RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
RFE/RL NEWSLINE 29 November 1999
SLOVAKIA HAS NEW CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. President Rudolf
Schuster has appointed all nine new judges to the
Constitutional Court, CTK and Reuters reported on 25
November. The new justices are due to take office on 22
January 2000, and the court will be chaired by Jan Mazak, who
until now was state secretary at the Justice Ministry. None
of the candidates proposed by the opposition was appointed to
the court, nor were any of the outgoing judges re-appointed.
Among the new judges are ethnic Hungarian legal expert Lajos
Meszaros and Ludmila Gajdosikova, who is the only woman to be
included in the court's new lineup. Also on 25 November, the
Supreme Court confirmed the Broadcasting Council's decision
to fine Markiza television 1 million crowns ($23,750) for
broadcasting a speech by Dzurinda after the official close of
the election campaign for the May 1999 presidential
MAGYAR RE-ELECTED HUNGARIAN FREE DEMOCRAT LEADER. Balint
Magyar was re-elected as chairman of the opposition Free
Democrats at the party's 27 November congress. The sole
candidate for that post, Magyar gathered 485 out of the 581
ballots cast. In other news, a report adopted by a
parliamentary committee investigating the alleged illegal
collection of data on FIDESZ politicians under the previous
government says that in 1997 current Education Minister
Zoltan Pokorni was the subject of an illegal surveillance
operation. However, the findings of that report fall far
short of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's allegations in summer
1999 that the former Socialist government gathered illegal
data on opposition members. MSZ
BULGARIA AFTER CLINTON'S VISIT
by Kostadin Grozev
Ten years after Bulgaria began its slow and painful
transition to democracy, the first-ever official visit by a
U.S. president to that country, once considered the most
faithful of all Soviet allies, has taken place. During the
Cold War, the U.S. took a strong stand against human rights
violations in the Soviet bloc even as a handful of U.S.
presidents shook hands and even embraced communist leaders
like Tito and Ceausescu. In the Balkans, Washington's
longstanding strategic alliance with NATO members Turkey and
Greece made those two countries the center-piece of U.S.
policy in the region, with frequent visits by high-level
officials to both states. Bulgaria was the only Balkan
country, with the possible exception of Albania, that was not
honored with a high-profile U.S. visit.
Other factors contributed to that state of affairs.
Bulgaria had been an ally of Germany in two world wars. U.S.
bombs had destroyed downtown Sofia in the winter of 1943-
1944, and several years later, Bulgaria became the first
Soviet-bloc country with which the U.S. broke off diplomatic
relations. Although diplomatic contacts were later restored,
bilateral relations continued to be low-key: USIA-sponsored
exhibitions at Plovdiv's International Fair were the chief
vehicle for disseminating U.S. cultural and political values.
Thus Bulgaria remained relegated to the backyard of U.S.
Last week, a large crowd on Alexander Nevski square
welcomed President Bill Clinton, who delivered a message,
long expected by many Bulgarians, that the U.S. is committed
to "supporting Bulgaria over the long run economically,
politically, militarily." A decade-old pattern of constant
reassurances of support from abroad has made Bulgarians
suspicious of the meaning of such phrases, particularly when
the state of the economy continues to decline and living
conditions are currently worse there than those in Hungary,
Poland, or the Czech Republic.
But in the aftermath of the Kosova war, the symbolism of
Clinton's words was obvious: the leader of the most powerful
country in the world pledged assistance and support for the
country, which is aspiring to join NATO and the EU. The
Bulgarian example of building democracy without ethnic
violence was cited by Clinton as projecting abroad a positive
image of stability. Such an image is badly needed by Bulgaria
and its reform-oriented center-right government in the tense
geopolitical situation on the Balkans.
Bulgaria's transition over the past few years has been
marked by a significant change in both the Bulgarian public's
perception of both the East and the West and in the decision-
making process in Sofia. The efforts to establish a pluralist
democracy and market economy broke the decades-old pattern of
close economic and political inter-dependence with the Soviet
Union and Eastern Europe. Bulgaria has not yet found a
reliable substitute for the false sense of stability and
well-programmed foreign-policy agenda of the Communist era.
The drive toward integration with European economic and
political structures has prompted Sofia to redefine possible
foreign-policy options, including the choice between a pro-
European versus a pro-American orientation.
As a result of the end of the Cold War, Bulgaria lost
the national security guarantees it had within the framework
of the Warsaw Pact, and the only available option was some
form of integration within NATO. The collapse of the former
Yugoslav federation and the wars that followed brought heavy
losses for the Bulgarian economy, making public opinion in
Bulgaria highly sensitive to the practical implications of a
policy that followed the moral and political standards set by
the international community and led to sanctions and other
disadvantageous steps. During the Kosova war, Ivan Kostov's
government publicly supported the NATO air campaign,
providing logistical support and allowing the use of
Bulgarian airspace, despite some strong vocal opposition to
that decision. The remarks made by President Clinton last
week are a response to the clear Bulgarian position on the
Kosova crisis, which doubtless paved the way for the high-
level visit to Sofia.
It is to be hoped that following the departure of the
news cameras, Bulgaria will not remain as obscure for the
U.S. public as it once was. Because it is not only George W.
Bush who has problems with the names of presidents of foreign
countries. Judging by the Website of the early edition of
"The New York Times," even the Associated Press got the name
of the Bulgarian president wrong, confusing him with the
prime minister. Fortunately, in today's cyberspace of
international media, a mistake made at 7:10 a.m. EST was
already corrected by 9:50 a.m. Let's keep our fingers crossed
that in the real life of contemporary geopolitics, Bulgaria
itself will emerge just as quickly from its obscurity.
The author is an assistant professor of history at Sofia
University, Bulgaria, and currently visiting Fulbright senior
lecturer in the Department of Government at Wesleyan
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