|Some things have to be believed to be seen. - Ralph Hodgson|
No. 45, Part II, 05 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 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ In the 7 March issue of OMRI's journal, TRANSITION**: 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 transition-DD@omri.cz **See important message below on the upcoming changes to TRANSITION ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO. Hennadii Udovenko cautioned NATO against developing ties with Russia at Ukraine's expense, the German daily the Frankfurter Allgemeine reported on 4 March. He voiced concern that a NATO-Russia agreement would lead to a new division of spheres of influence in Europe, with Russia being allowed to dominate the CIS in exchange for its acceptance of new members into the Western alliance. Udovenko said Kyiv would like a legally binding agreement with NATO that would offer security guarantees to Ukraine, but did not believe that NATO would offer more than consultations. Unlike Russia, Ukraine is not opposed to NATO expansion, and does not preclude its own membership in the organization in the future. The same day, ITAR-TASS reported NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said NATO should work out its relationship with Ukraine before the July summit in Madrid. -- Ustina Markus ZVYAHILSKY RETURNS TO UKRAINE FROM ISRAEL. Former Ukrainian acting prime minister and current member of the parliament, Yukhym Zvyahilsky, returned to his home city of Donetsk after more than two years in Israel, international agencies reported on 4 March. Zviahilsky fled to Israel in 1994, facing accusations of embezzling $25 million through the illegal sale of aviation fuel and foreign exchange operations. He rejected the allegations, accusing the former prosecutor general of political revanchism. The Ukrainian parliament restored Zvyahilsky's parliamentary immunity last month, but the prosecutor's office said the investigation against him is not finished. In Donetsk, Zvyahilsky told a miners' rally he will continue to sit in parliament but will never take an official post in Kyiv. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev BELARUSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT SWORN IN. The new Constitutional Court, appointed after the November constitutional referendum, was sworn in on 4 March, Belarusian radio and NTV reported. The court is made up of 11 justices, six of whom were president's appointees, including Chief Justice Ryhor Vasilevich. Four of the justices had served on the previous Constitutional Court. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka presided over the ceremony, and gave each justice a copy of the new constitution with his autograph. A number of journalists were not allowed into the ceremony. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR SEPARATE DEAL WITH NATO. Alyaksandr Lukashenka unexpectedly called for a separate deal between NATO and Belarus, international agencies reported on 4 March. Lukashenka voiced concern that Belarus was being sidetracked and isolated in talks about European security. He said only European states could establish a new order in Europe, and that should be done without the participation of countries from "across the ocean." The reference was directed against the U.S., which has downgraded its ties with Belarus to a minimal level. Lukashenka had been an ardent opponent of NATO expansion, and his call for a dialogue may have been prompted by NATO's separate talks with Russia and Ukraine. NTV speculated the sudden initiative may also be a way of forcing Russia to take more serious steps toward integration with Belarus. -- Ustina Markus HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT IN LITHUANIA. Arpad Goncz, accompanied by about 30 businessmen, began an official three-day visit to Lithuania on 4 March with talks with President Algirdas Brazauskas, Radio Lithuania reported. Interior Minister Vidmantas Ziemelis and Hungarian Interior Ministry Political Secretary Gabor Vilagos signed an agreement on combating terrorism, drug trafficking, and organized crime. Goncz assured Seimas Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis of Hungary's support for Lithuania's efforts to join NATO and the EU and said that a free trade treaty between the two countries will be signed within two months. The businessmen are holding talks with Lithuanian manufacturing and trading firms. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH GOVERNMENT ON SCREENING LAW. The Polish government criticized on 4 March the Sejm's draft lustration (screening) law, Polish media reported. The draft includes the obligation for people occupying important state posts and candidates for those posts to state whether they were employees or collaborators of communist secret services in 1944-1990. The statements will be verified by a lustration court. According to Marek Sadowski, a Justice Ministry official, the law should provide a more precise definition of collaboration and should distinguish between a willing collaboration and collaboration under duress. The lustration court, he added, would combine too many functions: conduct investigations and be a prosecutor's office; which reminds one of inquisition procedures, said Sadowski. Andrzej Rzeplinski, the Sejm's expert on lustration, defended the draft. He reminded that the lustration court would make public its judgment only in the case a statement proves to be false. -- Jakub Karpinski POLISH SENATE ON POLES ABROAD. Senate Speaker Adam Struzik, opening the Senate debate on 4 March, said that Polish citizens living abroad should have the right to vote in parliamentary elections and in both rounds of presidential elections (they currently do not have the right to vote in the second round of presidential elections). The Senate is scheduled to vote today on a statement calling on the authorities for "restitution of Polish citizenship to all our compatriots who wish it, particularly in the East." -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES IT LOST NATO DOCUMENTS. The Czech Defense Ministry announced on 4 March that it had not lost any NATO documents, Czech media reported. Various media reports had alleged that the ministry was unable to find 100 of the 700 documents that NATO started giving to Partnership for Peace countries in 1994. "We have not lost any documents. We are not missing any ^Ê Reports alleging we lost any documents were misleading," Defense Minister Miloslav Vyborny told journalists on 4 March. However, Mlada Fronta Dnes quoted various army officials as saying that the ministry did not know where various documents were and began looking for them only after media reports alleged they were lost. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK REACTIONS TO HUNGARIAN ARGUMENTS IN THE HAGUE. Peter Tomka, head of Slovakia's delegation in that country's dispute with Hungary at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, on 4 March criticized the Hungarian arguments, TASR reported. At the close of the second day during which Hungary presented its case, Tomka said the Hungarian delegation seems to be trying to convince the court "on the basis of forecasts and probabilities," while "the decision must be based on legal norms and proven facts." Julius Binder, the director of the firm that built the Gabcikovo dam, told Slovak Radio that the Hungarian statements made before the International Court of Justice constituted "demagoguery." He accused Laszlo Valki, one of the Hungarian representatives in the case, of "irredentism," saying he wants to annul the post-war Paris treaty that delineated the Slovak-Hungarian border. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT ACTS ON HOLOCAUST VICTIM COMPENSATION. Parliament on 4 March acted to implement the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty's call for compensation for Holocaust victims and authorized the government to deposit 4 billion forints ($46.5 million) worth of compensation coupons at nominal value, Hungarian media reported. The coupons, convertible to life annuity, will be managed by a public foundation that was recently established to compensate the Jewish community. Life annuity will be available for Jews who are over 60 years old, are Hungarian citizens and are permanent residents of Hungary. Three opposition parties -- the Christian Democrats, the Young Democrats and the Democratic Forum -- abstained from voting. Forum politicians contended that the bill does not exclude former members of the state security office AVH and those members of the law enforcement agencies who helped crush the 1956 revolution. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIA ON THE BRINK OF CIVIL WAR? According to eyewitness reports, tensions and violence continue unabated throughout southern Albania. Citizens have ignored a curfew and appear bent on venting frustration against President Sali Berisha's government. Armed civilians on 5 March fought with army forces in Fiari, a village some ten kilometers outside Sarande. At least four people have been injured in the incident, AFP reported, citing Greek television. The fighting reportedly broke out when four military trucks arrived in the village and soldiers deployed. Civilians then attacked the military personnel with automatic weapons and grenades. For his part, Berisha met with political opponents on 4 March in order to resolve the crisis, but government sources have publicly admitted that the port cities of Vlora and Sarande remain firmly out of government control. Security forces deployed from Tirana have orders to shoot on sight those failing to surrender their arms. -- Stan Markotich ALBANIAN PRESIDENT UNDER FIRE. Sali Berisha is coming under increasing international criticism for his handling of the domestic situation. Among the most recent critics has been British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, who on 4 March in an interview with BBC radio, said "We are not prepared to give support when [Berisha] acts in an authoritarian and dictatorial way and that, sadly, has been an increasing feature of his regime ^Ê The Albanian government has not been properly respecting either the rule of law or fundamental democratic principles of free media and free activity for the opposition." Countries bordering Albania have voiced their own concerns about the gravity of the domestic Albanian situation. CNN on 5 March reported that Greece has deployed along its border with Albania and fears a possible flood of refugees. -- Stan Markotich MACEDONIAN ARMY PLACED ON WAR FOOTING. Macedonia has reacted to the ongoing chaos in southern Albania by putting its military in a state of war-preparedness, effective from the evening of 2 March, Nova Makedonija reported on 5 March. The move was motivated by concerns over possible waves of illegal immigrants pouring in from Albania or armed attacks on posts along the border. Coincidentally, the UN observer mission closed one of three posts on the Albania border (near Debar) on 3 March, as part of a scaling back of the number of its soldiers in Macedonia from 1,050 to 750. All three posts are scheduled for closure, as are three of the six on the Serbian border. So far there are no signs of an influx of would-be Albanian refugees; only 124 people tried to enter Macedonia illegally from Albania in January and February. -- Michael Wyzan BOMB DAMAGES CATHOLIC CHURCH IN SARAJEVO. A Catholic church in downtown Sarajevo was rocked by an explosion that damaged windows and nearby cars on 4 March, international and local media reported. The blast was the latest in a series of attacks on Catholic churches in the Croat-Muslim federation that started after the violent incident in Mostar on 10 February. A hand grenade was thrown at another Catholic church and a convent in Sarajevo, and a church in the central Bosnian town of Gornji Vakuf was mined and damaged last week. The Bosnian Federation government announced special police protection of Catholic churches during a period preceding the visit of Pope John Paul II to Sarajevo. Sarajevo cantonal police suspended the four officers who were guarding the church damaged in yesterday's blast. Croatia's Deputy Foreign Minister Hido Biscevic asked Bosnia's Muslim authorities to stop the pressure and violence against Croats, Hina reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic SERBS IN EASTERN SLAVONIA TO FORM PARTY AHEAD OF ELECTIONS. Serbs in eastern Slavonia will on 5 March form their own political party that will run in Croatia's local vote scheduled for 13 April, AFP reported, citing Tanjug. The new Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) will be based in Vukovar, a major town of this still Serb-held region slated to revert to Croatia's legal authorities, and registered in Zagreb. Meanwhile, the UN said that eastern Slavonia Serbs were unlikely to stage a referendum on their electoral status, because their demand for a single district had already been rejected by both the Croatian government and the UN Security Council, Reuters reported on 4 March. Serbs want the region to have a status of a single territorial unit within Croatia, but Zagreb wants it divided into two counties. -- Daria Sito Sucic SERBIAN HARD-LINER DEFIES PUBLIC OPINION. Dragutin Velickovic, the pro- Milosevic rector of Belgrade University, on 4 March brushed aside student demands for his resignation, Nasa Borba reported the following day. Speaking at a press conference, Velickovic not only openly defied student protesters by categorically announcing his refusal to leave his post but also countered with his own demand that the institute heads and 13 faculty deans who openly supported the student demonstrators be sacked. Student representative Dusan Vasiljevic summed up Velickovic's press conference remarks with the observation that "the whole thing is another of Velickovic's sick jokes," Reuters reported. In another development, Nasa Borba on 5 March reported that the previous day a group of about 150 student protesters crashed a reception for diplomats and members of the press hosted by Serbia's new Information Minister Radmila Milentijevic, chanting "Red Bandits" and at one point forming a circle around Milentijevic. -- Stan Markotich SERBIAN RULING PARTIES LAUNCH THEIR ELECTION CAMPAIGNS. The ruling Socialists and their communist allies in the Yugoslav United Left (JUL) on 4 March de facto launched their campaign for republican presidential and parliamentary races to be held later this year (on a date yet to be determined). It is apparent that the main focus will be on attacks against the opposition Zajedno parties. A statement issued by the ruling left, and reported by Tanjug, maintained that the "state will protect its citizens from all political parties that are financed and instructed from abroad with the aim to topple the legal authorities and jeopardize the independence and sovereignty of the country." -- Stan Markotich KING MIHAI TO LOBBY FOR ROMANIA'S EARLY NATO ENTRY. King Mihai on 4 March pledged to do "all he could to help Romania" in its bid for quick integration into NATO, Radio Bucharest reported. The former monarch met President Emil Constantinescu, who asked Mihai to support Romania's diplomatic efforts in NATO member countries, especially those with constitutional monarchies. In related news, Italian Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Piero Fassino on 4 March said in Bucharest that his country would back Romania's efforts for quick NATO entry, Reuters reported. According to Fassino, Italy favored a "simultaneous beginning of talks between NATO and all candidates," in order to avoid "feelings of exclusion or frustration." Meanwhile, Senate Chairman Petre Roman, who is paying a visit to Spain, said that Madrid would also like to see Romania in the first group of countries to be admitted to NATO, Romanian television reported. -- Zsolt Mato MOLDOVA AND NATO EXPANSION. Moldova's ambassador to the U.S., Nicolae Tau, says his country has one major concern about NATO expansion: it does not want to end up as a buffer zone with Russian troops on its territory, RFE/RL reported on 4 March citing the Washington Times. The statement is ill-timed for Romania, which is pressing hard for NATO membership, but may well serve Russian interests opposing the expansion. Moldova, though participating in the Partnership for Peace Program, is not applying for membership and wants to stay neutral. That position was stressed again by Foreign Minister Mihai Popov in an interview with Infotag on 4 March. He added that the country's foreign policy under President Petru Lucinschi will not change, but more emphasis will be laid on the strive for European integration. -- Michael Shafir TIRASPOL ATTACKS OSCE MISSION IN MOLDOVA. Moldovan agencies reported on 4 March that the Transdniester delegation to the Joint Control Commission refused to participate in the commission scheduled meeting in protest of the position of Donald Johnson, the head of the OSCE mission to Moldova. At the OSCE Permanent Council meeting in Vienna on 19 February, Johnson said that OSCE representatives do not have free access to military sites in the security zone; criticized the introduction there of a modified GRAD truck-mounted rocket- launcher system; reminded that the Tiraspol authorities had not allowed participation in the Moldovan presidential election; and came against the intention to sign the memorandum for long-term settlement of the conflict, which had been agreed on last year between Chisinau and Tiraspol. Also on 4 March, a visiting delegation of the CIS Parliamentary Assembly preparing a conference on conflict settlement in the CIS met with Johnson and Moldovan officials. -- Michael Shafir CURRENCY-BOARD PURIST BECOMES ADVISOR TO BULGARIAN PRESIDENT. Steve Hanke, the world's best known advocate of currency boards, has become an advisor to Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov, Pari reported on 5 March. Hanke advocates a pure form in which the currency is more than 100% backed by foreign currency and the national bank does not take reserve deposits from commercial banks nor buy and sell foreign currency with the public. That form is practiced only in Hong Kong and Brunei, while Estonia, Lithuania, and Argentina have softer versions. He also recommends that the lev be tied to the dollar and that the board be introduced at once and not in stages. Meanwhile, the IMF -- citing the strengthening lev and the primary budget surplus -- is willing to provide fresh credits to Bulgaria within two weeks, while the World Bank is taking a wait-and-see attitude, according to Pari. -- Michael Wyzan EUROPEAN COMMISSION EMERGENCY GRANT FOR BULGARIA. The European Commission will make a 1.1 million ECU emergency grant to Bulgaria to help overcome shortages of food and medical material, RFE/RL and AFP reported on 4 March. The commission said the aid should help hospitals cope with the constant rise in prices of medical material, which is no longer subsidized by the government. Prices in Bulgaria rose by 44% in January alone, while the overall inflation in 1996 stood at 310%. In other news, the 20 million ECU from another recently made European Commission's social assistance grant will be distributed among 500,000 most needy Bulgarians as of 18 March. -- Maria Koinova [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Sava Tatic *^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^! What's in Store for the magazine Transition We've learned much in the last two years about what sort of magazine Transition can be and what role it should play in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Of greatest help in this process has been the advice of readers. Among some of the desired changes are for Transition to offer even more articles by writers in the region - lively opinion pieces as well as fact-filled analysis and expanded departments. Accordingly, Transition will be substantially restructured and relaunched as a monthly with the issue dated June 1997. The last biweekly issue will be 6 April, followed by a brief hiatus. All existing subscriptions will be honored and extended according to the new monthly frequency, which is priced at $65 for 12 issues. As before, we offer a substantial discount for readers in and of the countries we cover (apply to the contacts listed below for more information). For engaged intellectuals, policymakers, journalists, and scholars from the region, the new Transition will provide a rare forum for the exchange of ideas and criticism on political, economic, and cultural issues and events. Transition will also offer readers from abroad a window on the experiences of countries moving away from a single ideology. We are certain that the magazine's new format and orientation will make it even more useful for your work, as well as contributing more to your understanding. For more information, contact the OMRI Marketing Department at tel. (420-2) 6114 2114, fax (420-2) 6114 3181; email: transition-DD@omri.cz *^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^! ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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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