|He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson|
No. 33, Part II, 17 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 ************************************************************************ In the 21 February issue of OMRI's journal, TRANSITION: DISSIDENTS -- THEN AND NOW - Reshaping Dissident Ideals for Post-Communist Times - How Rude pravo 'Helped' Get Charter 77 off the Ground - In Poland, A Long-Standing Tradition of Resistance PLUS... - CENTRAL ASIA: The Gordian Knot of Energy - BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: Janusz Bugajski on Stabilizing Partition with SFOR - VIEWPOINT: Vladimir Shlapentokh on Creating 'The Russian Dream' After Chechnya For subscription information about OMRI's new monthly, send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org ************************************************************************ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE ROUNDUP OF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO UKRAINE. Eduard Shevardnadze ended an official two-day visit to Ukraine on 14 February, Ukrainian and international agencies reported. Shevardnadze and his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma signed nine documents on cooperation, including agreements on double taxation, trade and economic cooperation, and cooperation over customs and border issues. Trade between Ukraine and Georgia is expected to reach $500 million this year, up from $180 million in 1996. Talks also touched on cooperation over energy supplies. Ukraine is interested in a project to modernize an oil pipeline from Azerbaijan to Georgia. Ukraine produces pipes and other equipment for the gas and oil industries. Both presidents voiced skepticism over the viability of the CIS. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN PARTIES CHOOSE ELECTORAL PRIORITIES AND ALLIES. Ukrainian Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko, speaking at his party's closed session, said the Communists would form an electoral alliance with other leftist forces, such as the Socialists and the Peasants' Party, Ukrainian television reported on 15 February. The same day, the centrist pro-presidential movement New Ukraine held its fifth congress in Kyiv. The leader of the movement, presidential administration head Yevhen Kushnaryov, warned against the growing influence of the left, Russian television reported. Kushnaryov said New Ukraine considers Russia and other CIS countries Ukraine's long-time partners. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 1998; the presidential election follows in 1999. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev PRESIDENT FIRES MINISTERS. Kuchma fired Agriculture Minister Anatolii Khorishkov and Deputy Transportation Minister Leonid Zheleznyak on 14 February, international agencies reported. Although he did not connect the sackings to corruption, Kuchma announced the action at a meeting of a presidential committee on organized crime and corruption. In early February he had said his government was going to crack down hard on corruption, which had "infected a significant part of the state apparatus." -- Oleg Varfolomeyev IMPRISONED BELARUSIAN EX-BANK CHIEF TAKEN TO HOSPITAL. Former head of the National Bank of Belarus Tamara Vinnikova was taken from her prison cell to the hospital on 14 February, Reuters reported. Vinnikova was fired by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka a month ago and imprisoned on charges of causing damage to the state during the time she headed Belarusbank. In solitary confinement since her dismissal, she had appealed to be released on health grounds and promised not to leave Minsk. The court rejected her appeal on 14 February, but her condition worsened the same day, so she had to be moved to the hospital. Vinnikova has maintained that she is not guilty. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN YOUTH MARCH AGAINST PRESIDENT. Over 3,000 people, mostly students, held an unauthorized demonstration on 14 February in downtown Minsk to protest President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's authoritarian rule and his pro-Russian policies, international agencies reported. The demonstrators delivered a petition to the embassies of some Western countries, criticizing the restoration of the "Soviet empire." The rally ended outside the television tower, where police dispersed the crowd with tear gas and truncheons. At least 30 demonstrators were reported arrested. Meanwhile, the Institute of Sociology of the state-funded Academy of Science reported that, in a recent public opinion poll, 83% of respondents supported Lukashenka's pro-Russian policies and 55% backed his way of handling corruption. -- Sergei Solodovnikov POLISH INTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER ON RUSSIAN SABOTAGE. Zbigniew Siemiatkowski said in Rzeczpospolita 15 February that Russian secret agents are preparing "provocations" to sabotage Poland's efforts to join NATO and the EU. Siemiatkowski said that the Russians had been stepping up their diplomatic contacts with politicians from Poland's ruling and opposition parties, there had been attempts to seize large sections of the Polish economy with Russian capital, and there was a Russian offensive in political and media circles. He said Polish counterintelligence is particularly aware of Russian activities and that no political orientation, including his own Democratic Left Alliance, is immune to Russian efforts at infiltration. He also cited Russian pressure to establish a military base in Latvia and said Russia is behind the recent Lithuanian bank crisis. Siemiatkowski left on 16 February for a four-day visit to Germany to discuss cooperation between the Polish and German secret services. -- Jakub Karpinski EU URGES SLOVAKIA TO PASS MINORITY LANGUAGE LAW. European Commissioner Hans van den Broek on 13 February warned Slovakia that it must respect democracy and human rights if it hopes to remain in the running for EU membership, Reuters reported the next day. The statement followed talks in Brussels with Slovak Deputy Premier Katarina Tothova. Although he welcomed the parliament's rejection of the penal code amendment on the protection of the republic, van den Broek said the cabinet's failure to submit a minority language law -- despite its promise to do so following the state language law's approval in November 1995 -- remained a major EU concern. During a Slovak TV debate on 16 February, Slovak National Party deputy Jozef Prokes said a minority language law is currently being prepared, CTK reported. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER INSISTS ON BANK PRIVATIZATION. Vladimir Meciar on 14 February announced that the government will ask President Michal Kovac to return the law on state-owned strategic companies to the parliament for reappraisal, CTK reported. The law, approved on 13 February, prevents the privatization of the four biggest Slovak banks until 2003 and was supported by the opposition and by the Association of Workers, a junior partner in the ruling coalition. Stressing that the privatization of banks is essential, Meciar said he plans to connect the vote on the bank privatization law with a vote of confidence in his government. He said his government had promised the OECD that it would end the current ban on bank privatization, which lasts until late March. Party of the Democratic Left deputy chairwoman Brigita Schmoegnerova said Meciar is misinterpreting the OECD membership conditions for Slovakia. She offered to hold a public discussion with Meciar on those issues. -- Anna Siskova HUNGARIAN RULING PARTY BEGINS ELECTION PREPARATIONS. During a weekend meeting of top officials from the Socialist Party, Prime Minister Gyula Horn warned that unjustified internal disputes are damaging the party's image, Hungarian media reported on 17 February. The Socialists discussed how to alter their tone to appear as an authentic left-wing party for next year's parliamentary elections. The party's executive board said recently there are three reasons for the party's falling popularity: price increases, the privatization scandal involving consultant Marta Tocsik, and internal party disputes. The latest opinion polls, conducted by Sonda Ipsos, put Horn in 25th place in popularity. Young Democrat Tamas Deutsch, who chairs the commission on Tocsik, rose to second place, behind President Arpad Goncz. Meanwhile, statistics released on 14 February showed that real wages fell by 5.4% last year. According to Napi Gazdasag, inflation is expected to reach 16%-19% in 1997. -- Sharon Fisher SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE EXPLOSIONS CONTINUE IN MOSTAR. Seven explosions rocked the Croat- controlled part of the divided Herzegovinian city on 14 February in a terror campaign against minority Muslims, AFP reported citing SFOR. The next morning, two mortar rounds were fired at the Muslim half of the city but injured no one. Use of mortars represents a serious escalation of violence in the unstable Muslim-Croat federation, which has recently been shaken by serious conflicts between the two peoples. Of 35 Muslim families that were expelled from their homes in Croat-held west Mostar last week, only 16 have returned with the help of SFOR and the UN police, a UN spokesman said on 15 February. In other news, the overnight curfew in the federation was abolished on 14 February after more than four years, Oslobodjenje reported. But federal Interior Minister Mehmed Zilic said a curfew will remain in effect in Mostar "until the tensions calm down." -- Daria Sito Sucic DUBIOUS SETTLEMENT OF THE BRCKO DISPUTE. International mediator Roberts Owen on 14 February put off a settlement of the thorny Brcko issue until 15 March 1998 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 February 1997), news agencies reported. His interim solution is to leave the Serbs in charge of the river port while creating the office of "international supervisor" to monitor the return of Croat and Muslim refugees and economic reconstruction. It is not clear exactly what powers this new official will have or how he or she will enforce compliance. Owen's program guarantees freedom of movement and the right of refugees to go home, but those provisions are already included in the Dayton agreement and have been neither respected nor enforced. -- Patrick Moore MIXED RECEPTION OF BRCKO DECISION. U.S. special envoy John Kornblum said that Owen's package was "definitely enough" to prevent fighting from starting again, news agencies reported on 14 February. The international community's High Representative Carl Bildt warned, however, that "it is sometimes easier to write a thing in a Washington law firm than to do it on the ground" and added that the reconstruction of Brcko will cost at least $200 million. The Bosnian Serb member of the joint Bosnian presidency, Momcilo Krajisnik, was skeptical of Owen's plan, but Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic was more upbeat, saying the decision opens the way to investment and prosperity. Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic said Owen's announcement "is not justice, but a step toward justice." Other Muslims and Croats were more optimistic, saying the plan gives them direct access to what had been Serb-held territory. In short, persons on both sides of the former front line could view the glass as half empty or half full. -- Patrick Moore KLEIN SAYS MOST SERBS WILL STAY IN EASTERN SLAVONIA. The UN administrator for eastern Slavonia, Jacques Klein, said only about 15,000-20,000 of the 120,000 Croatian Serbs living in eastern Slavonia would leave for neighboring Serbia, Reuters reported on 16 February. Eastern Slavonia is the last Serb-held region slated to revert to the Croatian government's control. "[Those who will leave] are Serb nationalists who simply cannot live in a Croatian Catholic state -- and they include war criminals, people with guilty consciences," Klein said. The UN Transitional Authority in Eastern Slavonia said some 650 Serb households have left the area since June 1996, 450 of them in the first half of February alone, following the UN Security Council's backing of the Croatian government's letter of intent for peaceful reintegration. But more than 40,000 Serbs have meanwhile obtained Croatian citizenship papers in order to vote and keep their property and jobs. -- Daria Sito Sucic SERBIAN POLITICAL OPPOSITION CALLS HALT TO DEMONSTRATIONS. Leaders of the Zajedno coalition on 15 February said they will suspend the marathon mass demonstrations for three weeks to allow the ruling Socialists time to ease restrictions on state media, international media reported. The decision followed the government's recognition of opposition wins in the 17 November municipal elections. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic, addressing some 10,000 people in downtown Belgrade on 15 February, said: "Our three goals were getting back our election victory, achieving a freeing-up of the media, and fair electoral conditions prior to the next voting. We achieved the first, but not the other two. ... We'll give [the Socialists] three weeks, until March 9, and see what happens." Zajedno has said that it will call for renewed demonstrations should the government continue to conduct itself in bad faith. In other news, on 16 February, UN human rights envoy Elisabeth Rehn met with Serbian opposition leader Vesna Pesic and with peaceful protesters beaten by police. -- Stan Markotich STUDENTS, TRADE UNIONISTS CONTINUE TO DEMONSTRATE. Student and independent labor leaders have continued with street protests despite the Zajedno announcement, Nasa Borba reported on 17 February. An estimated 5,000 students gathered in downtown Belgrade the previous day to demand the sacking of the pro-government, hard-line rector of Belgrade university and the indictment of those responsible for the electoral fraud. Meanwhile, Serbian Premier Mirko Marjanovic has met with the leaders of state unions, notably those representing elementary and secondary teachers, over demands for increased pay. But independent labor leaders such as Jagos Bulatovic have said that the government negotiations will not be binding on independent teachers, who reserve the right to continue with their protests and job action, Radio Index reported. -- Stan Markotich AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CONDEMNS TORTURE IN KOSOVO. Amnesty International on 16 February called for an end to the torture and abuse of political detainees in Kosovo. The human rights organization mentioned one case of a prisoner who had recently disappeared in police custody and said it was "concerned that courts in Kosovo province frequently have based their verdicts against ethnic Albanians ... on statements which defendants have retracted in court, claiming they had been obtained by force." Police say they are holding 66 people accused or suspected of terrorist attacks in Kosovo this year. Kosovo Albanian officials said they have a record of 55 held in custody after police operations against the Kosovo Liberation Army. Several released prisoners said they had been beaten and tortured with electric shocks. -- Fabian Schmidt ROMANIAN COALITION PARTY SPLITS. A dissenting wing of the National Liberal Party-Democratic Convention (PNL-CD), which is a member of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) and of the ruling coalition, on 15 February suspended party chairman Nicolae Cerveni, Romanian television reported. The dissidents oppose a protocol on unification Cerveni signed with several liberal parties that are not members of the CDR. They also reproach Cerveni with having failed to forcefully promote members of the PNL-CD for ministerial posts. In response, Cerveni said the 14 dissidents will be expelled from the party at a meeting of its National Council, scheduled for 22 February. Among the dissidents is Sorin Stanescu, minister of youth and sports. -- Dan Ionescu. MOLDOVA RECALLS AMBASSADOR TO BONN. President Petru Lucinschi recalled Moldova's ambassador to Germany, Infotag reported on 14 February. The decree had already been signed in January but was only recently published. Ambassador Alexandru Burian was involved in a conflict with the leadership of the Foreign Ministry in the second half of 1996, when he alleged that there were violations linked to the opening of a consular office in Frankfurt. Tapes of telephone conversations between the ambassador and the presidential office in Chisinau were leaked and broadcast in what some observers considered to be an attempt to embarrass former President Mircea Snegur. A special commission set up to investigate the affair recommended sacking Burian but Snegur did not follow the commission's recommendations. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN UNION OF DEMOCRATIC FORCES BECOMES PARTY. The Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), during its ninth National Conference on 15 and 16 February, decided to turn the SDS into a single party rather than an alliance of so far 15 member organizations in light of the upcoming elections and a likely SDS-led government, Kontinent and Duma reported. The parties making up the SDS will be transformed into associated organizations within the new party. In addition, SDS Chairman Ivan Kostov was re-elected by a near-unanimous vote, and an 11-member National Executive Council was elected to run the SDS. Candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections will be elected in U.S.-style primaries. The SDS will propose common candidates with other opposition parties. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS FACE DISASTER IN APRIL ELECTIONS. A poll published in the Bulgarian Socialist Party's (BSP) daily Duma on 17 February suggests that the Socialists could suffer a humiliating defeat in the 19 April elections. According to the nationwide poll conducted in late January, the BSP would garner only 12% as opposed to 43% for the SDS. The People's Union would get 2%, well under the 4% threshold needed to gain parliamentary representation. The mainly ethnic-Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom would get 4%, and the Bulgarian Business Bloc 7%. Just 7% would go to all other parties. Some 23% of respondents said they will not vote. Meanwhile, the BSP Supreme Council elected party leader Georgi Parvanov as head of the party's election campaign center. Former Interior Minister Nikolay Kamov, former Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, and former parliamentary Economics Commission Chairman Nikola Koychev will be his deputies. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN PROTESTS CONTINUE. Sporadic violence and anti-government demonstrations continued throughout the weekend in Vlora, Fier, and Saranda but were quieter than in previous weeks, Reuters and AFP reported. No riot police were seen, in a new strategy by the government not to oppose marches outside the capital. In Tirana, however, police put on a show of force to prevent a rally called by the opposition Forum for Democracy on 16 February from taking place. Meanwhile, Vlora Mayor Gezim Zile called on the government to resign, the first Democrat leader to do so. President Sali Berisha acknowledged that the government had committed errors and had warned the public too late about the dangers of pyramid investment schemes. But he said responsibility also lies with the investors. He stressed that the state has no intention of taking the debt on its shoulders. -- Fabian Schmidt CRIME SPREADS IN VLORA, ALBANIA. Five men were wounded, four of them seriously, in gang violence in Vlora in recent days, according to the Interior Ministry. The men, aged between 17 and 28, suffered knife and gunshot injuries. A flourishing trade in illegal immigrants, prostitutes, and drugs has sprung up since police pulled out on 11 February, AFP reported. Smugglers have recovered 135 boats confiscated by police a year ago. Around 50 have been patched up and are commuting to Italy two to three times a day. Greek border guards have been placed on maximum alert in the mountainous border region. Greece has sent a police helicopter and two warships to the border. Meanwhile, the Albanian Defense Ministry has begun legal action for libel against a journalist of The Independent who wrote an article alleging the ministry was involved in arms trafficking and linking the government to organized crime. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Susan Caskie ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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. 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