|Tuesday, 12 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 91, 97-08-08
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 91, 8 August 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 GEORGIAN POLITICIAN THREATENS MILITARY ACTION IN ABKHAZIATamaz Nadareishvili, the chairman of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz parliament in exile, has said that if the Georgian government fails to take decisive steps to resolve the Abkhaz conflict before 31 August, the parliament in exile will act independently to restore Tbilisi's control over Abkhazia by force, the Georgian newspaper "Rezonansi" reported on 7 August. Nadareishvili was addressing the leaders of military units subordinate to the parliament in exile in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who is currently vacationing in Sochi, is likely to meet there in the next few days with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, and in Tbilisi on 14 August with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss Yeltsin's most recent Abkhaz peace proposals.
 KAZAKH, KYRGYZ, UZBEK PRIME MINISTERS MEETAt a one-day meeting of the Inter-State Council of the Central Asian Union held in Almaty on 7 August, the prime ministers of the three member states - - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan -- signed 10 agreements, including regulations on immigration and railroad tariffs, Interfax reported. The three premiers postponed the signing of agreements on international road haulage and energy, and failed to address coordinating taxation systems and value-added tax. Speaking at a joint press conference afterwards, Kazakh Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin termed the meeting "productive" and said it proved that integration among Central Asian states is possible, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Almaty.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 STOLEN MISSILES FOUND IN ALBANIAAlbanian police and army experts on 7 August found some 15 stolen surface- to-surface and surface-to-air Chinese Silkworm-type missiles in Lazarat near Gjirokaster. The police know who stole the missiles from an underground tunnel on 20 July and are on the thieves' trail (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 23 July 1997). Defense Minister Sabit Brokaj said in Tirana that the crooks planned to dismantle the missiles and sell them in Greece, but that increased security along the border thwarted their plans.
 GANG WAR RAGES IN VLORASome 100 masked gunmen paraded down Vlora's main street in military vehicles and shot in the air in a show of force on 7 August. A gun battle with a rival gang ensued, sending ordinary citizens fleeing to their homes for cover. Two members of one gang were wounded. Fellow gang members sealed off the hospital where the two were taken lest the rival gang try to take revenge on the wounded men. Interior Minister Neritan Ceka said on 6 August in Tirana that a special police force has gone to Vlora to collect information on the gangs.
 CLINTON PLEDGES HELP FOR ALBANIAU.S. President Bill Clinton has sent Prime Minister Fatos Nano a letter in which he promises to back the reconstruction and democratization of Albania, news agencies reported from Tirana on 7 August. Clinton wrote that "the United States and our partners in the international community are ready to assist your government in its pursuit of meaningful political and economic reform necessary to restore normal conditions in your country. Your pledge to include the broad spectrum of political forces in the governing process is very encouraging in light of the political polarization that has afflicted your society. The civil unrest and economic uncertainty affecting your country present your government with a tremendous task."
 KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR SHOOTINGSThe clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) issued a statement in Pristina on 7 August in which it said it carried out the recent shootings of two Serbian policemen and an ethnic Albanian close to the Serbian authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1997). The statement added that the UCK "will continue with actions until the complete liberation of the ethnic [Albanian] territories" is achieved. It warned the international community not to wait and react "too late, after the massacre that threatens the Balkans." Up until late 1996, the UCK carried out only occasional and random attacks, such as spraying Serbian cafes with gunfire.
 HALF A LOAF FOR HOLBROOKEU.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke met in Lukavica on Bosnian Serb territory on 7 August with the three members of the Bosnian joint presidency: the Muslim Alija Izetbegovic, the Croat Kresimir Zubak, and the Serb Momcilo Krajisnik. Holbrooke secured agreements to reestablish a joint telephone system and to authorize new ambassadorial appointments, but failed to secure one on war criminals or refugees. The ambassadors will include 13 Muslims, 11 Serbs and eight Croats, plus one joint appointment by Izetbegovic and Zubak. The U.N. posting goes to a Muslim, Washington to a Serb, and Tokyo to a Croat. But even if the new ambassadors take up their posts, the three sides do not have a common foreign policy for them to implement. Holbrooke promised sanctions and other punishments for those who do not help enforce the Dayton agreement.
 SERBIAN REFUGEES APPEAL TO HOLBROOKEThe Belgrade-based Society for Refugee Assistance wrote to Holbrooke on 7 August to appeal for a permanent solution to their plight, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. The refugees say they need both money and the strict implementation of the Dayton agreement, which would enable them to go home. At the start of the decade, Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic incited the Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia to go to war with their neighbors so that the Serbs could "remain in Yugoslavia." He refuses, however, to give Serbian refugees from those two republics Yugoslav citizenship or the prospect of a new life in federal Yugoslavia.
 REPUBLIKA SRPSKA OPPOSITION UNITESSome 15 opposition political parties pledged in Banja Luka on 7 August that they will work together during and after the parliamentary elections that President Biljana Plavsic has slated for 10-12 October, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from that northwest Bosnian town. The parties promised that, if they win the vote, they will set up a government of experts to guarantee constitutional government and the independence of the judiciary, and to fight organized crime. Also in Banja Luka, an aide to Plavsic said that she will set up her own political party -- the Serbian Party of the Republika Srpska (SSRS) -- on 8 August. The Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) recently expelled her for having challenged Radovan Karadzic and the rest of the Pale-based leadership. She helped found the SDS in 1990.
 NEWS FROM THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIAOfficials from the Croatian government, the U.N. administration in eastern Slavonia, and local governments in that region signed an agreement in Zagreb on 7 August to regulate the reintegration of eastern Slavonia's schools into the Croatian educational system. In Belgrade, the Croatian embassy filed a formal protest with the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry over the desecration of Croatian graves in Vojvodina and the mistreatment of ethnic Croats in Zemun. In Luxembourg, the EU Presidency announced the EU will monitor the September Serbian elections only if it is allowed to monitor the entire process and if all parties have free access to the media. The government has invited monitors but wants to impose restrictions on their work.
 ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER ANNOUNCES "TEST OF FIRE" FOR REFORMSFollowing criticism by the IMF on the slow pace of liquidation or privatization of state-owned unprofitable enterprises, Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea on 7 August announced the government is closing down 17 enterprises. Close to 30,000 people will lose their jobs as a result of the decision, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Ciorbea said this was the "test of fire" for the government's reform program. Those laid off will receive compensation equal to between six and 12 months wages. Among the liquidated enterprises are three refineries, which have been producing well beyond Romania's consumption needs and have accumulated large arrears to the state budget. To speed up the liquidation process, energy deliveries to the 17 enterprises are being stopped as of 8 August.
 ROMANIAN LABOR PROTESTThe IMF chief negotiator for Romania, Poul Thomsen, told the private TV channel Pro TV on 7 August that he proposed to the government to offer compensation of more than 12 monthly salaries to those laid off to avoid labor unrest. But Radio Bucharest, on 8 August, already reported on several outbursts of protest. Some 5,000 workers at the Petrotel refinery in Ploiesti broke windows at the company's headquarters and chanted "we are not guilty, we want to work." The protesters were joined by some 800 workers from the Vega refinery, which like Petrotel, is slated for liquidation. Mediafax reported that workers at the Romfosochim enterprise in Valea Calugareasca blocked the railway and stopped traffic between Bucharest and Galati, as well as between Bucharest and Iasi. On the other hand, the leader of the largest miners' trade union confederation called off a warning strike after negotiations yesterday with Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea.
 ROMANIA'S "KING OF GYPSIES" DEMANDS HOLOCAUST COMPENSATIONFlorin Cioaba, who calls himself "king" of Romania's Roma community, is demanding that Germany pay more than 350 million marks in compensation for the extermination of Gypsies at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Mediafax reported on 6 August. Cioaba told a press conference that representatives of the Roma communities from Hungary, Poland, Greece, Austria, Germany and Romania last week decided at a meeting in Auschwitz to set up a Parliament of European Roma to defend the interests of the communities in Europe. Cioaba says 10, 100 Gypsies were exterminated at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
 CHISINAU-TIRASPOL NEGOTIATIONS STALLEDAnatol Taranu, the head of the Moldovan delegation at the negotiations under way with the Transdniestrian separatists, says the discussions are stalled because of Tiraspol's refusal to accept Article 1 in the draft proposed by the three mediators, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 7 August. Taranu said the draft mentions a "special status" for the breakaway region in a sovereign and "territorially indivisible Moldova." Vladimir Grigoriev, a representative of the Transdniester delegation, told Infotag and BASA-press that Tiraspol was ready to accept the formula of a "common state" agreed on in Moscow last May. But Grigoriev said Tiraspol has its own interpretation of the formula and sees no reason to accept the draft of the mediators. He said the draft diverges from what the Chisinau and Tiraspol leaders agreed to in Moscow
 MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS APPEAL TO FORMER CPSU MEMBERSThe Central Committee of the Party of Communists of Moldova on 6 August appealed to former CPSU members to join its ranks, Infotag reported. The party's first secretary, Vladimir Voronin, said former membership of the CPSU would be recognized by his formation as counting for seniority. He attacked leaders of states that were included in the former USSR, saying that they "strive to erase from the minds of the people notions such as communism and socialism, the rule of the people, Lenin, October." Voronin also announced that his party has collected the 200,000 signatures necessary to force a debate in the parliament on holding a referendum on the law of land tradability. The law, which Voronin's party opposes, was approved by the legislature.
 OTHER MOLDOVAN POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTSThe Peasant Christian Democratic Party of Moldova (PTCDM) on 7 August decided to join the right-wing Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM) alliance, BASA-press reported. For this purpose, the PTCDM has left the Alliance of Democratic Forces (AFD). Two other former AFD members, the Ecologist Party and the Women's Christian Democratic League, had left that alliance in order to join the CDM, which also includes the Popular Christian Democratic Front, the Moldovan Party of Rebirth and Conciliation and a group of leaders who recently left the Moldovan National Peasant Party. Also on 7 August, the Ministry of Justice officially registered the Moldovan Civic Party headed by Vladimir Slonari, who left the Socialist Unity-Edinstvo faction. The new party defines itself as "centrist."
 BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS CRITICIZE TEACHING OF RELIGION IN SCHOOLSThe opposition Socialist Party on 7 August criticized the government's decision to give pupils the option of studying religion in school. The party said the introduction of religion in classes would lead to "greater alienation on an ethnic and religious basis," RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. They warned against infringing on the separation of state and church. The official press agency BTA reported on 6 August that in the new school year beginning in September, pupils aged 7 to 10 will be able to study religion once a week with theology teachers, if they want to do so.
[C] END NOTE
 IMF TEAM SAYS GEORGIA'S SAFETY NET 'UNSUSTAINABLE'By Robert Lyle A team of experts from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has told Georgian authorities that the country's social support system is "unsustainable" because it is not providing adequate protection to the most vulnerable.
The team came to that conclusion after working with the government at its request to help design a better social support mechanism.
In its report, a summary of which was released by the fund, the IMF team said Georgia had already made great strides by scrapping its old social system when it gained its independence and instituting pay-as-you-go systems for social security, unemployment and health.
The Georgian safety net currently costs the equivalent of about 3 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) or about one-third of the state budget. Among measures already successfully implemented, the IMF team pointed to the rise in retirement ages from 55 to 60 years for women and from 60 to 65 for men instituted in early 1996. While that move had the unintended immediate effect of increasing the pension rolls -- as many as 50,000 previously unregistered elderly took advantage of the grandfathering provisions to get in under the deadline -- it will eventually reduce the number of pensioners by about 40 percent.
At the same time, the team said that by targeting social benefits on the poorest and most vulnerable of the population, Georgia has been able to increase benefits generally in line with government wages, including a 15 percent increase in benefits last January 1st, increasing payments on average by about 100 percent in real terms.
Still, says the team, benefit levels remain low, with the standard monthly rate of 9.8 lari (7.70 dollars) only one-tenth the official minimum subsistence level. According to that standard, said the team, "all employees of the public sector, for whom the monthly average wage is only lari 35, are destitute."
However, the team added, the official poverty standard is "misleading" because it is based on the situation before reforms and before the major price adjustments since 1992. First, it said, an alternative basket of food with the same calorie content can be assembled easily for 35 lari a month.
More importantly, the IMF team said a recent household survey indicates that cash incomes constitute only a "small proportion of total household incomes," especially among the poorest.
"It is therefore misleading to base poverty assessments solely on cash incomes, which are generally very low," the team said. When allowance is made for in-kind income -- trading of goods, etc. -- the income distribution for the country becomes much more even.
With this, the team said it estimates that about 25 to 30 percent of the Georgian population is living below the poverty line, considerably fewer than the official estimate of 65 percent of the people.
Nevertheless, the team said there is reason for concern because the "considerable reliance" among the citizenry on subsistence production and other informal activities "confirms the stresses the population has experienced since transformation to a market-based system."
The IMF experts said that many people in Georgia have managed to maintain living standards at about subsistence levels with support from relatives and by depleting their assets -- remedies the team says provide "only short term relief."
"This situation is unsustainable," the IMF team concluded, and requires improvements in the size and coverage of benefits.
The team recommended further modifications to better target vulnerable groups which have been missed by the present system, for example, large families and single mothers.
To better concentrate the benefits on the most needy, and make them high enough to provide real protection, the IMF team recommended further tightening of eligibility criteria, using income tests to weed-out people with high incomes, and improved benefit administration.
The team also gave government officials ideas about redesigning the country's pension system to put it on a sound financial footing. One proposal involves shifting the pension system to a defined-contributions scheme based on individual contributions. However, the team cautioned. such a scheme -- now popular in the west -- would imply a "substantial loss of payroll tax collections, initially placing an insupportable burden on the budget to finance the continued retention of present safety net provisions."
For now, the team said, the emphasis should continue to be placed on sustaining an adequate safety net for the elderly without compromising the budget.
As to the country's economy in general, the IMF team said Georgia has made "major strides in stabilization and structure reform after a period of acute economic crisis," and said it expects economic growth this year to reach 10 percent.
Robert Lyle is an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty