When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

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

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            Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                      All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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