|Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most times he will pick himself up and carry on. - Winston Churchill|
No. 35, Part II, 19 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 UKRAINE TO INVESTIGATE MISSING GERMAN WAR COMPENSATION. President Leonid Kuchma has ordered a criminal investigation into the misuse of funds by Gradobank and a government foundation, international agencies reported on 18 February. Gradobank and the National Foundation for Understanding and Reconciliation are accused of embezzling more than $50 million from a $237 million German government grant intended for survivors of Nazi persecution. Gradobank's accounts have been frozen since it stopped dispersing the money in December. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev PENSION ARREARS GROW IN UKRAINE. Pension arrears stood at 1.33 billion hryvnyas ($707 million) on 15 February, UNIAN reported on 17 February. The first deputy head of the State Pension Fund, Volodymyr Onyshchuk, said the fund had failed to receive 544 million hryvnyas in 1996 and 103 million in January 1997. Onyshchuk blamed the banks, which do not demand that enterprises pay compulsory contributions to the Pension Fund, and local authorities, which exempt some enterprises from contributions. Onyshchuk said pension arrears are also caused by the payment of wages in goods rather than cash. Meanwhile, about 1,000 miners staged a demonstration in the Donbas to demand their wages, AFP reported on 18 February. The miners' union said wage arrears to miners amount to 1.4 billion hryvnyas. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev ESTONIA PASSES REFUGEE LAW. The Estonian parliament on 18 February unanimously adopted a law on refugees that for the first time drafts the principles of Estonian refugee policy and creates the legal means to ask for asylum, ETA reported. Under the law, a refugee is someone who is persecuted in his home country on racial, religious, ethnic, or political grounds. The passage of the law is connected to the 1951 UN convention on refugees and the 1967 protocol on the status of refugees, both of which the parliament is scheduled to ratify today. The parliament will add a declaration that not all the clauses of the convention are binding for Estonia. Because of limited resources, Estonia does not want to be required to grant refugees the same state aid that is given to citizens. The ratifications should help Estonia gain visa-free travel with Nordic countries. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIA'S FOREIGN TRADE DEFICIT GREW IN 1996. Compared with 1995, Latvia's exports increased by 15.5%, to 795 million lati ($1.4 billion), while imports grew by 33.2%, to 1.28 billion lati, BNS reported on 18 February. The share of exports to EU countries increased from 44.1% in 1995 to 44.7%, but that of exports to CIS countries fell from 38.3% to 35.8%. The share of imports to the EU fell from 49.9% to 49.35 and to the CIS from 38.3% to 35.8%. Timber (24.%), textiles (16.9%), and food products (11.8%) were the main export items, while mineral products (22.2%), machinery (16.8%), and chemical goods (11%) were the main import items. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT ON STATE OF NATION. Algirdas Brazauskas in his annual state of the nation report to the Seimas on 18 February said that the most important event of the past year was the parliamentary elections, Radio Lithuania reported. But the change in government did not, he said, alter the top foreign policy priorities: membership in NATO and the EU. Important economic achievements were raising the country's GDP by 3.5% in 1996 and decreasing annual inflation to 13.1%. He also said that the average monthly wage in Lithuania (in terms of purchasing power parity as calculated by the OECD) was $520 -- higher than in Latvia ($468) and Estonia ($429). -- Saulius Girnius SOLIDARITY ELECTORAL ACTION TO BECOME A PARTY? The leaders of the Agreement of the Right -- a subset of the some 30 center-right parties plus the Solidarity trade union which form the extra-parliamentary Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) group -- have said they support the proposal of Marian Krzaklewski, Solidarity leader, to convert the AWS into a political party rather than a federation, Polish media reported on 18 February. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the Center Alliance, said a federation is more prone to splintering and internal competition. Aleksander Hall, a member of the recently formed Conservative-People's Party, is against Krzaklewski's proposal, saying the AWS parties' programs are too different. Meanwhile, AWS local branches have begun talks with the Movement for Poland's Reconstruction and the Freedom Union on cooperation in the fall parliamentary elections. -- Beata Pasek CZECH PREMIER REFUSES TO MEET EXTREMIST PARTY LEADER. Vaclav Klaus rejected the proposal made by far-right Republican Party leader Miroslav Sladek to attend a joint meeting of the chairmen of parliamentary parties on 21 February to deal with the standoff in the parliament's lower chamber, CTK reported. Sladek's Republicans obstructed parliamentary proceedings over the last few days and repeatedly offended members of Klaus's ruling coalition. Klaus said that he wants to dissociate himself from "the political practice and methods" used by the Republicans, which are "highly detrimental" to democracy. President Vaclav Havel recently called the Republicans and the Communists "enemies of democracy" in the Czech Republic. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK OPPOSITION REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN A SUCCESS. Center-right opposition representatives on 18 February said they have collected the necessary 350,000 signatures to call a referendum on direct presidential election, Slovak media reported. The referendum campaign, which began on 9 January, will end on 23 February. The president is currently elected by the parliament, but the opposition fears the parliament will be unable to agree on a candidate when President Michal Kovac's term expires in March 1998, as a three-fifths majority is needed. That would allow the cabinet to take over many presidential powers. At the opposition's request, Kovac plans to hold the referendum simultaneously with that on NATO membership, which was recently demanded by the ruling coalition. The opposition's referendum is considered the first step in its campaign for the parliamentary elections, scheduled for next fall. -- Sharon Fisher CONFLICT OVER SLOVAK BANK PRIVATIZATION. Association of Workers (ZRS) Chairman Jan Luptak on 18 February told Radio Twist that his party will insist on rejecting the privatization of Slovakia's four biggest banks. Luptak, whose party is a junior coalition partner, also said that the ZRS will not support early parliamentary elections. Early elections were proposed by Slovak National Party (SNS) Chairman Jan Slota after the parliament failed to agree on the "law on the protection of the republic." Some ZRS deputies voted against the law, signaling a conflict within the ruling coalition. Internal controversies have continued over bank privatization. Premier Vladimir Meciar recently said he might link another vote on the bill halting bank privatization with a confidence vote in his government. The fall of his government would cause problems for the ZRS and the opposition, both of which oppose early elections. -- Anna Siskova HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER IN NORWAY. Gyula Horn on 18 February began a two-day official visit to Norway to discuss European integration, international media reported. Horn said Hungary has proved its value to NATO by serving as a base for international peacekeeping forces in former Yugoslavia. Norwegian Prime Minister Thorbjoern Jagland refused to directly back Hungary's NATO integration efforts, emphasizing that the application must be reviewed in the spring by all NATO members. Also on 18 February, Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs began a two-day official visit to Poland, Hungarian media reported. Talks between Kovacs and his Polish counterpart, Darius Rosati, focused on NATO and EU integration, regional cooperation, and bilateral ties. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARY CONTINUES TO LEAD REGION IN FOREIGN INVESTMENT. A UN report on 18 February said Hungary continues to rank first in foreign investment in the former Soviet bloc, RFE/RL reported. Total direct foreign investment in the region topped $46 billion from late 1989 to mid-1996. Of that amount, Hungary received about $14 billion, Poland $9 billion, Russia $6.6 billion, and the Czech Republic $6 billion. About 70% of all direct foreign investment in the region has gone to Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, and Slovakia. In contrast, Moldova received just $104 million and Belarus $350 million. On a per capita basis, Ukraine ranked last with only $17 of direct foreign investment per person. -- Sharon Fisher SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE REASSURING EASTERN SLAVONIA'S SERBS. The UN's special envoy for human rights, Elisabeth Rehn, said in Vukovar on 18 February that there must be a continued international presence in eastern Slavonia after the region reverts to Croatian control in July. The current UN military mandate expires in mid-year, but Rehn said that military observers must remain to reassure the area's 120,000 Serbs. She also called for civilian representatives of the EU, OSCE, and other bodies to be present, Novi List reported. The UN has been trying to convince the Serbs to stay and has obtained pledges from the Zagreb authorities of fair treatment for Serbs who did not commit war crimes (see Pursuing Balkan Peace, 18 February 1997). Serbian nationalists have nonetheless urged people to leave, and the Association of Serbs Expelled from Croatia announced in Banja Luka that it expects up to 70,000 people to resettle in Bosnia's Republika Srpska. Eastern Slavonia is expected to top the agenda today when Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic visits Belgrade, AFP reported. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN ROUNDUP. Explosive devices were thrown by unknown persons at the homes of two UN policemen in Prijedor in the northwest corner of Bosnian Serb territory, the UN announced on 18 February. Violence seems to have abated in Mostar, however, although progress still needs to be made on enabling those expelled recently from their homes to return, Oslobodjenje wrote on 19 February. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, the hunt is on for a successor to the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt. His term runs out in April, and he is believed to be anxious to leave, AFP wrote. But the job requires a former head of government-- Bildt is a former prime minister of Sweden--and no such person seems interested. Names mentioned have included Spain's Felipe Gonzalez and Britain's Margaret Thatcher. -- Patrick Moore CROATIA REJECTS TRIBUNE'S REQUEST FOR EVIDENCE. The Croatian government said it will not surrender to the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia evidence against Tihomil Blaskic, a Bosnian Croat accused of commanding a massacre of Muslims during the Muslim-Croat war in 1993, Hina reported on 18 February. Tribunal Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald ordered that Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak and Bosnian Federation Defense Minister Ante Jelavic turn over transcripts, memos, and recordings of conversations dating four years back by 19 February; otherwise, the ministers must appear before the court and explain their refusal. The Croatian government said such demands were "inappropriate" and compliance with them could "jeopardize national security." A Croatian Defense Ministry spokesman said Susak would neither provide the requested documentation nor appear in court. -- Daria Sito Sucic LABOR UNREST ACROSS SERBIA. An estimated 90% of schools were shut down across Serbia as striking teachers and their unions demanded payment of salaries in arrears and pay increases. The government, meanwhile, said that an agreement on resolving the dispute has been reached but insisted that meeting teachers' demands would force the printing of more currency, cause inflation, and destabilize the dinar, Reuters reported on 18 February. Union officials have pledged to continue striking until their demands are met. -- Stan Markotich UPDATE ON SERBIA'S OPPOSITION. Leader of the Democratic Party Zoran Djindjic is slated to become Belgrade's first non-communist mayor in over 50 years this week. But Danica Draskovic, wife of Serbian Renewal Movement head Vuk Draskovic, has signaled her intent to become the head of the greater Belgrade district government, an office that may rival the mayoralty for influence. Meanwhile, Vuk Draskovic told Dnevni Telegraf he would neither support nor tolerate his wife's bid for the position, as such an arrangement would evoke Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and his wife and main political ally, Mirjana Markovic. Draskovic added that Djindjic's succession to the mayor's post is not a foregone conclusion. -- Stan Markotich FUEL, OTHER PRICES SURGE IN ROMANIA. The price of fuel, electricity, public transport, and telecommunications surged on 18 February, Romanian and Western media reported. The price hikes went into effect less than one day after Premier Victor Ciorbea announced a shock therapy package for the ailing Romanian economy. Gasoline and diesel prices, which had already doubled in early January, rose again by some 50%, the price of rail tickets by 80%, of telecommunications by 100%, and of electricity by up to 500%. The surge followed the government's decision to withdraw subsidies for those goods. A chain reaction is expected on the market, including the staples market. Long queues reportedly formed outside bread shops; some people bought up to 50 loaves. The IMF's chief negotiator for Romania, Poul Thomsen, praised Ciorbea's proposal for reforms but warned against further subsidizing energy-intensive enterprises. -- Dan Ionescu MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON FIGHTING CRIME, CORRUPTION. Petru Lucinschi on 17 February said that the struggle against crime and corruption was a top priority for the current administration, along with paying pension and salaries arrears, BASA-press and Infotag reported the following day. Lucinschi announced that the Interior Ministry will soon set up a special department to deal with crime and corruption. He expressed confidence that, in a small country such as Moldova, order could be restored within six months. According to data released on 18 February by the Interior Ministry, organized crime is on the rise in Moldova, where 122 criminal groups operate. A ministry spokesman said that ties between the underworld and the state bodies are closest in the banking system and in the institutions in charge of privatizing industry and agriculture. -- Dan Ionescu MACEDONIA TO RECEIVE $46 MILLION FROM EU. The council of EU finance and economy ministers agreed in Brussels on 18 February to lend Macedonia ECU 40 million ($46 million), Nova Makedonija reported the next day. Greece and Great Britain had on 27 January blocked such a decision, the former due to its objection to Macedonia's name and the latter on technical grounds (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 January 1997). Part of the money is the EU's contribution to the donors' conference on 25 and 26 February which will settle Macedonia's $30 million debt to the European Investment Bank; the failure to pay off that debt has held up the signing of the trade and cooperation agreement reached with the EU in June 1996. The EU's decision paves the way for additional contributions from the international financial institutions to cover a projected $85 million balance-of-payments shortfall this year. -- Michael Wyzan REACTIONS TO BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT'S WISH TO JOIN NATO. The caretaker government's announcement that Bulgaria will apply for full NATO membership (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 February 1997) met with mixed reactions. The Russian Foreign Ministry on 18 February said that only the parliament, not the government, has the right to decide on the issue, but it said it sees Sofia's move "as a declaration" rather than a concrete step toward membership, Kontinent reported on 19 February. Meeting with interim Bulgarian Foreign Minister Stoyan Stalev, the ambassadors of the NATO members asked whether Sofia's new position will be permanent and what future relations with Moscow will be like. Turkish observers reacted favorably. Bulgarian Socialist Party Chairman Georgi Parvanov said his party is considering asking for a referendum on the issue alongside the 19 April parliamentary elections, Duma reported. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN PRESIDENT VETOES CHANGES TO ELECTORAL LAW. Petar Stoyanov on 18 February vetoed changes in the electoral law, saying they could result in political instability, Reuters and Bulgarian media reported. The Socialist majority in the outgoing parliament last week lowered the threshold needed to gain parliamentary representation from 4% to 3%. A meeting of the parliamentary Judicial Commission was called by outgoing Parliamentary Speaker Blagovest Sendov for the same day but had to be canceled for lack of a quorum. Sendov then decided not to call a plenary meeting. He accused Stoyanov of humiliating the parliament. A presidential decree dissolved the parliament on 19 February, which some experts interpreted as midnight between 18 and 19 February. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN PRESIDENT BESTOWS TAX BREAK. Sali Berisha told carefully selected supporters in Lushnje on 18 February that he had made errors in handling the pyramid crisis, but he added: "The people are also to blame." He repeated that the government would not pay compensation for money lost in the schemes but pledged to support badly hit regions by declaring them free-trade zones. Strikingly, Berisha said he had "ordered the finance minister to lift taxes for two years in Lushnje to help farmers and citizens out of this crisis," AFP reported. Moreover, he promised to help out the local soccer team, which was sponsored by Pellumb Xhaferri, a detained pyramid scheme manager. The Socialists, meanwhile, turned down an invitation to talk with the Democrats, saying that before any dialogue can be established the government must lift its ban on peaceful demonstrations and release people arrested during recent riots. Elsewhere, in Tirana, thousands of Albanians queued at foreign embassies, especially Italy's and Greece's, to obtain visas. -- 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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