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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 34, 01-02-19

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. 5, No. 34, 19 February 2001


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] POPE RECALLS ARMENIAN 'MARTYRDOM'
  • [02] ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SUMS UP
  • [03] GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT DELEGATION VISITS
  • [04] ...AS FORMER ARMENIAN RULING PARTY WARNS
  • [05] ARMENIAN NUCLEAR POWER STATION BACK ON
  • [06] TURKEY PROPOSES TRIPARTITE TALKS WITH
  • [07] AZERBAIJAN CREATES COMMISSION ON WAR
  • [08] SUPPORTERS DENY FORMER AZERBAIJANI
  • [09] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES 'ZERO
  • [10] OFFICIALS DENY COMMISSIONING OF KAZAKH
  • [11] KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION BEGIN
  • [12] KYRGYZ PAPER PRINTS INTERVIEW WITH JAILED
  • [13] TAJIK NGOS APPEAL ON BEHALF OF AFGHAN
  • [14] TURKMEN PRESIDENT SETS DEADLINE FOR
  • [15] TURKMENISTAN, RUSSIA CONCLUDE NEW GAS

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [16] TENSE WEEKEND IN KOSOVA
  • [17] PRESEVO FIGHTERS CONDEMN BUS BOMBING
  • [18] KOSOVAR ALBANIAN LEADERS SLAM VIOLENCE
  • [19] KOSOVA'S SURROI CALLS ATTACK 'TERRORISM'
  • [20] KOSOVAR JOURNALIST WARNS COUNTRYMEN
  • [21] ALBANIA CONDEMNS KOSOVA VIOLENCE
  • [22] SERBIA TALKS TOUGH
  • [23] SERBIAN LEADERS PREPARE SECURITY MEASURES
  • [24] NATO'S ROBERTSON CALLS FOR DIRECT TALKS
  • [25] HAGUE'S DEL PONTE: NO COOPERATION FROM
  • [26] SHOOTOUT ON MACEDONIAN-KOSOVA BORDER
  • [27] MACEDONIAN MINISTER OFFERS RESIGNATION
  • [28] ROMANIA'S LIBERAL PARTY HAS NEW
  • [29] ROMANIAN NATIONALISTS RALLY AGAINST NEW
  • [30] ROMANIA REACTS TO INTERNATIONAL EVENTS
  • [31] MOLDOVAN COMMUNIST CHIEF SAYS 'NO
  • [32] TRANSDNIESTER ORGANIZATIONS CALL TO
  • [33] BALKAN PRESIDENTS CALL FOR END OF
  • [34] NEW BULGARIAN RADIO DIRECTOR
  • [35] ...WHILE IFJ BACKS BULGARIAN JOURNALISTS'
  • [36] BULGARIA TO SEEK BALKAN AIRLINES

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [37] ROMANIA'S NEW PROPERTY LAW FALLS SHORT

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] POPE RECALLS ARMENIAN 'MARTYRDOM'

    In an

    apostolic missive made public on 17 February to mark

    the 1,700th anniversary of Armenia's adoption of

    Christianity, Pope John Paul II noted the "unheard of

    violence" to which Armenians were subjected to in

    Ottoman Turkey in 1915, Reuters and AP reported.

    The Pope observed that "the whole Armenian culture

    and spirituality has been pervaded by boldness

    characterized by the supreme sign of giving one's life

    in martyrdom." The following day, the Pope presided

    over a mass to mark the anniversary and stated his

    "great desire to make a pilgrimage of hope" to

    Armenia. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SUMS UP

    PRESIDENTIAL VISIT TO FRANCE

    Speaking to

    journalists at Yerevan's Zvartnots airport on 16

    February, President Robert Kocharian characterized

    his official visit to France last week as having raised

    bilateral ties to "a qualitatively new level," according

    to Snark as cited by Groong. Foreign Minister Vartan

    Oskanian similarly said the five-day visit was very

    successful" and "crucial in several respects," Noyan

    Tapan reported. Oskanian said the visit contributed to

    the further development of bilateral economic ties and

    the search for a solution to the Karabakh conflict.

    "Hayots ashkhar" on 17 February quoted Oskanian as

    saying that French President Jacques Chirac did not

    present "detailed written proposals" on resolving the

    conflict during his talks with Kocharian, but that the

    two presidents and Azerbaijani Heidar Aliev had

    discussed "general principles" for doing so in Paris last

    month that Oskanian said could yield "serious

    progress." Oskanian said that expanded Armenian-

    French relations could serve as "the main driving

    force" towards stronger ties between Armenia and the

    EU. LF

    [03] GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT DELEGATION VISITS

    ARMENIA...

    A Georgian government delegation

    headed by Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili held talks

    in Yerevan on 17 February with senior Armenian

    officials, including President Kocharian and Prime

    Minister Andranik Markarian, RFE/RL's Yerevan

    bureau reported. In a joint statement, Arsenishvili and

    Markarian expressed satisfaction at the general level of

    bilateral relations, but called for more intensive

    economic cooperation, especially in the spheres of

    transport and energy. Most of Armenia's external

    trade is conducted via Georgian Black Sea ports. Also

    discussed was the repayment of Georgia's $25 million

    debt to Armenia. LF

    [04] ...AS FORMER ARMENIAN RULING PARTY WARNS

    AGAINST JEOPARDIZING TIES

    The administrators

    of two districts in Georgia's southern Djavakheti

    region whose population is predominantly Armenian

    accompanied the Georgian government delegation to

    Yerevan. Some members of the Armenian

    Revolutionary Federation -- Dashnaktsutiun recently

    called for those districts to be given autonomous

    status within Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12

    February 2001). The former ruling Armenian Pan-

    National Movement has issued a statement

    condemning such calls as "inflammatory and

    provocative," Noyan Tapan reported on 17 February.

    The statement expressed understanding for the

    aspiration of the region's Armenian population to

    preserve their ethnic identity and said the Armenian

    leadership should help them do so, but in such a way

    as to avoid jeopardizing Armenian-Georgian relations.

    LF

    [05] ARMENIAN NUCLEAR POWER STATION BACK ON

    LINE

    The nuclear reactor at Armenia's Medzamor

    atomic power station resumed operation late on 15

    February, some 24 hours after it was shut down

    following damage to an external power line, RFE/RL's

    Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16

    February 2001). The plant's deputy director, Slava

    Danielian, told RFE/RL on 16 February that the

    accident did not involve any leakage of radiation, and

    there was no damage to the environment. Armenian

    Nuclear Radiation Authority official Vladimir

    Kurghinian said that the shutdown ranked as zero on

    the International Atomic Energy Agency's seven-point

    scale for evaluating the seriousness of accidents at

    nuclear power stations. LF

    [06] TURKEY PROPOSES TRIPARTITE TALKS WITH

    ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN

    Speaking on 17 February at

    an Istanbul conference on stability in the South

    Caucasus, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem

    proposed that Ankara chair a meeting of Armenian

    and Azerbaijani officials to discuss how to reach a

    solution to the Karabakh conflict, AP and ITAR-TASS

    reported. But Armenian Foreign Ministry official

    Samvel Mkrtchian, who attended the conference,

    expressed reservations, saying he thinks such a

    meeting unlikely before "first steps are taken" in

    Armenian-Turkish relations. Turkish Deputy Foreign

    Minister Yigit Alpogan stressed that the Turkish

    initiative is intended to complement, rather than

    undercut, the ongoing Karabakh mediation by the

    OSCE Minsk Group, of which Turkey is a member.

    Minsk Group co-chairman Carey Cavanaugh welcomed

    Cem's proposal. LF

    [07] AZERBAIJAN CREATES COMMISSION ON WAR

    INVALIDS

    As previously announced (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 16 February 2001), the Azerbaijani

    authorities created a special commission on 16

    February to address the problems faced by war

    invalids, Turan reported. But no members of the

    Society of Invalids of the Karabakh War, who began a

    nationwide hunger-strike last month to demand an

    increase in their pensions and allowances, were

    included in the commission. Some 19 invalids are

    continuing a renewed hunger-strike that they began

    on 15 February. LF

    [08] SUPPORTERS DENY FORMER AZERBAIJANI

    POPULAR FRONT LEADER IMPLICATED IN

    FINANCIAL SCANDAL

    Fazil Gazanfaroglu, who is a

    leading member of the conservative wing of the

    divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP), on 16

    February dismissed as untrue media reports that the

    Front's deceased chairman, Abulfaz Elchibey, was

    involved in the illegal transfer of funds to secret bank

    accounts belonging to Turkish National Movement

    Party leader Alparslan Turkesh, Turan reported.

    Gazanfaroglu said the media reports constitute a

    smear campaign by the Azerbaijani authorities and the

    rival, reformist wing of the AHCP. LF

    [09] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES 'ZERO

    OPTION'

    After a five-hour debate, parliament

    deputies voted on 16 February by 127 to one to ratify

    the so-called "zero option," whereby Tbilisi forfeits

    any claim on the assets of the former USSR in return

    for the rescheduling of its debt to Russia, Caucasus

    Press reported. Georgian President Eduard

    Shevardnadze had warned the previous day that

    refusal to ratify the "zero option" would lead to

    economic collapse (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16

    February 2001). Some 30 opposition deputies left the

    parliament chamber to protest the vote. LF

    [10] OFFICIALS DENY COMMISSIONING OF KAZAKH

    PIPELINE WILL BE DELAYED

    Sergei Gnatchenko, the

    director-general of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium,

    said in Moscow on 16 February that the schedule for

    launching the consortium's Tengiz-Novorossiisk oil

    pipeline remains unchanged, Interfax reported.

    Speaking in Almaty, Russian Deputy Prime Minister

    Viktor Khristenko similarly affirmed that "the first

    stage of the CPF pipeline will be launched as planned"

    on 30 June. Consortium official Zinon Abdrakhmanov

    had said the previous day that the date for the

    pipeline to become operational could be delayed up to

    six weeks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 2001).

    It is planned to begin filling the pipeline with oil in

    March. LF

    [11] KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION BEGIN

    ROUND-TABLE TALKS

    The planned round-table

    discussion between representatives of the Kyrgyz

    authorities, political parties, media, and NGOs began

    at the presidential residence in Bishkek on 17

    February in the presence of President Askar Akaev,

    RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported.

    Reviewing the implementation of resolutions adopted

    at the first such roundtable in June 2000, State

    Secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov said Kyrgyzstan needs

    political stability following last year's controversial

    parliamentary and presidential elections. Prime

    Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev called for consolidation to

    overcome "social tensions." Kyrgyz Human Rights

    Movement chairman Tursunbek Akunov appealed to

    the Kyrgyz government to release jailed opposition

    leader Topchubek Turgunaliev (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 4 September and 5 December 2000), while

    Emil Aliev of the opposition Ar-Namys Party asked

    Akaev to ensure that the jail sentence handed down

    last month on the party's leader, Feliks Kulov, is fairly

    reviewed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001).

    Police dispersed some 20 Kulov supporters who

    attempted to picket the presidential residence shortly

    before the roundtable began. LF

    [12] KYRGYZ PAPER PRINTS INTERVIEW WITH JAILED

    OPPOSITION LEADER

    The independent daily

    "Asaba" published an interview with Kulov on 16

    February in which he said that the rationale behind

    the new criminal cases filed against him was that the

    international community has cast doubt on the

    legality of the seven-year sentence he received on

    charges of abuse of his official position, RFE/RL's

    Bishkek bureau reported. Kulov accused President

    Akaev of having a personal interest in "finishing him

    off," adding that he had learned from "a reliable

    source" that the Kyrgyz authorities are hoping that his

    health will deteriorate and he will die before

    completing his sentence. Kulov also criticized as illegal

    the sentence handed down last September on

    Turgunaliev for allegedly plotting to assassinate

    Akaev. LF

    [13] TAJIK NGOS APPEAL ON BEHALF OF AFGHAN

    FUGITIVES

    An unspecified number of Tajik NGOs

    have appealed to the international community to

    provide urgent medical assistance for the more than

    13,000 Afghans who fled to the Afghan-Tajik border to

    escape ongoing hostilities between the Taliban and the

    Northern Alliance, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 16

    February. At least 40 of the displaced persons have

    died since October of disease or wounds. LF

    [14] TURKMEN PRESIDENT SETS DEADLINE FOR

    LEAVING OFFICE

    Saparmurat Niyazov, whose

    presidential term was extended for an indefinite

    period in December 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30

    December 1999), told the annual session of the

    Turkmen legislature on 18 February that he will leave

    office no later than 2010, when he will turn 70,

    Reuters and Interfax reported. He said open elections

    should then be held in which several younger

    candidates would contest the presidency, but that only

    persons who have held public office for 5-10 years and

    whose candidacy is approved by parliament will be

    eligible, according to Interfax. In addition, candidates

    must have lived in Turkmenistan for 10 years prior to

    the presidential ballot, a restriction that rules out

    former Foreign Minister Avdy Kuliev, who currently

    lives abroad. The parliament duly approved a law on

    holding presidential elections in 2010. Niyazov had

    told foreign ambassadors on 16 February that

    legislation on the election of regional administrators

    and the president will be passed in 2008. LF

    [15] TURKMENISTAN, RUSSIA CONCLUDE NEW GAS

    SALES AGREEMENT

    The Turkmen government and

    the ITERA energy corporation signed an agreement in

    Ashgabat on 16 February whereby Turkmenistan will

    sell Russia 10 billion cubic meters of gas in 2001, the

    same amount as last year, ITAR-TASS reported. Russia

    will pay $40 per thousand cubic meters compared

    with $36-38 last year, of which half will be paid in

    hard currency and half in commodities. Also on 16

    February, President Niyazov said Turkmenistan will

    conclude a long-term agreement on the sale of natural

    gas to Ukraine "very soon," ITAR-TASS reported. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [16] TENSE WEEKEND IN KOSOVA

    Unidentified persons

    blew up a bus carrying Serbian civilians near Podujeva

    on 16 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February

    2001). No one has claimed responsibility for the blast,

    which was caused by a bomb placed under the road on

    which the bus was traveling with a Swedish escort

    vehicle. KFOR arrested several ethnic Albanians on the

    spot. Casualties stand at seven Serbs dead and 43

    injured, but local Serb leaders said they expect the

    death toll to rise, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service

    reported. On 17 February, hundreds of Serbs staged

    protests in Mitrovica, on the Skopje-Prishtina road,

    and at some other locations in Kosova. Speakers

    slammed KFOR and the UN civilian administration

    (UNMIK) and called for the resignation of KFOR's

    commander, General Carlo Cabigiosu. A similar

    demonstration took place in Gracanica the following

    day. PM

    [17] PRESEVO FIGHTERS CONDEMN BUS BOMBING

    AMID RENEWED VIOLENCE

    Jonuz Musliu, who is a

    spokesman for the Liberation Army of Presevo,

    Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB), condemned the

    bus bombing in remarks to reporters in the Presevo

    Valley on 18 February. He said that the incident will

    set back the UCPMB's efforts to resolve its problems

    with Serbian forces in the area, Reuters reported.

    Meanwhile, near Lucane, three Serbian police died

    when their van hit one or more anti-tank mines. It is

    not clear whether the van was deliberately targeted.

    AP reported that local ethnic Albanians denied

    responsibility. NATO officials say there are three

    groups of armed ethnic Albanian fighters present in

    the area without any central command. Some fighters

    and Serbian forces exchanged mortar and machine

    gun fire into the following day. Musliu said that a local

    Albanian commander was killed in the fighting. PM

    [18] KOSOVAR ALBANIAN LEADERS SLAM VIOLENCE

    The leader of the Democratic League of Kosova,

    Ibrahim Rugova, issued a statement in which he

    strongly condemned the Podujeva attack, "Koha

    Ditore" reported on 18 February. He stressed that the

    bombing was directed "against stability, peace, and

    democracy in Kosova" and "undermines all efforts of

    the people of Kosova and the international community

    to built a tolerant and democratic society for all

    citizens of Kosova." Hashim Thaci, the former guerrilla

    leader who heads the Democratic Party of Kosova,

    issued a statement saying that "this inhumane act

    works only in favor of destabilizing and weakening the

    political position of Kosova and has been committed

    by dark circles who want to present Kosova as a

    permanent source of crisis and trouble in the region."

    Thaci added that the attack is "a violation of our word

    of honor, which we gave to the international

    community, and has nothing to do with Albanian

    tradition." Ramush Haradinaj, who is president of the

    Alliance for the Future of Kosova, called the attack "a

    terrorist act directed at Serbs." FS

    [19] KOSOVA'S SURROI CALLS ATTACK 'TERRORISM'

    Kosovar publisher Veton Surroi wrote an editorial in

    "Koha Ditore" on 18 February, in which he stressed

    that the Kosovar Albanians must ask themselves if

    they want "terror" to jeopardize their relations with

    NATO. He also asked whether Kosovars want to

    implement the ethnically divisive policies of indicted

    war-criminal Slobodan Milosevic. Surroi argued that

    "the political message [of the attackers] was directed

    [not towards the victims but] towards the survivors.

    And this makes the difference between ordinary

    murder and terror." He added that "the messageŠis

    very simple: Kosovar Serbs cannot be citizens of

    Kosova." Surroi recalled that, in the past, Belgrade

    tried to deny the Kosovar Serbs their specific local

    identity, claiming that Kosova is Serbia. Now, he

    added, "bombs on the bus help everybody who wants

    to argue for a partition of Serbs and Albanians. [The

    bombs] help [promote] the development of

    [ethnically-based] enclaves and those who want to see

    Mitrovica divided." FS

    [20] KOSOVAR JOURNALIST WARNS COUNTRYMEN

    Publisher Blerim Shala wrote in his "Zeri" on 17

    February about the bus bombing that "even without

    knowing [the identity of] the perpetrators...[the]

    blame will be put on all of us. It is a blame that will

    call into question our potential to create a normal

    society and to guarantee the safety of all citizens of

    Kosova. It will call into question our ability to govern

    Kosova," Reuters reported. PM

    [21] ALBANIA CONDEMNS KOSOVA VIOLENCE

    Foreign

    Ministry spokesman Sokol Gjoka said in Tirana on 17

    February that "such events [as the Podujeva bombing]

    damage the efforts of Albanian political forces trying

    to create "a climate of confidence, and they also

    damage the important [peace] processes linked to the

    future of Kosova." He added that the Albanian

    government appeals to the people of Kosova to avoid

    "the provocations of the extremists, including

    Albanians," AP reported. "These criminal acts do not

    serve the stability of Kosova or the region," he added.

    PM

    [22] SERBIA TALKS TOUGH

    As officials of the regime of

    former President Slobodan Milosevic often did, the

    new Belgrade leaders responded to the latest violence

    with criticism not only of "Albanian terrorists" but

    also of KFOR and UNMIK. Serbian Deputy Prime

    Minister Nebojsa Covic said that "it is not permissible

    that such attacks continue. We demand specific

    decisions from the international community," AP

    reported on 18 February. He did not elaborate. He

    further stressed that the "terrorist acts" are

    coordinated. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran

    Svilanovic said in a message to NATO Secretary-

    General George Robertson that "it is obvious that we

    are dealing with well-planned, premeditated, and

    synchronized attacks aimed at provoking Yugoslav

    security forces and creating a much broader conflict.

    The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia cannot allow

    Albanian terrorists to kill its citizens," Reuters

    reported. Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic

    said that his ministry is "ready to establish order and

    peace in that region very quickly," RFE/RL's South

    Slavic Service reported. PM

    [23] SERBIAN LEADERS PREPARE SECURITY MEASURES

    Top government and security officials of the Yugoslav

    and Serbian governments met in Belgrade on 18

    February for a closed-door session to discuss the

    current security situation. Following the meeting,

    President Vojislav Kostunica said in a statement that

    unspecified measures will be taken against "terrorism,"

    the BBC's Serbian Service reported. He criticized KFOR

    and UNMIK while praising the restraint shown by

    Serbian forces in the face of "provocations" by ethnic

    Albanians. Kostunica stressed that Belgrade will

    continue to pursue a diplomatic solution in respect to

    Presevo and Kosova. Among those attending the

    meeting were two top officials who are carry-overs

    from the Milosevic regime. One is army Chief-of-Staff

    General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who commanded Yugoslav

    troops in Kosova during the 1999 crackdown. The

    other is Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, whom the

    Hague-based tribunal has indicted together with

    Milosevic for war crimes in conjunction with the 1998

    repression in Kosova. PM

    [24] NATO'S ROBERTSON CALLS FOR DIRECT TALKS

    Robertson said in a statement in Brussels on 18

    February that "the problems of the region cannot be

    solved by violence; they can only be settled through

    direct negotiations between the parties. Today's events

    make the urgency of moving ahead with such

    negotiations all the more clear," Reuters reported. In

    Prishtina, UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manuel said

    that the matter of providing security to all civilians in

    Kosova is a "delicate matter," the BBC's Serbian Service

    reported. She noted that UNMIK has more frequent

    contacts with the Belgrade authorities now than it did

    during the Milosevic era, and that this makes some

    Kosovar Albanians "nervous." PM

    [25] HAGUE'S DEL PONTE: NO COOPERATION FROM

    YUGOSLAVIA

    Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief

    prosecutor of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal,

    told the Athens daily "To Vima" of 18 February that

    the new Yugoslav government "has not done anything"

    in terms of cooperating with the court, RFE/RL's South

    Slavic Service reported. She contrasted Belgrade's

    behavior unfavorably with that of the governments of

    other former Yugoslav republics. She added that the

    Greek authorities have not given her any of the

    information she requested in October 2000 about their

    findings regarding the financial dealings of Milosevic

    and his associates. PM

    [26] SHOOTOUT ON MACEDONIAN-KOSOVA BORDER

    Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a

    Macedonian Defense Ministry official told AP in Skopje

    on 17 February that six uniformed ethnic Albanian

    gunmen exchanged fire with Macedonian border

    troops in Tanusevci on the frontier with Kosova. The

    source said that at least one of the Albanians appears

    to have been wounded in the exchange. The intruders

    subsequently returned to Kosova. PM

    [27] MACEDONIAN MINISTER OFFERS RESIGNATION

    Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska offered her

    resignation on 16 February to Prime Minister Ljubco

    Georgievski in order to take "moral responsibility" for

    the ongoing scandal over alleged ministry wiretaps of

    top political, media, and business figures, AP reported

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001). It is not

    clear if Georgievski will accept the resignation of his

    close political ally, who denied any wrongdoing.

    Dimovska argued that "old structures" linked to the

    previous Social Democratic and Communist

    governments are trying to "politically eliminate me in

    the interest of foreign countries," Reuters reported.

    She did not elaborate. PM

    [28] ROMANIA'S LIBERAL PARTY HAS NEW

    LEADERSHIP

    A National Liberal Party congress on 17

    February elected Valeriu Stoica as the new chairman of

    the National Liberal Party (PNL), RFE/RL's Bucharest

    bureau reported. Stoica was endorsed by 509

    delegates, more than any of his four opponents (PNL

    deputy chairmen Calin Popescu-Tariceanu and Crin

    Antonescu were endorsed by 248 and 179 delegates,

    respectively, while Florin Pandele, Ilfov county PNL

    chairman, received 11 votes). On 18 February,

    Antonescu and Popescu-Tariceanu were re-elected vice

    chairmen, alongside Dinu Patriciu, Andrei Chiliman,

    and Dan Radu Rusanu. Theodor Stolojan is since 17

    February the party's new National Council chairman.

    The congress also approved a resolution to monitor

    for two months the fulfillment by the ruling Party of

    Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) of the agreement

    signed with the PNL on the support of the PDSR

    minority government. MS

    [29] ROMANIAN NATIONALISTS RALLY AGAINST NEW

    LAW

    Some 10,000 people attended a rally in Cluj on

    16 February organized by the Greater Romania Party

    (PRM) against the new Law on Local Public

    Administration, a local RFE/RL local correspondent

    reported. Cluj Mayor and PRM General Secretary

    Gheorghe Funar read a "proclamation" which protests

    against the law, demands that the PDSR make public

    "all secret agreements" allegedly signed with the

    Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR)

    and calls on the government to issue an ordinance for

    "collecting within 48 hours all arms and munitions

    illegally introduced in Romania with the direct

    support of the Hungarian government." PRM leader

    Corneliu Vadim Tudor said the UDMR has "obtained

    from the PDSR in four weeks what it was unable to

    obtain in four years" as a member of the 1996-2000

    ruling coalition. MS

    [30] ROMANIA REACTS TO INTERNATIONAL EVENTS

    The Foreign Ministry on 17 February said it is

    "attentively following the course of events in Iraq"

    after the strike by U.S. and British military craft of

    targets in and near Baghdad. The ministry said UN

    Security Council resolutions on Iraq must be

    "rigorously respected" as the only way to "obtain

    stability in the region." Also on 17 February, the

    Romanian government said it "firmly condemns" the

    Kosova incident in the wake of which seven were killed

    and over 40 people wounded. The Adrian Nastase

    cabinet describes the attack as "an attempt directed

    against the UN, OSCE, and the international

    community's efforts to help bring about a climate of

    tolerance and peaceful coexistence in Kosova." MS

    [31] MOLDOVAN COMMUNIST CHIEF SAYS 'NO

    PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM'

    Party of Moldovan

    Communists (PCM) leader Vladimir Voronin on 15

    February told journalists the PCM is against changing

    the parliamentary system into a presidential one, Flux

    and Infotag reported. Voronin said that the

    presidential system has led to "autocratic rule" in

    "many former Soviet states, with the exception of

    Russia." He said the PCM would, however, support a

    referendum on whether Moldova should return to

    electing its president by popular vote. Voronin said

    the PCM is "unlikely" to support President Petru

    Lucinschi for a second term and that he "does not rule

    out" running again himself for that position. He

    denied as "sheer nonsense" rumors that Russian

    Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov will soon come

    to Moldova to participate in the PCM electoral

    campaign. "Our legislation prohibits foreign citizens

    from interfering in the electoral campaign," he said.

    MS

    [32] TRANSDNIESTER ORGANIZATIONS CALL TO

    BOYCOTT MOLDOVAN ELECTIONS

    "Public

    organizations" in the separatist region on 17 February

    called on citizens to boycott the forthcoming

    parliamentary elections in Moldova, ITAR-TASS

    reported. The appeal said the electoral programs of all

    competing parties support Moldova's territorial

    integrity, and are thus implicitly backing the

    "liquidation" of the Transdniester as an independent

    republic. Summing up the electoral competition one

    week ahead of the elections, Romanian Radio said 12

    political parties, five electoral blocs and 10

    independent candidates are competing for seats in the

    101-seat parliament. The electoral threshold for

    parties and blocs is 6 percent and for independent

    candidates 3 percent. MS

    [33] BALKAN PRESIDENTS CALL FOR END OF

    VIOLENCE IN SERBIA

    In a joint statement published

    at the end of their two-day meeting in Plodviv (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 2001), Bulgarian

    President Petar Stoyanov, Romanian President Ion

    Iliescu and Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on

    16 February called for an immediate halt to violence

    in southern Serbia, AFP reported. In what is obviously

    a pro-Serb posture, they say they "strongly condemn

    the violent and illegal actions by ethnically-motivated

    groups in southern Serbia" and call "for an immediate

    and complete cessation of violence." The three said

    they supported "a multiethnic and undivided Kosova

    [and] the protection of interests and rights of all

    communities." The statement also expressed support

    for "the process of democratization in the Federal

    Republic of Yugoslavia and the efforts of the

    democratic leadership in Belgrade to redefine its

    strategic orientation towards integration with

    European institutions." MS

    [34] NEW BULGARIAN RADIO DIRECTOR

    HOSPITALIZED...

    In what looks more and more as a

    replay of the earlier "Czech scenario," Ivan Borislavov,

    whose recent appointment as new director of state

    radio triggered the protests of journalists, was

    hospitalized on 18 February after a heart attack, AP

    reported. His condition was said to be stable. MS

    [35] ...WHILE IFJ BACKS BULGARIAN JOURNALISTS'

    PROTEST

    The International Federation of Journalists

    (IFJ) on 16 February said it "shares the worries" of

    Bulgarian Radio journalists and of the Union of

    Journalists (Podkrepa) over the procedure that led to

    the selection of Borislavov as new director-general of

    Bulgarian Radio. The IFJ said journalists and media

    staff "should have been fully consulted" over the

    appointment made by the National Council of Radio

    and Television and that it supports the journalists'

    demands "for the reform" of that council to ensure

    that it ceases to be political and "becomes a truly

    independent public service broadcaster, in line with

    European standards" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16

    February 2001). MS

    [36] BULGARIA TO SEEK BALKAN AIRLINES

    PRIVATIZATION REVERSAL

    Privatization Agency

    head Levon Hampartsumyan on 18 February told

    Bulgarian Radio that the government will seek to

    reverse the 1999 sale of national carrier Balkan

    Airlines to the Israeli Zeevi Holdings group, AP

    reported. Hampartsumyan also said planning was

    under way to fly home hundreds of passengers left

    stranded across the world when Balkan Airlines was

    grounded last week at the orders of Zeevi Holdings.

    The Bulstrad insurance company has asked a court to

    open bankruptcy proceedings against Balkan Airlines,

    citing a $512,000 debt owed to it by the airline.

    Finance Minister Muravei Radev on 17 February said

    he expects the court to put Balkan Airlines under

    receivership. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [37] ROMANIA'S NEW PROPERTY LAW FALLS SHORT

    OF FULL RESTITUTION

    By Eugen Tomiuc

    Romania's new restitution bill, signed into law two

    weeks ago by President Ion Iliescu, immediately

    became the target of fierce criticism from both former

    owners and tenants of once private property.

    In general, the law provides for the restitution of

    state-confiscated property to its rightful owner. But

    some of the most valuable property nationalized by

    the communists -- including buildings used by public

    institutions -- is exempted. Former owners of such

    property will be compensated by either unspecified

    sums of money, or by goods, shares in companies, or

    even services. The amount of compensation to be paid

    will be determined in the next 18 months.

    Previous owners say the new law in effect bars

    them from regaining property already bought by

    tenants under an earlier law passed six years ago.

    They argue that even though the new law allows for

    the annulment of the earlier sales, it also excepts from

    annulment cases in which tenants bought the houses

    in what the law calls "good faith."

    The former owners say it will be very difficult, if

    not impossible, to prove a lack of "good faith," which

    is not defined in the law. Maria Teodoru, the head of a

    group of former owners, says the new law is even more

    unfair than the previous one because it legalizes

    abuses committed both before and after the fall of

    communism.

    Teodoru says that under the 1995 law, former

    owners were able to recover just over 1 percent

    (3,600) of an estimated 300,000 pieces of property

    nationalized by the communists. At the same time, she

    says, almost one-third (88,000 pieces) of the property

    seized was bought by the tenants occupying them.

    Teodoru tells RFE/RL that former owners will

    continue to protest the new law, which they say

    violates their right to own private property. If the law

    is not changed, she says, they will ask the help of

    international institutions such as the Council of

    Europe. Teodoru says they may also knock on the

    doors of foreign embassies in Bucharest, which,

    incidentally, are also included among dwellings whose

    restitution the new law bars:

    "If we really come to the conclusion that we live

    in a country where neither the constitution nor

    international treaties that Romania has signed are

    respected -- and that we live in a jungle -- then we will

    go to the embassies of civilized countries and ask for

    mass emigration."

    Under the new law, unless local authorities

    provide what the legislation calls "adequate"

    alternative housing, present tenants of property seized

    by the communists are entitled to remain an

    additional five years in houses qualifying for

    restitution. Most of these tenants will pay very low

    rentals during the five-year period.

    Those who bought their homes under the 1995

    legislation -- and some present tenants -- also find the

    new law unfair. They fear that its "good faith"

    provision will work against them. Eugen Plesa, an

    ultranationalist Greater Romania Party

    parliamentarian and head of a tenants' association,

    says the law was tailored to suit the interests of former

    owners or their successors. He tells RFE/RL that

    tenants will be "punished," while those he calls

    "impostors" will try to use the law to their own

    advantage.

    "Houses should be given back to those from whom

    they have been taken. But it is the communists who

    took them who should be punished, not us [the

    tenants]. What do they have against us? You cannot

    change history, you cannot punish or destroy citizens

    in order to benefit someone who probably did not

    have any connection with the former owner," he said.

    But an analyst offers this example to Plesa's last claim:

    if a grandson did not ever see his grandfather, who

    was perhaps killed by the communists while in prison,

    would the grandson have "no connection" with the

    former owner of the property, who was his

    grandfather?

    Plesa says he wants the 1995 law to be reinstated.

    That law was criticized by many as favoring the

    tenants of nationalized property, who were allowed to

    buy the houses at prices considerably below their

    market value. Furthermore, many of those who bought

    houses under the 1995 law, including President Ion

    Iliescu himself, had been members of the former

    communist elite -- the "nomenclatura" -- who had

    earlier nationalized the best housing available. Before

    they did so, they paid very low rents. In the eyes of

    the former owners, the Biblical injustice of "both

    killing and inheriting" had thus repeated itself.

    The current law owes its inception to the Council

    of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, which in 1998

    urged Romania to come up with new property

    restitution legislation. The assembly acted after some

    2,000 former owners lodged complaints at the

    European Court of Human Rights, an important

    Council of Europe organ.

    The final language of the new law is considerably

    different from the draft bill submitted three years ago

    by National Liberal Party politician Valeriu Stoica, who

    was then justice minister. Today, Stoica himself

    acknowledges that the inclusion of the "good faith"

    clause in the current law is regrettable. But he says a

    better version was not possible because of the need for

    compromise with leftist parliamentarians.

    But despite the law's shortcomings, Stoica tells

    our correspondent, the current law is a still big step

    forward.

    "Compared to the previous 1995 law, this law is --

    regardless of its imperfections -- a huge leap toward

    the reconstruction of the private property system in

    Romania. That is the reason why Liberals [like myself]

    agreed with it during debates in the Senate."

    Applying the law, however, may prove difficult.

    Unclear compensation rules will likely sow further

    discord among the original owners and previous or

    current tenants. And more legal actions can be

    expected, adding to the cases already before the

    European Human Rights Court.

    Last month, President Iliescu, a former

    communist, spoke out against the right to

    constitutionally guarantee private property, which he

    called "a frill." In Iliescu's eyes, the basic document's

    provision that "property is protected" by the states is

    more than sufficient. At the same time, as he has often

    done in the past, Iliescu praised the virtues of

    collective property.

    Many analysts says that, whatever the virtues or

    shortcomings of the new law, Iliescu's remarks do not

    bode well for the full restitution of once private

    property in Romania during his four years in office.

    19-02-01


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


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