MINELRES: RFE/RL Newsline on minority issues

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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 81, Part I, 30 April 2004

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AGAIN REFUSED REGISTRATION IN ARMENIA. An
application for formal registration submitted by Jehovah's Witnesses to
the Armenian Justice Ministry was rejected several months ago as the
cult's activities violate certain aspects of Armenia's legislation,
RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 29 April quoting Hranush
Kharatian, who chairs the Armenian government board for ethnic and
religious minority affairs. She explained that the Armenian government
disapproves of Jehovah's Witnesses' house-to-house proselytizing,
stressing at the same time that the cult's opposition to military
service was not behind the rejection of the most recent registration
application. Kharatian also noted that Armenia has not enacted
legislation on the rights of minorities, Noyan Tapan reported on 29
April. LF


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 81, Part II, 30 April 2004

ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER FORESEES BETTER RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA. Juhan
Parts said in an interview in the Russian-language daily "Molodezh
Estonii" of 29 April that Estonia's membership in NATO and the EU will
help improve relations with Russia, BNS reported. He expressed hope that
the Russian administration would cease protesting about the problems of
Estonia's Russian speakers and choose a more constructive approach
toward improving relations between the two states. Parts rejected
suggestions that the EU would force Estonia to give citizenship to all
its permanent residents, noting that the country has been meeting all
international citizenship standards for many years. He admitted that
something must be done to encourage the more than 100,000 noncitizens to
apply for citizenship, but pointed out that citizenship involved not
only rights, but also duties and in a normal society no one expects that
citizenship be granted on a silver platter. He called on noncitizens to
take the first step and try to learn the language of the country in
which they are living as this could only benefit them. SG

VOJVODINA HUNGARIANS EXPECT BETTER PROTECTION FROM EU-MEMBER HUNGARY.
Jozsef Kasza, the chairman of the Federation of Vojvodina Hungarians,
said in Budapest on 29 April that: "Hungary's diplomatic weight
increases with its EU membership, therefore it can pressure Serbia
tostop ongoing atrocities against ethnic minorities," MTI reported.
Kasza made his statements after meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister
Peter Medgyessy. EU-member Hungary will continue to pay special
attention to the well-being of ethic Hungarians abroad, including the
Vojvodina Hungarians, Medgyessy said. Budapest intends to contribute to
the stability of the region also by strengthening economic cooperation
with neighboring countries, particularly in border regions, the
Hungarian premier said. Kasza and Medgyessy agreed that Hungary will set
up a working group to investigate ways of improving the situation of
Vojvodina Hungarians and thus stop their emigration to Hungary, the news
agency reported. MSZ


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 82, Part I, 3 May 2004

ANOTHER SKINHEAD INCIDENT IN VORONEZH. Two skinheads attacked Aleksei
Kozlov of the Youth Human Rights Movement on 29 April, jewish.ru
reported on 30 April. According to Kozlov, the youths, who were drunk
at the time, threw rocks at him, yelling "Run [Negroes] and Jews."
According to gazeta.ru, Kozlov was walking in the city center at 6
p.m. near the movement's office. A criminal case on suspicion of
hooliganism has been opened by the police, but Kozlov has declared
that he will insist that anyone arrested be prosecuted under the
Criminal Code article on inciting ethnic hatred. Meanwhile, in an
interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 April, Duma Motherland
faction head Dmitrii Rogozin was asked about skinhead incidents in
his district. Rogozin said that the single-mandate district from
which he was elected is rural and the skinhead problem is
concentrated in Voronezh and other cities in the Black Earth zone. He
connected the existence of nationalist-extremist groups with Russia's
"open borders." "If the situation is not improved, if the migration
service does not work, then the growth of xenophobia will have much
more serious consequences," Rogozin said. He added that he will
"always defend those people who are located in Russia on a legal
basis and defend the citizens of Russia without regard to their
nationality." JAC


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 82, Part II, 3 May 2004

PROTESTS AGAINST SCHOOL REFORM MAR LATVIA'S EU CELEBRATIONS.
Festivities across Latvia marking the accession of that country to
the EU on 1 May were to some extent spoiled by protests in Riga and
Liepaja against planned education reforms that curb the use of the
Russian language in schools, BNS reported. Some 15,000-20,000 people,
most of them school-aged youths, gathered in a park at the Victory
Monument in suburban Riga to protest the planned increase of classes
in the Latvian language in Russian and other minority schools from
September. Nearly one-third of Latvia's 2.4 million people are ethnic
Russian. Some of the protesters held European Union flags with black
ribbons on them. Some 200 supporters of the Latvian Socialist Party
also met in Grizinkalns Park in Riga to voice regret over Latvia's
membership of the EU. Socialist Chairman Alfreds Rubiks declared:
"Personally I feel no happiness at all about Latvia joining the EU.
The prices are growing, but the government is doing nothing to
compensate it." Some participants also carried placards protesting
the education reforms. About 500 opponents of the school reforms held
an unsanctioned rally during the official EU-flag-raising ceremony in
Liepaja and later marched through the city's streets, at times
blocking traffic. SG

SERBIAN PREMIER SAYS NO ALTERNATIVE TO KOSOVAR SERBS' AUTONOMY...
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said in an interview with
the German weekly "Der Spiegel" on 3 May that there is no alternative
to autonomy and self-government for Serbs and non-Albanians in Kosova
if one wants to avoid "Kosova [looking] like its capital Prishtina --
without a single Serb." "This has nothing to do with defending some
laws, but with naked survival," Kostunica added (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 29 and 30 April 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19
December 2003 and 13 and 20 February 2004). He said his government is
holding talks on the issue with the UN civilian administration in
Kosova. "Anything else but autonomy could result in [developments]
that would be a shame not only for us, but for the whole Europe,"
Kostunica said. Asked what would happen if the Kosovar Albanian
majority voted for the province's independence in a referendum,
Kostunica said the international community controls the province, has
more power than Kosovar Albanian institutions, and therefore is
responsible for its future. UB


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 85, Part I, 6 May 2004

TATAR ACTIVISTS SUGGEST IMPROVEMENTS FOR RUSSIAN ALPHABET. The Vatan
popular-democratic party held a meeting in Moscow's Pushkin Square on
5 May to demand that the Tatar language be made Russia's second
official state language, Ekho Moskvy reported. Vatan activists argued
that Switzerland has four state languages, and one of these,
Romansch, is spoken by only 1 percent of the population, while Tatar
is spoken by 5 percent of the population of Russia, utro.ru reported.
According to the website, Vatan has long been arguing for making
Tatar a state language, but this is the first time it has taken its
demand to the streets. Vatan activists would also like to introduce
six new letters to the Cyrillic alphabet that would make it easier to
render Tatar names in Russian. JAC

ANTIDRUG NGO ORGANIZING ANTI-TAJIK PROTEST. More than 1,000 people
are expected to take part in an protest against illegal migration on
10 May in the Shirokaya rechka housing estate outside Yekaterinburg,
Novyi region reported on 5 May. Andrei Kabanov, president of the City
Without Narcotics foundation, told the agency that Tajiks,
practically none of whom are officially registered, now make up 50
percent of the population of the neighborhood. "Officially, these
people work at building sites, but in fact they are occupied with the
drug trade," he said. "More than that, they are tyrannizing the local
population. Last year, Tajiks raped and murdered a young girl and,
last week, they tried to rape an adult woman." The previous president
of City Without Narcotics, Yevgenii Roizman, was elected to the State
Duma in December (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 27 November
2003). JAC


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 85, Part II, 6 May 2004

UNMIK HEAD CALLS SERBIAN PLAN FOR KOSOVA A GOOD BASIS FOR TALKS.
Harri Holkeri, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova
(UNMIK), said during talks with Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav
Kostunica in Belgrade on 5 May that the Serbian government's proposal
to grant territorial and personal autonomy to Kosovar Serbs presents
a good basis for future talks on institutional guarantees for that
minority in the province, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian
Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 April
2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 26 March, 2 and 16 April 2004). UB