MINELRES: RFE/RL Newsline on minority issues

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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 139, Part II, 23 July 2004


MOLDOVA STEPS UP PRESSURE ON TIRASPOL OVER SCHOOL CLOSURES...
Reintegration Minister Vasilii Sova told an RFE/RL correspondent on
22 July that Moldova "reserves the right" to demand a change in the
current five-party negotiating format if Transdniester does not
reverse its recent decision to close down schools teaching Moldovan
(Romanian) in Latin script. Sova was speaking after an emergency
meeting of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe's
(OSCE) Permanent Council in Vienna, which was called on to address
the escalating dispute. Sova said that in May there were "contacts"
envisaging a change to the format of the talks (which include the
OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine as mediators) within a new framework that
would include the United States and the European Union among the
mediating sides. He added that "this is more or less the format" we
would recommend if the situation does not improve. Sova reiterated
Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin's threat from the previous day
that Moldova might deny Transdniestrian enterprises export
certificates and stop customs procedures for exports from the
separatist region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 2004). In response
to a question, Sova said that if Ukraine and Russia did not cooperate
in isolating Tiraspol economically, "this would betray their true
attitude toward Tiraspol's separatism." MS

....AS OSCE CALLS TIRASPOL ACTIONS 'PROVOCATIVE, IRRESPONSIBLE.'
Meeting in Vienna on 22 July, the OSCE Permanent Council approved a
resolution saying it "condemns the irresponsible and provocative
actions" of the Transdniestrian authorities, Flux reported the next
day. MS


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 140, Part II, 26 July 2004

FORMER HUNGARIAN PREMIER SAYS TRANSYLVANIAN MAGYARS MUST DEMAND
AUTONOMY 'NOW.' Former Hungarian Prime Minister and current FIDESZ
party Chairman Viktor Orban said on 24 July that "the right time is
now " for Transylvanian Hungarians to demand autonomy, Mediafax
reported. Orban was speaking at the closing session of the annual
Balvanyos Summer University at a spa near Tusnad. He said the demand
for autonomy must be raised before Romania joins the EU, for no other
auspicious opportunity will arise in the next 15-20 years. Orban said
Transylvanian Hungarians will never win autonomy through agreements
with Romanian parties but rather by having "the backing of the
masses" and organizing themselves. He advised that they back
Hungarian political parties in Romania that are prepared to
articulate the demand. Orban reiterated his criticism of the "state
of democracy" in Romania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2004),
saying the Hungarian Civic Union (UCM) was unfairly prevented from
running in the June local elections. "There is no democracy where
people are denied the right to participate in elections," he said.
Orban said autonomy represents the "litmus test of democracy" in
Romania, stressing that a country where the aspirations of a large
ethnic minority are obstructed does not yet merit EU membership. MS

ROMANIA 'DETERMINED TO HELP' IN TRANSDNIESTRIAN SCHOOLS CONFLICT...
The Romanian Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on 23 July
that it is "determined to extend all necessary help" to European
organizations that monitor human rights in order to force authorities
in Tiraspol to rescind their decision to shut down schools that teach
in Moldovan (Romanian) with Latin script, Mediafax and Flux reported.
The statement said the ministry "salutes" the decision of the 22 June
Vienna meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe's (OSCE) Permanent Council, which criticized Transdniestrian
separatist authorities over the decision (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23
July 2004). MS

....AND MOLDOVAN PREMIER SAYS CHISINAU SHOULD CONSIDER FURTHER
SANCTIONS AGAINST TIRASPOL. Speaking on state television on 24 July,
Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev called a decision by Moldova's
Supreme Security Council to present an ultimatum to separatist
authorities over the threat of school closures (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 22 July 2004) "not quite sufficient" and said further
steps might be considered, Flux reported. Tarlev said Moldova has
appealed to international organizations and has conducted talks
within the framework of five-party negotiations but "thus far"
nothing has been achieved beyond "statements of concern and appeals"
to Tiraspol to reverse its decision. MS


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 141, Part II, 27 July 2004

MASSIVE STREET PROTEST AGAINST MACEDONIAN REDISTRICTING PLANS.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the heavily guarded
parliament building in Skopje on 26 July to protest government plans
to cut the number of administrative districts from 123 to 80, MIA
news agency reported. Speakers at the protest included the leaders of
the major ethnic Macedonian opposition parties. Most of them stressed
that they support the government's plans to decentralize the state
administration but oppose the redistricting plans, arguing that the
redistricting could lead to an ethnically based partition of the
country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 26 July 2004, and "RFE/RL
Balkan Report," 2 and 23 July 2004). In related news, the parliament
has started debating the package of laws on the decentralization and
redistricting in what Macedonian media has described as a "tense
atmosphere," RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters reported. UB

RIGHTS GROUP'S REPORT ON KOSOVA SPARKS CONTROVERSY... The New
York-based Human Rights Watch said in a 66-page report issued on 26
July that NATO-led KFOR peacekeepers and UN police failed to protect
ethnic minorities during the 17-18 March violence that swept Kosova,
international media reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 and 16
April, and 9 July 2004). The study stressed that the international
community has been in "absolute denial about its own failures" in the
mainly ethnic Albanian province. "While international actors have
been universally and accurately critical of [the] Kosovo Albanian
leadership during and after the crisis, the dismal performance of the
international community has escaped similar critical scrutiny," the
report added. The study claims that in some cases, French, German, or
Italian NATO peacekeepers stayed on their bases and watched as the
property of Serbs or Ashkali (Albanian-speaking Roma) went up in
flames. The number of peacekeepers must be increased, the report
concluded. PM

....AND BRINGS A SHARP RESPONSE. KFOR spokesman Colonel Horst Pieper
said in Prishtina on 26 July that peacekeepers protected minorities
during the March violence in Kosova and continue to do so,
international media reported. He dismissed the Human Rights Watch
report as written from an "armchair position" and failing to give
credit to KFOR for its efforts to stop the violence and save lives.
The UN civilian administration (UNMIK) said in a statement that the
study fails "to show an understanding of the extent of the challenge
this violence posed to security forces. " PM

EU SLAMS TIRASPOL OVER SCHOOL CLOSURES... The European Union's
Permanent Council on 26 July condemned Tiraspol's decision to close
schools teaching Moldovan (Romanian) in the Latin script, Flux
reported. The EU said it "fully endorses" the recent declaration by
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) High
Commissioner on National Minorities Rolf Ekeus, who called the move
"nothing less than linguistic cleansing." The EU also said it has
"taken note" of the Russian Foreign Ministry's appeal to Tiraspol
authorities "to refrain from any administrative action...until the
future status and curriculums of the schools are agreed by
negotiations," and said such restraint must extend beyond the
negotiating period. It also called on Transdniestrian authorities to
reopen immediately any closed schools (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and
21 July 2004). MS

....AS RUSSIA CITES 'CONCERN' OVER MOLDOVA'S DECISION TO SIT OUT
TALKS. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by
ITAR-TASS on 26 July that Moldova's decision to suspend participation
in international negotiations with Tiraspol until 1 August "lends a
political dimension to a humanitarian issue." The ministry said the
issue of school closures can only be resolved "through negotiations,
not through an escalation of rhetoric." It also said the three
international negotiators (the OSCE, Ukraine, and Russia) "have
expressed concern about the new negative turn in the dialogue between
Chisinau and Tiraspol." The ministry stressed the need to "display
wisdom and to prevent events from getting out of political control."
MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT INITIATES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PROMOTING HUMAN
RIGHTS. President Vladimir Voronin submitted a bill to parliament on
26 July under which the prerogatives of the Constitutional Court
would be extended to include alleged infringements on human rights,
BASA-Press and Flux reported. Under the proposed amendment, the
Constitutional Court would be the highest and last judicial level to
which individuals claiming their human rights have been infringed may
appeal. Voronin said that in ruling on such cases, the Constitutional
Court would be guided by the same principles that guide the European
Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, and he expressed the hope
that the constitutional amendment will lead to a reduced number of
Moldovans appealing to the ECHR. MS


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 142, Part II, 28 July 2004

MACEDONIAN-ALBANIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIANS RAISE THE STAKES...
Referring to 26 July mass protests against the government's
redistricting plans, Menduh Thaci, who is the deputy chairman of the
opposition Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), said that many
Macedonians are acting "irrationally and neurotically," "Vreme"
reported the next day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23, 26, and 27 July
2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 and 23 July 2004). PDSH member of
parliament Zamir Dika said in Tetovo on 26 July that the legislators
of the governing ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration
(BDI) should not support the legislation on the redistricting plans,
"Utrinski vesnik" reported. Alluding to the 2001 interethnic conflict
between the ethnic Albanian insurgents of the National Liberation
Army (UCK) and the Macedonian security forces, Dika added that
accepting the legislation would mean that the Albanians had fought
for nothing. Xhezair Shaqiri, the only legislator of the small ethnic
Albanian National Democratic Party (PDK), said that if ethnic
Macedonians succeed in collecting enough signatures for a petition to
call a referendum against the redistricting plans, then the Albanians
should seek a referendum on the federalization of Macedonia, "Vreme"
reported on 27 July. Most ethnic Macedonians consider federalization
as tantamount to partition and hence totally unacceptable. UB

....WHILE PREMIER WARNS AGAINST FEAR-MONGERING. Macedonian Prime
Minister Hari Kostov told Deutsche Welle's Macedonian Service on 26
July that the primary factor in the recent protests and violence
against the government's redistricting plans is an unwarranted fear
on the part of many ethnic Macedonians that the Albanian minority
regards the changes as a first step toward setting up a Greater
Albania. Kostov noted that neither any mainstream ethnic Albanian
political party in Macedonia nor the Albanian government in Tirana
supports a Greater Albania. He suggested that only a few percent of
the ethnic Albanians in Macedonia would endorse such a program,
which, in any event, would be strongly opposed by the international
community. PM

ROMANIA VOWS TO TAKE TRANSDNIESTRIAN SCHOOL ISSUE TO UNITED NATIONS.
The Romanian Foreign Ministry said on 27 July that it will lodge a
complaint with the United Nations Committee on Children's Rights over
separatist Transdniestrian authorities' closure of schools teaching
in Moldovan (Romanian) using the Latin script, Mediafax reported. The
ministry called the measure a "provocative gesture" by the
separatists that amounts to an infringement on children's rights. MS

TRANSDNIESTRIAN MILITIAMEN EVICT ORPHANS FROM SCHOOL.
Russian-speaking militiamen evicted some 60 orphans from a school in
Bendery-Tighina on 27 July, forcing the children to spend the night
on the street, Reuters, Infotag, and Mediafax reported. According to
a communique from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE), the militiamen seized the orphanage on 26 July and
forced the children, aged 7-15, out onto the street. Infotag said the
children had just returned from a summer camp and had nowhere else to
go. Meanwhile, the Moldovan lyceum in the town remains disconnected
from water, gas, and electricity service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20
July 2004). The orphanage is among six schools ordered closed by
Transdniestrian authorities for teaching Moldovan (Romanian) in the
Latin script. Reuters quoted the head of the OSCE's mission to
Moldova, William Hill, as saying the actions taken against the
orphanage are "totally unacceptable." Hill told journalists in
Chisinau that the crisis over the schools has the potential to
"destabilize" the situation in Moldova, which he described as
"everywhere very tense and rather explosive." MS

MOLDOVAN REINTEGRATION MINISTER SAYS CHISINAU WILL NOT NEGOTIATE
UNTIL SCHOOLS ARE REOPENED. Integration Minister Vasilii Sova said on
27 July that Moldova will not return to the negotiating table before
the crisis triggered by the closure of six schools is resolved,
Infotag reported. "We cannot negotiate while the children are
suffering and while participants in the negotiations prove incapable
of solving this humanitarian issue," he said. At his news conference
in Chisinau (see above), OSCE mission head Hill said, "There is
always hope" for the negotiations to be resumed and the three
mediators (OSCE, Russia and Ukraine) are doing everything in their
power to see that happen. MS


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 143, Part II, 29 July 2004

KOSOVA'S PARLIAMENT PASSES MORE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. Kosova's
parliament on 28 July passed the last of several amendments to the
province's Constitutional Framework designed to increase the powers
of the elected officials and their institutions, RFE/RL's South
Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. According to the
controversial legislation, what are now known as provisional
institutions will be called the Democratic Institutions of Kosova,
which will also include a new Constitutional Court. The measures are
widely seen as a direct challenge to the authority of the UN and its
civilian authority in Kosova (UNMIK) (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9
July 2004). After the parliamentary vote, a UNMIK spokeswoman said
that UNMIK is studying the legislation and will comment on it later.
Several UN officials previously warned the parliament that
constitutional changes are the exclusive prerogative of the UN
Security Council. Meanwhile, several leaders of Kosova's Serbian
minority agreed with Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica in
Belgrade that conditions are not yet ripe for the Serbs to take part
in the parliamentary elections in Kosova scheduled for October. PM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT: TRANSDNIESTER OFFICIALS ARE 'CRIMINALS'
Addressing the closing meeting of the parliament's spring-summer
session, Vladimir Voronin on 28 July called Transdniester leader Igor
Smirnov and the leadership in Tiraspol a "group of transnational
criminals" with whom Moldova will no longer negotiate, RFE/RL's
Chisinau bureau reported. Voronin said Smirnov and his supporters do
not deserve to be called "separatists," as this description is "too
honorable" for people ready to "hold children hostage today...and
saber-rattle their weapons in the center of Europe tomorrow." Voronin
said Moldova will no longer negotiate with Tiraspol as "equals."
However, he added, should the closed schools in Transdniester
teaching Moldovan (Romanian) in the Latin script be allowed to
reopen, if people and goods are allowed to move freely on both sides
of the Dniester River, and the situation in the security zone is
normalized, Moldova would renounce imposing envisaged economic
sanctions on Transdniester (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 2004). MS

EU CALLS ON MEDIATORS TO EXERT PRESSURE ON TIRASPOL. EU foreign
policy chief Javier Solana told President Voronin in a telephone
conversation on 28 July that the three mediators in the Transdniester
conflict (Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe) must exert pressure on Tiraspol and take steps
to ensure that it never again take arbitrary measures, Infotag
reported. Solana said the EU is seriously concerned about the problem
of Moldovan schools in Transdniester being closed and intends to do
everything to break the deadlock. MS

SEPARATIST 'FOREIGN MINISTER' SAYS MOLDOVA IS 'NO CROATIA.' Valerii
Litskay, who holds the foreign affairs portfolio in the Tiraspol
administration, said in Moscow on 28 July that Chisinau "deliberately
inflates the Moldovan schools issue," Infotag reported. He said that
by calling on the EU and the United States to join the mediation
process, Moldova wants to create a "Yugoslav scenario," in the hope
that the West would use NATO forces to help Moldova. "Their problem
is that Moldova is not Croatia and the West is reluctant to side with
a communist regime," Litskay said. He also said that Transdniester
does not have a Romanian-speaking minority but is forced to have on
its territory Romanian schools that refuse to register with the legal
authorities. "These are just Trojan horses in our land. God knows
what might happen if we met with their graduates. I am afraid it
won't matter whether these people would carry stick or rods. What
matters is what sort of characters these schools produce," he said.
MS


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 144, Part II, 30 July 2004

UN REJECTS SERBIAN CHARGES OVER ELECTIONS IN KOSOVA. A spokeswoman
for the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) said in
Prishtina on 29 July that the leaders of the Serbian minority, who
recently decided after talks with Serbian Prime Minister Kostunica to
boycott the October parliamentary elections, should reconsider,
RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2004). The spokeswoman stressed that the
necessary conditions are in place for Serbian participation, adding
that any Serbian boycott will be to the detriment of the Serbs and
not affect the legitimacy of the elections. Elsewhere, the
spokeswoman for Kosova's government called the Serbian leaders'
decision "unacceptable," noting that the Serbs had found nothing
wrong with voting conditions when they cast their ballots in the
recent Serbian presidential vote. Dragisa Krstovic, who heads the
Serbian Povratak (Return) faction in Kosova's parliament, told RFE/RL
that the final decision on a boycott has not been taken, adding that
Belgrade will have the final say in the matter. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER 'SADDENED' BY RECENT ORBAN SPEECH. Prime Minister
Adrian Nastase on 29 July wrote to Viktor Orban, former Hungarian
premier and chairman of the opposition FIDESZ, that Orban's recent
speech at Balvanyos has "profoundly saddened" him, Mediafax reported
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2004). Nastase said Orban's
"radicalism" and his "negation of normalcy and ethnic harmony" in
Romania are out of place. "I do not want Romania to be lauded at any
price, but I cannot allow that efforts we made thus far be ignored
or, worse, that it be claimed there is no democracy in Romania,"
Nastase said. He added that he appreciates Orban for his creativity,
energy, and passion and understands that he wants to do more for
Hungarian minorities living in neighboring countries. However, he
said, there is no need for "mass movements" to achieve that purpose,
as Orban claimed in his speech at Balvanyos, nor are "ultimatum-like,
extremist demands" helpful. It is unacceptable, he said, that
Hungarian minorities be turned into instruments for "politicking
ambitions" and the political capital gained doing this will, sooner
or later, backfire, he said. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS TRANSDNIESTER REGIME 'TOTALITARIAN-LIKE....'
Romanian President Ion Iliescu said in a statement released on 29
July that in closing down schools that teach Moldovan (Romanian) in
the Latin script "the rulers of the self-proclaimed Transdniester
region are...acting like a totalitarian regime," Mediafax and Reuters
reported. Iliescu said in the statement that the authorities in
Tiraspol "ignore the rightful requests of European and international
bodies" to have the schools reopen and thereby infringe on "the most
elementary civic rights and freedoms" as well as on international
treaties on minority rights. Romania, the statement said, would "use
all available diplomatic channels and political instruments to ensure
that students in Transdniester are able to continue studying in
Romanian." Bucharest would also "support any initiative that would
end the Transdniester crisis, allowing Moldova to exercise its
sovereign rights in this area, which is part of its national
territory." Iliescu later told journalists that Romania has asked
Russia to intervene on behalf of the closed schools in Tiraspol. MS

....AND ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT CALLS SEPARATISTS 'IRRESPONSIBLE.'
Government spokeswoman Despina Neagoe told journalists on 29 July
that the Romanian government "resolutely condemns" the use of
violence by Tiraspol in imposing the closure of the schools in
Bendery-Tighina and Ribnita (see below). "This irresponsible attitude
of the separatist authorities does nothing but reconfirm the bad
faith displayed by them during the entire course of the negotiations
process for the conflict's settlement," the official statement
states. MS

TRANSDNIESTER MILITIA FORCE THEIR WAY INTO ONE MORE SCHOOL.
Separatist militia forces on 29 July forced their way into one more
Moldovan school and arrested six teachers staging a sit-in to prevent
the school's closure, Mediafax, Infotag and AP reported. The militia
men broke into the Eureka Lyceum in Ribnita and AP said television
footage showed the authorities taking down a sign identifying the
school as a Moldovan-language school and replacing it with one that
said it is a Russian school. On 27 July, the Transdniester
authorities evicted students from an orphanage in Bendery-Tighina
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 2004). MS

U.S., EU PREPARED TO CONSIDER SANCTIONS AGAINST TRANSDNIESTER.
Stephen Minikes, the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, said in Vienna on
29 July that the United States and its EU partners are prepared to
consider appropriate measures against the separatist Transdniester
authorities to force them to cooperate in the school-closure crisis,
Infotag reported. Minikes, addressing a meeting of the Permanent
Council of the OSCE, welcomed the Russian Foreign Ministry's
statement of 19 July calling on Transdniester to refrain from taking
further administrative action against the Moldovan (Romanian) schools
and called on the Russian government to use its influence to halt the
provocations and allow for negotiations to take place. The EU on 28
July threatened to take "appropriate measures against those in the
self-proclaimed Transdniester administration responsible for the
repressive measures taken against Moldovan schools," according to a
communique of the Dutch EU presidency cited by Reuters. MS

HILL SAYS TRANSDNIESTER ATTEMPTING TO FORCE STATE RECOGNITION THROUGH
SCHOOL CRISIS. William Hill, head of the OSCE mission in Moldova,
said in Chisinau on 29 July that by provoking the crisis over the
teaching in schools of Moldovan (Romanian) with the Latin script, the
Transdniester authorities are trying to bring about the recognition
of the region's separate statehood, Flux reported. Hill said the
authorities in Tiraspol should realize that political problems can
only be solved at the negotiation table. Hill also said that the
three mediators in the conflict (Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE) have
drafted a plan aimed at lessening tension in the region and that
Moldova has already accepted the plan, which "pertains to the
schools' problem and the negotiations process." MS

SEPARATIST 'FOREIGN MINISTER' SAYS TRANSDNIESTER MAY JOIN RUSSIAN
FEDERATION. Valerii Litskay, who holds the foreign affairs portfolio
in the Transdniester administration, said in Moscow on 28 July that
the region might hold a referendum on joining the Russian Federation,
Infotag reported. Litskay also told journalists that there is no
Russian equipment on the territory administered by Tiraspol. "In 2001
Russia met its obligations undertaken at the 1999 OSCE Istanbul
summit" and withdrew all heavy equipment falling under the Agreement
on Conventional Forces in Europe, he claimed. "All that is left are
15 armored personnel carriers belonging to the peacekeeping forces.
There is some problem with the Russian ammunition, but its withdrawal
was not stipulated under the CFE agreement," Litskay claimed.
According to the 2002 Porto OSCE summit, Russia has failed to abide
by 1999 summit obligations. MS