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No. 53, Part II, 17 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 Central & Eastern Europe MORE DEMONSTRATIONS IN BELARUS. Some 10,000 people marched through the center of Minsk on 15 March to mark the day the 1994 constitution was adopted, international media reported. Despite the presence of large numbers of security forces, no clashes were reported. The day before, police arrested up to 100 people, including two Americans and two Germans, at a rally of about 1,000 people protesting President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's policies. The four foreigners were released after several hours. Opposition leader Yuryi Khadyka was arrested on 13 March in a late-night raid intended to stem the protests, Reuters reported. He has begun a hunger strike. Last spring, when Khadyka was arrested for participating in anti-Lukashenka demonstrations, he went on a three-week hunger strike before being released. Khadyka's wife said the new hunger strike was in protest of his being sentenced to five days' incarceration for resisting arrest. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT'S INCOME. In line with his campaign to improve tax collection, Leonid Kuchma declared his 1996 income and assets, Reuters reported on 15 March. Last year the Ukrainian president earned 13,355 hryvnyas ($7,300). He also owns a dacha outside Dnipropetrovsk worth $8,000. Kuchma said he had no income from business activities in Ukraine or abroad. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST'S MYSTERIOUS DEATH. The body of Petro Shevchenko, 43, a correspondent from Kiyevskiye vedomosti, was found hanging in an abandoned boiler room on 13 March, Ukrainian radio reported the following day. Shevchenko had filed a series of stories on disputes between Luhansk Mayor Oleksandr Danilov and the local branch of Ukraine's security service. Days before his death, Shevchenko told colleagues he was afraid the security service was after him. Although a suicide note was reportedly found, the editors of Kiyevskiye vidomosti do not believe Shevchenko killed himself and have started their own investigation. There are a number of unsolved cases of suspicious deaths of journalists in Ukraine. On 15 March, President Leonid Kuchma responded by empowering the prosecutor general, the head of the Security Service, and the interior minister with responsibility for investigating the case. -- Ustina Markus ESTONIAN PRESIDENT APPROVES NEW GOVERNMENT. Lennart Meri on 16 March approved the new government of Mart Siimann, international media reported. The new government is similar to the government of former Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, who quit last month after 22 months in office amid accusations that he was involved in dubious real estate deals in Tallinn. Only two ministers changed portfolios. Andres Varik, secretary general of the Country People's Party, is to succeed Ilmar Mandmets as agriculture minister. Education Minister Rein Loik, who decided to step down, is to be replaced by Mait Klaassen. Regional Affairs Minister Tiit Kubri's position will remain vacant for the time being, BNS reported. Siimann has already promised to continue the previous government's economic policies and reforms. -- Jiri Pehe EBRD: ESTONIA IS BEST DEVELOPED IN EASTERN EUROPE. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development considers Estonia the best-developed nation in Eastern Europe, BNS on 16 March quoted EBRD board member David Hexter as saying in Tallinn. According to Hexter, EBRD loans are higher per head to Estonia than to any other country in Eastern Europe. He said the reason for the extensive lending is a strong ethic in Estonia's business sphere and a large number of strong banks. -- Jiri Pehe LATVIA CRITICAL OF YELTSIN'S STAND ON NATO. The Latvian Foreign Ministry authorities on 15 March condemned as "unacceptable" Russian President Boris Yeltsin's strong opposition to the Baltic states' joining NATO. Yeltsin said in a statement on 14 March that Russia is against any of the ex-Soviet Republics' joining NATO in any form. The ministry's statement said that Yeltsin's statement was inconsistent with the principles of the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The ministry further said that those principles recognize the sovereign rights of all countries to choose their means of security, including membership of defense organizations and alliances. -- Jiri Pehe IMF PRAISES LATVIA'S FISCAL POLICY. The head of the visiting IMF mission to Latvia, Emanuel van der Mensbrugghe, said on 13 March that the Latvian economy improved last year as inflation fell from 23 percent in 1995 to 13 percent, BNS reported. Mensbrugghe attributed the improvement to a strict fiscal policy under which the state budget deficit was reduced considerably. The IMF mission head also praised monetary policy by the Bank of Latvia, in particular the bank's efforts to increase its foreign currency reserves to the level of three months' imports. -- Jiri Pehe GOD IN THE POLISH CONSTITUTION. The Polish parliament's Constitutional Commission on 14 March compromised on the thorny issue of how to refer to God in the preamble to the draft constitution, Polish media reported. The compromise preamble, proposed by Freedom Union leader and former Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, refers to people's responsibility before God or their own conscience. The Roman Catholic Episcopate proposed that the word "or" be replaced by "and" or a comma, but Mazowiecki said nobody should force non-believers to refer to God. The episcopate's secretary, Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, said the alternative "God or conscience" is unacceptable. The episcopate's attitude is crucial if the draft is to be accepted in a popular referendum. The next stage for the draft constitution is the Sejm and Senate joint session, scheduled for 21-22 March. -- Jakub Karpinski SOLIDARITY LEADING IN POLLS. Half a year before the parliamentary elections scheduled for fall 1997, Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) is leading the co-ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) in popularity, Rzeczpospolita reported on 17 March. According to a public opinion poll conducted on 8 and 9 March, 29% of respondents would vote for the AWS and 26% for the SLD. The co-ruling Polish Peasant Party, like the opposition centrist Freedom Union, would get 12%, the Labor Union 9%, the Movement for Poland's Reconstruction 8%. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS RE-ELECT ZEMAN AS LEADER. The Social Democratic Party (CSSD), the largest opposition party in the Czech parliament, re- elected Milos Zeman chairman at its congress held 14-16 March in Bohumin, Czech media reported. The congress did not re-elect Karel Machovec as one of the CSSD's five deputy chairmen. Until the congress, Machovec had been the strongest opponent of Zeman in the party leadership. Petra Buzkova, who is also critical of some of Zeman's policies, was re-elected a deputy chairman. The congress endorsed Zeman's speech, in which he called for confrontational policies toward the right-of-center coalition government. In what appeared to be a change of one of the party's most controversial stances, the congress stopped short of demanding a referendum on the Czech Republic's membership in NATO; it merely recommended that a referendum be held. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK CATHOLIC CHURCH OFFICIAL SUPPORTS PROTESTING ACTORS. Rudolf Balaz, head of the Slovak Bishops' Conference, expressed support in Pravda on 15 March for the country's opposition, actors, and students, who have been protesting against government policies. "I support trade unions, representatives of culture, actors, students, and all other citizens who demand a dialogue with the ruling political power and the restoration of government respect for the citizens," Balaz said. Balaz called for the ruling coalition -- consisting of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, the ultra-right Slovak National Party, and the extreme-left Workers Party -- to change their way of governing the country. The government rejected Balaz's arguments, saying it was "unusual for a high representative of the Catholic Church to call for citizens to protest against a democratically elected government." -- Jiri Pehe LARGE EXTREME-RIGHTIST RALLY ON HUNGARY'S NATIONAL DAY. Some 50,000 people gathered for a rally organized by the Hungarian Justice and Life Party on 15 March to protest government policies, Hungarian media reported. The extra-parliamentary party's leader, Istvan Csurka, demanded the registration of all foreigners in Hungary and spoke against European integration efforts. "The demands imposed on the nation by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and [billionaire philanthropist George] Soros cannot be met," Csurka said, suggesting Hungary was being exploited by foreign banking interests and presumably including Soros because he is a Hungarian-born Jew. Another rally was held in front of the U.S. Embassy by a neo-Nazi party led by Albert Szabo, who told some 300 uniformed followers and a few onlookers that they are "fighting Zionist capitalism's takeover of Hungary." A national holiday in commemoration of the 1848-1849 fight against Austrian rule, the 15 March anniversary has been exploited by extremist groups for years. -- Zsofia Szilagyi HUNGARY CELEBRATES NATIONAL DAY WITH ROMANIAN PREMIER. Visiting Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea joined thousands of Hungarians across Hungary and in neighboring countries in marking the 149th anniversary of the 1848-1849 revolution. His greeting of the Hungarian national day -- both in Romanian and in Hungarian- was unprecedented in recent democratic politics and was subsequently criticized by Romanian nationalists. Speakers urged national cohesion and promoted social and economic progress as inevitable for the advancement of the nation. Simultaneously with government speeches, opposition politicians also held rallies, campaigning against the government. -- Zsofia Szilagyi ARTIST VICTOR VASARELY DIES AT 89. World-famous Hungarian-born French painter Victor Vasarely died in Paris on 15 March, international media reported. Born Gyozo Vasarhelyi in 1908 in Pecs, southern Hungary, he settled down in Paris in 1930. With his geometrical works playing on optical illusions, he held a leading role in the Op Art movement of the 1960s. -- Zsofia Szilagyi Southeastern Europe ALBANIAN UNREST PERSISTS. EU officials are due in Tirana on 17 March to assess Albania's needs after a countrywide spree of rioting and looting, international agencies reported. EU foreign ministers decided to send advisers to Tirana but failed to agree on any peacekeeping or military intervention. Tirana's airport remains closed and tensions high. Though periods of calm returned on 16 March, most cities remain largely in the hands of armed civilians. Newly free opposition leader Fatos Nano says he supports the recently formed coalition government that is trying to restore order. But the Socialist Party leader says he will not cooperate with President Sali Berisha. Nano had been in a Tirana jail since 1993; he managed to escape during the unrest which swept the capital and was subsequently pardoned by Berisha. Berisha announced a new coalition government and elections, but his grip on power remains tenuous. -- Michael Shafir BOSNIAN SERBS ENDORSE AGREEMENT WITH YUGOSLAVIA. The Republika Srpska parliament on 15 March ratified a treaty establishing special relations between Bosnian Serbs and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, despite Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic's initial urging against it, international and local media reported. Out of 72 deputies, 61 voted for the agreement, which was signed last month by the Bosnian presidency's Serbian member, Momcilo Krajisnik, and Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic. The pact was controversial because it was signed by Krajisnik rather than Plavsic, who is the president of the Bosnian Serb entity. Serb nationalists said that Krajisnik's signature de facto concedes that Bosnia-Herzegovina is a single state. Plavsic had said the pact was against the Serbian constitution and the Dayton peace agreement. Under pressure from other deputies, however, Plavsic backed down and agreed to the pact. -- Daria Sito Sucic CROATIAN PRESIDENT IN MOSTAR. Franjo Tudjman on 15 March was a guest at the dedication of an aluminum factory south of the divided town of Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, local and international media reported. He also visited Medjugorje, the Catholic shrine in Herzegovina, where some 7,000 Croat teenagers were bused in to cheer him, according to AFP. Tudjman praised the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina for their part in fighting Serbs and "other extremists who wanted to endanger this area," referring to the Croat-Muslim war. He said Bosnian Croats in many ways set an example for all Croatians. Meanwhile, the deputy high representative in Mostar, Sir Martin Garrod, walked out of the factory- dedicating ceremony because of insulting remarks about the EU and Hans Koschnick, a city former EU administrator, by the factory's president, Mijo Brajkovic, a former mayor of the Croat-held part of Mostar. -- Daria Sito Sucic $75 MILLION DONATED FOR RECONSTRUCTION OF EASTERN SLAVONIA. An international donor conference held on 14 March in Zagreb promised a further $21.8 million toward the reconstruction of eastern Slavonia, the last Serb-held region of Croatia, bringing the total amount pledged to $75 million, Novi List reported on 17 March. But the aid is less than the international officials were hoping for. Croatian Reconstruction and Development Minister Jure Radic said about $2 billion is necessary for reconstruction and for the return of displaced persons, Hina reported. Croatia can promise $1 billion, but the rest will have to be collected from the international community, Radic said. In other news, the U.S. said it abstained from voting on a new IMF loan to Croatia to send a strong message of displeasure with Zagreb's failure to turn over indicted war criminals to the Hague-based war-crimes tribunal, Reuters reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT BUDGET. The draft of the 1997 budget was approved by the Romanian government on 15 March and will be submitted for parliament's approval on 19 March, the media reported on the same day. Most of the expenditure in the budget (over 10% of the GDP) will go to social protection, Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara told the press. The government constructed the budget on the assumption that inflation in the first half of the year will be 90%, dropping sharply to 30% in the second half of 1997. -- Michael Shafir ROMANIA'S HUNGARIANS CELEBRATE 1848 REVOLUTION. In several towns in Transylvania, Romania's Magyar community on 15 March marked the anniversary of the 1848 revolution. Unlike in previous years, when the celebrations met the hostility of the government and of Romanian nationalists who attribute to the Magyars irredentist intentions over Transylvania, this year Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea sent a message to the Romanian Hungarian minority and government officials participated in the ceremonies. The Party of Social Democracy in Romania, on the other hand, protested that the government was marking "the anniversary of another state" and recalled "atrocities" committed by the 1848 revolutionaries against ethnic Romanians in Transylvania. As expected, the Party of Romanian National Unity and the Greater Romania Party also protested against the celebrations. -- Michael Shafir ROMANIAN BANK DIRECTOR UNDER POLICE INVESTIGATION. Razvan Temesan, the head of Romania's largest commercial bank, Bacorex, was detained by police on 14 March on charges of abuse of office. Although released, he remains under investigation on suspicion of having cost the state some $100,000 by approving payment of more than $1 million to a private company at an exchange rate lower than the official rate, Romanian television reported on 14 and 15 March. Bancorex fired Temesan and his deputy a few hours before his arrest. In a related development, President Emil Constantinescu on 14 March told a seminar of police and army officers that Romania cannot join the Euro-Atlantic structures unless it can stop organized crime, illegal emigration, and terrorism. -- Michael Shafir ANTI-NATO COMMITTEE IN TRANSDNIESTER. The council of war veterans and reservists from Rabnita, in the breakaway Transdniester region of Moldova, set up a group to create an "anti- NATO committee," BASA-press reported on 14 March. In a press release, the council said that "NATO's true purpose is to weaken and diminish the military and economic potential of the CIS and particularly that of Russia" and called for anti-NATO groups to be set up in every settlement. A group representing Cossacks who came to the region to fight on the separatist side also expressed concern over the possible expansion of NATO and called on President Boris Yeltsin to renounce his intention to withdraw the troops. -- Michael Shafir FORMER BULGARIAN PREMIER TO BE PROSECUTED. Interior Minister Bogumil Bonev on 16 March told the state radio that former Premier Zhan Videnov is to be prosecuted for criminal negligence that resulted in a severe bread shortage, RFE/RL reported. Bonev said both Videnov and his adviser, Kasimir Raidovsky, have been banned from leaving the country. He said Videnov neglected problems with the grain balance in Bulgaria and, when informed about the problem, did not stop exporting grain. Videnov was forced to resign on 28 December last year. -- Michael Shafir BULGARIAN ROUNDUP. The Socialist Party has signed a coalition agreement with the left-wing Agrarians and Ecologists in preparation for the 19 April early elections, RFE/RL reported on 15 March. Former President Zhelyu Zhelev on 14 March became chairman of a new seven-party coalition called the Alliance to Save Bulgaria. The alliance envisions itself as an alternative to the main anti-Communist opposition coalition led by the Union of Democratic Forces. In other news, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Walter Slocum, on an official visit to Sofia, said Washington understands Bulgaria's desire to join NATO, RFE/RL reported on 16 March. Slocum said all applications of NATO candidates will be considered "very seriously" and added that the U.S. supports the efforts of the interim Bulgarian cabinet and President Petar Stoyanov to reform the economy. Slocum is scheduled to meet President Stoyanov, Prime Minister Stefan Sofiansky, and Defense Minister Georgy Ananiev. -- Michael Shafir [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 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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