democrats, has said that Prime Minister Gyula Horn is jeopardizing Hungary's chances at the hearings by continuing the consultations. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BULGARIAN POLITICIANS AGREE ON ELECTIONS IN APRIL . . . President Petar Stoyanov and the major political parties have agreed on early parliamentary elections in April, Bulgarian media reported on 4 February. The agreement was reached "in the name of civil peace" at a four-hour meeting of the Consultative Council for National Security. According to 24 chasa, Stoyanov called that meeting after Bulgarian Social Party Chairman Georgi Parvanov and BSP premier-designate Nikolay Dobrev submitted to the president two folders--one containing the lineup of a new BSP-led government and the other giving notification that the BSP will not form a government --and Dobrev asked Stoyanov to pick one. Stoyanov said he will name a caretaker government within a week. Trud reported that Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski will head this government. -- Stefan Krause . . . WHILE BULGARIANS CELEBRATE VICTORY. Tens of thousands of Bulgarians flooded the streets of Sofia and other cities on 4 February to celebrate the new agreement, RFE/RL and Bulgarian media reported. In Sofia alone, an estimated 100,000 gathered in front of the Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral, where opposition rallies have been held over the past 30 days. Opposition supporters lifted Stoyanov on their shoulders and carried him through the streets. Road blocks in Sofia and throughout the countries were lifted, and public transport in Sofia and other cities will resume operation on 5 February. -- Stefan Krause SERBIAN PRESIDENT PREPARED TO RECOGNIZE OPPOSITION WINS? The daily Politika on 4 February published a letter sent from Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to Premier Mirko Marjanovic asking the government to prepare draft legislation recognizing opposition wins in the November local elections. Milosevic proposed that the Serbian government "submit a draft of emergency legislation to the [republican] parliament that will declare final that part of the local elections in Serbia that are in keeping with the findings of the OSCE mission." An OSCE fact-finding mission concluded in late December that the opposition won in 14 localities. Also on 4 February, Marjanovic announced on state radio and TV that draft legislation recognizing local election returns would likely be presented to the parliament on 5 February. -- Stan Markotich SERBIA'S OPPOSITION CAUTIOUS, SKEPTICAL. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic, addressing protesters in Belgrade on 4 February, said Milosevic's latest move may be just another ruse to deceive them. He vowed that "We will continue [the protests] until all [municipal] councilor mandates are verified, until freedom of the media is established, and until responsibility is established of all those who took part in the vote theft and brutal beating up of citizens," Reuters reported. For his part, Vuk Draskovic, Zajedno leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, said Milosevic's move may be little more than "a trick" to buy time and undermine opposition resolve. Milosevic and his ruling Socialists have several times conceded opposition wins, only to have the state-controlled courts "legitimize" Milosevic's authoritarian regime, Nasa Borba reported on 5 February. -- Stan Markotich CLINTON PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR BOSNIA. U.S. President Bill Clinton said in his annual State-of-the-Union address on 4 February: "With American leadership, the killing has stopped in Bosnia. I ask Congress to continue its strong support of our troops there." He did not elaborate. SFOR's mandate runs through mid-1998. Meanwhile, in Bosnia, federal Defense Minister Ante Jelavic and other top defense officials met with diplomats from Turkey and from Egypt. Jelavic, a Croat, thanked the two countries for their support in the U.S.-sponsored "Train and Equip" program for the Bosnian military. He stressed the need to bolster defense links between Sarajevo and Ankara and between Sarajevo and Cairo. The Egyptian deputy defense minister is slated to arrive on 6 February, Onasa wrote. -- Patrick Moore MORE VIOLENCE IN MOSTAR. News agencies on 4 February reported continuing violent incidents by Croats directed at Muslims and foreign aid workers. In one case, a rifle grenade was fired from the area of a Franciscan monastery in the direction of Muslim east Mostar. And in the latest chapter of a dispute in Herzegovinian Croat politics going back to the Middle Ages, Novi List suggested on 5 February that the Franciscan fathers and their conservative allies in the Croatian parliament may be holding up ratification of the treaty between Zagreb and the Vatican. The agreement was concluded in December and regulates the role of the Roman Catholic Church in Croatian public life. The Herzegovinian Franciscans, who are pillars of Croatian nationalism and regarded as close to the people, have a traditionally uneasy relationship with the regular clergy and with the Church hierarchy, who are often seen in Herzegovina as more alien and distant. -- Patrick Moore TENSIONS ON THE RISE IN EASTERN SLAVONIA. Representatives of the local Serb population announced on 4 February that they have temporarily suspended talks with the Croatian authorities and will discuss relations with Zagreb at a session of the Serbian "parliament" on 5 February. Eastern Slavonia is the last Serb-held part of Croatia and is slated to return to full Croatian rule in July (see Pursuing Balkan Peace, 4 February 1997). In the latest in a series of violent incidents against symbols of Croatian authority, an explosion rocked the office that distributes Croatian identity papers in Tenja on 3 February, news agencies reported. Meanwhile, some 47 more Serb families have left the region, adding to the total of 15,000 out of a wartime population of 130,000. Croatia has urged the Serbs to stay and to take part in the 16 March local elections. The big sticking point is the Serbian demand for local autonomy, which both Zagreb and the UN say is not acceptable. -- Patrick Moore THREE KILLED ALBANIANS WERE MEMBERS OF KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY. The Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) has said that the three ethnic Albanians killed in a shoot-out with Serbian police last week were UCK members on an unspecified "special mission." Police said the men were killed when police returned fire after coming under attack. Three Serbian policemen were injured. The UCK, in a statement to ethnic Albanian media, pledged revenge for the death of its members. Meanwhile, Tirana denounced the arrests of more than 100 ethnic Albanians last week, saying that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic "is trying to distract domestic and international public opinion from Serbia to Kosovo and to terrorize Albanians in Kosovo," Reuters reported. -- Fabian Schmidt CONSTANTINESCU PUSHES ROMANIAN CASE FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP. President Emil Constantinescu, at a meeting in Brussels with the NATO countries' ambassadors to the alliance, argued that Romania has achieved "political maturity" and is now ready for NATO membership. In his welcoming address, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana praised Romania for having tread "a long way" in a very short time but also noted the country's present economic difficulties. He hinted that Romania's increased involvement in NATO may come as a member of an enhanced Partnership for Peace Program rather than a full-fledged new member of the alliance, international media reported on 4 February. -- Zsolt Mato ROMANIAN TELEVISION REPORTING ON POLL CREATES CONTROVERSY. Evenimentul zilei on 5 February harshly criticized Romanian Television for attempting to conceal "the dark side" of a poll conducted over the past two months by the Bucharest IMAS polling institute. Romanian TV had told its audience that according to the results of that poll, the presidency, the parliament, and the government enjoy the confidence of more than half the population for the first time in recent years. Cristoiu accuses the station of manipulating the poll results by failing to report that the poll also shows "great differences" in the results of polling conducted in the two months. The percentage of those who said they believed the new cabinet's performance will be worse than that of its predecessor increased from 6.7% in December to 14.3% to January. And while only 11% believed in December that "things were going in the wrong direction," that figure had doubled to 22.3% by January. The combined December and January results show Victor Ciorbea as the most popular leader (62% support) and the Democratic Convention of Romania as the most popular formation (58%). -- Dan Ionescu MOLDOVAN ECONOMIC NEWS. The investment company Eurobonds Moldova is to issue bonds worth some $70 and to trade them on European and U.S. stock markets, Infotag and BASA press reported on 3 February. in accordance with an agreement reached with the London branch of Merrill Lynch, 85- 90% of the bonds are to be introduced on European markets. Interest on the five-year maturity bonds will be 7-9%, depending on market demand. The earnings will be used to pay foreign debts as well as wage and pension arrears. -- Dan Ionescu REPAYMENT OF ALBANIAN PYRAMID SCHEME INVESTMENTS GETS OFF TO SLOW START . . . Only a handful of the 150,000 investors due to receive 60% of their deposits with the collapsed Populli scheme received hard cash on 4 February, Reuters reported. Half the potential claimants were in Tirana to collect their money, but some said they have been left off the lists. Most people insisted on cash, rather than government bonds. Others refused partial payouts, demanding their entire stake. Under a new law adopted last week, reimbursements are to be calculated on the basis of how much money was invested and how much remains as frozen assets. More than 200,000 people are scheduled today to receive 52% of their investments in the failed Xhaferri scheme. -- Fabian Schmidt . . . WHILE ANOTHER SCHEME COLLAPSES. Fitim Gerxhalliu, owner of the Gjallica scheme in Vlora, went on local TV to tell investors that his company was bankrupt. He said all the company's assets--which include real estate and enterprises--would be made available to the investors, but he added that he could not say when that would take place. Police, fearing a repetition of riots, have set up roadblocks on the main road to Vlora and have refused entry to motorists with out-of-town registrations. VEFA, the country's largest investment company, reduced its monthly interest rates from 5% to 3% percent on 4 February. President Sali Berisha offered help to worst-hit depositors but warned that the government could not fuel inflation by promising more than it was able to provide. -- Fabian Schmidt [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. 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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