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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 154, 99-08-11

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. 154, 11 August 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ALLY OF ARMENIAN PREMIER APPOINTED YEREVAN
  • [02] ARMENTEL CASE MAY BE SETTLED OUT OF COURT
  • [03] U.S. CONGRESSMEN ADVOCATE DIRECT TALKS BETWEEN
  • [04] RUSSIA TO INVESTIGATE GEORGIAN BOMBING
  • [05] IMF URGES KAZAKHSTAN TO SPEED UP REFORMS
  • [06] KAZAKHSTAN ELECTION OFFICIAL FAILS TO CLARIFY
  • [07] KAZAKHSTAN'S COSSACKS AT ODDS OVER EMIGRATION
  • [08] KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES CONTINUE TALKS WITH
  • [09] TAJIKISTAN EXTENDS DEMILITARIZATION PROCESS

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [10] UCK'S CEKU SAYS SERBIAN PARAMILITARIES STILL
  • [11] ...DENIES ORGANIZING MITROVICA PROTESTS
  • [12] RICHARD VISITS MITROVICA
  • [13] UN POLICE KEEPS NEPALESE, BANGLADESHI POLICEMEN
  • [14] RECONSTRUCTION OF GJAKOVA'S BAZAAR BEGINS
  • [15] NEW NATO FORCE FOR ALBANIA
  • [16] SERBIAN CHURCH LIMITS SUPPORT FOR OPPOSITION
  • [17] ARTEMIJE: RALLY IS 'NO PLACE' FOR SERBIAN
  • [18] SERBIAN BIRTHDAY PRESENT FOR CLINTON?
  • [19] PROTESTERS RALLY IN PIROT
  • [20] LESKOVAC TELEVISION SUSPENDS NOVKOVIC
  • [21] HAGUE TRIBUNAL TO EXPAND INDICTMENT OF
  • [22] SREBRENICA VICTIMS FOUND IN MASS GRAVE
  • [23] CROATIA UNLIKELY TO EXTRADITE 'TUTA' TO HAGUE
  • [24] ITALIAN STAR TENOR TO OUTSHINE ECLIPSE IN
  • [25] ROMANIAN MENINGITIS EPIDEMIC CONTINUES TO SPREAD
  • [26] MOLDOVAN POLITICIANS REACT TO STEPASHIN'S
  • [27] BULGARIA SEEKS LIBYAN REPLY ON DETAINED

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [28] IMPULSE 99: LOOKING AHEAD OR GLANCING BEHIND?

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ALLY OF ARMENIAN PREMIER APPOINTED YEREVAN

    MAYOR

    President Robert Kocharian has named deputy

    parliamentary speaker Albert Bazeyan mayor of Yerevan,

    Noyan Tapan reported on 11 August. Bazeyan, who is 43,

    was a prominent member of the Yerkrapah Union, which was

    founded in 1993 by then Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian

    and whose members are primarily veterans of the Karabakh

    war. Also on 11 August, Noyan Tapan reported that Eduard

    Yegorian, a former leading member of the Armenian Pan-

    National Movement who quit that party in 1997 to form the

    Hairenik parliamentary faction, died suddenly the previous

    day. Yegorian was one of the authors of the Armenian

    Constitution. LF

    [02] ARMENTEL CASE MAY BE SETTLED OUT OF COURT

    A

    Yerevan court has postponed until 20 September

    consideration of the case brought by the Armenian

    government against Greece's state-controlled OTE and the

    U.S.-registered Trans-World Telecom, which owned a 49

    percent stake in Armenia's telecommunications monopoly

    ArmenTel before the latter's acquisition by OTE in 1998,

    RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 10 August. The

    Armenian government claims that the Trans-World Telecom

    owes some $8 million in profit tax on the proceeds of the

    sale of its stake to OTE. The delay is intended to give the

    three parties the opportunity to settle the dispute out of

    court. LF

    [03] U.S. CONGRESSMEN ADVOCATE DIRECT TALKS BETWEEN

    KARABAKH, BAKU

    Meeting in Stepanakert on 10 August

    with Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized

    Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, a visiting delegation of five U.S.

    Congressmen said they will urge Azerbaijan's President

    Heidar Aliev to engage in direct talks with the Karabakh

    leadership on resolving the conflict over the enclave's status,

    Interfax reported. The congressmen also met with Karabakh

    Premier Anushavan Danielyan, who echoed Ghukasian's

    expression of thanks for U.S. direct aid to the enclave. But

    Danielyan added that humanitarian programs should be

    replaced by mutually beneficial economic cooperation, noting

    that Nagorno-Karabakh has created a beneficial climate for

    foreign investment. LF

    [04] RUSSIA TO INVESTIGATE GEORGIAN BOMBING

    The

    Georgian Foreign Ministry addressed a diplomatic note to

    Russia on 10 August protesting the bombing of a Georgian

    border village by Russian aircraft and demanding an

    investigation of the incident, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 10 August 1999). Spokesmen for the Russian

    Foreign and Defense Ministries told Interfax that Moscow is

    prepared to send experts to Georgia to conduct an

    investigation. LF

    [05] IMF URGES KAZAKHSTAN TO SPEED UP REFORMS

    In a

    document released on 9 August summarizing its annual

    review of the Kazakh economy, IMF directors expressed

    regret that the fund has been unable to reach an agreement

    with Kazakhstan's government on measures that would

    enable the country to qualify for further Extended Fund

    Facility loans, Reuters and Interfax reported. The fund had

    urged the Kazakh leadership to speed up reforms, cut

    budget spending, improve tax collection, keep interest rates

    high, and remove import controls in order to curb inflation. It

    had also stressed the importance of timely payments of

    wages and pensions. LF

    [06] KAZAKHSTAN ELECTION OFFICIAL FAILS TO CLARIFY

    CANDIDATES' RIGHT TO MEDIA ACCESS

    Kazakhstan's

    Central Electoral Commission chairwomen Zaghipa Balieva met

    with editors of Kazakh periodicals in Almaty on 10 August,

    RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported.

    Balieva was unable to say whether the new Kazakh election

    law places any restrictions on the use by political parties and

    individual candidates of independent media outlets to

    publicize their election programs. The law gives candidates

    the right to 15 minutes free access on state TV and 10

    minutes on state radio, plus two articles in the state-run

    press. But under cost-cutting measures announced last

    week, the number of state-run newspapers that receive

    government funding has been reduced to three (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 5 August 1999). Journalists at the press

    conference argued that the reduction in the number of state-

    run newspapers may deprive some candidates of free access

    to the print media. LF

    [07] KAZAKHSTAN'S COSSACKS AT ODDS OVER EMIGRATION

    Semirechie Cossack Community leader Gennadii Belyaev told a

    press conference in Almaty on 10 August that he disagrees

    with the assertion by rival Cossack leader Vladimir

    Ovsyannikov that the Semirechie Cossacks are planning to

    leave Kazakhstan if the country's leadership continues its

    policy of discrimination toward them, Interfax reported (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1999). Belyaev further took

    issue with Ovsyannikov's claim that some 150,000 Semirechie

    Cossacks wish to leave Kazakhstan. According to Belyaev,

    Ovsyannikov's Semirechie Cossack Union has no more than

    60,000 members, while his own Semirechie Cossack

    Community numbers 250,000. The community's press

    secretary, Fedor Miroglov, said at a press conference that

    the community plans to picket President Nursultan

    Nazarbaev's Almaty residence on 14 August to protest the

    Kazakh authorities' refusal to register the organization. LF

    [08] KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES CONTINUE TALKS WITH

    GUERRILLAS

    The Kyrgyz authorities on 10 August continued

    negotiations with the 21 Uzbek guerrillas who have taken up

    positions in southern Kyrgyzstan's Batken district and are

    holding four Kyrgyz officials hostage there, RFE/RL's Bishkek

    bureau reported. Presidential administration official Bolot

    Dzhanuzakov told AP that the Kyrgyz leadership does not

    want to use force against the guerrillas. Interfax reported

    that the Kyrgyz authorities are maintaining contact with the

    governments of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The guerrillas

    were based in Tajikistan but are demanding free passage to

    Uzbekistan. Meanwhile some 1,000 civilians have been

    evacuated from Batken and 200 police sent to the region. LF

    [09] TAJIKISTAN EXTENDS DEMILITARIZATION PROCESS

    Meeting in Dushanbe on 10 August, representatives of the

    Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition (UTO)

    agreed on the creation of joint working groups charged with

    disarming maverick groups that are not subordinate to the

    UTO, Interfax and AP-Blitz reported. President Imomali

    Rakhmonov decreed on 4 August that no criminal

    proceedings will be brought against fighters who surrender

    their weapons by 24 August. Also on 10 August, OSCE

    Chairman-in-Office Knut Vollebaek issued a statement

    welcoming the completion of the disarmament of UTO armed

    formations. Vollebaek also urged the government to lift the

    existing bans on opposition political parties and media outlets

    and speed up preparations both for the 26 September

    referendum on amendments to the country's constitution and

    for the subsequent presidential and parliamentary elections.

    LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [10] UCK'S CEKU SAYS SERBIAN PARAMILITARIES STILL

    ACTIVE IN KOSOVA...

    General Agim Ceku, who is chief of the

    General Staff of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), told

    RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on 10 August that the Serbian

    government has secret service agents and paramilitary

    forces in Kosova "in order to create an unstable and insecure

    situation." "The UCK has guaranteed all citizens of Kosova

    peace and security," he noted. "We are concerned about any

    incident that takes place because there are many people

    who blame every incident on the UCK. The UCK is therefore

    very interested in catching those who commit the crimes." He

    stressed that "there were accusations recently that [some]

    UCK commanders do not have their people under control, but

    I can assure you that we do have control over the army. The

    military hierarchy is functioning." FS

    [11] ...DENIES ORGANIZING MITROVICA PROTESTS

    Ceku

    also denied recent charges by French KFOR officials that

    the UCK organized the recent Mitrovica protests (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 1999). "This is not true," he

    said, adding that "the UCK commander of that region has

    done very much to ease the tensions there." Ceku

    stressed that "we want to solve every problem in

    Kosova in cooperation with KFOR. It is the obligation of

    KFOR [however] to deal with the situation in Mitrovica."

    He added that his group will not agree to a partition of

    Kosova. "KFOR is supposed to create security on the

    ground," he commented. "We do agree to that but have

    to say that [their efforts have] been insufficient so far.

    In our history, someone else has always held our fate in

    his hands.... KFOR is not always going to be here and we

    wish to build our own security system...to make sure

    that everybody...can return to Kosova." FS

    [12] RICHARD VISITS MITROVICA

    French Defense Minister Alain

    Richard and Kosovar leaders Hashim Thaci and Ibrahim Rugova

    agreed in Prishtina on 10 August that all ethnic groups in

    Mitrovica must be able to live there in security, Reuters

    reported. They failed to agree, however, on how to reach

    that goal. Richard said that "this has to take time... We know

    that to achieve [a safe environment] in Mitrovica is fairly

    difficult." He added that "several hundred" persons have been

    able to cross between northern and southern Mitrovica

    freely in the recent past, but he warned that allowing large

    crowds of ethnic Albanians to cross into the north will trigger

    fighting with Serbs there. He argued that only a political

    accord between the two sides can open the way for

    reunification. Richard predicted that "the efforts made by

    French troops there will be successful in the end." FS

    [13] UN POLICE KEEPS NEPALESE, BANGLADESHI POLICEMEN

    'ON HOLD'

    Swedish Colonel Michael Jorsback, who is the

    chief of staff of the UN police in Kosova, told AP on 10

    August that he has put the deployment of 50 policemen from

    Nepal and 36 from Bangladesh "on hold" because they are

    poorly qualified. He said that the Nepalese arrived without

    handguns and that the Bangladeshi policemen are

    administrative personnel who lack the training as "street

    cops." Jorsback said the men failed to meet "UN standards."

    Another group of 13 Bangladeshi police will be deployed in

    the force, however. FS

    [14] RECONSTRUCTION OF GJAKOVA'S BAZAAR BEGINS

    Ethnic

    Albanian workers began clearing away the rubble of Gjakova's

    medieval Ottoman bazaar on 10 August, launching a U.S.-

    funded project to rebuild it, Reuters reported. Serbian forces

    firebombed the Old Town of Gjakova on 25 March, razing it to

    the ground. The bazaar boasted more than 700 businesses

    and 200 homes. The reconstruction project, named "Gjakova

    2000," is funded by the U.S. Agency for International

    Development. About 1,500 residents of Gjakova were killed

    by Serbian forces or remain unaccounted for. FS

    [15] NEW NATO FORCE FOR ALBANIA

    Lieutenant-Colonel Helge

    Eriksen told Reuters in Tirana on 10 August that NATO plans

    to deploy a new force of some 2,500 troops--codenamed

    AFOR-2--in Albania in September. That force will provide

    logistical support to KFOR and will be led by KFOR commander

    General Sir Mike Jackson. AFOR-2 will replace the outgoing

    AFOR, which provided humanitarian assistance during the

    Kosova war and still has some 4,500 troops in Albania. AFOR

    will end its operations by the end of August. Eriksen said that

    AFOR-2 will continue to carry out infrastructure work,

    including repairs to the road linking Durres and Kukes. FS

    [16] SERBIAN CHURCH LIMITS SUPPORT FOR OPPOSITION

    The

    bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church from Serbia,

    Montenegro, and the Republika Srpska decided on 10 August

    not to take part in the opposition-led demonstration slated

    for 19 August in Belgrade. The Church leaders nonetheless

    appealed in a statement to Yugoslav President Slobodan

    Milosevic and Serbian President Milan Milutinovic to resign.

    The bishops stressed that the time has come for new

    leaders to take Serbia out of its isolation and deal with its

    myriad domestic problems. The bishops called on the

    international community to end sanctions against Serbia and

    to protect Serbs and their holy places in Kosova. PM

    [17] ARTEMIJE: RALLY IS 'NO PLACE' FOR SERBIAN

    PATRIARCH

    Serbian Orthodox Archbishop Artemije said in

    Belgrade on 11 August that the bishops decided that a

    political rally is "not the place" for Patriarch Pavle to appear.

    Artemije stressed that the bishops' statement "is a sufficient

    message for those who want to listen." Artemije is Kosova's

    leading Orthodox cleric and frequently speaks at political

    gatherings. Observers note that the bishops' decision to limit

    their political role to moral support for the opposition stems

    partly from a reluctance to become identified too closely with

    any individual opposition leaders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10

    August 1999). Furthermore, several bishops support the

    regime and may have forced pro-opposition bishops to agree

    to a compromise. Pro-government media have recently

    criticized the Church for "taking the same position and using

    the same vocabulary as the opposition." PM

    [18] SERBIAN BIRTHDAY PRESENT FOR CLINTON?

    Serbian

    Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj's Radical Party charged

    in a statement on 10 August that the opposition has slated

    its rally for 19 August "because that is U.S. President Bill

    Clinton's birthday." PM

    [19] PROTESTERS RALLY IN PIROT

    Some 3,000 people

    attended an anti-Milosevic protest in Pirot, which is in eastern

    Serbia, on 10 August. Demonstrations attended by several

    hundred people also took place in both Leskovac and

    Kragujevac. PM

    [20] LESKOVAC TELEVISION SUSPENDS NOVKOVIC

    The

    management of Leskovac Television has decided to lay off

    technician Ivan Novkovic, who recently completed a 30-day

    sentence for broadcasting a call for an anti-Milosevic

    demonstration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1999). The

    management said in a statement that Novkovic remains

    suspended until an investigation against him for "violating

    work rules" is finished. The statement added that

    management "seriously doubts" that Novkovic acted alone.

    The Belgrade daily "Danas" of 11 August points out that the

    management statement is dated 22 July but that the director

    who signed it quit his job on 15 July. PM

    [21] HAGUE TRIBUNAL TO EXPAND INDICTMENT OF

    MILOSEVIC?

    A spokesman for the Hague-based war crimes

    tribunal said on 10 August that the court may expand its

    indictment of Milosevic to include charges of genocide and

    forced expulsion, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.

    New evidence linking Milosevic to those crimes has recently

    come to light in Kosova, the spokesman added. In May, the

    tribunal indicted Milosevic on three counts of crimes against

    humanity and one count of violating the laws or customs of

    war (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 1999). PM

    [22] SREBRENICA VICTIMS FOUND IN MASS GRAVE

    A UN

    spokeswoman said in Sarajevo on 10 August that UN forensic

    experts have confirmed that a mass grave in northeastern

    Bosnia contains the remains of about 250 victims of the

    Srebrenica massacre. She described area near the grave as

    an "execution site" and noted that many of the victims had

    their hands tied behind their backs. The spokeswoman

    stressed that the UN appeals to Bosnian Serb authorities to

    arrest indicted war criminals still at large. Some 7,414 people-

    -mainly Muslim males--are still officially classified as "missing"

    from Srebrenica, which fell to Bosnian Serb forces in July

    1995. PM

    [23] CROATIA UNLIKELY TO EXTRADITE 'TUTA' TO HAGUE

    A

    Zagreb district judge said on 10 August that Mladen "Tuta"

    Naletilic is seriously ill with tuberculosis and a heart condition

    and hence is unable to stand trial, "Vjesnik" reported.

    Observers note that if a panel of legal experts upholds the

    court's ruling, "Tuta" is unlikely to complete his current trial

    and will remain in hospital. Chances would then be slim that

    the Zagreb authorities will extradite him to The Hague, where

    the international war crimes tribunal wants to try him for

    atrocities committed against Muslims during the 1993-1994

    Croatian-Muslim conflict. Croatian authorities placed Vinko

    "Stela" Martinovic, who was a colleague of "Tuta" in Bosnia, on

    a flight bound for The Hague on 9 August. PM

    [24] ITALIAN STAR TENOR TO OUTSHINE ECLIPSE IN

    ROMANIA

    Luciano Pavaroti is the main attraction of the solar

    eclipse in Bucharest, the only European capital from which the

    phenomenon could be watched in its full magnitude. The

    Italian tenor will sing in the evening of 11 August on

    Bucharest's Constitution Square. With tickets costing $200 a

    piece, it is highly unlikely that many Romanians will be able to

    attend the concert. Foreign tourists besieged Ramnicu

    Valcea, a mountainous resort 150 kilometers northwest of

    Bucharest, where the full eclipse was of the longest duration.

    The town's church bells rang during the eclipse to scare

    away evil spirits, in line with Romanian folklore. Meanwhile in

    neighboring Bulgaria, Communist Party leader Vladimir Spasov

    on 10 August told Reuters that the phenomenon heralds the

    collapse of capitalism: "The world will be covered with

    darkness and then the sun will rise again, to bring back to life

    the ideal of communism, the most humane system," he said.

    MS

    [25] ROMANIAN MENINGITIS EPIDEMIC CONTINUES TO SPREAD

    The Health Ministry on 10 August said that more than 1,000

    people have been affected by the current meningitis

    epidemic, with the largest number of cases, 381, registered

    in Iasi County. It said the postponement of the school year is

    being considered since most of those who have contracted

    the illness are young people, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau

    reported. So far, no deaths from the illness have been

    registered in this latest epidemic. MS

    [26] MOLDOVAN POLITICIANS REACT TO STEPASHIN'S

    DISMISSAL

    Prime Minister Ion Sturza told journalists in

    Chisinau on 9 August that he was "shocked" to learn about

    the dismissal of his Russian counterpart, Sergei Stepashin.

    Sturza said he had " very good personal contacts" with both

    Stepashin and the latter's predecessor, Yevgenii Primakov.

    He said he expects Stepashin's dismissal to have "a negative

    impact on Moldova" because it will "nullify all Moldovan-Russian

    agreements on the withdrawal of Russian troops from the

    Transdniester." And he added that it will negatively impact on

    Moldovan exports to Russia. Party of Democratic Forces

    leader Valeriu Matei said on 10 August that the main lesson

    to be learned is "to beware that political system in which the

    head of state does as he pleases." He said this may happen

    in Moldova, too, if a presidential system is introduced. MS

    [27] BULGARIA SEEKS LIBYAN REPLY ON DETAINED

    NATIONALS

    The Foreign Ministry on 10 August said it is

    seeking an official reply from Libya on the fate of six

    Bulgarian citizens held in detention for more than six months,

    Reuters reported. In early February, 19 Bulgarian medical

    personnel were detained in connection with an investigation

    by Libyan authorities into how children in a Benghazi hospital

    became infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS. Thirteen

    were later freed, but five doctors and a nurse remain in

    custody. Officials in Sofia said the six were questioned as

    witnesses, not as suspected criminals. "Now that the

    investigation has been completed we expect Libyan

    authorities to inform us over its results," a senior Foreign

    Ministry official told the agency. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [28] IMPULSE 99: LOOKING AHEAD OR GLANCING BEHIND?

    by Michael Shafir

    On 23 July, a heterogeneous group of Czech

    intellectuals issued an invitation "to all members of society" to

    discuss where the Czech polity is headed 10 years after the

    "velvet revolution." Cutting across party lines as well as social

    strata, the group unites people with backgrounds as

    different as those of Prague Archbishop Cardinal Miloslav Vlk

    and trade union leader and Social Democratic Party (CSSD)

    Senator Richard Falbr.

    What obviously brought together these individuals is

    disappointment. One year after coming to power, Milos

    Zeman's minority government has seemingly reached a dead-

    end, and an alternative to it is unlikely to emerge owing to

    the so-called "opposition agreement" signed by the CSSD and

    the main opposition formation, the Civic Democratic Party

    (ODS). Faced with that state of affairs, the group, which calls

    itself Impulse 99, is hoping to compel politicians to face up to

    their responsibilities by inviting the country's citizens to

    enter a dialogue among themselves and with the country's

    political class. In such a case, the intellectuals hope, an

    "impulse" would be given to move the political chariot out of

    the mud it is seemingly stuck in.

    The 200 initial signatories to Impulse 99 make no secret

    of their critical views. "Our republic," they say in the group's

    manifesto, "is headed in a direction that may stifle the hope

    for rapid integration into European structures and lead to a

    further decline in the economic, legal, social, and moral

    spheres." The public, according to the intellectuals, has shied

    away from political participation, leaving the arena under the

    sole control of political parties, which "are primarily

    preoccupied with internal party politics and with increasing

    their power." This situation has led many to "lose faith in

    political parties and in democratic institutions." Moreover,

    "politics and economics have become hindered by a lack of

    transparency."

    Professing themselves to be "disturbed by the inability

    and unwillingness of politicians to communicate with society

    and to heed critical voices," the signatories "challenge

    politicians to finally begin to concern themselves with the real

    problems of our country and not merely with power games."

    They declare themselves to be "tired of the eternal bickering

    of politicians and of populist attempts to cull public opinion."

    Not surprisingly, Impulse 99 has met with criticism from

    those it criticizes. With the notable exception of CSSD deputy

    chairwoman Petra Buzkova, Czech politicians claimed that the

    criticism is unfounded or sought to "uncover" who is behind

    Impulse 99 and what personal or group interests it serves.

    Zeman responded that the initiative is just an "empty

    declaration" and argued that one only had take a look at the

    names of the signatories to know what they were up to.

    That statement was doubtless alluding to Jiri Pehe, one

    of the spokespersons of the initiative, who in summer 1997

    was appointed adviser to President Vaclav Havel. That

    Impulse 99 is permeated with the "Havelian spirit," none of its

    supporters is likely to deny. On 2 August, presidential

    spokesman Ladislav Spacek told journalists that Havel is

    "honored that whenever something sensible and interesting

    appears in society, he is seen as being behind the initiative."

    But Spacek stressed that the president was "not the moving

    force" behind Impulse 99.

    This makes the document even more suspect in the

    eyes of its opponents, who wonder whose personal interests

    a "collective Havel" serves. Jan Sula, the leader of the minor

    Czech National Social Party, maintained that Impulse 99 was

    launched as an electoral platform for Tomas Halik, a former

    dissident, a sociologist, and a Catholic priest who is a

    signatory to the initiative. That assertion, however, has been

    denied by the signatories.

    The Impulse 99 group has also denied that it intends to

    form a political party. Critics, for their part, have reproached

    the group for seeking to avoid the "ultimate trial" of politics--

    namely, elections--by refusing to turn into such a party.

    According to ODS deputy Jan Zahradil, that refusal makes

    Impulse 99 an "embarrassing affair." Impulse 99, however,

    argues that if a new party came into being each time a critical

    voice is heard, the deterioration of the public sphere would

    be expedited, rather than halted.

    Yet the road chosen by the group gives pause for

    thought. Both Czech and foreign observers have drawn

    parallels between Charter 77 or the short lived Civic Forum of

    1989, on the one hand, and Impulse 99, on the other. The

    new group would probably agree that their inspiration comes

    from the country's civic roots, which they would like

    resuscitated in a post-communist context as a kind of new

    "anti-politics" (to quote Gyorgy Konrad).

    While no one would deny the tremendous role played by

    civic "parallel politics"--as the late dissident Vaclav Benda put

    it--in the former Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and (to

    much lesser extent) elsewhere, the post-communist context

    is different. It is no longer--or should no longer be--about

    "freeing" the public sphere but about "filling it with democratic

    content." In other words, today's political game is, by

    definition, one of "compromise."

    In their manifesto, the Impulse 99 initiators twice

    mention "moral values" as an ultimate aim. But how can

    compromise be reached on moral values? Unless they come

    up with an answer, these intellectuals risk transforming

    themselves into either one more irrelevant actor on the post-

    communist scene or, worse, into a frustrated collective

    Savonarola. As Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan showed in their

    seminal work on transitions worldwide, this danger is often

    faced by civic groupings that would rather remember a grand

    past than face a gray present.

    11-08-99


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


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