|When we can begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves. - Katherine Mansfield|
No. 31, Part II, 13 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 PARLIAMENT GRANTS IMMUNITY TO FUGITIVE FORMER PREMIER. Legislators voted 253 to 19 to grant former acting Prime Minister Yufim Zvyahilsky immunity from arrest if he returns to Ukraine within two months, Reuters and Russian Public TV reported on 12 February. Zvyahilsky took refuge in Israel in 1994 after being accused of embezzling $25 million in public funds. Israel turned down Ukraine's request for his extradition two years ago. Zvyahilsky has repeatedly claimed that his political enemies made the embezzlement charges. The Ukrainian parliament voted in favor of granting him immunity so that he can return to cooperate with the Prosecutor-General's Office in its investigation of the case. -- Ustina Markus GEORGIAN PRESIDENT IN UKRAINE. Eduard Shevardnadze arrived in Kyiv on 13 February for a two-day official visit, ITAR-TASS reported. He was accompanied by his ministers for trade and transport and the commander of the Georgian border guards. Talks will focus on bilateral cooperation, and some 15 documents are expected to be signed. The same day, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Borys Hudyma said Ukraine was prepared to send observers to Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zones. He added that Ukrainian officials would discuss with Shevardnadze the possibility of having peace-keepers there. The conflict zones are currently patrolled by Russian peacekeepers, whose mandate expires at the end of March. Both sides involved in the conflict would have to give their consent to Ukraine's send its peacekeepers to those zones. So far, the Abkhaz side has refused to do so. -- Ustina Markus POLITICAL INTIMIDATION CONTINUES IN BELARUS. Aleksandr Stupnikov, NTV correspondent in Belarus, was summoned to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry on 12 February to receive an official warning about NTV's "non- objective" coverage of events in Belarus. He was informed that the Belarusian Foreign Ministry wrote last week to its Russian counterpart complaining about NTV's Belarusian coverage and warning that if such reporting continued, Belarus would have to consider suspending NTV's activities in Belarus. The previous day, the office of the Party of Communists of Belarus (PCB) was sealed off because it allegedly was in breach of fire safety regulations, Belapan reported. PCB leader Syarhei Kalyakin denounced the move as a political act instigated by the president's administration. Kalyakin had sided with deputies opposed to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's new constitution during the November 1996 referendum. Also on 11 February, Anatol Lyabedzka, a deputy of the dissolved 1996 parliament, was beaten at the entrance to his apartment block by unknown assailants. Lyabedzka claimed the attack was intended to intimidate him because of his political activities. -- Ustina Markus BALTIC STATES REJECT RUSSIAN WARNING NOT TO JOIN NATO. Foreign Ministry officials from all three Baltic States have rejected a warning by the Russian president's office that membership in NATO would create a "serious barrier" and have "a most negative impact" on long-term cooperation, BNS reported on 12 February. Vygaudas Usackas, head of the Political Department at the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, said a stable NATO region would contribute to the further development of Lithuanian- Russian relations. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs said Latvia's wish to consolidate its security through NATO membership would not be a threat to Russia. Juri Arusoo, spokesman for the Estonian Foreign Ministry, reinforced that viewpoint. -- Saulius Girnius NEW LATVIAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCED. Prime Minister-designate Andris Skele on 12 February made public the cabinet list he plans to present to the Saeima today, BNS reported. The most significant change in the cabinet lineup is the replacement of Maris Grinblats of the For the Fatherland and Freedom caucus as education and science minister by Juris Celmins of the Democratic Party Saimnieks (DPS). The finance portfolio, also assigned to the DPS, has not yet been filled. Skele rejected the DPS nomination that its chairman, Ziedonis Cevers, be appointed to that post. Meanwhile, other parties belonging to the ruling coalition have expressed support for the DPS continued participation in the government. -- Saulius Girnius CONTROVERSY OVER POLISH AGRICULTURE MINISTER. The Supreme Executive Committee of the co-ruling Polish Peasant Party (PSL) has nominated Jaroslaw Kalinowski to replace Roman Jagielinski as deputy prime minister and agriculture minister, international media reported on 13 February. The PSL blamed Jagielinski for the food trade deficit and the low prices of grain and livestock. Jagielinski, for his part, has said he is not going to resign, pointing out that only the PSL Supreme Council can withdraw party support for him. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz is to take the final decision whether to replace him. He has already said he will n not decide until Jozef Zych, Sejm speaker and PSL Supreme Council head, returns from the U.S. The PSL is anxious about its dwindling support among farmers in the wake of parliamentary elections due this fall. Last November, Jagielinski, a large landowner, unsuccessfully challenged Waldemar Pawlak for the party leadership. Kalinowski, endorsed by the Smallholders, is a Pawlak supporter. -- Beata Pasek CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER DEMANDS RESOLUTION ON DECLARATION. Parliamentary speaker and Social Democratic Party Chairman Milos Zeman on 12 February urged the parliament to approve the Czech-German declaration only if an accompanying resolution is passed "clarifying" the Czech position, Czech media reported. In the declaration, Bonn expresses regret over the 1938- 45 Nazi occupation of the Czech Lands and Prague voices sorrow for the post-war expulsion of 2.5 million Sudeten Germans. Both sides say they will not burden bilateral relations with legal and political claims arising from the past. Zeman and some Social Democrats point out that the declaration does not mention the Potsdam agreements that sanctioned the expulsions. Zeman said comments made by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl after he signed the document and by Finance Minister Theo Waigel more recently show that Bonn considers "property problems" to remain unresolved. The Czech coalition government has rejected an accompanying resolution. -- Jiri Pehe GERMAN LEADER ON SLOVAKIA'S WESTERN INTEGRATION. German Bundestag Chairwoman Rita Suessmuth, concluding a two-day visit to Slovakia on 12 February, said Germany "does not want an isolated Slovakia," Reuters reported. Suessmuth is the most senior German official to visit Slovakia since that it gained independence. She expressed Germany's wish that Slovakia join Western organizations at the same time as the Czech Republic but stressed that Slovakia's "deficit in democracy" must first be overcome. Western diplomats praised the parliament's refusal the previous day to approve the "protection of the republic" penal code amendment. However, they added that other steps are needed to demonstrate Slovakia's sincerity in meeting Western democratic standards. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar claimed in a TV discussion the same day that the disputed amendment is not "undemocratic" and will be approved later this year, CTK reported. Also on 12 February, the parliament approved a law on the protection of non-smokers and Meciar's party submitted a proposal calling for a referendum on NATO membership. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK RULING PARTY PROPOSES TALKS WITH LEFTIST OPPOSITION. Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) Chairman Jozef Migas on 12 February announced he has received an offer for bilateral talks from the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), Narodna obroda reported. No details were given on the timing and agenda of the discussions. Migas said the SDL wants to discuss unemployment, low wages, control over privatization, and reform of the banking sector. "We will not accede to purposeful political games and will not rescue the HZDS or the government coalition," Migas stressed. Other opposition parties have not received such an offer. In an interview with Pravda, Migas rejected accusations by the daily Sme that he has met several times with Slovak Information Service deputy director Jaroslav Svechota. In other news, both opposition and ruling coalition politicians have more or less rejected Slovak National Party Chairman Jan Slota's call for early parliamentary elections, TASR reported on 12 February. -- Anna Siskova HUNGARY'S FREE DEMOCRATS IN FAVOR OF SMALLER PARLIAMENT. The Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), the junior coalition party, has said it is in favor of reducing the number of deputies from 386 to 250-300, Nepszava reported on 13 February. SZDSZ leader Peter Hack said the party will also propose that the traditional 11-week election campaign be reduced to eight weeks and that the campaign funds available to each party be reduced. The Free Democrats would like private contributions to election campaigns not to exceed 50,000 forints, while the ceiling for legal entities would be set at 500,000 forints. In 1994, some entrepreneurs practically "bought" their parliamentary mandates by contributing several million forints to election campaigns. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN POLICEMAN SHOT DEAD IN VLORA. A policeman, identified as Shezai Zani, was killed by automatic gunfire on 12 February near his home in Vlora, Reuters reported. Police said Zani was guarding "places of special importance" and had not taken part in this week's clashes between police and rioters. It remains unclear if he was killed in revenge for the death of three anti-government protesters last weekend. Earlier the same day, some 5,000 people staged peaceful protests and set up barricades in all the main streets. Police have kept away from the city, and the local police station has reportedly been abandoned. More than 20 speedboats confiscated on charges of smuggling last year were reclaimed by their owners, with no resistance from the police. Meanwhile, international criticism of the government's handling of the crisis has intensified. The OSCE has said it is "deeply worried" about the on-going violence. -- Fabian Schmidt ALBANIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADER RULES OUT GOVERNMENT CHANGES. Democratic Party leader and Foreign Minister Tritan Shehu, following a day-long meeting with senior party officials, again blamed the current violence on "leftist extremists," Reuters reported. He also ruled out the possibility of any cabinet changes. Some news agencies, however, quoted party sources as saying the possible resignation of the government was high on the agenda of the meeting. Meanwhile, riot police in Tirana prevented the opposition from holding a protest rally and also broke up small gatherings of people. The Socialist Party said police have arrested a member of its presidency and many of its supporters. The Forum for Democracy pledged more protests and demanded the resignation of the government. It also called on all members of the armed forces, policemen, soldiers, and officers, "to join with the people." -- Fabian Schmidt BELGRADE DEMONSTRATIONS CONTINUE. An estimated 20,000 students turned out on the Serbian capital's streets on 12 February to press their demands for political reform. A group of teachers who have not received wages in months formed a ring around the legislature, international media reported. Nasa Borba on 13 February carries a statement by Ivan Kovacevic of the Serbian Renewal Movement pointing out that the 11 February passage of special legislation recognizing opposition wins in the November elections is only a first step toward securing electoral victories. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic ought not to be trusted to allow the opposition to take office until at least local councils are convened and municipal governments formed, Kovacevic commented. -- Stan Markotich SERBIAN GOVERNMENT ON THE OFFENSIVE? Only days after the passage of the legislation recognizing opposition elections wins, the ruling Socialists appear to be waging a new media campaign against the Zajedno coalition. An editorial in the 12 February issue of Politika Ekspres, which was also read out during state television newscasts the same evening, suggested that Zajedno leaders were "conniving" and deliberately reneging on promises. "From the moment...that a favorable solution for Zajedno was absolutely certain, it became clear that the promise made by [Zajedno leader] Vuk Draskovic...that mass demonstrations would stop as soon as parliament recognized the election results would come to nothing," the editorial claimed. Meanwhile, parliamentary speaker Dragan Tomic told state radio that the protests were "horrible...[and] a threat to citizens who don't think the same way" as the protesters. -- Stan Markotich CROATS, MUSLIMS REACH DEAL ON MOSTAR. SFOR stepped up its patrols in the divided Herzegovinian city on 12 February in an effort to put a stop to a fresh outbreak of violence that threatens the future of the Croatian- Muslim federation, international news agencies reported. They dismantled illegal checkpoints and confiscated weapons. Overnight, there were nonetheless three explosions--one in Muslim-dominated east Mostar and two in the Croat-controlled western half of the town. International mediator Michael Steiner and the UN police (IPTF) met late into the night with Croatian leader Kresimir Zubak and with Muslim leaders Alija Izetbegovic and Haris Silajdzic. They agreed on a 12-point program that gives the IPTF increased powers to control the town and detain those responsible for the shooting earlier this week in which Croats killed one Muslim and wounded 22 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 February 1997). Telephone contacts between the two parts of the town will be restored and SFOR's presence strengthened. The curfew will stay in effect and persons evicted from their flats will be allowed to go home. -- Patrick Moore SFOR BRACES FOR BRCKO DEADLINE. Peacekeepers have ordered Muslim and Serbian soldiers near the strategic northern Bosnian town to return to their barracks as the 14 February deadline approaches for the U.S. arbitrator's decision on Brcko's fate. SFOR troops on 12 February confiscated and intend to destroy a Serbian T-55 tank that was spotted outside its authorized storage place, Oslobodjenje wrote. Brcko was the one territorial issue that it proved impossible to resolve in the Dayton peace accord. The Serbs need it to connect the eastern and western halves of their territory, while the Muslims and Croats demand that the "ethnic cleansing" there be reversed. Both sides have threatened war if the other is assigned the town. The most likely outcome is probably a complicated scheme of shared authority and international supervision, which, as demonstrated by Mostar, is unlikely to work. -- Patrick Moore CROATIAN ELECTIONS POSTPONED. President Franjo Tudjman on 12 February announced that the vote for the upper house of the parliament and local government offices has been postponed until 13 April, Hina reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 February 1997). Voting had been slated for 16 March, but the UN administrator for Serb-held eastern Slavonia, Jacques Klein, said conditions there would not be ready for the March deadline. He urged the Croats to speed up the distribution of citizenship papers, and the Serbs to respect the April election date, Novi List wrote. The Croatian government wants eastern Slavonia to vote at the same time as the rest of the country to underscore that it is again part of Croatia. -- Patrick Moore ROMANIA TO RESTORE CITIZENSHIP TO EXILED KING. The Romanian government on 12 February announced it will take immediate measures to restore citizenship to exiled King Michael, Romanian media reported. The move is in response to a letter, signed by 21 leading intellectuals, appealing to Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea to redress the injustice done to Michael in 1948 by the Communists. Seventy-five-year-old Michael, who was dethroned and forced into exile in late December 1947, now lives in Versoix, Switzerland. He welcomed Ciorbea's decision as "an act of justice" and also responded positively to an invitation from the mayor of Iasi to visit the city in the near future. According to Adevarul, Michael wants to re-settle in Romania. -- Zsolt Mato RUSSIAN CONTINGENT IN MOLDOVA TO BE DOWN-SIZED. Russian Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin on 12 February said Russian troops in eastern Moldova will be considerably reduced in number by the fall, BASA-press reported. Baturin promised that Russia will act in the spirit of the October 1994 Russian-Moldovan agreement on the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Dniester region. That accord has never gone into effect owing to the Russian State Duma's refusal to ratify it. Baturin also said he believed that "historical ties between Moldova and Russia are strong enough to prevent the former from moving closer to NATO." His comments came one day after he had rejected NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana's appeal for the complete withdrawal of the 6,500-strong Russian contingent in Moldova. -- Dan Ionescu NEW BULGARIAN PREMIER, CABINET SWORN IN. Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov on 12 February swore in a caretaker cabinet headed by Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski, international media reported. There are no Socialist ministers in the reduced, interim government. Sofiyanski is an economist who was elected mayor of Sofia in October 1995. Stoyanov urged him to make one of his government's top priorities fighting crime and "purging the administration of corrupt officials." The parliamentary parties have agreed to dissolve the legislature today, and the new government has been granted the authority to tackle the country's ongoing economic crisis. Also, the date for new parliamentary elections has been set for 19 April, Demokratsiya reported on 13 February. -- Stan Markotich [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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