Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 135, Part II, 14 July 1999


________________________________________________________ 
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 135, Part II, 14 July 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 
 
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Headlines, Part II 
 
* POLAND WANTS EU TRANSITION PERIODS FOR LAND SALE 
 
* TALKS ON FUTURE OF YUGOSLAVIA BEGIN 
 
* DJINDJIC CALLS FOR 'MARCH ON BELGRADE' 
 
End Note: SLOVAK AUTHORITIES SUSPECT 'PLOT' BEHIND 
ROMANY EXODUS TO FINLAND 
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 
 
EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE 
 
BELARUS NOT HURRYING TO ADOPT RUSSIAN RUBLE AS NATIONAL 
CURRENCY. National Bank Chairman Pyotr Prakapovich said 
after meeting with Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 13 July that 
the president instructed him to take "immediate measures 
to strengthen the national currency as a basis for the 
unification of the currencies of Belarus and Russia." At 
the same time, Prakapovich noted that the adoption of a 
single currency is a complex process that is currently 
only at the "conceptual" stage. "For several more years 
we will be receiving our salaries, pensions, and 
allowances only in Belarusian rubles," Belarusian 
Television quoted him as saying. Former National Bank 
head Stanislau Bahdankevich told Belapan that the 
introduction of the Russian ruble in Belarus without 
economic reforms will immediately result in economic 
collapse, mass bankruptcies, and soaring unemployment. 
JM 
 
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TO MARK LUKASHENKA'S FIVE YEARS 
WITH 'POPULAR FESTIVITIES.' Opposition parties intend to 
celebrate the end of Lukashenka's five-year term in 
office by organizing public protest actions, RFE/RL's 
Belarusian Service reported on 13 July. The United Civic 
Party will stage "popular festivities" in Minsk and 
other cities on 20 July. The next day, the Belarusian 
Popular Front (BNF) plans a "popular holiday" on a 
square near the presidential administration building in 
Minsk. "The crowd will simply ask President Lukashenka 
what he has done for Belarus during his five-year rule," 
BNF Secretary Vyachaslau Siuchyk told RFE/RL. The 
Belarusian opposition does not recognize the 1996 
constitutional referendum, which extended Lukashenka's 
presidency to 2001. It is demanding that he step down on 
20 July. JM 
 
KUCHMA STRESSES FRIENDLY RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA. "There 
is and can be no alternative to the development of 
friendly, equal, and partner relations between Ukraine 
and Russia," Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told an 
annual officers' gathering in Kyiv on 13 July. In his 
opinion, the two countries' mutual understanding is 
proved by the continued presence of the Russian Black 
Sea Fleet on Ukrainian territory and the nearly complete 
delimitation of the state border. Meanwhile, Moscow's 
"Segodnya" has suggested that the Kremlin will publicly 
question whether the Crimean port of Sevastopol belongs 
to Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 1999). 
According to the newspaper, this is a propaganda move 
intended to make political capital out of Russian 
sentiments toward Sevastopol and to undercut Moscow 
Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who is a staunch campaigner for 
returning Sevastopol to Russia. JM 
 
UKRAINE URGES KAZAKHSTAN TO ALLOW SPACE LAUNCH. The 
Ukrainian president has spoken by telephone with Kazakh 
President Nursultan Nazarbayev, urging him to allow the 
launch of a Ukrainian-made Zenit rocket with a 
Ukrainian-Russian research satellite from the Baikonur 
cosmodrome, Reuters reported on 13 July. Last week, 
Kazakhstan banned space launches from Baikonur after a 
Russian rocket crashed, supposedly polluting soil and 
water with toxic fuel. "Each launch of Zenit rockets is 
a big political issue for us," Reuters quoted Kuchma as 
saying. Ukraine badly needs a successful launch after a 
Zenit crashed last September, destroying 12 satellites 
of the Globalstar consortium. Globalstar has said it 
wants to see at least one successful Zenit launch before 
it resumes cooperation with Ukraine. JM 
 
UKRAINE'S FOREIGN TRADE IN JANUARY-MAY SHRINKS BY 26 
PERCENT. Ukraine's foreign trade from January to May 
1999 totaled $8.8 billion, down by 26 percent on the 
same period last year, Interfax reported on 13 July, 
citing Ukraine's State Statistics Committee. The 
negative trade balance amounted to $236 million or 21.7 
percent of the level in the same period last year. The 
committee attributes this reduction largely to lower 
prices of Russian gas supplied to pay for gas transit 
across Ukraine. Russia accounted for 49.3 percent of 
Ukrainian imports, followed by Turkmenistan (10.5 
percent), Germany (6.9 percent), Belarus (2.8 percent), 
and the U.S. (2.7 percent). JM 
 
LITHUANIAN FARMERS STAGE NATIONWIDE PROTEST. Farmers 
held a one-day protest action on 13 July, blocking roads 
in 20 districts, ELTA reported. Parliamentary deputy 
Ramunas Karbaskis of the Peasants Party said the farmers 
will continue to protest until the government adopts a 
rural strategy and satisfies key demands. Sugar beet 
farmers have been blocking roads for several days in the 
Marijampole region, and both dairy farmers and fishermen 
have hinted at protest action. Government leaders 
criticized the protest and blamed local governments for 
allowing the legally questionable roadblocks. Prime 
Minister Rolandas Paksas called on the farmers to 
negotiate so that the dispute can be solved "in a 
responsible and civilized manner." MH 
 
GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN LITHUANIA. Visiting 
Vilnius on 11-13 July, Irakli Menagharishvili held 
talks with his Lithuanian counterpart, Algirdas 
Saudargas, and with parliamentary speaker Vitautas 
Landsbergis, ITAR-TASS reported. Menagharishvili also 
met with President Valdas Adamkus to discuss bilateral 
relations, expanding trade and economic ties, and the 
prospects for increased cooperation, including in the 
transportation and communications sectors, between the 
Baltic and Black Sea regions. Menagharishvili told 
journalists that Lithuania and Georgia have identical 
views on world events and share the aspiration for 
integration into European and North Atlantic 
structures. In particular, he noted Lithuania's 
support for Georgia's recent entry into the Council of 
Europe. LF 
 
POLAND WANTS EU TRANSITION PERIODS FOR LAND SALE. Poland 
is to ask the EU to allow curbs on land purchases to 
remain in force after the country joins the union, 
Reuters and "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported on 13 July. Jan 
Kulakowski, Poland's chief EU membership negotiator, 
will inform Brussels that Warsaw wants a five-year 
transition period before permitting the free sale of 
land for investment purposes and an 18-year transition 
period for both agricultural land and housing plots. 
Many in Poland are afraid that rich Europeans, 
especially Germans, will buy up land in attractive 
regions, pushing its price beyond that the average 
Polish citizen could afford. Commentators say that in 
exchange for transition periods on land sales, Poland 
will have to accept a temporary ban on Poles' seeking 
employment in EU countries. JM 
 
CZECH ROMA CONSIDERING EXODUS. Roma from the north 
Bohemian town of Most are "seriously concerned about 
their security" and may start a "mass exodus abroad," 
the Association of Romany Regional Leaders said in a 13 
July statement, CTK reported. The association said that 
the Romany population's security is being "seriously 
jeopardized by violent attacks by skinheads" who 
"increasingly terrorize them and attack their homes at 
night." It added that 20 Romany families have already 
left the country." MS 
 
EU SEES SLOVAKIA NEGOTIATING ENTRY AT YEAR'S END. The 
European Commission on 13 July said it expects 
Slovakia to be included in the "fast track" group by 
the end of 1999, Reuters and CTK reported. Outgoing EU 
Foreign Relations Commissioner Hans van den Broek said 
after meeting with Slovak President Rudolf Schuster in 
Brussels that he expects an October progress report on 
Slovakia's application to confirm that the country is 
ready to start admission talks. Van den Broek said 
that the new Slovak minority language law is an 
important step toward Slovakia's accession but noted 
that the commission will wait for the law to be 
evaluated by OSCE High Commissioner on National 
Minorities Max van der Stoel. Earlier on 13 July, NATO 
Secretary-General Javier Solana told Schuster that the 
further expansion plan approved by NATO at its April 
Washington summit should be applied to Slovakia to 
allow its rapid integration into the alliance. MS 
 
MECIAR CALLS FOR SLOVAK PREMIER'S RESIGNATION. 
Vladimir Meciar, leader of the opposition Movement for 
a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), on 13 July called for 
the resignation of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's 
cabinet, which he accused of condoning corruption in 
connection with the privatization of the Nafta Gbely 
gas storage company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 
1999). Meciar said the cabinet is endangering the 
credibility and functioning of state institutions. He 
told journalists that members of the Party of Civic 
Understanding and the Democratic Left Party have 
proposed that their formations leave the ruling 
coalition and form with the HZDS a new cabinet also 
backed by the Slovak National Party. He said, however, 
that the HZDS has rejected the offer "for now." Both 
parties denied that claim, and Dzurinda said Meciar's 
demand for his cabinet's resignation was 
"irresponsible and ridiculous." MS 
 
FINLAND REJECTS FIRST 150 SLOVAK ROMA APPLICATIONS FOR 
ASYLUM. The Immigration Office in Helsinki on 13 July 
turned down the first 150 applications for political 
asylum by Slovak Roma who arrived in Finland with the 
recent wave of exodus from their country. A Finnish 
official told CTK that none of the 150 applications 
examined so far has been approved (see also "End Note" 
below). MS 
 
U.S., EU UNWILLING TO SUPPORT VOJVODINA AUTONOMY. A 
senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of 
anonymity, said that Washington is "certainly not 
keen" to have Defense Secretary William Cohen's recent 
talks in Budapest expanded to include the issue of 
Vojvodina's autonomy, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 14 
July, citing an AP report. "The last thing that the 
U.S. needs is yet another attempt at autonomy," he 
said. The daily also quotes a European Foreign 
Ministry official as saying "the Vojvodina issue will 
be at the bottom of the list of priorities" in talks 
aimed at achieving regional stability. MS 
 
SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE 
 
TALKS ON FUTURE OF YUGOSLAVIA BEGIN. Representatives of 
the Montenegrin government and leading Serbian political 
parties began discussions in Belgrade on 14 July that 
are to focus on Montenegrin proposals to turn the 
federation into a loose confederation of two equal 
members. Zeljko Sturanovic, who heads the Montenegrin 
team, told AP that "we came here to feel the pulse of 
the Serbian parties." The previous day, Montenegrin 
Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan warned his 
coalition partners that his Social Democratic Party will 
leave the cabinet unless the government reformulates its 
proposals to the Serbs in what he called a less 
ambiguous fashion. Burzan's party favors independence. 
Observers suggest that most Serbian parties will be 
unwilling to recognize Montenegro as an equal, if only 
because it has less than one-tenth of Serbia's 
population. Montenegrin officials have suggested that 
they will call a referendum on independence if Belgrade 
does not meet their demands. PM 
 
DJUKANOVIC EXCLUDES ARMY FROM CEREMONY. Montenegrin 
President Milo Djukanovic did not invite representatives 
of the Yugoslav army to ceremonies near Podgorica on 13 
July to mark the anniversary of the Montenegrin uprising 
against the Italian and German occupation forces in 
World War II. The army held its own ceremony one hour 
prior to Djukanovic's. AP reported that this was the 
first time since the end of World War II that the 
civilian authorities did not invite the army to 
participate in the annual ceremony. PM 
 
G-7 FINANCE MINISTERS LAUNCH BALKAN DONORS' 
CONFERENCE... The finance ministers of the G-7 
countries--together with several representatives from 
the EU, the World Bank, the IMF, the European 
Investment Bank, and the European Bank for 
Reconstruction and Development--agreed on 13 July in 
Brussels to organize an international donors' 
conference in the Belgian capital on 28 July. The EU 
earlier announced that it will invest $500 million for 
the reconstruction of the Balkans. The World Bank 
pledged an initial contribution of $60 million, an 
RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. 
The conference will take place at the same time as a 
Sarajevo summit of governments participating in the 
Balkan stability pact. FS 
 
...REJECT RECONSTRUCTION AID FOR SERBIA. The 
participants at the Brussels meeting agreed that they 
will not grant any reconstruction and development aid to 
Serbia as long as Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic 
and other indicted war criminals are in power. World 
Bank Director James Wolfensohn said Serbia will receive 
support only once it has a democratic government that 
"respects the international norms and standards," an 
RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported from 
the Belgian capital. Wolfensohn made clear, however, 
that Montenegro is eligible for international aid. He 
added that experts are examining the details of how to 
make aid available to Podgorica. The participants 
agreed, moreover, that humanitarian aid can be given to 
Serbia. Wolfensohn stressed that rebuilding Kosova must 
not be funded at the expense of humanitarian and 
development aid programs in Asia, Africa, the Caucasus, 
and elsewhere, AP reported. FS 
 
DJINDJIC CALLS FOR 'MARCH ON BELGRADE.' Democratic Party 
leader Zoran Djindjic said on 13 July in Jagodina, south 
of Belgrade, that "in 10 to 15 days, when the first 
round of rallies [in various Serbian towns] ends, we 
will embark on the biggest march in the history of the 
world. Some 1,000 people will start out for Belgrade 
from each of about 20 cities in Serbia. Each column will 
be headed by one opposition leader. We will give 
Milosevic five days until we reach Belgrade. We will 
tell him: Don't wait for us in Belgrade," Reuters quoted 
Djindjic as saying. He also told the crowd of some 4,000 
people: "Get your shoes ready! See you on the squares of 
Belgrade." Police had tried to disrupt the rally by 
cutting off mobile phone links and diverting traffic 
through the center of town, where the protesters planned 
to congregate. Demonstrators responded by blocking 
traffic, and the rally went ahead. PM 
 
PROTESTS CONTINUE IN LESKOVAC. Zoran Zivkovic, who is a 
Democratic Party leader and mayor of Nis, led a march of 
about 1,000 through Leskovac to the jail where police 
are holding television broadcaster Ivan Novkovic (see 
"RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1999). The good-natured crowd 
chanted "We're going to jail" and "We're going to visit 
our friend in prison," Reuters reported. Police finally 
stopped the protesters near the prison. In Vranje, some 
300 reservists continued their demonstrations to demand 
back pay. General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who commands troops 
in southern Serbia, visited the town but did not meet 
with representatives of the reservists, RFE/RL's South 
Slavic Service reported. PM 
 
UNIONS SEEK MILOSEVIC'S OUSTER. The Association of Free 
and Independent Trade Unions issued a statement to all 
other Serbian unions on 13 July calling on them to join 
in launching a general strike to force Milosevic to 
resign, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from 
Belgrade. The private Beta news agency quoted 
representatives of farmers' unions as saying they will 
begin blocking roads and bridges in Vojvodina next week 
and continue their protest until Milosevic stands down. 
PM 
 
DID ARKAN TRY TO SURRENDER TO BELGIAN POLICE? The VOA on 
14 July quoted an NBC television broadcast as saying 
that a lawyer for indicted Serbian war criminal Zeljko 
Raznatovic "Arkan" contacted Belgian police on 25 June 
with the message that his client wanted to turn himself 
in. Belgian police could not, however, find Interpol's 
warrant for Arkan's arrest. Police contacted the Hague- 
based war crimes tribunal only to find that top 
officials there had already left town for the weekend. 
The court's 1997 warrant for Arkan's arrest was issued 
for Yugoslavia, not for Belgium. Its text is in English, 
which is not valid under Belgian law. A court spokesman 
refused to comment on the story, adding that the court 
does not make statements about "rumors." PM 
 
ANNAN OUTLINES PLAN FOR KOSOVA. UN Secretary-General 
Kofi Annan presented a five-point plan to the Security 
Council in New York on 13 July. According to his 
proposal, the world body will soon take over "full 
authority" in Kosova and later devolve power to a local 
civilian administration, AP reported. He stressed that a 
crucial moment will come later this year, when a UN 
police force is slated to take over police functions 
from KFOR. Annan also pointed out the importance of 
setting up a new and impartial judiciary. Observers note 
that a major weakness of the Bosnian peace settlement 
was that it left police and judicial functions in the 
hands of the three leading nationalist parties. PM 
 
DISPUTE OVER RADIO PRISHTINA. UN spokesman Kevin 
Kennedy on 12 July said that the UN will not allow 
Radio Prishtina to resume full operations unless 
Serbian and Albanian journalists there agree to create 
"a mixed work environment," AFP reported. He said that 
Albanians returning to the station's building and 
Serbs already working there failed to agree on a 
"common platform" for broadcasting. He added that the 
station will resume work only after the UN has 
established a "media board" following consultations 
with the OSCE. Kennedy added that until then, the UN 
staff will start to prepare "some very, very limited 
programming, which should not be confused with 
bringing Radio Prishtina back on the air." Kennedy 
argued that "if we rushed too quickly to fill this 
vacuum, we may in fact be creating bigger problems 
down the road." Only private radio stations have so 
far resumed broadcasting in Prishtina, some of those 
with international assistance. FS 
 
ROW OVER PREVLAKA AT UN. Vladislav Jovanovic, who heads 
the Yugoslav delegation at the UN, presented a letter to 
the Security Council on 13 July arguing that Croatia's 
Prevlaka Peninsula is an integral part of Montenegro's 
Kotor Bay area and hence Yugoslav territory. Ivan 
Simonovic, who is Croatia's ambassador to the UN, 
responded that Jovanovic's letter constitutes an attempt 
at changing internationally recognized frontiers, 
RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Prevlaka has 
been under UN administration for seven years. Annan 
recently recommended that the UN mandate be extended for 
another six months. At that time, Simonovic called 
Annan's proposal "nothing new" and stressed that 
Prevlaka must return to Croatian control. PM 
 
SLOVENIA TO INTRODUCE SCHENGEN CONTROLS. Foreign 
Minister Boris Frlec said in Ljubljana on 13 July that 
his government will soon require visas for citizens of 
countries who currently need such documents to enter EU- 
member states. The measure will take effect on 1 January 
2000 and will affect citizens of Macedonia, Turkey, 
Russia, Romania, and Bulgaria, among others. PM 
 
CONSTANTINESCU ACCUSES WEST OF UNFAIR TREATMENT. 
President Emil Constantinescu told a 13 July meeting 
of the U.S.-Romania Action Committee that the West is 
treating his country unfairly, despite Romania's 
support for NATO during the Kosova crisis. "Every day 
an individual from NATO or the EU comes to Bucharest 
to congratulate us for the way we acted...but we have 
neither the security nor the advantages of NATO 
countries." The reward for such support, he said, is 
that Romania is suffering the consequences of the 
ongoing embargo on oil exports to Yugoslavia. In 
related news, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen, in 
an interview with the Hungarian daily "Nepszabadsag" 
on 13 July, said the process of NATO expansion "will 
not be accelerated," despite the help extended to the 
organization by Romania and Bulgaria during the Kosova 
crisis. MS/MSZ 
 
FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WANTS 'NEW DEAL'... Ion 
Iliescu told Reuters on 13 July that his country needs 
a "New Deal," like that launched by U.S. President 
Franklin Roosevelt to overcome the Great Depression of 
the 1930s. He pledged to launch a "social market" of 
the kind the Germans had in the late 1950s and early 
1960s if his Party of Social Democracy in Romania 
(PDSR) returns to power. At the same time, he said he 
has not yet decided whether to run for another 
presidential term. MS 
 
ROMANIAN OPPOSITION LEADER WARNS AGAINST HUNGARIAN 
'REVISIONISM'... PDSR first deputy chairman Adrian 
Nastase on 13 July told journalists in Cluj that an 
"explosive situation" might develop in Transylvania in 
the fall against the background of the country's 
"increasing economic, political, and social 
vulnerability." Nastase said he has "information" on 
the "strategy" planned by "Magyar revisionists" to 
create such a situation, but he declined to elaborate, 
Mediafax reported. MS 
 
...AS HUNGARIAN ETHNIC LEADER PROTESTS SURVEILLANCE. 
Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania chairman 
Bela Marko on 12 July demanded an urgent investigation 
of an incident in Odorheiul Secuiesc two days earlier 
in which participants leaving a meeting in the town's 
city hall discovered they were being filmed from a van 
belonging to the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI). 
The driver was surrounded by some 30-50 ethnic 
Hungarians and prevented from driving off. The local 
SRI head, who was summoned to the scene by the driver, 
admitted that the van belonged to his organization but 
refused to open up a locked compartment, claiming it 
contained military secrets. SRI director Mircea 
Gheordunescu July denied that the ethnic Hungarians 
were being filmed and said the van was there on 
another mission. MS 
 
LUCINSCHI, SMIRNOV MEET IN CHISINAU. A meeting between 
Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi and separatist 
leader Igor Smirnov in Chisinau on 13 July failed to 
bridge the gap between the two sides over the status 
of the Transdniester, Infotag reports on 14 July. A 
Tirsapol-drafted declaration on the "common state" 
amounts to a recognition of the Transdniester as a 
separate republic within a joint state, which is 
unacceptable to Chisinau. The two sides also failed to 
agree on ways of solving the problem of the $20 
million debt owed by Chisinau for electricity 
supplies. However, they did sign several agreements on 
cultural cooperation, combating organized crime, and 
health. Lucinschi and Smirnov will meet again in Kyiv 
on 16 July at a summit also attended by Ukrainian 
President Leonid Kuchma and Russian Prime Minister 
Sergei Stepashin. MS 
 
BULGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES DRAFT JOINT PROGRAM. 
Leaders of four opposition parties on 13 July presented 
to journalists in Sofia an "alternative program" to that 
of the present government, BTA reported. Georgi Parvanov 
(Socialist Party), Alexandar Tomov (Euro-Left), Kristo 
Petkov (United Labor Bloc), and Petar Dertliev (Social 
Democratic Party) said the program envisages the 
decentralization of power, cutting red tape and reducing 
the size of the administrative apparatus, slashing 
central administration budget expenditures, and 
introducing tax cuts. A fifth opposition party, the 
Liberal Democratic Union, contributed to the program a 
chapter on ethnic relations, but no representative of 
that party attended the presentation. The chapter was 
drafted in collaboration with the ethnic Turkish 
Movements for Rights and Freedom. MS 
 
END NOTE 
 
SLOVAK AUTHORITIES SUSPECT 'PLOT' BEHIND ROMANY EXODUS 
TO FINLAND 
 
by Jolyon Naegele 
 
	Last week, Finland began requiring all visitors 
from Slovakia to have visas. The move came in response 
to the growing number of Roma asylum seekers from 
Slovakia who have been arriving in Finland since March, 
particularly over the past several weeks. They now 
number more than 1,100. 
	Slovak President Rudolf Schuster has welcomed the 
Finnish move. He said in Prague on 7 July that he has 
suggested to Czech President Vaclav Havel "a common 
conceptual proposal for resolving the Roma question in 
the Czech and Slovak Republics". 
	Schuster said that despite a visit by Slovak 
Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jan Figel to Helsinki 
in a bid to stave off the imposition of visa 
restrictions on Slovakia, the Finns "did not wait for 
days but rather just hours" before deciding to impose 
visas. He added that Helsinki made the right decision, 
noting that "time will confirm how these Roma were 
organized, in what manner, and why they were chosen." 
	On returning to Bratislava, Figel said that the 
Finnish move is temporary and that other signatory 
states to the Schengen Agreement are not considering 
requiring Slovak citizens to have visas. He said the 
exodus was "organized and had a speculative background". 
Schuster has also said he does not believe that the 
sudden exodus was spontaneous. 
	Similarly, Bela Bugar, the deputy speaker of the 
Slovak parliament and head of the ethnic Hungarians in 
the ruling coalition, says he suspects "anti-state 
activities" are behind the Roma exodus in a bid to harm 
Slovakia's chances of being belatedly invited to open 
membership talks with the EU. Moreover, he said the 
exodus is "an example of the total failure" of the 
Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS). 
	 The deputy chairwoman of former Prime Minister 
Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia 
(HZDS), Olga Keltosova, said the SIS failed because it 
was too busy "constructing accusations against 
representatives of the previous government." She 
remarked that she fully expects the government to claim 
that "dark forces of the former coalition and the former 
secret police leadership are behind the Roma exodus." 
	The Slovak government's designated official for 
resolving the problems of the Roma minority, Vincent 
Danihel, visited Slovak Roma asylum seekers in Finland 
last week. He said their uniform explanations for why 
they left bore striking similarities to comments by two 
deputies from Meciar's HZDS during a 6 July 
parliamentary debate on the Roma exodus. According to 
Danihel, "it is not possible that this occurred by 
chance." 
	The independent Bratislava daily "Sme" quotes the 
head of passport control at Helsinki airport, Olli 
Kunnala, as saying many of the recent arrivals had 
previously unused passports issued six months ago with 
very similar identification numbers. He says the last 
batch of Slovak Roma to arrive was a group of 63 asylum 
seekers who flew in from Budapest on 6 July, seven hours 
before the visa requirement took effect. 
	Deputy Prime Minister for Minorities Pal Csaky also 
suspects a plot. He noted that the cabinet last week 
discussed materials provided by the Interior Ministry 
concerning specific individuals and two Kosice travel 
agencies that helped arrange the departure of the Roma. 
He rejected the possibility of an economic motive for 
the Roma's decision to go to Finland. 
	After the first meeting in Bratislava of the 
Coordination Committee for Resolving the Departure of 
Roma Abroad, Csaky announced last week that a group of 
Slovak civil servants will travel to Finland to meet 
with the asylum seekers. The deputy premier said the 
Slovak government is willing to provide them with new 
passports and charter flights home. 
	Csaky added that the Interior Ministry is 
investigating the Roma Intelligentsia for Common 
Identity group, which appears to be behind the exodus 
and has defended it publicly. He accuses the group's 
chairman, Alexander Patkolo, of deceiving the news media 
and the public. 
	Patkolo told reporters last week that Roma are 
leaving Slovakia owing to what he alleged is the 
country's poor economic and political situation, which, 
he argued, does not offer equal opportunities to all its 
citizens. He accused the government of Prime Minister 
Mikulas Dzurinda of failing to resolve the build-up of 
problems involving the Roma community. 
	Csaky denies Patkolo's claims, saying that never 
has so much attention been devoted to the Roma question 
as over the last eight months. "I approached Roma 
leaders, held round-table meetings," he said. "We are 
implementing a pilot program in the Spis region, we have 
put into effect a project costing 1.8 million euros." 
	This is by no means the first outflow of Slovak 
Roma in the post-communist era. Two years ago, more than 
1,000 Slovak and Czech Roma applied for asylum in Canada 
before that country reimposed visas. In the fall of 
1997, Slovak and Czech Roma began applying for asylum in 
Great Britain, which responded by imposing visas for 
Slovak citizens. In March of last year, members of the 
Czech Roma Civic Initiative from Ostrava requested 
collective asylum in the U.S. for all Czech Roma. The 
U.S. State Department turned down their request. 
	In the nearly 10 years since the collapse of 
Communist rule, numerous Roma organizations have 
sprouted at the local and national level. But Roma have 
become the frequent targets of wanton acts of violence 
and even murder, largely by skinheads. Observers of the 
Czech Republic and Slovakia often argue that many Czechs 
and Slovaks are racist in their attitude toward Roma, 
convinced that virtually all members of the Roma 
community are criminally inclined and mentally impaired. 
 
The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague. 
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