|Tuesday, 21 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 27, 98-02-10
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 27, 10 February 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTEduard Shevardnadze escaped unharmed from an assassination attempt against him while he was returning to his residence on 9 February. Two presidential guards and one attacker were killed during the attack, ITAR- TASS reported the next day. Shevardnadze, who survived an assassination attempt in August 1995, told journalists that "international terrorism" was behind this latest bid on his life. He speculated that one possible motive is the desire of "very powerful forces" to prevent Caspian basin oil from transiting Georgia. The attack came shortly after Shevardnadze had said in his weekly radio address that "there is no alternative to peace and stability in the southern Caucasus." PG
 GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEMANDS BLOCKADE OF RUSSIAN BASESIn the wake of the assassination attempt on President Shevardnadze, the Georgian parliament called for a blockade of Russian military bases in the country, Georgian media reported. Deputies suggested that the possibility could not be excluded that those who launched the attack on Shevardnadze were dispatched to Georgia from Russia. Meanwhile, Shevardnadze went on national television to appeal for calm, and Georgian security agencies have sealed the border, according to Georgian media. PG
 ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS NO NEW DANGER OF HOSTILITIESIn a statement released on 10 February, the Armenian Foreign Ministry has denounced suggestions that new hostilities with Azerbaijan are imminent and stressed Yerevan is committed to observing the May 1994 truce, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement said that predictions of new hostilities are a "deliberately distorted interpretation" of events in Armenia since the resignation of President Levon Ter-Petrossyan. PG
 KOCHARIAN TO RUN FOR ARMENIAN PRESIDENCYPrime Minister and acting President Robert Kocharian said on 9 February that he will run in the 16 March presidential elections, ITAR-TASS reported. A native of Nagorno-Karabakh, Kocharian would seem to face one major obstacle: the Armenian Constitution stipulates that the president must be an Armenian citizen. Meanwhile, Khosrov Arutyunyan, the speaker of the Armenian parliament, said that the recent political changes in Yerevan will not affect Armenia's close relationship with Moscow. PG
 EXXON AZERBAIJAN, SOCAR SIGN GAS EXPLORATION DEALExxon Azerbaijan, a subsidiary of the U.S. petroleum company, and SOCAR, the state oil company of Azerbaijan, signed an agreement 9 February to explore the gas resources on Azerbaijani territory, Interfax reported. The research study is scheduled to last for one year. PG
 EIGHT PEOPLE KILLED IN WESTERN TAJIKISTANAt least eight people were killed in the western city of Tursun Zade on 9 February. A group of armed men broke into the house of a Tajik businesswoman, killing her and her two sons. The gunmen then opened fire on a group of people waiting at a nearby bus stop; at least five were killed in that attack. An investigation is under way. During the five-year civil war in Tajikistan, Tursun Zade was often controlled by outlaw groups and was the scene of shoot-outs between rival gangs competing for possession of the aluminum factory there. That facility is Tajikistan's biggest money- making enterprise. BP
 KAZAKH OFFICIALS MEET WITH DEMONSTRATORSLocal officials in the southern city of Kentau met with demonstrators outside government offices on 9 February, AFP reported. The demonstrators, mostly mothers and their children, are protesting poor living conditions and unpaid wages and child support. The officials promised that overdue wages will be paid, but demonstrators remained skeptical about that promise and vowed to continue their protest. The same day, some 150 health-care workers who have not been paid in 10 months joined the demonstrators. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MACEDONIAN ALBANIANS WANT DIALOGUE ON KOSOVOThe leaders of the two largest ethnic Albanian political parties in Macedonia--the Party for Democratic Prosperity and the Party of Democratic Prosperity of the Albanians--have appealed to the international community to start a dialogue between Belgrade and the Kosovar leadership, BETA news agency reported on 9 February. The party leaders warned that Kosovo could be sliding toward war and that any conflict there would affect the stability of Macedonia. Last month, President Kiro Gligorov said that Macedonia will create a corridor through its territory in the event of war in Kosovo to enable ethnic Albanian refugees to flee from there to Albania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1998). PM
 NO MOBILIZATION FOR KOSOVO?Nenad Canak, the president of the opposition League of Vojvodina Social Democrats, said in Novi Sad on 9 February that army officers have denied his recent accusations that young reservists in Vojvodina are being called up and sent to Kosovo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1998). Canak says the officers told him that the army does not have the money to finance a mobilization, the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported. But the newspaper added that "citizens [nonetheless] maintain that they have received call-up orders." PM
 DODIK INVITES HAGUE COURT TO BANJA LUKABosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said in Vienna on 9 February that his government will allow the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to open an office in Banja Luka. But Dodik noted that Bosnian Serb law prevents the extradition of war criminals and that the disputed town of Brcko must be assigned to the Serbs or else his government will fall. He also stressed that "we are for the return of all refugees to Brcko. We want to turn Brcko into a demilitarized free-trade zone.... Our government is the only government that could implement such a thing." The prime minister argued that his cabinet has done more to implement the Dayton agreement than its predecessors did in two years. Meanwhile, his Austrian counterpart, Wolfgang Schuessel, said that Dodik is "working behind the scenes" to persuade indicted war criminals to go to The Hague voluntarily. PM
 PLAVSIC APPEALS FOR BRCKORepublika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said in Paris on 9 February that Brcko must remain under Bosnian Serb control if the international community expects Serbian cooperation in implementing the Dayton accords, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Plavsic also said that the Republika Srpska is no longer in danger of splitting "into an eastern and western part because the Republika Srpska now has, for the past month and a half, its own parliament..., a single police force across its territory, and a single set of policies." A spokeswoman for President Jacques Chirac said that "France, at a crucial moment in the peace process, intends to strongly encourage those who play the card of moderation and cooperation with the international community." PM
 BOSNIAN RELIGIOUS LEADERS APPEAL TO EUThe heads of Bosnia's Islamic, Jewish, Serbian Orthodox, and Roman Catholic communities asked European Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Hans van den Broek in Brussels on 9 February for EU funding to reconstruct mosques, synagogues, and churches destroyed or damaged in the 1992-1995 war. They made no specific requests but said they will submit a plan soon. Van den Broek told his visitors that the EU will provide them with assistance. The four Church leaders also promised to promote religious tolerance and the return of refugees. PM
 BOSNIAN SERBS PROTEST ARREST OF ACCUSED MURDERERSome 700 Bosnian Serbs blocked a road near the Sarajevo suburb of Lukavica to protest the arrest of Goran Vasic by police from the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation nearby on 6 February. Vasic is wanted in Sarajevo for allegedly killing Bosnian Deputy Prime Minister Hakija Turajlic on 8 January 1993. A spokesman for UN police said in Sarajevo on 9 February that the federal police used unnecessary violence in arresting Vasic. Two days earlier, Dodik criticized the arrest on the grounds that it would discourage other non-Muslims from returning to Sarajevo. PM
 SARAJEVO WANTS TO HOST WINTER OLYMPICS AGAINMidhat Haracic, the governor of Sarajevo canton, told Reuters on 9 February that Sarajevo has launched a campaign to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. Haracic added that he is "an optimist about both the political and economic possibilities of holding the Olympic games in Sarajevo." President of the International Olympic Committee Juan Antonio Samaranch "strongly supports this initiative," the governor stated. Sarajevo officials want to regain some of the positive image their city won by hosting the 1984 games. The officials also hope that hosting the Olympics would attract the necessary foreign investment to rebuild the area's tourist infrastructure. PM
 SLOVENIAN FOOD AID FOR BOSNIAN SERBSSlovenian authorities said in Ljubljana on 9 February that the Alpine republic has donated 49,562 liters of vegetable oil and 14,009 cans of beans to the Republika Srpska under the auspices of the World Food Program. Most of the food will to go the Banja Luka area. PM
 SERBIA'S BULGARIAN MINORITY LODGES PROTESTRepresentatives of the newly formed ethnic Bulgarian cultural society Caribrod said in Dimitrovgrad on 9 February that recent criticism of Caribrod by Serbian state-run television indicates how intolerant the Serbian authorities are of ethnic minorities. The broadcast claimed that Caribrod is a vehicle for disseminating greater Bulgarian nationalism, BETA news agency reported. Caribrod officials said that the Serbian government finances or otherwise supports Serbian cultural clubs in many countries but that it will not allow the Bulgarians in Dimitrovgrad to enjoy the same free cultural development that Belgrade seeks for Serbs abroad. PM
 ALBANIAN HUNGER STRIKE ENDSDaan Everts, the chief representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Tirana, has mediated an end to a 25 day-old hunger strike by nine former political prisoners. The men were protesting a recent amendment to the lustration law that will enable former secret police employees and informers to hold state jobs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1998). The strikers and government representatives accepted Everts's suggestion that foreign and Albanian experts review and discuss the legislation. PM
 ROMANIAN COALITION STILL ON SHAKY GROUNDDespite a provision in the new government protocol stipulating that coalition partners must refrain from criticizing one another, the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and the Democratic Party have accused each other of breaching that protocol. PNTCD chairman Ion Diaconescu said the Democrats must stop declaring that the cabinet is a "transition solution." The Democrats objected to a PNTCD Deputy Chairman Vasile Lupu's accusation the previous day of corruption within their ranks. They also said they had not been consulted about the nominations for the new ministers and "did not know" whether they would support the new incumbents when the parliament debates those nominations on 11 February. Meanwhile, the influential Civic Alliance Movement, a member of the Democratic Convention of Romania, said the new protocol is "undemocratic" and gives unacceptable veto-power to the Democrats, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see also "End Note" below). MS
 ROMANIA'S DEMOCRATS CHANGE POSITION ON EDUCATION LAWAlexandru Sassu, the chairman of the Democratic Party faction in the Chamber of Deputies, told Mediafax on 9 February that his party wants the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania to "make a political declaration" pledging it will "insist that all ethnic Hungarian children learn Romanian." Sassu said this would contribute to "lowering the expected tension" of the debates about to begin in the chamber on the amended version of the 1995 education law. The Democrats are signatories to a December 1997 protocol in which all coalition parties pledged to support amendments that are more liberal than those passed by the Senate the same month. Observers say the Democrats' latest shifts toward more nationalist positions suggest they are contemplating early elections (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 1998). MS
 ROMANIAN ECONOMY DECLINESData released by the National Statistical Commission on 9 February shows inflation in 1997 was 151.7 percent, almost double the level the previous year. GDP decreased by 6.6 percent and industrial production by 5.9 percent, while investments were down some 19 percent. Also on 9 February, members of the Sanitas trade union federation of nurses and other medical staff staged a two-hour warning strike to demand a 100 percent wage increase, instead of the 25 percent approved by the government. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea , meanwhile, met with members of two other unions to discuss means of covering higher living costs. Radu Colceag, the leader of the Democratic Confederation of Syndicates, said after the meeting that his union will give the government a grace period of two or three months to improve the economy. MS
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR ASSISTING ELDERLYIn his weekly radio address to the nation, Petru Lucinschi on 9 February called on the population to render every possible assistance to the elderly. Lucinschi said that of Moldova's 750,000 pensioners, 80 percent receive pensions totaling 60-100 lei ( $13-21) a month. He said the Pension Fund was expected to have revenues of 3 million lei a month to pay out pensions but that it receives less than half that amount. Lucinschi said that the situation can be changed only after an improvement in the economy. He called on all those able to help to do so and said it was necessary to set up charity funds that would accept donations from both Moldova and abroad. MS
[C] END NOTE
 ROMANIAN CRISIS ON HOLDby Michael Shafir
With the 5 February signing of the new government protocol and with the appointment the following day of five ministers to replace Democratic Party cabinet members withdrawn from the executive by the Democrats' leadership, the coalition crisis in Romania appears to have come to an end. But on closer examination, that crisis may have simply been put on hold. It is not easy to make sense of what caused the crisis in the first place. The resignation of former Transportation Minister Traian Basescu on 29 January, which was apparently the main cause, at first seemed to have been a deliberate provocation by the Democrats aimed at facilitating former Foreign Minister Adrian Severin's return to the government. Thus, the Democrats' criticism of the cabinet's unsatisfactory performance in implementing reform was not taken very seriously--with good reason.
But on 6 January, Severin told journalists that the party leadership had not done enough to defend its own ministers in the government. He pointed out that it was "not normal" that the party with the "best members of the cabinet" should have been forced to agree to the dismissal of three of its ministers and should have put up no resistance. That criticism was clearly directed at party chairman Petre Roman, as became even more obvious on 30 January, when Severin blamed Roman for not having done enough to ensure the continuation of the coalition. Roman should have "sacrificed himself" and should have accepted the status quo in coalition relations, Severin argued.
Inherent in those two statements was an obvious contradiction: according to Severin, the party leadership should have both defended its ministers (which, in fact, it did when withdrawing the remaining cabinet members from the government) and it should have swallowed its pride and let the coalition continue. But how could it do both? While Severin eventually had to pay the price for his attacks on Roman (he was assigned no responsibilities when the party's Standing Bureau redistributed the duties of its vice chairmen last week), he had unwittingly triggered a chain of reactions that neither he, nor Roman, had expected. That made it difficult for observers to "put two and two together." For example, how to explain why Roman, who was obviously reluctant to leave the coalition and on several occasions had made conciliatory statements to his coalition partners, contradicted himself and adopted a bellicose posture? The answer seems to rest in a "democratic revolt from below," that is, among the Democrats' lower echelons. When the party's Standing National Council on 14 January virtually gave an ultimatum to replace Victor Ciorbea as premier by 31 March, that decision reflected, above all, frustration among that body's members. The decision was all but imposed on Roman in the knowledge that the ultimatum would be viewed by the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) as an unacceptable act of "political blackmail."
There were several reasons for the frustration among the lower echelons of the Democratic Party. Those Democrats were often treated with disdain by their coalition associates at county level. All too often the PNTCD--both at central and local government level--made clear (and publicly so) that it intensely disliked, and hoped soon to end, the "marriage of convenience" with the Democrats. Also, opinion polls showed the Democrats were losing much of their popularity. They had garnered 13 percent in the November 1996 elections but were backed by only 8 percent some two years later, in December 1997. The Democratic Convention's (CDR) support, on the other hand, had grown from 30 percent to 42 percent within the same period, although the popularity of Ciorbea's cabinet had decreased.
In other words, the Democrats' electorate was deserting the party and its regional leaders, who have the largest number of seats on the National Council, believed the desertion was of a mainly ideological nature. The Democrats' electorate is largely middle-aged, well- educated, and opposed to the full restitution of property, which is backed by leading elements within the CDR.
The PNTCD's adamant rejections of the Democrats' demands to replace Ciorbea should fool no one. When they signed the new government protocol, the Democrats refused to pledge they would refrain from either initiating or backing a no confidence motion in the cabinet. The PNTCD had to save face and keep Ciorbea as premier, but it is highly unlikely that the cabinet will survive beyond the end of March, when the Democrats' Standing National Council will convene again.
Moreover, the further "belt-tightening" measures announced by Ciorbea on 6 February may provoke social unrest and provide the Democrats with an early opportunity to get rid of the prime minister. Unless the Democrats contemplate a realignment of political forces and joining an alliance with Iliescu's party and the extreme nationalists (an unlikely scenario), they would merely have lost precious time for what they continue to claim to be their main objective--the promotion of reforms.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty