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Newsline - September 16, 1997


President Boris Yeltsin on 15 September described his meeting with six leaders of powerful banks and financial groups as "very useful," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Yeltsin said bankers who had begun to "quarrel with the government" needed to meet with the president, "whom they always supported and will continue to support." He added that tension recently arose between bankers and some cabinet members, "whom I could not give up under any circumstances." Yeltsin said the bankers had agreed "to end their battle against [First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii] Chubais, [First Deputy Prime Minister Boris] Nemtsov, and the government." The heads of Oneksimbank, Media-Most, Rosprom, SBS-Agro, Inkombank, and Alfa-Bank attended the meeting. Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii, who wields considerable influence at Russian Public Television, "Nezavisimaya gazeta," and other media outlets, was not present (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1997).


Mikhail Khodorkovskii, head of the Rosprom group, told NTV on 15 September that Yeltsin promised to take upcoming privatization auctions, including the sale of the Rosneft oil company, under his personal control. Khodorkovskii also said Yeltsin and the bankers discussed the presidential election scheduled for 2000, saying Yeltsin had promised to ensure "consistency." Alfa-Bank head Mikhail Fridman described the meeting as a step toward "creating an atmosphere of consensus in banking society." He added that Yeltsin agreed "in principle" to hold regular meetings with top bankers, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 September. Fridman also predicted that in the future, "we will be called as consultants on the most important economic questions." Speaking to ITAR-TASS, Oneksimbank head Vladimir Potanin said Yeltsin promised "tough rules" will be applied equally to all those involved in the economic sector. Other bankers who attended the meeting have declined to comment publicly.


First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov says Yeltsin's meeting with the bankers demonstrates that the need to create equal conditions for all financial groups is not merely the "position of Chubais and Nemtsov" but a policy endorsed by the president. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 16 September, Nemtsov noted that in the spring, when the prospect of ending favoritism and back-room privatization deals was only "theoretical," the idea found widespread support. But opposition to the new rules grew in the summer, when those regulations were applied to specific privatization auctions, Nemtsov said. The presidential press service issued a statement saying all bankers who attended the 15 September meeting had agreed to support the economic policies endorsed by Yeltsin and the government, Interfax reported. The bankers also agreed that privatization process should be transparent, with rules applying equally to all potential bidders.


Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 15 September, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov categorically denied that the government is helping Iran develop long-range nuclear weapons. He also rejected the allegation that Moscow has supplied Tehran with nuclear technology, ITAR-TASS reported. He added, however, that Russia will continue with construction of the nuclear power plant at Bushehr, in Iran. He noted that the facility is "important to us in economic terms". Similarly, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had said on 12 September that Western media reports that Russia is aiding Iran's nuclear program are "stupid." Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin complained that "people in Washington simply do not want to listen" to Russian denials of involvement, "Segodnya" reported on 12 September.


Meeting with Primakov and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev on 15 September, Yeltsin instructed the two ministers "to convince legislators that ratification of the START-2 treaty and conclusion of the START-3 treaty are beneficial and useful for Russia", ITAR-TASS reported. Primakov and Sergeev are scheduled to meet on 16 September with the leaders of the seven Duma factions, along with some committee chairmen. Sergeev will outline the military advantages of ratification, while Primakov will explain the foreign policy implications. Sergeev has argued that ratification of START-2 should be contingent on the U.S.'s strict compliance with the provisions of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.


President Aslan Maskhadov on 15 September said that Russian plans to build an oil export pipeline bypassing Chechnya are "not serious," Russian media reported. Maskhadov said such proposals are aimed at canceling existing treaties between Moscow and Grozny. Khozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov, the president of the Chechen state oil company, said on 15 September that Moscow has not officially notified him about the bypass pipeline. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Premier Nemtsov, who is also fuel and energy minister, told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 16 September that the estimated $220 million needed to build the 283 kilometer pipeline will not come out of the state budget. The previous day, he had ordered $854,000 transferred to Grozny to finance repairs to the existing pipeline in accordance with the Russian-Chechen agreement signed on 9 September.


"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 September argued that First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais's team fabricated reports of an alleged assassination plot against Chubais being planned by an unnamed oil company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1997). The authors commented that rumors of such a plot conveniently "cast a shadow over a whole group of [Chubais's] political opponents," namely executives in the oil and gas industry. The newspaper also said the assassination rumors implicitly depict the government's "reformers" as warriors against "bandit capitalism" in Russia, thereby helping Chubais settle scores with his political opponents. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" recently published a sharp attack on Chubais. Meanwhile, Yeltsin said on 15 September that he did not believe the reports of the assassination plot against Chubais, ITAR-TASS reported. He commented that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has also claimed that opponents are plotting to kill him.


Izvestiya" argued on 16 September that the reported threat to Chubais's life is genuine, citing unnamed officials in the Federal Security Service. The newspaper said that security officials believe the assassination of St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Mikhail Manevich in August may have been meant as a warning to Chubais. Manevich was scheduled to meet with Chubais on the day he was killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18-20 August 1997). "Komsomolskaya pravda" argued on 16 August that in preparation for the next wave of privatization sales, "many are interested in playing on the government's nerves." Oneksimbank is a major shareholder in "Izvestiya" and "Komsomolskaya pravda," and both newspapers have generally supported Chubais during the scandals of this summer.


Central Bank officials have denied that any laws will have to be amended in light of the planned ruble redenomination, Russian news agencies reported on 15 September. On 1 January 1998, the ruble is to lose three zeroes, and new coins and bank notes will be issued. Ruslan Orekhov, head of the president's Main State Legal Department, recently sent Prime Minister Chernomyrdin a message saying that various laws setting fixed prices, tariffs, and minimum wages and pensions will have to be amended before the currency reform goes into effect, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 September. The newspaper said Orekhov's department is to recommend that Yeltsin rescind his August decree on the redenomination. Citing an unnamed source in the presidential administration, it argued that if Yeltsin rescinds that decree, Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin is likely to be dismissed. The Central Bank prepared the August decree.


Duma deputy Roman Popkovich of the Our Home Is Russia (NDR) faction has predicted that many independent Duma deputies and some Communists, along with the Yabloko and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia factions, will support removing Lev Rokhlin from the chairmanship of the Duma Defense Committee, Interfax reported on 15 September. Popkovich, a Defense Committee member whom the NDR hopes to appoint in place of Rokhlin, told Ekho Moskvy that under Rokhlin's leadership, the committee has become too "politicized." The Defense Committee was one of four committees whose chairmanships were given to NDR under a January 1996 agreement between all Duma factions. Rokhlin was expelled from the NDR on 9 September. He claims to have recruited some 140 deputies to join a new Duma group to lobby for laws that would support the armed forces and defense industry, "Izvestiya" reported on 13 September.


Workers at the nuclear research center in Sarov, Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, staged a protest on 16 September over wage arrears and other government debts to the center, RFE/RL's correspondent in Nizhnii Novgorod reported. They claim the government is not honoring a pledge to fund the center adequately. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin made that promise when he visited Sarov in July, on the eve of the Nizhnii Novgorod gubernatorial election. Meanwhile, managers and trade union leaders at the Russian Federal Nuclear Center in Snezhinsk, Chelyabinsk Oblast, have warned that the center's workers are preparing to declare an indefinite strike on 30 September, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 September. The workers at Snezhinsk have not been paid for three months and charge that funding problems are jeopardizing safety at the center. In July, some 300 nuclear industry workers participated in a protest march from Smolensk Oblast to Moscow.


Electricity was cut off in some areas in Primorskii Krai on 15 September, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Vladivostok. An official from Dalenergo, the region's power supplier, said the cuts were necessary because of a lack of coal owing to ongoing coal miners' strikes. Most households in Vladivostok currently have no hot water, and many have only infrequent electricity supplies. Coal miners from the largest pit in Primore went on strike on 15 September to demand the payment of wage arrears. The following day, some 500 coal miners and workers from the energy sector picketed city and krai administrative offices to press the same demand. Meanwhile, Yevgenii Nazdratenko, the governor of Primorskii Krai, has urged that the price of electricity for domestic consumption be lowered from 566 to 300 rubles per kilowatt hour.


Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrugs have agreed to participate in the Tyumen Oblast legislative elections in December, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 September. Legislatures of both okrugs have approved a plan agreed on earlier this month by the executive authorities of Tyumen and both okrugs. Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets are part of Tyumen Oblast, but the okrugs also have their own governors and legislatures. Both okrugs boycotted the Tyumen gubernatorial election in January, despite claims by Tyumen authorities that their action was unconstitutional. In July, the Constitutional Court ruled that Tyumen Oblast elections should also be held in the okrugs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1997). Khanty-Mansi will conduct the December election in accordance with the Tyumen electoral law, while Yamal-Nenets plans to adopt its own law on holding oblast-wide elections on the okrug's territory.


A Moscow municipal court has delayed hearings in former Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev's libel lawsuit against the weekly "Sovershenno sekretno" until 12 November, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 September. In late June, the newspaper printed a feature called "The Minister Has No Clothes: Secret Pranks of the Head of the Justice Ministry." The article was accompanied by photos allegedly showing Kovalev and nude women in a sauna in a Moscow club frequented by organized crime figures. Kovalev was first suspended and then replaced shortly after the feature was published. He is challenging the authenticity of the photos, charging that the videotape from which they were taken was doctored. The newspaper says both the videotape and the photos are genuine, and Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov has also vouched for their authenticity.


The National Reconciliation Commission held its first session in the Tajik capital on 15 September, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Said Abdullo Nuri, chairman of the commission and leader of the United Tajik Opposition, had arrived in Dushanbe four days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 1997). Opening the meeting, President Imomali Rakhmonov called on guarantor states of the peace process to continue their work and asked international donor organizations to help in the reconstruction of the country. Four sub-committees were formed to deal with legal, military, political, and refugee issues. Also on 15 September, the Russian Federal Border Guard Service announced that 800 Tajik refugees had returned to Tajikistan from Afghanistan within the previous 48 hours. Nearly 6,000 refugees have been repatriated since the process began on 17 July.


A conference whose aim is to officially declare Central Asia a nuclear-free zone opened in the Uzbek capital on 15 September, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Representatives from more than 60 countries and organizations are attending the meeting. Uzbek President Islam Karimov said that declaring Central Asia a nuclear free zone would help to "ensure the security and peace of the people who live here [as well as] the prosperity of the region." Karimov pointed out that the people of Central Asia still feel the effects of testing carried out in the 1950s and the 1960s in northern Kazakhstan and more recently in western China. He also said there are countries in the region that are trying to acquire the technology to make their own nuclear weapons. He urged that a control mechanism be developed to "avert the spread of nuclear weapons."


First Deputy Prime Minister Abbas Abbasov arrived in Moscow on 15 August to attend a session of the trilateral government commission charged with investigating Russia's arms supplies to Armenia and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has repeatedly protested the alleged shipment to Armenia from 1992-1994 of weaponry worth $1 billion. The Azerbaijani Security Council discussed the issue on 14 September, according to Interfax. Meeting with Georgian Ambassador Gia Chanturia, President Heidar Aliyev expressed concern that much of the weaponry in question has been transported to Armenia via Georgia, Turan reported.


Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR issued a statement on 11 September threatening unspecified reprisals against Western oil companies that participate in the tender for the disputed Kyapaz Caspian oil field, Russian media reported. Kyapaz is included in 11 Caspian sectors for which the Turkmen government opened tenders at the beginning of September. SOCAR Vice President Khoshbakht Yusif-Zade told journalists in Baku on 15 September that Azerbaijani and Kazakh government experts are close to coordinating their position on dividing the Caspian into "equally-distanced national sectors," Interfax reported.


Jirair Libaridian, senior adviser to President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, told journalists on 15 September that he is resigning in order to rejoin his family in the U.S., RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Libaridian, a Beirut-born naturalized U.S. citizen, has worked in Yerevan since 1991. He concentrated on foreign-policy issues, conducting talks on the Karabakh conflict with his Azerbaijani counterpart and maintaining contacts with Turkey (with which Armenia has no formal diplomatic relations). Libaridian said he rejected the offer to become Armenia's representative to the UN but will retain the post of presidential ambassador-at-large. Ter-Petrossyan publicly thanked Libaridian for his service to Armenia. His successor has not yet been named.


Nabih Berri told journalists in Yerevan on 14 September that Lebanon will recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as an independent state if the population votes for independence in a UN sponsored referendum, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The enclave unilaterally declared its independence from Azerbaijan in 1991 but has not been recognized by any country. During his three-day visit, Berri held talks with his Armenian counterpart, Babken Ararktsyan, and with President Ter-Petrossyan. No formal bilateral agreements were signed, but Ter-Petrossyan said the visit "marks a new stage" in bilateral relations. He noted that Lebanon could become Armenia's door to the Middle East and described Armenians' attitude to both Lebanon and Syria (where he was born) as "special," Interfax reported.


Georgian President Eduard Shevadnadze and his Greek counterpart, Constantinos Simitis, signed a treaty on friendship and cooperation on 15 September, the first day of Shevardnadze's three-day official visit to Greece. The two presidents discussed regional conflicts, including Cyprus, and Greek-Turkish relations. Simitis noted the readiness of the Greek business community to invest in Georgia and commented that Greek foreign policy in the Black Sea and Caucasus should be more active. Georgia and Greece are both members of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation.


Abkhaz police seized six ethnic Georgians in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi on 14 September and took them to a police station in neighboring Gali Raion, in Abkhazia, AFP reported. The reason for the kidnapping is unclear. The Georgian government has lodged an official protest with the Abkhaz leadership and with the UN observer and Russian peacekeeping forces deployed in the region.


Valery Tolkachev, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's press secretary, told Interfax on 16 September that Pavel Sheremet, a correspondent for Russian Public Television (ORT), will go on trial. Tolkachev said Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Lukashenka had agreed to such a measure during their meeting in Moscow on 6 September. However, Yeltsin's press office issued a statement on 16 September saying Russia regretted the need to return to an issue that seems "clear and understandable to everyone." It added that Moscow believed the issue will be closed soon "in the spirit of humanity and for the sake of the future of the Russian-Belarusian union." Sheremet and an ORT colleague were arrested on 26 July after filming on the Belarusian-Lithuanian border. Another ORT crew was arrested a week later but eventually released under pressure from Russia. Sheremet, a Belarusian citizen, is the only ORT journalist to remain in jail.


Yury Belenky, the deputy chairman of the opposition Belarusian National Front, was arrested on 16 September in Minsk, Belapan reported. He was seized in the office of Belpromstroybank, where he works, and taken by force to the police station. The police gave no explanation for his arrest and released him several hours later, after Belenky had claimed parliamentary immunity. Meanwhile, the EU on 16 September criticized the "anti-democratic attitude" of Belarus and Lukashenka. It also said that it has suspended participation in talks between the government and the opposition.


A week-long peacekeeping exercise involving some 420 paratroopers from the U.K., Poland, and Ukraine began at a military base in southern Ukraine on 16 September. The paratroopers are taking part in a simulated ethnic conflict at the Shirokiy Lan military base, 400 kilometers south of Kyiv. Defense Ministry spokesman Ihor Melnichuk said the paratroopers will practice trying to prevent such a conflict from developing into civil war. "Kozatskiy Steppe '97" is the second major military exercise in Ukraine within the last month to involve NATO troops. "Sea Breeze '97" took place off the Crimean coast in August, with the participation of soldiers from the U.S., Turkey, and Eastern Europe.


President Lennart Meri has rejected calls for the resignation of the minister of defense or the defense forces commander over the tragic accident during maneuvers off the Estonian coast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 1997), ETA reported on 15 September. He said that any resignation should be decided only after the official investigation into the accident has been completed. Similarly, Justice Minister Paul Varul, who is heading government investigation commission, stressed that the commission itself cannot decide whether any official should resign over the tragedy. Rather, it has to gather the facts and determine responsibility, he said. Meanwhile, the bodies of 10 soldiers have been recovered; four men are still listed as missing.


On the eve of his official visit to Riga, Gennadii Seleznev told the Latvia's Russian-language newspaper "SM-Segodnya" that he wants to see for himself the situation in Latvia and then draw his own conclusions, BNS reported on 15 September. Seleznev commented that Latvian parliamentary speaker Alfreds Cepanis's visit to Moscow earlier this year had given "impetus" to the development of relations between the two countries. Noting that there are "major problems" with regard to ethnic Russians in both Estonia and Latvia, Seleznev said that economic sanctions against the Baltic States would hurt the "ordinary people." The issue of ethnic Russians should therefore be solved by negotiations, he argued.


During his meeting with Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas in Vilnius on 15 September, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz stressed Poland's "constant and unchanging support" for Lithuania's bid to join NATO and the EU, BNS and PAP reported. He also met with representatives of the 300,000-strong Polish community in the Vilnius area, assuring them that ethnic Poles will benefit from the improvement in Polish-Lithuanian relations. The previous day, Cimoszewicz had attended the first session of the Polish-Lithuanian cooperation council in the Lithuanian capital (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1997).


Negotiations between Poland and NATO aimed at finalizing the terms for Warsaw's entry into the alliance are scheduled to begin on 16 September in Brussels. They will take place in five installments, ending on 23 October. Talks with Hungary began 10 September, while the Czech Republic is due to start negotiations on 23 September. RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent reported that negotiations will decide the number of Poles, Hungarians, and Czechs to be stationed at NATO headquarters as well as the number of NATO personnel to be deployed on the territory of the new member countries. NATO will ask new members to help pay for common military infrastructure.


Economy Minister Wieslaw Kaczmarek was quoted by "Trybuna" on 15 September as saying the Main Statistical Office (GUS) has estimated the damage caused by the July catastrophic floods at 15 billion zlotys ($4.3 billion). But he added that the government is still checking the figure. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz has said the GUS report is unreliable because it is based on data from local authorities, which, he commented, have overstated the extent of the damage. Cimoszewicz, who refused to reveal details of the GUS report, said the government will carefully verify it before publishing any data. Critics say the government does not want to publish flood damage estimates for fear it will harm the ruling parties' chances in the 21 September general elections.


Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told journalists on 15 September that a majority of his cabinet ministers support introducing a special 13 percent income tax next year. The purpose of the tax would be to raise 9 billion crowns to deal with damage caused by the July floods. Without the tax, Klaus said, the government will be unable to present a balanced budget proposal for 1998. The opposition parties have said they are opposed to a tax increase, as has the so-called "right-wing faction" within the ruling Civic Democratic Alliance. Without that faction's support, the government proposal is unlikely to be approved by the parliament.


During his meeting with President Vaclav Havel in the Czech capital on 15 September, Volker Ruehe said 90 percent of deputies in the German parliament will vote in favor of the Czech Republic's NATO membership early next year when the ratification process begins in NATO countries. Ruehe added that during his trip to Washington on 19 November, he will try to convince the undecided members of the U.S. Senate to vote in favor of NATO expansion, CTK reported. Also on 15 September, Havel met with Philippine President Fidel Ramos, who is in the Czech Republic on a two-day visit. The two presidents discussed primarily economic cooperation.


Laszlo Kovacs told the parliament on 15 September that the referendum on joining NATO and on land ownership will determine the country's future, Hungarian media reported. With regard to the controversial land ownership vote, he said the government's goal is not to allow foreigners to own land but to keep open the door to EU membership. He commented that the cabinet will regulate the acquisition of farmland by setting "realistic" prices and by promoting capital investment. Kovacs accused the opposition of seeking to make an election campaign issue out of land ownership.


Mihaly Izso, a member of the Independent Smallholders' Party, has begun a sit-in in the parliament to protest the government's proposed amendment to the land law. He said he will end his protest if the opposition's formulation of the question on foreigners owning land is also included in the November referendum.


EU foreign ministers voted in Brussels on 15 September to deny entry visas to Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency. Bosnian Co-Premier Boro Bosic, Minister of Communications Spasoje Albijanic, and Deputy Prime Minister Gavro Bogic are also banned from traveling to EU member states. Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, asked for the ban to punish the Serbs for holding up the signing of agreements involving all three nationalities, including an accord on a common citizenship and passport. Westendorp said he wanted to punish the Serbian leaders but not ordinary Serbs. Westendorp also urged the EU to consider resuming aid to the Republika Srpska in an effort to bolster the position of President Biljana Plavsic. Also in Brussels, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook called on the U.S. to maintain a military presence in Bosnia beyond the June 1998 deadline.


A U.S. State Department spokesman on 15 September said that Washington and other members of the international community will impose economic, travel, and possibly other restrictions on those in Bosnia who fail to respect the outcome of the municipal elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1997). The U.S. and its allies are concerned that current authorities formed largely by one ethnic group will try to prevent newly elected councils dominated by another nationality from taking office.


Republika Srpska Foreign Minister Aleksa Buha said in Belgrade on 15 September that President Plavsic and international elections organizers conspired to prevent 70,000 Serbs in Bosnia and 65,000 Bosnian Serb refugees in Yugoslavia from voting. He did not elaborate but also said that Muslim and Croatian refugees should not have been allowed to vote for town councils in areas that are now under Serbian control. On 13 September, Krajisnik said the international organizers went back on their promise to return the names of 3,000 Serbs to the voting rolls in Brcko. International election monitors struck the names of several thousand Serbs from the voting list on the grounds that the individuals had no legal right to vote in the strategically located town (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 1997).


Franjo Tudjman said at the Zagreb Trade Fair on 15 September that the government must limit its role in the economy to setting long-term priorities. He added that all industries except those vital to state security should be privatized. Tudjman warned that Croatia needs to reduce the role of state bureaucracy in the economy if it is to be competitive internationally and overcome the legacy of its communist past. Tudjman's critics charge, however, that his nationalist policies are the main reason for Croatia's international marginalization and that only persons with close links to his Croatian Democratic Community benefit from major privatization deals. Also in Zagreb, the State Prosecutor's Office said that two top officials in the Economics Ministry have been arrested and charged with abuse of office.


Croatian Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa and his Slovenian counterpart, Janez Drnovsek, have agreed to seek international arbitration of their disputed border in the Gulf of Piran, the government daily "Vjesnik" reported on 16 September. Slovenia and Croatia may also seek arbitration in the disputes over deposits by Croats in Slovenia's Ljubljanska Banka and over the Krsko nuclear power plant in Slovenia, which Croatia helped fund during communist rule. Meanwhile in Ljubljana, parliamentary speaker Janez Podobnik announced on 15 September that he has withdrawn his candidacy for the 23 November presidential race. He failed to attract the support of a key opposition party, according to the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung."


Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic and his Yugoslav counterpart, Milan Milutinovic, signed six agreements in Belgrade on 15 September. The documents deal with transportation, border regions, social insurance, and legal aid. The ministers said that talks will begin soon to discuss economic links and cooperation in fighting crime and terrorism. Observers said the six agreements constitute the most significant step toward normalizing relations between the two countries since the breakup of former Yugoslavia in 1991. Meanwhile in Kragujevac, police and opposition demonstrators clashed for several hours, BETA reported.


Hidajet Hiseni and Fehmi Agani, the two vice presidents of the Democratic League of Kosovo, charged in Pristina on 15 September that most Serbian parties have played on anti-Albanian sentiments in an effort to win nationalist votes, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Kosovar capital. The two said that they fear that repression against the provinces' ethnic Albanian majority could become worse after the elections. The Albanian parties are boycotting the vote, saying that none of the Serbian parties has anything to offer Albanians.


President Rexhep Meidani has refused to approve a list of ambassadors presented to him some 10 days ago by Prime Minister Fatos Nano (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 5 September). According to "Gazeta Shqiptare" on 16 September, Meidani objects to the appointment of "Zeri i Popullit" editor-in-chief Luan Rama to Paris and of Bashkim Zeneli, the head of the parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, to Bonn. The newspaper adds that two unnamed high-ranking Foreign Ministry officials also oppose the appointments. It is unclear why Meidani or the officials object to the nominations. Meanwhile, Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova has arrived for his first official visit to Tirana since the new government took office, state television reported on 15 September.


Safet Zhulali told a roundtable broadcast by state television on 14 September that he left the country in March because he feared arrest after the daily "Albania" had attacked him. He noted that "Albania," which was former President Sali Berisha's mouthpiece, had slammed him for not sending the army against rebels in the south of the country. Perikli Teta, Zhulali's former deputy, told the roundtable that Zhulali was a traitor for leaving his post. Zhulali went on to deny charges by a former pilot that the Defense Ministry in early March ordered pilots to bomb southern cities. Pilot Ardian Elezi, who fled with his plane to Italy on 4 March and has since received political asylum there, told the roundtable that he fled with a colleague after receiving orders while airborne to bomb southern positions. Zhulali called Elezi a "deserter."


Emil Constantinescu on 15 September reopened a high school in the northern town of Sighetu Marmatiei, two kilometers from the Romanian-Ukrainian frontier, for Romania's 300,000-strong ethnic Ukrainian community, Reuters reported. The school, named after Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, was opened in 1945 and closed by Romanian authorities in 1968 on the grounds that there were too few pupils. Some 200 students have enrolled for the current academic year. Constantinescu said the reopening marked Romania's respect for its ethnic Ukrainian minority.


A Ukrainian government delegation spent two days in Chisinau to discuss the creation of a proposed customs union between the two countries, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 September. Viktor Gladush, Ukrainian first deputy minister for foreign economic relations and trade, and Moldovan Deputy Minister for the Economy Dumitru Bragis signed a protocol on setting up the planned union. They also agreed on the composition of working groups to achieve that goal.


by George Schopflin

The centrality of inter-ethnic relations in Transylvania is beyond dispute. But the complexity of these relations is regularly clouded by politicians' rhetoric. The reality is that neither the Romanian majority nor the Hungarian minority is homogeneous and this factor influences attitudes, political responses, and behavior.

The total population of Transylvania is more than 7 million and of these fewer than 2 million are Hungarian. But the roughly 5 million Romanians are divided in their sociological make-up. The principal cleavage is between those who have lived in the region for generations and those who migrated there after the 1960s.

This cleavage is the classical one between old-established inhabitants and newcomers. Essentially, the traditional Romanian inhabitants of Transylvania have worked out a modus vivendi with the multi-ethnic character of the area. This does not necessarily mean that they are particularly pro-Hungarian or even necessarily sympathetic to the minority, but they are generally prepared to accept that the Hungarian presence does not challenge their ideas of what is "normal and natural." They constitute both the absolute and relative majority of the region. At the same time, there is a small minority of the old established Romanians that remains strongly anti-Hungarian.

Broadly, they have learned to live with the multi-cultural, multi-lingual nature of Transylvania even if they do not speak Hungarian. For the elite, it is not unusual to send their children to German-language schools, partly because the teaching is good and they have access to another language.

However, this Transylvanian Romanian elite has never been particularly influential in Bucharest and its political skills, including those of dealing with multi-ethnicity, have not been very effective, given that their cultural norms differ from those of the Regatean majority. In this sense, there is a mild cultural boundary between them and the Romanians of the Regat. They are both Romanians but understand this identity differently. On the other hand, they will certainly not make common cause with the Hungarians over issues like territorial autonomy, which the Hungarians have demanded from time to time for fear that autonomy would lead to separation.

For the roughly 1 million migrants, who were drawn to Transylvania during the rapid industrial expansion of the 1970s and 1980s by offers of jobs and housing, the Hungarians are a near inexplicable and alien element. Sociologically, many of the migrants are from poor rural backgrounds and have had to cross several social and cultural boundaries: from village to town, from agricultural to industrial working, from the Regat to Transylvania.

Many of them, when they arrived there from the Regat, were shocked to discover that a significant section of the population was not only not Romanian but insisted on speaking an alien language and had very alien ways of doing things. This exacerbated the alienation that all immigrants experience and gave it an anti-Hungarian focus. The anti-Magyar rhetoric of the Ceausescu period found considerable resonance among them.

These migrants or, by now, former migrants have a particular burden to carry. Their existence in Transylvania depended on the center and especially on the heavy subsidies that Bucharest paid to maintain the often uneconomic industries in which they worked. They were an unintegrated element, sufficiently numerous to continue with their own traditions, values and aspirations. Hence the old established Transylvanian Romanians have not been able to integrate them because of their dependence on the center and the different sociological make-up.

The 1989 collapse of communism has been a severe blow to the migrants. Their most dependable source of support--the communist state--has evaporated as the subsidies have dried up. They lack the skills to make their way in a market-oriented world. And, crucially, they lack the links with the countryside that would allow them to add to their incomes and give them access to foodstuffs, given that their villages are in the distant Regat. Hence the return of the land to the peasantry has brought them few benefits.

There is another disadvantage in their position. The ethnic Hungarians have evolved a strategy of working in the gray economy in Hungary. Given the much higher income levels there, they can make enough from four months' construction work, say, to live more than adequately in Romania. This option is generally not open to Romanians and especially not to the Regateans, for whom the idea of working in Hungary is foreign and threatening.

Since 1989, the top Regatean managers and bureaucrats have either left to return to the Regat or have the skills and know-how to make their way in the market economy, though their formerly privileged positions have been eroded. But that leaves the great bulk of Regatean migrants in a very exposed position. They are the constituency for nationalist mobilization and for the anti-reform line associated with former President Ion Iliescu, who was defeated last year. A minority is attracted to the much more virulent nationalism of Corneliu Vadim Tudor's Party of National Unity. Gheorghe Funar's Greater Romania Party receives its support from the anti-Hungarians among the old established Romanian population. The remainder, the great majority, voted solidly for the coalition now in power.

The author lectures at the London School of Economics. Part Two of this article will appear in tomorrow's "RFE/RL Newsline."