|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
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 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to email@example.com 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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