RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
RFE/RL NEWSLINE 8 October 1999
HUNGARY DOWNPLAYS RECONCILIATION PARK CONTROVERSY. Hungarian
Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth told National
TV on 7 October that Romanian nationalists who heckled a
Hungarian minister and other speakers in the Romanian town of
Arad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 October 1999) have not
harmed bilateral ties. He said that the attempts by several
dozen to disrupt the ceremony was not a "diplomatic affair"
but rather a "psychiatric problem." Hungary is grateful to
the Romanian government for returning the statue of the
executed generals to the Hungarian community, Nemeth said.
However, he blamed local police for failing to keep
demonstrators at an appropriate distance. MSZ
ROMANIAN DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS NO DECISION TAKEN ON ARAD
HUNGARIAN MONUMENT. Deputy Premier Valeriu Stoica told
journalists on 7 October that there is "futile and
tendentious agitation" over the monument honoring the 13
Hungarian generals executed in 1849. Stoica said the
government's decision to set up a "park of historical
reconciliation" in Arad does not specify which monuments are
to be displayed there. Whether the monument honoring the
generals is included, he said, depends "on the
recommendations that will be made by architects and artists."
POLL CONFIRMS ROMANIAN OPPOSITION LEADS THE FIELD. An opinion
poll conducted by Metromedia Transilvania confirms that the
PDSR is well ahead in party preferences, RFE/RL's Bucharest
bureau reported on 7 October. The PDSR received 37 percent
backing. That is more than the combined support for all
members of the ruling coalition: Democratic Convention of
Romania (22 percent), the Democratic Party (8 percent) and
the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (5 percent).
The opposition Alliance for Romania (APR) received 16 percent
and the Greater Romania Party (PRM) 7 percent. PDSR chairman
Ion Iliescu is leading the field among presidential
candidates (34 percent), followed by APR chairman Teodor
Melescanu (21 percent), incumbent President Emil
Constantinescu (17 percent), PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor
(7 percent), and former Premier Theodor Stolojan and
Democratic Party leader Petre Roman (5 percent each). MS
TEN YEARS ON: ECONOMIC VISION STILL NOT A REALITY
By Breffni O'Rourke
Visions, by their very nature, are hard to sustain. When
the Berlin Wall fell 10 years ago, heralding a new era in
Europe, much of the world had a common vision: namely, that
the countries of the crumbling Marxist sphere would join the
Western community in enjoying political freedoms and economic
prosperity based on market mechanisms.
During the following decade, the dream of democracy has
been largely fulfilled--with some exceptions--in a vast arc
of territory stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
Economic well-being, however, has proved more elusive,
and the revitalization of Central and Eastern Europe is still
an unfinished story. The transition to market economies has
not been easy, and the relative success or lack of success of
individual countries reflects a mix of complicated factors.
Only Poland among the transition states has lifted its
economic prosperity well above the level of 1989. Polish per
capita incomes this year are expected to reach about 130
percent of 1989 levels. At the other end of the spectrum,
Ukraine, with a stalled reform process, has seen people's
incomes plummet to half the levels of 1989.
Because Poland opted for radical reforms, the simple
conclusion might be that the so-called "big bang" method
produces the best results, despite its high social costs.
Hungary, too, has successfully opted for a radical course,
but Slovenia, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic have income
levels equal to or greater than that of Hungary--about 100
percent of their 1989 levels--and have chosen more gradualist
A senior economist with the Paris-based Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Val Koromzay,
told RFE/RL that the real lesson of the last decade lies not
in a choice between big bang or gradualism. Rather, the
lesson is that the essential factor is coherent reform. He
says time has been reasonably forgiving of countries that
have been slower or faster. Those that got into trouble did
so because they backtracked away from reform, owing to
political opposition or perceived hardship.
Poland, Koromzay argued, was "always moving in the same
direction and despite numerous changes of government, I think
one can see clearly a thread of continuity, a direction."
Romania, by contrast, has lacked this sense of purpose,
and its political will has faded, Koromzay argued. Nervous
governments have sought to spare the population the pain of
restructuring, he noted, but instead they have condemned the
people to the continuation of miserable living standards with
little prospect of improvement.
"In Romania from the beginning there was this terrible
concern about hardships that transition would cause," he
commented. "Every time they came to a hard decision, for
instance on tightening budget constraints on enterprises, too
often they blinked. And that in turn...made their macro-
economic policies incoherent."
With regard to Bulgaria, Koromzay said that it wasted
the early years of transition under non-reformist
governments. Its industrial production is still one-third
less than it was in 1989, but recently there has been fresh
momentum under reformist Prime Minister Ivan Kostov. Koromzay
noted that this is encouraging: Bulgaria, he commented, "did
not get its act together for a number of years. But it shows
on the one hand how costly it is to delay, but on the other
hand that if you can get your act together even at a rather
late date, the possibilities for breaking out of a very bad
situation continue to exist."
Progress across the transition region is needed soon,
because after a decade of profound change, people are weary.
In the Czech Republic, opinion polls show growing support for
the Communists among frustrated voters. Similarly in eastern
Germany, recent state elections show strong support for the
former Communists. And in Poland, populist-nationalist trends
opposed to reform are evident.
Another expert in the region's transition process,
Giovanni Cornia of the United Nations University in Helsinki,
told RFE/RL that democracy "with falling incomes and rising
mortality is not a particularly attractive type of
Cornia also advanced a theory to explain, at least in
part, why some countries have done better than others: the
countries that are succeeding today are those that have a
better-developed institutional framework, dating in part from
before the communist era. In other words, those countries of
Central Europe that were traditionally more institutionally
advanced than, say, their neighbors in the Balkans, are the
ones that will lead the race back into the market economy
That historical advantage has also helped countries like
Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic gain places as front-
runners for membership of an expanded European Union. In
turn, Cornia says, the hope of entering the EU has been a
The author is a Prague-based RFE/RL correspondent.
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