|Saturday, 17 August 2019|
OMRI: Pursuing Balkan Peace, Vol. 2, No. 2, 97-01-14
From: Open Media Research Institute <http://www.omri.cz>
Vol. 2, No. 2, 14 January 1997
 Protests Rock Sofia
by Maria Koinova (in Sofia) and Stefan KrauseDemonstrations against the formation of a new Socialist-led government continued in Sofia over the past week, erupting in violence on 10-11 January. The biggest protest in Sofia since 1989-1990 took place on 12 January, and politicians from both camps seemed ready to enter into talks about early parliamentary elections. It is doubtful, however, what the outcome of those talks will be -- if they take place at all.
Demonstrations against the formation of a new government of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) started on 3 January and gained momentum over the following week. On 10 January, the opposition walked out of the parliament after the Socialist majority rejected the original wording of its "Declaration on Bulgaria's Salvation," which is its latest political and economic program and includes a call for early elections.
Later in the day, protesters gathered outside the parliament building, threw stones, and finally broke through the police cordon and entered the building. They smashed furniture and set fire to one office, causing damage estimated at about 700 million leva ($1.1 million). BSP legislators, unable to leave the building, barricaded themselves in, while the opposition deputies left. Finally, riot police broke up the blockade, beating up demonstrators. The number of demonstrators and policemen injured is estimated at anywhere between 100 and 295. Politicians from both camps were injured during that day's protests and the ensuing police action.
On 12 January, people gathered in downtown Sofia for the biggest demonstration thus far. AFP estimated their number at 50,000, while RFE/RL put it at 150,000-200,000. The next day, between 30,000 and 100,000 gathered in Sofia, while another mass demonstration took place in Plovdiv. Protests are expected to continue until early elections are called. The opposition United Democratic Forces (ODS) said they will organize daily protests all over the country. Meanwhile, the Podkrepa Confederation of Labor called a nationwide general strike from 15 January. Warning strikes started on 13 January. By the evening of 13 January, the three major trade unions, Podkrepa, Promyana, and the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria had endorsed the idea of a political general strike which will be coordinated by a general staff of the ODS.
Observers close to the BSP called the weekend's events an "attempt at a coup d'état" and "dictate of the streets," while analysts close to the opposition said they were a normal reaction of hungry people to the BSP government's disastrous record, especially in the economic field. At any rate, attempts by the opposition to portray the BSP as the Bulgarian variety of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's regime seem more than far- fetched. Despite its bad record and justified doubts as to whether is has truly reformed itself, the BSP is not a totalitarian party, and none of its leaders is a Bulgarian Milosevic.
Over the weekend, politicians started to react to the protesters' demands. President-elect Petar Stoyanov said he favored early elections, as did outgoing President Zhelyu Zhelev. The latter -- in an address carried by state media on 10 January -- also said that "in this explosive situation" he will not give the BSP's premier-designate, Interior Minister Nikolay Dobrev, the mandate to form a new government. But it is more than doubtful whether he can stick to this position, since the constitution leaves him little room for maneuver. It is also questionable whether it is politically wise to refuse to appoint Dobrev and leave that task to Stoyanov, who takes over later this month. In this case, the new president would start his term with a major political loss of face by having to appoint a new socialist government soon after he takes office.
Stoyanov and Dobrev in a meeting agreed that the situation can only be defused by talks between the Socialists and the opposition. But the BSP continued to insist that Dobrev be given the mandate to form a new government. BSP Chairman Georgi Parvanov on 12 January said the idea of early elections was "discussed recently" within the BSP and that talks with the opposition on the issue can start anytime, but he said he expected the BSP to stay in power for at least another year to "stabilize" Bulgaria. The same day, though, parliamentary speaker Blagovest Sendov -- elected on the BSP ticket -- said on state TV that in his "personal opinion" early elections are necessary.
On 13 January, the BSP Executive Bureau held a seven-hour meeting. After the meeting, it was announced that the BSP "agreed in principle to the idea of holding early parliamentary elections in the context of the implementation of a national anti-crisis program." The Socialists said they are ready to start talks with the opposition on early elections and on the "character and composition" of a new government. But again they insisted that this government must be led by the BSP, and they also said that Dobrev's position as prime minister is non-negotiable. BSP leaders also said early elections should not be held before then end of the year.
The opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) leadership was expected to meet on 14 January to discuss the Socialists' offer. But SDS Chairman Ivan Kostov set the tone for what will be -- at best -- difficult talks. He accused the Socialists of tactical delays since on the BSP's side, only the BSP Supreme Council -- rather than Executive Bureau -- can take the final decision on the issues at stake.
Still, the chance for substantial talks between BSP and opposition becomes more realistic. At the same time, this does not mean that an agreement on early elections will be reached easily or at all. The BSP is likely to try and hold on to power, knowing that it will almost certainly lose early elections. Besides, much will depend on whether last Friday's violence remains an isolated incident. If such events repeat themselves, chances for political dialogue look bleak.
 Draconian Language Law For Turkey?
by Lowell BezanisIn Croatia and elsewhere across much of the former Yugoslavia, nationalists posing as linguistic purists are eagerly purging the local variant of Serbo- Croatian of allegedly "alien" influences. The link between national identity and language is on the agenda in other countries as well, including in Turkey. Alarmed by concerns that modern Turkish is being degraded and overwhelmed by foreign loan words, a draft bill contemplating harsh measures to prevent their use in advertising and the media has been tabled. The draft bill could take months to wind its way through parliament and must be approved by the Turkish president before it can be adopted.
The bill's significance goes beyond the debate over whether language use can or should be shaped by law. It represents a barometer of Turkish dissatisfaction with the forms the language is taking, and implicitly, the country's very orientation. The case is also of special interest to those attempting, as in Central Asia, to revive or protect their languages by legal means.
The draft legislation aims to thwart the ever-more-pervasive use of foreign- origin words in Turkey by compelling businesses to drop foreign names and replace them with Turkish ones. It seeks as well to oblige broadcasters to speak "proper" Turkish or be banned from the airwaves. Mistakes of intonation, pronunciation and syntax could result in heavy fines under the bill. Similar limitations apply to the print media. The bill also calls for foreign words to appear in smaller, duller print after the Turkish name on billboards and proposes quadrupling advertising taxes for businesses using a second language.
This effort to protect the Turkish language is merely the latest round in a very long-standing battle to shape it and the culture -- as well as politics -- of its speakers. Modern Turkish is splendid case of a language which has gone through tremendous change, not only due to natural evolutionary processes, but by administrative dictate.
Rapid change has been the hallmark of Turkish since the 1920s, when Turks shifted from speaking Ottoman -- an extremely cultivated but artificial language blending Arabic, Persian and Turkish -- to modern Turkish. Turkey's founder, Ataturk, pushed this shift through consciously as part of the greater effort to reorient Anatolian Turks away from its Eastern, Islamic and imperial past, and towards the West, Europe and republicanism.
The suddenness of the shift offered benefits as well as casualties: on one hand literacy became widespread because people began to write as they spoke; on the other the new language was comparatively impoverished, especially when it came to expressing abstract concepts. Some of the great experiments undertaken -- such as creating new vocabulary based on old Turkish or borrowed from other Turkic languages -- left some readers in the 1940s, for example, unsure of what their newspapers were reporting. While some neologisms did gain currency many failed to do so.
More noteworthy, in light of the current draft bill, is the fact that Turkish very quickly was flooded by new foreign loan words. This usually meant French in the early years of the Republic, and English after World War II. This process has grown apace as Turkey's ties with Europe and the United States have increased, particularly since the mid-1980s when Turkey began to liberalize its economy and thereafter, when private radio and television broadcasting began to mushroom.
Predictably, this development has caused tension in Turkish society. The manner in which one speaks --especially whether or not one utilizes neologisms and loan words vs. old, often Arabic words-- defines one's age, social background, and most often, political orientation. Countless times every day, strict secularists refuse to use the traditional Muslim greeting Selam Aleykum, for example, preferring the neutral merhaba, as a sign of their politics. Likewise Muslim or nationalist conservatives duly pepper their speech accordingly, making much use of Ottomanisms in order to demonstrate their fidelity to the past, the Islamic faith, and their kinship with the larger Muslim world, as well as their rejection of Ataturkism.
Saying "no" to foreign loan words is a position long dear to Turkey's Islamists and nationalists; that this is being echoed more widely in Turkish society today suggests frustration with the fruits of Western liberalism may be running more deeply than many outsiders realized.
 Bulgaria's Videnov Resigns But Problems Remain
by Stefan KrauseAnd in Bulgaria, too, the holiday season provided little respite from politics. President Zhelyu Zhelev on 30 December asked the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) to form a new government to succeed that of Zhan Videnov, who resigned as premier and party leader the previous week. While it is certain that the BSP will be able to form a new cabinet by mid- January, it is clear that the recent BSP congress and Videnov's resignation have not solved the party's and the country's basic problems.
Videnov resigned on 21 December, at the beginning of a three-day extraordinary party congress. Parliament dismissed his government on 28 December by a near unanimous vote. Announcing his resignation, Videnov cited a lack of trust within the BSP and within society as a whole as the main reason. He said he will not again seek any top post in the government, the party, or in parliament. Videnov's decision came as a surprise to both his allies and his critics, since he had repeatedly said that he would not give up power voluntarily and because many delegates to the congress were known to be on his side. Obviously, pressure from within the party had become unbearable for Videnov, especially after 19 top BSP politicians representing all factions from orthodox Marxists to social-democratic reformers had called in early November for his ouster.
The BSP congress elected Georgi Parvanov as Videnov's successor at the party's helm. Parvanov, a 39-year-old historian, had been one of Videnov's deputies. He handily defeated three other candidates, including former Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and former BSP Deputy Chairman Yanaki Stoilov, both of whom belong to the party's reformist wing. Parvanov's election is seen as a compromise between the hard-liners and reformers. In another compromise, both Videnov supporters and reformers alike were elected to the new Supreme Council.
Parvanov's election for the time being muted the crisis within the party, but the BSP's woes are hardly over. One can argue that Parvanov's choice is a compromise that did not solve but only postponed a solution to the BSP's problems. Although the congress was scheduled to discuss and decide on basic policy changes, it dealt mostly with leadership issues. Once again, the decision was put off as to whether the BSP wants to be a reformist party in the social democratic tradition, an orthodox leftist party, or a conglomerate of diverse groups and platforms.
The reformists, moreover, were dealt several blows. Not only did Pirinski and Stoilov fare badly in the vote for party leader; the delegates also voted against several reformist proposals. And there was yet another incident implying that democracy has yet to take root in the BSP. On 22 December, a package of seven resolutions proposed by reformists was at first adopted by the congress. But when Videnov -- who at that point had already resigned -- insisted that the congress vote on them again, the delegates followed him in voting against them.
If the reformists fared badly at the congress, then worse was still to come. On 3 January, the BSP Supreme Council gathered to elect a new Executive Bureau, the highest decision-making body between party congresses. Parvanov had originally proposed that it comprise 20 members in order to accommodate representatives of all factions, but the Supreme Council voted to opt for 15 members instead. Parvanov proposed a list of candidates, of whom five failed to get elected. They include Pirinski, Stoilov, and the head of the parliamentary foreign relations commission, Nikolay Kamov. Observers saw the vote not only as a crushing defeat for the reformists: it also was a defeat for Parvanov less than two weeks after his election. By the same token, the vote was a victory for Videnov since his most prominent opponents failed to get elected. Videnov himself refused to run for the Executive Bureau, saying former party leaders should not be on it. But the vote seems to underscore than even without holding formal office, Videnov continues to play an important role within the BSP.
On 7 January, the newly-elected BSP Executive Bureau nominated Interior Minister Nikolay Dobrev as prime minister. Dobrev was at first unwilling to take on that responsibility, but on 6 January agreed. Other names originally aired included Pirinski and parliamentary speaker Blagovest Sendov. Parvanov said he would not seek the premiership himself, saying he will concentrate "on the party alone." Dobrev, who emerged as an outspoken Videnov critic at the recent BSP congress, has support within the party but also within the population for his fight against corruption and organized crime, but critics of his nomination pointed out that he lacks experience in economics or finance. In any event, the new government's scope of action will be limited by outside factors such as the need to comply with IMF recommendations. The new cabinet will not have much leeway in solving the country's problems.
Thus, in addition to the myriad structural problems facing the country, the BSP might prove to be another obstacle to much-needed change. If Parvanov does not get the BSP onto a new track, Videnov's replacement might well go unnoticed in terms of real -- rather than symbolic -- politics. The elections to the Executive Bureau cast doubts on Parvanov's ability to control the party apparatus.
 SERBIAN OPPOSITION KEEPS UP THE PRESSURE.Meanwhile in Serbia, the past week has seen the demonstrators go from strength to strength. The authorities increasingly appear to have been caught off balance and without a clue as to how to deal with daily protests that show no sign of abating.
The demonstrators have shown skill in varying their tactics in order to keep the authorities guessing and maintain up public interest. Approaches range from the mass outpourings to mark Orthodox Christmas Eve on 6 January and Julian New Year's Eve a week later; to massive traffic jams that technically contravene the ban on protest marches; to telephone campaigns to shut down the government by blocking its communications; and to direct confrontations in a test of wills with the riot police to prompt the latter to give way and disappear. So far, the demonstrators have been successful, and there has been no repetition of the major violence of 24 December last year.
To date, moreover, the authorities seem at a loss for a response. The riot police are still out on the streets, but the opposition has targeted them with psychological warfare. This is aimed alternatively at belittling them and at urging them to join "the side of the people." The courts have by now upheld opposition victories in the 17 November local elections in three out of 14 areas, and some observers have suggested that the only way out for Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is to recognize all the victories piecemeal. In the meantime, the demonstrators have made it clear that they will stay out on the streets until he accepts all the original election returns.
What will happen after that is anyone's guess. Opposition leaders such as Vuk Draskovic have demanded Milosevic's resignation, but some foreign officials sympathetic to the opposition have urged the demonstrators not to expect anything more than the recognition of their electoral successes. Of course, 14 local councils in the hands of the opposition would be in an excellent position to do something to promote freedom of the media by licensing independent local radio stations and supporting the independent press. But that would still leave Radio and Television Serbia and the main national dailies in Milosevic's hands, at least for the time being.
Other observers, moreover, wonder what the opposition would do if it acquired control at a local level, let alone at a national one. These politicians are united chiefly by their opposition to Milosevic, although the three main leaders have stressed their intention to bury past differences and work together for a better and more democratic Serbia. But might the Zajedno (Together) coalition nonetheless collapse amid in- fighting, leaving Milosevic to pick up the pieces? Has the seemingly opportunistic Zoran Djindjic become a principled democrat and team-player? Can the often impulsive Vuk Draskovic be counted on to be a responsible member of a governing coalition? What about both men's past ties to Serbian nationalists, which is a factor that still gives rise to mistrust of Zajedno in Croatia and in Bosnia-Herzegovina? And what role might Vesna Pesic -- the only one of the three with a proven record of support for democracy and a civil society -- play alongside Djindjic and Draskovic in an eventual post-Milosevic government? -- Patrick Moore
 A CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY FOR SERBIA?One man with an idea of what Serbia's future should be is Crown Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic, the son of the late King Peter II. Royalist roots run deep in Serbia -- especially in rural areas and in small towns -- and many observers and politicians have suggested that the country might eventually restore the dynasty, which the communists overthrew in 1945. Prince Alexander, who has spent his life in Britain, said that he has close links to the opposition and is ready to return as king if the people want him. He told the Daily Telegraph of 9 January that "it's time for a change. The people are fed up." Alexander's realm would be confined to Serbia and Montenegro rather than all of the former Yugoslavia that his family had ruled since 1918, but he does not exclude Bosnian Serb territories linking up with Serbia: "One day, there will have to be a Dayton Two," he argued. He also warned that "Milosevic is planning a collective suicide of the nation" and must be gotten rid of. Alexander added that his role model is Spain's King Juan Carlos, who helped Spain become a prosperous democracy integrated into Europe. "What does the king provide? He provides unity," Alexander concluded. He has visited Serbia three times since the fall of communism to receive a polite reception from citizens whose reason for turning out to see him ranges from enthusiasm to curiosity. He follows Balkan affairs closely from Britain, but his influence among Serbs and Montenegrins is limited by the fact that he does not speak their language. -- Patrick Moore
 SERBIAN OPPOSITION SEEKS INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT.Back on the stump in Belgrade, Djindjic appealed to foreign countries to put more pressure on Milosevic to recognize the 17 November local election results. He told a German radio station: "This is at the moment probably the only thing that can make [Milosevic] move," AFP reported. EU and U.S. flags are prominent at opposition rallies, which reflects popular appreciation for foreign support. The independent media closely follow foreign coverage of Serbian affairs, and opposition leaders frequently give interviews in English or German to Western media (Djindjic himself speaks excellent German). All of this is in stark contrast to the xenophobic tone of the Milosevic regime and its media, which was particularly anti-U.S. and anti-German in the early 1990s. Meanwhile in Bonn, Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel endorsed opposition demands and called for continuing the suspension of EU financial benefits for Serbia, Nasa Borba wrote on 8 January. He nonetheless warned against any expectations that Milosevic himself could be ousted soon, AFP noted. -- Patrick Moore
 GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER IN BELGRADE.Then on 12 January, Theodoros Pangalos held meetings with both the authorities and Zajedno but failed to make any progress on a solution, Radio B-92 reported. He did, however, say that the Belgrade regime should recognize the opposition's electoral victories. Pangalos, who described Serbia as "a loyal and real friend," also expressed concern that the FRY may be heading for international isolation once again. Pangalos also met with Orthodox Patriarch Pavle. -- Stan Markotich
 CONTACT GROUP WARNS SERBIA.Tougher words came from Brussels, where the five-member International Contact Group met on 11 January. The session called for greater democratization in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including recognition of the local election results and the promotion of independent media. The representatives of the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Russia nonetheless agreed not to pursue fresh sanctions against Belgrade. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum, however, said that Washington has a program to increase pressure on Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Nasa Borba wrote on 13 January. Measures include freezing bilateral economic and other relations; maintaining international political pressure; and promoting democracy and a civil society within Serbia, including human rights in Kosovo. -- Patrick Moore
 KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR KILLING ALBANIAN.The secretive Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) has claimed responsibility for the 9 January killing of Maliq Sheholli, international agencies reported on 13 January. Sheholli was a member of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia and on the Podujevo City Council. The UCK said in a statement that the killing "is a warning to all other collaborators and national traitors." The group called the murder an "execution," adding it had warned Sheholli to "stop cooperating with enemies." The group killed eight Serbs and one ethnic Albanian police officer last year. -- Fabian Schmidt
 ALBANIA PROTESTS EXPULSIONS FROM GREECE.Albania itself has protested against an increase in deportations of Albanian emigrants from Greece in recent days. Hundreds of Albanians have been sent home in an ongoing crackdown on illegal immigration. The move was prompted by a series of burglaries in an Athens suburb, believed to be the work of an Albanian crime ring, Reuters reported on 10 January. Police at the Kakavia border checkpoint said the number of deportees is triple the normal rate and now stands at up to 300 a day, most of whom come from Athens. Greece has, however, pledged to issue work permits in the course of January to most of the estimated 350,000 illegal Albanian immigrants. -- Fabian Schmidt
 BLUNT WORDS FOR BOSNIA.This past weekend also witnessed other tough talk, this time from the international community aimed at Bosnia. Negotiators on 12 January said in Sarajevo that the Bosnians must get their government functioning and start serious economic reforms or there will be no international donors' conference in March. Envoys said that donors want proof that the Bosnians have made real progress in, among other things, adopting laws on a single central bank, a single currency, a 1997 budget and servicing the foreign debt, Reuters reported. The diplomats added that donors are interested in helping to sustain long-term recovery but not in financing short-term aid projects. Meanwhile, federal Minister of Agriculture Ahmed Smajic told Oslobodjenje that the economy is functioning at only 10 to 15% of its prewar level. -- Patrick Moore
 BOSNIA'S RECONSTRUCTION NEEDS $1.4 BILLION IN 1997.The World Bank had said earlier, on 3 January, that foreign donors will need to provide $1.4 billion this year to sustain reconstruction and return of refugees in Bosnia-Herzegovina, international agencies reported. According to the World Bank's director for Bosnia, Christine Wallich, priorities will shift from emergency intervention to sustainable reconstruction, targeting infrastructure, refugee resettlement, job creation, and financial institutions, AFP reported. The World Bank alone plans to approve some $160 million in low-cost loans. Out of $5.1 billion pledged in aid to Bosnia by foreign donors in four years, $1.2 billion was spent in 1996. But Wallich warned that is only a fraction of what is needed in Bosnia, where war damage is estimated at $20 billion. -- Daria Sito Sucic
 ARBITRATORS MEET TO DISCUSS DISPUTED TOWN OF BRCKO . . .Elsewhere on the diplomatic circuit, mediators met in Rome on 8 January to discuss the future of the strategic northern town of Brcko, international media reported. It was the first time that all Bosnian parties involved have gathered to discuss the issue. Control over the town is regarded as crucial by Bosnian Serbs, on the one hand, and by Muslims and Croats, on the other. The fate of Brcko was not resolved during the Dayton peace negotiations, and the issue was left to be decided by international arbitration at the end of last year. But U.S. arbitrator Roberts Owen postponed discussions for two months, after the Serbian party withdrew from the arbitration process. The Serbs have held the once mainly Muslim and Croat town since early in the war, and it now controls a narrow land corridor linking the eastern and western halves of the Republika Srpska. -- Daria Sito Sucic
 . . . BUT RHETORIC OF THREATS CONTINUES.While mediators were meeting in Rome, Bosnian Serb leaders warned that war could resume in the Balkans if the town was awarded to the mainly Muslim- Croat federation. "Brcko is Serb and must remain Serb," President Biljana Plavsic said at a ceremony in the northern Bosnian town marking the founding of the Republika Srpska, Reuters reported. Krajisnik said Serbs would be compelled to wage war if the town were not in Serbian hands. Kresimir Zubak, the Croatian member of Bosnian Presidency, warned the Serbs of "total defeat" if they were to go to war over Brcko, AFP reported on 9 January. -- Daria Sito Sucic
 BOSNIAN SERBS SAY TRACKING DOWN WAR CRIMINALS WOULD ENDANGER PEACE.Zubak's Serbian counterpart, Momcilo Krajisnik, has meanwhile said that establishing an international police force to apprehend indicted war criminals in Bosnia would pose a threat for peace in the country, Onasa reported on 9 January, citing Bosnian Serb Radio reports. Krajisnik said the Serbs are willing to try their own war criminals using files received from the Hague-based tribunal. Meanwhile, Plavsic said in a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that the Bosnian Serbs will not hand over her predecessor Radovan Karadzic or military commander Gen. Ratko Mladic, both of whom are indicted war criminals, Reuters reported on 9 January. Plavsic said the indictments were no longer valid since fighting was over and there were no more reports on war crimes in the Republika Srpska. Delivering Karadzic and Mladic to The Hague would only threaten peace, Plavsic added. - - Daria Sito Sucic
 SLAVONIAN UPDATE.Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic, a Muslim, sees a different obstacle to peace and warned against attempts to resettle ethnic Serbs from eastern Slavonia into Bosnia when eastern Slavonia returns to Croatian control this summer. He said that such a migration would seriously endanger peace in Bosnia, Oslobodjenje on 11 January quoted him as saying. U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith meanwhile told eastern Slavonian Serbs that the Croatian army will be stationed in Vukovar and elsewhere in the area after Croatian officials return on 17 July, Vecernji list reported. The international community has been urging the Serbs to stay put, but they have been seeking guarantees that go beyond existing agreements as a prerequisite to do so. Croatian authorities on 13 January presented a document to the UN outlining future rights for the Serbs, which the UN administrator Jacques Klein said was very positive and does indeed go well beyond existing agreements, AFP reported. -- Patrick Moore
 CROATIA'S TUDJMAN REAPPEARS.President Franjo Tudjman was shown on state-run television on 10 January for the first time since New Year's, news agencies reported. He appeared thin but robust and looking fit. The failure of the usually publicity- conscious leader to appear in public for several days led to renewed speculation at home and abroad regarding his health, and some observers suggested that he has only months to live (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 January 1997). His own office had meanwhile added to the confusion by failing to issue an unambiguous message that the president is indeed healthy and instead put out statements that could be interpreted in different ways. But on 13 January the official media carried a new statement from his office, which said that: "President Tudjman is pleased to inform the public that his recovery is going well and that he is carrying out all his presidential duties. With the will of the people and God, he will be able to continue carrying them on for a long time." He spent a week at Washington's prestigious Walter Reed Army Hospital in November, during which time U.S. sources told the media that Tudjman has inoperable stomach cancer and at most a year to live. Croatian spokesmen downplayed the reports, saying that he was treated for an ulcer, but the government's subsequent secretiveness only served to heighten suspicions that Tudjman is seriously ill. -- Patrick Moore
 CROATIA EXTENDS LICENSE OF ZAGREB INDEPENDENT RADIO.Turning to media affairs, the Croatian government has extended the broadcasting license of the independent Radio 101 until the end of this month, Croatian media reported on 10 January. The license was due to expire on 15 January. Some 100,000 people staged a protest in Zagreb in November when the government tried to silence the station by granting its broadcasting concession to a rival. The government gave no reason for the short-term extension of Radio 101's license. -- Daria Sito Sucic
 CROATIAN INSTITUTE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS OPENED.Elsewhere, Constitutional Court President Jadranko Crnic on 6 January opened the new Croatian Institute for Human Rights in Novi Vinodolski, Novi List reported the next day. Crnic came on behalf of Tudjman and said the historic Legal Code of Vinodol demonstrates that respect for human rights is the greatest legacy of Croatian history. The institute is a non- governmental organization founded by the law schools from major Croatian cities and Croat-held Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as the Police Academy, the Croatian Bar, and others. Meanwhile, State Attorney Anto Klaric, on his return from Strasbourg where he reported to the Council of Europe on human rights in Croatia, said that Croatia has been watched through a magnifying glass, Slobodna Dalmacija reported on 7 January. Klaric said the international community's representatives have lost sight of who is an aggressor and who is a victim. -- Daria Sito Sucic
Edited by Patrick Moore
This material was reprinted with permission of the Open Media
Research Institute, a nonprofit organization with research offices in
Prague, Czech Republic.