Read the Convention Relating to the Regime of the Straits (24 July 1923) A)? GHT="50">
Compact version
Today's Suggestion
Read The "Macedonian Question" (by Maria Nystazopoulou-Pelekidou)
HomeAbout HR-NetNewsWeb SitesDocumentsOnline HelpUsage InformationContact us
Friday, 6 December 2019
 
News
  Latest News (All)
     From Greece
     From Cyprus
     From Europe
     From Balkans
     From Turkey
     From USA
  Announcements
  World Press
  News Archives
Web Sites
  Hosted
  Mirrored
  Interesting Nodes
Documents
  Special Topics
  Treaties, Conventions
  Constitutions
  U.S. Agencies
  Cyprus Problem
  Other
Services
  Personal NewsPaper
  Greek Fonts
  Tools
  F.A.Q.
 

RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 230, 99-11-29

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. 230, 29 November 1999 Report," Vol. 2, No. 46, 18 November

1999). LF

CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER CRITICIZED OVER ARMORED
  • [02] OFFICIALS DOWNPLAY GRENADE EXPLOSION AT RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN
  • [03] ARMENIAN COMMUNIST PARTY LEADER DIES
  • [04] AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENTIAL COUNCIL, OPPOSITION DEBATE OSCE
  • [05] AZERBAIJAN'S DEFENSE MINISTER CONCLUDES MOSCOW VISIT
  • [06] GEORGIAN, AZERBAIJANI OFFICIALS DISCUSS GAS EXPORTS
  • [07] GEORGIA CONTINUES TO DENY ABETTING CHECHENS
  • [08] NEW TERRORIST ATTACKS IN ABKHAZIA
  • [09] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT VISITS CHINA...
  • [10] ...COMMENTS ON RUSSIAN SEPARATIST ARRESTS
  • [11] KAZAKH MINISTER CLARIFIES STANCE ON TENGIZCHEVROIL STAKE
  • [12] KYRGYZ DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST CUT IN GAS SUPPLIES
  • [13] TAJIK GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION CLOSER TO AGREEMENT ON ELECTION
  • [14] ANOTHER RUSSIAN OFFICER SHOT DEAD IN TAJIKISTAN

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [15] MACEDONIAN COURT ORDERS PARTIAL REPEAT OF PRESIDENTIAL VOTE
  • [16] CROATIAN PRESIDENT'S CONDITION 'VERY GRAVE'
  • [17] CROATIA TO VOTE ON 3 JANUARY...
  • [18] ...AMID OPPOSITION PROTESTS
  • [19] CROATIAN POLICE ARREST 'MAFIA' LEADERS
  • [20] SERBIAN AUTHORITIES BLOCK FUEL OIL SHIPMENTS
  • [21] SERBIAN OPPOSITION SAYS MILOSEVIC PLAYING POLITICS WITH OIL
  • [22] BELGRADE CHARGES U.S. WITH 'MEDIA AGGRESSION'
  • [23] KOSOVARS CELEBRATE FLAG DAY
  • [24] KFOR CONDEMNS ATTACK ON SERBS
  • [25] BOSNIAN SERBS PHASE OUT YUGOSLAV DINAR
  • [26] ALBANIA TO SPEED UP PRIVATIZATION
  • [27] JAIL TERM FOR LEKA
  • [28] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS COUNTRY 'NEVER MORE SECURE'
  • [29] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT THREATENS TO DISSOLVE PARLIAMENT
  • [30] BULGARIAN ROMA DEPUTY SEEKING ASYLUM IN U.K.

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [31] BULGARIA AFTER CLINTON'S VISIT

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER CRITICIZED OVER ARMORED

    LIMOUSINE

    Armen Khachatrian, who was named early this month

    to succeed murdered Karen Demirchian as parliamentary

    speaker, refused on 25 November to yield to pressure from his

    People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) to replace an armored BMW

    limousine acquired for his personal use with a cheaper,

    Russian-manufactured vehicle, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau

    reported. Khachatrian argued that his personal security is

    paramount following the 27 October Armenian parliament

    shootings, in which he was wounded. He said he will seek

    donations to cover the cost of the car, rather than charge it

    to the national budget. Khachatrian had earlier said that the

    BMW cost only $75,000 rather than an estimated $265,000, but

    critics within the HZhK argued that even the lower sum is

    exorbitant. LF

    [02] OFFICIALS DOWNPLAY GRENADE EXPLOSION AT RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN

    YEREVAN

    Armenian and Russian authorities on 26 November

    opened a joint investigation into an incident the previous

    day in which a hand grenade was thrown at the Russian embassy

    building in Yerevan. The blast shattered windows but caused

    no injuries. Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ara Papyan

    on 26 November expressed regret at the incident, which

    occurred shortly before the arrival in Yerevan of Russian

    Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov. Both Papyan and his

    Russian counterpart, Vladimir Rakhmanin, said they do not

    expect the grenade attack to have a negative impact on

    relations between the two countries. LF

    [03] ARMENIAN COMMUNIST PARTY LEADER DIES

    Sergei Badalian, a

    career Communist Party official who headed the Communist

    Party of Armenia since 1994, died in Moscow of a heart attack

    on the night of 25 November, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau

    reported. Badalian, who was 52, unsuccessfully contested the

    Armenian presidential elections in 1996 and 1998. LF

    [04] AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENTIAL COUNCIL, OPPOSITION DEBATE OSCE

    SUMMIT

    During a seven-hour session on 24 November, the

    Azerbaijani presidential council acclaimed as "historic" the

    previous week's OSCE Istanbul summit, Turan reported. But

    neither President Heidar Aliev nor Foreign Minister Vilayat

    Guliev revealed any details of Aliev's various meetings in

    Istanbul to discuss the prospects for resolving the Karabakh

    conflict. Aliev, however, again ruled out the use of force to

    resolve the conflict, according to Interfax. Also on 24

    November, the Democratic Bloc of some 20 opposition

    parliamentary deputies issued a statement terming the summit

    "another defeat for Azerbaijani policy." The statement noted

    that the final declaration affirmed respect for the

    territorial integrity of Russia and Georgia but not that of

    Azerbaijan. On 25 November, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry

    issued a statement accusing the U.S. Congress of double

    standards in refusing to allocate financial aid to Azerbaijan

    while continuing to do so to Armenia, Reuters reported. LF

    [05] AZERBAIJAN'S DEFENSE MINISTER CONCLUDES MOSCOW VISIT

    Safar

    Abiev returned to Baku on 26 November after three days of

    talks in Moscow with Russian officials and his Armenian

    counterpart, Vagharshak Harutiunian, Turan reported. Those

    talks focused on the ongoing investigation into Russian arms

    deliveries to Armenia from1994-1996, which Abiev said are now

    deployed on Azerbaijani territory controlled by Armenian

    forces. The terms for Russia's continued leasing of the

    Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan also featured prominently

    on the agenda. The importance of that facility to Moscow will

    increase if the U.S. opts out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile

    Treaty, the agency noted. After meeting with Abiev on 25

    November, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev expressed his

    thanks for Azerbaijan's refusal to allow arms or mercenaries

    bound for Chechnya to enter Russia from Azerbaijani

    territory. The following day, Abiev and Russian Deputy

    Premier Ilya Klebanov discussed cooperation in military

    technology. LF

    [06] GEORGIAN, AZERBAIJANI OFFICIALS DISCUSS GAS EXPORTS

    On a

    one-day visit to Baku on 25 November, Georgian Minister of

    State Vazha Lortkipanidze discussed with President Aliev and

    Azerbaijani Premier Artur Rasizade the prospects for

    repairing the Kazi-Magomed-Kazakh-Tbilisi gas pipeline to

    allow Georgia to import an annual 400-500 million cubic

    meters of Azerbaijani natural gas, Caucasus Press reported.

    ITAR-TASS quoted Rasizade as estimating that such supplies

    could begin only in 12-18 months. LF

    [07] GEORGIA CONTINUES TO DENY ABETTING CHECHENS

    The Georgian

    Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 27 November rejecting

    as "open blackmail" statements made the previous day at a

    press conference in Moscow by Russian First Deputy Chief of

    General Staff Colonel-General Valerii Manilov, Caucasus Press

    reported. Manilov had told journalists that Chechen gunmen

    have opened a hospital and are setting up a satellite

    communications center on Georgian territory close to the

    border with Chechnya. The Georgian statement said Manilov's

    accusations were aimed at coercing Tbilisi to agree to joint

    patrols of the Chechen-Georgian frontier. The Georgian Border

    Service has also issued a statement denying Manilov's

    allegations. It also refuted repeated Russian reports that

    mercenaries and weapons are transported to Chechnya via

    Georgia. LF

    [08] NEW TERRORIST ATTACKS IN ABKHAZIA

    Two Russian peacekeepers

    and an Abkhaz policeman were killed and eight people wounded

    on 24 November when an armored personnel carrier hit a

    landmine in Abkhazia's Gali Raion, Caucasus Press reported.

    The previous day, a UNHCR official was wounded on 25 November

    when the car in which he was travelling was shot at in Gali,

    Caucasus Press reported. LF

    [09] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT VISITS CHINA...

    Visiting Beijing on

    23-24 November, Nursultan Nazarbaev met with his Chinese

    counterpart, Jiang Zemin, and signed a declaration on

    continuing bilateral cooperation in trade, technology

    transfers, ecology, and combating extremism, terrorism, and

    separatism. The two leaders also signed a communique noting

    that the process of demarcating the countries' 1,700

    kilometer joint border has been completed, Reuters and

    Interfax reported. Nazarbaev told journalists in Beijing on

    24 November that a 10-year economic cooperation program

    between the two countries is being drafted. He added that

    China reaffirmed its commitment to the 1997 agreement to

    build a 3,000 kilometer oil export pipeline from western

    Kazakhstan to western China. Kazakh officials had recently

    implied that Astana no longer believes that project is

    viable. The estimated cost of the project is $3-3.5 billion

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 August 1999). LF

    [10] ...COMMENTS ON RUSSIAN SEPARATIST ARRESTS

    Nazarbaev also

    told journalists in Beijing that he considers the recent

    arrest in eastern Kazakhstan of a group that reportedly

    intended to establish an independent Russian province on

    Kazakh territory to be a criminal, rather than a political

    case, Reuters reported. He added that he does not believe

    Kazakhstan's relations with Russia will be affected. The

    governor of East Kazakhstan Oblast, Vitalii Mette, denied on

    25 November that any local residents had supported the group,

    according to Interfax. Earlier reports had claimed that the

    plotters had enjoyed such support (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23

    November 1999). Mette's name topped a list of officials whom

    the plotters planned to assassinate, according to Interfax on

    24 November. Presidential Press Secretary Asylbek Bisenbaev

    told journalists on 25 November that there will be no

    intensified surveillance of the activities of groups

    representing Kazakhstan's Slavic population, according to

    Reuters. But a security official in the east Kazakhstan city

    of Ust-Kamenogorsk told ITAR-TASS the same day that security

    precautions in the city have been stepped up. LF

    [11] KAZAKH MINISTER CLARIFIES STANCE ON TENGIZCHEVROIL STAKE

    SALE

    Kazakhstan's Finance Minister Mazhit Esenbaev told

    journalists in Astana on 24 November that the sale of part or

    all of Kazakhstan's stake in the Tengizchevroil joint venture

    will not be necessary immediately if the World Bank releases

    two separate tranches totaling $275 million before the end of

    this year, Interfax reported. A heated debate has been under

    way for months over the advisability of selling part of

    Kazakhstan's stake (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September and 5

    October 1999). Esenbaev also said Kazakhstan has met all the

    IMF's requirements for signing a new three-year cooperation

    plan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August and 7 October 1999).

    Those requirements include endorsing the draft budget for

    2000 and abolishing the requirement that exporters sell to

    the state half of their foreign-currency earnings. LF

    [12] KYRGYZ DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST CUT IN GAS SUPPLIES

    Residents

    of Bishkek blocked one of the city's main highways on 26

    November to protest the government's failure to reach

    agreement with Uzbekistan on the resumption of gas supplies,

    RFE/RL's bureau in the capital reported. Uzbekistan halted

    gas supplies to Kyrgyzstan on 16 November in retaliation for

    Kyrgyzstan's failure to pay an estimated $4 million for

    previous deliveries. Some buildings in Bishkek are already

    without heating, and electricity supplies are subject to

    frequent interruptions. LF

    [13] TAJIK GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION CLOSER TO AGREEMENT ON ELECTION

    LAW

    Meeting in Dushanbe on 25 November, government and

    opposition representatives on the Commission for National

    Reconciliation came closer to resolving their disagreements

    over several articles of the draft election law, Asia Plus-

    Blitz reported. In particular, the two sides were reportedly

    close to agreement on a 5 percent, rather than 10 percent,

    threshold for parliamentary representation and on the

    documentation that candidates must submit to register for the

    poll. The two sides still differ, however, over the optimum

    size of the two chambers of parliament and the dates of and

    sequence for elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 22

    November 1999). LF

    [14] ANOTHER RUSSIAN OFFICER SHOT DEAD IN TAJIKISTAN

    A major

    serving with the Russian border guards in Tajikistan was shot

    dead in Dushanbe on 25 November, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier,

    two senior Tajik military officials were murdered in the

    capital over the last two months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18

    October and 10 November 1999). On 25 November, President

    Imomali Rakhmonov ordered power ministry officials to take

    tougher measures against violent crime, according to ITAR-

    TASS. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [15] MACEDONIAN COURT ORDERS PARTIAL REPEAT OF PRESIDENTIAL VOTE

    The Supreme Court and the State Electoral Commission ruled on

    28 November that the recent presidential election contested

    by Boris Trajkovski of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary

    Organization (VMRO) and the Social Democrat Tito Petkovski

    must be repeated at 221 polling stations involving 160,000

    voters. The ballot will take place on 5 December and could

    overturn Trajkovski's victory, which he won by 70,000 votes.

    Most of the polling places in question are in western

    Macedonia, where ethnic Albanians form the majority. Social

    Democratic leaders hailed the decision. VMRO spokesman Ljuben

    Paunovski told Reuters that his party regrets that the

    Supreme Court shares the Social Democrats' view that

    "Albanians are not needed to elect the president."

    Representatives of the EU and the OSCE had said that the

    election was basically free and fair, despite sporadic

    irregularities. PM

    [16] CROATIAN PRESIDENT'S CONDITION 'VERY GRAVE'

    Doctors treating

    Franjo Tudjman described his condition on 28 November as

    "very difficult, demanding continued intensive treatment."

    The independent daily "Jutarnji list" quoted an unnamed aide

    to the president as saying that Tudjman's "vital functions

    are rapidly failing." Tudjman is widely believed to be in the

    final stages of cancer, from which he has been suffering

    since at least 1996. The independent weekly "Nacional"

    recently wrote that Tudjman's wife, Ankica, has carefully

    controlled the flow of information to the public about her

    husband's condition since he entered the hospital on 1

    November. The newspaper charged that she deliberately hid

    from the public the true extent of her husband's illness. PM

    [17] CROATIA TO VOTE ON 3 JANUARY...

    The parliament on 24 November

    approved a bill introduced by the governing Croatian

    Democratic Community (HDZ) to enable the Constitutional Court

    to declare the president temporarily incapacitated for a

    period of 60 days, which can be extended for another 60 days.

    The bill passed with the support of right-wing opposition

    deputies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1999). The next

    day, the parliament formally asked the court to declare

    Tudjman temporarily incapacitated, which the court did on 26

    November. The court named parliamentary speaker Vlatko

    Pavletic acting president. Pavletic announced that

    parliamentary elections will take place on 3 January. PM

    [18] ...AMID OPPOSITION PROTESTS

    Opposition leaders denounced the

    bill, saying that it contains many ambiguities, the

    "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 26 November.

    Opposition leaders also criticized the early election date,

    which they said will enable the HDZ to seek a "sympathy vote"

    for Tudjman and deny the opposition sufficient time to

    campaign. Observers noted that the HDZ wants the elections

    during the holiday season because many politically

    conservative emigrant workers will be visiting their home

    country. Pavletic and HDZ spokesmen have stressed that the

    elections will be free and fair. PM

    [19] CROATIAN POLICE ARREST 'MAFIA' LEADERS

    Police officials said

    in a statement in Zagreb on 28 November that police arrested

    10 alleged key figures in the criminal underworld. An

    additional two suspects remain at large. The statement did

    not give any names. PM

    [20] SERBIAN AUTHORITIES BLOCK FUEL OIL SHIPMENTS

    Chris Patten,

    who is the EU's commissioner for external relations, said in

    Brussels on 28 November that the "Yugoslav authorities are

    preventing the delivery [of 350 tons of EU heating

    oil]...which could be [in Nis and Pirot] within hours" (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1999). The delivery "is

    obviously being delayed for political reasons," Patten added.

    He concluded that "the events of the last few days underscore

    once again why political change is so badly needed in Serbia

    to deliver a government genuinely interested in the welfare

    of its people," AP reported. Earlier, he had described the

    Serbian government's reasons for delaying the customs

    clearance of the 14 trucks carrying the heating oil as

    "Kafkaesque." PM

    [21] SERBIAN OPPOSITION SAYS MILOSEVIC PLAYING POLITICS WITH OIL

    Nis Mayor Zoran Zivkovic said on 28 November that Yugoslav

    President Slobodan Milosevic is endangering the health and

    safety of "thousands" of people in the city by holding up the

    oil delivery. The mayor stressed that Serbia's third-largest

    city is down to its last reserves of heating oil. Zivkovic

    told AP that the city authorities have begun to use oil from

    the reserves belonging to the central government without

    asking Belgrade's permission. In Pirot, the city government

    said in a statement that Belgrade is holding up the oil

    shipment for political reasons. Elsewhere, Serbian human

    rights activists told the BBC that they fear Milosevic will

    introduce power cuts in opposition-controlled areas during

    the winter. PM

    [22] BELGRADE CHARGES U.S. WITH 'MEDIA AGGRESSION'

    The Serbian

    Information Ministry said in a statement on 28 November that

    the U.S. government is carrying out "media aggression"

    against Serbia. The statement charged that RFE/RL and VOA try

    to convince the Serbian public that Serbian media are not

    free, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The ministry

    also blamed the U.S. for what it called the elimination of

    Serbian-language media in Kosova. Observers note that the UN,

    not the U.S., is in charge of the civilian administration of

    Kosova. PM

    [23] KOSOVARS CELEBRATE FLAG DAY

    On 28 November, thousands of

    ethnic Albanians marked Flag Day, an Albanian national

    holiday, in several cities and towns in Kosova. Some 10,000

    people attended a rally in Skenderaj, which is a stronghold

    of the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). General Agim

    Ceku, who headed the UCK's general staff and is now commander

    of the Kosova Protection Corps, told the crowd that "Serbia

    has lost Kosova forever." Moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim

    Rugova said in a statement that "thanks to God, the United

    States, Europe, NATO, and the international community, we are

    on our own land again to build our future as a free people in

    a free world," AP reported. PM

    [24] KFOR CONDEMNS ATTACK ON SERBS

    KFOR peacekeepers have

    confiscated an arms cache they found in a house near Rogova

    on 28 November. The stockpile included 300 grenades and

    10,000 rounds of ammunition. In Prishtina, members of a crowd

    of ethnic Albanians killed an elderly Serbian man and injured

    two women after dragging them from their car. A spokesman for

    the UN police told Reuters on 29 November that police are

    investigating. KFOR commander General Klaus Reinhardt

    condemned the attack and urged witnesses to come forward. He

    told Reuters that the incident "unveils a basic lack of

    humanity by the people in the street and a high degree of

    intolerance on the side of the attackers and the bystanders."

    PM

    [25] BOSNIAN SERBS PHASE OUT YUGOSLAV DINAR

    The Bosnian Serb

    government has decided to withdraw the Yugoslav currency from

    circulation pending an agreement with Belgrade on terms

    regulating monetary transactions, RFE/RL's South Slavic

    Service reported on 27 November. Soon, only the Bosnian

    convertible mark will be legal tender. All dinar bank

    accounts will be converted into convertible marks at the rate

    of 16-to-one by the end of 1999. The convertible mark is

    pegged to its German counterpart and is one of the most

    stable currencies in the Balkans. PM

    [26] ALBANIA TO SPEED UP PRIVATIZATION

    Economy Minister Zef Preci

    said on 24 November in Tirana that his ministry will soon

    review privatization legislation with a view to speeding up

    privatization and combating corruption, dpa reported. He

    noted that while most small and medium-sized enterprises are

    in private hands, many larger enterprises are not. PM

    [27] JAIL TERM FOR LEKA

    The Tirana district court on 25 November

    sentenced Leka Zogu in absentia to three years in prison for

    his role in a rally in central Tirana in 1997, at which many

    participants brandished weapons. The claimant to the throne

    returned to exile in South Africa following the incident.

    Leka's lawyer said that the court ruling was aimed at

    preventing him from returning to Albania and taking part in

    politics. PM

    [28] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS COUNTRY 'NEVER MORE SECURE'

    Emil

    Constantinescu on 26 November said in an interview with

    Romanian radio that never has Romania's "sovereignty,

    independence, unity, and peace been more secure than in the

    three years since I began working for the Romanian people."

    Constantinescu said the choice of Romania as a member of the

    OSCE's "leading troika" attests to the fact that the country

    is perceived abroad as a "model democracy" and a "pillar of

    regional stability." He added that it is not in the EU or

    NATO's interest that Romania join these organizations but in

    Romania's own interest since the conditions for joining both

    the EU and NATO promote Romania's prosperity and security. MS

    [29] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT THREATENS TO DISSOLVE PARLIAMENT

    Petru

    Lucinschi told journalists on 25 November that if the

    parliament again rejects his nominee for premier he will use

    his constitutional prerogatives to disband the legislature

    and call for early elections. Lucinschi said he believes such

    elections are "undesirable" and urged the lawmakers to

    quickly agree on a new premier, ITAR-TASS reported.

    Parliamentary sources said Premier-designate Valeriu Bobutac

    gave up his bid to form a government after the legislature

    rejected his nomination on 22 November. However, it is not

    being ruled out that Lucinschi will convince him to change

    his mind. Other possible candidates for the premiership are

    former Security Minister Valeriu Pasat and former Deputy

    Premier Ion Gutu. MS

    [30] BULGARIAN ROMA DEPUTY SEEKING ASYLUM IN U.K.

    Assen Hristov, a

    parliamentary deputy representing the ruling Union of

    Democratic Forces, has asked for political asylum in the

    U.K., AP reported on 25 November, citing sources in the

    British embassy in Sofia. Those sources said Hristov has a

    multiple-entry visa from an earlier visit to the U.K. as a

    member of a Bulgarian parliamentary delegation. Interior

    Minister Bogomil Bonev was quoted by BTA on 24 November as

    saying that Hristov has not attended parliamentary sessions

    for a month and did not give prior notification of his

    absence. He added that ministry is not trying to track him

    down, although "steps for contacting Hristov have already

    been taken." MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [31] BULGARIA AFTER CLINTON'S VISIT

    by Kostadin Grozev

    Ten years after Bulgaria began its slow and painful

    transition to democracy, the first-ever official visit by a

    U.S. president to that country, once considered the most

    faithful of all Soviet allies, has taken place. During the

    Cold War, the U.S. took a strong stand against human rights

    violations in the Soviet bloc even as a handful of U.S.

    presidents shook hands and even embraced communist leaders

    like Tito and Ceausescu. In the Balkans, Washington's

    longstanding strategic alliance with NATO members Turkey and

    Greece made those two countries the center-piece of U.S.

    policy in the region, with frequent visits by high-level

    officials to both states. Bulgaria was the only Balkan

    country, with the possible exception of Albania, that was not

    honored with a high-profile U.S. visit.

    Other factors contributed to that state of affairs.

    Bulgaria had been an ally of Germany in two world wars. U.S.

    bombs had destroyed downtown Sofia in the winter of 1943-

    1944, and several years later, Bulgaria became the first

    Soviet-bloc country with which the U.S. broke off diplomatic

    relations. Although diplomatic contacts were later restored,

    bilateral relations continued to be low-key: USIA-sponsored

    exhibitions at Plovdiv's International Fair were the chief

    vehicle for disseminating U.S. cultural and political values.

    Thus Bulgaria remained relegated to the backyard of U.S.

    foreign-policy considerations.

    Last week, a large crowd on Alexander Nevski square

    welcomed President Bill Clinton, who delivered a message,

    long expected by many Bulgarians, that the U.S. is committed

    to "supporting Bulgaria over the long run economically,

    politically, militarily." A decade-old pattern of constant

    reassurances of support from abroad has made Bulgarians

    suspicious of the meaning of such phrases, particularly when

    the state of the economy continues to decline and living

    conditions are currently worse there than those in Hungary,

    Poland, or the Czech Republic.

    But in the aftermath of the Kosova war, the symbolism of

    Clinton's words was obvious: the leader of the most powerful

    country in the world pledged assistance and support for the

    country, which is aspiring to join NATO and the EU. The

    Bulgarian example of building democracy without ethnic

    violence was cited by Clinton as projecting abroad a positive

    image of stability. Such an image is badly needed by Bulgaria

    and its reform-oriented center-right government in the tense

    geopolitical situation on the Balkans.

    Bulgaria's transition over the past few years has been

    marked by a significant change in both the Bulgarian public's

    perception of both the East and the West and in the decision-

    making process in Sofia. The efforts to establish a pluralist

    democracy and market economy broke the decades-old pattern of

    close economic and political inter-dependence with the Soviet

    Union and Eastern Europe. Bulgaria has not yet found a

    reliable substitute for the false sense of stability and

    well-programmed foreign-policy agenda of the Communist era.

    The drive toward integration with European economic and

    political structures has prompted Sofia to redefine possible

    foreign-policy options, including the choice between a pro-

    European versus a pro-American orientation.

    As a result of the end of the Cold War, Bulgaria lost

    the national security guarantees it had within the framework

    of the Warsaw Pact, and the only available option was some

    form of integration within NATO. The collapse of the former

    Yugoslav federation and the wars that followed brought heavy

    losses for the Bulgarian economy, making public opinion in

    Bulgaria highly sensitive to the practical implications of a

    policy that followed the moral and political standards set by

    the international community and led to sanctions and other

    disadvantageous steps. During the Kosova war, Ivan Kostov's

    government publicly supported the NATO air campaign,

    providing logistical support and allowing the use of

    Bulgarian airspace, despite some strong vocal opposition to

    that decision. The remarks made by President Clinton last

    week are a response to the clear Bulgarian position on the

    Kosova crisis, which doubtless paved the way for the high-

    level visit to Sofia.

    It is to be hoped that following the departure of the

    news cameras, Bulgaria will not remain as obscure for the

    U.S. public as it once was. Because it is not only George W.

    Bush who has problems with the names of presidents of foreign

    countries. Judging by the Website of the early edition of

    "The New York Times," even the Associated Press got the name

    of the Bulgarian president wrong, confusing him with the

    prime minister. Fortunately, in today's cyberspace of

    international media, a mistake made at 7:10 a.m. EST was

    already corrected by 9:50 a.m. Let's keep our fingers crossed

    that in the real life of contemporary geopolitics, Bulgaria

    itself will emerge just as quickly from its obscurity.

    The author is an assistant professor of history at Sofia

    University, Bulgaria, and currently visiting Fulbright senior

    lecturer in the Department of Government at Wesleyan

    University, U.S.

    29-11-99


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


    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article
    Back to Top
    Copyright 1995-2016 HR-Net (Hellenic Resources Network). An HRI Project.
    All Rights Reserved.

    HTML by the HR-Net Group / Hellenic Resources Institute, Inc.
    rferl2html v1.01 run on Monday, 29 November 1999 - 15:33:15 UTC