Issue No. 223 - May 21, 2001
Contents:

1. Croatia: REVIVAL OF THE RIGHT
           By Stojan Obradovic

2. Bulgaria: GATE IS OPEN
          By Peter Karaboev

3. Central Asia: BETWEEN WAR AND PEACE
         By Arkady Dubnov
 
4. Special addition: NEW AT TOL
 
 


Croatia: REVIVAL OF THE RIGHT
     By Stojan Obradovic
    Croatian government, made out of as much as six heterogeneous
parties (ranging from dominant social democrats to liberals,
centrists and regional parties) that took over the country after
10 years' rule of nationalist HDZ, failed to pass its first big
political test on Sunday (May 20), at the local elections.
    Besides great abstain from vote (approximately 60 per cent)
which is in itself reflection of general displeasure with the
current government, the strongest opposition party HDZ won, either
on its own or in the coalition with minor extremely nationalist
parties within the so-called Croatian Block, most votes in as much
as 14 out of 21 Croatian counties.
    Although HDZ probably won't be able to form local government
in most of the counties because other parties will join against
it, as is the case on national level, these results show that
during the past almost 18 months since the change of national
government voters have become disappointed and unhappy. HDZ is
returning to political stage although many said that the party of
the late Croatian president Franjo Tudjman was definitely heading
for a "political museum" and proclaimed it dead.
    On the contrary, after these local elections HDZ came back
with a new vigor and proved to be the most individually popular
party in Croatia. This result is a strong warning that the
successful political removal of rigid political nationalism
established by HDZ and former Croatian president Tudjman is still
far away. With this support, HDZ showed that in the foreseeable
future it could perhaps re-play an important role in Croatia.
    Reasons for the new political rise of the nationalist right
are many. Main reason is undoubtedly disappointment of the voters
with the fact that the ruling coalition that took over the
government in January 2000 failed to reverse very bleak social and
economic trends in the country caused by years of autocratic HDZ
regime. Although positive economical changes take time, it is the
fact that during the past months of the new government
unemployment increased, reaching a record 400,000 people and is
now one of the largest in Europe. Prices have soared while the
standard of living has declined. Under the pressure of
international financial institutions, the government had to limit
and lower wages in public sector, announce new layoffs in public
services (including military and police). Positive changes were
mostly felt only in the field of foreign relations because Croatia
got wide open doors for integration into Europe, but internally,
situation is in some aspects worse than it was at the end of HDZ
rule.
    Taking advantage of this situation, HDZ and its allies in
politics, military and other institutions once again stressing the
importance of the so-called national issues as crucial, accusing
the government for debasing the image of the Patriotic War or
accusing it as traitors because of the collaboration with the
ICTY, etc. and claiming that the new government is destroying
the foundations upon which the independent Croatian state was
built. In a difficult social and economic situation, this
ultra-nationalist rhetoric met with fertile response and led
to an explicit destabilization and polarization of Croatian
political scene which strongly motivated right-oriented voters
to come out, as proved by local elections.
    Ruling six-party coalition headed by Social democrat Party
(reformed communists) led by prime minister Ivica Racan failed to
find a joint political platform to oppose eruption of right-wing
extremism and, fearing possible fighting on a political scene,
refused to enter a clear political duel with the legacy of
authoritarian and nationalist Tudjman's regime. Many independent
analysts think that such duel is one of the key conditions for
successful democratization process in Croatia.
    That this politics of evasion was wrong was proven by the fact
that at the same time rose political rating of those parties that
clearly proclaimed they were ready for such political fighting.
For example, in such manner improved political rating of Croatian
People's Party led by the politician of a new generation,
university professor Vesna Pusic. Although its rating was also
improved thanks to the fact that current president Stipe Mesic
came from its ranks, great surge in popularity is owned to Vesna
Pusic who became new political hope and trademark of civil Croatia
with its open criticisms of some key aspects of Tudjman's and HDZ
politics (for example Bosnia and Herzegovina) and readiness to
oppose nationalist extremism and chauvinism.
    Ruling party among the coalition, Social democrat Party (SDP)
led by prime minister Ivica Racan, didn't succeed in affirming as
the most popular party in Croatia although it was expected since
SDP would then make legitimate its position of the party which has
all key power positions in the country. But, despite it, SDP will
still have the best post-election results thanks to its ruling
position in anti-HDZ coalition and will make various local
coalitions in order to form new local governments.
    Its main coalition partner Croatian Social-Liberal Party
(HSLS) of a failed presidential candidate Drazen Budisa proved to
be a disaster at these elections losing some important local
stronghold. For example, in Croatian capital Zagreb with 25 per
cent of Croatian voters, HSLS didn't even pass the election
threshold.
    Results of the local elections will reposition parties in the
ruling coalition at the national level, especially because it was
announced that after local elections reconstruction of government,
even of the coalition could be an option. It is no secret that
even the present relations in the coalition were sometimes on the
brink of break-out and added to displeasure with the ruling
coalition. On one hand, it is possible that the ruling coalition
will take its stand and establish a higher degree of cooperation i
order to tackle now evident increase in HDZ political rating.
However, on the other hand, there is a possibility of deeper
rifts, search of new political formulas, even new coalition
partners. One of the formulas might be a coalition between
Budisa's liberals and HDZ which could lead to early parliamentary
elections.
    In any case, these recent local elections have signaled to
the ruling elite that there were some very important issues that
had to be solved in order to evade a new political crisis which
might once again prevent only recently ongoing democratization
process in Croatia and its approaching to Europe. It is to believe
that they understood the message.

                          * * *

Bulgaria: GATE IS OPEN
     By Peter Karaboev
    Bulgaria is approaching one of the most unusual and hot
political seasons in its modern history. On June 17 there
will be general elections and later in the autumn elections
for President. But what is so unusual? Well, a lot of things.
And the most interesting of them is sudden appearance of the
former Bulgarian king Simeon II on the political stage. Just
in a matter of one month he calculated an enormous support
and turned to be a future political force No. 1 and his party
 may control absolute majority in the parliament. Polls a
giving his National Movement Simeon II (NMS) public support
of up to 40% while the two biggest parties, ruling Union of
Democratic Forces (UDF) and former communists from Bulgarian
Socialist Party (BSP), are were given twice less, some 15-17%
each. Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), main party of
Bulgarian Turks, which usually controls some 8-12% of the votes
this time might be left outside the parliament. And all this
in situation when NMS still looks more as a populist appeal than
 as a serious political alternative.
    Why did it turn out to be so? For 10 years Simeon gave some
interviews, made a sensational official comeback from Madrid in
the summer of 1996 just to put his bets on sidelined liberal
coalition for the elections in 1997 and to lose in the eyes of
many of his supporters. Since the disturbances of 1996-1997
he continued to live in his home in Spain and traveled to
Bulgaria with less and less public interest maybe because he
looked like he gave up his political ambitions.
    For last 4 years UDF headed Bulgaria through deep financial
and economic crisis, currency board, war in Kosovo, and recent
troubles in Macedonia. The Government was praised from abroad for
stability it achieved in such short term, Bulgaria was invited to
start negotiations for EU membership, last month Prime-Minister
Ivan Kostov was the very first statesman from Central and Eastern
Europe to meet new US President George Bush in White House. But
for common and poor Bulgarians all this was something high in the
sky. With official unemployment of nearly 20% and the real one
much higher, still unacceptable high level of crimes, accusations
of rampant corruption and lack of vision for quick improvement UDF
popularity felled in tatters. For the last 12 months UDF was in
constant internal fighting and this spring part of its leadership
left the party. The dissidents were unable to split party and were
left on a roadside with few close circle supporters. But the
damage for party image was done.
    The last parliament was the first one for the last 10 years to
close its full 4-years term and this was not enough for BSP to
prove that this party can be political alternative. In fact it
couldn't prove itself even as a serious opposition.
    At the beginning of the year it looked that chess-mate board
of Bulgarian politics is well charted for the next UDF victory.
And here comes the move with a King!
    In fact this wasn't surprise because he gave some signs of
re-appearing which were accepted with smile than with serious
analysis. In February 2001 Simeon said that he will give
Bulgarians a chance to vote for him. On April 6, he announced
establishment of the National Movement bearing his own name.
A bitter court battle for NMS party registration followed. NMS
wasn't allowed to appear on general elections and just few hours
to the deadline Simeon decided to run in coalition with women's
party than no one ever heard about. Bulgarians didn't know and
still don't know anything about NMSís program, how it intends to
rule the country, to bring more investments, to make people's
lives not rich but at least normal. Instead of disillusionment
a new wave of support followed.
    Then the next hysteria came composing of party lists of
candidates. At this point it was already clear that something
wrong will happen with this organization. Of course it was
in limbo to find in extremely short period hundreds of
professionals who fill the enormous expectations of the public
and can compete successfully with the previous political
establishment. But an increasing disappointment was followed
by the announcement of King's lists, a very strange mixture
of young and little known Bulgarians working in Western companies
and banks, some local TV stars, someone's friends. There is much
talking and gossips in Sofia that two lobbies are fighting each
other inside NMS and this less than a month to the voting day.
Some analysts in Sofia say that this situation should be
considered as a national security matter because of a real
danger this mess of people who didn't know each other up
until yesterday can get a majority in the Parliament with all
following consequences for Bulgaria. And there is some reason in
this. Public is still ready to give NMS huge support but few of
common Bulgarians know what is to form a Government, to fill posts
in administration. And even if everything goes, it will go on at
least till the autumn when Bulgaria should vote for President.
Simeon decided not to run for the Member of Parliament and he
was bared by the Constitutional court to run for the Head of state.
In this situation Bulgarians can have an extremely powerful
political figure outside the institutions, a shady broker meeting
some people in his palace in Sofia suburbs.
    What about UDF and BSP? Well they are running their campaigns
as if almost nothing happened. And maybe they are right. Some
analysts say that both parties should take a note from soccer
where when you are loosing by 0:3 it's better to defend the gate
than to attack and end with 0:8. Or maybe this is an exaggeration
of Simeonís influence. The answer will come on June 17. But for now
it can be said that for Bulgaria this summer a Gate is open and
only time will show where this gate leads - to New Horizons or to
Chaos.

                          *  *  *

 
Central Asia: BETWEEN WAR AND PEACE
     By Arkady Dubnov
    This fall, the former Soviet republics (except for the three
Baltic countries) will mark the tenth anniversary of their
independence.  In nearly every one of them, at some time in those
ten years, hot spots have flared up, bloody conflicts, and most of
them are still simmering today - Karabakh, Abkhazia,
Transdniestria... Not to mention Chechnya... Now, a new danger of
instability has arisen in the former Soviet Union. That is
Central Asia.  The main subject discussed at all CIS summit
meetings and negotiations between Commonwealth leaders has become
terrorism and the problem of the religious extremism that has
arisen on the southern border of the former USSR.
    The problem came into sharp focus two years ago, when groups
of rebels from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), stationed
in bases along the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan invaded the
mountainous regions of Kyrgyzstan with the intention of proceeding
from there into Uzbekistan. Their self-proclaimed goal is to
establish a so-called Islamic Caliphate in the most densely
populated region of Central Asia, the Fergan Valley, which
encompasses parts of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The
events of 1999 (the Batken events, after the name of the region of
Kyrgyzstan, most of which was controlled by IMU for some time)
were repeated in the summer of 2000.  At that time, the
Kyrgyzstani army suffered more than 40 fatalities. Losses on the
rebel side are unknown. The losses of the Uzbekistani armed
forces in two military campaigns are also unknown, but they clear
amount to dozens of lives.
    Those events had just come to an end last year (Kyrgyzstani
authorities appraised them as a successful campaign to repulse
bandits) when talk began of preparing for a new invasion by IMU
rebels. The Kyrgyzstanis were especially effective in that
regard. By February, Bishkek bigwigs had begun exaggerating the
situation:  an early spring was expected, the mountain passes
would be freed of snow much earlier and the first excursions might
be expected practically in March.
    The goal of that propaganda campaign was obvious. Their CIS
allies and even the West should be frightened by the new Islamic
threat and provide the necessary aid in cash and arms. There was
also an internal motivation. Authorities in Kyrgyzstan, which was
frequently called in the West "an island of democracy in Central
Asia" all those years, had fundamentally damaged their image.
President Askar Akaev, who had to ensure his victory in the
presidential elections last year (he was running for a third term
on flimsy legal grounds and has been in power since 1990) had to
eliminate his political opponents, whose competition posed a
danger to him. Some of them ended up in prison, others were
publicly disgraced. In the West, that was seen as a serious abuse
of democratic procedures, and Akaev had to show that the
situation, with Kyrgyzstan's independence under threat, he was
forced to deviate from democratic norms to a certain extent.
    It can be noted that such arguments have proved convincing
only to Russia. They were in line with president Putin's policy
of strengthening the vertical power structure. Kyrgyzstan
received almost all the military aid it needed from Russia.
    The Uzbekistani leadership tried a different tack. It has
been a long time since there was any opposition in Uzbekistan and
president Islam Karimov is not shy about admitting the
authoritarian nature of his regime. He thus had no need of
justifying himself to the West, and Uzbekistan's internal
resources make it relatively self-contained. Tashkent has been
methodically reinforcing its army and power structures. Defense
spending has just been increased and special attention has been
given to creating well-trained mobile divisions that will be able
to carry out military actions against the rebels in mountainous
terrain.
    However, since the Uzbekistani army is predominantly equipped
with Soviet arms, its battle readiness is very heavily dependent
on Russian military supplies.  During Islam Karimov's last visit
to Moscow, May 3-5, 2001, most military and technical cooperation
issues between Tashkent and Moscow were resolved. They make a
point in Tashkent of mentioning that that was done on a commercial
basis. Karimov does not want free aid from Russia. He is counting
on, and has received, political support from Moscow, since the
threat extends to Russia. Everything else he can buy, or trade
for cotton, which Russia desperately needs. Practically all
Russian light industry was set up in Soviet times with the
assumption of a supply of Uzbeki cotton.
    Tajikistan has used completely different tactics.  It is an
impoverished country that has only recently emerged from civil war
and it cannot pay for its security.  Moscow is not expecting it
to. It is sufficient that Dushanbe is willing to keep a Russian
military base in the country for the long term. The Russian
military force there, including guards along the
Tajikistani-Afghanistani border, amounts to 27,000 persons.
    Besides IMU, and leaving aside the Afghan aspect of the
problem for the lack of space, relations between the three
countries are themselves a threat to the security in Central
Asia.
    A short elucidation of the problem is as follows. Kyrgyzstan
and Uzbekistan, not without reason, reproach the Tajikistani
leadership for having on its territory Islamic rebel bases, the
same rebels they have fought for the last two years and are
preparing to confront again this year.
    Tajikistan has accused Uzbekistan, also with some grounds, of
harboring  "state criminals" who attempted a coup d'etat in
Tajikistan in 1998, especially General Khudoiberdyiev, former
commander of the Tajikistani national guard, who arose up against
the "corrupted regime of Tajikistani president Rakhmonov."
    Uzbekistan is mining its borders with Tajikistan and
Kyrgyzstan for the second year in its attempts to protect itself
against rebel invasion. Several dozen civilians have already
fallen victim to the mines, and a large number of cattle. The
problem has come to public attention in the last few months,
inciting interethnic conflicts.
    In addition, a serious scandal engulfed Uzbekistan and
Kyrgyzstan when it was revealed that the prime ministers of the
two countries signed a secret protocol on the exchange of
territory this February. There is a Kyrgyzi enclave in Uzbekistan
and Uzbeki in Kyrgyzstan, and they had tried to solve that problem
quietly.
    The conflicts are taking place between countries that have not
long ago signed an Agreement on the Eternal Friendship.
    The tragedy of the situation is that, in the face of a common
threat, these post-Soviet countries are unable to provide a common
response.  This disunity obviously provides Moscow with a space to
implement its policies in Central Asia.  Clearly, nothing is going
to change in the near future. First of all, there is no light at
the end of the tunnel for the economic situation in the region,
which increases social tension, thus encouraging the growth in the
popularity of the "Islamic justice," preached by the builders of
the Islamic Caliphate. Secondly, relations between the countries
will not change substantially until a new generation of the
political elite comes into power that will be unencumbered by the
legacy of the mutual relations of Soviet times.

                     *  *  *
 

 Special addition : NEW AT TOL                 May 21,2001
    - - - TOL MESSAGE - - -
    New TOL Subsite: the Balkan Reconstruction Report (BRR)
    As part of TOL's ongoing efforts to bring its general and
expert readers the type of coverage not found in the mainstream
media, we are proud to announce the coming launch of a special
subsite, the Balkan Reconstruction Report (BRR). With breaking
news, in-depth analysis, colorful and insightful human-interest
features, local press reviews, profiles of key officials and
decision-makers, and more, the BRR will approach the Balkan
societies in their entirety and not just focus on the crisis of
the day. The BRR will also be the place to turn to monitor
promises and reality concerning the international aid flowing to
the region.
    Read more about BRR at
http://archive.tol.cz/frartic/brrpr.html
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- WEEK IN REVIEW ---
    Incumbent Safety
    Mongolian president re-elected as analysts predict stability
but little reform.
    by Nomin Lhagvasuren
    http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    Easy Out
    The Ukrainian Interior Ministry pins opposition journalist's
murder on drug addicts and says case is closed.
    by TOL
    http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    Deadly Borders
    Kyrgyz officials call on Uzbekistan to mine-sweep its borders
before more unsuspecting citizens are killed.
    by Alisher Khamidov
    http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    Good Posture
    Kosovo officials prepare for the first general elections since
NATO took control of the province in June 1999 with some strong
words.
    by Avni Zogiani
    http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    Trial, Interrupted
    Legal proceedings to determine culpability in the events of
the 1970 shipyard massacre in Poland postponed.
    by Wojtek Kosc
    http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    MORE WEEK IN REVIEW
    http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    Floods Ravage Siberia
    Gorbachev Admits to a "Great Mistake" in Kazakhstan
    Back to the Barracks for Mutinous Croat Soldiers
    Slovak Interior Minister's Resignation Sparks Coalition Crisis
    A New Twist in the Nagorno-Karabakh Assassination Case
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    - - - TOL MESSAGE - - -
    Be sure to visit our new mediakit. We reach 27.000 people with
this newsletter every week. Your future business partners,
customers and readers are probably among them. No one reaches the
region like TOL - visit our mediakit for more information:
    http://archive.tol.cz/mediakit/index.html, or e-mail us at
marketing@tol.cz.
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- OUR TAKE: Romanian Leopard Changing Its Spots? ---
    The Greater Romania Party's apparent change of heart toward
its Roma minority could signal the country's maturing politics.
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=16&NrArticle=919&ST1=body&ST_T1=wir&ST_max=1
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- FEATURES ---
    Eggplant
    Slovenia is split over the right of single women to be
artificially inseminated.
    by Ales Gaube
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=2&NrArticle=891
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- OPINION ---
    When Siberians Become Hungarians Hungary's debated status law
has deputies worried about ethnic cheating and ethno-corruption as
the country's absentee nationals vie for special privileges.
    by Andras Laszlo Pap
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=3&NrArticle=902
    Black Gold A diminished Ukrainian role in the transport of oil
could negatively impact the entire region.
    by Juniper Neill
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=3&NrArticle=897
    Breath of Fresh Air No More With the takeover of NTV,
state-run media is the only game in town in Belarus.
    by Yury Toporashev
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=3&NrArticle=894
     .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
     --- BOOK REVIEWS ---
    Paper Triangle
    New relations between the two largest former Soviet republics
and the former Soviet satellites in Central Europe are taking
shape.
    by Oleg Varfolomeyev
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=5&NrArticle=896
    Crossing the Line
    A French journalist probes the brutality of the Chechen
conflict. A TOL partner post from EurasiaNet.
    by Miriam Lanskoy
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=5&NrArticle=892
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- ANNUAL REPORTS ---
    Latvia Annual Report 2000: Style Over Substance
    Positive trends seemed to prevail but questions about the
depth of reforms remained.
    by Nick Coleman
    http://archive.tol.cz/frartic/latar00.html
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    - - - TOL PARTNERS - - -
    - The Network of Independent Journalists of Central and
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STINA press agency. To subscribe to STINA's NIJ weekly service,
giving you timely news of events in the region, send an e-mail to:
stina@zamir.net
    - Internews Russia (http://www.internews.ru) is a Russian
non-profit organization which has been working since 1992 to
provide support to independent Russian television broadcasters and
the Russian television industry as a whole.
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- OUR TAKE: Romanian Leopard Changing Its Spots? ---
    Romanian Leopards Changing Its Spots? The Greater Romania
Party's apparent change of heart toward its Roma minority could
signal the country's maturing politics. Romanian society was taken
by surprise on May 14 when the xenophobic Greater Romania Party
(PRM) emerged as unlikely supporters of the Roma people. Deputies
representing the PRM submitted a draft bill on the "Emancipation
and Integration of the Roma".
    The bill stipulates that taxes levied on Roma "who are
integrated in the production process" are to be reduced. It also
calls for the obligatory schooling of the Roma population, the
establishment of sports clubs, and the improvement of living
conditions. The proposal also calls for a National Agency for Roma
Emancipation and Integration to be set up and supervised directly
by the prime minister.
    In the past, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the party's leader, has
called for the Romani population to be isolated and interned in
camps. In 1998 he said that "Romania should be ruled with a tommy
gun ", and promised "mass executions in stadiums". And the PRM
party's weekly publication frequently uses hateful language when
referring to national minorities living in the country.
    The very existence of the bill is an important development.
First, perhaps it could help in some way to improve the lot of the
Romani people, who have suffered a good deal of discrimination.
But it does seem difficult to imagine Tudor--a former court poet
of Ceausescu and a rampant populist and nationalist who heads a
messy ideological hodge-podge of a party--changing overnight into
a forward-thinking democrat. Tudor's motivations are still largely
unclear. Second, it could represent a maturing shift in Romania
toward a more tolerant and responsible political climate. In the
least, perhaps the proposal indicates that Romania's ruling elite
is interested in giving itself a facelift.
    The most remarkable aspect of the parliamentary and
presidential elections in November and December 2000 was the rise
of the PRM from a small fringe group to a party that now holds
approximately 20 percent of parliament's seats. Many Romanians,
sick of failed reform, lost their faith in liberal democracy and
opted for more radical solutions. The run-off for president
between former communist and former President Ion Iliescu and
Tudor invoked a spate of gloomy predictions--including some in
this column--about The End of Democracy As We Know It in Romania.
But democracy didn't die; it has continued to limp along. And
Tudor's party isn't the only backward-looking party in Romania
that is trying to give itself a makeover. The government's
record--at least on the surface--has been exemplary. Despite his
pre-campaign promises of only entering Europe with dignity,
Iliescu and company seem to be doing their best of late to "talk
the talk" of the international community. At the recent EBRD
annual meeting in London, the Romanian delegation was crammed full
of top officials, making it the highest-ranking delegation at the
conference. It was also the only delegation to host a reception
for the participants--replete with copious amounts of Romanian
red--or to set up a tourist information desk.
    Next year's EBRD summit will be held, incidentally, in
Romania. From that EBRD reception to teaming up with the World
Wildlife Fund to host an environmental conference in late April,
the Romanian government has been doing its utmost to position
itself in the good graces of the international community. If you
switched on CNN and listened to one of the country's eager young
diplomats--smiling and decked out in designer suits--you might
think that Romania was a forward-thinking, progressive, young
market economy.
    But charming the appropriate Western officials with pleasing
legislation; peppering language with the buzzwords of
change--market reform, multi-ethnic integration and in short,
telling the West what the West wants to hear is not enough.
    The hope is that Romanian political leaders will put similar
energies into the trickier business of economic reform and deliver
on the spin. In the last decade of Romanian politics there has
existed a dichotomy between the international image and the
domestic reality. Former President Emil Constantinescu embarked on
a pro-Western course and, as politics professor Vladimir
Tismaneanu says in the Winter 2001 edition of the East European
Constitutional Review, "while focusing on foreign policy and
enjoying the image of a major international player, the president
seemingly neglected what was happening internally in Romania."
    Politicians like Tudor are--understandably because of some of
their grosser past actions--damned if they do and damned if they
don't. Other politicians in the region have performed ideological
or political about-faces and kept on course. Think of former
Slovak President Michal Kovac, a one-time Meciar crony who became
one of the country's democratic stalwarts. Or perhaps former
Milosevic-ally Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, who has been
accused of having a shady past as a smuggler.
    Perhaps Romania's ruling elite are just dishing out weasel
words. But eventually, they might start to believe their own hype,
and the language of tolerance and reform will trickle down and
change their myopic world view. Sometimes--even against nature's
better advice--leopards do change their spots.
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    -- Transitions Online - Intelligent Eastern Europe
    Copyright: Transitions Online 2001
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