|Saturday, 14 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 191, 98-10-05
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 191, 5 October 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 TAJIK GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION ISSUE ULTIMATUM ON ARMSTajik military helicopters flew over neighborhoods east of Dushanbe on 4 October to drop leaflets ordering the surrender of illegal arms within one week, ITAR-TASS reported. A presidential adviser on defense and social order, Mizrob Kabirov, said this distribution method was necessary because not all residents of the areas have access to television and radio, both of which are broadcasting the order. Kabirov said the leaflets are directed at groups engaged in "banditry, mafia territorial wars, terrorism, and kidnapping." The Tajik government will guarantee the safety and freedom of those who heed the call. Kabirov said, however, said that both the government and United Tajik Opposition are currently drawing up measures to "liquidate" those who refuse to hand over their arms. BP
 ARMENIAN PREMIER SEEKS DELAY IN PRIVATIZATION DEBATEPrime Minister Armen Darpinian on 2 October asked his political opponents in the parliament to delay a discussion of his privatization program until he returns from Washington, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Darpinian left for the U.S. on 3 October to participate in consultations on the international financial crisis. PG
 GEORGIANS, ABKHAZ EXCHANGE FIREGeorgian and Abkhazian units exchanged fire along the Inguri River on 4 October, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. Georgian Television said that the Abkhaz had attacked the Georgians and that the Georgians had returned fire. PG
 SHEVARDNADZE HOPES RUSSIA WILL STABILIZEFollowing a meeting on 3 October with visiting Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said that Tbilisi is "interested in political and economic stability of its great neighbor Russia as well as in its democratic development," ITAR-TASS reported on 4 October. Seleznev reiterated Moscow's desire to continue to serve as an intermediary in Tbilisi's dispute with the breakaway republic of Abkhazia. But he asked Shevardnadze not to press Moscow to ratify the friendship treaty between the two countries anytime soon, the Russian agency said. PG
 ADJAR DELEGATION IN TBILISIGeorgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze met with a delegation from Adjaria on 1 October to discuss the tensions between the Georgian central government and that autonomous republic, Caucasus Press reported quoting the daily "Rezonansi." The Adjar delegation expressed concern at what they perceived as a campaign of vilification of Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze in the Georgian central press. And it hinted that the Adjar leadership may demand the closure of some of the media outlets involved. LF
 SCHOOLCHILDREN, PENSIONERS STAGE PROTESTS IN WESTERN GEORGIASome 100 schoolchildren blocked the Zugdidi-Anaklia highway on 1 October to protest the continued occupation of their schools by displaced persons who fled Abkhazia's Gali Raion during the fighting in May, Caucasus Press reported the following day. The displaced persons refuse to move from the schools to other accommodation, thus preventing the start of tuition. In Kutaisi, 43,000 pensioners staged a protest against the city authorities' decision to pay their pensions in wheat flour. They have not yet received their pensions for August. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 BELGRADE REMAINS DEFIANTThe federal legislature is scheduled to discuss Kosova in a special session on 5 October. The previous day, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic chaired a meeting of the Supreme Defense Council to discuss possible NATO intervention against Yugoslav military targets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 1998). The council then issued a statement that said "if we are attacked, we shall defend the country by all available means." Besides Milosevic, those present included Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, federal Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic, and General Momcilo Perisic, who is chief of the General Staff. On 3 October, that body placed air defense systems on a heightened state of alert. PM
 WEST DEBATES NEXT MOVEIn Luxembourg, EU foreign ministers on 5 October began talks on further tightening economic sanctions against Belgrade. In Brussels, NATO planners awaited UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report on whether Milosevic has met Security Council demands regarding Kosova, which Annan is scheduled to present later in the day. NATO is prepared to act if Annan concludes that Milosevic has not met the demands and authorizes the Atlantic alliance to launch air strikes. In Washington, U.S. officials said that special envoy Richard Holbrooke will soon meet with Milosevic in Belgrade. In London, British Defense Secretary George Robinson said on 4 October said that "what is clear is that Milosevic now recognizes that [NATO] means business and that's why he's moving with such speed at the moment." In Paris, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook discussed Kosova with his French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine. Earlier, Vedrine had a telephone conversation about Kosova with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. PM
 YELTSIN WARNS MILOSEVICRussian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev delivered a message from Russian President Boris Yeltsin to Milosevic on 4 October in which the Russian leader urged his Yugoslav counterpart to take immediate measures to end the crisis in Kosova or risk facing NATO attacks. In Moscow, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Russia opposes "any use of force, especially [if it involves NATO] circumventing the UN Security Council, something that can have grave consequences." He added that "hostilities must be stopped [in Kosova], army and security forces withdrawn to permanent locations, and urgent measures taken to overcome the humanitarian crisis and secure the return of refugees." In Prishtina, Kosovar sources reported on 3 October that Serbian forces continued to shell villages in the Gjakova area. PM
 RIFT GROWS BETWEEN SERBIA, MONTENEGROIn Podgorica, President Djukanovic is slated to make a televised address on 5 October to explain his differences with Belgrade over Kosova. His supporters will not attend the special session of the federal legislature that same day, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 3 October. The Belgrade authorities rejected a key Montenegrin demand that opening a border crossing between Montenegro and Croatia at Debeli Brijeg be included on the agenda of the next round of Yugoslav-Croatian talks, the daily "Pobjeda" wrote on 3 October. The previous day, Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic, who is a loyal Milosevic supporter and Djukanovic's arch-rival, sent his wife and children to Bulgaria, "Pobjeda" reported. The pro-Djukanovic paper added: "the man who did nothing to help resolve [the crisis in Kosova] knows how to protect himself and his family, leaving the people to bear the consequences of the flawed policy" of Milosevic. PM
 GREECE OPPOSES AIR STRIKESFollowing a 3 October meeting in Delphi, Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis said that he and Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov and Romanian President Emil Constantinescu agreed that air strikes "are not the best solution" for the Kosova problem. Simitis added that he made the same point in telephone calls to French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, Italy's Romano Prodi, and German Chancellor-designate Gerhard Schroeder. In Skopje the previous day, President Kiro Gligorov and his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel, agreed that the Kosova question should be resolved through diplomacy and "within the frontiers of Yugoslavia." Demirel added that his country would participate in any NATO air strikes, although he said he hopes military intervention will not be necessary. Gligorov stated that "the Macedonian government will make a decision" if NATO asks for its support. PM
 ALBANIA WANTS MILOSEVIC INVESTIGATED FOR WAR CRIMESForeign Minister Paskal Milo told the UN General Assembly on 2 October that the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia should investigate Milosevic. Milo accused the Yugoslav leader of ordering "the implementation of...an ethnic cleansing policy against Albanians under the pretext of combating... terrorism." Milo repeated Albania's position that the international community should intervene militarily in Kosova. He stressed that "the peaceful means applied by the international community so far [have failed]." He added that "we risk having another, wider conflict" if the international community takes no action. Milo said that Albania is "in favor of an immediate end of the conflict and...negotiations between Belgrade and Prishtina, with...international [mediation]." The minister added that a solution should respect "the will of the Albanians for self-determination and...international conventions [banning] the change of borders through violence." FS
 TIRANA SAYS BELGRADE TRYING TO DRAG ALBANIA INTO CONFLICTThe Albanian Interior Ministry issued a statement on 3 October accusing Serbian forces of twice attacking a border post in the village of Pogaj, in the northern Has Mountains, the previous day. It said there were no casualties and only slight damage but added that the attacks were "a continuation of [previous] provocations made...by the Serbian military machine, which [is] confronted with a probable NATO attack [and] trying to involve Albania." FS
 ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER SWORN INPandeli Majko became Europe's youngest head of government on 2 October after President Rexhep Meidani swore him in (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 1998). The parliament is expected to approve Majko's cabinet by 12 October. Among the few key changes, Minister for European Integration Ilir Meta will become deputy prime minister and fellow Socialist Petro Koci interior minister. Majko told journalists on 2 October that he will seek a dialogue with the opposition Democratic Party. He added that his priorities are "a return to stability, drafting a new constitution, and solving the Kosova problem." FS
 POPE BEATIFIES STEPINACPope John Paul II said in Split on 4 October that he hopes that "the international community...will not fail to provide timely help" for Kosova. The previous day in Marija Bistrica, the pontiff beatified Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac at a mass attended by some 350,000 persons, including representatives of the Jewish and Islamic communities. The cardinal, who died under house arrest in 1960, is regarded by most Croats as a martyr for his country and faith at the hands of the communists. His critics charge that he did not do enough to rescue Serbs, Jews, and opposition Croats from death at hands of the pro-Axis Ustasha regime during World War II. The Vatican has rejected those charges. The pope said in Marija Bistrica that Stepinac "sums up the whole tragedy that befell the Croatian people and Europe in the course of this century...[namely] fascism, national socialism, and communism," adding that "we all know the circumstances of his death." PM
 ANTI-TERRORIST POLICE FOR MOSTARSpokesmen for the UN-sponsored international police force said in Mostar on 4 October that a special anti-terrorist unit will soon go to Croat-held areas of Herzegovina to investigate a recent series of violent incidents against Muslims, who were attempting to return to their former homes. One Muslim was killed and three wounded in a grenade attack on 2 October, and another Muslim's home was damaged in a similar assault two days later. Valentin Coric, the local police chief, resigned his post on 3 October. PM
 ETHNIC HUNGARIANS TO REMAIN IN ROMANIAN GOVERNMENTThe Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), decided on 3 October to remain in the ruling coalition, AP reported. The decision was reached at the party's headquarters in the Transylvanian city of Targu Mures. The party said it does not want to be blamed for a failure of the economic reforms. The UDMR had threatened to leave the coalition because the government refused to establish a Hungarian-language university. The government said last week it would set up a German-Hungarian university, a move that has been criticized by many Romanian politicians. PB
 IMF TO RESUME NEGOTIATIONS WITH BUCHARESTRomanian Prime Minister Radu Vasile agreed with IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus on 3 October that negotiations on a standby loan will resume later this month, an RFE/RL correspondent in Bucharest reported. Vasile is in Washington for talks with IMF and World Bank officials. Central Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu and Finance Minister Traian Decebal Remes are accompanying Vasile. The IMF froze a $530 million loan in May because of dissatisfaction with the pace of Bucharest's economic reforms. PB
 BULGARIA, ROMANIA DISAGREE AGAIN OVER DANUBE BRIDGEBulgaria and Romania have failed again to resolve a dispute over the location of a bridge to be built across the Danube River, Reuters reported on 4 October. Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov and his Romanian counterpart, Constantinescu, discussed the issue at a meeting in the Greek city of Delphi but failed to come to an agreement on its location. Stoyanov said Bulgaria favors a location close to the Yugoslav border so that in times of crisis it would offer the shortest route available in circumventing Yugoslavia. The two did agree, however, to set up a committee to examine various options for the bridge. The meeting, hosted by Greek Prime Minister Simitis, also focused on the prospects of Romanian and Bulgarian membership in Western organizations and the fight against crime and drug trafficking. PB
 BULGARIAN PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO HOLLANDPetar Stoyanov ended a three-day visit to the Netherlands on 3 October by signing an economic cooperation agreement with Prime Minister Wim Kok, ITAR- TASS reported. Stoyanov, who met with Queen Beatrix, held talks with Kok and other officials to discuss the strengthening of relations between The Hague and Sofia. Stoyanov also visited the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. PB
[C] END NOTE
 SLOVAKIA'S POST-ELECTION CHALLENGEby Christopher Walker
On the face of it, the results of the recent German and Slovak elections were somewhat similar. Voters in each country decided to change long- standing governing coalitions. In both cases, the countries' leaders, dominant figures on their respective political landscapes, were voted out following lengthy terms in power. However, that is where the apparent similarity ends.
The German election results reflect what can be best described as a normal, cyclical flow in democratic electoral politics. Germans voted for change with a small "c." In contrast, Slovaks voted for a systemic change in their country's political orientation. As a result, the incoming governing coalition in Slovakia will have a challenge that is wholly different from that of Gerhard Schroeder and his expected Red-Green coalition in Germany. The Slovak challenge will doubtless be significantly more difficult.
As they prepare to take power, Mikulas Dzurinda and his governing partners must not only put forward a set of policies on education, the environment, health care, the economy, and a host of other important issues. They must also simultaneously attempt to restructure many of the country's fragile institutions. That restructuring will include overhauling the civil service system and state security apparatus as well as reshaping the Slovak diplomatic corps and judiciary. In addition, the privatization process must be made more even-handed and transparent, and an environment in which a balanced, independent media may flourish must be created. That list is not exhaustive. At the very least, the new government can be said to be facing a demanding agenda.
The case of Slovak media illustrates the challenge facing the new government. Unlike their counterparts in mature democracies, independent media in Meciar's Slovakia found themselves in a constant state of confrontation with the regime. Meciar's extremist policies created a deep split within Slovak society. One was either "with" Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and thus "with" Slovakia or against both the leadership and the country. With his astute political instincts, Meciar extracted the maximum mileage out of pitting Slovaks against one another based on his definition of what constituted a "good" or "bad" Slovak. This unyielding governing style forced much of Slovakia's political discourse to extremes. For the media, the dynamic was the same. The result was a polarized environment that allowed for pro-government or opposition media, but little in between. A key question now is whether Slovak editors and reporters can shed their combat mentality and allow the news media to perform its vital role in a more balanced manner. The new government can set the tone for this fresh and sorely needed environment.
The need to reshape and reconcile Slovak society is no less important in other key sectors, including the economy--especially with regard to privatization. The opposition forces preparing to take power have said they will seek to prevent any further privatizations by the outgoing government during the HZDS's final 30 days in power. This is one of a number of important signals the new government can send to both the international community and the Slovak population. For foreign investors, it will demonstrate a commitment to reestablishing the soundness of Slovakia's economy and restoring integrity to the country's business culture. For Slovaks, accustomed to cronyism and insider deals, it will help revive a sense of fair play that has been missing for most of the time since Slovakia split from the Czech Republic at the beginning of 1993.
A steadfast commitment to reform by the new government could also bring about another important result: namely, inspire the return to Slovakia of the many talented and ambitious Slovaks who ventured abroad during the Meciar era. Attracting back this valuable human capital would provide an important boost to the country's economic and cultural development and help the country stay the course with its democratic reform program.
Predictably, statements on the opposition victory from the EU and the entire Western establishment have been supportive. While the new Slovak government should have a reasonably long honeymoon period with the West, this time frame will not be infinite. The vast challenges confronting the government may generate a great deal of pressure on the four-party coalition. Should the economy sour in the meantime, the task of implementing tough reform measures will become even more difficult.
In such a case, it may be tempting for the incoming ruling coalition to blame Slovakia's ills on the policies and actions of the HZDS. That strategy, however, would ultimately have limited utility. Attacking the former leadership would only perpetuate the culture of polemic in Slovak politics. Moreover, the opposition will need to show it can govern ably and bring about results in its own right.
The challenges are substantial, but a demonstration of mature and capable political leadership by the incoming Slovak government can go a long way toward gaining back the confidence of average Slovaks and putting Slovakia back on the path to EU and NATO membership.
The author is manager of programs at the European Journalism Network.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty