Issue No. 288 - September 16, 2002
1. Belarus: FIGHT AGAINST RUSSIAN PRESSURE
by Paulyuk Bykowski
2. Azerbaijan: ALIEV'S LOSSES ARE NOT LESS THAN
by Mustafa Hajibeyli
3. Slovakia: MECIAR RETURN WOULD CLOSE DOOR TO
EUROPE: An interview with Pal Csaky
by Aureliusz M. Pedziwol
Alexander Lukashenko has rebuffed Russian president Vladimir Putin's proposal. Lukashenko told journalists in Polotsk that “the Russian leadership has shown that it does not want an equitable union with Belarus.”
After a meeting with the Secretary of State and First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Valery Loshchanin, the head of the foreign affairs department for Belarus, Mikhail Khvostov, said that the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs would send its recommendations to the Belarusian presidential administration after studying a message sent by the president of Russia. The RIA News agency, however, reported that Lukashenko told journalists that no such response is being prepared by any departments or politicians, since he had already “made [his] point of view clear” at meetings with Russian leaders.
“Lukashenko never changes his positions,” the Belarusian president said. He went on to say that Moscow's suggestion that Russia and Belarus integrate on the same principles as the European Union was possible “only if we violate the Agreement.” The agreement he refers to is the Agreement on the Foundation of a Union State, signed on December 8, 1999.
According to the Kremlin news service, Putin sent a message to Lukashenko suggesting three definite courses for further integration: full integration into a single state, a supranational organization similar to the EU, and continuing unification under the Agreement on the Foundation of a Union State currently in force. Putin also suggested the establishment of a joint group to examine the benefits and shortcomings of each of these suggestions. “The group will regularly inform the presidents of Russia and Belarus and the public on the course and results of its work,” the document reads.
The message was delivered on September 4 by Loshchanin while he was in Minsk. Lukashenko's press service reports that the Belarusian president made a reply of sorts to Putin's message the next day, during the presentation ceremony for the new Russian ambassador, Alexander Blokhin. “The Republic of Belarus cannot be pressured into breaking the current Agreement on the Foundation of a Union State. That agreement came to us at a great price. We consider it holy, respect it, and will fulfill it.”
Visiting Polotsk on September 7, Lukashenko told journalists that the opponents of the Union State are to be found in the Russian leadership and wealthy Russians who want to criminalize and seize Belarus.
His pronouncements might refer to a taped telephone conversation that has been made public between Boris Nemtsov, leader of the Russian Union of Right Forces, and Anatoly Lebedko, leader of the Belarusian United Civil Party. Soviet Russia newspaper wrote in a preface to the transcription that “it can be gathered from this conversation that the Kremlin has entered into secret negotiations with the Belarusian opposition, which is counting on the overthrow of Lukashenko; that Putin's latest radical statements are a brazen attempt to blackmail him; that the oligarchs want to replace him because he is an immovable barrier against criminal Russian businesses, which want to consume the Belarusian economy like a tasty morsel; that the oligarchs are pressing Putin for an economic blockade of Belarus in order to topple Lukashenko; that hatred for the Belarusian leader is not only political and economic in character, but also religious, for he is a Slavic leader, a people's leader, the favorite of the Belarusians and Russians.”
Soviet Belarus newspaper reprinted the transcript following the traditional “cross citation” technique. This gave the appearance of credibility to Lebedko's statement that the monitoring and publication of the conversation were the work of the Belarusian special services. The information and public relations center of the Belarusian KGB denies any involvement but that changes nothing. Who believes the special services when it claims to be innocent of something?
Judging from the text of the conversation, it took place before Blokhin was confirmed as the new ambassador to Minsk, which was July 26. Nemtsov implies that Blokhin, unlike Russian ambassadors before him, will maintain contact with the Belarusian opposition. It follows that Blokhin will support not only pro-Russian and pro-government forces, like the previous ambassadors, but also pro-Russian opposition forces. The appearance of this material in print two days before the ambassador's confirmation appeared to be a provocation directed against him.
As was mentioned earlier, Loshchanin, a former Russian ambassador and now a foreign affairs official, was in Minsk at the same time. A reference in the published telephone conversation to the willingness of deputy head of the Russian presidential administration Vladislav Yurkov to meet with the Belarusian opposition could be taken as a sign of the Kremlin's lack of good faith and of behind-the-scenes deals the Russians are making with Lukashenko's opponents.
The result of all of this was that Loshchanin's mission was a failure. Lukashenko rejected all of Putin's proposals without even bothering to hear his own diplomat's recommendations (at least that is the impression gotten from the president's statements at Polotsk).
The Belarusian opposition was also put in an uncomfortable position by the publication of the Nemstov-Lebedko conversation. The opposition is usually accusing the ruling regime of collaborationism. But it was shown that Lukashenko's opponents are also capable of carrying on “secret negotiations over the future independence and sovereignty of Belarus with political and other representatives of Russia and other third parties.” That quotation comes from a proposed resolution by the Consultative Council of Opposition Political Parties drafted by the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Gromada): the Social Democrats are proposing that all Belarusian politicians swear not to engage in such negotiations.
The opposition may be the last of the intended victims of the publication, however. The Russians have the upper hand, but this incident helps the Belarusian side weaken Russia's position. As Russian television commentator Nikolai Svanidze noted on September 7, it was the Belarusians who took the initiative to unite with Russia. Russia made its proposals and now the choices are relations on the same basis as any other country or unification “but don't snuggle up and milk us.” In other words, the boy who buys dinner also dances with the girl.
Svanidze's bluntness is telling. It would seem that the official Russian television station is making the unofficial Kremlin response to Lukashenko's (for the moment) unofficial rejection of it. The Belarusian leadership can still disavow Lukashenko's words — they know very well that journalists can be branded liars. A session of the Joint Ministers of the Union State is scheduled for September 17 in Moscow. On the agenda, among other things, are proposals for the conception and structure of the Constitutional Act of the Union State, the fulfillment of the agreement to introduce a single currency, and the formation of a single emission center for the Union State, and conditions for the introduction of the single currency.
According to RIA News, sessions of the council of the parliamentary union are to be held in Minsk on the same day, and speaker of the Russian Duma Gennady Seleznev is to meet with Lukashenko at that time. On September 7, Seleznev told journalists that he will try to convince Lukashenko to “form a working group promptly to work out options or a union between the two countries.” Seleznev opined that, realistically, unification of the two countries would take place on the model of the European Union. He claimed that that “was not a new variant” and that it could be implemented at the present time.
Seleznev's statements are
also freighted with meaning. The speaker has traditionally supported
efforts at integration, but he has now clearly realigned his positions
to match those of President Putin. The Belarusian position is firmly
against any compromise of the Agreement on the Foundation of a Union State,
which means that there is no need to set up any new commissions outside
the Agreement. The Russians would just like to start over again.
• • •
The head of state, President Heidar Aliev, achieved his goal of making changes to the Constitution of the republic politically relevant to his interests by falsifying the results of the referendum held on August 24. However, Aliev's losses in that referendum are not smaller than his successes. On the one hand, the referendum created the legal basis for the realization of Aliev’s neo-monarchist scenarios to pass on power to his son. On the other hand, the society was not indifferent to the clear falsification of results in the referendum. Indeed, the image of Aliev's authority was seriously damaged in the international community.
What were the latest changes made to the Constitution?
The most important point
in the referendum on the Act of Constitution was that hereafter “if a president
relinquishes his post, or can not fulfill his duties,” the authority of
the president will be executed by the prime minister, and not by the parliament
chairman as stated previously, during the period until the next presidential
elections. Given that the chairman of parliament is elected by the Milli
Mezhlis [parliament], while the prime minister is appointed by the president,
it becomes clear how Aliev increased his possibilities to influence the
future power after he leaves. Specifically, Aliev has wanted to pass the
president's post to his son Ilham and he has used administrative, diplomatic,
and propaganda means in order to realize this goal. There was no hope,
however, that Aliev Jr.’s candidacy would be supported by all the political
groupings represented within the current authorities. Ramiz Mehdiev, the
head of the president's
Executive Office, Namig Abbasov, minister of national security, and Murtuz Alasgerov, chairman of the parliament, are among the many government representatives who do not appreciate President Aliev's plans for his son’s future. While the current parliament chairman Murtuz Alasgerov is known outwardly as a faithful person to Aliev, he himself is preparing a bid for the president’s office in the post-Aliev period. The latest changes made to the Constitution have taken away Alasgerov possibility for temporarily carrying out presidential authority in the event of the 79-year old Heidar Aliev's sudden relinquishment of power, and thus ensuring his election soon thereafter. In this “X” variant now, the president's duties will pass to Prime Minister Arthur Rasizadeh, one of Aliev’s most loyal persons. And Aliev now has an opportunity to appoint his son to the post of prime minister at any moment. This was Aliev’s major gain from the referendum.
But Aliev's success was not
without its losses. First, the opposition, until now functioning separately
unified around the initiative of boycotting the referendum and that unity
has continues afterwards, as well. Most seriously, the government was sharply
criticized by international organizations and foreign states, including
the U.S., concerning the referendum. Today, one can say that the international
community did not close its eyes to the falsification of the referendum
results and it ceased to hope for Aliev holding a democratic election.
Almost every day, the Azeri press is publishing statements of representatives
of influential international organizations and governments on the falsifying
of the referendum results. The last such statement was given by Douglas
Davidson, a U.S. representative in the OSCE, on September 10. He confirmed
that the referendum was held in conditions of major fraud and stressed
that the U.S. was very disappointed in these facts. A previous statement
of the State Department and that of Mr. Davidson pointed to the necessity
of creating special mechanisms for ensuring the transparency of elections
held in Azerbaijan in 2003. It is believed that the U.S. officials are
signaling in their statements that they will not allow the falsification
of elections to be carried out in 2003.
In that case, democratic election means Aliev losing power.
* This article is reprinted from the WEEKLY ANALYTICAL-INFORMATION BULLETIN published by the AZERBAIJAN NATIONAL DEMOCRACY FOUNDATION (ANDF). To receive this e-mail publication directly, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
• • •
Pal Csaky, born in 1956, is deputy prime minister of the Slovak government in charge of human rights, minorities, and regional development. He is also deputy chairman of the Party of Hungarian Coalition (MKP/SMK), as well as a writer and chemist. Since1990, he has been a member of successive Slovak parliaments for the Hungarian Christian-Democratic Movement, MKDH, and since 1998 a deputy for the SMK, which is made up of parties of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia. He was interviewed by the Polish journalist Aureliusz M. Pedziwol for the Network of Independent Journalists.
Slovak laws speak of “Germans, Hungarians, traitors and quislings,” even in their titles. How does this affect you?
It is a quite complicated question. I belong to the Hungarian minority in Slovakia; hence, [these laws] refer to the fates of my parents and grandparents.
The laws that you refer to [the post-war decrees of the president of Czechoslovakia, Eduard Benes] are still in force, but they are no longer applied. This is not the best situation in a state governed by the rule of law. I would be happy if the Slovak parliament would pass a declaration invalidating these laws and then annul them thereafter.
I'm speaking of course only about those four decrees that are still in force until today, [and refer just to Germans and Hungarian], those laws which were enacted after 1945 and which make it impossible to exercise some basic human rights, especially property rights.
I would like to stress that the difference between the two countries where the decrees of President Benes are still in force is that Germans were actually deported from the Czech lands after World War II, while Hungarians stayed in Slovakia since the superpowers had agreed not to allow them to be expelled (there was only a limited exchange of people between Hungary and Czechoslovakia after the war) . . .
I would be happy, if the Slovak parliament would solve this problem. For me and my party it is not only a question of politics and law, but also a moral issue.
Could you imagine that Slovakia could join the European Union with such laws still in force?
I am very sensitive to the reactions of my Slovak colleagues, whom I see need a lot of time in order to deal with this problem. Personally I am convinced that Slovakia will have to annul these laws. My party will endeavour to achieve this in the future. But we are conscious that there is now a chance to enter the European Union in the near future. It is our common interest, of the Slovaks and of the Hungarians who live in Slovakia. What would not be a good idea is a mechanistic linkage of both issues and blocking Slovak entry into the European Union until the laws are annulled. I believe that the discussion will be continued and that this question will be solved in a few years.
What can you say about the relations between the majority and minorities in Slovakia?
About 15 percent of citizens of Slovakia admit to their own membership to one or another minority. The government has defined 11 such minority groups. We financially support their culture and we try to work together with them.
There were some positive changes in the last four years. Due to research studies, more and more Slovaks accept the multi-ethnic nature of Slovakia’s society, but there are also still many who reject this and proclaim the hegemony of Slovaks in Slovakia.
In the last polls, about 30 percent reject totally the idea of minority rights and think Slovakia belongs only to the Slovaks. These are, after all, the members and sympathizers of both Slovak national parties [the Slovak National Party, SNS, and Prava (“genuine”) SNS] as well the Movement for Democratic Slovakia, or HZDS, the party of Vladimir Meciar. Another 40 percent have not very crystallized views, but they are oriented rather to the Slovak majority. The remaining 30 percent accept fully the multinational character of Slovak society. That is a positive change in comparison to the last ninety years. I think that after all the young generation is friendly to the idea of different ethnic groups living together and sees that in a united Europe national isolationism or even nationalism has not the least chance.
The parliamentary elections are near. How do you imagine the future political landscape of Slovakia? There are no doubts that it will change. There are already new parties in Slovakia which have no clear profiles, but quiet strong support in the society.
The situation is both interesting and complicated. Unfortunately, I cannot say that I am looking into the future without fear. There are three major groups on the Slovak political stage:
•The first one is comprised of the parties of the present government, the Party of the Democratic Coalition, or SDK, made up of a few right parties from the last parliamentary elections, the most important being the Christian-Democratic Movement (KDH) of former prime minister Jan Carnogursky; the Slovak Christian-Democratic Union, or SDKU, launched by current prime minister Mikulas Dzurinda; the post-communist Party of the Democratic Left (SDL); the Party of Civic Understanding (SOP), which is also leftist, led by the present president, Rudolf Schuster ; and not least, the right-liberal Party of the Hungarian Coalition (MKP/SMK). These parties’ democratic and Euro-Atlantic orientation are acceptable. Worthy of notice is the fact that the strongest political party in this group is the Hungarian coalition. Other parties have unfortunately a lower standing in the pubic opinion.
•The national and isolationistic parties create the second group. Here belong both nationalistic parties: SNS of Anna Malikova and the “genuine” SNS of Ján Slota, as well the Movement for the Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), led by Vladimir Meciar, and the Movement for Democracy (HZD) of Ivan Gasparovic, which is a splinter party from HZDS.
•The third group embraces a third part of society and is composed of two new political parties that are part of the “gray zone,” based on the so-called Russian principle. The first one, led by Roberta Fico, is called SMER (“direction”), but I cannot say which direction it will go and I think their members do not know either. The second party is the creation of Pavol Rusko [the chef of the private TV Markiza], called ANO (or “yes”), but again I don't know to which values it will say yes to and to which no. Both these parties are artificial and their political orientations and value systems are not clear. What is also unclear are the views of their members. We don't know how they will act in confronting concrete problems in the future.
This division of political forces establishes some risk for the future development of Slovak society. The invitation to NATO and the process of integration with the European Union will be strong factors that will guarantee that the future government of Slovakia will have to be directed to the Euro-Atlantic structures. At the same time, I can understand the wishes of America and the European Union that most of the parties of the present coalition should come into the future cabinet. They want to have guarantees that the next government will go in this same direction as the present is gone last four years.
Could you imagine a cabinet with a minister from the Hungarian coalition together with one or both of these parties about which one can so hard say something concrete?
We are realists. We don't exclude such a possibility, because without us such a cabinet would be more unpredictable. But we won't compete at any price. We want to have guarantees about the direction, which the government will follow up. We want know its goals. We want have a real influence. We cannot become the cover for just any unpredictable, unclear policy, neither to our Polish, Czech, or Hungarian friends, nor against Brussels or Washington.
Do you think that Vladimir Meciar can still play any important role in the Slovak politics?
I think he has one important step more to take: leave politics altogether. I hope it will happen soon. He has a very strong personality. Lower educated people see in him a symbol of Slovak statehood. But he has shown already his “advantages.” He has been prime minister for three times already.
I think that Meciar is not adapted to be a democratic politician. It is his greatest problem and it is a problem for the people around of him. I think that even if his party would win the elections, Meciar cannot enter into government, nor HZDS into a governmental coalition. And this will create such tensions that this party will split and he himself will be forced to leave the political stage.
Fico and Rusko won't make any coalition with him?
I hope not. Of course, it is a question that they have to answer. But I can say that the positions of the members of NATO and of the European Union are very strong warnings also for Mr. Rusko and Mr. Fico. They will themselves have to answer the question of what they would do in such a cabinet, in which Meciar and his party would dictate to them. I think that no responsible politician can accept something of this kind. It would be a political hazard.
As well, NATO and the European Union would become closed for Slovakia?
I fear so. I cannot imagine
a NATO summit where together would sit George Bush, Tony Blair, Gerhard
Schroeder, Jacques Chirac, Aleksander Kwasniewski, Vaclav Havel and . .
. Vladimir Meciar.