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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 248, 99-12-23

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. 3, No. 248, 23 December 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT, REPUBLICAN PARTY, AGREE ON COOPERATION,
  • [02] PROSECUTORS DENY BEATING ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING SUSPECTS
  • [03] FOUR GEORGIAN BORDER GUARDS INJURED BY ARTILLERY FIRE
  • [04] GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY REJECTS RUSSIAN ACCUSATIONS...
  • [05] ...AS MOSCOW THREATENS TRADE SANCTIONS
  • [06] GEORGIAN SECURITY OFFICIALS FEAR NEW ATTACK ON PRESIDENT
  • [07] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT EXPANDS POWERS OF MINISTER OF STATE
  • [08] IMF AGREES ON NEW CREDIT FOR KAZAKHSTAN
  • [09] GEORGIAN TEACHERS LAUNCH STRIKE
  • [10] KYRGYZ CABINET DISCUSSES ECONOMIC CRIME
  • [11] ANOTHER KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY CONSIDERS FORMING BLOC
  • [12] MORE REPRISALS AGAINST BAPTISTS IN TURKMENISTAN
  • [13] TURKMENISTAN SEEKS TO REASSURE UKRAINE OVER GAS DEAL

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [14] HAGUE COURT TO EXPAND INVESTIGATIONS...
  • [15] ...INCLUDING OF MILOSEVIC
  • [16] PANIC: HAGUE THE SOLUTION TO SERBIA'S PROBLEMS
  • [17] SERBIA: FRIENDS ARE WHERE YOU FIND THEM
  • [18] SERBIAN DRAFT RESISTERS FEEL ABANDONED
  • [19] MACEDONIAN COALITION AGREES ON RESHUFFLE
  • [20] ALBANIANS LOSE BIG IN PYRAMID SCHEMES
  • [21] OSCE TO MONITOR CROATIAN VOTE
  • [22] CROATIAN SPY SCANDAL GROWS
  • [23] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT EXPLAINS VASILE'S 'REVOCATION'
  • [24] ROMANIANS OBLIVIOUS TO REVOLUTION COMMEMORATION
  • [25] GAZPROM CUTS SUPPLIES TO MOLDOVA YET AGAIN
  • [26] BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS COUNTRY MUST CHANGE MENTALITY

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [27] TWO VERY DIFFERENT RESHUFFLES

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT, REPUBLICAN PARTY, AGREE ON COOPERATION,

    STABILIZATION

    Robert Kocharian and leaders of the Republican

    Party, one of the two members of the Miasnutiun majority

    parliament faction, said after talks on 22 December that they

    reached agreement on unspecified measures to stabilize the

    domestic political situation following the 27 October murders of

    eight senior officials, including the HHK's leader, Prime

    Minister Vazgen Sargsian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. HHK

    chairman

    Andranik Markarian told RFE/RL that his party places political

    stability in Armenia above anything else. He said such stability

    is essential for progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.

    Markarian also said his party opposes calls by some members of

    the Yerkrapah Union of veterans of the Karabakh war for fresh

    presidential and parliamentary elections. LF

    [02] PROSECUTORS DENY BEATING ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING SUSPECTS

    Senior procuracy official Artak Harutiunian denied on 22 December

    allegations that one or more of the men arrested in connection

    with the 27 October parliament shootings has been subjected to

    violence during interrogation, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported.

    Ruben Sahakian, defense counsel to a former presidential aide

    charged with complicity in the killings, said on 18 December that

    his client saw "traces of violence" on the face of Nairi

    Hunanian, the leader of five gunmen, when brought face to face

    with him for questioning. Sahakian has accused the investigators

    of manipulating the case to achieve their desired objective.

    Military Procurator Gagik Jahangirian has rejected that

    accusation. The lawyer of arrested parliament deputy Mushegh

    Movsisian, who is also charged with involvement in the attack,

    has asked Jahangirian to allow a medical examination of his

    client. LF

    [03] FOUR GEORGIAN BORDER GUARDS INJURED BY ARTILLERY FIRE

    Four

    Georgian border guards deployed in the village of Shatili were

    slightly injured on 22 December when fired on from a grenade-

    launcher from the Russian side of the Georgian-Chechen border,

    Reuters and Caucasus Press reported. A Security Ministry official

    said it was not clear whether the shells were fired from the

    ground or from the air, and whether Russian federal forces

    fighting in southern Chechnya were responsible. Russian border

    guard official Nikolai Reznichenko said that the Russian border

    guards who landed in the Argun gorge on the morning of 22

    December could not have been responsible for the incident as they

    were still not within range of Shatili. Georgian President Eduard

    Shevardnadze chaired a session of the country's National Security

    Council later on 22 December to assess the situation on the

    frontier with Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

    [04] GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY REJECTS RUSSIAN ACCUSATIONS...

    The

    Georgian Foreign Ministry on 22 December responded to the

    statement issued by its Russian counterpart the previous day

    again accusing Georgia of abetting Chechen militants, Caucasus

    Press and Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December

    1999). Characterizing the Russian statement as "an unfriendly

    step" and the accusations it contains as "slanderous" and

    "unsubstantiated," the Georgian statement again denies that

    Georgia has either allowed arms or ammunition destined for

    Chechnya to transit Georgian territory, or agreed to host a

    Chechen "government in exile." LF

    [05] ...AS MOSCOW THREATENS TRADE SANCTIONS

    Also on 22 December, the

    Russian Foreign Ministry issued a further statement warning that

    Russia might impose customs duties on imports from Georgia,

    Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. The statement said such a move

    would be a justifiable reponse to the decision by Georgia's

    Supreme Court to declare null and void a free trade agreement

    concluded between the two countries in 1994. Georgian Foreign

    Ministry spokesman Avtandil Napetvaridze on 22 December denied

    that the Supreme Court had annulled the agreement referred to,

    noting that it is not within the court's competence to do so,

    ITAR-TASS reported. LF

    [06] GEORGIAN SECURITY OFFICIALS FEAR NEW ATTACK ON PRESIDENT

    Georgia's security services are in a state of "panic,"

    anticipating that Russia may orchestrate a new attempt to

    assassinate President Shevardnadze, Caucasus Press reported on 22

    December, quoting the daily "Rezonansi." The paper suggested that

    the Russian agents charged with the killing may pose as Chechen

    militants. Former Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani has warned

    that the increasing transport of weapons and drugs from Chechnya

    to Georgia poses a threat to Georgia's security, while former

    National Security chief Irakli Batiashvili has expressed concern

    that the continuing Russian accusations that Georgia is

    supporting the Chechens may herald a new Russian attempt to

    destabilize Georgia. LF

    [07] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT EXPANDS POWERS OF MINISTER OF STATE

    President

    Shevardnadze has broadened the powers of the Minister of State,

    Caucasus Press reported on 22 December. The minister's powers are

    now equal to those of a prime minister, and include convening

    cabinet meetings and issuing normative laws. LF

    [08] IMF AGREES ON NEW CREDIT FOR KAZAKHSTAN

    The IMF on 21 December

    approved a three year $453 million credit for Kazakhstan, the

    first tranche of which, worth $35 million, will be made available

    shortly, Asia Plus Blitz reported. On 22 December, the World

    Bank's permanent representative in Kazakhstan told journalists in

    Almaty that the Bank will release the third tranche, worth $75

    million, of a loan to finance restructuring the management of

    state resources and a second tranche, worth $100 million, for

    pension reform in Kazakhstan, according to Interfax. The Bank

    will also provide $140 million towards financing improvements in

    Kazakhstan's national power grid. The World Bank has lent

    Kazakhstan over $300 million in 1999. LF

    [09] GEORGIAN TEACHERS LAUNCH STRIKE

    Teachers in six Georgian

    districts began a strike on 21 December to demand their salaries,

    which have not been paid for 8-10 months, Caucasus Press

    reported. The president of Georgia's Teachers' Association,

    Giorgi Amashukeli, told journalists in Tbilisi that police have

    already used violence to disperse a demonstration by teachers in

    the town of Kutaisi, and predicted that police would also attempt

    to thwart a second protest demonstration in that town scheduled

    for 23 December. LF

    [10] KYRGYZ CABINET DISCUSSES ECONOMIC CRIME

    Prime Minister Amangeldi

    Muraliev chaired a cabinet session on 22 December devoted to

    assessing the extent of the country's shadow economy and economic

    crime, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Security Council

    secretary Bolot Djanuzakov told journalists that the shadow

    economy accounts for an estimated 10-12 percent of GDP. He said

    that up to 60 percent of the oil products Kyrgyzstan imports

    enter the country illegally, and estimated the damage to the

    economy from smuggling at 700 million soms (about $16 million).

    Economic crime accounts for similar economic losses, Djanuzakov

    added. LF

    [11] ANOTHER KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY CONSIDERS FORMING BLOC

    Speaking

    at the second congress of the opposition Democratic Movement of

    Kyrgyzstan on 22 December, that organization's chairman,

    parliament deputy Djypar Djeksheev, said that several opposition

    parties may align in a bloc next month, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau

    reported. Earlier in December, Melis Eshimkanov, chairman of the

    El (Bei-Beshara) Party (Party of the Unfortunate) had similarly

    predicted that the Bei-Bechara, Ar-Namys, Agrarian and Republican

    parties and the Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan might unite to

    form a bloc named either "The New Kyrgyzstan" or "The Congress of

    Democratic Parties," and which would be headed by prominent

    politician Chinara Jakypova. Also on 22 December, representatives

    of four pro-government parties, "Adilet," "Birimdik," "My

    Country" and the Social-Democratic Party, also held talks in

    Bishkek with State Secretary Naken Kasiev on creating a united

    bloc. LF

    [12] MORE REPRISALS AGAINST BAPTISTS IN TURKMENISTAN

    Two Baptist

    ministers were arrested in Turkmenistan on 16-17 December, and

    Baptist churches in Chardjou, Mary, Turkmenbashi and Ashgabat

    were raided, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported on 22 December.

    The city authorities demolished a Seventh Day Adventist church in

    Ashgabat last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 1999). LF

    [13] TURKMENISTAN SEEKS TO REASSURE UKRAINE OVER GAS DEAL

    Deputy

    Prime Minister responsible for energy resources Elly

    Gurbanmuradov said on 22 December that the deal Ashgabat

    concluded last week to sell natural gas to Russia will not affect

    future supplies to Ukraine, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 20 December 1999). He suggested that if Ukraine

    seriously wants to buy Turkmen gas next year, it should first pay

    at least 30 percent of its $100 million outstanding debt for

    earlier deliveries. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [14] HAGUE COURT TO EXPAND INVESTIGATIONS...

    Chief Prosecutor Carla

    del Ponte said in The Hague on 22 December that she wants to

    expand from 19 to 36 the number of investigations under way for

    war crimes committed in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosova. She added

    that she hopes to indict 150 additional persons, many of whom are

    in leading positions. She stressed that her "top priority for the

    new year will be the arrest of leading figures who are still at

    liberty," Belgrade's "Danas" reported. She dismissed comments by

    Mira Markovic, the wife of indicted war criminal and Yugoslav

    President Slobodan Milosevic, who compared the Hague's detention

    quarters to Nazi death camps. "If I could speak with Madame

    Milosevic, I would tell her to invite her husband to the

    detention center to see how comfortable it is," AP reported. PM

    [15] ...INCLUDING OF MILOSEVIC

    Del Ponte said that her office plans

    to expand its investigation of the Yugoslav president as well.

    "From the [ongoing] investigations new elements emerge that could

    lead to a genocide charge [against Milosevic]. While he remains

    the head of his country it will be difficult to get him, but

    later, we'll see.... I can only say there are elements from other

    investigations that involve him. It is an issue we are working

    on," Reuters reported from Rome on 23 December. PM

    [16] PANIC: HAGUE THE SOLUTION TO SERBIA'S PROBLEMS

    International

    businessman and former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic told

    "Danas" of 23 December that elections will not solve anything in

    Serbia, "because Milosevic will steal them, as he has before."

    Panic stressed that the only way out of Serbia's dilemma is to

    get Milosevic and his henchmen to The Hague. The Serbian-American

    businessman praised the policies of Montenegrin President Milo

    Djukanovic. He stressed that it is imperative to station NATO

    troops on Montenegro's border with Serbia. PM

    [17] SERBIA: FRIENDS ARE WHERE YOU FIND THEM

    Yugoslav Foreign

    Minister Zivadin Jovanovic will fly to China on 25 December to

    promote the already "very good relations" between the two

    dictatorships, Reuters reported. On 23 December, Russian Defense

    Minister Igor Sergeev arrived in Belgrade and will go on to meet

    with Russian KFOR troops. The previous day, General Leonid

    Ivashov, head of the International Military Cooperation Board in

    the Russian Defense Ministry, told a news conference in Moscow

    that Russia will "revise" the conditions of its participation in

    KFOR if the peacekeepers' mission "fails." He did not elaborate.

    He made clear, however, that Moscow has no intention of "opting

    out of or of quitting" the province, Interfax reported. Observers

    note that Russia and Serbia use their mutual contacts for

    propaganda purposes. Belgrade seeks to show that it is not

    isolated. Moscow wants to demonstrate that it is still a great

    power in the Balkans. Serbia also exchanges delegations with some

    fellow pariah countries such as Iraq, which also have a history

    of using violence against their own citizens. PM

    [18] SERBIAN DRAFT RESISTERS FEEL ABANDONED

    London's "The Guardian"

    published an article on 22 December on the plight of dozens of

    young Serbian males in Hungary "who feel abandoned by everyone,"

    the BBC's Serbian Service reported. The young men fled to Hungary

    to avoid being conscripted into Milosevic's genocidal campaign in

    Kosova earlier in 1999. They now feel abandoned by the

    international community, although they still face punishment in

    Serbia as "deserters and traitors." PM

    [19] MACEDONIAN COALITION AGREES ON RESHUFFLE

    Representatives of the

    three parties in the governing coalition agreed in Skopje on 22

    December to reshuffle their government. According to the

    agreement, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization

    (VMRO) will have 13 seats, the much smaller Democratic

    Alternative (DA) eight, and the Democratic Party of Albanians

    five ministers, AP reported. The DA's Vasil Tupurkovski will

    become deputy prime minister with responsibility for economic

    reform and European integration. The final composition of the new

    government is expected to be announced after a special

    legislative session on 27 December. Relations between the three

    parties have been strained for some time. The coalition has

    nonetheless survived internal differences over the Kosova crisis

    and over the recent presidential election. Tupurkovski was

    angered by VMRO's refusal to support his presidential bid and has

    threatened to leave the coalition. PM

    [20] ALBANIANS LOSE BIG IN PYRAMID SCHEMES

    Farudin Arapi, who is the

    government-appointed administrator overseeing the liquidation of

    the now-defunct pyramid schemes, said only a small amount of the

    $1.4 billion invested will go back to investors, Reuters

    reported. Starting in January, some 185,000 creditors of 12

    audited schemes will receive $40 million out of the $740 million

    they invested. The 68,500 investors in VEFA, which was the most

    important single pyramid, will get back $20 million out of the

    $325 million they invested. Arapi said no money is available for

    hundreds of thousands of creditors of 12 other fraudulent

    schemes--mainly charities that promised 10 percent per month--

    because they had no assets to sell. The collapse of the pyramid

    network in 1997 let to anarchy and a change of government. PM

    [21] OSCE TO MONITOR CROATIAN VOTE

    Officials of the U.S. and OSCE

    will monitor the 3 January parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's

    South Slavic Service reported on 22 December. An OSCE spokesman

    in Zagreb added that he regrets that Croatian state-run

    television (HRT) continues to be the mouthpiece of the governing

    Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) despite numerous calls from

    abroad and within Croatia to transform it into a neutral public

    broadcaster. Elsewhere, Marijan Ramuscak, who heads the State

    Election Commission, said that Croats will be able to cast their

    ballots at polling places in 46 foreign countries. Croatia has

    traditionally had a high rate of economic emigration. PM

    [22] CROATIAN SPY SCANDAL GROWS

    Former security chief Miroslav

    Separovic has published the names of yet more public figures,

    whom he claims the intelligence services have illegally monitored

    at the behest of HDZ hard-liners, "Jutarnji list" reported on 23

    December. Targets include prominent people from the HDZ as well

    as from the opposition. Some of the names are Foreign Minister

    Mate Granic, acting president and Parliamentary Speaker Vlatko

    Pavletic, former director of HRT Antun Vrdoljak, opposition

    leaders Drazen Budisa and Ivica Racan, the EBRD's Christopher

    Cviic, and Bosnian Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic. Separovic

    added that Ivic Pasalic, who leads the Herzegovinian lobby in the

    HDZ, played a key role in the snooping. Pasalic responded that

    the opposition promised Separovic a cabinet post if he agreed to

    implicate him in the scandal. State Attorney Berislav Zivkovic

    called on Separovic to prove his charges. PM

    [23] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT EXPLAINS VASILE'S 'REVOCATION'

    In an

    interview on Romanian television, President Emil Constantinescu

    on 22 December said the basic law makes a distinction between

    "revoking" a member of the government and "dismissing" a

    minister. He said former Premier Radu Vasile has not been

    "dismissed" but "revoked." He explained that faced with a

    situation in which Vasile was refusing to resign and

    parliamentary factions were refusing to move a no confidence

    motion, he chose to "revoke" him, a prerogative granted him by

    the constitution in the case of regular cabinet members. He said

    that for this purpose Vasile was regarded as any cabinet member

    (The constitution does not grant the president the right to

    "dismiss" the premier). Constantinescu said it was his duty to do

    so in a situation where Vasile was refusing to answer his

    telephone calls and to come to the presidential office after

    having been summoned there (see also "End Note"). MS

    [24] ROMANIANS OBLIVIOUS TO REVOLUTION COMMEMORATION

    Less than one

    hundred people gathered on 22 December in Bucharest's

    Revolutionary Square to mark the flight of former Communist

    dictator Nicolae Ceausescu 10 years earlier. At the same time,

    Constantinescu was swearing in the members of Premier Mugur

    Isarescu's new cabinet. Meanwhile, the Senate 's Permanent Bureau

    designated Mircea Ionescu-Quintus as the house's interim chairman

    during the recession that is to last till 1 February. National

    Liberal Party leader Ionescu-Quintus is a deputy chairman of the

    house, and that position will apparently be taken over by former

    Premier Vasile, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

    [25] GAZPROM CUTS SUPPLIES TO MOLDOVA YET AGAIN

    At the swearing-in

    ceremony of his new cabinet, Prime Minister Dumitru Barghis said

    solving the problems of the energy sector will be the highest

    priority of his government, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. On

    the same day, Gazprom halted all gas shipments to Moldova,

    because of its mounting debt to the Russian energy giant. Moldova

    owes Gazprom $190 million for gas deliveries, which together with

    penalties for failing to meet payment deadlines and interest

    amount to $ 300 million, Interfax reported. MS

    [26] BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS COUNTRY MUST CHANGE MENTALITY

    Prime

    Minister Ivan Kostov on 22 December said Bulgarians must change

    their mentality and adopt the European system of values in its

    stead, BTA reported. In a lecture to Sofia University students,

    Kostov said this is one of the greatest challenges ahead on the

    road to EU accession. He said every Bulgarians must learn to

    shoulder his or her own responsibility instead on shifting the

    blame on to others, and preferably on the state. It is also

    important, he said, that Bulgarians learn to sacrifice themselves

    for the sake of others. Kostov also said Bulgarians must learn

    how to cope with tough competition. He said the decision to close

    down the controversial Kozloduy nuclear plants will make the

    country's economy less competitive, as its units will be replaced

    by conventional facilities producing costlier energy. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [27] TWO VERY DIFFERENT RESHUFFLES

    By Michael Shafir

    Bulgaria's and Romania's parliaments this week approved

    reshuffles in the respective governments of the two countries. On

    the surface, both measures were prompted by the need to enable

    the executive to better prepare the accession talks with the EU,

    to which both Romania and Bulgaria were admitted at the Helsinki

    summit earlier this month.

    In actual fact, comparing the two government restructurings

    is to compare crab apples with Williams pears. The reshuffle of

    the government in Bulgaria was initiated by Prime Minister Ivan

    Kostov and applauded by President Petar Stoyanov; that in Romania

    came about as a result of a cabal between President Emil

    Constantinescu and the leadership of the ruling National Peasant

    Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and its main target was former

    Prime Minister Radu Vasile. This being so, the cabinet now headed

    by National Bank governor Mugur Isarescu includes only two new

    ministers, whereas in Bulgaria the reshuffle was sweeping-10 out

    of the 16 members of the cabinet made room for new faces.

    Among the targets that Kostov intends to pursue is that of

    amending the constitution, specifically by doing away with

    provisions that do not fall in line with EU legislation, such as

    the article prohibiting the purchase of land by non-Bulgarian

    nationals. In Romania, on the other hand, the constitution has

    been "amended" before the reshuffle, by a dubious

    "interpretation" of an article in the basic document that makes

    it possible for the premier to be dismissed if incapacitated. The

    PNTCD at the end of the day forced Vasile to resign. Not,

    however, before producing a pitiful spectacle: one day Vasile was

    deemed by PNTCD chairman Ion Diaconescu to be unfit for returning

    to his former post of PNTCD secretary general, the next day--

    after a bargain had been struck-- he was allowed to do so and

    even to --in all likelihood-- become Senate chairman, taking over

    the position from Petre Roman, the country's new Foreign

    Minister.

    No sooner had the constitutional crisis ended that a new one

    seemed to emerge. This is so because Isarescu insists on having

    legal insurance that he can return to his former position as

    National Bank governor. Like the premier, the National Bank

    governor is appointed by the parliament, and in order to

    circumvent a law prohibiting the holding of double office, when

    investing the new cabinet the legislature also "suspended"

    Isarescu from his governorship for the length of his cabinet's

    tenure. The opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania says

    this is illegal and it may be right-- which does not happen very

    often.

    But the inapplicability of a comparison between the two

    countries does not stop here, though, of course, it is important

    that in Bulgaria the reshuffle has been carried out without

    raising constitutional questions. As a result of change there,

    Kostov now has only one, instead of formerly three deputy

    premiers. This innovation is aimed at streamlining the

    government's work and enabling it to concentrate on its main

    task--improving economic performance. The same task is also

    mentioned in Romania, but the number of deputy premiers has not

    been reduced there. On the contrary, in fact a new forum of

    deputy premiers has been created. This may be necessary to

    coordinate the bad functioning of the Romanian coalition, but it

    added one more structure to an already cumbersome administrative

    make-up.

    In Bulgaria, among the few survivors in the cabinet one

    finds the country's Foreign Minster Nadezhda Mihailova. And

    rightly so, since the charming Bulgarian chief diplomat has been

    one of the chief architects of her country's success at Helsinki.

    In Romania, on the other hand, non-party affiliated Andrei Plesu

    now makes room for Roman. But it is no secret that Roman is a

    contender to the presidency in the year 2000, as is

    Constantinescu. The constitution gives large prerogatives to the

    president in the conduct of foreign policy a task at which

    Constantinescu has excelled. But the two former Foreign Ministers

    who preceded Roman, Adrian Severin and Plesu, easily adapted to

    the part of second lieutenants to Constantinescu. In electoral

    year 2000 Roman is unlikely to acquiesce to playing a similar

    role, and this competition could hinder, rather than promote, the

    country's foreign policy goals.

    There is no need to over-idealize the Bulgarian reshuffle.

    The change was partly prompted by the country's endemic

    corruption, though none of the ministers replaced are suspected

    of being involved in illegal deals. The same, however, applies to

    Romania, where, unlike in Bulgaria, the Justice and Interior

    Ministers (the two departments closest implicated in combating

    corruption) retain their portfolios. Kostov was also animated by

    the desire to change his cabinet's image, following mediocre

    results in the local elections held in October. There were no

    local elections in Romania, but obviously--judging by both

    opinion polls and the ever-growing wave of labor unrest-- the

    government's rating is at low ebb.

    Finally, Kostov might have also wanted to curtail somewhat

    the power of such replaced influential figures as his former

    deputies Evgeni Bakardzhiev and Alexander Bozhkov, who now return

    to their posts in the ruling Union of Democratic Forces. But he

    has done this elegantly--if politics can be elegant-- whereas in

    Romania the unrest in the ruling PNTCD is likely to continue.

    Viewed from this perspective, Romania seems closer to her other

    neighbor, party-conflict ridden Moldova, where a change of

    government has also taken place this week. Which, after all, is

    not surprising, given the two countries' long historical joint

    legacy--a legacy where politicking has often overshadowed the

    "making of politics."

    23-12-99


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


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