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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 36, 99-02-23

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. 3, No. 36, 23 February 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN ELECTION LAW SPARKS NEW ACCUSATIONS
  • [02] ARMENIAN SCIENTIST CORROBORATES AIDS CURE CLAIMS
  • [03] ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION REJECTS DUAL CITIZENSHIP
  • [04] RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY WARNS GEORGIA OVER PICKET
  • [05] GEORGIAN GUERRILLA LEADER REJECTS SMUGGLING CHARGE
  • [06] GEORGIAN ARRESTED FOR SHEVARDNADZE CAR BOMB ATTACK
  • [07] U.S. OFFICIAL UPBEAT ON CASPIAN PIPELINE PROSPECTS
  • [08] MORE COMPLAINTS FROM IRAN ABOUT TURKMEN PIPELINE DEAL...
  • [09] ...WHILE TURKMEN PRESIDENT URGES NOT TO 'POLITICIZE' DEAL
  • [10] BOMB BLAST IN ALMATY
  • [11] KAZAKHSTAN TO RECEIVE FOREIGN AID FOR VICTIMS OF NUCLEAR TESTING
  • [12] UZBEK PRESIDENT SAYS 30 ALREADY ARRESTED FOR BOMBINGS
  • [13] FORMER IMAM'S RELATIVES AMONG THOSE DETAINED?
  • [14] KYRGYZSTAN TO WITHDRAW BATTALION FROM TAJIKISTAN
  • [15] UZBEK-KYRGYZ BORDER REOPENS

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [16] KOSOVA TALKS REMAIN DEADLOCKED...
  • [17] ...WHILE FRESH FIGHTING BREAKS OUT
  • [18] MONTENEGRIN-SERBIAN ROW OVER NATO INTENSIFIES
  • [19] TRIBUNAL PRESIDENT ALARMED OVER RAMBOUILLET DRAFT
  • [20] NATO OFFICIAL REJECTS UN COMMAND FOR KOSOVA FORCE
  • [21] ALBANIAN PREMIER SAYS RAMBOUILLET AGREEMENT 'TEMPORARY'
  • [22] UCK NAMES NEW COMMANDER
  • [23] 'RILINDJA' RESUMES PUBLICATION IN KOSOVA
  • [24] POPLASEN DEFIES INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY OVER ARMY CONTROL
  • [25] CROATIAN PREMIER APPOINTS NEW MINISTERS
  • [26] LEADING ROMANIAN BANK CHIEF RESIGNS
  • [27] ROMANIA, BULGARIA CALL ON YUGOSLAVIA TO ALLOW NATO TROOPS IN KOSOVA
  • [28] MOLDOVAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE STARTS CABINET TALKS
  • [29] BULGARIA, MACEDONIA SIGN DECLARATION SETTLING LANGUAGE DISPUTE

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [30] BREAKTHROUGH IN UKRAINIAN-ROMANIAN RELATIONS?

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN ELECTION LAW SPARKS NEW ACCUSATIONS

    Opposition parliamentary deputies have accused Viktor Dallakian, the author of the new election law, of arbitrarily introducing changes to the bill after it passed in the final reading, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 22 February. Those changes increased the powers of the Central Electoral Commission and stipulated that the law takes effect immediately after it has been signed by the president and published. The original wording said the law takes effect 10 days after its publication. On 22 February, deputies demanded criminal proceedings against Dallakian, who rejected charges of deliberate falsification. He said that it is normal practice in Armenia to edit the text of a bill after its passage in the parliament. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN SCIENTIST CORROBORATES AIDS CURE CLAIMS

    The sensational claim by Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian that Armenian scientists have developed a cure for AIDS is true, former Armenian Health Minister Emil Gabrielian told journalists in Yerevan on 22 February. Gabrielian, who currently heads the national agency for authorizing distribution and sales of pharmaceuticals, said the cure has been tested on 14 AIDS patients, whose condition has improved dramatically. He said the drug will be registered and patented within the next few days, but he added that it must be subject to international tests. Sarkisian announced on state television on 19 February that he and unnamed businessmen financed the research program that yielded the new drug, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

    [03] ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION REJECTS DUAL CITIZENSHIP

    The presidential Commission for Constitutional Reform voted on 19 February not to include the introduction of dual citizenship in a package of proposed constitutional amendments to be submitted to the parliament later this year, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 22 February. President Robert Kocharian implicitly endorsed the introduction of dual citizenship for Diaspora Armenians during his 1998 election campaign, but Armenia's chief military prosecutor, who is a member of the commission, argued that the provision would enable young Armenians to avoid military service. Self-Determination Union chairman Paruyr Hairikian may resign as chairman of the presidential commission if Kocharian does not overturn the commission's decision, a senior Self-Determination Union member said on 22 February. LF

    [04] RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY WARNS GEORGIA OVER PICKET

    In a statement issued on 22 February, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concern at what it termed the recent aggravation of the situation on the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. The statement blamed this development on the Georgian displaced persons who have been blocking the bridge over the River Inguri (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 22 February 1999). It accused them of threatening the Russian peacekeeping force deployed along the internal border and of preventing the repatriation of displaced persons. LF

    [05] GEORGIAN GUERRILLA LEADER REJECTS SMUGGLING CHARGE

    Zurab Samushia, commander of the White Legion guerrillas operating in Abkhazia, told Caucasus Press on 22 February that there is no truth to charges by a west Georgian police official that his men smuggle scrap and ferrous metals from Abkhazia to the Georgian port of Batumi. Samushia added that his men currently operate only in the Ochamchire, Tkvarcheli and Sukhumi Raions of Abkhazia but not in Gali. At least one dozen civilians and Abkhaz police officials have been killed either by landmines or in ambushes in Gali since the beginning of this year. LF

    [06] GEORGIAN ARRESTED FOR SHEVARDNADZE CAR BOMB ATTACK

    Austrian police arrested Rudiko Goguadze, a former Georgian convict, in Vienna on 20 February on suspicion of involvement in the failed 1995 attempt to assassinate Georgian head of state Eduard Shevardnadze, Caucasus Press and AP reported. Goguadze is also suspected of planning to assassinate Shevardnadze's nephew Nugzar. LF

    [07] U.S. OFFICIAL UPBEAT ON CASPIAN PIPELINE PROSPECTS

    U.S. special presidential adviser on the Caspian Richard Morningstar told journalists in Baku on 22 February that Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan will sign an agreement in June on the demarcation of their respective sectors of the Caspian, thereby removing a major obstacle to the proposed construction of a Trans-Caspian pipeline to export gas from Turkmenistan to Turkey via Azerbaijan and Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev informed Morningstar that the documentation for the proposed Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline has been completed, according to Interfax. But the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 22 February that the Turkish government and oil industry officials are engaged in cut-throat negotiations on the financing of that project. Georgian President Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 22 February that a "special unit" has been created to guard the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline but that it does not include NATO troops, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

    [08] MORE COMPLAINTS FROM IRAN ABOUT TURKMEN PIPELINE DEAL...

    The Iranian daily "Iran News" ran an article on 22 February criticizing the Trans-Caspian pipeline deal signed by Turkmenistan and two U.S. companies last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February 1999). While the article notes that Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has been a frequent visitor to Iran, it claims that "this latest move by Turkmenistan is in effect rejecting the hand of friendship extended by Iran." The article mentioned that Turkmenistan still plans a pipeline to Europe through Iran but noted that "the recent move by Ashgabat has caused Turkmenistan to fall into the U.S. trap." It added "the U.S. presence in Turkmenistan will not benefit that country in the long run." BP

    [09] ...WHILE TURKMEN PRESIDENT URGES NOT TO 'POLITICIZE' DEAL

    Saparmurat Niyazov said at the 19 February signing of the Trans- Caspian pipeline deal that "unfortunately, politicizing is frequent in new international projects," ITAR-TASS reported. The news agency reported, however, that Niyazov was responding to a note he had received from the Russian Foreign Ministry complaining about the "negative effect" the pipeline could have on the ecological and seismic situation of the region. Niyazov said Turkmenistan is seeking several export routes because the country urgently needs to sell its major exports. He added that the need is greater for his country now than it was "in Soviet times, when Turkmenistan exported in the late 1980s and early 1990s via Russia more than 85 billion cubic meters of natural gas, worth $15-20 billion. But "profits were distributed unequally and we were given kopecks," he commented. BP

    [10] BOMB BLAST IN ALMATY

    A vehicle exploded in the former Kazakhstani capital on 21 February, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The car was in the center of the city near a gas station when it exploded, killing one person and injuring another. The explosion comes less than one week after several bombs went off in the capital of neighboring Uzbekistan. BP

    [11] KAZAKHSTAN TO RECEIVE FOREIGN AID FOR VICTIMS OF NUCLEAR TESTING

    The Kazakh leader of the Nevada-Semipalatinsk anti-nuclear movement, Olzhas Suleimenov, told a news conference in Almaty on 22 February that international organizations have promised $43 million for the victims of nuclear tests conducted in the area around Semipalatinsk, Interfax reported. Suleimenov said that between 1949 and 1989, 473 nuclear explosions were carried out in the region. Suleimenov said Kazakhstan's government does not have the funds to care for the surviving victims. BP

    [12] UZBEK PRESIDENT SAYS 30 ALREADY ARRESTED FOR BOMBINGS

    Islam Karimov told diplomats and journalists on 23 February that 30 people are in custody in connection with the 16 February bombings in Tashkent, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Karimov said all detainees have ties to "extremist religious groups" and all underwent training in sabotage in Afghanistan, Chechnya or Tajikistan. He added that most of the arrested are Uzbek citizens but that the main organizers of the attacks, which left 15 people dead and more than 100 injured, are not among the detainees. BP

    [13] FORMER IMAM'S RELATIVES AMONG THOSE DETAINED?

    Uzbek law enforcement officials on 21 February brought in for questioning the mother, wife, and son of the former Imam of Tashkent's Tokhtoboy Mosque, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Nazarov has been in hiding over the past year, since police began to investigate his links to Wahhabis. Nazarov's mother and son were released the same day, but his wife remains in custody. It is unknown if they are among the suspects in the 16 February bombings. BP

    [14] KYRGYZSTAN TO WITHDRAW BATTALION FROM TAJIKISTAN

    Interfax on 22 February quoted a "high-ranking source in the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry" as saying the Kyrgyz battalion serving with CIS peacekeeping troops in Tajikistan will be withdrawn by 25 February. The source said the decision is based on the withdrawal of Russian border guards from Kyrgyzstan, which is to be completed by the end of this year. Kyrgyzstan will then be responsible for guarding its own borders but has insufficient funds to protect both its and Tajikistan's borders. The source also said the decision had "undoubtedly been influenced by the withdrawal of the Uzbek contingent from Tajikistan," which took place last November. The departure of the Kyrgyz battalion leaves only one Kazakhstani battalion and several Russian units as part of the CIS peacekeeping force in Tajikistan. BP

    [15] UZBEK-KYRGYZ BORDER REOPENS

    According to Rustam Anarbotoev, the head of the Kara-Suu District, the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border reopened on the weekend of 20-21 February, following its closure in the wake of the 16 February bombings in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 February 1999), RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. BP

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [16] KOSOVA TALKS REMAIN DEADLOCKED...

    U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe General Wesley Clark on 22 February sought to reassure ethnic Albanian delegates to the peace talks in Rambouillet, France, that NATO will move troops into Kosova quickly to protect them if an agreement is reached. But the Albanians, who appeared to be constrained by Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) field commanders, are continuing to demand a referendum on independence after three years. Unnamed officials said that UCK representative Hashim Thaci is the main obstacle to agreement within the Albanian delegation. The same day, U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said the Yugoslav government "is still not prepared to engage seriously on the military piece" of the accord and remains adamantly opposed to allowing NATO peacekeepers. FS

    [17] ...WHILE FRESH FIGHTING BREAKS OUT

    Thousands of Kosova Albanians fled their homes on 22 February as fierce fighting broke out between the UCK and Serbian forces in several villages near Vushtrri, northeast of Prishtina. UNHCR officials told Reuters that about 4,000 people, mostly women, children, and the elderly, fled, while male residents had stayed behind. An unnamed OSCE official told Reuters that Serbian authorities earlier had announced a "live-fire" exercise in the area. OSCE official Ferdinand Schafler blamed the fighting near Vushtrri on "provocations" by the Yugoslav army, which moved troops through UCK-controlled territory, AP reported. VOA's Albanian Service reported on 23 February that at least six people died in the fighting and that 2,000 refugees had arrived in Macedonia the previous day. FS

    [18] MONTENEGRIN-SERBIAN ROW OVER NATO INTENSIFIES

    Deputy Prime Minister Novak Kilibarda told "Blic" of 22 February that Montenegro will not allow Yugoslav army troops to use its territory in the event of hostilities with international forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February 1999). Kilibarda stressed that "we will find a way to prevent the abuse of our territory," adding that "any supplies necessary for sustaining [federal military] installations are under Montenegrin authority," Reuters reported. Meanwhile, an official from the ethnic Albanian Democratic League of Montenegro, which is a member of Montenegro's governing coalition, told VOA's Albanian Service on 23 February that "we do not even consider fighting against NATO." He added that Montenegro will not participate in a possible Yugoslav mobilization. FS

    [19] TRIBUNAL PRESIDENT ALARMED OVER RAMBOUILLET DRAFT

    Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, the president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said in The Hague on 22 February that participants in the Rambouillet talks have "sacrificed" granting the tribunal's investigators full access to suspected war crimes sites in Kosova for the sake of obtaining an agreement. McDonald said that according to unnamed sources close to the talks, the Serbs are insisting there should be no reference to the tribunal in the agreement. McDonald attacked the draft agreement in its reportedly "watered-down" form, which excludes a specific reference to the court included in the original draft, Reuters reported. She stressed that "there can be no lasting peace without justice." FS

    [20] NATO OFFICIAL REJECTS UN COMMAND FOR KOSOVA FORCE

    An unnamed senior NATO official told Reuters on 22 February that NATO will not accept any attempt to substitute a UN command for that of the Western alliance. He stressed that NATO must command any mission in Kosova. In a reference to Bosnia, he added that "there is no way that we will ever put ourselves into a dual-key situation again." He went on to say that "Yugoslav national mythology is steeped in repelling foreign dominance, but Belgrade must appreciate that NATO would not enter Yugoslavia as a conquerorŠonly NATO can do the job." The official also stressed that the peacekeeping mission would be "broad-based" and NATO would welcome Russian participation. Meanwhile, German government spokesman Uwe-Karsten Heye said Bonn is prepared to offer up to 4,500 troops to take part in any peacekeeping operation in Kosova. FS

    [21] ALBANIAN PREMIER SAYS RAMBOUILLET AGREEMENT 'TEMPORARY'

    Pandeli Majko told reporters in Tirana on 22 February that "any deal that could be achieved at Rambouillet would have a transitional character." Majko, who was speaking after telephoning with U.S. Secretary of State Albright, also appealed to the Kosovars to accept the Contact Group's proposal. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo and the chairman of the parliament's foreign affairs commission, Sabri Godo, left for Rambouillet the same day to attend the talks, Reuters reported. FS

    [22] UCK NAMES NEW COMMANDER

    The UCK General Staff has named Sulejman Selimi, a 29-year-old regional commander and hard-liner, as its commander, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 22 February. Unnamed UCK sources confirmed the appointment, which the daily "Kosova Sot" had announced earlier that day, but others denied it, according to Reuters. A Serbian court had earlier sentenced Selimi in absentia to 20 years in jail for terrorism. FS

    [23] 'RILINDJA' RESUMES PUBLICATION IN KOSOVA

    Eight years after it was closed down by Serbian authorities, the daily "Rilindja" resumed publication in Prishtina on 22 February, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The daily had appeared in exile editions in the Swiss town of Zofingen and in Tirana since the early 1990s. FS

    [24] POPLASEN DEFIES INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY OVER ARMY CONTROL

    Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen has called a session of his army's Supreme Command Council in defiance of the international community. Bosnia's top international official, Carlos Westendorp, recently stressed that the joint presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, rather than the country's two entities, is commander of the armed forces. In effect, Westendorp has transferred command of the Bosnian Serb army to the Bosnian Serb member of the joint presidency, Zivko Radisic. However, Radisic cannot make any decisions without the prior agreement of his Muslim and Croatian colleagues. FS

    [25] CROATIAN PREMIER APPOINTS NEW MINISTERS

    Zlatko Matesa on 22 February named Ivan Djurkic as agriculture minister to replace Zlatko Dominikovic. Last week, Dominikovic resigned after he had been sharply criticized for months by farmers claiming that his policies are ruining the country's potentially profitable agricultural sector. Matesa also appointed Milena Zic-Fuchs as science and technology minister. That post had been vacant since last year, when the incumbent, Ivica Kostovic, became chief of President Franjo Tudjman's office, AP reported. FS

    [26] LEADING ROMANIAN BANK CHIEF RESIGNS

    Vlad Soare, president of Bancorex, Romania's largest state-owned bank, and his deputy, Dragos Andrei, resigned on 22 February amid reports of criticism of the bank's restructuring by the IMF chief negotiator for Romania, Emmanuel Zervoudakis, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. According to Romanian Radio, their resignations have been officially submitted to the State Property Fund. The restructuring of Bancorex has been at the top of agenda of discussions under way in Bucharest between Romanian officials and an IMF delegation headed by Zervoudakis. The bank has suffered losses on account of bad loans approved in the early 1990s. Soare took over the presidency of Bancorex in March 1998. Also on 22 February, the international rating company Moody's for the first time rated Romania's internal debt servicing, putting the country into its lowest category, alongside Russia and Ukraine. MS

    [27] ROMANIA, BULGARIA CALL ON YUGOSLAVIA TO ALLOW NATO TROOPS IN KOSOVA

    In a joint appeal to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, the Romanian and Bulgarian heads of state said an international peace initiative under NATO leadership is the only way to guarantee peace in Kosova, while also protecting Yugoslavia's territorial integrity. Emil Constantinescu and Petar Stoyanov called on Milosevic to allow NATO troops into his country for that purpose, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

    [28] MOLDOVAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE STARTS CABINET TALKS

    Christian Democratic Popular Front (FPCD) leader Iurie Rosca said after meeting with Premier-designate Ion Sturdza on 22 February that the "negotiations are proceeding quite smoothly." Party of Democratic Forces leader Valeriu Matei also expressed "satisfaction" with their progress, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Mircea Snegur, leader of the Party of Revival and Conciliation, said after meeting with Sturdza that negotiations with his party have not "really started." He noted that Sturdza "just wanted my opinion on some of his proposals," adding that his party has not yet decided on its position vis-à-vis the premier-designate's program. Following a meeting of the Democratic Convention of Moldova's executive board, Snegur said that the convention "has taken note" that the FPCD has "left the convention." MS

    [29] BULGARIA, MACEDONIA SIGN DECLARATION SETTLING LANGUAGE DISPUTE

    Visiting Macedonian Premier Ljubco Georgievski and his Bulgarian counterpart, Ivan Kostov, signed a declaration on 22 February saying the two countries have "no territorial claims on each other" and will not "undertake, incite, or support actions of a hostile nature" against one another, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia and BTA reported. The declaration was signed in the official languages of the two countries, ending the so- called "language dispute" that arose when Bulgaria refused to recognize Macedonian as a language separate from Bulgarian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 15 February 1999). In addition, Bulgaria agreed to Macedonia's request to donate decommissioned weaponry, including Soviet-made tanks and artillery, worth $3.5 million. MS

    [C] END NOTE

    [30] BREAKTHROUGH IN UKRAINIAN-ROMANIAN RELATIONS?

    by Michael Shafir

    The recent visit to Romania by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk left observers with more questions than answers. The visit--the first to be paid to Bucharest by a chief Ukrainian diplomat in seven years--was primarily intended to clarify the status of negotiations on issues unresolved in the June 1997 bilateral treaty. On signing that document, the two sides agreed to try to reach an agreement on those issues within two years; failing that, they would ask the International Court of Justice in The Hague to make a ruling.

    Negotiations at expert level, however, seemed to have stalled, despite repeated reassurances of "progress." The issues put on hold for two years include the status of Serpents' Island in the Black Sea, which was handed over to the former Soviet Union by Romania in 1948 and which became part of Ukraine when the Soviet empire collapsed; the delimitation of the continental shelf in the Black Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil reserves; and the demarcation of the border, which is currently runs along the Romanian bank of the Chilia branch of the River Danube delta and which Bucharest wants moved to the middle of the branch. But there are also issues on which the two neighbors disagree--above all, the implementation of the treaty's provisions dealing with the rights of national minorities.

    Whether any progress was made during Tarasyuk's visit is still unclear. Optimists would point to the joint press conference held by Tarasyuk and his Romanian counterpart, Andrei Plesu: a "significant breakthrough" was announced, but the nature of that breakthrough remains unclear. The two sides were said to have reached agreement to continue negotiations on "delicate and sensitive issues" and to settle them "amicably," without appealing to the court in The Hague.

    Judging from hints dropped by Tarasyuk, the Romanians appear to have agreed to renounce any claim on Serpents' Island, with the Ukrainian foreign minister arguing that Ukraine's "rightful ownership" of the island "is beyond any question."

    Did the two sides reach a "package" agreement whereby Ukraine would agree to the earlier proposal by Romanian President Emil Constantinescu that the sides jointly exploit the natural resources in the continental shelf? From Kyiv's perspective, this would involve a major concession, but Radu Vasile's cabinet might find it difficult to secure approval of such a deal.

    It is no secret that Bucharest's rather surprising willingness to sign the 1997 bilateral treaty--which among other things, foresees the renunciation of historical territorial claims on Ukraine (northern Bukovina and the Herta territory annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940)--was motivated by one major factor: the hope of securing an invitation at the NATO summit in summer 1997 to join the alliance. With those hopes dashed and with little chance of receiving such an invitation at the upcoming summit in Washington, many in Romania are likely to question any "further concessions." And opposition is likely to come not only from the ranks of the ruling coalition's political rivals (who have successfully stirred up nationalist sentiment against the treaty) but also from within the ranks of the coalition itself.

    Why would Bucharest propose such a compromise solution? Because it apparently has no choice. Ukraine, which is both a nuclear power and, despite its continued economic difficulties, a potentially strong economic partner of the West--is much more likely to succeed in enlisting Western support for its goals than is Bucharest.

    But there are two more reasons. First, with presidential elections due in Ukraine later this year, Romanians must be aware that unless they hurry up, they may have to conduct negotiations with a more nationalist-inclined and perhaps even a "nostalgic Communist" in the driver's seat in Kyiv--a somewhat less than thrilling prospect for Bucharest. Second, Kyiv has already taken some steps that are seen in the Romanian capital as aimed at increasing Ukrainian territorial claims, despite Tarasyuk's denials that this is the case. Kyiv has declared the area around Serpent's Island as a nature reserve, which under international law would give Ukraine the right-- at least in theory--to enlarge its territorial waters from 12 to 200 nautical miles from the coastline.

    Second, there is the issue of minority rights. In 1997, the Romanian side insisted on including the Council of Europe's Recommendation 1201 in the treaty with Ukraine, after long opposing its inclusion in the treaty with Hungary. Now, Bucharest is now demanding that a "multicultural" university be set up in Cernivtsi/Cernauti, while largely stalling on measures to set up such a university for its own Hungarian minority. Many media outlets have long engaged in a campaign aimed at stirring up anti-Ukrainian sentiment, claiming that Ukraine does not respect its obligations toward the 135,000- strong Romanian speaking minority. Those conducting such a campaign disregard the fact that some of these "Romanians" consider themselves Moldovans and reject close contacts with Bucharest.

    Tarasyuk, while not denying that problems do exist, says that a lack of funds, rather than ill-will, is to blame. He was quick to point out during his visit that there is only one Ukrainian high school in Romania and that instruction there is conducted 75 percent in the Romanian language. In order to seek a solution, the two sides agreed that a commission of experts will study the issue. As conventional wisdom has it: where there is good will, issues are solved; where there is none, commissions are set up.

    23-02-99


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


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