|Wednesday, 13 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 96, 97-08-15
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 96, 15 August 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 SITUATION IN KURGAN-TEPPE WORSENSThe situation in the southern Tajik city of Kurgan-Teppe has worsened.. Rebel commander Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev told RFE/RL's Tajik Service that there was an attack on his home in that city on 14 August, following his dismissal by Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov as commander of the army's First Brigade. While Khudaberdiyev initially said he would comply with that decision, he has since indicated he may refuse to step down. He argued that the government has not fulfilled its part of the cease-fire agreement, which includes the return of government forces to their barracks in Dushanbe. Khudaberdiyev confirmed there are armed groups in Kurgan-Teppe but said it was unclear to which side they belong. He also said the armed groups are looting and pillaging and that his unit has asked him to reassume command and restore order. Khudaberdiyev threatened that if the government is unable to restore order, he may seek the help of the United Tajik Opposition.
 KAZAKH TV BEGINS BROADCASTING IN KAZAKHRFE/RL correspondents in Almaty on 14 August reported that commercial television stations in Kazakhstan have begun broadcasting some programs in Kazakh in compliance with the new law on languages. According to that legislation, all media outlets must disseminate information in both Kazakh and Russian. Previously, only state-owned television channels broadcast in Kazakh, while private stations broadcast exclusively in Russian.
 GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA ABJURE USE OF FORCEEduard Shevardnadze and Vladislav Ardzinba, the presidents of Georgia and Abkhazia, held lengthy talks in Tbilisi on14 August on resolving the conflict between the two countries. The same day, Foreign Ministers Irakli Menagharishvili and Sergei Shamba met to discuss the same issue. On 15 August, Shevardnadze and Ardzinba signed a joint statement pledging to refrain from the use or threat of force and not to allow the resumption of hostilities, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement also said that the two sides reached agreement on further unspecified issues but that differences remain over Abkhazia's future political status and the repatriation of ethnic Georgians who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-93 war, AFP reported.
 ARMENIAN RULING COALITION SETS UP COORDINATING COMMITTEEThe Hanrapetutyun bloc, which comprises the Armenian Pan-National Movement and five smaller parties, has announced the establishment of a Political Committee for Inter-Party Cooperation, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 14 August. Parliamentary deputy speaker Ara Sahakyan was elected coordinator of the new body, which will meet regularly to discuss the alliance's activities and "make proposals and draw up documents on the formation of Armenia's political system," according to Armenpress. The leader of the Republican Party of Armenia, which belongs to the Hanrapetutyun bloc, told RFE/RL on 14 August that the setting up of the committee is not connected with the bloc's preparations for the July 1999 parliamentary elections.
 TRIAL OF GEORGIAN WARLORD POSTPONEDThe preliminary hearings in the trial of former Mkhedrioni leader Djaba Ioseliani, which were scheduled for 12 August, have been indefinitely postponed, according to "Izvestiya" on 15 August. Ioseliani -- who is charged with high treason, murder, banditry, and terrorism -- went on hunger strike on 6 August to demand his release from detention (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 1997).
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ALBANIAN POLICE CLAIM VICTORY OVER VLORA GANGSPolice officials said in Tirana on 14 August that three gang members died in fighting in Vlora. "We have neutralized and eliminated several gangs in the town and life is progressively returning to normal," Interior Minister Neritan Ceka said. He also noted that his men have found evidence of "inefficiencies" by the administrative and judicial authorities in the area. One police official added that gang boss Zani Caushi may have fled to Italy by sea (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1997). Police rounded up large quantities of ammunition after an anonymous tip-off and found a cache next to Caushi's house. Some citizens handed in their arms voluntarily. Police say they will round up all illegally-held weapons in the port town by the end of September. In Elbasan, police said that five were killed and eight injured in a fight between rival gangs on 14 August.
 UN MARKS END OF OPERATION ALBAThe UN Security Council on 14 August announced the successful end of the international operation to provide a minimum of security for the 29 June Albanian elections. Italian UN Ambassador Paulo Fulci said that if the international community had acted with the same speed and resolution in Bosnia and in central Africa as it had in Albania, "thousands of lives would probably have been spared and immense suffering and destruction prevented." Fulci added, however, that "the primary responsibility for Albania's future lies with the Albanian people and authorities." Italy led Operation Alba and, together with Greece, will keep a small security contingent in Albania to train the local military and police under bilateral agreements. Also in New York, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said that the UN can soon begin scaling down its peacekeeping force in Macedonia. Plans to do so earlier were delayed because of the unrest in Albania.
 SERBIAN OFFICIALS NERVOUS ABOUT KOSOVOThe official Yugoslav news agency Tanjug quoted army spokesmen as saying in Belgrade on 14 August that armed incidents on the border between Kosovo and Albania have been increasing lately. The spokesmen said that groups of people, including children, are trying to enter Yugoslavia with the assistance of armed persons on the Kosovar side of the border. Meanwhile, at a cabinet meeting in Pristina on 14 August, Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic argued that Kosovo will always be part of Serbia: "any concepts based on the secession of this part of Serbia are out of the question for ever." He also promised to promote Kosovo's economic development. Kosovo has 42 seats in the 250-strong parliament that will be elected on 21 September. The Albanians say they will boycott the vote. Local Serbs charge that the government has done nothing to alleviate poverty in the region.
 KOSOVO ALBANIAN LEADER CALLS FOR TOUGHER TACTICSBujar Bukoshi, the prime minister of the Kosovars' government-in-exile, told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" on 15 August that the moderate tactics of the Kosovar leadership have reached a dead-end. Bukoshi says that the Kosovars must resort to stronger forms of civil disobedience to get the attention of the Serbian authorities and to make them pay a higher price for what he called the occupation of Kosovo. The international community must stop treating the Kosovo problem as a question of minority rights because the Albanians are not a minority in Kosovo, he added. Bukoshi also warned his countrymen that "an uprising against Serbia would be suicide" but admitted that the failure of shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova's moderate approach has led many Kosovars to sympathize with the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK). Bukoshi says he suspects that the UCK consists of a small, determined group of young people.
 BULATOVIC APPEALS TO BELGRADE TO SAVE CANDIDACYSupporters of Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic said in Podgorica on 14 August that they will appeal to the Yugoslav Constitutional Court to overturn the decision of its Montenegrin counterpart to disqualify Bulatovic as the candidate of the governing Democratic Socialist Party (DPS). The pro-Bulatovic group maintains that the Podgorica court's decision violates Bulatovic's "constitutional right to be elected." In Belgrade, the spokesman of the governing Socialist Party of Serbia said his party supports Bulatovic's efforts to establish his candidacy. Meanwhile in Podgorica, parliamentary speaker Svetozar Marovic, who belongs to the reformist faction of the DPS opposed to Bulatovic, invited the Organization for Security and Cooperation to send observers to monitor Montenegro's 5 October vote.
 U.S. TO INCREASE FORCES IN BOSNIAA Pentagon spokesman said in Washington on 14 August that the U.S. will temporarily expand its SFOR contingent from 8,000 to 12,000 troops to provide security for the 14 September elections. In Vienna, Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima said that an armed international presence will be needed in Bosnia even after SFOR's mandate expires in mid-1998. Klima added that the three sides in Bosnia are not yet able to keep the peace themselves and that the U.S. in particular should realize its own interest in keeping Bosnia stable.
 PLAVSIC SAYS BOSNIAN SERB COURT BALKINGRepublika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 14 August that she will not respond to a summons from the Constitutional Court in Pale to testify in the court proceedings on the legality of her dissolution of parliament ("see RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1997). Plavsic says that the court is stalling and that it should instead make a decision. In Pale, a NATO spokesman stated that the alliance has completed its inspection of the Bosnian Serb police. A UN police spokesman added that a final agreement on the restructuring of the Bosnian Serb units could be ready as early as 31 August. In Banja Luka, a Bosnian Serb air force jet crashed on a routine training flight. Nobody was injured, and "technical problems" were the likely cause of the crash.
 CROATIAN PROSECUTOR GOES AFTER TWO TUDJMAN CRITICSThe State Prosecutor's Office on 14 August asked the courts to launch an investigation into two prominent critics of Franjo Tudjman. The prosecutor said that ultra-nationalist Dobroslav Paraga and human rights activist Ivan Zvonimir Cicak have "spread lies" about Tudjman in recent statements on the role of the Croatian president in the Bosnian war. Paraga had said that Tudjman was actively involved in preparing and carrying out that conflict, while Cicak had commented that Tudjman plotted with Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic to partition Bosnia. If convicted for spreading disinformation, the men could be fined or sent to prison for six months. Cicak told RFE/RL that the authorities are now making trouble for him because they are trying to deflect attention from their moves under U.S. pressure to round up indicted war criminals and send them to The Hague.
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT LEADS POPULARITY POLLAn opinion poll conducted by the Bucharest-based Institute for Research of the Quality of Life shows Emil Constantinescu is the most popular politician in Romania, with the support of 71.1 percent of the respondents. He is followed by Teodor Melescanu, the leader of the recently formed Alliance for Romania (52.3 percent), Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea (50.2 percent), Democratic Party leader Petre Roman (49.4 percent), Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor (37.9 percent), and former President Ion Iliescu (33.1 percent), RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The ruling coalition is backed by more than 55 percent of the respondents. The most popular party is the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (19.8 percent), followed by the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (12 percent).
 U.S. ORGANIZATION PROTESTS ROMANIAN MONUMENTAbraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, a U.S. Jewish civic rights organization, has sent a letter to President Constantinescu protesting a monument in memory of the interwar fascist Iron Guard movement. The monument was erected in Eforie Sud, on the Black Sea, at the end of a summer camp organized by followers of the revived movement. Foxman commented that the monument "exceeds the limits of freedom of speech in today's democratic Romania," adding that the local authorities in Eforie Sud "supported the project as a tourist attraction at the seaside resort." He urged Constantinescu to "do everything within constitutional rules to have this 'monument' removed."
 ROMANIAN-U.S. NAVAL EXERCISE BEGINSThe U.S. Sixth Fleet and Romanian naval forces have begun a one-week sea and land exercise in the Black Sea, Radio Bucharest reported on 14 August. The joint exercises are designed to improve cooperation in humanitarian relief operations.
 MOLDOVA, UKRAINE BOOST MILITARY COOPERATIONMoldovan officers will be trained at Ukrainian military academies as of the 1997-98 academic year, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 August. The agreement was reached at the end of a two-day visit to Kyiv by Moldovan Chief of Staff Gen. Vladimir Dontul. At a press conference, Dontul and his Ukrainian counterpart, Gen. Olexandr Zatynajko, announced that military cooperation in general will be expanded. The two sides also agreed that Moldova will supply Ukraine with electronic equipment for artillery systems and that joint artillery exercises will take place on Ukrainian territory. Kyiv will also allow Chisinau to test air defense missiles at Ukrainian testing facilities.
 BULGARIA CRACKS DOWN ON CRIMESlavcho Bosilkov, the director of the police force, told a press conference in Sofia on 14 August that the police have uncovered 17,000 more crimes in the first six months of 1997 than in the same period last year, Reuters reported. But he added that a true comparison cannot be made, because the previous administration had manipulated crime statistics to give lower figures for 1995 and 1996. Bosilkov also said that in the past, citizens had refrained from reporting racketeering and blackmailing attempts to the police because they feared they would not be protected.
[C] END NOTE
 TRANSYLVANIA'S GLASS STILL HALF-EMPTYby Michael Shafir
It is well-established truism that different people can look at the same phenomenon and see different things, depending on what they want to see. In other words, the same glass can be "half-empty" on the pessimist's table and "half-full" in the hand of the optimist.
Transylvania is a case in point. Following the 1996 elections in Romania and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania's (UDMR) inclusion in the ruling coalition, the grievances of the Hungarian minority in that country seemed to have finally come to an end. The new government of Victor Ciorbea agreed to amend an education law to which the UDMR had objected as discriminatory. It had also agreed to bilingual signs in localities with a minority population of at least 20 percent. Moreover, the Hungarian consulate in Cluj, closed by former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1988, was re-opened in late July, just two months after Hungarian President Arpad Goencz's visit to that city.
Those developments, however, did not occur without incident. Gheorghe Funar, the ultra-nationalist mayor of Cluj, was behind demonstrations against Goencz's visit; and, following the opening of the consulate, he twice engineered the theft of the Hungarian national flag from the building in which the consulate is temporarily quartered. During his visit to RFE/RL in Prague in early August, Goencz dismissed the significance of those incidents, pointing out that Hungary has "its own extremists." Goencz's glass was obviously "half-full."
In reality, the situation is less encouraging -- and the Romanian side cannot shoulder all the blame. The government was unable to pass the amended education law, prompting the UDMR to threaten to leave the coalition unless the amended legislation went into force as of 1 September. The cabinet was therefore compelled to pass an "ordinance," which made the amended law effective immediately but has not yet been approved by the parliament.
It is by no means certain that the legislature will give its approval, since it is not merely the extreme nationalists (the Party of Romanian National Unity, or PUNR and the Greater Romania Party) and the former ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) that oppose the amended law. The government was, in fact, forced to resort to the ordinance owing to the strong opposition of George Pruteanu, the chairman of the Senate's Education Committee. Pruteanu is a member of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD), which is the most influential component of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), the main alliance in the ruling coalition. (When the original version of the education law was passed in 1994 by the former, PDSR-dominated legislature, it had enjoyed the support of many CDR representatives.)
Also contributing to the perception of the Transylvanian "half-empty glass" is the issue of the Hungarian-Romanian signs, which were similarly instituted by ordinance and, for this reason, may likewise not survive the vote in the parliament. Bilingual signs were painted over in the colors of the Romanian national flag twice in Targu Mures, at the obvious instigation of the PUNR. But in mid-August, a member of the Democratic Party, one of the ruling coalition formations, suggested that the percentage allowing bilingual street signs be changed to "more than 22.7 percent" to avoid their use in Cluj. The UDMR has wisely decided not to push with the attempt to have bilingual signs in Cluj as long as Funar remains mayor of that city.
Unfortunately, not all UDMR representatives have displayed such wisdom. In July, the local authorities in Odorheiul Secuiesc, where the UDMR has a majority on the local council, evicted the occupants of an orphanage set up with Swiss donations and run by the Greek Orthodox Church, claiming that the needs of the local (that is, Hungarian) community should come first. Such gestures only provide the opponents of reconciliation with "convincing arguments."
Yet another example shows that it would be wrong to reduce the camp of such opponents to known extremists. While on a visit to Transylvania in early August, Minister of Interior Gavril Dejeu (a PNTCD member), virtually exonerated Funar, saying that the opening of the Hungarian consulate in downtown Cluj had been a "provocation" against the ethnic majority. Dejeu argued that other, "more peripheral" premises should have been found. He "forgot" to mention that Funar had refused to provide any premises whatsoever and that the consulate is temporarily housed in a building owned by the UDMR.
On the other side of the Romanian-Hungarian border, Viktor Orban, the leader of the Alliance of Young Democrats, accused Gyula Horn's cabinet of insufficiently promoting the interests of Hungarian minorities abroad. Again, one is not dealing here with "extreme nationalists" but with a mainstream political party, which the latest polls show leading the field ahead of the 1998 elections.
This may be putting too much stress on the "half-empty" glass. But, as one East European joke has it, the optimists are convinced that this is the best of all possible worlds and the pessimists agree with them. That appears to be the case even in Transylvania.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty