Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

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

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

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            Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                      All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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