|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 148 Part II, 4 August 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 148 Part II, 4 August 1998 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 * UKRAINIAN CABINET TO CUT SPENDING * HAVEL UNDERGOES FOURTH TRACHEOTOMY, CONTRACTS PNEUMONIA * 'HUMANITARIAN CATASTROPHE' LOOMING IN KOSOVA End Note: IRRATIONAL RATIONALITY IN THE CARPATHIANS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN CABINET TO CUT SPENDING. Ukrainian Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov said on 3 August that the cabinet has drawn up a draft presidential decree on reducing government spending in 1998 , Interfax reported. The minister added that the decree, which has been sent to President Leonid Kuchma for signing, will address only expenditures and will leave revenues for discussion in the parliament. He refused to provide figures. The spending cuts are seen as a move to adopt a more frugal budget following Ukraine's agreement with the IMF on a $2.2 billion loan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1998). JM LUKASHENKA'S HARVEST INSPECTION ROUTE 'TOP SECRET.' Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's harvest inspection itinerary on 4 August is being kept "top secret" by the presidential administration, ITAR-TASS reported. Lukashenka decided to visit some kolkhozes in Minsk Oblast "to personally inspect and analyze" the progress of the harvest. He has forbidden revealing the inspection route in order to avoid "window dressing" by agricultural managers, the presidential press service told the news agency. The Belarusian president last week announced a "special operation mode" for the August harvest period (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 1998). JM BELARUSIAN RUBLE PLUMMETS. The unofficial exchange rate for the Belarusian ruble plunged from 76,000 to 86,000 to $1 in less than 24 hours, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 3 August. The plunge was caused by currency transactions between non-resident banks, which are not regulated by the Belarusian National Bank. Independent financial analysts attribute the sudden drop to Lukashenka's declaration of a "special operation mode" connected with this year's harvest. They predict that it will also affect the official exchange rate, which is currently at some 40,000 rubles to $1. And they also argue that the National Bank has failed to achieve the currency stabilization pledged by National Bank Chairman Pyotr Prakapovich earlier this year. JM ESTONIAN GDP GROWTH EXCEEDS 9 PERCENT IN FIRST QUARTER. Estonia's GDP grew 9.3 percent from January to March of this year, compared with the same period in 1997, the State Statistics Department told ETA on 3 August. The largest growth was registered in goods and non-financial services. The department noted that the only decrease in GDP was in the financial sector. The government has estimated that GDP growth in 1998 as a whole will total 8 percent. JC RUSSIA URGES LATVIA NOT TO UNILATERALLY DEMARCATE BORDER. Russian Foreign Ministry representative Vladimir Rakhmanin told BNS on 3 August that Russia is urging Latvia to abandon plans to unilaterally demarcate their joint border. Rakhmanin said that talks on signing the border agreement will continue, but he added that first Latvia should give up its plans for unilateral demarcation and resolve issues related to its Russian-speaking population. He said the accord has not yet been signed because of Latvia's insistence that a reference to the 1920 Riga Peace Treaty be included in the document. Under that treaty, the Pitalovo district of Pskov Oblast belongs to Latvia. While Riga has said that such a mention would have no bearing on the demarcation of the border, Rakhmanin argued that "the situation remains ambiguous, making the conclusion of the agreement counterproductive." JC LATVIAN, FINNISH PRESIDENTS SUPPORT RUSSIAN INVOLVEMENT. Guntis Ulmanis and Martti Ahtisaari, at an unofficial meeting at Mazirbe, northwestern Latvia, on 1 August, expressed support for Russia's involvement in regional cooperation among the Baltic Sea countries and in "European processes," the Latvian presidential press service told BNS on 3 August. The two leaders stressed that involving Russia would promote stability, economic cooperation, and reform in the region. Ulmanis also commented that Latvia is ready for a "comprehensive, open, and equal dialogue with Russia." JC NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN WARSAW. Javier Solana said in Warsaw on 3 July that Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic will become full NATO members in April 1999, at a NATO summit in Washington. He assured Polish Minister Bronislaw Geremek that Poland will participate in all NATO discussions before that date in order to "land softly" in the alliance. Solana added that "the door to NATO will remain open" after the three new members are admitted "Rzeczpospolita" reported on 4 August. But he hinted that the "real discussion" about admitting other states to the alliance has not yet started. JM POLISH FARMERS PROTEST GRAIN IMPORTS. Members of the Solidarity of Private Farmers organization blocked railroad traffic at the Polish-Slovak border on 3 August by spilling 650 tons of Hungarian and Slovak grain to protest grain imports, Polish media reported. The protesters demand that the government halt all grain imports and punish those responsible for the decision to import grains. They threatened that if the government does not respond to their demands, they will block 250 roads and eight border crossings throughout Poland on 4 August. An Agricultural Ministry official told PAP that a total ban on grain imports is impossible, since it would require renegotiating Poland's international trade agreements, including with the World Trade Organization. He added that the government plans to introduce additional customs duties on grain beginning 6 August in a bid to discourage grain imports. JM HAVEL UNDERGOES FOURTH TRACHEOTOMY, CONTRACTS PNEUMONIA. President Vaclav Havel on 3 August underwent another tracheotomy, amid fears he was developing pneumonia eight days after abdominal surgery, AP and Reuters reported. But despite this precautionary measure, doctors announced on 4 August that Havel has contracted pneumonia and is suffering from an irregular heart beat. A spokesman for the presidential office did not describe Havel's immediate condition but said the "situation is being worked on intensively." The tracheotomy that Havel underwent on 3 August is the fourth since he was operated on for lung cancer in December 1996. MS HUNGARIAN ROMA COMMEMORATE HOLOCAUST VICTIMS. Hundreds of people, mostly Roma, attended an all-night vigil outside the parliament building in Budapest in memory of the victims of the Romani Holocaust, Hungarian media reported on 3 August. During the night from 2-3 August 1944, some 4,500 Hungarian Gypsies were killed at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps in Poland. The vigil, which was organized by the Roma Civil Rights Foundation, included a message from President Arpad Goncz, an ecumenical religious service, and a speech by Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE 'ETHNIC CLEANSING' CONTINUES IN KOSOVA. Serbian paramilitary police and Yugoslav army forces continued their assault on regions inhabited by ethnic Albanians in central and western Kosova on 3 August. The "New York Times" the following day quoted an unidentified foreign monitor as saying: "It is a vicious tactic. First [Serbian forces] are shelling civilian villages and towns to make the people run, then they seem to be going in to blow up or burn the buildings to ensure civilians cannot return." A foreign diplomat added that "at best, we have to assume this is a case of widespread 'ethnic cleansing.' But the fact that we are not allowed in to see for ourselves makes me wonder seriously about what kind of atrocities are being committed." The Prishtina daily "Bujku" wrote that the Serbian forces are conducting a "scorched- earth" policy. The official Serbian news agency Tanjug reported that police "neutralized" a group of "terrorists" west of Prishtina during the morning of 4 August. PM 'HUMANITARIAN CATASTROPHE' LOOMING IN KOSOVA. U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin on 3 August said that Kosova faces "a humanitarian catastrophe" in a matter of weeks if aid does not reach the tens of thousands of displaced persons in the province. In Prishtina, the main organization of Kosovar students called for the establishment of humanitarian relief corridors to enable aid "convoys to break through and enter the surrounded regions in order to rescue thousands of lives." Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel, whose country holds the EU chair, told Austrian Radio that "there are 150,000 refugees in the region and above all I fear a humanitarian catastrophe this winter because the Serbian army is burning fields...and killing cattle. Soon there won't be anything for these people to eat." A specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture told the "International Herald Tribune" that "there will be no food reserves" when winter comes. PM MILOSEVIC BLAMED FOR CRISIS. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana told the German daily "Die Welt" on 3 August that the Kosova problem "has only one name: [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic." Schuessel said to the BBC the next day: "You cannot trust [Milosevic]. He is a sort of reverse King Midas--all that he touches falls apart." In Vienna, representatives of the EU called on the Yugoslav president to stop the violence by his armed forces. For his part, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said that "both sides are not showing necessary readiness to discuss broad autonomy for the province." He added that "pressure must be kept up on both sides," dpa reported from Bonn. PM NO INTERVENTION LIKELY IN KOSOVA. U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill said in Prishtina on 3 August that "more and more the situation is calling for an international presence on the ground," AFP reported. He nonetheless added that there is no military solution to the problem. Schuessel said in his BBC interview the next day that there is no majority in the UN Security Council to endorse any NATO military intervention in the province. In Washington, Rubin said on 3 August that the Atlantic alliance has approved plans to use air power against Serbian forces, but he did not indicate what action on the Serbs' part would trigger a NATO response. NATO spokesmen in Brussels told AP that the alliance is fine-tuning its contingency plans but that it is unlikely there will be intervention at any time soon. PM VOJVODINA HUNGARIANS CALL FOR 'CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE.' Laszlo Jozsa, who is deputy chairman of the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, said in Backa Topola on 3 August that young ethnic Hungarian males should not answer their draft notices from the Yugoslav authorities, "Nasa Borba" wrote. Jozsa added that "several hundred" young men in the Subotica area received call up notices for the army reserves on 2 August. He said that 60 members of the police reserves--about half of whom are ethnic Hungarians--in Backa Topola received notices at the same time and were sent immediately to Kosova. PM MACEDONIA TO SEEK 'HELP'? Defense Minister Lazar Kitanovski said in Ohrid on 3 August that Macedonia may seek "outside assistance" to help patrol its border with Albania if illegal crossings of that frontier by smugglers and gun- runners increase. He did not elaborate, Tanjug reported. PM KOSOVARS, ALBANIANS TURNED BACK BY ITALY. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said in Tirana on 3 August that Albanian and Italian Coast Guard patrol boats operating under a bilateral agreement off the Albanian coast turned back a group of 17 dinghies carrying some 600 Kosovar refugees and Albanian citizens attempting to cross the Adriatic. The illegal migrants paid up to $450 for the passage from Vlora to Italy, where thousands of Albanians live and work as legal or illegal immigrants. Police spokesmen said that the joint Coast Guard patrols have intercepted and turned back some 52 dinghies carrying 1,500 people in the past three weeks. PM CROATIAN FARMERS PROTEST. Farmers blocked a road in Slavonia's wheat-growing region on 4 August to protest a ruling by government officials that producers must pay the 22 percent value-added tax on wheat they sell to the state at guaranteed prices. The previous day, "Jutarnji list" wrote that Croatia had a trade deficit in the first six months of 1998 with virtually the entire world, including the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Slovenia, and federal Yugoslavia, as well as with most of the developed countries. Imports from France and Ireland rose significantly. Croatia's trade balance with the OPEC countries was $40 million in the red, and its trade deficit with developing countries as a group totaled $200 million. PM MIXED REACTIONS TO CROATIAN ANNIVERSARY. The state-run Zagreb daily "Vjesnik" on 4 August hailed the third anniversary of Operation Storm, which was the Croatian military's lightning campaign that defeated the Krajina Serb armies and sent tens of thousands of refugees fleeing. The newspaper said that the offensive ended Serbian dreams of a Greater Serbia to be built on the ruins of the former Yugoslavia and put a stop to plans by the international community to set up a de facto Serbian state within Croatia's borders. Amnesty International, however, said in a statement issued in London that many "extrajudicial executions" of Serbs by Croatian forces and other "human rights violations" continue to go unpunished. The text added that in many cases "relatives of the victims are still being denied the dignity of a proper burial for their loved ones, and hundreds of crimes remain unacknowledged, uninvestigated, and the perpetrators unpunished." PM ROMANIAN PREMIER IN ISRAEL. Radu Vasile and his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, on 3 August signed accords on agricultural cooperation and the mutual protection of investments, saying they will step up efforts to conclude a free trade agreement, an RFE/RL correspondent in Tel Aviv reported. Vasile said the problem of the restitution of Jewish properties confiscated by the fascist and communist regimes will be resolved next month, when a bill providing for the restitution of all confiscated properties will be submitted to the parliament. Responding to protests that the bill will apply only to Romanian citizens, Vasile said a "just solution" will be sought. Naftali Lavi, deputy chairman of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, said that Jews were "singled out for the confiscation" of their properties and must therefore be "singled out for restitution as well." MS ROMANIAN EDUCATION MINISTER TO REMAIN IN OFFICE? Ion Diaconescu, chairman of the ruling National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, has ruled out the dismissal of Education Minister Andrei Marga in connection with Marga's opposition to establishing a Hungarian-language state university. He said on 2 August that views within the governing coalition over the university are "different" and a solution is still being sought. Last week, Bela Marko, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, said Marga's continued presence in the government is an infringement of the protocol signed by the coalition partners (see also "End Note" below). MS MOLDOVANS PROTEST NUCLEAR WASTE TRANSIT. Parliament deputy chairman Iurie Rosca, who is also co-chairman of the Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM), said in an interview with Radio Chisinau on 3 August that the CDM will appeal to the Constitutional Court over the decision of the parliament to allow the transit of nuclear waste from Bulgaria to Russia, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Rosca also said that "such deals always involve huge sums of dirty money." The same accusation was leveled by spokesmen of Moldovan ecological organizations, who said Moldova has the highest rate of cancer in all former Soviet bloc countries. The ecological organizations called on their counterparts in Bulgaria, Russia, and Romania to protest the decision, saying they will also appeal to international ecological organizations for help. MS BULGARIA DENIES SELLING ARMS TO TERRORISTS. Responding to an article published in "The New York Times" on 3 August, Bulgaria denied it is selling weapons to terrorist organizations. A spokesman for the Ministry of Trade and Tourism said on 3 August that "Bulgaria strictly observes all restrictions imposed by the UN Security Council, including the embargo on arms sales to Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, Liberia, Angola, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Yugoslavia, and Kosova." The spokesman said Bulgaria "cannot be held responsible" for instances where "arms legally sold to other countries are then re-sold to terrorist groups," BTA reported. MS END NOTE IRRATIONAL RATIONALITY IN THE CARPATHIANS by Michael Shafir The dispute over establishing a Hungarian-language state university in Romania is laden with "irrational rationality." An outsider will have difficulty in comprehending what drives the two opposing sides to take positions that apparently defy the rationality of their own interests. By insisting on the setting up of the university, the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) is--in the eyes of most members of the ethnic Romanian majority-- betraying first and foremost the interests of the electorate it represents. Why, ask Romanians, should an ethnic Hungarian complete his or her education without being capable of integrating himself or herself into the Romanian labor market and into Romanian society as a whole owing to language comprehension difficulties? And why, they add, does the country's large ethnic Hungarian minority (1.6 million) not accept the solution advocated by Education Minister Andrei Marga? That solution is namely one of "multi- culturalism," such as has been pursued over the past years at the Babes-Bolyai Cluj University. In this context, "multi-culturalism" refers to teaching in several languages, with Romanian, Hungarian, and German being the main ones on offer. At first glance, the argument is a sound one, the more so as all parties involved are well aware of the high costs of setting up a separate institution of higher education. Such costs involve not only buildings but also the training of qualified faculty. "Rationality," however, is in the eyes of the beholder. What may look "irrational" to one group is perfectly "rational" to the other. The bulk of the ethnic Romanian majority, including many of the UDMR's coalition partners, view the ethnic Hungarians' demand with suspicion, regarding it as proof of Hungarian "segregationism" and, moreover, "separatism." Marga said that in so many words when responding to the recent announcement by Zsolt Nemeth, state secretary at the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, that Budapest is willing to finance the establishment of the Hungarian university in Transylvania. At this point, one is forced to ask: "Who is actually more "irrational?" Nemeth's statement had at least invalidated some of the "rational" Romanian arguments against Hungarian "irrationality." Some, but not all, one should hasten to add. In his announcement (released to the press as a "personal declaration" rather than an official government statement), Marga himself said that the establishment of a Hungarian- language university was an issue that is "mainly symbolic" in essence. Symbols, however, cannot carry the same meaning for all people. They are "irrational" to those for whom the symbols are meaningless and highly important to those for whom the symbols have significance. For Romania's ethnic Hungarians, a separate university symbolizes the restitution of their cultural rights, which they considered to have been abolished in the late 1950s, when the communist regime merged the two universities in Cluj into one. It is precisely for this reason that many in the UDMR believe the university must be set up in Cluj and only in Cluj. In addition, a separate university is considered by some members of the Hungarian elites as a symbol of ensured "cultural reproduction." Cultural reproduction is at the core of ethnicity, for it goes beyond individual rights (indeed, it may even contradict them) to convey a collective sense of ensured trans-generational communion of values as well as inter-generational communication. And the latter is also trans-border communication. However, such a separate university may question (openly or otherwise) the concept of the "nation-state". It is no accident that in only one European country, namely Finland, do minorities (in this case the Swedish minority) benefit from such extended cultural rights. Owing to the suspicion that the Hungarian-language university is laying the groundwork for demands that would go well beyond those of cultural or even territorial autonomy, most ethnic Romanians (consciously or otherwise) tend to reject the university. Viewed from this perspective, statements made by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during his private visit to Romania last week have probably exacerbated, rather than alleviated, such suspicions. His comment that "if the [separate] university is not set up, there is nothing to talk about" was obviously taken out of context by his Romanian critics. He made that comment in connection with rejecting "multi-culturalism" as an alternative to the proposed university. But Orban is certainly not unaware of the mutual historical suspicion and of the fact that the nationalist- inclined press in Bucharest would read it as "blackmail" and as a threat to relations between the two countries precisely at a time when Hungary is about to join NATO and Romania is being left out. The same applies to Nemeth's earlier statement while attending the traditional "summer university" at Balvanyos, in Transylvania. According to Nemeth, the "nation-state" is a thing of the past and the "Hungarian nation's borders do not coincide with Hungary's borders." Orban and Nemeth, of course, are remaining faithful to their election promise to promote more forcefully the interests of Hungarians abroad than did Gyula Horn's cabinet. The question is whether this "rationality" is "rational" in the post-electoral context. In turn, the UDMR's partners in Romania's ruling coalition may wonder now whether they were not the unwitting midwives of "irrational rationality" when they procrastinated over satisfying the "rational" and less radical demands of the UDMR in education and local administration. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. For subscription problems or inquiries, please email email@example.com ________________________________________________ CURRENT AND BACK ISSUES ON THE WEB Back issues of RFE/RL Newsline and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at: http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/ _________________________________________________ LISTEN TO NEWS FOR 23 COUNTRIES RFE/RL programs for countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Russia and the South Slavic region are online daily at RFE/RL's 24-Hour LIVE Broadcast Studio. http://www.rferl.org/realaudio/index.html _________________________________________________ REPRINT POLICY To receive reprint permission, please contact Paul Goble, Publisher Email: GobleP@rferl.org Phone: 202-457-6947 Fax: 202-457-6992 Postal Address: RFE/RL, 1201 Connecticut Ave., NW Washington, DC 20036 USA _________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE STAFF * Paul Goble, Publisher, GobleP@rferl.org * Liz Fuller, Editor-in-Chief, CarlsonE@rferl.org * Patrick Moore, Team Leader, MooreP@rferl.org * Julie A. Corwin, CorwinJ@rferl.org * Jan Maksymiuk, MaksymiukJ@rferl.org * Bruce Pannier, PannierB@rferl.org * Michael Shafir, ShafirM@rferl.org * Jan Cleave, CleaveJ@rferl.org Freelance And Occasional Contributors * Fabian Schmidt * Matyas Szabo * Pete Baumgartner * Jeremy Bransten * Jolyon Naegele * Anthony Wesolowsky * Julia Guechakov * Floriana Fossato RFE/RL Newsline Fax: (420-2) 2112-3630 _________________________________________________ RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.