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...WANTS TO CLARIFY MANDATE OF OSCE GROUP IN BELARUS. Foreign Ministry spokesman Savinykh said on 10 January that Minsk will not approve a new head of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Belarus until the question of the group's mandate has been clarified, Belapan reported. According to Savinykh, Dr. Eberhard Heyken, Germany's former ambassador to Ukraine, is seen as the most likely candidate to head the OSCE group in Minsk. Former OSCE group head Hans Georg Wieck ended his mission in Minsk last month. JM
KYIV MAYOR TO FILE LAWSUIT OVER WIRETAPPING. Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko has acknowledged the authenticity of an audio recording of his telephone conversation with Our Ukraine election bloc leader Viktor Yushchenko about the dismissal of parliamentary deputy speaker Viktor Medvedchuk (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 10 January 2002), STB Television reported on 10 January. The conversation allegedly indicates that Omelchenko and Yushchenko orchestrated the ousting of Medvedchuk. Omelchenko said he does not see any scandal or anything new in his conversation, since it concerned a general opinion shared in many parliamentary caucuses. Omelchenko noted, however, that the bugging of his telephone conversation is a crime and added that he intends to file a lawsuit over this fact. JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS BILL ON POLICE STRENGTH. The parliament passed a bill on 10 January establishing the total number of employees working at the Interior Ministry at 386,600 people, UNIAN reported. This figure does not include the ministry-subordinated internal troops for which the numerical strength was set at 44,000. The same day parliament considered some 70 draft laws, but voted against reverting to the CD antipiracy bill that was voted down in December. A totally new bill is to be submitted for consideration on 11 January, New Channel Television reported. JM
UKRAINE'S ACCOUNTING CHAMBER REPORTS $358 MILLION IN MISUSED FUNDS IN 2001. The Accounting Chamber found in 2001 that 1.9 billion hryvni ($358 million) in budget funds was used by ministries, organizations, and enterprises illegally, inefficiently, or for purposes other than for which it was approved, UNIAN reported on 10 January, quoting Accounting Chamber head Valentyn Symonenko. Symonenko said the Accounting Chamber has uncovered offences totaling some 12 billion hryvni in the five years of its existence. JM
UKRAINIAN PROSECUTORS TO PROBE FOREIGN ACCOUNTS OF SIX LAWMAKERS. The Prosecutor-General's Office has launched an investigation into the opening of foreign bank accounts by six Ukrainian legislators, Interfax reported on 11 January, quoting a letter by Deputy Prosecutor-General Oleksiy Bahanets to parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch. The lawmakers suspected of illegally opening bank accounts in Switzerland are: Oleksandr Volkov, Ihor Bakay, Pavlo Ryabkin, Oleksiy Kucherenko, Kostyantin Zhevaho, and Volodymyr Satsyuk. The investigation was opened following a motion by lawmakers Hryhoriy Omelchenko and Anatoliy Yermak. Last month, Omelchenko and Yermak demanded explanations from the Prosecutor-General's Office about an Internet report alleging that Swiss police had blocked some 200 bank accounts belonging to Russian and Ukrainian companies and citizens. The report mentioned the six Ukrainian lawmakers. JM
FRENCH DIPLOMAT TO HEAD OSCE MISSION IN KOSOVA. An OSCE spokesman said in Prishtina on 11 January that veteran French diplomat Pascal Fieschi will replace Daan Everts as the head of the OSCE mission in Kosova, dpa reported. Fieschi has been French ambassador to Ukraine since 1997. It is still not clear who will replace Hans Haekkerup as head of the UN's civilian administration, known as UNMIK. PM
The week between Christmas and New Year regularly sees the staging of dozens of live nativity scenes across Slovenia. These range from solemn displays in downtown churches to more clamorous rural productions, such as that held annually at the village of Logojna near Ljubljana. These often involve an entire village as well as a good part of its livestock and are attended by thousands, who warm themselves with mulled wine and homemade brandy. Before surging forward to view the displays, the crowd of onlookers respectfully listens to a narration of how Caesar Augustus decreed that all the world should be counted.
Perhaps it is fitting, then, that Tomaz Banovec, the general director of the Slovenian Statistics Office, chose this week to announce that preparations for the 2002 national census are going ahead according to plan. The census, scheduled to take place between 1 and 15 April, was originally planned for 2001, but budgetary constraints forced its postponement. The expected cost of the census is 2.5 billion tolars ($10 million). Some 12,000 people will conduct the census, which will reflect the status of the population at midnight, 31 March 2002. Initial figures will be available in six months, and complete results within two years. Such delays are not unusual. For example, detailed results of the Ukrainian national census, conducted in December 2001, will appear only in December 2002.
Not all data will be collected anew -- some data will be taken from databases maintained by the Statistics Office or from other registries, such as those for employment or vehicle ownership. The Constitutional Court will decide on the final format of certain questions by 17 January, and questions regarding ethnic identity and religious affiliation will be optional. In the 1991 census, 3.2 and 19.2 percent of respondents did not answer these questions, respectively.
Previous censuses took place in the former Yugoslavia every 10 years from 1961 through 1991. The significance of the new census, then, lies not only in the fact that is the first to take place in an independent Slovenia, but that it will be the first to reflect the turbulent changes connected with the breakup of Yugoslavia.
Although the influx of refugees from Yugoslav successor states has declined since the mid-1990s, the census will reflect population shifts and accompanying sociopolitical changes. In the 1991 census, 26,725 (1.36 percent) of Slovenia's 1,962,606 inhabitants indicated their ethnicity as Muslim, and 12,237 (0.62 percent) as Yugoslav. Since then, self-identification as "Yugoslav" has presumably declined. At the same time, the number professing Islam as their faith has increased -- although this does not necessarily correspond to ethnic identification as (Bosnian) Muslim, since many ethic Albanians and others are also of Islamic heritage.
The number of Roma in Slovenia is also an open question. In the 1991 census, only 2,293 (0.12 percent) identified themselves as ethnic Roma, but 2,847 persons claimed Romany as their mother tongue. However, European Union estimates that the number of Roma in Slovenia ranges from 6,500 to 10,000. It remains to be seen whether current Roma-oriented legislation in Slovenia will have any effect on their ethnic selfidentification.