|Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon|
No. 49, Part II, 11 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 RUMORS OF UKRAINIAN PREMIER'S REMOVAL. Rumors that Pavlo Lazarenko's days are numbered have increased as he enters his eighth month in office, Ukrainian Radio reported on 9 March. The rumors, which began as soon as he assumed the premiership, stem more from his involvement with various firms that have profited under his premiership than from shortcomings in economic reform. Observers say President Leonid Kuchma's postponement of his annual parliamentary address from 14 to 21 March is intended to give him room to maneuver. Other signs that Kuchma is distancing himself from the current government are the recent dismissals of the finance and agricultural ministers and the president's decision to ask former Donetsk Governor Volodymyr Shcherban, rather than Lazarenko, to attend his meeting with Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev. Observers also point to Lazarenko's cutting short his vacation by two weeks and his recent public statements stressing that he and Kuchma are of one mind over policy. Parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz on 10 March spoke out in defense of Lazarenko, saying there are few changes when premiers are replaced. -- Ustina Markus RUSSIAN DELEGATION IN BELARUS. A Russian parliamentary delegation arrived in Minsk on 10 March to take part in the third round of interparliamentary talks on Russian-Belarusian integration, Russian agencies reported. State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev and the rest of the 55-strong delegation met with Seleznev's counterpart, Anatol Malafeyev. Seleznev said he wanted closer bilateral relations not only in words but in tangible deeds. The interparliamentary groups have to elect a new chairman to replace the Belarusian speaker of the 1996 parliament, Syamyon Sharetsky, since he is not a member of the new Belarusian legislature. So far, the only aspect of integration partly implemented is the customs union. No progress has been made on unifying the countries' transport and energy systems. -- Ustina Markus MORE DEMONSTRATIONS IN MINSK. Despite the lack of progress toward Russian-Belarusian integration, 5,000 people rallied in the Belarusian capital to protest that goal, international agencies reported on 10 March. Their protest was timed to coincide with the arrival of the Russian delegation. Authorities gave permission only to a token 40 people to picket on the square outside the parliament. Security forces called on demonstrators to disband; when this did not happen, they clashed with the protesters. An unspecified number of demonstrators were arrested and beaten by the police. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN LITHUANIA. Ivan Antanovich told his Lithuanian counterpart, Algirdas Saudargas, on 10 March that Belarus will soon allocate funds for demarcating the countries' joint border. He added that Minsk will also start negotiations on an agreement on the readmission of illegal migrants and on joining the 1963 Vienna Convention on civil responsibility in the event of a nuclear disaster, Radio Lithuania reported. Lithuania submitted a draft readmission agreement in the fall, but Belarus has yet to respond to it. The foreign ministers, however, rejected Moscow's recent offer of tripartite talks on readmission. Owing to Belarus's failure to sign the convention, Sweden has not yet sent assistance to improve the safety of the nuclear power plant at Ignalina. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIAN LOCAL ELECTION UPDATE. Voter turnout in the 9 March local elections was 56.8% (52.3% in cities and 60% in rural areas), BNS reported the next day. The extreme left Social Democratic Party (SDP), which is not represented in the Saeima, won 13 of the 15 seats on the Daugavpils council. It was also the surprise winner in Riga, chalking up 11 of the 60 seats. A total of 17 parties won seats to the Riga council, and it is likely that rightist parties will have the senior posts. In Liepaja, the rightist Liepaja's United Election List won nine of the 15 seats, while the SDP was able to secure only 2. Victorious Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs will retain the post he has held since 1988. -- Saulius Girnius NEW CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF IN POLAND. President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 10 March recalled Gen. Tadeusz Wilecki as chief of General Staff. Wilecki was nominated to that post in August 1992 by Kwasniewski's predecessor, Lech Walesa. He is replaced by Gen. Henryk Szarecki, who was commander in chief of the Silesian Military District from 1987 to 1989 and since then has been deputy chief of General Staff. Szarecki has recently worked in the presidential State Security Bureau (BBN). Wilecki was believed to be opposed to civilian control over the army and knew, at least during Walesa's term as president, how to take advantage of political configurations. The opposition claimed that Kwasniewski's decision was taken under the influence of the co-ruling Democratic Left Alliance. Kwasniewski, however, said the decision to recall Wilecki was his personal one and that he had consulted only with Defense Minister Stanislaw Dobrzanski. -- Jakub Karpinski ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN CZECH REPUBLIC. Emil Constantinescu, after meeting with Czech President Vaclav Havel in Prague on 10 March, said Romania is fully prepared to join NATO in the first wave. Havel assured Constantinescu that the Czech Republic supports Romanian efforts to become a NATO member. Constantinescu also met with Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, who later praised the Romanian government's decision to immediately launch radical economic reforms. Klaus said that political determination and strength were needed to implement such reforms, adding that the Romanian president displays such determination. Constantinescu and parliamentary speaker Milos Zeman told journalists after their talks that the Czech Republic and Romania support each other's membership in Euro-Atlantic organizations. Constantinescu visited RFE/RL headquarters in Prague today. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK ACTORS, OPPOSITION DEPUTIES OCCUPY CULTURE MINISTRY. Some 100 striking theater employees and 20 opposition deputies on 10 March held a sit-in at the Culture Ministry, vowing not to leave until they were received by Culture Minister Ivan Hudec, Slovak media reported. The actors' strike began on 28 February to protest government interference in theaters' affairs. About two-thirds of Slovakia's theaters are currently involved. Hudec left the building, refusing to sign an agreement with the demonstrators, who, he said, "were always opposed to Slovak independence." The police eventually succeeded in removing the protesters, although they reportedly had to use force against them. The protesters later returned to the ministry and spent the night there. They left the ministry this morning to present their demands to the government, TASR reported. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAKIA NEXT IN LINE FOR OECD MEMBERSHIP. Donald Johnston, secretary- general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, said on 10 March that Slovakia should be the next OECD member, Reuters reported. Although there are several other applicants, "there are no other imminent members except for Slovakia," Johnston said during a visit to Helsinki. He added that the examination process for Slovak membership is "quite far advanced." The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland have already joined the organization. OECD Legal Department head Christian Shricke said there are still problems that need to be addressed in Slovakia. "We encouraged authorities to proceed expeditiously with the privatization of remaining state-owned assets in particular in the financial sectors," Shricke said. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's statement in late January that bank privatization is a condition for OECD membership sparked controversy. The opposition and the Association of Workers, the junior coalition party, support a bill that would delay the privatization of Slovakia's four largest financial institutions until 2003. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES THE "OILGATE" REPORT. Legislators on 10 March began debating the final report of the parliamentary commission investigating the "Oilgate" affair, Hungarian media reported. The report gives the findings of a 16-month investigation into alleged conflict of interests arising from deals linked to Russia's repayment of its debt to Hungary in 1994-95. It states that Imre Dunai, then state secretary and later minister of industry and trade, should be held responsible for offering contracts to the Moscow-based Hungarian Finance and Trade company, headed by Andras Dunai, who is his son. The commission also found that links between Socialist politicians and various business interest groups were "inordinately" close. After the "oilgate" scandal erupted in December 1995, deputies gave priority to the passage of a conflict of interests bill. There were heated debates in the parliament, but the bill was eventually passed and signed into law by President Arpad Goncz last week. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN SITUATION REMAINS TENSE. Rebels in parts of southern Albania are continuing to demand the resignation of President Sali Berisha as a precondition for calling a halt to the fighting. Greek TV on 10 and 11 March reported that since Berisha offered to form a government of reconciliation and to make other concessions, including an extension of the general amnesty, several more towns in southern Albania have fallen to the rebels. Berat, Kelcyra, Kucova, Permeti, Polican, and Skrapar are now in rebel hands, while some unconfirmed reports say fighting has broken out in Lushnja and Gramsh. But rebel leaders controlling the port of Vlore have reportedly accepted Berisha's concessions, following what may have been mediation and encouragement from Rome. Meanwhile, Berisha continues to meet with opposition leaders in an effort to find a candidate for the premiership acceptable to all parties. -- Stan Markotich INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT FOR BERISHA. Meanwhile, Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen, who is currently head of the OSCE, said the president's concessions are "a resolute and positive response," AFP reported on 11 March. He urged rebel fighters to turn in their weapons immediately. U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns commented, "We join our European partners in welcoming the agreement between President Berisha and the opposition in Albania." Inside the country, one unidentified official of the Socialist Party predicted that the danger of civil war has passed. He said the rebels are tiring and are now "waiting to see the make-up of the new government," AFP reported. -- Stan Markotich MACEDONIA ASKS UN NOT TO WITHDRAW TROOPS. Pointing to the dangers posed by the ongoing turmoil in Albania, the Macedonian government on 10 March asked UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to stop withdrawing UN soldiers from the country's border with Albania, Nova Makedonija reported. The first of three UN observer posts on that frontier was closed on 3 March as part of the reduction of soldiers in Macedonia from 1,050 to 750 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 March 1997). Meanwhile, Sonja Nikolovska--owner of Bitola-based TAT, Macedonia's largest savings house--was arrested on 7 March and charged with forging documents, tax evasion, and abuse of office. Last week, the national bank suspended the operations of TAT, which had DM 104 million in deposits--some DM 40 million of which has disappeared--and at least 23,000 clients. -- Michael Wyzan TRIAL OPENS ON WAR CRIMES AGAINST BOSNIAN SERBS. The UN Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia on 10 March began its first case involving alleged offenses against Serbs during the Bosnia war, AFP reported. Three Muslims and one Croat were charged with murdering and torturing Serb prisoners at the Celebici camp near Konjic, southern Bosnia, between May and December 1992. Zejnil Delalic, Hazim Delic, and Zdravko Mucic, who were supervising camp guards and others in a position to ill-treat detainees in Celebici, did nothing to stop the atrocities. The fourth man, Esad Landzo, has been charged with carrying out five murders and with torturing a number of prisoners. In other news, tribunal spokesman Christian Chartier said the verdict on Bosnian Serb Dusan Tadic, the first suspect tried for war crimes in former Yugoslavia, will be delivered the last week of April. -- Daria Sito Sucic NEW MEDIA LEGISLATION IN SERBIA? Information Minister Radmila Milentijevic has proposed new legislation regulating media, Vecernje novosti reported on 11 March. Under the new bill, no more than 20% of all dailies could be privately owned and private television and radio stations would be allowed to broadcast only to 25% of the population. State-run television and radio, which remain firmly in the grip of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, will continue to broadcast to the entire population. Milentijevic defended her legislative proposal, saying it meets "European standards." -- Stan Markotich CROATIA WANTS TO RESUME ARMS SALE TO KUWAIT. Croatian Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa was in Kuwait last weekend where he began talks on resuming sales of Croatian-made military hardware to Kuwait, Hina reported on 9 March. Defense Minister Assistant Vladimir Zagorec said Kuwait was interested in resuming cooperation in tank and ship construction. Croatia exported arms to Kuwait when it was part of former Yugoslavia. As such, it also inherited a $200 million debt to Kuwait. Matesa proposed that Croatian debts to Kuwait be transformed into Kuwaiti investment in Croatian economy, in line with an agreement with the Paris Club. Croatia and Kuwait on 8 March signed an agreement on boosting and protecting foreign investment. -- Daria Sito Sucic ROMANIAN PREMIER ON RELATIONS WITH HUNGARY. Victor Ciorbea, on the eve of his visit to Hungary, said he expects legislation on local administration and education to be amended soon to meet Hungarian ethnic demands, Radio Bucharest reported on 10 March. Ciorbea said the local administration law should provide for bilingual signs and the education law should lift "restrictions" on instruction in national minority languages. Ciorbea also said that Gyorgy Tokay, a member of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) and the head of the department for national minorities within the premier's office, will be among the visiting Romanian delegation. He added that the UDMR's participation in the government coalition is "necessary and useful" and "contributes to internal stability." -- Michael Shafir ROMANIAN BISHOP ADMITS COOPERATION WITH SECURITATE. Orthodox Bishop of Banat Nicolae Corneanu, in an interview with the daily Romania libera on 10 March, admitted he cooperated with Nicolae Ceausescu's secret police, international media reported. He said that, under pressure from the Securitate, he signed an order in 1981 excommunicating five dissident priests, Since the fall of communism, Corneanu has been considered one of the more courageous bishops. He often adopted positions that opposed Ion Iliescu's regime, including favoring extending an invitation to former King Mihai to visit Timisoara. -- Michael Shafir TIRASPOL SUSPENDS COLLABORATION WITH OSCE MISSION. The Tiraspol authorities have suspended collaboration with the OSCE permanent mission in the separatist Transdniester region, Infotag reported on 10 March. Valerii Litkai, who is "foreign minister" in the region, told the agency that the decision follows a report by Donald Johnston, head of the mission, submitted to the OSCE council in Vienna in February. He said that, in the wake of the report, the mission's activities in the Transdniester has become "inexpedient." Earlier this month, the breakaway region's delegation to the Joint Control Commission refused to participate in a commission meeting to protest criticisms made by Johnston in his report (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 March 1997). -- Michael Shafir INFLATION IN BULGARIA CONTINUES TO SKYROCKET. The consumer-price index rose in February by 242.7%, Bulgarian newspapers reported on 11 March. Inflation for the first two months of 1997 amounts to almost 393%, compared with 311% for 1996 as a whole. Prices of imports are decreasing, as the lev continues to strengthen (the exchange rate today is 1646 lev to $1). The IMF is projecting 1,150% inflation and an average exchange rate of 2,000 lev to $1 for 1997, Duma reported. The fund insists that the budget deficit should not exceed 2% of GDP, while the government argues for 5-6%. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Bozhkov said on 10 March that Bulgaria will not agree to granting Russia a concession to build a gas pipeline through Bulgaria, RFE/RL reported. The government argues that the previous government's decision to grant such a concession was made in haste. -- Michael Wyzan SEPARATE ELECTORAL LISTS FOR BULGARIAN PARTIES. Ahmed Dogan, leader of the predominantly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), and Ivan Kostov, head of the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), agreed on 10 March to have separate electoral lists in the April general elections, Trud reported on 11 March. The SDS and the People's Union, the other major anti-communist grouping, agreed last week on a common list (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 March 1997). Dogan argues that it would be better if the SDS did not have an absolute majority in the next parliament, lest it become intoxicated with its success and suffer the same fate as the Socialists, who ruled until February. Meanwhile, a Gallup poll conducted earlier this month revealed that 81% of respondents had confidence in President Petar Stoyanov, while 68% backed Premier Stefan Sofiyanski. -- Michael Wyzan [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave *^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^! 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 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. WWW http://www.omri.cz/Publications/DD/Index.html FTP ftp://FTP.OMRI.CZ/Pub/DailyDigest/ REPRINT POLICY To receive a copy of OMRI's reprint policy, contact OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ or see the Web page at http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Reprint.html OTHER OMRI PUBLICATIONS TRANSITION OMRI publishes the biweekly journal TRANSITION, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the OMRI Daily Digest. 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