|Silence is the real crime against humanity. - Nadezhda Mandelstam|
No. 29, Part II, 11 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 RENEWED CONTROVERSY OVER FINANCING CHORNOBYL CLOSURE. Ukrainian Nuclear Safety Minister Yurii Kostenko has voiced frustration over the possibility that the G-7 may decide not to fund the construction of new nuclear reactors in Rivne and Khmelnitsky, AFP reported. Kostenko said such a decision could mean that the Chornobyl nuclear plant would not be closed by 2000. Last year, Ukraine promised to keep to that timetable in return for a G-7 aid package worth some $3.1 billion to fund the closure and to finance alternate forms of energy. G-7 experts met in Washington yesterday to discuss the aid package. According to a recent EBRD report, Ukraine has failed to look at the energy sector as a whole, opting for two new nuclear reactors instead of improving existing thermal power plants. Kostenko countered that Ukraine proposed developing thermal power two years ago but that EBRD opted for nuclear power. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev PRO-RUSSIAN GROUP BLASTS CRIMEAN TATARS FOR SEEKING PRIVILEGES. The Russian Society of Crimea has claimed that the Crimean Tatar Assembly's recent appeal to the Ukrainian and Crimean authorities is "dictated by the desire to gain political privileges in accordance with ethnic origin," UNIAN reported on 8 February. Tatars leaders are collecting signatures to the appeal in order to draw attention in Ukraine and abroad to problems encountered by Tatars returning to Crimea after the mass-expulsion in the 1940s. The Russian Society said that, as a result of their actions, the Crimean Tatar leaders could aggravate interethnic tensions on the peninsula. It urged the Ukrainian president and parliament "not to be under the thumb of the [Crimean Tatar Assembly] and not to divide citizens into natives and non-natives." -- Oleg Varfolomeyev FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN BELARUS. Following a meeting with officials from the Ministry of Trade and the State Revenue Department on 8 February, the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Investment reported that Belarus has been offered some $70 million in investments for various projects, Belarusian TV reported. The ministry has said it recognizes the need to set up a special body to monitor and facilitate the allocation of the funds, most of which are intended to support entrepreneurs. Priority will be given to those working in the production sector, who currently constitute 20% of the country's entrepreneurs. -- Sergei Solodovnikov ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER SURVIVES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. Tiit Vahi remains in office following the failure on 10 February of a no-confidence motion proposed by the opposition Pro Patria Union, Moderates, Reform Party, and Rightists caucuses, Western agencies reported. Deputies voted by 46 to 45 with one abstention not to oust the premier. The no-confidence motion followed charges that Vahi helped privatize apartments in downtown Tallinn's center in an "unethical manner" while serving as Tallinn City Council chairman from 1993-1995 The decision of the nine members of the Center Party to back Vahi's ouster indicates his dwindling support in the parliament. -- Saulius Girnius INFLATION IN BALTIC STATES. According to the Lithuanian Statistics Department, inflation increased from 0.9% in December to 3% in January, BNS reported on 10 February. Higher value-added tax on some food products contributed to a 5.2% increase in food prices. Several days earlier, the Latvian State Statistical Committee announced that consumer prices in January rose by 1.9%, compared with a 0.6% rise in December. Food prices increased by 1.7% and services went up by 2.8%. The Estonian State Statistics Department, meanwhile, reported that consumer prices increased by 1.4% in January, double the figure for December. Food prices rose by 1.3% and services by 1.6%. Twelve-month inflation rates in all three countries, however, have declined. -- Saulius Girnius UPDATE ON "MEDICAL AFFAIR" IN POLAND. Waldemar Krupa, head of a public clinic in the northern city of Bialystok, has been dismissed for accepting expensive medical equipment free of charge, Polish media reported on 11 February. Krupa is the third clinic head to be dismissed in an affair that, according to Health Minister Jacek Zochowski, involves at least 68 hospital heads and has cost the state 30 million zloty ($10 million). According to unofficial estimates, that figure could be as high as 300 million. In late 1995, Krupa signed documents purchasing ultra-sound equipment for above-average prices but accepted the apparatus free of charge. The clinic's debt, plus interest, was then sold to a company that used the owed money to cover its tax obligations. According to the Health Ministry, the debt of the health-care sector totaled 1.5-1.7 billion zloty in 1996. The opposition Freedom Union has submitted a no-confidence vote against Zochowski. -- Beata Pasek CZECH PREMIER, OPPOSITION LEADER DISCUSS CZECH-GERMAN DECLARATION. Vaclav Klaus and parliamentary Chairman Milos Zeman have announced that the parliament may adopt an accompanying statement to the Czech-German declaration, Czech media reported on 10 February. According to Klaus, the statement would be neither a preamble nor an interpretation of the declaration. Until now, Klaus has strongly opposed the adoption of any such statement. The German parliament approved the declaration last month without any additional text. The two Czech leaders also discussed the current impasse in the lower chamber of the parliament, where the extremist parties have virtually stopped proceedings through filibusters and obstructions, Czech media reported. Klaus and Zeman agreed that it may be necessary to amend the rules governing parliamentary sessions. -- Jiri Pehe BELATED CRITICISM OF SLOVAK INFORMATION SERVICE. Jozef Migas, chairman of the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL), told Novy cas on 8 February, that "official and unofficial intelligence services" are trying to discredit him. Migas is known for his neutral stand toward both the governing coalition and the opposition. Sme suggested on 11 February that Migas's criticism might be an attempt to conceal the fact that he has visited the home of the deputy director of the Slovak Information Service (SIS). The daily claimed that Migas has been seen there several times. It also reported that the SIS is cultivating contacts with Slovak TV director Igor Kubis and Eva Zelenayova, a deputy of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. -- Anna Siskova HUNGARIAN PREMIER READY TO TESTIFY IN PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL CASE. Premier Gyula Horn has told the parliament that he is ready to testify in the privatization scandal case, although he himself is not implicated in the scandal, Hungarian media reported on 11 February. "I am prepared to appear before the House committee and to testify," Horn said, adding that "the guilty must be punished but the insinuations must stop." He also said that it is in the "vital interest" of politicians to keep public life "clean." He noted that after the scandal had broken, he dismissed the top management of the State Privatization and Holding Company (APV) as well as the minister in charge of privatization. But a subsequent investigation showed that individuals closely associated with the two governing parties had pressured a consultant working for the APV to share her record-high commission. Opposition deputies said that if the scandal had not been uncovered, the money would have been used for the 1998 election campaign. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE RIOTS IN VLORA CLAIM TWO MORE LIVES . . . In clashes with police that left about 81 people injured--many seriously--30-year-old Arthur Rustemi died after being shot in the back, international media reported on 10 February. Rustemi's assailant was not identified. Another victim was the 51-year-old Maliq Banushi--the second person to die of a heart attack during demonstrations since 9 February. Vlora residents beat police officers and burned their uniforms, guns, and shields in a display of uncontrolled rage against the authorities. Some 20,000 people accompanied Rustemi's coffin today to a local cemetery, shouting anti- government slogans and setting fire to the local headquarters of the Democratic Party. -- Fabian Schmidt . . . WHILE PARLIAMENT PREPARES TO DECLARE STATE OF EMERGENCY. The Albanian government is to submit legislation to the parliament imposing a state of emergency there. In late January, the legislature passed a law allowing for the use of the military to protect public buildings and roads, but the government has pledged not to use soldiers against protesters. Troops, however, are reported to have arrived in Vlora. According to newspaper reports on 11 February, the Interior Ministry has also mobilized about 1,000 students and peasants from northern Albanian and sent them to join anti-riot police in Vlora. Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos has called for an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss the situation in Albania. -- Fabian Schmidt U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE URGES MILOSEVIC TO RECOGNIZE ELECTION RETURNS. Madeleine Albright, in a letter to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic dated 8 February, has appealed to the Serbian authorities to recognize municipal returns and to enter into dialogues with the opposition parties, Reuters reported on 10 February. Washington is concerned that the legislation would limit the authority of local councils by stripping them of revenue sources. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns commented that "the only result that will satisfy the United States is if the people who won the November 17 elections actually take their seats and have sufficient powers to do their job--meaning the powers haven't been stripped away in some back room deal, which is another option that we've heard about, another option available to the anti- democrats in Belgrade." -- Stan Markotich SERBIAN OPPOSITION SEES "HOT" TIMES AHEAD. A parliamentary legislative committee on 10 February ratified a draft law allegedly recognizing opposition wins in the November municipal runoffs, Tanjug reported. The legislation is slated to be discussed in the parliament today. Leaders of the opposition Zajedno coalition responded by warning that the bill's passage will not signal the end of demands for reform. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic, speaking to demonstrators in Belgrade on 10 February, said that "ahead of us is a long hot spring and summer, not to mention a fight against those who have not surrendered and who view their own people as dupes of foreign [powers]." Zajedno leaders also vowed they would continue the mass demonstrations at least until opposition municipal mandates are recognized. -- Stan Markotich MUSLIMS, SERBS STEP UP MILITARY PRESSURE ON BRCKO. SFOR officials said that the armies of both the Federation and the Republika Srpska have made additional requests recently to hold exercises near Brcko, AFP reported on 10 February. SFOR called for calm and pointed out that neither side will be allowed to bring big guns into the area. The fate of the strategic region will be announced by a U.S. mediator later this week. The Brcko issue was the only one that proved too thorny to be resolved at Dayton, and both sides have said that its loss would mean war. The Serbs want to keep it to provide a link between the eastern and western halves of their territory. For the Muslims and Croats, its return to them is a crucial symbol of the need to reverse the effects of ethnic cleansing. -- Patrick Moore VIOLENT MUSLIM-CROAT CLASHES IN MOSTAR. Some 500 Muslims who were headed for the cemetery in the Croatian half of Mostar on 10 February to mourn their dead were attacked by some 700 Croats taking part in a Roman Catholic carnival parade, Reuters reported. Major Tony White, spokesman for the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) in Bosnia, said there were 22 injured, two seriously, and one dead. All casualties were Muslims who had wanted to visit their family graves on the second day of the Islamic religious holiday of Bajram. Mike Fabbro, SFOR spokesman in Mostar, said that Croats, including policemen, had opened fire on the crowd. But Mostar Mayor Ivica Prskalo, a Croat, blamed Muslim extremists, saying the visit to the graveyard was a "provocation." A curfew was imposed on both halves of the city. But according to Reuters on 11 February, a new wave of evictions of Muslims from the Croatian half followed during the night. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROATIA TO RECONSIDER DATE FOR LOCAL VOTE. The Croatian authorities have announced that they will either confirm or postpone the date of the local elections by Wednesday, according to Vjesnik on 11 February. The vote has been slated for 16 March, but the government may move the date into April so that balloting can go ahead smoothly everywhere. The problem is that voting will also take place in eastern Slavonia, which is still in Serb hands, and that distribution of citizenship papers there is proceeding slowly. The Croatian government is determined to have eastern Slavonia vote at the same time as the rest of the country to underscore its reintegration. The UN's administrator for the region, Jacques Klein, met with President Franjo Tudjman on 10 February and will speak today to Serbian President Milosevic about the elections. -- Patrick Moore MACEDONIAN, GREEK HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS CRITICIZE LAW DISCRIMINATING AGAINST NON-GREEKS. Eleven Greek and Macedonian human rights and refugee groups issued a statement in Skopje on 9 February urging Athens to repeal a law that prevents non-Greeks who fled the country 50 years ago from returning, AFP reported. Greece passed a law in 1982 welcoming back citizens who fled after the civil war in 1946-49 but excluding those who were not of Greek origin. The law, in effect, discriminated against people of Macedonian-Slav origin in the north of the country. Athens does not recognize the existence of a Macedonian-Slav minority. -- Fabian Schmidt ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT PLEDGES TO INDEX SALARIES. The cabinet on 10 February has proposed to the trade unions to index salaries, Radio Bucharest reported. The average monthly wage would increase by more than 30%, from 329,000 lei ($53) to 430,000 lei ($70). The offer came after several rounds of talks with union leaders amid growing popular dissatisfaction over recent price hikes. The new cabinet has launched radical reformist policies leading to a drastic devaluation of the national currency and increases in prices. It hopes that the wage increase will compensate for some 75% of the price hikes. In a first reaction, a union leader was quoted as saying that the proposals could be a basis for further negotiations. -- Dan Ionescu NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN MOLDOVA. Javier Solana, on the first day of his fact-finding visit to Chisinau, met with President Petru Lucinschi, Premier Ion Ciubuc, Foreign Minister Mihai Popov, Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat, and parliamentary leaders. Moldovan and Western media reported. The hosts seized the opportunity to re-affirm Moldova's neutrality--as stipulated in the constitution--stressing that the country does not intend to join any military alliance. Chisinau, however, is seeking closer cooperation with NATO and is eager to serve as a bridge between the alliance and Russia, which remains opposed to NATO enlargement. Solana told journalists that NATO wants to build "solid bilateral relations with Russia and a special relation to Ukraine." He suggested that Moldova could serve as an intermediary in those efforts. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN POLITICAL PARTIES REACH CONSENSUS . . . At a meeting with President Petar Stoyanov on 10 February, consensus was reached among all parties represented in the parliament on how to resolve the country's economic crisis, international media reported. Parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held on 19 April, and the current parliament is to be dissolved in the coming days. Until the next parliament has been installed, the Consultative Council for National Security, which is headed by Stoyanov, will oversee all talks on national security. Privatization is to be speeded up and insolvent enterprises liquidated. In addition, measures are to be taken to fight corruption and accountability demanded from those responsible for the current economic crisis. Meanwhile, Stoyanov wrote IMF Director-General Michel Camdessus that both still to be named interim government and the national bank will be willing to meet with high-level IMF officials immediately. -- Maria Koinova . . . BUT FUEL CRISIS DEEPENS, HYPERINFLATION THREATENS. Neftochim, the country's main oil refinery, is experiencing its most serious crisis in seven years, Bulgarian media reported on 8 February. Because of high inflation, the company cannot make a profit and thus is unable to buy crude. Almost all of Sofia's gas stations are closed, and public transport services were significantly reduced last weekend in both Sofia and Plovdiv. The authorities on 10 February released 150 metric tons of diesel fuel from reserves to secure Sofia's public transport until the end of this week. Meanwhile, Pari reported on 11 February that Bulgarian consumer prices rose by 43.8% in January, the highest rate since February 1991 and just under the 50% barrier for hyperinflation. High inflation has been caused largely by the collapse of the lev. The Bulgarian National Bank has intervened to try to stabilize the national currency, reducing its foreign reserves to $415 million. Foreign-debt servicing for 1997 alone totals some $857 million. -- Maria Koinova and Michael Wyzan [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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