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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 122, Part II, 23 June 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 122, Part II, 23 June 1999 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 CONFIRMS CZECH TARDINESS, IMPROVED SLOVAK, POLISH CHANCES * CLINTON THANKS MACEDONIAN, ALBANIAN LEADERS * PROTESTERS CLASH WITH POLICE IN CHISINAU CENTRAL SQUARE END NOTE: 'BEYOND BORDER MAGYARS' -- IS KOSOVA A MILESTONE? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE BELARUSIAN NATIONAL BANK TO CONTROL OFFSHORE OPERATIONS. In a move intended to stop the outflow of hard currency from the country, the Belarusian National Bank has ordered commercial banks to report on customers who transfer money to offshore company deposits, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 22 June. A list of offshore tax havens supplied by the National Bank contains 47 geographical names. According to an RFE/RL Minsk correspondent, the order is a "quite logical" step in the current policy of the Belarusian government to eliminate intermediaries in trade operations. JM UKRAINIAN CABINET LOOKS FOR NEW LOANS TO REPAY 2000 DEBTS... Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov told a government-sponsored conference on the 2000 budget in Kyiv on 22 June that the government needs 15.3 billion hryvni ($3.9 billion) to repay its debt obligations in 2000. Mityukov added that in order to pay this sum Ukraine must borrow another 11.1 billion hryvni. The cabinet have ordered to set up a special commission to prepare a list of sources for drawing money for next year's debt payments, but Mityukov declined to name prospective lenders. JM ...REMAINS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT ECONOMIC PROSPECTS. Economy Minister Vasyl Rohovyy told the same conference that achieving a no-deficit budget in 2000 is a realistic task. The Economy Ministry predicts a 2 percent increase in GDP in 2000--the first projected economic-growth year in independent Ukraine--and an inflation rate of 10 percent. According to Rohovyy, the exchange rate in 2000 will remain "below 4.6 hryvni to $1," the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported on 23 June. JM KUCHMA TOPS LATEST POPULARITY POLL. A poll held in June by the independent Democratic Initiatives Fund and Socis-Gallup showed a sharp increase in President Leonid Kuchma's popularity, AP reported on 22 June. Of those respondents who want to cast their ballots in the 31 October presidential elections, 25 percent would vote for Kuchma. Natalya Vitrenko, who has so far topped popularity polls, would receive 19 percent of votes. Petro Symonenko and Oleksandr Moroz followed with 11 percent and 7 percent backing, respectively. The poll offered no explanation for the boost in Kuchma's rating- -which stood at 18 percent last month. JM RUSSIAN ORGANIZATIONS PROTEST ESTONIAN REBURIAL. Several organizations in Estonia representing Russian-speaking communities are protesting the reburial of Alfons Rebane, planned for 26 June. The government recently earmarked funds to rebury the Estonian freedom fighter, who was also a commander of the Estonian Legion of the German army during World War II. They are not opposed to the reburial itself, but to the full military honors given to Rebane. The party secretary of the United People's Party, Leivi Sher, said: "Unless canceled by the government, the decision, in our opinion, serves as an indication that fascist ideology is recognized in Estonia," BNS reported. Rebane lived mostly in Great Britain after the war and played a leading role in the anticommunist resistance efforts in Estonia led by the British secret service. MH BELARUSIAN PREMIER IN LITHUANIA. Belarusian Prime Minister Syarhey Linh visited Lithuania on 22 June. In a discussion with Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus about Belarus's outstanding energy debt, Linh indicated a readiness to pay: "We will by all means settle this debt and we intended to [earlier] but [the] financial crisis which severely hit Russia and Belarus prevented us from paying it back timely and swiftly," ELTA reported. Linh led a business delegation taking part in an exposition in Vilnius. Meanwhile, the Lithuanian parliament ratified an agreement on social issues with Belarus. MH LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES PROTOCOL ON DEATH PENALTY BAN. The Lithuanian parliament on 22 June ratified the 6th Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans capital punishment. The ratification passed 73 to two. The protocol only allows for the death penalty during wartime. Once the ratification is registered with the Council of Europe, Lithuania will join Latvia and Estonia as adherents of the ban. The parliament removed the death penalty from the statutes last December. MH POLISH GOVERNMENT ADOPTS 10-YEAR ECONOMIC STRATEGY... Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz said on 22 June that the government has adopted a strategy for public finances and economic development from 2000-2010. Two major goals of the strategy--which focuses on job creation--are to balance the budget by the year 2004 and to bring inflation to below 4 percent. The rate of economic growth is projected to increase significantly already the next year, reaching 5.6 percent. The forecasted economic growth in 1999 is 4 percent. According to Balcerowicz, 3-4 million jobs are needed in the coming few years to defuse hidden unemployment and the demographic boom that is now entering its working age. JM ...BILLS ON DEFENSE INDUSTRY RESTRUCTURING. Economy Minister Janusz Steinhoff said the same day that the cabinet has adopted two bills that will pave the way for a restructuring of the defense industry. The first bill provides for writing off armament plants' collective debt of some 800 million zlotys ($200 million) and for their privatization. The state treasury would hold controlling interests in only seven out of 34 defense industry plants. The second bill concerns offset contracts and, according to Steinhoff, will "tie purchases for our army with orders in our defense industry." Offset transactions will apply to all deals valued at more than 20 million euros ($20.6 million). Premier Jerzy Buzek said the government will spend up to 2 billion zlotys ($500 million) on army orders in Polish arms plants, the modernization of the plants, and social programs. JM EU CONFIRMS CZECH TARDINESS, IMPROVED SLOVAK, POLISH CHANCES. German State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Gunther Verheugen told journalists on 22 June after a meeting of the EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg that the Czech Republic and Slovakia will join the EU together, Reuters reported. The agency said this confirms reports on Czech tardiness in complying with EU requirements as well as Slovakia's improved chances following the demise of former Premier Vladimir Meciar. Verheugen also said that Poland's ambition to join the EU by 2003 is "not unrealistic." Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said that his country aims to enter the EU by 2002 and Slovene Foreign Minster Boris Frlec said his country intends to join one year later. Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves said that while Estonia will be ready to join in early 2003, he was "not counting" on the EU to accept it then. MS STEEP DROP IN SUPPORT FOR CZECH GOVERNMENT. Only a quarter (25.5 percent) of respondents to a survey conducted in June by the STEM institute said they were satisfied with the performance of the Czech government, CTK reported. Satisfaction with the cabinet's performance has thus been halved since the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) minority government was formed last September, when 51.3 percent said they were satisfied with its performance. Some 65 percent of the respondents to the same survey were of the opinion that the Czech Republic is undergoing a crisis. However, only 24 percent want early elections to be held. According to another survey released by the Institute for Social Science Research, only 20 percent are satisfied with the current political situation, while 76 percent are "fairly dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied." MS CZECH GDP FALLS AGAIN. The GDP in the Czech Republic dropped 4.5 percent in the first quarter of 1999 compared with last year, dpa reported citing the National Statistics Office. The decline is the second quarterly drop, since the last quarter of 1998 also showed a 4.1 percent decline. Overall, however, the GDP in 1998 rose by 2.1 percent. MS ETHNIC-HUNGARIAN PARTY THREATENS TO VOTE AGAINST LANGUAGE BILL. Bela Bugar, chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), said on 22 June that the SMK will not vote for the bill on the use of minority languages in official contacts unless its proposals for amendments are taken into consideration, CTK reported. Bugar said the bill would be "more acceptable" if the recommendations made by OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel were included in it. Premier Mikulas Dzurinda earlier on 22 June said that he was ready to include those recommendation in the bill. Dzurinda has repeatedly rejected SMK demands for changes beyond the High Commissioners' recommendations. Even without SMK's support, the cabinet can pass the bill, since the three other parties of the coalition have 78 of the 150 seats in parliament. MS HUNGARY, ROMANIA DISCUSS MILITARY COOPERATION. Visiting Romanian Defense Minister Victor Babiuc and his Hungarian counterpart, Janos Szabo, agreed on 22 June in Budapest that their countries will analyze the possibility of allowing military troops to transit each other's territories without prior parliamentary approval, Hungarian and Romanian media report. The two defense ministers also agreed that the planned joint Hungarian-Romanian peacekeeping battalion will be set up next year. Meeting with Babiuc, President Arpad Goncz denied what he called "speculation by extremists," (presumably in Romania), according to which Budapest wishes to re-annex Transylvania to Hungary. MSZ/MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CLINTON THANKS MACEDONIAN, ALBANIAN LEADERS... In Skopje on 22 June, U.S. President Bill Clinton thanked Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, and their Albanian counterparts, Rexhep Meidani and Pandeli Majko, for supporting NATO during the Kosova crisis and for taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees. He also promised international assistance to promote stability in the region, AP reported. Clinton stressed that "we must create real opportunities for ordinary citizens throughout southeastern Europe." He announced that the U.S. will assist Macedonia with $12 million in food commodities in addition to $72 million in aid that the U.S. has given to Macedonia since 1998. FS ...URGES KOSOVARS TO SEEK RECONCILIATION. President Clinton told an enthusiastic crowd of Kosovars at Macedonia's Stenkovec refugee camp on 22 June that they should wait to go home until landmines are cleared. He also said that "no one, ever, ever should be punished and discriminated against or killed or uprooted because of their religion or their ethnic heritage." Attempts to take revenge, he stressed, "will only compound the horror." The president told U.S. peacekeepers bound for Kosova that "you've got a big, big job." He added that it will be their role "to protect the ethnic Kosovar Albanians and the ethnic Serbs alike." PM KOSOVA PLAGUED BY EXPLOSIVE DEVICES. Following the deaths of two British soldiers in Kosova in an attempt to render harmless unexploded "bomblets" from NATO cluster bombs, a Pentagon spokesman said on 22 June that there are probably "thousands" of unexploded bomblets in Yugoslavia, dpa reported. A Pentagon spokesman also noted that Serbian forces planted several hundred thousand landmines in Kosova. He noted that Serbian forces have provided little information on the location of mine fields and that much of what they have turned over is inaccurate. UN officials have estimated that the landmine problem in Kosova is on a level with those of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, and Afghanistan and will remain so for years to come. PM DID RUSSIAN VOLUNTEERS COMMIT WAR CRIMES IN KOSOVA? The New York daily "Newsday" ran a story on 22 June saying that about 60 Russian volunteers recently participated in the killing of hundreds of ethnic Albanians and the destruction of towns and villages in the area around Prizren. The daily added that the volunteers were organized in a single unit, created by the Serbian Interior Ministry after the beginning of the NATO air strikes in March. Roy Gutman, who won a Pulitzer prize for his reporting on Serbian concentration camps during the Bosnian war, broke the story. He quoted ethnic Albanian and Serbian security sources as mentioning several examples of Russian involvement in atrocities against ethnic Albanians. Gutman also reported that German troops ordered that particular group of Russians to leave Kosova just last week, adding that most of them were military men either retired or not in active service. Their commander was an army colonel. FS PENTAGON CONFIRMS PRESENCE OF RUSSIAN VOLUNTEERS IN KOSOVA. Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said in Washington on 22 June that international war crimes investigators will examine the role of the Russian volunteers. Bacon said: "We certainly know that Russians participated. Russian volunteers, mercenaries, we believe, did participate with paramilitary and other [Serbian] forces. ...I do not have verification that there were units or groups of the size that 'Newsday' reports." Bacon, however, stressed that the "Newsday" report will not affect the status or role of the Russian KFOR contingent. He noted that "we expect [the Russian KFOR troops] to be totally fair and professional in their dealings with both Serbs and Kosovar Albanians, as they have been in Bosnia and where they have been very stalwart and successful members of the peacekeeping force." FS FRENCH ARREST THREE SERBS IN SHOOTING INCIDENT. French KFOR troops have arrested three Serbs who fired on a French patrol in Mitrovica, Reuters reported on 23 June. The Serbs had previously tried to force several ethnic Albanians to leave their homes in a primarily Serbian neighborhood. A French army spokesman added that members of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) have begun putting up posters in mainly Albanian areas of Mitrovica, in which they called on local Serbs to leave. Several English-language dailies have recently reported that French KFOR troops have done little to control ethnic tensions in France's sector in northern Kosova. PM MOUNTING REPORTS OF ATROCITIES AGAINST SERBS. Some 30 elderly Serbs in the Prizren area told AP on 22 June that armed ethnic Albanians recently came to their homes, took their weapons, and told them to leave. Several Serbs said that the Albanians had beaten them and showed reporters their scars. International media have reported a series of incidents in recent days involving Serbs being stabbed to death, decapitated, or kidnapped. Some ethnic Albanians claim that local Serbs committed atrocities against them, looted their property, or acted as guides for Serbian paramilitaries from outside the region. "The New York Times" reported on 23 June that local ethnic tensions remain very high in Obilic and some other communities. PM DJUKANOVIC CALLS ON CLINTON TO PROTECT SERBS. President Milo Djukanovic told Montenegrin Television on 22 June that he urged Clinton during their recent meeting in Ljubljana to use his "authority to provide full protection for the people [in Kosova], especially to Serbs and Montenegrins, who are unfortunately exposed these days to the dangers of vengeance from Albanian armed extremists" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 1999). Djukanovic added that Montenegro will continue to promote democratization, market reforms, and integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. Clinton, he continued, "showed full understanding" for Montenegro's policies. Djukanovic added that he did not seek U.S. support for Montenegrin independence. PM IS BELGRADE PREPARING A COUP IN MONTENEGRO? "Yugoslav army troops forced out of [Kosova]...are reported to be pouring into Montenegro at an alarming rate, raising fears that Serbia's tiny neighbor is about to become the next victim of [Yugoslav] President Slobodan Milosevic's aggression," the London-based daily "The Independent" reported on 23 June. The paper added that "Serb paramilitaries...have been fanning out through the republic, allegedly including forces belonging to the most notorious paramilitary, [Zeljko Raznatovic] Arkan." Support for independence is growing in the mountainous republic, the daily concluded. PM B-92 STAFF SACKED. Serbian officials have fired 17 long- term employees of the formerly independent Belgrade Radio B-92, "Danas" reported on 23 June. Veran Matic, who is B-92's former chief, called the move illegal and demanded that state-controlled B-92 be restored to "its legal owners." PM DRASKOVIC SETS OWN COURSE. Vuk Draskovic of the Serbian Renewal Movement said in Belgrade on 22 June that Serbia's leading parties should reach a formal agreement on forming a provisional government to launch reforms prior to the elections, which are slated for 2000. He rejected calls by a coalition of opposition groups for early elections. Many observers say that Draskovic still commands a loyal following but has seriously harmed his credibility by recently serving a brief stint in Milosevic's government. He is also widely regarded as mercurial and given to strong nationalist views. PM ALBANIA'S BERISHA PROPOSES RETURN TO PARLIAMENT. Opposition Democratic Party Chairman Sali Berisha proposed on 22 June that the party return to parliament, Reuters reported. The party leadership issued a statement saying that it "approves the proposal of its chairman to start procedures for the return to parliament." The statement added that the party leadership will soon call a meeting of the Democrats' 130-member National Council. The National Council will then consider organizing a special party congress that can approve the end of the parliamentary boycott. Berisha said: "I am convinced [the council and the congress] will listen to the call of the party chairman." He added that he recently received pledges from U.S. officials to help investigate the murder of Democratic Party legislator Azem Hajdari in September 1998. The Democrats have boycotted parliament since then because they suspect the governing Socialists of complicity in the killing. Albanian investigators say their work on the case has been hamstrung by the refusal of many witnesses to testify. FS BOSNIAN UN POLICE TO KOSOVA. A UN spokesman said in New York on 22 June that some 42 UN police have left Bosnia for Kosova. An additional 158 police will follow within 10 days. In Sarajevo, NATO officials lifted a ban on training, movement, and air activity that SFOR imposed on the separate Bosnian forces during the NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia. PM WESTENDORP AIDE WARNS OF CORRUPTION. James Fergusson, who is a spokesman for the international community's Carlos Westendorp, said in Sarajevo on 22 June that corruption is a "cancer that threatens to destroy the society" of Bosnia-Herzegovina. He added that corruption involves hundreds of millions of dollars each year, and that evasion of taxes and customs duties are key problems. Fergusson rejected recent remarks by Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic, who said that charges of corruption cannot be proven, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Recently, Westendorp's deputy, Jacques Klein, called corruption the largest single obstacle to Bosnia ever becoming independent of aid programs. Klein noted that some estimates suggest that the illegal economy accounts for up to 70 percent of Bosnia's GDP, Reuters reported. PM ALBRIGHT IN BUCHAREST. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met in Bucharest on 22 June with President Emil Constantinescu and Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. She praised the position Romania adopted during the Kosova conflict and said that by so doing it had "become a part of the NATO family." She also said that Bucharest must play "a leading role" in the process of achieving stability in the Balkans. Albright said that the U.S. supported Romania's aspirations for NATO integration as well as its candidacy for the OSCE chairmanship in 2001. Plesu said he presented Albright with proposals for Balkan reconstruction using the Southeast European Cooperation (whose rotating-presidency Romania holds) as an instrument for implementing regional stability. He offered that Romania host some of the planned talks on Balkan reconstruction. MS ROMANIAN CHIEF OF STAFF PRESENTS ARMY RESTRUCTURING PLANS... General Constantin Degeratu on 22 June said military expenditure must rise from the present 1.8 percent of GDP to 2.2 percent by 2007 in order for the country to realize aspirations for NATO integration and to allow for the planned military reform, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He said the reform includes two stages, one to restructure the armed forces by 2003, and another to modernize equipment by 2007. The per capita annual expense is to rise from $4,000 to $10,000 by 2007. Under the plan, drafted with U.S. and British expertise, Romania will have 480 tanks and 940 other armored vehicles, as well as 84 fighter planes and 80 helicopters. Degeratu said only 12 out of Romania's 18 MiG-29 planes are capable of flying. MS ... AS BELL ABOUT TO MAKE NEW OFFER. Premier Radu Vasile will meet this week with representatives of Bell Helicopters Textron, who will make a new offer for a majority stake in the IAR Gimbav aircraft company, Mediafax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 1999). Vasile, however, has several times said that he considers the likelihood of a deal with the French- German Eurocopter consortium to be more advantageous. Representatives of the consortium are to visit Bucharest next month and present their offer, after which a decision will be made. MS PROTESTERS CLASH WITH POLICE IN CHISINAU CENTRAL SQUARE. Violent clashes between police and members of the National Trade Union Federation took place on 23 June in Chisinau's central square, Infotag reported. The trade unionists are protesting against wage arrears. By noon, 13 demonstrators had been arrested, two of whom were hospitalized, one of them with head injuries. On 22 June, World War II veterans besieged the presidential office, trying to force their way in to deliver a petition protesting against poverty and civil rights' infringements. After being repelled by police, the veterans said they would join the unions' demonstration the next day. The unions have also declared a "warning strike." The government warned that the strike may lead to "destabilization" of the situation in the country and said it is doing all it can to meet the unions' demands. MS LUCINSCHI MEETS RULING COALITION DEPUTIES. President Petru Lucinschi on 22 June met with deputies representing the ruling coalition, explaining the reasons for his drive to amend the constitution and introduce a presidential system in Moldova, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Iurie Rosca, leader of the Christian Democratic Popular Front and parliament vice chairman, said in reaction that he is a supporter of the parliamentary system. Parliament chairman Dumitru Diacov, who heads the pro-presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc (PMDP), was non-committal when asked by journalists to comment on the president's arguments. He said the PMDP will "analyze" Lucinschi's plea. MS TRANSDNIESTER LEADER DISSATISFIED WITH RUSSIAN POSITION. In an interview with Russian NTV broadcast on Tiraspol television, separatist leader Igor Smirnov on 21 June said Russian leaders are lately displaying "coarseness" towards the "Transdniester people," the independent Flux agency reported. Smirnov said he no longer can describe relations with Russia as being characterized by "sincere friendship" when "I hear from the U.S. ambassador [to Chisinau] that the U.S. and Russia have reached agreement on the evacuation of the Russian troops and arsenal from the Transdniester without my knowledge." He said the Transdniestrians will "defend their interests, even if [Russian troop commander Evgenii] Yevnevich says Russia has no strategic interest here." Smirnov said that the Transdniester has "no intention" to renounce what he called "our military assets," which Russia plans to give to Moldova. MS BULGARIA URGES KFOR TO PROTECT KOSOVA SERBS. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov told the parliament on 22 June that the KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosova must "perform its mission and secure the safety of all citizens in Kosovo." He said that Bulgaria was "categorically against forcing out the Serbian population" and insisted on a quick disarmament of the Kosova Liberation Army, stressing that a slow disarmament process would result in "the full expulsion of the Serbs" from the region and "a power vacuum that may be filled by illegitimate and armed groups." Kostov also said Bulgaria was "very concerned" about reports of "assaults against Serbian villages and violence against the Serbs," Reuters and AP reported. He added that an "ethnically pure, Albanian" Kosova will be "reason for new conflicts and destabilization in southeastern Europe." MS BRITISH ENVOY SAYS BULGARIA MAY JOIN NATO IN 2000. Bulgaria may receive an invitation to join NATO in 2000 if it succeeds to fulfill its military reform plans by then, British ambassador to Sofia Richard Stagg told a NATO seminar in Shumen, northeastern Bulgaria, on 22 June. He said that the U.K. actively assists and supports the Bulgarian political and military leaders to this end, "but everything is in Bulgarian hands," BTA reported. MS END NOTE 'BEYOND BORDER MAGYARS' -- IS KOSOVA A MILESTONE? By Michael Shafir As of late, Hungarian leaders display a constant preoccupation with the fate of the 350,000-strong Magyar minority in the Serbian province of Vojvodina. Indeed, hardly a day passes without either Prime Minister Viktor Orban or Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi raising the issue at one meeting or another, be it with their new NATO allies, with visiting Yugoslav opposition leaders, or in encounters with prominent members of the province's ethnic Hungarian leadership. This insistence has certainly not gone unnoticed in neighboring Romania and Slovakia, which also have sizable (1.7 million and 560,000, respectively) Hungarian minorities and where fears of similar demands being raised are constantly looming and cut across the political spectrum. Indeed, Romanian President Emil Constantinescu's denunciation earlier this month of a document whose origins are still unclarified, and which called for Romania's federalization and for autonomy for the Banat and Transylvania speaks miles of the echoes that the fragile post-Kosova truce may unwarrantedly have produced. After all, Constantinescu must have been aware of the fact that by denouncing the handful of intellectuals (Hungarian but also Romanian ethnics) who allegedly authored the document, he was willy-nilly playing the tune that extremist nationalist forces in his country had been playing for about a decade. And yet, the trumpet sounded in Budapest obviously penetrated the walls of the Banat, a historical province of the Austrian-Hungarian empire that Yugoslavia and Romania divided after World War I, producing a stringent note in Bucharest. In neighboring Slovakia, where, as in Romania, the Hungarian minority is a member of the ruling coalition, the Vojvodina offensive is not known to have triggered a reaction at leadership level, but it certainly was not very helpful to the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), whose drive to translate promises made by its coalition allies into post-electoral deeds is encountering considerable difficulty. Indeed, observers are of the opinion that the Slovak nationalist counteroffensive, aimed at stopping the minority-language bill from being passed by submitting the issue to a referendum, is not without chance of being successful. SMK leader Miklos Duray had to admit last week that some 60 percent of Slovaks are, in fact, quite unhappy to see the SMK in the government. Why should Hungary's neighbors fear the Kosova fallout? To put it in a nutshell, because they perceive Budapest's "Vojvodina offensive" as being perhaps the first step towards what many a Romanian or Slovak nationalist has long been suspecting Budapest of: destroying the post-Trianon treaty border arrangements. After all, that 1920 treaty is still widely referred to in Budapest as a "diktat," whereas the Hitler-imposed "arbitration" (the Budapest terminology) that briefly returned part of Transylvania to Romania in the early 1940s is considered a "diktat" in Bucharest. And, to be sure, those who chose to look at the Vojvodina autonomy demand through dark glasses seemed to be vindicated by politicians of the likes of Justice and Life Party leader Istvan Csurka, who did not wait for the guns to fall silent before calling for Vojvodina's annexation. In other words, Slovakia and Romania fear what political scientists used to call "the diffusion of political innovation" when they referred to East European dissident demands crossing borders and being emulated from one country to another. The fact that for the first time after many centuries Hungary finds itself on the winning side of an alliance after a war (even if brief) does not much help to alleviate those fears, to put it mildly. But to what extent is anxiety of such emulation justified? If one examines the ideas promoted by Budapest, one is bound to be surprised that their origin is, in fact, not really Hungarian. Or, more exactly stated, its origins may be Magyar, but not from within Hungary's present-day borders. The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), has for some time now promoted a program of a "three-pronged" autonomy for members of the community in that country and, as one may witness from the declarations made in Cologne on 10 June by Zsolt Nemeth, who is in charge of ties with Hungarian minorities beyond borders, it is precisely this model that has now been embraced in Budapest. In other words, yes, there is diffusion, but in the opposite direction. Of the three components of autonomy for the Vojvodina Hungarians that Nemeth mentioned at a conference in Cologne on 10 June, only one really needs explaining, and that is the concept of "personal autonomy." The other two--separate representative bodies and an alliance of settlements with Hungarian ethnic majority-- simply amount to self-rule and territorial autonomy. "Personal autonomy," in the view of the UDMR, means that ethnic Hungarians will have a right to participate in elections to the first structure mentioned above even if they do not reside in districts where there is a Hungarian minority. The "specter," as it turns out, is rather benign and the Foreign Ministry in Budapest has clearly distanced itself from any Csurka-like demands. But it is benign only as long as "autonomy" is read to mean a right that every citizen in a democratic polity has by definition of its being a democracy. And that reading, alas, still needs translators into Romanian or Slovak. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 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. 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