MINELRES: RFE/RL Newsline on minority issues

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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 7, No. 216, Part II, 14 November 2003  

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT KEEPS RUSSIAN-LANGUAGE SECONDARY SCHOOLS. The
parliament by a vote of 40-7 with two abstentions rejected an amendment
to the Secondary School Act that called for changing the language of
instruction in Russian-language secondary schools to Estonian beginning
with the 2007-2008 school year, BNS reported. The amendment had been
proposed by the opposition Pro Patria Union. The main argument for the
amendment was the high cost of maintaining schools in two languages.
Also on 13 November, the government expressed support for an amendment
to the Citizenship Act under which the state would compensate
language-learning expenses to those who pass the citizenship exam. The
amendment bill provides for fully compensating money paid to licensed
private schools for courses of Estonian. SG

PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER COMPLAINS ABOUT ROMANIAN TREATMENT OF UKRAINIAN
MINORITY. Visiting Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said
on 13 November after talks with Romanian Senate Chairman Nicolae
Vacaroiu that Romania does "too little" for its Ukrainian minority,
Mediafax reported. Lytvyn said there is only one Ukrainian high school
in Romania, which has neither a library nor a reading room. In
comparison, he said, in Ukraine there are 94 schools where teaching is
in Romanian, and several universities in Ukraine prepare
Romanian-language teachers to serve in those schools, all of which are
permanently provided with Romanian-language books. Vacaroiu said in
reply that Romania respects the rights of national minorities and has
been commended for it by the Council of Europe. Lytvyn was also received
by Premier Adrian Nastase, who said he hopes the Romanian Senate will
ratify the basic treaty between the two countries by the end of this
year. MS


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 7, No. 217, Part II, 18 November 2003

SWEDISH HERO POSTHUMOUSLY AWARDED HONORARY CITIZENSHIP OF BUDAPEST. The
Budapest City Council on 17 November voted to award honorary citizenship
to the late Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved thousands of
Hungarian Jews from Nazi gas chambers during World War II,
"Nepszabadsag" reported. Wallenberg is credited with having saved some
20,000 Hungarian Jews in 1944-45 by issuing them Swedish passports. He
was captured by Soviet troops in January 1945 and presumably died in a
Soviet prison. "Without Wallenberg's efforts, Budapest would not be the
city it is today," Mayor Gabor Demszky said at the awarding ceremony,
according to MTI news agency. Demszky also announced that a school will
be named after Wallenberg in Budapest next year. Prime Minister Peter
Medgyessy also attended the ceremony, saying, "I bow my head to a person
who showed us how to behave in times of danger," AP reported. MSZ

ROMANIAN TRIBUNAL RULES LIBERTY STATUE CANNOT BE REERECTED ON ORIGINAL
SITE... An Arad tribunal recently ruled that the controversial Liberty
Statue cannot be reerected on the square where it originally stood and
that the proposal to reerect the statue in a park is not a viable
compromise solution to the dispute (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May, 22
August, and 29 October 2003), the dailies "Curentul" and "Cronica
romana" reported on 17 November. The tribunal based its ruling on the
Oradea Territorial Construction Inspectorate's recent decision to halt
the reerection of the monument on the grounds that the Culture Ministry
has not authorized the project. The inspectorate's decision has been
appealed by the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR). UDMR
parliamentary deputy Laszlo Borbely described the tribunal's ruling as
"obviously political" and said the UDMR has canceled a meeting with the
ruling PSD at which the two parties were to discuss the future of their
cooperation agreement. MS

....WHILE UDMR ANNOUNCES LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVE ON MINORITIES' STATUTE.
UDMR Senator Peter Eckstein-Kovacs announced on 16 November that his
formation will launch an "electoral initiative" to gather signatures in
favor of having parliament legislate a Minority Status in Romania,
Mediafax reported. Eckstein-Kovacs said the status should include all
pertinent legislation already approved by parliament, as well as new
provisions including a definition of the term "national minority" and
the requirements for obtaining that status. Meanwhile, Hungarian Prime
Minister Peter Medgyessy announced in Budapest on 14 November after
meeting with UDMR Chairman Bela Marko that a Hungarian-language
television channel might begin broadcasting in Transylvania from
mid-2004, the daily "Magyar Nemzet" and Romanian Radio reported.
Medgyessy said working groups of the Hungarian government and the UDMR
will examine ways to abide by legislation in force in Romania and
Hungary and to find a formula under which the planned station could be
financed by Budapest. MS

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT PRESENTS PLAN FOR MOLDOVA'S FEDERALIZATION. Russian
President Vladimir Putin told journalists on 17 November that at his
initiative the Russian Foreign Ministry has drafted its own plan for
setting up a federal state in Moldova, ITAR-TASS and Infotag reported.
Putin said the plan was prepared under the guidance of deputy
presidential administration head Dmitrii Kozak, who has been in contact
with Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin and the OSCE. The plan has been
given to the authorities in Transdniester and the other two outside
mediators, the OSCE and Ukraine, for examination. It envisages the
setting up of a Federal Republic of Moldova as an "asymmetrical
federation" whose two subjects would be Moldova and Transdniester. The
federation would have a have unified defense, customs, and finance
systems and a single currency. Under the plan -- which makes no mention
of the withdrawal of Russian troops -- the federation would be a neutral
and demilitarized state. Its president would be elected by popular vote.
The plan envisages a bicameral parliament, composed of a 71-seat chamber
of deputies and a 26-seat senate. The upper house would include 13
Moldovan, nine Transdniester, and four Gagauz-Yeri representatives.
Transdniester and Gagauz-Yeri representatives would also be included in
the federal government at the deputy-premier level. The country's state
language would be Moldovan, but Russian would have official-language
status throughout the federation. MS


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 7, No. 218, Part I, 19 November 2003 

BASHKIR PRESIDENT'S RIVAL PLAYS THE ETHNIC CARD. In a recent
interview, Sergei Veremeenko, a leading candidate in Bashkortostan's
7 December presidential race, said that certain needs of ethnic
Tatars are not being met in the republic, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir
Service reported on 18 November. Veremeenko said that local radio and
television rarely broadcast in Tatar; teachers for Tatar
kindergartens are not being trained; and the number of books,
magazines, and newspapers printed in Tatar is insufficient.
Veremeenko suggested that as a partial solution periodicals published
in Tatarstan should be made available in Bashkortostan. He also
suggested that raions that are predominantly populated by Tatars be
given special status. JAC


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 7, No. 218, Part II, 19 November 2003 

LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS ON EU TO REMAIN UNITED IN FURTHER
TALKS WITH RUSSIA. Sandra Kalniete told a meeting of the EU's General
Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels on 17 November
that the EU should remain united in its talks with Russia, LETA
reported the next day. Kalniete called Russia's attempts to link EU
concerns over human rights in Chechnya with the situation of
Russian-speakers in Latvia unacceptable. Kalniete stressed that the
EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement will be automatically
applied to the new member states as soon as they accede to the EU.
She reiterated that view at the meeting of the EU Intergovernmental
Conference in Brussels on 18 November, where EU member and candidate
states' foreign ministries discussed the section of the European
constitution on the role of the EU foreign affairs minister. SG 

HUNGARY LOBBIES FOR MINORITY-RIGHTS MENTION. Prime Minister
Peter Medgyessy told a meeting of ambassadors from the 25 EU member
and accession states in Budapest on 18 November that Hungary believes
it is important to include minority rights in the European
constitution, the MTI news agency reported. Meanwhile, Hungarian
Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs held several bilateral meetings on the
sidelines of the EU Intergovernmental Conference in Brussels and
sought support for the Hungarian proposal that defense of minority
rights be incorporated into the text of the EU constitution,
"Nepszabadsag" reported on 19 November. Kovacs told the daily that
his Spanish counterpart Ana Palacio said Madrid opposes the Hungarian
proposal on the issue, due to the problem of the Basque minority in
Spain. In another meeting, Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana
told Kovacs that Romania would only express support for the Hungarian
proposal if the text referred to the individual rights of persons
belonging to ethnic minorities, and not their collective rights, MTI
reported. MSZ

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT REACTS POSITIVELY TO RUSSIAN FEDERALIZATION
PLAN... President Vladimir Voronin said on 18 November that the
Russian plan for resolving the Transdniester conflict and
federalizing the country is a compromise between the positions of
Chisinau and Tiraspol and therefore a "realistic" plan, RFE/RL's
Chisinau bureau and Romanian Radio reported. Voronin's comments came
during his meeting with leaders of Moldovan parliamentary parties. He
said the solution proposed by Russia has many common elements with
the document proposed by the OSCE. "History is offering us a unique
chance" and political leaders must now "leave narrow party interests
behind and think of the country's future," he said. Victor Stepaniuc,
who heads the Party of Moldovan Communists parliamentary majority,
said the Russian proposal is a "positive step," and that by proposing
an "asymmetric federation," Moscow has adopted Chisinau's position.
It remains to be seen, he added, whether Transdniester will also
accept the proposals. OSCE mission spokesman Claus Neukirch said that
"for now" the OSCE has not adopted a position toward the proposals
and is still studying the document. Neukirch said he "does not know"
what Voronin meant when he said the OSCE and the Russian proposals
have many common points, and that the two are "not identical." MS

....WHILE OPPOSITION CRITICIZES IT. Popular Party Christian
Democratic Chairman Iurie Rosca said after the meeting with Voronin
on 18 November that the Russian proposal "fails to provide a solution
to the main problem Moldova faces; namely, the continuation of a
foreign military presence on its national territory," Flux reported.
Rosca said the federalization project would mean accepting "the
dictatorship of a minority over the majority" and thus signify "a
reversal of democratic principles," which called unacceptable. He
said that under the current constitution, Moldova can seek to
integrate into Europe, but if the constitution and the state
construction are changed, creating "nonfunctioning state structures,"
integration would become impossible. Our Moldova Alliance co-Chairman
and former Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis said on 18 November that he
needs to study the plan further, but that it is clear that any
federal plan must be approved by the people in a referendum. MS

RUSSIA SAYS IT NEEDS AT LEAST SIX MONTHS TO COMPLETE TRANSDNIESTER
EVACUATION. Vladimir Isakov, Russia's deputy defense minister in
charge of support services, told journalists on 18 November in Moscow
that 60 trainloads of military equipment and other assets remain to
be evacuated from Transdniester, ITAR-TASS reported. "If the current
evacuation pace of two trainloads a week is maintained, we will
complete [the operation] in six months -- seven at most," Isakov
said. MS


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 7, No. 219, Part II, 20 November 2003 

CZECH GOVERNMENT TO EXPLORE WAYS TO CURB INFLUX OF SLOVAK ROMA...
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said after a cabinet meeting on 19
November that his government has tasked Interior Minister Stanislav
Gross and Deputy Prime Minister Petr Mares with drafting proposals to
curb the influx of Slovak Roma into the Czech Republic, CTK reported.
Spidla said the number of Slovak Roma residing in the Czech Republic
"vary around 14,000," according to a report presented the same day by
the Interior Ministry and approved by the cabinet. "This does not
mean there is an avalanche, yet this is a problem that must be
solved," Spidla said. On 18 November, dpa reported that Gross wants
the government to monitor Romany settlements in the Czech Republic
because he fears many Slovak Roma intend to emigrate to the Czech
Republic in search of work and higher social benefits. A Labor
Ministry assessment cited by CTK concluded that the influx of Slovak
Roma has had little effect on social programs and benefits. MS

....PRODUCING MIXED REACTIONS AMONG SLOVAK POLITICIANS. Slovak Deputy
Prime Minister Pal Csaky, who is in charge of minority affairs,
countered on 19 November that the Czech government's intention to
curb the influx of Slovak Roma was prompted by an "overestimated
figure," CTK reported. Csaky said that, according to information
available to him, the number of Slovak Roma who have moved to the
Czech Republic is considerably lower than 14,000. He also said he
intends to set up a Slovak commission next week to help deal with the
issue and will invite Czech officials to a joint discussion with the
commission's members. Slovak President Rudolf Schuster, who on 19
November paid a visit to Ostrava in northern Moravia, said he drew
attention to the same issue some time ago. Schuster said some Slovak
Roma have tried to migrate to other countries as well, but were sent
back to Slovakia. "And this is correct," he added, "because they
cannot claim they do not have democracy at home." MS

GERMAN CHANCELLOR ADVISES HUNGARY AGAINST PUSHING FOR MINORITY RIGHTS
IN EU CONSTITUTION. Gerhard Schroeder during his 19 November meeting
with Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy advised Hungary against pursuing
the inclusion of the protection of minorities in the future EU
constitution, MTI news agency reported. Schroeder reportedly said
that Germany is not opposed to the idea of incorporating minority
rights in the EU constitution, but that it will not support Hungary
on the issue. Medgyessy said after the meeting that that the German
chancellor frequently offers us good advice, but not in this case. In
addition, Schroeder told reporters that the German and Hungarian
positions differ regarding the number of EU commissioners following
the union's expansion. Germany wants to reduce the current 20-member
European Commission to 15 members plus an additional 10 nonvoting
members, while Hungary supports the position that each member state
should be represented on the commission. MSZ

HUNGARIAN SUPREME COURT CHAIRMAN, MINORITY RIGHTS OMBUDSMAN MAKE
PEACE. Supreme Court President Zoltan Lomnici and Minority Rights
Ombudsman Jeno Kaltenbach on 19 November met at the Constitutional
Court to discuss their recent disagreement over the Hungarian
judicial system, "Nepszabadsag" reported. The friction between the
two was sparked after several politicians and journalist Miklos Tamas
Gaspar criticized the recent acquittal of Calvinist pastor and
Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) Deputy Chairman Lorant
Hegedus Jr. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 2003), and following a
Szeged court's decision to acquit to two Romany brothers of murder on
the basis that they are "primitive" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12
November 2003). Lomnici accused those politicians and Kaltenbach of
endangering the independence of the judiciary by vocalizing their
criticisms. Kaltenbach told reporters after meeting with Lomnici that
a misunderstanding caused the spat because "nothing actually happened
that endangers the independence of judges." For his part, Lomnici
said he considers his dispute with Kaltenbach closed. MSZ

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER FINDS HOLES IN RUSSIAN PLAN FOR MOLDOVA'S
FEDERALIZATION... Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said on 18
November that the plan presented by Russia earlier this week for
Moldova's federalization still must be "seriously analyzed," but
noted that the proposal makes no mention of the role international
bodies would play in the region, specifically naming the EU and the
OSCE, Flux reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2003). Geoana
also said the Russian plan does not specify whether peacekeeping
forces would remain in Transdniester nor whether international
organizations would be involved in monitoring the peace settlement.
"It is important that Russia fulfill its pledge to withdraw its
arsenal and military forces from Transdniester," Geoana said.
"Romania has a fundamental interest in seeing Moldova regain its
sovereignty and control over all its territory," he added, but it is
"just as important for the mechanisms that would be in place to
provide an element of regional stability." These mechanisms, he
stressed, will also be discussed at the OSCE's Ministerial Council
meeting in Maastricht in December. MS