|The business of art lies just in this--to make that understood and felt which, in the form of an argument, might be incomprehensible and inaccessible. - Leo Tolstoy|
No. 42, Part II, 28 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 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ The 7 March issue of OMRI's journal, TRANSITION, includes these articles: BALKAN UNREST - Pyramid Schemes Leave Albania on Shaky Ground - Back to the Basics in Bulgaria - Protests in Serbia Raise Hopes of Reconciliation in Kosovo - In Post-Dayton Balkans, Change Comes Where It's Least Expected PLUS... - RUSSIA: Chernomyrdin: A Prime Minister Without Politics - VIEWPOINT: Azerbaijan: Democracy in a State of Emergency and Reviving the Black Sea... For subscription information about OMRI's new monthly, send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENTARY ROUNDUP. The parliamentary Human Rights Commission has said that banning the death penalty in Ukraine now would be "untimely," ITAR-TASS reported on 27 February. It proposes a gradual introduction of life imprisonment, saying that it is taking into consideration public opinion and the lack of facilities for maintaining life prisoners. The Council of Europe sharply criticized Ukraine last month for failing to honor its commitment to stop executions. Meanwhile, the parliament has passed an amendment granting Ukrainian citizenship to all citizens of the former USSR who have been permanent residents in Ukraine since the country gained independence in 1991. Another amendment stipulates that Ukraine will not extradite Ukrainian citizens, except in special cases stipulated by international law and approved by the Ukrainian parliament. In other news, the radical right Ukrainian National Assembly has expelled several of its extremist members in an effort to become a parliamentary-style party, NTV reported on 27 February. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev ANOTHER ANTI-KUCHMA PLOT REVEALED IN UKRAINIAN PRESS. The Ukrainian newspaper Nezavisimost has published an article alleging that several Ukrainian deputies have been collaborating with Russia to remove President Leonid Kuchma from power, Izvestiya and NTV reported on 27 February. According to several unconfirmed documents, a team was to start a disinformation campaign linking the November killing of deputy Yevhen Shcherban to Kuchma and Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko. An official from a "foreign power" (meaning Russia) is reported to have felt that Kuchma should be removed by the end of the year because of his pro-Western orientation and that those who participated in his ouster could replace him. In mid-January, a similar article appeared in Vseukrainskiye vedomosti alleging Russian officials were plotting a disinformation campaign that would lead to Kuchma's impeachment. There has been no official reaction from Kyiv to the article, and the editor- in-chief of Nezavisimost was unavailable to respond to NTV's questions. -- Ustina Markus RUSSIAN MILITARY DELEGATION IN UKRAINE. A Russian military delegation headed by Col.-Gen. Viktor Smirnov, commander of the Missile and Space Defense Forces, has arrived in Kyiv for talks about Russia's continued use of an early-warning radar station on Ukrainian territory, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 February. The Ukrainian side will be represented in the talks by the commander of the Air Defense Forces Oleksandr Stetsenko. Ukraine and Russia want an agreement on an early warning system in case of a missile attack and a system to monitor the cosmic air space. The same day, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Andreev said Russia will not participate in August naval exercises on the Black Sea with other NATO and Partnership for Peace countries because it would "complicate the situation in the region." -- Ustina Markus HUMAN RIGHTS IN BELARUS. According to the Chairwoman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Tatsyana Pratsko, Belarus is "on a par with Iran or Iraq" as regards human rights, Belapan reported on 26 February. Pratsko said the least respect is being shown for civil rights, such as personal freedom and security, equality before the law, presumption of innocence, freedom from interference in private life, and freedom of movement. Pratsko considers the requirement of residence registration to be "the crudest violation of the right to free choice of abode." Other rights most frequently abused are freedom of speech, the right to receive and spread information, and the freedom to hold peaceful demonstrations, she noted. -- Sergei Solodovnikov NEW ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER NOMINATED. President Lennart Meri on 27 February named Deputy Chairman of the Coalition Party Mart Siimann as candidate for prime minister, ETA reported. Siimann, a 50-year-old psychologist, was the director-general of state-run Eesti TV and the private station RTV. He is required to submit his government's program to the parliament within 14 days. If it is approved by a majority of deputies, he has seven days to present his cabinet to the president for final approval. Siimann is likely to get the support of about two-thirds of the parliament, but it is still unclear if any other parties will join the minority coalition. Siimann has said that he will retain most ministers from the previous government. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER APPROVED. The Saeima on 27 February approved the appointment of Roberts Zile, head of the parliamentary budget and finance committee, as finance minister, Reuters reported. The portfolio has been at the center of controversy since October 1996, when Aivars Kreituss had to resign after being expelled by the Democratic Party Saimnieks (DPS). Premier Andris Skele filled the post temporarily but later resigned as premier in the wake of the controversy caused by the appointment of DPS candidate Vasilijs Melniks as new finance minister (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 January 1997). Unable to find a candidate acceptable to Skele, the DPS has had to accept Zile, who is a deputy of For the Fatherland and Freedom. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH SOLIDARITY PROVES INTRANSIGENT OVER CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES. Solidarity has sent a note to Sejm speaker Jozef Zych outlining its position on constitutional issues, Polish media reported on 27 February. It argues that "it is imperative to guarantee the protection of the right to life from conception to natural death." The constitution preamble should invoke God's name and stress the heritage of Christian faith and culture, according to Solidarity. It should also stress the achievements of the pre-war Second Republic and pay tribute to patriotic resistance "against foreign domination from 1944 to 1989." Solidarity insists that two drafts of the constitution be put to a referendum. Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, the secretary of the Catholic Episcopate, has come out in support of the Solidarity statement "as a first step toward negotiations." The main parliamentary parties, including the co-ruling Democratic Left Alliance, were very critical of the statement. Labor Union leader Ryszard Bugaj called it "unacceptable." -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH DEPUTIES STRIPPED OF PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY. The lower house on 27 February voted to strip three deputies from the extremist Republican Party of their parliamentary immunity, Czech media reported. Republican leader Miroslav Sladek is suspected of spreading national and racial hatred when he told a January demonstration against the Czech-German declaration about his regret that more Germans were not killed during World War II. The two other deputies, Josef Krejsa and Rudolf Smucr, are wanted by the police for kicking wreaths during a memorial ceremony in Terezin, the site of a Nazi ghetto for Jews during World War II. Another two Republican deputies suspected of assault and national and racial hatred, respectively, were not stripped of their immunity. Most governing coalition deputies voted in favor of stripping the immunity of all five, while most Social Democratic deputies voted against. -- Victor Gomez CZECH GOVERNING COALITION AGREES ON RENT DEREGULATION. The leaders of the Czech governing coalition on 27 February agreed at a special deregulation conference that rent controls are to be almost completely lifted by 2000, Czech media reported. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus said that from that year on, rent controls will apply only to housing for certain segments of society, such as those who are disabled. The coalition also agreed that rent controls be gradually lifted and at different speeds in communities of different sizes. According to a Finance Ministry proposal, rents are to increase in Prague by 100% this year, while they will go up by 62% in cities with more than 100,000 residents. The state will also offer social assistance to low income earners as compensation for the deregulation. -- Victor Gomez SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES AGAINST GOVERNMENT DIRECTIVE. The Constitutional Court has ruled that government directives on issuing and trading National Property Fund (FNM) bonds are unconstitutional, Slovak media reported on 27 February. Forty-six deputies had appealed to the court to examine the directives, which, they argued, contravene the laws on mass privatization and securities. The court ruled that, under Slovak law, only the Securities Bourse, the RM-System Slovakia, and legal entities authorized by the Ministry of Finance, can organize securities markets. As the Slovak government granted the FNM the power to do so, the government went beyond its powers, according to the court. The government now has six months to amend the directives to comply with the law. -- Anna Siskova SLOVAK RULING PARTY "AFRAID" OF AUTHORITIAN REGIME. The Movement for Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) is not entirely opposed to direct presidential elections, HZDS deputy Jan Cuper said. He added that a constitutional guarantee should be introduced to prevent the abuse of power in that office, otherwise the presidency could be used to create an authoritarian regime. Cuper noted that Premier Vladimir Meciar is drawing up an amendment to the Constitution that, he noted, should "solve" the problem of the Constitutional Court's power, Slovak media reported. According to Meciar, the Constitutional Court should not be empowered to interpret the constitution but rather should focus on deciding whether laws are in accordance with the constitution. In other news parliamentary spokesman Ivan Gasparovic (HZDS) has discussed with U.S. Ambassador Ralph Johnson the Slovak referendum on NATO membership. -- Anna Siskova HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES CONCESSIONS TO FARMERS' DEMANDS. The cabinet on 27 February approved proposals to meet most demands by farmers who have been protesting since the beginning of this week, Hungarian media reported. Tax procedures are to be simplified and farmers' tax and social insurance burdens eased. Small-scale protests are continuing throughout the country, and farmers' representatives will decide whether to accept the government's offer later today at a mass rally in Kiskoros, south Hungary. Istvan Jakab, president of the National Federation of Farmers, said the cabinet's concessions meet only some of the federation's demands. He added that his organization intends to proceed with plans to stage a nationwide road-blocking protest on 10 March. Meanwhile, Sandor Orosz, chairman of the parliament's agriculture committee, acknowledged the legitimacy of the farmers' demands but criticized the cabinet for "giving in" to the protests. -- Zsolt Mato SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN HUNGER STRIKES CONTINUE. Forty-six students in the southern town of Gjirokaster have launched a hunger strike to show solidarity with hunger strikers in the city of Vlora, where students are demanding the resignation of the government (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 February 1997), local media reported. Meanwhile in Tirana, Premier Alexander Meksi told the parliament that the country is on the verge of total economic collapse. International media reported that police blockaded main roads in the capital city, cordoning off much of the university area. Students staged a second day of protests and boycotted classes. -- Stan Markotich MILOSEVIC TO FACE SOCIALIST-DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGE? Bogoljub Karic, one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in Serbia, is rumored to be considering forming a Social Democratic Party to directly challenge President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia in republican elections slated for this year, Belgrade independent media reported on 27 February. Dnevni Telegraf said that Karic's party would include such high-profile members and possible parliamentary candidates as former Serbian Premier Milan Panic. While Karic himself did not confirm the reports, his television station BK Television reported he will run for president in elections also slated for this year. But Vecernje novosti runs an article today downplaying announcements of Karic's interest in politics, noting he has not yet announced his candidacy. In other news, deans of several faculties voted to sack the controversial and staunchly pro-Milosevic rector of Belgrade University on 27 February. The deans, however, have no authority to enforce that decision. -- Stan Markotich IS CRACKDOWN ON MOSTAR NATIONALISTS ONLY A BLUFF? Following the UN report on the violent clashes in Mostar earlier this month, both Croatia and Bosnian Croats have begun a crackdown on Mostar's Croatian warlords (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 February 1997). Croatia has arrested the leader of Mostar's paramilitary mafia, Mladen Naletilic Tuta, while Bosnian Croats have arrested five Croatian men and issued warrants for the arrest of another three, according to Reuters. But UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko said the arrest of criminals and the UN police report were two separate issues. He noted that if this were a crackdown on organized crime, it was "extremely welcome." But at the same time, he said the UN cannot confirm any of the arrests. Some analysts suspect the Croatian government of bluffing, since it has come under pressured from the international community to exert influence on Bosnian Croat hard- liners in Mostar. Meanwhile, U.S. ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith has met with Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic to underscore Zagreb's obligation to help the Bosnian peace process, Hina reported on 27 February. -- Daria Sito Sucic BOSNIAN COUNCIL OF MINISTERS AGREE ON FOREIGN DEBT BILL. The Bosnian Council of Ministers on 27 February reached agreement on a bill regulating the country's foreign debt, Oslobodjenje reported. The draft law was proposed by the Office of the High Representative to Bosnia- Herzegovina. Boro Bosic, the council's Serbian co-chairman, said it has been forwarded to the parliament for urgent consideration. The adoption of such a law is one of the conditions for a stand-by loan from the IMF and for an international donors' conference on postwar aid to Bosnia, Hina reported. In other news, economic experts from Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and Croatia met on 26 February in Banja Luka, Bosnia's Serbian entity, to discuss privatization and employment in the Bosnian Federation and the Republika Srpska, Onasa reported. Eric de Mill, chief of the UN Development Program mission to Bosnia, presided over the meeting. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROATIA, INDONESIA SIGN TWO AGREEMENTS. Croatia and Indonesia on 27 February signed agreements on economic and technical cooperation and on air traffic, Hina reported. The two countries are expected to sign soon agreements on avoiding double taxation and protecting investments. Also, the Croatian and Indonesian oil companies--INA and Kondur Petroleum-- have signed a letter of intent on technical assistance in the exploitation of oil and gas. Croatian Premier Zlatko Matesa is visiting Indonesia at the invitation of Indonesian President Suharto. His visit is aimed at promoting economic cooperation between the two countries. -- Daria Sito Sucic SLOVENIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES GOVERNMENT. The Slovenian legislature on 27 February voted in favor of Premier Janez Drnovsek's cabinet, Radio Slovenija reported. The new government was formed after three months of wrangling since the November 1996 elections. It is dominated by Drnovsek's Liberal Democratic Party and includes members of Marjan Podobnik's conservative Slovenian People's Party and the Pensioners' Democratic party. The new government is expected to be able to count on the support of 49 of the legislature's 90 members. -- Stan Markotich ROMANIAN POLICE CHIEF REPLACED. At the request of Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu, the cabinet on 27 February dismissed Gen. Costica Voicu, head of the Romanian police force, Libertatea reported. Col. Pavel Abraham, until now chief of the Criminal Investigations Department, has been named Costica's successor. Government spokesman Eugen Serbanescu said Costica was replaced in order to improve the way the ministry functions. Responding to the move, former Interior Minister Senator Doru Ioan Taracila accused the government of politically interfering in the ministry's work. -- Zsolt Mato OSCE OFFICIAL IN MOLDOVA ON DNIESTER MEMORANDUM. Donald Johnson, head of the OSCE mission in Moldova, has urged the OSCE Permanent Council not to endorse the memorandum between Moldova and the breakaway Dniester Republic, Infotag reported on 27 February. The memorandum on resolving relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol was initialed last June but has not yet been signed. Johnson said the document does not correspond to the "basic OSCE principles of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova." He added that the signature of the document could set an "extremely unfortunate precedent," warning that each side has different interpretations of parts of the document. While Moldova called for revisions, the Dniester authorities insisted on signing the memorandum without any amendments. -- Zsolt Mato ECONOMIC COLLAPSE CATASTROPHIC FOR MOST BULGARIANS. Bulgaria's interim government on 27 February announced it will increase the price of heating, electricity, and coal by 257%, the Bulgarian press reported. Services offered by the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company are to be raised eight-fold. The new prices will go into effect in March. In the meantime, the government will try to find ways to compensate the country's poorest citizens. Some 20 million ECU provided by the EU will be distributed among 150,000 families beginning on 23 March. Meanwhile, the National Statistics Institute has revealed that 89% of Bulgarians say that they are poorer than they were last year. The number of those who are living off their savings has doubled since 1995. Almost every fourth Bulgarian has run up debts. In other news, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, speaking in Bonn, commented that "Bulgaria is on the brink of economic catastrophe," international agencies reported. He appealed to Sofia not to delay economic reforms any longer. -- Maria Koinova HUMANITARIAN AID TO BULGARIA. A UN mission arrived in Sofia on 27 February to assess the need for humanitarian aid, international agencies reported. "Bulgaria needs humanitarian aid and any support is welcome," Vice President Todor Kavaldzhiev told Bulgarian Radio the same day. Hungarian-born American philanthropist George Soros has donated $1.8 million through the Sofia branch of his Open Society Foundation, mainly to secure medicines for the Institute for Emergency Aid in Sofia and other hospitals outside the capital, RFE/RL reported on 25 February. Part of the assistance will go to set up soup kitchens around the country and to support the disabled and needy university and school students. -- Maria Koinova [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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