|History is made out of the failures and heroism of each insignificant moment. - Franz Kafka|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 118, Part II, 16 September1997
This is Part II of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Newsline. 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 RFE/RL NewsLine are available through RFE/RL's WWW pages: http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/ Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II *BELARUS, RUSSIA WAGE WAR OF WORDS OVER JAILED REPORTER. *EU BANS ENTRY VISAS TO BOSNIAN SERB LEADERS *U.S. THREATENS SANCTIONS FOR NONCOMPLIANCE WITH BOSNIAN ELECTION RESULTS End Note INTER-ETHNIC RELATIONS IN TRANSYLVANIA: RHETORIC AND REALITY (PART 1) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUS, RUSSIA WAGE WAR OF WORDS OVER JAILED REPORTER. Valery Tolkachev, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's press secretary, told Interfax on 16 September that Pavel Sheremet, a correspondent for Russian Public Television (ORT), will go on trial. Tolkachev said Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Lukashenka had agreed to such a measure during their meeting in Moscow on 6 September. However, Yeltsin's press office issued a statement on 16 September saying Russia regretted the need to return to an issue that seems "clear and understandable to everyone." It added that Moscow believed the issue will be closed soon "in the spirit of humanity and for the sake of the future of the Russian-Belarusian union." Sheremet and an ORT colleague were arrested on 26 July after filming on the Belarusian-Lithuanian border. Another ORT crew was arrested a week later but eventually released under pressure from Russia. Sheremet, a Belarusian citizen, is the only ORT journalist to remain in jail. BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ARRESTED. Yury Belenky, the deputy chairman of the opposition Belarusian National Front, was arrested on 16 September in Minsk, Belapan reported. He was seized in the office of Belpromstroybank, where he works, and taken by force to the police station. The police gave no explanation for his arrest and released him several hours later, after Belenky had claimed parliamentary immunity. Meanwhile, the EU on 16 September criticized the "anti-democratic attitude" of Belarus and Lukashenka. It also said that it has suspended participation in talks between the government and the opposition. UKRAINE, POLAND, U.K. BEGIN PEACEKEEPING EXERCISE. A week-long peacekeeping exercise involving some 420 paratroopers from the U.K., Poland, and Ukraine began at a military base in southern Ukraine on 16 September. The paratroopers are taking part in a simulated ethnic conflict at the Shirokiy Lan military base, 400 kilometers south of Kyiv. Defense Ministry spokesman Ihor Melnichuk said the paratroopers will practice trying to prevent such a conflict from developing into civil war. "Kozatskiy Steppe '97" is the second major military exercise in Ukraine within the last month to involve NATO troops. "Sea Breeze '97" took place off the Crimean coast in August, with the participation of soldiers from the U.S., Turkey, and Eastern Europe. ESTONIAN LEADERS REJECT RESIGNATION CALLS OVER SEA TRAGEDY. President Lennart Meri has rejected calls for the resignation of the minister of defense or the defense forces commander over the tragic accident during maneuvers off the Estonian coast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 1997), ETA reported on 15 September. He said that any resignation should be decided only after the official investigation into the accident has been completed. Similarly, Justice Minister Paul Varul, who is heading government investigation commission, stressed that the commission itself cannot decide whether any official should resign over the tragedy. Rather, it has to gather the facts and determine responsibility, he said. Meanwhile, the bodies of 10 soldiers have been recovered; four men are still listed as missing. RUSSIAN DUMA SPEAKER ON RELATIONS WITH LATVIA. On the eve of his official visit to Riga, Gennadii Seleznev told the Latvia's Russian-language newspaper "SM-Segodnya" that he wants to see for himself the situation in Latvia and then draw his own conclusions, BNS reported on 15 September. Seleznev commented that Latvian parliamentary speaker Alfreds Cepanis's visit to Moscow earlier this year had given "impetus" to the development of relations between the two countries. Noting that there are "major problems" with regard to ethnic Russians in both Estonia and Latvia, Seleznev said that economic sanctions against the Baltic States would hurt the "ordinary people." The issue of ethnic Russians should therefore be solved by negotiations, he argued. POLISH PREMIER STRESSES SUPPORT FOR LITHUANIA. During his meeting with Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas in Vilnius on 15 September, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz stressed Poland's "constant and unchanging support" for Lithuania's bid to join NATO and the EU, BNS and PAP reported. He also met with representatives of the 300,000-strong Polish community in the Vilnius area, assuring them that ethnic Poles will benefit from the improvement in Polish- Lithuanian relations. The previous day, Cimoszewicz had attended the first session of the Polish-Lithuanian cooperation council in the Lithuanian capital (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1997). POLAND BEGINS NATO NEGOTIATIONS. Negotiations between Poland and NATO aimed at finalizing the terms for Warsaw's entry into the alliance are scheduled to begin on 16 September in Brussels. They will take place in five installments, ending on 23 October. Talks with Hungary began 10 September, while the Czech Republic is due to start negotiations on 23 September. RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent reported that negotiations will decide the number of Poles, Hungarians, and Czechs to be stationed at NATO headquarters as well as the number of NATO personnel to be deployed on the territory of the new member countries. NATO will ask new members to help pay for common military infrastructure. POLISH FLOOD DAMAGE ESTIMATED AT MORE THAN $4 BILLION. Economy Minister Wieslaw Kaczmarek was quoted by "Trybuna" on 15 September as saying the Main Statistical Office (GUS) has estimated the damage caused by the July catastrophic floods at 15 billion zlotys ($4.3 billion). But he added that the government is still checking the figure. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz has said the GUS report is unreliable because it is based on data from local authorities, which, he commented, have overstated the extent of the damage. Cimoszewicz, who refused to reveal details of the GUS report, said the government will carefully verify it before publishing any data. Critics say the government does not want to publish flood damage estimates for fear it will harm the ruling parties' chances in the 21 September general elections. CZECH GOVERNMENT PROPOSES SPECIAL FLOOD TAX. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told journalists on 15 September that a majority of his cabinet ministers support introducing a special 13 percent income tax next year. The purpose of the tax would be to raise 9 billion crowns to deal with damage caused by the July floods. Without the tax, Klaus said, the government will be unable to present a balanced budget proposal for 1998. The opposition parties have said they are opposed to a tax increase, as has the so-called "right-wing faction" within the ruling Civic Democratic Alliance. Without that faction's support, the government proposal is unlikely to be approved by the parliament. GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN PRAGUE. During his meeting with President Vaclav Havel in the Czech capital on 15 September, Volker Ruehe said 90 percent of deputies in the German parliament will vote in favor of the Czech Republic's NATO membership early next year when the ratification process begins in NATO countries. Ruehe added that during his trip to Washington on 19 November, he will try to convince the undecided members of the U.S. Senate to vote in favor of NATO expansion, CTK reported. Also on 15 September, Havel met with Philippine President Fidel Ramos, who is in the Czech Republic on a two-day visit. The two presidents discussed primarily economic cooperation. HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER STRESSES REFERENDUM'S IMPORTANCE. Laszlo Kovacs told the parliament on 15 September that the referendum on joining NATO and on land ownership will determine the country's future, Hungarian media reported. With regard to the controversial land ownership vote, he said the government's goal is not to allow foreigners to own land but to keep open the door to EU membership. He commented that the cabinet will regulate the acquisition of farmland by setting "realistic" prices and by promoting capital investment. Kovacs accused the opposition of seeking to make an election campaign issue out of land ownership. HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDER STAGES PROTEST IN PARLIAMENT. Mihaly Izso, a member of the Independent Smallholders' Party, has begun a sit-in in the parliament to protest the government's proposed amendment to the land law. He said he will end his protest if the opposition's formulation of the question on foreigners owning land is also included in the November referendum. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE EU BANS ENTRY VISAS TO BOSNIAN SERB LEADERS. EU foreign ministers voted in Brussels on 15 September to deny entry visas to Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency. Bosnian Co-Premier Boro Bosic, Minister of Communications Spasoje Albijanic, and Deputy Prime Minister Gavro Bogic are also banned from traveling to EU member states. Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, asked for the ban to punish the Serbs for holding up the signing of agreements involving all three nationalities, including an accord on a common citizenship and passport. Westendorp said he wanted to punish the Serbian leaders but not ordinary Serbs. Westendorp also urged the EU to consider resuming aid to the Republika Srpska in an effort to bolster the position of President Biljana Plavsic. Also in Brussels, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook called on the U.S. to maintain a military presence in Bosnia beyond the June 1998 deadline. U.S. THREATENS SANCTIONS FOR NONCOMPLIANCE WITH BOSNIAN ELECTION RESULTS. A U.S. State Department spokesman on 15 September said that Washington and other members of the international community will impose economic, travel, and possibly other restrictions on those in Bosnia who fail to respect the outcome of the municipal elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1997). The U.S. and its allies are concerned that current authorities formed largely by one ethnic group will try to prevent newly elected councils dominated by another nationality from taking office. BOSNIAN SERB LEADERS BLAST LOCAL ELECTIONS. Republika Srpska Foreign Minister Aleksa Buha said in Belgrade on 15 September that President Plavsic and international elections organizers conspired to prevent 70,000 Serbs in Bosnia and 65,000 Bosnian Serb refugees in Yugoslavia from voting. He did not elaborate but also said that Muslim and Croatian refugees should not have been allowed to vote for town councils in areas that are now under Serbian control. On 13 September, Krajisnik said the international organizers went back on their promise to return the names of 3,000 Serbs to the voting rolls in Brcko. International election monitors struck the names of several thousand Serbs from the voting list on the grounds that the individuals had no legal right to vote in the strategically located town (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 1997). CROATIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR SMALLER GOVERNMENT ROLE IN ECONOMY. Franjo Tudjman said at the Zagreb Trade Fair on 15 September that the government must limit its role in the economy to setting long-term priorities. He added that all industries except those vital to state security should be privatized. Tudjman warned that Croatia needs to reduce the role of state bureaucracy in the economy if it is to be competitive internationally and overcome the legacy of its communist past. Tudjman's critics charge, however, that his nationalist policies are the main reason for Croatia's international marginalization and that only persons with close links to his Croatian Democratic Community benefit from major privatization deals. Also in Zagreb, the State Prosecutor's Office said that two top officials in the Economics Ministry have been arrested and charged with abuse of office. SLOVENIA, CROATIA TO SEEK ARBITRATION OVER BORDER. Croatian Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa and his Slovenian counterpart, Janez Drnovsek, have agreed to seek international arbitration of their disputed border in the Gulf of Piran, the government daily "Vjesnik" reported on 16 September. Slovenia and Croatia may also seek arbitration in the disputes over deposits by Croats in Slovenia's Ljubljanska Banka and over the Krsko nuclear power plant in Slovenia, which Croatia helped fund during communist rule. Meanwhile in Ljubljana, parliamentary speaker Janez Podobnik announced on 15 September that he has withdrawn his candidacy for the 23 November presidential race. He failed to attract the support of a key opposition party, according to the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung." CROATIA, YUGOSLAVIA SIGN AGREEMENTS. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic and his Yugoslav counterpart, Milan Milutinovic, signed six agreements in Belgrade on 15 September. The documents deal with transportation, border regions, social insurance, and legal aid. The ministers said that talks will begin soon to discuss economic links and cooperation in fighting crime and terrorism. Observers said the six agreements constitute the most significant step toward normalizing relations between the two countries since the breakup of former Yugoslavia in 1991. Meanwhile in Kragujevac, police and opposition demonstrators clashed for several hours, BETA reported. KOSOVARS FEAR MORE REPRESSION. Hidajet Hiseni and Fehmi Agani, the two vice presidents of the Democratic League of Kosovo, charged in Pristina on 15 September that most Serbian parties have played on anti-Albanian sentiments in an effort to win nationalist votes, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Kosovar capital. The two said that they fear that repression against the provinces' ethnic Albanian majority could become worse after the elections. The Albanian parties are boycotting the vote, saying that none of the Serbian parties has anything to offer Albanians. ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT, PRESIDENT QUARREL OVER APPOINTMENTS. President Rexhep Meidani has refused to approve a list of ambassadors presented to him some 10 days ago by Prime Minister Fatos Nano (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 5 September). According to "Gazeta Shqiptare" on 16 September, Meidani objects to the appointment of "Zeri i Popullit" editor-in-chief Luan Rama to Paris and of Bashkim Zeneli, the head of the parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, to Bonn. The newspaper adds that two unnamed high- ranking Foreign Ministry officials also oppose the appointments. It is unclear why Meidani or the officials object to the nominations. Meanwhile, Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova has arrived for his first official visit to Tirana since the new government took office, state television reported on 15 September. FORMER ALBANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS HE FEARED ARREST. Safet Zhulali told a roundtable broadcast by state television on 14 September that he left the country in March because he feared arrest after the daily "Albania" had attacked him. He noted that "Albania," which was former President Sali Berisha's mouthpiece, had slammed him for not sending the army against rebels in the south of the country. Perikli Teta, Zhulali's former deputy, told the roundtable that Zhulali was a traitor for leaving his post. Zhulali went on to deny charges by a former pilot that the Defense Ministry in early March ordered pilots to bomb southern cities. Pilot Ardian Elezi, who fled with his plane to Italy on 4 March and has since received political asylum there, told the roundtable that he fled with a colleague after receiving orders while airborne to bomb southern positions. Zhulali called Elezi a "deserter." ROMANIAN PRESIDENT REOPENS UKRAINIAN SCHOOL. Emil Constantinescu on 15 September reopened a high school in the northern town of Sighetu Marmatiei, two kilometers from the Romanian-Ukrainian frontier, for Romania's 300,000-strong ethnic Ukrainian community, Reuters reported. The school, named after Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, was opened in 1945 and closed by Romanian authorities in 1968 on the grounds that there were too few pupils. Some 200 students have enrolled for the current academic year. Constantinescu said the reopening marked Romania's respect for its ethnic Ukrainian minority. MOLDOVA, UKRAINE DISCUSS PLANNED CUSTOMS UNION. A Ukrainian government delegation spent two days in Chisinau to discuss the creation of a proposed customs union between the two countries, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 September. Viktor Gladush, Ukrainian first deputy minister for foreign economic relations and trade, and Moldovan Deputy Minister for the Economy Dumitru Bragis signed a protocol on setting up the planned union. They also agreed on the composition of working groups to achieve that goal. END NOTE INTER-ETHNIC RELATIONS IN TRANSYLVANIA: RHETORIC AND REALITY (PART 1) by George Schopflin The centrality of inter-ethnic relations in Transylvania is beyond dispute. But the complexity of these relations is regularly clouded by politicians' rhetoric. The reality is that neither the Romanian majority nor the Hungarian minority is homogeneous and this factor influences attitudes, political responses, and behavior. The total population of Transylvania is more than 7 million and of these fewer than 2 million are Hungarian. But the roughly 5 million Romanians are divided in their sociological make-up. The principal cleavage is between those who have lived in the region for generations and those who migrated there after the 1960s. This cleavage is the classical one between old-established inhabitants and newcomers. Essentially, the traditional Romanian inhabitants of Transylvania have worked out a modus vivendi with the multi-ethnic character of the area. This does not necessarily mean that they are particularly pro-Hungarian or even necessarily sympathetic to the minority, but they are generally prepared to accept that the Hungarian presence does not challenge their ideas of what is "normal and natural." They constitute both the absolute and relative majority of the region. At the same time, there is a small minority of the old established Romanians that remains strongly anti-Hungarian. Broadly, they have learned to live with the multi-cultural, multi-lingual nature of Transylvania even if they do not speak Hungarian. For the elite, it is not unusual to send their children to German-language schools, partly because the teaching is good and they have access to another language. However, this Transylvanian Romanian elite has never been particularly influential in Bucharest and its political skills, including those of dealing with multi-ethnicity, have not been very effective, given that their cultural norms differ from those of the Regatean majority. In this sense, there is a mild cultural boundary between them and the Romanians of the Regat. They are both Romanians but understand this identity differently. On the other hand, they will certainly not make common cause with the Hungarians over issues like territorial autonomy, which the Hungarians have demanded from time to time for fear that autonomy would lead to separation. For the roughly 1 million migrants, who were drawn to Transylvania during the rapid industrial expansion of the 1970s and 1980s by offers of jobs and housing, the Hungarians are a near inexplicable and alien element. Sociologically, many of the migrants are from poor rural backgrounds and have had to cross several social and cultural boundaries: from village to town, from agricultural to industrial working, from the Regat to Transylvania. Many of them, when they arrived there from the Regat, were shocked to discover that a significant section of the population was not only not Romanian but insisted on speaking an alien language and had very alien ways of doing things. This exacerbated the alienation that all immigrants experience and gave it an anti- Hungarian focus. The anti-Magyar rhetoric of the Ceausescu period found considerable resonance among them. These migrants or, by now, former migrants have a particular burden to carry. Their existence in Transylvania depended on the center and especially on the heavy subsidies that Bucharest paid to maintain the often uneconomic industries in which they worked. They were an unintegrated element, sufficiently numerous to continue with their own traditions, values and aspirations. Hence the old established Transylvanian Romanians have not been able to integrate them because of their dependence on the center and the different sociological make-up. The 1989 collapse of communism has been a severe blow to the migrants. Their most dependable source of support--the communist state--has evaporated as the subsidies have dried up. They lack the skills to make their way in a market-oriented world. And, crucially, they lack the links with the countryside that would allow them to add to their incomes and give them access to foodstuffs, given that their villages are in the distant Regat. Hence the return of the land to the peasantry has brought them few benefits. There is another disadvantage in their position. The ethnic Hungarians have evolved a strategy of working in the gray economy in Hungary. Given the much higher income levels there, they can make enough from four months' construction work, say, to live more than adequately in Romania. This option is generally not open to Romanians and especially not to the Regateans, for whom the idea of working in Hungary is foreign and threatening. Since 1989, the top Regatean managers and bureaucrats have either left to return to the Regat or have the skills and know-how to make their way in the market economy, though their formerly privileged positions have been eroded. But that leaves the great bulk of Regatean migrants in a very exposed position. They are the constituency for nationalist mobilization and for the anti-reform line associated with former President Ion Iliescu, who was defeated last year. A minority is attracted to the much more virulent nationalism of Corneliu Vadim Tudor's Party of National Unity. Gheorghe Funar's Greater Romania Party receives its support from the anti-Hungarians among the old established Romanian population. The remainder, the great majority, voted solidly for the coalition now in power. The author lectures at the London School of Economics. Part Two of this article will appear in tomorrow's "RFE/RL Newsline." xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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