|Saturday, 17 November 2018|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 120, 01-06-25
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 120, 25 June 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT WORKERS DEMAND PAYMENT OF WAGE ARREARSIn an open letter to Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian published in the independent daily "Aravot" on 23 June, some 160 employees at the Medzamor nuclear power plant warn that they will resort to unspecified "drastic steps" unless they are paid five months' salary arrears within the next two weeks, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The nuclear plant, which supplies some 42 percent of Armenia's electricity, is unable to pay those arrears because it is owed $120 million by the Hayenergo national power grid. On 22 June, Energy Minister Karen Galustian nonetheless pledged at a press conference in Yerevan to pay two months' wage arrears to power sector workers by the end of this month, according to Noyan Tapan. LF
 VICTIM'S SON SLAMS RELEASE OF SIX DEFENDANTS IN ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING TRIALThe release last week of six of the defendants in the trial of the five gunmen who shot down eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament in October 1999 is " a disgrace," and evidence "that we live in a state where the authorities sponsor terrorism," People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) chairman Stepan Demirchian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 23 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2001). Demirchian's father and predecessor as HZhK chairman, Karen, was one of those killed in the shootings. Stepan Demirchian said he is particularly angry that the parliament agreed to drop charges against three men who, prosecutors claim, knew beforehand of the planned killings but failed to alert the authorities. He said he agrees with a statement released last week by the opposition Hayastan Party headed by Aram Sargsian, whose brother Vazgen was also killed in the shootings, similarly criticizing the six men's release (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2001). But Demirchian stopped short of declaring that he will quit the Miasnutiun majority parliament bloc in which the HZhK is the junior partner to Prime Minister Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia. Meanwhile, the daily "Hayots ashkhar," which is sympathetic to Kocharian, noted on 23 June that not a single deputy from Demirchian's HZhK voted on 20 June against the amnesty for the six men. LF
 AZERBAIJAN ACCUSES ARMENIA OVER BORDER SHOOTINGThe Azerbaijani Defense Ministry on 23 June reported that Armenian army troops opened fire on Azerbaijani positions in Babek Raion late on 22 June, Turan reported. On 22 June, Armenia had rejected as a fabrication earlier Azerbaijani claims that Armenian troops had subjected Azerbaijani villages close to the border between Armenia and the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan to machine-gun fire on 20 June. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT SPEAKER PROPOSES 'FRIENDSHIP GROUP' WITH ARMENIAMeeting on 22 June in Baku with a four-person Armenian parliament delegation that traveled to the Azerbaijani capital to participate in a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (PABSEC), Azerbaijani parliament speaker Murtuz Alesqerov proposed creating an interparliamentary "friendship group," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 23 June. But Alesqerov rejected a counterproposal by Armenian parliament deputy Viktor Dallakian that the two countries should embark on economic cooperation. While admitting such cooperation is "inevitable," Alesqerov said it cannot get underway before a solution is found to the Karabakh conflict. Dallakian said the Armenian delegation was well treated in Baku. LF
 CLOSED TRIAL OF ANTICORRUPTION WHISTLE-BLOWER BEGINS IN AZERBAIJANThe trial began on 22 June in Baku's Bailov jail of former naval Captain Djanmirza Mirzoev, Turan reported. Mirzoev was arrested in November 2000 on what many believe are fabricated charges of instigating the murder in 1993 of Naval Academy Director Eduard Huseinov. He had been dismissed two years earlier after implicating Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev in corruption (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 34, 26 August 1999). Members of the committee created to protect Mirzoev's rights told a press conference in Baku on 22 June that his trial should be public. They noted that Dutch and Norwegian diplomats have been refused permission to attend. LF
 AZERBAIJAN TO REGULATE RELIGIOUS ACTIVITYA state committee for relations with religious organizations has been established in Azerbaijan in accordance with a decree signed by President Heidar Aliev, Turan and Interfax reported on 22 June. Rafik Aliev, who was named to chair the committee, told Turan that the committee will monitor the activities of religious organizations and missionaries and ensure that those activities do not violate state laws. It will also engage in the publication of books and religious literature. LF
 GEORGIA, RUSSIA AGREE ON CLOSURE OF TWO BASES...During talks in Moscow on 22 June, Georgian and Russian government delegations headed by Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili and Deputy Premier Ilya Klebanov confirmed that Russia will vacate the Vaziani military base near Tbilisi by 1 July as earlier agreed. Russian military spokesman Aleksandr Lutskevich denied Georgian press allegations that the departing Russian troops deliberately damaged or destroyed facilities at that base before departure. But while Klebanov affirmed on 22 June that Russian troops will also leave the Gudauta base in Abkhazia by the 1 July deadline, the commander of Russia's airborne troops, Colonel General Georgii Shpak, said the following day that the airborne troops at Gudauta may not be able to leave until "later, possibly by the end of the summer," because of the ongoing blockade of the base by local Abkhaz and Russians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2001) and because Georgia cannot guarantee the security of arms transported on Abkhaz territory. LF
 ...BUT NOT TWO OTHERS...The Russian and Georgian delegations failed, however, to agree on a time frame for the Russian withdrawal from two further bases at Batumi and Akhalkalaki, Georgian and Russian agencies reported. Georgia insists that Russia should pull out in three to four years, while Moscow says this is not economically feasible and wants to extend the period over 13-14 years. Russia also demanded during the 22 June talks that Georgia make a formal commitment not to allow NATO or other countries to use the bases after the departure of the Russian troops. Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze said on 23 June that Tbilisi will do so. LF
 ...AS GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS THREATEN CIVIL DISOBEDIENCEGeorgians forced to flee their homes in Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 hostilities have threatened civil disobedience if the Russian forces fail to comply with the 1 July deadline to vacate the Gudauta base, Caucasus Press reported on 22 June, citing "Akhali taoba." They argue that as long as the Russian troops remain in Gudauta they will be unable to return to their homes. LF
 GEORGIA, ADJARIA FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT ON TAXESDuring talks in Batumi on 21 June, Georgian Tax Minister Mikhail Machavariani and Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze failed to overcome their differences over the 3 million laris ($1.55 million) that Adjaria owes in back taxes to the central Georgian government, Caucasus Press reported on 22 June. Abashidze responded with a counterclaim for 100 million laris that he said his republic is owed from the Georgian central budget. LF
 GEORGIAN BUSINESSMAN SAYS MANEUVERS WITH NATO CAUSED $1 MILLION IN DAMAGESBusinessman and former Poti Mayor Roman Melia has written to NATO headquarters demanding $1 million in compensation for damages inflicted on a recreation complex on the Black Sea coast during the Georgian joint maneuvers with NATO states that ended last week, Caucasus Press reported on 22 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2001). LF
 GEORGIAN SUPREME COURT CHAIRMAN SOUNDS ALARM OVER WAGE ARREARSAddressing a conference of Georgian judges on 23 June, Lado Chanturia expressed concern that judges have not been paid for several months, Caucasus Press reported. As part of the wide-reaching reform of the judicial system, judges' salaries were increased to 500 laris per month to remove the incentive and need for judges to take bribes. On 22 June, Courts Logistics department Chairman Merab Akhobadze said total salary arrears owed to judges amount to 1 million laris. LF
 EGYPTIAN DELEGATION VISITS KAZAKHSTANAn Egyptian government delegation led by Planning Minister Ahmet el-Dersh held talks in Astana on 22 June with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev on expanding economic, trade, and cultural ties, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Tentative agreement was reached that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will visit Kazakhstan later this year. LF
 KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT CONDEMNS ANNULMENT OF MEDIA OUTLETS' REGISTRATIONKyrgyz parliament's Committee on Mass Media and Public Organizations Chairman Kabai Karabekov on 21 June condemned the Justice Ministry's decision to annul the recent registration of 16 new mass-media outlets, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Karabekov told RFE/RL the following day his committee has written to the ministry demanding an explanation for that decision. The ministry ruled on 5 April that all existing media outlets be reregistered by 1 July, and later decided that during those three months no new media outlets may be registered (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2001). Two independent newspapers founded and registered within the last three months have already begun publication. Opposition People's Party Chairman Melis Eshimkanov, who owns the newly founded paper "Agym," told RFE/RL on 22 June that presidential administration head Amanbek Karypkulov ordered the decision to revoke the registration of newly registered media outlets in order to thwart publication of both "Agym" and "My Capital City," which is owned by the former editor of "Vechernii Bishkek," Aleksander Kim. LF
 15 DEAD AS TAJIK TROOPS CONTINUE TO BATTLE RENEGADESFighting between Tajik Interior Ministry troops and former opposition fighters loyal to field commander Rakhmon Sanginov continued on 24 June for the third consecutive day, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2001). At that time, five Interior Ministry troops and 10 gunmen were reported to have been killed, and a further 10 Interior Ministry troops had been wounded, and the militants were said to be retreating from their positions east of Dushanbe. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SOLANA SECURES A CEASE-FIREJavier Solana, the EU's security policy chief, arrived in Skopje on 23 June. In what "The Guardian" called a deliberate attempt to intimidate him, a Macedonian Sukhoi fighter flew overhead. At the same time, Katyusha rockets and artillery bombarded the suburb of Aracinovo, which is held by the rebels of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK). The BBC reported that President Boris Trajkovski was "impervious" to Solana's pleas for a cease-fire (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2001). The next day, Macedonian military officials predicted that the offensive would be over in four to five days. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said that the EU would also seek a military solution if there were an uprising in the suburbs of Brussels. But later that same day, Solana secured an agreement for a cease- fire from Trajkovski after applying unspecified intense "political pressure" with U.S. diplomatic backing. Deutsche Welle reported on 25 June that both the government and the UCK agreed to a cease-fire because they had suffered heavy casualties. PM
 EU TELLS MACEDONIA: NO AID WITHOUT SETTLEMENTChris Patten, the EU's commissioner for foreign affairs, told Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva in an "open and frank" discussion in Luxembourg on 25 June that the EU will provide no more aid for Macedonia until there is a political settlement, AP reported. He stressed that "we would like to support confidence-building measures, but it is difficult to build people's confidence when money, which is very clearly in short supply, is being spent on bombs and rockets. There is little we can do in terms of financial support until there is a political settlement." Mitreva called the EU's stand "too harsh," dpa reported. The EU has allocated just over $100 million in aid for Macedonia for 2001. The two recently signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement, which Skopje had long sought (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2001). EU foreign ministers are expected to name former French Defense Minister Francois Leotard as Solana's permanent representative in Skopje shortly. PM
 MACEDONIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH DEMANDS MILITARY SOLUTION...In an open letter, the Holy Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC) has demanded a military solution to the current crisis, the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 22 June. After an extraordinary session of the Holy Synod, which reportedly saw a lively discussion of the issue, a more radical majority won the point that "Macedonia should be [militarily] liberated of those who threat our lives and possessions" as a precondition for talks on further rights for the Albanian minority. UB
 ...WHILE ISLAMIC COMMUNITY ACCUSES CHURCH OF WARMONGERING AND DISINFORMATIONIn a reaction to the Holy Synod's open letter, the leadership of the Islamic Religious Community of Macedonia (IVZ) accused the MPC of promoting a civil war and bloodshed, "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 23 June. The MPC, in the IVZ's view, has violated a recent agreement between all Macedonian religious communities reached under the auspices of the World Council of Churches in Switzerland. Furthermore, the Muslim community says that the MPC has spread false information on the real number of churches, monasteries, and mosques destroyed in recent months: "UNESCO as well as the world public already knows that 40 mosques have been shelled and destroyed, but not a single church." UB
 ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS CLAIM VICTORYSocialist Party Secretary-General Gramoz Ruci told reporters in Tirana on 25 June that his party had won in 45 out of 100 districts in the previous day's parliamentary elections, adding that there will be a second round in 37 districts, AP reported (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2001). Other parties or independents won the remaining 18 districts (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 June 2001). Some incidents of shootings and burned ballot papers were reported, but the disruption was mild by the standards of most Albanian elections. Electoral Commission (KQZ) head Ilirian Celibashi said that the voting was generally "free and fair." The OSCE will deliver its preliminary report later on 25 June. Former President Sali Berisha's opposition Democratic Party charged that voting will have to be repeated in almost all 100 districts because of irregularities. PM
 MILOSEVIC'S LEGAL TEAM TO FIGHT DECREE IN SERBIAN COURTSLawyers for former President Slobodan Milosevic lodged an appeal with the Yugoslav Constitutional Court in Belgrade on 25 June. The attorneys are challenging the legality of the Yugoslav government's 23 June decree permitting the extradition of Yugoslav citizens, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The government issued the decree in hopes of convincing the U.S. and other Western governments that it is seeking to cooperate with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal in time for the EU's 29 June donors conference (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2001, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report, " 15 May 2001). Milosevic's chief lawyer, Toma Fila, said: "This was a political decision and it renders the law helpless against such bullying methods," AP reported. The legal battle could last several weeks. In Washington, a State Department spokeswoman told Reuters that "no decision has been made with regard to the donors conference, but we welcome any steps that the Yugoslav government takes with regards to cooperation with the international war crimes tribunal." PM
 BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTER HANDS IN RESIGNATIONPrime Minister Bozidar Matic submitted his resignation to the joint presidency on 22 June after the parliament failed to approve a new election law that is regarded as a precondition for Bosnia's admission to the Council of Europe, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. "Dnevni avaz" reported the next day that Muslim presidency member Beriz Belkic wants Matic to stay and deal with the huge problems facing the government, adding that Jozo Krizanovic, the Croatian member of the presidency, feels the same way. AP quoted Zivko Radisic, the Serbian member of the presidency, as calling Matic's decision a "moral act," but he did not elaborate. The new law is aimed at breaking the power of the three leading nationalist parties. PM
 ATTACK ON CROATIAN ROMANY FAMILYUnknown persons threw a bomb into the home of a Romany family in Pula in the early hours of 24 June, killing one man and injuring a woman, "Jutarnji list" reported. Local Roma said that this is just the latest of a series of attacks against them by skinheads. The Roma added that they are well assimilated and that the skinheads have attacked them out of racism. PM
 TRIAL OF CROATIAN GENERAL BEGUN, ADJOURNEDThe trial of retired General Mirko Norac opened in Split on 25 June but quickly adjourned after defense attorneys accused two of the judges of bias, AP reported. The case will resume on 3 July. Norac is the highest-ranking former officer to go on trial on war crimes charges in Croatia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 2001). Charges against him stem from a massacre of Serbian civilians in Gospic in 1991. PM
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT 'HOPES' AND THREATENS OVER HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW...Ion Iliescu on 22 June told the staff of the Bucharest University's Institute for Political Research that he "hopes" it will not be necessary to "suspend" the basic treaty with Hungary in reaction to the Status Law recently approved in that country, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu said he believes Hungary will, in the end, take into consideration the "reservations" expressed over the law in neighboring countries but added that if that is not the case, "we shall, in turn, have to start a campaign similar to that launched in Hungary, resuscitating an atmosphere that has not benefited the two countries." Iliescu specified that he had in mind Hungarian statements that the Status Law is aimed at undoing the consequences for the Hungarian nation of the 1920 Trianon Treaty. MS
 ...WHILE THE PRM'S TUDOR THREATENS BUT DOES NOT HOPEGreater Romania Party (PRM) Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor on 22 June accused the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) of "betrayal of national interests" over its handling of the Status Law. Tudor said that because of its pact with the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), the PSD has failed to react as it should have to Budapest "and its UDMR Trojan horse." He said the PRM is demanding the immediate outlawing of the UDMR; the dismissal of the UDMR's five deputy prefects; the unilateral abrogation of the basic treaty with Hungary; the temporary closure of the border between the two countries; and "preparing the army for a crisis situation." On 23 June, marking the 10th anniversary of the PRM's establishment, Tudor announced that his party has formed a 15-member shadow cabinet headed by Cluj nationalist Mayor Gheorghe Funar, which is "ready to take over at any time if the country demands it." MS
 ILIESCU SAYS TREATY WITH RUSSIA POSSIBLE DURING HIS MANDATERomanian President Iliescu on 22 June also told the staff of the Institute for Political Research (see above) that he believes it will be possible to sign the pending basic treaty with Russia before he ends his mandate in 2004. Iliescu said the dispute over the Romanian state treasury held by Russia since World War I need not be solved by the treaty, as there are other channels for doing so. He also said he believes the treaty with Russia will be "far less problematic" than that signed with Ukraine in 1997. MS
 ROMANIAN NATIONAL ALLIANCE APPROVES 'ABSORPTION' INTO DEMOCRATIC PARTYThe extraparliamentary National Alliance on 23 June voted to approve the party's "absorption" into the Democratic Party, which is to similarly approve the merger on 27 June. The National Alliance also decided to approve the "withdrawal" of the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), with which it ran on common lists in 2000, from the alliance, thus making it legally possible for the PUNR to reregister as a political formation, Romanian radio reported. MS
 ROMANIAN NEGOTIATIONS WITH IMF STALLED?The Finance Ministry on 24 June said a "first draft of a letter of intent" with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was agreed on during negotiations that ended that day. The ministry said that before the IMF board approves the new standby agreement, a delegation from the IMF will return to Bucharest in August. But in a statement released on 25 June, the IMF's chief negotiator with Romania, Neven Mates, was considerably more reserved. He said the negotiations have "progressed" on the accord's "major elements," but added that further negotiations that focus on the performance of state-owned enterprises and ways to "maintain prudent wage policies" in such enterprises will be necessary. MS
 HUNGER STRIKE CONTINUES IN RESITAOver 100 workers in Resita are still on a hunger strike and their fast is entering its seventh day, Romanian radio reported on 25 June. Ten of the fasting workers have been hospitalized. Workers supporting the strikers on 22 June attacked the offices of the prefect and blocked a major road to Bucharest. In related news, 19 workers at the Slatina-based state-owned Rulmentul ball-bearing producer went on a hunger strike on 25 June, protesting the intention of the authorities to close down Rulmentul due to the lack of profitability. MS
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS NO 'WALKING ARM IN ARM' WITH MOLDOVA INTO EU, NATOIon Iliescu on 23 June said in Iasi that "the formula under which Romania will walk arm in arm" with Moldova into NATO and the EU is "unsuitable," Mediafax reported. Iliescu said this "does not, on the other hand, signify that the fact that we are engaged in the processes of NATO accession and EU integration [should be regarded as] our having taken our hand off Bessarabia." He said Romania will "continue backing Moldova's joining of as many European structures as possible" and that this support "has already materialized by Moldova's inclusion into the Balkan Stability Pact" and by "the presence of the Moldovan head of state at various international meetings." MS
 MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES COUNTRY IS RULED BY COMMUNISTS...Nicolae Cernomaz, in an interview with VOA, said that "the current government in Chisinau is not a communist government," Flux reported on 23 June. Cernomaz said only two ministers in the cabinet headed by Vasile Tarlev are members of the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM), the rest being, in general, "experts." He also said it would be "unjustified" to regard the government as being communist, since "it has never used such notions as the dictatorship of the proletariat or nationalization." MS
 ...BUT PARLIAMENT BEGS TO DIFFER...The parliament on 22 June approved the first reading of a bill that would make possible the nationalization of companies that have been privatized, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The bill stipulates that privatized companies whose debt to the state budget exceeds 50 percent of their assets will be managed by a representative of the state instead of their own administration boards. It also states that companies that were profitable under state ownership and were driven to the verge of bankruptcy after being privatized will be renationalized. Presenting the bill, PCM Deputy Vasile Iovv said the cabinet has in the past guaranteed loans taken by these privatized companies and that it must now repay to foreign creditors their "devastation" by the new owners. MS
 ...AND DOES AWAY WITH LOCAL AUTONOMY PROVISIONAlso on 22 June, the parliament approved a government supported amendment to the Law on Local Public Administration, transferring the prerogative of supervising the local administration budgets from the county councils to the prefects, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The county councils will now only approve the budgets of localities under their jurisdiction, but will no longer supervise their implementation. The amendment was criticized by deputies representing the Braghis Alliance and the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD). PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca said the parliament could have "just as well appointed PCM secretaries to do the supervision," and Ion Neagu, chairman of the association of Christian Democratic Mayors and Local Counselors, said the decision "amounts to abolishing local autonomy as of now. The Communists' deputies brought us back to the former Soviet system of administration." MS
 BULGARIAN PRESIDENT MEETS SIMEON...Former King Simeon II, whose National Movement (NDSV) won the 17 June parliamentary elections, on 22 June met with Petar Stoyanov, but after the meeting did not reveal whether he intends to assume the premiership himself, AP and Reuters reported. Simeon and other NDSV leaders discussed with Stoyanov the party's policies and how the process of forming a coalition government will proceed. Stoyanov told the group that "every coalition will be solid and successful if it is based on principles...and if it clearly states all unpopular measures which it will have to undertake in the coming year." After the meeting, Simeon told journalists that there has been no change in the NDSV position concerning possible coalition partners. Observers believe Simeon is waiting for developments in the ruling Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), where party leaders have demanded that Premier Ivan Kostov resign as SDS leader. MS
 ...BUT TALKS TO 'MR. SAXE-COUBURGOTSKI'Stoyanov also told Simeon that in the past, "out of respect for Bulgaria's history and the sad destiny of the royal family, I have addressed you as Your Majesty" but that after the elections, "led by respect for...the Bulgarian republic which I embody, I shall address you as Mr. Saxe- Couburgotski," Reuters reported.
[C] END NOTE
 MACEDONIA'S 'BIG BROTHER' -- WITH TIED HANDS.By Ulrich Buechsenschuetz
Most Bulgarians might have spent the week before election day on 17 June wondering whether or not to vote for the former king's National Movement Simeon II, but some government officials were busy laying down contingency plans in the event of a refugee influx from neighboring Macedonia. This is just one aspect of the difficulties that the unrest in Macedonia poses for Bulgaria.
According to Luise Druke, the UNHCR representative in Bulgaria, about 12, 000 people left Macedonia for neighboring Kosova between 8 and 11 June. Druke said on 20 June that the situation is very tense, and that the organization wants to be prepared, bearing in mind that some 34,000 people have arrived in Kosova recently. The number of crossings from Macedonia into Bulgaria also rose steadily, reaching a peak on 12 June, when 19 busses filled with ethnic Albanians entered Bulgaria on their way to Turkey.
The ongoing tensions in Macedonia gave rise to concern among Bulgarian officials. Possibly out of fear of a scenario similar to that during the Kosova war in 1999, when Macedonia was flooded by almost half a million ethnic Albanian refugees, an Interim Coordinating Council on Refugee Problems under the chairmanship of Minister Without Portfolio Aleksandar Pramatarski was set up, BTA reported on 15 June.
This newly founded body, which will work together with international organizations like the UNHCR or the Red Cross, has prepared an action plan for the accommodation of up to 5,000 refugees from Macedonia. Experts put the costs of housing and caring for one refugee at about 1,000 leva (approximately $435) per month.
This contingency planning by the Bulgarian government can be expected to go down well with the EU and NATO, as can that of the Bulgarian military (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2001). But the outgoing government, as well as its successor, will face a serious problem from other sources, a problem that is deeply rooted in the country's troublesome past.
Most Bulgarians have a romantic picture of Macedonia. This picture mainly stems from the accounts of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Macedonia who came to Bulgaria in the course of the 20th century. As a matter of fact, almost all Bulgarian families have direct or indirect ties to Macedonia. In addition, Bulgarian historians have done their best over the years to argue that Macedonia was and is overwhelmingly populated by Bulgarians.
It is thus not surprising that several different 20th-century Bulgarian governments fought in three wars to unite Macedonia with the Bulgarian kingdom. All three cases -- the Second Balkan War in 1913, World War I in 1918, and World War II in 1944 -- ended in disaster for Bulgaria and resulted in waves of refugees coming to Bulgaria.
Ever since the end of World War II, Bulgarian governments -- be they communist or democratically elected -- have struggled to come to terms with this difficult heritage.
Attempts by Yugoslav communist leader Josip Broz Tito and his Bulgarian counterpart Georgi Dimitrov to find a solution to the Macedonian question shortly after World War II were doomed to fail -- not only because of Stalin's meddling, but also because of the refugees and their descendants. It was (and still is) almost impossible to explain to them why their former neighbors in Macedonia should now be considered members of a different nation, speaking a completely different language, one that was once perceived as a mere dialect of standard Bulgarian.
During the Cold War the difficult relations between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria led to regular polemics between politicians and scholars of both countries about the nature of the Macedonian nation.
Immediately after the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the declaration of an independent Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria was the first country to recognize the new state -- without ever recognizing the existence either of a Macedonian nation or of the Macedonian language.
For all the reasons already discussed, Bulgarian politicians see Macedonia as a junior partner that has to be looked after. Since the national- conservative Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) took office in 1998, relations between Macedonia and Bulgaria have steadily improved.
After the outbreak of violence in the former Yugoslav republic, Bulgarian politicians found themselves in a difficult position. On the one hand, they certainly were willing to support the Macedonian government in its fight against the ethnic Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK). On the other hand, they were constrained in practical terms by Bulgaria's aspirations to join NATO and EU at the earliest possible opportunity.
The two possible poles of Bulgarian policy towards the Macedonian issue are personified by President Petar Stoyanov and outgoing Prime Minister Ivan Kostov. In an interview with the Sofia weekly "Kapital" on 14 June, the Bulgarian political scientist Kiril Drezov said that Kostov's and Stoyanov's positions are complementary: "Stoyanov, who does not formulate foreign policy, can allow himself to make public declarations about the traditional relations between Bulgaria and the Slav population in Macedonia, whereas Kostov, who bears complete responsibility for Bulgaria's foreign policy, has to act as a realistic politician and maintain a balance in his relations [between] the two main ethnic groups" in the neighboring country.
In Drezov's view, Kostov's only mistake in his policy toward Macedonia was his partisan approach, which excluded the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM). "After all, one has to admit that the prime minister's approach was more flexible in comparison with that of [President] Stoyanov, whose romantic position could make Bulgaria a hostage of some adventure in Skopje."
Whether the new Bulgarian government will be as realistic as Kostov's administration in its policy toward Macedonia has yet to be seen. Most observers regard the large vote for the candidates of former King Simeon II as a protest against Kostov's social policies and mushrooming corruption, not against his foreign policy.
As Simeon of Saxony-Coburg-Gotha is said to be a man with an excellent memory, he will not have forgotten that one of the reasons for Bulgaria's joining the Axis powers in 1941 was the prospect of gaining large parts of Yugoslav and Greek Macedonia, and that it was his father, King Boris III, who reigned in Bulgaria then. And he will hardly have forgotten that was the third time Bulgaria lost a war in the 20th century.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty