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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 119, 97-09-17

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 1, No. 119, 17 September 1997


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] TAJIK OPPOSITION RELEASES PRISONERS
  • [02] ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER IN KAZAKHSTAN
  • [03] KYRGYZ HOMELESS THWARTED IN BID TO REGISTER
  • [04] JAPAN TO BUILD OIL REFINERIES IN KYRGYZSTAN, GEORGIA
  • [05] GEORGIAN POLICE, SVANS CLASH OVER DRUGS HARVEST
  • [06] GEORGIAN HOSTAGES RELEASED
  • [07] ABKHAZIA TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON POLITICAL STATUS

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [08] U.S. DIPLOMAT NOT TO DISQUALIFY BOSNIAN SERB HARD-LINERS
  • [09] MAJOR POWERS DEMAND RESPECT FOR BOSNIAN ELECTION RESULTS
  • [10] U.S. WANTS QUICK CONCLUSION OF CROAT-BOSNIAN TALKS
  • [11] HYPER-INFLATION TO RETURN TO SERBIA?
  • [12] KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY SAYS IT CARRIED OUT ATTACKS
  • [13] ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES KEY TAX HIKE
  • [14] EUROPEAN POLICE MISSION TO STAY ON IN ALBANIA
  • [15] ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS LAND RESTITUTION LAW
  • [16] ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES AGREE TO FORM ALLIANCE
  • [17] RUSSIA DISTANCES ITSELF FROM DEPUTIES' SUPPORT FOR TRANSDNIESTER
  • [18] GAGAUZ-YERI OPPOSITION DENOUNCES LOCAL GOVERNOR
  • [19] BULGARIA TO CLEAR MINES FROM TURKISH BORDER

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [20] INTER-ETHNIC RELATIONS IN TRANSYLVANIA: RHETORIC AND REALITY (PART II)

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] TAJIK OPPOSITION RELEASES PRISONERS

    Mirzo Zieyev, a field commander of the United Tajik Opposition, has released 25 government soldiers, RFE/RL correspondents reported on 17 September. Zieyev's unit captured the soldiers during fighting in the Tavil- Dara region of central Tajikistan. Originally, five ethnic Russian soldiers taken prisoner were to be handed over. But as a gesture of goodwill, the UTO released an additional 20. Helicopters from the CIS peacekeeping force air-lifted the released soldiers from Tavil-Dara.

    [02] ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER IN KAZAKHSTAN

    Romano Prodi was in Almaty on 15-16 September to discuss trade with Kazakh leaders and businessmen, RFE/RL correspondents and Interfax reported. Prodi met with President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin on the second day of his visit. At a news conference following the meeting, it was announced that Italian firms will be granted the right to explore and develop two hydrocarbon fields in Kazakhstan's sector of the Caspian Sea. Nazarbayev praised the Italian company Agip for its work in the Karachangansk oil and gas field in western Kazakhstan. He also said that Almaty is interested in importing Italian equipment for producing machine-tools and processing farm products. The volume of trade between the two countries in the first half of this year totaled $187 million.

    [03] KYRGYZ HOMELESS THWARTED IN BID TO REGISTER

    The Justice Ministry has rejected an application by the Yntymak movement to officially register, a ministry official told RFE/RL correspondents on 16 September. Yntymak was formed by homeless people who moved to Bishkek from the countryside in search of work. The group filed registration papers on 11 July but had received no reply by the time of the two-month deadline for a decision. Justice Ministry officials now say there were mistakes in the registration form. Yntymak members have demonstrated several times in front of the government building, asking for plots of land on which to build dwellings. They began constructing homes without permission, but the authorities demolished the home of the movement's chairman, Nurlan Alymkulov, on 10 September. Local authorities have filed charges against Alymkulov and other members of the movement.

    [04] JAPAN TO BUILD OIL REFINERIES IN KYRGYZSTAN, GEORGIA

    Japan's Sumitomo Corporation has signed an agreement to build an oil refinery in Bishkek, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 16 September. It has also promised long-term loans to the Kyrgyz government. President Askar Akaev met with a group of Sumitomo executives on 16 September. Five days earlier, the Itochu corporation signed a memorandum on building an oil refinery at the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa, the Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy, and Development reported, citing the 12 September issue of "Kavkasioni." Members of the Turkish-Japanese Business Council visited Baku and Tbilisi in early September to discuss projects connected with the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 4 September.

    [05] GEORGIAN POLICE, SVANS CLASH OVER DRUGS HARVEST

    Georgian police engaged in destroying illegal poppy plantations in the remote Mestia Raion of northwestern Georgia were attacked by local Svan mountain dwellers on 15 September, Russian agencies reported. Four police and two Svans were killed and several more police officials wounded in the shoot-out that followed. The Svans are a Kartvelian ethnic group who speak a language related to Georgian.

    [06] GEORGIAN HOSTAGES RELEASED

    Four ethnic Georgians abducted by Abkhaz police on 14 September were released two days later as a result of the Abkhaz and Georgian governments' coordinated efforts, RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 September suggested the motive for the abduction was not political. The newspaper noted that rival Abkhaz and Georgian gangs are engaged in the export of walnuts from Abkhazia's Gali Raion to Turkey. The Abkhaz police confiscated two trucks transporting walnuts when they took the Georgians hostage.

    [07] ABKHAZIA TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON POLITICAL STATUS

    The Abkhaz authorities plan to hold a referendum to determine the region's future political status, the Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy, and Development reported, citing the 12-15 September issue of "Meridiani." Ethnic Georgian residents of Gali Raion will be allowed to participate in the vote. Participants will be asked to decide whether Abkhazia should be part of Georgia, part of Russia, or an independent state.

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [08] U.S. DIPLOMAT NOT TO DISQUALIFY BOSNIAN SERB HARD-LINERS

    Robert Frowick, the U.S. diplomat supervising the Bosnian local elections held on 13-14 September, refused in Sarajevo on 16 September to disqualify the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), the main Serbian nationalist party, from the vote. Frowick said that to do so would jeopardize the peace process and the safety of foreign personnel on Bosnian Serb territory. A panel of foreign judges had earlier disqualified the SDS on the grounds that indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic is still, in effect, head of the party. The Norwegian judge who heads the panel said he may resign to protest Frowick's decision. Some observers charged that Frowick and other foreigners monitoring the vote have already made too many concessions to the main Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim nationalist parties, the "Los Angeles Times" reported on 17 September.

    [09] MAJOR POWERS DEMAND RESPECT FOR BOSNIAN ELECTION RESULTS

    Diplomats from the contact group countries (the U.S., the U.K, Russia, Germany, and France) said in London on 16 September that those who do not respect the outcome of the vote can expect stiff sanctions. The contact group also demanded that representatives of the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims quickly agree on long over-due measures, such as establishing a common citizenship and issuing joint passports. Meanwhile in Moscow, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Russia expects the elections to lead to a stabilization of the overall situation in Bosnia. The spokesman added that close cooperation between Russia and its Western partners helped make the elections a success.

    [10] U.S. WANTS QUICK CONCLUSION OF CROAT-BOSNIAN TALKS

    U.S. mediators said in Zagreb on 16 September that Washington hopes Croatian and Bosnian negotiators meeting in the Croatian capital will conclude an agreement on Bosnia's access to the Adriatic by the end of the month, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. The issue has bedeviled relations between Zagreb and Sarajevo for several years. Ploce, Bosnia's natural outlet to the sea, belongs to Croatia. Neum, a small fishing village belonging to Bosnia, cuts Croatia's Adriatic coast in two. Croatian authorities fear that Bosnia may seek to annex Ploce. The Bosnian authorities, for their part, will not cede transit rights in Neum to Croatia without concessions by Zagreb over Ploce.

    [11] HYPER-INFLATION TO RETURN TO SERBIA?

    A panel of leading Serbian economists said in a statement on 15 September that the current election campaign could lead to a return to rampant inflation that plagued Yugoslavia for much of the 1980s and 1990s. The experts said that the government has printed money to pay wages and pensions in order to prevent possible social unrest in the runup to the 21 September presidential and parliamentary vote. The economists added that the only way to avoid the return of the rampant inflation is for the government to withdraw up to two billion dinars from circulation right after the elections. Observers noted that the return of hyper-inflation could prove politically and socially explosive, because much of the Serbian population already lives below the poverty level.

    [12] KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY SAYS IT CARRIED OUT ATTACKS

    The clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) has said in a statement in Pristina that it is responsible for a recent series of armed attacks on police stations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1997). The statement claimed that some Serbian policemen were killed and wounded in the raids, but the official Serbian media have said there were no casualties. Meanwhile, Montenegrin presidential candidate Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic called for an improvement in relations between Yugoslavia and Albania, the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported on 16 September. Observers noted that economic links between Montenegro and Albania have been close since the collapse of communism. Albania was home to a major fuel smuggling operation into Montenegro during the war, when Yugoslavia was under an international embargo.

    [13] ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES KEY TAX HIKE

    The parliament on 16 September approved a new tax law that the Council of Ministers had submitted the previous day, "Dita Informacion" reported. The law raises value-added tax from 12.5 percent to 22 percent and includes hikes in taxes on tobacco, alcoholic beverages, imported nonalcoholic beverages, coffee, fuel, and gas. The IMF had demanded the hikes as a condition for implementing a cooperation agreement and for calling an international donors' conference later this year. Albania's budget deficit reached some 10 percent of GDP in 1996. Estimates suggest it could grow to 40 percent in 1997.

    [14] EUROPEAN POLICE MISSION TO STAY ON IN ALBANIA

    The Western European Union defense organization voted in Brussels on 16 September to extend the mandate of its police training mission by six months, until March 1998. The WEU mission consists of 24 police officers from 15 countries, including Bulgaria, Estonia, and Romania as well as Western European states. Meanwhile in Tirana, a court sentenced Ilir Ceta to 13 years in prison for trying to assassinate President Sali Berisha near Durres in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 1997). Ceta said he wanted to kill Berisha because he considered him the "main enemy of the Albanian people."

    [15] ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS LAND RESTITUTION LAW

    The Senate on 16 September amended the 1991 law on land restitution, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The amendment, however, does not specify how much land can be restituted to former owners. Under the 1991 law, a maximum of 10 hectares of farm land and 1 hectare of forest land could be restituted per family. The National Peasant Party Christian Democratic wants the amended law to allow up to 50 hectares of farm land and 30 hectares of forest to be returned to former owners, but the Democratic Party is opposed to those amounts. The limits on restituted land will be decided by the parliament by 31 March 1998, following a survey of the total land available for restitution. In the meantime, former owners will be able to reclaim properties exceeding the previous limit. The Chamber of Deputies has already approved the amended law. The opposition boycotted the vote in the Senate, saying the amended legislation would lead to the restoration of landed gentry.

    [16] ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES AGREE TO FORM ALLIANCE

    Representatives of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, the Greater Romania Party, and the extra-parliamentary Socialist Labor Party have agreed to set up an alliance, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 16 September. They said their main aim is to bring about a change in the ruling coalition. Also on 16 September, the leadership of the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) criticized former chairman Gheorghe Funar, who recently announced that his party will join an opposition grouping called the Alliance for Romania's Revival. The PUNR said Funar "had no mandate" from the party to make such an announcement. Meanwhile, Funar, who is also mayor of Cluj, has ordered the town's park benches to be painted in Romania's national colors "to show that Cluj is a Romanian town."

    [17] RUSSIA DISTANCES ITSELF FROM DEPUTIES' SUPPORT FOR TRANSDNIESTER

    The Russian Foreign Ministry on 17 September issued a statement saying the State Duma deputies who participated in the seventh anniversary celebrations of the Transdniester breakaway region's independence "did not represent the official position of Russia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 1997), BASA-press reported on 16 September. The statement noted that the resolution of the Transdniester conflict rests in adopting a special status for the region that would reflect Moldova's territorial integrity. It added that any "unilateral interpretation" of the memorandum signed in Moscow in May is "counterproductive."

    [18] GAGAUZ-YERI OPPOSITION DENOUNCES LOCAL GOVERNOR

    At a press conference in Chisinau on 16 September, opposition representatives from the Gagauz-Yeri autonomous region of Moldova accused Governor Georgi Tabunshchik of breaking the region's electoral law, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. They said the press conference was held in Chisinau, rather than in the region's capital, Comrat, because there is "heavy censorship" and "pluralism of opinion is not accepted" in Comrat. Deputy Constantin Tusanji said that on Tabunshcik's orders, the local electoral commission had falsified the results of the 31 August elections for Comrat mayor. Tusanji ran for the mayoralty and claims to have received 53 percent of the vote. The organizers of the press conference claimed that foreign countries--particularly the U.S.--are backing Tabunschik's "unpopular regime," Infotag reported.

    [19] BULGARIA TO CLEAR MINES FROM TURKISH BORDER

    General Lyutskan Lyutskanov, secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, says Bulgaria will remove mines at its southern border with Turkey by the end of 1998, the daily "Standart" reported on 16 September. Lyutskanov said there are some technical problems involving the removal of the mines, noting that the fields where they were planted are much overgrown and that access is difficult. Also on 16 September, the Interior Ministry announced that police in northern Bulgaria arrested a man who tried to smuggle 30,000 pirate compact discs to neighboring Serbia. The value of the discs is estimated at some $150,000.

    [C] END NOTE

    [20] INTER-ETHNIC RELATIONS IN TRANSYLVANIA: RHETORIC AND REALITY (PART II)

    by George Schopflin

    Just as the Romanian are divided by various cleavage lines, so the Hungarians have different attitudes and are sociologically heterogeneous. Broadly, they fall into three categories: those in the overwhelmingly Hungarian areas of the Szekler lands (some 700,000 people); those in the mixed areas of central Transylvania (around 500,000), for whom interaction with Romanians is a daily experience; and those from the area closest to Hungary itself (also around 500,000). The last category is closer also in culture and values to the ones dominant in Hungary. These sociological cleavages are not translated into politics: Hungarians vote largely for the Hungarian political party, the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR).

    The Hungarians of Romania are not necessarily well disposed toward Hungary. They have been known to refer to Hungary as "the country where the cheese is artificially enriched with vitamin C," thereby implying their Hungarian identity is far more authentic than the Hungarians of Hungary itself. The political fall-out of this attitude means there is virtually no support for reunification with Hungary. When the Transylvanians go to Hungary, they are foreigners there.

    In essence, their coexistence with the Romanians and their interaction with the Romanian state--even when that interaction has been hostile--have reshaped their identity. The gap between them and Hungary is growing, while their integration in Romania is an accomplished fact.

    The attitude of the Transylvanian Hungarians to the Romanians is very similar to how the Romanians see them: they accept the majority and have learned to live with them but do not warm to them particularly. In this context, the threefold internal cleavage in the minority has some political relevance in attitudes toward the Romanian majority and the Romanian state.

    In the Szekler lands, the Hungarian elite has more or less reestablished the dominant position it had before the industrialization of the Ceausescu era dislodged them. The Romanian elite has largely gone, although the middle- and lower-level bureaucrats remain. The area is fully bilingual; only the institutions of the Romanian state (police, military, railroads) are monolingual. In the Szekler lands, low levels of competence in Romanian are widespread, while at the bottom end of the social scale, knowledge of Romanian is barely necessary. As a result, the Romanians are the minority in this region.

    In central and western Transylvania, the situation is quite different. The population is mixed, and there is competition between the two groups for resources. Transylvania is changing rapidly. It is no exaggeration to say that it is undergoing a second modernization, after the failed communist modernization. This process is uneven and uncontrolled. The impact of the Romanian state is comparatively weak, because its leverage (both financial and administrative) is limited.

    There is also the economic pull of Hungary, not to mention its cultural prestige. Despite the differentiation noted above, Budapest is the pole of attraction. Even more significant is the Transylvanian Hungarians' own aspirations, skills, and determination to survive as a cultural community, separate from both Hungary and the Romanians.

    One of the paradoxes of the present situation is that the UDMR is a member of the government. In effect, this is the first time that the Hungarians are participating in a democratically elected Romanian government. Having acquired an attitude that regards the Romanian state and government as anti- Hungarian (the legacy of the Ceausescu and Iliescu periods), the shift is not an easy one for many Hungarians to accept.

    They see their party as their protector, and it is hard for them to identify the Romanian state as being actively theirs. The legacy of suspicion is deeply engrained. At the same time, their expectations of creating a fully-fledged Hungarian existence through participation in the government are unrealistic. In the Szekler lands, such expectations do not constitute an acute problem. But elsewhere they do and could give rise to friction if they are not met.

    Given their vagueness, it is unlikely that those expectations can be realized. But their central significance is that the Hungarian minority in Romania fully accepts the Romanian state. Moreover, it constructs its political life around loyalty to that state and not to Hungary.

    The author lectures at the London School of Economics. Part I of this article appeared in yesterday's "RFE/RL Newsline."


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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