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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 14, 01-01-22

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. 14, 22 January 2001

President Putin on 22 January transferred responsibility for coordinating military operations in Chechnya from the Defense Ministry to the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russian agencies reported. At the same time, Putin confirmed that the number of Russian troops in Chechnya will be reduced, but did not specify by how many. Putin said that the transfer of responsibility "does not mean that the counter-terrorist operation will end. It will continue no less intensively, but with the accent on different forces and means." Predicting the transfer of responsibility for the war from the Defense Ministry to another agency, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii had said on 19 January that move will herald more intensive efforts to neutralize Chechen "ring-leaders," including field commanders Shamil Basaev and Khattab, and Aslan Maskhadov, whose four-year term as Chechen president expires on 27 January, ITAR-TASS reported. Both Russian and Chechen observers have suggested in recent months that the Russian military's failure to take further action to wipe out the remaining Chechen fighters is at least partly due to senior officers' desire to enrich themselves through the illicit export of oil and scrap metal from Chechnya (see "RFE/.RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 1, 5 January 2001). On 21 January, the Russian Interior Ministry launched a coordinated operation to intercept all such consignments of crude oil and scrap metal destined for export from Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIA SUSPENDS BROADCASTING OF RUSSIAN TELEVISION
  • [02] LACK OF FUNDING JEOPARDIZES PLANNED ARMENIAN CENSUS
  • [03] KARABAKH PARLIAMENT PASSES BUDGET FOR 2001
  • [04] TWO AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS ASSAULTED
  • [05] AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES UPCOMING GOVERNMENT RESTRUCTURING
  • [06] NEW DATE SET FOR AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO IRAN
  • [07] AZERBAIJAN PROTESTS FRENCH PARLIAMENT VOTE ON ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
  • [08] EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT CALLS ON RUSSIA TO LIFT GEORGIAN VISA REQUIREMENT
  • [09] GEORGIA BEGINS REREGISTERING CHECHEN REFUGEES
  • [10] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT'S WIDOW BEGINS FORMING SHADOW CABINET
  • [11] KAZAKHSTAN'S DEFENSE MINISTER SURVIVES HELICOPTER CRASH
  • [12] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT MEETS WITH CHINESE AMBASSADOR
  • [13] KYRGYZ OPPOSITIONIST SENTENCED TO SEVEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
  • [14] KYRGYZ PRESIDENT OUTLINES CABINET'S PRIORITIES...
  • [15] ...PLEDGES TO RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [16] NEW SERBIAN PARLIAMENT OPENS
  • [17] YUGOSLAV ARMY CHIEF: PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE IN NATIONAL INTEREST
  • [18] NEW SERBIAN GOVERNMENT PLANS ROUND-THE-CLOCK WATCH ON MILOSEVIC
  • [19] SERBIAN JUSTICE MINISTER: 'LET MILOSEVIC GO TO THE HAGUE'
  • [20] MORE MILOSEVIC RELATIVES RETURN HOME
  • [21] SERBIAN EXPERTS: ECONOMY LIKELY VICTIM OF 'URANIUM CAMPAIGN'
  • [22] CLINTON LIFTS REMAINING U.S. SANCTIONS AGAINST SERBIA
  • [23] MONTENEGRIN FOREIGN MINSTER WARNS OF EU 'BELGRADE LOBBY'
  • [24] KOSTUNICA STILL AMBIGUOUS ON BOSNIAN PEACE PACT
  • [25] BOSNIAN SERB PRIME MINISTER SACKS NATIONALIST APPOINTEE
  • [26] POLITICAL CHARGES AND COUNTERCHARGES IN MACEDONIA
  • [27] GRENADE ATTACK ON MACEDONIAN POLICE STATION
  • [28] ALBANIA, YUGOSLAVIA RENEW DIPLOMATIC TIES
  • [29] NASTASE ELECTED CHAIRMAN OF ROMANIAN RULING PARTY
  • [30] FORMER ROMANIAN RULING PARTY HAS NEW CHAIRMAN
  • [31] RIFT SURFACES IN HUNGARIAN MINORITY PARTY LEADERSHIP
  • [32] EXTREMIST ROMANIAN LEADER APPEALS TO LIKE-MINDED PDSR PEERS
  • [33] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WHITEWASHING ANTONESCU?
  • [34] ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN STOCKHOLM
  • [35] GAGAUZ-YERI TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON CHANGING STATUS
  • [36] BULGARIA CHARGES PRESUMED LUKANOV ASSASSINS
  • [37] BULGARIAN HACKER RAIDS PRESIDENTIAL WEBSITE

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [38] BULGARIAN MEDIA LAW HAS LESSONS FOR CZECHS

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIA SUSPENDS BROADCASTING OF RUSSIAN TELEVISION

    Armenia stopped rebroadcasting the programs of the Russian state TV channel ORT on 20 January after ORT's leadership refused to sign a new contract under which it would finance those broadcasts, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. The second Russian state TV channel, RTR, signed a new contract with Yerevan agreeing to do so. Commenting on 17 January on the likelihood that broadcasting of one or both channels would be suspended, Armenian presidential press spokesman Vahe Gabrielian stressed that the Armenian decision was prompted by financial, not political considerations, according to Noyan Tapan. LF

    [02] LACK OF FUNDING JEOPARDIZES PLANNED ARMENIAN CENSUS

    Armenian government officials have expressed concern that inadequate funding may necessitate the postponement of the national census scheduled for October 2001, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 20 January. The state budget for this year allocates only 92 million drams ($167,000) for that purpose, far less than the estimated 1.2 billion drams needed. In 1995, questionnaires were drawn up for a census to be conducted in 1999, but in November 1998, the census was postponed for financial reasons until 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 1998). On 1 January 1999 Armenia's population was 3,798,200. LF

    [03] KARABAKH PARLIAMENT PASSES BUDGET FOR 2001

    The parliament of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic on 19 January approved the enclave's budget for this year, almost two-thirds of which will be provided by the Republic of Armenia, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. The budget sets expenditures at 14 billion drams ($25.4 million) and revenues at 4.5 billion drams. The resulting deficit is to be covered by an annual "inter-state loan" from Armenia. Social security accounts for 33 percent of planned spending, the largest single allocation. It is not clear whether the draft budget included a separate allocation for defense spending, and if so, how large that allocation is. Legislators from the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun voted against the budget after their proposed amendments to the original draft were rejected. LF

    [04] TWO AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS ASSAULTED

    Haji Zamin, a journalist employed by the independent daily "Azadlyq," was assaulted and beaten near his Baku home late on 17 January by three unknown men who threatened to kidnap him, Turan reported two days later. Zamin, who has repeatedly reported on official corruption, managed to escape. On 19 January, Etibar Mansaroglu, who writes for the newspaper "Etimad," was attacked and severely beaten near a Baku market. He has been hospitalized with head, eye and internal injuries. The Council of Editors representing Azerbaijani journalists on 19 January appealed to President Aliev to take measures to protect the country's journalists. LF

    [05] AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES UPCOMING GOVERNMENT RESTRUCTURING

    At a meeting in Baku on 18 January with Judy O'Connor, the resident World Bank representative, President Heidar Aliev said a sweeping reform of the executive branch is to be implemented in the near future, Turan reported. He gave no details. LF

    [06] NEW DATE SET FOR AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO IRAN

    President Aliev will make an official visit to Tehran before the 7 June Iranian presidential election, AFP quoted Baku's ambassador to Tehran Abbasali Hasanov as telling journalists on 18 January. That visit was originally scheduled for 1999 but repeatedly postponed because of tensions in bilateral relations (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 41, 14 October 1999 and Vol. 3, No. 12, 24 March 2000, and "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August and 16 October 2000). LF

    [07] AZERBAIJAN PROTESTS FRENCH PARLIAMENT VOTE ON ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

    Meeting on 19 January with Azerbaijani parliamentarians, President Aliev said Baku will protest the 18 January French parliament vote condemning as genocide the killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915, Turan reported. Aliev termed that vote a misrepresentation of history. Sheikh Allakh-shukur Pashazade, who is Azerbaijan's most senior Islamic clergymen, likewise condemned the French vote "a provocation...aimed at the falsification of historical facts and at inciting hatred." Some 50 activists from the reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party picketed the French embassy in Baku on 19 January to protest the vote. LF

    [08] EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT CALLS ON RUSSIA TO LIFT GEORGIAN VISA REQUIREMENT

    The European Parliament voted unanimously on 18 January to urge Russia to lift the visa requirement it imposed on citizens of Georgia last month, Caucasus Press reported. The resolution condemned as "de facto annexation of Georgian territory" Moscow's decision to exempt from that requirement residents of the unrecognized republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. LF

    [09] GEORGIA BEGINS REREGISTERING CHECHEN REFUGEES

    Georgian Ministry for Refugees on 20 January began checking and reregistering the 7,500 Chechens currently living in Georgia's Pankisi gorge who have been formally granted refugee status, Caucasus Press reported. The re-registration is being conducted in response to repeated Russian claims that the Chechen population of the Pankisi gorge includes armed Chechen fighters. LF

    [10] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT'S WIDOW BEGINS FORMING SHADOW CABINET

    Manana Archvadze-Gamsakhurdia, whose husband Zviad was ousted as president in early January 1992 and died in mysterious circumstances two years later, has begun forming a shadow government, of which she has been elected prime minister, Caucasus Press reported on 20 January. LF

    [11] KAZAKHSTAN'S DEFENSE MINISTER SURVIVES HELICOPTER CRASH

    Lieutenant General Sat Toqpaqbaev suffered minor injuries on 19 January when his helicopter crashed while trying to land in Lenger, in southern Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Several other senior officers were injured in the crash, and one killed. LF

    [12] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT MEETS WITH CHINESE AMBASSADOR

    Meeting on 19 January in Astana with Chinese Ambassador You Peishi, Nursultan Nazarbaev characterized bilateral relations as problem-free, and called for expanding bilateral trade from last year's $600 million to $1 billion, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. But Nazarbaev also warned that the Chinese National Oil Corporation must take measures to protect the environment in areas of north-western and western Kazakhstan where it is conducting operations, and should give priority to local specialists when hiring personnel. Last year Kazakh officials criticized the management of Aqtobemunaigaz, in which the Chinese National Oil Corporation owns a 60 percent stake, for discriminating against Kazakh employees (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2000). LF

    [13] KYRGYZ OPPOSITIONIST SENTENCED TO SEVEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT

    The Bishkek Military Court on 22 January handed down a seven year prison sentence on former Vice President and opposition Ar-Namys Party chairman Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kulov was taken into custody in the courtroom after the verdict was announced. The court had acquitted Kulov last August on charges of abusing his official position while serving as national security minister in 1997-1998, but then decided one month later to review that verdict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August and 12 September 2000). LF

    [14] KYRGYZ PRESIDENT OUTLINES CABINET'S PRIORITIES...

    Addressing a cabinet session on 20 January, President Askar Akaev listed as the cabinet's priorities for this year administrative reform; development of small business; support for small towns; drafting and implementing a strong finance and tax policy; increasing exports; attracting direct foreign investment,; and developing the communications, energy and tourism sectors, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Akaev also ordered the government to raise electricity tariffs by 100 percent by 1 March. On 19 January, Akaev had named Jakyp Abdrakhmanov, chairman of the Djalalabad Oblast Court, as minister of justice, thereby completing appointments to Kurmanbek Bakiev's cabinet. LF

    [15] ...PLEDGES TO RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS

    Speaking at a conference in Bishkek on 19 January to mark the 10th anniversary of Kyrgyzstan's Constitutional Court, President Akaev admitted that due to what he termed "the difficulties of the transition period," human rights are not adequately respected in Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Three days earlier, Akaev had instructed the government, political parties and NGOs to draft a new 10-year human rights program. Speaking at the conference, Constitutional Court chairwoman Cholpon Baekova said international human rights organizations' criticisms of the country's penitentiary system are entirely valid. She called for a total reform of the Interior Ministry. LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [16] NEW SERBIAN PARLIAMENT OPENS

    For the first time since the communists came to power at the end of World War II, a Serbian legislative session dominated by non-communist parties opened in Belgrade on 22 January, AP reported. The Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) has a two-thirds majority. DOS has already made known the names of many key appointments. A government could be in place as early as the end of the week. "Vesti" reported on 21 January that Subotica Mayor Jozsef Kasza will become one of several deputy prime ministers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January 2001). His place in Subotica will be taken by fellow ethnic Hungarian Istvan Ispanovic. PM

    [17] YUGOSLAV ARMY CHIEF: PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE IN NATIONAL INTEREST

    General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who heads the General Staff, wrote in the military publication "Vojska" that the concept of each European country providing for its own defense is outdated. He argued that collective agreements are the way of the future, "Vesti" reported on 21 January. Pavkovic stressed that if NATO and the Yugoslav government and parliament agree, it is in the Yugoslav military's interest to join the Partnership for Peace program. He said that Yugoslavia "is ready to cooperate with all countries that have a similar interest, especially with European countries but also in a broader context." He did not specify which non-European countries he meant, but there has been much speculation in the Serbian media in recent weeks that Belgrade stands to gain by taking a cooperative rather than a confrontational stand toward the U.S. (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 January 2001). Pavkovic added that having closer links to NATO will better enable Serbia to pursue its interests in Kosova and the Presevo region. PM

    [18] NEW SERBIAN GOVERNMENT PLANS ROUND-THE-CLOCK WATCH ON MILOSEVIC

    Interior Minister-designate Dusan Mihajlovic said in Belgrade on 21 January that one of his first acts will be to place former President Slobodan Milosevic under a 24-hour police surveillance, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 2001). "There is a UN war crimes tribunal warrant for Milosevic, and the local judiciary is investigating charges of his abuse of power here. So the public has the right to know where he is and what he is doing," Mihajlovic told Reuters. Asked if he could imagine Serbian police arresting Milosevic, Mihajlovic replied: "I don't need to imagine, I see no problem with that." PM

    [19] SERBIAN JUSTICE MINISTER: 'LET MILOSEVIC GO TO THE HAGUE'

    Justice Minister-designate Vladan Batic said that Milosevic must go to The Hague and face the war crimes charges against him, "Vesti" reported on 21 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 19 January 2001). Batic added that the tribunal is legitimate and Yugoslavia is obliged to cooperate with it because the court was approved by the UN Security Council. He argued that Milosevic has "ruined an entire generation" and must face punishment lest the "entire [Serbian people] remain a victim and hostage" of the former leader and others under indictment. PM

    [20] MORE MILOSEVIC RELATIVES RETURN HOME

    Milosevic's daughter-in-law and toddler grandson returned from Moscow to Belgrade on an Aeroflot flight on 21 January, Beta news agency reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2001). There is still no word on the whereabouts or plans of Milosevic's son, Marko. PM

    [21] SERBIAN EXPERTS: ECONOMY LIKELY VICTIM OF 'URANIUM CAMPAIGN'

    Several Serbian economic and scientific experts told journalists in Belgrade recently that the ongoing "uranium campaign" has already begun to have a negative impact on hopes of improving the economy by boosting agricultural exports, "Vesti" reported on 21 January (see "RFE/RL Balkan Reports," 9 January 2001). Dragisa Raicevic, who heads the agriculture faculty in Zemun, noted that some foreign firms have already begun to cancel orders for Serbian mineral water. He added that Serbian agriculturists had hoped to earn much money by offering foreign markets "healthy food," but that these hopes have been dashed. Ivan Lackovic of the electro-technical faculty added that the campaign has frightened off many potential investors from abroad. Medical specialist Zeljka Ilic noted that stress, not uranium, has been the main problem for people's health stemming from the 1999 bombing campaign. PM

    [22] CLINTON LIFTS REMAINING U.S. SANCTIONS AGAINST SERBIA

    Outgoing U.S. President Bill Clinton notified Congress on 19 January that he is lifting the remaining "outer wall" of sanctions imposed in 1999 against Serbia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The ban on financial dealings by Milosevic and 80 members of his entourage remains in force. Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said in Belgrade that "a good deal" of the sanctions no longer exist but did not elaborate. PM

    [23] MONTENEGRIN FOREIGN MINSTER WARNS OF EU 'BELGRADE LOBBY'

    Branko Lukovac said that the EU has damaged its credibility in Montenegrin eyes by insisting recently that Montenegro not declare independence, "Vesti" reported on 21 January. He added that an unnamed "Belgrade lobby" in Brussels has done much to strengthen Serbia's position at the expense of that of Montenegro. Lukovac argued that Montenegro hopes that the international community will not "penalize" it because it has chosen to seek independence by peaceful means rather than through armed struggle. Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan made similar remarks, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 21 January. In the weekly "NIN" on 19 January, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said that he is optimistic that Serbia and Montenegro can remain united. He added, however, that he will not try to stand in Montenegro's way if its citizens opt for independence in a referendum. PM

    [24] KOSTUNICA STILL AMBIGUOUS ON BOSNIAN PEACE PACT

    Kostunica said in Sarajevo on 18 January that he respects the 1995 Dayton peace agreements but has doubts about their legality (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 18 January 2001). "You know that the Dayton peace agreement was negotiated only with Slobodan Milosevic. You know that the agreement was signed by only Milosevic, despite the fact he was the Serbian, not the Yugoslav president," AP reported. Kostunica added that he foresees that Dayton will be replaced at some point by "other solutions" but did not elaborate. PM

    [25] BOSNIAN SERB PRIME MINISTER SACKS NATIONALIST APPOINTEE

    Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said on 18 January in Banja Luka that he has replaced Goran Popovic as trade minister and named him to head the customs office instead, AP reported. Ivanic was under heavy pressure from the U.S. to exclude all members of Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) from the cabinet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 2001). Ivanic is also under pressure from Bosnian Serb President Mirko Sarovic (SDS) to include at least one member of that party in a cabinet post. The SDS has won all Bosnian Serb elections over the past ten years. PM

    [26] POLITICAL CHARGES AND COUNTERCHARGES IN MACEDONIA

    On 19 January, opposition Social Democratic leader Branko Crvenkovski gave Public Prosecutor Stavre Djikov what Crvenkovski called documentary evidence of wire-tapping, "Vesti" reported on 21 January. Crvenkovski charged that the government eavesdropped on conversations of President Boris Trajkovski, Djikov, several ministers, leaders of opposition parties, and journalists from some 10 media outlets. Djikov said that he will work to clear up the matter as soon as possible. For her part, Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska told "Dnevnik" of 19 January that the Interior Ministry possesses bugging equipment but only to use against what she called foreign intelligence agencies. She denied that the ministry eavesdrops on domestic politicians or journalists. Dimovska called for the matter to be cleared up quickly. PM

    [27] GRENADE ATTACK ON MACEDONIAN POLICE STATION

    One policeman was killed and three injured when a grenade struck the police station in the ethnic Albanian village of Tearce on 22 January, AP reported. Police are investigating. There have been attacks on police stations in ethnic Albanian regions in previous years with motives ranging from political to criminal. PM

    [28] ALBANIA, YUGOSLAVIA RENEW DIPLOMATIC TIES

    The Information Ministry said in a statement on 19 January that Belgrade and Tirana have reestablished diplomatic relations, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 2001). PM

    [29] NASTASE ELECTED CHAIRMAN OF ROMANIAN RULING PARTY

    The 869 delegates to the extraordinary National Conference of the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 19 January unanimously elected Prime Minister Adrian Nastase as new PDSR chairman, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He replaces President Ion Iliescu, who is barred by the constitution from being a party member during his presidential tenure. Addressing the forum, Iliescu said he intends to return to the PDSR when his mandate ends. Nastase told the delegates in what recalls communist discourse that "one can never be right against the party." The conference elected Cozmin Gusa to the newly-created position of PDSR secretary general. Mediafax said the 30-year old Gusa is a mass-media expert. The forum also added five new deputy PDSR chairmen to the existing six and abolished the position of first deputy chairman hitherto held by Nastase. MS

    [30] FORMER ROMANIAN RULING PARTY HAS NEW CHAIRMAN

    A congress of the extraparliamentary National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) on 20 January elected Andrei Marga as its new chairman after an exchange of mutual recriminations and dramatic balloting. Marga, a former Education Minister, received the backing of 374 delegates, as against 263 who voted for former Interior Minister Constantin Dudu Ionescu. Calin Constantin Chirita withdrew from the race on 19 January, and Vasile Lupu followed suit the next day, urging the forum to amend the statutes making it possible for Marga--whose party membership is rather recent--to run. Of the four candidates who ran in the first ballot, Marga and Ionescu advanced to the second, but neither garnered the necessary majority and a third ballot had to be held. Lupu was then elected first deputy chairman and Chirita deputy chairman. Outgoing PNTCD chairman Ion Diaconescu was elected honorary chairman for life on 19 January. MS

    [31] RIFT SURFACES IN HUNGARIAN MINORITY PARTY LEADERSHIP

    Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko, speaking at a meeting of the UDMR Council of Representatives in Targu Mures on 20 January, said the 2000 electoral outcome had been good, but would have been better if honorary chairman and radical wing leader Bishop Laszlo Toekes had not urged his supporters to vote for Hungarian candidates who ran on separate lists. He called Toekes's behavior "schizophrenic." Toekes denied the accusation and said that "schizophrenic" is a word well-fitting the agreement with the PDSR recently signed by the pro-Marko leadership. Defending the agreement, Marko said it had already produced good results for the UDMR in the form of the recently-passed Local Public Administration Law and the restitution law passed by the parliament. The council voted to approve the agreement with the PDSR, Mediafax reported. MS

    [32] EXTREMIST ROMANIAN LEADER APPEALS TO LIKE-MINDED PDSR PEERS

    Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor on 19 January appealed to "patriotic" parliamentarians from the PDSR, calling on them to "boycott by all possible means" the approval of the Local Public Administration Law, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The law has yet to be discussed by a mediation commission to bridge gaps between the versions approved by the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, respectively. He mentioned by name Adrian Paunescu, George Pruteanu, Liviu Maior, Antonie Iorgovan and Sergiu Nicolaescu, calling on them to halt the transformation of what he termed as "the language of horses" (Hungarian) into Romania's second official language. MS

    [33] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WHITEWASHING ANTONESCU?

    President Ion Iliescu on 21 January said "one must not forget" what the Iron Guardist 1941 "delirium of intolerance and anti-Semitism" signifies for Romanian history. Iliescu spoke at a ceremony at the Coral Temple in Bucharest marking 60 years since that pogrom. That brief "delirium" excepted, he said, there is no Romanian contribution to the "long European history" of persecution of the Jews and it is "significant" that there is no Romanian word for "Holocaust." While paying homage to the Iron Guard's victims, he said, it is "unjustified to attribute to Romania an artificially inflated number of [Jewish] victims for the sake of media impact." This mistaken view, he added, might disappear when "Romanian [i.e. not Jewish] historians will tackle this subject." Many historians and other intellectuals in contemporary Romania deny or minimize the number of Jewish victims who perished as a result of being deported to Transnistria by the Ion Antonescu regime. MS

    [34] ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN STOCKHOLM

    Visiting Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana on 19 January discussed with his Swedish counterpart Anna Lindh cooperation between the OSCE, of which he is rotating chairman, and the EU, the rotating chairmanship of which is now Swedish. They also discussed bilateral relations and Romania's quest for EU integration. Geoana handed Lindh a letter addressed by Premier Nastase to Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, proposing the renewal of negotiations between the two countries on liquidating Romania's $650 million debt to Sweden. The debt stems from 1922-1934 treasury bonds and Swedish property confiscated by the communist government. Geoana also met Swedish parliament chairwoman Birgitta Dahl and conferred with Rolf Ekeus, chairman of the International Peace Research Institute, who takes over the position of OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities on 1 July. MS

    [35] GAGAUZ-YERI TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON CHANGING STATUS

    The Popular Assembly of the Gagauz-Yeri autonomous region is to vote on 23 January on holding a referendum changing the official status of the region into "Gagauz Republic," Infotag and Flux reported on 19 January. The referendum is to take place on 25 February, parallel to the Moldovan parliamentary elections. But the assembly will also debate whether to boycott those elections, following the Moldovan parliament's refusal to amend the electoral law to ensure a representation of 15 seats for the region's representatives. Also on 19 January, Popular Assembly chairman Mikhail Kendigelean announced that the assembly intends to sign an agreement with the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM), backing the PCM in the elections. Kendigelean said the PCM is "the only ally of the Gagauz," and recognizes the need to amend the Moldovan constitution to include a special article on Gagauz-Yeri. MS

    [36] BULGARIA CHARGES PRESUMED LUKANOV ASSASSINS

    Two Ukrainians and three Bulgarians are charged with the 1996 murder of Andrei Lukanov, who was Socialist Party Premier between 1989 and 1990, AP reported on 21 January, citing BTA. Media reports speculated that the assassination was connected with Lukanov's involvement as a businessman in dubious deals. The lawyer of one of the Ukrainians charged said the five are his client, Alexander Rusov and Alexei Kichatov (both Ukrainians), Bulgarian businessman Angel Vasiliev, his nephew Georgi Georgiev and Yurii Lenev, an employee in Vasiliev's firm. Local media speculated that Vasiliev, a construction entrepreneur, hired Rusov and Kichatov to kill Lukanov. The reports also said Vasilev had been linked to the Orion business group of Lukanov's foes in the Socialist Party, which was headed by then-premier Zhan Videnov. Rusov and Kichatov were extradited from Ukraine and Vasiliev was extradited from the Czech Republic. MS

    [37] BULGARIAN HACKER RAIDS PRESIDENTIAL WEBSITE

    President Petar Stoyanov's press office on 19 January said it is stepping up security measures after Stoyanov's official website was hacked by an intruder earlier last week, Reuters and AP reported. The intruder left a message saying: "Why did I do it? Very simple: when my parents live in misery and I cannot find a job without the proper connections, when most of my friends seek their fortune abroad, what else is left?" Presidential spokeswoman Neri Terzieva said that despite precautionary measures, it cannot be guaranteed the incident will not happen again because "Bulgarian hackers are so talented." In another incident, the website of the ruling Union of Democratic Forces was invaded on 18 January. The hackers left a message including obscene remarks and their own nicknames. Bulgaria has no legislation punishing cyber-crime. MS

    [C] END NOTE

    [38] BULGARIAN MEDIA LAW HAS LESSONS FOR CZECHS

    By Ron Synovitz

    About 200 Bulgarian journalists signed a petition last week to protest the way the country's broadcasting council is handling the selection of the next director of National Radio. The journalists are demanding the resignation of the seven-member National Council for Radio and Television. They say that after one failed search for a new radio director, the council has proven itself unable to fulfill its duties. The journalists also accuse council members of violating procedures that are outlined in Bulgaria's state broadcasting laws.

    Bulgarian media law now looks very much like what striking public TV journalists in the Czech Republic would like their country to adopt. But the Bulgarian variant does not appear to be working well in practice.

    Members of Bulgaria's broadcast council are nominated by non-governmental organizations from a broad cross-section of society. They are supposed to be journalists, critics or artists. Four of the seven council members are appointed by parliament and three are named by the presidency.

    But Bulgarian journalists say the law, although looking good on paper, has not prevented partisanship from creeping into public media.

    Earlier this month, the Bulgarian council rejected five candidates who were nominated for the job of directing national radio. As called for by law, each candidate was nominated by a non-governmental journalism organization. Among those rejected by the council was outgoing National Radio director Alexander Velev, whose term of office expired this month.

    Journalists complain that the council exceeded its powers by naming an interim director while it conducts a second search. There also are complaints that some candidates in the first round of nominations were rejected because of their political affiliations rather than on the basis of their ability to do the job.

    Opposition members of parliament have called for an extraordinary meeting of the legislature's culture and media committee to look into the matter. In making the call for the sessions, commission deputy chairman Dimo Dimov said concerns have been raised about the possibility that the next director of National Radio may be chosen on the basis of political affiliation.

    Dimov says the parliamentary committee meeting should take place before the council takes a final decision on the next National Radio director. He also says the commission's session should be open to members of the broadcasting council as well as to National Radio journalists.

    To be sure, no one in Bulgaria questions the fact that political affiliations play a factor in the appointment of national media directors. Bulgaria went through a series of short-lived governments in the early 1990s. In every case, one of the first steps of the new government was to replace the previous state radio and television directors with their own candidates.

    President Petar Stoyanov's chief spokeswoman, Neri Terzieva, knows from her own personal experience during the early 1990s about the political nature of the top state broadcasting posts. As a pro-western reformist who openly supported the anti-communist Union of Democratic Forces, or UDF, Terzieva was the manager at state TV responsible for creating the country's second national television channel, Efir 2, in 1992.

    Terzieva attempted to foster a new kind of journalism in Bulgaria based on Western standards of objectivity rather than on the political patronage system of the totalitarian era. But Terzieva herself was forced to leave her post as director of state TV director after the resignation of UDF Prime Minister Philip Dimitrov in December 1992.

    In the mid-1990s, the former communists in the Bulgarian Socialist Party passed laws giving the legislature power to directly appoint state broadcast media bosses.

    The current media law was passed after UDF election victories in 1997 gave anti-communists control over both the parliament and the presidency. At first, the law gave the UDF-dominated parliament the exclusive right to name the bosses of state radio and TV. But complaints from journalists led to the creation of the National Council for Radio and Television as a way of reducing parliament's control over broadcasting.

    Terzieva told RFE/RL that in the current case President Stoyanov thinks the council has abided by the laws. She says regulations on the appointment of a National Radio director allow the possibility of a candidate for the post to be nominated or chosen through a contest with rules that are specifically created by the council. But Terzieva says President Stoyanov acknowledges that he has no right to deliberate on the activity of the council because it is an independent public body.

    The media crisis in the Czech Republic sparked mass street protests numbering in the tens of thousands. Public anger grew swiftly after striking journalists alleged that a new public TV director was in effect a political appointee made by the Czech TV Council, whose nine members themselves are named by parliament's lower house.

    The public outcry over the scandal has brought about the dissolution of the Czech TV Council and sparked debate on the need for a new law covering public TV.

    A spokeswoman (unnamed) for the Bulgarian president says the difference between the problems in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria is obvious. In Bulgaria, she says, the council is waiting for journalist groups to nominate a qualified candidate to head National Radio. She says this provision in Bulgarian law appears to be what Czech public TV journalists have been demanding from the beginning of their protests.

    Ron Synovitz is a senior editor with RFE/RL in Prague

    22-01-01


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


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