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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 198, 99-10-11

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. 198, 11 October 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT AGAIN PLEDGES NO INTERFERENCE IN ELECTION
  • [02] ARMENIA PROPOSES PAN-ARMENIAN TV STATION
  • [03] AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION CONVENES DEMONSTRATION
  • [04] AZERBAIJANI COURT RULES NEWSPAPER SLANDERED OPPOSITION
  • [05] GEORGIA BEGINS REGISTERING REFUGEES FROM CHECHNYA...
  • [06] ...AS CHECHEN OFFICIAL CLAIMS GEORGIAN MILITARY SUPPLIED ARMS
  • [07] KAZAKHSTAN HOLDS PARLIAMENTARY, LOCAL ELECTIONS
  • [08] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT WRAPS UP IRAN VISIT
  • [09] U.S. SEEKS TO WIN KAZAKH COMMITMENT TO BAKU-CEYHAN
  • [10] ...WHILE ASTANA FAVORS DIVERSIFICATION
  • [11] KYRGYZSTAN'S PRESIDENT VISITS SOUTH...
  • [12] ...AS NEGOTIATIONS ON HOSTAGES' RELEASE CONTINUE
  • [13] RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS CONDEMN AFGHAN SHELLING OF TAJIK

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [14] FATE OF ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT UNCERTAIN
  • [15] ALBANIAN POLICE PLEDGE TO FIGHT ORGANIZED CRIME
  • [16] LEADING SERBIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES TO BOYCOTT EU MEETING
  • [17] HOW MANY SERBS WILL ATTEND?
  • [18] EU TELLS SERBIA: NO MAJOR AID WITH MILOSEVIC
  • [19] DRASKOVIC DEMANDS 'RESULTS' ON ACCIDENT
  • [20] SOCCER FANS PELT OPPOSITION LEADERS WITH BEER CANS
  • [21] SERBIAN AGENTS INTO KOSOVA?
  • [22] KOSOVARS REBURY MASSACRE VICTIMS
  • [23] BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT SLAMS MILOSEVIC MEETING
  • [24] TUDJMAN'S PARTY BLOCKS AGREEMENT ON ELECTORAL LAW
  • [25] FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT NOMINATED AS 2000 CANDIDATE
  • [26] MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY LEADERS ASK LUCINSCHI TO FOREGO
  • [27] BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS NATIONALISM 'USELESS'

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [28] SHADOWS OF STATUES

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT AGAIN PLEDGES NO INTERFERENCE IN ELECTION

    OF CATHOLICOS

    Meeting on 8 October with members of the board

    of the Republican Party of Armenia, one of the partners in

    the majority Miasnutyun coalition, Robert Kocharian again

    ruled out any interference by the Armenian leadership in the

    election later this month of a new head of the Armenian

    Apostolic Church, Noyan Tapan reported. Several senior

    clerics have recently claimed that the Armenian leadership

    has made clear that it wants the present archbishop of the

    Ararat diocese elected to that post (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"

    29 September and 8 October 1999). Kocharian also called for

    "every effort" to be made to preclude fraud, violence, or

    falsification during local elections scheduled for 24

    October. Candidates from Miasnutyun heavily outnumber

    opposition candidates in the elections for heads of 936 towns

    and villages, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

    [02] ARMENIA PROPOSES PAN-ARMENIAN TV STATION

    Armenian state

    television has submitted to the government plans to create a

    diaspora-funded "pan-Armenian television channel," RFE/RL's

    Yerevan bureau reported on 8 October. The proposal was

    endorsed by all participants at the Armenia-diaspora

    conference held in Yerevan last month. Armenian state

    television director Tigran Naghdalian estimated the cost of

    launching the channel at $7 million. He added that at present

    Armenian state television can be accessed with satellite

    dishes in Europe and the Middle East but that his top

    priority is to extend its range to North America. LF

    [03] AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION CONVENES DEMONSTRATION

    Some 5,000

    people attended a 9 October rally on the outskirts of Baku to

    protest the Azerbaijani leadership's Karabakh policy, ITAR-

    TASS and Turan reported. Participants adopted a 16-point

    resolution calling, among other things, for Armenian

    compliance with UN Security Council resolutions on Karabakh;

    the repatriation to Armenia of Azerbaijani refugees and the

    creation of an autonomous formation for them; stripping

    Russia, which is seen as pro-Armenian, of its the co-

    chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group; and barring the

    leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic from

    participating in the peace process. The demonstrators also

    condemned the Baku police's intervention on 9 October to halt

    broadcasting by the private Sara TV station, Turan reported.

    On 8 October, Sara TV had broadcast an appeal by two

    opposition party leaders to take part in the rally. LF

    [04] AZERBAIJANI COURT RULES NEWSPAPER SLANDERED OPPOSITION

    LEADER

    A Baku district court has ordered "Yeni Azerbaycan,"

    the newspaper of the eponymous ruling party, to apologize to

    opposition Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar. It also order

    the newspaper to publish a refutation of two articles it

    printed in July and August 1999 alleging that Gambar and his

    brother Rovshan have connections with the Kurdistan Workers'

    Party (PKK), Turan reported on 8 October. LF

    [05] GEORGIA BEGINS REGISTERING REFUGEES FROM CHECHNYA...

    The

    Georgian authorities will begin formally registering refugees

    from Chechnya on 11 October, Caucasus Press reported. Since

    26 September, an estimated 1,500 people have fled south from

    Chechnya into Georgia; some 500 of those people are Georgian

    citizens who had earlier sought employment in Chechnya. An

    unspecified number of the refugees have traveled from Georgia

    to Azerbaijan or Turkey. Also on 11 October, Georgian

    President Eduard Shevardnadze said in his weekly radio

    broadcast, that "there are no misunderstandings" between

    Moscow and Tbilisi over Chechnya thanks to talks between

    Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze and Russian

    Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Interfax on 9 October

    similarly quoted Shevardnadze's adviser Levan Aleksidze as

    affirming that "Georgia wants to maintain friendly relations

    with Russia while refraining from a quarrel with the Chechen

    people and their President Aslan Maskhadov." LF

    [06] ...AS CHECHEN OFFICIAL CLAIMS GEORGIAN MILITARY SUPPLIED ARMS

    TO CHECHNYA

    Newly appointed Chechen State Council Chairman

    Malik Saidullaev told journalists in Moscow on 8 October that

    he has information that arms were airlifted from Georgia to

    Chechnya by helicopters with Georgian Defense Ministry

    markings, ITAR-TASS reported. But Colonel General Leonid

    Ivashev, who heads the Russian Defense Ministry's Department

    for International Military Cooperation, told Interfax the

    same day that "one cannot speak of a mass flow of

    mercenaries" from Georgia and Azerbaijan to Chechnya. Ivashev

    said both those countries' leaderships appreciate the danger

    posed by terrorism and extremism and are taking all possible

    measures to tighten control over their borders and preclude

    the transit of terrorists to Russia. LF

    [07] KAZAKHSTAN HOLDS PARLIAMENTARY, LOCAL ELECTIONS

    Some 61.5

    percent of Kazakhstan's 8 million voters participated in the

    10 October elections to the lower chamber of the parliament

    and to city and local councils, ITAR-TASS reported, quoting

    an unnamed Central Electoral Commission official. A total of

    65 candidates representing nine political parties contested

    the 10 seats that are to be allocated under the proportional

    system, while 484 candidates competed for 67 seats in single-

    mandate constituencies. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 6 October

    cited a recent opinion poll suggesting that the pro-

    presidential OTAN party enjoys 23.6 percent support, followed

    by the Civic Party (8.6 percent), the Communist Party (8.1

    percent), and the Agrarians (3.4 percent). LF

    [08] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT WRAPS UP IRAN VISIT

    During his visit

    to Iran from 5-7 October, Nursultan Nazarbaev held talks with

    his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Hatami, on bilateral and

    regional cooperation and bilateral economic ties, Interfax

    reported. The two presidents expressed concern that bilateral

    trade fell from $160 million in 1997 to $120 million the

    following year, and they discussed increasing sales to Iran

    of Kazakhstan's oil, metals, coke and grain. Kazakh officials

    expressed preliminary approval of plans to expand oil

    exchanges whereby Kazakhstan delivers crude to northern Iran

    and takes delivery of refined oil at the Persian Gulf, but

    they noted that the price Iran is demanding for transporting

    that oil is "too high," according to Interfax. Plans were

    also approved on the supply of electricity from Kazakhstan

    via Iran to Turkey. Nazarbaev is reported to have visited the

    mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini. LF

    [09] U.S. SEEKS TO WIN KAZAKH COMMITMENT TO BAKU-CEYHAN

    PIPELINE...

    U.S. State Department special envoy for Caspian

    energy issues John Wolf told journalists in Astana on 8

    October that the U.S. wants Kazakhstan to play "a major role"

    in the development of the planned Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline

    for Caspian oil, Interfax reported. Wolf said he told

    President Nazarbaev that that pipeline would enable

    Kazakhstan to begin developing new oilfields and expand

    production at those currently operating. But in order to

    export oil via that pipeline, Kazakhstan would have to

    transport crude to Baku by tanker or a Trans-Caspian oil

    pipeline would have to be built in tandem with the planned

    Tras-Caspian gas pipeline. LF

    [10] ...WHILE ASTANA FAVORS DIVERSIFICATION

    Also on 8 October,

    Kazakhstan's acting Deputy Foreign Minister Medina

    Djarbusynova told a meeting of Caspian oil and gas sector

    executives in Astana that Kazakhstan takes a "pragmatic and

    non-political approach" to the export of hydrocarbons by

    multiple pipelines. Acting Energy, Industry and Trade

    Minister Mukhtar Ablyazov told the same gathering that by

    2010, the member state of the Economic Cooperation

    Organization will become a major producer of oil. LF

    [11] KYRGYZSTAN'S PRESIDENT VISITS SOUTH...

    Askar Akaev traveled

    on 9 October to the Batken and Leilek Raions of southern

    Kyrgyzstan, the scene of hostilities over the past two months

    between government troops and ethnic Uzbek guerrillas who

    continue to hold 13 hostages, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau

    reported. Akaev told local officials that raising the status

    of those two raions and another district to that of an oblast

    will strengthen security in the region. He called for the

    swiftest possible expulsion of the guerrillas from Kyrgyz

    territory, warning that intelligence reports indicate that up

    to 5,000 guerrillas could enter Kyrgyzstan next spring,

    according to Interfax. But the previous day, General Abdygul

    Khotbaev, who commands the Kyrgyz troops deployed in the

    south, said that he cannot begin military operations against

    the guerrillas without endangering the hostages, AP and ITAR-

    TASS reported. Khotbaev accused Tajikistan of failing to take

    any measures to prevent gunmen and arms entering Kyrgyzstan

    from Tajik territory. LF

    [12] ...AS NEGOTIATIONS ON HOSTAGES' RELEASE CONTINUE

    Kyrgyz

    parliamentary deputy Tursunbai Bakir Uulu met with

    representatives of the United Tajik Opposition in Tajikistan

    on 9 October to enlist their help in securing the release of

    the hostages, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. UTO leader

    Said Abdullo Nuri had assured Japan's ambassador to Dushanbe

    the previous day that he is willing to try to assist in

    negotiating the release of the four Japanese geologists among

    the 13 hostages. A second mediator, human rights activist

    Tursunbek Akunov, returned to Bishkek on 9 October following

    an abortive trip to Pakistan, where he failed to establish

    contact with members of the exiled Islamic Movement of

    Uzbekistan which masterminded the hostage-takings. LF

    [13] RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS CONDEMN AFGHAN SHELLING OF TAJIK

    TERRITORY

    A spokesman for the Russian Border Guards

    contingent deployed along Tajikistan's frontier with

    Afghanistan expressed concern on 8 October over the recent

    explosion in Tajikistan of a mine and eight tank shells fired

    from Afghan territory amid the ongoing fighting between

    Taliban and Northern Alliance forces, ITAR-TASS reported. Two

    shells exploded on the Tajik side of the border late on 8

    October. No one was injured in any of the explosions. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [14] FATE OF ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT UNCERTAIN

    By a vote of 295 to

    261, Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano won re-election in a

    challenge by Prime Minister Pandeli Majko in Tirana on 10

    October. Majko had previously said he would resign from the

    government if he failed to defeat Nano. But party officials

    told Reuters that Majko may reconsider in view of the narrow

    margin of his defeat. Observers suggested that Nano managed

    to hold on to power because of his control over extensive

    patronage networks. Similar ties recently enabled Democratic

    Party leader Sali Berisha to win re-election as well. Many

    Albanians and foreigners blame the rivalry between and

    authoritarian leadership styles of Berisha and Nano for the

    polarization of political life. FS/PM

    [15] ALBANIAN POLICE PLEDGE TO FIGHT ORGANIZED CRIME

    Interior

    Minister Spartak Poci said on 8 October that the police will

    spare no efforts in their fight against powerful and often

    elusive criminal gangs. He noted, however, that "there has

    been a lot of pressure from some state officials to release

    some gangsters after the police have arrested them," dpa

    reported. Poci did not elaborate. He noted that a team of

    U.S. experts will soon arrive in Albania to instruct police,

    and that some Albanian police will receive training in the

    U.S. Meanwhile, a bomb damaged a central Tirana bar popular

    with Socialist leaders. No one was injured. PM

    [16] LEADING SERBIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES TO BOYCOTT EU MEETING

    Spokesmen for the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) and the

    Democratic Party said in Belgrade on 11 October that their

    respective parties will not attend a meeting with EU foreign

    ministers later that day in Luxembourg, RFE/RL's South Slavic

    Service reported. The spokesmen said they object to EU

    demands that they promise to extradite to The Hague Yugoslav

    President Slobodan Milosevic and other indicted war criminals

    once the opposition comes to power. An SPO spokesman told the

    BBC that if the opposition parties agree to the EU's demands,

    they will open themselves to charges by Milosevic and his

    supporters that they have betrayed fellow Serbs to Western

    countries. The previous day, the pro-Milosevic "Politika"

    accused prospective participants in the Luxembourg meeting of

    being "puppets" of the Western countries that bombed Serbian

    targets in the spring. Observers note the opposition needs

    financial, political, and technical support from abroad to

    wage a successful election campaign. PM

    [17] HOW MANY SERBS WILL ATTEND?

    Spokesmen for the Serbian

    Orthodox Church said in Belgrade on 11 October that the

    Church will not send representatives to Luxembourg. They said

    the reason is that the Church leadership has yet to discuss

    the EU's invitation to attend the gathering, RFE/RL's South

    Slavic Service reported. In Podgorica, Prime Minister Filip

    Vujanovic said that he and Foreign Minister Branko Perovic

    will represent Montenegro at the gathering. The EU had

    invited President Milo Djukanovic, who is an outspoken critic

    of Milosevic, to head the Montenegrin delegation. In

    Belgrade, an unnamed Serbian opposition politician told AP on

    11 October that Washington pressured the EU into demanding

    that the Serbian opposition pledge to extradite war

    criminals. But representatives of several smaller opposition

    groups stressed that they will go to Luxembourg in any event.

    PM

    [18] EU TELLS SERBIA: NO MAJOR AID WITH MILOSEVIC

    British Foreign

    Secretary Robin Cook told the private Serbian news agency

    Beta that the U.K. "remains firmly resolved not to make

    Milosevic's position easier.... Serbia should not expect any

    significant help in reconstruction so long as Milosevic is in

    power," AP reported on 11 October. In Bari, Bodo Hombach, who

    is the coordinator for the EU's Balkan Stabilization Pact,

    said two days earlier that the EU does not want to isolate

    Serbia but that it is increasingly impatient for change

    there. Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema said that the

    international community should have acted to isolate

    Milosevic earlier than it did. The Italian leader stressed

    that Serbia is welcome to become a major actor in Balkan

    affairs again but only once it is no longer led by indicted

    war criminals. PM

    [19] DRASKOVIC DEMANDS 'RESULTS' ON ACCIDENT

    SPO leader Vuk

    Draskovic said in Belgrade on 9 October that he may "take

    matters into my own hands" if the authorities do not quickly

    identify and punish those responsible for the recent traffic

    accident that he says was an attempt to kill him (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 8 October 1999). He said the police report on the

    accident is a cover-up. Police officials claim that Draskovic

    and his colleagues were driving at 150 kilometers per hour

    and were thereby at least partially responsible for the

    deaths of four of his party. The police have yet to identify

    the driver or owner of the truck that swerved in front of the

    SPO leader. PM

    [20] SOCCER FANS PELT OPPOSITION LEADERS WITH BEER CANS

    Some

    20,000 people crowded central Belgrade on 9 October to

    celebrate the Yugoslav national team's 2-2 draw against

    Croatia in Zagreb in the qualifying match for the European

    cup championships. The draw enables Yugoslavia to advance to

    the next stage in the play-offs. Leaders of the opposition

    Alliance for Change led 5,000 people through the streets in

    an anti-Milosevic protest that merged with the crowds

    celebrating the soccer victory. Soccer fans then threw beer

    cans at several opposition politicians who tried to speak to

    the gathering. In Zagreb, police arrested 69 persons in

    conjunction with post-match violence, which resulted in

    damage to 11 trams and one bus. PM

    [21] SERBIAN AGENTS INTO KOSOVA?

    A spokesman for the Kosovar

    provisional government, which is sponsored by the former

    Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said in Prishtina on 10 October

    that Serbian secret services are attempting to destabilize

    Kosova. He charged that the agents provocateurs have recently

    arrived in the province in ever increasing numbers. He added

    that the Yugoslav army has failed to respect the

    demilitarization of the border region between Serbia and

    Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

    [22] KOSOVARS REBURY MASSACRE VICTIMS

    Some 500 ethnic Albanians

    attended the reburial of 27 people in Plocica on 9 October.

    Uniformed, armed leaders of the newly formed Kosova

    Protection Force, who are former UCK officers, addressed the

    gathering. Serbian forces shot 13 of the victims at short

    range after they fled the shelling of their village in 1998.

    PM

    [23] BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT SLAMS MILOSEVIC MEETING

    The office

    of caretaker Prime Minister Milorad Dodik issued a statement

    on 10 October saying that the government does not approve of

    the recent meeting of three Bosnian Serb leaders with

    Milosevic. The three are parliamentary speaker Petar Djokic,

    ousted Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen, and Zivko

    Radisic, who is the Serbian representative on the Bosnian

    joint presidency. PM

    [24] TUDJMAN'S PARTY BLOCKS AGREEMENT ON ELECTORAL LAW

    Officials

    of the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) on 8

    October rejected an opposition request that top officials of

    state-run television resign their membership in the HDZ. The

    opposition has demanded the depoliticization of the only

    nationwide television broadcaster as a key component of

    electoral law reform. Opposition parties and foreign

    observers agree that state-run television broadcasts are

    heavily biased in favor of President Franjo Tudjman and the

    HDZ. PM

    [25] FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT NOMINATED AS 2000 CANDIDATE

    The

    opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) voted

    at the party's national conference on 9 October to nominate

    former President Ion Iliescu as its candidate in next year's

    presidential elections, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.

    Iliescu promised that when the PDSR returns to power, it will

    "not replace today's profiteers with its own." He harshly

    attacked the ruling coalition's economic policy and warned

    PDSR members against the "dangers of euphoria" over polls

    predicting the party's return to power in 2000. Adrian

    Nastase, who was re-elected PDSR first deputy chairman, said

    the party intends to "stop the process of de-

    industrialization and revise the role of the state in the

    economy." MS

    [26] MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY LEADERS ASK LUCINSCHI TO FOREGO

    CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

    The leaders of the four parliamentary

    groups have called on President Petru Lucinschi to give up

    his plan to revise the constitution and introduce a

    presidential system, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 8

    October. The appeal was signed by For a Democratic and

    Prosperous Moldova Bloc leader Dumitru Diacov, Democratic

    Convention of Moldova leader Mircea Snegur, Party of

    Democratic Forces Chairman Valeriu Matei, and Communist

    leader Vladimir Voronin. The four warned that "society is

    being dragged into hot debates that only amplify political

    confrontation, inflicting considerable damage on the country

    and its international prestige." MS

    [27] BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS NATIONALISM 'USELESS'

    Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova, addressing students in

    Blagoevgrad on 8 October, said the Kosova conflict has

    demonstrated that it is not enough for Bulgaria to be "an

    enclave of stability in the region," BTA reported. She noted

    that the country must be "surrounded by stable, democratic

    countries" to avoid being held "hostage" to its neighbors'

    problems. In the new context of European integration, she

    continued, "nationalism is useless" because it "gives the

    false impression of protecting national interests" but in

    fact jeopardizes them. She pointed to the example of

    neighboring Serbia: "The more Serbian public opinion was

    pushed to uphold the slogan 'One country for all Serbs,' the

    more disunited the Serbs became. The more the idea of Great

    Serbia was raised, the less plausible it grew." MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [28] SHADOWS OF STATUES

    by Michael Shafir

    During a visit to Bucharest in late July, Hungarian

    Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi agreed with his Romanian

    counterpart, Andrei Plesu, on a symbolic gesture: a

    "historical reconciliation park" would be set up in the

    Transylvanian town of Arad, and its foundation stone would be

    jointly laid by the two countries' premiers.

    Moreover, the park would include both a monument

    commemorating 13 Hungarian generals executed in Arad by the

    Austrians in 1849 and statues of Romanian historical figures

    in Transylvania. Martonyi had raised the issue of the

    monument with Plesu, emphasizing its considerable historical

    significance to Hungarians. Plesu, one of the more

    enlightened members of the government, readily obliged. The

    agreement was reconfirmed at a meeting in Timisoara of the

    two countries' justice ministers, Valeriu Stoica and Ibolya

    David, who announced that the foundation stone would be laid

    on 6 October, the 150th anniversary of the generals'

    execution.

    Bucharest and Budapest apparently overlooked two "small

    details": the part of the continent in which the neighboring

    states are located and the timing. As Timothy Garton Ash

    recently remarked in an interview on German television, when

    Americans say "that is history," they mean that things have

    lost their relevance. When it comes to Eastern Europe, Ash

    remarked, "that is history" means that trouble is around the

    corner.

    Indeed, the manipulation of history has a long tradition

    in Eastern Europe. When an election is looming, as is the

    case in Romania, such manipulation is bound to be an almost

    irresistible temptation.

    The monument to the generals is also history. Known as

    "Hungarian Liberty," it is composed of a group of statues of

    the 13 generals, whom Hungarians consider to be the "martyrs"

    of their nation. The monument is the work of sculptor Gyorgy

    Zala and was unveiled in Arad in 1890.

    The trouble is that one nation's "martyrs" are the

    other's "villains." The Transylvanian Romanians fought on the

    side of the Austrians for most of the 1848-1849 Hungarian

    "liberation war." After World War 1, when the region became

    part of Romania, the National Liberal Party government of

    Ionel I. C. Bratianu decided in 1924 to dismantle the

    monument, on the grounds that the generals had massacred some

    40,000 ethnic Romanians, which the Hungarians vehemently

    deny.

    Since then, the monument has been stored in a military

    fort and has deteriorated considerably. Its restoration may

    take as long as three years.

    For some time, both the ruling coalition parties--with

    the inevitable exception of the Hungarian Democratic

    Federation of Romania--and the nationalist opposition have

    been courting the ethnic Romanian electorate in Transylvania

    ahead of the 2000 elections. The opposition could not

    possibly miss an opportunity to outbid the coalition.

    Ever ready to contribute to the minimization of the

    Holocaust, Greater Romania Party (PRM) leader Corneliu Vadim

    Tudor said that the intention to open the park and reinstate

    the monument is comparable to "demanding that the Jews erect

    a statue of Hitler at the Auschwitz concentration camp." The

    Party of Romanian National Unity "firmly condemned" the

    agreement, saying it is "humiliating...for the Romanians'

    national dignity.'" The Alliance for Romania commented that

    it was "surprised by the tactless decision," which

    "undermines the [Romanian-Hungarian] reconciliation spirit,

    since it may create inter-ethnic tensions." And the Romanian

    National Party announced that it opposes reinstating "the

    Greater Hungary monument" in Arad "or anywhere else in

    Romania."

    The main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania

    (PDSR), as usual jumping on the nationalist band wagon when

    it serves its purposes, said the monument has a "profound

    anti-national and anti-Romanian character." PDSR First Deputy

    Chairman Adrian Nastase accused the ruling coalition of being

    "an accomplice in serving the interests of Hungarian

    revisionism." PDSR leader and former President Ion Iliescu,

    for his part, warned Vasile to stay away from the ceremony,

    claiming that the Hungarians are "setting a trap" to make

    claims on Transylvania.

    The main blow, however, came from the Democratic Party,

    a member of the ruling coalition. The Democrats said that

    reinstating the monument would "bring back the tragic memory

    of a Transylvania where the national rights of Romanians were

    not recognized." More important, Democrats on the Arad town

    council joined the opposition in passing a resolution

    expressing opposition to making available the land earmarked

    for the park.

    In face of this opposition, Vasile backed down. Citing

    health reasons, he designated Stoica to represent him at the

    stone-laying ceremony. Orban, who on 5 October arrived in

    Arad and attended an evening function organized by the UDMR,

    left the same night, delegating David as a "fittingly

    appropriate" representation. Stoica responded the next

    morning by announcing that he would not be taking part in the

    ceremony and by designating the local prefect to represent

    the government.

    In the end, the ceremony of laying the foundation stone

    did not take place. What did take place, however, was a

    demonstration by PRM sympathizers, who heckled David and

    members of the Hungarian delegation as they left a church

    where they had attended Mass and as they laid wreaths at an

    obelisk dedicated to the generals' memory.

    Chanting nationalist slogans, the demonstrators were

    unlikely to have been impressed by the reaction of Plesu's

    ministry. Deeming "the manipulation of national sentiment for

    the purpose of building political capital" to be

    "irresponsible," spokeswoman Simona Miculescu said the two

    countries' relations must not be influenced by "fears of

    historical shadows or the shadows [cast by] statues." Perhaps

    they shouldn't, but they nonetheless are.

    11-10-99


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


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