|The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. - Eden Phillpotts|
No. 54, Part II, 18 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 **See below for information on upcoming changes to Transition. ********************************************************************* CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE KUCHMA SAYS RUSSIA PUSHING UKRAINE INTO NATO. In an interview on the Ukrainian TV talk show Pislyamova, President Leonid Kuchma said Russia's aggressive policy toward Ukraine was pushing Kyiv into seeking NATO membership, NTV and AFP reported on 17 March. Kuchma said the alliance could be salvation for Ukraine from Moscow if Russia continues to pursue its current policies. However, he said Ukraine's current neutral status is in the interest of everyone, including NATO, Russia, Europe, and the CIS. Kuchma also said Ukraine could not exist within the CIS system, as it had its own individual characteristics and its own destiny. -- Ustina Markus CRIMEAN DEPUTIES LAUNCH HUNGER STRIKE. At least three of the seven Crimean deputies who were stripped of their legislative powers by the Crimean cabinet launched a hunger strike in the Simferopol parliament on 17 March, ITAR-TASS and ORT reported the following day. One of the hunger strikers, deputy Volodymyr Klychnikov, said the fasting deputies wanted the cabinet and parliament to resign. The seven deputies were stripped of their powers by a decision of the presidium on 13 March because of their "anti-constitutional, destructive, and hooliganistic activities during parliamentary sessions." The emasculated deputies publicized their hunger strike as a move in opposition to the unlawful rule in Crimea. -- Ustina Markus SOROS REGIONAL DIRECTOR BARRED FROM BELARUS. Belarusian border guards refused to allow Peter Byrne, director of the Soros Foundation in Belarus, to re-enter the country, Belarusian television and international agencies reported on 16 March. Byrne had been in Budapest for a meeting of Soros executive directors. When he flew back to Minsk, where he is a resident, the border guards accused him of interfering in Belarus's domestic affairs by participating in anti-Lukashenka demonstrations. The Soros Foundation has invested $13 million in Belarus, with much of the money spent on education, ecological and medical programs, and support for independent media. The U.S. embassy in Belarus lodged an official protest, but U.S. officials were barred from meeting with Byrne and he was deported to Germany. Embassy spokesman Alexei Solomakha said he believed Belarusian authorities violated international norms by deporting Byrne and not informing the embassy. The Soros Foundation had been under pressure from the country's authorities for some time because of its activities. -- Ustina Markus PRO-INTEGRATIONISTS MEET IN MINSK. The Congress of USSR Peoples--a gathering of major proponents of re-integrating the former Soviet Union- -was held in Minsk on 16 March, Belarusian television reported. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka addressed the meeting, lamenting the demise of the USSR, warning against NATO expansion, accusing the West of double standards, and urging integration among CIS states. Russian participants included Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and leader of the Working Russia movement Viktor Anpilov. Both blasted the West. Anpilov called for a ban on NATO and demanded that the U.S. get out of Europe. Zyuganov accused the West of setting up obstacles to CIS integration. The Belarusian Communist Party, which had opposed Lukashenka's November 1996 constitutional referendum, was banned from participating in the congress. One Communist deputy was forcibly ejected from the meeting. -- Ustina Markus BALTIC LEADERS ON POSSIBLE RUSSIA-NATO DEAL. Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis called for greater publicity of the talks between the United States and Russia on NATO expansion, BNS reported on 17 March. Ulmanis said Latvia can not rule out the possibility that a compromise between the alliance and Russia could be formed at the expense of the Baltics. Meanwhile, Toomas Hendrik Ilves said the fear that U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin would strike a secret deal in Helsinki that would threaten the Baltic states is groundless. "I regard it as a paranoid attitude. It is not part of U.S. political practice," Ilves said. The topic of a secret deal might be intriguing from a journalistic point of view, he added, but cannot be based on truth. -- Jiri Pehe LITHUANIAN PREMIER REJECTS ALLEGED UNDERWORLD TIES. Gediminas Vagnorius on 17 March described media reports alleging that Vladas Laurinavicius, a millionaire of dubious reputation, financed the co-ruling Homeland Union as "irresponsible political fabrications," BNS reported. In an official press release, Vagnorius argued that his party and its leadership "were not and will never be under the influence of any individuals." According to Vagnorius, the party has not defended and will not defend its officials if they become involved in corruption or have links to the criminal world. Several articles have appeared in the Lithuanian press over the past few days alleging ties between the ruling coalition and Laurinavicius. -- Jiri Pehe POLISH FISHING BOAT STILL DETAINED IN RUSSIA. The Polish fishing boat Aquarius, impounded by inspectors from the Russian Environmental Protection Ministry while fishing in the Sea of Okhotsk on 26 February (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 March 1997), docked at the port in Petropavlovsk on Kamchatka on 17 March. The crew was not given permission to leave the vessel, but Polish consul Stanislaw Lukasik was allowed to board the ship and talk to the crew. The Russian inspectors argue that the Aquarius lacked proper written permission to fish in the area and is sending the case to the local court. The Poles contend they had permission and that the official papers merely arrived with delay. Polish Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati said Moscow broke the relevant agreements with Poland and its behavior has been out of line with what is expected between friendly countries. -- Jakub Karpinski PROTESTS AGAINST CLOSURE OF GDANSK SHIPYARD CONTINUE. Polish shipyard workers in Gdansk protested for the fourth day against the shipyard's closure. They yelled "thieves, thieves" and flung coins at Bank Gdanski and Pekao bank, which have refused credit to the failing shipyard. The workers also returned to last week's tactic of blocking the city's most vital crossroads with burning tires. Pope John Paul II made a statement on 16 March supporting the shipyard work"vrs, saying "I want to tell you that, just as I was with you in heart and prayer when you fought for freedom, so I am now with you and your families in this struggle for survival." Meanwhile, a nationwide protest for higher pay by customs employees caused chaos and congestion along Poland's borders. The customs officers subject travelers, documents, and goods to extremely slow and meticulous scrutiny. They want bonuses amounting to 100% of their basic pay to be paid from the state budget. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECHS CRITICAL OF RUSSIAN ENVOY'S REMARKS. The Czech government views Russian Ambassador Nikolai Ryabov's suggestion that bilateral trade accords might be canceled if Prague gains NATO membership as "absolutely unacceptable," Czech Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec told CTK on 17 March. Ryabov told Russia's NTV on 16 March that the Czech Republic's entry into NATO could make Moscow reconsider economic deals with Prague. Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus said he expected the Russian government to renounce Ryabov's statements as not reflecting Moscow's official policy. "We were shocked by the Russian ambassador's remarks," Klaus said in Budapest, where he is on an official visit. On 17 March, Ryabov told ITAR-TASS he "regrets" that his words "have been misinterpreted" in Prague. "Russia is by no means trying to link NATO's expansion to the east with the development of cooperation, as it is currently being presented by the Czech side," Ryabov said. -- Jiri Pehe STUDENTS DEMONSTRATE OUTSIDE SLOVAK CULTURE MINISTRY. Some 1,500 students demonstrated outside the Slovak Culture Ministry on 17 March, demanding that Culture Minister Ivan Hudec quit over his handling of a strike by actors and theater staff last week. The demonstration ended after an hour, international media reported. Last week Hudec called in police to end a sit-in in his ministry by actors and their supporters. The actors and other artists have protested against what they see as state interference in cultural policy. -- Jiri Pehe CZECH PREMIER IN HUNGARY. Visiting Czech Premier Vaclav Klaus declared on 17 March that the Czech Republic and Hungary share identical interests and that the two governments conduct an intense political dialogue on integration issues, Hungarian media reported. Both Klaus and his Hungarian counterpart Gyula Horn stressed that the two countries are not rivals for NATO and EU membership. They also expressed satisfaction with bilateral ties and said they plan to sign health-care and social- policy agreements. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NEW ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER TO MEET REBEL LEADERS. Bashkim Fino announced he will visit insurgent leaders in southern Albania, after they threatened to march on Tirana demanding President Sali Berisha's immediate resignation. The insurgents, meeting in Belci--a small town near Fier--had delivered an ultimatum to Berisha demanding his resignation by 18 March. They also said that "Fino, whose authority we recognize, must not cooperate with the arrangements made by Berisha or we will withdraw our confidence in him," Reuters reported. Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said Berisha's resignation would be "the simplest way" to resolve the crisis. Meanwhile, over 700 Albanian refugees arrived in Puglia on 17 March and more vessels were heading for the Italian coast the following day, Italian border guards told AFP. The latest arrivals bring the total number of refugees to land in Italy since 13 March to around 7,000. One ship with 487 people on board berthed at Brindisi with some difficulty after encountering engine trouble. Reception facilities in southern Italy are overfilled. -- Fabian Schmidt EU MISSION IN TIRANA. The UN Security Council on 17 March urged Albanian authorities to cooperate with a EU fact-finding mission that arrived in Tirana the same day. The 11-member team was mandated by a meeting of EU foreign ministers the previous day in Apeldoorn which ended without agreement on sending troops to Albania. Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini estimated that assistance to Albania would be carried out by "between 100 and 150 civilians." German Chancellor Helmut Kohl also ruled out military intervention. The mission's findings are to be presented to EU foreign ministers in Brussels on 24 March. Meeting the EU team, Berisha said rapid assistance, mainly in food and medicine, was vital to restore order. Meanwhile, life in Tirana returned to near- normal on 17 March, with shops open, public transport running, and civil servants back in offices. Schools, however, stayed closed, an overnight curfew and strict controls on the press remained in effect, and Rinas airport stayed shut. -- Fabian Schmidt SERBIAN PARLIAMENT PRAISES TREATY WITH BOSNIAN SERBS. The Serbian parliament on 17 March adopted a declaration supporting the treaty signed last month aimed at strengthening ties between the Bosnian Serb entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, local media reported. Some deputies questioned the purpose of the declaration, since the pact is between the Republika Srpska and the federal Yugoslav state. The pro-government daily Vecernje Novosti wrote that the declaration was meant as a show of support for the "spiritual unification of Serbian people and erased borders." The Serbian parliament also recommended that the federal parliament ratify the pact later this week. But French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette asked federal Yugoslav authorities to delay ratification until the High Representative for Bosnia, Carl Bildt, confirms the agreement conforms with the Dayton peace accords, Nasa Borba reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic BOSNIAN POLICE RETURN KURDS TO ISTANBUL. Some 100 Kurds from Turkey were arrested by Bosnian police in Sarajevo on 17 March under suspicion of trying to reach Western countries illegally and were deported the same day, Oslobodjenje reported. An anonymous caller had informed the police that a local tourist agency was smuggling Kurds to Germany via Bosnia- Herzegovina for a price up to $2,500, international agencies reported. Turkish citizens can enter Bosnia and stay up to three months without a visa. Police confirmed an increased inflow of Kurds with legal Turkish documents to Sarajevo; Oslobodjenje put the number in the city before the arrests at 400-500. In other news, Berlin authorities said on 17 March they would step up the forced repatriation of Bosnian refugees unless they started returning home voluntarily, Reuters reported. But Berlin's Interior Minister Joerg Schoenbohm said they rule out the forcible return of Muslims who were expelled from Serb areas, and of traumatized refugees. -- Daria Sito Sucic LOYALIST DAILY CONFIRMS MILOSEVIC'S DESIGNS ON FEDERAL PRESIDENCY. For the first time, pro-regime media have said Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is likely to run for the federal Yugoslav presidency, AFP reported. Vecernje Novosti wrote on 14 March that he "very probably" will seek the post. The pro-government daily thereby seemed to confirm long-standing speculation among observers of Serbian politics that Milosevic intends to beef up the powers of the federal presidency and then obtain the office for himself. The federal parliament, which is dominated by Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, will elect the president in June. Milosevic is constitutionally barred from seeking a further term as Serbian president. Current Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic is widely regarded as Milosevic's loyal follower. -- Patrick Moore OSCE CALLS ON SERBIA TO OPEN UP TO OPPOSITION. Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen, the current chair of the OSCE, met with Serbian opposition leaders Vuk Draskovic and Vesna Pesic in Copenhagen on 17 March, international news agencies reported. Following the talks with them and with student leader Ivan Pravdic, Helveg Petersen told the press: "It is tremendously important that the upcoming elections are well-prepared and that the opposition has free access to the media ^Ê I believe the government now should establish a dialogue with the opposition and give [it] real access to the media." The OSCE has made recommendations on democratization to the regime of President Slobodan Milosevic in recent weeks, but the opposition leaders said the government is dragging its feet. -- Patrick Moore ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER STEPS BACK FROM HUNGARIAN UNIVERSITY PROMISE. Victor Ciorbea, after promising shortly before his visit to Budapest earlier this month to reopen the Hungarian-language Bolyai University in Cluj, now says the final say will depend on the existing Babes-Bolyai University's faculty senate, because universities enjoy autonomy, Radio Bucharest reported on 17 March. Ciorbea and President Emil Constantinescu had earlier clarified that the Hungarian university, closed in 1958, would re-open as a Hungarian section within the unified Babes-Bolyai university (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 March 1997). Ciorbea's recent statement was made at a meeting with the university's two ethnic Romanian deputy rectors, who oppose the move and have threatened to resign in protest. Ciorbea added that a separate, independent Hungarian-language university could be set up elsewhere, provided it respected relevant laws. On 18 March, Romania libera printed a declaration of the Cluj branch chairman of Ciorbea's party, the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, opposing any change in the Babes-Bolyai University status quo. -- Michael Shafir ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PROTESTS IN DEFENSE OF EXTREMIST. Senators representing the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, the Party of Romanian National Unity, and the Greater Romania Party (PRM) walked out of Senate debates on 17 March, announcing they would not participate in the house's work before meeting with President Emil Constantinescu, Romanian TV reported. The three opposition parties, which are protesting the manner in which PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor was stripped of his parliamentary immunity (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 March), said the ruling coalition had turned down a "compromise proposal," according to which the Constitutional Court would be asked to express its opinion. On 18 March, however, Senate Chairman Petre Roman said he had decided to ask the court's opinion himself. Radio Bucharest reported that the three factions are also likely to boycott debates in the Chamber of Deputies, the other house of the bi-cameral parliament. -- Michael Shafir BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER PRESENTS STABILIZATION PROGRAM. Caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Sofiyansky presented on national television on 17 March the main measures of a program aimed at stabilizing the country's economy. He called for understanding and support, admitting the program could cost as many as 58,000 people their jobs. Sofiyansky said the government would compensate them and strive to create new jobs rather than continue subsidizing failing industries. All prices would be fully liberalized except for temporary continuation of subsidies for bread, milk, white cheese, and chicken. Wages would be increased by 70 percent starting 1 April, and a new social-security system would be created. Earlier, RFE/RL reported that Bulgaria had reached a tentative agreement with key IMF officials to create a national finance board with power to introduce tough austerity measures to rescue the economy. Sofianski and Anne McGuirk, head of an IMF mission to Bulgaria, announced plans by the IMF to provide Bulgaria with credits totaling about 700 million dollars. The accord still needs formal IMF approval. The finance board is be set up in Bulgaria before the end of June. -- Michael Shafir [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Tom Warner *^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^! 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 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. 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