Change is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast. In the pool where you least expect it, will be a fish. - Ovid
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

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 transition@omri.cz
========================================================================

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

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            Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                      All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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