|Monday, 20 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 190, 98-01-07
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 190, 7 January 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 RUSSIA OPPOSES "BOSNIAN VARIANT" FOR ABKHAZIARussian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov on 6 January rejected the "constructive use of coercion" to resolve the Abkhaz conflict. Tarasov argued that it would be "dangerous" if options that have proved justifiable in one conflict region would be systematically applied in another. The use of violence in Abkhazia would lead to new bloodshed, he argued. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze had said on 1 January that he plans to raise the possibility of a Bosnian-style operation in Abkhazia at the next NATO Euro-Atlantic Council summit, which is scheduled for May. Meanwhile, Abkhaz Presidential Representative Anri Djergenia told Interfax on 6 January that the "potential of the Abkhaz-Georgian peace process has been exhausted." Djergenia said Abkhazia will continue to insist on equal status with Georgia. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER IN ISRAELAzerbaijani government sources have given contradictory explanations for the ongoing visit to Israel of Azerbaijani presidential adviser Vafa Guluzade. Turan on 5 January cited an unnamed diplomat as claiming that Guluzade is on a "working visit" at the invitation of Israeli State Adviser for Foreign Policy Uzi Arad. The diplomat stressed the trip is not intended as preparation for President Heidar Aliev's planned visit to Israel. However, Interfax the next day quoted an unnamed Azerbaijani government source as saying the primary purpose of Guluzade's trip is to prepare for Aliev' s visit. LF
 INDEPENDENT AZERBAIJANI NEWS AGENCY UNDER FIREReporters sans Frontieres on 6 January wrote to President Aliev to express concern at Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov's criticism of the independent news agency Turan. Hasanov had claimed on 22 December that Turan's coverage of Armenian Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian's speech to the 18-19 December Copenhagen meeting of the foreign ministers of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe constituted "anti- government activities." Hasanov subsequently accused Turan of disseminating false information about the meeting. On 23 December, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov threatened to bar Turan employees from entering the ministry building. LF
 NEW POLITICAL PARTY FOUNDED IN AZERBAIJANEquality, a political party representing the estimated 780,000 Azerbaijanis forced to flee their homes during the war for control of Nagorno-Karabakh, will hold its founding congress in late January at a camp for displaced persons, Turan reported on 5 January. The party currently claims some 4,000 members. It aims to protect the political and economic rights of displaced persons and to fight worsening corruption and the stratification of Azerbaijani society. LF
 CENTRAL ASIAN LEADERS RELEASE STATEMENTIn a statement released on 6 January following the end of the Ashgabat summit, the leaders of the five Central Asian countries that belong to the Commonwealth of Independent States said that the CIS is an "acceptable model for cooperation at the transitional stage" but stressed that each individual country must decide for itself what level of participation best suits its needs. The five said they will improve relations among themselves "based on long-term partnership." Turkmenistan, citing its neutral status, declined an invitation to join the Central Asian Union, formed by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan; but Tajikistan's bid to join found support among the member countries and Turkmenistan did not rule out an observer role later. The five presidents again said they favored negotiations to end the Afghan conflict. Help was also offered to Tajikistan to establish a "democratic, secular regime." BP
 FORMER AFGHAN PRESIDENT IN TAJIKISTANBurhanuddin Rabbani has met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and Abdullo Nuri, the chairman of the National Reconciliation Commission, in an attempt to enlist their support in mediating the Afghan conflict, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 6 January. Rabbani proposed that an international conference under the aegis of the UN be held and that all parties involved in the conflict send representatives. He noted that all major groups in Afghanistan support such a conference, except the Taliban movement, which currently controls the majority of the country. Rakhmonov and Nuri said they are in favor of such a conference. BP
 CHINA COMPLAINS ABOUT TREATMENT OF CHINESE IN KAZAKHSTANKazakh Television on 6 January broadcast a statement by the Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan complaining about the treatment of Chinese citizens in Kazakhstan, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. The embassy expressed concern about the increasing number of crimes committed against Chinese traders at markets in the Kazakh capital. Those crimes include thefts and beatings. The statement added that Kazakh border guards and militia have on occasion taken part in such crimes. BP
 CIS JANUARY SUMMIT CANCELEDThe CIS summit scheduled for 23 January has been canceled, Interfax reported on 6 January, citing a source within the CIS Executive Secretariat. However, the next summit, planned to take place on 16 March, will go ahead as scheduled, according to the same source. Interfax reports that Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma proposed postponing the January summit in a letter to his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 BOSNIAN SERBS TOLD TO SET UP GOVERNMENTA spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 6 January that the Bosnian Serbs must quickly agree on a government or else Westendorp will take "appropriate measures." Another spokesman for the international community gave the same message in person to Momcilo Krajisnik, the Bosnian Serb member of the joint presidency, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. Krajisnik and other hard-liners are blocking attempts by Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic to form a government of technocrats (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 7 January 1998). At a conference in Bonn on 9-10 December, representatives of the international community gave Westendorp increased powers to take decisions should Bosnian politicians prove unable or unwilling to do so themselves. PM
 PLAVSIC SAYS BRCKO IS KEY TO DAYTON'S SURVIVALPresident Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 6 January that the Dayton agreement will be dead if the international community does not grant the contested strategic town of Brcko to the Republika Srpska. She added that the Serbs would not accept the cutting of their republic into two, which, she stressed, would result were the Serbs to lose Brcko. The town's future was the only question left open when the Dayton agreement was concluded at the end of 1995. International mediators have repeatedly delayed making a decision about Brcko, which had a Muslim majority before the war but has linked the two halves of Bosnian Serb territory since 1992. PM
 DOES KARADZIC HAVE BLUEPRINT FOR BOSNIA?Indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic drew up a plan in November to outline Bosnian Serb hard-line strategy to sabotage the Dayton accords, Western news agencies reported from Sarajevo on 6 January. Bosnian officials showed the document to U.S. President Bill Clinton during his visit on 22 December. Observers said the plan contains nothing new but is highly detailed and indicates that Karadzic is still in charge among the Pale-based hard- liners. Mirza Hajric, an aide to Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of the joint presidency, commented that "again we have undeniable proof that Karadzic is controlling developments in the Republika Srpska. There can be no reconciliation [in Bosnia] until all war criminals are arrested." Meanwhile in Bonn, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said that Bosnian peacekeepers should have a broader mandate to enable them to go after Karadzic and arrest him. PM
 IMBROGLIO OVER BOSNIAN SERB TVWestendorp's spokesman said in Sarajevo on 6 January that the international community will appoint someone to supervise the work of Bosnian Serb Television (SRT) in Plavsic's stronghold of Banja Luka. The decision was prompted by SRT's airing of a strongly anti-Croatian program during Roman Catholic Christmas in December. The Dayton agreement forbids the propagation of ethnic hatred. The spokesman also said the international community has rejected a request from hard-line TV Pale for the return of transmitters seized by peacekeepers last summer. PM
 HAGUE COURT LAUNCHES FOURTH TRIALThe trial of the Croat Zlatko Aleksovski began at the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on 6 January. Aleksovski is charged with abusing Muslim prisoners and using Muslim civilians as human shields during the Croatian-Muslim conflict in 1993. PM
 DUTCH AID FOR MOSTAROfficials of the Dutch government and of the Mostar city administration announced in Herzegovina's main city on 6 January that The Netherlands will help restore 450 buildings and other objects in that area, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Mostar. In Washington the previous day, a spokesman for the State Department said the U.S. will provide $29 million to help resettle refugees in Bosnia-Herzegovina. PM
 CROATIA SAYS MUSLIM MINORITY NOT "INDIGENOUS."Bosnian government officials told an RFE/RL correspondent in Sarajevo on 6 January that Croatian officials have said a reference to a Muslim minority was dropped from recent amendments to the Croatian Constitution because Muslims are not "native" to Croatia but have migrated there in recent times. The amendments also dropped any reference to a Slovenian minority, presumably on the same grounds (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 1997). Representatives of Croatia's large Muslim and Slovenian minorities argue that those populations have long lived in Croatia. They fear that the constitutional change means the minorities will lose cultural and other rights. PM
 MONTENEGRO'S BULATOVIC TO BELGRADE?Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic may make outgoing Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic, his staunch supporter, Yugoslav foreign minister in order to remove him from an increasingly difficult political position at home, "Nasa Borba" wrote on 7 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 5 January 1997). On 6 January, a Belgrade court called into question the validity of the 19 October election, which Bulatovic lost to President-elect Milo Djukanovic, an opponent of Milosevic. Meanwhile in Podgorica, Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Miodrag Vukovic said he will propose a referendum for Montenegrin independence from Yugoslavia if Milosevic ends Montenegro's equal status with Serbia within the federation, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 7 January. PM
 DEMOCRATS CHARGE POLITICAL MURDERS IN NORTHERN ALBANIAMasked gunmen killed six people near the northern city of Tropoja on 5 January, according to "Gazeta Shqiptare." The Democratic Party said three of those killed were members of its local branch. A party statement published in "Rilindja Demokratike" on 7 January blamed the killings on the government, which it called a "criminal clique." The other victims were two policemen and a secret service agent. The Interior Ministry has sent special police to the city to investigate. Meanwhile, the State Prosecutor's Office has accused four policemen of killing a murder suspect in the Fier hospital on 5 January in an apparent act of lynch justice. FS
 ALBANIAN POLICE CHIEFS ACCUSED OF SMUGGLINGState prosecutors have charged 15 police chiefs with involvement in smuggling, "Koha Jone" reported on 7 January. The prosecutors said all the accused were employed under the previous Democratic government and have left the country since the June 1997 elections. Meanwhile, a group of judges who are protesting allegedly political sackings resumed their hunger strike on 6 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 December 1997). They interrupted their protest on 26 December after Catholic Archbishop Rrok Mirdita offered to mediate a meeting between them and President Rexhep Meidani. That meeting never took place, however. FS
 EBRD GRANTS LOAN TO ROMANIAMinister of Telecommunications Sorin Pantis and Charles Frank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development representative in Romania, have signed an agreement on a $100 million loan to Romania's Telecom company, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The seven-year loan is to support the privatization plan for Telecom, which is to be completed by the end of 1998. That plan provides for the installation of new phone lines and improved operations before the sale of the company. It also calls for an international tender. At least 30 percent of the company's stock is to be sold on the Bucharest stock exchange. MS
 MOLDOVAN AUTONOMOUS REGION CHALLENGES ELECTORAL LAWThe Parliamentary Assembly of the autonomous Gagauz-Yeri region on 6 January unanimously passed a resolution suspending the validity of the Moldovan electoral law in the region, BASA-press reported. The assembly objects to the stipulation in the law whereby all Moldovan territory is one single electoral district. Assembly speaker Piotr Pasali told BASA-press that the measure is legal because under the existing legislation providing for a special status for Gagauz-Yeri, the assembly may suspend legislation passed by the parliament in Chisinau until the Constitutional Court has ruled on the assembly's objections. MS
 RUSSIAN GAS DELIVERIES CUT TO BULGARIAN TOWNSRussian gas deliveries to five Bulgarian towns have been halted since 1 January because of the dispute between the state-owned Bulgargas, on the one hand, and Topenergy (controlled by Russia's Gazprom) and the private Bulgarian Multigroup conglomerate, believed to be in the hands of former Communists, on the other. Topenergy signed a contract with Gazprom in 1997 to deliver gas to Bulgarian consumers, but the pipelines are controlled by Bulgargas, which refuses to allow Topenergy to act as intermediary between itself and Gazprom. As a result, Bulgargas has cut deliveries to Stara Zagora, Pazardjik, Lovich, Pervomai, and Yambol, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. An agreement between Sofia and Gazprom to have Bulgargas buy a controlling stake in Topenergy folded when Multigroup refused to sell its holding. MS
 BULGARIAN PRESIDENT ON CHURCH RIFTPetar Stoyanov has said the two rival heads of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Patriarchs Maxim and Pymen, should both resign in order to resolve the split within the Church, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported on 6 January. Stoyanov said it is "scandalous" that the Church has been "suffering from this split for seven years." The Synod headed by Patriarch Pymen has accused Patriarch Maxim of collaboration with the communist regime. Speaking at a ceremony commemorating Bulgarian national hero Hristo Botev, a poet who died in 1875 fighting against the Turks, Stoyanov said that "under [the Turkish] yoke, the Bulgarian clergy chose prison and [even] death." Today, he added, "we are asking for a smaller sacrifice from our prelates--to give up their positions." MS
[C] END NOTE
 NEW CZECH CABINET BEGINS WORK AS KLAUS'S ODS TEETERSby Jolyon Naegele
"Three Kings' Day" in the Roman Catholic calendar (6 January) was supposed to have been the day on which the three leaders of the Czech coalition parties were to have met to sort out their differences. But in the months since that meeting was agreed upon, the tripartite coalition collapsed. Its leaders are now barely on speaking terms with one another.
Former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS) is in disarray, with nearly half its deputies in the lower house forming a faction opposed to Klaus and with the party leadership demanding that the dissenters either terminate the faction's activities or leave the ODS.
Last month, Klaus had unsuccessfully demanded that a political agreement be reached with his designated successor , Josef Tosovsky, before discussing ODS nominations to the new cabinet. Tosovsky insisted that each of the three coalition parties first submit names and hold discussions later. He then circumvented Klaus and offered posts to four ODS members, including the ODS whip in the lower house of the parliament, Jan Cerny, and Finance Minister Ivan Pilip, who had called for Klaus's resignation in November.
The four new ministers--Pilip, Defense Minister Michal Lobkowicz, Minister for Labor and Social Affairs Stanislav Volak, and Minister for Local Development Cerny--now face demands from Klaus and his aides to either give up their cabinet posts or leave the party.
President Vaclav Havel, despite his recuperative vacation in the Canary Islands, has taken an active role in forming the new government, appointing Tosovsky and making clear which cabinet members from Klaus's government could stay on and which had to leave. Havel briefly interrupted his vacation and flew back to Prague to swear in the new government on 2 January.
In a brief speech at the appointment ceremony, Tosovsky said that the main issues in his not yet elaborated government program will be actively continuing negotiations on joining NATO and the EU, resuming the pace of economic reform (including privatization), fighting crime and corruption, and improving access to information about the cabinet's work by "making all decisions maximally transparent.".
After the 20 January presidential elections, the parliament is due to hold a vote of confidence in the new government. Klaus said recently that the four dissenting ministers should "freely" choose either to stay in the government and remove the party's initials after their names or resign from the government.
On 5 January, however, the ODS leadership decided that it will neither block Tosovsky's cabinet nor bind its deputies in the confidence vote. This would appear to ensure the government's survival. Moreover, the Social Democrats said one day later that they will vote confidence in the government, provided its mandate does not go beyond June.
All these developments have exposed a variety of shortcomings in how politics function in the Czech Republic.
Not only is the country still far from being a civil society, where government ministers concede that the rule of law is still a distant goal, but old Bolshevik habits are alive and well in the ruling parties' structures. Stalin's "democratic centralism" is Klaus's preferred way of dealing with dissenting members. According to that doctrine, discussion within the Party was permitted only until a decision was reached; thereafter, no dissenting views were tolerated,
Czech journalism has once again proven that its greatest strength is political commentary and its most glaring weakness investigative reporting. Stories about shady party financing were poorly researched. Rumors of Klaus's building a villa near Lake Constance in Switzerland have been circulating among journalists for two years. But it was not until late last year that a few Czech reporters trooped off to Switzerland to try to find out the truth.
Klaus's blaming journalists for what he called the "media assassination" of the ODS is further evidence of his own lack of comprehension about the role of the news media in a free society.
"Lidove noviny" warned on 6 January that "if the ODS leadership does not ease up its confrontational tone, then it is likely that it will lose not only the next elections but all subsequent ones as well." The newspaper added that the ODS is sending very ominous signals abroad about the domestic situation, which, it stressed, is far from being as unstable as is being claimed. Moreover, the newspaper continued, the alleged chaos could harm the Czech Republic's admission into Western structures.
Similarly, in an apparent bid not to jeopardize Tosovsky's confidence vote, the Czech news media has been silent about the new prime minister's party affiliations in the past. Tosovsky is not currently affiliated with any party. But as a banker, he was sent to London to work at Zivnostenska banka in 1984-1985 and again in 1989. A former Czechoslovak diplomat who worked with Tosovsky during his first posting in London told RFE/RL that Tosovsky could not have been posted to London without having been a member of the Czechoslovak Communist Party.
The author is an RFE/RL senior news editor.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty