|Every individual has a place to fill in the world, and is important, in some respect, whether he chooses to be so or not. - Nathaniel Hawthorne|
No. 34, Part II, 18 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 UKRAINE TO REMOVE FUEL FROM DAMAGED REACTOR. Ukrainian Environment Minister Yurii Kostenko said Ukraine will not build a new sarcophagus for the destroyed reactor No. 4 at Chornobyl, international agencies reported on 17 February. Speaking after the latest round of talks with the G-7 on Chornobyl, Kostenko said international experts would work out how to remove the radioactive fuel. The talks made no final decision on how to compensate Ukraine for the loss of energy after the Chornobyl power plant's planned closing in 2000. Kostenko reiterated warnings that the date of Chornobyl's closing depends on the beginning of foreign assistance. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev KAZAKSTANI FOREIGN MINISTER IN UKRAINE. Kasymzhomart Tokayev arrived in Ukraine for a three-day visit on 17 February, Ukrainian radio reported. Tokayev met with his Ukrainian counterpart Hennadii Udovenko and with President Leonid Kuchma. The purpose of the visit is to stimulate relations between the two countries in accordance with an agreement signed in September 1994. Emphasis was placed on developing economic cooperation and trade. On the first day, the two sides discussed energy supplies, news agencies reported. -- Ustina Markus CRIMEAN PARTIES APPEAL TO KYIV, MOSCOW. The Crimean branch of the Ukrainian Republican Party called on Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to dismiss the Crimean parliament, Ukrainian television reported on 17 February. The appeal said the current governors "are not able to solve the most vital problems." Earlier a pro-Russian Crimean organization known as the Russian Duma of Sevastopol came out against setting up a free economic zone in the city until the city's status is resolved, UNIAN reported on 14 February. The organization appealed to the Russian Federation Council to speed up work on the status of Sevastopol and blasted the "hidden Ukrainization" of the city through Ukrainian- language schools and "tiny pro-Ukrainian organizations." -- Oleg Varfolomeyev JOURNALISTS PROTEST CLOSURE OF INDEPENDENT RADIO STATION IN BELARUS. Some 20 journalists held a demonstration in Minsk on 14 February to protest the closure of the independent Radio 101.2 FM station by the government last September, Belapan reported. The official explanation was that the station interfered with government communications, but journalists believe that was only a pretext, as the government had turned down their request to move the aerial. Moreover, the government intends to use the frequency for a youth station under the patronage of the pro-presidential organization Direct Action. -- Sergei Solodovnikov NORWEGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS LITHUANIA. Bjorn Tore Godal held talks in Vilnius on 17 February with his counterpart Algirdas Saudargas, Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius, and Seimas Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, Radio Lithuania reported. Godal noted that even though Norway twice refused to join the EU, it supports the efforts of the Baltic states to do so, as that is necessary for Baltic security. He said NATO's door should be open to all democratic states and that "Russian fears concerning NATO's enlargement to the East are groundless." -- Saulius Girnius POLISH-RUSSIAN POLITICAL UPDATE. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said he is not alarmed about Internal Affairs Minister Zbigniew Siemiatkowski's statements that Russia is infiltrating Polish politics to prevent Polish entry into NATO and the EU (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 February 1997). "Such things are possible," Cimoszewicz said. He said he expects "tensions concerning NATO enlargement to intensify" before the NATO summit in Madrid in July. A spokeswoman for Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service said on 17 February the accusations are "absolute fantasy." Friedrich Bonnart, editor of NATO 16 Nations magazine, said the Poles should not be astonished that the Russians would use all legal and illegal means to prevent NATO expansion, Polish dailies reported on 18 February. -- Jakub Karpinski POLES ON THE CONSTITUTION ISSUE. More than a quarter of respondents said they would vote in a referendum for the Solidarity-sponsored draft constitution, while a quarter would support parliament's draft constitution, Polish media reported on 18 February. The proposal by Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) to submit both drafts in a referendum- -contrary to the current law--is supported by 67% of respondents. More than 40% of those surveyed think that a future parliament should approve a new constitution; 33% think the current parliament should. The AWS wants a future constitution to include a more explicit reference to God, protection of human life from conception, and recognition that Poland under communist rule was not a sovereign country. It demands that a referendum on the constitution be valid if at least half the voters turn out. -- Beata Pasek CZECH-GERMAN DECLARATION PASSED WITH PREAMBLE. The Czech Chamber of Deputies passed the Czech-German declaration on 14 February, with 131 of the lower house's 200 deputies voting in favor of the document, Czech media reported. The governing coalition managed to secure the support of most Social Democratic deputies by accepting at the last minute a one- sentence preamble to the declaration. The preamble states that the chamber accepts the declaration on the basis of speeches by Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec, which expressed the will of both states to prevent the past from burdening a common European future. Social Democratic Chairman Milos Zeman had been pushing for a preamble that would emphasize that the Czechs refuse to deal with questions such as restitution for expulsed Sudeten Germans. But the compromise preamble is so watered down as to have no effect on the declaration from the German standpoint. -- Victor Gomez CZECH MINISTERS AGREE ON NEW HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM. After a 16 February meeting of select cabinet ministers on the health-care system, Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus announced that next year the government will introduce a per-patient system to pay doctors, Czech media reported. Under the system, doctors will be paid according to how many patients they have on their rosters, rather than according to each treatment they perform as in the current system. Klaus has long supported a system in which each patient would be partially responsible for payment, though he no longer insists on it. -- Victor Gomez SLOVAK POLITICAL ROUNDUP. Leaders of the opposition Democratic Union and Social Democratic Party on 17 February signed an agreement on political cooperation, Slovak media reported. DU Chairman Jozef Moravcik said the document focuses on completing the transformation of Slovak society, building and maintaining the rule of law, and completing the economic transformation. The two parties aim to set an example of how to bridge disputes between the left and right wings of the opposition. Also on 17 February, Slovak National Party deputy Jozef Prokes told CTK that a bill on minority languages could be submitted to the parliament within six months. Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement deputy Gyula Bardos told Sme the next day that the Hungarian coalition does not have any information about the bill. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARY, ROMANIA BOOST MILITARY TIES. In Debrecen, Hungary, Hungarian Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti and Romanian Defense Minister Victor Babiuc on 17 February signed an accord on the protection of military secrets, Reuters reported. The two ministers also agreed to set up a joint peacekeeping battalion for use with NATO, the UN, and the OSCE. The battalion, scheduled to be operational by the end of the year, will have bases in both countries, with joint command and joint exercises. The two ministries will have periodical consultations on military matters. Referring to NATO enlargement, Keleti said the two countries are partners, not competitors. It was Babiuc's first visit abroad. Analysts view the recent improvement of bilateral ties as boosting both countries' chances of joining NATO in an early phase. -- Zsolt Mato HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER ON PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL. Appearing before the parliamentary committee investigating last fall's privatization scandal involving consultant Marta Tocsik, Gyula Horn on 17 February distanced himself from the affair, Hungarian media reported. Horn said his government reacted swiftly, firing the top leadership of the state privatization agency and the minister overseeing privatization. Free Democrat leader Ivan Peto told the committee he was unaware of the business activities of certain key figures in the affair who have connections to his party. -- Sharon Fisher SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MUSLIMS RETURN TO WEST MOSTAR, CROATS EVICTED FROM EAST MOSTAR. UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko said that 23 of 28 Muslim families expelled from Croat-held Mostar last week have returned to their homes, Oslobodjenje reported on 18 February. The other five families feared to return. He said the UN police were satisfied with the west Mostar police's help in bringing Muslim families back. Police and members of the Croat special forces are believed to have been directly involved in the evictions of Muslims. Ivanko said the UN was concerned, however, about reports of the first expulsion of a Croat family from Muslim-held east Mostar. Meanwhile, another grenade exploded in Mostar on 16 February; no one was injured. -- Daria Sito Sucic A NEW WAY TO GET BOSNIAN REFUGEES HOME? Michael Steiner, the deputy to the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt, said a new, radical approach may be needed to get Bosnian refugees home, Reuters reported. To date, practically no individuals have been able to return to territory under the control of another ethnic group, despite their right to do so under the Dayton accord. Steiner said on 17 February: "If as much energy were put into organizing the return of refugees [on a trade-off basis] as has been put by the OSCE into organizing elections, perhaps by having an R-Day or Return Day instead of an E-Day or Election Day, then we could achieve far more than we have with pilot projects which don't work because they lack internal balance." -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN ROUNDUP. The OSCE's top election official, Robert Frowick, talked with Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic in Banja Luka about problems in organizing local balloting in July in Brcko and Mostar, AFP reported on 17 February. In Sarajevo, the World Bank announced that the planned donors' conference has been postponed until April because the Bosnian government has yet to set up a basic economic reform package. Also in the capital, the leading Islamic religious body, the Rijaset, condemned the recent desecration of a Roman Catholic cemetery in Klopce near Zenica, Oslobodjenje wrote on 18 February. SFOR, for its part, denied Croatian charges that it had used excessive force in entering the Rama power plant near Prozor while searching for illegal weapons, Dnevni avaz reported. And Oslobodjenje noted that the respective police forces of the three main ethnic groups have been continuing the war among themselves and also terrorizing citizens. -- Patrick Moore CROATIA GUARANTEES SAFETY TO EASTERN SLAVONIA SERBS. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman on 17 February met with the head of the UN Transitional Authority for Eastern Slavonia, Jacques Klein, and a local Serbian leader, Vojislav Stanimirovic, to discuss the process of the peaceful reintegration of the region and an amnesty issue, Hina reported. Deputy Prime Minister Ivica Kostovic said that Tudjman guaranteed Serbs there would be no revanchism. But Klein requested that a final list of war criminals be issued by the Croatian government so that people who were not on the list knew they could stay in the area. Last year Croatia issued an incomplete list of 811 accused war criminals. -- Daria Sito Sucic ECONOMIC DEMANDS REPLACE POLITICAL ONES IN SERBIAN CAPITAL. While the opposition Zajedno coalition has called off its mass demonstrations for three weeks to allow the ruling Socialists to make concessions such as freeing up the state media, protests continued in Belgrade on 17 February, Nasa Borba reported the following day. The demands, however, have shifted: independent professionals, notably teachers, were demanding their back wages. In addition, the city's transportation workers staged another warning strike on 17 February, cutting service on about a quarter of the city's bus lines and leaving thousands of commuters stranded. Transportation sector labor leaders have said they will back a full-scale shut down of the city's public transportation system on 18 February if there is no progress on salary demands. -- Stan Markotich SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL? Vuk Draskovic, a leader of the Zajedno coalition and head of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), told the Daily Telegraph that if he were elected president of Serbia, he would work for the restoration of the Karadjorevic dynasty, Nasa Borba reported on 18 February. Following the restoration of the monarchy, Draskovic would retire from politics and devote himself full-time to writing. So far, however, Draskovic has not been designated the united opposition's presidential candidate in the election slated for later this year. -- Stan Markotich POSSIBLE BREAKTHROUGH ON SLOVENIAN GOVERNMENT DEADLOCK. Premier Janez Drnovsek on 17 February announced he had reached an accord on forming a cabinet that would include members of his own Liberal Democratic Party (LDS), the right-wing Slovenian People's Party (SLS), and the small Democratic Pensioners' Party (DESUS), Radio Slovenija reported. Elections were held on 10 November, and an earlier proposal was rejected by parliament on 6 February. A rejection of this cabinet line-up may force early elections. -- Stan Markotich MACEDONIAN STUDENTS PROTEST AGAINST ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE EDUCATION. About 3,000 Macedonian students demonstrated in Skopje on 17 February against a new law introducing teaching in the Albanian language at the teacher- training faculty. They chanted nationalist slogans, including "Gas chambers for Albanians," and threw eggs and stones at the government headquarters and the Education Ministry offices, the daily Dnevnik reported. The protesters called on Education Minister Sofija Todorova to resign, AFP said. In early February, the Macedonian parliament had voted for Albanian-language education. The opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization VMRO-DPMNE said it had appealed to the Constitutional Court over the law, arguing that the Macedonian constitution allows national minorities to be taught in their mother tongues only at primary- and secondary-school levels. -- Fabian Schmidt CIORBEA LAUNCHES "SHOCK THERAPY" PROGRAM. After having concluded parleys with international financing institutions and the major trade unions, Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea on 17 February presented the government's "shock therapy" program in a live televised speech. He said 3,600 state companies will be privatized in 1997; companies which are unprofitable will be closed or auctioned off. The government expects a rise in unemployment to about 8% from the current 6%. A social program negotiated with the International Monetary Fund will compensate those most affected by the measures--over 10% of the GDP will be channeled to this program. The IMF has agreed to lend Romania some $400 million for this purpose, but over the long term Romania is to receive $1 billion from international lenders. All prices, with the exception of bread, are to be immediately liberalized and the state budget will make only very limited provisions for subsidies--some of which will go to agriculture. State-owned agricultural land is also to be privatized. All banks are also to be gradually privatized. Ciorbea said he expects inflation to fall to 30% by the end of the year, down from the current 90%. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT, PRESIDENT STATE DESIRE TO JOIN NATO. Bulgaria's caretaker government on 17 February said Bulgaria will apply for full NATO membership, Trud and Demokratsiya reported. It was the first time a Bulgarian government unequivocally spoke in favor of NATO membership. President Petar Stoyanov endorsed the government's decision, calling NATO "the only serious guarantor of security." Vladimir Topencharov of the Bulgarian Socialist Party said the decision should have been made by a cabinet elected by the parliament rather than by a caretaker government. Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Leonid Kerestedzhiyants said "the decision cannot go down without any consequences, but we will try to keep them as small as possible." He said Moscow does not see an anti- Russian attitude behind the decision. -- Stefan Krause NEW PRICE HIKES IN BULGARIA. Fuel prices almost tripled on 18 February, Pari and RFE/RL reported. The government made the move to bring prices closer to world market prices and cut down on the losses of Bulgaria's biggest oil refinery, Neftochim in Burgas. Prime Minister Stefan Sofiyanski said drastic hikes were the only way to stabilize the economy. Officially, fuel will sell for 850-1,130 leva per liter ($0.30- $0.40), while the black market price is 10%-30% higher. Another hike might come as early as next week, experts said. The fuel shortage continues to leave public transport and road traffic paralyzed in large parts of the country. Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Rumen Hristov said grain supplies suffice for 20 days and bread prices may go up from 250 leva to 2,000 leva if grain must be imported at market conditions. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIANS KEEP UP PROTESTS. About 5,000 Albanians protested for a 13th day in Vlora on 17 February and several hundred in Fier, demanding government compensation after the collapse of fraudulent investment schemes. Vlora students threatened to go on a hunger strike if the demands for compensation were not met. Local representatives of political parties, including the ruling Democrats, anti-communist dissidents, and protesters signed a charter demanding the government quit and hold general elections. Mayor Gezim Zile told the crowd from a balcony that he supported their demands. The local branch of the National Commercial Bank opened for the first time in 10 days to distribute some of the frozen assets of failed pyramid schemes. -- Fabian Schmidt INVESTMENT COMPANY OWNER TELLS ALBANIANS TO WORK. In Tirana, Vehbi Alimucaj, head of the biggest investment holding firm, Vefa, said angry investors should "roll up their sleeves and get back to work" instead of protesting and burning down buildings, Reuters reported. Vefa froze the deposits of its 80,000 investors after five pyramids went bust last month, but Alimucaj continues to claim that his investors have nothing to fear and will get back their deposits in three or four months after the climate of insecurity has passed. Vefa continues to make interest payments. -- 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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