|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 27, Part II, 7 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 PARLIAMENT DISMISSES SPEAKER. Vasyl Kyselyov was dismissed by 58 votes in the 96-member Crimean parliament, Ukrainian and international agencies reported on 6 February. The pro-Russian deputies accused him of "failing to fulfill his professional duties." After the vote, Kyselyov warned that the "situation in Crimea is getting to the point where the Ukrainian parliament will impose order here." Last month, Kyselyov opposed the Crimean parliament's censure motion against the pro- Ukrainian government; it was later annulled by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Kyselyov, who was elected speaker in October 1996, had backed closer economic ties with Russia but ruled out separation from Ukraine. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev UKRAINIAN MINIMUM WAGE INCREASED. Ukrainian lawmakers voted to increase the minimum monthly wage from 15 hryvnyas ($8) to 70.9 hryvnyas, Ukrainian and international agencies reported on 6 February. Labor Minister Mykola Biloblotsky warned the move would cost the state budget 32 billion hryvnyas this year. The average monthly wage for Ukraine's industrial workers is now 157 hryvnyas. Meanwhile, around 2,000 Ukrainian teachers gathered in downtown Kyiv to demand up to nine months' back pay. The state owes university and school teachers 260 million hryvnyas. The teachers threatened a national strike if the government does not abandon its plans this year to decrease budget expenditures on education by one-third. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev BELARUSIAN TRADE DEFICIT REPORTED. The country's trade deficit in 1996 was reported by the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations to be $1.66 billion, Belarusian radio reported on 6 February. Such a trade deficit, according to ministry experts, resulted from a deterioration in trade with Western as well as CIS countries. Imports last year grew by some 12%, whereas exports increased by 24.4%. The most competitive goods for imports last year were tires, metals, refrigerators, and liquor. -- Sergei Solodovnikov BALTIC PREMIERS MEET IN TALLINN. At the semiannual session of the Baltic Council of Ministers, Gediminas Vagnorius (Lithuania), Andris Skele (Latvia), and Tiit Vahi (Estonia) on 6 February signed five documents directed at liberalizing economic and trade relations in the Baltics, ETA reported. The resolutions are on improving transit transport, on creating a Baltic customs union and airspace control, as well as statements on Baltic cooperation regarding EU integration and on creating an intergovernmental Baltic government database. They also stressed the necessity of becoming members of NATO. Skele and Vahi also signed a fisheries agreement regulating fishing in the Gulf of Riga. -- Saulius Girnius CZECH RAIL WORKERS STRIKE ESCALATES. Czech Transportation Minister Martin Riman refused to negotiate with striking railroad workers on 6 February after a Prague court had ruled that the strike, which stopped all rail traffic three days ago, was illegal, Czech media reported. Riman said the court's decision makes it possible for the government to fire striking workers, but it would not do so if they return to work voluntarily. Richard Falbr, chairman of the Czech Trade Unions, said the court's decision was flawed because it denied the railway workers their constitutional rights. Trade unions representing miners have declared they would go on a one-hour strike on 7 February in support of the striking railroad workers. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK BANKING UPDATE. The parliament on 6 February approved an anti- dumping law and a bill establishing an import-export bank, Slovak media reported. The opposition Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) protested the bank's establishment, warning that it will be fully subordinated to the cabinet, which will name all members of its banking council. KDH Deputy Mikulas Dzurinda said the bank will destroy the efforts of the National Bank of Slovakia (NBS) to maintain a stable currency. Meanwhile, the cabinet's move on 4 February to appoint Jozef Magula to the NBS board has also stirred controversy. Serving previously as finance ministry state secretary, Magula became known for his controversial steps against investment funds, allegedly "in the interest of small shareholders." Pravda on 6 February noted that although Magula's appointment alone cannot change NBS decisions, he will provide the cabinet a quick link to internal NBS information. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK OPPOSITION REFERENDUM WINNING SUPPORT. KDH Deputy Ivan Simko on 6 February announced that more than 300,000 signatures have been collected for the petition drive demanding a referendum on direct presidential elections, Slovak media reported. Just 50,000 more signatures will be needed to call a referendum, which the opposition hopes to hold by June. The petition drive has reportedly been supported by President Michal Kovac, the Trade Union Confederation, the Catholic and Protestant churches, the Association of Slovak Towns and Villages, and the "Save Culture" forum. The Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) is the only opposition party against the referendum. In other news, SDL Chairman Jozef Migas on 6 February claimed that he is being shadowed. Migas said both the ruling coalition and the opposition "blue coalition" are disturbed by the fact that under his leadership the SDL is adopting an independent opposition policy. -- Sharon Fisher WILL TURKEY BLOCK NATO EXPANSION? After a trip to Ankara on 6 February, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana seemed less optimistic that Turkey would not block the organization's planned eastward expansion, Hungarian media reported. During a short meeting with Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs at the Budapest airport on his way back from Turkey, Solana said he could not work wonders in only 12 hours. But he confirmed that the countries most likely to join NATO during the first round of enlargement will be invited to attend NATO's July summit in Madrid. In Ankara, Solana met with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Tansu Ciller and President Suleyman Demirel. Demirel told Solana that Turkey would veto NATO's expansion if its endeavors to join the EU are not taken seriously. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN OPPOSITION CRITICAL OF PROPOSED LEGISLATION . . . Slobodan Vuksanovic, a representative of the Democratic Party (DS), has strongly criticized a proposed bill by the ruling Socialists that would allegedly recognize opposition wins from the 17 November runoff municipal elections. According to Vuksanovic, the introduction of the bill, slated for discussion in the Serbian legislature on 11 February, is little more than a ploy by the government "to deceive the international community and the citizens of Serbia once again," Beta reported. The legislation contains a list of districts where the authorities are prepared to recognize opposition wins, but fails to specify key areas won by the Zajedno opposition coalition, such as the districts of Novi Beograd in Belgrade and the Mladenovac area, observed Vuksanovic, hinting that such signs point to the government's lack of sincerity in recognizing opposition victories. -- Stan Markotich . . . BUT SAYS DIALOGUE IS POSSIBLE. Leaders of the Zajedno coalition met with French officials in Paris on 6 February, including Foreign Minister Herve de Charette. For his part, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, Vuk Draskovic, said ongoing mass protests in Serbia would be called to a halt when the Serbian legislature passes a bill recognizing opposition wins in local run-off elections and open dialogue with the government. But Draskovic said ending the protests and entering talks would be contingent on the government's recognition of all opposition wins. Meanwhile, Vesna Pesic, head of the Serbian Civic Alliance, said entering talks with the government did not mean the opposition would stop pressing for reforms. "The moment we get all our mandates back, we shall launch our struggle for free media," Reuters reported her saying. -- Stan Markotich FEDERAL YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT CALLS FOR DIALOGUE ON KOSOVO. Zoran Lilic has called on the Kosovo Albanians to enter into talks with Belgrade, Nasa Borba reported on 7 February. Lilic, who visited the army corps in Pristina together with General Chief of Staff Momcilo Perisic, criticized "extremist nationalism" and said "our aim must be a strong civic state with a high degree of human and democratic rights, and not the unrealistic wishes of all peoples on the territory of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to get their own state." Elsewhere, the OSCE appointed the High Commissioner on National Minorities, Max van der Stoel, to a special mission to Kosovo. That would include investigating the possibility of launching a constructive dialogue between Belgrade and the Albanians in Kosovo, AFP reported. -- Fabian Schmidt EXPLOSIONS IN BOSNIAN BORDER AREA. Two explosions on the evening of 6 February rocked the village of Gajevi, situated just inside Serbian territory in northeastern Bosnia. One prefabricated house was destroyed and three others were damaged, Reuters reported. Muslims in Gajevi are rebuilding in keeping with their right under the Dayton agreement to go home. Their efforts began last August; since then the Muslims have completed a complicated UN-sponsored procedure to verify that they are indeed civilians from the area. The Republika Srpska authorities have pledged to find out who is responsible for repeated violent incidents against the refugees, but the problems continue. U.S. troops have surprised Bosnian Serb police setting explosive devices, and the Muslims maintain that Russian SFOR troops are aiding the Serbs. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIA, WORLD BANK SIGN $32 MILLION CREDIT. After a 50-day delay caused by disagreements within Bosnia's three-men presidency over who should sign international aid contracts, Presidency Chairman Alija Izetbegovic on 6 February signed three credit arrangements for the country's reconstruction, local and international media reported. The three loans include $7 million for local projects, $10 million for an emergency industrial restart project, and $15 million for hospital services, Onasa reported. Those credits for the first time allocate substantial reconstruction funds to the Bosnian Serb entity. Under the current deal, the Serbs, who had received thus far only two percent of international aid because of their leadership's boycott of a donors conference last year, will receive about one-third of the total. But an upcoming donors conference scheduled for 5 March might be postponed if the interethnic government fails to approve draft laws proposed by the IMF on a single central bank, a single currency, and a government budget, Reuters reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic ALL-LEVEL GOVERNMENT CRISIS IN BOSNIA. Bosnia's Council of Ministers failed on 6 February to adopt rules of procedure, because its Bosnian Serb member and co-premier, Boro Bosic, requested that deputy ministers be able to vote alongside the ministers on government actions, international media reported. Other council members argued that that would violate the country's new constitution. The other co-premier, Haris Silajdzic, a Muslim, said the government should resign if it is not able to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, the same day, Bosnian Croat representatives left the Muslim-Croat federation government session in a protest against Muslims' refusal to allow the establishment of several new municipalities with a Croat majority. Muslim officials fear further ethnic and territorial divisions if the ethnic criterion is adopted as the only one. Yet another session was disrupted that same day: the cantonal government in the southern city of Mostar was broken up, because the delegates could not agree over having one joint bank account. -- Daria Sito Sucic INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATS APPEAL TO SLAVONIAN SERBS. Ambassadors of the Contact Group and EU countries posted to Croatia continued their diplomatic offensive to smooth the transition in eastern Slavonia from local Serb control to that of the Zagreb authorities, news agencies reported on 6 February (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 February 1997). The diplomats met with local Serb leaders Vojislav Stanimirovic and Goran Hadzic and told them that the Serbs should take out Croatian citizenship and participate in the 16 March elections. The Serbs were also informed that Croatia has guaranteed them sufficient rights and that the international community will continue to monitor the situation. There has been a series of violent incidents recently in which hard-line Serbs have apparently tried to thwart the reintegration process, which is due for completion in July. -- Patrick Moore SLOVENIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS GOVERNMENT LINE-UP. Slovenia's legislature on 6 February split down the middle, with 45 members voting for and 45 against Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek's proposed cabinet, Reuters reported. The prime minister, who must obtain at least a simple majority for parliamentary ratification, had formed a coalition including his own Liberal Democratic Party, the former communists or United List of Social Democrats, the pensioners' party, Desus, and the Nationalist Party. Drnovsek has ten days to present a new line-up. Parliamentary elections were held on 10 November. -- Stan Markotich ROMANIA'S CURRENCY CONTINUES TO FALL. The leu's exchange rate on 6 February dropped to 6,069 to the dollar, thus surpassing another "psychological threshold," Romanian media reported. Over the last years the leu has fallen steadily: in October 1993, it reached 1,000 lei to the dollar; in July 1995, 2,000; in June 1996, 3,000; in late December 1996, 4,000; and it hit 5,000 on 20 January 1997. The Romanian currency has depreciated slightly over 50% since the beginning of the year. Former Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu criticized a recent statement by Labor Minister Alexandru Athanasiu disclosing that the country's budget was calculated at $1 to 7,500 lei. According to Vacaroiu, such indiscretion smacked of a lack of professionalism. He predicted that the minister's disclosure would lead to big difficulties on the local currency markets. -- Dan Ionescu DNIESTER PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW GOVERNMENT STRUCTURE. After weeks of heated debates, the Supreme Soviet of the self-declared Dniester Moldovan Republic on 4 February approved the new government structure proposed by its president and prime minister, Igor Smirnov, BASA-press reported on 6 February. The structure provides for 10 ministries, 10 state committees, four departments, and a state service. The former government comprised 17 portfolios. Sources in Tiraspol said the staff was cut by 30%. Smirnov is expected to renounce the prime minister post as soon as the constitution is changed. The most probable candidate for premier is the person who will take over the newly created post of cabinet's first deputy chairman in charge of the economy. Smirnov was re-elected president of the breakaway region last December. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIA'S MARKET CONTINUES TO COLLAPSE. The lev continued its free fall as the Bulgarian National Bank set the exchange rate for 7 February to 2,608 leva to the dollar, up from 1,638, Pari reported. In early January, the exchange rate was around 500 leva to the dollar. Basic staples have disappeared from store shelves. Only "two of every 10 stores are still working," 24 chasa cited Deputy Director of the State Price Commission Stefko Popov as saying. Restaurants, shops, and wholesale suppliers still in business prefer payments in dollars, despite the official ban of trading in hard currency. "The only thing that could be done now is to lift price controls and remove administrative trade restrictions in foreign currency," said Krassen Stanchev, director of the independent Institute for Market Economy. -- Maria Koinova BULGARIAN POLITICAL ROUNDUP. In a letter to the Bulgarian Socialist Party's (BSP) Control Commission, former BSP leader Zhan Videnov on 6 February demanded that Nikolay Dobrev be expelled from the party's ranks at the plenary meeting scheduled for 7 February for returning the mandate to form a new BSP-led government, Kontinent reported. Videnov accused Dobrev and BSP Chairman Georgi Parvanov of "betrayal and treason." Parvanov will ask for a confidence vote at that plenary meeting. If the delegates vote against him, a party congress must elect a new leader, according to BSP statutes. The Socialists continued their parliamentary boycott on 7 February, forcing a second session to be called off because the necessary quorum was not reached. Meanwhile, Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski confirmed that he was asked unofficially by President Petar Stoyanov to head the caretaker government, which will conduct the early parliamentary elections set for April. -- Stefan Krause DAILY PROTESTS IN VLORA. Some 15,000 protesters gathered in Vlora on 7 February, the third day of anti-government protests following the collapse of the Gjallica pyramid scheme, Reuters reported. The previous day, up to 30,000 demonstrated there, laying siege to a police station, jostling police forces, and hurling stones at riot police. The protesters demanded the release of some 30 people arrested late on 5 February after battles with police in which gunfire was exchanged and about ten people were injured. The situation in Vlora remained tense during the night. The interior ministry vowed that any attacks on official buildings would be met with force. Port authorities ordered all docked boats--four foreign vessels and six Albanian--to move out to sea, fearing protesters might try to storm them. Police gave up unsuccessful attempts to contain and disperse demonstrators. -- Fabian Schmidt ALBANIAN HELSINKI COMMITTEE CONDEMNS POLICE VIOLENCE. The Helsinki Human Rights Committee said the police should show restraint and tolerance over the protests. It also denounced the alleged mistreatment of people being held at police stations and the mistreatment and arrest of journalists. Last week, a Koha Jone journalist was arrested but was later released. Over 150 suspected demonstrators and opposition figures were arrested since the protests started more than one week ago. Elsewhere, VEFA President Vehbi Alimucaj warned the government not to interfere in his and three other companies' activities, saying "we are the basis of economic development of Albania." VEFA and three other companies--Kamberi, Cenaj & Co., and Silva--have formed a "financial union" to protect their interests following the freezing of other investment companies' assets by the national bank. -- 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 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. 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