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No. 26, Part II, 6 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 CRIMEAN PARLIAMENTARY STANDOFF CONTINUES. The Crimean legislature voted by a narrow margin to dismiss its presidium, international agencies reported on 5 February. The parliament also began impeachment proceedings against speaker Vasyl Kyselyov, who claimed to be a victim in the war between rival Crimean organized crime groups. On 4 February, the parliament adopted a law stipulating that the region's government would be appointed and dismissed by its legislature, UNIAR reported. According to Ukrainian legislation, the Crimean prime minister is directly appointed by the Ukrainian president. But last month, the Crimean parliament dismissed its government, leading to a dispute with Leonid Kuchma who called the move unconstitutional. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev FLU EPIDEMIC IN BELARUS. Some 300,000 people in Belarus have fallen ill with respiratory infections, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 February. At the end of January, approximately 31,000 people were hospitalized with the flu and flu-related illnesses. Belarus health officials reported that children make up about 45% of all cases, and dismissed rumors that there were two deaths as a result of the epidemic. -- Sergei Solodovnikov ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS ENGLAND. Toomas Hendrik Ilves completed a three-day visit to London on 5 February with talks with Defense Secretary Michael Portillo and British Council Director General Sir John Hanson, BNS reported. The previous day, he discussed European security questions and EU and NATO enlargement with his counterpart Malcolm Rifkind and economic relations with Deputy Minister for Trade Anthony Nelson. Ilves told a seminar at the University of London that attitudes toward Estonia will be the touchstone of EU enlargement. Estonia's non- admission among the first new members would indicate that geopolitical considerations, and not a country's progress in reform, might influence the date of its admission. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIA DOES NOT SIGN LETTER OF INTENT WITH IMF MISSION. Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius said over national radio on 5 February that disagreements over reducing import duties for farm products was why the government had not signed a letter of intent with the recently departed IMF delegation, ELTA reported. Lithuania will not lower those duties to 10% later this year as promised by the previous government, because doing so would hurt the country's farmers and could even cause a financial crisis. He noted that real import duties had declined to 20% from 27.5%. Vagnorius added that the new economic policy memorandum to be signed in September would include gradually abandoning both the currency board and pegging the litas to the dollar. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH HIGH OFFICIAL MAY GO BEFORE STATE TRIBUNAL. A motion signed on 5 February by 139 deputies, mostly from the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), calls for Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski to stand before a state tribunal, Polish media reported. The motion was prompted by Milczanowski's spy allegations formulated in December 1995 against then-Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy. Prosecutors dropped charges against Olesky in April 1996, finding evidence against him inadequate and seriously flawed. The accusations against Milczanowski say he neglected his ministerial responsibilities to oversee the security service and therefore harmed the interests of the state and of Oleksy. He is also accused of not informing prosecutors about the suspected crime, of revealing secret information openly in the Sejm, and of sharing secret security service material with the foreign minister. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH RAIL WORKERS' STRIKE EXTENDED. Trade unions representing Czech railroad workers announced on 5 February that they will extend their 48- hour strike, which should have ended today, by another 24 hours, Czech media reported. Trade union representatives said they were unable to reach an agreement with the management of Czech Railways and the Ministry of Transportation on how to improve the railroads' efficiency and increase wages. -- Jiri Pehe CONTROVERSY OVER VACATED SEAT IN SLOVAK PARLIAMENT. The opposition claimed the parliament on 5 February violated the law in approving Ladislav Hruska to replace the recently deceased Slovak National Party (SNS) Deputy Bartolomej Kunc, CTK reported. The election law states that vacated seats must be taken by the next candidate on the party's list, provided he won over 10% of that party's preferential votes. The seat thus should have gone to Emil Spisak, who joined the opposition Democratic Union (DU) after being expelled from the SNS two years ago. The opposition promised to take the matter to the Constitutional Court. Also on 5 February, DU Deputy Anton Hrnko announced that he was leaving his party, reportedly because of his disapproval of the opposition's referendum petition calling for direct presidential elections. DU Deputy Chairman Ludovit Cernak said Hrnko will not "join any political camp," but CTK reported that Hrnko has had frequent contacts with the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK COALITION CRISIS BREWING? Jozef Migas, chairman of the opposition Party of the Democratic Left, noted on 5 February that current relations among ruling parties resemble the situation during last June's coalition crisis, CTK reported. In June, disputes over the privatization of Slovakia's largest financial institutions nearly tore apart the ruling coalition. Bank privatization was banned until 31 March, however, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar now seems intent on carrying through with it, much to the dismay of the Association of Workers (ZRS), a junior coalition partner. Although the SNS was the instigator of last summer's crisis, the party now sides with Meciar. Both the SDL and the ZRS believe the four biggest financial institutions should not be privatized. Also on 5 February, Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman Ivan Korcok rejected Hungarian accusations that Bratislava is violating international legal commitments by failing to approve the long-delayed minority language law, TASR reported. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION LEADER IDENTIFIES TWO SEPARATE POWER GROUPS. According to Young Democrat Chairman Viktor Orban, there are two separate power groups emerging within the opposition, Magyar Hirlap reported on 6 February. Orban said one group includes the Smallholders Party and the Christian Democrats, while the other includes the Young Democrats and the Democratic Forum. (All parties have signed cooperation agreements within each group in preparation for the 1998 general elections.) Orban added that the country is now mentally ready for a change of government, and the only question is whether the Smallholders Party or the Young Democrats will replace the governing Socialists. He foresees a major defeat for the Socialists in 1998, similar to that of the Democratic Forum in 1994. -- Zsofia Szilagyi UPDATE ON HUNGARIAN PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL INVESTIGATION. The parliament on 4 February voted to lift Laszlo Boldvai's immunity, as requested by the prosecutor general, Hungarian dailies reported. Boldvai, the Socialist Party's treasurer and deputy, has been accused of abuse of influence after it was revealed that he arranged the transfer of 200 million forints ($1.25 million) from a privatization consultant's bank account to a company linked to the Socialist Party (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 January 1997). Tamas Deutsch, deputy of the opposition Young Democrats and chairman of the parliamentary commission investigating illegal payments by the state privatization agency (APV) to the outside consultant, said the commission may shortly see even Prime Minister Gyula Horn and Free Democrat President Ivan Peto testify. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE DIPLOMATIC OFFENSIVE ON EASTERN SLAVONIA. U.S. Ambassador Peter Galbraith, who is widely regarded as one of the politically most important people in Croatia, joined EU ambassadors in a meeting with Foreign Minister Mate Granic. The diplomats stressed that Croatia must do all it has promised to reassure the Serbs of eastern Slavonia prior to its return to Croatian authority on 15 July. After the meeting, Galbraith said: "The process of reintegration is, I think, going very well. It is speeding up toward July 15," Reuters reported on 5 February. He goes today to eastern Slavonia to tell the Serbs that "the Croatian letter [to the UN outlining its policies in the area] represents a very positive step, that there is no more time for negotiation, that measures are in place to protect the rights of the Serbian population." Meanwhile in Vukovar, the local Serb assembly condemned recent violent incidents, which Galbraith said were the work of Serbian extremists (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 February 1997). -- Patrick Moore EXPERTS HAND OVER SREBRENICA BODIES TO BOSNIAN AUTHORITIES. Experts from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on 5 February handed over to Bosnian authorities the remains of more than 300 bodies found in mass graves at Pilica and Lazete, international and local media reported. The bodies are linked to the massacre of Srebrenica Muslims by Serbs in summer 1995. Amor Masovic, head of the war crimes commission in the Bosnian Federation, said the victims were killed by gunshot. The tribunal's experts said that the bodies will provide evidence for the Hague-based tribunal prosecutions. Exhumations are also being carried out by the former warring parties themselves. Masovic said a total of 1,928 bodies had been recovered from 31 mass graves and hundreds of smaller graves throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina; 1,031 bodies had been identified. Meanwhile, in New York, a magistrate ordered indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic to stand trial in New York in a lawsuit accusing him of crimes against humanity. The suit was filed by Bosnian women refugees, international agencies reported on 6 February. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROATIA TO START PAYING PENSIONS BACKLOG AHEAD OF LOCAL POLLS. The Croatian parliament's upper house on 4 February backed a bill to begin payment of pension arrears on 3 March, local and international media reported. The opposition parliament deputies accused the ruling party of using the bill as part of a preelection campaign; it comes only two weeks before Croatia's local elections scheduled for 16 March, Novi List reported. The bill envisages payments to cover the debt that had accrued since 1 February 1995. In other news, Zvonimir Markovic, the first Croatian ambassador to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, on 5 February presented his credentials to Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic. Upon arrival at the Croatian Embassy in Belgrade's Dedinje district, Markovic raised the Croatian flag outside the building, Hina reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic SERBIA TAKES MOVES TO VALIDATE OPPOSITION VICTORIES . . . The government of Serbia submitted to parliament on 5 February a draft of legislation which calls for the recognition of local runoff election wins by the opposition Zajedno coalition in 14 municipalities, Tanjug reported. The legislature is slated to discuss the legislative proposal on 11 February. These latest moves, however, may not signal that the government of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is interested in genuine compromise or turning over political authority at any level to the opposition. Representatives of Mirjana Markovic's Party, the Yugoslav United Left, publicly called on 5 February for an end to mass demonstrations, hinting that failure to do so may lead to renewed police aggression against peaceful protesters. Markovic is Milosevic's wife and political confidante. -- Stan Markotich . . . BUT THE OPPOSITION REMAINS CAUTIOUS. For their part, leaders of the Zajedno coalition said that while Milosevic's latest moves may represent some grounds for optimism, they do not indicate government resolve to make fundamental political changes. The leader of the Serbian Civic Alliance, Vesna Pesic, struck a note of caution while addressing the Belgrade crowd on 5 February, saying, "This is just round one ... We must change the entire system, step by step. ... [and] demand economic reform, freedom, and life with dignity." Reaction from some quarters of the international community emphasized the optimistic. OSCE chair and Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen remarked that Milosevic's latest moves "hopefully [represent] a step toward positive democratic development in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The installation in office of the elected candidates is expected without delay," Reuters reported on 6 February. -- Stan Markotich SERBIAN SENTENCED TO 11 YEARS FOR KILLING ALBANIAN IN KOSOVO. A court in Kosovo has sentenced Zlatibor Jovanovic to 11 years in prison for shooting dead the ethnic Albanian Armend Daci in Pristina last April, AFP reported on 5 February. According to defense lawyers, the verdict was the harshest ruling in six years against a Serbian national in Kosovo. The murder had sparked street protests and was followed by the killing of five Serbs by unidentified attackers. -- Fabian Schmidt CONSTANTINESCU IN PARIS. After meeting for an hour with visiting Romanian President Emil Constantinescu on 5 February, French President Jaques Chirac said France will strongly plead Romania's case to its NATO allies, Romanian and international media reported. Chirac also said Paris will help Bucharest join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, as well as its bid for membership in the European Union. Constantinescu also met with members of the Romanian emigre community there. Paris was the last stage of his tour, which included Brussels and Davos, Switzerland. Chirac is to visit Romania on 20-21 February, the first Western leader to do so after the change in government. -- Zsolt Mato ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT GOES BACK ON ELECTORAL PROMISES. Minister of Labor Alexandru Athanasiu told a parliamentary commission on 5 February that the government will have to delay promises made during the electoral campaign to cut income taxes, Radio Bucharest reported on 5 February. He said the government cannot afford to do so now because of an expected rise in unemployment due to the planned closing or privatization of non- productive state enterprises. Athanasiu said salaries will be indexed only to 75% of the cost of living rise, but the minimum taxable salary will double from the present 97,000 lei (about $16). Meanwhile, trade union leaders said their members were losing patience and would not wait beyond 10 February for the government to announce how it intends to cover the social costs of reform. -- Dan Ionescu ROMANIAN JUDGES PROTEST LOW WAGES. Judges in some Bucharest districts refused to attend court sessions, Radio Bucharest reported on 4-5 February. While the protest is over low wages and poor working conditions, the action is not called a "strike," because the law prohibits magistrates to take labor action. After meeting with the judges, Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica said no immediate measures were possible, and the magistrates would have to wait at least two months before any action would be taken. The judges decided to continue their protest. -- Dan Ionescu CONSULTATIONS ON BULGARIAN CARETAKER GOVERNMENT START. Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski agreed to head the caretaker government which will conduct early parliamentary elections in April, Pari and Kontinent reported on 6 February. According to press reports, the government will include several top advisers of President Petar Stoyanov. Krasimir Angarski is slated to become deputy premier and finance minister and will be in charge of talks with international financial institutions, while Stoyanov's adviser on international economic affairs, Valentin Dobrev, will probably become foreign minister. The cabinet will also include opposition deputies; Union of Democratic Forces Deputy Chairman Aleksandar Bozhkov is expected to become deputy premier and economics minister. But opposition deputies said the cabinet lineup is not yet ready and only Stoyanov knows the names. Meanwhile, the IMF on 5 February announced it will resume talks with Bulgaria after the formation of the caretaker government. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS BOYCOTT PARLIAMENT. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) on 5 February decided to boycott all parliamentary sessions apart from those making changes to the electoral law, Standart reported. The BSP deputies started their boycott on 6 February, forcing one session to be called off. The boycott means that urgent legislation, including anti-crisis measures and the introduction of a currency board, cannot be passed. The decision was taken after sessions of the BSP Executive Bureau and the Socialist parliamentary caucus. The BSP asked that Stoyanov dissolve the parliament by 14 February. The orthodox Marxist platform within the BSP called for the expulsion from the BSP of Nikolay Dobrev, who, as premier-designate, returned the mandate and thus opened the way for early elections without consulting the party. The hardliners accused Dobrev of "violating party discipline and [of] national treason." Meanwhile, former President Zhelyu Zhelev called for the BSP's voluntary dissolution. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN PROTESTS COME TO AN END. The united opposition and the trade unions on 5 February held "victory rallies" in towns throughout Bulgaria to celebrate the BSP's refusal to form a second government and the political forces' decision to call early elections in April, national media reported. "We won our greatest victory since the totalitarian regime's collapse," SDS parliamentary caucus Leader Yordan Sokolov told tens of thousands at the central Sofia rally, 24 chasa reported. While these rallies are supposed to be the last after one month of demonstrations, strikes over economic demands continued in several enterprises. State television journalists also continued their strike against censorship. In other news, Prosecutor-General Ivan Tatarchev said he will launch investigations against several ministers of the previous BSP cabinet for causing the current economic crisis. -- Maria Koinova RIOTS AFTER NEW COLLAPSE OF ALBANIAN PYRAMID SCHEME. Six people were injured on 5 February during armed clashes at an anti-government demonstration in Vlora, AFP reported. Three policemen and two civilians were shot and wounded during two armed incidents. The trouble began when police used clubs and a water cannon to break up a crowd of 5,000 protesters demanding their money back from the Gjallica investment company. On 6 February around 10,000 people protested in Vlora, and Reuters reported both stones and vegetables were thrown. Gjallica had promised two months ago to reimburse by 6 February its roughly 400,000 investors who had poured some $300,000 into the company. Fitim Gerxhalliu, the company's founder, announced on 5 February that there was no money left. The payout of frozen assets to investors of the Xhaferri and Populli schemes, meanwhile, continued, Radio Deutsche Welle's Albanian-language service reported. -- 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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