|Be slow of tongue and quick of eye. - Cervantes|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No.119, Part II, 17 September1997
A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. This is Part II, a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Part I covers Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia and is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * EU CRITICIZES BELARUS * U.S. DIPLOMAT NOT TO DISQUALIFY BOSNIAN SERB HARD-LINERS * KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY SAYS IT CARRIED OUT ATTACKS End Note INTER-ETHNIC RELATIONS IN TRANSYLVANIA: RHETORIC AND REALITY (PART II) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE EU CRITICIZES BELARUS. EU Foreign Ministers on 15 September issued a strongly worded statement criticizing Belarus for "allowing recurrent violations of human rights" and for its "obstructive" attitude to relations with the EU, RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent reported. The statement announced several measures to restrict contacts with and aid programs for Belarus. Observers in Brussels told RFE/RL's correspondent that Russia, and possibly other countries, have exerted influence to try to suppress the EU's criticism of Belarus. BELARUSIAN POLICE SEIZE PROPERTY OF SOROS OFFICE. Alyaksandr Antipenka, the executive director of the Soros Foundation in Minsk , told RFE/RL's Minsk correspondent on 16 September that police have confiscated property belonging to the foundation's office. Antipenka estimated the value of the seized goods at $3,000. The Soros Foundation was forced to close its premises at the beginning of September after the government claimed it owes $3 million in back taxes. The foundation says that it previously received assurances from the government of its tax exempt status. It accuses Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka of seeking to destroy civil society in the country. BELARUS, ESTONIA INITIAL ECONOMIC ACCORD. Estonia and Belarus have initialed an economic and trade cooperation agreement, ETA reported. Government delegations from both countries met in Minsk on 16 September. According to the Estonian news agency, the key element of the accord is the establishment of most- favored-nation status between the two countries.. The accord also deals with the transit of Estonian goods via Belarus. UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT SUBMITS 1998 BUDGET TO PARLIAMENT. The government on 16 September submitted the 1998 draft budget to the parliament, Reuters reported. The document provides for a deficit of 5.2 percent of gross domestic product. Two days earlier, a spokesman for Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko said Pustovoitenko would not submit the draft to the parliament until deputies had made changes to various tax laws. The Finance Ministry said, however, that the draft budget is based on existing tax laws. Under the constitution, the final budget must be passed by 1 January. But the parliament did not approve the 1997 budget until June of this year. ESTONIAN DEFENSE CHIEFS SUBMIT RESIGNATIONS. Defense Minister Andrus Oovel and Major-General Johannes Kert, commander of the defense forces, have handed in their resignations over the deaths of 14 soldiers during peacekeeping maneuvers off Estonia's northwestern coast, ETA reported. The two defense chiefs had come under considerable pressure from the media to step down. Both said they felt responsible for the tragedy. Toomas Kitsing, Oovel's deputy at the Defense Ministry, also tendered his resignation. President Lennart Meri called an emergency session of the State Defense Council on 17 September to discuss whether to accept the resignations. The soldiers died while attempting to wade across a shallow bay during a storm at sea. Authorities have blamed the unit's commander, Jaanus Karm, for ordering the crossing. Karm, however, has said the exercise was approved by his military superiors. LATVIAN PREMIER SPEAKS OUT AGAINST BUTINGE TERMINAL. Guntars Krasts has voiced his support for those opposed to the construction of an oil terminal in Butinge (Lithuania), close to the border with Latvia, BNS reported on 16 September. Krasts said that Riga has "every reason" to demand that Vilnius respect environmental regulations because of the danger posed to a nearby Latvian beach. At the same time, he said, Latvia should remember that "global money is looking for ways to work in the oil business." Latvian environmentalists have protested the construction of the terminal. They also plan to stage protest actions abroad. POLISH PRESIDENT ON POST-ELECTION SCHEDULE. Aleksander Kwasniewski told journalists on 16 September that he plans to call the first post-election session of the parliament on 20 October. This would allow the maximum possible time for a ruling coalition to be formed. Under Polish law, the president has to summon the newly elected parliament no later than 30 days after election day, which is 21 September. Kwasniewski will have 14 days after the first session to designate a prime minister, who, he said, need not come from the largest political group in the new parliament. Following his appointment, Kwasniewski's premier-designate will have 14 days to win a confidence vote for his proposed cabinet. CZECH GOVERNMENT THWARTED IN PLANS FOR SPECIAL FLOOD TAX. Deputies from Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party and its junior coalition ally, the Civic Democratic Alliance, have said they will not support the government's proposal to introduce a 13 percent income tax next year aimed at balancing the budget in the wake of the catastrophic July floods, Czech TV reported on 16 September. Since the opposition has said it will not support an increase in income taxes, the government must now find other ways to balance the budget. Finance Minister Ivan Pilip said on 15 September that he may propose increasing taxes on consumer goods. Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry has announced that this year's budget deficit is likely to total 14 billion crowns ($450 million). SLOVAK PARLIAMENT UNSURE HOW TO PROCEED IN GAULIEDER CASE. The parliamentary Constitutional and Legal Committee on 16 September failed to decide how to proceed if there continues to be no quorum at legislative sessions, Slovak Radio reported. The coalition parties have repeatedly boycotted the sessions called to discuss the case of deputy Frantisek Gaulieder, who was stripped of his parliamentary mandate in December 1996 after he left the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). The Constitutional Court ruled in July that the parliament had breached Gaulieder's constitutional rights when it stripped him of his mandate on the basis of a "letter of resignation." Gaulieder denies having written such a letter. Since the Constitutional and Legal Committee was unable to reach a decision, parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic of the HZDS will have to decide how to proceed. HUNGARIAN PREMIER REASSURES ETHNIC SLOVAKS. At a meeting with representatives of the Slovak minority in Hungary, Gyula Horn said on 16 September that Slovak Prime Minister Meciar's proposal for a "minorities exchange" between the two countries is not on Hungary's agenda. Slovak minority leader Mihaly Mata told reporters that media reports about the proposal have aroused fears among Hungary's ethnic Slovaks. He said while Slovaks do not intend to leave Hungary, they consider Slovakia their second homeland, regardless of any developments in "high politics." HUNGARY SEEKS JAPANESE INVESTMENTS. Hungarian Finance Minister Peter Medgyessy and National Bank President Gyorgy Suranyi met in Tokyo on 16 September with leading Japanese businessmen in a bid to attract more Japanese investment to Hungary. Japanese investment in Hungary to date totals some $500 million. Eximbank President Yashuda Hiroshi assured Medgyessy that Japanese development credits will continue to be available to Hungary. So far, Eximbank has extended credits worth $300 million to small and medium-size companies in Hungary. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE U.S. DIPLOMAT NOT TO DISQUALIFY BOSNIAN SERB HARD-LINERS. Robert Frowick, the U.S. diplomat supervising the Bosnian local elections held on 13-14 September, refused in Sarajevo on 16 September to disqualify the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), the main Serbian nationalist party, from the vote. Frowick said that to do so would jeopardize the peace process and the safety of foreign personnel on Bosnian Serb territory. A panel of foreign judges had earlier disqualified the SDS on the grounds that indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic is still, in effect, head of the party. The Norwegian judge who heads the panel said he may resign to protest Frowick's decision. Some observers charged that Frowick and other foreigners monitoring the vote have already made too many concessions to the main Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim nationalist parties, the "Los Angeles Times" reported on 17 September. MAJOR POWERS DEMAND RESPECT FOR BOSNIAN ELECTION RESULTS. Diplomats from the contact group countries (the U.S., the U.K, Russia, Germany, and France) said in London on 16 September that those who do not respect the outcome of the vote can expect stiff sanctions. The contact group also demanded that representatives of the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims quickly agree on long over-due measures, such as establishing a common citizenship and issuing joint passports. Meanwhile in Moscow, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Russia expects the elections to lead to a stabilization of the overall situation in Bosnia. The spokesman added that close cooperation between Russia and its Western partners helped make the elections a success. U.S. WANTS QUICK CONCLUSION OF CROAT-BOSNIAN TALKS. U.S. mediators said in Zagreb on 16 September that Washington hopes Croatian and Bosnian negotiators meeting in the Croatian capital will conclude an agreement on Bosnia's access to the Adriatic by the end of the month, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. The issue has bedeviled relations between Zagreb and Sarajevo for several years. Ploce, Bosnia's natural outlet to the sea, belongs to Croatia. Neum, a small fishing village belonging to Bosnia, cuts Croatia's Adriatic coast in two. Croatian authorities fear that Bosnia may seek to annex Ploce. The Bosnian authorities, for their part, will not cede transit rights in Neum to Croatia without concessions by Zagreb over Ploce. HYPER-INFLATION TO RETURN TO SERBIA? A panel of leading Serbian economists said in a statement on 15 September that the current election campaign could lead to a return to rampant inflation that plagued Yugoslavia for much of the 1980s and 1990s. The experts said that the government has printed money to pay wages and pensions in order to prevent possible social unrest in the runup to the 21 September presidential and parliamentary vote. The economists added that the only way to avoid the return of the rampant inflation is for the government to withdraw up to two billion dinars from circulation right after the elections. Observers noted that the return of hyper-inflation could prove politically and socially explosive, because much of the Serbian population already lives below the poverty level. KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY SAYS IT CARRIED OUT ATTACKS. The clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) has said in a statement in Pristina that it is responsible for a recent series of armed attacks on police stations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1997). The statement claimed that some Serbian policemen were killed and wounded in the raids, but the official Serbian media have said there were no casualties. Meanwhile, Montenegrin presidential candidate Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic called for an improvement in relations between Yugoslavia and Albania, the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported on 16 September. Observers noted that economic links between Montenegro and Albania have been close since the collapse of communism. Albania was home to a major fuel smuggling operation into Montenegro during the war, when Yugoslavia was under an international embargo. ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES KEY TAX HIKE. The parliament on 16 September approved a new tax law that the Council of Ministers had submitted the previous day, "Dita Informacion" reported. The law raises value-added tax from 12.5 percent to 22 percent and includes hikes in taxes on tobacco, alcoholic beverages, imported nonalcoholic beverages, coffee, fuel, and gas. The IMF had demanded the hikes as a condition for implementing a cooperation agreement and for calling an international donors' conference later this year. Albania's budget deficit reached some 10 percent of GDP in 1996. Estimates suggest it could grow to 40 percent in 1997. EUROPEAN POLICE MISSION TO STAY ON IN ALBANIA. The Western European Union defense organization voted in Brussels on 16 September to extend the mandate of its police training mission by six months, until March 1998. The WEU mission consists of 24 police officers from 15 countries, including Bulgaria, Estonia, and Romania as well as Western European states. Meanwhile in Tirana, a court sentenced Ilir Ceta to 13 years in prison for trying to assassinate President Sali Berisha near Durres in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 1997). Ceta said he wanted to kill Berisha because he considered him the "main enemy of the Albanian people." ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS LAND RESTITUTION LAW. The Senate on 16 September amended the 1991 law on land restitution, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The amendment, however, does not specify how much land can be restituted to former owners. Under the 1991 law, a maximum of 10 hectares of farm land and 1 hectare of forest land could be restituted per family. The National Peasant Party Christian Democratic wants the amended law to allow up to 50 hectares of farm land and 30 hectares of forest to be returned to former owners, but the Democratic Party is opposed to those amounts. The limits on restituted land will be decided by the parliament by 31 March 1998, following a survey of the total land available for restitution. In the meantime, former owners will be able to reclaim properties exceeding the previous limit. The Chamber of Deputies has already approved the amended law. The opposition boycotted the vote in the Senate, saying the amended legislation would lead to the restoration of landed gentry. ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES AGREE TO FORM ALLIANCE. Representatives of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, the Greater Romania Party, and the extra-parliamentary Socialist Labor Party have agreed to set up an alliance, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 16 September. They said their main aim is to bring about a change in the ruling coalition. Also on 16 September, the leadership of the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) criticized former chairman Gheorghe Funar, who recently announced that his party will join an opposition grouping called the Alliance for Romania's Revival. The PUNR said Funar "had no mandate" from the party to make such an announcement. Meanwhile, Funar, who is also mayor of Cluj, has ordered the town's park benches to be painted in Romania's national colors "to show that Cluj is a Romanian town." RUSSIA DISTANCES ITSELF FROM DEPUTIES' SUPPORT FOR TRANSDNIESTER. The Russian Foreign Ministry on 17 September issued a statement saying the State Duma deputies who participated in the seventh anniversary celebrations of the Transdniester breakaway region's independence "did not represent the official position of Russia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 1997), BASA-press reported on 16 September. The statement noted that the resolution of the Transdniester conflict rests in adopting a special status for the region that would reflect Moldova's territorial integrity. It added that any "unilateral interpretation" of the memorandum signed in Moscow in May is "counterproductive." GAGAUZ-YERI OPPOSITION DENOUNCES LOCAL GOVERNOR. At a press conference in Chisinau on 16 September, opposition representatives from the Gagauz-Yeri autonomous region of Moldova accused Governor Georgi Tabunshchik of breaking the region's electoral law, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. They said the press conference was held in Chisinau, rather than in the region's capital, Comrat, because there is "heavy censorship" and "pluralism of opinion is not accepted" in Comrat. Deputy Constantin Tusanji said that on Tabunshcik's orders, the local electoral commission had falsified the results of the 31 August elections for Comrat mayor. Tusanji ran for the mayoralty and claims to have received 53 percent of the vote. The organizers of the press conference claimed that foreign countries--particularly the U.S.--are backing Tabunschik's "unpopular regime," Infotag reported. BULGARIA TO CLEAR MINES FROM TURKISH BORDER. General Lyutskan Lyutskanov, secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, says Bulgaria will remove mines at its southern border with Turkey by the end of 1998, the daily "Standart" reported on 16 September. Lyutskanov said there are some technical problems involving the removal of the mines, noting that the fields where they were planted are much overgrown and that access is difficult. Also on 16 September, the Interior Ministry announced that police in northern Bulgaria arrested a man who tried to smuggle 30,000 pirate compact discs to neighboring Serbia. The value of the discs is estimated at some $150,000. END NOTE INTER-ETHNIC RELATIONS IN TRANSYLVANIA: RHETORIC AND REALITY (PART II) by George Schopflin Just as the Romanian are divided by various cleavage lines, so the Hungarians have different attitudes and are sociologically heterogeneous. Broadly, they fall into three categories: those in the overwhelmingly Hungarian areas of the Szekler lands (some 700,000 people); those in the mixed areas of central Transylvania (around 500,000), for whom interaction with Romanians is a daily experience; and those from the area closest to Hungary itself (also around 500,000). The last category is closer also in culture and values to the ones dominant in Hungary. These sociological cleavages are not translated into politics: Hungarians vote largely for the Hungarian political party, the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR). The Hungarians of Romania are not necessarily well disposed toward Hungary. They have been known to refer to Hungary as "the country where the cheese is artificially enriched with vitamin C," thereby implying their Hungarian identity is far more authentic than the Hungarians of Hungary itself. The political fall-out of this attitude means there is virtually no support for reunification with Hungary. When the Transylvanians go to Hungary, they are foreigners there. In essence, their coexistence with the Romanians and their interaction with the Romanian state--even when that interaction has been hostile--have reshaped their identity. The gap between them and Hungary is growing, while their integration in Romania is an accomplished fact. The attitude of the Transylvanian Hungarians to the Romanians is very similar to how the Romanians see them: they accept the majority and have learned to live with them but do not warm to them particularly. In this context, the threefold internal cleavage in the minority has some political relevance in attitudes toward the Romanian majority and the Romanian state. In the Szekler lands, the Hungarian elite has more or less reestablished the dominant position it had before the industrialization of the Ceausescu era dislodged them. The Romanian elite has largely gone, although the middle- and lower-level bureaucrats remain. The area is fully bilingual; only the institutions of the Romanian state (police, military, railroads) are monolingual. In the Szekler lands, low levels of competence in Romanian are widespread, while at the bottom end of the social scale, knowledge of Romanian is barely necessary. As a result, the Romanians are the minority in this region. In central and western Transylvania, the situation is quite different. The population is mixed, and there is competition between the two groups for resources. Transylvania is changing rapidly. It is no exaggeration to say that it is undergoing a second modernization, after the failed communist modernization. This process is uneven and uncontrolled. The impact of the Romanian state is comparatively weak, because its leverage (both financial and administrative) is limited. There is also the economic pull of Hungary, not to mention its cultural prestige. Despite the differentiation noted above, Budapest is the pole of attraction. Even more significant is the Transylvanian Hungarians' own aspirations, skills, and determination to survive as a cultural community, separate from both Hungary and the Romanians. One of the paradoxes of the present situation is that the UDMR is a member of the government. In effect, this is the first time that the Hungarians are participating in a democratically elected Romanian government. Having acquired an attitude that regards the Romanian state and government as anti-Hungarian (the legacy of the Ceausescu and Iliescu periods), the shift is not an easy one for many Hungarians to accept. They see their party as their protector, and it is hard for them to identify the Romanian state as being actively theirs. The legacy of suspicion is deeply engrained. At the same time, their expectations of creating a fully-fledged Hungarian existence through participation in the government are unrealistic. In the Szekler lands, such expectations do not constitute an acute problem. But elsewhere they do and could give rise to friction if they are not met. Given their vagueness, it is unlikely that those expectations can be realized. But their central significance is that the Hungarian minority in Romania fully accepts the Romanian state. Moreover, it constructs its political life around loyalty to that state and not to Hungary. The author lectures at the London School of Economics. Part I of this article appeared in yesterday's "RFE/RL Newsline. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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