It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is. - Erasmus
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

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

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