FM Alert No. 50

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Date: Mon, 20 Oct 1997 13:50:54 -0700
Subject: FM Alert No. 50

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FM Alert No. 50

FM Alert, No. 50
14 October 1997
The Forced Migration Projects have sent a letter to Estonian President
Lennart Meri seeking to promote dialogue on citizenship issues in the
Baltic country. "We are ready to explore ways to further support efforts
that promote inclusiveness and open society," FMP Director Arthur C.
Helton wrote. Estonia in recent weeks has taken steps that may ease
discontent of the Baltic country's Russian-speaking population. An
amendment to the Law on Immigration will expand the rights of temporary
residence-permit holders, and facilitate the acquisition of permanent
residency. After Estonia regained independence in 1991, most of the
country's 600,000 Russian speakers were denied automatic citizenship,
provoking widespread criticism. Many have shunned the mechanism for
naturalization, which includes the need to pass an Estonian language
proficiency exam. The government also announced that Russian-language
schools will be allowed to operate until 2008, after which all classes
are to be held in Estonian. Previously the deadline for all-Estonian
instruction had been 2000. The moves have not mollified Russian
officials. On an early October visit to Estonia, Russian Minister for
Nationalities Vyacheslav Mikhailov said better Russian-Estonian
relations hinged on improvements in the Russian-speakers' situation.
Russia and Estonia have been unable to reach a border demarcation
treaty. The failure to do so could complicate Estonian efforts to join
the European Union, which demands that member states have no outstanding
border disputes.

The FMP recently published a special report Estonia and Latvia:
Citizenship, Language and Conflict Prevention. (For background
information on the FMP special report consult FM Alert of September 5).

The head of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern
Slavonia (UNTAES) has come under criticism from Croatian media, as
concerns mount that the handover of authority in the region will not
proceed according to schedule. Eastern Slavonia is now under UNTAES
administration. The handover of power back to the Croatian government is
scheduled to be completed by January 15, 1998. Croatian state-owned
media began criticizing UNTAES chief William Walker began after he
publicly promoted reconciliation programs. Walker is in charge of
implementing the UN plan, adopted in June, that provides for a phased
devolution of UNTAES' administrative responsibilities on the condition
that Croatian officials implement programs to promote the peaceful
reintegration and reconciliation of its ethnically mixed population. In
a written statement released October 9, the UN Security Council
expressed concern that "there are still many outstanding areas and
issues of contention and non-compliance, which require further and
urgent action from the Government of Croatia." Walker, who assumed the
new post August 1, is a career diplomat. He served as US Ambassador to
El Salvador from 1988-92, and immediately preceding that appointment, he
was Deputy Assistant-Secretary of State for InterAmerican Affairs, with
responsibility for Central America and Panama. (For background on
Eastern Slavonia consult FM Alerts of May 16 and May 2).
An amendment proposed by US Senator Gordon Smith, R-Oregon, and attached
to a foreign aid appropriations bill, would withhold about $200 million
in aid to Russia, potentially hindering implementation of CIS migration
conference follow-up efforts. Sen. Smith introduced the amendment in
response to Russia's passage of a law on religion, which human rights
groups have condemned for restricting freedom of worship. The law
imposes limitations on so-called "non-traditional religions" in Russia.
During a September visit to Moscow, US Vice President Albert Gore tried
unsuccessfully to dissuade President Boris Yeltsin from confirming the
law. The United States has contributed more than $14 million to the
implementation in 1997 of the Programme of Action, adopted at the CIS
migration conference, held in Geneva in 1996. 

Among the objectives of the Programme is prevention of the causes of
forced migration through tolerance education and NGO development. The
Smith-sponsored amendment remains in the House-Senate conference
process. The text of the proposed amendment does not except humanitarian
aid through multilateral mechanisms. (For background on Programme of
Action implementation consult FM Alerts of July 3 and July 11).
NOTE:  The Open Society Institute is moving.  As of October 27, our
new contact details will be:
Forced Migration Projects
Open Society Institute
400 West 59th Street, 4th floor
New York, NY 10019
tel: (212) 548-0655
fax: (212) 548-4676
- a forum for discussion on minorities in Central&Eastern Europe

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