|Thursday, 12 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 16, 97-04-22
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 16, 22 April 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ABKHAZ TALKS IN JEOPARDY?In his weekly radio broadcast yesterday, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze called for the immediate resumption of both bilateral and multilateral talks on a political solution to the Abkhaz conflict, Interfax reported. But Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba told a press conference in Sukhumi yesterday that he will not agree to further talks unless Abkhazia's international telecommunication links are again routed via Russia. Russian engineers re-routed those links via Georgia last week at Tbilisi's request. Ardzinba also said that Abkhazia might reject any further Russian mediation and would consider requesting support from Chechnya and other North Caucasian republics if fighting resumes.
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT RULES OUT THIRD TERM IN OFFICE.Levon Ter-Petrossyan said yesterday that he will not stand for president in 2001 even if the Armenian Constitution is amended to permit him to run for a third term. He reaffirmed his commitment to political reconciliation and said he would consider meeting with representatives of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsyutyun if invited to do so, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Ter- Petrossyan outlawed the party's activities in 1994.
 KYRGYZ PRESIDENT IN YEREVAN.Askar Akayev was in Yerevan yesterday for a one-day official visit, ITAR- TASS reported. He visited the Yerevan monument to the victims of the 1915 genocide, according to Armenpress. He is the first Turkic head of state to make such a visit. Armenian and Kyrgyz ministers signed intergovernmental agreements on cooperation in transport, tourism, science, education, and culture. Armenian President Ter-Petrossyan told journalists that Armenian- Kyrgyz relations are "cloudless," and he expressed the hope that the three Transcaucasian states could emulate Central Asian cooperation. He added, however, that ties with Russia are of "priority importance" for Armenia.
 GOVERNMENT CHANGES IN KYRGYZSTAN.Bekbolot Talgarbekov, deputy prime minister in charge of agriculture, has been dismissed by presidential decree, an RFE/RL correspondent reported yesterday. For several months, Kyrgyz deputies had been demanding Talgarbekov's exclusion from any political post, citing "lax financial discipline." But President Akayev has appointed him head of the southern Jalal-Abad Oblast. Talgarbekov is replaced by Karimsher Abdimomunov, who until now filled the agriculture portfolio. Jumakadyr Akineyev, head of the State Statistical Committee, is the new agriculture minister.
 LARGER ROLE FOR UN IN TAJIKISTAN?UN special envoy to Tajikistan Gerd Merrem says there is a possibility that the UN will enlarge its contingent of military observers in Tajikistan and may even send UN peacekeeping troops there, Interfax reported. Merrem, who met with President Imomali Rakhmonov in Dushanbe yesterday, said those issues will be on the agenda at a UN meeting in June. Preliminary contacts have already been made with the command of the CIS peacekeeping force currently in Tajikistan, he said. The cease fire in Tajikistan has now held for four months.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 KOSTOV ON NEW BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT'S PROGRAM.Ivan Kostov, leader of the United Democratic Forces, which won the 19 April elections, says the new government's program will comply with agreements reached with international financial institutions earlier this year, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. He said the cabinet will declare war on organized crime and corruption, strive for membership in the EU and NATO, and make possible access to communist secret police files of ministers and Supreme Court judges. Privatizing and restructuring the state sector, freeing prices, and providing an investor-friendly legal climate are also on the agenda, he said. Kostov added that he hoped the Socialists would join in the effort to stabilize the country, saying he believed a dialogue with them was "possible." He ruled out a referendum on the monarchy in the next few months.
 BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT LIBERALIZES PRICES.Meanwhile, the outgoing caretaker government yesterday lifted price controls on all but eight staple foods. Trade Minister Daniela Bobewa said that prices for flour, bread, cooking oil, fresh sausage, milk, yogurt, some kinds of cheese, and bottled water remain fixed, an RFE/RL Sofia correspondent reported. The lifting of price controls was coordinated with the IMF. Interim Finance Minister Svetoslav Gavrisky said that current hard-currency reserves ensure Bulgaria will not default on foreign loan payments in June.
 ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS JUNE ELECTION STILL ON.Arjan Starova said in Vienna yesterday that the Albanian general election will go ahead on 29 June because the government is regaining control in the rebel south. Speaking after talks with Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel, Starova said rebel committees holding some southern towns are the only obstacle to the vote. Most Albanian parties have been reluctant to commit themselves to a date for the ballot. Western aid donor countries are encouraging Albanian politicians to stick to the 29 June date as a means of stabilizing the political situation.
 WORLD BANK ANNOUNCES MISSION TO ALBANIA.The World Bank will send a delegation to Albania by the end of the month to assess how much money is needed for reconstruction projects. Franco Passacantando, an executive director of the bank, said in Rome yesterday that the mission will examine the damage to infrastructure caused by weeks of armed unrest in which some 300 people have died. He added that the bank has already set aside money for health care and for projects to rebuild homes and schools. But Passacantando noted that the bank will not reimburse people for their lost investments in failed pyramid schemes. Earlier this month, the Greek government said it will provide some money for reimbursement lest thousands of impoverished Albanians flee their homeland in search of work.
 SERBIAN OPPOSITION COALITION BACKS DRASKOVIC FOR PRESIDENT.The governing body of the Zajedno yesterday endorsed Vuk Draskovic of the Serbian Renewal Movement as its candidate for the Serbian presidency, Nasa Borba reported. The coalition also announced plans to broaden its popular and institutional base. Former federal Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic said in Nis yesterday that the entire opposition must unite behind one candidate and that this candidate now appears to be Draskovic. Elections are to take place before the end of the year. The only other announced candidate is banker and broadcaster Bogoljub Karic, who is running as an independent. Critics charge that Zajedno is no match for the governing Socialists because the coalition lacks real cohesion and a common program.
 MILOSEVIC'S MYSTERY VISIT TO ATHENS.Nasa Borba reports today that President Slobodan Milosevic's unpublicized arrival in Athens on 18 April is tied to key Yugoslav domestic political issues. The Belgrade daily says that Greek officials gave him a frosty reception and denied they are siding either with him or his Montenegrin rivals. Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, an opponent of the Serbian president, went to Greece on 17 April to bolster political and economic ties. The increasingly self-confident Montenegrin leadership could block Milosevic's plans to become federal Yugoslav president this June. He is constitutionally barred from seeking another term as Serbian president.
 CROATIAN PRESIDENT IN HUNGARY...Franjo Tudjman said in Budapest yesterday that his country's independence is a fact and that Zagreb will resist any European or U.S. attempts to force it into close cooperation with the other former Yugoslav republics. He stressed that Croatia belongs to Central Europe and not to the Balkans. Tudjman also suggested that Croatia and Hungary should work together to secure integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. Hungarian President Arpad Goencz agreed to that suggestion but added that Hungary wants to play a bigger economic role in Croatia and its postwar reconstruction, including in the privatization of the Adria pipeline. Goencz also expressed interest in helping upgrade the port of Rijeka.
 ...AND SAYS SLAVONIAN REFUGEES CAN START GOING HOME.Tudjman also said in Budapest yesterday that Croatian and Hungarian refugees can move back to their homes soon after eastern Slavonia returns to Croatian rule in July. He added that the refugees' right to go home is guaranteed even if their houses were destroyed or if Serbs have since moved into them. Meanwhile in Zagreb, Development Minister Jure Radic said that Serbs from other parts of Croatia who are now living in eastern Slavonia will receive aid to help them go back to their homes. In Vukovar, UN officials announced that the Croatian government will open offices in six eastern Slavonian towns today to help refugees return there, an RFE/RL correspondent in the area reported.
 IZETBEGOVIC WARNS BOSNIA IS FALLING APART.Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim chair of the joint presidency, told representatives of the international Contact Group, the EU, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Sarajevo yesterday that his country is in danger of disintegrating. He stressed that the international community must enforce the Dayton agreement, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Bosnian capital reported. He singled out the Serbs for special blame, saying that the Bosnian Serbs are not letting Muslim and Croatian refugees return to their homes on Serbian territory. Izetbegovic also blamed federal Yugoslavia for undermining Bosnia's sovereignty.
 ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN WASHINGTON.Adrian Severin appears to have been unable to convince U.S Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that Romania should be admitted to NATO in the first wave of enlargement. Following their meeting yesterday in the U.S. capital, Albright told a press conference that she had assured Severin that "the first [new members] shall not be the last." A Romanian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Albright asked Severin about the progress of privatization and was particularly interested in the status of negotiations with Ukraine on the basic bilateral treaty. Severin told her the treaty will be "signed soon," the spokeswoman said. The foreign minister also met with Deputy Secretary of Defense Walter Slocombe and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who said Romania was a "credible aspirant" to NATO membership, an RFE/RL Washington correspondent reported.
 HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN ROMANIA TO DISCUSS NATO MEMBERSHIP.Gyorgy Keleti met with his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, in Bucharest yesterday to discuss their countries' quest to join NATO, RFE/RL's Bucharest Bureau reported. The two leaders sent a joint letter to the French and German defense ministers asking for support to set up a Hungarian-Romanian rapid reaction force using the model of the German- French military contingent. Both Babiuc and Keleti emphasized that their countries are partners rather than competitors in the quest to join NATO, but Keleti said the admission of one country into NATO ahead of the other would not destabilize the region. Keleti also met with Premier Victor Ciorbea and members of the parliamentary defense commissions.
 MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION RENEWS ATTACK ON PROPOSED ACCORD WITH TIRASPOL.The Party of Democratic Forces (PFD) released a statement yesterday saying that Chisinau's intention to sign the memorandum on settling the conflict with the Transdniester breakaway authorities is "irresponsible and dangerous." The PFD argued that if the Moldovan leadership signs the document, the Tiraspol separatists will be granted a priori "what can be granted only by the majority of the population" in a nationwide referendum, Infotag reported. It said the concept of a "united state," which was introduced into last week's amended version of the memorandum, is an "attempt to grant judicial backing to Tiraspol's demand to transform the Republic of Moldova into a confederation." The PFD said it is particularly concerned about Chisinau's intention to settle the debt to Gazprom by granting Russia shares in Moldovan companies. This will give Moscow control over Moldovan enterprises and restrict the country's political and economic independence, the party argued.
[C] END NOTE
 Bulgaria's Anti-Communist Coalition Braces Itself For Economic Reformby Ron Synovitz
A majority victory in Bulgaria's parliamentary election last weekend has put the anti-communist United Democratic Forces (ODS) in a strong position to implement urgently needed economic reforms. Loss-making state firms have to be closed, the privatization of large state companies launched, and currency reforms put in place. Reform of the collapsed banking sector also is desperately required, along with a new legal infrastructure to help attract foreign investment.
To push ahead with these reforms, the ODS has already decided on three key government appointments. Bulgaria's next prime minister will be 47-year-old ODS leader Ivan Kostov. At least two members of the caretaker cabinet also will retain their posts: Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev and Economic Affairs Minister Alexander Bozhkov.
But Ivan Krastev, an unofficial adviser to the ODS, says Kostov's government will have only "a very short time" in office before popular support starts to wane. He says a "popular majority rather than a parliamentary majority" is now necessary to keep a government in power. Pressure on the new cabinet, he continues, will be greatest after thousands of people have lost their state jobs in bankruptcy closures but before the benefits of shock therapy reforms are felt. That could mean more street demonstrations later this year. But Krastev says support for reforms from trade unions and Euroleft, a group of Socialist Party defectors, could prevent a populist backlash.
The ODS won 137 of Bulgaria's 240 parliamentary seats in the 19 April ballot. The Socialist Party (BSP) now becomes an opposition force with 57 seats, down from a 125-seat majority in the last parliament. Three smaller parties also made it into the National Assembly by clearing the 4% threshold. They are the alliance of ethnic Turks and monarchists called the Union for National Salvation (20 seats); Euroleft (14 seats); and the populist Bulgarian Business Bloc (12 or 13 seats).
Krastev says support from Euroleft would demonstrate a clear political will for painful but necessary economic reforms. He says its support also would show Western leaders that Sofia's desire to join NATO and the EU has wide backing. The BSP opposes Bulgarian membership in NATO, but Euroleft supports membership as long as nuclear weapons are not deployed on Bulgarian territory.
Euroleft is led by Alexander Tomov, a former Socialist deputy prime minister who broke away from the BSP in 1994 to form a more centrist group. In the 1994 elections, Tomov narrowly failed to break the 4% barrier. That loss now looks like a blessing. By sitting out of the last parliament, he has escaped blame for the economic collapse that began in 1995 under Socialist Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. Tomov formed Euroleft this year as a refuge for other center- leaning Socialist defectors. The group's ranks were swollen by a wave of BSP defections in the final days of Videnov's discredited cabinet, and analysts say more defections are possible in the future.
There seems little likelihood of cooperation between Kostov and Bulgarian Business Bloc leader George Ganchev. Kostov has been very critical of Ganchev since January, when the Business Bloc leader failed to support the massive anti- Socialist street demonstrations that brought about the 19 April ballot. It is more likely that Kostov will work with the Union for National Salvation (ONS), which is led by Ahmed Dogan's mostly ethnic-Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS). Nevertheless, cooperation between Kostov and Dogan is a shaky proposition. The fall of former Prime Minister Philip Dimitrov's anti- communist government in 1992 occurred because Dogan had withdrawn the support of the DPS.
When King Simeon II returned to Bulgaria for two days last week at the invitation of monarchists in Dogan's alliance, he urged all anti-communist reformers to unite under a "broad coalition." The popular anti-communist President Petar Stoyanov says he agrees with the idea. Some members of the ODS want to expand the constitutional powers of the president. But to amend the constitution--which was drawn up by Bulgaria's communists in 1990 and repeatedly used during the last seven years by the BSP to stall market reforms--Kostov would need a two-thirds parliamentary majority. Support from both Euroleft and the ONS would give him that majority.
Moreover, cooperation between the ODS and Euroleft would show that Bulgarian democracy is maturing. Anti-communists and former communists have rarely found ground for agreement since 1990.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty