|He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson|
No. 44, Part II, 04 March 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 ********************************************************************** OMRI, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Announcement: Due to a restructuring of operations at the Open Media Research Institute, OMRI will cease publication of the OMRI Daily Digest with the issue dated 28 March 1997. For more information on the restructuring of the Institute, please access the 21 November 1996 Press Release at: http://www.omri.cz/about/PressRelease.html On 2 April, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty will launch a daily news report, RFE/RL Newsline, on the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. A successor to the RFE/RL Daily Report and the OMRI Daily Digest, the new daily will nonetheless represent a major departure from its predecessors. In addition to analytic materials, RFE/RL Newsline will carry news gathered by the correspondents, bureaus, and broadcast services of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. RFE/RL will disseminate this new publication both electronically and via fax to all those now receiving the OMRI Daily Digest and for the time being under the same terms. OMRI will continue to publish the periodical Transition, for more information on Transition please access http://www.omri.cz/publications/transition/index.html or send a request for information to: transition-DD@omri.cz ********************************************************************* CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINE DENIES SELLING NERVE GAS TO CHINA. Hong Kong and Taiwanese newspapers accused Ukraine of selling 500 tons of sarin nerve gas to China, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 March. An unnamed Ukrainian official at the Ukrainian embassy in Beijing denied the reports, calling them "groundless conjectures." Other papers and observers also regarded the charges with skepticism, noting that China itself had been a victim of chemical warfare and has always come out against chemical weapons. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN AFFAIRS. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk denied allegations by Russian Duma Deputy Sergei Baburin that the upcoming NATO naval exercises in Ukraine are to include training for fighting against separatists, Ukrainian radio reported on 3 March. Baburin's claims implied that the maneuvers were directed against separatism in Crimea. Kuzmuk said the objective of the training was to offer humanitarian aid to a fictitious "Orange republic" which had just suffered an earthquake. The minister also denied that allowing U.S. naval ships to participate in the exercises was not meant to put pressure on Russian ships in Sevastopol. -- Ustina Markus ARRESTS REPORTED AFTER DEMONSTRATION IN BELARUS. Police arrested 16 people following the 2 March demonstration (see the OMRI Daily Digest, 3 March 1997), AFP and Belapan reported on 3 March. Some 5,000 people rallied in Minsk to celebrate the 930th anniversary of Belarus's capital, but the gathering soon turned into a protest against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's pro-Russian policies. The detainees are being held on public-disorder charges and face up to two weeks imprisonment. -- Ustina Markus EU PRESENTS ITS REPORT TO BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT. Henry Costo, head of the EU mission to Belarus, held a closed-door meeting with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 3 March to discuss the EU foreign ministers resolutions concerning the joint EU, OSCE, and Council of Europe report on the political situation in Belarus, international agencies reported. Costo said that Lukashenka asked him to refrain from publishing the report, which allegedly contains negative evaluations of the human rights and press freedom situations and the extent of democratization in Belarus. Costo, however, suggested that the report will be published in Belarus in the near future. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has reconfirmed its commitment to reduce official political and economic contacts with Belarus to a minimum, Belapan reported. The U.S. will suspend all of its aid programs except those that support free media and democratic institutions. -- Sergei Solodovnikov MORE PARTIES INVITED TO JOIN ESTONIAN COALITION. The ruling KMU coalition made up of the Coalition Party and three smaller pensioners' and farmers' parties on 3 March invited both of its former partners -- the right-leaning Reform Party (ER) and the left-leaning Center Party (EK) -- to form a new coalition, ETA reported. The KMU, whose member, Mart Siimann, is prime minister designate, has 41 parliament deputies, the ER 19, and the EK nine. ER Chairman Siim Kallas said that his party will consider the offer the next day and have an answer by 5 March. It seems unlikely that the ER would agree to be in a coalition that included the EK since they broke with the KMU after it began cooperating with the EK. -- Saulius Girnius BRITISH HIGH-RANKING DIPLOMAT VISITS LATVIA. Nicholas Bonsor, Minister of State at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs on 3 March in Riga that the first wave of NATO expansion will not be the last, BNS reported. They also discussed EU enlargement and improving bilateral relations, trade, finance, transport, shipping, and legal protection. Bonsor also met with Prime Minister Andris Skele and is scheduled to meet with President Guntis Ulmanis and Saeima Chairman Alfreds Cepanis. -- Saulius Girnius DANISH PRIME MINISTER IN POLAND. Poul Nyrup Rasmussen arrived in Poland on 4 March on a three-day visit. After talks with his Polish counterpart Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Rasmussen said Denmark supports Poland's prompt admittance to NATO and the EU. He mentioned a blueprint of an energy resources network linking the states around the Baltic Sea. It is a development of a plan of a "power-supply ring" around the Baltic Sea that was formulated in the Baltic States Council, Cimoszewicz explained. Now, the first issue on the agenda is to establish a natural gas network, he said. Poland could receive natural gas from Denmark and Norway. Rasmussen is the first Danish prime minister to visit Poland in 21 years, which is not surprising; according to old Warsaw Pact plans, Polish soldiers had the task of invading Denmark. The prime ministers signed an agreement on Danish economic and technological assistance to Poland. -- Jakub Karpinski POLES ON NATO, POLITICAL PARTIES, AND POLITICIANS. Poles see the co- ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) as a party dominated by NATO- membership supporters, according to a 22-23 February Sopot Social Research Bureau poll published in Rzeczpospolita. The respondents ranked the main Polish political parties that support Poland's membership in NATO as follows: 67% said that "all or the majority" of politicians within SLD want NATO membership, 65% thought the same was true for the Freedom Union, 61% for the Solidarity Electoral Action, 55% for the Labor Union, 52% for the Polish Peasant Party, and 47% for the Movement for Poland's Reconstruction. President Aleksander Kwasniewski topped the list of pro-NATO politicians in the opinion of his fellow citizens (88%) and Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz was second with 80%. A January Public Opinion Research Center poll found that 90% of Poles thought that Poland should be admitted to NATO. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH DEFENSE OFFICIALS COMMENT ON ALLEGED LOSS OF NATO DOCUMENTS. The army cannot find 100 of the 700 documents that NATO started giving to Partnership for Peace countries in 1994, Czech media have reported in the past few days. Several defense officials argued that the scandal surrounding the alleged loss of the documents at the Czech Defense Ministry is unnecessary and groundless. "It's all speculation. We haven't yet managed to prove that the documents really have been lost," Defense Ministry spokesman Milan Repka told Slovo. Some high-ranking civil servants at the ministry believe the information may have been leaked to the media by their fired colleagues. "We're not surprised that someone is giving out such information like that. We are annoyed, however, that it is done now, a couple of months before the NATO summit. It's quite clear what they're up to," a ministry official told CTK. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK REFERENDUM UPDATE. Christian Democratic Movement Deputy Ivan Simko on 3 March announced that the opposition has collected 521,580 signatures in support of a referendum on direct presidential elections, Slovak media reported. All signatures have been strictly checked, and those that looked suspicious were reportedly removed from the lists. The Slovak constitution requires the president to call a referendum under two conditions: if 350,000 signatures are collected or based on a parliamentary resolution. Simko said the petition committee will hand the lists to President Michal Kovac this week. A January poll released by the Slovak Statistical Office on 3 March showed that one in two Slovaks would participate in the referendum, of whom 88% would vote in favor and 7% would vote against, CTK reported. The poll showed that 28% would not participate while 20% were undecided. The referendum will be invalid unless at least 50% of the population takes part. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK ECONOMIC ROUNDUP. The parliamentary Committee for Economics, Privatization, and Business on 3 March asked the cabinet to take measures aimed at improving Slovakia's trade position, Narodna obroda reported. In January alone, Slovakia's trade deficit reached 7 billion crowns ($226 million), three times more than in January 1996, Pravda reported. One option being considered is the renewal of the import surcharge that was abolished on 1 January. Presidential spokesman Vladimir Stefko told TASR on 3 March that President Michal Kovac on 25 February signed a bill establishing an import-export bank. Finally, TASR reports that Kovac has returned the law that blocks the privatization of Slovak financial institutions until 2003. The government demanded last month that Kovac return the bill to the parliament for further discussion, and the legislation is expected to be placed on the parliament's agenda when the current session reconvenes on 12 March. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARY ARGUES AGAINST SLOVAKIA IN THE HAGUE. On the opening day of a lawsuit between Hungary and Slovakia in the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Hungary's legal representative, Gyorgy Szenasi, said that Slovakia's unilateral diversion of the Danube for a hydroelectric power project was an illegal act, international media reported on 4 March. The project was initially agreed on in 1977, when Hungary and Czechoslovakia decided to build a hydroelectric plant on their shared border. Budapest, however, halted construction in 1989, citing environmental concerns. The Slovaks pursued the plan and unilaterally diverted the Danube in 1992. The Hungarian delegation used a videotape to illustrate the environmental damage caused by the diversion. -- Zsofia Szilagyi HUNGARIAN FARMERS THREATEN TO CONTINUE PROTESTS. Farmers in eastern Hungary, who staged three days of protests against new tax and social insurance laws last week, will request police permits to stage more demonstrations. The announcement came after Finance Minister Peter Medgyessy turned down their invitation to hold more talks, Hungarian media reported. Medgyessy said that he sees no chance for further consultations, as the cabinet has already met the farmers' demands. -- Zsofia Szilagyi HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS CONFLICT OF INTEREST AND PRIVATIZATION BILLS. Arpad Goncz on 3 March signed into law a conflict of interest bill and amendment to the privatization law, Hungarian dailies reported. Goncz used his veto power for the first time in seven years when he refused to sign the two bills in January (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 and 6 January 1997). Parliament last week partly amended the privatization bill to satisfy one of Goncz's concerns but passed the conflict of interest bill unchanged. Since both bills were passed by a two thirds majority, Goncz is now compelled to sign. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CHAOS REIGNS THROUGHOUT ALBANIA. Army tanks entered the southern Albanian city of Gjirokaster on 4 March, according to Western agencies, citing ATA. Civilians armed with automatic weapons burned down Gjirokaster's police station on 3 March. In Vlora, earlier decimated by rioting, an Italian helicopter rescued 35 foreigners, flying them to Brindisi. Gunshots were heard overnight in Tirana, where a dusk-to-dawn curfew is in effect and police have instructions to shoot armed civilians without warning. The general prosecutor in Tirana warned that those convicted of fomenting armed insurrection will face capital punishment or life in jail, while looters and those erecting barricades will receive sentences of 15-25 years. Albania's ambassador to the U.K., Pavli Mihal Qesku, admitted that Vlora, Sarande, and a stretch along the coast were now in rebel hands but added "in the rest of the country the government is in control of everything," Reuters reported. -- Michael Wyzan BERISHA RE-ELECTED PRESIDENT, FIRES ARMY CHIEF. Albanian President Sali Berisha on 3 March was re-elected by parliament, which is dominated by his Democratic Party (PD), Western media reported. Berisha fired army chief of staff Sheme Kosova the next day, blaming him for failing to defend military bases from rioters. Kosova was replaced by General Adem Copani, Berisha's defense advisor. Meanwhile, under new rules requiring newspapers to submit stories to the government for approval and allowing them only to run the government version of the disturbances, only one newspaper, the PD's Rilindja Demokratike, appeared on 4 March. U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns issued a statement "strongly regretting" the 2 March declaration of a state of emergency and introduction of press censorship. He also criticized Berisha's re- election as "likely to increase polarization," according to AFP. Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo offered the EU's assistance in re- establishing order and arbitrating the conflict. -- Michael Wyzan SERB MOB ATTACKS MUSLIM HOMES, RUSSIAN TROOPS WATCH. Some 150 Serbs armed with sticks and clubs on 2 March burned down nine of 11 prefabricated houses built for Muslim returnees to the village of Gajevi, while the Russian soldiers stationed there watched the attack but did not intervene, international agencies reported. Gajevi is on the Serb-controlled side of a demilitarized separation zone in northeastern Bosnia that is patrolled by the Russian SFOR troops. Next day the SFOR troops set up roadblocks around the village. SFOR says that policing is the job of local police, and says the incident represents a failure of the Bosnian Serb police to maintain order in the separation zone. But Sead Jamakosmanovic, a Bosnian Federation government official, said Russian peacekeepers were to blame for failing to prevent the incident. -- Daria Sito Sucic NEW RIFT BETWEEN SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO OVER MEDIA. Montenegrin media accused the pro-government daily Borba and the state news agency Tanjug of being politically biased in favor of Serbia, although the two federal units within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia should have equal treatment in media founded by the federation, Nasa Borba reported. Borba and Tanjug were singled out for their recent attacks on Montenegrin Premier Milo Djukanovic following his criticism of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Meanwhile, the Serbian Renewal Movement, led by Vuk Draskovic, accused the state media of becoming increasingly aggressive in spreading false information on the state of affairs in the country. On the other side, the state-run daily Politika on 4 March accused the "opposition media"of being tendetious, one-sided and aggressive. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROATIA TO OPEN CONSULATE IN BANJA LUKA. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic on 3 March met with Banja Luka Catholic Bishop Franjo Komarica and announced that Croatia will soon open a consulate in that Bosnian Serb stronghold, Hina reported. Komarica said the remaining Banja Luka Croats were looking forward to the opening of the consulate, and that it would help improve their current situation. Komarica mentioned the unsolved issue of the two Banja Luka parish priests who had disappeared and whose fate was still unknown. In other news, Catholic authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina said on 28 February that churches and monasteries were being targeted for attack in the weeks leading up to the visit of Pope John Paul II to Sarajevo, scheduled for 12-13 April, AFP reported. A day earlier, an anonymous caller threatened to kill the Pope during the Sarajevo visit. -- Daria Sito Sucic CONSTANTINESCU ON TREATY WITH UKRAINE. At a meeting with potential foreign investors on 3 March, President Emil Constantinescu said Romania has "assumed a great risk" by deciding to give up any territorial claim on Ukraine in the pending basic treaty between the two countries, the daily Ziua reported. In a related development, several dailies report that leaflets denouncing the government's position on the treaty were found in Bucharest, Suceava and Turnu Severin. The leaflets also attacked the government's decision to allow foreign investors to buy land in Romania and called for military rule of the country. A spokesman for the Bucharest police said the views expressed in the leaflets "are reminiscent of the position of some political parties," the daily Cotidianul reports. The extremist Greater Romania Party has often called for military rule in the past, and opposes any concessions to Ukraine. The latter position is shared by the Party of Romanian National Unity and several semi-political organizations. -- Michael Shafir TURMOIL IN ROMANIAN NATIONALIST PARTY. The leadership of the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) will discuss the expulsion of former party Chairman Gheorghe Funar from the party, several dailies report. Although the move was allegedly prompted by Funar's private use of faxes and phones of the Cluj mayoralty he heads, the real reason is to be sought in the turmoil now affecting the PUNR. The Cluj branch of PUNR on 28 February decided to expel Ioan Gavra, the PUNR secretary general. The branch is dominated by Funar, who refuses to recognize the legality of his own dismissal as PUNR chairman on 22 February. Observers viewed this as an attempt by Funar to tackle his critics. Romanian media speculate that the party may be on the verge of splitting up. -- Michael Shafir OPPOSITION OFFENSIVE IN ROMANIA. Former President Ion Iliescu told well- wishers congratulating him on his 67th birthday that the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) will start monitoring the implementation of "Contract with Romania," the electoral program of the ruling Democratic Convention of Romania. He accused the government of failing to implement its electoral promises and of leading the country into an economic dead- end, Radio Bucharest and Romanian television reported on 3 March. In a related development, the PDSR announced it will launch a motion in the Chamber of Deputies demanding a debate on the government's agricultural policies. The Senate on 3 March was the scene of loud protests of the leader of the Greater Romania Party, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, who accused the government of intending to restore the monarchy. Tudor and several PDSR senators walked out in protest after a reply by a representative of the ruling coalition. -- Michael Shafir BULGARIA'S BREAD CRISIS. Former Prime Minister Zhan Videnov caused the bread crisis with his deliberate inaction and irresponsibility, claims today's Trud. The paper went on saying that there were at least three very lucrative grain deals that were not concluded due to a lack of response by the premier. Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Leonid Kerestezhiants, cited by Standart, said that Videnov had asked Russia for 150,000 metric tons of grain but did not even bother to do so in writing. According to Pari, Russia should soon deliver the mentioned quantity of wheat to Bulgaria. The deal should be finalized during the 9 March visit of Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Lobov to Sofia. -- Maria Koinova [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Sava Tatic ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to firstname.lastname@example.org 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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