Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 46, Part I, 06 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

UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN CANADA. Hennadii Udovenko was in Ottawa on
5 March for an official visit, international agencies reported. Udovenko
met with his Canadian counterpart Lloyd Axworthy, Defense Minister Doug
Young, and Prime Minister Jean Chretien. NATO expansion was the main
issue of discussion, and Axworthy told Udovenko he hoped an agreement
could be reached between NATO, Russia, and Ukraine before the July
summit in Madrid. Udovenko said he did not view NATO as a threat to
Ukraine, and that Kyiv's relations with NATO would develop irrespective
of Moscow's relations with the alliance. He also called for increased
foreign investment, and criticized Russia for not fully accepting
Ukraine's independence. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN MINERS THREATEN ALL-OUT STRIKE. Coal miners are on the brink
of a mass strike, Ukrainian and Russian media reported on 5 March. The
leaders of the three biggest mining trade unions plan to stop work on 20
March, protesting wage arrears, which currently stand at 1.5 billion
hryvnyas ($800 million). Most miners have not been paid for the last
seven months, some since 1995. About 20 pits stand idle daily due to
wildcat strikes. The situation is exacerbated by the imminent closure of
75 to 150 mines, which will lead to mass unemployment. The head of the
Independent Union of Miners, Mykhailo Volynets, said 25 pits were closed
in 1996. Coal Industry Minister Yurii Rusantsov has offered to resign,
Ukrainian television reported on 3 March. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

UKRAINIAN, SLOVAK PREMIERS MEET. Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo
Lazarenko met with his Slovak counterpart Vladimir Meciar on 6 March in
Uzhorod, ITAR-TASS reported. Talks focused on NATO expansion, building a
highway between the two countries, and cooperation between the Slovak
Economics Ministry and Ukraine's Machinery Ministry. Trade between
Ukraine and Slovakia stood at $418.3 million in 1996, a 36.6% increase
over 1995. The two plan to liberalize trade further between themselves.
Talks also touched on the issue of Ukrainian workers in Slovakia.
According to unofficial statistics, up to 30,000 Ukrainians work
illegally in Slovakia. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT RESTRICTS PUBLIC GATHERINGS. Alyaksandr Lukashenka
issued a decree on 5 March banning all demonstrations directed against
the ever-controversial new constitution, ITAR-TASS reported. The decree
was meant to put an end to the "orgy of street democracy" in Minsk, a
reference to persistent demonstrations by his critics. The decree
prohibits demonstrators from using unregistered flags or symbols at
rallies, and defines the distance demonstrators must keep from public
buildings and transport facilities. The opposition has been predicting
that a new wave of demonstrations would begin this spring, and the
decree appears to be a preemptive measure against such rallies. It also
proclaims 2 April, the day of the signing of the Treaty on Friendship
and Cooperation with Russia, a national holiday. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUS DENIES RUSSIA'S CONTRABAND CHARGES. Belarusian officials
dismissed charges by the Russian Customs Committee that large quantities
of goods are being smuggled through Belarus into Russia, ITAR-TASS
reported on 4 March. The response from Belarusian officials followed
Russia's decision to restore checkpoints on the Belarus-Russian border
as of 10 March. The First Deputy Chairman of the Belarusian Customs
Committee, Vikentiy Makarevich, said that Russia's claims are groundless
as Belarus's borders are under strict control. Belarusian officials also
said that the move violates the customs union between Russian and
Belarus. Official Belarusian media are meanwhile concerned by the fact
that the issue has surfaced ahead of the meeting of the two countries'
presidents, set for 7 March in Moscow. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

ESTONIA'S TRADE DEFICIT FALLS IN JANUARY. The State Statistical
Department announced that the foreign trade deficit in January was 1.17
billion kroons ($88 million), a sharp decline from December's 2 billion
kroons deficit, ETA reported on 5 March. Imports totalled 3.61 billion
kroons of which 55.2% came from European Union countries and 17.7% from
CIS countries. Exports were valued at 2.44 billion kroons of which 48.9%
went to EU countries and 24.2% to CIS countries. Imports were valued at
3.61 billion kroons, of which 55.2% came from EU countries and 17.7%
from CIS countries. Industrial machines and equipment accounted for
24.6% of imports and 18.4% of exports, followed by food products with
18.8% of imports and 18.0% of exports. -- Saulius Girnius

BUS DRIVERS STRIKE IN SOUTHERN POLAND. Bus drivers blocked crucial
traffic intersections in Silesia on 5 March, crippling traffic in
Poland's most industrialized and densely populated region. The drivers
demand wage increases of 40%, more resources for municipal transport,
and the modernization of a car park. Buses surrounded the Katowice
governor's office, which was picketed by drivers. Governor Eugeniusz
Ciszak, who represents the government in the province, met with the
strikers. He appealed to towns' administrations and transport companies
for negotiations with the drivers, Rzeczpospolita reported on 6 March.
-- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH SENATE APPROVES CZECH-GERMAN DECLARATION. The upper chamber of the
Czech parliament on 5 March approved the Czech-German declaration, Czech
media reported. The measure, already signed by both governments in
January and approved by Germany's parliament and the Czech lower house,
was approved by 54 votes to 25. Most Social Democratic Party (CSSD)
deputies voted against the pact after the Senate rejected a preamble
demanded by the CSSD. In the declaration, Bonn expresses its regret for
the 1938-1945 occupation of the Czech lands and Prague its sorrow for
excessive brutality in the expulsion of ethnic Germans after World War
II. The German parliament approved the declaration quickly but the
debate in the Czech lower house was stormy, lasting several days before
the accord was approved by a large majority. In his first-ever speech to
the Senate, President Vaclav Havel urged the upper house to approve the
accord to ensure good relations with Germany. -- Jiri Pehe

CZECH LOWER CHAMBER CHAIRMAN IN BRUSSELS. Milos Zeman told European
Parliament Chairman Jose Maria Gil-Robles on 5 March that in the
eastward expansion of the European Union the "role of parliaments will
be bigger than that of governments," Czech media reported. Zeman
attended a meeting of Gil Robles and the chairmen of parliaments of ten
EU associate countries. "Legislative adaptation is the essence of EU
integration ... If we are to adapt our legislation to EU standards, this
will certainly be a task for parliaments, not cabinets," Zeman told CTK
after the meeting. Zeman and his counterparts agreed that parliaments
should launch a coordinated campaign explaining EU membership, "which
would define not only the advantages, but also honestly point to the
risks, problems and costs involved." What matters is to "prevent
disillusions" such as those experienced by Austrians, he added. -- Jiri
Pehe

SLOVAKIA LIKELY TO HOLD TWO REFERENDUMS AT ONCE. Slovak President Michal
Kovac on 4 March said he will probably call the referendums on NATO
integration and on the direct election of the president on the same day,
CTK and TASR reported. Kovac argued that Slovakia cannot economically
afford to hold the referendums separately. Also on 4 March, Kovac
received the representatives of the petition committee for direct
presidential elections, who handed him the lists with more than 521,580
signatures. Kovac commented that the high number of signatures indicates
that the referendum is "a way of enhancing democracy." The president
must call a referendum within 30 days of receiving a petition with at
least 350,000 signatures. -- Anna Siskova

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR TALKS WITH OPPOSITION. Speaking on a
Slovak TV program on 5 March, Vladimir Meciar called for talks with the
opposition on bank privatization, CTK reported. On 13 February, the
opposition voted with the Association of Workers -- a junior coalition
partner -- to ban the privatization of Slovakia's financial institutions
until 2003. Although President Michal Kovac returned the bill to the
parliament at the government's request, it could easily be approved
again. Meciar claimed that his government currently does not know of
anyone who would be interested in privatizing a Slovak bank, and he
called on the opposition to put forward proposals. Although the issue
has brought the government to a crisis, Meciar insists on moving forward
with bank privatization. In other economic news, the National Bank of
Slovakia on 5 March presented year-end economic results, TASR reported.
Annual inflation grew 5.4%, GDP growth reached an estimated 6.8%,
foreign currency reserves totaled $3.5 billion, and the trade deficit
was 64.5 billion crowns ($2 billion). -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY CONTINUES PRESENTING ITS CASE AT THE HAGUE. Hungary's legal
representatives opened up a barrage of legal arguments on 5 March
against the Gabcikovo hydropower project built by Slovakia, after it
unilaterally diverted the Danube in 1992, Hungarian media reported.
Boldizsar Nagy argued that the project called "C version" is essentially
different from the power plant system that Hungary and Czechoslovakia
agreed to build in their 1977 intergovernmental treaty. Nagy thus
rejected the Slovak argument that Slovakia merely tried to complete
construction of the original project after Hungary backed out in 1989.
Hungary's representatives criticized the Slovak use of what they called
inappropriate words in the Slovak legal document. Gyorgy Szenasi,
Hungary's chief representative, said that Hungary has filed a list of
words used by the Slovaks that includes "grotesque, nonsense, twaddle,
perverse and ridiculous," Magyar Hirlap reported. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

IS ALBANIAN CRISIS SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL? Armed revolt against the
government of President Sali Berisha continues throughout southern
Albania, with violence and armed clashes reportedly escalating in
frequency and intensity. In one episode on 5 March, government MiG-15
warplanes released at least several bombs near a house in the village of
Delvina, situated in a predominantly ethnic Greek region of the country,
international media reported. While casualty estimates were unavailable,
the event prompted officials in neighboring Greece to urge the Albanian
authorities to refrain from using force against Albania's ethnic Greek
community. For their part, Albanian Defense officials have categorically
denied the charge that any order was given to bomb protesters. -- Stan
Markotich

DEATH TOLL RISES. Meanwhile in Vlora, a rebel stronghold, at least
another seven people have been killed in shooting incidents since early
on 5 March, AFP reported the next day. The death toll in that town now
stands at 25 since violence erupted on 28 February when rioters looted a
military depot. In another serious development, a steady stream of
people is moving from the south to the north in an effort to escape the
violence. Pitched battles of short duration have been reported in
several locations, such as a 5 March incident near the Vjosa River,
where rebels, situated on a mountain ridge, pounded government troops
with heavy artillery. In another development, some members of the
military have been seen defecting to the rebel side, CNN reported on 6
March. Dutch Foreign Minister and current European Union President Hans
van Mierlo is slated to travel to Tirana on 7 March for meetings with
government and opposition officials. -- Stan Markotich

BOSNIAN SHADOW GOVERNMENT FORMED. Bosnian opposition parties and
political associations from both Bosnian entities -- the Republika
Srpska (RS) and the Bosnian (Muslim-Croat) Federation -- on 4 March
formed a shadow government in a bid to offer a political alternative to
the paralyzed central institutions, international and local media
reported. The shadow government premier, Sejfudin Tokic, a Muslim from
the Union of Bosnia's Social-Democrats, said the five ministry cabinet
will try to convey a message to ordinary Bosnians that there is an
alternative to nationalism, Reuters reported. Tokic' s deputies are
Miodrag Zivanovic from the RS Social-Liberal Party and Zeljko Ivankovic
from the Croatian Peasant Party. Zivanovic rejected criticism that it
was too early to start an alternative government at the time when the
official one has not yet begun to really work, Oslobodjenje reported on
5 March. -- Daria Sito Sucic

COHEN MAKES CLEAR U.S. TROOPS WILL NOT PROLONG STAY IN BOSNIA. U.S.
Defense Secretary William Cohen said on 4 March that American soldiers
would leave Bosnia-Herzegovina for good in mid-1998, Reuters reported.
"I can't make it any clearer," Cohen said, adding that the U.S. was
determined to leave even if war breaks out again. But he underscored
that strong police forces and an intensified civilian effort will be
needed in Bosnia. Meanwhile, deployment of an international police force
in the disputed town of Brcko in northern Bosnia will be discussed at a
meeting of key nations in Vienna on 7 March, AFP reported. Countries
involved in the discussions favored increasing the numbers of the
existing UN police force, although its mandate so far has proved to be
insufficient to enforce political decisions. -- Daria Sito Sucic

BOSNIAN CROATS SUSPENDED MOSTAR POLICE CHIEF, THREE POLICEMEN. The
Interior Minister of the Herzegovina-Neretva canton, Valentin Coric,
suspended west Mostar police chief Marko Radic for obstructing the
investigation into the 10 February incident that resulted in one death
and more than 30 injuries, Hina reported on 5 March. Coric also
temporarily suspended the three police officers singled out in the UN
report for participating in a shooting at an unarmed Muslim crowd. The
UN has requested that the three men be arrested. "Suspension alone is
not good enough," said the UN police spokesman in Bosnia, Liam McDowall.
-- Daria Sito Sucic

BOMB BLASTS IN KOSOVO. Four persons were reportedly injured in Kosovo's
capital, Pristina, on 5 March when a bomb exploded, Nasa Borba reported
the following day. According to eyewitnesses, the device was placed in a
garbage container beside a monument to Serbian language reformer Vuk
Karadzic, near the local university. A second bomb was disarmed without
incident, Tanjug reported, but Reuters quoted a local Serbian official
saying another device went off in Prizren, and that it too was in a
garbage container beside a monument to a Serbian national icon (King
Dusan). Police authorities have said they suspect the Kosovo Liberation
Army as being behind the incidents. -- Stan Markotich

TUDOR TO SAVE HIS PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY? By a vote of seven to six, the
judicial commission of the Senate on 5 March recommended that the
parliamentary immunity of the leader of the extreme nationalist Greater
Romania Party (PRM), Corneliu Vadim Tudor, should not be lifted, Radio
Bucharest reported. Tudor lost his immunity in the former legislature,
but was re-elected a senator in November. The Party of Social Democracy
in Romania (PDSR), which had then been the main promoter of lifting
Tudor's immunity for "insult to authority" in denigrations targeting
former President Ion Iliescu, is now opposing the initiative, courting
the collaboration of the PRM in the opposition. The lifting of the
immunity was requested by Minister of Justice Valeriu Stoica because of
a libelous article published by Tudor some years ago, that targeted
practically all prominent personalities in the democratic opposition.
One member of the ruling coalition on the commission voted against the
recommendation in the secret vote. The final decision is to be reached
by the Senate plenum, but without the support of the PDSR the coalition
falls short of the two-thirds majority needed for lifting the immunity.
-- Michael Shafir

KING MIHAI ENDS VISIT TO ROMANIA. King Mihai on 5 March ended his first
visit to Romania since regaining his citizenship, Radio Bucharest
reported. Before leaving the country, Mihai met with Foreign Minister
Adrian Severin, who said the former monarch's mission to support
Romania's NATO integration bid is to be considered as "official, but not
formal." Mihai's visit stirred widespread controversy in Romania, with
opposition parties warning that the constitutional order was in danger.
Some analysts, however, interpreted the public's mild reaction as
dismissing any possibility of a return to a monarchy in Romania. --
Zsolt Mato

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS CHAIRMAN. The leader of the Democratic
Agrarian Party of Moldova, Dumitru Motpan, on 5 March was elected
chairman of the parliament, Moldovan and Western agencies reported.
Motpan, who ran unopposed, was supported by 55 of 104 deputies; of the
76 deputies who cast a ballot, 21 deputies voted against him. He
replaces Petru Lucinschi, who was elected president in January.
Following Lucinschi's election, Motpan stood for the post but at that
time (also in January) he failed to garner the minimum 53 votes and had
a counter-candidate, Dumitru Diacov, the legislature's deputy chairman
and a supporter of Lucinschi. Motpan's mandate runs out in early 1998,
when new parliamentary elections are due. -- Michael Shafir

PARTIES PREPARE FOR GENERAL ELECTIONS IN BULGARIA. The Central Electoral
Commission on 4 March opened the procedure for registration for the 19
April parliamentary elections, RFE/RL and local media reported. All 205
sanctioned parties are eligible to compete, but it is expected that no
more than 60% of them will register. The first registration day began
with a "scandal," as three parties wanted to have green ballot paper. In
other news, after almost a month of intensive debates, the anti-
communist Union of Democratic Forces and People's Union managed to come
to an agreement for having a joint list of candidates, RFE/RL reported
on 5 March. The mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom --
the third member of the formation that ousted Socialists from power with
street demonstrations in January -- has not yet signed the agreement,
but is expected to do so on 7 March. -- Maria Koinova

STRENGTHENING OF BULGARIAN LEV CAUSING CONCERN. The Bulgarian National
Bank raised its official fixing for the lev to 1,667.1 per dollar on 6
March from 2,045.5 the day before and as high as 2,936.7 on 14 February.
Businessmen are criticizing the lev's rejuvenation, arguing that it is
wreaking havoc with contracts that assumed a weaker currency, according
to Trud on 6 March. The newspaper's economic commentator argued that the
rise in the lev results from administrative measures. He said a further
collapse is inevitable once large buyers of hard currency like the
Neftohim refinery return to the foreign-exchange market to repay the
debts they are building up. Meanwhile, the daily Pari reported that an
agreement with the IMF will be ready on 6 March. -- Michael Wyzan

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Pete Baumgartner

*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!

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
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