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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 170, 99-09-01

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. 170, 1 September 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN JOURNALIST SENTENCED FOR 'DEFAMATION'
  • [02] AZERBAIJAN 'CLOSE TO AGREEMENT' ON OIL EXPORT PIPELINE
  • [03] AZERBAIJAN TO MONTOR TURKISH CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES
  • [04] GEORGIA BLASTS PLANS FOR ABKHAZ REFERENDUM
  • [05] KAZAKHSTAN'S CABINET DISCUSSES BUDGET FOR 2000
  • [06] ANOTHER KAZAKH OFFICIAL OPPOSES SALE OF STAKE IN OIL JOINT
  • [07] THREE MORE HOSTAGES RELEASED IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN...
  • [08] ...AS BISHKEK VETOES EXCHANGE OF PRISONERS WITH
  • [09] ...AND MOSCOW RULES OUT SENDING TROOPS
  • [10] KYRGYZ PAPER APPEALS TO PRESIDENT TO QUASH HARASSMENT
  • [11] TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER VISITS IRAN
  • [12] TURKMENISTAN PRESIDENT FOLLOWS IN FOOTSTEPS OF HAROUN AL-

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [13] CROATIAN ELECTION TALKS COLLAPSE
  • [14] KOSOVA'S SCHOOLS REOPEN
  • [15] RUGOVA'S PARLIAMENT MEETS
  • [16] THACI MEETS WITH JACKSON
  • [17] SCHARPING: KFOR TO STAY FOR FIVE YEARS
  • [18] KOUCHNER SWEARS IN NEW KOSOVA JUDGES...
  • [19] ...BUT FORGETS ESCORT FOR COUNCIL MEMBERS
  • [20] WHY DID HOLBROOKE SKIP ALBANIA?
  • [21] NORWAY DEMANDS MACEDONIA FREE PEACEKEEPER
  • [22] DID MILOSEVIC HEAD FOR THE HILLS?
  • [23] DJUKANOVIC BLASTS 'DICTATORSHIP'
  • [24] TALIC PLEADS 'NOT GUILTY'
  • [25] MUSLIMS WITHDRAWING SUPPORT FROM DODIK?
  • [26] SLOVENIAN POLICE HOLD GREENPEACE ACTIVISTS
  • [27] WORLD BANK APPROVES ROMANIAN LOAN
  • [28] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT USES NEW DESIGNATION FOR STATE
  • [29] ...BUT SAYS 'NO SPECIAL RELATIONS' WITH ROMANIA
  • [30] BULGARIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS PROMPT PARTY REALIGNMENT

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [31] HUNGARIAN 'BUNDISM': CAN IT WORK?

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN JOURNALIST SENTENCED FOR 'DEFAMATION'

    A Yerevan

    district court handed down a one-year prison sentence to

    Nikolai Pashinian, editor of the daily "Oragir," on 31

    August, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Pashinian was

    found guilty of insulting a law enforcement official

    carrying out his duties, refusing to publish a refutation

    of earlier reports printed in the newspaper, and two counts

    of slander. Pashinian said he will appeal the sentence,

    which is the first handed down to a journalist in a

    criminal, rather than civil, suit. "Oragir" was closed in

    June after it refused to pay $25,000 in damages to the

    trade company Mika-Armenia, which it alleged had links with

    Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian.

    "Oragir" also lost a libel suit for damages brought by

    Sarkisian. LF

    [02] AZERBAIJAN 'CLOSE TO AGREEMENT' ON OIL EXPORT PIPELINE

    Valeh Aleskerov, who heads the department for foreign

    investment at Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, told

    journalists in Baku on 31 August that talks in Washington

    last week between Azerbaijani and Turkish government

    working groups "were a success," Turan reported. Those

    talks focused on four draft documents that constitute the

    legal frame work for proceeding with construction of the

    planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline. But Interfax

    reported that the Azerbaijan International Operating

    Company (AIOC), the largest Western consortium operating in

    Azerbaijan, and the Turkish government have not yet reached

    agreement on Turkish guarantees to meet additional costs if

    construction exceeds the planned $2.4 billion. Nor are they

    agreed, according to the news agency, on the construction

    schedule or the division of shares in the company that will

    operate the completed pipeline. Azerbaijani Deputy Premier

    Abid Sharifov had told journalists in early August that the

    four main framework agreements could be signed within one

    month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1999). LF

    [03] AZERBAIJAN TO MONTOR TURKISH CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES

    Noting

    that shoddy construction compounded the devastation wrought

    by the earthquake in western Turkey last month, the Baku

    Mayor's Office has given instructions to stop granting

    permission to Turkish companies to engage in construction

    projects in the city, according to "Vremya MN" on 31

    August. Up to 90 percent of construction projects currently

    under way in Azerbaijan are being carried out by private

    Turkish firms, which have completed more than 5,000

    buildings in 10 Azerbaijani cities in recent years, some of

    them of dubious quality. The newspaper quoted a leading

    Baku city architect as saying that already completed

    buildings will be carefully inspected and the practice of

    issuing building licenses to Turkish construction companies

    reviewed. LF

    [04] GEORGIA BLASTS PLANS FOR ABKHAZ REFERENDUM

    Abkhaz

    President Vladislav Ardzinba on 31 August signed a decree

    on holding a referendum simultaneously with the 3 October

    presidential poll, in which he is the sole candidate, ITAR-

    TASS reported. Voters will be asked whether they approve

    the constitution adopted by the breakaway republic's

    parliament on 26 November 1994, which describes Abkhazia as

    "a sovereign and democratic republic." They will also be

    asked to approve or reject a planned constitutional

    amendment reducing the term for which judges are appointed

    from life-long to five years, according to Caucasus Press.

    In Tbilisi, Georgian presidential foreign policy adviser

    Levan Aleksidze termed the proposed referendum "an abuse of

    moral and international law," given that the ethnic

    Georgian population of Abkhazia fled in 1992-1993. LF

    [05] KAZAKHSTAN'S CABINET DISCUSSES BUDGET FOR 2000

    Prime

    Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev told cabinet members on 31

    August that the budget for next year will be fulfilled by

    101 percent, and that revenues are likely to total 22.7

    percent of GDP, Interfax reported. Terming the budget as a

    whole "difficult and rigorous, but absolutely realistic,"

    Balghymbaev said the budget deficit will be gradually

    reduced from 3.6 percent in 1999 to 2 percent by 2002. He

    added that the 2000 draft budget contains a provision

    barring cuts in expenditure on pensions and on medical

    services in rural areas. He predicted that the 1999 budget

    will be fulfilled by 98 percent. LF

    [06] ANOTHER KAZAKH OFFICIAL OPPOSES SALE OF STAKE IN OIL JOINT

    VENTURE

    Imanghali Tasmagambetov, who is governor of

    Western Kazakhstan Oblast, told Interfax on 31 August that

    the government should find alternative ways to cover this

    year's budget deficit rather than sell part of the

    country's stake in the Tengizchevroil consortium.

    Tasmagambetov said that beginning in 2001, Kazakhstan

    stands to make an annual profit of up to $150 million from

    its involvement in that joint venture. Kazakhstan has

    reportedly invited 20 international oil companies to bid

    for a 10 percent stake, worth between $800 million and $1.6

    billion, in Tengizchevroil, which is equivalent to 40

    percent of the Kazakh government's share in the consortium.

    The chairman of Kazakhstan's state oil company was fired

    last week for expressing his opposition to the planned sale

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 1999). LF

    [07] THREE MORE HOSTAGES RELEASED IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN...

    General Bolot Djanuzakov, who heads the defense and

    security department within the Kyrgyz presidential

    administration, told journalists in Bishkek on 1 September

    that the previous night, ethnic Uzbek guerrillas entrenched

    in southern Kyrgyzstan released three of the police

    officials they took hostage on 22 August, RFE/RL's bureau

    in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Djanuzakov said the release

    was negotiated during talks between the Uzbek militants and

    local village elders. He added that the militants'

    headquarters are in the village of Kojo-Achkan in Batken

    Raion. Kyrgyz government troops had sustained an unknown

    number of casualties during a two-hour gun battle with the

    militants earlier on 31 August, Interfax and AP reported.

    LF

    [08] ...AS BISHKEK VETOES EXCHANGE OF PRISONERS WITH

    UZBEKISTAN...

    Reuters on 1 September quoted Djanuzakov as

    saying that a man claiming to represent the militants had

    proposed the previous day exchanging the Kyrgyz hostages

    for prisoners held in Uzbekistan. But Dzhanuzakov said

    Kyrgyzstan has no power to conduct talks over such an

    exchange. "We cannot meddle in Uzbekistan's affairs," he

    said. "In terms of a prisoner swap, they must put this

    question to Uzbekistan." LF

    [09] ...AND MOSCOW RULES OUT SENDING TROOPS

    Kyrgyzstan's First

    Deputy Prime Minister Boris Silaev told journalists after

    talks in Moscow on 31 August with Russian Premier Vladimir

    Putin that Moscow is ready to provide Bishkek with materiel

    support but will not send troops to assist the Kyrgyz armed

    forces in neutralizing the militants, Interfax and

    "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Silaev said the Kyrgyz

    forces need uniforms and ammunition. In Almaty, a spokesman

    for the Kazakh airforce told Interfax on 31 August that

    plans are being drafted to transfer aircraft and ammunition

    to Kyrgyzstan. LF

    [10] KYRGYZ PAPER APPEALS TO PRESIDENT TO QUASH HARASSMENT

    The

    editorial board of the independent daily "Vechernii

    Bishkek" announced in Bishkek on 31 August that it has

    appealed to President Askar Akayev to stop government

    pressure on the newspaper, RFE/RL's correspondent in the

    Kyrgyz capital reported. The board members said that

    although the newspaper's finances are in order,

    presidential administration head Medet Sadyrkulov has

    organized a campaign against the paper. The State Tax

    Inspection accused the chief editor of the newspaper,

    Alexandr Kim, of tax evasion and opened a criminal case

    against him last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August

    1999). LF

    [11] TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER VISITS IRAN

    Tajikistan's First

    Deputy Premier Ali Akbar Turadjonzoda met with Iranian

    President Muhammad Khatami during a working visit to Iran,

    Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 31 August. Turadjonzoda briefed

    the Iranian leader on the current political situation in

    Tajikistan, in particular on preparations for the 26

    September referendum on amendments to the constitution and

    the subsequent presidential and parliamentary elections. LF

    [12] TURKMENISTAN PRESIDENT FOLLOWS IN FOOTSTEPS OF HAROUN AL-

    RASHID

    President Saparmurat Niyazov toured Ashgabat and

    Geoktepe on 28-29 August, disguised in a wig and false

    beard, presidential press service head Kakamurad Balliev

    told Turan on 31 August. Niyazov met with local peasants

    and enquired about their living conditions. According to

    Balliev, Niyazov frequently conducts such fact-finding

    tours. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [13] CROATIAN ELECTION TALKS COLLAPSE

    Vlado Gotovac, who heads

    the Liberal Party and is a spokesman for the six-party

    opposition coalition, said in Zagreb on 31 August that

    talks between the coalition and the governing Croatian

    Democratic Community (HDZ) have broken down and will not be

    continued. The talks were aimed at revising the electoral

    law in time for the parliamentary elections expected by the

    end of 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 1999).

    Gotovac said that the reason for the breakdown was the

    refusal of HDZ negotiator Vladimir Seks to discuss a

    revision of legislation governing state-run television

    (HTV) as part of the talks on the electoral law. The

    opposition, the EU, and the U.S. insist on changes to the

    current electoral law and on the transformation of HTV into

    a public broadcaster based on the West European model. PM

    [14] KOSOVA'S SCHOOLS REOPEN

    A new school year began in Kosova

    on 1 September. Most ethnic Albanian children have not

    attended a government-run school since Yugoslav President

    Slobodan Milosevic ended the province's autonomy in 1989.

    Rather, they attended classes in a private school system

    organized by Ibrahim Rugova's shadow state. Serbian

    government schools closed during NATO's bombing campaign in

    the spring. Albanian and Serbian children will now share

    the same school buildings. Pupils of one nationality will

    have classes in the morning, while those of the other will

    receive instruction in the afternoon. PM

    [15] RUGOVA'S PARLIAMENT MEETS

    Kosova's unofficially elected

    parliament met in Prishtina on 31 August. It was the first

    session of the legislative body elected in March 1998 and

    the first session of any Kosovar assembly in years. Rugova,

    whose Democratic League of Kosova has a majority in the

    legislature, said the assembly must begin to prepare new

    legislation for the province in close cooperation with

    Bernard Kouchner's UN administration and with KFOR. Critics

    charged, however, that the composition of the assembly does

    not reflect changed political realities after more than one

    year of armed conflict. Critics called for a new election.

    Most observers expect the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) to

    emerge as the strongest party in any such vote. PM

    [16] THACI MEETS WITH JACKSON

    Hashim Thaci, who heads the UCK's

    provisional government, held a closed-door meeting with

    KFOR commander General Sir Michael Jackson on 31 August.

    They discussed the stalemate in Rahovec, where ethnic

    Albanian civilians have blocked the main road for more than

    one week in an effort to prevent Russian peacekeepers from

    taking up positions in the town. Thaci is slated to make a

    speech in Rahovec on 1 September. He later leaves on a trip

    to five European capitals, AP reported. PM

    [17] SCHARPING: KFOR TO STAY FOR FIVE YEARS

    German Defense

    Minister Rudolf Scharping said in Dresden on 31 August that

    he expects Germany's peacekeepers to remain in Kosova for

    approximately five years. Germany contributes 8,500

    soldiers to the 40,000-strong force. The Germans control

    KFOR's southwestern sector, which is centered on Prizren.

    PM

    [18] KOUCHNER SWEARS IN NEW KOSOVA JUDGES...

    Kouchner swore in

    seven new judges and two prosecutors in Mitrovica on 31

    August. He stressed the need to build up a completely new

    legal and judicial system in the province. Kouchner argued

    that Kosova needs laws in line with "international

    conventions, including that on human rights." He ruled out

    a return to the previous Serbian legal system, which

    discriminated against ethnic Albanians. PM

    [19] ...BUT FORGETS ESCORT FOR COUNCIL MEMBERS

    Kouchner said in

    Prishtina on 1 September that Serbian representatives did

    not attend a meeting of his advisory council that morning

    because he forgot to send them an escort. He stressed: "It

    was my mistake." Turning to other topics, he said he will

    dispatch an international police force to Rahovec. However,

    he did not elaborate, AP reported. PM

    [20] WHY DID HOLBROOKE SKIP ALBANIA?

    U.S. Ambassador to the UN

    Richard Holbrooke cancelled a planned trip from Prishtina

    to Tirana on 31 August. He flew instead to Skopje and then

    to Sarajevo. In the Macedonian capital, he met with

    President Kiro Gligorov and praised Gligorov's policies for

    having kept Macedonia out of war. A spokeswoman for

    Holbrooke said that he cancelled the trip to Albania

    because of heavy rain. In Tirana, opposition spokesmen said

    that the real reason was because of dissatisfaction with

    the Albanian government or because of security concerns.

    Observers note that regional media have been speculating

    for days as to what the "real mission" of Holbrooke in the

    Balkans might be. His sudden cancellation of a key segment

    of his trip is bound to fuel further speculation about

    possible changes in U.S. policy in the Balkans. PM

    [21] NORWAY DEMANDS MACEDONIA FREE PEACEKEEPER

    A Norwegian

    military spokesman told Reuters in Skopje on 31 August that

    the Norwegian government insists that the Macedonian

    authorities hand over to KFOR Military Police a Norwegian

    KFOR soldier they are holding (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31

    August 1999). Macedonian Deputy Justice Minister Rubin

    Dvojkov told the news agency, however, that the government

    will treat the soldier as any other foreigner who breaks

    Macedonian law. The minister argued that the soldier is

    part of KFOR and based in Kosova and therefore not covered

    under an agreement between Macedonia and NATO regarding

    peacekeepers based in Macedonia. PM

    [22] DID MILOSEVIC HEAD FOR THE HILLS?

    Miki Janosevic, who is

    president of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement in

    the eastern Serbian town of Bor, told the private Beta news

    agency on 31 August that Milosevic has spent the past two

    months at his home on a nearby mountain close to the town

    of Zlot. Janosevic added that Zlot has been under tight

    police security controls during that time. He said

    Milosevic has made the mountain residence his permanent

    home and travels to Belgrade only for meetings. PM

    [23] DJUKANOVIC BLASTS 'DICTATORSHIP'

    Montenegrin President

    Milo Djukanovic said in Athens on 30 August that federal

    Yugoslavia "is ruled by the dictatorship of one man,"

    namely Milosevic. In Podgorica, a spokesman for Djukanovic

    called for Serbia and Montenegro to compete separately in

    international sporting events, RFE/RL's South Slavic

    Service reported on 31 August. PM

    [24] TALIC PLEADS 'NOT GUILTY'

    Bosnian Serb General Momir Talic

    pleaded "not guilty" to charges of war crimes at the Hague-

    based tribunal on 31 August (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31

    August 1999). PM

    [25] MUSLIMS WITHDRAWING SUPPORT FROM DODIK?

    A spokesman for the

    mainly Muslim Coalition for a Single and Democratic Bosnia-

    Herzegovina told Reuters in Sarajevo on 31 August that the

    coalition "has decided to withdraw" its parliamentary

    backing from the moderate Republika Srpska Prime Minister

    Milorad Dodik. The coalition wants Dodik to give it some

    cabinet posts and to speed up the return of non-Serbian

    refugees to their pre-1992 homes as a condition for

    continuing support. The news agency suggested, however,

    that the coalition has no real intention of abandoning

    Dodik lest he join forces with Serbian hard-liners. Reuters

    quoted an unnamed Western diplomat as saying that "I don't

    think we've heard the last" about the coalition's

    bargaining with Dodik. PM

    [26] SLOVENIAN POLICE HOLD GREENPEACE ACTIVISTS

    Slovenian

    police on 1 September detained 16 Greenpeace members who

    tried to block the shipment of a 666-ton generator from the

    port of Koper to the nuclear power plant at Krsko. The 16

    included 12 Austrians, two Swiss, one Slovak, and one

    Slovene, AP reported. Police in Postojna charged them with

    blocking traffic. An Austrian Greenpeace spokesman told

    Reuters that Krsko is a "time bomb...for Central Europe"

    because it lies close to a major geological fault line. The

    generator will extend the life of the communist-era nuclear

    plant until 2023. PM

    [27] WORLD BANK APPROVES ROMANIAN LOAN

    The World Bank on 31

    August approved a $44.5 million loan for closing down 29

    loss-making mines in Romania, an RFE/RL correspondent in

    Washington reported. The bank said the loan is intended to

    help reduce the burden on the national budget. Some of the

    money is to be used to provide compensation for laid-off

    miners. MS

    [28] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT USES NEW DESIGNATION FOR STATE

    LANGUAGE...

    In a speech delivered on the occasion of

    Moldova's Language Day, Petru Lucinschi on 31 August for

    the first time spoke of "our Romanian language" RFE/RL's

    Chisinau bureau reported. "Moldovan" remains the official

    designation for the country's state language. MS

    [29] ...BUT SAYS 'NO SPECIAL RELATIONS' WITH ROMANIA

    In an

    interview with the Hungarian daily "Nepszabadsag" on 31

    August, Lucinschi said that although Moldova and Romania

    have a "nearly identical" language, culture, and tradition,

    these are insufficient to "transform our relationship into

    a special one," as "some Romanians would like." He said

    that raising the status of Moldova's relations with Romania

    to a "special one" might "irritate" the 35 percent of the

    Moldovan population who belong to the country's national

    minorities, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Reports in

    the Romanian press say Bucharest wants mention of a

    "special relationship" to be included in the pending basic

    treaty between the two countries. MS

    [30] BULGARIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS PROMPT PARTY REALIGNMENT

    Socialist Party (BSP) leader Georgi Parvanov said in the

    second round of the local elections scheduled for October,

    his party will back opposition candidates who fare better

    than BSP ones, BTA reported on 30 August. He said he

    believes that cooperation between the BSP, the Euro-Left,

    the Social Democracy Union, and the Movement for Rights and

    Freedoms will bring about the defeat of the ruling United

    Democratic Forces. On 31 August, BTA quoted BSP spokesman

    Angel Naidenov as saying that in the first round the BSP

    will field Socialist candidates for 121 mayoralties. It

    will also support candidates for 28 mayoralties who run in

    coalition with other parties and candidates for 11

    mayoralties who are nominated by other opposition parties.

    MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [31] HUNGARIAN 'BUNDISM': CAN IT WORK?

    by Michael Shafir

    When Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said at the

    19 August inauguration of the Office for Hungarians Beyond

    Borders that "all citizens of Hungary and Hungarians beyond

    its borders are members of a single and indivisible

    nation," many must have recalled the late Joszef Antall's

    1991 statement that he was not merely the premier of

    Hungary but of "15 million Hungarians." Foreign Minister

    Janos Martonyi commented the next day that the government

    "does not want to change borders, but the nature of

    borders."

    Changing the nature of borders, as envisaged by the

    Hungarian government, has to do with the link between

    Magyars beyond borders and "territorial Hungary" or, in

    other words, ethnic Hungarians' relationship to their "kin-

    state." As Orban told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung"

    on 26 August, this kinship must extend beyond the envisaged

    European integration. The Hungarians, he said, are "a small

    nation, culturally unrelated to any other in Europe." Their

    language makes them "conscious on a daily basis" that

    "despite their European allies, they are nonetheless

    alone."

    Without naming it by name, Orban was, in fact,

    speaking about "ethnicity." But how can ethnicity survive

    in a context of renouncing territorial claims and of an

    integrated Europe in which the dominant nations will likely

    be the larger and economically stronger entities?

    The Hungarian solution, as it has evolved over the

    last several years, could be said to be a "Bundist" one.

    Unlike Zionism, which offered a political solution to the

    Jewish national identity problem, Bundism sought at the

    turn of the century to provide a cultural solution.

    Preserving a separate identity (based on the Yiddish

    language) in a multinational environment of shared

    socialist values was how the Jewish socialist Bundists

    envisaged their future in Russia, Poland, and other places.

    The Jewish-Hungarian parallel can be drawn further. The

    extreme nationalist Justice and Life Party and some

    irredentist Hungarian emigres could be viewed as the

    Hungarian version of "revisionist" Zionism, for which only

    a Jewish state established within its biblical borders can

    redress "historical injustice."

    Why a "Zionist" solution is unacceptable to the

    Budapest leadership is not difficult to understand. Not

    only would the mass immigration of ethnic Hungarians from

    Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, and Ukraine plunge Hungary's

    economy into havoc; nothing would be more welcome to the

    nationalists in those countries than this elegant form of

    "ethnic cleansing." "Let my people stay," rather than "Let

    my people go," is the plea in the Orban-conducted Hungarian

    choir.

    Safeguarding ethnicity while foregoing irredentism

    requires, however, political and social instruments. The

    participation of parties representing ethnic Hungarians in

    ruling coalitions (as in the case of Romania since 1996 and

    of Slovakia since 1998) and the envisaged participation of

    such parties in an autonomous Vojvodina government could be

    viewed as a device for representing specific ethnic

    interests while sharing the burden of responsibility for

    the general (Romanian, Slovak, Vojvodinian) interest. Yet

    ethnicity in a multicultural environment lives, agonizes or

    dies on the "periphery", not at the center.

    To be able to use a minority language in arguing with

    a policeman writing a traffic ticket and to post local

    council decisions in such a language ("local autonomy"); to

    self-manage funds for cultural preservation in areas with a

    large minority population ("territorial autonomy"); and to

    participate in electing minority representatives regardless

    of place of residence ("personal autonomy")--all are as

    important for the survival of ethnicity as is access to

    higher education in minority languages.

    This three-pronged autonomy concept developed by the

    Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania comes close to

    offering a "Bundist" solution. Budapest embraced it as a

    possible solution for Vojvodina Hungarians, and it is

    likely to "spill over" into Slovakia soon.

    Can "Hungarian Bundism" work? There is one possible

    precedent--interwar Estonia, where Germans, Jews, and

    Russians, though territorially scattered, were allowed to

    establish self-governing bodies with powers over culture

    and education, as well as some limited taxation capacity.

    Like the Jewish Bundists, the Estonians were influenced by

    the ideas of Karl Renner and Otto Bauer. But for "Hungarian

    Bundism" to work in post-communist Central and Eastern

    Europe, numerous problems would have to be overcome.

    First, the envisaged solution is unacceptable not only

    to the Romanian, Slovak, or Serbian partisans of "exclusive

    nationalism"--for whom ethnic minorities are "historical

    intruders" without entitlement to any rights--but also to

    the more moderate "inclusive nationalists." The latter

    accept equality of rights but reject any form of "positive

    discrimination," without which ethnicity islands cannot

    survive.

    Second, the "Bundist" solution might well suit the

    economically and culturally more developed ethnic

    Hungarians, but they are not the only minority around. And

    unlike in interwar Estonia, levels of national minorities'

    social development are strikingly unequal.

    Can "Bundism" be applied unilaterally? What about the

    Roma, for instance? Would the solution not exacerbate,

    rather than alleviate, divisions among the already overly

    partitioned Romany political representation? And does it

    not carry the risk of offering the Roma that "Birobidjan-

    like" solution that racialists advocate when wanting to

    send them off to enclaves?

    Zionism continues to pay a heavy price for ignoring

    the realities of "the others." It would be tragic if the

    revived "Bundism" made the same mistake.

    01-09-99


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


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