|No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear. - Edmund Burke|
No. 38, Part II, 24 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 UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SETS UP POLITICAL COUNCIL. Leonid Kuchma has signed a decree setting up a presidential Political Council, Ukrainian TV and ITAR-TASS reported on 21 February. The council is an advisory body whose task is to ensure that the views of the country's political forces are taken into account when state policy is being decided. The members of the council are leaders of nine centrist political parties. Former Deputy Premier Oleksander Yemets has been appointed secretary of the council as well as presidential adviser for political and legal issues. Yemets is one of the leaders of the pro-presidential centrist bloc Nova Ukraina. Meanwhile, current Deputy Premier Viktor Pynzenyk has said that corruption among government officials is slowing the reform process, Reuters reported on 22 February. One of the strongest advocates of reform in Ukraine, Pynzenyk also criticized the parliament for dragging its heels on the passage of a reform package submitted in November. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev UPDATE ON UKRAINIAN-NATO RELATIONS. U.S. representative Porter Goss, visiting Ukraine this weekend as a member of a congressional delegation, said NATO will offer Ukraine special status at the July summit in Madrid launching the expansion of the alliance, AFP reported on 22 February. The previous day, ITAR-TASS reported that the Party of Citizens of Ukraine have decided to establish an anti-NATO "club," along the lines of the one in the Russian State Duma. The Ukrainian club opposes both NATO expansion and Ukraine's membership in the alliance. Meanwhile, a demonstration of 500 people took place in Sevastopol on 23 February to protest relations between Ukraine and NATO. Radio Mayak reported an anti-NATO demonstration also took place in Simferopol. Demonstrators demanded that the Crimean authorities stop the alleged secret talks on making Sevastopol a base of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. -- Ustina Markus EMPTY-POTS DEMONSTRATION IN MINSK. Several hundred women marched through downtown Minsk on 22 February to protest plummeting living standards, international agencies reported. To stress their plight, they banged on empty cooking pots as they made their way through the capital's streets. The demonstration was organized by the previously unknown Working Women's Organization and was backed by the Belarusian Popular Front. Demonstrators blamed Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka for falling living standards and demanded his resignation. The police stood by but did not try to break up the rally. Also on 22 February, ITAR-TASS reported Belarusian Defense Minister Alyaksandr Chumakau as saying the reorganization of the armed forces into an army composed of 113,000 troops had been completed. That statement contradicts previous statements on the size of Belarus's armed forces. Last year, the armed forced were reported to be around 70-80,000 strong. -- Sergei Solodovnikov and Ustina Markus BELARUS IMPOSES VAT ON UKRAINIAN GOODS. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 21 February signed a decree imposing an unspecified VAT on Ukrainian goods imported into Belarus, Ukrainian and Belarusian Radio reported. The decree is aimed at bringing Belarus's legislation into line with Russia's. Goods produced jointly by Belarus and Ukraine will not be affected by the new decree. Trade between the two countries stood at $1.5 billion in 1996, with Kyiv registering a surplus. The following day, AFP reported that Lukashenka has once again railed against Russia over the customs union. He was quoted as saying he will scrap plans for closer integration if Russia does not dismantle customs controls on the Belarusian-Russian border. -- Ustina Markus BRITISH AID TO JOINT NAVAL UNIT OF BALTIC STATES. British Deputy Defense Minister Frederick Howe, at the start of his three-day visit to Lithuania, said that his country supports setting up Baltron, a joint Baltic destroyer squadron, BNS reported on 21 February. Britain will assist in the training of seamen and donate some equipment, while Germany, the U.S. and several Nordic countries have also promised to offer help. Howe met with Defense Minister Ceslovas Stankevicius, armed forces commander in chief Gen. Jonas Andriskevicius, and members of the Seimas National Security Committee. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN SEIMAS SPEAKER IN POLAND. Vytautas Landsbergis, addressing the Sejm in Polish on 21 February, proposed talks on setting up an interparliamentary body that would meet regularly for consultations and long-term cooperation. He told a news conference later that such a body might consist of 20 delegates from each country's legislature, but he added that it was up to the two parliaments to work out the details. Landsbergis also criticized Russian efforts to block NATO enlargement, noting that Lithuania, like Poland, wants to be admitted to NATO and the EU. Recalling the many historical links between Lithuania and Poland, he urged the two countries to put aside differences in the pursuit of common goals. -- Jakub Karpinski POLISH PRIME MINISTER AT NATO HEADQUARTERS. Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz visited NATO headquarters in Brussels on 21 February to meet with the ambassadors of the alliance's member countries. He said Poland expects to be invited to attend NATO's July summit in Madrid, and he urged Western countries not to cut a deal with Russia over the heads of other countries. Any deal with Moscow, he argued, should be "transparent" and should take into account the concerns of non-members. Poland would not accept any arrangement making it a "second-class" member of the alliance, Cimoszewicz said. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH PRESIDENT CRITICIZES NATO. Vaclav Havel, in his weekly radio address on 23 February, argued that current problems over NATO expansion can be attributed partly to the West's indecisiveness. "In a way, the West is now reaping the fruits of its own indecisiveness. Four years ago, Russia was basically indifferent to whether NATO would expand," Havel commented. He noted that Boris Yeltsin had taken a "liberal attitude" toward the question of NATO expansion during his visit to Prague in 1993. At that time, the Russian president had said that the Czech Republic was a sovereign state and that Russia had no right to prevent it from entering any international organization. According to Havel, the West's conservatism and its inability to deal with challenges posed by the Iron Curtain's fall had "directly prodded Russia into beginning to resist NATO expansion." -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK THEATER EMPLOYEES TO GO ON STRIKE. Slovak theater employees on 22 February went on strike to protest the Ministry of Culture's failure to meet trade union demands, Slovak media reported. The unions demanded one week ago, among other things, that state-run theaters become independent legal entities and that theater directors be selected in open competitions. Many of the theaters taking part in the strike are government-funded. Premier Vladimir Meciar, speaking on Slovak Radio on 22 February, said the strike violated agreements with the government and called the unions' demands "purely political." He suggested that theater employees set up their own private theaters so that they themselves can decide "about everything, including economic questions." -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK PETITION DRIVE FOR DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS DRAWS TO CLOSE. The petition drive for a referendum on whether the Slovak president should be elected directly ended on 23 February, Slovak media reported. Organized by seven opposition parties, the drive lasted for 46 days. One week ago, the petition committee announced that it had already collected more than the 350,000 required signatures. The coalition parties are opposed to a referendum, saying it is illegal to try to change the constitution through a plebiscite. But the opposition parties want a vote on direct presidential elections to take place in June. -- Jiri Pehe HUNGARIAN FARMERS LAUNCH PROTEST. The National Federation of Hungarian Farmers have started a three-day protest today against tax and social insurance laws that took effect on 1 January, Hungarian media reported. The decision to stage the protest came after the federation broke off talks with Finance and Agriculture Ministry officials at the end of last week. The farmers intend to block roads in 200 locations throughout the country. Meanwhile, the government has renewed its offer to reach a compromise on several parts of the law but has ruled out revoking the law. -- Zsolt Mato ANOTHER VICTIM OF HUNGARIAN PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL. Sandor Puskas, president of the supervisory board of the State Privatization and Holding company (APV), submitted his resignation on 21 February, Vilaggazdasag reported. Board members requested that he resign after it was revealed that he had attended all APV meetings discussing the hiring of Martha Tocsik, the independent expert who received a record consultancy fee. The State Auditing Office, which has the power to appoint the APV supervisory board chief, has not yet named Puskas's replacement. Board members have said they would like to see Jozsef Saling, a board member representing the Interest Coordination Council, as the next president. -- Zsolt Mato SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MONTENEGRIN PREMIER SLAMS SERBIAN PRESIDENT. Montenegrin Premier Milo Djukanovic, in an interview with the weekly Vreme on 21 February, heaped criticism on Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, saying the Serbian president is "incompetent" to lead the country. "Milosevic is a man whose politics are obsolete, [and he] is incapable of making a strategic assessment of the challenges facing our state. It would be politically wrong to keep him in any political position in Yugoslavia," said Djukanovic. Milosevic, meanwhile, has used state television to fire back at his critics. One day after the Vreme interview, one TV commentary dubbed Djukanovic a traitor, saying the Montenegrin premier is bent on jeopardizing national interests. -- Stan Markotich MYSTERIOUS DEATH IN KOSOVO PRISON. The pro-Milosevic Belgrade daily Politika Ekspres reported on 24 February that the 30 year-old ethnic Albanian Besnik Restelica died in police custody recently because he hanged himself in his cell. The paper suggested he feared reprisals from his own people after having confessed to the involvement in the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK). Members of the Albanian community, however, said the young man had been tortured to death as part of a tough crackdown on suspected members of the UCK, international news agencies wrote. Meanwhile, the National Movement for Liberation of Kosovo (LKCK) has called for an "armed uprising" against Serbia. It also attacked the ethnic Albanian political establishment for its "pacifist politics which are in the interest of Serbia and not of their own people," AFP wrote. -- Patrick Moore ANOTHER ATTACK ON SFOR IN MOSTAR. In an second attack on the NATO-led Stabilization Force within two days, assailants threw a hand grenade at an Italian armored vehicle in Mostar on 21 February, international agencies reported. Four Italian soldiers traveling in the vehicle at the time of the attack were unhurt. A NATO spokesman said the identity of the assailants, who escaped by car, was unknown. Following the first attack (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 February 1997), the SFOR commander in Mostar, Gen Yves le Chatelier, said he would use the 10,000 men under his command to "do whatever is necessary to remove all forces that threaten us," AFP reported. Meanwhile, Valentin Coric, the Croatian police chief in Mostar, has said that charges have been filed against 11 prominent Muslims in connection with Muslim-Croatian clashes in the city earlier this month. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROATIA URGED TO PROTECT ALL REMAINING SERBS. U.S. Ambassador Peter Galbraith said that the reintegration of eastern Slavonia into Croatia will succeed only if Serbs all over Croatia feel secure, Novi List wrote on 23 February. He said that Croatian Serbs and Croats alike should be able to return to their homes anywhere in Croatia in safety. Galbraith also urged the reintroduction of the Serbs into the political process, which Zagreb has already promised it will do. -- Patrick Moore TUDJMAN TO SEEK RE-ELECTION AS PRESIDENT. The ruling Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) announced at its annual congress on 23 February that Croatian President Franjo Tudjman will run in the presidential elections scheduled for later this year, Vecernji list reported on 24 February. The pro-government daily Vjesnik commented last week that Tudjman's candidacy demonstrates that the Croatian leader "has recovered from his illness very well, is in good health, and has reached his former condition". Tudjman, reported to be ill with cancer, will run for his third term in office. As founder and leader of the HDZ, he won the first democratic elections in Croatia some seven years ago. -- Daria Sito Sucic FRENCH PRESIDENT IN ROMANIA. Jacques Chirac, during a state visit to Romania on 21-22 February, held talks with his Romanian counterpart, Emil Constantinescu, Premier Victor Ciorbea and other senior Romanian officials, including former President Ion Iliescu, international media reported. Chirac is the first foreign head of state to pay an official visit to Romania since the victory of democratic forces in the November 1996 elections. Talks focused on Romania's efforts to join European and Euro-atlantic structures and how to boost bilateral trade and French investment in Romania. Chirac repeated his country's support for Romania's integration into NATO in the first wave of admissions. -- Dan Ionescu ROMANIAN NATIONALIST LEADER OUSTED, EXILED KING'S CITIZENSHIP RESTORED. The Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) on 22 February ousted its leader, Gheorghe Funar, blaming him for the party's poor showing in the November elections, Radio Bucharest reported. Valeriu Tabara, a former agriculture minister, has been elected interim president until the party's national convention, scheduled for next month. He said the party will change its anti-Hungarian nationalist stance. Meanwhile, the Romanian government has restored the citizenship of former King Mihai and his family, international media reported on 21 February. In a first reaction, the royal household said the act was contributing to "national reconciliation" at a time when "sacrifices are demanded of all Romanians." Mihai, who lives in Switzerland, has announced he will pay a six-day visit to Romania beginning 28 February. -- Zsolt Mato and Dan Ionescu BULGARIA'S EURO-LEFT ELECTS LEADERSHIP. The 3,000 or so members of the new Euro-Left party have elected a 20-strong political council and Alexander Tomov as party chairman, Reuters and Duma reported. Tomov is chairman of the Civic Union of the Republic (GOR), one of the three groups that belong to Euro-Left. The other two groups are the Movement for Social Humanism and a group of Bulgarian Socialist Party deputies opposed to former Premier Zhan Videnov, who recently left the party. Euro-Left espouses the principles of social democracy and aims at membership in the Socialist International. It will participate in the campaign for the April parliamentary elections. -- Maria Koinova WORLD BANK RECOMMENDATIONS TO BULGARIA. During his visit in Bulgaria on 23 February, World Bank Director for Southeastern Europe Kenneth Lay said that speeding up reforms was the only way to solve the current economic crisis in Bulgaria. He recommended the liberalization of fuel and grain prices and the lifting of import and export duties on grain as a way to avert shortages. Lay also said that the World Bank is ready to grant another loan to help the unemployed after the closure of unprofitable enterprises. According to 24 Chasa, he also commented that the government could sell off 100% the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company if the highest possible price were to be paid. -- Maria Koinova TURKEY TO EXPEL BULGARIAN TURKS. Turkey plans to expel an estimated 200,000 Turkish Muslim Bulgarian citizens who do not have the proper documentation to reside in Turkey, Western media reported on 21 February. Balkan Muslim emigre groups in Turkey are asking the Turkish Interior Ministry to review the expulsion decree, which is due to go into effect on 1 April. -- Lowell Bezanis PROTESTS CONTINUE IN ALBANIA . . . At least 5,000 people staged a peaceful, if noisy, protest in the southern port of Vlora on 23 February, Reuters reported. It was the 19th straight day of demonstrations there following the collapse of several pyramid schemes in which many Albanians lost their life savings. The protesters on 21 February rejected an offer by President Sali Berisha to compensate them with assets from a local salt mine and gas station. The next day, a state commission announced that investors in the collapsed Gjallica scheme would get only a fraction of their money back. The pyramid, which had attracted much money in Vlora, had $145 million in debts but only $28 million in assets. The protesters also expressed their support for 53 hunger-striking students, who have blockaded themselves in the university since 20 February to demand the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi. -- Patrick Moore . . . WHILE BERISHA LASHES OUT AT FOES. Berisha has meanwhile continued to give speeches across the country in connection with his expected re- election to the presidency in March. His return to office seems a foregone conclusion, since the president is elected by the parliament, which is controlled by Berisha's Democratic Party (PD). Speaking in Shkoder on 22 February, he repeated his charge that "the communists" are trying to foment unrest as a means to retake power. He earlier slammed 14 members of his own party, including former cabinet ministers who had joined in the calls for Meksi to resign, the BBC reported. German media noted that the government has taken an increasingly shrill tone against Voice of America and Deutsche Welle's coverage of the disturbances. -- Patrick Moore [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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