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East: U.S. Raises Citizenship, Democratization Concerns At OSCE

Warsaw, 28 October 1998 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. delegates to the OSCE's conference in Warsaw on human rights have called on the governments of Croatia, the Czech Republic, Macedonia, and Slovenia to resolve citizenship problems. They have also expressed concern over the violation of election rules in Central Asia.

The U.S.'s Dorothy Douglas Taft told the gathering of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe yesterday that there were many positive steps to report as regards citizenship problems.

Taft noted that the Greek government in June repealed a citizenship code which was used to discriminate against non-ethnic Greeks. In September, Ukraine and Uzbekistan reached an agreement to facilitate naturalization procedures for Crimean Tatars. In an October referendum the voters in Latvia signaled that they were ready to resolve citizenship issues for Russian speakers and other minority groups.

But Taft said there were also trouble spots such as the case of the Czech Republic where some people, mostly Roma (Gypsies), remained deprived of citizenship. Taft said "the Czech Helsinki Committee estimates that as many as 15,000 former Czechoslovaks are still without Czech citizenship."

Taft said that Roma in Macedonia have to have 15 years of residence and demonstration of a "permanent source of funds" to be granted citizenship.

According to Taft, some 5,000 to 10,000 former Yugoslav citizens are deprived of legal residency status in Slovenia due to "slow processing of their applications by the authorities."

She said the worst situation is in Croatia where some 180,000 ethnic Serbs are without citizenship.

Chadwick R. Gore, another member of the U.S. delegation, said that in countries such as Croatia, the Czech Republic and Macedonia, "when individuals are wrongfully denied the right to citizenship, they are wrongfully denied the right to vote."

Gore also urged the Belarusian government to cooperate with the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group's efforts to create conditions for free and fair elections in the future.

In Gore's opinion, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are violating democracy by not allowing opposition groups to operate. He said his delegation "strongly urges Tashkent and Ashgabat to move quickly to permit such parties to register and function."

He noted the presidents of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan are heading toward creation of what he suggested would be president-for-life jobs. Gore said "there is reason to be concerned that Central Asian leaders have no intention of ever leaving their posts through the rule of law".

The OSCE's 15-day human rights conference opened Monday in the Polish capital.