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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 45, 01-03-06

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. 45, 6 March 2001


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS WRAP UP PARIS TALKS
  • [02] AZERBAIJAN WARNS TURKEY OVER DELAY IN GAS DEAL
  • [03] AZERBAIJANIS ATTACK GEORGIAN BORDER POST AFTER SHOOTING
  • [04] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT APPEALS TO PARIS CLUB TO WRITE OFF PART OF GEORGIA'S DEBTS
  • [05] GEORGIAN COMMUNISTS PAY TRIBUTE TO STALIN
  • [06] SOUTH OSSETIA PROTESTS GEORGIAN VISA DEMAND
  • [07] FIRST LOCAL OFFICIAL ELECTED IN KYRGYZSTAN
  • [08] COURT SUSPENDS PUBLICATION OF KYRGYZ OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER
  • [09] COMMANDER DENIES RUSSIAN PARATROOPERS TO BE SENT TO TAJIKISTAN
  • [10] RUSSIAN BORDER GUARD COMMANDER VISITS TAJIKISTAN

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [11] FIGHTING ON KOSOVAR BORDER SUBSIDES AS NATO, MACEDONIAN TROOPS CLAMP DOWN
  • [12] NATO REASSURES MACEDONIA ON MEASURES TO END CONFLICT
  • [13] ALBANIA CONDEMNS INSURGENTS, SUPPORTS TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY
  • [14] KOSTUNICA WANTS WEST TO END FOCUS ON EXTRADITION OF SUSPECTED WAR CRIMINALS...
  • [15] ...WHILE SERBIAN JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS WAR CRIMES SUSPECT MAY SURRENDER
  • [16] KOSTUNICA: YUGOSLAVIA, REPUBLIKA SRPSKA AGREEMENT 'VALID'
  • [17] MESIC CALLS YUGO-SRPSKA AGREEMENT A CONTINUATION OF GREATER SERBIA
  • [18] CROATIAN PRIME MINISTER CONDEMNS BOSNIAN CROAT DECLARATION
  • [19] CROATIAN COURT INDICTS NORAC FOR WAR CRIMES
  • [20] STANDARD&POOR'S IMPROVES ROMANIA'S RATING
  • [21] ROMANIAN PREMIER ADAMANT ON HUNGARIAN VISITS
  • [22] FLOODS HIT TRANSYLVANIA
  • [23] FORMER ROMANIAN POLITICAL PRISONERS PROTEST SECURITATE-LINKED APPOINTMENT
  • [24] ROMANIAN PREMIER 'TAKES NOTE' OF MOLDOVA'S MOSCOW ORIENTATION
  • [25] PUTIN CONGRATULATES VORONIN ON MOLDOVAN ELECTORAL VICTORY
  • [26] VORONIN TO 'HURRY SLOWLY' ON ECONOMIC REFORMS
  • [27] STURZA RESIGNS AS MOLDOVAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
  • [28] GAZPROM TO CONTINUE DELIVERIES TO MOLDOVA
  • [29] BULGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS 'NO' TO TROOPS FOR MACEDONIA...
  • [30] ...WHILE NATO SAYS THE MATTER IS A 'BILATERAL ISSUE'
  • [31] BULGARIA REVOKES NATIONAL CARRIER LICENSE

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [32] MOLDOVA'S ELECTIONS REDRAWING REGIONAL MAP?

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS WRAP UP PARIS TALKS

    Following a one-on-one meeting in Paris late on 4 March, Robert Kocharian and Heidar Aliev met with French President Jacques Chirac on 5 March to discuss approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict. Chirac told journalists at a joint press conference after those talks that they had proceeded "in a warm and friendly atmosphere," but that no details could be divulged, the Paris correspondent of RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Chirac expressed satisfaction that the two presidents demonstrated willingness to find a peaceful solution to the conflict "that is equitable and in conformity with each party's interests," according to AP. He said "we discussed...problems and difficulties in the hope that the Minsk Group could, at a given time, make a proposal that would be acceptable to both parties." A Paris-based representative of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic told the independent Azerbaijan News Service that "some headway" had been made during the talks, and that they had focussed on possible representation of the unrecognized enclave during future negotiations, according to Groong. Baku has hitherto objected to Karabakh participation in the ongoing peace talks. LF

    [02] AZERBAIJAN WARNS TURKEY OVER DELAY IN GAS DEAL

    President Aliev's son Ilham, who is first vice president of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, told journalists on 4 March that Ankara's delay in signing an agreement on importing 5 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz field may negatively affect relations between the two countries, AP and Turan reported on 5 March. That agreement was originally scheduled for signing in January but postponed because of disagreements over the price Turkey is prepared to pay. Ilham Aliev said Turkey is not "imposing tough conditions" but is "holding back" from a firm commitment for "unknown reasons." He expressed the hope that the deal will be finalized during his father's visit to Turkey on 12-16 March, noting that failure to do so may delay the start of development of Shah Deniz, which is currently scheduled for late 2002 or early 2003. LF

    [03] AZERBAIJANIS ATTACK GEORGIAN BORDER POST AFTER SHOOTING

    Some 300 Azerbaijanis attacked Georgian border guards and set fire to three buildings at the frontier between the two countries on 5 March after a Georgian border guard shot dead an Azerbaijani who tried to circumvent border controls, Caucasus Press and Reuters reported. The border guard tried to flee but was later apprehended. He said he had shot at the Azerbaijani after the latter and a companion failed to heed warnings not to try to bypass the border post. The angry Azerbaijanis dispersed following the arrival of Georgian Border Service Director Valerii Chkheidze. LF

    [04] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT APPEALS TO PARIS CLUB TO WRITE OFF PART OF GEORGIA'S DEBTS

    Eduard Shevardnadze has written to U.S. President George W. Bush, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other Western leaders requesting that at its 6 March meeting the Paris Club write off an unspecified part of Georgia's foreign debts to Paris Club members, Caucasus Press reported. Georgia's total foreign debts exceed $ 2 billion. LF

    [05] GEORGIAN COMMUNISTS PAY TRIBUTE TO STALIN

    Several hundred Georgians, mostly members of the country's United Communist Party (SGKP) , congregated in the west Georgian town of Gori on 5 March to mark the anniversary of the death of Joseph Stalin, who was born there, Reuters reported. They also protested last week's call by Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili for banning the SGKP on the grounds that it had called for the overthrow of present the Georgian leadership (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 28 February 2001). President Shevardnadze said on 5 March that if it can be proved that the SGKP had indeed done so, then it should be banned in accordance with the Georgian constitution, Caucasus Press reported. LF

    [06] SOUTH OSSETIA PROTESTS GEORGIAN VISA DEMAND

    Officials of Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia have condemned as "unwarranted pressure" and "political blackmail" the demand by the Georgian central government that Moscow extend the visa requirement for citizens of Georgia to residents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 6 March. Presidential advisor Vyacheslav Gobozov, who chairs the South Ossetian parliament committee for foreign policy, defense and security, warned that Moscow's compliance with that demand would result in breaking off the ongoing negotiations on a political solution of the conflict and in Russia's "final expulsion" from the region. LF

    [07] FIRST LOCAL OFFICIAL ELECTED IN KYRGYZSTAN

    Residents in the village of Lebedinovka in Kyrgyzstan's Chu Oblast elected Omurbek Beishenaliev as new district administrator on 4 March, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Voter turnout among the 11,000 electors was 68 percent. It was the first time that a local district administrator was elected, rather than appointed by the oblast governor. Further pilot elections will be held in one village or town in each of Kyrgyzstan's remaining seven oblasts before country-wide local elections scheduled for this fall. LF

    [08] COURT SUSPENDS PUBLICATION OF KYRGYZ OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER

    Bishkek's Lenin District court has issued orders to the Uchkun publishing house not to print any further issues of the biweekly newspaper "Asaba" until it pays a total of 8 million soms (about $160,000) in three separate fines, the paper's editor Melis Eshimkanov told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 6 March. The fines were imposed on charges of tax evasion, failure to repay a loan, and insulting former Communist Party of Kirghizia First Secretary Turdakun Usubaliev. LF

    [09] COMMANDER DENIES RUSSIAN PARATROOPERS TO BE SENT TO TAJIKISTAN

    Colonel General Georgii Shpak, who commands Russia's airborne forces, told Interfax on 5 March that there is no truth to Russian media reports that some 3,000 paratroopers are to be sent to Tajikistan to help counter an anticipated incursion into Central Asia by Islamic militants currently based in Afghanistan. LF

    [10] RUSSIAN BORDER GUARD COMMANDER VISITS TAJIKISTAN

    Colonel General Konstantin Totskii held talks in Dushanbe on 1-2 March with his Tajik counterpart Saidanwar Kamolov, Tajik Security Council Secretary Amirkul Azimov and President Imomali Rakhmonov, ITAR-TASS reported. Totskii told journalists after his talks with Rakhmonov that they had focussed on the "extremely alarming" situation in Afghanistan, noting that fighting between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance has reached "the very borders of the CIS." Acknowledging that "we have few instruments to influence internal developments in Afghanistan," Totskii said he and Rakhmonov agreed that the international community must take more active measures to mediate an end to the Afghan civil war. LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [11] FIGHTING ON KOSOVAR BORDER SUBSIDES AS NATO, MACEDONIAN TROOPS CLAMP DOWN

    Many ethnic Albanian rebels fighting Macedonian security forces reportedly retreated from their stronghold in the town of Tanusevci on 5 March as Macedonian troops surrounded the area and NATO-led KFOR troops increased their presence in the adjoining region in Kosova, Reuters reported. U.S. Major James Marshal, a spokesman for KFOR, said: "we saw a lot of men in black uniforms crossing into Kosovo, entering buildings, changing out of their uniforms, leaving their weapons, and coming to Kosovo in civilian clothes." Marshal said there are some 70-150 men involved in the fighting group, but did not say how many had withdrawn. He said KFOR troops will "disarm them and detain them and investigate each case individually." Marshal said the men had machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and light weapons. He added that KFOR suspects that there are "caches of weapons and uniforms inside Kosovo." No casualties were reported on 5 March. PB

    [12] NATO REASSURES MACEDONIA ON MEASURES TO END CONFLICT

    Daniel Speckhard, deputy assistant to NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, held talks in Skopje on 5 March with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski and other government officials, AP reported. Speckhard said he gave assurances to Trajkovski that NATO will search for arm caches in the area around the Kosovar town of Debelde. Speckhard said U.S. peacekeepers in KFOR sent armored vehicles, two Apache helicopters, and two dozen humvees to the Debelde area on 5 March. The border town is only a few hundred meters from the rebel held town of Tanusevci, scene of most of the fighting. Trajkovski's foreign policy adviser was quoted as saying: "Finally KFOR [has] started to function as we asked, and we got a promise that they will intensify their activity." PB

    [13] ALBANIA CONDEMNS INSURGENTS, SUPPORTS TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY

    Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta on 6 March condemned attacks by ethnic Albanians in Macedonia, saying that "they will become isolated and lose everyone's support," Reuters reported. Meta, on a visit to France, told the daily "Le Figaro" that "we are not in favor of any border changes and we are absolutely against a resumption of violence." In Brussels, Javier Solana, the EU's foreign and security policy chief, said the rebel fighters "should realize that they are doing serious damage to the image and interests of ethnic Albanians in the whole of Southeastern Europe." He called on ethnic Albanian leaders to "clearly distance themselves from these acts of violence." The U.S. State Department said it "supports the Macedonian government's measured response to these criminal acts, and we will continue to watch the situation very carefully." PB

    [14] KOSTUNICA WANTS WEST TO END FOCUS ON EXTRADITION OF SUSPECTED WAR CRIMINALS...

    Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica on 5 March criticized the West for focusing on the extradition of former President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague instead of stopping violence by ethnic Albanians in Kosovar border areas, AP reported. Kostunica said in Banja Luka that KFOR "did not pay enough attention to its basic task...to bring prosperity and peace to the people living in Kosovo." He said that KFOR's failure to bring security within Kosova has led to allowing "terrorism to spill over from Kosovo to Macedonia and the south of Serbia." Kostunica added that having Milosevic stand trial in Holland is "not a matter of life and death for us." PB

    [15] ...WHILE SERBIAN JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS WAR CRIMES SUSPECT MAY SURRENDER

    Vladan Batic said on 5 March that he expects at least one indictee for war crimes to surrender to the The Hague tribunal in order to relieve pressure by the international community on Serbia, Reuters reported. Batic said that Yugoslavia "cannot ignore demands by the international community...I am afraid that continuing to ignore [the tribunal] would cost us dearly." Citing the example of former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic -- who voluntarily flew to The Hague in January -- Batic said that he expects "one of those indicted by the tribunal will realize that citizens of Serbia should not be their hostages and...will voluntarily go there." Batic said he blames Montenegro's Socialist People's Party, an ally of former President Milosevic, for delaying the adoption of key legislation that would allow Belgrade to extradite its citizens to The Hague. PB

    [16] KOSTUNICA: YUGOSLAVIA, REPUBLIKA SRPSKA AGREEMENT 'VALID'

    Yugoslav President Kostunica said the agreement on special relations signed between Yugoslavia and the Bosnian-Serb entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina will help regional stability, dpa reported 6 March. The two signed the accord in Banja Luka the previous day. He added that the agreement was prepared in cooperation with High Representative for Bosnia Wolfgang Petritsch. "I stress that because there were speculations that the document is invalid. But it is valid throughout," he said. DW

    [17] MESIC CALLS YUGO-SRPSKA AGREEMENT A CONTINUATION OF GREATER SERBIA

    Croatian President Stipe Mesic said the agreement on special relations signed between Yugoslavia and Srpska Republika on 5 March is a continuation of the idea of a Greater Serbia, dpa reported. Speaking on Croatian radio, Mesic said: "with the latest move, Yugoslav President Kostunica has only additionally complicated the situation in Bosnia." He added that the agreement is a continuation of a similar agreement signed between Croatia and the Croat-Muslim Federation in Bosnia under the rule of former Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. DW

    [18] CROATIAN PRIME MINISTER CONDEMNS BOSNIAN CROAT DECLARATION

    Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan condemned the declaration of self-rule made by Bosnian Croats at the National Assembly held on 3 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2001), Reuters reported. "I voice my regret and condemnation of the decisions taken in Mostar. They will only make any future talks much harder," he said. He added that, while the Croatian government no longer makes political decisions for the Bosnian Croats, "stability in Bosnia is [in] our national interest." DW

    [19] CROATIAN COURT INDICTS NORAC FOR WAR CRIMES

    Retired General Mirko Norac was formally charged in Croatia of war crimes in connection with killings of Serb civilians in Gospic in 1991, news services reported on 5 March. Norac, his war-time aide, and three others face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Mirko Condic, head of the largest veterans' association, condemned the charges as "shameful and humiliating" and said veterans have collected almost 300,000 signatures on a petition for amnestying Croatian fighters in the war, as Serbs were recently amnestied. DW

    [20] STANDARD&POOR'S IMPROVES ROMANIA'S RATING

    The government on 5 March welcomed the decision of the Standard&Poor's international rating agency to improve Romania's rating for servicing its external and internal debt and said the decision reflects "the growing confidence" of financial circles in the Romanian reform program, Mediafax reported. Standard&Poor's modified Romania's rating from "stable" to "positive" while maintaining Romania's ratings of "B-minus" for servicing its long-term hard currency external debt; "B" for servicing internal debt in national currency; "C" for short-term hard currency external debt; and "C" for servicing short-term debt in national currency. Standard&Poor's said Romania still needs to improve relations with the IMF and the World Bank, for which purpose it must make progress in privatization, restructuring, reducing the inflation rate, and collecting budget arrears. MS

    [21] ROMANIAN PREMIER ADAMANT ON HUNGARIAN VISITS

    Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 5 March said Romania welcomes visits by Hungarian officials, but the practice established under the previous Romanian government, whereby officials visited Transylvania without prior coordination with Romanian authorities, "must be immediately ended." He said Hungarian officials visiting Transylvania must "strictly respect protocol rules" and understand that "they are not visiting no-man's-land." Nastase acknowledged that Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth visited Romania officially last month, but remarked that the official visit was followed by one to the Harghita and Covasna counties that the government was not informed about. In addition, the government was not informed about Justice Minister Ibolya David's recent visit to Arad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2001). MS

    [22] FLOODS HIT TRANSYLVANIA

    Flooding continues in several Transylvanian regions, Romanian Radio reported on 6 March. No victims have been reported, but hundreds had to be rescued by civil defense services and many households are without electricity and water. The flooding began one day earlier, triggered by melting snow and heavy rains. MS

    [23] FORMER ROMANIAN POLITICAL PRISONERS PROTEST SECURITATE-LINKED APPOINTMENT

    In an open letter addressed to President Ion Iliescu, the Association of Former Political Prisoners (AFDRP) on 5 March protested the recent appointment of Ristea Priboi as chairman of the parliamentary commission overseeing the activity of the Foreign Intelligence Service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 2001). The AFDRP demands in the letter that an inquiry be launched into Priboi's activity as a high official in the Securitate's Foreign Intelligence Directorate. It also demands "clarification" of the role played by Priboi in activities directed against the then-Munich-based RFE and "the elucidation of the suspicious deaths" of RFE Romanian Service directors Noel Bernard and Vlad Georgescu in the 1980s. General Ion Mihai Pacepa, who defected to the United States, wrote that Bernard and Georgescu, who died of cancer, had been irradiated by agents of the communist secret police. MS

    [24] ROMANIAN PREMIER 'TAKES NOTE' OF MOLDOVA'S MOSCOW ORIENTATION

    In an interview with the private Pro TV channel on 5 March, Premier Nastase said that in the wake of the recent elections in Moldova, Romania "takes note of the geopolitical change on its Eastern border and the creation there of a Moscow-oriented entity," Mediafax reported on the next day. The new Moldovan rulers, Nastase said, are known for their "clear anti-Romanian positions" and the pro-Romanian forces in Moldova have been transformed by the electoral outcome into "strictly decorative" formations in the parliament (see also End Note). MS

    [25] PUTIN CONGRATULATES VORONIN ON MOLDOVAN ELECTORAL VICTORY

    Russian President Vladimir Putin phoned Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) leader Vladimir Voronin on 3 March to congratulate him on the PCM victory in the 25 February parliamentary elections, Flux reported. The PCM parliamentary group's press service said Putin "reconfirmed his readiness to enlarge Russian-Moldovan cooperation based on mutual respect and mutual interest." MS

    [26] VORONIN TO 'HURRY SLOWLY' ON ECONOMIC REFORMS

    Voronin on 5 March told German Ambassador Michael Zickerick that he sees "no serious obstacles" hindering the "continuation of reforms," but added that the PCM, which won the recent elections, will "act in line with the Latin recommendation to 'hurry slowly,'" Flux reported. Voronin discussed the composition of the envisaged new cabinet with Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis on 3 March but, according to Flux, no agreement has been reached. "Unofficial sources" cited by the agency say the most likely candidates for the premiership are Moldovan Ambassador to Moscow Valeriu Bobutac, and outgoing Foreign Minister Nicolae Cernomaz. Voronin discussed with leaders on 5 March the possibility of participation by extraparliamentary center- left formations in the cabinet, and later said he will also meet with leaders of extraparliamentary center-right parties for the same purpose. MS

    [27] STURZA RESIGNS AS MOLDOVAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY DEPUTY CHAIRMAN

    Former Premier Ion Sturza, who headed the Democratic Party lists in the February elections, on 5 March resigned as deputy chairman of that party at a meeting of its National Board, Infotag reported. Sturza severely criticized the performance of party leader Dumitru Diacov and said the leadership is responsible for the party's "miserable performance" and its failure to pass the 6 percent electoral hurdle. He proposed that the party hold an extraordinary congress in April to discuss the reasons for the debacle, but the proposal was rejected. Also on 5 March, Diacov refuted rumors that he is negotiating with Voronin over his own appointment as foreign minister in the new cabinet. MS

    [28] GAZPROM TO CONTINUE DELIVERIES TO MOLDOVA

    Premier Braghis on 5 March said Russian gas giant Gazprom has agreed to cancel a recent threat to stop gas deliveries and is willing to discuss a rescheduling of Moldovan debt payments, ITAR-TASS reported. Braghis said the Russian concern warned in late February it would stop deliveries because Moldova has covered only 40 percent of its $12 million debt for deliveries in 2001. He said he will submit his rescheduling proposals later this week. According to Gazprom, the total Moldovan gas debt to Russia since the country became independent is $800 million, including the costs for deliveries to the Transdniester region. MS

    [29] BULGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS 'NO' TO TROOPS FOR MACEDONIA...

    Defense Minister Boiko Noev on 5 March said there is "no reason to send Bulgarian armed forces to Macedonia," and added that such troops can be sent there only as part of an international force authorized by the UN, Reuters and AP reported. Noev said President Petar Stoyanov's initiative (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2001) must be interpreted as "a declaration of moral and political support for the Macedonian government" but "should not be interpreted as an official proposal." Only the government, Noev said, can propose dispatching Bulgarian troops abroad and the cabinet "has no such intention, because for the moment there is no need for that." Speaking in Brussels, Stoyanov said his initiative came at the request of Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski. MS

    [30] ...WHILE NATO SAYS THE MATTER IS A 'BILATERAL ISSUE'

    NATO Deputy Secretary General Sergio Balanzino said after talks with Stoyanov that the Bulgarian offer is "a matter for the two countries to decide -- one proposing it and one accepting the proposal." As far as NATO is concerned, he said "whatever can strengthen the position of the FYROM [Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia] is welcome," an RFE/RL correspondent in Brussels reported. MS

    [31] BULGARIA REVOKES NATIONAL CARRIER LICENSE

    The Bulgarian government on 5 March revoked the aviation license of national carrier Balkan Airlines ahead of a Sofia court decision on whether to declare the debt-ridden company bankrupt, BTA and AP reported. Deputy Transport Minister Apik Garabedyan said the move should have been made three weeks earlier, when the Israeli-owned company suspended flights, but was delayed to reroute passengers who had been stranded to other airlines. MS

    [C] END NOTE

    [32] MOLDOVA'S ELECTIONS REDRAWING REGIONAL MAP?

    By Michael Shafir

    Instead of erecting statues of Marshal Ion Antonescu, Romania should perhaps consider erecting a statue to Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) leader Vladimir Voronin. For while celebrating the memory of the man who led Romania into its World War II debacle and was executed as a war criminal can only diminish Bucharest's (anyhow meager) chances of being admitted to an expanded NATO in 2002, nobody has contributed more than Voronin to the sudden improvement of those prospects. With the stroke of a ballot, the PCM's victory in the 25 February Moldovan elections may be redrawing the map of the region.

    First, the elections may bring Russia back to Romania's eastern border, and this may be a powerful argument for NATO to conclude that it should contain Russia at that very edge. Voronin has repeatedly declared that he wants Moldova to join the Russia-Belarus Union and there is no reason to doubt his word. He would, of course, do it "democratically" -- that is to say, submitting the proposal to a referendum. In a similarly democratic manner, the PCM leader apparently intends to ask voters to back granting the Russian language the official status of a second state language, alongside "Moldovan." The electoral outcome, in fact, allows Voronin to do as he pleases in the parliament, and passing a referendum law should be the least of his worries. His PMC, which won the backing of 50.7 percent of the electorate and consequently controls 71 out of the 101 seats in the parliament, is not only able to dictate the composition of the cabinet or have the required three-fifths majority (61 seats) needed to elect outgoing President Petru Lucinschi's successor, but may even amend the constitution as it pleases. To do so, the PCM needs 68 votes, three less than it commands after the parliamentary poll.

    Viewed from this perspective, the PCM's Central Committee decision of 3 March to nominate Voronin as its presidential candidate must be food for thought. True, the PCM leader said on several occasions that he does not intend to change the recently adopted parliamentary system and criticized some former Soviet Central Asian republics for allowing their presidential system to develop into a "personality cult." But it is more than significant that Belarus, whose rather morganatic marriage with Russia Voronin wants to become the third partner in, was never among those countries he saw fit to criticize. It would be rather surprising if the former KGB head in Moldova would opt for a ceremonial presidential role after his astounding victory. Alyaksander Lukashenka, in any case, said he would accept Moldova in the union "with heart and soul."

    Second, the electoral impact will redraw the regional map with regard to the Transdniester conflict. Voronin has clearly stated that relations with Russia are "strategic" for his party and that the Russian troops stationed in the breakaway republic cannot, and should not, leave before their arsenal has been evacuated. Those troops, he said, do nothing there but guard munitions. This shows that Voronin has a short memory at best. Some Moldovan and foreign observers are wary that Voronin might well invite the Russians to guard, and guard, and endlessly guard, perhaps by officially offering Moscow a military base on "sovereign" Moldovan territory. Should this supposition materialize, there is reason to believe, as Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev apparently does, that the PCM victory will indeed bring a solution to the conflict. After all, the separatist authorities in Tiraspol would no longer be needed by Moscow if the invitation comes from the Moldovan president himself. This explains why the Supreme Soviet chairman in Tiraspol, Grigorii Marakutsa, was obviously less than thrilled with the electoral results, whereas the head of the Russian state commission on the Transdniester region conflict, Yevgenii Primakov, was hardly able to conceal his satisfaction. Seleznev, in any case, went one step further, seeing in the Moldovan electoral outcome a prelude to Ukraine's rejoining the former Soviet family.

    A third reason for worry, and this time around not only for NATO but for the EU as well, is the course of the reforms in Moldova, which never made much progress anyhow. Voronin is closer in his view of reform to his Russian Communist counterpart than he is to any other leader. Like Gennadii Zyuganov, Voronin considers the economic reforms to have been "genocidal" and to have served only the interests of the West and its "Moldovan lackeys." Needless to say, it was not the reforms but their absence which led Moldova to where it stands today. As in neighboring Romania, an unsophisticated electorate and a corrupt political leadership paved the way for the PCM's victory. This is what made some Russians (for example the daily "Segodnya" on 27 February) wonder whether Moldova's inclusion into the Russia-Belarus Union would not compound Russia's own debt problems, while "Izvestiya" on the same day wrote that the union would bring a "beggar-country" into an alliance of "two states that are even poorer."

    Finally, whether Voronin, a reputed anti-Romanian, can find a common language with Bucharest just on the grounds of opposition to reforms, is, again, doubtful. First, despite Romanian President Ion Iliescu's rather ambiguous views on what reforms are all about, Bucharest is likely to be forced into pursuing that course. While Iliescu's reaction to the Moldovan electoral outcome was restrained, he still spoke of "special and privileged relations" based on the two states' "identity of language, culture, traditions, and historic roots." But unlike his predecessors, Mircea Snegur and Lucinschi, a future President Vladimir Voronin is likely to reject this approach. One of his first electoral pronouncements was to attack "the idea of two Romanian states."

    Maps are obviously being redrawn, and there is as yet no way to tell whether the Moldovan electoral outcome is a prelude to a drastic rethinking of both ideological and actual boundaries. It is also too early to tell who, besides those directly affected, will become entangled. Some may say this is hardly novel for the region. And they may be right.

    06-03-01


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


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