|Monday, 17 February 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 32, 98-02-17
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 32, 17 February 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT WANTS "EQUAL RELATIONS" WITH
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 PLAVSIC FIRES ARMY CHIEFRepublika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic on 16 February fired General Pero Colic as commander of the Bosnian Serb army in Banja Luka and named General Momir Talic to replace him. Colic succeeded indicted war criminal General Ratko Mladic as commander in November 1996 and subsequently claimed to steer a middle course between Plavsic and her rivals in Pale. He nonetheless remained too close to the Pale faction for Plavsic, who regarded First Army Corps commander Talic as her principal supporter in the military. PM
 NATO AGREES ON BOSNIAN PEACEKEEPING FORCEThe North Atlantic Council decided in Brussels on 16 February to keep an international peacekeeping mission in Bosnia after SFOR's mandate runs out in June. A final decision on the new force will be made on 20 February, when representatives of NATO member countries will meet with officials from Russia and other non-NATO participants in SFOR. The new contingent is widely expected to continue at or close to the current SFOR strength of 34, 000 until the Bosnian general elections in September. After that vote, the force will most likely be somewhat reduced in response to calls from several participating countries for signs that the peacekeepers' mission is winding down. PM
 AMBASSADORS WARN CROATIA ABOUT SLAVONIAThe 11 ambassadors monitoring the reintegration of eastern Slavonia into Croatia issued a statement in Vukovar on 16 February in which they noted "the growing feelings of insecurity in the Serbian community" since the region formally reverted to Croatian control last month. The ambassadors added that Croatia has not made noticeable progress in correcting that problem, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Vukovar. Local Serbs have charged that Croatian former residents of the area often return and intimidate Serbs who live in the Croats' former homes. PM
 UN, CROATS SLAM RIGHT-WING RALLYA UN spokesman on 15 February in Zagreb criticized the Croatian Party of [Historical] Rights (HSP) for holding a nationalist rally in Vukovar and Borovo Naselje in eastern Slavonia the previous day. The 800 HSP members and sympathizers "sounded their car horns, made Nazi salutes, waved Ustashe flags, and sang nationalist songs," according to the spokesman. Vukovar Mayor Vladimir Stengl called the rally a "serious disturbance of the peace, " while the Committee for Reconciliation, which consists of Serbs and Croats, described it as "inadmissible." On 16 February, President Franjo Tudjman chaired a meeting of the steering committee of the governing Croatian Democratic Community, which adopted a resolution criticizing the rally. But HSP leader Anto Djapic denied that the demonstration was intended as a provocation, saying it was an "official welcoming" for the Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Dodik, who was in Zagreb on the day of the rally. PM
 CONTROVERSY OVER KOSOVAR'S DEATHThe Kosovo Committee for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms charged in Pristina on 16 February that an ethnic Albanian electrician found dead near Glogovac the previous day was tortured to death by police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1998). The committee added that the police had sought information from the electrician and another ethnic Albanian about the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), BETA reported. Serbian state- run media, meanwhile, suggested that the UCK killed the man as part of its campaign to intimidate ethnic Albanians employed by the state. PM
 MILOSEVIC OPENS BORDER--FOR SCRAPYugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic ordered the Montenegrin-Albanian border open but only for trucks carrying Albanian scrap metal for Montenegro's Niksic iron works, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Podgorica on 15 February. The mill is in danger of having to shut down if there are no deliveries of Albanian scrap. Trucks have been openly smuggling metal in from Albania since law and order broke down in that country about one year ago. At that time, Belgrade officially closed the frontier. Montenegrin officials estimate that the closure has cost their country's economy some $10 million. On 10 February, Milosevic urged Serbian and Bosnian business and political leaders to include the Niksic works in their plans to cooperate in mining and metallurgy. PM
 TIRANA CHARGES BELGRADE WITH TERRORISMAlbanian Interior Minister Neritan Ceka on 16 February charged that the federal Yugoslav secret service is financing terrorists in Albania, "Koha Jone" reported. Ceka claimed to have received information that Belgrade financed those involved in a recent police mutiny in Shkoder (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 22 January 1998). He argued that the Albanians conspiring with Belgrade intended to destabilize Albania and were mostly from the north of the country. Ceka further claimed that most of the alleged conspirators had smuggled oil to Yugoslavia during the wartime embargo and developed ties to Belgrade's secret services at that time. FS
 BOMBS DESTROY SOUTHERN ALBANIAN SOCIALIST HEADQUARTERSTwo large bombs destroyed most of the Socialist Party headquarters in Gjirokaster on 16 February, "Shekulli" reported. The town hall and the local prefecture were seriously damaged in the blast, but nobody was reported injured. Police said that more TNT was used in the blast that in any of the previous 15 bomb attacks in Gjirokaster since December. FS
 POLICE CLAIMS HAJDARI SUPPORTERS ROBBED BANKPolice have issued warrants for the arrest of two Democratic Party sympathizers who allegedly fled the scene of last weekend's clash between legislator Azem Hajdari and police, "Koha Jone" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1998). Police claimed that the two had been involved in a bank robbery in the northern city of Tropoja and were carrying the stolen money with them at the time of the incident involving Hajdari. For his part, Hajdari has maintained that no criminals accompanied him and that the police staged the incident in a bid to kill him. He added that three bullets hit his car, "Albania" reported. FS
 ROMANIAN OPPOSITION CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT OVER IRAQI STATEMENTA spokesman for the Party of Social Democracy in Romania said on 16 February that the government's declaration of readiness to participate in a military solution of the Iraqi crisis was "hasty" and contrary to Romania's economic and national interests. The Greater Romania Party argued that "at no point in Romanian history did a government display such a lack of responsibility." But a statement released by the Defense Ministry said Romania's possible participation in an eventual attack reflected the fact that the country would be "threatened" by the "uncontrolled proliferation of weapons of mass destruction." Defense Minister Constantin Dudu Ionescu said no Romanian combat troops would be involved but that sending a contingent specialized in eradicating the effects of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons was being considered. MS
 ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER PROPOSES 'SOLIDARITY TAX'Daniel Daianu on 16 February said there are no differences between the government and the IMF on the "main targets" of the 1998 budget but revealed that the two sides disagree on "some details." An IMF delegation led by Poul Thompsen has been in Romania for one week to discuss the draft budget. Daianu said a "solidarity tax" like that imposed in Germany may be necessary to meet the costs of restructuring, which is likely to result in large- scale unemployment. Last week Labor and Social Affairs Minister Alexandru Athanasiu proposed a "solidarity" tax to cover the costs of meeting the wage demands of paramedics, who have been on strike for the past six days, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 CONFLICT RESURFACES OVER STATUS OF GAGAUZ-YERI REGIONThe Popular Assembly of the Gagauz-Yeri autonomous region have begun debating whether to hold a referendum on 22 March to decide on a new status for the region. The plebiscite would take place at the same time as the Moldovan parliamentary elections. The Moldovan Justice Ministry recently rejected a draft drawn up by legal experts in the region, saying it contravened the constitution and the region's current special status, RFE/RL's Chisinau Bureau reported. But the ministry said that, together with representatives from Gagauz-Yeri, it will "try to bring the draft into line with existing Moldovan legislation." Meanwhile, Piotr Pashaly, the chairman of the Popular Assembly, has sent the draft to the Council of Europe for that body's opinion. Moldovan parliamentary chairman Dumitru Motpan is in Comrat to participate in the assembly's debates. MS
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT PLEADS FOR CHILDREN'S RIGHTSIn his weekly radio address on 17 February, President Petru Lucinschi called for improving the protection of children's rights, Infotag reported. He said Moldovans must "root out" indifference to the plight of children and particularly of orphans. He urged that a bill on children's rights be passed and that existing legislation be amended to prevent children from being turned into "victims of illegal transactions as regards their dwellings and family property" or from being forced to earn their living by "theft and begging." MS
 EX-MILITIA OFFICERS JAILED IN BULGARIAFour communist-era militia officers have been sentenced to prison terms of up to two-and-a-half years for killing the prominent ethnic Turkish dissident Bilian Hadjiev in March 1989, AFP reported on 16 February. Hadjiev was beaten to death by the four officers, who were trying to force him to inform on ethnic Turks opposed to Todor Zhivkov's policy of enforced assimilation. Last month, Zhivkov (who is now 86), former Premier Georgi Atansov and former Minister of Interior Dimitar Stoyanov were indicted for abusing public office in connection with the assimilationist policies. If found guilty, they face prison sentences of up to eight years. MS
[C] END NOTE
 REPRESENTING TATARSTANby Paul Goble
Tatarstan has announced it will open a representation office in the United Arab Emirates later this year, the 15th such institution that the middle Volga republic has established since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Were Tatarstan internationally recognized as an independent country, such an announcement would be entirely normal and probably unworthy of any particular notice.
But Tatarstan is, by both its own acknowledgment and that of the international community, part and parcel of the Russian Federation. Consequently, the existence of such institutions raises some important questions: Is Tatarstan on the way to becoming an independent state? Or do those representations reflect nothing more than the efforts of a region to attract international trade and investment?
While there is no definitive answer to those questions, Tatarstan's use of such institutions appears to reflect an innovative combination of three very different traditions.
First, from the earliest days of the USSR, the union regions and republics maintained what were called "permanent representations" in Moscow and the capitals of some of the other republics. While such institutions often served as little more than post offices for documents being sent between cities or as travel agencies for people visiting in one direction or another, they retained a certain symbolic importance for peoples who had few other trappings of sovereignty. Not surprisingly, these institutions often figured prominently in fiction of non- Russian writers. One Uzbek novel of the late Soviet period, for example, was set largely in the office of the Uzbek SSR permanent representation in Moscow.
Then when the Soviet Union fell apart, those permanent representations of the union republics served as the foundation for the development of genuine embassies. To that extent, the Tatarstan permanent representations-- particularly those in Moscow, Sverdlovsk, and St. Petersburg--continue a tradition with deep roots in the Soviet era.
Second, in the scramble to attract foreign investment, many regions of the Russian Federation have established trade offices abroad modeled on those that the regions of European countries and the states of the United States have in other countries. Frequently, those institutions were set up on the advice, if not the insistence, of Western countries interested in developing regions long cut off from outsiders. As in the case with these other regions and republics, Tatarstan has done the same, implicitly in the case of its permanent or plenipotentiary representatives in France, Australia, the U.S., Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan and explicitly in the case of trade representatives in Ukraine, Lithuania, and Austria.
Third, those institutions reflect the assertion of Tatarstan's sovereignty, of its interest not only in promoting its unique economic interests but also in establishing its political presence.
On the one hand, Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiyev is simply acting on the advice of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who famously told an audience in Kazan some years ago that Tatarstan, like the other parts of the Russian Federation, should assume as much sovereignty and independence as it could handle.
Many in Tatarstan took and continue to take Yeltsin's words to mean that they could hope some day to have their own independent state, recognized by the world community and with a seat at the UN. For such people, the creation of ever more representations abroad represents a step-by-step approach toward that goal, an approach less likely to offend Moscow than a more dramatic assertion of independence and hence one more likely to be effective.
On the other hand, Shaimiyev and other politicians in Tatarstan undoubtedly see the existence of such representative offices abroad as a useful lever in their negotiations with Moscow. That lever may help the Tatars to achieve more from the central Russian government even if full independence is not on the agenda of either the Russians or themselves.
By highlighting Tatarstan's ability to reach beyond the borders of the Russian Federation and by attracting a kind of implicit, if not explicit, international recognition of that republic's distinctiveness, such institutions seem destined to play a major role in the future not only of Tatarstan but of the Russian Federation's other regions as well.
But whether they will continue as a vestige of the Soviet past, as a means of decentralization of the Russian Federation, or as a harbinger of more radical changes will depend less on how many such representations are created than on how they are viewed by those who send them, by those who receive them, and by Moscow.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty