End Note: BREAKTHROUGH IN UKRAINIAN-ROMANIAN RELATIONS? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
UKRAINE EXPECTS LAZARENKO'S EXTRADITION FROM U.S. Viktor Lakizyuk, spokesman for the Ukrainian ProsecutorGeneral' s Office, said on 22 February that he expects a "positive" U.S. decision on the extradition of former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko from the U.S., Reuters reported. Lazarenko was detained at New York's J.F. Kennedy airport on 19 February while seeking entry without a valid visa. According to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Lazarenko is currently under an "expedite removal" procedure whereby he may be sent to the country of his nationality or of his birth, the country he was last in, or any other country willing to accept him. Lazarenko can apply for asylum or challenge the decision in court. Commenting on Lazarenko's possible appeal for political asylum in the U.S., Lakizyuk said he is "absolutely sure" the U.S will reject such a plea. JM
UKRAINE'S POPULAR RUKH FACING SPLIT? Thirty of the 48 deputies of the Popular Rukh parliamentary caucus supported a vote of no confidence in their leader Vyacheslav Chornovil last week. According to the 20 February "Den," Chornovil was removed from his post for making political decisions single-handedly. "Rukh is facing a choice: either its historical past or a promising future. The period of idolatry is over," Rukh member Roman Zvarych told "Den." A Rukh congress on 6 March is expected to address the conflict between Chornovil's opponents and supporters. President Leonid Kuchma has expressed his regret over the "split" in Rukh and called on party officials to show unity. The nationalist-leaning Rukh, the third-largest party in the Ukrainian parliament, is not seen as a pro-Kuchma force, although it has not directly opposed the government either. JM
KYIV DAILY SUSPENDS PUBLICATION OWING TO FINANCIAL PROBLEMS. The Kyiv-based Russian-language daily "Kievskie Vedomosti," which has a circulation of some 200,000, has suspended publication owing to financial problems, Reuters reported on 22 February. Deputy Chief Editor Iryna Titova told the news agency that the daily's reporters have worked in "field conditions" without being paid for the last four months. She added that the newspaper's financial situation considerably deteriorated after it lost a libel case brought by Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko over corruption allegations. The court ordered the daily to pay some $2.5 million in damages to the minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 1998). JM
LEADING ROMANIAN BANK CHIEF RESIGNS. Vlad Soare, president of Bancorex, Romania's largest state-owned bank, and his deputy, Dragos Andrei, resigned on 22 February amid reports of criticism of the bank's restructuring by the IMF chief negotiator for Romania, Emmanuel Zervoudakis, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. According to Romanian Radio, their resignations have been officially submitted to the State Property Fund. The restructuring of Bancorex has been at the top of agenda of discussions under way in Bucharest between Romanian officials and an IMF delegation headed by Zervoudakis. The bank has suffered losses on account of bad loans approved in the early 1990s. Soare took over the presidency of Bancorex in March 1998. Also on 22 February, the international rating company Moody's for the first time rated Romania's internal debt servicing, putting the country into its lowest category, alongside Russia and Ukraine. MS
BREAKTHROUGH IN UKRAINIAN-ROMANIAN RELATIONS?
The recent visit to Romania by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk left observers with more questions than answers. The visit--the first to be paid to Bucharest by a chief Ukrainian diplomat in seven years--was primarily intended to clarify the status of negotiations on issues unresolved in the June 1997 bilateral treaty. On signing that document, the two sides agreed to try to reach an agreement on those issues within two years; failing that, they would ask the International Court of Justice in The Hague to make a ruling.
Negotiations at expert level, however, seemed to have stalled, despite repeated reassurances of "progress." The issues put on hold for two years include the status of Serpents' Island in the Black Sea, which was handed over to the former Soviet Union by Romania in 1948 and which became part of Ukraine when the Soviet empire collapsed; the delimitation of the continental shelf in the Black Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil reserves; and the demarcation of the border, which is currently runs along the Romanian bank of the Chilia branch of the River Danube delta and which Bucharest wants moved to the middle of the branch. But there are also issues on which the two neighbors disagree--above all, the implementation of the treaty's provisions dealing with the rights of national minorities.
Whether any progress was made during Tarasyuk's visit is still unclear. Optimists would point to the joint press conference held by Tarasyuk and his Romanian counterpart, Andrei Plesu: a "significant breakthrough" was announced, but the nature of that breakthrough remains unclear. The two sides were said to have reached agreement to continue negotiations on "delicate and sensitive issues" and to settle them "amicably," without appealing to the court in The Hague.
Judging from hints dropped by Tarasyuk, the Romanians appear to have agreed to renounce any claim on Serpents' Island, with the Ukrainian foreign minister arguing that Ukraine's "rightful ownership" of the island "is beyond any question."
Did the two sides reach a "package" agreement whereby Ukraine would agree to the earlier proposal by Romanian President Emil Constantinescu that the sides jointly exploit the natural resources in the continental shelf? From Kyiv's perspective, this would involve a major concession, but Radu Vasile's cabinet might find it difficult to secure approval of such a deal.
It is no secret that Bucharest's rather surprising willingness to sign the 1997 bilateral treaty--which among other things, foresees the renunciation of historical territorial claims on Ukraine (northern Bukovina and the Herta territory annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940)--was motivated by one major factor: the hope of securing an invitation at the NATO summit in summer 1997 to join the alliance. With those hopes dashed and with little chance of receiving such an invitation at the upcoming summit in Washington, many in Romania are likely to question any "further concessions." And opposition is likely to come not only from the ranks of the ruling coalition's political rivals (who have successfully stirred up nationalist sentiment against the treaty) but also from within the ranks of the coalition itself.
Why would Bucharest propose such a compromise solution? Because it apparently has no choice. Ukraine, which is both a nuclear power and, despite its continued economic difficulties, a potentially strong economic partner of the West--is much more likely to succeed in enlisting Western support for its goals than is Bucharest.
But there are two more reasons. First, with presidential elections due in Ukraine later this year, Romanians must be aware that unless they hurry up, they may have to conduct negotiations with a more nationalist-inclined and perhaps even a "nostalgic Communist" in the driver's seat in Kyiv--a somewhat less than thrilling prospect for Bucharest. Second, Kyiv has already taken some steps that are seen in the Romanian capital as aimed at increasing Ukrainian territorial claims, despite Tarasyuk's denials that this is the case. Kyiv has declared the area around Serpent's Island as a nature reserve, which under international law would give Ukraine the right--at least in theory--to enlarge its territorial waters from 12 to 200 nautical miles from the coastline.
Second, there is the issue of minority rights. In 1997, the Romanian side insisted on including the Council of Europe's Recommendation 1201 in the treaty with Ukraine, after long opposing its inclusion in the treaty with Hungary. Now, Bucharest is now demanding that a "multicultural" university be set up in Cernivtsi/Cernauti, while largely stalling on measures to set up such a university for its own Hungarian minority. Many media outlets have long engaged in a campaign aimed at stirring up anti-Ukrainian sentiment, claiming that Ukraine does not respect its obligations toward the 135,000- strong Romanian speaking minority. Those conducting such a campaign disregard the fact that some of these "Romanians" consider themselves Moldovans and reject close contacts with Bucharest.
Tarasyuk, while not denying that problems do exist, says that a lack of funds, rather than ill-will, is to blame. He was quick to point out during his visit that there is only one Ukrainian high school in Romania and that instruction there is conducted 75 percent in the Romanian language. In order to seek a solution, the two sides agreed that a commission of experts will study the issue. As conventional wisdom has it: where there is good will, issues are solved; where there is none, commissions are set up.