|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
No. 41, Part II, 27 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 CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE CONTINUED CABINET RESHUFFLE IN UKRAINE. President Leonid Kuchma has named three new ministers after firing their predecessors for unsatisfactory performance (see OMRI Daily Digest, 26 February 1997), international media reported. Former Deputy Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov takes over the finance portfolio, while former Economy Minister Vasyl Hureyev is the new machine-building and defense conversion minister. Yurii Yekhanurov, head of the State Property Fund, has been appointed economy minister. Former Donetsk Oblast Governor Volodymyr Shcherban has been offered the post of statistics minister. President Kuchma said the cabinet shake-up--which is the second this month--was necessary to improve the country's economy. Volodymyr Horbulin, a close associate of the president, said changes in the cabinet will continue, but he stressed that Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko will remain in his post. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev BELARUSIAN ECONOMIC CRISIS DEEPENS. The parliament has adopted a resolution criticizing the government's agricultural policies, Belapan reported on 26 February. Henadz Usyukevich, head of the parliamentary Committee for the Development of the Agro-industrial Complex, said the country is threatened by major food shortages. He alleged that the government is extorting money from farmers by forcing them to sell foodstuffs to the state cheaply and that it is also withholding benefits from those who refuse to sell their produce at state prices. The same day, an RFE/RL correspondent reported that the IMF has compiled a critical report on Belarus. Although the IMF has refused to comment on the existence of the report, Belarusian newspapers published fragments of the document, which asserts that the state has "interfered excessively" in almost every aspect of the economy. -- Ustina Markus LATVIA RECOGNIZES CURRENT BORDER WITH RUSSIA. Aivars Vovers, head of the Latvian delegation discussing the Latvian-Russian border, said that at talks in Moscow on 24-25 February, Latvia agreed to recognize the current border, BNS reported the next day. Latvia is no longer demanding that the border agreement include a reference to the 1920 Riga Peace Treaty, which stated that the Abrene district belonged to Latvia. Vovers said that the border agreement would not mention Abrene property issues, but he added that he hoped those issues could be resolved in another way. The next round of talks are scheduled to begin in Riga on 20 March. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO GREECE. Algirdas Brazauskas, during his three-day visit to Greece from 24-26 February, met with Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulos and Prime Minister Kostas Simitis, BNS reported. The two presidents agreed on all major foreign-policy issues, and Stephanopoulos confirmed Greece's support for Lithuania's admission to NATO and the EU. Foreign Ministers Algirdas Saudargas and Theodoros Pangolos signed an agreement on educational, cultural, and scientific cooperation. Parliamentary chairman Apostolos Kaklamanis assured Brazauskas on 25 February that Greece will soon ratify Lithuania's association agreement with the EU. -- Saulius Girnius SUSPECTED ARSON ATTACK ON WARSAW SYNAGOGUE. The entrance to Warsaw's only synagogue was destroyed soon after midnight on 26 February in what appears to have been an arson attack, international media reported. "Our initial conclusions show the cause was probably arson," a Warsaw police spokesman said, adding that the police believed some kind of "inflammable substance was thrown in through a window over the entrance." Jewish community leaders invited Warsaw inhabitants to attend an evening service on 26 February in a show of solidarity. Several hundred filled the synagogue, including the Warsaw Mayor Marcin Swiecicki and deputies. President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Catholic Episcopate Secretary Tadeusz Pieronek, and the Internal and Foreign Affairs Ministries condemned the attack as "barbaric." The Lauder Foundation, which aims to preserve Jewish culture and has its headquarters above the synagogue, received telephone warnings of a bomb attack two days previously. Bomb disposal experts found nothing suspicious at that time. -- Jakub Karpinski BULGARIAN PRESIDENT IN POLAND. Petar Stoyanov arrived in Poland on 26 February on the first leg of his tour of East Central European countries. Addressing the Polish parliamentarians, he noted that in addition to seeking NATO membership, Bulgaria wants to join the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). But Bulgaria's debt of more than $100 million to Poland is an obstacle. Spokesman Antoni Styrczula said that President Aleksander Kwasniewski is considering allowing Bulgaria to settle the debt after joining CEFTA. Stoyanov is also due to visit the Czech Republic and Hungary over the next few days. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH DEPUTIES APPROVE LEGISLATION ON BORDER WITH SLOVAKIA . . . The lower chamber of the Czech parliament on 26 February approved a constitutional amendment delineating the Czech-Slovak border, Czech media reported. The amendment is based on a border agreement reached in early 1996 by the Czech and Slovak Interior Ministries. Slovak deputies last year approved an amendment based on that agreement. But the Czech parliament rejected an equivalent amendment, with opposition parties arguing that the accord was unjust because the Czech village of U Sabotu would wind up in Slovakia. It has now approved the amendment because the government has committed itself in an accompanying resolution to compensate those inhabitants of U Sabotu who want to move to the Czech Republic. Slovakia is giving up the village of Sidonie. The amendment still has to be approved by the parliament's upper chamber. -- Jiri Pehe . . . AND URGENTLY-NEEDED HEALTH-INSURANCE LAW. The same day, the Czech legislature approved a bill defining which health care services are to be paid for by health insurance companies, Czech media reported. The law had to be adopted quickly because the Constitutional Court last year ruled that various government decrees on the health insurance system were unconstitutional and would become invalid on 1 April 1997. In the absence of a new law, the Czech health care system would have had to revert to the socialist, state-run model that existed before 1990. With such a prospect looming, the law, which is valid only until June 1998, received the conditional support of the opposition Social Democrats, who otherwise are opposed to it. The government is currently drawing up a comprehensive reform of the health care system. -- Jiri Pehe OECD DENIES SPECIFYING CONDITIONS FOR SLOVAK MEMBERSHIP. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has not specified conditions for Slovak membership in the organization, an OECD official told CTK on 26 February. The denial follows Premier Vladimir Meciar's claim that speedy privatization of banks is a condition for entry into the OECD. The official noted that bank privatization is an important issue but by no means the only one. He added that the OECD is interested in "transparent and just" privatization and in how foreign investors are treated. The Slovak parliament has halted the privatization of banks till 2003, while the government asked the president to return the law on bank privatization to the legislature. -- Anna Siskova GERMAN PRESIDENT IN HUNGARY. Meeting with representatives of the 200,000 ethnic Germans living in Hungary, Roman Herzog on 26 February praised that country for its "exemplary" minority policy, Hungarian media reported. The previous day, the German president had reassured the Hungarian parliament that Germany supports Hungary's bid for EU and NATO integration. He warned, however, that aspiring member countries will have to bear most of the integration costs. He also called for a European partnership with Russia and Ukraine in order to maintain peace in Europe. Herzog also spoke with Jewish Holocaust survivors who were protesting Germany's delay in making compensation payments. He said an agreement with Hungary on the issue would be signed "within a very short period." -- Zsolt Mato SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE FOUR ALBANIAN HUNGER STRIKERS IN SERIOUS CONDITION. Four students taking part in a hunger strike in Vlora to demand the resignation of the government are in serious condition, AFP reported on 26 February. Some 45 students have been taking part in the protest action for the past eight days. Special police troops tried to break up the strike, but thousands of city residents forced them back from the university building, where the strike is taking place. Some shots were heard, and the crowd hurled stones at the troops. No injuries were reported. In a show of support for the students, some 120 people from Shkoder-- including rightist Mayor Bahri Borici--traveled in buses and cars to Vlora. People from other towns also arrived in Vlora to join the protests. Meanwhile in Gjirokastra, President Sali Berisha met with students but was jeered when he rejected their demands. -- Fabian Schmidt SECURITY IN TIRANA TO BE INCREASED. The Democratic Party has said it will increase security in the capital, Reuters reported. The party's central committee said it is imposing a "state of preparedness" to "guarantee stability in all of Albania." It pointed to plans by opposition parties to hold a rally in Tirana, but it was unclear what measures would be taken or how long they would be enforced. Security forces will likely maintain an increased presence until 8 March; if parliament is to re-elect Berisha for a second term, it must do so by that date. Some 300 Tirana University students have demanded a meeting with Berisha to discuss violence against peaceful demonstrators. They have also threatened to start a hunger strike if Berisha does not agree to meet with them. -- Fabian Schmidt MONTENEGRIN OFFICIAL SPEAKS OUT ON RELATIONS WITH SERBIA . . . Another top ranking Montenegrin official on 26 February has publicly said there are fundamental disagreements between the governments of Serbia and Montenegro, Nasa Borba reported the next day. Montenegrin parliamentary speaker Svetozar Marovic defended Premier Milo Djukanovic against recent scathing criticism by the Belgrade state media. He added that the premier's concerns about the authoritarianism of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's regime were by no means personal or isolated (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 February 1997). Marovic, however, stressed that he did not advocate outright independence for Montenegro. If the federation were to stay together, politicians would have to learn to "push ideology aside," he commented. -- Stan Markotich . . . WHILE MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT SAYS HE WANTS TO COOPERATE WITH BELGRADE. Meanwhile, Momir Bulatovic is seeking to ease tension between the two republics. In a 26 February letter to the U.S. Congress, he said he stood for working together with Milosevic. "My chief political mandate is cooperation with Milosevic because both of us have spoken out for democratic and economic development in Yugoslavia," he wrote. In other news, leaders of the Serbian opposition Zajedno coalition met with exiled Prince Alexander near his London home on 26 February, Reuters reported. Vuk Draskovic, head of the Serbian Renewal Movement and an arch-advocate of the restoration of the monarchy, commented that Alexander could have a profound political role in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. He compared the exiled monarch to Spain's King Juan Carlos, who ushered in democratic reforms. -- Stan Markotich UN RELEASES "SHOCKING" REPORT ON MOSTAR CLASHES . . . The UN has released its report on the violent clashes between Muslims and Croats earlier this month that left one dead and 34 wounded, according to AFP on 26 February. The report includes photographs of three plain-clothes Croatian police officers firing on an unarmed retreating Muslim crowd. The Croatian police have been suspected of persecuting Muslims from the western half of Mostar, which they control, but few direct accusations have been made against them. Mostar Croatian Mayor Ivan Prskalo said the Croatian side rejects the report as incomplete, Oslobodjenje reported on 27 February. But Deputy High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina Michael Steiner urged the International Contact Group members to press Croats to arrest and dismiss those singled out in the report. British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said the report is "shocking" and tells an "appalling story." He called on the Croatian government to exert influence over the Croatian authorities in Mostar to abide by the report's recommendations, Reuters reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic . . . WHILE CROATS CRACKS DOWN ON NATIONALISTS. Meanwhile, Steiner said he has reports that 20 people have been arrested in Mostar over the past couple of days but not the Croatian police officers shown on the photographs in the UN report, Oslobodjenje reported. The daily also reported that, in the apparent crackdown on Croatian nationalists in West Mostar, another prominent warlord--Vinko Martinovic--has escaped arrest. In other news, the Croatian police on 27 February said they have arrested Mladen Naletilic Tuta, the head of a crime ring in the Croat- held part of Mostar, international agencies reported. According to Hina, Tuta was arrested on 24 February near Split and brought to prison in Zagreb for questioning. But no charges have been filed against him. -- Daria Sito Sucic NEW SUPREME COURT HEAD IN CROATIA. The chief judicial screening committee on 25 February approved the government's recommendation of Milan Vukovic (64) to head Croatia's top judicial body, international news agencies reported. One of Vukovic's new duties will be to supervise the 13 April local elections. Vukovic is considered a loyalist to President Franjo Tudjman and his Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), and his appointment is widely seen as yet another move to thwart the independence of the judiciary. Last year the government began moves to oust the independent-minded former Chief Justice Krunoslav Olujic, who finally lost his job in January. Olujic validated the results of the October 1995 vote in which the HDZ suffered a number of humiliating losses. -- Patrick Moore DONORS' CONFERENCE PROMISES MACEDONIA $65 MILLION. Delegates to the Brussels donors conference sponsored by the EU and the World Bank have promised Macedonia $65 million in loans for 1997, Nova Makedonija reported on 27 February. The EU will provide $50 million of that amount as a 15-year credit with a ten-year grace period. The loans partly cover an expected $85 million budgetary shortfall. Kenneth Lay, director of the World Bank's Southeast Europe Department, said that "more than any other country in the region, Macedonia has adopted and aggressively pursued the kind of reform we want to see," Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, on a visit to Macedonia on 26 February, said he supported Macedonia's bid for full EU and NATO membership. In addition to meeting with President Kiro Gligorov, Scalfaro signed an agreement protecting Italian investment in Macedonia and on cooperation between the countries' foreign ministries. -- Michael Wyzan and Fabian Schmidt CORRUPTION CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST BUCHAREST COUNCILOR. Ioan Itu, a councilor in the Bucharest Mayor's Office, has been detained on bribery charges, Radio Bucharest reported on 26 February. This is the first arrest of a member of the ruling Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) since the CDR-dominated government launched a nation-wide campaign against corruption and economic crime. Itu is accused of trying to extort a computer from a Foreign Ministry employee in exchange for helping obtain commercial premises. The press office of the National Peasant Party-Christian Democratic (PNTCD), the main member of the CDR, said that Itu is practically unknown and that the PNTCD will not interfere with the course of justice. -- Dan Ionescu MOLDOVA AGREES TO LINK RUSSIAN PULLOUT TO DNIESTER ACCORD. President Petru Lucinschi has agreed to link the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Moldova's breakaway Dniester region to a political settlement for that territory, Reuters reported on 26 February. Lucinschi made the announcement at a press conference in Moscow, one day after he met with his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin. He added that the Russian contingent would be reduced from 6,000 to some 2,500 men, irrespective of the final political settlement of the Dniester conflict. He was also quoted as saying that the complete withdrawal of Russian troops without a peace accord would create a security vacuum in that region. Lucinschi is on his first visit abroad since he officially took office in mid- January. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIA, IMF CLOSE TO AGREEMENT ON CREDIT. IMF Bulgaria mission chief Anne McGuirk on 26 February said the fund will probably agree on a standby credit with the interim government, the daily Duma reported. The government is to draw up a letter of intent on its reform intentions before the mission leaves, by the end of next week. The IMF's executive board will consider that letter by the end of March, and the first tranche will be released immediately thereafter. The domestic debt will be reduced by repurchasing "ZUNK bonds" (government paper paying below market interest rates provided to banks in exchange for bad debts). The foreign exchange reserves will soon be increased by $150 million from the sale of Sodi Devnya. The IMF insists on full price liberalization and budgetary measures for the poor. Premier Stefan Sofiyanski will write the Paris Club of commercial creditors today requesting the rescheduling of $40-50 million due this year. -- Michael Wyzan TURKS RESCIND EXPULSION ORDER FOR BULGARIAN TURKS. The Turkish government has rescinded an order to expel thousands of Bulgarian Turks who do not have the proper documentation to reside in Turkey, Reuters reported on 25 February. The order became public knowledge last week. Defense Minister Turhan Tayan told the parliament that "nobody will be sent abroad and citizenship rights will be given." The expulsion order was opposed by both opposition and nationalist parties as well as Turkey's sizable Balkan emigre community. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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